|"The chief of
police, who had been stopped by the crowd, arrived to see him
[Rostopchin] at the same time as an adjutant to say that the horses were
ready. Both were pale, and the superintendent of police, after reporting
the accomplishment of his mission, informed the count that a vast
assembly had collected in the courtyard wanting to see him.
'But what is it
they want?' he asked the superintendent of police.
Excellency, they say they have rallied, in accordance with your orders,
to go against the French, and they were shouting something about
treachery. But it is a turbulent mob, your Excellency. I had much ado to
get away. Your Excellency, if I may venture to suggest...'
goodness to retire! I know what to do without your assistance,' cried
Rostopchin angrily. [omission]
As is often the
case with hot-tempered people he was overcome with rage, but had still
to find a scapegoat on which to vent it. 'There they are - the mob, the
dregs of the populace', he said to himself in French as he gazed the
crowd. 'The rabble they have stirred up by their folly! They want a
victim', he thought as he watched the waving arm of the tall fellow in
front. And this idea came into his head precisely because he, too,
wanted a scapegoat, an object of his wrath.
carriage ready?' he asked again.
Excellency. What orders do you wish to give concerning Vereshchagin? He
is waiting at the porch', said the adjutant.
Rostopchin, as though struck by some sudden recollection. [omission]
'Where is he?'
he demanded, and as he spoke he saw a young man with a long thin neck,
and half of his head that had been shaven covered with short hair,
appearing round the corner of the house between two dragoons. He was
dressed in a threadbare blue cloth coat lined with fox fur, that had
once been stylish, and filthy convict trousers of fustian, thrust into
thin, dirty, down-at-hill boots. Heavy iron shackles dragged on his
weak, thin legs, hampering his uncertain gait.
Rostopchin, hastily averting his eyes from the young man in the
fur-lined coat and pointing to the bottom step of the porch. 'Stand him
stood frowning and passing his hand over his face while he waited for
the young man to get to the step.
he said, with a metallic ring in his voice, 'This man, Vereshchagin, is
the scoundrel who has lost us Moscow.' [omission]
'Take the law
into your own hands! I pass him over to you!'
The crowd made
no answer and merely packed closer and closer. [omission]
'Slay him! Let
the traitor perish and not bring shame on the name of Russia!' screamed
Rostopchin. 'Cut him down! It is my command'.
Hearing not so
much Rostopchin's actual words as their venomous tone, the mob groaned
and heaved forward, but stopped again.
timid yet theatrical voice of Vereshchagin broke in upon the momentary
lull that followed. 'Count! There is one God judges us.' He lifted his
head and again the thick vein in his thin neck filled with blood and the
colour rapidly came and went in his face. He did not finish what he was
trying to say.
'Cut him down!
It is my command!' shouted Rostopchin, suddenly growing as white as
cried the officer to the dragoons, unsheathing his own sword.
'Cut at him!'
the officer almost whispered to the dragoons, and one of the soldiers,
his face suddenly convulsed with fury, struck Vereshchagin on the head
with the flat of his sword.
uttering a sharp cry of surprise, looked round in alarm, as though not
knowing why this was done to him. A like moan of surprise and horror ran
through the crowd. [omission]
Only when the
victim ceased to struggle and his shrieks had given way to a long-drawn,
rhythmic death-rattle did the mob around the prostrate, bleeding corpse
hurriedly begin to change places. Everyone came up, glanced at what had
been done, and pushed back again, aghast, remorseful and astonished.
'O Lord, the
people are like wild beasts! It's a wonder anyone was spared!' exclaimed
some voice in the crowd. 'Quite a young fellow, too...must have been a
merchant's son, to be sure the people...They do say he's not the right
one...What d'you mean - the right one?...Merciful Lord! ...And there's
another gut butchered too - they say he's nearly done for...Oh, what a
people! There's no sin they're afraid of...' said the same mob now as
they stared with rueful pity at the dead body with its long, thin neck
half-severed and the livid face fouled with blood and lust.
police official, considering the presence of corpse in his Excellency's
courtyard unseemly, bade the dragoons drag it away into the street. Two
dragoons took hold of the mangled legs and hauled the body along the
ground. The dead, shaven head, gory and grimed, was trailed along,
rolling from side to side on the long neck. The crowed shrank away from
Vereshchagin fell and the crowd burst forward with savage yells and
heaved about him, Rostopchin suddenly turned pale and, instead of making
for the back where his horses were waiting, strode rapidly along the
passage leading to the rooms on the ground floor, looking down and not
knowing where he was going or why. [omission]
'The hoi polloi
is dreadful - hideous', he said himself in French. 'They are live
wolves, only to be appeased with flesh'. 'Count, there is one God judges
us!' - Vereshchagin's words suddenly recurred to him, and a disagreeable
chill ran down his spine.
But this was
only a momentary feeling and Count Rostopchin smiled disdainfully at
himself. 'I had other duties', thought he. 'The people had to be
mollified. Many another victim has perished and is perishing for public
good' - and he began reflecting on the social obligations he had towards
his family and towards the city entrusted to his care, and on himself -
not himself as Fiodr Vasilyevich Rostopchin, but himself as governor of
Moscow, as the representative authority invested with full powers by the
Tsar. 'Had I been simply Fiodr Vasilyevich my course of action would
have been quite different; but it was my duty to safeguard my life and
dignity as governor.' [omission]
Not only did he
not reproach himself in his deliberations for what he had done but he
even found grounds for self-complacency in having so successfully made
use of a convenient opportunity at once to punish a criminal and satisfy
had been tried and condemned to death', Rostopchin argued to himself
(though the Senate had only sentenced Vereshchagin to hard labour). 'He
was a traitor and a spy. I could not let him go unpunished, and thus I
slew two birds with one stone: I appeased the mob by presenting them
with a victim and I punished a miscreant'.
By the time he
had reached his country house and begun to busy himself with private
affairs the count had completely regained his composure."