The officer and soldiers who had arrested
Pierre treated him with hostility but yet with respect,
in the guardhouse to which he was taken. In their
attitude toward him could still be felt both uncertainty
as to who he might be perhaps a very important
person and hostility as a result of their
recent personal conflict with him.
But when the guard was relieved next
morning, Pierre felt that for the new guard both
officers and men he was not as interesting
as he had been to his captors; and in fact the guard
of the second day did not recognize in this big, stout
man in a peasant coat the vigorous person who had
fought so desperately with the marauder and the convoy
and had uttered those solemn words about saving a
child; they saw in him only N of the captured
Russians, arrested and detained for some reason by
order of the Higher Command. If they noticed anything
remarkable about Pierre, it was only his unabashed,
meditative concentration and thoughtfulness, and the
way he spoke French, which struck them as surprisingly
good. In spite of this he was placed that day
with the other arrested suspects, as the separate
room he had occupied was required by an officer.
All the Russians confined with Pierre
were men of the lowest class and, recognizing him
as a gentleman, they all avoided him, more especially
as he spoke French. Pierre felt sad at hearing
them making fun of him.
That evening he learned that all these
prisoners (he, probably, among them) were to be tried
for incendiarism. On the third day he was taken
with the others to a house where a French general with
a white mustache sat with two colonels and other Frenchmen
with scarves on their arms. With the precision
and definiteness customary in addressing prisoners,
and which is supposed to preclude human frailty, Pierre
like the others was questioned as to who he was, where
he had been, with what object, and so on.
These questions, like questions put
at trials generally, left the essence of the matter
aside, shut out the possibility of that essence’s
being revealed, and were designed only to form a channel
through which the judges wished the answers of the
accused to flow so as to lead to the desired result,
namely a conviction. As soon as Pierre began to
say anything that did not fit in with that aim, the
channel was removed and the water could flow to waste.
Pierre felt, moreover, what the accused always feel
at their trial, perplexity as to why these questions
were put to him. He had a feeling that it was
only out of condescension or a kind of civility that
this device of placing a channel was employed.
He knew he was in these men’s power, that only
by force had they brought him there, that force alone
gave them the right to demand answers to their questions,
and that the sole object of that assembly was to inculpate
him. And so, as they had the power and wish to
inculpate him, this expedient of an inquiry and trial
seemed unnecessary. It was evident that any answer
would lead to conviction. When asked what he
was doing when he was arrested, Pierre replied in a
rather tragic manner that he was restoring to its
parents a child he had saved from the flames.
Why had he fought the marauder? Pierre answered
that he “was protecting a woman,” and
that “to protect a woman who was being insulted
was the duty of every man; that...” They
interrupted him, for this was not to the point.
Why was he in the yard of a burning house where witnesses
had seen him? He replied that he had gone out
to see what was happening in Moscow. Again they
interrupted him: they had not asked where he
was going, but why he was found near the fire?
Who was he? they asked, repeating their first question,
which he had declined to answer. Again he replied
that he could not answer it.
“Put that down, that’s
bad... very bad,” sternly remarked the general
with the white mustache and red flushed face.
On the fourth day fires broke out
on the Zubovski rampart.
Pierre and thirteen others were moved
to the coach house of a merchant’s house near
the Crimean bridge. On his way through the streets
Pierre felt stifled by the smoke which seemed to hang
over the whole city. Fires were visible on all
sides. He did not then realize the significance
of the burning of Moscow, and looked at the fires with
He passed four days in the coach house
near the Crimean bridge and during that time learned,
from the talk of the French soldiers, that all those
confined there were awaiting a decision which might
come any day from the marshal. What marshal this
was, Pierre could not learn from the soldiers.
Evidently for them “the marshal” represented
a very high and rather mysterious power.
These first days, before the eighth
of September when the prisoners were had up for a
second examination, were the hardest of all for Pierre.