War and Peace By Leo Tolstoy Book XI: Chapters 30–34

CHAPTER XXX

The glow of the first fire that began on the second of September was watched from the various roads by the fugitive Muscovites and by the retreating troops, with many different feelings.

The Rostov party spent the night at Mytishchi, fourteen miles from Moscow. They had started so late on the first of September, the road had been so blocked by vehicles and troops, so many things had been forgotten for which servants were sent back, that they had decided to spend that night at a place three miles out of Moscow. The next morning they woke late and were again delayed so often that they only got as far as Great Mytishchi. At ten o'clock that evening the Rostov family and the wounded traveling with them were all distributed in the yards and huts of that large village. The Rostovs' servants and coachmen and the orderlies of the wounded officers, after attending to their masters, had supper, fed the horses, and came out into the porches.

In a neighboring hut lay Raevski's adjutant with a fractured wrist. The awful pain he suffered made him moan incessantly and piteously, and his moaning sounded terrible in the darkness of the autumn night. He had spent the first night in the same yard as the Rostovs. The countess said she had been unable to close her eyes on account of his moaning, and at Mytishchi she moved into a worse hut simply to be farther away from the wounded man.

In the darkness of the night one of the servants noticed, above the high body of a coach standing before the porch, the small glow of another fire. One glow had long been visible and everybody knew that it was Little Mytishchi burning — set on fire by Mamonov's Cossacks.

"But look here, brothers, there's another fire!" remarked an orderly.

All turned their attention to the glow.

"But they told us Little Mytishchi had been set on fire by Mamonov's Cossacks."

"But that's not Mytishchi, it's farther away."

"Look, it must be in Moscow!"

Two of the gazers went round to the other side of the coach and sat down on its steps.

"It's more to the left, why, Little Mytishchi is over there, and this is right on the other side."

Several men joined the first two.

"See how it's flaring," said one."That's a fire in Moscow: either in the Sushchevski or the Rogozhski quarter."

No one replied to this remark and for some time they all gazed silently at the spreading flames of the second fire in the distance.

Old Daniel Terentich, the count's valet (as he was called), came up to the group and shouted at Mishka.

"What are you staring at, you good-for-nothing? . . . The count will be calling and there's nobody there; go and gather the clothes together."

"I only ran out to get some water," said Mishka.

"But what do you think, Daniel Terentich? Doesn't it look as if that glow were in Moscow?" remarked one of the footmen.

Daniel Terentich made no reply, and again for a long time they were all silent. The glow spread, rising and failing, farther and farther still.

"God have mercy . . . . It's windy and dry . . ." said another voice.

"Just look! See what it's doing now. O Lord! You can even see the crows flying. Lord have mercy on us sinners!"

"They'll put it out, no fear!"

"Who's to put it out?" Daniel Terentich, who had hitherto been silent, was heard to say. His voice was calm and deliberate."Moscow it is, brothers," said he."Mother Moscow, the white . . ." his voice faltered, and he gave way to an old man's sob.

And it was as if they had all only waited for this to realize the significance for them of the glow they were watching. Sighs were heard, words of prayer, and the sobbing of the count's old valet.

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