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should reign in my way, but not in yours!"- he had cheerfully taken up
his familiar business, and- like a well-fed but not overfat horse that
feels himself in harness and grows skittish between the shafts- he
dressed up in clothes as variegated and expensive as possible, and
gaily and contentedly galloped along the roads of Poland, without
himself knowing why or whither.
On seeing the Russian general he threw back his head, with its
long hair curling to his shoulders, in a majestically royal manner,
and looked inquiringly at the French colonel. The colonel respectfully
informed His Majesty of Balashev's mission, whose name he could not
"De Bal-macheve!" said the King (overcoming by his assurance the
difficulty that had presented itself to the colonel). "Charmed to make
your acquaintance, General!" he added, with a gesture of kingly
As soon as the King began to speak loud and fast his royal dignity
instantly forsook him, and without noticing it he passed into his
natural tone of good-natured familiarity. He laid his hand on the
withers of Balashev's horse and said:
"Well, General, it all looks like war," as if regretting a
circumstance of which he was unable to judge.
"Your Majesty," replied Balashev, "my master, the Emperor, does
not desire war and as Your Majesty sees..." said Balashev, using the
words Your Majesty at every opportunity, with the affectation
unavoidable in frequently addressing one to whom the title was still a
Murat's face beamed with stupid satisfaction as he listened to
"Monsieur de Bal-macheve." But royaute oblige!* and he felt it
incumbent on him, as a king and an ally, to confer on state affairs
with Alexander's envoy. He dismounted, took Balashev's arm, and moving
a few steps away from his suite, which waited respectfully, began to
pace up and down with him, trying to speak significantly. He
referred to the fact that the Emperor Napoleon had resented the demand
that he should withdraw his troops from Prussia, especially when
that demand became generally known and the dignity of France was
*"Royalty has its obligations."
Balashev replied that there was nothing offensive in the demand,
because..." but Murat interrupted him.
"Then you don't consider the Emperor Alexander the aggressor?" he
asked unexpectedly, with a kindly and foolish smile.
Balashev told him why he considered Napoleon to be the originator of
"Oh, my dear general!" Murat again interrupted him, "with all my
heart I wish the Emperors may arrange the affair between them, and
that the war begun by no wish of mine may finish as quickly as
possible!" said he, in the tone of a servant who wants to remain
good friends with another despite a quarrel between their masters.
And he went on to inquiries about the Grand Duke and the state of
his health, and to reminiscences of the gay and amusing times he had
spent with him in Naples. Then suddenly, as if remembering his royal
dignity, Murat solemnly drew himself up, assumed the pose in which
he had stood at his coronation. and, waving his right arm, said:
"I won't detain you longer, General. I wish success to your
mission," and with his embroidered red mantle, his flowing feathers,
and his glittering ornaments, he rejoined his suite who were
respectfully awaiting him.
Balashev rode on, supposing from Murat's words that he would very
soon be brought before Napoleon himself. But instead of that, at the
next village the sentinels of Davout's infantry corps detained him
as the pickets of the vanguard had done, and an adjutant of the
corps commander, who was fetched, conducted him into the village to
Davout was to Napoleon what Arakcheev was to Alexander- though not a
coward like Arakcheev, he was as precise, as cruel, and as unable to
express his devotion to his monarch except by cruelty.
In the organism of states such men are necessary, as wolves are
necessary in the organism of nature, and they always exist, always
appear and hold their own, however incongruous their presence and
their proximity to the head of the government may be. This
inevitability alone can explain how the cruel Arakcheev, who tore
out a grenadier's mustache with his own hands, whose weak nerves
rendered him unable to face danger, and who was neither an educated
man nor a courtier, was able to maintain his powerful position with
Alexander, whose own character was chivalrous, noble, and gentle.
Balashev found Davout seated on a barrel in the shed of a
peasant's hut, writing- he was auditing accounts. Better quarters
could have been found him, but Marshal Davout was one of those men who
purposely put themselves in most depressing conditions to have a
justification for being gloomy. For the same reason they are always
hard at work and in a hurry. "How can I think of the bright side of
life when, as you see, I am sitting on a barrel and working in a dirty
shed?" the expression of his face seemed to say. The chief pleasure
and necessity of such men, when they encounter anyone who shows
animation, is to flaunt their own dreary, persistent activity.
Davout allowed himself that pleasure when Balashev was brought in.
He became still more absorbed in his task when the Russian general
entered, and after glancing over his spectacles at Balashev's face,
which was animated by the beauty of the morning and by his talk with
Murat, he did not rise or even stir, but scowled still more and
When he noticed in Balashev's face the disagreeable impression
this reception produced, Davout raised his head and coldly asked
what he wanted.
Thinking he could have been received in such a manner only because
Davout did not know that he was adjutant general to the Emperor
Alexander and even his envoy to Napoleon, Balashev hastened to
inform him of his rank and mission. Contrary to his expectation,
Davout, after hearing him, became still surlier and ruder.
"Where is your dispatch?" he inquired. "Give it to me. I will send
it to the Emperor."
Balashev replied that he had been ordered to hand it personally to
"Your Emperor's orders are obeyed in your army, but here," said
Davout, "you must do as you're told."
And, as if to make the Russian general still more conscious of his
dependence on brute force, Davout sent an adjutant to call the officer
Balashev took out the packet containing the Emperor's letter and
laid it on the table (made of a door with its hinges still hanging
on it, laid across two barrels). Davout took the packet and read the
"You are perfectly at liberty to treat me with respect or not,"
protested Balashev, "but permit me to observe that I have the honor to
be adjutant general to His Majesty...."
Davout glanced at him silently and plainly derived pleasure from the
signs of agitation and confusion which appeared on Balashev's face.
"You will be treated as is fitting," said he and, putting the packet
in his pocket, left the shed.
A minute later the marshal's adjutant, de Castres, came in and
conducted Balashev to the quarters assigned him.
That day he dined with the marshal, at the same board on the
Next day Davout rode out early and, after asking Balashev to come to
him, peremptorily requested him to remain there, to move on with the
baggage train should orders come for it to move, and to talk to no one
except Monsieur de Castres.
After four days of solitude, ennui, and consciousness of his
impotence and insignificance- particularly acute by contrast with
the sphere of power in which he had so lately moved- and after several
marches with the marshal's baggage and the French army, which occupied
the whole district, Balashev was brought to Vilna- now occupied by the
French- through the very gate by which he had left it four days
Next day the imperial gentleman-in-waiting, the Comte de Turenne,
came to Balashev and informed him of the Emperor Napoleon's wish to
honor him with an audience.
Four days before, sentinels of the Preobrazhensk regiment had
stood in front of the house to which Balashev was conducted, and now
two French grenadiers stood there in blue uniforms unfastened in front
and with shaggy caps on their heads, and an escort of hussars and
Uhlans and a brilliant suite of aides-de-camp, pages, and generals,
who were waiting for Napoleon to come out, were standing at the porch,
round his saddle horse and his Mameluke, Rustan. Napoleon received
Balashev in the very house in Vilna from which Alexander had
dispatched him on his mission.
Though Balashev was used to imperial pomp, he was amazed at the
luxury and magnificence of Napoleon's court.
The Comte de Turenne showed him into a big reception room where many
generals, gentlemen-in-waiting, and Polish magnates- several of whom
Balashev had seen at the court of the Emperor of Russia- were waiting.
Duroc said that Napoleon would receive the Russian general before
going for his ride.
After some minutes, the gentleman-in-waiting who was on duty came
into the great reception room and, bowing politely, asked Balashev
to follow him.
Balashev went into a small reception room, one door of which led
into a study, the very one from which the Russian Emperor had
dispatched him on his mission. He stood a minute or two, waiting. He
heard hurried footsteps beyond the door, both halves of it were opened
rapidly; all was silent and then from the study the sound was heard of
other steps, firm and resolute- they were those of Napoleon. He had
just finished dressing for his ride, and wore a blue uniform,
opening in front over a white waistcoat so long that it covered his
rotund stomach, white leather breeches tightly fitting the fat
thighs of his short legs, and Hessian boots. His short hair had
evidently just been brushed, but one lock hung down in the middle of
his broad forehead. His plump white neck stood out sharply above the
black collar of his uniform, and he smelled of Eau de Cologne. His
full face, rather young-looking, with its prominent chin, wore a
gracious and majestic expression of imperial welcome.
He entered briskly, with a jerk at every step and his head
slightly thrown back. His whole short corpulent figure with broad
thick shoulders, and chest and stomach involuntarily protruding, had
that imposing and stately appearance one sees in men of forty who live
in comfort. It was evident, too, that he was in the best of spirits
He nodded in answer to Balashav's low and respectful bow, and coming
up to him at once began speaking like a man who values every moment of
his time and does not condescend to prepare what he has to say but
is sure he will always say the right thing and say it well.
"Good day, General!" said he. "I have received the letter you
brought from the Emperor Alexander and am very glad to see you." He
glanced with his large eyes into Balashav's face and immediately
looked past him.
It was plain that Balashev's personality did not interest him at
all. Evidently only what took place within his own mind interested
him. Nothing outside himself had any significance for him, because
everything in the world, it seemed to him, depended entirely on his
"I do not, and did not, desire war," he continued, "but it has
been forced on me. Even now" (he emphasized the word) "I am ready to
receive any explanations you can give me."
And he began clearly and concisely to explain his reasons for
dissatisfaction with the Russian government. Judging by the calmly
moderate and amicable tone in which the French Emperor spoke, Balashev
was firmly persuaded that he wished for peace and intended to enter
When Napoleon, having finished speaking, looked inquiringly at the
Russian envoy, Balashev began a speech he had prepared long before:
"Sire! The Emperor, my master..." but the sight of the Emperor's
eyes bent on him confused him. "You are flurried- compose yourself!"
Napoleon seemed to say, as with a scarcely perceptible smile he looked
at Balashev's uniform and sword.
Balashev recovered himself and began to speak. He said that the
Emperor Alexander did not consider Kurakin's demand for his
passports a sufficient cause for war; that Kurakin had acted on his
own initiative and without his sovereign's assent, that the Emperor
Alexander did not desire war, and had no relations with England.
"Not yet!" interposed Napoleon, and, as if fearing to give vent to
his feelings, he frowned and nodded slightly as a sign that Balashev
After saying all he had been instructed to say, Balashev added
that the Emperor Alexander wished for peace, but would not enter
into negotiations except on condition that... Here Balashev hesitated:
he remembered the words the Emperor Alexander had not written in his
letter, but had specially inserted in the rescript to Saltykov and had
told Balashev to repeat to Napoleon. Balashev remembered these
words, "So long as a single armed foe remains on Russian soil," but
some complex feeling restrained him. He could not utter them, though
he wished to do so. He grew confused and said: "On condition that
the French army retires beyond the Niemen."
Napoleon noticed Balashev's embarrassment when uttering these last
words; his face twitched and the calf of his left leg began to
quiver rhythmically. Without moving from where he stood he began
speaking in a louder tone and more hurriedly than before. During the
speech that followed, Balashev, who more than once lowered his eyes,
involuntarily noticed the quivering of Napoleon's left leg which
increased the more Napoleon raised his voice.
"I desire peace, no less than the Emperor Alexander," he began.
"Have I not for eighteen months been doing everything to obtain it?
I have waited eighteen months for explanations. But in order to
begin negotiations, what is demanded of me?" he said, frowning and
making an energetic gesture of inquiry with his small white plump
"The withdrawal of your army beyond the Niemen, sire," replied
"The Niemen?" repeated Napoleon. "So now you want me to retire
beyond the Niemen- only the Niemen?" repeated Napoleon, looking
straight at Balashev.
The latter bowed his head respectfully.
Instead of the demand of four months earlier to withdraw from
Pomerania, only a withdrawal beyond the Niemen was now demanded.
Napoleon turned quickly and began to pace the room.
"You say the demand now is that I am to withdraw beyond the Niemen
before commencing negotiations, but in just the same way two months
ago the demand was that I should withdraw beyond the Vistula and the
Oder, and yet you are willing to negotiate."
He went in silence from one corner of the room to the other and
again stopped in front of Balashev. Balashev noticed that his left leg
was quivering faster than before and his face seemed petrified in
its stern expression. This quivering of his left leg was a thing
Napoleon was conscious of. "The vibration of my left calf is a great
sign with me," he remarked at a later date.
"Such demands as to retreat beyond the Vistula and Oder may be
made to a Prince of Baden, but not to me!" Napoleon almost screamed,
quite to his own surprise. "If you gave me Petersburg and Moscow I
could not accept such conditions. You say I have begun this war! But
who first joined his army? The Emperor Alexander, not I! And you offer
me negotiations when I have expended millions, when you are in
alliance with England, and when your position is a bad one. You
offer me negotiations! But what is the aim of your alliance with
England? What has she given you?" he continued hurriedly, evidently no
longer trying to show the advantages of peace and discuss its
possibility, but only to prove his own rectitude and power and
Alexander's errors and duplicity.
The commencement of his speech had obviously been made with the
intention of demonstrating the advantages of his position and
showing that he was nevertheless willing to negotiate. But he had
begun talking, and the more he talked the less could he control his
The whole purport of his remarks now was evidently to exalt
himself and insult Alexander- just what he had least desired at the
commencement of the interview.
"I hear you have made peace with Turkey?"
Balashev bowed his head affirmatively.
"Peace has been concluded..." he began.
But Napoleon did not let him speak. He evidently wanted to do all
the talking himself, and continued to talk with the sort of
eloquence and unrestrained irritability to which spoiled people are so
"Yes, I know you have made peace with the Turks without obtaining
Moldavia and Wallachia; I would have given your sovereign those
provinces as I gave him Finland. Yes," he went on, "I promised and
would have given the Emperor Alexander Moldavia and Wallachia, and now
he won't have those splendid provinces. Yet he might have united
them to his empire and in a single reign would have extended Russia
from the Gulf of Bothnia to the mouths of the Danube. Catherine the
Great could not have done more," said Napoleon, growing more and
more excited as he paced up and down the room, repeating to Balashev
almost the very words he had used to Alexander himself at Tilsit. "All
that, he would have owed to my friendship. Oh, what a splendid reign!"
he repeated several times, then paused, drew from his pocket a gold
snuffbox, lifted it to his nose, and greedily sniffed at it.
"What a splendid reign the Emperor Alexander's might have been!"
He looked compassionately at Balashev, and as soon as the latter
tried to make some rejoinder hastily interrupted him.
"What could he wish or look for that he would not have obtained
through my friendship?" demanded Napoleon, shrugging his shoulders
in perplexity. "But no, he has preferred to surround himself with my
enemies, and with whom? With Steins, Armfeldts, Bennigsens, and
Wintzingerodes! Stein, a traitor expelled from his own country;
Armfeldt, a rake and an intriguer; Wintzingerode, a fugitive French
subject; Bennigsen, rather more of a soldier than the others, but
all the same an incompetent who was unable to do anything in 1807
and who should awaken terrible memories in the Emperor Alexander's
mind.... Granted that were they competent they might be made use
of," continued Napoleon- hardly able to keep pace in words with the
rush of thoughts that incessantly sprang up, proving how right and
strong he was (in his perception the two were one and the same)-
"but they are not even that! They are neither fit for war nor peace!
Barclay is said to be the most capable of them all, but I cannot say
so, judging by his first movements. And what are they doing, all these
courtiers? Pfuel proposes, Armfeldt disputes, Bennigsen considers, and
Barclay, called on to act, does not know what to decide on, and time
passes bringing no result. Bagration alone is a military man. He's
stupid, but he has experience, a quick eye, and resolution.... And
what role is your young monarch playing in that monstrous crowd?
They compromise him and throw on him the responsibility for all that
happens. A sovereign should not be with the army unless he is a
general!" said Napoleon, evidently uttering these words as a direct
challenge to the Emperor. He knew how Alexander desired to be a
"The campaign began only a week ago, and you haven't even been
able to defend Vilna. You are cut in two and have been driven out of
the Polish provinces. Your army is grumbling."
"On the contrary, Your Majesty," said Balashev, hardly able to
remember what had been said to him and following these verbal
fireworks with difficulty, "the troops are burning with eagerness..."
"I know everything!" Napoleon interrupted him. "I know everything. I
know the number of your battalions as exactly as I know my own. You
have not two hundred thousand men, and I have three times that number.
I give you my word of honor," said Napoleon, forgetting that his
word of honor could carry no weight- "I give you my word of honor that
I have five hundred and thirty thousand men this side of the
Vistula. The Turks will be of no use to you; they are worth nothing
and have shown it by making peace with you. As for the Swedes- it is
their fate to be governed by mad kings. Their king was insane and they
changed him for another- Bernadotte, who promptly went mad- for no
Swede would ally himself with Russia unless he were mad."
Napoleon grinned maliciously and again raised his snuffbox to his
Balashev knew how to reply to each of Napoleon's remarks, and
would have done so; he continually made the gesture of a man wishing
to say something, but Napoleon always interrupted him. To the
alleged insanity of the Swedes, Balashev wished to reply that when
Russia is on her side Sweden is practically an island: but Napoleon
gave an angry exclamation to drown his voice. Napoleon was in that
state of irritability in which a man has to talk, talk, and talk,
merely to convince himself that he is in the right. Balashev began
to feel uncomfortable: as envoy he feared to demean his dignity and
felt the necessity of replying; but, as a man, he shrank before the
transport of groundless wrath that had evidently seized Napoleon. He
knew that none of the words now uttered by Napoleon had any
significance, and that Napoleon himself would be ashamed of them
when he came to his senses. Balashev stood with downcast eyes, looking
at the movements of Napoleon's stout legs and trying to avoid
meeting his eyes.
"But what do I care about your allies?" said Napoleon. "I have
allies- the Poles. There are eighty thousand of them and they fight
like lions. And there will be two hundred thousand of them."
And probably still more perturbed by the fact that he had uttered
this obvious falsehood, and that Balashev still stood silently
before him in the same attitude of submission to fate, Napoleon
abruptly turned round, drew close to Balashev's face, and,
gesticulating rapidly and energetically with his white hands, almost
"Know that if you stir up Prussia against me, I'll wipe it off the
map of Europe!" he declared, his face pale and distorted by anger, and
he struck one of his small hands energetically with the other. "Yes, I
will throw you back beyond the Dvina and beyond the Dnieper, and
will re-erect against you that barrier which it was criminal and blind
of Europe to allow to be destroyed. Yes, that is what will happen to
you. That is what you have gained by alienating me!" And he walked
silently several times up and down the room, his fat shoulders
He put his snuffbox into his waistcoat pocket, took it out again,
lifted it several times to his nose, and stopped in front of Balashev.
He paused, looked ironically straight into Balashev's eyes, and said
in a quiet voice:
"And yet what a splendid reign your master might have had!"
Balashev, feeling it incumbent on him to reply, said that from the
Russian side things did not appear in so gloomy a light. Napoleon
was silent, still looking derisively at him and evidently not
listening to him. Balashev said that in Russia the best results were
expected from the war. Napoleon nodded condescendingly, as if to
say, "I know it's your duty to say that, but you don't believe it
yourself. I have convinced you."
When Balashev had ended, Napoleon again took out his snuffbox,
sniffed at it, and stamped his foot twice on the floor as a signal.
The door opened, a gentleman-in-waiting, bending respectfully,
handed the Emperor his hat and gloves; another brought him a pocket
handkerchief. Napoleon, without giving them a glance, turned to
"Assure the Emperor Alexander from me," said he, taking his hat,
"that I am as devoted to him as before: I know him thoroughly and very
highly esteem his lofty qualities. I will detain you no longer,
General; you shall receive my letter to the Emperor."
And Napoleon went quickly to the door. Everyone in the reception
room rushed forward and descended the staircase.
After all that Napoleon had said to him- those bursts of anger and
the last dryly spoken words: "I will detain you no longer, General;
you shall receive my letter," Balashev felt convinced that Napoleon
would not wish to see him, and would even avoid another meeting with
him- an insulted envoy- especially as he had witnessed his unseemly
anger. But, to his surprise, Balashev received, through Duroc, an
invitation to dine with the Emperor that day.
Bessieres, Caulaincourt, and Berthier were present at that dinner.
Napoleon met Balashev cheerfully and amiably. He not only showed
no sign of constraint or self-reproach on account of his outburst that
morning, but, on the contrary, tried to reassure Balashev. It was
evident that he had long been convinced that it was impossible for him
to make a mistake, and that in his perception whatever he did was
right, not because it harmonized with any idea of right and wrong, but
because he did it.
The Emperor was in very good spirits after his ride through Vilna,
where crowds of people had rapturously greeted and followed him.
From all the windows of the streets through which he rode, rugs,
flags, and his monogram were displayed, and the Polish ladies,
welcoming him, waved their handkerchiefs to him.
At dinner, having placed Balashev beside him, Napoleon not only
treated him amiably but behaved as if Balashev were one of his own
courtiers, one of those who sympathized with his plans and ought to
rejoice at his success. In the course of conversation he mentioned
Moscow and questioned Balashev about the Russian capital, not merely
as an interested traveler asks about a new city he intends to visit,
but as if convinced that Balashev, as a Russian, must be flattered
by his curiosity.
"How many inhabitants are there in Moscow? How many houses? Is it
true that Moscow is called 'Holy Moscow'? How many churches are
there in Moscow?" he asked.
And receiving the reply that there were more than two hundred
churches, he remarked:
"Why such a quantity of churches?"
"The Russians are very devout," replied Balashev.
"But a large number of monasteries and churches is always a sign
of the backwardness of a people," said Napoleon, turning to
Caulaincourt for appreciation of this remark.
Balashev respectfully ventured to disagree with the French Emperor.
"Every country has its own character," said he.
"But nowhere in Europe is there anything like that," said Napoleon.
"I beg your Majesty's pardon," returned Balashev, "besides Russia
there is Spain, where there are also many churches and monasteries."
This reply of Balashev's, which hinted at the recent defeats of
the French in Spain, was much appreciated when he related it at
Alexander's court, but it was not much appreciated at Napoleon's
dinner, where it passed unnoticed.
The uninterested and perplexed faces of the marshals showed that
they were puzzled as to what Balashev's tone suggested. "If there is a
point we don't see it, or it is not at all witty," their expressions
seemed to say. So little was his rejoinder appreciated that Napoleon
did not notice it at all and naively asked Balashev through what towns
the direct road from there to Moscow passed. Balashev, who was on
the alert all through the dinner, replied that just as "all roads lead
to Rome," so all roads lead to Moscow: there were many roads, and
"among them the road through Poltava, which Charles XII chose."
Balashev involuntarily flushed with pleasure at the aptitude of this
reply, but hardly had he uttered the word Poltava before
Caulaincourt began speaking of the badness of the road from Petersburg
to Moscow and of his Petersburg reminiscences.
After dinner they went to drink coffee in Napoleon's study, which
four days previously had been that of the Emperor Alexander.
Napoleon sat down, toying with his Sevres coffee cup, and motioned
Balashev to a chair beside him.
Napoleon was in that well-known after-dinner mood which, more than
any reasoned cause, makes a man contented with himself and disposed to
consider everyone his friend. It seemed to him that he was
surrounded by men who adored him: and he felt convinced that, after
his dinner, Balashev too was his friend and worshiper. Napoleon turned
to him with a pleasant, though slightly ironic, smile.
"They tell me this is the room the Emperor Alexander occupied?
Strange, isn't it, General?" he said, evidently not doubting that this
remark would be agreeable to his hearer since it went to prove his,
Napoleon's, superiority to Alexander.
Balashev made no reply and bowed his head in silence.
"Yes. Four days ago in this room, Wintzingerode and Stein were
deliberating," continued Napoleon with the same derisive and
self-confident smile. "What I can't understand," he went on, "is
that the Emperor Alexander has surrounded himself with my personal
enemies. That I do not... understand. Has he not thought that I may
the same?" and he turned inquiringly to Balashev, and evidently this
thought turned him back on to the track of his morning's anger,
which was still fresh in him.
"And let him know that I will do so!" said Napoleon, rising and
pushing his cup away with his hand. "I'll drive all his Wurttemberg,
Baden, and Weimar relations out of Germany.... Yes. I'll drive them
out. Let him prepare an asylum for them in Russia!"
Balashev bowed his head with an air indicating that he would like to
make his bow and leave, and only listened because he could not help
hearing what was said to him. Napoleon did not notice this expression;
he treated Balashev not as an envoy from his enemy, but as a man now
fully devoted to him and who must rejoice at his former master's
"And why has the Emperor Alexander taken command of the armies? What
is the good of that? War is my profession, but his business is to
reign and not to command armies! Why has he taken on himself such a
Again Napoleon brought out his snuffbox, paced several times up
and down the room in silence, and then, suddenly and unexpectedly,
went up to Balashev and with a slight smile, as confidently,
quickly, and simply as if he were doing something not merely
important but pleasing to Balashev, he raised his hand to the
forty-year-old Russian general's face and, taking him by the ear,
pulled it gently, smiling with his lips only.
To have one's ear pulled by the Emperor was considered the
greatest honor and mark of favor at the French court.
"Well, adorer and courtier of the Emperor Alexander, why don't you
say anything?" said he, as if it was ridiculous, in his presence, to
be the adorer and courtier of anyone but himself, Napoleon. "Are the
horses ready for the general?" he added, with a slight inclination
of his head in reply to Balashev's bow. "Let him have mine, he has a
long way to go!"
The letter taken by Balashev was the last Napoleon sent to
Alexander. Every detail of the interview was communicated to the
Russian monarch, and the war began...
After his interview with Pierre in Moscow, Prince Andrew went to
Petersburg, on business as he told his family, but really to meet
Anatole Kuragin whom he felt it necessary to encounter. On reaching
Petersburg he inquired for Kuragin but the latter had already left the
city. Pierre had warned his brother-in-law that Prince Andrew was on
his track. Anatole Kuragin promptly obtained an appointment from the
Minister of War and went to join the army in Moldavia. While in
Petersburg Prince Andrew met Kutuzov, his former commander who was
always well disposed toward him, and Kutuzov suggested that he
should accompany him to the army in Moldavia, to which the old general
had been appointed commander in chief. So Prince Andrew, having
received an appointment on the headquarters staff, left for Turkey.
Prince Andrew did not think it proper to write and challenge
Kuragin. He thought that if he challenged him without some fresh cause
it might compromise the young Countess Rostova and so he wanted to
meet Kuragin personally in order to find a fresh pretext for a duel.
But he again failed to meet Kuragin in Turkey, for soon after Prince
Andrew arrived, the latter returned to Russia. In a new country,
amid new conditions, Prince Andrew found life easier to bear. After
his betrothed had broken faith with him- which he felt the more
acutely the more he tried to conceal its effects- the surroundings
in which he had been happy became trying to him, and the freedom and
independence he had once prized so highly were still more so. Not only
could he no longer think the thoughts that had first come to him as he
lay gazing at the sky on the field of Austerlitz and had later
enlarged upon with Pierre, and which had filled his solitude at
Bogucharovo and then in Switzerland and Rome, but he even dreaded to
recall them and the bright and boundless horizons they had
revealed. He was now concerned only with the nearest practical matters
unrelated to his past interests, and he seized on these the more
eagerly the more those past interests were closed to him. It was as if
that lofty, infinite canopy of heaven that had once towered above
him had suddenly turned into a low, solid vault that weighed him down,
in which all was clear, but nothing eternal or mysterious.
Of the activities that presented themselves to him, army service was
the simplest and most familiar. As a general on duty on Kutuzov's
staff, he applied himself to business with zeal and perseverance and
surprised Kutuzov by his willingness and accuracy in work. Not
having found Kuragin in Turkey, Prince Andrew did not think it
necessary to rush back to Russia after him, but all the same he knew
that however long it might be before he met Kuragin, despite his
contempt for him and despite all the proofs he deduced to convince
himself that it was not worth stooping to a conflict with him- he knew
that when he did meet him he would not be able to resist calling him
out, any more than a ravenous man can help snatching at food. And
the consciousness that the insult was not yet avenged, that his rancor
was still unspent, weighed on his heart and poisoned the artificial
tranquillity which he managed to obtain in Turkey by means of
restless, plodding, and rather vainglorious and ambitious activity.
In the year 1812, when news of the war with Napoleon reached
Bucharest- where Kutuzov had been living for two months, passing his
days and nights with a Wallachian woman- Prince Andrew asked Kutuzov
to transfer him to the Western Army. Kutuzov, who was already weary of
Bolkonski's activity which seemed to reproach his own idleness, very
readily let him go and gave him a mission to Barclay de Tolly.
Before joining the Western Army which was then, in May, encamped
at Drissa, Prince Andrew visited Bald Hills which was directly on
his way, being only two miles off the Smolensk highroad. During the
last three years there had been so many changes in his life, he had
thought, felt, and seen so much (having traveled both in the east
and the west), that on reaching Bald Hills it struck him as strange
and unexpected to find the way of life there unchanged and still the
same in every detail. He entered through the gates with their stone
pillars and drove up the avenue leading to the house as if he were
entering an enchanted, sleeping castle. The same old stateliness,
the same cleanliness, the same stillness reigned there, and inside
there was the same furniture, the same walls, sounds, and smell, and
the same timid faces, only somewhat older. Princess Mary was still the
same timid, plain maiden getting on in years, uselessly and
joylessly passing the best years of her life in fear and constant
suffering. Mademoiselle Bourienne was the same coquettish,
self-satisfied girl, enjoying every moment of her existence and full
of joyous hopes for the future. She had merely become more
self-confident, Prince Andrew thought. Dessalles, the tutor he had
brought from Switzerland, was wearing a coat of Russian cut and
talking broken Russian to the servants, but was still the same
narrowly intelligent, conscientious, and pedantic preceptor. The old
prince had changed in appearance only by the loss of a tooth, which
left a noticeable gap on one side of his mouth; in character he was
the same as ever, only showing still more irritability and
skepticism as to what was happening in the world. Little Nicholas
alone had changed. He had grown, become rosier, had curly dark hair,
and, when merry and laughing, quite unconsciously lifted the upper lip
of his pretty little mouth just as the little princess used to do.
He alone did not obey the law of immutability in the enchanted,
sleeping castle. But though externally all remained as of old, the
inner relations of all these people had changed since Prince Andrew
had seen them last. The household was divided into two alien and
hostile camps, who changed their habits for his sake and only met
because he was there. To the one camp belonged the old prince,
Madmoiselle Bourienne, and the architect; to the other Princess
Mary, Dessalles, little Nicholas, and all the old nurses and maids.
During his stay at Bald Hills all the family dined together, but
they were ill at ease and Prince Andrew felt that he was a visitor for
whose sake an exception was being made and that his presence made them
all feel awkward. Involuntarily feeling this at dinner on the first
day, he was taciturn, and the old prince noticing this also became
morosely dumb and retired to his apartments directly after dinner.
In the evening, when Prince Andrew went to him and, trying to rouse
him, began to tell him of the young Count Kamensky's campaign, the old
prince began unexpectedly to talk about Princess Mary, blaming her for
her superstitions and her dislike of Mademoiselle Bourienne, who, he
said, was the only person really attached to him.
The old prince said that if he was ill it was only because of
Princess Mary: that she purposely worried and irritated him, and
that by indulgence and silly talk she was spoiling little Prince
Nicholas. The old prince knew very well that he tormented his daughter
and that her life was very hard, but he also knew that he could not
help tormenting her and that she deserved it. "Why does Prince Andrew,
who sees this, say nothing to me about his sister? Does he think me
a scoundrel, or an old fool who, without any reason, keeps his own
daughter at a distance and attaches this Frenchwoman to himself? He
doesn't understand, so I must explain it, and he must hear me out,"
thought the old prince. And he began explaining why he could not put
up with his daughter's unreasonable character.
"If you ask me," said Prince Andrew, without looking up (he was
censuring his father for the first time in his life), "I did not
wish to speak about it, but as you ask me I will give you my frank
opinion. If there is any misunderstanding and discord between you
and Mary, I can't blame her for it at all. I know how she loves and
respects you. Since you ask me," continued Prince Andrew, becoming
irritable- as he was always liable to do of late- "I can only say that
if there are any misunderstandings they are caused by that worthless
woman, who is not fit to be my sister's companion."
The old man at first stared fixedly at his son, and an unnatural
smile disclosed the fresh gap between his teeth to which Prince Andrew
could not get accustomed.
"What companion, my dear boy? Eh? You've already been talking it
"Father, I did not want to judge," said Prince Andrew, in a hard and
bitter tone, "but you challenged me, and I have said, and always shall
say, that Mary is not to blame, but those to blame- the one to
blame- is that Frenchwoman."
"Ah, he has passed judgment... passed judgement!" said the old man
in a low voice and, as it seemed to Prince Andrew, with some
embarrassment, but then he suddenly jumped up and cried: "Be off, be
off! Let not a trace of you remain here!..."
Prince Andrew wished to leave at once, but Princess Mary persuaded
him to stay another day. That day he did not see his father, who did
not leave his room and admitted no one but Mademoiselle Bourienne
and Tikhon, but asked several times whether his son had gone. Next
day, before leaving, Prince Andrew went to his son's rooms. The boy,
curly-headed like his mother and glowing with health, sat on his knee,
and Prince Andrew began telling him the story of Bluebeard, but fell
into a reverie without finishing the story. He thought not of this
pretty child, his son whom he held on his knee, but of himself. He
sought in himself either remorse for having angered his father or
regret at leaving home for the first time in his life on bad terms
with him, and was horrified to find neither. What meant still more
to him was that he sought and did not find in himself the former
tenderness for his son which he had hoped to reawaken by caressing the
boy and taking him on his knee.
"Well, go on!" said his son.
Prince Andrew, without replying, put him down from his knee and went
out of the room.
As soon as Prince Andrew had given up his daily occupations, and
especially on returning to the old conditions of life amid which he
had been happy, weariness of life overcame him with its former
intensity, and he hastened to escape from these memories and to find
some work as soon as possible.
"So you've decided to go, Andrew?" asked his sister.
"Thank God that I can," replied Prince Andrew. "I am very sorry
"Why do you say that?" replied Princess Mary. "Why do you say
that, when you are going to this terrible war, and he is so old?
Mademoiselle Bourienne says he has been asking about you...."
As soon as she began to speak of that, her lips trembled and her
tears began to fall. Prince Andrew turned away and began pacing the
"Ah, my God! my God! When one thinks who and what- what trash- can
cause people misery!" he said with a malignity that alarmed Princess
She understood that when speaking of "trash" he referred not only to
Mademoiselle Bourienne, the cause of her misery, but also to the man
who had ruined his own happiness.
"Andrew! One thing I beg, I entreat of you!" she said, touching
his elbow and looking at him with eyes that shone through her tears.
"I understand you" (she looked down). "Don't imagine that sorrow is
the work of men. Men are His tools." She looked a little above
Prince Andrew's head with the confident, accustomed look with which
one looks at the place where a familiar portrait hangs. "Sorrow is
sent by Him, not by men. Men are His instruments, they are not to
blame. If you think someone has wronged you, forget it and forgive! We
have no right to punish. And then you will know the happiness of
"If I were a woman I would do so, Mary. That is a woman's virtue.
But a man should not and cannot forgive and forget," he replied, and
though till that moment he had not been thinking of Kuragin, all his
unexpended anger suddenly swelled up in his heart.
"If Mary is already persuading me forgive, it means that I ought
long ago to have punished him," he thought. And giving her no
further reply, he began thinking of the glad vindictive moment when he
would meet Kuragin who he knew was now in the army.
Princess Mary begged him to stay one day more, saying that she
knew how unhappy her father would be if Andrew left without being
reconciled to him, but Prince Andrew replied that he would probably
soon be back again from the army and would certainly write to his
father, but that the longer he stayed now the more embittered their
differences would become.
"Good-by, Andrew! Remember that misfortunes come from God, and men
are never to blame," were the last words he heard from his sister when
he took leave of her.
"Then it must be so!" thought Prince Andrew as he drove out of the
avenue from the house at Bald Hills. "She, poor innocent creature,
is left to be victimized by an old man who has outlived his wits.
The old man feels he is guilty, but cannot change himself. My boy is
growing up and rejoices in life, in which like everybody else he
will deceive or be deceived. And I am off to the army. Why? I myself
don't know. I want to meet that man whom I despise, so as to give
him a chance to kill and laugh at me!
These conditions of life had been the same before, but then they
were all connected, while now they had all tumbled to pieces. Only
senseless things, lacking coherence, presented themselves one after
another to Prince Andrew's mind.
Prince Andrew reached the general headquarters of the army at the
end of June. The first army, with which was the Emperor, occupied
the fortified camp at Drissa; the second army was retreating, trying
to effect a junction with the first one from which it was said to be
cut off by large French forces. Everyone was dissatisfied with the
general course of affairs in the Russian army, but no one
anticipated any danger of invasion of the Russian provinces, and no
one thought the war would extend farther than the western, the Polish,
Prince Andrew found Barclay de Tolly, to whom he had been
assigned, on the bank of the Drissa. As there was not a single town or
large village in the vicinity of the camp, the immense number of
generals and courtiers accompanying the army were living in the best
houses of the villages on both sides of the river, over a radius of
six miles. Barclay de Tolly was quartered nearly three miles from
the Emperor. He received Bolkonski stiffly and coldly and told him
in his foreign accent that he would mention him to the Emperor for a
decision as to his employment, but asked him meanwhile to remain on
his staff. Anatole Kuragin, whom Prince Andrew had hoped to find
with the army, was not there. He had gone to Petersburg, but Prince
Andrew was glad to hear this. His mind was occupied by the interests
of the center that was conducting a gigantic war, and he was glad to
be free for a while from the distraction caused by the thought of
Kuragin. During the first four days, while no duties were required
of him, Prince Andrew rode round the whole fortified camp and, by
the aid of his own knowledge and by talks with experts, tried to
form a definite opinion about it. But the question whether the camp
was advantageous or disadvantageous remained for him undecided.
Already from his military experience and what he had seen in the
Austrian campaign, he had come to the conclusion that in war the
most deeply considered plans have no significance and that all depends
on the way unexpected movements of the enemy- that cannot be foreseen-
are met, and on how and by whom the whole matter is handled. To
clear up this last point for himself, Prince Andrew, utilizing his
position and acquaintances, tried to fathom the character of the
control of the army and of the men and parties engaged in it, and he
deduced for himself the following of the state of affairs.
While the Emperor had still been at Vilna, the forces had been
divided into three armies. First, the army under Barclay de Tolly,
secondly, the army under Bagration, and thirdly, the one commanded
by Tormasov. The Emperor was with the first army, but not as commander
in chief. In the orders issued it was stated, not that the Emperor
would take command, but only that he would be with the army. The
Emperor, moreover, had with him not a commander in chief's staff but
the imperial headquarters staff. In attendance on him was the head
of the imperial staff, Quartermaster General Prince Volkonski, as well
as generals, imperial aides-de-camp, diplomatic officials, and a large
number of foreigners, but not the army staff. Besides these, there
were in attendance on the Emperor without any definite appointments:
Arakcheev, the ex-Minister of War; Count Bennigsen, the senior general
in rank; the Grand Duke Tsarevich Constantine Pavlovich; Count
Rumyantsev, the Chancellor; Stein, a former Prussian minister;
Armfeldt, a Swedish general; Pfuel, the chief author of the plan of
campaign; Paulucci, an adjutant general and Sardinian emigre;
Wolzogen- and many others. Though these men had no military
appointment in the army, their position gave them influence, and often
a corps commander, or even the commander in chief, did not know in
what capacity he was questioned by Bennigsen, the Grand Duke,
Arakcheev, or Prince Volkonski, or was given this or that advice and
did not know whether a certain order received in the form of advice
emanated from the man who gave it or from the Emperor and whether it
had to be executed or not. But this was only the external condition;
the essential significance of the presence of the Emperor and of all
these people, from a courtier's point of view (and in an Emperor's
vicinity all became courtiers), was clear to everyone. It was this:
the Emperor did not assume the title of commander in chief, but
disposed of all the armies; the men around him were his assistants.
Arakcheev was a faithful custodian to enforce order and acted as the
sovereign's bodyguard. Bennigsen was a landlord in the Vilna
province who appeared to be doing the honors of the district, but
was in reality a good general, useful as an adviser and ready at
hand to replace Barclay. The Grand Duke was there because it suited
him to be. The ex-Minister Stein was there because his advice was
useful and the Emperor Alexander held him in high esteem personally.
Armfeldt virulently hated Napoleon and was a general full of
self-confidence, a quality that always influenced Alexander.
Paulucci was there because he was bold and decided in speech. The
adjutants general were there because they always accompanied the
Emperor, and lastly and chiefly Pfuel was there because he had drawn
up the plan of campaign against Napoleon and, having induced Alexander
to believe in the efficacy of that plan, was directing the whole
business of the war. With Pfuel was Wolzogen, who expressed Pfuel's
thoughts in a more comprehensible way than Pfuel himself (who was a
harsh, bookish theorist, self-confident to the point of despising
everyone else) was able to do.
Besides these Russians and foreigners who propounded new and
unexpected ideas every day- especially the foreigners, who did so with
a boldness characteristic of people employed in a country not their
own- there were many secondary personages accompanying the army
because their principals were there.
Among the opinions and voices in this immense, restless,
brilliant, and proud sphere, Prince Andrew noticed the following
sharply defined subdivisions of and parties:
The first party consisted of Pfuel and his adherents- military
theorists who believed in a science of war with immutable laws- laws
of oblique movements, outflankings, and so forth. Pfuel and his
adherents demanded a retirement into the depths of the country in
accordance with precise laws defined by a pseudo-theory of war, and
they saw only barbarism, ignorance, or evil intention in every
deviation from that theory. To this party belonged the foreign nobles,
Wolzogen, Wintzingerode, and others, chiefly Germans.
The second party was directly opposed to the first; one extreme,
as always happens, was met by representatives of the other. The
members of this party were those who had demanded an advance from
Vilna into Poland and freedom from all prearranged plans. Besides
being advocates of bold action, this section also represented
nationalism, which made them still more one-sided in the dispute. They
were Russians: Bagration, Ermolov (who was beginning to come to the
front), and others. At that time a famous joke of Ermolov's was
being circulated, that as a great favor he had petitioned the
Emperor to make him a German. The men of that party, remembering
Suvorov, said that what one had to do was not to reason, or stick pins
into maps, but to fight, beat the enemy, keep him out of Russia, and
not let the army get discouraged.
To the third party- in which the Emperor had most confidence-
belonged the courtiers who tried to arrange compromises between the
other two. The members of this party, chiefly civilians and to whom
Arakcheev belonged, thought and said what men who have no
convictions but wish to seem to have some generally say. They said
that undoubtedly war, particularly against such a genius as
Bonaparte (they called him Bonaparte now), needs most deeply devised
plans and profound scientific knowledge and in that respect Pfuel
was a genius, but at the same time it had to be acknowledged that
the theorists are often one sided, and therefore one should not
trust them absolutely, but should also listen to what Pfuel's
opponents and practical men of experience in warfare had to say, and
then choose a middle course. They insisted on the retention of the
camp at Drissa, according to Pfuel's plan, but on changing the
movements of the other armies. Though, by this course, neither one aim
nor the other could be attained, yet it seemed best to the adherents
of this third party.
Of a fourth opinion the most conspicuous representative was the
Tsarevich, who could not forget his disillusionment at Austerlitz,
where he had ridden out at the head of the Guards, in his casque and
cavalry uniform as to a review, expecting to crush the French
gallantly; but unexpectedly finding himself in the front line had
narrowly escaped amid the general confusion. The men of this party had
both the quality and the defect of frankness in their opinions. They
feared Napoleon, recognized his strength and their own weakness, and
frankly said so. They said: "Nothing but sorrow, shame, and ruin
will come of all this! We have abandoned Vilna and Vitebsk and shall
abandon Drissa. The only reasonable thing left to do is to conclude
peace as soon as possible, before we are turned out of Petersburg."
This view was very general in the upper army circles and found
support also in Petersburg and from the chancellor, Rumyantsev, who,
for other reasons of state, was in favor of peace.
The fifth party consisted of those who were adherents of Barclay
de Tolly, not so much as a man but as minister of war and commander in
chief. "Be he what he may" (they always began like that), "he is an
honest, practical man and we have nobody better. Give him real
power, for war cannot be conducted successfully without unity of
command, and he will show what he can do, as he did in Finland. If our
army is well organized and strong and has withdrawn to Drissa
without suffering any defeats, we owe this entirely to Barclay. If
Barclay is now to be superseded by Bennigsen all will be lost, for
Bennigsen showed his incapacity already in 1807."
The sixth party, the Bennigsenites, said, on the contrary, that at
any rate there was no one more active and experienced than
Bennigsen: "and twist about as you may, you will have to come to
Bennigsen eventually. Let the others make mistakes now!" said they,
arguing that our retirement to Drissa was a most shameful reverse
and an unbroken series of blunders. "The more mistakes that are made
the better. It will at any rate be understood all the sooner that
things cannot go on like this. What is wanted is not some Barclay or
other, but a man like Bennigsen, who made his mark in 1807, and to
whom Napoleon himself did justice- a man whose authority would be
willingly recognized, and Bennigsen is the only such man."
The seventh party consisted of the sort of people who are always
to be found, especially around young sovereigns, and of whom there
were particularly many round Alexander- generals and imperial
aides-de-camp passionately devoted to the Emperor, not merely as a
monarch but as a man, adoring him sincerely and disinterestedly, as
Rostov had done in 1805, and who saw in him not only all the virtues
but all human capabilities as well. These men, though enchanted with
the sovereign for refusing the command of the army, yet blamed him for
such excessive modesty, and only desired and insisted that their
adored sovereign should abandon his diffidence and openly announce
that he would place himself at the head of the army, gather round
him a commander in chief's staff, and, consulting experienced
theoreticians and practical men where necessary, would himself lead
the troops, whose spirits would thereby be raised to the highest
The eighth and largest group, which in its enormous numbers was to
the others as ninety-nine to one, consisted of men who desired neither
peace nor war, neither an advance nor a defensive camp at the Drissa
or anywhere else, neither Barclay nor the Emperor, neither Pfuel nor
Bennigsen, but only the one most essential thing- as much advantage
and pleasure for themselves as possible. In the troubled waters of
conflicting and intersecting intrigues that eddied about the Emperor's
headquarters, it was possible to succeed in many ways unthinkable at
other times. A man who simply wished to retain his lucrative post
would today agree with Pfuel, tomorrow with his opponent, and the
day after, merely to avoid responsibility or to please the Emperor,
would declare that he had no opinion at all on the matter. Another who
wished to gain some advantage would attract the Emperor's attention by
loudly advocating the very thing the Emperor had hinted at the day
before, and would dispute and shout at the council, beating his breast
and challenging those who did not agree with him to duels, thereby
proving that he was prepared to sacrifice himself for the common good.
A third, in the absence of opponents, between two councils would
simply solicit a special gratuity for his faithful services, well
knowing that at that moment people would be too busy to refuse him.
A fourth while seemingly overwhelmed with work would often come
accidentally under the Emperor's eye. A fifth, to achieve his
long-cherished aim of dining with the Emperor, would stubbornly insist
on the correctness or falsity of some newly emerging opinion and for
this object would produce arguments more or less forcible and correct.
All the men of this party were fishing for rubles, decorations,
and promotions, and in this pursuit watched only the weathercock of
imperial favor, and directly they noticed it turning in any direction,
this whole drone population of the army began blowing hard that way,
so that it was all the harder for the Emperor to turn it elsewhere.
Amid the uncertainties of the position, with the menace of serious
danger giving a peculiarly threatening character to everything, amid
this vortex of intrigue, egotism, conflict of views and feelings,
and the diversity of race among these people- this eighth and
largest party of those preoccupied with personal interests imparted
great confusion and obscurity to the common task. Whatever question
arose, a swarm of these drones, without having finished their
buzzing on a previous theme, flew over to the new one and by their hum
drowned and obscured the voices of those who were disputing honestly.
From among all these parties, just at the time Prince Andrew reached
the army, another, a ninth party, was being formed and was beginning
to raise its voice. This was the party of the elders, reasonable men
experienced and capable in state affairs, who, without sharing any
of those conflicting opinions, were able to take a detached view of
what was going on at the staff at headquarters and to consider means
of escape from this muddle, indecision, intricacy, and weakness.
The men of this party said and thought that what was wrong
resulted chiefly from the Emperor's presence in the army with his
military court and from the consequent presence there of an
indefinite, conditional, and unsteady fluctuation of relations,
which is in place at court but harmful in an army; that a sovereign
should reign but not command the army, and that the only way out of
the position would be for the Emperor and his court to leave the army;
that the mere presence of the Emperor paralyzed the action of fifty
thousand men required to secure his personal safety, and that the
worst commander in chief if independent would be better than the
very best one trammeled by the presence and authority of the monarch.
Just at the time Prince Andrew was living unoccupied at Drissa,
Shishkov, the Secretary of State and one of the chief
representatives of this party, wrote a letter to the Emperor which
Arakcheev and Balashev agreed to sign. In this letter, availing
himself of permission given him by the Emperor to discuss the
general course of affairs, he respectfully suggested- on the plea that
it was necessary for the sovereign to arouse a warlike spirit in the
people of the capital- that the Emperor should leave the army.
That arousing of the people by their sovereign and his call to
them to defend their country- the very incitement which was the
chief cause of Russia's triumph in so far as it was produced by the
Tsar's personal presence in Moscow- was suggested to the Emperor,
and accepted by him, as a pretext for quitting the army.
This letter had not yet been presented to the Emperor when
Barclay, one day at dinner, informed Bolkonski that the sovereign
wished to see him personally, to question him about Turkey, and that
Prince Andrew was to present himself at Bennigsen's quarters at six
News was received at the Emperor's quarters that very day of a fresh
movement by Napoleon which might endanger the army- news
subsequently found to be false. And that morning Colonel Michaud had
ridden round the Drissa fortifications with the Emperor and had
pointed out to him that this fortified camp constructed by Pfuel,
and till then considered a chef-d'oeuvre of tactical science which
would ensure Napoleon's destruction, was an absurdity, threatening the
destruction of the Russian army.
Prince Andrew arrived at Bennigsen's quarters- a country gentleman's
house of moderate size, situated on the very banks of the river.
Neither Bennigsen nor the Emperor was there, but Chernyshev, the
Emperor's aide-de-camp, received Bolkonski and informed him that the
Emperor, accompanied by General Bennigsen and Marquis Paulucci, had
gone a second time that day to inspect the fortifications of the
Drissa camp, of the suitability of which serious doubts were beginning
to be felt.
Chernyshev was sitting at a window in the first room with a French
novel in his hand. This room had probably been a music room; there was
still an organ in it on which some rugs were piled, and in one
corner stood the folding bedstead of Bennigsen's adjutant. This
adjutant was also there and sat dozing on the rolled-up bedding,
evidently exhausted by work or by feasting. Two doors led from the
room, one straight on into what had been the drawing room, and
another, on the right, to the study. Through the first door came the
sound of voices conversing in German and occasionally in French. In
that drawing room were gathered, by the Emperor's wish, not a military
council (the Emperor preferred indefiniteness), but certain persons
whose opinions he wished to know in view of the impending
difficulties. It was not a council of war, but, as it were, a
council to elucidate certain questions for the Emperor personally.
To this semicouncil had been invited the Swedish General Armfeldt,
Adjutant General Wolzogen, Wintzingerode (whom Napoleon had referred
to as a renegade French subject), Michaud, Toll, Count Stein who was
not a military man at all, and Pfuel himself, who, as Prince Andrew
had heard, was the mainspring of the whole affair. Prince Andrew had
an opportunity of getting a good look at him, for Pfuel arrived soon
after himself and, in passing through to the drawing room, stopped a
minute to speak to Chernyshev.
At first sight, Pfuel, in his ill-made uniform of a Russian general,
which fitted him badly like a fancy costume, seemed familiar to Prince
Andrew, though he saw him now for the first time. There was about
him something of Weyrother, Mack, and Schmidt, and many other German
theorist-generals whom Prince Andrew had seen in 1805, but he was more
typical than any of them. Prince Andrew had never yet seen a German
theorist in whom all the characteristics of those others were united
to such an extent.
Pfuel was short and very thin but broad-boned, of coarse, robust
build, broad in the hips, and with prominent shoulder blades. His face
was much wrinkled and his eyes deep set. His hair had evidently been
hastily brushed smooth in front of the temples, but stuck up behind in
quaint little tufts. He entered the room, looking restlessly and
angrily around, as if afraid of everything in that large apartment.
Awkwardly holding up his sword, he addressed Chernyshev and asked in
German where the Emperor was. One could see that he wished to pass
through the rooms as quickly as possible, finish with the bows and
greetings, and sit down to business in front of a map, where he
would feel at home. He nodded hurriedly in reply to Chernyshev, and
smiled ironically on hearing that the sovereign was inspecting the
fortifications that he, Pfuel, had planned in accord with his
theory. He muttered something to himself abruptly and in a bass voice,
as self-assured Germans do- it might have been "stupid fellow"... or
"the whole affair will be ruined," or "something absurd will come of
it."... Prince Andrew did not catch what he said and would have passed
on, but Chernyshev introduced him to Pfuel, remarking that Prince
Andrew was just back from Turkey where the war had terminated so
fortunately. Pfuel barely glanced- not so much at Prince Andrew as
past him- and said, with a laugh: "That must have been a fine tactical
war"; and, laughing contemptuously, went on into the room from which
the sound of voices was heard.
Pfuel, always inclined to be irritably sarcastic, was particularly
disturbed that day, evidently by the fact that they had dared to
inspect and criticize his camp in his absence. From this short
interview with Pfuel, Prince Andrew, thanks to his Austerlitz
experiences, was able to form a clear conception of the man. Pfuel was
one of those hopelessly and immutably self-confident men,
self-confident to the point of martyrdom as only Germans are,
because only Germans are self-confident on the basis of an abstract
notion- science, that is, the supposed knowledge of absolute truth.
A Frenchman is self-assured because he regards himself personally,
both in mind and body, as irresistibly attractive to men and women. An
Englishman is self-assured, as being a citizen of the best-organized
state in the world, and therefore as an Englishman always knows what
he should do and knows that all he does as an Englishman is
undoubtedly correct. An Italian is self-assured because he is
excitable and easily forgets himself and other people. A Russian is
self-assured just because he knows nothing does not want to know
anything, since he does not believe that anything can be known. The
German's self-assurance is worst of all, stronger and more repulsive
than any other, because he imagines that he knows the truth-
science- which he himself has invented but which is for him the
Pfuel was evidently of that sort. He had a science- the theory of
oblique movements deduced by him from the history of Frederick the
Great's wars, and all he came across in the history of more recent
warfare seemed to him absurd and barbarous- monstrous collisions in
which so many blunders were committed by both sides that these wars
could not be called wars, they did not accord with the theory, and
therefore could not serve as material for science.
In 1806 Pfuel had been one of those responsible, for the plan of
campaign that ended in Jena and Auerstadt, but he did not see the
least proof of the fallibility of his theory in the disasters of
that war. On the contrary, the deviations made from his theory were,
in his opinion, the sole cause of the whole disaster, and with
characteristically gleeful sarcasm he would remark, "There, I said the
whole affair would go to the devil!" Pfuel was one of those
theoreticians who so love their theory that they lose sight of the
theory's object- its practical application. His love of theory made
him hate everything practical, and he would not listen to it. He was
even pleased by failures, for failures resulting from deviations in
practice from the theory only proved to him the accuracy of his
He said a few words to Prince Andrew and Chernyshev about the
present war, with the air of a man who knows beforehand that all
will go wrong, and who is not displeased that it should be so. The
unbrushed tufts of hair sticking up behind and the hastily brushed
hair on his temples expressed this most eloquently.
He passed into the next room, and the deep, querulous sounds of
his voice were at once heard from there.
Prince Andrew's eyes were still following Pfuel out of the room when
Count Bennigsen entered hurriedly, and nodding to Bolkonski, but not
pausing, went into the study, giving instructions to his adjutant as
he went. The Emperor was following him, and Bennigsen had hastened
on to make some preparations and to be ready to receive the sovereign.
Chernyshev and Prince Andrew went out into the porch, where the
Emperor, who looked fatigued, was dismounting. Marquis Paulucci was
talking to him with particular warmth and the Emperor, with his head
bent to the left, was listening with a dissatisfied air. The Emperor
moved forward evidently wishing to end the conversation, but the
flushed and excited Italian, oblivious of decorum, followed him and
continued to speak.
"And as for the man who advised forming this camp- the Drissa camp,"
said Paulucci, as the Emperor mounted the steps and noticing Prince
Andrew scanned his unfamiliar face, "as to that person, sire..."
continued Paulucci, desperately, apparently unable to restrain
himself, "the man who advised the Drissa camp- I see no alternative
but the lunatic asylum or the gallows!"
Without heeding the end of the Italian's remarks, and as though
not hearing them, the Emperor, recognizing Bolkonski, addressed him
"I am very glad to see you! Go in there where they are meeting,
and wait for me."
The Emperor went into the study. He was followed by Prince Peter
Mikhaylovich Volkonski and Baron Stein, and the door closed behind
them. Prince Andrew, taking advantage of the Emperor's permission,
accompanied Paulucci, whom he had known in Turkey, into the drawing
room where the council was assembled.
Prince Peter Mikhaylovich Volkonski occupied the position, as it
were, of chief of the Emperor's staff. He came out of the study into
the drawing room with some maps which he spread on a table, and put
questions on which he wished to hear the opinion of the gentlemen
present. What had happened was that news (which afterwards proved to
be false) had been received during the night of a movement by the
French to outflank the Drissa camp.
The first to speak was General Armfeldt who, to meet the
difficulty that presented itself, unexpectedly proposed a perfectly
new position away from the Petersburg and Moscow roads. The reason for
this was inexplicable (unless he wished to show that he, too, could
have an opinion), but he urged that at this point the army should
unite and there await the enemy. It was plain that Armfeldt had
thought out that plan long ago and now expounded it not so much to
answer the questions put- which, in fact, his plan did not answer-
as to avail himself of the opportunity to air it. It was one of the
millions of proposals, one as good as another, that could be made as
long as it was quite unknown what character the war would take. Some
disputed his arguments, others defended them. Young Count Toll
objected to the Swedish general's views more warmly than anyone
else, and in the course of the dispute drew from his side pocket a
well-filled notebook, which he asked permission to read to them. In
these voluminous notes Toll suggested another scheme, totally
different from Armfeldt's or Pfuel's plan of campaign. In answer to
Toll, Paulucci suggested an advance and an attack, which, he urged,
could alone extricate us from the present uncertainty and from the
trap (as he called the Drissa camp) in which we were situated.
During all these discussions Pfuel and his interpreter, Wolzogen
(his "bridge" in court relations), were silent. Pfuel only snorted
contemptuously and turned away, to show that he would never demean
himself by replying to such nonsense as he was now hearing. So when
Prince Volkonski, who was in the chair, called on him to give his
opinion, he merely said:
"Why ask me? General Armfeldt has proposed a splendid position
with an exposed rear, or why not this Italian gentleman's attack- very
fine, or a retreat, also good! Why ask me?" said he. "Why, you
yourselves know everything better than I do."
But when Volkonski said, with a frown, that it was in the
Emperor's name that he asked his opinion, Pfuel rose and, suddenly
growing animated, began to speak:
"Everything has been spoiled, everything muddled, everybody
thought they knew better than I did, and now you come to me! How
mend matters? There is nothing to mend! The principles laid down by me
must be strictly adhered to," said he, drumming on the table with
his bony fingers. "What is the difficulty? Nonsense, childishness!"
He went up to the map and speaking rapidly began proving that no
eventuality could alter the efficiency of the Drissa camp, that
everything had been foreseen, and that if the enemy were really
going to outflank it, the enemy would inevitably be destroyed.
Paulucci, who did not know German, began questioning him in
French. Wolzogen came to the assistance of his chief, who spoke French
badly, and began translating for him, hardly able to keep pace with
Pfuel, who was rapidly demonstrating that not only all that had
happened, but all that could happen, had been foreseen in his
scheme, and that if there were now any difficulties the whole fault
lay in the fact that his plan had not been precisely executed. He kept
laughing sarcastically, he demonstrated, and at last contemptuously
ceased to demonstrate, like a mathematician who ceases to prove in
various ways the accuracy of a problem that has already been proved.
Wolzogen took his place and continued to explain his views in
French, every now and then turning to Pfuel and saying, "Is it not so,
your excellency?" But Pfuel, like a man heated in a fight who
strikes those on his own side, shouted angrily at his own supporter,
"Well, of course, what more is there to explain?"
Paulucci and Michaud both attacked Wolzogen simultaneously in
French. Armfeldt addressed Pfuel in German. Toll explained to
Volkonski in Russian. Prince Andrew listened and observed in silence.
Of all these men Prince Andrew sympathized most with Pfuel, angry,
determined, and absurdly self-confident as he was. Of all those
present, evidently he alone was not seeking anything for himself,
nursed no hatred against anyone, and only desired that the plan,
formed on a theory arrived at by years of toil, should be carried out.
He was ridiculous, and unpleasantly sarcastic, but yet he inspired
involuntary respect by his boundless devotion to an idea. Besides
this, the remarks of all except Pfuel had one common trait that had
not been noticeable at the council of war in 1805: there was now a
panic fear of Napoleon's genius, which, though concealed, was
noticeable in every rejoinder. Everything was assumed to be possible
for Napoleon, they expected him from every side, and invoked his
terrible name to shatter each other's proposals. Pfuel alone seemed to
consider Napoleon a barbarian like everyone else who opposed his
theory. But besides this feeling of respect, Pfuel evoked pity in
Prince Andrew. From the tone in which the courtiers addressed him
and the way Paulucci had allowed himself to speak of him to the
Emperor, but above all from a certain desperation in Pfuel's own
expressions, it was clear that the others knew, and Pfuel himself
felt, that his fall was at hand. And despite his self-confidence and
grumpy German sarcasm he was pitiable, with his hair smoothly
brushed on the temples and sticking up in tufts behind. Though he
concealed the fact under a show of irritation and contempt, he was
evidently in despair that the sole remaining chance of verifying his
theory by a huge experiment and proving its soundness to the whole
world was slipping away from him.
The discussions continued a long time, and the longer they lasted
the more heated became the disputes, culminating in shouts and
personalities, and the less was it possible to arrive at any general
conclusion from all that had been said. Prince Andrew, listening to
this polyglot talk and to these surmises, plans, refutations, and
shouts, felt nothing but amazement at what they were saying. A thought
that had long since and often occurred to him during his military
activities- the idea that there is not and cannot be any science of
war, and that therefore there can be no such thing as a military
genius- now appeared to him an obvious truth. "What theory and science
is possible about a matter the conditions and circumstances of which
are unknown and cannot be defined, especially when the strength of the
acting forces cannot be ascertained? No one was or is able to
foresee in what condition our or the enemy's armies will be in a day's
time, and no one can gauge the force of this or that detachment.
Sometimes- when there is not a coward at the front to shout, 'We are
cut off!' and start running, but a brave and jolly lad who shouts,
'Hurrah!'- a detachment of five thousand is worth thirty thousand,
as at Schon Grabern, while at times fifty thousand run from eight
thousand, as at Austerlitz. What science can there be in a matter in
which, as in all practical matters, nothing can be defined and
everything depends on innumerable conditions, the significance of
which is determined at a particular moment which arrives no one
knows when? Armfeldt says our army is cut in half, and Paulucci says
we have got the French army between two fires; Michaud says that the
worthlessness of the Drissa camp lies in having the river behind it,
and Pfuel says that is what constitutes its strength; Toll proposes
one plan, Armfeldt another, and they are all good and all bad, and the
advantages of any suggestions can be seen only at the moment of trial.
And why do they all speak of a 'military genius'? Is a man a genius
who can order bread to be brought up at the right time and say who
is to go to the right and who to the left? It is only because military
men are invested with pomp and power and crowds of sychophants flatter
power, attributing to it qualities of genius it does not possess.
The best generals I have known were, on the contrary, stupid or
absent-minded men. Bagration was the best, Napoleon himself admitted
that. And of Bonaparte himself! I remember his limited, self-satisfied
face on the field of Austerlitz. Not only does a good army commander
not need any special qualities, on the contrary he needs the absence
of the highest and best human attributes- love, poetry, tenderness,
and philosophic inquiring doubt. He should be limited, firmly
convinced that what he is doing is very important (otherwise he will
not have sufficient patience), and only then will he be a brave
leader. God forbid that he should be humane, should love, or pity,
or think of what is just and unjust. It is understandable that a
theory of their 'genius' was invented for them long ago because they
have power! The success of a military action depends not on them,
but on the man in the ranks who shouts, 'We are lost!' or who
shouts, 'Hurrah!' And only in the ranks can one serve with assurance
of being useful."
So thought Prince Andrew as he listened to the talking, and he
roused himself only when Paulucci called him and everyone was leaving.
At the review next day the Emperor asked Prince Andrew where he
would like to serve, and Prince Andrew lost his standing in court
circles forever by not asking to remain attached to the sovereign's
person, but for permission to serve in the army.
Before the beginning of the campaign, Rostov had received a letter
from his parents in which they told him briefly of Natasha's illness
and the breaking off of her engagement to Prince Andrew (which they
explained by Natasha's having rejected him) and again asked Nicholas
to retire from the army and return home. On receiving this letter,
Nicholas did not even make any attempt to get leave of absence or to
retire from the army, but wrote to his parents that he was sorry
Natasha was ill and her engagement broken off, and that he would do
all he could to meet their wishes. To Sonya he wrote separately.
"Adored friend of my soul!" he wrote. "Nothing but honor could
keep me from returning to the country. But now, at the commencement of
the campaign, I should feel dishonored, not only in my comrades'
eyes but in my own, if I preferred my own happiness to my love and
duty to the Fatherland. But this shall be our last separation. Believe
me, directly the war is over, if I am still alive and still loved by
you, I will throw up everything and fly to you, to press you forever
to my ardent breast."
It was, in fact, only the commencement of the campaign that
prevented Rostov from returning home as he had promised and marrying
Sonya. The autumn in Otradnoe with the hunting, and the winter with
the Christmas holidays and Sonya's love, had opened out to him a vista
of tranquil rural joys and peace such as he had never known before,
and which now allured him. "A splendid wife, children, a good pack
of hounds, a dozen leashes of smart borzois, agriculture, neighbors,
service by election..." thought he. But now the campaign was
beginning, and he had to remain with his regiment. And since it had to
be so, Nicholas Rostov, as was natural to him, felt contented with the
life he led in the regiment and was able to find pleasure in that
On his return from his furlough Nicholas, having been joyfully
welcomed by his comrades, was sent to obtain remounts and brought back
from the Ukraine excellent horses which pleased him and earned him
commendation from his commanders. During his absence he had been
promoted captain, and when the regiment was put on war footing with an
increase in numbers, he was again allotted his old squadron.
The campaign began, the regiment was moved into Poland on double
pay, new officers arrived, new men and horses, and above all everybody
was infected with the merrily excited mood that goes with the
commencement of a war, and Rostov, conscious of his advantageous
position in the regiment, devoted himself entirely to the pleasures
and interests of military service, though he knew that sooner or later
he would have to relinquish them.
The troops retired from Vilna for various complicated reasons of
state, political and strategic. Each step of the retreat was
accompanied by a complicated interplay of interests, arguments, and
passions at headquarters. For the Pavlograd hussars, however, the
whole of this retreat during the finest period of summer and with
sufficient supplies was a very simple and agreeable business.
It was only at headquarters that there was depression, uneasiness,
and intriguing; in the body of the army they did not ask themselves
where they were going or why. If they regretted having to retreat,
it was only because they had to leave billets they had grown
accustomed to, or some pretty young Polish lady. If the thought that
things looked bad chanced to enter anyone's head, he tried to be as
cheerful as befits a good soldier and not to think of the general
trend of affairs, but only of the task nearest to hand. First they
camped gaily before Vilna, making acquaintance with the Polish
landowners, preparing for reviews and being reviewed by the Emperor
and other high commanders. Then came an order to retreat to Sventsyani
and destroy any provisions they could not carry away with them.
Sventsyani was remembered by the hussars only as the drunken camp, a
name the whole army gave to their encampment there, and because many
complaints were made against the troops, who, taking advantage of
the order to collect provisions, took also horses, carriages, and
carpets from the Polish proprietors. Rostov remembered Sventsyani,
because on the first day of their arrival at that small town he
changed his sergeant major and was unable to manage all the drunken
men of his squadron who, unknown to him, had appropriated five barrels
of old beer. From Sventsyani they retired farther and farther to
Drissa, and thence again beyond Drissa, drawing near to the frontier
of Russia proper.
On the thirteenth of July the Pavlograds took part in a serious
action for the first time.
On the twelfth of July, on the eve of that action, there was a heavy
storm of rain and hail. In general, the summer of 18l2 was
remarkable for its storms.
The two Pavlograd squadrons were bivouacking on a field of rye,
which was already in ear but had been completely trodden down by
cattle and horses. The rain was descending in torrents, and Rostov,
with a young officer named Ilyin, his protege, was sitting in a
hastily constructed shelter. An officer of their regiment, with long
mustaches extending onto his cheeks, who after riding to the staff had
been overtaken by the rain, entered Rostov's shelter.
"I have come from the staff, Count. Have you heard of Raevski's
And the officer gave them details of the Saltanov battle, which he
had heard at the staff.
Rostov, smoking his pipe and turning his head about as the water
trickled down his neck, listened inattentively, with an occasional
glance at Ilyin, who was pressing close to him. This officer, a lad of
sixteen who had recently joined the regiment, was now in the same
relation to Nicholas that Nicholas had been to Denisov seven years
before. Ilyin tried to imitate Rostov in everything and adored him
as a girl might have done.
Zdrzhinski, the officer with the long mustache, spoke
grandiloquently of the Saltanov dam being "a Russian Thermopylae," and
of how a deed worthy of antiquity had been performed by General
Raevski. He recounted how Raevski had led his two sons onto the dam
under terrific fire and had charged with them beside him. Rostov heard
the story and not only said nothing to encourage Zdrzhinski's
enthusiasm but, on the contrary, looked like a man ashamed of what
he was hearing, though with no intention of contradicting it. Since
the campaigns of Austerlitz and of 1807 Rostov knew by experience that
men always lie when describing military exploits, as he himself had
done when recounting them; besides that, he had experience enough to
know that nothing happens in war at all as we can imagine or relate
it. And so he did not like Zdrzhinski's tale, nor did he like
Zdrzhinski himself who, with his mustaches extending over his
cheeks, bent low over the face of his hearer, as was his habit, and
crowded Rostov in the narrow shanty. Rostov looked at him in
silence. "In the first place, there must have been such a confusion
and crowding on the dam that was being attacked that if Raevski did
lead his sons there, it could have had no effect except perhaps on
some dozen men nearest to him," thought he, "the rest could not have
seen how or with whom Raevski came onto the dam. And even those who
did see it would not have been much stimulated by it, for what had
they to do with Raevski's tender paternal feelings when their own
skins were in danger? And besides, the fate of the Fatherland did
not depend on whether they took the Saltanov dam or not, as we are
told was the case at Thermopylae. So why should he have made such a
sacrifice? And why expose his own children in the battle? I would
not have taken my brother Petya there, or even Ilyin, who's a stranger
to me but a nice lad, but would have tried to put them somewhere under
cover," Nicholas continued to think, as he listened to Zdrzhinski. But
he did not express his thoughts, for in such matters, too, he had
gained experience. He knew that this tale redounded to the glory of
our arms and so one had to pretend not to doubt it. And he acted
"I can't stand this any more," said Ilyin, noticing that Rostov
did not relish Zdrzhinski's conversation. "My stockings and shirt...
and the water is running on my seat! I'll go and look for shelter. The
rain seems less heavy."
Ilyin went out and Zdrzhinski rode away.
Five minutes later Ilyin, splashing through the mud, came running
back to the shanty.
"Hurrah! Rostov, come quick! I've found it! About two hundred
yards away there's a tavern where ours have already gathered. We can
at least get dry there, and Mary Hendrikhovna's there."
Mary Hendrikhovna was the wife of the regimental doctor, a pretty
young German woman he had married in Poland. The doctor, whether
from lack of means or because he did not like to part from his young
wife in the early days of their marriage, took her about with him
wherever the hussar regiment went and his jealousy had become a
standing joke among the hussar officers.
Rostov threw his cloak over his shoulders, shouted to Lavrushka to
follow with the things, and- now slipping in the mud, now splashing
right through it- set off with Ilyin in the lessening rain and the
darkness that was occasionally rent by distant lightning.
"Rostov, where are you?"
"Here. What lightning!" they called to one another.
In the tavern, before which stood the doctor's covered cart, there
were already some five officers. Mary Hendrikhovna, a plump little
blonde German, in a dressing jacket and nightcap, was sitting on a
broad bench in the front corner. Her husband, the doctor, lay asleep
behind her. Rostov and Ilyin, on entering the room, were welcomed with
merry shouts and laughter.
"Dear me, how jolly we are!" said Rostov laughing.
"And why do you stand there gaping?"
"What swells they are! Why, the water streams from them! Don't
make our drawing room so wet."
"Don't mess Mary Hendrikhovna's dress!" cried other voices.
Rostov and Ilyin hastened to find a corner where they could change
into dry clothes without offending Mary Hendrikhovna's modesty. They
were going into a tiny recess behind a partition to change, but
found it completely filled by three officers who sat playing cards
by the light of a solitary candle on an empty box, and these
officers would on no account yield their position. Mary Hendrikhovna
obliged them with the loan of a petticoat to be used as a curtain, and
behind that screen Rostov and Ilyin, helped by Lavrushka who had
brought their kits, changed their wet things for dry ones.
A fire was made up in the dilapidated brick stove. A board was
found, fixed on two saddles and covered with a horsecloth, a small
samovar was produced and a cellaret and half a bottle of rum, and
having asked Mary Hendrikhovna to preside, they all crowded round her.
One offered her a clean handkerchief to wipe her charming hands,
another spread a jacket under her little feet to keep them from the
damp, another hung his coat over the window to keep out the draft, and
yet another waved the flies off her husband's face, lest he should
"Leave him alone," said Mary Hendrikhovna, smiling timidly and
happily. "He is sleeping well as it is, after a sleepless night."
"Oh, no, Mary Hendrikhovna," replied the officer, "one must look
after the doctor. Perhaps he'll take pity on me someday, when it comes
to cutting off a leg or an arm for me."
There were only three tumblers, the water was so muddy that one
could not make out whether the tea was strong or weak, and the samovar
held only six tumblers of water, but this made it all the pleasanter
to take turns in order of seniority to receive one's tumbler from Mary
Hendrikhovna's plump little hands with their short and not overclean
nails. All the officers appeared to be, and really were, in love
with her that evening. Even those playing cards behind the partition
soon left their game and came over to the samovar, yielding to the
general mood of courting Mary Hendrikhovna. She, seeing herself
surrounded by such brilliant and polite young men, beamed with
satisfaction, try as she might to hide it, and perturbed as she
evidently was each time her husband moved in his sleep behind her.
There was only one spoon, sugar was more plentiful than anything
else, but it took too long to dissolve, so it was decided that Mary
Hendrikhovna should stir the sugar for everyone in turn. Rostov
received his tumbler, and adding some rum to it asked Mary
Hendrikhovna to stir it.
"But you take it without sugar?" she said, smiling all the time,
as if everything she said and everything the others said was very
amusing and had a double meaning.
"It is not the sugar I want, but only that your little hand should
stir my tea."
Mary Hendrikhovna assented and began looking for the spoon which
someone meanwhile had pounced on.
"Use your finger, Mary Hendrikhovna, it will be still nicer," said
"Too hot!" she replied, blushing with pleasure.
Ilyin put a few drops of rum into the bucket of water and brought it
to Mary Hendrikhovna, asking her to stir it with her finger.
"This is my cup," said he. "Only dip your finger in it and I'll
drink it all up."
When they had emptied the samovar, Rostov took a pack of cards and
proposed that they should play "Kings" with Mary Hendrikhovna. They
drew lots to settle who should make up her set. At Rostov's suggestion
it was agreed that whoever became "King" should have the right to kiss
Mary Hendrikhovna's hand, and that the "Booby" should go to refill and
reheat the samovar for the doctor when the latter awoke.
"Well, but supposing Mary Hendrikhovna is 'King'?" asked Ilyin.
"As it is, she is Queen, and her word is law!"
They had hardly begun to play before the doctor's disheveled head
suddenly appeared from behind Mary Hendrikhovna. He had been awake for
some time, listening to what was being said, and evidently found
nothing entertaining or amusing in what was going on. His face was sad
and depressed. Without greeting the officers, he scratched himself and
asked to be allowed to pass as they were blocking the way. As soon
as he had left the room all the officers burst into loud laughter
and Mary Hendrikhovna blushed till her eyes filled with tears and
thereby became still more attractive to them. Returning from the yard,
the doctor told his wife (who had ceased to smile so happily, and
looked at him in alarm, awaiting her sentence) that the rain had
ceased and they must go to sleep in their covered cart, or
everything in it would be stolen.
"But I'll send an orderly.... Two of them!" said Rostov. "What an
"I'll stand guard on it myself!" said Ilyin.
"No, gentlemen, you have had your sleep, but I have not slept for
two nights," replied the doctor, and he sat down morosely beside his
wife, waiting for the game to end.
Seeing his gloomy face as he frowned at his wife, the officers
grew still merrier, and some of them could not refrain from
laughter, for which they hurriedly sought plausible pretexts. When
he had gone, taking his wife with him, and had settled down with her
in their covered cart, the officers lay down in the tavern, covering
themselves with their wet cloaks, but they did not sleep for a long
time; now they exchanged remarks, recalling the doctor's uneasiness
and his wife's delight, now they ran out into the porch and reported
what was taking place in the covered trap. Several times Rostov,
covering his head, tried to go to sleep, but some remark would
arouse him and conversation would be resumed, to the accompaniment
of unreasoning, merry, childlike laughter.
It was nearly three o'clock but no one was yet asleep, when the
quartermaster appeared with an order to move on to the little town
of Ostrovna. Still laughing and talking, the officers began
hurriedly getting ready and again boiled some muddy water
in the samovar. But Rostov went off to his squadron without waiting
for tea. Day was breaking, the rain had ceased, and the clouds were
dispersing. It felt damp and cold, especially in clothes that were
still moist. As they left the tavern in the twilight of the dawn,
Rostov and Ilyin both glanced under the wet and glistening leather
hood of the doctor's cart, from under the apron of which his feet were
sticking out, and in the middle of which his wife's nightcap was
visible and her sleepy breathing audible.
"She really is a dear little thing," said Rostov to Ilyin, who was
"A charming woman!" said Ilyin, with all the gravity of a boy of
Half an hour later the squadron was lined up on the road. The
command was heard to "mount" and the soldiers crossed themselves and
mounted. Rostov riding in front gave the order "Forward!" and the
hussars, with clanking sabers and subdued talk, their horses' hoofs
splashing in the mud, defiled in fours and moved along the broad
road planted with birch trees on each side, following the infantry and
a battery that had gone on in front.
Tattered, blue-purple clouds, reddening in the east, were scudding
before the wind. It was growing lighter and lighter. That curly
grass which always grows by country roadsides became clearly
visible, still wet with the night's rain; the drooping branches of the
birches, also wet, swayed in the wind and flung down bright drops of
water to one side. The soldiers' faces were more and more clearly
visible. Rostov, always closely followed by Ilyin, rode along the side
of the road between two rows of birch trees.
When campaigning, Rostov allowed himself the indulgence of riding
not a regimental but a Cossack horse. A judge of horses and a
sportsman, he had lately procured himself a large, fine, mettlesome,
Donets horse, dun-colored, with light mane and tail, and when he
rode it no one could outgallop him. To ride this horse was a
pleasure to him, and he thought of the horse, of the morning, of the
doctor's wife, but not once of the impending danger.
Formerly, when going into action, Rostov had felt afraid; now he had
not the least feeling of fear. He was fearless, not because he had
grown used to being under fire (one cannot grow used to danger), but
because he had learned how to manage his thoughts when in danger. He
had grown accustomed when going into action to think about anything
but what would seem most likely to interest him- the impending danger.
During the first period of his service, hard as he tried and much as
he reproached himself with cowardice, he had not been able to do this,
but with time it had come of itself. Now he rode beside Ilyin under
the birch trees, occasionally plucking leaves from a branch that met
his hand, sometimes touching his horse's side with his foot, or,
without turning round, handing a pipe he had finished to an hussar
riding behind him, with as calm and careless an air as though he
were merely out for a ride. He glanced with pity at the excited face
of Ilyin, who talked much and in great agitation. He knew from
experience the tormenting expectation of terror and death the cornet
was suffering and knew that only time could help him.
As soon as the sun appeared in a clear strip of sky beneath the
clouds, the wind fell, as if it dared not spoil the beauty of the
summer morning after the storm; drops still continued to fall, but
vertically now, and all was still. The whole sun appeared on the
horizon and disappeared behind a long narrow cloud that hung above it.
A few minutes later it reappeared brighter still from behind the top
of the cloud, tearing its edge. Everything grew bright and
glittered. And with that light, and as if in reply to it, came the
sound of guns ahead of them.
Before Rostov had had time to consider and determine the distance of
that firing, Count Ostermann-Tolstoy's adjutant came galloping from
Vitebsk with orders to advance at a trot along the road.
The squadron overtook and passed the infantry and the battery- which
had also quickened their pace- rode down a hill, and passing through
an empty and deserted village again ascended. The horses began to
lather and the men to flush.
"Halt! Dress your ranks!" the order of the regimental commander
was heard ahead. "Forward by the left. Walk, march!" came the order
from in front.
And the hussars, passing along the line of troops on the left
flank of our position, halted behind our Uhlans who were in the
front line. To the right stood our infantry in a dense column: they
were the reserve. Higher up the hill, on the very horizon, our guns
were visible through the wonderfully clear air, brightly illuminated
by slanting morning sunbeams. In front, beyond a hollow dale, could be
seen the enemy's columns and guns. Our advanced line, already in
action, could be heard briskly exchanging shots with the enemy in
At these sounds, long unheard, Rostov's spirits rose, as at the
strains of the merriest music. Trap-ta-ta-tap! cracked the shots,
now together, now several quickly one after another. Again all was
silent and then again it sounded as if someone were walking on
detonators and exploding them.
The hussars remained in the same place for about an hour. A
cannonade began. Count Ostermann with his suite rode up behind the
squadron, halted, spoke to the commander of the regiment, and rode
up the hill to the guns.
After Ostermann had gone, a command rang out to the Uhlans.
"Form column! Prepare to charge!"
The infantry in front of them parted into platoons to allow the
cavalry to pass. The Uhlans started, the streamers on their spears
fluttering, and trotted downhill toward the French cavalry which was
seen below to the left.
As soon as the Uhlans descended the hill, the hussars were ordered
up the hill to support the battery. As they took the places vacated by
the Uhlans, bullets came from the front, whining and whistling, but
fell spent without taking effect.
The sounds, which he had not heard for so long, had an even more
pleasurable and exhilarating effect on Rostov than the previous sounds
of firing. Drawing himself up, he viewed the field of battle opening
out before him from the hill, and with his whole soul followed the
movement of the Uhlans. They swooped down close to the French
dragoons, something confused happened there amid the smoke, and five
minutes later our Uhlans were galloping back, not to the place they
had occupied but more to the left, and among the orange-colored Uhlans
on chestnut horses and behind them, in a large group, blue French
dragoons on gray horses could be seen.
Rostov, with his keen sportsman's eye, was one of the first to catch
sight of these blue French dragoons pursuing our Uhlans. Nearer and
nearer in disorderly crowds came the Uhlans and the French dragoons
pursuing them. He could already see how these men, who looked so small
at the foot of the hill, jostled and overtook one another, waving
their arms and their sabers in the air.
Rostov gazed at what was happening before him as at a hunt. He
felt instinctively that if the hussars struck at the French dragoons
now, the latter could not withstand them, but if a charge was to be
made it must be done now, at that very moment, or it would be too
late. He looked around. A captain, standing beside him, was gazing
like himself with eyes fixed on the cavalry below them.
"Andrew Sevastyanych!" said Rostov. "You know, we could crush
"A fine thing too!" replied the captain, "and really..."