Part 30 out of 34
drawing nearer to Dolokhov.
The horses were brought.
"Good evening, gentlemen," said Dolokhov.
Petya wished to say "Good night" but could not utter a word. The
officers were whispering together. Dolokhov was a long time mounting
his horse which would not stand still, then he rode out of the yard at
a footpace. Petya rode beside him, longing to look round to see
whether or no the French were running after them, but not daring to.
Coming out onto the road Dolokhov did not ride back across the
open country, but through the village. At one spot he stopped and
listened. "Do you hear?" he asked. Petya recognized the sound of
Russian voices and saw the dark figures of Russian prisoners round
their campfires. When they had descended to the bridge Petya and
Dolokhov rode past the sentinel, who without saying a word paced
morosely up and down it, then they descended into the hollow where the
Cossacks awaited them.
"Well now, good-by. Tell Denisov, 'at the first shot at
daybreak,'" said Dolokhov and was about to ride away, but Petya seized
hold of him.
"Really!" he cried, "you are such a hero! Oh, how fine, how
splendid! How I love you!"
"All right, all right!" said Dolokhov. But Petya did not let go of
him and Dolokhov saw through the gloom that Petya was bending toward
him and wanted to kiss him. Dolokhov kissed him, laughed, turned his
horse, and vanished into the darkness.
Having returned to the watchman's hut, Petya found Denisov in the
passage. He was awaiting Petya's return in a state of agitation,
anxiety, and self-reproach for having let him go.
"Thank God!" he exclaimed. "Yes, thank God!" he repeated,
listening to Petya's rapturous account. "But, devil take you, I
haven't slept because of you! Well, thank God. Now lie down. We can
still get a nap before morning."
"But... no," said Petya, "I don't want to sleep yet. Besides I
know myself, if I fall asleep it's finished. And then I am used to not
sleeping before a battle."
He sat awhile in the hut joyfully recalling the details of his
expedition and vividly picturing to himself what would happen next
Then, noticing that Denisov was asleep, he rose and went out of
It was still quite dark outside. The rain was over, but drops were
still falling from the trees. Near the watchman's hut the black shapes
of the Cossacks' shanties and of horses tethered together could be
seen. Behind the hut the dark shapes of the two wagons with their
horses beside them were discernible, and in the hollow the dying
campfire gleamed red. Not all the Cossacks and hussars were asleep;
here and there, amid the sounds of falling drops and the munching of
the horses near by, could be heard low voices which seemed to be
Petya came out, peered into the darkness, and went up to the wagons.
Someone was snoring under them, and around them stood saddled horses
munching their oats. In the dark Petya recognized his own horse, which
he called "Karabakh" though it was of Ukranian breed, and went up to
"Well, Karabakh! We'll do some service tomorrow," said he,
sniffing its nostrils and kissing it.
"Why aren't you asleep, sir?" said a Cossack who was sitting under a
"No, ah... Likhachev- isn't that your name? Do you know I have
only just come back! We've been into the French camp."
And Petya gave the Cossack a detailed account not only of his ride
but also of his object, and why he considered it better to risk his
life than to act "just anyhow."
"Well, you should get some sleep now," said the Cossack.
"No, I am used to this," said Petya. "I say, aren't the flints in
your pistols worn out? I brought some with me. Don't you want any? You
can have some."
The Cossack bent forward from under the wagon to get a closer look
"Because I am accustomed to doing everything accurately," said
Petya. "Some fellows do things just anyhow, without preparation, and
then they're sorry for it afterwards. I don't like that."
"Just so," said the Cossack.
"Oh yes, another thing! Please, my dear fellow, will you sharpen
my saber for me? It's got bl..." (Petya feared to tell a lie, and
the saber never had been sharpened.) "Can you do it?"
"Of course I can."
Likhachev got up, rummaged in his pack, and soon Petya heard the
warlike sound of steel on whetstone. He climbed onto the wagon and sat
on its edge. The Cossack was sharpening the saber under the wagon.
"I say! Are the lads asleep?" asked Petya.
"Some are, and some aren't- like us."
"Well, and that boy?"
"Vesenny? Oh, he's thrown himself down there in the passage. Fast
asleep after his fright. He was that glad!"
After that Petya remained silent for a long time, listening to the
sounds. He heard footsteps in the darkness and a black figure
"What are you sharpening?" asked a man coming up to the wagon.
"Why, this gentleman's saber."
"That's right," said the man, whom Petya took to be an hussar.
"Was the cup left here?"
"There, by the wheel!"
The hussar took the cup.
"It must be daylight soon," said he, yawning, and went away.
Petya ought to have known that he was in a forest with Denisov's
guerrilla band, less than a mile from the road, sitting on a wagon
captured from the French beside which horses were tethered, that under
it Likhachev was sitting sharpening a saber for him, that the big dark
blotch to the right was the watchman's hut, and the red blotch below
to the left was the dying embers of a campfire, that the man who had
come for the cup was an hussar who wanted a drink; but he neither knew
nor waited to know anything of all this. He was in a fairy kingdom
where nothing resembled reality. The big dark blotch might really be
the watchman's hut or it might be a cavern leading to the very
depths of the earth. Perhaps the red spot was a fire, or it might be
the eye of an enormous monster. Perhaps he was really sitting on a
wagon, but it might very well be that he was not sitting on a wagon
but on a terribly high tower from which, if he fell, he would have
to fall for a whole day or a whole month, or go on falling and never
reach the bottom. Perhaps it was just the Cossack, Likhachev, who
was sitting under the wagon, but it might be the kindest, bravest,
most wonderful, most splendid man in the world, whom no one knew of.
It might really have been that the hussar came for water and went back
into the hollow, but perhaps he had simply vanished- disappeared
altogether and dissolved into nothingness.
Nothing Petya could have seen now would have surprised him. He was
in a fairy kingdom where everything was possible.
He looked up at the sky. And the sky was a fairy realm like the
earth. It was clearing, and over the tops of the trees clouds were
swiftly sailing as if unveiling the stars. Sometimes it looked as if
the clouds were passing, and a clear black sky appeared. Sometimes
it seemed as if the black spaces were clouds. Sometimes the sky seemed
to be rising high, high overhead, and then it seemed to sink so low
that one could touch it with one's hand.
Petya's eyes began to close and he swayed a little.
The trees were dripping. Quiet talking was heard. The horses neighed
and jostled one another. Someone snored.
"Ozheg-zheg, Ozheg-zheg..." hissed the saber against the
whetstone, and suddenly Petya heard an harmonious orchestra playing
some unknown, sweetly solemn hymn. Petya was as musical as Natasha and
more so than Nicholas, but had never learned music or thought about
it, and so the melody that unexpectedly came to his mind seemed to him
particularly fresh and attractive. The music became more and more
audible. The melody grew and passed from one instrument to another.
And what was played was a fugue- though Petya had not the least
conception of what a fugue is. Each instrument- now resembling a
violin and now a horn, but better and clearer than violin or horn-
played its own part, and before it had finished the melody merged with
another instrument that began almost the same air, and then with a
third and a fourth; and they all blended into one and again became
separate and again blended, now into solemn church music, now into
something dazzlingly brilliant and triumphant.
"Oh- why, that was in a dream!" Petya said to himself, as he lurched
forward. "It's in my ears. But perhaps it's music of my own. Well,
go on, my music! Now!..."
He closed his eyes, and, from all sides as if from a distance,
sounds fluttered, grew into harmonies, separated, blended, and again
all mingled into the same sweet and solemn hymn. "Oh, this is
delightful! As much as I like and as I like!" said Petya to himself.
He tried to conduct that enormous orchestra.
"Now softly, softly die away!" and the sounds obeyed him. "Now
fuller, more joyful. Still more and more joyful!" And from an
unknown depth rose increasingly triumphant sounds. "Now voices join
in!" ordered Petya. And at first from afar he heard men's voices and
then women's. The voices grew in harmonious triumphant strength, and
Petya listened to their surpassing beauty in awe and joy.
With a solemn triumphal march there mingled a song, the drip from
the trees, and the hissing of the saber, "Ozheg-zheg-zheg..." and
again the horses jostled one another and neighed, not disturbing the
choir but joining in it.
Petya did not know how long this lasted: he enjoyed himself all
the time, wondered at his enjoyment and regretted that there was no
one to share it. He was awakened by Likhachev's kindly voice.
"It's ready, your honor; you can split a Frenchman in half with it!"
Petya woke up.
"It's getting light, it's really getting light!" he exclaimed.
The horses that had previously been invisible could now be seen to
their very tails, and a watery light showed itself through the bare
branches. Petya shook himself, jumped up, took a ruble from his pocket
and gave it to Likhachev; then he flourished the saber, tested it, and
sheathed it. The Cossacks were untying their horses and tightening
their saddle girths.
"And here's the commander," said Likhachev.
Denisov came out of the watchman's hut and, having called Petya,
gave orders to get ready.
The men rapidly picked out their horses in the semidarkness,
tightened their saddle girths, and formed companies. Denisov stood
by the watchman's hut giving final orders. The infantry of the
detachment passed along the road and quickly disappeared amid the
trees in the mist of early dawn, hundreds of feet splashing through
the mud. The esaul gave some orders to his men. Petya held his horse
by the bridle, impatiently awaiting the order to mount. His face,
having been bathed in cold water, was all aglow, and his eyes were
particularly brilliant. Cold shivers ran down his spine and his
whole body pulsed rhythmically.
"Well, is ev'wything weady?" asked Denisov. "Bwing the horses."
The horses were brought. Denisov was angry with the Cossack
because the saddle girths were too slack, reproved him, and mounted.
Petya put his foot in the stirrup. His horse by habit made as if to
nip his leg, but Petya leaped quickly into the saddle unconscious of
his own weight and, turning to look at the hussars starting in the
darkness behind him, rode up to Denisov.
"Vasili Dmitrich, entrust me with some commission! Please... for
God's sake...!" said he.
Denisov seemed to have forgotten Petya's very existence. He turned
to glance at him.
"I ask one thing of you," he said sternly, "to obey me and not shove
yourself forward anywhere."
He did not say another word to Petya but rode in silence all the
way. When they had come to the edge of the forest it was noticeably
growing light over the field. Denisov talked in whispers with the
esaul and the Cossacks rode past Petya and Denisov. When they had
all ridden by, Denisov touched his horse and rode down the hill.
Slipping onto their haunches and sliding, the horses descended with
their riders into the ravine. Petya rode beside Denisov, the pulsation
of his body constantly increasing. It was getting lighter and lighter,
but the mist still hid distant objects. Having reached the valley,
Denisov looked back and nodded to a Cossack beside him.
"The signal!" said he.
The Cossack raised his arm and a shot rang out. In an instant the
tramp of horses galloping forward was heard, shouts came from
various sides, and then more shots.
At the first sound of trampling hoofs and shouting, Petya lashed his
horse and loosening his rein galloped forward, not heeding Denisov who
shouted at him. It seemed to Petya that at the moment the shot was
fired it suddenly became as bright as noon. He galloped to the bridge.
Cossacks were galloping along the road in front of him. On the
bridge he collided with a Cossack who had fallen behind, but he
galloped on. In front of him soldiers, probably Frenchmen, were
running from right to left across the road. One of them fell in the
mud under his horse's feet.
Cossacks were crowding about a hut, busy with something. From the
midst of that crowd terrible screams arose. Petya galloped up, and the
first thing he saw was the pale face and trembling jaw of a Frenchman,
clutching the handle of a lance that had been aimed at him.
"Hurrah!... Lads!... ours!" shouted Petya, and giving rein to his
excited horse he galloped forward along the village street.
He could hear shooting ahead of him. Cossacks, hussars, and ragged
Russian prisoners, who had come running from both sides of the road,
were shouting something loudly and incoherently. A gallant-looking
Frenchman, in a blue overcoat, capless, and with a frowning red
face, had been defending himself against the hussars. When Petya
galloped up the Frenchman had already fallen. "Too late again!"
flashed through Petya's mind and he galloped on to the place from
which the rapid firing could be heard. The shots came from the yard of
the landowner's house he had visited the night before with Dolokhov.
The French were making a stand there behind a wattle fence in a garden
thickly overgrown with bushes and were firing at the Cossacks who
crowded at the gateway. Through the smoke, as he approached the
gate, Petya saw Dolokhov, whose face was of a pale-greenish tint,
shouting to his men. "Go round! Wait for the infantry!" he exclaimed
as Petya rode up to him.
"Wait?... Hurrah-ah-ah!" shouted Petya, and without pausing a moment
galloped to the place whence came the sounds of firing and where the
smoke was thickest.
A volley was heard, and some bullets whistled past, while others
plashed against something. The Cossacks and Dolokhov galloped after
Petya into the gateway of the courtyard. In the dense wavering smoke
some of the French threw down their arms and ran out of the bushes
to meet the Cossacks, while others ran down the hill toward the
pond. Petya was galloping along the courtyard, but instead of
holding the reins he waved both his arms about rapidly and
strangely, slipping farther and farther to one side in his saddle. His
horse, having galloped up to a campfire that was smoldering in the
morning light, stopped suddenly, and Petya fell heavily on to the
wet ground. The Cossacks saw that his arms and legs jerked rapidly
though his head was quite motionless. A bullet had pierced his skull.
After speaking to the senior French officer, who came out of the
house with a white handkerchief tied to his sword and announced that
they surrendered, Dolokhov dismounted and went up to Petya, who lay
motionless with outstretched arms.
"Done for!" he said with a frown, and went to the gate to meet
Denisov who was riding toward him.
"Killed?" cried Denisov, recognizing from a distance the
unmistakably lifeless attitude- very familiar to him- in which Petya's
body was lying.
"Done for!" repeated Dolokhov as if the utterance of these words
afforded him pleasure, and he went quickly up to the prisoners, who
were surrounded by Cossacks who had hurried up. "We won't take
them!" he called out to Denisov.
Denisov did not reply; he rode up to Petya, dismounted, and with
trembling hands turned toward himself the bloodstained,
mud-bespattered face which had already gone white.
"I am used to something sweet. Raisins, fine ones... take them all!"
he recalled Petya's words. And the Cossacks looked round in surprise
at the sound, like the yelp of a dog, with which Denisov turned
away, walked to the wattle fence, and seized hold of it.
Among the Russian prisoners rescued by Denisov and Dolokhov was
During the whole of their march from Moscow no fresh orders had been
issued by the French authorities concerning the party of prisoners
among whom was Pierre. On the twenty-second of October that party
was no longer with the same troops and baggage trains with which it
had left Moscow. Half the wagons laden with hardtack that had traveled
the first stages with them had been captured by Cossacks, the other
half had gone on ahead. Not one of those dismounted cavalrymen who had
marched in front of the prisoners was left; they had all
disappeared. The artillery the prisoners had seen in front of them
during the first days was now replaced by Marshal Junot's enormous
baggage train, convoyed by Westphalians. Behind the prisoners came a
cavalry baggage train.
From Vyazma onwards the French army, which had till then moved in
three columns, went on as a single group. The symptoms of disorder
that Pierre had noticed at their first halting place after leaving
Moscow had now reached the utmost limit.
The road along which they moved was bordered on both sides by dead
horses; ragged men who had fallen behind from various regiments
continually changed about, now joining the moving column, now again
lagging behind it.
Several times during the march false alarms had been given and the
soldiers of the escort had raised their muskets, fired, and run
headlong, crushing one another, but had afterwards reassembled and
abused each other for their causeless panic.
These three groups traveling together- the cavalry stores, the
convoy of prisoners, and Junot's baggage train- still constituted a
separate and united whole, though each of the groups was rapidly
Of the artillery baggage train which had consisted of a hundred
and twenty wagons, not more than sixty now remained; the rest had been
captured or left behind. Some of Junot's wagons also had been captured
or abandoned. Three wagons had been raided and robbed by stragglers
from Davout's corps. From the talk of the Germans Pierre learned
that a larger guard had been allotted to that baggage train than to
the prisoners, and that one of their comrades, a German soldier, had
been shot by the marshal's own order because a silver spoon
belonging to the marshal had been found in his possession.
The group of prisoners had melted away most of all. Of the three
hundred and thirty men who had set out from Moscow fewer than a
hundred now remained. The prisoners were more burdensome to the escort
than even the cavalry saddles or Junot's baggage. They understood that
the saddles and Junot's spoon might be of some use, but that cold
and hungry soldiers should have to stand and guard equally cold and
hungry Russians who froze and lagged behind on the road (in which case
the order was to shoot them) was not merely incomprehensible but
revolting. And the escort, as if afraid, in the grievous condition
they themselves were in, of giving way to the pity they felt for the
prisoners and so rendering their own plight still worse, treated
them with particular moroseness and severity.
At Dorogobuzh while the soldiers of the convoy, after locking the
prisoners in a stable, had gone off to pillage their own stores,
several of the soldier prisoners tunneled under the wall and ran away,
but were recaptured by the French and shot.
The arrangement adopted when they started, that the officer
prisoners should be kept separate from the rest, had long since been
abandoned. All who could walk went together, and after the third stage
Pierre had rejoined Karataev and the gray-blue bandy-legged dog that
had chosen Karataev for its master.
On the third day after leaving Moscow Karataev again fell ill with
the fever he had suffered from in the hospital in Moscow, and as he
grew gradually weaker Pierre kept away from him. Pierre did not know
why, but since Karataev had begun to grow weaker it had cost him an
effort to go near him. When he did so and heard the subdued moaning
with which Karataev generally lay down at the halting places, and when
he smelled the odor emanating from him which was now stronger than
before, Pierre moved farther away and did not think about him.
While imprisoned in the shed Pierre had learned not with his
intellect but with his whole being, by life itself, that man is
created for happiness, that happiness is within him, in the
satisfaction of simple human needs, and that all unhappiness arises
not from privation but from superfluity. And now during these last
three weeks of the march he had learned still another new, consolatory
truth- that nothing in this world is terrible. He had learned that
as there is no condition in which man can be happy and entirely
free, so there is no condition in which he need be unhappy and lack
freedom. He learned that suffering and freedom have their limits and
that those limits are very near together; that the person in a bed
of roses with one crumpled petal suffered as keenly as he now,
sleeping on the bare damp earth with one side growing chilled while
the other was warming; and that when he had put on tight dancing shoes
he had suffered just as he did now when he walked with bare feet
that were covered with sores- his footgear having long since fallen to
pieces. He discovered that when he had married his wife- of his own
free will as it had seemed to him- he had been no more free than now
when they locked him up at night in a stable. Of all that he himself
subsequently termed his sufferings, but which at the time he
scarcely felt, the worst was the state of his bare, raw, and
scab-covered feet. (The horseflesh was appetizing and nourishing,
the saltpeter flavor of the gunpowder they used instead of salt was
even pleasant; there was no great cold, it was always warm walking
in the daytime, and at night there were the campfires; the lice that
devoured him warmed his body.) The one thing that was at first hard to
bear was his feet.
After the second day's march Pierre, having examined his feet by the
campfire, thought it would be impossible to walk on them; but when
everybody got up he went along, limping, and, when he had warmed up,
walked without feeling the pain, though at night his feet were more
terrible to look at than before. However, he did not look at them now,
but thought of other things.
Only now did Pierre realize the full strength of life in man and the
saving power he has of transferring his attention from one thing to
another, which is like the safety valve of a boiler that allows
superfluous steam to blow off when the pressure exceeds a certain
He did not see and did not hear how they shot the prisoners who
lagged behind, though more than a hundred perished in that way. He did
not think of Karataev who grew weaker every day and evidently would
soon have to share that fate. Still less did Pierre think about
himself. The harder his position became and the more terrible the
future, the more independent of that position in which he found
himself were the joyful and comforting thoughts, memories, and
imaginings that came to him.
At midday on the twenty-second of October Pierre was going uphill
along the muddy, slippery road, looking at his feet and at the
roughness of the way. Occasionally he glanced at the familiar crowd
around him and then again at his feet. The former and the latter
were alike familiar and his own. The blue-gray bandy legged dog ran
merrily along the side of the road, sometimes in proof of its
agility and self-satisfaction lifting one hind leg and hopping along
on three, and then again going on all four and rushing to bark at
the crows that sat on the carrion. The dog was merrier and sleeker
than it had been in Moscow. All around lay the flesh of different
animals- from men to horses- in various stages of decomposition; and
as the wolves were kept off by the passing men the dog could eat all
It had been raining since morning and had seemed as if at any moment
it might cease and the sky clear, but after a short break it began
raining harder than before. The saturated road no longer absorbed
the water, which ran along the ruts in streams.
Pierre walked along, looking from side to side, counting his steps
in threes, and reckoning them off on his fingers. Mentally
addressing the rain, he repeated: "Now then, now then, go on! Pelt
It seemed to him that he was thinking of nothing, but far down and
deep within him his soul was occupied with something important and
comforting. This something was a most subtle spiritual deduction
from a conversation with Karataev the day before.
At their yesterday's halting place, feeling chilly by a dying
campfire, Pierre had got up and gone to the next one, which was
burning better. There Platon Karataev was sitting covered up- head and
all- with his greatcoat as if it were a vestment, telling the soldiers
in his effective and pleasant though now feeble voice a story Pierre
knew. It was already past midnight, the hour when Karataev was usually
free of his fever and particularly lively. When Pierre reached the
fire and heard Platon's voice enfeebled by illness, and saw his
pathetic face brightly lit up by the blaze, he felt a painful prick at
his heart. His feeling of pity for this man frightened him and he
wished to go away, but there was no other fire, and Pierre sat down,
trying not to look at Platon.
"Well, how are you?" he asked.
"How am I? If we grumble at sickness, God won't grant us death,"
replied Platon, and at once resumed the story he had begun.
"And so, brother," he continued, with a smile on his pale
emaciated face and a particularly happy light in his eyes, " you
Pierre had long been familiar with that story. Karataev had told
it to him alone some half-dozen times and always with a specially
joyful emotion. But well as he knew it, Pierre now listened to that
tale as to something new, and the quiet rapture Karataev evidently
felt as he told it communicated itself also to Pierre. The story was
of an old merchant who lived a good and God-fearing life with his
family, and who went once to the Nizhni fair with a companion- a
Having put up at an inn they both went to sleep, and next morning
his companion was found robbed and with his throat cut. A bloodstained
knife was found under the old merchant's pillow. He was tried,
knouted, and his nostrils having been torn off, "all in due form" as
Karataev put it, he was sent to hard labor in Siberia.
"And so, brother" (it was at this point that Pierre came up), "ten
years or more passed by. The old man was living as a convict,
submitting as he should and doing no wrong. Only he prayed to God
for death. Well, one night the convicts were gathered just as we
are, with the old man among them. And they began telling what each was
suffering for, and how they had sinned against God. One told how he
had taken a life, another had taken two, a third had set a house on
fire, while another had simply been a vagrant and had done nothing. So
they asked the old man: 'What are you being punished for, Daddy?'- 'I,
my dear brothers,' said he, 'am being punished for my own and other
men's sins. But I have not killed anyone or taken anything that was
not mine, but have only helped my poorer brothers. I was a merchant,
my dear brothers, and had much property. 'And he went on to tell
them all about it in due order. 'I don't grieve for myself,' he
says, 'God, it seems, has chastened me. Only I am sorry for my old
wife and the children,' and the old man began to weep. Now it happened
that in the group was the very man who had killed the other
merchant. 'Where did it happen, Daddy?' he said. 'When, and in what
month?' He asked all about it and his heart began to ache. So he comes
up to the old man like this, and falls down at his feet! 'You are
perishing because of me, Daddy,' he says. 'It's quite true, lads, that
this man,' he says, 'is being tortured innocently and for nothing! I,'
he says, 'did that deed, and I put the knife under your head while you
were asleep. Forgive me, Daddy,' he says, 'for Christ's sake!'"
Karataev paused, smiling joyously as he gazed into the fire, and
he drew the logs together.
"And the old man said, 'God will forgive you, we are all sinners
in His sight. I suffer for my own sins,' and he wept bitter tears.
Well, and what do you think, dear friends?" Karataev continued, his
face brightening more and more with a rapturous smile as if what he
now had to tell contained the chief charm and the whole meaning of his
story: "What do you think, dear fellows? That murderer confessed to
the authorities. 'I have taken six lives,' he says (he was a great
sinner), 'but what I am most sorry for is this old man. Don't let
him suffer because of me.' So he confessed and it was all written down
and the papers sent off in due form. The place was a long way off, and
while they were judging, what with one thing and another, filling in
the papers all in due form- the authorities I mean- time passed. The
affair reached the Tsar. After a while the Tsar's decree came: to
set the merchant free and give him a compensation that had been
awarded. The paper arrived and they began to look for the old man.
'Where is the old man who has been suffering innocently and in vain? A
paper has come from the Tsar!' so they began looking for him," here
Karataev's lower jaw trembled, "but God had already forgiven him- he
was dead! That's how it was, dear fellows!" Karataev concluded and sat
for a long time silent, gazing before him with a smile.
And Pierre's soul was dimly but joyfully filled not by the story
itself but by its mysterious significance: by the rapturous joy that
lit up Karataev's face as he told it, and the mystic significance of
"A vos places!"* suddenly cried a voice.
*"To your places."
A pleasant feeling of excitement and an expectation of something
joyful and solemn was aroused among the soldiers of the convoy and the
prisoners. From all sides came shouts of command, and from the left
came smartly dressed cavalrymen on good horses, passing the
prisoners at a trot. The expression on all faces showed the tension
people feel at the approach of those in authority. The prisoners
thronged together and were pushed off the road. The convoy formed up.
"The Emperor! The Emperor! The Marshal! The Duke!" and hardly had
the sleek cavalry passed, before a carriage drawn by six gray horses
rattled by. Pierre caught a glimpse of a man in a three-cornered hat
with a tranquil look on his handsome, plump, white face. It was one of
the marshals. His eye fell on Pierre's large and striking figure,
and in the expression with which he frowned and looked away Pierre
thought he detected sympathy and a desire to conceal that sympathy.
The general in charge of the stores galloped after the carriage with
a red and frightened face, whipping up his skinny horse. Several
officers formed a group and some soldiers crowded round them. Their
faces all looked excited and worried.
"What did he say? What did he say?" Pierre heard them ask.
While the marshal was passing, the prisoners had huddled together in
a crowd, and Pierre saw Karataev whom he had not yet seen that
morning. He sat in his short overcoat leaning against a birch tree. On
his face, besides the look of joyful emotion it had worn yesterday
while telling the tale of the merchant who suffered innocently,
there was now an expression of quiet solemnity.
Karataev looked at Pierre with his kindly round eyes now filled with
tears, evidently wishing him to come near that he might say
something to him. But Pierre was not sufficiently sure of himself.
He made as if he did not notice that look and moved hastily away.
When the prisoners again went forward Pierre looked round.
Karataev was still sitting at the side of the road under the birch
tree and two Frenchmen were talking over his head. Pierre did not look
round again but went limping up the hill.
From behind, where Karataev had been sitting, came the sound of a
shot. Pierre heard it plainly, but at that moment he remembered that
he had not yet finished reckoning up how many stages still remained to
Smolensk- a calculation he had begun before the marshal went by. And
he again started reckoning. Two French soldiers ran past Pierre, one
of whom carried a lowered and smoking gun. They both looked pale,
and in the expression on their faces- one of them glanced timidly at
Pierre- there was something resembling what he had seen on the face of
the young soldier at the execution. Pierre looked at the soldier and
remembered that, two days before, that man had burned his shirt
while drying it at the fire and how they had laughed at him.
Behind him, where Karataev had been sitting, the dog began to
howl. "What a stupid beast! Why is it howling?" thought Pierre.
His comrades, the prisoner soldiers walking beside him, avoided
looking back at the place where the shot had been fired and the dog
was howling, just as Pierre did, but there was a set look on all their
The stores, the prisoners, and the marshal's baggage train stopped
at the village of Shamshevo. The men crowded together round the
campfires. Pierre went up to the fire, ate some roast horseflesh,
lay down with his back to the fire, and immediately fell asleep. He
again slept as he had done at Mozhaysk after the battle of Borodino.
Again real events mingled with dreams and again someone, he or
another, gave expression to his thoughts, and even to the same
thoughts that had been expressed in his dream at Mozhaysk.
"Life is everything. Life is God. Everything changes and moves and
that movement is God. And while there is life there is joy in
consciousness of the divine. To love life is to love God. Harder and
more blessed than all else is to love this life in one's sufferings,
in innocent sufferings."
"Karataev!" came to Pierre's mind.
And suddenly he saw vividly before him a long-forgotten, kindly
old man who had given him geography lessons in Switzerland. "Wait a
bit," said the old man, and showed Pierre a globe. This globe was
alive- a vibrating ball without fixed dimensions. Its whole surface
consisted of drops closely pressed together, and all these drops moved
and changed places, sometimes several of them merging into one,
sometimes one dividing into many. Each drop tried to spread out and
occupy as much space as possible, but others striving to do the same
compressed it, sometimes destroyed it, and sometimes merged with it.
"That is life," said the old teacher.
"How simple and clear it is," thought Pierre. "How is it I did not
know it before?"
"God is in the midst, and each drop tries to expand so as to reflect
Him to the greatest extent. And it grows, merges, disappears from
the surface, sinks to the depths, and again emerges. There now,
Karataev has spread out and disappeared. Do you understand, my child?"
said the teacher.
"Do you understand, damn you?" shouted a voice, and Pierre woke up.
He lifted himself and sat up. A Frenchman who had just pushed a
Russian soldier away was squatting by the fire, engaged in roasting
a piece of meat stuck on a ramrod. His sleeves were rolled up and
his sinewy, hairy, red hands with their short fingers deftly turned
the ramrod. His brown morose face with frowning brows was clearly
visible by the glow of the charcoal.
"It's all the same to him," he muttered, turning quickly to a
soldier who stood behind him. "Brigand! Get away!"
And twisting the ramrod he looked gloomily at Pierre, who turned
away and gazed into the darkness. A prisoner, the Russian soldier
the Frenchman had pushed away, was sitting near the fire patting
something with his hand. Looking more closely Pierre recognized the
blue-gray dog, sitting beside the soldier, wagging its tail.
"Ah, he's come?" said Pierre. "And Plat-" he began, but did not
Suddenly and simultaneously a crowd of memories awoke in his
fancy- of the look Platon had given him as he sat under the tree, of
the shot heard from that spot, of the dog's howl, of the guilty
faces of the two Frenchmen as they ran past him, of the lowered and
smoking gun, and of Karataev's absence at this halt- and he was on the
point of realizing that Karataev had been killed, but just at that
instant, he knew not why, the recollection came to his mind of a
summer evening he had spent with a beautiful Polish lady on the
veranda of his house in Kiev. And without linking up the events of the
day or drawing a conclusion from them, Pierre closed his eyes,
seeing a vision of the country in summertime mingled with memories
of bathing and of the liquid, vibrating globe, and he sank into
water so that it closed over his head.
Before sunrise he was awakened by shouts and loud and rapid
firing. French soldiers were running past him.
"The Cossacks!" one of them shouted, and a moment later a crowd of
Russians surrounded Pierre.
For a long time he could not understand what was happening to him.
All around he heard his comrades sobbing with joy.
"Brothers! Dear fellows! Darlings!" old soldiers exclaimed, weeping,
as they embraced Cossacks and hussars.
The hussars and Cossacks crowded round the prisoners; one offered
them clothes, another boots, and a third bread. Pierre sobbed as he
sat among them and could not utter a word. He hugged the first soldier
who approached him, and kissed him, weeping.
Dolokhov stood at the gate of the ruined house, letting a crowd of
disarmed Frenchmen pass by. The French, excited by all that had
happened, were talking loudly among themselves, but as they passed
Dolokhov who gently switched his boots with his whip and watched
them with cold glassy eyes that boded no good, they became silent.
On the opposite side stood Dolokhov's Cossack, counting the
prisoners and marking off each hundred with a chalk line on the gate.
"How many?" Dolokhov asked the Cossack.
"The second hundred," replied the Cossack.
"Filez, filez!"* Dolokhov kept saying, having adopted this
expression from the French, and when his eyes met those of the
prisoners they flashed with a cruel light.
*"Get along, get along!"
Denisov, bareheaded and with a gloomy face, walked behind some
Cossacks who were carrying the body of Petya Rostov to a hole that had
been dug in the garden.
After the twenty-eighth of October when the frosts began, the flight
of the French assumed a still more tragic character, with men
freezing, or roasting themselves to death at the campfires, while
carriages with people dressed in furs continued to drive past,
carrying away the property that had been stolen by the Emperor, kings,
and dukes; but the process of the flight and disintegration of the
French army went on essentially as before.
From Moscow to Vyazma the French army of seventy-three thousand
men not reckoning the Guards (who did nothing during the whole war but
pillage) was reduced to thirty-six thousand, though not more than five
thousand had fallen in battle. From this beginning the succeeding
terms of the progression could be determined mathematically. The
French army melted away and perished at the same rate from Moscow to
Vyazma, from Vyazma to Smolensk, from Smolensk to the Berezina, and
from the Berezina to Vilna- independently of the greater or lesser
intensity of the cold, the pursuit, the barring of the way, or any
other particular conditions. Beyond Vyazma the French army instead
of moving in three columns huddled together into one mass, and so went
on to the end. Berthier wrote to his Emperor (we know how far
commanding officers allow themselves to diverge from the truth in
describing the condition of an army) and this is what he said:
I deem it my duty to report to Your Majesty the condition of the
various corps I have had occasion to observe during different stages
of the last two or three days' march. They are almost disbanded.
Scarcely a quarter of the soldiers remain with the standards of
their regiments, the others go off by themselves in different
directions hoping to find food and escape discipline. In general
they regard Smolensk as the place where they hope to recover. During
the last few days many of the men have been seen to throw away their
cartridges and their arms. In such a state of affairs, whatever your
ultimate plans may be, the interest of Your Majesty's service
demands that the army should be rallied at Smolensk and should first
of all be freed from ineffectives, such as dismounted cavalry,
unnecessary baggage, and artillery material that is no longer in
proportion to the present forces. The soldiers, who are worn out
with hunger and fatigue, need these supplies as well as a few days'
rest. Many have died last days on the road or at the bivouacs. This
state of things is continually becoming worse and makes one fear
that unless a prompt remedy is applied the troops will no longer be
under control in case of an engagement.
November 9: twenty miles from Smolensk.
After staggering into Smolensk which seemed to them a promised land,
the French, searching for food, killed one another, sacked their own
stores, and when everything had been plundered fled farther.
They all went without knowing whither or why they were going.
Still less did that genius, Napoleon, know it, for no one issued any
orders to him. But still he and those about him retained their old
habits: wrote commands, letters, reports, and orders of the day;
called one another sire, mon cousin, prince d'Eckmuhl, roi de
Naples, and so on. But these orders and reports were only on paper,
nothing in them was acted upon for they could not be carried out,
and though they entitled one another Majesties, Highnesses, or
Cousins, they all felt that they were miserable wretches who had
done much evil for which they had now to pay. And though they
pretended to be concerned about the army, each was thinking only of
himself and of how to get away quickly and save himself.
The movements of the Russian and French armies during the campaign
from Moscow back to the Niemen were like those in a game of Russian
blindman's bluff, in which two players are blindfolded and one of them
occasionally rings a little bell to inform the catcher of his
whereabouts. First he rings his bell fearlessly, but when he gets into
a tight place he runs away as quietly as he can, and often thinking to
escape runs straight into his opponent's arms.
At first while they were still moving along the Kaluga road,
Napoleon's armies made their presence known, but later when they
reached the Smolensk road they ran holding the clapper of their bell
tight- and often thinking they were escaping ran right into the
Owing to the rapidity of the French flight and the Russian pursuit
and the consequent exhaustion of the horses, the chief means of
approximately ascertaining the enemy's position- by cavalry
scouting- was not available. Besides, as a result of the frequent
and rapid change of position by each army, even what information was
obtained could not be delivered in time. If news was received one
day that the enemy had been in a certain position the day before, by
the third day when something could have been done, that army was
already two days' march farther on and in quite another position.
One army fled and the other pursued. Beyond Smolensk there were
several different roads available for the French, and one would have
thought that during their stay of four days they might have learned
where the enemy was, might have arranged some more advantageous plan
and undertaken something new. But after a four days' halt the mob,
with no maneuvers or plans, again began running along the beaten
track, neither to the right nor to the left but along the old- the
worst- road, through Krasnoe and Orsha.
Expecting the enemy from behind and not in front, the French
separated in their flight and spread out over a distance of
twenty-four hours. In front of them all fled the Emperor, then the
kings, then the dukes. The Russian army, expecting Napoleon to take
the road to the right beyond the Dnieper- which was the only
reasonable thing for him to do- themselves turned to the right and
came out onto the highroad at Krasnoe. And here as in a game of
blindman's buff the French ran into our vanguard. Seeing their enemy
unexpectedly the French fell into confusion and stopped short from the
sudden fright, but then they resumed their flight, abandoning their
comrades who were farther behind. Then for three days separate
portions of the French army- first Murat's (the vice-king's), then
Davout's, and then Ney's- ran, as it were, the gauntlet of the Russian
army. They abandoned one another, abandoned all their heavy baggage,
their artillery, and half their men, and fled, getting past the
Russians by night by making semicircles to the right.
Ney, who came last, had been busying himself blowing up the walls of
Smolensk which were in nobody's way, because despite the unfortunate
plight of the French or because of it, they wished to punish the floor
against which they had hurt themselves. Ney, who had had a corps of
ten thousand men, reached Napoleon at Orsha with only one thousand men
left, having abandoned all the rest and all his cannon, and having
crossed the Dnieper at night by stealth at a wooded spot.
From Orsha they fled farther along the road to Vilna, still
playing at blindman's buff with the pursuing army. At the Berezina
they again became disorganized, many were drowned and many
surrendered, but those who got across the river fled farther. Their
supreme chief donned a fur coat and, having seated himself in a
sleigh, galloped on alone, abandoning his companions. The others who
could do so drove away too, leaving those who could not to surrender
This campaign consisted in a flight of the French during which
they did all they could to destroy themselves. From the time they
turned onto the Kaluga road to the day their leader fled from the
army, none of the movements of the crowd had any sense. So one might
have thought that regarding this period of the campaign the
historians, who attributed the actions of the mass to the will of
one man, would have found it impossible to make the story of the
retreat fit their theory. But no! Mountains of books have been written
by the historians about this campaign, and everywhere are described
Napoleon's arrangements, the maneuvers, and his profound plans which
guided the army, as well as the military genius shown by his marshals.
The retreat from Malo-Yaroslavets when he had a free road into a
well-supplied district and the parallel road was open to him along
which Kutuzov afterwards pursued him- this unnecessary retreat along a
devastated road- is explained to us as being due to profound
considerations. Similarly profound considerations are given for his
retreat from Smolensk to Orsha. Then his heroism at Krasnoe is
described, where he is reported to have been prepared to accept battle
and take personal command, and to have walked about with a birch stick
"J'ai assez fait l'empereur; il est temps de faire le general,"* but
nevertheless immediately ran away again, abandoning to its fate the
scattered fragments of the army he left behind.
*"I have acted the Emperor long enough; it is time to act the
Then we are told of the greatness of soul of the marshals,
especially of Ney- a greatness of soul consisting in this: that he
made his way by night around through the forest and across the Dnieper
and escaped to Orsha, abandoning standards, artillery, and nine tenths
of his men.
And lastly, the final departure of the great Emperor from his heroic
army is presented to us by the historians as something great and
characteristic of genius. Even that final running away, described in
ordinary language as the lowest depth of baseness which every child is
taught to be ashamed of- even that act finds justification in the
When it is impossible to stretch the very elastic threads of
historical ratiocination any farther, when actions are clearly
contrary to all that humanity calls right or even just, the historians
produce a saving conception of "greatness." "Greatness," it seems,
excludes the standards of right and wrong. For the "great" man nothing
is wrong, there is no atrocity for which a "great" man can be blamed.
"C'est grand!"* say the historians, and there no longer exists
either good or evil but only "grand" and "not grand." Grand is good,
not grand is bad. Grand is the characteristic, in their conception, of
some special animals called "heroes." And Napoleon, escaping home in a
warm fur coat and leaving to perish those who were not merely his
comrades but were (in his opinion) men he had brought there, feels que
c'est grand,* and his soul is tranquil.
*"It is great."
* That it is great.
"Du sublime (he saw something sublime in himself) au ridicule il n'y
a qu'un pas,"* said he. And the whole world for fifty years has been
repeating: "Sublime! Grand! Napoleon le Grand!" Du sublime au ridicule
il n'y a qu'un pas.
*"From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step."
And it occurs to no one that to admit a greatness not
commensurable with the standard of right and wrong is merely to
admit one's own nothingness and immeasurable meanness.
For us with the standard of good and evil given us by Christ, no
human actions are incommensurable. And there is no greatness where
simplicity, goodness, and truth are absent.
What Russian, reading the account of the last part of the campaign
of 1812, has not experienced an uncomfortable feeling of regret,
dissatisfaction, and perplexity? Who has not asked himself how it is
that the French were not all captured or destroyed when our three
armies surrounded them in superior numbers, when the disordered
French, hungry and freezing, surrendered in crowds, and when (as the
historians relate) the aim of the Russians was to stop the French,
to cut them off, and capture them all?
How was it that the Russian army, which when numerically weaker than
the French had given battle at Borodino, did not achieve its purpose
when it had surrounded the French on three sides and when its aim
was to capture them? Can the French be so enormously superior to us
that when we had surrounded them with superior forces we could not
beat them? How could that happen?
History (or what is called by that name) replying to these questions
says that this occurred because Kutuzov and Tormasov and Chichagov,
and this man and that man, did not execute such and such maneuvers...
But why did they not execute those maneuvers? And why if they were
guilty of not carrying out a prearranged plan were they not tried
and punished? But even if we admitted that Kutuzov, Chichagov, and
others were the cause of the Russian failures, it is still
incomprehensible why, the position of the Russian army being what it
was at Krasnoe and at the Berezina (in both cases we had superior
forces), the French army with its marshals, kings, and Emperor was not
captured, if that was what the Russians aimed at.
The explanation of this strange fact given by Russian military
historians (to the effect that Kutuzov hindered an attack) is
unfounded, for we know that he could not restrain the troops from
attacking at Vyazma and Tarutino.
Why was the Russian army- which with inferior forces had withstood
the enemy in full strength at Borodino- defeated at Krasnoe and the
Berezina by the disorganized crowds of the French when it was
If the aim of the Russians consisted in cutting off and capturing
Napoleon and his marshals- and that aim was not merely frustrated
but all attempts to attain it were most shamefully baffled- then
this last period of the campaign is quite rightly considered by the
French to be a series of victories, and quite wrongly considered
victorious by Russian historians.
The Russian military historians in so far as they submit to claims
of logic must admit that conclusion, and in spite of their lyrical
rhapsodies about valor, devotion, and so forth, must reluctantly admit
that the French retreat from Moscow was a series of victories for
Napoleon and defeats for Kutuzov.
But putting national vanity entirely aside one feels that such a
conclusion involves a contradiction, since the series of French
victories brought the French complete destruction, while the series of
Russian defeats led to the total destruction of their enemy and the
liberation of their country.
The source of this contradiction lies in the fact that the
historians studying the events from the letters of the sovereigns
and the generals, from memoirs, reports, projects, and so forth,
have attributed to this last period of the war of 1812 an aim that
never existed, namely that of cutting off and capturing Napoleon
with his marshals and his army.
There never was or could have been such an aim, for it would have
been senseless and its attainment quite impossible.
It would have been senseless, first because Napoleon's
disorganized army was flying from Russia with all possible speed, that
is to say, was doing just what every Russian desired. So what was
the use of performing various operations on the French who were
running away as fast as they possibly could?
Secondly, it would have been senseless to block the passage of men
whose whole energy was directed to flight.
Thirdly, it would have been senseless to sacrifice one's own
troops in order to destroy the French army, which without external
interference was destroying itself at such a rate that, though its
path was not blocked, it could not carry across the frontier more than
it actually did in December, namely a hundredth part of the original
Fourthly, it would have been senseless to wish to take captive the
Emperor, kings, and dukes- whose capture would have been in the
highest degree embarrassing for the Russians, as the most adroit
diplomatists of the time (Joseph de Maistre and others) recognized.
Still more senseless would have been the wish to capture army corps of
the French, when our own army had melted away to half before
reaching Krasnoe and a whole division would have been needed to convoy
the corps of prisoners, and when our men were not always getting
full rations and the prisoners already taken were perishing of hunger.
All the profound plans about cutting off and capturing Napoleon
and his army were like the plan of a market gardener who, when driving
out of his garden a cow that had trampled down the beds he had
planted, should run to the gate and hit the cow on the head. The
only thing to be said in excuse of that gardener would be that he
was very angry. But not even that could be said for those who drew
up this project, for it was not they who had suffered from the
But besides the fact that cutting off Napoleon with his army would
have been senseless, it was impossible.
It was impossible first because- as experience shows that a
three-mile movement of columns on a battlefield never coincides with
the plans- the probability of Chichagov, Kutuzov, and Wittgenstein
effecting a junction on time at an appointed place was so remote as to
be tantamount to impossibility, as in fact thought Kutuzov, who when
he received the plan remarked that diversions planned over great
distances do not yield the desired results.
Secondly it was impossible, because to paralyze the momentum with
which Napoleon's army was retiring, incomparably greater forces than
the Russians possessed would have been required.
Thirdly it was impossible, because the military term "to cut off"
has no meaning. One can cut off a slice of bread, but not an army.
To cut off an army- to bar its road- is quite impossible, for there is
always plenty of room to avoid capture and there is the night when
nothing can be seen, as the military scientists might convince
themselves by the example of Krasnoe and of the Berezina. It is only
possible to capture prisoners if they agree to be captured, just as it
is only possible to catch a swallow if it settles on one's hand. Men
can only be taken prisoners if they surrender according to the rules
of strategy and tactics, as the Germans did. But the French troops
quite rightly did not consider that this suited them, since death by
hunger and cold awaited them in flight or captivity alike.
Fourthly and chiefly it was impossible, because never since the
world began has a war been fought under such conditions as those
that obtained in 1812, and the Russian army in its pursuit of the
French strained its strength to the utmost and could not have done
more without destroying itself.
During the movement of the Russian army from Tarutino to Krasnoe
it lost fifty thousand sick or stragglers, that is a number equal to
the population of a large provincial town. Half the men fell out of
the army without a battle.
And it is of this period of the campaign- when the army lacked boots
and sheepskin coats, was short of provisions and without vodka, and
was camping out at night for months in the snow with fifteen degrees
of frost, when there were only seven or eight hours of daylight and
the rest was night in which the influence of discipline cannot be
maintained, when men were taken into that region of death where
discipline fails, not for a few hours only as in a battle, but for
months, where they were every moment fighting death from hunger and
cold, when half the army perished in a single month- it is of this
period of the campaign that the historians tell us how Miloradovich
should have made a flank march to such and such a place, Tormasov to
another place, and Chichagov should have crossed (more than
knee-deep in snow) to somewhere else, and how so-and-so "routed" and
"cut off" the French and so on and so on.
The Russians, half of whom died, did all that could and should
have been done to attain an end worthy of the nation, and they are not
to blame because other Russians, sitting in warm rooms, proposed
that they should do what was impossible.
All that strange contradiction now difficult to understand between
the facts and the historical accounts only arises because the
historians dealing with the matter have written the history of the
beautiful words and sentiments of various generals, and not the
history of the events.
To them the words of Miloradovich seem very interesting, and so do
their surmises and the rewards this or that general received; but
the question of those fifty thousand men who were left in hospitals
and in graves does not even interest them, for it does not come within
the range of their investigation.
Yet one need only discard the study of the reports and general plans
and consider the movement of those hundreds of thousands of men who
took a direct part in the events, and all the questions that seemed
insoluble easily and simply receive an immediate and certain solution.
The aim of cutting off Napoleon and his army never existed except in
the imaginations of a dozen people. It could not exist because it
was senseless and unattainable.
The people had a single aim: to free their land from invasion.
That aim was attained in the first place of itself, as the French
ran away, and so it was only necessary not to stop their flight.
Secondly it was attained by the guerrilla warfare which was destroying
the French, and thirdly by the fact that a large Russian army was
following the French, ready to use its strength in case their movement
The Russian army had to act like a whip to a running animal. And the
experienced driver knew it was better to hold the whip raised as a
menace than to strike the running animal on the head.
BOOK FIFTEEN: 1812 - 13
When seeing a dying animal a man feels a sense of horror:
substance similar to his own is perishing before his eyes. But when it
is a beloved and intimate human being that is dying, besides this
horror at the extinction of life there is a severance, a spiritual
wound, which like a physical wound is sometimes fatal and sometimes
heals, but always aches and shrinks at any external irritating touch.
After Prince Andrew's death Natasha and Princess Mary alike felt
this. Drooping in spirit and closing their eyes before the menacing
cloud of death that overhung them, they dared not look life in the
face. They carefully guarded their open wounds from any rough and
painful contact. Everything: a carriage passing rapidly in the street,
a summons to dinner, the maid's inquiry what dress to prepare, or
worse still any word of insincere or feeble sympathy, seemed an
insult, painfully irritated the wound, interrupting that necessary
quiet in which they both tried to listen to the stern and dreadful
choir that still resounded in their imagination, and hindered their
gazing into those mysterious limitless vistas that for an instant
had opened out before them.
Only when alone together were they free from such outrage and
pain. They spoke little even to one another, and when they did it
was of very unimportant matters.
Both avoided any allusion to the future. To admit the possibility of
a future seemed to them to insult his memory. Still more carefully did
they avoid anything relating to him who was dead. It seemed to them
that what they had lived through and experienced could not be
expressed in words, and that any reference to the details of his
life infringed the majesty and sacredness of the mystery that had been
accomplished before their eyes.
Continued abstention from speech, and constant avoidance of
everything that might lead up to the subject- this halting on all
sides at the boundary of what they might not mention- brought before
their minds with still greater purity and clearness what they were
But pure and complete sorrow is as impossible as pure and complete
joy. Princess Mary, in her position as absolute and independent
arbiter of her own fate and guardian and instructor of her nephew, was
the first to be called back to life from that realm of sorrow in which
she had dwelt for the first fortnight. She received letters from her
relations to which she had to reply; the room in which little Nicholas
had been put was damp and he began to cough; Alpatych came to
Yaroslavl with reports on the state of their affairs and with advice
and suggestions that they should return to Moscow to the house on
the Vozdvizhenka Street, which had remained uninjured and needed
only slight repairs. Life did not stand still and it was necessary
to live. Hard as it was for Princess Mary to emerge from the realm
of secluded contemplation in which she had lived till then, and
sorry and almost ashamed as she felt to leave Natasha alone, yet the
cares of life demanded her attention and she involuntarily yielded
to them. She went through the accounts with Alpatych, conferred with
Dessalles about her nephew, and gave orders and made preparations
for the journey to Moscow.
Natasha remained alone and, from the time Princess Mary began making
preparations for departure, held aloof from her too.
Princess Mary asked the countess to let Natasha go with her to
Moscow, and both parents gladly accepted this offer, for they saw
their daughter losing strength every day and thought that a change
of scene and the advice of Moscow doctors would be good for her.
"I am not going anywhere," Natasha replied when this was proposed to
her. "Do please just leave me alone!" And she ran out of the room,
with difficulty refraining from tears of vexation and irritation
rather than of sorrow.
After she felt herself deserted by Princes Mary and alone in her
grief, Natasha spent most of the time in her room by herself,
sitting huddled up feet and all in the corner of the sofa, tearing and
twisting something with her slender nervous fingers and gazing
intently and fixedly at whatever her eyes chanced to fall on. This
solitude exhausted and tormented her but she was in absolute need of
it. As soon as anyone entered she got up quickly, changed her position
and expression, and picked up a book or some sewing, evidently waiting
impatiently for the intruder to go.
She felt all the time as if she might at any moment penetrate that
on which- with a terrible questioning too great for her strength-
her spiritual gaze was fixed.
One day toward the end of December Natasha, pale and thin, dressed
in a black woolen gown, her plaited hair negligently twisted into a
knot, was crouched feet and all in the corner of her sofa, nervously
crumpling and smoothing out the end of her sash while she looked at
a corner of the door.
She was gazing in the direction in which he had gone- to the other
side of life. And that other side of life, of which she had never
before thought and which had formerly seemed to her so far away and
improbable, was now nearer and more akin and more comprehensible
than this side of life, where everything was either emptiness and
desolation or suffering and indignity.
She was gazing where she knew him to be; but she could not imagine
him otherwise than as he had been here. She now saw him again as he
had been at Mytishchi, at Troitsa, and at Yaroslavl.
She saw his face, heard his voice, repeated his words and her own,
and sometimes devised other words they might have spoken.
There he is lying back in an armchair in his velvet cloak, leaning
his head on his thin pale hand. His chest is dreadfully hollow and his
shoulders raised. His lips are firmly closed, his eyes glitter, and
a wrinkle comes and goes on his pale forehead. One of his legs
twitches just perceptibly, but rapidly. Natasha knows that he is
struggling with terrible pain. "What is that pain like? Why does he
have that pain? What does he feel? How does it hurt him?" thought
Natasha. He noticed her watching him, raised his eyes, and began to
"One thing would be terrible," said he: "to bind oneself forever
to a suffering man. It would be continual torture." And he looked
searchingly at her. Natasha as usual answered before she had time to
think what she would say. She said: "This can't go on- it won't. You
will get well- quite well."
She now saw him from the commencement of that scene and relived what
she had then felt. She recalled his long sad and severe look at
those words and understood the meaning of the rebuke and despair in
that protracted gaze.
"I agreed," Natasha now said to herself, "that it would be
dreadful if he always continued to suffer. I said it then only because
it would have been dreadful for him, but he understood it differently.
He thought it would be dreadful for me. He then still wished to live
and feared death. And I said it so awkwardly and stupidly! I did not
say what I meant. I thought quite differently. Had I said what I
thought, I should have said: even if he had to go on dying, to die
continually before my eyes, I should have been happy compared with
what I am now. Now there is nothing... nobody. Did he know that? No,
he did not and never will know it. And now it will never, never be
possible to put it right." And now he again seemed to be saying the
same words to her, only in her imagination Natasha this time gave
him a different answer. She stopped him and said: "Terrible for you,
but not for me! You know that for me there is nothing in life but you,
and to suffer with you is the greatest happiness for me," and he
took her hand and pressed it as he had pressed it that terrible
evening four days before his death. And in her imagination she said
other tender and loving words which she might have said then but
only spoke now: "I love thee!... thee! I love, love..." she said,
convulsively pressing her hands and setting her teeth with a desperate
She was overcome by sweet sorrow and tears were already rising in
her eyes; then she suddenly asked herself to whom she was saying this.
Again everything was shrouded in hard, dry perplexity, and again
with a strained frown she peered toward the world where he was. And
now, now it seemed to her she was penetrating the mystery.... But at
the instant when it seemed that the incomprehensible was revealing
itself to her a loud rattle of the door handle struck painfully on her
ears. Dunyasha, her maid, entered the room quickly and abruptly with a
frightened look on her face and showing no concern for her mistress.
"Come to your Papa at once, please!" said she with a strange,
excited look. "A misfortune... about Peter Ilynich... a letter," she
finished with a sob.
Besides a feeling of aloofness from everybody Natasha was feeling
a special estrangement from the members of her own family. All of
them- her father, mother, and Sonya- were so near to her, so familiar,
so commonplace, that all their words and feelings seemed an insult
to the world in which she had been living of late, and she felt not
merely indifferent to them but regarded them with hostility. She heard
Dunyasha's words about Peter Ilynich and a misfortune, but did not
"What misfortune? What misfortune can happen to them? They just live
their own old, quiet, and commonplace life," thought Natasha.
As she entered the ballroom her father was hurriedly coming out of
her mother's room. His face was puckered up and wet with tears. He had
evidently run out of that room to give vent to the sobs that were
choking him. When he saw Natasha he waved his arms despairingly and
burst into convulsively painful sobs that distorted his soft round
"Pe... Petya... Go, go, she... is calling..." and weeping like a
child and quickly shuffling on his feeble legs to a chair, he almost
fell into it, covering his face with his hands.
Suddenly an electric shock seemed to run through Natasha's whole
being. Terrible anguish struck her heart, she felt a dreadful ache
as if something was being torn inside her and she were dying. But
the pain was immediately followed by a feeling of release from the
oppressive constraint that had prevented her taking part in life.
The sight of her father, the terribly wild cries of her mother that
she heard through the door, made her immediately forget herself and
her own grief.
She ran to her father, but he feebly waved his arm, pointing to
her mother's door. Princess Mary, pale and with quivering chin, came
out from that room and taking Natasha by the arm said something to
her. Natasha neither saw nor heard her. She went in with rapid
steps, pausing at the door for an instant as if struggling with
herself, and then ran to her mother.
The countess was lying in an armchair in a strange and awkward
position, stretching out and beating her head against the wall.
Sonya and the maids were holding her arms.
"Natasha! Natasha!..." cried the countess. "It's not true... it's
not true... He's lying... Natasha!" she shrieked, pushing those around
her away. "Go away, all of you; it's not true! Killed!... ha, ha,
ha!... It's not true!"
Natasha put one knee on the armchair, stooped over her mother,
embraced her, and with unexpected strength raised her, turned her face
toward herself, and clung to her.
"Mummy!... darling!... I am here, my dearest Mummy," she kept on
whispering, not pausing an instant.
She did not let go of her mother but struggled tenderly with her,
demanded a pillow and hot water, and unfastened and tore open her
"My dearest darling... Mummy, my precious!..." she whispered
incessantly, kissing her head, her hands, her face, and feeling her
own irrepressible and streaming tears tickling her nose and cheeks.
The countess pressed her daughter's hand, closed her eyes, and
became quiet for a moment. Suddenly she sat up with unaccustomed
swiftness, glanced vacantly around her, and seeing Natasha began to
press her daughter's head with all her strength. Then she turned
toward her daughter's face which was wincing with pain and gazed
long at it.
"Natasha, you love me?" she said in a soft trustful whisper.
"Natasha, you would not deceive me? You'll tell me the whole truth?"
Natasha looked at her with eyes full of tears and in her look
there was nothing but love and an entreaty for forgiveness.
"My darling Mummy!" she repeated, straining all the power of her
love to find some way of taking on herself the excess of grief that
crushed her mother.
And again in a futile struggle with reality her mother, refusing
to believe that she could live when her beloved boy was killed in
the bloom of life, escaped from reality into a world of delirium.
Natasha did not remember how that day passed nor that night, nor the
next day and night. She did not sleep and did not leave her mother.
Her persevering and patient love seemed completely to surround the
countess every moment, not explaining or consoling, but recalling
her to life.
During the third night the countess kept very quiet for a few
minutes, and Natasha rested her head on the arm of her chair and
closed her eyes, but opened them again on hearing the bedstead
creak. The countess was sitting up in bed and speaking softly.
"How glad I am you have come. You are tired. Won't you have some
tea?" Natasha went up to her. "You have improved in looks and grown
more manly," continued the countess, taking her daughter's hand.
"Mamma! What are you saying..."
"Natasha, he is no more, no more!"
And embracing her daughter, the countess began to weep for the first
Princess Mary postponed her departure. Sonya and the count tried
to replace Natasha but could not. They saw that she alone was able
to restrain her mother from unreasoning despair. For three weeks
Natasha remained constantly at her mother's side, sleeping on a lounge
chair in her room, making her eat and drink, and talking to her
incessantly because the mere sound of her tender, caressing tones
soothed her mother.
The mother's wounded spirit could not heal. Petya's
death had torn from her half her life. When the news of Petya's
death had come she had been a fresh and vigorous woman of fifty, but a
month later she left her room a listless old woman taking no
interest in life. But the same blow that almost killed the countess,
this second blow, restored Natasha to life.
A spiritual wound produced by a rending of the spiritual body is
like a physical wound and, strange as it may seem, just as a deep
wound may heal and its edges join, physical and spiritual wounds alike
can yet heal completely only as the result of a vital force from
Natasha's wound healed in that way. She thought her life was
ended, but her love for her mother unexpectedly showed her that the
essence of life- love- was still active within her. Love awoke and
so did life.
Prince Andrew's last days had bound Princess Mary and Natasha
together; this new sorrow brought them still closer to one another.
Princess Mary put off her departure, and for three weeks looked
after Natasha as if she had been a sick child. The last weeks passed
in her mother's bedroom had strained Natasha's physical strength.
One afternoon noticing Natasha shivering with fever, Princess Mary
took her to her own room and made her lie down on the bed. Natasha lay
down, but when Princess Mary had drawn the blinds and was going away
she called her back.
"I don't want to sleep, Mary, sit by me a little."
"You are tired- try to sleep."
"No, no. Why did you bring me away? She will be asking for me."
"She is much better. She spoke so well today," said Princess Mary.
Natasha lay on the bed and in the semidarkness of the room scanned
Princess Mary's face.
"Is she like him?" thought Natasha. "Yes, like and yet not like. But
she is quite original, strange, new, and unknown. And she loves me.
What is in her heart? All that is good. But how? What is her mind
like? What does she think about me? Yes, she is splendid!"
"Mary," she said timidly, drawing Princess Mary's hand to herself,
"Mary, you mustn't think me wicked. No? Mary darling, how I love
you! Let us be quite, quite friends."
And Natasha, embracing her, began kissing her face and hands, making
Princess Mary feel shy but happy by this demonstration of her
From that day a tender and passionate friendship such as exists only
between women was established between Princess Mary and Natasha.
They were continually kissing and saying tender things to one
another and spent most of their time together. When one went out the
other became restless and hastened to rejoin her. Together they felt
more in harmony with one another than either of them felt with herself
when alone. A feeling stronger than friendship sprang up between them;
an exclusive feeling of life being possible only in each other's
Sometimes they were silent for hours; sometimes after they were
already in bed they would begin talking and go on till morning. They
spoke most of what was long past. Princess Mary spoke of her
childhood, of her mother, her father, and her daydreams; and
Natasha, who with a passive lack of understanding had formerly
turned away from that life of devotion, submission, and the poetry
of Christian self-sacrifice, now feeling herself bound to Princess
Mary by affection, learned to love her past too and to understand a
side of life previously incomprehensible to her. She did not think
of applying submission and self-abnegation to her own life, for she
was accustomed to seek other joys, but she understood and loved in
another those previously incomprehensible virtues. For Princess
Mary, listening to Natasha's tales of childhood and early youth, there
also opened out a new and hitherto uncomprehended side of life: belief
in life and its enjoyment.
Just as before, they never mentioned him so as not to lower (as they
thought) their exalted feelings by words; but this silence about him
had the effect of making them gradually begin to forget him without
being conscious of it.
Natasha had grown thin and pale and physically so weak that they all
talked about her health, and this pleased her. But sometimes she was
suddenly overcome by fear not only of death but of sickness, weakness,
and loss of good looks, and involuntarily she examined her bare arm
carefully, surprised at its thinness, and in the morning noticed her
drawn and, as it seemed to her, piteous face in her glass. It seemed
to her that things must be so, and yet it was dreadfully sad.
One day she went quickly upstairs and found herself out of breath.
Unconsciously she immediately invented a reason for going down, and
then, testing her strength, ran upstairs again, observing the result.
Another time when she called Dunyasha her voice trembled, so she
called again- though she could hear Dunyasha coming- called her in the
deep chest tones in which she had been wont to sing, sing, and
listened attentively to herself.
She did not know and would not have believed it, but beneath the
layer of slime that covered her soul and seemed to her impenetrable,
delicate young shoots of grass were already sprouting, which taking
root would so cover with their living verdure the grief that weighed
her down that it would soon no longer be seen or noticed. The wound
had begun to heal from within.
At the end of January Princess Mary left for Moscow, and the count
insisted on Natasha's going with her to consult the doctors.
After the encounter at Vyazma, where Kutuzov had been unable to hold
back his troops in their anxiety to overwhelm and cut off the enemy
and so on, the farther movement of the fleeing French, and of the
Russians who pursued them, continued as far as Krasnoe without a
battle. The flight was so rapid that the Russian army pursuing the
French could not keep up with them; cavalry and artillery horses broke
down, and the information received of the movements of the French
was never reliable.
The men in the Russian army were so worn out by this continuous
marching at the rate of twenty-seven miles a day that they could not
go any faster.
To realize the degree of exhaustion of the Russian army it is only
necessary to grasp clearly the meaning of the fact that, while not
losing more than five thousand killed and wounded after Tarutino and
less than a hundred prisoners, the Russian army which left that
place a hundred thousand strong reached Krasnoe with only fifty
The rapidity of the Russian pursuit was just as destructive to our
army as the flight of the French was to theirs. The only difference
was that the Russian army moved voluntarily, with no such threat of
destruction as hung over the French, and that the sick Frenchmen
were left behind in enemy hands while the sick Russians left behind
were among their own people. The chief cause of the wastage of
Napoleon's army was the rapidity of its movement, and a convincing
proof of this is the corresponding decrease of the Russian army.
Kutuzov as far as was in his power, instead of trying to check the
movement of the French as was desired in Petersburg and by the Russian
army generals, directed his whole activity here, as he had done at
Tarutino and Vyazma, to hastening it on while easing the movement of
But besides this, since the exhaustion and enormous diminution of
the army caused by the rapidity of the advance had become evident,
another reason for slackening the pace and delaying presented itself
to Kutuzov. The aim of the Russian army was to pursue the French.
The road the French would take was unknown, and so the closer our
troops trod on their heels the greater distance they had to cover.
Only by following at some distance could one cut across the zigzag
path of the French. All the artful maneuvers suggested by our generals
meant fresh movements of the army and a lengthening of its marches,
whereas the only reasonable aim was to shorten those marches. To
that end Kutuzov's activity was directed during the whole campaign
from Moscow to Vilna- not casually or intermittently but so
consistently that he never once deviated from it.
Kutuzov felt and knew- not by reasoning or science but with the
whole of his Russian being- what every Russian soldier felt: that
the French were beaten, that the enemy was flying and must be driven
out; but at the same time he like the soldiers realized all the
hardship of this march, the rapidity of which was unparalleled for
such a time of the year.
But to the generals, especially the foreign ones in the Russian
army, who wished to distinguish themselves, to astonish somebody,
and for some reason to capture a king or a duke- it seemed that now-
when any battle must be horrible and senseless- was the very time to
fight and conquer somebody. Kutuzov merely shrugged his shoulders when
one after another they presented projects of maneuvers to be made with
those soldiers- ill-shod, insufficiently clad, and half starved- who
within a month and without fighting a battle had dwindled to half
their number, and who at the best if the flight continued would have
to go a greater distance than they had already traversed, before
they reached the frontier.
This longing to distinguish themselves, to maneuver, to overthrow,
and to cut off showed itself particularly whenever the Russians
stumbled on the French army.
So it was at Krasnoe, where they expected to find one of the three
French columns and stumbled instead on Napoleon himself with sixteen
thousand men. Despite all Kutuzov's efforts to avoid that ruinous
encounter and to preserve his troops, the massacre of the broken mob
of French soldiers by worn-out Russians continued at Krasnoe for three
Toll wrote a disposition: "The first column will march to so and
so," etc. And as usual nothing happened in accord with the
disposition. Prince Eugene of Wurttemberg fired from a hill over the
French crowds that were running past, and demanded reinforcements
which did not arrive. The French, avoiding the Russians, dispersed and
hid themselves in the forest by night, making their way round as
best they could, and continued their flight.
Miloradovich, who said he did not want to know anything about the
commissariat affairs of his detachment, and could never be found
when he was wanted- that chevalier sans peur et sans reproche* as he
styled himself- who was fond of parleys with the French, sent envoys
demanding their surrender, wasted time, and did not do what he was
ordered to do.
*Knight without fear and without reproach.
"I give you that column, lads," he said, riding up to the troops and
pointing out the French to the cavalry.
And the cavalry, with spurs and sabers urging on horses that could
scarcely move, trotted with much effort to the column presented to
them- that is to say, to a crowd of Frenchmen stark with cold,
frost-bitten, and starving- and the column that had been presented
to them threw down its arms and surrendered as it had long been
anxious to do.
At Krasnoe they took twenty-six thousand prisoners, several
hundred cannon, and a stick called a "marshal's staff," and disputed
as to who had distinguished himself and were pleased with their
achievement- though they much regretted not having taken Napoleon,
or at least a marshal or a hero of some sort, and reproached one
another and especially Kutuzov for having failed to do so.
These men, carried away by their passions, were but blind tools of
the most melancholy law of necessity, but considered themselves heroes
and imagined that they were accomplishing a most noble and honorable
deed. They blamed Kutuzov and said that from the very beginning of the
campaign he had prevented their vanquishing Napoleon, that he
thought nothing but satisfying his passions and would not advance from
the Linen Factories because he was comfortable there, that at
Krasnoe he checked the advance because on learning that Napoleon was
there he had quite lost his head, and that it was probable that he had
an understanding with Napoleon and had been bribed by him, and so
on, and so on.
Not only did his contempories, carried away by their passions,
talk in this way, but posterity and history have acclaimed Napoleon as
grand, while Kutuzov is described by foreigners as a crafty,
dissolute, weak old courtier, and by Russians as something indefinite-
a sort of puppet useful only because he had a Russian name.
In 1812 and 1813 Kutuzov was openly accused of blundering. The
Emperor was dissatisfied with him. And in a history recently written
by order of the Highest Authorities it is said that Kutuzov was a
cunning court liar, frightened of the name of Napoleon, and that by
his blunders at Krasnoe and the Berezina he deprived the Russian
army of the glory of complete victory over the French.*
*History of the year 1812. The character of Kutuzov and
reflections on the unsatisfactory results of the battles at Krasnoe,
Such is the fate not of great men (grands hommes) whom the Russian
mind does not acknowledge, but of those rare and always solitary
individuals who, discerning the will of Providence, submit their
personal will to it. The hatred and contempt of the crowd punish
such men for discerning the higher laws.
For Russian historians, strange and terrible to say, Napoleon-
that most insignificant tool of history who never anywhere, even in
exile, showed human dignity- Napoleon is the object of adulation and
enthusiasm; he is grand. But Kutuzov- the man who from the beginning
to the end of his activity in 1812, never once swerving by word or
deed from Borodino to Vilna, presented an example exceptional in
history of self-sacrifice and a present conciousness of the future
importance of what was happening- Kutuzov seems to them something
indefinite and pitiful, and when speaking of him and of the year
1812 they always seem a little ashamed.
And yet it is difficult to imagine an historical character whose
activity was so unswervingly directed to a single aim; and it would be
difficult to imagine any aim more worthy or more consonant with the
will of the whole people. Still more difficult would it be to find
an instance in history of the aim of an historical personage being
so completely accomplished as that to which all Kutuzov's efforts were
directed in 1812.
Kutuzov never talked of "forty centuries looking down from the
Pyramids," of the sacrifices he offered for the fatherland, or of what
he intended to accomplish or had accomplished; in general he said
nothing about himself, adopted no prose, always appeared to be the
simplest and most ordinary of men, and said the simplest and most
ordinary things. He wrote letters to his daughters and to Madame de
Stael, read novels, liked the society of pretty women, jested with
generals, officers, and soldiers, and never contradicted those who
tried to prove anything to him. When Count Rostopchin at the Yauza
bridge galloped up to Kutuzov with personal reproaches for having
caused the destruction of Moscow, and said: "How was it you promised
not to abandon Moscow without a battle?" Kutuzov replied: "And I shall
not abandon Moscow without a battle," though Moscow was then already
abandoned. When Arakcheev, coming to him from the Emperor, said that
Ermolov ought to be appointed chief of the artillery, Kutuzov replied:
"Yes, I was just saying so myself," though a moment before he had said
quite the contrary. What did it matter to him- who then alone amid a
senseless crowd understood the whole tremendous significance of what
was happening- what did it matter to him whether Rostopchin attributed
the calamities of Moscow to him or to himself? Still less could it
matter to him who was appointed chief of the artillery.
Not merely in these cases but continually did that old man- who by
experience of life had reached the conviction that thoughts and the
words serving as their expression are not what move people- use
quite meaningless words that happened to enter his head.
But that man, so heedless of his words, did not once during the
whole time of his activity utter one word inconsistent with the single
aim toward which he moved throughout the whole war. Obviously in spite
of himself, in very diverse circumstances, he repeatedly expressed his
real thoughts with the bitter conviction that he would not be
understood. Beginning with the battle of Borodino, from which time his
disagreement with those about him began, he alone said that the battle
of Borodino was a victory, and repeated this both verbally and in
his dispatches and reports up to the time of his death. He alone
said that the loss of Moscow is not the loss of Russia. In reply to
Lauriston's proposal of peace, he said: There can be no peace, for
such is the people's will. He alone during the retreat of the French
said that all our maneuvers are useless, everything is being
accomplished of itself better than we could desire; that the enemy
must be offered "a golden bridge"; that neither the Tarutino, the
Vyazma, nor the Krasnoe battles were necessary; that we must keep some
force to reach the frontier with, and that he would not sacrifice a
single Russian for ten Frenchmen.
And this courtier, as he is described to us, who lies to Arakcheev
to please the Emperor, he alone- incurring thereby the Emperor's
displeasure- said in Vilna that to carry the war beyond the frontier
is useless and harmful.
Nor do words alone prove that only he understood the meaning of
the events. His actions- without the smallest deviation- were all
directed to one and the same threefold end: (1) to brace all his
strength for conflict with the French, (2) to defeat them, and (3)
to drive them out of Russia, minimizing as far as possible the
sufferings of our people and of our army.
This procrastinator Kutuzov, whose motto was "Patience and Time,"
this enemy of decisive action, gave battle at Borodino, investing
the preparations for it with unparalleled solemnity. This Kutuzov
who before the battle of Austerlitz began said that it would be
lost, he alone, in contradiction to everyone else, declared till his
death that Borodino was a victory, despite the assurance of generals
that the battle was lost and despite the fact that for an army to have
to retire after winning a battle was unprecedented. He alone during
the whole retreat insisted that battles, which were useless then,
should not be fought, and that a new war should not be begun nor the
frontiers of Russia crossed.
It is easy now to understand the significance of these events- if
only we abstain from attributing to the activity of the mass aims that
existed only in the heads of a dozen individuals- for the events and
results now lie before us.
But how did that old man, alone, in opposition to the general
opinion, so truly discern the importance of the people's view of the
events that in all his activity he was never once untrue to it?
The source of that extraordinary power of penetrating the meaning of
the events then occuring lay in the national feeling which he
possessed in full purity and strength.
Only the recognition of the fact that he possessed this feeling
caused the people in so strange a manner, contrary to the Tsar's wish,
to select him- an old man in disfavor- to be their representative in
the national war. And only that feeling placed him on that highest
human pedestal from which he, the commander in chief, devoted all
his powers not to slaying and destroying men but to saving and showing
pity on them.
That simple, modest, and therefore truly great, figure could not
be cast in the false mold of a European hero- the supposed ruler of
men- that history has invented.
To a lackey no man can be great, for a lackey has his own conception
The fifth of November was the first day of what is called the battle
of Krasnoe. Toward evening- after much disputing and many mistakes
made by generals who did not go to their proper places, and after
adjutants had been sent about with counterorders- when it had become
plain that the enemy was everywhere in flight and that there could and
would be no battle, Kutuzov left Krasnoe and went to Dobroe whither
his headquarters had that day been transferred.
The day was clear and frosty. Kutuzov rode to Dobroe on his plump
little white horse, followed by an enormous suite of discontented
generals who whispered among themselves behind his back. All along the
road groups of French prisoners captured that day (there were seven
thousand of them) were crowding to warm themselves at campfires.
Near Dobroe an immense crowd of tattered prisoners, buzzing with
talk and wrapped and bandaged in anything they had been able to get
hold of, were standing in the road beside a long row of unharnessed
French guns. At the approach of the commander in chief the buzz of
talk ceased and all eyes were fixed on Kutuzov who, wearing a white
cap with a red band and a padded overcoat that bulged on his round
shoulders, moved slowly along the road on his white horse. One of
the generals was reporting to him where the guns and prisoners had
Kutuzov seemed preoccupied and did not listen to what the general
was saying. He screwed up his eyes with a dissatisfied look as he
gazed attentively and fixedly at these prisoners, who presented a
specially wretched appearance. Most of them were disfigured by
frost-bitten noses and cheeks, and nearly all had red, swollen and
One group of the French stood close to the road, and two of them,
one of whom had his face covered with sores, were tearing a piece of
raw flesh with their hands. There was something horrible and bestial
in the fleeting glance they threw at the riders and in the
malevolent expression with which, after a glance at Kutuzov, the
soldier with the sores immediately turned away and went on with what
he was doing.