From the close of the year 1811 intensified arming and concentrating of the forces of Western Europe began, and in 1812 these forces — millions of men, reckoning those transporting and feeding the army — moved from the west eastwards to the Russian frontier, toward which since 1811 Russian forces had been similarly drawn. On the twelfth of June, 1812, the forces of Western Europe crossed the Russian frontier and war began, that is, an event took place opposed to human reason and to human nature. Millions of men perpetrated against one another such innumerable crimes, frauds, treacheries, thefts, forgeries, issues of false money, burglaries, incendiarisms, and murders as in whole centuries are not recorded in the annals of all the law courts of the world, but which those who committed them did not at the time regard as being crimes.
What produced this extraordinary occurrence? What were its causes? The historians tell us with naive assurance that its causes were the wrongs inflicted on the Duke of Oldenburg, the nonobservance of the Continental System, the ambition of Napoleon, the firmness of Alexander, the mistakes of the diplomatists, and so on.
Consequently, it would only have been necessary for Metternich, Rumyantsev, or Talleyrand, between a levee and an evening party, to have taken proper pains and written a more adroit note, or for Napoleon to have written to Alexander: “My respected Brother, I consent to restore the duchy to the Duke of Oldenburg”— and there would have been no war.
We can understand that the matter seemed like that to contemporaries. It naturally seemed to Napoleon that the war was caused by England’s intrigues (as in fact he said on the island of St. Helena). It naturally seemed to members of the English Parliament that the cause of the war was Napoleon’s ambition; to the Duke of Oldenburg, that the cause of the war was the violence done to him; to businessmen that the cause of the way was the Continental System which was ruining Europe; to the generals and old soldiers that the chief reason for the war was the necessity of giving them employment; to the legitimists of that day that it was the need of re-establishing les bons principes, and to the diplomatists of that time that it all resulted from the fact that the alliance between Russia and Austria in 1809 had not been sufficiently well concealed from Napoleon, and from the awkward wording of Memorandum No. 178. It is natural that these and a countless and infinite quantity of other reasons, the number depending on the endless diversity of points of view, presented themselves to the men of that day; but to us, to posterity who view the thing that happened in all its magnitude and perceive its plain and terrible meaning, these causes seem insufficient. To us it is incomprehensible that millions of Christian men killed and tortured each other either because Napoleon was ambitious or Alexander was firm, or because England’s policy was astute or the Duke of Oldenburg wronged. We cannot grasp what connection such circumstances have with the actual fact of slaughter and violence: why because the Duke was wronged, thousands of men from the other side of Europe killed and ruined the people of Smolensk and Moscow and were killed by them.
To us, their descendants, who are not historians and are not carried away by the process of research and can therefore regard the event with unclouded common sense, an incalculable number of causes present themselves. The deeper we delve in search of these causes the more of them we find; and each separate cause or whole series of causes appears to us equally valid in itself and equally false by its insignificance compared to the magnitude of the events, and by its impotence — apart from the cooperation of all the other coincident causes — to occasion the event. To us, the wish or objection of this or that French corporal to serve a second term appears as much a cause as Napoleon’s refusal to withdraw his troops beyond the Vistula and to restore the duchy of Oldenburg; for had he not wished to serve, and had a second, a third, and a thousandth corporal and private also refused, there would have been so many less men in Napoleon’s army and the war could not have occurred.
Had Napoleon not taken offense at the demand that he should withdraw beyond the Vistula, and not ordered his troops to advance, there would have been no war; but had all his sergeants objected to serving a second term then also there could have been no war. Nor could there have been a war had there been no English intrigues and no Duke of Oldenburg, and had Alexander not felt insulted, and had there not been an autocratic government in Russia, or a Revolution in France and a subsequent dictatorship and Empire, or all the things that produced the French Revolution, and so on. Without each of these causes nothing could have happened. So all these causes — myriads of causes — coincided to bring it about. And so there was no one cause for that occurrence, but it had to occur because it had to. Millions of men, renouncing their human feelings and reason, had to go from west to east to slay their fellows, just as some centuries previously hordes of men had come from the east to the west, slaying their fellows.
The actions of Napoleon and Alexander, on whose words the event seemed to hang, were as little voluntary as the actions of any soldier who was drawn into the campaign by lot or by conscription. This could not be otherwise, for in order that the will of Napoleon and Alexander (on whom the event seemed to depend) should be carried out, the concurrence of innumerable circumstances was needed without any one of which the event could not have taken place. It was necessary that millions of men in whose hands lay the real power — the soldiers who fired, or transported provisions and guns — should consent to carry out the will of these weak individuals, and should have been induced to do so by an infinite number of diverse and complex causes.
We are forced to fall back on fatalism as an explanation of irrational events (that is to say, events the reasonableness of which we do not understand). The more we try to explain such events in history reasonably, the more unreasonable and incomprehensible do they become to us.
Each man lives for himself, using his freedom to attain his personal aims, and feels with his whole being that he can now do or abstain from doing this or that action; but as soon as he has done it, that action performed at a certain moment in time becomes irrevocable and belongs to history, in which it has not a free but a predestined significance.
There are two sides to the life of every man, his individual life, which is the more free the more abstract its interests, and his elemental hive life in which he inevitably obeys laws laid down for him.
Man lives consciously for himself, but is an unconscious instrument in the attainment of the historic, universal, aims of humanity. A deed done is irrevocable, and its result coinciding in time with the actions of millions of other men assumes an historic significance. The higher a man stands on the social ladder, the more people he is connected with and the more power he has over others, the more evident is the predestination and inevitability of his every action.
“The king’s heart is in the hands of the Lord.”
A king is history’s slave.
History, that is, the unconscious, general, hive life of mankind, uses every moment of the life of kings as a tool for its own purposes.
Though Napoleon at that time, in 1812, was more convinced than ever that it depended on him, verser (ou ne pas verser) le sang de ses peuples — as Alexander expressed it in the last letter he wrote him — he had never been so much in the grip of inevitable laws, which compelled him, while thinking that he was acting on his own volition, to perform for the hive life — that is to say, for history — whatever had to be performed.
* “To shed (or not to shed) the blood of his peoples.”
The people of the west moved eastwards to slay their fellow men, and by the law of coincidence thousands of minute causes fitted in and co-ordinated to produce that movement and war: reproaches for the nonobservance of the Continental System, the Duke of Oldenburg’s wrongs, the movement of troops into Prussia — undertaken (as it seemed to Napoleon) only for the purpose of securing an armed peace, the French Emperor’s love and habit of war coinciding with his people’s inclinations, allurement by the grandeur of the preparations, and the expenditure on those preparations and the need of obtaining advantages to compensate for that expenditure, the intoxicating honors he received in Dresden, the diplomatic negotiations which, in the opinion of contemporaries, were carried on with a sincere desire to attain peace, but which only wounded the self-love of both sides, and millions of other causes that adapted themselves to the event that was happening or coincided with it.
When an apple has ripened and falls, why does it fall? Because of its attraction to the earth, because its stalk withers, because it is dried by the sun, because it grows heavier, because the wind shakes it, or because the boy standing below wants to eat it?
Nothing is the cause. All this is only the coincidence of conditions in which all vital organic and elemental events occur. And the botanist who finds that the apple falls because the cellular tissue decays and so forth is equally right with the child who stands under the tree and says the apple fell because he wanted to eat it and prayed for it. Equally right or wrong is he who says that Napoleon went to Moscow because he wanted to, and perished because Alexander desired his destruction, and he who says that an undermined hill weighing a million tons fell because the last navvy struck it for the last time with his mattock. In historic events the so-called great men are labels giving names to events, and like labels they have but the smallest connection with the event itself.
Every act of theirs, which appears to them an act of their own will, is in an historical sense involuntary and is related to the whole course of history and predestined from eternity.
On the twenty-ninth of May Napoleon left Dresden, where he had spent three weeks surrounded by a court that included princes, dukes, kings, and even an emperor. Before leaving, Napoleon showed favor to the emperor, kings, and princes who had deserved it, reprimanded the kings and princes with whom he was dissatisfied, presented pearls and diamonds of his own — that is, which he had taken from other kings — to the Empress of Austria, and having, as his historian tells us, tenderly embraced the Empress Marie Louise — who regarded him as her husband, though he had left another wife in Paris — left her grieved by the parting which she seemed hardly able to bear. Though the diplomatists still firmly believed in the possibility of peace and worked zealously to that end, and though the Emperor Napoleon himself wrote a letter to Alexander, calling him Monsieur mon frere, and sincerely assured him that he did not want war and would always love and honor him — yet he set off to join his army, and at every station gave fresh orders to accelerate the movement of his troops from west to east. He went in a traveling coach with six horses, surrounded by pages, aides-de-camp, and an escort, along the road to Posen, Thorn, Danzig, and Konigsberg. At each of these towns thousands of people met him with excitement and enthusiasm.
The army was moving from west to east, and relays of six horses carried him in the same direction. On the tenth of June,* coming up with the army, he spent the night in apartments prepared for him on the estate of a Polish count in the Vilkavisski forest.
* Old style.
Next day, overtaking the army, he went in a carriage to the Niemen, and, changing into a Polish uniform, he drove to the riverbank in order to select a place for the crossing.
Seeing, on the other side, some Cossacks (les Cosaques) and the wide-spreading steppes in the midst of which lay the holy city of Moscow (Moscou, la ville sainte), the capital of a realm such as the Scythia into which Alexander the Great had marched — Napoleon unexpectedly, and contrary alike to strategic and diplomatic considerations, ordered an advance, and the next day his army began to cross the Niemen.
Early in the morning of the twelfth of June he came out of his tent, which was pitched that day on the steep left bank of the Niemen, and looked through a spyglass at the streams of his troops pouring out of the Vilkavisski forest and flowing over the three bridges thrown across the river. The troops, knowing of the Emperor’s presence, were on the lookout for him, and when they caught sight of a figure in an overcoat and a cocked hat standing apart from his suite in front of his tent on the hill, they threw up their caps and shouted: “Vive l’Empereur!” and one after another poured in a ceaseless stream out of the vast forest that had concealed them and, separating, flowed on and on by the three bridges to the other side.
“Now we’ll go into action. Oh, when he takes it in hand himself, things get hot . . . by heaven! . . . There he is! . . . Vive l’Empereur! So these are the steppes of Asia! It’s a nasty country all the same. Au revoir, Beauche; I’ll keep the best palace in Moscow for you! Au revoir. Good luck! . . . Did you see the Emperor? Vive l’Empereur! . . . preur! — If they make me Governor of India, Gerard, I’ll make you Minister of Kashmir — that’s settled. Vive l’Empereur! Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah! The Cossacks — those rascals — see how they run! Vive l’Empereur! There he is, do you see him? I’ve seen him twice, as I see you now. The little corporal . . . I saw him give the cross to one of the veterans. . . . Vive l’Empereur!” came the voices of men, old and young, of most diverse characters and social positions. On the faces of all was one common expression of joy at the commencement of the long-expected campaign and of rapture and devotion to the man in the gray coat who was standing on the hill.
On the thirteenth of June a rather small, thoroughbred Arab horse was brought to Napoleon. He mounted it and rode at a gallop to one of the bridges over the Niemen, deafened continually by incessant and rapturous acclamations which he evidently endured only because it was impossible to forbid the soldiers to express their love of him by such shouting, but the shouting which accompanied him everywhere disturbed him and distracted him from the military cares that had occupied him from the time he joined the army. He rode across one of the swaying pontoon bridges to the farther side, turned sharply to the left, and galloped in the direction of Kovno, preceded by enraptured, mounted chasseurs of the Guard who, breathless with delight, galloped ahead to clear a path for him through the troops. On reaching the broad river Viliya, he stopped near a regiment of Polish Uhlans stationed by the river.
“Vivat!” shouted the Poles, ecstatically, breaking their ranks and pressing against one another to see him.
Napoleon looked up and down the river, dismounted, and sat down on a log that lay on the bank. At a mute sign from him, a telescope was handed him which he rested on the back of a happy page who had run up to him, and he gazed at the opposite bank. Then he became absorbed in a map laid out on the logs. Without lifting his head he said something, and two of his aides-de-camp galloped off to the Polish Uhlans.
“What? What did he say?” was heard in the ranks of the Polish Uhlans when one of the aides-de-camp rode up to them.
The order was to find a ford and to cross the river. The colonel of the Polish Uhlans, a handsome old man, flushed and, fumbling in his speech from excitement, asked the aide-de-camp whether he would be permitted to swim the river with his Uhlans instead of seeking a ford. In evident fear of refusal, like a boy asking for permission to get on a horse, he begged to be allowed to swim across the river before the Emperor’s eyes. The aide-de-camp replied that probably the Emperor would not be displeased at this excess of zeal.
As soon as the aide-de-camp had said this, the old mustached officer, with happy face and sparkling eyes, raised his saber, shouted “Vivat!” and, commanding the Uhlans to follow him, spurred his horse and galloped into the river. He gave an angry thrust to his horse, which had grown restive under him, and plunged into the water, heading for the deepest part where the current was swift. Hundreds of Uhlans galloped in after him. It was cold and uncanny in the rapid current in the middle of the stream, and the Uhlans caught hold of one another as they fell off their horses. Some of the horses were drowned and some of the men; the others tried to swim on, some in the saddle and some clinging to their horses’ manes. They tried to make their way forward to the opposite bank and, though there was a ford one third of a mile away, were proud that they were swimming and drowning in this river under the eyes of the man who sat on the log and was not even looking at what they were doing. When the aide-de-camp, having returned and choosing an opportune moment, ventured to draw the Emperor’s attention to the devotion of the Poles to his person, the little man in the gray overcoat got up and, having summoned Berthier, began pacing up and down the bank with him, giving him instructions and occasionally glancing disapprovingly at the drowning Uhlans who distracted his attention.
For him it was no new conviction that his presence in any part of the world, from Africa to the steppes of Muscovy alike, was enough to dumfound people and impel them to insane self-oblivion. He called for his horse and rode to his quarters.
Some forty Uhlans were drowned in the river, though boats were sent to their assistance. The majority struggled back to the bank from which they had started. The colonel and some of his men got across and with difficulty clambered out on the further bank. And as soon as they had got out, in their soaked and streaming clothes, they shouted “Vivat!” and looked ecstatically at the spot where Napoleon had been but where he no longer was and at that moment considered themselves happy.
That evening, between issuing one order that the forged Russian paper money prepared for use in Russia should be delivered as quickly as possible and another that a Saxon should be shot, on whom a letter containing information about the orders to the French army had been found, Napoleon also gave instructions that the Polish colonel who had needlessly plunged into the river should be enrolled in the Legion d’honneur of which Napoleon was himself the head.
Quos vult perdere dementat.*
* Those whom (God) wishes to destroy he drives mad.
The Emperor of Russia had, meanwhile, been in Vilna for more than a month. reviewing troops and holding maneuvers. Nothing was ready for the war that everyone expected and to prepare for which the Emperor had come from Petersburg. There was no general plan of action. The vacillation between the various plans that were proposed had even increased after the Emperor had been at headquarters for a month. Each of the three armies had its own commander in chief, but there was no supreme commander of all the forces, and the Emperor did not assume that responsibility himself.
The longer the Emperor remained in Vilna the less did everybody — tired of waiting — prepare for the war. All the efforts of those who surrounded the sovereign seemed directed merely to making him spend his time pleasantly and forget that war was impending.
In June, after many balls and fetes given by the Polish magnates, by the courtiers, and by the Emperor himself, it occurred to one of the Polish aides-de-camp in attendance that a dinner and ball should be given for the Emperor by his aides-de-camp. This idea was eagerly received. The Emperor gave his consent. The aides-de-camp collected money by subscription. The lady who was thought to be most pleasing to the Emperor was invited to act as hostess. Count Bennigsen, being a landowner in the Vilna province, offered his country house for the fete, and the thirteenth of June was fixed for a ball, dinner, regatta, and fireworks at Zakret, Count Bennigsen’s country seat.
The very day that Napoleon issued the order to cross the Niemen, and his vanguard, driving off the Cossacks, crossed the Russian frontier, Alexander spent the evening at the entertainment given by his aides-de-camp at Bennigsen’s country house.
It was a gay and brilliant fete. Connoisseurs of such matters declared that rarely had so many beautiful women been assembled in one place. Countess Bezukhova was present among other Russian ladies who had followed the sovereign from Petersburg to Vilna and eclipsed the refined Polish ladies by her massive, so called Russian type of beauty. The Emperor noticed her and honored her with a dance.
Boris Drubetskoy, having left his wife in Moscow and being for the present en garcon (as he phrased it), was also there and, though not an aide-de-camp, had subscribed a large sum toward the expenses. Boris was now a rich man who had risen to high honors and no longer sought patronage but stood on an equal footing with the highest of those of his own age. He was meeting Helene in Vilna after not having seen her for a long time and did not recall the past, but as Helene was enjoying the favors of a very important personage and Boris had only recently married, they met as good friends of long standing.
At midnight dancing was still going on. Helene, not having a suitable partner, herself offered to dance the mazurka with Boris. They were the third couple. Boris, coolly looking at Helene’s dazzling bare shoulders which emerged from a dark, gold-embroidered, gauze gown, talked to her of old acquaintances and at the same time, unaware of it himself and unnoticed by others, never for an instant ceased to observe the Emperor who was in the same room. The Emperor was not dancing, he stood in the doorway, stopping now one pair and now another with gracious words which he alone knew how to utter.
As the mazurka began, Boris saw that Adjutant General Balashev, one of those in closest attendance on the Emperor, went up to him and contrary to court etiquette stood near him while he was talking to a Polish lady. Having finished speaking to her, the Emperor looked inquiringly at Balashev and, evidently understanding that he only acted thus because there were important reasons for so doing, nodded slightly to the lady and turned to him. Hardly had Balashev begun to speak before a look of amazement appeared on the Emperor’s face. He took Balashev by the arm and crossed the room with him, unconsciously clearing a path seven yards wide as the people on both sides made way for him. Boris noticed Arakcheev’s excited face when the sovereign went out with Balashev. Arakcheev looked at the Emperor from under his brow and, sniffing with his red nose, stepped forward from the crowd as if expecting the Emperor to address him. (Boris understood that Arakcheev envied Balashev and was displeased that evidently important news had reached the Emperor otherwise than through himself.)
But the Emperor and Balashev passed out into the illuminated garden without noticing Arakcheev who, holding his sword and glancing wrathfully around, followed some twenty paces behind them.
All the time Boris was going through the figures of the mazurka, he was worried by the question of what news Balashev had brought and how he could find it out before others. In the figure in which he had to choose two ladies, he whispered to Helene that he meant to choose Countess Potocka who, he thought, had gone out onto the veranda, and glided over the parquet to the door opening into the garden, where, seeing Balashev and the Emperor returning to the veranda, he stood still. They were moving toward the door. Boris, fluttering as if he had not had time to withdraw, respectfully pressed close to the doorpost with bowed head.
The Emperor, with the agitation of one who has been personally affronted, was finishing with these words:
“To enter Russia without declaring war! I will not make peace as long as a single armed enemy remains in my country!” It seemed to Boris that it gave the Emperor pleasure to utter these words. He was satisfied with the form in which he had expressed his thoughts, but displeased that Boris had overheard it.
“Let no one know of it! “ the Emperor added with a frown.
Boris understood that this was meant for him and, closing his eyes, slightly bowed his head. The Emperor re-entered the ballroom and remained there about another half-hour.
Boris was thus the first to learn the news that the French army had crossed the Niemen and, thanks to this, was able to show certain important personages that much that was concealed from others was usually known to him, and by this means he rose higher in their estimation.
The unexpected news of the French having crossed the Niemen was particularly startling after a month of unfulfilled expectations, and at a ball. On first receiving the news, under the influence of indignation and resentment the Emperor had found a phrase that pleased him, fully expressed his feelings, and has since become famous. On returning home at two o’clock that night he sent for his secretary, Shishkov, and told him to write an order to the troops and a rescript to Field Marshal Prince Saltykov, in which he insisted on the words being inserted that he would not make peace so long as a single armed Frenchman remained on Russian soil.
Next day the following letter was sent to Napoleon:
Monsieur mon frere,
Yesterday I learned that, despite the loyalty which I have kept my engagements with Your Majesty, your troops have crossed the Russian frontier, and I have this moment received from Petersburg a note, in which Count Lauriston informs me, as a reason for this aggression, that Your Majesty has considered yourself to be in a state of war with me from the time Prince Kuragin asked for his passports. The reasons on which the Duc de Bassano based his refusal to deliver them to him would never have led me to suppose that that could serve as a pretext for aggression. In fact, the ambassador, as he himself has declared, was never authorized to make that demand, and as soon as I was informed of it I let him know how much I disapproved of it and ordered him to remain at his post. If Your Majesty does not intend to shed the blood of our peoples for such a misunderstanding, and consents to withdraw your troops from Russian territory, I will regard what has passed as not having occurred and an understanding between us will be possible. In the contrary case, Your Majesty, I shall see myself forced to repel an attack that nothing on my part has provoked. It still depends on Your Majesty to preserve humanity from the calamity of another war. I am, etc.,
At two in the morning of the fourteenth of June, the Emperor, having sent for Balashev and read him his letter to Napoleon, ordered him to take it and hand it personally to the French Emperor. When dispatching Balashev, the Emperor repeated to him the words that he would not make peace so long as a single armed enemy remained on Russian soil and told him to transmit those words to Napoleon. Alexander did not insert them in his letter to Napoleon, because with his characteristic tact he felt it would be injudicious to use them at a moment when a last attempt at reconciliation was being made, but he definitely instructed Balashev to repeat them personally to Napoleon.
Having set off in the small hours of the fourteenth, accompanied by a bugler and two Cossacks, Balashev reached the French outposts at the village of Rykonty, on the Russian side of the Niemen, by dawn. There he was stopped by French cavalry sentinels.
A French noncommissioned officer of hussars, in crimson uniform and a shaggy cap, shouted to the approaching Balashev to halt. Balashev did not do so at once, but continued to advance along the road at a walking pace.
The noncommissioned officer frowned and, muttering words of abuse, advanced his horse’s chest against Balashev, put his hand to his saber, and shouted rudely at the Russian general, asking: was he deaf that he did not do as he was told? Balashev mentioned who he was. The noncommissioned officer began talking with his comrades about regimental matters without looking at the Russian general.
After living at the seat of the highest authority and power, after conversing with the Emperor less than three hours before, and in general being accustomed to the respect due to his rank in the service, Balashev found it very strange here on Russian soil to encounter this hostile, and still more this disrespectful, application of brute force to himself.
The sun was only just appearing from behind the clouds, the air was fresh and dewy. A herd of cattle was being driven along the road from the village, and over the fields the larks rose trilling, one after another, like bubbles rising in water.
Balashev looked around him, awaiting the arrival of an officer from the village. The Russian Cossacks and bugler and the French hussars looked silently at one another from time to time.
A French colonel of hussars, who had evidently just left his bed, came riding from the village on a handsome sleek gray horse, accompanied by two hussars. The officer, the soldiers, and their horses all looked smart and well kept.
It was that first period of a campaign when troops are still in full trim, almost like that of peacetime maneuvers, but with a shade of martial swagger in their clothes, and a touch of the gaiety and spirit of enterprise which always accompany the opening of a campaign.
The French colonel with difficulty repressed a yawn, but was polite and evidently understood Balashev’s importance. He led him past his soldiers and behind the outposts and told him that his wish to be presented to the Emperor would most likely be satisfied immediately, as the Emperor’s quarters were, he believed, not far off.
They rode through the village of Rykonty, past tethered French hussar horses, past sentinels and men who saluted their colonel and stared with curiosity at a Russian uniform, and came out at the other end of the village. The colonel said that the commander of the division was a mile and a quarter away and would receive Balashev and conduct him to his destination.
The sun had by now risen and shone gaily on the bright verdure.
They had hardly ridden up a hill, past a tavern, before they saw a group of horsemen coming toward them. In front of the group, on a black horse with trappings that glittered in the sun, rode a tall man with plumes in his hat and black hair curling down to his shoulders. He wore a red mantle, and stretched his long legs forward in French fashion. This man rode toward Balashev at a gallop, his plumes flowing and his gems and gold lace glittering in the bright June sunshine.
Balashev was only two horses’ length from the equestrian with the bracelets, plunies, necklaces, and gold embroidery, who was galloping toward him with a theatrically solemn countenance, when Julner, the French colonel, whispered respectfully: “The King of Naples!” It was, in fact, Murat, now called “King of Naples.” Though it was quite incomprehensible why he should be King of Naples, he was called so, and was himself convinced that he was so, and therefore assumed a more solemn and important air than formerly. He was so sure that he really was the King of Naples that when, on the eve of his departure from that city, while walking through the streets with his wife, some Italians called out to him: “Viva il re!”* he turned to his wife with a pensive smile and said: “Poor fellows, they don’t know that I am leaving them tomorrow!”
* “Long live the king.”
But though he firmly believed himself to be King of Naples and pitied the grief felt by the subjects he was abandoning, latterly, after he had been ordered to return to military service — and especially since his last interview with Napoleon in Danzig, when his august brother-in-law had told him: “I made you King that you should reign in my way, but not in yours!”— he had cheerfully taken up his familiar business, and — like a well-fed but not overfat horse that feels himself in harness and grows skittish between the shafts — he dressed up in clothes as variegated and expensive as possible, and gaily and contentedly galloped along the roads of Poland, without himself knowing why or whither.
On seeing the Russian general he threw back his head, with its long hair curling to his shoulders, in a majestically royal manner, and looked inquiringly at the French colonel. The colonel respectfully informed His Majesty of Balashev’s mission, whose name he could not pronounce.
“De Bal-macheve!” said the King (overcoming by his assurance the difficulty that had presented itself to the colonel). “Charmed to make your acquaintance, General!” he added, with a gesture of kingly condescension.
As soon as the King began to speak loud and fast his royal dignity instantly forsook him, and without noticing it he passed into his natural tone of good-natured familiarity. He laid his hand on the withers of Balashev’s horse and said:
“Well, General, it all looks like war,” as if regretting a circumstance of which he was unable to judge.
“Your Majesty,” replied Balashev, “my master, the Emperor, does not desire war and as Your Majesty sees . . . ” said Balashev, using the words Your Majesty at every opportunity, with the affectation unavoidable in frequently addressing one to whom the title was still a novelty.
Murat’s face beamed with stupid satisfaction as he listened to “Monsieur de Bal-macheve.” But royaute oblige!* and he felt it incumbent on him, as a king and an ally, to confer on state affairs with Alexander’s envoy. He dismounted, took Balashev’s arm, and moving a few steps away from his suite, which waited respectfully, began to pace up and down with him, trying to speak significantly. He referred to the fact that the Emperor Napoleon had resented the demand that he should withdraw his troops from Prussia, especially when that demand became generally known and the dignity of France was thereby offended.
* “Royalty has its obligations.”
Balashev replied that there was nothing offensive in the demand, because . . . ” but Murat interrupted him.
“Then you don’t consider the Emperor Alexander the aggressor?” he asked unexpectedly, with a kindly and foolish smile.
Balashev told him why he considered Napoleon to be the originator of the war.
“Oh, my dear general!” Murat again interrupted him, “with all my heart I wish the Emperors may arrange the affair between them, and that the war begun by no wish of mine may finish as quickly as possible!” said he, in the tone of a servant who wants to remain good friends with another despite a quarrel between their masters.
And he went on to inquiries about the Grand Duke and the state of his health, and to reminiscences of the gay and amusing times he had spent with him in Naples. Then suddenly, as if remembering his royal dignity, Murat solemnly drew himself up, assumed the pose in which he had stood at his coronation. and, waving his right arm, said:
“I won’t detain you longer, General. I wish success to your mission,” and with his embroidered red mantle, his flowing feathers, and his glittering ornaments, he rejoined his suite who were respectfully awaiting him.
Balashev rode on, supposing from Murat’s words that he would very soon be brought before Napoleon himself. But instead of that, at the next village the sentinels of Davout’s infantry corps detained him as the pickets of the vanguard had done, and an adjutant of the corps commander, who was fetched, conducted him into the village to Marshal Davout.
Davout was to Napoleon what Arakcheev was to Alexander — though not a coward like Arakcheev, he was as precise, as cruel, and as unable to express his devotion to his monarch except by cruelty.
In the organism of states such men are necessary, as wolves are necessary in the organism of nature, and they always exist, always appear and hold their own, however incongruous their presence and their proximity to the head of the government may be. This inevitability alone can explain how the cruel Arakcheev, who tore out a grenadier’s mustache with his own hands, whose weak nerves rendered him unable to face danger, and who was neither an educated man nor a courtier, was able to maintain his powerful position with Alexander, whose own character was chivalrous, noble, and gentle.
Balashev found Davout seated on a barrel in the shed of a peasant’s hut, writing — he was auditing accounts. Better quarters could have been found him, but Marshal Davout was one of those men who purposely put themselves in most depressing conditions to have a justification for being gloomy. For the same reason they are always hard at work and in a hurry. “How can I think of the bright side of life when, as you see, I am sitting on a barrel and working in a dirty shed?” the expression of his face seemed to say. The chief pleasure and necessity of such men, when they encounter anyone who shows animation, is to flaunt their own dreary, persistent activity. Davout allowed himself that pleasure when Balashev was brought in. He became still more absorbed in his task when the Russian general entered, and after glancing over his spectacles at Balashev’s face, which was animated by the beauty of the morning and by his talk with Murat, he did not rise or even stir, but scowled still more and sneered malevolently.
When he noticed in Balashev’s face the disagreeable impression this reception produced, Davout raised his head and coldly asked what he wanted.
Thinking he could have been received in such a manner only because Davout did not know that he was adjutant general to the Emperor Alexander and even his envoy to Napoleon, Balashev hastened to inform him of his rank and mission. Contrary to his expectation, Davout, after hearing him, became still surlier and ruder.
“Where is your dispatch?” he inquired. “Give it to me. I will send it to the Emperor.”
Balashev replied that he had been ordered to hand it personally to the Emperor.
“Your Emperor’s orders are obeyed in your army, but here,” said Davout, “you must do as you’re told.”
And, as if to make the Russian general still more conscious of his dependence on brute force, Davout sent an adjutant to call the officer on duty.
Balashev took out the packet containing the Emperor’s letter and laid it on the table (made of a door with its hinges still hanging on it, laid across two barrels). Davout took the packet and read the inscription.
“You are perfectly at liberty to treat me with respect or not,” protested Balashev, “but permit me to observe that I have the honor to be adjutant general to His Majesty. . . . ”
Davout glanced at him silently and plainly derived pleasure from the signs of agitation and confusion which appeared on Balashev’s face.
“You will be treated as is fitting,” said he and, putting the packet in his pocket, left the shed.
A minute later the marshal’s adjutant, de Castres, came in and conducted Balashev to the quarters assigned him.
That day he dined with the marshal, at the same board on the barrels.
Next day Davout rode out early and, after asking Balashev to come to him, peremptorily requested him to remain there, to move on with the baggage train should orders come for it to move, and to talk to no one except Monsieur de Castres.
After four days of solitude, ennui, and consciousness of his impotence and insignificance — particularly acute by contrast with the sphere of power in which he had so lately moved — and after several marches with the marshal’s baggage and the French army, which occupied the whole district, Balashev was brought to Vilna — now occupied by the French — through the very gate by which he had left it four days previously.
Next day the imperial gentleman-in-waiting, the Comte de Turenne, came to Balashev and informed him of the Emperor Napoleon’s wish to honor him with an audience.
Four days before, sentinels of the Preobrazhensk regiment had stood in front of the house to which Balashev was conducted, and now two French grenadiers stood there in blue uniforms unfastened in front and with shaggy caps on their heads, and an escort of hussars and Uhlans and a brilliant suite of aides-de-camp, pages, and generals, who were waiting for Napoleon to come out, were standing at the porch, round his saddle horse and his Mameluke, Rustan. Napoleon received Balashev in the very house in Vilna from which Alexander had dispatched him on his mission.
Though Balashev was used to imperial pomp, he was amazed at the luxury and magnificence of Napoleon’s court.
The Comte de Turenne showed him into a big reception room where many generals, gentlemen-in-waiting, and Polish magnates — several of whom Balashev had seen at the court of the Emperor of Russia — were waiting. Duroc said that Napoleon would receive the Russian general before going for his ride.
After some minutes, the gentleman-in-waiting who was on duty came into the great reception room and, bowing politely, asked Balashev to follow him.
Balashev went into a small reception room, one door of which led into a study, the very one from which the Russian Emperor had dispatched him on his mission. He stood a minute or two, waiting. He heard hurried footsteps beyond the door, both halves of it were opened rapidly; all was silent and then from the study the sound was heard of other steps, firm and resolute — they were those of Napoleon. He had just finished dressing for his ride, and wore a blue uniform, opening in front over a white waistcoat so long that it covered his rotund stomach, white leather breeches tightly fitting the fat thighs of his short legs, and Hessian boots. His short hair had evidently just been brushed, but one lock hung down in the middle of his broad forehead. His plump white neck stood out sharply above the black collar of his uniform, and he smelled of Eau de Cologne. His full face, rather young-looking, with its prominent chin, wore a gracious and majestic expression of imperial welcome.
He entered briskly, with a jerk at every step and his head slightly thrown back. His whole short corpulent figure with broad thick shoulders, and chest and stomach involuntarily protruding, had that imposing and stately appearance one sees in men of forty who live in comfort. It was evident, too, that he was in the best of spirits that day.
He nodded in answer to Balashav’s low and respectful bow, and coming up to him at once began speaking like a man who values every moment of his time and does not condescend to prepare what he has to say but is sure he will always say the right thing and say it well.
“Good day, General!” said he. “I have received the letter you brought from the Emperor Alexander and am very glad to see you.” He glanced with his large eyes into Balashav’s face and immediately looked past him.
It was plain that Balashev’s personality did not interest him at all. Evidently only what took place within his own mind interested him. Nothing outside himself had any significance for him, because everything in the world, it seemed to him, depended entirely on his will.
“I do not, and did not, desire war,” he continued, “but it has been forced on me. Even now” (he emphasized the word) “I am ready to receive any explanations you can give me.”
And he began clearly and concisely to explain his reasons for dissatisfaction with the Russian government. Judging by the calmly moderate and amicable tone in which the French Emperor spoke, Balashev was firmly persuaded that he wished for peace and intended to enter into negotiations.
When Napoleon, having finished speaking, looked inquiringly at the Russian envoy, Balashev began a speech he had prepared long before: “Sire! The Emperor, my master . . . ” but the sight of the Emperor’s eyes bent on him confused him. “You are flurried — compose yourself!” Napoleon seemed to say, as with a scarcely perceptible smile he looked at Balashev’s uniform and sword.
Balashev recovered himself and began to speak. He said that the Emperor Alexander did not consider Kurakin’s demand for his passports a sufficient cause for war; that Kurakin had acted on his own initiative and without his sovereign’s assent, that the Emperor Alexander did not desire war, and had no relations with England.
“Not yet!” interposed Napoleon, and, as if fearing to give vent to his feelings, he frowned and nodded slightly as a sign that Balashev might proceed.
After saying all he had been instructed to say, Balashev added that the Emperor Alexander wished for peace, but would not enter into negotiations except on condition that . . . Here Balashev hesitated: he remembered the words the Emperor Alexander had not written in his letter, but had specially inserted in the rescript to Saltykov and had told Balashev to repeat to Napoleon. Balashev remembered these words, “So long as a single armed foe remains on Russian soil,” but some complex feeling restrained him. He could not utter them, though he wished to do so. He grew confused and said: “On condition that the French army retires beyond the Niemen.”
Napoleon noticed Balashev’s embarrassment when uttering these last words; his face twitched and the calf of his left leg began to quiver rhythmically. Without moving from where he stood he began speaking in a louder tone and more hurriedly than before. During the speech that followed, Balashev, who more than once lowered his eyes, involuntarily noticed the quivering of Napoleon’s left leg which increased the more Napoleon raised his voice.
“I desire peace, no less than the Emperor Alexander,” he began. “Have I not for eighteen months been doing everything to obtain it? I have waited eighteen months for explanations. But in order to begin negotiations, what is demanded of me?” he said, frowning and making an energetic gesture of inquiry with his small white plump hand.
“The withdrawal of your army beyond the Niemen, sire,” replied Balashev.
“The Niemen?” repeated Napoleon. “So now you want me to retire beyond the Niemen — only the Niemen?” repeated Napoleon, looking straight at Balashev.
The latter bowed his head respectfully.
Instead of the demand of four months earlier to withdraw from Pomerania, only a withdrawal beyond the Niemen was now demanded. Napoleon turned quickly and began to pace the room.
“You say the demand now is that I am to withdraw beyond the Niemen before commencing negotiations, but in just the same way two months ago the demand was that I should withdraw beyond the Vistula and the Oder, and yet you are willing to negotiate.”
He went in silence from one corner of the room to the other and again stopped in front of Balashev. Balashev noticed that his left leg was quivering faster than before and his face seemed petrified in its stern expression. This quivering of his left leg was a thing Napoleon was conscious of. “The vibration of my left calf is a great sign with me,” he remarked at a later date.
“Such demands as to retreat beyond the Vistula and Oder may be made to a Prince of Baden, but not to me!” Napoleon almost screamed, quite to his own surprise. “If you gave me Petersburg and Moscow I could not accept such conditions. You say I have begun this war! But who first joined his army? The Emperor Alexander, not I! And you offer me negotiations when I have expended millions, when you are in alliance with England, and when your position is a bad one. You offer me negotiations! But what is the aim of your alliance with England? What has she given you?” he continued hurriedly, evidently no longer trying to show the advantages of peace and discuss its possibility, but only to prove his own rectitude and power and Alexander’s errors and duplicity.
The commencement of his speech had obviously been made with the intention of demonstrating the advantages of his position and showing that he was nevertheless willing to negotiate. But he had begun talking, and the more he talked the less could he control his words.
The whole purport of his remarks now was evidently to exalt himself and insult Alexander — just what he had least desired at the commencement of the interview.
“I hear you have made peace with Turkey?”
Balashev bowed his head affirmatively.
“Peace has been concluded . . . ” he began.
But Napoleon did not let him speak. He evidently wanted to do all the talking himself, and continued to talk with the sort of eloquence and unrestrained irritability to which spoiled people are so prone.
“Yes, I know you have made peace with the Turks without obtaining Moldavia and Wallachia; I would have given your sovereign those provinces as I gave him Finland. Yes,” he went on, “I promised and would have given the Emperor Alexander Moldavia and Wallachia, and now he won’t have those splendid provinces. Yet he might have united them to his empire and in a single reign would have extended Russia from the Gulf of Bothnia to the mouths of the Danube. Catherine the Great could not have done more,” said Napoleon, growing more and more excited as he paced up and down the room, repeating to Balashev almost the very words he had used to Alexander himself at Tilsit. “All that, he would have owed to my friendship. Oh, what a splendid reign!” he repeated several times, then paused, drew from his pocket a gold snuffbox, lifted it to his nose, and greedily sniffed at it.
“What a splendid reign the Emperor Alexander’s might have been!”
He looked compassionately at Balashev, and as soon as the latter tried to make some rejoinder hastily interrupted him.
“What could he wish or look for that he would not have obtained through my friendship?” demanded Napoleon, shrugging his shoulders in perplexity. “But no, he has preferred to surround himself with my enemies, and with whom? With Steins, Armfeldts, Bennigsens, and Wintzingerodes! Stein, a traitor expelled from his own country; Armfeldt, a rake and an intriguer; Wintzingerode, a fugitive French subject; Bennigsen, rather more of a soldier than the others, but all the same an incompetent who was unable to do anything in 1807 and who should awaken terrible memories in the Emperor Alexander’s mind. . . . Granted that were they competent they might be made use of,” continued Napoleon — hardly able to keep pace in words with the rush of thoughts that incessantly sprang up, proving how right and strong he was (in his perception the two were one and the same)— “but they are not even that! They are neither fit for war nor peace! Barclay is said to be the most capable of them all, but I cannot say so, judging by his first movements. And what are they doing, all these courtiers? Pfuel proposes, Armfeldt disputes, Bennigsen considers, and Barclay, called on to act, does not know what to decide on, and time passes bringing no result. Bagration alone is a military man. He’s stupid, but he has experience, a quick eye, and resolution. . . . And what role is your young monarch playing in that monstrous crowd? They compromise him and throw on him the responsibility for all that happens. A sovereign should not be with the army unless he is a general!” said Napoleon, evidently uttering these words as a direct challenge to the Emperor. He knew how Alexander desired to be a military commander.
“The campaign began only a week ago, and you haven’t even been able to defend Vilna. You are cut in two and have been driven out of the Polish provinces. Your army is grumbling.”
“On the contrary, Your Majesty,” said Balashev, hardly able to remember what had been said to him and following these verbal fireworks with difficulty, “the troops are burning with eagerness . . . ”
“I know everything!” Napoleon interrupted him. “I know everything. I know the number of your battalions as exactly as I know my own. You have not two hundred thousand men, and I have three times that number. I give you my word of honor,” said Napoleon, forgetting that his word of honor could carry no weight — “I give you my word of honor that I have five hundred and thirty thousand men this side of the Vistula. The Turks will be of no use to you; they are worth nothing and have shown it by making peace with you. As for the Swedes — it is their fate to be governed by mad kings. Their king was insane and they changed him for another — Bernadotte, who promptly went mad — for no Swede would ally himself with Russia unless he were mad.”
Napoleon grinned maliciously and again raised his snuffbox to his nose.
Balashev knew how to reply to each of Napoleon’s remarks, and would have done so; he continually made the gesture of a man wishing to say something, but Napoleon always interrupted him. To the alleged insanity of the Swedes, Balashev wished to reply that when Russia is on her side Sweden is practically an island: but Napoleon gave an angry exclamation to drown his voice. Napoleon was in that state of irritability in which a man has to talk, talk, and talk, merely to convince himself that he is in the right. Balashev began to feel uncomfortable: as envoy he feared to demean his dignity and felt the necessity of replying; but, as a man, he shrank before the transport of groundless wrath that had evidently seized Napoleon. He knew that none of the words now uttered by Napoleon had any significance, and that Napoleon himself would be ashamed of them when he came to his senses. Balashev stood with downcast eyes, looking at the movements of Napoleon’s stout legs and trying to avoid meeting his eyes.
“But what do I care about your allies?” said Napoleon. “I have allies — the Poles. There are eighty thousand of them and they fight like lions. And there will be two hundred thousand of them.”
And probably still more perturbed by the fact that he had uttered this obvious falsehood, and that Balashev still stood silently before him in the same attitude of submission to fate, Napoleon abruptly turned round, drew close to Balashev’s face, and, gesticulating rapidly and energetically with his white hands, almost shouted:
“Know that if you stir up Prussia against me, I’ll wipe it off the map of Europe!” he declared, his face pale and distorted by anger, and he struck one of his small hands energetically with the other. “Yes, I will throw you back beyond the Dvina and beyond the Dnieper, and will re-erect against you that barrier which it was criminal and blind of Europe to allow to be destroyed. Yes, that is what will happen to you. That is what you have gained by alienating me!” And he walked silently several times up and down the room, his fat shoulders twitching.
He put his snuffbox into his waistcoat pocket, took it out again, lifted it several times to his nose, and stopped in front of Balashev. He paused, looked ironically straight into Balashev’s eyes, and said in a quiet voice:
“And yet what a splendid reign your master might have had!”
Balashev, feeling it incumbent on him to reply, said that from the Russian side things did not appear in so gloomy a light. Napoleon was silent, still looking derisively at him and evidently not listening to him. Balashev said that in Russia the best results were expected from the war. Napoleon nodded condescendingly, as if to say, “I know it’s your duty to say that, but you don’t believe it yourself. I have convinced you.”
When Balashev had ended, Napoleon again took out his snuffbox, sniffed at it, and stamped his foot twice on the floor as a signal. The door opened, a gentleman-in-waiting, bending respectfully, handed the Emperor his hat and gloves; another brought him a pocket handkerchief. Napoleon, without giving them a glance, turned to Balashev:
“Assure the Emperor Alexander from me,” said he, taking his hat, “that I am as devoted to him as before: I know him thoroughly and very highly esteem his lofty qualities. I will detain you no longer, General; you shall receive my letter to the Emperor.”
And Napoleon went quickly to the door. Everyone in the reception room rushed forward and descended the staircase.
After all that Napoleon had said to him — those bursts of anger and the last dryly spoken words: “I will detain you no longer, General; you shall receive my letter,” Balashev felt convinced that Napoleon would not wish to see him, and would even avoid another meeting with him — an insulted envoy — especially as he had witnessed his unseemly anger. But, to his surprise, Balashev received, through Duroc, an invitation to dine with the Emperor that day.
Bessieres, Caulaincourt, and Berthier were present at that dinner.
Napoleon met Balashev cheerfully and amiably. He not only showed no sign of constraint or self-reproach on account of his outburst that morning, but, on the contrary, tried to reassure Balashev. It was evident that he had long been convinced that it was impossible for him to make a mistake, and that in his perception whatever he did was right, not because it harmonized with any idea of right and wrong, but because he did it.
The Emperor was in very good spirits after his ride through Vilna, where crowds of people had rapturously greeted and followed him. From all the windows of the streets through which he rode, rugs, flags, and his monogram were displayed, and the Polish ladies, welcoming him, waved their handkerchiefs to him.
At dinner, having placed Balashev beside him, Napoleon not only treated him amiably but behaved as if Balashev were one of his own courtiers, one of those who sympathized with his plans and ought to rejoice at his success. In the course of conversation he mentioned Moscow and questioned Balashev about the Russian capital, not merely as an interested traveler asks about a new city he intends to visit, but as if convinced that Balashev, as a Russian, must be flattered by his curiosity.
“How many inhabitants are there in Moscow? How many houses? Is it true that Moscow is called ‘Holy Moscow’? How many churches are there in Moscow?” he asked.
And receiving the reply that there were more than two hundred churches, he remarked:
“Why such a quantity of churches?”
“The Russians are very devout,” replied Balashev.
“But a large number of monasteries and churches is always a sign of the backwardness of a people,” said Napoleon, turning to Caulaincourt for appreciation of this remark.
Balashev respectfully ventured to disagree with the French Emperor.
“Every country has its own character,” said he.
“But nowhere in Europe is there anything like that,” said Napoleon.
“I beg your Majesty’s pardon,” returned Balashev, “besides Russia there is Spain, where there are also many churches and monasteries.”
This reply of Balashev’s, which hinted at the recent defeats of the French in Spain, was much appreciated when he related it at Alexander’s court, but it was not much appreciated at Napoleon’s dinner, where it passed unnoticed.
The uninterested and perplexed faces of the marshals showed that they were puzzled as to what Balashev’s tone suggested. “If there is a point we don’t see it, or it is not at all witty,” their expressions seemed to say. So little was his rejoinder appreciated that Napoleon did not notice it at all and naively asked Balashev through what towns the direct road from there to Moscow passed. Balashev, who was on the alert all through the dinner, replied that just as “all roads lead to Rome,” so all roads lead to Moscow: there were many roads, and “among them the road through Poltava, which Charles XII chose.” Balashev involuntarily flushed with pleasure at the aptitude of this reply, but hardly had he uttered the word Poltava before Caulaincourt began speaking of the badness of the road from Petersburg to Moscow and of his Petersburg reminiscences.
After dinner they went to drink coffee in Napoleon’s study, which four days previously had been that of the Emperor Alexander. Napoleon sat down, toying with his Sevres coffee cup, and motioned Balashev to a chair beside him.
Napoleon was in that well-known after-dinner mood which, more than any reasoned cause, makes a man contented with himself and disposed to consider everyone his friend. It seemed to him that he was surrounded by men who adored him: and he felt convinced that, after his dinner, Balashev too was his friend and worshiper. Napoleon turned to him with a pleasant, though slightly ironic, smile.
“They tell me this is the room the Emperor Alexander occupied? Strange, isn’t it, General?” he said, evidently not doubting that this remark would be agreeable to his hearer since it went to prove his, Napoleon’s, superiority to Alexander.
Balashev made no reply and bowed his head in silence.
“Yes. Four days ago in this room, Wintzingerode and Stein were deliberating,” continued Napoleon with the same derisive and self-confident smile. “What I can’t understand,” he went on, “is that the Emperor Alexander has surrounded himself with my personal enemies. That I do not . . . understand. Has he not thought that I may the same?” and he turned inquiringly to Balashev, and evidently this thought turned him back on to the track of his morning’s anger, which was still fresh in him.
“And let him know that I will do so!” said Napoleon, rising and pushing his cup away with his hand. “I’ll drive all his Wurttemberg, Baden, and Weimar relations out of Germany. . . . Yes. I’ll drive them out. Let him prepare an asylum for them in Russia!”
Balashev bowed his head with an air indicating that he would like to make his bow and leave, and only listened because he could not help hearing what was said to him. Napoleon did not notice this expression; he treated Balashev not as an envoy from his enemy, but as a man now fully devoted to him and who must rejoice at his former master’s humiliation.
“And why has the Emperor Alexander taken command of the armies? What is the good of that? War is my profession, but his business is to reign and not to command armies! Why has he taken on himself such a responsibility?”
Again Napoleon brought out his snuffbox, paced several times up and down the room in silence, and then, suddenly and unexpectedly, went up to Balashev and with a slight smile, as confidently, quickly, and simply as if he were doing something not merely important but pleasing to Balashev, he raised his hand to the forty-year-old Russian general’s face and, taking him by the ear, pulled it gently, smiling with his lips only.
To have one’s ear pulled by the Emperor was considered the greatest honor and mark of favor at the French court.
“Well, adorer and courtier of the Emperor Alexander, why don’t you say anything?” said he, as if it was ridiculous, in his presence, to be the adorer and courtier of anyone but himself, Napoleon. “Are the horses ready for the general?” he added, with a slight inclination of his head in reply to Balashev’s bow. “Let him have mine, he has a long way to go!”
The letter taken by Balashev was the last Napoleon sent to Alexander. Every detail of the interview was communicated to the Russian monarch, and the war began . . .
After his interview with Pierre in Moscow, Prince Andrew went to Petersburg, on business as he told his family, but really to meet Anatole Kuragin whom he felt it necessary to encounter. On reaching Petersburg he inquired for Kuragin but the latter had already left the city. Pierre had warned his brother-in-law that Prince Andrew was on his track. Anatole Kuragin promptly obtained an appointment from the Minister of War and went to join the army in Moldavia. While in Petersburg Prince Andrew met Kutuzov, his former commander who was always well disposed toward him, and Kutuzov suggested that he should accompany him to the army in Moldavia, to which the old general had been appointed commander in chief. So Prince Andrew, having received an appointment on the headquarters staff, left for Turkey.
Prince Andrew did not think it proper to write and challenge Kuragin. He thought that if he challenged him without some fresh cause it might compromise the young Countess Rostova and so he wanted to meet Kuragin personally in order to find a fresh pretext for a duel. But he again failed to meet Kuragin in Turkey, for soon after Prince Andrew arrived, the latter returned to Russia. In a new country, amid new conditions, Prince Andrew found life easier to bear. After his betrothed had broken faith with him — which he felt the more acutely the more he tried to conceal its effects — the surroundings in which he had been happy became trying to him, and the freedom and independence he had once prized so highly were still more so. Not only could he no longer think the thoughts that had first come to him as he lay gazing at the sky on the field of Austerlitz and had later enlarged upon with Pierre, and which had filled his solitude at Bogucharovo and then in Switzerland and Rome, but he even dreaded to recall them and the bright and boundless horizons they had revealed. He was now concerned only with the nearest practical matters unrelated to his past interests, and he seized on these the more eagerly the more those past interests were closed to him. It was as if that lofty, infinite canopy of heaven that had once towered above him had suddenly turned into a low, solid vault that weighed him down, in which all was clear, but nothing eternal or mysterious.
Of the activities that presented themselves to him, army service was the simplest and most familiar. As a general on duty on Kutuzov’s staff, he applied himself to business with zeal and perseverance and surprised Kutuzov by his willingness and accuracy in work. Not having found Kuragin in Turkey, Prince Andrew did not think it necessary to rush back to Russia after him, but all the same he knew that however long it might be before he met Kuragin, despite his contempt for him and despite all the proofs he deduced to convince himself that it was not worth stooping to a conflict with him — he knew that when he did meet him he would not be able to resist calling him out, any more than a ravenous man can help snatching at food. And the consciousness that the insult was not yet avenged, that his rancor was still unspent, weighed on his heart and poisoned the artificial tranquillity which he managed to obtain in Turkey by means of restless, plodding, and rather vainglorious and ambitious activity.
In the year 1812, when news of the war with Napoleon reached Bucharest — where Kutuzov had been living for two months, passing his days and nights with a Wallachian woman — Prince Andrew asked Kutuzov to transfer him to the Western Army. Kutuzov, who was already weary of Bolkonski’s activity which seemed to reproach his own idleness, very readily let him go and gave him a mission to Barclay de Tolly.
Before joining the Western Army which was then, in May, encamped at Drissa, Prince Andrew visited Bald Hills which was directly on his way, being only two miles off the Smolensk highroad. During the last three years there had been so many changes in his life, he had thought, felt, and seen so much (having traveled both in the east and the west), that on reaching Bald Hills it struck him as strange and unexpected to find the way of life there unchanged and still the same in every detail. He entered through the gates with their stone pillars and drove up the avenue leading to the house as if he were entering an enchanted, sleeping castle. The same old stateliness, the same cleanliness, the same stillness reigned there, and inside there was the same furniture, the same walls, sounds, and smell, and the same timid faces, only somewhat older. Princess Mary was still the same timid, plain maiden getting on in years, uselessly and joylessly passing the best years of her life in fear and constant suffering. Mademoiselle Bourienne was the same coquettish, self-satisfied girl, enjoying every moment of her existence and full of joyous hopes for the future. She had merely become more self-confident, Prince Andrew thought. Dessalles, the tutor he had brought from Switzerland, was wearing a coat of Russian cut and talking broken Russian to the servants, but was still the same narrowly intelligent, conscientious, and pedantic preceptor. The old prince had changed in appearance only by the loss of a tooth, which left a noticeable gap on one side of his mouth; in character he was the same as ever, only showing still more irritability and skepticism as to what was happening in the world. Little Nicholas alone had changed. He had grown, become rosier, had curly dark hair, and, when merry and laughing, quite unconsciously lifted the upper lip of his pretty little mouth just as the little princess used to do. He alone did not obey the law of immutability in the enchanted, sleeping castle. But though externally all remained as of old, the inner relations of all these people had changed since Prince Andrew had seen them last. The household was divided into two alien and hostile camps, who changed their habits for his sake and only met because he was there. To the one camp belonged the old prince, Madmoiselle Bourienne, and the architect; to the other Princess Mary, Dessalles, little Nicholas, and all the old nurses and maids.
During his stay at Bald Hills all the family dined together, but they were ill at ease and Prince Andrew felt that he was a visitor for whose sake an exception was being made and that his presence made them all feel awkward. Involuntarily feeling this at dinner on the first day, he was taciturn, and the old prince noticing this also became morosely dumb and retired to his apartments directly after dinner. In the evening, when Prince Andrew went to him and, trying to rouse him, began to tell him of the young Count Kamensky’s campaign, the old prince began unexpectedly to talk about Princess Mary, blaming her for her superstitions and her dislike of Mademoiselle Bourienne, who, he said, was the only person really attached to him.
The old prince said that if he was ill it was only because of Princess Mary: that she purposely worried and irritated him, and that by indulgence and silly talk she was spoiling little Prince Nicholas. The old prince knew very well that he tormented his daughter and that her life was very hard, but he also knew that he could not help tormenting her and that she deserved it. “Why does Prince Andrew, who sees this, say nothing to me about his sister? Does he think me a scoundrel, or an old fool who, without any reason, keeps his own daughter at a distance and attaches this Frenchwoman to himself? He doesn’t understand, so I must explain it, and he must hear me out,” thought the old prince. And he began explaining why he could not put up with his daughter’s unreasonable character.
“If you ask me,” said Prince Andrew, without looking up (he was censuring his father for the first time in his life), “I did not wish to speak about it, but as you ask me I will give you my frank opinion. If there is any misunderstanding and discord between you and Mary, I can’t blame her for it at all. I know how she loves and respects you. Since you ask me,” continued Prince Andrew, becoming irritable — as he was always liable to do of late — “I can only say that if there are any misunderstandings they are caused by that worthless woman, who is not fit to be my sister’s companion.”
The old man at first stared fixedly at his son, and an unnatural smile disclosed the fresh gap between his teeth to which Prince Andrew could not get accustomed.
“What companion, my dear boy? Eh? You’ve already been talking it over! Eh?”
“Father, I did not want to judge,” said Prince Andrew, in a hard and bitter tone, “but you challenged me, and I have said, and always shall say, that Mary is not to blame, but those to blame — the one to blame — is that Frenchwoman.”
“Ah, he has passed judgment . . . passed judgement!” said the old man in a low voice and, as it seemed to Prince Andrew, with some embarrassment, but then he suddenly jumped up and cried: “Be off, be off! Let not a trace of you remain here! . . . ”
Prince Andrew wished to leave at once, but Princess Mary persuaded him to stay another day. That day he did not see his father, who did not leave his room and admitted no one but Mademoiselle Bourienne and Tikhon, but asked several times whether his son had gone. Next day, before leaving, Prince Andrew went to his son’s rooms. The boy, curly-headed like his mother and glowing with health, sat on his knee, and Prince Andrew began telling him the story of Bluebeard, but fell into a reverie without finishing the story. He thought not of this pretty child, his son whom he held on his knee, but of himself. He sought in himself either remorse for having angered his father or regret at leaving home for the first time in his life on bad terms with him, and was horrified to find neither. What meant still more to him was that he sought and did not find in himself the former tenderness for his son which he had hoped to reawaken by caressing the boy and taking him on his knee.
“Well, go on!” said his son.
Prince Andrew, without replying, put him down from his knee and went out of the room.
As soon as Prince Andrew had given up his daily occupations, and especially on returning to the old conditions of life amid which he had been happy, weariness of life overcame him with its former intensity, and he hastened to escape from these memories and to find some work as soon as possible.
“So you’ve decided to go, Andrew?” asked his sister.
“Thank God that I can,” replied Prince Andrew. “I am very sorry you can’t.”
“Why do you say that?” replied Princess Mary. “Why do you say that, when you are going to this terrible war, and he is so old? Mademoiselle Bourienne says he has been asking about you. . . . ”
As soon as she began to speak of that, her lips trembled and her tears began to fall. Prince Andrew turned away and began pacing the room.
“Ah, my God! my God! When one thinks who and what — what trash — can cause people misery!” he said with a malignity that alarmed Princess Mary.
She understood that when speaking of “trash” he referred not only to Mademoiselle Bourienne, the cause of her misery, but also to the man who had ruined his own happiness.
“Andrew! One thing I beg, I entreat of you!” she said, touching his elbow and looking at him with eyes that shone through her tears. “I understand you” (she looked down). “Don’t imagine that sorrow is the work of men. Men are His tools.” She looked a little above Prince Andrew’s head with the confident, accustomed look with which one looks at the place where a familiar portrait hangs. “Sorrow is sent by Him, not by men. Men are His instruments, they are not to blame. If you think someone has wronged you, forget it and forgive! We have no right to punish. And then you will know the happiness of forgiving.”
“If I were a woman I would do so, Mary. That is a woman’s virtue. But a man should not and cannot forgive and forget,” he replied, and though till that moment he had not been thinking of Kuragin, all his unexpended anger suddenly swelled up in his heart.
“If Mary is already persuading me forgive, it means that I ought long ago to have punished him,” he thought. And giving her no further reply, he began thinking of the glad vindictive moment when he would meet Kuragin who he knew was now in the army.
Princess Mary begged him to stay one day more, saying that she knew how unhappy her father would be if Andrew left without being reconciled to him, but Prince Andrew replied that he would probably soon be back again from the army and would certainly write to his father, but that the longer he stayed now the more embittered their differences would become.
“Good-by, Andrew! Remember that misfortunes come from God, and men are never to blame,” were the last words he heard from his sister when he took leave of her.
“Then it must be so!” thought Prince Andrew as he drove out of the avenue from the house at Bald Hills. “She, poor innocent creature, is left to be victimized by an old man who has outlived his wits. The old man feels he is guilty, but cannot change himself. My boy is growing up and rejoices in life, in which like everybody else he will deceive or be deceived. And I am off to the army. Why? I myself don’t know. I want to meet that man whom I despise, so as to give him a chance to kill and laugh at me!
These conditions of life had been the same before, but then they were all connected, while now they had all tumbled to pieces. Only senseless things, lacking coherence, presented themselves one after another to Prince Andrew’s mind.
Prince Andrew reached the general headquarters of the army at the end of June. The first army, with which was the Emperor, occupied the fortified camp at Drissa; the second army was retreating, trying to effect a junction with the first one from which it was said to be cut off by large French forces. Everyone was dissatisfied with the general course of affairs in the Russian army, but no one anticipated any danger of invasion of the Russian provinces, and no one thought the war would extend farther than the western, the Polish, provinces.
Prince Andrew found Barclay de Tolly, to whom he had been assigned, on the bank of the Drissa. As there was not a single town or large village in the vicinity of the camp, the immense number of generals and courtiers accompanying the army were living in the best houses of the villages on both sides of the river, over a radius of six miles. Barclay de Tolly was quartered nearly three miles from the Emperor. He received Bolkonski stiffly and coldly and told him in his foreign accent that he would mention him to the Emperor for a decision as to his employment, but asked him meanwhile to remain on his staff. Anatole Kuragin, whom Prince Andrew had hoped to find with the army, was not there. He had gone to Petersburg, but Prince Andrew was glad to hear this. His mind was occupied by the interests of the center that was conducting a gigantic war, and he was glad to be free for a while from the distraction caused by the thought of Kuragin. During the first four days, while no duties were required of him, Prince Andrew rode round the whole fortified camp and, by the aid of his own knowledge and by talks with experts, tried to form a definite opinion about it. But the question whether the camp was advantageous or disadvantageous remained for him undecided. Already from his military experience and what he had seen in the Austrian campaign, he had come to the conclusion that in war the most deeply considered plans have no significance and that all depends on the way unexpected movements of the enemy — that cannot be foreseen — are met, and on how and by whom the whole matter is handled. To clear up this last point for himself, Prince Andrew, utilizing his position and acquaintances, tried to fathom the character of the control of the army and of the men and parties engaged in it, and he deduced for himself the following of the state of affairs.
While the Emperor had still been at Vilna, the forces had been divided into three armies. First, the army under Barclay de Tolly, secondly, the army under Bagration, and thirdly, the one commanded by Tormasov. The Emperor was with the first army, but not as commander in chief. In the orders issued it was stated, not that the Emperor would take command, but only that he would be with the army. The Emperor, moreover, had with him not a commander in chief’s staff but the imperial headquarters staff. In attendance on him was the head of the imperial staff, Quartermaster General Prince Volkonski, as well as generals, imperial aides-de-camp, diplomatic officials, and a large number of foreigners, but not the army staff. Besides these, there were in attendance on the Emperor without any definite appointments: Arakcheev, the ex-Minister of War; Count Bennigsen, the senior general in rank; the Grand Duke Tsarevich Constantine Pavlovich; Count Rumyantsev, the Chancellor; Stein, a former Prussian minister; Armfeldt, a Swedish general; Pfuel, the chief author of the plan of campaign; Paulucci, an adjutant general and Sardinian emigre; Wolzogen — and many others. Though these men had no military appointment in the army, their position gave them influence, and often a corps commander, or even the commander in chief, did not know in what capacity he was questioned by Bennigsen, the Grand Duke, Arakcheev, or Prince Volkonski, or was given this or that advice and did not know whether a certain order received in the form of advice emanated from the man who gave it or from the Emperor and whether it had to be executed or not. But this was only the external condition; the essential significance of the presence of the Emperor and of all these people, from a courtier’s point of view (and in an Emperor’s vicinity all became courtiers), was clear to everyone. It was this: the Emperor did not assume the title of commander in chief, but disposed of all the armies; the men around him were his assistants. Arakcheev was a faithful custodian to enforce order and acted as the sovereign’s bodyguard. Bennigsen was a landlord in the Vilna province who appeared to be doing the honors of the district, but was in reality a good general, useful as an adviser and ready at hand to replace Barclay. The Grand Duke was there because it suited him to be. The ex-Minister Stein was there because his advice was useful and the Emperor Alexander held him in high esteem personally. Armfeldt virulently hated Napoleon and was a general full of self-confidence, a quality that always influenced Alexander. Paulucci was there because he was bold and decided in speech. The adjutants general were there because they always accompanied the Emperor, and lastly and chiefly Pfuel was there because he had drawn up the plan of campaign against Napoleon and, having induced Alexander to believe in the efficacy of that plan, was directing the whole business of the war. With Pfuel was Wolzogen, who expressed Pfuel’s thoughts in a more comprehensible way than Pfuel himself (who was a harsh, bookish theorist, self-confident to the point of despising everyone else) was able to do.
Besides these Russians and foreigners who propounded new and unexpected ideas every day — especially the foreigners, who did so with a boldness characteristic of people employed in a country not their own — there were many secondary personages accompanying the army because their principals were there.
Among the opinions and voices in this immense, restless, brilliant, and proud sphere, Prince Andrew noticed the following sharply defined subdivisions of and parties:
The first party consisted of Pfuel and his adherents — military theorists who believed in a science of war with immutable laws — laws of oblique movements, outflankings, and so forth. Pfuel and his adherents demanded a retirement into the depths of the country in accordance with precise laws defined by a pseudo-theory of war, and they saw only barbarism, ignorance, or evil intention in every deviation from that theory. To this party belonged the foreign nobles, Wolzogen, Wintzingerode, and others, chiefly Germans.
The second party was directly opposed to the first; one extreme, as always happens, was met by representatives of the other. The members of this party were those who had demanded an advance from Vilna into Poland and freedom from all prearranged plans. Besides being advocates of bold action, this section also represented nationalism, which made them still more one-sided in the dispute. They were Russians: Bagration, Ermolov (who was beginning to come to the front), and others. At that time a famous joke of Ermolov’s was being circulated, that as a great favor he had petitioned the Emperor to make him a German. The men of that party, remembering Suvorov, said that what one had to do was not to reason, or stick pins into maps, but to fight, beat the enemy, keep him out of Russia, and not let the army get discouraged.
To the third party — in which the Emperor had most confidence — belonged the courtiers who tried to arrange compromises between the other two. The members of this party, chiefly civilians and to whom Arakcheev belonged, thought and said what men who have no convictions but wish to seem to have some generally say. They said that undoubtedly war, particularly against such a genius as Bonaparte (they called him Bonaparte now), needs most deeply devised plans and profound scientific knowledge and in that respect Pfuel was a genius, but at the same time it had to be acknowledged that the theorists are often one sided, and therefore one should not trust them absolutely, but should also listen to what Pfuel’s opponents and practical men of experience in warfare had to say, and then choose a middle course. They insisted on the retention of the camp at Drissa, according to Pfuel’s plan, but on changing the movements of the other armies. Though, by this course, neither one aim nor the other could be attained, yet it seemed best to the adherents of this third party.
Of a fourth opinion the most conspicuous representative was the Tsarevich, who could not forget his disillusionment at Austerlitz, where he had ridden out at the head of the Guards, in his casque and cavalry uniform as to a review, expecting to crush the French gallantly; but unexpectedly finding himself in the front line had narrowly escaped amid the general confusion. The men of this party had both the quality and the defect of frankness in their opinions. They feared Napoleon, recognized his strength and their own weakness, and frankly said so. They said: “Nothing but sorrow, shame, and ruin will come of all this! We have abandoned Vilna and Vitebsk and shall abandon Drissa. The only reasonable thing left to do is to conclude peace as soon as possible, before we are turned out of Petersburg.”
This view was very general in the upper army circles and found support also in Petersburg and from the chancellor, Rumyantsev, who, for other reasons of state, was in favor of peace.
The fifth party consisted of those who were adherents of Barclay de Tolly, not so much as a man but as minister of war and commander in chief. “Be he what he may” (they always began like that), “he is an honest, practical man and we have nobody better. Give him real power, for war cannot be conducted successfully without unity of command, and he will show what he can do, as he did in Finland. If our army is well organized and strong and has withdrawn to Drissa without suffering any defeats, we owe this entirely to Barclay. If Barclay is now to be superseded by Bennigsen all will be lost, for Bennigsen showed his incapacity already in 1807.”
The sixth party, the Bennigsenites, said, on the contrary, that at any rate there was no one more active and experienced than Bennigsen: “and twist about as you may, you will have to come to Bennigsen eventually. Let the others make mistakes now!” said they, arguing that our retirement to Drissa was a most shameful reverse and an unbroken series of blunders. “The more mistakes that are made the better. It will at any rate be understood all the sooner that things cannot go on like this. What is wanted is not some Barclay or other, but a man like Bennigsen, who made his mark in 1807, and to whom Napoleon himself did justice — a man whose authority would be willingly recognized, and Bennigsen is the only such man.”
The seventh party consisted of the sort of people who are always to be found, especially around young sovereigns, and of whom there were particularly many round Alexander — generals and imperial aides-de-camp passionately devoted to the Emperor, not merely as a monarch but as a man, adoring him sincerely and disinterestedly, as Rostov had done in 1805, and who saw in him not only all the virtues but all human capabilities as well. These men, though enchanted with the sovereign for refusing the command of the army, yet blamed him for such excessive modesty, and only desired and insisted that their adored sovereign should abandon his diffidence and openly announce that he would place himself at the head of the army, gather round him a commander in chief’s staff, and, consulting experienced theoreticians and practical men where necessary, would himself lead the troops, whose spirits would thereby be raised to the highest pitch.
The eighth and largest group, which in its enormous numbers was to the others as ninety-nine to one, consisted of men who desired neither peace nor war, neither an advance nor a defensive camp at the Drissa or anywhere else, neither Barclay nor the Emperor, neither Pfuel nor Bennigsen, but only the one most essential thing — as much advantage and pleasure for themselves as possible. In the troubled waters of conflicting and intersecting intrigues that eddied about the Emperor’s headquarters, it was possible to succeed in many ways unthinkable at other times. A man who simply wished to retain his lucrative post would today agree with Pfuel, tomorrow with his opponent, and the day after, merely to avoid responsibility or to please the Emperor, would declare that he had no opinion at all on the matter. Another who wished to gain some advantage would attract the Emperor’s attention by loudly advocating the very thing the Emperor had hinted at the day before, and would dispute and shout at the council, beating his breast and challenging those who did not agree with him to duels, thereby proving that he was prepared to sacrifice himself for the common good. A third, in the absence of opponents, between two councils would simply solicit a special gratuity for his faithful services, well knowing that at that moment people would be too busy to refuse him. A fourth while seemingly overwhelmed with work would often come accidentally under the Emperor’s eye. A fifth, to achieve his long-cherished aim of dining with the Emperor, would stubbornly insist on the correctness or falsity of some newly emerging opinion and for this object would produce arguments more or less forcible and correct.
All the men of this party were fishing for rubles, decorations, and promotions, and in this pursuit watched only the weathercock of imperial favor, and directly they noticed it turning in any direction, this whole drone population of the army began blowing hard that way, so that it was all the harder for the Emperor to turn it elsewhere. Amid the uncertainties of the position, with the menace of serious danger giving a peculiarly threatening character to everything, amid this vortex of intrigue, egotism, conflict of views and feelings, and the diversity of race among these people — this eighth and largest party of those preoccupied with personal interests imparted great confusion and obscurity to the common task. Whatever question arose, a swarm of these drones, without having finished their buzzing on a previous theme, flew over to the new one and by their hum drowned and obscured the voices of those who were disputing honestly.
From among all these parties, just at the time Prince Andrew reached the army, another, a ninth party, was being formed and was beginning to raise its voice. This was the party of the elders, reasonable men experienced and capable in state affairs, who, without sharing any of those conflicting opinions, were able to take a detached view of what was going on at the staff at headquarters and to consider means of escape from this muddle, indecision, intricacy, and weakness.
The men of this party said and thought that what was wrong resulted chiefly from the Emperor’s presence in the army with his military court and from the consequent presence there of an indefinite, conditional, and unsteady fluctuation of relations, which is in place at court but harmful in an army; that a sovereign should reign but not command the army, and that the only way out of the position would be for the Emperor and his court to leave the army; that the mere presence of the Emperor paralyzed the action of fifty thousand men required to secure his personal safety, and that the worst commander in chief if independent would be better than the very best one trammeled by the presence and authority of the monarch.
Just at the time Prince Andrew was living unoccupied at Drissa, Shishkov, the Secretary of State and one of the chief representatives of this party, wrote a letter to the Emperor which Arakcheev and Balashev agreed to sign. In this letter, availing himself of permission given him by the Emperor to discuss the general course of affairs, he respectfully suggested — on the plea that it was necessary for the sovereign to arouse a warlike spirit in the people of the capital — that the Emperor should leave the army.
That arousing of the people by their sovereign and his call to them to defend their country — the very incitement which was the chief cause of Russia’s triumph in so far as it was produced by the Tsar’s personal presence in Moscow — was suggested to the Emperor, and accepted by him, as a pretext for quitting the army.
This letter had not yet been presented to the Emperor when Barclay, one day at dinner, informed Bolkonski that the sovereign wished to see him personally, to question him about Turkey, and that Prince Andrew was to present himself at Bennigsen’s quarters at six that evening.
News was received at the Emperor’s quarters that very day of a fresh movement by Napoleon which might endanger the army — news subsequently found to be false. And that morning Colonel Michaud had ridden round the Drissa fortifications with the Emperor and had pointed out to him that this fortified camp constructed by Pfuel, and till then considered a chef-d’oeuvre of tactical science which would ensure Napoleon’s destruction, was an absurdity, threatening the destruction of the Russian army.
Prince Andrew arrived at Bennigsen’s quarters — a country gentleman’s house of moderate size, situated on the very banks of the river. Neither Bennigsen nor the Emperor was there, but Chernyshev, the Emperor’s aide-de-camp, received Bolkonski and informed him that the Emperor, accompanied by General Bennigsen and Marquis Paulucci, had gone a second time that day to inspect the fortifications of the Drissa camp, of the suitability of which serious doubts were beginning to be felt.
Chernyshev was sitting at a window in the first room with a French novel in his hand. This room had probably been a music room; there was still an organ in it on which some rugs were piled, and in one corner stood the folding bedstead of Bennigsen’s adjutant. This adjutant was also there and sat dozing on the rolled-up bedding, evidently exhausted by work or by feasting. Two doors led from the room, one straight on into what had been the drawing room, and another, on the right, to the study. Through the first door came the sound of voices conversing in German and occasionally in French. In that drawing room were gathered, by the Emperor’s wish, not a military council (the Emperor preferred indefiniteness), but certain persons whose opinions he wished to know in view of the impending difficulties. It was not a council of war, but, as it were, a council to elucidate certain questions for the Emperor personally. To this semicouncil had been invited the Swedish General Armfeldt, Adjutant General Wolzogen, Wintzingerode (whom Napoleon had referred to as a renegade French subject), Michaud, Toll, Count Stein who was not a military man at all, and Pfuel himself, who, as Prince Andrew had heard, was the mainspring of the whole affair. Prince Andrew had an opportunity of getting a good look at him, for Pfuel arrived soon after himself and, in passing through to the drawing room, stopped a minute to speak to Chernyshev.
At first sight, Pfuel, in his ill-made uniform of a Russian general, which fitted him badly like a fancy costume, seemed familiar to Prince Andrew, though he saw him now for the first time. There was about him something of Weyrother, Mack, and Schmidt, and many other German theorist-generals whom Prince Andrew had seen in 1805, but he was more typical than any of them. Prince Andrew had never yet seen a German theorist in whom all the characteristics of those others were united to such an extent.
Pfuel was short and very thin but broad-boned, of coarse, robust build, broad in the hips, and with prominent shoulder blades. His face was much wrinkled and his eyes deep set. His hair had evidently been hastily brushed smooth in front of the temples, but stuck up behind in quaint little tufts. He entered the room, looking restlessly and angrily around, as if afraid of everything in that large apartment. Awkwardly holding up his sword, he addressed Chernyshev and asked in German where the Emperor was. One could see that he wished to pass through the rooms as quickly as possible, finish with the bows and greetings, and sit down to business in front of a map, where he would feel at home. He nodded hurriedly in reply to Chernyshev, and smiled ironically on hearing that the sovereign was inspecting the fortifications that he, Pfuel, had planned in accord with his theory. He muttered something to himself abruptly and in a bass voice, as self-assured Germans do — it might have been “stupid fellow” . . . or “the whole affair will be ruined,” or “something absurd will come of it.” . . . Prince Andrew did not catch what he said and would have passed on, but Chernyshev introduced him to Pfuel, remarking that Prince Andrew was just back from Turkey where the war had terminated so fortunately. Pfuel barely glanced — not so much at Prince Andrew as past him — and said, with a laugh: “That must have been a fine tactical war”; and, laughing contemptuously, went on into the room from which the sound of voices was heard.
Pfuel, always inclined to be irritably sarcastic, was particularly disturbed that day, evidently by the fact that they had dared to inspect and criticize his camp in his absence. From this short interview with Pfuel, Prince Andrew, thanks to his Austerlitz experiences, was able to form a clear conception of the man. Pfuel was one of those hopelessly and immutably self-confident men, self-confident to the point of martyrdom as only Germans are, because only Germans are self-confident on the basis of an abstract notion — science, that is, the supposed knowledge of absolute truth. A Frenchman is self-assured because he regards himself personally, both in mind and body, as irresistibly attractive to men and women. An Englishman is self-assured, as being a citizen of the best-organized state in the world, and therefore as an Englishman always knows what he should do and knows that all he does as an Englishman is undoubtedly correct. An Italian is self-assured because he is excitable and easily forgets himself and other people. A Russian is self-assured just because he knows nothing does not want to know anything, since he does not believe that anything can be known. The German’s self-assurance is worst of all, stronger and more repulsive than any other, because he imagines that he knows the truth — science — which he himself has invented but which is for him the absolute truth.
Pfuel was evidently of that sort. He had a science — the theory of oblique movements deduced by him from the history of Frederick the Great’s wars, and all he came across in the history of more recent warfare seemed to him absurd and barbarous — monstrous collisions in which so many blunders were committed by both sides that these wars could not be called wars, they did not accord with the theory, and therefore could not serve as material for science.
In 1806 Pfuel had been one of those responsible, for the plan of campaign that ended in Jena and Auerstadt, but he did not see the least proof of the fallibility of his theory in the disasters of that war. On the contrary, the deviations made from his theory were, in his opinion, the sole cause of the whole disaster, and with characteristically gleeful sarcasm he would remark, “There, I said the whole affair would go to the devil!” Pfuel was one of those theoreticians who so love their theory that they lose sight of the theory’s object — its practical application. His love of theory made him hate everything practical, and he would not listen to it. He was even pleased by failures, for failures resulting from deviations in practice from the theory only proved to him the accuracy of his theory.
He said a few words to Prince Andrew and Chernyshev about the present war, with the air of a man who knows beforehand that all will go wrong, and who is not displeased that it should be so. The unbrushed tufts of hair sticking up behind and the hastily brushed hair on his temples expressed this most eloquently.
He passed into the next room, and the deep, querulous sounds of his voice were at once heard from there.
Prince Andrew’s eyes were still following Pfuel out of the room when Count Bennigsen entered hurriedly, and nodding to Bolkonski, but not pausing, went into the study, giving instructions to his adjutant as he went. The Emperor was following him, and Bennigsen had hastened on to make some preparations and to be ready to receive the sovereign. Chernyshev and Prince Andrew went out into the porch, where the Emperor, who looked fatigued, was dismounting. Marquis Paulucci was talking to him with particular warmth and the Emperor, with his head bent to the left, was listening with a dissatisfied air. The Emperor moved forward evidently wishing to end the conversation, but the flushed and excited Italian, oblivious of decorum, followed him and continued to speak.
“And as for the man who advised forming this camp — the Drissa camp,” said Paulucci, as the Emperor mounted the steps and noticing Prince Andrew scanned his unfamiliar face, “as to that person, sire . . . ” continued Paulucci, desperately, apparently unable to restrain himself, “the man who advised the Drissa camp — I see no alternative but the lunatic asylum or the gallows!”
Without heeding the end of the Italian’s remarks, and as though not hearing them, the Emperor, recognizing Bolkonski, addressed him graciously.
“I am very glad to see you! Go in there where they are meeting, and wait for me.”
The Emperor went into the study. He was followed by Prince Peter Mikhaylovich Volkonski and Baron Stein, and the door closed behind them. Prince Andrew, taking advantage of the Emperor’s permission, accompanied Paulucci, whom he had known in Turkey, into the drawing room where the council was assembled.
Prince Peter Mikhaylovich Volkonski occupied the position, as it were, of chief of the Emperor’s staff. He came out of the study into the drawing room with some maps which he spread on a table, and put questions on which he wished to hear the opinion of the gentlemen present. What had happened was that news (which afterwards proved to be false) had been received during the night of a movement by the French to outflank the Drissa camp.
The first to speak was General Armfeldt who, to meet the difficulty that presented itself, unexpectedly proposed a perfectly new position away from the Petersburg and Moscow roads. The reason for this was inexplicable (unless he wished to show that he, too, could have an opinion), but he urged that at this point the army should unite and there await the enemy. It was plain that Armfeldt had thought out that plan long ago and now expounded it not so much to answer the questions put — which, in fact, his plan did not answer — as to avail himself of the opportunity to air it. It was one of the millions of proposals, one as good as another, that could be made as long as it was quite unknown what character the war would take. Some disputed his arguments, others defended them. Young Count Toll objected to the Swedish general’s views more warmly than anyone else, and in the course of the dispute drew from his side pocket a well-filled notebook, which he asked permission to read to them. In these voluminous notes Toll suggested another scheme, totally different from Armfeldt’s or Pfuel’s plan of campaign. In answer to Toll, Paulucci suggested an advance and an attack, which, he urged, could alone extricate us from the present uncertainty and from the trap (as he called the Drissa camp) in which we were situated.
During all these discussions Pfuel and his interpreter, Wolzogen (his “bridge” in court relations), were silent. Pfuel only snorted contemptuously and turned away, to show that he would never demean himself by replying to such nonsense as he was now hearing. So when Prince Volkonski, who was in the chair, called on him to give his opinion, he merely said:
“Why ask me? General Armfeldt has proposed a splendid position with an exposed rear, or why not this Italian gentleman’s attack — very fine, or a retreat, also good! Why ask me?” said he. “Why, you yourselves know everything better than I do.”
But when Volkonski said, with a frown, that it was in the Emperor’s name that he asked his opinion, Pfuel rose and, suddenly growing animated, began to speak:
“Everything has been spoiled, everything muddled, everybody thought they knew better than I did, and now you come to me! How mend matters? There is nothing to mend! The principles laid down by me must be strictly adhered to,” said he, drumming on the table with his bony fingers. “What is the difficulty? Nonsense, childishness!”
He went up to the map and speaking rapidly began proving that no eventuality could alter the efficiency of the Drissa camp, that everything had been foreseen, and that if the enemy were really going to outflank it, the enemy would inevitably be destroyed.
Paulucci, who did not know German, began questioning him in French. Wolzogen came to the assistance of his chief, who spoke French badly, and began translating for him, hardly able to keep pace with Pfuel, who was rapidly demonstrating that not only all that had happened, but all that could happen, had been foreseen in his scheme, and that if there were now any difficulties the whole fault lay in the fact that his plan had not been precisely executed. He kept laughing sarcastically, he demonstrated, and at last contemptuously ceased to demonstrate, like a mathematician who ceases to prove in various ways the accuracy of a problem that has already been proved. Wolzogen took his place and continued to explain his views in French, every now and then turning to Pfuel and saying, “Is it not so, your excellency?” But Pfuel, like a man heated in a fight who strikes those on his own side, shouted angrily at his own supporter, Wolzogen:
“Well, of course, what more is there to explain?”
Paulucci and Michaud both attacked Wolzogen simultaneously in French. Armfeldt addressed Pfuel in German. Toll explained to Volkonski in Russian. Prince Andrew listened and observed in silence.
Of all these men Prince Andrew sympathized most with Pfuel, angry, determined, and absurdly self-confident as he was. Of all those present, evidently he alone was not seeking anything for himself, nursed no hatred against anyone, and only desired that the plan, formed on a theory arrived at by years of toil, should be carried out. He was ridiculous, and unpleasantly sarcastic, but yet he inspired involuntary respect by his boundless devotion to an idea. Besides this, the remarks of all except Pfuel had one common trait that had not been noticeable at the council of war in 1805: there was now a panic fear of Napoleon’s genius, which, though concealed, was noticeable in every rejoinder. Everything was assumed to be possible for Napoleon, they expected him from every side, and invoked his terrible name to shatter each other’s proposals. Pfuel alone seemed to consider Napoleon a barbarian like everyone else who opposed his theory. But besides this feeling of respect, Pfuel evoked pity in Prince Andrew. From the tone in which the courtiers addressed him and the way Paulucci had allowed himself to speak of him to the Emperor, but above all from a certain desperation in Pfuel’s own expressions, it was clear that the others knew, and Pfuel himself felt, that his fall was at hand. And despite his self-confidence and grumpy German sarcasm he was pitiable, with his hair smoothly brushed on the temples and sticking up in tufts behind. Though he concealed the fact under a show of irritation and contempt, he was evidently in despair that the sole remaining chance of verifying his theory by a huge experiment and proving its soundness to the whole world was slipping away from him.
The discussions continued a long time, and the longer they lasted the more heated became the disputes, culminating in shouts and personalities, and the less was it possible to arrive at any general conclusion from all that had been said. Prince Andrew, listening to this polyglot talk and to these surmises, plans, refutations, and shouts, felt nothing but amazement at what they were saying. A thought that had long since and often occurred to him during his military activities — the idea that there is not and cannot be any science of war, and that therefore there can be no such thing as a military genius — now appeared to him an obvious truth. “What theory and science is possible about a matter the conditions and circumstances of which are unknown and cannot be defined, especially when the strength of the acting forces cannot be ascertained? No one was or is able to foresee in what condition our or the enemy’s armies will be in a day’s time, and no one can gauge the force of this or that detachment. Sometimes — when there is not a coward at the front to shout, ‘We are cut off!’ and start running, but a brave and jolly lad who shouts, ‘Hurrah!’— a detachment of five thousand is worth thirty thousand, as at Schon Grabern, while at times fifty thousand run from eight thousand, as at Austerlitz. What science can there be in a matter in which, as in all practical matters, nothing can be defined and everything depends on innumerable conditions, the significance of which is determined at a particular moment which arrives no one knows when? Armfeldt says our army is cut in half, and Paulucci says we have got the French army between two fires; Michaud says that the worthlessness of the Drissa camp lies in having the river behind it, and Pfuel says that is what constitutes its strength; Toll proposes one plan, Armfeldt another, and they are all good and all bad, and the advantages of any suggestions can be seen only at the moment of trial. And why do they all speak of a ‘military genius’? Is a man a genius who can order bread to be brought up at the right time and say who is to go to the right and who to the left? It is only because military men are invested with pomp and power and crowds of sychophants flatter power, attributing to it qualities of genius it does not possess. The best generals I have known were, on the contrary, stupid or absent-minded men. Bagration was the best, Napoleon himself admitted that. And of Bonaparte himself! I remember his limited, self-satisfied face on the field of Austerlitz. Not only does a good army commander not need any special qualities, on the contrary he needs the absence of the highest and best human attributes — love, poetry, tenderness, and philosophic inquiring doubt. He should be limited, firmly convinced that what he is doing is very important (otherwise he will not have sufficient patience), and only then will he be a brave leader. God forbid that he should be humane, should love, or pity, or think of what is just and unjust. It is understandable that a theory of their ‘genius’ was invented for them long ago because they have power! The success of a military action depends not on them, but on the man in the ranks who shouts, ‘We are lost!’ or who shouts, ‘Hurrah!’ And only in the ranks can one serve with assurance of being useful.”
So thought Prince Andrew as he listened to the talking, and he roused himself only when Paulucci called him and everyone was leaving.
At the review next day the Emperor asked Prince Andrew where he would like to serve, and Prince Andrew lost his standing in court circles forever by not asking to remain attached to the sovereign’s person, but for permission to serve in the army.
Before the beginning of the campaign, Rostov had received a letter from his parents in which they told him briefly of Natasha’s illness and the breaking off of her engagement to Prince Andrew (which they explained by Natasha’s having rejected him) and again asked Nicholas to retire from the army and return home. On receiving this letter, Nicholas did not even make any attempt to get leave of absence or to retire from the army, but wrote to his parents that he was sorry Natasha was ill and her engagement broken off, and that he would do all he could to meet their wishes. To Sonya he wrote separately.
“Adored friend of my soul!” he wrote. “Nothing but honor could keep me from returning to the country. But now, at the commencement of the campaign, I should feel dishonored, not only in my comrades’ eyes but in my own, if I preferred my own happiness to my love and duty to the Fatherland. But this shall be our last separation. Believe me, directly the war is over, if I am still alive and still loved by you, I will throw up everything and fly to you, to press you forever to my ardent breast.”
It was, in fact, only the commencement of the campaign that prevented Rostov from returning home as he had promised and marrying Sonya. The autumn in Otradnoe with the hunting, and the winter with the Christmas holidays and Sonya’s love, had opened out to him a vista of tranquil rural joys and peace such as he had never known before, and which now allured him. “A splendid wife, children, a good pack of hounds, a dozen leashes of smart borzois, agriculture, neighbors, service by election . . . ” thought he. But now the campaign was beginning, and he had to remain with his regiment. And since it had to be so, Nicholas Rostov, as was natural to him, felt contented with the life he led in the regiment and was able to find pleasure in that life.
On his return from his furlough Nicholas, having been joyfully welcomed by his comrades, was sent to obtain remounts and brought back from the Ukraine excellent horses which pleased him and earned him commendation from his commanders. During his absence he had been promoted captain, and when the regiment was put on war footing with an increase in numbers, he was again allotted his old squadron.
The campaign began, the regiment was moved into Poland on double pay, new officers arrived, new men and horses, and above all everybody was infected with the merrily excited mood that goes with the commencement of a war, and Rostov, conscious of his advantageous position in the regiment, devoted himself entirely to the pleasures and interests of military service, though he knew that sooner or later he would have to relinquish them.
The troops retired from Vilna for various complicated reasons of state, political and strategic. Each step of the retreat was accompanied by a complicated interplay of interests, arguments, and passions at headquarters. For the Pavlograd hussars, however, the whole of this retreat during the finest period of summer and with sufficient supplies was a very simple and agreeable business.
It was only at headquarters that there was depression, uneasiness, and intriguing; in the body of the army they did not ask themselves where they were going or why. If they regretted having to retreat, it was only because they had to leave billets they had grown accustomed to, or some pretty young Polish lady. If the thought that things looked bad chanced to enter anyone’s head, he tried to be as cheerful as befits a good soldier and not to think of the general trend of affairs, but only of the task nearest to hand. First they camped gaily before Vilna, making acquaintance with the Polish landowners, preparing for reviews and being reviewed by the Emperor and other high commanders. Then came an order to retreat to Sventsyani and destroy any provisions they could not carry away with them. Sventsyani was remembered by the hussars only as the drunken camp, a name the whole army gave to their encampment there, and because many complaints were made against the troops, who, taking advantage of the order to collect provisions, took also horses, carriages, and carpets from the Polish proprietors. Rostov remembered Sventsyani, because on the first day of their arrival at that small town he changed his sergeant major and was unable to manage all the drunken men of his squadron who, unknown to him, had appropriated five barrels of old beer. From Sventsyani they retired farther and farther to Drissa, and thence again beyond Drissa, drawing near to the frontier of Russia proper.
On the thirteenth of July the Pavlograds took part in a serious action for the first time.
On the twelfth of July, on the eve of that action, there was a heavy storm of rain and hail. In general, the summer of 18l2 was remarkable for its storms.
The two Pavlograd squadrons were bivouacking on a field of rye, which was already in ear but had been completely trodden down by cattle and horses. The rain was descending in torrents, and Rostov, with a young officer named Ilyin, his protege, was sitting in a hastily constructed shelter. An officer of their regiment, with long mustaches extending onto his cheeks, who after riding to the staff had been overtaken by the rain, entered Rostov’s shelter.
“I have come from the staff, Count. Have you heard of Raevski’s exploit?”
And the officer gave them details of the Saltanov battle, which he had heard at the staff.
Rostov, smoking his pipe and turning his head about as the water trickled down his neck, listened inattentively, with an occasional glance at Ilyin, who was pressing close to him. This officer, a lad of sixteen who had recently joined the regiment, was now in the same relation to Nicholas that Nicholas had been to Denisov seven years before. Ilyin tried to imitate Rostov in everything and adored him as a girl might have done.
Zdrzhinski, the officer with the long mustache, spoke grandiloquently of the Saltanov dam being “a Russian Thermopylae,” and of how a deed worthy of antiquity had been performed by General Raevski. He recounted how Raevski had led his two sons onto the dam under terrific fire and had charged with them beside him. Rostov heard the story and not only said nothing to encourage Zdrzhinski’s enthusiasm but, on the contrary, looked like a man ashamed of what he was hearing, though with no intention of contradicting it. Since the campaigns of Austerlitz and of 1807 Rostov knew by experience that men always lie when describing military exploits, as he himself had done when recounting them; besides that, he had experience enough to know that nothing happens in war at all as we can imagine or relate it. And so he did not like Zdrzhinski’s tale, nor did he like Zdrzhinski himself who, with his mustaches extending over his cheeks, bent low over the face of his hearer, as was his habit, and crowded Rostov in the narrow shanty. Rostov looked at him in silence. “In the first place, there must have been such a confusion and crowding on the dam that was being attacked that if Raevski did lead his sons there, it could have had no effect except perhaps on some dozen men nearest to him,” thought he, “the rest could not have seen how or with whom Raevski came onto the dam. And even those who did see it would not have been much stimulated by it, for what had they to do with Raevski’s tender paternal feelings when their own skins were in danger? And besides, the fate of the Fatherland did not depend on whether they took the Saltanov dam or not, as we are told was the case at Thermopylae. So why should he have made such a sacrifice? And why expose his own children in the battle? I would not have taken my brother Petya there, or even Ilyin, who’s a stranger to me but a nice lad, but would have tried to put them somewhere under cover,” Nicholas continued to think, as he listened to Zdrzhinski. But he did not express his thoughts, for in such matters, too, he had gained experience. He knew that this tale redounded to the glory of our arms and so one had to pretend not to doubt it. And he acted accordingly.
“I can’t stand this any more,” said Ilyin, noticing that Rostov did not relish Zdrzhinski’s conversation. “My stockings and shirt . . . and the water is running on my seat! I’ll go and look for shelter. The rain seems less heavy.”
Ilyin went out and Zdrzhinski rode away.
Five minutes later Ilyin, splashing through the mud, came running back to the shanty.
“Hurrah! Rostov, come quick! I’ve found it! About two hundred yards away there’s a tavern where ours have already gathered. We can at least get dry there, and Mary Hendrikhovna’s there.”
Mary Hendrikhovna was the wife of the regimental doctor, a pretty young German woman he had married in Poland. The doctor, whether from lack of means or because he did not like to part from his young wife in the early days of their marriage, took her about with him wherever the hussar regiment went and his jealousy had become a standing joke among the hussar officers.
Rostov threw his cloak over his shoulders, shouted to Lavrushka to follow with the things, and — now slipping in the mud, now splashing right through it — set off with Ilyin in the lessening rain and the darkness that was occasionally rent by distant lightning.
“Rostov, where are you?”
“Here. What lightning!” they called to one another.
In the tavern, before which stood the doctor’s covered cart, there were already some five officers. Mary Hendrikhovna, a plump little blonde German, in a dressing jacket and nightcap, was sitting on a broad bench in the front corner. Her husband, the doctor, lay asleep behind her. Rostov and Ilyin, on entering the room, were welcomed with merry shouts and laughter.
“Dear me, how jolly we are!” said Rostov laughing.
“And why do you stand there gaping?”
“What swells they are! Why, the water streams from them! Don’t make our drawing room so wet.”
“Don’t mess Mary Hendrikhovna’s dress!” cried other voices.
Rostov and Ilyin hastened to find a corner where they could change into dry clothes without offending Mary Hendrikhovna’s modesty. They were going into a tiny recess behind a partition to change, but found it completely filled by three officers who sat playing cards by the light of a solitary candle on an empty box, and these officers would on no account yield their position. Mary Hendrikhovna obliged them with the loan of a petticoat to be used as a curtain, and behind that screen Rostov and Ilyin, helped by Lavrushka who had brought their kits, changed their wet things for dry ones.
A fire was made up in the dilapidated brick stove. A board was found, fixed on two saddles and covered with a horsecloth, a small samovar was produced and a cellaret and half a bottle of rum, and having asked Mary Hendrikhovna to preside, they all crowded round her. One offered her a clean handkerchief to wipe her charming hands, another spread a jacket under her little feet to keep them from the damp, another hung his coat over the window to keep out the draft, and yet another waved the flies off her husband’s face, lest he should wake up.
“Leave him alone,” said Mary Hendrikhovna, smiling timidly and happily. “He is sleeping well as it is, after a sleepless night.”
“Oh, no, Mary Hendrikhovna,” replied the officer, “one must look after the doctor. Perhaps he’ll take pity on me someday, when it comes to cutting off a leg or an arm for me.”
There were only three tumblers, the water was so muddy that one could not make out whether the tea was strong or weak, and the samovar held only six tumblers of water, but this made it all the pleasanter to take turns in order of seniority to receive one’s tumbler from Mary Hendrikhovna’s plump little hands with their short and not overclean nails. All the officers appeared to be, and really were, in love with her that evening. Even those playing cards behind the partition soon left their game and came over to the samovar, yielding to the general mood of courting Mary Hendrikhovna. She, seeing herself surrounded by such brilliant and polite young men, beamed with satisfaction, try as she might to hide it, and perturbed as she evidently was each time her husband moved in his sleep behind her.
There was only one spoon, sugar was more plentiful than anything else, but it took too long to dissolve, so it was decided that Mary Hendrikhovna should stir the sugar for everyone in turn. Rostov received his tumbler, and adding some rum to it asked Mary Hendrikhovna to stir it.
“But you take it without sugar?” she said, smiling all the time, as if everything she said and everything the others said was very amusing and had a double meaning.
“It is not the sugar I want, but only that your little hand should stir my tea.”
Mary Hendrikhovna assented and began looking for the spoon which someone meanwhile had pounced on.
“Use your finger, Mary Hendrikhovna, it will be still nicer,” said Rostov.
“Too hot!” she replied, blushing with pleasure.
Ilyin put a few drops of rum into the bucket of water and brought it to Mary Hendrikhovna, asking her to stir it with her finger.
“This is my cup,” said he. “Only dip your finger in it and I’ll drink it all up.”
When they had emptied the samovar, Rostov took a pack of cards and proposed that they should play “Kings” with Mary Hendrikhovna. They drew lots to settle who should make up her set. At Rostov’s suggestion it was agreed that whoever became “King” should have the right to kiss Mary Hendrikhovna’s hand, and that the “Booby” should go to refill and reheat the samovar for the doctor when the latter awoke.
“Well, but supposing Mary Hendrikhovna is ‘King’?” asked Ilyin.
“As it is, she is Queen, and her word is law!”
They had hardly begun to play before the doctor’s disheveled head suddenly appeared from behind Mary Hendrikhovna. He had been awake for some time, listening to what was being said, and evidently found nothing entertaining or amusing in what was going on. His face was sad and depressed. Without greeting the officers, he scratched himself and asked to be allowed to pass as they were blocking the way. As soon as he had left the room all the officers burst into loud laughter and Mary Hendrikhovna blushed till her eyes filled with tears and thereby became still more attractive to them. Returning from the yard, the doctor told his wife (who had ceased to smile so happily, and looked at him in alarm, awaiting her sentence) that the rain had ceased and they must go to sleep in their covered cart, or everything in it would be stolen.
“But I’ll send an orderly. . . . Two of them!” said Rostov. “What an idea, doctor!”
“I’ll stand guard on it myself!” said Ilyin.
“No, gentlemen, you have had your sleep, but I have not slept for two nights,” replied the doctor, and he sat down morosely beside his wife, waiting for the game to end.
Seeing his gloomy face as he frowned at his wife, the officers grew still merrier, and some of them could not refrain from laughter, for which they hurriedly sought plausible pretexts. When he had gone, taking his wife with him, and had settled down with her in their covered cart, the officers lay down in the tavern, covering themselves with their wet cloaks, but they did not sleep for a long time; now they exchanged remarks, recalling the doctor’s uneasiness and his wife’s delight, now they ran out into the porch and reported what was taking place in the covered trap. Several times Rostov, covering his head, tried to go to sleep, but some remark would arouse him and conversation would be resumed, to the accompaniment of unreasoning, merry, childlike laughter.
It was nearly three o’clock but no one was yet asleep, when the quartermaster appeared with an order to move on to the little town of Ostrovna. Still laughing and talking, the officers began hurriedly getting ready and again boiled some muddy water in the samovar. But Rostov went off to his squadron without waiting for tea. Day was breaking, the rain had ceased, and the clouds were dispersing. It felt damp and cold, especially in clothes that were still moist. As they left the tavern in the twilight of the dawn, Rostov and Ilyin both glanced under the wet and glistening leather hood of the doctor’s cart, from under the apron of which his feet were sticking out, and in the middle of which his wife’s nightcap was visible and her sleepy breathing audible.
“She really is a dear little thing,” said Rostov to Ilyin, who was following him.
“A charming woman!” said Ilyin, with all the gravity of a boy of sixteen.
Half an hour later the squadron was lined up on the road. The command was heard to “mount” and the soldiers crossed themselves and mounted. Rostov riding in front gave the order “Forward!” and the hussars, with clanking sabers and subdued talk, their horses’ hoofs splashing in the mud, defiled in fours and moved along the broad road planted with birch trees on each side, following the infantry and a battery that had gone on in front.
Tattered, blue-purple clouds, reddening in the east, were scudding before the wind. It was growing lighter and lighter. That curly grass which always grows by country roadsides became clearly visible, still wet with the night’s rain; the drooping branches of the birches, also wet, swayed in the wind and flung down bright drops of water to one side. The soldiers’ faces were more and more clearly visible. Rostov, always closely followed by Ilyin, rode along the side of the road between two rows of birch trees.
When campaigning, Rostov allowed himself the indulgence of riding not a regimental but a Cossack horse. A judge of horses and a sportsman, he had lately procured himself a large, fine, mettlesome, Donets horse, dun-colored, with light mane and tail, and when he rode it no one could outgallop him. To ride this horse was a pleasure to him, and he thought of the horse, of the morning, of the doctor’s wife, but not once of the impending danger.
Formerly, when going into action, Rostov had felt afraid; now he had not the least feeling of fear. He was fearless, not because he had grown used to being under fire (one cannot grow used to danger), but because he had learned how to manage his thoughts when in danger. He had grown accustomed when going into action to think about anything but what would seem most likely to interest him — the impending danger. During the first period of his service, hard as he tried and much as he reproached himself with cowardice, he had not been able to do this, but with time it had come of itself. Now he rode beside Ilyin under the birch trees, occasionally plucking leaves from a branch that met his hand, sometimes touching his horse’s side with his foot, or, without turning round, handing a pipe he had finished to an hussar riding behind him, with as calm and careless an air as though he were merely out for a ride. He glanced with pity at the excited face of Ilyin, who talked much and in great agitation. He knew from experience the tormenting expectation of terror and death the cornet was suffering and knew that only time could help him.
As soon as the sun appeared in a clear strip of sky beneath the clouds, the wind fell, as if it dared not spoil the beauty of the summer morning after the storm; drops still continued to fall, but vertically now, and all was still. The whole sun appeared on the horizon and disappeared behind a long narrow cloud that hung above it. A few minutes later it reappeared brighter still from behind the top of the cloud, tearing its edge. Everything grew bright and glittered. And with that light, and as if in reply to it, came the sound of guns ahead of them.
Before Rostov had had time to consider and determine the distance of that firing, Count Ostermann-Tolstoy’s adjutant came galloping from Vitebsk with orders to advance at a trot along the road.
The squadron overtook and passed the infantry and the battery — which had also quickened their pace — rode down a hill, and passing through an empty and deserted village again ascended. The horses began to lather and the men to flush.
“Halt! Dress your ranks!” the order of the regimental commander was heard ahead. “Forward by the left. Walk, march!” came the order from in front.
And the hussars, passing along the line of troops on the left flank of our position, halted behind our Uhlans who were in the front line. To the right stood our infantry in a dense column: they were the reserve. Higher up the hill, on the very horizon, our guns were visible through the wonderfully clear air, brightly illuminated by slanting morning sunbeams. In front, beyond a hollow dale, could be seen the enemy’s columns and guns. Our advanced line, already in action, could be heard briskly exchanging shots with the enemy in the dale.
At these sounds, long unheard, Rostov’s spirits rose, as at the strains of the merriest music. Trap-ta-ta-tap! cracked the shots, now together, now several quickly one after another. Again all was silent and then again it sounded as if someone were walking on detonators and exploding them.
The hussars remained in the same place for about an hour. A cannonade began. Count Ostermann with his suite rode up behind the squadron, halted, spoke to the commander of the regiment, and rode up the hill to the guns.
After Ostermann had gone, a command rang out to the Uhlans.
“Form column! Prepare to charge!”
The infantry in front of them parted into platoons to allow the cavalry to pass. The Uhlans started, the streamers on their spears fluttering, and trotted downhill toward the French cavalry which was seen below to the left.
As soon as the Uhlans descended the hill, the hussars were ordered up the hill to support the battery. As they took the places vacated by the Uhlans, bullets came from the front, whining and whistling, but fell spent without taking effect.
The sounds, which he had not heard for so long, had an even more pleasurable and exhilarating effect on Rostov than the previous sounds of firing. Drawing himself up, he viewed the field of battle opening out before him from the hill, and with his whole soul followed the movement of the Uhlans. They swooped down close to the French dragoons, something confused happened there amid the smoke, and five minutes later our Uhlans were galloping back, not to the place they had occupied but more to the left, and among the orange-colored Uhlans on chestnut horses and behind them, in a large group, blue French dragoons on gray horses could be seen.
Rostov, with his keen sportsman’s eye, was one of the first to catch sight of these blue French dragoons pursuing our Uhlans. Nearer and nearer in disorderly crowds came the Uhlans and the French dragoons pursuing them. He could already see how these men, who looked so small at the foot of the hill, jostled and overtook one another, waving their arms and their sabers in the air.
Rostov gazed at what was happening before him as at a hunt. He felt instinctively that if the hussars struck at the French dragoons now, the latter could not withstand them, but if a charge was to be made it must be done now, at that very moment, or it would be too late. He looked around. A captain, standing beside him, was gazing like himself with eyes fixed on the cavalry below them.
“Andrew Sevastyanych!” said Rostov. “You know, we could crush them. . . . ”
“A fine thing too!” replied the captain, “and really . . . ”
Rostov, without waiting to hear him out, touched his horse, galloped to the front of his squadron, and before he had time to finish giving the word of command, the whole squadron, sharing his feeling, was following him. Rostov himself did not know how or why he did it. He acted as he did when hunting, without reflecting or considering. He saw the dragoons near and that they were galloping in disorder; he knew they could not withstand an attack — knew there was only that moment and that if he let it slip it would not return. The bullets were whining and whistling so stimulatingly around him and his horse was so eager to go that he could not restrain himself. He touched his horse, gave the word of command, and immediately, hearing behind him the tramp of the horses of his deployed squadron, rode at full trot downhill toward the dragoons. Hardly had they reached the bottom of the hill before their pace instinctively changed to a gallop, which grew faster and faster as they drew nearer to our Uhlans and the French dragoons who galloped after them. The dragoons were now close at hand. On seeing the hussars, the foremost began to turn, while those behind began to halt. With the same feeling with which he had galloped across the path of a wolf, Rostov gave rein to his Donets horse and galloped to intersect the path of the dragoons’ disordered lines. One Uhlan stopped, another who was on foot flung himself to the ground to avoid being knocked over, and a riderless horse fell in among the hussars. Nearly all the French dragoons were galloping back. Rostov, picking out one on a gray horse, dashed after him. On the way he came upon a bush, his gallant horse cleared it, and almost before he had righted himself in his saddle he saw that he would immediately overtake the enemy he had selected. That Frenchman, by his uniform an officer, was going at a gallop, crouching on his gray horse and urging it on with his saber. In another moment Rostov’s horse dashed its breast against the hindquarters of the officer’s horse, almost knocking it over, and at the same instant Rostov, without knowing why, raised his saber and struck the Frenchman with it.
The instant he had done this, all Rostov’s animation vanished. The officer fell, not so much from the blow — which had but slightly cut his arm above the elbow — as from the shock to his horse and from fright. Rostov reined in his horse, and his eyes sought his foe to see whom he had vanquished. The French dragoon officer was hopping with one foot on the ground, the other being caught in the stirrup. His eyes, screwed up with fear as if he every moment expected another blow, gazed up at Rostov with shrinking terror. His pale and mud-stained face — fair and young, with a dimple in the chin and light-blue eyes — was not an enemy’s face at all suited to a battlefield, but a most ordinary, homelike face. Before Rostov had decided what to do with him, the officer cried, “I surrender!” He hurriedly but vainly tried to get his foot out of the stirrup and did not remove his frightened blue eyes from Rostov’s face. Some hussars who galloped up disengaged his foot and helped him into the saddle. On all sides, the hussars were busy with the dragoons; one was wounded, but though his face was bleeding, he would not give up his horse; another was perched up behind an hussar with his arms round him; a third was being helped by an hussar to mount his horse. In front, the French infantry were firing as they ran. The hussars galloped hastily back with their prisoners. Rostov galloped back with the rest, aware of an unpleasant feeling of depression in his heart. Something vague and confused, which he could not at all account for, had come over him with the capture of that officer and the blow he had dealt him.
Count Ostermann-Tolstoy met the returning hussars, sent for Rostov, thanked him, and said he would report his gallant deed to the Emperor and would recommend him for a St. George’s Cross. When sent for by Count Ostermann, Rostov, remembering that he had charged without orders, felt sure his commander was sending for him to punish him for breach of discipline. Ostermann’s flattering words and promise of a reward should therefore have struck him all the more pleasantly, but he still felt that same vaguely disagreeable feeling of moral nausea. “But what on earth is worrying me?” he asked himself as he rode back from the general. “Ilyin? No, he’s safe. Have I disgraced myself in any way? No, that’s not it.” Something else, resembling remorse, tormented him. “Yes, oh yes, that French officer with the dimple. And I remember how my arm paused when I raised it.”
Rostov saw the prisoners being led away and galloped after them to have a look at his Frenchman with the dimple on his chin. He was sitting in his foreign uniform on an hussar packhorse and looked anxiously about him; The sword cut on his arm could scarcely be called a wound. He glanced at Rostov with a feigned smile and waved his hand in greeting. Rostov still had the same indefinite feeling, as of shame.
All that day and the next his friends and comrades noticed that Rostov, without being dull or angry, was silent, thoughtful, and preoccupied. He drank reluctantly, tried to remain alone, and kept turning something over in his mind.
Rostov was always thinking about that brilliant exploit of his, which to his amazement had gained him the St. George’s Cross and even given him a reputation for bravery, and there was something he could not at all understand. “So others are even more afraid than I am!” he thought. “So that’s all there is in what is called heroism! And heroism! And did I do it for my country’s sake? And how was he to blame, with his dimple and blue eyes? And how frightened he was! He thought that I should kill him. Why should I kill him? My hand trembled. And they have given me a St. George’s Cross. . . . I can’t make it out at all.”
But while Nicholas was considering these questions and still could reach no clear solution of what puzzled him so, the wheel of fortune in the service, as often happens, turned in his favor. After the affair at Ostrovna he was brought into notice, received command of an hussar battalion, and when a brave officer was needed he was chosen.
On receiving news of Natasha’s illness, the countess, though not quite well yet and still weak, went to Moscow with Petya and the rest of the household, and the whole family moved from Marya Dmitrievna’s house to their own and settled down in town.
Natasha’s illness was so serious that, fortunately for her and for her parents, the consideration of all that had caused the illness, her conduct and the breaking off of her engagement, receded into the background. She was so ill that it was impossible for them to consider in how far she was to blame for what had happened. She could not eat or sleep, grew visibly thinner, coughed, and, as the doctors made them feel, was in danger. They could not think of anything but how to help her. Doctors came to see her singly and in consultation, talked much in French, German, and Latin, blamed one another, and prescribed a great variety of medicines for all the diseases known to them, but the simple idea never occurred to any of them that they could not know the disease Natasha was suffering from, as no disease suffered by a live man can be known, for every living person has his own peculiarities and always has his own peculiar, personal, novel, complicated disease, unknown to medicine — not a disease of the lungs, liver, skin, heart, nerves, and so on mentioned in medical books, but a disease consisting of one of the innumerable combinations of the maladies of those organs. This simple thought could not occur to the doctors (as it cannot occur to a wizard that he is unable to work his charms) because the business of their lives was to cure, and they received money for it and had spent the best years of their lives on that business. But, above all, that thought was kept out of their minds by the fact that they saw they were really useful, as in fact they were to the whole Rostov family. Their usefulness did not depend on making the patient swallow substances for the most part harmful (the harm was scarcely perceptible, as they were given in small doses), but they were useful, necessary, and indispensable because they satisfied a mental need of the invalid and of those who loved her — and that is why there are, and always will be, pseudo-healers, wise women, homeopaths, and allopaths. They satisfied that eternal human need for hope of relief, for sympathy, and that something should be done, which is felt by those who are suffering. They satisfied the need seen in its most elementary form in a child, when it wants to have a place rubbed that has been hurt. A child knocks itself and runs at once to the arms of its mother or nurse to have the aching spot rubbed or kissed, and it feels better when this is done. The child cannot believe that the strongest and wisest of its people have no remedy for its pain, and the hope of relief and the expression of its mother’s sympathy while she rubs the bump comforts it. The doctors were of use to Natasha because they kissed and rubbed her bump, assuring her that it would soon pass if only the coachman went to the chemist’s in the Arbat and got a powder and some pills in a pretty box of a ruble and seventy kopeks, and if she took those powders in boiled water at intervals of precisely two hours, neither more nor less.
What would Sonya and the count and countess have done, how would they have looked, if nothing had been done, if there had not been those pills to give by the clock, the warm drinks, the chicken cutlets, and all the other details of life ordered by the doctors, the carrying out of which supplied an occupation and consolation to the family circle? How would the count have borne his dearly loved daughter’s illness had he not known that it was costing him a thousand rubles, and that he would not grudge thousands more to benefit her, or had he not known that if her illness continued he would not grudge yet other thousands and would take her abroad for consultations there, and had he not been able to explain the details of how Metivier and Feller had not understood the symptoms, but Frise had, and Mudrov had diagnosed them even better? What would the countess have done had she not been able sometimes to scold the invalid for not strictly obeying the doctor’s orders?
“You’ll never get well like that,” she would say, forgetting her grief in her vexation, “if you won’t obey the doctor and take your medicine at the right time! You mustn’t trifle with it, you know, or it may turn to pneumonia,” she would go on, deriving much comfort from the utterance of that foreign word, incomprehensible to others as well as to herself.
What would Sonya have done without the glad consciousness that she had not undressed during the first three nights, in order to be ready to carry out all the doctor’s injunctions with precision, and that she still kept awake at night so as not to miss the proper time when the slightly harmful pills in the little gilt box had to be administered? Even to Natasha herself it was pleasant to see that so many sacrifices were being made for her sake, and to know that she had to take medicine at certain hours, though she declared that no medicine would cure her and that it was all nonsense. And it was even pleasant to be able to show, by disregarding the orders, that she did not believe in medical treatment and did not value her life.
The doctor came every day, felt her pulse, looked at her tongue, and regardless of her grief-stricken face joked with her. But when he had gone into another room, to which the countess hurriedly followed him, he assumed a grave air and thoughtfully shaking his head said that though there was danger, he had hopes of the effect of this last medicine and one must wait and see, that the malady was chiefly mental, but . . . And the countess, trying to conceal the action from herself and from him, slipped a gold coin into his hand and always returned to the patient with a more tranquil mind.
The symptoms of Natasha’s illness were that she ate little, slept little, coughed, and was always low-spirited. The doctors said that she could not get on without medical treatment, so they kept her in the stifling atmosphere of the town, and the Rostovs did not move to the country that summer of 1812.
In spite of the many pills she swallowed and the drops and powders out of the little bottles and boxes of which Madame Schoss who was fond of such things made a large collection, and in spite of being deprived of the country life to which she was accustomed, youth prevailed. Natasha’s grief began to be overlaid by the impressions of daily life, it ceased to press so painfully on her heart, it gradually faded into the past, and she began to recover physically.
Natasha was calmer but no happier. She not merely avoided all external forms of pleasure — balls, promenades, concerts, and theaters — but she never laughed without a sound of tears in her laughter. She could not sing. As soon as she began to laugh, or tried to sing by herself, tears choked her: tears of remorse, tears at the recollection of those pure times which could never return, tears of vexation that she should so uselessly have ruined her young life which might have been so happy. Laughter and singing in particular seemed to her like a blasphemy, in face of her sorrow. Without any need of self-restraint, no wish to coquet ever entered her head. She said and felt at that time that no man was more to her than Nastasya Ivanovna, the buffoon. Something stood sentinel within her and forbade her every joy. Besides, she had lost all the old interests of her carefree girlish life that had been so full of hope. The previous autumn, the hunting, “Uncle,” and the Christmas holidays spent with Nicholas at Otradnoe were what she recalled oftenest and most painfully. What would she not have given to bring back even a single day of that time! But it was gone forever. Her presentiment at the time had not deceived her — that that state of freedom and readiness for any enjoyment would not return again. Yet it was necessary to live on.
It comforted her to reflect that she was not better as she had formerly imagined, but worse, much worse, than anybody else in the world. But this was not enough. She knew that, and asked herself, “What next?” But there was nothing to come. There was no joy in life, yet life was passing. Natasha apparently tried not to be a burden or a hindrance to anyone, but wanted nothing for herself. She kept away from everyone in the house and felt at ease only with her brother Petya. She liked to be with him better than with the others, and when alone with him she sometimes laughed. She hardly ever left the house and of those who came to see them was glad to see only one person, Pierre. It would have been impossible to treat her with more delicacy, greater care, and at the same time more seriously than did Count Bezukhov. Natasha unconsciously felt this delicacy and so found great pleasure in his society. But she was not even grateful to him for it; nothing good on Pierre’s part seemed to her to be an effort, it seemed so natural for him to be kind to everyone that there was no merit in his kindness. Sometimes Natasha noticed embarrassment and awkwardness on his part in her presence, especially when he wanted to do something to please her, or feared that something they spoke of would awaken memories distressing to her. She noticed this and attributed it to his general kindness and shyness, which she imagined must be the same toward everyone as it was to her. After those involuntary words — that if he were free he would have asked on his knees for her hand and her love — uttered at a moment when she was so strongly agitated, Pierre never spoke to Natasha of his feelings; and it seemed plain to her that those words, which had then so comforted her, were spoken as all sorts of meaningless words are spoken to comfort a crying child. It was not because Pierre was a married man, but because Natasha felt very strongly with him that moral barrier the absence of which she had experienced with Kuragin that it never entered her head that the relations between him and herself could lead to love on her part, still less on his, or even to the kind of tender, self-conscious, romantic friendship between a man and a woman of which she had known several instances.
Before the end of the fast of St. Peter, Agrafena Ivanovna Belova, a country neighbor of the Rostovs, came to Moscow to pay her devotions at the shrines of the Moscow saints. She suggested that Natasha should fast and prepare for Holy Communion, and Natasha gladly welcomed the idea. Despite the doctor’s orders that she should not go out early in the morning, Natasha insisted on fasting and preparing for the sacrament, not as they generally prepared for it in the Rostov family by attending three services in their own house, but as Agrafena Ivanovna did, by going to church every day for a week and not once missing Vespers, Matins, or Mass.
The countess was pleased with Natasha’s zeal; after the poor results of the medical treatment, in the depths of her heart she hoped that prayer might help her daughter more than medicines and, though not without fear and concealing it from the doctor, she agreed to Natasha’s wish and entrusted her to Belova. Agrafena Ivanovna used to come to wake Natasha at three in the morning, but generally found her already awake. She was afraid of being late for Matins. Hastily washing, and meekly putting on her shabbiest dress and an old mantilla, Natasha, shivering in the fresh air, went out into the deserted streets lit by the clear light of dawn. By Agrafena Ivanovna’s advice Natasha prepared herself not in their own parish, but at a church where, according to the devout Agrafena Ivanovna, the priest was a man of very severe and lofty life. There were never many people in the church; Natasha always stood beside Belova in the customary place before an icon of the Blessed Virgin, let into the screen before the choir on the left side, and a feeling, new to her, of humility before something great and incomprehensible, seized her when at that unusual morning hour, gazing at the dark face of the Virgin illuminated by the candles burning before it and by the morning light falling from the window, she listened to the words of the service which she tried to follow with understanding. When she understood them her personal feeling became interwoven in the prayers with shades of its own. When she did not understand, it was sweeter still to think that the wish to understand everything is pride, that it is impossible to understand all, that it is only necessary to believe and to commit oneself to God, whom she felt guiding her soul at those moments. She crossed herself, bowed low, and when she did not understand, in horror at her own vileness, simply asked God to forgive her everything, everything, to have mercy upon her. The prayers to which she surrendered herself most of all were those of repentance. On her way home at an early hour when she met no one but bricklayers going to work or men sweeping the street, and everybody within the houses was still asleep, Natasha experienced a feeling new to her, a sense of the possibility of correcting her faults, the possibility of a new, clean life, and of happiness.
During the whole week she spent in this way, that feeling grew every day. And the happiness of taking communion, or “communing” as Agrafena Ivanovna, joyously playing with the word, called it, seemed to Natasha so great that she felt she should never live till that blessed Sunday.
But the happy day came, and on that memorable Sunday, when, dressed in white muslin, she returned home after communion, for the first time for many months she felt calm and not oppressed by the thought of the life that lay before her.
The doctor who came to see her that day ordered her to continue the powders he had prescribed a fortnight previously.
“She must certainly go on taking them morning and evening,” said he, evidently sincerely satisfied with his success. “Only, please be particular about it.
“Be quite easy,” he continued playfully, as he adroitly took the gold coin in his palm. “She will soon be singing and frolicking about. The last medicine has done her a very great deal of good. She has freshened up very much.”
The countess, with a cheerful expression on her face, looked down at her nails and spat a little for luck as she returned to the drawing room.
At the beginning of July more and more disquieting reports about the war began to spread in Moscow; people spoke of an appeal by the Emperor to the people, and of his coming himself from the army to Moscow. And as up to the eleventh of July no manifesto or appeal had been received, exaggerated reports became current about them and about the position of Russia. It was said that the Emperor was leaving the army because it was in danger, it was said that Smolensk had surrendered, that Napoleon had an army of a million and only a miracle could save Russia.
On the eleventh of July, which was Saturday, the manifesto was received but was not yet in print, and Pierre, who was at the Rostovs’, promised to come to dinner next day, Sunday, and bring a copy of the manifesto and appeal, which he would obtain from Count Rostopchin.
That Sunday, the Rostovs went to Mass at the Razumovskis’ private chapel as usual. It was a hot July day. Even at ten o’clock, when the Rostovs got out of their carriage at the chapel, the sultry air, the shouts of hawkers, the light and gay summer clothes of the crowd, the dusty leaves of the trees on the boulevard, the sounds of the band and the white trousers of a battalion marching to parade, the rattling of wheels on the cobblestones, and the brilliant, hot sunshine were all full of that summer languor, that content and discontent with the present, which is most strongly felt on a bright, hot day in town. All the Moscow notabilities, all the Rostovs’ acquaintances, were at the Razumovskis’ chapel, for, as if expecting something to happen, many wealthy families who usually left town for their country estates had not gone away that summer. As Natasha, at her mother’s side, passed through the crowd behind a liveried footman who cleared the way for them, she heard a young man speaking about her in too loud a whisper.
“That’s Rostova, the one who . . . ”
“She’s much thinner, but all the same she’s pretty!”
She heard, or thought she heard, the names of Kuragin and Bolkonski. But she was always imagining that. It always seemed to her that everyone who looked at her was thinking only of what had happened to her. With a sinking heart, wretched as she always was now when she found herself in a crowd, Natasha in her lilac silk dress trimmed with black lace walked — as women can walk — with the more repose and stateliness the greater the pain and shame in her soul. She knew for certain that she was pretty, but this no longer gave her satisfaction as it used to. On the contrary it tormented her more than anything else of late, and particularly so on this bright, hot summer day in town. “It’s Sunday again — another week past,” she thought, recalling that she had been here the Sunday before, “and always the same life that is no life, and the same surroundings in which it used to be so easy to live. I’m pretty, I’m young, and I know that now I am good. I used to be bad, but now I know I am good,” she thought, “but yet my best years are slipping by and are no good to anyone.” She stood by her mother’s side and exchanged nods with acquaintances near her. From habit she scrutinized the ladies’ dresses, condemned the bearing of a lady standing close by who was not crossing herself properly but in a cramped manner, and again she thought with vexation that she was herself being judged and was judging others, and suddenly, at the sound of the service, she felt horrified at her own vileness, horrified that the former purity of her soul was again lost to her.
A comely, fresh-looking old man was conducting the service with that mild solemnity which has so elevating and soothing an effect on the souls of the worshipers. The gates of the sanctuary screen were closed, the curtain was slowly drawn, and from behind it a soft mysterious voice pronounced some words. Tears, the cause of which she herself did not understand, made Natasha’s breast heave, and a joyous but oppressive feeling agitated her.
“Teach me what I should do, how to live my life, how I may grow good forever, forever!” she pleaded.
The deacon came out onto the raised space before the altar screen and, holding his thumb extended, drew his long hair from under his dalmatic and, making the sign of the cross on his breast, began in a loud and solemn voice to recite the words of the prayer . . .
“In peace let us pray unto the Lord.”
“As one community, without distinction of class, without enmity, united by brotherly love — let us pray!” thought Natasha.
“For the peace that is from above, and for the salvation of our souls.”
“For the world of angels and all the spirits who dwell above us,” prayed Natasha.
When they prayed for the warriors, she thought of her brother and Denisov. When they prayed for all traveling by land and sea, she remembered Prince Andrew, prayed for him, and asked God to forgive her all the wrongs she had done him. When they prayed for those who love us, she prayed for the members of her own family, her father and mother and Sonya, realizing for the first time how wrongly she had acted toward them, and feeling all the strength of her love for them. When they prayed for those who hate us, she tried to think of her enemies and people who hated her, in order to pray for them. She included among her enemies the creditors and all who had business dealings with her father, and always at the thought of enemies and those who hated her she remembered Anatole who had done her so much harm — and though he did not hate her she gladly prayed for him as for an enemy. Only at prayer did she feel able to think clearly and calmly of Prince Andrew and Anatole, as men for whom her feelings were as nothing compared with her awe and devotion to God. When they prayed for the Imperial family and the Synod, she bowed very low and made the sign of the cross, saying to herself that even if she did not understand, still she could not doubt, and at any rate loved the governing Synod and prayed for it.
When he had finished the Litany the deacon crossed the stole over his breast and said, “Let us commit ourselves and our whole lives to Christ the Lord!”
“Commit ourselves to God,” Natasha inwardly repeated. “Lord God, I submit myself to Thy will!” she thought. “I want nothing, wish for nothing; teach me what to do and how to use my will! Take me, take me!” prayed Natasha, with impatient emotion in her heart, not crossing herself but letting her slender arms hang down as if expecting some invisible power at any moment to take her and deliver her from herself, from her regrets, desires, remorse, hopes, and sins.
The countess looked round several times at her daughter’s softened face and shining eyes and prayed God to help her.
Unexpectedly, in the middle of the service, and not in the usual order Natasha knew so well, the deacon brought out a small stool, the one he knelt on when praying on Trinity Sunday, and placed it before the doors of the sanctuary screen. The priest came out with his purple velvet biretta on his head, adjusted his hair, and knelt down with an effort. Everybody followed his example and they looked at one another in surprise. Then came the prayer just received from the Synod — a prayer for the deliverance of Russia from hostile invasion.
“Lord God of might, God of our salvation!” began the priest in that voice, clear, not grandiloquent but mild, in which only the Slav clergy read and which acts so irresistibly on a Russian heart.
“Lord God of might, God of our salvation! Look this day in mercy and blessing on Thy humble people, and graciously hear us, spare us, and have mercy upon us! This foe confounding Thy land, desiring to lay waste the whole world, rises against us; these lawless men are gathered together to overthrow Thy kingdom, to destroy Thy dear Jerusalem, Thy beloved Russia; to defile Thy temples, to overthrow Thine altars, and to desecrate our holy shrines. How long, O Lord, how long shall the wicked triumph? How long shall they wield unlawful power?
“Lord God! Hear us when we pray to Thee; strengthen with Thy might our most gracious sovereign lord, the Emperor Alexander Pavlovich; be mindful of his uprightness and meekness, reward him according to his righteousness, and let it preserve us, Thy chosen Israel! Bless his counsels, his undertakings, and his work; strengthen his kingdom by Thine almighty hand, and give him victory over his enemy, even as Thou gavest Moses the victory over Amalek, Gideon over Midian, and David over Goliath. Preserve his army, put a bow of brass in the hands of those who have armed themselves in Thy Name, and gird their loins with strength for the fight. Take up the spear and shield and arise to help us; confound and put to shame those who have devised evil against us, may they be before the faces of Thy faithful warriors as dust before the wind, and may Thy mighty Angel confound them and put them to flight; may they be ensnared when they know it not, and may the plots they have laid in secret be turned against them; let them fall before Thy servants’ feet and be laid low by our hosts! Lord, Thou art able to save both great and small; Thou art God, and man cannot prevail against Thee!
“God of our fathers! Remember Thy bounteous mercy and loving-kindness which are from of old; turn not Thy face from us, but be gracious to our unworthiness, and in Thy great goodness and Thy many mercies regard not our transgressions and iniquities! Create in us a clean heart and renew a right spirit within us, strengthen us all in Thy faith, fortify our hope, inspire us with true love one for another, arm us with unity of spirit in the righteous defense of the heritage Thou gavest to us and to our fathers, and let not the scepter of the wicked be exalted against the destiny of those Thou hast sanctified.
“O Lord our God, in whom we believe and in whom we put our trust, let us not be confounded in our hope of Thy mercy, and give us a token of Thy blessing, that those who hate us and our Orthodox faith may see it and be put to shame and perish, and may all the nations know that Thou art the Lord and we are Thy people. Show Thy mercy upon us this day, O Lord, and grant us Thy salvation; make the hearts of Thy servants to rejoice in Thy mercy; smite down our enemies and destroy them swiftly beneath the feet of Thy faithful servants! For Thou art the defense, the succor, and the victory of them that put their trust in Thee, and to Thee be all glory, to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, now and forever, world without end. Amen.”
In Natasha’s receptive condition of soul this prayer affected her strongly. She listened to every word about the victory of Moses over Amalek, of Gideon over Midian, and of David over Goliath, and about the destruction of “Thy Jerusalem,” and she prayed to God with the tenderness and emotion with which her heart was overflowing, but without fully understanding what she was asking of God in that prayer. She shared with all her heart in the prayer for the spirit of righteousness, for the strengthening of the heart by faith and hope, and its animation by love. But she could not pray that her enemies might be trampled under foot when but a few minutes before she had been wishing she had more of them that she might pray for them. But neither could she doubt the righteousness of the prayer that was being read on bended knees. She felt in her heart a devout and tremulous awe at the thought of the punishment that overtakes men for their sins, and especially of her own sins, and she prayed to God to forgive them all, and her too, and to give them all, and her too, peace and happiness. And it seemed to her that God heard her prayer.
From the day when Pierre, after leaving the Rostovs’ with Natasha’s grateful look fresh in his mind, had gazed at the comet that seemed to be fixed in the sky and felt that something new was appearing on his own horizon — from that day the problem of the vanity and uselessness of all earthly things, that had incessantly tormented him, no longer presented itself. That terrible question “Why?” “Wherefore?” which had come to him amid every occupation, was now replaced, not by another question or by a reply to the former question, but by her image. When he listened to, or himself took part in, trivial conversations, when he read or heard of human baseness or folly, he was not horrified as formerly, and did not ask himself why men struggled so about these things when all is so transient and incomprehensible — but he remembered her as he had last seen her, and all his doubts vanished — not because she had answered the questions that had haunted him, but because his conception of her transferred him instantly to another, a brighter, realm of spiritual activity in which no one could be justified or guilty — a realm of beauty and love which it was worth living for. Whatever worldly baseness presented itself to him, he said to himself:
“Well, supposing N. N. swindled the country and the Tsar, and the country and the Tsar confer honors upon him, what does that matter? She smiled at me yesterday and asked me to come again, and I love her, and no one will ever know it.” And his soul felt calm and peaceful.
Pierre still went into society, drank as much and led the same idle and dissipated life, because besides the hours he spent at the Rostovs’ there were other hours he had to spend somehow, and the habits and acquaintances he had made in Moscow formed a current that bore him along irresistibly. But latterly, when more and more disquieting reports came from the seat of war and Natasha’s health began to improve and she no longer aroused in him the former feeling of careful pity, an ever-increasing restlessness, which he could not explain, took possession of him. He felt that the condition he was in could not continue long, that a catastrophe was coming which would change his whole life, and he impatiently sought everywhere for signs of that approaching catastrophe. One of his brother Masons had revealed to Pierre the following prophecy concerning Napoleon, drawn from the Revelation of St. John.
In chapter 13, verse 18, of the Apocalypse, it is said:
Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.
And in the fifth verse of the same chapter:
And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.
The French alphabet, written out with the same numerical values as the Hebrew, in which the first nine letters denote units and the others tens, will have the following significance:
a b c d e f g h i k
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
l m n o p q r s
20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90
t u v w x y
100 110 120 130 140 150
Writing the words L’Empereur Napoleon in numbers, it appears that the sum of them is 666, and that Napoleon therefore the beast foretold in the Apocalypse. Moreover, by applying the same system to the words quarante-deux,* which was the term allowed to the beast that “spoke great things and blasphemies,” the same number 666 was obtained; from which it followed that the limit fixed for Napoleon’s power had come in the year 1812 when the French emperor was forty-two. This prophecy pleased Pierre very much and he often asked himself what would put an end to the power of the beast, that is, of Napoleon, and tried by the same system of using letters as numbers and adding them up, to find an answer to the question that engrossed him. He wrote the words L’Empereur Alexandre, La nation russe and added up their numbers, but the sums were either more or less than 666. Once when making such calculations he wrote down his own name in French, Comte Pierre Besouhoff, but the sum of the numbers did not come right. Then he changed the spelling, substituting a z for the s and adding de and the article le, still without obtaining the desired result. Then it occurred to him: if the answer to the question were contained in his name, his nationality would also be given in the answer. So he wrote Le russe Besuhof and adding up the numbers got 671. This was only five too much, and five was represented by e, the very letter elided from the article le before the word Empereur. By omitting the e, though incorrectly, Pierre got the answer he sought. L’russe Besuhof made 666. This discovery excited him. How, or by what means, he was connected with the great event foretold in the Apocalypse he did not know, but he did not doubt that connection for a moment. His love for Natasha, Antichrist, Napoleon, the invasion, the comet, 666, L’Empereur Napoleon, and L’russe Besuhof — all this had to mature and culminate, to lift him out of that spellbound, petty sphere of Moscow habits in which he felt himself held captive and lead him to a great achievement and great happiness.
On the eve of the Sunday when the special prayer was read, Pierre had promised the Rostovs to bring them, from Count Rostopchin whom he knew well, both the appeal to the people and the news from the army. In the morning, when he went to call at Rostopchin’s he met there a courier fresh from the army, an acquaintance of his own, who often danced at Moscow balls.
“Do, please, for heaven’s sake, relieve me of something!” said the courier. “I have a sackful of letters to parents.”
Among these letters was one from Nicholas Rostov to his father. Pierre took that letter, and Rostopchin also gave him the Emperor’s appeal to Moscow, which had just been printed, the last army orders, and his own most recent bulletin. Glancing through the army orders, Pierre found in one of them, in the lists of killed, wounded, and rewarded, the name of Nicholas Rostov, awarded a St. George’s Cross of the Fourth Class for courage shown in the Ostrovna affair, and in the same order the name of Prince Andrew Bolkonski, appointed to the command of a regiment of Chasseurs. Though he did not want to remind the Rostovs of Bolkonski, Pierre could not refrain from making them happy by the news of their son’s having received a decoration, so he sent that printed army order and Nicholas’ letter to the Rostovs, keeping the appeal, the bulletin, and the other orders to take with him when he went to dinner.
His conversation with Count Rostopchin and the latter’s tone of anxious hurry, the meeting with the courier who talked casually of how badly things were going in the army, the rumors of the discovery of spies in Moscow and of a leaflet in circulation stating that Napoleon promised to be in both the Russian capitals by the autumn, and the talk of the Emperor’s being expected to arrive next day — all aroused with fresh force that feeling of agitation and expectation in Pierre which he had been conscious of ever since the appearance of the comet, and especially since the beginning of the war.
He had long been thinking of entering the army and would have done so had he not been hindered, first, by his membership of the Society of Freemasons to which he was bound by oath and which preached perpetual peace and the abolition of war, and secondly, by the fact that when he saw the great mass of Muscovites who had donned uniform and were talking patriotism, he somehow felt ashamed to take the step. But the chief reason for not carrying out his intention to enter the army lay in the vague idea that he was L’russe Besuhof who had the number of the beast, 666; that his part in the great affair of setting a limit to the power of the beast that spoke great and blasphemous things had been predestined from eternity, and that therefore he ought not to undertake anything, but wait for what was bound to come to pass.
A few intimate friends were dining with the Rostovs that day, as usual on Sundays.
Pierre came early so as to find them alone.
He had grown so stout this year that he would have been abnormal had he not been so tall, so broad of limb, and so strong that he carried his bulk with evident ease.
He went up the stairs, puffing and muttering something. His coachman did not even ask whether he was to wait. He knew that when his master was at the Rostovs’ he stayed till midnight. The Rostovs’ footman rushed eagerly forward to help him off with his cloak and take his hat and stick. Pierre, from club habit, always left both hat and stick in the anteroom.
The first person he saw in the house was Natasha. Even before he saw her, while taking off his cloak, he heard her. She was practicing solfa exercises in the music room. He knew that she had not sung since her illness, and so the sound of her voice surprised and delighted him. He opened the door softly and saw her, in the lilac dress she had worn at church, walking about the room singing. She had her back to him when he opened the door, but when, turning quickly, she saw his broad, surprised face, she blushed and came rapidly up to him.
“I want to try to sing again,” she said, adding as if by way of excuse, “it is, at least, something to do.”
“How glad I am you’ve come! I am so happy today,” she said, with the old animation Pierre had not seen in her for along time. “You know Nicholas has received a St. George’s Cross? I am so proud of him.”
“Oh yes, I sent that announcement. But I don’t want to interrupt you,” he added, and was about to go to the drawing room.
Natasha stopped him.
“Count, is it wrong of me to sing?” she said blushing, and fixing her eyes inquiringly on him.
“No . . . Why should it be? On the contrary . . . But why do you ask me?”
“I don’t know myself,” Natasha answered quickly, “but I should not like to do anything you disapproved of. I believe in you completely. You don’t know how important you are to me, how much you’ve done for me. . . . ” She spoke rapidly and did not notice how Pierre flushed at her words. “I saw in that same army order that he, Bolkonski” (she whispered the name hastily), “is in Russia, and in the army again. What do you think?”— she was speaking hurriedly, evidently afraid her strength might fail her — “Will he ever forgive me? Will he not always have a bitter feeling toward me? What do you think? What do you think?”
“I think . . . ” Pierre replied, “that he has nothing to forgive. . . . If I were in his place . . . ”
By association of ideas, Pierre was at once carried back to the day when, trying to comfort her, he had said that if he were not himself but the best man in the world and free, he would ask on his knees for her hand; and the same feeling of pity, tenderness, and love took possession of him and the same words rose to his lips. But she did not give him time to say them.
“Yes, you . . . you . . . ” she said, uttering the word you rapturously — “that’s a different thing. I know no one kinder, more generous, or better than you; nobody could be! Had you not been there then, and now too, I don’t know what would have become of me, because . . . ”
Tears suddenly rose in her eyes, she turned away, lifted her music before her eyes, began singing again, and again began walking up and down the room.
Just then Petya came running in from the drawing room.
Petya was now a handsome rosy lad of fifteen with full red lips and resembled Natasha. He was preparing to enter the university, but he and his friend Obolenski had lately, in secret, agreed to join the hussars.
Petya had come rushing out to talk to his namesake about this affair. He had asked Pierre to find out whether he would be accepted in the hussars.
Pierre walked up and down the drawing room, not listening to what Petya was saying.
Petya pulled him by the arm to attract his attention.
“Well, what about my plan? Peter Kirilych, for heaven’s sake! You are my only hope “ said Petya.
“Oh yes, your plan. To join the hussars? I’ll mention it, I’ll bring it all up today.”
“Well, mon cher, have you got the manifesto?” asked the old count. “The countess has been to Mass at the Razumovskis’ and heard the new prayer. She says it’s very fine.”
“Yes, I’ve got it,” said Pierre. “The Emperor is to be here tomorrow . . . there’s to be an Extraordinary Meeting of the nobility, and they are talking of a levy of ten men per thousand. Oh yes, let me congratulate you!”
“Yes, yes, thank God! Well, and what news from the army?”
“We are again retreating. They say we’re already near Smolensk,” replied Pierre.
“O Lord, O Lord!” exclaimed the count. “Where is the manifesto?”
“The Emperor’s appeal? Oh yes!”
Pierre began feeling in his pockets for the papers, but could not find them. Still slapping his pockets, he kissed the hand of the countess who entered the room and glanced uneasily around, evidently expecting Natasha, who had left off singing but had not yet come into the drawing room.
“On my word, I don’t know what I’ve done with it,” he said.
“There he is, always losing everything!” remarked the countess.
Natasha entered with a softened and agitated expression of face and sat down looking silently at Pierre. As soon as she entered, Pierre’s features, which had been gloomy, suddenly lighted up, and while still searching for the papers he glanced at her several times.
“No, really! I’ll drive home, I must have left them there. I’ll certainly . . . ”
“But you’ll be late for dinner.”
“Oh! And my coachman has gone.”
But Sonya, who had gone to look for the papers in the anteroom, had found them in Pierre’s hat, where he had carefully tucked them under the lining. Pierre was about to begin reading.
“No, after dinner,” said the old count, evidently expecting much enjoyment from that reading.
At dinner, at which champagne was drunk to the health of the new chevalier of St. George, Shinshin told them the town news, of the illness of the old Georgian princess, of Metivier’s disappearance from Moscow, and of how some German fellow had been brought to Rostopchin and accused of being a French “spyer” (so Count Rostopchin had told the story), and how Rostopchin let him go and assured the people that he was “not a spire at all, but only an old German ruin.”
“People are being arrested . . . ” said the count. “I’ve told the countess she should not speak French so much. It’s not the time for it now.”
“And have you heard?” Shinshin asked. “Prince Golitsyn has engaged a master to teach him Russian. It is becoming dangerous to speak French in the streets.”
“And how about you, Count Peter Kirilych? If they call up the militia, you too will have to mount a horse,” remarked the old count, addressing Pierre.
Pierre had been silent and preoccupied all through dinner, seeming not to grasp what was said. He looked at the count.
“Oh yes, the war,” he said. “No! What sort of warrior should I make? And yet everything is so strange, so strange! I can’t make it out. I don’t know, I am very far from having military tastes, but in these times no one can answer for himself.”
After dinner the count settled himself comfortably in an easy chair and with a serious face asked Sonya, who was considered an excellent reader, to read the appeal.
“To Moscow, our ancient Capital!
“The enemy has entered the borders of Russia with immense forces. He comes to despoil our beloved country,”
Sonya read painstakingly in her high-pitched voice. The count listened with closed eyes, heaving abrupt sighs at certain passages.
Natasha sat erect, gazing with a searching look now at her father and now at Pierre.
Pierre felt her eyes on him and tried not to look round. The countess shook her head disapprovingly and angrily at every solemn expression in the manifesto. In all these words she saw only that the danger threatening her son would not soon be over. Shinshin, with a sarcastic smile on his lips, was evidently preparing to make fun of anything that gave him the opportunity: Sonya’s reading, any remark of the count’s, or even the manifesto itself should no better pretext present itself.
After reading about the dangers that threatened Russia, the hopes the Emperor placed on Moscow and especially on its illustrious nobility, Sonya, with a quiver in her voice due chiefly to the attention that was being paid to her, read the last words:
“We ourselves will not delay to appear among our people in that Capital and in others parts of our realm for consultation, and for the direction of all our levies, both those now barring the enemy’s path and those freshly formed to defeat him wherever he may appear. May the ruin he hopes to bring upon us recoil on his own head, and may Europe delivered from bondage glorify the name of Russia!”
“Yes, that’s it!” cried the count, opening his moist eyes and sniffing repeatedly, as if a strong vinaigrette had been held to his nose; and he added, “Let the Emperor but say the word and we’ll sacrifice everything and begrudge nothing.”
Before Shinshin had time to utter the joke he was ready to make on the count’s patriotism, Natasha jumped up from her place and ran to her father.
“What a darling our Papa is!” she cried, kissing him, and she again looked at Pierre with the unconscious coquetry that had returned to her with her better spirits.
“There! Here’s a patriot for you!” said Shinshin.
“Not a patriot at all, but simply . . . ” Natasha replied in an injured tone. “Everything seems funny to you, but this isn’t at all a joke. . . . ”
“A joke indeed!” put in the count. “Let him but say the word and we’ll all go. . . . We’re not Germans!”
“But did you notice, it says, ‘for consultation’?” said Pierre.
“Never mind what it’s for. . . . ”
At this moment, Petya, to whom nobody was paying any attention, came up to his father with a very flushed face and said in his breaking voice that was now deep and now shrill:
“Well, Papa, I tell you definitely, and Mamma too, it’s as you please, but I say definitely that you must let me enter the army, because I can’t . . . that’s all. . . . ”
The countess, in dismay, looked up to heaven, clasped her hands, and turned angrily to her husband.
“That comes of your talking!” said she.
But the count had already recovered from his excitement.
“Come, come!” said he. “Here’s a fine warrior! No! Nonsense! You must study.”
“It’s not nonsense, Papa. Fedya Obolenski is younger than I, and he’s going too. Besides, all the same I can’t study now when . . . ” Petya stopped short, flushed till he perspired, but still got out the words, “when our Fatherland is in danger.”
“That’ll do, that’ll do — nonsense. . . . ”
“But you said yourself that we would sacrifice everything.”
“Petya! Be quiet, I tell you!” cried the count, with a glance at his wife, who had turned pale and was staring fixedly at her son.
“And I tell you — Peter Kirilych here will also tell you . . . ”
“Nonsense, I tell you. Your mother’s milk has hardly dried on your lips and you want to go into the army! There, there, I tell you,” and the count moved to go out of the room, taking the papers, probably to reread them in his study before having a nap.
“Well, Peter Kirilych, let’s go and have a smoke,” he said.
Pierre was agitated and undecided. Natasha’s unwontedly brilliant eyes, continually glancing at him with a more than cordial look, had reduced him to this condition.
“No, I think I’ll go home.”
“Home? Why, you meant to spend the evening with us. . . . You don’t often come nowadays as it is, and this girl of mine,” said the count good-naturedly, pointing to Natasha, “only brightens up when you’re here.”
“Yes, I had forgotten . . . I really must go home . . . business . . . ” said Pierre hurriedly.
“Well, then, au revoir!” said the count, and went out of the room.
“Why are you going? Why are you upset?” asked Natasha, and she looked challengingly into Pierre’s eyes.
“Because I love you!” was what he wanted to say, but he did not say it, and only blushed till the tears came, and lowered his eyes.
“Because it is better for me to come less often . . . because . . . No, simply I have business. . . . ”
“Why? No, tell me!” Natasha began resolutely and suddenly stopped.
They looked at each other with dismayed and embarrassed faces. He tried to smile but could not: his smile expressed suffering, and he silently kissed her hand and went out.
Pierre made up his mind not to go to the Rostovs’ any more.
After the definite refusal he had received, Petya went to his room and there locked himself in and wept bitterly. When he came in to tea, silent, morose, and with tear-stained face, everybody pretended not to notice anything.
Next day the Emperor arrived in Moscow, and several of the Rostovs’ domestic serfs begged permission to go to have a look at him. That morning Petya was a long time dressing and arranging his hair and collar to look like a grown-up man. He frowned before his looking glass, gesticulated, shrugged his shoulders, and finally, without saying a word to anyone, took his cap and left the house by the back door, trying to avoid notice. Petya decided to go straight to where the Emperor was and to explain frankly to some gentleman-in-waiting (he imagined the Emperor to be always surrounded by gentlemen-in-waiting) that he, Count Rostov, in spite of his youth wished to serve his country; that youth could be no hindrance to loyalty, and that he was ready to . . . While dressing, Petya had prepared many fine things he meant to say to the gentleman-in-waiting.
It was on the very fact of being so young that Petya counted for success in reaching the Emperor — he even thought how surprised everyone would be at his youthfulness — and yet in the arrangement of his collar and hair and by his sedate deliberate walk he wished to appear a grown-up man. But the farther he went and the more his attention was diverted by the ever-increasing crowds moving toward the Kremlin, the less he remembered to walk with the sedateness and deliberation of a man. As he approached the Kremlin he even began to avoid being crushed and resolutely stuck out his elbows in a menacing way. But within the Trinity Gateway he was so pressed to the wall by people who probably were unaware of the patriotic intentions with which he had come that in spite of all his determination he had to give in, and stop while carriages passed in, rumbling beneath the archway. Beside Petya stood a peasant woman, a footman, two tradesmen, and a discharged soldier. After standing some time in the gateway, Petya tried to move forward in front of the others without waiting for all the carriages to pass, and he began resolutely working his way with his elbows, but the woman just in front of him, who was the first against whom he directed his efforts, angrily shouted at him:
“What are you shoving for, young lordling? Don’t you see we’re all standing still? Then why push?”
“Anybody can shove,” said the footman, and also began working his elbows to such effect that he pushed Petya into a very filthy corner of the gateway.
Petya wiped his perspiring face with his hands and pulled up the damp collar which he had arranged so well at home to seem like a man’s.
He felt that he no longer looked presentable, and feared that if he were now to approach the gentlemen-in-waiting in that plight he would not be admitted to the Emperor. But it was impossible to smarten oneself up or move to another place, because of the crowd. One of the generals who drove past was an acquaintance of the Rostovs’, and Petya thought of asking his help, but came to the conclusion that that would not be a manly thing to do. When the carriages had all passed in, the crowd, carrying Petya with it, streamed forward into the Kremlin Square which was already full of people. There were people not only in the square, but everywhere — on the slopes and on the roofs. As soon as Petya found himself in the square he clearly heard the sound of bells and the joyous voices of the crowd that filled the whole Kremlin.
For a while the crowd was less dense, but suddenly all heads were bared, and everyone rushed forward in one direction. Petya was being pressed so that he could scarcely breathe, and everybody shouted, “Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!” Petya stood on tiptoe and pushed and pinched, but could see nothing except the people about him.
All the faces bore the same expression of excitement and enthusiasm. A tradesman’s wife standing beside Petya sobbed, and the tears ran down her cheeks.
“Father! Angel! Dear one!” she kept repeating, wiping away her tears with her fingers.
“Hurrah!” was heard on all sides.
For a moment the crowd stood still, but then it made another rush forward.
Quite beside himself, Petya, clinching his teeth and rolling his eyes ferociously, pushed forward, elbowing his way and shouting “hurrah!” as if he were prepared that instant to kill himself and everyone else, but on both sides of him other people with similarly ferocious faces pushed forward and everybody shouted “hurrah!”
“So this is what the Emperor is!” thought Petya. “No, I can’t petition him myself — that would be too bold.” But in spite of this he continued to struggle desperately forward, and from between the backs of those in front he caught glimpses of an open space with a strip of red cloth spread out on it; but just then the crowd swayed back — the police in front were pushing back those who had pressed too close to the procession: the Emperor was passing from the palace to the Cathedral of the Assumption — and Petya unexpectedly received such a blow on his side and ribs and was squeezed so hard that suddenly everything grew dim before his eyes and he lost consciousness. When he came to himself, a man of clerical appearance with a tuft of gray hair at the back of his head and wearing a shabby blue cassock — probably a church clerk and chanter — was holding him under the arm with one hand while warding off the pressure of the crowd with the other.
“You’ve crushed the young gentleman!” said the clerk. “What are you up to? Gently! . . . They’ve crushed him, crushed him!”
The Emperor entered the Cathedral of the Assumption. The crowd spread out again more evenly, and the clerk led Petya — pale and breathless — to the Tsar-cannon. Several people were sorry for Petya, and suddenly a crowd turned toward him and pressed round him. Those who stood nearest him attended to him, unbuttoned his coat, seated him on the raised platform of the cannon, and reproached those others (whoever they might be) who had crushed him.
“One might easily get killed that way! What do they mean by it? Killing people! Poor dear, he’s as white as a sheet!”— various voices were heard saying.
Petya soon came to himself, the color returned to his face, the pain had passed, and at the cost of that temporary unpleasantness he had obtained a place by the cannon from where he hoped to see the Emperor who would be returning that way. Petya no longer thought of presenting his petition. If he could only see the Emperor he would be happy!
While the service was proceeding in the Cathedral of the Assumption — it was a combined service of prayer on the occasion of the Emperor’s arrival and of thanksgiving for the conclusion of peace with the Turks — the crowd outside spread out and hawkers appeared, selling kvas, gingerbread, and poppyseed sweets (of which Petya was particularly fond), and ordinary conversation could again be heard. A tradesman’s wife was showing a rent in her shawl and telling how much the shawl had cost; another was saying that all silk goods had now got dear. The clerk who had rescued Petya was talking to a functionary about the priests who were officiating that day with the bishop. The clerk several times used the word “plenary” (of the service), a word Petya did not understand. Two young citizens were joking with some serf girls who were cracking nuts. All these conversations, especially the joking with the girls, were such as might have had a particular charm for Petya at his age, but they did not interest him now. He sat on his elevation — the pedestal of the cannon — still agitated as before by the thought of the Emperor and by his love for him. The feeling of pain and fear he had experienced when he was being crushed, together with that of rapture, still further intensified his sense of the importance of the occasion.
Suddenly the sound of a firing of cannon was heard from the embankment, to celebrate the signing of peace with the Turks, and the crowd rushed impetuously toward the embankment to watch the firing. Petya too would have run there, but the clerk who had taken the young gentleman under his protection stopped him. The firing was still proceeding when officers, generals, and gentlemen-in-waiting came running out of the cathedral, and after them others in a more leisurely manner: caps were again raised, and those who had run to look at the cannon ran back again. At last four men in uniforms and sashes emerged from the cathedral doors. “Hurrah! hurrah!” shouted the crowd again.
“Which is he? Which?” asked Petya in a tearful voice, of those around him, but no one answered him, everybody was too excited; and Petya, fixing on one of those four men, whom he could not clearly see for the tears of joy that filled his eyes, concentrated all his enthusiasm on him — though it happened not to be the Emperor — frantically shouted “Hurrah!” and resolved that tomorrow, come what might, he would join the army.
The crowd ran after the Emperor, followed him to the palace, and began to disperse. It was already late, and Petya had not eaten anything and was drenched with perspiration, yet he did not go home but stood with that diminishing, but still considerable, crowd before the palace while the Emperor dined — looking in at the palace windows, expecting he knew not what, and envying alike the notables he saw arriving at the entrance to dine with the Emperor and the court footmen who served at table, glimpses of whom could be seen through the windows.
While the Emperor was dining, Valuev, looking out of the window, said:
“The people are still hoping to see Your Majesty again.”
The dinner was nearly over, and the Emperor, munching a biscuit, rose and went out onto the balcony. The people, with Petya among them, rushed toward the balcony.
“Angel! Dear one! Hurrah! Father! . . . ” cried the crowd, and Petya with it, and again the women and men of weaker mold, Petya among them, wept with joy.
A largish piece of the biscuit the Emperor was holding in his hand broke off, fell on the balcony parapet, and then to the ground. A coachman in a jerkin, who stood nearest, sprang forward and snatched it up. Several people in the crowd rushed at the coachman. Seeing this the Emperor had a plateful of biscuits brought him and began throwing them down from the balcony. Petya’s eyes grew bloodshot, and still more excited by the danger of being crushed, he rushed at the biscuits. He did not know why, but he had to have a biscuit from the Tsar’s hand and he felt that he must not give way. He sprang forward and upset an old woman who was catching at a biscuit; the old woman did not consider herself defeated though she was lying on the ground — she grabbed at some biscuits but her hand did not reach them. Petya pushed her hand away with his knee, seized a biscuit, and as if fearing to be too late, again shouted “Hurrah!” with a voice already hoarse.
The Emperor went in, and after that the greater part of the crowd began to disperse.
“There! I said if only we waited — and so it was!” was being joyfully said by various people.
Happy as Petya was, he felt sad at having to go home knowing that all the enjoyment of that day was over. He did not go straight home from the Kremlin, but called on his friend Obolenski, who was fifteen and was also entering the regiment. On returning home Petya announced resolutely and firmly that if he was not allowed to enter the service he would run away. And next day, Count Ilya Rostov — though he had not yet quite yielded — went to inquire how he could arrange for Petya to serve where there would be least danger.
Two days later, on the fifteenth of July, an immense number of carriages were standing outside the Sloboda Palace.
The great halls were full. In the first were the nobility and gentry in their uniforms, in the second bearded merchants in full-skirted coats of blue cloth and wearing medals. in the noblemen’s hall there was an incessant movement and buzz of voices. The chief magnates sat on high-backed chairs at a large table under the portrait of the Emperor, but most of the gentry were strolling about the room.
All these nobles, whom Pierre met every day at the Club or in their own houses, were in uniform — some in that of Catherine’s day, others in that of Emperor Paul, others again in the new uniforms of Alexander’s time or the ordinary uniform of the nobility, and the general characteristic of being in uniform imparted something strange and fantastic to these diverse and familiar personalities, both old and young. The old men, dim-eyed, toothless, bald, sallow, and bloated, or gaunt and wrinkled, were especially striking. For the most part they sat quietly in their places and were silent, or, if they walked about and talked, attached themselves to someone younger. On all these faces, as on the faces of the crowd Petya had seen in the Square, there was a striking contradiction: the general expectation of a solemn event, and at the same time the everyday interests in a boston card party, Peter the cook, Zinaida Dmitrievna’s health, and so on.
Pierre was there too, buttoned up since early morning in a nobleman’s uniform that had become too tight for him. He was agitated; this extraordinary gathering not only of nobles but also of the merchant-class — les etats generaux (States-General)— evoked in him a whole series of ideas he had long laid aside but which were deeply graven in his soul: thoughts of the Contrat social and the French Revolution. The words that had struck him in the Emperor’s appeal — that the sovereign was coming to the capital for consultation with his people — strengthened this idea. And imagining that in this direction something important which he had long awaited was drawing near, he strolled about watching and listening to conversations, but nowhere finding any confirmation of the ideas that occupied him.
The Emperor’s manifesto was read, evoking enthusiasm, and then all moved about discussing it. Besides the ordinary topics of conversation, Pierre heard questions of where the marshals of the nobility were to stand when the Emperor entered, when a ball should be given in the Emperor’s honor, whether they should group themselves by districts or by whole provinces . . . and so on; but as soon as the war was touched on, or what the nobility had been convened for, the talk became undecided and indefinite. Then all preferred listening to speaking.
A middle-aged man, handsome and virile, in the uniform of a retired naval officer, was speaking in one of the rooms, and a small crowd was pressing round him. Pierre went up to the circle that had formed round the speaker and listened. Count Ilya Rostov, in a military uniform of Catherine’s time, was sauntering with a pleasant smile among the crowd, with all of whom he was acquainted. He too approached that group and listened with a kindly smile and nods of approval, as he always did, to what the speaker was saying. The retired naval man was speaking very boldly, as was evident from the expression on the faces of the listeners and from the fact that some people Pierre knew as the meekest and quietest of men walked away disapprovingly or expressed disagreement with him. Pierre pushed his way into the middle of the group, listened, and convinced himself that the man was indeed a liberal, but of views quite different from his own. The naval officer spoke in a particularly sonorous, musical, and aristocratic baritone voice, pleasantly swallowing his r’s and generally slurring his consonants: the voice of a man calling out to his servant, “Heah! Bwing me my pipe!” It was indicative of dissipation and the exercise of authority.
“What if the Smolensk people have offahd to waise militia for the Empewah? Ah we to take Smolensk as our patte’n? If the noble awistocwacy of the pwovince of Moscow thinks fit, it can show its loyalty to our sov’weign the Empewah in other ways. Have we fo’gotten the waising of the militia in the yeah ‘seven? All that did was to enwich the pwiests’ sons and thieves and wobbahs. . . . ”
Count Ilya Rostov smiled blandly and nodded approval.
“And was our militia of any use to the Empia? Not at all! It only wuined our farming! Bettah have another conscwiption . . . o’ ou’ men will wetu’n neithah soldiers no’ peasants, and we’ll get only depwavity fwom them. The nobility don’t gwudge theah lives — evewy one of us will go and bwing in more wecwuits, and the sov’weign” (that was the way he referred to the Emperor) “need only say the word and we’ll all die fo’ him!” added the orator with animation.
Count Rostov’s mouth watered with pleasure and he nudged Pierre, but Pierre wanted to speak himself. He pushed forward, feeling stirred, but not yet sure what stirred him or what he would say. Scarcely had he opened his mouth when one of the senators, a man without a tooth in his head, with a shrewd though angry expression, standing near the first speaker, interrupted him. Evidently accustomed to managing debates and to maintaining an argument, he began in low but distinct tones:
“I imagine, sir,” said he, mumbling with his toothless mouth, “that we have been summoned here not to discuss whether it’s best for the empire at the present moment to adopt conscription or to call out the militia. We have been summoned to reply to the appeal with which our sovereign the Emperor has honored us. But to judge what is best — conscription or the militia — we can leave to the supreme authority. . . . ”
Pierre suddenly saw an outlet for his excitement. He hardened his heart against the senator who was introducing this set and narrow attitude into the deliberations of the nobility. Pierre stepped forward and interrupted him. He himself did not yet know what he would say, but he began to speak eagerly, occasionally lapsing into French or expressing himself in bookish Russian.
“Excuse me, your excellency,” he began. (He was well acquainted with the senator, but thought it necessary on this occasion to address him formally.) “Though I don’t agree with the gentleman . . . ” (he hesitated: he wished to say, “Mon tres honorable preopinant”— “My very honorable opponent”) “with the gentleman . . . whom I have not the honor of knowing, I suppose that the nobility have been summoned not merely to express their sympathy and enthusiasm but also to consider the means by which we can assist our Fatherland! I imagine,” he went on, warming to his subject, “that the Emperor himself would not be satisfied to find in us merely owners of serfs whom we are willing to devote to his service, and chair a canon we are ready to make of ourselves — and not to obtain from us any co-co-counsel.”
* “Food for cannon.”
Many persons withdrew from the circle, noticing the senator’s sarcastic smile and the freedom of Pierre’s remarks. Only Count Rostov was pleased with them as he had been pleased with those of the naval officer, the senator, and in general with whatever speech he had last heard.
“I think that before discussing these questions,” Pierre continued, “we should ask the Emperor — most respectfully ask His Majesty — to let us know the number of our troops and the position in which our army and our forces now are, and then . . . ”
But scarcely had Pierre uttered these words before he was attacked from three sides. The most vigorous attack came from an old acquaintance, a boston player who had always been well disposed toward him, Stepan Stepanovich Adraksin. Adraksin was in uniform, and whether as a result of the uniform or from some other cause Pierre saw before him quite a different man. With a sudden expression of malevolence on his aged face, Adraksin shouted at Pierre:
“In the first place, I tell you we have no right to question the Emperor about that, and secondly, if the Russian nobility had that right, the Emperor could not answer such a question. The troops are moved according to the enemy’s movements and the number of men increases and decreases . . . ”
Another voice, that of a nobleman of medium height and about forty years of age, whom Pierre had formerly met at the gypsies’ and knew as a bad cardplayer, and who, also transformed by his uniform, came up to Pierre, interrupted Adraksin.
“Yes, and this is not a time for discussing,” he continued, “but for acting: there is war in Russia! The enemy is advancing to destroy Russia, to desecrate the tombs of our fathers, to carry off our wives and children.” The nobleman smote his breast. “We will all arise, every one of us will go, for our father the Tsar!” he shouted, rolling his bloodshot eyes. Several approving voices were heard in the crowd. “We are Russians and will not grudge our blood in defense of our faith, the throne, and the Fatherland! We must cease raving if we are sons of our Fatherland! We will show Europe how Russia rises to the defense of Russia!”
Pierre wished to reply, but could not get in a word. He felt that his words, apart from what meaning they conveyed, were less audible than the sound of his opponent’s voice.
Count Rostov at the back of the crowd was expressing approval; several persons, briskly turning a shoulder to the orator at the end of a phrase, said:
“That’s right, quite right! Just so!”
Pierre wished to say that he was ready to sacrifice his money, his serfs, or himself, only one ought to know the state of affairs in order to be able to improve it, but he was unable to speak. Many voices shouted and talked at the same time, so that Count Rostov had not time to signify his approval of them all, and the group increased, dispersed, re-formed, and then moved with a hum of talk into the largest hall and to the big table. Not only was Pierre’s attempt to speak unsuccessful, but he was rudely interrupted, pushed aside, and people turned away from him as from a common enemy. This happened not because they were displeased by the substance of his speech, which had even been forgotten after the many subsequent speeches, but to animate it the crowd needed a tangible object to love and a tangible object to hate. Pierre became the latter. Many other orators spoke after the excited nobleman, and all in the same tone. Many spoke eloquently and with originality.
Glinka, the editor of the Russian Messenger, who was recognized (cries of “author! author!” were heard in the crowd), said that “hell must be repulsed by hell,” and that he had seen a child smiling at lightning flashes and thunderclaps, but “we will not be that child.”
“Yes, yes, at thunderclaps!” was repeated approvingly in the back rows of the crowd.
The crowd drew up to the large table, at which sat gray-haired or bald seventy-year-old magnates, uniformed and besashed almost all of whom Pierre had seen in their own homes with their buffoons, or playing boston at the clubs. With an incessant hum of voices the crowd advanced to the table. Pressed by the throng against the high backs of the chairs, the orators spoke one after another and sometimes two together. Those standing behind noticed what a speaker omitted to say and hastened to supply it. Others in that heat and crush racked their brains to find some thought and hastened to utter it. The old magnates, whom Pierre knew, sat and turned to look first at one and then at another, and their faces for the most part only expressed the fact that they found it very hot. Pierre, however, felt excited, and the general desire to show that they were ready to go to all lengths — which found expression in the tones and looks more than in the substance of the speeches — infected him too. He did not renounce his opinions, but felt himself in some way to blame and wished to justify himself.
“I only said that it would be more to the purpose to make sacrifices when we know what is needed!” said he, trying to be heard above the other voices.
One of the old men nearest to him looked round, but his attention was immediately diverted by an exclamation at the other side of the table.
“Yes, Moscow will be surrendered! She will be our expiation!” shouted one man.
“He is the enemy of mankind!” cried another. “Allow me to speak. . . . ” “Gentlemen, you are crushing me! . . . ”
At that moment Count Rostopchin with his protruding chin and alert eyes, wearing the uniform of a general with sash over his shoulder, entered the room, stepping briskly to the front of the crowd of gentry.
“Our sovereign the Emperor will be here in a moment,” said Rostopchin. “I am straight from the palace. Seeing the position we are in, I think there is little need for discussion. The Emperor has deigned to summon us and the merchants. Millions will pour forth from there”— he pointed to the merchants’ hall — “but our business is to supply men and not spare ourselves . . . That is the least we can do!”
A conference took place confined to the magnates sitting at the table. The whole consultation passed more than quietly. After all the preceding noise the sound of their old voices saying one after another, “I agree,” or for variety, “I too am of that opinion,” and so on had even a mournful effect.
The secretary was told to write down the resolution of the Moscow nobility and gentry, that they would furnish ten men, fully equipped, out of every thousand serfs, as the Smolensk gentry had done. Their chairs made a scraping noise as the gentlemen who had conferred rose with apparent relief, and began walking up and down, arm in arm, to stretch their legs and converse in couples.
“The Emperor! The Emperor!” a sudden cry resounded through the halls and the whole throng hurried to the entrance.
The Emperor entered the hall through a broad path between two lines of nobles. Every face expressed respectful, awe-struck curiosity. Pierre stood rather far off and could not hear all that the Emperor said. From what he did hear he understood that the Emperor spoke of the danger threatening the empire and of the hopes he placed on the Moscow nobility. He was answered by a voice which informed him of the resolution just arrived at.
“Gentlemen!” said the Emperor with a quivering voice.
There was a rustling among the crowd and it again subsided, so that Pierre distinctly heard the pleasantly human voice of the Emperor saying with emotion:
“I never doubted the devotion of the Russian nobles, but today it has surpassed my expectations. I thank you in the name of the Fatherland! Gentlemen, let us act! Time is most precious . . . ”
The Emperor ceased speaking, the crowd began pressing round him, and rapturous exclamations were heard from all sides.
“Yes, most precious . . . a royal word,” said Count Rostov, with a sob. He stood at the back, and, though he had heard hardly anything, understood everything in his own way.
From the hall of the nobility the Emperor went to that of the merchants. There he remained about ten minutes. Pierre was among those who saw him come out from the merchants’ hall with tears of emotion in his eyes. As became known later, he had scarcely begun to address the merchants before tears gushed from his eyes and he concluded in a trembling voice. When Pierre saw the Emperor he was coming out accompanied by two merchants, one of whom Pierre knew, a fat otkupshchik. The other was the mayor, a man with a thin sallow face and narrow beard. Both were weeping. Tears filled the thin man’s eyes, and the fat otkupshchik sobbed outright like a child and kept repeating:
“Our lives and property — take them, Your Majesty!”
Pierre’s one feeling at the moment was a desire to show that he was ready to go all lengths and was prepared to sacrifice everything. He now felt ashamed of his speech with its constitutional tendency and sought an opportunity of effacing it. Having heard that Count Mamonov was furnishing a regiment, Bezukhov at once informed Rostopchin that he would give a thousand men and their maintenance.
Old Rostov could not tell his wife of what had passed without tears, and at once consented to Petya’s request and went himself to enter his name.
Next day the Emperor left Moscow. The assembled nobles all took off their uniforms and settled down again in their homes and clubs, and not without some groans gave orders to their stewards about the enrollment, feeling amazed themselves at what they had done.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01