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 Bolkónski 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 Kurágin, 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 Kurágin. 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 Vílna, the forces had been divided into three armies. First, the army under Barclay de Tolly, secondly, the army under Bagratión, and thirdly, the one commanded by Tormásov. 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 Volkónski, 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: Arakchéev, the ex-Minister of War; Count Bennigsen, the senior general in rank; the Grand Duke Tsarévich Constantine Pávlovich; Count Rumyántsev, 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 émigré; 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, Arakchéev, or Prince Volkónski, 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. Arakchéev was a faithful custodian to enforce order and acted as the sovereign’s bodyguard. Bennigsen was a landlord in the Vílna 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 tendencies 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 Vílna 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: Bagratión, Ermólov (who was beginning to come to the front), and others. At that time a famous joke of Ermólov’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 Suvórov, 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 Arakchéev 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 Tsarévich, 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 Vílna and Vítebsk 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, Rumyántsev, 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 Rostóv 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, Shishkóv, the Secretary of State and one of the chief representatives of this party, wrote a letter to the Emperor which Arakchéev and Balashëv 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 Bolkónski 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 Chernýshev, the Emperor’s aide-de-camp, received Bolkónski 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.
Chernýshev 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 Chernýshev.
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 Chernýshev 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 Chernýshev, 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 Chernýshev 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 and 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 Auerstädt, 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 Chernýshev 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 Bolkónski, 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. Chernýshev 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 Bolkónski, 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 Mikháylovich Volkónski 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 Mikháylovich Volkónski 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 Volkónski, 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 Volkónski 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 Volkónski 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 Schön 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. Bagratión 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, Rostóv had received a letter from his parents in which they told him briefly of Natásha’s illness and the breaking off of her engagement to Prince Andrew (which they explained by Natásha’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 Natásha was ill and her engagement broken off, and that he would do all he could to meet their wishes. To Sónya 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 Rostóv from returning home as he had promised and marrying Sónya. The autumn in Otrádnoe with the hunting, and the winter with the Christmas holidays and Sónya’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 Rostóv, 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 Rostóv, 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 Vílna 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 Pávlograd 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 Vílna, 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 Sventsyáni and destroy any provisions they could not carry away with them. Sventsyáni 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. Rostóv remembered Sventsyáni, 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 Sventsyáni 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 Pávlograds 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 1812 was remarkable for its storms.
The two Pávlograd 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 Rostóv, with a young officer named Ilyín, his protégé, 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 Rostóv’s shelter.
“I have come from the staff, Count. Have you heard of Raévski’s exploit?”
And the officer gave them details of the Saltánov battle, which he had heard at the staff.
Rostóv, smoking his pipe and turning his head about as the water trickled down his neck, listened inattentively, with an occasional glance at Ilyín, 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 Denísov seven years before. Ilyín tried to imitate Rostóv in everything and adored him as a girl might have done.
Zdrzhinski, the officer with the long mustache, spoke grandiloquently of the Saltánov dam being “a Russian Thermopylae,” and of how a deed worthy of antiquity had been performed by General Raévski. He recounted how Raévski had led his two sons onto the dam under terrific fire and had charged with them beside him. Rostóv 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 Rostóv 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 Rostóv in the narrow shanty. Rostóv 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 Raévski 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 Raévski 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 Raévski’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 Saltánov 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 Pétya there, or even Ilyín, 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 Ilyín, noticing that Rostóv 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.”
Ilyín went out and Zdrzhinski rode away.
Five minutes later Ilyín, splashing through the mud, came running back to the shanty.
“Hurrah! Rostóv, 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 Hendríkhovna’s there.”
Mary Hendríkhovna 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.
Rostóv threw his cloak over his shoulders, shouted to Lavrúshka to follow with the things, and—now slipping in the mud, now splashing right through it—set off with Ilyín in the lessening rain and the darkness that was occasionally rent by distant lightning.
“Rostóv, where are you?”
“Here. What lightning!” they called to one another.