From Smolénsk the troops continued to retreat, followed by the enemy. On the tenth of August the regiment Prince Andrew commanded was marching along the highroad past the avenue leading to Bald Hills. Heat and drought had continued for more than three weeks. Each day fleecy clouds floated across the sky and occasionally veiled the sun, but toward evening the sky cleared again and the sun set in reddish-brown mist. Heavy night dews alone refreshed the earth. The unreaped corn was scorched and shed its grain. The marshes dried up. The cattle lowed from hunger, finding no food on the sun-parched meadows. Only at night and in the forests while the dew lasted was there any freshness. But on the road, the highroad along which the troops marched, there was no such freshness even at night or when the road passed through the forest; the dew was imperceptible on the sandy dust churned up more than six inches deep. As soon as day dawned the march began. The artillery and baggage wagons moved noiselessly through the deep dust that rose to the very hubs of the wheels, and the infantry sank ankle-deep in that soft, choking, hot dust that never cooled even at night. Some of this dust was kneaded by the feet and wheels, while the rest rose and hung like a cloud over the troops, settling in eyes, ears, hair, and nostrils, and worst of all in the lungs of the men and beasts as they moved along that road. The higher the sun rose the higher rose that cloud of dust, and through the screen of its hot fine particles one could look with naked eye at the sun, which showed like a huge crimson ball in the unclouded sky. There was no wind, and the men choked in that motionless atmosphere. They marched with handkerchiefs tied over their noses and mouths. When they passed through a village they all rushed to the wells and fought for the water and drank it down to the mud.
Prince Andrew was in command of a regiment, and the management of that regiment, the welfare of the men and the necessity of receiving and giving orders, engrossed him. The burning of Smolénsk and its abandonment made an epoch in his life. A novel feeling of anger against the foe made him forget his own sorrow. He was entirely devoted to the affairs of his regiment and was considerate and kind to his men and officers. In the regiment they called him “our prince,” were proud of him and loved him. But he was kind and gentle only to those of his regiment, to Timókhin and the like—people quite new to him, belonging to a different world and who could not know and understand his past. As soon as he came across a former acquaintance or anyone from the staff, he bristled up immediately and grew spiteful, ironical, and contemptuous. Everything that reminded him of his past was repugnant to him, and so in his relations with that former circle he confined himself to trying to do his duty and not to be unfair.
In truth everything presented itself in a dark and gloomy light to Prince Andrew, especially after the abandonment of Smolénsk on the sixth of August (he considered that it could and should have been defended) and after his sick father had had to flee to Moscow, abandoning to pillage his dearly beloved Bald Hills which he had built and peopled. But despite this, thanks to his regiment, Prince Andrew had something to think about entirely apart from general questions. Two days previously he had received news that his father, son, and sister had left for Moscow; and though there was nothing for him to do at Bald Hills, Prince Andrew with a characteristic desire to foment his own grief decided that he must ride there.
He ordered his horse to be saddled and, leaving his regiment on the march, rode to his father’s estate where he had been born and spent his childhood. Riding past the pond where there used always to be dozens of women chattering as they rinsed their linen or beat it with wooden beetles, Prince Andrew noticed that there was not a soul about and that the little washing wharf, torn from its place and half submerged, was floating on its side in the middle of the pond. He rode to the keeper’s lodge. No one at the stone entrance gates of the drive and the door stood open. Grass had already begun to grow on the garden paths, and horses and calves were straying in the English park. Prince Andrew rode up to the hothouse; some of the glass panes were broken, and of the trees in tubs some were overturned and others dried up. He called for Tarás the gardener, but no one replied. Having gone round the corner of the hothouse to the ornamental garden, he saw that the carved garden fence was broken and branches of the plum trees had been torn off with the fruit. An old peasant whom Prince Andrew in his childhood had often seen at the gate was sitting on a green garden seat, plaiting a bast shoe.
He was deaf and did not hear Prince Andrew ride up. He was sitting on the seat the old prince used to like to sit on, and beside him strips of bast were hanging on the broken and withered branch of a magnolia.
Prince Andrew rode up to the house. Several limes in the old garden had been cut down and a piebald mare and her foal were wandering in front of the house among the rosebushes. The shutters were all closed, except at one window which was open. A little serf boy, seeing Prince Andrew, ran into the house. Alpátych, having sent his family away, was alone at Bald Hills and was sitting indoors reading the Lives of the Saints. On hearing that Prince Andrew had come, he went out with his spectacles on his nose, buttoning his coat, and, hastily stepping up, without a word began weeping and kissing Prince Andrew’s knee.
Then, vexed at his own weakness, he turned away and began to report on the position of affairs. Everything precious and valuable had been removed to Boguchárovo. Seventy quarters of grain had also been carted away. The hay and the spring corn, of which Alpátych said there had been a remarkable crop that year, had been commandeered by the troops and mown down while still green. The peasants were ruined; some of them too had gone to Boguchárovo, only a few remained.
Without waiting to hear him out, Prince Andrew asked:
“When did my father and sister leave?” meaning when did they leave for Moscow.
Alpátych, understanding the question to refer to their departure for Boguchárovo, replied that they had left on the seventh and again went into details concerning the estate management, asking for instructions.
“Am I to let the troops have the oats, and to take a receipt for them? We have still six hundred quarters left,” he inquired.
“What am I to say to him?” thought Prince Andrew, looking down on the old man’s bald head shining in the sun and seeing by the expression on his face that the old man himself understood how untimely such questions were and only asked them to allay his grief.
“Yes, let them have it,” replied Prince Andrew.
“If you noticed some disorder in the garden,” said Alpátych, “it was impossible to prevent it. Three regiments have been here and spent the night, dragoons mostly. I took down the name and rank of their commanding officer, to hand in a complaint about it.”
“Well, and what are you going to do? Will you stay here if the enemy occupies the place?” asked Prince Andrew.
Alpátych turned his face to Prince Andrew, looked at him, and suddenly with a solemn gesture raised his arm.
“He is my refuge! His will be done!” he exclaimed.
A group of bareheaded peasants was approaching across the meadow toward the prince.
“Well, good-by!” said Prince Andrew, bending over to Alpátych. “You must go away too, take away what you can and tell the serfs to go to the Ryazán estate or to the one near Moscow.”
Alpátych clung to Prince Andrew’s leg and burst into sobs. Gently disengaging himself, the prince spurred his horse and rode down the avenue at a gallop.
The old man was still sitting in the ornamental garden, like a fly impassive on the face of a loved one who is dead, tapping the last on which he was making the bast shoe, and two little girls, running out from the hot house carrying in their skirts plums they had plucked from the trees there, came upon Prince Andrew. On seeing the young master, the elder one with frightened look clutched her younger companion by the hand and hid with her behind a birch tree, not stopping to pick up some green plums they had dropped.
Prince Andrew turned away with startled haste, unwilling to let them see that they had been observed. He was sorry for the pretty frightened little girl, was afraid of looking at her, and yet felt an irresistible desire to do so. A new sensation of comfort and relief came over him when, seeing these girls, he realized the existence of other human interests entirely aloof from his own and just as legitimate as those that occupied him. Evidently these girls passionately desired one thing—to carry away and eat those green plums without being caught—and Prince Andrew shared their wish for the success of their enterprise. He could not resist looking at them once more. Believing their danger past, they sprang from their ambush and, chirruping something in their shrill little voices and holding up their skirts, their bare little sunburned feet scampered merrily and quickly across the meadow grass.
Prince Andrew was somewhat refreshed by having ridden off the dusty highroad along which the troops were moving. But not far from Bald Hills he again came out on the road and overtook his regiment at its halting place by the dam of a small pond. It was past one o’clock. The sun, a red ball through the dust, burned and scorched his back intolerably through his black coat. The dust always hung motionless above the buzz of talk that came from the resting troops. There was no wind. As he crossed the dam Prince Andrew smelled the ooze and freshness of the pond. He longed to get into that water, however dirty it might be, and he glanced round at the pool from whence came sounds of shrieks and laughter. The small, muddy, green pond had risen visibly more than a foot, flooding the dam, because it was full of the naked white bodies of soldiers with brick-red hands, necks, and faces, who were splashing about in it. All this naked white human flesh, laughing and shrieking, floundered about in that dirty pool like carp stuffed into a watering can, and the suggestion of merriment in that floundering mass rendered it specially pathetic.
One fair-haired young soldier of the third company, whom Prince Andrew knew and who had a strap round the calf of one leg, crossed himself, stepped back to get a good run, and plunged into the water; another, a dark noncommissioned officer who was always shaggy, stood up to his waist in the water joyfully wriggling his muscular figure and snorted with satisfaction as he poured the water over his head with hands blackened to the wrists. There were sounds of men slapping one another, yelling, and puffing.
Everywhere on the bank, on the dam, and in the pond, there was healthy, white, muscular flesh. The officer, Timókhin, with his red little nose, standing on the dam wiping himself with a towel, felt confused at seeing the prince, but made up his mind to address him nevertheless.
“It’s very nice, your excellency! Wouldn’t you like to?” said he.
“It’s dirty,” replied Prince Andrew, making a grimace.
“We’ll clear it out for you in a minute,” said Timókhin, and, still undressed, ran off to clear the men out of the pond.
“The prince wants to bathe.”
“What prince? Ours?” said many voices, and the men were in such haste to clear out that the prince could hardly stop them. He decided that he would rather wash himself with water in the barn.
“Flesh, bodies, cannon fodder!” he thought, and he looked at his own naked body and shuddered, not from cold but from a sense of disgust and horror he did not himself understand, aroused by the sight of that immense number of bodies splashing about in the dirty pond.
On the seventh of August Prince Bagratión wrote as follows from his quarters at Mikháylovna on the Smolénsk road:
Dear Count Aléxis Andréevich—(He was writing to Arakchéev but knew that his letter would be read by the Emperor, and therefore weighed every word in it to the best of his ability.)
I expect the Minister (Barclay de Tolly) has already reported the abandonment of Smolénsk to the enemy. It is pitiable and sad, and the whole army is in despair that this most important place has been wantonly abandoned. I, for my part, begged him personally most urgently and finally wrote him, but nothing would induce him to consent. I swear to you on my honor that Napoleon was in such a fix as never before and might have lost half his army but could not have taken Smolénsk. Our troops fought, and are fighting, as never before. With fifteen thousand men I held the enemy at bay for thirty-five hours and beat him; but he would not hold out even for fourteen hours. It is disgraceful, a stain on our army, and as for him, he ought, it seems to me, not to live. If he reports that our losses were great, it is not true; perhaps about four thousand, not more, and not even that; but even were they ten thousand, that’s war! But the enemy has lost masses....
What would it have cost him to hold out for another two days? They would have had to retire of their own accord, for they had no water for men or horses. He gave me his word he would not retreat, but suddenly sent instructions that he was retiring that night. We cannot fight in this way, or we may soon bring the enemy to Moscow....
There is a rumor that you are thinking of peace. God forbid that you should make peace after all our sacrifices and such insane retreats! You would set all Russia against you and everyone of us would feel ashamed to wear the uniform. If it has come to this—we must fight as long as Russia can and as long as there are men able to stand....
One man ought to be in command, and not two. Your Minister may perhaps be good as a Minister, but as a general he is not merely bad but execrable, yet to him is entrusted the fate of our whole country.... I am really frantic with vexation; forgive my writing boldly. It is clear that the man who advocates the conclusion of a peace, and that the Minister should command the army, does not love our sovereign and desires the ruin of us all. So I write you frankly: call out the militia. For the Minister is leading these visitors after him to Moscow in a most masterly way. The whole army feels great suspicion of the Imperial aide-de-camp Wolzogen. He is said to be more Napoleon’s man than ours, and he is always advising the Minister. I am not merely civil to him but obey him like a corporal, though I am his senior. This is painful, but, loving my benefactor and sovereign, I submit. Only I am sorry for the Emperor that he entrusts our fine army to such as he. Consider that on our retreat we have lost by fatigue and left in the hospital more than fifteen thousand men, and had we attacked this would not have happened. Tell me, for God’s sake, what will Russia, our mother Russia, say to our being so frightened, and why are we abandoning our good and gallant Fatherland to such rabble and implanting feelings of hatred and shame in all our subjects? What are we scared at and of whom are we afraid? I am not to blame that the Minister is vacillating, a coward, dense, dilatory, and has all bad qualities. The whole army bewails it and calls down curses upon him....
Among the innumerable categories applicable to the phenomena of human life one may discriminate between those in which substance prevails and those in which form prevails. To the latter—as distinguished from village, country, provincial, or even Moscow life—we may allot Petersburg life, and especially the life of its salons. That life of the salons is unchanging. Since the year 1805 we had made peace and had again quarreled with Bonaparte and had made constitutions and unmade them again, but the salons of Anna Pávlovna and Hélène remained just as they had been—the one seven and the other five years before. At Anna Pávlovna’s they talked with perplexity of Bonaparte’s successes just as before and saw in them and in the subservience shown to him by the European sovereigns a malicious conspiracy, the sole object of which was to cause unpleasantness and anxiety to the court circle of which Anna Pávlovna was the representative. And in Hélène’s salon, which Rumyántsev himself honored with his visits, regarding Hélène as a remarkably intelligent woman, they talked with the same ecstasy in 1812 as in 1808 of the “great nation” and the “great man,” and regretted our rupture with France, a rupture which, according to them, ought to be promptly terminated by peace.
Of late, since the Emperor’s return from the army, there had been some excitement in these conflicting salon circles and some demonstrations of hostility to one another, but each camp retained its own tendency. In Anna Pávlovna’s circle only those Frenchmen were admitted who were deep-rooted legitimists, and patriotic views were expressed to the effect that one ought not to go to the French theater and that to maintain the French troupe was costing the government as much as a whole army corps. The progress of the war was eagerly followed, and only the reports most flattering to our army were circulated. In the French circle of Hélène and Rumyántsev the reports of the cruelty of the enemy and of the war were contradicted and all Napoleon’s attempts at conciliation were discussed. In that circle they discountenanced those who advised hurried preparations for a removal to Kazán of the court and the girls’ educational establishments under the patronage of the Dowager Empress. In Hélène’s circle the war in general was regarded as a series of formal demonstrations which would very soon end in peace, and the view prevailed expressed by Bilíbin—who now in Petersburg was quite at home in Hélène’s house, which every clever man was obliged to visit—that not by gunpowder but by those who invented it would matters be settled. In that circle the Moscow enthusiasm—news of which had reached Petersburg simultaneously with the Emperor’s return—was ridiculed sarcastically and very cleverly, though with much caution.
Anna Pávlovna’s circle on the contrary was enraptured by this enthusiasm and spoke of it as Plutarch speaks of the deeds of the ancients. Prince Vasíli, who still occupied his former important posts, formed a connecting link between these two circles. He visited his “good friend Anna Pávlovna” as well as his daughter’s “diplomatic salon,” and often in his constant comings and goings between the two camps became confused and said at Hélène’s what he should have said at Anna Pávlovna’s and vice versa.
Soon after the Emperor’s return Prince Vasíli in a conversation about the war at Anna Pávlovna’s severely condemned Barclay de Tolly, but was undecided as to who ought to be appointed commander in chief. One of the visitors, usually spoken of as “a man of great merit,” having described how he had that day seen Kutúzov, the newly chosen chief of the Petersburg militia, presiding over the enrollment of recruits at the Treasury, cautiously ventured to suggest that Kutúzov would be the man to satisfy all requirements.
Anna Pávlovna remarked with a melancholy smile that Kutúzov had done nothing but cause the Emperor annoyance.
“I have talked and talked at the Assembly of the Nobility,” Prince Vasíli interrupted, “but they did not listen to me. I told them his election as chief of the militia would not please the Emperor. They did not listen to me.
“It’s all this mania for opposition,” he went on. “And who for? It is all because we want to ape the foolish enthusiasm of those Muscovites,” Prince Vasíli continued, forgetting for a moment that though at Hélène’s one had to ridicule the Moscow enthusiasm, at Anna Pávlovna’s one had to be ecstatic about it. But he retrieved his mistake at once. “Now, is it suitable that Count Kutúzov, the oldest general in Russia, should preside at that tribunal? He will get nothing for his pains! How could they make a man commander in chief who cannot mount a horse, who drops asleep at a council, and has the very worst morals! A good reputation he made for himself at Bucharest! I don’t speak of his capacity as a general, but at a time like this how they appoint a decrepit, blind old man, positively blind? A fine idea to have a blind general! He can’t see anything. To play blindman’s buff? He can’t see at all!”
No one replied to his remarks.
This was quite correct on the twenty-fourth of July. But on the twenty-ninth of July Kutúzov received the title of Prince. This might indicate a wish to get rid of him, and therefore Prince Vasíli’s opinion continued to be correct though he was not now in any hurry to express it. But on the eighth of August a committee, consisting of Field Marshal Saltykóv, Arakchéev, Vyazmítinov, Lopukhín, and Kochubéy met to consider the progress of the war. This committee came to the conclusion that our failures were due to a want of unity in the command and though the members of the committee were aware of the Emperor’s dislike of Kutúzov, after a short deliberation they agreed to advise his appointment as commander in chief. That same day Kutúzov was appointed commander in chief with full powers over the armies and over the whole region occupied by them.
On the ninth of August Prince Vasíli at Anna Pávlovna’s again met the “man of great merit.” The latter was very attentive to Anna Pávlovna because he wanted to be appointed director of one of the educational establishments for young ladies. Prince Vasíli entered the room with the air of a happy conqueror who has attained the object of his desires.
“Well, have you heard the great news? Prince Kutúzov is field marshal! All dissensions are at an end! I am so glad, so delighted! At last we have a man!” said he, glancing sternly and significantly round at everyone in the drawing room.
The “man of great merit,” despite his desire to obtain the post of director, could not refrain from reminding Prince Vasíli of his former opinion. Though this was impolite to Prince Vasíli in Anna Pávlovna’s drawing room, and also to Anna Pávlovna herself who had received the news with delight, he could not resist the temptation.
“But, Prince, they say he is blind!” said he, reminding Prince Vasíli of his own words.
“Eh? Nonsense! He sees well enough,” said Prince Vasíli rapidly, in a deep voice and with a slight cough—the voice and cough with which he was wont to dispose of all difficulties.
“He sees well enough,” he added. “And what I am so pleased about,” he went on, “is that our sovereign has given him full powers over all the armies and the whole region—powers no commander in chief ever had before. He is a second autocrat,” he concluded with a victorious smile.
“God grant it! God grant it!” said Anna Pávlovna.
The “man of great merit,” who was still a novice in court circles, wishing to flatter Anna Pávlovna by defending her former position on this question, observed:
“It is said that the Emperor was reluctant to give Kutúzov those powers. They say he blushed like a girl to whom Joconde is read, when he said to Kutúzov: ‘Your Emperor and the Fatherland award you this honor.’”
“Perhaps the heart took no part in that speech,” said Anna Pávlovna.
“Oh, no, no!” warmly rejoined Prince Vasíli, who would not now yield Kutúzov to anyone; in his opinion Kutúzov was not only admirable himself, but was adored by everybody. “No, that’s impossible,” said he, “for our sovereign appreciated him so highly before.”
“God grant only that Prince Kutúzov assumes real power and does not allow anyone to put a spoke in his wheel,” observed Anna Pávlovna.
Understanding at once to whom she alluded, Prince Vasíli said in a whisper:
“I know for a fact that Kutúzov made it an absolute condition that the Tsarévich should not be with the army. Do you know what he said to the Emperor?”
And Prince Vasíli repeated the words supposed to have been spoken by Kutúzov to the Emperor. “I can neither punish him if he does wrong nor reward him if he does right.”
“Oh, a very wise man is Prince Kutúzov! I have known him a long time!”
“They even say,” remarked the “man of great merit” who did not yet possess courtly tact, “that his excellency made it an express condition that the sovereign himself should not be with the army.”
As soon as he said this both Prince Vasíli and Anna Pávlovna turned away from him and glanced sadly at one another with a sigh at his naïveté.
While this was taking place in Petersburg the French had already passed Smolénsk and were drawing nearer and nearer to Moscow. Napoleon’s historian Thiers, like other of his historians, trying to justify his hero says that he was drawn to the walls of Moscow against his will. He is as right as other historians who look for the explanation of historic events in the will of one man; he is as right as the Russian historians who maintain that Napoleon was drawn to Moscow by the skill of the Russian commanders. Here besides the law of retrospection, which regards all the past as a preparation for events that subsequently occur, the law of reciprocity comes in, confusing the whole matter. A good chessplayer having lost a game is sincerely convinced that his loss resulted from a mistake he made and looks for that mistake in the opening, but forgets that at each stage of the game there were similar mistakes and that none of his moves were perfect. He only notices the mistake to which he pays attention, because his opponent took advantage of it. How much more complex than this is the game of war, which occurs under certain limits of time, and where it is not one will that manipulates lifeless objects, but everything results from innumerable conflicts of various wills!
After Smolénsk Napoleon sought a battle beyond Dorogobúzh at Vyázma, and then at Tsárevo-Zaymíshche, but it happened that owing to a conjunction of innumerable circumstances the Russians could not give battle till they reached Borodinó, seventy miles from Moscow. From Vyázma Napoleon ordered a direct advance on Moscow.
Moscou, la capitale asiatique de ce grand empire, la ville sacrée des peuples d’Alexandre, Moscou avec ses innombrables églises en forme de pagodes chinoises, * this Moscow gave Napoleon’s imagination no rest. On the march from Vyázma to Tsárevo-Zaymíshche he rode his light bay bobtailed ambler accompanied by his Guards, his bodyguard, his pages, and aides-de-camp. Berthier, his chief of staff, dropped behind to question a Russian prisoner captured by the cavalry. Followed by Lelorgne d’Ideville, an interpreter, he overtook Napoleon at a gallop and reined in his horse with an amused expression.
sacred city of Alexander’s people, Moscow with its
innumerable churches shaped like Chinese pagodas.”
“Well?” asked Napoleon.
“One of Plátov’s Cossacks says that Plátov’s corps is joining up with the main army and that Kutúzov has been appointed commander in chief. He is a very shrewd and garrulous fellow.”
Napoleon smiled and told them to give the Cossack a horse and bring the man to him. He wished to talk to him himself. Several adjutants galloped off, and an hour later, Lavrúshka, the serf Denísov had handed over to Rostóv, rode up to Napoleon in an orderly’s jacket and on a French cavalry saddle, with a merry, and tipsy face. Napoleon told him to ride by his side and began questioning him.
“You are a Cossack?”
“Yes, a Cossack, your Honor.”
“The Cossack, not knowing in what company he was, for Napoleon’s plain appearance had nothing about it that would reveal to an Oriental mind the presence of a monarch, talked with extreme familiarity of the incidents of the war,” says Thiers, narrating this episode. In reality Lavrúshka, having got drunk the day before and left his master dinnerless, had been whipped and sent to the village in quest of chickens, where he engaged in looting till the French took him prisoner. Lavrúshka was one of those coarse, bare-faced lackeys who have seen all sorts of things, consider it necessary to do everything in a mean and cunning way, are ready to render any sort of service to their master, and are keen at guessing their master’s baser impulses, especially those prompted by vanity and pettiness.
Finding himself in the company of Napoleon, whose identity he had easily and surely recognized, Lavrúshka was not in the least abashed but merely did his utmost to gain his new master’s favor.
He knew very well that this was Napoleon, but Napoleon’s presence could no more intimidate him than Rostóv’s, or a sergeant major’s with the rods, would have done, for he had nothing that either the sergeant major or Napoleon could deprive him of.
So he rattled on, telling all the gossip he had heard among the orderlies. Much of it true. But when Napoleon asked him whether the Russians thought they would beat Bonaparte or not, Lavrúshka screwed up his eyes and considered.
In this question he saw subtle cunning, as men of his type see cunning in everything, so he frowned and did not answer immediately.
“It’s like this,” he said thoughtfully, “if there’s a battle soon, yours will win. That’s right. But if three days pass, then after that, well, then that same battle will not soon be over.”
Lelorgne d’Ideville smilingly interpreted this speech to Napoleon thus: “If a battle takes place within the next three days the French will win, but if later, God knows what will happen.” Napoleon did not smile, though he was evidently in high good humor, and he ordered these words to be repeated.
Lavrúshka noticed this and to entertain him further, pretending not to know who Napoleon was, added:
“We know that you have Bonaparte and that he has beaten everybody in the world, but we are a different matter...”—without knowing why or how this bit of boastful patriotism slipped out at the end.
The interpreter translated these words without the last phrase, and Bonaparte smiled. “The young Cossack made his mighty interlocutor smile,” says Thiers. After riding a few paces in silence, Napoleon turned to Berthier and said he wished to see how the news that he was talking to the Emperor himself, to that very Emperor who had written his immortally victorious name on the Pyramids, would affect this enfant du Don. *
The fact was accordingly conveyed to Lavrúshka.
Lavrúshka, understanding that this was done to perplex him and that Napoleon expected him to be frightened, to gratify his new masters promptly pretended to be astonished and awe-struck, opened his eyes wide, and assumed the expression he usually put on when taken to be whipped. “As soon as Napoleon’s interpreter had spoken,” says Thiers, “the Cossack, seized by amazement, did not utter another word, but rode on, his eyes fixed on the conqueror whose fame had reached him across the steppes of the East. All his loquacity was suddenly arrested and replaced by a naïve and silent feeling of admiration. Napoleon, after making the Cossack a present, had him set free like a bird restored to its native fields.”
Napoleon rode on, dreaming of the Moscow that so appealed to his imagination, and “the bird restored to its native fields” galloped to our outposts, inventing on the way all that had not taken place but that he meant to relate to his comrades. What had really taken place he did not wish to relate because it seemed to him not worth telling. He found the Cossacks, inquired for the regiment operating with Plátov’s detachment and by evening found his master, Nicholas Rostóv, quartered at Yankóvo. Rostóv was just mounting to go for a ride round the neighboring villages with Ilyín; he let Lavrúshka have another horse and took him along with him.
Princess Mary was not in Moscow and out of danger as Prince Andrew supposed.
After the return of Alpátych from Smolénsk the old prince suddenly seemed to awake as from a dream. He ordered the militiamen to be called up from the villages and armed, and wrote a letter to the commander in chief informing him that he had resolved to remain at Bald Hills to the last extremity and to defend it, leaving to the commander in chief’s discretion to take measures or not for the defense of Bald Hills, where one of Russia’s oldest generals would be captured or killed, and he announced to his household that he would remain at Bald Hills.
But while himself remaining, he gave instructions for the departure of the princess and Dessalles with the little prince to Boguchárovo and thence to Moscow. Princess Mary, alarmed by her father’s feverish and sleepless activity after his previous apathy, could not bring herself to leave him alone and for the first time in her life ventured to disobey him. She refused to go away and her father’s fury broke over her in a terrible storm. He repeated every injustice he had ever inflicted on her. Trying to convict her, he told her she had worn him out, had caused his quarrel with his son, had harbored nasty suspicions of him, making it the object of her life to poison his existence, and he drove her from his study telling her that if she did not go away it was all the same to him. He declared that he did not wish to remember her existence and warned her not to dare to let him see her. The fact that he did not, as she had feared, order her to be carried away by force but only told her not to let him see her cheered Princess Mary. She knew it was a proof that in the depth of his soul he was glad she was remaining at home and had not gone away.
The morning after little Nicholas had left, the old prince donned his full uniform and prepared to visit the commander in chief. His calèche was already at the door. Princess Mary saw him walk out of the house in his uniform wearing all his orders and go down the garden to review his armed peasants and domestic serfs. She sat by the window listening to his voice which reached her from the garden. Suddenly several men came running up the avenue with frightened faces.
Princess Mary ran out to the porch, down the flower-bordered path, and into the avenue. A large crowd of militiamen and domestics were moving toward her, and in their midst several men were supporting by the armpits and dragging along a little old man in a uniform and decorations. She ran up to him and, in the play of the sunlight that fell in small round spots through the shade of the lime-tree avenue, could not be sure what change there was in his face. All she could see was that his former stern and determined expression had altered to one of timidity and submission. On seeing his daughter he moved his helpless lips and made a hoarse sound. It was impossible to make out what he wanted. He was lifted up, carried to his study, and laid on the very couch he had so feared of late.
The doctor, who was fetched that same night, bled him and said that the prince had had a seizure paralyzing his right side.
It was becoming more and more dangerous to remain at Bald Hills, and next day they moved the prince to Boguchárovo, the doctor accompanying him.
By the time they reached Boguchárovo, Dessalles and the little prince had already left for Moscow.
For three weeks the old prince lay stricken by paralysis in the new house Prince Andrew had built at Boguchárovo, ever in the same state, getting neither better nor worse. He was unconscious and lay like a distorted corpse. He muttered unceasingly, his eyebrows and lips twitching, and it was impossible to tell whether he understood what was going on around him or not. One thing was certain—that he was suffering and wished to say something. But what it was, no one could tell: it might be some caprice of a sick and half-crazy man, or it might relate to public affairs, or possibly to family concerns.
The doctor said this restlessness did not mean anything and was due to physical causes; but Princess Mary thought he wished to tell her something, and the fact that her presence always increased his restlessness confirmed her opinion.
He was evidently suffering both physically and mentally. There was no hope of recovery. It was impossible for him to travel, it would not do to let him die on the road. “Would it not be better if the end did come, the very end?” Princess Mary sometimes thought. Night and day, hardly sleeping at all, she watched him and, terrible to say, often watched him not with hope of finding signs of improvement but wishing to find symptoms of the approach of the end.
Strange as it was to her to acknowledge this feeling in herself, yet there it was. And what seemed still more terrible to her was that since her father’s illness began (perhaps even sooner, when she stayed with him expecting something to happen), all the personal desires and hopes that had been forgotten or sleeping within her had awakened. Thoughts that had not entered her mind for years—thoughts of a life free from the fear of her father, and even the possibility of love and of family happiness—floated continually in her imagination like temptations of the devil. Thrust them aside as she would, questions continually recurred to her as to how she would order her life now, after that. These were temptations of the devil and Princess Mary knew it. She knew that the sole weapon against him was prayer, and she tried to pray. She assumed an attitude of prayer, looked at the icons, repeated the words of a prayer, but she could not pray. She felt that a different world had now taken possession of her—the life of a world of strenuous and free activity, quite opposed to the spiritual world in which till now she had been confined and in which her greatest comfort had been prayer. She could not pray, could not weep, and worldly cares took possession of her.
It was becoming dangerous to remain in Boguchárovo. News of the approach of the French came from all sides, and in one village, ten miles from Boguchárovo, a homestead had been looted by French marauders.
The doctor insisted on the necessity of moving the prince; the provincial Marshal of the Nobility sent an official to Princess Mary to persuade her to get away as quickly as possible, and the head of the rural police having come to Boguchárovo urged the same thing, saying that the French were only some twenty-five miles away, that French proclamations were circulating in the villages, and that if the princess did not take her father away before the fifteenth, he could not answer for the consequences.
The princess decided to leave on the fifteenth. The cares of preparation and giving orders, for which everyone came to her, occupied her all day. She spent the night of the fourteenth as usual, without undressing, in the room next to the one where the prince lay. Several times, waking up, she heard his groans and muttering, the creak of his bed, and the steps of Tíkhon and the doctor when they turned him over. Several times she listened at the door, and it seemed to her that his mutterings were louder than usual and that they turned him over oftener. She could not sleep and several times went to the door and listened, wishing to enter but not deciding to do so. Though he did not speak, Princess Mary saw and knew how unpleasant every sign of anxiety on his account was to him. She had noticed with what dissatisfaction he turned from the look she sometimes involuntarily fixed on him. She knew that her going in during the night at an unusual hour would irritate him.
But never had she felt so grieved for him or so much afraid of losing him. She recalled all her life with him and in every word and act of his found an expression of his love of her. Occasionally amid these memories temptations of the devil would surge into her imagination: thoughts of how things would be after his death, and how her new, liberated life would be ordered. But she drove these thoughts away with disgust. Toward morning he became quiet and she fell asleep.
She woke late. That sincerity which often comes with waking showed her clearly what chiefly concerned her about her father’s illness. On waking she listened to what was going on behind the door and, hearing him groan, said to herself with a sigh that things were still the same.
“But what could have happened? What did I want? I want his death!” she cried with a feeling of loathing for herself.
She washed, dressed, said her prayers, and went out to the porch. In front of it stood carriages without horses and things were being packed into the vehicles.
It was a warm, gray morning. Princess Mary stopped at the porch, still horrified by her spiritual baseness and trying to arrange her thoughts before going to her father. The doctor came downstairs and went out to her.
“He is a little better today,” said he. “I was looking for you. One can make out something of what he is saying. His head is clearer. Come in, he is asking for you....”
Princess Mary’s heart beat so violently at this news that she grew pale and leaned against the wall to keep from falling. To see him, talk to him, feel his eyes on her now that her whole soul was overflowing with those dreadful, wicked temptations, was a torment of joy and terror.
“Come,” said the doctor.
Princess Mary entered her father’s room and went up to his bed. He was lying on his back propped up high, and his small bony hands with their knotted purple veins were lying on the quilt; his left eye gazed straight before him, his right eye was awry, and his brows and lips motionless. He seemed altogether so thin, small, and pathetic. His face seemed to have shriveled or melted; his features had grown smaller. Princess Mary went up and kissed his hand. His left hand pressed hers so that she understood that he had long been waiting for her to come. He twitched her hand, and his brows and lips quivered angrily.
She looked at him in dismay trying to guess what he wanted of her. When she changed her position so that his left eye could see her face he calmed down, not taking his eyes off her for some seconds. Then his lips and tongue moved, sounds came, and he began to speak, gazing timidly and imploringly at her, evidently afraid that she might not understand.
Straining all her faculties Princess Mary looked at him. The comic efforts with which he moved his tongue made her drop her eyes and with difficulty repress the sobs that rose to her throat. He said something, repeating the same words several times. She could not understand them, but tried to guess what he was saying and inquiringly repeated the words he uttered.
“Mmm...ar...ate...ate...” he repeated several times.
It was quite impossible to understand these sounds. The doctor thought he had guessed them, and inquiringly repeated: “Mary, are you afraid?” The prince shook his head, again repeated the same sounds.
“My mind, my mind aches?” questioned Princess Mary.
He made a mumbling sound in confirmation of this, took her hand, and began pressing it to different parts of his breast as if trying to find the right place for it.
“Always thoughts... about you... thoughts...” he then uttered much more clearly than he had done before, now that he was sure of being understood.
Princess Mary pressed her head against his hand, trying to hide her sobs and tears.
He moved his hand over her hair.
“I have been calling you all night...” he brought out.
“If only I had known...” she said through her tears. “I was afraid to come in.”
He pressed her hand.
“Weren’t you asleep?”
“No, I did not sleep,” said Princess Mary, shaking her head.
Unconsciously imitating her father, she now tried to express herself as he did, as much as possible by signs, and her tongue too seemed to move with difficulty.
“Dear one... Dearest...” Princess Mary could not quite make out what he had said, but from his look it was clear that he had uttered a tender caressing word such as he had never used to her before. “Why didn’t you come in?”
“And I was wishing for his death!” thought Princess Mary.
He was silent awhile.
“Thank you... daughter dear!... for all, for all... forgive!... thank you!... forgive!... thank you!...” and tears began to flow from his eyes. “Call Andrew!” he said suddenly, and a childish, timid expression of doubt showed itself on his face as he spoke.
He himself seemed aware that his demand was meaningless. So at least it seemed to Princess Mary.
“I have a letter from him,” she replied.
He glanced at her with timid surprise.
“Where is he?”
“He’s with the army, Father, at Smolénsk.”
He closed his eyes and remained silent a long time. Then as if in answer to his doubts and to confirm the fact that now he understood and remembered everything, he nodded his head and reopened his eyes.
“Yes,” he said, softly and distinctly. “Russia has perished. They’ve destroyed her.”
And he began to sob, and again tears flowed from his eyes. Princess Mary could no longer restrain herself and wept while she gazed at his face.
Again he closed his eyes. His sobs ceased, he pointed to his eyes, and Tíkhon, understanding him, wiped away the tears.
Then he again opened his eyes and said something none of them could understand for a long time, till at last Tíkhon understood and repeated it. Princess Mary had sought the meaning of his words in the mood in which he had just been speaking. She thought he was speaking of Russia, or Prince Andrew, of herself, of his grandson, or of his own death, and so she could not guess his words.
“Put on your white dress. I like it,” was what he said.
Having understood this Princess Mary sobbed still louder, and the doctor taking her arm led her out to the veranda, soothing her and trying to persuade her to prepare for her journey. When she had left the room the prince again began speaking about his son, about the war, and about the Emperor, angrily twitching his brows and raising his hoarse voice, and then he had a second and final stroke.
Princess Mary stayed on the veranda. The day had cleared, it was hot and sunny. She could understand nothing, think of nothing and feel nothing, except passionate love for her father, love such as she thought she had never felt till that moment. She ran out sobbing into the garden and as far as the pond, along the avenues of young lime trees Prince Andrew had planted.
“Yes... I... I... I wished for his death! Yes, I wanted it to end quicker.... I wished to be at peace.... And what will become of me? What use will peace be when he is no longer here?” Princess Mary murmured, pacing the garden with hurried steps and pressing her hands to her bosom which heaved with convulsive sobs.
When she had completed the tour of the garden, which brought her again to the house, she saw Mademoiselle Bourienne—who had remained at Boguchárovo and did not wish to leave it—coming toward her with a stranger. This was the Marshal of the Nobility of the district, who had come personally to point out to the princess the necessity for her prompt departure. Princess Mary listened without understanding him; she led him to the house, offered him lunch, and sat down with him. Then, excusing herself, she went to the door of the old prince’s room. The doctor came out with an agitated face and said she could not enter.
“Go away, Princess! Go away... go away!”
She returned to the garden and sat down on the grass at the foot of the slope by the pond, where no one could see her. She did not know how long she had been there when she was aroused by the sound of a woman’s footsteps running along the path. She rose and saw Dunyásha her maid, who was evidently looking for her, and who stopped suddenly as if in alarm on seeing her mistress.
“Please come, Princess... The Prince,” said Dunyásha in a breaking voice.
“Immediately, I’m coming, I’m coming!” replied the princess hurriedly, not giving Dunyásha time to finish what she was saying, and trying to avoid seeing the girl she ran toward the house.
“Princess, it’s God’s will! You must be prepared for everything,” said the Marshal, meeting her at the house door.
“Let me alone; it’s not true!” she cried angrily to him.
The doctor tried to stop her. She pushed him aside and ran to her father’s door. “Why are these people with frightened faces stopping me? I don’t want any of them! And what are they doing here?” she thought. She opened the door and the bright daylight in that previously darkened room startled her. In the room were her nurse and other women. They all drew back from the bed, making way for her. He was still lying on the bed as before, but the stern expression of his quiet face made Princess Mary stop short on the threshold.
“No, he’s not dead—it’s impossible!” she told herself and approached him, and repressing the terror that seized her, she pressed her lips to his cheek. But she stepped back immediately. All the force of the tenderness she had been feeling for him vanished instantly and was replaced by a feeling of horror at what lay there before her. “No, he is no more! He is not, but here where he was is something unfamiliar and hostile, some dreadful, terrifying, and repellent mystery!” And hiding her face in her hands, Princess Mary sank into the arms of the doctor, who held her up.
In the presence of Tíkhon and the doctor the women washed what had been the prince, tied his head up with a handkerchief that the mouth should not stiffen while open, and with another handkerchief tied together the legs that were already spreading apart. Then they dressed him in uniform with his decorations and placed his shriveled little body on a table. Heaven only knows who arranged all this and when, but it all got done as if of its own accord. Toward night candles were burning round his coffin, a pall was spread over it, the floor was strewn with sprays of juniper, a printed band was tucked in under his shriveled head, and in a corner of the room sat a chanter reading the psalms.
Just as horses shy and snort and gather about a dead horse, so the inmates of the house and strangers crowded into the drawing room round the coffin—the Marshal, the village Elder, peasant women—and all with fixed and frightened eyes, crossing themselves, bowed and kissed the old prince’s cold and stiffened hand.