In June the battle of Friedland was fought, in which the Pávlograds did not take part, and after that an armistice was proclaimed. Rostóv, who felt his friend’s absence very much, having no news of him since he left and feeling very anxious about his wound and the progress of his affairs, took advantage of the armistice to get leave to visit Denísov in hospital.
The hospital was in a small Prussian town that had been twice devastated by Russian and French troops. Because it was summer, when it is so beautiful out in the fields, the little town presented a particularly dismal appearance with its broken roofs and fences, its foul streets, tattered inhabitants, and the sick and drunken soldiers wandering about.
The hospital was in a brick building with some of the window frames and panes broken and a courtyard surrounded by the remains of a wooden fence that had been pulled to pieces. Several bandaged soldiers, with pale swollen faces, were sitting or walking about in the sunshine in the yard.
Directly Rostóv entered the door he was enveloped by a smell of putrefaction and hospital air. On the stairs he met a Russian army doctor smoking a cigar. The doctor was followed by a Russian assistant.
“I can’t tear myself to pieces,” the doctor was saying. “Come to Makár Alexéevich in the evening. I shall be there.”
The assistant asked some further questions.
“Oh, do the best you can! Isn’t it all the same?” The doctor noticed Rostóv coming upstairs.
“What do you want, sir?” said the doctor. “What do you want? The bullets having spared you, do you want to try typhus? This is a pesthouse, sir.”
“How so?” asked Rostóv.
“Typhus, sir. It’s death to go in. Only we two, Makéev and I” (he pointed to the assistant), “keep on here. Some five of us doctors have died in this place.... When a new one comes he is done for in a week,” said the doctor with evident satisfaction. “Prussian doctors have been invited here, but our allies don’t like it at all.”
Rostóv explained that he wanted to see Major Denísov of the hussars, who was wounded.
“I don’t know. I can’t tell you, sir. Only think! I am alone in charge of three hospitals with more than four hundred patients! It’s well that the charitable Prussian ladies send us two pounds of coffee and some lint each month or we should be lost!” he laughed. “Four hundred, sir, and they’re always sending me fresh ones. There are four hundred? Eh?” he asked, turning to the assistant.
The assistant looked fagged out. He was evidently vexed and impatient for the talkative doctor to go.
“Major Denísov,” Rostóv said again. “He was wounded at Molliten.”
“Dead, I fancy. Eh, Makéev?” queried the doctor, in a tone of indifference.
The assistant, however, did not confirm the doctor’s words.
“Is he tall and with reddish hair?” asked the doctor.
Rostóv described Denísov’s appearance.
“There was one like that,” said the doctor, as if pleased. “That one is dead, I fancy. However, I’ll look up our list. We had a list. Have you got it, Makéev?”
“Makár Alexéevich has the list,” answered the assistant. “But if you’ll step into the officers’ wards you’ll see for yourself,” he added, turning to Rostóv.
“Ah, you’d better not go, sir,” said the doctor, “or you may have to stay here yourself.”
But Rostóv bowed himself away from the doctor and asked the assistant to show him the way.
“Only don’t blame me!” the doctor shouted up after him.
Rostóv and the assistant went into the dark corridor. The smell was so strong there that Rostóv held his nose and had to pause and collect his strength before he could go on. A door opened to the right, and an emaciated sallow man on crutches, barefoot and in underclothing, limped out and, leaning against the doorpost, looked with glittering envious eyes at those who were passing. Glancing in at the door, Rostóv saw that the sick and wounded were lying on the floor on straw and overcoats.
“May I go in and look?”
“What is there to see?” said the assistant.
But, just because the assistant evidently did not want him to go in, Rostóv entered the soldiers’ ward. The foul air, to which he had already begun to get used in the corridor, was still stronger here. It was a little different, more pungent, and one felt that this was where it originated.
In the long room, brightly lit up by the sun through the large windows, the sick and wounded lay in two rows with their heads to the walls, and leaving a passage in the middle. Most of them were unconscious and paid no attention to the newcomers. Those who were conscious raised themselves or lifted their thin yellow faces, and all looked intently at Rostóv with the same expression of hope, of relief, reproach, and envy of another’s health. Rostóv went to the middle of the room and looking through the open doors into the two adjoining rooms saw the same thing there. He stood still, looking silently around. He had not at all expected such a sight. Just before him, almost across the middle of the passage on the bare floor, lay a sick man, probably a Cossack to judge by the cut of his hair. The man lay on his back, his huge arms and legs outstretched. His face was purple, his eyes were rolled back so that only the whites were seen, and on his bare legs and arms which were still red, the veins stood out like cords. He was knocking the back of his head against the floor, hoarsely uttering some word which he kept repeating. Rostóv listened and made out the word. It was “drink, drink, a drink!” Rostóv glanced round, looking for someone who would put this man back in his place and bring him water.
“Who looks after the sick here?” he asked the assistant.
Just then a commissariat soldier, a hospital orderly, came in from the next room, marching stiffly, and drew up in front of Rostóv.
“Good day, your honor!” he shouted, rolling his eyes at Rostóv and evidently mistaking him for one of the hospital authorities.
“Get him to his place and give him some water,” said Rostóv, pointing to the Cossack.
“Yes, your honor,” the soldier replied complacently, and rolling his eyes more than ever he drew himself up still straighter, but did not move.
“No, it’s impossible to do anything here,” thought Rostóv, lowering his eyes, and he was going out, but became aware of an intense look fixed on him on his right, and he turned. Close to the corner, on an overcoat, sat an old, unshaven, gray-bearded soldier as thin as a skeleton, with a stern sallow face and eyes intently fixed on Rostóv. The man’s neighbor on one side whispered something to him, pointing at Rostóv, who noticed that the old man wanted to speak to him. He drew nearer and saw that the old man had only one leg bent under him, the other had been amputated above the knee. His neighbor on the other side, who lay motionless some distance from him with his head thrown back, was a young soldier with a snub nose. His pale waxen face was still freckled and his eyes were rolled back. Rostóv looked at the young soldier and a cold chill ran down his back.
“Why, this one seems...” he began, turning to the assistant.
“And how we’ve been begging, your honor,” said the old soldier, his jaw quivering. “He’s been dead since morning. After all we’re men, not dogs.”
“I’ll send someone at once. He shall be taken away—taken away at once,” said the assistant hurriedly. “Let us go, your honor.”
“Yes, yes, let us go,” said Rostóv hastily, and lowering his eyes and shrinking, he tried to pass unnoticed between the rows of reproachful envious eyes that were fixed upon him, and went out of the room.
Going along the corridor, the assistant led Rostóv to the officers’ wards, consisting of three rooms, the doors of which stood open. There were beds in these rooms and the sick and wounded officers were lying or sitting on them. Some were walking about the rooms in hospital dressing gowns. The first person Rostóv met in the officers’ ward was a thin little man with one arm, who was walking about the first room in a nightcap and hospital dressing gown, with a pipe between his teeth. Rostóv looked at him, trying to remember where he had seen him before.
“See where we’ve met again!” said the little man. “Túshin, Túshin, don’t you remember, who gave you a lift at Schön Grabern? And I’ve had a bit cut off, you see...” he went on with a smile, pointing to the empty sleeve of his dressing gown. “Looking for Vasíli Dmítrich Denísov? My neighbor,” he added, when he heard who Rostóv wanted. “Here, here,” and Túshin led him into the next room, from whence came sounds of several laughing voices.
“How can they laugh, or even live at all here?” thought Rostóv, still aware of that smell of decomposing flesh that had been so strong in the soldiers’ ward, and still seeming to see fixed on him those envious looks which had followed him out from both sides, and the face of that young soldier with eyes rolled back.
Denísov lay asleep on his bed with his head under the blanket, though it was nearly noon.
“Ah, Wostóv? How are you, how are you?” he called out, still in the same voice as in the regiment, but Rostóv noticed sadly that under this habitual ease and animation some new, sinister, hidden feeling showed itself in the expression of Denísov’s face and the intonations of his voice.
His wound, though a slight one, had not yet healed even now, six weeks after he had been hit. His face had the same swollen pallor as the faces of the other hospital patients, but it was not this that struck Rostóv. What struck him was that Denísov did not seem glad to see him, and smiled at him unnaturally. He did not ask about the regiment, nor about the general state of affairs, and when Rostóv spoke of these matters did not listen.
Rostóv even noticed that Denísov did not like to be reminded of the regiment, or in general of that other free life which was going on outside the hospital. He seemed to try to forget that old life and was only interested in the affair with the commissariat officers. On Rostóv’s inquiry as to how the matter stood, he at once produced from under his pillow a paper he had received from the commission and the rough draft of his answer to it. He became animated when he began reading his paper and specially drew Rostóv’s attention to the stinging rejoinders he made to his enemies. His hospital companions, who had gathered round Rostóv—a fresh arrival from the world outside—gradually began to disperse as soon as Denísov began reading his answer. Rostóv noticed by their faces that all those gentlemen had already heard that story more than once and were tired of it. Only the man who had the next bed, a stout Uhlan, continued to sit on his bed, gloomily frowning and smoking a pipe, and little one-armed Túshin still listened, shaking his head disapprovingly. In the middle of the reading, the Uhlan interrupted Denísov.
“But what I say is,” he said, turning to Rostóv, “it would be best simply to petition the Emperor for pardon. They say great rewards will now be distributed, and surely a pardon would be granted....”
“Me petition the Empewo’!” exclaimed Denísov, in a voice to which he tried hard to give the old energy and fire, but which sounded like an expression of irritable impotence. “What for? If I were a wobber I would ask mercy, but I’m being court-martialed for bwinging wobbers to book. Let them twy me, I’m not afwaid of anyone. I’ve served the Tsar and my countwy honowably and have not stolen! And am I to be degwaded?... Listen, I’m w’iting to them stwaight. This is what I say: ‘If I had wobbed the Tweasuwy...’”
“It’s certainly well written,” said Túshin, “but that’s not the point, Vasíli Dmítrich,” and he also turned to Rostóv. “One has to submit, and Vasíli Dmítrich doesn’t want to. You know the auditor told you it was a bad business.”
“Well, let it be bad,” said Denísov.
“The auditor wrote out a petition for you,” continued Túshin, “and you ought to sign it and ask this gentleman to take it. No doubt he” (indicating Rostóv) “has connections on the staff. You won’t find a better opportunity.”
“Haven’t I said I’m not going to gwovel?” Denísov interrupted him, went on reading his paper.
Rostóv had not the courage to persuade Denísov, though he instinctively felt that the way advised by Túshin and the other officers was the safest, and though he would have been glad to be of service to Denísov. He knew his stubborn will and straightforward hasty temper.
When the reading of Denísov’s virulent reply, which took more than an hour, was over, Rostóv said nothing, and he spent the rest of the day in a most dejected state of mind amid Denísov’s hospital comrades, who had gathered round him, telling them what he knew and listening to their stories. Denísov was moodily silent all the evening.
Late in the evening, when Rostóv was about to leave, he asked Denísov whether he had no commission for him.
“Yes, wait a bit,” said Denísov, glancing round at the officers, and taking his papers from under his pillow he went to the window, where he had an inkpot, and sat down to write.
“It seems it’s no use knocking one’s head against a wall!” he said, coming from the window and giving Rostóv a large envelope. In it was the petition to the Emperor drawn up by the auditor, in which Denísov, without alluding to the offenses of the commissariat officials, simply asked for pardon.
“Hand it in. It seems...”
He did not finish, but gave a painfully unnatural smile.
Having returned to the regiment and told the commander the state of Denísov’s affairs, Rostóv rode to Tilsit with the letter to the Emperor.
On the thirteenth of June the French and Russian Emperors arrived in Tilsit. Borís Drubetskóy had asked the important personage on whom he was in attendance, to include him in the suite appointed for the stay at Tilsit.
“I should like to see the great man,” he said, alluding to Napoleon, whom hitherto he, like everyone else, had always called Buonaparte.
“You are speaking of Buonaparte?” asked the general, smiling.
Borís looked at his general inquiringly and immediately saw that he was being tested.
“I am speaking, Prince, of the Emperor Napoleon,” he replied. The general patted him on the shoulder, with a smile.
“You will go far,” he said, and took him to Tilsit with him.
Borís was among the few present at the Niemen on the day the two Emperors met. He saw the raft, decorated with monograms, saw Napoleon pass before the French Guards on the farther bank of the river, saw the pensive face of the Emperor Alexander as he sat in silence in a tavern on the bank of the Niemen awaiting Napoleon’s arrival, saw both Emperors get into boats, and saw how Napoleon—reaching the raft first—stepped quickly forward to meet Alexander and held out his hand to him, and how they both retired into the pavilion. Since he had begun to move in the highest circles Borís had made it his habit to watch attentively all that went on around him and to note it down. At the time of the meeting at Tilsit he asked the names of those who had come with Napoleon and about the uniforms they wore, and listened attentively to words spoken by important personages. At the moment the Emperors went into the pavilion he looked at his watch, and did not forget to look at it again when Alexander came out. The interview had lasted an hour and fifty-three minutes. He noted this down that same evening, among other facts he felt to be of historic importance. As the Emperor’s suite was a very small one, it was a matter of great importance, for a man who valued his success in the service, to be at Tilsit on the occasion of this interview between the two Emperors, and having succeeded in this, Borís felt that henceforth his position was fully assured. He had not only become known, but people had grown accustomed to him and accepted him. Twice he had executed commissions to the Emperor himself, so that the latter knew his face, and all those at court, far from cold-shouldering him as at first when they considered him a newcomer, would now have been surprised had he been absent.
Borís lodged with another adjutant, the Polish Count Zhilínski. Zhilínski, a Pole brought up in Paris, was rich, and passionately fond of the French, and almost every day of the stay at Tilsit, French officers of the Guard and from French headquarters were dining and lunching with him and Borís.
On the evening of the twenty-fourth of June, Count Zhilínski arranged a supper for his French friends. The guest of honor was an aide-de-camp of Napoleon’s, there were also several French officers of the Guard, and a page of Napoleon’s, a young lad of an old aristocratic French family. That same day, Rostóv, profiting by the darkness to avoid being recognized in civilian dress, came to Tilsit and went to the lodging occupied by Borís and Zhilínski.
Rostóv, in common with the whole army from which he came, was far from having experienced the change of feeling toward Napoleon and the French—who from being foes had suddenly become friends—that had taken place at headquarters and in Borís. In the army, Bonaparte and the French were still regarded with mingled feelings of anger, contempt, and fear. Only recently, talking with one of Plátov’s Cossack officers, Rostóv had argued that if Napoleon were taken prisoner he would be treated not as a sovereign, but as a criminal. Quite lately, happening to meet a wounded French colonel on the road, Rostóv had maintained with heat that peace was impossible between a legitimate sovereign and the criminal Bonaparte. Rostóv was therefore unpleasantly struck by the presence of French officers in Borís’ lodging, dressed in uniforms he had been accustomed to see from quite a different point of view from the outposts of the flank. As soon as he noticed a French officer, who thrust his head out of the door, that warlike feeling of hostility which he always experienced at the sight of the enemy suddenly seized him. He stopped at the threshold and asked in Russian whether Drubetskóy lived there. Borís, hearing a strange voice in the anteroom, came out to meet him. An expression of annoyance showed itself for a moment on his face on first recognizing Rostóv.
“Ah, it’s you? Very glad, very glad to see you,” he said, however, coming toward him with a smile. But Rostóv had noticed his first impulse.
“I’ve come at a bad time I think. I should not have come, but I have business,” he said coldly.
“No, I only wonder how you managed to get away from your regiment. Dans un moment je suis à vous,” * he said, answering someone who called him.
“I see I’m intruding,” Rostóv repeated.
The look of annoyance had already disappeared from Borís’ face: having evidently reflected and decided how to act, he very quietly took both Rostóv’s hands and led him into the next room. His eyes, looking serenely and steadily at Rostóv, seemed to be veiled by something, as if screened by blue spectacles of conventionality. So it seemed to Rostóv.
“Oh, come now! As if you could come at a wrong time!” said Borís, and he led him into the room where the supper table was laid and introduced him to his guests, explaining that he was not a civilian, but an hussar officer, and an old friend of his.
“Count Zhilínski—le Comte N. N.—le Capitaine S. S.,” said he, naming his guests. Rostóv looked frowningly at the Frenchmen, bowed reluctantly, and remained silent.
Zhilínski evidently did not receive this new Russian person very willingly into his circle and did not speak to Rostóv. Borís did not appear to notice the constraint the newcomer produced and, with the same pleasant composure and the same veiled look in his eyes with which he had met Rostóv, tried to enliven the conversation. One of the Frenchmen, with the politeness characteristic of his countrymen, addressed the obstinately taciturn Rostóv, saying that the latter had probably come to Tilsit to see the Emperor.
“No, I came on business,” replied Rostóv, briefly.
Rostóv had been out of humor from the moment he noticed the look of dissatisfaction on Borís’ face, and as always happens to those in a bad humor, it seemed to him that everyone regarded him with aversion and that he was in everybody’s way. He really was in their way, for he alone took no part in the conversation which again became general. The looks the visitors cast on him seemed to say: “And what is he sitting here for?” He rose and went up to Borís.
“Anyhow, I’m in your way,” he said in a low tone. “Come and talk over my business and I’ll go away.”
“Oh, no, not at all,” said Borís. “But if you are tired, come and lie down in my room and have a rest.”
They went into the little room where Borís slept. Rostóv, without sitting down, began at once, irritably (as if Borís were to blame in some way) telling him about Denísov’s affair, asking him whether, through his general, he could and would intercede with the Emperor on Denísov’s behalf and get Denísov’s petition handed in. When he and Borís were alone, Rostóv felt for the first time that he could not look Borís in the face without a sense of awkwardness. Borís, with one leg crossed over the other and stroking his left hand with the slender fingers of his right, listened to Rostóv as a general listens to the report of a subordinate, now looking aside and now gazing straight into Rostóv’s eyes with the same veiled look. Each time this happened Rostóv felt uncomfortable and cast down his eyes.
“I have heard of such cases and know that His Majesty is very severe in such affairs. I think it would be best not to bring it before the Emperor, but to apply to the commander of the corps.... But in general, I think...”
“So you don’t want to do anything? Well then, say so!” Rostóv almost shouted, not looking Borís in the face.
“On the contrary, I will do what I can. Only I thought...”
At that moment Zhilínski’s voice was heard calling Borís.
“Well then, go, go, go...” said Rostóv, and refusing supper and remaining alone in the little room, he walked up and down for a long time, hearing the lighthearted French conversation from the next room.
Rostóv had come to Tilsit the day least suitable for a petition on Denísov’s behalf. He could not himself go to the general in attendance as he was in mufti and had come to Tilsit without permission to do so, and Borís, even had he wished to, could not have done so on the following day. On that day, June 27, the preliminaries of peace were signed. The Emperors exchanged decorations: Alexander received the Cross of the Legion of Honor and Napoleon the Order of St. Andrew of the First Degree, and a dinner had been arranged for the evening, given by a battalion of the French Guards to the Preobrazhénsk battalion. The Emperors were to be present at that banquet.
Rostóv felt so ill at ease and uncomfortable with Borís that, when the latter looked in after supper, he pretended to be asleep, and early next morning went away, avoiding Borís. In his civilian clothes and a round hat, he wandered about the town, staring at the French and their uniforms and at the streets and houses where the Russian and French Emperors were staying. In a square he saw tables being set up and preparations made for the dinner; he saw the Russian and French colors draped from side to side of the streets, with huge monograms A and N. In the windows of the houses also flags and bunting were displayed.
“Borís doesn’t want to help me and I don’t want to ask him. That’s settled,” thought Nicholas. “All is over between us, but I won’t leave here without having done all I can for Denísov and certainly not without getting his letter to the Emperor. The Emperor!... He is here!” thought Rostóv, who had unconsciously returned to the house where Alexander lodged.
Saddled horses were standing before the house and the suite were assembling, evidently preparing for the Emperor to come out.
“I may see him at any moment,” thought Rostóv. “If only I were to hand the letter direct to him and tell him all... could they really arrest me for my civilian clothes? Surely not! He would understand on whose side justice lies. He understands everything, knows everything. Who can be more just, more magnanimous than he? And even if they did arrest me for being here, what would it matter?” thought he, looking at an officer who was entering the house the Emperor occupied. “After all, people do go in.... It’s all nonsense! I’ll go in and hand the letter to the Emperor myself so much the worse for Drubetskóy who drives me to it!” And suddenly with a determination he himself did not expect, Rostóv felt for the letter in his pocket and went straight to the house.
“No, I won’t miss my opportunity now, as I did after Austerlitz,” he thought, expecting every moment to meet the monarch, and conscious of the blood that rushed to his heart at the thought. “I will fall at his feet and beseech him. He will lift me up, will listen, and will even thank me. ‘I am happy when I can do good, but to remedy injustice is the greatest happiness,’” Rostóv fancied the sovereign saying. And passing people who looked after him with curiosity, he entered the porch of the Emperor’s house.
A broad staircase led straight up from the entry, and to the right he saw a closed door. Below, under the staircase, was a door leading to the lower floor.
“Whom do you want?” someone inquired.
“To hand in a letter, a petition, to His Majesty,” said Nicholas, with a tremor in his voice.
“A petition? This way, to the officer on duty” (he was shown the door leading downstairs), “only it won’t be accepted.”
On hearing this indifferent voice, Rostóv grew frightened at what he was doing; the thought of meeting the Emperor at any moment was so fascinating and consequently so alarming that he was ready to run away, but the official who had questioned him opened the door, and Rostóv entered.
A short stout man of about thirty, in white breeches and high boots and a batiste shirt that he had evidently only just put on, standing in that room, and his valet was buttoning on to the back of his breeches a new pair of handsome silk-embroidered braces that, for some reason, attracted Rostóv’s attention. This man was speaking to someone in the adjoining room.
“A good figure and in her first bloom,” he was saying, but on seeing Rostóv, he stopped short and frowned.
“What is it? A petition?”
“What is it?” asked the person in the other room.
“Another petitioner,” answered the man with the braces.
“Tell him to come later. He’ll be coming out directly, we must go.”
“Later... later! Tomorrow. It’s too late...”
Rostóv turned and was about to go, but the man in the braces stopped him.
“Whom have you come from? Who are you?”
“I come from Major Denísov,” answered Rostóv.
“Are you an officer?”
“Lieutenant Count Rostóv.”
“What audacity! Hand it in through your commander. And go along with you... go,” and he continued to put on the uniform the valet handed him.
Rostóv went back into the hall and noticed that in the porch there were many officers and generals in full parade uniform, whom he had to pass.
Cursing his temerity, his heart sinking at the thought of finding himself at any moment face to face with the Emperor and being put to shame and arrested in his presence, fully alive now to the impropriety of his conduct and repenting of it, Rostóv, with downcast eyes, was making his way out of the house through the brilliant suite when a familiar voice called him and a hand detained him.
“What are you doing here, sir, in civilian dress?” asked a deep voice.
It was a cavalry general who had obtained the Emperor’s special favor during this campaign, and who had formerly commanded the division in which Rostóv was serving.
Rostóv, in dismay, began justifying himself, but seeing the kindly, jocular face of the general, he took him aside and in an excited voice told him the whole affair, asking him to intercede for Denísov, whom the general knew. Having heard Rostóv to the end, the general shook his head gravely.
“I’m sorry, sorry for that fine fellow. Give me the letter.”
Hardly had Rostóv handed him the letter and finished explaining Denísov’s case, when hasty steps and the jingling of spurs were heard on the stairs, and the general, leaving him, went to the porch. The gentlemen of the Emperor’s suite ran down the stairs and went to their horses. Hayne, the same groom who had been at Austerlitz, led up the Emperor’s horse, and the faint creak of a footstep Rostóv knew at once was heard on the stairs. Forgetting the danger of being recognized, Rostóv went close to the porch, together with some inquisitive civilians, and again, after two years, saw those features he adored: that same face and same look and step, and the same union of majesty and mildness.... And the feeling of enthusiasm and love for his sovereign rose again in Rostóv’s soul in all its old force. In the uniform of the Preobrazhénsk regiment—white chamois-leather breeches and high boots—and wearing a star Rostóv did not know (it was that of the Légion d’honneur), the monarch came out into the porch, putting on his gloves and carrying his hat under his arm. He stopped and looked about him, brightening everything around by his glance. He spoke a few words to some of the generals, and, recognizing the former commander of Rostóv’s division, smiled and beckoned to him.
All the suite drew back and Rostóv saw the general talking for some time to the Emperor.
The Emperor said a few words to him and took a step toward his horse. Again the crowd of members of the suite and street gazers (among whom was Rostóv) moved nearer to the Emperor. Stopping beside his horse, with his hand on the saddle, the Emperor turned to the cavalry general and said in a loud voice, evidently wishing to be heard by all:
“I cannot do it, General. I cannot, because the law is stronger than I,” and he raised his foot to the stirrup.
The general bowed his head respectfully, and the monarch mounted and rode down the street at a gallop. Beside himself with enthusiasm, Rostóv ran after him with the crowd.
The Emperor rode to the square where, facing one another, a battalion of the Preobrazhénsk regiment stood on the right and a battalion of the French Guards in their bearskin caps on the left.
As the Tsar rode up to one flank of the battalions, which presented arms, another group of horsemen galloped up to the opposite flank, and at the head of them Rostóv recognized Napoleon. It could be no one else. He came at a gallop, wearing a small hat, a blue uniform open over a white vest, and the St. Andrew ribbon over his shoulder. He was riding a very fine thoroughbred gray Arab horse with a crimson gold-embroidered saddlecloth. On approaching Alexander he raised his hat, and as he did so, Rostóv, with his cavalryman’s eye, could not help noticing that Napoleon did not sit well or firmly in the saddle. The battalions shouted “Hurrah!” and “Vive l’Empereur!” Napoleon said something to Alexander, and both Emperors dismounted and took each other’s hands. Napoleon’s face wore an unpleasant and artificial smile. Alexander was saying something affable to him.
In spite of the trampling of the French gendarmes’ horses, which were pushing back the crowd, Rostóv kept his eyes on every movement of Alexander and Bonaparte. It struck him as a surprise that Alexander treated Bonaparte as an equal and that the latter was quite at ease with the Tsar, as if such relations with an Emperor were an everyday matter to him.
Alexander and Napoleon, with the long train of their suites, approached the right flank of the Preobrazhénsk battalion and came straight up to the crowd standing there. The crowd unexpectedly found itself so close to the Emperors that Rostóv, standing in the front row, was afraid he might be recognized.
“Sire, I ask your permission to present the Legion of Honor to the bravest of your soldiers,” said a sharp, precise voice, articulating every letter.
This was said by the undersized Napoleon, looking up straight into Alexander’s eyes. Alexander listened attentively to what was said to him and, bending his head, smiled pleasantly.
“To him who has borne himself most bravely in this last war,” added Napoleon, accentuating each syllable, as with a composure and assurance exasperating to Rostóv, he ran his eyes over the Russian ranks drawn up before him, who all presented arms with their eyes fixed on their Emperor.
“Will Your Majesty allow me to consult the colonel?” said Alexander and took a few hasty steps toward Prince Kozlóvski, the commander of the battalion.
Bonaparte meanwhile began taking the glove off his small white hand, tore it in doing so, and threw it away. An aide-de-camp behind him rushed forward and picked it up.
“To whom shall it be given?” the Emperor Alexander asked Kozlóvski, in Russian in a low voice.
“To whomever Your Majesty commands.”
The Emperor knit his brows with dissatisfaction and, glancing back, remarked:
“But we must give him an answer.”
Kozlóvski scanned the ranks resolutely and included Rostóv in his scrutiny.
“Can it be me?” thought Rostóv.
“Lázarev!” the colonel called, with a frown, and Lázarev, the first soldier in the rank, stepped briskly forward.
“Where are you off to? Stop here!” voices whispered to Lázarev who did not know where to go. Lázarev stopped, casting a sidelong look at his colonel in alarm. His face twitched, as often happens to soldiers called before the ranks.
Napoleon slightly turned his head, and put his plump little hand out behind him as if to take something. The members of his suite, guessing at once what he wanted, moved about and whispered as they passed something from one to another, and a page—the same one Rostóv had seen the previous evening at Borís’—ran forward and, bowing respectfully over the outstretched hand and not keeping it waiting a moment, laid in it an Order on a red ribbon. Napoleon, without looking, pressed two fingers together and the badge was between them. Then he approached Lázarev (who rolled his eyes and persistently gazed at his own monarch), looked round at the Emperor Alexander to imply that what he was now doing was done for the sake of his ally, and the small white hand holding the Order touched one of Lázarev’s buttons. It was as if Napoleon knew that it was only necessary for his hand to deign to touch that soldier’s breast for the soldier to be forever happy, rewarded, and distinguished from everyone else in the world. Napoleon merely laid the cross on Lázarev’s breast and, dropping his hand, turned toward Alexander as though sure that the cross would adhere there. And it really did.
Officious hands, Russian and French, immediately seized the cross and fastened it to the uniform. Lázarev glanced morosely at the little man with white hands who was doing something to him and, still standing motionless presenting arms, looked again straight into Alexander’s eyes, as if asking whether he should stand there, or go away, or do something else. But receiving no orders, he remained for some time in that rigid position.
The Emperors remounted and rode away. The Preobrazhénsk battalion, breaking rank, mingled with the French Guards and sat down at the tables prepared for them.
Lázarev sat in the place of honor. Russian and French officers embraced him, congratulated him, and pressed his hands. Crowds of officers and civilians drew near merely to see him. A rumble of Russian and French voices and laughter filled the air round the tables in the square. Two officers with flushed faces, looking cheerful and happy, passed by Rostóv.
“What d’you think of the treat? All on silver plate,” one of them was saying. “Have you seen Lázarev?”
“Tomorrow, I hear, the Preobrazhénskis will give them a dinner.”
“Yes, but what luck for Lázarev! Twelve hundred francs’ pension for life.”
“Here’s a cap, lads!” shouted a Preobrazhénsk soldier, donning a shaggy French cap.
“It’s a fine thing! First-rate!”
“Have you heard the password?” asked one Guards’ officer of another. “The day before yesterday it was ‘Napoléon, France, bravoure’; yesterday, ‘Alexandre, Russie, grandeur.’ One day our Emperor gives it and next day Napoleon. Tomorrow our Emperor will send a St. George’s Cross to the bravest of the French Guards. It has to be done. He must respond in kind.”
Borís, too, with his friend Zhilínski, came to see the Preobrazhénsk banquet. On his way back, he noticed Rostóv standing by the corner of a house.
“Rostóv! How d’you do? We missed one another,” he said, and could not refrain from asking what was the matter, so strangely dismal and troubled was Rostóv’s face.
“Nothing, nothing,” replied Rostóv.
“You’ll call round?”
“Yes, I will.”
Rostóv stood at that corner for a long time, watching the feast from a distance. In his mind, a painful process was going on which he could not bring to a conclusion. Terrible doubts rose in his soul. Now he remembered Denísov with his changed expression, his submission, and the whole hospital, with arms and legs torn off and its dirt and disease. So vividly did he recall that hospital stench of dead flesh that he looked round to see where the smell came from. Next he thought of that self-satisfied Bonaparte, with his small white hand, who was now an Emperor, liked and respected by Alexander. Then why those severed arms and legs and those dead men?... Then again he thought of Lázarev rewarded and Denísov punished and unpardoned. He caught himself harboring such strange thoughts that he was frightened.
The smell of the food the Preobrazhénskis were eating and a sense of hunger recalled him from these reflections; he had to get something to eat before going away. He went to a hotel he had noticed that morning. There he found so many people, among them officers who, like himself, had come in civilian clothes, that he had difficulty in getting a dinner. Two officers of his own division joined him. The conversation naturally turned on the peace. The officers, his comrades, like most of the army, were dissatisfied with the peace concluded after the battle of Friedland. They said that had we held out a little longer Napoleon would have been done for, as his troops had neither provisions nor ammunition. Nicholas ate and drank (chiefly the latter) in silence. He finished a couple of bottles of wine by himself. The process in his mind went on tormenting him without reaching a conclusion. He feared to give way to his thoughts, yet could not get rid of them. Suddenly, on one of the officers’ saying that it was humiliating to look at the French, Rostóv began shouting with uncalled-for wrath, and therefore much to the surprise of the officers:
“How can you judge what’s best?” he cried, the blood suddenly rushing to his face. “How can you judge the Emperor’s actions? What right have we to argue? We cannot comprehend either the Emperor’s aims or his actions!”
“But I never said a word about the Emperor!” said the officer, justifying himself, and unable to understand Rostóv’s outburst, except on the supposition that he was drunk.
But Rostóv did not listen to him.
“We are not diplomatic officials, we are soldiers and nothing more,” he went on. “If we are ordered to die, we must die. If we’re punished, it means that we have deserved it, it’s not for us to judge. If the Emperor pleases to recognize Bonaparte as Emperor and to conclude an alliance with him, it means that that is the right thing to do. If once we begin judging and arguing about everything, nothing sacred will be left! That way we shall be saying there is no God—nothing!” shouted Nicholas, banging the table—very little to the point as it seemed to his listeners, but quite relevantly to the course of his own thoughts.
“Our business is to do our duty, to fight and not to think! That’s all....” said he.
“And to drink,” said one of the officers, not wishing to quarrel.
“Yes, and to drink,” assented Nicholas. “Hullo there! Another bottle!” he shouted.
In 1808 the Emperor Alexander went to Erfurt for a fresh interview with the Emperor Napoleon, and in the upper circles of Petersburg there was much talk of the grandeur of this important meeting.