Next day he woke late. Recalling his recent impressions, the first thought that came into his mind was that today he had to be presented to the Emperor Francis; he remembered the Minister of War, the polite Austrian adjutant, Bilibin, and last night's conversation. Having dressed for his attendance at court in full parade uniform, which he had not worn for a long time, he went into Bilibin's study fresh, animated, and handsome, with his hand bandaged. In the study were four gentlemen of the diplomatic corps. With Prince Hippolyte Kuragin, who was a secretary to the embassy, Bolkonski was already acquainted. Bilibin introduced him to the others.
The gentlemen assembled at Bilibin's were young, wealthy, gay society men, who here, as in Vienna, formed a special set which Bilibin, their leader, called les notres.* This set, consisting almost exclusively of diplomats, evidently had its own interests which had nothing to do with war or politics but related to high society, to certain women, and to the official side of the service. These gentlemen received Prince Andrew as one of themselves, an honor they did not extend to many. From politeness and to start conversation, they asked him a few questions about the army and the battle, and then the talk went off into merry jests and gossip.
"But the best of it was," said one, telling of the misfortune of a fellow diplomat, "that the Chancellor told him flatly that his appointment to London was a promotion and that he was so to regard it. Can you fancy the figure he cut?..."
"But the worst of it, gentlemen--I am giving Kuragin away to you--is that that man suffers, and this Don Juan, wicked fellow, is taking advantage of it!"
Prince Hippolyte was lolling in a lounge chair with his legs over its arm. He began to laugh.
"Tell me about that!" he said.
"Oh, you Don Juan! You serpent!" cried several voices.
"You, Bolkonski, don't know," said Bilibin turning to Prince Andrew, "that all the atrocities of the French army (I nearly said of the Russian army) are nothing compared to what this man has been doing among the women!"
"La femme est la compagne de l'homme,"* announced Prince Hippolyte, and began looking through a lorgnette at his elevated legs.
*"Woman is man's companion."
Bilibin and the rest of "ours" burst out laughing in Hippolyte's face, and Prince Andrew saw that Hippolyte, of whom--he had to admit--he had almost been jealous on his wife's account, was the butt of this set.
"Oh, I must give you a treat," Bilibin whispered to Bolkonski. "Kuragin is exquisite when he discusses politics--you should see his gravity!"
He sat down beside Hippolyte and wrinkling his forehead began talking to him about politics. Prince Andrew and the others gathered round these two.
"The Berlin cabinet cannot express a feeling of alliance," began Hippolyte gazing round with importance at the others, "without expressing... as in its last note... you understand... Besides, unless His Majesty the Emperor derogates from the principle of our alliance...
"Wait, I have not finished..." he said to Prince Andrew, seizing him by the arm, "I believe that intervention will be stronger than nonintervention. And..." he paused. "Finally one cannot impute the nonreceipt of our dispatch of November 18. That is how it will end." And he released Bolkonski's arm to indicate that he had now quite finished.
"Demosthenes, I know thee by the pebble thou secretest in thy golden mouth!" said Bilibin, and the mop of hair on his head moved with satisfaction.
Everybody laughed, and Hippolyte louder than anyone. He was evidently distressed, and breathed painfully, but could not restrain the wild laughter that convulsed his usually impassive features.
"Well now, gentlemen," said Bilibin, "Bolkonski is my guest in this house and in Brunn itself. I want to entertain him as far as I can, with all the pleasures of life here. If we were in Vienna it would be easy, but here, in this wretched Moravian hole, it is more difficult, and I beg you all to help me. Brunn's attractions must be shown him. You can undertake the theater, I society, and you, Hippolyte, of course the women."
"We must let him see Amelie, she's exquisite!" said one of "ours," kissing his finger tips.
"In general we must turn this bloodthirsty soldier to more humane interests," said Bilibin.
"I shall scarcely be able to avail myself of your hospitality, gentlemen, it is already time for me to go," replied Prince Andrew looking at his watch.
"To the Emperor."
"Oh! Oh! Oh! Well, au revoir, Bolkonski! Au revoir, Prince! Come back early to dinner," cried several voices. "We'll take you in hand."
"When speaking to the Emperor, try as far as you can to praise the way that provisions are supplied and the routes indicated," said Bilibin, accompanying him to the hall.
"I should like to speak well of them, but as far as I the facts, I can't," replied Bolkonski, smiling.
"Well, talk as much as you can, anyway. He has a passion for giving audiences, but he does not like talking himself and can't do it, as you will see."
At the levee Prince Andrew stood among the Austrian officers as he had been told to, and the Emperor Francis merely looked fixedly into his face and just nodded to him with to him with his long head. But after it was over, the adjutant he had seen the previous day ceremoniously informed Bolkonski that the Emperor desired to give him an audience. The Emperor Francis received him standing in the middle of the room. Before the conversation began Prince Andrew was struck by the fact that the Emperor seemed confused and blushed as if not knowing what to say.
"Tell me, when did the battle begin?" he asked hurriedly.
Prince Andrew replied. Then followed other questions just as simple: "Was Kutuzov well? When had he left Krems?" and so on. The Emperor spoke as if his sole aim were to put a given number of questions- the answers to these questions, as was only too evident, did not interest him.
"At what o'clock did the battle begin?" asked the Emperor.
"I cannot inform Your Majesty at what o'clock the battle began at the front, but at Durrenstein, where I was, our attack began after five in the afternoon," replied Bolkonski growing more animated and expecting that he would have a chance to give a reliable account, which he had ready in his mind, of all he knew and had seen. But the Emperor smiled and interrupted him.
"How many miles?"
"From where to where, Your Majesty?"
"From Durrenstein to Krems."
"Three and a half miles, Your Majesty."
"The French have abandoned the left bank?"
"According to the scouts the last of them crossed on rafts during the night."
"Is there sufficient forage in Krems?"
"Forage has not been supplied to the extent..."
The Emperor interrupted him.
"At what o'clock was General Schmidt killed?"
"At seven o'clock, I believe."
"At seven o'clock? It's very sad, very sad!"
The Emperor thanked Prince Andrew and bowed. Prince Andrew withdrew and was immediately surrounded by courtiers on all sides. Everywhere he saw friendly looks and heard friendly words. Yesterday's adjutant reproached him for not having stayed at the palace, and offered him his own house. The Minister of War came up and congratulated him on the Maria Theresa Order of the third grade, which the Emperor was conferring on him. The Empress' chamberlain invited him to see Her Majesty. The archduchess also wished to see him. He did not know whom to answer, and for a few seconds collected his thoughts. Then the Russian ambassador took him by the shoulder, led him to the window, and began to talk to him.
Contrary to Bilibin's forecast the news he had brought was joyfully received. A thanksgiving service was arranged, Kutuzov was awarded the Grand Cross of Maria Theresa, and the whole army received rewards. Bolkonski was invited everywhere, and had to spend the whole morning calling on the principal Austrian dignitaries. Between four and five in the afternoon, having made all his calls, he was returning to Bilibin's house thinking out a letter to his father about the battle and his visit to Brunn. At the door he found a vehicle half full of luggage. Franz, Bilibin's man, was dragging a portmanteau with some difficulty out of the front door.
Before returning to Bilibin's Prince Andrew had gone to bookshop to provide himself with some books for the campaign, and had spent some time in the shop.
"What is it?" he asked.
"Oh, your excellency!" said Franz, with difficulty rolling the portmanteau into the vehicle, "we are to move on still farther. The scoundrel is again at our heels!"
"Eh? What?" asked Prince Andrew.
Bilibin came out to meet him. His usually calm face showed excitement.
"There now! Confess that this is delightful," said he. "This affair of the Thabor Bridge, at Vienna.... They have crossed without striking a blow!"
Prince Andrew could not understand.
"But where do you come from not to know what every coachman in the town knows?"
"I come from the archduchess'. I heard nothing there."
"And you didn't see that everybody is packing up?"
"I did not... What is it all about?" inquired Prince Andrew impatiently.
"What's it all about? Why, the French have crossed the bridge that Auersperg was defending, and the bridge was not blown up: so Murat is now rushing along the road to Brunn and will be here in a day or two."
"What? Here? But why did they not blow up the bridge, if it was mined?"
"That is what I ask you. No one, not even Bonaparte, knows why."
Bolkonski shrugged his shoulders.
"But if the bridge is crossed it means that the army too is lost? It will be cut off," said he.
"That's just it," answered Bilibin. "Listen! The French entered Vienna as I told you. Very well. Next day, which was yesterday, those gentlemen, messieurs les marechaux,* Murat, Lannes,and Belliard, mount and ride to bridge. (Observe that all three are Gascons.) 'Gentlemen,' says one of them, 'you know the Thabor Bridge is mined and doubly mined and that there are menacing fortifications at its head and an army of fifteen thousand men has been ordered to blow up the bridge and not let us cross? But it will please our sovereign the Emperor Napoleon if we take this bridge, so let us three go and take it!' 'Yes, let's!' say the others. And off they go and take the bridge, cross it, and now with their whole army are on this side of the Danube, marching on us, you, and your lines of communication."
"Stop jesting," said Prince Andrew sadly and seriously. This news grieved him and yet he was pleased.
As soon as he learned that the Russian army was in such a hopeless situation it occurred to him that it was he who was destined to lead it out of this position; that here was the Toulon that would lift him from the ranks of obscure officers and offer him the first step to fame! Listening to Bilibin he was already imagining how on reaching the army he would give an opinion at the war council which would be the only one that could save the army, and how he alone would be entrusted with the executing of the plan.
"Stop this jesting," he said
"I am not jesting," Bilibin went on. "Nothing is truer or sadder. These gentlemen ride onto the bridge alone and wave white handkerchiefs; they assure the officer on duty that they, the marshals, are on their way to negotiate with Prince Auersperg. He lets them enter the tete-de-pont.* They spin him a thousand gasconades, saying that the war is over, that the Emperor Francis is arranging a meeting with Bonaparte, that they desire to see Prince Auersperg, and so on. The officer sends for Auersperg; these gentlemen embrace the officers, crack jokes, sit on the cannon, and meanwhile a French battalion gets to the bridge unobserved, flings the bags of incendiary material into the water, and approaches the tete-de-pont. At length appears the lieutenant general, our dear Prince Auersperg von Mautern himself. 'Dearest foe! Flower of the Austrian army, hero of the Turkish wars Hostilities are ended, we can shake one another's hand.... The Emperor Napoleon burns with impatience to make Prince Auersperg's acquaintance.' In a word, those gentlemen, Gascons indeed, so bewildered him with fine words, and he is so flattered by his rapidly established intimacy with the French marshals, and so dazzled by the sight of Murat's mantle and ostrich plumes, qu'il n'y voit que du feu, et oublie celui qu'il devait faire faire sur l'ennemi!"* In spite of the animation of his speech, Bilibin did not forget to pause after this mot to give time for its due appreciation. "The French battalion rushes to the bridgehead, spikes the guns, and the bridge is taken! But what is best of all," he went on, his excitement subsiding under the delightful interest of his own story, "is that the sergeant in charge of the cannon which was to give the signal to fire the mines and blow up the bridge, this sergeant, seeing that the French troops were running onto the bridge, was about to fire, but Lannes stayed his hand. The sergeant, who was evidently wiser than his general, goes up to Auersperg and says: 'Prince, you are being deceived, here are the French!' Murat, seeing that all is lost if the sergeant is allowed to speak, turns to Auersperg with feigned astonishment (he is a true Gascon) and says: 'I don't recognize the world-famous Austrian discipline, if you allow a subordinate to address you like that!' It was a stroke of genius. Prince Auersperg feels his dignity at stake and orders the sergeant to be arrested. Come, you must own that this affair of the Thabor Bridge is delightful! It is not exactly stupidity, nor rascality...."
* That their fire gets into his eyes and he forgets that he ought to be firing at the enemy.
"It may be treachery," said Prince Andrew, vividly imagining the gray overcoats, wounds, the smoke of gunpowder, the sounds of firing, and the glory that awaited him.
"Not that either. That puts the court in too bad a light," replied Bilibin. "It's not treachery nor rascality nor stupidity: it is just as at Ulm... it is..."--he seemed to be trying to find the right expression. "C'est... c'est du Mack. Nous sommes mackes [It is... it is a bit of Mack. We are Macked]," he concluded, feeling that he had produced a good epigram, a fresh one that would be repeated. His hitherto puckered brow became smooth as a sign of pleasure, and with a slight smile he began to examine his nails.
"Where are you off to?" he said suddenly to Prince Andrew who had risen and was going toward his room.
"I am going away."
"To the army."
"But you meant to stay another two days?"
"But now I am off at once."
And Prince Andrew after giving directions about his departure went to his room.
"Do you know, mon cher," said Bilibin following him, "I have been thinking about you. Why are you going?"
And in proof of the conclusiveness of his opinion all the wrinkles vanished from his face.
Prince Andrew looked inquiringly at him and gave no reply.
"Why are you going? I know you think it your duty to gallop back to the army now that it is in danger. I understand that. Mon cher, it is heroism!"
"Not at all," said Prince Andrew.
"But as you are a philosopher, be a consistent one, look at the other side of the question and you will see that your duty, on the contrary, is to take care of yourself. Leave it to those who are no longer fit for anything else.... You have not been ordered to return and have not been dismissed from here; therefore, you can stay and go with us wherever our ill luck takes us. They say we are going to Olmutz, and Olmutz is a very decent town. You and I will travel comfortably in my caleche."
"Do stop joking, Bilibin," cried Bolkonski.
"I am speaking sincerely as a friend! Consider! Where and why are you going, when you might remain here? You are faced by one of two things," and the skin over his left temple puckered, "either you will not reach your regiment before peace is concluded, or you will share defeat and disgrace with Kutuzov's whole army."
And Bilibin unwrinkled his temple, feeling that the dilemma was insoluble.
"I cannot argue about it," replied Prince Andrew coldly, but he thought: "I am going to save the army."
"My dear fellow, you are a hero!" said Bilibin.
That same night, having taken leave of the Minister of War, Bolkonski set off to rejoin the army, not knowing where he would find it and fearing to be captured by the French on the way to Krems.
In Brunn everybody attached to the court was packing up, and the heavy baggage was already being dispatched to Olmutz. Near Hetzelsdorf Prince Andrew struck the high road along which the Russian army was moving with great haste and in the greatest disorder. The road was so obstructed with carts that it was impossible to get by in a carriage. Prince Andrew took a horse and a Cossack from a Cossack commander, and hungry and weary, making his way past the baggage wagons, rode in search of the commander in chief and of his own luggage. Very sinister reports of the position of the army reached him as he went along, and the appearance of the troops in their disorderly flight confirmed these rumors.
"Cette armee russe que l'or de l'Angleterre a transportee des extremites de l'univers, nous allons lui faire eprouver le meme sort--(le sort de l'armee d'Ulm)."* He remembered these words in Bonaparte's address to his army at the beginning of the campaign, and they awoke in him astonishment at the genius of his hero, a feeling of wounded pride, and a hope of glory. "And should there be nothing left but to die?" he thought. "Well, if need be, I shall do it no worse than others."
*"That Russian army which has been brought from the ends of the earth by English gold, we shall cause to share the same fate--(the fate of the army at Ulm)."
He looked with disdain at the endless confused mass of detachments, carts, guns, artillery, and again baggage wagons and vehicles of all kinds overtaking one another and blocking the muddy road, three and sometimes four abreast. From all sides, behind and before, as far as ear could reach, there were the rattle of wheels, the creaking of carts and gun carriages, the tramp of horses, the crack of whips, shouts, the urging of horses, and the swearing of soldiers, orderlies, and officers. All along the sides of the road fallen horses were to be seen, some flayed, some not, and broken-down carts beside which solitary soldiers sat waiting for something, and again soldiers straggling from their companies, crowds of whom set off to the neighboring villages, or returned from them dragging sheep, fowls, hay, and bulging sacks. At each ascent or descent of the road the crowds were yet denser and the din of shouting more incessant. Soldiers floundering knee-deep in mud pushed the guns and wagons themselves. Whips cracked, hoofs slipped, traces broke, and lungs were strained with shouting. The officers directing the march rode backward and forward between the carts. Their voices were but feebly heard amid the uproar and one saw by their faces that they despaired of the possibility of checking this disorder.
"Here is our dear Orthodox Russian army," thought Bolkonski, recalling Bilibin's words.
Wishing to find out where the commander in chief was, he rode up to a convoy. Directly opposite to him came a strange one-horse vehicle, evidently rigged up by soldiers out of any available materials and looking like something between a cart, a cabriolet, and a caleche. A soldier was driving, and a woman enveloped in shawls sat behind the apron under the leather hood of the vehicle. Prince Andrew rode up and was just putting his question to a soldier when his attention was diverted by the desperate shrieks of the woman in the vehicle. An officer in charge of transport was beating the soldier who was driving the woman's vehicle for trying to get ahead of others, and the strokes of his whip fell on the apron of the equipage. The woman screamed piercingly. Seeing Prince Andrew she leaned out from behind the apron and, waving her thin arms from under the woolen shawl, cried:
"Mr. Aide-de-camp! Mr. Aide-de-camp!... For heaven's sake... Protect me! What will become of us? I am the wife of the doctor of the Seventh Chasseurs.... They won't let us pass, we are left behind and have lost our people..."
"I'll flatten you into a pancake!" shouted the angry officer to the soldier. "Turn back with your slut!"
"Mr. Aide-de-camp! Help me!... What does it all mean?" screamed the doctor's wife.
"Kindly let this cart pass. Don't you see it's a woman?" said Prince Andrew riding up to the officer.
The officer glanced at him, and without replying turned again to the soldier. "I'll teach you to push on!... Back!"
"Let them pass, I tell you!" repeated Prince Andrew, compressing his lips.
"And who are you?" cried the officer, turning on him with tipsy rage, "who are you? Are you in command here? Eh? I am commander here, not you! Go back or I'll flatten you into a pancake," repeated he. This expression evidently pleased him.
"That was a nice snub for the little aide-de-camp," came a voice from behind.
Prince Andrew saw that the officer was in that state of senseless, tipsy rage when a man does not know what he is saying. He saw that his championship of the doctor's wife in her queer trap might expose him to what he dreaded more than anything in the world--to ridicule; but his instinct urged him on. Before the officer finished his sentence Prince Andrew, his face distorted with fury, rode up to him and raised his riding whip.
The officer flourished his arm and hastily rode away.
"It's all the fault of these fellows on the staff that there's this disorder," he muttered. "Do as you like."
Prince Andrew without lifting his eyes rode hastily away from the doctor's wife, who was calling him her deliverer, and recalling with a sense of disgust the minutest details of this humiliating scene he galloped on to the village where he was told that the commander in chief was.
On reaching the village he dismounted and went to the nearest house, intending to rest if but for a moment, eat something, and try to sort out the stinging and tormenting thoughts that confused his mind. "This is a mob of scoundrels and not an army," he was thinking as he went up to the window of the first house, when a familiar voice called him by name.
He turned round. Nesvitski's handsome face looked out of the little window. Nesvitski, moving his moist lips as he chewed something, and flourishing his arm, called him to enter.
"Bolkonski! Bolkonski!... Don't you hear? Eh? Come quick..." he shouted.
Entering the house, Prince Andrew saw Nesvitski and another adjutant having something to eat. They hastily turned round to him asking if he had any news. On their familiar faces he read agitation and alarm. This was particularly noticeable on Nesvitski's usually laughing countenance.
"Where is the commander in chief?" asked Bolkonski.
"Here, in that house," answered the adjutant.
"Well, is it true that it's peace and capitulation?" asked Nesvitski.
"I was going to ask you. I know nothing except that it was all I could do to get here."
"And we, my dear boy! It's terrible! I was wrong to laugh at Mack, we're getting it still worse," said Nesvitski. "But sit down and have something to eat."
"You won't be able to find either your baggage or anything else now, Prince. And God only knows where your man Peter is," said the other adjutant.
"Where are headquarters?"
"We are to spend the night in Znaim."
"Well, I have got all I need into packs for two horses," said Nesvitski. "They've made up splendid packs for me--fit to cross the Bohemian mountains with. It's a bad lookout, old fellow! But what's the matter with you? You must be ill to shiver like that," he added, noticing that Prince Andrew winced as at an electric shock.
"It's nothing," replied Prince Andrew.
He had just remembered his recent encounter with the doctor's wife and the convoy officer.
"What is the commander in chief doing here?" he asked.
"I can't make out at all," said Nesvitski.
"Well, all I can make out is that everything is abominable, abominable, quite abominable!" said Prince Andrew, and he went off to the house where the commander in chief was.
Passing by Kutuzov's carriage and the exhausted saddle horses of his suite, with their Cossacks who were talking loudly together, Prince Andrew entered the passage. Kutuzov himself, he was told, was in the house with Prince Bagration and Weyrother. Weyrother was the Austrian general who had succeeded Schmidt. In the passage little Kozlovski was squatting on his heels in front of a clerk. The clerk, with cuffs turned up, was hastily writing at a tub turned bottom upwards. Kozlovski's face looked worn--he too had evidently not slept all night. He glanced at Prince Andrew and did not even nod to him.
"Second line... have you written it?" he continued dictating to the clerk. "The Kiev Grenadiers, Podolian..."
"One can't write so fast, your honor," said the clerk, glancing angrily and disrespectfully at Kozlovski.
Through the door came the sounds of Kutuzov's voice, excited and dissatisfied, interrupted by another, an unfamiliar voice. From the sound of these voices, the inattentive way Kozlovski looked at him, the disrespectful manner of the exhausted clerk, the fact that the clerk and Kozlovski were squatting on the floor by a tub so near to the commander in chief, and from the noisy laughter of the Cossacks holding the horses near the window, Prince Andrew felt that something important and disastrous was about to happen.
He turned to Kozlovski with urgent questions.
"Immediately, Prince," said Kozlovski. "Dispositions for Bagration."
"What about capitulation?"
"Nothing of the sort. Orders are issued for a battle."
Prince Andrew moved toward the door from whence voices were heard. Just as he was going to open it the sounds ceased, the door opened, and Kutuzov with his eagle nose and puffy face appeared in the doorway. Prince Andrew stood right in front of Kutuzov but the expression of the commander in chief's one sound eye showed him to be so preoccupied with thoughts and anxieties as to be oblivious of his presence. He looked straight at his adjutant's face without recognizing him.
"Well, have you finished?" said he to Kozlovski.
"One moment, your excellency."
Bagration, a gaunt middle-aged man of medium height with a firm, impassive face of Oriental type, came out after the commander in chief.
"I have the honor to present myself," repeated Prince Andrew rather loudly, handing Kutuzov an envelope.
"Ah, from Vienna? Very good. Later, later!"
Kutuzov went out into the porch with Bagration.
"Well, good-by, Prince," said he to Bagration. "My blessing, and may Christ be with you in your great endeavor!"
His face suddenly softened and tears came into his eyes. With his left hand he drew Bagration toward him, and with his right, on which he wore a ring, he made the sign of the cross over him with a gesture evidently habitual, offering his puffy cheek, but Bagration kissed him on the neck instead.
"Christ be with you!" Kutuzov repeated and went toward his carriage. "Get in with me," said he to Bolkonski.
"Your excellency, I should like to be of use here. Allow me to remain with Prince Bagration's detachment."
"Get in," said Kutuzov, and noticing that Bolkonski still delayed, he added: "I need good officers myself, need them myself!"
They got into the carriage and drove for a few minutes in silence.
"There is still much, much before us," he said, as if with an old man's penetration he understood all that was passing in Bolkonski's mind. "If a tenth part of his detachment returns I shall thank God," he added as if speaking to himself.
Prince Andrew glanced at Kutuzov's face only a foot distant from him and involuntarily noticed the carefully washed seams of the scar near his temple, where an Ismail bullet had pierced his skull, and the empty eye socket. "Yes, he has a right to speak so calmly of those men's death," thought Bolkonski.
"That is why I beg to be sent to that detachment," he said.
Kutuzov did not reply. He seemed to have forgotten what he had been saying, and sat plunged in thought. Five minutes later, gently swaying on the soft springs of the carriage, he turned to Prince Andrew. There was not a trace of agitation on his face. With delicate irony he questioned Prince Andrew about the details of his interview with the Emperor, about the remarks he had heard at court concerning the Krems affair, and about some ladies they both knew.
On November 1 Kutuzov had received, through a spy, news that the army he commanded was in an almost hopeless position. The spy reported that the French, after crossing the bridge at Vienna, were advancing in immense force upon Kutuzov's line of communication with the troops that were arriving from Russia. If Kutuzov decided to remain at Krems, Napoleon's army of one hundred and fifty thousand men would cut him off completely and surround his exhausted army of forty thousand, and he would find himself in the position of Mack at Ulm. If Kutuzov decided to abandon the road connecting him with the troops arriving from Russia, he would have to march with no road into unknown parts of the Bohemian mountains, defending himself against superior forces of the enemy and abandoning all hope of a junction with Buxhowden. If Kutuzov decided to retreat along the road from Krems to Olmutz, to unite with the troops arriving from Russia, he risked being forestalled on that road by the French who had crossed the Vienna bridge, and encumbered by his baggage and transport, having to accept battle on the march against an enemy three times as strong, who would hem him in from two sides.
Kutuzov chose this latter course.
The French, the spy reported, having crossed the Vienna bridge, were advancing by forced marches toward Znaim, which lay sixty-six miles off on the line of Kutuzov's retreat. If he reached Znaim before the French, there would be great hope of saving the army; to let the French forestall him at Znaim meant the exposure of his whole army to a disgrace such as that of Ulm, or to utter destruction. But to forestall the French with his whole army was impossible. The road for the French from Vienna to Znaim was shorter and better than the road for the Russians from Krems to Znaim.
The night he received the news, Kutuzov sent Bagration's vanguard, four thousand strong, to the right across the hills from the Krems-Znaim to the Vienna-Znaim road. Bagration was to make this march without resting, and to halt facing Vienna with Znaim to his rear, and if he succeeded in forestalling the French he was to delay them as long as possible. Kutuzov himself with all his transport took the road to Znaim.
Marching thirty miles that stormy night across roadless hills, with his hungry, ill-shod soldiers, and losing a third of his men as stragglers by the way, Bagration came out on the Vienna-Znaim road at Hollabrunn a few hours ahead of the French who were approaching Hollabrunn from Vienna. Kutuzov with his transport had still to march for some days before he could reach Znaim. Hence Bagration with his four thousand hungry, exhausted men would have to detain for days the whole enemy army that came upon him at Hollabrunn, which was clearly impossible. But a freak of fate made the impossible possible. The success of the trick that had placed the Vienna bridge in the hands of the French without a fight led Murat to try to deceive Kutuzov in a similar way. Meeting Bagration's weak detachment on the Znaim road he supposed it to be Kutuzov's whole army. To be able to crush it absolutely he awaited the arrival of the rest of the troops who were on their way from Vienna, and with this object offered a three days' truce on condition that both armies should remain in position without moving. Murat declared that negotiations for peace were already proceeding, and that he therefore offered this truce to avoid unnecessary bloodshed. Count Nostitz, the Austrian general occupying the advanced posts, believed Murat's emissary and retired, leaving Bagration's division exposed. Another emissary rode to the Russian line to announce the peace negotiations and to offer the Russian army the three days' truce. Bagration replied that he was not authorized either to accept or refuse a truce and sent his adjutant to Kutuzov to report the offer he had received.
A truce was Kutuzov's sole chance of gaining time, giving Bagration's exhausted troops some rest, and letting the transport and heavy convoys (whose movements were concealed from the French) advance if but one stage nearer Znaim. The offer of a truce gave the only, and a quite unexpected, chance of saving the army. On receiving the news he immediately dispatched Adjutant General Wintzingerode, who was in attendance on him, to the enemy camp. Wintzingerode was not merely to agree to the truce but also to offer terms of capitulation, and meanwhile Kutuzov sent his adjutants back to hasten to the utmost the movements of the baggage trains of the entire army along the Krems-Znaim road. Bagration's exhausted and hungry detachment, which alone covered this movement of the transport and of the whole army, had to remain stationary in face of an enemy eight times as strong as itself.
Kutuzov's expectations that the proposals of capitulation (which were in no way binding) might give time for part of the transport to pass, and also that Murat's mistake would very soon be discovered, proved correct. As soon as Bonaparte (who was at Schonbrunn, sixteen miles from Hollabrunn) received Murat's dispatch with the proposal of a truce and a capitulation, he detected a ruse and wrote the following letter to Murat:
Schonbrunn, 25th Brumaire, 1805,
at eight o'clock in the morning
To PRINCE MURAT,
I cannot find words to express to you my displeasure. You command only my advance guard, and have no right to arrange an armistice without my order. You are causing me to lose the fruits of a campaign. Break the armistice immediately and march on the enemy. Inform him that the general who signed that capitulation had no right to do so, and that no one but the Emperor of Russia has that right.
If, however, the Emperor of Russia ratifies that convention, I will ratify it; but it is only a trick. March on, destroy the Russian army.... You are in a position to seize its baggage and artillery.
The Russian Emperor's aide-de-camp is an impostor. Officers are nothing when they have no powers; this one had none.... The Austrians let themselves be tricked at the crossing of the Vienna bridge, you are letting yourself be tricked by an aide-de-camp of the Emperor.
Bonaparte's adjutant rode full gallop with this menacing letter to Murat. Bonaparte himself, not trusting to his generals, moved with all the Guards to the field of battle, afraid of letting a ready victim escape, and Bagration's four thousand men merrily lighted campfires, dried and warmed themselves, cooked their porridge for the first time for three days, and not one of them knew or imagined what was in store for him.
Between three and four o'clock in the afternoon Prince Andrew, who had persisted in his request to Kutuzov, arrived at Grunth and reported himself to Bagration. Bonaparte's adjutant had not yet reached Murat's detachment and the battle had not yet begun. In Bagration's detachment no one knew anything of the general position of affairs. They talked of peace but did not believe in its possibility; others talked of a battle but also disbelieved in the nearness of an engagement. Bagration, knowing Bolkonski to be a favorite and trusted adjutant, received him with distinction and special marks of favor, explaining to him that there would probably be an engagement that day or the next, and giving him full liberty to remain with him during the battle or to join the rearguard and have an eye on the order of retreat, "which is also very important."
"However, there will hardly be an engagement today," said Bagration as if to reassure Prince Andrew.
"If he is one of the ordinary little staff dandies sent to earn a medal he can get his reward just as well in the rearguard, but if he wishes to stay with me, let him... he'll be of use here if he's a brave officer," thought Bagration. Prince Andrew, without replying, asked the prince's permission to ride round the position to see the disposition of the forces, so as to know his bearings should he be sent to execute an order. The officer on duty, a handsome, elegantly dressed man with a diamond ring on his forefinger, who was fond of speaking French though he spoke it badly, offered to conduct Prince Andrew.
On all sides they saw rain-soaked officers with dejected faces who seemed to be seeking something, and soldiers dragging doors, benches, and fencing from the village.
"There now, Prince! We can't stop those fellows," said the staff officer pointing to the soldiers. "The officers don't keep them in hand. And there," he pointed to a sutler's tent, "they crowd in and sit. This morning I turned them all out and now look, it's full again. I must go there, Prince, and scare them a bit. It won't take a moment."
"Yes, let's go in and I will get myself a roll and some cheese," said Prince Andrew who had not yet had time to eat anything.
"Why didn't you mention it, Prince? I would have offered you something."
They dismounted and entered the tent. Several officers, with flushed and weary faces, were sitting at the table eating and drinking.
"Now what does this mean, gentlemen?" said the staff officer, in the reproachful tone of a man who has repeated the same thing more than once. "You know it won't do to leave your posts like this. The prince gave orders that no one should leave his post. Now you, Captain," and he turned to a thin, dirty little artillery officer who without his boots (he had given them to the canteen keeper to dry), in only his stockings, rose when they entered, smiling not altogether comfortably.
"Well, aren't you ashamed of yourself, Captain Tushin?" he continued. "One would think that as an artillery officer you would set a good example, yet here you are without your boots! The alarm will be sounded and you'll be in a pretty position without your boots!" (The staff officer smiled.) "Kindly return to your posts, gentlemen, all of you, all!" he added in a tone of command.
Prince Andrew smiled involuntarily as he looked at the artillery officer Tushin, who silent and smiling, shifting from one stockinged foot to the other, glanced inquiringly with his large, intelligent, kindly eyes from Prince Andrew to the staff officer.
"The soldiers say it feels easier without boots," said Captain Tushin smiling shyly in his uncomfortable position, evidently wishing to adopt a jocular tone. But before he had finished he felt that his jest was unacceptable and had not come off. He grew confused.
"Kindly return to your posts," said the staff officer trying to preserve his gravity.
Prince Andrew glanced again at the artillery officer's small figure. There was something peculiar about it, quite unsoldierly, rather comic, but extremely attractive.
The staff officer and Prince Andrew mounted their horses and rode on.
Having ridden beyond the village, continually meeting and overtaking soldiers and officers of various regiments, they saw on their left some entrenchments being thrown up, the freshly dug clay of which showed up red. Several battalions of soldiers, in their shirt sleeves despite the cold wind, swarmed in these earthworks like a host of white ants; spadefuls of red clay were continually being thrown up from behind the bank by unseen hands. Prince Andrew and the officer rode up, looked at the entrenchment, and went on again. Just behind it they came upon some dozens of soldiers, continually replaced by others, who ran from the entrenchment. They had to hold their noses and put their horses to a trot to escape from the poisoned atmosphere of these latrines.
"Voila l'agrement des camps, monsieur le Prince,"* said the staff officer.
*"This is a pleasure one gets in camp, Prince."
They rode up the opposite hill. From there the French could already be seen. Prince Andrew stopped and began examining the position.
"That's our battery," said the staff officer indicating the highest point. "It's in charge of the queer fellow we saw without his boots. You can see everything from there; let's go there, Prince."
"Thank you very much, I will go on alone," said Prince Andrew, wishing to rid himself of this staff officer's company, "please don't trouble yourself further."
The staff officer remained behind and Prince Andrew rode on alone.
The farther forward and nearer the enemy he went, the more orderly and cheerful were the troops. The greatest disorder and depression had been in the baggage train he had passed that morning on the Znaim road seven miles away from the French. At Grunth also some apprehension and alarm could be felt, but the nearer Prince Andrew came to the French lines the more confident was the appearance of our troops. The soldiers in their greatcoats were ranged in lines, the sergeants major and company officers were counting the men, poking the last man in each section in the ribs and telling him to hold his hand up. Soldiers scattered over the whole place were dragging logs and brushwood and were building shelters with merry chatter and laughter; around the fires sat others, dressed and undressed, drying their shirts and leg bands or mending boots or overcoats and crowding round the boilers and porridge cookers. In one company dinner was ready, and the soldiers were gazing eagerly at the steaming boiler, waiting till the sample, which a quartermaster sergeant was carrying in a wooden bowl to an officer who sat on a log before his shelter, had been tasted.
Another company, a lucky one for not all the companies had vodka, crowded round a pock-marked, broad-shouldered sergeant major who, tilting a keg, filled one after another the canteen lids held out to him. The soldiers lifted the canteen lids to their lips with reverential faces, emptied them, rolling the vodka in their mouths, and walked away from the sergeant major with brightened expressions, licking their lips and wiping them on the sleeves of their greatcoats. All their faces were as serene as if all this were happening at home awaiting peaceful encampment, and not within sight of the enemy before an action in which at least half of them would be left on the field. After passing a chasseur regiment and in the lines of the Kiev grenadiers--fine fellows busy with similar peaceful affairs--near the shelter of the regimental commander, higher than and different from the others, Prince Andrew came out in front of a platoon of grenadiers before whom lay a naked man. Two soldiers held him while two others were flourishing their switches and striking him regularly on his bare back. The man shrieked unnaturally. A stout major was pacing up and down the line, and regardless of the screams kept repeating:
"It's a shame for a soldier to steal; a soldier must be honest, honorable, and brave, but if he robs his fellows there is no honor in him, he's a scoundrel. Go on! Go on!"
So the swishing sound of the strokes, and the desperate but unnatural screams, continued.
"Go on, go on!" said the major.
A young officer with a bewildered and pained expression on his face stepped away from the man and looked round inquiringly at the adjutant as he rode by.
Prince Andrew, having reached the front line, rode along it. Our front line and that of the enemy were far apart on the right and left flanks, but in the center where the men with a flag of truce had passed that morning, the lines were so near together that the men could see one another's faces and speak to one another. Besides the soldiers who formed the picket line on either side, there were many curious onlookers who, jesting and laughing, stared at their strange foreign enemies.
Since early morning--despite an injunction not to approach the picket line--the officers had been unable to keep sight-seers away. The soldiers forming the picket line, like showmen exhibiting a curiosity, no longer looked at the French but paid attention to the sight-seers and grew weary waiting to be relieved. Prince Andrew halted to have a look at the French.
"Look! Look there!" one soldier was saying to another, pointing to a Russian musketeer who had gone up to the picket line with an officer and was rapidly and excitedly talking to a French grenadier. "Hark to him jabbering! Fine, isn't it? It's all the Frenchy can do to keep up with him. There now, Sidorov!"
"Wait a bit and listen. It's fine!" answered Sidorov, who was considered an adept at French.
The soldier to whom the laughers referred was Dolokhov. Prince Andrew recognized him and stopped to listen to what he was saying. Dolokhov had come from the left flank where their regiment was stationed, with his captain.
"Now then, go on, go on!" incited the officer, bending forward and trying not to lose a word of the speech which was incomprehensible to him. "More, please: more! What's he saying?"
Dolokhov did not answer the captain; he had been drawn into a hot dispute with the French grenadier. They were naturally talking about the campaign. The Frenchman, confusing the Austrians with the Russians, was trying to prove that the Russians had surrendered and had fled all the way from Ulm, while Dolokhov maintained that the Russians had not surrendered but had beaten the French.
"We have orders to drive you off here, and we shall drive you off," said Dolokhov.
"Only take care you and your Cossacks are not all captured!" said the French grenadier.
The French onlookers and listeners laughed.
"We'll make you dance as we did under Suvorov...,"* said Dolokhov.
*"On vous fera danser."
"Qu' est-ce qu'il chante?"* asked a Frenchman.
*"What's he singing about?"
"It's ancient history," said another, guessing that it referred to a former war. "The Emperor will teach your Suvara as he has taught the others..."
"Bonaparte..." began Dolokhov, but the Frenchman interrupted him.
"Not Bonaparte. He is the Emperor! Sacre nom...!" cried he angrily.
"The devil skin your Emperor."
And Dolokhov swore at him in coarse soldier's Russian and shouldering his musket walked away.
"Let us go, Ivan Lukich," he said to the captain.
"Ah, that's the way to talk French," said the picket soldiers. "Now, Sidorov, you have a try!"
Sidorov, turning to the French, winked, and began to jabber meaningless sounds very fast: "Kari, mala, tafa, safi, muter, Kaska," he said, trying to give an expressive intonation to his voice.
"Ho! ho! ho! Ha! ha! ha! ha! Ouh! ouh!" came peals of such healthy and good-humored laughter from the soldiers that it infected the French involuntarily, so much so that the only thing left to do seemed to be to unload the muskets, muskets, explode the ammunition, and all return home as quickly as possible.
But the guns remained loaded, the loopholes in blockhouses and entrenchments looked out just as menacingly, and the unlimbered cannon confronted one another as before.