THE SAME NIGHT, after taking leave of the minister of war, Bolkonsky set off to join the army, not knowing where he should find it, at the risk of being caught by the French on the way to Krems.
At Bränn all the court and every one connected with it was packing up, and the heavy baggage was already being despatched to Olmätz. Near Esselsdorf, Prince Andrey came out on the road along which the Russian army was moving in the utmost haste and in the greatest disorder. The road was so obstructed with baggage-waggons that it was impossible to get by in a carriage. Prince Andrey procured a horse and a Cossack from the officer in command of the Cossacks, and hungry and weary he threaded his way in and out between the waggons and rode in search of the commander-in-chief and his own luggage. The most sinister rumours as to the position of the army reached him on the road, and the appearance of the army fleeing in disorder confirmed these rumours.
“As for that Russian army which English gold has brought from the ends of the universe, we are going to inflict upon it the same fate (the fate of the army of Ulm)”; he remembered the words of Bonaparte's address to his army at the beginning of the campaign, and these words aroused in him simultaneously admiration for the genius of his hero, a feeling of mortified pride, and the hope of glory. “And if there's nothing left but to die?” he thought. “Well, if it must be! I will do it no worse than others.”
Prince Andrey looked disdainfully at the endless, confused mass of companies, of baggage-waggons, parks of artillery, and again store-waggons, carts, and waggons of every possible form, pursuing one another and obstructing the muddy road three and four abreast. On every side, behind and before, as far as the ear could reach in every direction there was the rumble of wheels, the rattle of carts, of waggons, and of gun-carriages, the tramp of horses, the crack of whips, the shouts of drivers, the swearing of soldiers, of orderlies, and officers. At the sides of the roads he saw fallen horses, and sometimes their skinned carcases, broken-down waggons, with solitary soldiers sitting on them, waiting for something, detached groups of soldiers strayed from their companies, starting off to neighbouring villages, or dragging back from them fowls, sheep, hay, or sacks of stores of some sort. Where the road went uphill or downhill the crush became greater, and there was an uninterrupted roar of shouts. The soldiers floundering knee-deep in the mud clutched the guns and clung to the waggons in the midst of cracking whips, slipping hoofs, breaking traces and throat-splitting yells. The officers superintending their movements rode to and fro in front and behind the convoys. Their voices were faintly audible in the midst of the general uproar, their faces betrayed that they despaired of the possibility of checking the disorder.
“Voilà le cher holy armament,” thought Bolkonsky, recalling Bilibin's words.
He rode up to a convoy, intending to ask of some one of these men where he could find the commander-in-chief. Directly opposite to him came a strange vehicle, with one horse, obviously rigged up by soldiers with the resources at their disposal, and looking like something between a cart, a cabriolet, and a coach. A soldier was driving it, and under the leathern tilt behind a cover sat a woman, muffled up in shawls. Prince Andrey rode up and was just addressing a question to the soldier, when his attention was taken off by the despairing shrieks of the woman in this conveyance. The officer, directing the traffic, aimed a blow at the soldier who sat in the coachman's seat, for trying to push in ahead of others, and the lash fell on the cover of the equipage. The woman shrieked shrilly. On catching sight of Prince Andrey, she looked out from under the cover and putting her thin arms out from the shawls and waving them, she screamed:
“Adjutant! sir! … For God's sake! … protect me. … What will happen to us? … I am the wife of the doctor of the Seventh Chasseurs … they won't let us pass, we have dropped behind, lost our own people. …”
“I'll thrash you into mincemeat! turn back!” shouted the exasperated officer to the soldier: “turn back with your hussy!”
“Sir, protect us. What does it mean?” screamed the doctor's wife.
“Kindly let this cart get through. Don't you see that it is a woman?” said Prince Andrey, riding up to the officer.
The officer glanced at him, and without making any reply turned again to the soldier. “I'll teach you how to push in. … Back! …”
“Let it pass, I tell you,” repeated Prince Andrey, setting his lips tightly.
“And who are you?” cried the officer, turning upon him suddenly with drunken fury. “Who are you? Are you” (he put a peculiarly offensive intonation into the word) “in command, pray? I'm commanding officer here, not you. Back you go,” he repeated, “or I'll lash you into mincemeat.” The expression evidently pleased the officer.
“A nice snub he gave the little adjutant,” said a voice in the background.
Prince Andrey saw that the officer was in that stage of drunken unreasoning fury, when men do not remember what they say. He saw that his championship of the doctor's wife in the queer conveyance was exposing him to what he dreaded more than anything else in the world, what is called in French ridicule, but his instinct said something else. The officer had hardly uttered the last words when Prince Andrey rode up to him with a face distorted by frenzied anger, and raised his riding-whip: “Let—them—pass!”
The officer flourished his arm and hurriedly rode away.
“It's all their doing, these staff-officers, all the disorder,” he grumbled. “Do as you like.”
Prince Andrey, without lifting his eyes, made haste to escape from the doctor's wife, who called him her deliverer. And dwelling on the minutest detail of this humiliating scene with loathing, he galloped on towards the village, where he was told that the commander-in-chief was.
On reaching the village, he got off his horse, and went into the first house with the intention of resting for a moment at least, eating something, and getting all the mortifying impressions that were torturing him into some clear shape. “This is a mob of scoundrels, not an army,” he thought, going up to the window of the first house, when a familiar voice called him by his name.
He looked round. Out of a little window was thrust the handsome face of Nesvitsky. Nesvitsky, munching something in his moist mouth and beckoning to him, called him in.
“Bolkonsky! Bolkonsky! Don't you hear, eh? Make haste,” he shouted.
Going into the house, Prince Andrey found Nesvitsky and another adjutant having a meal. They hastily turned to Bolkonsky with the inquiry, had he any news? On their familiar faces Prince Andrey read alarm and uneasiness. That expression was particularly noticeable in Nesvitsky's face, usually so full of laughter.
“Where is the commander-in-chief?” asked Bolkonsky.
“Here in this house,” answered the adjutant.
“Well, is it true, about the peace and capitulation?” asked Nesvitsky.
“I ask you. I know nothing except that I have had great difficulty in getting through to you.”
“And the things that have been going on, my boy! Awful! I was wrong to laugh at Mack; there's worse in store for us,” said Nesvitsky. “But sit down, have something to eat.”
“You won't find your baggage or anything now, prince, and God knows what's become of your Pyotr,” said the other adjutant.
“Where are the headquarters?”
“We shall spend the night in Znaim.”
“Well, I got everything I wanted packed up on two horses,” said Nesvitsky; “and capital packs they made for me, fit to scamper as far as the Bohemian mountains at least. Things are in a bad way, my boy. But, I say, you must be ill, shivering like that?” Nesvitsky queried, noticing how Prince Andrey shuddered, as though in contact with a galvanic battery.
“No; I'm all right,” answered Prince Andrey. He had recalled at that instant the incident with the doctor's wife and the transport officer.
“What is the commander-in-chief doing here?” he asked.
“I can't make out anything,” said Nesvitsky.
“I know one thing, that it's all loathsome, loathsome, loathsome,” said Prince Andrey, and he went into the house where the commander-in-chief was stopping.
Passing by Kutuzov's carriage, the exhausted saddle-horses of his suite, and the Cossacks talking loudly together, Prince Andrey went into the outer room. Kutuzov himself was, as Prince Andrey had been told, in the inner room of the hut with Prince Bagration and Weierother. The latter was the Austrian general, who had taken Schmidt's place. In the outer room little Kozlovsky was squatting on his heels in front of a copying-clerk. The latter was sitting on a tub turned upside down, he was writing rapidly with the cuffs of his uniform tucked up. Kozlovsky's face was careworn; he too looked as if he had not slept all night. He glanced at Prince Andrey, and did not even nod to him.
“The second line.… Ready?” he went on, dictating to the clerk: “the Kiev Grenadiers, the Podolsky …”
“Don't be in such a hurry, your honour,” the clerk answered rudely and angrily, looking at Kozlovsky. Through the door he heard at that moment Kutuzov's voice, eager and dissatisfied, and other unfamiliar voices interrupting him. The sound of those voices, the inattention with which Kozlovsky glanced at him, the churlishness of the harassed clerk, the fact that the clerk and Kozlovsky were sitting round a tub on the floor at so little distance from the commander-in-chief, and that the Cossacks holding the horses laughed so loudly at the window—all made Prince Andrey feel that some grave calamity was hanging over them.
Prince Andrey turned to Kozlovsky with urgent questions.
“In a minute, prince,” said Kozlovsky. “The disposition of Bagration's troops…”
“What about capitulation?”
“Nothing of the sort; arrangements have been made for a battle!”
Prince Andrey went towards the door from which the sound of voices came. But at the moment when he was going to open the door, the voices in the room paused, the door opened of itself, and Kutuzov with his eagle nose and podgy face appeared in the doorway. Prince Andrey was standing exactly opposite Kutuzov; but from the expression of the commander-in-chief's one seeing eye it was evident that thought and anxiety so engrossed him as to veil, as it were, his vision. He looked straight into his adjutant's face and did not recognise him.
“Well, have you finished?” he addressed Kozlovsky.
“In a second, your Excellency.”
Bagration, a short lean man, not yet elderly, with a resolute and impassive face of oriental type, came out after the commander-in-chief.
“I have the honour to report myself,” Prince Andrey said for the second time, rather loudly, as he handed Kutuzov an envelope.
“Ah, from Vienna? Very good! Later, later!” Kutuzov went out to the steps with Bagration.
“Well, prince, good-bye,” he said to Bagration. “Christ be with you! May my blessing bring you a great victory!” Kutuzov's face suddenly softened, and there were tears in his eyes. With his left arm he drew Bagration to him, while with his right hand, on which he wore a ring, he crossed him with a gesture evidently habitual. He offered him his podgy cheek, but Bagration kissed him on the neck. “Christ be with you!” repeated Kutuzov, and he went towards his carriage. “Get in with me,” he said to Bolkonsky.
“Your Most High Excellency, I should have liked to be of use here. Allow me to remain in Prince Bagration's detachment.”
“Get in,” said Kutuzov, and noticing that Bolkonsky still delayed: “I have need of good officers myself, myself.”
They took their seats in the carriage and drove for some minutes in silence.
“There is a great deal, a great deal of everything still before us,” he said, with an expression of old-age clairvoyance, as though he saw all that was passing in Bolkonsky's heart. “If one-tenth part of his detachment comes in, I shall thank God,” added Kutuzov, as though talking to himself.
Prince Andrey glanced at Kutuzov, and unconsciously his eyes were caught by the carefully washed seams of the scar on his temple, where the bullet had gone through his head at Ismail, and the empty eyesocket, not a yard from him. “Yes, he has the right to speak so calmly of the destruction of these men,” thought Bolkonsky.
“That's why I ask you to send me to that detachment,” he said.
Kutuzov made no reply. He seemed to have forgotten what was said to him, and sat plunged in thought. Five minutes later, swaying easily in the soft carriage springs, Kutuzov addressed Prince Andrey. There was no trace of emotion on his face now. With delicate irony he questioned Prince Andrey about the details of his interview with the Emperor, about the comments he had heard at Court on the Krems engagement, and about ladies of their common acquaintance.