War And Peace

CHAPTER VII

Chinese

That day Nikolay Rostov had received a note from Boris informing him that the Ismailovsky regiment was quartered for the night fifteen versts from Olmütz, and that he wanted to see him to give him a letter and some money. The money Rostov particularly needed just now, when the troops after active service were stationed near Olmütz, and the camp swarmed with well-equipped canteen keepers and Austrian Jews, offering all kinds of attractions. The Pavlograd hussars had been keeping up a round of gaiety, fêtes in honour of the promotions received in the field, and excursions to Olmütz to a certain Caroline la Hongroise, who had recently opened a restaurant there with girls as waiters. Rostov had just been celebrating his commission as a cornet; he had bought Denisov's horse Bedouin, too, and was in debt all round to his comrades and the canteen keepers. On getting the note from Boris, Rostov rode into Olmütz with a comrade, dined there, drank a bottle of wine, and rode on alone to the guards' camp to find the companion of his childhood. Rostov had not yet got his uniform. He was wearing a shabby ensign's jacket with a private soldier's cross, equally shabby riding-trousers lined with worn leather, and an officer's sabre with a sword knot. The horse he was riding was of the Don breed, bought of a Cossack on the march. A crushed hussar cap was stuck jauntily back on one side of his head. As he rode up to the camp of the Ismailovsky regiment, he was thinking of how he would impress Boris and all his comrades in the guards by looking so thoroughly a hussar who has been under fire and roughed it at the front.

The guards had made their march as though it were a pleasure excursion, priding themselves on their smartness and discipline. They moved by short stages, their knapsacks were carried in the transport waggons, and at every halt the Austrian government provided the officers with excellent dinners. The regiments made their entry into towns and their exit from them with bands playing, and, according to the grand duke's order, the whole march had (a point on which the guards prided themselves) been performed by the soldiers in step, the officers too walking in their proper places. Boris had throughout the march walked and stayed with Berg, who was by this time a captain. Berg, who had received his company on the march, had succeeded in gaining the confidence of his superior officers by his conscientiousness and accuracy, and had established his financial position on a very satisfactory basis. Boris had during the same period made the acquaintance of many persons likely to be of use to him, and by means of a letter of recommendation brought from Pierre, had made the acquaintance of Prince Andrey Bolkonsky, through whom he had hopes of obtaining a post on the staff of the commander-in-chief. Berg and Boris, who had rested well after the previous day's march, were sitting smartly and neatly dressed, in the clean quarters assigned them, playing draughts at a round table. Berg was holding between his knees a smoking pipe. Boris, with his characteristic nicety, was building the draughts into a pyramid with his delicate, white fingers, while he waited for Berg to play. He was watching his partner's face, obviously thinking of the game, his attention concentrated, as it always was, on what he was engaged in.

“Well, how are you going to get out of that?” he said.

“I am going to try,” answered Berg, touching the pieces, and taking his hand away again.

At that instant the door opened.

“Here he is at last!” shouted Rostov. “And Berg too. Ah, petisanfan, alley cooshey dormir!” he cried, repeating the saying of their old nurse's that had once been a joke with him and Boris.

“Goodness, how changed you are!” Boris got up to greet Rostov, but as he rose, he did not forget to hold the board, and to put back the falling pieces. He was about to embrace his friend, but Nikolay drew back from him. With that peculiarly youthful feeling of fearing beaten tracks, of wanting to avoid imitation, to express one's feelings in some new way of one's own, so as to escape the forms often conventionally used by one's elders, Nikolay wanted to do something striking on meeting his friend. He wanted somehow to give him a pinch, to give Berg a shove, anything rather than to kiss, as people always did on such occasions. Boris, on the contrary, embraced Rostov in a composed and friendly manner, and gave him three kisses.

It was almost six months since they had seen each other. And being at the stage when young men take their first steps along the path of life, each found immense changes in the other, quite new reflections of the different society in which they had taken those first steps. Both had changed greatly since they were last together, and both wanted to show as soon as possible what a change had taken place.

“Ah, you damned floor polishers! Smart and clean, as if you'd been enjoying yourselves; not like us poor devils at the front,” said Rostov, with martial swagger, and with baritone notes in his voice that were new to Boris. He pointed to his mud-stained riding-breeches. The German woman of the house popped her head out of a door at Rostov's loud voice.

“A pretty woman, eh?” said he, winking.

“Why do you shout so? You are frightening them,” said Boris. “I didn't expect you to-day,” he added. “I only sent the note off to you yesterday—through an adjutant of Kutuzov's, who's a friend of mine—Bolkonsky. I didn't expect he would send it to you so quickly. Well, how are you? Been under fire already?” asked Boris.

Without answering, Rostov, in soldierly fashion, shook the cross of St. George that hung on the cording of his uniform, and pointing to his arm in a sling, he glanced at Berg.

“As you see,” he said.

“To be sure, yes, yes,” said Boris, smiling, “and we have had a capital march here too. You know his Highness kept all the while with our regiment, so that we had every convenience and advantage. In Poland, the receptions, the dinners, the balls!—I can't tell you. And the Tsarevitch was very gracious to all our officers.” And both the friends began describing; one, the gay revels of the hussars and life at the front; the other, the amenities and advantages of service under the command of royalty.

“Oh, you guards,” said Rostov. “But, I say, send for some wine.”

Boris frowned.

“If you really want some,” he said. And he went to the bedstead, took a purse from under the clean pillows, and ordered some wine. “Oh, and I have a letter and money to give you,” he added.

Rostov took the letter, and flinging the money on the sofa, put both his elbows on the table and began reading it. He read a few lines, and looked wrathfully at Berg. Meeting his eyes, Rostov hid his face with the letter.

“They sent you a decent lot of money, though,” said Berg, looking at the heavy bag, that sank into the sofa. “But we manage to scrape along on our pay, count, I can tell you in my own case. …”

“I say, Berg, my dear fellow,” said Rostov; “when you get a letter from home and meet one of your own people, whom you want to talk everything over with, and I'm on the scene, I'll clear out at once, so as not to be in your way. Do you hear, be off, please, anywhere, anywhere … to the devil!” he cried, and immediately seizing him by the shoulder, and looking affectionately into his face, evidently to soften the rudeness of his words, he added: “you know, you're not angry, my dear fellow, I speak straight from the heart to an old friend like you.”

“Why, of course, count, I quite understand,” said Berg, getting up and speaking in his deep voice.

“You might go and see the people of the house; they did invite you,” added Boris.

Berg put on a spotless clean coat, brushed his lovelocks upwards before the looking-glass, in the fashion worn by the Tsar Alexander Pavlovitch, and having assured himself from Rostov's expression that his coat had been observed, he went out of the room with a bland smile.

“Ah, what a beast I am, though,” said Rostov, as he read the letter.

“Oh, why?”

“Ah, what a pig I've been, never once to have written and to have given them such a fright. Ah, what a pig I am!” he repeated, flushing all at once. “Well, did you send Gavrila for some wine? That's right, let's have some!” said he.

With the letters from his family there had been inserted a letter of recommendation to Prince Bagration, by Anna Mihalovna's advice, which Countess Rostov had obtained through acquaintances, and had sent to her son, begging him to take it to its address, and to make use of it.

“What nonsense! Much use to me,” said Rostov, throwing the letter under the table.

“What did you throw that away for?” asked Boris.

“It's a letter of recommendation of some sort; what the devil do I want with a letter like that!”

“What the devil do you want with it?” said Boris, picking it up and reading the address; “that letter would be of great use to you.”

“I'm not in want of anything, and I'm not going to be an adjutant to anybody.”

“Why not?” asked Boris.

“A lackey's duty.”

“You are just as much of an idealist as ever, I see,” said Boris, shaking his head.

“And you're just as much of a diplomat. But that's not the point. … Come, how are you?” asked Rostov.

“Why, as you see. So far everything's gone well; but I'll own I should be very glad to get a post as adjutant, and not to stay in the line.”

“What for?”

“Why, because if once one goes in for a military career, one ought to try to make it as successful a career as one can.”

“Oh, that's it,” said Rostov, unmistakably thinking of something else. He looked intently and inquiringly into his friend's eyes, apparently seeking earnestly the solution of some question.

Old Gavrila brought in the wine.

“Shouldn't we send for Alphonse Karlitch now?” said Boris. “He'll drink with you, but I can't.”

“Send for him, send for him. Well, how do you get on with the Teuton?” said Rostov, with a contemptuous smile.

“He's a very, very nice, honest, and pleasant fellow,” said Boris.

Rostov looked intently into Boris's face once more and he sighed. Berg came back, and over the bottle the conversation between the three officers became livelier. The guardsmen told Rostov about their march and how they had been fêted in Russia, in Poland, and abroad. They talked of the sayings and doings of their commander, the Grand Duke, and told anecdotes of his kind-heartedness and his irascibility. Berg was silent, as he always was, when the subject did not concern him personally, but à propos of the irascibility of the Grand Duke he related with gusto how he had had some words with the Grand Duke in Galicia, when his Highness had inspected the regiments and had flown into a rage over some irregularity in their movements. With a bland smile on his face he described how the Grand Duke had ridden up to him in a violent rage, shouting “Arnauts!” (“Arnauts” was the Tsarevitch's favourite term of abuse when he was in a passion), and how he had asked for the captain. “Would you believe me, count, I wasn't in the least alarmed, because I knew I was right. Without boasting, you know, count, I may say I know all the regimental drill-book by heart, and the standing orders, too, I know as I know ‘Our Father that art in Heaven.' And so that's how it is, count, there's never the slightest detail neglected in my company. So my conscience was at ease. I came forward.” (Berg stood up and mimicked how he had come forward with his hand to the beak of his cap. It would certainly have been difficult to imagine more respectfulness and more self-complacency in a face.) “Well, he scolded, and scolded, and rated at me, and shouted his ‘Arnauts,' and damns, and ‘to Siberia,' ” said Berg, with a subtle smile. “I knew I was right, and so I didn't speak; how could I, count? ‘Why are you dumb?' he shouted. Still I held my tongue, and what do you think, count? Next day there was nothing about it in the orders of the day; that's what comes of keeping one's head. Yes, indeed, count,” said Berg, pulling at his pipe and letting off rings of smoke.

“Yes, that's capital,” said Rostov, smiling; but Boris, seeing that Rostov was disposed to make fun of Berg, skilfully turned the conversation. He begged Rostov to tell them how and where he had been wounded. That pleased Rostov, and he began telling them, getting more and more eager as he talked. He described to them his battle at Schöngraben exactly as men who have taken part in battles always do describe them, that is, as they would have liked them to be, as they have heard them described by others, and as sounds well, but not in the least as it really had been. Rostov was a truthful young man; he would not have intentionally told a lie. He began with the intention of telling everything precisely as it had happened, but imperceptibly, unconsciously, and inevitably he passed into falsehood. If he had told the truth to his listeners, who, like himself, had heard numerous descriptions of cavalry charges, and had formed a definite idea of what a charge was like and were expecting a similar description, either they would not have believed him, or worse still, would have assumed that Rostov was himself to blame for not having performed the exploits usually performed by those who describe cavalry charges. He could not tell them simply that they had all been charging full gallop, that he had fallen off his horse, sprained his arm, and run with all his might away from the French into the copse. And besides, to tell everything exactly as it happened, he would have had to exercise considerable self-control in order to tell nothing beyond what happened. To tell the truth is a very difficult thing; and young people are rarely capable of it. His listeners expected to hear how he bad been all on fire with excitement, had forgotten himself, had flown like a tempest on the enemy's square, had cut his way into it, hewing men down right and left, how a sabre had been thrust into his flesh, how he had fallen unconscious, and so on. And he described all that. In the middle of his tale, just as he was saying: “You can't fancy what a strange frenzy takes possession of one at the moment of the charge,” there walked into the room Prince Andrey Bolkonsky, whom Boris was expecting. Prince Andrey liked to encourage and assist younger men, he was flattered at being applied to for his influence, and well disposed to Boris, who had succeeded in making a favourable impression on him the previous day; he was eager to do for the young man what he desired. Having been sent with papers from Kutuzov to the Tsarevitch, he called upon Boris, hoping to find him alone. When he came into the room and saw the hussar with his soldierly swagger describing his warlike exploits (Prince Andrey could not endure the kind of men who are fond of doing so), he smiled cordially to Boris, but frowned and dropped his eyelids as he turned to Rostov with a slight bow. Wearily and languidly he sat down on the sofa, regretting that he had dropped into such undesirable society. Rostov, perceiving it, grew hot, but he did not care; this man was nothing to him. Glancing at Boris, he saw, however, that he too seemed ashamed of the valiant hussar. In spite of Prince Andrey's unpleasant, ironical manner, in spite of the disdain with which Rostov, from his point of view of a fighting man in the regular army, regarded the whole race of staff-adjutants in general—the class to which the new-comer unmistakably belonged—he yet felt abashed, reddened, and subsided into silence. Boris inquired what news there was on the staff and whether he could not without indiscretion tell them something about our plans.

“Most likely they will advance,” answered Bolkonsky, obviously unwilling to say more before outsiders. Berg seized the opportunity to inquire with peculiar deference whether the report was true, as he had heard, that the allowance of forage to captains of companies was to be doubled. To this Prince Andrey replied with a smile that he could not presume to offer an opinion on state questions of such gravity, and Berg laughed with delight.

“As to your business,” Prince Andrey turned back to Boris, “we will talk of it later,” and he glanced at Rostov. “You come to me after the review, and we'll do what we can.” And looking round the room he addressed Rostov, whose childish, uncontrollable embarrassment, passing now into anger, he did not think fit to notice: “You were talking, I think, about the Schöngraben action? Were you there?”

“I was there,” Rostov said in a tone of exasperation, which he seemed to intend as an insult to the adjutant. Bolkonsky noticed the hussar's state of mind, and it seemed to amuse him. He smiled rather disdainfully.

“Ah! there are a great many stories now about that engagement.”

“Yes, stories!” said Rostov loudly, looking from Boris to Bolkonsky with eyes full of sudden fury, “a great many stories, I dare say, but our stories are the stories of men who have been under the enemy's fire, our stories have some weight, they're not the tales of little staff upstarts, who draw pay for doing nothing.”

“The class to which you assume me to belong,” said Prince Andrey, with a calm and particularly amiable smile.

A strange feeling of exasperation was mingled in Rostov's heart with respect for the self-possession of this person.

“I'm not talking about you,” he said; “I don't know you, and, I'll own, I don't want to. I'm speaking of staff-officers in general.”

“Let me tell you this,” Prince Andrey cut him short in a tone of quiet authority, “you are trying to insult me, and I'm ready to agree with you that it is very easy to do so, if you haven't sufficient respect for yourself. But you will agree that the time and place is ill-chosen for this squabble. In a day or two we have to take part in a great and more serious duel, and besides, Drubetskoy, who tells me he is an old friend of yours, is in no way to blame because my physiognomy is so unfortunate as to displease you. However,” he said, getting up, “you know my name, and know where to find me; but don't forget,” he added, “that I don't consider either myself or you insulted, and my advice, as a man older than you, is to let the matter drop. So on Friday, after the review, I shall expect you, Drubetskoy; good-bye till then,” cried Prince Andrey, and he went out, bowing to both.

Rostov only bethought him of what he ought to have answered when he had gone. And he was more furious still that he had not thought of saying it. He ordered his horse to be brought round at once, and taking leave of Boris coldly, he rode back. Whether to ride to-morrow to head-quarters and challenge that conceited adjutant, or whether really to let the matter drop, was the question that worried him all the way. At one moment he thought vindictively how he would enjoy seeing the fright that feeble, little, conceited fellow would be in, facing his pistol, at the next he was feeling with surprise that, of all the men he knew, there was no one he would be more glad to have for his friend than that detested little adjutant.

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