War And Peace

CHAPTER IX

Chinese

THE DAY AFTER THE REVIEW Boris Drubetskoy put on his best uniform, and accompanied by his comrade Berg's good wishes for his success, rode to Olmütz to see Bolkonsky, in the hope of profiting by his friendliness to obtain a better position, especially the position of an adjutant in attendance on some personage of importance, a post which seemed to him particularly alluring.

“It's all very well for Rostov, whose father sends him ten thousand at a time, to talk about not caring to cringe to any one, and not being a lackey to any man. But I, with nothing of my own but my brains, have my career to make, and mustn't let opportunities slip, but must make the most of them.”

He did not find Prince Andrey at Olmütz that day. But the sight of Olmütz—where were the headquarters and the diplomatic corps, and where both Emperors with their suites, their households, and their court, were staying—only strengthened his desire to belong to this upper world.

He knew no one; and in spite of his smart guardsman's uniform, all these exalted persons, racing to and fro about the streets in their elegant carriages, plumes, ribbons, and orders, courtiers and military alike, all seemed to be so immeasurably above him, a little officer in the Guards, as to be not simply unwilling, but positively unable to recognise his existence. At the quarters of the commander-in-chief, Kutuzov, where he asked for Bolkonsky, all the adjutants and even the orderlies looked at him as though they wished to impress on him that a great many officers of his sort came hanging about here, and that they were all heartily sick of seeing them. In spite of this, or rather in consequence of it, he went again the following day, the 15th, after dinner, to Olmütz, and going into the house occupied by Kutuzov, asked for Bolkonsky. Prince Andrey was at home, and Boris was ushered into a large room, probably at some time used for dancing. Now there were five bedsteads in it and furniture of various kinds: a table, chairs, a clavichord. One adjutant was sitting in a Persian dressing-gown writing at a table near the door. Another, the stout, red-faced Nesvitsky, was lying on a bed, his arms under his head, laughing with an officer sitting by the bedside. A third was playing a Vienna waltz on the clavichord, while a fourth lay on the clavichord, humming to the tune. Bolkonsky was not in the room. Not one of these gentlemen changed his position on observing Boris. The one who was writing, on being applied to by Boris, turned round with an air of annoyance, and told him that Bolkonsky was the adjutant on duty, and that he should go to the door to the left, into the reception-room, if he wanted to see him. Boris thanked him, and went to the reception-room. There he found some ten officers and generals.

At the moment when Boris entered, Prince Andrey dropping his eye-lids disdainfully (with that peculiar air of courteous weariness which so distinctly says, “If it were not my duty, I would not stay talking to you for a minute”), was listening to an old Russian general with many decorations, who, rigidly erect, almost on tiptoe, was laying some matter before Prince Andrey with the obsequious expression of a common soldier on his purple face.

“Very good, be so kind as to wait a moment,” he said to the general in Russian, with that French accent with which he always spoke when he meant to speak disdainfully, and noticing Boris, Prince Andrey took no further notice of the general (who ran after him with entreaties, begging him to hear something more), but nodded to Boris with a bright smile, as he turned towards him. At that moment Boris saw distinctly what he had had an inkling of before, that is, that quite apart from that subordination and discipline, which is written down in the drill-book, and recognised in the regiment and known to him, there was in the army another and more actual subordination, that which made this rigid, purple-faced general wait respectfully while Prince Andrey—of captain's rank—found it more in accordance with his pleasure to talk to Lieutenant Drubetskoy. Boris felt more than ever determined to follow in future the guidance not of the written code laid down in the regulations, but of this unwritten code. He felt now that simply because he had been recommended to Prince Andrey, he had become at one step superior to the general, who in other circumstances, at the front, could annihilate a mere lieutenant in the guards like him. Prince Andrey went up to him and shook hands.

“Very sorry you didn't find me in yesterday. I was busy the whole day with the Germans. We went with Weierother to survey the disposition. When Germans start being accurate, there's no end to it!”

Boris smiled, as though he understood, as a matter of common knowledge, what Prince Andrey was referring to. But it was the first time he had heard the name of Weierother, or even the word “disposition” used in that sense.

“Well, my dear boy, you still want an adjutant's post? I have been thinking about you since I saw you.”

“Yes,” said Boris, involuntarily flushing for some reason, “I was thinking of asking the commander-in-chief; he has had a letter about me from Prince Kuragin; and I wanted to ask him simply because,” he added, as though excusing himself, “I am afraid the guards won't be in action.”

“Very good, very good! we will talk it over later,” said Prince Andrey, “only let me report on this gentleman's business and I am at your disposal.” While Prince Andrey was away reporting to the commander-in-chief on the business of the purple-faced general, that general, who apparently did not share Boris's views as to the superior advantages of the unwritten code, glared at the insolent lieutenant, who had hindered his having his say out, so that Boris began to be uncomfortable. He turned away and waited with impatience for Prince Andrey to come out of the commander-in-chief's room.

“Well, my dear fellow, I have been thinking about you,” said Prince Andrey, when they had gone into the big room with the clavichord in it. “It's no use your going to the commander-in-chief; he will say a lot of polite things to you, will ask you to dine with him” (“that wouldn't come amiss in the service of that unwritten code,” thought Boris), “but nothing more would come of it; we shall soon have a complete battalion of adjutants and orderly officers. But I tell you what we will do: I have a friend, a general adjutant and an excellent fellow, Prince Dolgorukov. And though you may not be aware of it, the fact is that Kutuzov and his staff and all of us are just now of no account at all. Everything now is concentrated about the Emperor, so we'll go together to Dolgorukov. I have to go to see him, and I have already spoken of you to him. So we can see whether he may not think it possible to find a post for you on his staff, or somewhere there nearer to the sun.”

Prince Andrey was always particularly keen over guiding a young man and helping him to attain worldly success. Under cover of this help for another, which he would never have accepted for himself, he was brought into the circle which bestowed success, and which attracted him. He very readily took up Boris's cause, and went with him to Prince Dolgorukov.

It was late in the evening as they entered the palace at Olmütz, occupied by the Emperors and their retinues.

There had been on that same day a council of war, at which all the members of the Hofkriegsrath and the two Emperors had been present. At the council it had been decided, contrary to the advice of the elder generals, Kutuzov and Prince Schwarzenberg, to advance at once and to fight a general engagement with Bonaparte. The council of war was only just over when Prince Andrey, accompanied by Boris, went into the palace in search of Prince Dolgorukov. Every one at headquarters was still under the spell of the victory gained that day by the younger party at the council of war. The voices of those who urged delay, and counselled waiting for something and not advancing, had been so unanimously drowned and their arguments had been confuted by such indubitable proofs of the advantages of advancing, that what had been discussed at the council, the future battle and the victory certain to follow it, seemed no longer future but past. All the advantages were on our side. Our immense forces, undoubtedly superior to those of Napoleon, were concentrated in one place; the troops were encouraged by the presence of the two Emperors, and were eager for battle. The strategic position on which they were to act was to the minutest detail known to the Austrian general Weierother, who was at the head of the troops (as a lucky chance would have it, the Austrian troops had chosen for their manœuvres the very fields in which they had now to fight the French). Every detail of the surrounding neighbourhood was known and put down on maps, while Bonaparte, apparently growing feebler, was taking no measures.

Dolgorukov, who had been one of the warmest advocates of attack, had just come back from the council, weary, exhausted, but eager and proud of the victory he had gained. Prince Andrey presented the officer for whom he was asking his influence, but Prince Dolgorukov, though he shook hands politely and warmly, said nothing to Boris. Obviously unable to restrain himself from uttering the thoughts which were engrossing him at that moment, he addressed Prince Andrey in French.

“Well, my dear fellow, what a battle we have won! God only grant that the one which will be the result of it may be as victorious. I must own, though, my dear fellow,” he said jerkily and eagerly, “my short-comings compared with the Austrians and especially Weierother. What accuracy, what minuteness, what knowledge of the locality, what foresight of every possibility, every condition, of every minutest detail! No, my dear boy, anything more propitious than the circumstance we are placed in could not have been found, if one had arranged it purposely. The union of Austrian exactitude with Russian valour—what could you wish for more?”

“So an attack has been finally decided upon?” said Bolkonsky.

“And do you know, I fancy, Bonaparte really has lost his head. You know that a letter came from him to-day to the Emperor.” Dolgorukov smiled significantly.

“You don't say so! What does he write?” asked Bolkonsky.

“What can he write? Tradi-ri-di-ra—all simply to gain time. I tell you he's in our hands; that's the fact! But the most amusing part of it all,” he said, breaking all at once into a good-natured laugh, “is that they couldn't think how to address an answer to him. If not ‘consul,' and of course not ‘emperor,' it should be ‘general' Bonaparte, it seemed to me.”

“But between not recognising him as emperor and calling him General Bonaparte, there's a difference,” said Bolkonsky.

“That's just the point,” Dolgorukov interrupted quickly, laughing. “You know Bilibin, he's a very clever fellow; he suggested addressing it, ‘To the Usurper and Enemy of the Human Race,' ” Dolgorukov chuckled merrily.

“And nothing more?” observed Bolkonsky.

“But still it was Bilibin who found the suitable form of address in earnest. He's both shrewd and witty…”

“How was it?”

“To the Chief of the French Government: au chef du gouvernement français,” Dolgorukov said seriously and with satisfaction. “That was the right thing, wasn't it?”

“It was all right, but he will dislike it extremely,” observed Bolkonsky.

“Oh, extremely! My brother knows him; he's dined more than once with him—nowadays the emperor—in Paris, and used to tell me that he'd never seen a subtler and more crafty diplomat; you know, a combination of French adroitness and the Italian actor-faculty! You know the anecdote about Bonaparte and Count Markov? Count Markov was the only person who knew how to treat him. You know the story of the handkerchief? It's a gem!” And the talkative Dolgorukov turning from Boris to Prince Andrey told the story of how Bonaparte, to test Markov, our ambassador, had purposely dropped his handkerchief before him, and had stood looking at him, probably expecting Markov to pick it up for him, and how Markov promptly dropped his own beside it, and had picked up his own without touching Bonaparte's.

“Capital,” said Bolkonsky. “But, prince, I have come to you as a petitioner in behalf of this young friend. You see …” But before Prince Andrey could finish, an adjutant came into the room to summon Prince Dolgorukov to the Emperor.

“Ah, how annoying!” said Dolgorukov, getting up hurriedly and shaking hands with Prince Andrey and Boris. “You know I shall be very glad to do all that depends on me both for you and for this charming young man.” Once more he shook hands with Boris with an expression of good-natured, genuine, heedless gaiety. “But you see … another time!”

Boris was excited by the thought of being so close to the higher powers, as he felt himself to be at that instant. He was conscious here of being in contact with the springs that controlled all those vast movements of the masses, of which in his regiment he felt himself a tiny, humble, and insignificant part. They followed Prince Dolgorukov out into the corridor and met (coming out of the door of the Tsar's room at which Dolgorukov went in) a short man in civilian dress with a shrewd face and a sharply projecting lower jaw, which, without spoiling his face, gave him a peculiar alertness and shiftiness of expression. This short man nodded to Dolgorukov, as if he were an intimate friend, and stared with an intently cold gaze at Prince Andrey, walking straight towards him and apparently expecting him to bow or move out of his way. Prince Andrey did neither; there was a vindictive look on his face, and the short young man turned away and walked at the side of the corridor.

“Who's that?” asked Boris.

“That's one of the most remarkable men—and the most unpleasant to me. The minister of foreign affairs, Prince Adam Tchartorizhsky.”

“Those are the men,” added Bolkonsky with a sigh which he could not suppress, as they went out of the palace, “those are the men who decide the fates of nations.”

Next day the troops set off on the march, and up to the time of the battle of Austerlitz, Boris did not succeed in seeing Bolkonsky or Dolgorukov again, and remained for a while in the Ismailov regiment.

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