AT TEN O'CLOCK in the evening, Weierother with his plans rode over to Kutuzov's quarters, where the council of war was to take place. All the commanders of columns were summoned to the commander-in-chief's, and with the exception of Prince Bagration, who declined to come, all of them arrived at the hour fixed.
Weierother, who was entirely responsible for all the arrangements for the proposed battle, in his eagerness and hurry, was a striking contrast to the ill-humoured and sleepy Kutuzov, who reluctantly played the part of president and chairman of the council of war. Weierother obviously felt himself at the head of the movement that had been set going and could not be stopped. He was like a horse in harness running downhill with a heavy load behind him. Whether he were pulling it or it were pushing him, he could not have said, but he was flying along at full speed with no time to consider where this swift motion would land him. Weierother had been twice that evening to make a personal inspection up to the enemy's line, and twice he had been with the Emperors, Russian and Austrian, to report and explain, and to his office, where he had dictated the disposition of the German troops. He came now, exhausted, to Kutuzov's.
He was evidently so much engrossed that he even forgot to be respectful to the commander-in-chief. He interrupted him, talked rapidly and indistinctly, without looking at the person he was addressing, failed to answer questions that were put to him, was spattered with mud, and had an air pitiful, exhausted, distracted, and at the same time self-confident and haughty.
Kutuzov was staying in a small nobleman's castle near Austerlitz. In the drawing-room, which had been made the commander-in-chief's study, were gathered together: Kutuzov himself, Weierother, and the members of the council of war. They were drinking tea. They were only waiting for Prince Bagration to open the council. Presently Bagration's orderly officer came with a message that the prince could not be present. Prince Andrey came in to inform the commander-in-chief of this; and, profiting by the permission previously given him by Kutuzov to be present at the council, he remained in the room.
“Well, since Prince Bagration isn't coming, we can begin,” said Weierother, hastily getting up from his place and approaching the table, on which an immense map of the environs of Brünn lay unfolded.
Kutuzov, his uniform unbuttoned, and his fat neck as though set free from bondage, bulging over the collar, was sitting in a low chair with his podgy old hands laid symmetrically on the arms; he was almost asleep.
At the sound of Weierother's voice, he made an effort and opened his solitary eye.
“Yes, yes, please, it's late as it is,” he assented, and nodding his head, he let it droop and closed his eyes again.
If the members of the council had at first believed Kutuzov to be shamming sleep, the nasal sounds to which he gave vent during the reading that followed, proved that the commander-in-chief was concerned with something of far greater consequence than the desire to show his contempt for their disposition of the troops or anything else whatever; he was concerned with the satisfaction of an irresistible human necessity—sleep. He was really asleep. Weierother, with the gesture of a man too busy to lose even a minute of his time, glanced at Kutuzov and satisfying himself that he was asleep, he took up a paper and in a loud, monotonous tone began reading the disposition of the troops in the approaching battle under a heading, which he also read.
“Disposition for the attack of the enemy's position behind Kobelnitz and Sokolnitz, November 20, 1805.”
The disposition was very complicated and intricate.
“As the enemy's left wing lies against the wooded hills and their right wing is advancing by way of Kobelnitz and Sokolnitz behind the swamps that lie there, while on the other hand our left wing stretches far beyond their right, it will be advantageous to attack this last-named wing, especially if we have possession of the villages of Sokolnitz and Kobelnitz, by which means we can at once fall on them in the rear and pursue them in the open between Schlapanitz and the Thuerassa-Wald, thereby avoiding the defiles of Schlapanitz and Bellowitz, which are covered by the enemy's front. With this ultimate aim it will be necessary … The first column marches … The second column marches … The third column marches” … read Weierother.
The generals seemed to listen reluctantly to the intricate account of the disposition of the troops. The tall, fair-haired general, Buxhevden, stood leaning his back against the wall, and fixing his eyes on a burning candle, he seemed not to be listening, not even to wish to be thought to be listening. Exactly opposite to Weierother, with his bright, wide-open eyes fixed upon him, was Miloradovitch, a ruddy man, with whiskers and shoulders turned upwards, sitting in a military pose with his hands on his knees and his elbows bent outwards. He sat in obstinate silence, staring into Weierother's face, and only taking his eyes off him when the Austrian staff-commander ceased speaking. Then Miloradovitch looked round significantly at the other generals. But from that significant glance it was impossible to tell whether he agreed or disagreed, was pleased or displeased, at the arrangements. Next to Weierother sat Count Langeron, with a subtle smile that never left his Southern French face during the reading; he gazed at his delicate fingers as he twisted round a golden snuff-box with a portrait on it. In the middle of one of the lengthy paragraphs he stopped the rotatory motion of the snuff-box, lifted his head, and with hostile courtesy lurking in the corners of his thin lips, interrupted Weierother and would have said something. But the Austrian general, continuing to read, frowned angrily with a motion of the elbows that seemed to say: “Later, later, you shall give your opinion, now be so good as to look at the map and listen.” Langeron turned up his eyes with a look of bewilderment, looked round at Miloradovitch, as though seeking enlightenment, but meeting the significant gaze of Miloradovitch, that signified nothing, he dropped his eyes dejectedly, and fell to twisting his snuff-box again.
“A geography lesson,” he murmured as though to himself, but loud enough to be heard.
Przhebyshevsky, with respectful but dignified courtesy, put his hand up to his ear on the side nearest Weierother, with the air of a man absorbed in attention. Dohturov, a little man, sat opposite Weierother with a studious and modest look on his face. Bending over the map, he was conscientiously studying the arrangement of the troops and the unfamiliar locality. Several times he asked Weierother to repeat words and difficult names of villages that he had not caught. Weierother did so, and Dohturov made a note of them.
When the reading, which lasted more than an hour, was over, Langeron, stopping his twisting snuff-box, began to speak without looking at Weierother or any one in particular. He pointed out how difficult it was to carry out such a disposition, in which the enemy's position was assumed to be known, when it might well be uncertain seeing that the enemy was in movement. Langeron's objections were well founded, yet it was evident that their principal object was to make Weierother, who had read his plans so conceitedly, as though to a lot of schoolboys, feel that he had to deal not with fools, but with men who could teach him something in military matters.
When the monotonous sound of Weierother's voice ceased, Kutuzov opened his eyes, as the miller wakes up at any interruption in the droning of the mill-wheels, listened to what Langeron was saying, and as though saying to himself: “Oh, you're still at the same nonsense!” made haste to close his eyes again, and let his head sink still lower.
Langeron, trying to deal the most malignant thrusts possible at Weierother's military vanity as author of the plan, showed that Bonaparte might easily become the attacking party instead of waiting to be attacked, and so render all this plan of the disposition of the troops utterly futile. Weierother met all objections with a confident and contemptuous smile, obviously prepared beforehand for every objection, regardless of what they might say to him.
“If he could have attacked us, he would have done so to-day,” he said.
“You suppose him, then, to be powerless?” said Langeron.
“I doubt if he has as much as forty thousand troops,” answered Weierother with the smile of a doctor to whom the sick-nurse is trying to expound her own method of treatment.
“In that case, he is going to meet his ruin in awaiting our attack,” said Langeron with a subtle, ironical smile, looking round again for support to Miloradovitch near him. But Miloradovitch was obviously thinking at that instant of anything in the world rather than the matter in dispute between the generals.
“Ma foi,” he said, “to-morrow we shall see all that on the field of battle.”
Weierother smiled again, a smile that said that it was comic and queer for him to meet with objections from Russian generals and to have to give proofs to confirm what he was not simply himself convinced of, but had thoroughly convinced their majesties the Emperors of too.
“The enemy have extinguished their fires and a continual noise has been heard in their camp,” he said. “What does that mean? Either they are retreating—the only thing we have to fear, or changing their position” (he smiled ironically). “But even if they were to take up their position at Turas, it would only be saving us a great deal of trouble, and all our arrangements will remain unchanged in the smallest detail.”
“How can that be?…” said Prince Andrey, who had a long while been looking out for an opportunity of expressing his doubts. Kutuzov waked up, cleared his throat huskily, and looked round at the generals.
“Gentlemen, the disposition for to-morrow, for to-day indeed (for it's going on for one o'clock), can't be altered now,” he said. “You have heard it, and we will all do our duty. And before a battle nothing is of so much importance…” (he paused) “as a good night's rest.”
He made a show of rising from his chair. The generals bowed themselves out. It was past midnight. Prince Andrey went out.
The council of war at which Prince Andrey had not succeeded in expressing his opinion, as he had hoped to do, had left on him an impression of uncertainty and uneasiness. Which was right—Dolgorukov and Weierother? or Kutuzov and Langeron and the others, who did not approve of the plan of attack—he did not know. But had it really been impossible for Kutuzov to tell the Tsar his views directly? Could it not have been managed differently? On account of personal and court considerations were tens of thousands of lives to be risked—“and my life, mine?” he thought.
“Yes, it may well be that I shall be killed to-morrow,” he thought.
And all at once, at that thought of death, a whole chain of memories, the most remote and closest to his heart, rose up in his imagination. He recalled his last farewell to his father and his wife; he recalled the early days of his love for her, thought of her approaching motherhood; and he felt sorry for her and for himself, and in a nervously overwrought and softened mood he went out of the cottage at which he and Nesvitsky were putting up, and began to walk to and fro before it. The night was foggy, and the moonlight glimmered mysteriously through the mist. “Yes, to-morrow, to-morrow!” he thought. “To-morrow, maybe, all will be over for me, all these memories will be no more, all these memories will have no more meaning for me. To-morrow, perhaps—for certain, indeed—to-morrow, I have a presentiment, I shall have for the first time to show all I can do.” And he pictured the engagement, the loss of it, the concentration of the fighting at one point, and the hesitation of all the commanding officers. And then the happy moment—that Toulon he had been waiting for so long—at last comes to him. Resolutely and clearly he speaks his opinion to Kutuzov and Weierother, and the Emperors. All are struck by the justness of his view, but no one undertakes to carry it into execution, and behold, he leads the regiment, only making it a condition that no one is to interfere with his plans, and he leads his division to the critical point and wins the victory alone. “And death and agony!” said another voice. But Prince Andrey did not answer that voice, and went on with his triumphs. The disposition of the battle that ensues is all his work alone. Nominally, he is an adjutant on the staff of Kutuzov, but he does everything alone. The battle is gained by him alone. Kutuzov is replaced, he is appointed.… “Well, and then?” said the other voice again, “what then, if you do a dozen times over escape being wounded, killed, or deceived before that; well, what then?” “Why, then…” Prince Andrey answered himself, “I don't know what will come then, I can't know, and don't want to; but if I want that, if I want glory, want to be known to men, want to be loved by them, it's not my fault that I want it, that it's the only thing I care for, the only thing I live for. Yes, the only thing! I shall never say to any one, but, my God! what am I to do, if I care for nothing but glory, but men's love? Death, wounds, the loss of my family—nothing has terrors for me. And dear and precious as many people are to me: father, sister, wife—the people dearest to me; yet dreadful and unnatural as it seems, I would give them all up for a moment of glory, of triumph over men, of love from men whom I don't know, and shall never know, for the love of those people there,” he thought, listening to the talk in the courtyard of Kutuzov's house. He could hear the voices of the officers' servants packing up; one of them, probably a coachman, was teasing Kutuzov's old cook, a man called Tit, whom Prince Andrey knew. He kept calling him and making a joke on his name.
“Tit, hey, Tit?” he said.
“Well?” answered the old man.
“Tit, stupay molotit” (“Tit, go a-thrashing”), said the jester.
“Pooh, go to the devil, do,” he heard the cook's voice, smothered in the laughter of the servants.
“And yet, the only thing I love and prize is triumph over all of them, that mysterious power and glory which seems hovering over me in this mist!”