War And Peace



THE DECREPIT OLD MAN, Kutuzov, had bade them wake him early next day, and in the early morning he said his prayers, dressed, and with a disagreeable consciousness that he had to command in a battle of which he did not approve, he got into his carriage and drove from Letashevka, five versts behind Tarutino, to the place where the attacking columns were to be gathered together. Kutuzov drove along, dropping asleep and waking up again, and listening to hear whether that were the sound of shots on the right, whether the action had not begun. But everything was still quiet. A damp and cloudy autumn day was dawning. As he approached Tarutino, Kutuzov noticed cavalry soldiers leading their horses to a watercourse across the road along which he was riding. Kutuzov looked at them, stopped his carriage, and asked what regiment did they belong to. They belonged to a column which was to have been far away in front in ambush.

“A mistake, perhaps,” thought the old commander-in-chief. But as he drove on further, Kutuzov saw infantry regiments with their arms stacked, and the soldiers in their drawers busy cooking porridge and fetching wood. He sent for their officer. The officer submitted that no command to advance had been given.

“No command …” Kutuzov began, but he checked himself at once, and ordered the senior officer to be summoned to him. Getting out of the carriage, with drooping head he walked to and fro in silence, breathing heavily. When the general staff officer, Eichen, for whom he had sent, arrived, Kutuzov turned purple with rage, not because that officer was to blame for the mistake, but because he was an object of sufficient importance for him to vent his wrath on. And staggering and gasping, the old man fell into that state of fury in which he would sometimes roll on the ground in frenzy, and flew at Eichen, shaking his fists, and shouting abuse in the language of the gutter. Another officer, Captain Brozin, who was in no way to blame, happening to appear, suffered the same fate.

“What will the blackguards do next? Shoot them! The scoundrels!” he shouted hoarsely, shaking his fist and staggering. He was in a state of actual physical suffering. He, his highness the commander-in-chief, who was assured by every one that no one in Russia had ever had such power as he, he put into this position—made a laughing-stock to the whole army. “Worrying myself, praying over to-day, not sleeping all night, and thinking about everything—all for nothing!” he thought about himself. “When I was a mere boy of an officer no one would have dared to make a laughing-stock of me like this … And now!” He was in a state of physical suffering, as though from corporal punishment, and could not help expressing it in wrathful and agonised outcries. But soon his strength was exhausted, and looking about him, feeling that he had said a great deal that was unjust, he got into his carriage and drove back in silence.

His wrath once spent did not return again, and Kutuzov, blinking feebly, listened to explanations and self-justifications (Yermolov himself did not put in an appearance till next day), and to the earnest representation of Bennigsen, Konovnitsyn, and Toll that the battle that had not come off should take place on the following day. And again Kutuzov had to acquiesce.




Back Home