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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 6
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War And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 6 Post by :ubupats Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :3649

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War And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 6

Among the innumerable categories applicable to the phenomena of
human life one may discriminate between those in which substance
prevails and those in which form prevails. To the latter- as
distinguished from village, country, provincial, or even Moscow
life- we may allot Petersburg life, and especially the life of its
salons. That life of the salons is unchanging. Since the year 1805
we had made peace and had again quarreled with Bonaparte and had
made constitutions and unmade them again, but the salons of Anna
Pavlovna Helene remained just as they had been- the one seven and
the other five years before. At Anna Pavlovna's they talked with
perplexity of Bonaparte's successes just as before and saw in them and
in the subservience shown to him by the European sovereigns a
malicious conspiracy, the sole object of which was to cause
unpleasantness and anxiety to the court circle of which Anna
Pavlovna was the representative. And in Helene's salon, which
Rumyantsev himself honored with his visits, regarding Helene as a
remarkably intelligent woman, they talked with the same ecstasy in
1812 as in 1808 of the "great nation" and the "great man," and
regretted our rupture with France, a rupture which, according to them,
ought to be promptly terminated by peace.

Of late, since the Emperor's return from the army, there had been
some excitement in these conflicting salon circles and some
demonstrations of hostility to one another, but each camp retained its
own tendency. In Anna Pavlovna's circle only those Frenchmen were
admitted who were deep-rooted legitimists, and patriotic views were
expressed to the effect that one ought not to go to the French theater
and that to maintain the French troupe was costing the government as
much as a whole army corps. The progress of the war was eagerly
followed, and only the reports most flattering to our army were
circulated. In the French circle of Helene and Rumyantsev the
reports of the cruelty of the enemy and of the war were contradicted
and all Napoleon's attempts at conciliation were discussed. In that
circle they discountenanced those who advised hurried preparations for
a removal to Kazan of the court and the girls' educational
establishments under the patronage of the Dowager Empress. In Helene's
circle the war in general was regarded as a series of formal
demonstrations which would very soon end in peace, and the view
prevailed expressed by Bilibin- who now in Petersburg was quite at
home in Helene's house, which every clever man was obliged to visit-
that not by gunpowder but by those who invented it would matters be
settled. In that circle the Moscow enthusiasm- news of which had
reached Petersburg simultaneously with the Emperor's return- was
ridiculed sarcastically and very cleverly, though with much caution.

Anna Pavlovna's circle on the contrary was enraptured by this
enthusiasm and spoke of it as Plutarch speaks of the deeds of the
ancients. Prince Vasili, who still occupied his former important
posts, formed a connecting link between these two circles. He
visited his "good friend Anna Pavlovna" as well as his daughter's
"diplomatic salon," and often in his constant comings and goings
between the two camps became confused and said at Helene's what he
should have said at Anna Pavlovna's and vice versa.

Soon after the Emperor's return Prince Vasili in a conversation
about the war at Anna Pavlovna's severely condemned Barclay de
Tolly, but was undecided as to who ought to be appointed commander
in chief. One of the visitors, usually spoken of as "a man of great
merit," having described how he had that day seen Kutuzov, the newly
chosen chief of the Petersburg militia, presiding over the
enrollment of recruits at the Treasury, cautiously ventured to suggest
that Kutuzov would be the man to satisfy all requirements.

Anna Pavlovna remarked with a melancholy smile that Kutuzov had done
nothing but cause the Emperor annoyance.

"I have talked and talked at the Assembly of the Nobility," Prince
Vasili interrupted, "but they did not listen to me. I told them his
election as chief of the militia would not please the Emperor. They
did not listen to me.

"It's all this mania for opposition," he went on. "And who for? It
is all because we want to ape the foolish enthusiasm of those
Muscovites," Prince Vasili continued, forgetting for a moment that
though at Helene's one had to ridicule the Moscow enthusiasm, at
Anna Pavlovna's one had to be ecstatic about it. But he retrieved
his mistake at once. "Now, is it suitable that Count Kutuzov, the
oldest general in Russia, should preside at that tribunal? He will get
nothing for his pains! How could they make a man commander in chief
who cannot mount a horse, who drops asleep at a council, and has the
very worst morals! A good reputation he made for himself at Bucharest!
I don't speak of his capacity as a general, but at a time like this
how they appoint they appoint a decrepit, blind old man, positively
blind? A fine idea to have a blind general! He can't see anything.
To play blindman's bluff? He can't see at all!"

No one replied to his remarks.

This was quite correct on the twenty-fourth of July. But on the
twenty-ninth of July Kutuzov received the title of Prince. This
might indicate a wish to get rid of him, and therefore Prince Vasili's
opinion continued to be correct though he was not now in any hurry
to express it. But on the eighth of August a committee, consisting
of Field Marshal Saltykov, Arakcheev, Vyazmitinov, Lopukhin, and
Kochubey met to consider the progress of the war. This committee
came to the conclusion that our failures were due to a want of unity
in the command and though the members of the committee were aware of
the Emperor's dislike of Kutuzov, after a short deliberation they
agreed to advise his appointment as commander in chief. That same
day Kutuzov was appointed commander in chief with full powers over the
armies and over the whole region occupied by them.

On the ninth of August Prince Vasili at Anna Pavlovna's again met
the "man of great merit." The latter was very attentive to Anna
Pavlovna because he wanted to be appointed director of one of the
educational establishments for young ladies. Prince Vasili entered the
room with the air of a happy conqueror who has attained the object
of his desires.

"Well, have you heard the great news? Prince Kutuzov is field
marshal! All dissensions are at an end! I am so glad, so delighted! At
last we have a man!" said he, glancing sternly and significantly round
at everyone in the drawing room.

The "man of great merit," despite his desire to obtain the post of
director, could not refrain from reminding Prince Vasili of his former
opinion. Though this was impolite to Prince Vasili in Anna
Pavlovna's drawing room, and also to Anna Pavlovna herself who had
received the news with delight, he could not resist the temptation.

"But, Prince, they say he is blind!" said he, reminding Prince
Vasili of his own words.

"Eh? Nonsense! He sees well enough," said Prince Vasili rapidly,
in a deep voice and with a slight cough- the voice and cough with
which he was wont to dispose of all difficulties.

"He sees well enough," he added. "And what I am so pleased about,"
he went on, "is that our sovereign has given him full powers over
all the armies and the whole region- powers no commander in chief ever
had before. He is a second autocrat," he concluded with a victorious
smile.

"God grant it! God grant it!" said Anna Pavlovna.

The "man of great merit," who was still a novice in court circles,
wishing to flatter Anna Pavlovna by defending her former position on
this question, observed:

"It is said that the Emperor was reluctant to give Kutuzov those
powers. They say he blushed like a girl to whom Joconde is read,
when he said to Kutuzov: 'Your Emperor and the Fatherland award you
this honor.'

"Perhaps the heart took no part in that speech," said Anna Pavlovna.

"Oh, no, no!" warmly rejoined Prince Vasili, who would not now yield
Kutuzov to anyone; in his opinion Kutuzov was not only admirable
himself, but was adored by everybody. "No, that's impossible," said
he, "for our sovereign appreciated him so highly before."

"God grant only that Prince Kutuzov assumes real power and does
not allow anyone to put a spoke in his wheel," observed Anna Pavlovna.

Understanding at once to whom she alluded, Prince Vasili said in a
whisper:

"I know for a fact that Kutuzov made it an absolute condition that
the Tsarevich should not be with the army. Do you know what he said to
the Emperor?"

And Prince Vasili repeated the words supposed to have been spoken by
Kutuzov to the Emperor. "I can neither punish him if he does wrong nor
reward him if he does right."

"Oh, a very wise man is Prince Kutuzov! I have known him a long
time!"

"They even say," remarked the "man of great merit" who did not yet
possess courtly tact, "that his excellency made it an express
condition that the sovereign himself should not be with the army."

As soon as he said this both Prince Vasili and Anna Pavlovna
turned away from him and glanced sadly at one another with a sigh at
his naivete.

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