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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Twelve: 1812 - Chapter 2
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War And Peace - Book Twelve: 1812 - Chapter 2 Post by :ianb4info Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :2294

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War And Peace - Book Twelve: 1812 - Chapter 2

Anna Pavlovna's presentiment was in fact fulfilled. Next day
during the service at the palace church in honor of the Emperor's
birthday, Prince Volkonski was called out of the church and received a
dispatch from Prince Kutuzov. It was Kutuzov's report, written from
Tatarinova on the day of the battle. Kutuzov wrote that the Russians
had not retreated a step, that the French losses were much heavier
than ours, and that he was writing in haste from the field of battle
before collecting full information. It followed that there must have
been a victory. And at once, without leaving the church, thanks were
rendered to the Creator for His help and for the victory.

Anna Pavlovna's presentiment was justified, and all that morning a
joyously festive mood reigned in the city. Everyone believed the
victory to have been complete, and some even spoke of Napoleon's
having been captured, of his deposition, and of the choice of a new
ruler for France.

It is very difficult for events to be reflected in their real
strength and completeness amid the conditions of court life and far
from the scene of action. General events involuntarily group
themselves around some particular incident. So now the courtiers'
pleasure was based as much on the fact that the news had arrived on
the Emperor's birthday as on the fact of the victory itself. It was
like a successfully arranged surprise. Mention was made in Kutuzov's
report of the Russian losses, among which figured the names of
Tuchkov, Bagration, and Kutaysov. In the Petersburg world this sad
side of the affair again involuntarily centered round a single
incident: Kutaysov's death. Everybody knew him, the Emperor liked him,
and he was young and interesting. That day everyone met with the
words:

"What a wonderful coincidence! Just during the service. But what a
loss Kutaysov is! How sorry I am!"

"What did I tell about Kutuzov?" Prince Vasili now said with a
prophet's pride. "I always said he was the only man capable of
defeating Napoleon."

But next day no news arrived from the army and the public mood
grew anxious. The courtiers suffered because of the suffering the
suspense occasioned the Emperor.

"Fancy the Emperor's position!" said they, and instead of
extolling Kutuzov as they had done the day before, they condemned
him as the cause of the Emperor's anxiety. That day Prince Vasili no
longer boasted of his protege Kutuzov, but remained silent when the
commander in chief was mentioned. Moreover, toward evening, as if
everything conspired to make Petersburg society anxious and uneasy,
a terrible piece of news was added. Countess Helene Bezukhova had
suddenly died of that terrible malady it had been so agreeable to
mention. Officially, at large gatherings, everyone said that
Countess Bezukhova had died of a terrible attack of angina pectoris,
but in intimate circles details were mentioned of how the private
physician of the Queen of Spain had prescribed small doses of a
certain drug to produce a certain effect; but Helene, tortured by
the fact that the old count suspected her and that her husband to whom
she had written (that wretched, profligate Pierre) had not replied,
had suddenly taken a very large dose of the drug, and had died in
agony before assistance could be rendered her. It was said that Prince
Vasili and the old count had turned upon the Italian, but the latter
had produced such letters from the unfortunate deceased that they
had immediately let the matter drop.

Talk in general centered round three melancholy facts: the Emperor's
lack of news, the loss of Kutuzov, and the death of Helene.

On the third day after Kutuzov's report a country gentleman
arrived from Moscow, and news of the surrender of Moscow to the French
spread through the whole town. This was terrible! What a position
for the Emperor to be in! Kutuzov was a traitor, and Prince Vasili
during the visits of condolence paid to him on the occasion of his
daughter's death said of Kutuzov, whom he had formerly praised (it was
excusable for him in his grief to forget what he had said), that it
was impossible to expect anything else from a blind and depraved old
man.

"I only wonder that the fate of Russia could have been entrusted
to such a man."

As long as this news remained unofficial it was possible to doubt
it, but the next day the following communication was received from
Count Rostopchin:


Prince Kutuzov's adjutant has brought me a letter in which he
demands police officers to guide the army to the Ryazan road. He
writes that he is regretfully abandoning Moscow. Sire! Kutuzov's
action decides the fate of the capital and of your empire! Russia will
shudder to learn of the abandonment of the city in which her greatness
is centered and in which lie the ashes of your ancestors! I shall
follow the army. I have had everything removed, and it only remains
for me to weep over the fate of my fatherland.


On receiving this dispatch the Emperor sent Prince Volkonski to
Kutuzov with the following rescript:


Prince Michael Ilarionovich! Since the twenty-ninth of August I have
received no communication from you, yet on the first of September I
received from the commander in chief of Moscow, via Yaroslavl, the sad
news that you, with the army, have decided to abandon Moscow. You
can yourself imagine the effect this news has had on me, and your
silence increases my astonishment. I am sending this by
Adjutant-General Prince Volkonski, to hear from you the situation of
the army and the reasons that have induced you to take this melancholy
decision.

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Nine days after the abandonment of Moscow, a messenger fromKutuzov reached Petersburg with the official announcement of thatevent. This messenger was Michaud, a Frenchman who did not knowRussian, but who was quoique etranger, russe de coeur et d'ame,* as hesaid of himself.*Though a foreigner, Russian in heart and soul.The Emperor at once received this messenger in his study at thepalace on Stone Island. Michaud, who had never seen Moscow beforethe campaign and who did not know Russian, yet felt deeply moved (ashe wrote) when he appeared before notre tres gracieux souverain*with the news of the burning of Moscow, dont les flammes
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In Petersburg at that time a complicated struggle was beingcarried on with greater heat than ever in the highest circles, betweenthe parties of Rumyantsev, the French, Marya Fedorovna, the Tsarevich,and others, drowned as usual by the buzzing of the court drones. Butthe calm, luxurious life of Petersburg, concerned only aboutphantoms and reflections of real life, went on in its old way and madeit hard, except by a great effort, to realize the danger and thedifficult position of the Russian people. There were the samereceptions and balls, the same French theater, the same courtinterests and service interests and intrigues as usual. Only
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