Chapter 3

ON RETURNING from the review, Kutuzov, accompanied by the Austrian general, went to his private room, and calling his adjutant, told him to give him certain papers, relating to the condition of the newly arrived troops, and letters, received from Archduke Ferdinand, who was in command of the army at the front. Prince Andrey Bolkonsky came into the commander-in-chief’s room with the papers he had asked for. Kutuzov and the Austrian member of the Hofkriegsrath were sitting over a plan that lay unfolded on the table.

“Ah!” … said Kutuzov, looking round at Bolkonsky; and inviting his adjutant, as it were, by his word to wait, he went on in French with the conversation.

“I have only one thing to say, general,” said Kutuzov, with an agreeable elegance of expression and intonation, that forced one to listen for each deliberately uttered word. It was evident that Kutuzov himself listened to his voice with pleasure. “I can only say one thing, that if the matter depended on my personal wishes, the desire of his majesty, the Emperor Francis, should long ago have been accomplished; I should long ago have joined the archduke. And, upon my honour, believe me that for me personally to hand over the chief command of the army to more experienced and skilful generals—such as Austria is so rich in—and to throw off all this weighty responsibility, for me personally would be a relief. But circumstances are too strong for us, general.” And Kutuzov smiled with an expression that seemed to say: “You are perfectly at liberty not to believe me, and indeed it’s a matter of perfect indifference to me whether you believe me or not, but you have no grounds for saying so. And that’s the whole point.” The Austrian general looked dissatisfied, but he had no choice but to answer Kutuzov in the same tone.

“On the contrary,” he said in a querulous and irritated voice, that contrasted with the flattering intention of the words he uttered; “On the contrary, the participation of your most high excellency in common action is highly appreciated by his majesty. But we imagine that the present delay robs the gallant Russian troops and their commander-in-chief of the laurels they are accustomed to winning in action,” he concluded a phrase he had evidently prepared beforehand.

Kutuzov bowed, still with the same smile.

“But I am convinced of this, and relying on the last letter with which his Highness the Archduke Ferdinand has honoured me, I imagine that the Austrian troops under the command of so talented a leader as General Mack, have by now gained a decisive victory and have no longer need of our aid,” said Kutuzov.

The general frowned. Though there was no positive news of the defeat of the Austrians, there were too many circumstances in confirmation of the unfavourable reports; and so Kutuzov’s supposition in regard to an Austrian victory sounded very much like a sneer. But Kutuzov smiled blandly, still with the same expression, which seemed to say that he had a right to suppose so. And in fact the last letter he had received from the army of General Mack had given him news of victory, and of the most favourable strategical position of the army.

“Give me that letter,” said Kutuzov, addressing Prince Andrey. “Here, if you will kindly look”—and Kutuzov, with an ironical smile about the corners of his mouth, read in German the following passage from the letter of the Archduke Ferdinand:

“We have a force, perfectly kept together, of nearly 70,000 men, in order to attack and defeat the enemy if they should pass the Lech. As we are masters of Ulm, we cannot lose the advantage of remaining masters also of both sides of the Danube; and moreover able, should the enemy not cross the Lech, to pass over the Danube at any moment, throw ourselves upon their line of communications, recross the Danube lower down, and entirely resist the enemy’s aim if they should attempt to turn their whole force upon our faithful ally. In this way we shall await courageously the moment when the Imperial Russian is ready, and shall then, in conjunction, easily find a possibility of preparing for the foe that fate which he so richly deserves.”

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