“All the same, my dear fellow,” he said, gazing from a distance at his finger-nails, and wrinkling up the skin over his left eye, “notwithstanding my high esteem for the holy Russian armament, I own that your victory is not so remarkably victorious.”

He went on talking in French, only uttering in Russian those words to which he wished to give a contemptuous intonation.

“Why? with the whole mass of your army you fell upon the unlucky Mortier with one division, and Mortier slipped through your fingers? Where’s the victory?”

“Seriously speaking, though,” answered Prince Andrey, “we can at least say without boasting that it’s rather better than Ulm…”

“Why didn’t you capture us one, at least, one marshal?”

“Because everything isn’t done as one expects it will be, and things are not as regular as on parade. We had expected, as I told you, to attack the enemy in the rear at seven o’clock in the morning, but we did not arrive at it until five o’clock in the evening.”

“But why didn’t you do it at seven in the morning? You ought to have done it at seven in the morning,” said Bilibin, smiling; “you ought to have done it at seven in the morning.”

“Why didn’t you succeed in impressing on Bonaparte by diplomatic methods that he had better leave Genoa alone?” said Prince Andrey in the same tone.

“I know,” broke in Bilibin, “you are thinking that it’s very easy to capture marshals, sitting on the sofa by one’s fireside. That’s true, but still why didn’t you capture him? And you needn’t feel surprised if the most august Emperor and King Francis, like the war minister, is not very jubilant over your victory. Why, even I, a poor secretary of the Russian Embassy, feel no necessity to testify my rejoicing by giving my Franz a thaler and sending him out for a holiday to disport himself with his Liebchen on the Prater…though it’s true there is no Prater here…” He looked straight at Prince Andrey and suddenly let the creases drop out of his puckered forehead.

“Now it’s my turn to ask you ‘why,’ my dear boy,” said Bolkonsky. “I must own that I don’t understand it; perhaps there are diplomatic subtleties in it that are beyond my feeble intellect; but I can’t make it out. Mack loses a whole army, Archduke Ferdinand and Archduke Karl give no sign of life and make one blunder after another; Kutuzov alone gains at last a decisive victory, breaks the prestige of invincibility of the French, and the minister of war does not even care to learn the details!”

“For that very reason, my dear boy, don’t you see! Hurrah for the Tsar, for Russia, for the faith! That’s all very nice; but what have we, I mean the Austrian court, to do with your victories? You bring us good news of a victory of Archduke Karl or Ferdinand—one archduke’s as good as the other, as you know—if it’s only a victory over a fire brigade of Bonaparte, and it will be another matter, it will set the cannons booming. But this can only tantalise us, as if it were done on purpose. Archduke Karl does nothing, Archduke Ferdinand covers himself with disgrace, you abandon Vienna, give up its defence, as though you would say to us, God is with us, and the devil take you and your capital. One general, whom we all loved, Schmidt, you put in the way of a bullet, and then congratulate us on your victory!…You must admit that anything more exasperating than the news you have brought could not be conceived. It’s as though it were done on purpose, done on purpose. But apart from that, if you were to gain a really brilliant victory, if Archduke Karl even were to win a victory, what effect could it have on the general course of events? It’s too late now, when Vienna is occupied by the French forces.”

“Occupied? Vienna occupied?”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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