Chapter 11

THE FOLLOWING DAY the Tsar stayed in Vishau. His medical attendant, Villier, was several times summoned to him. At headquarters and among the troops that were nearer, the news circulated that the Tsar was unwell. He was eating nothing and had slept badly that night, so those about him reported. The cause of this indisposition was the too violent shock given to the sensitive soul of the Tsar by the sight of the killed and wounded.

At dawn on the 17th, a French officer was conducted from our outposts into Vishau. He came under a flag of truce to ask for an interview with the Russian Emperor. This officer was Savary. The Tsar had only just fallen asleep, and so Savary had to wait. At midday he was admitted to the Emperor, and an hour later he rode away accompanied by Prince Dolgorukov to the outposts of the French army. Savary’s mission was, so it was rumoured, to propose a meeting between Alexander and Napolean. A personal interview was, to the pride and rejoicing of the whole army, refused, and instead of the Tsar, Prince Dolgorukov, the general victorious in the action at Vishau, was despatched with Savary to undertake negotiations with Napoleon, if these negotiations—contrary to expectation—were founded on a real desire for peace. In the evening Dolgorukov came back, went straight to the Tsar and remained a long while alone with him.

On the 18th and 19th the troops moved forward two days’ march, and the enemy’s outposts, after a brief interchange of shots, retired. In the higher departments of the army an intense, bustling excitement and activity prevailed from midday of the 19th till the morning of the following day, the 20th of November, on which was fought the memorable battle of Austerlitz. Up to midday of the 19th the activity, the eager talk, the bustle, and the despatching of adjutants was confined to the headquarters of the Emperors; after midday the activity had reached the headquarters of Kutuzov and the staff of the commanding officers of the columns. By evening this activity had been carried by the adjutants in all directions into every part of the army, and in the night of the 19th the multitude of the eighty thousands of the allied army rose from its halting-place, and with a hum of talk moved on, a heaving mass nine versts long.

The intense activity that had begun in the morning in the headquarters of the Emperors, and had given the impetus to all the activity in remoter parts, was like the first action in the centre wheel of a great tower clock. Slowly one wheel began moving, another began turning, and a third, and more and more rapidly, levers, wheels, and blocks began to revolve, chimes began playing, figures began to pop out, and the hands began moving rhythmically, as a result of that activity.

Just as in the mechanism of the clock, in the mechanism of the military machine too, once the impetus was given, it was carried on to the last results, and just as unsympathetically stationary were the parts of the machinery which the impulse had not yet reached. Wheels creak on their axles, and teeth bite into cogs, and blocks whir in rapid motion, while the next wheel stands as apathetic and motionless as though it were ready to stand so for a hundred years. But the momentum reaches it—the lever catches, and the wheel, obeying the impulse, creaks and takes its share in the common movement, the result and aim of which are beyond its ken.

Just as in the clock, the result of the complex action of countless different wheels and blocks is only the slow, regular movement of the hand marking the time, so the result of all the complex human movement of those 160,000 Russians and Frenchmen—of all the passions, hopes, regrets, humiliations, sufferings, impulses of pride, of fear, and of enthusiasm of those men—was only the loss of the battle of Austerlitz, the so-called battle of the three Emperors, that is, the slow shifting of the registering hand on the dial of the history of mankind.

Prince Andrey was on duty that day, and in close attendance on the commander-in-chief. At six o’clock in the evening Kutuzov visited the headquarters of the Emperors, and after a brief interview with the Tsar, went in to see the Ober-Hofmarschall Count Tolstoy.

Bolkonsky took advantage of this interval to go in to Dolgorukov to try and learn details about the coming action. Prince Andrey felt that Kutuzov was disturbed and displeased about something, and that they

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