Chapter 11

PRINCE ANDREY had hardly seen the last of Pfuhl when Count Bennigsen came hurrying into the room, and bestowing a nod on Bolkonsky, went straight through to the study, giving some instruction to his adjutant. The Tsar was following him, and Bennigsen had hurried on to prepare something, and to be in readiness to meet him. Tchernishev and Prince Andrey went out into the porch. The Tsar, looking tired out, was dismounting from his horse. Marchese Paulucci was saying something to him. Turning his head to the left, the Tsar was listening with a look of displeasure to Paulucci, who was speaking with peculiar warmth. The Tsar moved, evidently anxious to end the conversation; but the Italian, flushed and excited, followed him, still talking, and oblivious of etiquette.

“As for the man who has counselled the camp at Drissa,” Paulucci was saying just as the Tsar, mounting the steps and noticing Prince Andrey, was looking more intently at his unfamiliar face. “As for him, sire,” Paulucci persisted desperately, as though unable to restrain himself, “I see no alternative but the madhouse or the gallows.”

Not attending, and appearing not to hear the Italian, the Tsar recognised Bolkonsky and addressed him graciously:

“I am very glad to see you. Go in where they are meeting and wait for me.”

The Tsar passed on into the study. He was followed by Prince Pyotr Mihalovitch Volkonsky and Baron Stein, and the study door was closed after them. Prince Andrey, taking advantage of the Tsar’s permission to do so, accompanied Paulucci, whom he had met in Turkey, into the drawing-room where the council had assembled.

Prince Pyotr Mihalovitch Volkonsky was performing the duties of a sort of informed head of the Tsar’s staff. Volkonsky came out of the study and bringing out maps laid them on the table, and mentioned the questions on which he wished to hear the opinion of the gentlemen present. The important fact was that news (which afterwards proved to be false) had been received in the night of movements of the French with the object of making a circuit round the camp at Drissa.

The first to begin speaking was General Armfeldt, who unexpectedly proposed, as a means of avoiding the present difficulty, a quite new project, inexplicable except as a proof of his desire to show that he, too, had a suggestion of his own. His idea was that the army should move into a position away from the Petersburg and Moscow roads, and, united there, await the enemy.It was evident that this project had been formed by Armfeldt long before, and that he brought it forward now not so much with the object of meeting the present problem, to which it presented no solution, as of seizing the opportunity of explaining its merits. It was one of the millions of suggestions which might be made, one as reasonable as another, so long as no one had any idea what form the war would take. Some of those present attacked his idea, others supported it. The young Colonel Toll criticised the Swedish general’s project with more heat than any one; and in the course of his remarks upon it drew out of a side pocket a manuscript, which he asked leave to read aloud. In this somewhat diffuse note, Toll proposed another plan of campaign—entirely opposed to Armfeldt’s, and also to Pfuhl’s plan. Paulucci, in raising objections to Toll’s scheme, proposed a plan of direct advance and attack, which he declared to be the only means of extricating us from our present precarious position, and from the trap (so he called the Drissa camp) in which we were placed. During all this discussion, Pfuhl and his interpreter Woltzogen (who was his mouth-piece in the court world) were silent. Pfuhl merely snorted contemptuously and turned his back to indicate that he would never stoop to reply to the rubbish he was hearing. But when Prince Volkonsky, who presided over the debate, called upon him to give his opinion, he simply said: “Why ask me? General Armfeldt has proposed an excellent position with the rear exposed to the enemy. Or why not the attack suggested by this Italian gentleman? A fine idea! Or a retreat? Excellent, too. Why ask me?” said he. “You all know better than I do, it appears.”

But when Volkonsky, frowning, said that it was in the Tsar’s name that he asked his opinion, Pfuhl rose, and growing suddenly excited, began to speak:

  By PanEris using Melati.

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