THE OFFICERS would have taken leave, but Prince Andrey, apparently unwilling to be left alone with his friend, pressed them to stay and have some tea. Benches were set, and tea was brought. With some astonishment the officers stared at Pierres huge, bulky figure, and heard his talk of Moscow, and of the position of our troops, which he had succeeded in getting a view of. Prince Andrey did not speak, and his face was so forbidding that Pierre addressed his remarks more to the simple-hearted Timohin than to Bolkonsky.
So you understand the whole disposition of the troops? Prince Andrey put in.
Yes. At least, how do you mean? said Pierre. As I am not a military man, I cant say I do fully; but still I understand the general arrangement.
Well, then, you know more than anybody else, said Prince Andrey.
Oh! said Pierre incredulously, looking over his spectacles at Prince Andrey. Well, and what do you say of the appointment of Kutuzov? he asked.
I was very glad of his appointment; thats all I know, said Prince Andrey.
Well, tell me your opinion of Barclay de Tolly. In Moscow they are saying all kinds of things about him. What do you think of him?
Ask them, said Prince Andrey, indicating the officers.
With the condescendingly doubtful smile with which every one addressed him, Pierre looked at Timohin.
It was a gleam of light in the dark, your excellency, when his highness took the command, said Timohin, stealing shy glances continually at his colonel.
Why so? asked Pierre.
Well, as regards firewood and food, let me tell you. Why, all the way we retreated from Sventsyan not a twig, nor a wisp of hay, nor anything, dare we touch. We were retreating, you see, so he would get it, wouldnt he, your excellency? he said, turning to his prince, but we mustnt dare to. In our regiment two officers were court-martialled for such things. Well, since his highness is in command, its all straightforward as regards that. We see daylight
Then why did he forbid it?
Timohin looked round in confusion, at a loss how to answer such a question. Pierre turned to Prince Andrey with the same inquiry.
Why, so as not to waste the country we were leaving for the enemy, said Prince Andrey, with angry sarcasm. Thats a first principle: never to allow pillage and accustom your men to marauding. And at Smolensk too he very correctly judged that the French were the stronger and might overcome us. But he could not understand, cried Prince Andrey in a voice suddenly shrill, he could not understand that for the first time we were fighting on Russian soil, that there was a spirit in the men such as I had never seen before, that we had twice in succession beaten back the French, and that success had multiplied our strength tenfold. He ordered a retreat, and all our efforts and our curses were in vain. He had no thought of treachery; he tried to do everything for the best and thought over everything well. But for that very reason he was no good. He is no good now just because be considers everything soundly and accurately as every German must. How can I explain to you. Well, your father has a German valet, say, and hes an excellent valet and satisfies all his requirements better than you can do and alls well and good; but if your father is sick unto death, youll send away the valet and wait on your father yourself with your awkward, unpractised hands, and be more comfort to him than a skilful man whos a stranger. Thats how we have done with Barclay. While Russia was well, she might be served by a stranger, and
|Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.|