Chapter 35

KUTUZOV, with his grey head hanging, and his heavy, corpulent frame sunk into a heap, was sitting on a bench covered with a rug, in the same place in which Pierre had seen him in the morning. He issued no orders, and simply gave or withheld his assent to what was proposed to him.

“Yes, yes, do so,” he would say in reply to various suggestions. “Yes, yes, go across, my dear boy, and see,” he would cry first to one and the to another of the adjutants near him; or, “No, better not; we’d better wait a bit,” he would say. He listened to the reports brought him, and gave orders, when they were asked for. But as he heard the reports, he seemed to take little interest in the import of the words spoken; something else in the expression of his face, in the tone of the voice of the speaker, seemed to interest him more. From long years of military experience he had learned, and with the wisdom of old age he had recognised, that one man cannot guide hundreds of thousands of men struggling with death; that the fate of battles is not decided by the orders given by the commander-in-chief, nor the place in which the troops are stationed, nor the number of cannons, nor of killed, but by that intangible force called the spirit of the army, and he followed that force and led it as far as it lay in his power.

The general expression of Kutuzov’s face was concentrated, quiet attention and intensity, with difficulty overcoming his weak and aged body.

At eleven o’clock they brought him the news that the French had been driven back again from the flèches they had captured, but that Bagration was wounded. Kutuzov groaned, and shook his head.

“Ride over to Prince Pyotr Ivanovitch and find out exactly about it,” he said to one of the adjutants, and then he turned to the Prince of Würtemberg, who was standing behind him:

“Will your highness be pleased to take the command of the first army?”

Soon after the prince’s departure—so soon that he could not yet have reached Semyonovskoye—his adjutant came back with a message from him asking Kutuzov for more troops.

Kutuzov frowned, and sent Dohturov orders to take the command of the first army, and begged the prince to come back, saying that he found he could not get on without him at such an important moment. When news was brought that Murat had been taken prisoner, and the members of the staff congratulated Kutuzov, he smiled.

“Wait a little, gentlemen,” he said. “The battle is won, and Murat’s being taken prisoner is nothing very extraordinary. But we had better defer our rejoicings.” Still he sent an adjutant to take the news to the troops.

When Shtcherbinin galloped up from the left flank with the report of the capture of the flèche, and Semyonovskoye by the French, Kutuzov, guessing from the sounds of the battlefield and Shtcherbinin’s face, that the news was bad, got up as though to stretch his legs, and taking Shtcherbinin by the arm drew him aside.

“You go, my dear boy,” he said to Yermolov, “and see whether something can’t be done.”

Kutuzov was in Gorky, the centre of the Russian position. The attack on our left flank had been several times repulsed. In the centre the French did not advance beyond Borodino. Uvarov’s cavalry had sent the French flying from the left flank.

At three o’clock the attacks of the French ceased. On the faces of all who came from the battlefield, as well as of those standing round him, Kutuzov read an expression of effort, strained to the utmost tension. He was himself satisfied with the success of the day beyond his expectations. But the old man’s physical force was failing him. Several times his head sank, as though he were falling, and he dropped asleep. Dinner was brought him.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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