they were military officers of genius, without authority to take the lead. The dissatisfaction and malicious gossip of the staff reached its utmost limits after the brilliant admiral, the favourite hero of Petersburg, Wittgenstein, had joined the army. Kutuzov saw it, and simply sighed and shrugged his shoulders. Only once, after Berezina, he lost his temper and wrote to Bennigsen, who was in private correspondence with the Tsar, the following note:

“I beg your Most High Excellency on the receipt of this letter to retire to Kaluga, on account of your attacks of ill-health, and there to await the further commands of His Majesty the Emperor.”

But this dismissal of Bennigsen was followed by the arrival on the scene of the Grand Duke Konstantin Pavlovitch, who had received a command at the beginning of the campaign and had been removed from the army by Kutuzov. Now the Grand Duke on rejoining the army informed Kutuzov of the Tsar’s dissatisfaction at the poor successes of our troops, and the slowness of their progress. The Tsar himself intended to be with the army in a few days.

The old man, as experienced in court methods as in warfare—who in the August of that year had been chosen commander-in-chief against the Tsar’s will, who had dismissed the Grand Duke and heir-apparent from the army, and acting on his own authority, in opposition to the Tsar’s will, had decreed the abandonment of Moscow—understood at once now that his day was over, that his part was played out, and that his supposed power was no more. And not only from the attitude of the court did he see this. On one side he saw the war—that war in which he had played his part—was over, and he felt that his work was done. On the other hand, at this very time, he began to be sensible of the physical weariness of his aged frame, and the necessity of physical rest.

On the 29th of November, Kutuzov reached Vilna—his dear Vilna, as he used to call it. Twice during his military career he had been governor of Vilna.

In that wealthy town, which had escaped injury, Kutuzov found old friends and old associations, as well as the comforts of which he had been so long deprived. And at once turning his back on all military and political cares, he plunged into the quiet routine of his accustomed life, so far as the passions raging all round him would permit. It was as though all that was being done, and had still to be done, in the world of history, was no concern of his now.

Tchitchagov was one of the generals most zealous in advocating attack and cutting off the enemy’s retreat; he had at first suggested making a diversion in Greece and then in Warsaw, but was never willing to go where he was commanded to go. Tchitchagov, who was notorious for the boldness of his remarks to the Tsar, considered Kutuzov was under an obligation to him, because when he had been sent in 1811 to conclude peace with Turkey over Kutuzov’s head, and found on arriving that peace had already been concluded, he had frankly admitted to the Tsar that the credit of having concluded peace belonged to Kutuzov.

This Tchitchagov was the first to meet Kutuzov at Vilna, at the castles where the latter was to stay. Wearing a naval uniform with a dirk, and holding his forage cap under his arm, he handed the commander-in- chief the military report and the keys of the town. The contemptuously respectful attitude of youth to old age in its dotage was expressed in the most marked manner in all the behaviour of Tchitchagov, who was aware of the disfavour into which Kutuzov had fallen.

In conversation with Tchitchagov, Kutuzov happened to say that his carriages, packed with china, that had been carried off by the enemy at Borisovo, had been recovered unhurt, and would be restored to him.

“You mean to say I have nothing to eat out of? On the contrary, I can provide everything for you, even if you want to give dinner-parties,” Tchitchagov protested, getting hot. Every word he had uttered had been with the motive of proving his own rectitude, and so he imagined that Kutuzov too was preoccupied with the same desire. Shrugging his shoulders and smiling his subtle, penetrating smile, Kutuzov answered:

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.