Chapter 11

THE NEXT DAY the commander-in-chief gave a dinner and a ball, which the Tsar honoured with his presence.

Kutuzov had received the Order of St. George of the first rank; the Tsar had shown him the highest marks of respect, but every one was aware that the Tsar was displeased with the commander-in-chief. The proprieties were observed, and the Tsar set the first example in doing so. But every one knew that the old man was in fault, and had shown his incapacity. When, in accordance with the old custom of Catherine’s time, Kutuzov gave orders for the captured standards to be lowered at the Tsar’s feet on his entering the ball-room, the Tsar frowned with vexation, and muttered words, which some heard as: “The old comedian.”

The Tsar’s displeasure was increased at Vilna by Kutuzov’s obvious unwillingness or incapacity to see the importance of the approaching campaign.

When next morning the Tsar said to the officers gathered about him: “You have not only saved Russia, you have saved Europe,” every one knew at once that the war was not over.

Kutuzov alone refused to see this, and frankly gave it as his opinion that no fresh war could improve the position of Russia, or add to her glory; that it could but weaken her position, and cast her down from that high pinnacle of glory at which in his view Russia was standing now. He tried to show the Tsar the impossibility of levying fresh troops, and talked of the hardships the people were suffering, the possibility of failure, and so on.

Such being his attitude on the subject, the commander-in-chief could naturally be looked upon only as a hindrance and a drag on the progress of the coming campaign.

To avoid friction with the old man, the obvious resource was—as with him at Austerlitz and with Barclay at the beginning of the war—to withdraw all real power from the commander-in-chief, without disturbing him by any open explanation on the matter, and to transfer it to the Tsar.

With this object, the staff was gradually transformed, and all the real power of Kutuzov’s staff was removed and transferred to the Tsar. Toll, Konovnitsyn, and Yermolov received new appointments. Every one talked openly of the commander-in-chief’s great weakness and failing health.

He was bound to be in failing health, so as to make way for his successor. And his health was, in fact, failing.

Just as naturally, as simply, and as gradually as Kutuzov had come to the Court of Exchequer at Petersburg out of Turkey to raise the militia, and then to take the command of the army just at the time when he was needed, did a new commander come now to replace him, when his part was played.

The war of 1812, in addition to its national significance, dear to every Russian heart, was to take a new European character.

The movement of men from west to east was to be followed by a movement from east to west, and this new war needed a new representative, with other aims and other qualities, and moved by impulses different from Kutuzov’s.

For the movement from east to west, and the establishment of the position of peoples, Alexander was needed just as Kutuzov was needed for the deliverance and the glory of Russia.

Kutuzov did not see what was meant by Europe, the balance of power, and Napoleon. He could not understand all that.

After the enemy had been annihilated, Russia had been delivered and raised to the highest pinnacle of her glory, the representative of the Russian people, a Russian of the Russians, had no more left to do. Nothing was left for the representative of the national war but to die. And he did die.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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