On returning from the review, Kutuzov took the Austrian general into his private room and, calling his adjutant, asked for some papers relating to the condition of the troops on their arrival, and the letters that had come from the Archduke Ferdinand, who was in command of the advanced army. Prince Andrew Bolkonski came into the room with the required papers. Kutuzov and the Austrian member of the Hofkriegsrath were sitting at the table on which a plan was spread out.
"Ah! . . ." said Kutuzov glancing at Bolkonski as if by this exclamation he was asking the adjutant to wait, and he went on with the conversation in French.
"All I can say, General," said he with a pleasant elegance of expression and intonation that obliged one to listen to each deliberately spoken word. It was evident that Kutuzov himself listened with pleasure to his own voice."All I can say, General, is that if the matter depended on my personal wishes, the will of His Majesty the Emperor Francis would have been fulfilled long ago. I should long ago have joined the archduke. And believe me on my honour that to me personally it would be a pleasure to hand over the supreme command of the army into the hands of a better informed and more skillful general — of whom Austria has so many — and to lay down all this heavy responsibility. But circumstances are sometimes too strong for us, General."
And Kutuzov smiled in a way that seemed to say,"You are quite at liberty not to believe me and I don't even care whether you do or not, but you have no grounds for telling me so. And that is the whole point."
The Austrian general looked dissatisfied, but had no option but to reply in the same tone.
"On the contrary," he said, in a querulous and angry tone that contrasted with his flattering words,"on the contrary, your excellency's participation in the common action is highly valued by His Majesty; but we think the present delay is depriving the splendid Russian troops and their commander of the laurels they have been accustomed to win in their battles," he concluded his evidently prearranged sentence.
Kutuzov bowed with the same smile.
"But that is my conviction, and judging by the last letter with which His Highness the Archduke Ferdinand has honored me, I imagine that the Austrian troops, under the direction of so skillful a leader as General Mack, have by now already gained a decisive victory and no longer need our aid," said Kutuzov.
The general frowned. Though there was no definite news of an Austrian defeat, there were many circumstances confirming the unfavorable rumors that were afloat, and so Kutuzov's suggestion of an Austrian victory sounded much like irony. But Kutuzov went on blandly smiling with the same expression, which seemed to say that he had a right to suppose so. And, in fact, the last letter he had received from Mack's army informed him of a victory and stated strategically the position of the army was very favorable.
"Give me that letter," said Kutuzov turning to Prince Andrew."Please have a look at it" — and Kutuzov with an ironical smile about the corners of his mouth read to the Austrian general the following passage, in German, from the Archduke Ferdinand's letter:
We have fully concentrated forces of nearly seventy thousand men with which to attack and defeat the enemy should he cross the Lech. Also, as we are masters of Ulm, we cannot be deprived of the advantage of commanding both sides of the Danube, so that should the enemy not cross the Lech, we can cross the Danube, throw ourselves on his line of communications, recross the river lower down, and frustrate his intention should he try to direct his whole force against our faithful ally. We shall therefore confidently await the moment when the Imperial Russian army will be fully equipped, and shall then, in conjunction with it, easily find a way to prepare for the enemy the fate he deserves.
Kutuzov sighed deeply on finishing this paragraph and looked at the member of the Hofkriegsrath mildly and attentively.
"But you know the wise maxim your excellency, advising one to expect the worst," said the Austrian general, evidently wishing to have done with jests and to come to business. He involuntarily looked round at the aide-de-camp.
"Excuse me, General," interrupted Kutuzov, also turning to Prince Andrew."Look here, my dear fellow, get from Kozlovski all the reports from our scouts. Here are two letters from Count Nostitz and here is one from His Highness the Archduke Ferdinand and here are these," he said, handing him several papers,"make a neat memorandum in French out of all this, showing all the news we have had of the movements of the Austrian army, and then give it to his excellency."
Prince Andrew bowed his head in token of having understood from the first not only what had been said but also what Kutuzov would have liked to tell him. He gathered up the papers and with a bow to both, stepped softly over the carpet and went out into the waiting room.
Though not much time had passed since Prince Andrew had left Russia, he had changed greatly during that period. In the expression of his face, in his movements, in his walk, scarcely a trace was left of his former affected languor and indolence. He now looked like a man who has time to think of the impression he makes on others, but is occupied with agreeable and interesting work. His face expressed more satisfaction with himself and those around him, his smile and glance were brighter and more attractive.
Kutuzov, whom he had overtaken in Poland, had received him very kindly, promised not to forget him, distinguished him above the other adjutants, and had taken him to Vienna and given him the more serious commissions. From Vienna Kutuzov wrote to his old comrade, Prince Andrew's father.
Your son bids fair to become an officer distinguished by his industry, firmness, and expedition. I consider myself fortunate to have such a subordinate by me.
On Kutuzov's staff, among his fellow officers and in the army generally, Prince Andrew had, as he had had in Petersburg society, two quite opposite reputations. Some, a minority, acknowledged him to be different from themselves and from everyone else, expected great things of him, listened to him, admired, and imitated him, and with them Prince Andrew was natural and pleasant. Others, the majority, disliked him and considered him conceited, cold, and disagreeable. But among these people Prince Andrew knew how to take his stand so that they respected and even feared him.
Coming out of Kutuzov's room into the waiting room with the papers in his hand Prince Andrew came up to his comrade, the aide-de-camp on duty, Kozlovski, who was sitting at the window with a book.
"Well, Prince?" asked Kozlovski.
"I am ordered to write a memorandum explaining why we are not advancing."
"And why is it?"
Prince Andrew shrugged his shoulders.
"Any news from Mack?"
"If it were true that he has been beaten, news would have come."
"Probably," said Prince Andrew moving toward the outer door.
But at that instant a tall Austrian general in a greatcoat, with the order of Maria Theresa on his neck and a black bandage round his head, who had evidently just arrived, entered quickly, slamming the door. Prince Andrew stopped short.
"Commander in Chief Kutuzov?" said the newly arrived general speaking quickly with a harsh German accent, looking to both sides and advancing straight toward the inner door.