"Prince Auersperg is on this, on our side of the river, and is defending us — doing it very badly, I think, but still he is defending us. But Vienna is on the other side. No, the bridge has not yet been taken and I hope it will not be, for it is mined and orders have been given to blow it up. Otherwise we should long ago have been in the mountains of Bohemia, and you and your army would have spent a bad quarter of an hour between two fires."
"But still this does not mean that the campaign is over," said Prince Andrew.
"Well, I think it is. The bigwigs here think so too, but they daren't say so. It will be as I said at the beginning of the campaign, it won't be your skirmishing at Durrenstein, or gunpowder at all, that will decide the matter, but those who devised it," said Bilibin quoting one of his own mots, releasing the wrinkles on his forehead, and pausing."The only question is what will come of the meeting between the Emperor Alexander and the King of Prussia in Berlin? If Prussia joins the Allies, Austria's hand will be forced and there will be war. If not it is merely a question of settling where the preliminaries of the new Campo Formio are to be drawn up."
"What an extraordinary genius!" Prince Andrew suddenly exclaimed, clenching his small hand and striking the table with it,"and what luck the man has!"
"Buonaparte?" said Bilibin inquiringly, puckering up his forehead to indicate that he was about to say something witty."Buonaparte?" he repeated, accentuating the u:"I think, however, now that he lays down laws for Austria at Schonbrunn, il faut lui faire grace de l'u!* I shall certainly adopt an innovation and call him simply Bonaparte!"
*"We must let him off the u!"
"But joking apart," said Prince Andrew,"do you really think the campaign is over?"
"This is what I think. Austria has been made a fool of, and she is not used to it. She will retaliate. And she has been fooled in the first place because her provinces have been pillaged — they say the Holy Russian army loots terribly — her army is destroyed, her capital taken, and all this for the beaux yeux* of His Sardinian Majesty. And therefore — this is between ourselves — I instinctively feel that we are being deceived, my instinct tells me of negotiations with France and projects for peace, a secret peace concluded separately."
"Impossible!" cried Prince Andrew."That would be too base."
"If we live we shall see," replied Bilibin, his face again becoming smooth as a sign that the conversation was at an end.
When Prince Andrew reached the room prepared for him and lay down in a clean shirt on the feather bed with its warmed and fragrant pillows, he felt that the battle of which he had brought tidings was far, far away from him. The alliance with Prussia, Austria's treachery, Bonaparte's new triumph, tomorrow's levee and parade, and the audience with the Emperor Francis occupied his thoughts.
He closed his eyes, and immediately a sound of cannonading, of musketry and the rattling of carriage wheels seemed to fill his ears, and now again drawn out in a thin line the musketeers were descending the hill, the French were firing, and he felt his heart palpitating as he rode forward beside Schmidt with the bullets merrily whistling all around, and he experienced tenfold the joy of living, as he had not done since childhood.
He woke up . . .
"Yes, that all happened!" he said, and, smiling happily to himself like a child, he fell into a deep, youthful slumber.