War and Peace By Leo Tolstoy Book III: Chapters 6–8

"Go across to our hosts: they invited you," added Boris.

Berg put on the cleanest of coats, without a spot or speck of dust, stood before a looking glass and brushed the hair on his temples upwards, in the way affected by the Emperor Alexander, and, having assured himself from the way Rostov looked at it that his coat had been noticed, left the room with a pleasant smile.

"Oh dear, what a beast I am!" muttered Rostov, as he read the letter.


"Oh, what a pig I am, not to have written and to have given them such a fright! Oh, what a pig I am!" he repeated, flushing suddenly."Well, have you sent Gabriel for some wine? All right let's have some!"

In the letter from his parents was enclosed a letter of recommendation to Bagration which the old countess at Anna Mikhaylovna's advice had obtained through an acquaintance and sent to her son, asking him to take it to its destination and make use of it.

"What nonsense! Much I need it!" said Rostov, throwing the letter under the table.

"Why have you thrown that away?" asked Boris.

"It is some letter of recommendation . . . what the devil do I want it for!"

"Why 'What the devil'?" said Boris, picking it up and reading the address."This letter would be of great use to you."

"I want nothing, and I won't be anyone's adjutant."

"Why not?" inquired Boris.

"It's a lackey's job!"

"You are still the same dreamer, I see," remarked Boris, shaking his head.

"And you're still the same diplomatist! But that's not the point . . . Come, how are you?" asked Rostov.

"Well, as you see. So far everything's all right, but I confess I should much like to be an adjutant and not remain at the front."


"Because when once a man starts on military service, he should try to make as successful a career of it as possible."

"Oh, that's it!" said Rostov, evidently thinking of something else.

He looked intently and inquiringly into his friend's eyes, evidently trying in vain to find the answer to some question.

Old Gabriel brought in the wine.

"Shouldn't we now send for Berg?" asked Boris."He would drink with you. I can't."

"Well, send for him . . . and how do you get on with that German?" asked Rostov, with a contemptuous smile.

"He is a very, very nice, honest, and pleasant fellow," answered Boris.

Again Rostov looked intently into Boris' eyes and sighed. Berg returned, and over the bottle of wine conversation between the three officers became animated. The Guardsmen told Rostov of their march and how they had been made much of in Russia, Poland, and abroad. They spoke of the sayings and doings of their commander, the Grand Duke, and told stories of his kindness and irascibility. Berg, as usual, kept silent when the subject did not relate to himself, but in connection with the stories of the Grand Duke's quick temper he related with gusto how in Galicia he had managed to deal with the Grand Duke when the latter made a tour of the regiments and was annoyed at the irregularity of a movement. With a pleasant smile Berg related how the Grand Duke had ridden up to him in a violent passion, shouting:"Arnauts!" ("Arnauts" was the Tsarevich's favorite expression when he was in a rage) and called for the company commander.

"Would you believe it, Count, I was not at all alarmed, because I knew I was right. Without boasting, you know, I may say that I know the Army Orders by heart and know the Regulations as well as I do the Lord's Prayer. So, Count, there never is any negligence in my company, and so my conscience was at ease. I came forward . . . ." (Berg stood up and showed how he presented himself, with his hand to his cap, and really it would have been difficult for a face to express greater respect and self-complacency than his did.)"Well, he stormed at me, as the saying is, stormed and stormed and stormed! It was not a matter of life but rather of death, as the saying is. 'Albanians!' and 'devils!' and 'To Siberia!'" said Berg with a sagacious smile."I knew I was in the right so I kept silent; was not that best, Count? . . . 'Hey, are you dumb?' he shouted. Still I remained silent. And what do you think, Count? The next day it was not even mentioned in the Orders of the Day. That's what keeping one's head means. That's the way, Count," said Berg, lighting his pipe and emitting rings of smoke.

"Yes, that was fine," said Rostov, smiling.

But Boris noticed that he was preparing to make fun of Berg, and skillfully changed the subject. He asked him to tell them how and where he got his wound. This pleased Rostov and he began talking about it, and as he went on became more and more animated. He told them of his Schon Grabern affair, just as those who have taken part in a battle generally do describe it, that is, as they would like it to have been, as they have heard it described by others, and as sounds well, but not at all as it really was. Rostov was a truthful young man and would on no account have told a deliberate lie. He began his story meaning to tell everything just as it happened, but imperceptibly, involuntarily, and inevitably he lapsed into falsehood. If he had told the truth to his hearers — who like himself had often heard stories of attacks and had formed a definite idea of what an attack was and were expecting to hear just such a story — they would either not have believed him or, still worse, would have thought that Rostov was himself to blame since what generally happens to the narrators of cavalry attacks had not happened to him. He could not tell them simply that everyone went at a trot and that he fell off his horse and sprained his arm and then ran as hard as he could from a Frenchman into the wood. Besides, to tell everything as it really happened, it would have been necessary to make an effort of will to tell only what happened. It is very difficult to tell the truth, and young people are rarely capable of it. His hearers expected a story of how beside himself and all aflame with excitement, he had flown like a storm at the square, cut his way in, slashed right and left, how his saber had tasted flesh and he had fallen exhausted, and so on. And so he told them all that.

In the middle of his story, just as he was saying:"You cannot imagine what a strange frenzy one experiences during an attack," Prince Andrew, whom Boris was expecting, entered the room. Prince Andrew, who liked to help young men, was flattered by being asked for his assistance and being well disposed toward Boris, who had managed to please him the day before, he wished to do what the young man wanted. Having been sent with papers from Kutuzov to the Tsarevich, he looked in on Boris, hoping to find him alone. When he came in and saw an hussar of the line recounting his military exploits (Prince Andrew could not endure that sort of man), he gave Boris a pleasant smile, frowned as with half-closed eyes he looked at Rostov, bowed slightly and wearily, and sat down languidly on the sofa: he felt it unpleasant to have dropped in on bad company. Rostov flushed up on noticing this, but he did not care, this was a mere stranger. Glancing, however, at Boris, he saw that he too seemed ashamed of the hussar of the line.

In spite of Prince Andrew's disagreeable, ironical tone, in spite of the contempt with which Rostov, from his fighting army point of view, regarded all these little adjutants on the staff of whom the newcomer was evidently one, Rostov felt confused, blushed, and became silent. Boris inquired what news there might be on the staff, and what, without indiscretion, one might ask about our plans.

"We shall probably advance," replied Bolkonski, evidently reluctant to say more in the presence of a stranger.

Berg took the opportunity to ask, with great politeness, whether, as was rumored, the allowance of forage money to captains of companies would be doubled. To this Prince Andrew answered with a smile that he could give no opinion on such an important government order, and Berg laughed gaily.

"As to your business," Prince Andrew continued, addressing Boris,"we will talk of it later" (and he looked round at Rostov)."Come to me after the review and we will do what is possible."

And, having glanced round the room, Prince Andrew turned to Rostov, whose state of unconquerable childish embarrassment now changing to anger he did not condescend to notice, and said:"I think you were talking of the Schon Grabern affair? Were you there?"

"I was there," said Rostov angrily, as if intending to insult the aide-de-camp.

Bolkonski noticed the hussar's state of mind, and it amused him. With a slightly contemptuous smile, he said:"Yes, there are many stories now told about that affair!"

"Yes, stories!" repeated Rostov loudly, looking with eyes suddenly grown furious, now at Boris, now at Bolkonski."Yes, many stories! But our stories are the stories of men who have been under the enemy's fire! Our stories have some weight, not like the stories of those fellows on the staff who get rewards without doing anything!"

"Of whom you imagine me to be one?" said Prince Andrew, with a quiet and particularly amiable smile.

A strange feeling of exasperation and yet of respect for this man's self-possession mingled at that moment in Rostov's soul.

"I am not talking about you," he said,"I don't know you and, frankly, I don't want to. I am speaking of the staff in general."

"And I will tell you this," Prince Andrew interrupted in a tone of quiet authority,"you wish to insult me, and I am ready to agree with you that it would be very easy to do so if you haven't sufficient self-respect, but admit that the time and place are very badly chosen. In a day or two we shall all have to take part in a greater and more serious duel, and besides, Drubetskoy, who says he is an old friend of yours, is not at all to blame that my face has the misfortune to displease you. However," he added rising,"you know my name and where to find me, but don't forget that I do not regard either myself or you as having been at all insulted, and as a man older than you, my advice is to let the matter drop. Well then, on Friday after the review I shall expect you, Drubetskoy. Au revoir!" exclaimed Prince Andrew, and with a bow to them both he went out.

Only when Prince Andrew was gone did Rostov think of what he ought to have said. And he was still more angry at having omitted to say it. He ordered his horse at once and, coldly taking leave of Boris, rode home. Should he go to headquarters next day and challenge that affected adjutant, or really let the matter drop, was the question that worried him all the way. He thought angrily of the pleasure he would have at seeing the fright of that small and frail but proud man when covered by his pistol, and then he felt with surprise that of all the men he knew there was none he would so much like to have for a friend as that very adjutant whom he so hated.

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