"So the attack is definitely resolved on?" asked Bolkonski.
"And do you know, my dear fellow, it seems to me that Bonaparte has decidedly lost bearings, you know that a letter was received from him today for the Emperor." Dolgorukov smiled significantly.
"Is that so? And what did he say?" inquired Bolkonski.
"What can he say? Tra-di-ri-di-ra and so on . . . merely to gain time. I tell you he is in our hands, that's certain! But what was most amusing," he continued, with a sudden, good-natured laugh,"was that we could not think how to address the reply! If not as 'Consul' and of course not as 'Emperor,' it seemed to me it should be to 'General Bonaparte.'"
"But between not recognizing him as Emperor and calling him General Bonaparte, there is a difference," remarked Bolkonski.
"That's just it," interrupted Dolgorukov quickly, laughing."You know Bilibin — he's a very clever fellow. He suggested addressing him as 'Usurper and Enemy of Mankind.'"
Dolgorukov laughed merrily.
"Only that?" said Bolkonski.
"All the same, it was Bilibin who found a suitable form for the address. He is a wise and clever fellow."
"What was it?"
"To the Head of the French Government . . . Au chef du gouvernement francais," said Dolgorukov, with grave satisfaction."Good, wasn't it?"
"Yes, but he will dislike it extremely," said Bolkonski.
"Oh yes, very much! My brother knows him, he's dined with him — the present Emperor — more than once in Paris, and tells me he never met a more cunning or subtle diplomatist — you know, a combination of French adroitness and Italian play-acting! Do you know the tale about him and Count Markov? Count Markov was the only man who knew how to handle him. You know the story of the handkerchief? It is delightful!"
And the talkative Dolgorukov, turning now to Boris, now to Prince Andrew, told how Bonaparte wishing to test Markov, our ambassador, purposely dropped a handkerchief in front of him and stood looking at Markov, probably expecting Markov to pick it up for him, and how Markov immediately dropped his own beside it and picked it up without touching Bonaparte's.
"Delightful!" said Bolkonski."But I have come to you, Prince, as a petitioner on behalf of this young man. You see . . ." but before Prince Andrew could finish, an aide-de-camp came in to summon Dolgorukov to the Emperor.
"Oh, what a nuisance," said Dolgorukov, getting up hurriedly and pressing the hands of Prince Andrew and Boris."You know I should be very glad to do all in my power both for you and for this dear young man." Again he pressed the hand of the latter with an expression of good-natured, sincere, and animated levity."But you see . . . another time!"
Boris was excited by the thought of being so close to the higher powers as he felt himself to be at that moment. He was conscious that here he was in contact with the springs that set in motion the enormous movements of the mass of which in his regiment he felt himself a tiny, obedient, and insignificant atom. They followed Prince Dolgorukov out into the corridor and met — coming out of the door of the Emperor's room by which Dolgorukov had entered — a short man in civilian clothes with a clever face and sharply projecting jaw which, without spoiling his face, gave him a peculiar vivacity and shiftiness of expression. This short man nodded to Dolgorukov as to an intimate friend and stared at Prince Andrew with cool intensity, walking straight toward him and evidently expecting him to bow or to step out of his way. Prince Andrew did neither: a look of animosity appeared on his face and the other turned away and went down the side of the corridor.
"Who was that?" asked Boris.
"He is one of the most remarkable, but to me most unpleasant of men- the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prince Adam Czartoryski . . . . It is such men as he who decide the fate of nations," added Bolkonski with a sigh he could not suppress, as they passed out of the palace.
Next day, the army began its campaign, and up to the very battle of Austerlitz, Boris was unable to see either Prince Andrew or Dolgorukov again and remained for a while with the Ismaylov regiment.