War and Peace By Leo Tolstoy Book X: Chapters 15–25

CHAPTER XXV

The officers were about to take leave, but Prince Andrew, apparently reluctant to be left alone with his friend, asked them to stay and have tea. Seats were brought in and so was the tea. The officers gazed with surprise at Pierre's huge stout figure and listened to his talk of Moscow and the position of our army, round which he had ridden. Prince Andrew remained silent, and his expression was so forbidding that Pierre addressed his remarks chiefly to the good-natured battalion commander.

"So you understand the whole position of our troops?" Prince Andrew interrupted him.

"Yes — that is, how do you mean?" said Pierre."Not being a military man I can't say I have understood it fully, but I understand the general position."

"Well, then, you know more than anyone else, be it who it may," said Prince Andrew.

"Oh!" said Pierre, looking over his spectacles in perplexity at Prince Andrew."Well, and what do think of Kutuzov's appointment?" he asked.

"I was very glad of his appointment, that's all I know," replied Prince Andrew.

"And tell me your opinion of Barclay de Tolly. In Moscow they are saying heaven knows what about him . . . . What do you think of him?"

"Ask them," replied Prince Andrew, indicating the officers.

Pierre looked at Timokhin with the condescendingly interrogative smile with which everybody involuntarily addressed that officer.

"We see light again, since his Serenity has been appointed, your excellency," said Timokhin timidly, and continually turning to glance at his colonel.

"Why so?" asked Pierre.

"Well, to mention only firewood and fodder, let me inform you. Why, when we were retreating from Sventsyani we dare not touch a stick or a wisp of hay or anything. You see, we were going away, so he would get it all; wasn't it so, your excellency?" and again Timokhin turned to the prince."But we daren't. In our regiment two officers were court-martialed for that kind of thing. But when his Serenity took command everything became straight forward. Now we see light . . ."

"Then why was it forbidden?"

Timokhin looked about in confusion, not knowing what or how to answer such a question. Pierre put the same question to Prince Andrew.

"Why, so as not to lay waste the country we were abandoning to the enemy," said Prince Andrew with venomous irony."It is very sound: one can't permit the land to be pillaged and accustom the troops to marauding. At Smolensk too he judged correctly that the French might outflank us, as they had larger forces. But he could not understand this," cried Prince Andrew in a shrill voice that seemed to escape him involuntarily:"he could not understand that there, for the first time, we were fighting for Russian soil, and that there was a spirit in the men such as I had never seen before, that we had held the French for two days, and that that success had increased our strength tenfold. He ordered us to retreat, and all our efforts and losses went for nothing. He had no thought of betraying us, he tried to do the best he could, he thought out everything, and that is why he is unsuitable. He is unsuitable now, just because he plans out everything very thoroughly and accurately as every German has to. How can I explain? . . . Well, say your father has a German valet, and he is a splendid valet and satisfies your father's requirements better than you could, then it's all right to let him serve. But if your father is mortally sick you'll send the valet away and attend to your father with your own unpracticed, awkward hands, and will soothe him better than a skilled man who is a stranger could. So it has been with Barclay. While Russia was well, a foreigner could serve her and be a splendid minister; but as soon as she is in danger she needs one of her own kin. But in your Club they have been making him out a traitor! They slander him as a traitor, and the only result will be that afterwards, ashamed of their false accusations, they will make him out a hero or a genius instead of a traitor, and that will be still more unjust. He is an honest and very punctilious German."

"And they say he's a skillful commander," rejoined Pierre.

"I don't understand what is meant by 'a skillful commander,'" replied Prince Andrew ironically.

"A skillful commander?" replied Pierre."Why, one who foresees all contingencies . . . and foresees the adversary's intentions."

"But that's impossible," said Prince Andrew as if it were a matter settled long ago.

Pierre looked at him in surprise.

"And yet they say that war is like a game of chess?" he remarked.

"Yes," replied Prince Andrew,"but with this little difference, that in chess you may think over each move as long as you please and are not limited for time, and with this difference too, that a knight is always stronger than a pawn, and two pawns are always stronger than one, while in war a battalion is sometimes stronger than a division and sometimes weaker than a company. The relative strength of bodies of troops can never be known to anyone. Believe me," he went on,"if things depended on arrangements made by the staff, I should be there making arrangements, but instead of that I have the honor to serve here in the regiment with these gentlemen, and I consider that on us tomorrow's battle will depend and not on those others . . . . Success never depends, and never will depend, on position, or equipment, or even on numbers, and least of all on position."

"But on what then?"

"On the feeling that is in me and in him," he pointed to Timokhin,"and in each soldier."

Prince Andrew glanced at Timokhin, who looked at his commander in alarm and bewilderment. In contrast to his former reticent taciturnity Prince Andrew now seemed excited. He could apparently not refrain from expressing the thoughts that had suddenly occurred to him.

"A battle is won by those who firmly resolve to win it! Why did we lose the battle at Austerlitz? The French losses were almost equal to ours, but very early we said to ourselves that we were losing the battle, and we did lose it. And we said so because we had nothing to fight for there, we wanted to get away from the battlefield as soon as we could. 'We've lost, so let us run,' and we ran. If we had not said that till the evening, heaven knows what might not have happened. But tomorrow we shan't say it! You talk about our position, the left flank weak and the right flank too extended," he went on."That's all nonsense, there's nothing of the kind. But what awaits us tomorrow? A hundred million most diverse chances which will be decided on the instant by the fact that our men or theirs run or do not run, and that this man or that man is killed, but all that is being done at present is only play. The fact is that those men with whom you have ridden round the position not only do not help matters, but hinder. They are only concerned with their own petty interests."

"At such a moment?" said Pierre reproachfully.

"At such a moment!" Prince Andrew repeated."To them it is only a moment affording opportunities to undermine a rival and obtain an extra cross or ribbon. For me tomorrow means this: a Russian army of a hundred thousand and a French army of a hundred thousand have met to fight, and the thing is that these two hundred thousand men will fight and the side that fights more fiercely and spares itself least will win. And if you like I will tell you that whatever happens and whatever muddles those at the top may make, we shall win tomorrow's battle. Tomorrow, happen what may, we shall win!"

"There now, your excellency! That's the truth, the real truth," said Timokhin."Who would spare himself now? The soldiers in my battalion, believe me, wouldn't drink their vodka! 'It's not the day for that!' they say."

All were silent. The officers rose. Prince Andrew went out of the shed with them, giving final orders to the adjutant. After they had gone Pierre approached Prince Andrew and was about to start a conversation when they heard the clatter of three horses' hoofs on the road not far from the shed, and looking in that direction Prince Andrew recognized Wolzogen and Clausewitz accompanied by a Cossack. They rode close by continuing to converse, and Prince Andrew involuntarily heard these words:

"Der Krieg muss in Raum verlegt werden. Der Ansicht kann ich nicht genug Preis geben,"* said one of them.

*"The war must be extended widely. I cannot sufficiently commend that view."

"Oh, ja," said the other,"der Zweck ist nur den Feind zu schwachen, so kann man gewiss nicht den Verlust der Privat-Personen in Achtung nehmen."

* *"Oh, yes, the only aim is to weaken the enemy, so of course one cannot take into account the loss of private individuals."

"Oh, no," agreed the other.

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