Author : Leo Tolstoy
On the twelfth of November, Kutúzov’s active army, in camp before Olmütz, was preparing to be reviewed next day by the two Emperors—the Russian and the Austrian. The Guards, just arrived from Russia, spent the night ten miles from Olmütz and next morning were to come straight to the review, reaching the field at Olmütz by ten o’clock.
That day Nicholas Rostóv received a letter from Borís, telling him that the Ismáylov regiment was quartered for the night ten miles from Olmütz and that he wanted to see him as he had a letter and money for him. Rostóv was particularly in need of money now that the troops, after their active service, were stationed near Olmütz and the camp swarmed with well-provisioned sutlers and Austrian Jews offering all sorts of tempting wares. The Pávlograds held feast after feast, celebrating awards they had received for the campaign, and made expeditions to Olmütz to visit a certain Caroline the Hungarian, who had recently opened a restaurant there with girls as waitresses. Rostóv, who had just celebrated his promotion to a cornetcy and bought Denísov’s horse, Bedouin, was in debt all round, to his comrades and the sutlers. On receiving Borís’ letter he rode with a fellow officer to Olmütz, dined there, drank a bottle of wine, and then set off alone to the Guards’ camp to find his old playmate. Rostóv had not yet had time to get his uniform. He had on a shabby cadet jacket, decorated with a soldier’s cross, equally shabby cadet’s riding breeches lined with worn leather, and an officer’s saber with a sword knot. The Don horse he was riding was one he had bought from a Cossack during the campaign, and he wore a crumpled hussar cap stuck jauntily back on one side of his head. As he rode up to the camp he thought how he would impress Borís and all his comrades of the Guards by his appearance—that of a fighting hussar who had been under fire.
The Guards had made their whole march as if on a pleasure trip, parading their cleanliness and discipline. They had come by easy stages, their knapsacks conveyed on carts, and the Austrian authorities had provided excellent dinners for the officers at every halting place. The regiments had entered and left the town with their bands playing, and by the Grand Duke’s orders the men had marched all the way in step (a practice on which the Guards prided themselves), the officers on foot and at their proper posts. Borís had been quartered, and had marched all the way, with Berg who was already in command of a company. Berg, who had obtained his captaincy during the campaign, had gained the confidence of his superiors by his promptitude and accuracy and had arranged his money matters very satisfactorily. Borís, during the campaign, had made the acquaintance of many persons who might prove useful to him, and by a letter of recommendation he had brought from Pierre had become acquainted with Prince Andrew Bolkónski, through whom he hoped to obtain a post on the commander in chief’s staff. Berg and Borís, having rested after yesterday’s march, were sitting, clean and neatly dressed, at a round table in the clean quarters allotted to them, playing chess. Berg held a smoking pipe between his knees. Borís, in the accurate way characteristic of him, was building a little pyramid of chessmen with his delicate white fingers while awaiting Berg’s move, and watched his opponent’s face, evidently thinking about the game as he always thought only of whatever he was engaged on.
“Well, how are you going to get out of that?” he remarked.
“We’ll try to,” replied Berg, touching a pawn and then removing his hand.
At that moment the door opened.
“Here he is at last!” shouted Rostóv. “And Berg too! Oh, you petisenfans, allay cushay dormir!” he exclaimed, imitating his Russian nurse’s French, at which he and Borís used to laugh long ago.
“Dear me, how you have changed!”
Borís rose to meet Rostóv, but in doing so did not omit to steady and replace some chessmen that were falling. He was about to embrace his friend, but Nicholas avoided him. With that peculiar feeling of youth, that dread of beaten tracks, and wish to express itself in a manner different from that of its elders which is often insincere, Nicholas wished to do something special on meeting his friend. He wanted to pinch him, push him, do anything but kiss him—a thing everybody did. But notwithstanding this, Borís embraced him in a quiet, friendly way and kissed him three times.
They had not met for nearly half a year and, being at the age when young men take their first steps on life’s road, each saw immense changes in the other, quite a new reflection of the society in which they had taken those first steps. Both had changed greatly since they last met and both were in a hurry to show the changes that had taken place in them.
“Oh, you damned dandies! Clean and fresh as if you’d been to a fete, not like us sinners of the line,” cried Rostóv, with martial swagger and with baritone notes in his voice, new to Borís, pointing to his own mud-bespattered breeches. The German landlady, hearing Rostóv’s loud voice, popped her head in at the door.
“Eh, is she pretty?” he asked with a wink.
“Why do you shout so? You’ll frighten them!” said Borís. “I did not expect you today,” he added. “I only sent you the note yesterday by Bolkónski—an adjutant of Kutúzov’s, who’s a friend of mine. I did not think he would get it to you so quickly.... Well, how are you? Been under fire already?” asked Borís.
Without answering, Rostóv shook the soldier’s Cross of St. George fastened to the cording of his uniform and, indicating a bandaged arm, glanced at Berg with a smile.
“As you see,” he said.
“Indeed? Yes, yes!” said Borís, with a smile. “And we too have had a splendid march. You know, of course, that His Imperial Highness rode with our regiment all the time, so that we had every comfort and every advantage. What receptions we had in Poland! What dinners and balls! I can’t tell you. And the Czarévich was very gracious to all our officers.”
And the two friends told each other of their doings, the one of his hussar revels and life in the fighting line, the other of the pleasures and advantages of service under members of the Imperial family.
“Oh, you Guards!” said Rostóv. “I say, send for some wine.”
Borís made a grimace.
“If you really want it,” said he.
He went to his bed, drew a purse from under the clean pillow, and sent for wine.
“Yes, and I have some money and a letter to give you,” he added.
Rostóv took the letter and, throwing the money on the sofa, put both arms on the table and began to read. After reading a few lines, he glanced angrily at Berg, then, meeting his eyes, hid his face behind the letter.
“Well, they’ve sent you a tidy sum,” said Berg, eyeing the heavy purse that sank into the sofa. “As for us, Count, we get along on our pay. I can tell you for myself...”
“I say, Berg, my dear fellow,” said Rostóv, “when you get a letter from home and meet one of your own people whom you want to talk everything over with, and I happen to be there, I’ll go at once, to be out of your way! Do go somewhere, anywhere... to the devil!” he exclaimed, and immediately seizing him by the shoulder and looking amiably into his face, evidently wishing to soften the rudeness of his words, he added, “Don’t be hurt, my dear fellow; you know I speak from my heart as to an old acquaintance.”
“Oh, don’t mention it, Count! I quite understand,” said Berg, getting up and speaking in a muffled and guttural voice.
“Go across to our hosts: they invited you,” added Borís.
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 Rostóv looked at it that his coat had been noticed, left the room with a pleasant smile.
“Oh dear, what a beast I am!” muttered Rostóv, 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 Bagratión which the old countess at Anna Mikháylovna’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 Rostóv, throwing the letter under the table.
“Why have you thrown that away?” asked Borís.
“It is some letter of recommendation... what the devil do I want it for!”
“Why ‘What the devil’?” said Borís, 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 Borís.
“It’s a lackey’s job!”
“You are still the same dreamer, I see,” remarked Borís, shaking his head.
“And you’re still the same diplomatist! But that’s not the point... Come, how are you?” asked Rostóv.
“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 Rostóv, 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 Borís. “He would drink with you. I can’t.”
“Well, send for him... and how do you get on with that German?” asked Rostóv, with a contemptuous smile.
“He is a very, very nice, honest, and pleasant fellow,” answered Borís.
Again Rostóv looked intently into Borís’ eyes and sighed. Berg returned, and over the bottle of wine conversation between the three officers became animated. The Guardsmen told Rostóv 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 Czarévich’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 Rostóv, smiling.
But Borís 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 Rostóv and he began talking about it, and as he went on became more and more animated. He told them of his Schön 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. Rostóv 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 Rostóv 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 Borís 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 Borís, who had managed to please him the day before, he wished to do what the young man wanted. Having been sent with papers from Kutúzov to the Czarévich, he looked in on Borís, 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 Borís a pleasant smile, frowned as with half-closed eyes he looked at Rostóv, bowed slightly and wearily, and sat down languidly on the sofa: he felt it unpleasant to have dropped in on bad company. Rostóv flushed up on noticing this, but he did not care, this was a mere stranger. Glancing, however, at Borís, 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 Rostóv, from his fighting army point of view, regarded all these little adjutants on the staff of whom the newcomer was evidently one, Rostóv felt confused, blushed, and became silent. Borís inquired what news there might be on the staff, and what, without indiscretion, one might ask about our plans.
“We shall probably advance,” replied Bolkónski, 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 Borís, “we will talk of it later” (and he looked round at Rostóv). “Come to me after the review and we will do what is possible.”
And, having glanced round the room, Prince Andrew turned to Rostóv, 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 Schön Grabern affair? Were you there?”
“I was there,” said Rostóv angrily, as if intending to insult the aide-de-camp.
Bolkónski 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 Rostóv loudly, looking with eyes suddenly grown furious, now at Borís, now at Bolkónski. “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 Rostóv’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, Drubetskóy, 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, Drubetskóy. Au revoir!” exclaimed Prince Andrew, and with a bow to them both he went out.
Only when Prince Andrew was gone did Rostóv 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 Borís, 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.
From : Gutenberg.org.
November 30, 1868 : Book 3, Chapter 7 -- Publication.
February 11, 2017 : Book 3, Chapter 7 -- Added.
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