Book 03, Chapter 15
Author : Leo Tolstoy
At eight o’clock Kutúzov rode to Pratzen at the head of the fourth column,
Milorádovich’s, the one that was to take the place of Przebyszéwski’s and
Langeron’s columns which had already gone down into the valley. He greeted
the men of the foremost regiment and gave them the order to march, thereby
indicating that he intended to lead that column himself. When he had
reached the village of Pratzen he halted. Prince Andrew was behind, among
the immense number forming the commander in chief’s suite. He was in a
state of suppressed excitement and irritation, though controlledly calm as
a man is at the approach of a long-awaited moment. He was firmly convinced
that this was the day of his Toulon, or his bridge of Arcola. How it would
come about he did not know, but he felt sure it would do so. The locality
and the position of our troops were known to him as far as they could be
known to anyone in our army. His own strategic plan, which obviously could
not now be carried out, was forgotten. Now, entering into Weyrother’s
plan, Prince Andrew considered possible contingencies and formed new
projects such as might call for his rapidity of perception and decision.
To the left down below in the mist, the musketry fire of unseen forces
could be heard. It was there Prince Andrew thought the fight would
concentrate. “There we shall encounter difficulties, and there,” thought
he, “I shall be sent with a brigade or division, and there, standard in
hand, I shall go forward and break whatever is in front of me.”
He could not look calmly at the standards of the passing battalions.
Seeing them he kept thinking, “That may be the very standard with which I
shall lead the army.”
In the morning all that was left of the night mist on the heights was a
hoar frost now turning to dew, but in the valleys it still lay like a
milk-white sea. Nothing was visible in the valley to the left into which
our troops had descended and from whence came the sounds of firing. Above
the heights was the dark clear sky, and to the right the vast orb of the
sun. In front, far off on the farther shore of that sea of mist, some
wooded hills were discernible, and it was there the enemy probably was,
for something could be descried. On the right the Guards were entering the
misty region with a sound of hoofs and wheels and now and then a gleam of
bayonets; to the left beyond the village similar masses of cavalry came up
and disappeared in the sea of mist. In front and behind moved infantry.
The commander in chief was standing at the end of the village letting the
troops pass by him. That morning Kutúzov seemed worn and irritable. The
infantry passing before him came to a halt without any command being
given, apparently obstructed by something in front.
“Do order them to form into battalion columns and go round the village!”
he said angrily to a general who had ridden up. “Don’t you understand,
your excellency, my dear sir, that you must not defile through narrow
village streets when we are marching against the enemy?”
“I intended to re-form them beyond the village, your excellency,” answered
Kutúzov laughed bitterly.
“You’ll make a fine thing of it, deploying in sight of the enemy! Very
“The enemy is still far away, your excellency. According to the
“The dispositions!” exclaimed Kutúzov bitterly. “Who told you that?...
Kindly do as you are ordered.”
“My dear fellow,” Nesvítski whispered to Prince Andrew, “the old man is as
surly as a dog.”
An Austrian officer in a white uniform with green plumes in his hat
galloped up to Kutúzov and asked in the Emperor’s name had the fourth
column advanced into action.
Kutúzov turned round without answering and his eye happened to fall upon
Prince Andrew, who was beside him. Seeing him, Kutúzov’s malevolent and
caustic expression softened, as if admitting that what was being done was
not his adjutant’s fault, and still not answering the Austrian adjutant,
he addressed Bolkónski.
“Go, my dear fellow, and see whether the third division has passed the
village. Tell it to stop and await my orders.”
Hardly had Prince Andrew started than he stopped him.
“And ask whether sharpshooters have been posted,” he added. “What are they
doing? What are they doing?” he murmured to himself, still not replying to
Prince Andrew galloped off to execute the order.
Overtaking the battalions that continued to advance, he stopped the third
division and convinced himself that there really were no sharpshooters in
front of our columns. The colonel at the head of the regiment was much
surprised at the commander in chief’s order to throw out skirmishers. He
had felt perfectly sure that there were other troops in front of him and
that the enemy must be at least six miles away. There was really nothing
to be seen in front except a barren descent hidden by dense mist. Having
given orders in the commander in chief’s name to rectify this omission,
Prince Andrew galloped back. Kutúzov still in the same place, his stout
body resting heavily in the saddle with the lassitude of age, sat yawning
wearily with closed eyes. The troops were no longer moving, but stood with
the butts of their muskets on the ground.
“All right, all right!” he said to Prince Andrew, and turned to a general
who, watch in hand, was saying it was time they started as all the
left-flank columns had already descended.
“Plenty of time, your excellency,” muttered Kutúzov in the midst of a
yawn. “Plenty of time,” he repeated.
Just then at a distance behind Kutúzov was heard the sound of regiments
saluting, and this sound rapidly came nearer along the whole extended line
of the advancing Russian columns. Evidently the person they were greeting
was riding quickly. When the soldiers of the regiment in front of which
Kutúzov was standing began to shout, he rode a little to one side and
looked round with a frown. Along the road from Pratzen galloped what
looked like a squadron of horsemen in various uniforms. Two of them rode
side by side in front, at full gallop. One in a black uniform with white
plumes in his hat rode a bobtailed chestnut horse, the other who was in a
white uniform rode a black one. These were the two Emperors followed by
their suites. Kutúzov, affecting the manners of an old soldier at the
front, gave the command “Attention!” and rode up to the Emperors with a
salute. His whole appearance and manner were suddenly transformed. He put
on the air of a subordinate who obeys without reasoning. With an
affectation of respect which evidently struck Alexander unpleasantly, he
rode up and saluted.
This unpleasant impression merely flitted over the young and happy face of
the Emperor like a cloud of haze across a clear sky and vanished. After
his illness he looked rather thinner that day than on the field of Olmütz
where Bolkónski had seen him for the first time abroad, but there was
still the same bewitching combination of majesty and mildness in his fine
gray eyes, and on his delicate lips the same capacity for varying
expression and the same prevalent appearance of goodhearted innocent
At the Olmütz review he had seemed more majestic; here he seemed brighter
and more energetic. He was slightly flushed after galloping two miles, and
reining in his horse he sighed restfully and looked round at the faces of
his suite, young and animated as his own. Czartorýski, Novosíltsev, Prince
Volkónsky, Strógonov, and the others, all richly dressed gay young men on
splendid, well-groomed, fresh, only slightly heated horses, exchanging
remarks and smiling, had stopped behind the Emperor. The Emperor Francis,
a rosy, long faced young man, sat very erect on his handsome black horse,
looking about him in a leisurely and preoccupied manner. He beckoned to
one of his white adjutants and asked some question—“Most likely he
is asking at what o’clock they started,” thought Prince Andrew, watching
his old acquaintance with a smile he could not repress as he recalled his
reception at Brünn. In the Emperors’ suite were the picked young orderly
officers of the Guard and line regiments, Russian and Austrian. Among them
were grooms leading the Czar’s beautiful relay horses covered with
As when a window is opened a whiff of fresh air from the fields enters a
stuffy room, so a whiff of youthfulness, energy, and confidence of success
reached Kutúzov’s cheerless staff with the galloping advent of all these
brilliant young men.
“Why aren’t you beginning, Michael Ilariónovich?” said the Emperor
Alexander hurriedly to Kutúzov, glancing courteously at the same time at
the Emperor Francis.
“I am waiting, Your Majesty,” answered Kutúzov, bending forward
The Emperor, frowning slightly, bent his ear forward as if he had not
“Waiting, Your Majesty,” repeated Kutúzov. (Prince Andrew noted that
Kutúzov’s upper lip twitched unnaturally as he said the word “waiting.”)
“Not all the columns have formed up yet, Your Majesty.”
The Czar heard but obviously did not like the reply; he shrugged his
rather round shoulders and glanced at Novosíltsev who was near him, as if
complaining of Kutúzov.
“You know, Michael Ilariónovich, we are not on the Empress’ Field where
a parade does not begin till all the troops are assembled,” said the Czar
with another glance at the Emperor Francis, as if inviting him if not to
join in at least to listen to what he was saying. But the Emperor Francis
continued to look about him and did not listen.
“That is just why I do not begin, sire,” said Kutúzov in a resounding
voice, apparently to preclude the possibility of not being heard, and
again something in his face twitched—“That is just why I do not
begin, sire, because we are not on parade and not on the Empress’
Field,” said he clearly and distinctly.
In the Emperor’s suite all exchanged rapid looks that expressed
dissatisfaction and reproach. “Old though he may be, he should not, he
certainly should not, speak like that,” their glances seemed to say.
The Czar looked intently and observantly into Kutúzov’s eye waiting to
hear whether he would say anything more. But Kutúzov, with respectfully
bowed head, seemed also to be waiting. The silence lasted for about a
“However, if you command it, Your Majesty,” said Kutúzov, lifting his
head and again assuming his former tone of a dull, unreasoning, but submissive
He touched his horse and having called Milorádovich, the commander of the
column, gave him the order to advance.
The troops again began to move, and two battalions of the Nóvgorod and one
of the Ápsheron regiment went forward past the Emperor.
As this Ápsheron battalion marched by, the red-faced Milorádovich, without
his greatcoat, with his Orders on his breast and an enormous tuft of
plumes in his cocked hat worn on one side with its corners front and back,
galloped strenuously forward, and with a dashing salute reined in his
horse before the Emperor.
“God be with you, general!” said the Emperor.
“Ma foi, sire, nous ferons ce qui sera dans noter possibilité, sire,” * he
answered gaily, raising nevertheless ironic smiles among the gentlemen of
the Czar’s suite by his poor French.
* “Indeed, Sire, we shall do everything it is possible to
Milorádovich wheeled his horse sharply and stationed himself a little
behind the Emperor. The Ápsheron men, excited by the Czar’s presence,
passed in step before the Emperors and their suites at a bold, brisk pace.
“Lads!” shouted Milorádovich in a loud, self-confident, and cheery voice,
obviously so elated by the sound of firing, by the prospect of battle, and
by the sight of the gallant Ápsherons, his comrades in Suvórov’s time, now
passing so gallantly before the Emperors, that he forgot the sovereigns’
presence. “Lads, it’s not the first village you’ve had to take,” cried he.
“Glad to do our best!” shouted the soldiers.
The Emperor’s horse started at the sudden cry. This horse that had carried
the sovereign at reviews in Russia bore him also here on the field of
Austerlitz, enduring the heedless blows of his left foot and pricking its
ears at the sound of shots just as it had done on the Empress’ Field, not
understanding the significance of the firing, nor of the nearness of the
Emperor Francis’ black cob, nor of all that was being said, thought, and
felt that day by its rider.
The Emperor turned with a smile to one of his followers and made a remark
to him, pointing to the gallant Ápsherons.
From : Gutenberg.org.
November 30, 1868 : Book 03, Chapter 15 -- Publication.
February 11, 2017 : Book 03, Chapter 15 -- Added to http://www.RevoltLib.com.
May 28, 2017 : Book 03, Chapter 15 -- Last Updated on http://www.RevoltLib.com.
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