This letter had not yet been presented to the Emperor when Barclay, one day a_inner, informed Bolkonski that the sovereign wished to see him personally, t_uestion him about Turkey, and that Prince Andrew was to present himself a_ennigsen's quarters at six that evening.
News was received at the Emperor's quarters that very day of a fresh movemen_y Napoleon which might endanger the army—news subsequently found to be false.
And that morning Colonel Michaud had ridden round the Drissa fortification_ith the Emperor and had pointed out to him that this fortified cam_onstructed by Pfuel, and till then considered a chef-d'oeuvre of tactica_cience which would ensure Napoleon's destruction, was an absurdity,
threatening the destruction of the Russian army.
Prince Andrew arrived at Bennigsen's quarters—a country gentleman's house o_oderate size, situated on the very banks of the river. Neither Bennigsen no_he Emperor was there, but Chernyshev, the Emperor's aide-de-camp, receive_olkonski and informed him that the Emperor, accompanied by General Bennigse_nd Marquis Paulucci, had gone a second time that day to inspect th_ortifications of the Drissa camp, of the suitability of which serious doubt_ere beginning to be felt.
Chernyshev was sitting at a window in the first room with a French novel i_is hand. This room had probably been a music room; there was still an orga_n it on which some rugs were piled, and in one corner stood the foldin_edstead of Bennigsen's adjutant. This adjutant was also there and sat dozin_n the rolled-up bedding, evidently exhausted by work or by feasting. Tw_oors led from the room, one straight on into what had been the drawing room,
and another, on the right, to the study. Through the first door came the soun_f voices conversing in German and occasionally in French. In that drawin_oom were gathered, by the Emperor's wish, not a military council (the Empero_referred indefiniteness), but certain persons whose opinions he wished t_now in view of the impending difficulties. It was not a council of war, but,
as it were, a council to elucidate certain questions for the Empero_ersonally. To this semicouncil had been invited the Swedish General Armfeldt,
Adjutant General Wolzogen, Wintzingerode (whom Napoleon had referred to as _enegade French subject), Michaud, Toll, Count Stein who was not a militar_an at all, and Pfuel himself, who, as Prince Andrew had heard, was th_ainspring of the whole affair. Prince Andrew had an opportunity of getting _ood look at him, for Pfuel arrived soon after himself and, in passing throug_o the drawing room, stopped a minute to speak to Chernyshev.
At first sight, Pfuel, in his ill-made uniform of a Russian general, whic_itted him badly like a fancy costume, seemed familiar to Prince Andrew,
though he saw him now for the first time. There was about him something o_eyrother, Mack, and Schmidt, and many other German theorist-generals who_rince Andrew had seen in 1805, but he was more typical than any of them.
Prince Andrew had never yet seen a German theorist in whom all th_haracteristics of those others were united to such an extent.
Pfuel was short and very thin but broad-boned, of coarse, robust build, broa_n the hips, and with prominent shoulder blades. His face was much wrinkle_nd his eyes deep set. His hair had evidently been hastily brushed smooth i_ront of the temples, but stuck up behind in quaint little tufts. He entere_he room, looking restlessly and angrily around, as if afraid of everything i_hat large apartment. Awkwardly holding up his sword, he addressed Chernyshe_nd asked in German where the Emperor was. One could see that he wished t_ass through the rooms as quickly as possible, finish with the bows an_reetings, and sit down to business in front of a map, where he would feel a_ome. He nodded hurriedly in reply to Chernyshev, and smiled ironically o_earing that the sovereign was inspecting the fortifications that he, Pfuel,
had planned in accord with his theory. He muttered something to himsel_bruptly and in a bass voice, as self-assured Germans do—it might have been
"stupid fellow"… or "the whole affair will be ruined," or "something absur_ill come of it."… Prince Andrew did not catch what he said and would hav_assed on, but Chernyshev introduced him to Pfuel, remarking that Princ_ndrew was just back from Turkey where the war had terminated so fortunately.
Pfuel barely glanced—not so much at Prince Andrew as past him—and said, with _augh: "That must have been a fine tactical war"; and, laughin_ontemptuously, went on into the room from which the sound of voices wa_eard.
Pfuel, always inclined to be irritably sarcastic, was particularly disturbe_hat day, evidently by the fact that they had dared to inspect and criticiz_is camp in his absence. From this short interview with Pfuel, Prince Andrew,
thanks to his Austerlitz experiences, was able to form a clear conception o_he man. Pfuel was one of those hopelessly and immutably self-confident men,
self-confident to the point of martyrdom as only Germans are, because onl_ermans are self-confident on the basis of an abstract notion—science, tha_s, the supposed knowledge of absolute truth. A Frenchman is self-assure_ecause he regards himself personally, both in mind and body, as irresistibl_ttractive to men and women. An Englishman is self-assured, as being a citize_f the best-organized state in the world, and therefore as an Englishma_lways knows what he should do and knows that all he does as an Englishman i_ndoubtedly correct. An Italian is self-assured because he is excitable an_asily forgets himself and other people. A Russian is self-assured jus_ecause he knows nothing does not want to know anything, since he does no_elieve that anything can be known. The German's self-assurance is worst o_ll, stronger and more repulsive than any other, because he imagines that h_nows the truth- science—which he himself has invented but which is for hi_he absolute truth.
Pfuel was evidently of that sort. He had a science—the theory of obliqu_ovements deduced by him from the history of Frederick the Great's wars, an_ll he came across in the history of more recent warfare seemed to him absur_nd barbarous—monstrous collisions in which so many blunders were committed b_oth sides that these wars could not be called wars, they did not accord wit_he theory, and therefore could not serve as material for science.
In 1806 Pfuel had been one of those responsible, for the plan of campaign tha_nded in Jena and Auerstadt, but he did not see the least proof of th_allibility of his theory in the disasters of that war. On the contrary, th_eviations made from his theory were, in his opinion, the sole cause of th_hole disaster, and with characteristically gleeful sarcasm he would remark,
"There, I said the whole affair would go to the devil!" Pfuel was one of thos_heoreticians who so love their theory that they lose sight of the theory'_bject—its practical application. His love of theory made him hate everythin_ractical, and he would not listen to it. He was even pleased by failures, fo_ailures resulting from deviations in practice from the theory only proved t_im the accuracy of his theory.
He said a few words to Prince Andrew and Chernyshev about the present war,
with the air of a man who knows beforehand that all will go wrong, and who i_ot displeased that it should be so. The unbrushed tufts of hair sticking u_ehind and the hastily brushed hair on his temples expressed this mos_loquently.
He passed into the next room, and the deep, querulous sounds of his voice wer_t once heard from there.