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Chapter 16

  • It was a warm, dark, autumn night. It had been raining for four days. Havin_hanged horses twice and galloped twenty miles in an hour and a half over _ticky, muddy road, Bolkhovitinov reached Litashevka after one o'clock a_ight. Dismounting at a cottage on whose wattle fence hung a signboard,
  • GENERAL STAFF, and throwing down his reins, he entered a dark passage.
  • "The general on duty, quick! It's very important!" said he to someone who ha_isen and was sniffing in the dark passage.
  • "He has been very unwell since the evening and this is the third night he ha_ot slept," said the orderly pleadingly in a whisper. "You should wake th_aptain first."
  • "But this is very important, from General Dokhturov," said Bolkhovitinov,
  • entering the open door which he had found by feeling in the dark.
  • The orderly had gone in before him and began waking somebody.
  • "Your honor, your honor! A courier."
  • "What? What's that? From whom?" came a sleepy voice.
  • "From Dokhturov and from Alexey Petrovich. Napoleon is at Forminsk," sai_olkhovitinov, unable to see in the dark who was speaking but guessing by th_oice that it was not Konovnitsyn.
  • The man who had wakened yawned and stretched himself.
  • "I don't like waking him," he said, fumbling for something. "He is very ill.
  • Perhaps this is only a rumor."
  • "Here is the dispatch," said Bolkhovitinov. "My orders are to give it at onc_o the general on duty."
  • "Wait a moment, I'll light a candle. You damned rascal, where do you alway_ide it?" said the voice of the man who was stretching himself, to th_rderly. (This was Shcherbinin, Konovnitsyn's adjutant.) "I've found it, I'v_ound it!" he added.
  • The orderly was striking a light and Shcherbinin was fumbling for something o_he candlestick.
  • "Oh, the nasty beasts!" said he with disgust.
  • By the light of the sparks Bolkhovitinov saw Shcherbinin's youthful face as h_eld the candle, and the face of another man who was still asleep. This wa_onovnitsyn.
  • When the flame of the sulphur splinters kindled by the tinder burned up, firs_lue and then red, Shcherbinin lit the tallow candle, from the candlestick o_hich the cockroaches that had been gnawing it were running away, and looke_t the messenger. Bolkhovitinov was bespattered all over with mud and ha_meared his face by wiping it with his sleeve.
  • "Who gave the report?" inquired Shcherbinin, taking the envelope.
  • "The news is reliable," said Bolkhovitinov. "Prisoners, Cossacks, and th_couts all say the same thing."
  • "There's nothing to be done, we'll have to wake him," said Shcherbinin, risin_nd going up to the man in the nightcap who lay covered by a greatcoat. "Pete_etrovich!" said he. (Konovnitsyn did not stir.) "To the General Staff!" h_aid with a smile, knowing that those words would be sure to arouse him.
  • And in fact the head in the nightcap was lifted at once. On Konovnitsyn'_andsome, resolute face with cheeks flushed by fever, there still remained fo_n instant a faraway dreamy expression remote from present affairs, but the_e suddenly started and his face assumed its habitual calm and fir_ppearance.
  • "Well, what is it? From whom?" he asked immediately but without hurry,
  • blinking at the light.
  • While listening to the officer's report Konovnitsyn broke the seal and rea_he dispatch. Hardly had he done so before he lowered his legs in their woole_tockings to the earthen floor and began putting on his boots. Then he too_ff his nightcap, combed his hair over his temples, and donned his cap.
  • "Did you get here quickly? Let us go to his Highness."
  • Konovnitsyn had understood at once that the news brought was of grea_mportance and that no time must be lost. He did not consider or ask himsel_hether the news was good or bad. That did not interest him. He regarded th_hole business of the war not with his intelligence or his reason but b_omething else. There was within him a deep unexpressed conviction that al_ould be well, but that one must not trust to this and still less speak abou_t, but must only attend to one's own work. And he did his work, giving hi_hole strength to the task.
  • Peter Petrovich Konovnitsyn, like Dokhturov, seems to have been include_erely for propriety's sake in the list of the so-called heroes of 1812—th_arclays, Raevskis, Ermolovs, Platovs, and Miloradoviches. Like Dokhturov h_ad the reputation of being a man of very limited capacity and information,
  • and like Dokhturov he never made plans of battle but was always found wher_he situation was most difficult. Since his appointment as general on duty h_ad always slept with his door open, giving orders that every messenger shoul_e allowed to wake him up. In battle he was always under fire, so that Kutuzo_eproved him for it and feared to send him to the front, and like Dokhturov h_as one of those unnoticed cogwheels that, without clatter or noise,
  • constitute the most essential part of the machine.
  • Coming out of the hut into the damp, dark night Konovnitsyn frowned- partl_rom an increased pain in his head and partly at the unpleasant thought tha_ccurred to him, of how all that nest of influential men on the staff would b_tirred up by this news, especially Bennigsen, who ever since Tarutino ha_een at daggers drawn with Kutuzov; and how they would make suggestions,
  • quarrel, issue orders, and rescind them. And this premonition was disagreeabl_o him though he knew it could not be helped.
  • And in fact Toll, to whom he went to communicate the news, immediately bega_o expound his plans to a general sharing his quarters, until Konovnitsyn, wh_istened in weary silence, reminded him that they must go to see his Highness.