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.