Among the innumerable categories applicable to the phenomena of human life on_ay discriminate between those in which substance prevails and those in whic_orm prevails. To the latter—as distinguished from village, country,
provincial, or even Moscow life—we may allot Petersburg life, and especiall_he life of its salons. That life of the salons is unchanging. Since the yea_805 we had made peace and had again quarreled with Bonaparte and had mad_onstitutions and unmade them again, but the salons of Anna Pavlovna Helen_emained just as they had been—the one seven and the other five years before.
At Anna Pavlovna's they talked with perplexity of Bonaparte's successes jus_s before and saw in them and in the subservience shown to him by the Europea_overeigns a malicious conspiracy, the sole object of which was to caus_npleasantness and anxiety to the court circle of which Anna Pavlovna was th_epresentative. And in Helene's salon, which Rumyantsev himself honored wit_is visits, regarding Helene as a remarkably intelligent woman, they talke_ith the same ecstasy in 1812 as in 1808 of the "great nation" and the "grea_an," and regretted our rupture with France, a rupture which, according t_hem, ought to be promptly terminated by peace.
Of late, since the Emperor's return from the army, there had been som_xcitement in these conflicting salon circles and some demonstrations o_ostility to one another, but each camp retained its own tendency. In Ann_avlovna's circle only those Frenchmen were admitted who were deep-roote_egitimists, and patriotic views were expressed to the effect that one ough_ot to go to the French theater and that to maintain the French troupe wa_osting the government as much as a whole army corps. The progress of the wa_as eagerly followed, and only the reports most flattering to our army wer_irculated. In the French circle of Helene and Rumyantsev the reports of th_ruelty of the enemy and of the war were contradicted and all Napoleon'_ttempts at conciliation were discussed. In that circle they discountenance_hose who advised hurried preparations for a removal to Kazan of the court an_he girls' educational establishments under the patronage of the Dowage_mpress. In Helene's circle the war in general was regarded as a series o_ormal demonstrations which would very soon end in peace, and the vie_revailed expressed by Bilibin—who now in Petersburg was quite at home i_elene's house, which every clever man was obliged to visit- that not b_unpowder but by those who invented it would matters be settled. In tha_ircle the Moscow enthusiasm—news of which had reached Petersbur_imultaneously with the Emperor's return—was ridiculed sarcastically and ver_leverly, though with much caution.
Anna Pavlovna's circle on the contrary was enraptured by this enthusiasm an_poke of it as Plutarch speaks of the deeds of the ancients. Prince Vasili,
who still occupied his former important posts, formed a connecting lin_etween these two circles. He visited his "good friend Anna Pavlovna" as wel_s his daughter's "diplomatic salon," and often in his constant comings an_oings between the two camps became confused and said at Helene's what h_hould have said at Anna Pavlovna's and vice versa.
Soon after the Emperor's return Prince Vasili in a conversation about the wa_t Anna Pavlovna's severely condemned Barclay de Tolly, but was undecided a_o who ought to be appointed commander in chief. One of the visitors, usuall_poken of as "a man of great merit," having described how he had that day see_utuzov, the newly chosen chief of the Petersburg militia, presiding over th_nrollment of recruits at the Treasury, cautiously ventured to suggest tha_utuzov would be the man to satisfy all requirements.
Anna Pavlovna remarked with a melancholy smile that Kutuzov had done nothin_ut cause the Emperor annoyance.
"I have talked and talked at the Assembly of the Nobility," Prince Vasil_nterrupted, "but they did not listen to me. I told them his election as chie_f the militia would not please the Emperor. They did not listen to me.
"It's all this mania for opposition," he went on. "And who for? It is al_ecause we want to ape the foolish enthusiasm of those Muscovites," Princ_asili continued, forgetting for a moment that though at Helene's one had t_idicule the Moscow enthusiasm, at Anna Pavlovna's one had to be ecstati_bout it. But he retrieved his mistake at once. "Now, is it suitable tha_ount Kutuzov, the oldest general in Russia, should preside at that tribunal?
He will get nothing for his pains! How could they make a man commander i_hief who cannot mount a horse, who drops asleep at a council, and has th_ery worst morals! A good reputation he made for himself at Bucharest! I don'_peak of his capacity as a general, but at a time like this how they appoint _ecrepit, blind old man, positively blind? A fine idea to have a blin_eneral! He can't see anything. To play blindman's bluff? He can't see a_ll!"
No one replied to his remarks.
This was quite correct on the twenty-fourth of July. But on the twenty-nint_f July Kutuzov received the title of Prince. This might indicate a wish t_et rid of him, and therefore Prince Vasili's opinion continued to be correc_hough he was not now in any hurry to express it. But on the eighth of Augus_ committee, consisting of Field Marshal Saltykov, Arakcheev, Vyazmitinov,
Lopukhin, and Kochubey met to consider the progress of the war. This committe_ame to the conclusion that our failures were due to a want of unity in th_ommand and though the members of the committee were aware of the Emperor'_islike of Kutuzov, after a short deliberation they agreed to advise hi_ppointment as commander in chief. That same day Kutuzov was appointe_ommander in chief with full powers over the armies and over the whole regio_ccupied by them.
On the ninth of August Prince Vasili at Anna Pavlovna's again met the "man o_reat merit." The latter was very attentive to Anna Pavlovna because he wante_o be appointed director of one of the educational establishments for youn_adies. Prince Vasili entered the room with the air of a happy conqueror wh_as attained the object of his desires.
"Well, have you heard the great news? Prince Kutuzov is field marshal! Al_issensions are at an end! I am so glad, so delighted! At last we have a man!"
said he, glancing sternly and significantly round at everyone in the drawin_oom.
The "man of great merit," despite his desire to obtain the post of director,
could not refrain from reminding Prince Vasili of his former opinion. Thoug_his was impolite to Prince Vasili in Anna Pavlovna's drawing room, and als_o Anna Pavlovna herself who had received the news with delight, he could no_esist the temptation.
"But, Prince, they say he is blind!" said he, reminding Prince Vasili of hi_wn words.
"Eh? Nonsense! He sees well enough," said Prince Vasili rapidly, in a dee_oice and with a slight cough—the voice and cough with which he was wont t_ispose of all difficulties.
"He sees well enough," he added. "And what I am so pleased about," he went on,
"is that our sovereign has given him full powers over all the armies and th_hole region—powers no commander in chief ever had before. He is a secon_utocrat," he concluded with a victorious smile.
"God grant it! God grant it!" said Anna Pavlovna.
The "man of great merit," who was still a novice in court circles, wishing t_latter Anna Pavlovna by defending her former position on this question,
"It is said that the Emperor was reluctant to give Kutuzov those powers. The_ay he blushed like a girl to whom Joconde is read, when he said to Kutuzov:
'Your Emperor and the Fatherland award you this honor.'"
"Perhaps the heart took no part in that speech," said Anna Pavlovna.
"Oh, no, no!" warmly rejoined Prince Vasili, who would not now yield Kutuzo_o anyone; in his opinion Kutuzov was not only admirable himself, but wa_dored by everybody. "No, that's impossible," said he, "for our sovereig_ppreciated him so highly before."
"God grant only that Prince Kutuzov assumes real power and does not allo_nyone to put a spoke in his wheel," observed Anna Pavlovna.
Understanding at once to whom she alluded, Prince Vasili said in a whisper:
"I know for a fact that Kutuzov made it an absolute condition that th_sarevich should not be with the army. Do you know what he said to th_mperor?"
And Prince Vasili repeated the words supposed to have been spoken by Kutuzo_o the Emperor. "I can neither punish him if he does wrong nor reward him i_e does right."
"Oh, a very wise man is Prince Kutuzov! I have known him a long time!"
"They even say," remarked the "man of great merit" who did not yet posses_ourtly tact, "that his excellency made it an express condition that th_overeign himself should not be with the army."
As soon as he said this both Prince Vasili and Anna Pavlovna turned away fro_im and glanced sadly at one another with a sigh at his naivete.