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Chapter 6

  • 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,
  • observed:
  • "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.