Pursued by the French army of a hundred thousand men under the command o_onaparte, encountering a population that was unfriendly to it, losin_onfidence in its allies, suffering from shortness of supplies, and compelle_o act under conditions of war unlike anything that had been foreseen, th_ussian army of thirty-five thousand men commanded by Kutuzov was hurriedl_etreating along the Danube, stopping where overtaken by the enemy an_ighting rearguard actions only as far as necessary to enable it to retrea_ithout losing its heavy equipment. There had been actions at Lambach,
Amstetten, and Melk; but despite the courage and endurance—acknowledged eve_y the enemy—with which the Russians fought, the only consequence of thes_ctions was a yet more rapid retreat. Austrian troops that had escaped captur_t Ulm and had joined Kutuzov at Braunau now separated from the Russian army,
and Kutuzov was left with only his own weak and exhausted forces. The defens_f Vienna was no longer to be thought of. Instead of an offensive, the plan o_hich, carefully prepared in accord with the modern science of strategics, ha_een handed to Kutuzov when he was in Vienna by the Austrian Hofkriegsrath,
the sole and almost unattainable aim remaining for him was to effect _unction with the forces that were advancing from Russia, without losing hi_rmy as Mack had done at Ulm.
On the twenty-eighth of October Kutuzov with his army crossed to the left ban_f the Danube and took up a position for the first time with the river betwee_imself and the main body of the French. On the thirtieth he attacke_ortier's division, which was on the left bank, and broke it up. In thi_ction for the first time trophies were taken: banners, cannon, and two enem_enerals. For the first time, after a fortnight's retreat, the Russian troop_ad halted and after a fight had not only held the field but had repulsed th_rench. Though the troops were ill-clad, exhausted, and had lost a third o_heir number in killed, wounded, sick, and stragglers; though a number of sic_nd wounded had been abandoned on the other side of the Danube with a lette_n which Kutuzov entrusted them to the humanity of the enemy; and though th_ig hospitals and the houses in Krems converted into military hospitals coul_o longer accommodate all the sick and wounded, yet the stand made at Krem_nd the victory over Mortier raised the spirits of the army considerably.
Throughout the whole army and at headquarters most joyful though erroneou_umors were rife of the imaginary approach of columns from Russia, of som_ictory gained by the Austrians, and of the retreat of the frightene_onaparte.
Prince Andrew during the battle had been in attendance on the Austrian Genera_chmidt, who was killed in the action. His horse had been wounded under hi_nd his own arm slightly grazed by a bullet. As a mark of the commander i_hief's special favor he was sent with the news of this victory to th_ustrian court, now no longer at Vienna (which was threatened by the French)
but at Brunn. Despite his apparently delicate build Prince Andrew could endur_hysical fatigue far better than many very muscular men, and on the night o_he battle, having arrived at Krems excited but not weary, with dispatche_rom Dokhturov to Kutuzov, he was sent immediately with a special dispatch t_runn. To be so sent meant not only a reward but an important step towar_romotion.
The night was dark but starry, the road showed black in the snow that ha_allen the previous day—the day of the battle. Reviewing his impressions o_he recent battle, picturing pleasantly to himself the impression his news o_ victory would create, or recalling the send-off given him by the commande_n chief and his fellow officers, Prince Andrew was galloping along in a pos_haise enjoying the feelings of a man who has at length begun to attain _ong-desired happiness. As soon as he closed his eyes his ears seemed fille_ith the rattle of the wheels and the sensation of victory. Then he began t_magine that the Russians were running away and that he himself was killed,
but he quickly roused himself with a feeling of joy, as if learning afres_hat this was not so but that on the contrary the French had run away. H_gain recalled all the details of the victory and his own calm courage durin_he battle, and feeling reassured he dozed off… . The dark starry night wa_ollowed by a bright cheerful morning. The snow was thawing in the sunshine,
the horses galloped quickly, and on both sides of the road were forests o_ifferent kinds, fields, and villages.
At one of the post stations he overtook a convoy of Russian wounded. Th_ussian officer in charge of the transport lolled back in the front cart,
shouting and scolding a soldier with coarse abuse. In each of the long Germa_arts six or more pale, dirty, bandaged men were being jolted over the ston_oad. Some of them were talking (he heard Russian words), others were eatin_read; the more severely wounded looked silently, with the languid interest o_ick children, at the envoy hurrying past them.
Prince Andrew told his driver to stop, and asked a soldier in what action the_ad been wounded. "Day before yesterday, on the Danube," answered the soldier.
Prince Andrew took out his purse and gave the soldier three gold pieces.
"That's for them all," he said to the officer who came up.
"Get well soon, lads!" he continued, turning to the soldiers. "There's plent_o do still."
"What news, sir?" asked the officer, evidently anxious to start _onversation.
"Good news!… Go on!" he shouted to the driver, and they galloped on.
It was already quite dark when Prince Andrew rattled over the paved streets o_runn and found himself surrounded by high buildings, the lights of shops,
houses, and street lamps, fine carriages, and all that atmosphere of a larg_nd active town which is always so attractive to a soldier after camp life.
Despite his rapid journey and sleepless night, Prince Andrew when he drove u_o the palace felt even more vigorous and alert than he had done the da_efore. Only his eyes gleamed feverishly and his thoughts followed one anothe_ith extraordinary clearness and rapidity. He again vividly recalled th_etails of the battle, no longer dim, but definite and in the concise form i_hich he imagined himself stating them to the Emperor Francis. He vividl_magined the casual questions that might be put to him and the answers h_ould give. He expected to be at once presented to the Emperor. At the chie_ntrance to the palace, however, an official came running out to meet him, an_earning that he was a special messenger led him to another entrance.
"To the right from the corridor, Euer Hochgeboren! There you will find th_djutant on duty," said the official. "He will conduct you to the Minister o_ar."
The adjutant on duty, meeting Prince Andrew, asked him to wait, and went in t_he Minister of War. Five minutes later he returned and bowing with particula_ourtesy ushered Prince Andrew before him along a corridor to the cabine_here the Minister of War was at work. The adjutant by his elaborate courtes_ppeared to wish to ward off any attempt at familiarity on the part of th_ussian messenger.
Prince Andrew's joyous feeling was considerably weakened as he approached th_oor of the minister's room. He felt offended, and without his noticing it th_eeling of offense immediately turned into one of disdain which was quit_ncalled for. His fertile mind instantly suggested to him a point of vie_hich gave him a right to despise the adjutant and the minister. "Away fro_he smell of powder, they probably think it easy to gain victories!" h_hought. His eyes narrowed disdainfully, he entered the room of the Ministe_f War with peculiarly deliberate steps. This feeling of disdain wa_eightened when he saw the minister seated at a large table reading som_apers and making pencil notes on them, and for the first two or three minute_aking no notice of his arrival. A wax candle stood at each side of th_inister's bent bald head with its gray temples. He went on reading to th_nd, without raising his eyes at the opening of the door and the sound o_ootsteps.
"Take this and deliver it," said he to his adjutant, handing him the paper_nd still taking no notice of the special messenger.
Prince Andrew felt that either the actions of Kutuzov's army interested th_inister of War less than any of the other matters he was concerned with, o_e wanted to give the Russian special messenger that impression. "But that i_ matter of perfect indifference to me," he thought. The minister drew th_emaining papers together, arranged them evenly, and then raised his head. H_ad an intellectual and distinctive head, but the instant he turned to Princ_ndrew the firm, intelligent expression on his face changed in a way evidentl_eliberate and habitual to him. His face took on the stupid artificial smile
(which does not even attempt to hide its artificiality) of a man who i_ontinually receiving many petitioners one after another.
"From General Field Marshal Kutuzov?" he asked. "I hope it is good news? Ther_as been an encounter with Mortier? A victory? It was high time!"
He took the dispatch which was addressed to him and began to read it with _ournful expression.
"Oh, my God! My God! Schmidt!" he exclaimed in German. "What a calamity! Wha_ calamity!"
Having glanced through the dispatch he laid it on the table and looked a_rince Andrew, evidently considering something.
"Ah what a calamity! You say the affair was decisive? But Mortier is no_aptured." Again he pondered. "I am very glad you have brought good news,
though Schmidt's death is a heavy price to pay for the victory. His Majest_ill no doubt wish to see you, but not today. I thank you! You must have _est. Be at the levee tomorrow after the parade. However, I will let yo_now."
The stupid smile, which had left his face while he was speaking, reappeared.
"Au revoir! Thank you very much. His Majesty will probably desire to see you,"
he added, bowing his head.
When Prince Andrew left the palace he felt that all the interest and happines_he victory had afforded him had been now left in the indifferent hands of th_inister of War and the polite adjutant. The whole tenor of his thought_nstantaneously changed; the battle seemed the memory of a remote event lon_ast.