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War And Peace 424


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Helenes house, which every clever man was obliged to visit--that not by gunpowder but by those who invented it would matters be settled. In that circle the Moscow enthusiasm--news of which had reached Petersburg simultaneously with the Emperors return--was ridiculed sarcastically and very cleverly, though with much caution. Anna Pavlovnas circle on the contrary was enraptured by this enthusiasm and spoke of it as Plutarch speaks of the deeds of the ancients. Prince Vasili, who still occupied his former important posts, formed a connecting link between these two circles. He visited his "good friend Anna Pavlovna" as well as his daughters "diplomatic salon," and often in his constant comings and goings between the two camps became confused and said at Helenes what he should have said at Anna Pavlovnas and vice versa. Soon after the Emperors return Prince Vasili in a conversation about the war at Anna Pavlovnas severely condemned Barclay de Tolly, but was undecided as to who ought to be appointed commander in chief. One of the visitors, usually spoken of as "a man of great merit," having described how he had that day seen Kutuzov, the newly chosen chief of the Petersburg militia, presiding over the enrollment of recruits at the Treasury, cautiously ventured to suggest that Kutuzov would be the man to satisfy all requirements. Anna Pavlovna remarked with a melancholy smile that Kutuzov had done nothing but cause the Emperor annoyance. "I have talked and talked at the Assembly of the Nobility," Prince Vasili interrupted, "but they did not listen to me. I told them his election as chief of the militia would not please the Emperor. They did not listen to me. "Its all this mania for opposition," he went on. "And who for? It is all because we want to ape the foolish enthusiasm of those Muscovites," Prince Vasili continued, forgetting for a moment that though at Helenes one had to ridicule the Moscow enthusiasm, at Anna Pavlovnas one had to be ecstatic about it. But he retrieved his mistake at once. "Now, is it suitable that Count 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 in chief who cannot mount a horse, who drops asleep at a council, and has the very worst morals! A good reputation he made for himself at Bucharest! I dont speak of his capacity as a general, but at a time like this how they appoint a decrepit, blind old man, positively blind? A fine idea to have a blind general! He cant see anything. To play blindmans bluff? He cant see at all!" No one replied to his remarks. This was quite correct on the twenty-fourth of July. But on the twenty-ninth of July Kutuzov received the title of Prince. This might indicate a wish to get rid of him, and therefore Prince Vasilis opinion continued to be correct though he was not now in any hurry to express it. But on the eighth of August a committee, consisting of Field Marshal Saltykov, Arakcheev, Vyazmitinov, Lopukhin, and Kochubey met to consider the progress of the war. This committee came to the conclusion that our failures were due to a want of unity in the command and though the members of the committee were aware of the Emperors dislike of Kutuzov, after a short deliberation they agreed to advise his appointment as commander in chief. That same day Kutuzov was appointed commander in chief with full powers over the armies and over the whole region occupied by them. On the ninth of August Prince Vasili at Anna Pavlovnas again met the "man of great merit." The latter was very attentive to Anna Pavlovna because he wanted to be appointed director of one of the educational establishments for young ladies. Prince Vasili entered the room with the air of a happy conqueror who has attained the object of his desires. "Well, have you heard the great news? Prince Kutuzov is field marshal! All dissensions 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 drawing room. 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. Though this was impolite to Prince Vasili in Anna Pavlovnas drawing room, and also to Anna Pavlovna herself who had received the news with delight, he could not resist the temptation. "But, Prince, they say he is blind!" said he, reminding Prince Vasili of

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