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War And Peace 498

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War And Peace

be put; it is senseless! The question I have asked these gentlemen to meet to discuss is a military one. The question is that of saving Russia. Is it better to give up Moscow without a battle, or by accepting battle to risk losing the army as well as Moscow? That is the question on which I want your opinion," and he sank back in his chair. The discussion began. Bennigsen did not yet consider his game lost. Admitting the view of Barclay and others that a defensive battle at Fili was impossible, but imbued with Russian patriotism and the love of Moscow, he proposed to move troops from the right to the left flank during the night and attack the French right flank the following day. Opinions were divided, and arguments were advanced for and against that project. Ermolov, Dokhturov, and Raevski agreed with Bennigsen. Whether feeling it necessary to make a sacrifice before abandoning the capital or guided by other, personal considerations, these generals seemed not to understand that this council could not alter the inevitable course of events and that Moscow was in effect already abandoned. The other generals, however, understood it and, leaving aside the question of Moscow, spoke of the direction the army should take in its retreat. Malasha, who kept her eyes fixed on what was going on before her, understood the meaning of the council differently. It seemed to her that it was only a personal struggle between "Granddad" and "Long-coat" as she termed Bennigsen. She saw that they grew spiteful when they spoke to one another, and in her heart she sided with "Granddad." In the midst of the conversation she noticed "Granddad" give Bennigsen a quick, subtle glance, and then to her joys he saw that "Granddad" said something to "Long-coat" which settled him. Bennigsen suddenly reddened and paced angrily up and down the room. What so affected him was Kutuzovs calm and quiet comment on the advantage or disadvantage of Bennigsens proposal to move troops by night from the right to the left flank to attack the French right wing. "Gentlemen," said Kutuzov, "I cannot approve of the counts plan. Moving troops in close proximity to an enemy is always dangerous, and military history supports that view. For instance..." Kutuzov seemed to reflect, searching for an example, then with a clear, naive look at Bennigsen he added: "Oh yes; take the battle of Friedland, which I think the count well remembers, and which was... not fully successful, only because our troops were rearranged too near the enemy..." There followed a momentary pause, which seemed very long to them all. The discussion recommenced, but pauses frequently occurred and they all felt that there was no more to be said. During one of these pauses Kutuzov heaved a deep sigh as if preparing to speak. They all looked at him. "Well, gentlemen, I see that it is I who will have to pay for the broken crockery," said he, and rising slowly he moved to the table. "Gentlemen, I have heard your views. Some of you will not agree with me. But I," he paused, "by the authority entrusted to me by my Sovereign and country, order a retreat." After that the generals began to disperse with the solemnity and circumspect silence of people who are leaving, after a funeral. Some of the generals, in low tones and in a strain very different from the way they had spoken during the council, communicated something to their commander in chief. Malasha, who had long been expected for supper, climbed carefully backwards down from the oven, her bare little feet catching at its projections, and slipping between the legs of the generals she darted out of the room. When he had dismissed the generals Kutuzov sat a long time with his elbows on the table, thinking always of the same terrible question: "When, when did the abandonment of Moscow become inevitable? When was that done which settled the matter? And who was to blame for it?" "I did not expect this," said he to his adjutant Schneider when the latter came in late that night. "I did not expect this! I did not think this would happen." "You should take some rest, your Serene Highness," replied Schneider. "But no! They shall eat horseflesh yet, like the Turks!" exclaimed Kutuzov without replying, striking the table with his podgy fist. "They shall too, if only..." CHAPTER V At that very time, in circumstances even more important than retreating without a battle, namely the evacuation and burning of Moscow, Rostopchin, who is usually represented as being the instigator of that event, acted in an

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