On the twenty-ninth of November Kutuzov entered Vilna--his "dear Vilna" as he called it. Twice during his career Kutuzov had been governor of Vilna. In that wealthy town, which had not been injured, he found old friends and associations, besides the comforts of life of which he had so long been deprived. And he suddenly turned from the cares of army and state and, as far as the passions that seethed around him allowed, immersed himself in the quiet life to which he had formerly been accustomed, as if all that was taking place and all that had still to be done in the realm of history did not concern him at all.
Chichagov, one of the most zealous "cutters-off" and "breakers-up," who had first wanted to effect a diversion in Greece and then in Warsaw but never wished to go where he was sent: Chichagov, noted for the boldness with which he spoke to the Emperor, and who considered Kutuzov to be under an obligation to him because when he was sent to make peace with Turkey in 1811 independently of Kutuzov, and found that peace had already been concluded, he admitted to the Emperor that the merit of securing that peace was really Kutuzov's; this Chichagov was the first to meet Kutuzov at the castle where the latter was to stay. In undress naval uniform, with a dirk, and holding his cap under his arm, he handed Kutuzov a garrison report and the keys of the town. The contemptuously respectful attitude of the younger men to the old man in his dotage was expressed in the highest degree by the behavior of Chichagov, who knew of the accusations that were being directed against Kutuzov.
When speaking to Chichagov, Kutuzov incidentally mentioned that the vehicles packed with china that had been captured from him at Borisov had been recovered and would be restored to him.
"You mean to imply that I have nothing to eat out of.... On the contrary, I can supply you with everything even if you want to give dinner parties," warmly replied Chichagov, who tried by every word he spoke to prove his own rectitude and therefore imagined Kutuzov to be animated by the same desire.
Kutuzov, shrugging his shoulders, replied with his subtle penetrating smile: "I meant merely to say what I said."
Contrary to the Emperor's wish Kutuzov detained the greater part of the army at Vilna. Those about him said that he became extraordinarily slack and physically feeble during his stay in that town. He attended to army affairs reluctantly, left everything to his generals, and while awaiting the Emperor's arrival led a dissipated life.
Having left Petersburg on the seventh of December with his suite--Count Tolstoy, Prince Volkonski, Arakcheev, and others--the Emperor reached Vilna on the eleventh, and in his traveling sleigh drove straight to the castle. In spite of the severe frost some hundred generals and staff officers in full parade uniform stood in front of the castle, as well as a guard of honor of the Semenov regiment.
A courier who galloped to the castle in advance, in a troyka with three foam-flecked horses, shouted "Coming!" and Konovnitsyn rushed into the vestibule to inform Kutuzov, who was waiting in the hall porter's little lodge.
A minute later the old man's large stout figure in full-dress uniform, his chest covered with orders and a scarf drawn round his stomach, waddled out into the porch. He put on his hat with its peaks to the sides and, holding his gloves in his hand and walking with an effort sideways down the steps to the level of the street, took in his hand the report he had prepared for the Emperor.
There was running to and fro and whispering; another troyka flew furiously up, and then all eyes were turned on an approaching sleigh in which the figures of the Emperor and Volkonski could already be descried.
From the habit of fifty years all this had a physically agitating effect on the old general. He carefully and hastily felt himself all over, readjusted his hat, and pulling himself together drew himself up and, at the very moment when the Emperor, having alighted from the sleigh, lifted his eyes to him, handed him the report and began speaking in his smooth, ingratiating voice.
The Emperor with a rapid glance scanned Kutuzov from head to foot, frowned for an instant, but immediately mastering himself went up to the old man, extended his arms and embraced him. And this embrace too, owing to a long-standing impression related to his innermost feelings, had its usual effect on Kutuzov and he gave a sob.
The Emperor greeted the officers and the Semenov guard, and again pressing the old man's hand went with him into the castle.
When alone with the field marshal the Emperor expressed his dissatisfaction at the slowness of the pursuit and at the mistakes made at Krasnoe and the Berezina, and informed him of his intentions for a future campaign abroad. Kutuzov made no rejoinder or remark. The same submissive, expressionless look with which he had listened to the Emperor's commands on the field of Austerlitz seven years before settled on his face now.
When Kutuzov came out of the study and with lowered head was crossing the ballroom with his heavy waddling gait, he was arrested by someone's voice saying:
"Your Serene Highness!"
Kutuzov raised his head and looked for a long while into the eyes of Count Tolstoy, who stood before him holding a silver salver on which lay a small object. Kutuzov seemed not to understand what was expected of him.
Suddenly he seemed to remember; a scarcely perceptible smile flashed across his puffy face, and bowing low and respectfully he took the object that lay on the salver. It was the Order of St. George of the First Class.