BOOK NINE: 1812
3. CHAPTER III
The Emperor of Russia had, meanwhile, been in Vilna for more than
a month. reviewing troops and holding maneuvers. Nothing was ready for
the war that everyone expected and to prepare for which the Emperor
had come from Petersburg. There was no general plan of action. The
vacillation between the various plans that were proposed had even
increased after the Emperor had been at headquarters for a month. Each
of the three armies had its own commander in chief, but there was no
supreme commander of all the forces, and the Emperor did not assume
that responsibility himself.
The longer the Emperor remained in Vilna the less did everybody-
tired of waiting- prepare for the war. All the efforts of those who
surrounded the sovereign seemed directed merely to making him spend
his time pleasantly and forget that war was impending.
In June, after many balls and fetes given by the Polish magnates, by
the courtiers, and by the Emperor himself, it occurred to one of the
Polish aides-de-camp in attendance that a dinner and ball should be
given for the Emperor by his aides-de-camp. This idea was eagerly
received. The Emperor gave his consent. The aides-de-camp collected
money by subscription. The lady who was thought to be most pleasing to
the Emperor was invited to act as hostess. Count Bennigsen, being a
landowner in the Vilna province, offered his country house for the
fete, and the thirteenth of June was fixed for a ball, dinner,
regatta, and fireworks at Zakret, Count Bennigsen's country seat.
The very day that Napoleon issued the order to cross the Niemen, and
his vanguard, driving off the Cossacks, crossed the Russian
frontier, Alexander spent the evening at the entertainment given by
his aides-de-camp at Bennigsen's country house.
It was a gay and brilliant fete. Connoisseurs of such matters
declared that rarely had so many beautiful women been assembled in one
place. Countess Bezukhova was present among other Russian ladies who
had followed the sovereign from Petersburg to Vilna and eclipsed the
refined Polish ladies by her massive, so called Russian type of
beauty. The Emperor noticed her and honored her with a dance.