"Stop this jesting," he said
"I am not jesting," Bilibin went on. "Nothing is truer or sadder. These gentlemen ride onto the bridge alone and wave white handkerchiefs; they assure the officer on duty that they, the marshals, are on their way to negotiate with Prince Auersperg. He lets them enter the tete-de-pont.* They spin him a thousand gasconades, saying that the war is over, that the Emperor Francis is arranging a meeting with Bonaparte, that they desire to see Prince Auersperg, and so on. The officer sends for Auersperg; these gentlemen embrace the officers, crack jokes, sit on the cannon, and meanwhile a French battalion gets to the bridge unobserved, flings the bags of incendiary material into the water, and approaches the tete-de-pont. At length appears the lieutenant general, our dear Prince Auersperg von Mautern himself. 'Dearest foe! Flower of the Austrian army, hero of the Turkish wars Hostilities are ended, we can shake one another's hand.... The Emperor Napoleon burns with impatience to make Prince Auersperg's acquaintance.' In a word, those gentlemen, Gascons indeed, so bewildered him with fine words, and he is so flattered by his rapidly established intimacy with the French marshals, and so dazzled by the sight of Murat's mantle and ostrich plumes, qu'il n'y voit que du feu, et oublie celui qu'il devait faire faire sur l'ennemi!"* In spite of the animation of his speech, Bilibin did not forget to pause after this mot to give time for its due appreciation. "The French battalion rushes to the bridgehead, spikes the guns, and the bridge is taken! But what is best of all," he went on, his excitement subsiding under the delightful interest of his own story, "is that the sergeant in charge of the cannon which was to give the signal to fire the mines and blow up the bridge, this sergeant, seeing that the French troops were running onto the bridge, was about to fire, but Lannes stayed his hand. The sergeant, who was evidently wiser than his general, goes up to Auersperg and says: 'Prince, you are being deceived, here are the French!' Murat, seeing that all is lost if the sergeant is allowed to speak, turns to Auersperg with feigned astonishment (he is a true Gascon) and says: 'I don't recognize the world-famous Austrian discipline, if you allow a subordinate to address you like that!' It was a stroke of genius. Prince Auersperg feels his dignity at stake and orders the sergeant to be arrested. Come, you must own that this affair of the Thabor Bridge is delightful! It is not exactly stupidity, nor rascality...."
* That their fire gets into his eyes and he forgets that he ought to be firing at the enemy.
"It may be treachery," said Prince Andrew, vividly imagining the gray overcoats, wounds, the smoke of gunpowder, the sounds of firing, and the glory that awaited him.
"Not that either. That puts the court in too bad a light," replied Bilibin."It's not treachery nor rascality nor stupidity: it is just as at Ulm... it is..."- he seemed to be trying to find the right expression. "C'est... c'est du Mack. Nous sommes mackes [It is... it is a bit of Mack. We are Macked]," he concluded, feeling that he had produced a good epigram, a fresh one that would be repeated. His hitherto puckered brow became smooth as a sign of pleasure, and with a slight smile he began to examine his nails.
"Where are you off to?" he said suddenly to Prince Andrew who had risen and was going toward his room.
"I am going away."
"To the army."
"But you meant to stay another two days?"
"But now I am off at once."
And Prince Andrew after giving directions about his departure went to his room.
"Do you know, mon cher," said Bilibin following him, "I have been thinking about you. Why are you going?"
And in proof of the conclusiveness of his opinion all the wrinkles vanished from his face.
Prince Andrew looked inquiringly at him and gave no reply.
"Why are you going? I know you think it your duty to gallop back to the army now that it is in danger. I understand that. Mon cher, it is heroism!"
"Not at all," said Prince Andrew.
"But as you are a philosopher, be a consistent one, look at the other side of the question and you will see that your duty, on the contrary, is to take care of yourself. Leave it to those who are no longer fit for anything else.... You have not been ordered to return and have not been dismissed from here; therefore, you can stay and go with us wherever our ill luck takes us. They say we are going to Olmutz, and Olmutz is a very decent town. You and I will travel comfortably in my caleche."
"Do stop joking, Bilibin," cried Bolkonski.
"I am speaking sincerely as a friend! Consider! Where and why are you going, when you might remain here? You are faced by one of two things," and the skin over his left temple puckered, "either you will not reach your regiment before peace is concluded, or you will share defeat and disgrace with Kutuzov's whole army."
And Bilibin unwrinkled his temple, feeling that the dilemma was insoluble.
"I cannot argue about it," replied Prince Andrew coldly, but he thought: "I am going to save the army."
"My dear fellow, you are a hero!" said Bilibin.
War and Peace -by- Leo Tolstoy