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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Nine: 1812 - Chapter 4
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War And Peace - Book Nine: 1812 - Chapter 4 Post by :johnb Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :2427

Click below to download : War And Peace - Book Nine: 1812 - Chapter 4 (Format : PDF)

War And Peace - Book Nine: 1812 - Chapter 4

At two in the morning of the fourteenth of June, the Emperor, having
sent for Balashev and read him his letter to Napoleon, ordered him
to take it and hand it personally to the French Emperor. When
dispatching Balashev, the Emperor repeated to him the words that he
would not make peace so long as a single armed enemy remained on
Russian soil and told him to transmit those words to Napoleon.
Alexander did not insert them in his letter to Napoleon, because
with his characteristic tact he felt it would be injudicious to use
them at a moment when a last attempt at reconciliation was being made,
but he definitely instructed Balashev to repeat them personally to
Napoleon.

Having set off in the small hours of the fourteenth, accompanied
by a bugler and two Cossacks, Balashev reached the French outposts
at the village of Rykonty, on the Russian side of the Niemen, by dawn.
There he was stopped by French cavalry sentinels.

A French noncommissioned officer of hussars, in crimson uniform
and a shaggy cap, shouted to the approaching Balashev to halt.
Balashev did not do so at once, but continued to advance along the
road at a walking pace.

The noncommissioned officer frowned and, muttering words of abuse,
advanced his horse's chest against Balashev, put his hand to his
saber, and shouted rudely at the Russian general, asking: was he
deaf that he did not do as he was told? Balashev mentioned who he was.
The noncommissioned officer began talking with his comrades about
regimental matters without looking at the Russian general.

After living at the seat of the highest authority and power, after
conversing with the Emperor less than three hours before, and in
general being accustomed to the respect due to his rank in the
service, Balashev found it very strange here on Russian soil to
encounter this hostile, and still more this disrespectful, application
of brute force to himself.

The sun was only just appearing from behind the clouds, the air
was fresh and dewy. A herd of cattle was being driven along the road
from the village, and over the fields the larks rose trilling, one
after another, like bubbles rising in water.

Balashev looked around him, awaiting the arrival of an officer
from the village. The Russian Cossacks and bugler and the French
hussars looked silently at one another from time to time.

A French colonel of hussars, who had evidently just left his bed,
came riding from the village on a handsome sleek gray horse,
accompanied by two hussars. The officer, the soldiers, and their
horses all looked smart and well kept.

It was that first period of a campaign when troops are still in full
trim, almost like that of peacetime maneuvers, but with a shade of
martial swagger in their clothes, and a touch of the gaiety and spirit
of enterprise which always accompany the opening of a campaign.

The French colonel with difficulty repressed a yawn, but was
polite and evidently understood Balashev's importance. He led him past
his soldiers and behind the outposts and told him that his wish to
be presented to the Emperor would most likely be satisfied
immediately, as the Emperor's quarters were, he believed, not far off.

They rode through the village of Rykonty, past tethered French
hussar horses, past sentinels and men who saluted their colonel and
stared with curiosity at a Russian uniform, and came out at the
other end of the village. The colonel said that the commander of the
division was a mile and a quarter away and would receive Balashev
and conduct him to his destination.

The sun had by now risen and shone gaily on the bright verdure.

They had hardly ridden up a hill, past a tavern, before they saw a
group of horsemen coming toward them. In front of the group, on a
black horse with trappings that glittered in the sun, rode a tall
man with plumes in his hat and black hair curling down to his
shoulders. He wore a red mantle, and stretched his long legs forward
in French fashion. This man rode toward Balashev at a gallop, his
plumes flowing and his gems and gold lace glittering in the bright
June sunshine.

Balashev was only two horses' length from the equestrian with the
bracelets, plunies, necklaces, and gold embroidery, who was
galloping toward him with a theatrically solemn countenance, when
Julner, the French colonel, whispered respectfully: "The King of
Naples!" It was, in fact, Murat, now called "King of Naples." Though
it was quite incomprehensible why he should be King of Naples, he
was called so, and was himself convinced that he was so, and therefore
assumed a more solemn and important air than formerly. He was so
sure that he really was the King of Naples that when, on the eve of
his departure from that city, while walking through the streets with
his wife, some Italians called out to him: "Viva il re!"* he turned to
his wife with a pensive smile and said: "Poor fellows, they don't know
that I am leaving them tomorrow!"


*"Long live the king."


But though he firmly believed himself to be King of Naples and
pitied the grief felt by the subjects he was abandoning, latterly,
after he had been ordered to return to military service- and
especially since his last interview with Napoleon in Danzig, when
his august brother-in-law had told him: "I made you King that you
should reign in my way, but not in yours!"- he had cheerfully taken up
his familiar business, and- like a well-fed but not overfat horse that
feels himself in harness and grows skittish between the shafts- he
dressed up in clothes as variegated and expensive as possible, and
gaily and contentedly galloped along the roads of Poland, without
himself knowing why or whither.

On seeing the Russian general he threw back his head, with its
long hair curling to his shoulders, in a majestically royal manner,
and looked inquiringly at the French colonel. The colonel respectfully
informed His Majesty of Balashev's mission, whose name he could not
pronounce.

"De Bal-macheve!" said the King (overcoming by his assurance the
difficulty that had presented itself to the colonel). "Charmed to make
your acquaintance, General!" he added, with a gesture of kingly
condescension.

As soon as the King began to speak loud and fast his royal dignity
instantly forsook him, and without noticing it he passed into his
natural tone of good-natured familiarity. He laid his hand on the
withers of Balashev's horse and said:

"Well, General, it all looks like war," as if regretting a
circumstance of which he was unable to judge.

"Your Majesty," replied Balashev, "my master, the Emperor, does
not desire war and as Your Majesty sees..." said Balashev, using the
words Your Majesty at every opportunity, with the affectation
unavoidable in frequently addressing one to whom the title was still a
novelty.

Murat's face beamed with stupid satisfaction as he listened to
"Monsieur de Bal-macheve." But royaute oblige!* and he felt it
incumbent on him, as a king and an ally, to confer on state affairs
with Alexander's envoy. He dismounted, took Balashev's arm, and moving
a few steps away from his suite, which waited respectfully, began to
pace up and down with him, trying to speak significantly. He
referred to the fact that the Emperor Napoleon had resented the demand
that he should withdraw his troops from Prussia, especially when
that demand became generally known and the dignity of France was
thereby offended.


*"Royalty has its obligations."


Balashev replied that there was nothing offensive in the demand,
because..." but Murat interrupted him.

"Then you don't consider the Emperor Alexander the aggressor?" he
asked unexpectedly, with a kindly and foolish smile.

Balashev told him why he considered Napoleon to be the originator of
the war.

"Oh, my dear general!" Murat again interrupted him, "with all my
heart I wish the Emperors may arrange the affair between them, and
that the war begun by no wish of mine may finish as quickly as
possible!" said he, in the tone of a servant who wants to remain
good friends with another despite a quarrel between their masters.

And he went on to inquiries about the Grand Duke and the state of
his health, and to reminiscences of the gay and amusing times he had
spent with him in Naples. Then suddenly, as if remembering his royal
dignity, Murat solemnly drew himself up, assumed the pose in which
he had stood at his coronation. and, waving his right arm, said:

"I won't detain you longer, General. I wish success to your
mission," and with his embroidered red mantle, his flowing feathers,
and his glittering ornaments, he rejoined his suite who were
respectfully awaiting him.

Balashev rode on, supposing from Murat's words that he would very
soon be brought before Napoleon himself. But instead of that, at the
next village the sentinels of Davout's infantry corps detained him
as the pickets of the vanguard had done, and an adjutant of the
corps commander, who was fetched, conducted him into the village to
Marshal Davout.

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