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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Nine: 1812 - Chapter 6
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War And Peace - Book Nine: 1812 - Chapter 6 Post by :Carl_Galletti Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :3356

Click below to download : War And Peace - Book Nine: 1812 - Chapter 6 (Format : PDF)

War And Peace - Book Nine: 1812 - Chapter 6

Though Balashev was used to imperial pomp, he was amazed at the
luxury and magnificence of Napoleon's court.

The Comte de Turenne showed him into a big reception room where many
generals, gentlemen-in-waiting, and Polish magnates- several of whom
Balashev had seen at the court of the Emperor of Russia- were waiting.
Duroc said that Napoleon would receive the Russian general before
going for his ride.

After some minutes, the gentleman-in-waiting who was on duty came
into the great reception room and, bowing politely, asked Balashev
to follow him.

Balashev went into a small reception room, one door of which led
into a study, the very one from which the Russian Emperor had
dispatched him on his mission. He stood a minute or two, waiting. He
heard hurried footsteps beyond the door, both halves of it were opened
rapidly; all was silent and then from the study the sound was heard of
other steps, firm and resolute- they were those of Napoleon. He had
just finished dressing for his ride, and wore a blue uniform,
opening in front over a white waistcoat so long that it covered his
rotund stomach, white leather breeches tightly fitting the fat
thighs of his short legs, and Hessian boots. His short hair had
evidently just been brushed, but one lock hung down in the middle of
his broad forehead. His plump white neck stood out sharply above the
black collar of his uniform, and he smelled of Eau de Cologne. His
full face, rather young-looking, with its prominent chin, wore a
gracious and majestic expression of imperial welcome.

He entered briskly, with a jerk at every step and his head
slightly thrown back. His whole short corpulent figure with broad
thick shoulders, and chest and stomach involuntarily protruding, had
that imposing and stately appearance one sees in men of forty who live
in comfort. It was evident, too, that he was in the best of spirits
that day.

He nodded in answer to Balashav's low and respectful bow, and coming
up to him at once began speaking like a man who values every moment of
his time and does not condescend to prepare what he has to say but
is sure he will always say the right thing and say it well.

"Good day, General!" said he. "I have received the letter you
brought from the Emperor Alexander and am very glad to see you." He
glanced with his large eyes into Balashav's face and immediately
looked past him.

It was plain that Balashev's personality did not interest him at
all. Evidently only what took place within his own mind interested
him. Nothing outside himself had any significance for him, because
everything in the world, it seemed to him, depended entirely on his
will.

"I do not, and did not, desire war," he continued, "but it has
been forced on me. Even now" (he emphasized the word) "I am ready to
receive any explanations you can give me."

And he began clearly and concisely to explain his reasons for
dissatisfaction with the Russian government. Judging by the calmly
moderate and amicable tone in which the French Emperor spoke, Balashev
was firmly persuaded that he wished for peace and intended to enter
into negotiations.

When Napoleon, having finished speaking, looked inquiringly at the
Russian envoy, Balashev began a speech he had prepared long before:
"Sire! The Emperor, my master..." but the sight of the Emperor's
eyes bent on him confused him. "You are flurried- compose yourself!"
Napoleon seemed to say, as with a scarcely perceptible smile he looked
at Balashev's uniform and sword.

Balashev recovered himself and began to speak. He said that the
Emperor Alexander did not consider Kurakin's demand for his
passports a sufficient cause for war; that Kurakin had acted on his
own initiative and without his sovereign's assent, that the Emperor
Alexander did not desire war, and had no relations with England.

"Not yet!" interposed Napoleon, and, as if fearing to give vent to
his feelings, he frowned and nodded slightly as a sign that Balashev
might proceed.

After saying all he had been instructed to say, Balashev added
that the Emperor Alexander wished for peace, but would not enter
into negotiations except on condition that... Here Balashev hesitated:
he remembered the words the Emperor Alexander had not written in his
letter, but had specially inserted in the rescript to Saltykov and had
told Balashev to repeat to Napoleon. Balashev remembered these
words, "So long as a single armed foe remains on Russian soil," but
some complex feeling restrained him. He could not utter them, though
he wished to do so. He grew confused and said: "On condition that
the French army retires beyond the Niemen."

Napoleon noticed Balashev's embarrassment when uttering these last
words; his face twitched and the calf of his left leg began to
quiver rhythmically. Without moving from where he stood he began
speaking in a louder tone and more hurriedly than before. During the
speech that followed, Balashev, who more than once lowered his eyes,
involuntarily noticed the quivering of Napoleon's left leg which
increased the more Napoleon raised his voice.

"I desire peace, no less than the Emperor Alexander," he began.
"Have I not for eighteen months been doing everything to obtain it?
I have waited eighteen months for explanations. But in order to
begin negotiations, what is demanded of me?" he said, frowning and
making an energetic gesture of inquiry with his small white plump
hand.

"The withdrawal of your army beyond the Niemen, sire," replied
Balashev.

"The Niemen?" repeated Napoleon. "So now you want me to retire
beyond the Niemen- only the Niemen?" repeated Napoleon, looking
straight at Balashev.

The latter bowed his head respectfully.

Instead of the demand of four months earlier to withdraw from
Pomerania, only a withdrawal beyond the Niemen was now demanded.
Napoleon turned quickly and began to pace the room.

"You say the demand now is that I am to withdraw beyond the Niemen
before commencing negotiations, but in just the same way two months
ago the demand was that I should withdraw beyond the Vistula and the
Oder, and yet you are willing to negotiate."

He went in silence from one corner of the room to the other and
again stopped in front of Balashev. Balashev noticed that his left leg
was quivering faster than before and his face seemed petrified in
its stern expression. This quivering of his left leg was a thing
Napoleon was conscious of. "The vibration of my left calf is a great
sign with me," he remarked at a later date.

"Such demands as to retreat beyond the Vistula and Oder may be
made to a Prince of Baden, but not to me!" Napoleon almost screamed,
quite to his own surprise. "If you gave me Petersburg and Moscow I
could not accept such conditions. You say I have begun this war! But
who first joined his army? The Emperor Alexander, not I! And you offer
me negotiations when I have expended millions, when you are in
alliance with England, and when your position is a bad one. You
offer me negotiations! But what is the aim of your alliance with
England? What has she given you?" he continued hurriedly, evidently no
longer trying to show the advantages of peace and discuss its
possibility, but only to prove his own rectitude and power and
Alexander's errors and duplicity.

The commencement of his speech had obviously been made with the
intention of demonstrating the advantages of his position and
showing that he was nevertheless willing to negotiate. But he had
begun talking, and the more he talked the less could he control his
words.

The whole purport of his remarks now was evidently to exalt
himself and insult Alexander- just what he had least desired at the
commencement of the interview.

"I hear you have made peace with Turkey?"

Balashev bowed his head affirmatively.

"Peace has been concluded..." he began.

But Napoleon did not let him speak. He evidently wanted to do all
the talking himself, and continued to talk with the sort of
eloquence and unrestrained irritability to which spoiled people are so
prone.

"Yes, I know you have made peace with the Turks without obtaining
Moldavia and Wallachia; I would have given your sovereign those
provinces as I gave him Finland. Yes," he went on, "I promised and
would have given the Emperor Alexander Moldavia and Wallachia, and now
he won't have those splendid provinces. Yet he might have united
them to his empire and in a single reign would have extended Russia
from the Gulf of Bothnia to the mouths of the Danube. Catherine the
Great could not have done more," said Napoleon, growing more and
more excited as he paced up and down the room, repeating to Balashev
almost the very words he had used to Alexander himself at Tilsit. "All
that, he would have owed to my friendship. Oh, what a splendid reign!"
he repeated several times, then paused, drew from his pocket a gold
snuffbox, lifted it to his nose, and greedily sniffed at it.

"What a splendid reign the Emperor Alexander's might have been!"

He looked compassionately at Balashev, and as soon as the latter
tried to make some rejoinder hastily interrupted him.

"What could he wish or look for that he would not have obtained
through my friendship?" demanded Napoleon, shrugging his shoulders
in perplexity. "But no, he has preferred to surround himself with my
enemies, and with whom? With Steins, Armfeldts, Bennigsens, and
Wintzingerodes! Stein, a traitor expelled from his own country;
Armfeldt, a rake and an intriguer; Wintzingerode, a fugitive French
subject; Bennigsen, rather more of a soldier than the others, but
all the same an incompetent who was unable to do anything in 1807
and who should awaken terrible memories in the Emperor Alexander's
mind.... Granted that were they competent they might be made use
of," continued Napoleon- hardly able to keep pace in words with the
rush of thoughts that incessantly sprang up, proving how right and
strong he was (in his perception the two were one and the same)-
"but they are not even that! They are neither fit for war nor peace!
Barclay is said to be the most capable of them all, but I cannot say
so, judging by his first movements. And what are they doing, all these
courtiers? Pfuel proposes, Armfeldt disputes, Bennigsen considers, and
Barclay, called on to act, does not know what to decide on, and time
passes bringing no result. Bagration alone is a military man. He's
stupid, but he has experience, a quick eye, and resolution.... And
what role is your young monarch playing in that monstrous crowd?
They compromise him and throw on him the responsibility for all that
happens. A sovereign should not be with the army unless he is a
general!" said Napoleon, evidently uttering these words as a direct
challenge to the Emperor. He knew how Alexander desired to be a
military commander.

"The campaign began only a week ago, and you haven't even been
able to defend Vilna. You are cut in two and have been driven out of
the Polish provinces. Your army is grumbling."

"On the contrary, Your Majesty," said Balashev, hardly able to
remember what had been said to him and following these verbal
fireworks with difficulty, "the troops are burning with eagerness..."

"I know everything!" Napoleon interrupted him. "I know everything. I
know the number of your battalions as exactly as I know my own. You
have not two hundred thousand men, and I have three times that number.
I give you my word of honor," said Napoleon, forgetting that his
word of honor could carry no weight- "I give you my word of honor that
I have five hundred and thirty thousand men this side of the
Vistula. The Turks will be of no use to you; they are worth nothing
and have shown it by making peace with you. As for the Swedes- it is
their fate to be governed by mad kings. Their king was insane and they
changed him for another- Bernadotte, who promptly went mad- for no
Swede would ally himself with Russia unless he were mad."

Napoleon grinned maliciously and again raised his snuffbox to his
nose.

Balashev knew how to reply to each of Napoleon's remarks, and
would have done so; he continually made the gesture of a man wishing
to say something, but Napoleon always interrupted him. To the
alleged insanity of the Swedes, Balashev wished to reply that when
Russia is on her side Sweden is practically an island: but Napoleon
gave an angry exclamation to drown his voice. Napoleon was in that
state of irritability in which a man has to talk, talk, and talk,
merely to convince himself that he is in the right. Balashev began
to feel uncomfortable: as envoy he feared to demean his dignity and
felt the necessity of replying; but, as a man, he shrank before the
transport of groundless wrath that had evidently seized Napoleon. He
knew that none of the words now uttered by Napoleon had any
significance, and that Napoleon himself would be ashamed of them
when he came to his senses. Balashev stood with downcast eyes, looking
at the movements of Napoleon's stout legs and trying to avoid
meeting his eyes.

"But what do I care about your allies?" said Napoleon. "I have
allies- the Poles. There are eighty thousand of them and they fight
like lions. And there will be two hundred thousand of them."

And probably still more perturbed by the fact that he had uttered
this obvious falsehood, and that Balashev still stood silently
before him in the same attitude of submission to fate, Napoleon
abruptly turned round, drew close to Balashev's face, and,
gesticulating rapidly and energetically with his white hands, almost
shouted:

"Know that if you stir up Prussia against me, I'll wipe it off the
map of Europe!" he declared, his face pale and distorted by anger, and
he struck one of his small hands energetically with the other. "Yes, I
will throw you back beyond the Dvina and beyond the Dnieper, and
will re-erect against you that barrier which it was criminal and blind
of Europe to allow to be destroyed. Yes, that is what will happen to
you. That is what you have gained by alienating me!" And he walked
silently several times up and down the room, his fat shoulders
twitching.

He put his snuffbox into his waistcoat pocket, took it out again,
lifted it several times to his nose, and stopped in front of Balashev.
He paused, looked ironically straight into Balashev's eyes, and said
in a quiet voice:

"And yet what a splendid reign your master might have had!"

Balashev, feeling it incumbent on him to reply, said that from the
Russian side things did not appear in so gloomy a light. Napoleon
was silent, still looking derisively at him and evidently not
listening to him. Balashev said that in Russia the best results were
expected from the war. Napoleon nodded condescendingly, as if to
say, "I know it's your duty to say that, but you don't believe it
yourself. I have convinced you."

When Balashev had ended, Napoleon again took out his snuffbox,
sniffed at it, and stamped his foot twice on the floor as a signal.
The door opened, a gentleman-in-waiting, bending respectfully,
handed the Emperor his hat and gloves; another brought hima pocket
handkerchief. Napoleon, without giving them a glance, turned to
Balashev:

"Assure the Emperor Alexander from me," said he, taking his hat,
"that I am as devoted to him as before: I know him thoroughly and very
highly esteem his lofty qualities. I will detain you no longer,
General; you shall receive my letter to the Emperor."

And Napoleon went quickly to the door. Everyone in the reception
room rushed forward and descended the staircase.

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