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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Nine: 1812 - Chapter 7
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War And Peace - Book Nine: 1812 - Chapter 7 Post by :pearsonbrown Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :3371

Click below to download : War And Peace - Book Nine: 1812 - Chapter 7 (Format : PDF)

War And Peace - Book Nine: 1812 - Chapter 7

After all that Napoleon had said to him- those bursts of anger and
the last dryly spoken words: "I will detain you no longer, General;
you shall receive my letter," Balashev felt convinced that Napoleon
would not wish to see him, and would even avoid another meeting with
him- an insulted envoy- especially as he had witnessed his unseemly
anger. But, to his surprise, Balashev received, through Duroc, an
invitation to dine with the Emperor that day.

Bessieres, Caulaincourt, and Berthier were present at that dinner.

Napoleon met Balashev cheerfully and amiably. He not only showed
no sign of constraint or self-reproach on account of his outburst that
morning, but, on the contrary, tried to reassure Balashev. It was
evident that he had long been convinced that it was impossible for him
to make a mistake, and that in his perception whatever he did was
right, not because it harmonized with any idea of right and wrong, but
because he did it.

The Emperor was in very good spirits after his ride through Vilna,
where crowds of people had rapturously greeted and followed him.
From all the windows of the streets through which he rode, rugs,
flags, and his monogram were displayed, and the Polish ladies,
welcoming him, waved their handkerchiefs to him.

At dinner, having placed Balashev beside him, Napoleon not only
treated him amiably but behaved as if Balashev were one of his own
courtiers, one of those who sympathized with his plans and ought to
rejoice at his success. In the course of conversation he mentioned
Moscow and questioned Balashev about the Russian capital, not merely
as an interested traveler asks about a new city he intends to visit,
but as if convinced that Balashev, as a Russian, must be flattered
by his curiosity.

"How many inhabitants are there in Moscow? How many houses? Is it
true that Moscow is called 'Holy Moscow'? How many churches are
there in Moscow?" he asked.

And receiving the reply that there were more than two hundred
churches, he remarked:

"Why such a quantity of churches?"

"The Russians are very devout," replied Balashev.

"But a large number of monasteries and churches is always a sign
of the backwardness of a people," said Napoleon, turning to
Caulaincourt for appreciation of this remark.

Balashev respectfully ventured to disagree with the French Emperor.

"Every country has its own character," said he.

"But nowhere in Europe is there anything like that," said Napoleon.

"I beg your Majesty's pardon," returned Balashev, "besides Russia
there is Spain, where there are also many churches and monasteries."

This reply of Balashev's, which hinted at the recent defeats of
the French in Spain, was much appreciated when he related it at
Alexander's court, but it was not much appreciated at Napoleon's
dinner, where it passed unnoticed.

The uninterested and perplexed faces of the marshals showed that
they were puzzled as to what Balashev's tone suggested. "If there is a
point we don't see it, or it is not at all witty," their expressions
seemed to say. So little was his rejoinder appreciated that Napoleon
did not notice it at all and naively asked Balashev through what towns
the direct road from there to Moscow passed. Balashev, who was on
the alert all through the dinner, replied that just as "all roads lead
to Rome," so all roads lead to Moscow: there were many roads, and
"among them the road through Poltava, which Charles XII chose."
Balashev involuntarily flushed with pleasure at the aptitude of this
reply, but hardly had he uttered the word Poltava before
Caulaincourt began speaking of the badness of the road from Petersburg
to Moscow and of his Petersburg reminiscences.

After dinner they went to drink coffee in Napoleon's study, which
four days previously had been that of the Emperor Alexander.
Napoleon sat down, toying with his Sevres coffee cup, and motioned
Balashev to a chair beside him.

Napoleon was in that well-known after-dinner mood which, more than
any reasoned cause, makes a man contented with himself and disposed to
consider everyone his friend. It seemed to him that he was
surrounded by men who adored him: and he felt convinced that, after
his dinner, Balashev too was his friend and worshiper. Napoleon turned
to him with a pleasant, though slightly ironic, smile.

"They tell me this is the room the Emperor Alexander occupied?
Strange, isn't it, General?" he said, evidently not doubting that this
remark would be agreeable to his hearer since it went to prove his,
Napoleon's, superiority to Alexander.

Balashev made no reply and bowed and bowed his head in silence.

"Yes. Four days ago in this room, Wintzingerode and Stein were
deliberating," continued Napoleon with the same derisive and
self-confident smile. "What I can't understand," he went on, "is
that the Emperor Alexander has surrounded himself with my personal
enemies. That I do not... understand. Has he not thought that I may
the same?" and he turned inquiringly to Balashev, and evidently this
thought turned him back on to the track of his morning's anger,
which was still fresh in him.

"And let him know that I will do so!" said Napoleon, rising and
pushing his cup away with his hand. "I'll drive all his Wurttemberg,
Baden, and Weimar relations out of Germany.... Yes. I'll drive them
out. Let him prepare an asylum for them in Russia!"

Balashev bowed his head with an air indicating that he would like to
make his bow and leave, and only listened because he could not help
hearing what was said to him. Napoleon did not notice this expression;
he treated Balashev not as an envoy from his enemy, but as a man now
fully devoted to him and who must rejoice at his former master's
humiliation.

"And why has the Emperor Alexander taken command of the armies? What
is the good of that? War is my profession, but his business is to
reign and not to command armies! Why has he taken on himself such a
responsibility?"

Again Napoleon brought out his snuffbox, paced several times up
and down the room in silence, and then, suddenly and unexpectedly,
went up to Balashev and with a slight smile, as confidently,
quickly, and simply as if he were doing something not merely
important but pleasing to Balashev, he raised his hand to the
forty-year-old Russian general's face and, taking him by the ear,
pulled it gently, smiling with his lips only.

To have one's ear pulled by the Emperor was considered the
greatest honor and mark of favor at the French court.

"Well, adorer and courtier of the Emperor Alexander, why don't you
say anything?" said he, as if it was ridiculous, in his presence, to
be the adorer and courtier of anyone but himself, Napoleon. "Are the
horses ready for the general?" he added, with a slight inclination
of his head in reply to Balashev's bow. "Let him have mine, he has a
long way to go!"

The letter taken by Balashev was the last Napoleon sent to
Alexander. Every detail of the interview was communicated to the
Russian monarch, and the war began...

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