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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 7
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War And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 7 Post by :goldmine33 Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :2591

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

War And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 7

While this was taking place in Petersburg the French had already
passed Smolensk and were drawing nearer and nearer to Moscow.
Napoleon's historian Thiers, like other of his historians, trying to
justify his hero says that he was drawn to the walls of Moscow against
his will. He is as right as other historians who look for the
explanation of historic events in the will of one man; he is as
right as the Russian historians who maintain that Napoleon was drawn
to Moscow by the skill of the Russian commanders. Here besides the law
of retrospection, which regards all the past as a preparation for
events that subsequently occur, the law of reciprocity comes in,
confusing the whole matter. A good chessplayer having lost a game is
sincerely convinced that his loss resulted from a mistake he made
and looks for that mistake in the opening, but forgets that at each
stage of the game there were similar mistakes and that none of his
moves were perfect. He only notices the mistake to which he pays
attention, because his opponent took advantage of it. How much more
complex than this is the game of war, which occurs under certain
limits of time, and where it is not one will that manipulates lifeless
objects, but everything results from innumerable conflicts of
various wills!

After Smolensk Napoleon sought a battle beyond Dorogobuzh at Vyazma,
and then at Tsarevo-Zaymishche, but it happened that owing to a
conjunction of innumerable circumstances the Russians could not give
battle till they reached Borodino, seventy miles from Moscow. From
Vyazma Napoleon ordered a direct advance on Moscow.

Moscou, la capitale asiatique de ce grand empire, la ville sacree
des peuples d'Alexandre, Moscou avec ses innombrables eglises en forme
de pagodes chinoises,* this Moscow gave Napoleon's imagination no
rest. On the march from Vyazma to Tsarevo-Zaymishche he rode his light
bay bobtailed ambler accompanied by his Guards, his bodyguard, his
pages, and aides-de-camp. Berthier, his chief of staff, dropped behind
to question a Russian prisoner captured by the cavalry. Followed by
Lelorgne d'Ideville, an interpreter, he overtook Napoleon at a
gallop and reined in his horse with an amused expression.


*"Moscow, the Asiatic capital of this great empire, the sacred
city of Alexander's people, Moscow with its innumerable churches
shaped like Chinese pagodas."


"Well?" asked Napoleon.

"One of Platov's Cossacks says that Platov's corps is joining up
with the main army and that Kutuzov has been appointed commander in
chief. He is a very shrewd and garrulous fellow."

Napoleon smiled and told them to give the Cossack a horse and
bring the man to him. He wished to talk to him himself. Several
adjutants galloped off, and an hour later, Lavrushka, the serf Denisov
had handed over to Rostov, rode up to Napoleon in an orderly's
jacket and on a French cavalry saddle, with a merry, and tipsy face.
Napoleon told him to ride by his side and began questioning him.

"You are a Cossack?"

"Yes, a Cossack, your Honor."

"The Cossack, not knowing in what company he was, for Napoleon's
plain appearance had nothing about it that would reveal to an Oriental
mind the presence of a monarch, talked with extreme familiarity of the
incidents of the war," says Thiers, narrating this episode. In reality
Lavrushka, having got drunk the day before and left his master
dinnerless, had been whipped and sent to the village in quest of
chickens, where he engaged in looting till the French took him
prisoner. Lavrushka was one of those coarse, bare-faced lackeys who
have seen all sorts of things, consider it necessary to do
everything in a mean and cunning way, are ready to render any sort
of service to their master, and are keen at guessing their master's
baser impulses, especially those prompted by vanity and pettiness.

Finding himself in the company of Napoleon, whose identity he had
easily and surely recognized, Lavrushka was not in the least abashed
but merely did his utmost to gain his new master's favor.

He knew very well that this was Napoleon, but Napoleon's presence
could no more intimidate him than Rostov's, or a sergeant major's with
the rods, would have done, for he had nothing that either the sergeant
major or Napoleon could deprive him of.

So he rattled on, telling all the gossip he had heard among the
orderlies. Much of it true. But when Napoleon asked him whether the
Russians thought they would beat Bonaparte or not, Lavrushka screwed
up his eyes and considered.

In this question he saw subtle cunning, as men of his type see
cunning in everything, so he frowned and did not answer immediately.

"It's like this," he said thoughtfully, "if there's a battle soon,
yours will win. That's right. But if three days pass, then after that,
well, then that same battle will not soon be over."

Lelorgne d'Ideville smilingly interpreted this speech to Napoleon
thus: "If a battle takes place within the next three days the French
will win, but if later, God knows what will happen." Napoleon did
not smile, though he was evidently in high good humor, and he
ordered these words to be repeated.

Lavrushka noticed this and to entertain him further, pretending
not to know who Napoleon was, added:

"We know that you have Bonaparte and that he has beaten everybody in
the world, but we are a different matter..."- without knowing why or
how this bit of boastful patriotism slipped out at the end.

The interpreter translated these words without the last phrase,
and Bonaparte smiled. "The young Cossack made his mighty
interlocutor smile," says Thiers. After riding a few paces in silence,
Napoleon turned to Berthier and said he wished to see how the news
that he was talking to the Emperor himself, to that very Emperor who
had written his immortally victorious name on the Pyramids, would
affect this enfant du Don.*


*"Child of the Don."


The fact was accordingly conveyed to Lavrushka.

Lavrushka, understanding that this was done to perplex him and
that Napoleon expected him to be frightened, to gratify his new
masters promptly pretended to be astonished and awe-struck, opened his
eyes wide, and assumed the expression he usually put on when taken
to be whipped. "As soon as Napoleon's interpreter had spoken," says
Thiers, "the Cossack, seized by amazement, did not utter another word,
but rode on, his eyes fixed on the conqueror whose fame had reached
him across the steppes of the East. All his loquacity was suddenly
arrested and replaced by a naive and silent feeling of admiration.
Napoleon, after making the Cossack a present, had him set free like
a bird restored to its native fields."

Napoleon rode on, dreaming of the Moscow that so appealed to his
imagination, and "the bird restored to its native fields" galloped
to our outposts, inventing on the way all that had not taken place but
that he meant to relate to his comrades. What had really taken place
he did not wish to relate because it seemed to him not worth
telling. He found the Cossacks, inquired for the regiment operating
with Platov's detachment and by evening found his master, Nicholas
Rostov, quartered at Yankovo. Rostov was just mounting to go for a
ride round the neighboring villages with Ilyin; he let Lavrushka
have another horse and took him along with him.

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