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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Twelve: 1812 - Chapter 3
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War And Peace - Book Twelve: 1812 - Chapter 3 Post by :imported_n/a Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :3352

Click below to download : War And Peace - Book Twelve: 1812 - Chapter 3 (Format : PDF)

War And Peace - Book Twelve: 1812 - Chapter 3

Nine days after the abandonment of Moscow, a messenger from
Kutuzov reached Petersburg with the official announcement of that
event. This messenger was Michaud, a Frenchman who did not know
Russian, but who was quoique etranger, russe de coeur et d'ame,* as he
said of himself.


*Though a foreigner, Russian in heart and soul.


The Emperor at once received this messenger in his study at the
palace on Stone Island. Michaud, who had never seen Moscow before
the campaign and who did not know Russian, yet felt deeply moved (as
he wrote) when he appeared before notre tres gracieux souverain*
with the news of the burning of Moscow, dont les flammes eclairaient
sa route.*(2)


*Our most gracious sovereign.

*(2) Whose flames illumined his route.


Though the source of M. Michaud's chagrin must have been different
from that which caused Russians to grieve, he had such a sad face when
shown into the Emperor's study that the latter at once asked:

"Have you brought me sad news, Colonel?"

"Very sad, sire," replied Michaud, lowering his eyes with a sigh.
"The abandonment of Moscow."

"Have they surrendered my ancient capital without a battle?" asked
the Emperor quickly, his face suddenly flushing.

Michaud respectfully delivered the message Kutuzov had entrusted
to him, which was that it had been impossible to fight before
Moscow, and that as the only remaining choice was between losing the
army as well as Moscow, or losing Moscow alone, the field marshal
had to choose the latter.

The Emperor listened in silence, not looking at Michaud.

"Has the enemy entered the city?" he asked.

"Yes, sire, and Moscow is now in ashes. I left it all in flames,"
replied Michaud in a decided tone, but glancing at the Emperor he
was frightened by what he had done.

The Emperor began to breathe heavily and rapidly, his lower lip
trembled, and tears instantly appeared in his fine blue eyes.

But this lasted only a moment. He suddenly frowned, as if blaming
himself for his weakness, and raising his head addressed Michaud in
a firm voice:

"I see, Colonel, from all that is happening, that Providence
requires great sacrifices of us... I am ready to submit myself in
all things to His will; but tell me, Michaud, how did you leave the
army when it saw my ancient capital abandoned without a battle? Did
you not notice discouragement?..."

Seeing that his most gracious ruler was calm once more, Michaud also
grew calm, but was not immediately ready to reply to the Emperor's
direct and relevant question which required a direct answer.

"Sire, will you allow me to speak frankly as befits a loyal
soldier?" he asked to gain time.

"Colonel, I always require it," replied the Emperor. "Conceal
nothing from me, I wish to know absolutely how things are."

"Sire!" said Michaud with a subtle, scarcely perceptible smile on
his lips, having now prepared a well-phrased reply, "sire, I left
the whole army, from its chiefs to the lowest soldier, without
exception in desperate and agonized terror..."

"How is that?" the Emperor interrupted him, frowning sternly. "Would
misfortune make my Russians lose heart?... Never!"

Michaud had only waited for this to bring out the phrase he had
prepared.

"Sire," he said, with respectful playfulness, "they are only
afraid lest Your Majesty, in the goodness of your heart, should
allow yourself to be persuaded to make peace. They are burning for the
combat," declared this representative of the Russian nation, "and to
prove to Your Majesty by the sacrifice of their lives how devoted they
are...."

"Ah!" said the Emperor reassured, and with a kindly gleam in his
eyes, he patted Michaud on the shoulder. "You set me at ease,
Colonel."

He bent his head and was silent for some time.

"Well, then, go back to the army," he said, drawing himself up to
his full height and addressing Michaud with a gracious and majestic
gesture, "and tell our brave men and all my good subjects wherever you
go that when I have not a soldier left I shall put myself at the
head of my beloved nobility and my good peasants and so use the last
resources of my empire. It still offers me more than my enemies
suppose," said the Emperor growing more and more animated; "but should
it ever be ordained by Divine Providence," he continued, raising to
heaven his fine eyes shining with emotion, "that my dynasty should
cease to reign on the throne of my ancestors, then after exhausting
all the means at my command, I shall let my beard grow to here" (he
pointed halfway down his chest) "and go and eat potatoes with the
meanest of my peasants, rather than sign the disgrace of my country
and of my beloved people whose sacrifices I know how to appreciate."

Having uttered these words in an agitated voice the Emperor suddenly
turned away as if to hide from Michaud the tears that rose to his
eyes, and went to the further end of his study. Having stood there a
few moments, he strode back to Michaud and pressed his arm below the
elbow with a vigorous movement. The Emperor's mild and handsome face
was flushed and his eyes gleamed with resolution and anger.

"Colonel Michaud, do not forget what I say to you here, perhaps we
may recall it with pleasure someday... Napoleon or I," said the
Emperor, touching his breast. "We can no longer both reign together. I
have learned to know him, and he will not deceive me any more...."

And the Emperor paused, with a frown.

When he heard these words and saw the expression of firm
resolution in the Emperor's eyes, Michaud- quoique etranger, russe
de coeur et d'ame- at that solemn moment felt himself enraptured by
all that he had heard (as he used afterwards to say), and gave
expression to his own feelings and those of the Russian people whose
representative he considered himself to be, in the following words:

"Sire!" said he, "Your Majesty is at this moment signing the glory
of the nation and the salvation of Europe!"

With an inclination of the head the Emperor dismissed him.

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It is natural for us who were not living in those days to imaginethat when half Russia had been conquered and the inhabitants wereficeing to distant provinces, and one levy after another was beingraised for the defense of the fatherland, all Russians from thegreatest to the least were solely engaged in sacrificing themselves,saving their fatherland, or weeping over its downfall. The tales anddescriptions of that time without exception speak only of theself-sacrifice, patriotic devotion, despair, grief, and the heroism ofthe Russians. But it was not really so. It appears so to us because wesee only the general historic interest of that
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Anna Pavlovna's presentiment was in fact fulfilled. Next dayduring the service at the palace church in honor of the Emperor'sbirthday, Prince Volkonski was called out of the church and received adispatch from Prince Kutuzov. It was Kutuzov's report, written fromTatarinova on the day of the battle. Kutuzov wrote that the Russianshad not retreated a step, that the French losses were much heavierthan ours, and that he was writing in haste from the field of battlebefore collecting full information. It followed that there must havebeen a victory. And at once, without leaving the church, thanks wererendered to the Creator for His help
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