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- War and Peace - 170/336 -
unconsciously clearing a path seven yards wide as the people on both sides made way for him. Boris noticed Arakcheev's excited face when the sovereign went out with Balashev. Arakcheev looked at the Emperor from under his brow and, sniffing with his red nose, stepped forward from the crowd as if expecting the Emperor to address him. (Boris understood that Arakcheev envied Balashev and was displeased that evidently important news had reached the Emperor otherwise than through himself.)
But the Emperor and Balashev passed out into the illuminated garden without noticing Arakcheev who, holding his sword and glancing wrathfully around, followed some twenty paces behind them.
All the time Boris was going through the figures of the mazurka, he was worried by the question of what news Balashev had brought and how he could find it out before others. In the figure in which he had to choose two ladies, he whispered to Helene that he meant to choose Countess Potocka who, he thought, had gone out onto the veranda, and glided over the parquet to the door opening into the garden, where, seeing Balashev and the Emperor returning to the veranda, he stood still. They were moving toward the door. Boris, fluttering as if he had not had time to withdraw, respectfully pressed close to the doorpost with bowed head.
The Emperor, with the agitation of one who has been personally affronted, was finishing with these words:
"To enter Russia without declaring war! I will not make peace as long as a single armed enemy remains in my country!" It seemed to Boris that it gave the Emperor pleasure to utter these words. He was satisfied with the form in which he had expressed his thoughts, but displeased that Boris had overheard it.
"Let no one know of it!" the Emperor added with a frown.
Boris understood that this was meant for him and, closing his eyes, slightly bowed his head. The Emperor re-entered the ballroom and remained there about another half-hour.
Boris was thus the first to learn the news that the French army had crossed the Niemen and, thanks to this, was able to show certain important personages that much that was concealed from others was usually known to him, and by this means he rose higher in their estimation.
The unexpected news of the French having crossed the Niemen was particularly startling after a month of unfulfilled expectations, and at a ball. On first receiving the news, under the influence of indignation and resentment the Emperor had found a phrase that pleased him, fully expressed his feelings, and has since become famous. On returning home at two o'clock that night he sent for his secretary, Shishkov, and told him to write an order to the troops and a rescript to Field Marshal Prince Saltykov, in which he insisted on the words being inserted that he would not make peace so long as a single armed Frenchman remained on Russian soil.
Next day the following letter was sent to Napoleon:
Monsieur mon frere,
Yesterday I learned that, despite the loyalty which I have kept my engagements with Your Majesty, your troops have crossed the Russian frontier, and I have this moment received from Petersburg a note, in which Count Lauriston informs me, as a reason for this aggression, that Your Majesty has considered yourself to be in a state of war with me from the time Prince Kuragin asked for his passports. The reasons on which the Duc de Bassano based his refusal to deliver them to him would never have led me to suppose that that could serve as a pretext for aggression. In fact, the ambassador, as he himself has declared, was never authorized to make that demand, and as soon as I was informed of it I let him know how much I disapproved of it and ordered him to remain at his post. If Your Majesty does not intend to shed the blood of our peoples for such a misunderstanding, and consents to withdraw your troops from Russian territory, I will regard what has passed as not having occurred and an understanding between us will be possible. In the contrary case, Your Majesty, I shall see myself forced to repel an attack that nothing on my part has provoked. It still depends on Your Majesty to preserve humanity from the calamity of another war. I am, etc., (signed) Alexander
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
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