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Chapter V.20

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Rostov had come to Tilsit the day least suitable for a petition on Denisov's behalf. He could not himself go to the general in attendance as he was in mufti and had come to Tilsit without permission to do so, and Boris, even had he wished to, could not have done so on the following day. On that day, June 27, the preliminaries of peace were signed. The Emperors exchanged decorations: Alexander received the Cross of the Legion of Honor and Napoleon the Order of St. Andrew of the First Degree, and a dinner had been arranged for the evening, given by a battalion of the French Guards to the Preobrazhensk battalion. The Emperors were to be present at that banquet.

Rostov felt so ill at ease and uncomfortable with Boris that, when the latter looked in after supper, he pretended to be asleep, and early next morning went away, avoiding Boris. In his civilian clothes and a round hat, he wandered about the town, staring at the French and their uniforms and at the streets and houses where the Russian and French Emperors were staying. In a square he saw tables being set up and preparations made for the dinner; he saw the Russian and French colors draped from side to side of the streets, with hugh monograms A and N. In the windows of the houses also flags and bunting were displayed.

"Boris doesn't want to help me and I don't want to ask him. That's settled," thought Nicholas. "All is over between us, but I won't leave here without having done all I can for Denisov and certainly not without getting his letter to the Emperor. The Emperor!... He is here!" thought Rostov, who had unconsciously returned to the house where Alexander lodged.

Saddled horses were standing before the house and the suite were assembling, evidently preparing for the Emperor to come out.

"I may see him at any moment," thought Rostov. "If only I were to hand the letter direct to him and tell him all... could they really arrest me for my civilian clothes? Surely not! He would understand on whose side justice lies. He understands everything, knows everything. Who can be more just, more magnanimous than he? And even if they did arrest me for being here, what would it matter?" thought he, looking at an officer who was entering the house the Emperor occupied. "After all, people do go in.... It's all nonsense! I'll go in and hand the letter to the Emperor myself so much the worse for Drubetskoy who drives me to it!" And suddenly with a determination he himself did not expect, Rostov felt for the letter in his pocket and went straight to the house.

"No, I won't miss my opportunity now, as I did after Austerlitz," he thought, expecting every moment to meet the monarch, and conscious of the blood that rushed to his heart at the thought. "I will fall at his feet and beseech him. He will lift me up, will listen, and will even thank me. 'I am happy when I can do good, but to remedy injustice is the greatest happiness,'" Rostov fancied the sovereign saying. And passing people who looked after him with curiosity, he entered the porch of the Emperor's house.

A broad staircase led straight up from the entry, and to the right he saw a closed door. Below, under the staircase, was a door leading to the lower floor.

"Whom do you want?" someone inquired.

"To hand in a letter, a petition, to His Majesty," said Nicholas, with a tremor in his voice.

"A petition? This way, to the officer the officer on duty" (he was shown the door leading downstairs), "only it won't be accepted."

On hearing this indifferent voice, Rostov grew frightened at what he was doing; the thought of meeting the Emperor at any moment was so fascinating and consequently so alarming that he was ready to run away, but the official who had questioned him opened the door, and Rostov entered.

A short stout man of about thirty, in white breeches and high boots and a batiste shirt that he had evidently only just put on, standing in that room, and his valet was buttoning on to the back of his breeches a new pair of handsome silk-embroidered braces that, for some reason, attracted Rostov's attention. This man was was speaking to someone in the adjoining room.

 

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War and Peace -by- Leo Tolstoy

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