Webmasters, increase productivity, download the whole site in zip files.
Database size
Public: 874.98 Megs.
Premium Members: 4.584 Gig.
Message Boards

Chapter V.21

Back 1   2   Next

The Emperor rode to the square where, facing one another, a battalion of the Preobrazhensk regiment stood on the right and a battalion of the French Guards in their bearskin caps on the left.

As the Tsar rode up to one flank of the battalions, which presented arms, another group of horsemen galloped up to the opposite flank, and at the head of them Rostov recognized Napoleon. It could be no one else. He came at a gallop, wearing a small hat, a blue uniform open over a white vest, and the St. Andrew ribbon over his shoulder. He was riding a very fine thoroughbred gray Arab horse with a crimson gold-embroidered saddlecloth. On approaching Alexander he raised his hat, and as he did so, Rostov, with his cavalryman's eye, could not help noticing that Napoleon did not sit well or firmly in the saddle. The battalions shouted "Hurrah!" and "Vive l'Empereur!" Napoleon said something to Alexander, and both Emperors dismounted and took each other's hands. Napoleon's face wore an unpleasant and artificial smile. Alexander was saying something affable to him.

In spite of the trampling of the French gendarmes' horses, which were pushing back the crowd, Rostov kept his eyes on every movement of Alexander and Bonaparte. It struck him as a surprise that Alexander treated Bonaparte as an equal and that the latter was quite at ease with the Tsar, as if such relations with an Emperor were an everyday matter to him.

Alexander and Napoleon, with the long train of their suites, approached the right flank of the Preobrazhensk battalion and came straight up to the crowd standing there. The crowd unexpectedly found itself so close to the Emperors that Rostov, standing in the front row, was afraid he might be recognized.

"Sire, I ask your permission to present the Legion of Honor to the bravest of your soldiers," said a sharp, precise voice, articulating every letter.

This was said by the undersized Napoleon, looking up straight into Alexander's eyes. Alexander listened attentively to what was said to him and, bending his head, smiled pleasantly.

"To him who has borne himself most bravely in this last war," added Napoleon, accentuating each syllable, as with a composure and assurance exasperating to Rostov, he ran his eyes over the Russian ranks drawn up before him, who all presented arms with their eyes fixed on their Emperor.

"Will Your Majesty allow me to consult the colonel?" said Alexander and took a few hasty steps toward Prince Kozlovski, the commander of the battalion.

Bonaparte meanwhile began taking the glove off his small white hand, tore it in doing so, and threw it away. An aide-de-camp behind him rushed forward and picked it up.

"To whom shall it be given?" the Emperor Alexander asked Koslovski, in Russian in a low voice.

"To whomever Your Majesty commands."

The Emperor knit his brows with dissatisfaction and, glancing back, remarked:

"But we must give him an answer."

Kozlovski scanned the ranks resolutely and included Rostov in his scrutiny.

"Can it be me?" thought Rostov.

"Lazarev!" the colonel called, with a frown, and Lazarev, the first soldier in the rank, stepped briskly forward.

"Where are you off to? Stop here!" voices whispered to Lazarev who did not know where to go. Lazarev stopped, casting a sidelong look at his colonel in alarm. His face twitched, as often happens to soldiers called before the ranks.

Napoleon slightly turned his head, and put his plump little hand out behind him as if to take something. The members of his suite, guessing at once what he wanted, moved about and whispered as they passed something from one to another, and a page- the same one Rostov had seen the previous evening at Boris'- ran forward and, bowing respectfully over the outstretched hand and not keeping it waiting a moment, laid in it an Order on a red ribbon. Napoleon, without looking, pressed two fingers together and the badge was between them. Then he approached Lazarev (who rolled his eyes and persistently gazed at his own monarch), looked round at the Emperor Alexander to imply that what he was now doing was done for the sake of his ally, and the small white hand holding the Order touched one of Lazarev's buttons. It was as if Napoleon knew that it was only necessary for his hand to deign to touch that soldier's breast for the soldier to be forever happy, rewarded, and distinguished from everyone else in the world. Napoleon merely laid the cross on Lazarev's breast and, dropping his hand, turned toward Alexander as though sure that the cross would adhere there. And it really did.

Officious hands, Russian and French, immediately seized the cross and fastened it to the uniform. Lazarev glanced morosely at the little man with white hands who was doing something to him and, still standing motionless presenting arms, looked again straight into Alexander's eyes, as if asking whether he should stand there, or go away, or do something else. But receiving no orders, he remained for some time in that rigid position.

The Emperors remounted and rode away. The Preobrazhensk battalion, breaking rank, mingled with the French Guards and sat down at the tables prepared for them.

 

Back 1   2   Next

War and Peace -by- Leo Tolstoy

Bottom Content goes here. Wikipedia content requires these links..... Wikipedia content is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.

MidSummer