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War And Peace 426


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Chinese pagodas." "Well?" asked Napoleon. "One of Platovs Cossacks says that Platovs 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 orderlys 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 Napoleons 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 masters 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 masters favor. He knew very well that this was Napoleon, but Napoleons presence could no more intimidate him than Rostovs, or a sergeant majors 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. "Its like this," he said thoughtfully, "if theres a battle soon, yours will win. Thats right. But if three days pass, then after that, well, then that same battle will not soon be over." Lelorgne dIdeville 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 Napoleons 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

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