Book 9 Chapter 2

ON THE 28TH of May Napoleon left Dresden, where he had been spending three weeks surrounded by a court that included princes, dukes, kings, and even one emperor. Before his departure, Napoleon took a gracious leave of the princes, kings, and emperor deserving of his favour, and sternly upbraided the kings and princes with whom he was displeased. He made a present of his own diamonds and pearls— those, that is, that he had taken from other kings—to the Empress of Austria. He tenderly embraced the Empress Marie Louise—who considered herself his wife, though he had another wife still living in Paris— and left her, so his historian relates, deeply distressed and hardly able to support the separation. Although diplomatists still firmly believed in the possibility of peace, and were zealously working with that object, although the Emperor Napoleon, with his own hand, wrote a letter to the Emperor Alexander calling him “Monsieur mon frère,” and assuring him with sincerity that he had no desire of war, and would always love and honour him, he set off to join the army, and at every station gave fresh commands, hastening the progress of his army from west to east. He drove a travelling carriage, drawn by six horses and surrounded by pages, adjutants, and an armed escort, along the route by Posen, Thorn, Danzig, and K?nigsberg. In each of these towns he was welcomed with enthusiasm and trepidation by thousands of people.

The army was moving from west to east, and he was driven after it by continual relays of six horses. On the 10th of June he overtook the army and spent the night in the Vilkovik forest, in quarters prepared for him on the property of a Polish count.

The following day Napoleon drove on ahead of the army, reached the Niemen, put on a Polish uniform in order to inspect the crossing of the river, and rode out on the river bank.

When he saw the Cossacks posted on the further bank and the expanse of the steppes—in the midst of which, far away, was the holy city, Moscow, capital of an empire, like the Scythian empire invaded by Alexander of Macedon—Napoleon surprised the diplomatists and contravened all rules of strategy by ordering an immediate advance, and his troops began crossing the Niemen next day.

Early on the morning of the 12th of June he came out of his tent, which had been pitched that day on the steep left bank of the Niemen, and looked through a field-glass at his troops pouring out of the Vilkovik forest, and dividing into three streams at the three bridges across the river. The troops knew of the Emperor's presence, and were on the lookout for him. When they caught sight of his figure in his greatcoat and hat standing apart from his suite in front of his tent on the hill opposite, they threw up their caps and shouted, “Vive l'Empereur!” And one regiment after another, in a continuous stream, flowed out of the immense forest that had concealed them, and split up to cross the river by the three bridges. “We shall make some way this time. Oh, when he takes a hand himself things begin to get warm!…Name of God!… There he is!… Hurrah for the Emperor! So those are the Steppes of Asia! A nasty country it is, though. Good-bye, Beauché; I'll keep the finest palace in Moscow for you. Good-bye! good-luck!… Have you seen the Emperor? Hurrah for the Emperor! If they make me Governor of the Indies, Gérard, I'll make you Minister of Cashmere, that's settled. Hurrah for the Emperor! Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah! The rascally Cossacks, how they are running. Hurrah for the Emperor! There he is! Do you see him? I have seen him twice as I am seeing you. The little corporal…I saw him give the cross to one of the veterans.…Hurrah for the emperor!” Such was the talk of old men and young, of the most diverse characters and positions in society. All the faces of those men wore one common expression of joy at the commencement of a long-expected campaign, and enthusiasm and devotion to the man in the grey coat standing on the hill opposite.

On the 13th of June Napoleon mounted a small thoroughbred Arab horse and galloped towards one of the bridges over the Niemen, deafened all the while by shouts of enthusiasm, which he obviously endured simply because they could not be prevented from expressing in such shouts their love for him. But those shouts, invariably accompanying him everywhere, wearied him and hindered his attending to the military problems which beset him from the time he joined the army. He rode over a swaying bridge of boats to the other side of the river, turned sharply to the left, and galloped in the direction of Kovno, preceded by horse guards, who were breathless with delight and enthusiasm, as they cleared the way before him. On reaching the broad river Niemen, he pulled up beside a regiment of Polish Uhlans on the bank.

“Vive l'Empereur!” the Poles shouted with the same enthusiasm, breaking their line and squeezing against each other to get a view of him. Napoleon looked up and down the river, got off his horse, and sat down on a log that lay on the bank. At a mute sign from him, they handed him the field-glass. He propped it on the back of a page who ran up delighted. He began looking at the other side, then, with absorbed attention, scrutinised the map that was unfolded on the logs. Without raising his head he said something, and two of his adjutants galloped off to the Polish Uhlans.

“What? what did he say?” was heard in the ranks of the Polish Uhlans as an adjutant galloped up to them. They were commanded to look for a fording-place and to cross to the other side. The colonel of the Polish Uhlans, a handsome old man, flushing red and stammering from excitement, asked the adjutant whether he would be permitted to swim across the river with his men instead of seeking for a ford. In obvious dread of a refusal, like a boy asking permission to get on a horse, he asked to be allowed to swim across the river before the Emperor's eyes. The adjutant replied that probably the Emperor would not be displeased at this excess of zeal.

No sooner had the adjutant said this than the old whiskered officer, with happy face and sparkling eyes, brandished his sabre in the air shouting “Vive l'Empereur!” and commanding his men to follow him, he set spurs to his horse and galloped down to the river. He gave a vicious thrust to his horse, that floundered under him, and plunged into the water, making for the most rapid part of the current. Hundreds of Uhlans galloped in after him. It was cold and dangerous in the middle in the rapid current. The Uhlans clung to one another, falling off their horses. Some of the horses were drowned, some, too, of the men; the others struggled to swim across, some in the saddle, others clinging to their horse's manes. They tried to swim straight across, and although there was a ford half a verst away they were proud to be swimming and drowning in the river before the eyes of that man sitting on the log and not even looking at what they were doing. When the adjutant, on going back, chose a favourable moment and ventured to call the Emperor's attention to the devotion of the Poles to his person, the little man in the grey overcoat got up, and summoning Berthier, he began walking up and down the bank with him, giving him instructions, and casting now and then a glance of displeasure at the drowning Uhlans who had interrupted his thoughts.

It was no new conviction for him that his presence in any quarter of the earth, from Africa to the steppes of Moscow, was enough to impress men and impel them to senseless acts of self-sacrifice. He sent for his horse and rode back to his bivouac.

Forty Uhlans were drowned in the river in spite of the boats sent to their assistance. The majority struggled back to the bank from which they had started. The colonel, with several of his men, swam across the river and with difficulty clambered up the other bank. But as soon as they clambered out in drenched and streaming clothes they shouted “Vive l'Empereur!” looking ecstatically at the place where Napoleon had stood, though he was no longer there, and at that moment thought themselves happy.

In the evening between giving two orders—one for hastening the arrival of the counterfeit rouble notes that had been prepared for circulation in Russia, and the other for shooting a Saxon who had been caught with a letter containing a report on the disposition of the French army—Napoleon gave a third order for presenting the colonel, who had quite unnecessarily flung himself in the river, the order of the Légion d'Honneur, of which he was himself the head. Quos vult perdere, dementat.

五月二十九日,拿破仑离开逗留了三个星期的德累斯顿,在那里,亲王、公爵、国王,甚至还有一个皇帝在他周围组成了一个宫廷。临走之前,拿破仑亲切抚慰那些值得关怀的亲王、国王和皇帝,对那些他不满意的国王和亲王予以申斥,他把自己私有的,也就是从其他的国王那里拿来的珍珠和钻石送给奥国皇后并温柔地拥抱玛丽亚·路易莎皇后。正如他的历史学家所说,他留给她伤心的别离生活,她——这个叫玛丽亚·路易莎的女人,他把她当作妻子,尽管他在巴黎另有妻室——好像不能忍受。虽然外交家们仍坚信和平的可能性并为达到此目的而孜改不倦地努力工作,虽然拿破仑皇帝亲自给亚历山大皇帝写信,称他为Mon-sieur mon frère①并诚恳地保证他不希望战争,他永远爱他,尊敬他——可他仍动身追赶军队,每到一站都发出新的命令,催促军队由西向东快速挺进。他坐着套着六匹马的四轮旅行轿式马车,在一群少年侍从、副官和卫队的簇拥下,沿着通往波森、托仑、但泽和肯尼斯堡的大道向前进发。每到一个城市都有成千上万的人怀着激动欣喜的心情迎接他。



看到河对岸的哥萨克(Les Cosaques)和广阔的草原(Lessteppes),就在那片草原的中央是Moscou la ville sainte②就像斯基夫斯基一样,那是亚历山大·马其顿去过的那个国家的首都——拿破仑下令进攻。无论从战略上还是外交上考虑,这都事与愿违,出人意料之外,第二天,他的军队开始横渡涅曼河。



十二日一大早,他走出那天搭在涅曼河左岸陡崖上的帐篷,用望远镜眺望从维尔科维森林涌出的由自己的军队组成的洪流,注入到架设在涅曼河上的三座浮桥上。部队官兵知道皇帝来了,他们用眼睛寻找他,而当发现山上帐篷前面一个远离随从们的身穿常礼服的戴着帽子的人影时,都把自己的帽子抛向空中,高呼:“Vive I'Empereur!”①于是,一个接一个,川流不息地从一直隐蔽他们的大森林里涌出来,散开,沿着三座浮桥穿越到河对岸。









傍晚,拿破仑发布了两道命令:一是命令尽快把已准备好的伪造的俄罗斯纸币送来以便输入俄罗斯,一是命令枪毙一个撒克逊人,因为在截获的他的一封信里有关于向法国军队发布的命令的情报,而后又发布了第三道命令——把那个毫不必要游过河的波兰上校编入拿破仑自任团长的荣誉团(Légion d'honneur)。

Quos vult perdere——dementat.①