BOOK NINE: 1812
4. CHAPTER IV
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
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.