BOOK TWELVE: 1812
3. CHAPTER III
Nine days after the abandonment of Moscow, a messenger from
Kutuzov reached Petersburg with the official announcement of that
event. This messenger was Michaud, a Frenchman who did not know
Russian, but who was quoique etranger, russe de coeur et d'ame,* as he
said of himself.
*Though a foreigner, Russian in heart and soul.
The Emperor at once received this messenger in his study at the
palace on Stone Island. Michaud, who had never seen Moscow before
the campaign and who did not know Russian, yet felt deeply moved (as
he wrote) when he appeared before notre tres gracieux souverain*
with the news of the burning of Moscow, dont les flammes eclairaient
*Our most gracious sovereign.
* Whose flames illumined his route.
Though the source of M. Michaud's chagrin must have been different
from that which caused Russians to grieve, he had such a sad face when
shown into the Emperor's study that the latter at once asked:
"Have you brought me sad news, Colonel?"
"Very sad, sire," replied Michaud, lowering his eyes with a sigh.
"The abandonment of Moscow."
"Have they surrendered my ancient capital without a battle?" asked
the Emperor quickly, his face suddenly flushing.
Michaud respectfully delivered the message Kutuzov had entrusted
to him, which was that it had been impossible to fight before
Moscow, and that as the only remaining choice was between losing the
army as well as Moscow, or losing Moscow alone, the field marshal
had to choose the latter.
The Emperor listened in silence, not looking at Michaud.
"Has the enemy entered the city?" he asked.
"Yes, sire, and Moscow is now in ashes. I left it all in flames,"
replied Michaud in a decided tone, but glancing at the Emperor he
was frightened by what he had done.