BOOK TWELVE: 1812
3. CHAPTER III
The Emperor began to breathe heavily and rapidly, his lower lip
trembled, and tears instantly appeared in his fine blue eyes.
But this lasted only a moment. He suddenly frowned, as if blaming
himself for his weakness, and raising his head addressed Michaud in
a firm voice:
"I see, Colonel, from all that is happening, that Providence
requires great sacrifices of us... I am ready to submit myself in
all things to His will; but tell me, Michaud, how did you leave the
army when it saw my ancient capital abandoned without a battle? Did
you not notice discouragement?..."
Seeing that his most gracious ruler was calm once more, Michaud also
grew calm, but was not immediately ready to reply to the Emperor's
direct and relevant question which required a direct answer.
"Sire, will you allow me to speak frankly as befits a loyal
soldier?" he asked to gain time.
"Colonel, I always require it," replied the Emperor. "Conceal
nothing from me, I wish to know absolutely how things are."
"Sire!" said Michaud with a subtle, scarcely perceptible smile on
his lips, having now prepared a well-phrased reply, "sire, I left
the whole army, from its chiefs to the lowest soldier, without
exception in desperate and agonized terror..."
"How is that?" the Emperor interrupted him, frowning sternly. "Would
misfortune make my Russians lose heart?... Never!"
Michaud had only waited for this to bring out the phrase he had
"Sire," he said, with respectful playfulness, "they are only
afraid lest Your Majesty, in the goodness of your heart, should
allow yourself to be persuaded to make peace. They are burning for the
combat," declared this representative of the Russian nation, "and to
prove to Your Majesty by the sacrifice of their lives how devoted they
"Ah!" said the Emperor reassured, and with a kindly gleam in his
eyes, he patted Michaud on the shoulder. "You set me at ease,