War and Peace
"And what do you think of this latest comedy, the coronation at
Milan?" asked Anna Pavlovna, "and of the comedy of the people of Genoa
and Lucca laying their petitions before Monsieur Buonaparte, and
Monsieur Buonaparte sitting on a throne and granting the petitions
of the nations? Adorable! It is enough to make one's head whirl! It is
as if the whole world had gone crazy."
Prince Andrew looked Anna Pavlovna straight in the face with a
"'Dieu me la donne, gare a qui la touche!'* They say he was very
fine when he said that," he remarked, repeating the words in
Italian: "'Dio mi l'ha dato. Guai a chi la tocchi!'"
* God has given it to me, let him who touches it beware!
"I hope this will prove the last drop that will make the glass run
over," Anna Pavlovna continued. "The sovereigns will not be able to
endure this man who is a menace to everything."
"The sovereigns? I do not speak of Russia," said the vicomte, polite
but hopeless: "The sovereigns, madame... What have they done for Louis
XVII, for the Queen, or for Madame Elizabeth? Nothing!" and he
became more animated. "And believe me, they are reaping the reward
of their betrayal of the Bourbon cause. The sovereigns! Why, they
are sending ambassadors to compliment the usurper."
And sighing disdainfully, he again changed his position.
Prince Hippolyte, who had been gazing at the vicomte for some time
through his lorgnette, suddenly turned completely round toward the
little princess, and having asked for a needle began tracing the Conde
coat of arms on the table. He explained this to her with as much
gravity as if she had asked him to do it.
"Baton de gueules, engrele de gueules d' azur- maison Conde," said
The princess listened, smiling.
"If Buonaparte remains on the throne of France a year longer," the
vicomte continued, with the air of a man who, in a matter with which
he is better acquainted than anyone else, does not listen to others
but follows the current of his own thoughts, "things will have gone
too far. By intrigues, violence, exile, and executions, French
society- I mean good French society- will have been forever destroyed,
He shrugged his shoulders and spread out his hands. Pierre wished to
make a remark, for the conversation interested him, but Anna Pavlovna,
who had him under observation, interrupted:
"The Emperor Alexander," said she, with the melancholy which
always accompanied any reference of hers to the Imperial family,
"has declared that he will leave it to the French people themselves to
choose their own form of government; and I believe that once free from
the usurper, the whole nation will certainly throw itself into the
arms of its rightful king," she concluded, trying to be amiable to the
"That is doubtful," said Prince Andrew. "Monsieur le Vicomte quite
rightly supposes that matters have already gone too far. I think it
will be difficult to return to the old regime."
"From what I have heard," said Pierre, blushing and breaking into
the conversation, "almost all the aristocracy has already gone over to
"It is the Buonapartists who say that," replied the vicomte
without looking at Pierre. "At the present time it is difficult to
know the real state of French public opinion.
"Bonaparte has said so," remarked Prince Andrew with a sarcastic
It was evident that he did not like the vicomte and was aiming his
remarks at him, though without looking at him.
"'I showed them the path to glory, but they did not follow it,'"
Prince Andrew continued after a short silence, again quoting
Napoleon's words. "'I opened my antechambers and they crowded in.' I
do not know how far he was justified in saying so."
"Not in the least," replied the vicomte. "After the murder of the
duc even the most partial ceased to regard him as a hero. If to some
people," he went on, turning to Anna Pavlovna, "he ever was a hero,
after the murder of the duc there was one martyr more in heaven and
one hero less on earth."
Before Anna Pavlovna and the others had time to smile their
appreciation of the vicomte's epigram, Pierre again broke into the
conversation, and though Anna Pavlovna felt sure he would say
something inappropriate, she was unable to stop him.
"The execution of the Duc d'Enghien," declared Monsieur Pierre, "was
a political necessity, and it seems to me that Napoleon showed
greatness of soul by not fearing to take on himself the whole
responsibility of that deed."
"Dieu! Mon Dieu!" muttered Anna Pavlovna in a terrified whisper.
"What, Monsieur Pierre... Do you consider that assassination shows
greatness of soul?" said the little princess, smiling and drawing
her work nearer to her.
"Oh! Oh!" exclaimed several voices.
"Capital!" said Prince Hippolyte in English, and began slapping
his knee with the palm of his hand.
The vicomte merely shrugged his shoulders. Pierre looked solemnly at
his audience over his spectacles and continued.
"I say so," he continued desperately, "because the Bourbons fled
from the Revolution leaving the people to anarchy, and Napoleon
alone understood the Revolution and quelled it, and so for the general
good, he could not stop short for the sake of one man's life."
"Won't you come over to the other table?" suggested Anna Pavlovna.
But Pierre continued his speech without heeding her.
"No," cried he, becoming more and more eager, "Napoleon is great
because he rose superior to the Revolution, suppressed its abuses,
preserved all that was good in it- equality of citizenship] and freedom
of speech and of the press- and only for that reason did he obtain
"Yes, if having obtained power, without availing himself of it to
commit murder he had restored it to the rightful king, I should have
called him a great man," remarked the vicomte.
"He could not do that. The people only gave him power that he
might rid them of the Bourbons and because they saw that he was a
great man. The Revolution was a grand thing!" continued Monsieur
Pierre, betraying by this desperate and provocative proposition his
extreme youth and his wish to express all that was in his mind.
"What? Revolution and regicide a grand thing?... Well, after that...
But won't you come to this other table?" repeated Anna Pavlovna.
"Rousseau's Contrat social," said the vicomte with a tolerant smile.
"I am not speaking of regicide, I am speaking about ideas."
"Yes: ideas of robbery, murder, and regicide," again interjected
an ironical voice.
"Those were extremes, no doubt, but they are not what is most
important. What is important are the rights of man, emancipation
from prejudices, and equality of citizenship, and all these ideas
Napoleon has retained in full force."
"Liberty and equality," said the vicomte contemptuously, as if at
last deciding seriously to prove to this youth how foolish his words
were, "high-sounding words which have long been discredited. Who
does not love liberty and equality? Even our Saviour preached
liberty and equality. Have people since the Revolution become happier?
On the contrary. We wanted liberty, but Buonaparte has destroyed it."
Prince Andrew kept looking with an amused smile from Pierre to the
vicomte and from the vicomte to their hostess. In the first moment
of Pierre's outburst Anna Pavlovna, despite her social experience, was
horror-struck. But when she saw that Pierre's sacrilegious words had
not exasperated the vicomte, and had convinced herself that it was
impossible to stop him, she rallied her forces and joined the
vicomte in a vigorous attack on the orator.
"But, my dear Monsieur Pierre," said she, "how do you explain the
fact of a great man executing a duc- or even an ordinary man who- is
innocent and untried?"
"I should like," said the vicomte, "to ask how monsieur explains the
18th Brumaire; was not that an imposture? It was a swindle, and not at
all like the conduct of a great man!"
"And the prisoners he killed in Africa? That was horrible!" said the
little princess, shrugging her shoulders.
"He's a low fellow, say what you will," remarked Prince Hippolyte.
Pierre, not knowing whom to answer, looked at them all and smiled.
His smile was unlike the half-smile of other people. When he smiled,
his grave, even rather gloomy, look was instantaneously replaced by
another- a childlike, kindly, even rather silly look, which seemed
to ask forgiveness.
The vicomte who was meeting him for the first time saw clearly
that this young Jacobin was not so terrible as his words suggested.
All were silent.
"How do you expect him to answer you all at once?" said Prince
Andrew. "Besides, in the actions of a statesman one has to distinguish
between his acts as a private person, as a general, and as an emperor.
So it seems to me."
"Yes, yes, of course!" Pierre chimed in, pleased at the arrival of
"One must admit," continued Prince Andrew, "that Napoleon as a man
was great on the bridge of Arcola, and in the hospital at Jaffa
where he gave his hand to the plague-stricken; but... but there are
other acts which it is difficult to justify."
Prince Andrew, who had evidently wished to tone down the awkwardness
of Pierre's remarks, rose and made a sign to his wife that it was time
Suddenly Prince Hippolyte started up making signs to everyone to
attend, and asking them all to be seated began:
"I was told a charming Moscow story today and must treat you to
it. Excuse me, Vicomte- I must tell it in Russian or the point will be
lost...." And Prince Hippolyte began to tell his story in such Russian
as a Frenchman would speak after spending about a year in Russia.
Everyone waited, so emphatically and eagerly did he demand their
attention to his story.
"There is in Moscow a lady, une dame, and she is very stingy. She
must have two footmen behind her carriage, and very big ones. That was
her taste. And she had a lady's maid, also big. She said..."
Here Prince Hippolyte paused, evidently collecting his ideas with
"She said... Oh yes! She said, 'Girl,' to the maid, 'put on a
livery, get up behind the carriage, and come with me while I make some
Here Prince Hippolyte spluttered and burst out laughing long
before his audience, which produced an effect unfavorable to the
narrator. Several persons, among them the elderly lady and Anna
Pavlovna, did however smile.
"She went. Suddenly there was a great wind. The girl lost her hat
and her long hair came down...." Here he could contain himself no
longer and went on, between gasps of laughter: "And the whole world
And so the anecdote ended. Though it was unintelligible why he had
told it, or why it had to be told in Russian, still Anna Pavlovna
and the others appreciated Prince Hippolyte's social tact in so
agreeably ending Pierre's unpleasant and unamiable outburst. After the
anecdote the conversation broke up into insignificant small talk about
the last and next balls, about theatricals, and who would meet whom,
and when and where.
Previous Chapter Next Chapter