At two in the morning of the fourteenth of June, the Emperor, having sent fo_alashev and read him his letter to Napoleon, ordered him to take it and han_t personally to the French Emperor. When dispatching Balashev, the Empero_epeated to him the words that he would not make peace so long as a singl_rmed enemy remained on Russian soil and told him to transmit those words t_apoleon. Alexander did not insert them in his letter to Napoleon, becaus_ith his characteristic tact he felt it would be injudicious to use them at _oment when a last attempt at reconciliation was being made, but he definitel_nstructed Balashev to repeat them personally to Napoleon.
Having set off in the small hours of the fourteenth, accompanied by a bugle_nd two Cossacks, Balashev reached the French outposts at the village o_ykonty, on the Russian side of the Niemen, by dawn. There he was stopped b_rench cavalry sentinels.
A French noncommissioned officer of hussars, in crimson uniform and a shagg_ap, shouted to the approaching Balashev to halt. Balashev did not do so a_nce, but continued to advance along the road at a walking pace.
The noncommissioned officer frowned and, muttering words of abuse, advance_is horse's chest against Balashev, put his hand to his saber, and shoute_udely at the Russian general, asking: was he deaf that he did not do as h_as told? Balashev mentioned who he was. The noncommissioned officer bega_alking with his comrades about regimental matters without looking at th_ussian general.
After living at the seat of the highest authority and power, after conversin_ith the Emperor less than three hours before, and in general being accustome_o the respect due to his rank in the service, Balashev found it very strang_ere on Russian soil to encounter this hostile, and still more thi_isrespectful, application of brute force to himself.
The sun was only just appearing from behind the clouds, the air was fresh an_ewy. A herd of cattle was being driven along the road from the village, an_ver the fields the larks rose trilling, one after another, like bubble_ising in water.
Balashev looked around him, awaiting the arrival of an officer from th_illage. The Russian Cossacks and bugler and the French hussars looke_ilently at one another from time to time.
A French colonel of hussars, who had evidently just left his bed, came ridin_rom the village on a handsome sleek gray horse, accompanied by two hussars.
The officer, the soldiers, and their horses all looked smart and well kept.
It was that first period of a campaign when troops are still in full trim,
almost like that of peacetime maneuvers, but with a shade of martial swagge_n their clothes, and a touch of the gaiety and spirit of enterprise whic_lways accompany the opening of a campaign.
The French colonel with difficulty repressed a yawn, but was polite an_vidently understood Balashev's importance. He led him past his soldiers an_ehind the outposts and told him that his wish to be presented to the Empero_ould most likely be satisfied immediately, as the Emperor's quarters were, h_elieved, not far off.
They rode through the village of Rykonty, past tethered French hussar horses,
past sentinels and men who saluted their colonel and stared with curiosity a_ Russian uniform, and came out at the other end of the village. The colone_aid that the commander of the division was a mile and a quarter away an_ould receive Balashev and conduct him to his destination.
The sun had by now risen and shone gaily on the bright verdure.
They had hardly ridden up a hill, past a tavern, before they saw a group o_orsemen coming toward them. In front of the group, on a black horse wit_rappings that glittered in the sun, rode a tall man with plumes in his ha_nd black hair curling down to his shoulders. He wore a red mantle, an_tretched his long legs forward in French fashion. This man rode towar_alashev at a gallop, his plumes flowing and his gems and gold lace glitterin_n the bright June sunshine.
Balashev was only two horses' length from the equestrian with the bracelets,
plunies, necklaces, and gold embroidery, who was galloping toward him with _heatrically solemn countenance, when Julner, the French colonel, whispere_espectfully: "The King of Naples!" It was, in fact, Murat, now called "Kin_f Naples." Though it was quite incomprehensible why he should be King o_aples, he was called so, and was himself convinced that he was so, an_herefore assumed a more solemn and important air than formerly. He was s_ure that he really was the King of Naples that when, on the eve of hi_eparture from that city, while walking through the streets with his wife,
some Italians called out to him: "Viva i_e!"[](footnotes.xml#footnote_74) he turned to his wife with a pensiv_mile and said: "Poor fellows, they don't know that I am leaving the_omorrow!" But though he firmly believed himself to be King of Naples an_itied the grief felt by the subjects he was abandoning, latterly, after h_ad been ordered to return to military service—and especially since his las_nterview with Napoleon in Danzig, when his august brother-in-law had tol_im: "I made you King that you should reign in my way, but not in yours!"—h_ad cheerfully taken up his familiar business, and—like a well-fed but no_verfat horse that feels himself in harness and grows skittish between th_hafts—he dressed up in clothes as variegated and expensive as possible, an_aily and contentedly galloped along the roads of Poland, without himsel_nowing why or whither. On seeing the Russian general he threw back his head,
with its long hair curling to his shoulders, in a majestically royal manner,
and looked inquiringly at the French colonel. The colonel respectfull_nformed His Majesty of Balashev's mission, whose name he could not pronounce.
"De Bal-macheve!" said the King (overcoming by his assurance the difficult_hat had presented itself to the colonel). "Charmed to make your acquaintance,
General!" he added, with a gesture of kingly condescension. As soon as th_ing began to speak loud and fast his royal dignity instantly forsook him, an_ithout noticing it he passed into his natural tone of good-nature_amiliarity. He laid his hand on the withers of Balashev's horse and said:
"Well, General, it all looks like war," as if regretting a circumstance o_hich he was unable to judge. "Your Majesty," replied Balashev, "my master,
the Emperor, does not desire war and as Your Majesty sees… " said Balashev,
using the words Your Majesty at every opportunity, with the affectatio_navoidable in frequently addressing one to whom the title was still _ovelty. Murat's face beamed with stupid satisfaction as he listened to
"Monsieur de Bal-macheve." But royaut_blige![](footnotes.xml#footnote_75) and he felt it incumbent on him, as _ing and an ally, to confer on state affairs with Alexander's envoy. H_ismounted, took Balashev's arm, and moving a few steps away from his suite,
which waited respectfully, began to pace up and down with him, trying to spea_ignificantly. He referred to the fact that the Emperor Napoleon had resente_he demand that he should withdraw his troops from Prussia, especially whe_hat demand became generally known and the dignity of France was thereb_ffended. Balashev replied that there was "nothing offensive in the demand,
because… " but Murat interrupted him. "Then you don't consider the Empero_lexander the aggressor?" he asked unexpectedly, with a kindly and foolis_mile. Balashev told him why he considered Napoleon to be the originator o_he war. "Oh, my dear general!" Murat again interrupted him, "with all m_eart I wish the Emperors may arrange the affair between them, and that th_ar begun by no wish of mine may finish as quickly as possible!" said he, i_he tone of a servant who wants to remain good friends with another despite _uarrel between their masters. And he went on to inquiries about the Gran_uke and the state of his health, and to reminiscences of the gay and amusin_imes he had spent with him in Naples. Then suddenly, as if remembering hi_oyal dignity, Murat solemnly drew himself up, assumed the pose in which h_ad stood at his coronation, and, waving his right arm, said: "I won't detai_ou longer, General. I wish success to your mission," and with his embroidere_ed mantle, his flowing feathers, and his glittering ornaments, he rejoine_is suite who were respectfully awaiting him. Balashev rode on, supposing fro_urat's words that he would very soon be brought before Napoleon himself. Bu_nstead of that, at the next village the sentinels of Davout's infantry corp_etained him as the pickets of the vanguard had done, and an adjutant of th_orps commander, who was fetched, conducted him into the village to Marsha_avout.