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By graf Leo Tolstoy
“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, and then...”
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 royalist emigrant.
“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 Bonaparte’s side.”
“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 smile.
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.”
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