glittering in the sun. He had a scarlet cloak, and curly black hair, that floated on his shoulders, and he rode in the French fashion, with his long legs thrust out in front. This personage galloped towards Balashov, with his jewels and gold lace and feathers all fluttering and glittering in the bright June sun.

Balashov was some ten yards from this majestically theatrical figure in bracelets, feathers, necklaces, and gold, when Julner, the French colonel, whispered to him reverentially, “The King of Naples!” It was in fact Murat, who was now styled the “King of Naples.” Though it was utterly incomprehensible that he should be the King of Naples, he was addressed by that title, and was himself persuaded of his royal position, and consequently behaved with an air of greater solemnity and dignity than heretofore. So firmly did he believe that he really was the King of Naples, that when, just before leaving Naples, he was greeted by some Italians with shouts of “Long live the King!” when walking in the streets with his wife, he turned to her with a pensive smile and said, “Poor fellows, they don’t know I am quitting them to-morrow.”

But though he believed so implicitly that he was King of Naples, and sympathised with his subjects’ grief at losing him, after he had been commanded to return to the service, and especially after his interview with Napoleon at Danzig, when his most august brother-in-law had said, “I have made you king that you may rule in my way, and not in your own,” he had cheerfully resumed his familiar duties; and, like a well-fed, but not over-fed stallion feeling himself in harness, prancing in the shafts, and decked out in all possible motley magnificence, he went galloping along the roads of Poland, with no notion where or why he was going.

On seeing the Russian general he made a royal, majestic motion of his head with his floating curls, and looked inquiringly at the French colonel. The colonel deferentially informed his majesty of the mission of Balashov, whose name he could not pronounce. “De Bal-macheve!” said the King, resolutely attacking and vanquishing the colonel’s difficulty. “Charmed to make your acquaintance, general,” he added, with a gesture of royal condescension. As soon as the King spoke loudly and rapidly, all his royal dignity instantly deserted him, and, without himself being aware of it, he passed into the tone of good-humoured familiarity natural to him. He laid his hand on the forelock of Balashov’s horse. “Well, general, everything looks like war,” he said, as it were regretting a circumstance on which he could not offer an opinion. “Your majesty,” answered Balashov, “the Emperor, my master, does not desire war, and as your majesty sees.” Balashov declined “your majesty” in all its cases, using the title with an affectation inevitable in addressing a personage for whom such a title was a novelty.

Murat’s face beamed with foolish satisfaction as he listened to “Monsieur de Balacheff.” But royalty has its obligations. He felt it incumbent on him to converse with Alexander’s envoy on affairs of state as a king and an ally. He dismounted, and taking Balashov’s arm, and moving a little away from the suite, who remained respectfully waiting, he began walking up and down with him, trying to speak with grave significance. He mentioned that the Emperor Napoleon had been offended at the demand that his troops should evacuate Prussia, especially because that demand had been made public, and was so derogatory to the dignity of France. Balashov said that there was nothing derogatory in that demand, seeing that…Murat interrupted him.

“So you consider that the Emperor Alexander is not responsible for the commencement of hostilities?” he said suddenly, with a foolish and good-humoured smile.

Balashov began to explain why he did consider that Napoleon was responsible for the war.

“Ah, my dear general,” Murat interrupted him again, “with all my heart I wish that the Emperors would settle the matter between themselves; and that the war, which has been begun by no desire of mine, may be concluded as quickly as possible,” he said in the tone in which servants speak who are anxious to remain on friendly terms though their masters have quarrelled. And he changed the subject; inquiring after the health of the Grand Duke, and recalling the agreeable time he had spent with him in Naples. Then suddenly, as though recollecting his royal dignity, Murat drew himself up majestically, threw himself

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.