Chapter 29

ON RETURNING from a second careful inspection of the lines, Napoleon said:

“The pieces are on the board, the game will begin to-morrow.”

He ordered some punch, and sending for Beausset began talking of Paris with him, discussing various changes he intended to make in the Empress’s household, and surprising the prefect by his memory of the minutest details of court affairs.

He showed interest in trifles, jested at Beausset’s love of travel, and chatted carelessly, as some renowned, skilful and confident surgeon will often chat playfully while he tucks up his sleeves and puts on his apron, and the patient is being bound down on the operating-table. “I have the whole business at my finger- tips, and it’s all clear and definite in my head. When I have to set to work, I will do it as no one else could, but now I can jest, and the more serenely I jest the more calm and confidence and admiration for my genius you ought to feel.”

After emptying a second glass of punch, Napoleon went to seek repose before the grave business which, as he imagined, lay before him next day.

He was so preoccupied with what lay before him that he could not sleep, and in spite of his cold, which got worse with the damp of evening, he got up at three o’clock, and went out into the principal compartment of the tent, sneezing violently. He asked whether the Russians had not retreated. He was told that the enemy’s fires were still in the same places. He nodded approval.

The adjutant on duty came into the tent.

“Well, Rapp, do you think we shall do good business to-day?” he said to him.

“Without doubt, sire!” answered Rapp.

Napoleon looked at him.

“Do you remember what you did me the honour to say at Smolensk?” said Rapp: “the wine is drawn, it must be drunk.”

Napoleon frowned, and sat for a long while in silence, his head in his hand.

“This poor army, it has greatly diminished since Smolensk. La fortune est une franche courtisane, Rapp. I have always said so, and I begin to feel it; but the Guard, Rapp, the Guard is intact?” he said inquiringly.

“Yes, sire,” replied Rapp.

Napoleon took a lozenge, put it in his mouth, and looked at his watch. He was not sleepy, and morning was still far off; and there were no instructions to be drawn up to get through the time, for all had been already given, and were even now being put into execution.

“Have the biscuits and the rice been distributed to the regiments of the Guard?” Napoleon asked severely.

“Yes, sire.”

“The rice, too?”

Rapp answered that he had given the Emperor’s orders about the rice; but Napoleon shook his head with a dissatisfied air, as though he doubted whether his command had been carried out. A servant came in with punch. Napoleon ordered another glass for Rapp, and took a few sips from his own in silence. “I have neither taste nor smell,” he said, sniffing at the glass. “I am sick of this cold. They talk about medicine. What is medicine, when they can’t cure a cold? Corvisart gave me these lozenges, but

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