"I have heard of Napoleon too," said Ivan. "The recruits who left our village said they were going to fight against him. Pope Nikita thinks he is a magician."
"Pope Nikita thinks truly. It is said he has for his wife a beautiful lady named Josephine, who transforms herself at will into the likeness of a white dove, flies into the midst of his enemies, hears all they say, and comes back and tells her lord. No one can resist him; the Emperor of Austria and the King of Prussia are both at his feet, and he has conquered all the other kings and dukes of the Nyemtzi, except the King of England."
"But the Czar—why does not the Czar send his soldiers and tell them to kill him?" queried Ivan.
"Not so easy!" Petrovitch answered with a short laugh. "However, there is little to be said after all. Russia has fought him long and well. If the devil helps his own, what can good orthodox Christians do? Think of Austerlitz, Eylau, Friedland—blood and tears have flowed in torrents. I know a widow who lost her two sons at Austerlitz. Another;—but why speak of these things? War is always terrible."
"Then why don't you wish for peace?"
"A good peace might be very desirable, but save us from a peace that will ruin our commerce!" cried Petrovitch with energy. "The Czar has evil counsellors around him who are persuading him to that sort of peace. Perhaps, indeed, Napoleon has bewitched him with his sorceries. Who knows?"
Having thus uttered, not merely his own sentiments, but those of Moscow and her merchants upon the subject of the Treaty of Tilsit, at that time in progress, Petrovitch relapsed into silence. The only part of his discourse that greatly impressed Ivan happened also to be the only part of it which had
- This fable was extensively believed in Russia, and not exclusively by the lower classes.