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The Burning Of Moscow
by [?]

From west to east across Europe had marched the army of the great conqueror, no nation daring to draw a hostile sword, none venturing to place an obstacle in its path. Across Russia it had marched almost as triumphantly, breaking irresistibly through the dams of armed men in its way, sweeping onward with the strength and majesty of fate. At length it had reached the heart of the empire of the czars, and before it lay displayed the ancient capital of the Muscovite kings, time-honored Moscow.

This great city was revealed to the eyes of the weary soldiers with the suddenness of a mirage in the desert. Throughout that day an interminable outreach of level country had seemed to spread before them, dreary, uninviting, disheartening. Now, from the summit of a hill, their triumphant eyes gazed suddenly upon the roofs and spires of a mighty city, splendid, far-reaching, stretching far across the plain that lay revealed before their eyes. It seemed to them truly as if the hand of a magician had touched the desert, and caused this city to spring up across their path.

It was a remarkable spectacle that met their gaze. Here were visible what seemed hundreds of gilded domes and shining spires, thousands of habitations rich with varied colors, a strange compound of palaces and cottages, churches and bell-towers, woods and lakes, Western and Oriental architecture, the Gothic arches and spires of Europe mingled with the strange forms of Byzantine and Asiatic edifices. Outwardly, a line of monasteries flanked with towers appeared to encircle the city. Centrally, crowning an eminence, rose a great citadel, from whose towers one could look down on columned temples and imperial palaces, embattled walls crowned with majestic domes, from whose summits, above the reversed crescent, rose the cross, Russia’s emblem of conquest over the fanatical sectaries of the East. It was the Kremlin which they here beheld, the sacred centre of the Russian empire, the ancient dwelling-place and citadel of the czars.

A wild cry of wonder and triumph burst from the soldiers who had first reached the summit of the hill. “Moscow! Moscow!” they shouted, their imaginations strongly excited by the magnificent spectacle. This cry lent wings to those behind them. In crowding hosts the eager soldiers rushed up the long slope, all ranks mingling in their burning desire to gaze upon that great city which was the goal of their far-extended march. Deep were the emotions, intense the joy, with which they gazed on this dazzling vision, with all its domes and spires burning in the warm rays of the sun. Napoleon himself, who hastened to the spot, was struck with admiration, and new dreams of glory doubtless sprang up in his soul as he stood gazing with deep emotion on what must have seemed to him the key of the East, the gateway to conquests never yet surpassed by man. Little did he dream that it was ruin upon which he gazed, the fatal turning-point in his long career of victory. Still certain of his genius, still confident in his good fortune, he looked forward to new conquests which would throw those of the past into the shade, and as his eyes rested on that mighty city of the czars, the intoxication of glory filled his soul.

The conqueror gave but little time to these dreams. The steps to realize them must be taken. Murat was bidden to march forward quickly and to repress all disorders which might break out in the city. Denniee was ordered to hasten and arrange for the food and lodging of the soldiers. Durosnel received orders to communicate with the authorities, to calm their fears, and to lead them to the conqueror, that he might receive their homage. Fancying that the inhabitants awaited his coming in trembling fear, Napoleon halted until these preliminaries should be arranged, before making his triumphant entry into the conquered capital of Muscovy.