There was a sound that emanated from behind. The soldiers shook at the thought of what it might be. The men looked at each other for consolation. Napoleon sat atop his horse as it trotted along the cobbled street. Napoleon could feel their eyes on him. The eyes that pled with him to make a decision, any decision. If Napoleon marched them into the Moskva river and they would do it with glee for a definite end was preferable to eternal uncertainty.
Napoleon knew that his men were exhausted, physically from the journey but mentally from the constant state of anxiety that they had found themselves living in since coming to Russia. There had not been a single direct engagement with the enemy army. The Tsar was playing a well thought out game. Napoleon could not strike at an enemy that was not there; he was chasing a ghost that he could not strike.
Napoleon and his army had taken Moscow with ease; there was no army, no civilians, the city had been abandoned. Napoleon had achieved his goal, but it was an empty victory. He knew that somewhere close to them the Russian army lurked waiting for the men to be on their lasts legs before blowing them over with a feather.
Napoleon knew that to turn back now would spell a blow to the morale of the men and that his own reputation would suffer a huge blow. If he were to order his men to stay put it could be potential mutiny on his hands. The Tsar had the water pumps vandalized, Napoleon was begrudgingly impressed by the tactic, but his men would start feeling the thirst.
Napoleon thought a man without an enemy to fight is one thing a man without basic means of sustaining him would become a rabid dog.
A tension that goes on too long is torture. War as with women was sustained by a cycle of escalating tension that is then released. Since starting the campaign, there had been no release of that tension. The men needed to dissipate that tension they carried it in their bones, in their soul. If the men could not release it against the enemy then they would release it with themselves, infighting would become commonplace.
Napoleon had still not ordered them to abandon Moscow, he knew that engagement with the enemy army would never come, but still, he held out hope for fighting. He knew that his pride was clouding his judgment. Either way he could do nothing to steer himself out of the predicament he found himself.
Napoleon saw the crows on a roof, he could also see that the tiles they loitered on were loose. He watched and waited for the inevitable. The crows lost their footing sending tiles towards the street. Napoleon knew that once the tiles hit the ground, it would send the men into another of their agitated panics. He watched the tile with grim resignation as it raced to meet the cobbled streets below.
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