“Not tonight, Josephine,” said Napoleon.
Josephine sighed. When she had taken up with this Frenchman she had expected beaucoup d’amour, a sexy accent and a really long baguette. What she had got was a short guy with delusions of grandeur, a naval hat worn sideways and seemingly no interest in un peu d’autre. History would point out that Josephine bore Napoleon no children. Given her lack of opportunity for setting such a train of events in motion it was a bit unfair, a bit like History pointing out that Galileo never won Wimbledon.
“Why not, cheri?” she asked. She was dressed as alluringly as possible, in a basque, a long diaphanous robe and French knickers, or knickers as she referred to them. This seemed to have no effect on Napoleon. She might as well have been wearing overalls and deep-sea divers’ boots.
“I must plan for Moscow,” said Napoleon.
“We’re going to Moscow?” asked Josephine excitedly. “How wonderful. I believe they have an excellent ballet.”
“Bolshoi,” nodded Napoleon.
“No, really,” said Josephine. “And a really good state circus. It has a performing bear.”
“What does it perform?” asked Napoleon, momentarily diverted from his plans.
“Bach, I think,” said Josephine. “He plays it on the clavicle.”
Napoleon was about to point out that a clavicle was a collar-bone, but decided not to bother. He reflected, not for the first time, that while Madame Sardhine’s Finishing School for Young Ladies might be excellent at teaching deportment, the importance of extending one’s pinky finger whilst drinking tea, and the ability to walk with a pile of books on your head, it wasn’t too hot at imparting general knowledge.
“I’m not going there on a weekend break,” said Napoleon. “I plan to conquer it, then to change the name. I’m going to call it after you.”
“How sweet,” said Josephine. “Though that might kill the tourist trade. It’ll be hard to fit “I ♥ Josephinedebeauharnaisburg” on a T-shirt.”
“Vrai,” said Napoleon. “Perhaps I should just call it Jo’burg.”
“Suit yourself,” said Josephine. “Anyway, won’t this be dangerous?”
“Well, isn’t Russia really big?” asked Josephine. “They’ll have a huge army, and I’ve heard that each of their soldiers has another smaller one inside, and another one inside that.”
“We will prevail,” said Napoleon. “We will take them by surprise. I plan for my army to march on its stomach. They won’t see us coming.”
“When are you going to go?” asked Josephine.
“Next month,” said Napoleon.
“Er, isn’t that winter?” said Josephine.
Napoleon did that shrug-and-moue gesture that only the French can manage. Monsieur Zhardin’s School Of Warfare might have been excellent at teaching how to move stuff around a map with a mini hockey-stick, the importance of keeping one hand on one’s weapon inside one’s coat at all times, and the value of brightly-coloured uniforms as camouflage in snow, but it taught sod-all about climate.
“it will be fine,” said Napoleon. “We’ll wear longue-jeans.”
(The image is from Wikipedia)