In the season of 1740 he continued his voyage to beyond the Kolyma, wintering at Nizhni Kolymsk.
The foreigners were deported to Nizhni by boat, and Rostopchin had said to them in French: "Rentrez en vousmemes; entrez dans la barque, et n'en faites pas une barque de Charon." * There was talk of all the government offices having been already removed from Moscow, and to this Shinshin's witticism was added--that for that alone Moscow ought to be grateful to Napoleon.
At the council at Fili the prevailing thought in the minds of the Russian commanders was the one naturally suggesting itself, namely, a direct retreat by the Nizhni road.
Lanskoy informed the commander-in-chief that the army supplies were for the most part stored along the Oka in the Tula and Ryazan provinces, and that if they retreated on Nizhni the army would be separated from its supplies by the broad river Oka, which cannot be crossed early in winter.
This was the first indication of the necessity of deviating from what had previously seemed the most natural course--a direct retreat on Nizhni-Novgorod.
That movement from the Nizhni to the Ryazan, Tula, and Kaluga roads was so natural that even the Russian marauders moved in that direction, and demands were sent from Petersburg for Kutuzov to take his army that way.
Of all that Napoleon might have done: wintering in Moscow, advancing on Petersburg or on Nizhni-Novgorod, or retiring by a more northerly or more southerly route (say by the road Kutuzov afterwards took), nothing more stupid or disastrous can be imagined than what he actually did.
The story was of an old merchant who lived a good and God-fearing life with his family, and who went once to the Nizhni fair with a companion--a rich merchant.