The apartments which he occupied were spacious and well lighted, but almost devoid of furniture; but his iron bedstead was set up there, as in all the chateaux he occupied in his campaigns. His windows opened on the Moskwa, and from there the fire could still be plainly seen in various quarters of the city, reappearing on one side as soon as extinguished on the other. His Majesty said to me one evening with deep feeling, “These wretches will not leave one stone upon another.” I do not believe there was ever in any country as many buzzards as at Moscow. The Emperor was annoyed by their presence, and exclaimed, “Mon Dieu! will they follow us everywhere?”
There were a few concerts during our stay at the Emperor’s residence in Moscow; but Napoleon seemed much dejected when he appeared at them, for the music of the saloons made no impression on his harassed mind, and the only kind that ever seemed to stir his soul was that of the camp before and after a battle.
The day after the Emperor’s arrival, Messieurs Ed—— and V—— repaired to the Kremlin in order to interview his Majesty, and after waiting some time without seeing him, were expressing their mutual regret at having failed in this expectation, when they suddenly heard a shutter open above their heads, and, raising their eyes, recognized the Emperor, who said, “Messieurs, who are you?”—“Sire, we are Frenchmen!” He requested them to mount the stairs to the room he occupied, and there continued his questions. “What is the nature of the occupation which has detained you in Moscow?”—“We are tutors in the families of two Russian noblemen, whom the arrival of the French troops have driven from their homes. We have submitted to the entreaties made by them not to abandon their property, and we are at present alone in their palaces.” The Emperor inquired of them if there were still other Frenchmen at Moscow, and asked that they should be brought to him; and then proposed that they should charge themselves with maintaining order, appointing as chief, M. M——, whom he decorated with a tri-colored scarf. He recommended them to prevent the pillage of the French soldiers in the churches, and to have the malefactors shot, and enjoined them to use great rigor towards the galley-slaves, whom Rostopchin had pardoned on condition that they would set fire to the city.
A part of these Frenchmen followed our army in its retreat, seeing that a longer stay at Moscow would be most disagreeable to them; and those who did not follow their example were condemned to work on the streets.
The Emperor Alexander, when informed of the measures of Rostopchin, harshly rebuked the governor, and ordered him at once to restore to liberty these unfortunate Frenchmen.