On the thirteenth of August Pierre reached Moscow. Close to the gates of th_ity he was met by Count Rostopchin's adjutant.
"We have been looking for you everywhere," said the adjutant. "The count want_o see you particularly. He asks you to come to him at once on a ver_mportant matter."
Without going home, Pierre took a cab and drove to see the Moscow commander i_hief.
Count Rostopchin had only that morning returned to town from his summer vill_t Sokolniki. The anteroom and reception room of his house were full o_fficials who had been summoned or had come for orders. Vasilchikov and Plato_ad already seen the count and explained to him that it was impossible t_efend Moscow and that it would have to be surrendered. Though this news wa_eing concealed from the inhabitants, the officials—the heads of the variou_overnment departments—knew that Moscow would soon be in the enemy's hands,
just as Count Rostopchin himself knew it, and to escape persona_esponsibility they had all come to the governor to ask how they were to dea_ith their various departments.
As Pierre was entering the reception room a courier from the army came out o_ostopchin's private room.
In answer to questions with which he was greeted, the courier made _espairing gesture with his hand and passed through the room.
While waiting in the reception room Pierre with weary eyes watched the variou_fficials, old and young, military and civilian, who were there. They al_eemed dissatisfied and uneasy. Pierre went up to a group of men, one of who_e knew. After greeting Pierre they continued their conversation.
"If they're sent out and brought back again later on it will do no harm, bu_s things are now one can't answer for anything."
"But you see what he writes… " said another, pointing to a printed sheet h_eld in his hand.
"That's another matter. That's necessary for the people," said the first.
"What is it?" asked Pierre.
"Oh, it's a fresh broadsheet."
Pierre took it and began reading.
His Serene Highness has passed through Mozhaysk in order to join up with th_roops moving toward him and has taken up a strong position where the enem_ill not soon attack him. Forty eight guns with ammunition have been sent hi_rom here, and his Serene Highness says he will defend Moscow to the last dro_f blood and is even ready to fight in the streets. Do not be upset, brothers,
that the law courts are closed; things have to be put in order, and we wil_eal with villains in our own way! When the time comes I shall want both tow_nd peasant lads and will raise the cry a day or two beforehand, but they ar_ot wanted yet so I hold my peace. An ax will be useful, a hunting spear no_ad, but a three-pronged fork will be best of all: a Frenchman is no heavie_han a sheaf of rye. Tomorrow after dinner I shall take the Iberian icon o_he Mother of God to the wounded in the Catherine Hospital where we will hav_ome water blessed. That will help them to get well quicker. I, too, am wel_ow: one of my eyes was sore but now I am on the lookout with both.
"But military men have told me that it is impossible to fight in the town,"
said Pierre, "and that the position… "
"Well, of course! That's what we were saying," replied the first speaker.
"And what does he mean by 'One of my eyes was sore but now I am on the lookou_ith both'?" asked Pierre.
"The count had a sty," replied the adjutant smiling, "and was very much upse_hen I told him people had come to ask what was the matter with him. By th_y, Count," he added suddenly, addressing Pierre with a smile, "we heard tha_ou have family troubles and that the countess, your wife… "
"I have heard nothing," Pierre replied unconcernedly. "But what have yo_eard?"
"Oh, well, you know people often invent things. I only say what I heard."
"But what did you hear?"
"Well, they say," continued the adjutant with the same smile, "that th_ountess, your wife, is preparing to go abroad. I expect it's nonsense… ."
"Possibly," remarked Pierre, looking about him absent-mindedly. "And who i_hat?" he asked, indicating a short old man in a clean blue peasant overcoat,
with a big snow-white beard and eyebrows and a ruddy face.
"He? That's a tradesman, that is to say, he's the restaurant keeper,
Vereshchagin. Perhaps you have heard of that affair with the proclamation."
"Oh, so that is Vereshchagin!" said Pierre, looking at the firm, calm face o_he old man and seeking any indication of his being a traitor.
"That's not he himself, that's the father of the fellow who wrote th_roclamation," said the adjutant. "The young man is in prison and I expect i_ill go hard with him."
An old gentleman wearing a star and another official, a German wearing a cros_ound his neck, approached the speaker.
"It's a complicated story, you know," said the adjutant. "That proclamatio_ppeared about two months ago. The count was informed of it. He gave orders t_nvestigate the matter. Gabriel Ivanovich here made the inquiries. Th_roclamation had passed through exactly sixty-three hands. He asked one, 'Fro_hom did you get it?' 'From so-and-so.' He went to the next one. 'From who_id you get it?' and so on till he reached Vereshchagin, a half educate_radesman, you know, 'a pet of a trader,'" said the adjutant smiling. "The_sked him, 'Who gave it you?' And the point is that we knew whom he had i_rom. He could only have had it from the Postmaster. But evidently they ha_ome to some understanding. He replied: 'From no one; I made it up myself.'
They threatened and questioned him, but he stuck to that: 'I made it u_yself.' And so it was reported to the count, who sent for the man. 'From who_id you get the proclamation?' 'I wrote it myself.' Well, you know the count,"
said the adjutant cheerfully, with a smile of pride, "he flared u_readfully—and just think of the fellow's audacity, lying, and obstinacy!"
"And the count wanted him to say it was from Klyucharev? I
understand!" said Pierre.
"Not at all," rejoined the adjutant in dismay. "Klyucharev had his own sins t_nswer for without that and that is why he has been banished. But the point i_hat the count was much annoyed. 'How could you have written it yourself?'
said he, and he took up the Hamburg Gazette that was lying on the table. 'Her_t is! You did not write it yourself but translated it, and translated i_bominably, because you don't even know French, you fool.' And what do yo_hink? 'No,' said he, 'I have not read any papers, I made it up myself.' 'I_hat's so, you're a traitor and I'll have you tried, and you'll be hanged! Sa_rom whom you had it.' 'I have seen no papers, I made it up myself.' And tha_as the end of it. The count had the father fetched, but the fellow stuck t_t. He was sent for trial and condemned to hard labor, I believe. Now th_ather has come to intercede for him. But he's a good-for-nothing lad! Yo_now that sort of tradesman's son, a dandy and lady-killer. He attended som_ectures somewhere and imagines that the devil is no match for him. That's th_ort of fellow he is. His father keeps a cookshop here by the Stone Bridge,
and you know there was a large icon of God Almighty painted with a scepter i_ne hand and an orb in the other. Well, he took that icon home with him for _ew days and what did he do? He found some scoundrel of a painter… "