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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Six 1808-10 - Chapter 18
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War And Peace - Book Six 1808-10 - Chapter 18 Post by :Akiba Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :1276

Click below to download : War And Peace - Book Six 1808-10 - Chapter 18 (Format : PDF)

War And Peace - Book Six 1808-10 - Chapter 18

Next day Prince Andrew thought of the ball, but his mind did not
dwell on it long. "Yes, it was a very brilliant ball," and then...
"Yes, that little Rostova is very charming. There's something fresh,
original, un-Petersburg-like about her that distinguishes her." That
was all he thought about yesterday's ball, and after his morning tea
he set to work.

But either from fatigue or want of sleep he was ill-disposed for
work and could get nothing done. He kept criticizing his own work,
as he often did, and was glad when he heard someone coming.

The visitor was Bitski, who served on various committees, frequented
all the societies in Petersburg, and a passionate devotee of the new
ideas and of Speranski, and a diligent Petersburg newsmonger- one of
those men who choose their opinions like their clothes according to
the fashion, but who for that very reason appear to be the warmest
partisans. Hardly had he got rid of his hat before he ran into
Prince Andrew's room with a preoccupied air and at once began talking.
He had just heard particulars of that morning's sitting of the Council
of State opened by the Emperor, and he spoke of it enthusiastically.
The Emperor's speech had been extraordinary. It had been a speech such
as only constitutional monarchs deliver. "The Sovereign plainly said
that the Council and Senate are estates of the realm, he said that the
government must rest not on authority but on secure bases. The Emperor
said that the fiscal system must be reorganized and the accounts
published," recounted Bitski, emphasizing certain words and opening
his eyes significantly.

"Ah, yes! Today's events mark an epoch, the greatest epoch in our
history," he concluded.

Prince Andrew listened to the account of the opening of the
Council of State, which he had so impatiently awaited and to which
he had attached such importance, and was surprised that this event,
now that it had taken place, did not affect him, and even seemed quite
insignificant. He listened with quiet irony to Bitski's enthusiastic
account of it. A very simple thought occurred to him: "What does it
matter to me or to Bitski what the Emperor was pleased to say at the
Council? Can all that make me any happier or better?"

And this simple reflection suddenly destroyed all the interest
Prince Andrew had felt in the impending reforms. He was going to
dine that evening at Speranski's, "with only a few friends," as the
host had said when inviting him. The prospect of that dinner in the
intimate home circle of the man he so admired had greatly interested
Prince Andrew, especially as he had not yet seen Speranski in his
domestic surroundings, but now he felt disinclined to go to it.

At the appointed hour, however, he entered the modest house
Speranski owned in the Taurida Gardens. In the parqueted dining room
this small house, remarkable for its extreme cleanliness (suggesting
that of a monastery), Prince Andrew, who was rather late, found the
friendly gathering of Speranski's intimate acquaintances already
assembled at five o'clock. There were no ladies present except
Speranski's little daughter (long-faced like her father) and her
governess. The other guests were Gervais, Magnitski, and Stolypin.
While still in the anteroom Prince Andrew heard loud voices and a
ringing staccato laugh- a laugh such as one hears on the stage.
Someone- it sounded like Speranski- was distinctly ejaculating
ha-ha-ha. Prince Andrew had never before heard Speranski's famous
laugh, and this ringing, high pitched laughter from a statesman made a
strange impression on him.

He entered the dining room. The whole company were standing
between two windows at a small table laid with hors-d'oeuvres.
Speranski, wearing a gray swallow-tail coat with a star on the breast,
and evidently still the same waistcoat and high white stock he had
worn at the meeting of the Council of State, stood at the table with a
beaming countenance. His guests surrounded him. Magnitski,
addressing himself to Speranski, was relating an anecdote, and
Speranski was laughing in advance at what Magnitski was going to
say. When Prince Andrew entered the room Magnitski's words were
again crowned by laughter. Stolypin gave a deep bass guffaw as he
munched a piece of bread and cheese. Gervais laughed softly with a
hissing chuckle, and Speranski in a high-pitched staccato manner.

Still laughing, Speranski held out his soft white hand to Prince
Andrew.

"Very pleased to see you, Prince," he said. "One moment..." he
went on, turning to Magnitski and interrupting his story. "We have
agreed that this is a dinner for recreation, with not a word about
business!" and turning again to the narrator he began to laugh afresh.

Prince Andrew looked at the laughing Speranski with astonishment,
regret, and disillusionment. It seemed to him that this was not
Speranski but someone else. Everything that had formerly appeared
mysterious and fascinating in Speranski suddenly became plain and
unattractive.

At dinner the conversation did not cease for a moment and seemed
to consist of the contents of a book of funny anecdotes. Before
Magnitski had finished his story someone else was anxious to relate
something still funnier. Most of the anecdotes, if not relating to the
state service, related to people in the service. It seemed that in
this company the insignificance of those people was so definitely
accepted that the only possible attitude toward them was one of good
humored ridicule. Speranski related how at the Council that morning
a deaf dignitary, when asked his opinion, replied that he thought so
too. Gervais gave a long account of an official revision, remarkable
for the stupidity of everybody concerned. Stolypin, stuttering,
broke into the conversation and began excitedly talking of the
abuses that existed under the former order of things- threatening to
give a serious turn to the conversation. Magnitski starting quizzing
Stolypin about his vehemence. Gervais intervened with a joke, and
the talk reverted to its former lively tone.

Evidently Speranski liked to rest after his labors and find
amusement in a circle of friends, and his guests, understanding his
wish, tried to enliven him and amuse themselves. But their gaiety
seemed to Prince Andrew mirthless and tiresome. Speranski's
high-pitched voice struck him unpleasantly, and the incessant laughter
grated on him like a false note. Prince Andrew did not laugh and
feared that he would be a damper on the spirits of the company, but no
one took any notice of his being out of harmony with the general mood.
They all seemed very gay.

He tried several times to join in the conversation, but his
remarks were tossed aside each time like a cork thrown out of the
water, and he could not jest with them.

There was nothing wrong or unseemly in what they said, it was
witty and might have been funny, but it lacked just that something
which is the salt of mirth, and they were not even aware that such a
thing existed.

After dinner Speranski's daughter and her governess rose. He
patted the little girl with his white hand and kissed her. And that
gesture, too, seemed unnatural to Prince Andrew.

The men remained at table over their port- English fashion. In the
midst of a conversation that was started about Napoleon's Spanish
affairs, which they all agreed in approving, Prince Andrew began to
express a contrary opinion. Speranski smiled and, with an evident wish
to prevent the conversation from taking an unpleasant course, told a
story that had no connection with the previous conversation. For a few
moments all were silent.

Having sat some time at table, Speranski corked a bottle of wine
and, remarking, "Nowadays good wine rides in a carriage and pair,"
passed it to the servant and got up. All rose and continuing to talk
loudly went into the drawing room. Two letters brought by a courier
were handed to Speranski and he took them to his study. As soon as
he had left the room the general merriment stopped and the guests
began to converse sensibly and quietly with one another.

"Now for the recitation!" said Speranski on returning from his
study. "A wonderful talent!" he said to Prince Andrew, and Magnitski
immediately assumed a pose and began reciting some humorous verses
in French which he had composed about various well-known Petersburg
people. He was interrupted several times by applause. When the
verses were finished Prince Andrew went up to Speranski and took his
leave.

"Where are you off to so early?" asked Speranski.

"I promised to go to a reception."

They said no more. Prince Andrew looked closely into those
mirrorlike, impenetrable eyes, and felt that it had been ridiculous of
him to have expected anything from Speranski and from any of his own
activities connected with him, or ever to have attributed importance
to what Speranski was doing. That precise, mirthless laughter rang
in Prince Andrew's ears long after he had left the house.

When he reached home Prince Andrew began thinking of his life in
Petersburg during those last four months as if it were something
new. He recalled his exertions and solicitations, and the history of
his project of army reform, which had been accepted for
consideration and which they were trying to pass over in silence
simply because another, a very poor one, had already been prepared and
submitted to the Emperor. He thought of the meetings of a committee of
which Berg was a member. He remembered how carefully and at what
length everything relating to form and procedure was discussed at
those meetings, and how sedulously and promptly all that related to
the gist of the business was evaded. He recalled his labors on the
Legal Code, and how painstakingly he had translated the articles of
the Roman and French codes into Russian, and he felt ashamed of
himself. Then he vividly pictured to himself Bogucharovo, his
occupations in the country, his journey to Ryazan; he remembered the
peasants and Dron the village elder, and mentally applying to them the
Personal Rights he had divided into paragraphs, he felt astonished
that he could have spent so much time on such useless work.

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Next day Prince Andrew called at a few houses he had not visitedbefore, and among them at the Rostovs' with whom he had renewedacquaintance at the ball. Apart from considerations of politenesswhich demanded the call, he wanted to see that original, eager girlwho had left such a pleasant impression on his mind, in her own home.Natasha was one of the first to meet him. She was wearing adark-blue house dress in which Prince Andrew thought her even prettierthan in her ball dress. She and all the Rostov family welcomed himas an old friend, simply and cordially. The whole family, whom hehad
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After Prince Andrew, Boris came up to ask Natasha for dance, andthen the aide-de-camp who had opened the ball, and several other youngmen, so that, flushed and happy, and passing on her superfluouspartners to Sonya, she did not cease dancing all the evening. Shenoticed and saw nothing of what occupied everyone else. Not only didshe fail to notice that the Emperor talked a long time with the Frenchambassador, and how particularly gracious he was to a certain lady, orthat Prince So-and-so and So-and-so did and said this and that, andthat Helene had great success and was honored was by the specialattention
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