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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Six 1808-10 - Chapter 5
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War And Peace - Book Six 1808-10 - Chapter 5 Post by :michaelwkelly Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :1151

Click below to download : War And Peace - Book Six 1808-10 - Chapter 5 (Format : PDF)

War And Peace - Book Six 1808-10 - Chapter 5

While waiting for the announcement of his appointment to the
committee Prince Andrew looked up his former acquaintances,
particularly those he knew to be in power and whose aid he might need.
In Petersburg he now experienced the same feeling he had had on the
eve of a battle, when troubled by anxious curiosity and irresistibly
attracted to the ruling circles where the future, on which the fate of
millions depended, was being shaped. From the irritation of the
older men, the curiosity of the uninitiated. the reserve of the
initiated, the hurry and preoccupation of everyone, and the
innumerable committees and commissions of whose existence he learned
every day, he felt that now, in 1809, here in Petersburg a vast
civil conflict was in preparation, the commander in chief of which was
a mysterious person he did not know, but who was supposed to be a
man of genius- Speranski. And this movement of reconstruction of which
Prince Andrew had a vague idea, and Speranski its chief promoter,
began to interest him so keenly that the question of the army
regulations quickly receded to a secondary place in his consciousness.

Prince Andrew was most favorably placed to secure good reception
in the highest and most diverse Petersburg circles of the day. The
reforming party cordially welcomed and courted him, the first place
because he was reputed to be clever and very well read, and secondly
because by liberating his serfs he had obtained the reputation of
being a liberal. The party of the old and dissatisfied, who censured
the innovations, turned to him expecting his sympathy in their
disapproval of the reforms, simply because he was the son of his
father. The feminine society world welcomed him gladly, because he was
rich, distinguished, a good match, and almost a newcomer, with a
halo of romance on account of his supposed death and the tragic loss
of his wife. Besides this the general opinion of all who had known him
previously was that he had greatly improved during these last five
years, having softened and grown more manly, lost his former
affectation, pride, and contemptuous irony, and acquired the
serenity that comes with years. People talked about him, were
interested in him, and wanted to meet him.

The day after his interview with Count Arakcheev, Prince Andrew
spent the evening at Count Kochubey's. He told the count of his
interview with Sila Andreevich (Kochubey spoke of Arakcheev by that
nickname with the same vague irony Prince Andrew had noticed in the
Minister of War's anteroom).

"Mon cher, even in this case you can't do without Michael
Mikhaylovich Speranski. He manages everything. I'll speak to him. He
has promised to come this evening."

"What has Speranski to do with the army regulations?" asked Prince
Andrew.

Kochubey shook his head smilingly, as if surprised at Bolkonski's
simplicity.

"We were talking to him about you a few days ago," Kochubey
continued, "and about your freed plowmen."

"Oh, is it you, Prince, who have freed your serfs?" said an old
man of Catherine's day, turning contemptuously toward Bolkonski.

"It was a small estate that brought in no profit," replied Prince
Andrew, trying to extenuate his action so as not to irritate the old
man uselessly.

"Afraid of being late..." said the old man, looking at Kochubey.

"There's one thing I don't understand," he continued. "Who will plow
the land if they are set free? It is easy to write laws, but difficult
to rule.... Just the same as now- I ask you, Count- who will be
heads of the departments when everybody has to pass examinations?"

"Those who pass the examinations, I suppose," replied Kochubey,
crossing his legs and glancing round.

"Well, I have Pryanichnikov serving under me, a splendid man, a
priceless man, but he's sixty. Is he to go up for examination?"

"Yes, that's a difficulty, as education is not at all general,
but..."

Count Kochubey did not finish. He rose, took Prince Andrew by the
arm, and went to meet a tall, bald, fair man of about forty with a
large open forehead and a long face of unusual and peculiar whiteness,
who was just entering. The newcomer wore a blue swallow-tail coat with
a cross suspended from his neck and a star on his left breast. It
was Speranski. Prince Andrew recognized him at once, and felt a
throb within him, as happens at critical moments of life. Whether it
was from respect, envy, or anticipation, he did not know.
Speranski's whole figure was of a peculiar type that made him easily
recognizable. In the society in which Prince Andrew lived he had never
seen anyone who together with awkward and clumsy gestures possessed
such calmness and self-assurance; he had never seen so resolute yet
gentle an expression as that in those half-closed, rather humid
eyes, or so firm a smile that expressed nothing; nor had he heard such
a refined, smooth, soft voice; above all he had never seen such
delicate whiteness of face or hands- hands which were broad, but
very plump, soft, and white. Such whiteness and softness Prince Andrew
had only seen on the faces of soldiers who had been long in
hospital. This was Speranski, Secretary of State, reporter to the
Emperor and his companion at Erfurt, where he had more than once met
and talked with Napoleon.

Speranski did not shift his eyes from one face to another as
people involuntarily do on entering a large company and was in no
hurry to speak. He spoke slowly, with assurance that he would be
listened to, and he looked only at the person with whom he was
conversing.

Prince Andrew followed Speranski's every word and movement with
particular attention. As happens to some people, especially to men who
judge those near to them severely, he always on meeting anyone new-
especially anyone whom, like Speranski, he knew by reputation-
expected to discover in him the perfection of human qualities.

Speranski told Kochubey he was sorry he had been unable to come
sooner as he had been detained at the palace. He did not say that
the Emperor had kept him, and Prince Andrew noticed this affectation
of modesty. When Kochubey introduced Prince Andrew, Speranski slowly
turned his eyes to Bolkonski with his customary smile and looked at
him in silence.

"I am very glad to make your acquaintance. I had heard of you, as
everyone has," he said after a pause.

Kochubey said a few words about the reception Arakcheev had given
Bolkonski. Speranski smiled more markedly.

"The chairman of the Committee on Army Regulations is my good friend
Monsieur Magnitski," he said, fully articulating every word and
syllable, "and if you like I can put you in touch with him." He paused
at the full stop. "I hope you will find him sympathetic and ready to
co-operate in promoting all that is reasonable."

A circle soon formed round Speranski, and the old man who had talked
about his subordinate Pryanichnikov addressed a question to him.

Prince Andrew without joining in the conversation watched every
movement of Speranski's: this man, not long since an insignificant
divinity student, who now, Bolkonski thought, held in his hands- those
plump white hands- the fate of Russia. Prince Andrew was struck by the
extraordinarily disdainful composure with which Speranski answered the
old man. He appeared to address condescending words to him from an
immeasurable height. When the old man began to speak too loud,
Speranski smiled and said he could not judge of the advantage or
disadvantage of what pleased the sovereign.

Having talked for a little while in the general circle, Speranski
rose and coming up to Prince Andrew took him along to the other end of
the room. It was clear that he thought it necessary to interest
himself in Bolkonski.

"I had no chance to talk with you, Prince, during the animated
conversation in which that venerable gentleman involved me," he said
with a mildly contemptuous smile, as if intimating by that smile
that he and Prince Andrew understood the insignificance of the
people with whom he had just been talking. This flattered Prince
Andrew. "I have known of you for a long time: first from your action
with regard to your serfs, a first example, of which it is very
desirable that there should be more imitators; and secondly because
you are one of those gentlemen of the chamber who have not
considered themselves offended by the new decree concerning the
ranks allotted to courtiers, which is causing so much gossip and
tittle-tattle."

"No," said Prince Andrew, "my father did not wish me to take
advantage of the privilege. I began the service from the lower grade."

"Your father, a man of the last century, evidently stands above
our contemporaries who so condemn this measure which merely
reestablishes natural justice."

"I think, however, that these condemnations have some ground,"
returned Prince Andrew, trying to resist Speranski's influence, of
which he began to be conscious. He did not like to agree with him in
everything and felt a wish to contradict. Though he usually spoke
easily and well, he felt a difficulty in expressing himself now
while talking with Speranski. He was too much absorbed in observing
the famous man's personality.

"Grounds of personal ambition maybe," Speranski put in quietly.

"And of state interest to some extent," said Prince Andrew.

"What do you mean?" asked Speranski quietly, lowering his eyes.

"I am an admirer of Montesquieu," replied Prince Andrew, "and his
idea that le principe des monarchies est l'honneur me parait
incontestable. Certains droits et privileges de la noblesse me
paraissent etre des moyens de soutenir ce sentiment."*


*"The principle of monarchies is honor seems to me incontestable.
Certain rights and privileges for the aristocracy appear to me a means
of maintaining that sentiment."


The smile vanished from Speranski's white face, which was much
improved by the change. Probably Prince Andrew's thought interested
him.

"Si vous envisagez la question sous ce point de vue,"* he began,
pronouncing French with evident difficulty, and speaking even slower
than in Russian but quite calmly.


*"If you regard the question from that point of view."


Speranski went on to say that honor, l'honeur, cannot be upheld by
privileges harmful to the service; that honor, l'honneur, is either
a negative concept of not doing what is blameworthy or it is a
source of emulation in pursuit of commendation and rewards, which
recognize it. His arguments were concise, simple, and clear.

"An institution upholding honor, the source of emulation, is one
similar to the Legion d'honneur of the great Emperor Napoleon, not
harmful but helpful to the success of the service, but not a class
or court privilege."

"I do not dispute that, but it cannot be denied that court
privileges have attained the same end," returned Prince Andrew. "Every
courtier considers himself bound to maintain his position worthily."

"Yet you do not care to avail yourself of the privilege, Prince,"
said Speranski, indicating by a smile that he wished to finish amiably
an argument which was embarrassing for his companion. "If you will
do me the honor of calling on me on Wednesday," he added, "I will,
after talking with Magnitski, let you know what may interest you,
and shall also have the pleasure of a more detailed chat with you."

Closing his eyes, he bowed a la francaise, without taking leave, and
trying to attract as little attention as possible, he left the room.

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During the first weeks of his stay in Petersburg Prince Andrewfelt the whole trend of thought he had formed during his life ofseclusion quite overshadowed by the trifling cares that engrossedhim in that city.On returning home in the evening he would jot down in his notebookfour or five necessary calls or appointments for certain hours. Themechanism of life, the arrangement of the day so as to be in timeeverywhere, absorbed the greater part of his vital energy. He didnothing, did not even think or find time to think, but only talked,and talked successfully, of what he had thought while in the
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Prince Andrew arrived in Petersburg in August, 1809. It was the timewhen the youthful Speranski was at the zenith of his fame and hisreforms were being pushed forward with the greatest energy. Thatsame August the Emperor was thrown from his caleche, injured hisleg, and remained three weeks at Peterhof, receiving Speranski everyday and no one else. At that time the two famous decrees were beingprepared that so agitated society- abolishing court ranks andintroducing examinations to qualify for the grades of CollegiateAssessor and State Councilor- and not merely these but a whole stateconstitution, intended to change the existing order of government inRussia:
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