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War And Peace 252

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War And Peace

of Arakcheev by that nickname with the same vague irony Prince Andrew had noticed in the Minister of Wars anteroom). "Mon cher, even in this case you cant do without Michael Mikhaylovich Speranski. He manages everything. Ill 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 Bolkonskis 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 Catherines 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. "Theres one thing I dont 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 hes sixty. Is he to go up for examination?" "Yes, thats 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. Speranskis 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 Speranskis 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 Speranskis: this man, not long since

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