Chapter 4

PRINCE ANDREY arrived in Petersburg in the August of 1809. It was the period when the young Speransky was at the zenith of his fame and his reforms were being carried out with the utmost vigour. In that very month the Tsar was thrown out of his carriage, hurt his foot, and was laid up for three weeks at Peterhof, seeing Speransky every day and no one else. At that period there were in preparation the two famous decrees that so convulsed society, abolishing the bestowal of grades by court favour and establishing examinations for obtaining the ranks of collegiate assessors and state councillors. But besides these reforms, a whole political constitution was under discussion destined to transform the whole legal, administrative and financial system of government from the Privy Council to the district tribunals. At this time the vague, liberal ideals with which the Emperor Alexander had ascended the throne were taking shape and being carried into practice. Those ideals he had striven to realise with the aid of Tchartorizhsky, Novosiltsov, Kotchubey, and Stroganov, whom he used himself to call in fun his “comité du salut publique.” Now all were replaced by Speransky on the civil side and Araktcheev on the military.

Soon after his arrival, Prince Andrey, as a kammerherr, presented himself at court and at a levée. The Tsar, meeting him on two occasions, did not deign to bestow a single word upon him. Prince Andrey had fancied even before then that he was antipathetic to the Tsar; that the Tsar disliked his face and his whole personality. In the cold, repellent glance with which the Tsar looked at him, Prince Andrey found further confirmation of this supposition. Courtiers explained the Tsar’s slight to Prince Andrey by saying that his majesty was displeased at Bolkonsky’s having retired from active service since 1805.

“I know myself that one has no control over one’s likes and dislikes,” thought Prince Andrey, “and so it is of no use to think of presenting my note on army reform in person to the Tsar, but the thing will speak for itself.” He sent word about his note to an old field-marshal, a friend of his father’s. The field-marshal fixed an hour to see him, received him cordially, and promised to lay it before the Tsar. A few days later, Prince Andrey received notice that he was to call upon the minister of war, Count Araktcheev.

At nine o’clock in the morning on the day appointed, Prince Andrey entered Count Araktcheev’s reception- room.

Prince Andrey did not know Araktcheev personally and had never seen him, but all that he knew about him had inspired him with little respect for the man.

“He is the minister of war, a person the Tsar trusts, and no one need have any concern with his personal qualities; he has been commissioned to look at my note, consequently he is the only person who can get it adopted,” thought Prince Andrey, as he waited among many persons of importance and unimportance in Count Araktcheev’s anteroom.

During the years of his service—for the most part as an adjutant—Prince Andrey had seen the anterooms of many great personages, and the various characteristic types of such anterooms were very readily recognised by him. Count Araktcheev’s anteroom had quite a special character. The faces of the persons of no consequence who were awaiting their turns for an audience with Count Araktcheev betrayed a feeling of humiliation and servility; the faces of those of superior rank all wore an expression of general discomfort, concealed under a mask of ease and ridicule, of themselves and their position and the person they were waiting to see. Some of them walked up and down plunged in thought; others were laughing and whispering together, and Prince Andrey caught the nickname Sila Andreitch (Sila meaning Force or Violence), and the words “the governor’ll give it you,” referring to Count Araktcheev. One general (a person of great consequence), unmistakably chagrined at being kept waiting so long, sat with crossed legs, disdainfully smiling to himself.

But as soon as the door opened, all faces instantly betrayed one feeling only—terror.

Prince Andrey asked the adjutant on duty to mention his name again, but he received a sarcastic stare, and was told his turn would come in due course. After several persons had been let in and let out of the minister’s room by the adjutant, an officer was admitted at the dreadful door, whose abject and panic- stricken face had struck Prince Andrey. The officer’s audience lasted a long while. Suddenly the roar

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