Chapter 5

WHILE AWAITING THE ANNOUNCEMENT of his name having been put on the committee, Prince Andrey looked up old acquaintances, especially among those persons whom he knew to be in power, and so able to be of use to him. He experienced now in Petersburg a sensation akin to what he had known on the eve of a battle, when he was fretted by restless curiosity and irresistibly attracted to those higher spheres, where the future was in preparation, that future on which hung the fate of millions. From the angry irritability of the elder generation, from the curiosity of the uninitiated and the reserve of the initiated, from the hurry and anxious absorption of every one, from the multiplicity of committees and commissions—he was learning of new ones every day—he felt that now, in the year 1809, there was in preparation here in Petersburg some vast political contest, and the commander-in-chief in it was a mysterious personage whom he did not know, but imagined to be a man of genius—Speransky.

And this movement of reform, of which he knew vaguely, and Speransky, the moving spirit of it, began to interest him so keenly that his proposed reform of the army regulations very soon fell into a subordinate position in his mind.

Prince Andrey happened to be most favourably placed for obtaining a good reception in the highest and most various circles of the Petersburg society of that day. The reforming party welcomed him warmly, and sought him out, in the first place, because he had the reputation of being clever and very well read, and secondly because he had already gained the reputation of being a liberal by the emancipation of his serfs. The party of the dissatisfied older generation welcomed him simply as the son of his father, and reckoned upon his sympathy in their disapproval of the reforms. The feminine world, society, received him cordially because he was a wealthy match of high rank, and a person almost new, encircled by a halo of romance from his narrow escape from death and the tragic loss of his young wife. Moreover the general verdict of all who had known him previously was that he had greatly changed for the better during the last five years, had grown softer and more manly, that he had lost his old affectation, pride, and sarcastic irony, and had gained the serenity that comes with years. People talked of him, were interested in him, and eager to see him

The day after his interview with Count Araktcheev, Prince Andrey was at a soirée at Count Kotchubey’s. He described to the latter his interview with Sila Andreitch. (This was the name by which Kotchubey spoke of Araktcheev with that vague note of jeering in his voice which Prince Andrey had noticed in the anteroom of the minister of war.)

Mon cher, even in this affair you can’t do without Mihail Mihalovitch. He has a hand in everything. I’ll speak to him. He promised to come in the evening…”

“But what has Speransky to do with the army regulations?” asked Prince Andrey.

Kotchubey shook his head, smiling, as though wondering at Bolkonsky’s simplicity.

“We were talking to him about you the other day,” Kotchubey continued; “about your free cultivators…”

“Yes, so it was you, prince, who freed your serfs?” said an old gentleman of Catherine’s court, turning disdainfully to Bolkonsky.

“The little estate brought me no income as it was,” answered Bolkonsky, trying to minimise what he had done to the old gentleman, to avoid irritating him needlessly.

“You are afraid of being late,” said the old gentleman, looking at Kotchubey.

“There’s one thing I don’t understand,” pursued the old gentleman. “Who is to till the land if they are set free? It’s easy to pass laws, but hard work to govern. It’s just the same as now; I ask you, count, who will preside over the courts when all have to pass examinations?”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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