“Those who pass the examinations, I suppose,” answered Kotchubey, crossing his legs and looking about him.

“Here I have Pryanitchnikov in my department, a capital man, a priceless man, but he is sixty; how is he to go in for examinations?…”

“Yes, that’s a difficult question, considering that education is so restricted, but…”

Count Kotchubey did not finish his sentence; he got up, and taking Prince Andrey by the arm, went to meet a tall, bald, fair-haired man of forty, who had just come in. He had a large, open forehead, and his long face was of a strange, exceptional whiteness; he wore a blue frock coat and had a cross at his neck and a star on the left side of his breast. It was Speransky. Prince Andrey recognised him at once, and that thrill passed through him that comes at the great moments of one’s life. Whether it was a thrill of respect, of envy, of anticipation, he did not know. Speransky’s whole figure had a peculiar character by which he could be distinguished immediately. Never in any one of the circles in which Prince Andrey had moved had he seen such calm and self-confidence as was manifest in this man’s heavy and ungainly movements. Never in any one had he seen a glance so resolute, and yet so soft, as now in those half- closed and moist-looking eyes; never had he seen such firmness as in that smile that meant nothing. Never had he heard a voice so delicate, smooth, and soft; but what struck him most of all was the tender whiteness of the face, and still more the hands, which were rather broad, but extremely plump, soft, and white. Such whiteness and softness Prince Andrey had seen only in the faces of soldiers who had been a long while in hospital.

This was Speransky, the secretary of state, the Tsar’s confidential adviser, who had accompanied him to Erfurt, and there had more than once seen and talked with Napoleon. Speransky’s eyes did not shift from one face to another, as one’s eyes unconsciously do on first coming into a large company, and he was in no hurry to speak. He spoke slowly, with conviction that he would be listened to, and looked only at the person to whom he was speaking. Prince Andrey watched every word and gesture of Speransky’s with peculiar intentness. As is often the case with men, particularly with those who criticise their fellows severely, Prince Andrey on meeting a new person, especially one like Speransky, whom he knew by reputation, had always a hope of finding in him a full perfection of human qualities.

Speransky said to Kotchubey that he was sorry that he had not been able to come earlier, because he had been detained at the palace. He did not say that the Tsar had kept him. And this affectation of modesty did not escape Prince Andrey. When Kotchubey mentioned Prince Andrey’s name to him, Speransky slowly transferred his eyes to Bolkonsky, with the same smile on his face, and gazed for a moment at him in silence.

“I am very glad to make your acquaintance; I have heard of you, as every one has,” said he.

Kotchubey said a few words about the reception Araktcheev had given Bolkonsky. Speransky’s smile broadened.

“The chairman of the Committee of Army Regulations is a friend of mine—M. Magnitsky,” he said, articulating fully every word and every syllable, “and, if you wish it, I can make you acquainted with him.” (He paused at the full stop.) “I expect that you would meet with sympathy in him and a desire to assist in anything reasonable.”

A circle formed at once round Speransky, and the same old gentleman, who had talked of his clerk, Pryanitchnikov, addressed a question to Speransky.

Taking no part in the conversation, Prince Andrey watched every gesture of Speransky—this man, only a little time before an insignificant divinity student, who now held in his hands—those plump white hands—the fate of Russia, as Bolkonsky thought. Prince Andrey was struck by the extraordinarily contemptuous composure with which Speransky answered the old gentleman. He seemed to drop him his condescending

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.