Prince Andrew arrived in Petersburg in August, 1809. It was the time when th_outhful Speranski was at the zenith of his fame and his reforms were bein_ushed forward with the greatest energy. That same August the Emperor wa_hrown from his caleche, injured his leg, and remained three weeks a_eterhof, receiving Speranski every day and no one else. At that time the tw_amous decrees were being prepared that so agitated society—abolishing cour_anks and introducing examinations to qualify for the grades of Collegiat_ssessor and State Councilor—and not merely these but a whole stat_onstitution, intended to change the existing order of government in Russia:
legal, administrative, and financial, from the Council of State down to th_istrict tribunals. Now those vague liberal dreams with which the Empero_lexander had ascended the throne, and which he had tried to put into effec_ith the aid of his associates, Czartoryski, Novosiltsev, Kochubey, an_trogonov—whom he himself in jest had called his Comite de salut public—wer_aking shape and being realized.
Now all these men were replaced by Speranski on the civil side, and Arakchee_n the military. Soon after his arrival Prince Andrew, as a gentleman of th_hamber, presented himself at court and at a levee. The Emperor, though he me_im twice, did not favor him with a single word. It had always seemed t_rince Andrew before that he was antipathetic to the Emperor and that th_atter disliked his face and personality generally, and in the cold, repellen_lance the Emperor gave him, he now found further confirmation of thi_urmise. The courtiers explained the Emperor's neglect of him by His Majesty'_ispleasure at Bolkonski's not having served since 1805.
"I know myself that one cannot help one's sympathies and antipathies," though_rince Andrew, "so it will not do to present my proposal for the reform of th_rmy regulations to the Emperor personally, but the project will speak fo_tself."
He mentioned what he had written to an old field marshal, a friend of hi_ather's. The field marshal made an appointment to see him, received hi_raciously, and promised to inform the Emperor. A few days later Prince Andre_eceived notice that he was to go to see the Minister of War, Count Arakcheev.
On the appointed day Prince Andrew entered Count Arakcheev's waiting room a_ine in the morning.
He did not know Arakcheev personally, had never seen him, and all he had hear_f him inspired him with but little respect for the man.
"He is Minister of War, a man trusted by the Emperor, and I need not concer_yself about his personal qualities: he has been commissioned to consider m_roject, so he alone can get it adopted," thought Prince Andrew as he waite_mong a number of important and unimportant people in Count Arakcheev'_aiting room.
During his service, chiefly as an adjutant, Prince Andrew had seen th_nterooms of many important men, and the different types of such rooms wer_ell known to him. Count Arakcheev's anteroom had quite a special character.
The faces of the unimportant people awaiting their turn for an audience showe_mbarrassment and servility; the faces of those of higher rank expressed _ommon feeling of awkwardness, covered by a mask of unconcern and ridicule o_hemselves, their situation, and the person for whom they were waiting. Som_alked thoughtfully up and down, others whispered and laughed. Prince Andre_eard the nickname "Sila Andreevich" and the words, "Uncle will give it to u_ot," in reference to Count Arakcheev. One general (an important personage),
evidently feeling offended at having to wait so long, sat crossing an_ncrossing his legs and smiling contemptuously to himself.
But the moment the door opened one feeling alone appeared on all faces—that o_ear. Prince Andrew for the second time asked the adjutant on duty to take i_is name, but received an ironical look and was told that his turn would com_n due course. After some others had been shown in and out of the minister'_oom by the adjutant on duty, an officer who struck Prince Andrew by hi_umiliated and frightened air was admitted at that terrible door. Thi_fficer's audience lasted a long time. Then suddenly the grating sound of _arsh voice was heard from the other side of the door, and the officer—wit_ale face and trembling lips—came out and passed through the waiting room,
clutching his head.
After this Prince Andrew was conducted to the door and the officer on dut_aid in a whisper, "To the right, at the window."
Prince Andrew entered a plain tidy room and saw at the table a man of fort_ith a long waist, a long closely cropped head, deep wrinkles, scowling brow_bove dull greenish-hazel eyes and an overhanging red nose. Arakcheev turne_is head toward him without looking at him.
"What is your petition?" asked Arakcheev.
"I am not petitioning, your excellency," returned Prince Andrew quietly.
Arakcheev's eyes turned toward him.
"Sit down," said he. "Prince Bolkonski?"
"I am not petitioning about anything. His Majesty the Emperor has deigned t_end your excellency a project submitted by me… "
"You see, my dear sir, I have read your project," interrupted Arakcheev,
uttering only the first words amiably and then—again without looking at Princ_ndrew—relapsing gradually into a tone of grumbling contempt. "You ar_roposing new military laws? There are many laws but no one to carry out th_ld ones. Nowadays everybody designs laws, it is easier writing than doing."
"I came at His Majesty the Emperor's wish to learn from your excellency ho_ou propose to deal with the memorandum I have presented," said Prince Andre_olitely.
"I have endorsed a resolution on your memorandum and sent it to the committee.
I do not approve of it," said Arakcheev, rising and taking a paper from hi_riting table. "Here!" and he handed it to Prince Andrew.
Across the paper was scrawled in pencil, without capital letters, misspelled,
and without punctuation: "Unsoundly constructed because resembles an imitatio_f the French military code and from the Articles of War needlessl_eviating."
"To what committee has the memorandum been referred?" inquired Prince Andrew.
"To the Committee on Army Regulations, and I have recommended that your hono_hould be appointed a member, but without a salary."
Prince Andrew smiled.
"I don't want one."
"A member without salary," repeated Arakcheev. "I have the honor… Eh! Call th_ext one! Who else is there?" he shouted, bowing to Prince Andrew.