"No," said Prince Andrew,"my father did not wish me to take advantage of the privilege. I began the service from the lower grade."
"Your father, a man of the last century, evidently stands above our contemporaries who so condemn this measure which merely reestablishes natural justice."
"I think, however, that these condemnations have some ground," returned Prince Andrew, trying to resist Speranski's influence, of which he began to be conscious. He did not like to agree with him in everything and felt a wish to contradict. Though he usually spoke easily and well, he felt a difficulty in expressing himself now while talking with Speranski. He was too much absorbed in observing the famous man's personality.
"Grounds of personal ambition maybe," Speranski put in quietly.
"And of state interest to some extent," said Prince Andrew.
"What do you mean?" asked Speranski quietly, lowering his eyes.
"I am an admirer of Montesquieu," replied Prince Andrew,"and his idea that le principe des monarchies est l'honneur me parait incontestable. Certains droits et privileges de la noblesse me paraissent etre des moyens de soutenir ce sentiment."
* *"The principle of monarchies is honor seems to me incontestable. Certain rights and privileges for the aristocracy appear to me a means of maintaining that sentiment."
The smile vanished from Speranski's white face, which was much improved by the change. Probably Prince Andrew's thought interested him.
"Si vous envisagez la question sous ce point de vue,"* he began, pronouncing French with evident difficulty, and speaking even slower than in Russian but quite calmly.
*"If you regard the question from that point of view."
Speranski went on to say that honor, l'honeur, cannot be upheld by privileges harmful to the service; that honor, l'honneur, is either a negative concept of not doing what is blameworthy or it is a source of emulation in pursuit of commendation and rewards, which recognize it. His arguments were concise, simple, and clear.
"An institution upholding honor, the source of emulation, is one similar to the Legion d'honneur of the great Emperor Napoleon, not harmful but helpful to the success of the service, but not a class or court privilege."
"I do not dispute that, but it cannot be denied that court privileges have attained the same end," returned Prince Andrew."Every courtier considers himself bound to maintain his position worthily."
"Yet you do not care to avail yourself of the privilege, Prince," said Speranski, indicating by a smile that he wished to finish amiably an argument which was embarrassing for his companion."If you will do me the honor of calling on me on Wednesday," he added,"I will, after talking with Magnitski, let you know what may interest you, and shall also have the pleasure of a more detailed chat with you."
Closing his eyes, he bowed a la francaise, without taking leave, and trying to attract as little attention as possible, he left the room.