On this occasion a great banquet was to be given to Prince Polinski, a nephew of the Czar and possible heir to the throne. The press had been filled with the detail of his daily life—of the dinners, teas and functions given by society in his honor; of his reception by the mayor, of his audience at the White House; of the men who guarded his person; of his “opinions,” “impressions” and “views” on this, that and the other thing, but so far no one had dissected the man himself.
What our editor wanted was a minute analysis of the mind of a young Russian studied at close range. The occasion of the banquet was selected because I could then examine him at my leisure. The results were to be used by the editor in an article of his own, my memoranda being only so much padding.
When I entered and took up a position near the door where I could look him over, Delmonico’s largest reception-room was crowded with guests: bankers, railroad presidents, politicians, officers of the army and navy, judges, doctors, and the usual collection of white shirt-fronts that fill the seats at a public dinner of this kind. The Prince was in the uniform of an officer of the Imperial Navy. He was heavily built and tall, with a swarthy face enlivened by a pointed mustache. The Russian Ambassador at his side was in full dress and wore a number of decorations: these two needed no pointing out. Some of the others were less distinguishable-among them a heavily-built man in evening-dress, with a full beard and mustache which covered his face almost to his eyes— soft and bushy as the hair on a Spitz dog and as black. With a leather apron and a broad-axe he would have passed at a masquerade for an executioner of the olden time. Despite this big beard, there was a certain bearing about the man—a certain elegance both of manner and gesture—talking with his hands, accentuating his sentences with outstretched fingers, lifting his shoulders in a shrug (I saw all this from across the room where I stood)—that showed clearly not only his high position, but his breeding. What position he held under the Prince I was, of course, unaware, but it must have been very close, for the big Russian kept him constantly at the royal side. I noted, too, that the Prince was careful to introduce him to many who were brought up to shake his hand.