War and Peace
Anna Pavlovna's reception was in full swing. The spindles hummed
steadily and ceaselessly on all sides. With the exception of the aunt,
beside whom sat only one elderly lady, who with her thin careworn face
was rather out of place in this brilliant society, the whole company
had settled into three groups. One, chiefly masculine, had formed
round the abbe. Another, of young people, was grouped round the
beautiful Princess Helene, Prince Vasili's daughter, and the little
Princess Bolkonskaya, very pretty and rosy, though rather too plump
for her age. The third group was gathered round Mortemart and Anna
The vicomte was a nice-looking young man with soft features and
polished manners, who evidently considered himself a celebrity but out
of politeness modestly placed himself at the disposal of the circle in
which he found himself. Anna Pavlovna was obviously serving him up
as a treat to her guests. As a clever maitre d'hotel serves up as a
specially choice delicacy a piece of meat that no one who had seen
it in the kitchen would have cared to eat, so Anna Pavlovna served
up to her guests, first the vicomte and then the abbe, as peculiarly
choice morsels. The group about Mortemart immediately began discussing
the murder of the Duc d'Enghien. The vicomte said that the Duc
d'Enghien had perished by his own magnanimity, and that there were
particular reasons for Buonaparte's hatred of him.
"Ah, yes! Do tell us all about it, Vicomte," said Anna Pavlovna,
with a pleasant feeling that there was something a la Louis XV in
the sound of that sentence: "Contez nous cela, Vicomte."
The vicomte bowed and smiled courteously in token of his willingness
to comply. Anna Pavlovna arranged a group round him, inviting everyone
to listen to his tale.
"The vicomte knew the duc personally," whispered Anna Pavlovna to of
the guests. "The vicomte is a wonderful raconteur," said she to
another. "How evidently he belongs to the best society," said she to a
third; and the vicomte was served up to the company in the choicest
and most advantageous style, like a well-garnished joint of roast beef
on a hot dish.
The vicomte wished to begin his story and gave a subtle smile.
"Come over here, Helene, dear," said Anna Pavlovna to the
beautiful young princess who was sitting some way off, the center of
The princess smiled. She rose with the same unchanging smile with
which she had first entered the room- the smile of a perfectly
beautiful woman. With a slight rustle of her white dress trimmed
with moss and ivy, with a gleam of white shoulders, glossy hair, and
sparkling diamonds, she passed between the men who made way for her,
not looking at any of them but smiling on all, as if graciously
allowing each the privilege of admiring her beautiful figure and
shapely shoulders, back, and bosom - which in the fashion of those days
were very much exposed- and she seemed to bring the glamour of a
ballroom with her as she moved toward Anna Pavlovna. Helene was so
lovely that not only did she not show any trace of coquetry, but on
the contrary she even appeared shy of her unquestionable and all too
victorious beauty. She seemed to wish, but to be unable, to diminish
"How lovely!" said everyone who saw her; and the vicomte lifted
his shoulders and dropped his eyes as if startled by something
extraordinary when she took her seat opposite and beamed upon him also
with her unchanging smile.
"Madame, I doubt my ability before such an audience," said he,
smilingly inclining his head.
The princess rested her bare round arm on a little table and
considered a reply unnecessary. She smilingly waited. All the time the
story was being told she sat upright, glancing now at her beautiful
round arm, altered in shape by its pressure on the table, now at her
still more beautiful bosom, on which she readjusted a diamond
necklace. From time to time she smoothed the folds of her dress, and
whenever the story produced an effect she glanced at Anna Pavlovna, at
once adopted just the expression she saw on the maid of honor's
face, and again relapsed into her radiant smile.
The little princess had also left the tea table and followed Helene.
"Wait a moment, I'll get my work.... Now then, what are you thinking
of?" she went on, turning to Prince Hippolyte. "Fetch me my workbag."
There was a general movement as the princess, smiling and talking
merrily to everyone at once, sat down and gaily arranged herself in
"Now I am all right," she said, and asking the vicomte to begin, she
took up her work.
Prince Hippolyte, having brought the workbag, joined the circle
and moving a chair close to hers seated himself beside her.
Le charmant Hippolyte was surprising by his extraordinary resemblance to his beautiful sister, but yet more by the fact that
in spite of this resemblance he was exceedingly ugly. His features
were like his sister's, but while in her case everything was lit up by
a joyous, self-satisfied, youthful, and constant smile of animation,
and by the wonderful classic beauty of her figure, his face on the
contrary was dulled by imbecility and a constant expression of
sullen self-confidence, while his body was thin and weak. His eyes,
nose, and mouth all seemed puckered into a vacant, wearied grimace,
and his arms and legs always fell into unnatural positions.
"It's not going to be a ghost story?" said he, sitting down beside
the princess and hastily adjusting his lorgnette, as if without this
instrument he could not begin to speak.
"Why no, my dear fellow," said the astonished narrator, shrugging
"Because I hate ghost stories," said Prince Hippolyte in a tone
which showed that he only understood the meaning of his words after he
had uttered them.
He spoke with such self-confidence that his hearers could not be
sure whether what he said was very witty or very stupid. He was
dressed in a dark-green dress coat, knee breeches of the color of
cuisse de nymphe effrayee, as he called it, shoes, and silk stockings.
The vicomte told his tale very neatly. It was an anecdote, then
current, to the effect that the Duc d'Enghien had gone secretly to
Paris to visit Mademoiselle George; that at her house he came upon
Bonaparte, who also enjoyed the famous actress' favors, and that in
his presence Napoleon happened to fall into one of the fainting fits
to which he was subject, and was thus at the duc's mercy. The latter
spared him, and this magnanimity Bonaparte subsequently repaid by
The story was very pretty and interesting, especially at the point
where the rivals suddenly recognized one another; and the ladies
"Charming!" said Anna Pavlovna with an inquiring glance at the
"Charming!" whispered the little princess, sticking the needle
into her work as if to testify that the interest and fascination of
the story prevented her from going on with it.
The vicomte appreciated this silent praise and smiling gratefully
prepared to continue, but just then Anna Pavlovna, who had kept a
watchful eye on the young man who so alarmed her, noticed that he
was talking too loudly and vehemently with the abbe, so she hurried to
the rescue. Pierre had managed to start a conversation with the abbe
about the balance of power, and the latter, evidently interested by
the young man's simple-minded eagerness, was explaining his pet
theory. Both were talking and listening too eagerly and too naturally,
which was why Anna Pavlovna disapproved.
"The means are... the balance of power in Europe and the rights of
the people," the abbe was saying. "It is only necessary for one
powerful nation like Russia - barbaric as she is said to be- to place
herself disinterestedly at the head of an alliance having for its
object the maintenance of the balance of power of Europe, and it would
save the world!"
"But how are you to get that balance?" Pierre was beginning.
At that moment Anna Pavlovna came up and, looking severely at
Pierre, asked the Italian how he stood Russian climate. The
Italian's face instantly changed and assumed an offensively
affected, sugary expression, evidently habitual to him when conversing
"I am so enchanted by the brilliancy of the wit and culture of the
society, more especially of the feminine society, in which I have
had the honor of being received, that I have not yet had time to think
of the climate," said he.
Not letting the abbe and Pierre escape, Anna Pavlovna, the more
conveniently to keep them under observation, brought them into the
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