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War And Peace 259


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ought not to refuse a suppliant, and ought to reach a helping hand to everyone--especially to one so closely bound to me--and that I must bear my cross. But if I forgive her for the sake of doing right, then let union with her have only a spiritual aim. That is what I decided, and what I wrote to Joseph Alexeevich. I told my wife that I begged her to forget the past, to forgive me whatever wrong I may have done her, and that I had nothing to forgive. It gave me joy to tell her this. She need not know how hard it was for me to see her again. I have settled on the upper floor of this big house and am experiencing a happy feeling of regeneration. CHAPTER IX At that time, as always happens, the highest society that met at court and at the grand balls was divided into several circles, each with its own particular tone. The largest of these was the French circle of the Napoleonic alliance, the circle of Count Rumyantsev and Caulaincourt. In this group Helene, as soon as she had settled in Petersburg with her husband, took a very prominent place. She was visited by the members of the French embassy and by many belonging to that circle and noted for their intellect and polished manners. Helene had been at Erfurt during the famous meeting of the Emperors and had brought from there these connections with the Napoleonic notabilities. At Erfurt her success had been brilliant. Napoleon himself had noticed her in the theater and said of her: "Cest un superbe animal."* Her success as a beautiful and elegant woman did not surprise Pierre, for she had become even handsomer than before. What did surprise him was that during these last two years his wife had succeeded in gaining the reputation "d une femme charmante, aussi spirituelle que belle."*[2] The distinguished Prince de Ligne wrote her eight-page letters. Bilibin saved up his epigrams to produce them in Countess Bezukhovas presence. To be received in the Countess Bezukhovas salon was regarded as a diploma of intellect. Young men read books before attending Helenes evenings, to have something to say in her salon, and secretaries of the embassy, and even ambassadors, confided diplomatic secrets to her, so that in a way Helene was a power. Pierre, who knew she was very stupid, sometimes attended, with a strange feeling of perplexity and fear, her evenings and dinner parties, where politics, poetry, and philosophy were discussed. At these parties his feelings were like those of a conjuror who always expects his trick to be found out at any moment. But whether because stupidity was just what was needed to run such a salon, or because those who were deceived found pleasure in the deception, at any rate it remained unexposed and Helene Bezukhovas reputation as a lovely and clever woman became so firmly established that she could say the emptiest and stupidest things and everybody would go into raptures over every word of hers and look for a profound meaning in it of which she herself had no conception. *"Thats a superb animal." *[2] "Of a charming woman, as witty as she is lovely." Pierre was just the husband needed for a brilliant society woman. He was that absent-minded crank, a grand seigneur husband who was in no ones way, and far from spoiling the high tone and general impression of the drawing room, he served, by the contrast he presented to her, as an advantageous background to his elegant and tactful wife. Pierre during the last two years, as a result of his continual absorption in abstract interests and his sincere contempt for all else, had acquired in his wifes circle, which did not interest him, that air of unconcern, indifference, and benevolence toward all, which cannot be acquired artificially and therefore inspires involuntary respect. He entered his wifes drawing room as one enters a theater, was acquainted with everybody, equally pleased to see everyone, and equally indifferent to them all. Sometimes he joined in a conversation which interested him and, regardless of whether any "gentlemen of the embassy" were present or not, lispingly expressed his views, which were sometimes not at all in accord with the accepted tone of the moment. But the general opinion concerning the queer husband of "the most distinguished woman in Petersburg" was so well established that no one took his freaks seriously. Among the many young men who frequented her house every day, Boris Drubetskoy, who had already achieved great success in the service, was the most intimate

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