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War And Peace 500


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wrote a proclamation to the French solemnly upbraiding them for having destroyed his Orphanage; now claimed the glory of having hinted that he would burn Moscow and now repudiated the deed; now ordered the people to catch all spies and bring them to him, and now reproached them for doing so; now expelled all the French residents from Moscow, and now allowed Madame Aubert-Chalme (the center of the whole French colony in Moscow) to remain, but ordered the venerable old postmaster Klyucharev to be arrested and exiled for no particular offense; now assembled the people at the Three Hills to fight the French and now, to get rid of them, handed over to them a man to be killed and himself drove away by a back gate; now declared that he would not survive the fall of Moscow, and now wrote French verses in albums concerning his share in the affair--this man did not understand the meaning of what was happening but merely wanted to do something himself that would astonish people, to perform some patriotically heroic feat; and like a child he made sport of the momentous, and unavoidable event--the abandonment and burning of Moscow--and tried with his puny hand now to speed and now to stay the enormous, popular tide that bore him along with it. CHAPTER VI Helene, having returned with the court from Vilna to Petersburg, found herself in a difficult position. In Petersburg she had enjoyed the special protection of a grandee who occupied one of the highest posts in the Empire. In Vilna she had formed an intimacy with a young foreign prince. When she returned to Petersburg both the magnate and the prince were there, and both claimed their rights. Helene was faced by a new problem--how to preserve her intimacy with both without offending either. What would have seemed difficult or even impossible to another woman did not cause the least embarrassment to Countess Bezukhova, who evidently deserved her reputation of being a very clever woman. Had she attempted concealment, or tried to extricate herself from her awkward position by cunning, she would have spoiled her case by acknowledging herself guilty. But Helene, like a really great man who can do whatever he pleases, at once assumed her own position to be correct, as she sincerely believed it to be, and that everyone else was to blame. The first time the young foreigner allowed himself to reproach her, she lifted her beautiful head and, half turning to him, said firmly: "Thats just like a man--selfish and cruel! I expected nothing else. A woman sacrifices herself for you, she suffers, and this is her reward! What right have you, monseigneur, to demand an account of my attachments and friendships? He is a man who has been more than a father to me!" The prince was about to say something, but Helene interrupted him. "Well, yes," said she, "it may be that he has other sentiments for me than those of a father, but that is not a reason for me to shut my door on him. I am not a man, that I should repay kindness with ingratitude! Know, monseigneur, that in all that relates to my intimate feelings I render account only to God and to my conscience," she concluded, laying her hand on her beautiful, fully expanded bosom and looking up to heaven. "But for heavens sake listen to me!" "Marry me, and I will be your slave!" "But thats impossible." "You wont deign to demean yourself by marrying me, you..." said Helene, beginning to cry. The prince tried to comfort her, but Helene, as if quite distraught, said through her tears that there was nothing to prevent her marrying, that there were precedents (there were up to that time very few, but she mentioned Napoleon and some other exalted personages), that she had never been her husbands wife, and that she had been sacrificed. "But the law, religion..." said the prince, already yielding. "The law, religion... What have they been invented for if they cant arrange that?" said Helene. The prince was surprised that so simple an idea had not occurred to him, and he applied for advice to the holy brethren of the Society of Jesus, with whom he was on intimate terms. A few days later at one of those enchanting fetes which Helene gave at her country house on the Stone Island, the charming Monsieur de Jobert, a man no longer young, with snow white hair and brilliant black eyes, a Jesuit a robe courte* was presented to her, and in the garden by the light of the illuminations and

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