Emma Watson Pussy
War And Peace
pupils progress, but
could not abandon the edifice of argument he had laboriously
"Let us understand one another, Countess," said he with a smile, and
began refuting his spiritual daughters arguments.
Helene understood that the question was very simple and easy from
the ecclesiastical point of view, and that her directors were making
difficulties only because they were apprehensive as to how the
matter would be regarded by the secular authorities.
So she decided that it was necessary to prepare the opinion of
society. She provoked the jealousy of the elderly magnate and told him
what she had told her other suitor; that is, she put the matter so
that the only way for him to obtain a right over her was to marry her.
The elderly magnate was at first as much taken aback by this
suggestion of marriage with a woman whose husband was alive, as the
younger man had been, but Helenes imperturbable conviction that it
was as simple and natural as marrying a maiden had its effect on him
too. Had Helene herself shown the least sign of hesitation, shame,
or secrecy, her cause would certainly have been lost; but not only did
she show no signs of secrecy or shame, on the contrary, with
good-natured naivete she told her intimate friends (and these were all
Petersburg) that both the prince and the magnate had proposed to her
and that she loved both and was afraid of grieving either.
A rumor immediately spread in Petersburg, not that Helene wanted
to be divorced from her husband (had such a report spread many would
have opposed so illegal an intention) but simply that the
unfortunate and interesting Helene was in doubt which of the two men
she should marry. The question was no longer whether this was
possible, but only which was the better match and how the matter would
be regarded at court. There were, it is true, some rigid individuals
unable to rise to the height of such a question, who saw in the
project a desecration of the sacrament of marriage, but there were not
many such and they remained silent, while the majority were interested
in Helenes good fortune and in the question which match would be
the more advantageous. Whether it was right or wrong to remarry
while one had a husband living they did not discuss, for that question
had evidently been settled by people "wiser than you or me," as they
said, and to doubt the correctness of that decision would be to risk
exposing ones stupidity and incapacity to live in society.
Only Marya Dmitrievna Akhrosimova, who had come to Petersburg that
summer to see one of her sons, allowed herself plainly to express an
opinion contrary to the general one. Meeting Helene at a ball she
stopped her in the middle of the room and, amid general silence,
said in her gruff voice: "So wives of living men have started marrying
again! Perhaps you think you have invented a novelty? You have been
forestalled, my dear! It was thought of long ago. It is done in all
the brothels," and with these words Marya Dmitrievna, turning up her
wide sleeves with her usual threatening gesture and glancing sternly
round, moved across the room.
Though people were afraid of Marya Dmitrievna she was regarded in
Petersburg as a buffoon, and so of what she had said they only
noticed, and repeated in a whisper, the one coarse word she had
used, supposing the whole sting of her remark to lie in that word.
Prince Vasili, who of late very often forgot what he had said and
repeated one and the same thing a hundred times, remarked to his
daughter whenever he chanced to see her:
"Helene, I have a word to say to you," and he would lead her
aside, drawing her hand downward. "I have heard of certain projects
concerning... you know. Well my dear child, you know how your fathers
heart rejoices to know that you... You have suffered so much....
But, my dear child, consult only your own heart. That is all I have to
say," and concealing his unvarying emotion he would press his cheek
against his daughters and move away.
Bilibin, who had not lost his reputation of an exceedingly clever man,
and who was one of the disinterested friends so brilliant a woman as
Helene always has--men friends who can never change into lovers--once
gave her his view of the matter at a small and intimate gathering.
"Listen, Bilibin," said Helene (she always called friends of that
sort by their
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