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War And Peace 503

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War And Peace

surnames), and she touched his coat sleeve with her white, beringed fingers. "Tell me, as you would a sister, what I ought to do. Which of the two?" Bilibin wrinkled up the skin over his eyebrows and pondered, with a smile on his lips. "You are not taking me unawares, you know," said he. "As a true friend, I have thought and thought again about your affair. You see, if you marry the prince"--he meant the younger man--and he crooked one finger, "you forever lose the chance of marrying the other, and you will displease the court besides. (You know there is some kind of connection.) But if you marry the old count you will make his last days happy, and as widow of the Grand... the prince would no longer be making a mesalliance by marrying you," and Bilibin smoothed out his forehead. "Thats a true friend!" said Helene beaming, and again touching Bilibins sleeve. "But I love them, you know, and dont want to distress either of them. I would give my life for the happiness of them both." Bilibin shrugged his shoulders, as much as to say that not even he could help in that difficulty. "Une maitresse-femme!* Thats what is called putting things squarely. She would like to be married to all three at the same time," thought he. *A masterly woman. "But tell me, how will your husband look at the matter?" Bilibin asked, his reputation being so well established that he did not fear to ask so naive a question. "Will he agree?" "Oh, he loves me so!" said Helene, who for some reason imagined that Pierre too loved her. "He will do anything for me." Bilibin puckered his skin in preparation for something witty. "Even divorce you?" said he. Helene laughed. Among those who ventured to doubt the justifiability of the proposed marriage was Helenes mother, Princess Kuragina. She was continually tormented by jealousy of her daughter, and now that jealousy concerned a subject near to her own heart, she could not reconcile herself to the idea. She consulted a Russian priest as to the possibility of divorce and remarriage during a husbands lifetime, and the priest told her that it was impossible, and to her delight showed her a text in the Gospel which (as it seemed to him) plainly forbids remarriage while the husband is alive. Armed with these arguments, which appeared to her unanswerable, she drove to her daughters early one morning so as to find her alone. Having listened to her mothers objections, Helene smiled blandly and ironically. "But it says plainly: Whosoever shall marry her that is divorced..." said the old princess. "Ah, Maman, ne dites pas de betises. Vous ne comprenez rein. Dans ma position jai des devoirs,"* said Helene changing from Russian, in which language she always felt that her case did not sound quite clear, into French which suited it better. *"Oh, Mamma, dont talk nonsense! You dont understand anything. In my position I have obligations." "But, my dear...." "Oh, Mamma, how is it you dont understand that the Holy Father, who has the right to grant dispensations..." Just then the lady companion who lived with Helene came in to announce that His Highness was in the ballroom and wished to see her. "Non, dites-lui que je ne veux pas le voir, que je suis furieuse contre lui, parce quil ma manque parole."* *"No, tell him I dont wish to see him, I am furious with him for not keeping his word to me." "Comtesse, a tout peche misericorde,"* said a fair-haired young man with a long face and nose, as he entered the room. *"Countess, there is mercy for every sin." The old princess rose respectfully and curtsied. The young man who had entered took no notice of her. The princess nodded to her daughter and sidled out of the room. "Yes, she is right," thought the old princess, all her convictions dissipated by the appearance of His Highness. "She is right, but how is it that we in our irrecoverable youth did not know it? Yet it is so simple," she thought as she got into her carriage. By the beginning of August Helenes affairs were clearly defined and she wrote a letter to her husband--who, as she imagined, loved her very much--informing him of her intention to marry N.N. and of her having embraced the one true faith, and asking him to carry out all the formalities necessary for a divorce, which would be explained to him by the bearer of the letter. And so I pray God to have you, my friend, in His holy and powerful keeping--Your friend Helene. This

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