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Chapter 3

  • Anna Pavlovna's reception was in full swing. The spindles hummed steadily an_easelessly on all sides. With the exception of the aunt, beside whom sat onl_ne elderly lady, who with her thin careworn face was rather out of place i_his brilliant society, the whole company had settled into three groups. One,
  • chiefly masculine, had formed round the abbe. Another, of young people, wa_rouped round the beautiful Princess Helene, Prince Vasili's daughter, and th_ittle Princess Bolkonskaya, very pretty and rosy, though rather too plump fo_er age. The third group was gathered round Mortemart and Anna Pavlovna.
  • The vicomte was a nice-looking young man with soft features and polishe_anners, who evidently considered himself a celebrity but out of politenes_odestly placed himself at the disposal of the circle in which he foun_imself. 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 o_eat that no one who had seen it in the kitchen would have cared to eat, s_nna Pavlovna served up to her guests, first the vicomte and then the abbe, a_eculiarly choice morsels. The group about Mortemart immediately bega_iscussing the murder of the Duc d'Enghien. The vicomte said that the Du_'Enghien had perished by his own magnanimity, and that there were particula_easons for Buonaparte's hatred of him.
  • "Ah, yes! Do tell us all about it, Vicomte," said Anna Pavlovna, with _leasant feeling that there was something a la Louis XV in the sound of tha_entence: "Contez nous cela, Vicomte."
  • The vicomte bowed and smiled courteously in token of his willingness t_omply. Anna Pavlovna arranged a group round him, inviting everyone to liste_o his tale.
  • "The vicomte knew the duc personally," whispered Anna Pavlovna to of th_uests. "The vicomte is a wonderful raconteur," said she to another. "Ho_vidently he belongs to the best society," said she to a third; and th_icomte was served up to the company in the choicest and most advantageou_tyle, 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 youn_rincess who was sitting some way off, the center of another group.
  • The princess smiled. She rose with the same unchanging smile with which sh_ad first entered the room—the smile of a perfectly beautiful woman. With _light rustle of her white dress trimmed with moss and ivy, with a gleam o_hite shoulders, glossy hair, and sparkling diamonds, she passed between th_en who made way for her, not looking at any of them but smiling on all, as i_raciously allowing each the privilege of admiring her beautiful figure an_hapely shoulders, back, and bosom—which in the fashion of those days wer_ery much exposed—and she seemed to bring the glamour of a ballroom with he_s she moved toward Anna Pavlovna. Helene was so lovely that not only did sh_ot show any trace of coquetry, but on the contrary she even appeared shy o_er unquestionable and all too victorious beauty. She seemed to wish, but t_e unable, to diminish its effect.
  • "How lovely!" said everyone who saw her; and the vicomte lifted his shoulder_nd dropped his eyes as if startled by something extraordinary when she too_er seat opposite and beamed upon him also with her unchanging smile.
  • "Madame, I doubt my ability before such an audience," said he, smilingl_nclining his head.
  • The princess rested her bare round arm on a little table and considered _eply unnecessary. She smilingly waited. All the time the story was being tol_he sat upright, glancing now at her beautiful round arm, altered in shape b_ts pressure on the table, now at her still more beautiful bosom, on which sh_eadjusted a diamond necklace. From time to time she smoothed the folds of he_ress, 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, an_gain 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?" sh_ent on, turning to Prince Hippolyte. "Fetch me my workbag."
  • There was a general movement as the princess, smiling and talking merrily t_veryone at once, sat down and gaily arranged herself in her seat.
  • "Now I am all right," she said, and asking the vicomte to begin, she took u_er work.
  • Prince Hippolyte, having brought the workbag, joined the circle and moving _hair close to hers seated himself beside her.
  • Le charmant Hippolyte was surprising by his extraordinary resemblance to hi_eautiful sister, but yet more by the fact that in spite of this resemblanc_e was exceedingly ugly. His features were like his sister's, but while in he_ase everything was lit up by a joyous, self-satisfied, youthful, and constan_mile of animation, and by the wonderful classic beauty of her figure, hi_ace on the contrary was dulled by imbecility and a constant expression o_ullen self-confidence, while his body was thin and weak. His eyes, nose, an_outh all seemed puckered into a vacant, wearied grimace, and his arms an_egs always fell into unnatural positions.
  • "It's not going to be a ghost story?" said he, sitting down beside th_rincess and hastily adjusting his lorgnette, as if without this instrument h_ould not begin to speak.
  • "Why no, my dear fellow," said the astonished narrator, shrugging hi_houlders.
  • "Because I hate ghost stories," said Prince Hippolyte in a tone which showe_hat 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 whethe_hat he said was very witty or very stupid. He was dressed in a dark-gree_ress coat, knee breeches of the color of cuisse de nymphe effrayee, as h_alled it, shoes, and silk stockings.
  • The vicomte told his tale very neatly. It was an anecdote, then current, t_he effect that the Duc d'Enghien had gone secretly to Paris to visi_ademoiselle George; that at her house he came upon Bonaparte, who als_njoyed the famous actress' favors, and that in his presence Napoleon happene_o fall into one of the fainting fits to which he was subject, and was thus a_he duc's mercy. The latter spared him, and this magnanimity Bonapart_ubsequently repaid by death.
  • The story was very pretty and interesting, especially at the point where th_ivals suddenly recognized one another; and the ladies looked agitated.
  • "Charming!" said Anna Pavlovna with an inquiring glance at the littl_rincess.
  • "Charming!" whispered the little princess, sticking the needle into her wor_s if to testify that the interest and fascination of the story prevented he_rom going on with it.
  • The vicomte appreciated this silent praise and smiling gratefully prepared t_ontinue, but just then Anna Pavlovna, who had kept a watchful eye on th_oung man who so alarmed her, noticed that he was talking too loudly an_ehemently with the abbe, so she hurried to the rescue. Pierre had managed t_tart a conversation with the abbe about the balance of power, and the latter,
  • evidently interested by the young man's simple-minded eagerness, wa_xplaining his pet theory. Both were talking and listening too eagerly and to_aturally, 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 lik_ussia—barbaric as she is said to be—to place herself disinterestedly at th_ead of an alliance having for its object the maintenance of the balance o_ower 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, aske_he Italian how he stood Russian climate. The Italian's face instantly change_nd assumed an offensively affected, sugary expression, evidently habitual t_im when conversing with women.
  • "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 o_eing received, that I have not yet had time to think of the climate," sai_e.
  • Not letting the abbe and Pierre escape, Anna Pavlovna, the more convenientl_o keep them under observation, brought them into the larger circle.