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Chapter 9

  • At that time, as always happens, the highest society that met at court and a_he grand balls was divided into several circles, each with its own particula_one. The largest of these was the French circle of the Napoleonic alliance,
  • the circle of Count Rumyantsev and Caulaincourt. In this group Helene, as soo_s she had settled in Petersburg with her husband, took a very prominen_lace. She was visited by the members of the French embassy and by man_elonging to that circle and noted for their intellect and polished manners.
  • Helene had been at Erfurt during the famous meeting of the Emperors and ha_rought from there these connections with the Napoleonic notabilities. A_rfurt her success had been brilliant. Napoleon himself had noticed her in th_heater and said of her: "C'est un superb_nimal."[[58]](footnotes.xml#footnote_58) Her success as a beautiful an_legant woman did not surprise Pierre, for she had become even handsomer tha_efore. What did surprise him was that during these last two years his wif_ad succeeded in gaining the reputation "d' une femme charmante, auss_pirituelle que belle."[[59]](footnotes.xml#footnote_59) The distinguishe_rince de Ligne wrote her eight-page letters. Bilibin saved up his epigrams t_roduce them in Countess Bezukhova's presence. To be received in the Countes_ezukhova's salon was regarded as a diploma of intellect. Young men read book_efore attending Helene's evenings, to have something to say in her salon, an_ecretaries of the embassy, and even ambassadors, confided diplomatic secret_o her, so that in a way Helene was a power. Pierre, who knew she was ver_tupid, sometimes attended, with a strange feeling of perplexity and fear, he_venings and dinner parties, where politics, poetry, and philosophy wer_iscussed. At these parties his feelings were like those of a conjuror wh_lways expects his trick to be found out at any moment. But whether becaus_tupidity was just what was needed to run such a salon, or because those wh_ere deceived found pleasure in the deception, at any rate it remaine_nexposed and Helene Bezukhova's reputation as a lovely and clever woma_ecame so firmly established that she could say the emptiest and stupides_hings and everybody would go into raptures over every word of hers and loo_or a profound meaning in it of which she herself had no conception. Pierr_as just the husband needed for a brilliant society woman. He was that absent-
  • minded crank, a grand seigneur husband who was in no one's way, and far fro_poiling the high tone and general impression of the drawing room, he served,
  • by the contrast he presented to her, as an advantageous background to hi_legant and tactful wife. Pierre during the last two years, as a result of hi_ontinual absorption in abstract interests and his sincere contempt for al_lse, had acquired in his wife's circle, which did not interest him, that ai_f unconcern, indifference, and benevolence toward all, which cannot b_cquired artificially and therefore inspires involuntary respect. He entere_is wife's drawing room as one enters a theater, was acquainted wit_verybody, equally pleased to see everyone, and equally indifferent to the_ll. 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 wit_he accepted tone of the moment. But the general opinion concerning the quee_usband of "the most distinguished woman in Petersburg" was so wel_stablished that no one took his freaks seriously. Among the many young me_ho frequented her house every day, Boris Drubetskoy, who had already achieve_reat success in the service, was the most intimate friend of the Bezukho_ousehold since Helene's return from Erfurt. Helene spoke of him as "mon page"
  • and treated him like a child. Her smile for him was the same as for everybody,
  • but sometimes that smile made Pierre uncomfortable. Toward him Boris behave_ith a particularly dignified and sad deference. This shade of deference als_isturbed Pierre. He had suffered so painfully three years before from th_ortification to which his wife had subjected him that he now protecte_imself from the danger of its repetition, first by not being a husband to hi_ife, and secondly by not allowing himself to suspect. "No, now that she ha_ecome a bluestocking she has finally renounced her former infatuations," h_old himself. "There has never been an instance of a bluestocking bein_arried away by affairs of the heart"—a statement which, though gathered fro_n unknown source, he believed implicitly. Yet strange to say Boris' presenc_n his wife's drawing room (and he was almost always there) had a physica_ffect upon Pierre; it constricted his limbs and destroyed the unconsciousnes_nd freedom of his movements. "What a strange antipathy," thought Pierre, "ye_ used to like him very much." In the eyes of the world Pierre was a grea_entleman, the rather blind and absurd husband of a distinguished wife, _lever crank who did nothing but harmed nobody and was a first-rate, good-
  • natured fellow. But a complex and difficult process of internal developmen_as taking place all this time in Pierre's soul, revealing much to him an_ausing him many spiritual doubts and joys.