War and Peace By Leo Tolstoy Book III: Chapters 1–5

"I am asking you when you last heard from Bolkonski," repeated Prince Vasili a third time."How absent-minded you are, my dear fellow."

Prince Vasili smiled, and Pierre noticed that everyone was smiling at him and Helene."Well, what of it, if you all know it?" thought Pierre."What of it? It's the truth!" and he himself smiled his gentle childlike smile, and Helene smiled too.

"When did you get the letter? Was it from Olmutz?" repeated Prince Vasili, who pretended to want to know this in order to settle a dispute.

"How can one talk or think of such trifles?" thought Pierre.

"Yes, from Olmutz," he answered, with a sigh.

After supper Pierre with his partner followed the others into the drawing room. The guests began to disperse, some without taking leave of Helene. Some, as if unwilling to distract her from an important occupation, came up to her for a moment and made haste to go away, refusing to let her see them off. The diplomatist preserved a mournful silence as he left the drawing room. He pictured the vanity of his diplomatic career in comparison with Pierre's happiness. The old general grumbled at his wife when she asked how his leg was."Oh, the old fool," he thought."That Princess Helene will be beautiful still when she's fifty."

"I think I may congratulate you," whispered Anna Pavlovna to the old princess, kissing her soundly."If I hadn't this headache I'd have stayed longer."

The old princess did not reply, she was tormented by jealousy of her daughter's happiness.

While the guests were taking their leave Pierre remained for a long time alone with Helene in the little drawing room where they were sitting. He had often before, during the last six weeks, remained alone with her, but had never spoken to her of love. Now he felt that it was inevitable, but he could not make up his mind to take the final step. He felt ashamed; he felt that he was occupying someone else's place here beside Helene."This happiness is not for you," some inner voice whispered to him."This happiness is for those who have not in them what there is in you."

But, as he had to say something, he began by asking her whether she was satisfied with the party. She replied in her usual simple manner that this name day of hers had been one of the pleasantest she had ever had.

Some of the nearest relatives had not yet left. They were sitting in the large drawing room. Prince Vasili came up to Pierre with languid footsteps. Pierre rose and said it was getting late. Prince Vasili gave him a look of stern inquiry, as though what Pierre had just said was so strange that one could not take it in. But then the expression of severity changed, and he drew Pierre's hand downwards, made him sit down, and smiled affectionately.

"Well, Lelya?" he asked, turning instantly to his daughter and addressing her with the careless tone of habitual tenderness natural to parents who have petted their children from babyhood, but which Prince Vasili had only acquired by imitating other parents.

And he again turned to Pierre.

"Sergey Kuzmich — From all sides-" he said, unbuttoning the top button of his waistcoat.

Pierre smiled, but his smile showed that he knew it was not the story about Sergey Kuzmich that interested Prince Vasili just then, and Prince Vasili saw that Pierre knew this. He suddenly muttered something and went away. It seemed to Pierre that even the prince was disconcerted. The sight of the discomposure of that old man of the world touched Pierre: he looked at Helene and she too seemed disconcerted, and her look seemed to say:"Well, it is your own fault."

"The step must be taken but I cannot, I cannot!" thought Pierre, and he again began speaking about indifferent matters, about Sergey Kuzmich, asking what the point of the story was as he had not heard it properly. Helene answered with a smile that she too had missed it.

When Prince Vasili returned to the drawing room, the princess, his wife, was talking in low tones to the elderly lady about Pierre.

"Of course, it is a very brilliant match, but happiness, my dear . . ."

"Marriages are made in heaven," replied the elderly lady.

Prince Vasili passed by, seeming not to hear the ladies, and sat down on a sofa in a far corner of the room. He closed his eyes and seemed to be dozing. His head sank forward and then he roused himself.

"Aline," he said to his wife,"go and see what they are about."

The princess went up to the door, passed by it with a dignified and indifferent air, and glanced into the little drawing room. Pierre and Helene still sat talking just as before.

"Still the same," she said to her husband.

Prince Vasili frowned, twisting his mouth, his cheeks quivered and his face assumed the coarse, unpleasant expression peculiar to him. Shaking himself, he rose, threw back his head, and with resolute steps went past the ladies into the little drawing room. With quick steps he went joyfully up to Pierre. His face was so unusually triumphant that Pierre rose in alarm on seeing it.

"Thank God!" said Prince Vasili."My wife has told me everything!" (He put one arm around Pierre and the other around his daughter.) —"My dear boy . . . Lelya . . . I am very pleased." (His voice trembled.)"I loved your father . . . and she will make you a good wife . . . God bless you! . . ."

He embraced his daughter, and then again Pierre, and kissed him with his malodorous mouth. Tears actually moistened his cheeks.

"Princess, come here!" he shouted.

The old princess came in and also wept. The elderly lady was using her handkerchief too. Pierre was kissed, and he kissed the beautiful Helene's hand several times. After a while they were left alone again.

"All this had to be and could not be otherwise," thought Pierre,"so it is useless to ask whether it is good or bad. It is good because it's definite and one is rid of the old tormenting doubt." Pierre held the hand of his betrothed in silence, looking at her beautiful bosom as it rose and fell.

"Helene!" he said aloud and paused.

"Something special is always said in such cases," he thought, but could not remember what it was that people say. He looked at her face. She drew nearer to him. Her face flushed.

"Oh, take those off . . . those . . ." she said, pointing to his spectacles.

Pierre took them off, and his eyes, besides the strange look eyes have from which spectacles have just been removed, had also a frightened and inquiring look. He was about to stoop over her hand and kiss it, but with a rapid, almost brutal movement of her head, she intercepted his lips and met them with her own. Her face struck Pierre, by its altered, unpleasantly excited expression.

"It is too late now, it's done; besides I love her," thought Pierre.

"Je vous aime!"* he said, remembering what has to be said at such moments: but his words sounded so weak that he felt ashamed of himself.

*"I love you."

Six weeks later he was married, and settled in Count Bezukhov's large, newly furnished Petersburg house, the happy possessor, as people said, of a wife who was a celebrated beauty and of millions of money.

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