Chapter 6

PIERRE’S DUEL with Dolohov was smoothed over, and in spite of the Tsar’s severity in regard to duels at that time, neither the principals nor the seconds suffered for it. But the scandal of the duel, confirmed by Pierre’s rupture with his wife, made a great noise in society. Pierre had been looked upon with patronising condescension when he was an illegitimate son; he had been made much of and extolled for his virtues while he was the wealthiest match in the Russian empire; but after his marriage, when young ladies and their mothers had nothing to hope from him, he had fallen greatly in the opinion of society, especially as he had neither the wit nor the wish to ingratiate himself in public favour. Now the blame of the whole affair was thrown on him; it was said that he was insanely jealous, and subject to the same fits of blood- thirsty fury as his father had been. And when, after Pierre’s departure, Ellen returned to Petersburg, she was received by all her acquaintances not only cordially, but with a shade of deference that was a tribute to her distress. When the conversation touched upon her husband, Ellen assumed an expression of dignity, which her characteristic tact prompted her to adopt, though she had no conception of its significance. That expression suggested that she had resolved to bear her affliction without complaint, and that her husband was a cross God had laid upon her. Prince Vassily expressed his opinion more openly. He shrugged his shoulders when the conversation turned upon Pierre, and pointing to his forehead, said:

“Crackbrained, I always said so.”

“I used to say so even before,” Anna Pavlovna would say of Pierre, “at the time I said at once and before every one” (she insisted on her priority) “that he was an insane young man, corrupted by the dissolute ideas of the age. I used to say so at the time when every one was in such ecstasies over him; and he had only just come home from abroad, and do you remember at one of my soirées he thought fit to pose as a sort of Marat? And how has it ended? Even then I was against this marriage, and foretold all that has come to pass.”

Anna Pavlovna used still to give soirées on her free days as before, soirées such as only she had the gift of arranging, soirées at which were gathered “the cream of really good society, the flower of the intellectual essence of Petersburg society,” as Anna Pavlovna herself used to say. Besides this fine sifting of the society, Anna Pavlovna’s soirées were further distinguished by some new interesting person, secured by the hostess on every occasion for the entertainment of the company. Moreover, the point on the political thermometer, at which the temperature of loyal court society stood in Petersburg, was nowhere so clearly and unmistakably marked as at these soirées.

Towards the end of the year 1806, when all the melancholy details of Napoleon’s destruction of the Prussian army at Jena and Auerstadt, and the surrender of the greater number of the Prussian forts, had arrived, when our troops were already entering Prussia, and our second war with Napoleon was beginning, Anna Pavlovna was giving one of her soirées. “The cream of really good society” consisted of the fascinating and unhappy Ellen, abandoned by her husband; of Mortemart; of the fascinating Prince Ippolit, who had just come home from Vienna; of two diplomats, of the old aunt; of a young man, always referred to in that society by the designation, “a man of a great deal of merit …”; of a newly appointed maid of honour and her mother, and several other less noteworthy persons.

The novelty Anna Pavlovna was offering her guests for their entertainment that evening was Boris Drubetskoy, who had just arrived as a special messenger from the Prussian army, and was in the suite of a personage of very high rank.

What the political thermometer indicated at that soirée was something as follows: All the European rulers and generals may do their utmost to flatter Bonaparte with the object of causing me and us generally these annoyances and mortifications, but our opinion in regard to Bonaparte can undergo no change. We do not cease giving undisguised expression to our way of thinking on the subject, and can only say to the Prussian king and others: “So much the worse for you.” “Tu l’as voulu, George Dandin,” that’s all we can say. This was what the political thermometer indicated at Anna Pavlovna’s soirée. When Boris, who was to be offered up to the guests, came into the drawing-room, almost all the company had assembled,

  By PanEris using Melati.

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