BOOK ONE: 1805
3. CHAPTER III
"Come over here, Helene, dear," said Anna Pavlovna to the
beautiful young princess who was sitting some way off, the center of
The princess smiled. She rose with the same unchanging smile with
which she had first entered the room- the smile of a perfectly
beautiful woman. With a slight rustle of her white dress trimmed
with moss and ivy, with a gleam of white shoulders, glossy hair, and
sparkling diamonds, she passed between the men who made way for her,
not looking at any of them but smiling on all, as if graciously
allowing each the privilege of admiring her beautiful figure and
shapely shoulders, back, and bosom- which in the fashion of those days
were very much exposed- and she seemed to bring the glamour of a
ballroom with her as she moved toward Anna Pavlovna. Helene was so
lovely that not only did she not show any trace of coquetry, but on
the contrary she even appeared shy of her unquestionable and all too
victorious beauty. She seemed to wish, but to be unable, to diminish
"How lovely!" said everyone who saw her; and the vicomte lifted
his shoulders and dropped his eyes as if startled by something
extraordinary when she took her seat opposite and beamed upon him also
with her unchanging smile.
"Madame, I doubt my ability before such an audience," said he,
smilingly inclining his head.
The princess rested her bare round arm on a little table and
considered a reply unnecessary. She smilingly waited. All the time the
story was being told she sat upright, glancing now at her beautiful
round arm, altered in shape by its pressure on the table, now at her
still more beautiful bosom, on which she readjusted a diamond
necklace. From time to time she smoothed the folds of her dress, 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, and again 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?" she went on, turning to Prince Hippolyte. "Fetch me my workbag."