The Emperor of Russia had, meanwhile, been in Vilna for more than a month. reviewing troops and holding maneuvers. Nothing was ready for the war that everyone expected and to prepare for which the Emperor had come from Petersburg. There was no general plan of action. The vacillation between the various plans that were proposed had even increased after the Emperor had been at headquarters for a month. Each of the three armies had its own commander in chief, but there was no supreme commander of all the forces, and the Emperor did not assume that responsibility himself.
The longer the Emperor remained in Vilna the less did everybody- tired of waiting- prepare for the war. All the efforts of those who surrounded the sovereign seemed directed merely to making him spend his time pleasantly and forget that war was impending.
In June, after many balls and fetes given by the Polish magnates, by the courtiers, and by the Emperor himself, it occurred to one of the Polish aides-de-camp in attendance that a dinner and ball should be given for the Emperor by his aides-de-camp. This idea was eagerly received. The Emperor gave his consent. The aides-de-camp collected money by subscription. The lady who was thought to be most pleasing to the Emperor was invited to act as hostess. Count Bennigsen, being a landowner in the Vilna province, offered his country house for the fete, and the thirteenth of June was fixed for a ball, dinner, regatta, and fireworks at Zakret, Count Bennigsen's country seat.
The very day that Napoleon issued the order to cross the Niemen, and his vanguard, driving off the Cossacks, crossed the Russian frontier, Alexander spent the evening at the entertainment given by his aides-de-camp at Bennigsen's country house.
It was a gay and brilliant fete. Connoisseurs of such matters declared that rarely had so many beautiful women been assembled in one place. Countess Bezukhova was present among other Russian ladies who had followed the sovereign from Petersburg to Vilna and eclipsed the refined Polish ladies by her massive, so called Russian type of beauty. The Emperor noticed her and honored her with a dance.
Boris Drubetskoy, having left his wife in Moscow and being for the present en garcon (as he phrased it), was also there and, though not an aide-de-camp, had subscribed a large sum toward the expenses. Boris was now a rich man who had risen to high honors and no longer sought patronage but stood on an equal footing with the highest of those of his own age. He was meeting Helene in Vilna after not having seen her for a long time and did not recall the past, but as Helene was enjoying the favors of a very important personage and Boris had only recently married, they met as good friends of long standing.
At midnight dancing was still going on. Helene, not having a suitable partner, herself offered to dance the mazurka with Boris. They were the third couple. Boris, coolly looking at Helene's dazzling bare shoulders which emerged from a dark, gold-embroidered, gauze gown, talked to her of old acquaintances and at the same time, unaware of it himself and unnoticed by others, never for an instant ceased to observe the Emperor who was in the same room. The Emperor was not dancing, he stood in the doorway, stopping now one pair and now another with gracious words which he alone knew how to utter.
War and Peace -by- Leo Tolstoy