In War and Peace, Pierre has just fought the duel with Helene's lover Dolokhov and fled the city, and Helene takes an interest in Boris. That is all Tolstoy tells us except that he becomes a frequent visitor in her house – it's an unlikely pairing since Boris is also a social climber. Anyway, the next we hear she is trying to choose a marriage partner from between two very rich personages once she has divorced Pierre (whom no one can find because he has since become a prisoner of the French army while trying to assassinate Napoleon, etc.) This is the missing scene.
On Tuesday afternoon Boris Drubetskoy arrived at the townhouse of Countess Bezukhova in a foul temper. His valet had failed to properly press his waistcoat, and Boris feared that the hastily procured replacement, a light blue dress coat "en Belgique" as he insisted on calling it, made him appear to be wearing a theatrical costume.
However, when the domestique ushered him through the front gate and showed him into the Maple room where the earlier arrivals were already speaking, it was the lovely Helene herself who rose to greet him. Boris had only just made the elegant lady's acquaintance the previous Tuesday, and such a sign of favor assured him that his dress coat must surely be the height of fashion after all.
"Cher compagnon, tell me how you are. Set my mind at rest" she murmured, guiding him to a couch. Compagnon was a new word in St. Petersburg, used only by the elite.
"Ah, but can one be well when our beloved emperor Alexander himself resists the malign influence of a cough at this very moment" he replied, bowing carefully over her hand. The lovely Helene immediately agreed that there could be no enjoyment of life while the emperor' throat was so troubled.
Anna Pavlovna , maid of honor and favorite of the Empress Marya arrived from the corner where she had been pretending to read Kantemir, and sat next to Helene "And how charming and well spoken you are Boris…" commented Anna Pavlovna, as though she had been part of the conversation all along. She was cut from completing her complement by the arrival of the lovely Helen's father Prince Vasili, and a Prince Sergey Kuzmich, introduced as "a worthy and excellent man".
Small bowls of berries were placed on the huntboard in the Prussian manner, and the group fell to approving the news of the day. Prince Vasili had just been awarded the badge signifying that he was now a Gentleman of the Bedchamber through the influence of Helen's husband the Count Bezukhova. The badge was vocally admired by all, a most fit honor for such an exemplary man.
Boris found himself quite elated to be accepted into such brilliant society. Surely the important personage to whom he was an aide-de-camp would be most pleased to find out what truly good St Petersburg society thought about what Commander Kutuzov thought about the Emperor's latest diplomatic maneuvers. Perhaps he would even be asked to hold the flag when the Prince came to review the troops in May…
So charmed was Boris with this pretty picture that he almost missed a question directed to him by Prince Vasili. "Surely the raspberry is the most Russian of fruits, would you not agree?" he asked.
"Oh yes indeed," commented Boris, affecting a doleful expression so that his response could be interpreted as either sincere or sarcastic, whichever proved necessary.
"It is indeed, for red invigorates the blood!" (at the word 'blood', Anna Pavlovna gasped and pressed her hand to her heart in order to display her delicacy). "Only the traitor among us would dare consider the strawberry its equal, for la fraise retentit trop comme le Français! " Having recited the bon mot for which the story had been created, Prince Vasili leaned back in silence while the circle agreed that raspberries were a most patriotic dessert.
After the cheeses and little cakes were cleared Boris had intended to sit with these great personages in the Rose Room so as best to cement himself in their memories. But much to his delight he instead found himself walking through the orangery with the lovely Helene, her body so close that he could feel the warmth of her arm through her chemisette.
Upon reaching the little bench by the Oriental lilies, she sat, and, smoothing the delicate folds of her dress, smiled expectantly as though it had been he who had led them to this place.
"It has been a delightful evening, has it not? Delightful!" commented Boris.
"Yes, yes indeed", Helene replied, glancing down, but not before Boris had noticed the blush upon her ivory cheeks. The breath caught in Boris's throat; the image of Helen's white skin surrounded by lilies, like a perfect marble statue, the effect was indeed overwhelming. As was perfume from the heliotrope.
"I'm exceedingly glad! Delightful!" he stuttered once more.
"Boris" Helene started again, "I asked for the honor of your company tonight because I find myself in an unlucky state of affairs. One which I could only entrust to someone to whom my heart…" she again looked down.
"Dear Lady!" Boris cried throwing himself onto the little bench beside her, "Anything you desire, if I can be of any assistance at all, you have but to command me!"
With a deft hand, Helen produced a satin sachet from behind the bench, and withdrew two letters. "Here, my champion" she breathed, "Only you can deliver these letters for me. Only you can ensure my happiness!"
Each envelope was a pale rose color and deeply perfumed. In Helen's lovely flowing script the first was addressed to a grandee who occupied one of the highest posts in the Empire, the second to a young foreign prince from Vilna. "Helen, these appear to be love letters," Boris chided, but there was a new uncertain quaver to his voice that belied an unwelcome skepticism.
Helene smiled her lovely smile. "Oh what imaginings, Boris," she sighed, "I am quite a married woman. And surely you know that such is my devotion to my esteemed father I could never cause him the least hint embarrassment, despite the brute to whom I am joined by the grace of God."
Her aura of filial piety made Boris quite forget the debt Prince Vasili owed Count Bezukhov, or the reason that eminent personage was absent tonight. Truly, Helene was trapped in an unfortunate condition indeed! But even as this thought moved across his face, his mouth said, "And yet, if the worthy man whom I serve were to ever find out, Helen surely you cannot wish it of me."
Suddenly Helen stood, magnificent with outrage. "How like a man! Selfish and cruel!" she cried out. "A woman sacrifices herself, and this is her reward! I have never asked you for anything in all of our long acquaintanceship, but now I entreat you for God's sake do this thing! For me! For your country! Do it for Russia!" In a passion she turned, her beautiful white shoulders shaking with emotion.
The effect proved too strong for Boris to deny. "Darling!" he cried, dropping to his knees.
A little later on Boris left the Bezukhov household by foot, the letters nestled within his pocket portfolio. A glow suffused his young face and it was all he could do to not cry out at the beautiful sound of trumpets just beyond his hearing. What a magnificent creature was that Countess Bezukhov, and how glorious that he should be given such a vital mission! Why, news of this crucial feat might reach even the Emperor himself!
Back in the orangery Helen tidied her coiffure and checked to make sure not a flower had been disturbed. On the footpath back through the terrace garden she paused a moment in thought in front of the strawberry terrace, the young fruit just beginning to ripen.