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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Eight: 1811-12 - Chapter 1
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War And Peace - Book Eight: 1811-12 - Chapter 1 Post by :aikpin Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :1847

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War And Peace - Book Eight: 1811-12 - Chapter 1

After Prince Andrews engagement to Natasha, Pierre without any
apparent cause suddenly felt it impossible to go on living as
before. Firmly convinced as he was of the truths revealed to him by
his benefactor, and happy as he had been in perfecting his inner
man, to which he had devoted himself with such ardor- all the zest
of such a life vanished after the engagement of Andrew and Natasha and
the death of Joseph Alexeevich, the news of which reached him almost
at the same time. Only the skeleton of life remained: his house, a
brilliant wife who now enjoyed the favors of a very important
personage, acquaintance with all Petersburg, and his court service
with its dull formalities. And this life suddenly seemed to Pierre
unexpectedly loathsome. He ceased keeping a diary, avoided the company
of the Brothers, began going to the Club again, drank a great deal,
and came once more in touch with the bachelor sets, leading such a
life that the Countess Helene thought it necessary to speak severely
to him about it. Pierre felt that she right, and to avoid compromising
her went away to Moscow.

In Moscow as soon as he entered his huge house in which the faded
and fading princesses still lived, with its enormous retinue; as
soon as, driving through the town, he saw the Iberian shrine with
innumerable tapers burning before the golden covers of the icons,
the Kremlin Square with its snow undisturbed by vehicles, the sleigh
drivers and hovels of the Sivtsev Vrazhok, those old Moscovites who
desired nothing, hurried nowhere, and were ending their days
leisurely; when he saw those old Moscow ladies, the Moscow balls,
and the English Club, he felt himself at home in a quiet haven. In
Moscow he felt at peace, at home, warm and dirty as in an old dressing

Moscow society, from the old women down to the children, received
Pierre like a long-expected guest whose place was always ready
awaiting him. For Moscow society Pierre was the nicest, kindest,
most intellectual, merriest, and most magnanimous of cranks, a
heedless, genial nobleman of the old Russian type. His purse was
always empty because it was open to everyone.

Benefit performances, poor pictures, statues, benevolent
societies, gypsy choirs, schools, subscription dinners, sprees,
Freemasons, churches, and books- no one and nothing met with a refusal
from him, and had it not been for two friends who had borrowed large
sums from him and taken him under their protection, he would have
given everything away. There was never a dinner or soiree at the
Club without him. As soon as he sank into his place on the sofa
after two bottles of Margaux he was surrounded, and talking,
disputing, and joking began. When there were quarrels, his kindly
smile and well-timed jests reconciled the antagonists. The Masonic
dinners were dull and dreary when he was not there.

When after a bachelor supper he rose with his amiable and kindly
smile, yielding to the entreaties of the festive company to drive
off somewhere with them, shouts of delight and triumph arose among the
young men. At balls he danced if a partner was needed. Young ladies,
married and unmarried, liked him because without making love to any of
them, he was equally amiable to all, especially after supper. "Il
est charmant; il n'a pas de sexe,"* they said of him.

*"He is charming; he has no sex."

Pierre was one of those retired gentlemen-in-waiting of whom there
were hundreds good-humoredly ending their days in Moscow.

How horrified he would have been seven years before, when he first
arrived from abroad, had he been told that there was no need for him
to seek or plan anything, that his rut had long been shaped, eternally
predetermined, and that wriggle as he might, he would be what all in
his position were. He could not have believed it! Had he not at one
time longed with all his heart to establish a republic in Russia; then
himself to be a Napoleon; then to be a philosopher; and then a
strategist and the conqueror of Napoleon? Had he not seen the
possibility of, and passionately desired, the regeneration of the
sinful human race, and his own progress to the highest degree of
perfection? Had he not established schools and hospitals and liberated
his serfs?

But instead of all that- here he was, the wealthy husband of an
unfaithful wife, a retired gentleman-in-waiting, fond of eating and
drinking and, as he unbuttoned his waistcoat, of abusing the
government a bit, a member of the Moscow English Club, and a universal
favorite in Moscow society. For a long time he could not reconcile
himself to the idea that he was one of those same retired Moscow
gentlemen-in-waiting he had so despised seven years before.

Sometimes he consoled himself with the thought that he was only
living this life temporarily; but then he was shocked by the thought
of how many, like himself, had entered that life and that Club
temporarily, with all their teeth and hair, and had only left it
when not a single tooth or hair remained.

In moments of pride, when he thought of his position it seemed to
him that he was quite different and distinct from those other
retired gentlemen-in-waiting he had formerly despised: they were
empty, stupid, contented fellows, satisfied with their position,
"while I am still discontented and want to do something for mankind.
But perhaps all these comrades of mine struggled just like me and
sought something new, a path in life of their own, and like me were
brought by force of circumstances, society, and race- by that
elemental force against which man is powerless- to the condition I
am in," said he to himself in moments of humility; and after living
some time in Moscow he no longer despised, but began to grow fond
of, to respect, and to pity his comrades in destiny, as he pitied

Pierre longer suffered moments of despair, hypochondria, and disgust
with life, but the malady that had formerly found expression in such
acute attacks was driven inwards and never left him for a moment.
"What for? Why? What is going on in the world?" he would ask himself
in perplexity several times a day, involuntarily beginning to
reflect anew on the meaning of the phenomena of life; but knowing by
experience that there were no answers to these questions he made haste
to turn away from them, and took up a book, or hurried of to the
Club or to Apollon Nikolaevich's, to exchange the gossip of the town.

"Helene, who has never cared for anything but her own body and is
one of the stupidest women in the world," thought Pierre, "is regarded
by people as the acme of intelligence and refinement, and they pay
homage to her. Napoleon Bonaparte was despised by all as long as he
was great, but now that he has become a wretched comedian the
Emperor Francis wants to offer him his daughter in an illegal
marriage. The Spaniards, through the Catholic clergy, offer praise
to God for their victory over the French on the fourteenth of June,
and the French, also through the Catholic clergy, offer praise because
on that same fourteenth of June they defeated the Spaniards. My
brother Masons swear by the blood that they are ready to sacrifice
everything for their neighbor, but they do not give a ruble each to
the collections for the poor, and they intrigue, the Astraea Lodge
against the Manna Seekers, and fuss about an authentic Scotch carpet
and a charter that nobody needs, and the meaning of which the very man
who wrote it does not understand. We all profess the Christian law
of forgiveness of injuries and love of our neighbors, the law in honor
of which we have built in Moscow forty times forty churches- but
yesterday a deserter was knouted to death and a minister of that
same law of love and forgiveness, a priest, gave the soldier a cross
to kiss before his execution." So thought Pierre, and the whole of
this general deception which everyone accepts, accustomed as he was to
it, astonished him each time as if it were something new. "I
understand the deception and confusion," he thought, "but how am I
to tell them all that I see? I have tried, and have always found
that they too in the depths of their souls understand it as I do,
and only try not to see it. So it appears that it must be so! But I-
what is to become of me?" thought he. He had the unfortunate
capacity many men, especially Russians, have of seeing and believing
in the possibility of goodness and truth, but of seeing the evil and
falsehood of life too clearly to be able to take a serious part in it.
Every sphere of work was connected, in his eyes, with evil and
deception. Whatever he tried to be, whatever he engaged in, the evil
and falsehood of it repulsed him and blocked every path of activity.
Yet he had to live and to find occupation. It was too dreadful to be
under the burden of these insoluble problems, so he abandoned
himself to any distraction in order to forget them. He frequented
every kind of society, drank much, bought pictures, engaged in
building, and above all- read.

He read, and read everything that came to hand. On coming home,
while his valets were still taking off his things, he picked up a book
and began to read. From reading he passed to sleeping, from sleeping
to gossip in drawing rooms of the Club, from gossip to carousals and
women; from carousals back to gossip, reading, and wine. Drinking
became more and more a physical and also a moral necessity. Though the
doctors warned him that with his corpulence wine was dangerous for
him, he drank a great deal. He was only quite at ease when having
poured several glasses of wine mechanically into his large mouth he
felt a pleasant warmth in his body, an amiability toward all his
fellows, and a readiness to respond superficially to every idea
without probing it deeply. Only after emptying a bottle or two did
he feel dimly that the terribly tangled skein of life which previously
had terrified him was not as dreadful as he had thought. He was always
conscious of some aspect of that skein, as with a buzzing in his
head after dinner or supper he chatted or listened to conversation
or read. But under the influence of wine he said to himself: "It
doesn't matter. I'll get it unraveled. I have a solution ready, but
have no time now- I'll think it all out later on!" But the later on
never came.

In the morning, on an empty stomach, all the old questions
appeared as insoluble and terrible as ever, and Pierre hastily
picked up a book, and if anyone came to see him he was glad.

Sometimes he remembered how he had heard that soldiers in war when
entrenched under the enemy's fire, if they have nothing to do, try
hard to find some occupation the more easily to bear the danger. To
Pierre all men seemed like those soldiers, seeking refuge from life:
some in ambition, some in cards, some in framing laws, some in
women, some in toys, some in horses, some in politics, some in
sport, some in wine, and some in governmental affairs. "Nothing is
trivial, and nothing is important, it's all the same- only to save
oneself from it as best one can," thought Pierre. "Only not to see it,
that dreadful it!"

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War And Peace - Book Eight: 1811-12 - Chapter 2 War And Peace - Book Eight: 1811-12 - Chapter 2

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War And Peace - Book Seven: 1810-11 - Chapter 13 War And Peace - Book Seven: 1810-11 - Chapter 13

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