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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Nine: 1812 - Chapter 19
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War And Peace - Book Nine: 1812 - Chapter 19 Post by :Kingsplanet Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :1700

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War And Peace - Book Nine: 1812 - Chapter 19

From the day when Pierre, after leaving the Rostovs' with
Natasha's grateful look fresh in his mind, had gazed at the comet that
seemed to be fixed in the sky and felt that something new was
appearing on his own horizon- from that day the problem of the
vanity and uselessness of all earthly things, that had incessantly
tormented him, no longer presented itself. That terrible question
"Why?" "Wherefore?" which had come to him amid every occupation, was
now replaced, not by another question or by a reply to the former
question, but by her image. When he listened to, or himself took
part in, trivial conversations, when he read or heard of human
baseness or folly, he was not horrified as formerly, and did not ask
himself why men struggled so about these things when all is so
transient and incomprehensible- but he remembered her as he had last
seen her, and all his doubts vanished- not because she had answered
the questions that had haunted him, but because his conception of
her transferred him instantly to another, a brighter, realm of
spiritual activity in which no one could be justified or guilty- a
realm of beauty and love which it was worth living for. Whatever
worldly baseness presented itself to him, he said to himself:

"Well, supposing N. N. swindled the country and the Tsar, and the
country and the Tsar confer honors upon him, what does that matter?
She smiled at me yesterday and asked me to come again, and I love her,
and no one will ever know it." And his soul felt calm and peaceful.

Pierre still went into society, drank as much and led the same
idle and dissipated life, because besides the hours he spent at the
Rostovs' there were other hours he had to spend somehow, and the
habits and acquaintances he had made in Moscow formed a current that
bore him along irresistibly. But latterly, when more and more
disquieting reports came from the seat of war and Natasha's health
began to improve and she no longer aroused in him the former feeling
of careful pity, an ever-increasing restlessness, which he could not
explain, took possession of him. He felt that the condition he was
in could not continue long, that a catastrophe was coming which
would change his whole life, and he impatiently sought everywhere
for signs of that approaching catastrophe. One of his brother Masons
had revealed to Pierre the following prophecy concerning Napoleon,
drawn from the Revelation of St. John.

In chapter 13, verse 18, of the Apocalypse, it is said:


Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number
of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six
hundred threescore and six.

And in the fifth verse of the same chapter:


And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and
blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two
months.


The French alphabet, written out with the same numerical values as
the Hebrew, in which the first nine letters denote units and the
others tens, will have the following significance:

a b c d e f g h i k
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
l m n o p q r s
20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90
t u v w x y
100 110 120 130 140 150
z
160


Writing the words L'Empereur Napoleon in numbers, it appears that
the sum of them is 666, and that Napoleon therefore the beast foretold
in the Apocalypse. Moreover, by applying the same system to the
words quarante-deux,* which was the term allowed to the beast that
"spoke great things and blasphemies," the same number 666 was
obtained; from which it followed that the limit fixed for Napoleon's
power had come in the year 1812 when the French emperor was forty-two.
This prophecy pleased Pierre very much and he often asked himself what
would put an end to the power of the beast, that is, of Napoleon,
and tried by the same system of using letters as numbers and adding
them up, to find an answer to the question that engrossed him. He
wrote the words L'Empereur Alexandre, La nation russe and added up
their numbers, but the sums were either more or less than 666. Once
when making such calculations he wrote down his own name in French,
Comte Pierre Besouhoff, but the sum of the numbers did not come right.
Then he changed the spelling, substituting a z for the s and adding de
and the article le, still without obtaining the desired result. Then
it occurred to him: if the answer to the question were contained in
his name, his nationality would also be given in the answer. So he
wrote Le russe Besuhof and adding up the numbers got 671. This was
only five too much, and five was represented by e, the very letter
elided from the article le before the word Empereur. By omitting the
e, though incorrectly, Pierre got the answer he sought. L'russe
Besuhof made 666. This discovery excited him. How, or by what means,
he was connected with the great event foretold in the Apocalypse he
did not know, but he did not doubt that connection for a moment. His
love for Natasha, Antichrist, Napoleon, the invasion, the comet,
666, L'Empereur Napoleon, and L'russe Besuhof- all this had to
mature and culminate, to lift him out of that spellbound, petty sphere
of Moscow habits in which he felt himself held captive and lead him to
a great achievement and great happiness.


*Forty-two.

 

On the eve of the Sunday when the special prayer was read, Pierre
had promised the Rostovs to bring them, from Count Rostopchin whom
he knew well, both the appeal to the people and the news from the
army. In the morning, when he went to call at Rostopchin's he met
there a courier fresh from the army, an acquaintance of his own, who
often danced at Moscow balls.

"Do, please, for heaven's sake, relieve me of something!" said the
courier. "I have a sackful of letters to parents."

Among these letters was one from Nicholas Rostov to his father.
Pierre took that letter, and Rostopchin also gave him the Emperor's
appeal to Moscow, which had just been printed, the last army orders,
and his own most recent bulletin. Glancing through the army orders,
Pierre found in one of them, in the lists of killed, wounded, and
rewarded, the name of Nicholas Rostov, awarded a St. George's Cross of
the Fourth Class for courage shown in the Ostrovna affair, and in
the same order the name of Prince Andrew Bolkonski, appointed to the
command of a regiment of Chasseurs. Though he did not want to remind
the Rostovs of Bolkonski, Pierre could not refrain from making them
happy by the news of their son's having received a decoration, so he
sent that printed army order and Nicholas' letter to the Rostovs,
keeping the appeal, the bulletin, and the other orders to take with
him when he went to dinner.

His conversation with Count Rostopchin and the latter's tone of
anxious hurry, the meeting with the courier who talked casually of how
badly things were going in the army, the rumors of the discovery of
spies in Moscow and of a leaflet in circulation stating that
Napoleon promised to be in both the Russian capitals by the autumn,
and the talk of the Emperor's being expected to arrive next day- all
aroused with fresh force that feeling of agitation and expectation
in Pierre which he had been conscious of ever since the appearance
of the comet, and especially since the beginning of the war.

He had long been thinking of entering the army and would have done
so had he not been hindered, first, by his membership of the Society
of Freemasons to which he was bound by oath and which preached
perpetual peace and the abolition of war, and secondly, by the fact
that when he saw the great mass of Muscovites who had donned uniform
and were talking patriotism, he somehow felt ashamed to take the step.
But the chief reason for not carrying out his intention to enter the
army lay in the vague idea that he was L'russe Besuhof who had the
number of the beast, 666; that his part in the great affair of setting
a limit to the power of the beast that spoke great and blasphemous
things had been predestined from eternity, and that therefore he ought
not to undertake anything, but wait for what was bound to come to
pass.

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A few intimate friends were dining with the Rostovs that day, asusual on Sundays.Pierre came early so as to find them alone.He had grown so stout this year that he would have been abnormal hadhe not been so tall, so broad of limb, and so strong that he carriedhis bulk with evident ease.He went up the stairs, puffing and muttering something. His coachmandid not even ask whether he was to wait. He knew that when hismaster was at the Rostovs' he stayed till midnight. The Rostovs'footman rushed eagerly forward to help him off with his cloak and takehis hat and stick.
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At the beginning of July more and more disquieting reports about thewar began to spread in Moscow; people spoke of an appeal by theEmperor to the people, and of his coming himself from the army toMoscow. And as up to the eleventh of July no manifesto or appeal hadbeen received, exaggerated reports became current about them and aboutthe position of Russia. It was said that the Emperor was leaving thearmy because it was in danger, it was said that Smolensk hadsurrendered, that Napoleon had an army of a million and only a miraclecould save Russia.On the eleventh of July, which was
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