Chapter 5

“WELL, let us begin,” said Dolohov.

“To be sure,” said Pierre, still with the same smile.

A feeling of dread was in the air. It was obvious that the affair that had begun so lightly could not now be in any way turned back, that it was going forward of itself, independently of men’s will, and must run its course. Denisov was the first to come forward to the barrier and pronounce the words:

“Since the antagonists refuse all reconciliation, would it not be as well to begin? Take your pistols, and at the word ‘three’ begin to advance together. O … one! Two! Three! …” Denisov shouted angrily, and he walked away from the barrier. Both walked along the trodden tracks closer and closer together, beginning to recognise one another in the mist. The combatants had the right to fire when they chose as they approached the barrier. Dolohov walked slowly, not lifting his pistol, and looking intently with his clear, shining eyes into the face of his antagonist. His mouth wore, as always, the semblance of a smile.

“So when I like, I can fire,” said Pierre, and at the word three, he walked with rapid steps forward, straying off the beaten track and stepping over the untrodden snow. Pierre held his pistol at full length in his right hand, obviously afraid of killing himself with that pistol. His left arm he studiously held behind him, because he felt inclined to use it to support his right arm, and he knew that was not allowed. After advancing six paces, and getting off the track into the snow, Pierre looked about under his feet, glancing rapidly again at Dolohov, and stretching out his finger, as he had been shown, fired. Not at all expecting so loud a report, Pierre started at his own shot, then smiled at his own sensation and stood still. The smoke, which was made thicker by the fog, hindered him from seeing for the first moment; but the other shot that he was expecting did not follow. All that could be heard were Dolohov’s rapid footsteps, and his figure came into view through the smoke. With one hand he was clutching at his left side, the other was clenched on the lower pistol. His face was pale. Rostov was running up and saying something to him.

“N…no,” Dolohov muttered through his teeth, “no, it’s not over”; and struggling on a few sinking, staggering steps up to the sword, he sank on to the snow beside it. His left hand was covered with blood, he rubbed it on his coat and leaned upon it. His face was pale, frowning and trembling.

“Co…” Dolohov began, but he could not at once articulate the words: “come up,” he said, with an effort. Pierre, hardly able to restrain his sobs, ran towards Dolohov, and would have crossed the space that separated the barriers, when Dolohov cried: “To the barrier!” and Pierre, grasping what was wanted, stood still just at the sword. Only ten paces divided them. Dolohov putting his head down, greedily bit at the snow, lifted his head again, sat up, tried to get on his legs and sat down, trying to find a secure centre of gravity. He took a mouthful of the cold snow, and sucked it; his lips quivered, but still he smiled; his eyes glittered with the strain and exasperation of the struggle with his failing forces. He raised the pistol and began taking aim.

“Sideways, don’t expose yourself to the pistol,” said Nesvitsky.

“Don’t face it!” Denisov could not help shouting, though it was to an antagonist.

With his gentle smile of sympathy and remorse, Pierre stood with his legs and arms straddling helplessly, and his broad chest directly facing Dolohov, and looked at him mournfully. Denisov, Rostov, and Nesvitsky screwed up their eyes. At the same instant they heard a shot and Dolohov’s wrathful cry.

“Missed!” shouted Dolohov, and he dropped helplessly, face downwards, in the snow. Pierre clutched at his head, and turning back, walked into the wood, off the path in the snow, muttering aloud incoherent words.

“Stupid…stupid! Death…lies…” he kept repeating, scowling. Nesvitsky stopped him and took him home.

Rostov and Denisov got the wounded Dolohov away.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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