Chapter 1

AFTER HIS INTERVIEW with his wife, Pierre had set off for Petersburg. At the station of Torzhok there were no horses, or the overseer was unwilling to let him have them. Pierre had to wait. Without removing his outdoor things, he lay down on a leather sofa, in front of a round table, put up his big feet in their thick overboots on this table and sank into thought.

“Shall I bring in the trunks? Make up a bed? Will you take tea?” the valet kept asking.

Pierre made no reply, for he heard nothing and said nothing. He had been deep in thought since he left the last station, and still went on thinking of the same thing—of something so important that he did not notice what was passing around him. Far from being concerned whether he reached Petersburg sooner or later, or whether there would or would not be a place for him to rest in at this station, in comparison with the thoughts that engrossed him now, it was a matter of utter indifference to him whether he spent a few hours or the rest of his life at that station.

The overseer and his wife, his valet, and a peasant woman with Torzhok embroidery for sale, came into the room, offering their services. Without changing the position of his raised feet, Pierre gazed at them over his spectacles, and did not understand what they could want and how they all managed to live, without having solved the questions that absorbed him. These same questions had possessed his mind ever since that day when he had come back after the duel from Sokolniky and had spent that first agonising, sleepless night. But now in the solitude of his journey they seized upon him with special force. Of whatever he began thinking he came back to the same questions, which he could not answer, and from which he could not escape. It was as though the chief screw in his brain upon which his whole life rested were loose. The screw moved no forwarder, no backwarder, but still it turned, catching on nothing, always in the same groove, and there was no making it cease turning.

The overseer came in and began humbly begging his excellency to wait only a couple of hours, after which he would (come what might of it) let his excellency have the special mail service horses. The overseer was unmistakably lying, with the sole aim of getting an extra tip from the traveller. “Was that good or bad?” Pierre wondered. “For me good, for the next traveller bad, and for himself inevitable because he has nothing to eat; he said that an officer had thrashed him for it. And the officer thrashed him because he had to travel in haste. And I shot Dolohov because I considered myself injured. Louis XVI. was executed because they considered him to be a criminal, and a year later his judges were killed too for something. What is wrong? What is right? What must one love, what must one hate? What is life for, and what am I? What is life? What is death? What force controls it all?” he asked himself. And there was no answer to one of these questions, except one illogical reply that was in no way an answer to any of them. That reply was: “One dies and it’s all over. One dies and finds it all out or ceases asking.” But dying too was terrible.

The Torzhok pedlar woman in a whining voice proffered her wares, especially some goatskin slippers. “I have hundreds of roubles I don’t know what to do with, and she’s standing in her torn cloak looking timidly at me,” thought Pierre. “And what does she want the money for? As though the money could give her one hairsbreadth of happiness, of peace of soul. Is there anything in the world that can make her and me less enslaved to evil and to death? Death, which ends all, and must come to-day or to- morrow—which beside eternity is the same as an instant’s time.” And again he turned the screw that did not bite in anything, and the screw still went on turning in the same place.

His servant handed him a half-cut volume of a novel in the form of letters by Madame Suza. He began reading of the sufferings and the virtuous struggles of a certain “Amélie de Mansfeld.” “And what did she struggle against her seducer for?” he thought, “when she loved him. God could not have put in her heart an impulse that was against His will. My wife—as she was once—didn’t struggle, and perhaps she was right. Nothing has been discovered,” Pierre said to himself again, “nothing has been invented. We can only know that we know nothing. And that’s the highest degree of human wisdom.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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