Chapter 19

EVER SINCE THE DAY when Pierre had looked up at the comet in the sky on his way home from the Rostovs’, and recalling Natasha’s grateful look, had felt as though some new vista was opening before him, the haunting problem of the vanity and senselessness of all things earthly had ceased to torment him. That terrible question: Why? what for? which had till then haunted him in the midst of every occupation, was not now replaced by any other question, nor by an answer to the old question; its place was filled by the image of her. If he heard or talked of trivialities, or read or was told of some instance of human baseness or folly, he was not cast down as of old; he did not ask himself why people troubled, when all was so brief and uncertain. But he thought of her as he had seen her last, and all his doubts vanished; not because she had answered the questions that haunted him, but because her image lifted him instantly into another bright realm of spiritual activity, in which there could be neither right nor wrong, into a region of beauty and love which was worth living for. Whatever infamy he thought of, he said to himself, “Well, let so and so rob the state and the Tsar, while the state and the Tsar heap honours on him; but she smiled at me yesterday, and begged me to come, and I love her, and nobody will ever know it,” he thought.

Pierre still went into society, drank as much, and led the same idle and aimless life, because, apart from the hours he spent at the Rostovs’, he had to get through the rest of his time somehow, and the habits and the acquaintances he had made in Moscow drew him irresistibly into the same life. But of late, since the reports from the seat of war had become more and more disquieting, and Natasha’s health had improved, and she had ceased to call for the same tender pity, he had begun to be more and more possessed by a restlessness that he could not explain. He felt that the position he was in could not go on for long, that a catastrophe was coming that would change the whole course of his life, and he sought impatiently for signs of this impending catastrophe. One of his brother masons had revealed to Pierre the following prophecy relating to Napoleon, and taken from the Apocalypse of St. John.

In the Apocalypse, chapter thirteen, verse seventeen, it is written: “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 three-score 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.”

If the French alphabet is treated like the Hebrew system of enumeration, by which the first ten letters represent the units, and the next the tens, and so on, the letters have the following value:—


Turning out the words l’empereur Napoléon into ciphers on this system, it happens that the sum of these numbers equals 666, and Napoleon is thereby seen to be the beast prophesied in the Apocalypse. Moreover, working out in the same way the words quarante-deux, that is, the term for which the beast was permitted to continue, the sum of these numbers again equals 666, from which it is deduced that the terms of Napoleon’s power had come in 1812, when the French Emperor reached his forty-second year. This prophecy made a great impression on Pierre. He frequently asked himself what would put an end to the power of the beast, that is, of Napoleon; and he tried by the same system of turning letters into figures, and reckoning them up to find an answer to this question. He wrote down as an answer, l’empereur Alexandre? La nation russe? He reckoned out the figures, but their sum was far more or less than 666. Once he wrote down his own name “Comte Pierre Bezuhov,” but the sum of the figure was far from being right. He changed the spelling, putting s for z, added “de,” added the article “le,” and still could not obtain the desired result. Then it occurred to him that if the answer sought for were to be found in his name, his nationality ought surely to find a place in it too. He tried Le russe Besuhof, and adding up the figure made the sum 671. This was only five too much; the 5 was denoted by the letter “e,” the letter dropped in the article in the expression l’empereur Napoléon. Dropping the “e” in a similar way, though of course incorrectly, Pierre obtained the answer he sought in L’russe Besuhof, the letters of which on that system added up to 666. This discovery greatly excited him. How, by what connection, he was associated with the great event, foretold in the Apocalypse, he could not tell. But he did not for a

  By PanEris using Melati.

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