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War And Peace 186


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Why did I say Je vous aime* to her, which was a lie, and worse than a lie? I am guilty and must endure... what? A slur on my name? A misfortune for life? Oh, thats nonsense," he thought. "The slur on my name and honor--thats all apart from myself. *I love you. "Louis XVI was executed because they said he was dishonorable and a criminal," came into Pierres head, "and from their point of view they were right, as were those too who canonized him and died a martyrs death for his sake. Then Robespierre was beheaded for being a despot. Who is right and who is wrong? No one! But if you are alive--live: tomorrow youll die as I might have died an hour ago. And is it worth tormenting oneself, when one has only a moment of life in comparison with eternity?" But at the moment when he imagined himself calmed by such reflections, she suddenly came into his mind as she was at the moments when he had most strongly expressed his insincere love for her, and he felt the blood rush to his heart and had again to get up and move about and break and tear whatever came to his hand. "Why did I tell her that Je vous aime?" he kept repeating to himself. And when he had said it for the tenth time, Molibres words: "Mais que diable alloit-il faire dans cette galere?" occurred to him, and he began to laugh at himself. In the night he called his valet and told him to pack up to go to Petersburg. He could not imagine how he could speak to her now. He resolved to go away next day and leave a letter informing her of his intention to part from her forever. Next morning when the valet came into the room with his coffee, Pierre was lying asleep on the ottoman with an open book in his hand. He woke up and looked round for a while with a startled expression, unable to realize where he was. "The countess told me to inquire whether your excellency was at home," said the valet. But before Pierre could decide what answer he would send, the countess herself in a white satin dressing gown embroidered with silver and with simply dressed hair (two immense plaits twice round her lovely head like a coronet) entered the room, calm and majestic, except that there was a wrathful wrinkle on her rather prominent marble brow. With her imperturbable calm she did not begin to speak in front of the valet. She knew of the duel and had come to speak about it. She waited till the valet had set down the coffee things and left the room. Pierre looked at her timidly over his spectacles, and like a hare surrounded by hounds who lays back her ears and continues to crouch motionless before her enemies, he tried to continue reading. But feeling this to be senseless and impossible, he again glanced timidly at her. She did not sit down but looked at him with a contemptuous smile, waiting for the valet to go. "Well, whats this now? What have you been up to now, I should like to know?" she asked sternly. "I? What have I...?" stammered Pierre. "So it seems youre a hero, eh? Come now, what was this duel about? What is it meant to prove? What? I ask you." Pierre turned over heavily on the ottoman and opened his mouth, but could not reply. "If you wont answer, Ill tell you..." Helene went on. "You believe everything youre told. You were told..." Helene laughed, "that Dolokhov was my lover," she said in French with her coarse plainness of speech, uttering the word amant as casually as any other word, "and you believed it! Well, what have you proved? What does this duel prove? That youre a fool, que vous etes un sot, but everybody knew that. What will be the result? That I shall be the laughingstock of all Moscow, that everyone will say that you, drunk and not knowing what you were about, challenged a man you are jealous of without cause." Helene raised her voice and became more and more excited, "A man whos a better man than you in every way..." "Hm... Hm...!" growled Pierre, frowning without looking at her, and not moving a muscle. "And how could you believe he was my lover? Why? Because I like his company? If you were cleverer and more agreeable, I should prefer yours." "Dont speak to me... I beg you," muttered Pierre hoarsely. "Why shouldnt

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