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War And Peace 203


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his wife, the valet, and a peasant woman selling Torzhok embroidery came into the room offering their services. Without changing his careless attitude, Pierre looked at them over his spectacles unable to understand what they wanted or how they could go on living without having solved the problems that so absorbed him. He had been engrossed by the same thoughts ever since the day he returned from Sokolniki after the duel and had spent that first agonizing, sleepless night. But now, in the solitude of the journey, they seized him with special force. No matter what he thought about, he always returned to these same questions which he could not solve and yet could not cease to ask himself. It was as if the thread of the chief screw which held his life together were stripped, so that the screw could not get in or out, but went on turning uselessly in the same place. The postmaster came in and began obsequiously to beg his excellency to wait only two hours, when, come what might, he would let his excellency have the courier horses. It was plain that he was lying and only wanted to get more money from the traveler. "Is this good or bad?" Pierre asked himself. "It is good for me, bad for another traveler, and for himself its unavoidable, because he needs money for food; the man said an officer had once given him a thrashing for letting a private traveler have the courier horses. But the officer thrashed him because he had to get on as quickly as possible. And I," continued Pierre, "shot Dolokhov because I considered myself injured, and Louis XVI was executed because they considered him a criminal, and a year later they executed those who executed him--also for some reason. What is bad? What is good? What should one love and what hate? What does one live for? And what am I? What is life, and what is death? What power governs all?" There was no answer to any of these questions, except one, and that not a logical answer and not at all a reply to them. The answer was: "Youll die and all will end. Youll die and know all, or cease asking." But dying was also dreadful. The Torzhok peddler woman, in a whining voice, went on offering her wares, especially a pair of goatskin slippers. "I have hundreds of rubles I dont know what to do with, and she stands in her tattered cloak looking timidly at me," he thought. "And what does she want the money for? As if that money could add a hairs breadth to happiness or peace of mind. Can anything in the world make her or me less a prey to evil and death?--death which ends all and must come today or tomorrow--at any rate, in an instant as compared with eternity." And again he twisted the screw with the stripped thread, and again it turned uselessly in the same place. His servant handed him a half-cut novel, in the form of letters, by Madame de Souza. He began reading about the sufferings and virtuous struggles of a certain Emilie de Mansfeld. "And why did she resist her seducer when she loved him?" he thought. "God could not have put into her heart an impulse that was against His will. My wife--as she once was--did not struggle, and perhaps she was right. Nothing has been found out, nothing discovered," Pierre again said to himself. "All we can know is that we know nothing. And thats the height of human wisdom." Everything within and around him seemed confused, senseless, and repellent. Yet in this very repugnance to all his circumstances Pierre found a kind of tantalizing satisfaction. "I make bold to ask your excellency to move a little for this gentleman," said the postmaster, entering the room followed by another traveler, also detained for lack of horses. The newcomer was a short, large-boned, yellow-faced, wrinkled old man, with gray bushy eyebrows overhanging bright eyes of an indefinite grayish color. Pierre took his feet off the table, stood up, and lay down on a bed that had been got ready for him, glancing now and then at the newcomer, who, with a gloomy and tired face, was wearily taking off his wraps with the aid of his servant, and not looking at Pierre. With a pair of felt boots on his thin bony legs, and keeping on a worn, nankeen-covered, sheepskin coat, the traveler sat down on the sofa, leaned back his big head with its broad temples and close-cropped hair, and

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