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War And Peace 540


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occurred to him of taking part in the popular defense of Moscow which he knew was projected. And with that object he had asked Gerasim to get him a peasants coat and a pistol, confiding to him his intentions of remaining in Joseph Alexeevichs house and keeping his name secret. Then during the first day spent in inaction and solitude (he tried several times to fix his attention on the Masonic manuscripts, but was unable to do so) the idea that had previously occurred to him of the cabalistic significance of his name in connection with Bonapartes more than once vaguely presented itself. But the idea that he, Lrusse Besuhof, was destined to set a limit to the power of the Beast was as yet only one of the fancies that often passed through his mind and left no trace behind. When, having bought the coat merely with the object of taking part among the people in the defense of Moscow, Pierre had met the Rostovs and Natasha had said to him: "Are you remaining in Moscow?... How splendid!" the thought flashed into his mind that it really would be a good thing, even if Moscow were taken, for him to remain there and do what he was predestined to do. Next day, with the sole idea of not sparing himself and not lagging in any way behind them, Pierre went to the Three Hills gate. But when he returned to the house convinced that Moscow would not be defended, he suddenly felt that what before had seemed to him merely a possibility had now become absolutely necessary and inevitable. He must remain in Moscow, concealing his name, and must meet Napoleon and kill him, and either perish or put an end to the misery of all Europe--which it seemed to him was solely due to Napoleon. Pierre knew all the details of the attempt on Bonapartes life in 1809 by a German student in Vienna, and knew that the student had been shot. And the risk to which he would expose his life by carrying out his design excited him still more. Two equally strong feelings drew Pierre irresistibly to this purpose. The first was a feeling of the necessity of sacrifice and suffering in view of the common calamity, the same feeling that had caused him to go to Mozhaysk on the twenty-fifth and to make his way to the very thick of the battle and had now caused him to run away from his home and, in place of the luxury and comfort to which he was accustomed, to sleep on a hard sofa without undressing and eat the same food as Gerasim. The other was that vague and quite Russian feeling of contempt for everything conventional, artificial, and human--for everything the majority of men regard as the greatest good in the world. Pierre had first experienced this strange and fascinating feeling at the Sloboda Palace, when he had suddenly felt that wealth, power, and life--all that men so painstakingly acquire and guard--if it has any worth has so only by reason of the joy with which it can all be renounced. It was the feeling that induces a volunteer recruit to spend his last penny on drink, and a drunken man to smash mirrors or glasses for no apparent reason and knowing that it will cost him all the money he possesses: the feeling which causes a man to perform actions which from an ordinary point of view are insane, to test, as it were, his personal power and strength, affirming the existence of a higher, nonhuman criterion of life. From the very day Pierre had experienced this feeling for the first time at the Sloboda Palace he had been continuously under its influence, but only now found full satisfaction for it. Moreover, at this moment Pierre was supported in his design and prevented from renouncing it by what he had already done in that direction. If he were now to leave Moscow like everyone else, his flight from home, the peasant coat, the pistol, and his announcement to the Rostovs that he would remain in Moscow would all become not merely meaningless but contemptible and ridiculous, and to this Pierre was very sensitive. Pierres physical condition, as is always the case, corresponded to his mental state. The unaccustomed coarse food, the vodka he drank during those days, the absence of wine and cigars, his dirty unchanged linen, two almost sleepless nights passed on a short sofa without bedding--all this kept him in a state of excitement bordering on insanity. It was two oclock

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