Pierre sat opposite Dolokhov and Nicholas Rostov. As usual, he ate and dran_uch, and eagerly. But those who knew him intimately noticed that some grea_hange had come over him that day. He was silent all through dinner and looke_bout, blinking and scowling, or, with fixed eyes and a look of complet_bsent-mindedness, kept rubbing the bridge of his nose. His face was depresse_nd gloomy. He seemed to see and hear nothing of what was going on around hi_nd to be absorbed by some depressing and unsolved problem.
The unsolved problem that tormented him was caused by hints given by th_rincess, his cousin, at Moscow, concerning Dolokhov's intimacy with his wife,
and by an anonymous letter he had received that morning, which in the mea_ocular way common to anonymous letters said that he saw badly through hi_pectacles, but that his wife's connection with Dolokhov was a secret to n_ne but himself. Pierre absolutely disbelieved both the princess' hints an_he letter, but he feared now to look at Dolokhov, who was sitting opposit_im. Every time he chanced to meet Dolokhov's handsome insolent eyes, Pierr_elt something terrible and monstrous rising in his soul and turned quickly
away. Involuntarily recalling his wife's past and her relations with Dolokhov,
Pierre saw clearly that what was said in the letter might be true, or might a_east seem to be true had it not referred to his wife. He involuntaril_emembered how Dolokhov, who had fully recovered his former position after th_ampaign, had returned to Petersburg and come to him. Availing himself of hi_riendly relations with Pierre as a boon companion, Dolokhov had come straigh_o his house, and Pierre had put him up and lent him money. Pierre recalle_ow Helene had smilingly expressed disapproval of Dolokhov's living at thei_ouse, and how cynically Dolokhov had praised his wife's beauty to him an_rom that time till they came to Moscow had not left them for a day.
"Yes, he is very handsome," thought Pierre, "and I know him. It would b_articularly pleasant to him to dishonor my name and ridicule me, just becaus_ have exerted myself on his behalf, befriended him, and helped him. I kno_nd understand what a spice that would add to the pleasure of deceiving me, i_t really were true. Yes, if it were true, but I do not believe it. I have n_ight to, and can't, believe it." He remembered the expression Dolokhov's fac_ssumed in his moments of cruelty, as when tying the policeman to the bear an_ropping them into the water, or when he challenged a man to a duel withou_ny reason, or shot a post-boy's horse with a pistol. That expression wa_ften on Dolokhov's face when looking at him. "Yes, he is a bully," though_ierre, "to kill a man means nothing to him. It must seem to him that everyon_s afraid of him, and that must please him. He must think that I, too, a_fraid of him—and in fact I am afraid of him," he thought, and again he fel_omething terrible and monstrous rising in his soul. Dolokhov, Denisov, an_ostov were now sitting opposite Pierre and seemed very gay. Rostov wa_alking merrily to his two friends, one of whom was a dashing hussar and th_ther a notorious duelist and rake, and every now and then he glance_ronically at Pierre, whose preoccupied, absent-minded, and massive figure wa_ very noticeable one at the dinner. Rostov looked inimically at Pierre, firs_ecause Pierre appeared to his hussar eyes as a rich civilian, the husband o_ beauty, and in a word—an old woman; and secondly because Pierre in hi_reoccupation and absent-mindedness had not recognized Rostov and had no_esponded to his greeting. When the Emperor's health was drunk, Pierre, los_n thought, did not rise or lift his glass.
"What are you about?" shouted Rostov, looking at him in an ecstasy o_xasperation. "Don't you hear it's His Majesty the Emperor's health?"
Pierre sighed, rose submissively, emptied his glass, and, waiting till al_ere seated again, turned with his kindly smile to Rostov.
"Why, I didn't recognize you!" he said. But Rostov was otherwise engaged; h_as shouting "Hurrah!"
"Why don't you renew the acquaintance?" said Dolokhov to Rostov.
"Confound him, he's a fool!" said Rostov.
"One should make up to the husbands of pretty women," said Denisov.
Pierre did not catch what they were saying, but knew they were talking abou_im. He reddened and turned away.
"Well, now to the health of handsome women!" said Dolokhov, and with a seriou_xpression, but with a smile lurking at the corners of his mouth, he turne_ith his glass to Pierre.
"Here's to the health of lovely women, Peterkin—and their lovers!" he added.
Pierre, with downcast eyes, drank out of his glass without looking at Dolokho_r answering him. The footman, who was distributing leaflets with Kutuzov'_antata, laid one before Pierre as one of the principal guests. He was jus_oing to take it when Dolokhov, leaning across, snatched it from his hand an_egan reading it. Pierre looked at Dolokhov and his eyes dropped, th_omething terrible and monstrous that had tormented him all dinnertime ros_nd took possession of him. He leaned his whole massive body across the table.
"How dare you take it?" he shouted.
Hearing that cry and seeing to whom it was addressed, Nesvitski and th_eighbor on his right quickly turned in alarm to Bezukhov.
"Don't! Don't! What are you about?" whispered their frightened voices.
Dolokhov looked at Pierre with clear, mirthful, cruel eyes, and that smile o_is which seemed to say, "Ah! This is what I like!"
"You shan't have it!" he said distinctly.
Pale, with quivering lips, Pierre snatched the copy.
"You… ! you… scoundrel! I challenge you!" he ejaculated, and, pushing back hi_hair, he rose from the table.
At the very instant he did this and uttered those words, Pierre felt that th_uestion of his wife's guilt which had been tormenting him the whole day wa_inally and indubitably answered in the affirmative. He hated her and wa_orever sundered from her. Despite Denisov's request that he would take n_art in the matter, Rostov agreed to be Dolokhov's second, and after dinner h_iscussed the arrangements for the duel with Nesvitski, Bezukhov's second.
Pierre went home, but Rostov with Dolokhov and Denisov stayed on at the Clu_ill late, listening to the gypsies and other singers.
"Well then, till tomorrow at Sokolniki," said Dolokhov, as he took leave o_ostov in the Club porch.
"And do you feel quite calm?" Rostov asked.
"Well, you see, I'll tell you the whole secret of dueling in two words. If yo_re going to fight a duel, and you make a will and write affectionate letter_o your parents, and if you think you may be killed, you are a fool and ar_ost for certain. But go with the firm intention of killing your man a_uickly and surely as possible, and then all will be right, as our bea_untsman at Kostroma used to tell me. 'Everyone fears a bear,' he says, 'bu_hen you see one your fear's all gone, and your only thought is not to let hi_et away!' And that's how it is with me. A demain, mo_her."[](footnotes.xml#footnote_42) Next day, at eight in the morning,
Pierre and Nesvitski drove to the Sokolniki forest and found Dolokhov,
Denisov, and Rostov already there. Pierre had the air of a man preoccupie_ith considerations which had no connection with the matter in hand. Hi_aggard face was yellow. He had evidently not slept that night. He looke_bout distractedly and screwed up his eyes as if dazzled by the sun. He wa_ntirely absorbed by two considerations: his wife's guilt, of which after hi_leepless night he had not the slightest doubt, and the guiltlessness o_olokhov, who had no reason to preserve the honor of a man who was nothing t_im… . "I should perhaps have done the same thing in his place," though_ierre. "It's even certain that I should have done the same, then why thi_uel, this murder? Either I shall kill him, or he will hit me in the head, o_lbow, or knee. Can't I go away from here, run away, bury myself somewhere?"
passed through his mind. But just at moments when such thoughts occurred t_im, he would ask in a particularly calm and absent-minded way, which inspire_he respect of the onlookers, "Will it be long? Are things ready?" When al_as ready, the sabers stuck in the snow to mark the barriers, and the pistol_oaded, Nesvitski went up to Pierre. "I should not be doing my duty, Count,"
he said in timid tones, "and should not justify your confidence and the hono_ou have done me in choosing me for your second, if at this grave, this ver_rave, moment I did not tell you the whole truth. I think there is n_ufficient ground for this affair, or for blood to be shed over it… . You wer_ot right, not quite in the right, you were impetuous… " "Oh yes, it i_orribly stupid," said Pierre. "Then allow me to express your regrets, and _m sure your opponent will accept them," said Nesvitski (who like the other_oncerned in the affair, and like everyone in similar cases, did not ye_elieve that the affair had come to an actual duel). "You know, Count, it i_uch more honorable to admit one's mistake than to let matters becom_rreparable. There was no insult on either side. Allow me to convey… ." "No!
What is there to talk about?" said Pierre. "It's all the same… . Is everythin_eady?" he added. "Only tell me where to go and where to shoot," he said wit_n unnaturally gentle smile. He took the pistol in his hand and began askin_bout the working of the trigger, as he had not before held a pistol in hi_and—a fact that he did not to confess. "Oh yes, like that, I know, I onl_orgot," said he. "No apologies, none whatever," said Dolokhov to Denisov (wh_n his side had been attempting a reconciliation), and he also went up to th_ppointed place. The spot chosen for the duel was some eighty paces from th_oad, where the sleighs had been left, in a small clearing in the pine fores_overed with melting snow, the frost having begun to break up during the las_ew days. The antagonists stood forty paces apart at the farther edge of th_learing. The seconds, measuring the paces, left tracks in the deep wet sno_etween the place where they had been standing and Nesvitski's and Dolokhov'_abers, which were stuck intothe ground ten paces apart to mark the barrier.
It was thawing and misty; at forty paces' distance nothing could be seen. Fo_hree minutes all had been ready, but they still delayed and all were silent.