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By graf Leo Tolstoy
Prince Andrew looked kindly at him, yet his glance–friendly and affectionate as it was–expressed a sense of his own superiority.
“I am fond of you, especially as you are the one live man among our whole set. Yes, you’re all right! Choose what you will; it’s all the same. You’ll be all right anywhere. But look here: give up visiting those Kuragins and leading that sort of life. It suits you so badly–all this debauchery, dissipation, and the rest of it!”
“What would you have, my dear fellow?” answered Pierre, shrugging his shoulders. “Women, my dear fellow; women!”
“I don’t understand it,” replied Prince Andrew. “Women who are comme il faut, that’s a different matter; but the Kuragins’ set of women, ’women and wine’ I don’t understand!”
Pierre was staying at Prince Vasili Kuragin’s and sharing the dissipated life of his son Anatole, the son whom they were planning to reform by marrying him to Prince Andrew’s sister.
“Do you know?” said Pierre, as if suddenly struck by a happy thought, “seriously, I have long been thinking of it.... Leading such a life I can’t decide or think properly about anything. One’s head aches, and one spends all one’s money. He asked me for tonight, but I won’t go.”
“You give me your word of honor not to go?”
“On my honor!”
It was past one o’clock when Pierre left his friend. It was a cloudless, northern, summer night. Pierre took an open cab intending to drive straight home. But the nearer he drew to the house the more he felt the impossibility of going to sleep on such a night. It was light enough to see a long way in the deserted street and it seemed more like morning or evening than night. On the way Pierre remembered that Anatole Kuragin was expecting the usual set for cards that evening, after which there was generally a drinking bout, finishing with visits of a kind Pierre was very fond of.
“I should like to go to Kuragin’s,” thought he.
But he immediately recalled his promise to Prince Andrew not to go there. Then, as happens to people of weak character, he desired so passionately once more to enjoy that dissipation he was so accustomed to that he decided to go. The thought immediately occurred to him that his promise to Prince Andrew was of no account, because before he gave it he had already promised Prince Anatole to come to his gathering; “besides,” thought he, “all such ’words of honor’ are conventional things with no definite meaning, especially if one considers that by tomorrow one may be dead, or something so extraordinary may happen to one that honor and dishonor will be all the same!” Pierre often indulged in reflections of this sort, nullifying all his decisions and intentions. He went to Kuragin’s.
Reaching the large house near the Horse Guards’ barracks, in which Anatole lived, Pierre entered the lighted porch, ascended the stairs, and went in at the open door. There was no one in the anteroom; empty bottles, cloaks, and overshoes were lying about; there was a smell of alcohol, and sounds of voices and shouting in the distance.
Cards and supper were over, but the visitors had not yet dispersed. Pierre threw off his cloak and entered the first room, in which were the remains of supper. A footman, thinking no one saw him, was drinking on the sly what was left in the glasses. From the third room came sounds of laughter, the shouting of familiar voices, the growling of a bear, and general commotion. Some eight or nine young men were crowding anxiously round an open window. Three others were romping with a young bear, one pulling him by the chain and trying to set him at the others.
“I bet a hundred on Stevens!” shouted one.
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