Page:Pierre and Luce.djvu/12

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opened, he tried hard not to see, he tried not to breathe, he tried not to live. The heart of this young fellow of eighteen, still almost a child, was full of a dull despair. Above his head, above the shadows of these long vaulted ways, of this rat-run through which the monster of metal whirled, all swarming with human masks—was Paris, the snow, the cold January darkness, the nightmare of life and of death—the war.

The war! Four years ago it was, the war had come to stay. It had weighed heavily on his adolescent years. It had caught him by surprise in that morally critical period when the growing boy, disquieted by the awakening of his feelings, discovers with a shock the existence of blind, bestial, crushing forces in life whose prey he is and that without having asked to live at all. And if he happens to be delicate in character, tender of heart and frail as to body in the way Pierre was, he experiences a disgust and horror which he does not dare confide to others for all these brutalities, these nastinesses, all this nonsense of fruitful and