“No. Give me the book,” said the stranger.
The servant handed him a book which Pierre took to be a devotional work, and the traveler became absorbed in it. Pierre looked at him. All at once the stranger closed the book, putting in a marker, and again, leaning with his arms on the back of the sofa, sat in his former position with his eyes shut. Pierre looked at him and had not time to turn away when the old man, opening his eyes, fixed his steady and severe gaze straight on Pierre’s face.
Pierre felt confused and wished to avoid that look, but the bright old eyes attracted him irresistibly.
“I have the pleasure of addressing Count Bezúkhov, if I am not mistaken,” said the stranger in a deliberate and loud voice.
Pierre looked silently and inquiringly at him over his spectacles.
“I have heard of you, my dear sir,” continued the stranger, “and of your misfortune.” He seemed to emphasize the last word, as if to say—“Yes, misfortune! Call it what you please, I know that what happened to you in Moscow was a misfortune.”—“I regret it very much, my dear sir.”
Pierre flushed and, hurriedly putting his legs down from the bed, bent forward toward the old man with a forced and timid smile.
“I have not referred to this out of curiosity, my dear sir, but for greater reasons.”
He paused, his gaze still on Pierre, and moved aside on the sofa by way of inviting the other to take a seat beside him. Pierre felt reluctant to enter into conversation with this old man, but, submitting to him involuntarily, came up and sat down beside him.
“You are unhappy, my dear sir,” the stranger continued. “You are young and I am old. I should like to help you as far as lies in my power.”
“Oh, yes!” said Pierre, with a forced smile. “I am very grateful to you. Where are you traveling from?”
The stranger’s face was not genial, it was even cold and severe, but in spite of this, both the face and words of his new acquaintance were irresistibly attractive to Pierre.
“But if for any reason you don’t feel inclined to talk to me,” said the old man, “say so, my dear sir.” And he suddenly smiled, in an unexpected and tenderly paternal way.
“Oh no, not at all! On the contrary, I am very glad to make your acquaintance,” said Pierre. And again, glancing at the stranger’s hands, he looked more closely at the ring, with its skull—a Masonic sign.
“Allow me to ask,” he said, “are you a Mason?”
“Yes, I belong to the Brotherhood of the Freemasons,” said the stranger, looking deeper and deeper into Pierre’s eyes. “And in their name and my own I hold out a brotherly hand to you.”
“I am afraid,” said Pierre, smiling, and wavering between the confidence the personality of the Freemason inspired in him and his own habit of ridiculing the Masonic beliefs—“I am afraid I am very far from understanding—how am I to put it?—I am afraid my way of looking at the world is so opposed to yours that we shall not understand one another.”
“I know your outlook,” said the Mason, “and the view of life you mention, and which you think is the result of your own mental efforts, is the one held by the majority of people, and is the invariable fruit of pride, indolence, and ignorance. Forgive me, my dear sir, but if I had not known it I should not have addressed you. Your view of life is a regrettable delusion.”
“Just as I may suppose you to be deluded,” said Pierre, with a faint smile.
“I should never dare to say that I know the truth,” said the Mason, whose words struck Pierre more and more by their precision and firmness. “No one can attain to truth by himself. Only by laying stone on stone with the cooperation of all, by the millions of generations from our forefather Adam to our own times, is that temple reared which is to be a worthy dwelling place of the Great God,” he added, and closed his eyes.
“I ought to tell you that I do not believe... do not believe in God,” said Pierre, regretfully and with an effort, feeling it essential to speak the whole truth.
The Mason looked intently at Pierre and smiled as a rich man with millions in hand might smile at a poor fellow who told him that he, poor man, had not the five rubles that would make him happy.
“Yes, you do not know Him, my dear sir,” said the Mason. “You cannot know Him. You do not know Him and that is why you are unhappy.”
“Yes, yes, I am unhappy,” assented Pierre. “But what am I to do?”
“You know Him not, my dear sir, and so you are very unhappy. You do not know Him, but He is here, He is in me, He is in my words, He is in thee, and even in those blasphemous words thou hast just uttered!” pronounced the Mason in a stern and tremulous voice.
He paused and sighed, evidently trying to calm himself.
“If He were not,” he said quietly, “you and I would not be speaking of Him, my dear sir. Of what, of whom, are we speaking? Whom hast thou denied?” he suddenly asked with exulting austerity and authority in his voice. “Who invented Him, if He did not exist? Whence came thy conception of the existence of such an incomprehensible Being? didst thou, and why did the whole world, conceive the idea of the existence of such an incomprehensible Being, a Being all-powerful, eternal, and infinite in all His attributes?...”
He stopped and remained silent for a long time.
Pierre could not and did not wish to break this silence.
“He exists, but to understand Him is hard,” the Mason began again, looking not at Pierre but straight before him, and turning the leaves of his book with his old hands which from excitement he could not keep still. “If it were a man whose existence thou didst doubt I could bring him to thee, could take him by the hand and show him to thee. But how can I, an insignificant mortal, show His omnipotence, His infinity, and all His mercy to one who is blind, or who shuts his eyes that he may not see or understand Him and may not see or understand his own vileness and sinfulness?” He paused again. “Who art thou? Thou dreamest that thou art wise because thou couldst utter those blasphemous words,” he went on, with a somber and scornful smile. “And thou art more foolish and unreasonable than a little child, who, playing with the parts of a skillfully made watch, dares to say that, as he does not understand its use, he does not believe in the master who made it. To know Him is hard.... For ages, from our forefather Adam to our own day, we labor to attain that knowledge and are still infinitely far from our aim; but in our lack of understanding we see only our weakness and His greatness....”
Pierre listened with swelling heart, gazing into the Mason’s face with shining eyes, not interrupting or questioning him, but believing with his whole soul what the stranger said. Whether he accepted the wise reasoning contained in the Mason’s words, or believed as a child believes, in the speaker’s tone of conviction and earnestness, or the tremor of the speaker’s voice—which sometimes almost broke—or those brilliant aged eyes grown old in this conviction, or the calm firmness and certainty of his vocation, which radiated from his whole being (and which struck Pierre especially by contrast with his own dejection and hopelessness)—at any rate, Pierre longed with his whole soul to believe and he did believe, and felt a joyful sense of comfort, regeneration, and return to life.
“He is not to be apprehended by reason, but by life,” said the Mason.
“I do not understand,” said Pierre, feeling with dismay doubts reawakening. He was afraid of any want of clearness, any weakness, in the Mason’s arguments; he dreaded not to be able to believe in him. “I don’t understand,” he said, “how it is that the mind of man cannot attain the knowledge of which you speak.”
The Mason smiled with his gentle fatherly smile.
“The highest wisdom and truth are like the purest liquid we may wish to imbibe,” he said. “Can I receive that pure liquid into an impure vessel and judge of its purity? Only by the inner purification of myself can I retain in some degree of purity the liquid I receive.”
“Yes, yes, that is so,” said Pierre joyfully.
“The highest wisdom is not founded on reason alone, not on those worldly sciences of physics, history, chemistry, and the like, into which intellectual knowledge is divided. The highest wisdom is one. The highest wisdom has but one science—the science of the whole—the science explaining the whole creation and man’s place in it. To receive that science it is necessary to purify and renew one’s inner self, and so before one can know, it is necessary to believe and to perfect one’s self. And to attain this end, we have the light called conscience that God has implanted in our souls.”
“Yes, yes,” assented Pierre.
“Look then at thy inner self with the eyes of the spirit, and ask thyself whether thou art content with thyself. What hast thou attained relying on reason only? What art thou? You are young, you are rich, you are clever, you are well educated. And what have you done with all these good gifts? Are you content with yourself and with your life?”
“No, I hate my life,” Pierre muttered, wincing.
“Thou hatest it. Then change it, purify thyself; and as thou art purified, thou wilt gain wisdom. Look at your life, my dear sir. How have you spent it? In riotous orgies and debauchery, receiving everything from society and giving nothing in return. You have become the possessor of wealth. How have you used it? What have you done for your neighbor? Have you ever thought of your tens of thousands of slaves? Have you helped them physically and morally? No! You have profited by their toil to lead a profligate life. That is what you have done. Have you chosen a post in which you might be of service to your neighbor? No! You have spent your life in idleness. Then you married, my dear sir—took on yourself responsibility for the guidance of a young woman; and what have you done? You have not helped her to find the way of truth, my dear sir, but have thrust her into an abyss of deceit and misery. A man offended you and you shot him, and you say you do not know God and hate your life. There is nothing strange in that, my dear sir!”
After these words, the Mason, as if tired by his long discourse, again leaned his arms on the back of the sofa and closed his eyes. Pierre looked at that aged, stern, motionless, almost lifeless face and moved his lips without uttering a sound. He wished to say, “Yes, a vile, idle, vicious life!” but dared not break the silence.
The Mason cleared his throat huskily, as old men do, and called his servant.
“How about the horses?” he asked, without looking at Pierre.
“The exchange horses have just come,” answered the servant. “Will you not rest here?”
“No, tell them to harness.”
“Can he really be going away leaving me alone without having told me all, and without promising to help me?” thought Pierre, rising with downcast head; and he began to pace the room, glancing occasionally at the Mason. “Yes, I never thought of it, but I have led a contemptible and profligate life, though I did not like it and did not want to,” thought Pierre. “But this man knows the truth and, if he wished to, could disclose it to me.”
Pierre wished to say this to the Mason, but did not dare to. The traveler, having packed his things with his practiced hands, began fastening his coat. When he had finished, he turned to Bezúkhov, and said in a tone of indifferent politeness:
“Where are you going to now, my dear sir?”
“I?... I’m going to Petersburg,” answered Pierre, in a childlike, hesitating voice. “I thank you. I agree with all you have said. But do not suppose me to be so bad. With my whole soul I wish to be what you would have me be, but I have never had help from anyone.... But it is I, above all, who am to blame for everything. Help me, teach me, and perhaps I may...”
Pierre could not go on. He gulped and turned away.
The Mason remained silent for a long time, evidently considering.
“Help comes from God alone,” he said, “but such measure of help as our Order can bestow it will render you, my dear sir. You are going to Petersburg. Hand this to Count Willarski” (he took out his notebook and wrote a few words on a large sheet of paper folded in four). “Allow me to give you a piece of advice. When you reach the capital, first of all devote some time to solitude and self-examination and do not resume your former way of life. And now I wish you a good journey, my dear sir,” he added, seeing that his servant had entered... “and success.”
The traveler was Joseph Alexéevich Bazdéev, as Pierre saw from the postmaster’s book. Bazdéev had been one of the best-known Freemasons and Martinists, even in Novíkov’s time. For a long while after he had gone, Pierre did not go to bed or order horses but paced up and down the room, pondering over his vicious past, and with a rapturous sense of beginning anew pictured to himself the blissful, irreproachable, virtuous future that seemed to him so easy. It seemed to him that he had been vicious only because he had somehow forgotten how good it is to be virtuous. Not a trace of his former doubts remained in his soul. He firmly believed in the possibility of the brotherhood of men united in the aim of supporting one another in the path of virtue, and that is how Freemasonry presented itself to him.
On reaching Petersburg Pierre did not let anyone know of his arrival, he went nowhere and spent whole days in reading Thomas à Kempis, whose book had been sent him by someone unknown. One thing he continually realized as he read that book: the joy, hitherto unknown to him, of believing in the possibility of attaining perfection, and in the possibility of active brotherly love among men, which Joseph Alexéevich had revealed to him. A week after his arrival, the young Polish count, Willarski, whom Pierre had known slightly in Petersburg society, came into his room one evening in the official and ceremonious manner in which Dólokhov’s second had called on him, and, having closed the door behind him and satisfied himself that there was nobody else in the room, addressed Pierre.
“I have come to you with a message and an offer, Count,” he said without sitting down. “A person of very high standing in our Brotherhood has made application for you to be received into our Order before the usual term and has proposed to me to be your sponsor. I consider it a sacred duty to fulfill that person’s wishes. Do you wish to enter the Brotherhood of Freemasons under my sponsorship?”
The cold, austere tone of this man, whom he had almost always before met at balls, amiably smiling in the society of the most brilliant women, surprised Pierre.
“Yes, I do wish it,” said he.
Willarski bowed his head.
“One more question, Count,” he said, “which I beg you to answer in all sincerity—not as a future Mason but as an honest man: have you renounced your former convictions—do you believe in God?”
“Yes... yes, I believe in God,” he said.
“In that case...” began Willarski, but Pierre interrupted him.
“Yes, I do believe in God,” he repeated.
“In that case we can go,” said Willarski. “My carriage is at your service.”
Willarski was silent throughout the drive. To Pierre’s inquiries as to what he must do and how he should answer, Willarski only replied that brothers more worthy than he would test him and that Pierre had only to tell the truth.
Having entered the courtyard of a large house where the Lodge had its headquarters, and having ascended a dark staircase, they entered a small well-lit anteroom where they took off their cloaks without the aid of a servant. From there they passed into another room. A man in strange attire appeared at the door. Willarski, stepping toward him, said something to him in French in an undertone and then went up to a small wardrobe in which Pierre noticed garments such as he had never seen before. Having taken a kerchief from the cupboard, Willarski bound Pierre’s eyes with it and tied it in a knot behind, catching some hairs painfully in the knot. Then he drew his face down, kissed him, and taking him by the hand led him forward. The hairs tied in the knot hurt Pierre and there were lines of pain on his face and a shamefaced smile. His huge figure, with arms hanging down and with a puckered, though smiling face, moved after Willarski with uncertain, timid steps.
Having led him about ten paces, Willarski stopped.
“Whatever happens to you,” he said, “you must bear it all manfully if you have firmly resolved to join our Brotherhood.” (Pierre nodded affirmatively.) “When you hear a knock at the door, you will uncover your eyes,” added Willarski. “I wish you courage and success,” and, pressing Pierre’s hand, he went out.
Left alone, Pierre went on smiling in the same way. Once or twice he shrugged his shoulders and raised his hand to the kerchief, as if wishing to take it off, but let it drop again. The five minutes spent with his eyes bandaged seemed to him an hour. His arms felt numb, his legs almost gave way, it seemed to him that he was tired out. He experienced a variety of most complex sensations. He felt afraid of what would happen to him and still more afraid of showing his fear. He felt curious to know what was going to happen and what would be revealed to him; but most of all, he felt joyful that the moment had come when he would at last start on that path of regeneration and on the actively virtuous life of which he had been dreaming since he met Joseph Alexéevich. Loud knocks were heard at the door. Pierre took the bandage off his eyes and glanced around him. The room was in black darkness, only a small lamp was burning inside something white. Pierre went nearer and saw that the lamp stood on a black table on which lay an open book. The book was the Gospel, and the white thing with the lamp inside was a human skull with its cavities and teeth. After reading the first words of the Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God,” Pierre went round the table and saw a large open box filled with something. It was a coffin with bones inside. He was not at all surprised by what he saw. Hoping to enter on an entirely new life quite unlike the old one, he expected everything to be unusual, even more unusual than what he was seeing. A skull, a coffin, the Gospel—it seemed to him that he had expected all this and even more. Trying to stimulate his emotions he looked around. “God, death, love, the brotherhood of man,” he kept saying to himself, associating these words with vague yet joyful ideas. The door opened and someone came in.
By the dim light, to which Pierre had already become accustomed, he saw a rather short man. Having evidently come from the light into the darkness, the man paused, then moved with cautious steps toward the table and placed on it his small leather-gloved hands.
This short man had on a white leather apron which covered his chest and part of his legs; he had on a kind of necklace above which rose a high white ruffle, outlining his rather long face which was lit up from below.
“For what have you come hither?” asked the newcomer, turning in Pierre’s direction at a slight rustle made by the latter. “Why have you, who do not believe in the truth of the light and who have not seen the light, come here? What do you seek from us? Wisdom, virtue, enlightenment?”
At the moment the door opened and the stranger came in, Pierre felt a sense of awe and veneration such as he had experienced in his boyhood at confession; he felt himself in the presence of one socially a complete stranger, yet nearer to him through the brotherhood of man. With bated breath and beating heart he moved toward the Rhetor (by which name the brother who prepared a seeker for entrance into the Brotherhood was known). Drawing nearer, he recognized in the Rhetor a man he knew, Smolyanínov, and it mortified him to think that the newcomer was an acquaintance—he wished him simply a brother and a virtuous instructor. For a long time he could not utter a word, so that the Rhetor had to repeat his question.
“Yes... I... I... desire regeneration,” Pierre uttered with difficulty.
“Very well,” said Smolyanínov, and went on at once: “Have you any idea of the means by which our holy Order will help you to reach your aim?” said he quietly and quickly.
“I... hope... for guidance... help... in regeneration,” said Pierre, with a trembling voice and some difficulty in utterance due to his excitement and to being unaccustomed to speak of abstract matters in Russian.
“What is your conception of Freemasonry?”
“I imagine that Freemasonry is the fraternity and equality of men who have virtuous aims,” said Pierre, feeling ashamed of the inadequacy of his words for the solemnity of the moment, as he spoke. “I imagine...”
“Good!” said the Rhetor quickly, apparently satisfied with this answer. “Have you sought for means of attaining your aim in religion?”
“No, I considered it erroneous and did not follow it,” said Pierre, so softly that the Rhetor did not hear him and asked him what he was saying. “I have been an atheist,” answered Pierre.
“You are seeking for truth in order to follow its laws in your life, therefore you seek wisdom and virtue. Is that not so?” said the Rhetor, after a moment’s pause.
“Yes, yes,” assented Pierre.
The Rhetor cleared his throat, crossed his gloved hands on his breast, and began to speak.
“Now I must disclose to you the chief aim of our Order,” he said, “and if this aim coincides with yours, you may enter our Brotherhood with profit. The first and chief object of our Order, the foundation on which it rests and which no human power can destroy, is the preservation and handing on to posterity of a certain important mystery... which has come down to us from the remotest ages, even from the first man—a mystery on which perhaps the fate of mankind depends. But since this mystery is of such a nature that nobody can know or use it unless he be prepared by long and diligent self-purification, not everyone can hope to attain it quickly. Hence we have a secondary aim, that of preparing our members as much as possible to reform their hearts, to purify and enlighten their minds, by means handed on to us by tradition from those who have striven to attain this mystery, and thereby to render them capable of receiving it.
“By purifying and regenerating our members we try, thirdly, to improve the whole human race, offering it in our members an example of piety and virtue, and thereby try with all our might to combat the evil which sways the world. Think this over and I will come to you again.”
“To combat the evil which sways the world...” Pierre repeated, and a mental image of his future activity in this direction rose in his mind. He imagined men such as he had himself been a fortnight ago, and he addressed an edifying exhortation to them. He imagined to himself vicious and unfortunate people whom he would assist by word and deed, imagined oppressors whose victims he would rescue. Of the three objects mentioned by the Rhetor, this last, that of improving mankind, especially appealed to Pierre. The important mystery mentioned by the Rhetor, though it aroused his curiosity, did not seem to him essential, and the second aim, that of purifying and regenerating himself, did not much interest him because at that moment he felt with delight that he was already perfectly cured of his former faults and was ready for all that was good.
Half an hour later, the Rhetor returned to inform the seeker of the seven virtues, corresponding to the seven steps of Solomon’s temple, which every Freemason should cultivate in himself. These virtues were: 1. Discretion, the keeping of the secrets of the Order. 2. Obedience to those of higher ranks in the Order. 3. Morality. 4. Love of mankind. 5. Courage. 6. Generosity. 7. The love of death.
“In the seventh place, try, by the frequent thought of death,” the Rhetor said, “to bring yourself to regard it not as a dreaded foe, but as a friend that frees the soul grown weary in the labors of virtue from this distressful life, and leads it to its place of recompense and peace.”
“Yes, that must be so,” thought Pierre, when after these words the Rhetor went away, leaving him to solitary meditation. “It must be so, but I am still so weak that I love my life, the meaning of which is only now gradually opening before me.” But five of the other virtues which Pierre recalled, counting them on his fingers, he felt already in his soul: courage, generosity, morality, love of mankind, and especially obedience—which did not even seem to him a virtue, but a joy. (He now felt so glad to be free from his own lawlessness and to submit his will to those who knew the indubitable truth.) He forgot what the seventh virtue was and could not recall it.
The third time the Rhetor came back more quickly and asked Pierre whether he was still firm in his intention and determined to submit to all that would be required of him.
“I am ready for everything,” said Pierre.
“I must also inform you,” said the Rhetor, “that our Order delivers its teaching not in words only but also by other means, which may perhaps have a stronger effect on the sincere seeker after wisdom and virtue than mere words. This chamber with what you see therein should already have suggested to your heart, if it is sincere, more than words could do. You will perhaps also see in your further initiation a like method of enlightenment. Our Order imitates the ancient societies that explained their teaching by hieroglyphics. A hieroglyph,” said the Rhetor, “is an emblem of something not cognizable by the senses but which possesses qualities resembling those of the symbol.”
Pierre knew very well what a hieroglyph was, but dared not speak. He listened to the Rhetor in silence, feeling from all he said that his ordeal was about to begin.
“If you are resolved, I must begin your initiation,” said the Rhetor coming closer to Pierre. “In token of generosity I ask you to give me all your valuables.”
“But I have nothing here,” replied Pierre, supposing that he was asked to give up all he possessed.
“What you have with you: watch, money, rings....”
Pierre quickly took out his purse and watch, but could not manage for some time to get the wedding ring off his fat finger. When that had been done, the Rhetor said:
“In token of obedience, I ask you to undress.”
Pierre took off his coat, waistcoat, and left boot according to the Rhetor’s instructions. The Mason drew the shirt back from Pierre’s left breast, and stooping down pulled up the left leg of his trousers to above the knee. Pierre hurriedly began taking off his right boot also and was going to tuck up the other trouser leg to save this stranger the trouble, but the Mason told him that was not necessary and gave him a slipper for his left foot. With a childlike smile of embarrassment, doubt, and self-derision, which appeared on his face against his will, Pierre stood with his arms hanging down and legs apart, before his brother Rhetor, and awaited his further commands.
“And now, in token of candor, I ask you to reveal to me your chief passion,” said the latter.
“My passion! I have had so many,” replied Pierre.
“That passion which more than all others caused you to waver on the path of virtue,” said the Mason.
Pierre paused, seeking a reply.
“Wine? Gluttony? Idleness? Laziness? Irritability? Anger? Women?” He went over his vices in his mind, not knowing to which of them to give the pre-eminence.
“Women,” he said in a low, scarcely audible voice.
The Mason did not move and for a long time said nothing after this answer. At last he moved up to Pierre and, taking the kerchief that lay on the table, again bound his eyes.
“For the last time I say to you—turn all your attention upon yourself, put a bridle on your senses, and seek blessedness, not in passion but in your own heart. The source of blessedness is not without us but within....”
Pierre had already long been feeling in himself that refreshing source of blessedness which now flooded his heart with glad emotion.
Soon after this there came into the dark chamber to fetch Pierre, not the Rhetor but Pierre’s sponsor, Willarski, whom he recognized by his voice. To fresh questions as to the firmness of his resolution Pierre replied: “Yes, yes, I agree,” and with a beaming, childlike smile, his fat chest uncovered, stepping unevenly and timidly in one slippered and one booted foot, he advanced, while Willarski held a sword to his bare chest. He was conducted from that room along passages that turned backwards and forwards and was at last brought to the doors of the Lodge. Willarski coughed, he was answered by the Masonic knock with mallets, the doors opened before them. A bass voice (Pierre was still blindfolded) questioned him as to who he was, when and where he was born, and so on. Then he was again led somewhere still blindfolded, and as they went along he was told allegories of the toils of his pilgrimage, of holy friendship, of the Eternal Architect of the universe, and of the courage with which he should endure toils and dangers. During these wanderings, Pierre noticed that he was spoken of now as the “Seeker,” now as the “Sufferer,” and now as the “Postulant,” to the accompaniment of various knockings with mallets and swords. As he was being led up to some object he noticed a hesitation and uncertainty among his conductors. He heard those around him disputing in whispers and one of them insisting that he should be led along a certain carpet. After that they took his right hand, placed it on something, and told him to hold a pair of compasses to his left breast with the other hand and to repeat after someone who read aloud an oath of fidelity to the laws of the Order. The candles were then extinguished and some spirit lighted, as Pierre knew by the smell, and he was told that he would now see the lesser light. The bandage was taken off his eyes and, by the faint light of the burning spirit, Pierre, as in a dream, saw several men standing before him, wearing aprons like the Rhetor’s and holding swords in their hands pointed at his breast. Among them stood a man whose white shirt was stained with blood. On seeing this, Pierre moved forward with his breast toward the swords, meaning them to pierce it. But the swords were drawn back from him and he was at once blindfolded again.
“Now thou hast seen the lesser light,” uttered a voice. Then the candles were relit and he was told that he would see the full light; the bandage was again removed and more than ten voices said together: “Sic transit gloria mundi.”
Pierre gradually began to recover himself and looked about at the room and at the people in it. Round a long table covered with black sat some twelve men in garments like those he had already seen. Some of them Pierre had met in Petersburg society. In the President’s chair sat a young man he did not know, with a peculiar cross hanging from his neck. On his right sat the Italian abbé whom Pierre had met at Anna Pávlovna’s two years before. There were also present a very distinguished dignitary and a Swiss who had formerly been tutor at the Kurágins’. All maintained a solemn silence, listening to the words of the President, who held a mallet in his hand. Let into the wall was a star-shaped light. At one side of the table was a small carpet with various figures worked upon it, at the other was something resembling an altar on which lay a Testament and a skull. Round it stood seven large candlesticks like those used in churches. Two of the brothers led Pierre up to the altar, placed his feet at right angles, and bade him lie down, saying that he must prostrate himself at the Gates of the Temple.
“He must first receive the trowel,” whispered one of the brothers.
“Oh, hush, please!” said another.
Pierre, perplexed, looked round with his shortsighted eyes without obeying, and suddenly doubts arose in his mind. “Where am I? What am I doing? Aren’t they laughing at me? Shan’t I be ashamed to remember this?” But these doubts only lasted a moment. Pierre glanced at the serious faces of those around, remembered all he had already gone through, and realized that he could not stop halfway. He was aghast at his hesitation and, trying to arouse his former devotional feeling, prostrated himself before the Gates of the Temple. And really, the feeling of devotion returned to him even more strongly than before. When he had lain there some time, he was told to get up, and a white leather apron, such as the others wore, was put on him: he was given a trowel and three pairs of gloves, and then the Grand Master addressed him. He told him that he should try to do nothing to stain the whiteness of that apron, which symbolized strength and purity; then of the unexplained trowel, he told him to toil with it to cleanse his own heart from vice, and indulgently to smooth with it the heart of his neighbor. As to the first pair of gloves, a man’s, he said that Pierre could not know their meaning but must keep them. The second pair of man’s gloves he was to wear at the meetings, and finally of the third, a pair of women’s gloves, he said: “Dear brother, these woman’s gloves are intended for you too. Give them to the woman whom you shall honor most of all. This gift will be a pledge of your purity of heart to her whom you select to be your worthy helpmeet in Masonry.” And after a pause, he added: “But beware, dear brother, that these gloves do not deck hands that are unclean.” While the Grand Master said these last words it seemed to Pierre that he grew embarrassed. Pierre himself grew still more confused, blushed like a child till tears came to his eyes, began looking about him uneasily, and an awkward pause followed.
This silence was broken by one of the brethren, who led Pierre up to the rug and began reading to him from a manuscript book an explanation of all the figures on it: the sun, the moon, a hammer, a plumb line, a trowel, a rough stone and a squared stone, a pillar, three windows, and so on. Then a place was assigned to Pierre, he was shown the signs of the Lodge, told the password, and at last was permitted to sit down. The Grand Master began reading the statutes. They were very long, and Pierre, from joy, agitation, and embarrassment, was not in a state to understand what was being read. He managed to follow only the last words of the statutes and these remained in his mind.
“In our temples we recognize no other distinctions,” read the Grand Master, “but those between virtue and vice. Beware of making any distinctions which may infringe equality. Fly to a brother’s aid whoever he may be, exhort him who goeth astray, raise him that falleth, never bear malice or enmity toward thy brother. Be kindly and courteous. Kindle in all hearts the flame of virtue. Share thy happiness with thy neighbor, and may envy never dim the purity of that bliss. Forgive thy enemy, do not avenge thyself except by doing him good. Thus fulfilling the highest law thou shalt regain traces of the ancient dignity which thou hast lost.”
He finished and, getting up, embraced and kissed Pierre, who, with tears of joy in his eyes, looked round him, not knowing how to answer the congratulations and greetings from acquaintances that met him on all sides. He acknowledged no acquaintances but saw in all these men only brothers, and burned with impatience to set to work with them.
The Grand Master rapped with his mallet. All the Masons sat down in their places, and one of them read an exhortation on the necessity of humility.
The Grand Master proposed that the last duty should be performed, and the distinguished dignitary who bore the title of “Collector of Alms” went round to all the brothers. Pierre would have liked to subscribe all he had, but fearing that it might look like pride subscribed the same amount as the others.
The meeting was at an end, and on reaching home Pierre felt as if he had returned from a long journey on which he had spent dozens of years, had become completely changed, and had quite left behind his former habits and way of life.
The day after he had been received into the Lodge, Pierre was sitting at home reading a book and trying to fathom the significance of the Square, one side of which symbolized God, another moral things, a third physical things, and the fourth a combination of these. Now and then his attention wandered from the book and the Square and he formed in imagination a new plan of life. On the previous evening at the Lodge, he had heard that a rumor of his duel had reached the Emperor and that it would be wiser for him to leave Petersburg. Pierre proposed going to his estates in the south and there attending to the welfare of his serfs. He was joyfully planning this new life, when Prince Vasíli suddenly entered the room.
“My dear fellow, what have you been up to in Moscow? Why have you quarreled with Hélène, mon cher? You are under a delusion,” said Prince Vasíli, as he entered. “I know all about it, and I can tell you positively that Hélène is as innocent before you as Christ was before the Jews.”
Pierre was about to reply, but Prince Vasíli interrupted him.
“And why didn’t you simply come straight to me as to a friend? I know all about it and understand it all,” he said. “You behaved as becomes a man who values his honor, perhaps too hastily, but we won’t go into that. But consider the position in which you are placing her and me in the eyes of society, and even of the court,” he added, lowering his voice. “She is living in Moscow and you are here. Remember, dear boy,” and he drew Pierre’s arm downwards, “it is simply a misunderstanding. I expect you feel it so yourself. Let us write her a letter at once, and she’ll come here and all will be explained, or else, my dear boy, let me tell you it’s quite likely you’ll have to suffer for it.”
Prince Vasíli gave Pierre a significant look.
“I know from reliable sources that the Dowager Empress is taking a keen interest in the whole affair. You know she is very gracious to Hélène.”
Pierre tried several times to speak, but, on one hand, Prince Vasíli did not let him and, on the other, Pierre himself feared to begin to speak in the tone of decided refusal and disagreement in which he had firmly resolved to answer his father-in-law. Moreover, the words of the Masonic statutes, “be kindly and courteous,” recurred to him. He blinked, went red, got up and sat down again, struggling with himself to do what was for him the most difficult thing in life—to say an unpleasant thing to a man’s face, to say what the other, whoever he might be, did not expect. He was so used to submitting to Prince Vasíli’s tone of careless self-assurance that he felt he would be unable to withstand it now, but he also felt that on what he said now his future depended—whether he would follow the same old road, or that new path so attractively shown him by the Masons, on which he firmly believed he would be reborn to a new life.
“Now, dear boy,” said Prince Vasíli playfully, “say ‘yes,’ and I’ll write to her myself, and we will kill the fatted calf.”
But before Prince Vasíli had finished his playful speech, Pierre, without looking at him, and with a kind of fury that made him like his father, muttered in a whisper:
“Prince, I did not ask you here. Go, please go!” And he jumped up and opened the door for him.
“Go!” he repeated, amazed at himself and glad to see the look of confusion and fear that showed itself on Prince Vasíli’s face.
“What’s the matter with you? Are you ill?”
“Go!” the quivering voice repeated. And Prince Vasíli had to go without receiving any explanation.
A week later, Pierre, having taken leave of his new friends, the Masons, and leaving large sums of money with them for alms, went away to his estates. His new brethren gave him letters to the Kiev and Odessa Masons and promised to write to him and guide him in his new activity.
The duel between Pierre and Dólokhov was hushed up and, in spite of the Emperor’s severity regarding duels at that time, neither the principals nor their seconds suffered for it. But the story of the duel, confirmed by Pierre’s rupture with his wife, was the talk of society. Pierre who had been regarded with patronizing condescension when he was an illegitimate son, and petted and extolled when he was the best match in Russia, had sunk greatly in the esteem of society after his marriage—when the marriageable daughters and their mothers had nothing to hope from him—especially as he did not know how, and did not wish, to court society’s favor. Now he alone was blamed for what had happened, he was said to be insanely jealous and subject like his father to fits of bloodthirsty rage. And when after Pierre’s departure Hélène returned to Petersburg, she was received by all her acquaintances not only cordially, but even with a shade of deference due to her misfortune. When conversation turned on her husband Hélène assumed a dignified expression, which with characteristic tact she had acquired though she did not understand its significance. This expression suggested that she had resolved to endure her troubles uncomplainingly and that her husband was a cross laid upon her by God. Prince Vasíli expressed his opinion more openly. He shrugged his shoulders when Pierre was mentioned and, pointing to his forehead, remarked:
“A bit touched—I always said so.”
“I said from the first,” declared Anna Pávlovna referring to Pierre, “I said at the time and before anyone else” (she insisted on her priority) “that that senseless young man was spoiled by the depraved ideas of these days. I said so even at the time when everybody was in raptures about him, when he had just returned from abroad, and when, if you remember, he posed as a sort of Marat at one of my soirees. And how has it ended? I was against this marriage even then and foretold all that has happened.”
Anna Pávlovna continued to give on free evenings the same kind of soirees as before—such as she alone had the gift of arranging—at which was to be found “the cream of really good society, the bloom of the intellectual essence of Petersburg,” as she herself put it. Besides this refined selection of society Anna Pávlovna’s receptions were also distinguished by the fact that she always presented some new and interesting person to the visitors and that nowhere else was the state of the political thermometer of legitimate Petersburg court society so dearly and distinctly indicated.
Toward the end of 1806, when all the sad details of Napoleon’s destruction of the Prussian army at Jena and Auerstädt and the surrender of most of the Prussian fortresses had been received, when our troops had already entered Prussia and our second war with Napoleon was beginning, Anna Pávlovna gave one of her soirees. The “cream of really good society” consisted of the fascinating Hélène, forsaken by her husband, Mortemart, the delightful Prince Hippolyte who had just returned from Vienna, two diplomatists, the old aunt, a young man referred to in that drawing room as “a man of great merit” (un homme de beaucoup de mérite), a newly appointed maid of honor and her mother, and several other less noteworthy persons.
The novelty Anna Pávlovna was setting before her guests that evening was Borís Drubetskóy, who had just arrived as a special messenger from the Prussian army and was aide-de-camp to a very important personage.
The temperature shown by the political thermometer to the company that evening was this:
“Whatever the European sovereigns and commanders may do to countenance Bonaparte, and to cause me, and us in general, annoyance and mortification, our opinion of Bonaparte cannot alter. We shall not cease to express our sincere views on that subject, and can only say to the King of Prussia and others: ‘So much the worse for you. Tu l’as voulu, George Dandin,’ that’s all we have to say about it!”
When Borís, who was to be served up to the guests, entered the drawing room, almost all the company had assembled, and the conversation, guided by Anna Pávlovna, was about our diplomatic relations with Austria and the hope of an alliance with her.
Borís, grown more manly and looking fresh, rosy and self-possessed, entered the drawing room elegantly dressed in the uniform of an aide-de-camp and was duly conducted to pay his respects to the aunt and then brought back to the general circle.
Anna Pávlovna gave him her shriveled hand to kiss and introduced him to several persons whom he did not know, giving him a whispered description of each.
“Prince Hippolyte Kurágin—charming young fellow; M. Kronq,—chargé d’affaires from Copenhagen—a profound intellect,” and simply, “Mr. Shítov—a man of great merit”—this of the man usually so described.
Thanks to Anna Mikháylovna’s efforts, his own tastes, and the peculiarities of his reserved nature, Borís had managed during his service to place himself very advantageously. He was aide-de-camp to a very important personage, had been sent on a very important mission to Prussia, and had just returned from there as a special messenger. He had become thoroughly conversant with that unwritten code with which he had been so pleased at Olmütz and according to which an ensign might rank incomparably higher than a general, and according to which what was needed for success in the service was not effort or work, or courage, or perseverance, but only the knowledge of how to get on with those who can grant rewards, and he was himself often surprised at the rapidity of his success and at the inability of others to understand these things. In consequence of this discovery his whole manner of life, all his relations with old friends, all his plans for his future, were completely altered. He was not rich, but would spend his last groat to be better dressed than others, and would rather deprive himself of many pleasures than allow himself to be seen in a shabby equipage or appear in the streets of Petersburg in an old uniform. He made friends with and sought the acquaintance of only those above him in position and who could therefore be of use to him. He liked Petersburg and despised Moscow. The remembrance of the Rostóvs’ house and of his childish love for Natásha was unpleasant to him and he had not once been to see the Rostóvs since the day of his departure for the army. To be in Anna Pávlovna’s drawing room he considered an important step up in the service, and he at once understood his role, letting his hostess make use of whatever interest he had to offer. He himself carefully scanned each face, appraising the possibilities of establishing intimacy with each of those present, and the advantages that might accrue. He took the seat indicated to him beside the fair Hélène and listened to the general conversation.
“Vienna considers the bases of the proposed treaty so unattainable that not even a continuity of most brilliant successes would secure them, and she doubts the means we have of gaining them. That is the actual phrase used by the Vienna cabinet,” said the Danish chargé d’affaires.
“The doubt is flattering,” said “the man of profound intellect,” with a subtle smile.
“We must distinguish between the Vienna cabinet and the Emperor of Austria,” said Mortemart. “The Emperor of Austria can never have thought of such a thing, it is only the cabinet that says it.”
“Ah, my dear vicomte,” put in Anna Pávlovna, “L’Urope” (for some reason she called it Urope as if that were a specially refined French pronunciation which she could allow herself when conversing with a Frenchman), “L’Urope ne sera jamais notre alliée sincère.” *