On reaching Petersburg Pierre did not let anyone know of his arrival, he wen_owhere and spent whole days in reading Thomas a Kempis, whose book had bee_ent him by someone unknown. One thing he continually realized as he read tha_ook: the joy, hitherto unknown to him, of believing in the possibility o_ttaining perfection, and in the possibility of active brotherly love amon_en, which Joseph Alexeevich had revealed to him. A week after his arrival, the young Polish count, Willarski, whom Pierre had known slightly i_etersburg society, came into his room one evening in the official an_eremonious manner in which Dolokhov's second had called on him, and, havin_losed the door behind him and satisfied himself that there was nobody else i_he room, addressed Pierre.
"I have come to you with a message and an offer, Count," he said withou_itting down. "A person of very high standing in our Brotherhood has mad_pplication for you to be received into our Order before the usual term an_as proposed to me to be your sponsor. I consider it a sacred duty to fulfil_hat person's wishes. Do you wish to enter the Brotherhood of Freemasons unde_y 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 brillian_omen, surprised Pierre.
"Yes, I do wish it," said he.
Willarski bowed his head.
"One more question, Count," he said, "which beg you to answer in al_incerity—not as a future Mason but as an honest man: have you renounced you_ormer 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 h_ust do and how he should answer, Willarski only replied that brothers mor_orthy 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 it_eadquarters, 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 a_he door. Willarski, stepping toward him, said something to him in French i_n undertone and then went up to a small wardrobe in which Pierre notice_arments such as he had never seen before. Having taken a kerchief from th_upboard, 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, kisse_im, and taking him by the hand led him forward. The hairs tied in the kno_urt 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 smilin_ace, 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 hav_irmly resolved to join our Brotherhood." (Pierre nodded affirmatively.) "Whe_ou hear a knock at the door, you will uncover your eyes," added Willarski. "_ish 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 shrugge_is and raised his hand to the kerchief, as if wishing to take it off, but le_t drop again. The five minutes spent with his eyes bandaged seemed to him a_our. His arms felt numb, his legs almost gave way, it seemed to him that h_as tired out. He experienced a variety of most complex sensations. He fel_fraid 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 t_im; but most of all, he felt joyful that the moment had come when he would a_ast start on that path of regeneration and on the actively virtuous life o_hich he had been dreaming since he met Joseph Alexeevich. Loud knocks wer_eard at the door. Pierre took the bandage off his eyes and glanced aroun_im. The room was in black darkness, only a small lamp was burning insid_omething white. Pierre went nearer and saw that the lamp stood on a blac_able on which lay an open book. The book was the Gospel, and the white thin_ith the lamp inside was a human skull with its cavities and teeth. Afte_eading the first words of the Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word and th_ord was with God," Pierre went round the table and saw a large open bo_illed with something. It was a coffin with bones inside. He was not at al_urprised by what he saw. Hoping to enter on an entirely new life quite unlik_he old one, he expected everything to be unusual, even more unusual than wha_e was seeing. A skull, a coffin, the Gospel—it seemed to him that he ha_xpected all this and even more. Trying to stimulate his emotions he looke_round. "God, death, love, the brotherhood of man," he kept saying to himself, associating these words with vague yet joyful ideas. The door opened an_omeone came in.
By the dim light, to which Pierre had already become accustomed, he saw rathe_hort man. Having evidently come from the light into the darkness, the ma_aused, then moved with cautious steps toward the table and placed on it hi_mall leather-gloved hands.
This short man had on a white leather apron which covered his chest and par_f his legs; he had on a kind of necklace above which rose a high whit_uffle, outlining his rather long face which was lit up from below.
"For what have you come hither?" asked the newcomer, turning in Pierre'_irection at a slight rustle made by the latter. "Why have you, who do no_elieve 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 o_we and veneration such as he had experienced in his boyhood at confession; h_elt himself in the presence of one socially a complete stranger, yet neare_o him through the brotherhood of man. With bated breath and beating heart h_oved toward the Rhetor (by which name the brother who prepared a seeker fo_ntrance into the Brotherhood was known). Drawing nearer, he recognized in th_hetor a man he knew, Smolyaninov, and it mortified him to think that th_ewcomer was an acquaintance—he wished him simply a brother and a virtuou_nstructor. For a long time he could not utter a word, so that the Rhetor ha_o repeat his question.
"Yes… I… I… desire regeneration," Pierre uttered with difficulty.
"Very well," said Smolyaninov, and went on at once: "Have you any idea of th_eans by which our holy Order will help you to reach your aim?" said h_uietly and quickly.
"I… hope… for guidance… help… in regeneration," said Pierre, with a tremblin_oice and some difficulty in utterance due to his excitement and to bein_naccustomed 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 hav_irtuous aims," said Pierre, feeling ashamed of the inadequacy of his word_or the solemnity of the moment, as he spoke. "I imagine… "
"Good!" said the Rhetor quickly, apparently satisfied with this answer. "Hav_ou sought for means of attaining your aim in religion?"
"No, I considered it erroneous and did not follow it," said Pierre, so softl_hat the Rhetor did not hear him and asked him what he was saying. "I hav_een an atheist," answered Pierre.
"You are seeking for truth in order to follow its laws in your life, therefor_ou seek wisdom and virtue. Is that not so?" said the Rhetor, after a moment'_ause.
"Yes, yes," assented Pierre.
The Rhetor cleared his throat, crossed his gloved hands on his breast, an_egan to speak.
"Now I must disclose to you the chief aim of our Order," he said, "and if thi_im coincides with yours, you may enter our Brotherhood with profit. The firs_nd chief object of our Order, the foundation on which it rests and which n_uman power can destroy, is the preservation and handing on to posterity of _ertain 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 mankin_epends. But since this mystery is of such a nature that nobody can know o_se it unless he be prepared by long and diligent self-purification, no_veryone can hope to attain it quickly. Hence we have a secondary aim, that o_reparing our members as much as possible to reform their hearts, to purif_nd enlighten their minds, by means handed on to us by tradition from thos_ho have striven to attain this mystery, and thereby to render them capable o_eceiving it.
"By purifying and regenerating our members we try, thirdly, to improve th_hole 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 menta_mage of his future activity in this direction rose in his mind. He imagine_en such as he had himself been a fortnight ago, and he addressed an edifyin_xhortation to them. He imagined to himself vicious and unfortunate peopl_hom he would assist by word and deed, imagined oppressors whose victims h_ould rescue. Of the three objects mentioned by the Rhetor, this last, that o_mproving mankind, especially appealed to Pierre. The important myster_entioned by the Rhetor, though it aroused his curiosity, did not seem to hi_ssential, and the second aim, that of purifying and regenerating himself, di_ot much interest him because at that moment he felt with delight that he wa_lready perfectly cured of his former faults and was ready for all that wa_ood.
Half an hour later, the Rhetor returned to inform the seeker of the seve_irtues, corresponding to the seven steps of Solomon's temple, which ever_reemason 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.
4.Love of mankind.
7\. The love of death.
"In the seventh place, try, by the frequent thought of death," the Rheto_aid, "to bring yourself to regard it not as a dreaded foe, but as a frien_hat frees the soul grown weary in the labors of virtue from this distressfu_ife, and leads it to its place of recompense and peace."
"Yes, that must be so," thought Pierre, when after these words the Rhetor wen_way, leaving him to solitary meditation. "It must be so, but I am still s_eak that I love my life, the meaning of which is only now gradually openin_efore me." But five of the other virtues which Pierre recalled, counting the_n his fingers, he felt already in his soul: courage, generosity, morality, love of mankind, and especially obedience—which did not even seem to him _irtue, but a joy. (He now felt so glad to be free from his own lawlessnes_nd to submit his will to those who knew the indubitable truth.) He forgo_hat the seventh virtue was and could not recall it.
The third time the Rhetor came back more quickly and asked Pierre whether h_as still firm in his intention and determined to submit to all that would b_equired of him.
"I am ready for everything," said Pierre.
"I must also inform you," said the Rhetor, "that our Order delivers it_eaching not in words only but also by other means, which may perhaps have _tronger effect on the sincere seeker after wisdom and virtue than mere words.
This chamber with what you see therein should already have suggested to you_eart, if it is sincere, more than words could do. You will perhaps also se_n your further initiation a like method of enlightenment. Our Order imitate_he ancient societies that explained their teaching by hieroglyphics. _ieroglyph," said the Rhetor, "is an emblem of something not cognizable by th_enses but which possesses qualities resembling those of the symbol."
Pierre knew very well what a hieroglyph was, but dared not speak. He listene_o the Rhetor in silence, feeling from all he said that his ordeal was abou_o begin.
"If you are resolved, I must begin your initiation," said the Rhetor comin_loser to Pierre. "In token of generosity I ask you to give me all you_aluables."
"But I have nothing here," replied Pierre, supposing that he was asked to giv_p all he possessed.
"What you have with you: watch, money, rings… ."
Pierre quickly took out his purse and watch, but could not manage for som_ime to get the wedding ring off his fat finger. When that had been done, th_hetor said:
"In token of obedience, I ask you to undress."
Pierre took off his coat, waistcoat, and left boot according to the Rhetor'_nstructions. The Mason drew the shirt back from Pierre's left breast, an_tooping down pulled up the left leg of his trousers to above the knee. Pierr_urriedly began taking off his right boot also and was going to tuck up th_ther trouser leg to save this stranger the trouble, but the Mason told hi_hat was not necessary and gave him a slipper for his left foot. With _hildlike smile of embarrassment, doubt, and self-derision, which appeared o_is face against his will, Pierre stood with his arms hanging down and leg_part, 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 o_irtue," said the Mason.
Pierre paused, seeking a reply.
"Wine? Gluttony? Idleness? Laziness? Irritability? Anger? Women?" He went ove_is 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. A_ast 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 _ridle on your senses, and seek blessedness, not in passion but in your ow_eart. The source of blessedness is not without us but within… ."
Pierre had already long been feeling in himself that refreshing source o_lessedness which now flooded his heart with glad emotion.