Chapter 2

“I HAVE THE PLEASURE of speaking to Count Bezuhov, if I am not mistaken,” said the stranger, in a loud deliberate voice. Pierre looked in silence and inquiringly over his spectacles at the speaker. “I have heard of you,” continued the stranger, “and I have heard, sir, of what has happened to you, of your misfortune.” He underlined, as it were, the last word, as though to say: “Yes, misfortune, whatever you call it, I know that what happened to you in Moscow was a misfortune.”

“I am very sorry for it, sir.” Pierre reddened, and hurriedly dropping his legs over the edge of the bed, he bent forward towards the old man, smiling timidly and unnaturally.

“I have not mentioned this to you, sir, from curiosity, but from graver reasons.” He paused, not letting Pierre escape from his gaze, and moved aside on the sofa, inviting him by this movement to sit beside him. Pierre disliked entering into conversation with this old man, but involuntarily submitting to him, he came and sat down beside him.

“You are unhappy, sir,” he went on, “you are young, and I am old. I should like, as far as it is in my power, to help you.”

“Oh, yes,” said Pierre, with an unnatural smile. “Very much obliged to you … where have you been travelling from?” The stranger’s face was not cordial, it was even cold and severe, but in spite of that, both the speech and the face of his new acquaintance were irresistibly attractive to Pierre.

“But if for any reason you dislike conversing with me,” said the old man, “then you say so, sir.” And suddenly he smiled a quite unexpected smile of fatherly kindliness.

“Oh, no, not at all; on the contrary, I am very glad to make your acquaintance,” said Pierre, and glancing once more at the stranger’s hands, he examined the ring more closely. He saw the head of Adam, the token of masonry.

“Allow me to inquire,” he said, “are you a mason?”

“Yes, I belong to the brotherhood of the freemasons,” said the stranger, looking now more searchingly into Pierre’s eyes. “And from myself and in their name I hold out to you a brotherly hand.”

“I am afraid,” said Pierre, smiling and hesitating between the confidence inspired in him by the personality of the freemason and the habit of ridiculing the articles of the masons’ creed; “I am afraid that I am very far from a comprehension—how shall I say—I am afraid that my way of thinking in regard to the whole theory of the universe is so opposed to yours that we shall not understand one another.”

“I am aware of your way of thinking,” said the freemason, “and that way of thinking of which you speak, which seems to you the result of your own thought, is the way of thinking of the majority of men, and is the invariable fruit of pride, indolence, and ignorance. Excuse my saying, sir, that if I had not been aware of it, I should not have addressed you. Your way of thinking is a melancholy error.”

“Just as I may take for granted that you are in error,” said Pierre, faintly smiling.

“I would never be so bold as to say I know the truth,” said the mason, the definiteness and decision of whose manner of speaking impressed Pierre more and more. “No one alone can attain truth; only stone upon stone, with the co-operation of all, by the millions of generations from our first father Adam down to our day is that temple being reared that should be a fitting dwelling-place of the Great God,” said the freemason, and he shut his eyes.

“I ought to tell you that I don’t believe, don’t … believe in God,” said Pierre regretfully and with effort, feeling it essential to speak the whole truth.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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