The freemason looked intently at Pierre and smiled as a rich man, holding millions in his hands, might smile to a poor wretch, who should say to him that he, the poor man, has not five roubles that would secure his happiness.

“Yes, you do not know Him, sir,” said the freemason. “You cannot know Him. You know not Him, that is why you are unhappy.”

“Yes, yes, I am unhappy,” Pierre assented; “but what am I to do?”

“You know not Him, sir, and that’s why you are very unhappy. You know not Him, but He is here, He is within me, He is in my words, He is in thee, and even in these scoffing words that thou hast just uttered,” said the mason in a stern, vibrating voice.

He paused and sighed, evidently trying to be calm.

“If He were not,” he said softly, “we should not be speaking of Him, sir. Of what, of whom were we speaking? Whom dost thou deny?” he said all at once, with enthusiastic austerity and authority in his voice. “Who invented Him, if He be not? How came there within thee the conception that there is such an incomprehensible Being? How comes it that thou and all the world have assumed the existence of such an inconceivable Being, a Being all powerful, eternal and infinite in all His qualities? …” He stopped and made a long pause.

Pierre could not and would not interrupt this silence.

“He exists, but to comprehend Him is hard,” the mason began again, not looking into Pierre’s face, but straight before him, while his old hands, which could not keep still for inward emotion, turned the leaves of the book. “If it had been a man of whose existence thou hadst doubts, I could have brought thee the man, taken him by the hand, and shown him thee. But how am I, an insignificant mortal, to show all the power, all the eternity, all the blessedness of Him to one who is blind, or to one who shuts his eyes that he may not see, may not understand Him, and may not see, and not understand all his own vileness and viciousness.” He paused. “Who art thou? What art thou? Thou dreamest that thou art wise because thou couldst utter those scoffing words,” he said, with a gloomy and scornful irony, “while thou art more foolish and artless than a little babe, who, playing with the parts of a cunningly fashioned watch, should rashly say that because he understands not the use of that watch, he does not believe in the maker who fashioned it. To know Him is a hard matter. For ages, from our first father Adam to our day, have we been striving for this knowledge, and are infinitely far from the attainment of our aim; but in our lack of understanding we see only our own weakness and His greatness …”

Pierre gazed with shining eyes into the freemason’s face, listening with a thrill at his heart to his words; he did not interrupt him, nor ask questions, but with all his soul he believed what this strange man was telling him. Whether he believed on the rational grounds put before him by the freemason, or believed, as children do, through the intonations, the conviction, and the earnestness, of the mason’s words, the quiver in his voice that sometimes almost broke his utterance, or the gleaming old eyes that had grown old in that conviction, or the calm, the resolution, and the certainty of his destination, which were conspicuous in the whole personality of the old man, and struck Pierre with particular force, beside his own abjectness and hopelessness,—any way, with his whole soul he longed to believe, and believed and felt a joyful sense of soothing, of renewal, and of return to life.

“It is not attained by the reason, but by life,” said the mason.

“I don’t understand,” said Pierre, feeling with dismay that doubt was stirring within him. He dreaded obscurity and feebleness in the freemason’s arguments, he dreaded being unable to believe in him. “I don’t understand,” he said, “in what way human reason cannot attain that knowledge of which you speak.”

The freemason smiled his mild, fatherly smile.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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