knock at the door, you may uncover your eyes,” added Villarsky; “I wish you good courage and success,” and, pressing Pierre’s hand, Villarsky went away.

When he was left alone, Pierre still went on smiling in the same way. Twice he shrugged his shoulders and raised his hand to the handkerchief, as though he would have liked to take it off, but he let it drop again. The five minutes he had spent with his eyes bandaged seemed to him an hour. His arms felt numb, his legs tottered, he felt as though he were tired out. He was aware of the most complex and conflicting feelings. He was afraid of what would be done to him, and still more afraid of showing fear. He felt inquisitive to know what was coming, what would be revealed to him; but above everything, he felt joy that the moment had come when he would at last enter upon that path of regeneration and of an actively virtuous life, of which he had been dreaming ever since his meeting with Osip Alexyevitch.

There came loud knocks at the door. Pierre took off the bandage and looked about him. It was black darkness in the room; only in one spot there was a little lamp burning before something white. Pierre went nearer and saw that the little lamp stood on a black table, on which there lay an open book. The book was the gospel: the white thing in which the lamp was burning was a human skull with its eyeholes 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 caught sight of a large open box filled with something. It was a coffin full of bones. He was not in the least surprised by what he saw. Hoping to enter upon a completely new life, utterly unlike the old life, he was ready for anything extraordinary, more extraordinary indeed than what he was seeing. The skull, the coffin, the gospel—it seemed to him that he had been expecting all that; had been expecting more, indeed. He tried to stir up a devotional feeling in himself; he looked about him. “God, death, love, the brotherhood of man,” he kept saying to himself, associating with those words vague but joyful conceptions of some sort. The door opened and some one came in. In the faint light, in which Pierre could, however, see a little by this time, a short man approached. Apparently dazed by coming out of the light into the darkness, the man stopped, then with cautious steps moved again towards the table, and laid on it both his small hands covered with leather gloves.

This short man was wearing a white leather apron, that covered his chest and part of his legs; upon his neck could be seen something like a necklace, and a high white ruffle stood up from under the necklace, framing his long face, on which the light fell from below.

“For what are you come hither?” asked the newcomer, turning towards Pierre at a faint rustle made by the latter. “For what are you, an unbeliever in the truth of the light, who have not seen the light, for what are you come here? What do you seek from us? Wisdom, virtue, enlightenment?”

At the moment when the door opened and the unknown person came in, Pierre had a sensation of awe and reverence, such as he had felt in childhood at confession; he felt himself alone with a man who was in the circumstances of life a complete stranger, and yet through the brotherhood of men so near. With a beating heart that made him gasp for breath, Pierre turned to the rhetor, as in the phraseology of freemasonry the man is called who prepares the seeker for entering the brotherhood. Going closer, Pierre recognised in the rhetor a man he knew, Smolyaninov, but it was mortifying to him to think that the newcomer was a familiar figure; he was to him only a brother and a guide in the path of virtue. For a long while Pierre could not utter a word, so that the rhetor was obliged to repeat his question.

“Yes; I…I… wish to begin anew,” Pierre articulated with difficulty.

“Very good,” said Smolyaninov, and went on at once.

“Have you any idea of the means by which our holy order will assist you in attaining your aim?…” said the rhetor calmly and rapidly.

“I…hope for…guidance…for help…in renewing…” said Pierre, with a tremble in his voice and a difficulty in utterance due both to emotion and to being unaccustomed to speak of abstract subjects in Russian.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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