Chapter 4

SHORTLY AFTER THIS, there walked into the dark temple to fetch Pierre not the rhetor, but his sponsor Villarsky, whom he recognised by his voice. In reply to fresh inquiries as to the firmness of his resolve, Pierre answered:

“Yes, yes, I agree,” and with a beaming, childlike smile he walked forward, stepping timidly and unevenly with one booted and one slippered foot, while Villarsky held a sword pointed at his fat, uncovered chest. He was led out of the room along corridors, turning backwards and forwards, till at last he was brought to the doors of the lodge. Villarsky coughed; he was answered by masonic taps with hammers; the door opened before them. A bass voice (Pierre’s eyes were again bandaged) put questions to him, who he was, where and when he was born, and so on. Then he was again led away somewhere with his eyes still bandaged, and as he walked they spoke to him in allegories of the toils of his pilgrimage, and of holy love, of the Eternal Creator of the world, of the courage with which he was to endure toils and dangers. During this time Pierre noticed that he was called sometimes the seeker, sometimes the sufferer, and sometimes the postulant, and that they made various tapping sounds with hammers and with swords. While he was being led up to some object, he noticed that there was hesitation and uncertainty among his conductors. He heard a whispered dispute among the people round him, and one of them insisting that he should be made to cross a certain carpet. After this they took his right hand, laid it on something, while they bade him with the left hold a compass to his left breast, while they made him repeat after some one who read the words aloud, the oath of fidelity to the laws of the order. Then the candles were extinguished and spirit was lighted, as Pierre knew from the smell of it, and he was told that he would see the lesser light. The bandage was taken off his eyes, and in the faint light of the burning spirit Pierre saw, as though it were in a dream, several persons who stood facing him in aprons like the rhetor’s, and held swords pointed at his breast. Among them stood a man in a white shirt stained with blood. On seeing this, Pierre moved with his chest forward towards the swords, meaning them to stab him. But the swords were drawn back, and the bandage was at once replaced on his eyes.

“Now you have seen the lesser light,” said a voice. Then again they lighted the candles, told him that he had now to see the full light, and again removed the bandage, and more than ten voices said all at once: “Sic transit gloria mundi.”

Pierre gradually began to regain his self-possession, and to look about at the room and the people in it. Round a long table covered with black were sitting some dozen men, all in the same strange garment that he had seen before. Several of them Pierre knew in Petersburg society. In the president’s chair sat a young man, with a peculiar cross on his neck, whom he did not know. On his right hand sat the Italian abbé whom Pierre had seen two years before at Anna Pavlovna’s. There were among them a dignitary of very high standing and a Swiss tutor, who had once been in the Kuragin family. All preserved a solemn silence, listening to the president, who held a hammer in his hand. In the wall was carved a blazing star; on one side of the table was a small rug with various figures worked upon it; on the other was something like an altar with the gospel and a skull on it. Round the table stood seven big ecclesiastical-looking candlesticks. Two of the brothers led Pierre up to the altar, set his feet at right angles and bade him lie down, saying that he would be casting himself down at the gates of the temple.

“He ought first to receive the spade,” said one of the brothers in a whisper.

“Oh! hush, please,” said another.

Pierre did not obey, but with uneasy short-sighted eyes looked about him, and suddenly doubt came over him. “Where am I? What am I doing? Aren’t they laughing at me? Shan’t I be ashamed to remember this?” But this doubt only lasted a moment. Pierre looked round at the serious faces of the people round him, thought of all he had just been through, and felt that there was no stopping half-way. He was terrified at his own hesitation, and trying to arouse in himself his former devotional feeling, he cast himself down at the gates of the temple. And the devotional feeling did in fact come more strongly than ever upon him. 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 round him, and a spade and three pairs of gloves were put in his hands; then the

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