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 grand master addressed him. He told him that he must try never to stain the whiteness of that apron, which symbolised strength and purity. Then of the unexplained spade he told him to toil with it at clearing his heart from vice, and with forbearing patience smoothing the way in the heart of his neighbour. Then of the first pair of gloves he said that he could not know yet their significance, but must treasure them; of the second pair he said that he must put them on at meetings; and finally of the third pair—they were women's gloves—he said:
“Dear brother, and these woman's gloves are destined for you too. Give them to the woman whom you shall honour beyond all others. That gift will be a pledge of your purity of heart to her whom you select as a worthy helpmeet in masonry.” After a brief pause, he added: “But beware, dear brother, that these gloves never deck hands that are impure.”
While the grand master uttered the last words it seemed to Pierre that he was embarrassed. Pierre was even more embarrassed; he blushed to the point of tears, as children blush, looking about him uneasily, and an awkward silence followed.
This silence was broken by one of the brothers who, leading Pierre to the rug, began reading out of a manuscript book the interpretation of all the figures delineated upon it: the sun, the moon, the hammer, the balance, the spade, the rough stone and the shaped stone, the past, the three windows, etc. Then Pierre was shown his appointed place, he was shown the signs of the lodge, told the password, and at last permitted to sit down. The grand master began reading the exhortation. The exhortation was very long, and Pierre in his joy, his emotion, and his embarrassment was hardly in a condition to understand what was read. He only grasped the last words of the exhortation, which stuck in his memory.
“In our temples we know of no distinctions,” read the grand master, “but those between virtue and vice. Beware of making any difference that may transgress against equality. Fly to the succour of a brother whoever he may be, exhort him that goeth astray, lift up him that falleth, and cherish not malice nor hatred against a brother. Be thou friendly and courteous. Kindle in all hearts the fire of virtue. Share thy happiness with thy neighbour, and never will envy trouble that pure bliss. Forgive thy enemy, revenge not thyself on him but by doing him good. Fulfilling in this wise the highest law, thou wilt regain traces of the ancient grandeur thou hadst lost,” he concluded, and getting up he embraced Pierre and kissed him.
Pierre looked round with tears of joy in his eyes, not knowing how to answer the congratulations and greetings from acquaintances with which he was surrounded. He did not recognise any acquaintances; in all these men he saw only brothers, and he burned with impatience to get to work with them. The grand master tapped with his hammer, all sat down in their places, and one began reading a sermon on the necessity of meekness.
The grand master proposed that the last duty be performed, and the great dignitary whose duty it was to collect the alms began making the round of all the brothers. Pierre would have liked to give to the list of alms all the money he had in the world, but he feared thereby to sin by pride, and only wrote down the same sum as the others.
The sitting was over, and it seemed to Pierre on returning home that he had come back from a long journey on which he had spent dozens of years, and had become utterly changed, and had renounced his old habits and manner of life.