To Be Honest
Pierre has decamped from a field of killing only to fall into a pit of snakes. At least at the Battle of Borodino it was the enemy harming him. Home now in Moscow he finds that not even the bonds of nationhood protect against the iniquities of his fellow countrymen.
We expect him to encounter some level of vileness from his wife. She is, after all, planning to divorce him and marry another. Maybe even two others. Before he can get to his home, however, he is accosted by one of Count Rostopchin’s adjutants at the city gates. He’s told that the Count has been looking for him and requests his presence immediately. Pierre obliges.
At Rostopchin’s he finds the Count preparing a new broadsheet for distribution. The broadsheet is a catalog of lies and deceit. It says that Kutuzov has taken up a strong position in order to defend Moscow. He has not. It says that Moscow will be not be occupied. It will. It orders all patriotic Muscovites to take up arms of any sort to fight against the French invaders. To do so will only doom them.
Note here Pierre’s practice of the lessons he learned from his dream. In that dream he was told simplicity is submission to the will of God and that the spoken word is silver while the unspoken word is golden. Pierre does challenge Rostopchin’s people by observing that Moscow will be invaded and it will be impossible to fight in her streets. When he’s told that is exactly what the broadsheet says Pierre makes no response to this obvious falsehood. Then, when he’s told that he has family troubles waiting for him at home he responds unconcernedly.
I’d like to think Pierre is using his silence and submission to learn other lessons as well. Today, for instance, watching Rostopchin’s people prepare this mendacious broadsheet, perhaps he’s learning the value and virtue of honesty.
Never value that as advantageous which may force you to break your faith; to quit your modesty, or sense of honour; to hate, suspect, or imprecate evil on any one; to dissemble; or to desire any of these things which need walls or curtains to conceal them.
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations