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´╗┐Title: When the King Loses His Head and Other Stories
Author: Andreyev, Leonid
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Leonid Andreyev was born in Orel, the capital of the Russian province
of the same name, on August 21, 1871. He was ten years younger than his
future patron and friend Maxim Gorki. He died on September 12, 1919, in
Finland, an exile from his beloved chaos-ridden fatherland.

His father, a Russian of pure blood, by profession a surveyor, was a
man of extraordinary physical vigor. He died at the early age of 42 as
the result of a brain-stroke. His mother, a woman of much refinement
and culture, was of Polish ancestry.

The earliest years of Andreyev's life were spent in close affiliation
with the stage, through the personal acquaintance of his parents with
the leading stage folks of the province.

He was a poor scholar and loved to play "hookey," preferring the great
outdoors to the crowded class-room. His marks were very poor as the
result. But he was a voracious reader of literature. His latter years
in high school (gymnasium) were influenced by Tolstoy's works on
non-resistance, by Schopenhauer, and by the first works of Maxim Gorki.
The death of his father and the seeds of the pessimistic philosophy
gave the inner life of the budding novelist a morose and pessimistic
direction. In his teens Leonid Andreyev made three unsuccessful
attempts at suicide.

It has been the fate of Leonid Andreyev to live through four distinct
phases of Russian history, each of which has contributed to the shaping
of his art.

In the latter eighties and the early nineties he had passed through
one of the most disheartening periods in the life of the Russian
people, when under the crushing heel of the despotic Tsar Alexander III
all initiative and all aspirations of the mind were ruthlessly stifled.
It was the period of shameful and soulless years, with miserable
people, relentless persecutors, obedient slaves and a few hunted rebels.

The horror of this era of nightmare weighed heavily on the sensitive
soul of young Andreyev and he attempted suicide in 1894 by shooting
himself near the heart. The attempt was unsuccessful, but left behind
an affliction of the heart, of which he died twenty-five years later.

In his student years (Andreyev took up the study of law in the
University of Moscow) he fell under the influence of Tchekhov and
of Gorki. Andreyev did not in his earlier years dream of becoming a
writer. His interest in art led him to painting and his pictures were
exhibited in the independent salons and much praised. His early stories
were printed in the newspapers of Moscow under the nom-de-plume of
James Lynch.

Andreyev's first story printed under that nom-de-plume in 1898 aroused
the interest of Maxim Gorki, who sought out the future novelist and
aided him greatly with advice and suggestions.

But between the two--between the singer of the people, the singer of
humanity--Gorki, on the one hand, and the artist of individuality,
the painter of thought, Andreyev, there is a vast difference and
divergence. One is the captive of the realities of life, in which
he loses himself, the other is the captive of fancies, of ever new
problems of the soul, which he endeavors to illustrate by abstract
schematism, but which he ultimately fails to solve.

In this phase of Russian history falls the series of Andreyev's stories
in which he chastises the Russian intelligent hypochondriac and the
follower of Tchekhov. Maxim Gorki is to him the personification of the
joy of life and of the will to battle, which permeates the earlier
writings of Andreyev.

The stormy period of the political convulsion which shook Russia in
the wake of the Japanese war, evoked a number of beautiful stories
and essays from Andreyev's pen, thrilled and aflame with the love
of budding freedom. But even here the pessimism of Andreyev breaks
through. In his charming story of the French Revolution, with which we
begin this present volume, "When the King Loses His Head," when liberty
is in danger, when the Twentieth, the symbol of monarchy, is in the
toils of the people, here and there the crowd cries "Long Live the
Twenty-First," ready to resume the badge of servitude.

In the "Abyss" Andreyev portrays the shameful fall of the young
idealist, but in "The Marseillaise," the prose-poem with which we
conclude the present volume, written in 1905, Andreyev pictures the
apotheosis of a hero hidden behind the absurd exterior of a physical
weakling. "The Marseillaise" is an overture to the stirring drama of
the brief but glorious epoch of the popular risings after the Japanese

But the monarchic power crushed the spirit of the people. A period
of unparalleled persecutions, executions and repressions followed.
"The Story of the Seven that were Hanged" is characteristic of this
terrible period which preceded the World War. This story is dedicated
to Tolstoy, and its motto might well be "Fear not them that kill the
body, but cannot kill the soul." Some of the passages of this story are
so stirring that it is impossible to read them without shedding a tear.

After the fall of the Romanovs, a brief period of intoxicating sense
of freedom overwhelmed Russia. It was not the time for literature. It
was the time for action. But all too soon chaos ensued, and the artist
dropped his art to defend outraged humanity. It was away from his
country, with the whole world arrayed against Russia, and with Russia
arrayed against herself, that Leonid Andreyev fell the victim of heart
failure, induced, as the brief despatches from Finland state, by the
shock of a bomb exploding in his vicinity.

The heroes of Andreyev's stories are "people who stand apart,"
solitary, lonely characters, walking among men like planets among
planets, and a baneful atmosphere surrounds them. The idea of most
of these stories and of most of his dramas is the conflict of the
personality with fate and with the falsehood which man introduces into
his fate.

He has a symbolic story named "The Wall": it is the barrier which men
cannot pass. The Wall is all bloodstained; at its base crawl lepers;
centuries, nations strive to climb upon it. But the wall is immobile,
while ever new heaps of corpses are piled up alongside.

There are walls between the closest relatives in the stories and dramas
of Andreyev. Frequently the characters depicted by him are insane.
Freedom becomes an illusion, a tragic mockery of mankind.

In the story of "Father Vassili" we are told of an ill-fated parish
priest. Misfortunes fall upon his head with an ominous purposeful
frequency. Finally his only son is drowned. The mother takes to drink
to drown her sorrow. In her insane frenzy she conceives again and bears
an idiot. The new child, a little monster, brings an atmosphere of
horror into the home and dominates the whole household. The drunken
mother accidentally sets the home on fire and dies a victim of the
conflagration. All through these misfortunes Father Vassili believes
in his Maker with the depth and passion of despair. But little by
little this faith and this despair pass into insanity. During a requiem
mass over the body of a villager Father Vassili commands the corpse to
arise. He calls upon God to sustain him and to work a miracle. He is
left alone with the corpse, the worshippers having fled in terror. He
inclines over the body and sees in the coffin the mocking features of
his idiot child. A crash of thunder rends the sky. It seems to Father
Vassili that heaven and earth are crashing into nothingness, he flees
precipitately into the highway and falls dead. The utter solitude of
the man, the monstrous domination of elementary powers arrayed against
him, a moment of consciousness of oneness with the divine and insanity,
these are the constant horrible and tragic features of Andreyev's art.

In his stories dealing with biblical characters, Judas Iscariot and
Lazarus, we have horror and dreams again. Judas Iscariot and the
Saviour are pictured as twins nailed to the same cross and wearing the
same crown of thorns. The traitor in Andreyev's story loves Jesus the
Man. There is a dread secret in the terrible eyes of Judas, as there
is a wondrous secret in the beautiful eyes of Jesus. This horrible
proximity of divine beauty and of monstrous hideousness presents a
problem which the artist tries to solve. He makes of Judas a fanatical
revolutionist, the slave of an idea who has resolved to materialize
"horror and dreams" and to bring about the truth. There is in Judas
that same duality which characterizes so many of Andreyev's heroes. He
has two faces. He lies and dissembles. Throughout the whole story the
dual personality of the Traitor is brought out with wonderful skill. In
"Judas Iscariot" Andreyev contrasts Judas with Jesus. In "Lazarus" he
contrasts the morose Jew, whom Jesus brought back from death into life
after three days and three nights in the darkness of the tomb, with the
life-loving Augustus. If in "Judas Iscariot" Judas, wise, cunning and
evil, overcomes Jesus, naive, meek and trustful, in "Lazarus" it is the
Roman Emperor who causes the eyes of the Jew to be pierced, but is in
the end overcome himself.

"Anathema"--a play of Andreyev which in grandeur of conception equals
Goethe's Faust, has for its humble hero, David Leiser, trustful,
stupid, guileless, ever obedient to his heart, who reaches immortality
and lives the life of immortality and light. His enemy, Anathema, who
follows the cold dictates of reason, is foiled.

From Andreyev's pen we have a series of dramatic pictures, "Black
Masks," "King Hunger," "Savva," "To the Stars," and others, and a
number of stories, some of them in places streaked with a realism that
is almost too revolting for the Anglo-Saxon ideas of propriety. Thus in
"My Memoirs," he tells of an insane doctor of mathematics, who confined
for life in a prison for a horrible crime sets down his experiences
in a series of hypocritical diary notes, and who expatiates upon
the beauties of nameless vice. In "The Darkness," the bomb throwing
idealist, who hiding from the police on the eve of his deed, enters a
house of ill-fame and becomes so abashed at the sight of the life of an
inmate that he exclaims "It is a disgrace to be good," and kisses her
hand, only to have his face slapped because the fallen woman resents
his parading of goodness at her expense.

Andreyev, because of the cumulative portrayals of the weird and the
horrible, has been called the Russian Edgar Allan Poe. But between Poe
and Andreyev there lies a century of time and a world of space.

Poe's hero, in "The Fall of the House of Usher," is the last remnant
of a feudal epoch dying in a crumbling castle, every stone of which
speaks of a series of generations and of external and internal
dissolution. The heroes of Andreyev are solitary men, hiding in their
professorial studies, in the basements of tenement houses, in the caves
of Judea. Death with Poe is mysteriously beautiful, with Andreyev it
is a blighting, baneful curse. The solitude of Poe's heroes is the
tragic solitude of a superman on a lonely height, the solitude of
Andreyev's heroes is the solitude of little men, worn out with the
futile vicissitudes of life. But the horror of life and of death makes
these two great artists kin. Of the Russian authors Dostoyevsky is
nearest to Andreyev. The solitude of the curse-stricken man, of the
man on the brink of ruin, the morbid acuteness of his perceptions, the
dominion of intellect over life, the eternal longing to overstep the
boundary, the endless striving with God, the city with its garrets and
basements--these are the favorite themes both of Dostoyevsky and of

As to style, Leonid Andreyev is a wonderful word painter, but his brush
knows only somber colors. The basic background of his stories and of
his dramas is a dark-grey, sometimes streaked with fiery-red. His
pessimism leads him to look upon the world through dark spectacles.
Duke Lorenzo is held captive by "Black Masks." He sails in a ship with
"black sails." At the prow of the vessel is a "young woman in black."

The stories included in this first volume of Andreyev's works in the
"Russian Authors' Library" series are: "When the King Loses his Head,"
"Judas Iscariot," "Lazarus," "Life of Father Vassili," "Ben-Tobith" and
"Dies Irae."






There stood once in a public place a black tower with massive
fortress-like walls and a few grim bastioned windows. It had been built
by robber barons, but time swept them into the beyond, and the tower
became partly a prison for dangerous criminals and grave offenders,
and partly a residence. In the course of centuries new structures were
added to it, and were buttressed against the massive walls of the tower
and against one another; little by little it assumed the dimensions of
a fair sized town set on a rock, with a broken skyline of chimneys,
turrets and pointed roofs. When the sky gleamed green in the west there
appeared, here and there, lights in the various parts of the tower.
The gloomy pile assumed quaint and fanciful contours, and it somehow
seemed that at its foot there stretched not an ordinary pavement, but
the waves of the sea, the salty and shoreless ocean. And the picture
brought to one's mind the shapes of the past, long since dead and

An immense ancient clock, which could be seen from afar, was set in
the tower. Its complicated mechanism occupied an entire story of the
structure, and it was under the care of a one-eyed man who could use
a magnifying glass with expert skill. This was the reason why he had
become a clockmaker and had tinkered for years with small timepieces
before he was given charge of the large clock. Here he felt at home and
happy. Often, at odd hours, without apparent need he would enter the
room where the wheels, the gears and the levers moved deliberately,
and where the immense pendulum cleft the air with wide and even sweep.
Having reached the limit of its travel the pendulum said:

"'Twas ever thus."

Then it sank and rose again to a new elevation and added:

"'Twill ever be, 'twas ever thus, 'twill ever be, 'twas ever thus,
'twill ever be."

These were the words with which the one-eyed clockmaker was wont to
interpret the monotonous and mysterious language of the pendulum: the
close contact with the large clock had made him a philosopher, as they
used to say in those days.

Over the ancient city where the tower stood, and over the entire land
there ruled one man, the mystic lord of the city and of the land,
and his mysterious sway, the rule of one man over the millions was
as ancient as the city itself. He was called the King and dubbed the
"Twentieth," according to the number of his predecessors of the same
name, but this fact explained nothing. Just as no one knew of the
early beginnings of the city, no one knew the origin of this strange
dominion, and no matter how far back human memory reached the records
of the hoary past presented the same mysterious picture of one man
who lorded over millions. There was a silent antiquity over which the
memory of man had no power, but it, too, at rare intervals, opened
its lips; it dropped from its jaws a stone, a little slab marked with
some characters, the fragment of a column, a brick from a wall that
had crumbled into ruin--and again the mysterious characters revealed
the same tale of one who had been lord over millions. Titles, names
and soubriquets changed, but the image remained unchanged, as if it
were immortal. The King was born and died like all men, and judging
from appearance, which was that common to all men, he was a man; but
when one took into account the unlimited extent of his power and might,
it was easier to imagine that he was God. Especially as God had been
always imagined to be like a man, and yet suffered no loss of his
peculiar and incomprehensible essence. The Twentieth was the King. This
meant that he had power to make a man happy or unhappy; that he could
take away his fortune, his health, his liberty and his very life; at
his command tens of thousands of men went forth to war, to kill and to
die; in his name were wrought acts just and unjust, cruel and merciful.
And his laws were no less stringent than those of God; this too
enhanced his greatness in that God's laws are immutable, but he could
change his at will. Distant or near, he always was higher than life;
at his birth man found along with nature, cities and books--his King;
dying--he left with nature, cities and books--the King.

The history of the land, oral and written, showed examples of
magnanimous, just and good Kings, and though there lived people better
than they, still one could understand why they might have ruled.
But more frequently it happened that the King was the worst man on
earth, bare of all virtues, cruel, unjust, even a madman--yet even
then he remained the mysterious one who ruled over millions, and his
power increased with his misdeeds. All the world hated and cursed
him, but he, the one, ruled over those who hated and cursed, and this
savage dominion became an enigma, and the dread of man before man was
increased by the mystic terror of the unfathomable. And because of this
wisdom, virtue and kindness served to weaken Kingcraft and made it
a subject of strife, while tyranny, madness and malice strengthened
it. And because of this the practice of beneficence and goodness was
beyond the ability of even the most powerful of these mysterious lords
though even the weakest of them in destructiveness and evil deeds could
surpass the devil and the fiends of hell. He could not give life, but
he imposed death, that mysterious Anointed one of madness, death and
evil; and his throne rose to greater heights, the more bones had been
laid down for its foundations.

In other neighboring lands there sat also lords upon their thrones, and
the origin of their dominion was lost in hoary antiquity. There were
years and centuries when the mysterious lord disappeared from one of
the Kingdoms, though there never was a time when the whole earth was
wholly without them. Centuries passed and again, no one knows whence,
there appeared in that land a throne, and again there sat thereon some
mysterious one, incomprehensibly combining in himself frailty and
undying power. And this mystery fascinated the people; at all times
there had been among them such as loved him more than themselves, more
than their wives and children, and humbly, as if from the hand of God,
without murmur or pity, they received from him and in his name, death
in most cruel and shameful form.

The Twentieth and his predecessors rarely showed themselves to the
people, and only a few ever saw them; but they loved to scatter abroad
their image, leaving it on coins, hewing it out of stone, impressing
it on myriads of canvases, and adorning and perfecting it through the
skill of artists. One could not take a step without seeing the face,
the same simple and mysterious face, forcing itself on the mind by
sheer ubiquity, conquering the imagination, and acquiring a seeming
omnipresence, just as it had attained immortality. And therefore people
who but faintly remembered the face of their grandfathers and could not
have recognized the features of their great grandfathers, knew well
the faces of their lords of a hundred, two hundred or a thousand years
back. And therefore, too, no matter how plain the face of the one man
who was master of millions may have been, it bore always the imprint
of enigmatic and awe-inspiring mystery. So the face of the dead always
seems mysterious and significant, for through the familiar and well
known features one gazes upon death, the mysterious and powerful.

Thus high above life stood the King. People died, and whole generations
passed from the face of the earth, but he only changed his soubriquet
like a serpent shedding his skin: The Eleventh was followed by the
twelfth, the fifteenth, then again came the first, the fifth, the
second, and in these cold figures sounded an inevitableness like that
of a swinging pendulum which marks the passing of time:

"'Twas ever thus, 'twill ever be."


And it happened that in that great country, the lord of which was the
Twentieth, there occurred a revolution, a rising of the millions, as
mysterious as had been the rule of the one. Something strange happened
to the strong ties which had bound together the King and the people,
and they began to decay noiselessly, unnoticeably, mysteriously, like
a body out of which the life had departed, and in which new forces
that had been in hiding somewhere commenced their work. There was the
same throne, the same palace, and the same Twentieth--but his power
had unaccountably passed away; and no one had noticed the hour of its
passage, and all thought that it merely was ailing. The people simply
lost the habit of obeying and that was all, and all at once, from out
the multitude of separate trifling, unnoticed resistances, there grew
up a stupendous, unconquerable movement. And as soon as the people
ceased to obey, all their ancient sores were opened, and wrathfully
they became conscious of hunger, injustice and oppression. And they
made an uproar. And they demanded justice. And they reared a gigantic
beast bristling with wrath, taking vengeance on its tamer for years of
humiliation and tortures. Just as they had not held counsels to agree
to obedience, they did not confer about rebelling; and straightway,
from all sides there gathered a rising and made its way to the palace.

Wondering at themselves and their deeds, oblivious of the path behind
them, they advanced closer and closer to the throne, fingering already
its gilt carving, peeping into the royal bed-chamber and attempting to
sit upon royal chairs. The King bowed and the Queen smiled, and many of
the people wept with joy as they beheld the Twentieth at close range;
the women stroked with cautious finger the velvet of the royal coat and
the silk of the royal gown, while the men with good-natured severity
amused the royal infant.

The King bowed and the pale Queen smiled, and from under the door of
a neighboring apartment there crept in the black current of the blood
of a nobleman, who had stabbed himself to death; he could not survive
the spectacle of somebody's dirty fingers touching the royal coat, and
committed suicide. And as they dispersed they shouted:

"Long live the Twentieth."

Here and there were some who frowned; but it was all so humorous
that they too forgot their annoyance and gaily laughing as if at a
carnival when some motley clown is crowned, they also shouted, "Long
live the Twentieth." And they laughed. But towards evening there was
gloom in their faces and suspicion in their glances; how could they
have faith in him who for a thousand years with diabolical cunning had
been deceiving his good and confiding people! The palace is dark; its
immense windows gleam insincerely and peer sulkily into the darkness:
some scheme is being concocted there. They are conjuring the powers of
darkness and calling on them for vengeance upon the people. There they
loathingly cleanse the lips from traitorous kisses and bathe the royal
infant who has been defiled by the touch of the people. Perhaps there
is no one there. Perhaps in the immense darkened salons there is only
the suicide nobleman and space--they may have disappeared. One must
shout, one must call for him, if a living being still be there. "Long
live the Twentieth."

A pale-grey, perplexing sky looks down upon pallid, upturned faces;
the frightened clouds are scurrying over the heavens, and the immense
windows gleam with a mysterious lifeless light. "Long live the

The overwhelmed sentinel seems to sway in the surging crowd. He has
lost his gun and is smiling; the lock upon the iron portals clatters
spasmodically and feverishly; clinging to the lofty iron rods of
the gate, like black and misshapen fruit are crouching bodies and
outstretched hands, that look pale on top and dark below. A shaggy
mass of clouds sweeps the sky and gazes down upon the scenes. Shouts.
Someone has lighted a torch, and the palace windows blushed as if
crimson with blood and drew nearer to the crowd. Something seemed to
be creeping upon the walls and disappeared upon the roof. The lock
rattled no longer. The glare of the torch revealed the railing crowded
with people, and now it became again invisible. The people were moving

"Long live the Twentieth!" A number of dim lights now seem to be
flittering past the windows. Somebody's ugly features press closely to
the pane and disappear. It is growing lighter. The torches increase
in number, multiply and move up and down, like some curious dance or
procession. Now the torches crowd together and incline as if saluting;
the king and queen appear on the balcony. There is a blaze of light
behind them, but their faces are dark, and the crowd is not sure it is
really they, in person.

"Give us Light! Twentieth! Give us Light! We can not see thee!"
Suddenly several torches flash to the right and to the left of them,
and from a smoky cavern two flushed and trembling countenances come
into view. The people in the back are yelling: "It is not they! The
king has fled!" But those nearest now shout with the joy of relieved
anxiety: "Long live the Twentieth!" The crimson faces are now seen
moving slowly up and down, now bright in the lurid glare, now vanishing
in the shadow; they are bowing to the people. It is the Nineteenth, the
Fourth, the Second who are bowing; bowing in the crimson mist are those
mysterious creatures who had held so much enigmatic, almost divine
power, and behind them are vanishing in the crimson mist of the past,
murders, executions, majesty and dread. Now he must speak; the human
voice is needed; when he is silent and bows with his flaming face he
is terrible to look upon, like a devil conjured up from hell.

"Speak, Twentieth, speak!" A curious motion of the hand, calling for
silence, a strange commanding gesture, as ancient as kingcraft itself,
and a gentle unknown voice is heard dropping those ancient and curious
words: "I am glad to see my good people." Is that all? And is it
not enough? He is glad! The Twentieth is glad! Be not angry with us
Twentieth. We love thee, Twentieth, love us, too. If you will not love
us we shall come again to see you in your study where you work, in your
dining-room where you eat, in your bed chamber where you sleep, and we
shall compel you to love us.

"Long live the Twentieth! Long live the king! Long live our master!"


Who said slaves? The torches are expiring. They are departing. The dim
lights are moving back into the palace, the windows are dark again, but
they flush with a crimson reflection. Someone is being sought in the
crowd. The crowds are hurrying, casting frightened glances behind. Had
he been here or had it been a mere fancy? They ought to have touched
him, fingered his garments or his face; he ought to have been made to
cry out with terror or pain. They disperse in silence; the shouts of
individuals are drowned in the discordant tramp of many feet; they are
filled with obscure memories, presentiments and terrors. And horrible
visions hover all night long over the city.


He had already attempted to flee. He had bewitched some and lulled
others to sleep and had almost gained his diabolical liberty, when
a faithful son of the fatherland recognized him in the disguise of a
shabby domestic. Not trusting to his memory he looked on a coin which
bore his image--and the bells rang out in alarm, the houses belched
forth masses of pale and frightened people; it was he! Now he is in the
tower, in the immense black tower with the massive walls and the small
bastioned windows; and faithful sons of the people are watching him,
impervious to bribery, enchantment and flattery. To drive away fear the
guards drink and laugh and blow clouds of smoke right into his face,
when he essays to take a walk in the prison with his devilish progeny.
To prevent him from enchanting the passersby they had boarded up the
lower portions of the windows and the tower gallery where he was wont
to promenade, and only the wandering clouds in passing look into his
face. But he is strong. He transforms the laughter of a freeman into
servile tears; he sows seeds of disloyalty and treason from behind the
massive walls and they penetrate into the hearts of the people like
black flowers, staining the golden raiment of liberty into the likeness
of a wild beast's skin. Traitors and enemies abound on all hands.
Descended from their thrones other powerful and mysterious lords gather
at the frontier with hordes of savage and bewitched people, matricides
ready to put to death freedom, their mother. In the houses, on the
streets, in the mysterious wilderness of forests and distant villages,
in the proud mansions of the popular assembly, there hisses the sound
of treason and glides the shadow of treachery. Woe unto the people!
They are betrayed by those who had been the first to raise the banner
of revolt and the traitors' wretched remains are already cast out of
the dishonored sepulchres and their black blood drenches the earth.
Woe unto the people! They are betrayed by those to whom they had given
their hearts; betrayed by their own elect; whose faces are honest,
whose tongues are uncompromisingly stern and whose pockets are full of
somebody's gold.

Now the city is to be searched. It was ordered that all should be in
their dwellings at mid-day; and when at the appointed hour the bells
were rung, their ominous sound rolled echoing over the deserted and
silent streets. Since the city's birth there had never reigned such
stillness; not a soul near the fountains; the stores are closed; on the
streets, from one end to the other, not a pedestrian, not a carriage
to be seen. The alarmed and astonished cats wander in the shadow of
the silent walls; they can not tell whether it be day or night; and so
profound is the silence that it seems as if their velvety footfall were
plainly audible. The measured tones of the bells pass over the streets
like invisible brooms sweeping the city clean. Now the cats, too,
frightened at something, have disappeared. Silence and desolation.

Suddenly on every street there appear simultaneously little bands of
armed people. They converse loudly and freely and stamp their feet, and
although they are not many they seem to cause more noisy commotion than
the whole city when it is crowded with a hundred thousand pedestrians
and vehicles. Each house seems to swallow them up in succession and
to belch them forth again. And as they emerge another or two more are
belched forth with them, pale with malice or red with wrath. And they
walked with their hands in their pockets, for in those curious days
no one feared death, not even the traitors; and they entered into the
dark jaws of the prison houses. Ten thousand traitors were found that
day by the faithful servants of the people; they found ten thousand
traitors and cast them into prison. Now the prisons were pleasant
and awful to look upon; so full they were from top to bottom with
disloyalty and shameful treachery. One wondered that the walls could
bear the load without crumbling into dust.

That night there was a general rejoicing in the city. The houses
were emptied once more and the streets were filled; endless black
throngs engaged in a stupefying dance, a combination of quick and
unexpected gyrations. Dancing was in progress from one end of the city
to the other. Around the lamp-posts like the foaming surf that beats
against the rocks, knots of merrymakers had gathered, clasping hands,
their faces aglow with laughter, and wide-eyed, whirling around, now
vanishing from view and ever changing in expression. From the lamp-post
dangled the corpse of some executed traitor who had not succeeded in
reaching the shelter of his prison. His extended legs seeking the
ground, almost touched the heads of the dancers, and the corpse itself
seemed to dance, yes, it seemed to be the very master of ceremonies and
the ring-leader of the merriment, directing the dance.

Then they walked over to the black tower and craning their necks,
shouted: "Death to the Twentieth! Death!" Cheerful lights gleamed now
in the tower windows; the faithful sons of the people were watching the
tyrant. Calmed and assured that he could not escape, they shouted more
in a jest than seriously: "Death to the Twentieth!" And they departed,
making room for other shouters. But at night horrible dreams again
hovered over the city, and like poison which one has swallowed and
failed to spit out, the black towers and prisons reeking with traitors
and treachery, gnawed at the city's vitals.

Now they were putting the traitors to death. They had sharpened their
sabres, axes and scythes; they had gathered blocks of wood and heavy
stones and for forty-eight hours they worked in the prisons until they
collapsed from fatigue. They slept anywhere near their bloody work,
they ate and drank there. The earth refused to absorb the streams of
sluggish blood; they had to cover it with heaps of straw, but that
covering too was drenched and transformed into brownish refuse. Seven
thousand traitors were put to death that day. Seven thousand traitors
had bitten the dust in order to cleanse the city and furnish life to
the newborn freedom. They marched again to see the Twentieth and held
up to his view the chopped off heads and the torn out hearts of the
traitors. And he saw them. Then confusion and consternation reigned
in the popular assembly. They sought him who had given the order to
slay and could not detect him. But someone must have given the order
to slay. Was it you? Or you? Or you? But who had dared to give orders
where the popular assembly alone had the right to command? Some are
smiling--they seem to know something.


"No! But we have compassion with our native land, while you express
pity with traitors!"

Still peace is afar off, and treachery is growing apace and
multiplying; insidiously it finds its way into the very hearts of the
people. Oh! the sufferings, and Oh! the bloodshed--and all in vain!
Through the massive walls that mysterious sovereign still sows the
seeds of treachery and enchantment. Alas for freedom! From the West
comes the news of terrible dissensions, of batties, of a crazed
portion of the people who had seceded and risen in arms against their
mother, the Freedom. Threats are heard from the south, and from the
east and the north other mysterious lords who had descended from their
thrones are closing in upon the land with their savage hordes. No
matter whence they come the clouds are imbued with the breath of foes
and of traitors. No matter whence they blow from the north and the
south, from the west and the east, the winds waft mutterings of threats
and of wrath, and strike joyfully on the ear of him who is imprisoned
in the tower, while they sound a funeral knell in the ears of citizens.
Alas for the people! Alas for liberty! At night the moon is bright and
radiant as if shining above ruins, but the sun even is lost in the
mist and the black concourse of clouds, deformed, monstrous and ugly,
which seem to strangle it. They attack it and strangle it and a mingled
shagginess of crimson, they crash into the abyss of the west. Once for
an instant the sun broke through the clouds--and how sad, awesome and
frightened was that ray of light. Hurriedly tender it seemed to caress
the tops of the trees, the roofs of the houses, the spires of the

But in the tower the one-eyed clockmaker, who could so conveniently use
the magnifying glass, walking amid his wheels and gears, his levers
and ropes, and bending his head to one side watches the swinging of
the mighty pendulum. "'Twas ever thus--'twill ever be. 'Twas ever
thus--'twill ever be!"

Once when he was very young the clock got out of order and stopped for
the space of two days. And it was such a terrifying experience, as
if all time had slipped into an abyss. But after the clock had been
repaired, all was well again, and now time seems to flow between one's
fingers, to ooze drop by drop, to split into little pieces, falling
an inch at a time. The immense brazen disc of the pendulum lights up
faintly as it moves and seems to swing like a ball of gold if one looks
at it with half-closed eyes. A pigeon is heard cooing softly among the
rafters. "'Twas ever thus--'twill ever be!" 'Twas ever thus--'twill
ever be!"


The thousand-year-old monarchy was at last overthrown. There was no
need of the plebiscite; every man in the popular assembly had risen to
his feet, and from top to bottom it became filled with standing men.
Even that sick deputy who had been brought in an armchair rose to his
feet; supported by his friends he straightened his limbs, crushed with
paralysis, and stood erect like a tall withered stump supported by two
young and slender trees.

"The republic is accepted unanimously," someone announced with a
sonorous voice, vainly attempting to conceal its triumphant tone.

But they all remained standing. A minute passed, then another; already
upon the public square, which was thronged with expectant people,
there had burst forth a thunderous manifestation of joy, but in the
hall there reigned a solemn stillness as in a cathedral, and stern,
majestically serious people, grown rigid in the attitude of proud
homage. Before whom are they standing? They no longer own a King, even
God, that tyrant and king of heaven, had long since been overthrown
from His celestial seat. They are paying homage to Liberty. The aged
deputy whose head had been shaking for years with senile palsy now
holds it up erect and proud. There, with an easy gesture of his
hand, he has pushed aside his friends; he is standing alone; liberty
has accomplished a miracle. These men who had long since forgotten
the art of weeping, living amid tempests, riots and bloodshed, are
weeping now. The cruel eyes of eagles which gazed calm and unmoved on
the blood-reeking sun of the Revolution can not withstand the gentle
radiance of Liberty, and they shed tears.

Silence reigns in the hall; but a tumultuous uproar is heard outside;
growing in volume and intensity it loses its sharpness; it is uniform
and mighty and brings to mind the roar of the limitless ocean. They are
all freemen now. Free are the dying, free are those coming into the
world, free are the living. The mysterious dominion of One which had
held the millions in its clutches is overthrown, the black vaults of
prisons have crumbled into dust--and overhead shines the cloudless and
radiant sky.

"Liberty"--someone whispers softly and tenderly like the name of a
sweetheart. "Liberty!" exclaims another, breathless with unutterable
joy, his face aglow with intense eagerness and lofty inspiration.
"Liberty!" is heard in the clanging of the iron. "Liberty!" sing the
stringed instruments. "Liberty!" roars the many-voiced ocean. He is
dead, the old deputy. His heart could not contain the infinite joy and
it stopped, its last beat being--Liberty! The most blessed of mortals;
into the mysterious shadow of the grave he will carry away an endless
vision of Newborn Freedom.

They had been awaiting frenzied excesses in the city, but none took
place. The breath of liberty ennobled the people, and they grew gentle
and tender and chaste in their demonstrations of joy. They only gazed
at one another,'they caressed one another with a cautious touch of the
hand; it is so sweet to caress a free creature and to look into his
eyes. And no one was hanged. There was found a madman who shouted in
the crowd: "Long live the Twentieth!" twirled his mustache and prepared
himself for the brief struggle and the lengthy agony in the clutches of
a maddened throng. And some frowned, while others, the large majority,
merely wonderingly and curiously regarding the hair-brained fellow, as
a crowd of sightseers might gape at some curious simian from Brazil.
And they let him go.

It was late at night when they remembered the Twentieth. A crowd of
citizens who refused to part with the great day decided to roam around
until daybreak. By chance they bethought themselves of the Twentieth
and wended their way to the tower. That black structure merged into
the darkness of the sky and at the moment when the citizens approached
seemed to be in the act of swallowing a little star. Some stray bright
little star came close to it, flashed for a moment and disappeared in
the darkness. Very close to the ground, in a lower tier of the tower,
two lighted windows shone out into the darkness. There the faithful
custodians kept their unceasing vigil. The clock struck the hour of two.

"Does he or does he not know?" inquired one of the visitors vainly
attempting to make out with his glance the contours of the pile, as if
endeavoring to solve its secrets. A dark silhouette now detached itself
from the wall, and a dull, weary voice responded:

"He is asleep, citizen."

"Who are you, citizen? You startled me. You walk as softly as a cat!"

Other dark silhouettes now approached from various quarters and mutely
confronted the newcomers.

"Why don't you answer? If you are a specter, please vanish without
delay; the assembly has abolished specters."

But the stranger wearily replied: "We watch the tyrant."

"Did the commune appoint you?"

"No. We appointed ourselves. There are thirty-six of us. There had been
thirty-seven, but one died; we watch the tyrant. We have lived near
this wall for two months or longer. We are very weary."

"The nation thanks you. Do you know what happened to-day?"

"Yes, we heard something. We watch the tyrant."

"Have you heard that we are a republic now? That we have liberty?"

"Yes, but we watch the tyrant and we are weary."

"Let us embrace, brothers!"

Cold lips wearily touch the burning lips of the visitors.

"We are weary. He is so cunning and dangerous. Day and night we watch
the doors and the windows. I watch that window; you could hardly
distinguish it. So you say we have liberty? Very good.--But we must go
back to our posts. Be calm, citizens. He is asleep. We receive reports
every half hour. He is sleeping now."

The silhouettes moved, separated themselves and vanished as if they had
gone right through the walls. The gloomy old tower seemed to have grown
taller, and from one of the battlements there stretched over the city
a dark and shapeless cloud. It seemed as if the tower had grown out
of all proportion and was stretching its hand over the city. A light
flashed from the dense blackness of the wall and suddenly vanished,
like a signal. The cloud now covered the whole city and reflected with
a yellowish gleam the lurid glare of many fires. A drizzling rain
suddenly commenced to descend. All was silent and all was restless.

Was he really sleeping?


A few more days passed in the new and delicious sensations of freedom,
and again new threads of distrust and fear appeared like dark veins
running through white marble. The tyrant received the news of his
overthrow with suspicious calmness. How can a man be calm when deprived
of a kingdom, unless he be planning something terrible? And how can
the people be calm, when in their midst there lives a mysterious one
having the gift of pernicious enchantment? Overthrown, he continues
to be terrible; imprisoned he demonstrates at will his diabolical
power which grows with distance. Thus the earth, black at close range,
appears like a shining star when seen from the depths of azure space.
And in his immediate surroundings his sufferings move to tears. A woman
was seen to kiss the hand of the queen. A guard was observed drying
his tears. An orator was heard appealing for mercy. As if even now he
were not happier than thousands of people who had never seen the light?
Who could warrant that on the morrow the land would not return to its
ancient madness, crawling in the dust before him, begging his pardon
and rearing anew his throne which it cost so much labor and pain to

Bristling with frenzy and terror the millions are listening to the
speeches in the popular assembly. Curious speeches. Terrifying words.
They speak of his inviolability; they say he is sacro-sanct, that he
may not be judged like others are judged, that he may not be punished
like others are punished, that he may not be put to death, for he is
the King. Consequently Kings still exist! And these words are spoken
by those who have sworn to love the people and liberty; the words are
uttered by men of tried honesty, by sworn foes of tyranny, by the sons
of the people who came forth from the loins of those that were scarred
by the merciless and sacrilegious rule of the Kings. Ominous blindness!

Already the majority is inclining in favor of the overthrown one; as
if a dense yellow fog issuing forth from that tower had forced its way
into the holy mansions of the people's mind, blinding their bright
eyes strangling their newly gained freedom; thus a bride adorned with
white blossoms might meet death in the hour of her bridal triumph.
Dull despair creeps into the heart, and many hands convulsively stroke
the trusted blade; it is better to die with Brutus than to live with

Final remonstrances full of deadly indignation.

"Do you wish to have one man in the land and thirty-five million

Yes, they wish it. They stand silent with downcast eyes. They are weary
of fighting, weary of exercising their will, and in their lassitude,
in their yawning and stretching, in their colorless cold words which,
however, have a magic effect, one almost fancies the contour of a
throne. Scattered exclamations, dull speeches, and the blind silence of
unanimous treachery. Liberty is perishing, the luckless bride adorned
with white blossoms, who has met her doom in the hour of her bridal

But hark! The sound of marching. They are coming; like the sound of
dozens of gigantic drums beating a wild tattoo. Tramp! Tramp! Tramp!
They come from the suburbs. Tramp! Tramp! Tramp! They march in defense
of liberty. Tramp! Tramp! Tramp! Woe unto traitors! Tramp! Tramp!
Tramp! Traitors, beware!

"The People ask permission to march past the assembly."

But who could stop an avalanche? Who would dare tell an earthquake, "So
far and no further shalt thou go!"

The doors are thrown open. There they come from the suburbs. Their
faces are the color of the earth. Their breasts are bared. An endless
kaleidoscope of motley rags that serve for raiment. A triumph of
impulsive, uncontrolled movements. An ominous harmony of disorder.
A marching chaos. Tramp! Tramp! Tramp! Eyes flashing fire! Prongs,
scythes, tridents, fenceposts. Men, women and children. Tramp! Tramp!

"Long live the representatives of the people! Long live liberty! Death
to traitors!" The deputies smile, frown, bow amiably. They grow dizzy
watching the motley procession that seems to have no end. It looks like
a torrential stream rushing through a cavern. All faces begin to look
alike. All shouts merge into one uniform and solid roar. The tramp of
the feet resembles the patter of raindrops upon the roof, a sporific,
will-subduing sound which dominates consciousness. A gigantic roof,
gigantic raindrops.

Tramp! Tramp! Tramp! One hour passes, then two, then three, and still
they are filing past. The torches burn with a crimson glare and emit
smoke. Both openings, the one through which the people enter and the
one through which they file out are like yawning jaws; and it is as if
some black ribbon, gleaming with copper and iron, stretched from one
door and through the other. Fanciful pictures now present themselves to
the weary eye. Now it is an endless belt, now a titanic, swollen and
hairy worm. Those sitting above the doors imagine themselves standing
on a bridge and feel like floating away. Now and then the clear and
unusually vivid realization comes to one's mind: it is the people. And
pride, and consciousness of the power and the thirst for great freedom
such as has never been known before. A free people, what happiness!

Tramp! Tramp! Tramp! They have been marching for eight hours and still
the end is not yet. From both sides, where the people enter and where
they file out, rode the thunderous notes of the song of the revolution.
The words can be hardly heard. Only the time, the cadences and the
notes are plainly distinguished. Momentary stillness and threating
shouts. "To arms, citizens! Gather into battalions! Let us go! Let us

They go.

No need of a vote. Liberty is safe once more.


Then came the fateful day of the royal judgment. The mysterious power,
ancient as the world, was called upon to answer for its misdeeds
to the very people it had so long held in bondage. It was called
upon to answer to the world which it dishonored by the triumph of
its absurdity. Stripped of its cap and bells, deprived of its gaudy
throne, of its high-sounding titles and of all those queer symbols of
dominion, naked it will stand before the people and will tell by whose
right and authority it had exercised its rule over millions, vesting in
the person of one being the power to do wrong with impunity, to rob men
of their freedom, to inflict punishment and death. But the Twentieth
has been judged already by the conscience of the people. No mercy will
be shown him. Yet, ere he goes to his doom, let him unbosom himself,
let him acquaint the people, not with his deeds, they are sufficiently
well known to them, but with the thoughts, the motives and the feelings
of a king. That mythical dragon who devours children and virgins, who
has held the world in thrall, is now securely fettered and bound with
heavy chains. He will be taken to the public square and soon the people
will see his scaly trunk, his venomous fangs and the cruel jaws that
exhale fierce flames.

Some plot was feared. All night long troops had marched through
the tranquil streets, filling the squares and passages, fencing in
the route of the royal procession with rows of gleaming bayonets,
surrounding it with a wall of somber and sternly solemn faces. Above
the black silhouettes of buildings and churches, that loomed sharp,
square-shaped and strangely indistinct in the twilight of the early
dawn, there appeared the first faint gleam of the yellow and cloudy
sky, the cold sky of the city, looking as aged as the houses and, like
them, covered with soot and rust. It resembled some painting hanging in
a dark hall of an ancient baronial castle.

The city slept in anxious anticipation of the great and portentous day,
while on the streets the citizen-soldiers moved quietly in well-formed
ranks, striving to muffle the sounds of their heavy footsteps. The
low-browed cannon, almost grazing the ground with their chins, rattled
insolently over the roadways with the ruddy glare of a fuse on each
piece of ordnance.

Orders were given in a subdued tone, almost in a whisper, as if the
commanders feared to waken some light and suspicious sleeper. Whether
they feared for the king and his safety, or whether they feared the
king himself, no one knew. But everybody knew that there was need of
preparation, need of summoning the entire strength of the people.

The morning would dawn, but slowly; massive yellow clouds, bushy and
grimy as if they had been rubbed with a filthy cloth, hung over the
church spires, and only as the king emerged from the tower the sun
burst into radiance through a rift in the clouds. Happy augury for the
people, ominous warning for the tyrant!

And thus was he taken from prison; through a narrow lane formed by two
solid lines of troops there moved companies of armed soldiers--one,
two, ten, you could not have counted their number. Then came the guns,
rattling, rattling, rattling. Then gripped in the vice-like embrace
of rifles, sabers and bayonets came the carriage, scarcely able to
proceed. And again fresh guns and companies of soldiers. And all
through that journey of many miles silence preceded the carriage, and
was behind it and all around it. At one point in the public square
there were heard a few tentative shouts, "Death to the Twentieth!" But
finding no support in the crowd, the shouts subsided. Thus in the chase
of a wild boar only the inexperienced dogs are heard barking, but those
who will maim and be maimed are silent, gathering wrath and strength.

In the assembly there reigns an excitedly subdued hubbub of
conversation. They have been expecting for some hours the coming of the
tyrant, who approaches with snail-like pace; the deputies walk about
the corridors in agitation, every moment changing their positions,
laughing without apparent cause and animatedly gossiping about any
trivial thing. But many are sitting motionless, like statues of stone,
and their expression is also stone-like. Their faces are young, but the
furrows thereon are deep and old, as if hewn by an ax, and their hair
is rough; their eyes either ominously hidden in the cavernous depths
of the skull or intently drawn forward, wide and comprehensive, as if
not shaded by eyebrows, like torches burning in the gloomy recesses of
a prison. There is no terror on earth which these eyes could not gaze
on without a tremor. There is no cruelty, no sorrow, no spectral horror
before which this glance would flinch, hardened as they had been in
the furnace of the revolution. Those who were the first to launch the
great movement have long since died and their ashes have been scattered
abroad; they are forgotten, forgotten are their ideas, aspirations and
yearnings. The onetime thunder of their speeches is like the rattle in
the hands of a babe; the great freedom of which they dreamt now seems
like the crib of a child with a canopy to protect it from flies and the
glare of daylight. But these have grown up amid the storms and live
in the tempest; they are the darling children of tumultuous days, of
blood-reeking heads borne aloft on lances like pumpkins, of massive
and mighty hearts made to give forth blood; of titanic orations, where
a word is sharper than the dagger and an idea more pitiless than
gunpowder. Obedient only to the will of the people they have summoned
the specter of imperious power, and now, cold and passionless, like
surgeons dissecting a corpse, like judges, like executioners, they will
analyze its ghostly bluish effulgence which so awes the ignorant and
the superstitious, they will dissect its spectral members, they will
discover the black venom of tyranny, and they will let it pass to its

Now the hubbub outside grows faint, and stillness profound and black
as the heavens at night ensues; now the rattle of approaching cannon.
This, too, subsides. A slight commotion near the entrance. Everybody
is seated; they must be sitting when the tyrant enters. They strive to
look unconcerned. Heavy tramping of troops placed in various stations
about the building and a subdued clanging of arms. The last of the
cannon outside conclude their noisy peregrination. Like a ring of steel
they surround the buildings, their jaws pointing outward, facing the
whole world--the west and the east, the north and the south. Something
looking quite insignificant entered the hall. Seen from the more
distant benches higher up it appeared to be a fat, undersized manikin
with swift uncertain movements. Observed at close range it was seen to
be a stout man of medium height, with a prominent nose that was crimson
with the cold, baggy cheeks and dull little eyes, an expressive mixture
of good nature, insignificance and stupidity. He turns his head, not
knowing whether to bow or not, and then nods lightly; he stands in
indecision, with feet spread apart, not knowing whether he may sit
down or not. Not a word is heard, but there is a chair behind him,
evidently intended for him, and he sits down, first unobtrusively, then
more firmly, and finally assumes a majestic posture. He has evidently
a severe cold, for he draws from his pocket a handkerchief and uses
it with apparent enjoyment, emitting a loud and trumpet-like sound.
Then he pulls himself together, pockets his handkerchief and grows
majestically rigid. He is ready. Such is the Twentieth.


They had been expecting a King, but there appeared before them a clown.
They had been expecting a dragon, but there came a big-nosed bourgeois
with a handkerchief and a bad cold. It was funny, and curious and a
little uncanny. Had not someone substituted a pretender in his place?
"It is I, the King," says the Twentieth.

Yes, it is he, indeed. How funny he is! Think of him for a King! The
people smiled, shrugged their shoulders and could hardly refrain from
laughter. They exchanged mocking smiles and salutes and seemed to
inquire in the language of signs: "Well, what do you think of Him?"
The deputies were very serious and pale. Undoubtedly the feeling of
responsibility oppressed them. But the people were merry in a quiet
way. How had they managed to make their way into the assembly hall? How
does water trickle through a hole? They had penetrated through some
broken windows, they had almost slipped through the keyholes. Hundreds
of ragged and phantastically attired but extremely courteous and
affable strangers. Crowding a deputy they solicitously inquired: "Hope
I am not in your way, citizen?" They were very polite. Like quaint
birds, they clung in dark rows to the window sills, obstructing the
light and seemed to be signalling something to the people in the square
outside. It was apparently something funny.

But the deputies are serious, very serious and even pale. They fix
their eager eyes like magnifying lenses upon the Twentieth, gazing upon
him long and intently, and turn away frowning. Some have closed their
eyes altogether. They loathe the sight of the tyrant. "Citizen deputy,"
exclaims with delighted awe one of the courteous strangers; "see how
the tyrant's eyes are glowing." Without raising his drooping eyelids
the deputy replies, "Yes!"

"How well nourished he looks."


"But you are not very talkative, citizen!"

Silence again. There below the Twentieth is already mumbling his
speech. He can not understand of what he could be accused. He had
always loved the people and the people loved him; and he still loved
the people in spite of all insults. If the people think a Republic
would suit them better, let them have a republic. He has nothing
against it.

"But why then did you summon other tyrants?"

"I did not summon them; they came of their own accord."

This answer is false. Documents had been found in a secret drawer
establishing the fact of the negotiations. But he insists, clumsily
and stupidly, like any ordinary rascal caught cheating. He even looks
offended. As a matter of fact he has always had the best interests of
the people at heart. No, he has not been cruel; he always pardoned
whomever he could pardon. No, he has not ruined the land by his
extravagance, he only used for himself as much as an ordinary plain
citizen might. He had never been a profligate or a wastrel. He is a
lover of Greek and Latin classical literature and of cabinet making.
All the furniture in his study is the work of his hands. So much is
correct. To look at him, he certainly had the appearance of a plain
citizen; there are multitudes of stout fellows like him with noses that
emit trumpet-like sounds; they may be met a-plenty on the riverside of
a holiday, fishing. Insignificant funny men with big noses. But he had
been a King! What could it mean? Then anybody could be a King!

A gorilla might become an absolute ruler over men! And a golden throne
might be reared for it to sit on! And divine honor might be paid to it,
and it might lay dawn the laws of life for the people. A hoary gorilla,
a pitiful survival of the forest!

The brief autumn day is drawing to a close, and the people begin to
express impatience. Why bother so long with the tyrant? What, is there
some new treachery being hatched? In the twilight of an ante-chamber
two deputies meet. They scrutinize one another and exchange a glance of
mutual recognition. Then they walk together, for some reason avoiding
contact with their bodies.

"But where is the tyrant?" suddenly exclaims one of them and grasps the
shoulder of his companion, "Tell me, where is the tyrant?"

"I don't know. I feel too ashamed to enter the hall."

"Horrible thought! Is insignificance the secret of tyranny? Are
nonentities our real tyrants?"

"I don't know, but I am ashamed."

The little ante-chamber was quiet, but from all sides, from the
assembly hall and from the public square outside, there was heard
a dull roaring. Each individual perhaps spoke in low tones, but
altogether the result was an elemental turmoil like the roaring of the
distant ocean. A ruddy glare seemed to be flitting over the walls,
evidently men outside were lighting their torches. Then not afar off
was heard the measured tramping of feet and the subdued rattle of arms.
They were relieving the watches. Whom are they watching? What is the

"Drive him out of the country!" "No. The people will not permit it. He
must be killed." "But that would be another wrong."

The ruddy spots seem now climbing up and down along the walls, and
spectral shadows make their appearance, now creeping, now leaping;
as if the bloody days of the past and of the present were passing in
review in an endless procession through the visions of a dreamer.
The turmoil outside grows more boisterous; one can almost discern
individual shouts. "For the first time in my life, to-day a feeling of
dread has seized my heart."

"Likewise of despair, and of shame."

"Yes, and of despair! Let me have your hand, brother. How cold it
is. Here in the face of unknown perils and in the hour of a great
humiliation, let us swear that we will not betray freedom. We shall
perish. I felt it to-day. But perishing let us shout, "Liberty,
liberty, brothers!" Let us shout it so loud that a world of slaves
shall quake with fear. Clasp my hand tighter, brother."

It was still now; here and there crimson spots flared up along the
walls, while the misty shadows moved with swiftness, but the abyss
below roared and thundered with increasing fury, as if a dreadful and
mighty hurricane had come sweeping onward from the north and the south,
from the west and the east, and had stirred the multitude with its
terror. Fragments of songs and howls and one word as if sketched in
stupendous jagged black outlines in the chaos of sounds:

"Death! Death to the Tyrant!"

The two deputies were standing lost in a reverie. Time passed on,
but still they stood there, unmoved in the maddened chase of shadow
shapes and smoke, and it seemed as if they had been standing there for
ages. Thousands of spectral years surrounded them with the mighty and
majestic silence of eternity, while the shadows whirled on frenziedly,
and the shouts rose and fell beating against the window like windswept
breakers. At times the weird and mysterious rhythm of the surf could be
discerned in the turmoil and the thunderous roar of the breaking waves.
"Death! Death to the tyrant!" At last they stirred from the spot.

"Well let us go in there!" "Let us go in! Fool that I was! I had
thought that this day would end the fight with tyranny." "The fight is
just commencing. Let us go in!"

They passed through dark corridors and dawn marble stairways, through
chilly and silent halls that are as damp as cellars. Suddenly a
gleam of light, a wave of heated air like the breath of a furnace,
a hubbub of voices like a hundred caged parrots talking against
time. Then another doorway and at their feet there opens an immense
chasm, littered with heads, semi-dark and filled with smoke. Reddish
tongues of candles stifling for want of fresh air. Someone is speaking
somewhere. Thunderous applause. The speech is apparently ended. At
the very bottom of the abyss, between two flickering lights is the
small figure of the Twentieth. He is wiping the perspiration from
his forehead with a handkerchief, bends low over the table and reads
something with an indistinct mumbling voice. He is reading his speech
of defense. How hot he feels! Ho, Twentieth! Remember that you are
king. Raise your voice ennoble the ax and the executioner! No! He
mumbles on, tragically serious in his stupidity.


Many watched the execution of the king from the roofs, but even the
roofs were not sufficient to accommodate the sight-seers and many did
not succeed after all in seeing how kings are executed. But the high
and narrow houses, with the queer coiffure of mobile creatures instead
of roofs seemed to have become endowed with life, and their opened
windows resembled black, winking eyes. Behind the houses rose church
spires and towers, some pointed and others blunt, and at first glance
they looked the same as usual, but on closer observation they appeared
to be dotted with dark transverse lines which seemed to be swaying to
and fro; they, too, were crowded with people. Nothing could be seen
from so great a height, but they looked on just the same. Seen from the
roofs of houses the scaffold seemed as small as a child's plaything,
something like a toy barrow with broken handles. The few persons who
stood apart from the sight-seers and in the immediate neighborhood of
the scaffold, the only few persons who stood by themselves (the rest of
the people having been merged into a dense mass of black), those few
persons standing by themselves oddly resembled tiny black ants walking
erect. Everything seemed to be on a level, and yet they laboriously
and slowly ascended invisible steps. And it seemed strange that right
beside one, upon the neighboring roofs, there stood people with large
heads, mouths and noses. The drums beat loudly. A little black coach
drove up to the scaffold. For quite a little while nothing could be
discerned. Then a little group separated itself from the mass and very
slowly ascended some invisible steps. Then the group dispersed, leaving
in the center a tiny looking individual. The drums beat again and
one's heart stood still. Suddenly the tattoo came to an end hoarsely
and brokenly. All was still. The tiny lone figure raised its hand,
dropped it and raised it again. It is evidently speaking, but not a
word is heard. What is it saying? What is it saying? Suddenly the drums
broke into a tattoo, scattering abroad their martial beats, and rending
the air into myriads of particles which hindered one from seeing.
Commotion on the scaffold. The little figure has vanished. He is being
executed. The drums beat again and all of a sudden, hoarsely and
brokenly, cease from their tumult. On the spot where the Twentieth had
stood just a moment before there is a new little figure with extended
hand. And in that hand there is seen something tiny, that is light on
one side and dark on the other, like a pin head dyed in two colors. It
is the head of the King. At last! The coffin, with the body and the
head of the King, was rushed off somewhere, and the conveyance that
bore it away drove off at a breakneck speed, crushing the people in its
path. It was feared that the frenzied populace would not spare even the
remains of the tyrant. But the people were terrible indeed. Imbued with
the ancient slavish fear they could not bring themselves to believe
that it had really taken place, that the inviolable sacrosanct and
potent sovereign had placed his head under the ax of the executioner:
desperately and blindly they besieged the scaffold; eyes very often
play tricks on one and the ears deceive. They must touch the scaffold
with their hands, they must breathe in the odor of royal blood, steep
their arms in it up to the elbows. They fought, scrambled, fell and
screamed. There something soft, like a bundle of rags, rolls under
the feet of the crowd. It is the body of one crushed to death. Then
another and another. Having fought their way to the heap of ruins
which remained of the scaffold, with feverish hands they broke off
fragments of it, scraping them off with their nails; they demolished
the scaffold greedily, blindly grabbing heavy beams, and after a step
or two fell under the burden. And the crowd closed in over the heads
of the fallen while the beams rose to the surface, floated along as
if borne on some current, and diving again it showed for a moment its
jagged edge and then disappeared. Some found a little pool of blood
that the thirsting ground had not yet drained and that had not yet
been trampled under foot, and they dipped into it their handkerchiefs
and their raiment. Many smeared the blood on their lips and imprinted
some mysterious signs on their foreheads, anointing themselves with the
blood of the King to the new reign of freedom. They were intoxicated
with savage delight. Unaccompanied by song or speech they whirled in a
breathless dance; ran about raising aloft their bloodstained rags, and
scattered over the city, shouting, roaring and laughing incontinently
and strangely. Some attempted to sing, but songs were too slow, too
harmonious and rhythmical, and they again resumed their wild laughing
and shouting. They started toward the national assembly intending to
thank the deputies for ridding the land of the tyrant, but on the
way they were deflected from their goal by the pursuit of a traitor
who shouted: "The King is dead, long live the King! Long live the
Twenty-first!" And then they dispersed--after having hanged someone.

Many of those who secretly continued to be loyal to the King could not
bear the thought of his execution and lost their minds; many others,
though they were cowards, committed suicide. Until the very last
moment they waited for something, hoped for something, and had faith in
the efficacy of their prayers. But when the execution had taken place
they were seized with despair. Some grimly and sullenly, others in
sacrilegious frenzy pierced their hearts with daggers. And there were
some who ran out into the street with a savage thirst for martyrdom,
and facing the avalanche of the people shouted madly, "Long live the
Twenty-first!" and they perished.

The day was drawing to a close and the night was breaking upon the
city, the stern and truthful night which has no eyes for that which
is visible. The city was yet bright with the glare of street lights,
but the river under the bridge was as black as liquid soot, and only
in the distance, where it curved, and where the last pale cold gleams
of sunset were dying away, it shone dimly like the cold reflection
of polished metal. Two men stood on the bridge, leaning against its
masonry, and peered into the dark and mysterious depth of the river.

"Do you believe that freedom really came to-day?" asked one of the
twain in a low tone of voice, for the city was yet bright with many
lights, while the river below stretched away, wrapped in blackness.

"Look, a corpse is floating there," exclaimed the other, and he spoke
in a low tone of voice, for the corpse was very near and its broad blue
face was turned upward.

"There are many of them floating in the river these days. They are
floating down to the sea."

"I have not much faith in their liberty. They are too happy over the
death of the Insignificant One."

From the city where the lights were yet burning the breeze wafted
sounds of voices, of laughter and of songs. Merrymaking was still in

"Dominion must be destroyed yet," said the first.

"The slaves must be destroyed. There is no such thing as dominion;
slavery alone exists. There goes another corpse. And still another.
How many there are of them. Where do they come from? They appear so
suddenly from under the bridge!"

"But the people love liberty."

"No. They merely fear the whip. When they shall learn to love liberty
they will become free."

"Let us go hence. The sight of these corpses nauseates me."

And as they turned to depart, while the lights were yet shining in the
city and the river was as black as liquid soot, they beheld something
massive and somber, that seemed begotten of darkness and light. From
the east, where the river lost itself in the maze of gloom-enveloped
meadows, and where the darkness was a stir like a thing of life, there
rose something immense, shapeless and blind. It rose and stopped
motionless, and though it had no eyes it looked, and though it had no
hands, it extended them over the city, and though it was a dead thing,
it lived and breathed. The sight was awe inspiring.

"That is the fog rising over the river," said the first.

"No, that is a cloud," said the second.

It was both a fog and a cloud.

"It seems to be looking." It was.

"It seems to be listening." It was.

"It is coming toward us." No, it remained motionless. It remained
motionless, immense, shapeless and blind; upon its weird excrescences
shone with a ruddy glow the reflected gleaming of the city's lights,
and below, at its foot, the black river lost itself in the embrace of
gloom enveloped meadows, and the darkness was a stir like a thing
of life. Swaying sullenly upon the waves corpses floated into the
darkness and lost themselves in the gloom, and new corpses took their
places, swaying dumbly and sullenly and disappeared--countless corpses,
silent, thinking their own thoughts, black and cold as the water that
was carrying them hence. And in that lofty tower from where early that
morning the King had been taken to his doom, the one-eyed clockmaker
was fast asleep right under the great pendulum. That day he had been
very pleased with the stillness that reigned in his tower. He even had
burst into song, that one-eyed clockmaker. Yes, he had been singing;
and he walked about affectionately among his wheels and levers until
dark. He felt the guy ropes, sat on the rungs of his ladders, swinging
his feet and purring, and would not look at the pendulum, pretending
that he was cross. But then he looked at it sideways and laughed out
loudly, and the pendulum answered him with joyous peals. It kept on
swinging, smiling all over its brazen face and roaring; "'Twas ever
thus! 'Twill ever be! 'Twas ever thus! 'Twill ever be!"

"Come now! Come now!" urged the one-eyed clockmaker, splitting his
sides with laughter. "'Twas ever thus! 'Twill ever be!" And when it had
grown quite dark the one-eyed hermit sought rest beneath the swinging
pendulum and was soon asleep. But the pendulum did not sleep, and kept
on swinging all night long above his head, wafting strange dreams to
the sleeper.

(The End.)



Jesus Christ had been frequently warned that Judas of Kerioth was a
man of ill repute, a man against whom one should be on guard. Some of
the disciples of Jesus who had been to Judea knew him well personally,
others had heard a great deal of him, and there was none to say a good
word concerning him. And if the good condemned him saying that Judas
was covetous, treacherous, given to hypocrisy and falsehood, evil men
also, when questioned about him, denounced him in the most opprobrious
terms. "He always sows dissensions among us" they would say spitting
contemptuously at the mere mention of his name; "he has thoughts of his
own, and creeps into a house softly like a scorpion, but goes out with
noise." Even thieves have friends, robbers have comrades, and liars
have wives to whom they speak the truth, but Judas mocks alike the
thieves and the honest, though he is a skillful thief himself, and in
appearance he is the most ill-favored among the inhabitants of Judea.
"No, he is not of us this Judas of Kerioth", the evil would say to the
surprise of those good people who saw but little difference between
them and other vicious men in Judea.

It was rumored also that Judas had years back forsaken his wife, and
that the poor woman, hungry and wretched, was vainly striving to eke
out her sustenance from the three rocks that formed the patrimony of
Judas, while he wandered aimlessly for many years among the nations,
reaching in his travels the sea, and even another sea that was further
still, lying, cutting apish grimaces and keenly searching for something
with his thievish eye, only to depart suddenly, leaving in his wake
unpleasantness and dissension,--curious, cunning and wicked like a
one-eyed demon. He had no children, and this again showed that Judas
was an evil man, and that God desired no progeny from him.

None of the disciples had noticed the occasion on which this red-haired
and repulsive Judean first came near the Christ. But he had been
going their way for some time already, unabashed, mingling in their
conversations, rendering them small services, bowing, smiling,
ingratiating himself. There were moments when he seemed to fit into the
general scheme, deceiving the wearied scrutiny, but often he obtruded
himself on the eye and the ear, offending both as something incredibly
repulsive, false and loathsome. Then they would drive him away with
stern rebuke, and for a time he would be lost somewhere on the road,
merely to reappear unobserved, servile, flattering and cunning like a
one-eyed demon. And there was no doubt to some of His disciples that in
his desire to come near Jesus there was hidden some mysterious object,
some evil and calculating design.

But Jesus did not heed their counsel; their voice of warning did
not touch His ear. With that spirit of radiant contradiction
which irrepressibly drew Him to the rejected and the unloved, He
resolutely received Judas and included him even in the circle of
His chosen ones. The disciples were agitated and murmured among
themselves, but He sat still, His face turned to the setting sun,
and listened pensively,--perhaps to them and perhaps to something
entirely different. For ten days not a breath of wind had stirred the
atmosphere, and the same diaphanous air, stationary, immobile, keen
of scent and perception hung over the earth. And it seemed as though
it had preserved in its diaphanous depth all that had been shouted and
sung during these days by man, beast or bird,--the tears, the sobs
and the merry songs, the prayers and the curses; and these glassy
transfixed sounds seemed to burden and satiate it with invisible life.
And once more the sun was setting. Its flaming orb was heavily rolling
down the firmament, setting it ablaze with its dying radiance, and all
on earth that was turned toward it: the swarthy face of Jesus, the
walls of houses and the foliage of trees reflected obediently that
distant and weirdly pensive light. The white wall was no longer white
now, nor did the crimson city on the crimson hill appear white to the

* * *

And now came Judas.

He came humbly bowing, bending his back, cautiously and anxiously
stretching out his misshapen large head, and looking just like those
who knew had pictured him. He was gaunt, well built, in stature almost
as tall as Jesus, who was slightly bent from the habit of thinking
while He walked. And he seemed to be sufficiently vigorous, though for
some reason he pretended to be ailing and frail, and his voice was
changeable: now manly and strong, now shrill like the voice of an old
woman scolding her husband, thin and grating on the ear. And often the
listener wished to draw the words of Judas out of his ears like some
vile insect. His stubbly red hair failed to conceal the strange and
unusual form of his skull: it seemed cleft from the back by a double
blow of the sword and patched together. It was plainly divided into
four parts, and its appearance inspired mistrust and even awe. Such
a skull does not bode peace and concord; such a skull leaves in its
wake the noise of bloody and cruel conflicts. The face of Judas, too,
was double: one side, with its black, keen, observing eye was living,
mobile, ready to gather into a multitude of irregular wrinkles. The
other side was free from wrinkles, deathly smooth, flat and rigid; and
though in size it was equal to the other, it seemed immense because
of the wide-open, sightless eye. Covered with an opaque film it never
closed night or day, facing alike the light and the darkness; but its
vigilant and cunning mate was so close that one was loth to credit
its entire blindness. When in fear or excitement Judas happened to
close his seeing eye and shake his head, it rolled with the motion of
the head and gazed silently and intently. Even altogether unobserving
persons realized when they looked on the Iscariot that such a man could
bring no good; but Jesus took him up and even seated him at His side,
at His very side!

John, the beloved disciple, moved away loathingly, while the others,
loving their Teacher, looked on the ground with disapproval. But
Judas sat down, and, moving his head to the left and to the right,
immediately commenced to complain with a thin voice of various
ailments, how his breast pained at night, how he was apt to lose breath
when walking uphill or grow dizzy at the edge of the precipice, hardly
restraining a stupid desire to cast himself into the abyss. And many
other things he invented impiously, evidently failing to grasp that
sickness comes to man not by chance but is born from a failure to shape
his acts in accord with the commands of the Eternal. He rubbed his
chest with his palm and coughed hypocritically, this Judas of Kerioth,
amid general silence and downcast glances.

John, avoiding the Teacher's glance, whispered to Simon Peter:--"Art
thou not tired of this falsehood? I cannot bear it longer and I shall
go hence."

Peter looked at Jesus, and meeting His glance, swiftly rose to his
feet. "Wait!" he said to his friend.

Once more he glanced at Jesus and then, impetuously, like a rock
dislodged from the mountain side, he gained the side of Judas Iscariot
and loudly greeted him with a wide and unmistakable cordiality:--"Now
you are with us, Judas!" Then he amiably slapped the newcomer's curved
back, and not seeing the Teacher, though feeling His glance, he added
with that loud voice of his which dispelled all objections as water
displaces air:

"Your bad looks do not matter. We get uglier creatures into our nets
and they turn out the best to eat. And it is not for us, fishers for
the Lord, to throw away our haul because the fish is ugly and one-eyed.
I saw once in Tyre an octopus caught by the fishermen there and was
scared enough to run. They laughed at me, who am a fisherman from
Tiberias, and gave me a taste of it. And I asked for another helping,
it was so fine. Dost Thou remember, Teacher, I told Thee of it and Thou
didst laugh? And thou, too, Judas, resemblest an octopus, at least one
half of thee does."

And he laughed loudly, pleased with his jest. When Peter spoke, his
words sounded firm and solid as though he were nailing them down with
a hammer. When Peter moved or did anything he made a noise that was
heard afar off and evoked a response from the dullest objects: the
stone floor groaned under his feet, the doors trembled and banged, and
the very air was thrilled. In the mountain fastnesses his voice woke an
angry echo, and in the morning, while they fished, it rolled sonorously
over the somnolently glistening waters and beguiled the first timid
rays of the sun into a responsive smile. And perhaps that was why
they loved Peter so: while upon the faces of others there rested yet
the shadows of the night, his massive head and bare bosom and freely
swinging arms glowed already in the radiance of the rising sun.

The words of Peter, approved by the Teacher, dispelled the
embarrassment of the disciples. But some of them, who had been to the
seashore and had seen the octopus, were disquieted by the simile which
Peter had so frivolously applied to the new disciple. They remembered
the monster's immense eyes, the multitude of its greedy tentacles, its
pretended calm at the very moment it was ready to embrace and to crush
the victim and to suck out its life, without a single wink of its great
big eyes.

What was that? Jesus was silent, Jesus smiled; He was watching them
with a kindly smile while Peter spoke of the octopus,--and one after
the other the confused disciples approached Judas, addressing him
cordially, but they walked away quickly and in embarrassment.

And only John, the Son of Zebedee, remained obstinately silent; and
Thomas too was ruminating over the incident and apparently could not
make up his mind to say anything. He intently watched Christ and Judas
who were seated together, and this strange proximity of divine beauty
and monstrous hideousness, of the Man with the gentle glance and the
Octopus with the immense, immobile lack-lustre, greedy eyes--oppressed
his mind like an unfathomable mystery. He strained and wrinkled his
straight and smooth forehead, half closing his eyes in an effort to see
better, but his exertion had only the effect of making it appear that
Judas had really eight restlessly shuffling tentacles. But that was an
error. Thomas realized this and gazed again with obstinate effort.

But Judas little by little grew bolder: he stretched out his arms,
which he had held cramped at the elbows, relaxed the muscles that
had kept his jaws in a state of rigidity and cautiously proceeded to
exhibit his redhaired skull. It was in the plain view of all, but it
seemed to Judas that it had been deeply and impenetrably hidden from
sight by some invisible, opaque and cunningly devised film. And as
one emerging from the grave, he first felt the rays of light touching
his strangely shaped skull and then his sight met the eyes of the
onlookers. He paused and suddenly revealed his entire face. But nothing
happened. Peter had gone somewhere on an errand. Jesus sat musing and
leaned His head upon His arm, softly swinging His sunburnt foot. The
disciples were conversing quietly and only Thomas was attentively and
seriously scrutinizing him like a conscientious tailor taking his
customer's measure. Judas smiled, but Thomas did not respond, though
he apparently took the smile into account, like everything else, and
continued his scrutiny. But a disquieting sensation annoyed the left
side of Judas' face and he turned around: from a dark corner John was
looking upon him with his cold and beautiful eyes, handsome, pure,
without a spot on his snowwhite conscience. Walking apparently like
other people, but with the inward feeling of slinking away like a
chastised dog, Judas approached him and said:

"Why art thou silent, John? Thy words are like golden fruit in
transparent silver vessels. Give some of it unto Judas who is so poor."

John gazed at the immobile and wide-open eye and did not utter a word.
And he saw Judas creep away, linger an instant irresolutely and
disappear in the darkness of the open doorway.

It was the time of the full moon and many took the opportunity for a
walk. Jesus, too, went forth with the others, and Judas watched the
departing figures from the low roof on which he had spread his bed. In
the moonlight each figure had on airy and deliberate aspect and seemed
to float, with its black shadow in the rear. Suddenly the man would
vanish in the gloom and then his voice would be heard. But when the
people emerged again into the moonlight, they seemed silent like the
white walls, like the black shadows, like that transparently hazy and
moonlit night.

Most people were sleeping already when Judas heard the gentle voice of
the homecoming Christ. And all had grown still in the house and about
him. The cock crew; somewhere an ass, disturbed in his slumber, brayed
in a loud and injured tone, and ungraciously stopped again after a
few protests. But Judas slept not; he was listening intently from his
hiding place. The moon illumined one half of his face and its radiance
cast a queer reflection in the large and open eye, as if mirroring
itself on a lake of ice.

Suddenly, as if remembering something, he coughed several times in
quick succession, and rubbed with his palm his hairy and vigorous
breast: someone might be awake and listening to the thoughts of Judas.


Little by little the disciples became accustomed to Judas and ceased
to notice his ugliness. Jesus turned over to him the treasure chest,
and with it the household cares: his task was now to purchase the
necessary food and raiment, to distribute alms, and to prepare a
lodging place during their wanderings. All this he accomplished
skillfully and in a very short time he succeeded in gaining the
goodwill of some of the disciples who observed the pains he was taking.
Judas, indeed, lied incessantly, but they had become used to this also,
for they failed to find any evil deed in the wake of his lying, and it
added a peculiar piquancy to his tales making life appear like some
absurd, and at times terrible legend.

From Judas' tales it seemed as though he knew all men, and each man
whom he knew had at one time or another in his life committed an evil
deed, perhaps a crime. Good people in his opinion were those who knew
well how to hide their actions and thoughts; but if one were to embrace
them, to set them at ease with caresses and, to closely question them,
he felt sure evil and falsehood would ooze from them like poison from
a suppurating wound. He readily agreed that he too was wont to lie
now and then, but affirmed with an oath that others lied even more,
and that if there was one person in the world foully imposed upon and
ill-used that person was Judas. Many people had deceived him, and more
than once and in divers ways. Thus a certain steward who had charge
of a nobleman's treasure had confessed to Judas that for ten years
he had coveted the possession of the treasure entrusted to him, but
feared his master and his conscience. And Judas believed him, but lo!
suddenly he stole the treasure and deceived Judas. And again Judas
believed him, but he as unexpectedly returned the stolen goods to his
master--and again deceived Judas. And everybody was deceiving him--even
the animals. If he petted a dog, it would snap at his fingers; if he
beat it with a rod it licked his hand and looked into his eyes with
a filial expression. He killed such a dog once, buried the animal
deep in the ground and lay a heavy stone on the burial spot, but who
knows? perhaps because he had killed it, it became endowed with a
more abundant life and was no longer resting in its grave but merrily
running about with other dogs.

Every one laughed at Judas' tales, and he himself smiled pleasantly,
winking his live and mocking eye, and smilingly confessed again that he
had lied a little: that he had never killed such a dog, but promised
to find it and surely kill it, for he hated to be deceived. And they
laughed still more at such words.

But sometimes in his tales he exceeded the limits of probability and
verisimilitude and ascribed to people tendencies such as are foreign
even to beasts and accused them of simply incredible crimes. And as he
mentioned in such connection names of the most respected people, some
were indignant at the slander, while others jestingly inquired:

"But thy father and mother, Judas, were they not good people?"

Judas winked his eye, smiled and shrugged his shoulders. And as he
shook his head his congealed wide open eye shook in its orbit and gazed

"And who was my father? Perhaps the man who chastised me when I was a
child, perhaps the devil, or a goat or a rooster. Can Judas know with
whom his mother shared her couch? Judas has many fathers. Of whom speak

But at this the ire of all was aroused, for they greatly honored their
parents, and Matthew, thoroughly versed in the Scriptures, sternly
repeated the words of Solomon:

"He who speaks ill of his father and his mother, his lamp will be
extinguished in utter darkness."

And John of Zebedee inquired contemptuously: "And how about us? What
evil wilt thou say about us, Judas of Kerioth?"

But he, with pretended fear, threw up his hands, cringing and whining
like a beggar vainly praying alms from a passer-by:

"Ah! Wouldst thou tempt poor Judas? Mock poor Judas, deceive poor
guileless Judas?"

While one side of his face was distorted in apish grimaces, the other
seemed serious and stern and the never-closed eye peered mutely and
vaguely into space. Above all others, and most loudly, Simon Peter was
wont to laugh at his jests. But once it happened that with a sudden
frown he paused and hastily took Judas aside, almost dragging him by
his sleeve:

"And Jesus? What thinkest thou of Jesus?" he inquired in a loud whisper
bending over him. "But no jesting now, I pray thee."

Judas looked up with hatred:

"And what thinkest thou?"

"I think that He is the Son of the living God."

"Then why askest thou? What could Judas say whose father is a goat?"

"But dost thou love Him? It seems that thou lovest no one."

And with the same odd malice-reeking manner the Iscariot snapped out:

"I do."

After this conversation Peter for a day or two loudly referred to Judas
as his friend the octopus, while the other clumsily and wrathfully
sought to escape from him into some obscure nook where he would sit and
sulk, while his white never-closed eye gleamed ominously in the dark.

Thomas alone regarded Judas' tales with seriousness. He was incapable
of understanding jests, pretensions and lies, plays of words and of
thoughts, and in everything sought the substantial and positive. All
stories of Judas concerning evil people and their deeds he interrupted
with brief business-like questions:

"Can you prove it? Who heard this? And who else was present? What was
his name?"

Judas shrilly protested that he himself had heard and seen it all,
but the obstinate Thomas persisted in questioning him calmly and
methodically until Judas confessed that he had lied or until he
invented a more plausible falsehood over which Thomas would pore for
some time. Then discovering the deception he immediately returned and
quietly exposed the liar. Judas on the whole aroused in him an intense
curiosity, which brought about a queer sort of a friendship between
them, noisy, full of laughter and vituperation on the one hand, and
characterized by calm and insistent inquisitiveness on the other.
At times Judas felt an irresistible contempt for his unimaginative
friend and piercing him with a poignant glance he would inquire with
irritation and almost pleadingly:

"What else dost thou want? I have told thee all, all."

"I want thee to explain to me how a goat could be thy father," insisted
Thomas phlegmatically and waited for an answer. Once after listening to
such a query Judas relapsed into silence and scanned the inquirer from
head to foot in amazement. He saw a man of erect and lanky stature, of
grey countenance, transparently clear straightforward eyes, two massive
folds starting at the nose and losing themselves in the evenly trimmed
rough beard, and observed with conviction:

"How stupid thou art Thomas! What seest thou in thy dreams? A tree, a
wall, an ass?"

And Thomas blushed in confusion, finding no answer. But just as Judas'
living and unsteady eye was about to close in sleep, he suddenly
exclaimed (they both now slept on the roof):

"Thou art wrong, Judas. I do see evil dreams sometimes. How sayest
thou, is a man responsible for his dreams?"

"And who else sees them but the man himself?" Thomas softly sighed
and lapsed into musing. Judas smiled contemptuously, tightly shutting
his thievish eyes and calmly yielded himself up to his rebellious
dreams, monstrous visions, and mad imaginings which rent to pieces his
illshaped skull.

* * *

When in the wanderings of Jesus through Judea the pilgrims approached
a village, the Iscariot was in the habit of relating evil things
concerning the inhabitants thereof and predicting calamities. But it
generally happened that the people whom he denounced met Christ and His
friends joyously, surrounded them with attentions, and the treasure
chest of Judas grew so heavy that he could hardly carry it.

And when he was twitted with his mistake he shrugged his shoulders in
resignation and said:

"Yes, yes. Judas thought they were wicked and they are good. They
believed quickly and gave us money. And again they deceived Judas, poor
trusting Judas of Kerioth."

But once having departed from a village where they had been cordially
received Thomas and Judas had a violent dispute, and in order to settle
it they chanced to turn back. A day later they caught up with Jesus
and the disciples. Thomas looked confused and saddened, but Judas
bore himself triumphantly, as if waiting for the others to come and
congratulate him. Coming near the Teacher, Thomas announced:

"Judas was right, Lord. Those were stupid and wicked people. Thy seed
fell upon rocky ground."

And then he related what had happened. Soon after Jesus and His
disciples had gone an old woman discovered the loss of a kid and
accused the strangers of the theft. The villagers argued with her, but
she obstinately insisted that nobody else could have stolen it but
Jesus. Many believed her and talked of pursuing the strangers. But
soon the kid was found (it had become entangled in the bushes). The
villagers, however, decided that Jesus was after all a deceiver and
perhaps a thief.

"Indeed?" said Peter, distending his nostrils. "Lord, say the word and
I shall return to those fools."

But Jesus, who had kept silence all this time, glanced at him sternly,
and Peter stopped and hid himself behind the backs of others. And no
one else spoke of the incident, as if nothing had happened, as if he,
Judas, had proved to be in the wrong. Vainly he strove to show himself
from every point of view, laboring to impart to his twofold predatory,
birdlike beaked face an appearance of modesty. No one looked on him,
except to cast a casual, very unfriendly and even contemptuous glance.

And from that day the attitude of Jesus towards him strangely changed.
Until then it had somehow seemed as though Judas never spoke directly
to Jesus, and as though Jesus never addressed him directly, but still
the Teacher had frequently looked at him with a kindly glance, smiling
at some of his conceits, and if he missed him for any length of time
he was wont to inquire: "And where is Judas?" But now he looked on
Judas without noticing him, though as heretofore His glance sought him
out, and even more persistently than formerly, whenever He began to
speak to His disciples or to the people--but He either turned His back
to Judas as He sat down or cast His words at him over His shoulder or
else appeared not to notice him at all. And whatever He said, though
it may have been one thing to-day or another the next, though it
were the same thing that Judas himself had in his mind, it seemed as
though He always spoke against Judas. And unto all He was a tender and
beautiful flower, the fragrant Rose of Lebanon, but for Judas He had
only sharp thorns--as though Judas had no heart, as though he had no
eyes or nostrils, as though he were not better able than all others to
appreciate the beauty of tender and thornless rose leaves.

"Thomas, lovest thou the yellow Rose of Lebanon that has a swarthy
face and eyes like a hind?" he once asked of his friend and Thomas
indifferently replied:

"The Rose? Yes, its odor is agreeable to me, but I have never heard
that roses had swarthy faces or eyes like hinds!"

"How? Dost thou not even know that the many-armed cactus which
yesterday rent thy garment has only one red flower and only one eye?"

But Thomas was ignorant of this also, though the day before a cactus
had actually gripped a portion of his garment and rent it into shreds.
He knew nothing this Thomas, though he inquired about everything and
gazed so straightforwardly with his clear and transparent eyes through
which one could see as through a Phoenician glass the wall behind him
and the plodding ass hitched to it.

Before long another incident occurred when Judas again proved to
have been correct. In a certain Judean village which he had severely
criticised and sought to have left out of the itinerary, Christ was
received with much hostility and after He had preached and denounced
the hypocrites, the populace was aroused to a wild remonstrance and
thought of stoning Him and His disciples.

The opponents were numerous and they would have 'surely succeeded in
carrying out their design if it had not been for Judas of Kerioth.
Seized with a mad fear for Jesus, as though perceiving already the
drops of crimson on His white robe, Judas blindly and frenziedly cast
himself against the mob, menacing, screaming, pleading, and lying, and
thus gave Jesus and His disciples an opportunity to escape. Amazingly
agile, as though scurrying on dozens of feet, ludicrous and terrible in
his frenzied pleading, he rushed madly before the crowd and fascinated
it with some strange spell. He screamed that the Nazarene was not at
all possessed of the devil, that He was a mere deceiver, a thief, a
lover of money, like all of His disciples, like he, Judas, himself,--he
shook the money chest in their faces, distorted his features and
pleaded with them casting himself to the ground. And gradually the
wrath of the mob turned into laughter and disgust and the arms that had
held the stones sank to their sides.

"Unworthy, unworthy they are to die of an honest man's hand,"
exclaimed some, while others musingly gazed after the speedily vanished

And again Judas expected congratulations, praises, and thanks, and
made a show of his rent garments and falsely claimed that he had been
beaten, but again he was inconceivably deceived. Filled with wrath
Jesus walked ahead taking large steps and silent, and even John and
Peter dared not approach him, while the others coming across Judas,
with his rent garments, his face aglow with excitement and triumph
though still a little pale with recent fright, drove him away with curt
and angry remarks. As if he had not saved them, as if he had not saved
their teacher whom they loved so much.

"Dost thou wish to see a pack of fools?" he remarked to Thomas who
musingly plodded by his side. "Look how they walk along the roadway,
like a herd of sheep, raising the dust. And thou, clever Thomas, art
dragging along behind; and I, noble and beautiful Judas, am also
trudging in the rear like a filthy slave not fit to walk by the side of
his master."

"Why callest thou thyself beautiful?" inquired the surprised Thomas.

"Because I am handsome," replied Judas with conviction and began to
relate to him, with many additions, how he had deceived the enemies of
Jesus and laughed at them and their stones.

"But thou didst lie!" remarked Thomas.

"Of course I lied," agreed the Iscariot in a matter-of-fact tone. "I
gave them what they asked and they returned to me what I needed. And
what is a lie, my clever Thomas? Would not the death of Jesus have been
the greater lie?"

"Thou didst wrong. Now I know that thy father was the devil. He taught
thee this, Judas."

The Iscariots cheek blanched and seemed to overshadow Thomas, as though
a white cloud had descended and hidden the roadway and Jesus. With a
lithe movement Judas suddenly seized Thomas and pressed him to himself
with a grip so tight that he could not move and whispered into his ear:

"Good. The devil taught me? Good, Thomas, good. And I saved Jesus,
didn't I? Then the devil loves Jesus, then the devil needs Jesus and
Truth? Good, good Thomas. But my father was not the devil, he was a
goat. Mayhap the goat needs Jesus? Hey? And you, do you not want Him?
Do you not want the Truth?"

Angered and slightly frightened Thomas with an effort released himself
from Judas' slimy embrace and walked ahead swiftly, but soon slowed
down in order to ponder over what had just happened.

But Judas plodded on quietly in the rear, falling back little by
little. The wanderers had merged into one motley group in the distance
and it was impossible to tell accurately which of the little figures
was Jesus. Now even the tiny figure of Thomas changed into a grey dot,
and suddenly they were all lost to sight behind a turn in the road;
glancing around Judas turned aside from the roadway and with mighty
leaps descended into the depths of a rocky ravine. His robe inflated
from his swift and impetuous flight and his arms stretched upward as
though he soared on wings. There on a steep decline he slipped and
rapidly rolled down in a grey heap, his flesh torn by the shaggy rock,
and leaped again to his feet angrily shaking his fist at the mountain.

"You too, curse you!"

And suddenly forsaking his swiftness of movement for a sullen and
concentrated deliberateness he chose a spot near a large rock and
slowly seated himself. He turned around as if in search of a
comfortable position, pressed the palms of his hands close together
against the grey rock and heavily leaned his head upon them. Thus
he sat for an hour or two without stirring, deceiving the birds,
motionless and grey like the rock itself. Before him, behind him and
around him rose the steep sides of the ravine cutting with their sharp
outline into the azure sky; and everywhere rose immense stones, rooted
into the ground, as if there had passed over the place a shower of
rocks and its heavy drops had grown transfixed in neverending thought.
The wild and deserted ravine resembled an overturned decapitated skull
and each rock therein seemed a congealed thought, and there were many
of them, and they all were brooding heavy, limitless, stubborn thoughts.

There a deceived scorpion hobbled amicably past Judas on his rickety
legs; Judas glanced at him without lifting his head from the stone, and
again his eyes stopped rigidly fixed on some object, both motionless,
both covered with an odd and whitish film, both seemingly blind and
dreadfully seeing. Then from the ground, from the rocks, from the
crevices began to rise the calm gloom of night; it enshrouded the
motionless Judas and swiftly crept upwards to the luminously pallid
sky. The night was advancing with its thoughts and dreams.

That night Judas failed to return to the lodging, and the disciples
torn from their thoughts by cares for food and drink murmured at his


Once about noon time, Jesus and his disciples were ascending a rocky
and mountainous path barren of shade, and as they had been over five
hours on the road Jesus commenced to complain of weariness. The
disciples stopped and Peter with his friend John spread their mantles
and those of other disciples on the ground and fastened them overhead
on two protruding rocks and thus prepared a sort of a tent for Jesus.
And he reclined in that tent, resting from the heat of the sun, while
they sought to divert Him with merry talk and jests. But seeing that
speech wearied Him they withdrew a short distance and engaged in
various occupations, being themselves but little sensitive to heat
and fatigue. Some searched the mountainside for edible roots among
the rocks, and brought them to Jesus, others ascended higher and
higher. John had found a pretty blue lizard among the stones and bore
it tenderly to Jesus, with a gentle smile; the lizard gazed with its
protruding mysterious eyes into His eyes and then swiftly glided with
its cold little body over His warm hand and rapidly bore away somewhere
its tender and trembling tail.

Peter, caring little for such diversions, amused himself in company
with Philip by detaching large stones from the mountainside and rolling
them down in a contest of strength. Attracted by their loud laughter,
little by little the others gathered around them and took part in
the game. Straining every muscle each tore from the glen a hoary
moss-covered stone, lifted it high overhead with both arms and dropped
it down the incline. It struck heavily with a short, blunt contact and
seemed to stop for an instant, as if in thought, then irresolutely it
took the first leap, and each time it touched the earth it gathered
from it speed and strength, grew light, ferocious, all-crushing. Then
it leaped no longer, but flew with flashing teeth, and the air with a
whizzing noise made way for the compact rotund missile. Now it reached
the edge of the ravine; with a smooth final movement the stone flew
up a little distance into the air, and rolled below, clumsy, heavy and
circular, towards the bottom of the invisible abyss.

"Now then one more!" cried Peter. His white teeth glistened through his
black beard and mustache, his powerful breast and arms were bared and
the old angry stones, dully wondering at the strength that cast them,
one after the other submissively passed into the abyss. Even frail John
threw little pebbles, and Jesus smiling gently watched their game.
"Well, Judas, why dost thou not take part in the game, it is apparently
so diverting?" asked Thomas having found his queer friend motionless
behind a large grey rock.

"My breast pains and they have not called me."

"Is there any need to call thee? Well, I call thee. Come. Look how
large are the stones that Peter is casting down."

Judas glanced sideways at him and for the first time Thomas dimly
realized that Judas of Kerioth had two faces. But hardly had he grasped
the idea when Judas remarked in his wonted tone, ingratiating and at
the same time sneering:

"Is there any one stronger than Peter? When he shouts all the asses
in Jerusalem think their Messias has come and respond. Hast thou ever
heard their braying?"

Smiling amicably and bashfully covering his breast that was covered
with curly red hair Judas entered the circle of the players. And as
they all felt merry they received him with glad shouts and hilarious
jests and even John indulgently smiled when Judas, groaning and
simulating great strain detached an immense stone. But now he easily
raised it and cast it down. His blind wide-open eye shifted and fixed
itself rigidly on Peter, while the other, cunning and happy twinkled
with suppressed merriment.

"Well, you throw another one," broke in Peter in an offended tone.

And then one after another they raised and dropped gigantic stones,
and in surprise the disciples watched them. Peter would throw a large
stone, but Judas a still larger one. Peter, with a frown, wrathfully
turned a fragment of the rock and reeling raised it and dropped it into
the depths. Judas, still smiling, searched with a glance for a still
larger fragment, caressingly dug into it with his lean long fingers,
clung to it, swayed with it and with blanching cheek sent it down into
the abyss. Having dropped his stone, Peter fell back and thus watched
its flight, while Judas bent forward, leaned over the abyss and spread
out his long and creepy arms as though he meant to fly after the stone.
Finally both of them, first Peter and then Judas, seized a grey stone
and were unable to raise it, neither one nor the other. Flushed with
his effort Peter resolutely approached Jesus and loudly exclaimed:

"Lord, I do not want Judas to be stronger than I. Help me to raise that
stone and cast it down."

And Jesus softly made some reply. Peter dissatisfied shrugged his broad
shoulders, but dared no rejoinder and returned with the following words:

"He said: 'And who shall help the Iscariot?'"

But glancing at Judas, who with bated breath and tightly clenched teeth
still clung to the stubborn stone, Peter burst out in a laugh:

"Look at the sick man! Look at our poor ailing Judas."

And Judas himself laughed, being so unexpectedly exposed in a lie, and
the others laughed also; even Thomas suffered a smile to slip past his
straight, shaggy mustache.

With merry and friendly speech they started again on their way, and
Peter, having made full peace with the victor, now and again nudged his
ribs with his fists and laughed loudly.

"The sick man!"

Everyone praised Judas, everyone acknowledged him victor, everyone
conversed with him cordially, but Jesus--Jesus even this time failed to
praise Judas. Silently He walked on ahead, gnawing at a blade of grass,
and little by little the disciples ceased their laughter and joined
Jesus. Soon it happened that they walked all in one group ahead, but
Judas, the victor Judas, the strong Judas, trudged along in the rear
swallowing dust.

They paused, and Jesus laying one hand on Peter's shoulder pointed with
the other into the distance, where already in the mist had appeared
Jerusalem; and the big broad back of Peter carefully couched His fine
sunburnt hand.

For the night's lodging they stopped in Bethany, in the house of
Lazarus. And when they all gathered to converse, Judas thought it a
good time to recall his victory over Peter. The disciples, however, had
little to say and were unusually silent. The images of the journey just
completed, the sun, the rocks, the grass, Christ reposing in the tent,
floated softly through their minds, exhaling a gentle pensiveness,
generating dimly sweet dreams of some eternal motion under the sun. The
wearied body rested sweetly, musing of something mysteriously beautiful
and great--and not one remembered Judas.

Judas went out. Then he returned. Jesus was speaking and his disciples
listened in silence. Motionless as a statue, Mary sat at His feet and
with head thrown back gazed into His face. John had come close to the
Teacher and strove to touch the hem of His garment with his hand, but
so as not to disturb him. And having touched it he sat breathlessly
still. And Peter breathed hard and loud, echoing the words of Jesus
with his breath.

The Iscariot stopped at the threshold and contemptuously passed his
glance over those assembled, concentrating its flames upon Jesus. And
as he gazed, all around him grew dim and was lost in gloom and silence;
Jesus only, with uplifted hand, was radiant. But now He too seemed to
rise in the air, seemed to melt and His substance seemed to change into
luminous mist such as hangs over the lake when the moon goes down;
and His soft-spoken words sounded somewhere afar off and gentle. And
gazing deeper into this wavering vision, drinking in with his ears the
tender melody of those distant and spectral words, Judas gripped his
whole soul with claws of iron and silently in its unfathomable gloom
commenced to rear something stupendous. Slowly in the dense darkness,
he raised immense mountainous masses, piling them up one upon another,
and raised others and piled them up again; and something was growing
in the darkness, expanding voicelessly, spreading its outlines. Now he
felt his head transformed into a vast dome, and in its impenetrable
gloom there grew and grew something stupendous, and someone wrought
therein, raising mountainlike masses, piling them up one upon another
and raising up new ones ... And gently there sounded somewhere distant
and spectral words.

Thus he stood, blocking the doorway, towering tall and dark, while
Jesus spoke, and Peter's loud breathing same in unison with His words.
But suddenly Jesus ceased--with an abruptly incomplete sound, and
Peter, like one awakened out of a trance, triumphantly exclaimed:

"Lord, Thou knowest the words of Eternal Life!"

But Jesus was gazing somewhere in silence. And when they followed
his glance they saw Judas in the doorway rigid, open-mouthed and
with staring eyes. And not knowing what it was about, they laughed.
But Matthew, learned in the Scriptures, touched Judas' shoulder and
remarked in Solomon's words:

"He who has a gentle look will be shown mercy, but he who is met in the
gate will oppress others."

Judas shuddered and even uttered a faint hoarse cry of fear, and all of
his body--eyes, arms and legs seemed to flee in different directions.
So a beast might look when suddenly facing the eyes of man. Jesus
walked straight against Judas, seemingly bearing some word on His lips,
and he walked past Judas through the door which was now open and free.

* * *

Long after midnight Thomas, becoming worried, approached Judas'
sleeping place and bending over him inquired:

"Thou weepest, Judas?"

"No, go away, Thomas."

"Then why groanest thou and gnashest thy teeth? Art thou ill?"

Judas was silent for a space of time, and then from his lips poured
forth one after another heavy words, throbbing with yearning and wrath.

"Why does He not love me? Why does He love them? Am I not more
beautiful, am I not better, am I not stronger than they? Did I not save
His life while the others were running away cringing like cowardly
curs?" "My poor friend, thou art not entirely in the right. Thou are
not at all beautiful and thy tongue is as disagreeable as thy face.
Thou art forever lying and speaking ill of others. How dost thou expect
that Jesus should love thee?"

But Judas heard him not and continued: "Why is He with those who do not
love Him, instead of with Judas? John brought Him a lizard, I would
have brought Him a venomous snake. Peter cast stones, I would have
turned the mountain around for Him. But what is a snake? Draw its tooth
and it will cling about thy neck like a necklace. What is a mountain
which one can dig with his hands and trample under foot? I would have
given Him Judas, daring, beautiful Judas. But now He will perish and
Judas will perish with Him."

"Thou sayest strange things, Judas."

"The withered fig tree which is to be hewn down! Why, that is I, He
said it of me! Why does He not hew? He dare not, Thomas. I know Him. He
fears Judas! He hides before the daring, the beautiful Judas! He loves
the fools, the traitors, the liars! Thou art a liar, Thomas, hast thou
heard me?"

Thomas was greatly surprised, and thought of protesting, but he decided
that Judas was merely brawling, and contented himself by shaking his
head. But Judas' agony increased: he moaned, gnashed his teeth, and one
could hear his huge body shifting restlessly under the blanket.

"What is it that pains Judas so? Who has set fire to his body? He
gives his son unto the dogs, he yields his daughter into the hands
of robbers for defilement. But is not the heart of Judas tender? Go
away, Thomas, go away, thou fool. Leave Judas alone, strong, daring,
beautiful Judas."


Judas purloined a few pieces of silver and the theft was discovered by
Thomas who had chanced to note the exact sum of money given him. It
was thought likely that he had stolen on previous occasions, and the
indignation of the disciples knew no bounds. Bristling with wrath Peter
seized Judas by the neck and half dragged him to Jesus. The pale and
frightened culprit offered no resistance.

"Teacher, look. Our jester! Just look at him, the thief. Thou trustest
him, but he steals our money. The rogue! If thou wilt but say the word,
I shall...."

But Jesus was silent. Peter looked up curiously scanning the Teacher's
expression, and with flushed face relaxed his hold on Judas. The latter
smoothed his garments with a sheepish mien and assumed the downcast
appearance of a penitent sinner.

"What do you think of that!" growled Peter, and walked out of the
room banging the door. Everybody was annoyed, and the disciples
declared that on no account would they remain together with Judas.
John, however, with a sudden inspiration quietly slipped into the room
whence through the open doorway was now heard the gentle and apparently
cordial voice of Jesus.

When John returned, his face was pale and his eyes were red with recent

"The Teacher says ... The Teacher says that Judas may take all the
money he likes."

Peter laughed angrily. Swiftly and reproachfully John glanced at the
impetuous disciple, and suddenly, all aglow, his tears mingling with
his wrath, his joy mingling with his tears, he exclaimed with a ringing

"And none shall keep count of the money which Judas receives. He is our
brother and all the money is his as well as ours, and if he needs much
let him take much, telling no one nor taking counsel with any. Judas is
our brother and you have deeply offended against him," thus sayeth our
Teacher. "Shame on us, brethren!"

In the doorway stood Judas, pale and with a sickly smile. John with a
quick movement approached him and kissed him thrice on the cheek. And
after him, exchanging glances and awkwardly, came the others, James,
Philip, and the rest. After each kiss Judas wiped his mouth, though he
received the kiss with a resounding smack as if the sound afforded him
much pleasure. The last to kiss him was Peter.

"We are all fools, Judas. We are all blind. One alone is seeing, One
alone is wise. May I kiss thee?"

"Why not? Kiss," assented Judas.

Peter cordially kissed him and whispered into his ear:

"And I almost choked thee. The others were gentler, but I seized thee
by the throat. Did it pain thee?"

"A little."

"I shall go to Him and tell Him. I was even angry with Him," gloomily
remarked Peter striving to open the door without noise.

"And how about thee, Thomas?" sternly inquired John who was watching
the actions of the disciples.

"I don't know yet. I must think."

And Thomas thought long, almost the whole day.

The disciples had gone about their business, and somewhere behind the
wall Peter shouted loudly and merrily, but Thomas was still thinking.
Pie would have finished sooner, but Judas, whose mocking glance
persistently pursued his movement, disturbed him. Now and then the
Iscariot inquired with a mock curiosity:

"Well, how is it Thomas? How art thou progressing?"

Then Judas brought his treasure chest and loudly jingling his coins he
commenced to count them, pretending to ignore the presence of Thomas.

"Twenty one, twenty two, twenty three. Look, Thomas, another false
coin. What great rogues people are, they even offer false money unto
God. Twenty four. And then they will say Judas had stolen it. Twenty
five. Twenty six...."

Thomas resolutely advanced to him, (it was already towards evening) and

"He was right, Judas. Let me kiss thee."

"Indeed? Twenty nine. Thirty. But it is all in vain. I shall steal
again. Thirty one...."

"How canst thou steal if there is no more thine or anybody else's? Thou
wilt take what thou needest, brother."

"And didst thou require all this time merely to repeat His words? Thou
doest not value time, Thomas?"

"I fear thou mockest me, brother."

"And think, dost thou act correctly in repeating His words? It was He
who had spoken, and they were His words, not thine. It was He who had
kissed me, but you defiled my mouth. I can still feel your moist lips
creeping over my face. How disgusting that was, Thomas! Thirty eight.
Thirty nine. Forty pieces of silver. Dost thou want to count it over?"

"But He is our Teacher. How should we not repeat His words?"

"Has Judas no longer a neck to drag him by? Is he now naked so that
ye cannot seize him? The Teacher will leave the house, Judas may
accidentally steal three coins, and will ye not again seize him by the
neck?" "We know now, Judas. We understand."

"But have not all disciples a poor memory? And do not the disciples
deceive their teachers? The Teacher lifts the rod, the disciples cry:
'We know the lesson!' The teacher lies down to sleep and the disciples
inquire: 'Is not this what our teacher taught us?' And here this
morning thou didst call me thief, but now callest thou me brother. What
wilt thou call me on the morrow?" Judas laughed, and picking up with
one arm the heavy and jingling money chest he continued:

"When the wind blows strongly it raises the dust and the stupid people
see the dust and say: 'Behold, the wind bloweth.' But it is only dust,
my good Thomas, the refuse of asses, trodden under foot. There it
strikes a wall and is now humbly lying at its foot, but the wind is
flying further, the wind is flying further, my good Thomas."

Judas pointed in illustration over the wall and laughed again:

"I am glad that thou art merry, Judas," replied Thomas. "Pity it is
that in thy merriment there is so much malice."

"How should not a man be merry who has been kissed so much and who is
so useful? If I had not stolen three pieces of silver, how should John
have known the exaltation of joy? Is it not pleasurable to be a hook
whereupon John hangs his mouldy virtue to dry and thou thy moth-eaten

"I think it is best for me to go."

"But I am merely joking. I am jesting, Thomas. I merely wished to know
if thou didst really long to kiss the old and repulsive Judas who had
stolen three pieces of silver and given the money to a sinful woman."

"A sinful woman?" echoed Thomas in surprise. "And didst thou tell our
Teacher this also?"

"There, doubting again, Thomas! Yes, to a sinful woman. But if thou
only knew what a miserable woman she was. She must have gone without
food two days."

"Knowest that this circumstance for a certainty?" inquired Thomas in

"Of course. I had been with her two days myself and saw that she had
eaten nothing, for she merely drank wine, red wine. And she reeled with
exhaustion and I fell with her."

Thomas leaped to his feet and walking a short distance away, turned and
remarked to Judas.

"Apparently Satan has entered thy body."

And as he departed he heard the heavy money chest jingle mournfully
through the gloom in the hands of Judas ... And it seemed as though
Judas were laughing.

But the very next day Thomas had to admit that he had been mistaken in
Judas: so gentle, simple and at the same time serious had become the
Iscariot. He cut no more grimaces, refrained from malicious jesting,
no longer cringed before people or insulted them, but attended to his
household tasks quietly and unobtrusively. He was as agile as ever: as
though he had not two legs like the rest of the people, but dozens of
them. Now, however, he scurried about noiselessly, without squealing
and screaming or the hyena laugh that had characterized his previous
activity. And when Jesus now commenced to speak he sat down in a corner
with folded hands and his large eyes assumed such a gentle expression
that everybody noticed it. And he ceased to speak evil of people,
keeping silence in preference, so that even the stern Matthew found it
proper to praise him, which he did in the words of Solomon: "The fool
speaketh scornfully of his neighbor, but the wise man is silent," and
he raised his finger as if recalling the former proneness of Judas to
speak evil. And the others also noted this change in Judas and rejoiced
over it. Only Jesus still viewed him with the same look of estrangement
although He in no manner expressed His disfavor. And John himself,
towards whom, as the beloved disciple of Jesus and his protector,
Judas now manifested a most deferential demeanor, even John's attitude
towards him was softened and he occasionally held converse with him.

"How thinkest thou, Judas," said he once condescendingly, "which of us
twain, Peter or I, will be nearest to Christ in His heavenly kingdom?"

Judas thought for a moment and replied:

"I think thou wilt."

"And Peter thinks he will," smiled John.

"No. Peter's shouting would scatter the angels. Hearest thou him? Of
course, he will dispute with thee t and will strive to come first
and occupy the place, for he claims that he too loves Jesus. But he
is growing old, while thou art young. He is slow, while thou art
fleetfooted and thou wilt be the first to enter with Christ. Am I not

"Yes. I shall never leave Jesus' side," assented John.

That same day Simon Peter addressed the very same question to Judas.
But fearing that his loud voice would be heard by others he led Judas
to the furthest corner of the house.

"Well how thinkest thou?" he inquired anxiously. "Thou art wise. Even
the Teacher praises thy wisdom. Thou wilt tell me the truth."

"Thou, of course," the Iscariot replied without hesitation. And Peter
indignantly exclaimed:

"I told him so."

"But, of course, even there he will try to dispute the first place with

"Of course he will."

"But what can he do if he find the place already occupied by thee? Thou
wilt not leave Him alone. Did he not call thee a Rock?"

Peter laid his hand on Judas' shoulder and fervently exclaimed:

"I tell thee, Judas, thou art the wisest among us. Pity thou art so
malevolent and sneering. The Teacher does not like it. And thou couldst
be a beloved disciple no less than John. But even unto thee I shall not
yield my place by the side of Jesus, neither here on earth nor over
there. Hearest thou me?" And he raised his hand with a threatening

Thus Judas sought to please both, the while he was harboring thoughts
of his own. And remaining the same modest, quiet and unobtrusive Judas,
he strove to say something agreeable to all.

Thus he said to Thomas: "The fool believeth every word, but the man of
wisdom takes heed of his ways." But to Matthew who loved to eat and
drink and was ashamed of this weakness he cited the words of Solomon.

"The righteous shall eat his fill, but the seed of the lawless is in

But such pleasant words he spoke rarely, which lent to them a special
value. Now he remained silent for long periods and listened attentively
to others, though he kept thinking thoughts of his own. Judas in his
musing mood had a disagreeable and ludicrous, and at the same time a
disconcerting appearance. While his cunning live eye was mobile he
appeared to be genuine and gentle, but when both of his eyes assumed
that fixed and rigid look, and the skin on his forehead gathered into
queer wrinkles and folds, one received the disquieting impression
that within that skull there swarmed very peculiar thoughts, utterly
strange, quite peculiar thoughts that had no language of their own
and they enveloped the cogitating Iscariot with a shroud of mystery
so disturbing that the beholder longed to have him break the silence
quickly, to stir a little or even to lie. For even a lie uttered by a
human tongue seemed truth and light in the face of this hopelessly mute
and unresponsive silence.

"Lost in thought again, Judas?" rang out the sonorous voice of Peter,
suddenly breaking through the dull silence of the Iscariot's musing.
"What art thou thinking of?"

"Of many things," replied the Iscariot with a quiet smile. And
observing the unpleasant effect of his silence upon the others, he
began more and more frequently to separate himself from the disciples,
taking lonely walks or spending hours alone on the flat roof of the
house. More than once Thomas collided on the roof with a grey bundle
out of which suddenly disentangled themselves the ungainly limbs
of Judas and was startled by the well known mocking accents of the
Iscariot's voice.

Only once again the man of Kerioth oddly and abruptly recalled
to the memory of the disciples the Judas of former days, and this
occurred during the dispute concerning the first place in the Kingdom
of heaven. In the presence of the Teacher, Peter and John hotly
and with mutual recriminations defended their claims to the place
nearest to Jesus. They enumerated their merits, compared the degree
of their love of Jesus, shouted angrily and even abused one another
incontinently,--Peter, all flushed with wrath and thundering, John pale
and still, with trembling hands and stinging words. Their dispute was
fast becoming unseemly and the Teacher was commencing to frown, when
Peter chanced to look up at Judas and laughed out exultingly. John also
glanced at Judas and smiled contentedly. Each remembered what the wise
Iscariot had told him. With the foretaste of certain triumph they both
summoned Judas to be their judge, and Peter cried out: "Hey, thou wise
Judas. Tell us who will be first and nearest to Jesus, he or I?"

But Judas was silent. He breathed heavily and fixed his gaze longingly,
questioningly, on the deep and calm eyes of Jesus.

"Yes," condescendingly agreed John, "tell him who will be the first and
nearest to Jesus."

With his glance still fixed on Christ, Judas rose slowly to his feet
and replied calmly and gravely:


Jesus slowly dropped his eyes, while the Iscariot, beating his breast
with a bony finger sternly and solemnly repeated:

"I! I shall be near Jesus."

And with these words he went out leaving the disciples dumbfounded
by this insolent outbreak. Only Peter, as if suddenly recollecting
something, whispered to Thomas in an unexpectedly quiet tone:

"This is then what he is thinking about. Didst thou hear him?"


It was just about this time that Judas Iscariot took his first decisive
step towards betrayal: he paid a secret visit to the high priest
Annas. He was received very sternly, but this did not disconcert him
and he demanded a prolonged private interview. Left alone with the
stern ascetic old man who eyed him contemptuously from under his bushy
eyebrows, he told him that he, Judas, was a pious man who had become
a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth with the sole aim of exposing the
deceiver and of betraying him into the hands of the law.

"And who is He, this Nazarene?" slightingly inquired Annas, as if he
had heard the name of Jesus for the first time.

Judas for his part pretended to take this strange ignorance of the
high priest at its face value and reported to him at length concerning
the sermons of Jesus, His wonders, His hatred of the Pharisees and the
Temple, the violations of the Law by Him, and His desire to snatch the
power from the hands of the ecclesiastics and to establish His own
kingdom. And so skillfully did he mingle truth with falsehood that
Annas glanced at him more attentively, while he indolently observed:

"Are there so few deceivers and madmen in Judea?"

"No. But He is a dangerous man," hotly replied Judas. "He violates the
Law. And it is better for one man to perish than for the whole people."

Annas nodded approvingly.

"But He has, methinks, many disciples."

"Yes, many."

"And they probably love Him devotedly?"

"They say that they love Him; that they love Him more than themselves."

"But if we should want to seize Him, would they not take His part? Will
there be no uprising?"

Judas laughed long and bitterly.

"They? They are cowardly curs who run as soon as a man stoops to pick
up a stone. They!"

"Are they so bad?" coldly inquired Annas.

"And do the bad flee from the good? Do not rather! the good flee before
the bad? Ha! They are good and therefore they will run. They are good
and therefore they will hide themselves. They are good and therefore
they will only appear when Jesus is ready for burial. And they will
bury Him themselves, do thou but put Him to death."

"But do they not love Him? Thou saidst so."

"Their Teacher they love always, but more in death than living. As long
as the Teacher lives He is apt to examine the pupils, and woe then unto
the latter. But when the Teacher is dead, they become teachers in their
turn, and woe then unto others! Ha!"

Annas looked searchingly at the traitor, and his shriveled lips
wrinkled slightly: it was a sign that Annas was smiling.

"They have injured thee. I see it."

"Can anything remain a secret to thy insight, O wise Annas? Thou hast
penetrated the very heart of Judas. Yes, they injured poor Judas. They
said that I had stolen three pieces of silver, as if Judas were not
the most honest man in Israel."

And for a long time they spoke of Jesus, of His disciples, and of
His pernicious influence on the people of Israel. But the cautious
and cunning high priest Annas did not give his final answer on this
occasion. He had been watching Jesus for a long time and had long since
sealed the fate of the prophet of Galilee in the secret councils of his
relatives and friends, the chiefs and the Sadducees. But he distrusted
Judas who had been reported to him as an evil and double-dealing
man. He did not attach much faith to his frivolous remarks on the
cowardice of the disciples and the people. Annas had entire confidence
in his own might, but he feared bloodshed, he feared to stir up a
tumultuous uprising into which the stiff-necked and volatile people of
Jerusalem could be so easily harangued; he feared finally the sternly
repressive interference of Roman authorities. Fanned by resistance,
fructified by the crimson blood of the people which endows with life
all whereon it falls, the heresy might spread all the more rapidly and
engulf Annas himself, his rule and his friends. And when the Iscariot
sought admission for the second time, Annas was perturbed and refused
to receive him. But a third and a fourth time the Iscariot called,
insistent as the wind that knocks day and night against the closed door
and breathes through the fissures.

"I see that wise Annas has some apprehensions," said Judas when finally
admitted to the High Priest.

"I am strong enough to fear nothing," haughtily replied Annas, and the
Iscariot made a servile obeisance. "What wouldst thou?"

"I want to betray unto you the Nazarene."

"We do not want Him."

Judas bowed low and lingered humbly, fixing his eye upon the high


"But I must come again. Is it not so, venerable Annas?"

"Thou wilt not be admitted. Go."

But again and again Judas of Kerioth knocked at the high priest's
portal and was once more admitted into the presence of the aged Annas.
Shriveled and angry, oppressed with thought, he regarded the betrayer
in silence and seemed to be counting the hairs on his illshaped head.
Judas also was silent, as if, for his part, counting the hairs in the
silvery thin beard of the high priest.

"Well, thou art here again?" haughtily ejaculated the irritated high
priest, as though spuing the words on his visitor's head.

"I want to betray unto you the Nazarene."

They both lapsed into silence, scanning intently one another's
features, the Iscariot gazing calmly, but a feeling of subdued
malevolence, dry and cold like the morning frost in the winter time,
was beginning to gnaw at the heart of Annas.

"And what askest thou for thy Jesus?"

"And what will ye give?"

With a feeling of quiet elation Annas insultingly retorted:

"You are a band of rascals, all of you. Thirty pieces of silver, that
is all we will give for Him."

And his heart was filled with delighted gratification as he observed
how Judas' whole body was set agog by this announcement. The Iscariot
turned and scurried about, agile and swift, as if he had not two but a
dozen legs.

"For Jesus? Thirty pieces of silver?" cried Judas in a tone of wild
amazement that rejoiced the heart of Annas. "For Jesus of Nazareth? You
would buy Jesus for thirty pieces of silver? And you think that Jesus
can be sold unto you for thirty pieces of silver?"

Judas swiftly turned to the wall and laughed into its smooth and whited
face, waving wildly arms.

"Hearest thou? Thirty pieces of silver! For Jesus!"

With quiet enjoyment Annas indifferently replied: "If thou wilt not
have it, go. We shall find some man who will sell more cheaply."

And like sellers of old raiment who shout and swear and scold, fighting
over the price of some worthless garment, they commenced their
monstrous and frenzied haggling.

Thrilled with a strange ecstasy Judas ran about twisting his limbs and
shouting, and enumerating on the fingers of his hand the merits of Him
whom he was betraying.

"And that He is good and heals the sick, is that nothing? Is that worth
nothing in your estimation? Hey? No? Tell me like an honest man?"

"If thou," interposed the high priest whose cold disfavor was rapidly
fanned into violent wrath by the taunting words of Judas,--but the
later interrupted him unabashed.

"And that He is youthful and beautiful like the narcissus of Sharon,
like the lily of the valley? Hey? Is that nothing? Perhaps you will say
that He is aged and worthless?"

"If thou," still strove to cry Annas, but his senile voice was drowned
in the storm of Judas' protests.

"Thirty pieces of silver! That makes hardly an obolus for a drop of
blood. Less than half an obolus for a tear. Quarter an obolus for a
groan. And the cries of pain! and convulsions! What is the stopping
of His heart? And the closing of His eyes? Is that all for naught?"
screamed the Iscariot towering over the high priest, encircling him
with the frenzied whirlwind of his gestures and words.

"For all! For all!" replied the breathless high priest.

"And how much will you earn on the deal? Hey? Would you rob poor Judas?
Tear the piece of bread out of his children's mouths? I shall go out
into the market place and shout: 'Annas has robbed poor Judas. Help!'"

Wearied and dizzy, Annas in futile frenzy stamped the floor with his
soft slipper and waved him away: "Begone! Begone!"

But Judas suddenly made a humble obeisance and spread out his arms:
"And if so, why art thou angry with poor Judas who is seeking the good
of his children? Thou too hast children, fine, handsome young men."

"We shall get another.... We shall get another.... Begone...."

"And did I say that I would not give in? Do I not believe thee that
another may come and give up Jesus unto you for fifteen oboli? For two
oboli? For one obolus?"

Then with another low obeisance, and with ingratiating words, Judas
submissively agreed to accept the money offered him. With a trembling
and wrinkled hand Annas, now silent and flushed with excitement, gave
him the money. He sat with averted face and in silence, biting his lips
and waited until Judas had tested every silver coin between his teeth.
Now and then Annas looked around and then, as quickly turned his
glance to the ceiling and again bit his lips.

"There are so many false coins about now," calmly explained Judas.
"This is money offered up by pious people for the Temple," remarked
Annas looking around hastily and still more quickly turning to Judas
the back of his bald head which was now crimson with anger.

"But can pious people distinguish false coins from the genuine? Only
rogues can do this."

Judas did not take home the money received from the high priest, but
going beyond the city he buried it beneath a stone. And he returned
with slow, heavy and cautious steps, like a wounded animal creeping to
its lair after a cruel and mortal combat. But Judas had no lair of his
own to which he might creep, though there was a house and in that house
he saw Jesus. Tired, emaciated, worn out with his incessant war against
the Pharisees who daily surrounded Him in the Temple like a wall of
white, shining, learned foreheads, He was seated, leaning against the
wall and was apparently fast asleep. Through the open window entered
the restless echoes of the city, behind the wall was heard the knocking
of Peter who was making a new table for the common meal and sang a
Galilean ditty as he worked. He heard nothing and slept soundly and
firmly, and this was He who had been bought for thirty pieces of silver.

Advancing noiselessly, Judas with the gentle care of a mother fearing
to awaken her ailing babe, with the amazement of a dumb brute that has
crept from its lair and lingers in fascination before some pretty white
flower, Judas touched His soft hair and precipitately withdrew his
hand. He touched it again and as noiselessly crept out.

"Lord!" he exclaimed. "Lord!"

And going to a deserted spot he wept there a long time, writhing,
twisting his limbs, scratching his breast with his nails and biting his
shoulders. Suddenly he ceased to weep, to moan and to gnash his teeth
and lapsed into deep thought, turning his moist face to one side in the
attitude of listening. And thus he stood for a long time, immobile,
determined and a stranger to all like his very fate.

* * *

With a calm love and tender solicitude Judas surrounded the doomed
Jesus during these last days of His brief life. Coy and timorous like a
maiden in her first love, strangely intuitive and keen of perception,
he divined the slightest unexpressed wish of Jesus, penetrated into
the hidden depths of His feelings, His fleeting instants of yearning,
His heavy moments of weariness. And no matter where the foot of Jesus
stepped it rested on something soft, no matter where He turned His
glance it met something pleasant. Formerly Judas had held in disfavor
Mary Magdalene and the other women who were near Jesus, playing rude
jokes at their expense and causing them much annoyance. Now he became
their friend, their ludicrous and awkward confederate. With a profound
interest he discussed with them the little intimate and beloved traits
of Jesus, quizzing them insistently for a long time concerning one and
the same thing. With a great show of secrecy he thrust coins into their
hands, and they bought ointments, the precious and fragrant myrrh so
beloved of Jesus, and anointed His feet. Haggling desperately he bought
expensive wine for Jesus and then growled when Peter drank it all with
the indifference of a man to whom only quantity matters. In that rocky
country surrounding Jerusalem and almost bare of trees and flowers,
he managed to obtain fresh spring flowers and green herbs, and offered
them to Jesus through the mediation of these same women. For the first
time in his life he fetched in his arms little children, finding
them somewhere in the neighboring homesteads or in the highways, and
forcedly caressed them to keep them from weeping. And it frequently
happened that there crawled on the knees of Jesus, while he sat in deep
thought, a tiny, curly haired little fellow with a soiled little nose,
and insistently sought His caress. And while the two rejoiced in one
another, Judas sternly walked a short distance off with the air of a
jailer who has admitted a butterfly into the cell of his prisoner and
then with a show of asperity grumbles about the disorder.

In the evenings, when darkness and fear stood guard at the door, the
Iscariot artfully contrived to bring into the conversation Galilee,
a land unknown to him but dear to Jesus, with its peaceful Jakes and
green shores. And he worried the clumsy Peter until stifled memories
awoke in his heart and before his eyes and ears appeared vivid pictures
and sounds of the beautiful life of Galilee. Avidly attentive and with
mouth half-opened like a child's, with the twinkling of anticipated
laughter in His eyes, Jesus listened to Peter's impetuous, ringing and
merry speech, and at times He so loudly laughed at his conceits that
the disciple had to stop his recital for minutes at a time. But better
even than Peter's was the speech of John. There was nothing ludicrous,
nothing unexpectedly grotesque in his words, but his descriptions were
so thoughtful, unusual and beautiful that tears appeared in the eyes of
Jesus, and Judas nudged Mary Magdalene, whispering triumphantly into
her ears: "How he speaks! Listen!"

"I am listening."

"But listen still better. You women never listen well."

And when they all dispersed to seek their bedsides, Jesus kissed John
with a tender gratitude and cordially patted the shoulder of Peter.

Without envy, with a contemptuous indulgence, Judas witnessed these
caresses. What signified all these tales, these kisses, these sighs,
compared with that knowledge which he had, he, Judas of Kerioth,
redhaired, repulsive Judas, born amid the rocks.


Betraying Jesus with one hand, Judas took great pains to destroy his
own plans with the other. He did not attempt to dissuade Jesus from
embarking on that last perilous journey to Jerusalem, as did the women,
he even inclined to side with the relatives of Jesus and with those of
his disciples who considered the victory over Jerusalem indispensable
to the complete triumph of the cause. But he stubbornly and insistently
warned them of its dangers and depicted in vivid colors the formidable
hostility of the Pharisees, their readiness to commit any crime and
their unflinching determination either openly or privily to slay the
prophet of Galilee.

Daily and hourly he spoke of it and there was not a believer whom
Judas failed to admonish shaking his uplifted finger impressively and

"Jesus must be guarded! Jesus must be guarded! Jesus must be protected
when the time comes."

Whether it was the boundless faith of the disciples in the marvelous
power of their Teacher, or the consciousness of the righteousness of
their cause or sheer blindness, Judas' anxious words were met with a
smile, and his endless warnings elicited even murmurs of remonstrance.

Judas managed to obtain somewhere a couple of swords, but only Peter
was pleased with his foresight, and only Peter praised Jesus and the
swords, while the others remarked disapprovingly:

"Are the warriors to gird ourselves with swords. And is Jesus a general
and not a prophet?"

"But if they will want to slay Him?"

"They will not dare when they see that the whole people is following

"But if they should dare after all? What then?" And John scornfully

"One might think, Judas, that thou alone lovest the Teacher."

And, greedily clinging to these words, taking no offence, Judas began
to question them eagerly, fervently, with a solemn impressiveness:

"But do ye love Him? Truly?"

And each believer who came to see Jesus he repeatedly questioned:

"And dost thou love Him? Dost thou love Him truly?"

And all answered saying that they truly loved Him. He frequently drew
Thomas into conversation and warningly raising his bony forefinger
crowned with a long and untidy finger nail he significantly admonished

"Look to it, Thomas. A terrible time is approaching. Are ye prepared?
Why didst thou not take the sword which I brought?"

And Thomas sententiously replied:

"We are men unaccustomed to the use of arms. And if we take up the
struggle with the Roman soldiers we shall all be slain. Besides didst
thou not bring only two swords? What can be done with two swords?" "We
can get others. And we might take them away from the soldiers," said
Judas with a show of impatience, and even Thomas, the serious, smiled
through his shaggy beard.

"Judas, Judas! What thoughts be these? And where didst thou procure
these swords? For they resemble the swords of the Roman soldiers."

"I stole them. I might have stolen more, but I heard voices and fled."

Thomas answered reproachfully and sadly:

"There again thou didst wrong. Why stealest thou, Judas?"

"But nothing is another's property."

"Good, but the warriors may be questioned to-morrow 'Where are your
swords?' and not finding them they may suffer punishment innocently."

And later, after the death of Jesus, the disciples remembered these
words of Judas and concluded that he had purposed to destroy them
together with their Teacher by luring them into an unequal and fatal
combat. And once more they cursed the hateful name of Judas of Kerioth,
the Traitor.

And Judas, after such conversation, sought out the women in his anger
and complained to them tearfully. And the women heard him eagerly.
There was in his love to Jesus something feminine and tender and it
brought him nearer to the women, making him simple, intelligible and
even good-looking in their eyes, though there still remained a certain
air of superiority in his attitude towards them.

"Be these men?" he bitterly denounced the disciples, turning
confidingly his blind and immobile eye towards Mary, "No they are not
men. They have not an obolus' worth of blood in their veins."

"Thou art forever speaking evil of people," replied Mary.

"Am I ever speaking evil of people?" exclaimed Judas in surprise.
"Well, I may sometimes say something evil of them, but could they not
be just a trifle better? Ah Mary, stupid Mary, why art thou not a man
to carry a sword?"

"I fear I could not lift it, it is so heavy," smiled Mary.

"Thou wilt wield it, if men prove too evil to draw a sword. Didst thou
give unto Jesus the lily which I found this morn in the hills? I rose
at dawn to seek it and the sun was so red to-day, Mary. Was He glad?
Did He smile?"

"Yes, He was very glad. He said that it was fragrant with the odors of

"Of course, thou didst not tell Him Judas had gotten it, Judas of

"Thou badest me not to tell."

"Truly, truly", sighed Judas. "But thou mightest have mentioned it
inadvertently, women are so prone to talk. Then thou didst not tell it
Him by any chance? Thou wast so firm? Yes, yes, Mary, thou art a good
woman. Thou knowest I have a wife somewhere. I should like to see her
now: perhaps she was not a bad woman. I do not know. She used to say:
'Judas is a liar. Judas, son of Simon, is wicked!' And I left her. But
it may be that she is a good woman. What thinkest thou?"

"How can I know, who have never seen her?"

"Truly, truly, Mary. And what thinkest thou, thirty pieces of silver
... is it a large sum of money?"

"I think it is not so much."

"Truly, truly. And what didst thou earn when thou wast a sinner? Five
pieces of silver or ten? Wast thou high in price?"

Mary Magdalene blushed and dropped her head till her luxuriant golden
hair hid her entire face leaving merely the rounded white chin visible:

"How mean art thou, Judas. I seek to forget it, but thou remindest me."

"No, Mary, thou shouldest not forget it. Why? Let others forget that
thou wast a sinner, but thou forget not. It is meet that others forget
it, but why shouldest thou?"

"I lived in sin."

"Let him fear who has committed no sin. But he who has committed sin,
why should he fear? Do the dead fear death and not the living? No, the
dead mock the living and their fear of death."

Thus cordially talking they sat together for hours, he, well on in
years, gaunt hideous to behold, with illshaped head and weirdly
disproportioned face, she youthful, coy, gentle, fascinated with life
as though with some legend or strange dream.

But the time passed heedlessly and the thirty pieces of silver were
reposing under the stone, and the terrible day of betrayal was
approaching inexorably. Already Jesus had entered Jerusalem riding on
the foal of an ass, and the people had acclaimed Him, spreading their
garments in His path, with cries of triumphant welcome:

"Hosannah, Hosannah! Blessed be He that cometh in the name of the

And so great was the jubilation, and so irrepressible was the love that
strove heavenward in these welcoming shouts that Jesus wept and His
disciples proudly exclaimed:

"Is this not the Son of God who is with us?"

And they also cried out in triumph:

"Hosannah! Hosannah! Blessed be He that cometh in the name of the Lord."

And that night for a long time they remained awake thinking over the
solemn and triumphant entry, and Peter was like unto a madman; he
was as one possessed by the demon of merriment and pride. He shouted
loudly, drowning the speech of others with his leonine roar, he laughed
uproariously, flinging his laughter at the heads of others like large
rolling boulders, he embraced John, and James and even kissed Judas.
And he boisterously admitted that he had harbored fears concerning
Jesus, but now feared no longer, for he saw the love the people bore
for Him. The Iscariot's unsteady eye strayed from face to face in
amazement. He mused for a while, listened and looked around again, and
then led Thomas aside. Then, as if impaling him against the wall with
his piercing glance he questioned him with wonderment and fear not
unmixed with some dim hopefulness:

"Thomas, and if He is right? If it be He that has the rock beneath His
feet, and I merely shifting sand? What then?"

"Of whom art thou speaking?" inquired Thomas.

"What will Judas of Kerioth do then? Then I shall have to strangle Him
myself to bring out the Truth. Who is playing Judas false, ye or Judas
himself? Who is deceiving Judas? Who?"

"I cannot understand thee, Judas. Thou speakest in riddles. Who is
deceiving Judas? Who is right?"

And shaking his head Judas repeated like an echo: "Who is deceiving
Judas? Who is right?"

And still more surprised was Thomas, and he felt even worried when
during the night there rang out the loud and almost joyous voice of

"Then there will be no Judas of Kerioth. Then there will be no Jesus.
There will be only.... Thomas, stupid Thomas! Didst thou ever wish to
seize this earth of ours and raise it in thy hands? And then perhaps
to drop it?"

"That were impossible, what sayest thou Judas?"

"That is possible," replied the Iscariot with conviction. "And we shall
seize it some day and lift it up in our hands while thou art asleep,
stupid Thomas. Sleep. I am merry, Thomas. When thou sleepest, the
flutes of Galilee play in thy nostrils, Thomas. Sleep."

But already the believers had scattered throughout Jerusalem and
disappeared within their houses, behind walls, and the faces of the
people who still walked abroad were now inscrutable. The rejoicing had
ceased Already dim rumors of peril crept out of some crevices. Peter
was gloomily trying the edge of the sword given him by Judas, and ever
sadder and sterner grew the face of the Teacher. Time was swiftly
passing and inexorably approached the dread day of the Betrayal. Now
also the Last Supper was over, pregnant with sadness and dim fears,
and the vague words of Jesus of someone who would betray Him had been

"Knowest thou who will betray Him?" inquired Thomas gazing at Judas
with his straight and limpid, almost transparent eyes.

"Yes, I know," replied Judas, sternly and resolutely. "Thou, Thomas,
wilt betray Him. But He does not believe Himself what He is saying.
It is time. It is time. Why does He not call to His side Judas, the
strong and the beautiful?"

And time, the inexorable, was now measured no longer by days but by
fast fleeting hours. And it was even, and the stillness of even, and
lengthy shadows gathered over the earth, the first piercing arrows of
the impending night of great conflict, when a sad and solemn voice
sounded through the darkness. It was Judas who spoke:

"Thou knowest where I am going, Lord? I am going to betray Thee into
the hands of Thine enemies."

And there was a long silence, and the stillness of even and piercing
black shadows.

"Thou art silent, Lord? Thou commandest me to go?"

And silence again.

"Bid me stay. But Thou canst not? Or darest not? Or wilt not?"

And again silence, immense as the eyes of Eternity.

"But Thou knowest that I love Thee. Thou knowest all. Why lookest
Thou thus upon Judas? Great is the -secret of Thy beautiful eyes, but
is mine the less? Bid me stay.... But Thou art silent. Thou art ever
silent? Lord, Lord, why in anguish and with yearning have I sought Thee
always, sought Thee all my life and found Thee? Make Thou me free. Lift
from me the burden; it is greater than mountains of lead. Hearest Thou
not the bosom of Judas of Kerioth groaning beneath it?"

And final silence, unfathomable as the last glance of Eternity.

"I go."

And the stillness of even was not broken, it cried not out nor wept,
nor faintly echoed the fine and glassy air--so still was the sound of
his departing steps. They sounded and were lost. And the stillness
of even relapsed into musing, it stretched its lengthening shadows,
and blushed darkly, then suddenly sighed with the yearning rustle of
stirring foliage; it sighed and was still, lost in the embrace of Night.

Other sounds now invaded the air, rapping, tapping, knocking: as if
someone had opened a cornucopia of vivid sonorous noises and they were
dropping upon the earth, not singly or in twos, but in heaps. And
drowning them all, echoing against the trees, the shadows and the wall,
enveloping the speaker himself roared the resolute and lordly voice of
Peter: he swore that he would never leave his Teacher.

"Lord!" he cried, longingly, wrathfully. "Lord! With Thee I am ready to
go to prison and even unto death."

And softly, like the faint echo of someone's departed steps, the
merciless answer sounded:

"I say unto thee, Peter, that ere the cock crow thrice to-day thou wilt
have denied me thrice."


The moon had already risen when Jesus started towards Mount Olivet
where he was wont of late to pass his nights. But He lagged strangely,
and His disciples, who were ready to proceed, urged Him on. Then He
suddenly spoke:

"He who has a sack let him take it, likewise a staff. And He who has
none, let him sell his raiment and buy a sword. For I say unto you that
this day it shall happen unto me as even was written: he was counted
among the transgressors!"

The disciples were amazed and exchanged confused glances.

But Peter replied:

"Lord! Here are two swords."

He glanced searchingly into their kindly faces, dropped His head and
gently replied:

"It is enough."

Loudly echoed the steps of the wanderers through the narrow streets and
the disciples were terrified at the sounds of their own steps. Their
black shadows lengthened upon the white moon-illuminated walls and they
were terrified at the sight of their own shadows. Thus silently they
passed through the sleeping city. Now they passed out of the gates of
Jerusalem and in a deep cleft among the hills that were filled with
mysterious and immobile shadows the brook of Kedron met their gaze. Now
everything terrified them. The soft gurgling and the splashing of the
water against the stones sounded to them like voices of people lying in
ambush. The shapeless fanciful shadows of rocks and trees obstructing
their way worried them, and the motionless stillness of the night
appeared to them endowed with life and movement. But as they ascended
and neared the garden of Gethsemane where they had spent so many nights
in security and peace they gradually gained courage. Now and then they
cast a backward glance at the sleeping city now reposing white in the
light of the moon and discussed their recent fright; and those who
walked in the rear heard an occasional fragment of the Teacher's words.
He was telling them that they would all forsake Him.

They stopped in the very outskirts of the garden. Most of the disciples
regained right there and with subdued voices commenced to make
preparations for sleep, spreading their mantles in the transparent
lacework of shadows and moonlight. But Jesus, torn with disquietude,
with four of His nearest disciples plunged further into the depths of
the garden. There they sat down on the ground that had not yet grown
cold from the heat of the day, and while Jesus observed silence, Peter
and John lazily exchanged meaningless remarks. Yawning with weariness
they spoke of the chilly night and remarked how dear the meat was in
Jerusalem, while fish was not to be had at all. They were guessing
at the number of worshippers that would gather in Jerusalem during
the holidays, and Peter, stretching his words into a prolonged yawn,
affirmed that they would amount to twenty thousand, while John, and his
brother Tames indolently claimed that the number would not exceed ten
thousand. Suddenly Jesus quickly rose to His feet.

"My soul is sorrowful even unto death. Tarry ye here and watch a
while," He said and with swift steps He retired into the grove where He
was lost in the impenetrable maze of light and shadows.

"Where did He go?" wondered John raising himself on his elbow. Peter
turned his head in the direction of the departed Teacher and wearily

"I don't know." And once more loudly yawning he reclined on his back
and lay still. The others too had quieted down by this time and the
vigorous sleep of healthy fatigue chained their stolid figures. Through
his heavy sleep Peter dimly saw something white bending over him and
seemed to hear some voice that sounded afar off and died leaving no
trace in his dulled consciousness:

"Simon Peter, sleepest thou?"

And once more he was fast asleep, and again some still voice reached
his ear and died away leaving no trace:

"Could ye not watch with me one brief hour?" "Lord, if Thou knewest how
sleepy I am," he thought in half slumber, but it seemed to him as if
he had said it aloud. And again he slept and a long time passed when
suddenly there stood beside him the form of Jesus and a sonorous waking
voice roused him and the others:

"Are ye still sleeping and resting? It is finished. The hour has come
for the Son of Man to be betrayed into the hands of sinners."

The disciples leaped to their feet, picking up their mantles in
confusion and shivering with the chill of sudden awaking. Through
the maze of trees, illuminating them with the lurid light of their
torches, with heavy tramping of feet and loud noise, and the crack of
breaking twigs, a crowd of warriors and temple attendants was seen
approaching. And from the other side the rest of the disciples came
running, trembling with the cold, with terrified, sleepy faces, failing
to realize what had occurred and anxiously inquiring:

"What is this? Who are these with torches?" Thomas, pale, with his
beard awry, with chatting teeth, remarked to Peter:

"Apparently these men are after us."

Now the crowd of warriors surrounded them and the smoking unsteady
glare of the torches had chased the quiet and serene radiance of the
moon somewhere into the heights over the treetops. At the head of the
warriors was Judas of Kerioth; scurrying hither and thither and keenly
rolling his seeing eye he searched for Jesus. At last he found Him, and
resting for a moment his glance on the tall and slender form for the
Master he hurriedly whispered to the attendants: "He whom I shall kiss
the same is the man. Take Him and lead Him carefully. But be careful,
do you hear me?"

Then hurriedly moving toward Jesus, who awaited him in silence, he
plunged like a dagger a steady and piercing glance into His calm, dark

"Rejoice, Rabbi," he exclaimed loudly, imbuing the words of common
salutation with a strange and terrible significance.

But Jesus was silent, and the disciples gazed awestricken upon the
Traitor, unable to fathom how the soul of Man could contain so much
wickedness. With a hasty look the Iscariot measured their confused
ranks, noted the tremor that threatened to change into the abject
palsy of terror, noted their pallor, the meaningless smiles, the
nerveless movements of arms that seemed to be gripped with iron clamps
at the shoulder; and his heart was set aflame with bitter anguish not
unlike the agony which had oppressed Jesus a short time since. His
soul transformed into a hundred ringing and sobbing chords, he rushed
forward to Jesus and tenderly kissed His windchilled cheek, so softly,
so tenderly, with such agony of love and yearning that were Jesus a
flower upheld by a slender stem, that kiss would not have shaken from
it one pearl of dew or dislodged one tender leaf.

"Judas," said Jesus, and the lightning of His glance bared the
monstrous mass of forbidding shadows that were the soul of the
Iscariot, but did not reveal its boundless depths. "Judas! With a kiss
betrayest thou the Son of Man?"

And He saw that hideous chaos quivering, stirring and agog through and
through. Speechless and stern as Death in his haughty majesty stood
Judas of Kerioth and all of his being within him groaned, thundered
and wailed with a myriad of stormy and fiery voices: "Yes! With a
kiss of love we betray Thee. With a kiss of love we betray Thee unto
mockery, torture and death. With a voice of love we summon torturers
from their dark lairs, and rear a cross. And high above the gloom of
the earth upon the cross we raise up love crucified by love!"

Thus stood Judas, wordless and cold as death, and the cry of his soul
was met by the cries and the tumult that encircled Jesus. With the rude
indecision of armed force, with the awkwardness of a dimly grasped
purpose the soldiers had already seized Him by the hand and were
dragging Him somewhere, mistaking their own aimlessness for resistance,
their own terror for their victim's mockery and scorn. Like a herd
of frightened lambs the disciples had huddled together, offering no
resistance, though impeding everybody including themselves; and only a
few had any thought of going or acting for themselves, apart from the
rest. Surrounded on every side, Peter, son of Simon, with an effort,
as if having lost all strength, drew the sword from its sheath and
weakly dropped it with a glancing blow upon the head of one of the
servants,--but failed to harm him in the least. And observing this
Jesus commanded him to drop the useless weapon. With a faint rattle the
sword fell to the ground, a piece of metal so manifestly bereft of its
power to pierce and to injure that none troubled to pick it up. Thus it
lay in the mud and many days later some children found it in the same
spot and made it their plaything.

The soldiers were dispersing the disciples and the latter again huddled
together stupidly getting into the soldiers' way, and this continued
until the soldiers were seized with a contemptuous wrath. There one of
them with a frown walked up to the shouting John, while another roughly
brushed aside the arm of Thomas who had placed it upon his shoulder
in an endeavor to argue with him, and in his turn shook threateningly
a powerful balled fist before a pair of very straight-looking and
transparent eyes. And John ran, as also did Thomas and James; and
all the disciples, as many as were there, forsaking Jesus, ran
helter-skelter to save themselves. Losing their mantles, running into
the trees, stumbling against stones and falling they fled into the
mountains, driven by terror and in the stillness of the moonlit night
the ground resounded under their fugitive feet. Some unknown, who
had evidently just risen from sleep, for he was covered with only a
blanket, excitedly scurried to and fro in the crowd of warriors and
servitors. But as they tried to seize him he cried out in fear and
started to run, like the others, leaving his raiment in the hands of
the soldiers. Thus perfectly nude, he ran with desperate leaps and his
naked body gleamed oddly in the moonlight.

When Jesus was led away Peter emerged from his hiding place behind the
trees and from a distance followed his Teacher. And seeing ahead of him
another man who walked in silence, he thought it was John and softly
called to him:

"John, is it thou?"

"Ah, thou Peter?" replied the other stopping, and Peter recognized the
Betrayer's voice. "Why then Peter didst thou not flee with the others?"

Peter stopped and loathingly replied:

"Get thee behind me, Satan."

Judas laughed and paying no more attention to Peter walked on towards
the place where gleamed the smoking torches and the rattle of arms
mingled with the tramp of feet. Peter followed him cautiously and thus
almost together they entered the court of the high priest's house and
joined a crowd of servants warming themselves at the fire. Judas was
sullenly warming his bony hands over the logs when he heard somewhere
in the rear the loud voice of Peter:

"No, I don't know Him."

But someone evidently insisted that he was a disciple of Jesus, for
even more loudly Peter repeated:

"But no and no, I don't know whereof ye are speaking."

Without looking around and smiling involuntarily Judas nodded his head
affirmingly and murmured:

"Just so, Peter. Yield to none thy place at the side of Jesus."

And he did not see how the terror-stricken Peter departed from the
court in order not to be caught again. And from that evening until the
very death of Jesus Judas never saw near Him any of His disciples: and
in that multitude there were only these two, inseparable unto death,
strangely bound together by fellow-suffering,--He who was betrayed unto
mockery and torture and he who had betrayed Him. From one chalice of
suffering they drank like brothers, the Betrayed and the the Traitor,
and the fiery liquid seared alike the pure and the impure lips.

Gazing fixedly at the fire which beguiled the eye into a sensation of
heat, holding over it his lanky and shivering hands, all tangled into a
maze of arms and legs, trembling shadows and fitful light, the Iscariot
groaned pitifully and hoarsely:

"How cold! My God, how cold!"

Thus in the night time, when the fisher folk have set out in their
boats leaving ashore a smouldering campfire some strange denizen of the
deep may come forth from the bowels of the sea and creeping to the fire
gaze on it fixedly and wildly, stretching its limbs towards the flames
and groan pitifully and hoarsely:

"How cold! Oh, my God, how cold!"

Suddenly behind his back the Iscariot heard a tumult of loud
voices, cries, the sound of rude laughter, full of the familiar,
sleepily-greedy malice, and the thud of sharp, quick, blows raining
on a living body. He turned around, pierced through and through with
agonized pain, aching in every limb and in every bone--they were
beating Jesus.

It has come then.

He saw the soldiers lead Jesus into the guard-house. The night was
passing, the fires were going out, ashes began to cover them, and from
the guard-house there came still the noise of hoarse shouts, laughter
and oaths. They were beating Jesus. As one who has lost his way the
Iscariot scurried about the empty court, stopping himself suddenly on
a run, raising his head and starting off again, stumbling in surprise
against the campfires and the walls. Then he glued his face to the
walls of the guard-house, to the cracks in the door, to the windows and
greedily watched what was going in within. He saw a stuffy, crowded,
dirty little room, like all the guard-houses in the world, with a floor
that had been diligently spat on and with walls that were greasy and
stained as if hundreds of filthy people had walked or slept upon them.
And he saw the Man who was being beaten. They smote Him on the face
and on the head, they flung Him from one to another across the room
like a sack. And because He did not cry out or resist after minutes
of strained observation it actually appeared as though it were not
a living being but some limp manikin without bones or blood that was
thrown about. And the figure bent over oddly, just like a manikin, and
when in falling it struck the floor with its head the impression of the
contact was not like that of some hard object striking another, but as
of some thing soft and incapable of pain. And after watching it long
it seemed like some weird and interminable game, something that almost
amounted to an illusion. After one vigorous blow the man or the manikin
smoothly dropped on the knees of a soldier. He pushed it away and it
turned and fell on the next man's knees, and so on. Shouts of wild
laughter greeted this game and Judas also smiled--as if some powerful
hand with fingers of steel had torn open his mouth. The lips of Judas
had played him false this time.

The night seemed to drag and the campfires still smouldered. Judas fell
back from the wall and slowly trudged over to one of the fires, stirred
up the coals, revived the flames, and though now he did not feel cold,
he held over it his slightly trembling hands. And longingly he murmured:

"Ah, it hurts, little son, it hurts, child, child, child. It pains,
very, very much."

Then he walked over to the window that gleamed yellow from the dim
lantern within the bars and once more he commenced to watch the
chastisement of Jesus. Once before the very eyes of Judas flitted the
vision of His dark face, now disfigured and encircled in a maze of
tangled hair. There someone's hand seized this hair, felled the Man and
methodically turning the head from side to side began to wipe with His
face the filthy floor. Under the very window a soldier slept opening
his wide-open mouth wherein two rows of teeth gleamed white and shiny.
Now somebody's broad back with a fat bare neck shut out the view from
the window and nothing more could be seen. And suddenly all grew still.

"What is it? Why are they silent? What if they have comprehended?"

Instantly the head of Judas was filled with the roaring, shouting and
tumult of a thousand frenzied thoughts. What if they have realized?
What if they have comprehended that this was--the very best among
men. This is so plain, so simple. What is going on there now? Are
they kneeling before Him, weeping softly, kissing His feet? There He
will emerge in an instant, and behind Him will come forth in abject
submission the others; how He will come forth and draw near to Judas,
the conqueror, the Son of Man, the Lord of Truth, God.... Who is
deceiving Judas? Who is right?

But no. Shouts and uproar again. They are beating Him again. They have
not comprehended. They have not realized and they are beating Him with
greater violence, more cruelly. And the fires are burning low, being
covered with ashes, and the smoke over them is as transparently blue as
the air, and the sky is as light as the moon. It is the dawn of day.

"What is day?" asked Judas.

Now everything is ablaze, everything glows, everything has grown young,
and the smoke above is no longer blue but pink. The sun is rising.

"What is the sun?" asketh Judas.


They pointed him out with their fingers, and some contemptuously,
while others with hatred and terror added:

"See, this is Judas, the Traitor."

This was the beginning of his shameful infamy to which he condemned
himself for all ages. Thousands of years will pass, nation will succeed
nation, and still the words will be heard in the air, uttered with
contempt and dread by the good and the evil:

"Judas, the Traitor! Judas, the Traitor But he listened with
indifference to the words spoken concerning him, absorbed in a feeling
of a supreme curiosity. From the very morn that Jesus was led out of
the guard-house after His chastisement Judas followed Him, his heart
strangely free from longing, pain or joy. It was only filled with the
unconquerable craving to see and to hear all. Though he had not slept
all night he felt as though walking on air; where the people would
not let him pass he elbowed his way forward and with agility gained
a point of vantage. During the examination of Jesus by Kaiaphas he
held his hand to his ear so as not to lose a word and nodded his head
approvingly, whispering:

"That's so. That's so. Hearest Thou this, Jesus?" But he was not
free--he was like a fly tied to a thread: buzzing it flies hither and
thither but not for an instant the pliant and obstinate thread release
it. Thoughts that seemed hewed out of stone weighed down his head and
he could not shake them off. He knew not what thoughts these were, he
feared to stir them up, but he felt their presence constantly. And at
times they threatened to overwhelm him, almost crushing him with their
incredible weight as though the roof of some rocky vault slowly and
terribly subsided over his head. Then he held his hand to his heart
and shook himself as though shivering with the cold, and his glance
straying to another and still another spot as Jesus was led out from
the presence of Kaiaphas, he met His wearied glance at quite close
quarters, and without rendering account to himself of his action, he
nodded his head a few times with a show of friendliness and murmured:

"I am here, sonny, I am here." Then he wrathfully shoved aside some
gaping countryman who stood in his way. Now they were moving, an
immense and noisy throng, on to Pilate, for the last examination and
trial, and with the same insupportable curiosity Judas eagerly and
swiftly scanned the faces of the people. Many were entirely unknown
to him; Judas had never seen them before; but some there were who had
shouted "Hosannah!" to Jesus, and with every step the number of such
seemed to increase.

"Just so!" flashed through the mind of Judas. He reeled like a drunken
man. "It is all finished. Now they will shout: He is ours! He is our
Jesus! What are ye doing? And everyone will see it...."

But the believers walked in silence, with forced smiles on their
faces, pretending that all this did not concern them in the least.
Others discussed something in subdued tones, but in the tumult and
commotion, in the uproar of frenzied shouts of Christ's enemies, their
timid voices were drowned without leaving a trace. And again he felt
relieved. Suddenly Judas noticed Thomas, who was cautiously proceeding
not afar off, and with a sudden resolve he rushed forward intending to
speak to him. Seeing the Traitor, Thomas was frightened and sought to
escape, but in a narrow and dirty lane, between two walls, Judas caught
up with him:

"Thomas! Wait!"

Thomas stopped and solemnly holding up both hands exclaimed:

"Depart from me, Satan."

With a gesture of impatience the Iscariot replied: "How stupid thou
art, Thomas! I thought that thou hadst more sense than the others.
Satan! Satan! This must be proved."

Dropping his hands, Thomas inquired in surprise: "But didst thou not
betray the Teacher? I saw with my own eyes that thou broughtest the
soldiers. Didst thou not point out Jesus unto them? If this is not
betrayal, what is a betrayal?"

"Something else, something else," hastily interposed Judas. "Listen.
There are many of you here. It behooves you to meet and to demand
loudly: 'Give unto us Jesus. He is ours.' They will not refuse you,
they will not dare. They will understand themselves...."

"What art thou saying!" replied Thomas shaking his head. "Didst thou
not see the number of armed soldiers and servants of the temple? And,
besides, a court has not been held yet, and we must not interfere with
the court. Will not the court understand that Jesus is innocent and
will not the judges immediately order Him released?"

"Dost thou think so too?" musingly inquired Judas. "Thomas, Thomas, but
if this be the truth? What then? Who is right? Who deceived Judas?"

"We argued all night and we decided that the judges simply could not
condemn the Innocent one. But if they should...."

"Well?" urged the Iscariot.

"... then they are not true judges. And they will fare ill some day
when they give account to the real Judge...."

"The real Judge! Is there a real one?" laughed Judas.

"And the brethren have all cursed thee, but as thou sayest that thou
art not a Traitor, I think thou oughtest to be judged...."

Without waiting to hear the end Judas abruptly turned on his heels and
rushed off in pursuit if the departing multitude. But he slowed down
and walked deliberately, realizing that a crowd never proceeds very
fast and that by walking apart one can always catch up with it.

When Pilate led Jesus out of his palace and placed Him in full view
of the people, Judas, pinned to a column by the heavy backs of some
soldiers, frenziedly twisted his head in order to see something between
two shining helmets. He suddenly realized that now all was over indeed.
The sun shone high over the heads of the multitude and under its very
rays stood Jesus, bloodstained, pale, with a crown of thorns the sharp
points of which had pierced His brow. He stood at the very edge of the
elevation, visible from His head to His small sunbrowned feet, and
so calmly expectant He was, so radiant in His sinlessness and purity
that only a blind man unable to see the very sun could fail to see it,
only a madman could fail to realize it. And the people were silent, so
silent that Judas heard the breathing of the soldier in front of him,
and the scraping of his belt as he took each breath.

"That's it. It is all over. They will now understand," thought Judas;
and suddenly some strange sensation not unlike the blinding joy of
falling from an infinite altitude into the gaping abyss of blue stopped
his heart.

Contemptuously stretching his lip down to his clean-shaven, rotund
chin, Pilate flings at the people dry curt words as one might cast
bones at a horde of hungry hounds to cheat their thirst for fresh blood
and living quivering flesh.

"Ye have brought unto me this Man as a corrupter of the people. I
have examined Him before you and have found the Man guilty of nothing
whereof ye accuse Him.."

Judas closed his eyes. He was waiting.

And the whole people began to shout, scream and howl with a thousand
bestial and human voices:

"Death unto Him! Crucify Him! Crucify Him!"

And now, as if deriding their own souls, as if craving to taste to the
dregs in one moment all the infinity of fall, frenzy and shame, these
very people screaming and howling demand:

"Release unto us Barabbas. But Him crucify! Crucify!"

But the Roman has not yet spoken his final word. His haughty
clean-shaven face is twitching with loathing and wrath. He
understands.. He has comprehended. There He is speaking softly to the
servants of the temple, but his voice is drowned in the uproar of the
multitude. What is he saying? Does he command them to take up their
swords and to fall upon the madmen?

"Bring me water!"

Water? What kind of water? What for?

There he is washing his hands ... why is he washing his white, clean
ringcovered hands? And now he cries out angrily raising his hands in
the face of the amazed people:

"I am innocent of the blood of this righteous man. See ye to it."

The water is still dripping from these white fingers down on the marble
slabs of the floor, but some white mass is already limply groveling
at the feet of Pilate, someone's burning and sharp lips are kissing
his weakly resisting hand, clinging to it like a leech, sucking at it,
drawing the blood to the surface and almost biting it. With loathing
and dread he looks down and sees a gigantic and writhing body, a
wild face that looks as though it had been split in twain, two eyes
so strangely unlike one another, as though not one creature but a
multitude lay clutching at his feet and hands. And he hears a fervent
and broken whisper:

"Thou art wise! Thou art noble! Thou art wise!"

And this savage face seems to glow with such truly satanic joy that
Pilate cannot repress a cry as he repels him with his foot, and
Judas falls down to the ground. And lying on the flagstones, like an
overturned devil, he still stretches out his hand towards Pilate and
shouts as one infatuated:

"Thou art wise! Thou art noble! Thou art wise!"

Then he swiftly leaps to his feet and flees accompanied by the laughter
of the soldiers. All is not yet over. When they see the cross, when
they see the nails, they may comprehend then.... What then? Passingly
he notices Thomas, breathless and pale, and for some reason nods to him
assuringly. Then he catches up with Jesus on the way to the execution.
The path is hard; the little stones roll from under one's feet; Judas
suddenly realizes that he is tired. He concentrates his mind on finding
a good foothold, and as he looks about he sees Mary Magdalene weeping,
he sees a multitude of weeping women, with dishevelled hair, red eyes,
distorted lips, all the infinite grief of the feminine soul given over
unto despair. Suddenly he revives and taking advantage of an opportune
moment, he rushes forward to Jesus:

"I am with Thee," he whispers hurriedly.

The soldiers drive him away with stinging blows of their whips, and
writhing to escape the leash, gnashing his teeth at the soldiers, he
hurriedly explains:

"I am with Thee. Thither. Understandest Thou? Thither!"

Wiping the blood from his face he shakes his fist at the soldier who
turns around and points him out to his comrades. He looks about for
some reason in search of Thomas, but finds neither him nor any of
the other disciples in the accompanying crowd. Again he feels weary
and heavily shuffles his feet, carefully scanning the sharp little
crumbling stones underfoot.

When the hammer was raised to nail the left hand of Jesus to the tree
Judas shut his eyes and for an eternity neither breathed, nor saw, nor
lived, only listened. But now iron struck iron with a gnashing sound,
and blow after blow followed blunt, brief, low. One could hear the
sharp nail entering the soft wood distending its particles.

One hand. It is not yet too late.

Another hand. It is not yet too late.

One foot, another. Is really all over? Irresolutely he opens his eyes
and sees the cross rise unsteadily and take root in the ditch. He sees
how the hands of Jesus convulse under the strain, extend agonizingly,
how the wounds spread and suddenly the collapsing abdomen sinks below
the ribs. The arms stretch and stretch and grow thin and white, they
twist at the shoulders, the wounds under the nails redden and expand;
they threaten to tear in an instant.. But, they stop. All motion
has stopped. Only the ribs move lightly, raised by His deep quick

On the very brow of the Earth rises the cross and on it hangs Jesus
crucified. The terror and the dreams of Judas are accomplished--he
rises from his knees (he had been kneeling for some reason) and looks
around coldly. Thus may look some stern conqueror having purposed in
his heart to visit ruin and death upon all as he takes one last look
on the wealthy vanquished city, still living and noisy, but already
spectral beneath the cold hand of death. And suddenly as clearly as his
terrible triumph the Iscariot sees its ominous frailty. What if they
realize? It is not yet too late. Jesus is still living. There He gazes
with his beckoning, yearning eyes....

What can keep from tearing the thin veil that covers the eyes of
the people, so thin that it almost is not? What if they suddenly
comprehend? What if they move in one immense throng of men, women
and children, silent, without shouting, and overwhelm the soldiers,
drowning them in their own blood, root out the accursed cross and the
hands of the survivors raise aloft upon the brow of the Earth the
released Jesus? Hosannah! Hosannah!

Hosannah? No. Let Judas lie down on the ground, let him lie down and
bare his teeth like a dog and watch and wait until they all rise.
But what has happened to time? Now it stops and one longs to kick it
onward, to lash it like a lazy ass, now it rushes on madly downhill,
cutting off one's breath, and one vainly seeks to steady oneself. There
Mary Magdalene is weeping-. There weeps the mother of Jesus. Let them
weep. As if her tears meant anything, for that matter the tears of all
the mothers, all the women in the universe!

"What are tears?" asks Judas and frenziedly pushes onward the
disobliging time, pummels it with his fists, curses it like a slave.
It is someone else's, that is why it does not obey. If it were Judas!
but it belongs to all these who are weeping, laughing, gossiping as if
they were in the marketplace. It belongs to the sun, it belongs to the
cross and to the heart of Jesus who is dying so slowly.

What a miserable heart is that of Judas. He is holding it with his
hands but it shouts Hosannah! so loudly that all will soon hear it. He
presses it tightly to the ground, and it shouts Hosannah! Hosannah!
like a poltroon scattering sacred mysteries in the street.

Suddenly a loud broken cry.. Dull shouts, a hurried commotion around
the cross. What is it? Have they comprehended?

No, Jesus is dying. And can this be? Yes, Jesus is dying. The pale arms
are limp, but the face, the breast and the legs are quivering with
short convulsions. And can this be? Yes, He is dying. The breath comes
less frequently. Now it has stopped. No, another sigh, Jesus is still
upon earth. And still another? No ... No ... No ... Jesus is dead.

It is finished. Hosannah! Hosannah!

* * *

The terror and the dreams are accomplished. Who will snatch the victory
from the Iscariot's hands? It is finished. Let all nations, as many as
there be, flock to Golgotha and cry out with their millions of throats:
Hosannah! Hosannah! let them pour out seas of blood and tears at its
foot,--they will only find a shameful cross and a dead Jesus.

Calmly and coldly Judas scrutinizes the figure of the Dead, resting his
glance an instant upon the cheek on which but the night before he had
impressed his farewell kiss, and then deliberately walks away. Now
the whole earth belongs to him, and he walks firmly like a commander,
like a king, like He who in this universe is so infinitely and serenely
alone. He notes the mother of Jesus and addresses her sternly:

"Weepest thou, mother? Weep, weep, and a long time will weep with thee
all the mothers of earth. Until we shall return together with Jesus and
destroy death."

What is he saying? Is he mad or merely mocking? But he seems serious
and his face is solemn, and his eyes no longer scurry about with insane
haste. There he stops and with a cold scrutiny views the earth, so
changed and small. How little it now is, and he feels the whole of the
orb beneath his feet. He looks at the little hills gently blushing
under the last rays of the sun, and he feels the mountains beneath his
feet. He gazes on the sky gaping wide with its azure mouth, he gazes
on the round little sun futilely striving to burn and to blind, and he
feels the sky and the sun beneath his heel. Infinitely and serenely
alone he has proudly sensed the impotence of all the powers that are at
work in the world and has cast them all down into the abyss.

And he walks on with calm and masterful steps. And the time moves
neither ahead of him nor in the rear: obediently with its invisible
mass it keeps pace with him.

It is finished.


Like an old hypocrite, coughing, smiling ingratiatingly, bowing
profusely, Judas of Kerioth, the Traitor, appeared before the
Sanhedrim. It was on the day following the murder of Jesus, towards
noon. They were all there, His judges and murderers, the aged Annas
with his sons, those accurate and repulsive copies of their father, and
Kaiaphas, his son-in-law, wormeaten with ambition, and other members
of the Sanhedrim, who had stolen their names from the memory of the
people, wealthy and renowned Sadducees, proud of their power and their
knowledge of the law. They received the Traitor in silence and their
haughty faces remained unmoved as if nothing had entered the room. And
even the very least among them, a nonentity utterly ignored by the
others, raised to the ceiling his birdlike features and looked as if
nothing had entered. Judas bowed, bowed and bowed, but they maintained
their silence: as if not a human being had entered, but some unclean
and unnoticeable insect had crept into their midst. But Judas of
Kerioth was not a man to feel embarrassed: they were silent, but he
kept on bowing and thought that if he had to keep on bowing until night
he would do so.

At last the impatient Kaiaphas inquired:

"What dost thou want?"

Judas bowed once more and modestly replied:

"It is I, Judas of Kerioth, who betrayed unto you Jesus of Nazareth."

"Well, what now? Thou hast received thy reward. Go," commanded Annas,
but Judas kept on bowing as if he had not heard the command. And
glancing at him Kaiaphas inquired of Annas:

"How much was he given?"

"Thirty pieces of silver."

Kaiaphas smiled and even the senile Annas smiled also. A merry smile
flitted over all the haughty faces: and he of the birdlike countenance
even laughed. Paling perceptibly Judas broke in:

"Quite so. Quite so. Of course, a very small sum, but is Judas
dissatisfied? Does Judas cry out that he was robbed? He is content.
Did he not aid a sacred cause? A sacred cause, to be sure. Do not the
wisest of men listen now to Judas of Kerioth and think: 'He is one of
us, Judas of Kerioth, he is our brother, our friend, Judas of Kerioth,
the Traitor.' Does not Annas long to kneel before Judas and kiss his
hand? Only Judas will not suffer it, for he is a coward, he fears that
Annas might bite."

Kaiaphas commanded:

"Drive this dog away. Why is he barking here?"

"Go hence. We have no time to listen to thy babbling," indifferently
remarked Annas.

Judas straightened up and shut his eyes. That hypocrisy which he had so
lightly borne all his life he felt now as an insupportable burden, and
with one movement of his eyelids he cast it off. And when he looked up
again at Annas his glance was frank and straight and dreadful in its
naked truthfulness. But they paid no attention even to this.

"Wouldst thou be driven out with rods?" shouted Kaiaphas.

Suffocating with the burden of terrible words which he sought to lift
higher and higher as if to cast them down upon the heads of the judges
Judas hoarsely inquired:

"And do ye know who He was, He whom ye yesterday condemned and

"We know. Go."

With one word he will now tear that thin veil that clouds their eyes,
and the whole earth will shake with the impact of the merciless truth.
They had souls--and they will lose them. They had life--and they will
be deprived of it. Light had been before their eyes--and eternal gloom
and terror will engulf them.

And these are the words that rend the speaker's throat:

"He was not a deceiver. He was innocent and pure. Hear ye? Judas
cheated you. Judas betrayed unto you an Innocent One."

He waited and heard the indifferent senile quaver of Annas: "And is
that all thou wouldst tell us?"

"Perhaps ye have not comprehended me?" Judas replied with dignity, all
color fading from his cheeks. "Judas deceived you. You have killed an
Innocent One." One of the judges, a man with a birdlike face, smiled,
but Annas was unmoved. Annas was bored, Annas yawned. And Kaiaphas
joined him in a yawn and wearily remarked: "I was told of the great
mind of Judas of Kerioth. But he is a fool, and a great bore as well as
a fool."

"What?" cried Judas shaken through and through with a desperate rage.
"And are ye wise? Judas has deceived you, do you hear me? Not Him did
he betray, but you, ye wise ones, you, ye strong ones, he betrayed
unto shameful death which shall not end in eternity. Thirty pieces of
silver! Yes. Yes. That is the price of your own blood, blood that is
filthy as the swill which the women cast out from the gates of their
houses. Oh Annas, Annas, aged, grey-bearded, stupid Annas, choking with
law, why didst thou not give another piece of silver, another obolus?
For at that price thou wilt be rated forever!"

"Begone!" shouted Kaiaphas trembling with wrath.

But Annas stopped him with a gesture and as stolidly asked Judas:

"Is this all now?"

"If I shall go into the desert and cry out to the wild beasts: 'Beasts
of the desert, have ye heard the price they have put on their Jesus?'
What will the wild beasts do? They will creep out of their lairs, they
will howl with wrath; they will forget the fear of man and they will
rush here to devour you. If I tell unto the sea: 'O sea, knowest thou
the price they have put upon their Jesus?' If I shall tell unto the
mountains: 'Ye mountains, know ye the price they have placed upon their
Jesus?' The sea and the mountains will leave their places appointed
unto them since eternity and rush towards you and fall upon your heads."

"Would not Judas like to become a prophet? He speaks so loudly,"
remarked he of the birdlike face mockingly and ingratiatingly peering
into the eyes of Kaiaphas.

"To-day I saw a pallid sun. It looked down in terror upon this earth
inquiring: 'Where, O where is man?' I saw to-day a scorpion. He sat
upon a rock and laughing inquired: 'Where, O where is man?' I drew
nearer and glanced into his eyes. And he laughed and repeated: 'Where,
O where is man?' Where, oh, where is man? Tell me, I do not see. Has
Judas become blind, poor Judas of Kerioth?"

And the Iscariot wept loudly. And in that moment he resembled a madman.
Kaiaphas turned away contemptuously, but Annas thought awhile and
remarked: "I see, Judas, that thou didst really receive but a small
reward, and this evidently agitates thee. Here is more money, take it
and give unto thy children."

He threw something that jingled abruptly. And hardly had that sound
died when another oddly resembling it succeeded: it was Judas casting
handfuls of silver coins and oboli into the faces of the high priest
and the judges, returning his reward for Jesus. In a crazy shower the
coins flew about, striking the faces of the judges, the tables and
scattering on the floor. Some of the judges sought to shield themselves
with the palms of their hands, others leaping from their seats shouted
and cursed. Judas aiming at Annas threw the last coin for which he had
fished a long time with his trembling hand, and wrathfully spitting
upon the floor walked out.

"Well. Well," he growled passing swiftly through lanes and scaring
little children. "Methinks thou didst weep, Judas, hey? Is Kaiaphas
really right in calling Judas of Kerioth a stupid fool? He who weepeth
in the day of the great vengeance is not worthy of it, knowest thou
this, Judas? Do not let thine eyes get the best of thee, do not let thy
heart play false. Do not put out the flames with thy tears, Judas of

The disciples of Jesus sat sadly and silently anxiously listening to
the sounds outside. There was still danger that the vengeance of the
foes of Jesus would not content itself with His death, and they all
expected the intrusion of soldiers and perhaps further executions.
Near John, who as the favorite disciple of Jesus felt the death of the
Teacher most, sat Mary Magdalene and Matthew, gently comforted him.
Mary, whose face was swollen with weeping softly stroked his luxuriant
wavy hair, while Matthew instructively quoted the words of Solomon:

"He that is longsuffering is better than the mighty, and he that ruleth
his heart than he that taketh a city."

At that moment loudly banging the door Judas Iscariot entered the
room. They leaped to their feet in terror and for an instant failed to
recognize the newcomer, but when they observed his hateful countenance
and the redhaired illshaped head they raised an uproar. Peter lifted up
his hands and cried out:

"Begone, Traitor, begone lest I kill thee."

But scanning the face and the eyes of the Traitor they lapsed into
silence, whispering with awe:

"Leave him. Leave him. Satan has entered his body."

Taking advantage of the silence Judas exclaimed: "Rejoice, rejoice,
ye eyes of Judas the Iscariot. Ye have just seen the coldblooded
murderers, and now ye behold the cowardly traitors. Where is Jesus? I
ask of you, where is Jesus?"

There was something commanding in the hoarse voice of the Iscariot and
Thomas meekly replied:

"Thou knowest, Judas, that our Teacher was crucified yesterday."

"How did you suffer it? Where was your love? Thou, beloved disciple,
thou, O Rock, where were ye when they crucified your friend upon the

"But what could we do, judge thyself?" replied Thomas shrugging his

"Thou askest this, Thomas? Well, well," replied Judas craning his head
and suddenly he broke out with vehemence: "He who loves asks not what
to do. He goes and does all. He weeps, he snaps, he strangles his foe,
he breaks his limbs. He who loves! When thy son is drowning, goest thou
into the marketplace and askest the passer-by: 'What am I to do? My son
is drowning. Dost thou not leap into the water and drown with the son
together? He who loves!"

Peter sullenly replied to the frenzied harangue of Judas:

"I unsheathed the sword but He himself bade me put it up."

"He bade thee? And thou didst obey?" laughed the Iscariot. "Peter,
Peter, was it meet to obey Him? Does He understand aught of men and of

"He who disobeys Him will go down to the Gehenna of fire."

"Then why didst thou not go? Why didst thou not go, Peter? Gehenna of
fire, indeed, what is Gehenna? And why didst thou not go? Why hast thou
a soul if thou darest not throw it into the fire at will?"

"Silence, He himself desired this sacrifice," exclaimed John rising to
his feet. "And His sacrifice was beautiful."

"Is there a beautiful sacrifice? What sayest thou, beloved disciple?
Where there is a sacrifice, there is the slayer and the betrayer also.
Sacrifice is suffering for one and shame for the others. Traitors,
traitors, what have ye done with this earth? They are gazing upon this
earth from above and from below with derision, saying: 'Look at this
earth, on it they crucified Jesus.' And they spit upon it even as I do."

Judas spat wrathfully.

"He took upon Himself the sins of all mankind. His sacrifice is
beautiful," insisted John.

"Nay, but ye upon yourselves have taken all sin. Beloved disciple!
Will there not spring up from thee a race of traitors, a brood of
little-souled liars? Ye blinded men, what have ye done with this
earth? Ye compassed about to destroy it. You will soon kiss the cross
whereon ye crucified Jesus. Yes, indeed, you will kiss the cross, Judas
promises you that."

"Judas, do riot blaspheme," roared Peter flushing. "How could we kill
all his foes? There were so many of them."

"And thou, Peter," angrily retorted John. "Dost thou not see that he is
possessed of Satan. Get thee hence, tempter. Thou art full of lies. The
Teacher commanded not to slay."

"But did He forbid you to die? Why are ye living whereas He is dead?
Why do your legs walk, your tongues utter folly, your eyes wink,
whereas He is dead, immovable, voiceless? How dare thy cheeks be red,
John, whereas His are pale? How darest thou shout, Peter, whereas He is
silent? What ye should have done, ye ask of Judas? And Judas replies to
you, beautiful, daring Judas of Kerioth: ye should have died. Ye should
have fallen on the way, clutching the soldiers' swords and hands. Ye
should have drowned them in a sea of your own blood; ye should have
died, died. His very Father should have called out with dread if ye all
had entered."

Judas paused, raised his hand, and suddenly noticed on the table the
remains of a meal. And with a queer amazement, curiously, as if he
were looking at food for the first time, he closely scrutinized it and
slowly inquired: "What is this? Ye have eaten? Perhaps slept also?"

"I have slept," curtly replied Peter, dropping his head, scenting
already in Judas' manner a tone of command. "I have slept and eaten."

Thomas resolutely and firmly interposed: "This is all wrong, Judas.
Think: if we had all died, who would have been left to tell about
Jesus? Who would carry the teachings of Jesus to the people, if all of
us had died, John and Peter and I?"

"And what is truth in the lips of traitors? Does it not turn to
falsehood? Thomas, Thomas, dost thou not understand that thou art now
a watchman at the grave of dead truth? The watchman falleth asleep, a
thief cometh and carrieth away the truth--tell me where is the truth?
Be thou accursed, Thomas! Fruitless and beggarly wilt thou be forever,
and ye are accursed with Him."

"Be thou thyself accursed, Satan," retorted John, and his words were
repeated by James and Matthew and all the other disciples. Peter alone
was silent.

"I go to Him!" said Judas raising aloft his masterful hand. "Who will
follow the Iscariot to Jesus?"

"I! I! I am with thee," cried Peter rising. But John and the others
stopped him with terror, saying: "Madman, dost thou forget that he
betrayed our Teacher into the hands of His enemies?"

Peter smote his breast with his fist and wept bitterly.

"Whither shall I go, Lord? O Lord, whither?"

* * *

Long ago, during his solitary rambles, Judas had picked out the spot
whereon he intended to kill himself after the death of Jesus. It
was on the side of the mountain, high over Jerusalem, and only one
tree was growing there, twisted all out of shape, knocked about by
the wind which tore at it from all sides and half-withered. One of
its gnarled and leafbare branches it stretched cut over Jerusalem as
though blessing the city or perhaps threatening it, and this one Judas
selected whereon to fasten his noose. But the path to the tree was long
and difficult, and Judas of Kerioth was very tired. Still the same
sharp little stones rolled from under his feet as if dragging him
back, and the mountain was high, windswept and gloomy. And Judas sat
down for a rest several times, breathing heavily, while from the back
through the crevices there swept over him the chilling breath of the

"Thou too, accursed hill," contemptuously muttered Judas and breathing
heavily he shook his benumbed head wherein all thoughts had turned to
stone. Then suddenly he raised it, opening wide his chilled eyes and
wrathfully growled:

"No, they are too bad altogether for Judas. Hearest thou, Jesus? Now
wilt thou believe me? I am coming. Meet me kindly, for I am weary. I am
very weary. Then together, with a brother's embrace, we shall return to
this earth. Is it well?"

And again opening wide his eyes he murmured: "But perhaps even there
thou wilt be angry with Judas of Kerioth? And perhaps thou wilt not
believe? And peradventure, thou wilt send me to hell? Well, what then?
I shall go to hell. And in the flames of thy hell I shall forge the
iron to wreck thy heaven. Well? Wilt thou believe me then? Wilt thou
then go back with me to this earth, O Jesus?"

Finally Judas reached the top of the mountain and the gnarled tree
and here the wind commenced to torture him. But when Judas had chided
it it began to whistle soft and low; the wind started off in another
direction and was bidding him farewell.

"Well, well. But those others are curs," responded Judas making a
noose. And as the rope might play him false and break he hung it
over the abyss,--if it did break he would still find his death upon
the rocks. And before pushing himself away from the edge and hanging
himself over the precipice, Judas once more carefully admonished Jesus:

"But Thou meet me kindly, for I am very weary, Jesus."

And he leaped. The rope stretched to its limit, but sustained the
weight. The neck of Judas grew thin, while his hands and legs folded
and hung down limply as if wet. He died. Thus within two days, one
after the other, departed from this earth Jesus of Nazareth and Judas
of Kerioth, the Traitor.

All night like some hideous fruit the body of Judas swung over
Jerusalem; and the wind turned his face now towards the city now to the
desert. But whichever way his death-marred face turned, its red and
bloodshot eyes, both of which were now alike, like brothers, resolutely
gazed upon the sky. Towards morning some observant one noticed Judas
suspended over the city and cried out in terror. Men came and took him
down, but learning his identity threw him into a deep ravine where they
cast the carcases of horses, dogs, cats and other carrion.

That same night all believers learned of the terrible death of the
Traitor, and the next day all Jerusalem knew it. Rocky Judea heard
it, and green-clad Galilee too; and from one sea even to another more
distant one the news of the death of the Traitor was carried. Not
swifter nor slower than the passing of time, but step by step with it,
the message spread; and as there is no end to time there will be no end
to the stories of Judas' betrayal and his terrible death. And all--the
good and the bad alike--will curse his shameful memory, and among all
nations, as many as there are or will ever be, he will remain alone in
his cruel fate--Judas of Kerioth, the Traitor.



When Lazarus emerged from the grave wherein for the space of three days
and three nights he had dwelt under the mysterious dominion of death,
and returned living to his abode, the ominous peculiarities which later
made his very name a thing of dread remained for a long time unnoticed.

Rejoicing in his return to life, his friends and neighbors overwhelmed
him with caresses and they satisfied their eager interest by
ministering to him and caring for his food, his drink and his raiment.
They clothed him in rich attire, bright with the hues of hope and
merriment, and when he sat among them once more, arrayed like the
bridegroom in his wedding garments, and ate and drank once more,
they wept for joy and summoned the neighbors to view him, who had so
miraculously risen from the dead. The neighbors came and rejoiced;
strangers too came from distant cities and villages and in accents of
tumultuous praise voiced their homage to the miracle--the house of Mary
and Martha hummed like a beehive.

All that seemed novel in the features of Lazarus and in his demeanor
they explained as natural traces of his serious illness and the shock
through which he had passed. It was manifest that the destructive
effect of Death upon the corpse had been merely arrested by the
miraculuous power, but not altogether undone. And what the hand of
Death had already accomplished upon the face and the body of Lazarus
was like an artist's unfinished sketch covered by a thin film. A deep
earthy bluish pallor rested on the temples of Lazarus, below his eyes
and on his hollow cheeks; his lanky fingers were of the same earthy
blue and his nails, which had grown long during his sojourn in the
grave had turned livid. Here and there, on the lips and elsewhere,
his skin, swollen in the grave, had cracked open and was covered by a
fine reddish film that glistened like transparent slime. And he had
grown very fat. His body, inflated in the grave, retained that ominous
obesity beneath which one scents the putrid sap of dissolution. But
the cadaverous and fetid odor which had permeated the burial robes of
Lazarus, and seemingly his very body, soon disappeared completely;
in the course of weeks even the bluish tint of his hands and of his
countenance faded, and time also smoothed out the reddish blisters
though they never vanished altogether. Such was the appearance of
Lazarus as he faced the world in this his second life. To those who had
seen him buried it seemed perfectly natural.

The manner of Lazarus also had undergone a change, but this
circumstance surprised no one and failed to attract due attention.
Until his death Lazarus had always been care free and merry. He had
loved laughter and harmless jests. It was this agreeable and merry
disposition, free from malice and gloom, that had made him so well
beloved by the Teacher. But now he was grave and silent. He neither
jested himself nor responded with an approving smile to the jests of
others: and the words which he uttered on rare occasions were the
simplest, most commonplace and indispensable words, as bare of a
profounder meaning as the sounds with which animals express pain or
pleasure, thirst and hunger. Such words a man may speak all his life
and none would ever learn what grieved or pleased him in the depths of
his soul.

Thus he sat with the face of a corpse over which for the space of
three days the hand of death had held sway in the gloom of the
grave,--arrayed in solemn wedding garments that glistened with ruddy
gold and blood-red crimson; dull and silent, ominously transformed and
uncanny, but still undiscovered in his new character, he sat at the
festive board among his banqueting friends and neighbors. Now tenderly,
now tempestuously the waves of rejoicing surged around him; fervently
affectionate glances feasted upon his face that was still numb, with
the chill of the grave; the warm hand of a friend caressed his blue
tipped leaden fingers. The music played. They had summoned musicians
to play merry tunes: the cymbal, the pipe, the lute and the timbrel.
And it sounded like the humming of bees, like the chirping of crickets,
like the singing of birds, this rejoicing in the house of Mary and


A reckless one lifted the veil. A reckless one, with one breath of a
fleeting word, destroyed the sweet dreams and revealed the truth in its
hideous nakedness. The thought was not yet clear in the questioner's
head when his lips, parting in a smile inquired:

"Why don't you tell us, Lazarus, what was There?" And they all paused,
amazed at the query, as though they had just realized that Lazarus
had been dead three days, and they glanced up curiously awaiting the
answer. But Lazarus was silent.

"Will you not tell us?" questioned the curious one "Was is so dreadful

And again the thought failed to keep pace with the words: if it had
kept abreast with them the question would not have been put, for it
gripped in the next instant the questioner's own heart with fear
unutterable. And they were all perturbed, they waited eagerly for the
reply of Lazarus; but he was dumb, looking cold and stern and downcast.
And then they noted anew, as though for the first time, the dreadful
bluish pallor of his countenance and his hideous obesity; his livid
hand still reposed on the table as though forgotten there. All eyes
were fixed on that hand in a strange fascination as though expecting
that it might give the craved reply. The musicians had still been
playing, but lo! now the silence reached them too, like a rivulet which
reaches and quenches the scattered coals, and smothered were the sounds
of merriment. The pipes were mute; the high-sounding cymbal and the
melodious timbrel were silent; with the sound of a breaking chord, as
though song itself were dying, tremulously, brokenly groaned the lute;
and all was still.

"Thou wilt not?" repeated the questioner unable to repress his prating
tongue. Silence reigned and the bluish hand reposed on the table and
did not stir. Then it moved a little, and all heaved a sigh of relief
and lifted their eyes: Lazarus, the risen, was gazing straight into
their faces with a glance that took in all,--stolid and gruesome.

This was on the third day after he had emerged from his grave. Since
then many had tested the pernicious power of his gaze, but neither
those whom it wrecked forever, nor those who in the primal sources
of life that are as mysterious as death itself found force to resist,
could ever explain the nature of that dreadful, that invisible
something which reposed in the depths of his black pupils. Lazarus
looked into the world calmly and frankly without seeking to hide
anything, without any thought of revealing anything; his gaze was as
cold as the glance of one infinitely indifferent to all things living.
Many thoughtless people jostled him in the street failing to recognize
him, and only later learned the identity of that quiet corpulent man
the edge of whose gaudy and festive apparel had brushed against them.
The sun shone as brightly as ever, the fountains murmured their song,
and the native sky remained as cloudless and azure as before, but
those who had fallen under the sway of that mysterious glance neither
felt the glow of the sun, nor heard the fountain nor recognized the
sky. Some of these wept bitterly, others tore their hair in despair
and madly called to their friends for help, but mostly it happened
that they began to die, languidly, without a struggle, drooping for
many weary years, pining away under the eyes of their friends, fading,
withering, listless like a tree drying up silently on rocky ground. And
the first, who cried and stormed, came sometimes back to life, but the

"Then thou wilt not tell us, Lazarus, what thou hast seen There?" for
the third time repeated the insistent inquirer. But now his voice
was dull and weary, and deathly grey languor looked from his eyes.
And the same deathly dull languor hid the faces of the others like a
veil of dust: they exchanged glances of dreary wonderment as though
at a loss to grasp why they had met around the richly laden table.
The conversation lagged. The guests began to feel vaguely that it was
time to go home, but they were too weak to overcome the viscous and
paralyzing listlessness that had robbed their muscles of strength, and
they kept their seats, each for himself, isolated like dimly flickering
lights scattered about the field in the darkness of night.

But the musicians were paid to play, and once more they took up their
instruments and the air was filled with the sounds of music: but the
notes, both merry and mournful, sounded mechanical and forced. The same
familiar melody was unrolled before the ears of the guests, but the
latter listened in wonderment: they could not understand why people
found it necessary or amusing to have others pull at tightly drawn
strings or whistle with inflated cheeks through thin reeds to produce
the oddly discordant noises.

"How badly they play!" someone said.

The musicians felt hurt and departed. One after another the guests
left too, for the night had already fallen. And when the calm of night
surrounded them, and they had begun to breathe at ease there rose
before each one of them the image of Lazarus: the blue cadaverous face,
the wedding garments, gaudy and sumptuous, and the frigid stare in the
depths of which had congealed the Horrible. As though, turned to stone
they stood in different corners, and darkness enveloped them; and in
that darkness more and more vividly burned the dreadful vision of him
who for three days and for three nights had been under the mysterious
spell of Death. Three days he had been dead; three times the sun rose
and set, and he was dead; the children played, the brooks coursed
babbling over the stones, the biting dust swept over the highway,--but
he was dead. And now he was again among the living--touching them,
looking at them--LOOKING at them! and from the black orbs of his
pupils, as through a dark glass, there gazed upon the people the
inscrutable Beyond.


No one took care of Lazarus; he had retained no neighbors or friends,
and the great desert which enchained the Holy City had encroached to
the very threshold of his dwelling. And it entered his house, made
itself broad on his couch, like a spouse, and quenched the fire in his
hearth. One after the other his sisters, Mary and Martha, forsook him;
for a long time Martha had loathed to leave him, not knowing who would
feed him and comfort him; she wept and prayed.

But one night when the wind swept over the desert and whistled through
the tops of the cypress trees bending them over the roof of his hut,
she quietly dressed and quietly went out into the darkness. Lazarus
might have heard the slamming door, he might have heard it banging
against the doorposts as it failed to shut tightly. But he did not
rise, he did not step out, he did not investigate. And all through the
night until the morn the cypress trees rustled overhead, and the door
piteously knocked against the posts letting in the cold, the greedy,
the insistent desert.

He was shunned as a leper, and as a leper they almost forced him
to wear a bell around his neck in order to warn the people of his
approach, but someone, with blanching cheek, suggested how dreadful it
would be to hear the bell of Lazarus in the dead of night outside the
windows,--and with blanching cheeks the people agreed with him.

And as he did nothing for himself, he would probably have starved
had not his neighbors, impelled by a strange fear, saved some food
for him. Children carried it to him. They did not fear him, neither
did they mock him, as, with innocent cruelty, they often laugh at
unfortunate beings. They were indifferent to him, and Lazarus evinced
the same indifference toward them. Given over to the ravages of time
and the encroachments of the desert, his house was falling to wreck
and ruin, and his flock of goats, bleating and hungry, had a long time
since scattered among his neighbors. His wedding garments too had grown
old. Just as he had donned them on that happy day when the musicians
played he had worn them ever since, without change, as though unable to
see the difference between the new and the old, the torn and the whole.
The bright colors had faded and paled; the wicked dogs of the city and
the sharp thorns of the desert had rent the delicate fabric into shreds.

In the day time when the merciless sun consumed all that was living,
and the very scorpions sought refuge under the stones writhing with
a frenzied desire to sting he sat unmoved beneath the burning rays,
holding aloft his blue streaked face and shaggy wild beard.

While yet the people stopped to talk to him, someone once inquired:

"Poor Lazarus, it evidently pleases thee to sit and look upon the sun?"
and he replied:

"Yes. It pleases me."

So severe must have been the cold of those three days in the grave, so
dense its gloom, that there was not any heat nor any light upon earth
strong enough to warm Lazarus, bright enough to illumine the darkness
of his eyes,--thus thought the curious as they departed sighing.

And when the sun's luridly crimson disc descended to earth Lazarus
retired into the desert and walked straight towards the sun as though
striving to catch up with it. Always he walked straight towards the
sun, and those who tried to follow him in order to learn what he did at
night in the desert had indelibly impressed on their memory the black
silhouette of a tall and corpulent man against the crimson back-ground
of the mighty orb. The night with its terrors drove them back, and they
never learned what Lazarus was doing in the desert, but the image of
the black shadow on a crimson background burned itself on their brain
and refused to leave them. Like an animal frenziedly rubbing its eyes
to remove a cinder they stupidly rubbed their eyes, but the impression
left by Lazarus was not to be blotted out, and death alone granted

But there were people afar off who had never seen Lazarus, having
merely heard rumors of him. These with a daring curiosity that is
stronger than fear and feeds on fear, with a secret sneer in their
hearts, ventured to approach him as he basked in the sun, and engaged
in conversation with him. By this time the appearance of Lazarus had
somewhat changed for the better, and he no longer looked so terrifying.
And in the first moment they snapped their fingers and thought
disapprovingly of the folly of the inhabitants of the Holy City. And
when their short conversation was over, they wended their way home, but
their appearance was such that the inhabitants of the Holy City at once
recognized them saying:

"There goes another madman upon whom Lazarus has cast his glance," and
they paused raising their hands with compassion.

Brave warriors came rattling their arms, men who knew no fear; with
laughter and songs came happy hearted youths; careworn traders,
jingling their coins, ran in for a moment; and the haughty temple
attendants left their staffs at the door of Lazarus,--but none returned
the same as he had come. The same horrible pall sank upon their souls
and imparted a novel appearance to the old familiar world.

Those who still felt like talking thus described their impressions.

"All objects visible to the eye and sensible to the touch became empty,
light and diaphanous like unto luminous shadows flitting through the

"A great darkness enveloped the universe; and was not dispelled by the
sun, the moon or the stars, but enshrouded the earth with a boundless
black pall, embracing it like a mother."

"It penetrated all objects, even iron and stone, and the particles
thereof lost their union and became lonely; it penetrated even into the
hearts of the particles unto the severing of the very atoms."

"For the great void that surrounds the universe was not filled by
things visible, by sun, moon or stars, but shoreless it stretched
penetrating all things, severing all things, body from body, particle
from particle."

"In emptiness the trees spread out their roots and the very trees
seemed empty."

"In emptiness tottering to a phantom ruin, and empty themselves, rose
ghostly temples, palaces and houses."

"And in that waste Man moved restlessly, and he too was empty and light
like unto a shadow."

"For there was no more time, and the beginning of all things and the
end thereof met face to face."

"The sound of the builders' hammers was still heard as they reared the
edifice, but its downfall could be seen already, and behold, emptiness
soon yawned over the ruins."

"Hardly a man was born, before funeral tapers gleamed at his bier;
these barely flickered an instant, and emptiness reigned in the place
of the Man, the funeral tapers and the bier."

"In the embrace of Gloom and Waste; Man trembled hopelessly with the
dread of the Infinite."

Thus spoke those who had still a desire to speak. But those who would
not speak and died in silence could have probably told much more.


At that time there lived in Rome a celebrated sculptor. Out of clay,
marble and bronze he fashioned the forms of gods and of men, and such
was the beauty of his work that men proclaimed it immortal. But the
sculptor himself was dissatisfied with it and claimed that there was
something else to strive for, a beauty that was truly supreme, such as
he had never yet been able to fix in marble or bronze. "I have not yet
garnered the splendor of the moon," he was wont to say. "I have not
yet caught the radiance of the sun. My marble lacks soul, my beautiful
bronze lacks life." At night, beneath the moonlit sky, he roamed about
the highways, crossing the black shadows of cypress trees, his white
tunic gleaming in the light of the moon, and friends who chanced to
meet him hailed him in jest: "Art thou gathering moonlight, Aurelius?
And where be thy baskets?"

And joining in their laughter he made reply, pointing to his eyes:

"Behold the baskets wherein I gathered the light of the moon and the
radiance of the sun."

And he spoke the truth, for the light of the moon gleamed in his eyes,
the radiance of the sun glowed in them. But he could not convert them
into marble, and this was the radiant sorrow of his life.

He came from an ancient patrician family, had a loving wife and dutiful
children, and lacked nothing.

When a dim rumor concerning Lazarus reached his ear, he consulted his
wife and friends and undertook the long journey to Judea in order to
see him who had so miraculously risen from the dead. The monotony of
life weighed heavily upon him in those days and he hoped that the
journey would awaken his interest in the world. What he had heard
concerning the risen one did not deter him, for he had pondered much
upon death, though he had no longing for it. Neither had he patience
with those who would confuse death with life. "On this side life and
its beauty," he reasoned, "and on the other, death with its mystery.
Nothing better could one imagine than to live and enjoy life and the
glory of living." And he even entertained a somewhat vain and glorious
notion of convincing Lazarus that this was the true view and of
bringing him back to life, even as his body had been brought back to

This seemed an easy task for him, for the rumors concerning the risen
one, fearsome and strange as they were, failed to convey the whole
truth and only vaguely hinted at something' dreadful.

Lazarus was rising from his rock for his journey into the desert in
the path of the setting sun, when the rich Roman, accompanied by an
armed slave, approached him, and in a sonorous voice called to him:

Lazarus beheld a haughty and handsome man, resplendent with fame, clad
in white apparel bearing precious gems that sparkled in the sunshine.
The radiance of the sun lent to the head and the features a semblance
of dull bronze. After his scrutiny Lazarus obediently resumed his seat,
and listlessly looked to the ground.

"Truly thou art not fair to look upon, poor Lazarus," calmly observed
the Roman, toying with his golden chain. "Thou art even terrifying
in appearance, poor fellow; and Death was no sluggard the day thou
so carelessly didst fall into its clutches. But thou art as fat as a
wine barrel, and the great Caesar says that fat people are harmless.
I cannot see why people are so afraid of thee. Thou wilt permit me to
stay overnight? It is already late and I have no abode."

Nobody had ever sought permission to pass a night with Lazarus.

"I have no couch to offer thee," said he.

"I am somewhat of a soldier and can sleep sitting," replied the Roman.
"We shall light a fire."

"I have no fire."

"In the darkness then like two comrades shall we hold our converse. I
suppose thou hast some wine here?"

"I have no wine."

The Roman laughed. "Now I comprehend why thou art so morose and why
thou takest no delight in thy second life. Thou hast no wine. Very
well. We shall do without. Thou knowest there are words that turn one's
head even as Falernian wine."

With a motion of his hand he dismissed the slave and they were left
alone. And again the sculptor spoke, but it seemed that with the
sinking sun the glow of life had departed from his words, for they
lost color and substance. They reeled and slipped and stumbled, as
though unsteady of foot of drunken with the wine of anguish and dismay.
Yawning chasms appeared between them like distant hints of a vast void
and utter darkness.

"I am thy guest now and thou wilt not offend me, Lazarus", he said.
"Hospitality is a duty even for those who have been dead three days.
For they say that thou didst pass three days in the grave. It must
have been very chilly there, and it is thence comes thy bad habit of
doing without wine and fire. But I love the fire. It grows dark here
so early. The line of thy brow and forehead is quite noteworthy, even
as the skyline of palaces ruined by an earthquake and buried beneath
ashes. But why is thy apparel so odd and unattractive? I have seen the
bridegrooms in thy country arrayed like this, such absurd attire, such
repulsive garments! But art thou then a bridegroom?"

The sun had already vanished and gigantic black shadows came hurrying
from the east, as though the bare feet of giants came rustling over the
sands, and the chill breath of swiftly fleeing wind blew up behind them.

"In the darkness thou seemest even bigger oh Lazarus, as though thou
hast grown stouter in these last few minutes. Dost thou perchance feed
on darkness? But I should like some fire, just a little blaze the
tiniest flame would do.... And I am a trifle cold...."

"You have here such barbarously chilly nights If it were not pitch dark
I should say that thou art looking at me, Lazarus. Yes, methinks thou
ART looking at me. I feel it. Now thou art smiling!"

The night had set in and a dense blackness filled the air.

"How good will it be when the sun rises again on the morrow.... Thou
knowest I am a great sculptor. My friends call me so. I create, yes I
create things, but daylight is needed for that. I impart life unto the
cold lifeless marble. In the fire I melt the ringing bronze, in a vivid
and glowing fire.... Why touchest thou me with thy hand?"

"Come", said Lazarus, "thou art my guest." And they entered the house.
And the shadows of a long night descended upon the earth.

The slave who had grown tired waiting for his master called for him
when the sun had already risen high overhead. And he saw under its
rays Lazarus and his master huddled closely together. They were gazing
upward in silence.

The slave wept aloud and called to his master: "Master, what troubleth
thee? Master!"

The same day Aurelius left for Rome. The whole way he was pensive and
silent, scrutinizing everything, the people, the ship and the sea,
as though struggling to commit something to memory. A fierce tempest
overtook them, and all the while Aurelius remained on the deck gazing
eagerly on the rising and sinking waves.

At home the change that had taken place in him caused consternation,
but he calmed the apprehensions of his household and observed
significantly: "I have found it."

In the same raiment that he had worn during the journey without change
he went to work, and the marble obediently responded to the resounding
blows of his hammer. He worked long and eagerly, refusing to admit any
one; at last one morning he announced that his work was ready, and
summoned all his friends, the severe critics and experts in art. He
attired himself into sumptuous and festive garments that sparkled with
gold and shone with the purple of Bysson.

"Behold what I have created", he said musingly.

His friends gazed on the work and the shadow of a deep sorrow clouded
their faces. The group was simply hideous to look upon: it possessed
none of the forms familiar to the eye, though it was not devoid of a
dim suggestion of some novel and fanciful image. Upon a twisted thin
little twig, or rather upon the misshapen likeness of one, crouched an
unsightly, distorted mass of crude fragments that seemed to be weakly
striving to flee in all directions. And casually, under a crude ridge
they observed a wondrously wrought butterfly, with diaphanous wings
that was all aquiver with the futile longing to soar skyward.

"Why this wondrously wrought butterfly, Aurelius?" someone dubiously

"I don't know", replied the sculptor.

But the truth has to be told, and one of his friends (the one who loved
him best) interposed: "My poor friend, this is a monstrosity. It must
be destroyed. Give me the hammer."

And with two blows of the hammer he destroyed the hideous heap, sparing
only the wondrous butterfly.

From that time on Aurelius created nothing. He gazed with profound
indifference upon marble and bronze and upon his former godlike
creations wherein beauty immortal dwelt. In the hope of inspiring him
once more with his old zeal for work and of reviving his moribund
soul, his friends led him to view the beautiful work of others, but he
maintained the same lack of interest, and no warming smile ever parted
again his tightly drawn lips. Only when they ventured to hold lengthy
speeches on love and beauty he wearily and listlessly replied:

"But all this is a lie."

And in the daytime when the sun was shining he strolled into his
luxurious garden, and seeking out some spot undimmed by the shade he
yielded up his uncovered head and lacklustre eyes to radiance and
warmth. Red and white butterflies flitted about the garden, from
the contorted lips of a blissfully drunken Satyr the water splashed
coursing down into the marble cistern, but he sat unmoved like a faint
shadow of him who in a distant land sat as immobile at the very gates
of the desert beneath the arid rays of the midday sun.


And now Augustus himself, the great, the divine, summoned Lazarus to
appear before him.

They attired him in sumptuous wedding garment, for time and usage
seemed to have prescribed these as befitting him as though he had
remained until his death the betrothed of some unknown bride. It was as
though an old, decaying and decrepit coffin were regilded and adorned
with fresh gaudy tinsel. And he was conducted by a sumptuously garbed
and gay cortege, as though in truth it were a bridal procession, and
the heralds loudly sounded their trumpets clearing the way for the
messengers of the emperor. But the path of Lazarus was deserted. His
native land had learned to execrate the odious name of the miraculously
risen one, and the mere news of his dread approach was sufficient to
scatter the people. The blasts of the brass horns fell on the solitude
and only the desert air responded with a melancholy echo.

Then they took him across the sea. And it was the most gorgeous and
the saddest ship that was ever mirrored against the azure waves of
the Mediterranean There were many people aboard, but the vessel was
as mute and silent as the grave and the very waves seemed to sob
hopelessly as they laved the beautifully curved and lofty prow. Lazarus
sat alone, holding his bared head to the sun, listening in silence to
the murmur of the waters, and afar off the sailors and the messengers
lounged around feebly and listlessly huddled together like a cluster
of despondent shadows. If a clap of thunder had rent the air, if a
sudden gale had torn the gaudy sails, the ship would have doubtlessly
perished for there was none on board with strength or zeal enough to
struggle for life. With a last weak effort some stepped to the rail and
eagerly gazed into the blue and transparent abyss waiting perhaps for a
mermaid's pink shoulder to flash from the deep or for some drunken and
joy maddened centaur to gallop by splashing the foam of the sea with
his hoofs.

With stolid indifference Lazarus set foot on the streets of the
Eternal City, as though all its wealth, the majesty of its structures
that seemed to have been reared by giants, the splendor, the beauty,
the music of its elegance were simply the echo of the desert wind,
the reflex of Palestine's arid sands. Chariots sped by, crowds of
handsome, sturdy, haughty men passed on, the builders of the Eternal
City, the proud participants of her bustling life; the air filled
with the notes of songs, the murmur of fountains, the pearly cadences
of women's laughter! drunkards held pompous speeches and the sober
listened smilingly; and the horseshoes clattered and clatterer upon
the pavements. Caught all around by the whirlpool of noisy merriment
there moved through the city like a blot of icy silence one fat and
clumsy creature sowing in his path annoyance, wrath and a vaguely
cankering grief. Who dare be sad in Rome? The citizens were indignant
and frowned, and two days later the whole ready tongued Rome knew of
the miraculously resurrected one and timidly avoided him.

But there were in Rome many brave people eager to test their prowess,
and to their thoughtless challenge Lazarus readily responded. Busy
with the affairs of state the Emperor delayed receiving him and the
miraculously risen one for seven days in succession paid visits to
those who would see him.

A merry winebibber met Lazarus and hailed him with carefree laughter on
his ruddy lips.

"Drink, Lazarus, drink!" he shouted. "How Augustus would laugh to see
thee drunk!"

And drunken women laughed at the sally, while they showered rose leaves
on the blue-streaked hands of Lazarus. But the winebibber looked into
his eyes--and his joy was forever ended. He remained drunken for life:
he drank no more, yet he remained drunken but in the place of joyous
reveries which the wine yields, horrible dreams haunted his ill-fated
soul. Horrible dreams became the sole nourishment of his stricken
spirit. Horrible dreams held him day and night in the spell of their
hideous fancies, and death itself was less terrible than appeared his
ferocious precursors.

Lazarus called on a youth and a maiden, lovers and fair to look on in
their love. Proudly and firmly grasping the woman he loved the youth
remarked with gentle compassion:

"Look on us, Lazarus, and rejoice with us. Is there aught stronger than

And Lazarus looked. And they ceased not from loving all their life
long, but their love became gloomy and somber, like the cypress trees
that grow above tombs, feeding their roots on the dissolution within
the grave and seeking vainly in the evening hour to reach heaven with
their dusky and pointed tops. Thrown by the unfathomable force of life
into each other's arms they mingled their kisses with tears, their
joy with pain, and realized their twofold bondage: the humble slaves
of inexorable life and the helpless bondsmen of ominous and mute
Nothingness. Ever united, ever parted, they flashed upwards like sparks
and like sparks faded in shoreless gloom.

Then came Lazarus to a haughty sage and the sage told him:

"I know all the terrors that thou canst relate to me, Lazarus.
Wherewith wilt thou terrify me?"

But it was not long before the sage realized that the knowledge of
the horrible is not the horrible, and that the vision of death is not
death itself. And he realized that wisdom and folly are the equals
in the sight of the Infinite, for the Infinite knows them not. And
the boundaries between knowledge and ignorance, between truth and
falsehood, between height and depth vanished, and his formless thoughts
were suspended in emptiness. Then he seized his grey head in his hands
and cried out in agony:

"I cannot think! I cannot think!"

Thus succumbed to the stolid gaze of the miraculously risen one all
things that served to affirm life, its meaning and its joys. And it
was said that it would be dangerous to allow him to face the Emperor,
that it would be safer to put him to death and burying him secretly
to spread the rumor that he had disappeared without leaving a trace.
Swords were already sharpened and some youths devoted to the welfare
of the nation volunteered to be his slayers, when suddenly Augustus
demanded to have Lazarus brought before him on the morrow and upset
their cruel plans.

Though it was impossible to remove Lazarus, it was thought best to
soften somewhat the dreary impression produced by his appearance.
For this reason skilled artists were summoned, also hair arrangers
and masters of make-up and they labored all night over the head of
Lazarus. They trimmed his beard, curled it and made it appear neat
and attractive. The livid coloring of his face and hands was removed
by means of paint: his hands were bleached and his cheeks touched up
with red. The repulsive wrinkles of suffering that furrowed his senile
features were patched up, painted and smoothed over, and lines of
goodnatured laughter and pleasant cheerful good humor were skillfully
drawn in their place.

Lazarus submitted stolidly to all they did with him and soon was
transformed into a naturally corpulent handsome old man, who looked
like a harmless grandfather with numerous descendants. One could almost
see the trace of a smile on his lips with which he might have related
to them laughable stories, one almost detected in the corner of his
eyes the calm tenderness of old age,--such was his quiet and reassuring
appearance. But they had not dared to take off his wedding attire, nor
could they change his eyes,--dark and dreadful glasses through which
there peered upon the world the unfathomable Beyond.


The magnificence of the Imperial palace failed to impress Lazarus.
There might have been no difference between his ramshackle but at the
threshold of the desert and the splendid and massive palace of stone,
so stolidly indifferent was his unobserving glance. Under his feet the
solid marble slabs seemed to turn to the sinking sand of the desert,
and the throngs of gaily attired and haughty Romans might have been
thin air. They avoided looking into his face as he passed, fearing
to succumb to the baneful spell of his eyes; but when they judged
from the sound of his footsteps that he had passed on, they paused
and raising their heads with a little fearsome curiosity watched the
departing figure of the tall, corpulent, slightly stooping old man who
was slowly wending his way into the heart of the Imperial' palace. If
Death itself had passed by they would not have glanced after it with
greater awe. For until then Death had been known unto the dead only and
life unto the living and there had been no bridge between the twain.
But this strange being knew Death, and awful, ominous, accursed was his
knowledge. "He will be the death of our great and divine Augustus",
mused some of them anxiously and muttered curses in his wake as he
slowly and stolidly made his way more and more deeply into the palace.

Caesar had already learned the story of Lazarus and nerved himself to
meet him. He was a man of daring and courage and thoroughly conscious
of his own invincible power. In this fateful encounter with the risen
one he chose not to lean upon the feeble aid of men. Face to face, man
to man he met Lazarus.

"Do not lift up thine eyes to me, Lazarus," he commanded him as the
stranger entered. "I have heard that thy head is like Medusa's turning
to stone him who ventures to look upon thee. But I desire to talk with
thee and to examine thee before I am turned to stone", he added with an
Imperial attempt at a jest that was not unmixed with a little awe.

Approaching him he examined attentively the face and the queer apparel
of Lazarus, and though he prided himself on his sharp and observant eye
he was deceived by the skill of the artists.

"Well, thou art not so terrible, worthy patriarch. But it is all the
worse for people if the terrible assumes such a dignified and agreeable
guise. Now let us converse."

Augustus sat down and with a glance that was as searching as his words
he commenced to question him.

"Why didst thou not salute me as thou earnest in?"

Lazarus replied:

"I did not know that it was necessary."

"Art thou a Christian?"


Augustus nodded approvingly.

"Good. I dislike these Christians. They shake the tree of life before
it yields its full fruitage and scatter to the wind its blossoming
fragrance. But what art thou?"

With an effort Lazarus replied:

"Once I was dead."

"So I have heard. But what art thou now?"

Lazarus hesitated and again replied listlessly, stolidly:

"Once I was dead."

"Listen to me, thou enigma", resumed the Emperor, in measured and
severe words voicing the thoughts which had been in his mind before.
"My empire is the empire of the living, my people is a living people
and not dead. Thou art out of place here. I do not know thee, I do not
know what thou hast seen There. But whether thou liest--I abhor thy
lying, and if thou be telling the truth I abhor thy truth. In my bosom
I feel the throbbing of life. I feel vigor in my hands, and my proud
thoughts soar like eagles through space. And there, behind me, under
the protection of my dominion, in the shadow of laws created by me,
people live and labor and rejoice. Hearest thou this wondrous harmony
of life? Hearest thou this warlike challenge which men fling into the
face of the future summoning it to a combat?"

Augustus reverently raised his hands and solemnly exclaimed:

"Blessed be Thou Great and Divine Life!"

But Lazarus was silent and with added severity the Emperor continued:

"Thou art out of place here. Thou art a pitiful remnant, a half-eaten
scrap from the table of Death, thou breathest into people melancholy
and hatred of life. Thou art like the locust that eateth the full ear
of grain knitting the slime of despair and despondency. Thy truth is
like unto the rusty sword in the hands of a murderous night prowler,
and I shall put thee to death like an assassin. But ere I do this I
will gaze into thine eyes. Perhaps only the cowards fear them, perhaps
they will wake the thirst of conflict and longing for victory in the
brave. If that be so thou meritest a reward, not death. Look then upon
me, Lazarus."

And at first Augustus fancied as though a friend were looking upon him,
so gentle, so caressing, so tenderly soothing was the gaze of Lazarus.
It boded no terrors but calm and repose, it was the gaze of a tender
lover, of a compassionate sister: through his eyes Infinity gazed even
as a mother. But the embrace grew stronger and stronger until his
breath was stopped by lips that seemed to crave for kisses. And in
the next instant he felt the iron fingers plowing through the tender
tissues of his flesh, and cruel claws sank slowly into his heart.

"I am in pain", moaned Divus Augustus with blanching cheek. "Yet, look
on me still, Lazarus, look on."

As though through slowly opening gates that had been shut for aeons
the horror of the Infinite poured coldly and calmly out of the growing
breach. Fathomless waste and fathomless darkness entered like twin
shadows quenching the light of the sun, removing the ground underfoot,
obliterating all overhead. And pain left the benumbed heart of Augustus.

"Look, look still, Lazarus", commanded he reeling.

Time ceased and the beginning of things faced the end thereof in an
ominous meeting. The throne of Augustus, so recently reared, was
overthrown; a barren waste reigned in the place of Augustus and of his
throne. Rome herself had gone to a silent doom, and a new city rose in
her place, only in her turn to be swallowed up by nothingness.. Like
phantom giants cities and states and empires swiftly fell and vanished
into emptiness, swallowed up in the insatiable maw of the Infinite.

"Stop", commanded Caesar, and already a note of indifference sounded in
his voice. His arms hung limply from his shoulders, and his eagle eyes
now flashed, now grew dim in a futile struggle against the darkness
that threatened to overwhelm him.

"Thou hast slain me, Lazarus", he stammered listlessly.

And these words of hopelessness saved him. He remembered his people
whose shield he was called to be, and his moribund heart was pierced
with a sharp and redeeming pang. He thought of them bitterly as he
pictured them doomed to ruin. He thought of his people with anguish
in his soul as he saw them like luminous shadows flitting through
the gloom of the Infinite. Tenderly he thought of them as of brittle
vessels throbbing with life blood and endowed with hearts that know
both sorrow and joy.

Thus reasoning and feeling, with the balance now favoring life, now
inclined towards death, he slowly fought his way back to life, to find
in its sufferings and joys a shield against the emptiness and the
terror of the Infinite.

"No, thou hast not slain me, Lazarus", he exclaimed, with firmness,
"but I shall slay thee, Go!"

That night Divus Augustus partook of food and drink with a keen
delight. But there were moments when the uplifted arm paused in mid-air
and a shadow dimmed the lustre of his shining aquiline eyes,--it was
like a wave of icy horror beating against his feet. Downed, but not
utterly destroyed, coldly awaiting the appointed hour, the spirit of
Fear cast its shadow into the Emperor's life, standing guard at the
head of his bed as he slumbered at night and meekly yielding the sunny
days to the joys and the sorrows of life.

Next day, by the Emperor's command, they burned out the eyes of Lazarus
with hot irons and sent him back to his native land. Divus Augustus
dared not put him to death.

* * *

Lazarus returned to the desert, and the desert received him with the
breath of the hissing wind and the arid welcome of the consuming sun.
Once again he sat on the rock, raising aloft his shaggy neglected
beard. In the place of the two burned-out eyes twin black sockets
peered dull and gruesome at the sky. In the distance surged the
restless roar of the Holy City, but near him all was deserted and dumb.
No one came near the place where the miraculously risen one was passing
the end of his days, and his neighbors had long since forsaken their
abodes. His accursed knowledge, banished by the searing irons into the
depths of his head, lay there concealed as though in ambush; as though
from ambush it assailed the beholder with a myriad invisible eyes, and
no one dared now look at Lazarus.

And in the evening, when the sun, ruddy and swollen, was sinking in the
west, sightless Lazarus slowly groped after it. He stumbled over stones
and fell, fat and weak as he was, then he rose heavily and walked
on. And against the crimson canvas of the sunset his dark form and
outstretched arms gave him a monstrous resemblance to the cross.

And it happened one day that he went and never returned. Thus
apparently ended the second life of Lazarus, who had been three days
under the dominion of Death and miraculously rose from the dead.


A strange and mysterious fate pursued Vassily Feeveysky all through his
life. As though damned by some unfathomable curse, from his youth on he
staggered under a heavy burden of sadness, sickness and sorrow, and the
bleeding wounds of his heart refused to heal. Among men he stood aloof,
like a planet among planets, and a peculiar atmosphere, baneful and
blighting, seemed to enshroud him like an invisible, diaphanous cloud.

The son of a meek and patient parish priest, he was meek and patient
himself, and for a long time failed to observe the ominous and
mysterious deliberation with which misfortunes persistently broke over
his unattractive shaggy head.

Swiftly he fell, and slowly rose to his feet; fell again, and slowly
rose once more, and laboriously, speck by speck, grain by grain, set to
work restoring his frail anthill by the side of the great highway of

But when he was ordained priest and married a good woman, begetting by
her a son and a daughter, he commenced to feel that all was now well
and safe with him, just as with other people, and would so remain for
ever. And he blessed God, for he believed in Him solemnly and simply,
as a priest and as a man in whose soul there was no guile.

And it happened in the seventh year of his happiness, in the noon hour
of a sultry day in July, that the village children went to the river
to swim, and with them went Father Vassily's son, like his father
Vassily by name, and like him swarthy of face and meek in manner. And
little Vassily was drowned. His young mother, the Popadya,[1] came
running to the river bank with the crowd, and the plain and appalling
picture of human death engraved itself indelibly on her memory: the
dull and ponderous thumping of her own heart, as though each heart beat
threatened to be her last; and the odd transparence of the atmosphere
in which moved hither and thither the humdrum familiar figures of
people, though now they seemed so strangely aloof, as if severed from
the earth; and the disconnected, confused hubbub of voices, with each
word rounding in the air and slowly melting away as new sounds come
into being.

And she conceived a lifelong fear of bright and sunny days. For at such
times she saw again the barricade of muscular backs gleaming white
in the light of the sun, and the bare feet planted firmly among the
trampled cabbage heads, and the rhythmic swing of something bright
and white in the trough of which freely rolled a light little body,
so gruesomely near, so gruesomely far, and for ever estranged. And
long after little Vassya[2] had been buried, and the grass had grown
over his grave, the Popadya kept repeating that prayer of all bereaved
mothers: "Lord, take my life, but give me back my child."

Soon Father Vassily's whole household learned to dread the bright days
of summer time, when the sun shines too glaringly and sets ablaze
the treacherous river until the eyes cannot bear the sight of it. On
such days, when the people, the beasts and the fields all around were
radiant with gladness, the members of Father Vassily's household were
wont to watch his wife with awestricken eyes, engaging purposely in
loud conversation and laughter, while she, sluggish and indolent, rose
to her feet, eyeing the others so fixedly and queerly that they were
forced to avert their gaze, and languidly lolled through the house, as
though hunting for some needless article, a key, or a spoon or a glass.
Whatever she needed was carefully placed in her path, but she continued
to seek, and her search increased in intentness and agitation in the
measure that the bright and merry orb of the sun rose higher in the
firmament. And she approached her husband, placing her lifeless hand on
his shoulder and kept repeating in a pleading voice.

"Vassya! Vassya! Isay!"

"What is it, dear?" meekly and hopelessly responded Father Vassily,
trying to smooth her disheveled hair with trembling fingers that were
sunburnt and black with the soil and were badly in want of trimming.
She was still young and pretty, and her arm rested upon the shabby
cassock of her husband as though carved of marble, white and heavy.

"What is it, dear? Will you have some tea now? You have not had any

"Vassya! Vassya, I say!" she repeated pleadingly, removing her arm from
his shoulder like some needless, superfluous object, and returned to
her searching, only still more restlessly and excitedly. Walking all
through the house, not a room of which had been tidied, she passed
into the garden, from the garden into the court yard, and again into
the house, while the sun rose higher and higher, and through the trees
could be seen a flash of the warm sluggish river. And step after
step, clinging tightly to her mother's skirt, Nastya, the Popadya's
daughter, shambled after her, morose and sullen, as though the black
shadow of impending doom had lodged itself even over her little
six-year-old heart. She anxiously hurried her little steps to keep
pace with the distracted big stride of her mother, casting furtively
yearning glances upon the familiar, but ever mysterious and enticing
garden, and she longingly stretched out her disengaged hand towards a
bush of sour gooseberries, and stealthily plucked a few, though the
sharp thorns cruelly scratched her. And the prick of these thorns that
were sharp as needles, and the acid taste of the berries, intensified
the scowl on her face, and she longed to whimper like an abandoned pup.

When the sun reached the zenith, the Popadya closed tightly the
shutters in the windows of her room, and in the darkness gave herself
up to liquor until she was drunken, drawing from each drained glassful
fresh pangs of agony and searching memories of her perished child.
She shed bitter tears, and in the awkward drone of an ignorant person
trying to read aloud out of a book, she kept telling over and over
again the story of a meek and swarthy little boy who had lived, laughed
and died; and with this bookish singsong she resurrected his eyes and
his smile and his oldfashioned manner of speech.

"'Vassya', I say to him, 'why do you tease kitty? Don't tease her,
dear. God told us to be merciful to all--to the little horsies, and to
the kittens and to the little chicks'. And he lifts up his sweet eyes
to me, the darling, and says: 'And why isn't kittie merciful to little
birdies? See the pigeons have raised their little ones, and kittie eats
up the pigeons, and the little birdies are calling, calling for their

And Father Vassily listened meekly and hopelessly, while outside,
under the closed shutters, amid burdocks, nettles and thistles, little
Nastya sat sprawling on the ground, and played sulkily with her doll.
And always her play was this: dollie refused to mind and was punished
and she twisted dollie's arms till she thought they hurt and whipped
her with a twig of nettles.

When Father Vassily had first found his wife in a state of inebriety,
and from her rebelliously agitated, bitterly exulting face had realized
that this thing had come to stay, he shriveled up and the next moment
burst cut in a fit of subdued, senseless laughter, rubbing his hot
dry hands. And a long time he laughed, a long time he kept rubbing
his hands; he strove to restrain this desire to laugh, which was so
obviously out of place, and turning aside from his sobbing wife, he
snickered softly into his fist like a naughty school boy. Then just as
abruptly he turned serious, his jaws snapped like metal; but not a word
of comfort could he utter to the hysterical woman, not a caressing word
could he find for her. But when she had fallen asleep, the priest bent
down, making three times the sign of the cross over her. Then he went
cut and found little Nastya in the garden, coldly patted her on the
head and stalked out into the fields.

For a long time he followed a little path through the rye which was
standing fairly high in the field and looked down into the soft white
dust which here and there retained the impress of heels and the outline
of someone's bare feet. The sheaves nearest to the path were crushed
to the ground, some lying across the path, and the grain was crushed,
blackened and flattened.

Where the path turned, Father Vassily stopped. Ahead of him and all
around him swayed the full grain on slender stalks, overhead was the
shoreless blazing sky of July grown white with the heat, and nothing
more: not a tree, not a hut, not a man. Alone he stood, lost in the
dense field of grain, alone before the face of Heaven--set high above
him and blazing.

Father Vassily lifted up his eyes--they were little eyes, sunken and
black as coal; they were aglow with the bright reflection of the
heavenly flame, and he pressed his hands to his breast and tried to
say something. The iron jaws quivered, but did not yield. Gnashing his
teeth the priest forced them apart, and with this movement of his lips
that resembled a convulsive yawn, loud and distinct came the words:


Unechoed in the wilderness of sky and of fields was lost this wailing
orison that so madly resembled a challenge. And as though contradicting
some one, as though passionately pleading with some one and warning
him, he repeated once more:


And returning home, once more, speck by speck, grain by grain, he fell
to the work of restoring his wrecked anthill: he watched the milking
of cows, with his own hands he combed Nastya's long and coarse hair,
and despite the late hour he drove ten versts into the country for
the district physician in order to seek his advice with regard to his
wife's ailment. And the doctor prescribed her some drops.


No one liked Father Vassily, neither his parishioners, nor the vestry
of the church. He intoned the service awkwardly, without decorum: his
voice was dry and indistinct, and he either hurried so that the deacon
had a hard time to keep up with him, or he fell behind without rime
or reason. He was not covetous, but he accepted money and donations so
clumsily that all believed him to be greedy and scoffed at him behind
his back. And everybody knew that he was unlucky in his private life
and avoided him, considering it a poor omen to meet him or to talk with
him. His Saint's Day[5] was celebrated on November the twenty-eighth.
He had invited many to dinner, and in compliance with his ceremonious
invitation every one promised to come, but only the vestrymen made
their appearance, and of the better parishioners not a soul attended.
And he was humiliated before the vestrymen, but the Popadya felt the
insult most keenly, for the delicacies and wines which she had ordered
from the city had to go to waste.

"No one even cares to come and see us," she said, sober and downcast,
when the last of their few guests had departed, noisy and drunken,
after a senseless gorging, having paid no regard to the rare vintage of
wines or to the quality of the food.

But it was the head of the vestry, Ivan Porfyritch Koprov, who treated
the priest worse than the rest of the parishioners. He openly exhibited
his contempt for the luckless man, and when the Popadya's periodical
lapses into appalling inebriety had become a public scandal, he refused
to kiss the priest's hand. And the good-natured deacon tried vainly to
reason with him.

"Shame on thee. It is not the man, but his holy office that must be

But Ivan Porfyritch stubbornly refused to dissociate the office from
the man, and replied:

"He is a worthless man. He can neither keep himself in order, nor
his wife. Is it right for a spiritual adviser's wife to persist in
drunkenness, without shame or conscience? Let my wife try and go on a
spree, I'd stop her quickly."

The deacon shook his head reproachfully and mentioned the
long-suffering of Job, how God had loved him, but turned him over to
Satan to be tried, but later rewarded him an hundredfold for all his
sufferings. But Ivan Porfyritch smiled scornfully into his beard and
without the slightest compunction cut short the disagreeable admonition.

"Don't tell me, I know. Job, so to speak, was a righteous man, a holy
man, but what is this one? Where is his righteousness? Rather remember,
deacon, the old proverb: God marks a rogue. There is sound sense in
that proverb."

"Wait, the priest will get even with thee, for refusing to kiss his
hand. He'll drive thee out of the church."

"We'll see about that."

"All right, we'll see."

And they bet a gallon of cherry brandy whether the priest would expel
him or not. The vestry man won; next Sunday he turned his back on the
priest with an insolent air, and the hand which the priest had extended
to be kissed, burnt brown it was from the sun--remained desolately
suspended in midair, and Father Vassily flushed a deep purple, but did
not say a word.

And after this incident which was much talked about in the village,
Ivan Porfyritch became still more firmly convinced that the priest was
a bad and an unworthy man and began to incite the villagers to complain
to the bishop and to ask for another parish priest. Ivan Porfyritch
himself was a man of wealth, very fortunate in all things, and enjoyed
general esteem. He had an impressive face, with firm round cheeks and
an immense black beard, and his whole body was covered with a growth of
dense black hair, particularly his legs and his chest, and he believed
that hairiness was a sign of great good luck. He believed in his luck
as firmly as he believed in God, and considered himself an elect among
the people; he was proud, self-reliant and invariably in good spirits.
In a terrible railroad wreck in which a multitude of people had
perished, he merely lost a cap which had been trampled into the mire.

"And it was an old one at that!" he was wont to add with much
self-satisfaction, evidently considering this incident an eloquent
proof of his merits.

He regarded all men as rogues and fools, and knew no mercy towards
either variety. It was his habit with his own hands to strangle the
pups, of whom his black setter Gipsy presented him yearly a generous
litter; only the strongest one among them he suffered to live for
breeding purposes, though he willingly distributed some of the others
to those who wanted a dog, for he considered dogs to be useful animals.
In forming opinions Ivan Porfyritch was rash and unreasonable, but he
easily departed from them, without noticing his inconsistencies; yet
his actions were uniformly firm and resolute and only rarely erroneous.

And all this made the head of the vestry a terrible and an
extraordinary personage in the eyes of the hunted priest. When they
met, he was the first to raise his broad-rimmed hat, which he did with
indecorous haste, and as he walked away, he felt that his gait grew
faster and more shuffling, revealing itself as the gait of a man who
was scared and ashamed, and his scrawny legs were tangled in the folds
of his cassock. It seemed as though his very fate, cruel and enigmatic,
was personified in that immense black beard, in those hairy hands, and
in that resolute, straight stride, and if he did not crumple up and
slink away and hide behind his four walls, this menacing monster would
crush him like an ant.

And whatever pertained to Ivan Porfyritch or belonged to him, aroused
the eager interest of the priest, so that some times for days at a
stretch he could think of nothing else but of the churchwarden, his
wife, his children, his wealth. Working with the peasants in the
fields, (in his coarse, tarred boots and in his cheap working blouse he
greatly resembled an humble peasant) Father Vassily would often turn
his face to the village, and the first sight that greeted his eyes
alongside of the church, was the red iron roof of the churchwarden's
two-story house. Then behind the greying green of wind-wrecked willows
he traced with difficulty the outline of the weather-beaten shingle
roof of his own little home; and the sight of these two so contrasting
roofs filled the heart of the priest with the anguish of hopelessness.

One feast day the Popadya returned from the church in tears and told
her husband that Ivan Porfyritch had grossly insulted her. As she was
making her way to her place, he remarked from behind the lectern,
loudly enough for the whole congregation to hear:

"This drunken wench ought not to be allowed in the church at all. She's
a disgrace!"

As the Popadya sobbingly related this incident to her husband, Father
Vassily observed with horrible and merciless clearness how she had aged
and come down in the four years which had passed since Vassya's death.
She was still young, but silver threads were running through her hair,
the teeth once so white had turned black, and her eyes were baggy.

She was now a confirmed smoker, and it was painful to watch her puffing
a cigarette which she held in a clumsy, feminine fashion between
two rigidly extended fingers. She smoked and wept and the cigarette
trembled between her lips that were swollen with sobbing.

"Why, oh why, oh Lord?" she kept repeating in anguish, and with the
intentness of stupor she gazed through the window against which
pattered the chill drops of a September rainstorm. The panes were dim
with water, and the birch outside, heavy with rain drops, seemed to
sway back and forth with the shadowy deliquescence of a specter. In
their efforts to save fuel, they had not yet started heating the house,
and the air in the room was damp and chilly and almost as uncomfortable
as outdoors.

"What can you do with him, Nastenka?"[5] retorted the priest rubbing
his dry warm hands. "We must bear it."

"Lord, Lord, is there not a soul to take my part?" wailed the Popadya,
and in the corner gazed dry and immobile the wolfish eyes of skulking
little Nastya through a hedge of coarse and unkempt hair.

The Popadya was drunk before bedtime, and then ensued that appalling,
abominable, piteous scene which Father Vassily could never thereafter
recall without a sense of chaste horror and of consuming, unbearable
shame. In the morbid gloom of tightly closed shutters, amid the
monstrous visions born of alcohol, in the wake of obstinate wails
for her lost first-born, his wife had conceived the insane notion of
bringing a new son into the world. To resurrect his sweet smile, to
resurrect those eyes that once had sparkled with benign radiance, 'to
bring back his calm and sensible speech: to resurrect the lad himself,
as he had lived in the glory of his sinless childhood, as he had
appeared on that horrible day in July when the sun blazed so brightly
and the treacherous river glistened so blindingly. And consumed with
a frenzy of hope, all beauteous and hideous with the flames that had
enwrapped her, the Popadya stormily demanded her husband's caresses,
pleaded for them with piteous humility. She coyly primped herself, she
coquetted with him, but the expression of horror never passed from
his face. She strove with the energy of passionate anguish to become
again as tender and desirable as she had been ten years back, and she
tried to assume a shy, maidenly look, whispering coy, girlish words,
but her liquor-lamed tongue refused to obey her, and through her shyly
lowered eyelashes ever more luridly and obviously flashed the flame
of passionate desire, while the swarthy face of her husband remained
transfixed with horror. He had covered his burning head with his hands,
weakly whispering:

"Don't! Don't!"

And she sank to her knees and hoarsely pleaded:

"Have pity on me! Give me back my Vassya! Give him back to me, priest!
I say, give him back to me, curse you!"

And the autumnal rain gusts beat fiercely against the tightly closed
shutters, and the stormy night heaved deep and painful sighs.

Cut off from world and life by the walls and the curtain of night,
they seemed to be whirling in the throes of a frenzied labyrinthic
nightmare, and around them swirled wails and curses that would not die.

Madness stood guard at the door; the searing air was its breath; and
its eyes the lurid glare of the oil lamp stifling in the maw of a
soot-grimed globe.

"You will not? You will not?" cried the Popadya, and with maniacal
yearning for motherhood she tore off her raiment, shamelessly baring
her body, ardent and terrible like a Bacchante, piteous and pathetic
like a mother mourning for her child. "You will not? Then before God I
tell you I'll go out into the street. I will throw myself on the neck
of the first man I meet. Give me back my Vassya, curse you!"

And her passion vanquished the chaste-hearted priest. To the weird
moaning of the autumnal storm, to the sound of her frenzied babble,
life itself, the eternal liar, seemed to bare her dark and mysterious
loins, and through his darkening consciousness flashed like a gleam of
distant lightning a monstrous conception: of a miraculous resurrection,
of some far-off miraculously hazardous chance. And to the demoniac
passion of the Popadya, heart-chaste and shamefaced, he responded
with a passion as frenzied, wherein all things blended: the glory of
hope, and the fervor of prayer, and the boundless despair of a great

In the dead of night, when the Popadya had fallen into a heavy sleep,
Father Vassily took his hat and his stick, and without stopping to
dress, in a shabby nainsook cassock went out into the fields. The storm
had subsided. The vapory drizzle had spread a moist and chilly film
over the rainsoaked earth. The sky was as black as the earth, and the
night of autumn breathed utter desolation. Within its gloomy maw the
man had vanished, leaving no trace. Once his stick knocked against a
boulder that chanced to lie in its path, then all was still, and a
lasting silence ensued. A lifeless vapory mist stifled each timid
sound in its icy embrace. The moribund foliage did not stir, not a
voice, not a cry, not a groan was heard. Long lasted the silence--and
it was the silence of death.

And far beyond the village, away from any human habitation, an
invisible voice pierced the gloom. It was a voice that was broken,
choking and hoarse, like the moaning of infinite loneliness. But the
words it spoke were as clear as celestial fire:

"I--believe!" said the invisible voice. And in it were mingled menace
and prayer, warning and hope.


In the spring the Popadya knew that she would be a mother; all through
the summer she abstained from liquor, and a peace, serene and joyous,
was enthroned in Father Vassily's household. But the invisible foe
still dealt his blows: now the twelve-pood[6] hog which they had
fattened for the market took sick and died; now little Nastya broke
out all over her body in a malignant rash and refused to respond to
treatment. But all these blows were borne lightly, and in the innermost
recesses of her heart the Popadya even secretly rejoiced thereat: she
was still doubtful of her great good fortune, and all these calamities
seemed to be a premium which she was glad to pay for its assurance. She
felt that if the prize hog fattened at such expense had died on her
hands, if Nastya ailed so persistently, if anything else went wrong and
caused repining, then no one would dare to lay a finger on her coming
son or to harm him. But as for him, why, she would give up not only
the whole household and her little daughter Nastya, but even her own
body and soul would she gladly yield to that relentless unseen one who
clamored for continual sacrifices.

She had improved in looks and ceased even to fear Ivan Porfyritch
himself, and as she walked to her accustomed place in church she
proudly paraded her rounded form and looked about with daring and
selfreliant glances. And lest she should harm the babe in her womb,
she had stopped all housework and was passing daily long hours in the
neighboring fiscal forest, amusing herself by picking mushrooms. She
was in mortal terror of the ordeal of birth, and resorted to fortune
telling with mushrooms, trying to forecast whether the birth would pass
off favorably or not; and mostly the answer was favorable. Sometimes
under the impenetrable green dome of lofty branches, in some dark and
fragrant bed of last season's leaves, she gathered a small family of
little white mushrooms, all huddled together, darkheaded and naive,
and resembling a brood of little children, and their appearance evoked
in her keen pangs of tenderness and affection. With that saintly
smile peculiar to people who in solitude yield themselves up to truly
pure and noble meditation, she cautiously dug the fibrous ashen-gray
soil around the roots, and seating herself on the ground beside her
mushrooms, gazed at them for a long time caressingly, a little pale
from the greenish shadows of the forest, but fair to look upon, gentle
and serene. And then she rose and walked on with the cautious waddling
gait of a woman on the eve of childbirth, and the ancient forest, the
hiding place of numberless little mushrooms, seemed to her a thing of
life, wisdom and goodness. Once she took Nastya along for company,
but the child capered, frolicked and raced through the bushes like a
boisterous wolf-pup and interfered with her mother's thoughts; and she
never took her again.

And the winter was passing quietly and happily. She spent her evenings
busily sewing a multitude of tiny shirts and swaddling cloths, or
pensively stroking the linen with her white fingers upon which the oil
lamp threw its bright glow.

She smoothed the soft fabric and stroked it with her hand, as though
caressing it, thinking the while intimate thoughts of her own, the
wonderful thoughts of motherhood, and in the blue reflection of the
lampshade her beautiful face seemed to the priest as though illumined
by some sweet and gentle radiance that came from within. Fearing by
some incautious movement to disturb her beautiful and happy dreams,
Father Vassily softly paced about the room, and his feet, clad in felt
slippers, touched the floor gently and noiselessly. He let his gaze
dwell now on the living room, cozy and agreeable like the face of a
cherished friend, now on the figure of his wife, and all seemed well,
just like in other people's homes, and everything about him breathed
peace, profound and serene. And his soul was peaceful and smiling,
for he neither saw, nor felt that from somewhere there had fallen the
diaphanous shadow of great grief and was now silently resting on his
forehead, somewhere between his eyebrows. For even in these days of
rest and peace a stern and mysterious fate was hovering over his life.

On the eve of Epiphany, the Popadya gave birth to a boy and he was
named Vassily. His head was large and his legs were thin and little,
and there was something strangely vacant and insensate in the immobile
stare of his globe-shaped eyes. For the space of three years after the
child's birth the priest and his wife lived 'twixt fears, doubts and
hopes, but when three years had passed it became evident that little
Vassya had been born an idiot.

Conceived in madness, he had come into the world a madman.


Another year passed in the benumbed stupefaction of grief, but when
they emerged from this comatose state and began to look about, they
discovered that above their thoughts and their lives sat enthroned
the monstrous image of the idiot. The household routine went on as in
olden days; they built their fires, they discussed their daily affairs,
but something new and dreadful had come into their lives: no one had
any real interest in life, and all things were going to pieces. The
farm hands loafed, refused to obey orders, and frequently gave notice
without any apparent cause, and those who were hired in their place
soon fell into the same queer state of indifference and restlessness
and commenced to be insolent. Dinner was served either too late or
too early, and someone was always missing from the table: either
the Popadya, or little Nastya, or Father Vassily himself. From some
unfathomable sources there appeared an abundance of tattered garments:
the Popadya kept saying that she must darn her husband's socks, and
she even fussed with them, but the socks remained unmended and Father
Vassily was footsore. And at night everyone in the house tossed about
restlessly, tormented by vermin which came crawling from all crevices,
and shamelessly paraded upon the walls, and try as they might, nothing
seemed able to stop their loathsome invasion.

And wherever they went, whatever they undertook, they could not for
a moment forget, that there in the darkened room sat one, unexpected
and monstrous, the child of madness. When they left the house to go
outdoors, they tried hard to keep from turning around or from glancing
back, but something compelled them to glance back, and then it seemed
to them that the framehouse itself in which they dwelt was conscious
of some terrible change within: it stood there squat and huddled,
as though in an attitude of listening, listening to that misshapen
and dreadful thing that was contained within its depths, and all its
bulging windows, its tightly shut doors seemed barely able to suppress
an outcry of mortal anguish.

The Popadya went frequently visiting and spent hours at a stretch
in the house of the deacon's wife, but even there she failed to
find rest, as though from the idiot's side came forth threads of
cobweb thinness--and stretched out towards her, binding her to him
indissolubly and for all eternity. And though she were to flee to the
ends of the earth, though she were to hide behind the high walls of a
nunnery, even though she were to seek escape in death, then into the
very gloom of her grave those weblike threads would pursue her and
enmesh her with fears and anguish.

And even their nights lacked peace: the faces of the sleepers seemed
stolid, but within their skulls, in their dreams and waking nightmares
the monstrous world of madness returned to life, and its lord was this
same mysterious and dreadful image, half-child and half-brute.

He was four years old but had not yet learned to walk and could utter
but one word: "give"; he was spiteful and obstinate, and if anything
was denied him he screamed with piercing, ferocious animal cries and
stretched out his hands with fingers that were rapaciously curved.
And in his habits he was as filthy as an animal, performing his bodily
functions wherever he chanced to be, and it was agonizing to attend to
him: with the cunning of malice he awaited the moment when his mother's
or sister's hair came within his reach, and then he tenaciously
clutched at it, tearing it out by the roots in handfuls. Once he
bit Nastya, but she flung him back on the bed and beat him long and
mercilessly, as though he were not human, not a child, but a mere piece
of spiteful flesh, and after this beating he developed a fondness for
biting and snapped menacingly, showing his teeth like a dog.

It was also a difficult task to feed him: greedy and impatient, he
could not gauge his movements, and would upset the dish, choking as he
tried to swallow and wrathfully stretching his curving fingers towards
the feeder's hair. And his appearance was repulsive and horrible: on a
pair of narrow, almost baby-like shoulders rested a small skull with
an immense, immobile, broad face, the size of an adult's. There was
something disquieting and terrifying in this monstrous incongruity
between face and body, and it seemed as though a child had for some
reason put on an immense and repulsive mask.

And the tortured Popadya commenced to drink as in the days of old. She
drank heavily, to unconsciousness and delirium, but even mighty alcohol
could not release her from the iron circle in the centre of which
reigned the horrible and monstrous image of the semichild, semi-beast.
And as of yore she sought to find in liquor burning sorrowful memories
of the perished firstborn, but the memories refused to come, and the
lifeless insensate void yielded neither image nor sound. With every
fibre of her inflamed brain she strove to resurrect the sweet face of
the little gentle lad; she sang his favorite ditties; she imitated
his smile; she pictured to herself his agony as he was choking and
strangling in the turbid waters; and she felt his nearness, felt the
flames of the great and passionately desired grief blaze up within
her heart, but with abrupt swiftness--unperceived by eye or ear--the
conjured vision, the longed for grief, vanished into nothingness, and
out of the chilling lifeless void the monstrous, motionless mask of
the idiot was staring into her eyes. And she felt as though she had
just buried her little Vassya, buried him anew, interring him deeply
in the bowels of the earth, and she longed to shatter her faithless
head in the inmost depths of which so insolently reigned an alien and
abominable image.

Terror-stricken she tossed about the room, calling her husband:

"Vassily! Vassily! Come--quick!"

Father Vassily came and without opening his mouth sat down in a far
corner of the room; and he was unconcerned and still, as though there
had been no outcry, no madness, no terror. And his eyes were invisible;
but under the heavy arch of his eyebrows yawned the immobile black of
two sunken spots, and his haggard face resembled a skeleton's skull.
Leaning his chin on his scrawny arm, he seemed congealed in torpid
silence and immobility, and remained in this attitude until the Popadya
quieted down by degrees. Then with the intense care of a maniac she
painstakingly barricaded the door which led into the idiot's room. She
dragged in front of it every table and chair she could find, piling
cushions and clothing upon them, and still the barricade seemed too
frail to suit her. And with the strength of drunkenness she wrenched
a ponderous antique chest of drawers from its accustomed place, and
scratching the floor in so doing she dragged it towards the door.

"Move the chair aside," she called to her husband all out of breath,
and he rose in silence, cleared the place for her and once more resumed
his seat in the corner.

For a moment the Popadya appeared to regain her composure and sank into
a chair, breathing heavily and holding her hand to her breast, but
in the next instant she sprang to her feet again, and flinging back
her disheveled hair to release her ears she listened in terror to the
sounds which her morbid imagination seemed to conjure up beyond the

"Hear it, Vassily? Hear it?"

The two black spots gazed upon her unmoved and a stolid distant voice

"There's nothing there. He is sleeping. Calm yourself, Nastya."

The Popadya smiled the glad and radiant smile of a comforted child, and
irresolutely sat down on the edge cf the chair.

"Do you mean it? Is he sleeping? Did you see it yourself? Don't lie,
it's a sin to tell lies."

"I saw him. He is asleep."

"But who is talking back there?"

"There is no one there. You only imagine it."

And the Popadya was so pleased that she laughed out loud, shaking her
head in amusement and warding off something with an uncertain movement
of her hand: as though some ill-disposed joker out of deviltry had
tried to frighten her and she had seen through the joke and was now
laughing at him. But like a stone that falls into a fathomless abyss
her laughter fell into space without evoking an echo and died right
there in loneliness, and her lips were still curved in a smile while
the chill of new terror appeared in her eyes. And such stillness
reigned in the room that it seemed as though no one had ever uttered a
laugh there; from the scattered pillows, from the overturned chairs, so
queer to look upon in their upset state, from the ponderous chest of
drawers so clumsily skulking in its unwonted position, from all sides
there stared upon her the greedy expectancy of some dire misfortune, of
some unknown horrors which no human had ever gone through before. She
turned to her husband--in the dark corner she saw a dimly grey figure,
lanky, erect and shadowy like a spectre; she leaned over: and a face
peered at her, but it was not with its eyes that it peered; these were
hidden by the dark shadow of the eyebrows; it seemed to peer at her
with the white spots of its haggard cheekbones and of the forehead. She
was breathing fast--with loud, terrified gasps, and softly she moaned:

"Vassya, I am afraid of you! You're so strange ... Come here, come to
the light!"

Father Vassily obediently moved to the table, and the warm glow of
the lamp fell upon his face, but failed to evoke a responsive warmth.
Yet his face was calm and was free from fear, and this sufficed her.
Bringing her lips close to his ear, she whispered:

"Priest, do you hear me, priest? Do you remember Vassya--that other


"Ah!" joyously exclaimed the Popadya. "You don't? I don't either. Are
you scared, priest? Are you? Scared?"


"Then why do you groan when you sleep? Why do you groan?"

"Just so. I suppose I am sick."

The Popadya laughed angrily.

"You? Sick? You--sick?" with her finger she prodded his bony, but broad
and solid chest. "Why do you lie?"

Father Vassily was silent. The Popadya looked wrathfully into his cold
face, with a beard that had long known no contact with the trimming
shear and protruded from his sunken cheeks in transparent clumps, and
she shrugged her shoulders with loathing.

"Ugh! What a fright you have become! Hateful, mean, clammy like a frog.
Ugh! Am I to blame that he was born like that? Tell me. What are you
thinking about? Why are you forever thinking, thinking, thinking?"

Father Vassily maintained silence, and with an attentive, irritating
gaze studied the bloodless and distorted features of his wife. And when
the last sounds of her incoherent speech died away, gruesome, unbroken
stillness gripped her head and breast as though with iron clamps and
seemed to squeeze from her occasional hurried and unexpected gasps:

"And I know ... I know ... I know, priest...."

"What do you know?"

"I know what are you thinking about." The Popadya paused and shrunk
from her husband in terror. "You--don't believe ... in God. That's

And having uttered this she realized how dreadful was what she had
said, and a pitiful pleading smile parted her lips that were swollen
and scarred with biting, burnt with liquor and red as blood. And she
looked up gladly, when the priest, with blanching cheeks, sharply and
didactically replied:

"That is not true. I believe in God. Think before you speak."

And silence once more, stillness once more, but now there was in this
silence something soothing, something that seemed to envelop her like a
wave of warm water. And lowering her eyes, she shyly pleaded:

"May I have a little drink, Vassya? It will help me to go to sleep,
it's getting late," and she poured out a quarter of a glassful of
liquor, adding irresolutely more and more to it, and draining the glass
to the bottom with little, continuous gulps, with which women drink
liquor. And the glow of warmth returned to her breast, she now longed
for gaiety, noise, lights and for the sound of loud, human voices.

"Do you know what we'll do, Vassya? Let's play cards, let's play
'Fools'[7]. Call Nastya. That will be nice. I love to play 'Fools'.
Call her, Vassya, dear. I'll give you a kiss for it."

"It is late. She is sleeping."

The Popadya stamped the floor with her foot. "Wake her. Go!"

Nastya came in, slender and tall like her father, with large clumsy
hands, that had grown coarse with toil. Shivering with the cold, she
had wrapped a short shawl about her shoulders and was counting the
greasy deck of cards without emitting a sound.

Then silently they sat down to a boisterously funny card game--amid the
chaos of overturned furniture, in the dead of night, when all the world
had long sought the oblivion of sleep--men, and beasts and fields.
The Popadya joked and laughed and pilfered trumps out of the deck,
and it seemed to her that the whole world was laughing and jesting,
but the moment the last sound of her words died in the air, the same
threatening and unbroken stillness closed over her, stifling her. And
it was terrible to look upon the two pairs of mute and scrawny arms
that moved slowly and silently over the table, as though these arms
alone were alive and the people who owned them did not exist. Then
shivering, as though with a crazedly drunken expectation of something
supernatural, she looked up above the table--two cold--pallid--sullen
faces loomed desolately in the darkness and swayed back and forth
in a queer and wordless whirl--two cold, two sullen faces. Mumbling
something, the Popadya gulped down another glassful of liquor, and
once more the scrawny hands moved noiselessly, and the stillness began
to hum, and someone else, a fourth one made his appearance behind the
table. Someone's rapaciously curved fingers were shuffling the cards,
then they shifted to her body, running over her knees like spiders,
crawling up towards her throat.

"Who's here?" she cried out leaping to her feet and surprised to find
the others standing up and watching her with terrified glances. Yes
there were only two of them: her husband and Nastya.

"Calm yourself, Nastya. We're here. There's no one else here."

"And he?"

"He is sleeping."

The Popadya sat down and for a moment everything stopped rocking and
slipped back into place. And Father Vassily's face looked kind.

"Vassya! And what will happen to us when he starts to walk?"

It was little Nastya who replied:

"I was giving him his supper to-night and he was moving his legs."

"It's not so," said the priest, but his words sounded dead and distant,
and all at once everything started to circle in a frenzied whirl,
lights and gloom began to dance, and eyeless spectres nodded to her
from every side. They rocked to and fro, blindly they crept upon her,
tapping her with curved fingers, tearing her garments, strangling her
by the throat, plucking her hair and dragging her somewhere away. But
she clutched the floor with broken finger nails and screamed out loud.

The Popadya was beating her head against the floor, striving
impetuously to flee somewhere and tearing her clothes. And so powerful
was she in the raging frenzy which seized her that Father Vassily and
Nastya could not handle her unaided, and they were forced to summon the
cook and a laborer. It required the combined efforts of all four to
overpower her; then they tied her arms and legs with towels and laid
her on the bed, and Father Vassily remained with her alone. He stood
motionless by the bedside and watched the convulsive writhings and
twitchings of her body and the tears that were flowing from beneath the
tightly shut eyelids. In a voice that was hoarse with screaming she
pleaded: "Help! Help!"

Wildly piteous and terrible was this desolate cry for help, and
there was no response. Darkness, dull and dispassionate, enveloped
it like a shroud, and in this garment of the dead the cry was dead.
The overturned stools were kicking up their legs absurdly, and their
bottoms blushed with shame. The ancient chest of drawers stood awry
and distracted, and the night was silent. And ever fainter, ever more
pitiful sounded this lonely cry for help:

"Help! I suffer! Help! Vassya, my darling Vassya...."

Father Vassily never stirred from the spot, but with a cool and oddly
calm gesture, he raised up his hands and clasped his head even as his
wife had done a half hour before, and as calmly and deliberately he
brought them down again, and between his fingers trembled threads of
black and greying hair.


Among people, mid their affairs and conversations, Father Vassily was
so evidently a man apart, so unfathomably alien to all, that he did
not seem human at all, but a moving cerement. He did whatever others
did, he talked, he worked, he ate and drank, but it seemed at times
as though he merely imitated others, while he personally lived in a
different world that was inaccessible to any. And all who saw him asked
themselves: what is this man thinking about? so manifest on his every
movement was the impress of deep thought. It was seen in his ponderous
gait, in the deliberateness of his halting speech, when between two
spoken words yawned black chasms of hidden and distant thought; it hung
like a heavy film over his eyes, and nebulous was his distant gaze
that faintly glowed beneath his shaggy overhanging eyebrows. Sometimes
it was necessary to speak to him twice before he heard and responded.
And sometimes he neglected to greet others, and because of this some
accounted him haughty. Thus once he failed to greet Ivan Porfyritch.
The churchwarden was astounded for a moment, then hurried back and
overtook the priest who was walking slowly.

"You've grown proud, Father! Won't even greet a man!" he said
mockingly. Father Vassily looked up at him in surprise, blushed a
little and apologized:

"Pardon me, Ivan Porfyritch, I did not notice you." The churchwarden
attempted to look down upon him, measuring him with a look of censure,
but for the first time he realized that the priest was the taller of
the two, although the churchwarden was reputed to be the tallest man
in the parish. And the churchwarden found something agreeable in this
discovery, for unexpectedly to himself he invited the priest to call on

"Come and see me some day, Father."

And several times he glanced back, in order to size up the receding
figure of the priest. Even Father Vassily was pleased, but only for a
moment. He had hardly taken two steps, when the burden of persistent
thought, heavy and hard like a millstone, succeeded in stifling the
memory of the churchwarden's kindly words and crushed the quiet and
bashful smile that was on its way to his lips. And he lapsed again into
thought--thinking of God and of people and of the mysterious fate of
human life.

And it happened during confession; fettered by his immovable thoughts
Father Vassily was coldly putting the customary queries to some old
woman, when he was suddenly struck by an odd thing which he had never
noticed before: there he stood calmly prying into the innermost secret
thoughts and feelings of another, and that other looked up to him with
awe and told him the truth--that truth which it is not given to anyone
else to know. And the wrinkled countenance of the old woman assumed a
peculiar expression, it became brightly radiant, as though the darkness
of night reigned all around, but the light of day was falling on that
face alone. And suddenly he interrupted her and asked:

"Art thou telling the truth, woman?"

But what the old woman answered he heard not. The mist had departed
from before his face, with flushing eyes--as though a bandage had
fallen from them--he was gazing in amazement upon the face of the
woman, and it seemed to him to bear a peculiar expression: clearly
outlined upon it was some mysterious truth of God and of life. On the
old woman's head, beneath an openwork kerchief, Father Vassily noticed
a parting line, a narrow grey strip of skin running through hair that
was carefully combed on either side of it. And this parting line, this
absurd care for an ugly, aged head that nobody else had any use for,
was likewise a truth: the sorrowful truth of the ever lonely, ever
sorrowful human existence. And it was then, for the first time in his
life of forty years, that Father Vassily became aware with his eyes and
with his hearing and with every one of his senses that beside him there
were other creatures on earth'--creatures that were like him, having
their own lives, their own sorrows, their own fates.

"And hast thou children?" hurriedly he inquired, interrupting the old
woman again.

"They're all dead, Father!"

"All dead?" inquired the priest in surprise.

"All dead," she repeated and her eyes became bloodshot.

"And how dost thou live?" inquired Father Vassily in amazement.

"How should I live?" cried the woman. "I live by alms."

Stretching out his neck, Father Vassily from the height of his immense
stature riveted his gaze upon the old woman but did not utter a sound.
And his long, scraggy face, fringed by his disheveled hair, seemed so
strange and terrible to the woman that she was chilled to the tips of
the fingers which she was holding clasped before her breast.

"Go now," sounded a stern voice above her.

Strange days commenced now for Father Vassily, and something unwonted
was going on in his mind; hitherto only this had been; there had
existed a tiny earth whereon lived only the enormous figure of Father
Vassily. Other people did not seem to exist. But now the earth had
grown, had become unfathomably big, peopled all over with creatures
like Father Vassily. There was a multitude of them, each living an
individual existence, suffering individual sufferings, hoping and
doubting individually, and among them Father Vassily felt like a lonely
tree in a field about which suddenly an immense and trackless forest
had grown. Gone was the solitude; and with it the sun and the bright
desert distances, and the gloom of the night had grown in intensity.

All the people gave him truth. When he did not hear their truthful
utterances, he saw their homes and their faces: and upon homes and
faces was engraved the inexorable truth of life. He sensed this
truth, but he was unable to grasp and name it and he eagerly sought
new faces and new words. Few came to confession during the fast days
of Advent, but he kept them in the confessional for hours at a time,
examining each one searchingly, insistently, stealing himself into
the most intimate nooks of the soul where man himself looks in but
rarely and with awe. He did not know what he was searching for and he
mercilessly plowed up everything--that the soul rests on and lives by.
In his questions he was pitiless and shameless, and each thought which
he conceived was a stranger to fear. But it did not take him long to
realize that all these people who were telling him the whole truth, as
though he were God, were themselves ignorant of the truth of life. Back
of their myriads of trifling, severed, hostile truths he dimly saw the
shadowy outlines of the one great and all-solving truth. Everyone was
conscious of it, everyone longed for it, yet none could define it with
a human word--that overwhelming truth of God and of people, and of the
mysterious fates cf human life.

And Father Vassily himself began to sense it, and he sensed it now
a despair and frenzied fear, now as pity, wrath and hope. And as
heretofore, he was stern and cold to look upon, while his, mind and his
heart were already melting in the fire of unknown truth and a new life
was entering his old body.

On the Tuesday of the week preceding Christmas, Father Vassily had
returned from the church rather late. In the dark cold vestibule
someone's hand arrested him and a hoarse voice whispered:

"Vassily, don't go inside."

By the note of terror in her voice he recognized his wife and stopped.

"I've been waiting an hour for you, I'm all frozen," and her teeth
chattered with the cold.

"What has happened? Come."

"No. No. Listen, Nastya! I came in and found her standing before the
mirror, making faces just like him, waving her hands like him."


By main force he dragged the resisting Popadya into the living room,
and there, looking around in fear, she told him more. While on her way
into the living room to water the plants she had found Nastya, standing
still before the mirror, and in the mirror she had seen the reflection
of her face, not as it always looked, but oddly idiotic, with a
savagely contorted mouth and squinting eyes. Then, still in silence,
Nastya raised up her hands, and curving her fingers convulsively like
the idiot, she stretched them out towards her own reflection in the
mirror--and everything was so still, and all this was so terrible and
unreal that the Popadya screamed and dropped her water pot. And Nastya
ran away. And row she did not know whether it had really happened or
her own imagination had been playing a trick on her.

"Call Nastya and step out!" ordered the priest.

Nastya came and stopped on the threshold. Her face was long and scraggy
like her father's, and when she was talking she copied his posture: her
neck extended, inclined a little to one side, looking sullenly askance
from beneath her eyebrows. And she held her hands behind her back just
as he was in the habit of doing.

"Nastya, why do you do these things?" firmly, but calmly inquired
Father Vassily.

"What things?"

"Mother saw you near the mirror. Why did you do that? He is sick."

"No, he is not sick, he pulls my hair."

"Why do you imitate him? Do you like a face like his?"

Nastya stood sullenly with downcast eyes.

"I don't know," she answered. And then with a queer look of candor she
looked into her father's eyes and resolutely added: "Yes, I like it."

Father Vassily looked at her searchingly but did not say a word.

"Don't you like it?" semi-affirmatively inquired Nastya.


"Then why do you keep thinking about him? I would kill him if I were

And it seemed to Father Vassily that even then she was making a face
like the idiot: something dull and brutish flitted over her cheeks and
drew her eyes together.

"Go!" he sternly commanded. But Nastya did not move and with the same
queerly candid expression she kept on gazing straight into her father's
eyes. And her face no longer resembled the repulsive mask of the idiot.

"But you never think of me," she observed simply, as though expressing
an abstract truth.

And then, in the gathering gloom of the wintry dusk, there occurred
between these two--who were so like, yet so unlike one another--a brief
and curious dialog:

"You are my daughter. Why did I know nothing about it? Do you know?"


"Come and kiss me."

"I don't want to."

"Don't you love me?"

"No, I love nobody."

"Even as I," and the priest's nostrils extended with repressed laughter.

"Don't you love anybody either? And how about mama? She drinks so much.
I'd kill her too."

"And me?"

"No, not you. You talk to me at least. I feel sorry for you sometimes.
It must be very hard, don't you know, when your son is a silly. He is
terribly mean."

"You don't begin to know how mean he is. He eats cockroaches alive. I
gave him a dozen and he ate them all up."

Without moving away from the door she sat down on the corner of a
chair, cautiously, like a scullery maid, folded her hands on her knees
and waited.

"It's a weary life, Nastya," pensively said the priest.

Unhurriedly and importantly she agreed with him:

"It certainly is."

"And do you pray to God?"

"Of course I do. Only at night, in the morning there is too much work,
I have no time. I must sweep, make up beds, put things in order, wash
the dishes, get tea for Vasska[8], serve it to him, you know yourself
how much work that is."

"Just like a servant maid," said Father Vassily indefinitely.

"What did you say?" said Nastya uncomprehendingly.

Father Vassily bowed low his head and maintained silence. Immense and
black he loomed against the dull white background of the window, and
his words seemed to Nastya round and shiny like glass beads. She waited
long, but her father was silent and she called out timidly:


Without raising his head Father Vassily commandingly waived his hand,
once, then the second time. Nastya sighed and rose, but hardly had
she turned in the doorway when something rustled behind her and two
powerful, sinewy arms raised her up in the air and a mocking voice
whispered in her very ear:

"Put your arms around my neck. I'll carry you."

"Why? I am big."

"No matter. Hold fast."

It was hard work breathing in the embrace of two arms that were holding
her like hoops of iron, and she had to duck her head in the doorway
in order not to knock against the transom; she did not know whether
she was pleased or merely surprised. And she did not know whether she
merely imagined it or her father had really whispered into her ear:

"You must be sorry for mama."

But after she had said her prayers and was getting ready for bed,
Nastya sat for a long while on her bed, lost in musing. Her slim
little back with the pointed shoulder blades and the distinctly marked
vertebrae was almost humped; the soiled nightshirt had slipped from the
angular shoulder; folding her hands about her knees and rocking back
and forth, she resembled a ruffled bird that was overtaken in the field
by the frost. She was staring straight ahead with unblinking eyes that
were plain and enigmatic like the eyes of a beast. And with pensive
obstinacy she whispered:

"And still I'd kill her."

Late at night, when everyone was asleep, Father Vassily silently stole
into the room, and his face was cold and austere. Without casting a
glance at Nastya, he set the lamp down on the table and bent over the
calmly sleeping idiot. He was lying on his back, his misshapen chest
stretched out, his arms spread out; his little shriveled head had
fallen back, and its receding chin gleamed white. As he lay sleeping,
under the pale reflected light which was falling upon him from the
ceiling, his face, with the closed eyelids hiding his witless eyes, did
not seem as horrible as in the daytime.

It seemed wearied, like the face of an actor exhausted after playing
a difficult part, and around his tightly shut enormous mouth lay the
shadow of stern grief. It was as though there were in him two souls,
and while one was sleeping, the other was wakeful--all-knowing and

Father Vassily straightened up slowly, and maintaining an austere
and stolid expression, walked out and proceeded to his room without
casting a glance at Nastya. He was walking slowly and calmly, with the
ponderous and lifeless stride of profound meditation, and the darkness
scattered before him, hiding behind him in deep shadows and cunningly
pursuing him at his heels. His face was shining brightly in the light
of the lamp and his eyes were gazing fixedly into the distance, far
ahead, into the very depths of fathomless space, while his feet slowly
and clumsily pursued their automatic march.

It was late at night and the second cocks had crowed.


Lent had arrived. The muffled church-bell commenced its monotonous
tinkle, but its wan, melancholy, modest sounds of summons could not
dispel the wintry stillness which was lying over snow-covered fields.
Timidly they leaped from the belfry into the misty air below, and sank
and died, and for a long time nobody came to the little church in
response to its appeal--faint at first, but persistent and growing more
imperious every day.

Towards the end of the first week of Lent two old women came to
church--hoary they were, hazy and deaf like the very air of the dying
winter, and for a long time they mumbled with toothless mouths,
repeating, forever over and over repeating their dull, uncouth plaints
which had no beginning and knew no end. Their very words and tears
seemed to have grown aged in service and ready for rest. They had
received absolution, but they failed to realize it, and were still
praying for something, deaf and hazy like fragments of a vapid dream.
But in their wake came a throng of people, and many youthful, fervid
tears, many youthful words, pointed and gleaming, cut their way into
Father Vassily's heart.

When Semen Mossyagin, a peasant, had thrice bowed to the ground, and
cautiously advanced towards the priest, the latter gazed upon him
sharply and fixedly, but the pose which he maintained did not seem to
befit the occasion.

With his neck extended, his hands folded across his chest, he was
tugging at the end of his beard with the fingers of one hand. Mossyagin
walked up to the priest and was astounded: the priest was watching him
and smiling softly with nostrils distended like a horse.

"I have been waiting for thee for a long time," said the priest with a
snicker. "Why hast thou come, Mossyagin?"

"For confession," quickly and eagerly replied Mossyagin and with a
friendly grin exposed his white teeth--they were white and even like a
string of pearls.

"Wilt thou feel better after confession?" continued the priest,
smiling, as it seemed to the peasant, in a merry and friendly fashion.

"Of course I will."

"And is it true that thou hast sold thy horse and the last sheep and
mortgaged thy wagon?"

Mossyagin looked at the priest seriously and with a show of annoyance:
the priest's face was stolid, his eyes were downcast. Neither broke the
silence. Father Vassily turned slowly towards the lectern and commanded:

"Tell thy sins."

Mossyagin coughed, assumed a devotional expression, and cautiously
inclining his head and his chest towards the priest began to speak in
a loud whisper. And while he spoke, the priest's face became more and
more forbidding and solemn, as though it had turned to stone under the
hail of the peasant's painful and constraining words. His breath came
fast and heavy as though choking in that senseless, dull and savage
something which was called the life of Semen Mossyagin and which
seemed to grip him as though in the black coils of some mysterious
serpent. It was as though the stern law of causality had no dominion
over this humble but phantastic existence: so unexpectedly, with such
clownish absurdity there were linked in it trivial transgressions and
unmeasured suffering, a mighty, an elemental will to a mighty elemental
creativeness and a monstrously vegetating existence somewhere in
No-man's land between life and death. Endowed with a fine mind that
slightly inclined to sarcasm, strong in body like a ferocious beast,
enduring as though fully three hearts beat in his breast, so that
when one of the three died, the ethers gave life to a new one,--he
seemed capable of overturning the very earth upon which firmly, though
clumsily were planted his feet. But in reality what happened? He was
forever on the verge of starvation, as were his wife, his children,
his cattle; and his bedimmed mind reeled drunkenly as though unable
to find the door of its own abode. Desperately straining every effort
in an endeavor to build up something, to create something, he merely
fell sprawling into the dust, and his work collapsed and disintegrated,
rewarding him with a mock and a sneer. He was a man of compassion, and
had adopted an orphan, and everybody scolded him; and the orphan lived
awhile and died of constant malnutrition and illness, and then he began
to scold himself and ceased to understand whether it was the right
thing to be compassionate or not. It seemed as though the tears should
never dry in the eyes of so unfortunate a man, or that the outcries of
wrath and resentment should never die upon his lips, but strange to
say he was always goodnatured and cheerful, and even his beard seemed
somehow absurdly gay; blazing red it was, with each hair seemingly
awhirl and agog in an interminable whimsical dance. And he even took
part in the village choral dances with the young lads and lassies,
singing the melancholy folksongs with a high tremolo voice that brought
tears to the eyes of the hearers, while on his own lips played a smile
of gentle sarcasm.

And his sins were so trivial and formal: a surveyor whom he had driven
to the nearest village--Petrovki--had offered him a meatpie on a fast
day, and he had eaten of it; and in confessing he dwelt as long upon
this transgression as though he had committed a murder; and the year
before, just before communion, he had smoked a cigarette and this too
he described at great length and with agonized anguish.

"That's all!" finally said Mossyagin, in a cheery voice, and wiped the
perspiration from his brow.

Father Vassily slowly turned his haggard face to him:

"And who helpeth thee?"

"Who helps me?" repeated Mossyagin. "Nobody. It's a scant fare for us
villagers, you know that yourself. Still Ivan Porfyritch helped me out
once," the peasant winked slyly at the priest: "he gave me three poods
of flour, and promised four more towards fall."

"And God?"

Semen sighed and his face grew sad.

"God? I daresay I'm undeserving."

The priest's superfluous questions were beginning to annoy Mossyagin.
He glanced back over his shoulder at the empty church, carefully
counted the hairs in the priest's sparse beard, surveyed his
half-rotted teeth and it occurred to him that the priest might have
spoilt them by eating too much sugar. And he heaved a sigh.

"What art thou waiting for?"

"What I am waiting for? What should I be waiting for?"

And silence again. It was dark and cold in the church, and the chilly
air was stealing under the peasant's blouse.

"And must it go on like this always?" asked the priest, and his words
sounded listless and distant like the thud of the earth thrown into the
grave upon the lowered coffin.

"And must it go on like this always?" repeated Mossyagin listening to
the sound of his own words. And all that had passed in his life rose
before him again: the hungry faces of the children, the reproaches,
the killing toil, the dull heartache that makes one long to drink and
fight; and so it must go on, for a long time, all through life--until
death steps in. Blinking his white eyelashes, Mossyagin cast a
teardimmed misty glance upon the priest and met his sharp and blazing
gaze--and in this exchange of glances they recognized an intimate
sorrowful kinship. An instinctive movement drew them together, and
Father Vassily laid his hand on the peasant's shoulder: lightly and
gently it rested upon it like a cobweb in autumn time. Mossyagin's
shoulder quivered affectionately, he lifted up his eyes trustingly, and
pitifully smiling with a corner of his mouth he said:

"But like as not it may ease up!"

The priest removed his hand imperceptibly and was silent. The peasant's
white eyelashes blinked faster and faster, the little hairs in the
blazing red beard danced ever more merrily, while his tongue babbled
something unintelligible and incoherent:

"No. I dare say it won't ease up. You're right."

But the priest did not suffer him to finish. He stamped his foot with
repressed emotion, scared the peasant with a wrathful, hostile glance,
and hissed at him like an angry adder:

"Don't weep! Don't dare to weep. Oh, why do they blubber like senseless
calves? What can I do?" he prodded his chest with his finger. "What can
I do? Am I God, am I? Ask HIM! Ask HIM! Ask HIM! I tell thee."

He pushed the peasant's shoulder.

"Down on thy knees."

Mossyagin knelt.


Behind him loomed the walls of the deserted and gloomy church, above
him rang the angered voice of the priest: "Pray! Pray!", and without
rendering account to himself of his actions, Mossyagin commenced to
cross himself swiftly, touching the ground with his forehead. And the
swift and monotonous movements of his head, the extraordinary nature of
the penance, the consciousness of being at that very instant subject to
some powerful and mysterious will--filled the mind of the peasant with
awe and at the same time with a peculiar sense of relief.

For in this very awe before something mighty and austere was born
the hope of intercession and mercy. And ever more frantically he
was pressing his brow to the cold floor, when the priest abruptly


Mossyagin arose, made his obeisance to the nearest images, and
the fiery-red hairs of his beard whirled and danced willingly and
cheerfully when he again approached the priest. Now he was sure that he
would find relief and he calmly awaited further commands.

But Father Vassily merely measured him with a sternly curious glance
and pronounced the absolution. On his way out of the church Mossyagin
looked back: still in the same spot stood the nebulous figure of the
priest, the faint glimmer of a wax taper could not fully outline it,
and it loomed black and immense as though it had no definite contours
and limits but was merely a particle of the gloom which was filling the

Communicants were now flocking daily in increasing numbers to the
confessional and numberless faces, both wrinkled and youthful,
alternated before Father Vassily in wearisome procession. He quizzed
them all insistently and severely, and timid, incoherent speeches were
poured into his ears by the hour, and the purport of each speech was
suffering, terror and a great expectation. All united in condemning
life, but none seemed anxious to die, and everybody appeared to be
waiting for something, and this expectation seemed to have been handed
down as an inheritance from the father of the race. It had passed
through minds and hearts long since vanished from the world, and for
this reason it was so imperious and potent. And it had become bitter,
for on its way it had absorbed all the grief of hope unrealized, all
the bitterness of faith deceived, all the consuming anguish of infinite
desolation. The blood of all hearts, living and dead, had nourished its
roots, and it had branched out over the whole of life like a great and
mighty tree. And losing himself among these souls like a wanderer in
the forest primeval, he was also forgetting his own pent-up sufferings
which had crowned his head with a stern sorrow, and he too began to
wait for something with a stern impatience.

He did not wish now for human tears, but they were flowing
irrepressibly, overruling his will, and every tear was a demand, and
they all penetrated his heart like poisoned arrows. And with the dim
sense of approaching horror he began to comprehend that he was not the
master of men, not even their neighbor, but their servant, their slave,
that the eyes of a great expectation were seeking him, were commanding
him, were summoning him. And ever oftener he admonished, them with
repressed wrath:

"'Ask HIM! Ask HIM!"

And he turned his back upon them.

But at night the living people took on the guise of diaphanous shadows
and walked by his side in a silent throng, invading his very thoughts,
and they made a transparency of the walls of his house and a mock of
the locks and the bars on its doors. And agonized, weirdly phantastic
were the dreams that unrolled like a flaming band beneath his skull.

It was in the fifth week of Lent, when the breath of spring wafted
its fragrance over the fields and the dusk was blue and diaphanous,
that the Popadya had started on another drunken debauch. She had been
drinking heavily for four days at a stretch, screaming with terror and
struggling, and on the fifth day--it was Saturday--towards evening,
she put out the little oil lamp before the saint's image in her room,
twisted a towel into a noose and tried to strangle herself. But the
moment the noose had begun to stifle her she became frightened and
cried out, and Father Vassily came running with little Nastya and
released her. It all ended in mere fright. Nor, indeed, had there been
any danger, for the noose was clumsily tied and it was impossible
to be strangled in it. But more frightened than all was the Popadya
herself. She wept and pleaded to be forgiven; her arms and legs were
trembling, her head shook as with palsy; the whole evening she kept
her husband by her side and clung closely to him. The extinguished oil
lamp in her room was lighted again at her own request, and other oil
lamps before each holy image, and it looked like the eve of some great
church festival. After the first moment of excitement Father Vassily
had regained his composure and was now coldly amiable, even jocular.
He related a very amusing incident of his seminary days, and then
his memory strolled back into the dim past of his early boyhood and
he told about his escapades in stealing apples in company with other
youngsters. And it was so difficult to imagine a watchman leading him
away by the ear, that Nastya refused to believe or laugh, although
Father Vassily himself was laughing with a gentle, childlike laughter
and his face looked truthful and good.

Little by little the Popadya also regained her composure and ceased to
look askance into obscure nooks, and when Nastya had been sent to bed,
she smiled gently at her husband and inquired:

"Were you scared?"

Father Vassily's face lost its truthful and kindly expression, and only
his lips were smiling as he replied:

"Of course. What had come into your head anyway?"

The Popadya trembled as though chilled by a sudden draught, and
picking with shaking fingers at the fringe of her warm shawl she said

"I don't know, Vassya. My heart is so heavy. And I'm so afraid of
everything. Afraid of everything. Things go on and I can't make out how
and why. There we have spring, and summer will follow. Then again the
fall and the winter. And we shall still sit as we are sitting now, you
in your corner and I in mine. Don't be angry with me, Vassya. I realize
that it can't be different. And yet...."

She sighed and continued without taking her eyes off the shawl.

"There was a time when I did not fear death, I thought when things went
very badly with me, I should die. And now I even fear death. What's to
become of me, Vassya, dear? Must it be--drink again."

Perplexed she raised her sorrowful eyes to his face, and in them he
read the pangs of mortal anguish and of boundless despair, and a dull
and humble plea for mercy. In the town where Feeveysky spent his
student days, he had seen on one occasion a greasy Tartar leading a
horse to the flaying yeard: it had broken its hoof which was hanging
by a shred and the horse was stepping up on the pavement with the
mutilated stump of the crippled foot; it was a cold day and a cloud of
white steam enveloped the horse, but it walked on staring ahead with an
immobile gaze, and its eyes were horrible in their meekness. Even such
were the eyes of the Popadya. And he thought that if someone were to
dig a grave, and fling this woman into its depths burying her alive,
he would be committing a kindly deed.

The Popadya with trembling lips tried to puff into life the cigarette
which had long since gone out and continued:

"And then again he. You know whom I mean. Of course he's a child, and I
feel sorry for him. But soon he'll commence to walk and he will be the
death for me. And not a soul to help. Now I've complained to you, but
what good is it? I don't know what to do?"

She heaved a sigh and threw up her hands in despair. And in unison with
her the low squat room itself seemed to sigh, and the shades of night
whose silent throng surrounded Father Vassily whirled about him in
agony. They were sobbing in frenzied anguish, they were extending their
nerveless hands, they were pleading for mercy, for pardon, for truth.

"Ah!" responded a hoarse groan from the depths of the priest's bony
chest. He jumped to his feet, upsetting the chair with an abrupt
movement, and began to pace the floor with a swift stride, shaking his
folded hands, mumbling something, stumbling like a blind or an insane
man against chairs and against walls. And when colliding with a wall,
he hastily touched it with his scrawny fingers and turned back in
his flight, and so he circled in the narrow cage of the room's mute
walls like a phantastic shade that had assumed a gruesome and weird
materialization. But in an odd contrast to the frantic mobility of his
body, immobile like the eyes of a blind man were his eyes, and in them
glistened tears, the first tears which he had shed since Vassya's death.

Forgetting her own self, the Popadya's awestricken eyes followed the
priest and she cried:

"Vassya, what's the matter with you? What is the matter?"

Father Vassily turned around abruptly, hastily gained his wife's side,
as though rushing over to trample upon her, and he laid his heavy and
shaking hand on her head. And for a long, long time he silently held
his hand above her head, as though in benediction, as though warding
off the powers of evil. And he spoke and each resonant sound that
composed his words was a ringing metallic tear:

"Poor little woman; poor little woman."

And once more he resumed his pacing, towering and awe-inspiring in his
despair, like a tigress who had been robbed of her young one. His face
was frantically convulsed, and his shaking lips jerked out half-formed,
fragmentary, infinitely sorrowing words:

"Poor woman. Poor woman.... Poor people all. All weeping.... No help
... Oh-oh-oh!"

He stopped and raising aloft his immobile eyes, with his gaze
transfixing the ceiling and the misty gloom of the vernal night beyond
it, he cried out in a piercing, frenzied voice:

"And THOU sufferest it! THOU sufferest it! Then take...." and he
clenched his fist and shook it aloft, but at his feet, with her hands
wrapt about her knees, the Popadya lay writhing in hysterics, and
mumbled, choking mid tears and laughter:

"Don't! Don't! Darling, precious! I'll never do it again!"

The idiot woke up and was howling; Nastya came running into the room in
wild affright and the jaws of the priest set with a metallic snap.

Silently, and with seeming indifference, he tended his wife, laying
her down on her bed, and when she had fallen asleep he was still
holding her hand between his two palms, and thus he sat until morning
by her bedside.. And all through the night, until morning, oil lamps
were burning before each image, as though on the eve of a great and
glorious festival.

The next day Father Vassily was the same as usual--cool and calm,
nor did he by a word recall the incidents of the day before. But in
his voice, whenever he exchanged words with his wife, in the glance
with which he regarded her was a gentle tenderness which only her
own tormented heart could appreciate. And so mighty was this manly,
silent tenderness that the tormented heart smiled a timid smile in
return and retained the memory of this smile in its depths like a
cherished treasure. They conversed but little, and their sparing speech
was simple and commonplace; they were rarely together--torn asunder
by life's vicissitudes--but with hearts full of suffering they were
constantly seeking one another; nor could any human being, nor cruel
fate itself divine with what hopeless anguish and tenderness they loved
one another. Long ago, since the birth of the idiot, they had ceased
living as man and wife, and they resembled a pair of devoted unhappy
lovers deprived even of a hope of happiness, dreaming dreams that dared
not assume a definite shape. And shame, once abandoned, returned again
into the heart of the wife, and with it a desire to appear attractive;
she blushed when her husband saw her bare arms and she did something
to her face and her hair that made both look fresh and youthful and
strangely beautiful in spite of the sadness of her expression. But
when the periodic spells of drunkenness came on again, the Popadya
disappeared in the seclusion of her darkened room, even as dogs are
wont to hide when they feel the approach of madness, and in silence and
solitude she fought out her battle with madness and with the monstrous
visions born of it.

But every night, when all were asleep, the Popadya stole to the bedside
of her husband and made a sign of the cross over his head as though
to dispel from his brow all grief and evil thoughts. And she longed
to kiss his hand, but dared not, and silently retired to her room,
vanishing in the darkness like a dim white vision similar to the
nebulous and melancholy apparitions which hover at night over swamps
and over the graves of deceased and forgotten people.


The Lenten bell continued to send abroad its monotonous and somber
summons, and it seemed as though with each muffled knell it
gathered fresh power over the consciences of the village folk. In
ever increasing numbers silent figures, somber as the sound of the
tolling church bell, wended their way to the little church from every
direction. Night still reigned over the denuded fields and a thin crust
of ice still spanned the murmuring brook, when from every road and side
path human figures appeared marching one by one, but united by some
common bond into one solemnly chastened procession moving to the same
invisible goal.

And every day, from early morn until late in the evening, Father
Vassily was confronted with a succession of human faces, some with
every wrinkle brightly outlined by the yellow glow of wax tapers,
others dimly emerging out of obscure nooks as though the very
atmosphere of the church had taken on the shape of a human being
thirsting for mercy and truth. The people crowded and pushed, clumsily
elbowing one another; they shuffled their feet heavily as they dropped
to their knees with discordant and asymmetric movements; and heaving
deep sighs, with relentless insistence they laid their sins and their
sorrows before the priest.

Each one had enough suffering and grief for a dozen human existences,
and it seemed to the overwhelmed and distracted priest, as though the
entire living world had brought its tears and its pangs before him
seeking his aid, meekly pleading for it, imperiously clamoring for it.
Once he had been searching for truth, but now I he was drowning in it,
in this merciless truth of suffering; in the agonized consciousness of
impotence he longed to die,--merely in order to escape seeing, hearing
and knowing. He had summoned the woe of humanity and lo! it came to
him. His soul was afire like the sacrificial altar, and he longed to
put his arms about every one of them with a fraternal embrace, saying:
"poor friend, let us struggle on side by side, let us together weep and
seek. For there is no help for man from anywhere."

But this was not what the people, worn out with the struggle of life,
were expecting from him, and with anguish, with wrath, with despair he
kept repeating:

"Ask of HIM! Ask of HIM!"

Sorrowing they believed him and departed, and in their place came
others in fresh and serried ranks, and again he frantically repeated
the terrible and relentless words:

"Ask of HIM! Ask of HIM!"

And the hours in the course of which he listened to truth seemed to
him as years, and that which had passed in the morning before the
confession, appeared dim and faint like all images of a distant past.
When finally he came out of the church, being the last to leave,
darkness had already set in, the stars sparkled sweetly, and the
silent air of the vernal night seemed like a tender caress. But he had
no faith in the peace of the stars; he fancied that even from these
distant worlds, groans and cries and broken pleas for mercy descended
upon him. And he felt crushed with a sense of personal shame as though
he himself had perpetrated all the wickedness that reigned in the
world, as though he himself had caused all these tears to flow, had
mangled and torn into shreds all these human hearts. He was overwhelmed
with shame because of these downtrodden homes which he passed on his
way, he was ashamed to enter his own house where by virtue of sin and
of madness the dreadful image of the semi-idiot, semi-beast, held its
autocratic insolent sway.

And in the mornings he walked to the church as men walk to the
scaffold to meet a shameful and agonizing death, with the whole world
as executioners: the dispassionate sky, the hurrying, thoughtlessly
laughing mob and his own relentless inner thoughts. Every suffering
person was his executioner, a helpless tool of an all-powerful God, and
there were as many hangmen as there were people, and as many lashes
as there were trusting and expectant hearts. They were all inexorably
insistent. No man thought of ridiculing the priest, but at any moment
he tremblingly expected the outburst of some horrible satanic laughter
and he feared to turn his back upon the people. All that is brutal and
evil is born behind a man's back, but while he is looking, no one dare
attack him face to face. And that is why he looked at them, worrying
them with his glance, and frequently turned his eyes to the place
behind the lectern occupied by Ivan Porfyritch Koprov, the churchwarden.

The latter alone talked loudly in the church as he calmly sold his
tapers; and twice during the service he sent up the verger and some
boys to take up collections. Then noisily rattling his copper coins, he
piled them up in little heaps, and frequently clicked the lock of his
cash box; when others knelt, he merely inclined his head and crossed
himself. And it was obvious that he regarded himself as a man needful
to God, knowing that without him God would be at no small difficulty to
arrange things as well as they were going and to keep them in proper

Since the beginning of Lent he had been very angry with Father Vassily
because of the interminable time he took up in the confessional. He
could not understand what great and interesting sins these people could
have that could make it worth while to devote so much time to them. It
was all due, he claimed, to the fact that Father Vassily knew neither
how to live himself nor how to handle people.

"Dost thou think they appreciate it?" he said to the good-natured
deacon who like the rest of the church officials was worn out with the
heavy burden of Lenten duties. "Not a bit of it. They will only laugh
at him."

Father Vassily's stern demeanor, on the contrary, pleased him, just
as he had been pleasantly impressed when he had first observed his
towering height. A genuine priest and a servant of God seemed to him
akin to an honest and efficient steward who requires an exact and
accurate accounting from those with whom he deals. Ivan Porfyritch
himself went to confession the last week in Lent, and he made long
preparations for it, trying to remember and to classify all his small
transgressions. And he was inordinately proud to know that he kept his
sins in the same good order as his business affairs.

On Wednesday of Holy week, when Father Vassily was fast losing his
physical strength, an unusually numerous throng had gathered to
confess. The last man in the confessional was a worthless scamp named
Trifon, a cripple, who hobbled on crutches from village to village
in the vicinity. Instead of legs which he had lost in some factory
accident and which had been trimmed down to his loins, he had a pair
of short little stumps around which a bag of skin had formed. His
shoulders, raised up through the constant use of crutches supported a
filthy head that seemed to be covered with a growth of coarse hemp,
and he had an equally filthy and neglected beard; his eyes were the
insolent eyes of a mendicant, drunkard and thief. He was repulsive and
dirty, groveling in filth and dust like a reptile, and his soul was as
dark and mysterious as the soul of a savage beast. It was difficult to
understand how he managed to live and yet he lived and even had women,
as phantastic and unreal and as unlike a human being as himself.

Father Vassily was forced to bend down low in order to hear the
cripple's confession. The impudently serene stench of his body, the
parasites crawling about his head and neck--even as he himself crawled
over the face of the earth--revealed to the priest in a flash the utter
destitution of his crippled soul--horrible, shameful, unfathomable
to conscience. And with a terrible clearness he realized how
dreadfully, how irrevocably this man had been deprived of all the human
characteristics, of all the things to which he was as fully entitled as
the kings in their palaces, as the saints in their cloistered cells,
and he shuddered.

"Go. God absolveth thee of thy sins," he said.

"Wait. I have more to confess," hoarsely croaked the beggar, raising up
his purpling face. And he related how ten years back he had in a forest
violated a little girl, giving her three copper coins when she cried,
and how later begrudging her this money, he strangled her to death
and buried her in the woods. And there no one ever found her. A dozen
times, to a dozen different priests he had related the same story, and
because of this repetition it appeared to him simple and ordinary and
unrelated to himself, as though it were a mere fairy tale which he had
learned by heart. Sometimes he varied this story: instead of summer
time he pictured the event as having occurred late in the fall; now
the little girl was a blonde, now darkhaired; but the three copper
coins never varied. Some priests refused to believe him and laughed at
him, pointing out that for ten years past not one little girl had been
killed or missed in the entire region; he was caught in numberless and
crude contradictions, and it was demonstrated to him that the whole
story was an obvious fabrication, born of his diseased brain while he
drunkenly roamed through the woods. And this aroused him to frenzy:
he shouted, he swore by the name of God, calling as frequently upon
the devil as upon God to bear him witness, and began to recite such
repulsive and obscene details that the oldest priests were made to
blush with indignation. Now he was waiting to see if this priest of the
Snamenskoye village would believe him or not, and he was content to
note that the priest believed him: for the priest had shrunk back, with
bloodless cheeks and raised his hand as though to strike him:

"Is this true?" hoarsely asked Father Vassily.

The beggar began to cross himself energetically.

"I swear by God it is true. Let me sink into the ground if it ain't...."

"But that means HELL!" cried the priest. "Dost thou grasp it: HELL?"

"God is merciful," mumbled the beggar, with a sullen and injured tone.
But from his wicked and frightened eyes it was plainly seen that he
expected to go to hell and had become accustomed to that thought even
as to his queer tale of the strangled little girl.

"Hell on earth, hell beyond. Where is thy paradise? Wert thou a worm, I
would crush thee with my foot, but thou art a man. A man? Or art thou
truly a worm? What art thou, speak?" cried the priest and his hair
shook as though fanned by a breeze. "And where is thy God? Why has He
left thee?"

"I made him believe it," gleefully thought the beggar, feeling the
words of the priest strike his head like a hail of molten metal.

Father Vassily sat down on his haunches and drawing from the
degradingly unusual pose a strange and an agonizing store of pride, he
passionately whispered:

"Listen. Don't be afraid. There will be no hell. I am telling thee
truly. I too have killed a human being. A little girl. Her name
is Nastya. And there will be no hell. Thou wilt be in paradise.
Understand? With the saints, with the righteous! Higher than all....
Higher than all, I tell thee."

That evening Father Vassily returned home very late, after his family
had finished supper. He was very tired and haggard, wet to his knees
and covered with dirt, as though he had tramped for a long time over
pathless and rainsodden fields. In the household preparations were
being made for the Easter festival. Though very busy, the Popadya
from time to time ran in for a moment out of the kitchen, anxiously
scanning her husband's features. And she tried to appear gay and to
conceal her anxiety.

But at night, when according to her custom she came into his bedroom on
tiptoe and having made a threefold sign of the cross over his head, was
about to depart, she was stopped by a gentle and timid voice--so unlike
the voice of the austere Father Vassily:

"Nastya, I cannot go to church."

There was terror in that voice, and also something pleading and
childlike. As though unhappiness was so immense that it was no longer
any use to put on the mask of pride and of slippery, lying words behind
which people are wont to conceal their feelings. The Popadya fell to
her knees by the bedside of her husband and peered into his face: in
the faint bluish light of the oil lamp it seemed as pale as the face
of a corpse and as immobile, and only his black eyes were open and
squinted in her direction. He lay still and flat on his back like a man
stricken with a painful disease, or like a child frightened by an evil
dream and afraid to move.

"Pray, Vassya!" whispered the Popadya, stroking his clammy hands which
were crossed upon his breast like the hands of a corpse.

"I cannot. I am afraid. Light the lamp, Nastya."

While she was lighting the lamp, Father Vassily began to dress, slowly
and awkwardly, like an invalid who had been long chained to his bed.
He could not unaided fasten the hooks of his cassock, and he asked his

"Hook the cassock."

"Where are you going?" inquired the Popadya in surprise.

"Nowhere. Just so."

And he began to pace the floor slowly and diffidently with faint
and shaking limbs. His head was trembling with a measured and hardly
perceptible palpitation, and his lower jaw had dropped impotently.
With an effort he attempted to draw it up into its proper place,
licking his dry and flabby lips, but in the next moment it dropped back
again; exposing the dark gap of his mouth. Something vast, something
inexpressibly horrible seemed to be impending--like boundless waste and
boundless silence. And there was neither earth nor people nor any world
beyond the walls of the house, there was only the yawning bottomless
abyss and eternal silence.

"Vassya, is it really true?" asked the Popadya, her heart sinking with
the fear within her.

Father Vassily looked at her with dim, lack-lustre eyes, and with a
momentary access of energy waved his hand:

"Don't. Don't. Be silent."

And once more he fell to pacing the floor, and once more dropped
the strengthless jaw. And thus he paced the room, with the slow
deliberateness of Time itself, while the pale-cheeked woman sat
terror-stricken on the bed, only with the slow deliberateness of Time
itself her eyes moved and followed him in his walk. And something vast
was impending. There it came and stood still and gripped them with a
vacant and all-embracing stare--vast as the boundless waste, terrible
as the eternal silence.

Father Vassily stopped in front of his wife, regarding her with
unseeing eyes and said:

"It is dark. Light another light."

"He is dying," thought the Popadya and with shaking hands, scattering
matches on the floor, she lighted a candle. And once more he begged:

"Light still another."

And she kept lighting and lighting them. Many candles and lamps were
now ablaze. Like a tiny faintly bluish star the little oil lamp before
the holy image lost itself in the vivid and daring glare of the many
lights, and it seemed as though the great and glorious festival had
already set in. Meanwhile, with the deliberateness of Time itself he
softly paced through the brilliant waste. Now, when the waste was
ablaze with lights, the Popadya saw, and for one brief, terrible
instant realized how lone he was, for he neither belonged to her nor
to anyone else; she realized that she could never alter the fact. If
all the good and strong people had gathered from the ends of the world,
putting their arms about him, with words of caress and comfort, still
he would stand in solitude.

And once more, with sinking heart, she thought: "He is dying."

Thus passed the night. And as it neared its end, the stride of Father
Vassily grew firm, he straightened himself, looked at the Popadya
several times and said:

"Why so many lights? Put them out."

The Popadya put out the candles and the lamps and diffidently commenced:


"We'll talk to-morrow. Go to your room. Time for you to go to sleep."

But the Popadya did not go, and her eyes seemed to be pleading for
something. And once again strong and stalwart he walked over to her and
patted her head as though she were a child.

"So, Popadya!" he said with a smile. His face was pallid with the
diaphanous pallor of death, and black circles had gathered about his
eyes: as though night itself had lodged there and refused to depart.

In the morning Father Vassily announced to his wife that he would
resign from the priesthood, that he meant to get together some money
in the fall and then to go away with her, somewhere afar off, he knew
not yet where. But the idiot they would leave behind, they would give
him to someone to bring up. And the Popadya wept and laughed and for
the first time after the birth of the idiot she kissed her husband full
upon his lips, blushing in confusion.

And at that time Vassily Feeveysky was forty years old, and his wife
was thirty four.


For the three months that followed their souls were resting; gladness
and hope, long strangers to their hearts, returned to their home once
again. Strong through suffering endured was the Popadya's faith in the
new life to come,--in an altogether novel and different life elsewhere,
unlike the life that anybody else had lived or could live. She sensed
but vaguely what was going on in her husband's heart, though she saw
that he bore himself with a peculiar cheeriness, serene even like the
flame of the candle. She saw the strange glow in his eyes such as he
had lacked before, and she had an abiding faith in his power. Father
Vassily attempted to talk to her at times with regard to his plans for
the future, whither they would go and how they would live, but she
refused to listen: words, exact and positive, seemed to frighten away
her vague and formless vision and to drag the future with a strangely
horrible perverseness into the power of a cruel past. Only one thing
she craved: that it might be far away, far beyond the bounds of that
familiar world which was still so terrible to her. As heretofore,
periodically she succumbed to attacks of drunkenness, but these passed
quickly and she no longer feared them: she believed that she would soon
cease to drink altogether. "It will be different there, I shall have no
need of liquor," she thought all transfigured with the radiance of an
indefinite and glorious vision.

With the coming of summer she once more began to stroll for days at a
time through the fields and the woods; coming back at dusk she waited
at the gate for Father Vassily's return from haying. Softly and slowly
gathered the shadows of the brief summer night; and it seemed as
though night would never come to blot out the light of day; only when
she glanced upon the dim outlines of her hands which she held folded
upon her lap she felt that there was something between those hands
and herself and that it was night with the diaphanous and mysterious
dusk. And before vague fears had time to fill her heart, Father Vassily
was back--stalwart, vigorous, cheery, bringing with him the acrid and
pleasant fragrance of grassy fields. His face was dark with the dusk of
night, but his eyes were shining brightly, and in his suppressed voice
seemed to lurk the vast expanse of the fields and the fragrance of
grass and the joy of persistent toil.

"It is beautiful out in the fields," he said with laughter that sounded
subdued, enigmatic and somber, as though he derided some one, perhaps

"Of course, Vassya, of course. Of course, it's beautiful," retorted the
Popadya with conviction and they went in to supper. After the vastness
of the fields Father Vassily felt crowded in the tiny living room; with
embarrassment he became conscious of the length of his arms and of
his legs and moved them about so clumsily and ridiculously that the
Popadya teased him:

"You ought to be made to write a sermon right now, why you could hardly
hold a pen in your hands," she said.

And they laughed.

But left alone, Father Vassily's face assumed a serious and solemn
expression. Alone with his thoughts he dared not laugh or jest. And his
eyes gazed forward sternly and with a haughty expectancy--for he felt
that even in these days of hope and peace the same inexorably cruel and
impenetrable fate was hovering over his head.

On the twenty seventh day of July--it was in the evening--Father
Vassily and a laborer were carting sheaves from the field.

From the nearby forest a lengthy shadow had fallen obliquely across
the field; other lengthy and oblique shadows were falling all over the
field from every side. Suddenly from the direction of the village there
came the faint, barely audible sound of a tolling bell, uncanny in its
untimeliness. Father Vassily turned around sharply: there where through
the willows he had been wont to see the dim outlines of his shingled
roof, an immobile column of smoke--black and resinous--had reared
itself up in the air, and beneath it writhed, at though crushed down by
a gigantic weight, darkly lurid flames. By the time they had cleared
the cart of sheaves and had reached the village at a gallop, darkness
had set in and the fire had died down: only the black,-charred corner
posts were glowing their last like dying candles, and faintly gleamed
the tiles of the stripped fireplace, while a pall cf whitish smoke that
resembled a cloud of steam was hanging low over the ruins, wrapping
itself about the legs of the peasants who were stamping out the fire,
and against the background of the fading glow of sunset it seemed
suspended in the air in the shape of fiat, dark shadows.

The whole street was thronged with people; the villagers trampled
through the liquid mud formed by water that had been spilled in
fighting the blaze, they were conversing loudly and in agitation,
peering intently into one another's faces, as though failing to
recognize immediately their neighbors' familiar faces and voices.
The village herd had been meanwhile driven in from the fields, and
the animals were straying about forlorn and excited. The cows were
lowing, the sheep stared ahead with immobile, glassy, bulging eyes, and
distractedly rubbed against the legs of people, or startled into an
unreasoning panic madly rushed from place to place pattering with their
hoofs over the ground. The village women tried to chase them home, and
all over the village was heard their monotonous summons "kit-kit-kit."
And these dark figures, with their dark bronze-like faces, this queer
and monotonous calling of sheep, the sight of these human beings and
helpless animals fused into one mass by a common, primal sense of fear
created the impression of something chaotic and primordial.

It had been a windless day, and the priest's house was the only one
consumed by the blaze. It was said that the fire had started in a room
where the drunken Popadya had lain down to rest, and that it had been
caused by a burning cigarette or a carelessly thrown match. All the
villagers were in the fields at the time, and the rescuers succeeded
in saving the idiot who was badly frightened but unhurt, while the
Popadya herself was discovered in a horribly burnt condition and was
dragged out unconscious, though still alive. When Father Vassily who
had come galloping with his cart received the report of the disaster,
the villagers were prepared to witness an outburst of grief and tears,
but they were astounded: he had stretched out his neck in the attitude
of listening with concentrated attention, his lips were tightly
compressed, and to judge from his appearance it seemed as though he
had been fully apprized of the happenings and was now merely trying to
check up the report; as though in that brief mad hour, while with his
locks fluttering in the breeze, with his gaze riveted to the column
of smoke and fire, he stood on his cart and urged on his horse to a
frenzied gallop, he had divined everything: that it had been ordained
that a fire should occur and that his wife and all he owned should
perish, while the idiot and the little girl Nastya should be saved and
remain alive.

For a moment he stood still with downcast eyes, then he threw back his
head and resolutely made his way through the crowd, straight to the
deacon's house where the dying Popadya had found shelter.

"Where is she?" he loudly asked of the silent people within. And
silently they showed him. He came close to her bedside, bent low over
the shapeless feebly groaning mass and seeing one great white blister
which had taken the place of the face once cherished and beloved, he
shrank back in horror and covered his face with his hands.

The Popadya was in a flutter; doubtless she had regained consciousness
and was trying to say something, but instead of words she emitted a
hoarse and inarticulate bark. Father Vassily withdrew his hands from
his face; not the faintest trace of a tear was to be seen thereon; it
was inspired and austere like the countenance of a prophet. And when
he spoke, with the loud articulation of one addressing a deaf person,
his voice rang with an unshakeable and terrible faith. There was in it
nothing human, vacillating or based on self-strength; thus could speak
only he who had felt the unfathomable and awful nearness of God.

"In the name of God--hearest thou me?" he exclaimed. "I am here,
Nastya, I am near thee. And the children are here. Here is Vassily.
Here is Nastya."

From the immobile and terrible face of the Popadya it could not be
gathered whether she had heard or not. And raising his voice to
a higher pitch Father Vassily once more addressed himself to the
shapeless mass of charred flesh:

"Forgive me, Nastya. For I have destroyed thee, and thou wast not to
blame. Forgive me--my one--and--only love. And bless the children in
thy heart. Here they are: here is Nastya, here is Vassily. Bless them
and depart in peace. Have no fear of death. God hath pardoned thee. God
loveth thee. He will give thee rest. Depart in peace. There wilt thou
see Vassya. Depart thou in peace."

Everyone had now withdrawn with tearful eyes, and the idiot who had
fallen asleep, was taken away. Father Vassily remained alone with the
dying woman, to spend with her that last fleeting summer night the
coming of which she had so dreaded. He knelt down, pillowed his head
near the dying woman, and with the faint and dreadful odor of burnt
human flesh in his nostrils, he shed profuse soft tears of infinite
compassion. He wept for her in her youth and beauty, trustingly longing
for joy and caresses; he wept for her in the loss of her son; frenzied
and pitiful, a plaything of fears, haunted by visions; he wept for her
in those latter clays, awaiting his coming in the dusk of the summer
eve, humble and radiant. It was her body--that tender body so thirsting
for caresses that the flames had devoured, and now it reeked with
the odor of burning. Had she been crying? struggling? calling for her

With tear dimmed eyes Father Vassily looked about wildly and rose to
his feet. All was still with a stillness such as reigns only in the
presence of death. He looked at his wife. She was motionless with
that peculiar immobility of a corpse, when every fold of garment and
bedding seems to be carved of lifeless stone, when the glowing tints
of life have faded from raiment, yielding to shades that seem drab and
unnatural. The Popadya was dead.

Through the opened window poured the warm breath of the summer night
and from somewhere in the distance, accentuating the stillness in
the room, came the harmonious chirping of crickets. About the lamp
noiselessly circled the moths of the night which had come flying
through the window; striking the light some fell, others with sickly
spiral movements strove anew towards the light, and either lost
themselves in the darkness or gleamed white about the flame like little
flakes of whirling snow. The Popadya was dead.

"No! No!" shouted the priest in a loud and frightened voice. "No! No! I
believe! Thou art right! I believe."

He fell to his knees, and pressed his face to the drenched floor, amid
fragments of soiled cotton and dripping bandages, as though thirsting
to be changed into dust and to mingle with dust; and with the rapture
of boundless humility he eliminated from his outcry the very pronoun
"I" and added brokenly: "... believe!"

Once more he prayed, without words, without thoughts, but straining
taut every fibre of his mortal body that in fire and death had
realized the inexplicable nearness of God. He had ceased to sense his
own life as such,--as though the intimate bond between body and spirit
has been cut, and freed from all that is earthy, freed from itself, the
spirit had soared to unfathomed and mysterious heights. The terrors
of doubt and of tempting thoughts, the passionate wrath and the bold
outcries of resentful human pride--all had crumbled into dust with the
abasement of the body; only the spirit alone, having torn the hampering
fetters of its "I" was living the mysterious life of contemplation.

When Father Vassily had risen to his feet it was already light, and a
ray of sunshine, long and ruddy, clung like a bright colored blotch to
the petrified raiment of the deceased. And this surprised him, for the
last thing that he remembered was the darkened window and the moths
that circled about the light. A number of these frail creatures were
scattered in charred clusters about the base of the lamp, which was
still burning with an invisible yellowish flame; one grey and shaggy
moth, with a big misshapen head, was still alive, but had no strength
to fly away and was helplessly crawling about the table. The moth was
doubtless in great pain, and was groping for the shelter of night and
of darkness, but the merciless light of day streamed upon it from
everywhere burning its tiny ugly body that was created for darkness.
Despairingly it attempted to shake into activity its pair of short and
singed wings, but it failed to rise up in the air, and once more, with
oblique and angular movements, it fell over on its side and continued
to crawl and grope.

Father Vassily put out the lamp and threw the palpitating moth out
of the window; then vigorously fresh, as though after a long and
refreshing sleep, filled with the sense of strength of restoration and
of a supernatural peace, he made his way into the deacon's garden.
There for a long time he paced up and down the straight foot path, with
his hands behind his back, his head brushing against the lower branches
of apple and cherry trees; and he walked and he thought. Finding a path
between the branches the sun had commenced to warm his head, and as he
turned back it beat down upon him like a current of fire and blinded
his eyes; here and there a worm eaten apple fell to the ground with a
dull thud, and under a cherry tree, in the loose, dry earth a hen was
fussing around, cackling and tending her brood of a dozen downy yellow
chicks; but he was oblivious to the light of the sun and to the falling
apples and kept on thinking. And wondrous were his thoughts--clear
and pure they were as the air of the early morn, and strangely new;
such thoughts had never before flashed through his head where sad and
painful thoughts were wont to dwell. He was thinking that where he
had seen chaos and the absurdity of malice, there a mighty hand had
traced out a true and straight path. Through the furnace of calamity,
violently snatching him from home and family and from the vain cares
of life, a mighty hand was leading him to a mighty martyrdom, a great
sacrifice. God had transformed his life into a desert, but only so that
he might cease to stray over old and beaten paths, over winding and
deceitful roads where people err, but might seek a new and daring way
in the trackless waste. The column of smoke which he had seen the night
before, was it not that pillar of fire which had marked for the Hebrews
a path through the pathless desert? He thought: "Lord, will my feeble
strength be equal to the task?" but the answer came in the flames that
illumined his soul like a new sun.

He had been chosen.

For an unknown martyrdom, for an unknown sacrifice he had been chosen
by God, he, Vassily Feeveysky, who so blasphemously and madly had cried
out in bitter complaint against his fate. He had been chosen. Let the
earth open at his feet, let hell itself look at him with its red and
cunning eyes, he will disbelieve hell itself. He had been chosen. And
was he not standing on solid ground?

Father Vassily stopped and stamped his foot. The frightened hen emitted
an anxious cackle and calling her brood together stood on guard. One of
the little chicks had strayed afar and hurried to answer his maternal
call, but halfway to his goal two hands, hot, strong and bony seized
him and raised him up in the air. Smiling, Father Vassily breathed upon
the tiny yellowish chick with his hot and moist breath, then gently
folding his hands into the semblance of a nest he tenderly pressed him
to his breast and continued to pace up and down the long and straight

"What martyrdom? I don't know. But dare I want to know? Didn't I once
know my fate? And I called it cruel, and my knowledge was a lie. Did
I not think of bringing a son into the world? And a monster, without
form or mind, entered into my home. And again I thought to multiply
my goods and to leave my house, but it had left me first, consumed
by a fire from heaven. That was what my knowledge amounted to. And
she--an infinitely unfortunate woman, wronged in her very womb, who had
exhausted all tears, who had lived through all horrors. She was waiting
for a new life on earth, and this life would have been sorrowful,
but now she is reclining in death, and her soul is laughing and is
branding the old knowledge a lie. HE knows. He has given me much. He
has granted to me to see life and to experience sufferings and with
the sharpness of my sorrow to penetrate into the sufferings of other
people. He has granted to me to apprehend their great expectation and
has given me love towards them. And are they not expecting? And do I
not love? Dear brethren! God has shown mercy to us, the hour of the
mercy of God has come."

He kissed the downy head of the chick and continued:

"My path? Docs the arrow think of its path when sent forth by a mighty
hand? It flies and plunges through to its goal subservient to the will
of him who sent it on its way. It is given to me to see, it is given to
me to love, but what will come of this vision, of this love, that will
be His holy will--my martyrdom, my sacrifice."

Coddled in the hollow of his warm hand the little chick closed his eyes
and fell asleep. And the priest smiled.

"There--I need only close my hand and he will die. Yet he is lying in
the hollow of my hand, upon my bosom, and sleeping trustingly. And am I
not in His hand? And dare I disbelieve the mercy of God when this chick
believes in my human kindness, in my human heart?"

He smiled softly, opening his black, half-rotted teeth and over his
austere, forbidding face the smile scattered into a thousand radiant
wrinkles as though a ray of sunlight suddenly set a-sparkle a pool
of deep and dark waters. And the great, grave thoughts fled away
scared off by human gladness, and for a long time only gladness, only
laughter remained, and the light of the sun and the gently slumbering
downy little chick.

But now the wrinkles smoothed, the face became once more austere and
grave, and the eyes sparkled with inspiration. The greatest, the most
significant arose be< fore him--and its name was Miracle. Thither
his still human, all too human thought had not yet dared to stray.
There was the boundary line of thought. There in the fathomless solar
depths were the dim contours of a new world--and it was no longer the
earth. A world of love, a world of divine justice, a world of radiant
and fearless countenances, undisgraced by lines of suffering, famine
and pain. Like a gigantic, monstrous diamond sparkled this world in
the fathomless solar depths, and the human eye could not dwell upon
it without blinding pain and awe. And humbly bowing his head Father
Vassily exclaimed:

"Thy holy will be done!"

People made their appearance in the garden: the deacon and his wife
and many others. They had seen the priest from afar and with cordial
nods hastened towards him, but as they approached him they paused and
stopped as though transfixed, as people pause before a conflagration,
before a turbulent flood, before the calmly enigmatic gaze of a madman.

"Why do you look at me in this manner?" inquired Father Vassily in

But they never stirred from the spot and continued to look. Before them
stood a tall man, entirely unknown to them, an utter stranger, whose
very calm made him all the more distant from them. Dark he was and
terrible to look upon like a shade from another world, but a sparkling
smile played on his face in a myriad radiant wrinkles, as though the
sun was sparkling in a deep black pool of stagnant water. And in his
large gnarled hands he was holding a downy yellow little chick.

"Why are you looking at me in this manner?" he repeated smiling. "Am I
a miracle?"


It was obvious to all that Father Vassily was hastening to sever the
last ties that still bound him to the past and to the vain cares of
this life. He had written his sister in the city and made hurried
arrangements with her concerning Nastya, leaving the girl in her
charge, nor did he delay a day in despatching her to her aunt, as
though fearing that fatherly love might rise up within him and prevent
this arrangement to the detriment of his ministry. Nastya departed
without exhibiting either pleasure or disappointment: she was content
that her mother had died and merely regretted that the idiot had not
also burnt to death. Seated in the wagon, in an oldfashioned dress
which had been re-made from an old gown of her mother's, with a child's
hat sitting awry on her head, she resembled a queerly attired and
homely old maid rather than a girl in her early teens. With her wolfish
eyes she coldly watched the fussy deacon and protested in a dry voice
that was much like the voice of her father:

"Don't bother, Father Deacon. I am comfortable. Good-bye, papa."

"Good-bye, Nastya dear. Mind your studies, don't be lazy."

The wagon started off, shaking up the girl with its jolting, but in
the next moment she sat up erect like a stick, swaying no longer from
side to side, but merely bobbing up and down. The deacon pulled out a
handkerchief in order to wave the little traveler good-bye, but Nastya
never turned around; and shaking his head reprovingly the deacon heaved
a deep sigh, blew his nose and put the handkerchief back into his
pocket. Thus she departed never to return to the village of Snamenskoye.

"Why don't you, Father Vassily, send the little boy away as well? It
will be hard on you to take care of him with only the cook to help you.
She's a stupid wench and deaf into the bargain," said the deacon when
the wagon was out of sight and the dust which it had raised had settled.

Father Vassily eyed him pensively:

"Shirk the consequences of my own sin, and burden others with them?
No, deacon, my sin is with me and must remain with me. We'll manage
somehow, the old and the young one, what do you think, Father Deacon?"

He smiled a pleasant and cordial smile, as though in stingless raillery
at something known to himself alone, and patted the deacon's portly

Father Vassily transferred the rights to his land to the vestry,
providing a small sum for his support, which he called his "dowry."

"And perhaps I might not take even that," he said enigmatically,
smiling pleasantly, with the same stingless raillery that was a riddle
to all but himself.

And he made it his business to look after another matter: he induced
Ivan Porfyritch to give employment to Mossyagin who had been turning
black in the face from slow starvation. When Mossyagin had first
called on Ivan Porfyritch asking him for work, the churchwarden drove
him away, but after a talk with the priest, he not only gave him
employment, but even sent over a load of shingles for Father Vassily's
new house. And he said to his wife, a woman who never opened her mouth
and was always in the family way:

"Mark my word, this priest will raise ructions."

"What ructions?" coldly inquired the wife.

"Just plain ructions. Only as how in a manner of speaking it is none of
my business.... So I keep my mouth shut. Otherwise...." and he looked
vaguely through the window in the direction of the capital city of the

And no one knew whence, whether as the result of the churchwarden's
mysterious words or from other sources, vague and disquieting rumors
gained currency in the village and in the vicinity with regard to the
priest of Snamenskoye. Like the odor of smoke from a distant forest
fire these rumors moved slowly and scattered widely, no one knowing
whence and how they had originated, and only as the people exchanged
glances and saw the sun grow pallid behind a hazy film they began to
realize that something new, unusual and disquieting had come to dwell
among them.

Towards the middle of October the new house was ready for occupancy,
save that only one wing was all finished and covered with a roof;
the other wing still lacked roof beams and rafters, and gaping with
empty and frameless window openings, clung to the finished portion
like a skeleton strapped to a living person, and at night looked
grimly desolate and forbidding. Father Vassily had not troubled to
buy new furniture: within the four bare walls of crude logs on which
the amber sap had not yet hardened, the sole furniture in the four
rooms consisted of two wooden stools, a table and two beds. The deaf
and stupid cook was a poor hand at building fires and the rooms were
always full of smoke which gave headaches to the inmates and hung
like a low grey cloud over the dirty floor with its imprint of muddy
boots. And the house was cold. During the severe cold spell of early
winter the widow panes had gathered a layer of downy frost on the
inside and a bleak chilling twilight reigned within. The window sills
had been encrusted since the early frost with a thick coating of ice
which constantly dribbling, formed rivulets on the floor. Even the
unpretentious peasants who came to the priest for ministrations looked
askance, in guilty embarrassment, upon the penurious furnishings of
the priestly abode, and the deacon referred to it wrathfully as the
"abomination of desolation."

When Father Vassily first entered his new house, he paced for a long
time in joyful agitation through rooms that were as cold and barren as
a barn and merrily called to the idiot:

"We'll live like lords here, Vassily, hey?"

The idiot licked his lips with his long brutish tongue and loudly
barked with jerky, monotonous bellows: "Huh-huh-huh!"

He was pleased and he laughed. But soon he began to feel the cold and
the loneliness and the gloom of the abandoned abode, and this made him
angry; he screamed, slapped his own cheeks and tried to slide down
on the floor, but he fell from the chair painfully hurting himself.
Sometimes he lapsed into a state of heavy stupor not unlike a grotesque
pensive day dream. Supporting his head with his thin long fingers he
stared into space from beneath his narrow, beastlike eyelids and never
stirred. And it seemed at times that he was not an idiot, but some
strange creature lost in meditation, thinking peculiar thoughts of his
own that were totally unlike the thoughts of other people: as though
he knew something that was peculiar, simple and mysterious, something
that no one else could know of. And to look at his flattened nose with
the widely distended nostrils, at the slanting back of his head which
in a brutish slope merged straight into his back--it seemed that if one
were only to lend him a pair of swift and sturdy legs he would scurry
away into the woods there to live out his mysterious forest life filled
with savage play and obscure forest lore.

And side by side with him, always the two together, always alone, now
deafened by his impudent and malignant screaming, now haunted by his
stony enigmatic stare, Father Vassily lived the equally mysterious
life of the spirit, that had renounced the flesh. He longed to purge
himself for the great martyrdom and the great sacrifice yet unrevealed,
and his days and his nights became one ceaseless prayer, one wordless
effusion. Since the death of the Popadya he had imposed upon himself an
ascetic regime: he drank no tea, he tasted neither meat nor fish, and
on days of abstinence, Wednesday and Friday, his food consisted merely
of bread soaked in water. And with a puzzling cruelty that seemed to be
akin to vindictiveness he had imposed the same strict abstinence upon
the idiot, and the latter suffered like a starving beast. He screamed
and scratched and even shed floods of greedy, doglike tears, but he
could not procure an additional bite of food. The priest saw but few
people, and these only when absolutely compelled to receive them, and
he assiduously shortened all interviews, devoting every hour, with
brief intervals for rest and sleep, to prayer on bended knee. And when
he grew tired he sat down and read the Gospels and the Acts of the
Apostles and the Lives of the Saints. It had been the village custom to
hold services only on Sundays and holidays, but now he celebrated the
early liturgy every morning. The aged deacon had refused to officiate
with him, and he was assisted by the lay-reader, a filthy and lonely
old man who had been once deposed from the diaconate for drunkenness,
and was now acting as verger.

Long before daybreak, shivering with the cold of the early winter
morning, Father Vassily wended his way to the church. He did not have
far to go, but the walk consumed much time. Frequently a snow drift
covered the road at night and his feet sank and stuck fast in the dry
grainy snow and each step required the effort of ten ordinary steps.
The church was not properly heated and it was bitterly cold inside,
with that peculiar penetrating cold which in winter time clings to
public places left vacant for days at a time. Human breath turned
into dense clouds of vapor, the touch of metal felt like a burn. The
lay-reader, who was also the verger, built a small fire in a tiny
stove, back of the altar, just for the priest's comfort, and by its
opened gate, Father Vassily, squatting on his haunches, warmed his
hands before the modest blaze, for otherwise he could not have clasped
the cross with his numb and unbending fingers. And during the ten
minutes thus spent he joked with the old lay-reader about the cold
and the gipsy sweat, and the lay-reader listened to him with sullen
condescension; constant drink and cold had colored the lay-reader's
nose a deep purple, and his bristling chin (after his deposition he had
shaved off his beard) moved rhythmically as though chewing a cud.

Then Father Vassily donned his tattered vestments, once embroidered
with gold, of which a few ragged thread ends were the sole remaining
trace. A pinch of incense was dropped into the censer and they began to
officiate in semi-darkness, barely able to distinguish one another's
outlines, like a couple of blind men moving by instinct in a familiar
spot. Two stumps of wax tapers, one near the lay-reader, the other on
the altar near the image of the Saviour, merely served to intensify
the gloom; and their sharp flames slowly swayed from side to side
responding to the movements of these unhurrying men.

The service was long, and it was slow and solemn. Every word trembled
and deliquesced in its outlines, being caught up by the echo of the
deserted church. And there was nothing within but the echo, the
darkness and the two men serving God; and little by little something
began to glow and blaze in the lay-reader's heart. Pricking up his
ears, he cautiously strove to catch every word of the priest and moved
his chin in quick succession. And his lonely, filthy decrepit old age
seemed to vanish somewhere into distance, and with it the whole of
his luckless and weary existence, and that which came in the place
thereof was strange and joyous to the verge of tears. Frequently to the
lay-reader's allocution there came no response; silence, protracted and
solemn, ensued, and the sharp tongues of wax tapers blazed straight up
without stirring. Then from the distance came a voice that was sated
with tears and with gladness. And once more through the semi-darkness
moved sure-footedly the two unhurrying celebrants, and the flames
swayed to one side and to the other in response to their deliberate
measured movements.

The daylight was commencing to break when the service was finished, and
Father Vassily said:

"Look, Nicon, how warm it is getting."

A spiral of steam was issuing from his mouth. The wrinkles on Nicon's
cheeks had grown pink, he scanned the priest's face with a severely
searching expression and diffidently inquired:

"And to-morrow--again? Or perhaps not?"

"Of course, Nicon, again, of course."

Reverently he conducted the priest to the door and then returned to
his watchman's booth. There, yelping and barking, a dozen dogs came
running towards him--grown up dogs they were and pups. Surrounded by
them as though by a family of children, he fed them and caressed them,
with his thoughts dwelling constantly on the priest. And as he thought
of the priest he wondered. He thought of the priest--and smiled,
without opening his lips, and averting his face from his dogs so that
they might not see his smile. And he thought, and he thought until
nightfall. But in the morning he waited to see if the priest would not
fool him, if the priest would not back down in the face of the darkness
and the frost. But the priest came despite the cold and the darkness,
shivering, yet cheerful, and once more from the gaping mouth of the
little stove into the very depths of the vacant church stretched a
ribbon of a ruddy glow and along it the black and melting shadow.

At first hearing of the eccentricities of the priest many people came
to the early liturgy just to see him officiate and they marveled. Some
of those who came to watch him pronounced him a madman; others were
edified and wept, but there were others, too, and these were many, in
whose hearts was born a keen and unconquerable disquietude. For in
the steady, in the fearlessly frank and luminous glance of the priest
they had caught a glimmer of mystery, of the most profound and hidden
mystery, full of ineffable threats, full of ominous promises. But soon
the merely curious began to drop off, and for a long time the church
remained vacant in these early morning hours, none disturbing the peace
of the two praying men. But after a lapse of time in response to the
words of the priest there had begun to come from the darkness timid,
subdued sighs, someone's knees struck the flags of the stone floor
with a dull thud; someone's lips were whispering, someone's hands were
holding a tiny fresh taper, and between the two stumps it looked like a
stately young birch in a forest clearing.

And rumor, dull, disquieting, impersonal, grew apace. It crept
everywhere where people assembled, leaving behind some sediment of
fear, hope and expectancy. Little was said, and what was said was
vague; for the most part it was the wagging of heads, followed by
sighs, but in the neighboring province, a hundred miles away, someone,
grey and taciturn, began to whisper of a "new faith" and was lost again
in silence. And rumor kept spreading, like the wind, like the clouds,
like the smoky odor of a distant forest fire.

Last of all the rumors reached the provincial capital, as though
they found it hard and painful to make their way through stone
walls, through the noisy and populous city streets. And like naked,
ragged thieves they finally showed themselves, claiming that someone
had burned himself alive, that a new fanatical sect had sprung up
in Snamenskoye. And people in uniform made their appearance in the
village, but they found nothing, for neither the village houses nor the
stolid faces of the villagers revealed anything to them, and they drove
back to town tinkling with their sleigh bells.

But after this visit the rumors became still more persistent and
malicious, while Father Vassily continued to serve mass every morning
as heretofore.


The long evenings of winter time Father Vassily passed in solitude with
the idiot, imprisoned together with him in the white cage of pine log
walls and ceiling, as though locked in a shell.

From the past he had retained a love for bright lights--and on the
table, warming the room, blazed a large oil lamp with a big-bellied
globe. The window panes frozen outside and frosted within reflected
the light of the lamp and sparkled, but were impenetrably opaque like
the walls and cut off the people from the greying night outside. Like
a boundless sphere the night enveloped the house, crushing it from
above, seeking some crevice through which to plunge its greyish claws,
but finding none. It raged about the doors, tapped the walls with its
lifeless hands, exhaling a murderous cold, wrathfully raised a myriad
of dry and spiteful snowflakes, flinging them frenziedly against the
windowpanes, and frantically ran back into the fields, cavorting,
singing and leaping headlong into snowbanks, clutching the stiffened
earth in its crosslike embrace. Then it rose and squatted on its
haunches and silently gazed into the illuminated windows gnashing its
teeth. And once more shrilly shrieking it flung itself against the
house, bellowing into the chimney with a greedy howl of insatiable
hatred and longing, and it lied: it had no children, it had devoured
them all and buried them out in the field in the field--in the field.

"A snowstorm," said Father Vassily stopping to listen for a moment and
turning his eyes back to his reading.

But it found them. The flame of the big lamp melted a circle in the
frosty armor, and the damp window pane glistened and it glued its grey
wan eye to the exposed spot. "Two of them--two--two--just two." Rough,
bare walls with the shining drops of amber sap, the radiant emptiness
of air and the humans--two of them.

With the narrow little skull bending over his work the idiot sat at
the table pasting little boxes out of cardboard: he was spreading on
the paste, holding the tip of the brush in his long narrow hand, or
else he was cutting up the cardboard and the click of the scissors
resounded noisily through the barren house. The boxes came out all
askew and dirty, with overlapping bands that refused to stick, but the
idiot was unconscious of these defects and continued to work. Now and
then he raised his head and with a motionless glance from beneath his
narrow brutish eyelids he gazed into the radiant emptiness of the room,
wherein a riot of sounds was fighting, whirling and circling. Rustling,
rattling, crackling, booming, explosive sounds they were, mingling with
someone's laughter and long drawn out, protracted sighing. They were
hovering over him, running over his face like invisible cobwebs, and
penetrating into his head--those rustling, crackling, sighing sounds.
And the man on the other side of the table was motionless and silent.

"Bang!" crackled the drying wood, and Father Vassily shivered and tore
his eyes from the white page before him. And then he saw the bare
rough walls, and the desolate windows and the grey eye of the night,
and the idiot frozen in a listening attitude with a pair of shears
in his hands. All this flitted past him like a vision, and once more
before his lowered eyes spread the unfathomable world of the marvelous,
the world of love, the world of gentle compassion and of beautiful

"Pa-pa," the idiot mumbled the word which he had recently learned, and
looked at his father askance, angrily, worriedly. But the man heard not
and was silent, and his luminous face seemed inspired. He was dreaming
the wondrous dreams of a madness that was brilliant as the sun. He
believed with the faith of those martyrs who enter upon the stake as
upon a couch of joy and die with a doxology on their lips. And he loved
with the mighty and unrestrained love of the master who rules life and
death and knows not the torture of the tragic impotence of human love.

"Pa-pa, Pa-pa!" once more mumbled the idiot, and receiving no reply
took up his shears again. But he soon dropped them again, staring with
motionless eyes and pricking up his outstanding ears to catch the
sounds as they flitted past him. Hissing and rustling, laughter and
whistling. And laughter. The night was in a playful mood. It squatted
on the beams of the unfinished framework, rocking on the rafters and
tumbling into the snow; it quietly stole into nooks and crannies, and
there dug graves for those strangers, those strangers. And joyously
it whirled up aloft, spreading its grey, wide wings, peering; then it
tumbled again like a rock, or circling whizzed through the darkened
window openings of the frosty framework, hissing and screaming. It was
chasing the snowflakes--pallid with fear they silently sped onward in
headlong flight.

"Pa-pa," the idiot shouted loudly. "Pa-pa!"

The man heard and raised his head with the long, black, greying
locks that encircled his face like the night and the snow. For a
moment before him rose again the bare, rough walls and the spiteful
and frightened face of the idiot and the screaming of the rioting
snowstorm, filling his heart with agonized elation. It is done--it is

"What is it, Vassily? Paste your boxes."


"Be calm. The snowstorm? Yes, yes, the snowstorm!"

Father Vassily clung to the window--eye to eye with the greying night.
He peered. And he whispered in terrified wonderment:

"Why doesn't he ring the bell?[9] What if some one is lost in the

The night is sobbing. In the field--in the field--in the field.

"Wait, Vassily. I'll walk over to Nicon's. I'll return at once."


The door rattles, letting in a flood of new sounds. They first timidly
edge their way near the door--no one is there. It is bright and empty.
One by one they steal towards the idiot, groping along the ceiling,
along the floor, along the walls. They peer into his brutish eyes, they
whisper, they laugh, they commence to play with growing glee, with
growing abandon. They chase one another, leaping and stumbling. They
are doing something in the adjoining room, fighting and screaming. No
one there. Light and emptiness. No one there.

"Boom!" somewhere overhead falls the first heavy note of the church
bell scattering the myriad of frightened sounds into flight. "Boom!"
goes the bell once more, with a second, muffled, viscid, scattered
sound, as though an onrush of wind had caught the broad maw of the
bell, and it choked and groaned. And the tiny sounds flee precipitously.

"And here am I again," says Father Vassily. He is all white and
shivering. The stiff, red fingers cannot turn the page. He blows on
them, rubs them together, and once more the pages rustle and all
disappears, the bare rough walls, the repulsive mask of the idiot and
the measured knell of the church bell. Once more his face is ablaze
with joyous madness. "Glory, glory!"


The night is playing with the bell. Catching its thickly reverberating
notes, weaving about them a network of whizzing and whistling
sounds, tearing them to pieces, scattering them abroad, rolling them
ponderously over the fields, burying them in the snow, and listening
with the head askew. And once more it rushes to meet the new clangor,
tireless, spiteful and cunning like Satan.

"Pa-pa!" cried the idiot throwing to the ground the shears with a bang.

"What is it? Be quiet!"


Silence in the room, the whizzing and wrathful his-, sing of the
snowstorm outside, and the dull, viscid sounds of the bell. The idiot
is slowly turning his head, and his thin, lifeless legs, with the
curving toes and the tender soles that have never known contact with
firm ground stir feebly and impotently strive to flee. And he calls


"All right. Stop.... Listen, I will read you something."

Father Vassily turned back the page and began with a grave and severe
voice, as though reading in church:

"And as He passed by He saw a man who was blind from birth. He raised
his hand and with blanched cheeks looked up at Vassya.

"Understand: BLIND FROM BIRTH. Had never seen the light of the sun, the
face of his near ones and dear ones. He had come into the world and
darkness had enveloped him. Poor man! Blind man!"

The voice of the priest resounds with the firmness of faith and with
the transport of sated compassion. He is silent, he is staring ahead
with a softly smiling gaze as though he cannot part with this poor
man who was blind from birth and had never seen the face of a friend
and had never thought that the grace of God was so nigh. Grace--and
mercy--and mercy.


"But listen, son. 'His disciples asked Him: Master who did sin, this
man or his parents that he was born blind? Jesus answered: neither hath
this man sinned, nor his parents, but that the works of God should be
made manifest in him.'"

The voice of the priest gathers strength and fills the barren room with
its reverberations. And its sonorous sounds pierce the soft purring and
hissing and whistling and the lingering cracked tolling of the choking
church bell. The idiot is filled with glee over the flaming voice and
the brilliant eyes and the noise and the whistling and the booming. He
slaps his outstanding ears, he hums, and two streams of viscid saliva
flow in two dirty currents to his receding chin.

"Pa-pa! Pa-pa!"

"Listen, listen: 'I must work the work of Him that sent me while it is
day; the night cometh when no man can work. As long as I am in the
world, I am the light of the world.' Forever and ever for ever and
ever!" into the teeth of the night and of the snowstorm he flings a
passionately ringing challenge. "For ever and ever!" The church-bell is
calling to the wanderers, and impotently weeps its aged broken voice.
And the night is swinging on its black, blind notes: "Two of them, two
of them, two-two-two!"

Dimly Father Vassily hears it and with a stern reproof he turns to the

"Stop that mumbling!"

But the idiot is silent, and once more eyeing him dubiously Father
Vassily continues:

"I am the light of the world. When he had thus spoken, he spat on the
ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the
blind man with the clay. And said unto him, Go wash in the pool of
Siloam. He went his way therefore,--and washed, and came seeing."

"SEEING! Vassya, SEEING!" menacingly cried the priest and leaping from
his seat he began to pace the floor swiftly. Then he stopped in the
center of the room and loudly cried:

"I believe, O Lord, I believe."

And all was still. But a loud galloping peal of laughter broke the
silence, striking the priest's back. And he turned about terrified.

"What sayest thou?" he asked in fear, stepping back. The idiot was
laughing. The senseless, ominous laughter had torn his immense immobile
mask from ear to ear and out of the wide chasm of his mouth rushed
unrestrained, galloping peals of oddly vacant laughter. "Ha-ha-ha-ha!"


On the eve of Whitsunday, the bright and happy festival of spring time,
the peasants were digging sand to strew over the village roadways.
The peasants of Snamenskoye had for several years past carted huge
supplies of rich red sand from pits located a distance of two versts
from their village, in a clearing which they had made in a dense
wood of low birch, pine and young oak trees. It was in the beginning
of June, but the grass was already waist high, hiding half-way the
luxuriant and mighty verdure of the riotous bushes and their humid,
green, broad foliage. And there were many flowers that year, with a
multitude of bees flitting from blossom to blossom. The bees poured
their rhythmical, ardent humming, the flowers shed their sweetly plain
fragrance down the crumbling, sliding slopes of the excavation. For
several days the air had been heavy with the threat of a storm. It
was felt in the heated, windless atmosphere, in the dewless, stifling
nights; the anguished cattle called for it, pleadingly lowed for it
with stretched-out heads. And the people were gasping for breath, but
abnormally elated. The motionless air crushed and depressed them, but
something restless was urging them on to movement, to loud, abrupt
conversation, to causeless laughter.

Two men were at work in the pits, Nicon, the verger, who was taking
sand for the church, and the village elder's laborer, Semen Mossyagin.
Ivan Porfyritch loved an abundance of sand both in the street in f-out
of his house and all over his cobblestone yard, and Semen had taken
away one cartload in the morning and was now loading another wagon,
briskly throwing up shovelfuls of golden, ruddy sand. He rejoiced in
the heat and in the humming, in the fragrance and in the pleasure of
toil: he looked up with a challenge into the face of the morose verger
who was lazily scratching up the surface of the sand with a toothless
scraper, and he mocked him:

"Well, old friend, Nicon Ivanytch, we're doomed to blush unseen."

"Say that again," replied the verger with a lazy and indefinite menace,
and as he spoke the pipe which he was smoking dropped from his mouth
into the grey undergrowth of his beard and threatened to fall.

"Look out, you'll lose your pipe," Semen warned him.

Nicon did not reply, and Semen, unabashed, continued to dig. During
the six months which he had spent in the service of Ivan Porfyritch
he had grown smooth and round like a cucumber, and his simple tasks
came nowhere near exhausting his overabundance of vigor and energy.
He alertly attacked the sand, digging in and throwing it up with the
agility and swiftness of a hen scratching for grain; he gathered the
golden gleaming sand, shaking up the spade like a wide and garrulous
tongue. But the pit from which many cartloads had been taken the day
before seemed exhausted and Semen resolutely spat out.

"Can't dig much here. Shall I try yonder?" he glanced up at a low
little cave which had been dug in the crumbling sloping side of the pit
and in which he saw a motley series of red and greenish grey layers,
and he determinedly walked towards it.

The verger looked at the little cave and thought: "It might slide," yet
he did not say a word. But Semen sensed the peril in the instinctive
onrush of a vague anxiety which overcame him like a sudden attack of
passing nausea and he stopped:

"Do you think it will slide on me?" he asked as he turned around.

"How should I know?" replied the verger.

In the deep recesses of the cave--which resembled a yawning mouth,
there was something treacherous, something traplike, and Semen wavered.
But from above, where the leaves of a young oak tree were sharply
outlined against the azure sky, he caught the stimulating whiff of
fresh foliage and blossoms, and this stimulating fragrance incited to
gay and daring deeds. Semen spat rut into his palm, seized his shovel,
but after the second thrust a faint crunch was heard, and the whole
slope of the excavation slid down without a sound and buried him. And
only the young tree which barely hung on by its roots feebly moved its
leaves, while a round lump of dried sand looking so bland and innocent
rolled over to the feet of the verger from whose cheeks all color had
fled. Two hours later Semen was taken out dead. His broad open mouth,
with the clean and pearly teeth, was stuffed tight with the golden
gleaming sand. And all over his face, amid the white eyelashes of his
hollow eyes, mingled with his sunny hair and the flaming red beard
glistened the gold of the beautiful sand. And still the tangled mass of
his auburn hair was whirling and dancing, and the gay absurdity, the
daredevil merriment v of that dance around the pallid face that had
settled into the rigor of death created the impression of a fiendish

With the curious throng attracted by the news of the accident, Senka,
the little son of the perished man, had come on the run. No one thought
of giving him a lift, and he had run the whole way in the rear of the
village wagons; while his father's body was being released from the
slide, he was standing aside on a mound of clay, motionless, breathing
heavily, and as immobile were his eyes with which he devoured the
melting avalanche of sand.

The dead man was laid on a wagon, atop of the golden load of sand which
he himself had thrown upon it; they covered the body with a mat, and
drove away at a slow pace over the rutty forest road. In the rear of
the funeral wagon stolidly strode the villagers scattering in groups
among trees, and their blouses struck by the rays of the sun flashed
crimson through the wood. When the cortege passed the two-story house
of Ivan Porfyritch the verger suggested that the corpse be taken to his

"He was his farmhand, let him bury him."

But not a soul was to be seen either in the windows or about the house
and the shop was locked with a ponderous iron padlock. For a long time
they knocked against the massive gates decorated with black flatheaded
nails, then they rang the sonorous doorbell, and its reverberating
echoes resounded sharply and loudly somewhere around the corner, but
though the court dogs yelled themselves hoarse, for a long time no
one came. Finally an old scullery woman came out and announced that
her master ordered the body to be taken to the dead man's home, and
promised to donate the sum of ten roubles towards funeral expenses,
without deducting the gift from the earnings of the deceased. While
she was arguing with the throng outside, Ivan Porfyritch himself,
frightened to death and wrathful, was standing behind the curtains,
gazing with a shudder upon the mat that covered the corpse and he
whispered to his wife:

"Remember, if that priest offers me a million roubles I shall not shake
hands with him, I'd sooner see it wither away. He is a terrible man."

And no one knew why, whether because of the churchwarden's mysterious
words or from some other source, confused and ominous rumors swiftly
appeared in the village and crept back and forth like hissing snakes.
The villagers talked of Semen, of his sudden and terrible death, and
they thought of the priest, not knowing what they were expecting of
him. When Father Vassily started on his way to the requiem mass, pale
and burdened by vague musings, but cheery and smiling, the people in
his path stepped aside giving him a wide berth, and for a long time
wavered before they dared to step upon a spot where his heavy footsteps
had burned an invisible trace. They remembered the fire in his house
and talked of it at great length. They recalled the Popadya who had
burned to death and her son, the crippled idiot, and back of plain,
clear words scurried the sharp thorns of fear. Some woman sobbed out
aloud with a vague, overwhelming compassion, and went away. Those who
stayed back for a long time watched her departing sobshaken back,
then in silence, avoiding to look at one another, they dispersed. The
youngsters, reflecting the agitation of their elders, gathered at
dusk on the threshing floor and were exchanging fanciful tales of the
dead man, while their bulging eyes sparkled darkly. Cozily familiar
irritated parental voices had been calling them to their homes for
a long time, but their bare feet were loth to make a homeward dash
through the gruesome diaphanous dusk of evening. And during the two
days which preceded the funeral there was a ceaseless stream of
villagers wending their way to view the corpse that was puffed-up and
rapidly turning blue.

The two nights before the funeral the earth had been exhaling a breath
of the most intense torridity, and the dry meadows consumed beneath
the merciless heat of the sun were bare of vegetation. The sky was
clear and dark, few stars were out and these shone dimly. And above all
reigned on all sides the ceaseless chatter of the crickets. When after
the memorial vesper service Father Vassily emerged from the hut, it was
dark already, and the sleepy street was unlighted. Stifled with the
close atmosphere, the priest had taken off his broad-rimmed hat and was
walking with a noiseless stride as though over a soft and downy carpet.
And it was rather from a vague sense of instinctive anxiety than from
the sense of hearing that he realized that someone was following him,
evidently suiting his stride to his own deliberate gait. The priest
stopped, the pursuer who had not expected this, advanced a few steps
and also stopped rather abruptly.

"Who is this?" asked Father Vassily.

The man was silent. Then he suddenly veered around, and swiftly retired
without decreasing his pace, and a moment later he was lost in the
trackless gloom of the night.

The same thing happened the following night; a tall, dark man followed
the priest to the very gate or Ids house, and something in the bearing
and in the stride of the heavily built stranger reminded the priest of
Ivan Porfyritch, the churchwarden.

"Ivan Porfyritch, is it you?" he called. But the stranger did not reply
and departed. And as Father Vassily was retiring for the night someone
tapped softly at his window. The priest looked out, but not a soul was
to be seen. "Why#is he roaming about like an evil spirit?" thought the
priest in annoyance, making ready to kneel down for his protracted
devotions. And lost in prayer he forgot the churchwarden and the night
that was restlessly spreading over the earth, and himself; he was
praying for the deceased, for his wife and children, for the bestowal
of the great mercy of God upon the earth and its inhabitants. And in
fathomless sunny depths a new world was assuming vague outlines, and
this world was earth no more.

While he was praying the idiot had slipped from his bed, noisily
shuffling his reviving but still feeble legs. He had learned to crawl
in the beginning of the spring, and frequently on returning home Father
Vassily found him on the threshold, sitting motionless like a dog
before the locked door. Now he had started towards the open window,
moving slowly, with much effort, and shaking his head intently. He had
reached it, and hooking his powerful prehensile hands in the window
sill he raised himself up and peered sullenly, greedily into the
darkness. He was listening to something.

Mossyagin was to be buried on Whitmonday, and the day dawned
ominous and uncertain, as though the confusion of people had found
its counterpart in the formless confusion of nature. It had been
oppressively hot since morning, the very grass seemed to curl'up and
wither before one's eyes as though seared by a merciless fire. And the
dense opaque sky impended threateningly ever the earth, and its filmy
blue seemed to be zigzagged with thin veins of bloody red, so ruddy
it was, so sonorous with metallic nuances and shades. The enormous
sun was blazing with heat, and it was so strange to see it shine so
brightly, while nowhere the sharply defined and restful shadows of a
sunny day were to be found, as though between sun and earth hung some
invisible but none the less solid curtain intercepting its rays.
And over all reigned a stillness that was mute and ponderous, as
though an invalid had lost himself in a labyrinth of musing, and with
drooping eyelids had lapsed into silence. Grey rows of young birches
with withered leaves, cut down with the roots, stretched through the
village in serried ranks, and this aimless procession of young grey
trees, perishing from thirst and fire and spectrelike refusing to cast
shadows, filled the mind with sadness and vague forebodings. The golden
grains of sand that had been scattered over the roadways had long since
turned into yellow dust, and the refuse of festive sunflower pips of
the day before surprised the eye: it babbled of something peaceful,
simple and pleasant, while all that had remained in paralyzed nature
seemed so stern, so morbid, so pensive, so menacing.

While Father Vassily was donning his raiments Ivan Porfyritch entered
into the altar enclosure. Through the sweat and the purpling flush
of heat that covered his face timidly peered a grey earthy pallor.
His eyes were swollen, and burning feverishly. His hurriedly combed
hair, matted with cider, had dried in spots and stuck out in confused
thickets, as though the man had not slept for several nights, wallowing
in the throes of superhuman terror. He seemed somehow unkempt and
distracted; he had forgotten the niceties of human intercourse, failing
to ask the priest's blessing or even to salute him.

"What is the matter with you, Ivan Porfyritch? Are you ill?" Father
Vassily inquired sympathetically, adjusting his flowing hair that had
caught in the stiff neckpiece of his chasuble; in spite of the heat his
face was pale and concentrated.

The churchwarden made an attempt at a smile.

"Just so. Nothing important. I wanted to have a talk with you, Father."

"Was it you--last night?"

"Yes, and the night before, too. Pardon me, I had no intention...."

He heaved a deep sigh and once more oblivious of niceties, he openly
blurted out trembling with fear:

"I am scared. I have never been scared before in my life. And now I am
scared. I am scared."

"Of what?" asked the priest in amazement.

Ivan Porfyritch looked over the priest's shoulder as though someone,
silent and dreadful, were hiding behind him, and continued:


They were regarding one another in silence.

"Death. It's got to my household. Without rime or reason it will carry
off all of us. All of us! Why in my home not a hen dare die without
cause: if I order chicken soup, a hen dies, not otherwise. And what Is
this now? Is that proper order? Pardon me, but at first I had not even
guessed it. Pardon me."

"You mean Semen?"

"Whom else? Sidor or Yevstigney?[10] Say, you listen to me, lad,"
coarsely continued the churchwarden, out of his mind with terror and
wrath. "Leave these tricks be. We're no fools here. Get out of here
while the going is good. Away with you."

He swung his head with an energetic nod in the direction of the door
and added:

"And be lively about it."

"What's the matter with you? Have you lost your mind?"

"We'll see who's lost his mind, you or I. What devil's tricks is this
you carry on here every morning? 'I'm praying! I'm praying!'"--he
nasally mimicked the liturgical intonation. "This is no way to pray.
Bide your time, bear up patiently, don't come with your I'm praying.
You're a pagan, a self-willed rebel, bending things to suit yourself.
And now you're bent in return: what's become of Semen? Where is Semen?
I ask. Why have you destroyed him? Where is Semen, tell me."

He roughly rushed towards the priest and heard a curt, stern warning:

"Away form the altar, blasphemer!"

Purple with wrath Ivan Porfyritch looked down upon the priest from his
towering height and froze rigid with his mouth wide-open. Upon him
gazed abysmally a pair of deep eyes, black and dreadful like the ooze
of a sucking swamp, and some strange and abundant life was throbbing
behind them, some one's menacing will issued forth from behind them
like a sharpened sword. Eyes alone. Neither face nor body saw Ivan
Porfyritch, but only eyes, immense like a house wall, high as the
altar; gaping, mysterious, commanding eyes were gazing upon him, and as
though seared by a consuming flame he unconsciously wrung his hands and
fled knocking his massive shoulder against the partition. And in his
fear-chilled spine, through the thick masonry of the church walls, he
still felt the piercing sting of those black and dreadful eyes.


They were entering the church with cautious steps and took up their
stations wherever they chanced to be, not where they usually stood at
service, where they liked or where they were accustomed to stand, as
though finding it improper or wicked on a day of such awe and anguish
to stick to trifling habits or to take thought of trivial comforts.
And they took up their stations, hesitating a long time ere daring to
turn their heads in order to look around. The church was crowded to
suffocation, yet ever fresh rows of silent newcomers pressed from the
rear. And all were silent, all were gloomily, anxiously expectant, and
the crowded nearness of fellow-creatures gave no sense of security.
Elbow was touching upon elbow and yet it seemed to each one that he was
standing alone in a boundless waste. Drawn by strange rumors men from
distant villages, from strange parishes had come to the little church;
these were bolder and spoke at first in loud tones, but they too soon
lapsed into silence, with resentful amazement, but impotent like the
rest to break through the invisible chains of leaden stillness. Every
one of the lofty stained windows was opened to admit air, and through
them gazed the threatening coppery sky. It seemed to be sulkily peering
from window to window, casting over all a dry, metallic reflection. And
in this scattered and depressing, but none the less glaring light the
old gilt of the image stand shone with a dull and irresolute lustre,
irritating the eye with the chaotic haziness of the saints' features.
Back of one of the windows a young maple tree greened motionless
and dry, and many eyes were riveted upon its broad leaves that were
slightly curled with the heat. They seemed like friends, old, restful
friends in this oppressive silence, in this repressed hubbub of
feelings, amid these yellow mocking images.

And above all the familiar, restful odors of church, above the sweet
fragrance of incense and wax reigned the pronounced, repulsive and
terrible smell of corruption. The corpse had been rapidly decomposing,
and it was nauseatingly terrible to approach the black coffin which
contained the decaying mass of rotting and stinking flesh. It was
terrible merely to approach it, but around it four persons stood
motionless like the coffin itself: the widow and the three now
fatherless children. Perhaps they too smelt the stench, but they
refused to believe in it. Or perhaps they smelt nothing and fancied
that they were burying their dear one alive, even as most folks think
when death swiftly and unexpectedly snatches away one who is near and
dear and is so inseparable from their very life. But they were silent,
and all was still, and the threatening coppery sky peered from window
to window over the heads of the crowd scattering about its dry and
distracted glances.

When the requiem mass had begun, with its wonted solemn simplicity,
and the portly and kindhearted deacon had swung his censer into the
throng--all breathed freely with the relief of elation. Some exchanged
whispers; others more resolute heavily shuffled their benumbed feet;
still others, who were nearest to the doors slipped out to the church
steps for a rest and a smoke. But smoking and calmly exchanging small
talk about harvests, the threatening drouth and money matters, they
suddenly bethought themselves and fearing lest something momentous and
unexpected might occur within while they were away, they flung aside
the stubs of their cigarettes and rushed back into the church, using
their shoulders as a wedge to break through the crowd. And then they
stopped. The service was proceeding with a solemn simplicity; the aged
deacon was coughing and clearing his throat before each sentence and
warningly shaking a stubby fat forefinger whenever his gaze discovered
a whispering pair in the throng. Those who had stepped outside before
the close of the requiem mass had observed that over the forest,
towards the sun, a hazily blue cloud had risen up in the sky, gradually
growing dark under the rays of the sun, and they crossed themselves
joyfully. Among them was also Ivan Porfyritch; pale and ailing he
looked, but he also made the sign of the cross when he saw the cloud,
but immediately lowered his eyes with a sullen air.

In the brief interval between the mass and the allocution to the
corpse, while Father Vassily was donning his black velvet cassock, the
deacon smacked his lips and said:

"A little ice would come in handy, for he smells rather strong. But
where can you get ice? In my opinion it is well to keep a supply in the
church for such cases. You might tell the churchwarden."

"He smells?" dully said the priest.

"Don't you notice it? You must have a fine nose! I'm simply done for.
It will take a week in this hot spell to get the stench out of the
church. Just take notice. I've got the smell in my beard, I swear."

He held the tip of his grey beard to his nose, smelt it and said

"Such people!"

Then commenced the chanting. And once more the leaden silence oppressed
the crowd and chained each one to his place, cutting him off from among
his fellow-men, surrendering him a prey to agonizing expectancy. The
old verger was chanting. He had seen the coming of death to him who was
now reposing in the black coffin and frightening the attending throng.
He clearly recalled the innocent lump of dried earth and the young
oak tree that trembled with its finely carved leaves, and the old,
familiar, lugubrious words came to life in his mumbling mouth and hit
the mark surely and painfully. And he was thinking of the priest with
anxiety and sorrow, for in these impending hours of horror he alone of
all other people loved Father Vassily with a shy and tender affection
and he was close to his great rebellious soul.

"Verily all is vanity, and life is shadow and dreams; for whoso is born
of earth striveth for all things, but the Scripture sayeth that when
we gain the world we gain the grave, where together dwelleth the king
and the beggar. O Lord Christ, give peace to thy servant, for Thou art
a lover of mankind Darkness was falling upon the church, the purpling
blue ominous darkness of an eclipse, and all had sensed it long before
any eye had discovered it. And only those whose eyes were riveted
upon the friendly foliage of the maple tree outside had noticed that
something cast-iron grey and shaggy had crept up behind it, peered into
the church with lifeless eyes and resumed it climb to the cross of the

"... where there are worldly passions, where there are the dreams of
timeservers, where there is gold and silver, where there is a multitude
of slaves and fame, all is dust and ashes and shadows," quivered the
bitter words on senile trembling lips.

Everyone had now noticed the gathering gloom and turned to the window.
Back of the maple tree the sky v was black and the broad leaves looked
no longer green. They had grown pale, and in their frightened rigid
appearance there was nothing left that was friendly and reassuring.
Seeking comfort the people looked into their neighbors' faces, and
all faces were ashen-grey, all faces were pale and unfamiliar. And it
seemed that the whole of that darkness--pouring through the opened
windows in broad and silent streams, had concentrated itself in the
blackness of that coffin and in the black-garbed priest: so black was
the silent coffin, so black was that man--tall, frigid and stem. Surely
and calmly he moved about, and the blackness of his garb seemed like
the source of light amid the lack-lustre gilt, the ashen-grey faces
and the lofty windows that disseminated gloom. But moment by moment a
puzzling hesitancy and irresoluteness seemed to take hold of him; he
slowed down his steps and extending his neck regarded the throng in
surprise, as though he was startled to find this transfixed multitude
in the church where he was wont to worship in solitude; then forgetting
the multitude, forgetting that he was the celebrant he made his way
distractedly into the altar enclosure; he seemed to be inwardly torn in
two; he seemed to be waiting a word, a command or a mighty, all-solving
sensation--and neither would come.

"I weep and I sob as I contemplate death and see reclining in coffins
our beauty that was created in the image of God and is now become
formless, inglorious and unsightly. O marvel! What is this mystery that
surroundeth us? How are we surrendered unto corruption? How are we
subjugated unto death? Verily by the word of God...."

Brightly gleamed the tapers in the gathering gloom as though in the
dusk of eve, casting ruddy reflections upon the faces of the people,
and many had noticed this sudden transition from day to night while
it was high noon. Father Vassily too had sensed the darkness without
comprehending it; the queer notion had entered his head that it was the
dark of the early winter morning when he remained alone with God, and
one great and mighty feeling had given wings to his soul--like a bird,
like an arrow flying unerringly towards its goal. And he trembled,
unseeing like a blind man, but on the point of receiving sight. Myriads
of fugitive and tangled thoughts, myriads of undefined sensations
slowed up their frenzied flight--stopped--died away--a moment of
terrible nothingness, precipitous falling, death, and something rose
up within his breast, something immense, something undreamt of in its
joyous glory, in its wondrous beauty. The heart that had stood still
was thumping forth its first beats, painfully, laboriously, but he
already knew. It had come! It, the mighty, all-solving sensation,
master over life and death, able to command to the mountains: "Move
from your place!" and the hoary and cranky mountains must move. Glory,
ineffable glory! He is gazing upon the coffin, into the church, upon
the faces of people and he comprehends--he comprehends everything with
that wonderful penetration into the depth of things which is possible
only in dreams and which disappears without a trace at the approach of
light. So that was it! That was the great solution! Glory! Glory! Glory!

He laughs out loudly and hoarsely, he sees the frightened expression of
the deacon who had warningly raised his finger, he sees the crouching
backs of the people who having heard his laughter burrow gangways
through the crowd like worms, and he claps his hand over his mouth like
a guilty schoolboy.

"I won't any more," he whispers into the deacon's ear, while insane
rejoicing is fairly splashing fire from every pore of his face. And he
weeps, covering his face with his hands.

"Take some drops, some drops, Father Vassily," the distracted deacon
whispers into his ear and desperately exclaims: "Lord, Lord, how out of
place! Listen, Father Vassily!"

The priest moves his folded hands an inch or two from his face, and
looks from behind their shelter askance at the deacon. The deacon with
a shiver, edges away on tiptoe, feels his way to the gate with his
belly, and groping for the door emerges out of the altar enclosure.

"Come, let us give our last kiss, brethren, to the departed one, giving
thanks unto God...." A commotion ensues in the church; some depart
stealthily without exchanging any words with those who remain, and the
darkened church is now only comfortably filled. Only about the black
coffin is the surge of I a silent throng, people are making the sign of
the cross, bending their heads over something dreadful and repulsive
and moving away with wry countenances. The widow is parting from her
husband. She now believes in his death and she is conscious of the
nauseating odor, but her eyes are locked to tears and there is no voice
in her throat. And the children are watching her with three pairs of
silent eyes.

And while the people watched the deacon plunging worriedly through the
congregation, Father Vassily had come out into the chancel and stood
eyeing the crowd. And those who saw him in that moment had indelibly
engraved in their memory his striking appearance. He was holding on
with his hands to the railing so convulsively that the tips of his
fingers turned livid; with I neck outstretched, the whole of his body
bent over the railing, and pouring himself into one immense glance he
riveted it upon the spot where the widow stood beside her children. And
it was queer to see him, for it seemed as though he delighted in her
boundless anguish, so cheerful, so radiant, so daringly happy was his
impetuous glance.

"What partings, O brethren, what weepings, what sobbing in this present
hour; come hither, imprint a kiss upon the brow of him who from his
early youth hath dwelt among you, for he is now to be consigned to his
grave, surmounted by a stone, to take up his dwelling in the darkness,
being buried with the dead, parting from his kin and his friends...."

"Stop, thou madman!" an agonized voice came from the chancel. "Canst
thou not see there is none dead among us?"

And here occurred that mad and great event for which all had been
waiting with such dread and such mystery. Father Vassily flung open the
clanging gate, and strode through the crowd cutting its motley array;
of colors with the solemn black of his attire and made! his way to
the black, silently waiting coffin. He stopped, raised his right hand
commandingly and hurriedly said to the decomposing corpse:

"I say unto thee: Arise."

In the wake of these words came confusion, noise, screams, cries of
mortal terror. In a panic of fear the people rushed to the doors,
transformed into a herd of frightened beasts. They clutched at one
another, threatened one another with gnashing teeth, choking and
roaring. And they poured out of the door with the slowness of water
trickling out of an overturned bottle. There remained only the verger
who had dropped his book, the widow with her children, and Ivan
Porfyritch. The latter glanced a moment at the priest and leaping from
his place cut his way into the rear of the departing throng, bellowing
with wrath and fear.

With the radiant and benign smile of compassion towards their unbelief
and fear--all aglow with the might of limitless faith, Father Vassily
repeated for the second time with solemn and regal simplicity:

"I say unto thee, Arise!"

But still is the corpse and its tightly locked lips are
dispassionately guarding the secret of Eternity. And silence. Not a
sound is heard in the deserted church. But now the resonant clatter
of scattered frightened footsteps over the flagstones of the church:
the widow and the orphans are going. In their wake flees the verger,
stopping for an instant in the doorway he wrings his hands, and silence
once more.

"It is better so. How can he rise in this state before his wife and
children swiftly flits through Father Vassily's mind, and for the third
and last time he commands, softly and sternly:

"Simeon, I say unto thee: Arise!"

Slowly sinks his hand, he is waiting. Someone's footsteps rustle in the
sand just outside of the window and the sound seems so near as though
it came from the coffin. He is waiting. The footsteps come nearer and
nearer, pass the window and die away. And stillness, and a protracted
agonized sigh. Who is sighing? He is bending over the coffin, seeking
a movement of life in the puffed up and formless face; he commands to
the eyes: "But open ye, I say," bends still lower, closer and closer,
clutches the edges of the coffin with his hands, almost touching the
livid lips and trying to breathe the breath of life into them, and the
shaken corpse replies with the coldly ferocious fetid exhalation of

He reels back in silence and for an instant sees and comprehends all.
He smells the terrible odor; he realizes that the people had fled in
terror, that in the church there are only he and the corpse; he sees
the darkness beyond the window, but does not comprehend its nature. A
memory of something horribly distant flashes through' his mind, of some
vernal laughter that had been ringing in a dim past and then died away.
He remembers the snowstorm. The church bell and the snowstorm. And
the immobile mask of the idiot. Two of them.... Two of them.... Two of

And once more all is gone. The lacklustre eyes are once again ablaze
with cold and leaping fires, the sinewy body is bursting once more
with a sense of power and of iron firmness. Hiding his eyes beneath
the stony arch of his brows, he says calmly, calmly, softly, softly as
though fearing to wake a sleeper:

"Wouldst thou cheat me?"

And he lapses into silence, with downcast eyes, as though waiting for
an answer. And once more he speaks softly, softly, with that ominous
distinctness of a storm when all nature has bowed to its power and it
is dillydallying, tenderly, regally rocking a tiny flake in the air.

"Then why did I believe?"

"Then why didst Thou give me love towards people and compassion? To
mock me?"

"Then why hast Thou kept me all my life in captivity, in servitude, in
fetters? Not a free thought! Not a feeling! Not a sigh! THOU alone, all
for THEE! THOU only. Come then, I am waiting for Thee!"

And in the posture of haughty humility he waits an answer--alone before
the black and malignantly triumphant coffin, alone before the menacing
face of fathomless and majestic stillness. Alone. The lights of the
tapers pierce the darkness like immobile spears, and somewhere in the
distance the fleeing storm mockingly chants: "Two of them.. Two of
them.." Stillness.

"Thou wilt not?" he asks still softly and humbly, but suddenly cries
out with a frenzied scream, rolling his eyes, imparting to his face
that candor of expression which is characteristic of insanity or of
profound slumber. He cries out, drowning with his cry the menacing
stillness and the ultimate horror of the dying human soul:

"Thou must! Give him back his life! Take it from others, but give it
back to him! I beg of Thee!" Then he turns to the silent corruption of
the corpse and commands it wrathfully, scornfully:

"THOU! THOU ask Him! Ask Him!"

And he cries out blasphemously, madly:

"He needs no paradise. His children are here below. They will call for
him: 'Father!' And he will say to Thee: 'Take from my head my heavenly
crown, for there below the heads of my children are covered with dust
and dirt. Thus he will speak!"

Wrathfully he shakes the heavy black coffin and cries:

"But speak thou, speak, accursed flesh!"

He looks with amazement, intently. And in mute horror he reels backward
throwing up his swelling arms in self-defence. Semen is not in the
coffin. There is no corpse in the coffin. The idiot is lying there.
Clutching with his rapacious fingers at its edges, he has slightly
raised his monstrous head, looking askance at the priest with eyes
screwed up, and all about the distended nostrils, all about the
enormous tightly compressed mouth' plays the silent dawn of coming
laughter. Not a sound he utters, but keeps gazing and slowly creeping
out of the coffin--inexpressibly terrible in the incomprehensible
fusion of eternal life with eternal death.

"Back!" cries Father Vassily and his head swells to enormous
proportions as he feels his hair stand on end. "Back!"

And once more the motionless corpse. And again the idiot. And the
rotting mass madly alternates this monstrous play and breathes out
horrors. And in maniacal anger he shrieks:

"Wouldst scare me? Then take...."

But his words are unheard. Suddenly, all aglow with blinding light, the
immobile mask is rent from ear to ear and peals of laughter mighty as
the peals of thunder fill the whole silent church. With a loud roar the
mad laughter splits the arching masonry, flinging the stones about like
chips and engulfing in its reverberations the lone man within.

Father Vassily opens his blinded eyes, raises his Lead and sees all
about him crumble. Slowly and ponderously reel the walls and close
together, the vaults slide, the lofty cupola noiselessly collapses, the
stone floor sways and bends, the whole world is being wrecked in its
foundations and disintegrates.

And then with a shrill scream he rushes to the doors, but failing to
find them he whirls and stumbles against walls and sharp corners and
shrieks and shrieks. The door suddenly opens, precipitating him on the
flags outside, but he leaps to his feet with the joy of relief, only
to be caught and held in someone's trembling, prehensile embrace. He
struggles and whines, freeing his hand with maniacal strength; he rains
savage blows upon the head of the verger who is attempting to hold him,
and casting his body aside he rushes into the roadway.

The sky is ablaze with fire. Shaggy clouds are whirling and circling
in the firmament and their combined masses fall down upon the shaken
earth, the universe is crumbling in its foundations. And then from the
fiery whirlpool of chaos the thunderous peals of laughter, the cackle
and cries of savage merriment. In the west a tiny ribbon or azure
is still to be seen, and towards that rift of blue he is rushing in
headlong flight. His legs are caught in the long hairy cassock, he
falls and writhes on the ground, bleeding and terrible to look upon,
and rises and flees once more. The street is desolate as though at
night, not a man, not a creature, neither beast, nor fowl to be seen
near house or window.

"They're all dead," flashes through his mind--his last conscious
thought. He runs out of the village limits into the broad highway. Over
his head the black whirling cloud throws out three lengthy tentacles,
like rapaciously curved fingers; behind him something is roaring with
a dull and threatening bellow. The universe is collapsing in its

Ahead in the distance, a peasant and two women who had been to the
village church are wending their homeward way on their wagon. They
notice the figure of a black-garbed man in precipitous flight; they
stop for a moment, but recognizing the priest they whip up their horse
and gallop away. The wagon leaps high on its springs, with two wheels
up in the air, but the three silently crouching terror-stricken people
desperately whip up the horse and gallop and gallop.

Father Vassily fell about three versts away from the village in the
center of the broad highway. He fell prone, his haggard face buried
in the grey dust which had been ground fine by the wheels of traffic,
trampled by the feet of men and beasts. And in his pose he had retained
the impetuousness of his flight: the white dead hands outstretched, one
leg curled up under the body, the other--clad in an old tattered boot
with the sole worn through long, straight and sinewy, thrown back tense
and taut, as though even in death he still continued his flight.

[Footnote 1: Popadya, the wife of a Russian village priest or "pope,"
is a distinct type in the social world of the Russian village.]

[Footnote 2: Pet name for Vassily.]

[Footnote 3: Diminutive of Anastasia.]

[Footnote 4: The day in the church calendar dedicated to the saint for
whom a Bussian child is named. It is celebrated with more solemnity
than the birthday.]

[Footnote 5: Diminutive of Anastasia.]

[Footnote 6: 1 pood = 36 lbs.]

[Footnote 7: A Russian card game, similar to "Old Maid."]

[Footnote 8: Contemptuous diminutive for Vassily.]

[Footnote 9: The village church bell is rung during a snowstorm to
guide any team or wanderer that may be seeking the road.]

[Footnote 10: Equivalent to "Tom, Dick and Harry."]


On that dread day, when the cosmic injustice was perpetrated, and Jesus
Christ was crucified in the midst of robbers on Golgotha, Ben-Tobith, a
tradesman of Jerusalem, had been suffering since the early hours of the
morning the agonies of an excruciating toothache.

It had started the day before, toward evening; at first his right jaw
had commenced to ache slightly, and one tooth, the extreme tooth next
to the wisdom tooth, seemed to rise a little, and felt painful when
coming in contact with the tongue. After the evening meal, however, the
pain had entirely subsided; Ben-Tobith had forgotten it altogether and
felt no worry about it; that day he had profitably traded his old ass
for a young and strong animal, at a profit, and he was in a merry mood
and did not attach any significance to an evil omen.

And he had slept well and soundly, but before the dawn of day something
commenced to disturb him, as if someone sought to rouse him to attend
to an important matter, and when Ben-Tobith woke up wrathfully, his
teeth were aching, aching defiantly and fiercely, with the excruciating
fury of sharp and throbbing pain. And now it was impossible to tell
whether it was still the tooth of the day before, or whether others had
joined it as well; his mouth and his head were wholly filled with the
dreadful agonizing pain, as though someone forced him to masticate a
thousand red-hot sharply pointed nails.

He took in his mouth a swallow of water from an earthern pitcher; for
an instant the fury of the pain subsided; the teeth twitched with
undulating throbs, and this new sensation seemed even agreeable in
comparison with the pain that had preceded it.

Ben-Tobith lay down again; he bethought himself of his newly purchased
ass; he mused how happy he would it be if it were not for his teeth,
and tried to sleep. But the water was warm; within five minutes the
pain returned, with greater fury than ever, and Ben-Tobith sat up in
his bed, rocking back and forth like a pendulum.

His face was all wrinkles, and something seemed to draw it toward his
huge nose--and from his nose, that had turned livid with agony, hung
a drop of cold perspiration. Thus, rocking back and forth, groaning
with agony, he faced the first rays of that sun which was fated to see
Golgotha with its three crosses and then to be dimmed with horror and

Ben-Tobith was a good and kindly man, who disliked injustice, but when
his wife woke up, he said to her many disagreeable things, barely able
to open his mouth, and complained that he had been left alone like a
jackal to howl and to writhe in pain. His wife bore the undeserved
reproaches with patience, for she knew that they came not from an angry
heart, and she brought him many good remedies: some purified rat dung
to be applied to his cheek, a sharp elixir of scorpion, and a genuine
fragment of the tablets of the law broken by Moses.

A little improvement followed the application of rat dung, though it
did not last long, and the same happened after the use of the elixir
and the stone, but each time the pain returned with added vigor. But
in the brief moments of respite Ben-Tobith comforted himself with the
thoughts of the ass, and mused about him; and when the pain grew worse,
he groaned, scolded his wife and swore that he would dash his brains
out against a stone if the pain did not subside. And all the time he
walked back and forth upon the flat roof of his house, from one corner
to another, ashamed to come close to the edge because his head was all
tied up in a kerchief like a woman's.

Several times during the morning his children came to him on the run
telling him something with hurried voices about Jesus the Nazarene.
Ben-Tobith stopped and listened to them for a moment, with wrinkled
face, but then angrily stamped his foot and drove them away. He was a
kindly man, fond of children, but now it annoyed him to be pestered
with all sorts of trivial things.

It was also annoying to him that the streets and the neighboring roofs
were crowded with people who seemed to have nothing to do but gaze
curiously upon Ben-Tobith whose head was tied with a kerchief like a
woman's. And he was already on the point of going downstairs, when his
wife said to him:

"Look, they are leading the robbers. Perhaps this might take your mind
away from your pain."

"Leave me alone, please. Don't you see how I suffer?" angrily retorted
Ben-Tobith. But the words of his wife held out a vague promise that his
toothache might pass, and he reluctantly walked over to the edge of the
roof. Inclining his head to one side, he shut one eye, held a hand to
his cheek, made a wry, sniveling grimace and looked down.

Up the steep ascent of the narrow street moved a confused and enormous
mob of people in a cloud of dust and with a ceaseless uproar. In the
midst of it, bowed under the burden of their crosses, marched the
evildoers, and over their heads swished the whips of the Roman soldiers
like sinuous dark-skinned serpents. One of them, he with the long,
light locks, in a torn and blood-stained cloak, stumbled over a stone
which someone had thrown before his feet and fell. The shouts increased
in loudness, and the crowd closed in about the fallen man like a sea
of motley waves.

Ben-Tobith suddenly shuddered with the pain; it seemed as though
someone had pierced his tooth with a red-hot needle and twisted it
around; he groaned "oo-oo-oo," and walked away from the edge of the
roof, wryly indifferent and wrathful.

"How they yell!" he enviously muttered, picturing to himself their
wide-opened mouths with strong and pain-free teeth, and thinking how
he might yell himself if he were only well. This mental picture added
fury to his pain, and he shook his bandaged head vehemently and howled

"They say that he healed the blind," observed his wife clinging to the
edge of the roof and casting a stone at the spot where Jesus was slowly
moving onward, having been raised to his feet by the soldiers' whips.

"Or course! Of course! He might have cured my toothache," replied
Ben-Tobith sarcastically and with irritation, adding bitterly: "Just
look at the dust they are raising Like a herd of cattle. They should be
scattered with rods. Lead me downstairs, Sarah!"

The wife was right; the spectacle had diverted him somewhat, or perhaps
the rat dung remedy finally proved its efficacy, and he managed to
go to sleep. And when he woke up, the pain was almost gone, only a
swelling had formed on his right cheek, so slight a swelling, in fact,
as to be hardly noticeable. His wife said that it could not be seen at
all, but Ben-Tobith smiled craftily, he knew what a good wife he had
and how ready she was to say agreeable things. His neighbor, Samuel,
the tanner, had come meanwhile, and Ben-Tobith took him to see the new
ass; he proudly listened to his neighbor's words of praise for the
animal and for its master.

Then, at the suggestion of his curious wife Sarah, the three of them
walked over to Golgotha to see the crucified. On the way Ben-Tobith
related to Samuel about his toothache from its very beginning, how
the day before he had felt a twitch of pain in his right jaw, and how
during the night he had been awakened by an agonizing pain. By way of
illustration he made a wry face, shutting his eyes, shook his head and
groaned, and the grey-bearded Samuel sympathizingly nodded and said:

"Tss-tss-tss, what suffering!"

Ben-Tobith was gratified by this expression of sympathy and he repeated
his tale and reverted to that distant past when his first tooth had
commenced to turn bad, the left tooth in the lower jaw. In such
animated conversation they reached Golgotha. The sun which was fated
to shine upon the world on that dread day had meanwhile set behind
the distant hillocks, and in the west glowed like a bloody stain a
narrow band of ruddy crimson. Against this background dimly darkled
the crosses, and kneeling at the foot of the cross in the center some
white-garbed figures glistened vaguely in the gathering dusk.

The people had long since dispersed; it was growing cold; casting a
fleeting glance upon the crucified figures, Ben-Tobith took Samuel by
his arm and cautiously turned him in the direction of their homes.
He felt unusually eloquent and he was anxious to tell him more about
the toothache. Thus they walked homeward, and Ben-Tobith, to the
accompaniment of Samuel's sympathizing nods and exclamations, made once
more a wry face, shook his head and moaned artfully, while from the
deep crevices and the distant arid plains rose the blackness of night.
As though it sought to cover from the sight of heaven the great misdeed
of the earth.


He was a nonentity: the spirit of a rabbit and the shameless patience
of a beast of burden. When fate, with malicious mockery, had cast
him into our somber ranks, we laughed with insane merriment. What
ridiculous, absurd mistakes will happen! But he--he, of course, wept.
Never in my life have I seen a man who could shed so many tears, and
these tears seemed to flow so readily--from the eyes, from the nose,
from the mouth, every bit like a water-soaked sponge compressed by a
fist. And even in our ranks have I seen weeping men, but their tears
were like a consuming flame from which savage beasts flee in terror.
These manly tears aged the countenance and rejuvenated the eyes: like
lava disgorged from the inflamed bowels of the earth they burned
ineradicable traces and buried beneath their flow world upon world of
trivial cravings and of petty cares. But he, when he wept, showed only
a flushed nose, and a damp handkerchief. He doubtless later dried this
handkerchief on a line, for otherwise where could he have procured so

And all through the days of his exile he made pilgrimages to the
officials, to all the officials that counted, and even to such as he
endowed with fancied authority. He bowed, he wept, he swore that he was
innocent, he implored them to pity his youth, he promised on his oath
never to open his mouth again excepting in prayer and praise. And they
laughed at him even as we, and they called him "poor luckless little
piggy" and yelled at him:

"Hey there, piggy!"

And he obediently responded to their call; he thought every time that
he would hear a summons to return to his home, but they were only
mocking him. They knew, even as we that he was innocent, but with his
sufferings they meant to intimidate other "piggies," as though they
were not sufficiently cowardly.

He used to come among us impelled by the animal terror of solitude, but
stem and shut were our lips and in vain he sought the key. In confusion
he called us dear comrades and friends, but we shook our heads and said:

"Look out! Someone might hear you!"

And he would permit himself to throw a glance at the door--the little
pig that he was. Was it possible to remain serious? And we laughed,
with voices that had long been strangers to laughter, while he,
encouraged and comforted, sat down near us and spoke, weeping about his
dear little books that were left on his table, about his mamma and his
brothers, of whom he could not tell whether they were still living or
had died with terror and anguish.

In the end we would drive him away.

When the hunger strike had started he was seized with terror, an
inexpressibly comical terror. He was very fond of food, poor little
piggy, and he was very much afraid of his dear comrades, and he was
very much afraid of the authorities. Distractedly he wandered in our
midst, and frequently wiped his brow with his handkerchief, and it was
hard to tell whether the moisture was perspiration or tears.

And irresolutely he asked me:

"Will you starve a long time?"

"Yes, a long time," I answered sternly.

"And on the sly, will you not eat something?"

"Our mammas will send us cookies," I assented seriously. He looked at
me suspiciously, shook his head and departed with a sigh.

The next day he declared, green with fear like a parrot:

"Dear comrades, I, too, will starve with you."

And we replied in unison:

"Starve alone."

And he starved. We did not believe it, even as you would not; we all
thought that he was eating something on the sly, and even so thought
the jailers. And when towards the end of the hunger strike he fell ill
with starvation typhus, we only shrugged our shoulders: "Poor little
piggy!" But one of us, he who never laughed, sullenly said:

"He is our comrade! Let us go to him."

He was delirious. And pitiful even as all of his life was this
disconnected delirium. He spoke of his beloved books, of his mamma and
of his brothers; he asked for cookies, icy cold, tasty cookies, and he
swore that he was innocent and pleaded for pardon. And he called for
his country, he called for dear France. Cursed be the weak heart of
man, he tore our hearts into shreds by this call: dear France.

We were all in the ward as he was breathing his last. Consciousness
returned to him before the moment of death. He was lying still, frail
and feeble as he was; and still were we too, his comrades, standing by
his side. And we, every one of us, heard him say:

"When I die, sing over me the Marseillaise!"

"What are you saying?" we exclaimed shuddering with joy and with
gathering frenzy.

"When I die, sing over me the Marseillaise!"

And for the first time it happened that his eyes were dry and we wept;
we wept, every one of us, and our tears glowed like the consuming fire
before which savage beasts flee in terror.

He died, and we sang over him the Marseillaise. With voices young and
mighty we sang the great hymn of freedom, and the ocean chanted a stem
accompaniment, upon the crest of his mighty waves bearing back to dear
France the pallor of dread and the bloody crimson of hope. And forever
he became our guerdon--that nonentity with the body of a rabbit and
of a beast of burden and with the great spirit of Man. On your knees
before a hero, comrades and friends!

We were singing. Down upon us gazed the barrels of rifles; ominously
clicked their triggers; menacingly stretched the points of bayonets
towards our hearts--and ever more loudly, ever more joyously rang out
the stern hymn, while in the tender hands of fighters gently rocked the
black coffin.

We were singing the Marseillaise.




This free song of the stern days of justice and retribution I have
composed myself, as well as I could, I, Geronimo Pascagna, a Sicilian
bandit, murderer, highwayman, criminal.

Having composed it to the best of my ability, I meant to sing it
loudly, as good songs should be sung, but my jailer would not allow it.
My jailer's ear is overgrown with hair; it has a strait and a narrow
channel: fit for words that are untruthful, sly, words that can crawl
upon their bellies like reptiles. But my words walk erect, they have
deep chests, broad backs--ah, how painfully they tore at the tender ear
of the jailer which was overgrown with hair!

"If the ear is shut, seek another entrance, Geronimo," I said to myself
amicably; and I pondered, and I sought, and finally I succeeded and
found it, for Geronimo is no fool, let me tell you. And this is what I
found: I found a stone. And this is what I did: I chiseled my song into
the stone, and with the blows of my wrath I set aflame its icy heart.
And when the stone came to life and glanced at me with the fiery eyes
of wrath, I cautiously took it away and placed it at the very edge of
the prison wall.

Can you not see what I have in mind? I am wise, I figure that a
friendly quake will soon again set the earth aquiver, and once again
it will destroy your city; and the walls will crumble, and my stone
will drop and shatter the jailer's head. And having shattered it,
it will leave upon his soft waxy blood-grey brain the impress of my
song of freedom, like the seal of a king, like a new commandment of
wrath--and thus will the jailer go down to his grave.

I say, jailer, shut not your ear, for I shall enter through your skull!


If I am then alive, I shall laugh with joy; and if I chance to be dead,
my bones shall dance in their insecure grave. That will be a merry

Can you say upon your oath that such things can never be? The same
quake might cast me back upon the face of the earth: my rotting coffin,
my decayed flesh, my whole body, dead and buried for keeps, tightly
clamped down. For such things have happened upon great days: the earth
opening up about the cemeteries, the still coffins crawling out into
the light.

Those still coffins, uninvited guests at the banquet!


These be the names of the comrades with whom I made friends in those
fleeting hours: Pascale, a professor; Giuseppe, Pincio, Alba. They were
shot by firing squads. There was also another one, young, obliging,
and so handsome. It was a pity to look at him. I esteemed him as a
son, he reverenced me as a father, but I did not know his name. I
had not chanced to ask him, or perhaps I have forgotten it. He, too,
was shot by the soldiers. There may have been one or two more, also
friends, I do not remember them. When the youngster was being put to
death, I did not run far away, I hid right here, back of the wall--now
crumbled--near the trampled cactus. I saw and heard everything. And
when I started to leave, the trampled cactus pierced me with its thorn.
Was it not planted near the wall to keep away the thieves? How faithful
are the servants of the rich!


The firing squad put them to death. Remember the names which I have
mentioned; and with regard to those whom I have not mentioned by name,
remember merely that they were put to death. But don't go and make a
sign of the cross upon your brow, or worse than that--don't go and
order a requiem mass--they did not like such things. Honor the dead
with the silence of truth, and if you must lie, lie in some merrier
fashion, but never by saying mass: they did not like that.


That first quake that destroyed the prison and the city had a voice of
rare power and of queer, superhuman dignity: it roared from below, from
beneath the ground, it was vast and hoarse and menacing; and everything
shook and crumbled. And ere I grasped what was going on, I knew that
all was over, that it was perhaps the end of the earth. But I was not
particularly frightened: why should I be especially frightened even if
it were the end of the world? Long did he roar, that deaf subterranean

And all at once politely opened the door.


I had sat a long time in prison, without hope. I had tried to flee and
failed. Nor could you have managed to escape, for that accursed prison
was very well built.

And I had become accustomed to the iron of the bars and to the stone
of the walls, and they seemed to me eternal, and he who had built them
the strongest in the world. And it was no use to think whether he was
just or not, so strong and eternal he was. Even in my dreams I saw no
freedom--I did not believe, expect or feel it. And I feared to call it.
It is perilous to call freedom; while you keep still, you may live; but
call freedom once, ever so softly, you must either gain it or die. This
is true, so said Pascale, the professor.

And thus without hope I sat in prison, and suddenly opened the door.
Politely and of its own accord. At any rate it was no human hand that
opened it.


The streets were in ruins, in a terrible chaos. All the material of
which people build was resolved to its elements and lay as it had been
in the beginning. The houses were crumbling, bursting, reeling like
drunken, squatting down upon the ground, on their own crushed legs.
Others were sulkily casting themselves down upon the ground, with their
heads upon the pavement--crash! And opened were the little boxes in
which human beings live--pretty little boxes, all plastered with paper.
The pictures still hung on the walls, but the people were no more;
they had been thrown out, they were lying beneath masses of stone.
And the earth was twitching convulsively--for, you must know that the
subterranean trumpeter had started to roar again, that deaf devil who
can never have enough noise because he is so deaf. Sweet, painstaking,
gigantic devil!

But I was free and I did not understand it yet. I hesitated to walk
away from that accursed prison. I was standing there, blinking stupidly
at the ruins. And the comrades had also assembled, none attempting to
leave, crowding distractedly, like the children about the figure of
a dissipated, drunken mother that had fallen to the ground. A fine
mother, indeed!

Suddenly Pascale, the professor, said:


One of the walls which we had deemed eternal had burst in two; and
the window, with its iron bars, had split in two as well. The iron
was twisted and torn like a rotten rag--think of it, the iron! In my
hands it had not even rattled, it had pretended to be eternal, the most
powerful thing on earth, and now it was not worth to be spat upon,--the
iron, think of it!

Then I, and the rest of us, understood that we were free.




It is harder for you to bend a grass blade than for him to bend three
iron rails one atop the other. Three or a hundred, it is all the same
to him. It is more difficult for you to raise a cup of water to your
lips than for him to raise a sea of water, to shake it up, to lift the
dregs thereof and to cast them out upon the shore; to bring the cold
to boiling. It is harder for you to gnaw through a piece of sugar
than for him to gnaw through a mountain. It is more difficult for you
to tear a thin and rotting thread than for him to break three wire
ropes twisted into one braid. You will perspire and flush with exertion
before you manage to stir up an anthill with your stick--and he with
one push destroys your city. He has picked up an iron steamship as you
with your hand pick up a tiny pebble, and has cast it ashore--have you
ever seen the like of such strength?


All that had been open he has shut; the door of your house has grown
into its walls, and together they have choked you: your door, your
walls, your ceiling. And he likewise has opened the doors of the prison
which you had shut so carefully.

You, rich man, whom I hate!


If I gather from all over the world all the good words which people
use, all the tender sayings, all the ringing songs and fling them all
into the joyous air;

If I gather all the smiles of children, the laughter of women whom
none has yet wronged, the caresses of greyhaired mothers, the faithful
handshakes of a friend--and weave of them all an incorruptible wreath
for some one beautiful head;

If I pass over the face of the earth and garner all the flowers that
grow upon it: in the forests and in the fields, in the meadows and in
the gardens of the rich, in the depths of the waters, upon the azure
bottom of the ocean; if I gather all the precious sparkling stones,
bringing them forth out of hidden crevices, out of the gloomy depths of
mines, tearing them from the crowns of kings and from the ears of the
rich--and pile them all, the stones and the flowers, into one radiant

If I gather all the fires that burn in the universe, all the lights,
all the rays, all the flashes, flares and silent glows, and in the
glare of one mighty conflagration illumine the quaking worlds;

Even then I shall be unable to name thee, to crown thee, to laud
thee--O Freedom!




Over my head was the sky, and the sky is always free, always open to
the winds and to the movement of the clouds; under my feet was the
road, and the road is always free; it was made to walk on, it was made
for the feet to move over its surface, going back and forth, leaving
one spot and finding another. The road is the sweetheart of him who is
free; you have to kiss it on meeting, to weep over it on parting.

And when my feet began to move upon the road, I thought that a miracle
had occurred. I looked, and Pascale's feet were also moving, the
professor! I looked, and the youngster was also moving with youthful
feet, hurrying, stumbling, and suddenly he ran.


But Pascale sternly reproved me.

"Don't throw questions at him; you'll break his limbs. For you and I
are old, Geronimo."

And we wept. And suddenly the deaf trumpeter roared out anew.



A long time we walked about the city and saw much that was striking,
strange and sinister.


Neither can you shut in the fire--I was saying this, I, Geronimo
Pascagna. If you would be at peace, put it out altogether, but do not
lock it up in stone, in iron or in glass; it will escape, and your
strongly built house will come to a bad end. When your mighty house is
fallen, and your life is extinct, it alone will burn, retaining the
heat and the blazing ruddiness and all the force of the flame. It may
lie awhile on the ground, it may pretend even to be dead; then it will
lift its head upon a slender neck and look about--to the right and to
the left, forward and backward. And it will leap. And it will hide
again, and will look again, it will straighten up, throw back its head,
and suddenly it will grow terribly stout.

And it will no longer have one head upon one slender neck: it will have
thousands. And it will no longer crawl slowly, it will run, it will
make gigantic bounds. It had been silent, now it is singing, whistling,
yelling, giving orders to stone and to iron, driving all from its path.

And suddenly it will begin to circle.


We saw more dead people than living; and the dead were calm; they did
not know what had happened to them, and they were calm. But what about
the living? Just think what a ridiculous thing was told us by a madman
for whom, too, in those days of stern equality the door had opened!

Do you think he was amazed? He looked on attentively and benignly, and
the grey stubble on his yellow face bristled with proud joy--as though
he had done it all himself. I do not like madmen, and was going to walk
past him, but Pascale, the professor, stopped me, and respectfully
asked the proud madman:

"What makes you so pleased, signor?"

Pascale was far from being short of stature, but the madman searched
for him a long time with his eyes, like for a grain of sand that has
suddenly spoken out aloud from amidst of a sand heap, and finally
he discovered him. And hardly parting his lips--so proud was he--he
repeated the question:

"What makes me so pleased?"

And he waved his hand majestically and said:

"This is perfect order. We have so long craved for order."

He called that order! I laughed out aloud, but just at that moment a
corpulent and altogether insane monk came up, and proved even more


For a long time they played their comedy among the ruins, the
lunatic and the monk, while we sat on a heap of stones, laughing and
encouraging them, shouting "bravo."

"Fraud! I have been deceived!" cried the fat monk.

He was so fat, I don't think you've ever seen any one as fat. It was
repulsive to watch him, the yellow fat of his cheeks and of his belly
quivered and shook so with wrath and fear.

"There's perfect order for you!" cried the lunatic approvingly, hardly
deigning to part his lips.

"Fraud!" yelled the monk.

And suddenly he commenced to curse God. The monk! Think of it!




He assured us all that God had deceived him and he wept. He swore like
a crooked gambler that this was poor recompense for his prayers and his
faith. He stamped his feet and he cursed like a mule driver who comes
out of a gin mill and suddenly discovers that his mules had scattered
to the four winds.

And suddenly Pascale, the professor, lost his temper. He demanded that
I give him my knife and said to the monk who had sat down for a rest
after his outburst of curses:

"Listen, in a minute I will slit your belly, and if I find there but
one drop of wine or one atom of a pullet...."

"And if you don't?" angrily retorted the monk.

"Then we shall count you among the saints. Hold his legs, Geronimo!"

The monk was frightened and departed mumbling:

"And I thought you were Christians! Blasphemy! Blasphemy!"

But the lunatic gazed after him benignly and spoke approvingly:

"This is what I call perfect order. We have been so long waiting for
perfect order."


And we walked a long time about the city and saw many odd things. But
the day was short, and the night fell upon earth earlier than ever
before; and when the firing squad was killing Pascale, the soldiers had
lighted their torches.


When Pascale was put against the wall, against the portion of it which
had remained uninjured, and the soldiers raised their rifles, the
officer said to him:

"You will die in a moment. Tell me why are you not afraid? That which
has happened is terrible, and we are all pale with horror, but you are
not. Why is that?" Pascale was silent; he waited for the officer to ask
him more questions so that he might reply to all of them in one.

"And whence comes your boldness: to stoop and to take that which
belongs to others at a time when people in terror forget even
themselves and their children? And are you not sorry for those women
and children who have perished? We have seen cats that have lost their
mind through terror, and you are a human being. I will have you shot

This was well spoken, but our Pascale could speak every bit as well. He
has been shot dead. He is dead, but some day when all the dead arise
you will hear his speech, and you will shed tears, if by that time all
the tears are not exhausted, O Man.

He said:

"I take that which is another's because I have Nothing that is my own.
I took the raiment off a dead man in order to clothe my living flesh,
but you have seen me do it, and so you have stripped me; and now I
stand naked in front of your rifles. Soldiers, fire!"

But the officer did not suffer them to fire and asked him to speak


"Naked I stand in front of your rifles and fear nothing, not even your
rifles. But you are pale with fear, and you fear everything, even your
own rifles, even my naked body. When the quake was heard, it destroyed
and killed your city, your fortunes, your children and wives--but it
opened a prison for me. What then shall I fear? I have nothing of my
own upon the face of the earth. I am, naked.


"And if the whole earth crumbled into ruin, and the very beasts howled
with horror, and the fish found a voice to express their grief, and the
birds fell to the ground with dread, even then I would not fear. For
all others it means the ruin of the earth, for me it opens the doors of
a prison. What then shall I fear? I am naked.


"And if the universe crumbled, with heaven and hell, and horror were
enthroned over the infinity of living creatures, even then I would
know no fear. For all it would be the end of the universe, for me the
opening of a prison. What then shall I fear? I am naked.


"And now, when with one salvo of your rifles you will destroy for me
the earth and the universe, even now I know no fear. For all of you
it will be the destruction and the fall of a human body, but for me a
prison will open its gates. Soldiers, fire! I am naked."


The torches blazed. It was the shortest day which I had ever seen.
Night fell upon the earth more quickly than ever before.

"It is your turn now," ordered the officer, when Pascale, the
professor, had fallen.

True, I had not been caught in any wrongdoing, and there was nothing
to kill me for. But can you argue with them? And so I stood up. And I
lamented the night. Do you understand me? the night! Here the torches
and the fires were ruining it, and there, behind the torches and the
fire, it stood out strong, and firm, and dark as the nights of my
youth. I love the night, for then I do not see myself and can think
what I will. The day reaches my garments, but can go no further. It
stops at the darkness of my body and turns blind. But the night reaches
my very heart. That is why it is so easy to love at night; anybody
will tell you that. Ah, to spend only one hour in the shade of the
faithful, of the black and beautiful night, only one hour. But can you
argue with them? So I stood up.

But it is well to love also in the day time, when the sun is shining.
Love itself is like the night, it reaches the heart, don't you see. And
in love you fail to see your own self, even as in the midst of night.
And if you only look into its eyes--straight into its black eyes--and
look without tearing your gaze away....

Suddenly for some reason the officer shouted angrily at the soldier and
snapped at me:

"Get out of here!"


Another day passed. And on that day the soldiers shot that youngster
who had called me father.


Night sank upon the earth and I departed from that city of the dead.


Dies irae--the day of wrath, the day of vengeance and of stem
retribution, the day of Horror and of Death.


That procession which I had watched from behind the wall was a strange
and a terrible sight. They were bearing the statues of their saints,
but did not know whether to raise them still higher over their heads or
to cast them upon the ground, trampling the fragments underfoot. Some
were still cursing, while others were already saying their prayers,
but they walked on together, the children of the same father and the
same mother, or Horror and of Death. They leaped over the crevices and
disappeared in abysses. And the saints reeled like drunkards.

Dies irae.... Some were singing, others were weeping, and still others
were laughing. Some howled like lunatics. And they were waving their
hands, and all were in a hurry. The fat-bellied monks were running.
From whom were they running away? Not a soul was seen behind them.
Meekly lolled the ruins in the warm glow of the sun, and the fire was
disappearing into the ground, smoking wearily.


From whom were they fleeing? There was not a soul behind them.


You barely touched a tree, and a ripe orange fell at your feet. First
one, then another, a third.... The crop bids fair to be fine. A good
orange is like a little sun, and when there is an abundance of them,
you feel like smiling, as though the sun shone brightly. And the leaves
are so dark, just like the night back of the sun. No, they are green,
dark green. Why are you telling untruths, Geronimo?

But how cautious is that deaf devil, that subterranean trumpeter, who
is never content because of his deafness: he has destroyed a city, but
has left an orange suspended on a branch, to wait for Geronimo. You
barely touch the tree, and a ripe orange drops at your feet. First one,
then another, then a third.... They will be taken overseas to strange
lands. And in those lands, where reign the cold and the fogs, people
will look at them and say: "Yes, there is a sun for you!"


Pascale, the professor,--we called him _"il professore"_ because he was
so wise, he could write verses, and he discoursed so nobly on all sorts
of subjects. He is dead.


Why am I terrified? Why do I walk faster and faster? I had been afraid


I never knew that my feet so loved to walk. They love every step which
they make. They part so sadly with every step; they seem to want to
turn back. And so greedy are they that the longest road seems short
to them, that the widest road seems narrow. They regret--fancy!--that
they cannot at once walk backward and forward, to the right and to the
left. Let them have their will and they will cover the earth with their
traces, not leaving a patch: and still they would seek more.

And another thing I did not know: I did not know about my eyes that
they can breathe.

Afar off I see the ocean.


What else can I tell you? I was seized by the gendarmes.


Once more thou hast locked the doors of my prison, O Man! When didst
thou have time to build it? Still in ruins lies thy house, the bones
of thy children are not yet bare in the grave, but thou art already
at work, tapping with thy hammer, patching together with cement the
obedient stone, rearing before thy face the obedient iron. How fast
dost thou build thy prisons, O Man!

Still in ruins are thy churches, bu thy prison is all finished.

Still shaking with terror are thy hands, but already they grasp the
key, and rattle the lock, and slip the bolt. Thou art a musician:
to the jingle of gold thou requirest the accompanying rattle of
fetters--let that be the bass.

Grim death is still in thy blanched nostrils, and already thou art
sniffing at something, turning thy nose this way and that way. How fast
buildest thou thy prisons, O Man!


The iron does not even rattle--so strong it is. And it is cold to
the touch like someone's icy heart. Silent is also the stone of the
walls--so proud it is, so everlasting and mighty. At the appointed time
comes the jailer and flings at me my food like at a savage beast. And I
show my teeth--why should I not show my teeth? I am starved and naked.
And the clock is striking.

Art thou content, O Man, my master?


But I do not believe in thy prison, O Man, my master!

I do not believe in thy iron; I do not believe in thy stone, in thy
power, O Man, my master! That which I have once seen destroyed, shall
never be knit together again.

Thus would have spoken even Pascale, the professor.


Set thy clock a-going, it marks well the time until it stops. Rattle
thy keys, for even thy paradise thou hast shut with lock and key.
Rattle thy keys and shut the door, they shut well while there is a
door. And walk around cautiously.

And when all is still, thou wilt say: it is well now, it is quite still
now. And thou wilt lie down to sleep. It is quite still now, thou wilt
say, but I hear how he is gnawing at the iron with his teeth. But thou
wilt say that the iron is too strong for him, and thou wilt lie down to
sleep. And when thou hast fallen asleep, holding tight thy keys in thy
happy hands, suddenly the subterranean trumpeter will roar out loudly,
awaking thee with his thunder, raising thee to thy feet with the force
of terror, holding thee erect with a mighty arm: so that dying thou
shalt see death. Wide as the day will open thy eyes; terror will tear
them wide open. Ears will come to thy heart, so that dying thou shalt
hear death.

And thy clock will stop.



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