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A STORY(双语版)

IN the garden all the apple-trees were in blossom.They had hurried up to get flowers before green leaves,and in the farm-yard all the ducklings were out and the cat with them:he licked real sunshine,licked it from his own paws;and if one looked along to the field, the corn stood magnificently green,and there was a twittering and a chirping of all the little birds, as if it were a great festival, and indeed one might also say that it was so, for it was Sunday. The bells rang, and people in their best clothes went to church,and looked so well pleased;yes,there was something so pleasant about everything;it was certainly a day so warm and blessed, that one could say,“Our Lord is really very good to His people!”

But inside the church, the priest stood in the pulpit and spoke very loudly and very angrily; he said that the people were so ungodly, and that God would punish them for it, and when they died, the wicked should go down to Hell, where they should burn for ever, and he said that their worm never died,and their fire was never quenched; and never did they get peace or rest. It was terrible to hear it,and he said it so positively; he de-scribed Hell to them as a stinking hole, where all the world's filthiness flowed together, there was no air except the hot sulfur-flame, there was no bottom, they sank and sank in an everlasting silence. It was gruesome merely to listen to it,but the priest said it from the heart,and all the people in the church were quite terrified.

But outside all the little birds sang so happily,and the sun shone so warmly, it seemed as if every little flower said,“God is so very good to all of us.”Yes, outside it was certainly not as the preacher had said.

In the evening towards bedtime, the clergyman saw his wife sitting silent and thoughtful.

“What ails yon?”he said to her.

“What ails me?”said she,“I cannot collect my thoughts properly, I cannot get clearly into my head what you said, that there were so many ungodly, and that they should burn for ever; for ever, O, how long!I am only a sinful woman,but I could not bear to let even the worst sinner burn for ever;how then should our Lord be able to do it who is so infinitely good,and who knows how the evil comes both from without and from within? No, I cannot think it, even although you say it.”

It was autumn, the leaves fell from the trees;the severe, earnest priest sat by the death-bed of his wife.

“If any one should get peace in the grave and mercy from God, it is you!” said the priest, and he folded her hands and read a psalm over her body.

And she was carried to her grave;two heavy tears rolled down over the cheeks of the earnest priest; and in his house it was quiet and lonely, the sunshine was extinguished; she had gone away.

It was night;a cold wind blew over the head of the priest,he opened his eyes,and it seemed as if the moon shone into his room, but the moon was not shining; it was a figure which stood before his bed; he saw the ghost of his dead wife;she looked at him sorrowfully, it seemed as if she wanted to say something.

And the man raised himself half up,and stretched out his arms to her:“Have you not been granted eternal rest either?Do you suffer—you the best, the most pious?” And the departed one bowed her head for “Yes”, and laid her hands on her breast.

“And can I obtain rest for you in the grave?”

“Yes,”it answered him.

“And how?”

“ Give me a hair, only a single hair, from the head of the sinner whose fire will never be quenched,the sinner whom God will thrust down into everlasting punishment.”

“Yes, so easily can you be set free, you pure and pious soul!”

“Then follow me!” said the departed.“It is so vouchsafed to us. By my side you can float whither your thoughts will;unseen by men we stand in their most secret 438corners, but with steady hand you must point to the one consecrated to everlasting pain, and before cock-crow he must be found.

And quickly, as if carried by thought, they were in the great town;and from the walls of the houses shone in letters of fire the names of the deadly sins:Pride,Avarice, Drunkenness, Self-indulgence,in short, the whole seven-hued rainbow of sin.

“Yes,in there, as I thought,as I knew,” said the priest,“dwell those who are destined for eternal fire.”And they stood before the gorgeously lighted portal, where the broad stair was decorated with carpets and flowers,and dance-music sounded through the festive halls.The footman stood in silk and velvet with silver-mounted stick.

“Our ball can compare with that of the king,” said he, and he turned to the crowd on the street; from top to toe the thought shone out of him,“Poor pack, who stare in at the portal, you are common people compared with me,all of yon!”

“Pride,” said the departed one.“Do you see him?”

“Yes, but he is a simpleton, only a fool,and will not be condemned to everlasting fire and pain!”

“Only a fool! sounded through the whole house of Pride; they were all “only fools”there.

And they flew within the four bare walls of Avarice,where, lean, chattering with cold, hungry and thirsty,the old one clung to his gold with all his thoughts;they saw how he sprang from his miserable couch,as in a fever, and took a loose stone out of the wall, where gold-money lay in a stoking-leg;he fingered his patched coat into which gold pieces were sewn, and the moist fingers trembled.

“He is ill,it is madness,a joyless madness,beset with fear and evil dreams.”

And they departed in haste,and stood by the couch-Es of the criminals where they slept in long rows, side by side.

Like a wild animal, one of them started up out of his sleep,uttering a horrid shriek;he dug his pointed elbow into his comrade, who turned sleepily.

“Hold your tongue, you blockhead,and sleep!—it is the same every night!”

“Every night,” he repeated,“yes, every night he comes and howls and suffocates me.In passion have I done one thing and another, an angry mind was I born with; it has brought me here a second time;but if I have done wrong,then I have had my punishment.Only one thing have I not acknowledged. When I last came out of here and passed my master's farm,one thing and another boiled up in me,—I scratched a sulfur match along the wall, it ran a little too near the thatch of the roof, everything burned.Passion came over it, as it comes over me.I helped to save the cattle and effects.Nothing living was burned but a flock of pigeons,which flew into the fire,and the watch-dog. I had not thought of it. One could hear it howling,and that howl I always hear still,when I want to sleep,and when I fall asleep, then comes the dog, so big and shaggy; he lays himself on me, howls, presses me,and suffocates me. Then listen to what I tell you; you can snore, snore the whole night, and I not a short quarter of an hour.” And the blood shone in his eyes, he threw himself over his comrade and hit him with clenched fist in the face.

“Angry Ads has gone mad again!” was the cry round about, and the other scoundrels caught hold of him,wrestled with him,and bent him so that his head sat between his legs where they bound it fast;the blood was almost springing out of his eyes and all his pores.

“You will kill him,”shouted the priest,“the miser-able one!” And whilst he, in order to hinder them,stretched out his hand over the sinner, who already in this world suffered too severely,the scene changed;they flew through rich halls, and through poor rooms; Self-Indus-gene,Envy,all the deadly sins marched past them;an angel of judgment read their sins,their defense;this was but weak before God,but God reads the hearts,He knows everything, the evil which comes from within and from without, He who is mercy and love. The hand of the priest trembled,he dared not stretch it forth to pull a hair from the sinner's head.And the tears streamed from his eyes,like the water of mercy and love, which quench the ever-lasting fires of Hell.And the cock crew.

“Merciful God!The will give her that rest in the grave,which I have not been able to obtain.”

“I have it now!”said the dead one,“it was they hard words,they dark belief about God and His works,which drove me to the!Learn to know men;even in the wicked there is something of God,something which will triumph,and quench the fire of Hell.”

A kiss was pressed on the mouth of the priest,light beamed round about him;God's clear sun shone into the chamber, where his wife, gentle and loving, wakened him from a dream sent by God.




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