Back to Methuselah eBook

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patterns together, sounding three reeds at the same time, and raising my soul to things for which I have no words.  And others make little mammoths out of clay, or make faces appear on flat stones, and ask me to create women for them with such faces.  I have watched those faces and willed; and then I have made a woman-child that has grown up quite like them.  And others think of numbers without having to count on their fingers, and watch the sky at night, and give names to the stars, and can foretell when the sun will be covered with a black saucepan lid.  And there is Tubal, who made this wheel for me which has saved me so much labor.  And there is Enoch, who walks on the hills, and hears the Voice continually, and has given up his will to do the will of the Voice, and has some of the Voice’s greatness.  When they come, there is always some new wonder, or some new hope:  something to live for.  They never want to die, because they are always learning and always creating either things or wisdom, or at least dreaming of them.  And then you, Cain, come to me with your stupid fighting and destroying, and your foolish boasting; and you want me to tell you that it is all splendid, and that you are heroic, and that nothing but death or the dread of death makes life worth living.  Away with you, naughty child; and do you, Adam, go on with your work and not waste your time listening to him.

CAIN.  I am not, perhaps, very clever; but—­

EVE [interrupting him] Perhaps not; but do not begin to boast of that. 
It is no credit to you.

CAIN.  For all that, mother, I have an instinct which tells me that death plays its part in life.  Tell me this:  who invented death?

Adam springs to his feet.  Eve drops her distaff.  Both shew the greatest consternation.

CAIN.  What is the matter with you both?

ADAM.  Boy:  you have asked us a terrible question.

EVE.  You invented murder.  Let that be enough for you.

CAIN.  Murder is not death.  You know what I mean.  Those whom I slay would die if I spared them.  If I am not slain, yet I shall die.  Who put this upon me?  I say, who invented death?

ADAM.  Be reasonable, boy.  Could you bear to live for ever?  You think you could, because you know that you will never have to make your thought good.  But I have known what it is to sit and brood under the terror of eternity, of immortality.  Think of it, man:  to have no escape! to be Adam, Adam, Adam through more days than there are grains of sand by the two rivers, and then be as far from the end as ever!  I, who have so much in me that I hate and long to cast off!  Be thankful to your parents, who enabled you to hand on your burden to new and better men, and won for you an eternal rest; for it was we who invented death.

CAIN [rising] You did well:  I, too, do not want to live for ever.  But if you invented death, why do you blame me, who am a minister of death?

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