THE MAN WITH A DEAD SOUL
Years ago there lived a man whose soul had died; and died as only a soul may die, by the man’s own deed. His body lived still for debauchery, his mind lived still to ponder on evil, but his soul was stifled in a flood of sin. So the man lived his life with a dead soul.
When the soul died the man’s dreams changed. The fairy children of his youth came no more to play with him and his visions were of lands bare and desolate, with great rocks instead of green trees; and sandy, dry and arid plains instead of bright grass and flowers. But out of the rocks shone fiery veins of virgin gold and the pitiless sun that dried the plain reflected countless smaller suns of untouched diamonds. Hither in dreams came often the man with the dead soul.
The years passed and the man realized with his mortal eyes the full of his dreams and touched mortal foot to the desert that now was all his own. Greedily he picked and dug till his weary body cried “enough.” Then only he left, when his strength could dig no more. So he began to live more evilly because of his new power of wealth; and his soul was farther than ever from resurrection.
Now it happened that the man with the dead soul soon found that he had become a leper because of his sins, and so with all his gains was driven from among men. He went back to the desert and watched the gold veins in the rocks and the shining of the diamonds, all the time hoping for more strength to dig. But while waiting, his musings turned to hateful thoughts of all his kindred, and abhorrence of all good. So he said: “I have been driven from among men because they love virtue, henceforth I will hate it; because they loved God, henceforth I will love only evil; because they use their belongings to work mercy, henceforth I will use mine to inflict revenge. I may not go to men, so I will go to those who do men harm.”
So the man with the dead soul went to live among the beasts. He dwelt for a long time in the forests and the most savage of the brutes were his friends. One day he saw a hermit at the door of his cave. “How livest thou here?” he asked.
“From the offerings of the raven who brings me bread and the wild bees who give it sweetness and the great beasts who clothe me,” answered the hermit. Then the man with the dead soul left the beasts because they did good and were merciful.
Out of the forest the North Wind met the man and tossed him upon its wings and buffeted him and chilled him to the marrow. In vain he asked for mercy, the North Wind would give none. Half frozen and sore with blows the man gasped—
“’Tis well! I will dwell with thee for thou givest nothing but evil.” So he went to dwell in the cave of the North Wind and the chill of the pitiless cold was good to him on account of his dead soul.