O God! I glance behind me.... The old woman is looking straight at me, and her toothless mouth is distorted in a grin....
“Thou canst not escape!”
There are two of us in the room, my dog and I.... A frightful storm is raging out of doors.
The dog is sitting in front of me, and gazing straight into my eyes.
And I, also, am looking him straight in the eye.
He seems to be anxious to say something to me. He is dumb, he has no words, he does not understand himself—but I understand him.
I understand that, at this moment, both in him and in me there dwells one and the same feeling, that there is no difference whatever between us. We are exactly alike; in each of us there burns and glows the selfsame tremulous flame.
Death is swooping down upon us, it is waving its cold, broad wings....
“And this is the end!”
Who shall decide afterward, precisely what sort of flame burned in each one of us?
No! it is not an animal and a man exchanging glances....
It is two pairs of eyes exactly alike fixed on each other.
And in each of those pairs, in the animal and in the man, one and the same life is huddling up timorously to the other.
I had a comrade-rival; not in our studies, not in the service or in love; but our views did not agree on any point, and every time we met, interminable arguments sprang up.
We argued about art, religion, science, about the life of earth and matters beyond the grave,—especially life beyond the grave.
He was a believer and an enthusiast. One day he said to me: “Thou laughest at everything; but if I die before thee, I will appear to thee from the other world.... We shall see whether thou wilt laugh then.”
And, as a matter of fact, he did die before me, while he was still young in years; but years passed, and I had forgotten his promise,—his threat.
One night I was lying in bed, and could not get to sleep, neither did I wish to do so.
It was neither light nor dark in the room; I began to stare into the grey half-gloom.
And suddenly it seemed to me that my rival was standing between the two windows, and nodding his head gently and sadly downward from above.
I was not frightened, I was not even surprised ... but rising up slightly in bed, and propping myself on my elbow, I began to gaze with redoubled attention at the figure which had so unexpectedly presented itself.
The latter continued to nod its head.
“What is it?” I said at last.—“Art thou exulting? Or art thou pitying?—What is this—a warning or a reproach?... Or dost thou wish to give me to understand that thou wert in the wrong? That we were both in the wrong? What art thou experiencing? The pains of hell? The bliss of paradise? Speak at least one word!”