But my rival did not utter a single sound—and only went on nodding his head sadly and submissively, as before, downward from above.
I burst out laughing ... he vanished.
THE BEGGAR MAN
I was passing along the street when a beggar, a decrepit old man, stopped me.
Swollen, tearful eyes, blue lips, bristling rags, unclean sores.... Oh, how horribly had poverty gnawed that unhappy being!
He stretched out to me a red, bloated, dirty hand.... He moaned, he bellowed for help.
I began to rummage in all my pockets.... Neither purse, nor watch, nor even handkerchief did I find.... I had taken nothing with me.
And the beggar still waited ... and extended his hand, which swayed and trembled feebly.
Bewildered, confused, I shook that dirty, tremulous hand heartily....
“Blame me not, brother; I have nothing, brother.”
The beggar man fixed his swollen eyes upon me; his blue lips smiled—and in his turn he pressed my cold fingers.
“Never mind, brother,” he mumbled. “Thanks for this also, brother.—This also is an alms, brother.”
I understood that I had received an alms from my brother.
“THOU SHALT HEAR THE JUDGMENT OF THE DULLARD....”
“Thou shalt hear the judgment of the dullard....” Thou hast always spoken the truth, thou great writer of ours; thou hast spoken it this time, also.
“The judgment of the dullard and the laughter of the crowd."... Who is there that has not experienced both the one and the other?
All this can—and must be borne; and whosoever hath the strength,—let him despise it.
But there are blows which beat more painfully on the heart itself.... A man has done everything in his power; he has toiled arduously, lovingly, honestly.... And honest souls turn squeamishly away from him; honest faces flush with indignation at his name. “Depart! Begone!” honest young voices shout at him.—“We need neither thee nor thy work, thou art defiling our dwelling—thou dost not know us and dost not understand us.... Thou art our enemy!”
What is that man to do then? Continue to toil, make no effort to defend himself—and not even expect a more just estimate.
In former days tillers of the soil cursed the traveller who brought them potatoes in place of bread, the daily food of the poor man.... They snatched the precious gift from the hands outstretched to them, flung it in the mire, trod it under foot.
Now they subsist upon it—and do not even know the name of their benefactor.
So be it! What matters his name to them? He, although he be nameless, has saved them from hunger.
Let us strive only that what we offer may be equally useful food.