It had flung itself down to save, it was shielding, its offspring ... but the whole of its tiny body was throbbing with fear, its voice was wild and hoarse, it was swooning, it was sacrificing itself!
What a huge monster the dog must have appeared to it! And yet it could not have remained perched on its lofty, secure bough.... A force greater than its own will had hurled it thence.
My Tresor stopped short, retreated.... Evidently he recognised that force.
I hastened to call off the discomfited hound, and withdrew with reverence.
Yes; do not laugh. I felt reverential before that tiny, heroic bird, before its loving impulse.
Love, I thought, is stronger than death.—Only by it, only by love, does life support itself and move.
A sumptuous, luxuriously illuminated ball-room; a multitude of cavaliers and ladies.
All faces are animated, all speeches are brisk.... A rattling conversation is in progress about a well-known songstress. The people are lauding her as divine, immortal.... Oh, how finely she had executed her last trill that evening!
And suddenly—as though at the wave of a magic wand—from all the heads, from all the faces, a thin shell of skin flew off, and instantly there was revealed the whiteness of skulls, the naked gums and cheek-bones dimpled like bluish lead.
With horror did I watch those gums and cheek-bones moving and stirring,—those knobby, bony spheres turning this way and that, as they gleamed in the light of the lamps and candles, and smaller spheres—the spheres of the eyes bereft of sense—rolling in them.
I dared not touch my own face, I dared not look at myself in a mirror. But the skulls continued to turn this way and that, as before.... And with the same clatter as before, the brisk tongues, flashing like red rags from behind the grinning teeth, murmured on, how wonderfully, how incomparably the immortal ... yes, the immortal songstress had executed her last trill!
Why dost thou bother us? What dost thou want? Thou art not one of us.... Go away!
THE LAZY MAN
I am one of you, brethren!
Nothing of the sort; thou art not one of us! What an invention! Just look at my hands. Dost thou see how dirty they are? And they stink of dung, and tar,—while thy hands are white. And of what do they smell?
THE LAZY MAN—offering his hands
THE TOILER—smelling the hands
What’s this? They seem to give off an odour of iron.