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Famous Modern Ghost Stories (Various authors) online

Famous Modern Ghost Stories

Lazarus

"Yes, thou art ugly, my poor Lazarus,"--quietly said the Roman, playing with his golden chain; "thou art even horrible, my poor friend; and Death was not lazy that day when thou didst fall so heedlessly into his hands. But thou art stout, and, as the great Csar used to say, fat people are not ill-tempered; to tell the truth, I don't understand why men fear thee. Permit me to spend the night in thy house; the hour is late, and I have no shelter."

Never had anyone asked Lazarus' hospitality.

"I have no bed," said he.

"I am somewhat of a soldier and I can sleep sitting," the Roman answered. "We shall build a fire."

"I have no fire."

"Then we shall have our talk in the darkness, like two friends. I think thou wilt find a bottle of wine."

"I have no wine."

The Roman laughed.

"Now I see why thou art so somber and dislikest thy second life. No wine! Why, then we shall do without it: there are words that make the head go round better than the Falernian."

By a sign he dismissed the slave, and they remained all alone. And again the sculptor started speaking, but it was as if, together with the setting sun, life had left his words; and they grew pale and hollow, as if they staggered on unsteady feet, as if they slipped and fell down, drunk with the heavy lees of weariness and despair. And black chasms grew up between the words--like far-off hints of the great void and the great darkness. "Now I am thy guest, and thou wilt not be unkind to me, Lazarus!"--said he. "Hospitality is the duty even of those who for three days were dead. Three days, I was told, thou didst rest in the grave. There it must be cold ... and that is whence comes thy ill habit of going without fire and wine. As to me, I like fire; it grows dark here so rapidly.... The lines of thy eyebrows and forehead are quite, quite interesting: they are like ruins of strange palaces, buried in ashes after an earthquake. But why dost thou wear such ugly and queer garments? I have seen bridegrooms in thy country, and they wear such clothes--are they not funny--and terrible.... But art thou a bridegroom?"

The sun had already disappeared, a monstrous black shadow came running from the east--it was as if gigantic bare feet began rumbling on the sand, and the wind sent a cold wave along the backbone.

"In the darkness thou seemest still larger, Lazarus, as if thou hast grown stouter in these moments. Dost thou feed on darkness, Lazarus? I would fain have a little fire--at least a little fire, a little fire. I feel somewhat chilly, your nights are so barbarously cold.... Were it not so dark, I should say that thou wert looking at me, Lazarus. Yes, it seems to me, thou art looking.... Why, thou art looking at me, I feel it,--but there thou art smiling."

Night came, and filled the air with heavy blackness.

"How well it will be, when the sun will rise to-morrow anew.... I am a great sculptor, thou knowest; that is how my friends call me. I create. Yes, that is the word ... but I need daylight. I give life to the cold marble, I melt sonorous bronze in fire, in bright hot fire.... Why didst thou touch me with thy hand?"

"Come"--said Lazarus--"Thou art my guest." And they went to the house. And a long night enveloped the earth.

The slave, seeing that his master did not come, went to seek him, when the sun was already high in the sky. And he beheld his master side by side with Lazarus: in profound silence were they sitting right under the dazzling and scorching sunrays and looking upward. The slave began to weep and cried out:

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