moment and answered:
“No! Oh no! I will not decrease beauty and happiness in the region of Death, but I will do something for Life in its own realm. Henceforward people will not pass to the other shore willingly, they must be forced to it.”
When he had said this he made a thick veil out of darkness which no one could see through, and next he created two terrible beings, one of these he named Fear and the other one Pain. He commanded them then to hang that black veil at the Passage.
Thereafter Vishnu’s kingdom was as crowded with life as it had been, for though the region of Death was as calm, as serene, and as blissful as ever, people dreaded the Passage.
SMALL CHAPEL ON THE SIENKIEWICZ ESTATE
IS HE THE DEAREST ONE?
IS HE THE DEAREST ONE?
In the distance a dark strip of pine wood was visible. In front of the wood was a meadow, and amid fields of grain stood a cottage covered with a straw roof and with moss. Birch trees hung their tresses above it. On a fir tree stood a stork on its nest, and in a cherry garden were dark beehives.
Through an open gate a wanderer walked into the yard and said to the mistress of the cottage, who was standing on its threshold:
“Peace to this quiet house, to those trees, to the grain, to the whole place, and to thee, mother!”
The woman greeted him kindly, and added:
“I will bring bread and milk to thee, wayfarer; but sit down the while and rest, for it is clear that thou art coming back from a long journey.”
“I have wandered like that stork, and like a swallow; I come from afar, I bring news from thy children.”
Her whole soul rushed to the eyes of that mother, and she asked the wayfarer straightway:
“Dost thou know of my Yasko?”
“Dost thou love that son most that thou askest first about him? Well, one son of thine is in forests, he works with his axe, he spreads his net in lakes; another herds horses in the steppe, he sings plaintive songs and looks at the stars; the third son climbs mountains, passes over naked rocks and high pastures, spends the night with sheep and shouts at the eagles. All bend down before thy knees and send thee greeting.”
“But Yasko?” asked the mother with an anxious face.
“I keep sad news for the last. Life is going ill with Yasko: the field does not give its fruit to him, poverty and hunger torment the man, his days and months pass in suffering. Amid strangers and misery he has even forgotten thy language; forget him, since he has no thought for thee.”
When he had finished, the woman took the man’s hand, led him to her pantry in the cottage, and, seizing a loaf from the shelf, she said:
“Give this bread, O wayfarer, to Yasko!”
Then she untied a small kerchief, took a bright silver coin from it, and with trembling voice added:
“I am not rich, but this too is for Yasko.”
“Woman!” said the wayfarer now with astonishment, “thou hast many sons, but thou sendest gifts to only one of them. Dost thou love him more than the others? Is he the dearest one?”
She raised her great sad eyes, filled with tears, and answered:
“My blessing is for them all, but my gifts are to Yasko, for I am a mother, and he is my poorest son.”
A LEGEND OF THE SEA
A LEGEND OF THE SEA
There was a ship named “The Purple,” so strong and so great that she feared neither winds nor waves, even when they were raging most terribly.
“The Purple” swept on, with every sail set, she rose upon each swelling wave and crushed with her conquering prow hidden rocks on which other ships foundered. She moved ever forward with sails which were gleaming in sunlight, and moved with such swiftness that foam roared at her sides and stretched out behind in a broad, endless road-streak.
“That is a glorious craft,” cried out crews on all other ships; “a man might think that she sails just to punish the ocean.”
From time to time they called out to the crew of “The Purple”:
“Hei, men, to what port are ye sailing?”
“To that port to which wind blows,” said the men on “The Purple.”
“Have a care, there are rocks ahead! There are whirlpools!”
In reply to this warning came back a song as loud as the wind was:
“Let us sail on, let us sail ever joyously.”
Men on “The Purple” were gladsome. The crew, confiding in the strength of their ship and the size of it, jeered at all perils. On other ships stern discipline ruled, but on “The Purple” each man did what seemed good to him.
Life on that ship was one ceaseless holiday. The storms which she had passed, the rocks which she had crushed, increased the crew’s confidence. “There are no reefs, there are no winds to wreck this ship,” roared the sailors. “Let a hurricane shiver the ocean, ‘The Purple’ will always sail forward.”
And “The Purple” sailed; she was proud, she was splendid.
Whole years passed—she was to all seeming invincible, she helped other ships and took in on her deck drowning passengers.
Blind faith increased every day in the breasts of the crew on “The Purple.” They grew slothful in good fortune and forgot their own art, they forgot how to navigate. “Our ‘Purple’ will sail herself,” said they. “Why toil, why watch the ship, why pull at rudder, masts, sails, and ropes? Why live by hard work and the sweat of our brows, when our ship is divine, indestructible? Let us sail on, let us sail joyously.”
And they sailed for a very long period. At last, after years, the crew became utterly effeminate, they forgot every duty, and no man of them knew that that ship was decaying. Bitter water had weakened the spars, the strong rigging had loosened, waves without number had shattered the gunwales, dry rot was at work in the mainmast, the sails had grown weak through exposure.
The voice of sound sense was heard now despite every madness:
“Be careful!” cried some of the sailors.
“Never mind! We will sail with the current,” cried out the majority. But once such a storm came that to that hour its like had not been on the water. The wind whirled ocean and clouds into one hellish chaos. Pillars of water rose up and flew then with roars at “The Purple”; they were raging and bellowing dreadfully. They