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Lazarus

by Leonid Andreyev

I II III IV V VI

I

When Lazarus rose from the grave, after three days and nights in the
mysterious thraldom of death, and returned alive to his home, it was a
long time before any one noticed the evil peculiarities in him that
were later to make his very name terrible. His friends and relatives
were jubilant that he had come back to life. They surrounded him with
tenderness, they were lavish of their eager attentions, spending the
greatest care upon his food and drink and the new garments they made
for him. They clad him gorgeously in the glowing colours of hope and
laughter, and when, arrayed like a bridegroom, he sat at table with
them again, ate again, and drank again, they wept fondly and summoned
the neighbours to look upon the man miraculously raised from the dead.

The neighbours came and were moved with joy. Strangers arrived from
distant cities and villages to worship the miracle. They burst into
stormy exclamations, and buzzed around the house of Mary and Martha,
like so many bees.

That which was new in Lazarus' face and gestures they explained
naturally, as the traces of his severe illness and the shock he had
passed through. It was evident that the disintegration of the body had
been halted by a miraculous power, but that the restoration had not
been complete; that death had left upon his face and body the effect
of an artist's unfinished sketch seen through a thin glass. On his
temples, under his eyes, and in the hollow of his cheek lay a thick,
earthy blue. His fingers were blue, too, and under his nails, which
had grown long in the grave, the blue had turned livid. Here and there
on his lips and body, the skin, blistered in the grave, had burst open
and left reddish glistening cracks, as if covered with a thin, glassy
slime. And he had grown exceedingly stout. His body was horribly
bloated and suggested the fetid, damp smell of putrefaction. But the
cadaverous, heavy odour that clung to his burial garments and, as it
seemed, to his very body, soon wore off, and after some time the blue
of his hands and face softened, and the reddish cracks of his skin
smoothed out, though they never disappeared completely. Such was the
aspect of Lazarus in his second life. It looked natural only to those
who had seen him buried.

Not merely Lazarus' face, but his very character, it seemed, had
changed; though it astonished no one and did not attract the attention
it deserved. Before his death Lazarus had been cheerful and careless,
a lover of laughter and harmless jest. It was because of his good
humour, pleasant and equable, his freedom from meanness and gloom,
that he had been so beloved by the Master. Now he was grave and
silent; neither he himself jested nor did he laugh at the jests of
others; and the words he spoke occasionally were simple, ordinary and
necessary words—words as much devoid of sense and depth as are the
sounds with which an animal expresses pain and pleasure, thirst and
hunger. Such words a man may speak all his life and no one would ever
know the sorrows and joys that dwelt within him.

Thus it was that Lazarus sat at the festive table among his friends
and relatives—his face the face of a corpse over which, for three
days, death had reigned in darkness, his garments gorgeous and
festive, glittering with gold, bloody-red and purple; his mien heavy
and silent. He was horribly changed and strange, but as yet
undiscovered. In high waves, now mild, now stormy, the festivities
went on around him. Warm glances of love caressed his face, still cold
with the touch of the grave; and a friend's warm hand patted his
bluish, heavy hand. And the music played joyous tunes mingled of the
sounds of the tympanum, the pipe, the zither and the dulcimer. It was
as if bees were humming, locusts buzzing and birds singing over the
happy home of Mary and Martha.

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