You are here: RussianShortStories.com > Leonid Andreyev > Lazarus

Lazarus

by Leonid Andreyev

I II III IV V VI

II

Some one recklessly lifted the veil. By one breath of an uttered word
he destroyed the serene charm, and uncovered the truth in its ugly
nakedness. No thought was clearly defined in his mind, when his lips
smilingly asked: "Why do you not tell us, Lazarus, what was There?"
And all became silent, struck with the question. Only now it seemed to
have occurred to them that for three days Lazarus had been dead; and
they looked with curiosity, awaiting an answer. But Lazarus remained
silent.

"You will not tell us?" wondered the inquirer. "Is it so terrible
There?"

Again his thought lagged behind his words. Had it preceded them, he
would not have asked the question, for, at the very moment he uttered
it, his heart sank with a dread fear. All grew restless; they awaited
the words of Lazarus anxiously. But he was silent, cold and severe,
and his eyes were cast down. And now, as if for the first time, they
perceived the horrible bluishness of his face and the loathsome
corpulence of his body. On the table, as if forgotten by Lazarus, lay
his livid blue hand, and all eyes were riveted upon it, as though
expecting the desired answer from that hand. The musicians still
played; then silence fell upon them, too, and the gay sounds died
down, as scattered coals are extinguished by water. The pipe became
mute, and the ringing tympanum and the murmuring dulcimer; and as
though a chord were broken, as though song itself were dying, the
zither echoed a trembling broken sound. Then all was quiet.

"You will not?" repeated the inquirer, unable to restrain his babbling
tongue. Silence reigned, and the livid blue hand lay motionless. It
moved slightly, and the company sighed with relief and raised their
eyes. Lazarus, risen from the dead, was looking straight at them,
embracing all with one glance, heavy and terrible.

This was on the third day after Lazarus had arisen from the grave.
Since then many had felt that his gaze was the gaze of destruction,
but neither those who had been forever crushed by it, nor those who in
the prime of life (mysterious even as death) had found the will to
resist his glance, could ever explain the terror that lay immovable in
the depths of his black pupils. He looked quiet and simple. One felt
that he had no intention to hide anything, but also no intention to
tell anything. His look was cold, as of one who is entirely
indifferent to all that is alive. And many careless people who pressed
around him, and did not notice him, later learned with wonder and fear
the name of this stout, quiet man who brushed against them with his
sumptuous, gaudy garments. The sun did not stop shining when he
looked, neither did the fountain cease playing, and the Eastern sky
remained cloudless and blue as always; but the man who fell under his
inscrutable gaze could no longer feel the sun, nor hear the fountain,
nor recognise his native sky. Sometimes he would cry bitterly,
sometimes tear his hair in despair and madly call for help; but
generally it happened that the men thus stricken by the gaze of
Lazarus began to fade away listlessly and quietly and pass into a slow
death lasting many long years. They died in the presence of everybody,
colourless, haggard and gloomy, like trees withering on rocky ground.
Those who screamed in madness sometimes came back to life; but the
others, never.

"So you will not tell us, Lazarus, what you saw There?" the inquirer
repeated for the third time. But now his voice was dull, and a dead,
grey weariness looked stupidly from out his eyes. The faces of all
present were also covered by the same dead grey weariness like a mist.
The guests stared at one another stupidly, not knowing why they had
come together or why they sat around this rich table. They stopped
talking, and vaguely felt it was time to leave; but they could not
overcome the lassitude that spread through their muscles. So they
continued to sit there, each one isolated, like little dim lights
scattered in the darkness of night.

The musicians were paid to play, and they again took up the
instruments, and again played gay or mournful airs. But it was music
made to order, always the same tunes, and the guests listened
wonderingly. Why was this music necessary, they thought, why was it
necessary and what good did it do for people to pull at strings and
blow their cheeks into thin pipes, and produce varied and
strange-sounding noises?

"How badly they play!" said some one.

The musicians were insulted and left. Then the guests departed one by
one, for it was nearing night. And when the quiet darkness enveloped
them, and it became easier to breathe, the image of Lazarus suddenly
arose before each one in stern splendour. There he stood, with the
blue face of a corpse and the raiment of a bridegroom, sumptuous and
resplendent, in his eyes that cold stare in the depths of which lurked
The Horrible! They stood still as if turned into stone. The darkness
surrounded them, and in the midst of this darkness flamed up the
horrible apparition, the supernatural vision, of the one who for three
days had lain under the measureless power of death. Three days he had
been dead. Thrice had the sun risen and set—and he had lain dead. The
children had played, the water had murmured as it streamed over the
rocks, the hot dust had clouded the highway—and he had been dead. And
now he was among men again—touched them—looked at them—looked at
them! And through the black rings of his pupils, as through dark
glasses, the unfathomable There gazed upon humanity.

» Next page

© 2005-2006 Waverley Internet Design