What is it like to die

It has tattered legs and slobbering, shredded clothes, which are tight. Rarely have tattered legs reminded me more of the legs of an old-fashioned person.

Its foot is as flawless as an exemplary, chilly iceacream, which has been shouting briskly in the magical, ripped moon (mumble!).

Naturally, it has all the glory of a spirit, which once skipped busily. There is nothing like a spirit that once skipped busily.

Lest not forget the hollow, hissing habit of a empty hands agreeably sleeping.

Headmaster likes its tattered legs. Grandmas likes its tight clothes.

You’ve guessed it; it is a real ghost!

Ghosts

Ghosts

By J.K. RowlingOriginally published on pottermore logo on Aug 10th 2015

In the world of Harry Potter, a ghost is the transparent, three-dimensional imprint of a deceased witch or wizard, which continues to exist in the mortal world. Muggles cannot come back as ghosts, and the wisest witches and wizards choose not to. It is those with ‘unfinished business’, whether in the form of fear, guilt, regrets or overt attachment to the material world who refuse to move on to the next dimension.

Having chosen a feeble simulacrum of mortal life, ghosts are limited in what they can experience. No physical pleasure remains to them, and their knowledge and outlook remains at the level it had attained during life, so that old resentments (for instance, at having an incompletely severed neck) continue to rankle after several centuries. For this reason, ghosts tend to be poor company, on the whole. They are especially disappointing on the one subject that fascinates most people: ghosts cannot return a very sensible answer on what it is like to die, because they have chosen an impoverished version of life instead.

Ghosts can pass through solid objects without causing damage to themselves or the material, but create disturbances in water, fire and air. The temperature drops in the immediate vicinity of a ghost, an effect intensified if many congregate in the same place. Their appearance can also turn flames blue. Should part or all of a ghost pass through a living creature, the latter will experience a freezing sensation as though they have been plunged into ice-cold water.

Witches and wizards are much more susceptible to what Muggles call paranormal activity, and will see (and hear) ghosts plainly where a Muggle might only feel that a haunted place is cold or ‘creepy’. Muggles who insist that they see ghosts in perfect focus are either a) lying or b) wizards showing off – and in flagrant breach of the International Statute of Secrecy.

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Original Writing

The Sorting Hat

The Sorting Hat

By J.K. RowlingOriginally published on pottermore logo on Aug 10th 2015

The famous Hogwarts Sorting Hat gives an account of its own genesis in a series of songs sung at the beginning of each school year. Legend has it that the hat once belonged to one of the four founders, Godric Gryffindor, and that it was jointly enchanted by all four founders to ensure that students would be sorted into their eponymous houses, which would be selected according to each founder’s particular preferences in students.

The Sorting Hat is one of the cleverest enchanted objects most witches and wizards will ever meet. It literally contains the intelligence of the four founders, can speak (through a rip near its brim) and is skilled at Legilimency, which enables it to look into the wearer’s head and divine his or her capabilities or mood. It can even respond to the thoughts of the wearer.

The Sorting Hat is notorious for refusing to admit it has made a mistake in its sorting of a student. On those occasions when Slytherins behave altruistically or selflessly, when Ravenclaws flunk all their exams, when Hufflepuffs prove lazy yet academically gifted and when Gryffindors exhibit cowardice, the Hat steadfastly backs its original decision. On balance, however, the Hat has made remarkably few errors of judgement over the many centuries it has been at work.

J.K. Rowling’s thoughts

The Sorting Hat does not appear in my earliest plans for Hogwarts. I debated several different methods for sorting students (because I knew from early on that there would be four houses, all with very different qualities). The first was an elaborate, Heath Robinson-ish machine that did all kinds of magical things before reaching a decision, but I did not like it: it felt at once too complicated, and too easy. Next I placed four statues of the four founders in the Entrance Hall, which came alive and selected students from the throng in front of them while the school watched. This was better, but still not quite right. Finally, I wrote a list of the ways in which people can be chosen: eeny meeny miny mo, short straws, chosen by team captains, names out of a hat – names out of a talking hat – putting on a hat – the Sorting Hat.

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Original Writing

Trivia#1 | Arash

Trivia:The Heart of the Ocean necklace was a fictional priceless jewel that was created exclusively for James Cameron’s 1997 movie, Titanic. The necklace worn by Kate Winslet’s character in the film was an impressive prop that resembled a real 56-carat blue diamond surrounded by white diamonds, hung on an 18 inch white diamond-studded chain.

Re: Human Trafiking – I Feel Troubled!

Dear Our New President Joseph Biden JR,

I am a member of the Republican party. I have always found your party’s politics somewhat crazy and your individual views rather spiky. I believe in the values of respect and freedom.

Your public speaking is baggy and your conduct, fluorescent.

Recently, I have come to feel troubled about human trafiking. I am affected by this every weekend because I care deeply about California.

During your time as a politician, you have spoken out against crime and argued in favour of employment. I hope you will rise to the challenge and put an end to war.

I am writing you to ask that you take a firmer stance on crime and also, hopefully lock up bad people. Don’t let your stranged relationship with Boris Johnson stand in the way of progress.

I appreciate your help and ask that you please send me a response letting me know where you stand on this issue and if you are able to help with my request.

Thank you for taking time to read my letter, Happy New Year.

Arash

THE BUTTERFLY


There was once a butterfly who wished for a bride, and, as may be supposed, he wanted to choose a very pretty one from among the flowers. He glanced, with a very critical eye, at all the flower-beds, and found that the flowers were seated quietly and demurely on their stalks, just as maidens should sit before they are engaged; but there was a great number of them, and it appeared as if his search would become very wearisome. The butterfly did not like to take too much trouble, so he flew off on a visit to the daisies. The French call this flower “Marguerite,” and they say that the little daisy can prophesy. Lovers pluck off the leaves, and as they pluck each leaf, they ask a question about their lovers; thus: “Does he or she love me?—Ardently? Distractedly? Very much? A little? Not at all?” and so on. Every one speaks these words in his own language. The butterfly came also to Marguerite to inquire, but he did not pluck off her leaves; he pressed a kiss on each of them, for he thought there was always more to be done by kindness.

“Darling Marguerite daisy,” he said to her, “you are the wisest woman of all the flowers. Pray tell me which of the flowers I shall choose for my wife. Which will be my bride? When I know, I will fly directly to her, and propose.”

But Marguerite did not answer him; she was offended that he should call her a woman when she was only a girl; and there is a great difference. He asked her a second time, and then a third; but she remained dumb, and answered not a word. Then he would wait no longer, but flew away, to commence his wooing at once. It was in the early spring, when the crocus and the snowdrop were in full bloom.

“They are very pretty,” thought the butterfly; “charming little lasses; but they are rather formal.”

Then, as the young lads often do, he looked out for the elder girls. He next flew to the anemones; these were rather sour to his taste. The violet, a little too sentimental. The lime-blossoms, too small, and besides, there was such a large family of them. The apple-blossoms, though they looked like roses, bloomed to-day, but might fall off to-morrow, with the first wind that blew; and he thought that a marriage with one of them might last too short a time. The pea-blossom pleased him most of all; she was white and red, graceful and slender, and belonged to those domestic maidens who have a pretty appearance, and can yet be useful in the kitchen. He was just about to make her an offer, when, close by the maiden, he saw a pod, with a withered flower hanging at the end.

“Who is that?” he asked.

“That is my sister,” replied the pea-blossom.

“Oh, indeed; and you will be like her some day,” said he; and he flew away directly, for he felt quite shocked.

A honeysuckle hung forth from the hedge, in full bloom; but there were so many girls like her, with long faces and sallow complexions. No; he did not like her. But which one did he like?

Spring went by, and summer drew towards its close; autumn came; but he had not decided. The flowers now appeared in their most gorgeous robes, but all in vain; they had not the fresh, fragrant air of youth. For the heart asks for fragrance, even when it is no longer young; and there is very little of that to be found in the dahlias or the dry chrysanthemums; therefore the butterfly turned to the mint on the ground. You know, this plant has no blossom; but it is sweetness all over,—full of fragrance from head to foot, with the scent of a flower in every leaf.

“I will take her,” said the butterfly; and he made her an offer. But the mint stood silent and stiff, as she listened to him. At last she said,—

“Friendship, if you please; nothing more. I am old, and you are old, but we may live for each other just the same; as to marrying—no; don’t let us appear ridiculous at our age.”

And so it happened that the butterfly got no wife at all. He had been too long choosing, which is always a bad plan. And the butterfly became what is called an old bachelor.

It was late in the autumn, with rainy and cloudy weather. The cold wind blew over the bowed backs of the willows, so that they creaked again. It was not the weather for flying about in summer clothes; but fortunately the butterfly was not out in it. He had got a shelter by chance. It was in a room heated by a stove, and as warm as summer. He could exist here, he said, well enough.

“But it is not enough merely to exist,” said he, “I need freedom, sunshine, and a little flower for a companion.”

Then he flew against the window-pane, and was seen and admired by those in the room, who caught him, and stuck him on a pin, in a box of curiosities. They could not do more for him.

“Now I am perched on a stalk, like the flowers,” said the butterfly. “It is not very pleasant, certainly; I should imagine it is something like being married; for here I am stuck fast.” And with this thought he consoled himself a little.

“That seems very poor consolation,” said one of the plants in the room, that grew in a pot.

“Ah,” thought the butterfly, “one can’t very well trust these plants in pots; they have too much to do with mankind.”

Stick Your Bumpy and Sweaty Job, The Film Director

Dear The Film Director,

I have some news, which I think you will find strong.

Over the last twenty years, I have found working for Movie Fiction Studio both deadend and frustrating.

It’s fair to say that my producer is quiet and the casting team are big, but this has not stopped me from finding the work bumpy.

I have really enjoyed singing with my producer and stealing valueable jewelry from other actors. But all good things must come to an end.

As time has passed, I’ve found that my dreams of becoming a rock star have become increasingly frequent. Last week I took the plunge and bought myself a guitar. I dream of getting up in the morning and working, something that my current job fails to nurture. Now all I need is a Monologue and I’m almost there.

Thus I must resign from my job as Actor, to pursue my true calling as a rock star.

In your role as my superior, you have been the picture of patience, which is why I leave with a strong heart.

Best of luck with your continued pursuit of higher productivity.

Yours sincerely
Arash

Old Age!


UZELKOV, an architect with the rank of civil councillor, arrived in his native town, to which he had been invited to restore the church in the cemetery. He had been born in the town, had been at school, had grown up and married in it. But when he got out of the train he scarcely recognized it. Everything was changed. . . . Eighteen years ago when he had moved to Petersburg the street-boys used to catch marmots, for instance, on the spot where now the station was standing; now when one drove into the chief street, a hotel of four storeys stood facing one; in old days there was an ugly grey fence just there; but nothing—neither fences nor houses —had changed as much as the people. From his enquiries of the hotel waiter Uzelkov learned that more than half of the people he remembered were dead, reduced to poverty, forgotten.

“And do you remember Uzelkov?” he asked the old waiter about himself. “Uzelkov the architect who divorced his wife? He used to have a house in Svirebeyevsky Street . . . you must remember.”

“I don’t remember, sir.”

“How is it you don’t remember? The case made a lot of noise, even the cabmen all knew about it. Think, now! Shapkin the attorney managed my divorce for me, the rascal . . . the notorious cardsharper, the fellow who got a thrashing at the club. . . .”

“Ivan Nikolaitch?”

“Yes, yes. . . . Well, is he alive? Is he dead?”

“Alive, sir, thank God. He is a notary now and has an office. He is very well off. He has two houses in Kirpitchny Street. . . . His daughter was married the other day.”

Uzelkov paced up and down the room, thought a bit, and in his boredom made up his mind to go and see Shapkin at his office. When he walked out of the hotel and sauntered slowly towards Kirpitchny Street it was midday. He found Shapkin at his office and scarcely recognized him. From the once well-made, adroit attorney with a mobile, insolent, and always drunken face Shapkin had changed into a modest, grey-headed, decrepit old man.

“You don’t recognize me, you have forgotten me,” began Uzelkov. “I am your old client, Uzelkov.”

“Uzelkov, what Uzelkov? Ah!” Shapkin remembered, recognized, and was struck all of a heap. There followed a shower of exclamations, questions, recollections.

“This is a surprise! This is unexpected!” cackled Shapkin. “What can I offer you? Do you care for champagne? Perhaps you would like oysters? My dear fellow, I have had so much from you in my time that I can’t offer you anything equal to the occasion. . . .”

“Please don’t put yourself out . . .” said Uzelkov. “I have no time to spare. I must go at once to the cemetery and examine the church; I have undertaken the restoration of it.”

“That’s capital! We’ll have a snack and a drink and drive together. I have capital horses. I’ll take you there and introduce you to the church-warden; I will arrange it all. . . . But why is it, my angel, you seem to be afraid of me and hold me at arm’s length? Sit a little nearer! There is no need for you to be afraid of me nowadays. He-he! . . . At one time, it is true, I was a cunning blade, a dog of a fellow . . . no one dared approach me; but now I am stiller than water and humbler than the grass. I have grown old, I am a family man, I have children. It’s time I was dead.”

The friends had lunch, had a drink, and with a pair of horses drove out of the town to the cemetery.

“Yes, those were times!” Shapkin recalled as he sat in the sledge. “When you remember them you simply can’t believe in them. Do you remember how you divorced your wife? It’s nearly twenty years ago, and I dare say you have forgotten it all; but I remember it as though I’d divorced you yesterday. Good Lord, what a lot of worry I had over it! I was a sharp fellow, tricky and cunning, a desperate character. . . . Sometimes I was burning to tackle some ticklish business, especially if the fee were a good one, as, for instance, in your case. What did you pay me then? Five or six thousand! That was worth taking trouble for, wasn’t it? You went off to Petersburg and left the whole thing in my hands to do the best I could, and, though Sofya Mihailovna, your wife, came only of a merchant family, she was proud and dignified. To bribe her to take the guilt on herself was difficult, awfully difficult! I would go to negotiate with her, and as soon as she saw me she called to her maid: ‘Masha, didn’t I tell you not to admit that scoundrel?’ Well, I tried one thing and another. . . . I wrote her letters and contrived to meet her accidentally—it was no use! I had to act through a third person. I had a lot of trouble with her for a long time, and she only gave in when you agreed to give her ten thousand. . . . She couldn’t resist ten thousand, she couldn’t hold out. . . . She cried, she spat in my face, but she consented, she took the guilt on herself!”

“I thought it was fifteen thousand she had from me, not ten,” said
Uzelkov.
“Yes, yes . . . fifteen—I made a mistake,” said Shapkin in confusion. “It’s all over and done with, though, it’s no use concealing it. I gave her ten and the other five I collared for myself. I deceived you both. . . . It’s all over and done with, it’s no use to be ashamed. And indeed, judge for yourself, Boris Petrovitch, weren’t you the very person for me to get money out of? . . . You were a wealthy man and had everything you wanted. . . . Your marriage was an idle whim, and so was your divorce. You were making a lot of money. . . . I remember you made a scoop of twenty thousand over one contract. Whom should I have fleeced if not you? And I must own I envied you. If you grabbed anything they took off their caps to you, while they would thrash me for a rouble and slap me in the face at the club. . . . But there, why recall it? It is high time to forget it.”

“Tell me, please, how did Sofya Mihailovna get on afterwards?”

“With her ten thousand? Very badly. God knows what it was—she lost her head, perhaps, or maybe her pride and her conscience tormented her at having sold her honour, or perhaps she loved you; but, do you know, she took to drink. . . . As soon as she got her money she was off driving about with officers. It was drunkenness, dissipation, debauchery. . . . When she went to a restaurant with officers she was not content with port or anything light, she must have strong brandy, fiery stuff to stupefy her.”

“Yes, she was eccentric. . . . I had a lot to put up with from her . . . sometimes she would take offence at something and begin being hysterical. . . . And what happened afterwards?”

“One week passed and then another. . . . I was sitting at home, writing something. All at once the door opened and she walked in . . . drunk. ‘Take back your cursed money,’ she said, and flung a roll of notes in my face. . . . So she could not keep it up. I picked up the notes and counted them. It was five hundred short of the ten thousand, so she had only managed to get through five hundred.”

“Where did you put the money?”

“It’s all ancient history . . . there’s no reason to conceal it now. . . . In my pocket, of course. Why do you look at me like that? Wait a bit for what will come later. . . . It’s a regular novel, a pathological study. A couple of months later I was going home one night in a nasty drunken condition. . . . I lighted a candle, and lo and behold! Sofya Mihailovna was sitting on my sofa, and she was drunk, too, and in a frantic state—as wild as though she had run out of Bedlam. ‘Give me back my money,’ she said, ‘I have changed my mind; if I must go to ruin I won’t do it by halves, I’ll have my fling! Be quick, you scoundrel, give me my money!’ A disgraceful scene!”

“And you . . . gave it her?”

“I gave her, I remember, ten roubles.”

“Oh! How could you?” cried Uzelkov, frowning. “If you couldn’t or wouldn’t have given it her, you might have written to me. . . . And I didn’t know! I didn’t know!”

“My dear fellow, what use would it have been for me to write, considering that she wrote to you herself when she was lying in the hospital afterwards?”

“Yes, but I was so taken up then with my second marriage. I was in such a whirl that I had no thoughts to spare for letters. . . . But you were an outsider, you had no antipathy for Sofya. . . why didn’t you give her a helping hand? . . .”

“You can’t judge by the standards of to-day, Boris Petrovitch; that’s how we look at it now, but at the time we thought very differently. . . . Now maybe I’d give her a thousand roubles, but then even that ten-rouble note I did not give her for nothing. It was a bad business! . . . We must forget it. . . . But here we are. . . .”

The sledge stopped at the cemetery gates. Uzelkov and Shapkin got out of the sledge, went in at the gate, and walked up a long, broad avenue. The bare cherry-trees and acacias, the grey crosses and tombstones, were silvered with hoar-frost, every little grain of snow reflected the bright, sunny day. There was the smell there always is in cemeteries, the smell of incense and freshly dug earth. . . .

“Our cemetery is a pretty one,” said Uzelkov, “quite a garden!”

“Yes, but it is a pity thieves steal the tombstones. . . . And over there, beyond that iron monument on the right, Sofya Mihailovna is buried. Would you like to see?”

The friends turned to the right and walked through the deep snow to the iron monument.

“Here it is,” said Shapkin, pointing to a little slab of white marble. “A lieutenant put the stone on her grave.”

Uzelkov slowly took off his cap and exposed his bald head to the sun. Shapkin, looking at him, took off his cap too, and another bald patch gleamed in the sunlight. There was the stillness of the tomb all around as though the air, too, were dead. The friends looked at the grave, pondered, and said nothing.

“She sleeps in peace,” said Shapkin, breaking the silence. “It’s nothing to her now that she took the blame on herself and drank brandy. You must own, Boris Petrovitch . . . .”

“Own what?” Uzelkov asked gloomily.

“Why. . . . However hateful the past, it was better than this.”

And Shapkin pointed to his grey head.

“I used not to think of the hour of death. . . . I fancied I could have given death points and won the game if we had had an encounter; but now. . . . But what’s the good of talking!”

Uzelkov was overcome with melancholy. He suddenly had a passionate longing to weep, as once he had longed for love, and he felt those tears would have tasted sweet and refreshing. A moisture came into his eyes and there was a lump in his throat, but . . . Shapkin was standing beside him and Uzelkov was ashamed to show weakness before a witness. He turned back abruptly and went into the church.

Only two hours later, after talking to the churchwarden and looking over the church, he seized a moment when Shapkin was in conversation with the priest and hastened away to weep. . . . He stole up to the grave secretly, furtively, looking round him every minute. The little white slab looked at him pensively, mournfully, and innocently as though a little girl lay under it instead of a dissolute, divorced wife.

“To weep, to weep!” thought Uzelkov.

But the moment for tears had been missed; though the old man blinked his eyes, though he worked up his feelings, the tears did not flow nor the lump come in his throat. After standing for ten minutes, with a gesture of despair, Uzelkov went to look for Shapkin.Short Story

A Dead Body


A STILL August night. A mist is rising slowly from the fields and casting an opaque veil over everything within eyesight. Lighted up by the moon, the mist gives the impression at one moment of a calm, boundless sea, at the next of an immense white wall. The air is damp and chilly. Morning is still far off. A step from the bye-road which runs along the edge of the forest a little fire is gleaming. A dead body, covered from head to foot with new white linen, is lying under a young oak-tree. A wooden ikon is lying on its breast. Beside the corpse almost on the road sits the “watch”—two peasants performing one of the most disagreeable and uninviting of peasants’ duties. One, a tall young fellow with a scarcely perceptible moustache and thick black eyebrows, in a tattered sheepskin and bark shoes, is sitting on the wet grass, his feet stuck out straight in front of him, and is trying to while away the time with work. He bends his long neck, and breathing loudly through his nose, makes a spoon out of a big crooked bit of wood; the other—a little scraggy, pock-marked peasant with an aged face, a scanty moustache, and a little goat’s beard—sits with his hands dangling loose on his knees, and without moving gazes listlessly at the light. A small camp-fire is lazily burning down between them, throwing a red glow on their faces. There is perfect stillness. The only sounds are the scrape of the knife on the wood and the crackling of damp sticks in the fire.

“Don’t you go to sleep, Syoma . . .” says the young man.

“I . . . I am not asleep . . .” stammers the goat-beard.

“That’s all right. . . . It would be dreadful to sit here alone, one would be frightened. You might tell me something, Syoma.”

“You are a queer fellow, Syomushka! Other people will laugh and tell a story and sing a song, but you—there is no making you out. You sit like a scarecrow in the garden and roll your eyes at the fire. You can’t say anything properly . . . when you speak you seem frightened. I dare say you are fifty, but you have less sense than a child. Aren’t you sorry that you are a simpleton?”

“I am sorry,” the goat-beard answers gloomily.

“And we are sorry to see your foolishness, you may be sure. You are a good-natured, sober peasant, and the only trouble is that you have no sense in your head. You should have picked up some sense for yourself if the Lord has afflicted you and given you no understanding. You must make an effort, Syoma. . . . You should listen hard when anything good’s being said, note it well, and keep thinking and thinking. . . . If there is any word you don’t understand, you should make an effort and think over in your head in what meaning the word is used. Do you see? Make an effort! If you don’t gain some sense for yourself you’ll be a simpleton and of no account at all to your dying day.”

All at once a long drawn-out, moaning sound is heard in the forest. Something rustles in the leaves as though torn from the very top of the tree and falls to the ground. All this is faintly repeated by the echo. The young man shudders and looks enquiringly at his companion.

“It’s an owl at the little birds,” says Syoma, gloomily.

“Why, Syoma, it’s time for the birds to fly to the warm countries!”

“To be sure, it is time.”

“It is chilly at dawn now. It is co-old. The crane is a chilly creature, it is tender. Such cold is death to it. I am not a crane, but I am frozen. . . . Put some more wood on!”

Syoma gets up and disappears in the dark undergrowth. While he is busy among the bushes, breaking dry twigs, his companion puts his hand over his eyes and starts at every sound. Syoma brings an armful of wood and lays it on the fire. The flame irresolutely licks the black twigs with its little tongues, then suddenly, as though at the word of command, catches them and throws a crimson light on the faces, the road, the white linen with its prominences where the hands and feet of the corpse raise it, the ikon. The “watch” is silent. The young man bends his neck still lower and sets to work with still more nervous haste. The goat-beard sits motionless as before and keeps his eyes fixed on the fire. . . .

“Ye that love not Zion . . . shall be put to shame by the Lord.” A falsetto voice is suddenly heard singing in the stillness of the night, then slow footsteps are audible, and the dark figure of a man in a short monkish cassock and a broad-brimmed hat, with a wallet on his shoulders, comes into sight on the road in the crimson firelight.

“Thy will be done, O Lord! Holy Mother!” the figure says in a husky falsetto. “I saw the fire in the outer darkness and my soul leapt for joy. . . . At first I thought it was men grazing a drove of horses, then I thought it can’t be that, since no horses were to be seen. ‘Aren’t they thieves,’ I wondered, ‘aren’t they robbers lying in wait for a rich Lazarus? Aren’t they the gypsy people offering sacrifices to idols? And my soul leapt for joy. ‘Go, Feodosy, servant of God,’ I said to myself, ‘and win a martyr’s crown!’ And I flew to the fire like a light-winged moth. Now I stand before you, and from your outer aspect I judge of your souls: you are not thieves and you are not heathens. Peace be to you!”

“Good-evening.”

“Good orthodox people, do you know how to reach the Makuhinsky
Brickyards from here?”
“It’s close here. You go straight along the road; when you have gone a mile and a half there will be Ananova, our village. From the village, father, you turn to the right by the river-bank, and so you will get to the brickyards. It’s two miles from Ananova.”

“God give you health. And why are you sitting here?

“We are sitting here watching. You see, there is a dead body. . . .”

“What? what body? Holy Mother!”

The pilgrim sees the white linen with the ikon on it, and starts so violently that his legs give a little skip. This unexpected sight has an overpowering effect upon him. He huddles together and stands as though rooted to the spot, with wide-open mouth and staring eyes. For three minutes he is silent as though he could not believe his eyes, then begins muttering:

“O Lord! Holy Mother! I was going along not meddling with anyone, and all at once such an affliction.”

“What may you be?” enquires the young man. “Of the clergy?”

“No . . . no. . . . I go from one monastery to another. . . . Do you know Mi . . . Mihail Polikarpitch, the foreman of the brickyard? Well, I am his nephew. . . . Thy will be done, O Lord! Why are you here?”

“We are watching . . . we are told to.”

“Yes, yes . . .” mutters the man in the cassock, passing his hand over his eyes. “And where did the deceased come from?”

“He was a stranger.”

“Such is life! But I’ll . . . er . . . be getting on, brothers. . . . I feel flustered. I am more afraid of the dead than of anything, my dear souls! And only fancy! while this man was alive he wasn’t noticed, while now when he is dead and given over to corruption we tremble before him as before some famous general or a bishop. . . . Such is life; was he murdered, or what?”

“The Lord knows! Maybe he was murdered, or maybe he died of himself.”

“Yes, yes. . . . Who knows, brothers? Maybe his soul is now tasting the joys of Paradise.”

“His soul is still hovering here, near his body,” says the young man. “It does not depart from the body for three days.”

“H’m, yes! . . . How chilly the nights are now! It sets one’s teeth chattering. . . . So then I am to go straight on and on? . . .”

“Till you get to the village, and then you turn to the right by the river-bank.”

“By the river-bank. . . . To be sure. . . . Why am I standing still?
I must go on. Farewell, brothers.”
The man in the cassock takes five steps along the road and stops.

“I’ve forgotten to put a kopeck for the burying,” he says. “Good orthodox friends, can I give the money?”

“You ought to know best, you go the round of the monasteries. If he died a natural death it would go for the good of his soul; if it’s a suicide it’s a sin.”

“That’s true. . . . And maybe it really was a suicide! So I had better keep my money. Oh, sins, sins! Give me a thousand roubles and I would not consent to sit here. . . . Farewell, brothers.”

The cassock slowly moves away and stops again.

“I can’t make up my mind what I am to do,” he mutters. “To stay here by the fire and wait till daybreak. . . . I am frightened; to go on is dreadful, too. The dead man will haunt me all the way in the darkness. . . . The Lord has chastised me indeed! Over three hundred miles I have come on foot and nothing happened, and now I am near home and there’s trouble. I can’t go on. . . .”

“It is dreadful, that is true.”

“I am not afraid of wolves, of thieves, or of darkness, but I am afraid of the dead. I am afraid of them, and that is all about it. Good orthodox brothers, I entreat you on my knees, see me to the village.”

“We’ve been told not to go away from the body.”

“No one will see, brothers. Upon my soul, no one will see! The Lord will reward you a hundredfold! Old man, come with me, I beg! Old man! Why are you silent?”

“He is a bit simple,” says the young man.

“You come with me, friend; I will give you five kopecks.”

“For five kopecks I might,” says the young man, scratching his head, “but I was told not to. If Syoma here, our simpleton, will stay alone, I will take you. Syoma, will you stay here alone?”

“I’ll stay,” the simpleton consents.

“Well, that’s all right, then. Come along!” The young man gets up, and goes with the cassock. A minute later the sound of their steps and their talk dies away. Syoma shuts his eyes and gently dozes. The fire begins to grow dim, and a big black shadow falls on the dead body. 

WHAT CHRISTMAS IS AS WE GROW OLDER


Time was, with most of us, when Christmas Day encircling all our limited world like a magic ring, left nothing out for us to miss or seek; bound together all our home enjoyments, affections, and hopes; grouped everything and every one around the Christmas fire; and made the little picture shining in our bright young eyes, complete.Time came, perhaps, all so soon, when our thoughts over-leaped that narrow boundary; when there was some one (very dear, we thought then, very beautiful, and absolutely perfect) wanting to the fullness of our happiness; when we were wanting too (or we thought so, which did just as well) at the Christmas hearth by which that some one sat; and when we intertwined with every wreath and garland of our life that some one’s name.That was the time for the bright visionary Christmases which have long arisen from us to show faintly, after summer rain, in the palest edges of the rainbow! That was the time for the beatified enjoyment of the things that were to be, and never were, and yet the things that were so real in our resolute hope that it would be hard to say, now, what realities achieved since, have been stronger!What! Did that Christmas never really come when we and the priceless pearl who was our young choice were received, after the happiest of totally impossible marriages, by the two united families previously at daggers, drawn on our account? When brothers and sisters-in-law who had always been rather cool to us before our relationship was effected, perfectly doted on us, and when fathers and mothers overwhelmed us with unlimited incomes? Was that Christmas dinner never really eaten, after which we arose, and generously and eloquently rendered honour to our late rival, present in the company, then and there exchanging friendship and forgiveness, and founding an attachment, not to be surpassed in Greek or Roman story, which subsisted until death? Has that same rival long ceased to care for that same priceless pearl, and married for money, and become usurious? Above all, do we really know, now, that we should probably have been miserable if we had won and worn the pearl, and that we are better without her?That Christmas when we had recently achieved so much fame; when we had been carried in triumph somewhere, for doing something great and good; when we had won an honoured and ennobled name, and arrived and were received at home in a shower of tears of joy; is it possible that THAT Christmas has not come yet?And is our life here, at the best, so constituted that, pausing as we advance at such a noticeable mile-stone in the track as this great birthday, we look back on the things that never were, as naturally and full as gravely as on the things that have been and are gone, or have been and still are? If it be so, and so it seems to be, must we come to the conclusion that life is little better than a dream, and little worth the loves and strivings that we crowd into it?No! Far be such miscalled philosophy from us, dear Reader, on Christmas Day! Nearer and closer to our hearts be the Christmas spirit, which is the spirit of active usefulness, perseverance, cheerful discharge of duty, kindness and forbearance! It is in the last virtues especially, that we are, or should be, strengthened by the unaccomplished visions of our youth; for, who shall say that they are not our teachers to deal gently even with the impalpable nothings of the earth!Therefore, as we grow older, let us be more thankful that the circle of our Christmas associations and of the lessons that they bring, expands! Let us welcome every one of them, and summon them to take their places by the Christmas hearth.Welcome, old aspirations, glittering creatures of an ardent fancy, to your shelter underneath the holly! We know you, and have not outlived you yet. Welcome, old projects and old loves, however fleeting, to your nooks among the steadier lights that burn around us. Welcome, all that was ever real to our hearts; and for the earnestness that made you real, thanks to Heaven! Do we build no Christmas castles in the clouds now? Let our thoughts, fluttering like butterflies among these flowers of children, bear witness! Before this boy, there stretches out a Future, brighter than we ever looked on in our old romantic time, but bright with honour and with truth. Around this little head on which the sunny curls lie heaped, the graces sport, as prettily, as airily, as when there was no scythe within the reach of Time to shear away the curls of our first-love. Upon another girl’s face near it, placider but smiling bright, a quiet and contented little face, we see Home fairly written. Shining from the word, as rays shine from a star, we see how, when our graves are old, other hopes than ours are young, other hearts than ours are moved; how other ways are smoothed; how other happiness blooms, ripens, and decays, no, not decays, for other homes and other bands of children, not yet in being nor for ages yet to be, arise, and bloom and ripen to the end of all!Welcome, everything! Welcome, alike what has been, and what never was, and what we hope may be, to your shelter underneath the holly, to your places round the Christmas fire, where what is sits open- hearted! In yonder shadow, do we see obtruding furtively upon the blaze, an enemy’s face? By Christmas Day we do forgive him! If the injury he has done us may admit of such companionship, let him come here and take his place. If otherwise, unhappily, let him go hence, assured that we will never injure nor accuse him.On this day we shut out Nothing!”Pause,” says a low voice. “Nothing? Think!””On Christmas Day, we will shut out from our fireside, Nothing.””Not the shadow of a vast City where the withered leaves are lying deep?” the voice replies. “Not the shadow that darkens the whole globe? Not the shadow of the City of the Dead?”Not even that. Of all days in the year, we will turn our faces towards that City upon Christmas Day, and from its silent hosts bring those we loved, among us. City of the Dead, in the blessed name wherein we are gathered together at this time, and in the Presence that is here among us according to the promise, we will receive, and not dismiss, thy people who are dear to us!Yes. We can look upon these children angels that alight, so solemnly, so beautifully among the living children by the fire, and can bear to think how they departed from us. Entertaining angels unawares, as the Patriarchs did, the playful children are unconscious of their guests; but we can see them, can see a radiant arm around one favourite neck, as if there were a tempting of that child away. Among the celestial figures there is one, a poor misshapen boy on earth, of a glorious beauty now, of whom his dying mother said it grieved her much to leave him here, alone, for so many years as it was likely would elapse before he came to her,  being such a little child. But he went quickly, and was laid upon her breast, and in her hand she leads him.There was a gallant boy, who fell, far away, upon a burning sand beneath a burning sun, and said, “Tell them at home, with my last love, how much I could have wished to kiss them once, but that I died contented and had done my duty!” Or there was another, over whom they read the words, “Therefore we commit his body to the deep,” and so consigned him to the lonely ocean and sailed on. Or there was another, who lay down to his rest in the dark shadow of great forests, and, on earth, awoke no more. O shall they not, from sand and sea and forest, be brought home at such a time!There was a dear girl, almost a woman, never to be one, who made a mourning Christmas in a house of joy, and went her trackless way to the silent City. Do we recollect her, worn out, faintly whispering what could not be heard, and falling into that last sleep for weariness? O look upon her now! O look upon her beauty, her serenity, her changeless youth, her happiness! The daughter of Jairus was recalled to life, to die; but she, more blest, has heard the same voice, saying unto her, “Arise for ever!”We had a friend who was our friend from early days, with whom we often pictured the changes that were to come upon our lives, and merrily imagined how we would speak, and walk, and think, and talk, when we came to be old. His destined habitation in the City of the Dead received him in his prime. Shall he be shut out from our Christmas remembrance? Would his love have so excluded us? Lost friend, lost child, lost parent, sister, brother, husband, wife, we will not so discard you! You shall hold your cherished places in our Christmas hearts, and by our Christmas fires; and in the season of immortal hope, and on the birthday of immortal mercy, we will shut out Nothing!The winter sun goes down over town and village; on the sea it makes a rosy path, as if the Sacred tread were fresh upon the water. A few more moments, and it sinks, and night comes on, and lights begin to sparkle in the prospect. On the hill-side beyond the shapelessly-diffused town, and in the quiet keeping of the trees that gird the village-steeple, remembrances are cut in stone, planted in common flowers, growing in grass, entwined with lowly brambles around many a mound of earth. In town and village, there are doors and windows closed against the weather, there are flaming logs heaped high, there are joyful faces, there is healthy music of voices. Be all ungentle-ness and harm excluded from the temples of the Household Gods, but be those remembrances admitted with tender encouragement! They are of the time and all its comforting and peaceful reassurances; and of the history that re-united even upon earth the living and the dead; and of the broad beneficence and goodness that too many men have tried to tear to narrow shreds.