A Song Of Man
We argued, a lady and I on the topic: "The man of our time". The lady, a peevish, excitable lady impatiently stamped, answered back. Overwhelmed me with torrents of muddled complaint and a hailstorm of verbal attack. "Just a moment, - I said. - Just a moment! Look here..." But she cut me short, taking offence: "I beg you, stop talking. I tell you - I hate man! He doesn't deserve your defence." "I read of a fellow who took up a chopper against his own brother and killed him. Then washed and attended a service at church, and afterwards said he felt better." I shuddered in horror, and felt none too bright. But I'm not very strong in my theory, so I quietly said, as an honest man might: "Let's make a test case of a story. The case took place in a village, Mogila. The father had hidden some money. The son got to know of it, took it by force and then did away with his father. But after a month, or was it a week, the authorities made an arrest. But the court doesn't function to give men a treat, and sentenced the culprit to death. They duly conducted the villain to prison, they gave him a number and can, but there in the prison he met honest people, became a real man. I don't know the leaven that stirred him, I don't know the way it was made. But a song much more clearly than talking opened his eyes to his face. And then he would say: "O my God, how I floundered! And here am I waiting to swing. When you're hungry and dizzy from hardship, you've only to make a false step and you sink. "You wait like a bull for the slaughter, turn about, in your eyes there's the knife! How unjust, how unjust is world order! But perhaps we could better our life..." He struck up his song, sang it quietly and slowly, in front of him life floated forth like a wonderful vision... He sang, fell asleep with smile... Outside in the passage they talk in a whisper. There follows a moment of calm. Then somebody cautiously opens the door. A few people. Behind them a guard. One of them spoke in a fearsome flat voice: "Get up on your feet, man!" he bawled. The others looked on, with vacant expression examined the dripping grey walls. The man in the bed understood that right now life had finished with him, and at once he leapt up and brushed off the sweat from his brow. Stared back like a wild staring ox. But little by little the man understood that his fear was no use, he would die. And a curious radiance lit up his soul. "Shall we go now?" he asked them. "All right." He started and they followed after him, feeling a curious ominous chill. The soldier thought: "Let's get it over and done with! You're a tight corner now, pal." Outside in the passage they talked in a whisper. The corners were hidden in shade. At last they came down to the courtyard. Above it the sky shone with brightening sky where a star in its brilliance bathed. And fell to considering deeply his grievous, ferocious, and blind human fate. "My fate is decided, I'll hang from rope. But that's far from the end, I would say. For a life will arrive that is fairer than song, and more beautiful than a spring day..." He remembered the song, a thought flashed through his mind, (In his eyes a small fire was kindling). He smiled a broad smile full of brightness and warmth, braced his shoulders and then started singing. What's you view of it? Maybe you think we've discovered a case of a complex, hysterical? You can think just whatever you like of the matter - today, my dear friend, you're in error. The man calmly, sentence by sentence so firmly recited the song, that they stared at him uncomprehending, and watched him in fear and alarm. And even the prison was quaking in terror, the darkness too panicked and ran. The stars, smiling happily, shouted for joy, cried out to him: "Bravo, young man!" From here on the story is clear. The rope skillfully dropped on the shoulders, then death. But still his contorted and bloodless blue lips to the words of the song were compressed. And now we have come to the final denouement. Well, what's your opinion, reader? The lady, had started to sob, the poor woman as if in a trance began shrieking: "How horrid, how horrid! You tell the whole story as if you'd been there on the spot!..." What's horrid about it? The man sang a song - and that's very fine, is it not?
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