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The Rivau
by [?]

Translated From The Russian By Isabel Hapgood

I had a comrade-rival; not in our studies, not in the service or in love; but our views did not agree on any point, and every time we met, interminable arguments sprang up.

We argued about art, religion, science, about the life of earth and matters beyond the grave,–especially life beyond the grave.

He was a believer and an enthusiast. One day he said to me: “Thou laughest at everything; but if I die before thee, I will appear to thee from the other world…. We shall see whether thou wilt laugh then.”

And, as a matter of fact, he did die before me, while he was still young in years; but years passed, and I had forgotten his promise,–his threat.

One night I was lying in bed, and could not get to sleep, neither did I wish to do so.

It was neither light nor dark in the room; I began to stare into the grey half-gloom.

And suddenly it seemed to me that my rival was standing between the two windows, and nodding his head gently and sadly downward from above.

I was not frightened, I was not even surprised … but rising up slightly in bed, and propping myself on my elbow, I began to gaze with redoubled attention at the figure which had so unexpectedly presented itself.

The latter continued to nod its head.

“What is it?” I said at last.–“Art thou exulting? Or art thou pitying?–What is this–a warning or a reproach?… Or dost thou wish to give me to understand that thou wert in the wrong? That we were both in the wrong? What art thou experiencing? The pains of hell? The bliss of paradise? Speak at least one word!”

But my rival did not utter a single sound–and only went on nodding his head sadly and submissively, as before, downward from above.

I burst out laughing … he vanished.

February, 1878.