Leonid Andreyev

Lazarus

I

When Lazarus emerged from the tomb, in which for three days and three nights he remained under the mysterious dominion of death, and returned alive to his dwelling place, for a long time people did not notice in him those sinister oddities, which, in time, made his very name a thing of terror. Rejoicing with bright joy about the one brought back to life, friends and acquaintances cared for him ceaselessly, appeasing their greedy attention by providing food, drink, and new clothes. And they covered him lavishly in the bright colors of hope and laughter, and when, in the manner of a groom in wedding garments, he again sat among them at the table, and again ate, and again drank, they cried from emotion and called their neighbors to look upon the one who was miraculously resurrected. Neighbors came and rejoiced with emotion; strangers came from faraway towns and settlements and in thundering exclamations expressed their reverence for the miracle—truly bees buzzed above the house of Mary and Martha.

And that which appeared new in Lazarus’ face and movements they put down to natural causes, marks left from having endured heavy sickness and suffering. Clearly, death’s destructive work on the corpse was only halted by divine power, it was not altogether wiped out; and that which death had already managed to do with the face and body of Lazarus was like an unfinished sketch of a painter under a thin layer of glass. On Lazarus’ temples, under his eyes, and in the depressions of his cheeks there was a thick, sallow blueness; the fingers of his hands were the same sallow-blue, and on the nails, grown in the tomb, the blue turned purple and dark. In some places on the lips and on the body, the skin, inflated in the tomb, had burst, and in those places there remained thin reddish cracks, glimmering as if covered by transparent mica. And he grew fat. The body, inflated in the tomb, retained its monstrous proportions, those frightening bulges under which one could sense the odious moisture of decomposition. But the heavy smell of a corpse, which infused Lazarus’ funeral clothes and, it seemed, his very body, soon completely disappeared, and after some time the blueness of his hands and face softened and, although they never completely went away, the reddish cracks in the skin became smoother. This is the face with which he appeared before men in his second life; yet it seemed natural to those who have seen him buried.

Apart from the face it seemed that Lazarus’ temper had changed, but this too did not surprise anyone and did not attract to itself due attention. Until his death, Lazarus was always cheerful and carefree, enjoyed laughter and harmless jokes. It was for this pleasant and constant cheerfulness, devoid of spite and gloom, that the Teacher came to love him. Now he was serious and quiet, did not himself make jokes and did not laugh at the jokes of others, and those words, which he seldom uttered, were very simple, ordinary and necessary words, just as devoid of content and depth as those noises that animals use to express pain and joy, thirst and hunger. A man can say these words all his life and nobody will ever discover the sorrows and joys of his inner spirit.

Thus, with the face of a corpse, which for three days lay in darkness under the dominion of death—in lavish wedding garments, gleaming with yellow gold and bloody crimson, heavy and quiet, already horrifyingly different and odd, yet still unrecognized as such by anyone—he sat at the feasting table among friends and acquaintances. The jubilations moved around him in broad waves, at times gentle, at times turbulent-sonorous; and warm glances of love stretched towards his face, which still retained the coldness of the tomb; and the warm hand of a friend caressed his heavy blue hand. And music played. They invited musicians, and they played merrily: drum and pipe, zither and gusli. Truly bees buzzed—truly cicadas crackled—truly birds sang above the happy house of Mary and Martha.

Chapter II →
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