Death's messengers



In ancient times a giant was once travelling on a great highway, when suddenly an unknown man sprang up before him, and said, "Halt, not one step farther!" - "What!" cried the giant, "a creature whom I can crush between my fingers, wants to block my way? Who art thou that thou darest to speak so boldly?" - "I am Death," answered the other. "No one resists me, and thou also must obey my commands. But the giant refused, and began to struggle with Death. It was a long, violent battle, at last the giant got the upper hand, and struck Death down with his fist, so that he dropped by a stone. The giant went his way, and Death lay there conquered, and so weak that he could not get up again. "What will be done now," said he, "if I stay lying here in a corner? No one will die in the world, and it will get so full of people that they won't have room to stand beside each other." In the meantime a young man came along the road, who was strong and healthy, singing a song, and glancing around on every side. When he saw the half-fainting one, he went compassionately to him, raised him up, poured a strengthening draught out of his flask for him, and waited till he came round. "Dost thou know," said the stranger, whilst he was getting up, "who I am, and who it is whom thou hast helped on his legs again?" - "No," answered the youth, "I do not know thee." - "I am Death," said he. "I spare no one, and can make no exception with thee, but that thou mayst see that I am grateful, I promise thee that I will not fall on thee unexpectedly, but will send my messengers to thee before I come and take thee away." - "Well," said the youth, "it is something gained that I shall know when thou comest, and at any rate be safe from thee for so long." Then he went on his way, and was light-hearted, and enjoyed himself, and lived without thought. But youth and health did not last long, soon came sicknesses and sorrows, which tormented him by day, and took away his rest by night. "Die, I shall not," said he to himself, "for Death will send his messengers before that, but I do wish these wretched days of sickness were over." As soon as he felt himself well again he began once more to live merrily. Then one day some one tapped him on the shoulder. He looked round, and Death stood behind him, and said, "Follow me, the hour of thy departure from this world has come." - "What," replied the man, "wilt thou break thy word? Didst thou not promise me that thou wouldst send thy messengers to me before coming thyself? I have seen none!" - "Silence!" answered Death. "Have I not sent one messenger to thee after another? Did not fever come and smite thee, and shake thee, and cast thee down? Has dizziness not bewildered thy head? Has not gout twitched thee in all thy limbs? Did not thine ears sing? Did not tooth-ache bite into thy cheeks? Was it not dark before thine eyes? And besides all that, has not my own brother Sleep reminded thee every night of me? Didst thou not lie by night as if thou wert already dead? The man could make no answer; he yielded to his fate, and went away with Death.
古时后,有个巨人漫步在乡间的大道上,突然一个陌生人跳到他跟前说:"站住,不许再往前走一步!""什么?"巨人叫道,"你这小东西,我两根指头就能把你捏死,你敢挡我的路?你是什么人,敢口吐狂言?""我是死神,"他回答说,"没有人能反抗我,你也必须服从我的命令。"但巨人拒绝了,和死神打斗起来,这是一场持久而激烈的战斗,最后巨人占了上风,一拳击倒了死神,使他瘫倒在一块石头旁。 巨人凯旋而去,死神倒在那儿屈服了,他太虚弱了,竟爬不起来了。 "现在我该怎么办呢?"他说,"如果就缩在这个角落里,世上就没人会死,那么必定会挤满人而无处容身了。"这时来了位年轻人,朝气蓬勃,一路高歌,并且在举目四顾。 一看见这个半死半活的人,马上关切地走了上来,扶起他,从自己的瓶中倒了口水给他,看着他恢复了几分力气。 那陌生人边爬起边说:"你可知道我是谁吗?你知道你帮了谁吗?""不,"年轻人说,"我不认识你。""我是死神,我从不放过任何人,你也不例外。但为了表示我的感激之情,我向你保证我绝不出其不意地降临于你,我会在来取你性命之前派我的报信使者通知你。""好的,"年轻人说,"能知道自己的死期就足够了,至少在这以前我不用提心吊胆的。"然后他愉快地走了,无忧无虑地生活着。 但青春和健康不会长久,很快病痛与悲哀都来了,它们开始一天天地折磨他。 他自言自语道:"我不会死的,因为死神还没来,我真希望这病痛缠身的痛苦日子赶快结束。"后来他的病好了,他又过上了开心的日子。 有一天,有人拍了拍他的肩膀,他扭头一看,发现死神就站在他身后。 "跟我来,你和这个世界告别的时刻已经到了。""什么?"这人问道,"你怎能食言?你不是保证说你本人来之前会派信使来吗?""别作声!"死神说,"我不是接二连三地差信使到这里了吗?寒热不是来打你、推你、摔倒你了吗?晕眩不是弄得你头昏脑胀吗?痛风病不是折磨你四肢吗?耳鸣有过吗?牙痛时不曾使面颊发肿吗?而且,我的兄弟'睡神'不是每晚向你提起我吗?夜里,你难道不是像死人那样地躺在那吗?"

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