My Adversary

I had a comrade who was my adversary; not in pursuits, nor in service, nor
in love, but our views were never alike on any subject, and whenever we
met, endless argument arose between us.

We argued about everything: about art, and religion, and science, about
life on earth and beyond the grave, especially about life beyond the grave.

He was a person of faith and enthusiasm. One day he said to me, 'You laugh
at everything; but if I die before you, I will come to you from the other
world…. We shall see whether you will laugh then.'

And he did, in fact, die before me, while he was still young; but the years
went by, and I had forgotten his promise, his threat.

One night I was lying in bed, and could not, and, indeed, would not sleep.

In the room it was neither dark nor light. I fell to staring into the grey
twilight.

And all at once, I fancied that between the two windows my adversary was
standing, and was slowly and mournfully nodding his head up and down.

I was not frightened; I was not even surprised… but raising myself a
little, and propping myself on my elbow, I stared still more intently at
the unexpected apparition.

The latter continued to nod his head.

'Well?' I said at last; 'are you triumphant or regretful? What is
this-warning or reproach?… Or do you mean to give me to understand that
you were wrong, that we were both wrong? What are you experiencing? The
torments of hell? Or the bliss of paradise? Utter one word at least!'

But my opponent did not utter a single sound, and only, as before,
mournfully and submissively nodded his head up and down.

I laughed… he vanished.

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