Dream Tales and Prose Poems/Poems in Prose/My Adversary

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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.

February 1878.