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A Story

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"Yes, you should be freed that easily, you pure, you pious woman!" he said.

"Then follow me," said the dead. It has been granted us that you can fly through the air by my side, wherever your thoughts are directed. To mortals we shall be invisible, and able to pass unseen through the closed and bolted doors of inner rooms. But you must be certain that the man you point out to me as eternally damned is really one whom God will condemn to the torments of hell-fire forever, and he must be found before the cock crows."

And quickly, as if carried by the wings of thoughts, they arrived at the great city. On the walls of the houses letters of living flame gave the names of the deadly sins: Arrogance, Greed, Drunkenness, Wantonness-in fact, the whole seven-colored bow of sin.

"Yes, in these houses, as I thought, as I knew," said the preacher, "live those who will be punished forever."

And then they stood before a brilliantly lighted gate. The broad steps were covered with flowers and carpets, while from the festive rooms came the sounds of music and dancing.

A footman dressed in velvet and silk, with a large silverhandled stick in his hand, stood erect near the door.

"Our ball is as splendid as those at the palace of the king," said he, and turned toward the people outside. From tip to toe his thoughts were evident: "Poor beggars who stare in at the gate; compared to me, you people are only cattle!"

"Arrogance," said the dead wife. "Do you see him?"

"Him!" replied the preacher. "Yes, but this man is only a fool and a simpleton. He'll not be condemned to everlasting fire or eternal torment."

"Only a fool!" echoed through the whole house of Arrogance; they were all fools there.

Then they flew within the four bare walls of a miser's room-where, skinny, shivering with cold, hungry and thirsty, an old, old man clung desperately with all his thoughts to his gold. They saw how he, as in a fever, sprang from his miserable bed and took a loose stone out of the wall. There lay a stocking crammed full of gold pieces.

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