Translated from the Russian to English By CONSTANCE GARNETT
I saw myself, in dream, a youth, almost a boy, in a low-pitched wooden church. The slim wax candles gleamed, spots of red, before the old pictures of the saints.
A ring of coloured light encircled each tiny flame. Dark and dim it was in the church.... But there stood before me many people. All fair-haired, peasant heads. From time to time they began swaying, falling, rising again, like the ripe ears of wheat, when the wind of summer passes in slow undulation over them.
All at once some man came up from behind and stood beside me.
I did not turn towards him; but at once I felt that this man was Christ.
Emotion, curiosity, awe overmastered me suddenly. I made an effort ... and looked at my neighbour.
A face like every one's, a face like all men's faces. The eyes looked a little upwards, quietly and intently. The lips closed, but not compressed; the upper lip, as it were, resting on the lower; a small beard parted in two. The hands folded and still. And the clothes on him like every one's.
'What sort of Christ is this?' I thought. 'Such an ordinary, ordinary man! It can't be!'
I turned away. But I had hardly turned my eyes away from this ordinary man when I felt again that it really was none other than Christ standing beside me.
Again I made an effort over myself.... And again the same face, like all men's faces, the same everyday though unknown features.
And suddenly my heart sank, and I came to myself. Only then I realised that just such a face--a face like all men's faces--is the face of Christ.
I dreamed I had come into an immense underground temple with lofty arched roof. It was filled with a sort of underground uniform light.
In the very middle of the temple sat a majestic woman in a flowing robe of green colour. Her head propped on her hand, she seemed buried in deep thought.
At once I was aware that this woman was Nature herself; and a thrill of reverent awe sent an instantaneous shiver through my inmost soul.
I approached the sitting figure, and making a respectful bow, 'O common Mother of us all!' I cried, 'of what is thy meditation? Is it of the future destinies of man thou ponderest? or how he may attain the highest possible
perfection and happiness?'
The woman slowly turned upon me her dark menacing eyes. Her lips moved, and I heard a ringing voice like the clang of iron.
'I am thinking how to give greater power to the leg-muscles of the flea, that he may more easily escape from his enemies. The balance of attack and defence is broken.... It must be restored.'
'What,' I faltered in reply, 'what is it thou art thinking upon? But are not we, men, thy favourite children?'
The woman frowned slightly. 'All creatures are my children,' she pronounced, 'and I care for them alike, and all alike I destroy.'
'But right ... reason ... justice ...' I faltered again.
'Those are men's words,' I heard the iron voice saying. 'I know not right nor wrong.... Reason is no law for me--and what is justice?--I have given thee life, I shall take it away and give to others, worms or men ... I care not.... Do thou meanwhile look out for thyself, and hinder me not!'
I would have retorted ... but the earth uttered a hollow groan andshuddered, and I awoke.