A STORY 411
that there were so many ungodly, and that they should burn for ever ; for ever, O, how long ! -i am only a sinful woman, but I could not bear to let even the worst sinner burn for ever; how then should our Lord be able to do it who is so infinitely good, and who knows how the evil comes both from without and from within ? No, I cannot think it, even although you say it.'
It was autumn, the leaves fell from the trees ; the severe, earnest priest sat by the death-bed of his wife.
' If any one should get peace in the grave and mercy from God, it is you ! ' said the priest, and he folded her hands and read a psalm over her body.
And she was carried to her grave ; two heavy tears rolled down over the cheeks of the earnest priest ; and in his house it was quiet and lonely, the sunshine was extinguished; she had gone away.
It was night ; a cold wind blew over the head of the priest, he opened his eyes, and it seemed as if the moon shone into his room, but the moon was not shining ; it was a figure which stood before his bed ; he saw the ghost of his dead wife ; she looked at him sorrowfully, it seemed as if she wanted to say something.
And the man raised himself half up, and stretched out his arms to her: ' Have you not been granted eternal rest either ? Do you surfer,—you the best, the most pious ? ' And the departed one bowed her head for ' Yes ', and laid her hands on her breast.
' And can I obtain rest for you in the grave % '
' Yes,' it answered him.
' And how ? '
' Give me a hair, only a single hair, from the head of the sinner whose fire will never be quenched, the sinner whom God will thrust down into everlasting punishment.'
1 Yes, so easily can you be set free, you pure and pious soul! '
1 Then follow me ! ' said the departed. ' It is so vouchsafed to us. By my side you can float whither your thoughts will; unseen by men we stand in their most secret corners, but with steady hand you must point to the one consecrated to everlasting pain, and before cock-crow he must be found.