412 A STORY
And quickly, as if carried by thought, they were in the great town ; and from the walls of the houses shone in letters of fire the names of the deadly sins : Pride, Avarice, Drunkenness, Self-indulgence, in short, the whole seven-hued rainbow of sin.
' Yes, in there, as I thought, as I knew,' said the priest, ' dwell those who are destined for eternal fire.' And they stood before the gorgeously lighted portal, where the broad stair was decorated with carpets and flowers, and dance-music sounded through the festive halls. The footman stood in silk and velvet with silver-mounted stick.
' Our ball can compare with that of the king,' said he, and he turned to the crowd on the street; from top to toe the thought shone out of him, * Poor pack, who stare in at the portal, you are common people compared with me, all of you ! '
* Pride,' said the departed one. ' Do you see him ? '
' Yes, but he is a simpleton, only a fool, and will not be condemned to everlasting fire and pain ! '
' Only a fool ! ' sounded through the whole house of Pride ; they were all ' only fools ' there.
And they flew within the four bare walls of Avarice, where, lean, chattering with cold, hungry and thirsty, the old one clung to his gold with all his thoughts ; they saw how he sprang from his miserable couch, as in a fever, and took a loose stone out of the wall, where gold-money lay in a stocking-leg; he fingered his patched coat into which gold pieces were sewn, and the moist fingers trembled.
1 He is ill, it is madness, a joyless madness, beset with fear and evil dreams.'
And they departed in haste, and stood by the couches of the criminals where they slept in long rows, side by side.
Like a wild animal, one of them started up out of his sleep, uttering a horrid shriek ; he dug his pointed elbow into his comrade, who turned sleepily.
* Hold your tongue, you blockhead, and sleep !—it is the same every night ! '
' Every night,' he repeated, ' yes, every night he comes and howls and suffocates me. In passion have I done one thing and another, an angry mind was I born with; it has brought me here a second time ; but if I have done wrong,