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Drizzle by Hjalmar Söderberg
THE DRIZZLE
AUTUMN is here again with its dismal days,
and the sun is hiding himself in the darkest
corner of the heavens so that no one shall see how
pale and aged and worn he has grown in this
latter time. But while the wind whistles in the
window-chinks and the rain purls in the rain-
spouts and a wet dog howls in front of a closed
gate down below on the street and before the
fire has burned down in our tile stove, I will tell
you a story about the drizzle.
Listen now!
For some time back the good God had become
so angered over the wickedness of men that he
resolved to punish them by making them still
v>/ v ^wickedbfc. He should, in his great goodness,
have liked above all things to have drowned them
all together in a new Deluge: he had not for-
gotten how agreeable was the sight when all living
creatures perished in the flood. But unfortu-
nately in a sentimental moment he had promised
Noah never to do so again.
"Harken, my friend I" he therefore said to the
Devil one day. "You are assuredly no saint, but
occasionally you have good ideas, and one can
54
The Drizzle
55
talk things over with you. The children of men
are wicked and do not want to improve. My
patience, which is infinite, has now come to an
end, and I have resolved to punish them by mak-
ing them wickeder still. The fact is I hope they
will then collectively destroy each other and them-
selves. It occurs to me that our interests — other-
wise so far apart — should here for once find a
point of contact. What advice can you give me?"
The Devil bit the end of his tail reflectively.
"Lord," he answered finally, "Thy wisdom is
as great as Thy goodness. Statistics show that
the greatest number of crimes are committed in
the autumn, when the days are dismal, the sky
is gray, and the earth is enveloped in rain and
mist."
The good God pondered these words a long
while.
"I understand," he said finally. "Your advice
is good, and I will follow it. You have good
gifts, my friend, but you should make better use
of them."
The Devil smiled and wagged his tail, for he
was flattered and touched. He then limped home.
But the good God said to himself: "Here-
after it shall always drizzle. The clouds shall
never clear; the mist never lift, the sun never
shine more. It shall be dark and gray to the end
of time." : ,
56 Hjalmar Söderberg
The umbrella makers and the overshoes manu-
facturers were happy at the start, but it was not
long before the smile froze upon even their lips.
People do not know what importance fair
weather has for them until they are for once
compelled to do without it. The gay became
melancholy. The melancholy became mad and
hanged themselves in long rows or assembled to
hold prayer-meetings. Soon no one worked any
more, and the need became great. Crime in-
creased in a dizzying scale; the prisons were over-
crowded, the madhouses afforded room for only
the clever. The number of the living decreased,
and their dwellings stood deserted. They insti-
tuted capital punishment for suicide; nothing did
any good.
Mankind, who for so many generations had
dreamed and poetized about an eternal spring,
now went to meet their last days through an
eternal autumn.
Day by day the destruction went on. Country-
sides were laid waste, cities fell in ruins. Dogs
gathered in the squares and howled; but in the
alleys an old lame man went about from house to
house with a sack on his back and collected souls.
And every evening he limped home with his sack
full.
But one evening he did not limp home. He
went instead to the gate of heaven and straight
The Drizzle
57
on to the good God's throne. There he stood
still, bowed, and said:
"Lord, Thou hast aged in these latter days.
We have both of us aged, and it is for that reason
we are so dull. Ah! Lord, that was bad advice
I gave Thee. The sins that interest me need a
bit of sunlight once in a while in order to flourish.
Look here ! you've made me into a miserable
rubbish-gatherer."
With these words he flung his dirty sack so
violently against the steps of the throne that the
cord broke and the souls fluttered out. They
were not black, but gray.
"That's the last of the human souls," said the
Devil. "I give them to Thee, Lord. But be-
ware of using them, if Thou intendest to create
a new world!"
The wind whistles in the window chinks, the
rain purls in the rain-spouts, and the story is done.
He who has not understood it may console him-
self with the thought that it will be fair weather
tomorrow.
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