Chapter 17                       Dance With The Devil         By Gunther Schwab                   Written in 1963.




destruction. There was a deathly silence everywhere.

No star was to be seen.

God had stretched out his finger to the artificial world, and with all its skyscrapers, its machines,

and its advertis­ing hoardings, it had sunk into ruin, as though it were a scattered handful of sand.

When Rolande opened her eyes, she saw above her the calm light of a great star.

It was cold.

She raised herself and her body hurt her. She pushed the hair from her forehead;

a violent sobbing seemed to come from the very depths of her soul and shook her whole body.

Slowly, very slowly, the memory of what had happened came back to her.

She looked about. T

he east was already bright and showed the contours of heaps of rubble and of pillars of smoke.

The girl tried to get up but cold and pain seemed to paralyse her.

With a cry she sank back. "Sten," she cried. "Sten ! "

There was no answer. It was only then that she called out:

"Bob Harding ! Mr. Groot!" And again, "Sten ! "

Painfully she raised herself and felt herself all over.

Her dress hung in rags about her. At her breast she felt the little sack with the holy grains of corn,

and suddenly it seemed as though a comforting power reached out from them to herself.


Slowly she began to pick her way between the ruins.

The dim light of the day just enabled her to see what was before her.

Then her foot trod on something soft. With a cry of fear, she collapsed.

Staring, open-eyed, the dead man looked into the world.


It was Harding.

His limbs had been shattered.

Rolande closed his eyes.

Then she went on; she had to find Sten.

A few paces farther lay Groot, half buried.

He too was dead.

She did not stay with him.

"Sten ! " she cried. "Sten ! "

Swaying and stumbling, she staggered through the lunar landscape of the devastated earth

and her call was as the sobbing of a lost soul.


The eastern sky grew red; so this tortured and insulted star still turned !

There was still a sun ! Oh, the sun !


Then she found him. He lay on his face, with his arms out-stretched, and did not stir.

 Weeping, Rolande threw herself upon him and turned him over.

His face was bloody and still.

She felt his limbs, which seemed to be unharmed, put her ear to his breast and was filled with joy.

His heart was still beating.

Rolande made feverish haste to help him.

She stroked back the hair and wiped the dust from his face.

With all her strength she managed to raise him and drag him a little way to a heap of rubble beside

which there was a little space of soft earth.


"Sten ! " she cried, and kissed him again and again.

Suddenly he opened his eyes, saw Rolande. He started to smile, then fainted again.

She remained lying beside him, pressed close, so that they warmed one another.

She was exhausted and soon fell asleep.

When they awoke the sun was in the sky.

"Where are the others?" asked Sten.

"They are dead."

"Rolande ! " he cried suddenly. "Look ! "

In the middle of the ruined landscape stood a tree, laden with blossom.

They went near to it, astonished by the miracle.

 It was an apple tree, and they smelt its scent.

Bees buzzed round it and went from flower to flower.

"How is it possible," whispered Sten, "that in the midst of all this ruin, this tree survives?

The bees —"


On the apple tree there was a nesting-box made of wood.

Birds twittered in it and the older ones flew up and down with food in their beaks.

Heaven alone knew where they had found it.

"Over animals and plants the Devil has no power," said Rolande.

"They have not been guilty of sin."

"True ! But the nesting box? That was made by man."

"When the work of man serves life, God allows it to remain."

They went away. They buried Harding and Groot, and piled rubble above them.

Then they wandered on, and the sun shone down upon them.

Not a living soul was to be seen.

The sky grew blue; isolated birds flew off into the unknown;

the huge ruins of the town covered the earth for many miles.

Tired, hungry and thirsty, Rolande and Sten returned in the evening to the blossoming tree.

Here the earth had remained undamaged. It might have been a garden.

Black, loose soil piled up about their feet. Not far away, water trickled from a broken pipe.

"What now, Sten?"

"We're alive, Rolande, so we must believe that we're meant to live.

We must give ourselves wholly over into God's hands and gladly accept what He sends us,

be it life or death."

The girl drew out from her dress the little sack with the wheaten grain.

The yellow-gold corn ran into the palm of her hand.

An ancient song came into her mind, a song that the peasants of a forgotten age

had sung when they sowed. Softly, hesitatingly, she tried to sing it.

Then the words and melody came back to her, and her voice sounded deep and clear.

Sten watched her, admiration in his eyes.

With his hands he dug, and the girl put grain after grain into the warm, breathing, soil.

It was the seed of a new age.

Singing, she covered the grains with earth.


The End




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