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From Hell to Heaven
Chapter 122 - Forced entry by war-victims. The Leader speaks. His call for prayer.
1. All move towards the door, stealing a glance into the great ante-chamber in the hope of espying the Lord and His aforementioned guests. But nothing like it! A large number of human beings are forcing their way into the hall, aggressively demanding the master of this palace.
2. Says Robert to Dismas: “Brother, this would be a nice surprise! Instead of the Lord, this dubious rabble are intruding, boldly calling for the master of this house, whom I have the honour to be. What do they want – are there robbers and murderers among them? Verily, this would be a nice addition to God’s kingdom! Just look at their fiery eyes! I’ll wager everything if this riff-raff did not come straight from hell! What do you think we should do with this rabble? These fellows would be quiet capable of chasing us out of the hose even in this heavenly kingdom! How they are surging back and forth! The hall is packed, yet through the door I see even the forecourt filling up. If it continues, we will be crushed. Even my nostrils pick up the bestial stench. Ah, this really is a most unexpected quandary! What can be done?”
3. Says Dismas: “Nothing yet! They see neither us nor this door, and hence cannot penetrate. They seem incidentally to have just wandered into this world from Earth, probably from Hungarian and Italian battlefields, for I distinctly hear Hungarian cursing, and even railing. We need to let them settle down, which will make them more gentle. Only then shall we reveal ourselves, for nothing could be done with them in their present revengeful fury. But let us listen in one them, to get the drift of their hearts!
4. “See, their three leaders seem to be at the front; their big crowd will emulate them. Whence all ears, as we shall hear amazing things! The middle one now turns around, demanding order and silence. He will probably address the entire host, which shall be of special interest to us. Wherefore we shall pay close attention! They are quieting down, and no further friends are trickling in. Therefore pay heed. He is demanding attentions, clearing his throat – he speaks!”
5. Says a leader of the new arrivals: “My dear fellow combatants! Upon the so-called field of honour for the fatherland we expired like cattle at the slaughterhouse! What does it do for us now? We strove upwards, yet have come to the depths! We fought like heroes, scornful of death, believing in no beyond and deriding the so-called Gospels. But now we truly are in hell, which is by no means a dream. We feel that some devil, out of gratitude for our heroic deeds, let us find this hell-palace, driving us into it. Now we are squeezed in here like pickled herrings. Around us it is as dark as in a cave, and no exit is to be seen. The actual lord of this house is nowhere to be found, and there probably is none. Here we have the reward for our earthly efforts and striving!
6. “Oh, if we could only communicate to our poor comrades in the world what reward awaits them! Verily, not one of them would again step out unto the ‘field of honour’. Everything would be just fine if in the devil’s name we had been completely annihilated. But we are only too penetrated with the realisaton that we live on over here in the most dreadful want. We are lacking in everything good and rather have an overabundance of every imaginable plight, such as hunger, thirst, heat and cold, all in one. Pain is gnawing worm-like at our innards, whilst no light quickens our eyes. Oh what a wonderful reward for our suffering and privations the ‘field of honour’ has provided us with so richly!
7. “So – that is the fate of the Earth’s proud master – that he is ultimately eaten alive, to then, as a self-conscious being, despair in everlasting darkness! Oh you accursed life of man, and especially of the hero! But what is to be done? I hope we have done enough cursing. What about praying for a change? Perhaps a prayer would turn useful. Doesn’t anyone of you know some lousy prayer by heart?”
8. Says one from their midst: “Captain, sir, I know the one from Kossut!” – Says the commander: “Donkey, that’s all we need! Kossut hit the dirt for it – what good shall it do us? Does no one know another?”
9. Says an Italian: “Signore Generale! I know a beauty of a prayer di santa Maria, and another de lo santo Giuseppe!”
10. Says the commander: “Shut your trap, you donkey of an Italian! Such stupidities are all we need here! Someone come up with something – but more sensible! For cuckoo’s sake, cannot a single one of you say the ‘Our Father who art in Heaven?” – One of them steps us, saying (with the strongest dialect, not translated as such): “General, sir, when I was still a boy, I learnt the Lord’s Prayer. It is a beauty, and wonderful! But I don’t remember it completely, but I will say whatever I still can!” – Says the general: “Go ahead and let him pray – as much and as well as he can!”
11. Commences the prayer-leader: “Just follow me and say: ‘Our Father Who art in Heaven!’ – hang on! How goes it next? – Ah, I know – ‘Our Father Who art in heaven – hallowed be thy name! Your will be done – in heaven and on Earth!’ – hang on again! How goes it further? – Beg your pardon, General, sir – for faring so badly! But patience – it’ll be ok. – Ah, just remembered! ‘Give us our daily bread - … and lead us not into temptation!”
12. Says another: “Oha – ‘forgive us our trespasses – as we forgive them who trespass against us’ comes before it!” – Says the first prayer-leader: “Beg you to say the last bit – don’t know it too well” – Says the second: “Well then! It goes on: ‘lead us not into temptation but deliver us from all jackasses, who are the worst evil. – Amen’ – Says the first: “Ho, it does not say this at the end, but just ‘deliver us from evil. Amen!’ But I know that you meant me – that I’m a dunce! You are no better, thinking you are smart! But I say you are a dunce! Now you know!”
13. Says the General: “No squabbling, thank you! We are sufficiently unfortunate due to some unconquerable might! Why should we make it worse with mutual recriminations? And what’s the good of a prayer, where the one no longer knows even half? Let someone step us who can say this prayer in full, or it is better not to pray!”
14. A lady steps forward, saying: “Mister General, I know this prayer indeed. But to pray in German is somewhat common; I could oblige in French or English!”
15. Says the General: “My dear Madam, pray English or Chinese for yourself, but we as a whole up ‘til now are conversant only in German, and would like to pray so! I hence ask again: is there anyone capable of praying the Lord’s Prayer in good, fluent German? Let him come forward and pray in good German!”
16. A pastor steps up, saying: “Mister General, if there is no objection to my being a Lutheran, then I shall try to lead a prayer!” Says the General: “It does not concern me whether Lutheran, Roman Catholic or Turk. But in this large crowd the greatest number are Romans, and these might be offended. Hence I am at present thankful for your offer, of which I shall avail myself only if there is no one among the Roman Catholic community capable of leading this prayer. But stay with me for the present.”
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