Eddie Willers, alone in his apartment; nervously pacing. He lies down on the sofa and falls asleep. When he wakes, he finds an unexpected visitor sitting opposite him, who looks much like himself, although apparently a Devil. The countenance of the unexpected visitor is not so much good-natured, as accommodating and ready to assume any amiable expression as occasion might arise.

Eddie is angrily silent and will not begin the conversation.

The visitor waits and sits exactly like a poor relation who has come down from his room to keep his host company at tea, and is discreetly silent, seeing that his host is frowning and preoccupied. But he is ready for any affable conversation as soon as his host should begin it. All at once his face expresses a sudden solicitude…

John Galt swoops down to save Ken Danagger from a fate worse than death.

Devil: “I say, excuse me, I only mention it to remind you. You went to find the railway schedule, but you came away without finding out anything about it, you probably forgot…”

Eddie Willers, with gloomy uneasiness: “Ah, yes. Yes, I’d forgotten… but it doesn’t matter now, never mind, till tomorrow.”

Eddie Willers, muttering to himself, addressing his visitor: “…and you, I should have remembered that myself in a minute, for that was just what was tormenting me! Why do you interfere, as if I should believe that you prompted me, and that I didn’t remember it of myself?”

Devil, smiling amicably: “Don’t believe it then, what’s the good of believing against your will? Besides, proofs are no help to believing, especially material proofs. Thomas believed, not because he saw Christ risen, but because he wanted to believe, before he saw. Look at the spiritualists, for instance…. I am very fond of them… only fancy, they imagine that they are serving the cause of religion, because the devils show them their horns from the other world. That, they say, is a material proof, so to speak, of the existence of another world. The other world and material proofs, what next! And if you come to that, does proving there’s a Devil prove that there’s a God? I want to join an idealist society, I’ll lead the opposition in it, I’ll say I am a realist, but not a materialist, he he!”

Eddie Willers: suddenly getting up from the table: “Listen, I seem to be delirious… I am delirious, in fact, talk any nonsense you like, I don’t care! You won’t drive me to fury, as you did last time. But I feel somehow ashamed… I want to walk about the room…. I sometimes don’t see you and don’t even hear your voice as I did last time, but I always guess what you are prating, for it’s I, myself, speaking, not you. Only I don’t know whether I was dreaming last time or whether I really saw you. I’ll wet a towel and put it on my head and perhaps you’ll vanish into air.” Eddie goes to the corner, takes a towel, and does as he said, and with a wet towel on his head begins walking up and down the room.

Devil: “I am so glad you treat me so familiarly!”

Eddie Willers: “Fool!” laughs “Do you suppose I should stand on ceremony with you? I am in good spirits now, though I’ve a pain in my forehead… only please don’t talk philosophy, as you did last time. If you can’t take yourself off, talk of something amusing. Talk gossip, you are a poor relation, you ought to talk gossip. What a nightmare to have! But I am not afraid of you. I’ll get the better of you. I won’t be taken to a mad-house!”

Devil: “C’est charmant, poor relation. Yes, I am in my natural shape. For what am I on earth but a poor relation? By the way, I am listening

Eddie Willers, starting with a bit of fury: “Never for one minute have I taken you for reality! You are a lie! You are my illness! You are a phantom! It’s only that I don’t know how to destroy you and I see I must suffer for a time. You are my hallucination. You are the incarnation of myself, but only of one side of me… of my thoughts and feelings, but only the nastiest and stupidest of them. From that point of view you might be of interest to me, if only I had time to waste on you…”

Devil: “Excuse me, excuse me, I’ll catch you. When you flew out at James under the lamp-post this evening and shouted to him, ‘You learnt it from him! How do you know that he visits me?’ You were thinking of me then. So for one brief moment you did believe that I really exist.” laughs blandly

Eddie Willers: “Yes, that was a moment of weakness… but I couldn’t believe in you. I don’t know whether I was asleep or awake last time. Perhaps I was only dreaming then and didn’t see you really at all…”

Devil: “And why were you so surly with James just now? He is a dear; I’ve treated him badly over Dagny.”

Eddie Willers: “Don’t talk of Dagny! How dare you, you flunky!”

Laughs again.

Devil: “You scold me, but you laugh — that’s a good sign. But you are ever so much more polite than you were last time and I know why: that great resolution of yours…”

Eddie Willers, savagely: “Don’t speak of my resolution!”

Devil: “I understand, I understand, c’est noble, c’est charmant, you are going to defend the railroad and to sacrifice yourself… C’est chevaleresque.”

Eddie Willers: “Hold your tongue, I’ll kick you!”

Devil: “I shan’t be altogether sorry, for then my object will be attained. If you kick me, you must believe in my reality, for people don’t kick ghosts. Joking apart, it doesn’t matter to me, scold if you like, though it’s better to be a trifle more polite, even to me. ‘Fool, flunky!’ What words!”

Eddie Willers: “Scolding you, I scold myself!” laughs “You are myself, myself, only with a different face. You just say what I am thinking… and are incapable of saying anything new!”

Devil, with delicacy and dignity: “If I am like you in my way of thinking, it’s all to my credit.”

Eddie Willers, through clenched teeth: “You choose out only my worst thoughts, and what’s more, the stupid ones. You are stupid and vulgar. You are awfully stupid. No, I can’t put up with you! What am I to do, what am I to do?”

Devil: “My dear friend, above all things I want to behave like a gentleman and to be recognized as such.”

Devil: continues in a deprecating and simple-hearted pride, typical of a poor relation: “I am poor, but… I won’t say very honest, but… it’s an axiom generally accepted in society that I am a fallen angel. I certainly can’t conceive how I can ever have been an angel. If I ever was, it must have been so long ago that there’s no harm in forgetting it. Now I only prize the reputation of being a gentlemanly person and live as I can, trying to make myself agreeable. I love men genuinely, yet I’ve been greatly calumniated! Here when I stay with you from time to time, my life gains a kind of reality and that’s what I like most of all. You see, like you, I suffer from the fantastic and so I love the realism of earth. Here, with you, everything is circumscribed, here all is formulated and geometrical, while we have nothing but indeterminate equations! I wander about here dreaming. I like dreaming. Besides, on earth, I become superstitious. Please don’t laugh, that’s just what I like, to become superstitious. I adopt all your habits here: I’ve grown fond of going to the public baths, would you believe it? And I go and steam myself with merchants and priests. What I dream of is becoming incarnate once for all and irrevocably in the form of some merchant’s wife weighing eighteen stone, and of believing all she believes. My ideal is to go to church and offer a candle in simple-hearted faith, upon my word it is. Then there would be an end to my sufferings. I like being doctored too; in the spring there was an outbreak of smallpox and I went and was vaccinated in a foundling hospital — if only you knew how I enjoyed myself that day. I subscribed ten roubles in the cause of the poor!… But you are not listening. Do you know, you are not at all well this evening? I know you went yesterday to that doctor… Well, what about your health? What did the doctor say?”

Eddie Willers, snaps out: “Fool!”

Devil: “But you are clever, anyway. You are scolding again? I didn’t ask out of sympathy. You needn’t answer. Now rheumatism has come in again…”

Eddie Willers: “Fool!”

Devil: “You keep saying the same thing; but I had such an attack of rheumatism last year that I remember it to this day.”

Eddie Willers: “The Devil have rheumatism!”

Devil: “Why not, if I sometimes put on fleshly form? I put on fleshly form and I take the consequences. Satan sum et nihil humanum a me alienum puto.” (I am Satan, and deem nothing human alien to me.)

Eddie Willers: “What, what, Satan sum et nihil humanum… that’s not bad for the Devil!”

Devil: “I am glad I’ve pleased you at last.”

Eddie Willers, suddenly, seeming struck, stops: “But you didn’t get that from me. That never entered my head, that’s strange.”

Devil: “C’est du nouveau, n’est-ce pas?” (It’s new, isn’t it?) “This time I’ll act honestly and explain to you. Listen, in dreams and especially in nightmares, from indigestion or anything, a man sees sometimes such artistic visions, such complex and real actuality, such events, even a whole world of events, woven into such a plot, with such unexpected details from the most exalted matters to the last button on a cuff, as I swear Leo Tolstoy has never invented. Yet such dreams are sometimes seen not by writers, but by the most ordinary people, officials, journalists, priests…. The subject is a complete enigma. A statesman confessed to me, indeed, that all his best ideas came to him when he was asleep. Well, that’s how it is now, though I am your hallucination, yet just as in a nightmare, I say original things which had not entered your head before. So I don’t repeat your ideas, yet I am only your nightmare, nothing more.”

Eddie Willers: “You are lying, your aim is to convince me you exist apart and are not my nightmare, and now you are asserting you are a dream.”

Devil: “My dear fellow, I’ve adopted a special method today, I’ll explain it to you afterwards. Stay, where did I break off? Oh, yes! I caught cold then, only not here but yonder.”

Eddie Willers, almost in despair: “Where is yonder? Tell me, will you be here long. Can’t you go away?”

Eddie stops walking to and fro, sits down on the sofa, leans his elbows on the table again and holds his head tight in both hands. He pules the wet towel off and flings it away in vexation, evidently of no use.

Devil, with a carelessly easy, though perfectly polite, air: “Your nerves are out of order. You are angry with me even for being able to catch cold, though it happened in a most natural way. I was hurrying then to a diplomatic soirée at the house of a lady of high rank in Petersburg, who was aiming at influence in the Ministry. Well, in an evening suit, white tie, gloves, though I was God knows where and had to fly through space to reach your earth…. Of course, it took only an instant, but you know a ray of light from the sun takes full eight minutes, and fancy in an evening suit and open waistcoat. Spirits don’t freeze, but when one’s in fleshly form, well… in brief, I didn’t think, and set off, and you know in those ethereal spaces, in the water that is above the firmament, there’s such a frost… at least one can’t call it frost, you fancy, 150 degrees below zero! You know the game the village girls play — they invite the unwary to lick an axe in thirty degrees of frost, the tongue instantly freezes to it and the dupe tears the skin off, so it bleeds. But that’s only in 30 degrees, in 150 degrees I imagine it would be enough to put your finger on the axe and that would be the end of it… if only there could be an axe there.”

Eddie Willers, interrupting, carelessly and disdainfully: “And can there be an axe there?”

Eddie is exerting himself to the utmost not to believe in the delusion and not to sink into complete insanity.

Devil, in surprise: “An axe?”

Eddie, suddenly, with a savage and insistent obstinacy: “Yes, what would become of an axe there?”

Devil: “What would become of an axe in space? Quelle idée! If it were to fall to any distance, it would begin, I think, flying round the earth without knowing why, like a satellite. The astronomers would calculate the rising and the setting of the axe; Gatzuk would put it in his calendar, that’s all.”

Eddie Willers, peevishly: “You are stupid, awfully stupid, fib more cleverly or I won’t listen. You want to get the better of me by realism, to convince me that you exist, but I don’t want to believe you exist! I won’t believe it!”

Devil: “But I am not fibbing, it’s all the truth; the truth is unhappily hardly ever amusing. I see you persist in expecting something big of me, and perhaps something fine. That’s a great pity, for I only give what I can…”

Eddie Willers: “Don’t talk philosophy, you ass!”

Devil: “Philosophy, indeed, when all my right side is numb and I am moaning and groaning. I’ve tried all the medical faculty: they can diagnose beautifully, they have the whole of your disease at their finger-tips, but they’ve no idea how to cure you. There was an enthusiastic little student here, ‘You may die,’ said he, ‘but you’ll know perfectly what disease you are dying of!’ And then what a way they have of sending people to specialists! ‘We only diagnose,’ they say,‘but go to such-and-such a specialist, he’ll cure you.’ The old doctor who used to cure all sorts of diseases has completely disappeared, I assure you, now there are only specialists and they all advertise in the newspapers. If anything is wrong with your nose, they send you to Paris: there, they say, is a European specialist who cures noses. If you go to Paris, he’ll look at your nose; ‘I can only cure your right nostril’, he’ll tell you, ‘for I don’t cure the left nostril, that’s not my specialty, but go to Vienna, there there’s a specialist who will cure your left nostril’. What are you to do?

‘You may die,’ said he, ‘but you’ll know perfectly what disease you are dying of!’

I fell back on popular remedies, a German doctor advised me to rub myself with honey and salt in the bath-house. Solely to get an extra bath I went, smeared myself all over and it did me no good at all. In despair I wrote to Count Mattei in Milan. He sent me a book and some drops, bless him, and, only fancy, Hoff’s malt extract cured me! I bought it by accident, drank a bottle and a half of it, and I was ready to dance, it took it away completely. I made up my mind to write to the papers to thank him, I was prompted by a feeling of gratitude, and only fancy, it led to no end of a bother: not a single paper would take my letter. ‘It would be very reactionary,’ they said, ‘none will believe it. Le diable n’existe pas.” (The Devil does not exist). “You’d better remain anonymous.’ they advised me. What use is a letter of thanks if it’s anonymous? I laughed with the men at the newspaper office; ‘It’s reactionary to believe in God in our days,’ I said, ‘but I am the Devil, so I may be believed in.’ ‘We quite understand that,’ they said. ‘Who doesn’t believe in the Devil? Yet it won’t do, it might injure our reputation. As a joke, if you like.’ But I thought as a joke it wouldn’t be very witty. So it wasn’t printed. And do you know, I have felt sore about it to this day. My best feelings, gratitude, for instance, are literally denied me simply from my social position.”

Eddie Willers, snarling malignantly: “Philosophical reflections again?”

Devil: “God preserve me from it, but one can’t help complaining sometimes. I am a slandered man. You upbraid me every moment with being stupid. One can see you are young. My dear fellow, intelligence isn’t the only thing! I have naturally a kind and merry heart. I also write vaudevilles of all sorts. You seem to take me for Hlestakov grown old, but my fate is a far more serious one. Before time was, by some decree which I could never make out, I was predestined to deny and yet I am genuinely good-hearted and not at all inclined to negation. ‘No, you must go and deny, without denial there’s no criticism and what would a journal be without a column of criticism?’ Without criticism it would be nothing but one hosannah. But nothing but hosannah is not enough for life, the hosannah must be tried in the crucible of doubt and so on, in the same style. But I don’t meddle in that, I didn’t create it, I am not answerable for it. Well, they’ve chosen their scapegoat, they’ve made me write the column of criticism and so life was made possible. We understand that comedy; I, for instance, simply ask for annihilation.‘No, live’, I am told, ‘for there’d be nothing without you. If everything in the universe were sensible, nothing would happen. There would be no events without you, and there must be events.’ So against the grain I serve to produce events and do what’s irrational because I am commanded to. For all their indisputable intelligence, men take this farce as something serious, and that is their tragedy. They suffer, of course… but then they live, they live a real life, not a fantastic one, for suffering is life. Without suffering what would be the pleasure of it? It would be transformed into an endless church service; it would be holy, but tedious. But what about me? I suffer, but still, I don’t live. I am x in an indeterminate equation. I am a sort of phantom in life who has lost all beginning and end, and who has even forgotten his own name. You are laughing — no, you are not laughing, you are angry again. You are forever angry, all you care about is intelligence, but I repeat again that I would give away all this super stellar life, all the ranks and honors, simply to be transformed into the soul of a merchant’s wife weighing eighteen stone and set candles at God’s shrine.”

Eddie Willers, with a smile of hatred: “Then even you don’t believe in God?”

Devil: “What can I say? — that is, if you are in earnest…”

Eddie Willers, with the same savage intensity: “Is there a God or not?”

Devil: “Ah, then you are in earnest! My dear fellow, upon my word I don’t know. There! I’ve said it now!”

Eddie Willers: “You don’t know, but you see God? No, you are not someone apart, you are myself, you are I and nothing more! You are rubbish, you are my fancy!”

Devil: “Well, if you like, I have the same philosophy as you, that would be true. Je pense, donc je suis.” (I think, therefore I am) “I know that for a fact; all the rest, all these worlds, God and even Satan — all that is not proved, to my mind. Does all that exist of itself, or is it only an emanation of myself, a logical development of my ego which alone has existed forever: but I make haste to stop, for I believe you will be jumping up to beat me directly.”

Eddie Willers, miserably: “You’d better tell me some anecdote!”

Devil: “There is an anecdote precisely on our subject, or rather a legend, not an anecdote. You reproach me with unbelief; you see, you say, yet you don’t believe. But, my dear fellow, I am not the only one like that. We are all in a muddle over there now and all through your science. Once there used to be atoms, five senses, four elements, and then everything hung together somehow.

There were atoms in the ancient world even, but since we’ve learned that you’ve discovered the chemical molecule and protoplasm and the Devil knows what, we had to lower our crest. There’s a regular muddle, and, above all, superstition, scandal; there’s as much scandal among us as among you, you know; a little more in fact, and spying, indeed, for we have our secret police department where private information is received. Well, this wild legend belongs to our middle ages — not yours, but ours — and no one believes it even among us, except the old ladies of eighteen stone, not your old ladies I mean, but ours. We’ve everything you have, I am revealing one of our secrets out of friendship for you; though it’s forbidden. This legend is about Paradise. There was, they say, here on earth a thinker and philosopher. She rejected everything, laws, conscience, faith, and, above all, the future life. She died; she expected to go straight to darkness and death but she found a future life before her. She was astounded and indignant…”

Transition to Paradise…