Eddie’s interview with the Devil resumes…

Devil, continues: “…She was astounded and indignant. ‘This is against my principles!’ she said. And she was punished for that… that is, you must excuse me, I am just repeating what I heard myself, it’s only a legend… she was sentenced to walk a quadrillion kilometers in the dark (we’ve adopted the metric system, you know) and when she has finished that quadrillion, the gates of heaven would be opened to her and she’ll be forgiven—”

She was astounded and indignant.

Eddie Willers, with strange eagerness: “And what tortures have you in the other world besides the quadrillion kilometers?”

Devil: “What tortures? Ah, don’t ask. In the old days we had all sorts, but now they have taken chiefly to moral punishments — the stings of conscience and all that nonsense. We got that, too, from you, from the softening of your manners. And who’s the better for it? Only those who have got no conscience, for how can they be tortured by conscience when they have none? But decent people who have conscience and a sense of honor suffer for it. Reforms, when the ground has not been prepared for them, especially if they are institutions copied from abroad, do nothing but mischief! The ancient fire was better. Well, this woman, who was condemned to the quadrillion kilometers, stood still, looked round and lay down across the road. ‘I won’t go, I refuse on principle!’ Take the soul of an enlightened Russian atheist and mix it with the soul of the prophet Jonah, who sulked for three days and nights in the belly of the whale, and you get the character of that thinker.”

Eddie Willers: “What did she lie on there?”

Devil: “Well, I suppose there was something to lie on. You are not laughing?”

Eddie Willers, still with the same strange eagerness, now listening with unexpected curiosity: “Bravo! Well, is she lying there now?”

Devil: “That’s the point, that she isn’t. She lay there almost a thousand years and then she got up and went on.”

Eddie Willers, laughing nervously and still seeming to be pondering something intently: “What an ass! Does it make any difference whether she lies there forever or walks the quadrillion kilometers? It would take a billion years to walk it!”

Devil: “Much more than that. I haven’t got a pencil and paper or I could work it out. But she got there long ago, and that’s where the story begins.”

Eddie Willers: “What? She got there? But how did she get the billion years to do it?”

Devil: “Why, you keep thinking of our present earth! But our present earth may have been repeated a billion times. Why, it’s become extinct, been frozen; cracked, broken to bits, disintegrated into its elements, again the water above the firmament, then again a comet, again a sun, again from the sun it becomes earth — and the same sequence may have been repeated endlessly and exactly the same to every detail, most unseemly and insufferably tedious…”

Transition to the Paradise…