Editor’s note: The following is extracted from Fifty-one Tales, by Lord Dunsany (published 1915). It seems a fitting story for the last day of the old year.
In the Olympian courts Love laughed at Death, because he was unsightly, and because She couldn’t help it, and because he never did anything worth doing, and because She would.
And Death hated being laughed at, and used to brood apart thinking only of his wrongs and of what he could do to end this intolerable treatment.
But one day Death appeared in the courts with an air and They all noticed it. “What are you up to now?” said Love. And Death with some solemnity said to Her: “I am going to frighten Odysseus”; and drawing about him his grey traveler’s cloak went out through the windy door with his jowl turned earthwards.
And he came soon to Ithaca and the hall that Athene knew, and opened the door and saw there famous Odysseus, with his white locks bending close over the fire, trying to warm his hands.
And the wind through the open door blew bitterly on Odysseus.
And Death came up behind him, and suddenly shouted.
And Odysseus went on warming his pale hands.
Then Death came close and began to mouth at him. And after a while Odysseus turned and spoke. And “Well, old servant,” he said, “have your masters been kind to you since I made you work for me round Ilion?”
And Death for some while stood mute, for he thought of the laughter of Love.
Then “Come now,” said Odysseus, “lend me your shoulder,” and he leaning heavily on that bony joint, they went together through the open door.