Ziska: The Problem of a Wicked Soul Part 27

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"Oh, of course, you will think me insane," said the Doctor, resignedly.

"People always take refuge in thinking that those who tell them uncomfortable truths are lunatics. You've heard me talk of ghosts?--ghosts that walk and move about us like human beings?--and they are generally very brilliant and clever impersonations of humanity, too--and that nevertheless are NOT human?"

Denzil a.s.sented.

"The Princess Ziska was a ghost!" concluded the Doctor, folding his arms very tightly across his chest and nodding defiantly.

"Nonsense!" cried Denzil. "You are mad!"

"Precisely the remark I thought you would make!" and Dr. Dean unfolded his arms again and smiled triumphantly. "Therefore, my dear boy, let us for the future avoid this subject. I know what I know; I can distinguish phantoms from reality, and I am not deceived by appearances. But the world prefers ignorance to knowledge, and even so let it be. Next time I meet a ghost I'll keep my own counsel!" He paused a moment,--then added: "You remember I told you I was hunting down that warrior of old time, Araxes?"

Denzil nodded, a trifle impatiently.

"Well," resumed the Doctor slowly,--"Before we left Egypt I found him!

But how I found him, and where, is my secret!"

Society still speaks occasionally of Armand Gervase, and wonders in its feeble way when he will be "tired" of the Egyptian beauty he ran away with, or she of him. Society never thinks very far or cares very much for anything long, but it does certainly expect to see the once famous French artist "turn up" suddenly, either in his old quarters in Paris, or in one or the other of the fas.h.i.+onable resorts of the Riviera. That he should be dead has never occurred to anyone, except perhaps Dr.

Maxwell Dean. But Dr. Dean has grown extremely reticent--almost surly; and never answers any questions concerning his Scientific Theory of Ghosts, a work which, when published, created a great deal of excitement, owing to its singularity and novelty of treatment. There was the usual "hee-hawing" from the donkeys in the literary pasture, who fondly imagined their brayings deserved to be considered in the light of serious opinion;--and then after a while the book fell into the hands of scientists only,--men who are beginning to understand the discretion of silence, and to hold their tongues as closely as the Egyptian priests of old did, aware that the great majority of men are never ripe for knowledge. Quite lately Dr. Dean attended two weddings,--one being that of "old" Lady Fulkeward, who has married a very pretty young fellow of five-and-twenty, whose dearest consideration in life is the shape of his s.h.i.+rt-collar; the other, that of Denzil Murray, who has wedded the perfectly well-born, well-bred and virtuous, if somewhat cold-blooded, daughter of his next-door neighbor in the Highlands. Concerning his Egyptian experience he never speaks,--he lives the ordinary life of the Scottish land-owner, looking after his tenantry, considering the crops, preserving the game, and clearing fallen timber;--and if the glowing face of the beautiful Ziska ever floats before his memory, it is only in a vague dream from which he quickly rouses himself with a troubled sigh. His sister Helen has never married. Lord Fulkeward proposed to her but was gently rejected, whereupon the disconsolate young n.o.bleman took a journey to the States and married the daughter of a millionaire oil-merchant instead. Sir Chetwynd Lyle and his pig-faced spouse still thrive and grow fat on the proceeds of the Daily Dial, and there is faint hope that one of their "girls" will wed an aspiring journalist,--a bold adventurer who wants "a share in the paper" somehow, even if he has to marry Muriel or Dolly in order to get it. Ross Courtney is the only man of the party once a.s.sembled at the Gezireh Palace Hotel who still goes to Cairo every winter, fascinated thither by an annually recurring dim notion that he may "discover traces" of the lost Armand Gervase and the Princess Ziska. And he frequently accompanies the numerous sight-seers who season after season drive from Cairo to the Pyramids, and take pleasure in staring at the Sphinx with all the impertinence common to pigmies when contemplating greatness. But more riddles than that of the Sphinx are lost in the depths of the sandy desert; and more unsolved problems lie in the recesses of the past than even the restless and inquiring spirit of modern times will ever discover;--and if it should ever chance that in days to come, the secret of the movable floor of the Great Pyramid should be found, and the lost treasures of Egypt brought to light, there will probably be much discussion and marvel concerning the Golden Tomb of Araxes. For the hieroglyphs on the jewelled sarcophagus speak of him thus and say:--

"Araxes was a Man of Might, far exceeding in Strength and Beauty the common sons of men. Great in War, Invincible in Love, he did Excel in Deeds of Courage and of Conquest,--and for whatsoever Sins he did in the secret Weakness of humanity commit, the G.o.ds must judge him. But in all that may befit a Warrior, Amenhotep The King doth give him honor,--and to the Spirits of Darkness and of Light his Soul is here commended to its Rest."

Thus much of the fierce dead hero of old time,--but of the mouldering corpse that lies on the golden floor of the same tomb, its skeleton hand touching, almost grasping, the sword of Araxes, what shall be said? Nothing--since the Old and the New, the Past and the Present, are but as one moment in the countings of eternity, and even with a late repentance Love pardons all.


Ziska: The Problem of a Wicked Soul Part 27

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Ziska: The Problem of a Wicked Soul Part 27 summary

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