Famous Modern Ghost Stories eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 271 pages of information about Famous Modern Ghost Stories.
under his glance.  No one looked into his face, as Lazarus passed by, fearing to fall under the appalling influence of his eyes; but when the sound of his heavy footsteps had sufficiently died down, the courtiers raised their heads and with fearful curiosity examined the figure of a stout, tall, slightly bent old man, who was slowly penetrating into the very heart of the imperial palace.  Were Death itself passing, it would be faced with no greater fear:  for until then the dead alone knew Death, and those alive knew Life only—­and there was no bridge between them.  But this extraordinary man, although alive, knew Death, and enigmatical, appalling, was his cursed knowledge.  “Woe,” people thought, “he will take the life of our great, deified Augustus,” and they sent curses after Lazarus, who meanwhile kept on advancing into the interior of the palace.

Already did the emperor know who Lazarus was, and prepared to meet him.  But the monarch was a brave man, and felt his own tremendous, unconquerable power, and in his fatal duel with him who had miraculously risen from the dead he wanted not to invoke human help.  And so he met Lazarus face to face: 

“Lift not thine eyes upon me, Lazarus,” he ordered.  “I heard thy face is like that of Medusa and turns into stone whomsoever thou lookest at.  Now, I wish to see thee and to have a talk with thee, before I turn into stone,”—­added he in a tone of kingly jesting, not devoid of fear.

Coming close to him, he carefully examined Lazarus’ face and his strange festal garments.  And although he had a keen eye, he was deceived by his appearance.

“So.  Thou dost not appear terrible, my venerable old man.  But the worse for us, if horror assumes such a respectable and pleasant air.  Now let us have a talk.”

Augustus sat, and questioning Lazarus with his eye as much as with words, started the conversation: 

“Why didst thou not greet me as thou enteredst?”

Lazarus answered indifferent: 

“I knew not it was necessary.”

“Art thou a Christian?”

“No.”

Augustus approvingly shook his head.

“That is good.  I do not like Christians.  They shake the tree of life before it is covered with fruit, and disperse its odorous bloom to the winds.  But who art thou?”

With a visible effort Lazarus answered: 

“I was dead.”

“I had heard that.  But who art thou now?”

Lazarus was silent, but at last repeated in a tone of weary apathy: 

“I was dead.”

“Listen to me, stranger,” said the emperor, distinctly and severely giving utterance to the thought that had come to him at the beginning, “my realm is the realm of Life, my people are of the living, not of the dead.  Thou art here one too many.  I know not who thou art and what thou sawest there; but, if thou liest, I hate thy lies, and if thou tellst the truth, I hate thy truth.  In my bosom I feel the throb of life; I feel strength in my arm, and my proud thoughts, like eagles, pierce the space.  And yonder in the shelter of my rule, under the protection of laws created by me, people live and toil and rejoice.  Dost thou hear the battle-cry, the challenge men throw into the face of the future?”

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Famous Modern Ghost Stories from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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