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Ziska by Marie Corelli

ZISKA

THE PROBLEM OF A WICKED SOUL

BY

MARIE CORELLI

Other Books by the same Author

THE SORROWS OF SATAN BARABBAS A ROMANCE OF TWO WORLDS THE MIGHTY ATOM, ETC., ETC.

TO THE PRESENT LIVING RE-INCARNATION OF ARAXES

ZISKA.

THE PROBLEM OF A WICKED SOUL.

PROLOGUE.

Dark against the sky towered the Great Pyramid, and over its apex hung the moon. Like a wreck cast ashore by some titanic storm, the Sphinx, reposing amid the undulating waves of grayish sand surrounding it, seemed for once to drowse. Its solemn visage that had impassively watched ages come and go, empires rise and fall, and generations of men live and die, appeared for the moment to have lost its usual expression of speculative wisdom and intense disdain--its cold eyes seemed to droop, its stern mouth almost smiled. The air was calm and sultry; and not a human foot disturbed the silence. But towards midnight a Voice suddenly arose as it were like a wind in the desert, crying aloud: "Araxes! Araxes!" and wailing past, sank with a profound echo into the deep recesses of the vast Egyptian tomb. Moonlight and the Hour wove their own mystery; the mystery of a Shadow and a Shape that flitted out like a thin vapor from the very portals of Death's ancient temple, and drifting forward a few paces resolved itself into the visionary fairness of a Woman's form--a Woman whose dark hair fell about her heavily, like the black remnants of a long-buried corpse's wrappings; a Woman whose eyes flashed with an unholy fire as she lifted her face to the white moon and waved her ghostly arms upon the air. And again the wild Voice pulsated through the stillness.

"Araxes! ... Araxes! Thou art here, --and I pursue thee! Through life into death; through death out into life again! I find thee and I follow! I follow! Araxes!..."

Moonlight and the Hour wove their own mystery; and ere the pale opal dawn flushed the sky with hues of rose and amber the Shadow had vanished; the Voice was heard no more. Slowly the sun lifted the edge of its golden shield above the horizon, and the great Sphinx awaking from its apparent brief slumber, stared in expressive and eternal scorn across the tracts of sand and tufted palm-trees towards the glittering dome of El-Hazar--that abode of profound sanctity and learning, where men still knelt and worshipped, praying the Unknown to deliver them from the Unseen. And one would almost have deemed that the sculptured Monster with the enigmatical Woman-face and Lion-form had strange thoughts in its huge granite brain; for when the full day sprang in glory over the desert and illumined its large features with a burning saffron radiance, its cruel lips still smiled as though yearning to speak and propound the terrible riddle of old time; the Problem which killed!


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