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The Twilight of the Gods, and Other Tales   By: (1835-1906)

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First Page:

[Illustration: An eagle pecking at the heart of a bearded man, chained to a rock, with the inscription: "Cor ex est numquam ex cordis regina volantum".]

THE TWILIGHT OF THE GODS: AND OTHER TALES

BY

RICHARD GARNETT

MDCCCCIII

TO

HORACE HOWARD FURNESS AND GEORG BRANDES. DABO DUOBUS TESTIBUS MEIS

CONTENTS

The Twilight of the Gods The Potion of Lao Tsze Abdallah the Adite Ananda the Miracle Worker The City of Philosophers The Demon Pope The Cupbearer The Wisdom of the Indians The Dumb Oracle Duke Virgil The Claw Alexander the Ratcatcher The Rewards of Industry Madam Lucifer The Talismans The Elixir of Life The Poet of Panopolis The Purple Head The Firefly Pan's Wand A Page from the Book of Folly The Bell of Saint Euschemon Bishop Addo and Bishop Gaddo The Philosopher and the Butterflies Truth and Her Companions The Three Palaces New Readings in Biography The Poison Maid NOTES

THE TWILIGHT OF THE GODS

Truth fails not, but her outward forms that bear The longest date do melt like frosty rime.

I

The fourth Christian century was far past its meridian, when, high above the summit of the supreme peak of Caucasus, a magnificent eagle came sailing on broad fans into the blue, and his shadow skimmed the glittering snow as it had done day by day for thousands of years. A human figure or it might be superhuman, for his mien seemed more than mortal lifted from the crag, to which he hung suspended by massy gyves and rivets, eyes mournful with the presentiment of pain. The eagle's screech clanged on the wind, as with outstretched neck he stooped earthward in ever narrowing circles; his huge quills already creaked in his victim's ears, whose flesh crept and shrank, and involuntary convulsions agitated his hands and feet. Then happened what all these millenniums had never witnessed. No thunderbolt had blazed forth from that dome of cloudless blue; no marksman had approached the inaccessible spot; yet, without vestige of hurt, the eagle dropped lifeless, falling sheer down into the unfathomable abyss below. At the same moment the bonds of the captive snapped asunder, and, projected by an impetus which kept him clear of the perpendicular precipice, he alighted at an infinite depth on a sun flecked greensward amid young ash and oak, where he long lay deprived of sense and motion.

The sun fell, dew gathered on the grass, moonshine glimpsed through the leaves, stars peeped timidly at the prostrate figure, which remained prostrate and unconscious still. But as sunlight was born anew in the East a thrill passed over the slumberer, and he became conscious, first of an indescribably delicious feeling of restful ease, then of a gnawing pang, acute as the beak of the eagle for which he at first mistook it. But his wrists, though still encumbered with bonds and trailing fetters, were otherwise at liberty, and eagle there was none. Marvelling at his inward and invisible foe, he struggled to his feet, and found himself contending with a faintness and dizziness heretofore utterly unknown to him. He dimly felt himself in the midst of things grown wonderful by estrangement and distance. No grass, no flower, no leaf had met his eye for thousands of years, nothing but the impenetrable azure, the transient cloud, sun, moon, and star, the lightning flash, the glittering peaks of ice, and the solitary eagle. There seemed more wonder in a blade of grass than in all these things, but all was blotted in a dizzy swoon, and it needed his utmost effort to understand that a light sound hard by, rapidly growing more distinct, was indeed a footfall. With a violent effort he steadied himself by grasping a tree, and had hardly accomplished so much when a tall dark maiden, straight as an arrow, slim as an antelope, wildly beautiful as a Dryad, but liker a Maenad with her aspect of mingled disdain and dismay, and step hasty as of one pursuing or pursued, suddenly checked her speed on perceiving him.

"Who art thou?" he exclaimed.

"Gods! Thou speakest Greek!"

"What else should I speak?"

"What else? From whom save thee, since I closed my father's eyes, have I heard the tongue of Homer and Plato?"

"Who is Homer? Who is Plato?"

The maiden regarded him with a look of the deepest astonishment... Continue reading book >>




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