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Main > German folktales > Fairy tale "The Conclave of Corpses"

The Conclave of Corpses

Speech came to him, and resolution to use it. He addressed himself to the awful beings in whose presence he stood, in the words of one having authority with them.

"Pax vobis," 'twas thus he spake—"Peace be to ye."

"Hic nulla pax," replied an aged monk, in a hollow, tremulous tone, baring his breast the while—"Here is no peace."

He pointed to his bosom as he spoke, and the monk, casting his eye upon it, beheld his heart within surrounded by living fire, which seemed to feed on it but not consume it. He turned away in affright, but ceased not to prosecute his inquiries.

"Pax vobis, in nomine Domini," he spake again—"Peace be to ye, in the name of the Lord."

"Hic non pax," the hollow and heartrending tones of the ancient monk who sat at the right of the table were heard to answer.

On glancing at the bared bosom of this hapless being also the same sight was exhibited—the heart surrounded by a devouring flame, but still remaining fresh and unconsumed under its operation. Once more the monk turned away and addressed the aged man in the centre.

"Pax vobis, in nomine Domini," he proceeded.

At these words the being to whom they were addressed raised his head, put forward his hand, and closing the book with a loud clap, said—

"Speak on. It is yours to ask, and mine to answer."

The monk felt reassured, and his courage rose with the occasion.

"Who are ye?" he inquired; "who may ye be?"

"We know not!" was the answer, "alas! we know not!"

"We know not, we know not!" echoed in melancholy tones the denizens of the vault.

"What do ye here?" pursued the querist.

"We await the last day, the day of the last judgment! Alas for us! woe! woe!"

"Woe! woe!" resounded on all sides.

The monk was appalled, but still he proceeded.

"What did ye to deserve such doom as this? What may your crime be that deserves such dole and sorrow?"

As he asked the question the earth shook under him, and a crowd of skeletons uprose from a range of graves which yawned suddenly at his feet.

"These are our victims," answered the old monk.

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