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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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The Red Death

The Red Death had killed thousands of people. No disease had ever been so terrible. There were sharp pains, and sudden fainting, and heavy bleeding through the skin; death came in half an hour. Red marks on the body, and especially on the face, separated the sufferer from all help and sympathy; and as soon as these signs appeared, all hope was lost.

But Prince Prospero was happy and brave and wise. When half his people had died, he called together a thousand of his lords and ladies, all cheerful and in good health, and with these he went to live in his most distant castle. The immense building, and its lands, were surrounded by a strong, high wall. This wall had gates of iron. The lords and their families, having entered, heated and melted the locks of the gates, and made sure that no key would ever open them again. The castle, which no one could now enter or leave, was well provided with food, and safe from the danger of disease. The world outside could take care of itself.

Inside, it was foolish to worry, or to think. The prince had planned a life of pleasure. There were actors and musicians, there were beautiful things, there was wine. All these and safety were inside. Outside was the Red Death.

The court had been perhaps five or six months at the castle, and the disease had reached its height beyond the walls, when Prince Prospero entertained his thousand friends at an unusually grand masked dance.

Seven of the best rooms at the castle were specially arranged for the dance. These rooms were irregularly placed in one corner of the building, with sharp turns between them; so that it was hardly possible to see into more than one at a time. Each of the rooms was painted and decorated in a different colour, and the windows were of coloured glass to match the rooms. The room at the eastern end was coloured in blue — and its windows were bright blue. The second room was purple, and here the glass was purple. The third was all in green, the fourth in yellow, the fifth in orange, and the sixth in white. The seventh room was completely black, but its windows were different. They were the only ones that did not match the colour of the room. The glass here was a deep red — the colour of blood.

Now there were no lamps or lights inside any of these rooms.

But outside each of the coloured windows, fires had been lit, and the flames produced strange and beautiful patterns in the rooms.

In the black room, though, the effect of the firelight that shone through the red glass was terrible in the extreme. Few of the company were brave enough to enter this room.

In this seventh room, too, a great clock of black wood stood against the western wall. Whenever the time came for this clock to strike the hour, it produced a sound which was clear and loud and deep and very musical, but of such a strange note that the musicians stopped their playing to listen to it. So the dancing was interrupted, and there were a few moments of confusion among the happy company. Then, when the last stroke had ended, a light laughter broke out. The musicians looked at each other and smiled at their own foolishness, saying that they would certainly not allow the striking of the clock to interrupt their music at the next hour. But sixty minutes later there would be another pause, and the same discomfort and confusion as before.

In spite of these things, it was a cheerful party. There was beauty and originality in the dresses of the ladies, and much that was bright and imaginative in the clothing of the lords, although there were some who appeared frightening. The masked dancers moved between the seven rooms like figures in a dream. They moved in time to the music and changed colour as they passed from one room into the next. It was noticeable that, as the evening passed, fewer and fewer went near the seventh room — the black room, with its blood-red windows.

At last the great clock in this room began to strike the hour of midnight. And then the music stopped, as I have said, and the dancers stood still, and there was a feeling of discomfort among them all. Before the last of the twelve strokes had sounded, several of the more thoughtful dancers had noticed in the crowd a masked figure whom no one had seen before. His appearance caused first a whisper of surprise, that grew quickly into cries of fear, of annoyance, of terror.

The figure was tall and thin, and dressed from head to foot in the wrappings of the grave. The mask which covered his face was made to look so like that of a skull, that even the closest examination might not easily have proved it false. But the company present did not really object to any of this. Their annoyance and fear came from the fact that the stranger was dressed as the Red Death. His clothes were spotted with blood and across his whole face were the red marks of death.

When the eyes of Prince Prospero fell on this terrible figure (which walked slowly among the dancers) his face reddened with anger.

‘Who dares,’ he demanded loudly of the lords and ladies who stood near him, ‘who dares insult us in this way? Seize him and tear off the mask — so that we may know whom we have to hang at sunrise!’

The prince was standing in the eastern or blue room, as he said these words, with a group of his particular friends by his side.

At first there was a slight movement of this group towards the strange figure, who, at the moment, was also near; but no one would put out a hand to seize him. He walked, without anyone stopping him, past the prince, through the blue room to the purple - through the purple to the green - through the green to the yellow — through this again to the orange — and even from there into the white room, before any firm movement was made to stop him. Then Prince Prospero, angry and ashamed at his own fear, rushed hurriedly through the six rooms, pulling out his sword as he went. The figure had reached the western wall of the seventh, the black room, when he turned suddenly towards the prince. There was a sharp cry and the sword fell to the floor.

Immediately afterwards Prince Prospero fell dead.

Then, with a courage brought on by a sense of hopelessness, a crowd of the lords threw themselves on the stranger, who stood silent and still in the shadow of the great black clock. They tore at the mask of death and the bloody clothing — then stepped back, trembling with fear. There was no human form or body to be seen. The mask and the clothes were empty.

And now they knew that they were in the presence of

the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one the dancers dropped and died in those halls of pleasure.

The black clock struck once, and stopped. And the flames of the fires died out. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death ruled over all.

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