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I Sleep The Sleep
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"Ah, my darling!" I cried. "Had I but known!--I thought you were dead!"
She lay on my bosom--cold as ice frozen to marble. She threw her arms, so white, feebly about me, and sighed--
"Carry me back to my bed, king. I want to sleep."
I bore her to the death-chamber, holding her tight lest she should dissolve out of my arms. Unaware that I saw, I carried her straight to her couch.
"Lay me down," she said, "and cover me from the warm air; it hurts--a little. Your bed is there, next to mine. I shall see you when I wake."
She was already asleep. I threw myself on my couch--blessed as never was man on the eve of his wedding.
"Come, sweet cold," I said, "and still my heart speedily."
But there came instead a glimmer of light in the chamber, and I saw the face of Adam approaching. He had not the candle, yet I saw him. At the side of Lona's couch, he looked down on her with a questioning smile, and then greeted me across it.
"We have been to the top of the hill to hear the waters on their way," he said. "They will be in the den of the monsters to-night.-- But why did you not await our return?"
"My child could not sleep," I answered.
"She is fast asleep!" he rejoined.
"Yes, now!" I said; "but she was awake when I laid her down."
"She was asleep all the time!" he insisted. "She was perhaps dreaming about you--and came to you?"
"And did you not see that her eyes were closed?"
"Now I think of it, I did."
"If you had looked ere you laid her down, you would have seen her asleep on the couch."
"That would have been terrible!"
"You would only have found that she was no longer in your arms."
"That would have been worse!"
"It is, perhaps, to think of; but to see it would not have troubled you."
"Dear father," I said, "how is it that I am not sleepy? I thought I should go to sleep like the Little Ones the moment I laid my head down!"
"Your hour is not quite come. You must have food ere you sleep."
"Ah, I ought not to have lain down without your leave, for I cannot sleep without your help! I will get up at once!"
But I found my own weight more than I could move.
"There is no need: we will serve you here," he answered. "--You do not feel cold, do you?"
"Not too cold to lie still, but perhaps too cold to eat!"
He came to the side of my couch, bent over me, and breathed on my heart. At once I was warm.
As he left me, I heard a voice, and knew it was the Mother's. She was singing, and her song was sweet and soft and low, and I thought she sat by my bed in the dark; but ere it ceased, her song soared aloft, and seemed to come from the throat of a woman-angel, high above all the region of larks, higher than man had ever yet lifted up his heart. I heard every word she sang, but could keep only this:--
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