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Lilith George MacDonald

The House Of Death

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"She is dreaming love to you."

"But the Shadow!" she moaned; "I fear the Shadow! he will be wroth with me!"

"He at sight of whom the horses of heaven start and rear, dares not disturb one dream in this quiet chamber!"

"I shall dream then?"

"You will dream."

"What dreams?"

"That I cannot tell, but none HE can enter into. When the Shadow comes here, it will be to lie down and sleep also.--His hour will come, and he knows it will."

"How long shall I sleep?"

"You and he will be the last to wake in the morning of the universe."

The princess lay down, drew the sheet over her, stretched herself out straight, and lay still with open eyes.

Adam turned to his daughter. She drew near.

"Lilith," said Mara, "you will not sleep, if you lie there a thousand years, until you have opened your hand, and yielded that which is not yours to give or to withhold."

"I cannot," she answered. "I would if I could, and gladly, for I am weary, and the shadows of death are gathering about me."

"They will gather and gather, but they cannot infold you while yet your hand remains unopened. You may think you are dead, but it will be only a dream; you may think you have come awake, but it will still be only a dream. Open your hand, and you will sleep indeed--then wake indeed."

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"I am trying hard, but the fingers have grown together and into the palm."

"I pray you put forth the strength of your will. For the love of life, draw together your forces and break its bonds!"

"I have struggled in vain; I can do no more. I am very weary, and sleep lies heavy upon my lids."

"The moment you open your hand, you will sleep. Open it, and make an end."

A tinge of colour arose in the parchment-like face; the contorted hand trembled with agonised effort. Mara took it, and sought to aid her.

"Hold, Mara!" cried her father. "There is danger!"

The princess turned her eyes upon Eve, beseechingly.

"There was a sword I once saw in your husband's hands," she murmured. "I fled when I saw it. I heard him who bore it say it would divide whatever was not one and indivisible!"

"I have the sword," said Adam. "The angel gave it me when he left the gate."

"Bring it, Adam," pleaded Lilith, "and cut me off this hand that I may sleep."

"I will," he answered.

He gave the candle to Eve, and went. The princess closed her eyes.

In a few minutes Adam returned with an ancient weapon in his hand. The scabbard looked like vellum grown dark with years, but the hilt shone like gold that nothing could tarnish. He drew out the blade. It flashed like a pale blue northern streamer, and the light of it made the princess open her eyes. She saw the sword, shuddered, and held out her hand. Adam took it. The sword gleamed once, there was one little gush of blood, and he laid the severed hand in Mara's lap. Lilith had given one moan, and was already fast asleep. Mara covered the arm with the sheet, and the three turned away.

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