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The Persian Cat
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Then at last I understood that Mr. Raven was indeed Adam, the old and the new man; and that his wife, ministering in the house of the dead, was Eve, the mother of us all, the lady of the New Jerusalem.
The leopardess reared; the flickering and fleeing of her spots began; the princess at length stood radiant in her perfect shape.
"I AM beautiful--and immortal!" she said--and she looked the goddess she would be.
"As a bush that burns, and is consumed," answered he who had been her husband. "--What is that under thy right hand?"
For her arm lay across her bosom, and her hand was pressed to her side.
A swift pang contorted her beautiful face, and passed.
"It is but a leopard-spot that lingers! it will quickly follow those I have dismissed," she answered.
"Thou art beautiful because God created thee, but thou art the slave of sin: take thy hand from thy side."
Her hand sank away, and as it dropt she looked him in the eyes with a quailing fierceness that had in it no surrender.
He gazed a moment at the spot.
"It is not on the leopard; it is in the woman!" he said. "Nor will it leave thee until it hath eaten to thy heart, and thy beauty hath flowed from thee through the open wound!"
She gave a glance downward, and shivered.
"Lilith," said Adam, and his tone had changed to a tender beseeching, "hear me, and repent, and He who made thee will cleanse thee!"
Her hand returned quivering to her side. Her face grew dark. She gave the cry of one from whom hope is vanishing. The cry passed into a howl. She lay writhing on the floor, a leopardess covered with spots.
"The evil thou meditatest," Adam resumed, "thou shalt never compass, Lilith, for Good and not Evil is the Universe. The battle between them may last for countless ages, but it must end: how will it fare with thee when Time hath vanished in the dawn of the eternal morn? Repent, I beseech thee; repent, and be again an angel of God!"
She rose, she stood upright, a woman once more, and said,
"I will not repent. I will drink the blood of thy child." My eyes were fastened on the princess; but when Adam spoke, I turned to him: he stood towering above her; the form of his visage was altered, and his voice was terrible.
"Down!" he cried; "or by the power given me I will melt thy very bones."
She flung herself on the floor, dwindled and dwindled, and was again a gray cat. Adam caught her up by the skin of her neck, bore her to the closet, and threw her in. He described a strange figure on the threshold, and closing the door, locked it.
Then he returned to my side the old librarian, looking sad and worn, and furtively wiping tears from his eyes.
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