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0105_001E Lilith George MacDonald

I Sleep The Sleep

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He fell to weeping afresh, and I left him weeping. What I said, I fear he did not heed. But Mara would find him!

The sun was down, and the moon unrisen, when I reached the abode of the monsters, but it was still as a stone till I passed over. Then I heard a noise of many waters, and a great cry behind me, but I did not turn my head.

Ere I reached the house of death, the cold was bitter and the darkness dense; and the cold and the darkness were one, and entered into my bones together. But the candle of Eve, shining from the window, guided me, and kept both frost and murk from my heart.

The door stood open, and the cottage lay empty. I sat down disconsolate.

And as I sat, there grew in me such a sense of loneliness as never yet in my wanderings had I felt. Thousands were near me, not one was with me! True, it was I who was dead, not they; but, whether by their life or by my death, we were divided! They were alive, but I was not dead enough even to know them alive: doubt WOULD come. They were, at best, far from me, and helpers I had none to lay me beside them!

Never before had I known, or truly imagined desolation! In vain I took myself to task, saying the solitude was but a seeming: I was awake, and they slept--that was all! it was only that they lay so still and did not speak! they were with me now, and soon, soon I should be with them!

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I dropped Adam's old spade, and the dull sound of its fall on the clay floor seemed reverberated from the chamber beyond: a childish terror seized me; I sat and stared at the coffin-door.--But father Adam, mother Eve, sister Mara would soon come to me, and then-- welcome the cold world and the white neighbours! I forgot my fears, lived a little, and loved my dead.

Something did move in the chamber of the dead! There came from it what was LIKE a dim, far-off sound, yet was not what I knew as sound. My soul sprang into my ears. Was it a mere thrill of the dead air, too slight to be heard, but quivering in every spiritual sense? I KNEW without hearing, without feeling it!

The something was coming! it drew nearer! In the bosom of my desertion awoke an infant hope. The noiseless thrill reached the coffin-door--became sound, and smote on my ear.

The door began to move--with a low, soft creaking of its hinges. It was opening! I ceased to listen, and stared expectant.

It opened a little way, and a face came into the opening. It was Lona's. Its eyes were closed, but the face itself was upon me, and seemed to see me. It was white as Eve's, white as Mara's, but did not shine like their faces. She spoke, and her voice was like a sleepy night-wind in the grass.

"Are you coming, king?" it said. "I cannot rest until you are with me, gliding down the river to the great sea, and the beautiful dream-land. The sleepiness is full of lovely things: come and see them."

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