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Lilith George MacDonald


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It seemed as if all the inhabitants of the forest would migrate with us. A multitude of birds flew in front, imagining themselves, no doubt, the leading division; great companies of butterflies and other insects played about our heads; and a crowd of four-footed creatures followed us. These last, when night came, left us almost all; but the birds and the butterflies, the wasps and the dragon-flies, went with us to the very gates of the city.

We halted and slept soundly through the afternoon: it was our first real march, but none were tired. In the night we went faster, because it was cold. Many fell asleep on the backs of their beasts, and woke in the morning quite fresh. None tumbled off. Some rode shaggy, shambling bears, which yet made speed enough, going as fast as the elephants. Others were mounted on different kinds of deer, and would have been racing all the way had I not prevented it. Those atop of the hay on the elephants, unable to see the animals below them, would keep talking to them as long as they were awake. Once, when we had halted to feed, I heard a little fellow, as he drew out the hay to give him, commune thus with his "darling beast":

"Nosy dear, I am digging you out of the mountain, and shall soon get down to you: be patient; I'm a coming! Very soon now you'll send up your nose to look for me, and then we'll kiss like good elephants, we will!"

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The same night there burst out such a tumult of elephant-trumpeting, horse-neighing, and child-imitation, ringing far over the silent levels, that, uncertain how near the city might not be, I quickly stilled the uproar lest it should give warning of our approach.

Suddenly, one morning, the sun and the city rose, as it seemed, together. To the children the walls appeared only a great mass of rock, but when I told them the inside was full of nests of stone, I saw apprehension and dislike at once invade their hearts: for the first time in their lives, I believe--many of them long little lives--they knew fear. The place looked to them bad: how were they to find mothers in such a place? But they went on bravely, for they had confidence in Lona--and in me too, little as I deserved it.

We rode through the sounding archway. Sure never had such a drumming of hoofs, such a padding of paws and feet been heard on its old pavement! The horses started and looked scared at the echo of their own steps; some halted a moment, some plunged wildly and wheeled about; but they were soon quieted, and went on. Some of the Little Ones shivered, and all were still as death. The three girls held closer the infants they carried. All except the bears and butterflies manifested fear.

On the countenance of the woman lay a dark anxiety; nor was I myself unaffected by the general dread, for the whole army was on my hands and on my conscience: I had brought it up to the danger whose shadow was now making itself felt! But I was supported by the thought of the coming kingdom of the Little Ones, with the bad giants its slaves, and the animals its loving, obedient friends! Alas, I who dreamed thus, had not myself learned to obey! Untrusting, unfaithful obstinacy had set me at the head of that army of innocents! I was myself but a slave, like any king in the world I had left who does or would do only what pleases him! But Lona rode beside me a child indeed, therefore a free woman--calm, silent, watchful, not a whit afraid!

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