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She went nearer and said,
"Will you restore that which you have wrongfully taken?"
"I have taken nothing," answered the princess, forcing out the words in spite of pain, "that I had not the right to take. My power to take manifested my right."
Mara left her.
Gradually my soul grew aware of an invisible darkness, a something more terrible than aught that had yet made itself felt. A horrible Nothingness, a Negation positive infolded her; the border of its being that was yet no being, touched me, and for one ghastly instant I seemed alone with Death Absolute! It was not the absence of everything I felt, but the presence of Nothing. The princess dashed herself from the settle to the floor with an exceeding great and bitter cry. It was the recoil of Being from Annihilation.
"For pity's sake," she shrieked, "tear my heart out, but let me live!"
With that there fell upon her, and upon us also who watched with her, the perfect calm as of a summer night. Suffering had all but reached the brim of her life's cup, and a hand had emptied it! She raised her head, half rose, and looked around her. A moment more, and she stood erect, with the air of a conqueror: she had won the battle! Dareful she had met her spiritual foes; they had withdrawn defeated! She raised her withered arm above her head, a pćan of unholy triumph in her throat--when suddenly her eyes fixed in a ghastly stare.--What was she seeing?
I looked, and saw: before her, cast from unseen heavenly mirror, stood the reflection of herself, and beside it a form of splendent beauty, She trembled, and sank again on the floor helpless. She knew the one what God had intended her to be, the other what she had made herself.
The rest of the night she lay motionless altogether.
With the gray dawn growing in the room, she rose, turned to Mara, and said, in prideful humility, "You have conquered. Let me go into the wilderness and bewail myself."
Mara saw that her submission was not feigned, neither was it real. She looked at her a moment, and returned:
"Begin, then, and set right in the place of wrong."
"I know not how," she replied--with the look of one who foresaw and feared the answer.
"Open thy hand, and let that which is in it go."
A fierce refusal seemed to struggle for passage, but she kept it prisoned.
"I cannot," she said. "I have no longer the power. Open it for me."
She held out the offending hand. It was more a paw than a hand. It seemed to me plain that she could not open it.
Mara did not even look at it.
"You must open it yourself," she said quietly.
"I have told you I cannot!"
"You can if you will--not indeed at once, but by persistent effort. What you have done, you do not yet wish undone--do not yet intend to undo!"
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