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Lilith George MacDonald

The House Of Death

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We were almost over, when, between us and the border of the basin, arose a long neck, on the top of which, like the blossom of some Stygian lily, sat what seemed the head of a corpse, its mouth half open, and full of canine teeth. I went on; it retreated, then drew aside. The lady stepped on the firm land, but the leopardess between us, roused once more, turned, and flew at the throat of the terror. I remained where I was to see the elephants, with the princess and the children, safe on the bank. Then I turned to look after the leopardess. That moment the moon went down, For an instant I saw the leopardess and the snake-monster convolved in a cloud of dust; then darkness hid them. Trembling with fright, my horse wheeled, and in three bounds overtook the elephants.

As we came up with them, a shapeless jelly dropped on the princess. A white dove dropped immediately on the jelly, stabbing it with its beak. It made a squelching, sucking sound, and fell off. Then I heard the voice of a woman talking with Mara, and I knew the voice.

"I fear she is dead!" said Mara.

"I will send and find her," answered the mother. "But why, Mara, shouldst thou at all fear for her or for any one? Death cannot hurt her who dies doing the work given her to do."

"I shall miss her sorely; she is good and wise. Yet I would not have her live beyond her hour!"

"She has gone down with the wicked; she will rise with the righteous. We shall see her again ere very long."

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"Mother," I said, although I did not see her, "we come to you many, but most of us are Little Ones. Will you be able to receive us all?"

"You are welcome every one," she answered. "Sooner or later all will be little ones, for all must sleep in my house! It is well with those that go to sleep young and willing!--My husband is even now preparing her couch for Lilith. She is neither young nor quite willing, but it is well indeed that she is come."

I heard no more. Mother and daughter had gone away together through the dark. But we saw a light in the distance, and toward it we went stumbling over the moor.

Adam stood in the door, holding the candle to guide us, and talking with his wife, who, behind him, laid bread and wine on the table within.

"Happy children," I heard her say, "to have looked already on the face of my daughter! Surely it is the loveliest in the great world!"

When we reached the door, Adam welcomed us almost merrily. He set the candle on the threshold, and going to the elephants, would have taken the princess to carry her in; but she repulsed him, and pushing her elephants asunder, stood erect between them. They walked from beside her, and left her with him who had been her husband--ashamed indeed of her gaunt uncomeliness, but unsubmissive. He stood with a welcome in his eyes that shone through their severity.

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