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  Lilith George MacDonald

The Persian Cat

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I sat in silence and shame. What he said was true: I had not been a wise neighbour to the Little Ones!

Mr. Raven resumed:

"You wronged at the same time the stupid creatures themselves. For them slavery would have been progress. To them a few such lessons as you could have given them with a stick from one of their own trees, would have been invaluable."

"I did not know they were cowards!"

"What difference does that make? The man who grounds his action on another's cowardice, is essentially a coward himself.--I fear worse will come of it! By this time the Little Ones might have been able to protect themselves from the princess, not to say the giants--they were always fit enough for that; as it was they laughed at them! but now, through your relations with her,----"

"I hate her!" I cried.

"Did you let her know you hated her?"

Again I was silent.

"Not even to her have you been faithful!--But hush! we were followed from the fountain, I fear!"

"No living creature did I see!--except a disreputable-looking cat that bolted into the shrubbery."

"It was a magnificent Persian--so wet and draggled, though, as to look what she was--worse than disreputable!"

"What do you mean, Mr. Raven?" I cried, a fresh horror taking me by the throat. "--There was a beautiful blue Persian about the house, but she fled at the very sound of water!--Could she have been after the goldfish?"

"We shall see!" returned the librarian. "I know a little about cats of several sorts, and there is that in the room which will unmask this one, or I am mistaken in her."

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He rose, went to the door of the closet, brought from it the mutilated volume, and sat down again beside me. I stared at the book in his hand: it was a whole book, entire and sound!

"Where was the other half of it?" I gasped.

"Sticking through into my library," he answered.

I held my peace. A single question more would have been a plunge into a bottomless sea, and there might be no time!

"Listen," he said: "I am going to read a stanza or two. There is one present who, I imagine, will hardly enjoy the reading!"

He opened the vellum cover, and turned a leaf or two. The parchment was discoloured with age, and one leaf showed a dark stain over two-thirds of it. He slowly turned this also, and seemed looking for a certain passage in what appeared a continuous poem. Somewhere about the middle of the book he began to read.

But what follows represents--not what he read, only the impression it made upon me. The poem seemed in a language I had never before heard, which yet I understood perfectly, although I could not write the words, or give their meaning save in poor approximation. These fragments, then, are the shapes which those he read have finally taken in passing again through my brain:--

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