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Lilith George MacDonald

The Persian Cat

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    "That I was a queen I knew right well,
    And sometimes wore a splendour on my head
    Whose flashing even dead darkness could not quell--
    The like on neck and arms and girdle-stead;
    And men declared a light my closed eyes shed
    That killed the diamond in its silver cell."

Again I heard the ugly cry of feline pain. Again I looked, but saw neither shape nor motion. Mr. Raven seemed to listen a moment, but again turned several pages, and resumed:--

    "Hideously wet, my hair of golden hue
    Fouled my fair hands: to have it swiftly shorn
    I had given my rubies, all for me dug new--
    No eyes had seen, and such no waist had worn!
    For a draught of water from a drinking horn,
    For one blue breath, I had given my sapphires blue!

    "Nay, I had given my opals for a smock,
    A peasant-maiden's garment, coarse and clean:
    My shroud was rotting! Once I heard a cock
    Lustily crow upon the hillock green
    Over my coffin. Dulled by space between,
    Came back an answer like a ghostly mock."

Once more arose the bestial wail.

"I thought some foul thing was in the room!" said the librarian, casting a glance around him; but instantly he turned a leaf or two, and again read:--

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    "For I had bathed in milk and honey-dew,
    In rain from roses shook, that ne'er touched earth,
    And ointed me with nard of amber hue;
    Never had spot me spotted from my birth,
    Or mole, or scar of hurt, or fret of dearth;
    Never one hair superfluous on me grew.

    "Fleeing cold whiteness, I would sit alone--
    Not in the sun--I feared his bronzing light,
    But in his radiance back around me thrown
    By fulgent mirrors tempering his might;
    Thus bathing in a moon-bath not too bright,
    My skin I tinted slow to ivory tone.

    "But now, all round was dark, dark all within!
    My eyes not even gave out a phantom-flash;
    My fingers sank in pulp through pulpy skin;
    My body lay death-weltered in a mash
    Of slimy horrors----"

With a fearsome yell, her clammy fur staring in clumps, her tail thick as a cable, her eyes flashing green as a chrysoprase, her distended claws entangling themselves so that she floundered across the carpet, a huge white cat rushed from somewhere, and made for the chimney. Quick as thought the librarian threw the manuscript between her and the hearth. She crouched instantly, her eyes fixed on the book. But his voice went on as if still he read, and his eyes seemed also fixed on the book:--

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