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Lilith George MacDonald

The Princess

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"She will kill me if I take such a message: I must not. I dare not."

"You refuse?"

He cast a glance at my attendant, and went.

The others continued staring--too much afraid of her to take their eyes off her. I turned to the graceful creature, where she stood, her muzzle dropped to my heel, white as milk, a warm splendour in the gloomy place, and stooped and patted her. She looked up at me; the mere movement of her head was enough to scatter them in all directions. She rose on her hind legs, and put her paws on my shoulders; I threw my arms round her. She pricked her ears, broke from me, and was out of sight in a moment.

The man I had sent to the princess entered.

"Please to come this way, my lord," he said.

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My heart gave a throb, as if bracing itself to the encounter. I followed him through many passages, and was at last shown into a room so large and so dark that its walls were invisible. A single spot on the floor reflected a little light, but around that spot all was black. I looked up, and saw at a great height an oval aperture in the roof, on the periphery of which appeared the joints between blocks of black marble. The light on the floor showed close fitting slabs of the same material. I found afterward that the elliptical wall as well was of black marble, absorbing the little light that reached it. The roof was the long half of an ellipsoid, and the opening in it was over one of the foci of the ellipse of the floor. I fancied I caught sight of reddish lines, but when I would have examined them, they were gone.

All at once, a radiant form stood in the centre of the darkness, flashing a splendour on every side. Over a robe of soft white, her hair streamed in a cataract, black as the marble on which it fell. Her eyes were a luminous blackness; her arms and feet like warm ivory. She greeted me with the innocent smile of a girl--and in face, figure, and motion seemed but now to have stepped over the threshold of womanhood. "Alas," thought I, "ill did I reckon my danger! Can this be the woman I rescued--she who struck me, scorned me, left me?" I stood gazing at her out of the darkness; she stood gazing into it, as if searching for me.

She disappeared. "She will not acknowledge me!" I thought. But the next instant her eyes flashed out of the dark straight into mine. She had descried me and come to me!

"You have found me at last!" she said, laying her hand on my shoulder. "I knew you would!"

My frame quivered with conflicting consciousnesses, to analyse which I had no power. I was simultaneously attracted and repelled: each sensation seemed either.

"You shiver!" she said. "This place is cold for you! Come."

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George MacDonald

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