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0100_005E Lilith George MacDonald

The Sexton's Old Horse

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"That is well! be friends with him," he said: "he will carry you all the better to-morrow!--Now we must hurry home!"

My desire to ride the horse had grown passionate.

"May I not mount him at once, Mr. Raven?" I cried.

"By all means!" he answered. "Mount, and ride him home."

The horse bent his head over my shoulder lovingly. I twisted my hands in his mane and scrambled onto his back, not without aid from certain protuberant bones.

"He would outspeed any leopard in creation!" I cried.

"Not that way at night," answered the raven; "the road is difficult.-- But come; loss now will be gain then! To wait is harder than to run, and its meed is the fuller. Go on, my son--straight to the cottage. I shall be there as soon as you. It will rejoice my wife's heart to see son of hers on that horse!"

I sat silent. The horse stood like a block of marble.

"Why do you linger?" asked the raven.

"I long so much to ride after the leopardess," I answered, "that I can scarce restrain myself!"

"You have promised!"

"My debt to the Little Ones appears, I confess, a greater thing than my bond to you."

"Yield to the temptation and you will bring mischief upon them--and on yourself also."

"What matters it for me? I love them; and love works no evil. I will go."

But the truth was, I forgot the children, infatuate with the horse.

Eyes flashed through the darkness, and I knew that Adam stood in his own shape beside me. I knew also by his voice that he repressed an indignation almost too strong for him.

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"Mr. Vane," he said, "do you not know why you have not yet done anything worth doing?"

"Because I have been a fool," I answered.


"In everything."

"Which do you count your most indiscreet action?"

"Bringing the princess to life: I ought to have left her to her just fate."

"Nay, now you talk foolishly! You could not have done otherwise than you did, not knowing she was evil!--But you never brought any one to life! How could you, yourself dead?"

"I dead?" I cried.

"Yes," he answered; "and you will be dead, so long as you refuse to die."

"Back to the old riddling!" I returned scornfully.

"Be persuaded, and go home with me," he continued gently. "The most--nearly the only foolish thing you ever did, was to run from our dead."

I pressed the horse's ribs, and he was off like a sudden wind. I gave him a pat on the side of the neck, and he went about in a sharp-driven curve, "close to the ground, like a cat when scratchingly she wheels about after a mouse," leaning sideways till his mane swept the tops of the heather.

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