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Lilith George MacDonald

The Shadow

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A murmur of pleasure from my companions roused me: they had caught sight of their fellows in the distance! The two on Lona's horse rode on to join them. They were greeted with a wavering shout--which immediately died away. As we drew near, the sound of their sobs reached us like the breaking of tiny billows.

When I came among them, I saw that something dire had befallen them: on their childish faces was the haggard look left by some strange terror. No possible grief could have wrought the change. A few of them came slowly round me, and held out their arms to take my burden. I yielded it; the tender hopelessness of the smile with which they received it, made my heart swell with pity in the midst of its own desolation. In vain were their sobs over their mother-queen; in vain they sought to entice from her some recognition of their love; in vain they kissed and fondled her as they bore her away: she would not wake! On each side one carried an arm, gently stroking it; as many as could get near, put their arms under her body; those who could not, crowded around the bearers. On a spot where the grass grew thicker and softer they laid her down, and there all the Little Ones gathered sobbing.

Outside the crowd stood the elephants, and I near them, gazing at my Lona over the many little heads between. Those next me caught sight of the princess, and stared trembling. Odu was the first to speak.

"I have seen that woman before!" he whispered to his next neighbour. "It was she who fought the white leopardess, the night they woke us with their yelling!"

"Silly!" returned his companion. "That was a wild beast, with spots!"

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"Look at her eyes!" insisted Odu. "I know she is a bad giantess, but she is a wild beast all the same. I know she is the spotted one!"

The other took a step nearer; Odu drew him back with a sharp pull.

"Don't look at her!" he cried, shrinking away, yet fascinated by the hate-filled longing in her eyes. "She would eat you up in a moment! It was HER shadow! She is the wicked princess!"

"That cannot be! they said she was beautiful!"

"Indeed it is the princess!" I interposed. "Wickedness has made her ugly!"

She heard, and what a look was hers!

"It was very wrong of me to run away!" said Odu thoughtfully.

"What made you run away?" I asked. "I expected to find you where I left you!"

He did not reply at once.

"I don't know what made me run," answered another. "I was frightened!"

"It was a man that came down the hill from the palace," said a third.

"How did he frighten you?"

"I don't know."

"He wasn't a man," said Odu; "he was a shadow; he had no thick to him!"

"Tell me more about him."

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