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The White Leech
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"A great white leech."
"How big?" I pursued, forcing myself to be calm.
"Not far from six feet long, I should think," she answered.
"You have saved my life, perhaps!--But how could you touch the horrid thing! How brave of you!" I cried.
"I did!" was all her answer, and I thought she shuddered.
"Where is it? What could you do with such a monster?"
"I threw it in the river."
"Then it will come again, I fear!"
"I do not think I could have killed it, even had I known how!--I heard you moaning, and got up to see what disturbed you; saw the frightful thing at your neck, and pulled it away. But I could not hold it, and was hardly able to throw it from me. I only heard it splash in the water!"
"We'll kill it next time!" I said; but with that I turned faint, sought the open air, but fell.
When I came to myself the sun was up. The lady stood a little way off, looking, even in the clumsy attire I had fashioned for her, at once grand and graceful. I HAD seen those glorious eyes! Through the night they had shone! Dark as the darkness primeval, they now outshone the day! She stood erect as a column, regarding me. Her pale cheek indicated no emotion, only question. I rose.
"We must be going!" I said. "The white leech----"
I stopped: a strange smile had flickered over her beautiful face.
"Did you find me there?" she asked, pointing to the cave.
"No; I brought you there," I replied.
"You brought me?"
"From the forest."
"What have you done with my clothes--and my jewels?"
"You had none when I found you."
"Then why did you not leave me?"
"Because I hoped you were not dead."
"Why should you have cared?"
"Because I was very lonely, and wanted you to live."
"You would have kept me enchanted for my beauty!" she said, with proud scorn.
Her words and her look roused my indignation.
"There was no beauty left in you," I said.
"Why, then, again, did you not let me alone?"
"Because you were of my own kind."
"Of YOUR kind?" she cried, in a tone of utter contempt.
"I thought so, but find I was mistaken!"
"Doubtless you pitied me!"
"Never had woman more claim on pity, or less on any other feeling!"
With an expression of pain, mortification, and anger unutterable, she turned from me and stood silent. Starless night lay profound in the gulfs of her eyes: hate of him who brought it back had slain their splendour. The light of life was gone from them.
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