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  Lilith George MacDonald

To The House Of Bitterness

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In the morning we set out, and made for the forest as fast as we could. I rode Lona's horse, and carried her body. I would take it to her father: he would give it a couch in the chamber of his dead! or, if he would not, seeing she had not come of herself, I would watch it in the desert until it mouldered away! But I believed he would, for surely she had died long ago! Alas, how bitterly must I not humble myself before him!

To Adam I must take Lilith also. I had no power to make her repent! I had hardly a right to slay her--much less a right to let her loose in the world! and surely I scarce merited being made for ever her gaoler!

Again and again, on the way, I offered her food; but she answered only with a look of hungering hate. Her fiery eyes kept rolling to and fro, nor ever closed, I believe, until we reached the other side of the hot stream. After that they never opened until we came to the House of Bitterness.

One evening, as we were camping for the night, I saw a little girl go up to her, and ran to prevent mischief. But ere I could reach them, the child had put something to the lips of the princess, and given a scream of pain.

"Please, king," she whimpered, "suck finger. Bad giantess make hole in it!"

I sucked the tiny finger.

"Well now!" she cried, and a minute after was holding a second fruit to a mouth greedy of other fare. But this time she snatched her hand quickly away, and the fruit fell to the ground. The child's name was Luva.

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The next day we crossed the hot stream. Again on their own ground, the Little Ones were jubilant. But their nests were still at a great distance, and that day we went no farther than the ivy-hall, where, because of its grapes, I had resolved to spend the night. When they saw the great clusters, at once they knew them good, rushed upon them, ate eagerly, and in a few minutes were all fast asleep on the green floor and in the forest around the hall. Hoping again to see the dance, and expecting the Little Ones to sleep through it, I had made them leave a wide space in the middle. I lay down among them, with Lona by my side, but did not sleep.

The night came, and suddenly the company was there. I was wondering with myself whether, night after night, they would thus go on dancing to all eternity, and whether I should not one day have to join them because of my stiff-neckedness, when the eyes of the children came open, and they sprang to their feet, wide awake. Immediately every one caught hold of a dancer, and away they went, bounding and skipping. The spectres seemed to see and welcome them: perhaps they knew all about the Little Ones, for they had themselves long been on their way back to childhood! Anyhow, their innocent gambols must, I thought, bring refreshment to weary souls who, their present taken from them and their future dark, had no life save the shadow of their vanished past. Many a merry but never a rude prank did the children play; and if they did at times cause a momentary jar in the rhythm of the dance, the poor spectres, who had nothing to smile withal, at least manifested no annoyance.

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