Part 5 out of 6
and girls walked softly hither and thither among the dreaming
multitude. All was still; the whole wicked place appeared at rest.
MOTHER AND DAUGHTER
Lona was so disgusted with the people, and especially with the
women, that she wished to abandon the place as soon as possible; I,
on the contrary, felt very strongly that to do so would be to fail
wilfully where success was possible; and, far worse, to weaken the
hearts of the Little Ones, and so bring them into much greater
danger. If we retreated, it was certain the princess would not
leave us unassailed! if we encountered her, the hope of the prophecy
went with us! Mother and daughter must meet: it might be that
Lona's loveliness would take Lilith's heart by storm! if she
threatened violence, I should be there between them! If I found
that I had no other power over her, I was ready, for the sake of my
Lona, to strike her pitilessly on the closed hand! I knew she was
doomed: most likely it was decreed that her doom should now be
brought to pass through us!
Still without hint of the relation in which she stood to the
princess, I stated the case to Lona as it appeared to me. At once
she agreed to accompany me to the palace.
>From the top of one of its great towers, the princess had, in the
early morning, while the city yet slept, descried the approach of the
army of the Little Ones. The sight awoke in her an over-mastering
terror: she had failed in her endeavour to destroy them, and they
were upon her! The prophecy was about to be fulfilled!
When she came to herself, she descended to the black hall, and
seated herself in the north focus of the ellipse, under the opening
in the roof.
For she must think! Now what she called THINKING required a clear
consciousness of herself, not as she was, but as she chose to
believe herself; and to aid her in the realisation of this
consciousness, she had suspended, a little way from and above her,
itself invisible in the darkness of the hall, a mirror to receive
the full sunlight reflected from her person. For the resulting
vision of herself in the splendour of her beauty, she sat waiting
the meridional sun.
Many a shadow moved about her in the darkness, but as often as, with
a certain inner eye which she had, she caught sight of one, she
refused to regard it. Close under the mirror stood the Shadow which
attended her walks, but, self-occupied, him she did not see.
The city was taken; the inhabitants were cowering in terror; the
Little Ones and their strange cavalry were encamped in the square;
the sun shone upon the princess, and for a few minutes she saw
herself glorious. The vision passed, but she sat on. The night was
now come, and darkness clothed and filled the glass, yet she did not
move. A gloom that swarmed with shadows, wallowed in the palace;
the servants shivered and shook, but dared not leave it because of
the beasts of the Little Ones; all night long the princess sat
motionless: she must see her beauty again! she must try again to
think! But courage and will had grown weary of her, and would dwell
with her no more!
In the morning we chose twelve of the tallest and bravest of the
boys to go with us to the palace. We rode our great horses, and
they small horses and elephants.
The princess sat waiting the sun to give her the joy of her own
presence. The tide of the light was creeping up the shore of the
sky, but until the sun stood overhead, not a ray could enter the
He rose to our eyes, and swiftly ascended. As we climbed the steep
way to the palace, he climbed the dome of its great hall. He looked
in at the eye of it--and with sudden radiance the princess flashed
upon her own sight. But she sprang to her feet with a cry of
despair: alas her whiteness! the spot covered half her side, and
was black as the marble around her! She clutched her robe, and
fell back in her chair. The Shadow glided out, and she saw him go.
We found the gate open as usual, passed through the paved grove up
to the palace door, and entered the vestibule. There in her cage
lay the spotted leopardess, apparently asleep or lifeless. The
Little Ones paused a moment to look at her. She leaped up rampant
against the cage. The horses reared and plunged; the elephants
retreated a step. The next instant she fell supine, writhed in
quivering spasms, and lay motionless. We rode into the great hall.
The princess yet leaned back in her chair in the shaft of sunlight,
when from the stones of the court came to her ears the noise of the
horses' hoofs. She started, listened, and shook: never had such
sound been heard in her palace! She pressed her hand to her side,
and gasped. The trampling came nearer and nearer; it entered the
hall itself; moving figures that were not shadows approached her
through the darkness!
For us, we saw a splendour, a glorious woman centring the dark.
Lona sprang from her horse, and bounded to her. I sprang from mine,
and followed Lona.
"Mother! mother!" she cried, and her clear, lovely voice echoed in
The princess shivered; her face grew almost black with hate, her
eyebrows met on her forehead. She rose to her feet, and stood.
"Mother! mother!" cried Lona again, as she leaped on the daïs, and
flung her arms around the princess.
An instant more and I should have reached them!--in that instant
I saw Lona lifted high, and dashed on the marble floor. Oh, the
horrible sound of her fall! At my feet she fell, and lay still.
The princess sat down with the smile of a demoness.
I dropped on my knees beside Lona, raised her from the stones, and
pressed her to my bosom. With indignant hate I glanced at the
princess; she answered me with her sweetest smile. I would have
sprung upon her, taken her by the throat, and strangled her, but
love of the child was stronger than hate of the mother, and I
clasped closer my precious burden. Her arms hung helpless; her
blood trickled over my hands, and fell on the floor with soft, slow
The horses scented it--mine first, then the small ones. Mine
reared, shivering and wild-eyed, went about, and thundered blindly
down the dark hall, with the little horses after him. Lona's stood
gazing down at his mistress, and trembling all over. The boys flung
themselves from their horses' backs, and they, not seeing the black
wall before them, dashed themselves, with mine, to pieces against
it. The elephants came on to the foot of the daïs, and stopped,
wildly trumpeting; the Little Ones sprang upon it, and stood
horrified; the princess lay back in her seat, her face that of a
corpse, her eyes alone alive, wickedly flaming. She was again
withered and wasted to what I found in the wood, and her side was
as if a great branding hand had been laid upon it. But Lona saw
nothing, and I saw but Lona.
"Mother! mother!" she sighed, and her breathing ceased.
I carried her into the court: the sun shone upon a white face, and
the pitiful shadow of a ghostly smile. Her head hung back. She was
"dead as earth."
I forgot the Little Ones, forgot the murdering princess, forgot
the body in my arms, and wandered away, looking for my Lona. The
doors and windows were crowded with brute-faces jeering at me, but
not daring to speak, for they saw the white leopardess behind me,
hanging her head close at my heel. I spurned her with my foot.
She held back a moment, and followed me again.
I reached the square: the little army was gone! Its emptiness roused
me. Where were the Little Ones, HER Little Ones? I had lost her
children! I stared helpless about me, staggered to the pillar, and
sank upon its base.
But as I sat gazing on the still countenance, it seemed to smile a
live momentary smile. I never doubted it an illusion, yet believed
what it said: I should yet see her alive! It was not she, it was I
who was lost, and she would find me!
I rose to go after the Little Ones, and instinctively sought the
gate by which we had entered. I looked around me, but saw nothing
of the leopardess.
The street was rapidly filling with a fierce crowd. They saw me
encumbered with my dead, but for a time dared not assail me. Ere
I reached the gate, however, they had gathered courage. The women
began to hustle me; I held on heedless. A man pushed against my
sacred burden: with a kick I sent him away howling. But the crowd
pressed upon me, and fearing for the dead that was beyond hurt, I
clasped my treasure closer, and freed my right arm. That instant,
however, a commotion arose in the street behind me; the crowd broke;
and through it came the Little Ones I had left in the palace. Ten
of them were upon four of the elephants; on the two other elephants
lay the princess, bound hand and foot, and quite still, save that
her eyes rolled in their ghastly sockets. The two other Little Ones
rode behind her on Lona's horse. Every now and then the wise
creatures that bore her threw their trunks behind and felt her
I walked on in front, and out of the city. What an end to the
hopes with which I entered the evil place! We had captured the bad
princess, and lost our all-beloved queen! My life was bare! my
heart was empty!
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
"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
"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
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
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
He did not reply at once.
"I don't know what made me run," answered another. "I was
"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
"Tell me more about him."
"He came down the hill very black, walking like a bad giant, but
spread flat. He was nothing but blackness. We were frightened the
moment we saw him, but we did not run away; we stood and watched him.
He came on as if he would walk over us. But before he reached us,
he began to spread and spread, and grew bigger end bigger, till at
last he was so big that he went out of our sight, and we saw him no
more, and then he was upon us!"
"What do you mean by that?"
"He was all black through between us, and we could not see one
another; and then he was inside us."
"How did you know he was inside you?"
"He did me quite different. I felt like bad. I was not Odu any
more--not the Odu I knew. I wanted to tear Sozo to pieces--not
really, but like!"
He turned and hugged Sozo.
"It wasn't me, Sozo," he sobbed. "Really, deep down, it was Odu,
loving you always! And Odu came up, and knocked Naughty away. I
grew sick, and thought I must kill myself to get out of the black.
Then came a horrible laugh that had heard my think, and it set the
air trembling about me. And then I suppose I ran away, but I did
not know I had run away until I found myself running, fast as could,
and all the rest running too. I would have stopped, but I never
thought of it until I was out of the gate among the grass. Then I
knew that I had run away from a shadow that wanted to be me and
wasn't, and that I was the Odu that loved Sozo. It was the shadow
that got into me, and hated him from inside me; it was not my own
self me! And now I know that I ought not to have run away! But
indeed I did not quite know what I was doing until it was done! My
legs did it, I think: they grew frightened, and forgot me, and ran
away! Naughty legs! There! and there!"
Thus ended Odu, with a kick to each of his naughty legs.
"What became of the shadow?" I asked.
"I do not know," he answered. "I suppose he went home into the
night where there is no moon."
I fell a wondering where Lona was gone, and dropping on the grass,
took the dead thing in my lap, and whispered in its ear, "Where
are you, Lona? I love you!" But its lips gave no answer. I kissed
them, not quite cold, laid the body down again, and appointing a
guard over it, rose to provide for the safety of Lona's people
during the night.
Before the sun went down, I had set a watch over the princess
outside the camp, and sentinels round it: intending to walk about
it myself all night long, I told the rest of the army to go to sleep.
They threw themselves on the grass and were asleep in a moment.
When the moon rose I caught a glimpse of something white; it was
the leopardess. She swept silently round the sleeping camp, and I
saw her pass three times between the princess and the Little Ones.
Thereupon I made the watch lie down with the others, and stretched
myself beside the body of Lona.
TO THE HOUSE OF BITTERNESS
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
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
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.
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.
Just ere the morning began to break, I started to see the
skeleton-princess in the doorway, her eyes open and glowing, the
fearful spot black on her side. She stood for a moment, then came
gliding in, as if she would join the dance. I sprang to my feet.
A cry of repugnant fear broke from the children, and the lights
vanished. But the low moon looked in, and I saw them clinging to
each other. The ghosts were gone--at least they were no longer
visible. The princess too had disappeared. I darted to the spot
where I had left her: she lay with her eyes closed, as if she had
never moved. I returned to the hall. The Little Ones were already
on the floor, composing themselves to sleep.
The next morning, as we started, we spied, a little way from us,
two skeletons moving about in a thicket. The Little Ones broke
their ranks, and ran to them. I followed; and, although now walking
at ease, without splint or ligature, I was able to recognise the
pair I had before seen in that neighbourhood. The children at once
made friends with them, laying hold of their arms, and stroking
the bones of their long fingers; and it was plain the poor creatures
took their attentions kindly. The two seemed on excellent terms
with each other. Their common deprivation had drawn them together!
the loss of everything had been the beginning of a new life to them!
Perceiving that they had gathered handfuls of herbs, and were
looking for more--presumably to rub their bones with, for in what
other way could nourishment reach their system so rudimentary?--the
Little Ones, having keenly examined those they held, gathered of
the same sorts, and filled the hands the skeletons held out to
receive them. Then they bid them goodbye, promising to come and
see them again, and resumed their journey, saying to each other they
had not known there were such nice people living in the same forest.
When we came to the nest-village, I remained there a night with them,
to see them resettled; for Lona still looked like one just dead, and
there seemed no need of haste.
The princess had eaten nothing, and her eyes remained shut: fearing
she might die ere we reached the end of our journey, I went to her
in the night, and laid my bare arm upon her lips. She bit into it
so fiercely that I cried out. How I got away from her I do not know,
but I came to myself lying beyond her reach. It was then morning,
and immediately I set about our departure.
Choosing twelve Little Ones, not of the biggest and strongest, but
of the sweetest and merriest, I mounted them on six elephants, and
took two more of the wise CLUMSIES, as the children called them, to
bear the princess. I still rode Lona's horse, and carried her body
wrapt in her cloak before me. As nearly as I could judge I took
the direct way, across the left branch of the river-bed, to the
House of Bitterness, where I hoped to learn how best to cross the
broader and rougher branch, and how to avoid the basin of monsters:
I dreaded the former for the elephants, the latter for the children.
I had one terrible night on the way--the third, passed in the desert
between the two branches of the dead river.
We had stopped the elephants in a sheltered place, and there let
the princess slip down between them, to lie on the sand until the
morning. She seemed quite dead, but I did not think she was. I
laid myself a little way from her, with the body of Lona by my other
side, thus to keep watch at once over the dead and the dangerous.
The moon was half-way down the west, a pale, thoughtful moon,
mottling the desert with shadows. Of a sudden she was eclipsed,
remaining visible, but sending forth no light: a thick, diaphanous
film covered her patient beauty, and she looked troubled. The film
swept a little aside, and I saw the edge of it against her
clearness--the jagged outline of a bat-like wing, torn and hooked.
Came a cold wind with a burning sting--and Lilith was upon me. Her
hands were still bound, but with her teeth she pulled from my
shoulder the cloak Lona made for me, and fixed them in my flesh. I
lay as one paralysed.
Already the very life seemed flowing from me into her, when I
remembered, and struck her on the hand. She raised her head with a
gurgling shriek, and I felt her shiver. I flung her from me, and
sprang to my feet.
She was on her knees, and rocked herself to and fro. A second blast
of hot-stinging cold enveloped us; the moon shone out clear, and I
saw her face--gaunt and ghastly, besmeared with red.
"Down, devil!" I cried.
"Where are you taking me?" she asked, with the voice of a dull echo
from a sepulchre.
"To your first husband," I answered.
"He will kill me!" she moaned.
"At least he will take you off my hands!"
"Give me my daughter," she suddenly screamed, grinding her teeth.
"Never! Your doom is upon you at last!"
"Loose my hands for pity's sake!" she groaned. "I am in torture.
The cords are sunk in my flesh."
"I dare not. Lie down!" I said.
She threw herself on the ground like a log.
The rest of the night passed in peace, and in the morning she again
Before evening we came in sight of the House of Bitterness, and the
next moment one of the elephants came alongside of my horse.
"Please, king, you are not going to that place?" whispered the
Little One who rode on his neck.
"Indeed I am! We are going to stay the night there," I answered.
"Oh, please, don't! That must be where the cat-woman lives!"
"If you had ever seen her, you would not call her by that name!"
"Nobody ever sees her: she has lost her face! Her head is back and
side all round."
"She hides her face from dull, discontented people!--Who taught you
to call her the cat-woman?"
"I heard the bad giants call her so."
"What did they say about her?"
"That she had claws to her toes."
"It is not true. I know the lady. I spent a night at her house."
"But she MAY have claws to her toes! You might see her feet, and
her claws be folded up inside their cushions!"
"Then perhaps you think that I have claws to my toes?"
"Oh, no; that can't be! you are good!"
"The giants might have told you so!" I pursued.
"We shouldn't believe them about you!"
"Are the giants good?"
"No; they love lying."
"Then why do you believe them about her? I know the lady is good;
she cannot have claws."
"Please how do you know she is good?"
"How do you know I am good?"
I rode on, while he waited for his companions, and told them what
I had said.
They hastened after me, and when they came up,--
"I would not take you to her house if I did not believe her good,"
"We know you would not," they answered.
"If I were to do something that frightened you--what would you say?"
"The beasts frightened us sometimes at first, but they never hurt
us!" answered one.
"That was before we knew them!" added another.
"Just so!" I answered. "When you see the woman in that cottage, you
will know that she is good. You may wonder at what she does, but
she will always be good. I know her better than you know me. She
will not hurt you,--or if she does,----"
"Ah, you are not sure about it, king dear! You think she MAY hurt
"I am sure she will never be unkind to you, even if she do hurt you!"
They were silent for a while.
"I'm not afraid of being hurt--a little!--a good deal!" cried Odu.
"But I should not like scratches in the dark! The giants say the
cat-woman has claw-feet all over her house!"
"I am taking the princess to her," I said.
"Because she is her friend."
"How can she be good then?"
"Little Tumbledown is a friend of the princess," I answered; "so is
Luva: I saw them both, more than once, trying to feed her with
"Little Tumbledown is good! Luva is very good!"
"That is why they are her friends."
"Will the cat-woman--I mean the woman that isn't the cat-woman, and
has no claws to her toes--give her grapes?"
"She is more likely to give her scratches!"
"Why?--You say she is her friend!"
"That is just why.--A friend is one who gives us what we need, and
the princess is sorely in need of a terrible scratching."
They were silent again.
"If any of you are afraid," I said, "you may go home; I shall not
prevent you. But I cannot take one with me who believes the giants
rather than me, or one who will call a good lady the cat-woman!"
"Please, king," said one, "I'm so afraid of being afraid!"
"My boy," I answered, "there is no harm in being afraid. The only
harm is in doing what Fear tells you. Fear is not your master!
Laugh in his face and he will run away."
"There she is--in the door waiting for us!" cried one, and put his
hands over his eyes.
"How ugly she is!" cried another, and did the same.
"You do not see her," I said; "her face is covered!"
"She has no face!" they answered.
"She has a very beautiful face. I saw it once.--It is indeed as
beautiful as Lona's!" I added with a sigh.
"Then what makes her hide it?"
"I think I know:--anyhow, she has some good reason for it!"
"I don't like the cat-woman! she is frightful!"
"You cannot like, and you ought not to dislike what you have never
seen.--Once more, you must not call her the cat-woman!"
"What are we to call her then, please?"
"That is a pretty name!" said a girl; "I will call her `lady Mara';
then perhaps she will show me her beautiful face!"
Mara, drest and muffled in white, was indeed standing in the doorway
to receive us.
"At last!" she said. "Lilith's hour has been long on the way, but it
is come! Everything comes. Thousands of years have I waited--and
not in vain!"
She came to me, took my treasure from my arms, carried it into the
house, and returning, took the princess. Lilith shuddered, but
made no resistance. The beasts lay down by the door. We followed
our hostess, the Little Ones looking very grave. She laid the
princess on a rough settle at one side of the room, unbound her,
and turned to us.
"Mr. Vane," she said, "and you, Little Ones, I thank you! This
woman would not yield to gentler measures; harder must have their
turn. I must do what I can to make her repent!"
The pitiful-hearted Little Ones began to sob sorely.
"Will you hurt her very much, lady Mara?" said the girl I have just
mentioned, putting her warm little hand in mine.
"Yes; I am afraid I must; I fear she will make me!" answered Mara.
"It would be cruel to hurt her too little. It would have all to be
done again, only worse."
"May I stop with her?"
"No, my child. She loves no one, therefore she cannot be WITH any
one. There is One who will be with her, but she will not be with
"Will the shadow that came down the hill be with her?"
"The great Shadow will be in her, I fear, but he cannot be WITH her,
or with any one. She will know I am beside her, but that will not
"Will you scratch her very deep?" asked Odu, going near, and putting
his hand in hers. "Please, don't make the red juice come!"
She caught him up, turned her back to the rest of us, drew the
muffling down from her face, and held him at arms' length that he
might see her.
As if his face had been a mirror, I saw in it what he saw. For
one moment he stared, his little mouth open; then a divine wonder
arose in his countenance, and swiftly changed to intense delight.
For a minute he gazed entranced, then she set him down. Yet a
moment he stood looking up at her, lost in contemplation--then ran
to us with the face of a prophet that knows a bliss he cannot tell.
Mara rearranged her mufflings, and turned to the other children.
"You must eat and drink before you go to sleep," she said; "you have
had a long journey!"
She set the bread of her house before them, and a jug of cold water.
They had never seen bread before, and this was hard and dry, but
they ate it without sign of distaste. They had never seen water
before, but they drank without demur, one after the other looking
up from the draught with a face of glad astonishment. Then she led
away the smallest, and the rest went trooping after her. With her
own gentle hands, they told me, she put them to bed on the floor of
Their night was a troubled one, and they brought a strange report
of it into the day. Whether the fear of their sleep came out into
their waking, or their waking fear sank with them into their dreams,
awake or asleep they were never at rest from it. All night something
seemed going on in the house--something silent, something terrible,
something they were not to know. Never a sound awoke; the darkness
was one with the silence, and the silence was the terror.
Once, a frightful wind filled the house, and shook its inside, they
said, so that it quivered and trembled like a horse shaking himself;
but it was a silent wind that made not even a moan in their chamber,
and passed away like a soundless sob.
They fell asleep. But they woke again with a great start. They
thought the house was filling with water such as they had been
drinking. It came from below, and swelled up until the garret was
full of it to the very roof. But it made no more sound than the
wind, and when it sank away, they fell asleep dry and warm.
The next time they woke, all the air, they said, inside and out,
was full of cats. They swarmed--up and down, along and across,
everywhere about the room. They felt their claws trying to get
through the night-gowns lady Mara had put on them, but they could
not; and in the morning not one of them had a scratch. Through
the dark suddenly, came the only sound they heard the night long--the
far-off howl of the huge great-grandmother-cat in the desert: she
must have been calling her little ones, they thought, for that
instant the cats stopped, and all was still. Once more they fell
fast asleep, and did not wake till the sun was rising.
Such was the account the children gave of their experiences. But
I was with the veiled woman and the princess all through the night:
something of what took place I saw; much I only felt; and there was
more which eye could not see, and heart only could in a measure
As soon as Mara left the room with the children, my eyes fell on
the white leopardess: I thought we had left her behind us, but there
she was, cowering in a corner. Apparently she was in mortal terror
of what she might see. A lamp stood on the high chimney-piece, and
sometimes the room seemed full of lamp-shadows, sometimes of cloudy
forms. The princess lay on the settle by the wall, and seemed never
to have moved hand or foot. It was a fearsome waiting.
When Mara returned, she drew the settle with Lilith upon it to the
middle of the room, then sat down opposite me, at the other side of
the hearth. Between us burned a small fire.
Something terrible was on its way! The cloudy presences flickered
and shook. A silvery creature like a slowworm came crawling out
from among them, slowly crossed the clay floor, and crept into the
fire. We sat motionless. The something came nearer.
But the hours passed, midnight drew nigh, and there was no change.
The night was very still. Not a sound broke the silence, not a
rustle from the fire, not a crack from board or beam. Now and again
I felt a sort of heave, but whether in the earth or in the air or
in the waters under the earth, whether in my own body or in my
soul--whether it was anywhere, I could not tell. A dread sense of
judgment was upon me. But I was not afraid, for I had ceased to
care for aught save the thing that must be done.
Suddenly it was midnight. The muffled woman rose, turned toward
the settle, and slowly unwound the long swathes that hid her face:
they dropped on the ground, and she stepped over them. The feet of
the princess were toward the hearth; Mara went to her head, and
turning, stood behind it. Then I saw her face. It was lovely
beyond speech--white and sad, heart-and-soul sad, but not unhappy,
and I knew it never could be unhappy. Great tears were running down
her cheeks: she wiped them away with her robe; her countenance grew
very still, and she wept no more. But for the pity in every line
of her expression, she would have seemed severe. She laid her hand
on the head of the princess--on the hair that grew low on the
forehead, and stooping, breathed on the sallow brow. The body
"Will you turn away from the wicked things you have been doing so
long?" said Mara gently.
The princess did not answer. Mara put the question again, in the
same soft, inviting tone.
Still there was no sign of hearing. She spoke the words a third
Then the seeming corpse opened its mouth and answered, its words
appearing to frame themselves of something else than sound.--I
cannot shape the thing further: sounds they were not, yet they were
words to me.
"I will not," she said. "I will be myself and not another!"
"Alas, you are another now, not yourself! Will you not be your real
"I will be what I mean myself now."
"If you were restored, would you not make what amends you could for
the misery you have caused?"
"I would do after my nature."
"You do not know it: your nature is good, and you do evil!"
"I will do as my Self pleases--as my Self desires."
"You will do as the Shadow, overshadowing your Self inclines you?"
"I will do what I will to do."
"You have killed your daughter, Lilith!"
"I have killed thousands. She is my own!"
"She was never yours as you are another's."
"I am not another's; I am my own, and my daughter is mine."
"Then, alas, your hour is come!"
"I care not. I am what I am; no one can take from me myself!"
"You are not the Self you imagine."
"So long as I feel myself what it pleases me to think myself, I care
not. I am content to be to myself what I would be. What I choose
to seem to myself makes me what I am. My own thought makes me me;
my own thought of myself is me. Another shall not make me!"
"But another has made you, and can compel you to see what you have
made yourself. You will not be able much longer to look to yourself
anything but what he sees you! You will not much longer have
satisfaction in the thought of yourself. At this moment you are
aware of the coming change!"
"No one ever made me. I defy that Power to unmake me from a free
woman! You are his slave, and I defy you! You may be able to
torture me--I do not know, but you shall not compel me to anything
against my will!"
"Such a compulsion would be without value. But there is a light
that goes deeper than the will, a light that lights up the darkness
behind it: that light can change your will, can make it truly yours
and not another's--not the Shadow's. Into the created can pour
itself the creating will, and so redeem it!"
"That light shall not enter me: I hate it!--Begone, slave!"
"I am no slave, for I love that light, and will with the deeper
will which created mine. There is no slave but the creature that
wills against its creator. Who is a slave but her who cries, `I am
free,' yet cannot cease to exist!"
"You speak foolishness from a cowering heart! You imagine me given
over to you: I defy you! I hold myself against you! What I choose
to be, you cannot change. I will not be what you think me--what you
say I am!"
"I am sorry: you must suffer!"
"But be free!"
"She alone is free who would make free; she loves not freedom who
would enslave: she is herself a slave. Every life, every will,
every heart that came within your ken, you have sought to subdue:
you are the slave of every slave you have made--such a slave that
you do not know it!--See your own self!"
She took her hand from the head of the princess, and went two
backward paces from her.
A soundless presence as of roaring flame possessed the house--
the same, I presume, that was to the children a silent wind.
Involuntarily I turned to the hearth: its fire was a still small
moveless glow. But I saw the worm-thing come creeping out,
white-hot, vivid as incandescent silver, the live heart of essential
fire. Along the floor it crawled toward the settle, going very
slow. Yet more slowly it crept up on it, and laid itself, as
unwilling to go further, at the feet of the princess. I rose and
stole nearer. Mara stood motionless, as one that waits an event
foreknown. The shining thing crawled on to a bare bony foot: it
showed no suffering, neither was the settle scorched where the worm
had lain. Slowly, very slowly, it crept along her robe until it
reached her bosom, where it disappeared among the folds.
The face of the princess lay stonily calm, the eyelids closed as
over dead eyes; and for some minutes nothing followed. At length,
on the dry, parchment-like skin, began to appear drops as of the
finest dew: in a moment they were as large as seed-pearls, ran
together, and began to pour down in streams. I darted forward to
snatch the worm from the poor withered bosom, and crush it with my
foot. But Mara, Mother of Sorrow, stepped between, and drew aside
the closed edges of the robe: no serpent was there--no searing trail;
the creature had passed in by the centre of the black spot, and was
piercing through the joints and marrow to the thoughts and intents
of the heart. The princess gave one writhing, contorted shudder,
and I knew the worm was in her secret chamber.
"She is seeing herself!" said Mara; and laying her hand on my arm,
she drew me three paces from the settle.
Of a sudden the princess bent her body upward in an arch, then
sprang to the floor, and stood erect. The horror in her face made
me tremble lest her eyes should open, and the sight of them overwhelm
me. Her bosom heaved and sank, but no breath issued. Her hair hung
and dripped; then it stood out from her head and emitted sparks;
again hung down, and poured the sweat of her torture on the floor.
I would have thrown my arms about her, but Mara stopped me.
"You cannot go near her," she said. "She is far away from us, afar
in the hell of her self-consciousness. The central fire of the
universe is radiating into her the knowledge of good and evil, the
knowledge of what she is. She sees at last the good she is not,
the evil she is. She knows that she is herself the fire in which
she is burning, but she does not know that the Light of Life is the
heart of that fire. Her torment is that she is what she is. Do
not fear for her; she is not forsaken. No gentler way to help her
was left. Wait and watch."
It may have been five minutes or five years that she stood thus--I
cannot tell; but at last she flung herself on her face.
Mara went to her, and stood looking down upon her. Large tears
fell from her eyes on the woman who had never wept, and would not
"Will you change your way?" she said at length.
"Why did he make me such?" gasped Lilith. "I would have made
myself--oh, so different! I am glad it was he that made me and not
I myself! He alone is to blame for what I am! Never would I have
made such a worthless thing! He meant me such that I might know it
and be miserable! I will not be made any longer!"
"Unmake yourself, then," said Mara.
"Alas, I cannot! You know it, and mock me! How often have I not
agonised to cease, but the tyrant keeps me being! I curse him!--Now
let him kill me!"
The words came in jets as from a dying fountain.
"Had he not made you," said Mara, gently and slowly, "you could not
even hate him. But he did not make you such. You have made
yourself what you are.--Be of better cheer: he can remake you."
"I will not be remade!"
"He will not change you; he will only restore you to what you were."
"I will not be aught of his making."
"Are you not willing to have that set right which you have set
She lay silent; her suffering seemed abated.
"If you are willing, put yourself again on the settle."
"I will not," she answered, forcing the words through her clenched
A wind seemed to wake inside the house, blowing without sound or
impact; and a water began to rise that had no lap in its ripples,
no sob in its swell. It was cold, but it did not benumb. Unseen
and noiseless it came. It smote no sense in me, yet I knew it
rising. I saw it lift at last and float her. Gently it bore her,
unable to resist, and left rather than laid her on the settle. Then
it sank swiftly away.
The strife of thought, accusing and excusing, began afresh, and
gathered fierceness. The soul of Lilith lay naked to the torture
of pure interpenetrating inward light. She began to moan, and sigh
deep sighs, then murmur as holding colloquy with a dividual self:
her queendom was no longer whole; it was divided against itself.
One moment she would exult as over her worst enemy, and weep; the
next she would writhe as in the embrace of a friend whom her soul
hated, and laugh like a demon. At length she began what seemed a
tale about herself, in a language so strange, and in forms so
shadowy, that I could but here and there understand a little. Yet
the language seemed the primeval shape of one I knew well, and the
forms to belong to dreams which had once been mine, but refused to
be recalled. The tale appeared now and then to touch upon things
that Adam had read from the disparted manuscript, and often to make
allusion to influences and forces--vices too, I could not help
suspecting--with which I was unacquainted.
She ceased, and again came the horror in her hair, the sparkling
and flowing alternate. I sent a beseeching look to Mara.
"Those, alas, are not the tears of repentance!" she said. "The
true tears gather in the eyes. Those are far more bitter, and not
so good. Self-loathing is not sorrow. Yet it is good, for it marks
a step in the way home, and in the father's arms the prodigal
forgets the self he abominates. Once with his father, he is to
himself of no more account. It will be so with her."
She went nearer and said,
"Will you restore that which you have wrongfully taken?"
"I have taken nothing," answered the princess, forcing out the words
in spite of pain, "that I had not the right to take. My power to
take manifested my right."
Mara left her.
Gradually my soul grew aware of an invisible darkness, a something
more terrible than aught that had yet made itself felt. A horrible
Nothingness, a Negation positive infolded her; the border of its
being that was yet no being, touched me, and for one ghastly instant
I seemed alone with Death Absolute! It was not the absence of
everything I felt, but the presence of Nothing. The princess dashed
herself from the settle to the floor with an exceeding great and
bitter cry. It was the recoil of Being from Annihilation.
"For pity's sake," she shrieked, "tear my heart out, but let me
With that there fell upon her, and upon us also who watched with
her, the perfect calm as of a summer night. Suffering had all but
reached the brim of her life's cup, and a hand had emptied it! She
raised her head, half rose, and looked around her. A moment more,
and she stood erect, with the air of a conqueror: she had won the
battle! Dareful she had met her spiritual foes; they had withdrawn
defeated! She raised her withered arm above her head, a pæan of
unholy triumph in her throat--when suddenly her eyes fixed in a
ghastly stare.--What was she seeing?
I looked, and saw: before her, cast from unseen heavenly mirror,
stood the reflection of herself, and beside it a form of splendent
beauty, She trembled, and sank again on the floor helpless. She
knew the one what God had intended her to be, the other what she
had made herself.
The rest of the night she lay motionless altogether.
With the gray dawn growing in the room, she rose, turned to Mara,
and said, in prideful humility, "You have conquered. Let me go into
the wilderness and bewail myself."
Mara saw that her submission was not feigned, neither was it real.
She looked at her a moment, and returned:
"Begin, then, and set right in the place of wrong."
"I know not how," she replied--with the look of one who foresaw and
feared the answer.
"Open thy hand, and let that which is in it go."
A fierce refusal seemed to struggle for passage, but she kept it
"I cannot," she said. "I have no longer the power. Open it for
She held out the offending hand. It was more a paw than a hand. It
seemed to me plain that she could not open it.
Mara did not even look at it.
"You must open it yourself," she said quietly.
"I have told you I cannot!"
"You can if you will--not indeed at once, but by persistent effort.
What you have done, you do not yet wish undone--do not yet intend
"You think so, I dare say," rejoined the princess with a flash of
insolence, "but I KNOW that I cannot open my hand!"
"I know you better than you know yourself, and I know you can. You
have often opened it a little way. Without trouble and pain you
cannot open it quite, but you CAN open it. At worst you could beat
it open! I pray you, gather your strength, and open it wide."
"I will not try what I know impossible. It would be the part of a
"Which you have been playing all your life! Oh, you are hard to
Defiance reappeared on the face of the princess. She turned her back
on Mara, saying, "I know what you have been tormenting me for! You
have not succeeded, nor shall you succeed! You shall yet find me
stronger than you think! I will yet be mistress of myself! I am
still what I have always known myself--queen of Hell, and mistress
of the worlds!"
Then came the most fearful thing of all. I did not know what it
was; I knew myself unable to imagine it; I knew only that if it
came near me I should die of terror! I now know that it was LIFE
IN DEATH--life dead, yet existent; and I knew that Lilith had had
glimpses, but only glimpses of it before: it had never been with
her until now.
She stood as she had turned. Mara went and sat down by the fire.
Fearing to stand alone with the princess, I went also and sat again
by the hearth. Something began to depart from me. A sense of cold,
yet not what we call cold, crept, not into, but out of my being,
and pervaded it. The lamp of life and the eternal fire seemed dying
together, and I about to be left with naught but the consciousness
that I had been alive. Mercifully, bereavement did not go so far,
and my thought went back to Lilith.
Something was taking place in her which we did not know. We knew
we did not feel what she felt, but we knew we felt something of the
misery it caused her. The thing itself was in her, not in us; its
reflex, her misery, reached us, and was again reflected in us: she
was in the outer darkness, we present with her who was in it! We
were not in the outer darkness; had we been, we could not have been
WITH her; we should have been timelessly, spacelessly, absolutely
apart. The darkness knows neither the light nor itself; only the
light knows itself and the darkness also. None but God hates evil
and understands it.
Something was gone from her, which then first, by its absence, she
knew to have been with her every moment of her wicked years. The
source of life had withdrawn itself; all that was left her of
conscious being was the dregs of her dead and corrupted life.
She stood rigid. Mara buried her head in her hands. I gazed on
the face of one who knew existence but not love--knew nor life,
nor joy, nor good; with my eyes I saw the face of a live death!
She knew life only to know that it was dead, and that, in her,
death lived. It was not merely that life had ceased in her, but
that she was consciously a dead thing. She had killed her life,
and was dead--and knew it. She must DEATH IT for ever and ever!
She had tried her hardest to unmake herself, and could not! she was
a dead life! she could not cease! she must BE! In her face I saw
and read beyond its misery--saw in its dismay that the dismay behind
it was more than it could manifest. It sent out a livid gloom;
the light that was in her was darkness, and after its kind it shone.
She was what God could not have created. She had usurped beyond
her share in self-creation, and her part had undone His! She saw
now what she had made, and behold, it was not good! She was as a
conscious corpse, whose coffin would never come to pieces, never
set her free! Her bodily eyes stood wide open, as if gazing into
the heart of horror essential--her own indestructible evil. Her
right hand also was now clenched--upon existent Nothing--her
But with God all things are possible: He can save even the rich!
Without change of look, without sign of purpose, Lilith walked
toward Mara. She felt her coming, and rose to meet her.
"I yield," said the princess. "I cannot hold out. I am defeated.
--Not the less, I cannot open my hand."
"Have you tried?"
"I am trying now with all my might."
"I will take you to my father. You have wronged him worst of the
created, therefore he best of the created can help you."
"How can HE help me?"
"He will forgive you."
"Ah, if he would but help me to cease! Not even that am I capable
of! I have no power over myself; I am a slave! I acknowledge it.
Let me die."
"A slave thou art that shall one day be a child!" answered
Mara.--"Verily, thou shalt die, but not as thou thinkest. Thou
shalt die out of death into life. Now is the Life for, that never
was against thee!"
Like her mother, in whom lay the motherhood of all the world, Mara
put her arms around Lilith, and kissed her on the forehead. The
fiery-cold misery went out of her eyes, and their fountains filled.
She lifted, and bore her to her own bed in a corner of the room,
laid her softly upon it, and closed her eyes with caressing hands.
Lilith lay and wept. The Lady of Sorrow went to the door and opened
Morn, with the Spring in her arms, waited outside. Softly they
stole in at the opened door, with a gentle wind in the skirts of
their garments. It flowed and flowed about Lilith, rippling the
unknown, upwaking sea of her life eternal; rippling and to ripple
it, until at length she who had been but as a weed cast on the
dry sandy shore to wither, should know herself an inlet of the
everlasting ocean, henceforth to flow into her for ever, and ebb
no more. She answered the morning wind with reviving breath,
and began to listen. For in the skirts of the wind had come the
rain--the soft rain that heals the mown, the many-wounded
grass--soothing it with the sweetness of all music, the hush that
lives between music and silence. It bedewed the desert places
around the cottage, and the sands of Lilith's heart heard it, and
drank it in. When Mara returned to sit by her bed, her tears were
flowing softer than the rain, and soon she was fast asleep.
THE HOUSE OF DEATH
The Mother of Sorrows rose, muffled her face, and went to call the
Little Ones. They slept as if all the night they had not moved, but
the moment she spoke they sprang to their feet, fresh as if new-made.
Merrily down the stair they followed her, and she brought them where
the princess lay, her tears yet flowing as she slept. Their glad
faces grew grave. They looked from the princess out on the rain,
then back at the princess.
"The sky is falling!" said one.
"The white juice is running out of the princess!" cried another,
with an awed look.
"Is it rivers?" asked Odu, gazing at the little streams that flowed
adown her hollow cheeks.
"Yes," answered Mara, "--the most wonderful of all rivers."
"I thought rivers was bigger, and rushed, like a lot of Little Ones,
making loud noises!" he returned, looking at me, from whom alone he
had heard of rivers.
"Look at the rivers of the sky!" said Mara. "See how they come
down to wake up the waters under the earth! Soon will the rivers
be flowing everywhere, merry and loud, like thousands and thousands
of happy children. Oh, how glad they will make you, Little Ones!
You have never seen any, and do not know how lovely is the water!"
"That will be the glad of the ground that the princess is grown
good," said Odu. "See the glad of the sky!"
"Are the rivers the glad of the princess?" asked Luva. "They are
not her juice, for they are not red!"
"They are the juice inside the juice," answered Mara.
Odu put one finger to his eye, looked at it, and shook his head.
"Princess will not bite now!" said Luva.
"No; she will never do that again," replied Mara. "--But now we
must take her nearer home."
"Is that a nest?" asked Sozo.
"Yes; a very big nest. But we must take her to another place first."
"What is that?"
"It is the biggest room in all this world.--But I think it is going
to be pulled down: it will soon be too full of little nests.--Go
and get your clumsies."
"Please are there any cats in it?"
"Not one. The nests are too full of lovely dreams for one cat to
"We shall be ready in a minute," said Odu, and ran out, followed by
all except Luva.
Lilith was now awake, and listening with a sad smile.
"But her rivers are running so fast!" said Luva, who stood by her
side and seemed unable to take her eyes from her face. "Her robe
is all--I don't know what. Clumsies won't like it!"
"They won't mind it," answered Mara. "Those rivers are so clean
that they make the whole world clean."
I had fallen asleep by the fire, but for some time had been awake
and listening, and now rose.
"It is time to mount, Mr. Vane," said our hostess.
"Tell me, please," I said, "is there not a way by which to avoid
the channels and the den of monsters?"
"There is an easy way across the river-bed, which I will show you,"
she answered; "but you must pass once more through the monsters."
"I fear for the children," I said.
"Fear will not once come nigh them," she rejoined.
We left the cottage. The beasts stood waiting about the door. Odu
was already on the neck of one of the two that were to carry the
princess. I mounted Lona's horse; Mara brought her body, and gave
it me in my arms. When she came out again with the princess, a cry
of delight arose from the children: she was no longer muffled!
Gazing at her, and entranced with her loveliness, the boys forgot
to receive the princess from her; but the elephants took Lilith
tenderly with their trunks, one round her body and one round her
knees, and, Mara helping, laid her along between them.
"Why does the princess want to go?" asked a small boy. "She would
keep good if she staid here!"
"She wants to go, and she does not want to go: we are helping her,"
answered Mara. "She will not keep good here."
"What are you helping her to do?" he went on.
"To go where she will get more help--help to open her hand, which
has been closed for a thousand years."
"So long? Then she has learned to do without it: why should she
open it now?"
"Because it is shut upon something that is not hers."
"Please, lady Mara, may we have some of your very dry bread before
we go?" said Luva.
Mara smiled, and brought them four loaves and a great jug of water.
"We will eat as we go," they said. But they drank the water with
"I think," remarked one of them, "it must be elephant-juice! It
makes me so strong!"
We set out, the Lady of Sorrow walking with us, more beautiful than
the sun, and the white leopardess following her. I thought she
meant but to put us in the path across the channels, but I soon
found she was going with us all the way. Then I would have
dismounted that she might ride, but she would not let me.
"I have no burden to carry," she said. "The children and I will
It was the loveliest of mornings; the sun shone his brightest, and
the wind blew his sweetest, but they did not comfort the desert,
for it had no water.
We crossed the channels without difficulty, the children gamboling
about Mara all the way, but did not reach the top of the ridge over
the bad burrow until the sun was already in the act of disappearing.
Then I made the Little Ones mount their elephants, for the moon
might be late, and I could not help some anxiety about them.
The Lady of Sorrow now led the way by my side; the elephants
followed--the two that bore the princess in the centre; the
leopardess brought up the rear; and just as we reached the frightful
margin, the moon looked up and showed the shallow basin lying before
us untroubled. Mara stepped into it; not a movement answered her
tread or the feet of my horse. But the moment that the elephants
carrying the princess touched it, the seemingly solid earth began
to heave and boil, and the whole dread brood of the hellish nest was
commoved. Monsters uprose on all sides, every neck at full length,
every beak and claw outstretched, every mouth agape. Long-billed
heads, horribly jawed faces, knotty tentacles innumerable, went out
after Lilith. She lay in an agony of fear, nor dared stir a finger.
Whether the hideous things even saw the children, I doubt; certainly
not one of them touched a child; not one loathly member passed the
live rampart of her body-guard, to lay hold of her.
"Little Ones," I cried, "keep your elephants close about the
princess. Be brave; they will not touch you."
"What will not touch us? We don't know what to be brave at!" they
answered; and I perceived they were unaware of one of the deformities
"Never mind then," I returned; "only keep close."
They were panoplied in their blindness! Incapacity to see was their
safety. What they could nowise be aware of, could not hurt them.
But the hideous forms I saw that night! Mara was a few paces in
front of me when a solitary, bodiless head bounced on the path
between us. The leopardess came rushing under the elephants from
behind, and would have seized it, but, with frightful contortions of
visage and a loathsome howl, it gave itself a rapid rotatory twist,
sprang from her, and buried itself in the ground. The death in my
arms assoiling me from fear, I regarded them all unmoved, although
never, sure, was elsewhere beheld such a crew accursed!
Mara still went in front of me, and the leopardess now walked close
behind her, shivering often, for it was very cold, when suddenly
the ground before me to my left began to heave, and a low wave of
earth came slinking toward us. It rose higher as it drew hear; out
of it slouched a dreadful head with fleshy tubes for hair, and
opening a great oval mouth, snapped at me. The leopardess sprang,
but fell baffled beyond it.
Almost under our feet, shot up the head of an enormous snake, with
a lamping wallowing glare in its eyes. Again the leopardess rushed
to the attack, but found nothing. At a third monster she darted
with like fury, and like failure--then sullenly ceased to heed
the phantom-horde. But I understood the peril and hastened the
crossing--the rather that the moon was carrying herself strangely.
Even as she rose she seemed ready to drop and give up the attempt
as hopeless; and since, I saw her sink back once fully her own
breadth. The arc she made was very low, and now she had begun to
We were almost over, when, between us and the border of the basin,
arose a long neck, on the top of which, like the blossom of some
Stygian lily, sat what seemed the head of a corpse, its mouth half
open, and full of canine teeth. I went on; it retreated, then drew
aside. The lady stepped on the firm land, but the leopardess
between us, roused once more, turned, and flew at the throat of
the terror. I remained where I was to see the elephants, with the
princess and the children, safe on the bank. Then I turned to look
after the leopardess. That moment the moon went down, For an instant
I saw the leopardess and the snake-monster convolved in a cloud of
dust; then darkness hid them. Trembling with fright, my horse
wheeled, and in three bounds overtook the elephants.
As we came up with them, a shapeless jelly dropped on the princess.
A white dove dropped immediately on the jelly, stabbing it with its
beak. It made a squelching, sucking sound, and fell off. Then I
heard the voice of a woman talking with Mara, and I knew the voice.
"I fear she is dead!" said Mara.
"I will send and find her," answered the mother. "But why, Mara,
shouldst thou at all fear for her or for any one? Death cannot hurt
her who dies doing the work given her to do."
"I shall miss her sorely; she is good and wise. Yet I would not
have her live beyond her hour!"
"She has gone down with the wicked; she will rise with the righteous.
We shall see her again ere very long."
"Mother," I said, although I did not see her, "we come to you many,
but most of us are Little Ones. Will you be able to receive us all?"
"You are welcome every one," she answered. "Sooner or later all
will be little ones, for all must sleep in my house! It is well
with those that go to sleep young and willing!--My husband is even
now preparing her couch for Lilith. She is neither young nor quite
willing, but it is well indeed that she is come."
I heard no more. Mother and daughter had gone away together through
the dark. But we saw a light in the distance, and toward it we
went stumbling over the moor.
Adam stood in the door, holding the candle to guide us, and talking
with his wife, who, behind him, laid bread and wine on the table
"Happy children," I heard her say, "to have looked already on the
face of my daughter! Surely it is the loveliest in the great
When we reached the door, Adam welcomed us almost merrily. He set
the candle on the threshold, and going to the elephants, would have
taken the princess to carry her in; but she repulsed him, and
pushing her elephants asunder, stood erect between them. They
walked from beside her, and left her with him who had been her
husband--ashamed indeed of her gaunt uncomeliness, but unsubmissive.
He stood with a welcome in his eyes that shone through their
"We have long waited for thee, Lilith!" he said.
She returned him no answer.
Eve and her daughter came to the door.
"The mortal foe of my children!" murmured Eve, standing radiant in
"Your children are no longer in her danger," said Mara; "she has
turned from evil."
"Trust her not hastily, Mara," answered her mother; "she has deceived
"But you will open to her the mirror of the Law of Liberty, mother,
that she may go into it, and abide in it! She consents to open
her hand and restore: will not the great Father restore her to
inheritance with His other children?"
"I do not know Him!" murmured Lilith, in a voice of fear and doubt.
"Therefore it is that thou art miserable," said Adam.
"I will go back whence I came!" she cried, and turned, wringing her
hands, to depart.
"That is indeed what I would have thee do, where I would have thee
go--to Him from whom thou camest! In thy agony didst thou not cry
out for Him?"
"I cried out for Death--to escape Him and thee!"
"Death is even now on his way to lead thee to Him. Thou knowest
neither Death nor the Life that dwells in Death! Both befriend thee.
I am dead, and would see thee dead, for I live and love thee. Thou
art weary and heavy-laden: art thou not ashamed? Is not the being
thou hast corrupted become to thee at length an evil thing? Wouldst
thou yet live on in disgrace eternal? Cease thou canst not: wilt
thou not be restored and BE?"
She stood silent with bowed head.
"Father," said Mara, "take her in thine arms, and carry her to her
couch. There she will open her hand, and die into life."
"I will walk," said the princess.
Adam turned and led the way. The princess walked feebly after him
into the cottage.
Then Eve came out to me where I sat with Lona in my bosom. She
reached up her arms, took her from me, and carried her in. I
dismounted, and the children also. The horse and the elephants
stood shivering; Mara patted and stroked them every one; they lay
down and fell asleep. She led us into the cottage, and gave the
Little Ones of the bread and wine on the table. Adam and Lilith
were standing there together, but silent both.
Eve came from the chamber of death, where she had laid Lona down,
and offered of the bread and wine to the princess.
"Thy beauty slays me! It is death I would have, not food!" said
Lilith, and turned from her.
"This food will help thee to die," answered Eve.
But Lilith would not taste of it.
"If thou wilt nor eat nor drink, Lilith," said Adam, "come and see
the place where thou shalt lie in peace."
He led the way through the door of death, and she followed
submissive. But when her foot crossed the threshold she drew it
back, and pressed her hand to her bosom, struck through with the
A wild blast fell roaring on the roof, and died away in a moan.
She stood ghastly with terror.
"It is he!" said her voiceless lips: I read their motion.
"Who, princess!" I whispered.
"The great Shadow," she murmured.
"Here he cannot enter," said Adam. "Here he can hurt no one. Over
him also is power given me."
"Are the children in the house?" asked Lilith, and at the word the
heart of Eve began to love her.
"He never dared touch a child," she said. "Nor have you either
ever hurt a child. Your own daughter you have but sent into the
loveliest sleep, for she was already a long time dead when you slew
her. And now Death shall be the atonemaker; you shall sleep
"Wife," said Adam, "let us first put the children to bed, that she
may see them safe!"
He came back to fetch them. As soon as he was gone, the princess
knelt to Eve, clasped her knees, and said,
"Beautiful Eve, persuade your husband to kill me: to you he will
listen! Indeed I would but cannot open my hand."
"You cannot die without opening it. To kill you would not serve
you," answered Eve. "But indeed he cannot! no one can kill you but
the Shadow; and whom he kills never knows she is dead, but lives to
do his will, and thinks she is doing her own."
"Show me then to my grave; I am so weary I can live no longer. I
must go to the Shadow--yet I would not!"
She did not, could not understand!
She struggled to rise, but fell at the feet of Eve. The Mother
lifted, and carried her inward.
I followed Adam and Mara and the children into the chamber of death.
We passed Eve with Lilith in her arms, and went farther in.
"You shall not go to the Shadow," I heard Eve say, as we passed
them. "Even now is his head under my heel!"
The dim light in Adam's hand glimmered on the sleeping faces, and
as he went on, the darkness closed over them. The very air seemed
dead: was it because none of the sleepers breathed it? Profoundest
sleep filled the wide place. It was as if not one had waked since
last I was there, for the forms I had then noted lay there still.
My father was just as I had left him, save that he seemed yet nearer
to a perfect peace. The woman beside him looked younger.
The darkness, the cold, the silence, the still air, the faces of
the lovely dead, made the hearts of the children beat softly, but
their little tongues would talk--with low, hushed voices.
"What a curious place to sleep in!" said one, "I would rather be
in my nest!"
"It is SO cold!" said another.
"Yes, it is cold," answered our host; "but you will not be cold in
"Where are our nests?" asked more than one, looking round and seeing
no couch unoccupied.
"Find places, and sleep where you choose," replied Adam.
Instantly they scattered, advancing fearlessly beyond the light,
but we still heard their gentle voices, and it was plain they saw
where I could not.
"Oh," cried one, "here is such a beautiful lady!--may I sleep beside
her? I will creep in quietly, and not wake her."
"Yes, you may," answered the voice of Eve behind us; and we came to
the couch while the little fellow was yet creeping slowly and softly
under the sheet. He laid his head beside the lady's, looked up at
us, and was still. His eyelids fell; he was asleep.
We went a little farther, and there was another who had climbed up
on the couch of a woman.
"Mother! mother!" he cried, kneeling over her, his face close to
hers. "--She's so cold she can't speak," he said, looking up to us;
"but I will soon make her warm!"
He lay down, and pressing close to her, put his little arm over her.
In an instant he too was asleep, smiling an absolute content.
We came to a third Little One; it was Luva. She stood on tiptoe,
leaning over the edge of a couch.
"My own mother wouldn't have me," she said softly: "will you?"
Receiving no reply, she looked up at Eve. The great mother lifted
her to the couch, and she got at once under the snowy covering.
Each of the Little Ones had by this time, except three of the boys,
found at least an unobjecting bedfellow, and lay still and white
beside a still, white woman. The little orphans had adopted
mothers! One tiny girl had chosen a father to sleep with, and that
was mine. A boy lay by the side of the beautiful matron with the
slow-healing hand. On the middle one of the three couches hitherto
unoccupied, lay Lona.
Eve set Lilith down beside it. Adam pointed to the vacant couch
on Lona's right hand, and said,
"There, Lilith, is the bed I have prepared for you!"
She glanced at her daughter lying before her like a statue carved
in semi-transparent alabaster, and shuddered from head to foot. "How
cold it is!" she murmured.
"You will soon begin to find comfort in the cold," answered Adam.
"Promises to the dying are easy!" she said.
"But I know it: I too have slept. I am dead!"
"I believed you dead long ago; but I see you alive!"
"More alive than you know, or are able to understand. I was scarce
alive when first you knew me. Now I have slept, and am awake; I am
dead, and live indeed!"
"I fear that child," she said, pointing to Lona: "she will rise and
"She is dreaming love to you."
"But the Shadow!" she moaned; "I fear the Shadow! he will be wroth
"He at sight of whom the horses of heaven start and rear, dares not
disturb one dream in this quiet chamber!"
"I shall dream then?"
"You will dream."
"That I cannot tell, but none HE can enter into. When the Shadow
comes here, it will be to lie down and sleep also.--His hour will
come, and he knows it will."
"How long shall I sleep?"
"You and he will be the last to wake in the morning of the universe."
The princess lay down, drew the sheet over her, stretched herself
out straight, and lay still with open eyes.
Adam turned to his daughter. She drew near.
"Lilith," said Mara, "you will not sleep, if you lie there a thousand
years, until you have opened your hand, and yielded that which is
not yours to give or to withhold."
"I cannot," she answered. "I would if I could, and gladly, for I
am weary, and the shadows of death are gathering about me."
"They will gather and gather, but they cannot infold you while yet
your hand remains unopened. You may think you are dead, but it will
be only a dream; you may think you have come awake, but it will still
be only a dream. Open your hand, and you will sleep indeed--then
"I am trying hard, but the fingers have grown together and into the
"I pray you put forth the strength of your will. For the love of
life, draw together your forces and break its bonds!"
"I have struggled in vain; I can do no more. I am very weary, and
sleep lies heavy upon my lids."
"The moment you open your hand, you will sleep. Open it, and make
A tinge of colour arose in the parchment-like face; the contorted
hand trembled with agonised effort. Mara took it, and sought to
"Hold, Mara!" cried her father. "There is danger!"
The princess turned her eyes upon Eve, beseechingly.
"There was a sword I once saw in your husband's hands," she murmured.
"I fled when I saw it. I heard him who bore it say it would divide
whatever was not one and indivisible!"
"I have the sword," said Adam. "The angel gave it me when he left
"Bring it, Adam," pleaded Lilith, "and cut me off this hand that I
"I will," he answered.
He gave the candle to Eve, and went. The princess closed her eyes.
In a few minutes Adam returned with an ancient weapon in his hand.
The scabbard looked like vellum grown dark with years, but the hilt
shone like gold that nothing could tarnish. He drew out the blade.
It flashed like a pale blue northern streamer, and the light of it
made the princess open her eyes. She saw the sword, shuddered, and
held out her hand. Adam took it. The sword gleamed once, there
was one little gush of blood, and he laid the severed hand in Mara's
lap. Lilith had given one moan, and was already fast asleep. Mara
covered the arm with the sheet, and the three turned away.
"Will you not dress the wound?" I said.
"A wound from that sword," answered Adam, "needs no dressing. It
is healing and not hurt."
"Poor lady!" I said, "she will wake with but one hand!"
"Where the dead deformity clung," replied Mara, "the true, lovely
hand is already growing."
We heard a childish voice behind us, and turned again. The candle
in Eve's hand shone on the sleeping face of Lilith, and the waking
faces of the three Little Ones, grouped on the other side of her
"How beautiful she is grown!" said one of them.
"Poor princess!" said another; "I will sleep with her. She will
not bite any more!"
As he spoke he climbed into her bed, and was immediately fast asleep.
Eve covered him with the sheet.
"I will go on her other side," said the third. "She shall have two
to kiss her when she wakes!"
"And I am left alone!" said the first mournfully.
"I will put you to bed," said Eve.
She gave the candle to her husband, and led the child away.
We turned once more to go back to the cottage. I was very sad, for
no one had offered me a place in the house of the dead. Eve joined
us as we went, and walked on before with her husband. Mara by my
side carried the hand of Lilith in the lap of her robe.
"Ah, you have found her!" we heard Eve say as we stepped into the
The door stood open; two elephant-trunks came through it out of the
"I sent them with the lantern," she went on to her husband, "to look
for Mara's leopardess: they have brought her."
I followed Adam to the door, and between us we took the white
creature from the elephants, and carried her to the chamber we had
just left, the women preceding us, Eve with the light, and Mara
still carrying the hand. There we laid the beauty across the feet
of the princess, her fore-paws outstretched, and her head couching
I AM SENT
Then I turned and said to Eve,
"Mother, one couch next to Lona is empty: I know I am unworthy, but
may I not sleep this night in your chamber with my dead? Will you
not pardon both my cowardice and my self-confidence, and take me in?
I give me up. I am sick of myself, and would fain sleep the sleep!"
"The couch next to Lona is the one already prepared for you," she
answered; "but something waits to be done ere you sleep."
"I am ready," I replied.
"How do you know you can do it?" she asked with a smile.
"Because you require it," I answered. "What is it?"
She turned to Adam:
"Is he forgiven, husband?"
"From my heart."
"Then tell him what he has to do."
Adam turned to his daughter.
"Give me that hand, Mara, my child."
She held it out to him in her lap. He took it tenderly.
"Let us go to the cottage," he said to me; "there I will instruct
As we went, again arose a sudden stormful blast, mingled with a
great flapping on the roof, but it died away as before in a deep
When the door of the death-chamber was closed behind us, Adam seated
himself, and I stood before him.
"You will remember," he said, "how, after leaving my daughter's
house, you came to a dry rock, bearing the marks of an ancient
cataract; you climbed that rock, and found a sandy desert: go to
that rock now, and from its summit walk deep into the desert. But
go not many steps ere you lie down, and listen with your head on
the sand. If you hear the murmur of water beneath, go a little
farther, and listen again. If you still hear the sound, you are
in the right direction. Every few yards you must stop, lie down,
and hearken. If, listening thus, at any time you hear no sound of
water, you are out of the way, and must hearken in every direction
until you hear it again. Keeping with the sound, and careful not
to retrace your steps, you will soon hear it louder, and the growing
sound will lead you to where it is loudest: that is the spot you
seek. There dig with the spade I will give you, and dig until you
come to moisture: in it lay the hand, cover it to the level of the
desert, and come home.--But give good heed, and carry the hand with
care. Never lay it down, in what place of seeming safety soever;
let nothing touch it; stop nor turn aside for any attempt to bar
your way; never look behind you; speak to no one, answer no one,
walk straight on.--It is yet dark, and the morning is far distant,
but you must set out at once."
He gave me the hand, and brought me a spade.
"This is my gardening spade," he said; "with it I have brought many
a lovely thing to the sun."
I took it, and went out into the night.
It was very cold, and pitch-dark. To fall would be a dread thing,
and the way I had to go was a difficult one even in the broad
sunlight! But I had not set myself the task, and the minute I
started I learned that I was left to no chance: a pale light broke
from the ground at every step, and showed me where next to set my
foot. Through the heather and the low rocks I walked without once
even stumbling. I found the bad burrow quite still; not a wave
arose, not a head appeared as I crossed it.
A moon came, and herself showed me the easy way: toward morning I was
almost over the dry channels of the first branch of the river-bed,
and not far, I judged, from Mara's cottage.
The moon was very low, and the sun not yet up, when I saw before me
in the path, here narrowed by rocks, a figure covered from head to
foot as with a veil of moonlit mist. I kept on my way as if I saw
nothing. The figure threw aside its veil.
"Have you forgotten me already?" said the princess--or what seemed
I neither hesitated nor answered; I walked straight on.
"You meant then to leave me in that horrible sepulchre! Do you not
yet understand that where I please to be, there I am? Take my hand:
I am alive as you!"
I was on the point of saying, "Give me your left hand," but bethought
myself, held my peace, and steadily advanced.
"Give me my hand," she suddenly shrieked, "or I will tear you in
pieces: you are mine!"
She flung herself upon me. I shuddered, but did not falter. Nothing
touched me, and I saw her no more.
With measured tread along the path, filling it for some distance,
came a body of armed men. I walked through them--nor know whether
they gave way to me, or were bodiless things. But they turned and
followed me; I heard and felt their march at my very heels; but I
cast no look behind, and the sound of their steps and the clash of
their armour died away.
A little farther on, the moon being now close to the horizon and
the way in deep shadow, I descried, seated where the path was so
narrow that I could not pass her, a woman with muffled face.
"Ah," she said, "you are come at last! I have waited here for you
an hour or more! You have done well! Your trial is over. My father
sent me to meet you that you might have a little rest on the way.
Give me your charge, and lay your head in my lap; I will take good
care of both until the sun is well risen. I am not bitterness
always, neither to all men!"
Her words were terrible with temptation, for I was very weary. And
what more likely to be true! If I were, through slavish obedience
to the letter of the command and lack of pure insight, to trample
under my feet the very person of the Lady of Sorrow! My heart grew
faint at the thought, then beat as if it would burst my bosom.
Nevertheless my will hardened itself against my heart, and my step
did not falter. I took my tongue between my teeth lest I should
unawares answer, and kept on my way. If Adam had sent her, he could
not complain that I would not heed her! Nor would the Lady of Sorrow
love me the less that even she had not been able to turn me aside!
Just ere I reached the phantom, she pulled the covering from her
face: great indeed was her loveliness, but those were not Mara's
eyes! no lie could truly or for long imitate them! I advanced as if
the thing were not there, and my foot found empty room.
I had almost reached the other side when a Shadow--I think it was
The Shadow, barred my way. He seemed to have a helmet upon his head,
but as I drew closer I perceived it was the head itself I saw--so
distorted as to bear but a doubtful resemblance to the human. A
cold wind smote me, dank and sickening--repulsive as the air of a
charnel-house; firmness forsook my joints, and my limbs trembled as
if they would drop in a helpless heap. I seemed to pass through
him, but I think now that he passed through me: for a moment I was
as one of the damned. Then a soft wind like the first breath of a
new-born spring greeted me, and before me arose the dawn.
My way now led me past the door of Mara's cottage. It stood wide
open, and upon the table I saw a loaf of bread and a pitcher of
water. In or around the cottage was neither howl nor wail.
I came to the precipice that testified to the vanished river. I
climbed its worn face, and went on into the desert. There at last,
after much listening to and fro, I determined the spot where the
hidden water was loudest, hung Lilith's hand about my neck, and began
to dig. It was a long labour, for I had to make a large hole because
of the looseness of the sand; but at length I threw up a damp
spadeful. I flung the sexton-tool on the verge, and laid down the