LILITH A Fantasy Novel By George MacDonald - online book

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DEAD OR ALIVE?
131
The closer I looked at it, the oftener I touched it, the less it seemed possible it should be other than dead. For one bewildered moment, I fancied it one of the wild dancers, a ghostly Cinderella, perhaps, that had lost her way home, and perished in the strange night of an out-of-door world ! It was quite naked, and so worn that, even in the shadow, I could, peering close, have counted, without touching them, every rib in its side. All its bones, indeed, were as visible as if tight-covered with only a thin elastic leather. Its beautiful yet terrible teeth, unseemly disclosed by the retracted lips, gleamed ghastly through the dark. Its hair was longer than itself, thick and very fine to the touch, and black as night.
It was the body of a tall, probably graceful woman. —How had she come there ? Not of herself, and already in such wasted condition, surely ! Her strength must have failed her; she had fallen, and lain there until she died of hunger ! But how, even so, could she be thus emaciated ? And how came she to be naked ? "Where were the savages to strip and leave her ? or what wild beasts would have taken her garments ? That her body should have been left was not wonderful!
I rose to my feet, stood, and considered. I must not, could not let her lie exposed and forsaken! Natural reverence forbade it. Even the garment of a woman claims respect; her body it were impossible to leave uncovered! Irreverent eyes might look on it! Brutal claws might toss it about! Years would pass ere the friendly rains washed it into the soil!— But the ground was hard, almost solid with interlacing roots, and I had but my bare hands !
At first it seemed plain that she had not long been
K 2
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