THE PERSIAN CAT 203
Nay, I had given my opals for a smock,
A peasant-maiden's garment, coarse and clean:
My shroud was rotting ! Once I heard a cock Lustily crow upon the hillock green Over my coffin. Dulled by space between,
Came back an answer like a ghostly mock.'
Once more arose the bestial wail.
' I thought some foul thing was in the room!' said the librarian, casting a glance around him; but instantly he turned a leaf or two, and again read:—
' For I had bathed in milk and honey-dew,
In rain from roses shook, that ne'er touched earth,
And ointed me with nard of amber hue; Never had spot me spotted from my birth, Or mole, or scar of hurt, or fret of dearth ;
Never one hair superfluous on me grew.
' Fleeing cold whiteness, I would sit alone— Not in the sun—I feared his bronzing light,
But in his radiance back around me thrown By fulgent mirrors tempering his might; Thus bathing in a moon-bath not too bright,
My skin I tinted slow to ivory tone.
' But now, all round was dark, dark all within I My eyes not even gave out a phantom-flash ; My fingers sank in pulp through pulpy skin ; My body lay death-weltered in a mash Of slimy horrors-----'
"With a fearsome yell, her clammy fur staring in clumps, her tail thick as a cable, her eyes flashing green as a chrysoprase, her distended claws entangling themselves so that she floundered across the carpet, a huge white cat rushed from somewhere, and made for the chimney. Quick as thought the librarian threw the manuscript between her and the hearth. She crouched instantly, her eyes fixed on the book. But his voice went on as if still he read, and his eyes seemed also fixed on the book:—