2 18 LILITH
Through the dark I heard the wings of the raven. Five quick flaps I heard, and he perched on the horse's head. The horse checked himself instantly, ploughing up the ground with his feet.
' Mr. Vane,' croaked the raven, ' think what you are doing ! Twice already has evil befallen you—once from fear, and once from heedlessness : breach of word is far worse ; it is a crime.'
I The Little Ones are in frightful peril, and I brought it upon them ! ' I cried. —But indeed I will not break my word to you. I will return, and spend in your house what nights—what days—what years you please.'
'I tell you once more you will do them other than good if you go to-night,' he insisted.
But a false sense of power, a sense which had no root and was merely vibrated into me from the strength of the horse, had, alas, rendered me too stupid to listen to anything he said !
' Would you take from me my last chance of reparation ? ' I cried. ' This time there shall be no shirking ! It is my duty, and I will go—if I perish for it! '
' Go, then, foolish boy! ' he returned, with anger in his croak. Take the horse, and ride to failure ! May it be to humility ! '
He spread his wings and flew. Again I pressed the lean ribs under me.
' After the spotted leopardess !' I whispered in his ear.
He turned his head this way and that, snuffing the air; then started, and went a few paces in a slow, undecided walk. Suddenly he quickened his walk ; broke into a trot; began to gallop, and in a few moments his speed