THE HOUSE OF DEATH 293
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 around them.
' 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 wa3