TO THE HOUSE OF BITTERNESS 271
' 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.
I 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 ?'
' Lady Mara.'
' 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! «