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XIV. Illusion

But Shrí, when she came to herself, sat weeping, and fearing for herself in the future: for she foreboded evil from the malicious pranks of the daughter of the Daitya. And yet she could not tell, how she could possibly have offended her, or deserved her anger. And as soon as day broke, she rose up, and began to go trembling through the wood, in which the shadows of night still hung among the trees, starting at the noise of the falling leaves, and yearning for emancipation from danger in the form of her husband's presence.

Then after a while, she stopped and listened: for she heard among the trees steps, as of one coming in her direction. And her heart beat violently, as if to say: Let me abandon thy body, and so escape the danger coming on thee. So she hid herself in a hollow tree, and peeped out in terror. And suddenly, strange! there in the dim

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twilight she saw her husband coming towards her, looking just as he did, when she left him in the palace at Indirálayá. And instantly she ran towards him, overcome by emotion and great surprise, and caught him in her arms, exclaiming: At last, at last, I have found thee again. And she wept aloud, and forgot in that moment all her sorrow; and she looked at him, and laughed for joy, and closed her eyes, as if, like the sun, the sight of him dimmed and overcame the faculty of vision. Then after a while, she opened them again, and started and shrieked, and her blood became ice, and her heart stopped. For he that held her in his arms was not her husband, but a hairy thing with hideous eyes, that resembled an incarnation of the brute in human shape; and it fastened those fearful eyes upon her own, and laughed and whined and panted like a beast with hot quick breath into her face. Then her senses abandoned her, like cowards, and she sank down to the earth in a swoon.

And when at length she revived, she looked, and saw that the sun was declining in the western quarter. But the moon had not yet risen, for it was the beginning of the dark half of the month. Then all at once memory came back to her, and she shook with agitation. And she said to herself:

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[paragraph continues] Was it a reality, or was it only an evil dream? Surely it was but a dream; for I am very weak and tired. And even now I cannot tell, whether I wake or sleep.

So she sat with her eyes closed; fearing to open them, lest she should see she knew not what among the shadows of the trees. And then the waning moon rose, and poured through the interstices of the leaves beams faint and pallid, as if sharing her own terror. And at last, unable to endure any longer the silence and the solitude, she rose up and began to move slowly, with hesitating steps, through the dark wood, not knowing where to go, yet not daring to stay where she was.

And suddenly, as she went, she looked before her, and there, in an open space, again she saw her husband, lying still under a tree. Instantly she stopped, and stood, balanced in the swing of vacillation. For the joy of reunion, and the desire of safety, and the fear of solitude drew her towards him like a threefold cord: while the memory of her deception, and the fear of illusion, and the anticipation of unknown danger, fixed her to the ground like roots. And she wavered and swayed on her feet, like a young shoot fanned by opposing breezes: while large tears fell from her eyes, like drops of

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camphor from a moonstone d. And as she stood there doubting whether he were dead or alive, for his face was wan in the light of the pallid moon, his eyes opened, and met her own. And he sprang up, and ran towards her, while she remained unable to stir, and took her in his arms, while she shrank from his embrace. And he exclaimed: The sight of thee has lifted me out of the mouth of death, for I had determined to abandon the body. And then he said again: Alas! and why, O thou of the lovely eyes, dost thou shrink from me? But Shrí remained silent, torn by suspicion, and shaken by the beating of her own heart. And ever and anon she raised her eyes, and looked at him in doubt. And then at last she said slowly: Art thou indeed my husband? is it really thyself and no one else? Then he said: What is thy question or thy doubt? Hast thou forgotten me already? Surely it is but a little while since I lost thee in the palace of Indirálayá. Then said Shrí, sighing: There came to me but now one who resembled thee in every feature, and deceived

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me: and even now, I shudder when I think of it, lest thou too should be another such as he.

Then he said: Dear, thou art weak, and a dream has deceived thee: but this time, it is no dream. Know that I am none other than myself, and thou art with me. Let me dispel thy terror with a kiss. And he bent down, and she raised her face with a smile, saying to herself: It was nothing but a dream. But even as she touched his face, it changed, and became gigantic and misshapen, with a large tongue that hung out of lips that resembled those of a cow; and it broke out into loud laughter, and disappeared. But Shrí fell to the ground, as if menaced by the outstretched forefinger of death.


100:d The Hindoos have a superstition, illustrated in a previous page, that moonstones in the rays of the moon distil a sort of lunar syrup, nectar or camphor, supposed to be composed of the substance of the moon.

Next: XV. The Dead of Night