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XVI. Before Dawn

And now, by the decree of destiny, it so happened, that Umra-Singh, having wandered through

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the whole world looking for his wife, roaming up and down in the forest, was lying asleep in an-other place, close to that very pool. And suddenly he laughed in his sleep. For in his dreams he had found again the Land of the Lotus of the Sun. And he stood once more in the moonlit hall, beside the golden couch. Then slowly, slowly, he raised the pall, and looked long at the face of Shrí. But as he gazed, it became apeish, and stuck out at him a large red tongue. And he saw before him, not Shrí, but the old Wairágí. Then a shout of laughter rang in his ears, mingled with the voices of criers and the din of drums; and he started to his feet awake, with an icy sweat on his brow.

And as he stood there, doubting still, for the laughter in his waking ears, whether he woke or slept, he looked before him, and saw in the moon-light the figure of a woman, running towards him: and instantly he knew her to be Shrí. For out of the shadow of her floating hair her great eyes glittered in the moon like the blade of his own sword, and flashed into the night before her like lightning from a dark blue cloud. And he ran to meet her with a shout of joy. But Shrí, when she saw him coming, stopped short, and began to laugh like one possessed by a vampire. And crying: What,

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another! she turned and fled away from him faster than ever, covering her eyes with her hands. But Umra-Singh was so astonished, that he stood like a tree, rooted to the ground: saying to himself: Is it reality, or is it a dream? Yonder she flies from me in terror as if I were an enemy.

And then, seized with frenzy, he began to pursue her, calling aloud: Shrí! Shrí! So they ran through the wood in the moonlight, in and out of the trees, like a spotted panther and a black antelope. And suddenly, Shrí slipped and fell. And a tawny lion leaped out of the wood, before the eyes of Umra-Singh, and stood over her as she lay. Then Umra-Singh turned white with fear, and uttered a groan. And in a moment he reached them as he ran, and struck at the lion, with all his force, a blow of his sword. Then to! that phantom lion vanished, for he was but an illusion of the crafty Nightwalker. But the sword fell, sharp and true, on the shoulder of Shrí, and cut through to her heart.

Then Umra-Singh fell on his knees beside her with a wail, and took his darling in his arms, while her blood gushed out over him like a river, carrying away her life. And as his hot tears fell on her face like rain, Shrí opened her dying eyes: and

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instantly they were full of peace, for she knew that it was her husband at last. And she said slowly: Weep not for me, O my lord, for I have attained the emancipation of union with thee. All day long, I have sought thee: but I have found thee in the evening, before my sun goes down: that is enough.

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