“Is this love?” she said to herself. “Is this what it is doing to me? Am I never again going to sleep?”
But she could not lie still; her restless hands began groping about in the darkness, and presently the fire from a cigarette glimmered red.
She remained quiet for a few moments, elbow among the pillows, cheek on hand, watching the misty spirals float through the open window. After a while she sat up nervously and tossed the cigarette from her. Like a falling star the spark whirled earthward in a wide curve, glowed for a few seconds on the lawn below, and slowly died out.
Then an inexplicable thing occurred. Unthinkingly she had turned over and extended her arm, searching in the darkness behind her. There came a tinkle, a vague violet perfume, and the starlight fell on her clustering hair and throat as she lifted and drained the brimming glass.
Suddenly she stood up; the frail, crystal glass fell from her fingers, splintering on the stone sill; and with a quick, frightened intake of breath, lips still wet and scented, and the fire of it already stealing through her veins, she awoke to stunned comprehension of what she had done.
For a moment only startled astonishment dominated her. That she could have done this thing so instinctively and without forethought or intent, seemed impossible. She bowed her head in her hands, striving desperately to recollect the circumstances; she sprang to her feet and paced the darkened room, trying to understand. A terrified and childish surprise possessed her, which changed slowly to anger and impatience as she began to realise the subtle treachery that habit had practised on her—so stealthy is habit, betraying the body unawares.
Overwhelmed with consternation, she seated herself to consider the circumstances; little flashes of alarm assisted her. Then a sort of delicate madness took possession of her, deafening her ears to the voice of fear. She refused to be afraid.
As she sat there, both hands unconsciously indenting her breast, the clamour and tumult of her senses drowned the voice within.
No, she would not be afraid!—though the burning perfume was mounting to her head with every breath and the glow grew steadily in her body, creeping from vein to vein. No, she would not be afraid. It could never happen again. She would be on her guard after this.... Besides, the forgetfulness had been so momentary, the imprudence so very slight ... and it had helped her, too—it was already making her sleepy ... and she had needed something to quiet her—needed sleep....
After a long while she turned languidly and picked up the little crystal flask from the dresser—an antique bit of glass which Rosalie had given her.
Dawn whitened the edges of the sky; the birds were becoming very noisy. She lifted the curiously cut relic; an imprisoned fluid glimmered with pale-violet light—some scented French distillation which Rosalie affected because nobody else had ever heard of it—an aromatic, fiery essence, faintly perfumed.