After this she seemed to vanish away, and Alan slept soundly until the morning, when he awoke to find the light of the sun pouring into the room through the high-set latticed window places.
THE HALL OF THE DEAD
Alan rose and stretched himself, and hearing him, Jeekie, who had a dog’s faculty of instantly awaking from what seemed to be the deepest sleep, sat up also.
“You rest well, Major? No dream, eh?” he asked curiously.
“Not very,” answered Alan, “and I had a dream, of a woman who stood over me and vanished away, as dreams do.”
“Ah!” said Jeekie. “But where you find that new ring on finger, Major?”
Alan stared at his hand and started, for there set on it above that of Barbara, was the little circlet formed of twisted snakes which he had seen in his sleep.
“Then it must have been true,” he said in a low and rather frightened voice. “But how did she come and go?”
“Funny place, Gold House. I tell you that yesterday, Major. People come up through hole, like rat. Never quite sure you alone in Gold House. But what this lady like?”
Alan described his visitor to the best of his ability.
“Ah!” said Jeekie, “pretty girl. Big eyes, gold crown, gold stays which fit tight in front, very nice and decent; sort of night-shirt with little gold stars all over—by Jingo! I think that Asika herself. If so—great compliment.”
“Confound the compliment, I think it great cheek,” answered Alan angrily. “What does she mean by poking about here at night and putting rings on my finger?”
“Don’t know, Major, but p’raps she wish make you understand that she like cut of your jib. Find out by and by. Meanwhile you wear ring, for while that on finger no one do you any harm.”
“You told me that this Asika is a married woman, did you not?” remarked Alan gloomily.
“Oh, yes, Major, always married; one down, other come on, you see. But she not always like her husband, and then she make him sit up, poor devil, and he die double quick. Great honour to be Asika’s husband, but soon all finished. P’raps——”
Then he checked himself and suggested that Alan should have a bath while he cleaned his clothes, an attention that they needed.
Scarcely had Alan finished his toilet, donned the Arab-looking linen robe over his own fragmentary flannels, and above it the hateful mask which Jeekie insisted he must wear, when there came a knocking on the door. Motioning to Alan to take his seat upon a stool, Jeekie undid the bars, and as before women appeared with food and waited while they ate, which this time, having overcome his nervousness, Alan did more leisurely. Their meal done, one of the women asked Jeekie, for to his master they did not seem to dare to speak, whether the white lord did not wish to walk in the garden. Without waiting for an answer she led him to the end of the large room and, unbarring another door that they had not noticed, revealed a passage, beyond which appeared trees and flowers. Then she and her companions went away with the fragments of the meal.