In the early morning things are apt to lose something of the glamour that was theirs over night; thus I remained propped upon my elbow, gazing apprehensively at the door, and with my ears on the stretch, hearkening for any movement from the room beyond that should tell me she was up. But I heard only the early chorus of the birds and the gurgle of the brook, swollen with last night’s rain. In a while I rose and began to dress somewhat awkwardly, on account of my thumb, yet with rather more than my usual care, stopping occasionally to hear if she was yet astir. Being at last fully dressed, I sat down to wait until I should hear her footstep. But I listened vainly, for minute after minute elapsed until, rising at length, I knocked softly. And having knocked thrice, each time louder than before, without effect, I lifted the latch and opened the door.
My first glance showed me that the bed had never even been slept in, and that save for myself the place was empty. And yet the breakfast-table had been neatly set, though with but one cup and saucer.
Now, beside this cup and saucer was one of my few books, and picking it up, I saw that it was my Virgil. Upon the fly-leaf, at which it was open, I had, years ago, scrawled my name thus:
But lo! close under this, written in a fine Italian hand, were the following words:
“To Peter Smith, Esq. [the “Smith”
Blacksmith. Charmian Brown ["Brown” likewise
underlined] desires to thank Mr. Smith, yet
because thanks are so poor and small, and his
service so great, needs must she remember him
as a gentleman, yet oftener as a blacksmith,
and most of all, as a man. Charmian Brown
begs him to accept this little trinket in
memory of her; it is all she has to offer him.
He may also keep her handkerchief.”
Upon the table, on the very spot where the book had lain, was a gold heart-shaped locket, very quaint and old-fashioned, upon one side of which was engraved the following posy:
“Hee who myne heart would
keepe for long
Shall be a gentil man and strong.”
Attached to the locket was a narrow blue riband, wherefore, passing this riband over my head, I hung the locket about my neck. And having read through the message once more, I closed the Virgil, and, replacing it on the shelf, set about brewing a cup of tea, and so presently sat down to breakfast.
I had scarcely done so, however, when there came a timid knock at the door, whereat I rose expectantly, and immediately sat down again.
“Come in!” said I. The latch was slowly raised, the door swung open, and the Ancient appeared. If I was surprised to see him at such an hour, he was even more so, for, at sight of me, his mouth opened, and he stood staring speechlessly, leaning upon his stick.