“Why, indeed, Peter, unless it was because it was there to wear.” Suddenly she uttered an exclamation of annoyance, and, taking up a candle, began looking about the floor.
“What have you lost?”
“My needle! I think it must have fallen under the table. and needles are precious in this wilderness; won’t you please help me to find it?”
“With pleasure!” said I, getting down upon my hands and knees, and together we began to hunt for the lost needle.
Now, in our search, it chanced that we drew near together, and once her hand touched mine, and once her soft hair brushed my cheek, and there stole over me a perfume like the breath of violets, the fragrance that I always associated with her, faint and sweet and alluring—so much so, that I drew back from further chance of contact, and kept my eyes directed to the floor.
And, after I had sought vainly for some time, I raised my head and looked at Charmian, to find her regarding me with a very strange expression.
“What is it?” I inquired. “Have you found the needle?” Charmian sat back on her heels, and laughed softly.
“Oh, yes, I’ve found the needle, Peter, that is—I never lost it.”
“Why, then—what—what did you mean—?”
For answer, she raised her hand and pointed to my breast. Then, glancing hurriedly down, I saw that the locket had slipped forward through the bosom of my shirt, and hung in plain view. I made an instinctive movement to hide it, but, hearing her laugh, looked at her instead.
“So this was why you asked me to stoop to find your needle?”
“Of course I knew.”
“Hum!” said I. A distant clock chimed eleven, and Charmian began to fold away her work, seeing which, I rose, and took up my candle. “And—pray—”
“And, pray,” said I, staring hard at the flame of my candle, “how did you happen to—find out—?”
“Very simply—I saw the riband round your neck days ago. Good night, Peter!”
“Oh,” said I. “Good night!”
“My lady sweet, arise!
My lady sweet, arise
With everything that pretty is,
My lady sweet, arise;
It was morning, and Charmian was singing. The pure, rich notes floated in at my open lattice, and I heard the clatter of her pail as she went to fetch water from the brook. Wherefore I presently stepped out into the sunshine, my coat and neckcloth across my arm, to plunge my head and face into the brook, and carry back the heavy bucket for her, as was my custom.
Being come to the brook I found the brimming bucket, sure enough, but no Charmian. I was looking about wonderingly, when she began to sing again, and, guided by this, I espied her kneeling beside the stream.