“That is a very profound remark, sir!—more especially coming from one who has studied and knows womankind so deeply.”
“—and it is a pity that they should be allowed to ’waste their sweetness on the desert air.’”
“And philosophical blacksmiths, Peter?”
“More so if they be poor blacksmiths.”
“I said ‘philosophical,’ Peter.”
“You probably find your situation horribly lonely here?” I went on after a pause.
“Yes; it’s nice and lonely, Peter.”
“And, undoubtedly, this cottage is very poor and mean, and—er —humble?” Charmian smiled and shook her head.
“But then, Charmian Brown is a very humble person, sir.”
“And you haven’t even the luxury of a mirror to dress your hair by!”
“Is it so very clumsily dressed, sir?”
“No, no,” said I hastily, “indeed I was thinking—”
“That it was very—beautiful!”
“Why, you told me that last night—come, what do you think of it this morning?”
“With those leaves in it—it is—even more so!”
Charmian laughed, and, rising, swept me a stately curtesy.
“After all, sir, we find there be exceptions to every rule!”
And in a while, having finished my breakfast, I rose, and, taking my hat, bade Charmian “Good morning,” and so came to the door. But on the threshold I turned and looked back at her. She had risen, and stood leaning with one hand on the table; now in the other she held the breadknife, and her eyes were upon mine.
And lo! wonder of wonders! once again, but this time sudden and swift—up from the round, full column of her throat, up over cheek and brow there rushed that vivid tide of color; her eyes grew suddenly deep and soft, and then were hidden ’neath her lashes—and, in that same moment, the knife slipped from her grasp, and falling, point downwards, stood quivering in the floor between us—an ugly thing that gleamed evilly.
Was this an omen—a sign vouchsafed of that which, dark and terrible, was, even then, marching to meet us upon this Broad Highway? O Blind, and more than blind!
Almost before it had ceased to quiver I stooped, and, plucking it from the floor, gave it into her hand. Now, as I did so, her fingers touched mine, and, moved by a sudden mad impulse, I stooped and pressed my lips upon them—kissed them quick and fierce, and so turned, and hurried upon my way.
Yet, as I went, I found that the knife had cut my chin, and that I was bleeding.
O Blind, and more than blind! Surely this was a warning, an omen to heed—to shiver over, despite the warm sun!
But, seeing the blood, I laughed, and strode villagewards, blithe of heart and light of foot.
O Blind, and more than blind!