“They are gone now—whoever they were,” said I reassuringly; “the danger is over—if danger it could be called.”
“Danger!” cried Charmian. “I tell you—it was death.”
“Yet, after all, it may have been only some homeless wanderer.”
“Then why that deadly, silent caution?”
“True!” said I, becoming thoughtful.
“Bring the table, Peter, and set it across the door.”
“Surely the table is too light to—”
“But it will give sufficient warning—not that I shall sleep again to-night. Oh, Peter! had I not been dreaming, and happened to wake—had I not chanced to look towards the door, it would have opened—wide, and then—oh, horrible!”
“You were dreaming?”
“A hateful, hateful dream, and awoke in terror, and, being afraid, glanced towards the door, and saw it opening—and now —bring the table, Peter.”
Now, groping about, my hand encountered one of the candles, and taking out my tinder-box, all unthinking, I lighted it. Charmian was leaning against the door, clad in a flowing white garment—a garment that was wonderfully stitched—all dainty frills and laces, with here and there a bow of blue riband, disposed, it would seem, by the hand of chance, and yet most wonderfully. And up from this foam of laces her shoulders rose, white, and soft, and dimpled, sweeping up in noble lines to the smooth round column of her throat. But as I stared at all this loveliness she gave a sudden gasp, and stooped her head, and crossed her hands upon her bosom, while up over the snow of shoulder, over neck and cheek and brow ebbed that warm, crimson tide; and I could only gaze and gaze—till, with a movement swift and light, she crossed to that betraying candle and, stooping, blew out the light.
Then I set the table across the door, having done which I stood looking towards where she yet stood.
“Charmian,” said I.
“I will make a bar to hold the door.”
“Two bars would be better, perhaps?”
“You would feel safe, then—safer than ever?”
“Safer than ever, Peter.”
IN WHICH THE ANCIENT DISCOURSES ON LOVE
I am forging a bar for my cottage door: such a bar as might give check to an army, or resist a battering-ram; a bar that shall defy all the night-prowlers that ever prowled; a stout, solid bar, broad as my wrist, and thick as my two fingers; that, looking upon it as it lies in its sockets across the door, Charmian henceforth may sleep and have no fear.
The Ancient sat perched on his stool in the corner, but for once we spoke little, for I was very busy; also my mind was plunged in a profound reverie.
And of whom should I be thinking but of Charmian, and of the dimple in her shoulder?