“Not I, silly little fool as I am, and full of whims and fancies; for your sake I’ll talk
like a sage. Were you ever at a ball?”
“No; how you do run on. What is it like? How charming it must be.”
“I almost forget, it is years ago.”
“You are not so old. Your first ball can hardly be forgotten yet.”
“I remember everything it—with an effort. I see it all, as divers see what is going
on above1 them, through a medium, dense, rippling, but transparent. There
occurred that night what has confused the picture, and made its colours faint. I
was all but assassinated in my bed, wounded here,” she touched her breast,
“and never was the same since.”
“Were you near dying?”
“Yes, very—a cruel love—strange love, that would have taken my life. Love will
have its sacrifices. No sacrifice without blood. Let us go to sleep now; I feel so
lazy. How can I get up just now and lock my door?”
She was lying with her tiny hands buried in her rich wavy hair, under her cheek,
her little head upon the pillow, and her glittering eyes followed me wherever I
moved, with a kind of shy smile that I could not decipher.
I bid her good night, and crept from the room with an uncomfortable sensation.
I often wondered whether our pretty guest ever said her prayers. I certainly had
never seen her upon her knees. In the morning she never came down until long
after our family prayers were over, and at night she never left the drawing-room
to attend our brief evening prayers in the hall.
If it had not been that it had casually come out in one of our careless talks that
she had been baptised, I should have doubted her being a Christian. Religion
was a subject on which I had never heard her speak a word. If I had known the
world better, this particular neglect or antipathy would not have so much
The precautions of nervous people are infectious, and persons of a like
temperament are pretty sure, after a time, to imitate them. I had adopted
Carmilla’s habit of locking her bedroom door, having taken into my head all her
whimsical alarms about midnight invaders and prowling assassins. I had also
adopted her precaution of making a brief search through her from, to satisfy
herself that no lurking assassin or robber was “ensconced.”
These wise measures taken, I got into my bed and fell asleep. A light was
burning in my room. This was an old habit, of very early date, and which nothing
could have tempted me to dispense with.
Thus fortifed I might take my rest in peace. But dreams come through stone
walls, light up dark rooms, or darken light ones, and their persons make their
exits and their entrances as they please, and laugh at locksmiths.
I had a dream that night that was the beginning of a very strange agony.
I cannot call it a nightmare, for I was quite conscious of being asleep. But I was
equally conscious of being in my room, and lying in bed, precisely as I actually
was. I saw, or fancied I saw, the room and its furniture just as I had seen it last,
except that it was very dark, and I saw something moving round the foot of the