Quickly I rose. I crossed the room. Beyond the window loomed nothing but swirling mist and sodden trees.
I turned, confounded, instinctively and incomprehensibly convinced that the animals and I were alone.
The room was still. The feeling of an otherly presence had disappeared as surely as the woman herself.
But I was compelled to confirm our solitude.
In all the space of the large and frozen room I left no corner unexplored. With the light of two candles I illuminated every nook and niche.
I determined, for certain, that there was no one hiding in the shadows or the closet; there was no one lurking under the bed or behind the looking-glass; no one had passed through the bedchamber door, as it remained as sealed as I had made it when I prepared for bed.
Thus I concerned myself with the reactions of the animals, for animals are the knowers of things we cannot comprehend.
Emma slept at the foot of the bed untroubled, exuding her carefree youth and her puppy sweetness.
The Admiral, however, sat alert, facing the window with cognizance in his eyes. As he adjusted his gaze to quietly regard me, I grasped his clarity of thought. He understood what he had seen. He sat vigilant and curious, but unperturbed. That his reaction was calm and not fearful set me somewhat at ease. I petted him and he purred, his eyes glinting with pleasure.
I lay down and attempted to rest my bones, but I could not calm my mind. Thus, on a hypothesis—an insuppressible supposition—I rose, opened the door, seized the candelabra from the sitting room, stepped down the hall, and approached the sole threshold that I had not crossed before bed. And my deepest fear was realized.
The door stood wide open.
“Mrs. Jameson!” I gasped.
And so I crept into the room, gripping the candelabra for protection against I knew not what.
The chamber, I was certain, belonged to a lady. It smelled of jasmine. Its dressing table was arrayed with brushes, jewelry boxes, feminine trinkets. Its velvet chair was draped with an airy garment like the wrap that had grazed me in the bay room. The bed was made, its counterpane spread taut. The settee was undisturbed; it bore no crease or indication of having been perched upon. The atmosphere was still; the air was cold. I merely glanced at the recesses, for to ascertain my safety would be fruitless. I could not know who might lurk where.
Thus I hastened to my own chamber, bolted the door, and once more frantically ensured my solitude in that room.
I was for certain alone.
I was without doubt unnerved.
But both animals slept.
And so I lay down, drained, frozen, conscious of fear inflaming every breath, every beat, every organ—and certain that sleep would never come.