Maiden Sentinels are best

It was not likely that the outlaws would attack out premises until some time after the moon was risen; because it would be too dangerous to cross the flooded valleys in the darkness of the night. And but for this consideration, I must have striven harder against the stealthy approach of slumber. But even so, it was very foolish to abandon watch, especially in such as I, who sleep like any dormouse. Moreover, I had chosen the very worst place in the world for such employment, with a goodly chance of awakening in a bed of solid fire.

And so it might have been, nay, it must have been, but for Lorna’s vigilance. Her light hand upon my arm awoke me, not too readily; and leaping up, I seized my club, and prepared to knock down somebody.

‘Who’s that?’ I cried; ‘stand back, I say, and let me have fair chance at you.’

‘Are you going to knock me down, dear John?’ replied the voice I loved so well; ‘I am sure I should never get up again, after one blow from you, John.’

‘My darling, is it you?’ I cried; ‘and breaking all your orders? Come back into the house at once: and nothing on your head, dear!’

‘How could I sleep, while at any moment you might he killed beneath my window? And now is the time of real danger; for men can see to travel.’

I saw at once the truth of this. The moon was high and clearly lighting all the watered valleys. To sleep any longer might be death, not only to myself, but all.

‘The man on guard at the back of the house is fast asleep,’

she continued; ‘Gwenny, who let me out, and came with me, has heard him snoring for two hours. I think the women ought to be the watch, because they have had no travelling. Where do you suppose little Gwenny is?’

‘Surely not gone to Glen Doone?’ I was not sure, however: for I could believe almost anything of the Cornish maiden’s hardihood.

‘No,’ replied Lorna, ‘although she wanted even to do that. But of course I would not hear of it, on account of the swollen waters. But she is perched on yonder tree, which commands the Barrow valley. She says that they are almost sure to cross the streamlet there; and now it is so wide and large, that she can trace it in the moonlight, half a mile beyond her. If they cross, she is sure to see them, and in good time to let us know.’

‘What a shame,’ I cried, ‘that the men should sleep, and the maidens be the soldiers! I will sit in that tree myself, and send little Gwenny back to you. Go to bed, my best and dearest; I will take good care not to sleep again.’

‘Please not to send me away, dear John,’ she answered very mournfully; ‘you and I have been together through perils worse than this. I shall only be more timid, and more miserable, indoors.’

‘I cannot let you stay here,’ I said; ‘it is altogether impossible. Do you suppose that I can fight, with you among the bullets, Lorna? If this is the way you mean to take it, we had better go both to the apple- room, and lock ourselves in, and hide under the tiles, and let them burn all the rest of the premises.’

At this idea Lorna laughed, as I could see by the moonlight; and then she said,—

‘You are right, John. I should only do more harm than good: and of all things I hate fighting most, and disobedience next to it. Therefore I will go indoors, although I cannot go to bed. But promise me one thing, dearest John. You will keep yourself out of the way, now won’t you, as much as you can, for my sake?’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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