At around midnight Charles was lying awake in the small single bed in the nursery.
It had been wonderful day. His father was not a regular drinker - but to celebrate
the starting of the pump he had taken the family and the girls to a local pub that
evening. Though the pub itself was quiet, their group was certainly not. After a
beer or two, everyone, including Yvonne and Madeleine were vying to tell their version
of the days events. They had left the pub at 10 o'clock singing English and French
songs on the walk home. Now the house was silent. Charles could hear the light snores
of his father in the bedroom next door. But Charles was not ready for sleep. The
day had been too exciting, and the beer, which he wasn't used to, was feeding his
mind with images that were far too interesting to ignore.
The house creaked in a relaxing, homely way. Charles had listened to those creaks
so many times before. It was as if the house was preparing itself for sleep. When
he was much younger he had imagined patterns in the sounds. He had imagined that
those patterns were footsteps carefully ascending the stairs, and then stalking along
the landing to his bedroom. They clearly belonged to a burglar or murderer so the
young Charles would bury himself deep within the blankets. Frightened, but comforted
by the enveloping warmth of the bedclothes.
Now he thought he could hear that familiar pattern. This time the footsteps were
coming towards the nursery or his parents' room, he could not determine which. He
listened very carefully, his body becoming more and more tense - his ears seeming
to reach out through the door and out onto the landing. The sound of the latch opening
on the nursery door nearly stopped his heart. Tempting though it was he was clearly
too old to tunnel into the bedclothes. He sat up and tried to see who or what was
entering his room, but the darkness was near complete. He heard the door creak open
and then quickly close. He waited, barely able to breathe. He saw the quick movement
of a shadow beside the bed and was about to leap upon it when a whispered voice,
very close to his ear said, "Shh. Dites rien. Say nothing. All will be well."