The others were sleeping at last in their beds, and only I stayed up to watch.
I'd said I would guard, just to be sure, but 'twas only halfway to truth.
The signs on the doorframe, the charms we had strung, they'd guard the house well enough;
and though my thoughts were on the boy who'd yesternight been lost,
following piksy lights into the woods and never coming home,
it wasn't fear that kept me awake, feeding my breath to the dark.
I thought of the devils, the snatchers, the imps, the hungry ones coming to prowl,
and I grew a hunger strong as their own, but mine was a hunger to see.
I drew the largest shutter aside and settled myself to wait.
Moonlight is a tricky thing, and looking though I was,
I noticed nothing out of place till it rose before my eyes.
I sat up right straight, staring wide, at the imp who stared at me.
It grinned then, showing all its teeth, which made up half its face,
and leapt at me so lightning quick I'd hardly time to gasp;
but right at the edge of the sill it caught, and clung there with a hiss.
The pale light danced on its ranks of scales, and I forgot to fear.
I touched the iron nails in the sill, seven one by one,
then traced the carven symbol beside, that still smelled sharp of herbs;
I looked the devil in its eyes, as orange as the soul of flame,
and shook my head at it and smiled, for I knew it could not come in.
It lashed its tails and growled at me, strange words or only sound,
then dropped from the window and slithered off, like a stream moving over the ground.
I watched it till shadow had taken the sight, then closed the shutter fast.
With the whole of the night coiled into my mind, I went to my bed and slept.