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then presently he turned the channel of her thoughts by asking her if
she thought he might call on her Aunts that afternoon.

Halcyone hesitated a second.

"We hardly ever have visitors. Aunt Ginevra has always said one must not
receive what one cannot return, and they have no carriage or horses now,
so they never see anyone. Aunt Roberta would, but Aunt Ginevra does not
let her, and she often says in the last ten years they have quite
dropped out of everything. I do not know what that means altogether,
because I do not know what there was to drop out of. I have scarcely
ever been beyond the park, and there do not seem to be any big houses
for miles - do there? - except Wendover, but it is shut up; it has been
for twenty years."

"Then you think the Misses La Sarthe might not receive me?"

"You could try, of course. You have not a carriage. If you just walked
it would make it even. Shall I tell them you are coming? I had better,
perhaps."

"Yes, this afternoon."

And if Halcyone had known it, she was receiving an unheard-of
compliment! The hermit Carlyon - the old Oxford Professor of Greek, who
had come to this out-of-the-way corner because he had been assured by
the agent there would be no sort of society around him - now intended to
put on a tall hat and frock coat, and make a formal call on two maiden
ladies - all for the sake of a child of twelve years, with serious gray
eyes - and a soul!




CHAPTER IV


In her heart of hearts Miss Roberta felt fluttered as she walked across
the empty hall to the Italian parlor behind her sterner sister, to
receive their guest. He would come in the afternoon, Halcyone had said.
That meant about three o'clock, and it behooved ladies expecting a
gentleman to be at ease at some pretty fancy work when he should be
announced.

The village was two miles beyond the lime lodge gates, and for the last
eight years rheumatism in the knee had made the walk there out of the
question for poor Miss Roberta - so even the sight of a man and a
stranger was an unusual thing! She had not attempted conversation with
anyone but Mr. Miller, the curate, for over eleven years. The isolation
in which the inhabitants of La Sarthe Chase lived could not be more
complete.

The Italian parlor had its own slightly pathetic _cachet_. The walls and
ceiling had been painted by rather a bad artist from Florence at the
beginning of the nineteenth century, but the furniture was good of its
kind - a strange dark orange lacquer and gilt - and here most of the
treasures which had not yet been disposed of for daily bread, were
hoarded in cabinets and quaint glass-topped show tables. There were a
number of other priceless things about the house, the value of which the
Long Man's artistic education was as yet too unfinished to appreciate.
And the greatest treasure of all, as we have seen, was probably only
understood by Halcyone - but more of that in its place.

At present it concerns us to know that Miss La Sarthe and her sister had
reached the Italian parlor, and were seated in their respective
chairs - Miss Roberta with a piece of delicate embroidery in her hands,
the stitches of which her eyes - without spectacles, to receive
company - were too weak adequately to perceive.

Miss La Sarthe did not condescend to any such subterfuges. She sat quite
still doing nothing, looking very much as she had looked for the last
forty years. Her harp stood on one side of the fireplace, and Miss
Roberta's guitar hung by a faded blue ribbon from a nail at the other.

Presently old William announced:

"Mr. Carlyon."

And Cheiron, in his Sunday best, walked into the room.

Halcyone was not present. If children were wanted they were sent for. It
was not seemly for them to be idling in the drawing-rooms.

But Miss Roberta felt so pleasantly nervous, that she said timidly,
after they had all shaken hands:

"Ginevra, can we not tell William to ask Halcyone to come down, perhaps
Mr. Carlyon might like to see her again."

And William, who had not got far from the door, was recalled and sent on
the errand.

"What a very beautiful view you have from here," Mr. Carlyon said, by
way of a beginning. "It is an ideal spot."

"We are glad you like it," Miss La Sarthe replied, graciously; "as my
sister and I live quite retired from the world it suits us. We had much
gayety here in our youth, but now we like tranquillity."

"It is, however, delightful to have a neighbor," Miss Roberta
exclaimed - and then blushed at her temerity.

The elder lady frowned; Roberta had always been so sadly effusive, she
felt. Men ought not to be flattered so.

Mr. Carlyon bowed, and the platitudes were continued, each felt he or
she must approach the subject of Halcyone's lessons, but waited for the
other to begin.

Halcyone, herself, put an end to all awkwardness after she very gently
entered the room. There was no bounding or vaulting in the presence of
the aunts.

"Is it not kind of Mr. Carlyon to wish to teach me Greek?" she said,
including both her relatives. "I expect he has told you about it
though."

The Misses La Sarthe were properly surprised and interested. Most kind
they thought it and expressed their appreciation in their separate ways.
They both hoped their great-niece would be diligent, and prove a worthy
pupil. It was most fortunate for Halcyone, because her stepfather, Mr.
James Anderton, might decide at their request not to send another
governess, and, "No doubt it will be most useful to her," Miss La Sarthe
continued. "In these modern days so much learning seems to be expected
of people. When we were young, a little French and Italian were all that
was necessary."

Then Mr. Carlyon made friends of them for life, by a happy inspiration.

"I see you are both musicians," he said, pointing to the antiquated
musical instruments. "A taste of that sort is a constant pleasure."

"We used to play a good deal at one time," admitted Miss La Sarthe,
without a too great show of gratification, "and my sister was quite
celebrated for her Italian songs."

"Oh!" gasped Miss Roberta, blushing again.

"I hope I may have the pleasure of hearing you together some day," said
the Professor, gallantly.

Both ladies smilingly acquiesced, as they depreciated their powers.

And just before their visitor got up to leave, Miss La Sarthe said with
her grand air:

"We hope you find your cottage comfortable. It used to be the land
steward's, before we disposed of the property we no longer required. It
always used to have a very pretty garden, but no doubt it has rather
fallen into decay."

"I shall do my best to repair it," Mr. Carlyon said, "but it will take
some time. I and my servant have already begun to clear the weeds away,
and a new gardener is coming next week."

"Oh, may I help?" exclaimed Halcyone. "I love gardening, and can dig
quite well. I often help William."

"Our old butler does many useful things for us," Miss Roberta explained,
with a slightly conscious air.

And then the adieus were said, Halcyon's first lesson having been
arranged to begin on the morrow.

When the visitor had gone and the door was shut:

"A very worthy, cultivated gentleman, Roberta," Miss La Sarthe announced
to her sister. "We must ask him to dinner the next time Mr. Miller is
coming. We must show him some attention for his kindness to our
great-niece; he will understand and not allow it to flatter him too
much. You remember, Roberta, our Mamma always said unmarried women - of
any age - cannot be too careful of _les convenances_, but we might ask
him to dinner under the circumstances - don't you think so?"

"Oh, I am sure - yes, sister - but I wish you would not talk so of our
age," Miss Roberta said, rather fretfully for her. "You were only
seventy-two last November, and I shall not be sixty-nine until
March - and if you remember, Aunt Agatha lived to ninety-one, and Aunt
Mildred to ninety-four! So we are not so very old as yet."

"The more reason for us to be careful then," retorted the elder lady,
and Miss Roberta subsided with a sigh as she took her guitar from the
wall and began in her gentle old quavering voice to trill out one of her
many love-songs.

The guitar had not been tuned for several days, and had run down into a
pitiful flatness; Halcyone could hardly sit still, it hurt her so - but
it was only when Miss Roberta had begun a second warble that either she
or Miss La Sarthe noticed the jar. Then a helpless look grew in the
songstress's faded eyes.

"Halcyone, dear - I think you might tune the instrument for me," she
said. "I almost think the top string is not quite true, and you do it so
quickly."

And grateful for the chance, the child soon had it perfectly accorded,
and the concert continued.

Meanwhile Mr. Carlyon had got back to the orchard house, and had rung
for some of his black tea. He was musing deeply upon events. And at last
he sat at his writing-table and wrote a letter to his friend and former
pupil, John Derringham, in which he described his arrival at his new
home, and his outlook, and made a casual reference to the two maiden
ladies in these terms:

"The park and house is still owned by two antediluvian spinsters of the
name of La Sarthe - exquisite specimens of Early Victorian gentility.
They are very poor and proud and narrow-minded, and they have a
great-niece living with them, the most remarkable little female
intelligence I have ever come across. My old habit of instruction is not
to be allowed to rest, for I am going to teach the creature Greek, as a
diversion. She seems to be about twelve years old, and has the makings
of a wonderful character. In the summer you had better come down and pay
me a visit, if you are not too busy with your potent mistress, your
political ambitions."

But John Derringham did not respond to this casual invitation for many a
long day. He had other potent interests beside his political
ambitions - and in any case, never did anything unless he felt inclined.

Mr. Carlyon did not expect him - he knew him very well.

Thus the days passed and by the end of June even, Halcyone had learned
more than the Greek alphabet; and had listened to many charming stories
of that wonderful people. And the night was her friend, and numerous
hours were passed in the shadow of his dark wings, as she flitted like
some pale ghost about the park and the deserted, dilapidated garden.




CHAPTER V


The July of that year was very warm with peculiarly still days, and
Halcyone and her master, Cheiron, spent most of their time during their
hours of study, under the apple tree. They had got to a stage of
complete understanding, and seemed to have fitted into each other's
lives as though they had always been together.

Mr. Carlyon watched his little pupil from under the shadow of his
penthouse brows with the deep speculative interest she had aroused in
him from the first. He had theories upon several subjects, which she
seemed to be going to show the result of in practice - and in his kindly
cynic's heart she was now enshrined in a special niche.

For Halcyone he was "Cheiron," her master, who had the enchanting
quality of being able to see the other side of her head. Every idea of
her soul seemed to be developing under this touch of sympathy and
understanding. Her heterogeneous knowledge culled from the teachings of
her many changing governesses, seemed to regulate itself into distinct
branches with an upward shoot for each, and Mr. Carlyon watched and
encouraged them all.

It was on one glorious Saturday morning when the fairies and nymphs and
gods and goddesses were presumably asleep in the sunlight, that she drew
up her knees as she sat on the grass by her Professor's chair, and
pushing away the Greek grammar, said, with grave eyes fixed upon his
face:

"Cheiron, to-day something tells me I can show you Aphrodite. When it is
cooler, about five o'clock, will you come with me to the second terrace?
There I will leave you and go and fetch her, and as William and
Priscilla will be at tea, I can open the secret door, and you shall see
where she lives - all in the dark!"

Mr. Carlyon felt duly honored - for they had never referred to this
subject since she had first mentioned it. The Professor felt it was one
of deep religious solemnity to his little friend, and had waited until
she herself should feel he was worthy of her complete confidence.

"She speaks to me more than ever," Halcyone continued. "I took her out
in the moonlight on Thursday night, and she seemed to look more lovely
than before. It has pleased her that I call her Aphrodite - it was
certainly her name."

"It is settled, then," said Cheiron, "at five o'clock I will be upon the
terrace."

Halcyone returned to her grammar, and silence obtained between them.
Then presently Mr. Carlyon spoke.

"I am going to have a visitor for a week or perhaps more," he announced.

A startled pair of eyes looked up at him.

"That seems odd," Halcyone said. "I hope whoever it is will not be much
in our way. I do not think I am glad - are you?"

"Yes, I am glad. It is someone for whom I have a great regard," and Mr.
Carlyon knocked the ashes from his long pipe. "It is a young man who
used to be at Oxford and to whom also I taught Greek."

"Then he will know a great deal more than I do, being older," returned
Halcyone, not at all mollified by this information.

"Yes, he knows rather more than you do as yet," the Professor allowed.
"Perhaps you will not like him; he can be quite disagreeable when he
wishes - and he may not like you."

Halcyone's dark brows met.

"If he is someone for whom you have a regard he must be of those who
count. I shall be angry then, if he dislikes me - is he coming soon?"

"On Monday, by the four o'clock train."

"Our lesson will be over - that is something. You will not want me on
Tuesday, I expect?" and a note of regret grew in her voice.

"I thought you might have a holiday for a while, all pupils have
holidays in the summer," the Professor returned.

"Very well," was all she said, and then was quiet for a time, thinking
the matter over. She wished to hear more of this visitor who was going
to interrupt their pleasant intercourse.

"Of what sort is he?" she asked presently. "A hunter like Meleager - or
cunning like Theseus - or noble like Perseus, whom I love best of all?"

"He is not very Greek to look at, I am afraid, except perhaps in his
length of limb," and the Professor smiled. "He is just a thin, lanky,
rather distinguished young Englishman and was considered to be the most
brilliant of my pupils, taking a Double First under my auspices and
leaving Oxford with flying colors when I retired myself a year or two
ago. He has been very lucky since, he is full of ambitions in the
political line, and he has a fearless and rather caustic wit."

"I must think of him as Pericles, then, if he is occupied with the
state," said Halcyone. "But how has he been lucky since? I would like to
know - tell me, please, and I will try not to mind his being here."

"Yes - try - " said Mr. Carlyon. "After he took his degree he studied law
and history, you know, as well as the Greek philosophy which you may
come to some day - he went to London to the Temple to read for the bar.
He never intended to be a practicing barrister, but everything is a
means to his career. Then his luck came - he has lots of friends and
relations in the great world and at one of their country houses he met
the Prime Minister, who took a tremendous fancy to him, and the thing
going well, the great man finally asked him to be his assistant private
secretary, which post he accepted. The chief private secretary last year
being made governor of a colony, John has now stepped into his shoes,
and presently he will go into Parliament. He is a brilliant fellow and
cares for no man - following only his own star. I shall be very glad to
see him again."

Halcyone's face fell into a brown study and the Professor watching her
mused to himself.

"John Derringham will find her in the way. She is not woman enough yet
to attract his eye; he will only perceive she is a rather plain
child - and she will certainly see the other side of his head."

As Halcyone walked back to La Sarthe Chase for her early dinner, she
mused also:

"I must not feel this dislike towards Cheiron's other pupil. After all,
Jason could not have the master alone - and if I do feel it then he will
be able to harm me, should he dislike me, too - but if I try to like him,
then he will be powerless, and when he has gone he will not have left
any mark."

Mr. Carlyon felt a perceptible glow of interest as he waited at five
o'clock that day upon the dilapidated stone bench in the archway where
old William kept his garden tools, and while the subdued light gave him
very little chance of studying minutely the walls, the general aspect
certainly presented no hint of any door. However, he had not to wait or
speculate long, for, with hardly a creak, two stones seemed to turn upon
a pivot, and Halcyone came forth from the aperture bending her head.

"After all, I do not think you had better come in with me," she said.
"It is low like this for ten yards; it will make your back ache - so I
have brought her. If you will hold her, I will run out and see if all is
safe; and then we can carry her to the summer house and take off her
scarf."

Cheiron held out his arms to receive the precious bundle; and he could
feel by its weight it was a marble head. It was enveloped in the
voluminous folds of the remains of an old blue silk curtain, a relic of
other days, when rich stuffs hung before the windows of La Sarthe Chase.

"I took the covering from the Spanish Chest in the long gallery,"
Halcyone announced. "I had played with it for years, and the color suits
her - it must be the same as are her real eyes."

Then she darted out into the sunlight and returned again in a few
moments - with shining face. All was safe and the momentous hour had
come.

She took her goddess from Mr. Carlyon's arms, and walking with the
dignity of a priestess of the Temple, she preceded her master along the
tangled path.

A riot of things growing impeded each step. Roses which had degenerated
into little better than wild ones, showed late red and pink blooms,
honeysuckle and columbines flowered, and foxgloves raised their graceful
heads.

At the end there was a broken bower at the corner of the terrace, with a
superb view over the park and far beyond to the high blue hills.

This place was cleared, for Halcyone had done the necessary work
herself. It was one of her outlooks upon the world and she had even
carefully mended the cracked bench with a bit of board and a nail or
two. The table, which was of stone, still stood firmly and was quaint
and rather Greek in shape - for had not a later Timothy La Sarthe brought
it from Paris in the Empire days?

Mr. Carlyon sat down and prepared himself for the solemn moment when the
Goddess should be unveiled.

And when the reverent little priestess had removed the folds from the
face as it lay upon the table, he started and held his breath, for he
instantly realized that indeed this was the work of some glorious old
Greek sculptor; none other could have created that perfect head.

And as he looked, the child slipped her hand into his and whispered
softly:

"Watch her eyes; she is tender to-day and welcomes us. I was not quite
sure how she would receive you."

And lo! it seemed to Mr. Carlyon as though the divine orbs softened into
a smile, such was the art of those old Greeks, who marred not the marble
with pupil or iris, who stooped to no trick of simulation, but left the
perfect modeling to speak for itself.

The eyes of this Aphrodite conveyed volumes of love, with her nobly
planned brows and temples and her softly smooth cheeks. The slight break
of the nose even did not seem to spoil the perfect beauty of the whole.
Her mouth, tender and rather full, seemed to smile a welcome, and the
patine, unspoiled by any casts having ever been taken, gleamed as the
finest of skin. It was in a wonderful state of preservation and not
darkened to more than a soft cream color.

So there she lay at last! Goddess of Love still for all time. The head
was broken off at the base of the slender, rounded throat.

Halcyone perceived that Cheiron was appreciating her treasure in a
proper spirit and spoke not a word while he examined it minutely,
turning it in all lights.

"What consummate genius!" he almost whispered at last. "You have truly a
goddess here, child, and you do well to guard her as such, - Aphrodite
you have named her well."

"I am glad now that I have shown her to you - at first I was a little
afraid - but you understand. And now you can feel how I have my mother
always with me. She tells me to hope, and that all mean things are of no
importance, and that God intends us all to be as happy as is her
beautiful smile."

Then Mr. Carlyon asked again for the story of the Goddess's discovery,
and heard all the details of how there was a ray of light in the dark
passage, coming from some cleverly contrived crack on the first terrace.
Here Halcyone's foot had struck against the marble upon her original
voyage of discovery, and by the other objects she encountered she
supposed someone long ago, being in flight, had gradually dropped things
which were heavy and of least value. There was a breastplate as well,
and an iron-bound box which she had never been able to move or open.

"You might help me and we could look into it some day," she said.

Mr. Carlyon took Aphrodite into his hands and raised her head, examining
every point with minute care, and now her expression appeared to change
and grow sad in the different effect of light.

"I do not want her to be up upon a pillar like Artemis and Hebe, who are
still in the hall," Halcyone said. "She could not talk to me then, she
would be always the same. I like to hold her this way and that, and then
I can see her moods and the blue silks keeps her nice and warm."

"It is a great possession," said Cheiron, "and I understand your joy in
it," and he handed the head back to the child with respect.

Halcyone bent and caressed it with her soft little velvet cheek.

"See," she said. "Once I was very foolish and cried about something and
the tears made this little mark," and she pointed to two small spots
which did not gleam quite so much as the rest of the surface. "Tears
always do silly things - I am never so foolish now." And then her young
voice became dreamy and her eyes widened with a look as though she saw
far beyond.

"Cheiron - all the world is made for gladness if we only do not take the
ugly things with us everywhere. There is summer, as it is now, when we
rest and play and all the gods come down from Olympus and dance and sing
and bask in the light - and then the autumn when the colors are rich and
everything prepares for winter and sleeps. But even in the cold and dark
we must not be sad, because we know it is only for a time and to give us
change, so that we may shout for joy when the spring comes and each year
discover in it some new beauty."

Cheiron did not speak for a while, he, too, was musing.

"You are a little Epicurean," he said at last, "and presently we shall
read about Epicurus' great principles and his garden where he taught and
lived."




CHAPTER VI


John Derringham had been at the orchard house for three or four days
before there was any sign of Halcyone. She had kept away on purpose and
was doing her best to repress the sense of resentment the thought of the
presence of a stranger caused. Mr. Carlyon had given her some simple
books upon the Renaissance which she was devouring with joy. This period
seemed to give some echo of the Greek ideas she loved, and as was her
habit she was visualizing everything as she read, bringing the people
and the places up before her mental eyes, and regulating them into
friends or acquaintances. Cheiron did not confine himself to teaching
her Greek alone, but directed all her reading, taking a growing delight
in her intelligent mind. Thus they had many talks upon history and the
natural sciences and poetry and painting. But to hear of the famous
statues and learn from pictures to know the styles of the old sculptors
seemed to please her best of all.

By the fifth day, a Friday, Mr. Carlyon began to feel a desire to see
his little pupil again and sent her a message by his dark, silent
servant. Would she not take tea with him that afternoon? So Halcyone
came. She was very quiet and subdued and crept through her gap in the
hedge without any leaps or bounds.


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