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   Chapter 5 No.5

Halcyone By Elinor Glyn Characters: 12969

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


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 do

or. 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."

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