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   Chapter 6 No.6

Halcyone By Elinor Glyn Characters: 11062

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


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.

John Derringham was stretched the whole length of his long, lean limbs under the apple tree-her apple tree! This did not produce a favorable note.

Cheiron watched the meeting with inward amusement.

"This is my little friend Halcyone La Sarthe," he said. "Halcyone, yonder Tityus in these latter days is known by the name of John Derringham-of Derringham in the County of Northampton. Make your bows to one another."

Halcyone inclined her head with dignity, but Mr. Derringham only raised himself a little and said "Good afternoon." He did not care for children, and was busy with his old master discussing other things.

"You will pour out the tea, Halcyone, for us as usual," Cheiron said. "Demetrius will bring it in a minute." And Halcyone sat down demurely upon the basket chair near the table and crossed her hands.

"I tell you I will not take their point of view," John Derringham said, continuing the conversation he had been carrying on before Halcyone arrived. "Everything in England is spoilt by this pandering to the mediocrity. A man may not make a speech but he must choose his words so that uneducated clods can grasp his meaning, he cannot advocate an idea with success unless it can appeal to the lower middle classes. It is this subservience to them which has brought us to where we are. No ideals-no lofty ends-just a means to each one's own hand. I will never pretend we are all equal, I will never appeal to anything but the highest in an audience. So they can throw me out if they will!" And he stretched out his long legs and clasped his hands under his head-so that to Halcyone he seemed seven foot tall.

"Tityus" she thought was a very apt name for him, and she wondered if he would jump if the vulture suddenly gave a gnaw at his liver!

"You are an idealist, John," said Mr. Carlyon. "All this might have been of some use as a principle of propaganda before the franchise was so low, but now the mediocrity is our master-so of what use? If you talked so you would but preach to empty benches."

"I will not do that-I will make them listen. My point is that everyone can rise if he wishes, but until he has done so in fact, there is no use in his pretending in words that he has. I would explain to them the reason of things. I could have agreed with the greatest Athenian democrats because their principle was one of sense. They had slaves to do the lowest offices who had no voice in public affairs, but here we let those who have no more education or comprehension than slaves have the same power as men who have spent their lives in studying the matter. It is all unjust, and no one has the courage to tell them to their faces they are unfitted for the task."

"It will be a grand stalking horse for your first essay in your constituency," Cheiron said with his kindly twinkle of sarcasm. He loved to encourage John Derringham to talk.

But at that moment Demetrius brought the tea and Halcyone gravely began her task.

"Do you take it black like Mr. Carlyon?" she asked of the reclining guest.

He came back to the remembrance of her presence and glancing at her, murmured:

"Oh-ah, no-that is, yes-strong, only with cream and sugar. Thanks awfully."

But Halcyone did not rise to hand it to him, so he was obliged to get up and take it from where she sat. She perceived then that though extremely thin he was lithe and well-shaped. And in spite of her unconquered prejudice, she was obliged to own she liked his steely gray hawk-like eyes and his fine, rather ascetic, clean-shaven face. He did not look at her specially. He may have taken in a small, pale visage and masses of mouse-colored hair and slender legs-but nothing struck him particularly except her feet. As his eyes dropped to the ground he caught sight of them; they were singularly perfect feet. He admired points in man or beast-and when he had returned to his old place stretched out under the apple tree, he still glanced at them now and then; they satisfied his eye.

"What have you been doing in these days, Halcyone?" Mr. Carlyon asked. "I have not seen you since Monday morning. Have you been getting into any mischief?"

Halcyone reluctantly admitted that she had not. There was, she explained, very little chance of any of

an agreeable kind coming her way at La Sarthe Chase. She had been gardening with William-they had quite tidied the top terrace-and she had been reading French with Aunt Roberta, but the book was great nonsense.

Then she added that she had brought an invitation from the Aunts La Sarthe that Mr. Carlyon's guest should accompany him when he dined with them on the Saturday. It had become the custom for him to partake of this repast on the same occasions that Mr. Miller did-once a month.

John Derringham frowned under his straw hat which he had pulled over his eyes. He had not come into the country to be dragged out to bucolic dinner parties. But upon some points he knew his old master was obdurate and from his firm acceptance of the invitation this appeared to be one of them.

Then Halcyone asked politely if he would have a second cup of tea, but he refused and again addressed Cheiron, ignoring her. Their conversation now ran into philosophical questions, some of them out of her depth, but much of the subject interested her deeply and she listened absorbed.

At last there was a pause and her fresh young voice asked:

"What, then, is the aim of philosophy-is it only words, or does it bring any good?"

And both men looked at her, staggered for a moment, and John Derringham burst into a ringing laugh.

"Upon my word, I don't know," he said. "It was invented so that the Master here and I should pull each other's theories to pieces; that evidently was its aim from the beginning of time. I do not know if it has any other good."

"Everything is so very simple," said Halcyone. "To have to argue about it must be fatiguing."

"You find things simple, do you?" asked John Derringham, now complacently roused to look at her. "What are your rules of life then, let us hear, oh, Oracle!-we listen with respect!"

Halcyone reddened a little and a gleam grew in her wise eyes. She would have refused to reply, but looking at her revered master, she saw that he was awaiting her answer with an encouraging smile. So she thought a second and then said calmly, measuring her words: "Things are what we make them, they have no power in themselves; they are as inanimate as this wood-" and she touched the table with her fine brown hand. "It is we ourselves who give them activity. So it is our own faults if they are bad-they could just as easily be good. Is not that simple enough?"

"An example, please, Goddess," demanded John Derringham with a cynical smile.

"The dark is an example," she went on quietly. "People fill the dark with their own frightening images and fear it because they themselves have turned it into evil. The dark is as kind as the day."

John Derringham laughed. He was amused at this precocious wisdom and he suddenly remembered that his old master had mentioned some clever child when writing to him first about the place, two months before. This was the creature, then, who was learning Greek. She had picked up these ideas, of course, out of some book and was showing off. Children should be snubbed and kept in their places:

"Then you don't cry when your nurse leaves you at night without a candle. What a good little girl! But perhaps you take a doll to bed," he added mockingly, "or suck your thumb."

Halcyone did not answer, her eyes, benign as a goddess's, looked him through and through-and Cheiron leaned back in his chair and puffed volumes of smoke while he chuckled delightedly:

"Take care, John-you will come off second best, for Halcyone can see the other side of your head."

For some unaccountable reason, John Derringham felt annoyed; but it was too contemptible to be annoyed by a child, so he laughed as he answered condescendingly:

"There, I will not tease her. I expect she hates me already-" and he pushed his hat back from his eyes.

"No," said Halcyone. "One only hates a thing one fears; hate implies fear. I hated my last but one governess for a while-because she told lies and was mean and she had the power to keep me in. But once I reasoned about it, I grew quite indifferent and she had no effect upon me at all."

"You have not had time to reason about me," returned John Derringham, "but it is something that you don't hate me; I ought to feel pleased."

"I do not know that there is occasion for that," Halcyone remarked, "it is all a level thing which does not matter. You are Mr. Carlyon's guest and I expect will be staying some time-"

"So you will have to put up with me!" and John Derringham laughed, furious now with himself for his increasing irritation.

"I must be going," Halcyone then announced and got up from her chair-"and I will tell my aunts that they may expect you to-morrow night," she continued, addressing Mr. Carlyon.

He rose and prepared to accompany her down the garden. She bowed to John Derringham with quiet dignity as he still lay on the ground and walked on by the side of her Professor without further words.

"You don't like my old pupil, Halcyone?" Mr. Carlyon said when they got to the gap in the hedge. "Tell me, what do you see at the other side of his head?"

"Himself," was all she answered as she bounded lightly away laughing, and was soon lost to view in the copse beyond.

And Cheiron, considerably amused, returned to his prostrate guest to find him with a frown upon his face.

"I hope to goodness, Master, you won't bore me with that brat while I am here," he exclaimed, "chattering aphorisms like a parrot. I can't stand children out of their place."

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