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   Chapter 34 No.34

Halcyone By Elinor Glyn Characters: 7835

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


The Palace of the C?sars was lying in blazing heat when Halcyone and the Professor decided to spend the afternoon there. People had warned them not to get to Rome until October, but they were both lovers of the sun, and paid no heed. It would be particularly delightful to have the eternal city to themselves, and they had come straight down from San Gimignano, meaning to pick up their motor again at Perugia on their way back, as the roads to the south were so bad.

They had only arrived the evening before, and felt the Palatine hill should be their first pilgrimage. It was completely deserted in the heat and they wandered in peace. They had gone all through the dark rooms which overlook the Forum, and had reached the garden upon the top, with its cypress and cool shade. Here Halcyone sat down on a bench, looking over the wonderful scene. She wanted to re-read a letter from her Aunt Roberta which had arrived as they were starting out.

The old ladies were delighted with their accession to a modest fortune, the matter was turning out well, and they hoped to have their ancient brougham repainted and a quiet horse to draw it, before very long, so that, even when it rained, they could have the pleasure of going to church.

William, the Aunt Roberta added, was really growing a little old for so many duties, and would, under the new and more prosperous régime, confine himself to being only butler. Halcyone would find several changes on her return; among them the four gates had been mended!

As she read this part of the letter, Halcyone almost sighed! The gates, especially the one of the beech avenue, had always been such friends of hers, she knew and loved each crack. And then her thoughts wandered, as ever, to her lover. Where was he and how had it fared with him? Her serene calm was not disturbed-she felt certainty in every breath of the soft warm air-the certainty that the springtime of their souls had come.

Now, that same morning, John Derringham had arrived at the Grand Hotel, and, after breakfasting, had made his way to the hotel to which Mrs. Porrit had informed him the Professor's letters were to be addressed. And Demetrius, whom he asked for, hearing Mr. Carlyon was out, was able to give him information as to where his master had gone; so that he set off at once.

The Palace of the C?sars was rather a labyrinth to expect to find anybody in, but he would do his best. And so it happened, after about an hour's search, that he came upon Cheiron alone, just as he reached Livia's house.

Mr. Carlyon held out his hand.

"Well, John," he said, "and so we meet again."

His old pupil shook it heartily, and Cheiron, seeing that joyous light in his eyes, raised his left penthouse with a whimsical smile.

"Got clear of the Octopus, I should imagine," he said laconically. "Well, better late than never-Halcyone is over on the bench under the cypress, gazing upon the Tarpeian rock; perhaps you may like to go to her-" and he pointed in that direction.

"It is what I have come at post-haste from Venice to do, Master," John Derringham said. "Mrs. Cricklander was kind enough to release me on Saturday evening-she has other views, it seems!"-and he laughed with his old boyish gayety.

"Well, I won't keep you," Cheiron answered. "Bring my little girl back to the hotel when these gates shut. No doubt you will have enough to talk about till then," and he smiled benignly.

"You will give us your blessing, Master?" John Derringham asked. But the Professor growled as he turned to go on.

"She has my blessing always," he said, "and you will have it, too, if you make her happy, but you don't deserve her, you know, John."

John Derringham drew himself up and looked straight out in front of him-his face was moved.

"I know I do not," he said, "but I hope you believe me, Cheiron, when I tell you that I mean to devote the rest of my life to attai

n that object-and at least no man could worship her more."

"Get on with your courting then, lad!" said the Professor, pointing with his stick in Halcyone's direction, while his wise eyes smiled. "I suppose she will think you perfect in any case-it is her incredible conviction!" And with this he shook his old pupil's hand again, and the two men went their separate ways; John Derringham forgetful of even his lame ankle as he rapidly approached his beloved.

She saw him coming-she had been thinking of him deeply in an exquisite day-dream, and this seemed just the sequence of it, and quite natural and yet divine.

She rose and held out both hands to him, the radiance of heaven in her tender eyes. For she knew that all was well and joy had come.

And they spoke not a word as he folded her in his arms.

* * *

A week later they were married very quietly at the Embassy, and went south to spend their honeymoon, leaving Mr. Carlyon to go back to England alone. He was tired of wandering, he said, and sighed for the comforts of the orchard house and his pipe and his Aristotle.

And Aphrodite went with the bridal pair, no doubt content.

The manner of Mrs. Cricklander's dismissal of John Derringham had left him unhampered by any consideration for her feelings.

And when she read the announcement in the New York Herald the day after the wedding, she burned with furious rage.

So this was the meaning of everything all along! It had not been Cora Lutworth or his political preoccupations, or anything but simply the odious fact that he had been in love with somebody else! This wretched English girl had taken him from her-a creature of whose existence she had never even heard!

And the world would know of his marriage before her own news had been made public! The gall of the whole thing was hardly to be borne!

She felt that, had she been aware that John Derringham's affections were really given elsewhere, nothing would have induced her to break off the engagement! Mr. Hanbury-Green was all very well, and was being a most exceptional lover, only this hateful humiliation and blow to her self-love mattered more than any mere man!

But of such things the married two recked not at all. Their springtime of bliss had come.

And, as they sat absolutely alone upon the inner steps of the Temple of Poseidon at Paestum, looking out upon the sapphire sea and azure sky, the noble columns in front of them all bathed in golden light, and a solemn crow perched above as priest to bless them, Halcyone drew the wrappings from the goddess's head.

"See, John," she said, "Aphrodite is perfectly happy; she is smiling as never before. She knows that we have found all her message." And she laid her head against his shoulder as he encircled her with his arm.

"Dear," she went on, with that misty look in her serene eyes as though they could see into the beyond, "for me, however much beautiful things exalt me and take me to God, I can never go there alone. It always seems as if I must put out my hand and take your hand."

"Sweetheart," he answered, holding her close, "and long ago I called love a draught of the poison cup-what a poor blind fool was I!"

"Yes," she said tenderly. "John, we are much wiser now-and, when we return to the world out of this divine dream-country, you will teach me of that life which you must live in the fierce arena where you will fight for a principle against such odds; and I shall be always there to comfort you and give you of my sympathy and tenderness. And, as you instruct me in the day and its strenuous toils, I will teach you of the soothing, peaceful currents of the night. And we shall know only joy, because we have seen how it always comes if we go straight on and leave the tangled threads to God."

John Derringham bent and kissed her lips and he murmured:

"My darling-my one woman with a soul."

THE END

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