God Almighty! How low he felt!
And he groaned aloud.
Then from a small dispatch box, which he had got his servant to put by his bed, he drew forth a little gold case, in which for all these years he had kept an oak leaf. He had had it made in the enthusiasm of his youth when he had returned to London after Halcyone, the wise-eyed child, had given it to him, and it had gone about everywhere with him since as a sort of fetish.
It burnt his sight when he looked at it now. For had he been “good and true”? Alas! No—nothing but a sensual, ambitious weakling.
The Professor and his protegee spent the whole of that July wandering in Brittany—going from one old-world spot to another. There had not been much opposition raised by Mr. and Mrs. Anderton to Halcyone’s accompanying her old master. They themselves were going to Scotland, and there Mabel had decided she would no longer be kept in the schoolroom, and intended to come forward as a grown-up girl assisting in the hospitalities of her father’s shooting lodge. And Mrs. Anderton, knowing her temper, thought a rival of any sort might make difficulties. So, as far as they were concerned, Halcyone might start at once. They always left for the north in the middle of the month, and if the Professor wanted to get away sooner, they did not wish to interfere with his arrangements. Halcyone must come and pay them another visit later on.
As for the Aunts La Sarthe—their heads appeared to be completely turned by their sojourn at the seaside! They proposed to remain there all the summer, and put forward no objection to their niece’s excursion with Mr. Carlyon. The once quiet spot of their youth had developed into a fashionable Welsh watering place, and Miss Roberta was taking on a new lease of health and activity from the pleasure of seeing the crowded parade, while the Aunt Ginevra allowed that the exhilarating breezes and cerulean waters were certainly most refreshing!
Before the Professor could leave for a lengthy trip abroad, it was necessary that he should return to the orchard house for a day, and Halcyone accompanied him, leaving Priscilla in London. Her mission was to secure the goddess’s head—but, as there was no one at La Sarthe Chase, she decided just to go there and get her treasure and sleep the night at Cheiron’s.
It would be an excursion of much pain to her, to be so near to her still loved lover and to feel the cruel gulf between them, but she must face it if she desired Aphrodite to accompany them. The Professor suggested she might take him through the secret passage and try with his help to open the heavy box. No such opportunity had ever occurred before or was likely to occur again, her aunts being absent and even old William nowhere about. It made the chance one in a thousand. So she agreed, and determined to force herself to endure the pain which going back would cause her.