“May I come in, please?” her voice said. “I am afraid I am a little early, but I had something so very interesting to tell you, I had to come.”
He opened wide the window and let in the May sunshine.
“The first of May and a May Queen,” he told her presently, when they were seated in their two chairs. “And now begin this interesting news.”
“Aunt Ginevra has promised to write to my step-father at once, and suggest that no more governesses are sent to me. Won’t it be perfectly splendid if he agrees!”
“I really don’t know,” said Cheiron.
Halcyone’s face fell.
“You promised to teach me Greek,” she said simply, “and I know from my ‘Heroes’ that is all that I need necessarily learn from anyone to acquire the other things myself.”
This seemed to Mr. Carlyon a very conclusive answer—his bent of mind found it logical.
“Very well,” he said. “When shall we begin?”
“Perhaps to-morrow. To-day if you have time I would like to take you for a walk in the park—and show you some of the trees. The beeches are coming out very early this year; they have the most exquisite green just showing, and the chestnuts in some places have quite large leaves. It is damp under foot, though—do you mind that?”
“Not a bit,” said Cheiron.
And so they went, creeping through the hole in the paling like two brigands on a marauding expedition.
“There used to be deer when I first came five years ago,” Halcyone said. “I remember them quite well, and their sweet little fawns; but the next winter was that horribly cold one, and there was no hay to be put out to them—my Aunts La Sarthe are very poor—and some of them died, and in the summer the Long Man came and talked and talked, and Aunt Roberta had red eyes all the afternoon, as she always does when he comes, and Aunt Ginevra pretended hers were a cold in her head—and the week after a lot of men arrived and drove all the tender, beautiful creatures into corners, and took them away in carts with nets over them—the does—but the bucks had pieces of wood because their horns would have torn the nets.”
Her delicate lips quivered a moment, as though at a too painful memory—then she smiled.
“But one mother doe and her fawn got away—and I knew where they were hiding, but I did not tell, of course—and now there are four of them, or perhaps five. But they are very wild and keep in the copses, and fly if they see anyone coming. They don’t mind me, of course, but strangers. The mother remembers that awful day, I expect.”
“No doubt,” said Cheiron; “and who is the ‘Long Man’ you spoke of as having instigated this outrage?”
“He is the man of business, he was the bailiff once, but is a house agent now in Applewood. And whenever he comes something has to go—we all dread it. Last Michaelmas it was the Chippendale dining-room chairs—”
“I know him then—I bought my cottage from him. I suppose all this is necessary, because he seemed an honest fellow.”