Halcyone did not move.
“Who are you, little girl?” he said. “And what do you want?”
“I want to know who you are, and why you have come here?” she answered fearlessly. “I am Halcyone, you know.”
The old man smiled.
“That ought to tell me everything,” he said, gravely, “but unfortunately it does not! Who is Halcyone?”
“I live at La Sarthe Chase with the Aunts La Sarthe,” she said proudly, as though La Sarthe Chase had been Windsor Castle—“and I have been accustomed to play in this garden. I don’t like your being here much.”
“I am sorry for that, because it suits me and I have bought it. But how would it be if I said you might come into the garden still and play? Would you forgive me then for being here?”
“I might,” said Halcyone. “What are all these books for?”
“They are to read.”
“I knew that—” and she frowned, beetling her delicate dark brows, “but why such a lot? You can never read them all.”
The old man smiled.
“I have read most of them already,” he said. “I have had plenty of time, you see.”
“Yes, I dare say you are old,” said Halcyone— “and what are they about? I would like to know that. My books so seldom interest me.”
He handed her one through the window, but it was written in Greek and she could not read it. She frowned again as she turned over the pages.
“Perhaps there is something nice in that,” she said.
“Well, won’t you tell me what?”
“That would take a long time—suppose you come in and have tea with me, then we could talk comfortably.”
“That sounds a good plan,” she said, gravely. “Shall I climb through the window—I can quite easily—or would you like me to go round by the door?”
“The window will serve,” said the old man.
And with one bound as light as a young kid, Halcyone was in the room.
There was a second armchair beyond the pile of books, and into that she nestled, crossing her knees and clasping her hands round them. “Now we can begin,” she said.
“Tea or talk?” asked the old man.
“Why, talk, of course; there is no tea—”
“But if you rang that bell some might come.”
Halcyone jumped up again and looked about for the bell. She was not going to ask where it was—she disliked stupid people herself. The old man watched her from under the penthouse of his eyebrows with a curious smile.
The bell was hidden in the carving of the mantelpiece, but she found it at last and gave it a lusty pull.
It seemed answered instantaneously by a strange-looking man,—a dark, extremely thin person with black, dull eyes.
The old man spoke to him in an unknown language and he retired silently.
“Who was that?” asked Halcyone.
“That is my servant,—he will bring tea.”