At the end there was a broken bower at the corner of the terrace, with a superb view over the park and far beyond to the high blue hills.
This place was cleared, for Halcyone had done the necessary work herself. It was one of her outlooks upon the world and she had even carefully mended the cracked bench with a bit of board and a nail or two. The table, which was of stone, still stood firmly and was quaint and rather Greek in shape—for had not a later Timothy La Sarthe brought it from Paris in the Empire days?
Mr. Carlyon sat down and prepared himself for the solemn moment when the Goddess should be unveiled.
And when the reverent little priestess had removed the folds from the face as it lay upon the table, he started and held his breath, for he instantly realized that indeed this was the work of some glorious old Greek sculptor; none other could have created that perfect head.
And as he looked, the child slipped her hand into his and whispered softly:
“Watch her eyes; she is tender to-day and welcomes us. I was not quite sure how she would receive you.”
And lo! it seemed to Mr. Carlyon as though the divine orbs softened into a smile, such was the art of those old Greeks, who marred not the marble with pupil or iris, who stooped to no trick of simulation, but left the perfect modeling to speak for itself.
The eyes of this Aphrodite conveyed volumes of love, with her nobly planned brows and temples and her softly smooth cheeks. The slight break of the nose even did not seem to spoil the perfect beauty of the whole. Her mouth, tender and rather full, seemed to smile a welcome, and the patine, unspoiled by any casts having ever been taken, gleamed as the finest of skin. It was in a wonderful state of preservation and not darkened to more than a soft cream color.
So there she lay at last! Goddess of Love still for all time. The head was broken off at the base of the slender, rounded throat.
Halcyone perceived that Cheiron was appreciating her treasure in a proper spirit and spoke not a word while he examined it minutely, turning it in all lights.
“What consummate genius!” he almost whispered at last. “You have truly a goddess here, child, and you do well to guard her as such,—Aphrodite you have named her well.”
“I am glad now that I have shown her to you—at first I was a little afraid—but you understand. And now you can feel how I have my mother always with me. She tells me to hope, and that all mean things are of no importance, and that God intends us all to be as happy as is her beautiful smile.”
Then Mr. Carlyon asked again for the story of the Goddess’s discovery, and heard all the details of how there was a ray of light in the dark passage, coming from some cleverly contrived crack on the first terrace. Here Halcyone’s foot had struck against the marble upon her original voyage of discovery, and by the other objects she encountered she supposed someone long ago, being in flight, had gradually dropped things which were heavy and of least value. There was a breastplate as well, and an iron-bound box which she had never been able to move or open.