“Upon my word, I don’t know,” he said. “It was invented so that the Master here and I should pull each other’s theories to pieces; that evidently was its aim from the beginning of time. I do not know if it has any other good.”
“Everything is so very simple,” said Halcyone. “To have to argue about it must be fatiguing.”
“You find things simple, do you?” asked John Derringham, now complacently roused to look at her. “What are your rules of life then, let us hear, oh, Oracle!—we listen with respect!”
Halcyone reddened a little and a gleam grew in her wise eyes. She would have refused to reply, but looking at her revered master, she saw that he was awaiting her answer with an encouraging smile. So she thought a second and then said calmly, measuring her words: “Things are what we make them, they have no power in themselves; they are as inanimate as this wood—” and she touched the table with her fine brown hand. “It is we ourselves who give them activity. So it is our own faults if they are bad—they could just as easily be good. Is not that simple enough?”
“An example, please, Goddess,” demanded John Derringham with a cynical smile.
“The dark is an example,” she went on quietly. “People fill the dark with their own frightening images and fear it because they themselves have turned it into evil. The dark is as kind as the day.”
John Derringham laughed. He was amused at this precocious wisdom and he suddenly remembered that his old master had mentioned some clever child when writing to him first about the place, two months before. This was the creature, then, who was learning Greek. She had picked up these ideas, of course, out of some book and was showing off. Children should be snubbed and kept in their places:
“Then you don’t cry when your nurse leaves you at night without a candle. What a good little girl! But perhaps you take a doll to bed,” he added mockingly, “or suck your thumb.”
Halcyone did not answer, her eyes, benign as a goddess’s, looked him through and through—and Cheiron leaned back in his chair and puffed volumes of smoke while he chuckled delightedly:
“Take care, John—you will come off second best, for Halcyone can see the other side of your head.”
For some unaccountable reason, John Derringham felt annoyed; but it was too contemptible to be annoyed by a child, so he laughed as he answered condescendingly:
“There, I will not tease her. I expect she hates me already—” and he pushed his hat back from his eyes.
“No,” said Halcyone. “One only hates a thing one fears; hate implies fear. I hated my last but one governess for a while—because she told lies and was mean and she had the power to keep me in. But once I reasoned about it, I grew quite indifferent and she had no effect upon me at all.”
“You have not had time to reason about me,” returned John Derringham, “but it is something that you don’t hate me; I ought to feel pleased.”