From the moment that she knew he was coming a strange stillness seemed to fall upon the child. She had grown long-legged and was at the fledgling stage when even a pretty girl sometimes looks plain, and she, who had as yet no claim to beauty, was at her worst. She was quite aware of it, with her intense soul-worship of all beautiful things. Some unreasoned impulse made her keep away from her master during the first day, but on the Sunday he summoned her, and, as once before, she came and poured out the tea, but it was a cold and windy autumn afternoon, and it was not laid out of doors. John Derringham had been for a walk, and came in while she sat in a shadowy corner behind the table, teapot in hand.
He was greatly changed, she thought, in the three years. He had grown a beard! and looked considerably older, with his thin commanding figure and arrogant head. He was not handsome now, but peculiarly distinguished-looking. He could very well be Pericles, she decided at once. As for him, he had almost forgotten her. Life had been so full of many things; but, seeing a pale, slender, overgrown girl with mouse-colored clouds of hair now confined in a demure pigtail, it came to his mind that this must be the Professor’s pupil again. Had she not been called Hebe or Psyche—or Halcyone—some Greek name? And gradually his former recollection of her came back, and of their morning in the tree.
“Why, how do you do,” he said politely, and Halcyone bowed without speaking. She felt much as Hans Andersen’s Ugly Duckling used to feel, and when John Derringham had said a few ordinary things about her having grown out of all likeness, he turned to the Professor again, and almost forgot her presence.
His talk was most wonderful to listen to, she thought, his language was so polished, and there was a courtesy added to the former vehemence. They spoke of nothing but politics, which she did not understand, and Cheiron chaffed him a good deal in his kindly cynical way. He was still fighting his chimeras, it seemed, and fighting them successfully. As he spoke, Halcyone, behind the teapot, thrilled with a kind of worship. To be strong and young and manful, and to combat modern dragons, appeared to her to be a god-like task.
In the midst of a heated argument she rose to slip away. Her comings and goings were so natural to the Professor that he was unaware that she was leaving the room until John Derringham broke off in the middle of a sentence, to rise and open the door for her.
“Good-by,” she said. “Aunt Roberta is not very well to-day, so I must not be late. Good night, Cheiron”—and she went out and closed the door.
“But it is quite dark!” exclaimed John Derringham. “Is there a servant waiting? She can’t go all alone!”
The Professor leaned back in his chair.
“Don’t disturb yourself,” he said. “Halcyone is accustomed to the twilight. It is a strange night-creature—leave it alone.”