“They seem such great people, those Greeks; they knew everything—so the preface of my ‘Heroes’ says, and I want to learn the things they knew—mathematics and geometry, rather—and especially logic and metaphysics, because I want to know the meaning of words and the art of reasoning, and above everything I want to know about my own thoughts and soul.” “You strange little girl,” said the old man. “Have you a soul?”
“I don’t know, I have something in there,” and Halcyone pointed to her head—“and it talks to me like another voice, and when I am alone up a tree away from people, and all is beautiful, it seems to make it tight round here,—and go from my head into my side,” and she placed her lean brown paw over her heart.
“Yes—you perhaps have a soul,” said the old man, and then he added, half to himself—“What a pity.”
“Why a pity?” demanded Halcyone.
“Because a woman with a soul suffers, and brings tribulation—but since you have one we may as well teach you how to keep the thing in hand.”
At that moment, the dark servant brought tea, and the fine oriental china pleased Halcyone whose perceptions took in the texture of every single thing she came in contact with.
The old man seemed to go into a reverie, he was quite silent while he poured out the tea, forgetting to enquire her tastes as to cream and sugar—he drank his black—and handed Halcyone a cup of the same.
She looked at him, her inquiring eyes full of intelligence and understanding, and she realized at once that these trifles were not in his consideration for the moment. So she helped herself to what she wanted and sat down again in her armchair. She did not even rattle her teaspoon. Priscilla often made noises which irritated her when she was thinking. The old man came back to a remembrance of her presence at last.
“Little girl,” he said—“would you like to come here pretty often and learn Greek, and about the Greeks?”
Halcyone bounded from her chair with joy.
“But of course I would!” she said. “And I am not stupid—not really stupid Mademoiselle says, when I want to learn things.”
“No—I dare say you are not stupid,” the old man said. “So it is a bargain then; I shall teach you about my friends the Greeks, and you shall teach me about the green trees, and your friends the rabbits and the beetles.”
Then those instinctive good manners of Halcyone’s came uppermost, inherited, like her slender shape and balanced head, from that long line of La Sarthe ancestors, and she thanked the old man with a quaint, courtly, sweetly pedantic grace. Then she got up to go—
“I like being here—and may I come again to-morrow?” she said afterwards. “I must go now or they will be disagreeable and perhaps make difficulties.”
The old man watched her as she curtsied to him and vaulted through the window again, and on down the path, and through the hole in the paling, without once turning round. Then he muttered to himself: