John Derringham sat down again.
“She is not nearly so attractive-looking as she used to be. If I remember, she was rather a weirdly pretty child.”
“Just a chrysalis now,” grunted the professor between [**TR Note: was betwen in original; typesetter’s error.] puffs of smoke. “But there is more true philosophy and profound knowledge of truth in that little head than either you or I have got in ours, John.”
“You always thought the world of her, Master—you, with your ineradicable contempt for women!”
“She is not a woman—yet. She is an intelligence and a brain—and a soul.”
“Oh, she has a soul, then!” and John Derringham smiled. “I remember once you said when I should meet a woman with a soul I should meet my match! I do not feel very alarmed.”
One of the Professor’s penthouse brows raised itself about half an inch, but he did not speak.
“In which school have you taught her?” John Derringham asked—“you who are so much of a cynic, Master. Does she study the ethics of Aristotle with you here in this Lyceum, or do you reconstruct Plato’s Academy? She is no sophist, apparently, since you say she can see the truth.”
Mr. Carlyon looked into the fire.
“She is almost an Epicurean, John, in all but the disbelief in the immortality of the soul. She has evolved a theory of her own about that. It partakes of Buddhism. After I have discussed metaphysical propositions with her over which she will argue clearly, she will suddenly cut the whole knot with a lightning flash, and you see the naked truth, and words become meaningless, and discussion a jest.”
“All this, at fifteen!” John Derringham laughed antagonistically, and then he suddenly remembered her words to himself upon honor in the tree that summer morning three years ago, and he mused.
Perhaps some heaven-taught beings were allowed to come to earth after all, now and then as the centuries rolled on.
“She knows Greek pretty well?” he asked.
“Fairly, for the time she has learnt. She can read me bits of Lucian. She would stumble over the tragedies. I read them to her.” Then he continued, as though it were a subject he loved, “She has a concrete view upon every question; her critical faculty is marvelous. She never lays down the law, but if you ask her, you have your answer in a nutshell, the simplest truth, which it always appears to her so strange that you have not seen all the time.”
“What is her parentage? Heredity plays so large a part in these things,” Mr. Derringham asked.
“The result of a passionate love-match between distant cousins of that fine old race, I believe. Timothy La Sarthe was at Oxford before your day, but not under me—a brilliant, enchanting fellow, drowned while yachting when my little friend was only a few months old.”
“And the mother?”
“Married again to pay his debts, to a worthy stockbroker, almost immediately, I believe. She paid the debt with herself and died after having three children for him in a few years.”