“Isn’t it a day of the gods!” he continued. “And may I from across this Stygian lake (there was a little water collected in the haw-haw here from the recent rains) introduce Miss Lutworth to you—and Miss Clinker and Lord Freynault? Miss Halcyone La Sarthe.”
Everyone bowed, and Halcyone smiled her sweet, grave smile.
“We would love to jump over—or you come to us,” Cora Lutworth said with her frank, friendly charm. “Isn’t there any way?”
“I am afraid not,” responded Halcyone. “You are across in another world—we live in the shades, this side.”
“Remember something about a fellow named Orpheus getting over to fetch his girl”—“gail” Lord Freynault pronounced it—“since old John will use Eton cribs in describing the horrid chasm. Can’t we sop old Cerberus and somehow manage to swim, if there is no ferryman about?”
“You would certainly be drowned,” said Halcyone. “In this place the lake is quite ten inches deep!”
Cora Lutworth was taking in every bit of her with her clever, kindly eyes.
“What a sweet, distinguished violet-under-the-mossy-bank pet of a girl!” she was saying to herself. “No wonder Mr. Derringham goes to see his Professor! How mad Cis would be! I shan’t tell her.” And aloud she said:
“You cannot imagine how I am longing to get a nearer peep of your beautiful old house. Do we get a chance further on?”
“No,” said Halcyone. “I am so sorry. You branch further off once you have passed the closed gate. It was very stupid—the La Sarthe quarreled with the Wendovers a hundred years ago, and it was all closed up then, and these wicked spikes put.”
“It is too tantalizing. But won’t you walk with us to where we have to part?” Miss Lutworth said, while John Derringham had a sudden longing to turn back and carefully remove certain bits of iron and brick he wot of, and ask this nymph of the woods to take him on to their tree, and tell him more stories about Jason and Medea in that exquisitely refined voice of hers, as she had done once before, long ago. But even though he might not have this joy, he got rather a fine pleasure out of the fact of sharing the secret of the crossing with her, and he had the satisfaction of meeting her soft eyes in one lightning comprehending glance.
They chatted on about the view and the beauties of the neighborhood, and they all laughed often at some sally of Cora’s—no one could resist her joyous, bubbling good-fellowship. She had all the sparkle of her clever nation, and the truest, kindest heart. Halcyone had never spoken to another young girl in her life, and felt like a yearling horse—a desire to whinny to a fellow colt and race up and down with him beside the dividing fence of their paddocks. A new light of youth and sweetness came into her pale face.
“I do wish I might ask you to come round by the road,” she said, “and see it near, but, as Mr. Derringham knows, my aunts are very old, and one is almost an invalid now, so we never have any visitors at all.”