“I cannot think of any other heaven,” the tender creature murmured. And then she nestled closer, and her voice became dreamy.
“This is what God means in everything,” she whispered. “In the Springtime, which is waiting for the Summer—in all the flowers and all the trees. This is the secret the night has taught me from the very beginning, when I first was able to spend the hours in her arms.”
Then this mystery of her knowledge of the night he had to probe; and she told him, in old-world, romantic language, how she had discovered the stairs and Aphrodite, and even of the iron-bound box which she had never been able to move.
“It contains some papers of that Sir Timothy, I expect,” she said. “We know by the date of the breastplate that it was when Cromwell sent his Ironsides to search La Sarthe that he must have escaped through the door and got to the coast; but he was drowned crossing to France, so no one guessed or ever knew how he had got away—and I expect the secret of the passage died with him, and I was the first one to find it.”
“Then what do you make of the goddess’s head?” asked John Derringham. “Was that his, too?”
“Yes, I suppose so,” she answered. “He was a great, grand seigneur—we know of that—and had traveled much in Italy when a young man, and stayed at Florence especially. He married a relative of the Medici belonging to some female branch, and he is even said to have been to Greece; but in the court of the Grand Duke of Tuscany he would certainly have learned to appreciate the divine beauty of Aphrodite. He must have brought her from there as well as the Hebe and Artemis, which are not nearly so good. They stand in the hall—but they say nothing to me.”
“It would be interesting to know what the papers are about,” John Derringham went on. “We must look at them together some day when you are my wife.”
“Yes,” said Halcyone, and thrilled at the thought.
“So it was through the solid masonry you disappeared last night? No wonder, sprite, that I believed I was dreaming! Why did you fly from me? Why?”
“It was too great, too glorious to take all at once,” she said, and with a sudden shyness she buried her face in his coat.
“My darling sweet one,” he murmured, drawing her to him, passion flaming once more. “I could have cried madly”—and he quoted in Greek:
“Wilt them fly me and deny me?
By thine own joy I vow,
By the grape upon the bough,
Thou shalt seek me in the midnight, thou shalt love me even now.”
Mr. Carlyon had not restricted Halcyone’s reading: she knew it was from the “Bacchae” of Euripides, and answered:
“Ah, yes, and, you see, I have sought you in the midnight, and I am here, and I love you—even now!”
After that, for a while they both seemed to fall into a dream of bliss. They spoke not, they just sat close together, his arms encircling her, her head upon his breast; and thus they watched the first precursors of dawn streak the sky and, looking up, found the stars had faded.