Miss Peabody smiled and nodded, looking from one young face to the other. Never before had youth sat lunching at that table with her and her brother in quite such a radiant guise. The Dean usually took his noontide meal in absolute silence when they were alone together, as he held that desultory conversation disturbed his train of thought. But since Kit’s coming, it had been impossible to check her flow of talk, until now the Dean actually missed it if she happened to be absent.
After lunch they all went into the library to look over the Dean’s newly arrived treasures.
“Well, for pity’s sakes,” exclaimed Kit, as she stood before the plain, squat, terra-cotta urn, “is that the royal urn? I expected to see something enormous, like everything else that is wonderful and ancient in Egypt.”
“Dear child,” the Dean responded, happily, as he bent down to trace the curious, cuneiform markings which circled the urn. “This antedates the time of the Captivity and Moses. I cannot tell positively, until I have opened it and deciphered what I can of the papyrus rolls within. If it should go back to Moses, it will be wonderful. I cannot believe that it is contemporary with Nineveh. Daphne, you can recall how overjoyed I was when we unearthed that library of precious clay under the Nineveh mounds years ago. Think of reading something which was written by living man several thousand years before that.”
“What fun it must have been,” Billie remarked. “If you wanted to write anything in those days, you just picked up a handful of mud and made a little brick out of it, and wrote away with a stick, didn’t you?”
“Stylus, my boy, stylus,” corrected the Dean, absently. “Yes, I doubt not but what it did away with much of our modern detail.”
“Oh,” exclaimed Kit, suddenly, “I left all the notes on Semele in the library. I’m awfully sorry, Uncle Cassius, but when I saw Billy standing there unexpectedly, I just forgot everything. We can walk up there this afternoon and get them. Is the statue very beautiful?”
“Perfect, perfect,” murmured the Dean, as he still hung over the urn abstractedly. “It’s just behind you, my dear.”
Kit turned, expecting to face one of the usual blandly smiling Egyptian colossi, even in miniature, with a few wings scattered over it here and there. But instead, there stood in the center of the Dean’s library table a strangely attenuated figure about three feet high. As Billie said afterwards, it appeared to be dancing the Grasshopper’s Nocturnal Rhapsody. It had a head that was a cross between an intelligent antelope and a rather toploftical baby rat. Its arms were extended at sharp angles, and seemed to be pointing in arch accusation at one. Wings spread fanwise from the shoulders, and its feet were like the feet of a griffin.