A tall woman in spectacles was coming toward him, sniffing the air a little as she moved. “Have you got any bananas?”
“Yes. They nice.” He led the way into the shop and reached to the swinging bunch. “You like some?” he said, encouragingly.
She sniffed a step nearer. “Too ripe,” decisively.
“Yes-s. But here and here—” He twirled the bunch skilfully on its string. “These—not ripe, and these.” His sunny smile spread their gracious acceptableness before her.
She wrinkled her forehead at them. “Well—you might as well cut me off six.”
“A pleasure, madame.” He had seized the heavy knife.
“Give me that one.” It was a large one near the centre; “and this one here—and here.”
When the six were selected and cut off they were the cream of the bunch. She eyed him doubtfully, still scowling a little. “Yes. I’ll take these.”
The Greek bowed gravely over the coin she dropped into his palm. “Thank you, madame.”
It was later now, and the crowd moved more slowly, with longer pauses between the buyers.
A boy with a bag of books stopped for an apple. Two children with their nurse halted a moment, looking at the glowing fruit. The eyes of the children were full of light and question. Somewhere in their depths Achilles caught a flitting shadow of the Parthenon. Then the nurse hurried them on, and they, too, were gone.
He turned away with a little sigh, arranging the fruit in his slow absent way. Something at the side of the stall caught his eye, a little movement along the board, in and out through the colour and leaves. He lifted a leaf to see. It was a green and black caterpillar, crawling with stately hunch to the back of the stall. Achilles watched him with gentle eyes. Then he leaned over the stall and reached out a long finger. The caterpillar, poised in midair, remained swaying back and forth above the dark obstruction. Slowly it descended and hunched itself anew along the finger. It travelled up the motionless hand and reached the sleeve. With a smile on his lips Achilles entered the shop. He took down an empty fig-box and transferred the treasure to its depths, dropping in after it one or two leaves and a bit of twig. He fitted the lid to the box, leaving a little air, and taking the pen from his desk, wrote across the side in clear Greek letters. Then he placed the box on the shelf behind him, where the wet ink of the lettering glistened faintly in the light. It was a bit of the heart of Athens prisoned there; and many times, through the cold and snow and bitter sleet of that winter, Achilles took down the fig-box and peered into its depths at a silky bit of grey cradle swung from the side of the box by its delicate bands.
A BUTTERFLY SPREADS ITS WINGS
It happened, on a Wednesday in May that Madame Lewandowska was ill. So ill that when Betty Harris, with her demure music-roll in her hand, tapped at the door of Madame Lewandowska’s studio, she found no one within.