“Now, kiss each other!”
The little girl dutifully obeyed the bidding, but the kiss the boy gave his playmate strongly resembled a blow with the mouth.
Xanthe laughed merrily, turned her back on the children, and went slowly down into the valley.
During her walk all sorts of little incidents flashed through her mind with the speed of lightning; memories of the days when she herself was a little girl and Phaon had played with her daily, as the curly-headed Syrus now did with the herdsman’s daughter.
But all the scenes swiftly conjured up before her mental vision were very different from that just witnessed.
Once, when she had said that the brook couldn’t bear to the sea all the leaves and flowers she tossed in, Phaon only smiled quietly, but the next day she found, fastened to an axis, a wooden cross he had carved himself and fixed between some stones The stream swept against the broad surfaces of the spokes and forced it to turn constantly.
For weeks both enjoyed the successful toy, but he did not ask a word of thanks, nor did she utter any, only eagerly showed her pleasure, and that was enough for Phaon.
If she began to build a house of sand and stones with him, and it was not finished at once, when they went to play next day she found it roofed and supplied with a little garden, where twigs were stuck in the sand for trees, and red and blue buds for flowers. He had made the seat by the spring for her, and also the little steps on the seashore, by whose aid it was possible to enter dryshod the boat her playfellow had painted with brilliant hues of red and blue, because a neighbor’s gay skiff had pleased her fancy.
She now thought of these and many similar acts, and that he had never promised her anything, only placed the finished article before her as a matter of course.
It had never entered his mind to ask compensation for his gifts or thanks for his acts, like curly-headed Syrus. Silently he rendered her service after service; but, unfortunately, at this hour Xanthe was not disposed to acknowledge it.
People grow angry with no one more readily than the person from whom they have received many favors which they are unable to repay; women, no matter whether young or old, resemble goddesses in the fact that they cheerfully accept every gift from a man as an offering that is their due, so long as they are graciously disposed toward the giver, but to-day Xanthe was inclined, to be vexed with her playmate.
A thousand joys and sorrows, shared in common, bound them to each other, and in the farthest horizons of her recollections lay an event which had given her affection for him a new direction. His mother and hers had died on the same day, and since then Xanthe had thought it her duty to watch over and care for him, at first, probably, only as a big live doll, afterward in a more serious way. And now he was deceiving her and going to ruin. Yet Phaon was so entirely different from the wild fellows in Syracuse.