By Jennette Lee
To GERALD STANLEY LEE
"To keep the youth of souls who pitch Their joy in this old heart of things;
Full lasting is the song, though he, The singer, passes; lasting too, For souls not lent in usury, The rapture of the forward view."
ACHILLES GOES TO CHICAGO
Achilles Alexandrakis was arranging the fruit on his stall in front of his little shop on Clark Street. It was a clear, breezy morning, cool for October, but not cold enough to endanger the fruit that Achilles handled so deftly in his dark, slender fingers. As he built the oranges into their yellow pyramid and grouped about them figs and dates, melons and pears, and grapes and pineapples, a look of content held his face. This was the happiest moment of his day.
Already, half an hour ago Alcibiades and Yaxis had departed with their pushcarts, one to the north and one to the south, calling antiphonally as they went, in clear, high voices that came fainter and fainter to Achilles among his fruit.
They would not return until night, and then they would come with empty carts, and jingling in their pockets coppers and nickels and dimes. The breath of a sigh escaped Achilles's lips as he stood back surveying the stall. Something very like homesickness was in his heart. He had almost fancied for a minute that he was back once more in Athens. He raised his eyes and gave a quick, deep glance up and down the street—soot and dirt and grime, frowning buildings and ugly lines, and overhead a meagre strip of sky. Over Athens the sky hung glorious, a curve of light from side to side. His soul flew wide to meet it. Once more he was swinging along the "Street of the Winds," his face lifted to the Parthenon on its Acropolis, his nostrils breathing the clear air. Chicago had dropped from him like a garment, his soul rose and floated.... Athens everywhere—column and cornice, and long, delicate lines, and colour of marble and light. He drew a full, sweet breath.
Achilles moved with quick, gliding step, taking orders, filling bags, making change—always with his dark eyes seeking, a little wistfully, something that did not come to them.... It was all so different—this new world. Achilles had been in Chicago six months now, but he had not yet forgotten a dream that he had dreamed in Athens. Sometimes he dreamed it still, and then he wondered whether this, about him, were not all a dream—this pushing, scrambling, picking, hurrying, choosing crowd, dropping pennies and dimes into his curving palm, swearing softly at slow change, and flying fast from street to street. It was not thus in his dream. He had seen a land of new faces, turned ever to the West, with the light on them. He had known them, in his dream—eager faces, full of question and quick response. His soul had gone out to them and, musing in sunny Athens, he had made ready for them. Each morning when he rose he had lifted his glance to the Parthenon, studying anew the straight lines—that were yet not straight—the mysterious, dismantled beauty, the mighty lift of its presence. When they should question him, in this new land, he must not fail them. They would be hungry for the beauty of the ancient world—they who had no ruins of their own. He knew in his heart how it would be with them—the homesickness for the East—all its wonder and its mystery. Yes, he would carry it to them. He, Achilles Alexandrakis, should not be found wanting. This new world was to give him money, wealth, better education for his boys, a competent old age. But he, too, had something to give in exchange. He must make himself ready against the great day when he should travel down the long way of the Piraeus, for the last time, and set sail for America.
He was in America now. He knew, when he stopped to think, that this was not a dream. He had been here six months, in the little shop on Clark Street, but no one had yet asked him of the Parthenon. Sometimes he thought that they did not know that he was Greek. Perhaps if they knew that he had been in Athens, had lived there all his life from a boy, they would question him. The day that he first thought of this, he had ordered a new sign painted. It bore his name in Greek characters, and it was beautiful in line and colour. It caused his stand to become known far and wide as the "Greek Shop," and within a month after it was put up his trade had doubled—but no one had asked about the Parthenon.
He had really ceased to hope for it now. He only dreamed the dream, a little wistfully, as he went in and out, and his thought dwelt always on Athens and her beauty. The images stamped so carefully on his sensitive brain became his most precious treasures. Over and over he dwelt on them. Ever in memory his feet climbed the steps to the Acropolis or walked beneath stately orange-trees, beating a soft rhythm to the sound of flute and viol. For Achilles was by nature one of the lightest-hearted of children. In Athens his laugh had been quick to rise, and fresh as the breath of rustling leaves. It was only here, under the sooty sky of the narrow street, that his face had grown a little sad.
At first the days had been full of hope, and the face of each newcomer had been scanned with eager eyes. The fruit, sold so courteously and freely, was hardly more than an excuse for the opening of swift talk. But the talk had never come. There was the inevitable and never-varying, "How much?" the passing of coin, and hurrying feet. Soon a chill had crept into the heart of Achilles. They did not ask of Athens. They did not know that he was Greek. They did not care that his name was Achilles. They did not see him standing there with waiting eyes. He might have been a banana on its stem, a fig-leaf against the wall, the dirt that gritted beneath their feet, for all that their eyes took note.... Yet they were not cruel or thoughtless. Sometimes there came a belated response—half surprised, but cordial—to his gentle "good day." Sometimes a stranger said, "The day is warm," or, "The breeze from the Lake is cool to-day." Then the eyes of Achilles glowed like soft stars in their places. Surely now they would speak. They would say, "Is it thus in Greece?" But they never spoke. And the days hurried their swift feet through the long, dirty streets.
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.
On ordinary days this would not have mattered, for the governess, Miss Stone, would have been with her, and they would have gone shopping or sightseeing until the hour was up and James returned. But to-day Miss Stone, too, was ill, James had departed with the carriage, and Betty Harris found herself standing, music-roll in hand, at the door of Madame Lewandowska's studio—alone in the heart of Chicago for the first time in the twelve years of her life.
It had been a very carefully guarded life, with nurses and servants and instructors. No little princess was ever more sternly and conscientiously reared than little Betty Harris, of Chicago. For her tiny sake, herds of cattle were slaughtered every day; and all over the land hoofs and hides and by-products and soap-factories lifted themselves to heaven for Betty Harris. If anything were to happen to her, the business of a dozen States would quiver to the core.
She tapped the marble floor softly with her foot and pondered. She might sit here in the hall and wait for James—a whole hour. There was a bench by the wall. She looked at it doubtfully.... It was not seemly that a princess should sit waiting for a servant—not even in marble halls. She glanced about her again. There was probably a telephone somewhere—perhaps on the ground floor. She could telephone home and they would send another carriage. Yes, that would be best. She rang the elevator bell and descended in stately silence. When she stepped out of the great door of the building she saw, straight before her, the sign she sought—"Pay Station."
But then something happened to Betty Harris. The spirit of the spring day caught her and lifted her out of herself. Men were hurrying by with light step. Little children laughed as they ran. Betty skipped a few steps and laughed softly with them.... She would walk home. It was not far. She had often walked as far in the country, and she knew the way quite well.... And when she looked up again, she stood in front of the glowing fruit-stall, and Achilles Alexandrakis was regarding her with deep, sad eyes.
Achilles had been dreaming down the street when the little figure came in sight. His heart all day had been full of sadness—for the spring in the air. And all day Athens had haunted his steps—the Athens of dreams. Once when he had retired into the dark, cool shop, he brushed his sleeve across his eyes, and then he had stood looking down in surprise at something that glistened on its worn surface.
Betty Harris looked at him and smiled. She had been so carefully brought up that she had not learned that some people were her inferiors and must not be smiled at. She gave him the straight, sweet smile that those who had cared for her all her life loved so well. Then she gave a little nod. "I'm walking home," she said.
Achilles leaned forward a little, almost holding his breath lest she float from him. It was the very spirit of Athens—democratic, cultured, naive. He gave her the salute of his country. She smiled again. Then her eye fell on the tray of pomegranates near the edge of the stall—round and pink. She reached out a hand. "I have never seen these," she said, slowly. "What are they?"
"Pomegranates—Yes—you like some? I give you."
He disappeared into the shop and Betty followed him, looking about with clear, interested eyes. It was like no place she had ever seen—this cool, dark room, with its tiers on tiers of fruit, and the fragrant, spicy smell, and the man with the sad, kind face. Her quick eye paused—arrested by the word printed on a box on the shelf to the right.... Ah, that was it! She knew now quite well. He was a Greek man. She knew the letters; She had studied Greek for six months; but she did not know this word. She was still spelling it out when Achilles returned with the small box of pomegranates in his hand.
She looked up slowly. "I can't quite make it out," she said.
"That?" Achilles's face was alight. "That is Greek."
She nodded. "I know. I study it; but what is it—the word?"
"The word!—Ah, yes, it is—How you say? You shall see."
He reached out a hand to the box. But the child stopped him. A quick thought had come to her. "You have been in Athens, haven't you? I want to ask you something, please."
The hand dropped from the box. The man turned about, waiting. If heaven were to open to him now—!
"I've always wanted to see a Greek man," said the child, slowly, "a real Greek man. I've wanted to ask him something he would know about. Have you ever seen the Parthenon?" She put the question with quaint seriousness.
A light came into the eyes of Achilles Alexandrakis. It flooded the room.
"You ask me—the Parthenon?" he said, solemnly. "You wish me—tell that?" It was wistful—almost a cry of longing.
Betty Harris nodded practically. "I've always wanted to know about it—the Parthenon. They tell you how long it is, and how wide, and what it is made of, and who began it, and who finished it, and who destroyed it, but they never, never"—she raised her small hand impressively—"they never tell you how it looks!"
Achilles brought a chair and placed it near the open door. "Will it—kindly—you sit?" he said, gravely.
She seated herself, folding her hands above the music-roll, and lifting her eyes to the dark face looking down at her. "Thank you."
Achilles leaned back against the counter, thinking a little. He sighed gently. "I tell you many things," he said at last.
"About the Parthenon, please," said Betty Harris.
"You like Athens?" He said it like a child.
"I should like it—if they would tell me real things. I don't seem to make them understand. But when they say how beautiful it is—I feel it here." She laid her small hand to her side.
The smile of Achilles held the glory in its depths. "I tell you," he said.
The clear face reflected the smile. A breath of waiting held the lips. "Yes."
Achilles leaned again upon his counter. His face was rapt, and he spread his finger-tips a little, as if something within them stirred to be free.
"It stands so high and lifts itself"—Achilles raised his dark hands—"ruined there—so great—and far beneath, the city lies, drawing near and near, and yet it cannot reach... And all around is light—and light—and light. Here it is a cellar"—his hands closed in with crushing touch—"but there—!" He flung the words from him like a chant of music, and a sky stretched about them from side to side, blue as sapphire and shedding radiant light upon the city in its midst—a city of fluted column and curving cornice and temple and arch and tomb. The words rolled on, fierce and eager. It was a song of triumph, with war and sorrow and mystery running beneath the sound of joy. And the child, listening with grave, clear eyes, smiled a little, holding her breath. "I see it—I see it!" She half whispered the words.
Achilles barely looked at her. "You see—ah, yes—you see. But I—I have not words!" It was almost a cry.... "The air, so clear—like wine—and the pillars straight and high and big—but light—light—reaching...." His soul was among them, soaring high. Then it returned to earth and he remembered the child.
"And there is an olive-tree," he said, kindly, "and a well where Poseidon—"
"I've heard about the well and the olive-tree," said the child; "I don't care so much about them. But all the rest—" She drew a quick breath. "It is very beautiful. I knew it would be. I knew it would be!"
There was silence in the room.
"Thank you for telling me," said Betty Harris. "Now I must go." She slipped from the chair with a little sigh. She stood looking about the dim shop. "Now I must go," she repeated, wistfully.
Achilles moved a step toward the shelf. "Yes—but wait—I will show you." He reached up to the box and took it down lightly. "I show you." He was removing the cover.
The child leaned forward with shining eyes.
A smile came into the dark, grave face looking into the box. "Ah, he has blossomed—for you." He held it out to her.
She took it in shy fingers, bending to it. "It is beautiful," she said, softly. "Yes—beautiful!"
The dark wings, with shadings of gold and tender blue, lifted themselves a little, waiting.
The child looked up. "May I touch it?" she asked.
"Yes—But why not?"
The dark head was bent close to hers, watching the wonderful wings.
Slowly Betty Harris put out a finger and stroked the wings.
They fluttered a little—opened wide and rose—in their first flutter of light.
"Oh!" It was a cry of delight from the child.
The great creature had settled on the bunch of bananas and hung swaying. The gold and blue wings opened and closed slowly.
Achilles drew near and put out a finger.
The butterfly was on it.
He held it toward her, smiling gently, and she reached up, her very breath on tiptoe. A little smile curved her lips, quick and wondering, as the transfer was made, thread by thread, till the gorgeous thing rested on her own palm.
She looked up. "What shall I do with it?" It was a shining whisper.
Achilles's eyes sought the door.
They moved toward it slowly, light as breath.
In the open doorway they paused. Above the tall buildings the grey rim of sky lifted itself. The child looked up to it. Her eyes returned to Achilles.
He nodded gravely.
She raised her hand with a little "p-f-f"—it was half a quick laugh and half a sigh.
The wings fluttered free, and rose and faltered, and rose again—high and higher, between the dark walls—up to the sky, into the grey—and through.
The eyes that had followed it came back to earth. They looked at each other and smiled gravely—two children who had seen a happy thing.
The child stood still with half-lifted hand.... A carriage drove quickly into the street. The little hand was lifted higher. It was a regal gesture—the return of the princess to earth.
James touched his hat—a look of dismay and relief battling in his face as he turned the horses sharply to the right. They paused in front of the stall, their hoofs beating dainty time to the coursing of their blood.
Achilles eyed them lovingly. The spirit of Athens dwelt in their arching necks.
He opened the door for the child with the quiet face and shining eyes. Gravely he salaamed as she entered the carriage.
Through the open window she held out a tiny hand. "I hope you will come and see me," she said.
"Yes, I come," said Achilles, simply. "I like to come."
James dropped a waiting eye.
The horses sprang away. Achilles Alexandrakis, bareheaded in the spring sunshine, watched the carriage till it was out of sight. Then he turned once more to the stall and rearranged the fruit. The swift fingers laughed a little as they worked, and the eyes of Achilles were filled with light.
BETTY'S MOTHER HEARS A STORY
"Mother-dear!" It was the voice of Betty Harris—eager, triumphant, with a little laugh running through it. "Mother-dear!"
"Yes—Betty—" The woman seated at the dark mahogany desk looked up, a little line between her eyes. "You have come, child?" It was half a caress. She put out an absent hand, drawing the child toward her while she finished her note.
The child stood by gravely, looking with shining eyes at the face bending above the paper. It was a handsome face with clear, hard lines—the reddish hair brushed up conventionally from the temples, and the skin a little pallid under its careful massage and skilfully touched surface.
To Betty Harris her mother was the most beautiful woman in the world—more beautiful than the marble Venus at the head of the long staircase, or the queenly lady in the next room, forever stepping down from her gilded frame into the midst of tapestry and leather in the library. It may have been that Betty's mother was quite as much a work of art in her way as these other treasures that had come from the Old World. But to Betty Harris, who had slight knowledge of art values, her mother was beautiful, because her eyes had little points of light in them that danced when she laughed, and her lips curved prettily, like a bow, if she smiled.
They curved now as she looked up from her note. "Well, daughter?" She had sealed the note and laid it one side. "Was it a good lesson?" She leaned back in her chair, stroking the child's hand softly, while her eyes travelled over the quaint, dignified little figure. The child was a Velasquez—people had often remarked it, and the mother had taken the note that gave to her clothes the regal air touched with simplicity. "So it was a good lesson, was it?" she repeated, absently, as she stroked the small dark hand—her own figure graciously outlined as she leaned back enjoying the lifted face and straight, clear eyes.
"Mother-dear!" The child's voice vibrated with the intensity behind it. "I have seen a man—a very good man!"
"Yes?" There was a little laugh in the word. She was accustomed to the child's enthusiasms. Yet they were always new to her—even the old ones were. "Who was he, daughter—this very good man?"
"He is a Greek, mother—with a long, beautiful name—I don't think I can tell it to you. But he is most wonderful—!" The child spread her hands and drew a deep breath.
"More wonderful than father?" It was an idle, laughing question—while she studied the lifted-up face.
"More wonderful than father—yes—" The child nodded gravely. "I can't quite tell you, mother-dear, how it feels—" She laid a tiny hand on her chest. Her eyes were full of thought. "He speaks like music, and he loves things—oh, very much!"
"I see—And did Madame Lewandowska introduce you to him?"
"Oh, it was not there." The child's face cleared with swift thought. "I didn't tell you—Madame was ill—"
The reclining figure straightened a little in its place, but the face was still smiling. "So you and Miss Stone—"
"But Miss Stone is ill, mother-dear. Did you forget her toothache?" The tone was politely reproachful.
The woman was very erect now—her small eyes, grown wide, gazing at the child, devouring her. "Betty! Where have you been?" It was more a cry than a question—a cry of dismay, running swiftly toward terror. It was the haunting fear of her life that Betty would some day be kidnapped, as the child next door had been.... The fingers resting on the arm of the chair were held tense.
"I don't think I did wrong, mother." The child was looking at her very straight, as if answering a challenge. "You see, I walked home—"
"Where was James?" The woman's tone was sharp, and her hand reached toward the bell; but the child's hand moved softly toward it.
"I'd like to tell you about it myself, please, mother. James never waits for the lessons. I don't think he was to blame."
The woman's eyes were veiled with sudden mist. She drew the child close. "Tell mother about it."
Betty Harris looked down, stroking her mother's sleeve. A little smile of memory held her lips. "He was a beautiful man!" she said.
The mother waited, breathless.
"I was walking home, and I came to his shop—"
"To his shop!"
She nodded reassuringly. "His fruit-shop—and—oh, I forgot—" She reached into the little bag at her side, tugging at something. "He gave me these." She produced the round box and took off the lid, looking into it with pleased eyes. "Aren't they beautiful?"
The mother bent blindly to it. "Pomegranates," she said. Her lips were still a little white, but they smiled bravely with the child's pleasure.
"Pomegranates," said Betty, nodding. "That is what he called them. I should like to taste one—" She was looking at them a little wistfully.
"We will have them for luncheon," said the mother. She had touched the bell with quick decision.
"Marie"—she held out the box—"tell Nesmer to serve these with luncheon."
"Am I to have luncheon with you, mother-dear?" The child's eyes were on her mother's face.
"With me—yes." The reply was prompt—if a little tremulous.
The child sighed happily. "It is being a marvellous day," she said, quaintly.
The mother smiled. "Come and get ready for luncheon, and then you shall tell me about the wonderful man."
So it came about that Betty Harris, seated across the dark, shining table, told her mother, Mrs. Philip Harris, a happy adventure wherein she, Betty Harris, who had never before set foot unattended in the streets of Chicago, had wandered for an hour and more in careless freedom, and straying at last into the shop of a marvellous Greek—one Achilles Alexandrakis by name—had heard strange tales of Greece and Athens and the Parthenon—tales at the very mention of which her eyes danced and her voice rippled.
And her mother, listening across the table, trembled at the dangers the child touched upon and flitted past. It had been part of the careful rearing of Betty Harris that she should not guess that the constant attendance upon her was a body-guard—such as might wait upon a princess. It had never occurred to Betty Harris that other little girls were not guarded from the moment they rose in the morning till they went to bed at night, and that even at night Miss Stone slept within sound of her breath. She had grown up happy and care-free, with no suspicion of the danger that threatened the child of a marked millionaire. She did not even know that her father was a very rich man—so protected had she been. She was only a little more simple than most children of twelve. And she met the world with straight, shining looks, speaking to rich and poor with a kind of open simplicity that won the heart.
Her mother, watching the clear eyes, had a sudden pang of what the morning might have been—the disillusionment and terror of this unprotected hour—that had been made instead a memory of delight—thanks to an unknown Greek named Achilles Alexandrakis, who had told her of the beauties of Greece and the Parthenon, and had given her fresh pomegranates to carry home in a round box. The mother's thoughts rested on the man with a quick sense of gratitude. He should be paid a thousand times over for his care of Betty Harris—and for pomegranates.
"They are like the Parthenon," said the child, holding one in her hand and turning it daintily to catch the light on its pink surface. "They grew in Athens." She set her little teeth firmly in its round side.
AND ACHILLES DREAMS
Achilles, in his little shop, went in and out with the thought of the child in his heart. His thin fingers flitted lightly among the fruit. The sadness in his face had given way to a kind of waking joy and thoughtfulness. As he made change and did up bags and parcels of fruit, his thoughts kept hovering about her, and his lips moved in a soft smile, half-muttering again the words he had spoken to her—praises of Athens, city of light, sky of brightness, smiles, and running talk.... It was all with him, and his heart was free. How the child's eyes had followed the words, full of trust! He should see her again—and again.... Outside a halo rested on the smoky air—a little child, out of the rattle and din, had spoken to him. As he looked up, the big, sooty city became softly the presence of the child.... The sound of pennies clinking in hurried palms was no longer harsh upon his ears; they tinkled softly—little tunes that ran. Truly it had been a wonderful day for Achilles Alexandrakis.
He paused in his work and looked about the little shop. The same dull-shining rows of fruit, the same spicy smell and the glowing disks of yellow light. He drew a deep, full breath. It was all the same, but the world was changed. His heart that had ached so long with its pent-up message of Greece—the glory of her days, the beauty of temples and statues and tombs—was freed by the tale of his lips. The world was new-born for him. He lifted the empty fig-box, from which the child had set free the butterfly that had hung imprisoned in its grey cocoon throughout the long winter, and placed it carefully on the shelf. The lettering traced along its side was faded and dim; but he saw again the child's eyes lifted to it—the lips half-parted, the eager question and swift demand—that he should tell her of Athens and the Parthenon—and the same love and the wonder that dwelt in his own heart for the city of his birth. It was a strange coincidence that the child should have come to him. Perhaps she was the one soul in the great, hurrying city who could care. They did not understand—these hurrying, breathless men and women—how a heart could ache for something left behind across the seas, a city of quiet, the breath of the Past—sorrow and joy and sweet life.... No, they could not understand! But the child—He caught his breath a little. Where was she—in the hurry and rush? He had not thought to ask. And she was gone! Only for a moment the dark face clouded. Then the smile flooded again. He should find her. It might be hard—but he would search. Had he not come down the long way of the Piraeus to the sea—blue in the sun. Across the great waters by ship, and the long miles by train. He should find her.... They would talk again. He laughed quietly in the dusky shop.
Then his eye fell upon it—the music roll that had slipped quietly to the floor when her eager hand had lifted itself to touch the butterfly, opening and closing his great wings in the fig-box. He crossed to it and lifted it almost reverently, brushing a breath of dust from its leather sides.... He bent closer to it, staring at a little silver plate that swung from the strap. He carried it to the window, rubbing it on the worn black sleeve, and bending closer, studying the deep-cut letters. Then he lifted his head. A quick sigh floated from him. Miss Elizabeth Harris, 108 Lake Shore Drive. He knew the place quite well—facing the lake, where the water boomed against the great break-water. He would take it to her—to-morrow—the next day—next week, perhaps.... He wrapped it carefully away and laid it in a drawer to wait. She had asked him to come.
THE GREEK PROFESSOR LAUGHS
To Mrs. Philip Harris, in the big house looking out across the lake, the passing days brought grateful reassurance.... Betty was safe—Miss Stone was well again—and the man had not come.... She breathed more freely as she thought of it. The child had told her that she had asked him. But she had forgotten to give him her address; and it would not do to be mixed up with a person like that—free to come and go as he liked. He was no doubt a worthy man. But Betty was only a child, and too easily enamoured of people she liked. It was strange how deep an impression the man's words had made on her. Athens and Greece filled her waking moments. Statues and temples—photographs and books of travel loaded the school-room shelves. The house reeked with Greek learning. Poor Miss Stone found herself drifting into archaeology; and an exhaustive study of Greek literature, Greek life, Greek art filled her days. The theory of Betty Harris's education had been elaborately worked out by specialists from earliest babyhood. Certain studies, rigidly prescribed, were to be followed whether she liked them or not—but outside these lines, subjects were to be taken up when she showed an interest in them. There could be no question that the time for the study of Greek history and Greek civilisation had come. Miss Stone laboured early and late. Instruction from the university down the lake was pressed into service.... But out of it all the child seemed, by some kind of precious alchemy, to extract only the best, the vital heart of it.
The instructor in Greek marvelled a little. "She is only a child," he reported to the head of the department, "and the family are American of the newest type—you know, the Philip Harrises?"
The professor nodded. "I know—hide and hoof a generation back."
The instructor assented. "But the child is uncanny. She knows more about Greek than—"
"Than I do, I suppose." The professor smiled indulgently. "She wouldn't have to know much for that."
"It isn't so much what she knows. She has a kind of feeling for things. I took up a lot of photographs to-day—some of the later period mixed in—and she picked them out as if she had been brought up in Athens."
The professor looked interested. "Modern educational methods?"
"As much as you like," said the instructor. "But it is something more. When I am with the child I am in Athens itself. Chicago makes me blink when I come out."
The professor laughed. The next day he made an appointment to go himself to see the child. He was a famous epigraphist and an authority in his subject. He had spent years in Greece—with his nose, for the most part, held close to bits of parchment and stone.
When he came away, he was laughing softly. "I am going over for a year," he said, when he met the instructor that afternoon in the corridor.
"Did you see the little Harris girl?" asked the instructor.
The professor paused. "Yes, I saw her."
"How did she strike you?"
"She struck me dumb," said the professor. "I listened for the best part of an hour while she expounded things to me—asked me questions I couldn't answer, mostly." He chuckled a little. "I felt like a fool," he added, frankly, "and it felt good."
The instructor smiled. "I go through it twice a week. The trouble seems to be that she's alive, and that she thinks everything Greek is alive, too."
The professor nodded. "It's never occurred to her it's dead and done with, these thousand years and more." He gave a little sigh. "Sometimes I've wondered myself whether it is—quite as dead as it looks to you and me," he added. "You know that grain—wheat or something—that Blackman took from the Egyptian mummy he brought over last spring—"
"Yes, he planted it—"
"Exactly. And all summer he was tending a little patch of something green up there in his back yard—as fresh as the eyes of Pharaoh's daughter ever looked on—"
The instructor opened his eyes a little. This was a wild flight for the head epigraphist.
"That's the way she made me feel—that little Harris girl," explained the professor—"as if my mummy might spring up and blossom any day if I didn't look out."
The instructor laughed out. "So you're going over with it?"
"A year—two years, maybe," said the professor. "I want to watch it sprout."
ACHILLES CALLS ON BETTY HARRIS
In another week Achilles Alexandrakis had made ready to call on Betty Harris. There had been many details to attend to—a careful sponging and pressing of his best suit, the purchase of a new hat, and cuffs and collars of the finest linen—nothing was too good for the little lady who had flitted into the dusky shop and out, leaving behind her the little line of light.
Achilles brushed the new hat softly, turning it on his supple wrist with gentle pride. He took out the music-roll from the drawer and unrolled it, holding it in light fingers. He would carry it back to Betty Harris, and he would stay for a while and talk with her of his beloved Athens. Outside the sun gleamed. The breeze came fresh from the lake. As he made his way up the long drive of the Lake Shore, the water dimpled in the June sun, and little waves lapped the great stones, touching the ear with quiet sound. It was a clear, fresh day, with the hint of coming summer in the air. To the left, stone castles lifted themselves sombrely in the soft day. Grim or flaunting, they faced the lake—castles from Germany, castles from France and castles from Spain. Achilles eyed them with a little smile as his swift, thin feet traversed the long stones. There were turrets and towers and battlements frowning upon the peaceful, workaday lake. Minarets and flowers in stone, and heavy marble blocks that gripped the earth. Suddenly Achilles's foot slackened its swift pace. His eye dropped to the silver tag on the music-roll in his hand, and lifted itself again to a gleaming red-brown house at the left. It rose with a kind of lightness from the earth, standing poised upon the shore of the lake, like some alert, swift creature caught in flight, brought to bay by the rush of waters. Achilles looked at it with gentle eyes, a swift pleasure lighting his glance. It was a beautiful structure. Its red-brown front and pointed, lifting roof had hardly a Greek line or hint; but the spirit that built the Parthenon was in it—facing the rippling lake. He moved softly across the smooth roadway and leaned against the parapet of stone that guarded the water, studying the line and colour of the house that faced him.
The man who planned it had loved it, and as it rose there in the light it was perfect in every detail as it had been conceived—with one little exception. On either side the doorway crouched massive grey-pink lions wrought in stone, the heavy outspread paws and firm-set haunches resting at royal ease. In the original plan these lions had not appeared. But in their place had been two steers—wide-flanked and short-horned, with lifted heads and nostrils snuffling free—something crude, brusque, perhaps, but full of power and quick onslaught. The house that rose behind them had been born of the same thought. Its pointed gable and its facades, its lifted front, had the same look of challenge; the light, firm-planted hoofs, the springing head, were all there—in the soft, red stone running to brown in the flanks.
The stock-yard owner and his wife had liked the design—with no suspicion of the symbol undergirding it. The man had liked it all—steers and red-brown stone and all—but the wife had objected. She had travelled far, and she had seen, on a certain building in Rome, two lions guarding a ducal entrance.
Now that the house was finished, the architect seldom passed that way. But when he did he swore at the lions, softly, as he whirred by. He had done a mighty thing—conceived in steel and stone a house that fitted the swift life out of which it came, a wind-swept place in which it stood, and all the stirring, troublous times about it. There it rose in its spirit of lightness, head up-lifted and nostrils sniffing the breeze—and in front of it squatted two stone lions from the palmy days of Rome. He gritted his teeth, and drove his machine hard when he passed that way.
But to Achilles, standing with bared head, the breeze from the lake touching his forehead, the lions were of no account. He let them go. The spirit of the whole possessed him. It was as if a hand had touched him lightly on the shoulder, in a crowd, staying him. A quick breath escaped his lips as he replaced his hat and crossed to the red-brown steps. He mounted them without a glance at the pink monsters on either hand. A light had come into his face. The child filled it.
The stiff butler eyed him severely, and the great door seemed ready to close of itself. Only something in the poise of Achilles's head, a look in his eyes, held the hinge waiting a grudging minute while he spoke.
He lifted his head a little; the look in his eyes deepened. "I am called—Miss Elizabeth Harris—and her mother—to see," he said, simply.
The door paused a little and swung back an inch. He might be a great savant... some scholar of parts—an artist. They came for the child—to examine her—to play for her—to talk with her.... Then there was the music-roll. It took the blundering grammar and the music-roll to keep the door open—and then it opened wide and Achilles entered, following the butler's stateliness up the high, dark hall. Rich hangings were about them, and massive pictures, bronzes and statues, and curious carvings. Inside the house the taste of the mistress had prevailed.
At the door of a great, high-ceiled room the butler paused, holding back the soft drapery with austere hand. "What name—for madame?" he said.
The clear eyes of Achilles met his. "My name is Achilles Alexandrakis," he said, quietly.
The eyes of the butler fell. He was struggling with this unexpected morsel in the recesses of his being. Plain Mr. Alexander would have had small effect upon him; but Achilles Alexandrakis—! He mounted the long staircase, holding the syllables in his set teeth.
"Alexandrakis?" His mistress turned a little puzzled frown upon him. "What is he like, Conner?"
The man considered a safe moment. "He's a furriner," he said, addressing the wall before him with impassive jaw.
A little light crossed her face—not a look of pleasure. "Ask Miss Stone to come to me—at once," she said.
The man bowed himself out and departed on silken foot.
Miss Stone, gentle and fluttering and fine-grained, appeared a moment later in the doorway.
"He has come," said the woman, without looking up.
"He—?" Miss Stone's lifted eyebrows sought to place him—
"The Greek—I told you—"
"Oh—The Greek—!" It was slow and hesitant. It spoke volumes for Miss Stone's state of mind. Hours of Greek history were in it, and long rows of tombs and temples—the Parthenon of gods and goddesses, with a few outlying scores of heroes and understudies. "The—Greek," she repeated, softly.
"The Greek," said the woman, with decision. "He has asked for Betty and for me. I cannot see him, of course."
"You have the club," said Miss Stone, in soft assent.
"I have the club—in ten minutes." Her brow wrinkled. "You will kindly see him—"
"And Betty—?" said Miss Stone, waiting.
"The child must see him. Yes, of course. She would be heart-broken—You drive at three," she added, without emphasis.
"We drive at three," repeated Miss Stone.
She moved quietly away, her grey gown a bit of shimmering in the gorgeous rooms. She had been chosen for the very qualities that made her seem so curiously out of place—for her gentleness and unassuming dignity, and a few ancestors. The country had been searched for a lady—so much the lady that she had never given the matter a thought. Miss Stone was the result. If Betty had charm and simplicity and instinctive courtesy toward those whom she met, it was only what she saw every day in the little grey woman who directed her studies, her play, her whole life.
The two were inseparable, light and shadow, morning and night. Betty's mother in the house was the grand lady—beautiful to look upon—the piece of bronze, or picture, that went with the house; but Miss Stone was Betty's own—the little grey voice, a bit of heart-love, and something common and precious.
They came down the long rooms together, the child's hand resting lightly in hers, and her steps dancing a little in happy play. She had not heard the man's name. He was only a wise man whom she was to meet for a few minutes, before she and Miss Stone went for their drive. The day was full of light outside—even in the heavily draped rooms you could feel its presence. She was eager to be off, out in the sun and air of the great sea of freshness, and the light, soft wind on her face.
Then she saw the slim, dark man who had risen to meet her, and a swift light crossed her face.... She was coming down the room now, both hands out-stretched, fluttering a little in the quick surprise and joy. Then the hands stayed themselves, and she advanced demurely to meet him; but the hand that lifted itself to his seemed to sing like a child's hand—in spite of the princess.
"I am glad you have come," she said. "This is Miss Stone." She seated herself beside him, her eyes on his face, her little feet crossed at the ankle. "Have you any new fruit to-day?" she asked, politely.
He smiled a little, and drew a soft, flat, white bit of tissue from his pocket, undoing it fold on fold—till in the centre lay a grey-green leaf.
The child bent above it with pleased glance. Her eyes travelled to his face.
He nodded quickly. "I thought of you. It is the Eastern citron. See—" He lifted the leaf and held it suspended. "It hangs like this—and the fruit is blue—grey-blue like—" His eye travelled about the elaborate room. He shook his head slowly. Then his glance fell on the grey gown of Miss Stone as it fell along the rug at her feet, and he bowed with gracious appeal for permission. "Like the dress of madame," he said—"but warmer, like the sun—and blue."
A low colour crept up into the soft line of Miss Stone's cheek and rested there. She sat watching the two with slightly puzzled eyes. She was a lady—kindly and gracious to the world—but she could not have thought of anything to say to this fruit-peddler who had seemed, for days and weeks, to be tumbling all Greek civilisation about her head. The child was chatting with him as if she had known him always. They had turned to each other again, and were absorbed in the silken leaf—the man talking in soft, broken words, the child piecing out the half-finished phrase with quick nod and gesture, her little voice running in and out along the words like ripples of light on some dark surface.
The face of Achilles had grown strangely radiant. Miss Stone, as she looked at it again, was almost startled at the change. The sombre look had vanished. Quick lights ran in it, and little thoughts that met the child's and laughed. "They are two children together," thought Miss Stone, as she watched them. "I have never seen the child so happy. She must see him again." She sat with her hands folded in her grey lap, a little apart, watching the pretty scene and happy in it, but outside it all, untouched and grey and still.
TO MEET THE "HALCYON CLUB"
Outside the door the horses pranced, champing a little at the bit, and turning their shining, arching necks in the sun. Other carriages drove up and drove away. Rich toilets alighted and mounted the red-brown steps—hats that rose, tier on tier, riotous parterres of flowers and feathers and fruit, close little bonnets that proclaimed their elegance by velvet knot or subtle curve of brim and crown. Colours flashed, ribbon-ends fluttered, delicately shod feet scorned the pavement. It was the Halcyon Club of the North Side, assembling to listen to Professor Addison Trent, the great epigraphist, who was to discourse to them on the inscriptions of Cnossus, the buried town of Crete. The feathers and flowers and boas were only surface deep. Beneath them beat an intense desire to know about epigraphy—all about it. The laughing faces and daintily shod feet were set firmly in the way of culture. They swept through the wide doors, up the long carved staircase—from the Caracci Palace in Florence—into the wide library, with its arched ceiling and high-shelved books and glimpses of busts and pedestals. They fluttered in soft gloom, and sank into rows of adjustable chairs and faced sternly a little platform at the end of the room. The air of culture descended gratefully about them; they buzzed a little in its dim warmth and settled back to await the arrival of the great epigraphist.
The great epigraphist was, at this moment, three hundred and sixty-three and one-half miles—to be precise—out from New York. He was sitting in a steamer-chair, his feet stretched comfortably before him, a steamer-rug wrapped about his ample form, a grey cap pulled over his eyes—dozing in the sun. Suddenly he sat erect. The rug fell from his person, the visor shot up from his eyes. He turned them blankly toward the shoreless West. This was the moment at which he had instructed his subconscious self to remind him of an engagement to lecture on Cretan inscriptions at the home of Mrs. Philip Harris on the Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois. He looked again at the shoreless West and tried to grasp it. It may have been his subconscious self that reminded him—it may have been the telepathic waves that travelled toward him out of the half-gloom of the library. They were fifty strong, and they travelled with great intensity—"Had any one seen him—?" "Where was he?" "What was wrong?" "Late!" "Very late!" "Such a punctual man!" The waves fluttered and spread and grew. The president of the club looked at the hostess. The hostess looked at the president. They consulted and drew apart. The president rose to speak, clearing her throat for a pained look. Then she waited.... The hostess was approaching again, a fine resolution in her face. They conferred, looking doubtfully at the door. The president nodded courageously and seated herself again on the platform, while Mrs. Philip Harris passed slowly from the room, the eyes of the assembled company following her with a little look of curiosity and dawning hope.
AND GIVE A SIMPLE LECTURE
In the doorway below she paused a moment, a little startled at the scene. The bowed heads, the bit of folded tissue, the laughing, eager tones, the look in Miss Stone's face held her. She swept aside the drapery and entered—the stately lady of the house.
The bowed heads were lifted. The child sprang to her feet. "Mother-dear! It is my friend! He has come!" The words sang.
Mrs. Philip Harris held out a gracious hand. She had not intended to offer her hand. She had intended to be distant and kind. But when the man looked up she somehow forgot. She held out the hand with a quick smile.
The Greek was on his feet, bending above it. "It is an honour, madame—that you come."
"I have come to ask a favour," she replied, slowly, her eyes travelling over the well-brushed clothes, the clean linen, the slender feet of the man. Favour was not what she had meant to say—privilege was nearer it. But there was something about him. Her voice grew suave to match the words.
"My daughter has told me of you—" Her hand rested lightly on the child's curls—a safe, unrumpled touch. "Her visit to you has enchanted her. She speaks of it every day, of the Parthenon and what you told her."
The eyes of the man and the child met gravely.
"I wondered whether you would be willing to tell some friends of mine—here—now—"
He had turned to her—a swift look.
She replied with a smile. "Nothing formal—just simple things, such as you told the child. We should be very grateful to you," she added, as if she were a little surprised at herself.
He looked at her with clear eyes. "I speak—yes—I like always—to speak of my country. I thank you."
The child, standing by with eager feet, moved lightly. Her hands danced in softest pats. "You will tell them about it—just as you told me—and they will love it!"
"I tell them—yes!"
"Come, Miss Stone." The child held out her hand with a little gesture of pride and loving. "We must go now. Good-bye, Mr. Achilles. You will come again, please."
"I come," said Achilles, simply. He watched the quaint figure pass down the long rooms beside the shimmering grey dress, through an arched doorway at the end, and out of sight. Then he turned to his hostess with the quick smile of his race. "She is beautiful, madame," he said, slowly. "She is a child!"
The mother assented, absently. She was not thinking of the child, but of the fifty members of the Halcyon Club in the library. "Will you come?" she said. "My friends are waiting."
He spread his hands in quick assent. "I come—as you like. I give pleasure—to come."
She smiled a little. "Yes, you give pleasure." She was somehow at ease about the man. He was poor—illiterate, perhaps, but not uncouth. She glanced at him with a little look of approval as they went up the staircase. It came to her suddenly that he harmonised with it, and with all the beautiful things about them. The figure of Professor Trent flashed upon her—short and fat and puffing, and yearning toward the top of the stair. But this man. There was the grand air about him—and yet so simple.
It was almost with a sense of eclat that she ushered him into the library. The air stirred subtly, with a little hush. The president was on her feet, introducing Mr. Achilles Alexandrakis, who, in the unavoidable absence of Professor Trent, had kindly consented to speak to them on the traditions and customs of modern Greek life.
Achilles's eyes fell gently on the lifted faces. "I like to tell you about my home," he said, simply. "I tell you all I can."
The look of strain in the faces relaxed. It was going to be an easy lecture—one that you could know something about. They settled to soft attention and approval.
Achilles waited a minute—looking at them with deep eyes. And suddenly they saw that the eyes were not looking at them, but at something far away—something beautiful and loved.
It is safe to say that the members of the Halcyon Club had never listened to anything quite like the account that Achilles Alexandrakis gave them that day, in the gloomy room of the red-fronted house overlooking the lake, of the land of his birth. They scarcely listened to the actual words at first, but they listened to him all lighted up from far away. There was something about him as he spoke—a sweeping rhythm that flew as a bird, reaching over great spaces, and a simple joy that lilted a little and sang.
He drew for them the Parthenon—the glory of Athens—in column and statue and mighty temple and crumbling tomb.... A sense of beauty and wonder and still, clear light passed before them.
Then he paused... his voice laughed a little, and he spoke of his people.... Nobody could have quite told what he said to them about his people. But flutes sang. The sound of feet was on the grass—touching it in tune—swift-flitting feet that paused and held a rhythmic measure while it swung. Quick-beating feet across the green. Shadowy forms. The sway of gowns, light-falling, and the call of voices low and sweet. Greek youth and maid in swiftest play. They flung the branches wide and trembled in the voiceless light that played upon the grass. The foot of Achilles half-beat the time. The tones filled themselves and lifted, slowly, surely. The voice quickened—it ran with faster notes, as one who tells some eager tale. Then it swung in cradling-song the twilight of Athens—and the little birds sang low, twittering underneath the leaves—in softest garb—at last—rose leaves falling—the dusky bats around her roof-tops, and the high-soaring sky that arches all—mysterious and deep. Then the voice sank low, and rang and held the note—stern, splendid—Athens of might. City of Power! Glory, in changing word, and in the lift of eye. Athens on her hills, like great Jove enthroned—the shout, the triumph, the clash of steel, and the feet of Alaric in the streets. The voice of the Greek grew hoarse now, tiny cords swelled on his forehead. Athens, city of war. Desolation, fire, and trampling—! His eye was drawn in light. Vandal hand and iron foot!...
Who shall say how much of it he told—how much of it he spoke, and how much was only hinted or called up—in his voice and his gesture and his eye. They had not known that Athens was like this! They spoke in lowered voices, moving apart a little, and making place for the silver trays that began to pass among them. They glanced now and then at the dark man nibbling his biscuit absently and looking with unfathomable eyes into a teacup.
A large woman approached him, her ample bust covered with little beads that rose and fell and twinkled as she talked. "I liked your talk, Mr. Alexis, and I am going over just as soon as my husband can get away from his business." She looked at him with approval, waiting for his.
He bowed with deep, grave gesture. "My country is honoured, madame."
Other listeners were crowding upon them now, commending the fire-tipped words, felicitating the man with pretty gesture and soft speech, patronising him for the Parthenon and his country and her art. ... The mistress of the house, moving in and out among them, watched the play with a little look of annoyance.... He would be spoiled—a man of that class. She glanced down at the slip of paper in her hand. It bore the name, "Achilles Alexandrakis," and below it a generous sum to his order. She made her way toward him, and waited while he disengaged himself from the little throng about him and came to her, a look of pleasure and service in his face.
"You speak to me, madame?"
"I wanted to give you this." She slipped the check into the thin fingers. "You can look at it later—"
But already the fingers had raised it with a little look of pleased surprise.... Then the face darkened, and he laid the paper on the polished table between them. There was a quick movement of the slim fingers that pushed it toward her.
"I cannot take it, madame—to speak of my country. I speak for the child—and for you." He bowed low. "I give please to do it."
The next moment he had saluted her with gentle grace and was gone from the room—from the house—between the stone lions and down the Lake Shore Drive, his free legs swinging in long strides, his head held high to the wind on the opal lake.
A carriage passed him, and he looked up. Two figures, erect in the sun, the breath of a child's smile, a bit of shimmer and grey, the flash and beat of quick hoofs—and they were gone. But the heart of Achilles sang in his breast, and the day about him was full of light.
BETTY LEAVES HER GODS
Little Betty Harris sat in the big window, bending over her gods and goddesses and temples and ruins. It was months since, under the inspiration of the mysterious, fruit-dealing Greek, she had begun her study of Greek art; and the photographs gathered from every source—were piled high in the window—prints and tiny replicas and casts, and pictures of every kind and size—they overflowed into the great room beyond. She was busy now, pasting the photographs into a big book. To-morrow the family started for the country, and only as many gods could go as could be pasted in the book. Miss Stone had decreed it and what Miss Stone said must be done.... Betty Harris looked anxiously at Poseidon, and laid him down, in favour of Zeus. She took him up in her fingers again, with a little flourish of the paste-tube, and made him fast. Poseidon must go, too. The paste-tub wavered uncertainly over the maze of gods and found another and stuck it in place, and lifted itself in admiring delight.
There was a little rustle, and the child looked up. Miss Stone stood in the doorway, smiling at her.
"I'm making my book for the gods," said the child, her flushed face lighting. "It's a kind of home for them." She slipped down from her chair and came across, holding the book outstretched before her. "You see I've put Poseidon in. He never had a home—except just the sea, of course—a kind of wet home." She gave the god a little pat, regarding him fondly.
Miss Stone bent above the book, with the smile of understanding that always lay between them. When Betty Harris thought about God, he seemed always, somehow, like Miss Stone's smile—but bigger—because he filled the whole earth. She lifted her hand and stroked the cheek bending above her book. "I'm making a place for them all," she said. "It's a kind of story—" She drew a sigh of quick delight.
Miss Stone closed the book decisively, touching the flushed face with her fingers. "Put it away, child—and the pictures. We're going to drive."
"Yes—Nono." It was her own pet name for Miss Stone, and she gave a little quick nod, closing the book with happy eyes. But she waited a moment, lugging the book to her and looking at the scattered gods in the great window, before she walked demurely across and began gathering them up—a little puzzled frown between her eyes. "I suppose I couldn't leave them scattered around?" she suggested politely.
Miss Stone smiled a little head-shake, and the child bent again to her work. "I don't like to pick up," she said softly. "It's more interesting not to pick up—ever." She lifted her face from a print of Apollo and looked at Miss Stone intently. "There might be gods that could pick up—pick themselves up, perhaps—?" It was a polite suggestion—but there was a look in the dark face—the look of the meat-packer's daughter—something that darted ahead and compelled gods to pick themselves up. She bent again, the little sigh checking itself on her lip. Miss Stone did not like to have little girls object—and it was not polite, and besides you had to take care of things—your own things. The servants took care of the house for you, and brought you things to eat, and made beds for you, and fed the horses and ironed clothes... but your own things—the gods and temples and scrapbooks and paste that you left lying about—you had to put away yourself! Her fingers found the paste-tube and screwed it firmly in place—with a little twist of the small mouth—and hovered above the prints with quick touch. The servants did things—other things. Constance mended your clothes and dressed you, and Marie served you at table, and sometimes she brought a nice little lunch if you were hungry—and you and Miss Stone had it together on the school table—but no one ever—ever—ever—picked up your playthings for you. She thrust the last god into his box and closed the lid firmly. Then she looked up. She was alone in the big room... in the next room she could hear Miss Stone moving softly, getting ready for the drive. She slipped from her seat and stood in the window, looking out—far ahead the lake stretched—dancing with green waves and little white edges—and down below, the horses curved their great necks that glistened in the sun—and the harness caught gleams of light. The child's eyes dwelt on them happily. They were her very own, Pollux and Castor—and she was going driving—driving in the sun. She hummed a little tune, standing looking down at them.
Behind her stretched the great room—high-ceiled and wide, and furnished for a princess—a child princess. Its canopied bed and royal draperies had come across the seas from a royal house—the children of kings had slept in it before Betty Harris. The high walls were covered with priceless decoration—yet like a child in every line. It was Betty's own place in the great house—and the little room adjoining, where Miss Stone slept, was a part of it, clear and fine in its lines and in the bare quiet of the walls. Betty liked to slip away into Miss Stone's room—and stand very still, looking about her, hardly breathing. It was like a church—only clearer and sweeter and freer—perhaps it was the woods—with the wind whispering up there. She always held her breath to listen in Miss Stone's room; and when she came back, to her own, child's room—with its canopied bed and royal draperies and colour and charm, she held the stillness and whiteness of Miss Stone's room in her heart—it was like a bird nestling there. Betty had never held a bird, but she often lifted her hands to them as they flew—and once, in a dream, one had fluttered into the lifted hands and she had held it close and felt the wind blow softly. It was like Miss Stone's room. But Miss Stone was not like that. You could hug Nono and tell her secrets and what you wanted for luncheon. Sometimes she would let you have it—if you were good—very good—and Nono knew everything. She knew so much that Betty Harris, looking from her window, sighed softly. No one could know as much as Nono knew—not ever.
"All ready, Betty." It was Miss Stone in the doorway again. And with a last look down out of the window at the horses and the shimmering lake, the child came across the room, skipping a little. "I should like to wear my hat with the cherries, please," she said. "I like to feel them bob in the sun when it shines—they bob so nicely—" She paused with a quick look—"They do bob, don't they, Nono?"
"I don't think I ever noticed," said Miss Stone. She was still smiling as she touched the tumbled hair, putting it in place.
"But they must bob," said Betty. "I think I should have noticed your cherries bobbing, Miss Stone." She was looking intently at the quiet cheek close beside her own, with its little flush of pink, and the greyness of the hair that lay beside it. "I notice all your things, Nono," she said softly.
Miss Stone smiled again and drew her to her. "I will look to-day, Betty, when we drive—"
The child nodded—"Yes, they will bob then. I can see them—even with my eyes not shut, I can see them bob—Please, Constance—" She turned to the stiff maid who had come in—"I want my grey coat and red-cherry hat. We're going to drive—in the sun."
The maid brought the garments and put them on with careful touch, tying the strings under the lifted chin.
The child nodded to her gaily. "Good-bye, Constance—we're going for a drive—a long drive—we shall go and go and go—Come, Miss Stone." She took the quiet hand, and danced a little, and held it close to her—down the long staircase and through the wide hall—and out to the sunshine and the street.
James, from his box, looked up, and the reins tightened in the big hands. The horses pranced and clicked their hoofs and stood still; and James, leaning a respectful ear, touched his hat-brim, and they were off, the harnesses glinting and the little red cherries bobbing in the sun.
FOR A LONG DRIVE
Betty Harris sat very still—her hands in her lap, her face lifted to the breeze that touched it swiftly and fingered her hair and swept past. Presently she looked up with a nod—as if the breeze reminded her. "I should like to see Mr. Achilles," she said.
"Not to-day," answered Miss Stone, "we must do the errands for mother to-day, you know."
The child's face fell. "I wanted to see Mr. Achilles," she said simply. She sat very quiet, her eyes on the lake. When she looked up, the eyes had brimmed over.
"I didn't mean to," said the child. She was searching for her handkerchief and the little cherries bobbed forward. "I didn't know they would spill!" She had found the handkerchief now and was wiping them away, and she smiled at Miss Stone—a brave smile—that was going to be happy—
Miss Stone smiled back, with a little head-shake. "Foolish, Betty!"
"I didn't expect them," said the child, "I was just thinking about Mr. Achilles and they came—just came!—They just came!" she repeated sternly. She gave a final dab to the handkerchief and stowed it away, sitting very erect and still.
Miss Stone's eyes studied her face. "We cannot go to-day," she said, "—and to-morrow we start for the country. Perhaps—" she paused, thinking it out.
But the child's eyes took it up—and danced. "He can make us a visit," she said, nodding—"a visit of three weeks!" She smiled happily.
Miss Stone smiled back, shaking her head. "He could not leave the fruit-shop—"
But the child ignored it. "He will come," she said quickly, "and we shall talk—and talk—about the gods, you know—" She lifted her eyes, "and we shall go in the fields—He will come!" She drew a deep sigh of satisfaction and lifted her head.
And Miss Stone, watching her, had a feeling of quick relief. She had known for a day or two that the child was not well, and they had hurried to get away to the fields. This was their last drive. To-morrow the horses would be sent on; and the next day they would all go—in the great touring car that would eat up the miles, and pass the horses, and reach Idlewood long before them.
No one except Betty and Miss Stone used the horses now. They would have been sold long ago had it not been for the child. The carriage was a part of her—and the clicking hoofs and soft-shining skins and arching necks. The sound of the hoofs on the pavement played little tunes for Betty. Her mother had protested against expense, and her father had grumbled a little; but if the child wanted a carriage rather than the great car that could whir her away in a breath, it must be kept.
It made a pretty picture this morning as it turned into the busier street and took its way among the dark, snorting cars that pushed and sped. It was like a delicate dream that shimmered and touched the pavement—or like a breath of the past... and the great cars skimmed around it and pushed on with quick honk and left it far behind.
But the carriage kept its way with unhurried rhythm—into the busy street and out again into a long avenue where great houses of cement and grey stone stood guard.
No one was in sight, up and down its clear length—only the morning sun shining on the grey stones and on the pavement—and the little jingling in the harness and the joyous child and the quiet grey woman beside her.
"I shall not be gone a minute, Betty," said Miss Stone. The carriage had drawn up before the great shadow of a house. She gave the child's hand a little pat and stepped from the carriage.
But at the door there was a minute's question and, with a nod to Betty, she stepped inside.
When the door opened again, and she came out with quick step she glanced at her watch—the errand had taken more than its minute, and there were others to be done, and they were late. She lifted her eyes to the carriage—and stopped.
The coachman, from the corner of his eye, waited for orders. But Miss Stone did not stir. Her glance swept the quiet street and came back to the carriage—standing with empty cushions in the shadow of the house.
The coachman turned a stolid eye and caught a glimpse of her face and wheeled quickly—his eye searching space. "There wa'n't nobody!" he said. He almost shouted it, and his big hands gripped hard on the reins.... His face was grey—"There wa'n't nobody here!" he repeated dully.
But Miss Stone did not look at him. "Drive to the Greek's. You know—where she went before." She would not give herself time to think—sitting a little forward on the seat—of course the child had gone to the Greek—to Mr. Achilles.... They should find her in a minute. There was nothing else to think about—no shadowy fear that had leaped to meet the look in James's face when it turned to her. The child would be there—
The carriage drew up before the shop, with its glowing lines of fruit under the striped awning, and Miss Stone had descended before the wheel scraped the curb, her glance searching the door and the dim room beyond. She halted on the threshold, peering in.
A man came from the rear of the room, his hands outstretched to serve her. The dark, clear face, with its Greek lines, and the eyes that looked out at her held a welcome. "You do me honour," he said. "I hope Madame is well—and the little Lady—?" Then he stopped. Something in Miss Stone's face held him—and his hand groped a little, reaching toward her—"You—tell me—" he said.
But she did not speak, and the look in her face grew very still.
He turned sharply—calling into the shop behind him, and a boy came running, his eyes flashing a quick laugh, his teeth glinting.
"I go," said the man, with quick gesture—"You keep shop—I go." He had taken off his white apron and seized a hat. He touched the woman on the shoulder. "Come," he said.
She looked at him with dazed glance and put her hand to her head. "I cannot think," she said slowly.
He nodded with steady glance. "When we go, you tell—we find her," he said.
She started then and looked at him—and the clear colour came to her face. "You know—where—she is!"
But he shook his head. "We find her," he repeated. "You tell."
And as they threaded the streets—into drays and past clanging cars and through the tangle of wheels and horses and noise—and she told him the story, shouting it above the rumble and hurry of the streets, into the dark ear that bent beside her.
The look in Achilles's face deepened, but its steady quiet did not change. "We find her," he repeated each time, and Miss Stone's heart caught the rhythm of it, under the hateful noise. "We find her."
Then the great house on the lake faced them.
She looked at him a minute in doubt. Her face broke—"She may have come—home?" she said.
"I go with you," said Achilles.
There was no sign of life, but the door swung open before them and they went into the great hall—up the long stairway that echoed only vacant softness, and into the library with its ranging rows of perfect books. She motioned him before her. "I must tell them," she said. She passed through the draperies of another door and the silence of the great house settled itself about the man and waited with him.
TWO MEN FACE EACH OTHER
He looked about the room with quiet face. It was the room he had been in before—the day he spoke to the Halcyon Club—the ladies had costly gowns and strange hats, who had listened so politely while he told them of Athens and his beloved land. The room had been lighted then, with coloured lamps and globes—a kind of rosy radiance. Now the daylight came in through the high windows and filtered down upon him over brown books and soft, leather-covered walls. There was no sound in the big room. It seemed shut off from the world and Achilles sat very quiet, his dark face a little bent, his gaze fixed on the rug at his feet. He was thinking of the child—and of her face when she had lifted it to him out of the crowded street, that first day, and smiled at him... and of their long talks since. It was the Child who understood. The strange ladies had smiled at him and talked to him and drank their tea and talked again... he could hear the soft, keen humming of their voices and the flitter of garments all about him as they moved. But the child had sat very still—only her face lifted, while he told her of Athens and its beauty... and he had told her again—and again. She would never tire of it—as he could never tire. She was a child of light in the great new world... a child like himself—in the hurry of the noise. A sound came to him in the distant house—people talking—low voices that spoke and hurried on. The house was awake—quick questions ran through it—doors sounded and were still. Achilles turned his face toward the opening into the long wide hall, and waited. Through the vista there was a glimpse of the stairway and a figure passing up it—a short, square man who hurried. Then silence again—more bells and running feet. But no one came to the library—and no one sought the dark figure seated there, waiting. Strange foreign faces flashed themselves in the great mirror and out. The outer door opened and closed noiselessly to admit them—uncouth figures that passed swiftly up the stairway, glancing curiously about them—and dapper men who did not look up as they went. The house settled again to quiet, and the long afternoon, while Achilles waited. The light from the high windows grew dusky under chairs and tables; it withdrew softly along the gleaming books and hovered in the air above them—a kind of halo—and the shadows crept up and closed about him. Through the open door, a light appeared in the hall. A moving figure advanced to the library, and paused in the doorway, and came in. There was a minute's fumbling at the electric button, and the soft lights came, by magic, everywhere in the room. The servant gave a quick glance about him, and started sternly—and came forward. Then he recognised the man. It was the Greek. But he looked at him sternly. The day had been full of suspicion and question—and the house was alive to it—"What do you want?" he said harshly.
"I wait," said Achilles.
"Who told you to come?" demanded the man.
"I come. I wait," said Achilles.
The man disappeared. Presently he returned. "You come with me," he said. His look was less stern, but he raised his voice a little, as if speaking to a child, or a deaf man. "You come with me," he repeated.
Achilles followed with quick-gliding foot—along the corridor, through a great room—to a door. The man paused and lifted his hand and knocked. His back was tense, as if he held himself ready to spring.
A voice sounded and he turned the handle softly, and looked at Achilles. Then the door opened and the Greek passed in and the man closed the door behind him.
A man seated at a table across the room looked up. For a minute the two men looked at each other—the one short and square and red; the other thin as a reed, with dark, clear eyes.
The short man spoke first. "What do you know about this?" His hand pressed a heap of papers upon the desk before him and his eyes searched the dark face.
Achilles's glance rested on the papers—then it lifted itself.
"Your name is Achilles?" said the other sharply.
"Achilles Alexandrakis—yes." The Greek bowed.
"I know—she called you Mr. Achilles," said the man.
A shadow rested on the two faces, looking at each other.
"She is lost," said the father. He said it under his breath, as if denying it.
"I find her," said Achilles quietly.
The man leaned forward—something like a sneer on his face. "She is stolen, I tell you—and the rascals have got at their work quick!" He struck the pile of papers on the desk. "They will give her up for ten thousand dollars—to-night." He glanced at the clock on the wall, ticking its minutes, hurrying to six o'clock.
The dark eyes had followed the glance; they came back to the man's face—"You pay that—ten thousand dollar?" said Achilles.
"I shall be damned first!" said the man with slow emphasis. "But we shall find them—" His square, red jaw held the words, "and they shall pay—God! They shall pay!" The room rang to the word. It was a small bare room—only a table and two chairs, the clock on the wall and a desk across the room. "Sit down," said Philip Harris. He motioned to the chair before him.
But Achilles did not take it, he rested a hand on the back, looking down at him. "I glad—you not pay," he said.
The other lifted his eyebrows. "I shall pay the man that finds her—the man that brings her back! You understand that?" His bright, little glance had keen scorn.
But the face opposite him did not change. "I find her," said Achilles again.
"Then you get the ten thousand," said the man. He shifted a little in his chair. They were all alike—these foreigners—money was what they wanted—and plenty of it. The sneer on his face deepened abruptly.
Achilles's glance was on the clock. "It makes bad—to pay that money," he said. "When you pay—more child stole—to-morrow, more child stole—more money—" His dark hand lifted itself out over the houses of the great city—and all the sleepy children making ready for bed.
The other nodded. His round, soft paunch pressed against the table and his quick eyes were on Achilles's face. His great finger leaped out and shook itself and lay on the table. "I—will—not—give—one cent!" he said hoarsely.
"You be good man," said Achilles solemnly.
"I will not be bullied by them—and I will not be a fool!" He lifted his eyes to the clock—and a look passed in his face—a little whirring chime and the clock was still.
In the silence, the telephone rang sharply. His hand leaped out—and waited—and his eye sought Achilles—and gathered itself, and he lifted the dark, burring Thing to his ear.
THE TELEPHONE SPEAKS
Slowly the look on his face grew to something hard and round and bright. His lips tightened—"is that all?—Good-bye!" His voice sounded in the tube and was gone, and he hung up the receiver. "They make it twenty thousand—for one hour," he said drily.
Achilles bent forward, his face on fire, his finger pointing to the Thing.
"They are right there!" said the man. He gave a short laugh—"Can't trace them that way—we have tried—They've tapped a wire. Central is after them. But they won't get 'em that way. Sit down and I will talk to you." He motioned again to the chair and the Greek seated himself, bending forward a little to catch the murmur and half-incoherent jerks that the man spoke.
Now and then the Greek nodded, or his dark face lighted; and once or twice he spoke. But for the most part it was a rapid monologue, told in breathless words.
The great Philip Harris had no hope that the ignorant man sitting before him could help him. But there was a curious relief in talking to him; and as he talked, he found the story shaping itself in his mind—things related fell into place, and things apart came suddenly together. The story ran back for years—there had been earlier attempts, but the child had been guarded with strictest care; and lately they had come to feel secure. They had thought the band was broken up. The blow had fallen out of a clear sky. They had not the slightest clue—all day the detectives had gathered the great city in their hands—and sifted it through careful fingers. A dozen men had been arrested, but there was no clue. The New York men were on the way; they would arrive in the morning, and meantime the great man sat in his bare room, helpless. He looked into the dark eyes opposite him and found a curious comfort there. "The child knew you," he said.
"Yes—she know me. We love," said Achilles simply.
The other smiled a little. It would not have occurred to him to say that Betty loved him. He was not sure that she did—as he thought of it. She had always the quick smile for him—and for everyone. But there had been no time for foolishness between him and Betty. He had hardly known her for the last year or two. He shifted a little in his place, shading his eyes from the light, and looked at the Greek.
The Greek rose, and stood before him. "I go now," he said.
Philip Harris made no reply. He was thinking, behind his hand; and his mind, wrenched from its stockyards and its corners and deals, seemed to be groping toward a point of light that glimmered somewhere—mistily. He could not focus it. The darkness tricked him, but somehow, vaguely, the Greek held a clue. He had known the child. "Don't go," said Philip Harris, looking up at last.
"I find her," said Achilles.
Philip Harris shook his head. "You cannot find her." He said it bitterly. "But you can tell me—sit down." He leaned forward. "Now, tell me—everything—you know—about her."
The face of Achilles lighted. "She was a nice child," he said blithely.
The man smiled. "Yes—go on."
So the voice of Achilles was loosened and he told of Betty Harris—to her father sitting absorbed and silent. The delight of her walk, her little hands, the very tones of her voice were in his words.
And the big man listened with intent face. Once the telephone rang and he stopped to take down something. "No clue," he said, "go on." And Achilles's voice took up the story again.
His hands reached out in the words, quick gestures made a halo about them, lips and smiles spoke, and ran the words to a laugh that made the child's presence in the room.
The father listened dumbly. Then silence fell in the room and the clock ticked.
And while the two men sat in silence, something came between them and knit them. And when Achilles rose to go, the great man held out his hand, simply. "You have helped me," he said.
"I help—yes—" said Achilles. Then he turned his head. A door across the room had opened and a woman stood in it—looking at them.
EVERYONE MUST PAY
Achilles saw her, and moved forward swiftly. But she ignored him—her eyes were on the short, square man seated at the table, and she came to him, bending close. "You must pay, Phil," she said. The words held themselves in her reddened eyes, and her fingers picked a little at the lace on her dress... then they trembled and reached out to him.
"You must pay!" she said hoarsely.
But the man did not stir.
The woman lifted her eyes and looked at Achilles. There was no recognition in the glance—only a kind of impatience that he was there. The Greek moved toward the door—but the great man stayed him. "Don't go," he said. He reached up a hand to his wife, laying it on her shoulder. "We can't pay, dearest," he said slowly.
Her open lips regarded him and the quick tears were in her eyes. She brushed them back, and looked at him—"Let me pay!" she said fiercely, "I will give up—everything—and pay!" She had crouched to him, her groping fingers on his arm.
Above her head the glances of the two men met.
Her husband bent to her, speaking very slowly... to a child.
"Listen, Louie—they might give her back to-day—if we paid... but they would take her again—to-morrow—next week—next year. We shall never be safe if we pay. Nobody will be safe—"
Her face was on his arm, sobbing close. "I hate—it!" she said brokenly, "I hate—your—money! I want Betty!" The cry went through the room—and the man was on his feet, looking down at her—
"Don't, Louie," he said—"don't, dear—I can't bear that! See, dear—sit down!" He had placed her in the chair and was crooning to her, bending to her. "We shall have her back—soon—now."
The telephone was whirring and he sprang to it.
The woman lifted her face, staring at it.
The Greek's deep eyes fixed themselves on it.
The room was so still they could hear the tiny, ironic words flinging themselves spitefully in the room, and biting upon the air. "Time's up," the Thing tittered—"Make it fifty thousand now—for a day. Fifty thousand down and the child delivered safe—Br-r-r-r!"
The woman sprang forward. "Tell them we'll pay, Phil—give it to me—Yes—yes—we'll pay!" She struggled a little—but the hand had thrust her back and the receiver was on its hook.
"We shall not pay!" said the man sternly, "not if they make it a million!"
"I think they make it a million," said Achilles quietly.
They looked up at him with startled eyes.
"They know you—rich—" His hands flung themselves. "So rich! They make you pay—yes—they make everyone pay, I think!" His dark eyes were on the woman significantly—
"What do you mean?" she said swiftly.
"If you pay—they steal them everywhere—little children." His eyes seemed to see them at play in the sunshine—and the dark shadows stealing upon them. The woman's eyes were on his face, breathless.
"They have taken Betty!" she said. It was a broken cry.
"We find her," said Achilles simply. "Then little children play—happy." He turned to go.
But the woman stayed him. Her face trembled to hold itself steady under his glance. "I want to save the children, too," she said. "I will be brave!"
Her husband's startled face was turned to her and she smiled to it bravely. "Help me, Phil!" she said. She reached out her hands to him and he took them tenderly. He had not been so near her for years. She was looking in his face, smiling still, across the white line of her lip. "I shall help," she said slowly. "But you must not trust me, dear—not too far.... I want my little girl—"
There were tears in the eyes of the two men—and the Greek went softly out, closing the door. Down the wide hallway—out of the great door, with its stately carvings and the two pink stone lions that guarded the way—out to the clear night of stars. The breeze blew in—a little breath from the lake, that lapped upon the breakwater and died out. Achilles stood very still—lifting his face to it. Behind him, in the city, little children were asleep... and in the great house the man and the woman waited alone—for the help that was coming to them—running with swift feet in the night. It sped upon iron rails and crept beneath the ground and whispered in the air—and in the heart of Achilles it dreamed under the quiet stars.
THE PRICE ACHILLES PAID
The little shop was closed. The fruit-trays had been carried in and the shutters put up, and from an upper window a line of light gleamed on the deserted street. Achilles glanced at it and turned into an alley at the side, groping his way toward the rear. He stopped and fumbled for a knob and rapped sharply. But a hand was already on the door, scrambling to undo it, and an eager face confronted him, flashing white teeth at him. "You come!" said the boy swiftly.
He turned and fled up the stairs and Achilles followed. A faint sense of onions was in the air. Achilles sniffed it gratefully. He remembered suddenly that he had not eaten since morning. But the boy did not pause for him—he was beckoning with mysterious hand from a doorway and Achilles followed. "Alcie—got hurt," whispered the boy. He was trembling with fear and excitement, and he pointed to the bed across the room.
Achilles stepped, with lightest tread, and looked down. A boy, half asleep, murmured and turned his head restlessly. A red-clotted blur ran along the forehead, and the face, streaked with mud, was drawn in a look of pain. As Achilles bent over him, the boy cried out and threw up a hand; then he turned his head, muttering, and dozed again.
Achilles withdrew lightly, beckoning to the boy beside him.
Yaxis followed, his eyes on the figure on the bed. "All day," he said, "he lie sick."
Achilles closed the door softly and turned to him. "Tell me, Yaxis, what happened," he said.
The boy's face opened dramatically. "I look up—I see Alcie—like that—" his gesture fitted to the room—"He stand in door—all covered mud—blood run—cart broke—no fruit—no hat." The boy's hands were everywhere, as he spoke, dispensing fruit, smashing carts and filling up the broken words with horror and a flow of blood. Achilles's face grew grave. The Greeks were not without persecution in the land of freedom, and his boy had lain all day suffering—while he had been lost in the great house by the lake.
He took off his coat and turned back his sleeves. "You bring water," he said gently. "We will see what hurts him."
But the boy had put his supper on the table and was beckoning him with swift gesture. "You eat," he said pleadingly. And Achilles ate hastily and gave directions for the basin of water and towels and a sponge, and the boy carried them into the room beyond.
Half an hour later Alcibiades lay in bed, his clothes removed and the blood washed from his face and hair. The clotted line still oozed a little on the temple and the look of pain had not gone away. Achilles watched him with anxious eyes. He bent over the bed and spoke to him soothingly, his voice gentle as a woman's in its soft Greek accents; but the look of pain in the boy's face deepened and his voice chattered shrill.
They watched the ambulance drive away from in front of the striped awning. Achilles held a card in his thin fingers—a card that would admit him to his boy. Yaxis's eyes were gloomy with dread, and his quick movements were subdued as he went about the business of the shop, carrying the trays of fruit to the stall outside and arranging the fruit under the striped awning. He was not to go out with the push-cart to-day. There was too much work to do—and Achilles could not let the boy go from him. Later, too, Achilles must go to the hospital—and to the big house on the lake, and someone must be left with the shop.
So he kept the boy beside him, looking at him, now and then, with deep, quiet eyes that seemed to see the city taking its toll of life—of children—the children at play and the children at work. This land that he had sought with his boys—where the wind of freedom blew fresh from the prairies and the sea... and even little children were not safe! He seemed to see it—through the day—this great monster that gathered them in—from all lands—and trod them beneath its great feet, crushing them, while they lifted themselves to it and threw themselves—and prayed to it for the new day—that they had come so far to seek.
But when Achilles presented his ticket for the boy, at the hospital door, it was a woman of his own race who met him, dark-eyed and strong—and smiled at him a flash of sympathy. "Yes—he is doing well. They operated at once. Come and see. But you must not speak to him." She led him cautiously down the long corridor between the beds. "See, he is asleep." She bent over him, touching the bandage. Beneath it, the dark skin was pallid, but the breath came easily from the sleeping lips.
She smiled at Achilles, guiding him from the room, ignoring the tears that looked at her. "He is doing well, you see. It was pressure that caused the fever, the bone was not injured. He will recover quickly. Yes. We are glad!"
And Achilles, out under the clear sky, raised his face and caught the sound of the city—its murmured, innumerable toil and the great clang of wheels turning. And he drew a deep, quick breath. A city of power and swift care for its own. The land of many hands reaching out to the world. And Achilles's head lifted itself under the sky; and a mighty force knit within him—a deep, quiet force out of the soul of the past—pledging itself.
THE POLICE MOVE
Life was busy for Achilles. There were visits to the hospital—where he must not speak to his boy, but only look at him and catch little silent smiles from the bandaged face—and visits to the great house on the lake, where he came and went freely. The doors swung open of themselves, it seemed, as Achilles mounted the steps between the lions. All the pretty life and flutter of the place had changed. Detectives went in and out; and instead of the Halcyon Club, the Chief of Police and assistants held conferences in the big library. But there was no clue to the child!... She had withdrawn, it seemed, into a clear sky. James had been summoned to the library many times, and questioned sharply; but his wooden countenance held no light and the tale did not change by a hair. He had held the horses. Yes—there wa'n't nobody—but little Miss Harris and him.... She was in the carriage—he held the horses. The horses? They had frisked a bit, maybe, the way horses will—at one o' them autos that squirted by, and he had quieted 'em down—but there wa'n't nobody.... And he was the last link between little Betty Harris and the world—all the bustling, wrestling, interested world of Chicago—that shouted extras and stared at the house on the lake and peered in at its life—at the rising and eating and sleeping that went on behind the red-stone walls. The red-stone walls had thinned to a veil and the whole world might look in—because a child had been snatched away; and the heart of a city understood. But no one but James could have told what had happened to the child sitting with her little red cherries in the light; and James was stupid—and in the bottomless abyss of James's face the clue was lost.
Achilles had come in for his share of questioning. The child had been to his shop it seemed... and the papers took it up and made much of it—there were headlines and pictures... the public was interested. The tale grew to a romance, and fathers and mothers and children in Boston and New York and London heard how Betty had sat in the gay little fruit-shop—and listened to Achilles's stories of Athens and Greece, and of the Acropolis—and of the studies in Greek history, and her gods and goddesses and the temples and ruins lying packed in their boxes waiting her return. The daily papers were a thrilling tale—with the quick touch of love and human sympathy that brings the world together.
To Achilles it was as if the hand of Zeus had reached and touched the child—and she was not. What god sheltered her beneath a magic veil—so that she passed unseen? He lifted his face, seeking in air and sun and cloud, a token. Over the lake came the great breeze, speaking to him, and out of the air a thousand hands reached to him—to tell him of the child. But he could not find the place that held her. In the dusky shop, he held his quiet way. No one, looking, would have guessed—"Two cen's, yes," and his swift fingers made change while his eyes searched every face. But the child, in her shining cloud, was not revealed.