Read CHAPTER XVII of Iole , free online book, by Robert W. Chambers, on ReadCentral.com.

Mounting the deadened stairway noiselessly to her sister’s room, groping for the door in the dark of the landing, she called: “Iole!” And again: “Iole! Come to me! It is I!”

The door swung noiselessly; a dim form stole forward, wide-eyed and white in the electric light.

Then down at her sister’s feet dropped Aphrodite, and laid a burning face against her silken knees. And, “Oh, Iole, Iole,” she whispered, “Iole, Iole, Iole! There is danger, as you say there is, and I understand it ... now.... But I love him so I I have been so happy so happy! Tell me what I have done ... and how wrong it is! Oh, Iole, Iole! What have I done!”

“Done, child! What in the name of all the gods have you done?”

“Loved him in the names of all the gods! Oh, Iole! Iole! Iole!”

“ The thrush singing in darkness; the voice of spring calling, calling me to his arms! Oh, Iole, Iole! these, and my soul and his, alone under the pagan moon! alone, save for the old gods whispering in the dusk ”

“ And listening, I heard the feathery tattoo of wings close by the wings of Eros all aquiver like a soft moth trembling ere it flies! Peril divine! I understood it then. And, stirring in darkness, sweet as the melody of unseen streams, I heard the old gods laughing.... Then I knew.”

“Is that all, little sister?”

“Almost all.”

“What more?”

And when, at length, the trembling tale was told, Iole caught her in her white arms, looked at her steadily, then kissed her again and again.

“If he is all you say this miracle I I think I can make them understand,” she whispered. “Where is he?”

“D-down-stairs at b-bay! Hark! You can hear George swearing! Oh, Iole, don’t let him!”

In the silence from the drawing-room below came the solid sobs of the poet:

“P-pup! P-p-penniless pup!”

“He must not say that!” cried Aphrodite fiercely. “Can’t you make father and George understand that he has nearly six hundred dollars in the bank?”

“I will try,” said Iole tenderly. “Come!”

And with one arm around Aphrodite she descended the great stairway, where, on the lower landing, immensely interested, sat Chlorippe, Philodice and Dione, observant, fairly aquiver with intelligence.

“Oh, that young man is catching it!” remarked Dione, looking up as Iole passed, her arm close around her sister’s waist. “George has said ‘dammit’ seven times and father is rocking not in a rocking-chair just rocking and expressing his inmost thoughts. And Mr. Briggs pretends to scowl and mutters: ’Hook him over the ropes, George. ’E ain’t got no friends!’ Take a peep, Iole. You can just see them if you lean over and hang on to the banisters ”

But Iole brushed by her younger sisters, Aphrodite close beside her, and, entering the great receiving-hall, stood still, her clear eyes focused upon her husband’s back.

“George!”

Mr. Wayne stiffened and wheeled; Mr. Briggs sidled hastily toward the doorway, crabwise; the poet choked back the word, “Phup!” and gazed at his tall daughter with apprehension and protruding lips.

“Iole,” began Wayne, “this is no place for you! Aphrodite! let that fellow alone, I say!”

Iole turned, following with calm eyes the progress of her sister toward a tall young man who stood by the window, a red flush staining his strained face.

The tense muscles in jaw and cheek relaxed as Aphrodite laid one hand on his arm; the poet, whose pursed lips were overloaded, expelled a passionate “Phupp!” and the young man’s eyes narrowed again at the shot.

Then silence lengthened to a waiting menace, and even the three sisters on the stairs succumbed to the oppressive stillness. And all the while Iole stood like a white Greek goddess under the glory of her hair, looking full into the eyes of the tall stranger.

A minute passed; a glimmer dawned to a smile and trembled in the azure of Iole’s eyes; she slowly lifted her arms, white hands outstretched, looking steadily at the stranger.

He came, tense, erect; Iole’s cool hands dropped in his. And, turning to the others with a light on her face that almost blinded him, she said, laughing: “Do you not understand? Aphrodite brings us the rarest gift in the world in this tall young brother! Look! Touch him! We have never seen his like before for all the wisdom of wise years. For he is one of few and men are many, and artists legion this honorable miracle, this sane and wholesome wonder! this trinity, Lover, Artist, and Man!”

And, turning again, she looked him wistfully, wonderingly, in the eyes.