The Secret History

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Book: The Secret History by Donna Tartt Read Free Book Online
Authors: Donna Tartt
without turning on the light.
    As I lay on my side, staring at a pool of white moonlight on the wooden floor, a gust of wind blew the curtains out, long and pale as ghosts. As though an invisible hand were leafing through them, the pages of the Parmenides rippled back and forth.

    I had meant to sleep only a few hours, but I woke with a start the next morning to find sunlight pouring in and the clock reading five of nine. Without stopping to shave or comb my hair or even change my clothes from the night before, I grabbed my Greek Prose composition book and my Liddell and Scott and ran to Julian’s office.
    Except for Julian, who always made a point of arriving a few minutes late, everyone was there. From the hall I heard them talking, but when I opened the door they all fell quiet and looked at me.
    No one said anything for a moment. Then Henry said: “Good morning.”
    “Good morning,” I said. In the clear northern light they all looked fresh, well rested, startled at my appearance; they stared at me as I ran a self-conscious hand though my disheveled hair.
    “Looks like you didn’t meet up with a razor this morning, chap,” said Bunny to me. “Looks like—”
    Then the door opened and Julian walked in.
    There was a great deal to do in class that day, especially for me, being so far behind; on Tuesdays and Thursdays it might be pleasant to sit around and talk about literature, or philosophy, but the rest of the week was taken up in Greek grammar andprose composition and that, for the most part, was brutal, bludgeoning labor, labor that I—being older now, and a little less hardy—would scarcely be able to force myself to do today. I had certainly plenty to worry about besides the coldness which apparently had infected my classmates once again, their crisp air of solidarity, the cool way their eyes seemed to look right through me. There had been an opening in their ranks, but now it was closed; I was back, it seemed, exactly where I’d begun.

    That afternoon, I went to see Julian on the pretext of talking about credit transfers, but with something very different on my mind. For it seemed, quite suddenly, that my decision to drop everything for Greek had been a rash and foolish one, and made for all the wrong reasons. What had I been thinking of? I liked Greek, and I liked Julian, but I wasn’t sure if I liked his pupils and anyway, did I really want to spend my college career and subsequently my life looking at pictures of broken kouroi and poring over the Greek particles? Two years before, I had made a similar heedless decision which had plummeted me into a nightmarish, year-long round of chloroformed rabbits and day trips to the morgue, from which I had barely escaped at all. This was by no means as bad (with a shudder I remembered my old zoology lab, eight in the morning, the bobbing vats of fetal pigs), by no means—I told myself—as bad as that. But still it seemed like a big mistake, and it was too late in the term to pick up my old classes or change counselors again.
    I suppose I’d gone to see Julian in order to revive my flagging assurance, in hopes he would make me feel as certain as I had that first day. And I am fairly sure he would have done just that if only I had made it in to see him. But as it happened, I didn’t get to talk to him at all. Stepping onto the landing outside his office, I heard voices in the hall and stopped.
    It was Julian and Henry. Neither of them had heard me come up the stairs. Henry was leaving; Julian was standing in the open door. His brow was furrowed and he looked very somber, as if he were saying something of the gravest importance. Making the vain, or rather paranoid, assumption that they might be talking about me, I took a step closer and peered as far as I could risk around the corner.
    Julian finished speaking. He looked away for a moment, then bit his lower lip and looked up at Henry.
    Then Henry spoke. His words were low but deliberate and distinct. “Should

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