The next morning, Sathena met the tutor, Ms. Trindell. She had bobbed red hair and Irish green eyes and carried a modern briefcase containing two laptops, Sathena discovered later, one her own, and one a spare for her student. Harry greeted her first as Sathena opened the door; without hesitation Ms. Trindell took charge of them both.
“You there, sit!” said the tutor.
“Uh, hi. Sorry about Harry–”
“Your dog’s manners are lacking. We’ll just add that to our list of tasks.” The tutor set down her case and rubbed the ears of the great hound with both hands, the dog closed his eyes in obvious pleasure. “What’s that, Harry?” she asked, “Sathena would rather be called Sadie?”
Sadie closed the door and leaned against it. She must have paused too long as the tutor took her hesitation as a yes.
“Sadie it is then. My name is Allie Trindell. I’ll be helping with your studies over the summer break. Where shall we set up?”
They got acquainted and soon took a break in the Professor’s library.
“Have you traveled much?” Sadie asked, as Allie wavered at the history and geography section.
“No, not really. But I intend to. This area,” she said pointing to the shelf of books she’d been admiring, “I had plans to join a dig there, in Anatolia, what you would call Turkey, but my funding fell through…”
A great woof came from the front of the house and a moment later Sadie’s father peeked into the library, his eyes looking over the tops of his spectacles. “Ah, there you two are. Hello, Ms. Trindell. Everything alright? Good.
“Feel free to instruct our Sathena here in the library if you like, and leaf through whatever suits your fancy. These books though…” He walked over and turned a skeleton key in a standing glass case, opening the door. “These are special. Maybe someday we could schedule a review of their titles.” He relocked and pocketed the key. “Have a good study.”
The sound of Harry whining at the front door meant that the Professor had left.
“The Professor, is he always like that?”
Sadie, aware of the tutor’s intent, demurred. “What do you mean?”
“He’s like a force of nature. Does he ever slow down?”
“When we’re alone he’s not that way.” Sadie, realizing that Allie might like to study in the library, walked out to the dining area to retrieve their lesson materials. “And when he’s with my mother, he’s…”
“Your mother, she’s here? In the house? If you like I’d love to meet her.”
“She…she doesn’t take guests.”
Later, after lunch, “We’ve blazed through some tough lessons today,” Allie said. “I must say, you seem more in tune with school than I certainly was at your age. Although the lessons we’ve got lined up are fixed, I wonder if there is anything in particular you would like to learn?”
“There is one thing,” Sadie started, unsure if admitting the name of the strange character she’d met the night before would lead to trouble. “I heard this name, Arachne, and wondered what it meant.”
“Hm, that’s a rare name. Where did you hear that?”
“Oh, just in passing, somewhere. I can’t remember.” Sadie noticed Allie knit her brow at her quick dismissal. “I think my father may have mentioned it.”
“Arachne was a mortal woman who had been given some powers by the gods. She was a weaver. Something only indigenous tribes do these days. But weaving, back then — this was a few thousand years ago — was a way to record history and stories. There were master weavers just like there are master engineers and programmers these days. Arachne was full of herself, though.”
“In a weaving contest between she and the goddess Athena, Arachne beat the goddess. Arachne was not humble. And so Athena cursed her. Turned her into a spider. And further cursed her children to all be weavers, spiders, in a name: arachnids.”
Sadie mulled this information. “Are myths sometimes real?”
“All myths have footholds in reality,” the tutor said. “Perhaps the Professor has more detailed information on the subject.”
The post-lunch hour spent, Sadie explained that she must attend to her mother for the next while. Allie declared that they had progressed well today, excused herself and committed to returning the following morning.
“I’ll leave that extra laptop here. Feel free to use it.”
Sadie thanked her and apologized. “I’m sorry we didn’t get to see the grounds. I’ll be sure to show you around, like Father said, tomorrow.”