He was a boy of fourteen when She found him as She had found so many others, with curly hair and bright eyes that shone when he smiled.
"I am bored," he said in the quiet of his own mind, as the old professor in his raven gown droned on in Latin. "Show me something interesting."
And She knelt by his desk and drew two parallel lines in the air. "These lines," She said, but did not say. "Do they ever meet?"
"Surely not," said he just as silently.
"Are you confident?" She asked him, and his brow creased in concentration.
"I was," he said. "But now I am not."
"Ah," said She. "Then that is right and proper."
In the beginning was a book, and he sat quietly in his bedroom and read it as though it were a novel, although it was nothing of the sort.
"Are you not bored of this book, as you were of your Latin?" She asked him on the third day.
"Never," he told Her. "It is about you, and you are the most interesting being I have met." And he took up his pencil and drew a triangle. "Before this book, this was merely a shape, but now I see that it is very much more. It has length and breadth and therefore area, and while I had thought these lines of no interest, now I see their length must determine the angles that separate them."
"That is good," She said, "for there is much of me that you might think you know, when in truth you only believe that you know."
"But how shall I know what it is that I do not know?" he asked.
"Ah," said She. "That you must learn for yourself."
"My teachers do not understand," he told Her one day. "They say I am slacking in my studies!"
"Do they lie?"
"No," he admitted, "but that is because you are far more interesting than their dull old subjects!"
"Oh, Évariste," She chided gently, but not too much. "You will come to trouble one day! Now come and sit here, I have brought you a paper from Monsieur Lagrange. Would you like me to read to you?"
"I would like that very much!"
"Then I shall do so. First we must take an equation." With a wave of Her hand there appeared an expression in the air. "When is this value equal to nothing?"
"Surely when the object x is equal to one of what we call the roots of the equation."
"Quite so. This expression is a polynomial of degree three. How many roots may it have?"
"Why, at least one, and no more than three."
"Correct. Suppose it has three. How may we write it?"
"Like so," he said, and wrote in the air the factors of the equation so: (x-a)(x-b)(x-c) = 0
"Well done. Now suppose we do this." And the first and second factors exchanged places. "Is this the same equation?"
"Of course, for the factors must commute."
"Indeed they must.” The second and third exchanged also. "And now?"
“The same, surely!”
“Indeed. Remember this, and we shall begin with Monsieur Lagrange's paper."
"Will it be very difficult?" he asked nervously.
"Ah," said She. "Now that would be telling."
The rejection letter lay on the sideboard for a week. She did not mention it, but brought him another paper to read.
"They are fools," he said anyway, with the grumpy malcontent that only a seventeen-year-old can manage. "I already know you as well as they."
"Ah," said She. "But knowing is only half the battle. Come, we have much work to do."
"I have something for you," he said one day late in the spring of the next year. "Hold out your hand and close your eyes." She did so. When She opened them again, something bright and radiant shone in Her hand.
"Oh, Évariste, it is beautiful!" She exclaimed. "Tell me about it."
"It concerns the expansion of the roots of a polynomial as continued fractions," he said. "It is only a little theorem but I hoped you would like it."
"It is lovely," She said. "I shall wear it here, near the work of Monsieur Lagrange." And she pressed the shining thing into her chest, where it gleamed a little brighter.
"They have all given you gifts, haven't they?" he asked, and jealousy clouded his voice. "They give you so many and I have given you only a few."
"Ah," said She. "But each one is beautiful. Thank you, Évariste."
Together they watched from the window as the streets filled with people—students, soldiers, workers from the factories. They shouted for freedom, justice and other grand ideas. Someone had hoisted a tricolour flag above the crowd. The gates of the school had already been locked.
"We should be out there," he insisted. "Revolution is at hand, I can feel it!"
"Stop this talk now," said She. "It is far too dangerous to be outside. Come away from the window."
"It does not matter to you,” he complained. “You will find a home elsewhere. Paris is my home, and I should fight for her."
"Please, Évariste,” She begged. “I wish to talk of Monsieur Cauchy and his substitutions."
But he would not answer, and if she said anything else, then he did not hear her.
The bars of the prison cell were cold iron, but She passed through them as if they were mist. He did not rise to meet Her, so She sat down beside him.
"How are you?" She asked.
"I have been better," he replied with a dry smile. "The food is poor and the company lacking but they give me pencil and paper, and that is sufficient for now."
"Oh, Évariste," She said with a sigh. "I told you that you would come to trouble one day."
"So you did. Here, I made you this." And he held up a bright speck. "I begin to see how my theory of permutation groups might be applied to determine the roots of an equation. May I?"
She smiled and bent Her head, and he slid the jewelled light into Her golden hair.
"Will you wait for me?" he asked. "They cannot keep me here forever."
"Ah," said She. "Then I will wait."
The room was dark. He lit the third candle of the night and turned back to his papers while She sat by his side with unending patience. It was not until the first light of dawn began to brighten the sky that he laid down his pen, turned and took Her hands in his.
"I must go now," he said, "and I do not think I shall return."
"Do not say such things!" She cried, but he hushed Her.
"Please, do not weep. It must be done. There will be others. There will always be others. Perhaps they will be able to decipher all this mess and give you all that I cannot." And he took Her in his arms and held Her.
She wept silently, and said nothing at all.
She waited for him, in the dark room which grew darker and colder as the daylight waned and the night drew on. He did not return. She waited still, as the sun rose and sent light trickling through the windows and across the floorboards, and still he did not come. Then a different man opened the door. He looked tired and his eyes were red, as if he had been crying. He did not see Her, but sat at the desk and read each piece of paper over slowly and carefully. Only when he had finished did he turn to look at Her. He smiled, but it was a sad smile.
"Good afternoon," he said.
"Good afternoon," replied She. "Who are you?"
"Don't be afraid," he said, and he knelt by Her side. "My name is Auguste. It's time to go."
"I do not wish to go," She said. "I am waiting."
"You will wait in vain. He is not coming back. Please, come with me."
Her eyes filled with tears, but She knew he spoke truly. "Where will you take me?"
"To show you to the world. It is what he wanted. You were very dear to him, and now he has asked me to share your beauty." And he held out his hand to Her. "It is time you were known."
"Ah," said She, and took his hand. "I do believe you are right."