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   Chapter 2 No.2

The Trumpeter Swan By Temple Bailey Characters: 6568

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


Fifteen minutes later when the train slowed up, there emerged from the drawing-room a man some years older than Randolph Paine, and many years younger than Major Prime. He was good-looking, well-dressed, but apparently in a very bad temper. Kemp, in an excited, Skye-terrier manner, had gotten the bags together, had a raincoat over his arm, had an umbrella handy, had apparently foreseen every contingency but one.

"Great guns, Kemp, why are we getting off here?"

"The conductor said it was nearer, sir."

Randolph Paine was already hanging on the step, ready to drop the moment the train stopped. He had given the porter an extra tip to look after Major Prime. "He isn't used to that crutch, yet. He'd hate it if I tried to help him."

The rain having drizzled for hours, condensed suddenly in a downpour. When the train moved on, the men found themselves in a small and stuffy waiting-room. Around the station platform was a sea of red mud. Misty hills shot up in a circle to the horizon. There was not a house in sight. There was not a soul in sight except the agent who knew young Paine. No one having come to meet them, he suggested the use of the telephone.

In the meantime Kemp was having a hard time of it. "Why in the name of Heaven didn't we get off at Charlottesville," his master was demanding.

"The conductor said this was nearer, sir," Kemp repeated. His response had the bounding quality of a rubber ball. "If you'll sit here and make yourself comfortable, Mr. Dalton, I'll see what I can do."

"Oh, it's a beastly hole, Kemp. How can I be comfortable?"

Randy, who had come back from the telephone with a look on his face which clutched at Major Prime's throat, caught Dalton's complaint.

"It isn't a beastly hole," he said in a ringing voice, "it's God's country-- I got my mother on the 'phone, Major. She has sent for us and the horses are on the way."

Dalton looked him over. What a lank and shabby youth he was to carry in his voice that ring of authority. "What's the answer to our getting off here?" he asked.

"Depends upon where you are going."

"To Oscar Waterman's--"

"Never heard of him."

"Hamilton Hill," said the station agent.

Randy's neck stiffened. "Then the Hamiltons have sold it?"

"Yes. A Mr. Waterman of New York bought it."

Kemp had come back. "Mr. Waterman says he'll send the car at once. He is delighted to know that you have come, sir."

"How long must I wait?"

"Not more than ten minutes, he said, sir," Kemp's optimism seemed to ricochet against his master's hardness and come back unhurt. "He will send a closed car and will have your rooms ready for you."

"Serves me right for not wiring," said Dalton, "but who would believe there is a place in the world where a man can't get a taxi?"

Young Paine was at the door, listening for the sound of hoofs, watching with impatience. Suddenly he gave a shout, and the others looked to see a small object which came whirling like a bomb through the mist.

"Nellie, little old lady, little old lady," the boy was on his knees, the dog in his arms-an ecstatic, panting creature, the first to welcome her master home!

Before he let her go, the little dog's coat was wet with more than rain, but Randy was not ashamed of the tears in his e

yes as he faced the others.

"I've had her from a pup-she's a faithful beast. Hello, there they come. Gee, Jefferson, but you've grown! You are almost as big as your name."

Jefferson was the negro boy who drove the horses. There was a great splashing of red mud as he drew up. The flaps of the surrey closed it in.

Jefferson's eyes were twinkling beads as he greeted his master. "I sure is glad to see you, Mr. Randy. Miss Caroline, she say there was another gemp'mun?"

"He's here-Major Prime. You run in there and look after his bags."

Randy unbuttoned the flaps and gave a gasp of astonishment:

"Becky-Becky Bannister!"

In another moment she was out on the platform, and he was holding her hands, protesting in the meantime, "You'll get wet, my dear--"

"Oh, I want to be rained on, Randy. It's so heavenly to have you home. I caught Jefferson on the way down. I didn't even wait to get my hat."

[Illustration: "It's so heavenly to have you home."]

She did not need a hat. It would have hidden her hair. George Dalton, watching her from the door, decided that he had never seen such hair, bronze, parted on the side, with a thick wave across the forehead, it shaded eyes which were clear wells of light.

She was a little thing with a quality in her youth which made one think of the year at the spring, of the day at morn, of Botticelli's Simonetta, of Shelley's lark, of Wordsworth's daffodils, of Keats' Eve of St. Agnes-of all the lovely radiant things of which the poets of the world have sung--

Of course Dalton did not think of her in quite that way. He knew something of Browning and little of Keats, but he had at least the wit to discern the rareness of her type.

As for the rest, she wore faded blue, which melted into the blue of the mists, stubbed and shabby russet shoes and an air of absorption in her returned soldier. This absorption Dalton found himself subconsciously resenting. Following an instinctive urge, he emerged, therefore, from his chrysalis of ill-temper, and smiled upon a transformed universe.

"My raincoat, Kemp," he said, and strode forth across the platform, a creature as shining and splendid as ever trod its boards.

Becky, beholding him, asked, "Is that Major Prime?"

"No, thank Heaven."

Jefferson, steering the Major expertly, came up at this moment. Then, splashing down the red road whirled the gorgeous limousine. There were two men on the box. Kemp, who had been fluttering around Dalton with an umbrella, darted into the waiting-room for the bags. The door of the limousine was opened by the footman, who also had an umbrella ready. Dalton hesitated, his eyes on that shabby group by the mud-stained surrey. He made up his mind suddenly and approached young Paine.

"We can take one of you in here. You'll be crowded with all of those bags."

"Not a bit. We'll manage perfectly, thank you," Randy's voice dismissed him.

He went, with a lingering glance backward. Becky, catching that glance, waked suddenly to the fact that he was very good-looking. "It was kind of him to offer, Randy."

"Was it?"

Nothing more was said, but Becky wondered a bit as they drove on. She liked Major Prime. He was an old dear. But why had Randy thanked Heaven that the other man was not the Major?

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