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   Chapter 3 No.3

The Trumpeter Swan By Temple Bailey Characters: 5585

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


The Waterman motor passed the surrey, and Dalton, straining his eyes for a glimpse of the pretty girl, was rewarded only by a view of Randy on the front seat with his back turned on the world, while he talked with someone hidden by the curtains.

Perhaps the fact that she was hidden by the curtains kept Dalton's thoughts upon her. He felt that her beauty must shine even among the shadows-he envied Major Prime, who sat next to her.

The Major was aware that his position was enviable. It was worth much to watch these two young people, eager in their reunion. "Becky Bannister, whom I have known all my life," had been Randy's presentation of the little lady with the shining hair.

"Grandfather doesn't know that I came, or Aunt Claudia. They felt that your mother ought to see you first and so did I. Until the last minute. Then I saw Jefferson driving by-I was down at the gate to wave to you, Randy-and I just came--" her gay laugh was infectious-the men laughed with her.

"You must let me out when we get to Huntersfield, and you mustn't tell-either of you. We are all to dine together to-night at your house, Randy, and when you meet me, you are to say-'Becky'-just as you did to-day, as if I had fallen from the skies."

"Well, you did fall-straight," Randy told her. "Becky, you are too good to be true; oh, you're too pretty to be true. Isn't she, Major?"

"It is just because I am-American. Are you glad to get back to us, Randy?"

"Glad," he drew a long breath. Nellie, who had wedged herself in tightly between her master and Jefferson, wriggled and licked his hand. He looked down at her, tried to say something, broke a little on it, and ended abruptly, "It's Heaven."

"And you weren't hurt?"

"Not a scratch, worse luck."

She turned to Major Prime and did the wise thing and the thing he liked. "You were," she said, simply, "but I am not going to be sorry for you, shall I?"

"No," he said, "I am not sorry for-myself--"

For a moment there was silence, then Becky carried the conversation into lighter currents. "Everybody is here for the Horse Show next week. Your mother's house is full, and those awful Waterman people have guests."

"One of them came down with us."

"The good-looking man who offered us a ride?"

"Oh, of course if you like that kind of looks, he's the kind of man you'd like," said Randy, "but coming down he seemed rather out of tune with the universe."

"How out of tune?"

"Well, it was hot and he was hot--"

"It is hot, Randy, and perhaps he isn't used to it."

"Are you making excuses for him?"

"I don't even know him."

Major Prime interposed. "His man was a corking little chap, never turned a hair, as cool as a cucumber, with everybody else sizzling."

They were ascending a hill, and the hor

se went slowly. Ahead of them was a buggy without a top. In the buggy were a man and a woman. The woman had an umbrella over her, and a child in her arms.

"It's Mary Flippin and her father. See if you can't overtake them, Jefferson. I want you to see Fiddle Flippin, Randy."

"Who is Fiddle Flippin?"

"Mary's little girl. Mary is a war bride. She was in Petersburg teaching school when the war broke out, and she married a man named Branch. Then she came home-and she called the baby Fidelity."

"I hope he was a good husband."

"Nobody has seen him, he was ordered away at once. But she is very proud of him. And the baby is a darling. Just beginning to walk and talk."

"Stop a minute, Jefferson, while I speak to them."

Mr. Flippin pulled up his fat horse. He was black-haired, ruddy, and wide of girth. "Well, well," he said, with a big laugh, "it is cer'n'y good to see you."

Mary Flippin was slender and delicate and her eyes were blue. Her hair was thick and dark. There was Scotch-Irish blood in the Flippins, and Mary's charm was in that of duskiness of hair and blueness of eye. "Oh, Randy Paine," she said, with her cheeks flaming, "when did you get back?"

"Ten minutes ago. Mary, if you'll hand me that corking kid, I'll kiss her."

Fiddle was handed over. She was rosy and round with her mother's blue eyes. She wore a little buttoned hat of white piqué, with strings tied under her chin.

"So," said Randy, after a moist kiss, "you are Fiddle-dee-dee?"

"Ess--"

"Who gave you that name?"

"It is her own way of saying Fidelity," Mary explained.

"Isn't she rather young to say anything?"

"Oh, Randy, she's a year and a half," Becky protested. "Your mother says that you talked in your cradle."

Randy laughed, "Oh, if you listen to Mother--"

"I'm glad you're in time for the Horse Show," Mr. Flippin interposed, "I've got a couple of prize hawgs-an' when you see them, you'll say they ain't anything like them on the other side."

"Oh, Father--"

"Well, they ain't. I reckon Virginia's good enough for you to come back to, ain't it, Mr. Randy--?"

"It is good enough for me to stay in now that I'm here."

"So you're back for good?"

"Yes."

"Well, we're mighty glad to have you."

Fiddle Flippin, dancing and doubling up on Randy's knee like a very soft doll, suddenly held out her arms to her mother.

As Mary leaned forward to take her, Randy was aware of the change in her. In the old days Mary had been a gay little thing, with an impertinent tongue. She was not gay now. She was a Madonna, tender-eyed, brooding over her child.

"She has changed a lot," Randy said, as they drove on.

"Why shouldn't she change?" Becky demanded. "Wouldn't any woman change if she had loved a man and had let him go to France?"

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