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   Chapter 5 No.5

The Trumpeter Swan By Temple Bailey Characters: 5050

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


The Schoolhouse at King's Crest had been built years before by one of the Paines for two sons and their tutor. It was separated from the old brick mansion by a wide expanse of unmowed lawn, thick now in midsummer with fluttering poppies. There was a flagged stone walk, and an orchard at the left, beyond the orchard were rolling fields, and in the distance one caught a glimpse of the shining river.

On the lower floor of the Schoolhouse were two ample sitting-rooms with bedrooms above, one of which was reached by outside stairs, and the other by an enclosed stairway. Baths had been added when Mrs. Paine had come as a widow to King's Crest with her small son, and had chosen the Schoolhouse as a quiet haven. Later, on the death of his grandparents, Randy had inherited the estate, and he and his mother had moved into the mansion. But he had kept his rooms in the Schoolhouse, and was glad to know that he could go back to them.

Major Prime had the west sitting-room. It was lined with low bookcases, full of old, old books. There was a fireplace, a winged chair, a broad couch, a big desk of dark seasoned mahogany, and over the mantel a steel engraving of Robert E. Lee. The low windows at the back looked out upon the wooded green of the ascending hill; at the front was a porch which gave a view of the valley.

Randolph's arrival had had something of the effect of a triumphal entry. Jefferson had driven him straight to the Schoolhouse, but on the way they had encountered old Susie, Jefferson's mother, who cooked, and old Bob, who acted as butler, and the new maid who waited on the table. These had followed the surrey as a sort of ecstatic convoy. Not a boarder was in sight but behind the windows of the big house one was aware of watching eyes.

"They are all crazy to meet you," Randy's mother had told him, as they came into the Major's sitting-room after those first sacred moments when the doors had been shut against the world, "they are all crazy to meet you, but you needn't come over to lunch unless you really care to do it. Jefferson can serve you here."

"What do you want me to do?"

"My dear, I'm so proud of you, I'd like to show you to the whole world."

"But there are so many of us, Mother."

"There's only one of you--"

"And we haven't come back to be put on pedestals."

"You were put on pedestals before you went away."

"I'll be spoiled if you talk to me like that."

"I shall talk as I please, Randy. Major Prime, isn't he as handsome as a-rose?"

"Mother-

-"

"Well, you are---"

"Mother, if you talk like this to the boarders, I'll go back and get shot up--"

She clung to him. "Randy, don't say such a thing. He mustn't talk like that, must he, Major?"

"He doesn't mean it. Paine, this looks to me like the Promised Land--"

"I'm glad you like it," said Mrs. Paine, "and now if you don't mind, I'll run along and kill the fatted calf--"

She kissed her son, and under a huge umbrella made her way through the poppies that starred the grass--

"On Flanders field-where poppies blow"-the Major drew a sudden quick breath-- He wished there were no poppies at King's Crest.

"I hate this hero stuff," Randy was saying, "don't you?"

"I am not so sure that I do. Down deep we'd resent it if we were not applauded, shouldn't we?"

Randy laughed. "I believe we should."

"I fancy that when we've been home for a time, we may feel somewhat bitter if we find that our pedestals are knocked from under us. Our people don't worship long. They have too much to think of. They'll put up some arches, and a few statues and build tribute houses in a lot of towns, and then they'll go on about their business, and we who have fought will feel a bit blank."

Randy laughed, "you haven't any illusions about it, have you?"

"No, but you and I know that it's all right however it goes."

Randy, standing very straight, looked out over the valley where the river showed through the rain like a silver thread. "Well, we didn't do it for praise, did we?"

"No, thank God."

Their eyes were seeing other things than these quiet hills. Things they wanted to forget. But they did not want to forget the high exaltation which had sent them over, or the quiet conviction of right which had helped them to carry on. What the people at home might do or think did not matter. What mattered was their own adjustment to the things which were to follow.

Randy went up-stairs, took off his uniform, bathed and came down in the garments of peace.

"Glad to get out of your uniform?" the Major asked.

"I believe I am. Perhaps if I'd been an officer, I shouldn't."

"Everybody couldn't be. I've no doubt you deserved it."

"I could have pulled wires, of course, before I went over, but I wouldn't."

From somewhere within the big house came the reverberation of a Japanese gong.

Randy rose. "I'm going over to lunch. I'd rather face guns, but Mother will like it. You can have yours here."

"Not if I know it," the Major rose, "I'm going to share the fatted calf."

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