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   Chapter 9 No.9

The Trumpeter Swan By Temple Bailey Characters: 7074

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


From the porch of the Country Club, George Dalton had seen the Judge's party at luncheon. According to George's lexicon no one who could afford to go to the club would eat out of a basket. He rather blushed for Becky that she must sit there in the sight of everybody and share a feast with a shabby old Judge, a lean and lank stripling with straight hair, a lame duck of an officer, and two middle-aged women, who made spots of black and purple on the landscape. Like Oscar, George's ideas of life had to do largely with motor cars and yachts, and estates on Long Island, palaces at Newport and Lenox and Palm Beach. During the war he had served rather comfortably in a becoming uniform in the Quartermaster's Department in Washington. Now that the war was over, he regretted the becomingness of the uniform. He felt to-day, however, that there were compensations in his hunting pink. He was slightly bronzed and had blue eyes. He was extremely popular with the women of the Waterman set, but was held to be the especial property of Madge MacVeigh.

Madge had observed his interest in the party on the hill.

"George," she said, "what are you looking at?"

"I am looking at those people who are picnicking. They probably have ants in the salad and spiders in their coffee."

"They are getting more out of it than you and I," said Madge.

"How getting more?"

"We are tired of things, Georgie-Porgie."

"Speak for yourself, Madge."

"I am speaking for both of us. You are tired of me, for example."

"My dear girl, I am not."

"You are. And I am tired of you. It's not your fault, and it's not mine. It is the fault of any house-party. People see too much of each other. I am glad I am going away to-morrow, and you'll be glad. And when we have been separated a month, you will rush up to see me, and say you couldn't live without me."

She dissected him coolly. Madge had a modern way of looking at things. She was not in the least sentimental. But she had big moments of feeling. It was because of this deep current which swept her away now and then from the shallows that she held Dalton's interest. He never knew in what mood he should find her, and it added spice to their friendship.

"I didn't know you were going to-morrow."

"Neither did I till this morning, but I am bored to death, Georgie."

She did not look it. She was long-limbed, slender, with heavy burned-gold hair, a skin which was pale gold after a July by the sea. The mauve of her dress and hat emphasized the gold of hair and skin. Some one had said that Madge MacVeigh at the end of a summer gave the effect of a statue cast in new bronze. Dalton in the early days of their friendship had called her his "Golden Girl." The name had stuck to her. She had laughed at it but had liked it. "I should hate it," she had said, "if I were rich. Perhaps some day some millionaire will turn me into gold and make it true."

"Just because you are bored to death," Dalton told her, "is no reason why you should accuse me of it."

"It isn't accusation. It's condolence. I am sorry for both of us, George, that we can't sit there under the trees and eat out of a basket and have spiders and ants in things and not mind it. Here we are in the land of Smithfield hams and spoon-bread and we ate canned lobster for lunch, and alligator pear salad."

"Baked ham and spoon-bread-for our sins?"

"It is because you and I have missed the baked ham and spoon-bread atmosphere, that we are bored to death, Georgie. Everything in our lives is the same

wherever we go. When we are in Virginia we ought to do as the Virginians do, and instead Oscar Waterman brings a little old New York with him. It's Rome for the Romans, Georgie, lobsters in New England, avocados in Log Angeles, hog and hominy here."

There were others listening now, and she was aware of her amused audience.

"If you don't like my little old New York," Waterman said, "I'll change it."

"No, I am going back to the real thing, Oscar. To my sky-scrapers and subways. You can't give us those down here-not yet. Perhaps some day there will be a system of camouflage by which no matter where we are-in desert or mountain, we can open our windows to the Woolworth Building on the skyline or the Metropolitan Tower, or to Diana shooting at the stars,-and have some little cars in tunnels to run us around your estate."

"By Jove, Jefferson nearly did it," said Waterman; "you should see the subterranean passages at Monticello for the servants, so that the guests could look over the grounds without a woolly head in sight."

"Great old boob, Jefferson," said Waterman's wife, Flora.

"No," Madge's eyes went out over the hills to where Monticello brooded over great memories, "he was not a boob. He was so big that little people like us can't focus him, Flora."

She came down from her perch. "I adore great men," she said; "when I go back, I shall make a pilgrimage to Oyster Bay. I wonder how many of us who weep over Greatheart's grave would have voted for him if he had lived. In a sense we crucified him."

"Madge is serious," said Flora Waterman, "now what do you think of that?"

"I have to be serious sometimes, Flora, to balance the rest of you. You can be as gay as you please when I am gone, and if you perish, you perish."

George walked beside her as the party moved towards the grandstand. "I've half a mind to go to New York with you, Madge. I came down on your account."

"It's because you followed me that I'm tired of you, Georgie. If you go, I'll stay."

She was smiling as she said it. But he did not smile. "Just as you wish, of course. But you mustn't expect me to come running when you crook your finger."

"I never expect things, but you'll come."

Perhaps she would not have been so sure if she could have looked into his mind. The day that Becky had ridden away, hidden by the flaps of the old surrey, the spark of his somewhat fickle interest had been lighted, and the glimpse that he had had of her this morning had fanned the spark into a flame.

"Did you say the old man's name is Bannister?" he asked Oscar as the Judge's party passed them later on their way to their seats.

"Yes. Judge Bannister. I tried to buy his place before I decided on Hamilton Hill. But he wouldn't sell. He said he wouldn't have any place for his stuffed birds."

"Stuffed birds?"

"His hobby is the game birds of Virginia. He has a whole room of them. I offered him a good price, but I suppose he'd rather starve than take it."

The Judge's box was just above Oscar Waterman's. Becky, looking up, saw Dalton's eyes upon her.

"It's the man who came with you on the train," she told Randy.

"What's he wearing a pink coat for?" Randy demanded. "He isn't riding."

"He probably knows that he looks well in it."

"That isn't a reason."

Becky took another look. "He has a head like the bust of Apollo in our study hall."

"I'd hate to have a head like that."

"Well, you haven't," she told him; "you may hug that thought to yourself if it is any consolation, Randy."

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