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   Chapter 14 No.14

The Trumpeter Swan By Temple Bailey Characters: 5074

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05

Aunt Claudia was going to Washington also on the three o'clock train. She had had a wireless from Truxton who had sailed from Brest and would arrive at New York within the week.

"Of course you'll go and meet him, Aunt Claudia," Becky had said; "I'll help you to get your things ready."

Aunt Claudia, quite white and inwardly shaken by the thought of the happiness which was on its way to her, murmured her thanks.

Becky, divining something of the tumult which was beneath that outward show of serenity, patted the cushions of the couch in Mrs. Beaufort's bedroom. "Lie down here, you darling dear. It was such a surprise, wasn't it?"

"Well, my knees are weak," Mrs. Beaufort admitted.

The nuns had taught Becky nice ways and useful arts, so she folded and packed under Aunt Claudia's eye and was much applauded.

"Most girls in these days," said Mrs. Beaufort, "throw things in. Last summer I stayed at a house where the girls sat on their trunks to shut them, and sent parcel-post packages after them of the things they had left out."

"Sister Loretto says that I am not naturally tidy, so she keeps me at it. I used to weep my eyes out when she'd send me back to my room-- But crying doesn't do any good with Sister Loretto."

"Crying is never any good," said Aunt Claudia. She was of Spartan mold. "Crying only weakens. When things are so bad that you must cry, then do it where the world can't see."

Becky found herself thrilled by the thought of Aunt Claudia crying in secret. She was a martial little soul in spite of her distinctly feminine type of mind.

Aunt Claudia's lingerie, chastely French-embroidered in little scallops, with fresh white ribbons run in, was laid out on the bed in neat piles. There was also a gray corduroy dressing-gown, lined with silk.

"This will be too warm," Becky said; "please let me put in my white crepe house-coat. It will look so pretty, Aunt Claudia, when Truxton comes in the morning to kiss you--"

Aunt Claudia had been holding on to her emotions tightly. The thought of that morning kiss which for three dreadful years had been denied her-for three dreadful years she had not known whether Truxton would ever breeze into her room before breakfast with his "Mornin' Mums." She felt that if she allowed herself any softness or yielding at this moment she would spoil her spotless record of self-control and weep in maudlin fashion in Becky's arms.

So in self-defense, she spoke with coldness. "I never wear borrowed clothes, my dear."

Becky, somewhat dis

hevelled and warm from her exertions, sat down to argue it. "I haven't had it on. And I'd love to give it to you--"

"My dear, of course not. It's very generous of you-very--" Aunt Claudia buried her face suddenly in the pillows and sobbed stormily.

Becky stood up. "Oh, Aunt Claudia," she gasped. Then with the instinctive knowledge that silence was best, she gave her aunt a little pat on the shoulder and crept from the room.

She crept back presently and packed the crepe house-coat with the other things. Then, since Aunt Claudia made no sign, she went down-stairs to the kitchen.

Mandy, the cook, who had a complexion like an old copper cent, and who wore a white Dutch cap in place of the traditional bandana, was cutting corn from the cob for fritters.

"If you'll make a cup of tea," Becky said, "I'll take it up to Aunt Claudia. She's lying down."

"Is you goin' wid her?" Mandy asked.

"To New York? No. She'll want Truxton all to herself, Mandy."

"Well, I hopes she has him," Mandy husked an ear of corn viciously. "I ain' got my boy. He hol's his haid so high, he ain' got no time fo' his ol' Mammy."

"You know you are proud of him, Mandy."

"I ain' sayin' I is, and I ain' sayin' I isn't. But dat Daisy down the road, she ac' like she own him."

"Oh, Daisy? Is he in love with her?"

"Love," with withering scorn, "love? Ain' he got somefin' bettah to do than lovin' when he's jes' fit and fought fo' Uncle Sam?" She beat the eggs for her batter as if she had Daisy's head under the whip. "He fit and fought fo' Uncle Sam," she repeated, "and now he comes home and camps hisse'f on Daisy's do'-step."

Against the breeze of such high indignation, any argument would be blown away. Becky changed the subject hastily. "Mandy," she asked, "are you making corn fritters?"

"I is--"

"What else for lunch?"

"An omlec--"

"Mandy, I'm so hungry I could eat a house--"

"You look it," Mandy told her; "effen I was you, I'd eat and git fat."

"It isn't fashionable to be fat, Mandy."

"Skeletums may be in style," said Mandy, breaking eggs for the omelette, "but I ain' ever found good looks in bones."

"Don't you like my bones, Mandy?"

"You ain't got none, honey."

"You called me a skeleton."

The kettle boiled. "Effen I called you a skeletum," Mandy said as she placed a cup and saucer on a small napkined tray, "my min' was on dat-ar Daisy. You ain' got no bones, Miss Becky. But Daisy, she's got a neck like a picked tukkey, and her shoulder-blades stan' out like wings."

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