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   Chapter 18 No.18

The Trumpeter Swan By Temple Bailey Characters: 3535

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


It would never have happened if Aunt Claudia had been there. Aunt Claudia would have built hedges about Becky. She would have warned the Judge. She would, as a last resort, have challenged Dalton. But Fate, which had Becky's future well in hand, had sent Aunt Claudia to meet Truxton in New York. And she was having the time of her life.

Her first letter was a revelation to her niece. "I didn't know," she told the Judge at breakfast, "that Aunt Claudia could be like this--"

"Like what?"

"So young and gay--"

"She is not old. And when she was young she was gayer than you."

"Oh, not really, Grandfather."

"Yes. And she looked like you-and had the same tricks with her hands, and her hair was bright and brown. And she was very pretty."

"She is pretty yet," said Becky, loyally, but she was quite sure that whatever might have been Aunt Claudia's likeness to herself in the past, her own charms would not in the future shrink to fit Aunt Claudia's present pattern. It was unthinkable that her pink and white should fade to paleness, her slenderness to stiffness, her youthful radiance to a sort of weary cheerfulness.

There was nothing weary in the letter, however. "Oh, my dear, my dear, you should see Truxton. He is so perfectly splendid that I am sure he is a changeling and not my son. I tell him that he can't be the bundle of cuddly sweetness that I used to carry in my arms. I wore your white house-coat that first morning, Becky, and he sent some roses, and we had breakfast together in my rooms at the hotel. I believe it is the first time in years that I have looked into a mirror to really like my looks. You were sweet, my dear, to insist on putting it in. Truxton must stay here for two weeks more, and he wants me to stay with h

im. Then we shall come down together. Can you get along without me? We are going to the most wonderful plays, and to smart places to eat, and I danced last night on a roof garden. Should I say 'on' or 'in' a roof garden? Truxton says that my step is as light as a girl's. I think my head is a little turned. I am very happy."

Becky laid the letter down. "Would anyone have believed that Aunt Claudia could--"

"You have said that before, my dear. Your Aunt Claudia wasn't born in the ark--"

"But, Grandfather, I didn't mean that."

"It sounded like it. I shall write to her to stay as long as she can. We can get along perfectly without her."

"Of course," said Becky slowly. She had a feeling that, at all costs, she ought to call Aunt Claudia back.

For Dalton, after that first ride in the rain from Pavilion Hill, had speeded his wooing. He had swept Becky along on a rushing tide. He had courted the Judge, and the Judge had pressed upon him invitation after invitation. Day and night the big motor had flashed up to Huntersfield, bringing Dalton to some tryst with Becky, or carrying her forth to some gay adventure. Her world was rose-colored. She had not dreamed of life like this. She seemed to have drunk of some new wine, which lighted her eyes and flamed in her cheeks. Her beauty shone with an almost transcendent quality. As the dove's plumage takes on in the spring an added luster, so did the bronze of Becky's hair seem to burn with a brighter sheen.

Yet the Judge noticed nothing.

"Did you ask him to dine with us?" he had demanded, when Dalton had called Becky up on the morning of the receipt of Aunt Claudia's letter.

"No, Grandfather."

"Then I'll do it," and he had gone to the telephone, and had urged his hospitality.

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