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   Chapter 19 No.19

The Trumpeter Swan By Temple Bailey Characters: 5382

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05

When Dalton came Becky met him on the front steps of the house.

"Dinner is late," she said, "let's go down into the garden."

The garden at Huntersfield was square with box hedges and peaked up with yew, and there were stained marble statues of Diana and Flora and Ceres, and a little pool with lily pads.

"You are like the pretty little girls in the picture books," said George, as they walked along. "Isn't that a new frock?"

"Yes," said Becky, "it is. Do you like it?"

"You are a rose among the roses," he said. He wondered a bit at its apparent expensiveness. Perhaps, however, Becky was skillful with her needle. Some women were. He did not care greatly for such skill, but he was charmed by the effect.

"You are a rose among the roses," he said again, and broke off a big pink bud from a bush near by. "Bend your head a little. I want to put it in your hair."

His fingers caught in the bronze mesh. "It is wound around my ring." He fumbled in his pockets with his free hand and got his knife. "It may pull a bit."

He showed her presently the lock which he had cut. "It seems alive," he kissed it and put it in his pocket.

Her protest was genuine. "Oh, please," she said, "I wish you wouldn't."

"Wouldn't what?"

"Keep it."

"Shall I throw it away?"

"You shouldn't have cut it off."

"Other men have been tempted-in a garden--"

It might have startled George could he have known that old Mandy, eyeing him from the kitchen, placed him in Eden's bower not as the hero of the world's initial tragedy, but as its Satanic villain.

"He sutt'n'y have bewitched Miss Becky," she told Calvin; "she ain' got her min' on nothin' but him."

"Yo' put yo' min' on yo' roas' lamb, honey," Calvin suggested. "How-cum you got late?"

"That chile kep' me fixin' that pink dress. She ain' never cyard what she wo'. And now she stan' in front o' dat lookin'-glass an' fuss an' fiddle. And w'en she ain' fussin' an' fiddlin', she jus' moons around, waitin' fo' him to come ridin' up in that red car like a devil on greased light'in'. An' I say right heah, Miss Claudia ain' gwine like it."

"Why ain' she?"

"Miss Claudia know black f'um w'ite. An' dat man done got a black heart--"

"Whut yon know 'bout hit, Mandy?"

"Lissen. You wait. He'll suck a o'ange an' th'ow it away. He'll pull a rose, and scattah the leaves." Mandy, stirring gravy, was none the less dramatic. "You lissen, an' wait--"

"Wen Miss Claudia comin'?"

"In one week, thank the Lord," Mandy pushed the gravy to the back of the stove and pulled forward an iron pot. "The soup's ready," she said; "you go up and tell the Jedge, Calvin."

All through dinner, Becky was conscio

us of that lock of hair in George's pocket. The strand from which the lock had been cut fell down on her cheek. She had to tuck it back. She saw George smile as she did it. She forgave him.

It was after dinner that George spoke of Becky's gown.

"It is perfect," he said, "all except the pearls--?"

She gave him a startled glance. "The pearls?"

"I want to see you without them."

She unwound them and they dripped from her hand in milky whiteness.

He made his survey. "That's better," he said, "if they were real it would be different-I don't like to have you cheapened by anything less than-perfect--"

"Cheapened?" She smiled inscrutably, then dropped the pearls into a small box on the table beside her. "Yes," she said, "if they were real it would be different--"

There was something in her manner which made him say hurriedly, "You must not think that I am criticizing your taste. If I had my way you should have everything that money can buy--"

Her candid eyes came up to his. "There are a great many things that money cannot buy."

"You've got to show me," George told her; "I've never seen anything yet that I couldn't get with money."

"Could you buy-dreams--"

"I'd rather buy-diamonds."

"And money can't buy happiness."

"It can buy a pretty good imitation."

"But imitation happiness is like imitation pearls."

He laughed and sat down beside her. "You mustn't be too clever."

"I am not clever at all."

"I believe you are. And you don't have to be. There are plenty of clever women but only one Becky Bannister."

It was just an hour later that Georgie-Porgie kissed her. She was at the piano in the music-room, and there was no light except the glimmer of tall white candles, and the silver moonlight which fell across the shining floor.

Her grandfather was nodding in the room beyond, and through the open window came the dry, sweet scent of summer, as if nature had opened her pot-pourri to give the world a whiff of treasured fragrance.

Becky had been singing, and she had stopped and looked up at him.

"Oh, you lovely-lovely, little thing," he said, and bent his head.

To Becky, that moment was supreme, sacred. She trembled with happiness. To her that kiss meant betrothal-ultimate marriage.

To George it meant, of course, nothing of the kind. It was only one of many moments. It was a romance which might have been borrowed from the Middle Ages. A rare tale such as one might read in a book. A pleasant dalliance-to be continued until he was tired of it. If he ever married, it must be a spectacular affair-handsome woman, big fortune, not an unsophisticated slip of a child from an impoverished Virginia farm.

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