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   Chapter 20 No.20

The Trumpeter Swan By Temple Bailey Characters: 7351

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


In the days that followed, Becky's gay lover came and rode away, and came again. He sparkled and shone and worshipped, but not a word did he say about the future. He seemed content with this idyl of old gardens, scented twilights, starlight nights, with Beauty's eyes for him alone radiant eyes that matched the stars.

Yet as the days went on the radiance was dimmed. Becky was in a state of bewilderment which bordered on fear. George showed himself an incomparable lover, but always he was silent about the things which she felt cried for utterance.

So at last one day she spoke to the Judge.

"Granddad, did you kiss Grandmother before you asked her to marry you?"

"Asking always comes first, my dear. And you are too young to think of such things."

Grandfather was, thus obviously, no help. He sat in the Bird Room and dreamed of the days when the stuffed mocking-bird on the wax branch sang to a young bride, and his ideal of love had to do with the courtly etiquette of a time when men knelt and sued and were rewarded with the touch of finger tips.

As for George, he found himself liking this affair rather more than usual. There was no denying that the child was tremendously attractive-with her youth and beauty and the reserve which like a stone wall seemed now and then to shut her in. He had always a feeling that he would like to climb over the wall. It had pricked his interest to find in this little creature a strength and delicacy which he had found in no other woman.

He had had one or two letters from Madge, and had answered them with a line. She gave rather generously of her correspondence and her letters were never dull. In the last one she had asked him to join her on the North Shore.

"I am sorry," she said, "for the new little girl. I have a feeling that she won't know how to play the game and that you'll hurt her. You will probably think that I am jealous, but I can't help that. Men always think that women are jealous when it comes to other women. They never seem to understand that we are trying to keep the world straight.

"Oscar writes that Flora isn't well, that all her other guests are gone except you-and that she wants me. But why should I come? I wish he wouldn't ask me. Something always tugs at my heart when I think of Flora. She has so much and yet so little. She and Oscar would be much happier in a flat on the West Side with Flora cooking in a kitchenette, and Oscar bringing things home from the delicatessen. He would buy bologna and potato salad on Sunday nights, and perhaps they would slice up a raw onion. It sounds dreadful, doesn't it? But there are thousands of people doing just that thing, Georgie, and being very happy over it. And it wouldn't be dreadful for Flora and Oscar because they would be right where they belong, and the potato salad and the bologna and the little room where Oscar could sit with his coat off would be much more to their liking than their present pomp and elegance. You and I are different. You could never play any part pleasantly but that of Prince Charming, and I should hate the kitchenette. I want wide spaces, and old houses, and deep fireplaces-my people far back were like that-I sometimes wonder why I stick to Flora-perhaps it is because she clung to me in those days when Oscar was drafted and had to go, and she cried so hard in the Red Cross rooms that I took her under my wing-- Take it all together, Flora is rather worth while and so is Oscar if he didn't try so hard to be what he is not.

"But then we are all trying rather hard to be what we are not. I am really and truly middle-class. In my mind, I mean. Yet no one would believe it to loo

k at me, for I wear my clothes like a Frenchwoman, and I am as unconventional as English royalty. And two generations of us have inherited money. But back of that there were nice middle-class New Englanders who did their own work. And the women wore white aprons, and the men wore overalls, and they ate doughnuts for breakfast, and baked beans on Sunday, and they milked their own cows, and skimmed their own cream, and they read Hamlet and the King James version of the Bible, and a lot of them wrote things that will be remembered throughout the ages, and they had big families and went to church, and came home to overflowing hospitality and chicken pies-and they were the salt of the earth. And as I think I remarked to you once before, I want to be like my great-grandmother in my next incarnation, and live in a wide, low farmhouse, and have horses and hogs and chickens and pop-corn on snowy nights, and go to church on Sunday.

"I don't know why I am writing like this, except that I went to Trinity to vespers, when I stopped over in Boston. It was dim and quiet and the boys' voices were heavenly, and over it all brooded the spirit of the great man who once preached there-and who still preaches--

"And now it is Sunday again, and I am back at the Crossing, and I played golf all the morning, and bridge this afternoon, and all the women smoked and all the men, and I was in a blue haze, and I wanted to be back in the quiet church where the boys sang, and the lights were like stars--

"I wish you and I could go there some day and that you could feel as I do about it. But you wouldn't. You are always so sure and smug-and you have a feeling that money will buy anything-even Paradise. I wonder what you will be like on the next plane. You won't fit into my farmhouse. I fancy that you'll be something rather-devilish-like Don Juan-or perhaps you'll be just an 'ostler in a courtyard, shining boots and-kissing maids--

"Of course I don't quite mean that. But I do feel that you'd be rather worth while if you'd stop philandering and discover your soul.

"I am a bit homesick, and I haven't any home. If Dad hadn't married a second time, I believe he would still love me a bit. But his wife doesn't. And so here I am-and as restless as ever-seeking something-always seeking.

"And now, once more, don't break the heart of the new little girl. I don't need to warn you not to break your own. You are the greatest example of the truth of 'he who loves and runs away will live to love another day.' Oh, Georgie-Porgie, will you ever love any woman enough to rise with her to the heights?

"Perhaps there aren't any heights for you or me. But I should like to think there were. Different hilltops, of course, so that we could wave across. We shall never climb together, Georgie. Perhaps we are too much alike to help each other up the hills. We need stronger props.

"Tell me about Flora. Is she really ill? If she is, I'll come. But I'd rather not.

"I hope you won't read this aloud to Oscar. You might, you know, and it wouldn't do. He would hate to believe that he'd be happier buying things at a delicatessen, and he wouldn't believe it. But it's true, just as it is true that you would be happy shining boots and making love to the maids like a character in Dickens.

"Come on up, and we'll motor to Boston on Sunday afternoon and we'll go to Trinity; I want somebody to be good with me, Georgie, and there are so many of the other kind.

"Ever wistfully,

"MADGE."

George knew that he ought to go, but he was not ready yet to run away. He was having the time of his life, and as for Becky, he would teach her how to play the game.

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