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   Chapter 22 No.22

The Trumpeter Swan By Temple Bailey Characters: 8775

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


There came to Huntersfield the next morning at about the same moment, Kemp in his little car with a small parcel for Becky, and Calvin with a big box from the express office.

Becky was in her room at breakfast when Calvin brought the boxes up to her. It was a sunshiny morning, and the Judge had gone a-fishing with Mr. Flippin. Becky, in a lace cap and a robe that was delicately blue, sat in a big chair with a low table in front of her.

There were white roses on the table in a silver bowl. The Judge had sent them to her. The Judge had for the women of his family a feeling that was almost youthfully romantic, and which was, unquestionably, old-fashioned. He liked to think that they had roses for their little noses, ribbons and laces for their pretty faces. He wanted no harsh winds to blow on them. And in return for the softness and ease with which he would surround them, he wanted their deference to his masculine point of view.

With the box which George sent was a note. It was the first that Becky had ever received from her lover. George's code did not include much correspondence. Flaming sentiment on paper was apt to look silly when the affair ended.

To Becky, her name on the outside of the envelope seemed written in gold. She was all blushing expectation.

"There ain't no answer," Calvin said, and she waited for him to go before she opened it.

She read it and sat there drained of all feeling. She was as white as the roses on her table. She read the note again and her hands shook.

"Flora is very ill. We are taking her up to New York. After that we shall go to the North Shore. There isn't time for me to come and say; 'Good-bye.' Perhaps it is better not to come. It has been a wonderful summer, and it is you who have made it wonderful for me. The memory will linger with me always-like a sweet dream or a rare old tale. I am sending yon a little token-for remembrance. Think of me sometimes, Becky."

That was all, except a scrawled "G. D." at the end. No word of coming back. No word of writing to her again. No word of any future in which she would have a part.

She opened the box. Within on a slender chain was a pendant-a square sapphire set in platinum, and surrounded by diamonds. George had ordered it in anticipation of this crisis. He had, hitherto, found such things rather effective in the cure of broken hearts.

Now, had George but known it, Becky had jewels in leather cases in the vaults of her bank which put his sapphire trinket to shame. There were the diamonds in which a Meredith great-grandmother had been presented at the Court of St. James, and there were the pearls of which her own string was a small part. There were emeralds and rubies, old corals and jade-not for nothing had the Admiral sailed the seas, bringing back from China and India lovely things for the woman he loved. And now the jewels were Becky's, and she had not cared for them in the least. If George had loved her she would have cherished his sapphire more than all the rest.

But he did not love her. She knew it in that moment. All of her doubts were confirmed.

The thing that had happened to her seemed incredible.

She put the sapphire back in its box, wrapped it, tied the string carefully and called Mandy.

"Tell Calvin to take this to Mr. Dalton."

Mandy knew at once that something was wrong. But this was not a moment for words. The Bannisters did not talk about things that troubled them. They held their heads high. And Becky's was high at this moment, and her eyes were blazing.

As she sat there, tense, Becky wondered what Dalton could have thought of her. If she had not had a jewel in the world, she would not have kept his sapphire. Didn't he know that?

But how could he know? To him it had been "a sweet dream-a rare old tale," and she had thought him a Romeo ready to die for her sake, an Aucassin-willing to brave Hell rather than give her up, a Lohengrin sent from Heaven!

She shuddered and hid her face in her hands. At last she crept into bed. Mandy, coming in to straighten the room, was told to lower the curtains.

"My-my head aches, Mandy."

Mandy, wise old Mandy, knew of course that it was her heart. "You res' an' sleep, honey," she said, and moved about quietly setting things in order.

But Becky did not sleep. She lay wide awake, and tried to get the thing straight in her mind. H

ow had it happened? Where had she failed? Oh, why hadn't Sister Loretto told her that there were men like this? Why hadn't Aunt Claudia returned in time?

In the big box which Mandy had brought up were clothes-exquisite things which Becky had ordered from New York. She had thought it a miracle that George should have fallen in love with her believing her poor. It showed, she felt, his splendidness, his kindly indifference to-poverty. Yet she had planned a moment when he should know. When their love was proclaimed to the world he should see her in a splendor which matched his own. He had loved her in spite of her faded cottons, in spite of her shabby shoes. She had made up her list carefully, thinking of his sparkling eyes when he behold her.

She got out of bed and opened the box. The lively garments were wrapped in rosy tissue paper, and tied with ribbons to match. It seemed to Becky as if those rosy wrappings held the last faint glow of her dreams.

She untied the ribbons of the top parcel, and disclosed a frock of fine white lace-there was cloth of silver for a petticoat, and silver slippers. She would have worn her pearls, and George and she would have danced together at the Harvest Ball at the Merriweathers. It was an annual and very exclusive affair in the county. It was not likely that the Watermans and their guests would be invited, but there would have been a welcome for Dalton as her friend-her more than friend.

There was a white lace wrap with puffs of pink taffeta and knots of silver ribbon which went with the gown. Becky with a sudden impulse put it on. She stripped the cap from her head, and wound her bronze locks in a high knot. She surveyed herself.

Well, she was Becky Bannister of Huntersfield-and the mirror showed her beauty. And Dalton had not known or cared. He thought her poor; and had thrown her aside like an old glove!

Down-stairs the telephone rang. Old Mandy, coming up to say that Mr. Randy was on the wire, stood in amazement at the sight of Becky in the rosy wrap with her hair peaked up to a topknot.

"Ain' you in baid?" she asked, superfluously.

"No. Who wants me, Mandy?"

"I tole you-Mr. Randy."

Becky deliberated. "I'll go down. When I come up we'll unpack all this, Mandy."

Randy at the other end of the wire was asking Becky to go to a barbecue the next day.

"The boarders are giving it-it is Mother's birthday and they want to celebrate. It is to be on Pavilion Hill. They want you and the Judge--"

"To-morrow? Oh, I don't know, Randy."

"Why not? Have you another engagement?"

"No."

"Then what's the matter? Can't you tear yourself away from your shining knight?"

Silence.

"Becky-oh, I didn't mean that. I'm sorry-Becky--"

Her answer came faintly, "I'll come."

"What's the matter with the wire? I can't hear you."

There was nothing the matter with the wire. The thing that was the matter was Becky's voice. She found it suddenly unmanageable. "We'll come," she told him finally, and hung up the receiver.

She ascended the stairs as if she carried a burden on her back. Mandy was on her knees before the hamper, untying the rosy packages.

"Is you goin' to try 'em on, honey?" she asked.

Becky stood in the doorway, the lace wrap hanging from her shoulders and showing the delicate blue of the negligee beneath-her face was like chalk but her eyes shone. "Yes," she said, "there's a pink gingham I want to wear to the barbecue to-morrow. There ought to be a hat to match. Did the hats come, Mandy?"

"Calvin he say there's another box, but he ain' brought it up from the deepot. He was ridin' dat Jo-mule, and this yer basket was all he could ca'y."

In the pink frock Becky looked like a lovely child.

"Huc-cum you-all gettin' eve'y thing pink, Miss Becky?" Mandy asked.

"For a change," said Becky.

And how could she tell old Mandy that she had felt that in a rose-colored world everything should be rose-color?

She tried on each frock deliberately. She tried on every pair of slippers. She tried on the wraps, and the hats which came up finally with Calvin staggering beneath the bulkiness of the box. She was lovely in everything. And she was no longer the little Becky Bannister whom Dalton had wooed. She was Mademoiselle Midas, appraising her beauty in her lovely clothes, and wondering what Dalton would think if he could see her.

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