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   Chapter 25 No.25

The Trumpeter Swan By Temple Bailey Characters: 4771

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


Dalton felt that Fate had played a shabby trick. He had planned a graceful exit and the curtain had stuck; he had wanted to run away, and he could not. Flora was very ill, and it was, of course, out of the question to desert Oscar.

Madge had been sent for. She was to arrive on the noon train. He had promised Oscar that he would drive down for her. The house was in a hubbub. There were two trained nurses, and a half-dozen doctors. The verdict was unanimous, Flora could not be moved, and an operation was imperative.

And in the meantime there was the thought of Becky beating at his heart. With miles between them, the thing would have been easy. Other interests would have crowded her out. But here she was definitely within reach-and he wanted her. He wanted her more than he had ever wanted Madge, more than he had ever wanted any other woman. There had been a sweetness about her, a dearness.

He thought it over as he lay in bed waiting for his breakfast. Since waking, he had led Kemp a life of it.

"Of all the fools," he said, when at last the tray came.

"Anything the matter, sir?"

George lifted a silver cover. "That's not what I ordered."

"You said a kidney omelette, sir."

"I wanted the kidney broiled-not in a messy sauce. Take it away."

"I'll get you another."

"I don't want another. Take it away." He flung his napkin on the tray and turned his face to the wall. "I've got a headache. Tell Waterman that if he asks for me, that I've told you to go down and meet Miss MacVeigh."

Kemp stood and looked at the figure humped up under the light silk cover. He had long patience. He might have been a stick or stone under his master's abuse. But he was not a stick or a stone. It seemed too that suddenly his soul expanded. No man had ever called him a fool, and he had worn a decoration in France. He knew what he was going to do. And for the first time in many months he felt himself a free man.

George's decision to have Kemp meet Madge had been founded on the realization that it would be unbearably awkward if he should pass Becky on the road. She had sent back his pendant without a word, and there was no telling how she was taking it. If the thing were ever renewed-and his mind dwelt daringly on that possibility, explanations would be easy-but he couldn't make explanation if she saw him first in a car with another woman.

It w

as thus that Madge, arriving on the noon train, found Kemp waiting for her. Kemp was very fond of Miss MacVeigh. She was not a snob and there were so many snobs among Dalton's friends. She talked to him as if he were a man and not a mechanical toy. Dalton, on the other hand, treated his valet as if he were a marionette to be pulled by strings, an organ controlled by stops, or a typewriter operated by keys.

Major Prime had come down on the same train. Randy, driving Little Sister, was there to meet him.

"It is good to get back," the Major said. "I've been homesick."

"We missed you a lot. Yesterday we had a barbecue, and you should have been here--"

"I wanted to be, Randy. I hope you are not going to turn me out with the rest of the boarders when you roll in affluence."

"Affluence, nothing-but I sold two cars yesterday--"

"Not bad for a poet."

"It is a funny sort of game," said Randy soberly; "all day I run around in this funny little car, and at night I think big thoughts and try to put them on paper."

He could not tell the Major that the night before his thoughts had not been the kind to put on paper. He had been in a white fury. He knew that if he met Dalton nothing could keep him from knocking him down. He felt that a stake and burning fagots would be the proper thing, but, failing that, fists would do. Yet, there was Becky's name to be considered. Revenge, if he took it, must be a subtle thing-his mind had worked on it in the darkness of the night.

Kemp was helping Madge into the Waterman car. "Who is she?" the Major asked. "She came down on my train."

"Miss MacVeigh. Mrs. Waterman is very ill. There is to be an operation at once."

"I watched her on the train," the Major confessed as he and Randy drove off. "She read all the way down, and smiled over her book. I saw the title, and it was 'Pickwick Papers.' Fancy that in these days. Most young people don't read Dickens."

"Well, she isn't young, is she?"

"Not callow, if that's what you mean, you ungallant cub. But she is young in contrast to a Methuselah like myself."

Kemp had to look after Miss MacVeigh's trunks, so Randy's little car went on ahead. Thus again Fate pulled wires, or Providence. If the big car had had the lead Madge would have gone straight as an arrow to Hamilton Hill. But as it happened, Little Sister barred the way to the open road.

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