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   Chapter 27 No.27

The Trumpeter Swan By Temple Bailey Characters: 6394

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


The window of the east room looked out on the old orchard. There was a screened door which opened upon a porch and a stretch of lawn beyond which was the dairy.

Within the room there was a wide white bed, and a mahogany dresser with a scarf with crocheted trimming, above the dresser was an old steel engraving of Samson destroying the temple. The floor was spotless, a soft breeze shook the curtains. Madge, relieved from pain and propped on her pillows, watched a mother cat who with her kittens sat just outside the door.

She was a gray cat with white paws and breast, not fat at the moment but with a comfortable well-fed look. She alternately washed herself and washed her offspring. There were four of them, a rollicking lot not easy to keep in order.

"Aren't they-ripping?" Madge said to Mary.

"They always come up on the step about this time in the afternoon; they are waiting for the men to bring the milk to the dairy."

A little later Madge saw the men coming-two of them, with the foaming pails. The mother cat rose and went to meet them. Her tail was straight up and the kittens danced after her.

"They will get a big dish of it, and then they will go around to the kitchen door to wait for supper and the table scraps. And after that Bessie will coax the kittens out to the barn and go hunting for the night."

"Is that her name-Bessie?"

"Yes; there has always been a Bessie-cat here. And we cling to old customs."

"I like old customs," said Madge, "and old houses."

After a little she asked, "Who makes the butter?"

"I do. It's great fun."

"Oh, when I am well, may I help?"

"You--?" Mary came over and stood looking down at her; "of course you may help. But perhaps you wouldn't like it."

"I am sure I should. And I don't think I am going to get well very soon--"

Mary was solicitous. "Why not?"

"I don't want to get well. I want to stay here. I think this place is-heavenly."

Mary laughed. "It is just a plain farmhouse. If you want the show places you should go to Huntersfield and King's Crest--"

"I want just this. Do you know I am almost afraid to go to sleep for fear I shall wake up and find it a-dream--"

A little later, she asked, "Are those apples in the orchard ripe?"

"Yes."

"May I have one?"

"The doctor may not want you to have it," said her anxious nurse.

"Just to hold in my hand," begged Madge.

So Mary picked a golden apple, and when the doctor came after dark, he found the room in all the dimness of shaded lamplight, and the golden girl asleep with that golden globe in her hand.

Up-stairs the mulatto girl, Daisy, was putting Fiddle-dee-dee to sleep.

"You be good, and Daisy gwine tell you a story."

Fiddle liked songs better. "Sing 'Jack-Sam-bye.'"

Daisy, without her corsets and in disreputable slippers, settled herself to an hour of ease. She had the negro's love of the white child, and a sensuous appreciation of the pleasant twilight, the bed-time song, the rhythm of the rocking-chair.

"Well, you lissen," she said, and rocked in time to the tune.

Bye, oh, bye, little Jack-Sam, bye.

Bye, oh, bye, my baby,

When you wake, you shall have a cake--

And all t

he pretty little horses--

Her voice was low and pleasant, with queer, quavering minor cadences. But Fiddle-dee-dee was not sleepy.

"'Tory," she begged, when the song was ended.

So Daisy told the story of the three bears. Fiddle was too young to fully comprehend, but she liked the sound of Daisy's voice at the climaxes, "Who's been sittin' in my chair?" and "Who's been sleepin' in my bed?" and "Who's been eatin' my soup?" Daisy was dramatic or nothing, and she entered into the spirit of her tale. It was such an exciting performance altogether that Fiddle was wider awake than ever when the story was finished.

"'Ain' you evah gwine shut yo' eyes?"

"Daisy, sing," said Fiddle.

"I'se sung twel my th'oat's dry," said Daisy. And just then Mary came in. "Isn't she asleep, Daisy?-I'll take her. Bannister's John is downstairs and wants to see you."

"Well, I ain' wantin' to see him," Daisy tossed her head; "you jus' take Miss Fiddle whilst I goes down and settles him. I ain' dressed and I ain' ready, Miss Mary. You jes' look at them feet." She stuck them out for inspection. Her shoes were out at the toes and down at the heels. "This ain' my company night." As she went down-stairs, her voice died away in a querulous murmur.

Mary, with her child in her arms, sat by the window and looked out upon the quiet scene. There was faint rose in the sky, and a silver star. But while she watched the rose faded.

Fiddle, warm and heavy in her arms, slept finally. Then Mary took off her dress and donned a thin white kimono. She let down her hair and braided it--

There was no light in the room, and her mother, coming up, asked softly, "Are you there?"

"Yes."

"Fiddle asleep?"

"Yes, Mother."

Mrs. Flippin found her way to the window and sat down. "The nurse is here, and a lot of clothes and things just came over for Miss MacVeigh from Hamilton Hill. Mary, I wish you could see them."

"I shall in the morning, Mother."

"The nurse got her into a satin nightgown before I came up, with nothing but straps for sleeves-but she looked like a Princess--"

"Aren't you tired to death, dear?"

Mrs. Flippin laughed. "Me? I like it. I am sorry to have Miss MacVeigh hurt, but having her in the house with all those pretty things and people coming and going is better than a circus."

Mary laughed a little. "You are such a darling-making the best of things--"

"Well, making the best is the easiest way," said Mrs. Flippin. "I ain't taking any credit, Mary."

"You've had a hard day. You'd better go to bed."

"I'll have a harder one to-morrow. Nothing would do but I must go back to Huntersfield. Mandy's off her head, and the Judge wants this whole house turned upside down for Truxton."

"And Truxton comes-on the noon train."

"Yes."

There was a long silence. Then Mary said in a queer voice, "Mother, I've got to tell you something-to-night--"

"You ain't got anything to tell me, honey."

"But I have-something-I should have told you-months ago."

"There isn't anything you can tell me that I don't know."

"Mother--"

"Girls can't fool their mothers, Mary. Do you think that when Fiddle grows up, she is going to fool you?"

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