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   Chapter 29 No.29

The Trumpeter Swan By Temple Bailey Characters: 4872

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


Randy rode straight from Hamilton Hill to Huntersfield. He found Becky in the Bird Room. She had her head tied up in a white cloth, and a big white apron enveloped her. She was as white as the whiteness in which she was clad, and there were purple shadows under her eyes. The windows were open and a faint breeze stirred the curtains. The shade of the great trees softened the light to a dim green. After the glare of Oscar's terrace it was like coming from a blazing desert to the bottom of the sea.

There was a wide seat under a window which looked out towards the hills. Becky sat down on it. "Everybody is out," she said, "except Aunt Claudia. She is taking a nap up-stairs."

"I didn't come to see everybody, Becky. I came to see you."

"I am glad you came. I can rest a bit."

"You work as hard as if you had to do it."

She leaned back against the green linen cushions of the window seat and looked up at him. "I do have to do it. There is nobody else. Mandy is busy, and, anyhow, Grandfather doesn't like to have the servants in here. And neither do I-- It is almost as if the birds were alive-and loved me."

Randy hugged his knee and meditated. "But there are lots of rich women who wouldn't dust a room."

She made a gesture of disdain. "Oh, that kind of rich people."

"What kind?"

"The kind that aren't used to their money. Who think ladies-are idle. Sister Loretto says that is the worst kind-the awful kind. She talked to me every day about it. She said that money was a curse when people used it only for their ease. Sister Loretto hates laziness. She had money herself before she took her vows, but now she works every hour of the day and she says it brings her happiness."

Randy shook his head. "Most of us need to play around a bit, Becky."

"Do we? I-I think most women would be better off if they were like Sister Loretto."

"They would not. Stop talking rot, Becky, and take that thing off your head. It makes you look like a nun."

"I know. I saw myself in the glass. I don't mind looking like a nun, Randy."

"Well, I mind. Turn your head and I'll take out that pin."

"Don't be silly, Randy."

He persisted. "Keep still while I take it out--"

He found the pin and unwound the white cloth. "There," he said, drawing a long breath, "you look like yourself again. Yon were so-austere, you scared me, Becky."

He was again hugging his knees. "When are you going away?"

"On

the twenty-ninth. I shall stay over until next week for the Merriweathers' ball."

"I didn't know whether you would feel equal to it."

"I shall go on Mary's account. It will be her introduction to Truxton's friends, and if I am there it will be easier for her. She has a lovely frock, jade green tulle with a girdle of gold brocade. It came down for me with a lot of other clothes, and it needed only a few changes for her to wear it."

"You will be glad to get away?"

"It will be cooler-and I need the change. But it is always more formal up there-they remember that I have money. Here it is forgotten."

"I wish I could forget it."

"Why should you ever think of it?" she demanded with some heat. "I am the same Becky with or without it."

"Not quite the same," he was turning his hat in his hand. Then, raising his eyes and looking at her squarely, he said what he had come to say; "I have-I have just been to see Dalton, Becky."

A wave of red washed over her neck, touched her chin, her cheeks. "I don't see what that has to do with me."

"It has a great deal to do with you. I told him you were going to marry me."

The wave receded. She was chalk-white.

"Randy, how dared you do such a thing?"

"I dared," said Randy, with tense fierceness, "because a man like Dalton wants what other men want. He will think about you a lot, and I want him to think. He won't sleep to-night, and I want him to stay awake. He will wonder whether you love me, and he will be afraid that you do-and I want him to be afraid."

"But it was a lie, Randy. I am not going to marry you."

"Do you think that I meant that--? That I am expecting anything for myself?"

"No," unsteadily, her slender body trembling as if from cold, "but what did you mean?"

"I told you. Dalton's got to come back to you and beg-on his knees-and he will come when he thinks you are mine--"

"I don't want him to come. And when you talk like that it makes me feel-smirched--"

Dead silence. Then, "It was a gentleman's lie--"

"Gentlemen do not lie. Go to him this minute, Randy, and tell him that it isn't true."

"Give me three days, Becky. If in that time he doesn't try to see you or call you up, I'll go-- But give me three days."

She wavered. "What good will it do?"

He caught up her cold little hands in his. "You will have a chance to get back at him. And when you stick in the knife, you can turn it-until it hurts."

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