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   Chapter 37 No.37

The Trumpeter Swan By Temple Bailey Characters: 11840

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


The Admiral's rheumatism had taken Becky to Boston. "There'll be treatments every morning," he said, "and we'll invite the Copes to visit us, and they will look after you while I am away."

The Copes were delighted. "Only it seems like an imposition--"

"The house is big enough for an army," the Admiral told them; "that's what we built houses for in the old days. To have our friends. Charles, my butler, and his wife, Miriam, who cooks, stay in the house the year round, so it is always open and ready."

"And you and I shall see Boston together," Archibald told Becky, triumphantly. "I wonder if you have ever seen Boston as I shall show it to you."

"Well, I've been to all the historic places."

"Bunker Hill and the embattled farmers, of course," said Archibald; "but have you seen them since the war?"

"No. Are they different?"

"They aren't, but you are. All of us are."

Louise was not quite sure that her brother ought to leave the island. "You are down here for the air, Arch, and the quiet."

He was impatient. "Do you think I am going to miss this?"

She frowned and shook her head. "I don't want you to miss it. But it will be going against the doctor's orders."

"Oh, hang the doctor, Louise. Being in Boston with Becky will be like-wine--"

But she was not satisfied. "You always throw yourself into things so-desperately--"

"Well, when I lose my enthusiasm I want to-die."

"No, you don't, Arch. Don't say things like that." Her voice was sharp.

He patted her hand. "I won't. But don't curb me too much, old girl. Let me play-while I can--"

They arrived in Boston to find a city under martial law, a city whose streets were patrolled by khaki-clad figures with guns, whose traffic was regulated by soldierly semaphores, who linked intelligence with military training, and picturesqueness with both.

For a short season Boston had been in the hands of the mob. All of her traditions of law and order had not saved her. It had been her punishment perhaps for leaving law and order in the hands of those who cared nothing for them. People with consciences had preferred to keep out of politics. So for a time demagogues had gotten the ear of the people, and chaos had resulted until a quiet governor had proved himself as firm as steel, and soldiers had replaced the policemen who had for a moment followed false gods.

"It all proves what I brought you here to see," Cope told Becky eagerly.

Coffee was being served in the library of the Meredith mansion on Beacon Street. The Admiral's library was as ruddy and twinkling as the little man himself. He had furnished it to suit his own taste. A great davenport of puffy red velvet was set squarely in front of a fireplace with shining brasses. The couch was balanced by a heavy gilt chair also in puffy red. The mantel was in white marble, and over the mantel was an oil portrait of the Admiral's wife painted in '76. She wore red velvet with a train, and with the pearls which had come down to Becky. The room had been keyed up to her portrait, and had then been toned down with certain heavy pieces of ebony, a cabinet of black lacquer, the dark books which lined the wall to the ceiling. The room was distinctly nineteenth-century. If it lacked the eighteenth-century exquisiteness of the house at Nantucket, with its reminder of austere Quaker prejudices, it was none the less appropriate as a glowing background for the gay old Admiral.

Becky and Cope sat on the red davenport. It was so wide that Becky was almost lost in a corner of it. The old butler, Charles, served the coffee. The coffee service was of repoussé silver. The Admiral would have no other. It had been given him by a body of seamen when he had retired from active duty.

"It all proves what I brought you here to see," Archibald emphasized, "how the gods of yesterday are going to balance the gods of to-day."

The Admiral chuckled. "There aren't any gods of to-day."

"The gods of to-day are our young men," Cope flung out, glowingly; "the war has left them with their dreams, and they have got to find a way to make their dreams come true. And that's where the old gods will help. Those fine old men who dreamed, backed their dreams with deeds. Then for a time we were so busy making money that we forgot their dreams. And when foreigners came crowding to our shores, we didn't care whether they were good Americans or not. All we cared was to have them work in our mills and factories and in our kitchens, and let us alone in our pride of ancestry and pomp of circumstance. We forgot to show them Bunker Hill and to tell them about the old North Church and Paul Revere and the shot heard 'round the world, and what liberty meant and democracy, and now we've got to show them. I am going to take you around to-morrow, Becky, and pretend you are Olga from Petrograd, and that you are seeing America for the first time."

Archibald Cope was kindled by fires which gave color to his pale cheeks. "Will you be-Olga from Petrograd?"

"I'd love it."

But the next morning it rained. "And you can't, of course, be Olga of Petrograd in the rain. Bunker Hill must have the sun on it, and the waves of the harbor must be sparkling when I tell you about the tea."

They decided, therefore, to read aloud "The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table."

"Then if it stops raining," said Archibald, "we'll step straight out from its pages into the Boston that I want to show you."

He read well. Louise sat at a little table sewing a pattern of beads on a green bag. Becky had some rose-colored knitting. The Admiral was in his big chair by the fire with his hands folded across his waistcoat and his eyes shut. The colorful work of the two women, the light of the fire, the glow of the little lamp at Cope's elbow, the warmth of the red furniture saved the room from dreariness in spite of the rain outside.

"'It was on the Common,'"

read Cope, "'that we were walking. The mall, or boulevard of our Common, you know, has various branches leading from it in different directions. One of these runs down from opposite Joy Street southward across the whole length of the Common to Boylston Street. We called it the long path, and were fond of it.

"'I felt very weak indeed (though of a tolerably robust habit) as we came opposite the head of this path on that morning. I think I tried to speak twice without making myself distinctly audible. At last I got out the question, "Will you take the long path with me?" "Certainly," said the school-mistress, "with much pleasure." "Think," I said, "before you answer: if you take the long path with me now, I shall interpret it that we are to part no more!" The schoolmistress stepped back with a sudden movement, as if an arrow had struck her.

"'One of the long granite blocks used as seats was hard by-the one you may still see close by the Gingko-tree. "Pray sit down," I said. "No, no," she answered, softly, "I will walk the long path with you!"

"'-The old gentleman who sits opposite met us walking arm in arm about the middle of the long path, and said, very charmingly,-"Good-morning, my dears!"'"

The reading stopped at luncheon time, and it was still raining. On the table were letters for Becky forwarded from Siasconset. An interesting account from Aunt Claudia of the wedding of Major Prime and Madge MacVeigh.

"They were married in the old orchard at the Flippins', and it was beautiful. The bride wore simple clothes like the rest of us. It was cool and we kept on our wraps, and she was in white linen with a loose little coat of mauve wool, and a hat to match. The only bride-y thing about her was a great bunch of lilacs that the Major ordered from a Fifth Avenue florist. They are to stay in New York for a day or two, and then visit the Watermans on the North Shore. After that they will go at once to the West, where they are to live on the Major's ranch. He has been relieved from duty at Washington, and will have all of his time to give to his own affairs.

"There has been an epidemic of weddings. Flippins' Daisy waited just long enough to help Mrs. Flippin get Miss MacVeigh married; then she and young John had an imposing ceremony in their church, with Daisy in a train and white veil, and four bridesmaids, and Mandy and Calvin in front seats, and Calvin giving the bride away. I think the elaborateness of it all really reconciled Mandy to her daughter-in-law."

There was also, from Randy, a long envelope enclosing a thick manuscript and very short note.

"I want you to read this, Becky. It belongs in a way to you. I don't know what I think about it. Sometimes it seems as if I had done a rather big thing, and as if it had been done without me at all. I wonder if you understand what I mean-as if I had held the pen, and it had-come-- I have sent it to the editor of one of the big magazines. Perhaps he will send it back, and it may not seem as good to me as it does at this moment. Let me know what you think."

Becky, finishing the letter, felt a bit forlorn. Randy, as a rule, wrote at length about herself and her affairs. But, of course, he had other things now to think of. She must not expect too much.

There was no time, however, in which to read the manuscript, for Cope was saying, wistfully, "Do you think you'd mind a walk in the rain?"

"No." She gathered up her letters.

"Then we'll walk across the Common."

They shared one umbrella. And they played that it was over fifty years ago when the Autocrat had walked with the young Schoolmistress. They even walked arm in arm under the umbrella. They took the long path to Boylston Street. And Cope said, "Will you take the long path with me?"

And Becky said, "Certainly."

And they both laughed. But there was no laughter in Cope's heart.

"Becky," he said, "I wish that you and I had lived a century ago in Louisburg Square."

"If we had lived then, we shouldn't be living now."

"But we should have had our-happiness--"

"And I should have worn lovely flowing silk skirts. Not short things like this, and little bonnets with flowers inside, and velvet mantles--"

"And you would have walked on my arm to church. And we would have owned one of those old big houses-and your smile would have greeted me across the candles every day at dinner--" He was making it rather personal, but she humored his fancy.

"And you would have worn a blue coat, and a bunch of big seals, and a furry high hat--"

"You are thinking all the time about what we would wear," he complained; "you haven't any sense of romance, Becky--"

"Well, of course, it is all make-believe."

"Yes, it is all-make-believe," he said, and walked in silence after that.

The wind blew cold and they stopped in a pastry shop on Boylston Street and had a cup of tea. Becky ate little cream cakes with fluted crusts, and drank Orange Pekoe.

"I am glad you don't wear flowing silks and velvet mantles," said Archibald, suddenly; "I shall always remember you like this, Becky, in your rough brown coat and your close little hat, and that your hand was on my arm when we walked across the Common. Do you like me as a playmate, Becky?"

"Yes."

"Do you-love me-as a playmate?" He leaned forward.

"Please-don't."

"I beg your-pardon--" he flushed. "I am not going to say such things to you, Becky, and spoil things for both of us-I know you don't want to hear them--"

"Make-believe is much nicer," she reminded him steadily.

"But I am not a make-believe friend, am I? Our friendship-that at least is-real?"

Her clear eyes met his. "Yes. We shall always be friends-forever--"

"How long is forever, Becky?"

She could not answer that. But she was sure that friendship was like love and lived beyond the grave. They were very serious about it, these two young people drinking tea.

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