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   Chapter 38 No.38

The Trumpeter Swan By Temple Bailey Characters: 8692

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


It was when the four of them were gathered together that night in the library that Becky asked Archibald Cope to read "The Trumpeter Swan."

"Randy wrote it," she said, "and he sent the manuscript to me this morning."

The Admiral was at once interested. "He got the name from the swan in the Judge's Bird Room?"

"Yes."

"Has he ever written anything before?" Louise asked.

"Lots of little things. Lovely things--"

"Have they been published?"

"I don't think he has tried."

Becky had the manuscript in her work-bag. She brought it out and handed it to Archibald. "You are sure you aren't too tired?"

Louise glanced up from her beaded bag. "You've had a hard day, Arch. You mustn't do too much."

"I won't, Louise," impatiently.

She went back to her work. "It will be on your own head if you don't sleep to-night, not on mine."

"The Trumpeter Swan" was a story of many pages. Randy had confined himself to no conventional limits. He had a story to tell, and he did not bring it to an end until the end came naturally. In it he had asked all of the questions which had torn his soul. What of the men who had fought? What of their futures? What of their high courage? Their high vision? Was it all now to be wasted? All of that aroused emotion? All of that disciplined endeavor? Would they still "carry on" in the spirit of that crusade, or would they sink back, and forget?

His hero was a simple lad. He had fought for his country. He had found when he came back that other men had made money while he fought for them. He loved a girl. And in his absence she had loved someone else. For a time he was over-thrown.

Yet he had been one of a glorious company. One of that great flock which had winged its exalted flight to France. Throughout the story Randy wove the theme of the big white bird in the glass case. His hero felt himself likewise on the shelf, shut-in, stuffed, dead-his trumpet silent.

"Am I, too, in a glass case?" he asked himself; "will my trumpet never sound again?"

The first part of the story ended there. "Jove," Cope said, as he looked up, "that boy can write--"

Louise had stopped working. "It is rather-tremendous, don't you think?"

Archibald nodded. "In a quiet way it thrills. He hasn't used a word too much. But he carries one with him to a sort of-upper sky--"

Becky, flushing and paling with the thought of such praise as this for Randy, said, "I always thought he could do it."

But even she had not known that Randy could do what he did in the second part of the story.

For in it Randy answered his own questions. There was no limit to a man's powers, no limits to his patriotism, if only he believed in himself. He must strive, of course, to achieve. But striving made him strong. His task might be simple, but its very simplicity demanded that he put his best into it. He must not measure himself by the rule of little men. If other men had made money while he fought, then let them be weighed down by their bags of gold. He would not for one moment set against their greed those sacred months of self-sacrifice.

And as for the woman he loved. If his love meant anything it must burn with a pure flame. What he might have been for her, he would be because of her. He would not be less a man because he had loved her.

And so the boy came in the end of the story to the knowledge that it was the brave souls who sounded their trumpets-- One did not strive for happiness. One strove for-victory. One strove, at least, for one clear note of courage, amid the clamor of the world.

Louise, listening, forgot her beads. The Admiral blew his nose and wiped his eyes. Becky felt herself engulfed by a wave of surging memories.

"That's corking stuff, do you know it?" Archibald was asking.

Louise asked, "How old is he?"

"Twenty-three."

"He is young to have learned all that--"

"All what, Louise?" Archibald asked.

"Renunciation," said Louise, slowly, "that's what it is in the final analysis," she went back to her beads and her green bag.

"Randy ought to do great things," said Becky; "the men of his family have all done great things, haven't they, Grandfather?"

"Randolph blood is Randolph blood," said the Admiral; "fine old Southerners; proud old stock."

"If I could write like that," said Archibald, and stopped and looked int

o the fire.

Louise rose and came and stood back of him. "You can paint," she said, "why should you want to write?"

"I can't paint," he reached up and caught her hand in his; "you think I can, but I can't. And I am not wonderful-- Yet here I must sit and listen while you and Becky sing young Paine's praises."

He flung out his complaint with his air of not being in earnest.

The Admiral got up stiffly. "I've a letter to write before I go to bed. Don't let me hurry the rest of you."

"Please take Louise with you," Archibald begged; "I want to talk to Becky."

His sister rumpled his hair. "So you want to get rid of me. Becky, he is going to ask questions about that boy who wrote the story."

"Are you?" Becky demanded.

"Louise is a mind reader. That's why I want her out of the way--"

"You can stay until the Admiral finishes his letter." Louise bent and kissed him, picked up her beaded bag, and left them together.

When she reached the threshold, she stopped and looked back. Archibald had piled up two red cushions and was sitting at Becky's feet.

"Tell me about him."

"Randy?"

"Yes. He's in love with you, of course."

"What makes you think that?"

"He sent you the story."

"Well, he is," she admitted, "but I am not sure that we ought to talk about it."

"Why not?"

"Is it quite fair, to him?"

"Then we'll talk about his story. It gripped me-- Oh, let's have it out, Becky. He loves you and you don't love him. Why don't you?"

"I can't--tell you--"

There was silence for a moment, then Archibald Cope said gently, "Look here, girl dear, you aren't happy. Don't I know it? There's something that's awfully on your mind and heart. Can't you think of me as a sort of-father confessor-and let me-help--?"

She clasped her hands tensely on her knees; the knuckles showed white. "Nobody can help."

"Is it as bad as that?"

"Yes." She looked away from him. "There is somebody else-not Randy. Somebody that I shouldn't think about. But I-do--"

She was dry-eyed. But he felt that here was something too deep for tears.

"Does Randy know?"

"Yes. I told him. We have always talked about things--"

"I see," he sat staring into the fire, "and of course it is Randy that you ought to marry--"

"I don't want to marry anyone. I shall never marry--"

"Tut-tut, my dear." He laid his hand over hers. "Do you know what I was thinking, Becky, to-day, as we walked the Boston streets? I was thinking of why those big houses were built, rows upon rows of them, and of the people who lived in them. Those old houses speak of homes, Becky, of people who wanted household gods, and neighborly gatherings, and community interests. They weren't the kind of people who ran around Europe with a paint box, as I have been doing. They had home-keeping hearts and they built for the future."

He was very much in earnest. She had, indeed, never seen him so much in earnest.

"It is all very well," he went on, "to talk of a tent in a desert or a hut on a mountain top, but when we walked across the Common this morning, it seemed to me that if I could really have lived the game we played-that life could have held nothing better in the world for me than that, my dear."

She tried to withdraw her hand, but he held it. "Let me speak to-night, Becky-and then forever, we'll forget it. I love you-very much. You don't love me, and I should thank the stars for that, although I am not sure that I do. I am not a man to deal in-futures. I'll tell you why some day." He drew a long breath and went on in a lighter tone: "But you, Becky-you've got to find a man whose face you will want to see at the other end of the table-for life. It sounds like a prisoner's sentence, doesn't it?"

But he couldn't carry it off like that, and presently he hid his face against her hands. "Oh, Becky, Becky," she heard him whisper.

Then there was the Admiral's step in the hall and Archibald was on his feet, staring in the fire when the little man came in.

"Any letters for Charles to mail?"

"No, Grandfather."

The Admiral limped away. Becky stood up. Cope turned from the fire.

"If it doesn't rain to-morrow, I'll show America to Olga of Petrograd."

They smiled at each other, and Becky held out her hand. He bent and kissed it. "I shall sleep well to-night because of-to-morrow."

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