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   Chapter 39 No.39

The Trumpeter Swan By Temple Bailey Characters: 10263

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


But when to-morrow came there was a telephone message for Becky that Major Prime and his wife were in town. They had messages for her from Huntersfield, and from King's Crest.

"And so our day is spoiled," said Archibald.

"We can come again," said the Admiral, "but we must be getting back to Siasconset to-morrow. I wrote to Tristram. We'll have Prime and his wife here for dinner to-night, and drive them out somewhere this afternoon. I remember Mark Prime well. I played golf with him one season at Del Monte. How did you happen to know him, Becky?"

Becky told of the Major's sojourn to King's Crest.

The Copes made separate plans for the afternoon. "If I can't have you to myself, Becky," Cope complained, "I won't have you at all--"

Madge, sitting later next to Becky in the Admiral's big car, was lovely in a great cape of pale wisteria, with a turban of the same color set low on her burnt-gold hair.

"I have brought you wonderful news of Randy Paine," she said to Becky. "He has sold his story, 'The Trumpeter Swan.' To one of the big magazines. And they have asked for more. He is by way of being rather-famous. He came on to New York the day after we arrived. They had telegraphed for him. We wanted him to come up here with us, but he wouldn't."

"Why wouldn't he?"

"He had some engagements, and after that--"

"He will never write another story like 'The Trumpeter Swan,'" said Becky.

"Why not?"

"It-it doesn't seem as if he could-- It is-wonderful, Mrs. Prime--"

"Well, Randy-is wonderful," said Madge.

A silence fell between them, and when Madge spoke again it was of the Watermans. "We go to the Crossing to-morrow. I must see Flora before I go West."

The blood ran up into Becky's heart. She wondered if George Dalton was with the Watermans. But she did not dare ask.

So she asked about California instead. "You will live out there?"

"Yes, on a ranch. There will be chickens and cows and hogs. It sounds unromantic, doesn't it? But it is really frightfully interesting. It is what I have always dreamed about. Mark says this is to be my-reincarnation."

She laughed a little as she explained what she meant. "And when I was in New York, I bought the duckiest lilac linens and ginghams, and white aprons, frilly ones. Mark says I shall look like a dairy maid in 'Robin Hood.'"

The Major, who was in front of them with the Admiral, turned and spoke.

"Tell her about Kemp."

"Oh, he is going with us. It develops that there is a girl in Scotland who is waiting for him. And he is going to send for her-and they are to have a cottage on the ranch, and come into the house to help us, and there is an old Chinese cook that Mark has had for years."

Becky spoke sharply. "You don't mean Mr.-Dalton's Kemp?"

"Yes. He came to Mark. Didn't you know?"

Becky had not known.

"Why did he leave Mr.-Dalton?"

"He and Georgie had a falling out about an omelette. I fancy it was a sort of comic opera climax. So Mark got a treasure and Georgie-Porgie lost one--"

"Georgie-Porgie?"

"Oh, I always call him that, and he hates it," Madge laughed at the memory.

"You did it to-tease him?" slowly.

"I did it because it was-true. You know the old nursery rhyme? Well, George is like that. There were always so many girls to be-kissed, and it was so easy to-run away--"

She said it lightly, with shrugged shoulders, but she did not look at Becky.

And that night when she was dressing for dinner, Madge said to her husband, "It sounded-catty-Mark. But I had to do it. There's that darling boy down there eating his heart out. And she is nursing a dream--"

The Major was standing by his wife's door, and she was in front of her mirror. It reflected her gold brocade, her amethysts linked with diamonds in a long chain that ended in a jeweled locket. Her jewel case was open and she brought out the pendant that George had sent her and held it against her throat. "It matches the others," she said.

He arched his eyebrows in inquiry.

"I wouldn't wear it," she said with a sudden quick force, "if there was not another jewel in the world. I wish he hadn't sent it. Oh, Mark, I wish I hadn't known him before I found-you," she came up to him swiftly; "such men as you," she said, "if women could only meet them-first--"

His arm went around her. "It is enough that we-met--"

Becky was also at her mirror at that moment. She had dressed carefully in silver and white with her pearls and silver slippers. Louise came in and looked at her. "I haven't any grand and gorgeous things, you know. And I fancy your Mrs. Prime will be rather gorgeous."

"It suits her," said Becky, "but after this she is going to be different." She told Louise about the ranch and the linen frocks and the frilled aprons. "She is going to make herself over. I wonder if it will be a success."

"It doesn't fit in with my theories," said Louise. "I think it is much better if people marry each other ready-made."

Becky turned from her mirror. "Louise," she said, "does anything ever fit in with a woman's theories when she falls in love?"

"One shouldn't fall in

love," Louise said, serenely, "they should walk squarely into it. That's what I shall do, when I get ready to marry-- But I shall love Archibald as long as the good Lord will let me--"

She was trying to say it lightly, but a quiver of her voice betrayed her.

"Louise," Becky said, "what's the matter with Archibald? Is anything really the matter?"

Louise began to cry. "Archie saw the doctor to-day, and he won't promise anything-I made Arch tell me--"

"Oh, Louise." Becky's lips were white.

"Of course if he takes good care of himself, it may not be for years. You mustn't let him know that I told you, Becky. But I had to tell somebody. I've kept it all bottled up as if I were a stone image. And I'm not a stone image, and he's all I have."

She dabbed her eyes with a futile handkerchief. The tears dripped. "I must stop," she kept saying, "I shall look like a fright for dinner--"

But at dinner she showed no signs of her agitation. She had used powder and rouge with deft touches. She had followed Becky's example and wore white, a crisp organdie, with a high blue sash. With her bobbed hair and pink cheeks she was not unlike a painted doll. She carried a little blue fan with lacquered sticks, and she tapped the table as she talked to Major Prime. The tapping was the only sign of her inner agitation.

The Admiral's table that night seemed to Becky a circle of sinister meaning. There was Archibald condemned to die-while youth still beat in his veins-- There was Louise, who must go on without him. There was the Admiral-the last of a vanished company; there was the Major, whose life for four years had held-horrors. There was Madge, radiant to-night in the love of her husband, as she had perhaps once been radiant for Dalton.

Georgie-Porgie!

It was a horrid name. "There were always so many girls to be kissed-and it was so easy to run away--"

She had always hated the nursery rhyme. But now it seemed, to sing itself in her brain.

"Georgie-Porgie,

Pudding and pie,

Kissed the girls,

And made them cry----"

Cope was at Becky's right. "Aren't you going to talk to me? You haven't said a word since the soup."

"Well, everybody else is talking."

"What do I care for anybody else?"

Becky wondered how Archibald did it. How he kept that light manner for a world which he was not long to know. And there was Louise with rouge and powder on her cheeks to cover her tears-- That was courage-- She thought suddenly of "The Trumpeter Swan."

She spoke out of her thoughts. "Randy has sold his story."

He wanted to know all about it, and she repeated what Madge had said. Yet even as she talked, that hateful rhyme persisted,

"When the girls

Came out to play,

Georgie-Porgie

Ran away----"

After dinner they went into the drawing-room so that Louise could play for them. A great mirror which hung at the end of the room reflected Louise on the piano bench in her baby frock. It reflected Madge, slim and gold, with a huge fan of lilac feathers. It reflected Becky-in a rose-colored damask chair, it reflected the three men in black. Years ago there had been other men and women-the Admiral's wife in red velvet and the same pearls that were now on Becky's neck-- She shuddered.

As they drove home that night, the Major spoke to his wife of Becky. "The child looks unhappy."

"She will be unhappy until some day her heart rests in her husband, as mine does in you. Shall I spoil you, Mark, if I talk like this?"

When they reached their hotel there were letters. One was from Flora: "You asked about George. He is not with us. He has gone to Nantucket to visit some friends of his-the Merediths. He will be back next week."

"The Merediths?" Madge said. "George doesn't know any-Merediths. Mark-he is following Becky."

"Well, she's safe in Boston."

"She is going back. On Wednesday. And he'll be there." Her eyes were troubled.

"Mark," she said, abruptly, "I wonder if Randy has left New York. Call him up, please, long distance. I want to talk to him."

"My darling girl, do you know what time it is?"

"Nearly midnight. But that's nothing in New York. And, anyhow, if he is asleep, we will wake him up. I am going to tell him that George is at Siasconset."

"But, my dear, what good will it do?"

"He's got to save Becky. I know Dalton's tricks and his manners. He can cast a glamour over anything. And Randy's the man for her. Oh, Mark, just think of her money and his genius--"

"What have money and genius to do with it?"

"Nothing, unless they love each other. But-she cares-- You should have seen her eyes when I said he had sold his story. But she doesn't know that she cares, and he's got to make her know."

"How can he make her know?"

"Let her see him-now. She has never seen him as he was in New York with us, sure of himself, knowing that he has found the thing that he can do. He was beautiful with that radiant boy-look. You know he was, Mark, wasn't he?"

"Yes, my darling, yes."

"And I want him to be happy, don't you?"

"Of course, dear heart."

"Then get him on the 'phone. I'll do the rest."

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