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   Chapter 41 No.41

The Trumpeter Swan By Temple Bailey Characters: 8090

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


There was little sleep for Becky that night. The storm tore around the tiny house, but its foundations were firm, and it did not shake. The wind whistled as if the wooden figure in the front yard had suddenly come to life and was madly making up for the silence of a half-century.

So George had followed her. He had found her out, and there was no way of escape. She would have to see him, hear him. She would have to set herself against the charm of that quick voice, those sparkling eyes. There would be no one to save her now. Randy was far away. She must make her fight alone.

She turned restlessly. Why should she fight? What, after all, did George mean to her? A chain of broken dreams? A husk of golden armor? Georgie-Porgie-who had kissed and run away.

She was listless at breakfast. The storm was over, and the Admiral was making plans for a picnic the next day to Altar Rock. "Hot coffee and lobster sandwiches, and a view of the sea on a day like this."

Becky smiled. "Grandfather," she said, "I believe you are happy because you keep your head in the stars and your feet on the ground."

"What's the connection, my dear?"

"Well, lobster sandwiches and a view of the sea. So many people can't enjoy both. They are either lobster-sandwich people, or view-of-the-sea people."

"Which shows their limitations," said the Admiral, promptly; "the people of Pepys' time were eloquent over a pigeon pie or a poem. The good Lord gave us both of them. Why not?"

It was after breakfast that a note was brought to Becky. The boy would wait.

"I am here," George wrote, "and I shall stay until I see you. Don't put me off. Don't shut your heart against me. I am very unhappy. May I come?"

She wrote an immediate answer. She would see him in the afternoon. The Admiral would be riding over to Nantucket. He had some business affairs to attend to-a meeting at the bank. Jane would be busy in her kitchen with the baking. The coast would be clear. There would be no need, if George came in the afternoon, to explain his presence.

Having dispatched her note, and with the morning before her, she was assailed by restlessness. She welcomed Archibald Cope's invitation from the adjoining porch. He sang it in the words of the old song,

"Madam, will you walk?

Madam, will you talk?

Madam, will you walk and talk

With me----"

"Where shall we go?"

"To Sankaty--"

She loved the walk to the lighthouse. In the spring there was Scotch broom on the bluffs-yellow as gold, with the blue beyond. In summer wild roses, deep pink, scenting the air with their fresh fragrance. But, perhaps, she loved it best on A day like this, with the breakers on the beach below, racing in like white horses, and with the winter gulls, dark against the brightness of the morning.

"Why aren't you painting?" she asked Archibald.

"Because," he said, "I am not going to paint the moor any more. It gets away from me-it is too vast-- It has a primal human quality, and yet it is not alive."

"It sometimes seems alive to me," she said, "when I look off over it-it seems to rise and fall as if it-breathed."

"That's the uncanny part of it," Archibald agreed, "and I am going to give it up. I am not going to paint it-- I want to paint you, Becky."

"Me? Why do you want to do that?"

He flashed a glance at her. "Because you are nice to look at."

"That isn't the reason."

"Why should you question my motives?" he demanded. "But since you must have the truth-it is because of a fancy of mine that I might do it well--"

"I should like it very much," she said, simply.

"Would you?" eagerly.

"Yes."

She had on her red cape, and a black velvet tam pulled over her shining hair.

"I shall not paint you like this," he said, "although the color is-superlative-- Ever since you read to me that story of Randy Paine's, I have had a feeling that the real story ought to have a happy ending, and that I should like to make the illustration."

"I don't know what you mean?"

"Why shouldn't the girl care f

or the boy after he came back? Why shouldn't she, Becky Bannister?"

Her startled gaze met his. "Let's sit down here," he said, "and have it out."

There was a bench on the edge of the bluff, set so that one might have a wider view of the sea.

"There ought to be a happy ending, Becky."

"How could there be?"

"Why not you-and Randy Paine? I haven't met him, but somehow that story tells me that he is the right sort. And think of it, Becky, you and that boy-in that big house down there, going to church, smiling across the table at each other," his breath came quickly, "your love for him, his for you, making a background for his-genius."

She tried to stop him. "Why should you say such things?"

"Because I have thought them. Last night in the storm-I couldn't sleep. I-I wanted to be a dog in the manger. I couldn't have you, and I'd be darned if I'd help anyone else to get you. You-you see, I'm a sort of broken reed, Becky. It-it isn't a sure thing that I am going to get well. And if what I feel for you is worth anything, it ought to mean that I must put your happiness-first. And that's why I want to make the picture for the-happy ending."

Her hand went out to him. "It is a beautiful thing for you to do. But I am not sure that there will be a-happy ending."

"Why not?"

She could not tell him. She could not tell-that between her and her thought of Randy was the barrier of all that George Dalton had meant to her.

"If you paint the picture," she evaded, "you must finish it at Huntersfield. Why can't you and Louise come down this winter? It would be heavenly."

"It would be Heaven for me. Do you mean it, Becky?"

She did mean it, and she told him so.

"I shall paint you," he planned, "as a little white slip of a girl, with pearls about your neck, and dreams in your eyes, and back of you a flight of shadowy swans--"

They rose and walked on. "I thought you were to be with the Admiral in Boston this winter."

"I stay until Thanksgiving. I always go back to Huntersfield for Christmas."

After that it was decided that she should sit for him each morning. They did not speak again of Randy. There had been something in Becky's manner which kept Archibald from saying more.

When they reached the lighthouse, the wind was blowing strongly. Before them was the sweep of the Nantucket Shoals-not a ship in sight, not a line of smoke, the vast emptiness of heaving waters.

Becky stood at the edge of the bluff, her red cape billowing out into a scarlet banner, her hair streaming back from her face, the velvet tam flattened by the force of the wind.

Archibald glanced at her. "Are you cold?"

"No, I love it."

He was chilled to the bone, yet there she stood, warm with life, bright with beating blood--

"What a beastly lot of tumbling water," he said with sudden overmastering irritation. "Let's get away from it, Becky. Let's get away."

Going back they took the road which led across the moor. The clear day gave to the low hills the Persian carpet coloring which Cope had despaired of painting. Becky, in her red cape, was almost lost against the brilliant background.

But she was not the only one who challenged nature. For as she and Archibald approached the outskirts of the town, they discerned, at some distance, at the top of a slight eminence, two figures-a man and a woman. The woman was dancing, with waving arms and flying feet.

The woman was dancing.

"She calls that dance 'Morning on the Moor,'" Cope told Becky; "she has a lot of them-'The Spirit of the Storm,' 'The Wraith of the Fog.'"

"Do you know her?"

"No. But Tristram says she dances every morning. She is getting ready for an act in one of the big musical shows."

The man sat on the ground and watched the woman dance. Her primrose cape was across his knee. He was a big man and wore a cap. Becky, surveying him from afar, saw nothing to command closer scrutiny. Yet had she known, she might have found him worthy of another look. For the man with the primrose cape was Dalton!

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