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   Chapter 43 No.43

The Trumpeter Swan By Temple Bailey Characters: 9378

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


Randy, arriving on the evening boat, caught the 'bus, and found the Admiral in it.

"It's Randy Paine," he said, as he climbed in and sat beside the old gentleman.

"My dear boy, God bless you. Becky will be delighted."

"I was in New York," was Randy's easy explanation, "and I couldn't resist coming up."

"We read your story, and Mrs. Prime told us how the editor received it. You are by way of being famous, my boy."

"Well, it's mighty interesting, sir," said young Randy.

It was late when they reached the little town, but the west was blood-red above the ridge, with the moor all darkling purple.

Becky was not in the house. "I saw her go down to the beach," Jane told them.

"In what direction?" Randy asked; "I'll go after her."

"She sometimes sits back of the blue boat," said Jane, "when there's a wind. But if you don't find her, Mr. Paine, she'll be back in time for supper. I told her not to be late. I am having raised rolls and broiled fish, and Mr. and Miss Cope are coming."

"I'll find her," said Randy, and was off.

The moon was making a path of gold across the purple waters, and casting sharp shadows on the sand. The blue boat, high on the beach, had lost its color in the pale light. But there was no other boat, so Randy went towards it. And as he went, he gave the old Indian cry.

Becky, wrapped in her red cape, deep in thoughts of the thing that had happened in the afternoon, heard the cry and doubted her ears.

It came again.

"Randy," she breathed, and stood up and saw him coming. She ran towards him. "Oh, Randy, Randy."

She came into his arms as if she belonged there. And he, amazed but rapturous, received her, held her close.

"Oh, oh," she whispered, "you don't know how I have wanted you, Randy."

[Illustration: "Oh, oh," she whispered, "you don't know how I have wanted you."]

"It is nothing to the way that I have wanted you, my dear."

"Really, Randy?"

"Really, my sweet."

The moon was very big and bright. It showed her face white as a rose-leaf against his coat. He scarcely dared to breathe, lest he should frighten her. They stood for a moment in silence, then she said, simply, "You see, it was you, after all, Randy."

"Yes," he said, "I see. But when did you find it out?"

"This afternoon. Let's sit down here out of the wind behind the boat, and I'll tell you about it--"

But he was not ready yet to let her go. "To have you here-like this."

He stopped. He could not go on. He lifted her up to him, and their lips met. Years ago he had kissed her under the mistletoe; the kiss that he gave her now was a pledge for all the years to come.

They were late for supper. Jane relieved her mind to the Admiral and his guests. "She had a gentleman here this afternoon for tea, and neither of them ate anything. And now there's another gentleman, and the rolls are spoiling."

"You can serve supper, Jane," the Admiral told her; "they can eat when they come."

When they came, Becky's cheeks were as red as her cape. As she swept within the radius of the candle-light, Archibald Cope, who had risen at her entrance, knew what had happened. Her eyes were like stars. "Did Jane scold about us?" she asked, with a quick catch of her breath; "it was so lovely-with the moon."

Back of her was young Randy-Randy of the black locks, of the high-held head and Indian profile, Randy, with his air of Conqueror.

"I've told them all about you," Becky said, "and they have read your story. Will you please present him properly, Grandfather, while I go and fix my hair?"

She came back very soon, slim and childish in her blue velvet smock, her hair in that bronze wave across her forehead, her eyes still lighted.

She sat between her grandfather and Archibald.

"So," said Cope softly, under cover of the conversation, "it has happened?"

"What has happened?"

"The happy ending."

"Oh-how did you know?"

"As if the whole world wouldn't know just to look at you."

The Randy of the supper table at "The Whistling Sally" was a Randy that Becky had never seen. Success had come to him and love. There was the ring of it in his young voice, the flush of it on his cheeks. He was a man, with a man's future.

He talked of his work. "If I am a bore, please tell me," he said, "but it is rather a fairy-tale, you know, when you've made up your mind to a hum-drum law career to find a thing like this opening out."

Becky sat and listened. Her eyes were all for her lover. Already she thought of him at King's Crest, writing for the world, with her money making things easy for him, but not spoiling the simplicity of their tastes. If she thought at all of George Dalt

on, it was to find the sparkle and shine of his splendid presence dimmed by Randy's radiance.

"I hate to say that he is-charming," Cope complained.

He was a good sport, and he wanted Becky to be happy. But it was not easy to sit there and see those two-with the pendulum swinging between them of joy and dreams, and the knowledge of a long life together.

"Why should it be?" he asked Louise, as he stood beside her, later, on their own little porch which overlooked the sea; "those two-did you see them? While I--"

Louise laid her hand on his shoulder. "Yes. I think it is something like this, Arch. They've got to live it out, and life isn't always going to be just to-night for them. And perhaps in the years together they may lose some of their dreams. They've got to grow old, and you, you'll go out-with all-your dreams--"

He reached up and took the kind hand.

"'They all go out like this-into the night-but what a fleet of-stars.' Is that it, Louise?"

"Yes."

The clearness of the moonlight was broken by long fingers of fog stretched up from the horizon.

"I'll wrap up and sit here, Louise," Archibald said; "I shan't sleep if I go in."

"Don't stay too long. Good-night, my dear, good-night."

Archibald, watching the fog shut out the moonlight, had still upon him that sense of revolt. Fame had never come to him, and love had come too late. Yet for Randy there was to be fulfillment-the wife of his heart, the applause of the world. What did it all mean? Why should one man have all, and the other-nothing?

Yet he had had his dreams. And the dreams of men lived. That which died was the least of them. The great old gods of democracy-Washington, Jefferson, Adams-had seen visions, and the visions had endured. Only yesterday Roosevelt had proclaimed his gallant doctrines. He had died proclaiming them, and the world held its head higher, because of his belief in its essential rightness.

The mists enveloped Archibald in a sort of woolly dampness. He saw for a moment a dim and distant moon. If he could have painted a moon like that-with fingers of fog reaching up to it--!

His own dreams of beauty? What of them? His pictures would not live. He knew that now. But he had given more than pictures to the world. He had given himself in a crusade which had been born of high idealism and a sense of brotherhood. Day after day, night after night, his plane had hung, poised like an eagle, above the enemy. He had been one of the young gods who had set their strength and courage against the greed and grossness of gray-coated hordes.

And these dreams must live-the dreams of the young gods-as the dreams of the old gods had endured. Because men had died to make others free, freedom must be the song on the lips of all men.

He thought of Randy's story. The Trumpeter Swan was only a stuffed bird in a glass case. But once he had spread his wings-flown high in the upper air. There had been strength in his pinions-joy in his heart-thrilling life in every feather of him. Some lovely lines drifted through Archibald's consciousness-

"Upon the brimming water, among the stones

Are nine and fifty swans.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,

They paddle in the cold

Companionable streams or climb the air;

Their hearts have not grown old;

Passion and conquest, wander where they will.

Attend upon them still----"

From the frozen north the swan had come to the sheltered bay and some one had shot him. He had not been asked if he wanted to live; they had taken his life, and had set him up there on the shelf-and that had been the end of him.

But was it the end? Stuffed and quiet in his glass case, he had looked down on a little boy. And the little boy had seen him not dead, but sounding his trumpet. And now the whole world would hear of him. In Randy's story, the Trumpeter would live again in the hearts of men.

The wind was rising-the fog blown back before it showed the golden track of the sea-light stretching to infinity!

He rose and stood by the rail. Then suddenly he felt a hand upon his, and looking down, he saw Becky.

"I ran away from Randy," she said, breathlessly, "just for a moment. I was afraid you might be alone, and unhappy."

His hand held hers. "Just for this moment you are mine?"

"Yes."

"Then let me tell you this-that I shall never be alone as long as I may have your friendship-I shall always be happy because I have-loved you."

He kissed her hand. "Run back to your Randy. Good-night, my dear, good-night."

Her lover received her rapturously at the door of the little house. They went in together. And Archibald looked out, smiling, over a golden sea.

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