The Trumpeter Swan
The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Trumpeter Swan, by Temple Bailey,Illustrated by Alice Barber Stephens
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Title: The Trumpeter Swan
Author: Temple Bailey
Release Date: April 21, 2006 [eBook #18219]
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE TRUMPETER SWAN***
E-text prepared by Al Haines
[Frontispiece: "When I am married will you sound your trumpet high upnear the moon?"]
THE TRUMPETER SWAN
THE TIN SOLDIER, CONTRARY MARY, MISTRESS ANNE, ETC.
"A sound from the clouds shall call thee from this earth."
ALICE BARBER STEPHENS
GROSSET & DUNLAP
COPYRIGHT 1920 BY
THE PENN PUBLISHING COMPANY
The Trumpeter Swan
|I.||A MAJOR AND TWO MINORS|
|III.||A WOLF IN THE FOREST|
|IV.||RAIN AND RANDY'S SOUL|
|X.||A GENTLEMAN'S LIE|
|XIII.||THE WHISTLING SALLY|
|XIV.||THE DANCER ON THE MOOR|
|XV.||THE TRUMPETER SWAN|
THE TRUMPETER SWAN
A MAJOR AND TWO MINORS
It had rained all night, one of the summer rains that, beginning in athunder-storm in Washington, had continued in a steaming drizzle untilmorning.
There were only four passengers in the sleeper, men all of them—two inadjoining sections in the middle of the car, a third in thedrawing-room, a fourth an intermittent occupant of a berth at the end.They had gone to bed unaware of the estate or circumstance of theirfellow-travellers, and had waked to find the train delayed by washouts,and side-tracked until more could be learned of the condition of theroad.
The man in the drawing-room shone, in the few glimpses that the othershad of him, with an effulgence which was dazzling. His valet, theintermittent sleeper in the end berth, was a smug little soul, with asmall nose which pointed to the stars. When the door of thecompartment opened to admit breakfast there was the radiance of abrocade dressing-gown, the shine of a sleek head, the staccato of animperious voice.
Randy Paine, long and lank, in faded khaki, rose, leaned over the seatof the section in front of him and drawled, "It is not raining rain tome—it's raining roses—down——?"
A pleasant laugh, and a deep voice, "Come around here and talk to me.You're a Virginian, aren't you?"
"By the grace of God and the discrimination of my ancestors," youngRandolph, as he dropped into the seat opposite the man with the deepvoice, saluted the dead and gone Paines.
"Then you know this part of it?"
"I was born here. In this county. It is bone of my bone and flesh ofmy flesh," there was a break in the boy's voice which robbed the wordsof grandiloquence.
"Hum—you love it? Yes? And I am greedy to get away. I want widerspaces——"
"Yes. Haven't seen it for three years. I thought when the war wasover I might. But I've got to be near Washington, it seems. The heatdrove me out, and somebody told me it would be cool in these hills——"
"It is, at night. By day we're not strenuous."
"I like to be strenuous. I hate inaction."
He moved restlessly. There was a crutch by his side. Young Painenoticed it for the first time. "I hate it."
He had a strong frame, broad shoulders and thin hips. One placed himimmediately as a man of great physical force. Yet there was thecrutch. Randy had seen other men, broad-shouldered, thin-hipped, whohad come to worse than crutches. He did not want to think of them. Hehad escaped without a scratch. He did not believe that he had lackedcourage, and there was a decoration to prove that he had not. But whenhe thought of those other men, he had no sense of his own valor. Hehad given so little and they had given so much.
Yet it was not a thing to speak of. He struck, therefore, a note towhich he knew the other might respond.
"If you haven't been here before, you'll like the old places."
"I am going to one of them."
A moment's silence. Then, "That's my home. I have lived there all mylife."
The lame man gave him a sharp glance. "I heard of it inWashington—delightful atmosphere—and all that——"
"You are going as a—paying guest?"
A deep flush stained the younger man's face. Suddenly he broke out."If you knew how rotten it seems to me to have my motherkeeping—boarders——"
"My dear fellow, I hope you don't think it is going to be rotten tohave me?"
"No. But there are other people. And I didn't know until I came backfrom France—— She had to tell me when she knew I was coming."
"She had been doing it all the time you were away?"
"Yes. Before I went we had mortgaged things to help me through theUniversity. I should have finished in a year if I hadn't enlisted.And Mother insisted there was enough for her. But there wasn't withthe interest and everything—and she wouldn't sell an acre. I shan'tlet her keep on——"
"Are you going to turn me out?"
His smile was irresistible. Randy smiled back. "I suppose you thinkI'm a fool——?"
"Yes. For being ashamed of it."
Randy's head went up. "I'm not ashamed of the boarding-house. I amashamed to have my mother work."
"So," said the lame man, softly, "that's it? And your name is Paine?"
"Randolph Paine of King's Crest. There have been a lot of us—and nota piker in the lot."
"I am Mark Prime."
"Major Prime of the 135th?"
The other nodded. "The wonderful 135th—God, what men they were——"his eyes shone.
Randy made his little gesture of salute. "They were that. I don'twonder you are proud of them."
"It was worth all the rest," the Major said, "to have known my men."
He looked out of the window at the drizzle of rain. "How quiet theworld seems after it all——"
Then like the snap of bullets came the staccato voice through the opendoor of the compartment.
"Find out why we are stopping in this beastly hole, Kemp, and get mesomething cold to drink."
Kemp, sailing down the aisle, like a Lilliputian drum major, trippedover Randy's foot.
"Beg pardon, sir," he said, and sailed on.
Randy looked after him. "'His Master's voice——'"
"And to think," Prime remarked, "that the coldest thing he can get onthis train is ginger ale."
Kemp, coming back with a golden bottle, with cracked ice in a tallglass, with a crisp curl of lemon peel, ready for an innocuouslibation, brought his nose down from the heights to look for the foot,found that it no longer barred the way, and marched on to hidden music.
"Leave the door open, leave it open," snapped the voice, "isn't therean electric fan? Well, put it on, put it on——"
"He drinks nectar and complains to the gods," said the Major softly,"why can't we, too, drink?"
They had theirs on a table which the porter set between them. Thetrain moved on before they had finished. "We'll be in Charlottesvillein less than an hour," the conductor announced.
"Is that where we get off, Paine?"
"One mile beyond. Are they going to meet you?"
"I'll get a station wagon."
Young Paine grinned. "There aren't any. But if Mother knows you'recoming she'll send down. And anyhow she expects me."
"After a year in France—it will be a warm welcome——"
"A wet one, but I love the rain, and the red mud, every blooming inchof it."
"Of course you do. Just as I love the dust of the desert."
They spoke, each of them, with a sort of tense calmness. One doesn'tconfess to a lump in one's throat.
The little man, Kemp, was brushing things in the aisle. He was hot butunconquered. Having laid out the belongings of the man he served, hetook a sudden recess, and came back with a fresh collar, a wet butfaultless pompadour, and a suspicion of powder on his small nose.
"All right, sir, we'll be there in fifteen minutes, sir," they heardhim say, as he was swallowed up by the yawning door.
Fifteen minutes later when the train slowed up, there emerged from thedrawing-room a man some years older than Randolph Paine, and many yearsyounger than Major Prime. He was good-looking, well-dressed, butapparently in a very bad temper. Kemp, in an excited, Skye-terriermanner, had gotten the bags together, had a raincoat over his arm, hadan umbrella handy, had apparently foreseen every contingency but one.
"Great guns, Kemp, why are we getting off here?"
"The conductor said it was nearer, sir."
Randolph Paine was already hanging on the step, ready to drop themoment the train stopped. He had given the porter an extra tip to lookafter Major Prime. "He isn't used to that crutch, yet. He'd hate itif I tried to help him."
The rain having drizzled for hours, condensed suddenly in a downpour.When the train moved on, the men found themselves in a small and stuffywaiting-room. Around the station platform was a sea of red mud. Mistyhills shot up in a circle to the horizon. There was not a house insight. There was not a soul in sight except the agent who knew youngPaine. No one having come to meet them, he suggested the use of thetelephone.
In the meantime Kemp was having a hard time of it. "Why in the name ofHeaven didn't we get off at Charlottesville," his master was demanding.
"The conductor said this was nearer, sir," Kemp repeated. His responsehad the bounding quality of a rubber ball. "If you'll sit here andmake yourself comfortable, Mr. Dalton, I'll see what I can do."
"Oh, it's a beastly hole, Kemp. How can I be comfortable?"
Randy, who had come back from the telephone with a look on his facewhich clutched at Major Prime's throat, caught Dalton's complaint.
"It isn't a beastly hole," he said in a ringing voice, "it's God'scountry—— I got my mother on the 'phone, Major. She has sent for usand the horses are on the way."
Dalton looked him over. What a lank and shabby youth he was to carryin his voice that ring of authority. "What's the answer to our gettingoff here?" he asked.
"Depends upon where you are going."
"To Oscar Waterman's——"
"Never heard of him."
"Hamilton Hill," said the station agent.
Randy's neck stiffened. "Then the Hamiltons have sold it?"
"Yes. A Mr. Waterman of New York bought it."
Kemp had come back. "Mr. Waterman says he'll send the car at once. Heis delighted to know that you have come, sir."
"How long must I wait?"
"Not more than ten minutes, he said, sir," Kemp's optimism seemed toricochet against his master's hardness and come back unhurt. "He willsend a closed car and will have your rooms ready for you."
"Serves me right for not wiring," said Dalton, "but who would believethere is a place in the world where a man can't get a taxi?"
Young Paine was at the door, listening for the sound of hoofs, watchingwith impatience. Suddenly he gave a shout, and the others looked tosee a small object