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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Trumpeter Swan - Chapter 9. "T. Branch"
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The Trumpeter Swan - Chapter 9. 'T. Branch' Post by :gananathan Category :Long Stories Author :Temple Bailey Date :May 2012 Read :1130

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The Trumpeter Swan - Chapter 9. "T. Branch"



Dalton felt that Fate had played a shabby trick. He had planned a graceful exit and the curtain had stuck; he had wanted to run away, and he could not. Flora was very ill, and it was, of course, out of the question to desert Oscar.

Madge had been sent for. She was to arrive on the noon train. He had promised Oscar that he would drive down for her. The house was in a hubbub. There were two trained nurses, and a half-dozen doctors. The verdict was unanimous, Flora could not be moved, and an operation was imperative.

And in the meantime there was the thought of Becky beating at his heart. With miles between them, the thing would have been easy. Other interests would have crowded her out. But here she was definitely within reach--and he wanted her. He wanted her more than he had ever wanted Madge, more than he had ever wanted any other woman. There had been a sweetness about her, a dearness.

He thought it over as he lay in bed waiting for his breakfast. Since waking, he had led Kemp a life of it.

"Of all the fools," he said, when at last the tray came.

"Anything the matter, sir?"

George lifted a silver cover. "That's not what I ordered."

"You said a kidney omelette, sir."

"I wanted the kidney broiled--not in a messy sauce. Take it away."

"I'll get you another."

"I don't want another. Take it away." He flung his napkin on the tray and turned his face to the wall. "I've got a headache. Tell Waterman that if he asks for me, that I've told you to go down and meet Miss MacVeigh."

Kemp stood and looked at the figure humped up under the light silk cover. He had long patience. He might have been a stick or stone under his master's abuse. But he was not a stick or a stone. It seemed too that suddenly his soul expanded. No man had ever called him a fool, and he had worn a decoration in France. He knew what he was going to do. And for the first time in many months he felt himself a free man.

George's decision to have Kemp meet Madge had been founded on the realization that it would be unbearably awkward if he should pass Becky on the road. She had sent back his pendant without a word, and there was no telling how she was taking it. If the thing were ever renewed--and his mind dwelt daringly on that possibility, explanations would be easy--but he couldn't make explanation if she saw him first in a car with another woman.

It was thus that Madge, arriving on the noon train, found Kemp waiting for her. Kemp was very fond of Miss MacVeigh. She was not a snob and there were so many snobs among Dalton's friends. She talked to him as if he were a man and not a mechanical toy. Dalton, on the other hand, treated his valet as if he were a marionette to be pulled by strings, an organ controlled by stops, or a typewriter operated by keys.

Major Prime had come down on the same train. Randy, driving Little Sister, was there to meet him.

"It is good to get back," the Major said. "I've been homesick."

"We missed you a lot. Yesterday we had a barbecue, and you should have been here----"

"I wanted to be, Randy. I hope you are not going to turn me out with the rest of the boarders when you roll in affluence."

"Affluence, nothing--but I sold two cars yesterday----"

"Not bad for a poet."

"It is a funny sort of game," said Randy soberly; "all day I run around in this funny little car, and at night I think big thoughts and try to put them on paper."

He could not tell the Major that the night before his thoughts had not been the kind to put on paper. He had been in a white fury. He knew that if he met Dalton nothing could keep him from knocking him down. He felt that a stake and burning fagots would be the proper thing, but, failing that, fists would do. Yet, there was Becky's name to be considered. Revenge, if he took it, must be a subtle thing--his mind had worked on it in the darkness of the night.

Kemp was helping Madge into the Waterman car. "Who is she?" the Major asked. "She came down on my train."

"Miss MacVeigh. Mrs. Waterman is very ill. There is to be an operation at once."

"I watched her on the train," the Major confessed as he and Randy drove off. "She read all the way down, and smiled over her book. I saw the title, and it was 'Pickwick Papers.' Fancy that in these days. Most young people don't read Dickens."

"Well, she isn't young, is she?"

"Not callow, if that's what you mean, you ungallant cub. But she is young in contrast to a Methuselah like myself."

Kemp had to look after Miss MacVeigh's trunks, so Randy's little car went on ahead. Thus again Fate pulled wires, or Providence. If the big car had had the lead Madge would have gone straight as an arrow to Hamilton Hill. But as it happened, Little Sister barred the way to the open road.


The two cars had to pass the Flippins. Mrs. Flippin and Mary were baking cakes for the feast at Huntersfield. Mrs. Flippin was to go over in the afternoon and help Mandy, and to-morrow Truxton and his mother would arrive.

"The Judge is like a boy," said Mrs. Flippin; "he's so glad to have Truxton home."

"Perhaps he won't be so glad when he gets here----"

"Why not?" Mrs. Flippin turned and stared at her daughter.

Mary was seeding raisins, wetting her fingers now and then in a glass of water which stood on a table by her side. "Well, Truxton may be changed--most of the men are, aren't they?"

"Is Randy Paine changed?"

"Yes, Mother."


"He's a grown-up."

"Well, he needed to grow, and it wouldn't hurt Truxton either."

"But if Truxton has grown up and wants his own way--the Judge won't like it. The Judge has always ruled at Huntersfield."

"Well, he supports Truxton; why shouldn't he?"

A bright flush stained Mary's skin. "Truxton has his officer's pay now."

"He won't have it when he gets out of the Army."

Mary rose and went to the stove. She came back with a kettle and poured boiling water over a dish of almonds to blanch them.

"We ought to have made this fruit cake a week ago to have it really good," she said, and shelved the subject of Truxton Beaufort.

"It will be good enough as it is," said Mrs. Flippin; "there isn't anybody in the county that can beat me when it comes to baking cakes."

"Where's Fiddle," Mary said, suddenly; "can you see her from the window, Mother?"

Mrs. Flippin could not.

"Well, she's probably sailing her celluloid fish in the chickens' water pan," said Mary; "I'll go out and look her up in a minute."

But Fiddle was not sailing celluloid fish. Columbus-like she had decided that there were wider seas than the water pan. Once upon a time her grandmother had taken her to the bottom of the hill, and at the bottom of the hill there had been a lot of water, and Fiddle had walked in it with her bare feet, and had splashed. She had liked it much better than the chickens' pan.

So she had picked up her three celluloid fish and had trotted down the path. She wore her pink rompers, and as she bobbed along she was like a mammoth rose-petal blown by the wind.

At the foot of the hill she came upon a little brown stream. It was just a thread of a stream, very shallow with a lot of big flat stones. Fiddle walked straight into it, and the clear water swept over her toes. She put in her little fish, and quite unexpectedly, they swam away. She followed and came to where the stream was spanned by a rail-fence which separated the Flippin farm from the road. The lowest rail was about as high above the stream as her own fast-beating heart. She ducked under it and discovered one of her fish whirling in a small eddy. It was a red fish and she was very fond of it. She made a sudden grab, caught it, lost her balance and sat down in the water. After the first shock, she found that she liked it. The other fish had continued on their journey towards the river. Perhaps some day they would come to the sea. Fiddle forgot them. She held the little red fish fast and splashed the water with her heels.

Now on each side of the water was a road, which went up a hill each way, so that cars coming down, put on speed to go up, and forded the stream which was a mere thread of water except after high rains.

Randy was talking to the Major as he came down the hill. He did not see Fiddle until he was almost upon her. He was driving at high speed, and there was only a second in which to jam things down and pull things up and stop the car.

Kemp was behind him. He was not prepared for Randy's sudden stop. He swerved sharply to the left, slammed into a telegraph pole--and came back to life to find somebody bending over him. "Who is looking after the lady, sir?" he managed to murmur.

"Young Paine and Mr. Flippin are carrying her to the house. You are cut a bit. Let me tie up your head." The Major gave efficient first aid and after that Kemp got to his feet painfully. "Is Miss MacVeigh badly hurt?"

"She is conscious, and not in great pain. I'm not much of a prop to lean on, but I think we can make that hill together."

They climbed slowly, the man of crutches and the man with the bound-up head.

"It's like a little bit of over there, Kemp, isn't it?"

"Yes it is, sir--many's the time I've seen them helping each other--master and man."

When they got to the house, they found Madge on the sofa, and Mrs. Flippin bending over her. "My husband has gone for the doctor," she told the Major. "I think the blood comes from her hand; she must have put it up to save her face."

"I bent my head," murmured Madge, "and my hat was broad. Think what might have happened if I had worn a little hat."

She had started the sentence lightly but she stopped with a gasp of pain. "Oh--my foot----" she said, "the pain--is--dreadful----"

The Major drew up a chair, and handed his crutches to Randy. "If you'll let us take off your shoe, it might help till the doctor comes."

She fainted dead away while they did it, and came back to life to find her foot bandaged, and her uncut hand held in the firm clasp of the man with the crutches. He was regarding her with grave gray eyes, but his face lighted as she looked up at him.

"Drink this," he told her. "The doctor is on the way, and I think it will help the pain until he comes."

She liked his voice--it had a deep and musical quality. She was glad he was there. Something in his strength seemed to reach out to her and give her courage.

When the pain began again, he gave her another drink from the glass, and when she drifted off, she came back to the echo of a softly-whistled tune.

"I beg your pardon," the Major said as she opened her eyes; "it is a bad habit that I permit myself when I have things on my mind. My men said they always knew by the tune I whistled the mood I was in. And that there was only one tune they were afraid of."

"What was that?"

"'Good-night, Ladies----'" He threw back his head and laughed. "When I began on that they knew it was all up with them----"

She tried to laugh with him, but it was a twisted grin. "Oh," she said and began to tremble. She saw his eyes melt to tenderness. "Oh, you poor little thing."

She was conscious after that of the firm hand which held hers. The deep voice which soothed. Through all that blinding agony she was conscious of his call to courage--she wondered if he had called his men like that--over there----

When the doctor came, he shook his head. "We'd better keep her here. She is in no condition to be moved to Hamilton Hill, not over these roads. Can you make room for her, Mrs. Flippin?"

"She can have my room," said Mary; "Fiddle and I can go up-stairs----"

They moved Madge, and Mrs. Flippin and Mary got her to bed. The Major sat in the sitting-room and talked to Randy, and as he talked he held Madge's hat in his hand. It had a brim of straw and a crown of mauve silk. The Major, turning it round and round on a meditative finger, thought of the woman who had worn it. She was a pretty woman, a very oddly pretty woman.

"Is she related to Mrs. Waterman, Kemp?" he asked.

"No, sir. But she's been there all summer. And then she went away, and they sent for her because Mrs. Waterman is ill."

Randy rather indiscreetly flung out, "It seems as if the trail of that Waterman crowd is over our world. I suppose we shall have to get the news of this up to them somehow."

"I can telephone Mr. Dalton, sir."

"Is Dalton still there?"

"Yes, sir. And he had a headache this morning, and stayed in bed, or he would have been in the car, sir----"

Randy wished bloodthirstily that Dalton had been in the car. Why couldn't Dalton have been smashed instead of Madge?

"I might call up Mr. Waterman instead of Mr. Dalton," Kemp suggested. "If Mr. Dalton's in bed, he'll hate to be disturbed."

"Are you afraid of him, Kemp?"

Kemp's honest eyes met Randy's burning glance. "No, I am not afraid. I am leaving his service, sir."

They stared at him. "Leaving his service, why?" Randy demanded.

"He called me a fool this morning. And I am not a fool, sir."

"What made him say that?" Randy asked, with interest.

"He ordered a kidney omelette for breakfast, and I brought it, and he wouldn't eat it, and blamed me. I am willing to serve any man, but not without self-respect, sir."

"What are you going to do now, Kemp?" the Major asked.

"Find a better man to work for."

"It won't be hard," Randy interpolated.

"Work for me," said the Major.

Kemp was eager----! "For you, sir?"

"Yes. I need somebody to be legs for me--I'm only half a man. The place is open for you if you want it."

"I shall want it in a week," said Kemp; "I shall have to give him notice."

"There will be three musketeers in the old Schoolhouse, Paine. We have all seen service."

"It will be the best thing that ever happened to me, sir," said Kemp ecstatically, "to know that I can wait on a fighting man." He swung down the hall to the telephone as if he marched to the swirl of pipes.

"Isn't Dalton a brute?" said Randy.

"He that calleth his brother a fool----" mused the Major. He was still turning the mauve hat in his hands. "It is queer," he said unexpectedly, "how some women make you think of some flowers. Did you notice everything Miss MacVeigh wore was lilac--and there's the perfume of it about her things----"

"Becky's a rose," said Randy, "from her own garden. She's as fresh and sweet," his voice caught. "Oh, hang Dalton," he said, "I hate the whole tribe of them----"

Kemp came back to say that Oscar Waterman would be down at once. He insisted that Miss MacVeigh should be brought up to Hamilton Hill.

"He must talk with the doctor."

"He is bringing a doctor of his own. One who came down for Mrs. Waterman."

Randy picked up his hat. "I'm going home. The same house won't hold us----"

Kemp was discreet. "Can I help you with your car, sir?"

"I'll come over later and look at it." Randy, escaping by the back way, walked over the hills.

The Major stayed, and was in the sitting-room with the county doctor when the others arrived.

Dr. Dabney, the county doctor, was not old. He rode to hounds and he enjoyed life. But he was none the less a good doctor and a wise one. Waterman's physician confirmed the diagnosis. It would be very unwise to move Miss MacVeigh.

"But she can't stay here," said Dalton.

"Why not?"

"She can't be made comfortable." Dalton surveyed the Flippin sitting-room critically. He was aware that Mr. Flippin was in the doorway, and that Mrs. Flippin and Mary could not fail to catch his words. But he did not care who heard what he said. All was wrong with his world. It was bad enough to have Flora ill, but to have Madge out of commission would be to forge another chain to hold him to Hamilton Hill.

"She can be made very comfortable here," said Dr. Dabney. "Mrs. Flippin is a famous housekeeper. And anyone who has ever slept in that east room in summer knows that there is nothing better."

Dalton ignored him. "What do you think?" He turned to the Washington doctor. "What do you think?"

"I think it best not to move her. We can send a nurse, and with Dr. Dabney on the case, she will be in good hands."

"The only trouble is," said Dr. Dabney, unexpectedly, "that we may impose too much on Mrs. Flippin's hospitality."

"We will pay----" said Dalton with a touch of insolence.

From the doorway, Mr. Flippin answered him. "We don't want pay---- Neighbors don't ask for money when they--help out----"

There was a fine dignity about him. He was a rough farmer in overalls, but Dalton would never match the simple grace of his fine gesture of hospitality.

The Major, who had been silent, now spoke up. "You are having more than your share of trouble, Mr. Waterman. First your wife, and now your guest."

"Oh, I am, I am," said Oscar, brokenly. "I don't see what I've done to deserve it."

He was a pathetic figure. Whatever else he lacked, he loved his wife. If she died--he felt that he could not bear it. For the first time in his life Oscar faced a situation in which money did not count. He could not buy off Death--all the money in the world would not hold back for one moment the shadow of the Dark Angel from his wife's door.


The window of the east room looked out on the old orchard. There was a screened door which opened upon a porch and a stretch of lawn beyond which was the dairy.

Within the room there was a wide white bed, and a mahogany dresser with a scarf with crocheted trimming, above the dresser was an old steel engraving of Samson destroying the temple. The floor was spotless, a soft breeze shook the curtains. Madge, relieved from pain and propped on her pillows, watched a mother cat who with her kittens sat just outside the door.

She was a gray cat with white paws and breast, not fat at the moment but with a comfortable well-fed look. She alternately washed herself and washed her offspring. There were four of them, a rollicking lot not easy to keep in order.

"Aren't they--ripping?" Madge said to Mary.

"They always come up on the step about this time in the afternoon; they are waiting for the men to bring the milk to the dairy."

A little later Madge saw the men coming--two of them, with the foaming pails. The mother cat rose and went to meet them. Her tail was straight up, and the kittens danced after her.

"They will get a big dish of it, and then they will go around to the kitchen door to wait for supper and the table scraps. And after that Bessie will coax the kittens out to the barn and go hunting for the night."

"Is that her name--Bessie?"

"Yes, there has always been a Bessie-cat here. And we cling to old customs."

"I like old customs," said Madge, "and old houses."

After a little she asked, "Who makes the butter?"

"I do. It's great fun."

"Oh, when I am well, may I help?"

"You----?" Mary came over and stood looking down at her; "of course you may help. But perhaps you wouldn't like it."

"I am sure I should. And I don't think I am going to get well very soon----"

Mary was solicitous. "Why not?"

"I don't want to get well. I want to stay here. I think this place is--heavenly."

Mary laughed. "It is just a plain farmhouse. If you want the show places you should go to Huntersfield and King's Crest----"

"I want just this. Do you know I am almost afraid to go to sleep for fear I shall wake up and find it a--dream----"

A little later, she asked, "Are those apples in the orchard ripe?"


"May I have one?"

"The doctor may not want you to have it," said her anxious nurse.

"Just to hold in my hand," begged Madge.

So Mary picked a golden apple, and when the doctor came after dark, he found the room in all the dimness of shaded lamplight, and the golden girl asleep with that golden globe in her hand.

Up-stairs the mulatto girl, Daisy, was putting Fiddle-dee-dee to sleep.

"You be good, and Daisy gwine tell you a story."

Fiddle liked songs better. "Sing 'Jack-Sam bye.'"

Daisy, without her corsets and in disreputable slippers, settled herself to an hour of ease. She had the negro's love of the white child, and a sensuous appreciation of the pleasant twilight, the bedtime song, the rhythm of the rocking-chair.

"Well, you lissen," she said, and rocked in time to the tune.

Bye, oh, bye, little Jack-Sam, bye.
Bye, oh, bye, my baby,
When you wake, you shall have a cake--
And all the pretty little horses--

Her voice was low and pleasant, with queer, quavering minor cadences. But Fiddle-dee-dee was not sleepy.

"'Tory," she begged, when the song was ended.

So Daisy told the story of the three bears. Fiddle was too young to fully comprehend, but she liked the sound of Daisy's voice at the climaxes, "Who's been sittin' in _my chair?" and "Who's been sleepin' in _my bed?" and "Who's been eatin' _my soup?" Daisy was dramatic or nothing, and she entered into the spirit of her tale. It was such an exciting performance altogether that Fiddle was wider awake than ever when the story was finished.

"Ain' you evah gwine shut yo' eyes?"

"Daisy, sing," said Fiddle.

"I'se sung twel my th'oat's dry," said Daisy. And just then Mary came in. "Isn't she asleep, Daisy?--I'll take her. Bannister's John is down-stairs and wants to see you."

"Well, I ain' wantin' to see him," Daisy tossed her head; "you jus' take Miss Fiddle whilst I goes down and settles _him_. I ain' dressed and I ain' ready, Miss Mary. You jes' look at them feet." She stuck them out for inspection. Her shoes were out at the toes and down at the heels. "This ain' my comp'ny night." As she went down-stairs, her voice died away in a querulous murmur.

Mary, with her child in her arms, sat by the window and looked out upon the quiet scene. There was faint rose in the sky, and a silver star. But while she watched the rose faded.

Fiddle, warm and heavy in her arms, slept finally. Then Mary took off her dress and donned a thin white kimono. She let down her hair and braided it----

There was no light in the room, and her mother, coming up, asked softly, "Are you there?"


"Fiddle asleep?"

"Yes, Mother."

Mrs. Flippin found her way to the window and sat down. "The nurse is here, and a lot of clothes and things just came over for Miss MacVeigh from Hamilton Hill. Mary, I wish you could see them."

"I shall in the morning, Mother."

"The nurse got her into a satin nightgown before I came up, with nothing but straps for sleeves--but she looked like a Princess----"

"Aren't you tired to death, dear?"

Mrs. Flippin laughed. "Me? I like it. I am sorry to have Miss MacVeigh hurt, but having her in the house with all those pretty things and people coming and going is better than a circus."

Mary laughed a little. "You are such a darling--making the best of things----"

"Well, making the best is the easiest way," said Mrs. Flippin. "I ain't taking any credit, Mary."

"You've had a hard day. You'd better go to bed."

"I'll have a harder one to-morrow. Nothing would do but I must go back to Huntersfield. Mandy's off her head, and the Judge wants the whole house turned upside down for Truxton."

"And Truxton comes--on the noon train."


There was a long silence. Then Mary said in a queer voice, "Mother, I've got to tell you something--to-night----"

"You ain't got anything to tell me, honey."

"But I have--something--I should have told you--months ago."

"There isn't anything you can tell me that I don't know."


"Girls can't fool their mothers, Mary. Do you think that when Fiddle grows up, she is going to fool you?"


The next morning Mr. Flippin was at the foot of the stairs when his daughter came down.

"So you lied to me, Mary."

She shook her head, "No."

"You said his name was Truelove Branch."

"He is my true love, Father. And his name is T. Branch--Truxton Branch Beaufort."

"What do you think the Judge is going to say about this?"

"He is going to hate it. He is going to think that your daughter isn't good enough for his grandson."

"You are good enough for anybody, Mary. But this wasn't the right way."

"It was the only way. Didn't Mother tell you that he begged me to let him write to you and go to the Judge, and I wouldn't?"

"Why not?"

"I wanted to have him here, so that we might face it together."

"Your mother says she guessed it long ago. But she didn't say anything. Talking might make it worse."

"Talking would have made it worse, Dad. We had done it--and I'd do it again," there was a lift of her head, a light in her eyes, "but it hasn't been easy--to know that you wondered--that other people wondered. But it wouldn't have been any better if I had told. Truxton had to be here to make it right if he could."

"Why didn't he come a-runnin' to you as soon as he got on this side?"

"He couldn't. His orders kept him in New York, and he wanted me to come. But I wouldn't. I made him ask his mother. I could spare him for three weeks,--he will be mine for the rest of his life--and he is to tell her before they get here."

"I wouldn't have had it happen for a thousand dollars," said troubled Bob Flippin. "I've always done everything on the square with the Judge."

"I know," said Mary, with the sudden realization of how her act had affected others, "I know. That's the only thing I am sorry about. But--I don't believe the Judge would be so silly as to let anything I did make any difference about you----"

"Where are you going to live?"

For the first time Mary's air of assurance left her. "He is hoping his grandfather will want us at Huntersfield----"

"He can keep on a-hoping," said Bob Flippin. "I know the Judge."

Mary flared. "We can find a little house of our own----"

Her father laid his hand on her shoulder. "Look at me, daughter," he said, and turned her face up to him. "Our house is yours, Mary," he said. "I don't like the way you did it, and I hate to think what will happen when the Judge finds out. But our home is yours, and it's your husband's. As long as you like to stay----"

And now Mary sobbed--a little slip of a thing in her father's arms. All the long months she had kept her secret, holding it safe in her heart, dreading yet longing for the moment when she could tell the world that she was the wife of Truxton Beaufort, whom she had adored from babyhood.

"I would have married him, Dad, if--if I had had to tramp the road."

Truxton came on the noon train. He drove at once to Huntersfield with his mother, was embraced by the Judge, kissed Becky, and suddenly disappeared.

"Where's he gone?" the Judge asked, irritably. "Where has he gone, Claudia?"

"He will be back in time for lunch," said Mrs. Beaufort. "May I speak to you in the library, Father?"

Becky, from the moment of her aunt's arrival, had known that something was wrong. She had expected to see Mrs. Beaufort glowing with renewed youth, radiant. Instead, she looked as if a blight had come upon her, shrivelled--old. When she smiled it was without joy; she was dull and flat.

It was a half hour before Aunt Claudia came out from the library. "My dear," she said, finding Becky still on the porch, "I have something to tell you. Will you go up-stairs with me?--I--think I should like to--lie down----"

Becky put a strong young arm about her and they went up together.

"It's--it's about Truxton," Aunt Claudia said, prone on the couch in her room. "Becky--he's married----"


"Married, my dear. He did not tell me until--last night. He wanted me to be happy--as long as I could. He's a dear boy, Becky--but--he's married----" She went on presently with an effort. "He has been married over two years--and, Becky--he has married--Mary Flippin."

_"Aunt Claudia----"

"He married her in Petersburg--before he went to France with the first ambulance corps. They decided not to tell anyone. Mary took Truxton's middle name. When the baby came, Truxton was wild to write us, but Mary--wouldn't. She felt if he was here when it was told that we would forgive him---- If anything--happened to him--she didn't want him to die feeling that we had--blamed him---- I must say that Mary--was wise--but--to think that my son has married--Mary Flippin."

"Mary's a dear," said Becky stoutly.

"Yes," Aunt Claudia agreed, "but not a wife for my son. I had such hopes for him, Becky. He could have married anybody."

Becky knew the kind of woman that Aunt Claudia had wanted Truxton to marry--one whose ancestors were like those whose portraits hung in the hall at Huntersfield--a woman with a high-held head--a woman whose family traditions paralleled those of the Bannisters and Beauforts.

"Then Fiddle is Truxton's child."

"And I am a grandmother, Becky. Mrs. Flippin and I are grandmothers----" She said it with a sort of bitter mirth.

"What did Grandfather say?"

"I left him--raging. It was--very hard on me. I had hoped--he would make it easy. He declares that Mary Flippin shan't step inside of his front door. That he is going to recall all the invitations that he had sent out for to-night. I tried to show him that now that the thing is done--we might as well--accept it. But he wouldn't listen. If he keeps it up like this, I don't want Truxton to come back--to lunch. I had hoped that he might bring Mary with him---- She's his wife, Becky--and I've got to love her----"

"Aunt Claudia," Becky came over and put her arms about the pitiful black figure, "you are the best sport--ever----"

"No, I'm not," but Aunt Claudia kissed her, and for a moment they clung together; "you mustn't make me cry, Becky."

But she did cry a little, wiping her eyes with her black-bordered handkerchief, and saying all the time, "He's my son, Becky. I--I can't put him away from me----"

"He loved her," said Becky, with a catch of her breath. "I--I think that counts a great deal, Aunt Claudia."

"Yes, it does. And they did no wrong. They were only foolish children."

"If anyone was to blame," she went on steadily, "it was Truxton. He had been brought up a--gentleman. He knew what was expected of a man of his birth and breeding. Secrecy is never honorable and I told him--last night--that I was sorry to be less proud of my son than of the men who had gone before him."

"Did you tell him that?"

"Yes. If pride of family means anything, Becky, it means holding on to the finest of your traditions. If you break the rules--you are a little less fine--a little less worthy----"

What a stern little thing she was. Yet one felt the stimulus of her strength. "Aunt Claudia," said Becky, tremulously, "if I could only be as sure of things as you are----"

"What things?"

"Of right and wrong and all the rest of it."

"I don't know what you mean by all the rest. But right is right, and wrong is wrong, my dear. There is no half-way, in spite of all the sophistries with which people try to salve their consciences."

She stopped, and plunged again into the discussion of her problem. "I must telephone to Truxton--he mustn't come--not until his grandfather asks him, Becky."

"He is coming now," said Becky, who sat by the window. "Look, Aunt Claudia."

Tramping up the hill towards the second gate was a tall figure in khaki. Resting like a rose-petal on one shoulder was a mite of a child in pink rompers.

"He is bringing Fiddle with him," Becky gasped. "Oh, Aunt Claudia, he is bringing Fiddle."

Aunt Claudia rose and looked out---- "Well," she said, "let her come. She's his child. If Father turns them out, I'll go with them."

Truxton saw them at the window and waved. "Shall we go down?" Becky said.

"No--wait a minute. Father's in the hall." Aunt Claudia stood tensely in the middle of the room. "Becky, listen over the stair rail to what they are saying."


"Go on," Aunt Claudia insisted; "there are times when--one breaks the rules, Becky. I've got to know what they are saying----"

The voices floated up. Truxton's a lilting tenor----

"Are you going to forgive us, Grandfather?"

"I am not the grandfather of Mary Flippin's child," the Judge spoke evidently without heat.

"You are the grandfather of Fidelity Branch Beaufort," said Truxton coolly; "you can't get away from that----"

"The neighborhood calls her Fiddle Flippin," the Judge reminded him.

"What's in a name?" said Truxton, and swung his baby high in the air. "Do you love your daddy, Fiddle-dee-dee?"

"'Ess," said Fiddle, having accepted him at once on the strength of sweet chocolate, and an adorable doll.

"What are they saying?" whispered Aunt Claudia, still tense in the middle of the room.

"Hush," Becky waved a warning hand.

"There is," said the Judge, in a declamatory manner, "everything in a name. The Bannisters of Huntersfield, the Paines of King's Crest, the Randolphs of Cloverdale, do you think these things don't count, Truxton?"

"I think there's a lot of rot in it," said young Beaufort, "when we were fighting for democracy over there----"

The shot told. "Democracy has nothing to do with it----"

"Democracy," said Truxton, "has a great deal to do with it. The days of kings and queens are dead, they have married each other for generations and have produced offspring like--William of Germany. Class assumptions of superiority are withered branches on the tree of civilization. Mary is as good as I am any day."

"You wrote things like this," said the Judge, interested in spite of himself, and loving argument.

"I wrote them because I believed them. I am ready to apologize for not telling you of my marriage before this. I have no apologies to make for my wife----

"I have no apologies to make for my wife," Truxton repeated. "I fought for democratic ideals. I am practising them. Mary is a lady. You must admit that, Grandfather."

"I do admit it," said the Judge slowly, "in the sense that you mean it. But in the county sense? Do you think the Merriweathers will ask her to their ball? Do you think Bob Flippin will dine with my friends to-night?"

"I don't think he will expect to dine with you, Grandfather. I think if you ask him, he will refuse. But if you take your friendship from him it will break his heart----"

"Who said I would take my friendship away from Bob Flippin?"

"He is afraid--you may----"

"Because you married Mary?"


The Judge was breathing hard. "Whom does he think I'd go fishing with?"

"Do you think he'll want to go fishing with you if you cast off Mary?"

The Judge had a vision of life without Bob Flippin. On sunshiny days there would be no one to cut bait for him, no one to laugh with him at the dogs as they sat waiting for their corn-cakes, no one to listen with flattering attention to his old, old tales.

It had not occurred to him that Bob Flippin, too, might have his pride.

He sat down heavily in a porch chair.

"Go and get Mary," he exploded; "bring her here. The thing is done. The milk is spilled. And there's no use crying over it. And if you think you two young people can separate me and Bob Flippin----"

Mrs. Beaufort and Becky came down presently, to find the old man gazing, frowning, into space.

"I have told him to bring Mary, Claudia, but I must say that I am bitterly disappointed."

"Mary is a good little thing, Father." Aunt Claudia's voice shook.

The old man looked up at her. "It is hardest for you, my dear. And I have helped to make it hard."

He reached out his hand to her. She took it. "He is my son--and I love him----"

"And I love you, Claudia."

"May I get the blue room ready?"

The blue room was the bridal chamber at Huntersfield; kept rather sacredly at other times for formal purposes.

"Do as you please. The house is yours, my dear."

And so that night the lights of the blue room shone on Fiddle Flippin and her new grandmother.

"Do you think she would let me put her to bed?" Mrs. Beaufort had asked Mary.

"If you will sing, 'Jack-Sam Bye.'"

Mary pulled the last little garment from the pink plump body, and Fiddle, like a rosy Cupid, counted her toes gleefully in the middle of the wide bed.

"I told Truxton," Mary said suddenly, "that he might not want to call her 'Fiddle.' The whole neighborhood says 'Fiddle Flippin.'"

"It is a dear little name," Aunt Claudia was bending adoringly over the baby, "but Fidelity is better--Fidelity Branch Beaufort----"

"I want her to be as proud of her name as I am," Mary's voice had a thrilling note. "It is a great thing to know that my child has in her the blood of all those wonderful people whose portraits hang in the hall. I want her to be worthy of her name."

She could have said nothing better. Aunt Claudia's face was lighted by the warmth in her heart. "Such a lot of ancestors for one little fat Fidelity," she said; "put on her nightgown, Mary, and I'll rock her to sleep."

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CHAPTER VIII. ANCESTORSI The Judge and Mr. Flippin were fishing, with grasshoppers for bait. The fish that they caught they called "shiners." As an edible product "shiners" were of little account. But the Judge and Mr. Flippin did not fish for food, they fished for sport. It was mild sport compared to the fishing of other days when the Judge had waded into mountain streams with the water coming up close to the pocket of his flannel shirt where he kept his cigars, or had been poled by Bob Flippin from "riffle" to pool. Those had been the days of speckled