There was an anxious look in Becky’s eyes. “It seems to me that you are feeling it more than the others.”
“Perhaps. And I shouldn’t have said anything. Don’t let Truxton know.”
“Has anyone said anything to hurt you, Mary?”
“No, but when I dance with the men, I can’t speak their language. I haven’t been to the places—I don’t know the people. I am on the outside.”
Becky had a sudden forlorn sense that things were wrong with the whole world. But she didn’t want Mary to be unhappy.
“Truxton loves you,” she said, “and you love him. Don’t let anything make you miserable when you have—that. Nothing else counts, Mary.”
There was a note of passion in her voice which brought a pulsing response from Mary.
“It is the only thing that counts, Becky. How silly I am to worry.”
Her young husband was coming towards her—flushed and eager, a prince among men, and he was hers!
As he sat down beside her, her hand sought his under the table.
He looked down at her. “Happy, little girl?”
“Very happy, lover.”
Caroline Paine was having the time of her life. She wore a new dress of thin midnight blue which Randy had bought for her and which was very becoming; her hair was waved and dressed, and she had Major Prime as an attentive listener while she talked of the past and linked it with the present.
“Of course there was a time when the men drank themselves under the tables. Everybody calls them the ‘good old times,’ but I reckon they were bad old times in some ways, weren’t they? There was hot blood, and there were duels. There’s no denying it was picturesque, Major, but it was foolish for all that. Men don’t settle things now by shooting each other, except in a big way like the war. The last duel was fought by the old fountain out there—one of the Merriweathers met one of the Paines. Merriweather was killed, and the girl died of a broken heart.”
“Then it was Merriweather that she loved?”
“Yes. And young Paine went abroad, and joined the British army and was killed in India. So nobody was happy, and all because there was, probably, a flowing bowl at the harvest ball. I am glad they don’t do it that way now. Just think of my Randy stripped to his shirt and with pistols for two. We are more civilized in these days and I’m glad of it.”
“Are we?” said the Major; “I’m not sure. But I hope so.”
Randy came by just then and spoke to them. “Are you getting everything you want, Mother?”
“Yes, indeed. The Major looked after me. I’ve had salad twice, and everything else——”
“That sounds greedy, but it isn’t, not when you think of the groaning boards of other days. Has she been telling you about them, Major?”
“Yes, she has peopled the room with ghosts——”