There was no swagger in his statement, just simple earnestness. The room was very still for a moment.
Then Becky said, “Well, it’s awfully nice to have you home again,” and Randy, looking down at the little hand on his arm, had to hold on to himself not to put his own over it.
But she was too dear and precious——! So he just said, gently, “And I’m glad to be at home, my dear,” and they walked to the window together, and stood looking out at the moon. Behind them the old eagle watched with outstretched wings, the great free bird which we stamp on American silver, backed with “In God We Trust.” It is not a bad combination, and things in this country might, perhaps, have been less chaotic if we had taught newcomers to link love of God with love of liberty.
“Mr. Dalton is coming to see the birds,” said Becky, and in a moment she had spoiled everything for Randy.
“Is that why you put on your blue dress?”
She was honest. “I am not sure. Perhaps.”
“Yet you thought the old white one was good enough for me.”
“Well, don’t you like me just as well in my old white as in this?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Well, then,” Becky was triumphant, “why should I bother to change for you, Randy, when you like me just as well in anything?”
The argument was unanswerable, but Randy was not satisfied. “It is a mistake,” he said, “not to be as nice to old friends as new ones.”
“But I am nice. You said so yourself this afternoon. That I was sugar and spice and everything—nice——”
He laughed. “You are, of course. And I didn’t come all the way from France to quarrel with you——”
“We’ve always quarreled, Randy.”
“I wonder why?”
“Sister Loretta says that people only argue when they like each other. Otherwise they wouldn’t want to convince.”
“Do you quarrel with Sister Loretta?”
“Of course not. Nuns don’t. But she writes notes when she doesn’t agree with me—little sermons—and pins them on my pillow. She’s a great dear. She hates to have me leave the school. She has the feeling that the world is a dark forest, and that I am Red Riding Hood, and that the Wolf will get me.”
Dalton found them all at dinner when he reached Huntersfield. He was not in the least prepared for the scene which met his eyes—shining mahogany, old silver and Sheffield, tall white candles, Calvin in a snowy jacket, Mrs. Beaufort and Mrs. Paine in low-necked gowns, the Judge and Randy in dinner coats somewhat the worse for wear, Becky in thin, delicate blue, with a string of pearls which seemed to George an excellent imitation of the real thing.
He had thought that the trail of Mrs. Paine’s boarding-house might be over it all. He had known boarding-houses as a boy, before his father made his money. There had been basement dining-rooms, catsup bottles, and people passing everything to everybody else!