“Is he in love with you?”
She set down the box and looked at him. “Randy is only a boy. I am very fond of him. But we aren’t either of us—silly.”
She brought the last sentence out with such scorn that George had a moment of startled amaze.
Then, recovering, he said with a smile, “Is being in love silly?”
“I think it’s rather sacred——”
The word threw him back upon himself. Love was, you understand, to George, a game. And here was Becky acting as if it were a ritual.
Yet the novelty of her point of view made her seem more than ever adorable. In his heart he found himself saying, “Oh, you lovely, lovely little thing.”
But he did not say it aloud. Indeed he, quite unaccountably, found himself unable to say anything, and while he hesitated, there charged up the west hill a panting dog with flapping ears. At the arched opening of the Pavilion she paused and wagged a tentative question.
“It’s Nellie Custis——” Becky rose and ran towards her. “Where’s your master, darling? Randy——”
In response to her call came an eerie cry—the old war cry of the Indian chiefs. Then young Paine came running up. “Becky! Here? There’s going to be a storm. You better get home——”
He stopped short. Dalton was standing by the folding table.
“Hello, Paine,” he said, with ease. “We’re playing ‘Babes in the Wood.’”
“You seem very comfortable,” Randy was as stiff as a wooden tobacco sign.
“We are,” Becky said. “Mr. Dalton waved his wand like the Arabian nights——”
“My man did it,” said Dalton; “he’s down there in the car.”
Randy felt a sense of surging rage. The Pavilion was his. It was old and vine-covered, and hallowed by a thousand memories. And here was Dalton trespassing with his tables and chairs and his Canton teapot. What right had George Dalton to bring a Canton teapot on another man’s acres?
Becky was pouring tea for him. “Two lumps, Randy?”
“I don’t want any tea,” he said ungraciously. His eyes were appraising the flame of her cheeks, the light in her eyes. What had Dalton been saying? “I don’t want any tea. And there’s a storm coming.”
All her life Becky had been terrified in a storm. She had cowered and shivered at the first flash of lightning, at the first rush of wind, at the first roll of thunder. And now she sat serene, while the trees waved despairing arms to a furious sky, while blackness settled over the earth, while her ears were assailed by the noise of a thousand guns.
What had come over her? More than anything else, the thing that struck against Randy’s heart was this lack of fear in Becky!
Of course it was Dalton who took Becky home. There had been a sharp summons to Kemp, who came running up with raincoats, a rush for the car, a hurried “Won’t you come with us, Randy?” from Becky, and Randy’s curt refusal, and then the final insult from Dalton.