The dawn crept in and found him still sitting at his desk. He had not written a dozen lines. But his thoughts had been the long, long thoughts of youth.
It would never have happened if Aunt Claudia had been there. Aunt Claudia would have built hedges about Becky. She would have warned the Judge. She would, as a last resort, have challenged Dalton. But Fate, which had Becky’s future well in hand, had sent Aunt Claudia to meet Truxton in New York. And she was having the time of her life.
Her first letter was a revelation to her niece. “I didn’t know,” she told the Judge at breakfast, “that Aunt Claudia could be like this——”
“So young and gay——”
“She is not old. And when she was young she was gayer than you.”
“Oh, not really, Grandfather.”
“Yes. And she looked like you—and had the same tricks with her hands, and her hair was bright and brown. And she was very pretty.”
“She is pretty yet,” said Becky, loyally, but she was quite sure that whatever might have been Aunt Claudia’s likeness to herself in the past, her own charms would not in the future shrink to fit Aunt Claudia’s present pattern. It was unthinkable that her pink and white should fade to paleness, her slenderness to stiffness, her youthful radiance to a sort of weary cheerfulness.
There was nothing weary in the letter, however. “Oh, my dear, my dear, you should see Truxton. He is so perfectly splendid that I am sure he is a changeling and not my son. I tell him that he can’t be the bundle of cuddly sweetness that I used to carry in my arms. I wore your white house-coat that first morning, Becky, and he sent some roses, and we had breakfast together in my rooms at the hotel. I believe it is the first time in years that I have looked into a mirror to really like my looks. You were sweet, my dear, to insist on putting it in. Truxton must stay here for two weeks more, and he wants me to stay with him. Then we shall come down together. Can you get along without me? We are going to the most wonderful plays, and to smart places to eat, and I danced last night on a roof garden. Should I say ‘on’ or ‘in’ a roof garden? Truxton says that my step is as light as a girl’s. I think my head is a little turned. I am very happy.”
Becky laid the letter down. “Would anyone have believed that Aunt Claudia could——”
“You have said that before, my dear. Your Aunt Claudia wasn’t born in the ark——”
“But, Grandfather, I didn’t mean that.”
“It sounded like it. I shall write to her to stay as long as she can. We can get along perfectly without her.”
“Of course,” said Becky slowly. She had a feeling that, at all costs, she ought to call Aunt Claudia back.