“Stop a minute, Jefferson, while I speak to them.”
Mr. Flippin pulled up his fat horse. He was black-haired, ruddy, and wide of girth. “Well, well,” he said, with a big laugh, “it is cert’n’y good to see you.”
Mary Flippin was slender and delicate and her eyes were blue. Her hair was thick and dark. There was Scotch-Irish blood in the Flippins, and Mary’s charm was in that of duskiness of hair and blueness of eye. “Oh, Randy Paine,” she said, with her cheeks flaming, “when did you get back?”
“Ten minutes ago. Mary, if you’ll hand me that corking kid, I’ll kiss her.”
Fiddle was handed over. She was rosy and round with her mother’s blue eyes. She wore a little buttoned hat of white pique, with strings tied under her chin.
“So,” said Randy, after a moist kiss, “you are Fiddle-dee-dee?”
“Who gave you that name?”
“It is her own way of saying Fidelity,” Mary explained.
“Isn’t she rather young to say anything?”
“Oh, Randy, she’s a year and a half,” Becky protested. “Your mother says that you talked in your cradle.”
Randy laughed, “Oh, if you listen to Mother——”
“I’m glad you’re in time for the Horse Show,” Mr. Flippin interposed, “I’ve got a couple of prize hawgs—an’ when you see them, you’ll say they ain’t anything like them on the other side.”
“Well, they ain’t. I reckon Virginia’s good enough for you to come back to, ain’t it, Mr. Randy——?”
“It is good enough for me to stay in now that I’m here.”
“So you’re back for good?”
“Well, we’re mighty glad to have you.”
Fiddle Flippin, dancing and doubling up on Randy’s knee like a very soft doll, suddenly held out her arms to her mother.
As Mary leaned forward to take her, Randy was aware of the change in her. In the old days Mary had been a gay little thing, with an impertinent tongue. She was not gay now. She was a Madonna, tender-eyed, brooding over her child.
“She has changed a lot,” Randy said, as they drove on.
“Why shouldn’t she change?” Becky demanded.
“Wouldn’t any woman change if she had loved a man and had let him go to France?”
It was still raining hard when the surrey stopped at a high and rusty iron gate flanked by brick pillars overgrown with Virginia creeper.
“Becky,” said young Paine, “you can’t walk up to the house. It’s pouring.”
“I don’t see any house,” said Major Prime.
“Well, you never do from the road in this part of the country. We put our houses on the tops of hills, and have acres to the right of us, and acres to the left, and acres in front, and acres behind, and you can never visit your neighbors without going miles, and nobody ever walks except little Becky Bannister when she runs away.”