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This March day the vast and brassy sky, always spangled with the silver glint of airplanes, roared and glittered with celestial traffic. Gigantic though they loomed against the white-hot heavens, there was nothing martial about these winged mammoths. They were merely private vehicles bearing nice little alligator jewel cases and fabulous gowns and overbred furs. No sordid freight sullied these four-engined family jobs whose occupants were Dallas or Houston or Vientecito or Waco women in Paris gowns from Neiman-Marcus; and men from Amarillo or Corpus Christi or San Angelo or Benedict in boots and Stetsons and shirt sleeves.
All Texas was flying to Jett Rink's party. All Texas, that is, possessed of more than ten million in cash or cattle or cotton or wheat or oil. Thus was created an aerial stampede. Monsters in a Jovian quadrille, the planes converged from the Timber Belt and the Rio Grande Valley, from the Llano Estacado and the Trans-Pecos; the Blacklands the Balcones Escarpment the Granite Mountains the Central Plains the Edwards Plateau the boundless Panhandle. High, high they soared above the skyscraper office buildings that rose idiotically out of the endless plain; above the sluggish rivers and the arroyos, above the lush new hotels and the anachronistic white-pillared mansions; the race horses in rich pasture, the swimming pools the drives of transplanted palms the huge motion picture palaces the cattle herds and the sheep and mountains and wild antelope and cotton fields and Martian chemical plants whose aluminum stacks gave back the airplanes glitter for glitter. And above the grey dust-bitten shanties of the Mexican barrios and the roadside barbecue shacks and the windmills and the water holes and the miles of mesquite and cactus.
There were, of course, a few party-goers so conservative or so sure of their position in society, or even so impecunious, as to make the journey by automobile, choosing to cover the distance at a leisurely ninety miles an hour along the flat concrete ribbon that spanned the thousand miles of Texas from north horizon to the Gulf.
Though the pitiless Southwest sun glared down on the airborne and the groundling it met defeat in the vine-veiled veranda of Reata Ranch Main House. Even the ever present Gulf wind, arriving dry and dust-laden after its journey from the coast, here took on a pretense of cool moisture as it filtered through the green and spacious shade. Cushions of palest pastel sailcloth on couches and chairs refreshed the eye even before the heat-tortured body found comfort, and through the day there was always the tinkle of ice against glass to soothe the senses. Through the verdant screen one caught glimpses of a heavenblue swimming pool and actually, too, a take in this and land. Radios yelped and brayed from automobiles and ranch houses, towns and cities throughout the length and breadth of this huge and lonely commonwealth from the Gulf of Mexico to the Oklahoma border, from the Rio Grande to Louisiana, but here at Reata Ranch no such raucous sounds intensified the heat waves. Jett Rink's name splintered the air everywhere else, but not here. It stalked in black three-inch headlines across the front page of every newspaper from El Paso to Bowie. It stared out from billboards and newsreels. It was emblazoned on the very heavens in skywriting. Omnipresent, like Jett Rink's oil derricks straddling the land. At every turn the ears and eyes were assaulted by the stale and contrived news of Jett Rink's munificence.
THE JETT RINK AIR-PORT ... GIFT OF JETT RINK to the city of Hermoso ... biggest airport in the Southwest ... private pre-opening celebration ... two thousand invited guests ... magnificent banquet in the Grand Concourse ... most important citizens ... champagne ... motion picture stars ... Name Bands ... millions ... first Texas billionaire ... Orchids ... caviar flown from New York ... zillions ... lobster flown from Maine . . . millions . . . oil . . . strictly private ... millions ... biggestmillionsbiggestbillionsbiggesttriltionsbiggest zillions.
Mrs. Jordan Benedict, dressed for the air journeyblue shantung and no hat-sat in her bedroom at Reata Ranch, quiet, quiet. She sat very relaxed in the cool chintz slipper chair, her long slim hands loosely clasped in her lap. The quiet and the cool laved her. She sat storing coolness and quiet against the time when her senses would be hammered and racked by noise and heat; big men and bourbon, the high shrill voices of Texas women, blare of brass, crash of china, odors of profuse foods, roar of plane motors.
Now, as she sat, little sounds came faintly to her ears, little accustomed soothing sounds. A light laugh from the far-off kitchen wingone of the Mexican girls, Delfina probably, the gay careless one, the others were more serious about their work. The clip-snip of Dimodeo's garden shearsDimodeo and his swarming crew who seemed to spend their days on their knees clip-snipping, coaxing fine grass to grow green, and hedges to flower and water to spurt in this desert country. The muffled thud of a horse's hoofs on sun-baked clay; one of the vaqueros who still despised the jeep or Ford as a means of locomotion. The clang of a bell, deep-throated, resonant, an ancient bell that announced the nooning at Reata Ranch schoolhouse. The soft plaint of the mourning doves. The town of Benedict, bustling and thriving, lay four miles distant but here at Reata Main House set back a mile from the highway there was no sound of traffic or commerce. So Leslie Benedict sat very still within this bubble of quiet suspended for the moment before it must burst at the onslaught of high-pitched voices and high-powered motors. For all the family was going, and all the guests up at the huge Guest House there at the other end of the drive. The big plane was in readiness at Reata Ranch airfield and the Cadillacs were waiting to take them all to the plane.