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They were interviewing Clint Maroon. They were always interviewing old Colonel Maroon. Though he shunned publicity, never had held public office and wasn't really a Colonel at all, he possessed that magnetic flamboyant quality which makes readable news. It wasn't his wealth. America had fifty men as rich as he. Certainly it wasn't social position. He and the spectacularly beautiful Clio Maroon never had figured in formal New York society. It could not have been his great age merely which had brought the reporters into his hotel suite at Saratoga on this, his eighty-ninth birthday, for the newspapers had seized upon him with yelps of joy when first he had dawned dramatically upon their horizon at thirty. They had swarmed on him throughout the three-score years that had elapsed since then; when he turned forty; at his dashing half-century mark; at sixty, when there was scarcely a glint of gray in the reddish-brown hair that was exactly the color of a ripe pecan shell; at seventy, eighty, eighty-five. If Clint Maroon bought an old master or a new yacht, sold short or emerged from a chat with the President of the United States, streamlined one of his railroads or donated a million to charity or science, won the Grand National or took up ice-skating (ever so slightly bow-legged, proof of his Texas past) there the reporters were, clamoring for him.
"I'm from the Times, Mr. Maroon ... Herald Tribune, Colonel ... News ... American ... Sun ... Post ... World-Telegram ... My paper would like to know if it's true that you . . ."
They liked him. He never said, "Hiyah, boys!" with that false jocularity they so quicklydetected. He never whipped a brown oily cylinder out of his vest pocket with a patronizing, "Have a good cigar." His manner was courteous without being hearty. Quietly he answered their questions when he was able, always taking his time about it. just as deliberately he had said, on occasion, "Sorry, young man, but I can't answer that question at this time." Curiously soft-voiced and rather drawling for so big and full-blooded a man, he sometimes gave the effect of being actually shy. Easterners for the most part, the New York newspapermen did not realize that in the Far West of the bad old days the man who was slowest in his speech was likely to be quickest on the draw. They had, in fact, forgotten that Texas was Clint Maroon's early background. He never had reminded them.
Certain wise ones among the fraternity said it was Mrs. Maroon who really ran the show. "She's always there," these wily craftsmen observed, "if you'll notice, standing beside him with her hand on his arm, like royalty, looking so damned beautiful and queenly you think, Boy! She must have wowed them when she was young. She doesn't talk much, but watch those eyes of hers. Big and black and soft, and what they miss you could put in your own eye. But when she does speak up, very soft and sort of Southern, she says something. Nice, too, both of them, but I don't know, cagey, in a way. I've seen her pinch him when he was headed for a boner, with that lovely kind of heartbreaking smile on her face all the time he took to cover up and start fresh. Some day I'd like to dig way back on those two. I'll bet there's gold in them that hills."
Mr. and Mrs. Clinton Maroon, Fifth Avenue and Seventy-third Street. Clint and Clio back in the old Texas, New Orleans and Saratoga days. But curiously enough, for all their interviewing, none of the newspapermen or women really knew about that. These two had been rich, respectable and powerful for sixty years. Newspaper reporters die young, or quit their jobs.
Possessed of a dramatic quality, together with vitality and bounce, a zest for life and an exquisite sense of timing, the Maroons had brightened many a dull Monday morning news page. They were almost incredibly handsome, this pair, with a splendor of face and figure that had crumbled little under the onslaught of the years. Hospitable, friendly, interested in life-particularly in your life, your plans, your conversation-hundreds liked and respected them, but amazingly few really knew them. Seeming frank and accessible, the truth was that they went their way in a kind of splendid isolation. They consistently shied away from the photographers. It was the one point on which they met the news fraternity reluctantly.
"Oh, come on now, Colonel! Please, Mrs. Maroon! just one shot. You haven't murdered anybody."
"That's what you think," Clint Maroon retorted.
Much as they liked him, the general opinion among the news-men lately had been that the old boy was cracking up. When they came to interview him on business or political or philanthropic or international affairs he now tried to tell them outrageous yarns palpably culled from Western thrillers and lurid detective stories. It was difficult to lead him back to the hard modern facts about which they had come to see him. Among themselves they confided, "Old Maroon's getting a little balmy, if you ask me. At that, he's good for his age. Crowding ninety. Gosh, ninety! You should live so long, not me."
And now on this, his eighty-ninth birthday, old Clint Maroon, in spite of wars, panics, and world chaos, still was triumphantly news. Cameras, candid and flashlight; reporters, male and female, special and news, all had traveled up to Saratoga on this broiling August day. They were there not only because the ancient's natal day found him at the quaint little spa at the beginning of the racing season when the thermometer kissed the ninety-degree mark, but because he had just made a gesture so lavish, so dramatic that it promised to land him on...Saratoga Trunk. Copyright © by Edna Ferber. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.