All Bedlam Courses Past (part forty)
All Bedlam Courses Past
Avarice Creeping On
A college friend of her mother, visiting once…emphasize once…
Élucide’s father, making jokes about women and gossip, had shut himself in his library. The friend, taking this treatment in the spirit offered, ushered the girls to the music room, above. Alice Burt lived by her profession; her home was a Brooklyn townhouse apartment, shared with a baby’s nursemaid and an English-mistress; and accompanying the family who owned the townhouse, she and others of their tutors had toured Europe.
She had taken the children for ice cream at Rutherford’s…on the strength of being fun, had got the sisters to share a bench, to labor four-handed at “Do They Think of Me at Home”, and “Up in a Balloon, Boys”.
Alice had given Élucide her name story. “Now, Ranilde was the grandmother of your granddad. So a good family heirloom.”
Ranilde beamed. “Mother says Élucide was just a whim.”
“And… [Louder, over a blurted, “Who cares!”] Fern always said she wanted a Lucy. Only Lucy by itself seemed not proper, somehow. Lucille she never liked. I’d said, Lucinda, maybe… I think Lucinda struck her a little foreign.”
For this news (and for Ranilde’s stage-laugh at “not proper”), Élucide made a ten-year-old’s game of singing her name into every lyric, driving her sister, “You mess up everything!” downstairs to the parlor, and Mother.
“Ah, well. So far as I know, Miss Luce, your name’s an invention, a unique stamp on the world. Think of that!”
She did think of it, made supper-table fodder of it…until Mother quelled her ego with: “Alice is kind.”
And after all, she had been Luce, never Lucy. Again, Élucide closed her mouth, the origin of her name’s pseudo-Frenchness, thus its everyday pronunciation, losing its cue. Mrs. Buckley stopped and started as they covered ground, preoccupied with all that came to her mind, and under her hat’s waving brim the view of Manfred making himself at home in hers, tète-à-tète with a female friend of his own inviting, must come to her eyes in imperfect fits…
But if this female were presumptuous (very, as circumstance demanded), doubtless Mrs. Buckley couldn’t care. Manfred’s rich widow bored full steam, and when decided on a thing, she did it.
“Myra, is that you? Sugar, you feeling all right? Well, come over and meet everyone! I’m just tickled for company, like I said to you all, but my daughter keeps to herself…”
Mrs. Buckley, saying these things, tugged the arm of a seated girl, a thin-faced late teen, whose frock hung ill-tailored, bodice binding where it could.
(2023, Stephanie Foster)