Allegiance

“Come in.” And: “Of course I remember you and knew I should the moment your voice came drawling on the wire.”

The first one, two, three steps I take across the room are taken with trepidation. And, so to speak, in midair. I am afraid that I shall yield, for even at her age the old creature is still a great beauty. And there is about her, after all, that charm which has long been discredited in my mind.

As she rings for tea I perceive that in her simplest gestures, in her smile, even in her old-lady dress there is that fascination about her which we, who knew her as children, have remembered as her “romantic quality.” I discover in an instant that we have been mistaken to suppose her romantic quality was either vulgar ostentation or mere shallow vanity. And now that she is before me I know that I do not remember her, for herself, at all.

“I remember you so well, dear child, in your blue and red rompers and of course those fearful black stockings your mother would have you wear.” Now I am in the air again, treading air. I can feel myself recoil at the bare reference to a woman whom she once grievously wronged, draw back at her mention of a sister she cheated in a manner so subtle and base that we have never known nor wished to know its nature, and now never shall.

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