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Evening star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.) 1854-1972, January 23, 1938, Image 73

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1938-01-23/ed-1/seq-73/

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For a moment there was silence — then a thump
with the extra virtue of perpetual sunniness,
and I, for one, wished we might trade, and have
Uncle Duke live with us instead of Claytie’s
^unpredictable father.
Every Wednesday afternoon, we went to the
Marine Band Concert on the East steps of the
Capitol, and watched all our friends tooting
and drumming in their splendid way. All Wash
ington came out to these Wednesday concerts,
the ladies starched and sweet and swishing in
white embroidered frocks, with absurd little
Hower-like parasols over their bare heads. Miss
Sally’s peach-colored flounces scurried around
her feet as she walked, and there was an answer
ing agitation among the glamorous automatons
on the bandstand, there in resplendent glory.
Claytie never paid much attention to the
music, being too accustomed to it, to notice. Miss
Sally kept her hand on his shoulder, and we sat
close and quiet on the warm granite steps, me,
black and glistening above my starched sailor
collar, my whole being drunk and numb with
the music.
No one could have believed that Claytie’s
father warbling sublimely on his comet, was
the pink-faced monster who had smashed a
breakfast tray that morning. There must have
been two of him, an angel and a fiend.
After the concert, the musicians jumped
down from the stand and mingled with us like
mortal men, and the whole gay crowds spread
like a stain across the clipped lawns, and out
beneath the trees.
Uncle Duke nearly always came home with
us, because we lived quite near, in a square
white house which was very like Miss Sally’s
“home.” Uncle Duke would run ahead with us,
full of exuberant spirits after the music.
Miss Sally always walked close to her hus
l>and, demure and possessive. She seldom looked
at Uncle Duke, and I began to suspect that she
didn’t like my favorite. But I could see how
much he liked her, and I thought of sly pre
posterous ways of endearing him to her. He
thought of ways also — but still she glanced at
him only with courtesy, never with friendliness.
He used to bring her little gifts, which she
scrupulously showed to her husband.
"Thank Duke for me, darling,” she’d say,
"but I wish he wouldn’t give me perfume.”
“Thought you liked cologne, honey.”
"I do, Clayton. But I want you to give it to
me . . . besides I wish we wouldn’t have Duke
here so much,” she said diffidently. "Why
doesn’t he find himself some nice girl. He’s al
ways here, it seems to me.”
“Shouldn’t think you’d mind a handsome
boy like Duke hangin’ around, admirin’ every
thing you do, Sally,” he said absent-mindedly.
Then he turned around and looked at his wife,
and laughed a short sullen laugh. “Maybe that’s
just the trouble! Maybe you like it too good.
Is that it?"
“Don’t be absurd, Clayton,” she said.
My mother said, “Um-hum ’at’s bad. Mr.
Burkwalder bettah be watchin’ out, ’ith a nice
young man like Mr. Duke ’round here, smilin’
sweet at Miss Sally.” She shook her head mys
teriously as if she knew something no one else
knew. “I got a feelin’ this ain’t goin’ end so
good.”
Uncle Duke always came from rehearsals
with Mr. Burkwalder, but often while he was
there, Miss Sally would make an excuse and
retire to her own room. Her husband appeared
never to notice, although my mother said that
it was: “On’y so many days tell he goin’ ’sped
somethin’.”
And sure enough, one morning it developed
that he had noticed. He was eating his hominy
and bacon quite peaceably, when suddenly the
room was in an uproar. Miss Sally dropped the
letter she had been reading while they chatted,
and the two of them were on their feet, Miss
Sally murmuring soothingly, and Mr. Burk
walder shouting.
“It seems to me you’re bein’ mighty rude to
my friends, Sally.”
“Darling, it’s not that . . . listen, dear . ..”
His knife and fork clattered on the china,
and he began pacing the floor, stopping to glare
at her and to shout, “You,didn’t think—Yd
notice. But I’ll not have you snubbin’ my
friends. Three times now, you’ve got up and
waltzed out of the room when Duke was here.
I’d like to know the meanin’ of it.”
“Oh, Clayton, don’t be foolish. I was prob
ably busy, or something. You mustn’t be
imagining things, darling.”
“Well, it’s very strange to me. If my friends
aren’t good enough for you, I suppose I’m not
good enough either ...” And one of the
tornadoes feared by the entire house, was on.
Sometimes Miss Sally’s soft little comforting
ways cooled his anger immediately, but this
morning suddenly she didn’t attempt to calm
him. She sat down, and picked up her letters,
and I saw her hands were trembling. He strode
on, and the icy chandelier shivered and tinkled,
and I cowered behind the kitchen door and
said the alphabet.
Abruptly he sat down, and called jovially
for some more hominy for his were chill as
hailstones.
“Sorry, honey,” he mumbled, “I didn’t mean
to be so noisy about it. But you see what I
mean.”
“Not as well as if you’d told me quietly,”
Miss Sally said, pretending to go on with her
letter. But she reached out her little hand and
patted his large thumb. •
After that, of course she took pains to be
particularly cordial to Duke, and both men
were delighted.
“You’re an angel, honey,” Mr. Burkwalder
said. “Don’t you know it’s only because I’m
so damn proud of you? Why do you reckon I
bring my friends here, exceptin' to see my
charmin’ wife?”
, Things went on serenely for a while, and
Christmas came and went and it was New
Year’s before Mr. Burkwalder had another fit
of temper. He’d been trying to be better
natured; he was boyish and winning in his
attempts, and we were all happy.
“Nothin’ but a big youngster,” my mother
said. “Ain’t a bit of harm in him . . . ’zactly.
He just acts as onery as she’ll let him act. Ef n
he was mine, I’d punish some of the devilment
out of him.”
But Miss Sally never knew how to punish
anyone. Except herself.
Then lightning struck again. On New Year’s
Day the Marine Band gave la concert at the
White House Reception, and when the two
men came back to our house, Miss Sally had
sandwiches and highballs for them in the square
drawing room. Duke was quiet and thoughtful,
but Mr. Burkwalder was his merriest. He
did impersonations of important Washington
(Continvod on nOxt pago)

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