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Chapter 9

  • Uncle Herbert and Aunt Alberta's silver wedding was delicately referred t_mong the Stirlings during the following weeks as "the time we first notice_oor Valancy was—a little— _you_  understand?"
  • Not for words would any of the Stirlings have said out and out at first tha_alancy had gone mildly insane or even that her mind was slightly deranged.
  • Uncle Benjamin was considered to have gone entirely too far when he ha_jaculated, "She's dippy—I tell you, she's dippy," and was only excuse_ecause of the outrageousness of Valancy's conduct at the aforsaid weddin_inner.
  • But Mrs. Frederick and Cousin Stickles had noticed a few things that made the_neasy  _before_  the dinner. It had begun with the rosebush, of course; an_alancy never was really "quite right" again. She did not seem to worry in th_east over the fact that her mother was not speaking to her. You would neve_uppose she noticed it at all. She had flatly refused to take either Purpl_ills or Redfern's Bitters. She had announced coolly that she did not inten_o answer to the name of "Doss" any longer. She had told Cousin Stickles tha_he wished she would give up wearing that brooch with Cousin Artemas Stickles'
  • hair in it. She had moved her bed in her room to the opposite corner. She ha_ead  _Magic of Wings_  Sunday afternoon. When Cousin Stickles had rebuked he_alancy had said indifferently, "Oh, I forgot it was Sunday"—and  _had gone o_eading it._
  • Cousin Stickles had seen a terrible thing—she had caught Valancy sliding dow_he bannister. Cousin Stickles did not tell Mrs. Frederick this—poor Ameli_as worried enough as it was. But it was Valancy's announcement on Saturda_ight that she was not going to go to the Anglican church any more that brok_hrough Mrs. Frederick's stony silence.
  • "Not going to church any more! Doss, have you absolutely taken leave—"
  • "Oh, I'm going to church," said Valancy airily. "I'm going to the Presbyteria_hurch. But to the Anglican church I will not go."
  • This was even worse. Mrs. Frederick had recourse to tears, having foun_utraged majesty had ceased to be effective.
  • "What have you got against the Anglican church?" she sobbed.
  • "Nothing—only just that you've always made me go there. If you'd made me go t_he Presbyterian church I'd want to go to the Anglican."
  • "Is that a nice thing to say to your mother? Oh, how true it is that it i_harper than a serpent's tooth to have a thankless child."
  • "Is that a nice thing to say to your daughter?" said unrepentant Valancy.
  • So Valancy's behaviour at the silver wedding was not quite the surprise t_rs. Frederick and Christine Stickles that it was to the rest. They wer_oubtful about the wisdom of taking her, but concluded it would "make talk" i_hey didn't. Perhaps she would behave herself, and so far no outside_uspected there was anything queer about her. By a special mercy of Providenc_t had poured torrents Sunday morning, so Valancy had not carried out he_ideous threat of going to the Presbyterian church.
  • Valancy would not have cared in the least if they had left her at home. Thes_amily celebrations were all hopelessly dull. But the Stirlings alway_elebrated everything. It was a long-established custom. Even Mrs. Frederic_ave a dinner party on her wedding anniversary and Cousin Stickles had friend_n to supper on her birthday. Valancy hated these entertainments because the_ad to pinch and save and contrive for weeks afterwards to pay for them. Bu_he wanted to go to the silver wedding. It would hurt Uncle Herbert's feeling_f she stayed away, and she rather liked Uncle Herbert. Besides, she wanted t_ook over all her relatives from her new angle. It would be an excellent plac_o make public her declaration of independence if occasion offered.
  • "Put on your brown silk dress," said Mrs. Stirling.
  • As if there were anything else to put on! Valancy had only the one festiv_ress—that snuffy-brown silk Aunt Isabel had given her. Aunt Isabel ha_ecreed that Valancy should never wear colours. They did not become her. Whe_he was young they allowed her to wear white, but that had been tacitl_ropped for some years. Valancy put on the brown silk. It had a high colla_nd long sleeves. She had never had a dress with low neck and elbow sleeves,
  • although they had been worn, even in Deerwood, for over a year. But she di_ot do her hair pompadour. She knotted it on her neck and pulled it out ove_er ears. She thought it became her—only the little knot was so absurdl_mall. Mrs. Frederick resented the hair but decided it was wisest to sa_othing on the eve of the party. It was so important that Valancy should b_ept in good humour, if possible, until it was over. Mrs. Frederick did no_eflect that this was the first time in her life that she had thought i_ecessary to consider Valancy's humours. But then Valancy had never been
  • "queer" before.
  • On their way to Uncle Herbert's—Mrs. Frederick and Cousin Stickles walking i_ront, Valancy trotting meekly along behind—Roaring Abel drove past them.
  • Drunk as usual but not in the roaring stage. Just drunk enough to b_xcessively polite. He raised his disreputable old tartan cap with the air o_ monarch saluting his subjects and swept them a grand bow, Mrs. Frederick an_ousin Stickles dared not cut Roaring Abel altogether. He was the only perso_n Deerwood who could be got to do odd jobs of carpentering and repairing whe_hey needed to be done, so it would not do to offend him. But they responde_ith only the stiffest, slightest of bows. Roaring Abel must be kept in hi_lace.
  • Valancy, behind them, did a thing they were fortunately spared seeing. Sh_miled gaily and waved her hand to Roaring Abel. Why not? She had always like_he old sinner. He was such a jolly, picturesque, unashamed reprobate an_tood out against the drab respectability of Deerwood and its customs like _lame-red flag of revolt and protest. Only a few nights ago Abel had gon_hrough Deerwood in the wee sma's, shouting oaths at the top of his stentoria_oice which could be heard for miles, and lashing his horse into a furiou_allop as he tore along prim, proper Elm Street.
  • "Yelling and blaspheming like a fiend," shuddered Cousin Stickles at th_reakfast-table.
  • "I cannot understand why the judgment of the Lord has not fallen upon that ma_ong ere this," said Mrs. Frederick petulantly, as if she thought Providenc_as very dilatory and ought to have a gentle reminder.
  • "He'll be picked up dead some morning—he'll fall under his horse's hoofs an_e trampled to death," said Cousin Stickles reassuringly.
  • Valancy had said nothing, of course; but she wondered to herself if Roarin_bel's periodical sprees were not his futile protest against the poverty an_rudgery and monotony of his existence.  _She_  went on dream sprees in he_lue Castle. Roaring Abel, having no imagination, could not do that.  _His_scapes from reality had to be concrete. So she waved at him today with _udden fellow feeling, and Roaring Abel, not too drunk to be astonished,
  • nearly fell off his seat in his amazement.
  • By this time they had reached Maple Avenue and Uncle Herbert's house, a large,
  • pretentious structure peppered with meaningless bay windows and excrescen_orches. A house that always looked like a stupid, prosperous, self-satisfie_an with warts on his face.
  • "A house like that," said Valancy solemnly, "is a blasphemy."
  • Mrs. Frederick was shaken to her soul. What had Valancy said? Was it profane?
  • Or only just queer? Mrs. Frederick took off her hat in Aunt Alberta's spare-
  • room with trembling hands. She made one more feeble attempt to avert disaster.
  • She held Valancy back on the landing as Cousin Stickles went downstairs.
  • "Won't you try to remember you're a lady?" she pleaded.
  • "Oh, if there were only any hope of being able to forget it!" said Valanc_earily.
  • Mrs. Frederick felt that she had not deserved this from Providence.