Copyright © 2021 Robert Loney
The Birthright
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The Birthright

An excerpt from Chapter 5

Family Scene

    

Amanda's brothers-in-law have been drinking and she complains about their behavior. There has always been strong antipathy between herself and Clifford, and it comes to a head.... "You were the one who insisted we come," returned Clifford. "It wasn't my idea. We made the trip out here in a snowstorm in January. Now you drag us back out for some ritual most people wouldn't waste their time with." Amanda felt too hurt to reply. She turned to her sisters, hoping they would answer for her. "Will no one else speak up?" she asked at length. "Am I the only one here who cherishes our father's memory?" "Of course not," replied Olivia. "Look, we want this bickering to stop. Mandy, you helped start it with some of your remarks." "Precious few!" Amanda countered. "He can say anything he likes, and you two are afraid to tell him to stop." "I'll tell him to stop," Christine volunteered. "As if he'd ever listen to me... Clifford, you know how grief-stricken Amanda has been by Father's death. Why can't you leave her alone?" "Oh, bunk," replied Clifford disdainfully. "She fought with her father more than anyone. Now he's dead, she puts on this big masquerade of mourning. It's a pretty thin disguise." Clifford knew his target well and had found his mark. Amanda rose slowly to her feet, struggling against the weakening effect of the wound. "The only masquerade I've put on has been my tolerance for the likes of you. Maybe it's time I took off the disguise." Christine caught her sister by the arm. "Mandy, please. Sit down. We have company." Amanda shook off Christine and advanced on Clifford. "We've had one fool too many marry into this family." "Mandy, shut up!" Olivia demanded. "Shut up?! You tell me to shut up while you listen to this ass?" "Amanda, the children..." Virginia implored her. Three of her own cowered around their mother. "Children?!" cried Amanda. "You call these monsters children? You might better have lived up to your name than to bear his rotten kids." "Amanda!" said a flabbergasted Christine. Virginia hurried her brood out of the room. "You're lucky you're a woman," snarled Clifford. "I'd knock a man across the room for that." "What's going on here?" demanded Mrs. Clark, hurrying in from the parlor. "Amanda, Olivia... People can hear you across the hall." "You're lucky I'm a woman too," Amanda threw back at Clifford. "Dear knows what I'd do if I had the sinew for it!" Ronald stepped deftly between the warring parties. "You call us fools, dear sister," said he facetiously. "It says in Scripture that anyone who calls his brother a fool will give account thereof on the Day of Judgment. I believe that applies to brothers-in-law too." "I'll give account of it all right, with plenty of evidence to support me. A spade is a spade and a fool is a fool. I only speak the truth." Christine took Amanda by the arm again. "Mandy, please. Come outside." "Yes, Mandy, go outside," Mrs. Clark insisted. "For goodness' sake, get the two of you separated." Amanda was about to comply when Clifford saw fit to take a parting shot. "Contemptuous bitch," he muttered. Amanda pulled away from Christine. "You contemptible rake!" she fired back. Clifford threw a full glass of whiskey in her face from close range, soaking the bodice of her dress and some of her hair. Amanda caught her breath in momentary shock at the assault. Then she flew at him, pummeling him with her fists. Ronald tried with some success to hold them apart. Clifford reached around him and delivered a heavy left hand across Amanda's jaw. The blow drove her incisors into her lower lip and her mouth filled with blood. John was about to step in on Amanda's behalf, but Ronald and Richard together dragged Clifford from the room and out the front door with such efficiency that any effort on John's part would have been superfluous. Amanda sank down onto the sofa and sobbed convulsively, providing a final spectacle for the horrified company in the drawing room. "Mandy, let's go out back," Christine gently urged her. "People are watching." She led Amanda from the room. The guests across the hall quickly finished their tea, and a rush for the door began. Olivia and Mrs. Clark hurried about, helping Mildred get people's overcoats. Virginia had gone upstairs with the children. John found himself alone in the sitting room with portraits of Amanda's ancestors staring at him from the walls. Top Story links: The next day A little earlier