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
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
"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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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.
The next day
A little earlier