It so happened that Aunt Carola was at luncheon with us when the postman brought John Mayrant’s answer to my inquiry, and at the sight of his handwriting I thoughtlessly exclaimed to my Aunt that here at last we had all there was to be known concerning the Bombos in South Carolina; with this I tore open the missive and embarked upon a reading of it for the edification of all present. I pass over the beginning of John’s communication, because it was merely the observations of a man upon his honeymoon, and was confined to laudatory accounts of scenery and weather, and the beauty of all life when once one saw it with his eyes truly opened.
“No Bombos ever came to Carolina,” he now continued, “that I know of, or that Aunt Josephine knows of, which is more to the point. Aunt Josephine has copied me a passage from the writings of William Byrd, Esq., of Westover, Virginia, in which mention is made, not of the family, but of a rum punch which seems to have been concocted first by Admiral Bombo, from a New England brand of rum so very deadly that it was not inaptly styled ‘kill-devil’ by the early planters of the colony. That the punch drifted to Carolina and still survives there, you have reason to know. Therefore if any remote ancestors of yours contracted an alliance with Kill-devil Bombo, I can imagine no resulting offspring of such union but a series of severe attacks of delir—”
“What?” interrupted Aunt Carola, at this point, in her most formidable voice. “What’s that stuff you’re reading, Augustus?”
I shook in my shoes. “Why, Aunt, it’s John—”
“Not another word, sir! And never let me hear his name again. To think— to think—” But here Aunt Carola’s face grew extremely red, and she choked so decidedly that Uncle Andrew poured her a glass of water.
The rest of our luncheon was conducted with remarkable solemnity.
As we were rising from table, my Aunt said:—
“It was high time, Augustus, that you came home. You seem to have got into very strange company down there.”
This was the last reference to the Bombos that my Aunt ever made in my hearing. Of course it is preposterous to suppose that she traces her descent from a king through a mere bowl of punch, and her being still the president of the Selected Salic Scions is proof irrefutable that her claim rests upon a more solid foundation.
XXIV: Post Scriptum
I think that John Mayrant, Jr., is going to look like his mother. I was very glad to be present when he was christened, and at this ceremony I did not feel as I had felt the year before at the wedding; for then I had known well enough that if the old ladies found any blemish on that occasion, it was my being there! To them I must remain forever a “Yankee,” a wall perfectly imaginary and perfectly real between us; and the fact that young John could take any other view of me, was to them a sign of that “radical” tendency in him which they were able to forgive solely because he was of the younger generation and didn’t know any better.