“Though why hesitate? I have never heard that there was anybody present to marry Adam and Eve, and so why should we all make such a to-do about—”
She uttered my name in that quiet but prodigious tone to which I have alluded above.
It was I who was now silent.
“Augustus, if you purpose trifling, you may leave the room.”
“Oh, Aunt, I beg your pardon. I never meant—”
“I cannot understand what impels you to adopt such a manner to me, when I am trying to do something for you.”
I hastened to strengthen my apologies with a manner becoming the possible descendant of a king toward a lady of distinction, and my Aunt was pleased to pass over my recent lapse from respect. She now broached her favorite topic, which I need scarcely tell you is genealogy, beginning with her own.
“If your title to royal blood,” she said, “were as plain as mine (through Admiral Bombo, you know), you would not need any careful research.”
She told me a great deal of genealogy, which I spare you; it was not one family tree, it was a forest of them. It gradually appeared that a grandmother of my mother’s grandfather had been a Fanning, and there were sundry kinds of Fannings, right ones and wrong ones; the point for me was, what kind had mine been? No family record showed this. If it was Fanning of the Bon Homme Richard variety, or Fanning of the Alamance, then I was no king’s descendant.
“Worthy New England people, I understand,” said my Aunt with her nod of indulgent stateliness, referring to the Bon Homme Richard species, “but of entirely bourgeois extraction—Paul Jones himself, you know, was a mere gardener’s son—while the Alamance Fanning was one of those infamous regulators who opposed Governor Tryon. Not through any such cattle could you be one of us,” said my Aunt.
But a dim, distant, hitherto uncharted Henry Tudor Fanning had fought in some of the early Indian wars, and the last of his known blood was reported to have fallen while fighting bravely at the battle of Cowpens. In him my hope lay. Records of Tarleton, records of Marion’s men, these were what I must search, and for these I had best go to Kings Port. If I returned with Kinship proven, then I might be a Selected Salic Scion, a chosen vessel, a royal seed, one in the most exalted circle of men and women upon our coasts. The other qualifications were already mine: ancestors colonial and bellicose upon land and sea—
“—besides having acquired,” my Aunt was so good as to say, “sufficient personal presentability since your life in Paris, of which I had rather not know too much, Augustus. It is a pity,” she repeated, “that you will have so much research. With my family it was all so satisfactorily clear through Kill-devil Bombo—Admiral Bombo’s spirited, reckless son.”
You will readily conceive that I did not venture to betray my ignorance of these Bombos; I worked my eyebrows to express a silent and timeworn familiarity.