Deborah, Age 14, Salwa, Kuwait
This story is a continuation of Edith Wharton’s short story "Xingu."
You can read the original story here: http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/Xing.shtml
Mrs. Fanny Roby, surrounded by trunks and chests of every size imaginable, stood in front of a handsome wardrobe, carved in the style of the East. Its great wooden doors were flung open, revealing an assortment of elegant dresses, cloaks, and finely crafted hats, quite a few of which their feminine possessor selected and removed. A knock on the door heralded the housekeeper, who had come to present Mrs. Roby with a recently received letter. She accepted it with a word of thanks to the servant, closed the door, and settled herself, looking quite like a queen enthroned on an overstuffed armchair.
Upon unfolding the missive, Mrs. Roby glanced at the contents and murmured, “My dear Mrs. Roby… in light of yesterday… Osric Dane… Xingu… ask for your resignation… no other course to take… cannot tolerate such unbecoming scenes… your presence will surely be missed… Yours truly, Evelyn Ballinger.”
Mrs. Roby composedly returned the surprising letter to its envelope. A sunny smile brightened her features, and suddenly uncontrollable giggles bubbled up from inside her. She shook her head knowingly.
“They say I shall be missed!” she chuckled. “Well, I do know better.”
She briskly rose from her velvet armchair and crossed the room to resettle at her writing-table. Drawing forth a sheet of monogrammed stationery and a fountain pen, she swiftly composed a reply to the Lunch Club’s letter.
“My dear Mrs. Ballinger,
“Do not feel any regrets over your dismissal of me. I accept my resignation and bid the Lunch Club farewell for the last time….”
An unforeseen announcement interrupted the continuation of this answering note. Osric Dane, the author of the exceedingly popular novel called The Wings of Death, had evidently just arrived. Mrs. Roby started up from her half-written letter and hurried down the staircase with a great clicking of shoes and swishing of skirts.
“Why, Mrs. Dane! How lovely to see you again!”
Mrs. Roby’s face glowed with hospitality and kindness, although the world-famous author’s visit had been unexpected. Osric Dane, as customary, looked as if she were a private standing at attention before a superior officer, although her face softened with unusual warmth and sympathy.
“Good afternoon, Mrs. Roby. I have come to discuss my itinerary with you. I trust that you have thought the matter through and have a few suggestions?”
This last phrase sounded rather like a statement than a question. Even so, Mrs. Roby had become accustomed to Osric Dane’s slightly stilted demeanour by this time and paid no more attention to it than she would have to an acquaintance’s habit of four spoonfuls of sugar in a cup of tea.
Accompanying the renowned author to the parlour, Mrs. Roby replied, “Yes, I have considered the matter since yesterday, but first, what exactly would you be seeking abroad—inspiration for a setting or background for characters…?” Her voice trailed off questioningly.
After alighting on the flowered sofa, Mrs. Roby brought out the teapot. Osric Dane accepted the steaming teacup offered to her and remarked, “I have no preferences to either locations or characters for my next book. If you list your thoughts on these details, I would be greatly obliged to you for your help.”
The hostess sipped her Earl Grey meditatively. “Well, if you would prefer a contemporary mood, cities such as London or Paris would provide ideal settings… Italy, Germany, or France for a historical background. For a more exotic mood, however, perhaps India or—”
“Brazil?” Osric Dane suddenly suggested. “Yes, that would suit our itinerary.”
Mrs. Roby set down her china with a puzzled glance and furrowed brows.
“You said ‘our’?”
Osric Dane nodded, amused, at Mrs. Roby’s disbelieving countenance.
“Goodbye!” Fanny Roby called to the retreating figure of Osric Dane, softly shutting the front door and pausing for a moment with exhilaration. Rapidly regaining her self-possession, she hastened up the steps to her room. She reseated herself at her writing desk and placed the half-completed letter in front of her, energetically writing:
“…Your letter has caused no consternation on my part, for Osric Dane has requested my presence on a trip abroad to foreign lands as her companion. She shall be searching for inspirations for her new novel. As it is her intention to attempt a more exotic story, she has arranged to tour Brazil; as you know, I resided there for quite a number of years before the present. I assure you, we will indubitably plan our itinerary to encompass a sojourn to the famed ‘Xingu.’
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