Chapter 42 Aunt Ethel's Gaffe
Jimmy had left the house quite early the next morning in spite of having lost sleep. He and Harry had to be at the theatre at seven o'clock with Mr. Mac to do last minute 'adjustments' that the Schattenborg man wanted done. He was just giving Mr. Mac grief over nothing, thought Jimmy. There wasn't anything wrong with the organ.
Jimmy was kind of disappointed that he couldn't stay at home and get to know his Aunt Ethel better. She seemed to take to her nephew instantly, and she certainly wasn't what he expected. Oh, she was a little loud and dramatic when strangers were around, and she dressed in flamboyant clothes, but she really was a lot like momma. She had only been home since Thursday and in that short time he was quite comfortable with her and it seemed like she had been around all along.
Aunt Ethel took to Harry, too. It didn't take long for Harry to start thinking of her as a kind of big sister, like Miss Mel. Aunt Ethel took to Mr. Mac and Miss Mel, too. She had been genuinely touched at Mr. Mac's romantic proposal to Miss Mel.
Aunt Ethel's comings and goings were supposed to have been a carefully kept secret but after her appearance at the open house word had leaked out through the town. Before the open house was even over, an adoring crowd had gathered out in front of the theatre chanting her name until the Police broke up the crowd. Mr. Randolph had to ask the Police Department to escort Miss EauKlaire to the Day home using back streets and alleys to confuse any would be followers.
During the open house Mrs. Day and Mrs. Killman had invited Mr. and Mrs. MacLeod, Mr. and Mrs. Page, Miss Mel and Mr. Mac over to the Day's home for coffee. Of course, Mr. Randolph was to be there, too, after he saw to the closing of the theatre. Madame Hildebrune excused herself saying that she did not feel well and she did regret missing the party. Mr. Edwin, expressing his regrets also, escorted Madame Hildebrune home. Before she left she expressed her sympathy to Miss EauKlaire saying that she certainly understood the inconveniences of fame and that she was happy to be incognito, for once.
After everyone had gathered without half the city following, the impromptu party settled into comfortable conversation. Mr. and Mrs. Day, and Mr. and Mrs. Killman were congratulating Keith and Melody on their engagement. Mr. and Mrs. MacLeod were happily getting to know their future in-laws. Jimmy, Harry, and Mr. Randolph were laughing and talking with Aunt Ethel, who seemed to be very enchanted with Mr. Randolph.
After coffee and cake had been served Aunt Ethel spoke up: “Yoo-hoo, everyone! May I say that I am so happy to be back home in Jacksonville with my dear sister and her family. Sometimes I feel like I should just stay here!” There were polite protestations against her giving up her career.
She continued. “My sister and I have kept close over the years through letters. Nothing ever has ever been so precious to me as the news of home and my faraway family. Dear Martha has kept me well apprised of the events in my fine nephew's childhood. She has written me about what a fine musician he is! Seeing our departed baby brother's piano and our mother's old parlor organ has made me want to hear him play! What do you say, everyone?”
Jimmy immediately fixed his eyes on his father. There was a very dark expression on his face. Everyone followed Jimmy's stare to look at Mr. Day.
Jimmy's mother hurried to his father's side. Putting her hand on his arm she whispered: “Oh, Please, Robert, please! Just this once?”
Mr. Day returned Jimmy's stare. He didn't say a word. Rather, he putdown his coffee cup and left the room. Mrs. Day followed.
Jimmy hung his head and said, “M-maybe another time Aunt Ethel.”
Sensing that there was something terribly wrong she patted him on the arm and said; “That's OK, baby. Another time.”
Mrs. Killman broke the tense silence. “Does anyone want another slice of Martha's delicious cake? How about more coffee, Mr. Randolph?”