Fiction

If It's a House You Want

They had to have a home so they could get married and the coach house looked wonderful. But how about the captain who was tougher than Bligh?

CARL DREHER August 1 1948
Fiction

If It's a House You Want

They had to have a home so they could get married and the coach house looked wonderful. But how about the captain who was tougher than Bligh?

CARL DREHER August 1 1948

If It's a House You Want

CARL DREHER

Fiction

IT WAS after five when the car ground to a squealing stop in the driveway. After a moment a door slammed. Thomas Barlow, realtor and insurance agent, shoved back his desk chair and looked into the anteroom. A tall young man was standing there uncertainly.

“Yes, sir,” said Barlow. “What can I do for you?”

“I’m looking for a house,” said the visitor. “Or part of a house.”

“Come in, come in,” said Barlow with practiced cordiality. He motioned to the side chair. “Have a seat, Mr.—”

The foreign-sounding name gave Barlow a momentarily unpleasant feeling. “I’m sorry,” he said, “I didn’t quite get that.”

The man spelled it out twice, dictating it the second time for Barlow to write down. Sienkiewicz. First name, Stanley. A Pole, second generation, for he spoke without an accent and looked as Canadian as anybody.

He was dressed in sport clothes on the mail-order house level, not bad but lacking real taste. That was Barlow’s first item in the sizing-up process. For the second, he leaned back in his swivel chair and stole a glance at the car. The girl in the front seat was pretty, but the car was not. That job was certainly on its second hundred thousand miles. And the man himself, although he was presentable enough, with hair neatly trimmed and fingernails unmanicured but clean, seemed to lack confidence, as if he realized he did not belong in this station-wagon neighborhood. It took just five seconds for Barlow to decide he would never make any money on him.

Aloud, he asked courteously, “What sort of place did you have in mind, Mr. Sienkiewicz?”

“Well, it’s this way,” the visitor began in an embarrassed tone, “my fiancee and I want to get married and we need an apartment or a small house. I work in the city.” He paused and looked at Barlow without much hope. “We thought maybe further out there’d be something.”

“You want to buy?” asked Barlow.

“Buy or rent. I could use my rehab credit if I bought.”

“Something around ten or twelve?”

“Ten is about my limit. Less, if possible.”

“Mr. Sienkiewicz,” said Barlow, “there’s nothing in that bracket hereabouts. There are plenty of places that are worth ten thousand—that’s what went into them—but they’re selling for twenty, twenty-five thousand today. You’ve come a long way to hear me tell you this, but that’s the story. I’m a veteran myself.”

“Yeh,” Sienkiewicz rubbed his chin for a moment and looked at Barlow. “What,” he said, “is a fellow to do?”

“I don’t know. Can’t you double up with your parents or hers? That’s what some of the boys are doing.”

“My girl’s people live in Winnipeg,” said Sienkiewicz. “Mine—no it wouldn’t work.”

“It’s a shame,” said Barlow, “but there just isn’t anything else I can tell you.”

The visitor rose. “Well,” he said, “thanks just the same.” He shook hands with Barlow. As he was turning away, he said, “There’s nothing at all for rent?”

For an instant Barlow did not answer. Then his lips tightened. “You know the kind of neighborhood it is,” he said. “Plenty of big houses — they could split off an apartment here and there and be none the worse. But they don’t need the money and they’re sticklers for privacy.”

They had to have a home so they could get married and the coach house looked wonderful. But how about the captain who was tougher than Bligh?

“Can’t say I blame them,” the veteran said wistfully. “It’s lovely country. Everything so neat and orderly, no honky-tonks or billboards or anything like that. And those houses—there was one back there I’d give ten years of my life to own.” A nice guy, Barlow thought. But there was really nothing he could do, he told himself. “I hope things open up and you get something nearer the city,” he said.

“I’d sure like to live up here,” said the veteran.

BARLOW sat down again, clasped his arms in back of his head and looked at the ceiling. He was a well-built man of about thirty, older than the other veteran and more distinguished-looking, with wavy dark hair and grey eyes which now had a perplexed expression in them. He did not feel quite right about it. Three or four veterans came up every week and all they got was a little sympathy. That was all this last one had got, but within the past few days something had developed and there was just the barest possibility that he could have helped the guy. He had kept his mouth shut because to say anything would have been bad business—he had other profitable plans for that place.

It was October; the sun had already set. He had not heard the veteran’s car start. Turning his head, he saw it still standing there with the two of them talking in the front seat. No doubt they were debating whether to call it off or try the offices which might still be open up the line. He wished they would get out of there, so he could go to his own car and be on his way.

Which of course he could anyway—what did he have to do with them? Was the housing crisis any of his fault? And still he would rather they were gone before he left. Then he told himself that it was too absurd and he closed the window, rattled the knob of the back door to make sure it was locked, looked around and strode out the front way. He locked the door. As he walked past the jalopy he smiled and waved his hand politely. Then he saw the chief petty officer’s jacket, with the insignia stripped off, hanging over the back of the seat. A naval veteran—that was what he had been afraid of. He stopped.

“I just had an idea, Mr. Sienkiewicz,” he said.

“You did?” said Sienkiewicz eagerly. He turned to the girl. “This is Mr. Barlow, dear—I was telling you how nice he was. Mr. Barlow—Miss O’Brien.”

Barlow ducked his head below the car top and acknowledged the introduction. The girl was really pretty, with a pert nose and bright green eyes.

“Now,” said Barlow, putting his foot up on the running board, “this is a hundred to one shot, so take it easy. It’s so remote,” he lied, “that I didn’t even think of it before.”

Sienkiewicz laughed. “A hundred to one’s still better’n anything we’ve had up to now,” he said.

“Here’s the deal,” said Barlow. “There’s an estate up here—the Remington place—with a coach house they haven’t used since 1910. The bottom part, I mean. Upstairs there’s an apartment; the superintendent and his wife lived there. He died a week ago. Mrs. Weeks—she’s the housekeeper —is going to move to the main house. So I’ve heard. Maybe it isn’t true. But if she moves, there would be that five-room apartment, with a bath.”

“Good Lord,” said Sienkiewicz, “that would save our lives.”

“Wait,” said Barlow. “There’s no assurance Mr. Remington will rent the place.”

“Man,” said Sienkiewicz, wide-eyed, “you’ve gol. to make him rent it.”

“You don’t know Remington,” Barlow said. “But I’ll look into it. Leave me your telephone number, just in case.”

Sienkiewicz fumbled fora notebook and tore out a page. He wrote his name and address. “I haven’t any telephone at home,” he said, “but here’s my office number and the extension. You can get me any time during the flay.”

“Mr. Barlow, if you can get us that apartment, we’ll be eternally grateful to you,” said the girl.

“I’ll try, Miss O’Brien,” Barlow promised, and the way she looked at him he knew now he really would have to try. “Don’t expect anything, hut if I have any luck I’ll let you know.”

“Thanks a million,” said Sienkiewicz, and the girl echoed, “Thanks.”

They haven’t even seen I In? place, Barlow said to himself, they don’t know what the rent might be and look how excited they are. He said good night and started his car, a shiny ’48 model. After a mile he left the highway and crisscrossed over the network of byroads which he knew so well that he could almost have made the turns blindfold. Except for his four years in the Navy, In? had lived

there all his life. His mother was sitting in the living room, knitting. “Good evening, Thomas,” she said. She looked frail, but that was only because she was small and lightly built. She was still handsome and, had she been willing to dye her hair, would hardly have looked old enough to be his mother. He kissed her and sank into the easy chair on one side of the big fireplace.

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If It's a House You Want

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He told her about the veteran and his girl and about the apartment. Again he added, “It’s such a long shot — I don’t know why I’m making so much of it.”

“It’s not hopeless,” said his mother, lifting her head and looking at him. He could see she was pleased. “I’m sure Mrs. Weeks won’t want to stay in the apartment. It would only remind her of poor Mr. Weeks and what would she be doing by herself with five rooms?” “I imagine she’ll give it up all right,” said Tom, “but that doesn’t mean this young couple will get it.”

“Why not?” Mrs. Barlow demanded. “Has anybody else been after it?” “Not yet,” said Tom. “But, in the first place, I didn’t tell you the fellow’s name— Sienkiewicz.”

“Well?”

“Well,” Tom said lamely, “you know how they are around here.”

His mother put down her knitting. “It’s a disgrace!” Only moral issues made her angry. “I have never understood,” she said, biting off her words, “how people who profess to be Canadians and Christians can harbor these contemptible prejudices!”

“Just the same they do. Besides, Remington might have other reasons for not renting.”

“And what could be his reasons?” "You haven’t given me a chance to tell you. When Mr. Weeks died, I had another idea—mind you I had that one first. You know how far the coach house is from the residence. And it has that little pond. We could take a couple of acres including the coach house and the pond and sell it for, I’d say, eighteen thousand. The coach house is a perfectly good building and now, with the restrictions oif, it could be converted into a ten or twelve-room house—there are five rooms already. Remington might prefer to do that and, if he does, there would be a ninehundred-dollar commission in it for me.”

“I don’t want to interfere in your business, Thomas,” said Mrs. Barlow, “but I hope you will forget this plan and let the Sienkiewiczes have their apartment.”

“Mother,” said Tom, “they’re not the Sienkiewiczes yet, it’s not their apartment and it is Mr. Remington’s.” Mrs. Barlow paid no attention. “Anyone who can afford a twelveroom house,” she said, “with three or four baths I suppose, can find something in the city. But the Sienkiewiczes need help now. So, if I were you—” here she gave Tom a steely Congregationalist glance—“I would forget all about converting and just persuade Mr. Remington to do his duty by these nice young people.” f “1 can’t do that, Mother,” said Tom. “It wouldn’t be ethical.”

“Any why not?” Mrs. Barlow demanded with a rising intonation.

“Because I already have a possible buyer for the property. A fellow named Logwood came up and I talked to him about it before I ever knew Sienkiewicz existed.”

“Does Mr. Remington know that?” Mrs. Barlow asked.

“No, but as long as I have a potential buyer, I’m bound to consult Mr. Remington as the potential seller. It would be an advantageous deal for him if it goes through. Don’t you see, Mother?”

“I don’t see,” said Mrs. Barlow, “Mr. Remington has as much need for that money as I have for a pair of skis.’ “That’s for him to decide.”

Mrs. Barlow resumed her knitting with a vicious stab of the needle through the wool. “Thomas,” she said, j “you will be happier in your own j marriage if you think of others who have not had your good fortune.”

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“I’ll have to work on both angles,” Tom said. ‘‘I’ll fry to favor the rental, though.”

“I’m sure you will, Thomas,” said Mrs. Barlow. “Are you going to see Louise tonight?”

“Yes,” said Tom. “We’re going to the movies.”

“1 hope the picture’s good,” said Mrs. Barlow.

Louise Aldrich was Tom’s fiancee. When they got married in the spring, they would • live in a completely equipped wing of the old Barlow house, with all the privacy they desired, and yet his mother would not be entirely alone. It would be an ideal arrangement. That was what his mother meant when she referred to his good fortune. She had also meant something when she brought in Louise at the end of the discussion. She knew, and so did Tom, that Louise would be of the same mind concerning this transaction.

HIS secretary made an appointment for him and shortly after ten o’clock the next day Tom was on his way to the Remington estate. He felt somewhat taut, as he always did when he was going to see this client of his. He had plenty of reason. Mr. Remington was by all odds the most difficult person in the district.

Remington had been a captain in the permanent Navy and during the war was stationed in England. Just before D-Day in 1944 Remington was abruptly sent home. There were several versions of the story behind his removal from active service, all of them slightly vicious. It was clear, however, that Remington had been ¡¿.discreet, suddenly and inexplicably, regarding some detail of the invasion plans.

Humiliation had been his punishment— nothing but that. The Navy had reduced his rank and retired him with a pension for which he had no need, and the assurance that he would never under any circumstances be recalled to active duty.

Mr. Remington returned to his estate in civilian clothes. The following year his wife died. He became a recluse. His servants did the marketing and he scarcely ever appeared in the village. He rebuffed all advances courteously but with finality, refusing to see even Mrs. Barlow, who had been one of his closest friends. So, after a period of speculation and gossip, he was forgotten.

Tom alone, having set himself up in tlie insurance and real-estate business after the war, decided he could not afford to be shy. Remington carried a sizeable amount of insurance through a firm in the city and Tom felt he could administer it better than an outsider. He tried to reach Remington by telephone without success, so one afternoon he drove up to the house without an appointment. He did not get beyond the foyer, and he was in the house not over two minutes in all, but he got the business. “I’ll send you the policies and you can take them over as they expire,” Remington had said. “Good day.” That was all. He had seen him a few times since for somewhat longer periods, but most of the business was handled by mail. Under the circumstances, it was an unnaturally impersonal relationship. Approaching the house this time, Tom felt that his chances of success were hardly better than making the sere leaves turn green again, but he was bound to try.

TOM was ushered into the library, where Mr. Remington sat behind an enormous mahogany desk with a leather top. He rose, shook hands stiffly, and beckoned Tom to a chair.

“Haven’t see you for some time,” Tom said.

“You haven’t missed much,” Remington said dryly. “I understand you have something important to discuss?” “Yes, sir. It occurred to me that by reason of Mr. Weeks’ death the old coach house may become vacant one of these days-—”

“It is vacant,” Mr. Remington interrupted.

“In that case I have a couple of ideas concerning it. If 1 could have a few minutes—”

“Proceed.”

“The first is to sell it for conversion into a residence. It’s sufficiently removed from the house to make that feasible.”

“What do you estimate it would bring?” Remington asked.

“Between fifteen and twenty. I have a client who might be interested.” “And your other plan?”

“To leave the property as it is and rent the apartment. As you know, sir, there is a terrible scarcity of housing and it would be doing someone a good turn to let them live in it.”

Remington scrutinized the top of the desk for a moment. “The first proposal,” he said, “appears to me to make more sense, in that the entire building would be utilized instead of only the upper floor.”

“That’s true, sir. On the other hand, a buyer for conversion is not likely to need the place as badly as one looking for an apartment.”

“What makes you think so?”

“The prospective buyer I spoke of, for example, wants the place merely for a summer residence. I have another client who is seeking an apartment so he can get married.” Tom smiled. “His need would seem to be the greater.” Remington’s features remained rigid. “If I sell, I get rid of the property and that’s that. I have no desire to assume the burden of the landlordtenant relationship.”

“You wouldn’t be bothered in any way, sir,” Tom said earnestly. “I could manage the whole thing for you if you wished.”

“Who are the people you have in mind?” Remington asked. “Do I know them?”

“No, sir, but they’re nice people.” Remington glanced at Tom suspiciously. “You seem very anxious to get them in there.”

“Frankly I am, sir. I was thinking it’s only my good luck that I’m not in the same boat. I shall be setting up housekeeping soon.”

“You’re going to be married?”

“Yes, sir. To Louise Aldrich.”

“A very good family.” Mr. Remington rose. “I appreciate your advice, Thomas,” he said. “I’ll think it over and let you know.”

At the door he unbent to the extent of asking, “How’s your mother?” “Very well, thank you.”

“Give her my regards.”

TWO DAYS later there was a note at the office. “Dear Thomas,” Mr. Remington wrote, “I have decided against renting the apartment. I agree, however, that the place should not stand unutilized and would not be averse to selling with the pond and a few acres. The character of the buyer would be more of a consideration than price. You may proceed on that basis.” Louise was at the house for dinner that evening and Tom showed her and his mother the note. “Oh, yes,” he added, rehashing the interview for Louise, “when I told him we were getting married, he approved. Of your family.” crippled. These are the odds which every August fill parents with an awesome dread unknown to any other disease.

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Polio, no denying it, is a childhood menace, but the attitude parents should take toward it is one of soberminded concern, not unreasoning panic.

I Let’s take a close look at this disease.

Polio is thousands of years old; Egyptian skeletons dating hack to 3700 B.C. show crippling that was obviously the result of polio. Not until 1916 did the first really large epidemic occur; that year polio killed 6,000, mostly children, and left 27,000 cripj pled in Northeastern U. S. Families fled ; in terror before this new and mysterious i killer, vigilante committees guarded towns with shotguns to keep out the children of neighboring regions. The world’s first polio panic had come. As epidemic followed epidemic in later years some of this initial terror abated, but in general this panic in a somewhat j moderated form lingers yet.

For many years doctors believed that j the polio epidemics came in cycles four j to six years apart; few think so today.

I Canada had 2,000 cases in 1941, then j the score slipped back to 700 in 1942, 300 in 1943, back up to 700 in 1944, down again to 400 in 1945. then zoomed upward to 2,500 in 1946 and around 2,000 in 1947.

Polio killed one out of every four of its Canadian victims in 1940, but only one out of every 30 in 1941. Then from a one-out-of-ten death rate in : 1942 it has gradually grown less

j virulent until the 1947 toll was one j in 20.

Polio, like chicken pox, mumps, influenza, the common cold and sister’s hated warts and cold sores, is caused by one of those midgets of the microbe world which scientists know as viruses. 'The polio virus is one of the smallest known. No one has actually seen one, not even with the powerful electron microscope.

And they’re as tough as they are small. All ordinary disease germs curl up and die when they come in contact with glycerin, but the polio virus has kept its kick after eight years in the stuff. They seem just as resistant to cold. One experimenter found that polio virus frozen for 40 days still j packed a disease-inducing wallop.

Polio in its severe form is rare, yet strangely the virus which causes it has been found to be very widespread. Tests have revealed the presence of polio antibodies in the blood of 909r of healthy adults selected at random, indicating that all these persons have carried the virus or had polio in a minor unrecognizable form some time during their lives and have built up subsequent immunity.

Hard to Diagnose

Polio experts believe that before one can become an actual polio case the virus must jump from the blood stream, the nose, throat or intestines, where it j seems to do no harm, to the nervous j system. Once the virus starts setting I up housekeeping in the body’s nerve fibres— usually the brain or spinal cord j at first— trouble begins.

Unfortunately, polio in its early J stages is about the most difficult I human disease to diagnose. The victim may have one, a few or all of the following symptoms; headache, fever, nausea, diarrhea or constipation loss of appetite, drowsiness. If there are polio cases in the neighborhood and I your child develops any of these symptoms. call the doctor. If he suspects polio, he will probably advise hospitalization.

Blood tests and the microscope are of no help in polio diagnosis. The only sure way is to take samples of intestinal discharges and throat and nasal secretions, inject them into monkeys then wait a week or two to see whether the monkeys catch the disease. Researchers follow this procedure, but it’s too costly and too slow for practical use. Examination of the spinal fluid is an aid in early polio diagnosis, but it’s not always reliable.

In half the polio cases, the disease goes no further than these minor early symptoms. The child is sick for a few days and then recovers, none the worse for the attack. He should now have immunity to future attacks. (But polio, the unpredictable, adheres to no hard and fast rules. In Stratford, Ont., a 16-year-old girl who had been partly paralyzed and recovered from polio in 1946 had a second attack within a year.)

In half the cases, though, the virus starts to destroy the nerve cells which carry the brain’s messages to the muscles. The patient has a stiff neck, or a stiff back, tremors or weakness in the arms and legs and, in the unfortunate few, muscular paralysis. Usually the nerve damage is so slight that the body can repair it and the victim may recover with only minoror no crippling. Ina quarter of those who get polio, though, the nerves are so badly injured that the body cannot mend them and there is permanent crippling. The muscles normally guided by the broken nerves go slack and may allow live muscles unaffected by the disease to pull soft young bones out of shape.

If the virus attacks the nerves which control the heart muscles, death can result. And if the muscles which control breathing go limp, the victim may die of suffocation unless he is rushed into an iron lung until the damaged nerves are repaired—if ever. Until 10 years ago it was assumed that there was only one door by which the virus could gain entry into the nervous system—the exposed ends of the olfactory nerve (by which we smell) at the rear of the nose. The battle cry of polio research became: “Protect the nose and prevent polio.”

In 1936 an investigator at Stanford University in California, experimenting with monkeys (apes, monkeys and man are the only animals which contract polio easily) found that a nasal spray of a solution of zinc sulphate covered the nerves of smell with a protective coating. When polio virus was sprayed into the noses of monkeys so treated, not one succumbed to polio.

Everyone gave three cheers and assumed that polio was at last defeated.

The Swimming Menace

In the summer of 1937 the continent’s severest polio outbreak was in Toronto. Five thousand Toronto children received the nasal spray. Then the scientists and the general doctors who had aided in the project sat back to await developments.

And what happened? Polio attacked the treated children almost as often as it struck those who had received no treatment at all. In cold figures, the zinc-sulphate spray had a protective value of less than one per cent. Today we know that the virus can worm its way into nerve tissue via the throat and intestines, as well as through the nose.

Physicians have observed that polio frequently attacked children within a day or two after they had been swimming. So common did this observation become that the water of swimming pools and bathing beaches was blamed for spreading polio infection. But a few years ago a child specialist in a Chicago hospital began to doubt that water-borne infection was the whole explanation. By experiments on monkeys, he showed that the fatigue and chill caused by prolonged swimming doubled their susceptibility.

Two of the important safeguards that parents can exercise during polio outbreaks are: 1. Don’t allow children to remain too long in cold water; 2. Don’t permit them to overplay, overwork or go without sleep to the point of exhaustion.

Polio studies have revealed other ways in which parents can inadvertently give the polio virus a helping hand. When teeth contain cavities the nerve is frequently exposed. Such unprotected nerves provide a wideopen door for the polio virus. Sound teeth, of course, are not a complete safeguard against polio, but, if teeth are well cared for, the child’s antipolio armor is that, much stronger.

In 1941 at Akron, O.. five in a family of six children became ill with polio and three of them died. The sixth child also carried the polio virus in his intestinal discharges. Why had he remained healthy while the others became severe polio cases? There was one outstanding clue. The five polio victims had all had their adenoids and tonsils removed a few days before they developed polio, the sixth and youngest child was not operated on because of his age.

Considerable evidence has now been accumulated to suggest that removal of adenoids and tonsils, which leaves raw nerve ends exposed for a few days until t he the operation heals, increases susceptibility to the polio virus. Most doctors advise that these operations be postponed until after the summer months, unless the tonsil or adenoid infection is severe enough to demand their immediate removal. Some polio investigators claim that teeth extractions in children should also be avoided whenever possible during the polio season, for this too leaves nerve ends exposed for a short time.

What other precautions should a parent take?

The first, so obvious that it hardly merits mentioning, is to avoid homes where polio is known to have struck.

Precaution No. 2 is to avoid swimming in sewage-polluted water when polio is present in the area.

Wash All Fruit

In recent years authorities have come to suspect that the commonest method in which children pick up the polio virus is by eating contaminated food. The culprit which makes this possible is the house fly. The moral is to protect food in the home from flies; food such as fresh fruit which has probably been in contact with flies before being purchased should be washed and brushed before it is served. Make sure Junior washes his hands before he starts eating.

In every polio epidemic more boys than girls take the disease. At first this baffled researchers, but now it is believed due to the fact that boys get dirtier, play harder and are thus more often fatigued, and swim oftener so that they are more subject to chills.

When, despite all precautions, polio strikes and advances to its most serious stage, there is as yet no known drug or treatment that can ward off paralysis. But modern methods,started early, can reduce its effect and minimize deformity. As soon as paralysis is evident, the affected limb is exercised regularly and treated with hot moist packs. This can prevent muscle wasting and its resultant deformity and frequently, even though a muscle has lost all its func“He can keep his approval,” said Louise.

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“I agree with you, Louise,” said Mrs. Barlow.

“So do I,” said Tom, “hut that’s beside the point. How am I going to get Sienkiewicz and his girl that apartment?”

“There must be some way, Tom,” said Louise. “It’s ridiculous: there’s the apartment with nobody in it, and people living in all sorts of dumps, or doubled up with relatives until they’re ready to kill each other. It doesn’t make sense.”

“I would favor a law,” said Mrs. Barlow, “to turn vacant places over to veterans and their families.”

“Now. now, Mother,” said Thomas. “Property rights, you know.”

“There must be a limit to everything,” said his mother.

“Must there?” said Thomas. “Remington owns the coach house and the land on which it stands. He can do what he pleases with it. And this,” he slapped the npte with the back of his hand—“is what he pleases.”

“You can be very persuasive, Thomas,” said his mother. “Why don’t you see Mr. Remington once more and appeal to his better nature—” “His what, Mother?”

“No normal man,” said Mrs. Barlow, “would want to stand in the way of people getting married.”

“What makes you think he’s normal?”

“He writes lucidly enough,” said Mrs. Barlow.

“Lucidity isn’t the same as normality. You know what he’ll do if I press this? He’ll throw me out on my ear, insurance and all.”

“So what?” Louise exclaimed. Tom was glad to hear her say it, but what good would that do? Remington’s decision would have to be accepted.

Logwood, the prospective buyer, had only seen the place from the outside so far. Tom got the key from Remington and had Logwood come up for a survey the following week end. Logwood had made a good deal of money during the war manufacturing fire extinguishers for the government. He had a cold, self-centred face with fleshy pockets under his eyes. Tom did not like him, but there was no specific objection to the man. He wanted a country place, he was impressed by the atmosphere, and he had the money to buy his way in. If he was really set on it, there was nothing Tom could do. The one thing he could do was to take a neutral position, bringing out all the relevant facts and letting Logwood make up his own mind.

The man from the bank said they could lend no more than four thousand on the place as it stood. Logwood thought it over and decided he would like a better buy than that. He would look around some more; maybe there would be a slump and he could pick up something more reasonable. He didn’t need it until next spring, anyway.

TOM SAW Remington again and told him there was little chance of an early sale. Remington said to forget the whole thing.

“But in the meantime, sir,” Tom suggested, “you could rent it, get some income out of it, and at the same time benefit the tenant. It seems a pity to let it stay vacant.”

Remington said nothing. “It’s better for a house to be occupied and heated during the winter,” Tom persisted, “and it’ll save the bother of draining the water system and starting it up again in the spring.”

He saw that Remington was about to rise and terminate the interview. “This client of mine,” Tom resumed, “if you met him, I’m sure you’d approve of him.” It occurred to Tom that he hardly knew the man himself, but he went on rapidly, striving by any means to avert his dismissal: “He’s a veteran.”

Remington looked at Tom oddly. “Navy?” he asked.

“I’m not sure,” Tom lied. It was quite possible that any association with the Navy would kill the slight chance that remained. “I believe he’s Army.”

“What’s his name?”

“Sienkiewicz,” he said.

“Pardon me?”

“Sienkiewicz.” Tom was ashamed of what he was going to say, but he continued, “You would never take him for a Pole, and you’d not he taking them into your household. You’d just be renting them space four hundred yards from your house and not even in sight ofit.”

“True,” said Remington. “It’s a funny name to have on the mailbox.”

“Yeh,” said Tom. He got up before Remington did and left.

He did not see what more he could do. He told Sienkiewicz and his girl friend as much when they dropped by his office the following Saturday. There would have been no point in hurting their feelings by revealing the real obstacle so he talked around hat.

Tom talked the problem over with hs mother on Sunday. “You’ve done what you could, Thomas,” she said. Her eyes, under the silvery hair and fine brow, were still bright and intensely blue. “Now,” she said, “I shall do what I can.”

“Which is what?” said Tom. His mother’s resolution was slightly alarming.

“I have known Paul Remington fora lifetime,” Mrs. Barlow said. “Tomorrow I shall call on him.”

A LITTLE after eleven on Monday morning Tom’s telephone rang. “Mr. Remington on the wire,” said the secretary. Tom looked at the receiver a moment and lifted it. “Good morning, sir,” he said.

“Good morning, Thomas,” said Mr. Remington. “That mother of yours was just over here.” His voice sounded different, the way it did before the war.

“I knew she was going to see you,” Tom said.

“She not only saw me,” Mr. Remington said wryly. “She batted me all over the library.”

“I hope you gave a good account of yourself, sir,” said Tom, entering into the spirit of the thing.

“I was outgunned and outmanoeuvred,” said Mr. Remington. “But the result is all that concerns you. You may bring your client, Sienkiewicz to inspect the coach house at his and your convenience. Mind you, I haven’t committed myself to rent the place, but if he likes it, I’ll confer with him.”

Tom dropped the receiver into its cradle, lifted it and dialed.

“Mother!” he cried. “Mr. Remington just called and said I could bring Sienkiewicz around to look at the apartment!”

“Yes,” said his mother calmly. “He said he would.”

“What did you do to him?”

Mrs. Barlow laughed. “I just appealed to his better nature,” she said. “It started in a roundabout way.

I asked why he didn’t come to church any more and he said he didn’t want to be stared at. Nobody’ll stare at you,

I said, they’re more interested in the women’s hats and gowns, or even in the sermon. You’re not as important as you think. You were always vain, I said, and it’s about time you were cut down to size. He said nobody could talk to him like that. I said, I can, my dear Paul: I’ve known you since you were four years old. You look older now, but I’m not sure you are, the way you act. Your perspicacity, he said, is exceeded only by your impudence. You’re the most impudent woman I know and I’ve known a lot. We kept on insulting each other like that for a while and having quite a good time. You know, Thomas, I think he was really starving for conversation.”

“Not when I’ve seen him,” said Tom. “Very well,” I said, “if you don’t want to go to church, stay away. Anyway, that’s not what I came to see you about. I came to see you about that apartment above your stable.”

“I suspected as much, he said. You can tell your precious boy that it’s my apartment and I’ll burn it down if I feel like it. A fine attitude, I said, with people unable to get married and have children, while you live in a twentyroom house with three servants. It isn’t a twenty-room house, he yelled. With the apartment it is, I said. You have a few spare rooms yourself, he said. Yes, I said, and I’m going to rent them. And I want you to rent your apartment to Louise Aldrich and my Thomas, right now, so they’ll have a place to go to when they get married.” “What—what was that, Mother?” Tom stuttered. “To Louise and me?” “You heard me. There are more ways to kill a cat than by choking it with butter. And to whom are you renting? he asked. To those nice young people, of course, I said—the ones you reject because of your ugly attitude. I thought he was going to hit me with the poker, but finally he burst out laughing. You’re really incredible, he said. To keep you away from my place, you old harridan, I’d rent that apartment to a chimpanzee and his bride. Send your Polish friends around and I’ll look them over. So we parted on very good terms. He even asked me to dinner next week.”

Tom laughed uproariously. “After calling you an old harridan?”

“Of course. There’s nothing like a good fight to clear the atmosphere.”

The next day Stanley Sienkiewicz and his Eileen were in Tom’s office half an hour before the time set. They were as excited as kids on a picnic. It gave Tom as much of a kick as if he were concluding a big deal.

“Let me brief you a little,” he said. “Remington had a very unfortunate experience in the Navy. So whatever you do, don’t remind him of the Navy. If you can avoid it, don’t even let on you were in it.”

Stanley looked puzzled, but he said, “Sure, anything you say.”

TOM DROVE them over in his car and they inspected the apartment. They were enchanted with it. Then they all walked over to the big house and were ushered into the library. Remington received them cordially. In his way the old boy was a cavalier, Tom reflected. He could take a licking gracefully. Even the great defeat of his life had not crushed him. He certainly did not look crushed now.

But almost the first thing he said, after they were seated, was:

“You were in the Army, I understand, Mr. Sienkiewicz?”

Nute, said Tom to himself. Stanley glanced at him as if the word had been spoken aloud. “Why no, sir,” he said, turning back to Remington. “I was in the Navy.”

“Well,” said Remington, still pleasant and casual, “that makes three of us.”

Everything was going fine, but it would be best, Tom thought, to turn the conversation to the apartment. “They like the place very much—” he began, but Remington said, “I think it’ll be all right for them,” and switched the talk back to the Navy.

“I was in thirty-nine years,” said Remington. “They retired me in August, 1944.”

There was a pause. “1944, sir?” Stanley finally said.

“Yes,” said Remington coolly. “They kicked me out.”

“Kicked you out?” said Stanley. “You’re joking, sir.”

“No, I’m not,” said Remington. “1 committed the gravest sort of security violation. You must have heard of it.”

“I never did, sir,” said Stanley.

“It’s water over the dam,” said Tom.

Looking at him intently, Remington nodded several times. “The funny thing is,” he said, “I’m just beginning to realize that. After all those years, to be let out under such circumstances —you can appreciate how 1 felt. It wasn’t until yesterday, when I talked to your mother, Thomas, that I realized I was piling one foolishness on top of another. I determined then to talk about it, just once—to ventilate it I believe is the expression. And then to forget it.”

He smiled, looking at each of them in turn. “Now let’s talk about this apartment,” he said.

rATE THAT afternoon Tom sat at J the typewriter in his office, filling out the lease form. He pecked away with one finger of each hand. It gave him great pleasure to insert the figures and dates. The rent was reasonable; the commission amounted to exactly thirty-three dollars.

Tom pulled the paper out of the machine and looked at it. From a technical standpoint it left something to be desired, but it was a wonderful document, really. Tom folded it,

sealed the envelope and dropped it into the out tray.

Then he reached for the telephone to call the girl he was going to marry. ★