DURING BUSINESS HOURS
BRUCE, Dolly’s husband, and Harold, her brother, had been discussing women the evening before in the living-room of the cottage at Cypress Glades, while Dolly, curled up in the armchair, listened quietly.
Harold said that women were illogical because they were women. The feminine mind . . .
“I don’t think it’s anything fundamental like that,” said Bruce. “It’s just that women aren’t trained to think. While they’re at home, they take their fathers’ views on things, and then after they’re married, their husband’s. Isn’t that so, Dolly, dear?”
“Mmf,” said his wife, putting her finger in her mouth.
“They don’t like abstractions—just because they’re not used to them.”
Bruce leaned forward and clasped his arms about his knee. “Why, if a woman was faced with one of the dozen things that we have to face and decide every day in business, she wouldn’t know what to do. She’s illogical, just because she never has any need to be logical. A woman’s job is to deal with concrete things— household stuff, you know.
“Mmf,” said Dolly, removing the finger. Her dark eyes travelled slowly from her husband’s face to her brother’s. “But there’s lots that goes on while you’re at the office that you never even hear about,” she said.
Bruce looked up, and smiled. “Of course,” he said soothingly. “But you’re off the point.”
Bruce was in a discoursi ve mood; she could tell by the way he shifted in his chair, ran his fingers through his blond hair and leaned forward again.
“Take renting this house down here, for example,” he continued, to Harold.
“We didn’t have the slightest idea where we were going this summer. Finally the choice narrowed to
either this place or a house at Crescent Beach. The Crescent Beach house was cheaper and bigger—you admitted that it was a better house, didn’t you, Dolly?” “We-ell. . .”
“Yes. But then after she saw this one, she said it would be better, or something. More convenient. And it’s half an hour further from New York.” He smiled at his wife. “Now, Dolly, why couldn’t you come right out in black and white and admit that you liked this house better?”
“Why—” Dolly sat up straight, her cheeks flushed. “I don't like this house better,” she said. “I’d love to be right on the beach. But—oh, I think the Glades is a better place for us.”
Bruce roared. “Oh, I remember what you said! Something about nicer children for Phoebe to play with and a club-car for me—as though a club-car made it any nearer New York!”
“But—” Dolly’s forehead was wrinkled in her effort to put her ideas into words. “I \vant Phoebe to make friends—you know, nice children. And the children here —that day we came down to see this house, there were two of them going to the beach with their mother. Little blonde babies in hand-smocked dresses and...”
Bruce and Harold exchanged a smile. “But you’re sure you don’t like this house better than the other?” Bruce asked indulgently.
"You do!” said Dolly. He did, too. They had been at the Glades only a week before Mr. Demming, who lived in the big green bungalow at the edge of the point, had asked Bruce into the club-car with him. He rode up every morning with him—and the other men—now, and he told Dolly about the things they had said and were doing, every night.
“Dolly, honest can’t you keep to the point?” her husband demanded. “Can’t you give any logical reason for taking this house rather than the one at the beach?”
“It—it’s better,” Dolly said again. She lifted her chin obstinately. “Better for Phoebe and you and—” Bruce lifted his hands in a gesture of' surrender. “There may be something in this woman’s intuition stuff, at that,” he admitted to his brother-in-law. “Matter of fact, I’d never have got Demming and Remey’s printing
as well as other business, if we hadn’t come here, but—” “Well?” interrupted Dolly, triumphantly.
“Well?” echoed her husband. “Come now, Doll, you don’t mean to sit there and say that you took this house because you knew it would give me a big job? You didn’t even know that Demming lived here—or that he’d have any work I could possibly handle.”
“No-o-o,” she admitted slowly. “But—”
“It’s no use,” said Harold. “Might just as well expect this house to get up and take us down to the beach for a swim, as for a women to keep her mind on any one train of thought.”
Dolly wasn’t thinking of that conversation, as she sat on the piazza in the morning; Bruce and Harold had proved quite conclusively that she couldn’t think. But it was there, hovering about in her mind, all the same. Bruce had said that a woman’s job involved no abstractions, that there were no daily decisions to be made, as there are in business. Yet she was thinking, in her own feminine fashion.
DHOEBE would be seven years old, in ten days, and she wanted to have a birthday party for her. It was unfortunate that Phoebe’s birthday should come so early in the summer; they had been at the Glades only three weeks, and although Phoebe had made friends with all the children who came each morning to the beach, and though Dolly had a bowing acquaintance with all their mothers, she was not quite ready. The main trouble was the Jarmby youngsters.
Phoebe was playing on the lawn with them now. Their home, the slender conical lighthouse that Mr. Jarmby’s father had kept before him, reared in the sunlight just beyond the cluster of pine trees that flanked the yard. It was a quaint building, the spotless white-washed pillar and the rambling weathered house that had grown out from it at one side; Dolly had thought it quite
picturesque and charming to have at their right hand, with the blue water of the sea stretching beyond it. But now, as she looked at the two little Jarmby boys, Benny, pink and round and fat, and Ned, tall for his age, and tattooed with freckles, she wondered whether she really liked being so near.
This was the first summer that she and Bruce had had enough money to take a really nice cottage. The year before they bad had a small house on Staten Island, and before that, they had always gone to Dolly’s mother, in Massachusetts. But now Bruce was manager of the Hawley Press; in a month, his salary had tripled. And Phoebe was old enough to make lasting friends.
It had seemed to Dolly’s feminine mind, a tremendous problem, this choosing of a summer cottage. She had almost decided on the Crescent Beach house, but the advertisement in City and Country of the little white cottage at the Glades had remained in her mind, and they had come to see it. She couldn’t explain to Bruce how it was that the hand-smocked dresses of those two children—they had turned out to be the Demming youngsters—had decided her. Because it was more than just the dresses, more than the fresh, pink and white faces above them, and the leghorn hats with their black velvet streamers. They typified to Dolly something that she wanted and had not found at Crescent Beach.
“I’ll be the mother and you be the father and Benny’ll be our little boy." Phoebe’s clear voice floated up to her.
MOLLY frowned. She didn’t want Phoebe to play so much with the Jarmby children, and she didn’t know what to do about it. She couldn’t talk it over with Bruce: either he would shrug his shoulders and say, “But Dolly, my dear, if you don’t want Phoebe to play with them, don’t allow it”—as though it were so simple as that!—or else he would ask why. And she knew that she couldn’t explain. If she told him that she hadn't decided to pay that extra two hundred dollars for the small white cottage, to make an opportunity for Phoebe to play with the children of the lighthouse keeper, he wouldn’t know what she was talking about. He’d want to know why she had decided to pay the extra money— unless it was because she preferred the cottage to any other. And if she went on to explain that she wanted Phoebe to make friends with the Demming children and the little Ingalls boys and Mrs. Warburton West's daughter, Bruce would accuse her of downright snobbery. It was snobbery; it was just. . .
Phoebe was at her side. “Mummie, Benny and Ned have their hankies pinned to their dresses," she was saying. “Can't I have a pin and fix mine like that?”
Dolly winced. “We’re going down to the beach now.” she said irrelevantly.
“You can finish your game later.” Dolly stood up and smiled at the little Jarmby boys. “Phoebe is going to the beach,” she told them. “You can play later.” Then, quite illogically, she seized fat little Benny in her arms and kissed him.
TN THE house, Phoebe forgot her disappointment in the excitement of slipping out of her little pongee dress and into her bright blue bathing suit.
“I’m going to swim an’ swim an’ swim to-day!” she said. “Way out—as far as I can go, Mummie. Look, this is the way Peter Demming swims!” She flung herself on the floor and shot out her arms, kicked her feet up and down furiously.
Dolly smiled. Phoebe was such a lovely little thing, Continued on page 45
During Business Hours
Continued from page 21
with her slim bronzed body and shock of fair hair. She wanted Phoebe to have the best of everything, everything that they could give to her. And now that Bruce was making so much money . . . . !
Phoebe skipped ahead of her as they walked along the path, past the lighthouse, to the beach.
“You’ll stay right here, Mummie?” she asked, patting a spot on the sand authoritatively. “Right here. Now watch me an’ see how I can swim. Oohooh, Peter!"
Dolly laid her orange sweater on the hot sand and gathered up the skirts of her brown linen dress as she sat down. She had a book beneath her arm, but she did not open it.
It was strange that Bruce couldn’t just see the difference between this beach and the other. It was a curved baby of a beach, cut between points of brown rock, as though some particularly energetic wave had rushed it and made it in one swift coming and going. The lighthouse reared at one point; the green roof of the Demmings’ bungalow shone through the dark firs at the other. The Demming nurse was sitting beneath a striped blue and yellow sun-umbrella near the edge of the water, knitting, and looking up now and then at the Demming baby, who was tied to the trunk of the shade by a long rope. A low beach chair, with the aristocratic lines of a Russian wolfhound, awaited Mrs. Ingalls; there were other brilliant umbrellas, patches of bright shawls and rugs making geometric patterns, in color, on the white sand.
“Good morning, Mrs. Baker!”
Dolly looked up at Mrs. Demming. “Oh, good morning!”
Ernestine Demming sat down on the sand beside her, and they smiled. In the moment while the smile clung to their lips, before they began to talk, thoughts flashed through their heads. Through Mrs. Demming’s—that this little Mrs. Baker looked younger and prettier each time she saw her, much too young to be the mother of that attractive blonde child; that Walter had said Baker was a good sort, a gentleman and an entertaining youngster, a good business man, too; that the Bakers must feel rather lonely here at the Glades where everyone had known everyone else for so many years.
And through Dolly’s little dark head— that Mrs. Demming was the only woman she had ever seen who looked, in her bathing suit, as though she were in formal evening dress; that she would ever so much like her for a friend; and that Ernestine Demming really did seem to want to get acquainted.
“My young son is quite enamoured with your daughter,” said Mrs. Demming. “Last night when I was putting him to bed, he said that'Phoebe was the prettiest little girl he’d ever seen.”
The two young women looked down at the water’s edge, where their respective children were splashing and screaming.
“They’re so cunning,” Dolly murmured. “And they do have such a good time.”
A GRAY touring car drew up at the Cx head of the beach; as it stopped, it seemed to spill children from every door. The Ingalls twins and the three West youngsters climbed from the back; little Christopher Duchamp, a pale, brownhaired boy, swung from the front seat and limped across the beach.
Mrs. Demming waved to the woman at the wheel who smiled, leaned over to pull the key of the self-starter, and came slowly down the slope of the sand. Dolly recognized the prettiest woman in Cypress Glades, a slender, fair skinned Englishwoman, with gentian-blue eyes and the sort of hair that belongs only to fairy princesses and moving-picture stars.
“You know Mrs. Ingalls, Mrs. Baker?” Mrs. Ingalls sat down at Dolly’s side. “You’ve taken the little white cottage by the lighthouse, haven’t you?” Mrs. Ingalls asked. “We used to have it every summer before we decided to build.” She smiled reminiscently. “Does the diningroom fireplace still smoke when the wind’s north-east?”
“Does it!” said Dolly. “’Most suffocated usl And the squirrels will come in through my bedroom window.”
“Really!” said Mrs. Ingalls triumphantly. “You must tell my husband that. He always used to spoof me about it—say that they were looking for nuts and had found the proper place, and I never knew what he was talking about. I’d only been in the States a year, then—we were married in England and the American language used to mystify me—still does, sometimes.”
DOLLY -sat back and listened while the two women chattered. The first wave of homesickness that she could not completely push back, broke over her; before Bruce had taken the position with the Hawley Press, while they were still living in Boston, she had had friends like that, friends with whom conversation was a spontaneous, inexhaustible flow of mutual interests and events.
“By the way, can you and your husband come for dinner Thursday evening?” Mrs. Demming asked, as she rose to go down to the water. “I’d written you a note, but I thought I’d ask you now, anyway.”
“We’d be delighted,” answered Dolly. “You’re coming, Daphne?”
Mrs. Ingalls nodded. “And Mrs. Baker mustn’t forget to tell Hugh about the squirrels.” She turned toward Dolly as Ernestine Demming left them. “1 passed the Jarmby youngsters on the road as I came down,” she said. “Aren’t they the funniest, most scrubbed little things you ever saw?”
Dolly nodded, but she was alarmed. “They always seem to smell of soap,” she agreed. “I don’t know how their mother keeps them so immaculate.”
“Mrs. Jarmby’s the most spick-andspan person I’ve ever seen,” said Mrs. Ingalls. “She does our washing, you know, and I’ve never seen such clean clothes. And the twins certainly can get them black—I don’t know where they find the dirt!”
Dolly’s pleasure at the thought of the dinner at the Demmings’ was marred by the thought of the Jarmby youngsters. Phoebe’s birthday was coming nearer and nearer; she ought to write out the invitations within a day or two—and she didn’t know whether to invite the Jarmby children or not!
“Cat got your tongue?” Bruce asked her, that evening after dinner.
“N-no,” said Dolly. “I was thinking ” Bruce laughed. “Why take it so hard, old girl?”
She did not return ins smile. “Bruce, I’m going to have ? arty for Phoebe on her birthday.”
“Right-o! Wondering whether to have pink ice cream, or blue?”
“Don’t tease me now, Bruce. I—I'm awfully sort of mixed up about it. \ ou know the two litt’e boys that live in the lighthouse?” ' .
Henoddëd. ‘ unny little tykes.”
“Yes. I—you see, Phoebe plays with them quite a lot. They’re the only children who live so near—it isn’t that she likes them so much. And—I don’t know whether to ask them to her partyor not.”
“Huh?” Bruce set down the magazine he had been reading and looked at her. “Say, Dolly, what’s all this?”
DOLLY folded her hands patiently.
“You see at children’s parties, the mothers all come and—well, Mrs. Jarmby isn’t—doesn’t belong.”
“She seemed a pleasant sort of woman to me,” Bruce returned. “You’re not going to get high and mighty just because we’re on our feet now, are you?”
Dolly flushed. “Really, I’m not, Bruce. But—you see Mrs. Jarmby takes in washing, and
“Say, this isn’t England!” said Bruce rudely. “It’s America. Those kids are just as good as any other kids.”
“I know they are. But—” Dolly
sighed again. She should have knowm that she couldn’t explain to Bruce. “Did I tell you that we were having dinner with the Demmings on Thursday?”
Dolly lay long awake that night, wondering. She wanted to ask the Jarmby children; she felt that she couldn’t have a party there on the lawn and not ask them. She had a picture of their disappointed little faces peeking through the fir trees at the other children. And yet. .!
Ever since Dolly and Bruce had moved to New York when Phoebe was four years old, Dolly had been looking forward to just such a place as Cypress Glades. She was a friendly soul, and the city had offered little opportunity for her to make friends. They had moved from apartment to apartment as Bruce’s salary rose, making casual acquaintances and leaving them behind. They had had no permanent foothold on life since they had left Boston, and they had met no people who were really their sort; young people, with the same interests, with children of Phoebe’s age. Her first glimpse of the Glades and the people who lived there had
showed her that this was her place and these her people. The first three weeks had strengthened that conviction. She and Bruce could take the little white cottage for the next summer, and then, as cime went on, if they did not go from it to build, as the Ingalls’ had done, they could buy it. For the first time since her marriage, Dolly saw life ahead of her, freed from worries, filled with promises of the things they wanted.
She did not dare show her eagerness for friendship to these people; she could not tell them yet how desperately lonely she had been. She didn’t want them to pity her; she wanted them to continue to like her and Bruce and Phoebe, until time brought them into real friendships. She felt that she had never in her life wanted anything so much as she wanted now to become part of a community, to talk with other women about their children and their maids and the desserts they made for their husbands, to belong somewhere.
And now, when all that she desired was so near, if it was to be snatched away !
“But it isn’t what I want—if they’re snobs!” she told herself fiercely. Still, people were funny, sometimes. After they all knew each other, she could do what she liked, but now, when they were just getting acquainted, she might prejudice them. She pounded her pillow furiously.
IT WAS for Phoebe, as much as for herself. She wanted her to know children who were brought up, as she was being brought up, with ideas of honor and decency and loyalty. She sat up in bed suddenly and looked out the window into the night, past the dark pine trees where the lighthouse was flashing. " There was something comforting, to her troubled mind, in that steady, rythmic path of white light sweeping in a circle below the sooty clouds. She stopped thinking, as she watched it, soothed, almost hypnotized by its untroubled circuit. She wanted Phoebe to be like that— clear and steady and true. She drew her breath sharply, as that idea was transformed from a vague, unformulated feeling, into actual, unspoken words. Phoebe—to be like— that
The Jarmbys lived in the weathered cottage that grew out from the white brick of the lighthouse; somewhere beneath those wide windows of polished glass, the little Jarmby boys were tucked into their beds between the dazzlingly white sheets that Mrs. Jarmby hung upon her long clothes line, to flash back and forth in the sun, like sails, against the background of water. Phoebe had never seen the light sweeping about through the night sky, but the little Jarmby boys must have seen it, with their round blue eyes. They must have climbed many times to the circular room where the great lamp was kept, and looked out through the curving polished glass to the sea, beyond the big brown rocks. Dolly resisted an almost irresistible impulse to go in and wake up Phoebe. Perhaps on her birthday night, she would let her sit up and see it... .
THE first invitation she wrote was to Ned and Benny Jarmby; theirs was the first acceptance she received, and they were the first guests, cleaner and pinker than ever in starched sailor suits, to arrive for Phoebe’s party. Mrs. Jarmby was a little behind them, carrying a great basket on her arm. She smiled at Dolly, and shook hands.
“I came early because I wanted to bring you over some lobsters,” she explained. “Joe got a big haul yesterday. I thought maybe you’d like to have them for supper—they’re all cooked, and it’s such a chore to fix a meal when the kitchen is all full of ice-cream dishes.” “You’re a dear,” said Dolly. She looked down on the lawn where Phoebe and the little Jarmby boys had already begun to play. Phoebe’s voice floated up to them.
“You be the father, Ned, and I’ll be the mother, and Benny’ll be our little boy.” “And what will Peter and Pam be?” inquired Ernestine Demming, appearing suddenly from behind the syringa bush, with Peter skipping ahead of her and Pamela plodding at her side with the proud step of one who may not be proficient, but who is doing as much as can be expected at so tender an age.
“Hello, Dolly Baker! Hello, Mrs. Jarmby!” She sank down in the hammock. “I never saw anything like you in my life, Mrs. Jarmby! You were still hanging up
the scandalously long line of clothes when I left my house—I could see you across the cove—and here you are as fresh as though you’d been lying under a tree all morning.”
She paused to wave to Daphne Ingalls and the twins; Mrs. Jarmby rose and walked down the path, stood for a moment beside the slender Englishwoman, talking.
“You know it just wouldn’t be a birthday party unless Mrs. Jarmby was here,” Ernestine said to Dolly. “She’s always come—tied up Peter’s finger when he stuck it into the one lone candle on his first cake and was just as excited as a kid when she got the penny in Rita West’s sixteenth. I was afraid for a moment
when we got Phoebe’s invitation that you mightn’t—you know—remember to ask her. I was going to run over and tell | you how we’d always felt about Mrs. Jarmby, but Daphne laughed at me and said you were our sort, and would know, of course. I feel as though I owed you an apology.” She laughed, and Dolly j struggled with speech, her eyes shining.
“Hello, Dolly!” called Daphne Ingalls.
“I refuse to call anything that looks as young as you do Mrs. Baker any more.” j
“Hello!” said Dolly, happily. She jumped to her feet and stood for a moment, bright-eyed and flushed. Suddenly she rushed down the piazza steps and seized Phoebe in her arms, hugged her 1 breathlessly.