Anne Does it Now—
An altogether delightful bit of domestic drama starring the Persistent Wife and the Resistant Husband
JOE BLAINE knew that something, some problem, was bothering Anne. It had been in her mind all through the evening meal. He could tell by the way she looked off over his head occasionally and took tiny nibbles at her food. And now that he had retired to his big chair, turned on the electric grate, lighted a cigarette and laid it carefully in the ashtray while he opened the paper at the sports page, she still sat at the table.
She sat there twisting the sugar bowl around and around, gazing at it abstractedly. And when little Billy thumped impatient fists upon her thigh, demanding to know why the plates were round, she murmured automatically, "Hush, dear,” without looking at him.
Joe found the sports page, gazed at the sweep title across the top, opened the paper wide and folded it deftly. He snapped it to remove the wrinkles and picked up his cigarette. A slim season in the sporting world, he thought. Hockey over; baseball teams still in training camp.
He started to read the daily column from the Leafs’ camp at some place in Georgia, wondering why he wasted his time. There was never anything new. And while he read, one little corner of his mind wondered what was bothering Anne.
He decided the sports page was not worth the trouble, and turned to the city news section.
"Anything new today, Anne?” he asked, in the midst of the change.
"Nothing much, dear. Billy had another pitched battle in the hall with that little Brown boy upstairs. Mrs. Brown is always awfully nice about it, though. This afternoon Marge
Simmons called me up and we went for a drive.” Anne’s voice trailed off into silence.
"Take the kids?” Joe asked.
"Of course. I could hardly ask Marge to have her maid look after Billy, could I? And since Billy was going, Marge thought she might as well take Joan. They enjoyed it, too.”
There was another silence while Joe skimmed the page and finished the cigarette. As he blew the last long streamer ceilingward, his eyes caught a jar on the mantelpiece.
"That where you got the pussy willows?” he asked.
"Um-hum.” There was a little brightening in Anne's voice now. “It was lovely, Joey. I kept wishing and wishing you were there. The snow’s almost gone, except in the fence corners and shady places. We found a bush just loaded with pussy willows, practically untouched. I wanted to stay and stay.”
Anne’s voice faded again, dropped away to a toneless dead level. She wasn’t often like this. Joe’s mind devoted a larger portion of itself to her.
He knew that occasionally Anne felt stirrings of discontent. Now and then some little feature of their life dissatisfied her. That was natural and to be expected, he told himself. Anybody was like that. That way himself sometimes. But in the main, she was happy and content, cheerfully practical and helpful, deriving a maximum of pleasure from a minimum of social doings. A little party now and then—any more than ten people crowded the apartment to suffocation—or a drive with the Simmons, or perhaps Sunday dinner at Luigi’s—these things seemed to give her sufficient outlet.
Of course, she looked forward to the time when they could have a nice, new spick-andspan bungalow somewhere on the outskirts. And a car. They both did. But Anne was sensible. She knew that the way to get ahead in the world, was to work away steadily, keep a keen eye out for possible promotion, and tuck away a reasonable amount every pay day. She knew that was the only sure method.
And secretly Joe gave a continuous vote of thanks for this. For deep in his heart he had a dread of an existence with a complaining, harping, whining wife. Like poor old Bill Thompson, for instance. Heaven forbid.
He realized that Anne was still seated at the table. She was amusing herself now by sliding a fork back and forth upon the cloth. Plainly, something was wrong. Better get her to talk he decided.
“Have a good day?” he asked the newspaper.
After a pause he said: "Here’s four rooms and a bath and kitchenette on Clearvale for forty dollars. If it weren’t for the neighborhood I’d say that’s a better deal than we get here.”
Then it came with a rush.
“Oh, apartments, apartments!” she cried suddenly. “Don’t, Joe, for goodness sake. I can’t stand even the sound of the word. I hate it. Honestly, when I came in after the drive with Marge today, I could have screamed. I haven’t been so utterly fed up in ages. I know every crack in the plaster of those stairs, and every mark on the steps.”
Joe looked over the top of the paper toward the grate. So that was it. Anne had the blues.
He heard her turn sidewise in her chair to look in his direction, but he didn’t move.
"How long have we been married, Joey?” she went on in a quieter voice. “Over four years, haven’t we? And all that time we’ve lived in four rooms up two flights. I get so sick of it sometimes. Really, dear, we must make a change soon. It’s only fair to Billy. He’s got to have a place to play, with sunshine and grass and birds. Oh, and a dog ...”
Anne spoke more and more slowly until she stopped, in the way she always did when she knew he didn’t quite approve. He still held the paper up before him, but he wasn’t reading. He had to say something.
SURE, I know all that, Anne,” he said. “I want it as much as you do; you know that yourself. And we’re going to have it all—some day.” Anne drew in her breath sharply, as if she would speak, but he hurried on. “We’re getting along all right. Eighteen hundred in the bank isn’t so bad, considering the rent we have to pay. After we pass the two thousand mark you’ll see it climb right up, and in a few years we’ll be able to build our own little place just the way we want it. After all, Billy’s only three years old and—”
“Three and a half.”
“Well, three and a half, then. Anyway, a few more years here won’t do him any harm. There’s the park just up the street for him to play in.”
He heard the sugar bowl behind him move again, wearily, around and around. It was a queer way to talk, over his shoulder like this, but he didn't want to turn around. Anne would have that hurt look in her eyes.
He dropped the paper on his knees and swung open the door of the smoking stand, from which he took a pipe and filled it. Somehow he always felt more imposing, judicial, smoking a pipe.
"After all, honey,” he said comfortably to the cloud of smoke, "we’ll enjoy it more if we’re able to pay cash on the nail, don’t you think? It'll be more ours, sort of.”
“I suppose,” said Anne dully, and sighed. She rose and came toward him and perched on the arm of the other chair. He noticed for the first time that she was wearing the little brown dress with the tan collar and cuffs.
“Got the blues, honey?” he asked.
“Well, I’ve always got the feeling that Marge Simmons feels sorry for me. I hate it, Joey.”
“Charley Simmons,” said Joe emphatically, “owes everybody in town. Says so himself. I know for a fact that he had to go to three dealers before he could get a ton of coal last week. A man can’t get ahead that way, Anne. You watch; some of these days he’ll be getting sued, and then where’ll Miss Marge be?”
“It doesn’t seem to be worrying them any,” replied Anne, with troubled eyes. “They’re certainly enjoying themselves. A lovely house and a car and a maid and everything. And clothes ...”
Joe chuckled paternally, tolerantly.
“You just wait.”
Conversation languished. Joe attended to his pipe and finally picked up his paper.
“Say,” he exclaimed, recollecting an interesting fact, “I heard something today. You know Mr. Wilkes, the assistant manager at the office. Well, he’s going to take a month off this summer and I’m to take his place while he’s away. See what that means? When there’s a shake-up at the office, I’ll get the place permanently.
And there’s been a rumor going around for months that Brownlee is going to retire this fall. Wilkes will move up and yours truly will be assistant. How will you like that?”
“That will be fine, dear.”
“I’ll say. A bigger job. And I know for a fact that Wilkes is getting thirty-six hundred now, so they ought to start me off at thirtythree anyway. Eight hundred a year won’t be such a bad little increase, eh? It’ll come in handy, believe me.”
“To put in the bank,” said Anne listlessly.
Joe looked up sharply and frowned, but she was staring over her shoulder at the grate.
After a moment he rattled the paper briskly and disappeared behind it. What the dickens was wrong with the woman tonight?
“Joey,” said Anne suddenly.
“You know that place on the lake shore?
That darling old place with the wall that we talked about once?”
“Oh, that.” And then, quickly: “I seem to remember it vaguely. What about it?”
“Well, we were past there today, and it’s still for sale. We stopped and looked over the wall.”
The paper went down and Joe appeared again. “So that’s what started this.” Irritation sounded in his voice.
“And it’s just sweet now that the snow’s gone. It’s got long French doors, and a wide chimney, and ivy growing right up over the roof from the back.”
Anne’s voice quickened and her eyes brightened; she tucked one foot under her and swung the other to and fro. “There’s a huge chestnut tree, all with sticky buds now, and pretty soon it’ll be all in blossom. And you should just smell the poplars in the woods across the road.”
“It’s too far out,” Joe put in.
“Of course, it’s kind of grown over now, not being occupied for ages and all, but we’d love fixing it up, wouldn’t we, Joe? We’d have to trim the lawns and plant flowers and paint. And you could get some overalls and mortar and fix the old wall along the road. I love the wall.
It makes it look so Englishy or something.”
“A place like that,” said Joe heavily, “would cost a fortune. Twenty thousand anyway.”
“No. Marge said that Charley said it could be picked up for fifty-five hundred or six thousand. Dirt cheap anyway. And he should know, being in the real estate business, don’t you think?”
“Is he the agent?” Shrewdly, suspiciously.
“No; Mr. Scrutton, I think the sign said.”
“A fellow’d have to have a car.”
“Oh, we could get along for ages without a car. They paved the road out there last year, and this year the
buses are going to run as far as Eastview. Half-hour service right past the door.”
“It’s probably in rotten shape inside,” Joe observed. “Oh, Joey! That lovely old place? I’ll just bet it’s all oak beams and panelled walls and fireplaces and things. And we could have it fixed up anyway, if it wasn’t, spending a little now and then.”
“Don’t count your chickens,” said Joe, opening the paper with an air of finality. “We won’t be able to tackle anything for a few years yet.”
“It would be so ideal for Billy, though,” Anne went on, a little less enthusiastically. “He could take the sun for hours every day. And if we had another baby—” “Now you look here, Anne.” He tossed the paper aside and plumped his pipe firmly on the smoking stand. “You just get that idea right out of your head. There aren’t going to be any more for years.”
npiIAT was on Thursday.
On Sunday afternoon, after a listless luncheon, the telephone rang and they both brightened perceptibly. Billy, supposedly taking his after-dinner nap, thumped stockinged feet on the floor and scampered to stand beside his mother while she answered.
It was the Simmons, suggesting a little spin in the country this fine spring day. How about it? It would be lovely, Anne declared. About three o’clock? That would give the children a chance to rest.
Billy was chased back to his cot in a sudden surge of good humor, and Joe and Anne began to dress.
Joe put on the grey suit and the red-and-blue striped tie. It wasn’t as new' as the blue one, but it seemed to lend him a debonair touch, he thought. And he always liked to look well when they were going out with Charley and Marge. He took the little roll of bills from
the top left-hand drawer. There was a one on the outside. Carefully he pulled a ten from the inside and wrapped it around the bundle.
Brush yoff, sir?” demanded Anne, swooping down upon him, whisk in hand, when he was dressed.
1 his was a regular occurrence; always Anne brushed him before they went out:, and asked him how she looked.
Now she brushed away with great gusto at the front of his coat. Joe liked it. She seemed so girlishly intent, he thought. She whirled him around and scoured away at his back. Occasionally she flicked the back of his neck with the stiff bristles or joggled the whisk under his arm, and he wriggled and exclaimed as he knew she wanted him to do.
I just know he’s going to take us along the lake shore today,” said Anne, brushing busily,
“How can you tell?”
“See if I’m right.” She turned him so that he could not see her eyes over his shoulder in the mirror. “And we’ll see the house.” A new attack with the whisk. “What house?”
“You know what house. And listen, .dear. If he puts you in the front seat where I can’t nudge you, like he always does, I’ll cough three times when we come to it, and you take a good look. You’ll love it, Joey.”
“Yeah? I thought you’d forgotten this house business.”
“I can’t forget it. I want it so much I could bust.” Furious brushing, followed by a pause to pick off a stubborn piece of lint, and then more brushing. “I—I called up Mr. Scrutton yesterday.”
Joe looked up sharply at this, trying to catch her eye in the mirror and failing.
“The real estate man?”
A little pause.
“Oh. And what’s he say?”
Oh, Joey!” Anne was suddenly around in front of him, wide-eyed. “He only wants five thousand for it, and he’d let us have most any kind of a time payment arrangement, ’cause it’s part of an estate and he wants to wind it up or something, and he’s sure we could handle it, and he was awfully nice, and ”
“The taxes ”
"He says the taxes are only about two hundred a year, and sometimes a lot less. It’s out in the township, you see. That’s less than twenty a month, isn't it, and we could .
Joe listened with one ear as she prattled on. He’d have to put a stop to this business tonight. No use crabbing now and spoiling the afternoon for the girl when she was feeling so gay. But it had gone far enough. Tonight. In the meantime, however, he’d be a good fellow.
Anne finished her brushing and held out her hand for the usual tip. He placed a kiss in the slightly toil-worn palm and folded her fingers over it
The horn blew impatiently down in the street before Billy was half ready. All was fluster and confusion.
“Don’t forget I’ll cough three times," said Anne when they were hurrying down the steps.
Anne was a successful prophet. When they arrived at the car Marge was settled in the back seat, clutching Joan, and Anne could do nothing but climb in beside her with Billy. Joe took his place beside Charley and stretched his legs under the dash.
For a while they cruised about the residential section, and then they were bowling easily along the lake shore road.
Anne needn’t have coughed at all if she had to do it that way, Joe reflected, a little later. It would have been better to have reached over and poked him in the back. Those three distinct little hacks were so patently artificial that everybody noticed them, and then Joe felt foolish because he knew Anne felt foolish. And it was quite unnecessary anyway, because he had spotted the limestone wall at least half a mile down the road.
Continued on page 86
Continued from page 9
The place stood between the road and the lake at a spot where the smooth pavement took a sweeping curve toward the water. Joe looked over the wall as the car approached. A fine old grey stone house under the trees. Not too large, yet large enough. Square-looking. Goodlooking, as if it would last. It seemed a part of the place, as if house and shrubs and wall and trees had all grown up together.
The spring sunshine was warm upon the front of it now. Joe could see the scaling paint on the French doors. They needed attention, he thought. There was ivy trailing up over the roof from the back, and up the wide stone chimney. There would be thick, glossy leaves on that in the summer. And those things that looked like rose bushes, they needed trimming out—
Joe shook himself, aware that Anne would be watching him. He could feel her eyes burning two little holes in the back of his neck.
“By Jove!” exclaimed Charley, slowing down. Over his shoulder: “Hey, Marge! The sign’s still up. Old Scrutton hasn’t made good on this yet. If I had this— There’s a buy, Joe. It—”
“How’s the real estate business these days, anyway?” asked Joe hastily, fumbling for cigarettes.
OF COURSE they had to ask the Simmons in, after such a lovely drive, and the Simmons surprised them by accepting. It was nine o’clock before they left, and by that time Billy was cross from excitement. It took an hour to get him to sleep. Then there were the dishes to do. So Joe didn’t have an opportunity to speak to Anne that night.
On Monday night Anne was all agog about a new dress. She could take that old polka dot, she declared busily, and that white thing from last summer, and dye them that lovely new green shade and have a dress out of them. Joe, watchful-eyed, thought that was an idea.
Several times that evening he looked up, prepared to “say something and get it over with,” but each time Anne was so busy and happy that he hesitated. If she’d forgotten the house business or put it out of her mind, he certainly didn’t want to revive the topic. Better leave it strictly alone, he decided finally.
On Tuesday night Joe began to feel at ease again. There hadn’t been a word said about the house. Anne was fussing and humming and swearing a little now and then under her breath at some shapeless pieces of green cloth. Billy was bothering her, and Joe knew that she enjoyed that.
Joe settled deeper in his chair and sighed. That was that. Now he could settle down in the old routine. It was time he got at that correspondence course again.
On Wednesday night Anne was waiting for him at the top of the stairs. He knew as soon as he saw her that something was up.
She was fairly dancing with pent-up excitement. Enthusiasm leaped in her eyes—and perhaps a little trepidation. Billy gazed at her with awe-stricken eyes and sucked his thumb unhindered.
“Hello, darling! Oh, Joey, I thought you’d never come. Where’ve you been all this time? I’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting.”
Before he knew it her arm was linked in his, he was bustled in, his hat was swept of! and he was pushed down in his big chair, overcoat and all, Anne on his knees. She ruffled his hair, opened her
mouth to speak, hugged him instead, tried again, and fell to tracing spirals on his coat lapel with her forefinger.
“Joey,” she said breathlessly, glancing from the finger to his eyes and back again, “I’ve done it.”
“Done what?” Then suddenly he knew. The house!
“I know you’re going to be awfully cross, or at least you would be if you didn’t love me so much, wouldn’t you, Joey? And you’ll just love the old place when you see the inside of it. It’s—it's lovely, Joey. It’s going to be so easy to have it, and we’ll be so happy there, and Billy will like it so much. I’m so happy about it I could cry. And it’s going to be fun paying for it, don’t you think, Joey? Only thirty-five a month and the taxes. That won’t be so much, will it, Joey dear? Oh, and Mr. Scrutton let me have it for forty-five hundred when I was able to put up so much cash—”
“Cash?” said Joe in a strangled voice. A blackness was welling up inside him.
“Yes, dear.” The finger was fumbling frantically at the buttonhole of his lapel now; the head was bowed so that he saw only the tumbled marcel before his face. “I gave him a cheque for fifteen hundred, Joey dear, and he said he thought it was awfully nice of you to have a joint account. And he showed me how to borrow five hundred on my insurance policy, so I could pay him two thousand down. There’s some things for you to sign. And we can move any time, Joey.”
She was looking up now. The little conscious corner of Joe’s brain knew that her eyes were brimming, that she was laughing with little gurgling noises and patting his chest with flat palms like a little girl.
The blackness in him welled up and swept over him. For a fleeting instant he wanted to double his fist and strike Anne. He snatched her up in his arms and leaped to his feet. Turning about, he pushed her into the chair and began pacing up and down. Once, when Billy got in the way, he snarled.
Fifteen hundred—gone. Four years savings, four years hard work. This was what he got for all he’d done, all he’d tried to do. This was the result of trying to be a good husband, to be kind, considerate. He’d tried to shape their economic course along the best lines, to manage things so they would get the most from life. And now, this.
The joint savings account, for instance. That had been a gesture, the nice thing to do when newly married. And Anne had known that was all it was; that she was supposed to consult him before chequing. It had been taken for granted. Now she’d gone and shot it all on that hole in the bush. He bit his lips to keep from shouting curses.
The endowment policy, too. That had been taken out in her name merely because she was three years younger, to get the cheaper rate. Really it was his. He’d been allowing the dividends to accumulate, paying up the premiums promptly on the dot, so they’d have a nice little sum in about twenty years. Now that was gone, too.
And all for a foolish, girlish whim. All because she was too rattlebrained, hadn’t grey matter enough to look ahead, to plan, to build for the future. All because he hadn’t put his foot down hard. Keeping up with the Joneses; that was what it was. Just because that fool Charley Simmons hadn’t a brain in his head . . .
He strode up and down the little living room, hands gripped behind his back. Supper was partly laid. It didn’t matter. Dimly he knew that Anne rose and stole to the bedroom with Billy. After that he could hear her occasionally using her handkerchief, or hear Billy’s quickly stifled whimpering.
Continued on page 38
Continued from page 36
Well, he supposed he could put a stop to it yet. They couldn’t do much without his consent. But he wouldn’t. He didn’t care now. If that was all the support he got, if his advice and his judgment didn’t count for more than that, let them go ahead. It didn’t matter. He didn’t care.
Striding pa:.t his place at the table, his eye caught an array of documents, carefully spread out by his plate. He stopped. There was Anne’s schoolgirl hand, under the blank space where he was to sign. Well, he’d sign fast enough. Let them take the consequences. Maybe in a few years, when they were down and out, they’d see that he’d known what he was talking about. He slammed a chair into position and jerked out his fountain pen.
Stalking in'o the bedroom where Billy and Anne huddled on the counterpane, he thumped the papers down on the dresser.
“There!” he grated. “There you are. Now go ahead. And when you make up your minds to move, let me know, will you?”
He saw Anne stiffen as he wheeled and left the room.
That voice—his own voice it was— speaking to Anne like that, startled him. It jerked him up short like a punch on the jaw. When he reached his chair there was a lump in his throat, moisture in his eyes. He felt weak, washed out.
ALTHOUGH it was mid-May, Joe 1 1 claimed it was more like June. A bright, sparkling, dew-washed Sunday morning. A happy, springtime Sunday morning.
They had been roused at seven by Billy, but for once they didn’t mind rising early. The world was so clean and lovely. They heard the matutinal bird chorus, saw the green creeping over the smiling earth, felt the pulse of new, up-springing life everywhere.
Breakfast where the sun shone through an open French door; toast and marmalade and coffee. Then irresistibly out-ofdoors, where they had measured the tulips, examined Joe’s new mortar in the wall, deplored the fact that the hollyhocks wouldn’t bloom until next year, argued lustily about the color the lilacs were going to be, inspected with due admiration a bunch of hepaticas from the woods across the road that now were strangled in a chubby hand, and in general were thoroughly and completely happy. Anne thought this was a peony; Joe was sure it was a sowthistle. Those little things coming through the ground behind the kitchen were morning glories—no, they were wild cucumbers.
Anne was on her knees now, her faded smock pressed into the sod beside the long trench where sweet peas had been planted last night. Joe squatted beside her while
they discussed the probable date when the seedlings should appear. A fat robin, sleek and proud in his new red waistcoat, approached in a series of tilting runs and snatched a worm from the end of the trench, only to be tremendously frightened and outraged by a whooping Billy.
The telephone shrilled in the house— the first call since it had been installed yesterday. Joe hurried in.
It was Charley Simmons. How was Farmer Joe today? How were things out in the sticks anyway? And say, how about a little spin in the new bus this afternoon?
Well, that would be fine, Joe thought. Or look; how would it be if the Simmons came out and had tea? Anne had been talking about it that morning. She could put the card table out under the chestnut, and the kids could romp while they chatted. And besides, Joe wanted to show Charley around the place.
“That’s an idea,” agreed Charley. “It must be pretty nice out there now.”
Joe thought he detected a wistful note in Charley’s voice.
“Well, yes, it is nice,” he said. “I like it all right, and Anne and the kid are nutty about it. That’s the big thing for me.”
“Imagine you away out there. I didn’t think you’d ever make a move.”
“Well, I tell you.” Joe frowned over the telephone with masculine importance. Out through the window he could see Anne remonstrating with Billy about something. “I tell you, Charley, I thought it was time for a change. The kid had to have a place to play; it wasn’t fair to him to keep him cooped up in an apartment house. Anne was pretty fed up, too, and I could see she’d set her heart on this place. We had a little cash tucked away— enough for a down payment—so I said to myself ‘Why not?’ No use hanging on to the coin till you’re too old to enjoy it, eh?”
“You’re darn tootin’,” said Charley cordially. “That’s the spirit that makes the world go round. Well, we’ll be seein’ you this afternoon, then. About three or so?”
“You bet. So long, Charley.”
Before he left the house, Joe filled and lighted his pipe, and just to make the picture complete, he slipped into his old smoking jacket. Then, hands jammed in jacket pockets and emitting puffs of smoke, he strolled leisurely across the lawn. The old squire looking over his estate of a fine Sunday morning.
He removed his pipe to quarrel for a moment with a sputtering red squirrel in the knobby old oak outside the wall, and finally joined Anne.
“Say, Anne,” he said, tamping down the ash of his pipe earnestly, “how would it be if I took my two weeks in June this year instead of September?”