FICTION

WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE

MARTHA BANNING THOMAS February 15 1933
FICTION

WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE

MARTHA BANNING THOMAS February 15 1933

WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE

MARTHA BANNING THOMAS

OH, MY GOSH! Say, would you believe it? Just the same.” He leaned—a little, neat man with grey hair—resting one elbow on a fence post, his cheek in his hand. He shook his head from side to side in the bewildering joy of recognizing familiar things. “Even this fence post.” He bent his head to peer more closely at it, and felt blood rushing into his eyelids. “Yes, by golly, here it is! Alf's name as clear as day. He cut his thumb awful that day carving those letters.”

A June wind went through the orchard. Small, polished leaves flicked against other leaves. Tall grass rippled under the light-handed stroke of the breeze. Beyond the orchard was the river, laid like a blue sword upon the length of the valley. And beyond the river was the far reach of hills, and above the hills the great, slow clouds, with cheeks puffed full of wind.

The man sighed and took his fill of looking. Then, between apple tree branches, he glimpsed a small boat on the river. She carried two hoisting derricks fore and aft, and lay snug and low in the water like a dirty swan. A geyser of smoke shot out of her stack. By listening intently lie could hear the faint pulse of her engine.

With a sudden, blind fumbling, he loosed the middle rail of the fence, bent double and tumbled through to the other side. Tall grass tickled his ears. One of his hands clutched a thistle. “Darn!” he mumbled and, picking himself up, ran toward the river. Once he shouted, “Hey . . . Cap’n Noah!”

He arrived at the edge of the orchard just in time to see the packet nose her way into a wharf slip farther up shore. He watched several figures spring to catch the lines. Then they became busy unloading whatever was destined for that port.

"Well, well, if that don’t beat all!” he cried aloud. “The old Marietta steaming up and down just as she used to do when 1 was a boy; cargo of shingles, teapots, crackers, fruit, and Lord knows what.” He squinted and watched for another ten minutes, then walked slowly back through the orchard. The sun lay in bright patches on the stone wall. Vines clung to grey boulders. A wren strode forth from a nest near at hand, chose an important position, and delivered himself of joyous song. A bumblebee banged against his cheek.

Vesty, his sister, stood at the bar-way, holding up his hat and waving it. He had forgotten to pick it up when he tumbled through.

"Hurry up, Lifey,” she called. “We ain’t got your city ways here. Supper’s been ready fifteen minutes.”

Vesty was a brown, capacious woman with an easy smile and waiting eyes. She had lived all her life in the same house in which she had been bom. She just stayed on there year after year. He looked at her now and thought her pleasantly handsome. "Fleshed up some, and older, but an awful nice woman.”

W'hen supper was over, he helped her with the dishes. He liked the touch of the clean, worn, linen dish towels in his hand. He polished the plates by a circular motion, and arranged the steel knives in the kitchen table drawer. A kettle whined softly on the stove. Vesty made a fine lather of suds in the dishpan. There was a robust, reassuring simplicity in everything she did. He liked it. This was home.

“That’s a mighty fine geranium you got there, Vesty.” “Yes, ain’t she tall? I’ve had ’er for three years. Always think I'll set ’er out in the spring, and never do. She’s dim clear to the top of the window.”

They finished the dishes and went out to the wide, single step which served as a porch. Vesty sat in a low, reedbottomed rocker. Her brother chose the step for his seat.

He knew that soon she would begin to ask questions about his life at home, especially about Clarine. He wished she wouldn’t; not on this first night home after thirty years, with the crickets tuning up, and a light mist rising on the meadows.

“These big shells, Vesty—they been here all this time? The ones Cap’n Ferris brought you from Suipatra?”

“Yes. I wash ’em up every spring and set ’em out on the rock border. They don’t grow old like us, Lifey.” Her voice was pleasant, delicately regretful.

Age has its fling and Youth its laugh

“\ou ain’t changed a mite,” he hastened to assure her. “Just as handsome as ever.”

Don t give me that silly talk. I’ve changed a lot, and so have you.”

He was silent. The sun still rode in high splendor. Soon it would dip behind the hills, and this part of the valley would darken and grow cool.

“How’s Clarine?” she asked.

It had come. A thin film of distaste covered the roof of his mouth.

Oh, she’s fine.” He stared at the saw-tooth tops of spruce trees on the hills. He would think no more of Clarine than he could help.

“Lives with you all the time?”

“Yes,” he answered. This was not exactly true. He lived with her, in her house.

“She never thought of marryin’ again?”

“No, no. She’s like the rest of us, I reckon. One mate is enough. After her ma went, somehow I could never seem to think of marrying, either.”

“Was her husband real comfortable off?”

“Yes, he was.” It was Clarine’s husband’s money which was keeping them. Of course he had a little money, but not enough to live as Clarine thought necessary.

Now in the coming dark, Lifey seemed to see her dark eyes teasing him ; her glossy black hair, her tomato-red lips, her lean modishness. He smelled Clarine—a cloud oí humid fragrance which floated about her every movement. Above and around this vision he heard the radio the vaultlike voices of the announcers—and through this noise he heard more noise coming up from the street below, the screaming of car brakes suddenly applied, boys yelling extras . . . And he scarcely three hours home after thirty years.

“Does she do all the cooking, Lifey?”

“No, we have a maid.”

“A what?”

“A young Swede girl to help.”

“Must be nice to live easy like that. You been luckier than the rest of us. Hut then, as I tell folks, you was ambitious. You went away from here young and made something of yourself.”

“Clarine’s always been a good daughter,” Lifey added dutifully. “Mighty good.”

High above their heads a gull sailed through the lambent swirl of pearly clouds. The sun, now hidden from their eyes, silvered the feathers under his wings.

"Well”—Vesty gave a gusty sigh—“we have to take it as it comes. Some stay; some go. I get terrible tired of this old shack. I know every creak in ’er from attic to cellar. Nothin’ to do but scrub and mend and bake, feed the chickens, milk the cow, make butter when she comes in fresh. Is they any movies near you, Lifey?”

“Gosh, yes! Dozens.” He tried to hide his disgust.

“I ain’t been to one in three years. No way of goin’.” Vesty’s voice did not complain so much as state a fact.

He felt amazed. Vesty grumbling about this delicious peace so bitterly denied him.

A boat whistled.

“Guess likely that’s the Marietta,” he said, hoping to shunt conversation on to other tracks. “I watched er going up the river from the orchard. Guess likely she’s turned to come down again. Is Cap’n Noah still aboard of ’er?”

“Yes. He ain’t never done no different."

They heard the whistle once more. Lifey wished that he could go upstairs to bed at once and hear, as he had heard when a boy, the Marietta ploughing by. the small waves of her wake rushing up over the stones on the shore, the faint vibration of her engine.

Sweet clover perfume hung in the air.

“Oh. my gosh.” he breathed to himself, “thirty years missing this—and it’s just the same!”

Next morning he pulled on great, thick country shoes bought purposely for his vacation. He washed in cold spring water poured from a pink crockery pitcher into a pink crockery bowl. Vesty left hot shaving water outside his door. He had not felt so clean and eager for years. Then he climbed down the back stairs and ate fourteen griddlecakes for breakfast. Vesty served them in piles of six—brown discs of paper thinness. He did not wait to help her with the dishes, but posted off down the road to see Alf.

The sun shone. Birds sang. An ox lumbered by, gazing at him out of a great mournful eye. Wild roses burned on every hedge. “Darned if they don’t look like they each one had a candle inside.” he cried delightedly.

Alf rattled Lifey’s ribs by a hard thump on the back.

"By gum, here's a city dude for ye !” he yelled to his wife, who came smiling to the kitchen door, wiping her hands on her apron.

The men grinned at one another and then Alf said:

“I got some weedin’ to do in my potatoes. Want to come àlong?”

They crossed the road and walked at the edge of a lively brook. Here were Lilliputian shoals of sand shining under the water.

“Same old brook fussing along, Alf.” Lifey stopped to look at it. Silver currents of water jostled little pebbles. And there were deep hoofprints of cattle that came to drink. "Remember how we used to sail shingles here, Alf? Mine were always named the Marietta, and every darned one of ’em ran aground on these sand flats.”

Alf laughed.

"Ye never whittled ’em pointed enough in the bows, Lifey. They was too blunt.

You used to storm at me terrible when I told you.”

“Yes, they were too blunt.

I knew it, but I wouldn’t change them to suit you for anything. You knew too much, Alf; always making smart speeches about this and that.”

They walked on, the farmer leading the way.

“He’s thin,” thought Lifey,

“and I never noticed how lx)wed his legs were before.

Maybe they got kind of sprung out carrying those everlasting heavy bags of grain.”

They reached the potato patch and set about weeding.

Lifey began to see that his boyhood friend looked upon him as an outsider; some one who had gone away and come back again, a little remote with the estrangement of success. This piqued him, and he tried to ignore it.

The river shone. The tide ran by, and Alf said that soon there would be wild strawberries; they was a little mite late this year.

Lifey grew’ warm with exercise. His arms ached.

He wondered why Alf did not take a minute to rest. But the farmer w’as as methodically engrossed as ever. At last Lifey threw down his hoe, smiling an apology.

"Not used to this kind of work, Alf. Sort of catches me in the shoulder.”

He sat on a wann grey stone and, clasping one knee between his hands, threw back his head to look at the sky.

The shrill whistle of the boat came to their ears.

"There goes the Marietta now, startin’ across the bay again. She tied up last night just below here,” said Alf. “Remember how you always wanted to be cap’n of ’er?”

"Wished 1 had !” Lifey exploded, and Alf let out a guffaw of good-humored disbelief.

Lifey did not feel like working any more that morning, so he wandered back to the road.

“Wish I could live here the rest of my life,” he thought. “I might buy the old home from Vesty. That would give her some money, and she could keep house for me.” He stood still a moment, guiltily occupied with this new treachery. “Why not? Why not, after all?”

He thought about his mother, busy in the kitchen; her big, unconcerned way of doing things. Her broad, fat loaves of bread bulging over the tins. That bread, and sweet butter with wild strawberries and tea had been feast enough for anyone.

But what about Clarine? She was the boss. Clarine was. Didn’t really need him no more than a toad needs a feather boa. It was her house, her car, her radio, her everything. She managed the whole works, and darned well, too. But would she let him go? Would she? She would not!

He found an ox-sled made of stout grey-silvered wood. It stood under a tree, and here he sat down. He had been evading Clarine ever since he had been here, pushing her out of his mind. Perhaps he’d better tackle her now and be done with it.

He felt the rough wood of the sled. He knew just howit w’ould go into the woods next winter, how it would sound, creaking over the snow, coming home piled high with logs which would be split into stove lengths against the winter. By golly! These were the important things in life—heat, food, shelter. If you had to hustle for them yourself, you got next to things. You appreciated your house, your fire, your vegetables, your hard-won comforts.

“I’m home. And I’ll stay where I belong. I’m hungry for it. I’ve been starved for years.” He reached down to pick up a twig, and began snapping off nervous inches of it. “Clarine’s got plenty of money for herself, and plenty of friends for company. Clarine can go to the devil!”

Then he *got up and walked home. That night he lay awake a long time. Light from a narrow moon drained through the white ruffled curtains, and lay on the silk patchwork quilt at the foot of his bed. His mother had made every stitch of that quilt by hand. He remembered how she had sat in her sewing rocker with the vivid thing swirling about her knees, and how he had touched it with rough fingers, and how the silk caught and clung to them. He heard the soft passage of wind through the apple trees. A cock crowed. “The crazy little son-of-a-gun—thinks it’s morning.”

“Vesty makes elegant griddle-cakes,” he said aloud. But there was the Clarine business still nibbling at his thoughts. I lis daughter was thirty-five now, a widow with a prosperous bank account. She was living exactly as she liked. She would not miss him. He thought of a certain afternoon not so long ago. “Daddy’s a dear,” he overheard Clarine telling a friend. “Growing a little deaf, but so wonderful!” She had laughed. “We’re great chums, you know.” He had been passing through the hall trying to escape while Clarine was having three women in for bridge. He had meant to go right on out, but he didn’t. “I think it’s so possible for the young and the old to be companionable, don’t you? With just a little thought and care?”

“You're marvellous to him.” That fat voice belonged to Mrs. Darling, who wore crystal earrings that tinkled like wind bells.

"Not a bit of it.” Clarine laughed. “He needs me, you know. Really quite dependent. I have to look after his clothes, tie his neckties, see that he has his daily walk and some diversion. Since he’s given up work, he’s like a sweet lost baby.” There was a purr of approval. “As long as he lives, I shall keep his house and look after him. Some day perhaps”—he heard a light sigh—“I shall have a small, convenient apartment.”

Then he had tiptoed stealthily out to the front door, sick and raging. Before he reached the comer drug store he had decided to come back to his birthplace for a vacation, and alone.

The old and the young. What did she mean? He was fond of her, naturally. But why not make a real break? Have it out with her, once and for all? Settle down here where he rightfully belonged. Vesty would be delighted. Alf would be glad—bless his bandy legs. And some day, Lifey chuckled to himself, he would take a trip across the bay on the Marietta!

Next morning he went with Alf to hunt up some stray cows in the pasture. He wore his thick country shoes.

“Got a little mite tired weedin’ yesterday, didn’t ye?” asked Alf as they started off together. “Ye ain’t got wonted to it yet—settin’ round like you be, with nothin’ to do. You got it lucky, young feller!” He twinkled. “Daughter to look after ye and all. My children up and left me the minute they was growed up. Married young, and now

they’re raisin’ families of their own. I got to help them, instead of their helpin’ me.”

They were two hours rounding up the cows. One had calved, and proved fractious. By dint of great strategy they finally headed her into the road, the calf wabbling on long legs at her side.

Lifey was exhausted. The heat had been oppressive in the woods. No breeze, and clouds of mosquitoes at every step. Alf looked fresh, hot and cheerful.

“Can’t keep up with him yet,” Lifey counselled himself. “But just wait and see. I used to beat him all hollow running.” His heart thumped at the thought of what he was planning to telegraph his daughter next morning.

On the way home he drank a dipper of cold water at Alf’s house. Vesty gave him fried chicken, soda biscuits, and baked apples for dinner. Once he was greatly tempted to confide in his sister. “Say, how would you —” he began.

“What?” she called from the pantry. “I dropped a tin and didn’t hear.”

In a panic, he withdrew his announcement and substituted a question.

“How would you like to have a car of your own to run around in, Vesty?”

She returned to the kitchen and looked at him, saying nothing. And he knew that his suggestion seemed monstrous to her.

“How would I like a purple velvet dress and gold slippers?” she retorted with tart humor.

Next day it rained. When Lifey woke up he lay there, contentedly listening. “Sounds like ten thousand clocks all ticking at once,” he mused, pleased with his simile. A robin, intoxicated by the sweet summer rain, flung throatfuls of song up in the air. Lifey felt young and excited, the way he used to feel every morning when he woke as a boy. He sat up and shoved back the covers in a rush of energy.

“You ain’t goin’ to walk through this mess o’ slop all the way to Ferris!” his sister protested when, after breakfast, he put on his raincoat.

“That’s just what I’m aimin’ to do. Ain’t much of a walk. I got an errand there.”

“Can’t it wait until tomorrow? Alf might be drivin’ over. Or you could telephone.”

“No, it can’t wait. I’ll be back by noon anyhow.”

He walked briskly the three miles to Ferris, whistling old tunes like Roll On, Silver Moon, and We Hunted And We Hallo'd, And The First Thing We Did Find. He had not thought of them for years. The way seemed short. He stopped to call at several houses, and had the fun of surprising boyhood friends whom he had not yet seen. They greeted him with warmth and astonishment, and invited him, even at that hour of the day, into the chill of shut-up parlors, instead of giving him a cordial chair in the kitchen.

Continued on page 41

Continued from page 16

At Ferris he sent a wire to Clarine.

“Look up small convenient apartment for yourself at once. I’m staying on here indefinitely. Please send my clothes. Father.”

He hesitated over “Letter Following.” No, he wouldn’t write. Just this. He would not risk an argument with her through the mails.

The days flowed on—sunny, flawless, beneficent. Lifey looked up some secondhand cars without telling Vesty. Once he went to a country auction with Alf. He saw there a woman he once courted as a girl before he met Clara, his wife. She was ruddy and jolly, this old-time friend, and her handclasp made his fingers ache. They laughed together over the time he spilled her out of a “cutter” into a snowbank. Yet here, too, Lifey felt a tinge of reserve. Not yet had he become a genuine part of the immunity. The years he had been away »till separated him from the life to which he ,iad returned.

“Well, you been lucky,” the woman had beamed at him. “A fine daughter to look ifter ye. Vesty’s been tellin ’ me how

•omfortable ye was.”

Lifey smiled and changed the subject.

He waited for a telegram from Clarine. He thought he’d surely hear next day. He dreaded, yet listened for, the telephone bell. His daughter would be mad, mad as fury. “ ‘Like a lost baby.’ Thundering cats!” He stiffened his anxiety by the remembrance of his rage at her.

A week passed. No letter. Not a word. He grew nervous, then angry. Vesty looked at him out of puzzled eyes.

“What ails you, Lifey? You act kind of upset, as if somethin’ was rilin’ ye.”

One morning, several days later, he sat in the open door of Alf’s bam. Alf was mending harness. Hens clucked busily in the yard, trailing fan-spread broods of baby chicks. Alf’s wife came out of the kitchen door with a basket of clothes, which she set with a thump on the ground.

“Nice mornin’, Lifey,” she called. “How y’re livin’?” Soon the wind was blowing into the pillowslips and flapping at the towels.

“Gosh, Alf, you don’t know how good this is!” he mumbled.

Alf’s thick fingers pushed a needle through the leather.

“You don’t know how to appreciate things, Alf, till you’ve been away for years, like I have, and then come home.”

Five little pigs rocked across the yard, their legs rigid with fatness.

“I may”—Lifey spoke with thrilling caution—“I may just settle down and stay here for good. Can’t tell for sure.”

Alf did not seem quite as impressed as Lifey hoped he would be.

“So?” he smiled. “Well, that’s a good idea, if ye can stand it away from the city. Real glad to have ye—particularly,” he grinned, “if ye’ll help me weed the potato patch.” Then in a changed tone: “Why, here comes Vesty runnin’ up the lane. What she in such a hurry about?”

Lifey got up and walked to meet his sister. He knew what she was running about. Vesty had something yellow in her hand.

“What you got, Vesty?” he called, feeling a queer cold sting in his nostrils, the anaesthetic of excitement.

There seemed to be a certain reluctance in Vesty’s approach, now that she saw her brother.

“Come on, Vesty, give it here!”

But she stopped a few feet away from him.

“They said they’d rather send it on paper than say it over the telephone,” she said. “They’re real kind of nice that way. They called me up first and said it was cornin’ by Sadie Evert, who was drivin’ by. They hailed her, and sent it on right away to the house.”

He looked at Vesty intently, and began to wonder why her eyes glistened with a pitying softness. Now she gave him the yellow envelope, and he swiftly speculated on what message Clarine could have sent, which made the telegraph operator wish to send the message rather than telephone it.

He opened the telegram, aware of Vesty’s heavy breathing. She had run most of the way over to Alf’s.

Lifey read the wide, printed words.

‘‘Clarine’s gone to California,” he announced. “Seems she’s married to a rich feller out there. No one I ever heard tell of, but she has lots of friends I don’t know. Must have done it awful quick after I left. She’s havin’ some one send all my clothes up here.”

He saw Alf’s scraggy mustache move up and down over his mouth in a ridiculous gape.

“Well, by gorry!” chuckled the farmer. “She kind of stole a march on ye, Lifey, the minute your back was turned. Never can tell about women critters. They’re about as stiddy as lightnin’.”

Vesty was looking at him with a deep, melting glance.

“You come along home with me,” she murmured. “You come home with me.” She reached out a big, brown hand as if to coax a tired child home to its dinner.

She talked to him as they walked along the road.

“You stay right here with me, Lifey. I’m lonesome, and I’d be real pleased to have ye. I been meanin’ to speak of it. but I didn’t want to be selfish—you with such a fine place with Clarine, and all. But now things is different. Ye can help real handy around the place here. It’s kind of right somehow for ye to be here again, where ye was born and brought up—don't ye think so, Lifey?”

“Yes, yes,” he agreed absent-mindedly, “yes, ’tis, Vesty.”

“I’ll put up an airtight stove in your room soon’s it gits cold. We’ll have it all as nice as can be. I was sayin’ to Alf’s wife only yesterday, I says, ‘My land, wouldn’t it be good to have Lifey stay along o’ me?’ ”

He knew she was trying to comfort him, but he could think only of his daughter. Married, gone to California! Had she received his wire, and then hustled out there as fast as she could? Or had she scooted the minute he left home, knowing all the time, while she was eagerly helping him to get ready for his vacation, that she was going to do this thing?

That night he lay in bed and listened to the waves mumbling among the stones on the shore. A train whistled. He felt free— deserted and forlorn.

June . . . July. Warm beauty clothed the valley. Cows dotted the salt-marsh meadows. The Marietta plied her steady course, bringing her cargoes from across the bay. Once, after much canny persuasion from Vesty, Lifey took a trip with Cap’n Noah. The water was rough after a heavy breeze. Lifey was quite ill, and the old, leather-cheeked captain jeered at him in high good humor.

Vesty was alight with glowing purpose. The amount of refurbishing she accomplished kept her brother in a constant state of apprehension. One morning he found that he could not step on the back porch because it had been freshly painted. Another time he discovered that his things had been moved from his upstairs bedroom to one on the first floor, because Vesty was fiercely hammering down a new matting.

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Flapjacks were never more toothsome; biscuits bloomed in the oven like brownpetalled flowers. And Lifey grew steadily more sombre and reflective. Clarine had sailed off the moment she got the chance, and left him to shift for himself.

Many a dish of gossip at this time was served in the neighborhood.

“Of course he likes it here and all, bein’ his boyhood home, but it’s tough luck, his i daughter lightin’ out and leavin’ him that way. Young folks is terrible thoughtless.”

Vesty was inflated by melancholy importance.

Lifey’s enjoyment of summer weather, of industrious attention from his sister, was clouded by the singular behavior of Clarine. His pride was bruised. He thought of her constantly, hoping each day for a letter with more definite news. But none came.

He got up early in the mornings to milk the cow. He mixed the proper food for the growing chicks. He went on errands. He even helped Alf a bit. But he did not buy a car. He could not drive himself, and he feared to trust his sister’s energetic manner of going at things. She’d dump them in the ditch or bang into a hay cart.

July dissolved into August. Haytime came. There were delicious evenings of cool air shimmering in the moonlight—and the pert whistle of the Marietta tooting up the river.

“Have ye heard from Clarine yet?” Vesty would ask him patiently.

“No.”

“Well, I call it pretty small potatoes of her!” flared the woman. “A-hoppin’ off the minute your back was turned! Of course.” she added quickly, “it’s awful nice for me. Are ye comfortable, Lifey? I’ve done all I could.”

“I’m comfortable,” he said. Vesty was a mighty good woman, but, after all, he had to stand by his daughter. “Time she had a vacation from me, I guess,” he said easily. “She’s had me pretty steady on her hands ever since her ma died. I really don’t blame her none. She’s a handsome woman, Clarine is. Men like her. I wish you could see how elegant she dresses !”

Clarine came for him the last of September.

“Hello, dad,” she called from her roadster. “Some sunburned hick you’ve turned into.”

Her white teeth gleamed between her red lips. Her dark eyes shone with teasing good humor.

“Ready to come home? Or do you want to stay on here and gamer—I believe that’s the word —gamer in the harvest?”

A modish black hat curved closely about her smooth head. Her heels were incredible, her stockings mere cobwebs.

Lifey was so glad to see her that he j tripped over a rake, and the handle flew I back and hit him a smart crack on the shins. He dragged her out of the car. He kissed her, and hustled her into the kitchen.

“Vesty!” he bellowed. “Where are you? Here’s Clarine come to fetch me home!”

A FEW days later Lifey sat down to write a letter. He was in his own room at his own desk in his daughter’s house. Clarine was smiling at him.

“Vesty makes the finest flapjacks in the world,” he sighed aloud. He gazed off, seeing that faraway, beloved home of his boyhood beside the river. “And, my, wasn’t it grand to hear the Marietta swishing up and down again, just the same as when I was a boy !”

His daughter laughed indulgently and left him.

“You write your letter, dad. Some of the gang are coming in for bridge.”

Lifey began his letter.

“Dear Vesty:

We had a safe journey home. Clarine travels like a fire engine, but we didn’t hit anything. All as usual here. Clarine isn’t married. It was all a joke. She says she knew by the wire I sent her that I was feeling like I couldn’t be free and do as I wanted to. So she thought up being married, and going to California as the best way for me to try it out and see for myself.

It’s real nice being home again, and I’ll stay on here, I guess. I know you meant well, Vesty, when you asked me to live with you, and I like it there, but I’ve been away from home too long; I’d be lonesome. This seems like home to me now. I got a radio for company, and stores, and movies near by. Next

winter you must come to visit me and see how nice it is.

Take care of yourself, and remember me to Alf’s folks.

Affectionately.

Lifey.

P. S. I enclose a cheque to buy yourself a car with. Get Alf to teach you how to drive her. But be careful. You’ll get around a lot more, and can go over to the movies at Ferris.

Could you spare me ma’s patchwork quilt? I’d like to have it on my bed here. I left my second-best pair of pants in the closet.”