GENERAL ARTICLES

Solon Low

B. T. RICHARDSON April 15 1945
GENERAL ARTICLES

Solon Low

B. T. RICHARDSON April 15 1945

TOO MUCH AMOR

When, at 14, a woman is disillusioned by a man it’s pretty hard— In fact, it's sklonhish

LAURA MAE QUANCE

BREAKFAST at our house has become a delirious affair. This is due to father’s alarm clock, which is eccentric because of extreme old age. Sometimes it goes at five in the morning, calling forth loud words from father, none of which he could print in the Friar’s Point Times, of which he is editor. Sometimes it waits until 7.30, which is half an hour too late, and then blows its top like a three-alarm fire. All this is probably very hard on father’s nerves.

This morning the alarm clock didn’t ring at all and father had to rely on his conscience to wake him. It was late. The element in the toaster had burned out, and mother said, “I’ve forgotten how we made toast before the era of toasters.” Father said, “You weren’t so helpless when we were first married,” and mother replied,

“That was before I got used to Jeanie With The Light-Brown Hair.”

Jeanie, etc., was our erstwhile cook, who left us one morning for a war plant. This,

naturally, did not add to the peace of our household.

Father said, “I can’t abide grapefruit without sugar,” and mother said, “Try salt. It gives it a zip.” “It’s a zip this one will struggle along without,” growled father, attacking said grapefruit in the nude, as it were.

I don’t want to give the impression that father Ls of a sklonkish disposition. I can remember when he positively shone with good humor and tolerance and similar virtues. That was before his ace reporter went off to war, and Hicks, the linotype man, joined up, and when father didn’t have to print the casualty Lists, many of which contain names of boys we know.

At this moment who should come gliding in but Rissa. Rissa never breakfasts with the family. I gave her a penetrating look. Rissa—in case you don’t know—is “divinely tall and divinely fair,” at least that’s what the local men say. She is, without doubt, our town’s most outstanding whistle bait. That she is my sister has nothing to do with it. We have never let our relationship inhibit us.

“To what do we owe this visitation?” father enquired politely.

Rissa smiled vaguely and folded into her chair. Rissa has been very vague ever since she and Flight Lieut. Warwick Mitchell got engaged.

“Wick and I are going to be married Saturday,” said she.

“It seems to me I’ve heard that song before,” 1 murmured.

“Mother,” Rissa sighed, “must Binkie wear that atrocious sweater? It makes her look like a colt.”

Rissa hardly ever notices me except to make some disparaging remark, in the stinky way of older sisters. After all I can’t help being 14, which I seem to have been forever.

Just then Mr. Tompkins, the car-pool driver, honked at the gate. Father exploded out of hLs chair. Ike and Winston, Matilda’s latest kittens, got, unfortunately, under his feet. Cats and father went into a spin. Father yelled, “Binkie, I thought I told you to give those infernal cats away . . .” The

kittens headed for the kitchen with their tails like brushes, and the door banged behind father. The house shuddered, and settled again on its foundations.

“Well!” said mother. “Oh, yes. You were saying something, Rissa dear.”

“I said that Wick and I are going to be married Saturday.”

“Dear me,” said mother vaguely. “ThLs makes three times, doesn’t it?”

THE first time Wick and Rissa had announced their engagement an impasse had occurred because, two days before the wedding, Wick had to make a trip to the Pacific Coast. There he stayed, all tied up in official red tape, for months and months, while Rissa wasted away to a mere echo. It was too horrific. And Wick wouldn’t permit Rissa to go out there because, he said, there wasn’t a thing to live in.

But one day back he came and the wedding was set for the next week. I cringe, I simply cringe, to tell what happened next. Wick, I should explain, is the type of virile, well-bred EnglLshman you might find in a novel by Somerset Maugham, but scarcely ever anywhere else. Y ou just never think of him as the sort of person to whom mundane, everyday things can happen. Therefore it was so much more excruciating when he, of all people, had to get the mumps! So plebeian of him ! The whole camp was quarantined. Now here was Rissa again, all starry-eyed.

“Well,” said mother,” Saturday is not a lucky day for a wedding, but it would be even more unlucky to postpone it again. (I wondered if she could be as anxious to get Rissa married as I was. An older sLster is such an odious handicap.) After you’ve finished eating, Binkie, you’d better clean the silver.”

“Mur-dur! Again?” I groaned. “There’ll be nothing left of that silver pretty soon but the mention of it in great-grandmother’s will.”

No one paid any attention to me, of course, which I loathe, but which I am accustomed to.

“Wick and I,” said Rissa dreamily, “thought we’d keep it simple. No invitations. Just the ceremony here home.”

“You can’t do that!” I cried. “Not with all that glamour wrapped up in tissue paper upstairs.”

“You can’t indeed!” agreed Mother. “Not with all those presents sitting around, and people wondering all sorts of things by this time.”

That was on Monday. On Tuesday the invitations were out, and everybody in town was laying bets, for or against. You’d have thought it was opening day at the races. On Wednesday I finished the silver—again—and while I was sitting on the back porch, cleaning my hands, Taffy Wilkes came around the house. An adequate, if appalling, way to describe our relationship is to say we are “bosom pals.”

Taffy flopped on the steps like a dying flounder. Grace Ls not one of her main points.

“I just heard the news about Squeak,” said Taffy.

Squeak Travers, I may state, Ls my special province. We’ve grown up together. Squeak Ls deplorably ordinary —except in all those weird things at school that braid my brain, such as math, languages, etc. But since he joined the Air Cadets, 1 may say that his finesse has improved.

So I said casually, “News? Oh, yes, you mean about the . .

“Sure. The wedding, of course. HLs mother says he’s to be in the guard of honor.”

“I should think Wick would have hLs own officer friends do that,” I objected.

“That’s just it,” said Taffy. “Most of his friends have been moved from here. Capt. Treadway is to be best man, as, of course, you know. Isn’t he the swoony one, though!”

“Strictly Sinatra,” I agreed.

A1

T DINNER that night, when I refused seconds, Mother said anxiously, “I hope you aren’t going to be sick, Binkie. Just on the eve of everything.” “Oh, no,” I answered listlessly. “It’s just that if Squeak is old enough to be in the guard of honor, I don’t see why I can’t have some share of my own sister’s wedding.”

“Why, Binkie!” said RLssa, wide-eyed, “I didn’t suppose you cared. As a matter of fact Squeak isn’t to be in the guard. I think he’s to be an usher.”

“I was meaning to say something about that,” mother observed. “I don’t see why Binkie shouldn’t be in the bridal party. She’s fully as tall as Shirley or Betty.”

I couldn’t speak. Why, Shirley and Betty, the bridesmaids, must be old! At least 17. But RLssa said, calmly, “I’ve been thinking the same thing. There’s a blue net down in Anderson’s window, should be just about right for her. Do close your mouth, pet. You look too idiotic.”

To say that I was stunned would be a gross understatement. Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined this. At last they could see that I was growing up — that I was, in fact, a person. A whole new vista opened before me. Was it possible that I had stepped out of the bonds of juvenilism?

Mother was saying something else. I hadn’t been ILstening. Now two or three phrases penetrated the fog I was in. “. . . And in her letter today MavLs said they would be up for the wedding. I’m so pleased.”

Mavis? I pondered. That must be that old school friend of mother’s who had moved to Toronto. “Mother!” I cried, aghast. “Do you mean Mavis Hall-Browne?”

“But, of course,” said Mother.

I scarcely had the strength to breathe. “Is Worthington coming too?” I managed to ask.

“I imagine so. And the little British refugee, too, I think. MavLs says she’ll soon be returning to England. She’s been here since ’41. The refugee, I mean.”

“I can’t—I simply can’t—bear it if that void coupon comes here!” I moaned.

“Void coupon? What are you talking about?” said mother. “I warn you, Binkie, if Worthington HallBrowne comes I shall expect you to do jmur duty as hLs hostess.”

“Even if it warps me for life?” I entreated. And was ignored.

This Worthington boy was the biggest mistake in human form it has ever been my Lot to see. I hadn’t

seen him for three years, but I remembered that he had hair of a sticky shade of yellow, which he wore almost to his collar. His nose and neck were also long. He always walked with a mincing gait. When he talked he held his fingers up in airy little gestures. Our gang used to call him Sylvia, Sill for short. He often had a cold, or pimples, or both. All in all he was the saddest Sam you’d ever meet. Mother might as well have said that Hitler would be dropping in for tea.

As for the refugee kid, I confided my worst fears to Taffy. “She’ll probably tag us everywhere we go,” I gloomed. “Probably want to play with paper dolls.”

But even this bad news could not offset the positively unbearable ecstasy I experienced every time I thought of being bridesmaid or of wearing the blue net and tulle dress which even now had been purchased and was hanging in my closet upstairs.

BY FRIDAY the house was so clean you could see yourself coming and going. Even so, Mother kept dipping and gliding about the house like a swallow, talking to herself.

“My appointment for my hair is at 10,” she murmured. “John, you must leave the car for me. I have to meet the Hall-Brownes at one. They won’t have had lunch. Soup, cold meats and salad. Dinner tonight at Mrs. Travers. Dear Mrs. Travers, to take that off my hands. The flowers, the caterers—Binkie, you had better put fresh flowers in the guest rooms.” “Crickets!” I said. “What do you want to go and clutter the house all up today for, when tomorrow it will look like the county fair?”

Of course nobody answered me.

I went up to my room and looked at my dress again. It was a dream. But a dream. I visioned myself in it, drifting up the aisle, and everyone murmuring, “Goodness! Who would have thought that Binkie would ever grow up to even remotely resemble Rissa!”

I heard Rissa in the bathroom, singing, “Amor, Amor, Amor,” in a very tender voice. She was dressing to go out to lunch with Wick. He arrived in a borrowed car and they went off together, looking positively out of this world.

While I was cutting flowers from father’s nondescript borders, Squeak came by on his bike. He had on his old tattletale-grey flannels, and his plaid shirt, and wasn’t much to look at. He came skulking into the garden, saying in an awed voice, “Has he come yet?”

It was obvious that Squeak remembered Worthington too. “One o’clock,” I said.

“I suppose I’ll have to entertain him all afternoon. Any ideas?”

“Take him to the swimming pool.

Maybe he’ll be good enough to drown,”

Squeak said heartlessly.

“Probably he can’t even swim,” I said.

“He’s the intellectual type. Besides,” I added, “there’s the British kid.”

Continued on page 51

Continued from page 9

Just then Mary, our part-time maid, came out on the steps and yelled, “Binks, your Mom just phoned and said if you hadn’t changed your clothes to change ’em.”

I reluctantly dragged myself upstairs. Slacks and a shirt are so much a part of me I feel hardly there at all when I take them off. I am definitely not the type to wear pink gingham pinafores, one of which was lying across my bed, waiting malignantly for me. I hadn’t even finished getting into it when I heard a car stop outside, and the noisy arrival of human beings.

Mother and Mavis Hall-Browne came in, arm in arm, giggling like a couple of rusty hens, in a way I had never heard mother do before. But I paid no attention to them because of the girl in the doorway. “Jeepers!” I thought. “The pay-off! She can’t be the British refugee! She’s as old as Rissa!”

The girl was tall and slender, and her shining blond hair fell like a cape to her shoulders without a wave or a ripple. It was the stunningest hair-do I have ever seen. She also had eyes, big and blue, and one of those English rose complexions. And a figure that filled out her suit, but good. A regular wolfess.

And she wasn’t, all! Following closely in her wake was a tall brown man—yeah, man—wearing a fawn and brown ensemble, and a manner! He oozed personality from every seam.

“If this replica of Robert Taylor turns out to be Worthington I shall die on the spot,” a voice inside me said. I felt that I had been dealt a body blow.

“My dear, how you’ve grown!” Mavis exclaimed, in her coloratura voice, kissing me. She was wearing Chanel No. 5, and had dyed her hair, I noticed. She still looked her age.

“Bianca, my dear,” said mother. (Jeepers! thought I.) “This is Miss Cynthia Popham, Mavis’ British guest.”

I felt like a pink goblet in that odious pinafore job, the more so since she had gobs of graciousness and charm, like Greer Garson or the Queen.

Then I felt my hands being seized by the Man In Brown, who, of course, was Worthy, and for some reason we both yelled at once, “My dear, how you’ve grown!” in falsetto voices.

Presently we were sitting at lunch. The double shock had been too much for me, and I ate scarcely nothing. But scarcely. A mere couple of slices of ham, some salad, and some nondescript rolls and things. I felt that I had to

keep my strength up. Something told me I was going to need all of it. Then Squeak arrived, as I had known he would.

“Here are some people you will want to meet,” mother said to him. “You remember Worthy, of course, and his mother, and this is Miss Cynthia Popham, from England.”

I enjoyed myself. I mean, I really did. Squeak and Worthy shook hands, and they took each other’s measure like tomcats meeting on a picket fence. Squeak did not have the advantage. For one thing he hadn’t changed his clothes much, and for another, Worthy was taller than he.

But the pay-off came when he faced Cynthia. She gave him her hand with a queenly but gracious air, and you could see he didn’t know what to do with it. He reminded me of Alickey Rooney playing a love scene.

“Yes, indeed, Cynthia was only a little girl when she came to us,” Alavis Hall-Browne said. “But that was four years ago. She’s done a bit of growing up.”

Which was a terrific understatement.

AFTER lunch mother and Mrs.

„ Hall-Browne retired to one of those endless conversations of women, and I could see there would be no help from that quarter. No help from Squeak either. All he could do was trail after Cynthia and look like a sick billy goat. And whenever I looked at Worthy, something slid up and down in my throat, and my stomach felt full of fog.

I suggested tennis. Cynthia and Squeak beat Worthy and me two out of three. In my normal moments I am junior champ of the club. I was not in a normal moment. I suggested a swim —and regretted it. Cynthia came out looking like Betty Grable in a blue satin skirt and bra. I felt as outdated as anantimacassarin myold faded wool. The fact that she couldn’t swim mattered not a whit. All she had to do was sit on the edge of the pool and dabble her pink toes in the water and everybody stopped whatever they were doing to watch. Including Squeak. He stuck beside her like a limpet.

Dinner at Travers’ was no improvement. Cynthia appeared in a floating black net dress. Black, mind you! She completely eclipsed Rissa, which takes some doing. Of course Rissa wasn’t trying, having gained her objective, so to speak. After dinner Mavis asked Cynthia to sing. She sang, “Amor, Amor, Amor,” accompanying herself. Squeak leaned over the piano and drooled at the mouth. Even father began to look plastic, and Mr. Travers had definitely gone down for the third time. But when Cynthia gave out with

some boogie-woogie, you could have knocked Squeak’s eyes off with a stick. I wished I had one.

The wedding was to be at five Saturday evening. Long before that everything was ready. Early Saturday morning Cynthia came skipping down, looking as if she’d had a marvellous sleep in my bed, while I had contracted permanent curvature of the spine from sleeping on the living room sofa, which is Regency style. I saw her whispering to Mary in the kitchen, and Mary, who never smiles before 10 o’clock, was giggling like a goon. The result of the whispering was soon clear. Squeak appeared—noticeably clean—and he and Cynthia went off for the day with a well-filled picnic basket.

Worthy and I discovered that we liked being together, and doing the same things, and getting a laugh out of something someone else might not even notice. 1 thought, “Who would ever have thought he would grow up groovy like this?” Worthy was so absolutely heaven-sent, not blundering and uncouth, like Squeak. I could see I had been missing a lot, putting up with Squeak. Worthy made a girl feel special. When I saw Cynthia and Squeak coming up the walk, I realized 1 had forgotten their existence.

Then it was time to get dressed, and when I saw myself in the blue dress all the heart-stopping excitement of the wedding came back. I thought, “When Squeak discovers my ethereal beauty and wants to come back, I shall be polite, but firm. After all he’s just a callow youth.” I revolved before the glass, tilting my head, narrowing my eyes, to get the best effect. Then the door was opened rudely and mother said, “Binkie, for goodness sake, hurry up! What are you doing, pulling your face and your seams all out of shape that way?”

Mothers are so insensitive.

THEN the wedding. Flowers and candles and shivery, solemn music. Rissa was all white and gold, like a smiling statue, and everyone gulped and made sighs.

I tried to keep my mind on what Rev. Carr was saying, but it was no use. I noticed Squeak standing beside the pew where Cynthia was sitting. All his freckles were out in bas-relief, and he looked as if he was having a growing pain. Cynthia, on her part, appeared to be 'memorizing in detail the handsome profile of Capt. Treadway. Then suddenly Wick was kissing Rissa and it was all over.

I suppose weddings are all the same. A terrific buildup, a few moments of glory, and then cake and chicken salad. It’s the things that go on around weddings that intrigue me. I could see there was a lot of unrehearsed business taking place at this wedding. Over in a corner I observed Squeak standing beside Cynthia, holding her cake plate and looking like a stubborn billy goat. On her other side stood Capt. Treadway, looking about as movable as the Rock of Gibraltar. I shrugged nonchalantly. It was, of course, nothing to me. Just then I saw Worthy. He was sitting in the window seat with Taffy, and it was obvious that he had been wedged there and couldn’t escape. Taffy was all but sitting on his knees. Taffy, acting like a goo hall! I felt strictly from murder.

Rissa came down then in her blue tailleur, and there was kissing, and goons throwing rice and confetti around and mother trying not to cry. Everybody seemed deliriously happy—except me. For no apparent reason, I felt bleak and desolate. It was one thing to think about Rissa going, it was another to have her practically gone. True, we hadn’t always seen eye to eye, but

imagine having no interference with the telephone or the bathroom. Imagine being allowed to wear my clothes as I saw fit, with no sarcastic remarks. The memory of the things Rissa wouldn’t want, left behind in her dresser drawers, was small comfort. I felt like a ghoul.

Fortunately, just then the hired orchestra began to give with the Trolley Song. Capt. Treadway politely came for the first dance. It was scarcely a historic event. I don’t imagine he is much of a rhythm rocker at any time. Now, he was so occupied in watching Cynthia, he kept stepping on my feet. At last, in self-defense, I said sweetly, “It’s just an idea, but why don’t you get a periscope?”

“Eh?” he said. “What’s that? Oh, jolly good, what?”

When the music stopped he took off like a jet-propelled plane. It was scarcely flattering. Cynthia and Squeak, I observed, had disappeared.

Then Worthy came to dance. His dancing was, of course, like cloudwalking. He held me close. His cheek smelled manfully of shaving lotion. Finally he led me out to the dark side porch. There he fastened a single pink rosebud in my hair.

“It reminds me of you,” he whispered huskily. “Sweet and lovely. Would you kiss me, baby?”

I felt very adult. I thought, “Thus is it! This is Life!” The kiss was, however, not quite what I had expected. I suppose I had built it up too much from movies and stuff. After a while we went back in the house.

I had my duties as a hostess—dancing with every man in the place—and it was a while before I saw Worthy again. At last I realized it had been too long. He didn’t seem to be anywhere around. “Perhaps he’s gone off to be alone and to think about us,” I thought. “He’s so sensitive.” I went out to the side porch. At the far end I saw two dark forms standing close together. Then I heard the girl giggle. It had a very familiar sound, did that giggle.

“Jeepers!” thought I. “Taffy! And a man!”

Then the man spoke. And I felt absolutely robot-bombed. I had been listening to those same melting tones not an hour before. “I picked this rose because it reminded me of you,” the voice said. “Will you wear it for me? Would you—could you—kiss me?”

She would and she could and she did. Loudly and saltily. Taffy has a lot to learn. I leaned faintly against the door. I thought 1 was going to be sick. The snake! The rat! I fled to the bathroom, my refuge in moments of stress. I sat on the edge of the tub and shivered. Disillusionment and education swept over me in tidal waves. That greeb! That wolf on a scooter! Thinking just because we were small town he could make us all look like a bunch of babies. Loathing rose in my breast.

Just then, to my horror, the door swung inward. I had forgotten to lock it. But it was only mother. I sank back, not even bothering to straighten out my face.

“Oh, excuse me,” Mother said. “Why, Binkie pet, whatever is the matter?”

“Oh, g-gosh!” I wailed. “Everything is so utterly sklonkish!”

Mother sat down on the tub and put her arm around me. “It always is after a wedding,” she said. “It’s the aftermath.”

“It’s nauseating,” I wept. “Everybody acts so droopy, and there’s too much amor, amor on every side.”

“It does seem to be catching.” Mother’s eyes met mine and in them I saw complete understanding. She had known all about everything all the

time! Aren’t mothers colossal? I put my head down on her knee without feeling the least bit childish. Her gown felt cool and fragrant beneath my face. She stroked my hair.

“There are men—and men,” said mother conversationally. “There are some who can be trusted and others who won’t wear. The wisest thing to do is not to go all out for a man until you’re sure. How do you know when you’re sure? Well, my pet, instinct and experience. And you can’t get experience until you have a little more age and a little more life behind you. The thing to do is not to rush it. Don’t try to grow up too fast, and the pieces will fall into a pattern you’ll like.”

She stood up and gave a little laugh. “Here I am, talking like a lecture,” she said, “when probably you know all this already.” I realized that mother had not been talking down to me. She was, in fact, talking as one woman to another. She expected me to understand, and I could actually feel my brain expanding in the effort to do so.

“I’ve been thinking,” she went on. “How would you like to have Rissa’s room now? It’ll be more to your taste soon, I imagine, than your own small one.”

Rissa’s room! That sophisticated sanctum! Hitherto I had scarcely been allowed to even look at it. It was all maple and chintz, with a real fireplace, and bookcases.

“Oh, mother!” I gasped. “How completely heaven-sent!”

We found father in the hall, looking lost. His face lighted up like he’d just been wired when he saw us. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you,” he said to mother. “People are beginning to leave.”

He put his arm around her and they looked at each other in that tender, kind way they have. Mavis HallBrowne came along just then, “You two,” said she. “You’d think you were the just marrieds.”

“By the way,” said father to me, “there’s a young man sitting out in the kitchen who said he had something to say to you.”

Worthy, I thought disgustedly! Well, I had a thing or two to say to him, likewise. I walked down the hall and pushed the kitchen door open. There sat Squeak, staring at a pile of dirty dishes, and looking as if he had been dive-bombed.

WELL!” said I. “What brings you here?”

Squeak shrugged. “Where else would I go? Anyway I have something of importance to tell you.”

“You don’t want to tell me you got a nice, gentle brush-off, now, do you?” I enquired sweetly.

“I couldn’t do a thing like that to a dog,” said Squeak indignantly. “I darn near took root under that spruce tree.”

“Spruce tree?” asked I.

“That’s where she told me to wait for her. Under the spruce tree. Said she’d only be a minute. Jeepers! I waited half the night. And when I did give up and come in, Buzz Norton tells me he saw her leave ages ago with that overbred Capt. Treadway.”

Squeak’s tone held, I was pleased to note, not so much grief as astonishment. Squeak is very gullible.

“Whatever finally impelled you to come in?” I asked curiously.

“I got hungry,” Squeak said frankly. “But while I was there I saw a few things of interest. That’s what I want to tell you.

“I guess it’s not exactly cricket,” said Squeak, “to smooch on the guy. But where you’re concerned, well, then I’m interested. And I thought you

seemed to kind of like the guy. Anyway, while I was sitting there, out comes the Worthy with a female.”

I gulped. After a while my voice came out. “So what?”

“Nothing, I guess. They made a little love talk, and then he pinned one of your mother’s roses on her.”

“Interesting. And I suppose you noticed who it was?”

“Nope, too dark. And she talked in a whisper.

“But I saw who it was the second and third times,” Squeak continued.

“Third?” I gasped. “Sacred elephants! I thought it was only ... I mean . . .”

“Yep,” said Squeak, shying an imaginary ball at Winston, who was crossing the floor, just to see him jump. “Second time, Taffy. Third time, Brenda Andrews. Same routine. Same technique. Cecil B. de Mille ought to get hold of him. The guy’s got talent.”

“It’s disgusting,” I said coldly. “Trying to impress everybody that he’s big town.”

Squeak stared at me curiously. “I thought you liked him.”

“I saw through him right away,” I said. “He mattered not a whit to me. But with you acting the way you did with Cynthia, I had to do something.” “Yeah,” said Squeak. Then he looked at me, and his blue eyes were smiling and clear, and his freckles all out like stars on his face. I thought, “Good heavens, what next? Squeak positively is a double for Van Johnson. So innocuous-looking.”

“That first dame looked a little like you,” he said cheerfully. “Sure glad to hear it wasn’t. You’re too good for a wolf like him. You sure are the grade A stuff in that dress. Makes you look all grown-up, or something. When I saw you come into the church I darn near fell over.”

“Why, Squeak darling,” I cried, “I didn’t suppose you noticed.” I felt all warm and generous inside. “What do you say we have a snack of something? What would you like in a sandwich?” “Everything!” A wolfish gleam— from hunger—appeared in Squeak’s eyes. He still looked like Van Johnson. “That supper was sure the lush mush, but I didn’t get to eat much of it, what with having my hands full of plates, and woman trouble, and all ... .”

I got out some slices of bread and began to pile chicken, salad, cheese, pickles, and the usual ingredients of a sandwich between them. “You know, Squeak,” I said, “this is the best way, isn’t it? All that emotion and heavy love can wait till we grow up.”

“You said it,” said Squeak. “Imagine fencing yourself in at our age!”

When at last I went up to bed I found the house empty and still, smelling faintly of tobacco and flowers. It had a nice feeling, as if it were glad all the people were gone and it belonged to us once more. I could hear mother and dad talking softly in their room. I stopped at the door of my room, just to have a look.

Gynthia, of course, hadn’t vet come in. My old spool bed stood empty, with the covers folded back, and Cynthia’s wicked-looking nightie lying on the pillow. The crisp white curtains swelled gently in the night breeze. There was the pink-and-blue wallpaper, the pink-and-blue draped dressing table that was too low for me now. My shelf of books still contained “Little Women” and “Anne of Green Gables.” I passed my hand through the air, as if I were touching everything there. The curtain swelled out again, as if it were waving to me.

“Good-by,” I whispered. “Good-by.”