FICTION

WOMAN ALONE

Btsy Blake didn't realize she was shufting her daughter out of her life —she thought she was just teaching her to stand on her own feet

BARBARA SHERMAN May 15 1945
FICTION

WOMAN ALONE

Btsy Blake didn't realize she was shufting her daughter out of her life —she thought she was just teaching her to stand on her own feet

BARBARA SHERMAN May 15 1945

WOMAN ALONE

FICTION

BARBARA SHERMAN

IT SHOULD have ended like every other day. She, Betsy Blake, should have swept clean the last of the letters which lay like white islands on the top of her office desk. She should have left the usual memo to Darcy of things to remind her of in the morning. She should have torn the top leaf off her engagement calendar, shut the door on Women’s Industries Inc. and gone home to her quiet apartment to soak in a warm tub until it was time to meet Lisa.

Instead Darcy was saying in her perfect secretarial voice, “I told her it was too late, Mrs. Blake, but she says, ‘Must see Bossy Lady.’ ” Miss Darcy allowed herself a small smile. “ ‘Bossy Lady fix everything,’ she says.”

Betsy Blake laughed with her easy laugh that took everyone in the room into her confidence. “Well, I suppose there’s nothing for it but to see her. Show her in.”

She took off her little black hat and tossed it into the desk drawer again. Quite automatically she pushed back the wave in her perfect blue-grey hair. Her face was as smooth as the polished desk that reflected it, a fact which tended to annoy her friends. They had all said, with varying degrees of envy, at one time or another, “She looks younger than her daughter. Where does Betsy find the magic formula? Not on the cosmetics counter.”

Btsy Blake didn't realize she was shufting her daughter out of her life —she thought she was just teaching her to stand on her own feet

Where? Betsy Blake had laughed at them but there had been a note of wistful -ness that had blunted the edge of her laughter.

Not that Women’s Industries Inc. wasn’t a success. It had been from the start, from the moment she had thought of taking a group of foreign-born women off the relief rolls and starting them on the handicrafts they had left behind in Europe; the quilted bathrobes they make in Bellagio, the lace doilies from Antwerp, the wool embroideries from the Balkans. And now that select shoppers could no longer go to Europe the business had doubled. ^

“You simply must go to Women’s Industries,” they would tell their friends.

“It’s incredible how that Blake woman has managed to salvage Europe for us right at our own doorsteps. You should see the handmade slips, practically Rue de la Paix.”

People wrote from Montreal asking her to advise them on similar projects, and last month her novel venture was a feature article in the Sunday magazine section.

The old woman was coming in now, or maybe she wasn’t old, merely out of shape at the waistline and heavy for her tiny feet.

“Sit down, Mrs. Brodaslav.” Betsy pointed to the chair beside her. It had always been one of her convictions that you got more from people if you talked with them, rather than at them, across a desk. “Now suppose you tell me about it.”

“It’s Nella down in Montreal, Bossy Lady. She was going to have baby. Now doctor put her in hospital, say maybe not, maybe never no more.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, Mrs. Brodaslav. You must worry about her a lot when she’s so far away.”

“Yes, yes!” Her eyes brightened with desperation. “That is it, too far away. I must go there, yes?”

Betsy smiled at her reassuringly. “But if she’s in a hospital and has a good doctor that’s the most important thing. She’s better off in their hands because they’re trained for cases like Nella’s.”

“No, Bossy Lady, no.” The tears were standing motionless in her brown eyes. “You don’t understand my Nella. My Nella, she will cry, and on what? White starched nurses?”

“What do you want of me?” Betsy strove to keep the annoyance out of her voice.

“I want you should advance me on my embroidery work. You know it sell good. I will get the orders, and I need the money now, train costs lots money.”

“Mrs. Brodaslav.” Betsy’s voice took on the patience that it did when she explained something to a child. “I know how you feel. You’ve had bad news, you’re excited, but look at it calmly. You can’t afford to go to Montreal. And besides,” the tightening showed now in her face, “you know our rule, no advances.”

The old woman was twisting the handle of her pocketbook into a Gordian knot. “But this is my Nella, she’s in trouble. Don’t that make it different?” “No,” Betsy was shaking her head with a definiteness that surprised even herself. “This is a business. There can be no exceptions in business.”

The old woman’s hand closed tightly around Betsy’s wrist. “I must go to Montreal!” she said. All the interrogation was gone now from her voice, all the asking. She was making a simple statement of fact.

Betsy glanced once at the buzzer on the desk. Darcy was still outside. No, she would handle this alone.

“It’s the hardest thing about being a mother, isn’t it, Mrs. Brodaslav, to learn that our children have got to stand alone on their own feet, that we mustn’t help them even when we want to. Nella will get well faster if she isn’t upset—and you will upset her if you go out there. I’m sorry, Mrs. Brodaslav.”

The old woman released the hold she had on Betsy as if suddenly she wanted to push her away. She stood there wiping away the touch of Betsy’s wrist.

Betsy stood up. She looked down for a moment at the red ring above her hand. “Good night, Mrs. Brodaslav,” she said.

The old woman walked heavily across the room. She turned suddenly with her hand on the doorknob. “Maybe your girl different,” she said.

B

ETSY BLAKE had trained herself to shut the door on Women’s Industries Inc. and leave it there until she came back the next morning. Tonight she was particularly glad to feel the fresh wind whipping her face, to shake off the emotions of Mrs. Brodaslav. She looked at her watch. Too late to go home first, she would have to take a taxi straight to Lisa’s. It was her night to go to Lisa’s for dinner. Tomorrow night Lisa would have dinner with her. An

ideal arrangement, really, she had said to all her friends who asked why Lisa had moved into her own apartment the summer she graduated from college. We are independent, yet we are together. Our affection for each other is a deeper thing because it is on a purely voluntary basis. She had said it so often the words had become like a record that repeated itself automatically.

As she rode in the taxi she did not listen to the driver talking at every stop light about the fight last night at Maple Leaf Gardens and the drunk he picked up who insisted he wanted to ride clear to Hamilton. She was thinking about Lisa and what good friends they were. And what good friends they had been ever since that night when Lisa was a year old and she, Betsy, had gone to the yacht club to pick up Gerald.

“I’ll surely be back by six,” her husband had said, standing under her window that morning while he buttoned himself into his slicker.

“Looks like a dirty day, skipper. Must you?” she had called down to him.

And he had yelled above the noise of the milk truck skidding on the gravel, “Must I? It’s my only chance to try out the new spinnaker before the race on Saturday.”

Surely be back. Surely be back. Surely be back by six. She had said it over confidently that evening, standing on the yacht club porch. Then all of a sudden it was dark and she had run out to the edge of the float, not feeling the rain run down her back nor the wind tear at her skirt, as if standing staring into the darkness would bring him safely in.

Afterward Granny had been very gentle with her. She must not go back to the house alone. She had stood beside her at the foot of the stairs and said over and over again,

“Granny’s right here, Betsy.”

Granny who had always kissed her bumps and put iodine on her bruises, who had been father and mother to her after her own had died, Granny was right there. Betsy had reached out in that moment, reached out to Granny as she had never wanted to reach out before.

But there was only a stranger standing there in an old blue flannel bathrobe, someone a thousand miles away whom she could not get to at all.

She had never forgotten the lesson she had learned that night. She had learned it quickly and cruelly, how each human is ultimately alone in the things he must meet.

Granny had been shocked when Betsy got a job the next fall. “What’s the good of having an old woman around if she can’t write a few cheques? And there’s the insurance. I’m just old-fashioned enough, Betsy, to think it takes a mother’s touch even to putting in the diaper pins. These trained baby nurses!”

Betsy had laughed and said, “Hush yourself, Granny.” Because how could she explain that she knew if she stayed Lisa would be smothered, would become her compensation for Gerald. And Lisa must never feel the lost feeling she had had when she stood that night at the foot of the stairs. Lisa must be trained to meet her crises on her own feet.

So she had taken the job of assistant buyer and then buyer in a large department store all the time Granny was shaking her head and saying, “It’s not what they did in my day.”

But she knew now, as sur«ly as she was riding in a taxicab in Toronto, that she had been right. There

were already too many Mrs. Brodaslavs in the world.

She was still answering yes and no to the driver, alternating the responses mechanically, when they drew up at Lisa’s building.

“Going to be long, lady? Oh, I was going to wait. Sure would like to have told you the rest of that story. It’s nice having someone to talk to, specially since the war.”

I ISA opened the door almost before J mother could ring.

her

“Hello, Bets,” she

said, “how’s the girl?”

Lisa Blake was smaller than her mother but her broad shoulders and the house coat she wore made her look biller. Her dark hair hung wavy to her shoulders, she had a characteristic little gesture of pushing it out of her eyes, her deep-set blue eyes. Gerald had had a lot of Irish in him.

“You’re just in time, too,” Lisa was going on. “I’ve been practicing on my Red Cross and I’ve artificially respirated most of the stuffing out of that sofa pillow. Come on, be a sport and lie down on the floor.” One, TWO, three, four. Lisa did it capably and perfectly and efficiently, the way she did everything. She glanced at her watch for a moment. “I want to finish by seven. The CBC are broadcasting Terry’s report from the front. The news was bad tonight when I stopped by the news room. The Nazis are gaining again in Belgium.” Betsy felt a sudden tenseness come into the rhythmic hands on her back.

“Oh, Terry will come out head first,” Betsy said. “He always does. Remember how he was dug out of the ruins of the London office?”

“What do you mean, dug out!” Lisa sat back on her hands indignantly. “He dug himself out.” She pulled herself up on her feet lightly. “Come on, let’s have dinner. I’m hollow.”

Betsy looked across the table at her daughter and a wave of pride came over her. This new race of girls, who could hold down a job all day, as Lisa did at the CBC, and then come home and cook a dinner like this. But more than that, they were a strong breed. Not a clinging vine in the lot.

Lisa was saying, “Have you done anything with my idea for Women’s Industries, you know, the publicity idea, taking a travelling show of the stuff on a circuit of the summer resort towns?”

“I’ve thought about it, of course, dear,” Betsy answered, “but it would depend so much on the person who took it. I can’t be away that long.”

“How about me? I feel a change coming on. I’m a little fed up with the high-pressure stuff at the studio. How would you like a company? We could be Betsy and Company.”

Betsy laughed. “For a minute I thought you were serious. I almost gave you my most convincing arguments about families and business not mixing! You know I love you too much to make you a ‘Co.’ ” It was not easy being a modern mother, pushing your children away when it was your instinct to pick them up. It never had been easy, dating back to that time in the swimming pool up in the country.

Lisa had taken one look down into the blue-green water and clung to Betsy shaking. In her fouryear-old vocabulary she had said most distinctly, “No! Lisa can’t!”

Betsy had held her over the edge at arm’s length. “What do you mean, can’t? There is no such word.” And she had dropped her in at the deep end. “Swim for it, young one, swim for it Betsy had dug the nails into the palms of her hands until the blood came while Lisa gulped and struggled and churned her way

over to the edge. Continued on page 41

Continued, from page 9

It was Granny who had reached down and pulled her out, forgetting her best powder-blue silk. “Callous creature,” she had said accusingly. “What kind of a mother do you call yourself?” It had been the hard way but the only way as things had turned out. They would really have to swim for it these days.

“It’s time for Terry now,” Lisa said

as she leaned back in her chair to switch on the radio.

“—The CBC now brings you a report from its special correspondent, Terry McBride. Mr. McBride made this recording in the Belgian town of Houflfalize just before it was evacuated; however, the record reached London safely. At present every effort is being made to contact Terry McBride . . . here then is his latest report . . . complete with sound effects . . . sound effects of real guns . . . real tanks . . .”

“Hello, Canada. This is Terry McBride. I am recording from the quakit Belgian city of Houflfalize. It is a sad, desolate city and all civilians have been ordered out . . . while military men have been notified that evacuation may be necessary at any moment. Do not worry . . . Canada . . . if we leave we will be back . . . From my hotel room I can now see our snipers getting ready to pick out the Nazis, and 1 can see our tanks getting in position to block the roads . . . the German fire is close now . . . I’m sure you can hear the battering sound of their guns . . . many old historical buildings have been turned to useless mounds of dust and waste ...” A heavy, dull explosion cut out his voice, Lisa paled and clenched her fist. Then Terry’s voice came through again . . . “This is war, Canada, never forget it . . . and that shell tore the roof off this very building . . . orders have come to move all equipment . . . remember when you hear this record they haven’t got the Indian sign on me yet . . .”

Terry’s voice stopped but the record kept going round and round for several seconds with no sound but the irritating scratch of the needle.

Lisa stood very still beside the radio, her face a mask. She reached over and turned up the volume, then picked up the little radio and shook it, slowly at first, then fast. She pounded it on the back and on the side. Then without a word she put it carefully back on the table.

Finally the announcer broke in . . . “Ladies and gentlemen, you have heard Terry McBride’s report of the German counterattack. Our next news broad . . .” Lisa snapped the radio off. “He was right in the line of fire ... he would stay to make that record . . . he . . .” Her voice broke. A voice that seemed more borrowed than her own.

“It’s queer, isn’t it,” Betsy said, “to think that that little redheaded boy

you made sand pies with is now the seven o’clock feature? Well, that’s life these days.”

Betsy reached across the table for the coffee pot. “Do you want another cup, dear?”

“You do think he’s going to be all right, don’t you, Betsy?”

“Who? Terry McBride? Of course he’s going to be all right. If the Nazis make huge advances he’ll get away with the others, or alone if necessary. Cheer up, it will add to his press value. When he gets back to civilization again they’ll have to double his salary.”

“He wouldn’t go alone.” It was queer how just for a minute Lisa looked like a little girl of eight. She always did when she got serious.

“Don’t worry, Lisa,” Betsy said. “Didn’t you hear him say they didn’t have the Indian sign on him yet?” “Yes, I know, but the only time I ever heard him say that before was when we were kids playing in the park and some eight boys ganged up on him and pummelled him to a pulp. He sat up with his mouth full of gravel and said, ‘You haven’t got the Indian sign on me yet!’

“Bets—” Lisa started in.

“What is it, dear?”

“Nothing.” Lisa bit her lip. “Oh, are you going now?”

“I thought I’d run along. Why? Was there something special?” She put her hat on at the hall mirror. “It was a hectic day at the office and I’m tired. And I’ll just have to pay another nickel on my book from the lending library if I don’t finish it tonight.”

She dropped an affectionate pat on her daughter’s shoulder as she opened the door. “Goodnight, dear, get some sleep yourself.”

ALONE in her blue-and-black dress. ing room Betsy Blake sat brushing her hair 100 times. As she sat there, counting, in the mirrors the decorators had hung so cleverly, she became aware, as if for the first time, of six people all brushing their hair, six people, all of them Betsy Blake. A shiver of loneliness ran through her.

“Shut up,” she said out loud. “You’re the one who lives alone and likes it, remember?”

She put down the hairbrush and smiled. And the faces in the mirrors smiled back dutifully, all six of them. She picked up the book from the table and got into bed.

It was seven o’clock the next night. What on earth could be keeping Lisa? This was Lisa’s night to have dinner with her and Lisa was never late. Betsy poured two glasses of sherry from the decanter on the antique cupboard. Poor child, she would at least have that ready and waiting for her if she’d had to work late at the office.

The elevator slammed out in the hall. At last. But the footsteps went in the other direction. Wondering a little, Betsy dialed Lisa’s number. It rang monotonously in her ear for several minutes before she could believe there was no answer.

She dialed the office number. Lisa called if she were going to be late but perhaps with the war news bad tonight she had some extra work to get out.

“Miss Blake, please . . . She hasn’t been there all day? Are you sure?” Resolutely Betsy swallowed the wave of panic rising within her. She must be practical about it after all. She took a taxi to Lisa’s apartment.

Of course nothing could have happened to Lisa. There was some explanation. Perhaps she had gone somewhere to visit. But she would have told her. She and Lisa never did things like that without telling each other.

The elevator operator had not seen

Miss Blake, not since the day before, that is.

Lisa’s mail and the morning paper were still in an untidy heap on the door mat. No need to ring the bell.

The superintendent was only too glad to let Mrs. Blake in with his passkey. Such a nice young lady, Miss Blake, always so pleasant about everything, if there was anything he could do, anything at all.

Lisa’s bed had not been slept in. Her dark blue dress was gone out of the closet. There were too many cigarette butts in the ash tray by the radio. Otherwise there was nothing out of the ordinary.

Outside the building the evening crowds were surging out of streetcars, hundreds of people all on their way home, none of them Lisa. Betsy stood there looking at them. There were so many people in Toronto, all kinds of people.

Every newspaper headline she had ever read rushed in a jumble of print in front of her eyes. The Carrier case. Her body was found when they dragged the river. The Burns case. They had traced that girl as far as Edmonton and then lost the trail.

She must think coolly and decide what to do next. But every accident she had ever seen rose up from their forgotten corners. Lisa was riding in a taxicab that overturned in a collision. Lisa had been taken with acute appendicitis in the bus, Lisa had had her purse snatched and was left lying senseless in the park.

Finally she said impatiently, “You’re getting neurotic, Betsy.” In all probability she would walk home and Lisa would open the door and laugh at her and say, “What were you taking on so for?”

But there was no Lisa when she got

to the apartment. She went to the telephone before she took off her hat. That Margaret Somebody. She was quite a friend of Lisa’s. Blandón, Margaret Blandón. Her finger shook so that she couldn’t find the B’s.

Margaret Blandón hadn’t seen Lisa for over a month. None of the crowd had. She said Lisa must be working awfully hard because they never saw her any more.

There was a flaming sunset behind the sky line but Betsy, walking to the police station, did not see it. Her world was a cloud of darkness. She walked past the building three times before she saw the sign.

The sergeant sat at an elevated desk, listening to a man complain about the radio that played in his court too late at night.

After he left, the sergeant went on writing on a blank for a long time without looking up. Finally he said, “Yes?”

Betsy swallowed. “My daughter has disappeared,” she said.

The sergeant reached for another slip of paper. “Name—Age?”

“Lisa Blake . . . twenty-one.”

“Oh,” the officer said, “I thought from what you said she was just a kid.

“When did she leave home?”

“Sometime within the last 24 hours. I left her apartment at nine last night.”

“Oh, you don’t live together,” the officer said, tapping his pencil on the edge of the desk. He looked down at Betsy for a minute before he spoke again.

“Well, I can’t see what you’re worrying about, madam. You say yourself she’s of legal age, and what’s more that she lives an independent life. She’s probably just off visiting somewhere.”

Betsy’s face drained. “No,” she said

quickly. “You don’t understand. She would tell me, she always does We’re very close.”

“Yeah,” he said thoughtfully, and then after a moment, “you got any identification with you? We don’t take these cases except on request of the party’s closest relative.”

While she fumbled in her purse he handed her a slip of paper. “Here, check this before I send it in to Missing Persons.”

Blake, Lisa, missing 14/12/44, 21-5-4-118, blu eyes, bk hair, dk blu dress white collar,

Apt. 7, 67 St. Clair, West, Toronto.

Blue eyes, black hair, Betsy thought desperately. That would describe a hundred thousand girls. But there was only one Lisa in the whole wide world.

“You will be notified,” the sergeant said. “We check the hospitals and the morgue. There is nothing more you can do now.”

Nothing more she could do but wait.

She would go to Lisa’s apartment instead of her own. Lisa might come home during the night, and besides, in Lisa’s room, among her things, she should feel closer to her, sense some clue to her disappearance. Like a bloodhound picking up the scent from a person’s belongings, she thought wryly and tried to smile.

But once she was there and had settled herself in a wing chair moved close to the telephone table, Betsy felt as if everything were out of focus. The familiar things looked unfamiliar. The rug she had always thought of vaguely as taupe was maroon, it was incredible she could have looked at it so many times before and never seen it. The book she tried to read was inscribed, “Merry Christmas from Connie and Bob.” Connie and Bob who? She couldn’t remember ever hearing their names before.

All at once she was a stranger in a strange place, she was alone in the darkness and she had no one to call to. “Lisa, Lisa, where are you?” She did not realize that she had said it out loud. But the sound of her voice struck a new terror. A shiver went through her. She got up and took one of the blankets off the bed and wrapped it around her feet. •

Was this what waiting was like? Did people just have to sit, when every nerve was keyed to a pitch?

Even toward the end of the long night she did not sleep, there was only that creeping numbness that did not obliterate the nightmares crowding her mind.

IT WAS 6.30 when the telephone rang. It rang three times before Betsy could lift the receiver.

“Mrs. Blake.” The voice was clipped in the best this-is-all-in-the-day’s-work manner. “We have a report on your daughter. She was picked up an hour ago in the park. She has been sent to Receiving Hospital, suffering from exposure and exhaustion. There was plenty of money in her pocketbook but she had been walking all night in the rain.”

“Oh!” Exclamations are inadequate words, but there are no words yet invented to describe the soaring, lightheaded feeling that is a combination of joy and relief. “I will come a’t once, of course,” she said.

“Mrs. Blake,” the sergeant went on. “There is one little matter we should like to clear up. When she was asked as a matter of routine the name of her closest relative she gave the name of ‘Mrs. Plugene Barr, great-grandmother.’ Now, Mrs. Blake, I am not intimating there is anything queer about this

case—” Continued on page, 44

Continued from page 43

Granny was reading the morning

paper, with her back to Lisa’s bed,

when Betsy went into the little white

cubicle at Receiving Hospital.

“Lisa!” Betsy stood motionless in the middle of the room.

“Now, Betsy—” Granny put the paper down slowly. “Don’t gurgle as if you’d swallowed something.”

“Lisa,” she said again. “Mother’s here.”

The girl sat up quickly, as if a hidden spring had been touched, then she crumpled just as quickly. “Go I away, Betsy,” she said, “go away.”

Betsy stood there trying to put the ' pieces together into the orderly pattern they had always fitted. Before she could speak, Lisa said, “Granny’s been so good to me.” Her voice tapered off into a sharp sob.

“Good to you, my eye! Good for you!” The old woman’s voice was just as calm as if she awoke with a crisis on her hands every morning. “If all the crying I’ve done in my life were put end to end, it would make a goodsized ship canal. My old colored woman used to say to me, ‘Go ahead and cry, Miss Alice, it’s mighty healthifyin’.’ ” Betsy took a conscious grip on herself. There was something wrong with Lisa, of course. The child needed a friend to talk to her calmly. To reason with her. This was no place for a hysterical mother.

The best way was to go on as if nothing were the matter. Betsy put a matter-of-fact shell around her voice. “Why did you walk out in the middle of the night like that? Don’t dam it up inside of you, it will do you good to talk it out.”

“Now, Betsy,” Granny said, “let her alone. When she’s ready she’ll tell us all about it. Until then you might as well sit yourself down beside me and take the second section of the paper.” Betsy said, “No, Granny, the sooner Lisa gets this out of her system the better. Let’s try to be intelligent about this.”

“Intelligent!” Granny snorted. “Always been the trouble with you, Betsy, you think you’ve got to be intelligent to be a mother. What do you think the Lord gave you your intuition for?” Betsy turned back to Lisa, as if she had not heard a word the old woman said. “Why didn’t you come to me? We’ve always been so close.”

“I suppose you really think so, don’t you, Betsy?” Lisa said. “We’ve been so close! When you wouldn’t even let me come into business with you.” “Why, Lisa!” Betsy felt her carefully saved control slipping away from her. She felt as if she had been struck with a stream of cold water.

“You’re so strong, so independent, aren’t you, Betsy? You couldn’t understand people like me, who get weak-kneed when we try to stand on our own feet. You couldn’t understand why I couldn’t stay there alone in the night when I kept hearing Terry saying over and over again:

“ ‘We’ve just had orders to evacuate . . . We’ve just had orders to evacuate . . .’ and then nothing but the sound of gunfire and the empty scratches of the record going round and round without Terry’s voice.”

She turned her face to the wall. “I couldn’t go it there alone, maybe because I’m not one of you super people.”

Betsy felt her hands clench of their own accord. “So it was the broadcast that upset you,” she said, “something happening 6,000 miles away to someone you used to know. Some day I would like to tell you what it’s like to be really alone, to be really frightened because you don’t know what’s hap-

pened to someone you love very much.

“That’s really being alone in the dark, the way I was last night when I didn’t know where you were. You, on the other hand, are allowing yourself the luxury of making the whole world collapse your private tragedy. You happen to have known one of the radio broadcasters, so everything he broadcasts immediately becomes personal to you.”

“You are right there,” the girl said in a too-quiet voice.

“Lord help us, Betsy, but you’re highfalutin for this time in the morning. I have half a mind to go around to the drugstore to get a cup of coffee.”

“No, wait, Granny!” Lisa was sitting bolt upright in bed. “Betsy wants to get all this out in the open. I want you to hear what I’ve got to say.

“First of all,” she went on, “I want to tell you, Betsy, that you’re right. I agree with you 100%—in theory. It’s a lovely little theory.”

Betsy reached over and patted Lisa’s shoulder.

Lisa said, “But I’m not, quote, ‘making the whole wrorld collapse my private tragedy,’ end quote. It is my private tragedy.”

“What do you mean, Lisa?” Betsy said in a tight voice.

“Because I’m married to Terry McBride.”

Betsy stared unbelieving at this girl who was her daughter.

“Now when could you have gone and done that?” Granny asked.

“The week end I was supposed to be visiting our dear cousins in Brantford.”

Betsy turned abruptly and walked over to the window without a word. She stood staring out into the rain for a long time. She was looking at the orderly pattern of 21 years break into atoms. She, Betsy Blake, had made

that pattern. And yet she knew all at once that Lisa had not broken it. She had broken it herself the night before when she had waited alone for Lisa.

The springs squeaked as Lisa threw back the covers and slid out of the side of the bed. She stood there in the short white hospital gown, with her black hair tucked behind her ears.

Granny clucked between her teeth. “Don’t stand on that floor in your bare feet!”

Lisa walked over to Betsy and put her hand on her arm. “I guess I should know better than anybody what a rough time you had of it last night, Betsy. I’m sorry I had to be the cause of it.” A half smile punctuated her words. “It’s too bad we couldn’t have arranged to have had our bad nights at the same time. It would have been company.”

“Might be Lisa and Company,” Betsy said. “I rather like the sound of that.” Her eyes had a faraway look.

“No, Betsy and Company,” Lisa | said, and the light broke all over her face. “Well, anyway, just so there's Company. You see what happened the other night is going to happen again. The Nazis will come too close and he will have to run for it, escaping through j the tank fire in some Army jeep. Two j weeks, a month maybe, unreported. I And then some bright day his voice I again from some other sector:

“ 'Hello, Canada, McBride speaking—’

“And I can relax until it is time to go through it with him all over again. I will have to go through it every time, of course, because part of me is over there too, that’s the way it is when you are married to a Terry McBride.”

“Yes, Lisa, you will, but never again alone. Not either of us.”

Granny folded up the newspaper and reached down for her rubbers. “Betsy, it’s always struck me the world has a way of going right along.”