FICTION

To Chuck—With Love

What’s a man to do when his girl won’t trade her uniform for high-heeled shoes and a frilly apartment?

HUGH JEFFRIES July 15 1945
FICTION

To Chuck—With Love

What’s a man to do when his girl won’t trade her uniform for high-heeled shoes and a frilly apartment?

HUGH JEFFRIES July 15 1945

To Chuck—With Love

HUGH JEFFRIES

THE telegram was phoned to Chuck Martin in his modernistic office at the advertising agency, and it took him an instant to realize from whom it came.

“Repeat,” he said urgently into the telephone while his pencil doodled frantically on the blotting pad about the large figure “30” which he had already scribbled. “Repeat, please—”

Again the practiced voice spoke: “Telegram from Halifax! ‘On my way home, darling, full of wedding plans and excitement. Rome job finished. Expect me on 30th. Can you get apartment? Wire address care of Halifax Red Cross. Aching to see you. Grace.’ “Whoops,” Chuck said softly. Then more loudly, “Whoops!”

“It’s all right,” he assured the girl at the other end of the wire, a moment later. “I’m much obliged to you for phoning the message . . . Yes, you can mail it.” Champagne bubbles frothed in his blood; tickled him out of the green enamelled armchair and sent him limping past two chrome-trimmed filing cabinets to the window. The bubbles were trickling up his spine now.

“Grace,” he said to himself, and his tanned fists clenched. “At last!” He stood there, a tall, looselimbed man in brown (weed, and looked unseeingly, from the skyscraper office, over the huddle of roofs far below. Within him there was a growing and deeply thankful happiness It was only this that had been wanting: "Grace!”

In his mind’s eye he saw Grace Whitlaw again as she was at the railway station when his embarkation leave from the RCAF ended three years before. He saw her long honeycolored hair breaking smoothly over her shoulders; the tearH in eyes which sometimes were blue and sometimes grey. He sniffed the fragrance of that dab of perfume that, she put behind each ear. He felt her hands running up into his own curly black hair, tugging at the roots, and sensed again her utter femininity pressed tight against him in that agony of farewell. She was an ache in his heart and a void in his being.

For three years she had been these things; three years that had been endless time. For when she joined the Rod Cross, with the avowed intention of l>eing stmt overseas so that she could be nearer to him, the fates conspired to keep them apart. They managed it so that Grace was first in Canada and then in Rome, while his fighter squadron operated from England. Even when that explosive bullet shattered his right foot, Grace was too far off to visit him in hospital; and her job was so important that she could get no leave. That had rankled u bit.

But now—but now—this telegram could mean only one thing. That enquiry about the apartment. That phrase about plans and excitement. “Wedding bells,” said Chuck. And somehow he was singing to himself, only the tune had turned into “Jingle Bells,” and when he tried to jig to it his surgeon-sculptured foot warned that it was not yet used to cutting capers. He grinned then, strong teeth showing white against his rugged face.

“It could have been worse,” he looked down at his foot. “It could have been a lot worse . . .”

Suddenly he swung from the window back to his desk. This news was too good to keep . . .

He dialled a number and Penny Whitlaw answered. Behind her voice he could hear the clatter of the typewriters in her office.

“Penny,” he said. “Did you hear the good news? Your big sister’s coming home!”

“Chuck—But what marvellous—”

“Furthermore, I hope we’re going to get married, right away—”

“Good for you—so she’s not going to be a career woman after all! When is she coming?”

“On the thirtieth,” Chuck said. “Just got the wire; Grace is in Halifax. I s’pose censorship wouldn’t let her send a message when she left Rome, but she’s evidently finished her job . .

“Five days from now,” Penny Whitlaw calculated rapidly. “Chuck, what will you do? Where will you live? You can’t take her to your room at the University Club!”

“I should hope not,” Chuck said happily. “Grace expects me to have an apartment.”

“But, Chuck, dear!” The voice was a wail and he could almost see the distress on Penny’s heart-shaped face. “Apartments are almost more precious than diamonds . . . Really, Chuck, I mean it. To find and furnish one in five days you’d have to marry a landlord’s daughter!”

“Sorry,” his eyes crinkled. “One wife at a time is enough.”

“Grace just doesn’t know what conditions are like here now,” Penny told him loyally. “She’s been gone over two years and things have changed.”

“I’m getting an apartment,” Chuck said slowly and distinctly. “I’m getting one if I have to murder som ¿one. And you, Penny, will help to furnish it for me. You know her tastes—You know how she’d like it. Suppose we meet for dinner this evening and plot the course together?”

“Of course, Chuck,” Penny said swiftly. “I’ll have to cancel a date, but I’m sure Tom will understand . .

HEN Jackson Hall, Chuck’s employer in the small advertising agency, came in a few minutes later he found the most recent addition to his staff sprawled far back in his armchair, his healing foot comfortable in the open lowest drawer of his green desk. Chuck’s eyes were closed and there was a dreamy smile on his face. His hair looked as if some girl had just run her fingers through it. And this was strictly true, though Jackson Hall was not the person to ever guess how Chuck’s own hands could for a moment have become those of Grace Whitlaw . . .

Hall, erect, trim—he liked it when hotel doormen addressed him as“Major,” though a fluttery heart had kept him out of the last war—frowned as Chuck kept his eyes closed.

“Mr. Martin!” he said at last. “I trust you’re thinking about the Mitchell Bread slogan.”

Chuck opened one eye. Then the other one snapped open and he took his foot quickly out of the desk drawer.

“Yes, sir.” He clicked to attention, even though he was sitting down, “I’m coming in on the beam.”

Jackson Hall looked at his wrist watch. He smiled thinly as he made a little joke. “Means butter on your bread and mine, you know, if we get that account. Let’s have your suggestions.”

Apologetically, Chuck shuffled three sheets of yellow scratch paper. Pencil scribblings covered them. Pencil slashes cro.ssed out most of the slogans.

“I should have these typed,” Martin said. “My writing’s out of this world. Besides, I’m not satisfied with any of them.” ],,!

“I hope not—I hope not,” Hall studied the slogans. “We’ll be dead, as an agency, if we ever are satisfied with what we do . . . Trick is, though, to satisfy the client, and there, I flatter myself—Now let’s see. Hmm—this one here—No. Definitely not. Not good enough. What we want, Mr. Martin, is something punchy, something that packs a wallop like a mule’s kick.”

He looked steadily at Chuck Martin; and Chuck could practically see the ugly worm of doubt twisting in his narrow grey head. Was it such a good idea to

have given an inexperienced returned man a job at good pay?

“Now look at this.” Hall pointed to the last slogan on the list. That Good Mitchell Bread. “Why waste our client’s time with that sort of thing? It’s got to be better than just ‘Good,’ if 1 know Peter Mitchell, and B. C. Short, his advertising manager. I’d go to work on this stuff again, Mr. Martin . . . I’d plug at it, if I were you . . . Concentrate . . . Concentrate . . .”

He went out of Chuck’s cubbyhole, shaking his head, and the three sheets of scratch paper fluttered on the floor in the wind of his going.

Chuck waited until the frosted, glass-panelled door had closed and then made a rude noise. But he did it softly. Life, he had already discovered, is not too easy for a man who has given four years of it in learning to fly and to fight while flying; skills which are not particularly useful in an advertising agency. Yet today, despite Jackson Hall, life was a lovely, rosetinged thing.

When he met Penny Whitlaw in the lobby of her office building, he looked at her with vast approval, for she was a small edition of Grace, the big sister whom she worshipped. She, too, had shoulder-length blond hair; she, too, wore the completely impractical spike-heeled shoes that Grace always bought. He saw Grace even in the purposeful frown with which she hugged two afternoon newspapers to her tailored suit of powder blue as she left the elevator.

“Chuck, dear,” she greeted him with concern. “I had half an hour of slack time in the office this afternoon, and I got the early editions for the ‘Apartments to Rent’ columns.”

“Smart girl,” he approved, as he tucked her hand under his arm. “What’s the gen?”

She skipped to keep up with his limping stride as he headed for a restaurant.

“There aren’t any,” she said soberly.

Chuck stopped dead. “You don’t mean it!” His voice was completely incredulous.

“I do mean it,” Penny said. “Oh—there are a couple of penthouses which’ll cost a thousand dollars a room a year, and three years’ lease required . . . But I don’t think your job pays at that rate . . .”

“Darn right, it doesn’t,” Chuck said.

“No houses for rent either,” Penny said miserably “I looked. Grace and you would have managed so nicely in one of those cute little bungalows in the

What’s a man to do when his girl won’t trade her uniform for high-heeled shoes and a frilly apartment?

suburbs ... I called six real-estate agencies and they just laughed into the phone. One of them said he could sell me some bungalows for about twice what they’re worth.”

“He admitted that? The pirate!”

“They’re not his own houses,” Penny explained quickly. “He said he was sorry that he’d sold all his own holdings 18 months ago; sorry he hadn’t held onto them.”

BY THIS time they were seated in the restaurant.

Chuck looked gloomily at the garish painting of a Neapolitan street scene on the wall opposite.

He ordered a salad for Penny, and his gloom became only deeper as he wound spaghetti on a fork.

It was over the black coffee that Penny brought herself to offer the solution that had already occurred to her.

“Look, Chuck,” she said. “We may as well face the facts. You won’t get an apartment in five days.”

“If ever,” Chuck said moodily, “at this rate.”

She stretched her hand across the table and laid it on his brown fist.

“Take mine,” she said. “I can sublet to you.” Chuck Martin’s fingers closed on hers and at once let go.

“Penny,” he said, “you’re a goose.”

“I’m not!” she flamed in reply. “It’s perfectly sensible!”

“You’re a pretty nice goose at that,” Chuck said and this time his fingers remained closed on her hand. “But, sweet, Grace wouldn’t want to—and I’m damned if I’ll throw you out of your happy home.” “Pooh.” She wrinkled her nose. “It’s only a tiny bachelor apartment that 1 got after Grace left . . . and one of the girls in the office asked mo just the other day whether I knew anyone who wanted to rent a room. Her folks are going to tako n lodger, and it might be fun living with Pearl. She’s a good friend of mine.”

“G’wan,” said Chuck. “Nice thought of yours, but forget it.”

He was silent for a moment, contemplating that horrible painting once more, when ho became aware of a strange sound.

“Here,” be said sharply. “Penny! Stop that! You mustn’t cry.”

Penny Whitlaw’s lower lip quivered. Two tears ran down either side of her small nose.

“You’re just u big stupid, selfish goon of a man,” she said bitterly. “You’ve given four years of your life, Grace has given three years. Both of you think it’s perfectly all right for you to make sacrifices for the things you love—but you grudge it if I want to give something to the only two people in the world that I care about. Selfish, that’s what you are.”

Awkwardly Chuck found a folded handkerchief and passed it across the table.

“Sorry, goose,” he said. “I didn’t think of it that way. Now dry those tears before I run off and leave you to pay the bill.”

“Then you’ll take my place?” Penny’s eyes were shining.

Chuck squeezed her hand. “I think it’s the nicest wedding present anyone ever gave,” he said. “So will Grace. Let’s go send that wire to Halifax at once.” Next day Chuck found the three sheets of yellow scratch paper placed neatly in the centre of his green blotter by the cleaning woman. Stamped in dust across the top sheet was one of his own rubber heel marks.

He looked at the sheets with distaste. With even more distaste he read the slogans—peppy, punchy ones which he had labored over. Quite evidently they hadn’t carried either pep or punch enough to please Jackson Hall. So he drew pencil lines through them. He looked longest at the last slogan, which had incurred Hall’s gravest displeasure—“That Good Mitchell Bread”—and rebelliously he put a pencilled tick beside it.

Then he fished another sheet of scratch paper out of his desk. “Concentrate . . Continued on page 34

Continued on page 34

To Chuck—With Love

Continued from page 9

Concentrate,” he admonished himself in the words of Jackson Hall, and tried to wrestle with more slogans about bread. But his eyes strayed northeast from the yellow paper to the large “30” which he had scribbled on the blotting pad. Then they leaped to the desk calendar.

The thirtieth! Why hadn’t he looked it up before! That was a Saturday—That was a half day off!

That meant he could marry Grace in the afternoon, if she agreed, and have a week end’s honeymoon with her, if he made hotel reservations promptly.

There was that little fisherman’s hotel . . .

“Wait,” he cautioned himself. “What about the ceremony itself? How can 1 line up a minister if I don’t know what time Grace is arriving? What about the license? I’d better plan this like a campaign, with Grace as the objective.”

He scribbled the title “Campaign” on the fresh sheet. Under it he set the first item that clamored for attention —“Marriage License Bureau.” That act seemed to unloose in him a panic flood of other things he’d have to do.

For another minute Chuck looked at the words he had pencilled, then rose and took his hat from the top of a filing cabinet.

“Miss Brother,” he said to the middle-aged stenographer in the outer office, “I’m going out for a little while. Very important business. Cover me if Mr. Hall—”

At that very moment Jackson Hall opened the door of his handsome walnut-panelled office. Chuck dropped his hat into Miss Brother’s wastebasket. Miss Brother’s left eyelid fell and rose again.

“Mr. Martin,” Hall said. “1 was just buzzing your office. Will you come in here, please?”

“Been worried about those Mitchell Bakery slogans,” Hall said when he was behind his desk again. “Worried, because it doesn’t seem to me that you were quite on the—er, beam, as you say. So I worked on them at home last night and here are three or four which I think you should study for style.”

He passed a folded sheet of bond paper to Chuck Martin, and the latter felt absurdly that he should salute, as if on the receipt of sealed orders.

“Don’t say, necessarily, that they’re better than what you’d produce unaided, my boy.” There was a frosty modesty in Hall’s voice. “But 1 think I may say they’ll help you . . . Actually, they’ll do as an agency submission unless we find something better.”

Again Chuck was tempted to salute.

“I’ll concentrate,” he said instead. “Concentrate.” He put the paper in his breast pocket and closed the heavy door. Then he retrieved his hat from Miss Brother’s wastepaper basket.

“As I was saying—”

“Get along,” said Miss Brother and smiled the smile of all women for those who are about to wed. “I opened the wire that came for you in the mail this morning. You’ve got plenty to do. And don’t worry about Mr. Hall—I’ll look after things here.”

“Thanks,” said Chuck and bolted for the corridor. “Say—” he turned at the door. “What kind of candies d’you like best?”

It was while Chuck was at the city hall, obtaining the marriage license from a world-weary clerk, that Miss Brother got her chance to look after things.

THAT Saturday morning Chuck was still trying to “concentrate, concentrate,” on the Mitchell Bakery slogans and actually had a dozen completed which struck him as being quite as good as the samples his employer had given him. He liked them so well, indeed, that he took them to Jackson Hall’s office.

“You know,” he said as he laid them on the heavy carved desk, “I think I’m catching on in this business. Here are your Mitchell Bakery slogans—and here are mine. What say you make the final selection now and send them to Mitchell’s?”

Hall lifted his head in a strangely stiff fashion. He turned his head slowly, as if his neck hurt.

“Send them to Mitchell’s!” he repeated. He leaned back in his chair and Chuck saw that there was frozen horror on his military face. “But—but we did send them to Mitchell’s. We sent them last Wednesday! We sent those slogans that I wrote at home. Or didn’t we?”

Suddenly he leaned forward and punched the buzzer on his desk. He punched it three times and Chuck heard Miss Brother scurry in from the outer office.

“Last Wednesday, Miss Brother,” Hall said slowly and distinctly, “I asked you to obtain some slogans for the Mitchell Bread Company from Mr. Martin. I asked you to send them at once to B. C. Short, the company’s advertising manager. Remember?”

“Yes, Mr. Hall.” Miss Brother nervously smoothed her dress.

“Did you send them?”

“Yes, Mr. Hall. I took them off Mr. Martin’s desk.”

“These slogans?” Jackson Hall leaned forwax-d and held out the sheet of white bond paper which he had givexx Chuck Martin.

Miss Brother looked at them ixervously.

“No, sir,” she said. “There was only oixe slogan, actually. Something about ‘That Good Mitchell Bread’ and—”

“Thank you—that’s enough,” Jackson Hall said with elaborate courtesy. “You may go back to your desk and shut the door.” He waited until Miss Brother had disappeared, then he turned to Chuck once more. “You know, Mr. Martin, this should be called sabotage! That you should deliberately substitute your pointless phrase for my suggestions seems to nxe so incredible that I—that—I’m simply at a loss for words.”

“But 1 didn’t,” Chuck protested. “I didn’t know that Miss Brother had sexxt in the other ...”

“Don’t do that, Mr. Martin,” Jackson Hall warned. “I beg you, don’t.”

“Doxx’t do what?” Chuck xxsked.

“Try to throw the blame on a woman,” Hall said. “It isn’t done. Anyway it was your business to have knowix.”

He reached for the telephone and dialled. “That you, B. C.? Jackson Hall here. There’s been an accident in our office about that slogan for your company . . . Oh, you’re coxxsidering them this morning? And you’ve just picked one? But xxot our submission? No, I feared it wouldn’t be. Thank you, B.C., thank you again—No, ixo hard feelixxgs on this side. Thanks.”

He huxxg up. Thexx he reached into a desk drawer and brought out a cheque book.

“I think, Mr. Martin,” he said, “that you’re xxot exactly suited to the advertisiixg business. Here’s your last week’s pay and another week’s in lieu of notice. Good-by, Mr. Martin— Good-by !”

Five miixutes later Chuck was on the street, looking at a chronometer in a jeweller’s window. The clock said it was exactly 10.

“And as good axx hour as axxy for a man to be fired on his wedding day,” he said to himself. Then his eye moved farther along the window and suddenly he snapped his fingers.

“Wedding ring!” he cried, and dashed into the store . . .

Since Grace’s transport might land at either airport, there was no point in trying to meet her.

They had been waiting long exxough for Chuck to fill a brand-new crystal ash tray with a mound of cigarette stubs. Hours during which Chuck had

told Penny that he was no longer an advertising man—and why.

She had listened to him first soberly, then indignantly. “But what will you do now?” Penny asked at last. Chuck looked at her, curled up in the other armchair, yet somehow poised as if to spring to his defense, and his own anger vanished.

“You’re a sweet kid to take my troubles so seriously,” he said.

“But, of course,” Penny cried.

“They don’t seem so serious now,” he said. “Just talking to you has fixed them. And don’t worry. There are lots of other jobs.”

They were well into a discussion of what other work he should undertake when suddenly he lifted his head.

“Listen,” he said. “Penny, listen!” Nearing the apartment door in the corridor were quick, familiar steps.

“That’s Grace,” he cried, and bounded out of the armchair. His foot twisted and Chuck almost sprawled, but he had the door open in time—and there she was, trim in her uniform of grey.

“Darlings,” she cried, and stood there for a second, her eyes misty blue and blinking. “Oh, my precious darlings!” Her arms went out to them both.

It was several minutes later that she took off her smart cap and shook her head to loosen the hair that was cut in a mannish bob.

Quickly she caught the dismay in Chuck’s eyes.

“No long hair now, Chuck, dear,” she teased. “Do you miss it so very much?”

“It’s on the altars of democracy,” he joked. “Right next to part of my foot.”

“Something like that,” she said gravely. “No, truly, it was no sacrifice, it was just a matter of regulations. In Rome I had an international staff of over 100 working for me, and a shoulder-length bob just doesn’t go with authority.”

“A hundred,” Penny gasped. “Why, Grace, you must be an executive!”

Grace dropped into the armchair and stretched her feet, in sensible brown walking shoes, in front of her. She fumbled for a cigarette while she looked at her young sister.

“Yes, dear,” she said. “I suppose you could call it that.”

“Huh,” Chuck said desperately. “And me—I’ve just been—”

“But you must see the apartment,” Penny interrupted. In her manner was a mute warning to Chuck. “Why, Chuck and I have spent every spare hour getting it ready for you.” She reached down both hands to Grace and hauled her out of the deep chair.

“I love it already,” Grace laughed. “Particularly its human contents.” Yet her eves remained serious.

“But wait until you see the bedroom,” Chuck cried. “Designed just for you—all lace and frilly things.”

GRACE stood in the door and her breath came sharply.

“You kids,” she said softly, and shook her head. “You certainly went to town, didn’t you? Just fancy me in this room.” She looked critically at herself in the full-length mirror facing the door. Then she looked again at the room, a harmony in peach and light grey, light ash furniture, peach-colored rug and drapes.

Chuck strode over to the bed and rubbed his knuckles on the chenille spread.

“I’m not trying to be indelicate,” he grinned. “But this, my sweet, is some bed. I’ve never in my life slept in anything as soft.”

“And I haven’t for two and a half years,” Grace returned.

“Cupboard space,” Penny threw

open a door. “Plenty for all your dresses.”

“All 1 reserve is a nail on the wall,” Chuck said. “The rest is yours.”

Grace sank down on a frilly boudoir bench and looked at the triptych mirrors of the dressing table. Chuck smiled at her reflection even as he put his arm about Penny’s shoulders and gave her a hug. Penny turned pink.

“I’ve got a lot to thank Penny for,” he said. “She’s like you in so many ways that it was almost like having you with me when we bought things for this place.”

“Goodness,” Penny stumbled, “I’m glad Chuck asked me to help.”

Grace turned her eyes from them by an effort of will, and patted her hair. Her face was thoughtful.

“My dears,” she said, “I’ve forgotten what it is to have dresses. I seem to have lived in this uniform forever. I can’t imagine myself out of it.”

“You’ll get dresses,” Chuck said. “We’ll go on a buying spree—I’ve still got some money left. And, Penny, remind me about those pillow cases we saw in Wilson’s. That’s something we forgot.”

“That’s right,” Penny said. “Initialled pillow slips. ‘C’ for Chuck and ‘G’ for Grace.” She turned mischievously. “As a matter of fact if I had any decency I’d leave you two lovebirds alone and get them now. In fact, I think that’s what I will do.”

At that moment the telephone rang and she reached for it.

“Who?” she asked. “Who? Why, yes. She’s right here.”

She put her hand over the mouthpiece. “Grace,” she said. “Ottawa is calling you! How did they know where to reach you?”

“I left my address in Halifax,” Grace said. “There was an important job coming up—a job I heard of after I sent you that wire, Chuck—” Then she was at the phone, speaking briefly, incisively, her eyes on Chuck and Penny. “I’ll call you back,” she said at last. “Within an hour.”

“What is it?” Chuck asked, suddenly very serious.

Grace’s smile was crooked. “That’s the job,” she said. “Our London office wants me to take charge of a shipload of supplies, to organize their distribution; create a staff. Special request from the British.”

“Where?” Penny gasped.

“It’s going to Burma,” said Grace. “And then there’ll be the Dutch East Indies and perhaps China . . .”

“Grace,” Chuck reached for her hand, grasped it. “Grace—You’re not going?”

She stood there, conflict on her face. “This is my great chance,” she said.

“It’s a chance two ways,” he said significantly.

“Oh, Chuck,” she pulled her hand away. “Don’t force me to make a decision right this second . . . Don’t. . .” Chuck Martin let his hands fall to his trouser seams. He stood erect.

“My dear,” he said, “I’d never force you to do anything.”

For an instant longer Grace faced him, then she turned and picked up her grey uniform cap.

“I’ll have to decide this alone,” she said. “Penny, you stay here. You had an errand at Wilson’s, didn’t you? Well, I’ll do it.”

Then she was gone.

The phone rang again sometime after she had left, and Chuck answered as if in a daze.

“That Mr. Martin, formerly of the Jackson Hall Agency?” a loud voice demanded—a voice so loud that Penny could hear it clearly as she stood next to Chuck.

“Yes,” he said.

“This is B. C. Short, advertising manager for Mitchell Bread,” the voice boomed. “Young man, 1 don’t think much of your slogan writing ability, but that promotion idea of yours wasso good we’ve already used it. Y7ou’ve got a job with us on Monday morning, running the thing.”

“The promotion idea?” Chuck was still dazed.

“Hah,” the big voice barked a laugh. “Of course you didn’t know it had got over to us. But I’ve talked to Jackson Hall and got the straight of what happened in that silly mix-up . . . And I’m very glad that second sheet of yours was copied and sent to us.”

“Was it?” Chuck bluffed along. Penny’s blond head was just under his nose.

“Sure!” the voice was genial. “It said ‘Campaign — Marriage License Bureau’—and I caught on right away. That’s the kind of thinking we want in our organization, Mr. Martin. We’re watching the issue of marriage licenses and weddings as from today, and making sure that Mitchell’s Bread is delivered to every young couple starting married life in this city. You come along on Monday and have a talk with me.”

“Certainly,” Chuck mumbled.

Penny was hopping up and down ecstatically.

“There!” she cried. “I knew thal silly old Jackson Hall made a mistake when he fired you, dear. I’ll bet he’s sorry now — I’ll just bet he is!”

“Well, I’m not,” said Chuck. “I’m darn glad Hey, is that Grace at the door?”

But it wasn’t Grace. It was a boy with a telegraph messenger’s cap perched on the back of his head. He had a brown parcel.

“Lady in uniform stopped me on the street and tipped me to bring this right up,” he said. “Said it was a message for you.”

“A message?” Penny wondered aloud as she stripped off the wrapping while Chuck fished a quarter out of his pocket. “But there’s no message from Grace here. These are the pillow slips she bought at Wilson’s.”

Chuck looked over her shoulder, and the scent of her hair was in his nostrils. His arms closed about her as she turned up her face.

“Goose,” he said softly. “There is a message. Look at the initials. Grace doesn’t spell her name with a ‘P’ . . . and, darling, 1 know now that’s the right initial for me.”

It was the darndest thing, but they never heard the knock, although later that evening they found another gift had been left for them outside the door.

11 was a loaf of Mitchell’s bread.