Fiction

Window At East’s

In Peter’s long fight for success there had been no chivalry. Now a pretty face threatened to upset the applecart of his security

ALEC RACKOWE June 1 1949
Fiction

Window At East’s

In Peter’s long fight for success there had been no chivalry. Now a pretty face threatened to upset the applecart of his security

ALEC RACKOWE June 1 1949

Window At East’s

Fiction

In Peter’s long fight for success there had been no chivalry. Now a pretty face threatened to upset the applecart of his security

ALEC RACKOWE

PETER GRAYLING went with the crowd through the vast concourse and stepped into a lift. Coated girls with amazingly young faces burst in and Peter stepped back to give them room, a tall, broad-shouldered man in his late thirties. He held his bag before him and he thought, I'll run out to the farm this week end. I won't let anything stop me. Then he thought of the utter failure of his Coast trip and his lips tightened.

The apple-green reception hall of Kalman-Kaye, Advertising was deserted. The blown-up pictures of magazine advertisements colorfully proclaimed Kalman-Kaye’s clients.

One of the porters came through the glasspaneled doors at the right. The doors that said: Media, Research, Art, Executive. The doors at the far side had a longer list, headed by Radio. The porter said, “ ’Morning, Mr. Grayling. Take your bag for you?”

“That’s all right, Sam,” Peter said.

The last door Peter opened said in chaste gold lettering: Peter Grayling, Executive Assistant.

He left the door open and glanced at the desk clock as he sat down. It was 8.45. In fifteen minutes the clerks and typists would begin to arrive and the phones would begin to ring.

The mail Miss Norton had set out for him was in two baskets. His private mail was in a neat little pile on the desk pad. Peter took up the half dozenodd letters. There was a letter from his older sister out West. He read it, feeling his neck muscles relax. Mary was fifty now. A grandmother. He smiled as he read the family gossip, put the letter aside, remembering how she’d been more a mother than a sister to him when he’d been a kid on the farm.

There were a couple of other letters from people he knew as well as one ever got to know people in the city. There was a letter postmarked Ridgewater, in Lyman Carast’s crabbed writing and Peter’s face darkened as he opened it.

It was what he had expected. “ . . . need this, and I think . . .”

Peter put down the letter. He thought, There's no reason for it . . .

His instincts, handed down by generations of farmers, revolted at the idea of a farm that; did not pay for itself; of a farmer who could not make his crops and livestock profitable.

Then he shrugged. Everyone had laughed at him when he’d bought the place before the war. Even B. J. Kaye had grinned. “You’ll take your losses the way I do.”

Peter had bought the place. There was something, part of that, heritage, that made him want to be a landholder even though he knew that by the time he was ready to retire to that old stone house in its gently rolling acres he would be too old to farm it actively himself. “But I bet,” he said aloud, “I could make it pay if I ran it.”

SOME GIRL he saw every morning and did not know by name brought in the menu. Peter frowned. It was the silliest thing to ask a man who had barely breakfasted what he wanted for lunch. But it was efficient. It saved time for the chefs and waitresses in the company dining room. He stared at the menu. He said at last, “Lamb chops and grilled tomatoes.” He hoped he’d feel like eating them when one o’clock came. Unless he was embroiled with B. J. by then. B. J. was going to make a fuss about this Coast business.

Fred Broker, who was account executive for Peralso, came in just before nine-thirty. Fred was lean and dapper. He went over all the business in hand until Peter expressed an opinion; made a note. Then Broker grinned, “Glad that’s off my chest. Just get in?”

“Yes.”

Broker’s brows lifted. “Then you haven’t seen B. J.’s latest?”

Peter felt his jaw muscles tighten. Broker said, “This one is class. But class and what a looker!”

He chuckled. “B. J. and his experiments in cuties. Remember the one fresh out of finishing school who thought Media was a Greek tragedy?” Peter said, “That has whiskers.” He gestured. “Run along, will you, Fred.”

Broker turned cheerfully to the door. “Thanks for the assist, Pete.”

PETER stared at the desk blotter. He wished devoutly that B. J. Kaye would grow out of his penchant for giving pretty girls jobs they couldn’t handle.

He said “Career women,” and scowled. In a game like advertising, where you produced or went out, he didn’t mind competition. But not from women. They were all right in their own fields but not up in the executive field. Not when only their looks accounted for their presence, as in the case of B. J.’s cuties.

Mrs. Chapin, B. J.’s secretary, came in. She was a grey-haired, cheerful woman. She looked like a housewife but she was the perfect secretary for B. J. Had been for almost a quarter century.

B. J. had brought her from Osborne when he and Kalman set up K & K in the mad Twenties. She smiled. “He’s in. Any time you like.” “Thanks, Nelly,” Peter said. She looked at Peter with bright, beady eyes. “Don’t fret about Marsden. We’ve lost accounts before.”

“I do mind,” Peter said almost harshly and Mrs. Chapin nodded. “That’s what I mean. We’ll all live and the firm will go on. It’s not life and death, Peter.”

She went; out. He found his irritation, oddly turning to this new pret ty B. J. had brought in.

B. J. KAY sat: behind his half-circle desk in the sandalwood office, portly, white-haired, freshfaced. He gestured. “Sit down, Pete.” His pale eyes met Peter’s. “Marsden’s dead?”

“Very dead.”

B. J. said slowly, “Perhaps I should have gone myself. That’s an awful lot of billing to lose.”

Peter didn’t answer. There wasn’t anything to say. He thought, Sure. When everything goes well it goes well. When it doesn't someone is to blame. There has to be someone.

Kaye swung around. His blue double-breasted was a work of art. “All right.”

Peter got up. B. J. said, “By the way. I’ve engaged a young woman. Ann Troubridge. As an executive assistant.”

Peter felt coldness touch him, then vanish in a warm anger. “Why?”

B. J. picked up the ivory letter opener. “We need the woman’s point of view. Badly.”

“We’ve lots of women pretty good at determining that.”

“Not on a high level. That’s all, Pete.”

Peter went out. Nelly Chapin at her desk in her own little office shook her head, smiling faintly. Peter paid no attention. In the anteroom he looked across the beige carpet and saw the door with the néw lettering. It said: Ann Troubridge, Executive Assistant.

ON THE impulse Peter crossed over. It was something he had to do sooner or later. It was up to him to see her first.

He tapped on the door. A clear voice said, “Come in.”

The office inside had been newly done over in pale mahogany. Quick work, Peter thought. He’d

only been at the Coast two weeks. This had been Magnin’s office. They’d probably shoved Magnin into a cornq^of his art department.

The wqman behind the cleared desk was, Peter saw wit# quick perception, older than the usual prohWrc. Perhaps that was why B. J. had given heaÄtitle that placed her right at Peter’s side.

couldn’t decide just how old she was, but he Jew she was in her middle or late twenties. As red Broker had said, she was a looker. Her golden air was upswept in lacquerlike perfection. She ore a blue suit in the latest fashion. A suit that emphasized her small waist and broad shoulders, the swell of her firm breasts. She looked more than smart. She looked elegant, in the true sense of the word.

Her violet eyes met Peter’s with friendly interest. Peter said, “I’m Peter Grayling.”

He saw the friendliness vanish. Her eyes still held his but now they were almost impersonal. She said in that clear, warm voice, “How do you do, Mr. Grayling.”

She stood up and came around the desk. She had slim ankles and narrow, high-instepped feet in blue, buckled pumps. She looked at Peter gravely.

“Are there any things we should confer on?” “None. If B. J. wants us to handle anything together he’ll say so.”

“I see.” She bent her lovely, almost classic head. “You don’t like working with women, do you, Mr. Grayling?”

Peter said soberly, “I find it’s never successful. Particularly—”

He didn’t finish. He saw the faint color that touched her smoot h cheeks. He didn’t ask, “Where did B. J. pick you up?” He said, “Where were you before this?”

“Rayson and Fleming.”

“Vancouver. Long?”

“Ten years.”

Peter blinked. She couldn’t be that old. “You went there while you were at college?”

“1 didn’t go to college. I went into Rayson as a file clerk. I became a secretary. Then I wrote copy. After that, I became assistant to Mr. Rayson. When Mr. Kaye offered me this job I accepted.”

Her smile was cool. “Ambitious? I am, Mr. Grayling. I know my stuff, too.”

Peter nodded. “Thank you, Miss Troubridge.” He went out, closing the door behind him. She might, just as well have thrown down her glove in medieval challenge. She had as much as said, “I know there’s only room for one of us.”

HE thought about it after he got to his apartment in the Balmoral that evening. It was a nice enough sitting room and bedroom suite in a quiet residential hotel, brightly furnished by a firm of decorators. It was a place suited to a man who used it only to sleep in.

Peter could have gone on to the club. There would be a game of bridge, men with whom he could discuss all sorts of things over a drink. But he wasn’t in the mood for it. Between the Marsden account, the incompetence of Lyman Carast and this new irritation at K & K he didn’t want company at all.

It wasn’t, as he’d recognized that afternoon, that he feared Ann Troubridge. He’d fought for his job. Keeping it was a constant fight. It wasn’t that she was a woman and a beautiful one either. On that level chivalry didn’t count.

Peter couldn’t quite decide why Ann Troubridge bothered him more than any of the ot hers had ever done. It was perhaps, he thought, because he recognized in her a hardness, a competitive temperament, and because he intended to stay at K & K and couldn’t brook a dangerous rival.

He had a good job; a fine job but no more secure than any other position in the game. He’d fought to get it just as he’d fought for everything that had come to him in his thirty-seven years.

There’d been a lot of them on the farm. It was Mary who had insisted that Peter be given a chance to go to college. Mary who had scraped up the money for his first semester. Peter had worked as hard outside as he had on his studies. He hadn’t had time for sports or for girls. He’d known there was nothing for him on the farm.

When he’d taken his degree he’d had a few hundred saved. He’d come on to Toronto. The depression was pretty much at its height then and it was months before he’d finally got a job with Potter, Senser and Coley. Probably because P. S. &. C. like a lol of firms were letting out highsalaried men and filling the spots with young college graduates who would work for a great deal less.

He’d moved up until he’d become B. J.’s trouble shooter and assistant . But he’d fought all the way. He wasn’t changing, either.

He got up, sighing. He thought of Ridgewater and the farm. He said, “I guess I’d better stick close. I can’t take the time.”

IT WAS inevitable that there should be conflict.

It came one November morning at a staff meeting held in the room with the long oak table and straight-backed oak chairs. They were to discuss the spring campaign for Associated Furnitures. Continued on page 38

Continued from page 21

They were all there when B. J. came in with Mrs. Chapin.

Peter did not look at Ann Troubridge. He listened while B. J. spoke. When H. J. finished, nodding to him, Peter glanced at the summary in Miss Norton’s clear typescript. He said, “I think we’re pretty well finished with the generalities of the campaign. There is, we’re agreed, a nation-wide sentiment, recognized or not, that fits in perfectly with Associated’s new lines. A harking back to the times of our parents and grandparents. To the days of well — j security and peace. To simpler times and simpler living. All this is inherent j in Associated’s new products. Our job I is to awaken in the women of the country a recognition of this feeling they may not. be aware is in them.” Ann Troubridge said clearly, “No.” B. J. sat up. Peter was aware of the i stir of uneasiness that went about the table. He kept his eyes on his notes. He thought, All 1 hare to do is keep still. Her l(K>ks are no longer a novelty

to R. J. . . . But he wanted to tell her to shut up.

“The men as much if not more so than the women,” Ann said.

B. J. turned his eyes on Peter. Peter said, “Young couples shop for their first furniture, but when it comes to replacement it is the wives who count.” Ann said again, “No.”

Their eyes held. Peter let his breath go slowly. He looked at B. J. Beyond him Mrs. Chapin smiled, but Peter knew somehow that it wasn’t what they were differing about that amused her.

B. J. snapped, “Let’s get it straight. What about Research, Moffit?” Moffit said briskly, “Figures taken on our test windows don’t go into exact numbers. Comparatively, though, a preponderance of women looking at them.”

Ann asked. “What were the hours?” “Nine in the morning to four in the afternoon.”

“Not a fair test,” Ann said.

Peter asked, “Why not? Take East’s. There are as many men as women, more, on the Avenue.”

“Businessmen. Women shoppers,” Continued on page 40

Continued from page 38 Ann said. “I suggest a test after business hours would show even more masculine interest in East’s window than feminine.”

B. J. looked annoyed. Peter felt no lift. He looked at Moffit. “Put a crew on it for a check.”

He glanced at Ann. He felt somehow sorry for her. She’d put her neck out when it wasn’t necessary.

Ann’s cheeks were a little pale. She said, “You don’t mind if I make my own check?”

B. J. said irritably, “Suppose you two check it yourselves,” and before Peter could say anything, Ann said, “I think so. Three nights from six to nine. If Mr. Grayling isn’t disinclined to give the time.”

Peter shook his head. “I don’t mind. Six o’clock at East’s. Tonight, tomorrow and Saturday.”

He looked at B. J. but he saw Mrs. Chapin’s smile. B. J. said into the silence, “Weil, let’s get on with it . . .”

It was almost completely dark; only the windows of the shops were bright with light and color.

A cool wind moved down the Avenue. The people strolling seemed in no hurry.

Ann Trou bridge was waiting at the curb in front of the test window at East’s. There were people clustered before the window. They stood and looked and then drifted away and others came from either direction and filled the empty spaces.

Ann wore a close-fitting dark coat, its collar tight about her neck. There was a long feather in her hat. It swayed as she turned her head. She wasn’t, Peter saw, as tall as he had thought. He said, “You know, we could have left it to Moffit . . .”

“It’s too late now, isn’t it?” Ann said and Peter took out his counters and inspected them. Ann said, “We can discount couples. That will make it easier. Ix?ft hand for women, right for men. It’s a minute or so before six now, but that’s all right, isn’t it?”

“Quite all right.”

A woman came down the Avenue, her heels clicking. Her head turned. She paused and went over to the window. Peter pressed the plunger of the left-hand counter. Two men came up from the South talking earnestly. One paused. He put his hand on his companion’s arm. They walked over to join the others before the window. Peter’s right-hand counter clicked twice.

THE window was big. It showed three sides; the interior of a room. It recalled for Peter the living room of the stone house in Ridgewater. The fireplace was the same—big and deep enough for split maple logs that burned steadily for hours with pleasant heat.

He thought, “It’s pretty cold up there. Pretty lonely.”

The house would be dark. The only light would come from the Carast’s cottage. The mist would he coming ghostly white from the river. R would be chill and damp, but if the maple logs were burning it would take no time at all for the house to get as warm and comfortable as it had ever been in ali its hundred-odd years of existence.

He concentrated on his checking, not looking at Ann.

It was Ann who said at last, “Nine.” Peter looked at her blankly. She said, “Nine o’clock.”

“is it?” Peter peered at his watch. “Shall we check?” Ann asked.

They carried the counters to the street lamp. Peter showed Ann his. She said, “Pretty close. You have two more men than I have. I’ve three more women. Even so in round figures about

two hundred women and two hundred and twenty men.”

“Yes.” Peter put his counters in his pocket.

Ann said, “Tomorrow. Same time.” Peter hesitated. “You—shall I get you a cab?”

“No. 1 live close by.”

Peter said. “I think it’s better for you not to to walk alone.”

“That’s kind of you.” Ann said. They walked in silence. Peter thought of several things that came into his mind but he said nothing. At a three-storied building with a linen shop masking the small door Ann said, “This is where I live. Good night, Mr. Grayling.”

Peter raised his hat and moved up the street but as he got to the corner he slowed. He didn’t want to go to the club hut it was too early to go home. He wasn’t given to feeling like this. There was always more to do than time in which to do it. He thought, It’s the autumn and Marsden and then this . . . He shoved his hands in his overcoat pockets and crossed the street toward the restaurant whose lights beckoned.

B. 4. wasn’t around the next day.

He wouldn’t, Mrs. Chapin said, be back until Tuesday. She came into Peter’s office to tell him. She asked, “How old are you Peter?” and Peter stared.

“After ten years you haven’t found out, Nelly? I’m thirty-seven.”

Mrs. Chapin smiled. “So you are,” she said and went out. Peter looked blankly at Miss Norton but Miss Norton didn’t seem to have noticed anything odd.

It was cold when Peter got to East’s that evening. There were lots of fur coats in evidence. Ann was at the curb talking to a young policeman.

There weren’t as many people as there had been the night before. Possibly, Peter thought, because it was so cold. This time he thought nine o’clock would never come and several times he found himself staring at East’s window, thinking of the house at Ridgewater and entirely forgetting his count.

When nine o’clock finalty came and Ann remarked upon the difference in their count, Peter said, “I’m sure yours is right. I forgot, several times . . .”

He walked home with her again, turning up the collar of his light coat. Ann walked easily beside him. Peter said, “We could skip tomorrow.”

“Saturday people are different from weekday ones.”

Peter felt for a cigarette. He said slowly as he threw the match away, “The whole thing’s unfortunate. You could have chosen something else; something . . .”

Ann stopped. “Did you think it was personal?” She shook her head. “I thought it important. Part of the whole campaign and the staff meeting the place to discuss it.”

Peter said, “I agree. But you don’t know B. J. as I do. He . . He gestured. Ann started on and Peter went with her.

At her door she paused. She was about to say something but after a moment she said only, “Good night. Tomorrow at six.” Peter lifted his hat and went up Madison to the restaurant for a belated dinner.

KALMAN-KAY was closed on Saturdays but Peter went to the office as usual and worked all morning and part of the afternoon. It had turned unseasonably warm and the office was stuffy. At three he left and had some lunch. The air was damp and close. It was much too warm for

November but the warmth made Peter think of how it would be* at Ridgewater. All golden haze and vagrant puffs of wind and the water moving silently below the knoll. If he got the car from the garage he could be there Ín four hours.

He went to the club but it was close there. He didn’t like his drink and played only one hand of bridge. He went out again and walked slowly toward East's as the dusk was falling. He stood there, feeling very warm from the walk. He undid his coat and the air was almost too cool.

It started to rain soon after Ann came. She had on a checked raincoat and she raised the hood and covered her head. She said with a sort of impatience, “Didn’t you know it was going to rain?”

“I didn’t think of it,” Peter said, his mind grasping again at that note in her voice that was somehow so familiar.

Ann said, “We can watch from the doors. If it rains hard there won’t be many to count.”

It didn’t rain hard at first. A mere series of tiny drops. There weren’t many lone men and women to check. There were mostly couples. They stood arm in arm, looking in the window speaking in low tones. Peter buttoned his coat tightly about him. His cigarette didn’t taste good at all. The rain started to come down hard and the people vanished. The street glistened in the lamplight . Auto wheels hissed on the wet asphalt. The young policeman came by, his black waterproof glistening. Peter sneezed.

Ann turned her head. Peter felt very odd and dispirited. Ann said, “We’d better call it off. This rain is going to last.”

They couldn’t flag a cab. At Ann’s door she said, “I think you’re getting a cold. You take some aspirin and go right to bed.”

When he got to his hotel he was thoroughly drenched. His head felt like a balloon. He got out of his wet clothes and took a hot shower. Then he got into bed thankfully. He remembered he hadn’t taken any aspirin but he couldn’t summon the energy to get up and see if he had some. He fell asleep, thinking, I'll be all right m the morn ing.

HE wasn’t. When he woke, shivering, Jiis bones ached. The rain slatted against the windows and Peter groaned and went to sleep again.

He woke feeling worse. He reached for the phone. “Tell Dr. Johnson to drop in on me, will you?” he croaked.

Dr. Johnson came, a cheerful, florid man, who shoved a thermometer in Peter’s mouth. He looked at it later and said brightly, “A bit of fever. Got to expect that. I’ll send you up some pills. Take them as directed and keep in bed for a couple of days. Eat lightly.”

The pills came at five. Peter took his dose. When he woke again it was dark. He looked at the table clock. It was one in the morning. He thought, I'll be okay. I'll get to the office.

He wasn’t and he didn’t. When he I got out of bed he knew it was no go. He I took his pills, ordered tea and toast and went back to bed. Dr. Johnson came at eleven. Peter was glad to see him. Johnson said, “Hah,” after he looked at the thermometer. “Fever’s down. Stay in bed today.”

He napped. When he woke he found thimself thinking of Ann Troubridge. He lay in bed staring at the I ceiling. He knew B. J. As he’d told ! Ann it was unfortunate that she’d chosen to differ with him on a thing like the window at East’s. It didn’t make him feel better however. That, Peter told himself, was the cold.

At five he ordered some dinner. The sunlight faded. Peter hated to see it go. He closed his eyes. 11 made him think of being a kid, after his mother had died. Of being up in his garret room at the farm. Of crying out when the dark came and of hearing his sister Mary’s voice.

HE sat up. The knock was clear.

Peter called, “Come in,” and looked at the open bedroom door. He said, “Oh, come in.”

He looked at the mussed bedcovers, shifted to get away from a crease in the sheet that hurt his back. He turned his head, still bemused and saw Ann Troubridge in the doorway.

Her cheeks were flushed with the cold and her violet eyes looked at Peter with a sort of shocked compassion.

Ann came into the room, stripping off her gloves. “They fold me you hadn’t been in. 1 knew you were most probably in bed and I consider myself to blame.”

“Not at all,” Peter said stiffly.

Ann looked at the bed. She glanced at the tray. Her eyes met Peter’s. “Has your bed been made?”

Peter said, “N-no. I’ve been in it.” “Hasn’t anyone been taking care of you?”

He didn’t answer. Ann said, “You’re a mess and that bed is worse.” She laid her gloves down. “Do you think you could go and wash yourself?”

“I’ve no fever,” Peter said.

“Then you do that.” She picked up the dressing gown and tossed it to him and Peter recognized what it was in her voice that was so familiar. It was the way his sister Mary had spoken to him, years ago.

He put on the robe. Ann had her back to him, holding the phone. Her voice was crisp, “Get me the housekeeper and send a waiter up here immediately. 714. Mr. Grayling.”

PETER shuffled into the bathroom.

He shaved and washed, got fresh pyjamas from the linen closet. He felt ever so much better when he finally came out, knotting the ties of the robe.

The bed was freshly made up. Ann was in the sitting room.

Peter sat down in the big chair. Ann asked, “Haven’t you any relatives or— or friends you could have called?”

Peter just looked at her and Ann said with that warm, concerned impatience that was so like Mary, “What have you been doing then all the years you’ve been in the city?”

“Working,” Peter said.

She stared at him, red lips parted. The waiter knocked, pushed in the table. Ann lifted the covers and inspected everything before she nodded dismissal. Peter felt hunger gnaw at him as he smelled the broth.

When he had finished he lighted a cigarette. It tasted good. He glanced at Ann seated across from him, her hat on the small table beside her. He said, “That was swell. You—I’m not keeping you from—from anything, am I?” “You’re not,” Ann said, “but you’ve got to go to bed now. You’ll be all right tomorrow. It will all be all right.”

THE day was blue and gold, crisp, as Peter walked to the office. He felt fine; tetter for knowing just what he was going to do.

Nelly Chapin was at her desk in her own office guarding B. J.’s. She lifted her white head to smile at Peter. The smile deepened. “He’s in an awful mood. Go right in, Peter. He’s waiting for you.”

B. J. Kaye swung around to glare as Peter came in. Peter said, “We’ve completed that check. Miss Troubridge was right. The campaign will have to

have a general appeal. For men as much as for women.”

B. J. growled, “Bad staff work.”

“On my part,” Peter said firmly. “I suggest Miss Troubridge can do tetter.”

“Maybe,” B. J. said, “but she’s resigned.”

“Resigned?” Peter said. “But why?” B. J.’s carefully tailored shoulders lifted. “Don’t ask me. What’s it matter?”

Peter felt a cold anger. “It matters a lot. Why did you get her to throw up her job if you don’t care if she stays or not, even when she’s proved she has what it takes?”

B. J.’s eyes grew hard. “What’s biting you? I thought you wanted her out?”

Peter stared down at his chief. “I see. Useful as a whip.” He let his breath go. “I don’t like it, B. J.”

B. J. barked, “You what?”

“I don’t like it,” Peter said. “I’ve had too much of it and it isn’t necessary for me to take it.” He nodded. “Get yourself another whipping boy. I’ve resigned, too.”

He went to the door, hearing J. B. call, “Pete. Come back here, Pete.”

He paid no attention. He went past Mrs. Chapin’s desk to the door. She called to him and Peter turned. She came, plump and rounded on inadequately tiny feet and lifted on tiptoe to kiss him. “I always thought you were nice,” she said.

THE door clicked after Peter pressed the button under Troubridge. When he got up the narrow flight of stairs Ann was standing in the doorway. Her hair was about her shoulders. She looked older, but even more lovely.

She stepped back into the room. Peter followed. It was all pale green with comfortable, colorful furniture. Ann sat down, drawing the skirts of her blue robe about her. Peter said, “I’ve just come from the office. Why did you resign?”

Ann’s hands lifted, dropped. “I guess I’m tired of fighting. I’ve had ten years of it.”

“But you proved your point.”

“Did I?” Her smile was faint. “That doesn’t change anything, does it? I’m getting pretty close to thirty and somehow it doesn’t mean what it once did. Or maybe looking at that window in East’s for three straight nights made me too aware of other things.”

Peter drew his breath carefully. “B. J. knows you are good. He’ll probably call you. You’ll have it all your own way. I’m leaving.”

“He’s called already,” Ann said. “Five minutes ago.” Her eyes met Peter’s. “Why did you resign, Peter?” “Maybe for the same reasons,” Peter said slowly. “I’ve had fifteen years of it. Maybe that window at East’s got to me, too. I’ve a farm up country. I’ve got as much money as I need and I’m a farmer’s son, from a long line of farmers. I’m thirty-seven. It’s time I did what I know is the thing I want to do.”

His throat felt tight. He said, “It’s a lovely place. There’s a house. A stone house . . .” He stopped. Ann’s violet eyes were fathomless. Peter went on, stumbling, “We could be there in four hours. I could get the car if—if you’d come, Ann.”

Ann’s voice was soft. “I was born on a farm too. In the Okanagan.” Her smile was sudden, dazzling. She got up in one lithe, flowing movement. “You get the car. We’ll have lunch here. A decent lunch, Peter. I’d love to go with you.”

Her long fingers touched his arm. “Go along. I want to call that awful wise woman, Nelly Chapin.” ★