The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Tag: 1944

Spooks?

“Do you believe,” asked Jimmie Frise, in ghosts?”

“Certainly,” I said. “Who doesn’t?”

“I don’t,” said Jim. “And millions more besides me.”

“I don’t mean with your daylight brains,” I explained. “I myself, right now, in broad daylight, in this office, don’t believe in ghosts as I believe in birds or airplanes. But I bet your body and your night brain, your secret, real brain, believe in ghosts.”

“What are you talking about?” laughed Jim.

“Haven’t you ever,” I demanded, “felt spooky at night? Haven’t you ever felt all creepy on your skin? Your hair sort of prickles? And you have a perfect horror that there is something in the dark, something creeping toward you or past you?”

“Of course,” admitted Jim. “I suppose everybody has felt that way when their nerves were tired.”

“Nerves,” I scoffed. “A nerve, my dear Frise, is just an organ. A physical organ like your finger, for feeling things with. Nerves don’t feel imaginary things. They can’t. That isn’t their function.”

“Do you mean?” gasped Jim.

“I mean,” I said, that when you feel creepy, crawly and horror-struck like that, you are really in the presence of a ghost.”

“Haw,” laughed Jim, but looking rather eagerly out the window at the bright sunshine. “Haw, Haw!”

“Don’t haw,” I assured him. “I am one who believes my senses. I don’t believe what my poor little shallow daylight brain tries to teach me, for its own comfort and ease. I believe my whole me.”

“Your whole what?” asked Jim, anxiously.

“My whole me,” I repeated. “There is a lot of me besides what I know or am conscious of. There is a lot to you that you are utterly unaware of. The professors say that our conscious mind is like the varnish on a chest of drawers. A thin, pathetic little coating. The real us is a chest of drawers, deep-filled drawers, some of them maybe secret drawers and locked forever. Drawers filled with ages and ages of the past, of our ancestors back millions of years, and all they loved and feared and hated.”

“Tch, tch,” said Jimmie.

“How else,” I asked, “can you explain all our differences, that you can draw and I can sing; and I love birds and you love horses? What makes me so Grit and you so Tory? Why do I talk a lot and you sit smiling a lot?”

“This has nothing to do with ghosts,” interrupted Jim.

“It has everything to do with ghosts,” I assured him. “Because we are scared of ghosts – and rightly so – our little hand-made brains, our little shallow daylight minds, have tried, for ages, to prove there are no ghosts. No spirits. No anything that will frighten us. It is the job of our daylight brains to try and wiggle us out of anything unpleasant or disturbing.”

Our Usses Know

“Pure theory,” said Jim.

“All right,” I said, “what is your theory, then, about you and everybody else in the world feeling creepy at times? Is there anybody in the whole wide world who hasn’t felt leery and crawly one time or another? Especially at times when ghosts might be expected to be around, such as to haunted houses, on windy and wild nights, or on dreary. and deserted moors? What’s your theory there?”

“Imagination,” said Jim. “Just imagination.”

“Imagination of what?” I asked

“Just imagination,” repeated Jim. “Imagination of nothing.”

“Don’t be silly,” I cried. In 1,000,000 years of there being nothing, we would have long ago got rid of it. Imagination is only seeing with the mind. Our deeper minds, our deep and subconscious minds, know there are ghosts. Our poor little superficial minds fight like fury to pretend there aren’t any. But every once in a while, we get that feeling. It is our true usses seeing, or feeling. Our true usses.”

“Your whole me, and our true usses,” mocked Jimmie. “A lot of new words coming along?”

“When you deal with the unknown,” I pointed out, you have to invent new words.”

“Did you ever see a ghost?” asked Jim. “I mean really see?”

“Yes, lots of times,” I assured him. “And I’ve been a ghost, too.”

“Been a ghost?” shouted Jim.

“Sure,” I said. “In the Battle of Vimy, a ghost came to me the second night, when I was lying in a shell hole down the front face of the Ridge, and told me not to fear, because I would go home to Toronto and use the front door key of my father’s house that I still kept in my pocket. Even in the trenches.”

“What did it look like?” asked Jim.

“It looked like a lady,” I said.

“What kind of a lady?” demanded Jim.

“I wouldn’t care to say, but she was very beautiful,” I assured him. “She knelt right down beside me in the shell hole. If I had asked her, she would have turned me back into a baby again and lifted me up in her arms.”

“What about you being a ghost?” demanded Jim, thinly.

“That was in Houdain,” I said. “France is full of ghosts, it is so old. One terrible rainy night in February, 1918, I was walking down that long, sloping street of Houdain, with the tall houses rising sheer from the cobbled pavement, and no sidewalk. All the troops were in billet and only the provost-sergeant and his picket were abroad. It was my last duty before going to bed myself, to see the provost and his picket and tell them where they could find me in case of need.”

“So?” asked Jim.

“There I was,” I said, “in my trench coat, swinging my cane down the street in the lashing sleet and rain, all alone. When suddenly, for an instant, as if my heart stood still, I felt wet long curls blowing against my face. I felt great wide-topped leather boots around my own knees, and out from beside me hung heavily a long sheathed rapier in a leather scabbard.”

“Imagination,” said Jim.

“Or,” I said, “since my ancestors were mercenary soldiers in the old wars, coming out of Ireland and Scotland to fight for any king that had the money, I think the ghost of one of them knew me as I walked that lonely street, down which he, too, had walked in his time. And that for that one blazing, credible instant, he had entered me. Entered me through those same channels down which he had given me the color of his eyes, the roughness of his hair, his way of loving and his way of singing. Through those same mystic channels that he had come down in flesh to me, he came in spirit.”

“Gosh,” said Jimmie. Such thoughts!”

“If this life,” I assured him, “had only in it what we can see, it wouldn’t be worth bothering with for five minutes.”

“You mean you like ghosts?” begged Jim.

“Sure,” I said. “Any I’ve seen were all right. I have the feeling they’d like to be friends.”

“Do you believe in haunted houses?” asked Jim

“Yes, and I believe any house is a haunted house, if you try to believe it,” I explained. “This office is likely haunted.”

“Like to see a Ghost?”

Jimmie smiled around the office, looking at its bright walls, its cheery sunlit gleam.

“I bet,” said Jim, “you couldn’t show me a ghost in any house. Even an old tumbledown empty house out in the middle of a deserted field in the middle of the night.”

“Would you really like to see a ghost?” I asked earnestly.

“I sure would,” scoffed Jim.

“Of course,” I informed him, “If you try not to see one, it is going to be hard to show you one. You understand that, don’t you?”

“Haw, haw,” said Jim.

“I’ll do what I can,” I said. “I’m what they call a sensitive. I can usually feel where ghosts are likely to be. Often, when I’m driving through the country, I can feel where a ghost is in the old houses along the way. I’ll go and see where there is an easy ghost nearby.”

“An easy ghost?” asked Jim.

“Yes, one that shows itself without much shyness,” I pointed out. “You see, the reception ghosts generally get makes them kind of shy. But there are some tougher than others. Some old ghosts.”

“Take your time,” laughed Jim.

A few miles from the city there is a dear old tumbledown and long-abandoned farm that has been the apple of my eye for 20 years. I would love to own it and restore its battered old frame house and clean out the deserted well, with its splendid stonework untouched by the passing years. I recalled that on the near side of the front lot, as you came in from the road, there were three rough old tombstones, home-made, that commemorate the last resting place of some of the pioneers who first staked the land. I figured this would be a good place for ghost-calling for Jimmie.

An Attack of Chills

It was three nights, however, until there came a real nasty night with a howling wind, and shutters going bang, windows rattling and things going bump in the night.

“Jimmie,” I said, over the telephone, “put on your warm hunting togs. It will be a cold job.”

“Why not pick a decent night?” asked Jim. “I hate going out on a night like this, even to the movies.”

“Ghosts are often bewildered by high winds,” I explained. “They come easier on nights like this.”

“Er …” said Jim.

“I’ll be over for you in 10 minutes,” I warned.

I picked Jim up and we drove into the wild wind and the drizzle. Jimmie was gay. He wanted to talk about ghosts. He laughed loud and clear. But I sat silent. And after 10 minutes, I asked him to please be silent, as you could not expect to be in the mood if you acted like a couple of truck drivers.

So Jim grew silent and leaned forward and watched the road in the car lights as we left the highway and took a lonely country road rutted with mud and patches of dirty snow.

In silence, we came to the lane with its aged and rotting fences leading up to the ruined farm. Here I stopped and got out. And turned off the lights.

“How far is it?” asked Jim, getting out slowly.

“Only a little way.” I assured him, in a low voice. “About a quarter of a mile.”

“It’s an abandoned farm, is it?” asked Jim, slowly shutting the car door. “You’re sure you can find it in the dark?”

“I have a flashlight in case of emergency,” I whispered.

“What are you whispering for yet?” asked Jim, irritated.

“We don’t want to scare them all away by loud shouting,” I whispered.

I led. Jim coughed loudly and followed. At the place where the three old home-made tombstones are, I stopped reverently, and turned on the flashlight to show them to Jimmie. He coughed loudly again.

“Don’t cough,” I warned him in a hushed voice.

Then past bare hawthorn bushes that hissed and sighed in the wind, and tall bare mullein stalks that bowed and rattled, we marched in the wild night. The bare elms waved their arms and the wind moaned through them.

Jimmie took my arm.

“Tough going,” he said pleasantly and hoarsely.

“Shhhh,” I said.

We came to the ruins huddled in the dark. The old frame house was all that was really left, its veranda sagging drunkenly, and little root houses and cellars making deep shadows in the night. But over the old stone wall a gallows of tall timbers rose, on which the pioneers had a pulley for hauling water. The gallows starked against the wild night sky.

I took Jim’s arm to lead him, and he was shivering violently.

“Cold?” I whispered.

“Yes,” he replied. “This is silly.”

“Are you really cold?” I asked in a guarded voice. “Where do you feel the chills? Are they in your spine or not? Do you feel chilliest up along the back of your hair?”

“What are you getting at?” hissed Jim halting.

“It will help me,” I said gently, “if you will tell me just what kind of chills you have got? Are they ordinary, plain cold chills, or are they the other kind?”

“What other kind?” snarled Jim.

“What I mean,” I whispered, “is, are they chills, from the cold or from a psychic presence? The way you act, I would say there is Something-very-near.”

“Nnnnkkk,” said Jim.

“Do your fingers twitch?” I whispered. “Is your hair prickling? Is your heart beating faster than usual?”

“Did You See It?”

“I’m getting out of here,” said Jim, pulling away.

I held him. I led him toward the dreary ruin, with its walls sagging all awry.

With a quick flirt of my flashlight, I picked the way inside the open doorway. The roof was partly gone, and the inside was drifted with snow and frozen mud. I picked a bare beam and we sat down on it.

“Ssshhh,” I hissed minutely, when Jim leaned over to speak to me.

We sat.

The wind outside rushed by. Some loose thing on the aged walls faintly rubbed and rattled. Jim put his mouth to my ear.

“I’m freezing,” he said. “Let’s go. We’re fools.”

I set my mouth to his ear.

“Give it,” I said, “10 minutes.”

We sat. Far off a hound bayed. Through the rush and sigh of the wind, a dozen other dogs answered dismally. The loose thing, whatever it was, rattled louder. Something fluttered. Something went thud.

We sat very, very still.

Then I snatched Jim’s wrist.

I felt him half rise and freeze.

“By the door,” I said, my face against his cold ear. “By–the–door.”

Jim started to shiver like a dog on a porch.

“By–the–door,” I whispered, low and slow. See it. The lower–left-hand–corner.”

Silence.

“It’s–coming–in,” I murmured, “The left side.”

Jim leaped up with a frightful yell.

I shot the flashlight to show him his footing. But he just went through that ruined door with one gigantic leap.

By the time I got to my feet and out the door, Jim was vanishing down the muddy lane, his arms and legs flailing in his ecstasy of departure.

“Jimmie,” I bellowed.

But he never paused. He went down that witchthorn lane and past those gaunt elms waving in the night, and I after him. I got to the car and he was not there. I stood and shouted and roared, but he did not answer. I grew nervous and turned on lights. Still no Jimmie. I drove, as a matter of fact, a half mile down the road before I overtook him, and he walking like a champion, straight and strong, for Toronto.

He got in. He fell in his corner. He heaved a great sigh.

“Well,” I said, “did you see it?”

He just raised both hands and let them fall again.

“What did it look like?” I asked eagerly.

“Didn’t you see it?” said Jim weakly.

“No,” I said, “But I’m glad you did. It proves what I’ve been telling you, don’t it? Just because I couldn’t see it shows you how difficult …”

But it took us the rest of the night to go and get farmers with teams to come and pull my car out of the muddy ditch.


Editor’s Notes: Houdain is a town in France near the battlefields of World War One.

A provost sergeant is a non-commissioned officer associated with military police.

Pre-War Stock

February 19, 1944

Silk was no longer available during World War Two for ladies stockings, as it was needed for war production (for things like parachutes). Nylon had not been invented yet, so the discovery of silk stockings in a store in 1944 could have caused a riot like this.

Honesty Pays

By Greg Clark, January 22, 1944

“Be honest,” said Jimmie Frise.

“I flatter myself,” I said, “I am honest.”

“Honesty,” said Jimmie, “is a curious thing. If you were absolutely honest, you would be clubbed to death by an infuriated mob before you had been honest for three hours.”

“Honesty,” I agreed, “must be tempered by common sense. For example, if you were honest, you would tell your friends the truth. You would tell them that never, by any stretch of the Imagination, will they ever be good singers. Yet if you told them that, it would be wicked and cruel.”

“How come?” demanded Jim. “It would save them a lot of grief. And a lot of trouble. It would spare them years of struggle, trying to be good singers. It would put an end to a lot of suffering on the part of people who have to listen to them trying to sing.”

“Yes, but,” I said, “there are really so few things to do in this life. You think at first there are a lot of things to do. But after a while, you discover life has only two or three things to do. And one of them might be singing. Or so you think.”

“That’s what makes life tough,” agreed Jim.

“So, if a man thinks he can sing,” I pursued, and he starts singing, wouldn’t it be wicked, cruel and terrible to deprive him of that belief? He thinks he can sing. It sounds beautiful to him, as he lets his voice blow through his throat. It has a nice, strong feeling. It fills him with a sense of power, of beauty.”

“Yet,” said Jim, “he might be inflicting suffering on five, ten, or even two hundred people, if for example, he were singing in a church choir.”

“Quite so,” I said, “but it is easier to bear the defects of others than to know your own defects.”

“That’s quite a wise saying,” admired Jimmie.

“It’s an honest saying,” I said. “It is more honest than telling a guy he can’t sing.”

“Then we should go about lying,” said Jim. “Lying to our friends by not telling them. Swallowing the truth is the same as lying.”

“Then believe me, we are all liars,” I said. “Or should be.”

“Don’t you think the world would be improved,” asked Jim, “if, instead of kidding one another, we all told the facts and got down to brass tacks? If we all knew our faults, wouldn’t the world be a happier place to live in, a more sensible and practical and business-like place to live in?”

“We would all be dead,” I replied. “There would be no object in living if we had not our dreams and our hopes and our false expectations.

You certainly make a virtue out of dishonesty,” admitted Jim.

“The best thing to do is not think about honesty at all,” I pointed out. “Just take life as It comes and help your brother.”

“It’s a good philosophy,” concluded Jim.

Stick Together

This conversation took place in Jim’s car as we drove to what they call the Annex, which is a district of Toronto north of the parliament buildings, a district where nearly everybody in Toronto was born but from which nearly everybody that was born there has moved away. It is filled with happy grandfathers and grandmothers; thousands of civil servants and university students dwell in it; it has a comfortable air but hardly any side drives. More bachelors and old maids reside in the Annex than in any other concentrated neighborhood of the city, with the result that the lights are out in the Annex earlier at night than in most neighborhoods. Panhandlers do not think very highly of the Annex because bachelors are always saving for their lonely old age.

But Jim knew some people who lived in one of the handsome apartment houses of the Annex. They had an uncle die who had been a great sportsman. He had left behind him great piles of fishing tackle and guns and mackinaw clothes and expensive hunting boots from Scotland. And we were on our way to buy some of the tackle for the benefit of the heirs. At least, that it what you say to your wife. Ah, we sportsmen are so devoted to one another!

“Despite our honesty,” said Jim, as we drove up in front of the beetling apartment house, I wouldn’t put it past us to control our expressions very carefully in case there are a couple of Cellini rods in this collection of junk we are going to see. I could do with a four-ounce Cellini.”

“The only thing to do,” I said, “is to bid one against the other. If there is a rod I want, I’ll say right out how much I’ll give for it. Then you say how much you’ll give. It will be a sort of private auction.”

“You’d never make a business man,” sighed Jim. And we walked up to the apartment house entrance.

Apartment houses always embarrass me. The embarrassment I feel on entering any strange house is multiplied exactly by the number of families living in the apartment. If there are forty apartments in the place, I am forty times as embarrassed. And further more there is, in a few of the better-class apartments, a sort of commissionaire standing in uniform in the front hall. Almost Invariably he is a veteran not of the Canadian but of the imperial army, and he has a high and snooty look.

There was such a one as we entered the foyer of this magnificent apartment house. He had a small red moustache and small bright brown eyes. He eyed us grimly.

Mr. Grimbleberry’s apartment?” asked Jim sweetly.

“Third floor, number thirty-four,” said the imperial, haughtily.

We went up the self-serve lift. It was an upholstered, creepy lift, like a coffin going heavenward.

On the third floor we got off and started to look for apartment thirty-four. Soft plush carpet, soft lights, soft music and soft odors of food lingered in the long corridors.

We went down the corridor and turned to the left, where we met a large, extra-stout gentleman in a derby hat coming to meet us.

“Ah,” cried the gentleman in the derby delightedly. “By Jove, you’re just the men I’m looking for! I’ve done a very silly thing.”

We paused politely. He was well dressed, obviously one of the better-class tenants of the high-class apartment.

“I’ve done an absurd thing,” he giggled, shamefacedly. “I’ve just snapped the door shut and left my key on the inside!”

The sergeant-major downstairs will fix it for you,” I suggested.

“Nonsense! That man!” giggled the gentleman in the derby. “He would merely start in motion an act of parliament to have the caretaker appoint somebody in the course of the coming week to make an adjustment of the matter. Look here, chaps, I want your help. I forgot an important matter, my wife’s wrap. I’m just rushing to meet her at a party. Do help me!”

“Certainly,” we both said. “How?”

“Through the transom,” he said. “The transom is slightly ajar.”

We walked along the corridor until we came to apartment number thirty-eight. It had, in fact, a transom. The transom was ajar.

“Better still!” cried the derby one. “I’m so big. You are just the size to go through a transom, by jove! Would you mind, I say?”

He was patting me on both lapels.

“I’m still athletic,” I agreed, taking off my overcoat and handing it to him.

Jim and the derby joined hands and I stepped on their palms and was hoisted aloft.

“You’ll see a sort of cotter pin,” said the derby-hatted one softly. “Just give it a smart pull. Then the transom will drop open. Don’t bang it. The people on this floor are very fussy about a little racket. Mostly old women.”

I drew a cotter pin holding the transom rod to the frame. The transom dropped and I caught it and let it softly down. With a few struggles and a wiggle or two, I got through, dropped to the floor and opened the door.

“There’s no key,” I pointed out. “It was just locked. The catch had sprung.”

“Good heavens, where’s my key, then?” cried the gentleman in the derby hat. “However, I won’t detain you. Would you care for a drop of something, raspberry vinegar or ginger cordial?”

“No, thanks,” said Jim. “We’ve an appointment.”

“Well, cheerio and thanks a lot,” said the gentleman in the derby.

So we went and found apartment number thirty-four and the Grimbleberrys were in, and they laid out the piles of their late Uncle Billie’s sporting gear. He had three Cellini rods, all about four ounces. Jim and I paid no attention to them. We just picked them up and laid them aside, as it to see more interesting exhibits. There were fly books crammed with fresh and untouched dozens of flies and boxes loaded with dry flies. There were precious fly lines rolled carefully on storage spools of cork. There were English reels with agate line guides. There were Scotch waders and brogues of leather. Baskets and rod carrying boxes of Spanish walnut with brass fittings and locks. There were English guns in leather cases. There were Harris tweed fishing coats with immense pockets that were just made to order for Jimmie. Nets, gaffs, fly oiling bottles and silver-cased pads of amadou for drying the fly. Pigskin valises and canvas kit bags of the wide-mouth English pattern, trimmed with genuine leather.

In fact, it was a sensation.

“Is That a Fair Price?”

We pawed casually amongst it all. I could feel Jimmie trembling every time he leaned against the table. I coughed loudly, and complained about a raw throat.

“Errumph,” said Jim. “Now one thing you have got to bear in mind, Grimbleberry,” said he, “there are plenty of rogues around who wouldn’t give you a fraction of the value of these things.”

“I’m sure there are,” said Mr. Grimbleberry.

“I’m sorry there isn’t much here that interests us,” I added. “We have so much stuff now our wives think we have gone crazy. In fact, I have to smuggle anything I buy into my own house.”

“Ha, ha,” we all laughed, including Mr. and Mrs. Grimbleberry.

“There are a few little items here,” I admitted, “that I think I could pick up, things I’ve worn out, and so on. But the great majority of the things are second-hand, of course, you see?”

“I wouldn’t mind one of these rods,” said Jim with a faint quaver in his voice.

“Oh?” I said, surprised. “I wonder what condition they are in? How long did your uncle have them?”

“I couldn’t say,” said Grimbleberry. “You see, I don’t fish, none of the family does. It’s just so much junk to us. I was hoping you chaps would take the whole shebang. Give us a lump sum for the whole works. That’s what I was hoping.”

“”Mmmmm,” said Jim and I together, like a duet.

I jointed up one of the Cellinis. It was like a living thing. It was like a jewel, like Aaron’s rod, pulsing with sensate life, a gorgeous, vital, leaping creation of bamboo yet weighing only four ounces for all its nine feet of length. It was worth every cent of the seventy-five dollars Uncle Billie, now with God, had paid for it new.

“Mmmmmm, not bad, Jim,” I said. “Feel that. Isn’t it a bit loggy to you?”

“Mmmmmm,” said Jim. He had actually to wrestle his gaze loose from that rod. He laid it aside doubtfully.

“How about twenty dollars for the lot?” asked Mr. Grimbleberry. “Is that a fair price? Ten dollars from each of you.”

I didn’t breathe. Jim cleared his throat.

“Or fifteen?” asked Grimbleberry. “I don’t want to impose on the fact that I know you two gentlemen.”

What was worrying me was how Jim and I were going to divide the loot. Who was to get the odd Cellini, for there were three. And who the pigskin bag? And that solid copper dry fly box?

At that terrific moment, there came sounds from the corridor outside the apartment. Excited voices and thudding feet. Grimbleberry hastened to his door, saying “There’s been a pants burglar working this neighborhood.”

Grimbleberry opened the door and a buzz of excited voices rose from the outer hall. Above all rose the irate and commanding voice of an imperial. He was saying:

“Two of them, a small one in a bright brown coat and a tall one. I spotted them the instant they came in.”

Jim strode to the door. “Are you looking for us, sir?” he demanded sharply.

The commissionaire from downstairs came and stared dubiously at Jim and me.

“These are guests of mine,” said Grimbleberry. “They have been here at least half an hour.”

“Beg pardon, sir,” said the commissionaire stiffly.

He told how the Bunthorpes in apartment thirty-eight had come in and found their place ransacked, their transom open and valuables stolen.

“It was a small man done it,” stated the commissionaire shrewdly. The only stranger I’ve seen here tonight was a big stout man in a derby hat, and carrying a club bag. But he couldn’t have got in through no transom, no, sir. Not him.”

He went away to pursue his criminal investigations.

We went back to the Grimbleberry’s dining room table were Uncle Billie’s collection of a lifetime – and a connoisseur – was spread out.

“Mr. Grimbleberry,” I said, stoutly, this stuff is worth more than twenty dollars.”

“In fact,” said Jimmie, “just one of these rods alone is worth a great deal more than twenty dollars.”

Mr. and Mrs. Grimbleberry looked at us with open mouths.

“I wouldn’t go so far as to say that,” I put in.

“That pair of waders with brogues is practically new,” said Jim, “and they sell, new for about forty dollars.”

“Good grief,” said Mrs. Grimbleberry casting a look around her apartment at the curtains and the rug with an appraising eye.

“One has to be honest,” said Jimmie. “Especially as, in this world, you are so often dishonest without knowing it. So I suggest this. I suggest you have a clerk from a fishing tackle store some night come up and set a fair valuation on all this stuff.”

“A great idea,” said Mrs. Grimbleberry.

“On an off night, have him come up,” I added, “and he can list all this stuff and put a fair second-hand value on everything.”

“And then we’ll come up again and bring some of our friends,” said Jim, and we can have a sale, eh?”

“Beautiful,” cried Mrs. Grimbleberry. “How much do you think it might come to?”

“Oh, I haven’t the faintest idea, I said.

“One hundred? Two hundred?” asked Mrs. Grimbleberry eagerly, and I saw Mr. Grimbleberry suddenly give her a sharp look.

“It wouldn’t be wise to say.” I suggested. “But it would bring you more than you’d get from a casual sale.”

So Jim and I left them and went down and as we passed through the foyer, the commissionaire saluted us respectfully.

“Ah,” said Jim, as we got into the car, “it pays to be honest.”

“Especially,” I agreed, “when it is within your power.”


Editor’s Notes: A Transom is a window that exists over a door frame. It was not uncommon for these to open on the horizontal in offices or homes.

Amadou patch is primarily composed of a mushroom, and its purpose is to squeeze a wet fishing fly between the two pads which sucks the water out, restoring its ability to float.

“Pants Burglar” was literally someone who stole pants. I guess the object was to also get money or a wallet that might be left in them, but there are historical newspaper references to people who just stole pants. It was a term used primarily in the early 20th century.

Right, to the Ounce

October 28, 1944

During wartime, shipping packages overseas required a lot of lead time as indicated in the notice in the post office, and had strict weight limits. During World War Two, it was often indicated that the character “Pig-Skin” Peters was in the armed forces.

Slumber-Fest

By Greg Clark, June 24, 1944

“You look,” said Jimmie Frise, “a little down this morning.”

“I am,” I confessed. “It’s my snore.”

“Ah, your family is evicting you?”

“No,” I said. “More humiliating than that. I was visiting my brother’s cottage and there was a family party and they carried me out and left me on the rocks all night.”

“Didn’t they even offer you a tent?” asked Jim.

“Offer me?” I explained bitterly. “They carried me out in my sleep. And when I woke up in the morning, there I was out on the rocks and all of them sitting sneering at me on the veranda.”

“You didn’t wake up?”

“How could I?” I demanded, “I was busy sleeping.”

“You must sleep well,” opined Jim.

“I do sleep well. I sleep the sleep of the just. When I go to sleep, I go to sleep with gusto. I have been timed by interested people who have clocked me from the time I lay down to the time I emitted my first experimental snore, and it has been as little as 37 seconds.”

“Merciful me,” ejaculated Jimmie.

“When I sleep,” I explained, “I go deep. I am none of these skittery sleepers who play about the surface of sleep like swimmers disporting themselves in the water. No, I go to sleep the way the bear hibernates. I plunge at once far down, down deep into the shadowy depths of slumber. No dreams can find me. There I hide, in sombre and lovely caverns of sleep until I am through sleeping. Nothing can wake me. And when I am through sleeping I wake up just like that. Wide awake. Fully rested. The way Nature intended us to sleep and to wake.”

“But you snore, hey?” asked Jim.

“Yes, I snore. I am sorry to snore, but here you are. They tell me I have one of the most dreadful snores ever heard.”

“Mine’s pretty bad,” said Jim.

“Mine, I declared, “is not a snore. It is 15 or 20 kinds of snores. Many a time my wife has got up and come all the way down to the back of the house where I sleep to turn on the light and look to see who else I have got in bed with me because she swore I was doing two snores at the same time.”

“That’s bad all right,” admitted Jim. “But have you got resonance? I have resonance. They say I often make the window panes rattle with mine. My family often comes in and wedges little bits of paper in the windows to prevent them rattling.”

“Jim,” I said impatiently, “maybe you have a pretty bad average snore. But I want to tell you about something that is likely going to cause me trouble, maybe tragedy. You can’t have your friends carrying you out on to the rocks the way they did with me and not suffer sooner or later. I have often wondered why my friends never ask me twice on fishing trips and week-end parties. But now I know it is my snore. And what medicine or soap can you use for snores?”

“Try sleeping on your other side,” suggested Jim.

“Jim, I have tried, with the help of all my family, all my friends and enemies, to sleep on both sides, my back, my stomach, but it makes no difference. I have even used those big safety pins – you know the kind – to pin myself down on one side. But when I woke in the morning, somebody had unpinned me and propped me on the other side with large books behind me so I couldn’t move. But all to no avail.”

It’s Deeper Than Adenoids

“Perhaps surgery would help,” said Jim. “Maybe your adenoids need trimming.”

“My snore,” I stated with pride, “is deeper than adenoids. I have what you call an abdominal or diaphragmatic snore. I snore from my pelvis, like opera singers. I’ll tell you what they tell me. They tell me I lie down and in about one-half to one minute emit my first soft little snore. It is just a murmur, taken on the inward breath. In about 10 or 15 snores, these little murmurs have risen to a sound like a car going up hill in low gear. Terrible, roaring, ripping sounds which conclude the first movement, so to speak, in a final snort like a salesman ripping a sheet of linen.”

“Ah,” said Jim, “I have heard you do that. It has actually wakened me.”

“That terrible rip,” I went on, “does not strangle me to death, unfortunately, as all my friends hope; but it inaugurates the second series. That wild snort seems to shake loose some new equipment in my wind-pipes and I start thereupon snoring not only on the in-breath but on the out-breath too. By now I am going good. I snore in the key of F on the in-stroke and in the key of B on the out-stroke. At the same time, while I am making these dreadful sounds through my nose, I am also saying ‘pooh’ on each out-breath with my mouth. It goes Aaaaaaash – Snaaarrrchh – Pooh! Like that.”

“Personally,” said Jim, “I am sorry I have always slept so soundly on any trips I’ve been with you that I missed all this. All I can say is I have been wakened by a kind of tearing sound you make.”

“Oh, I’ve heard you snore,” I pointed out. “Not at night, of course, but when I have come in from fishing in the afternoon and found you asleep on the cot. Yours is just a nice, low, buzzing sound, very soothing in fact.”

“Look here,” said Jim testily, “you can’t compare a common little afternoon snore with a two o’clock in the morning job. I want to inform you, my boy, that I’ve been sitting here listening to you bragging and I’ve just been amused, that’s all. Just amused. I have a snore that has resonance. It is none of these little bewildered snores that doesn’t know which way to turn, It’s a snore like a bugle. One clear call for me. One time down on Lake Scugog, all the shipping was tied up one whole night off shore because my snore was mistaken for the fog horn.”

“Oh, Jimmie,” I scoffed.

“I know the kind of snorer you are,” said Jim. “One of those nervous snorers who can’t make up his mind. You try this and you try that. You are an experimental snorer. You never seem satisfied for more than about 15 snores. Then you’ve got to change your tune. You sort of seem always feeling your way through the night, as if you couldn’t figure out which direction to take. But me: I lie right down to business. I hit my pitch and go to it. And I go to it as straight as an arrow. My snores ring through the night, one after the other, like projectiles fired from a gun. I never alter, never change. I just lie there with my mouth open, my nose pointed like a long range gun straight in the air and I let her go. Baritone, rich, tonal, true, unvarying. That’s snoring.”

“Jimmie,” I said, after a pause, “we’ve been friends a long time, but I can’t have you talking this way about my snores. Why, you’ve never even heard them.”

“Neither have you,” sneered Jim.

“Then,” I sneered back, “why beat about the bush? Why not let us demonstrate to one another? We’ll take a night off, and I’ll sit up while you snore. Then after, say, one hour, I’ll wake you up and you sit and listen to me. Then you’ll know what you are talking about. I want you to realize that I am losing my friends, my family is acting queerly, there are places I long to go where I am never invited; in short, my life is in danger of being blighted, by my snore.”

“Neighbors,” said Jim coolly, “have moved away from next door to us, all because, in the summer, they could not stand my trombone solo.”

“One time,” I countered, “the railroad had to attach an extra sleeping car to a train at Orillia all because the other occupants of berths in the car I was in couldn’t stand me. So rather than insult a customer, the railway simply put on a new coach, shifted them all into it, and left me to myself.”

“Huh,” said Jim. “That’s nothing. In my bedroom, we have to change the electric light bulbs once a week. That’s all on account of the vibration. That’s resonance.”

“Jim,” I repeated “let’s get down to facts. You’ve touched me on a tender spot. My snore is one of the larger facts of my life. I challenge you to a snoring match. You can take the first hour or the second, just whichever you wish. And if you can look me in the face again after hearing me snore, then I’ll give in. But I warn you. You will probably send for a doctor. You’ll think I am having some sort of a seizure.”

“Huh, huh, huh,” said Jim.

So we arranged the matter by telling our families that we were called out of town on a big story and we rented a room at a well-known Toronto hotel and staged our snoring match. We tossed for first bout, and I won. Jim, coldly smiling, sat himself comfortably in the easy chair with which all hotels are provided, and set his watch beside him on the little table. I arranged myself comfortably on the bed, and loosened my collar and tie.

“After it is over,” I said drowsily, because I do not get in a horizontal position without at once hearing the sweet call of Morpheus, “we’ll slip out and have a snack at a restaurant handy, just to celebrate. Boy, I’ve got you.”

“Hop to it, son,” replied Jim skeptically.

“Loveliest of All”

I do not recall falling asleep. It is hard to describe the sensation of falling asleep, as it is hard to describe the taste of celery. Yet both are beautiful. It is, to me, like going away. It is like suddenly being free. All the silly world, in a swift instant, seems to dissolve and grow vague and dim. My waking mind seems to struggle, like a swimmer, against being drowned in the lovely soft depths. But suddenly, it surrenders. I think I always slip away with a smile. If I do not, I know I wish I did. For of all the lovely feelings of which this life is capable, the ineffable gentleness of sleep, the freedom, the tenderness seem to me the loveliest of all.

I had my clothes on when I fell asleep, so as to be ready to sit up for my turn checking Jim. I was to sleep one hour and then Jim would sleep one hour. He had the best of it, because the later the night the richer the snore.

It was broad daylight when I woke. I woke, as usual, wide awake, like a swimmer coming up from a dive. The sun was streaming into the room. There, slouched in his chair, sagged Jimmie, his mouth open, his hands clasped comfortable before him, his long legs stretched out.

And from his organs, oral and nasal, there arose a gentle sound, a sound like a sawmill in the far distance on a drowsy summer afternoon. It wasn’t a snore at all. It was just a saint rasp of wind across his teeth.

I leaped out of bed. I shook him violently.

“Who, wha, whuh,” he gasped, struggling to his feet.

“So?” I sneered, “My handsome timer! You couldn’t even take it for an hour.”

“Wh,” said Jim, stretching and yawning. “Huh, whuh, waaaaw!”

“What did it sound like?” I demanded, “Don’t try to kid me that it put you to sleep. My snore is guaranteed to keep whole carloads awake. What did you do? Suffer four hours and finally fall asleep in sheer exhaustion?”

“Boy, said Jim, “I don’t recollect hearing you snore even once. I felt a little drowsy. And seeing you asleep there, I just closed my eyes for a minute–“

So we put on our coats and vests and went to breakfast.

“Honest,” said Jim, over his coffee cup, “I didn’t hear you make a sound. That is, except a few sort of preliminary little buzzes, as if you were feeling for the right note.”

“Jim, you must be as sudden a sleeper as I and a deep one, too, or I would have waked you.”

“There ought to be some way we could solve this,” said Jim. “Isn’t there some kind of a phonograph that both records records and plays them?”

“There’s an idea,” I agreed. “Yet if you can’t stay awake long enough to listen to me for a minute, how could you stay awake long enough to operate a phonograph?”

“Just having the phonograph to attend to,” said Jim, “would keep me awake. The only time I fall asleep is when I have nothing to do.”

So Jim telephoned one of his Russian pool friends who is in the music business and he found he could borrow one of these two-way phonographs with the greatest of pleasure.

“I’ll be glad to have these records,” said I, “just for my children and my grandchildren. Stories are likely to survive about my snore and I want proof to exist.”

“I can see your grandchildren,” said Jim “assembled around the phonograph, long after you are gone, having a reunion. He was a great old guy, they will say. Did you ever hear of his snore? They don’t have snores like this nowadays.”

“I think I’ll leave half a dozen records,” I thought, “to be handed down from generation to generation. I will make a speech. Then I’ll sing them a song, an old war son like ‘Keep Your Head Down, Ally-man.’ Then another record will be of me talking to our dog, Dolly, when she won’t eat her supper. And then this one of my snore. They would have, a century from now, a fine record of their old great-grandfather and it would be a lesson to them.”

“Tonight’s the night,” said Jim.

And in the same hotel room, we had the gramophone delivered. We bought 10 blank records, planning to make five records of each of us, and the best one to be selected, and then we would select a mutually agreeable committee of judges to choose the winner.

“It’s only eight o’clock,” said Jim. “Is it too early to put on the race?”

“I’m ready, any time, any place,” I retorted.

So I took first place again, and we rigged up the gramophone, saw how it worked; Jim took his place in the chair to operate the machine. It ran very quietly, just a soft purring sound.

“Let her go,” said Jim.

So I let her go. I shut my eyes. I felt myself slipping, sliding, drifting. I was away.

I was to perform five records, which counting time changing the machine, we figured might be an hour and a half.

Machine Stood Silent

It was, however, again broad daylight when I woke. The sun again was streaming in the window. The busy sounds of a hotel were already rising around us. And there, in his chair, was Jimmie again, slouched back, emitting the same soft purring sound as formerly. And there stood the machine, silent, beside him.

“Jim,” I snarled.

“Uh, whuh, waaaw,” said Jim, pulling himself back to life.

He saw me glaring at him from the bed. He leaped up and looked bewilderingly at the machine, at the daylight window.

“Well, merciful me,” he said, scratching his head, “It must have been your soft snores and this purring thing!”

“Play the record, anyway,” I said, “and see how much you’ve got.”

I sat up. Jim readjusted the gramophone.

“I had it started,” he said. “I know I got some of it.”

The gramophone began. It purred. Faintly, a soft snore sounded, I smiled proudly, Jim listened with a superior grin. The snores grew. They began coming out of that gramophone with a sound like Paul Robeson’s voice.

“What about that, boy?” I yelled at Jim. Jim’s face was not so amused now.

The sounds increased, the loudspeaker the gramophone began to crackle and sputter.

“Wait for the big rip,” I called, loudly to Jim above the program.

The big rip came. Then, suddenly, a new sound broke into the symphony. Across my strangled music came a slow, steady, long drawn sound like a hound baying. Then it rose in quality and power until it sounded like a trumpet calling the cavalry to charge. The combined sound of the first performance and of the second was almost more than the phonograph could take. Its machinery crackled and blasted. But Jim and I were sitting there, looking at each other with proud and horrified gaze when suddenly still another sound broke into the record. It was a strange voice.

“Throw the buzzards out,” said this deep bass voice.

“Oh, we couldn’t do that, sir,” said another higher voice, right out of the gramophone “The customer is always right in the hotel business, you know.”

“Shut the transom,” came the bass voice above the tumult of the shores, “and close their window.”

“Yes, sir, yes, sir,” said the higher voice anxiously.

We heard a couple of loud bangs.

“Throw the quilts over their ruddy heads,” said the bass voice.

“I’ll change your room, sir,” said the other voice.

Then we heard a door shut.

The strangled sound and the high long-drawn trombone notes went loudly and clear on, until, with a sudden cluck, the record ended and the machine stopped.

“Jim,” I said, stepping forward, and holding out my hand.

“My dear fellow,” said Jim, proudly, shaking my hand.

It was a draw.


Editor’s Notes: This story is probably accurate. Greg has been noted in his biography as a champion snorer. As noted, his wife discovered early in their marriage that she would have to sleep in another room. He also had the advantage of being deaf in one ear because of his injury in World War One. He could then rest his good ear in the pillow, blocking out all sound, and sleep anywhere. This is recounted in some of his later solo stories, especially when he was a war correspondent around the time this story was written.

Russian Pool is a type of billiards game. Jim was known as an avid billiards player.

I could not find the song he mentioned, but it might be “Keep Your Head Down, Fritzie Boy”.

Paul Robeson was a well known singer and actor with a deep baritone voice.

Now, You Get It, Mister!

June 17, 1944

New Neighbors!

By Greg Clark, April 29, 1944

“A ha,” cried Jimmie Frise, “new neighbors.”

He pointed up street, where a massive van was just backing before a vacant house.

“That house,” I commented, “hasn’t been vacant very long. I wonder what they’ll be like?”

“Probably,” said Jim, “they’ll have a large and vicious dog that will take six months to decide who he can lick along this block.”

“Probably they’ll have about six sniffly kids,” I said, “all prone to whooping cough and mumps. We’ve been pretty lucky in this block for some years. I guess this is the end.”

“On the other hand,” said Jim, “it might be a rich widow. Or maybe an elderly childless couple.”

“At that,” I submitted, “it might be some fellow we’d grow very fond of around here. Maybe the kind of man who would raise choice roses and always want to be giving rose bushes to his neighbors.”

“By Jove,” said Jim, “he might be the kind of fellow who keeps a lawn roller and one of those lawn-edging machines with a wheel on it.”

“I’d rather be optimistic about them, whoever they are,” I agreed. “Because a neighborhood needs new neighbors every now and then. A neighborhood kind of gets tired of itself, doesn’t it?”

“Sometimes the most sensational things,” mused Jim, “happen as the result of a stranger moving into a community. The most incredible things. Lovers may change. Death may move in with that new neighbor.”

“Brrr, Jim,” I said.

“In this new family,” declaimed Jim, “may be a beautiful young girl who may be your future daughter-in-law. By such chances as this are romances born to our midst. On the other hand, who knows but this stranger may be a man of destiny, a man of ideas, who, as the months go by and he gets to know us all, may alter the lives of every one of us. Give us new and powerful ideas. Take us into partnership in some fabulous gold mine. It is just that way that fortune comes to us.”

“Jim,” I said, “let’s stroll up street and see what kind of furniture they’ve got. Get an idea of what they amount to.”

“Maybe this stranger,” said Jim, “is a villain. Maybe at this moment, while only the moving van stands there before a vacant door, maybe already tragedy and disaster have come to this street. Maybe he will be a robber of widows and orphans. Maybe he will run off with somebody’s wife.”

“Let’s go and take a casual look at their furniture,” I suggested anxiously. “If I don’t like the look of their stuff I’ll take darn good care not to let this bird chum up to me.”

Jim got slowly to his feet, so heavy were his ideas.

“The moving in of a new neighbor,” said Jim, “is a momentous occasion. Is it any wonder, on moving day, that all the curtains of the world are stirring as curious ladies stand within studying each item of the new arrival’s belongings?

“It’s no idle curiosity,” I said, restraining Jim with my hand, so that he would stroll more slowly.

New Neighbors’ Furniture

“I think it is the right of everybody,” declared Jim, “to express some interest in new neighbors. Not only in self-defence. But in order to offer a friendly and neighborly hand, if need be.”

The van men were already, with that modem speed and efficiency moving men have developed, laying articles off the huge van. They spread burlap out on the lawn, and as Jim and I slowly approached they set down an entire dining-room suite. It was of oak, massive and simple in design. It was decidedly impressive.

“I see no scuffs and footmarks on the legs of the chairs,” I said in a low voice to Jim; “from which I deduce that there are no young children in this family.”

As we walked past the van we glanced in.

“Mmm,” said Jim, “very nice, very nice.”

“Jim,” I said eagerly, “I think I am going to like our new neighbors. Did you notice the quality of that walnut bed? It was genuine colonial or I’m a Dutchman.”

We strolled up to the corner, paused a moment, and then started to stroll slowly back.

“Take it slow,” I warned. “There is no harm in two gentlemen walking up and down their own street.”

“See what’s coming,” hissed Jim. “A gun cabinet, isn’t it?”

It was a gun cabinet. In hand-rubbed walnut, a tall, commodious cabinet with plate glass front and racks covered with red baize inside to support guns.

“Jim, I’m going to call on this new neighbor,” I cried, “very soon and get a sketch of that gun cabinet. That’s what I’ve wanted for years.”

“Look” said Jim, as we drew nearer, “a real old walnut cupboard. Say, these new folks have taste.”

The moving men were delicately lifting the huge old-fashioned cupboard, tall and massive, plain as a pail, charming as only old things can be. Jim and I halted to admire it.

“Easy, boys,” grunted the boss moving man. “This is one of the pieces the dame was so excited about.”

They eased it to the pavement.

“I never saw a more beautiful walnut cupboard,” said Jim. “Not a curlicue, not an ornament or a scroll on it. Every line of it is beautiful. Boy, I wonder where that came from?”

The moving men hoisted it.

Jim and I continued, after a quick glance around at the articles on the lawn, to stroll past, while the men. grunted and stumbled with short paces towards the house with the huge cupboard.

“Whoever they are,” said Jim, “they’re somebody.”

Down street a little way we turned about and strolled back. The men had the beautiful cupboard to the front door and were clustered at the door, darting anxiously this way and that, the way moving men do when they are stuck. Loud voices shouted brief orders. The figures moved briskly, taking fresh holds of the huge cupboard.

“Let’s give them a hand,” I suggested. So Jim and I hurried up the walk and stood to.

“Here, boys,” said Jim. “A couple of neighbors to the rescue.”

“Lift from the bottom,” called a breathless voice, “while I lower her over.”

We seized hold and lifted tenderly. It was lovely to lay hands on that satiny old wood. Its deep patina, its gloss, modest but like a layer of richness over the glorious old brown wood, was a balm to the eyes as we leaned down close to it, almost pressing our cheeks against it.

“Eeeeaaaasy,” said the voice. And in a moment, with four heavy steps forward, we had the lovely cupboard in the front hall of the vacant house.

“Thanks, gents,” said the boss, amiably. “I’m much obliged to you.”

“Just a neighborly act,” I said.

“Call us if you need us again,” assured Jim.

But we both had time to take a quick look around the empty house, noting the fine mantel and fireplace, the elegant though restrained decoration of the living-room.

Thus Jim and I walked pleasantly, back and forth in the bright afternoon, while the huge van continued to pour forth its treasures. There were walnut bookcases and decidedly custom-built bedroom suites. There was a perfectly magnificent chesterfield, with two matching easy chairs, upholstered in wine red. There were cases and cases of books and pictures, all carefully covered with burlap.

“I’d like to get a squint,” I said, “at those books. You can tell more of a man by the books he keeps than by anything else.”

“Unless it’s his pictures,” said Jim. “I’d like to see his pictures.”

At this moment the boss of the moving men came to the door of the house.

“Gents,” he called, “if you don’t mind?”

We hurried up the walk eagerly.

“That big chesterfield,” said the boss. “The dame wanted it up in the sunroom at the back of the first floor up. I wonder …”

“Certainly, certainly,” we assured heartily.

They had the chesterfield half-way up the stairs to the turn, and there they were stuck.

“I don’t see how it will go up,” said the boss, anxiously. “She said she measured it and it would go up easy. I wish that dame was here.”

“Patience does it,” said Jim. “It’s astonishing the things you can bend around a stairway.”

We all took hold and we wiggled it this way and that, lifted, turned, twisted, shoved.

“That dame,” sighed the boss moving man, heavily. “You might say all women are bad when it comes to moving. But this one is the worst I ever saw. And where is she?”

“You’d think people with stuff like this,” I said, as we all rested to have a cigarette on the stairway, “would be on hand to see it arrive.”

“Why,” cried the boss, angrily, “she said she would be here ahead of us. She drove away in her car ahead of us. Women like her give me a pain in the neck.”

“Maybe she had a flat tire,” I suggested.

“I wish she had,” said the boss. “For one thing, she spent about a month arranging this move. She’s been down to the warehouse at least six times in the past two weeks. She looked me and my boys over, as if we was candidates for the church or something. Our moral character. And did you ever, boys, hear anybody like her when we was loading this stuff?”

“Never, boss,” chorused his three helpers.

“And now, when we’re stuck, where is she?” demanded the boss.

Keeping Their Tempers

“It’ll go up,” I assured them.

And we took a new grip on the chesterfield and hoisted. And turned over. And turned up on end. And turned upside down. And grunted and sweated and kept our tempers nicely, the way moving men do.

And at last Jim, on a particularly strong shove, had the left rear leg of the chesterfield come off in his hand.

“My, my,” we all said. And then the chesterfield went up as slick as a whistle. When we got it back in the big sunroom Jim said:

“I’ll fix this leg on some way, boys, while you are getting the stuff in.”

“Okay,” said the boss; “I don’t mind if you’re here when she arrives. She may take it from a neighbor when she wouldn’t from us.”

We worked on the chesterfield as the boys slowly and patiently carried up beds and springs and dressers and chests of drawers. Chests of drawers that would make your mouth water. Walnut and colonial, with the genuine look.

And while Jim struggled with the leg of the chesterfield I started arranging bookcases and tables that the men laid down in the big sunroom.

I unrolled a rug. I set the writing table along by the window. From one of the crates of books I took a few armfuls and placed them artistically in the shelves of the bookcase. The former tenant of the house had left picture nails in the walls and, more because they were unsightly than that I wanted to see the pictures, I undid one of the boxes and took out some pictures.

“Jim,” I cried, “look at this water color. Isn’t that a beauty?”

Jim got up off the floor and came and helped me hang pictures.

“We may not have these pictures in the right place,” said Jim, “but it is a neighborly thing to do to get them up somewhere anyway. They give such a homey look, don’t you think?”

Jim hung the pictures and I unloaded the book boxes and stacked the books in the bookcases. There were books on law and sets of novels, the works of Parkman; there were a large number of quite old editions of the poets, Longfellow and Wordsworth, and so forth.

“The new neighbor,” I said to Jim, “has a pretty nice taste in books. I think he is a lawyer.”

“A lawyer,” said Jim, busy with a large etching, “will be a nice addition to this street.”

I set vases in the window sills and spread an Indian rug over the writing desk.

“There,” said Jim, standing back. “How’s that?”

“Lovely, Jim,” I cried. “This is surely the must curious thing. A true, old-fashioned housewarming. Think of having neighbors that would come in and arrange your house for you.

“While we’re at it,” I said, “we might as well fix up another room. We may not get it the way she wants it, but it will be a great help to have the stuff laid out.”

So we went and did the bedroom next. This woman was certainly a good manager. With chalk she had marked every piece of furniture, every picture, every single item, large and small, with the position of the room it was to go in. This made it easy for Jim and me. We set up the bed. This is always an awful task. Sometimes it takes half an hour just to assemble the side boards to the ends with those dizzy bolts that don’t fit and everything.

We untied the mattress and laid on the springs, hung pictures, opened a case full of ornaments, doilies, objects of art, which left to Jimmie’s instinct to place artistically around on the dresser and tables.

The boss and his boys were still patiently climbing and descending, bearing their burdens. They looked in at us and smiled.

“A blame nice neighborly idea,” agreed the boss.

We had finished the master bedroom and were just in the act of surveying the other bedroom across the hall when we heard a harsh female voice screaming down at the front door. We listened.

“You fools,” said the voice, and meant it, “I’ve been hunting all over the city for you. What are you doing here? This isn’t the house! This isn’t the street! It’s only an hour until dark. Get that stuff back into the van!”

“Jim,” I whispered, “the back stairs.”

Jim led. Tip-toe.

As we went down the back stairs we heard a kind of war party coming up the front stairs. And the lady was still screaming.

“You stupid fools,” she yelled. “Why didn’t you look at the paper I gave you? Why didn’t I lead you by the noses first and show you the place? Would I live in a joint like this? You crazy, you, you, you.”

By which time Jim and I were going out the back door; and at that instant we heard a terrible shriek which sent us at a fast jack rabbit canter out the side drive and across the street.

So we went and sat in Jim’s parlor window, behind the curtains.

“How do you suppose the key those moving men had would fit the wrong house?” I trembled.

“When cock-eyed things like this happen,” groaned Jim, “the key always fits. Or maybe the boys had a skeleton key. They usually have.”

So we sat, long into the dusk, watching the boys carry out the stuff and pack it back into the van.

And the lady, whenever she appeared the door, looked both busy and angry.

And when dark fell the van rolled away.

“Mmmm, mmm,” said Jim. “No neighbors yet.”


Editor’s Notes: “I’m a Dutchman” is old slang, expressed after hearing something that is obviously not true.

Baize is a type of woollen felt, commonly used on billiard tables.

When Greg mentions he has books by Parkman, he probably means Francis Parkman.

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