You’ll Be Happy to Know This: part one
“How much,” I asked, “will you sell the covers for without the insides?”
From Adventures in Contentment
Ray Stannard Baker
“Freda has gone off gadding.”
Murchison had caught Stanley padding from his bath, wearing his striped dressing gown, and hoping to avoid this encounter. For two mornings, Stanley had awakened to this discovery, that Freda had left him alone with her husband. He could not begrudge his niece earning a wage. But Phillip did not keep to himself.
“You’re on holiday.”
His voice, now close at Stanley’s back, and the bounce of the springs as he sat on the bed, startled. However, the house was his, and Phillip was entitled to enter any of its rooms. Turning, with the wrinkled shirt in hand he’d just added to the list of faults in his appearance wanting correcting, Stanley considered Phillip’s open-ended remark.
“I am more at loose ends, I suppose. But be assured, I do realize you won’t like having me here…”
“Stanley, you’re wrong. I like very much having you here. I will be a friend to you, what’s more, and tell you what Freda wishes to conceal. You may have this room and welcome to it, but you must pay for your lodging.”
Stanley hooked the shirt on a knob, then reached to the top of the wardrobe for his pocketbook.
“Brilliant,” his nephew-by-double-marriage smiled. “Just give over a tenner and I’ll not trouble you ’til next week. Now, how do you propose to spend your day?”
Stanley had no plan other than his usual—that he would collect the morning papers, and having done so, spend the afternoon interrogating them. He would rather happen upon news of Desanges’s having attended some society affair, unearth him in the business directory, at a club meeting, in the church bulletin (though he found this unlikely); mentioned among the political disgraces, the police blotter’s round-up, the marriages…or, the obituaries. In this way, Stanley would learn more―about the city itself, about Desanges―and give away less of his own state of mind.
“We take no paper, we take no milk. We economize.”
Two mornings ago, Phillip had explained this (a hint, Stanley told himself—if I were a more seasoned houseguest, I’d have got it); today, Stanley, who did not know the way, was following him to the market. The Murchison bungalow was four blocks from the end of the trolley line. Here houses were small and free-standing, showing along their foundations frost-heaved soil, black-speckled snow drawing away from front walks, patches of grass, dead.
“You’ll Be Happy to Know This, Sir”
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(2016, Stephanie Foster)