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Graeve, Oscar (ed.) / Delineator
Vol. 118, No. 6 (June, 1931)

Brand, Anna
Life on a clothes-line,   pp. 34-35 PDF (1.1 MB)

Page 34

# 4
A tale that really captures some of
the essence of our everyday life, with
a love story lurking around the corner
Illust rated  by
ABiIE and Lucy Wampler were at breakfast when
they heard the clothes-line begin its journey
across the court. Lucy put down her spoon
and listened intently. Only one clothes pulley
traveled on the high staccato scree-ec-ce-screc-ec-ee, the
one from the apartment below.
It had always been an entertaining clothes-line, un-
orthodox and full of surprises. First some bachelors
had the apartment. Lucy knew they were bachelors for
no regular washing hung on the line. They had been
followed by scandalous tenants with wine-stained table
covers and cigaret burned draperies. Next there had
been an old couple. Lucy felt positive they were old
when she saw the "pine tree" edging on the pillow cases,
but suspended judgment until the first cold weather of
fall. When the heavy union suits went out on the line
there was no further argument.
Lucy often wondered about the old couple. They had
no friends or relatives; there were never any extra pieces
in the laundry. It was a lonely clothes-line, with patched
sheets and a solitary nightshirt and nightgown, which
finally disappeared and left Lucy somehow troubled for
their future.
And now the apartment was rented again.
Lucy shoved back her chair and reached for he,
crutch, and hurried to the kitchenette. She leaned o:
the window-sill watching the line travel across the court.
Abbie, pouring her second cup of coffee, called out
to her: "How does it look, Lucy, good neighbor,-
Abbie took a humorous view of Lucy's clothes-line
Lucy hobbled back to the door before she answered.
"She's either an awfully good housekeeper," she pro-
nounced judgment, "or everything is brand new. The
sheets and pillow cases are snowy white, but of course,
thev'll wash that way for a few weeks if they're new.'
W*ell," Abbie snapped off the toaster and rose from
the table. "I have to hurry. We've got a new shipment
of books to catalog and Miss Knowles is sick. Did you
notice where I put my glasses?" She blinked short-
"On the dresser. I'll get them, I'm up anyway."
Lucy hurried into the bedroom.
Lucy was fifty-five, Abbie was only fifty, but some-
how their ages had reversed, Abbie, capable, brisk, sit-
ting at the librarian's desk, making swift, penciled no-
tations, rubber-stamping dates was the older sister, to
be leaned upon. Lucy, with her crutch, running cheerful
errands, and waiting for Abbie's latch key in the door
at night. was years the younger.
She handed Abbie the glasses. "Don't forget my
book," she reminded her.
"What was it? I've forgotten," Abbie was adjusting
her hat by the buffet mirror.
"The 'Secret Garden,' if it's in. If not, 'Little
Women'," Lucy's tone was self-conscious. The "Secret
Garden" was almost never in-and it would be the third
time she had had "Little Women" that year. Some-
times Abbie was inclined to be critical of her literary
weakness. But today she smiled tolerantly as she pulled
on her gloves.
When Abbie had gone Lucy cleared the table, washed
and polished the dishes and piled them on the tea-wagon.
She took a tremendoi- delight in the tea-w'agon.. Abbie
had bought it, sensibly, because even with a crutch you
can serve a whole meal deftly, pushing the wagon with
your free hand.
It was too far for Abbie to come from the library at
noon and Lucy could easily have eaten her luncheon in
the kitchenette, but she piled the little warmed-over
saucers of food on the tea-wagon and wheeled it into
the living-room. There she would sit, reading a magi
zine and nibbling, with a saucer in one hand.
Lucy had put away the dishes, swept and dusit 1.
and was making the bed when she heard the clothes 11
begin its second journey. She hobbled swiftly to : b
kitchenette window.
Scree-ce-ec here it came! Lucy leaned further out th
window and gazed at the garments in delighted ama!
Brief silk panties, edged with fine lace, and slim little
brassieres marched out beside masculine white shirts
and shorts and at the the tail-end of the line, two bath-
ing suits. No doubt about it-a young couple! Maybe
-Lucy's heart skipped a delighted beat-maybe a bride
and groom. The longer Lucy looked at the clothes the
surer she was, taken in connection with the new sheet,
and table linen.
'Isn't it too lovely for words?' Lucy said. "I haven't been so happy for years!"
It was wonderful to think about it. Being present at
a wedding wasn't half as exciting as being present at
brand new housekeeping. Had they taken a little trip
first, or had they come right to the apartment? Either
one was interesting to dwell upon, but in some ways
Lucy liked the trip the better. It wouldn't be a long
trip, of course, tenants of the Knickerbocker were not
addicted to European honeymoons. She could hardly
wait until Abbie arrived to tell the news.
"Bride and groom?" Abbie, unlacing her oxfords.
stopped and looked up with an incredulous smile. "Why,
you couldn't possibly tell a thing like that from the
"I had my suspicions," Lucy contended, as she handed
Abbie her slippers, "when I saw all that new linen, but
you never saw such pretty underclothes! And her night-
gowns," a fine little flush ran over Lucy's face, "were
just too lovely for words."
At the dinner table she ran on in detail.
"They're certainly particular people, Abbie, because
there were seven changes of everything, I counted them,
both his and hers. Do you remember those awful people
-right after the bachelors-that never changed but
once a week? Say what you will, Abbie, you can tell a
whole lot about people from their washing. This is a
nice couple. And considering that she's a bride and new
at housekeeping she had her lines out plenty early."
Abbie smiled a tritle bitterly as she poured her tea.
In the morning Abbie was a brisk, efficient librarian,
but in the evening she was a fifty-year-old woman with
a small rancor in her heart for brides. "It would be a
good joke on you, Lucy, if she's one of these multi-
married women with a colored maid."
"But she couldn't be," Lucy protested. "I saw the
clothes. That sort of woman has black silk pajamas and
lots of pink things. These clothes were-" Lucy paused
for a word- "were sort of girlish looking, all white with
just the tiniest edge of lace. Speaking of that, Abbie,
(lid you get my lace at the ten-cent store for the lolls'
Lucy dressed dolls for the Woman's Exchange. She
might fool the Woman's Exchange that she wanted to
make the money, or Abbie, that she wanted the occu-
pation, but she didn't fool the dolls.
When the clothes-line made its trip the following
Monday morning, Lucy was waiting for it. "Abbie,"
she whispered sharply from the kitchenette window,
"put on your glasses and come here."
Abbie adjusted her glasses and hung out the window.
"See those sheets-" Lucy pointed triumphantly-
"with the hand-embroidered monogram. The hems were
turned the other way last week so I didn't see them.
Now say she isn't a bride!"
Abbie, outwardly blas6, polished her glasses and looked
carefully. "What is it, T. E. C. or F. E. C.?"
Lucy considered. "It must be 'F.' (Turn to page 40)
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