THE PRINCIPLE OF PERTURBATIONS
Hutchins Mayfield had stripped and faced the water, intending to enter before his father and stage the drowned-man act to greet him. But turning in the half-dark cubicle, he was stopped by sight of another man, naked also, close there beside him. He took two quick steps to leave, then knew -- a dressing mirror he'd failed to notice hung on the pine wall. He went back and looked, not having seen himself for a while -- not alone and startled, fresh for study. (In fact, except for negligent shaves, it had been two weeks -- his twenty-fifth birthday. He'd been in Richmond that night with Ann; his grandmother tracked him down by phone to wish him luck. He'd borne her rambling a little impatiently; so she closed by saying, "Have you checked your looks now you're over the hill? -- twenty-five is the downside in our family, Hutch, whatever doctors say. Twenty-five, we're grown." He'd checked in Ann's bureau mirror and confirmed it.) Now he studied his groin, full in the warm day, and thought how little it had caused but pleasure -- a grown man's first means of work hung on him, an aging toy. But he smiled and reached a hand toward the cool glass, stroked the dim image. It bobbed in gratitude -- pony, pet turtle -- and Hutch laughed once, then heard his father's voice at the pool.
"What things will this cure?" Rob Mayfield said.
"Sir?" -- the Negro attendant.
Now an exchange was promised in the earliest consoling sound of Hutch's life -- a white voice, a black voice twined and teasing. He stood to wait it out.
"Which one of all my many troubles will this spring cure?"
"They tell us not to make big claims no more. Used to say kidneys, liver, eczema, the worst kind of blues, warts, falling hair. Whatever they tell me, it cured my feet. I was born flat-footed."
Rob said "Bathing fixed them?"
"No, never. I drink it. But it sure God jacked these feet off the ground. Born glued to the floor; now my kids play under em -- run in and out, hide all in the shade. This your first time here?"
Rob said, "Yes. Thirty years ago I lived in Goshen, but I never got over the mountain somehow."
"Shame on you then," the Negro said. "Goshen ain't nothing but sand and cold river. Warm Springs would have helped you, just twenty minutes west."
"It seemed farther then. The road was bad."
"Beautiful now. Go on; step in -- never too late."
Rob laughed but said "Oh it is." Then he moved.
Hutch came to the door of the cubicle to look -- Rob Mayfield's back. His father stripped was something he really hadn't seen, not for years.
Fifty-one years old but still white and firm in waist and hams, Rob stooped to grip the rafts of the stairs and descended slowly into eight feet of clear water bubbling from the earth, precisely the heat of a well human body. Then he swam four strokes to the center of the pool; embraced the ridgepole and looked back, smiling, to his only child. "I should have found this thirty years ago. Might have changed some things."
Hutch also gripped the rails but paused at the top. "What things?"
Rob continued smiling and paddled his hair back, still barely gray, but said no more.
Hutch looked for the Negro. He was back out of sight with his radio; so Hutch could say, "You might not have had me." He grinned but was earnest.
"I didn't say that."
"I've been the main trouble for most of those years."
"Never said that either."
Hutch nodded -- it was true -- but he stood on, dry in the thick warm air of late afternoon, and looked at what seemed the only block in his path: this middle-sized man, drenched and curling. The main thing he'd loved, that might yet stop him.
Rob clapped his hands once. "Were you ever baptized?"
"Not in my recollection."
"Then descend," Rob said and raised his right arm. The smile never broke, but he said "Father. Son --"
Hutch slowly descended. They laughed together as Hutch's head sank. But he didn't rise. He went straight into the drowning tableau -- emptied his lungs so he fell to the smooth rocks that paved the spring and sprawled there, lit by green light that pierced the water.
It worked. Rob saw him as dead, that quickly -- dead limbs gently flapped by currents, the long hair snaky. Yet he didn't move; he called the Negro. "Sam, step here."
The man was named Franklin, but he came at a trot.
Rob pointed down.
Franklin nodded. "Dead again." He stared a long moment. "Looks real, don't it? He do that a lot, every time he come -- like to scared his young friend to death last week."
Hutch jerked to life and thrust toward the surface. He broke out, streaming; faced his father, and said "-- Holy Ghost."
Rob said "Welcome."
They swam, sank, floated for the hour they'd purchased. No other bather joined them, and Franklin stayed off in his own little room. Within three minutes of the drowning, they had calmed. The water's constant match of their own body-heat soon made it a companion -- gentle, promising of perfect fidelity: the craving of both men, in different ways. To Hutch it seemed a large faceless woman -- spread and open, inescapable -- into which he inserted his whole free body; four times in the hour he stiffened and fell. To Rob it finally seemed a place -- the original lake in which he had formed, which he'd left insanely but had now found again, and in which he'd dissolve. They scarcely spoke, only fragments of pleasure. They felt no need, for the first time ever in one another's presence. When the hour was up and Franklin came, they were deep in separate dreams of safety.
Franklin said "You shriveling yet?"
Rob looked to Hutch.
Hutch looked at his own right hand. "A little."
"Then time to get out. Hour's all you can stand." Franklin held white towels like gifts more tempting than the spring itself.
Hutch swam the strokes that put him by his father. That whole charged body was covered with beads of air like an armor. He reached out and wiped his hand down Rob's chest, clearing a space.
Rob took the wrist and, not releasing it, swam back an arm's length to focus the face. "I'll try not ever to forget this," he said. "You please try the same."
"I can promise," Hutch said.
"No, just try."
Hutch nodded and they swam together toward the stairs.
In the safe dreamy hour, Rob had found no way to tell his son what he'd had confirmed two days ago -- that Rob Mayfield, early as it was, would be dead by winter; that the body which had served him unfailingly till now had conceived and was feeding in a lobe of its right lung a life that would need nothing less than all. At the stairs he said "You first. You're slower." He wanted that instant of sight to decide.
Hutch gave it. He climbed out strongly but paused on the top step, not looking back; then he cupped his face in both large hands and shuddered hard -- only once but enough.
Rob saw that to tell him now before the end would be to stop the trip he'd planned, that he'd leaned his life on mysteriously. Or, if he should still leave in face of the news, to show him as the final demon of dreams-faithless after decades of smooth deceit. Rob took the rails also. Against the lovely pull of the spring -- its promise of care -- he hauled himself and his fresh partner up.
They ate a good supper at the Warm Springs Inn (mountain trout, new lettuce) and set out at eight in clear cool darkness to drive the pickup on to Hutch's near Edom -- some sixty miles north through mountains and valleys, and they both were tired. Rob had started up from North Carolina at noon to meet Hutch at five. Hutch had thumbed down from Edom; the bath was his idea. So Hutch drove now and -- through the first mountain, cross the Cowpasture River -- they said very little. Past the river Hutch realized his whole idea would force Goshen on them -- on his father at least, who had not been there in eight or nine years. They had already passed two signs naming Goshen, but it still lay a quarter-hour ahead, and Rob had not mentioned it since talking to Franklin. So Hutch said, "Tell me what you want me to do" (meaning, stop at the grave or drive on past).
Rob said, "Be a better man than me at least."
Hutch started to explain but accepted the delay. "Tell me how to go about it."
"I expect you know. You've lived a quarter-century; you've hurt nobody, not that I know of."
Hutch said "I killed my mother."
"You couldn't help that. I couldn't keep you from her. Rachel pulled you out of me by main force, Son; and she held on to you, but you had to come out. Rachel died of bad luck. Your luck was better -- and my luck, to have you."
"Thank you," Hutch said, "but still tell me how."
Rob turned to the dim profile beside him. "I was answering politely, just words to say. I couldn't tell a dog how to bury a bone, much less a grown man how to live. I don't even understand your plan."
Hutch glanced across. "The trip?"
"Well, no. I did a little wandering myself -- sooner than you, on a smaller map: a few whistle-stops in southwest Virginia. Europe was torn up all through my freedom. No I meant what comes once you've seen the world and are back here, ticking through the numerous years. You're counting on the ravens to feed you apparently; they often renege."
Hutch smiled at the road. "I can do two things that'll tide me over if the ravens fail -- teach children English and make women think they've been rushed to Heaven before their time." Since he was grown he had hardly mentioned love to his father.
Rob remembered that and waited. Then he said, "How many would you estimate you'd rushed?"
"Women, to Heaven -- how many have you sent?"
Hutch said "I was joking."r
Rob said, "I'm not. I'd like to know. It would help me to know what women mean to you. It's a danger that runs in your family, you've noticed -- the Mayfield side."
Hutch also waited. His window was open on the loud spring night; it spoke at their silence -- incessant jangle of small life signaling, no one creature mute in solitude, even the fox that crossed before them musky with lure. He thought that awhile; then said, "It would help me too. I doubt I know. I've liked two or three women more than anybody -- Alice Matthews, Polly. I may need Ann Gatlin -- she hopes I do; I hope I do."
"But you haven't asked Ann to marry you yet?"
Hutch said, "Worse -- I've asked her not to visit me in Europe. She'd started on plans to join me for Christmas."
"What made you do that?"
Hutch waited again, then tried the answer he'd offered Ann. "I think I need air."
"To do what in?"
"-- Need stillness around me."
Rob said, "Nine-tenths of the world's population works eight or ten hours a day more than you. You've rested, Son. Lie back and be grateful."
Hutch laughed. "You hit it. I'm so well-rested my mind is souring but grateful I'm not. I'm an aging boy, as you point out. I need to work and I think I'm going toward it."
"Ann Gatlin sounds like a nice job to me, a fine evening shift -- the one shift that pays."
Hutch said "She'd like that."
"What's wrong with that?"
"I didn't know you rated Ann very high."
Rob said, "Now I do. She wants you around. She means to last."
Hutch said "I think you're right."
"But you're holding her off?"
"For now. No choice."
Rob said "There you're wrong."
"I can't take her with me."
"Then ask her to wait. Hell, beg her." Rob looked away.
They let another patch of silence spread. By now the river was steady beside them in the unseen gorge. Its chilly clatter blanked all other sounds; and when the patch had lasted three minutes and Hutch had thought of nothing but fear -- fear of failing his kin, fear of finally knowing no work to do, fear of solitude -- he said, "You can see I have brought you to Goshen." The meanness was instant filth on his tongue.
But Rob answered calmly. "I noticed you had. I figured you would." He leaned forward, opened the glove compartment, drew out a flashlight, and shone it on Hutch. "So I came prepared. Stop by Rachel's grave."
Hutch nodded. "Two miles."
Rob said, "Time enough to tell you this story. May prove useful someday. It's named `Little Hubert.' Little Hubert used to like the girls in kindergarten. One day tile teacher sent his mother a note -- Hubert runs his hand up all the girls' dresses. Please tell him to quit -- so his mother said, `Son, do you know what girls have under their dresses?' Hubert said `No ma'm.' She said, `A pink mouth with a lot of sharp teeth. Remember that.' Hubert said, `Yes ma'm. Thank you for the tip.' And he acted on it -- never touched a girl, though he did a lot of dreaming and a lot of self-service. Twenty-five years of good behavior passed. Then a woman named Charlene chased him down -- flat wouldn't let Hubert say No, even Maybe -- and they got married. Went to Tampa on their honeymoon, palm trees and moonlight; danced till near-dawn when Charlene asked him if it wasn't time for bed. Hubert said `O.K.' and they went upstairs. It took her about an hour, but finally Charlene came out of the bathroom all sweet and ready in a peach satin gown. Hubert was long since under the covers in flannel pajamas, more than half-asleep. But she slid in beside him and commenced to stroke his arm till Hubert said, `I thought you were tired.' She said, `But Sugar, you haven't even touched me' and pulled his hand toward you-know-where. He jerked back fast and said `No you don't!' She said, `What do you mean? This is my first night!' Hubert said, `Go to it. But count me out. I know what you're hiding down there.' She said `Just what's normal, silly.' He said, `So right! -- the normal set of teeth. I'm not risking my good fingers on you.' And he was about to head back into sleep when she said, `Sugar, you're out of your mind -- my teeth are in my head. Look here.' She threw back the sheets and raised that gown. So Hubert sat up and bent over gradually and took a long look. Then he said, `No wonder! Good night, Charlene! Just look at the condition of those poor gums?'"
Hutch laughed; he'd never heard it.
Rob sat like a stuffed Baptist preacher through the laughter; but when Hutch subsided, he said, "Don't forget it, especially in Europe. The gums over there make ours look healthy." Then he switched the flashlight on, at his own face, and turned to his son -- a wide bright grin. "You know he was wrong, little Hubert -- don't you?"
Hutch smiled. "Yes sir --"
"Very sadly wrong."
Hutch said, "Yes sir, I have reason to know."
"You're not afraid, are you?"
"Not of that," Hutch said. Then he slowed to turn left.
In a Stepin Fetchit voice, Rob said, "You mean you scared of dead folks, cap'n?"
Hutch said "I may be."
"And you may be right."
They had stopped at a pair of shut iron gates. The headlights showed the nearest stones, which were also the oldest -- marble tree-trunks, lambs, the locally famous seated-boy-with-birddog (an only son, self-shot while hunting). Hutch doused the lights but made no move, though the plan had been his.
At last Rob opened the door in darkness and stepped to the ground. He stood a minute while his eyes adjusted; when Hutch didn't move, he took a long leak. Then he looked back once at the truck -- only outlines -- and went on to climb the easy gates. On the other side he lit his flashlight and walked a knowing path forward, fairly straight.
Hutch sat and watched him, held in place by feelings that had waylaid him unexpected -- reluctance to pay this farewell homage to his mother by night; a small seed of dread to visit at night a mother he'd never seen alive, whom his own life had canceled; and worse, to visit her this last time with Rob who had cared so little for her memory as not to have been here in nearly a decade. Rob's light had vanished. Well, let it. Let him bear full-force what he'd tried to deny -- the physical locus of his own worst damage: the strip of earth which held in solution all that remained of a lovely girl gone twenty-five years, kept from her son. The darkness continued, no further light. Then shame replaced the harsher knowledge, and Hutch was freed to go. He cranked the engine, switched on the headlights (which didn't reach Rob); and climbed out to find his father, wherever. He had been here often in recent years; so he had no trouble finding the way, though he entered black dark within fifty feet, and still there was no sign or sound but the river. His feet had struck the low rock-border of the Hutchins plot before he saw pale wavering light and heard what seemed an animal scrabbling. The one large tombstone blocked his way; Hutch stepped round it slowly.
The flashlight was propped at the base of the stone, rapidly failing. Rob was kneeling on the head of Rachel's grave, digging with his nails in the ground above her face. Or filling a hole the size of a softball with what seemed fresh dirt. Rob didn't look up or speak but finished the little job, replacing a lid of turf at the end. Then still not looking, he reached for the light and slammed it once on the stone -- pure black. Then the sounds of him rising, stepping toward Hutch; a hand that found Hutch's shoulder, no fumbling, and gripped it hard. His calm voice said, "You've chosen this, have you?"
Hutch said "Sir?"
"Home -- you think of this place as home?"
Hutch had not thought that. He'd spent no more than an hour here in short rare visits, no more than two or three weeks in the town. But now he said, "I may, yes sir. I think I may."
"Then once you decide -- if you ever decide, decide soon enough -- bury me here. Bury me wherever you think is your home."
Hutch said, "Yes sir. But by then I'll surely be senile myself; you'd do well to leave some written instructions for somebody younger than both of us."
Rob said "You'll do." His hand came down from shoulder to wrist; he gripped Hutch's wrist.
So Hutch raised the joined hands -- a sizable weight -- and searched over Rob's dark face with dry fingers. They found tears of course.
Though they'd been nearly midnight reaching Hutch's in Edom, they both woke easily at dawn -- a bright sky but cool still. Under compulsion Rob had slept in the bed; Hutch had slept on the ample davenport. Each knew the other was awake by silence (mouth-breathers both, they slept like seals -- steadily announcing their vulnerability); but for twenty minutes neither one spoke. Hutch was thinking of ways to get Rob out of the house for the morning; he needed calm for his final packing. It didn't occur to him, huddled on himself, that his father was colder and thinking too. Despite his age Hutch rested in the standard child's assumption that a parent's mind is a marble wall, uncut by a single urgent requirement or even impatience.
But in those minutes Rob firmly decided his answer to the question he'd faced all yesterday. He wouldn't tell Hutch. He would not ask himself to bear the boy's response, whatever -- the man's; he could seldom believe he had made at least half of what was now a man. Today he would help the man load his boxes of books and records, his desk, in the truck; then he'd leave as cheerfully as he could manage. The man would be in England in a week, for at least a year. Rob would be underground before that ended. Now for the first time, it seemed desirable -- sleep as blank as the heart of a potato or some unimaginable form of reward. Whatever his sins, none of which he'd forgot, Rob Mayfield didn't anticipate punishment. But he found he was hungry. Having always been a famished riser, he saw no reason to abandon the habit; so without sitting up he suddenly spoke. "Have you got your pencil handy?"
Hutch also stayed down and said "No sir."
"Then listen-carefully, remember perfectly, and execute at once --"
Hutch said "I'll try."
"-- A small glass of sweetmilk, three eggs scrambled in butter (keep them soft), country sausage, hot biscuits, fig preserves, and strong coffee."
Hutch said "Coming up" but made no move.
Rob recalled he'd neglected to say any prayer; so he said to himself what, a boy of twelve, he'd seen was the heart of Jesus' prayer (the only one that didn't seem a showoff, and even that could be trimmed to two words -- "Your will"). Then he sat up in the cold air and looked.
Hutch was still drawn tight beneath his quilt, head turned away.
For a moment Rob felt a strong desire to be served for once, to lie back and let this child start the day -- warm the space, cook the food, soothe the sick, earn the keep. He even fell back on his elbows and beamed the wish toward Hutch -- Stand up and take over. Do everything for me. You'll be amazed how little that will be, how soon I won't need anything at all. But he thought of the end the doctor had outlined three days ago -- "You'll begin to cough; no syrup will help. Then you'll have trouble breathing, worse and worse till your lungs fill steadily with fluid and drown you. No pain." He'd asked if the doctor was promising no pain. Humorless as Moses, the doctor said, "No. If it spreads into bone, then we'll have real pain" (Rob had let the we pass). That would no doubt come to more than a little service before the end. He would ask nobody but his mother to give it. Though he still hadn't told her, there was no chance of doubt that Eva Mayfield would say any word but Yes -- and mean it, have the full strength to mean it. So he stood to the cold bare floor in his underpants, walked to the front room, and lit the oil heater. Then he parted the curtains and looked to the woods. In a high black pine, a young owl sat on a limb near the trunk, beginning its rest. A gang of blue jays quarreled at it with no effect, then flew on their way. Then the only sound was the tin stove warming, cracks and booms.
From the quilt Hutch said a muffled "Blessings on your head."
Rob said, "I accept them and will use them in your name. Now haul your precious white ass to the ground and feed this hollow old man you invited."
Hutch said, "Back to sleep. I've packed all the food."
"Unpack me an egg."
"I'm leaving, remember?"
Rob said "Goodbye."
By nine Hutch had managed to get Rob out. He'd given him a choice of the local sights -- a self-conducted tour of the school or the New Market battlefield twelve miles north or Endless Caverns. Rob had said, "The caverns sound more like me. I'll be back at noon and we can load up -- if I don't get lost; I'll try to get lost." He'd laughed and gone. Hutch had sat and drunk a third cup of coffee, consuming the quiet as if it were a suddenly discovered vein of some scarce mineral his bones required. (That he'd been with his father only sixteen hours, six of them asleep, and still craved solitude shamed him a little; but it came as no news. He was coming to see that all his conscious life -- from four or five on -- he had moved to a law which required him to take equal time alone for every hour of company, however amusing.) Then unwashed he started the last packing in a small footlocker, the final choice of what would accompany him on the trip. The rooms were already lined with boxes of the dearly expendable things, for storage in Fontaine. It was part of his purpose to go as nearly clean as he could, stripped of all but the vital minimum of the thicket of props he'd set round himself. Clothes were simple (he owned very few and they meant nothing to him, though he kept them neat). He laid out two changes of winter and summer clothes, then turned to hard choices.
Music -- he would have no phonograph, but he chose two records he felt he might need when he got near anyone else's machine: Brahms's Alto Rhapsody by Marian Anderson, Purcell's Dido and Aeneas with Flagstad.
Books -- a Bible, which Rob had given him (it had been his Great-grandmother Kendal's); The Diary of a Country Priest by Bernanos; Anna Karenina (World's Classics edition, four inches by six, miraculous compression); a tattered pamphlet of pornographic photographs he'd found in a garbage can at college (a beautiful, and beautifully joined, young couple); his notebook and the daily log he kept.
Pictures -- his mother and father, young together; his Grandmother Mayfield, Alice Matthews, Ann Gatlin, a postcard view of the marble head of a girl from Chios (Boston Museum).
Objects -- the five-inch marble torso of a boy he'd bought in New York for fifty dollars three summers ago (sold for Greek but more likely Roman, though gentled by elegance); a box of drawing pencils, pen points, erasers; a box of watercolors; a pad of drawing paper; a pinebark carving of a human body which had once been a man but was now finished smooth.
It took him two hours to make the choices, stow the rest, set the boxes on the porch; but when he had thrown the last food to the birds, the house was effectively free of him. The three years he'd lived here -- mostly happy -- had altered it only by a few extra nailholes, a few strands of hair in unswept corners (he'd paid a woman to clean it tomorrow). He walked to the center of the house -- the short hall -- and stood in the emptiness for maybe two minutes, regretting and fearing. Then he stripped off his work clothes, folded them into a box bound for storage, walked to the shower, and bathed very carefully. Only then did he see that the wide gold band -- tight on his left hand -- was the main thing he carried, except for his pleasant and pleasing body.
To fill the half-hour till Rob was back, Hutch drove the four green miles in to school. He had said his farewells two days ago -- and received the Headmaster's valedictory sermon -- but there might be some mail; and whatever the woes of teaching three years in a rural Episcopal Virginia boys' school, he was nudged already by a sudden posthumous love of the place; nostalgia for a time which had been (he hoped) the end of childhood, delayed but calm. He passed no visible human on the drive; and even as he swung through the campus gates and parked by The Office, he could see nobody, though he actively searched -- no colleague or town-boy, no yardman mowing. Monday's commencement had emptied the space as thoroughly as war; so he sat a moment, accepting the favor. Little as he'd moved in his life till now, he already knew the shock of returning to find loud strangers banging on the sets of his former life. Then he entered the dim cool hall of the Office. On his way to the pigeonholes, he passed the Master's open outer room and Fairfax Wilson there, fervently typing. She hadn't seen him -- good. He could go out the back and miss her completely, no need to hear-out today's diatribe. But his name was already gone from the slot. Competent to organize vast migrations of nations cross oceans or nuclear blitzkrieg, Fairfax had done her duty by the school (and by herself; she resented his leaving ) -- the quitter was effaced. She would have any mail that had come today. When he stopped in her door, ten feet from her, she didn't look up but pounded on. So he tried to turn her, concentrated in silence on her rapt profile -- lean sister to a class of moviestar (Kay Francis, Barbara Stanwyck) who had shaped her looks twenty years ago, then moved beyond her into fleshy surrender while Fairfax had kept her virgin strength: a little withered but still a banner, proud flag of choice and loyalty-to-choice.
Finally she cut her big dark eyes toward him, no more smiling than a stork. "I thought you were strolling on the Left Bank by now."
"No ma'm, England. And not for eight days -- I've got five days on the water first."
She hiked a black brow. "Water? I thought anybody rich as you would be flying first-class."
He'd explained it fully some months ago; but in the slack time, he was willing to rally with her awhile (if you let her discharge her excess life in keen exchange, you might be spared a monologue on the fools she dealt with, the dog's road she trod). "No ma'm, I told you I'd be eating rat cheese and soda crackers."
"They may not even have cheese and crackers -- they don't have heat -- and what's this ma'm? I just age a year at a time like you. My friends call me Fair." She smiled at last, broad smile that drew real beauty to her face.
As always Hutch was a little startled by the urgent beauty and by his own quick but reluctant sense that they'd missed a chance at one another. Twenty years between them seemed a flimsy screen. He'd have given her something she'd maybe never had; she'd at least have taught him how to burn on high for forty-five years and show no scorching. He said, "Miss Wilson, are you saying I'm a friend?"
She swiveled the chair to face him, then looked to the Headmaster's door. "He's not here today -- in Lynchburg buying a new ballplayer; some eight-foot child that can't write his name." She'd whispered that much but straight at his eyes, her own eyes burning. Then she raised her voice to its normal power -- a carrying richness -- and said, "Hutchins Mayfield, I consider you the finest young man now residing in the Old Dominion; and you know how stuck I am on Virginia."
Hutch smiled and nodded but said, "I'm leaving in an hour, sad to say. Will Virginia survive?"
She refused the fun. "You'd better go now. An hour wouldn't give me time to say how far above the run you are. There are plenty people here who think you're crazy as a duck-in-love to be throwing yourself on fate like this, but you know what I tell them? -- I tell them `Lucky fate!'"
As always half-convinced by her force, Hutch could only thank her.
"Don't thank me. Just send me a Christmas card from some famous spot -- nothing naked please -- and in your first book put a lunatic maiden-lady from Virginia who types to perfection and knows what's what."
Hutch laughed. "A promise."