An "L" Story
Jim, as he often did when unhappy, lonely, or just at loose ends, went down to ride the "L". It was a raw, grey February day, still wintry, but with a hint of the Spring to come. And he had the day off school for Washington's Birthday. He moved up the stairs to the platform of the Berwyn station, deciding to take the first train that came, no matter what direction. He spotted a northbound train coming, and, when he saw that it was a B train, moved toward the place on the platform where he could get on the first car. He got on, and went to the first seat -- the one by the window facing sideways. The train started, and Jim began his journey, watching first the ties as they went under the train, and then the old familiar sites, the buildings, the bricks and brickwork of the passing walls. Slipping into Bryn Mawr, he hadn't noticed the people on the platform, but continued to look out at the street and the tracks.
A girl's voice intruded on his thoughts, "Hi, Jim!"
He turned to see Carla Yancy. "I haven't seen you for a long time," he said.
"That's 'cause you went to Lane, and left the rest of us to go to Senn," she replied.
"Or Amundsen, if you live up where I do," he said. He had a female cousin who lived on his block going to Amundsen.
"Where're you going?" she said, sitting on the seat which faced forward.
"Nowhere in particular you want to sit here and look out the front?"
As they changed places and sat down, this time with Carla in front of him, he was amazed to see that she was really very beautiful, something that had escaped his notice when they had graduated from the eighth grade together, almost three years before. She was, like himself, wearing a beret, and she had long dark hair, in what he thought were called pigtails (this detail of nomenclature would be checked with that cousin down the block): two gathered, unbraided (what would be, if only one) "ponytails". She had a navy blue coat of a vaguely military or naval cut, and maroon bell bottomed pants. He was dressed in a similar way, really, only with navy blue pants and a pea jacket-like coat with brass buttons. Both wore long scarves. As he was admiring her and her attire, she had already observed, and privately approved, of his and wondered why she had taken so little notice of him when they were classmates.
"So, you are just riding the "L" for something to do?" she said, looking at him quizzically.
"Yeah. I like the "L". I ride it just to think, to look out the windows at the city going by, and when I feel like, well when I'm feeling down, I guess."
"That's funny. That's why I'm riding the "L", too. I mean I was going up to my sister's place by Loyola, but I really just wanted to go out and get out of the house. The "L" is cheap and warm, and you can ride around all day. I think I'll call her when we get to Howard "
"How'd you know I was going that far?" said Jim, with a smile.
She blushed for a second, and recovered. "Well, you said you were just riding the "L" all day, so I just assumed you would be going as far as Howard." She blushed, but not so's he could see, and went on, "So I hope you don't mind if I come along. I could go to another car "
"No! I mean " (he was blushing now, and obviously) "it would be great to talk. We haven't really seen each other in years ."
"Loyola and Sheridan," said the conductor's voice, as the train slowed into that station.
"I could still get off and go to my sister's " she said, feigning to stand, and then sitting again with a giggle, much to Jim's relief. Then again, she had no real desire to leave.
"So what have you been doing at Lane?" she asked, as Jim tried to divide his attention between Carla's words and the view out the window of the accelerating train. The "L" was hypnotic sometimes, he thought.
"The usual stuff, and playing flugelhorn in the band."
"I play violin in the orchestra -- second violin," Carla said. "I wish I could go to Lane."
"One of the stupid things about Lane is no girls. Some guys really like that, but I can't see the point, myself," said Jim, who said quietly to himself, "I wish you went to Lane, too!"
Jim was looking out at Glenwood, which ran either side of the "L" as the train slowed into Morse Avenue.
"You really get into the "L", don't you?" said Carla. "I do, too . Have you ever been to that place down there?" she said, pointing to the No Exit Café on the corner at Lunt on the east side of the tracks. He shook his head. "I go there with my sister or with some of my friends."
"We better think about what to do now, because we're almost to the end of the line. Evanston costs extra, but we could go back the other way and go around the Loop on the Ravenswood."
Carla liked that suggestion, so they went to the Southbound platform and into the waiting train, but remembered first to call her sister.
They continued to catch up on the years between going to Trumbull School together and their respective high school experiences. Jim had a good view of Carla, who was sitting as they had on the other train, in the sideways seat in the front of the car, with himself on the front-facing seat right next to hers. He wondered again, as she talked, why he hadn't noticed her before.
Their conversation slackened, and they looked out the windows at the passing scene. They were going through a station when Carla said, "One of the things I like about riding the "L" is that, when we go through a station and see the people there, they don't look real. They only look real when we stop. It's like they are on TV or in a movie or something."
"I never thought of that, but I can see what you mean," replied Jim.
"When I ride the "L"," he continued, "My mind just wanders. I see the signs outside, and the scene, but it is as if they are on another level. I sort of have my own world on one level, going on with the view of the city at the same time".
"I always wonder what it's like living in the buildings so close to the tracks, especially down here when they are all open and noisy," said Carla, as they sped through Addison.
"I sometimes go home this way," said Jim, pointing to the Addison Station. "I usually go to school on the Clark bus to Addison, but sometimes I go to the "L" after school."
They decided to ride on to Fullerton before changing trains. Going around the Loop on the Ravenswood was a bit of an adventure, as they usually took the subway downtown. But they knew that they wouldn't be able to talk once underground, and it was more agreeable look out the window at the Near North Side.
Jim, even in high school, was developing a taste for history, and enjoyed the ride through the older parts of the city. He said as much to Carla, who said," I always wonder what it was like in the past. Sometimes, I try to imagine people in old time clothes down there in the older streets. I like old clothes. Sometimes I wear them to school, and get these looks but most people think I'm weird . I don't really have too many friends at Senn. People thought I was weird at Trumbull, too you sure didn't take much notice of me then." She smiled, more in humour than in accusation.
Jim had wanted to say, "I don't think you are weird, I think you are beautiful," and though his heart was pounding and he could feel a rush of affection and the hand of Shy Embarrassment touching his shoulder. He was struggling against the latter with the fervour of the former, settled on, "I'm taking a lot of notice of you right now," which was considerably more than Shy Embarrassment was willing to allow him to say. He caught her eye, and instantly they looked away out their respective windows. Carla caught a reflection of a tear in the corner of her eye and quickly dried it. Boys hadn't always been very kind to her. Meanwhile, Jim was trying to conjure up something witty or funny with which to break the silence and, by so doing, send Shy Embarrassment to one of the other cars (or off at the next station). He wanted to say that people thought he was weird, too, but settled for remarking on the number of curves in the Ravenswood as it approached the Loop.
The train wound its way through decaying neighbourhoods and old factories, down to the Chicago Avenue station, that great curved structure, and on to the Merchandise Mart. The conversation moved from more tales of school to observations on the passing scene. They crossed the River and began to round the Loop, looking down at the streets and traffic below and the buildings as they went by.
"They don't look real, either," said Carla of the people seen through the windows of offices.
It was always a revelation to Jim to see the ornate decoration on the upper storeys of many buildings. It was sad, he thought, that only the riders of the "L" and the people in the buildings opposite that could see these. "Had the architect any thought of that?" he wondered.
The Loop rounded, they went back north, and finally got off at Bryn Mawr, Carla's stop.
"I live on Catalpa by Lakewood," she said as they walked in that general direction. "We moved here last year".
At her building, Jim said, "Well, thanks for riding around with me to-day." He caught and squeezed her hand, and she squeezed back.
"Here," she said, getting a scrap of paper and a pen from her purse. "This is my phone number."
"I was just about to ask for it "
"Best to call before nine."
Carla opened the door of the vestibule, and then went in the locked door, glancing behind her to see Jim just turning. She thought she would float up the stairs.
Jim floated up to the next block and over to Balmoral, and on up to his building.
* * *
Jim's English teacher's voice washed over him -- as had the voices of his other teachers -- as he relived the events of the previous day. The scenes from the window of the "L" trains confused themselves with the portrait of Carla Yancy, and a great deal of his notes on the remarks (crafted with pedagogical care) of his teachers seemed to include an inordinate number of "C's" and "Y's". His desire was to draw, doodle, or do something less stifling than what he was doing. The clock was on his side, though, and he was off to band, where he could express some of the high emotion he felt through his beloved flugelhorn before the class began.
Carla Yancy seemed to her friends to be somewhat distracted, and happier than usual. Life at Senn High School was not always thus with her, and her few close friends (Terry, Roberta, and Laura), while happy to see their often glum comrade in better spirits, were dying to know why. Carla was not talking, though. But her state caught the attention of, and a light reprimand from, a couple of her teachers. Her teachers found Carla bright but frustrating at most times. Carla could see little besides "L" trains, and Jim, and she, too, yearned for some way to express the elation that was carrying her through the day.
It came with orchestra. She was so elevated that she attacked the piece of music before her in a way that she had never done before. It was a difficult part which many of the players in her section found almost insurmountable -- even the first chair -- but, like bursting through a dam, she played the part with exceptional virtuosity, even whilst her colleagues foundered around her.
The conductor stopped the orchestra, though Carla hadn't noticed at first and was the last one playing when she stopped.
"That was brilliantly done!"
"What?" (Laughter and a "Wake up, Yancy!" from a girl in the flute section.)
"Your playing. That passage is very difficult, and you played it beautifully. Beginning tomorrow, you will be sitting in the first violins. Share the stand with Jeff Rosen".
"Thank you, sir, but are you sure? It may have been a fluke."
"Fluke or not, it shows you are better than we thought. You'll have to work harder, though."
"What got into you?" said Jeff Rosen after the class. "You really sounded great!"
"Love?" she said, in a stage-melodramatic voice.
"Who or what?" Jeff said.
When the day ended, Carla had an idea. She knew when Jim got out of school. She checked the clock, and figured that if she hurried .
She got to the Thorndale "L" Station as fast as she could. A train came just as she got up to the platform. She changed at Bryn Mawr for the B train, and for the first time settled her books and violin case for the ride. She got to Addison in time, though, to run down and up the staircases to the northbound platform to find that Jim hadn't arrived ahead of her. As she sat on the bench catching her breath, she had the thought that Jim might not go home on the "L" at all. She positioned herself to view the Addison, so she could see the coming buses. A group came, emptied out, but no Jim, though boys from Lane and Gordon caught the B train just coming in on the opposite platform. She looked around her, at the grandstand roof of Wrigley Field, up the line toward the big curve at Sheridan whence an old Evanston Express train was coming into view, and then down toward Belmont, where she found herself becoming mesmerized by the changing signal lights. She had just noticed an eastbound bus leaving when she turned toward the stairs to see Jim coming up the stairs.
Jim was surprised to see Carla there, though he had hoped that this might happen. Her coat was open to reveal her in a plum coloured turtleneck and a grey skirt and plum coloured tights. She was beautiful in that colour, he thought.
Carla was elated at seeing Jim, too, and feeling very clever about her success in meeting him.
"Surprise!" she said.
"Hi," he replied in a surprised tone.
They sat down on the bench, arranging their books and instrument cases so as to be sitting close together. They talked about the day for a minute, Carla telling of her promotion in the orchestra. They sat quietly for just a second, and Jim put his arm around her and kissed her. She put an arm around him as they kissed. Shy Embarrassment touched them both on the shoulder, and she spoke first, saying that the train was coming.
They moved up the platform so that they could get into the first car and the first seat, which was available. They got off at Bryn Mawr and he walked her home. He kissed her quickly in the vestibule, and then continued on his way.
Carla had a job in the kitchen at Edgewater Hospital two or three days a week after school (about seven hours or so a week), and Jim got up Saturday mornings to go to work sweeping up his Uncle Ted's machine shop. This kept them from meeting the same way every day. But they did manage to meet again from time to time after school.
That weekend, they decided to go to the No Exit Café at Lunt and Glenwood. Carla had come here often with her school friends or her sister. She enjoyed the strong coffee and the general ambiance. Jim was impressed by the ambiance, but not so much with the folk music which constituted the entertainment. He was taken by watching the chess matches in one corner, especially the noise they generated as pieces were slammed and time clocks hammered by the players. Mostly, though, they enjoyed each other's company in the low light.
And mostly, they rode the "L", as they had the day they met (or re-met), going on different lines, mostly the North South downtown, the Ravenswood and the Evanston. The "L" provided a kind of ground bass for their relationship. They loved riding in the first seat, or maybe the last in the subway, though sometimes they slipped into an open motorman's cab in one of the middle cars where they could steal an unobserved kiss, or a touch on places which would not be acceptable in a more open place, assuming there was no one in the seat across the aisle or facing from the next car.
They made no secret of their love of riding the "L" together, though they didn't tell the world about it, either. But it did come out.
"Hey, Fish," said a voice behind him, as he removed some books from his locker, "I hear you are going out with Carla Yancy who is weird to begin with and that you guys ride the "L" all the time."
"It's true, and I don't think she's weird," said Jim.
"Well, no weirder than you."
"So you and Jim Fischer really ride around on the "L" all the time?" said Carla's friend Roberta as they combed their hair in the washroom.
"Yeah, and why not? It's cheap, and we get a lot of time to talk."
"What about other things besides talking, like making out?"
"First of all, never you mind, and second of all, how many places do you go where you can do that, anyway."
"You ride the "L" with him? You call that a date?"
"Look at it this way, Mom, how much trouble can they get into on the "L"?" said Charlotte, Carla's older sister. Charlotte had an apartment near Loyola, where she was a student.
"You girls always were unusual," said their mother.
"So this is true, about the "L"?" said Charlotte as the girls walked down the street. Charlotte, or Lot as was her nickname, was a close confidant as well as a sister.
"True, mostly. But we like it."
"Nice girl?" Jim's Dad had uttered these words from behind his newspaper one night. Jim was ready to respond, but his dad, smiling, said, "I can tell I was young once, too."
"It's true. He was, " said his mother.
But it wasn't only in the circles of family and friends that Jim and Carla and their romance on rails was the occasion of conversation.
"DuPree!" said a motorman standing with his conductor on the Howard platform.
DuPree, another trainman, came over to join his colleagues.
"DuPree, I've been telling Johnson about those two kids that ride the "L" all the time, but he thinks I'm bullshittin'."
"No, man, he ain't shittin' you," said DuPree. "You ain't seen 'Romeo and Juliet'?"
"Two kids always seem to be ridin' the "L" together, sittin' in the first seat. Fine lookin' girl, too."
Soon, Jim and Carla became famous around the CTA. "Romeo-and-Juliet" spotting became a pastime amongst the trainmen.
Of course, not all their time together was spent on the "L". After all, the passions of young people need some less conspicuous locations in which to play themselves out (as Carla's friends had realised). Not only that, but no one, even the most fervent lovers of public transport, would clam that the "L" had enough in the way of amusements and activities to satisfy all interests. The "L" was the continuo in their trio sonata, though. This was as conscious as it was unconscious. They loved the "L" because of meeting there, and they took it everywhere they could, partly for that romantic reason. Indeed, they often (as Jim did when coming home from Lane) took the "L" when it wasn't perhaps as convenient as taking a bus would have been, for the fun or the love of it, as the "L" was always fascinating. Though, like all users of the "L", they rode it for practical reasons, it always retained a novelty for them, even though they had always lived in Chicago.
The Summer of 1968 found them outside more, at the beach or in Lincoln Park. Jim played in many impromptu jam sessions in the park, and they both enjoyed the zoo, the gardens, and the lagoon. They loved sitting by the lagoon on hot evenings, and walking back to the Fullerton station in the falling light. They also took part increasingly in the anti-war activities of that summer.
On the Sunday that the violence began in Lincoln Park, they were part of the crowds scattering ahead of the police motor tricycles. Carla led them to safety. She had a lot of knowledge of the ins, outs and side streets in the area around Lincoln Park from the many days spent there with her older sister, who had several friends in that part of the city. They managed to dodge the police and get to Fullerton. From the "L", they could see the heavy police presence and the trucks with troops moving about the city. They were subdued on their way home, hoping that the ride would be relatively uneventful.
September brought them back to their respective schools, and their senior years. Their weeks would see them maybe getting to ride the "L" after school once in a while, and their weekends would take them to the No Exit, or in the daytime to the Art Institute. There were still the days that they just rode the "L" and talked. As fall became winter, they found it somewhat more difficult to find privacy, as it was necessary to find it indoors. Charlotte had not let them use her apartment, though Charlotte let Carla do other things there that she would not have been allowed to do at home.
After Christmas, the spectre of the end of high school and the beginning of college loomed larger, and the subject they had tried to avoid was starting to be discussed more often: where each would be going to university.
It became clear that, though Jim had decided to go to Circle, Carla would be going to Champaign. They had their very good reasons for going to their respective college choices, but found it difficult to think of being apart. They talked more and more about how they would manage and keep in touch, but it was still difficult to think about.
But they didn't think about it all the time, and they had a good time during the spring. They attended one another's graduations, and Carla found herself becoming a more and more capable improvisational musician, sitting in with Jim's jazz playing friends, and bringing her friends to these sessions.
The summer was like the previous one in many ways. More and more, though, as the summer drew to a close, they rode the "L" in silence, sitting close together and thinking their own thoughts about the past couple of years and their time together.
Not long before it was time for Carla to go away, Charlotte had her over for a Sunday afternoon.
"You're going to be going downstate pretty soon," she said to as she poured Carla a second glass of wine (one of the things Carla could do at Charlotte's, though up to now she'd only been allowed one glass).
"It may be a long time before you and Jim get much time together after that, and I know you don't want to talk about it, but you know you may never see each other after that."
Carla was about to say that that wouldn't happen, when Charlotte continued, "You'll have to find that out for yourself. But, this Friday night, I am going to invite you over here. You come with Jim. I will be going to Jeff's for the night, and you two can do whatever you like. I'll cover for you at home. Hey," as she saw Carla's eyes get big, "don't you think I know a thing or two about hormones and all that? Besides, you're eighteen now, and a big girl ." Carla thanked Charlotte. They went outside and walked down Sheridan Road for a while, with Carla thinking about the Friday, and Charlotte giving Carla the advice of experience.
The evening and night were everything they could have wanted, and they lingered together in bed long into Saturday morning. They went to the end of the Evanston Line, and spent time near the Lake, walking close together, and not talking much between long kisses. On the "L" ride back, though, they saw themselves separating, maybe until the end of the term, maybe for much longer .
The day came for Carla to leave. Jim went down to the train station with Carla and her family, and did kiss her, but the setting prevented them from kissing in the way they would have liked. Carla looked out at her mother and dad, and Charlotte, and Jim, tears in her eyes, and they looked back with their own sadness of parting. The train moved, and they waved their last, Carla from against the window, eyes moving from one to the other. Jim and the Yancys looked back. Everyone kept their own thoughts of the moment.
"Do you want a lift home, Jim?" said Mr. Yancy.
"No, thanks. I think I'll take the "L" back."
"I think I'll go with Jim," said Charlotte, "I'll see you guys at home later."
The ride home on the "L" was a quiet one. Jim and Charlotte were joined by Loneliness, whom Jim saw clearly, sitting in Carla's seat. Charlotte saw Loneliness, too, though she wasn't sure who it was.
* * *
The first quarter of Jim's first academic year started shortly after Carla went to Champaign. After the requisite four hours in line for registration, during which Jim and the hundreds of other students wondered what could be worth such an ordeal, Jim wandered around Circle, wondering what life would be like, coming down from the North Side every day. A good "L" ride, if nothing else.
The "L" intruded on his dreams. In one recurring dream, the "L" went through the upper reaches of a church, while the service went on far below and he watched from a balcony which was not as high as the "L" but still a long way above the nave. The "L" entered and left through the walls just under the roof, and stopped at a station platform.
And so with Carla. Her "L" dream had trains coming round the corners of the buildings of the University of Illinois, much as they do south of Sedgewick on the Ravenswood.
In both their dreams, a passenger visible--the androgynous figure of Loneliness -- who often waved in passing .
* * *
Jim's time at Circle was filled with playing music in between classes. One or two of his Lane Band friends were there, or at Roosevelt downtown, so they were able to get together often. Jim had made new friends -- musicians -- who, with his other friends, drew a band together.
Carla had herself had become involved with musicians. Even before leaving Chicago, she had begun playing with Jim and some of his friends -- the ones who could see the value and virtue of jazz violin. She had made several new friends, including her best friend, Vanessa Brown, whom she met on the train coming down from Chicago. Vanessa was from the South Side, and gave Carla an entrée into the Black Community at U of I.
Whenever they could, Carla and Jim called one another long distance, and both kept up a strong correspondence. But school pressures meant missed letters, and money for phone calls was harder to come by as the term wore on. The women who watched Jim and his friends play were now finding his gaze, and the young men at the University of Illinois were finding Carla much more attractive than had the boys at Senn High School. Weak moments, separation, and the forces which drive people who are eighteen years of age combined to take their toll on Carla's and Jim's relationship.
Carla's return at the Christmas Break found them together, but not easy. Even Charlotte's discreet departure from her apartment, leaving them together for most of an evening, did not turn out as projected.
Charlotte understood. She was confidant to both her sister and to Jim, to whom she had taken a liking, and she finally sighed one night and decided that things were likely hopeless where Jim and Carla were concerned. Carla and Jim did not write again after January, and they did not call one another again. Jim remained friends with Charlotte (whose friends were fans of Jim's band), but they seldom talked of Carla, and Charlotte never brought Jim up when she spent time with her sister.
* * *
Jim still rode the "L" just to ride, when he wanted to think, or when he was just lonely. Loneliness was a good companion, for she didn't require a fare, and he -- Jim never knew whether he or she was the correct word for his androgynous companion -- was fairly good company.
Early on, after Carla had gone to Champaign, the motormen and conductors had noticed that Jim travelled alone again. DuPree -- Isaiah DuPree -- had begun to talk to Jim when he would get on DuPree's train. They got to be friends, and Jim talked to him from time to time, about Carla, and things in general.
There were other women, though. A lovely woman with honey-coloured hair had spotted Jim during an early jam session at Circle and sought him out after a while. And there were others, too. He and someone named Francine ("Frankie") were seen together a lot for a several months. But, that, too did not last.
Carla, too, had had several relationships over the course of her four years in Champaign. A Brad had even had her home to Kankakee one Christmas, and was quite heartbroken when she said "no" to his question about marriage.
Carla had graduated in English, and decided to go to graduate school at Loyola. She moved in with Charlotte in July.
Jim was not finished at the end of four years. Attention to music, and the desire to get out of school from time to time, had kept Jim from graduating. Jim now lived in Rogers Park, on Estes, in a building on the corner of Glenwood. On hot early summer mornings the "L" thundered through his semi-consciousness, making him wonder if a tornado might be coming.
By this time, Jim had not seen Charlotte for a long time, and did not know that Carla had moved in with her in the apartment near St. Ignatius' Church in which she had lived for so many years.
On a November day, cold, grey, and windy in a way that only Chicago could be, Jim had gone to the "L" to go downtown to a music store on Wabash to look at mouthpieces. The train was pulling into Loyola. Jim was in the front front-facing seat, as he always was whenever it was free.
It was only because the west wind was so bitter that he hadn't seen Carla on the platform. She had taken refuge behind a partition, and only came out from behind it when the train stopped. She came into the first car through its rear-ward door, and looked forward for a seat. She saw a familiar looking beret. She shuddered with trepidation, but final resolved to go up to the front of the train. It was Jim.
The voice broke into his thoughts as he looked at the track ahead.
"Hi!" he said, completely surprised and just as full of trepidation. He moved over to make room, but said, "Maybe you want to sit in the other seat."
She slid into the seat next to Jim and, not realising what she was doing, she put her arms around him and kissed him, as tears rolled down her face. Jim was even more surprised, though he knew of her curious combination of practicality and impetuosity. As they kissed, Loneliness rose from the other seat. As Loneliness stood at the door, she (he) knew that a new friend would be found soon . Loneliness raised a (now invisible) hand, and uttered a silent "bonne chance" as the train left the Argyle Station
"Jim," she said, now blushing from behind her tears at the realisation that she had kissed him in front of the passengers on the train. "Jim! I hoped I'd find you one of these days." He hugged her.
"Where are you going?" he asked, "I'm going down to look at mouthpieces. Not romantic, but it won't take all that much time, and we can do something else, too."
"I was going to look for shoes, but I can do that some other time. I'll look at mouthpieces with you if you will look at bows with me."
"After that, you want to ride the "L" for old times' sake?"
"Yes All day!!"
They hadn't noticed that the motorman had signalled to the conductor
He came forward into the front car and, after closing the doors at Argyle, came forward to the cab. The door opened.
"What's up, DuPree?"
"Look behind you, man."
He turned and smiled. "Hey! It's 'Romeo and Juliet' together again."
The conductor -- Marcus McRae -- got back to his work. Jim and Carla left the train at Fullerton, with handshakes to Marcus and DuPree, and they continued to the Loop and the Wabash music stores.
Jim was duly brought home to Charlotte that night, and the three of them went out to My Pi and later to Cuneen's.
The reunion seemed complete. Word spread to the other motormen and conductors who had followed the romance of the young lovers years before, and all seemed well, indeed. And all may still be well .