There's no question, I guess, but what it was a great loss for Thalia. Her father was killed when the scaffolding gave way back when they were first laying bricks for the Whitney house. She wasn't more than a year or two old then, and all that Elvina had in this world, her only brother having died of diphtheria even before Thalia was born. For forty- three years Thalia and her mother (Elvina and Thalia we always called them) lived alone together. Before her mother took ill- -but this, mind you, was a long time ago--they did things, the two of them: they went visiting (not, of course, a great deal, but they did like to stop in on Sophora and Pauline and sometimes take a fruitcake or a pint of bullberry jelly down to Walter and his mother), they quilted together (usually over at Reva Willis's house because she had the frames), and they even took the train once to Boulder, Colorado, to attend the Pinkney reunion, only that was the summer that Homer and Ruth got word that Jeddie B. had been killed in Guam and the whole thing had to be called off. For a year or more they came to Relief Society meetings together, but Elvina got her feelings hurt again over the bazaar (some say both of the loaves of bread she baked went for fifty cents and nobody knows what all became of the four bottles of chili sauce and chow chow) and told Nilene Bolander that that was the last they would ever see of her inside that chapel. Thalia came out to Sunday School fairly regularly before Elvina got so sick, but after that she stayed right at home with her most of the time. There was a time just before that when Thalia seemed to take quite an interest in M. I. A. for a while and was even asked to take a position--Speech and Drama Director was what they wanted her for--but when Elvina got wind that Brother Bettenson had his eye on Thalia for that scoutmaster with five kids whose wife had up and left him, she put a fast stop to that. We didn't see much of Thalia at church at all after that. The visiting teachers, though, they continued to go there and, like as not, the ward teachers as well, but Cora Stokes and Idonna both said that it was not likely that Thalia would even step foot in the chapel as long as Elvina was drawing breath.
 But it was a great loss for Thalia. I suspect her mother was her whole life. Thalia did have her outside interests. You'd see her taking walks, long walks she'd take clear out to Haney's south pasture and way up to the other end of town and who knows where all. But I guess that's partly what kept her thin, those walks. And she would take a class or two up at the school. You'd see her bringing home a stack of books now and then from the library that she couldn't possibly have read in a year. And then, of course, she had her work. She did it all at home, typing and proofreading. With the college and all, I don't think she ever lacked for work. That and Elvina's relief check kept them going. Heaven knows Thalia must have always eaten like a bird and I doubt if either one of them ever gave two hoots for a new dress. The last time Elvina was out of the house she had on that same black crepe she must have got for Woodruff's funeral and I think she would just as leave have been buried in it. Thalia, she always seemed content in just that little gray sweater of hers and a plain wool skirt a darn sight longer than mine or yours or anybody else's. Most likely her life was always just as full as yours or mine, in its own way. I do know she saved her money and bought a TV set for the two of them. And I suspect that she was just as happy there caring for her mother as she would have been if things had been different for her somehow.
 Things were different after her mother died. Thalia sensed this almost immediately. The day after the company left she spent the morning at the cemetery, arranging and rearranging in the cold wind the few wilted flowers that had survived the chill March gusts, and pulling up a few dried weeds stranded among the dingy patches of crusted snow on the Beale plot. But this task occupied only a few minutes; most of the time she walked without plan or purpose between the rows of headstones, under the bare branches of the gray trees, over the frozen and sterile earth. When the gnawing in her empty stomach finally brought her to gather her coat about her and walk down the long road to the little frame house, she began to sense that nothing inside those quiet walls could ever be, had ever been, the substance needed to assuage her incessant hunger. One would have thought that the little house with its single straggling brown vine and the vacant spot where the hollyhocks came and went each year would have seemed unbearably empty when she stepped inside, that the near-hollow stillness of its rooms might have made it seem suddenly almost uncomfortably and unnecessarily large. Yet Thalia was surprised how the house, bereft as it was of fully one half of the life that had wheezed and coughed within it, now seemed different to her for its very smallness and for the uncanny impression of maximum occupancy, not spaciousness, that pervaded the four rooms, pushing at the yellowing papered walls and crowding the dark corners filled with ceramic knickknacks and tinted photographs in their dusty cardboard frames. Thalia sensed this difference as soon as she opened the front door and was met by the almost suffocating, hot, indoor smell of gray days accumulated upon gray days, days boiled cabbage and camomile tea, of camphor, Vicks Vapo-Rub, and dark brown cough syrup. What should have been conspicuously missing from the house now suddenly seemed overwhelmingly present. Her hand fluttered at her collar. The stifling warmth from the oil heater almost took her breath; the unending multi-colored circles of the braided rug beneath her caused her head to spin. She let herself sink down upon the brown davenport with its faded afghan and crocheted doilies, taking, care, like a visitor, to sit only on the edge rather than giving herself to its sagging and lumpy softness. "I'm a stranger," she heard herself say quietly. The words, heard not without some odd sense of pleasure, even caused her body to tingle a little. "I don't belong here."
 She had no business running off like that. If Elvina had lived you can bet she wouldn't have just up and run off one day without so much as a how-do you-do. What got into her I guess we'll never know. But I suppose that when you get right down to it, it was the grief that drove her. She must have just grieved so after her mother died that she couldn't bear being in that empty house. It's hard on a person, after you've waited hand and foot on someone else, to find yourself alone in the world. Believe me, I know. Anyway, Thalia somehow got it in her head to run off to California. I don't think she told a soul. She must have just woke up one morning with the notion that she had to get away and marched right down there and got her a ticket on the bus and away she went. I don't begrudge her a little trip. I suppose she felt she had it coming. But what beats me is what in the world she thought she'd find in California. Velta Lytle asked her if it was relatives or something she went to see but Thalia just told her no, it was not. So there you are. Now Lige and Elouise go down there almost once a year, but, good Lord, they've got more folks down there now than they've got up here, with Carl and Melba down at Oceanside and Cleora and her family still in Anaheim. But Thalia, now, had no more business than the man in the moon to go scooting off where she didn't know a living soul. Why on earth she didn't go up to Tremonton with Myrtle Dawn and Nida for a week or two after the funeral--or let Nils and Leona take her back with them to Blanding--sure beats me. Idonna said that, as far as she could tell, Thalia just shut up the house one day without a thought as to who was going to feed that cat or water her plants and off she went. And I know for a fact that Elvina had a canary that she wouldn't have parted with for the world, and now who, I ask you, did Thalia think was going to feed that poor bird with the house locked up tighter than a drum and nobody the wiser? Of course the poor thing died. Cora Stokes told me that. And I don't know if Thalia just left the cat in there to die too or if she turned it out to fend for itself. But I suspect she didn't give it a thought one way or another. But then, again, who are we to judge? Grief just turned her mind, I guess, and off she went.
 Thalia's mind kept turning. `'You've been good, Thalia. Always stay--." Stay? She looked around the dark little room until her eyes stopped at the Woolworth card table cramped in the corner, one wobbly leg threatening to collapse under the heavy looseleaf folder, the Smith-Corona in its worn case, the tottering tower of books stacked hastily against the wall the day before the funeral. The books would be due at the library March 23 and would have to be taken back. But there were no classes to hold her. For almost the first time in thirteen years, she had not enrolled in any courses at Snow College. How lucky for her! She had deliberated--"stewed around," her mother had said-- going back into Theatre Arts. Oh, not seriously. She would never try out for any of the parts, never let them talk her into being in one of their productions. Just a class or two. And not for credit. She would just have paid her auditing fee again and sat in the back with her notebooks while Dr. Hall talked over the hissing radiator to his class about Marlowe or Chekhov or Ibsen. She had thought too about trying Art one more time but then she remembered the stack of pale watercolors yellowing secretly under her cot--the still lifes with their lopsided vases and muddy onions cramped between anemic tomatoes, the landscapes with the light green trees and stiff barns--and Mr. Swanstrom pleading, "Loosen up! Loosen up!" ("Why, I don't think the man's fit to be a painting teacher," her mother had said). She had tried the course first from Mr. Weedly, then four years later from Mr. Folger who kept forgetting her name, then twice from Mr. Swanstrom, but she could hear them all, like a Greek chorus, chanting "Don't be afraid to put color in your brush! Let yourself go!" She had not wanted to go into English a third time. Not just yet. If Miss Hibbard taught Wuthering Heights again--or Jane Eyre or Tess of the D'Urburvilles--she would ask permission to audit and sit once more in the corner by the door, but she would not go back to creative writing. "Your work betrays a lack of experience," Dr. Woolley had written on one of her little stories. She had hidden the penciled comment from Mother but her own sense of humiliation kept her from going back. She longed to write, to open a magazine one day and find her name, in type not too large and maybe not so dark, in some small corner of the page. It almost made her tremble. But not, she quickly reminded herself, until she had had her little adventure, her--again she trembled-- "experience."
 She moved around in the dim little room. There was nothing to hold her now. Beyond the doorway that led to the quiet kitchen with its sallow oil cloth and linoleum, she could see the bedroom door slightly ajar, the room's bilious yellow-green hue, consequence of March's light wasting through the dull blinds, oozing infectiously into the remainder of the house. Nothing to hold her back. How fortunate that she had not tried to take a class, that she had contented herself with looking into whatever books had enticed her from their dusty shelves in the library. She looked back at the books on the card table. The Art of Writing Fiction, Fairy Mythology in Shakespeare, Arthurian Legends in Medieval Art, Art as Experience, Wildlife Along the Pacific Trail, Art and Artists in California. There was little doubt where she would go if she indeed really dared to go. The beautiful words had called to her each time she saw them written, a far-away whisper of sea and cypress, luring her on: Carmel by-the-Sea. To say them again to herself made her tremble. Could she really allow herself to go? The books would have to be taken back, she reminded herself. And the fern. Someone would have to water the fern. She could take it to Walter and Maude. Poor Maude would like something green. Her eyes surveyed each item cramped in the dim corners of the room. The cat was gone. No need to worry about Flossie, poor thing. Was it wrong not to have told her mother in those last days that Flossie too had been withering away--distemper Mr. Stubbs at the drug store had suggested--and was finally buried out back under the plum trees? And Dickie too, as if something contagious, unnoticed under the heavy medicinal smells, had spread through the whole house, poor Dickie too had begun to lose her feathers and stopped her quiet little song. There had still been some of the Hartz seeds in the glass feeder when she found the bird lying stiffly on its back. And Flossie couldn't be blamed-- everyone marveled at how they got on together--unless something in Flossie's own illness had caused her to do something to Dickie that she had not known about. But that was not likely. Poor Flossie herself had been beneath the bare trees two days before Dickie was finally laid beside her. Thalia stared at the empty cage dimly lighted by the little window facing the street. Something fluttered briefly in her chest. There was nothing now to hold her.
 But then I suppose there are worse things than letting a canary starve to death in its cage. Lord knows, though, that Thalia was devoted to Elvina and attentive as could be. It makes you wonder sometimes how she could have suddenly been so selfish as to let those animals just wither away while she gallivanted off to some ritzy resort. Lords knows where she stayed or who she thought was going to pay for her whims. It's grief, that's all there is to it. It must have been grief, because it was just not like Thalia to go off and do a thing so completely uncalled for and unnatural.
 Listen, do you want to know what she told Nell Lister? Not that Thalia was ever one to tell anyone anything, but Nell has a way of getting things out. Talk about your woman's intuition. Lord, you've never seen a person that's got the knack of reading between the lines Nell's got. Point her out a woman on the street with a suitcase in her hand and she'll tell you the whole story. Just like her Aunt Thule used to be. Thule even read tea leaves until she saw a house in flames in her cup one day and a week later her own son Ned set fire to the seminary building. Be that as it may, here's what Thalia told Nell: she went down there, she said, to have a little adventure for herself. Now your guess is as good as mine what she meant by that. But she told Nell that she had one week-end that she will never forget as long as she lives. Now I want you to keep in mind that Thalia Beale is almost as old as I am. In fact, she was in the same class as my younger sister Lila June, but Lila now was always a pretty little thing. Now what business Thalia thought she had to go down there around all those artists and poets--and hippies, too, mind you--sure beats me. I can tell you one thing: she never showed her face at church down there any more than here. LaRee Shurtz and her husband are there at Pacific Grove Ward and when Lida wrote and asked them if they ever saw Thalia, LaRee was surprised to even know that Thalia had been down there at all.
 Well, anyway, she went down there to this Carmel place until she got good and tired and then she went over to Monterey and stayed there for a while. Monterey, you might recall, is down there where all those soldiers and sailors and I suppose marines and everything else have their bases. Reva's oldest boy Garn was there at the Naval Post Graduate School and I think Delma Lowder's got a boy at Fort Ord right now. Well, Thalia never let on but I've got a hunch there was some man involved. And Thalia Beale forty-three years old. Who knows what all went on. She said she bought her a book that told her a lot of things she'd always wanted to know and that she was really beginning to appreciate the wonders of Nature. Nature, my foot. When Nell asked Thalia how she found the people down there, Thalia just sort of hemmed and hawed and finally owned up that there was some man she met at the post office that was awfully good to her. Well, she says she had her one week-end, anyway, that she just did everything she had always dreamed about and some things, mind you, she'd never even thought of. I'd like to think she has come back to her senses now, but Nell thinks--and Idonna will tell you the same thing--that Thalia has no regret for whatever she did.
 Thalia did not regret that she had chosen Carmel-by-the- Sea. There had been anxious moments when she wanted to ask the bus driver to help her make immediate connections back to Ephraim, Utah. And the absolute incredibility of arriving in Monterey in the almost ethereal nebulosity of an evening fog had made her heart pound in her throat and her skin suddenly feel feverish as she pressed her forehead against the cool dampness of the bus window. But the salty, fishy moistness of the air had at once terrified her and thrilled her as she stepped down into the alien white mist and felt her legs almost buckle when her swollen feet touched the asphalt of this new world. Someone had pointed out the direction in which the ocean--how long she had dreamed of witnessing its dynamic actuality!--might be found, but she had felt better sitting in the corner of the bus station writing a postcard to herself ("I have sailed forbidden seas and landed on barbarous coasts," she wrote with her lavender Flair pen) until 8:35 when another short bus ride through black pines and smoky darkness brought her at last to the dim lights of Carmel's sequestered cottages and hilly lanes. And in her room for $14.00 (she had been too weary to carry her suitcase and her typewriter to more than three motels), still fully dressed in the wrinkled grey tweed, she had fallen asleep on the chenille spread while figuring how long she might stretch the remaining $229.37.
 She was afraid to leave the room until the marks, pinkly visible on the left side of her face until after ten-thirty the next morning, could no longer reveal the secret of her inexperience. Then she left her two pieces of baggage with the woman at the desk, bought an orange at a little market (how it thrilled her to see the fruits and vegetables tucked among the tidy miniature shops clustered along the street that led down to the ocean), and spent the day with a crumpled copy of the weekly Carmel Pine Cone looking for a little room to rent. The village, its twisted trees and creeping vines and tiny lavender-blue flowers almost hiding the quaint houses, left her breathless. The silver-haired men with soft silk ascots, the slender women in their strange boots and gaucho hats leading dogs on long leashes--these made something cry out within her. And once when a bearded gentleman was showing her through the sky-lighted studio wing on a half-timbered Tudor home for rent, she even stepped back in the cool green shade of the hallway to cry against her white knuckles and then ran down the road to the beach to sob alone in the wind.
 By evening, after three people had suggested that she try looking for something more suitable to her needs and pocketbook in one of the surrounding communities, she reluctantly picked up her bags and boarded the bus for Monterey. The place she found--it was "only temporary" she kept telling herself--was a narrow little sleeping room with an electric hot plate and some yellow plastic dishes. It was not in a neighborhood she would have chosen but it looked less grim by daylight and was only a five-block walk from the public library. It would be only $90 a month the old deaf woman downstairs told her, if she would be careful about the electricity and furnish her own sheets and towels. Thalia stayed the month. For the first week she looked elsewhere but some areas of the town frightened her while her own little place on Union Street gradually offered some of the comfort and security of things grown familiar.
 Nevertheless, her heart, she had to own, was in Carmel. She went there almost every day by bus, always walking down to watch the blue waves crashing on the sand and, further out, against the rocks. She walked quietly through the tiny galleries, listening inconspicuously to others as they eulogized, in loud and confident voices, paintings she couldn't understand. One day, feeling bold, she even determined to try to merge with the audience at a piano recital she had seen advertised, but her watch must have been slow for when she walked up the long hill to the church the doors were already closed and she had to listen to the music from the steps at the side door. At intermission she thought of peeping in to see if there might be a seat near the back, but when the ladies with their fur stoles and little name cards pinned to their knits and jerseys flittered out onto the patio to sip coffee from tiny cups, she pretended she had only been admiring the architecture in passing, and hurried, her chest and eyes burning, up the hill to where the 3:30 bus to Monterey was just driving away.
 When it rained she spent her afternoons near the big stone fireplace in the library at Carmel, but when the sun was out she tried to devote as much time as possible to exploring the shady little streets with no sidewalks, stopping to read the identifying labels--names like Sea Cradle, Journey's End, Harbor Lights--which the neat cottages, with their ornamental doors and oriental gardens, bore instead of numbers. One day after much deliberation, she bought a shiny-covered book-one of two extravagant purchases she permitted herself during that month--that identified for her the trees and plants of the region. Afterwards she took much care to check the colored illustrations against the variety of unique and lovely things she found on her little excursions; memorizing that the blue myrtle was really ceanothus thyrsiflorus, she liked to think, might help her to feel less a stranger to this enchanted region. Her other extravagance came when she allowed herself to buy a pink-orange sweater. She had seen a similar one in the window of a tiny boutique in Carmel --"Italian imports: original creations in melon and coral" the little card had read--at the same time she had noticed in a reflection of herself in the same window that her own gray cardigan would not survive many more washings. The colors of the sweater in the window both terrified and excited her, and it was only after a long internal debate that she allowed herself to search out something similar, it finally being her fortune to locate the one she bought--luckily marked down on a Discontinued Items Sale--in the Monterey Sprouse-Reitz. The first day she wore it to Carmel she felt everyone's eyes on her. It was ten days before she dared to take it from the drawer and try it again.
 The month passed quickly. She had hoped that when April came she might write to someone and say, "Our spring here is lovely! There is so much to see and do!" but, even though it seemed quite true, she was unable to write it and was unable furthermore to even think of who she might write it to. Twice she had gone to the post office in Carmel and asked at the General Delivery counter if there was, by chance, anything for Thalia Beale. There never was--for who even knew where she had gone except Walter and Maude who only knew it was "somewhere out there in California?" but the little man behind the counter had, on both occasions, looked at her sympathetically with his apologetic eyes and once even asked "Are you just here on a visit?" One Sunday morning, having missed the bus to Carmel, she had walked down Monterey's deserted main street and experienced a sudden longing for the familiar streets and faces of Ephraim. At first she had refused to recognize it, but as it grew stronger she even went to a telephone directory to try to locate the church: she would know no one, she had reasoned, yet perhaps she might feel some sense of belonging. But the nearest church listed had been Pacific Grove; fearing to venture by bus to an area even less familiar to her, she had settled for going back to her room and writing three little poems all of which she tore up in tears before she fell asleep on her bed at five o'clock.
 The idea for the week-end had been growing since the day she discovered that her adventure in Carmel-by-the-Sea would have to be primarily the adventure of a daily visitor, of an onlooker, an outsider. It had started that first evening as she waited disappointedly by the road for the bus to take her back to Monterey to look for a place to stay. And each day thereafter as she rode the bus back down the highway through the pines, she had added mental notes to the original plan. Finally, in mid-April, she sat in her narrow room and carefully counted the rewards of her frugality besides the money required for her return ticket, $53.16 remained. This time, as she took her bags and made the twenty-minute trip to Carmel, it seemed as though tiny wings were flapping wildly inside her breast. Her own boldness made her tremble. Her little adventure was one that she wanted no one, and yet, strangely, everyone, to know.
 The week-end was going to be beautiful. Yet when she arrived at the house she had chosen after days of meticulously studying the Want Ads at the library, the experience was not without a tinge of disappointment. Its hacienda-like appearance seemed somehow less exotic and more stark than it had that late sunny afternoon when she had followed tremblingly behind the boisterous realtor through the tangled garden and throughout its bone-white rooms with their mock- Florentine tapestries and Moroccan cushions. Yet she was so fortunate to have it at all, she told herself; it would have been impossible to rent such a place for three mere days, she had been informed, were it not that a couple from Honduras had just vacated it and the new tenants were not due from Connecticut until Monday. It would be $45 for the three days-- half of what she had paid for a month in Monterey, she worried--yet it was precisely, or at least almost precisely, what she had come for. And she must have it. She must not wince, must not falter.
 Two things bothered her, however. The street appeared as quaint as any other, but why, oh why, she asked herself, could it not have borne a name like the ones running below it--Monte Verde, Camino Real, Casanova--or even Dolores, the one above it? Why must it have been called simply Lincoln? And there was something else, but this she had resolved to do something about. The house--once she even tremblingly dared to call it "my hacienda" to herself--had somehow escaped the wonderful little epithets she had seen tacked on rustic gates and ornate lamp posts elsewhere in the village. Not La Casablanca, not even Wee Hideaway, the house was simply identified, evidently because of its original owner, by a little wooden placard that read Vosbrink. But she had planned ahead here: having found on one of her excursions a piece of driftwood large enough to cover the weathered placard, she kind carefully lettered upon it with her watercolors the name--product of much deliberation and many nervous headaches--which she had chosen. For several days she had invented new names, trying them out quietly to herself--Thrushmore, Sea Room, Set Adrift, Linnet's Landing-- but she finally settled on something foreign that she had seen on a magazine at the library: BEAU MONDE.
 For the three glorious days Thalia's heart ached with inexpressible passion --joy or sadness, she could not be entirely sure which. She wore her new sweater every day and whenever she left the house she carried with her the looseleaf in which she had jotted down her impressions, the beginnings of poems, even the idea for--the thought made her tremble--a novel, which she had reluctantly promised herself to identify, had anyone ever asked, as her "work in progress." Much of her time she spent walking through the rooms of her house, remarking confidently, if quietly, to the white walls, "This room is especially nice during our rainy season. And here, on the patio, is where I usually spend my afternoons." Twice, indeed, she took a little snack of V-8 juice and Ritz crackers and went out to sit on the little bench under the gnarled cypress. Although she had jotted down lists of things to do during her little week-end, she found it difficult deciding how to do them. Friday after she had put things into a drawer and hung up her wool suit in one of the spacious closets, she had gone leisurely about her schedule, even determining that night to sleep as late as she wanted in the big Spanish bed, but when she had opened her eyes at 8:30 on Saturday, she was cross with herself for wasting such valuable time and made certain that every precious moment counted for the two remaining days. She delighted in being just a five-minute walk away from the shops and galleries on Ocean Avenue and, each day, on one of her little pilgrimages, she treated herself to something special. This was not counting the three scented candles and the jasmine incense she had bravely bought to burn in her hacienda while she read her new flower book and worked on her poem about the daffodil; these were little surprises that came from the shops she had not previously allowed herself to enter. There was no limit to what she might have, she promised herself, no limit except the diminishing budget she had set aside for these last three beautiful days. One day she chose a Danish pastry at a tiny bakery where the pink- checked lady spoke with an accent; on another she had a hot- fudge sundae in the red-and-white-striped candy parlor she had passed so many times; and on the third day, after much vacillation, she went into the Mediterranean Market and emerged with a bottle of marinated artichokes. She was disappointed that she did not particularly like them, but contented herself with the knowledge that there were people back in Ephraim who did not even know whether they liked them or not. The thoughts of Ephraim caused her to become suddenly and unexpectedly excited. She wondered if anyone had died, if anyone would look changed, if the hollyhocks could possibly be starting to bloom.
 Like I say, you'll see her puttering around out there by her hollyhocks or she'll be passing by here in that little gray sweater of hers on her way out to the edge of town or Lord knows where. With Elvina gone she doesn't like to stay there in the house too much, I suspect. But I guess she's got plenty to go. Lloyd Tenney over at the school is working on his master's (he and Rayola Dodd's boy have both gone up to Utah State almost every summer) and Frieda says that Thalia's typing his thesis for him. It's on breeding sheep and the various diseases they get and I don't know what all. She normally gets twenty-five cents a page but Frieda says she asked her to do it for twenty. I don't know how many she can do an hour, but then, when it gets right down to it, what else has she got to do?
 I suspect she's glad to be back home here. People are different down there. Nell asked her if she thought she'd ever want to sell the house (Dewey's boy has been looking for a little place just about that size) and go down there to live and Thalia said no, she didn't hardly think she would. She said she didn't really think she would fit in. And, of course, you know as well as I do that it's best if she stays here. Elvina would have wanted that. And too, if like she says she had her a week-end she'll never forget, well, I guess she'll always have that to remember. Lord forgive her.