To Whom It May Concern:
Peter Bailey-Gates has been in and out of my house almost daily for the past three years — by “almost” I mean those short sentences of exile which I have been unkind enough to impose upon Peter — and in that time I have come to know him very well indeed: as friend, paper boy, fellow penny-collector, and combined decorator, waiter, and entertainer at my younger children’s birthday parties.
I have found Peter to be unfailingly good-humored, well-mannered, and considerate — all of which qualities stand him in good stead in his relations with the public, which are many and varied. I am sure that no boy in New England, much less in West Hartford, has been engaged in so many intricate business enterprises as Peter Bailey-Gates. I have bought, hired, subscribed to, invested in, paid and been paid interest on fully a dozen of his ventures in the last three years — not even counting his snow-shoveling, leaf-raking, apple-picking, and garbage-can-toting, for which my own young sons are recruited. Peter’s financial sense is, however, no deterrent to his feeling for what is fitting and proper: When he washed the car of the 70-year-old spinster who lives nearby, for instance, he was careful to explain (lest I should find out, I suppose!) that he had refused payment only because she had “no man to make money for her”; again, when he asked me to take an ad in his projected Colony Road News and I was so irreverent as to reserve two inches of space for the slogan “hooray for mrs. heath,” Peter offered to refund my dollar because he had caused my ad to appear as “compliments of a friend.” I must, however, state categorically that Peter has faithfully and conscientiously fulfilled his share of every and any contract between us, whatever it may have been. (And the fact that one or two of these contracts have been rather clearer to Peter than to me has been indignantly attributed by my own children to my habit of doing jigsaw puzzles, reading, watching television programs, and saying “Uh-hunh” simultaneously, when I should have been listening. My husband affirms this judgment.)
Lest my young friend sound barely lower than the angels, I must add that his fertile imagination combined with his 13-year-old’s sense of humor has led, on occasion, to my addressing him with words harsh and unkind (“You know perfectly well that when I told you last Tuesday you could climb up on the roof to get your glider, I didn’t mean you could buy ten more gliders and aim them at the — and by the way, I hope you didn’t buy them with the lottery money for the bicycle horn — when are you going to have that lottery, anyway? I bought those tickets six weeks ago!” And much more). These irrational, if predictable, crises of the adult world leave Peter possibly repentant, probably remorseful, but certainly unruffled. He is more sophisticated today than three years ago, when, at the age of ten, he frequently urged me not to get my liver in a quiver. Today, when Peter and I have what he refers to as “a difference of opinion,” he retires with complete equanimity to his own backyard until such time as my ill-humor subsides. My change of mood is apparently picked up by Peter’s extrasensory perception within the hour, for whenever I decide that the time has come for forgiving and forgetting, he appears at my front door within 15 minutes, to assure me he has forgiven and forgotten. By way of proof (or penance?) he then resumes without rancor his status as our daily visitor.
Needless to say, our friendship is steadfast.
Aloïse Buckley Heath
(Mrs. Benjamin Wild Heath)