the two of them leave camp butler together, first to belvidere and then to saunemin a few years later, with nothing but the clothes on their backs and thirty-two dollars between them.
they move to a small farmstead after the war- “not my daddy’s,” jeff says, sheepish, wiping his dirty hands on his trousers, “but i s’pose it’ll do.”- both of them tired and worn, both of them having lived too much for those so young. saunemin was a small, sleepy town, rattled by returning soldiers even now four years after the war’s end, so no one says anything at first about the two young men sharing a house just outside town. by the time anyone noticed enough to care, it had simply become a part of daily life.
the two of them kept to themselves, anyway, tilling and seeding what land they hand and offering their work elsewhere. albert spends his time as a farmhand and jeff lifts crates for the elderly mr. stewart at the general store in town. the old ladies who sit on the store’s porch are charmed by his bumbling clumsiness- it’s the only explanation as to why he comes home in the evenings with a plate of biscuits or a small sack of sausages, blushing fierce enough to be set afire.
“the misses’ve got roamin’ hands,” he confides one evening, and albert has to bite back a sharp bark of laughter at jeff’s pinked cheeks and wary glances, looking to and fro as if the women would simply melt from the walls and accost him. “they’ve a penchant for pinchin’, y’see.”
albert, true to form, offers a pinch of his own, and jeff’s startled shriek sends him into another fit of laughter.
they’re poor, yes, but more importantly, they’re happy. they’re together.