IT'S ALL BUNK
Even taking the uniform into account it was scarcely surprising that the family refused to get excited about Jack. Families can be so annoying. But Dorrie was an enterprising little lady—“inclined to be baby-dollish, only with more character—naturally.”
JEAN is my very best friend, chiefly because her family have always known mine, and also because we have many ideas in common—especially concerning the opposite sex. That was what really caused all the trouble.
The tragedy which has so cruelly blighted my young life started all unsuspectingly one lovely evening in spring. Jean and I were wandering along the bank of the canal which runs through the driveway a hundred yards from the house in which I live with my family. It was one of those evenings when adventure calls and you feel that anything might happen, though it never does. We were dreadfully fed up with the vacuity of our lives, and were suffering from twinges of vague longings and a desperate desire for a thrill, though knowing perfectly well that a thrill was impossible, because our town is the stodgy kind in which you never meet anyone you haven’t always known. Nothing exciting or unusual ever happens.
We strolled along, watching the canoes drifting past. They contained, for the most part, a man-and a maid, with sometimes a small victrola squawking out jazz— carting around victrolas being a dumb habit some canoeists have. Occasionally a canoe containing two males would pass and they would give us a stupid grin and the glad eye, which, of course, we ignored.
“Heavens!” wailed Jean, “what a place to live in. If something would only happen.”
“Well, it won’t,” I assured her, “so you’d better make up your mind to keep right on vegetating.”
“If we could only meet some of these ‘Mounties’ who have been stationed here!” persisted Jean.
“How can we meet them when nobody knows any to introduce us to? Don’t be so exasperatingly hopeful, Jean, for goodness’ sake!”
“I know, Dorrie, but if we only could!”
AT THIS moment, a canoe occupied by one lone man and a dog hove in sight. We watched it draw near, more or less idly, but as it came closer we saw that its human occupant was good to look upon. He, quite obviously, did not belong to our town. The allotment of men in this fair city is notoriously meagre. The few scattered males who do inhabit it are, for the most part, sadly lacking in size and physical beauty. This stranger, on the contrary, looked all there. He wore a white shirt with the sleeves rolled back, displaying sinewy brown arms. He paddled near with bold, even strokes. When he was abreast of us, and we saw his long legs, our hearts absolutely stopped beating, for, behold, they were encased in navy blue riding breeches with yellow stripes up the sides, and riding boots. In other words, he was nothing less than a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman. Thrills, thrills and more thrills.
Jean and I had sat and shivered through reels and reels of “The Word of a Royal Mounted” and other movies depicting the courage and nobility of these heroes of romance. We had wept our eyes half out of our heads over books about them, but until quite recently
we had never seen one at close range. When a much criticized government had at last taken pity on a manless community and stationed a detachment of these very same heroes within our walls, every woman under thirty, and some over, had been thrilled to tears and had done the “Sister Ann” stuff daily, from behind window curtains to see them ride past. Each and every girl yearned to annex a beau from their number, but as no one had met any, the yearning had not been realized.
We gazed on him hopefully as the canoe glided past, but he did not even glance in our direction.
“Of course,” I remarked, “he wouldn’t smile at us. No one half decent would, I suppose, but if he did I might smile back at him, just for fun.”
“Dorrie, you would notl” Jean exclaimed in shocked accents.
.“Why not?” I said. “He probably doesn’t know a soul in town. It would only be Christian.”
We were moving slowly in the direction of home when we observed the canoe again. It had evidently turned around a little distance up and was coming towards us. It drew near and was just going to pass.
This was, most probably, the only chance we ever would have to know a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman. Perhaps he was the son of some bankrupt English earl; the story and movie “Mounties” often were. That would account for the way he had minded his own business. He didn’t go around grinning like a Cheshire cat at girls he did not know. These thoughts passed quickly through my mind. The canoe had almost passed again. There was not another moment to lose. Something had to be done, and done quickly. The question was, what?
All at once I was seized with inspiration. I gave Jean a push. She stumbled down the bank, frantically clutching a twig. This shows how ungrateful she was, but the twig, fortunately, was too small. She went splash into the water and sank up to her armpits.
Of course, she had to spoil the effect by exclaiming breathlessly, when she felt her feet on bottom,
“Dorrie, you are an ass!” Jean always is loquacious when she should be dumb, and vice versa.
The “Mountie,” attracted by the splash, was by this time paddling
toward us. He lugged Jean into his canoe and, as she was flopping down on a cushion, yelled:
“Don’t wet that there cushion, lady. I got to sleep on it to-night,” and dragged it out of the way.
Evidently he was not the son of a noble English house, after all. But he was, at least a mounted policeman and beautiful to look upon, being very tall, with the sort of blue eyes one sees on sailors and men who live in the great open spaces, and a shock of yellow hair. He might be a dashing cow puncher, with a bold adventurous spirit, who had tired of merely chasing cattle over the prairies and had joined the mounted police so he could chase vicious criminals instead. No doubt his father owned a ranch in the West, which he would some day inherit!
Jean was dripping wet, so there was nothing else for him to do but paddle her home. As I could not leave her to the tender mercies of a perfectly strange man, I had to get into the canoe and go along, too.
On the way we learned that his name was Jack Kennedy and that he was not the son of a wealthy western rancher, but that he had joined the mounted police because there wasn’t anything else that he could dö, and—he needed a job. We also discovered that he spoke very shocking English, but this we forgave because he was so ornamental and, as Jean, whose teeth were beginning to chatter by this time, pointed out in what she thought was an undertone, we might get to know the whole detachment through him. So we made a date to go paddling with him the following evening.
We knew, of course, that this was unconventional, but “why be such prunes?” we thought. Besides, it was perfectly safe when there were two of us and only one person of the opposite sex, a condition of things we hoped he would soon remedy by producing another “Mountie.”
It was necessary for us to meet him on the driveway as neither of us was anxious to introduce him to our families, they being very critical about our male friends
and not a bit romantic about uniforms, and, while we could appreciate his sterling worth, they would only notice his English and other unimportant trifles. My family got the idea in some peculiar way that he was a friend of Jean’s and her family labored under a similar delusion about his being a friend of mine, and we contnued to see quite a bit of him.
At last, however, the fatal day drew near, when my family could be stalled off no longer. Their various hints about “Why don’t you ask Jean and her friend over here to play bridge?” and, “why doesn’t Jean bring that man around here to call for you, instead of your always meeting them?” Being ignored by me, dad sprang it as I was starting as inconspicuously as possible for the driveway one beautiful summer evening: “Look here, Doris,” he said, “you had better ask that young man around to-morrow night.”
Thinking about this, I wasn’t any too happy, but then I remembered that it would be a good opportunity for me to eliminate Jean. As there was only one “Mountie,” she was becoming decidedly de trop. I had asked him some time before to bring another “Mountie” paddling with us for her, but he had said:
“Nothing doing, girlie. Those fellows are just a bunch of rough-necks.”
I knew I would be subjected to many scathing remarks from the family, such as, “I don’t understand how you meet such queer people,” but I determined that whatever the family might say, nothing would prejudice me against Jack.
THE next evening he arrived and was ushered into the drawing-room by Stella, our new and rather snappy looking maid Mother was reading and dad was roaming around asking: “Has any one seen my cigarette case?” My mother is not a comfortable person to meet. Her manner is too much of the dowagerduchess order. She did not fizz on Jack, though. He grabbed her hand and shook it violently, at the same time shouting: “Pleased to meetcha, I’m sure, ma’m.” Then, dragging our best Persian rug, which had caught on one of his spurs, over to the most comfortable chair in the' room, he sat down with such force that I saw mother glance apprehensively. The only damage done to the chair, however, was a loosened back, because he would insist on tilting to and fro on the legs and laughing uproariously every time dad spoke.
I thought the family were going to park with us all evening-—the perverse way a family will when they are not wanted. Whenever you particularly want them to stick around owing to your having to entertain a misguided beau who has the good-night-kissing complex too highly developed but is useful in other ways, such as providing chocolates,
they are always conspicuous by their absence. At last, however, when Jack started telling sea-sick stories, mother collected herself and her book and went out of the room, followed a minute or two later by dad, hoping, I’suppose, to save what was left of the chair.
I tuned on some dance music and started to teach Jack the Charleston when the door opened, and in walked Jean.
“You kids needn’t worry about me. Just pretend I’m not here. I just blew in because I thought Dorrie was likely all alone,” she announced as she subsided on the sofa and proceeded to eat the chocolates Jack had brought.
She left almost immediately and, of course, Jack had to go home with her.
I expected to be much lectured on the subject of the kind of friends I seemed to be collecting, and I had many and potent arguments with which I was going to meet these unjust reproaches from my family, such as, there are more important things in life than mere manners, but not a single thing was said.
This seemed most unnatural
and, when I ventured a timid, “What did you think of him?” and dad remarked, “He’s a very nice looking chap, isn’t he?” the wind went completely out of my sails. If the family were not going to criticise him, of course I didn’t have to defend him. On reviewing the situation, I had to admit that he didn’t exactly cut
a dash and that families and the general public, might be justified in not appreciating his true value when it was so deeply buried.
THEN I was smitten with the brilliant dea—“Why not train him?” I had read a magazine story about a girl who fell in love with the chauffeur and taught him to acquire grace and savoir faire to such an extent that her best friend got involved in a divorce scandal in which he was the co-respondent. Hadn’t I heard my own family say about people: “When she married him he couldn’t even speak properly, and now he is a college ' professor,” or member of parliament or something? If they could do it, why couldn’t I? And what fascinating material I had to work with. Over six feet of picturesque uniform.
He was all for it, too, and the more I saw of him the more I realized what a knock-out he was going to be. Why I might even be able to pass him off as the younger son of a noble and impecunious family—he certainly would look the part, with his dog and a bit of brushing up. And think how dreadfully romantic it would be to marry a “Mountie” and cheer and encourage him, when he was going out on his deeds of daring.
He and I spent much time together—-improving his mind and manners—mostly with me feeding him chocolates, of which he always brought huge boxes, and explaining what he ought to do and how he ought to speak. His English was improving nightly and he’d actually stand up when my mother entered the room, and remain standing until she sat down.
He was learning to pass coffee from the tray beautifully, too. The only mistake he made was that he always jumped up and rushed to take the tray from Stella, the maid, when she was bringing it in. But that just shows how eager he was to be polite.
Jean was much interested in my success. She suggested that I make him cultivate an English accent, “and you know, Dorrie, winged collars make some men look so distinguished,” she said. The next time he came over I told him about these improvements we had planned for him.
“Nix on that stuff, girlie. There’s some things I draw the line at. English accents is one of them and winged collars is another.”
“Are another, Jack,” I gently corrected.
“Begging your pardon, are another,” said Jack.
“It isn’t necessary to say, ‘begging your pardon,’ ”
I told him.
“I never did care for winged collars. They usually make a man look like a waiter,” said Jean.
“Why did you say they made some men look distinguished, then, Jean?” I asked.
“I said some men, not Jack. He’s too much a regular he-man.”
One fly in our pot of ointment was that he refused to produce another “Mountie” for Jean.
As Jean could not be left out, we had many parties together. ,
I was all thrills with my success and decided to take him over to Willa Blair’s dance and turn all the other girls green with envy. He did look adorable, too, when he arrived, all dolled up in a brand new, red tunic with shining, gold buttons and, instead of the riding breeches, a snappy pair of blue slacks. He reminded me of a soldier from a musical comedy, but he had anything that ever appeared on the stage beaten a mile. Even Stella was impressed when she admitted him, and I was ready to swoon with admiration.
My own get-up was pretty slick. My dress was an adorable poudre bleu chiffon, with a silver lace panel down the front, and the skirt bouffant style. I knew it matched my blue eyes and exactly suited my type, which is inclined to be baby-dollish, only with more character—naturally.
Everything went beautifully at the party, too, except that Jack amused himself by going around turning up the lights. Unfortunately, Willa is a mush artist and her parties are always governed accordingly, with dim lights and lots of secluded sitting-out places and all the rooms in the house occupied but the drawing room. Jack disclosed many well-known secrets, and, though he got in wrong with everybody, it just showed how puresouled and high-minded he was.
My program was filled pretty soon. Jack had asked me for eight dances, thrilling me to death, because I thought he would probably chase after Willa, or one of the other vamps of the crowd.
1 was having a ripping good time, until along about the middle of the evening when Jack didn’t appear for his dance. We were having two in a row, though, and 1 thought, “Oh, well, he’s probably got it mixed.” So, when one of the stags asked me for it, I agreed. But when the next one started and everybody got going, and still no Jack, my thrills began to evaporate. Fortunately, Frank Dixon sauntered up and saved me from the ignominy of wall-flowerhood, but he couldn’t save my heart from slowly breaking up in pieces. Suddenly it came over me that I hadn’t seen Jean for some considerable time.
After that agony of a dance, we strolled into the garden. As we passed the garage, I heard a familiar voice saying, “A man of your type, Jack, should not be taught to act like a lounge lizard.”
“Let’s go and see who is in there,” I suggested.
“Certainly not! Whoever is in there does not want to be disturbed,” Frank objected.
“Well, they are jolly well going to be,” I answered, walking away from him into the garage. And just as I thought, there were Jean and Jack, in the Blair’s car.
“Gracious, Dorrie, where
have you been? We looked everywhere for you!” exclaimed Jean. “Jack has been telling me the most wonderful stories about his dope squad experiences,with snow birds and coke fiends. You should have been here.”
Thejwent back with me but I could not be low for very long, because Jack looked so adorable in all his manly strength and “Mountie” uniform. It was pure joy to be near him. He was certainly looking at me with a soft, tender look, something more than just friendship in his blue eyes.
On the way home in the taxi, he put his arm around me and drew me close. My hair got all caught in his buttons, but ^he only laughed.
I didn’t say anything. Life was too sweet at this moment to spoil with mere words.
“Ain’t you a nice little girl to take so much trouble with a bohunk like me? Taking me to a swell dance, and everything?” he said.
“Aren’t,” I murmured dreamily.
“You’ll soon have me made into a regular pink tea fish.”
Then he cuddled me close again and kissed me quite tenderly. ,
“You know, Jack,” I said, sitting upright, “it's very wrong of us to behave like this when we’re not engaged.” Continued on paoe 40
Continued, from page 20
“Let’s get engaged, then,” he answered. “But I’d make you an awful wife,” I countered, drawing back. I am naturally shy and diffident and when I take a step forward in any decisive direction, I always take two backward, metaphorically speaking.
“I can’t cook and I’ve got an awful temper,” I continued.
“Shucks, I could eat at the mess until you learned to cook, and my horse has a fierce temper and we git along fine,” Ja6k replied cheerfully.
So we let it go at that and he kissed me again, and by that time we were home.
AS I got ready for bed, I decided that we would elope. It would cause quite a sensation. The papers would all come out with headlines something like this: “Daughter of Well Known Lawyer Elopes with ‘Mountie’—Love Will Find a Way,” but thought that I would wait until my new dress, which was being made, was finished. Then I fell asleep thinking how lucky I was that fate had brought us together by giving me the inspiration to push Jean into the canal, and how wonderful he was, and how much more thrilling than a mere lawyer or banker, who might have otherwise been my lot.
The next evening he telephoned me and said he was being sent on a secret mission to capture a band of dope smugglers, so he wouldn’t be able to see me that evening. I told him I thought I would go and see Jean, and stay all night with her. I went and told her all about my elopement, as she is my very best friend, and it was only fair since she had helped me meet him, but she wasn’t a bit sympathetic.
“Of course, it’s awfully foolish of you, Dorrie,” she said. “You know everyone is talking about the boners he pulled at Willa’s party.”
“Yes,” I retorted, “I suppose it was
rude of him to stay away in the garage so long, but he could hardly help that, when he was kept against his will.”
It was just jealousy on Jean’s part, of course, so I didn’t stay all night.
I strolled home in the moonlight, thinking how brave and noble Jack was to go and capture villainous criminals, and shuddering at the risk he would have to take, although knowing that his thoughts were on me and that at that very moment I was most likely being an inspiration to him to do his duty nobly and “get his man,” and, also, thinking I would be married in my new dress.
When I arrived home I was feeling hungry and, all unsuspecting the ghastly tiick which fate was about to play on me, started out to the kitchen to find something to eat. Imagine my surprise, on opening the pantry door, to find Stella sitting on the knee of a man in a mounted police uniform, feeding him chocolates from a huge box which was reposing on the table beside her. I looked again, as they were so busy they hadn’t seen the door open and it gradually penetrated my half-numbed senses that the man was none other than Jack. So this was the smuggling expedition.
I gave a gasp and they both jumped up. I quickly disappeared on the other side of the door, hoping against hope they hadn’t seen who it was, but even this consolation was denied me because that perfidious wretch never came near the house again —at least not to the front door.
But the most unkindest cut of all is that mother will not fire Stella, though I pointed out that she probably steals, and I have to stick around and know that she knows she cut me out.
Our top pantry shelf is getting piled higher and higher with huge empty candy boxes. Is it any wonder my heart is broken and my faith in man shattered— probably for ever?