FICTION

Cultivate a Debutante

JOHN RHODES STURDY March 15 1932
FICTION

Cultivate a Debutante

JOHN RHODES STURDY March 15 1932

Cultivate a Debutante

A sparkling comedy of the younger generation

JOHN RHODES STURDY

THE team of Weston and Cudlip had come suddenly to the parting of the ways. To Polly Weston it seemed rather silly and childish to break up over a slight misunderstanding and call it the end. No doubt she had been partly to blame and Johnnie had some reason to feel hurt and angry, but to sever their relationship completely seemed unnecessary.

Johnnie Cudlip did not think so. He laid down the verdict with no little emphasis.

“I don’t blame you.” he said sarcastically. They were seated in the living room of Polly’s home; at least! Polly was seated. Johnnie was squirming and shifting on his chair, crossing and uncrossing his legs, and making a rather vain attempt to appear calm.

“I don't blame you at all." he continued. “Who am I to keep dates with? I’m asking you, who am I?”

“Johnnie Cudlip,” said Polly sweetly.

“Yes. Johnnie Cudlip. But does that mean anything to you?” He shook his head. “Not a thing. Oh. sure. I was once the head man. You thought I was pretty nice, didn’t you? You told all the girls you had fallen for me. You wouldn’t go to dances with anyone else. And 1 was the poor nut who thought you meant it. I’m through with women !”

“Oh, Polly!”

Polly had heard that before, but she was polite and did not mention the fact.

“Listen,’’ went on Johnnie, warming to the spirit of the thing. "You broke a date with me. No girl has ever done that and enjoyed my company afterward.” He swelled out his chest. “I have a little pride, you know.” “But, Johnnie,” Polly protested, a tiny frown appearing on her forehead, “it isn’t as bad as all that. You were so late I never dreamed you would come. Dick Young happened to drop in, and he asked me to go for a drive. There was no harm in that. Why get so mad about it?”

“Mad?” He looked horrified. “Mad, I’m not mad! Why should I be? You’ve every right in the world to go out with Dick Young -the dumbbell! I hope you had a good time.

I hope he kissed you.” “He didn’t !”

Johnnie waived that. “He has a big car and lots of money. He knows how to give girls a good time, and his family is always throwing dinners and parties. No, I don’t blame you. It’s only womanly nature. Get all you can. Never mind about the Johnnie Cudlips.”

“You’re being horrid.”

“Fine.” He tightened his lips. “You’ve told me that I'm horrid. Anything else you'd like to call me before I go out of this house and never come back again?”

Polly rose from her chair. She was very pleasing to the eye. Others than Johnnie Cudlip realized that, and those others, including Dick ''t oung, would be very happy to learn of the separation. She had beautiful blonde hair and laughing eyes, although they were far from laughing now, and a pert little nose that tiíted upward and almost looked conceited. Her lips were small and she needed very little lipstick to make them scarlet, while her teeth were the kind around which novels are written. She was nineteen.

She looked at Johnnie. She looked hard at him.

es,” she said, “I want to call you jealous and silly and childish and ridiculous. I want to laugh at you. I’m beginning to wonder what I ever liked about you. Maybe it was your Sunday suit.”

He was not prepared for quite such an attack. His accusing air vanished. He looked terribly hurt.

“I believe I heard you say something about leaving this house. Did I hear correctly?”

“Say, listen.”

She turned her back on him.

“Very well.” he said with finality, “you turned me away. I bet that you go out with Dick Young the first time he asks you. Will you?” he asked with a slight glimmer of hope.

“Yes, I will. Dick is a gentleman.”

She did not see the crestfallen look. He muttered something about “dirty trick,” and walked abruptly out of the room. He took his hat, slammed the front door after him, and walked down the path to the avenue.

rT'HE Golden Arrow 2nd was waiting for him. Perhaps it was a trifle slower than its illustrious parent, but nevertheless it usually did its duty. Born in a seven-minute assembling plant six years previously, it now retained its original chassis and the original radiator. Otherwise it did not look like a car at all—more like the debris of one. A wooden box, covered very artistically with a leather cushion, did duty as a driver’s seat. Passengers were forced to find seating accommodation on the floorboards, with a folded blanket to act as shock absorber. There was no top and no windshield, yet the engine generally performed with regularity. Lately, however, there had been some trouble. Johnnie had taken the G. A. 2nd to a garage for assistance in probing the cause of the disturbance, and the mechanic had looked once at the heap of tin and said indifferently: “It’s suffering from old age. Incurable.”

Johnnie now took ten minutes to crank the G. A., and eventually arrived in front of the Paramount Drug Store. He brought the ruin to a creaking stop and crawled out. He did not bother to lock the ignition, because no one would ever steal the G. A. There was no.lock anyway.

In the drug store Johnnie ambled up to the soda fountain and climbed on a seat. The soda jerker, attired in a spotless white jacket, nodded cordially to him.

“Milk shake?”

“Ununh.”

The attendant went about the business of preparing the drink, asking as he worked:

“How’s the tub running?”

Johnnie gave a listless shrug. He was not feeling particularly communicative.

“Not so good. Some trouble. I don’t know what it is.” At that moment a tall young man with the semblance of a mustache on his upper lip and sartorially perfect clothes, entered the store, whistling gaily. He gave Johnny a hearty clap on the back.

“Hi, fella!” he greeted airily. ‘ Gorging yourself?” Johnnie turned with a start, red in the face.

“What’s the idea?” he demanded. “Take me for a punching bag?”

The young man laughed and sat down next to Johnnie. He made mysterious motions at the soda jerker, who appeared to define his meaning and filled the shaker with extra milk.

“Now, boy,” said the young man, turning to Johnnie, “let’s have the dope.”

“Bah!” grunted Johnnie.

The young man, whose name was Bill Slater, grinned broadly.

"Don’t stall. I've heard about you and Polly. Tell a pal.” “We’ve split,” answered Johnnie despondently.

“Serious?”

“Yep.”

“Well, I thought maybe you would after she broke that date. Never mind, Johnnie, you're lucky.”

“Sure I am.”

In a moment or so the milkshakes were served. Bill took a sip of his, and said:

“Going steady with a girl is crazy.”

“Sure.”

“Now, take Polly. She’s a nice girl, of course, and I like her. But she goes to college, and coeds are out.

No class, no sophistication. What you want to do is cultivate a debutante.”

“You cultivate one.”

“I am,” nodded Bill, “and let me tell you, fella. I’m having the time of my life. Dances, teas; all kinds of parties. You know Jean White, don’t you?”

“Yes, I know her. Is she coming out?”

“I’ll say she is—with a bang. Her father’s giving one swell ball next month. You know their country place, out by the river? That’s where he’s throwing it. And Jean’s getting me bids to all the ritzy dances. Some of them out of town. I’ve bought a suit of tails.”

“Goin’ to a wedding?”

Bill gave him a disgusted look.

“Don’t you know, boy. that you have to wear tails at deb dances? Tuxes aren't dressy enough. Listen. Johnnie. I’ll get you a bid to Jean’s dance, and you can take Marianne Jones. Know her?”

Johnnie shook his head.

“Well.” continued Bill, "she has piles of money; I mean her father has. And she looks as much as her dad’s worth. Beautiful, boy! How about it?”

“No thanks,” replied Johnnie, “I’m not interested in debs.”

“Are you crazy, fella? Say, this girl is one of the season’s best bets. She’ll be dated if you don’t work fast. And

you'll get all kinds of other bids. Come on. pal; show Polly you can step out without her.”

Gosh, that was an idea! It would give Polly something to think about. Maybe he would be able to touch his father for a suit of tails. He would look pretty swell in tails, he thought.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Would a deb drive in the

Bill grunted. “Oh. use your head. Johnnie. No girl, if she had any sense, would drive in that ash can.”

Johnnie deeply resented the last remark, but he let it

“Well, you get me the invite.” he said. “I’m going home for supper.”

He drank his milk shake in haste, paid the check and got down from his seat.

“I’ll give you a ring.” said Bill.

“All right. See you later.”

JOHNNIE drove home, after cranking the G. A. for five minutes, with Bill’s suggestion running through his mind. Perhaps it would be a very good idea to cultivate a debutante. Polly would surely hear of it. It would make her realize that Johnnie Cudlip could take out other girls and not suffer by losing her. That was just what Polly needed, he decided, as she had been altogether too possessive lately. Girls were that way with fellows. Treated them

like slaves or something. Anyway, he had been crazy to go steadily with Polly and not take out any other girls. But now. he convinced himself, this was the beginning of a new chapter. Variety; he would have variety and enjoy the best of life.

When he arrived at his home he was surprised to see a gleaming roadster parked outside the door. His father evidently had invited someone home for supper; someone who certainly had a perfect taste in cars. He stood admiring the roadster for several minutes, picturing himself at the wheel driving beautiful debutantes all over the country. Boy, that car had swank! Classy lines, wire wheels, a snappy searchlight on the running board - that was the kind of a bus to own. For the first time since he had purchased her, he felt ashamed of the valiant old G. A.

Reluctantly he turned to the house. Inside he tossed his hat on a peg. washed his hands and entered the dining room. He was rather surprised to find only his father and mother at the table. As he took his chair he asked;

“Isn’t there someone here? There’s a roadster parked out front. It’s a pippin, too.”

“Probably someone across the street,” replied his mother, with a glance at Mr. Cudlip.

Johnnie drained his glass of milk.

"I’m going to a deb dance,” he announced.

His father raised his eyebrows.

“Heavens, mother the social whirl has claimed our only son.”

“And I’ll need your car. dad,” continued Johnnie.

“Ah. that reminds me.” exclaimed Mr. Cudlip. “Did you have a good look at your new roadster?”

Johnnie leaped to his feet, wild-eyed.

“You mean— !”

His father laughed heartily.

“Well, Johnnie, your old bus seems to be on her last legs. I thought we had better retire her for something a little younger. What do you think of the new’ one?”

Continued on page 53

Continued from page 13

“What do I think of her!” Johnnie pushed his chair aside and made for the door. “Gee, I—I—gee, I can’t think !” He ran like mad out of the house, followed by the delighted laughter of his parents.

He jumped into the roadster and took the wheel in his hands. To think that this was his own car; his very own ! He was laughing almost hysterically. He had never been so happy before in his life. Bet it could do eighty; bet it could a hundred! Now he would be able to cultivate debutantes with a vengeance, give Polly something really big to think about. Just wait until she heard, and the fellow's heard. Boy, it was like a dream !

He ran back into the house to thank his father and to get the keys.

ARIANNE JONES proved to be one 3YJ. of those young ladies who grow up overnight. She had but recently left a strict and staid seminary, which probably accounted for her wolfish desire to cram the whole span of life into one glorious and hectic season. She was a pretty little thing, not more than eighteen, and destined some day to be a decidedly charming lady. For the present, however, her future charm was being preceded by an adolescent mania for kicking night into day, and attempting to woo and hold every young man of decent appearance who came within her sphere.

Johnnie was almost afraid of her. As an introduction between them, Jean White arranged a tea at her home, to which every debutante in town was invited. Johnnie did not enjoy himself. From the very first he w'as recognized as Marianne’s man; which meant that he w'as forced to pay undivided attention to this sprig of aristocracy, and made to understand that he was very fortunate in being the chosen one to fill the position.

He thought to himself that Marianne was rather silly. She clung to his arm the entire afternoon and into the evening, whispering all kinds of ridiculous things in his ear, to which he was made to answer.

“Johnnie, do ’oo love your little Marianne?”

“Ununh!” In disgust.

“How much?”

He was forced, then, to stretch his arms as far as possible, as an exhibition of his affection. If he skimped on the stretch, she pouted. When he arrived home after the tea—which, like most debutante affairs, lasted until late in the evening—his arms w'ere sore and he was greatly tempted not to attend the dance. He realized with some reluctance, however, that it was his duty to go.

He saw Polly once. She w'as walking on the avenue, and he drove proudly by in his new' roadster. He slowed dow'n at sight of her, and w'ould very likely have asked her to drive with him if she had not suddenly decided to turn from the sidewalk and up the path of some residence. It had all the marks of a nasty, intentional snub.

On the night of Jean White’s debut Johnnie could hardly control his excitement. By dint of much persuasion, much gnashing of teeth and heart-rending pleading, he was now' the proud ow'ner of a suit of tails. He was perspiring rather freely after the white bow' w'as tied, and each member of the family w'as forced almost to sign affidavits before he was convinced that he had not soiled the bow while tying it. The white piqué vest was a trifle large, and he almost had a fit before his mother succeeded in correctly adjusting it with the aid of several ¡ safety pins.

When he put on the coat he felt uncomfortable. His body seemed to end at the w'aist. But then, when he glanced in the mirror and saw himself reflected in all his glory, he filled out his chest with satisfaction. He looked pretty swell, he thought. Any Í debutante w'ould be proud of him in this j suit of clothes.

He put on his blue overcoat and his father’s Derby hat. He had not had the I nerve to suggest a silk topper. His kiss to his mother w'as given from a respectable distance, as he did not care to take any

1 chance of endangering his handicraft. A moment or so later, when he was at the wheel of tire roadster, he drew on his gloves with the nonchalance of a man about town, switched on the ignition, threw’ in the clutch and was off in a triumphal burst to pick up his partner for the evening.

Marianne was overflowing with gaiety. She greeted him with a most winning smile 4and a little nudge in the side, at which he ‘turned pale and felt inside his coat. No,

; thank heaven, she had missed.

“This is going to be per-fectly dilly!” i exclaimed Marianne when they were in the car. She looked at Johnnie mischievously, j “But, of course, you mustn’t try to kiss ! me, Johnnie. That is.” she amended, “not until after supper.”

Johnnie felt like kissing her on the spot just to teach her something, but he considered his beautiful white shirt front and thought better of it.

The Whites’ residence, where the ball was being held, was several miles out of town and a full hour’s steady driving. They passed three or four cars loaded with youngsters, on their way to the dance, who shouted gay greetings to Marianne and appeared to be in a highly jubilant mood. Marianne answered them with equal spirit, waving her arm frantically.

“Hello, Doug! Hello, Betty! Isn’t it the per-fectly dilly night? Yes, you can have the third. Hugh. Oh, no, he doesn’t mind. Do you, Johnnie? No, of course not. See you there!”

Five miles of this, and Marianne’s programme was almost completely filled for ; the evening. She produced a little silver pencil and a small pad, and made notes of young men’s names. After much concentrated figuring she suddenly exclaimed: “Oh, my, Johnnie, I've given them all away except supper. Oh, I’m so sorry!” Johnnie grunted something about not minding.

“But I’ll break them,” she announced. “No, don’t do that. It’s not decent.” “Then you’ll cut in?”

He nodded. Perhaps cultivating a debutante was not such a marvellous experience, after all. He felt himself longing for Polly beside him instead of Marianne. Polly, he had heard, was attending the dance with Dick Young. If she snubbed him again! The thought hurt.

Suddenly Marianne exclaimed: “Let me drive. Johnnie.”

He shook his head. “I’m sorry. I can't.” “But I’m a good driver, Johnnie. Come on, let me have the wheel.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Just for the teeniest bit?”

“I can’t.”

“Oh, very well!” Marianne sounded huffed.

'-PIIE driveway to the White’s residence L was crowded with cars of all descriptions, unloading scores of shrill-voiced girls and immaculate young men. Johnnie had trouble in finding a parking space, and was j obliged to go some distance from the house, but Marianne, having regained her good humor, assured him that it was the dilliest spot. Apparently she had ideas.

When his coat and hat were off, and his I tie straightened, Johnnie went forward to ¡meet Mrs. White and her debutante ! daughter, the latter looking very frightened and very warm with a huge bouquet of j roses in her arms and a weary smile on her lips. Bill Slater hovered near, grinning Droadly and plucking nervously at the points of his dress coat. He looked even warmer than his young lady, the debutante. He nodded foolishly to Johnnie.

“Great, isn’t it?”

Johnnie said that he supposed it was, and i was immediately pulled away by Marianne, who had rid herself of her evening wrap and was looking very lovely indeed in a rosecolored gown. Simul ta neously a dozen young bachelors also noticed this pleasing fact, and made a circle around Johnnie and his partner. A babble of voices arose from the throng; there was much pleading for dances, and giggling and head shaking from j Marianne. Johnnu broke away as quickly

as he could. He began to feel just a little fed up.

He asked one beautiful girl for a dance, w’as declined with much regret, and made no further efforts. Slipping away from the crowd, he climbed the hall stairs and discovered a comfortable little library on the second floor. Here, at last, was peace. He slumped down wearily on the chesterfield and lighted a cigarette.

Never again, he told himself. It was all very well to mingle in society, and it might j be quite the thing to cultivate a debutante. ! but Mr. Johnnie Cudlip was through. He ¡ began to wonder why he had ever quarrelled j w’ith Polly. Now, there was a girl in a j million. Why, under heaven, did fellows j fly off the handle and make fools of themselves? Why couldn't they be sensible and understand things?

Johnnie did something, then, that he had never done before at a dance. He fell asleep.

When he awoke, the orchestra below was i blazing away at some low-down rhythm. With a sickening sensation he looked at his . shirt front, and almost cried when he discovered that it was cracked across the ! middle. It was impossible, now, to make a j reappearance downstairs. His hair was j mussed, the tails of his coat creased horribly. ; He sat with his chin in his hands and swore i to himself.

Someone entered the library. As he looked up he turned red.

“Polly!”

The intruder halted abruptly, flushed and tried to hide her embarrassment.

He jumped to his feet and folded his arms across his chest in a frantic endeavor to conceal the broken shirt front.

“I—I—” he stammered.

“Please don’t explain.” The tone was frigid. “It’s all quite apparent.”

“But, look here,” he protested warmly. “You don’t understand. I’ve been asleep.” “Yes?”

“You must believe me, Polly.”

“Oh, I do.” Polly turned to the door. “How is Marianne?” she asked bitingly.

He grasped her arm, but she shook him away.

“Don’t touch me!” she cried, and fled. Regardless of the broken shirt front and the creased tails, he pursued her. She had disappeared from sight when he reached the top of the stairs, and, descending them three at a time, he just caught a fleeting glimpse of her as she wrent out the front entrance, her gown swirling.

“Johnnie! Oh, Johnnie!”

A hand pulled at his sleeve and he was suddenly face to face with Marianne.

“Please.” he said hurriedly. “I have to | go. I’m looking for someone.”

“Only a second. Johnnie.” Marianne was j giving him her best smile, which was ■ entirely wasted. “I just want the key to : your roadster, Johnnie. I’m tired of dancing. ¡ You’ll let me have it, won’t you, darling?” j “I can’t. Please, I’m in a hurry.”

“Just for a little drive, Johnnie?”

He broke away without answering and fled through the front doorway. Outside he looked wildly about, and then his heart gave a jump. Over on the left, near a clump of bushes, he saw Polly standing with her head bowed. In a flash he was beside her.

“Polly,” he pleaded earnestly, “let me explain, won't you?”

She would not look at him.

“Listen, really I was asleep. Ask Marianne Jones. Ask anyone. I hate debutante parties. Polly ; I hate debutantes. All night long I’ve been longing to have you with me. Believe me, won’t you?”

“How can I—now?”

“But don’t you understand?” His concern was alarming. “I just brought Marianne to the dance because—well, because I wanted \ to make you jealous.”

"Conceit!”

“No; just because I love you.”

HE TOOK her arm. “Let’s go for a drive. Polly. I have a new roadster, you know. You’ll like it. Let's forget we ever quarrelled. You don’t like Dick Young, do you?”

“He’s ven,7 nice.”

“Yes. but you don’t like him as much as you like me? Say that. Polly.”

“I don’t know.”

Nevertheless she made no protest when he directed her toward the long rows of cars.

“I'm sorry for getting so mad. Polly; honest I am. I was just thinking, up there in the library, what a crazy nut I’ve been.” “I thought you were asleep.”

“Before I went to sleep. I mean. Here’s my car. Come on, get in and we’ll drive along the river road.”

Again she made no protest; just silently entered the car and sat with her eyes on the windshield. Johnnie started the engine and moved out of the driveway and along the road. He attempted valiantly to make conversation, but his efforts were hopelessly in vain. Polly answered his questions with “Yes” or “No,” and refused to be drawn into any committal of lier affection.

Twenty minutes of this one-sided conversation and Johnnie gave up.

“All right, then,” he said glumly. “I’ll take you back to Dick Young. I’m sorry I made you come.”

“You didn’t.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean—oh, Johnnie, look!”

She put her hand to her mouth in alarm and pointed to the side of the road ahead. Johnnie followed her eyes and saw a large touring car overturned in the ditch, with a split telephone pole across the rear end. He stepped on the gas and brought the roadster flashing up beside the wreck. Suddenly he cried out in horror. Sitting on the ground a few feet away from the overturned car was Marianne Jones, holding her head in her hands and swaying forward on her knees.

Johnnie sprang from the roadster and reached her side in an instant. Her gown was torn and dirt stained, her hair mussed and scraggled. As Johnnie raised her head he saw that her upper lip was cut and bleeding and her eyes filled with hysterical tears. She was sobbing like a baby..

“I couldn’t help it!” she cried wildly. “It just skidded. I couldn’t help it!”

Johnnie, grasping her shoulders firmly knelt in front of her.

“Are you all right, Marianne?” he asked calmly. “You can move your legs? It’s just your lips?”

“Oh, Johnnie!” she sobbed and fell forward on his chest.

Polly knelt beside them.

“Marianne f” she cried. “Are you all right?”

Johnnie raised the young girl to her feet. She swayed, and he steadied her with his hands.

“She’s not hurt,” he said. “Only shock.” Marianne put her hands to her face.

“Oh, don’t tell him. I only meant to drive for a little while. I was going back. Oh, you can’t tell him. Please don’t.” Polly suddenly cried: “Johnnie, it’s Dick’s car.”

Marianne shuddered. “I only borrowed it for a second. It just skidded. I couldn’t help it.”

Johnnie gasped. “You mean—Dick does not know you took it?”

“No; oh, no! Please don’t tell him, please.”

Johnnie caught his breath. He looked at the tangled mess of the touring car, lying on its side with its rear end smashed in by the pole. He turned suddenly to Polly.

“Get her in the roadster,” he said crisply. “Drive her back to the dance. Fix her lip up, and don’t say anything about her being in the car. Hurry, Polly.”

“Johnnie, you don’t mean—you’re going—”

“Please, Polly, get her away from here. She’s only a kid. And don’t worry about me.”

“You can’t do it, Johnnie. I won’t let you.”

He looked at her and spoke softly. “You must do this for me, Polly. I brought Marianne here tonight. She’s my partner. And I’m going to stick by her.”

Polly nodded very slowly. “I understand, Johnnie. I wonder if she deserves it. You’re awfully—white.”

DOLLY’ took Marianne’s arm and led her j

to the roadster, while Johnnie went ! around and brought out his flashlight from ¡ the left door pocket. He stood by while Polly turned the car and started off in the j direction of the Whites’ house, and then, ! when the red tail light disappeared down ; the road, he turned to the touring car, ¡ choking a little sob. He flashed his light on 1 the battered car with a hopeless sort of ¡ feeling in his heart. The thing was a wreck ! —body sprung, radiator smashed, axles snapped. Almost a total loss. Well, anyway, he told himself, Marianne was safe. You could always fix a car with money, but you couldn’t bring back a life.

Oh, why had she been such a fool as to take Dick Y’oung’s car? A silly, reckless moment. It might have come to anyone, of course. A wild desire to drive a car, any car. If he had only given her the roadster. But to sneak away in another car and wreck it— What a fool !

Johnnie sat down on the side of the road and ruffled his hair. He would make it convincing, of course. A little of this dir: on his broken shirtfront, a tear in his collar. He had to shield the poor kid. The truth would kill her one big season, if it came out. And Polly—Polly would help him.

With his flashlight he searched around the battered car in case there were any little things belonging to Marianne about—a handkerchief, or something of that sort. He found nothing and sat down again to wait.

Some time later, two gleaming headlights pierced the darkness and a large sedan came roaring up to stop beside Johnnie, who had risen to his feet. Then another car applied its brakes a little farther back, and he recognized the lights of his own roadster.

Dick Young and Bill Slater stepped out of the sedan and whistled when they saw the touring car on its side. Dick scratched his head and shrugged.

“Pretty bad,” he muttered. “Pretty bad.” Johnnie, nervously wringing his hands, turned to him.

“Dick,” he murmured, “I’m sorry—I—” “Hello, Johnnie,” greeted Dick,

“Old man. it skidded. I tried to hold her to the road, but—”

“I know. The wheels were wobbly. Should have had them fixed.”

“I’ll—I’ll see my father, and—”

Dick suddenly grasped Johnnie by the shoulders.

“Listen, fella,” he said quietly, “you’re about the finest little old sport I’ve ever known. I guess there’s not one fellow in a hundred who would have done what you tried to do. I guess that’s why Polly won’t look at anyone else—because you’re like that. I saw Marianne take the bus. I’d left the key in the lock and she drove off right under my eyes. I didn’t try to stop her.” Johnnie was staring. “But—she—”

“Don’t worry, Johnnie. I won’t mention her name. To the world, I cracked up this crate. And I’ll collect insurance; more than I’d have got if I had traded her in. So don’t worry about that.” He gave Johnnie a slight poke. “And, fella, I think you’d better get over to that roadster of yours. Women are so dam impatient.”

Johnnie took the hint and raced for the parked roadster. He leaped in beside Polly and took the wheel from her hands. She touched his shoulder, smiling.

“Things work out, don’t they, Johnnie?” j He took his hands off the wheel because he had suddenly realized that there was a much better place for them.

“Polly,” he said, “there’s one thing I’ll never do again.”

“What’s that?”

“Cultivate a debutante. Too dangerous.” ; She laughed. “I think,” she said happily, “that you are much better occupied cultivating me.”

“Do you need cultivating?”

“Terribly!”

Two whispered voices quite near at the | side of the road broke the ensuing silence.

“See, fella, that’s what I mean by superior technique.”

A deep sigh. “You’re wrong, boy. That’s not technique; that’s love !”

The End