Absolutely Different

Elisabeth Sanxay Holding May 1 1931

Absolutely Different

Elisabeth Sanxay Holding May 1 1931

Absolutely Different

A comedy of courtship and the love that makes egotists of lovers

Elisabeth Sanxay Holding

MONICA had to begin Making Allowances as soon as she got up that morning. Katie, that bland old humbug, was late again; at seven

humbug, was late again; at seven o’clock, when breakfast should have been well under way, Monica met her in the hall, just going downstairs. “Katie!” Monica said, shocked.

But what did the bland old humbug care? She smiled faintly and went on her way.

“Of course, she knows she can take advantage of mother,” thought Monica.

Then there was no hot water, not one drop.

“That’s the sort of thing that never ought to be allowed to happen,” thought Monica, stern but still endeavoring to Make Allowances. “Mother forgets things so.”

She bathed in cold water; no one could have been quicker or more efficient. Yet her father got into a rage. She heard him.

“Tell her she’s got to get out of there. Merciful powers! Do you realize that I’ve got an important board-meeting today? See here! This is too much!” Then she heard her mother’s voice soothing him. And she went on soothing him at the breakfast table, while he was behaving so childishly about the coffee. “This is not coffee from Alberto’s,” he cried.

“I know, dear,” said Mrs. Davidson. “I’m so sorry, but we’ve just run out of that—”

“Why should you run out of it? Can’t Katie see when she’s near the end of the bag—box—jar—whatever is it? Can’t you train the woman to tell you a day in advance? Or can’t you look for yourself?”

“I’m so sorry,” murmured Mrs. Davidson. “It’s too bad, dear, when you’re so fond of that special kind.”

“I can’t drink this stuff,” he shouted, pushing away the cup.

Monica looked at him with stern pity. She was very fond of him; in many ways she admired him. He was successful in his business; he was a distinguishedlooking man. But this!

“Of course, mother makes him worse,” she thought.

For instead of letting him go without his coffee, Mrs. Davidson kept on saying she was so sorry and it was too bad, coaxing him to drink what he had until at last he did drink it.

“The trouble is,” thought Monica, “that they haven’t any idea of what a home ought to be.”

She knew. The dining room of that ideal home would be in no way like this room, with all those awful old wedding presents on the sideboard, and plates that did not match the cups and saucers. It would be a small room, simply and charmingly furnished in mahogany, the table set with willow ware, the sun shining in at the open windows. Because somehow it would never be a cold, rainy October day outside that home.

At the table a man and a woman would be sitting, with the right sort of breakfast before them; a balanced breakfast, not these overstarchy hot biscuits, and so on. If, by chance, anything should go wrong with the breakfast, the man would merely smile and shrug his shoulders. He would never dream of worrying the woman about it, because she, like himself, would have her own work to do, would be going off to her office. And anyhow, he would not be particularly interested in food. He was a man with a remarkable mind. He was—

“—if you don’t want them all,” said her father.

She glanced up, startled.

“The biscuits,, if you can spare one,” said he.

She passed the plate to him and finished her coffee.

“As a matter of fact,” she said to herself, “I don’t think I’m a—marrying sort of girl. I mean, I think of men as friends. As comrades. I’m perfectly satisfied as I am.”

She rose, and with a kind good-by to her parent« went out into the hall, where she put on a raincoat, an old hat and goloshes. She was proud of this costume. She wished to consider it a proof of how lacking she was in silly, old-fashioned feminine vanity. It was not her fault that the turned-down goloshes made her legs look so slim and shapely, that the snugly belted raincoat made her look so trim and slender, that the old hat was more becoming than any of her new ones. Nor was it her fault that the cold rain made her cheeks glow, or that Nature had given her curly hair and grey, darklashed eyes and other advantages. All that really counted was the fact that she was an efficient private secretary, and a sensible, level-headed girl. It was, no doubt, her sensibleness and level-headedness which caused Mr. Fallon to seek her company. He could talk to her as easily as if she were another man.

She had scarcely reached her office when he telephoned.

“See here, Miss Davidson,” he said. “Get the afternoon off. I’ve got passes for the opera. Carmen.” “All right,” she said. “Thanks. I’ll see if I can.” She could. Her employer, like most people, had a curious reverence for passes. He had, upon occasion, actually given away tickets he had bought for shows when it had been inconvenient to go to them. But a pass was different. And opera, of course. Cultural.

“Have a good time,” he said as she was leaving. He liked her.

SHE had a balanced lunch in a tea room; then she put up her umbrella and splashed over to the street car and proceeded to the theatre, where, in the lobby, Mr. Fallon was waiting for her. He looked a little tired today, and she observed that he had no umbrella and no rubbers and that his overcoat was damp. But of course it was none of her business.

They greeted each other, and went in, and sat down. She was glad it was so warm in there, because his shoes must be soaked. Probably, she thought, he had no idea of balanced rations either.

“How’s everything?” she asked cheerfully.

“Rotten!” he answered in a tone of suppressed fury.

“Your firm is the limit,” said she. “They don’t appreciate you one bit.”

She was indignant, for she knew all about Mr.

Fallon’s business; he had frequently talked about it, and it was extremely interesting. And they were friends; naturally, she was angry to see him undervalued.

The overture began, and. they stopped talking.

Then, in due time, the curtain rose and the opera proceeded upon the usual course. They had both heard it before, but somehow today it was different.

Today it seemed to Monica that Don Jose was such a human character. There were men like that—strong, passionate, inexorable; Mr.

Fallon, for instance. Of course, she realized that the resemblance was not complete. Mr. Fallon had red hair and blue eyes, and he was very, very much thinner than Don Jose; yet there was something . . .

He held her raincoat for her, and they went up the aisle together, slowly, in the crowd. It might, she thought, embarrass him if she were to point out that he was holding her arm in a hard grip.

He got his overcoat from the check room and while he was putting it on, he said:

“I don’t know . . .

Carmen makes me think of you.”

“Of me!” she cried.

Of her, the efficient secretary, in goloshes and raincoat!

“It’s that sort of nonchalance you have,” he said. “That charm—”

She smiled, a little uncertainly. She wondered. Perhaps if she were not so sensible and level-headed, perhaps if she had ever cared to be deliberately charming—

“Wait here,” said he. “I’ll get a taxi.”

“Nonsense,” said she. “It’s only a step to the station.” “I thought you’d have dinner with me.”

“All right, thanks, I will. But we don’t need a taxi.” “I consider that we do,” said he haughtily.

She did not like that tone.

“It’s a perfectly unnecessary expense,” she said.

They stood in the lobby, looking at each other with profound hostility.

“I suppose I know what I can afford,” said he.

“Well, I don’t think you do,” said she. “From what you’ve told me, half the time you don’t eat proper meals—”

“Do I look like an invalid?” he demanded furiously.

“Well, you’re too thin,” said she, positively trembling with anger.

“Let me tell you one thing,” said he. “I’ve never known anyone who had better health than me.”

“I have,” said she.

“I’m as strong as an ox,” he said, so loudly that people turned to look at him. “That’s about all I have got,” he went on more quietly, in a repressed and bitter tone. “Health—and ambition. I’ll get on, all right. Only, at the present time, I couldn’t afford anything but a miserable cheap flat. You’ve got a decent, comfortable home now. There’s nothing I can give you but—”

“That’s scarcely my idea of marriage,” said she with icy coldness. “I don’t intend to sit down and be ‘given’ things. I think marriage is a partnership.”

They had now reached the street.

“Hi!” he yelled at a passing taxi. It stopped and they got into it.

“Where to?” asked the driver.

“Oh, Marino’s, up Yonge Street,” said he with a frown.

“I wouldn’t give up my job for anything,” said Monica.

There was a silence.

“All I really want is for you to be happy,” he said at last. “If you really like your job—I mean, I haven’t got those tyrannical, old-fashioned ideas. I want you to do whatever you really like . . . Only, I hate to think of your working. I’d like to give you things -I mean necklaces, fur coats and things.”

She began to cry, very quietly, in her corner.

“I don’t want things like that,” she said. “C-comradeship—”

Somehow he knew that she was crying.

“Oh, Monica!” he cried. “Oh, darling! Don’t!”

“Dennis, my dearest!”

There must have been something the matter with the traffic that evening, for they got to Marino’s in the most amazingly short time. And Marino had certainly improved his restaurant; it looked marvellous, entirely

different. They sat at a little table upon which was an electric candle with a red shade which threw the most remarkably becoming light. When she looked at Dennis, Monica in some way became aware of how lustrous her eyes were, how warm the color in her cheeks, how bright her hair under the old hat. And he, looking at her, realized what unique things he was going to do in the future, what intelligence and will power he possessed.

“Of course,” said she, “neither of us cares anything about a wedding and all that silliness.”

“Lord, no!” said he. “I hate that sort of thing.”

“Our marriage will be different,” said she.

They were perfectly in accord. They sat there discussing the sort of different marriage they were going to have, until in some unaccountable way it had become late.

“Mercy! I forgot to telephone home to say I’d be out for dinner,” cried Monica.

“Do you mean that you’re expected to account for everything you do?” he demanded.

“Oh, no,” said Monica. “My mother and father are the dearest things in the world. But they are terribly conventional. They want to do everything just like

M'

ÜNICA found her mother sitting up for her. But if Mrs. Davidson had been worrying, she showed no signs of it. She had hot cocoa ready, and she drank a cup with her daughter.

“I won’t tell her tonight,” thought Monica.

Because her news was so tremendous, the household would be so shaken. Monica herself was a little stunned. In her own room she stared at herself in the mirror, to see what there could possibly be.

“A man like Dennis!” she thought. “He has such a wonderful mind. He’s so different from other men. I never imagined . . .”

In the morning she downstairs, very and firm, but at a little uncomfortIt was going to be a shock to her parents.

came

calm

heart

able.

such

other people. They worry—”

“They shouldn’t,” said he. “They ought to know that everything you do is sensible and right. See here. I’ll go out with you—”

But she would not have that, and with extreme reluctance he left her at the station and went back to his furnished room. He completely forgot to change his wet shoes, as he had promised her. He sat down and lit a pipe, and sat smoking, in a sort of daze.

“A girl like that . . . ” he thought. “How can there be a girl like that? Beauty, brains -everyth i n g . And her smile ...”

“You were pretty late last

“Well!” said her father, night, young lady.”

“I was busy,” she said, “getting engaged.”

“Ha!” said he. “That young Fallon, eh?”

“But how—?” she cried. “You’ve never seen him. How could you guess?”

“You’ve spoken of him, darling,” said her mother.

“But I’ve spoken of lots of men,” said Monica.

Her mother smiled.

“Last night, as soon as you came in, I knew,” she said.

Monica did not like that.

“Of course,” she said, a trifle coldly, “we’re not going to be married in the usual way.”

“What?” shouted her father.

“Oh, we’ll go through the usual form—in the vestry,” she explained. “But we’re not going to have a wedding— or a home.”

Continued on page 77

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“Where are you going to live?” her father demanded.

“We’ll take a furnished room in the city. We’ll both go on with our work as usual. We’ll both be independent and self-respecting.”

“I don’t think much of your young man,” said her father.

“What do you mean?”

“If he can’t support a wife, he shouldn’t—”

“I wouldn’t be supported!” she cried. “I wouldn’t be a wife—the sort of wife you mean—a worm ! I won’t be shut up in a ‘home’ and made to feel guilty and miserable about people’s coffee—”

She stopped. No one said a word.

“Of course, I realize,” said Monica presently, “that different people have different ideas.”

“Bacon or ham, dear?” asked her mother.

And, somewhat to Monica’s surprise, there was no further discussion about Monica’s novel and original sort of marriage. However, on Saturday afternoon Dennis was coming out, and then they would see for themselves how different he was, how impossible to expect of him the usual humdrum course.

HE CAME, but unfortunately he was not intelligent. That is to say, he did not display his intelligence, his mordant wit, his wide knowledge. He was very polite, but so quiet, and when he did speak, he said just about what other young men had said when paying visits.

“It’s because he can’t be himself with conventional people like mother and dad,” she thought.

She asked him to come again on Sunday,* so that he might get used to them. This time he really was himself, but unluckily Mr. and Mrs. Davidson had gone out for dinner and they were not able to see this.

Still, they saw him at other times and they appeared to like him.

“They’re trying to be broad-minded,” thought Monica. “Of course, they couldn’t really care much for anyone so absolutely out of the ordinary.”

She was touched by their niceness, and she tried to be very tactful with her mother in discussing their extraordinary wedding. There was to be nobody present at the ceremony except Dennis’ people, who were coming all the way from Manitoba, and her own mother and father.

But a letter came from Monica’s Aunt Elsie in Montreal, full of delight and excitement, asking just what time the wedding would be, and it seemed to Monica only decent to let the poor old soul come, especially when she had sent a very pleasing rosewood dressing table. Then Aunt Elsie wrote back that Cousin Emily was going to drive her down, and it seemed necessary to invite Cousin Emily and her daughter, too.

Things like that kept happening. “There are two fellows at the office I suppose I ought to ask,” Dennis admitted gloomily. “And they’re both married. Their wives would probably expect to come too.”

“Let’s see how many that makes,” said Monica.

They made a list, and they found that there were some thirty persons who practically had to be asked.

“They’ll have to be fed,” said Monica with a sigh. “We’ll have to have some sort of wedding breakfast, after all.” “And, look here, darling,” said Dennis. “They’ll all want to see the show. I mean—all that mob in the vestry. It’s—” “I know,” said Monica. “I thought of that. A parade of taxis. And quite a lot of them are certain to cry . . . Maybe, after all, we’d better have the wedding at

home. But everything absolutely simple. No floral bowers and white veils and so on.”

The very next day great-aunt Eva sent by messenger the rose-point veil she had worn at her own wedding.

“Well, it was a sweet thing to think of,” said Monica.

“Put it on,” said Dennis. “Let’s just see ...”

She did put it on. And she immediately became another person. Her eyes were so soft, so dark, so lovely; her face had a bewitching tenderness.

“Monica!” he cried. “Oh, my poor little angel! Why haven’t I got everything in the world to give you?”

Her head, in the white veil, rested against his shoulder. She cried for absolutely no reason at all, except that perhaps that antique veil had a malign influence and made her behave as probably her great-aunt had behaved. In any case, Dennis was wonderfully nice about it. He even entreated her to wear it. She saw no harm in indulging this sentimental notion, not realizing at the moment that this meant formal dress for Dennis and her father, and all sorts of other things.

. “Well, anyhow,” she said, after they had realized, “our families will be awfully pleased.”

' I 'HE thing was really becoming quite Y exciting. Presents kept arriving. His parents sent them a silver coffee set and her father bought them table silver, and his uncle gave them a baby grand.

“Neither of us can play,” said Dennis. “No, but we have lots of friends who do,” said she. “Think of the lovely musical evenings.”

“We’ll have to get an unfurnished room, though,” said Dennis.

They went to look at unfurnished rooms, and the only ones vacant that day were undoubtedly the smallest, dingiest and least attractive in the city.

“And look here,” said Dennis. “When you come to think of it, we can’t very well have that piano and that dressing table in the same room, can we? Spoils everything.”

“No,” she agreed. “We’ll have to have two rooms.”

They returned together for dinner that Saturday night, and Monica said, in a competent, sensible way:

“We looked at rooms today, and we’ve found something very satisfactory.”

Mrs. Davidson wished to hear all about it.

“Well, there’s one large room in the front. Very sunny, and a real fireplace. Then there’s a smaller room behind that, and a bathroom and a kitchenette.”

“Oh, it’s a regular flat,” said her father in a tone of relief.

Well, perhaps it was a flat, but it was a different sort of flat from anyone else’s.

TT WAS extraordinary, the number of cousins and second cousins -and old family friends who raised their heads from the background and sent presents. One Saturday evening, when Dennis was making his usual visit, a present arrived all the way from Vancouver, from a cousin, and Dennis undertook to open it. It was a picture, the first picture they had got, and a very nice one, too; a blurred green and lavender landscape.

“Let’s see how it’s going to look over our mantelpiece,” said Monica.

For, even over her parent’s inferior mantelpiece, they could get some idea of the effect. So Dennis got up on a chair to take down the picture already hanging there. The chair crashed to pieces under him and he fell. He gave a queer sound, as if he were laughing, but his face was very white, and when Monica ran to help him up, he yelled at her:

“Get out! Let me alone!”

At the sight of her terror and distress he was desperately contrite.

“I’m sorry, darling,” he said with an effort. “Don’t worry. I think—I’ve only broken my leg ...”

He had. The doctor was sent for, and Dennis and he agreed that the young man should be taken at once to the hospital. But Monica said no, and her family sustained her, and he stayed where he was. The leg was set, and he endured the inevitable pain stoically. But when it came to being patient and reasonable, he was not so good.

Monica stayed with him all day on Sunday. He said she was a darling little angel, and that she must get out in the sunshine. But she knew how much he wanted her with him.

Next morning she telephoned the office to say that slip could not come in that day. Dennis was feeling a little better, and there was a sort of charm about the situation, about bringing up lunch for both of them on a tray, about reading to him and talking to him. And he needed her more than ever, because he had fits of desperation on account of not being able to get to his office.

She stayed home on Tuesday also. And he was still more difficult. On Tuesday he hated and despised himself for lying there like a log when they needed him in the office. On Wednesday morning, he said that it would have been better if he had broken his neck while he was about it; then he would not have caused all this trouble. Monica felt that she could not possibly leave him in this frame of mind, so she rang up her office again.

“Just what’s the trouble, Miss Davidson?” asked her employer.

“There’s someone ill in the house,” Monica explained.

“Haven’t you any sister or cousins? Can’t you get a nurse?”

“No, I can’t,” said Monica coldly.

“Are you going to stay home every time anyone gets sick in your household?” asked he.

The rest of the dialogue may be omitted. After it was ended, Monica went upstairs with a bright color in her cheeks and a baleful light in her eyes.

“I’ve given up my job,” she said to Dennis. “Of course I can get another.”

“See here,” said he. “Let’s talk this over, sensibly.”

They did. Dennis pointed out that he hated her to go on working, and that it made him miserable, and Monica could not help seeing what a good argument that was.

“Just try staying home,” he said. “You could write stories or something. Just try it, darling.”

Overwhelmed by his logic, she said that she would. Then she went downstairs to get his breakfast.

“I could find plenty of things to do at home,” she thought. “I don’t think I’d really mind it. After all, the work I’ve been doing isn’t really significant. There’s no future in it.”

She arranged the breakfast on a tray, and brought it up to him.

“Dennis!” she cried. “You know you shouldn’t smoke before breakfast.”

“Well, I hardly ever do,” he explained. “Drink your orange juice,” said she. “Now! Here's your nice hot coffee.”

She sat down. She enjoyed watching him eat these balanced meals.

“This isn’t the coffee I had yesterday,” said he.

“I’m sure it is.”

“It’s not,” said he. “I’m not complaining or anything. Your people are only too darn good to let me stay here ¡ like this. I certainly appreciate it. Only this coffee—”

"Drink it, darling, and you’ll feel better.”

“No, thanks,” he said with quiet dignity. “I don’t like this kind. Sort of a walnut flavor.”

Monica ran downstairs and confronted Katie in the kitchen.

“Katie,” she said, “is that a different kind of coffee this morning?”

“Yes, pet,” said her mother from the doorway. “We ran out of that Alberto coffee yesterday and I forgot to get more. But fortunately your father didn’t notice this morning; he was in such a hurry.” Extraordinary and pathetic how the poor woman could think of nothing but her own husband!

“Mother,” said Monica, as gently as she could, “Dennis doesn’t like this kind. He says it tastes like walnuts.”

“Oh, I see,” said Mrs. Davidson. Monica went upstairs again.

“You were right, Dennis,” she said gravely. “It was a different kind. But I’ll see myself that you get—”

“Monica, darling, I don’t care. I won’t let you bother about things like that.”

She sat down on the sofa beside him, and he put his arm about her.

“Darling girl,” he said, “I don’t care about things like that. You’re my

comrade, my little pal. Monica, our

marriage is going to be different.”

“Oh, Dennis, I know it!” she cried.