Tt's the Girl!
Extracts from the diary of a young man who learned about woman's wiles in a somewhat astonishing manner
A FEW general remarks: Woman is the bane of man. But for woman a man could be a man, instead of the blind, crawling mole she makes him.
Whenever I am goaded into giving utterance to such sentiments as the above, my sister Jean—she calls herself Jeanne—retorts that without woman man wouldn’t be anything. There’s a woman’s idea of argument for you. I just coldly ignore her, and continue drawing conclusions from my observations of life and the ways of women. Such observations require a keen perception and an unbiased mind, and even then the conclusions arrived at are not always infallible, due to man’s proneness to err.
For example: If a girl drops her handkerchief, the only thing a gentleman can do is to pick it up. If he picks it up, that means he must ask her to dance or take her out for lunch, depending on the circumstances. If he asks her to dance he must eventually murmur, "Don’t you find it rather warm in here?” which leads directly to the garden. By then the individual is practically eliminated by the environment, and it is no longer of any consequence whether the girl is blonde or brunette, pretty or homely. The only thing that matters is that the moon is shining. And if the moon is shining he has to make love to her.
If he takes her out to lunch, the same inexorable chain of circumstances leads from lunch to the theatre: from the theatre to a spin in the country; from thence to a sheltered by-lane but not so sheltered as to interfere with the moonlight. And thus to the same conclusion as was reached in the previous example.
It ought to stop there, but unfortunately it doesn’t. For if he makes love to her he either lets himself in for the deuce of a lot of trouble, which extends over a period ranging from three days to as many months, depending on the girl; or else he is revealed to himself as the perfect fool—a most bitter experience for any self-respecting male.
My sympathies go out to those who have come to realize the significance of a two-edged compliment paid to some women, “She is the salt of the earth.” Which, being interpreted in the light of my observations, is to say that too much of her drives a man to drink.
But, fortunately for my peace of mind. I have at length become wise to all the feminine wiles devised to lure helpless males to destruction. I can see through the deception of the dropped handkerchief or the twisted ankle. I know the purpose of, “Do let me straighten your tie,” or “How strong you are!” I am fully aware of the subtle meaning behind, “My dear, aren’t you lunching today? I shall have to go by myself then,” murmured confidentially to a girl friend as the two wander casually past your desk.
Bah ! they make me sick. But I shall not reveal the fact that their petty artifices no longer deceive me. nor will I cease to appear to fall for their charms. That would considerably lessen the strategic value of my knowiedge. I am now in a position to carry on investigations and experiments in comparative security, and I hope shortly to collect sufficient data to formulate a working theory for the guidance of those who fancy themselves in danger of falling in love.
WEDNESDAY. June 12.
One up for me. I^ast evening I entertained Miss Evelyne Smythe at and after a dance. Around twelve o’clock she showed the usual symptoms, so I took her out into the garden. The moon being on the job, I did my duty in first-class style. Evelyne decided to try the modest maid act. You know' how' that goes—“How dare you! Take me home immediately, and don’t ever speak to me again!”
Acting on my recently evolved theory of women. I took her at her word. We drove straight to her house in absolute silence. She took advantage of corners to bounce against my shoulder two or three times, but to no avail. At her door I handed her out without a word. I was complete master of the situation—quite a unique sensation, I will admit.
As I expected, she left one of her gloves in the car. Obviously I was to bring it to her the next day w'ith humble apologies, and she would graciously deign to forgive me. Aha, guileful Evelyne ! you must reset your traps for another less wily victim. For I mailed that glove this morning without so much as a single line.
Friday, June 14.
Aw, heck, what’s the use! I thought I had put that Smythe woman in her place, and here she’s gone and let it out that she and I have had a frightful quarrel, and that she flatly refuses to speak to me under any conditions. So now everybody thinks we must have been awfully
thick, and they view with sympathy our first lovers’ spat. That’s positive slander! Maybe there’s something wrong with the application of my theory, and I believe I overdid that suffering-in-silence part. Oh, well, live and learn.
Monday, June 17.
There’s a new girl at the office. She works at the desk next to mine. She is extremely conscientious and scarcely looked at me all morning, until she came across a word she couldn’t spell.
“Say, funnyface,” she said, “how do you spell ‘cataclysmic’?”
That “funnyface” jarred me considerably. Girls are in the habit of recognizing my good looks, if I do say it myself, so I wasn’t going to answer at first; in addition to which I was absorbed in spelling “xylopyrography” myself. But I remembered my determination to be a gentleman in spite of women, so with good grace I looked up “cataclysmic” for her in my dictionary.
And did she thank me kindly for my trouble? Not she !
“I could have done as much myself,” she remarked.
I was thoroughly disgusted, and I suppose my expression revealed it. for she smiled the loveliest smile and said, “But it was sweet of you, all the same. I’m so sorry I bothered you.”
Of course I assured her it was a pleasure—and then she dropped her handkerchief. Recognizing the cue, I was preparing to pick it up when she bent down and retrieved it herself, then went on w'ith her typing without taking any further notice of me.
Xt noon, fearing she might be a little lonely among strangers and all that, I asked her to lunch with me. Most girls would have jumped at the chance, but she merely replied briefly, “Thanks, but I’m lunching with a friend.”
Now isn’t that the limit! When you are genuinely anxious to rise to the bait, the girl refuses to drop any of the usual hints. She is an unknown element to me, and therefore should prove a good subject for experiments. I shall have to submit her to a few simple tests.
I found out that her name fs Marian—not Marianne —Cranston. She is almost as tall as I am, her hair is brown and w'avy, and her eyes are—oh, well, what’s the use. You wouldn’t understand unless you could look at her all day, like I do—that is, like I can.
Saturday, July 6.
I have known Marian Cranston for three whole weeks. Theoretically she should have been at my feet in half that
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time. But do you know, she’s got me so bothered I actually haven't the nerve to ask her for a date. I did take her to lunch on Thursday, however, which is as far as any of the fellows at the office have got with her. I happened to go to the same café that noon, and we met at the door. She couldn’t very well refuse then. But I didn't accomplish much. She talked about the most sensible things in the most interesting manner, so that I quite forgot that I was conducting a scientific examination of her as a new type of female.
She drops things occasionally in the office but always picks them up herself, so that I have been forced to the conclusion that such incidents are genuine accidents, with no ulterior motive.
I am still quite at sea. Either her technique is perfect or she is as innocent as she looks. You understand, of course, that my interest in her case is wholly academic. I believe I am on the verge of the discovery of a type with which I have hitherto had no experience.
Saturday. July 13. 7 p.m.
My opportunity has come. Yesterday
Marian promised t.o attend tonight’s dance with me. I am going to follow the usual procedure and note her reactions. I’ll tell you all about it as soon as I get back.
C UNDAY, 4 a.m.
I feel like Napoleon after Waterloo, with the ex-Kaiser’s sentiments after the war thrown in for good measure. My selfestimated value does not exceed a red cent. I am worn out in body and spirit, and I am mad clear through, with that horribly impotent madness that has no one on whom to vent its spleen. While my inherent honesty compels me to admit that it’s all my own fault.
The evening started gloriously. Marian dances like a faun or a fairy, or whatever it is that dances divinely. She acted almost normally all evening. Everything went swimmingly, and at eleven o’clock, as per schedule, we found ourselves in the garden. I located a rustic seat placed conveniently in a patch of moonlight and. seeing that the setting was in order, I judged her to be in the right mood, so I broached the matter of mutual osculation—at the same time, of
course, keeping a close lookout for her reactions. Would she conform to one of the accepted methods of meeting this situation, or would she have a method of her own?
I was not disappointed. She neither slapped my facet nor threw her arms around my neck. But in a slightly impatient tone she said:
“Oh, Johnny, for the love of Mike, why spoil such a perfect night with your sloppy sentimentality.”
So far I was quite pleased with the results. But there still remained the test of the drive in the country. So I apologized quite humbly, and asked if I might take her home. She looked a little puzzled, and glanced at her watch. It was not quite twelve and the party was still in full swing in the house, but after a moment’s hesitation she agreed. We paid our respects to our hostess, then jumped into my little roadster and drove off.
She chattered about the dance until we reached her house. I drew in to the curb and stopped, with the motor still running.
“Kiss me good night, sweet?” I pleaded, with the correct mingling of infatuation and command.
“No, thank you,” she said with unnecessary emphasis, reaching for the handle of the door.
But I released the clutch and stepped on the gas, and the car shot down the street. Marian looked at me in silence for a block or so.
“What.” she queried at length, “do you think you’re doing?”
“We’re going for a ride in the country,” I chuckled, quite pleased with myself. I was gathering data every minute.
To my surprise she burst out laughing.
“All right, son, all right,” she said soothingly. “But take your time, and for goodness sake be sure you have enough gas or we’ll both have to walk home.”
I was slightly disconcerted, and for a moment suspected that she knew this one, and the answer too.
Soon we swung on to the highway leading out of town. For several miles neither of us spoke. Marian absolutely ignored the closer contact possibilities of curves in the road, and confined herself strictly to the farthest comer of the seat. When I attempted to improve the situation around a particularly sharp bend she commanded briefly, “Lay off! You’re spoiling my enjoyment of the ride.”
Accordingly I laid off for a few more miles, until I judged the distance from town appropriate. The road at this point ran through a grove of trees, so I turned the car around and stopped in the flickering shadow of a tall poplar.
“Now what?” Marian asked politely.
“The last resort of a desperate man,” I muttered, trying to sound grim and determined, “or do you prefer walking?”
Would she step out haughtily with insulted dignity, or relent with apparent reluctance?
“Oh, aren’t you original,” Marian chuckled, and opened the car door. As she stepped out and down the road she waved a mocking, “Good night, Johnny. See you later.”
So far so good, I thought; now it only remained to be seen how long she would hold out. I watched her stumble over the gravel for a few yards in her high-heeled dancing slippers, and for a moment I must confess I forgot that I was watching for reactions. Then I saw her step off the road into the shadow of the trees. I strained my eyes peering through the gloom, until I could see her no longer.
I was about to follow in the car when, with heart-throbbing suddenness, I heard a terrified scream. Leaping from the car, I dashed up the road, yelling encouragement; and then went blundering through the trees, getting deeper into the woods without seeing a sign of her. Finally I paused in perplexity to listen for some clue to Marian’s whereabouts. At that instant the throb of an engine shattered the night silence.
A sudden sickening suspicion flashed over my mind, and I scrambled wildly back to
the road, just in time to see my car roar past me at sixty per. A curly brown head was bent over the. wheel, and a white handkerchief waved tauntingly from the window.
I walked every step of the way back home, and it was eight miles if it was a foot. Why. in the name of humanity, did I drive so far out of town? Traffic, you say, is scarce at two in the morning. I say it is absolutely nonexistent. Not a solitary motorist passed me. I was alone with the soft night breezes and the stars—and eight miles of gravelled road.
I beat the sun to town by five minutes, and found the car parked in front of my door. Marian hadn’t left so much as a handkerchief behind; nothing but a slip of paper that looked like a parking ticket, stuck on the windshield, saying, “Thanks for the loan of your car.”
1 was too sore to put the car in the garage, and now I’m worried stiff that some one will steal it. I stepped on the stair that squeaks and my bedroom door banged and I have a blister on my heel, but now that I’ve expressed my sentiments on paper I don’t feel half so bad.
My interest in the enigma of an original girl must be extending beyond the mere academic. At least I can find no other explanation for the peculiar feeling assailing me, unless it’s due to overexertion. If I had known it was going to affect me like this I would never have started this fool experimenting.
X/TONDAY, July 15.
j entered the office this morning with an easy air of nonchalance that was far from genuine. I exchanged polite pleasantries with Marian as though there was nothing whatsoever between us; and at noon I requested the pleasure of her company at lunch. For I had manfully decided that a full explanation of my motives, theory and all, was the only means of clearing the atmosphere.
Marian, far from being disconcerted, as any ordinary girl might well have been, looked at me quizzically and remarked: “Johnnie, you’ve disappointed me.” “Disappointed?” I echoed.
“Yes. By your behavior this morning you have upset the sequence of a theory of mine.”
“Theory!” I yelped. “Don’t tell me you’ve been conducting scientific observations of the reactions of men in various situations, with a view to formulating a theory, and identifying the varying types, and all that ballyhoo?”
“It’s not ballyhoo,” Marian said indignantly. “My theory worked until I tried it on you.”
“And so did mine until I tried it on you,” I retorted.
"Yours!” Marian breathed with dawning comprehension, and from that moment the metaphorical clouds evaporated and the bright light of understanding beamed on us both.
“Come on.” I shouted, grabbing my hat and Marian’s hand. “We’ve more explaining to do than one short noon can hold.”
Over the soup and lamb chops and raisin pie. Marian explained how she had been convinced of the utter worthlessness of men in general, how we all confirmed to a few rigid types, how all of us seemed to consider it our bounden duty to ruin every moonlight night with stereotyped love-making. She told me how I had acted according to type up to this morning, when, to be correct, I should have sulkily ignored her and transferred my attentions to the peroxide blonde across the room. Then she apologized for the inconvenience she had caused me Saturday night, but I had a few* things to apologize for myself, so we were even on that score.
The lunch hour was over before we had half finished explaining, so of course we had to go for a drive in the evening.
We drove a long, long way out of town, and we stopped for a long, long time by a river. We came to a complete understanding as to what was ballyhoo and what wasn’t. The moon didn’t come over the mountain
at the crucial moment, nor did the eastern sky blush rosy with the dawn of a new day. (We weren’t out that late anyway.) Even the river did nothing unusual. In fact, Nature seemed callously indifferent to our newly born bliss. In lieu of such marks of awareness on the part of the rest of the world, I felt impelled to sound a paean of joy on the klaxon and drive home at
sixty-five miles per hour. Not that we were in a hurry to get anywhere, but— well, you probably know how it is.
I have just consigned all my notes on reactions and conformity to type, and other such inconclusive data to the fire. What if all the other women in the world are the same? My girl is different.