BUT YOU can GET A MAN WITH A GUN
if there was a beautiful girl in Canada whom Spencer hadn’t dated it was only because he hadn’t seen her. But Dorothy was different. Very, very different
WHEN CHARLES COLBY walked into the Golden Pheasant he was annoyed to see Spencer Graham already seated at the bar. It wasn’t that he didn’t like Spencer. As a matter of fact, there were few men he liked better. But he wasn’t in the mood for anybody’s company and, least of all, Spencer Graham’s. He slipped by to a stool farther down the bar.
The trouble with Spencer, he thought gloomily, is that he’s just too damn lucky. Spencer was the heir to the Graham refrigerator fortune. And, as though that weren’t enough, he was also the handsomest man Charles had ever seen. ’Fall, with blue-black wavy hair and ocean-blue eyes, he had a smile that stopped every girl who saw it dead in her
tracks. He had a pleasant disposition, too—as who couldn’t, Charles thought, with all that money. And he was witty.
To Charles, whose first book had been flatly and unkindly rejected that morning, the sight of Spencer was definitely not what the doctor ordered. A long, moody, soulful drink with himself was. And he had decided on the latter, when he involuntarily glanced at Spencer again.
Even to an eye dulled with sorrow Spencer did not look his usual urbane self. He was slumped in an attitude hinting faintly at dejection. He was not exchanging pleasantries with the barman, as was his custom. Instead, he slowly twirled his glass round and round in absent-minded circles, gazing
into the liquid intently, as if he expected to Fn.1 the answer to a problem in its amber depths.
Charles hesitated. Was it possible that Spencer, the darling of the gods, the absolute apex of manly perfection, could be in trouble? The idea seemed fantastic. He had known Spencer ten years and never once had seen the slightest cloud on that amiable countenance. Still, the impossible had been known to happen. And Charles Colby was not the man to miss such a miracle when it appeared to be happening right under his nose. He picked up his glass and sauntered over to the empty stool beside his friend.
“How goes it?” he asked, and the question, for once, was sincere. He waited for the answer.
cated ads that sold Graham refrigerators. Spencer wrote them. And this was another sore point with Charles Colby. One golden word of Spencer Graham’s gathered in more shekels than the ponderous reams he himself turned out with such agony. Spencer’s prose scintillated. It inspired. It sold. Charles Colby’s prose limped along through interminable pages and did not sell at all. It was while he was still mourning this inescapable fact that Spencer dropped his bomb. In fact, Charles had become so deeply immersed in comparing Spencer’s success with his failure and in pondering the injustice of it all, that he almost missed the fatal words.
“What did you say?” he asked, stupidly. “I thought you said ...”
“I did,” Spencer answered firmly. “I said I got engaged last night.”
“Engaged to be married?” queried Charles, incredulously.
“What else, you ass!” his friend ejaculated, with complete good humor.
The news that a man is engaged to be married may be the cause of merriment to his friends, but rarely such surprise as the announcement seemed to bring Charles. To understand it, one had to know Spencer Graham.
If there was one small flaw in Spencer’s character it was his behavior with women. And even then, the flaw was one which commanded the respect and admiration Continued on paffe 45
develop. But he put it to good purpose by sliding furtive glances at his friend’s face in hopes of getting a lead. It was useless. The face matched the voice. Whether it was great sorrow or great joy or great perplexity that filled Spencer’s heart, he could not guess. When nothing developed he ventured another inane question.
“How’s the work going?”
“Very well,” Spencer answered, something of his old confident expression showing in his eyes. “Very well, indeed.”
Spencer was chief of the advertising department in his father’s firm and his heart and soul was wrapped up in it. Not many knew that the agency handling this big account wrote few of the sophisti-
“Fine,” Spencer replied, in a tone that caused Charles’ ears to tingle pleasantly. After all, he was a writer, however unsuccessful. He could not quite place Spencer’s tone of voice. He could almost catch its meaning, yet it eluded him. It savored of sorrow but there was joy in it too. There was something of pride in it, and, at the same time, something of humility.
Charles had the wit to pursue his quarry cautiously. He knew that this was a ticklish moment. Spencer was of two minds; the one to confide everything, the other to confide nothing. An ill-chosen word would send him hurtling over the fence on the wrong side.
Charles allowed a companionable silence to
But You Can Get a Man With a Gun
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 13
of other men. The fact was that Spencer played the field. He had played it longer and wider than anyone Charles had ever known. And the catches he had made during the playing were simply incredible.
Spereer had won the hearts of actresses. of models, of career women, of debutantes. If there was a beautiful girl in Canada whom Spencer hadn’t dated it was only because he hadn’t seen her. And that wasn’t likely because he went everywhere and had a penchant for unearthing beauty. But not one of these delightful creatures had won Spencer’s heart. He had never been known to make that fair exchange that love requires. He received but he did not give.
^ His friends were accustomed to see* ing Spencer squire some young charmer for several weeks with every appearance of devotion. Then she would be seen no more, except, perhaps, in a shadowy corner in some bar where she
■ sat alone sniffling into a hankie. Spencer would be on with the new immediately, and the new always managed to be more beautiful than the last, however beautiful the last had been. The story had told and retold itself so often that Spencer’s friends merely waited with breathless excitement for each new wonder to appear. And regularly, every few weeks, she appeared, to rule as Spencer’s queen uptil it was her turn to be deposed.
¡Some of the men Charles knew had hoped to catch a few of the casta^¡av crumbs from Spencer’s bounteotfg table, but none had ever succeeded. Tfyp young women never seemed to recover from Spencer’s charm and they ^ rry^irned him beyond all reason. After a.j^pv gloomy dinners during which the host listened to a long recital of the wrongs Spencer had done them, he would give up and seek cheerier, if less glamorous, companionship.
now Spencer was engaged to be
vital question tumbled from \ lips in almost incoherent haste, d is she?”
“Dorothy Hastings,” Spencer announced, with a rather anxious glance at his eager companion. “You remember her?”
If Charles had been surprised before he now completely reassessed his position. What he had felt before was a mere shadow of what he felt now. He had naturally assumed, in the quick assumings he had done since the ¡ announcement, that it was some new beauty who had won Spencer’s hand. But this was one of the deposed queens. And net even the latest one at that. She was the one before the one before the last.
4gî“Why, of course I remember her,” *ne answered, lamely. “She was a brunette, the one with the . . . the . . .” OtiHe had almost said “bosom” before ï.hè caught himself. While it was quite right to admire the good points - «bout Spencer’s queens, such remarks about a wife-to-be were probably not
■ in good taste.
“Yes, that’s the one,” Spencer «encouraged him. “She has got a 1 beautiful figure, hasn’t she? I wasn’t g sure you’d remember.”
His tone, lately so mysterious, was now one of utter and complete satis'% faction, easily recognizable by any I novice in the study of human nature, a But Charles was too excited to F-perceive anything. He leaned forSward with his mouth open. “How
did it happen?” he asked, with almost indecent curiosity.
“Well,” began Spencer, slowly, savoring his friend’s interest, “you know how I am about girls?” And he gave his friend a modest little smile which encompassed all his activities during the past ten years.
“Yes, yes, of course,” nodded Charles impatiently.
“Well,” said Spencer again, “Dorothy was the one before . . .”
“The one before the one before the last,” interrupted Charles.
“Yes, and we ran into each other again just a couple of weeks ago and first thing I knew, well, that was it.” Charles looked at Spencer. And Spencer looked back, his expression pure innocence.
“Now look here, Spence,” Charles yelped, throwing caution overboard, “I want to know what happened. So stop looking like the cat with the canary and give me the dope on it. Why . . .” and he looked over his shoulder, cautiously, “it’s a thing that might happen to any of us and we ought to know what to look out for. Now be a good sport and tell me.”
“But that’s just it,” smiled the newly engaged man. “I’m not sure anything did happen. But we’re engaged all right and I’m glad.”
“Look, Spence, just start at the beginning and tell me all, there’s a good fellow. Perhaps there was something you didn’t see, a wrong move, maybe, something that an outsider might spot.”
“No, if there was anything, I spotted it all right,” Spencer assured him. “It wasn’t a thing you could miss. Here, let’s take a table and have our dinner and I’ll tell you everything.”
So it was to the accompaniment of a lobster dinner followed by Danish pastry and cherry brandy that Charles heard the story of Spencer Graham’s engagement.
SHE came into my office two weeks ago,” Spencer began briskly, “and she was simply glowing. I was nearly bowled over again, except,” and he gave Charles an apologetic smile, “except that I never allow myself to do that. I hadn’t seen her for a couple of months. After we broke up she came around a few times, phoned and wrote notes. You know, the way girls do when they aren’t quite ready to give up.”
Charles nodded. He did not like to admit that he knew nothing of such matters from personal experience and he had heard of Spencer’s difficulties during the breakup periods before.
“Well, things hadn’t been too happy when we last met, but when she came in she was as pleasant as anybody could be. Sat down and chit-chatted like old times. I enjoyed it myself. But I was careful, just the same. I didn’t want to go through that again.”
“That’s right,” Charles agreed, and looked very wise. “One doesn’t want to go through that twice with the same girl.”
“That’s it. So I was careful. And then . . .” he hesitated, and Charles sensed they were near the heart of the matter, “and then, I asked her what she’d been doing lately and she said . . . she said . . .”
“Yes, yes. Go on, man,” urged Charles.
“She said she’d been taking shooting lessons.”
“Yes, that’s the way I felt too,” said Spencer. “But that’s what she said. Shooting lessons. She said she had started them two months before and that she’d had very good luck. That’s the way she put it, ‘very good luck.’ She said she’d won some sort of
competition that very day. She said that was what she’d been aiming at because she wanted to be really good and that she had done it and that now she was ready.”
“Ready?” repeated Charles, and a very tiny shiver crept up the base of his neck. “Ready for what?”
“Just exactly what Í asked,” Spencer approved. “And she looked at me and smiled and said ‘Why, ready for anything. Any emergency. You know the sort of thing.’ And I just looked like a fool and nodded and said 1 understood. But 1 didn’t at all.”
“What else did she say?”
“Nothing much. She opened her handbag, one of those cavernous affairs, and took out a little revolver. It was all shined up and had mother of pearl trimmings, the nicest little gun I ever saw. .She asked me if 1 didn’t think it was pretty and of course I said I did. Then she just sal there, twirling it, with an odd little smile on her face.”
“Good God, man, what did you do?” “Do? What could 1 do? I just sat there and smiled and talked. We discussed mutual friends and the weather and the political situation and Vincent Massey and plays and hooks and the way canasta died out and she just kept on twirling that gun. Then she mentioned dinner.”
“Dinner?” Charles repeated again and he began to feel like a stuck phonograph record but he couldn’t help it.
“Yes, dinner. She said she thought it would be nice for us to have dinner for old times’ sake.”
“You weren’t fool enough to take her, were you?” Charles asked, rudely.
“What would you have done? I started to make some sort of excuse, something about a previous engagement, and she brought the gun up in her hand so it was pointing at me and I said yes, I thought it would be very nice.”
“You mean she aimed it at you? She was going to shoot?”
“Oh, no, nothing like that! It turned out to be accidental. She just lifted it up to put it back in her bag, that was all, and I foolishly thought . . . Well, anyway, we went to dinner.” “But surely,” Charles expostulated, “surely you could have seen to it that nothing else developed?”
“Well, it wasn’t so easy, you know. You see, I’d got this silly notion about the gun and what with her being such a good shot I didn’t like to offend her.” “Damned if I’d let any woman scare me with a little old gun!” Charles muttered but Spencer went straight on.
“After dinner she suggested going to a play we’d been talking about and I began to say something about work piled up at the office and she took the gun out of her handbag. I said the work could wait and she put it back. It was as simple as that.”
“My God! But that’s . . . that’s . . . blackmail or something. She actually threatened you! And with a gun!”
“Oh, no. You see, she wanted her lipstick and it was under the gun, so she just lifted it out while she got the lipstick and I was nervous, so I thought
. . . Well, what you thought.”
“I see,” Charles sat back with a sigh, “I see. She wanted her lipstick.” “Yes. So we went to the play. It was a good one, too. Sideways To The Moon. Have you seen it?”
“No.” Charles hadn’t.
“Then I took her home and she asked me up. I was going to say I was tired but she opened her handbag again so I said yes, instead. But it "turned out she was only getting her key and I needn’t have gone. But it was too late then.”
“Yes,” agreed Charles, “I can see that it was.”
“You wouldn’t believe how attractively she has her place fixed up. She doesn’t pay much rent there, you know, but it’s beautiful. I was surprised.” “Yes,” Charles said again.
“I stayed pretty late. She made coffee and sandwiches. It was very cosy. Did you know she plays the piano?”
“No. She seems to have a lot of V talents I didn’t know about,” Charles^ told him, sarcastically. But Spencer® didn’t seem to notice.
“Well, she does. She played a loffj of classical stuff. Mostly Mozart. I’v%” always liked Mozart best. And, as Î, said, it was pretty late when I leftf?^ When I was going out the door sh$B said it was so sweet of me to ask hfego for lunch next day and she’d meet rtie * at the office at one.”
“You fool! What did you ask WéY^ to lunch for? You were as good as dötlh *; for right then!”
“But I didn’t ask her for lunch:*’ “But you said . . .”
“No, you idiot! She said.”
Charles leaned back in his chairî,frne rubbed his hands across his eyes*1?“*®1* then shook his head, hard.
Spencer looked at him with pi! his stupidity.
“She just said l asked her for lunch,” he explained, speaking slowly as one does to a child not overly bright. “I hadn’t really asked her.” J “Oh,” Charles sighed again. “I see.” « “Now don’t tell me I didn’t have Sj to take her. I knew that. So nextj| day I went for lunch at twelve andj. I didn’t come back until two.”
“Good boy!” And Charles sat up* again, his expression brightening.
“It wasn’t so good, though. When»
I got back she was in the office waiting.^; And she had a little handbag this timeg and she had the handle all bunched uf|t tight in her hand so you could see the outline of the thing inside.”
“And it was the gun,” Charles stated^ with absolute certainty.
“Yes, it was the gun. She was verj^t pleasant. She told me not to feel badly R about being late; that she knew busijp nessmen were often detained. She saiqp she would forgive me this time. Ana : she smiled and sort of fiddled with the . bag. She said she was getting pretty hungry, though, and perhaps we had better hurry. So we went out for lunch.”
Charles stared at him. “But you’d iust had lunch!”
“I know that. But we went anj'way.” “Yes,” said Charles, slowly. “Yes, of course. You went anyway.”
“You ought to have seen what she
was wearing that day,” Spencer went on, his eyes gleaming. “It was red and it, well, it certainly fit her extremely well and the people all stared when we went in.”
“Did she have the gun in her hand?” Charles asked with blatant irony.
“No, of course not. It was still in the handbag.”
And Charles knew it was no use and subsided.
“Somehow at lunch, something was said about a dance that night. One of those big social shindigs. She had invitations. I agreed to go right away. But it was only her handkerchief she wanted that time.”
“But you needn’t have showed up for that!”
“But surely that was the end of it?”
“I went to an early movie and I saw it twice and I came home about midnight. She was sitting on the top step near my door. She was smiling, too. Not the least bit put out. You ought to have seen her evening dress! 11 was a sort of gold color and it was cut pretty low and she had a necklace . . .”
“Where was the gun?” Charles interrupted bluntly.
“In her hand.”
Charles was shocked. “Good God, man! Why didn’t you call the police? That was going too far altogether. After all, one doesn’t carry guns to a dance!”
“Well, 1 wasn’t sure she’d let me, you know. Call the police, I mean. And it was just as well I didn’t, anyway. I’d have felt so foolish when she explained. You see, when I didn’t turn up, she just went round to the shooting gallery for awhile. She said she didn’t want to get out of practice. And the gun wouldn’t go in her evening bag so she just carried it in her hand. So then we went.”
“Went? Went where?” asked Charles dazedly.
“Why, to the dance! She said we would just have time for the last one. And we did, too. And some silly fool cut in but she just waved the gun at him and he went away.”
“You mean she took the gun to the dance?”
“Yes. I thought she ought to leave it at my place but she said that was the very worst thing you could do. She said that when I came back, if there were burglars there they would just use that gun to shoot me with. She said she would feel terrible if I was shot with her gun.”
Charles put his head down on his arms on the table. But Spencer ignored him.
“The next day I asked Dad if I could take a few weeks off and he said I could. I got tickets for a three weeks’ cruise and I didn’t bother much about packing. But it didn’t do any good.”
Charles had lifted his head in hope. Now he stared at Spencer with the look of one who knows he will hear bad news but longs to hear it just the same.
“What did she do?” he asked, hoarsely.
“Well, 1 took the train for Montreal that very night. I couldn’t get a compartment, so 1 took a berth and went straight to bed. When I got up in the morning a lovely girl got out of the upper berth.”
Charles put his head back on his arms.
“It was Dorothy,” Spencer went on, yvith a kind of relish. “She was in a pink negligee, all frothy down the front.” He made a curving motion with his hands.
“WHERE WAS THE GUN?” Charles shouted. And several people in the bar turned uneasily and stared I at him.
“In her hand,” Spencer answered calmly. “She always carries it on trains, she said. She said she used to carry it even before she could shoot but now that she’s such a good shot she carries it all the more, if you know what I mean.”
Charles didn’t. And he doubted if Spencer did. But it didn’t seem to matter.
“So we turned the cruise ticket in and came back on the next train and Dad was rather surprised, I think. So I told him I was sick. In fact, I think I was sick, a little. I went to bed, anyway, and I told my man not to let anyone in, not anyone. But, of course, he did.”
“You mean to say he disobeyed orders and let someone in when you had told him not to?”
“Well, he feels the same way about guns as I do,” Spencer answered easily. “You can see how he felt.”
“Yes, of course,” Charles agreed. “I know just how he felt.”
“She stayed right there and made
me broth. It’s very nice and it’s supposed to be nourishing but it’s not what you’d call filling. And Dorothy thought 1 oughtn’t to smoke or drink while I was ill either. So next day I was better.”
“What did you do then?” Charles asked, in a hollow tone.
“What would you have done?” Spencer countered.
“If you’d told the police you would have felt like a fool,” ventured Charles. “Exactly,” Spencer said.
“You could have pretended . . .” “To fall in with her plans?” Spencer finished for him. “That’s just what I did. And that was my biggest mistake. I mean,” he corrected himself, hastily, “I mean that’s just how it happened.”
“What happened?” asked Charles, having lost the track.
“How we got engaged. I fell in with her plans. I took her everywhere. The first place I took her was to the shooting gallery, to see if she really could shoot, you know.”
“And . . .?” Charles questioned, hopefully, even though he knew.
“She could. Bull’s-eye every time!” Spencer announced with pride. “Just rat-a-tat-tat, rat-a-tat-tat, all over the place and every one dead on.”
There was a silence for a few minutes. Then Charles spoke. “But couldn’t you just have gone on taking her places until she got tired of it?”
“Perhaps. I don’t know. It didn’t work out that way, anyway. I took her out in a canoe on the lake last night. When we were in the middle that gun turned up! She was looking for her compact and the gun tumbled out in the boat and she picked it up.” Charles shivered. He could picture the whole thing from there on in, but he hungered for the details.
“She got talking about women work-
ing after they were married. She didn’t believe in it. She said when she got married she wasn’t even going to shoot any more. She said she wanted to marry a man who could take care of her. Someone big and strong, like . . . like . . .”
“Yes? Go on.”
“I see,” said Charles. And he did.
The two men sipped their drinks in a companionable way for a moment.
“When’s the wedding?” Charles asked.
“Next week,” Spencer replied.
“Yes. Dorothy doesn’t believe in long engagements. She says they are too tiring.”
“I can see that they would be,” Charles agreed.
“But couldn’t you ... ?” Charles began.
“No,” said Spencer, “it wouldn’t be any use.”
“I suppose not,” Charles agreed again. He finished his drink and thanked Spencer for the dinner.
“Coming to the movies with me?” he asked, as he put on his coat.
“No, thanks,” Spencer refused quietly. “Dorothy told me, asked me, I mean, to meet her here. I came early. I don’t like to be late.”
“No, of course not. Well, so long then.” And the two men shook hands solemnly.
As he went out Charles collided with a beautiful and confident young woman with a radiant smile. She did not notice him. But Charles stood for a minute, pondering upon what had thumped against his thigh so hard. Then he knew.
“The gun,” he repeated softly to himself. And he shuddered as he hurried to his movie.
HE’D BEEN home only a few minutes when the phone rang. It was Spencer.
“Say, Charles,” he began, cheerfully, “Dot and I have been talking things over, making plans, you know . . .” “It’s in her pocket this time,” Charles couldn’t help warning him.
“What?” asked Spencer. “Oh. Oh, yes. Well, it was but it’s on the table now. But we were wondering, old fellow, if you’d like to be best man at the wedding?”
Charles swelled with pride. Spencer’s wedding would be the most fashionable of the season. To be best man would put him right at the very centre of the social whirl. He saw himself surrounded by beautifully gowned women. He beamed.
“That’s very nice of you, Spence,” he began warmly, “and I’d be proud and happy . . .”
He paused. A sudden thought struck him. “By the way,” he went on cautiously, “have you picked the bridesmaids yet?”
“The chief one will be Dorothy’s sister,” Spencer answered, “but we haven’t chosen . . .”
Charles interrupted again. “Spencer,” and his voice shook a little, “does she shoot?”
There was a small silence. Then he heard Spencer’s voice, bluff and hearty. “Yes, yes, she does. As a matter of fact, it was she who taught Dorothy, I believe.”
Charles gathered himself together. “As I was saying,” he quavered, “I’d be proud and happy to be best man but it just so happens that I have to go to China next week and I shan’t be back in time.”
“Why, Charles!” Spencer mocked him, “what’s the matter with you? You’re not afraid of any little old gun, are you?” ir