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Title: Men I'm Not Married To - with Women I'm Not Married To
Author: Parker, Dorothy, Adams, Franklin P. (Franklin Pierce)
Language: English
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                                  MEN
                          I’M NOT MARRIED TO



                                  MEN
                          I’M NOT MARRIED TO

                                  BY
                            DOROTHY PARKER

                       [Illustration: colophon]

                         GARDEN CITY NEW YORK
                       DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
                                 1922


                          COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY
                       DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
                ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, INCLUDING THAT OF
                  TRANSLATION INTO FOREIGN LANGUAGES,
                      INCLUDING THE SCANDINAVIAN

           COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY THE CURTIS PUBLISHING COMPANY
                IN THE UNITED STATES AND GREAT BRITAIN

                     PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES
                                  AT
              THE COUNTRY LIFE PRESS, GARDEN CITY, N. Y.



CONTENTS


                                                                    PAGE

FREDDIE                                                                2

MORTIMER                                                              12

RAYMOND                                                               12

CHARLIE                                                               13

LLOYD                                                                 21

HENRY                                                                 21

JOE                                                                   25

OLIVER                                                                26

ALBERT                                                                26



                                  MEN
                          I’M NOT MARRIED TO



    No matter where my route may lie,
      No matter whither I repair,
    In brief--no matter how or why
    On lane and byways, street and square,
      On alley, path and avenue,
    They seem to spring up everywhere--
      The men I am not married to.

    I watch them as they pass me by;
      At each in wonderment I stare,
    And, “but for heaven’s grace,” I cry,
      “There goes the guy whose name I’d wear!”
    They represent no species rare,
      They walk and talk as others do;
    They’re fair to see--but only fair--
      The men I am not married to.

    I’m sure that to a mother’s eye
      Is each potentially a bear.
    But though at home they rank ace-high,
      No change of heart could I declare.
    Yet worry silvers not their hair;
      They deck them not with sprigs of rue.
    It’s curious how they do not care--
      The men I am not married to.


L’ENVOI

    In fact, if they’d a chance to share
      Their lot with me, a lifetime through,
    They’d doubtless tender me the air--
      The men I am not married to.



FREDDIE


“Oh, boy!” people say of Freddie. “You just ought to meet him some time!
He’s a riot, that’s what he is--more fun than a goat.”

Other, and more imaginative souls play whimsically with the idea, and
say that he is more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Still others go at
the thing from a different angle, and refer to him as being as funny as
a crutch. But I always feel, myself, that they stole the line from
Freddie. Satire--that is his dish.

And there you have, really, one of Freddie’s greatest crosses. People
steal his stuff right and left. He will say something one day, and the
next it will be as good as all over the city. Time after time I have
gone to him and told him that I have heard lots of vaudeville acts using
his comedy, but he just puts on the most killing expression, and says,
“Oh, say not suchly!” in that way of his. And, of course, it gets me
laughing so that I can’t say another word about it.

That is the way he always is, just laughing it off when he is told that
people are using his best lines without even so much as word of
acknowledgment. I never hear any one say “There is such a thing as being
too good-natured” but that I think of Freddie.

You never knew any one like him on a party. Things will be dragging
along, the way they do at the beginning of the evening, with the early
arrivals sitting around asking one another have they been to anything
good at the theatre lately, and is it any wonder there is so much
sickness around with the weather so changeable. The party will be just
about plucking at the coverlet when in will breeze Freddie, and from
that moment on the evening is little short of a whirlwind. Often and
often I have heard him called the life of the party, and I have always
felt that there is not the least bit of exaggeration in the expression.

What I envy about Freddie is that poise of his. He can come right into a
room full of strangers, and be just as much at home as if he had gone
through grammar school with them. He smashes the ice all to nothing the
moment he is introduced to the other guests by pretending to
misunderstand their names, and calling them something entirely
different, keeping a perfectly straight face all the time as if he never
realized there was anything wrong. A great many people say he puts them
in mind of Buster Keaton that way.

He is never at a loss for a screaming crack. If the hostess asks him to
have a chair Freddie comes right back at her with “No, thanks; we have
chairs at home.” If the host offers him a cigar he will say just like a
flash, “What’s the matter with it?” If one of the men borrows a
cigarette and a light from him Freddie will say in that dry voice of
his, “Do you want the coupons too?” Of course his wit is pretty fairly
caustic, but no one ever seems to take offense at it. I suppose there is
everything in the way he says things.

And he is practically a whole vaudeville show in himself. He is never
without a new story of what Pat said to Mike as they were walking down
the street, or how Abie tried to cheat Ikie, or what old Aunt Jemima
answered when she was asked why she had married for the fifth time.
Freddie does them in dialect, and I have often thought it is a wonder
that we don’t all split our sides. And never a selection that every
member of the family couldn’t listen to, either--just healthy fun.

Then he has a repertory of song numbers, too. He gives them without
accompaniment, and every song has a virtually unlimited number of
verses, after each one of which Freddie goes conscientiously through the
chorus. There is one awfully clever one, a big favourite of his, with
the chorus rendered a different way each time--showing how they sang it
when grandma was a girl, how they sing it in gay Paree and how a cabaret
performer would do it. Then there are several along the general lines
of Casey Jones, two or three about negroes who specialized on the banjo,
and a few in which the lyric of the chorus consists of the syllables
“ha, ha, ha.” The idea is that the audience will get laughing along with
the singer.

If there is a piano in the house Freddie can tear things even wider
open. There may be many more accomplished musicians, but nobody can
touch him as far as being ready to oblige goes. There is never any of
this hanging back waiting to be coaxed or protesting that he hasn’t
touched a key in months. He just sits right down and does all his
specialties for you. He is particularly good at doing “Dixie” with one
hand and “Home, Sweet Home” with the other, and Josef Hofmann himself
can’t tie Freddie when it comes to giving an imitation of a
fife-and-drum corps approaching, passing, and fading away in the
distance.

But it is when the refreshments are served that Freddie reaches the top
of his form. He always insists on helping to pass plates and glasses,
and when he gets a big armful of them he pretends to stumble. It is as
good as a play to see the hostess’ face. Then he tucks his napkin into
his collar, and sits there just as solemnly as if he thought that were
the thing to do; or perhaps he will vary that one by folding the napkin
into a little square and putting it carefully in his pocket, as if he
thought it was a handkerchief. You just ought to see him making believe
that he has swallowed an olive pit. And the remarks he makes about the
food--I do wish I could remember how they go. He is funniest, though, it
seems to me, when he is pretending that the lemonade is intoxicating,
and that he feels its effects pretty strongly. When you have seen him do
this it will be small surprise to you that Freddie is in such demand for
social functions.

But Freddie is not one of those humourists who perform only when out in
society. All day long he is bubbling over with fun. And the beauty of it
is that he is not a mere theorist, as a joker; practical--that’s Freddie
all over.

If he isn’t sending long telegrams, collect, to his friends, then he is
sending them packages of useless groceries, C. O. D. A telephone is
just so much meat to him. I don’t believe any one will ever know how
much fun Freddie and his friends get out of Freddie’s calling them up
and making them guess who he is. When he really wants to extend himself
he calls up in the middle of the night, and says that he is the wire
tester. He uses that one only on special occasions, though. It is pretty
elaborate for everyday use.

But day in and day out, you can depend upon it that he is putting over
some uproarious trick with a dribble glass or a loaded cigar or a pencil
with a rubber point; and you can feel completely sure that no matter
where he is or how unexpectedly you may come upon him, Freddie will be
right there with a funny line or a comparatively new story for you.
That is what people marvel over when they are talking about him--how he
is always just the same.

It is right there, really, that they put their finger on the big trouble
with him.

But you just ought to meet Freddie sometime. He’s a riot, that’s what he
is--more fun than a circus.



MORTIMER


Mortimer had his photograph taken in his dress suit.



RAYMOND


So long as you keep him well inland Raymond will never give any trouble.
But when he gets down to the seashore he affects a bathing suit fitted
with little sleeves. On wading into the sea ankle-deep he leans over and
carefully applies handfuls of water to his wrists and forehead.



CHARLIE


It’s curious, but no one seems to be able to recall what Charlie used to
talk about before the country went what may be called, with screaming
effect, dry. Of course there must have been a lot of unsatisfactory
weather even then, and I don’t doubt that he slipped in a word or two
when the talk got around to the insanity of the then-current styles of
women’s dress. But though I have taken up the thing in a serious way,
and have gone about among his friends making inquiries, I cannot seem to
find that he could ever have got any farther than that in the line of
conversation. In fact, he must have been one of those strong silent men
in the old days.

Those who have not seen him for several years would be in a position to
be knocked flat with a feather if they could see what a regular little
Chatterbox Charlie has become. Say what you will about prohibition--and
who has a better right?--you would have to admit, if you knew Charlie,
that it has been the making of him as a conversationalist.

He never requires his audience to do any feeding for him. It needs no
careful leading around of the subject, no tactful questions, no
well-timed allusions, to get him nicely loosened up. All you have to do
is say good evening to him, ask him how everybody over at his house is
getting along, and give him a chair--though this last is not
essential--and silver-tongued Charlie is good for three hours straight
on where he is getting it, how much he has to pay for it, and what the
chances are of his getting hold of a couple of cases of genuine
pinch-bottle, along around the middle of next week. I have known him to
hold entire dinner parties spellbound, from cocktails to finger bowls,
with his monologue.

Now I would be well down among the last when it came to wanting to give
you the impression that Charlie has been picked for the All-American
alcoholic team. Despite the wetness of his conversation he is just a
nice, normal, conscientious drinker, willing to take it or let it alone,
in the order named. I don’t say he would not be able to get along
without it, but neither do I say that he doesn’t get along perfectly
splendidly with it. I don’t think I ever saw any one who could get as
much fun as Charlie can out of splitting the Eighteenth Amendment with a
friend.

There is a glamour of vicarious romance about him. You gather from his
conversation that he comes into daily contact with any number of
picturesque people. He tells about a friend of his who owns three
untouched bottles of the last absinth to come into the country; or a
lawyer he knows, one of whose grateful clients sent him six cases of
champagne in addition to his fee; or a man he met who had to move to the
country in order to have room for his Scotch.

Charlie has no end of anecdotes about the interesting women he meets,
too. There is one girl he often dwells on, who, if you only give her
time, can get you little bottles of chartreuse, each containing an
individual drink. Another gifted young woman friend of his is the
inventor of a cocktail in which you mix a spoonful of orange marmalade.
Yet another is the justly proud owner of a pet marmoset which becomes
the prince of good fellows as soon as you have fed him a couple of
teaspoonfuls of gin.

It is the next best thing to knowing these people yourself to hear
Charlie tell about them. He just makes them live.

It is wonderful how Charlie’s circle of acquaintances has widened during
the last two years; there is nothing so broadening as prohibition. Among
his new friends he numbers a conductor on a train that runs down from
Montreal, and a young man who owns his own truck, and a group of chaps
who work in drug stores, and I don’t know how many proprietors of homey
little restaurants in the basements of brownstone houses.

Some of them have turned out to be but fair-weather friends,
unfortunately. There was one young man, whom Charlie had looked upon
practically as a brother, who went particularly bad on him. It seems he
had taken a pretty solemn oath to supply Charlie, as a personal favour,
with a case of real Gordon, which he said he was able to get through his
high social connections on the other side. When what the young man
called a nominal sum was paid, and the case was delivered, its bottles
were found to contain a nameless liquor, though those of Charlie’s
friends who gave it a fair trial suggested Storm King as a good name for
the brand. Charlie has never laid eyes on the young man from that day to
this. He is still unable to talk about it without a break in his voice.
As he says--and quite rightly, too--it was the principle of the thing.

But for the most part his new friends are just the truest pals a man
ever had. In more time than it takes to tell it, Charlie will keep you
right abreast with them--sketch in for you how they are, and what they
are doing, and what their last words to him were.

But Charlie can be the best of listeners, too. Just tell him about any
little formula you may have picked up for making it at home, and you
will find the most sympathetic of audiences, and one who will even go to
the flattering length of taking notes on your discourse. Relate to him
tales of unusual places where you have heard that you can get it or of
grotesque sums that you have been told have been exchanged for it, and
he will hang on your every word, leading you on, asking intelligent
questions, encouraging you by references to like experiences of his
own.

But don’t let yourself get carried away with success and attempt to
branch out into other topics. For you will lose Charlie in a minute if
you try it.

But that, now I think of it, would probably be the very idea you would
have in mind.



LLOYD


Lloyd wears washable neckties.



HENRY


You would really be surprised at the number of things that Henry knows
just a shade more about than anybody else does. Naturally he can’t help
realizing this about himself, but you mustn’t think for a minute that he
has let it spoil him. On the contrary, as the French so well put it. He
has no end of patience with others, and he is always willing to oversee
what they are doing, and to offer them counsel. When it comes to giving
his time and his energy there is nobody who could not admit that Henry
is generous. To a fault, I have even heard people go so far as to say.

If, for instance, Henry happens to drop in while four of his friends are
struggling along through a game of bridge he does not cut in and take a
hand, thereby showing up their playing in comparison to his. No, Henry
draws up a chair and sits looking on with a kindly smile. Of course, now
and then he cannot restrain a look of pain or an exclamation of surprise
or even a burst of laughter as he listens to the bidding, but he never
interferes. Frequently, after a card has been played, he will lean over
and in a good-humoured way tell the player what he should have done
instead, and how he might just as well throw his hand down then and
there, but he always refuses to take any more active part in the game.
Occasionally, when a uniquely poisonous play is made, I have seen Henry
thrust his chair aside and pace about in speechless excitement, but for
the most part he is admirably self-controlled. He always leaves with a
few cheery words to the players, urging them to keep at it and not let
themselves get discouraged.

And that is the way Henry is about everything. He will stroll over to a
tennis court, and stand on the side lines, at what I am sure must be
great personal inconvenience, calling words of advice and suggestion for
sets at a stretch. I have even known him to follow his friends all the
way around a golf course, offering constructive criticism on their form
as he goes. I tell you, in this day and generation, you don’t find many
people who will go as far out of their way for their friends as Henry
does. And I am far from being the only one who says so, too.

I have often thought that Henry must be the boy who got up the idea of
leaving the world a little better than he found it. Yet he never crashes
in on his friends’ affairs. Only after the thing is done does he point
out to you how it could have been done just a dash better. After you
have signed the lease for the new apartment Henry tells you where you
could have got one cheaper and sunnier; after you are all tied up with
the new firm Henry explains to you where you made your big mistake in
leaving the old one.

It is never any news to me when I hear people telling Henry that he
knows more about more things than anybody they ever saw in their lives.

And I don’t remember ever having heard Henry give them any argument on
that one.



JOE


After Joe had had two cocktails he wanted to go up and bat for the trap
drummer. After he had had three he began to get personal about the
unattractive shade of the necktie worn by the strange man at the next
table.



OLIVER


Oliver had a way of dragging his mouth to one side, by means of an
inserted forefinger, explaining to you, meanwhile, in necessarily
obscured tones, the work which his dentist had just accomplished on his
generously displayed back teeth.



ALBERT


Albert sprinkled powdered sugar on his sliced tomatoes.



                                 WOMEN
                          I’M NOT MARRIED TO



                                 WOMEN
                          I’M NOT MARRIED TO

                                  BY
                           FRANKLIN P. ADAMS

                       [Illustration: colophon]

                       GARDEN CITY      NEW YORK
                       DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
                                 1922


                          COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY
                       DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
                ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, INCLUDING THAT OF
                  TRANSLATION INTO FOREIGN LANGUAGES,
                      INCLUDING THE SCANDINAVIAN


           COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY THE CURTIS PUBLISHING COMPANY
                IN THE UNITED STATES AND GREAT BRITAIN


                     PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES
                                  AT
              THE COUNTRY LIFE PRESS, GARDEN CITY, N. Y.



                                  TO
                        MRS. FRANKLIN P. ADAMS

                        BUT FOR WHOM THIS BOOK
                     MIGHT NOT HAVE BEEN WRITTEN,
                          BUT FOR WHOM IT WAS



CONTENTS


                                                                    PAGE

ELAINE                                                                 2

MAUDE                                                                  7

ANNE                                                                  11

FLO                                                                   15

BELINDA                                                               16

BLANCHE                                                               19

MARGUERITE                                                            21



                                 WOMEN
                          I’M NOT MARRIED TO



    “Whene’er I take my walks”--you know
      The rest--“abroad,” I always meet
    Elaine or Maude or Anne or Flo,
      Belinda, Blanche, or Marguerite;
    And Melancholy, bittersweet,
      Sets seal upon me when I view--
    Coldly, and from a judgment seat--
      The women I’m not married to.

    Not mine the sighs for Long Ago;
      Not mine to mourn the obsolete;
    With Burns and Shelley, Keats and Poe
      I have no yearning to compete.
    No Dead Sea pickled pears I eat;
      I never touch a drop of rue;
    I toast, and drink my pleasure neat,
      The women I’m not married to!

    Fate with her celebrated blow
      Frequently knocks me off my feet;
    And Life her dice box chucks a throw
      That usually has me beat.
    Yet although Love has tried to treat
      Me rough, award the kid his due.
    Look at the list, though incomplete:
      The women I’m not married to.


L’ENVOI

    My dears whom gracefully I greet,
      Gaze at these lucky ladies who
    Are of--to make this thing concrete--
      The women I’m not married to.



ELAINE


There have been more beautiful girls than Elaine, for I have read about
them, and I have utter faith in the printed word. And I expect my
public, a few of whom are--just a second--more than two and a quarter
million weekly, to put the same credence in my printed word. When I
said there have been more beautiful girls than Elaine I lied. There
haven’t been. She was a darb. Blue were her eyes as the fairy flax, her
eyebrows were like curved snowdrifts, her neck was like the swan, her
face it was the fairest that e’er the sun shone on, she walked in beauty
like the night, her lips were like the cherries ripe that sunny walls of
Boreas screen, her teeth were like a flock of sheep with fleeces newly
washen clean, her hair was like the curling mist that shades the
mountain side at e’en, and oh, she danced in such a way no sun upon an
Easter day was half so fine a sight! If I may interrupt the poets, I
should say she was one pip. She was, I might add, kind of pretty.

Enchantment was hers, and fairyland her exclusive province. I would walk
down a commonplace street with her, and it would become the primrose
path, and a one-way path at that, with nobody but us on it. If I said it
was a nice day--and if I told her that once I told her a hundred
times--she would say, “Isn’t it? My very words to Isabel when I
telephoned her this morning!” So we had, I said to myself, a lot in
common.

And after a conversation like that I would go home and lie awake and
think, “If two persons can be in such harmony about the weather, a
fundamental thing, a thing that prehistoric religions actually were
based upon, what possible discord ever could be between us? For I have
known families to be rent by disagreements as to meteorological
conditions.

“Isn’t this,” my sister used to say, “a nice day?”

“No,” my reply used to be; “it’s a dreadful day. It’s blowy, and it’s
going to rain.” And I would warn my mother that my sister Amy, or that
child, was likely to grow up into a liar.

But, as I have tried to hint, beauty was Elaine’s, and when she spoke of
the weather I used to feel sorry for everybody who had lived in the
olden times, from yesterday back to the afternoon Adam told Eve that no
matter how hot it was they always got a breeze, before there was any
weather at all.

It wasn’t only the weather. We used to agree on other things. Once when
she met a schoolgirl friend in Hyde Park whom she hadn’t seen since a
year ago, out in Lake View, she said that it was a small world after
all, and I told her she never said a truer word. And about golf--she
didn’t think, she said one day, that it was as strenuous as tennis, but
it certainly took you out in the open air--well, that was how I felt
about it, too. So you see it wasn’t just the weather, though at that
time I thought that would be enough.

Well, one day we were walking along, and she looked at me and said, “I
wonder if you’d like me so much if I weren’t pretty.”

It came over me that I shouldn’t.

“No,” I said, “I should say not.”

“That’s the first honest thing you ever said to me,” she said.

“No, it isn’t,” I said.

“It is, too,” was her rejoinder.

“It’s nothing of the kind,” I said.

“Yes, it is!” she said, her petulant temper getting the better of her.

So we parted on that, and I often think how lucky I am to have escaped
from Elaine’s distrust of honesty, and from her violent and passionate
temper.



MAUDE


Maude and I might have been happy together. She was not the kind you
couldn’t be candid with. She used to say she admired honesty and
sincerity above all other traits. And she was deeply interested in me,
which was natural enough, as I had no reservations, no reticences from
her. I believed that when you cared about a girl it was wrong to have
secrets from her.

And that was her policy, too, though now and then she carried it too
far. One day I telephoned her and asked her what she had been doing that
morning.

“I’ve been reading the most fascinating book,” she said.

“What book?” I asked politely.

“I can’t remember the title,” she said, “but it’s about a man in love
with a girl, and he----”

“Who wrote it?” I interrupted.

“Wait a minute,” said Maude. I waited four minutes. “Sorry to have kept
you waiting,” she said. “I mislaid the book. I thought I left it in my
room and I looked all around for it, and then I asked Hulda if she’d
seen it, and she said no, though I asked her that the other day about
something else, and she said no, and later I found out that she had seen
it and put it in a drawer, so I went to the library and the book wasn’t
there, and then I went back to my room and looked again, and I was just
coming back to tell you I couldn’t find it when here it is, guess where,
right on the telephone stand. Who wrote it? Hutchison is the author. A.
M. S.--no, wait a minute--A. S. M. Hutchinson, not Hutchison. There’s an
‘n’ in it. Two ‘n’s’ really. But I mean an ‘n’ between the ‘i’ and the
‘s.’ I mean it’s Hut-chin-son, and not Hut-chi-son. But what’s the
difference who writes a book as long as it’s a good book?”

There may have been more, but I was reasonably certain that the author’s
name was Hutchinson, so I hung up the receiver, though the way I felt at
the time was that hanging was too good for it.

I had dinner with her that night at a restaurant.

“Coffee?” asked the waiter.

“No,” I said. And to her: “Coffee keeps me awake. If I took a cup now I
wouldn’t close an eye all night. Some folks can drink it and not notice
it, but take me; I’m funny that way, and if I took a cup now I wouldn’t
close an eye all night. Some can, and some can’t. I like it, but it
doesn’t like me. Ha, ha! I wouldn’t close an eye all night, and if I
don’t get my sleep--and a good eight hours at that--I’m not fit for a
thing all the next day. It’s a pretty important thing, sleep; and----”

It was important to Maude, self-centred thing that she was. Here was I
confiding to her something I never had told another soul, and she wasn’t
merely dozing; she was asleep. I rattled a knife against a plate, and
she awoke.

It was a good thing I found out about her in time.



ANNE

    _In winter, when the ground was white,
    I thought that Anne would be all right;
    In summer, quite the other way,
    I knew she’d never be O. K._


She liked to go to the theatre, but what she went for was to be amused,
as there was enough sadness in real life without going to the theatre
for it. She told me that I was just a great big boy; that all men, in
fact, were just little boys grown up. I took her to a movie show, and
she read most of the captions to me, slowly; and when she read them to
herself her lips moved. She never took a drink in days of old when booze
was sold and barrooms held their sway--that is my line, not Anne’s--but
now she takes a cocktail when one is offered, saying, “This may be my
last chance.” Women, she told me, didn’t like her much, but she didn’t
care, as she was, she always said, a man’s woman. Just the same, folks
said, she told me, that she was wonderful in a sick room.

And so, what with the movies and one thing and another the winter
passed. She was glad I was a tennis player, and we’d have some exciting
sets in the summer. No, she said games. I should have known then, but I
was thinking of her hair and how cool it was to stroke.

Well, one May afternoon there we were on the tennis court. It belonged
to a friend of hers, and it hadn’t been rolled recently, nor marked,
though you could tell that here a base line and there a service line
once had been.

I asked her which court she wanted and she said it didn’t matter; she
played equally rottenly on both sides. Nor was that, I found it,
overstating things. She served, and called “Ready?” before each service.
When she sent a ball far outside she called “Home run!” or “Just out!”
And if I served a double fault she said either “Two bad” or “Thank
you.” When the score was deuce she called it “Juice!” And when I beat
her 6-0--as you could have done, or you, or even you--she said she was
off her game, that it was a lot closer than the score indicated, that
she’d beat me before the summer was over, that didn’t the net seem
terribly low or something, and that I wasn’t used to playing with women
or I wouldn’t hit the ball so hard all the time.

Little remains to be told. Anne is now the wife of a golfing banker.
Wednesday night I met her at a party.

“Golf?” she echoed. “Oh, yes. That is, I don’t play it; I play at it.
Tennis is really my game, but I haven’t had a racket in my hand in two
years. We must have some of our games again. I nearly beat you last
time, remember.”



FLO


I hadn’t seen Flo since she was about fourteen, so when I got a letter
asking me to call I said I’d go. She was pretty, but the older I get the
fewer girls I see that aren’t.

Of course I ought to have known. The letter was addressed with a “For”
preceding my name, instead of “City” or the name of the town, Flo had
written “Local.” Even a professional detective should have known then.

It was just her refined vocabulary that sent me reeling into the night.
She wondered where I “resided” and how long I’d been “located” there;
she had “purchased” something; she said “gowned” when she meant
“dressed”; she had “gotten” tired, she said, of affectation. She said
she had “retired” early the night before, and she spoke of a
“boot-limber.”

And as I was leaving she said, “Don’t remain away so long this time.
Er--you know--hath no fury like a woman scorned.”



BELINDA


I remember Belinda. She was arguing with another young woman about the
car fare. “Let me pay,” said Belinda; and she paid.

“There,” I mused, “is a perfect woman, nobly planned.”

I met her shortly after that, and she came through many a test. Once I
saw her go up to an elevated railroad station, hand in a nickel, and not
say, “One, please.” Once I asked her about what day it was, and she said
“Wednesday” without adding “All day.” She spoke once of a cultivated
taste without adding “like olives,” and once said “That’s another story”
without adding “as Kipling says.” And once--and that was the day I
nearly begged her to be mine--when she said that something had been
grossly exaggerated she failed to giggle “like the report of Mark
Twain’s death.”

So you see Belinda had points. She had a dog that wasn’t more
intelligent than most human beings; she wasn’t forever saying that there
was no reason why a man and a woman shouldn’t be just good pals; she
didn’t put me at ease, the way the others did, by looking at me for
three minutes and then saying that good looks didn’t matter much to a
man, after all; she didn’t, when you gave her something, take it and say
coyly, “For me?” as who should say, “You dear thoughtful thing, when you
might have brought it for John D. Rockefeller.” And she didn’t say that
she couldn’t draw a straight line or that she had no card sense or that
she couldn’t write a decent letter.

She could write a decent letter. She did. Lots of them. To me, too. She
wrote the best letters I ever read. They were intelligent, humorous,
and--why shouldn’t I tell the truth?--ardent. Fervid is nearer.
Candescent is not far off. And that is how I lost her.

“P. S.” she wrote. “Burn this letter, and all of them.”

A few weeks later Belinda said, “At the rate I write you, my letters
must fill a large drawer by this time.”

“Why,” I said, “I burn them. They’re all burned.”

“I never want to see you again as long as I live,” she said. “Good-by.”

And my good-by was the last communication between me and Belinda.



BLANCHE


    _Blanche is a girl
      I’d hate to wed,
    Because of a lot
      Of things she said._

    _“Excuse my French”
      When she says “Gee-whiz!”
    On the telephone:
      “Guess who this is.”_

    _You ask her did
      She like the show
    Or book, she’ll say,
      “Well, yes and no.”_

    _For the “kiddie” she
      Buys a “comfy” “nighty”;
    She says “My bestest,”
      And “All rightie.”_

    _“If I had no humour,
      I’d simply die,”
    Says Blanche.... I know
      That that’s a lie._

    _She wouldn’t marry;
      “Oh, heaven forbid!
    “Men are such brutes!”
      You said it, kid._



MARGUERITE


Marguerite was an agreer. She strove, and not without success, to
please. She hated an argument, one reason perhaps being--I found this
out later--that she couldn’t put one forth on any subject. But I had
theories, in the days of Marguerite, and I wanted to know whether she
was in sympathy with them. One of my theories was that a lot of domestic
infelicity could be avoided if a husband didn’t keep his business
affairs to himself, if he made a confidante, a possible assistant, of
his wife. I had contempt for the women whose boast it was that Fred
never brings business into the house.

So I used to talk to Marguerite about that theory. When we were married
wouldn’t it be better to discuss the affairs of the business day at home
with her? Certainly. Because simply talking about them was something,
and maybe she could even help. Yes, that was what a wife was for. Why
should a man keep his thoughts bottled up just because his wife wasn’t
in his office with him? No reason at all; I agree with you perfectly.

About politics: Wasn’t this man Harding doing a good job, and weren’t
things looking pretty good, everything considered? He certainly is and
they certainly are, was Marguerite’s adroit summing up.

Well, I had theories about books and child labour and pictures and clam
chowder and Harry Leon Wilson’s stuff and music and the younger
generation and cord tires and things like that, and she’d agree with
everything I said.

Then one night, as in a vision, something came to me. I had a theory
that it would be terrible to have somebody around all the time who
agreed with you about everything. Marguerite agreed.

I had another theory. Don’t you agree, I put it, that we shouldn’t get
along at all well? And never had she agreed more quickly. I thought she
really put her heart into it.

And we never should have hit it off, either.





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