He wasn’t wholly appeased. It was rather with an air of resignation that he held the door for her to go out by. They strolled along in silence until they rounded the corner of the building. Here, ceremoniously, he fell back, walked around behind her and came up on the outside. She glanced up and asked him, incomprehensibly, to walk on the other side, the way they had been. He wanted to know why. This was where he belonged.
“You don’t belong there,” she told him, “if I want you the other way. And I do.”
He heaved a sigh, and said “Women!” under his breath. Mutabile semper! No matter how much you knew about them, they remained incomprehensible. Their whims passed explanation. He was getting downright sulky.
As a matter of fact, he did her an injustice. There was a valid reason for her wanting him to walk on the other side. What gave the appearance of pure caprice to her request was just her womanly dislike of hurting his feelings. There was a small boil on the left side of his neck and when he walked at her left hand, it didn’t show.
“Oh, don’t be fussy,” she said. “It’s such a dandy day.”
But the half-back refused to be comforted. And he was right about that. A woman never tells you to cheer up in that brisk unfeeling way if she really cares a cotton hat about your troubles. And a candid deliberate self-examination would have convinced Rose that she didn’t, in spite of the sentimentally warm March wind that was blowing her hair about. She was less moved by the half-back’s sorrows this morning than at any time during the last six months. She’d hardly have minded the boil before to-day.
Six months ago, he had been a very wonderful person to her. There had been a succession of pleasant—of really thrilling discoveries. First, that he’d rather dance with her than with any other girl in the university. (You’re not to forget that he was a celebrity. During the football season, his name was on the sporting page of the Chicago papers every day—generally in the head-lines when there was a game to write about, and Walter Camp had devoted a whole paragraph to explaining why he didn’t put him on the first all-American eleven but on the second instead—a gross injustice which she had bitterly resented.)
There was a thrill, then, in the discovery that he liked her better than other girls, and a greater thrill in the subsequent discovery that she had become the basis of his whole orientation. It was her occupations that left him leisure for his own; his leisure was hers to dispose of as she liked; his energy, including his really prodigious physical prowess, to be directed toward any object she thought laudable. Six months ago she would not have laughed—not in that derisive way at least—at the notion of his going back and beating up the professor.