There had been a thrill, too, in their more sentimental passages. But at this point, there developed a most perplexing phenomenon. The idea that he wanted to make love to her, really moved and excited her; set her imagination to exploring all sorts of roseate mysteries. The first time he had ever held her hand—it was inside her muff, one icy December day when he hadn’t any gloves on—the memory of the feel of that big hand, and of the timbre of his voice, left her starry-eyed with a new wonder. She dreamed of other caresses; of wonderful things that he should say to her and she should say to him.
But here arose the perplexity. It was her imagination of the thing that she enjoyed rather than the thing itself. The wonderful scenes that her own mind projected never came true. The ones that happened were disappointing—irritating, and eventually and unescapably, downright disagreeable to her. There was no getting away from it, the ideal lover of her dreams, whose tenderness and chivalry and devotion were so highly desirable, although he might wear the half-back’s clothes and bear his face and name, was not the half-back. She might dote on his absence, but his presence was another matter.
The realization of this fact had been gradual. She wasn’t fully conscious of it, even on this March morning. But something had happened this morning that made a difference. If she’d been ascending an imperceptible gradient for the last three months, to-day she had come to a recognizable step up and taken it. Oddly enough, the thing had happened back there in the class-room as she stood before the professor’s desk and caught his eye wavering between herself and the scrawny girl who wanted to ask a question about Robespierre. There had been more than blank helpless exasperation in that look of his, and it had taught her something. She couldn’t have explained what.
To the half-back she attributed it to the month of March. “You’re ridiculous, I’m ridiculous, he’s ridiculous.” That was about as well as she could put it.
She and the half-back had walked about a hundred yards in silence. Now they were arriving at a point where the path forked.
“You’re elegant company this morning, I must say,” he commented resentfully.
Again she smiled. “I’m elegant company for myself,” she said, and held out her hand. “Which way do you go?” she asked.
A minute later she was swinging along alone, her shoulders back, confronting the warm March wind, drawing into her good deep chest, long breaths. She had just had, psychically speaking, a birthday.
She played a wonderful game of basket-ball that afternoon.
BEGINNING AN ADVENTURE
It was after five o’clock when, at the conclusion of the game and a cold shower, a rub and a somewhat casual resumption of her clothes, she emerged from the gymnasium. High time that she took the quickest way of getting home, unless she wanted to be late for dinner.