“Well, then,” she said rather dubiously, because his voice sounded still so constrained and unnatural, “I’ll come down in the car and pick you up about half past one. Is that all right?”
“Yes,” he said. “Yes, of course. Thank you very much.”
Had inclination led Rose to do a little imaginative thinking about the half-back, from his own point of view, she might, without much trouble, have approximated the cause of his embarrassment.
Here is a poor but honest young man, who has devoted himself, heart, brain and good right arm, to the service of a beautiful young fellow student at the university. They must wait for each other, of course, until he can graduate and get admitted to the bar and make a success that will enable him to support her as she deserves to be supported. The girl declines to wait. A much older man—a great, trampling brute of a man, possessed of wealth and fame, and a social altitude positively vertiginous—asks her to marry him. She, woman-weak, yields to the temptation of all the gauds and baubles that go with his name, and marries him. Indeed, few young men at the university ever have as valid an excuse for becoming broken-hearted misogynists as the half-back. He would he faithful, of course, though she was not. And some day, years later, it might he, she would come hack broken-hearted to him, confess the fatal mistake that she had made; seek his protection, perhaps, against the cruelties of the monster she had come to hate. He would forgive her, console her—in a perfectly moral way, of course—and for a while, they would just be friends. Then the wicked husband would conveniently die, and after long years, they could find happiness.
It made a very pretty idea to entertain during the semi-somnolent hours of dull lectures and while he was waiting for the last possible moment to leap out of bed in the morning and make a dash for his first recitation. Written down on paper, the imaginary conversation between them would have filled volumes.
But to be called actually to the telephone—she had telephoned to him a thousand times in the dream—and hear her say, just as in the dream she had said—“This is Rose; do you remember me?” was enough to make even his herculean knees knock together. To be sure her voice wasn’t choked with sobs, but you never could tell over the telephone.
What did she want to do? Confront her husband with him, perhaps, this very afternoon, and say, “Here is the man I love?” And what would he do then? He’d have to back her up, of course—and until his next mouth’s allowance came in, he had only a dollar and eighty-five cents in the world!
Rose couldn’t have filled in all the details, of course, but she might have approximated the final result. Indeed, I think she had done so, unconsciously, by half past one, when her car stopped in front of the fraternity house and, instantaneously, like a cuckoo out of a clock, the half-back appeared. He was portentously solemn, and Rose thought he looked a little pale.