The Might-Have-Been Day
AFFINITIES? Soul-mates? These are old terms,
and the fashion is to sneer at them. Drina Mallinson used to sneer at them; she was very fashionable. It was impossible to savor all her fashion and her beauty at one taste; there was a path worn to her door from Ardsley College by those who returned and returned yet again to discover new charms. Those charms did not lie alone in the fact that her face was more perfect than anything described in Freshman Horace. That face was a phase, it is true, and Freshmen could not get by it. They became lyrical over the flash of color that died in either creamy cheek; they sat up late on the Freshman fence, with swinging legs and awed whispers, and discussed her blacker-than-black eyes; worshipped from afar, and fell into awkward silence when she passed.
Sophomores and Juniors brought new angles of approval in their wholehearted adoration of Drina’s style, beside which other girls felt as all women do when looking at pictures of Irene Castle; Drina’s dancing, which stood the test of every collegiate undulation, and Drina’s line of conversation, which could be more deliciously frothy and richly varied in its lightnesses than the latest and youngest thing from nearby finishing schools.
Seniors brought appreciation of a more sombre variety. Generally, by the time one was a Senior, one had been in love with Drina. It had to come with the settled maturity of Senior year. Here was a girl who understood; who, beautiful as she was, could sit and talk of serious matters without a roving of those silken eyes. Seniors brooded over Drina’s intelligence. After all, she was the daughter of a professor of Romance Languages. How gloriously fitting!
Ardsley College lies tucked in a green, peaceful hollow. Around it hover the mild Scotia hills; over it swarms the college life until the town is one vast, elmshaded campus. In such small limits it was more wonderful that Drina held her popularity where other girls blossomed early and faded swiftly to the timehonored title of “college widow.” A college widow had passed the twenty-year-old dead line; she was beginning to look faded from her injudicious excitement-chasing; she had grown too cynical from her sensation-hunting. The college mind, always collective and ever restless, veered away from these fatal signs and left the widow to her own devices. “It’s time the dear girl started to
take up a career, or something.” The college widow’s spirit was broken; she had been in love too many times.
Drina’s success lay greatly in the fact that she had never been in love. Lightly she flirted; she handled affairs with consummate delicacy, giving such tilts the semblance of a sparkling, poignant game. But beyond coquetry she never went. There lay untold fascination; there lay the pit in which the college languished at her feet.
Debutantes and boarding-school girls who came to the college parties encountered her with little foreboding. She was a “town girl”; and did not college tradition say that the town girls were savorless substitutes at best? Afterwards, they talked her down in sour little whispers.
“They say she has a reputation of never falling for any man.”
“And that color’s natural! It’s really too much to bear.”
“She must be at least twenty-two, and everyone admits he’s in love with her or has been.”
“What I don’t see is how the daughter of a college professor can dress the way she does.”
“All Ï can say is she’ll get stung some day! I never saw a girl like that yet who could get the man she wanted.”
There were others who said the same thing; older women about the town, and young men who waxed bitter over thwarted hopes. These sentiments would reach Drina in good time.
SHE always sighed and then laughed. Love to her was so abstract a thing that it appeared ridiculous. How could any sensible person want to undergo the pain of falling in love after she had seen others suffer from so doing? Drina hated pain. It did not go with perfect features and creamy, unlined skin; it did not go with the continual good time of this ceaseless acceptance of worship. Then, too, Drina had seen many young men, who swore that she had ruined their lives, recover enough to marry and send her pictures of their first-born. It appeared that love was nothing but talk, then; and Drina could talk magnificently.
Affinities? Soul-mates? Myth of the ages; a veritable science of self-deception!
This is the story of how Drina Mallinson was “widowed” late in the June of her twenty-second year.
It was in that calm after Senior examinations and before Commencement. Families had not yet begun tq pour down upon the town. The college was resting in preparation for that last fiery trial. Most of the underclassmen had gone home and many weary Seniors haq retired to some place of seclusion. The college was deserted; the elm-shaded streets were empty.
Drina was alone as she strolled down College Lane, but that fact had not deterred her from looking particularly lovely. She wore fresh organdie of palest pink, with black velvet ribbons at her wrists and a black hat that shaded, more than ordinarily, thoughtful eyes.
There were problems to decide, problems she had been considering for some little time. The fact that she had about made up her mind did not accelerate her unenthusiastic gait nor lift the cloud from her face.
/“CREIGHTON OLIVER was graduating and had ' long since asked her to attend Commencement exercises, as his guest. That she had accepted was nothing in itself. But, lately, he was proposing with more than usual vigor; and of a sudden Drina had been pierced by considerations.
For seven years she had been the college goddess, and the thought of multiplying those years was becoming ludicrous. Always she had told herself that she would stop before there was the slightest sign of waning. Shq planned to show the murmurers and sour-whisperers that she could retire gracefully and with rich spoils tq show for her years of honey-sipping.
Creighton Oliver was the spoils. He was the troublesome decision that confronted her. Drina’s eyes were collegiate-wise, and she knew how to judge him from all angles. He was an honorable youth sufficiently esteemed by his class to be elected Senior President. Moreover, he had an income of his own, which wa's always convenient, and even without this aid he was as much fun as anyone. Then, too, Drina liked him.
Drina by no means intended to be one of the old maids of which the town was full. Her observation of New England life had taught her that anything was better than for a girl to remain unmarried. This conclusion had become a secret mania with her. The sight of the village spinsters depressed her; she could never pass one of them without a momentary sinking of the heart. There was one in particular about whom it was said, with a cackle of triumph—
“She waited too long!”
It was the thought of waiting too long that caused Drina to shiver in her pink organdie and come to final decision. It would be Creighton Oliver; she would tell him to-morrow, before his family arrived.
Yet, strangely enough, the unexpected decision smote Drina with terror. She stood quite still in the middle of College Lane, so that the pink organdie barely quivered, and addressed herself defiantly.
“You silly piece of fluff, what do you expect? One can’t go on fooling forever! Yet! oh dear, there’s always the hope that some day—somehow—you might feel differently about things and men—but someday isn’t to-day, and somehow is nohow!”
The lane was quiet and Drina thought herself alone. She added a little desperate prayer.
“Oh, God—show me a way!”
A voice broke in upon her meditation, “Drina!” And someone came across the street to her.
“Why, Bob Marshall!” Drina was confused by the novelty of being caught praying, “Are you—are you back for reunion?’
The man who held her hand in his for a moment and then dropped it to look gravely into her eyes, was an alumnus of a year’s standing, and a fraternity brother of Creighton’s. More than a brother in bonds; all through college, Bob Marshall and Crate. Oliver had been held together by a friendship that, as one Sophomore put it, “out-Damon-ed Pythias.” The two were similar in taste, and ideals, and Drina remembered that this blond Brobdingnagian, who had given her a slight start in the moment that he held her hand had been voted the most respected man in his class, as well as the most popular. This bizarre combination of laurels always had intrigued her. But, unlike Creighton, he had never come under her sway, hence being more unique than ever in the college annals. She thought of all this in one swift moment as he towered over her and met her gaze with unsmiling blue eyes.
“Reunion?” he repeated after her. “Why—I had forgotten ail about reunion.” *
SHE laughed. “Serves me right for asking you such a foolish question! But you might have let people know. Even your own fraternity doesn’t expect you! Creighton was groaning that you couldn’t get back!”
He remained silent, looking at her so intently that she became nervous and chattered on to conceal her perturbation.
“Didn’t Creighton tell me you were out in Alberta somewhere? How’d you make the grade?”
“I made the grade to see you,” he replied. There was something so absolutely final in his voice that Drina caught her breath; it did not sound like the usual, obvious repartee that young alumni flung forth when they came back to pay their respects to the Queen. Besides, she did not suppose that she had danced as much as twice with this man during her whole college career. Yes, she knew it was twice; for reasons of her own she remembered each time distinctly. His aloofness had left her questing soul faintly tinged with dissatisfaction. Beyond that she had not bothered to look . . . but, strangely, she was looking now.
It was her turn to be silent.
“I made the grade to see you,” he repeated; “I think it was even farther to come than Alberta. But when you want a thing badly enough—the way’s opened up to you, somehow or other.”
“Do you think that’s true?” she asked, mechanically. “But what if you don’t know what you want?”
“Then you’ve got to want awfully hard to know what you want!” he said.
It was intimate under the elms in the deserted street. Drina discarded her protective armor. Why was it easier to talk to him than to the youths she knew so much better? The answer lay in the question. She knew them so much better!
“Bob—I’m afraid I’m what Rupert Brooks calls one of the ‘wanderers in the middle mist.’ And I don’t like the middle mist!”
“You aren’t going to be in the middle mist ever again, Drina. Look here—will you celebrate with me, to-day, or have you a hundred engagements, as usual?”
“I’ve only a tea date that will automatically transfer itself to to-morrow,” she deliberated; “but what do you want to celebrate?”
She found herself walking down the little street at his side while he talked.
"Why—I’ve just thought of a day that
ought to be a national holiday. We celebrate enough things we’ve done—Dominion Day, wedding anniversaries, and one thing and another—why not celebrate the things we might have done?”
“Too complicated!” said Drina flippantly.
“No. There’s always something in the life of everyone that’s the biggest Might-Have-Been. You know that’s true, Drina—even if your yearning is vague—even if your Might-Have-Been only takes the form of a vast discontent!”
“How do you know all about my little old yearnings?” she demanded.
He ignored her; he was smiling, looking past the end of the little lane.
“Might-Have-Been Day! Can’t you see how it would recreate Canada to have a holiday like that? College presidents would go out and black shoes on the Common, small boys would run candy shops, ministers would have first-nights on the stage, old maids would be village belles!”
Drina was laughing, carried along the wave of his whimsicality. “It would turn the Dominion upside down, Bob Marshall!”
“That’s just it!” he retorted, swiftly. “What we don’t realize is that it would do our souls good to be turned topsy-turvy once a year!”
They had arrived at the foot of College Lane where two ways confronted them. One led to the wide rolling campus; the other was a small path that climbed a hill. The climb was steep, the path was small; but it had great traditions at Ardsley. Almost unconsciously the' two took the tiny path, walking side by side. This engendered more intimacy than had the even College Lane.
“So this is our Might-Have-Been Day,” said Bob. “You were the end of my pilgrimage, Drina. All through college—do you want to know this? But you’ve got to know now, I’ve come too far to talk about the weather or the price of class costumes—all through college, you were almost an obsession with me.”
“I was not,” said Drina comfortably. For the moment —perhaps it was the arduous climb, perhaps the surprising situation—her mind was distracted from her
cares. “You danced with me twice. I always looked for you to come back again.”
“You remember those two dances?”
'T'HEY came to a little promontory half way up the hill, a shelf of soft green grass that jutted out and peered down into the mass of elms in the valley and the college chapel directly below. This promontory was called “Lover’s Lookout,” and many a breakable vow and sly word had slipped through its too smooth green grass. Drina herself had delicate memories that conveniently etched themselves away into nothingness as she and her companion came to an insensible pause.
“Do you remember how we sat out one of those dances, on that little bench, back of the chapel?”
“Yes. You were in training—you were supposed to have gone home, and you couldn’t be seen in the gym. Do you remember that I actually came out and met you by the chapel, so that no one would see you up so late?” “Do I remember! I thought of it for two years afterwards every time I saw you.”
“And never came near me again! Nice, clean-cut obsession I must have given you!”
“It was that kind of an obsession. I was afraid of you. Oh, you may laugh”—Drina checked her laugh, discovering that it sounded tinny; “but I saw so many good men and true flopping around in agony because they fancied themselves in love with you that I swore I would not be that particular sort of a fool. And when even my best friend fell—that was more reason than ever to keep off. So I stayed away and analyzed you.”
“Stayed away and analyzed me!” Drina’s silken eyes stared into his. There was something in his level gaze that was almost a menace; he certainly did not have the air of a man who was passing the time.
“Yes, because when I came near you, I—you know darn well how plausible you look—to say the least!”
“Well—what did you decide in your old analyzing?” “I decided that you had hold of the college like any one of our old traditions grips us. And—and just when I was getting most clever and impartial about doping you out— I got partial. I couldn’t help myself. So I stayed away from you more'than ever.”
Suddenly, inexplicably, while she stood on the little promontory, Drina felt that she had lost connection with the college world upon which they looked. That meant, that for a moment, she was apart from her world— and apart from herself, since she did not exist independent of her world.
“Oh, Bob,” she cried, “I wish you hadn’t stayed away!”
Slowly Bob turned to her.
“Drina,” he said, “I always have loved you. I’d have come back from the pearly gates to tell you so—but there aren’t any pearly gates. I love you.”
She was not conscious of moving towards him. It was a breathless eeriness that terrified Drina; it was a magic that Drina could not understand. The suddenness of it all, its ludicrous lack of reason made her want to laugh; but that feeling passed and she lost all terror, all desire to laugh. She was in love for the first time; she had been kissed, not for the first time, but in such a way that the elms in the valley sang and she was abashed at the poetry in her heart. “Listen, Bob! Do you hear music?” “Just the chapel bells, dear. It’s five o’clock. How many time I’ve dreamed of standing here with you, listening to the chapel bells!”
“That—that’s been the trouble with me, Bob. I haven’t dreamed—I never have. So much was happening all the time—I didn’t know what to dream for!”
“Do you remember what we talked about that time you came from the gym to sit out with me? We talked about dreaming and falling in love, and ‘all that soul-stuff.’ That’s what you called it. You said that as far as you had observed, love was inflammation of the ego, and people who dreamed about ideals and things had better consult Freud or change their diet; and as for that soul-stuff, you would like to meet a man’s soul and find out what it was all about.” “Did I say that!” Drina marvelled, and clung fast to his hand. “No wonder you ran away and analyzed at long distance! As I remember the conversation, I was desperately trying to be attractive and clever. Freud would have analyzed me as falling in love with you then!”
“Perhaps you were! Otherwise—how
could I have carried so strong a conviction that things would end like this, somehow, sometime?”
Continued on page 64
The Might-Have-Been Day
Continued from page 16
“I love you!” Drina answered; and •gain there was embarrassing poetry in the air, and around them, on the toosmooth green grass.
AFTER a while, they mounted to the - top of the hill, hand in hand. Drina wTas almost speechless with the great peace that enfolded her. Why had no one told her that she would feel so much better after she fell in love?
“There’s such a sureness about everything, and it’s all come so quickly,” she told him. “I feel as if I knew you all through—I don’t want to be told a thing. No, not even your business, what you’re doing and what you’re going to do—that sort of thing doesn’t go with to-day. Anyway, it doesn’t matter if you are oorer than a college professor. I keep ouse for father, you know, and make all my own clothes. It’s my one talent!”
“I have often thought how wonderful it must be to be associated with your father,” he said. “What a chance to help him in the many ways a professor needs aid and at the same time imbibe from the wealth of culture he simply exudes—I always thought it -was clever of you not to petrify the college youth with too much erudition.”
She wriggled. That was just one thing! It was true that she kept house for her father, but that was as far as it w'ent. She knew that for a long time he had needed an assistant for which the college did not provide and his purse and his pride could not; she knew that with a little concentration of her agile brain, she could put herself into a position to help her father greatly and benefit therefrom on her own account. But, heavens—one could not do everything! It took all one’s time to fashion clothes that would rival a modiste’s creation and wear them at suitable occurrences. A professor’s assistant was a dried-up little old maid with a blue pencil in her hand, sitting huddled over a batch of examination papers.
But the uneasiness of that consideration melted away almost as quickly as it always had before. There was so much to say. That absurd conversation three ears ago on the bench outside the chapel ad to be gone over thoroughly.
“So I said all this soul-stuff was terrible!”
“You said you’d like to meet a man’s soul and see what it was all about. That’s the strongest thing that brought me back, I think.”
“I always thought you were one of the most attractive men I’d ever seen, and ou’ve no idea how that consideration aunts a girl when the man passes by on the other side.”
He laughed, “It’s about the only consideration that ever did haunt you, isn’t it?”
AGAIN there was a vague uneasiness.
Could he have meant that sentence as it sounded? But he took her hand in his and kissed it, and so the subject changed.
"What is there about hills?” Drina wondered presently. “While I am up here with you, I feel as if we were all dreadful little atoms rushing about to no purpose there below. If I could stay here always I would do nothing but good things—why is it that I feel that way?”
"I suppose hills make us see how small and unimportant many things are,” Bob replied. “Maybe hills were given us so that now and then we’d catch a glimpse—” “But I’ve been up here many a time before and never caught a glimpse of anything, except what fools men are!” Drina cried. “Is it you who make the difference—you who are teaching me?” “My dear,” he said, with a twinkle, “we are rushing along much too fast. By all the laws of love-affairs, we should not have reached the introspective stage so soon. Let us be charmed purely and simply, for a while longer.”
And so they lingered on the hill-top for a charmed interval until the sun no longer winked at them from the horizon of the little mountain-range opposite and the evening breeze began to hint that there were other matters of moment. Then they descended, hand in hand, stopping for a moment to pay their respects to the promontory. Was it possible that but an hour •eo they had come up to that little shelf of green as mere acquaintances?
It was too late for tea, and so they idled
down College Lane to the Inn, at the other end, where there was a chance of a secluded dinner.
“Here is where you came over and spoke to me. Do you remember?”
“Do I remember? It was my one aim to reach you. Now there is no more.” “How did you know that I would be there? Did you go over to the house first?” “No, I knew you would be walking down College Lane, alone, wearing a pink dress and a black hat. I knew that I would reach you just as you stood under the Wishing-Elm.”
“Oh! I had forgotten that was the Wishing-Elm!”
_ “I hadn’t. It was all bound up in the picture—and that is the way I found you.” “You started out so flippantly, too! Do you remember? Asking me to celebrate Might-Have-Been Day with you!”
“Well — isn’t it Might-Have-Been Day?” They paused in front of the Inn where its casemented shutters threw a ruddy light over Drina’s pink dress and left Bob in the twilight at her side. “It’s what might have been a year ago—two years ago—even three—if I hadn’t been so afraid of you!”
“Afraid of me!” Drina laughed. “I don’t think many girls lose their Fates in that particular way! No, don’t let’s talk about the Might-Have-Been stuff, Bob. It makes me feel creepy—and you did come back, so 'might' ain’t is!''
They went in through the little doorway to the farthest, low-studded room. Ordinarily crowded, the restaurant was deserted at this early hour of the idle season.
“This was another dream of mine,” said Bob. “To have dinner with you here some time. I saw you so often having dinner with others.”
“Others! For the moment I had forgotten there was such a thing as other men!” Drina discovered. It was well that she had qualified her statement. For, as she spoke, she looked up and saw Creighton Oliver in the doorway regarding her with round, reproachful eyes. He had been the automatically transferable teadate. There were few places around the college to look for a person, and this was one of them.
DRINA’S first reaction was a thunderous scowl that made Creighton stagger on the threshold. They were seated so that Bob’s back was turned to Creighton so that it was not possible for that young man to see anything of what passed. At best, this was a disagreeable contretemps which, if gone through with, involved explanations of the more intricate sort. For a second Drina tarried with the thought of taking a more expeditious way. If she ignored Creighton he would leave unobtrusively and she could explain—or not explain—at her leisure. It would be awkward to break the news to him now—perhaps worse than awkward.
For one second only she titillated with a thousand conflicting objections; then her eyes happened to encounter Bob’s. Swiftly she waved greeting to Creighton and beckoned. He came rushing to her side with all the grace of a young lion cub; but before he had even spoken to her he saw Bob, and the two fell upon each other after the primeval manner of college men who have not seen one another for one or twenty years. Drina watched their antics patiently; she knew of their great friendship and she also knew that no matter how much in love with her either one might be, she was forgotten for the moment. However, it was only a moment. When the back-slapping was over, both men sat down and beamed upon her.
“Just in time to join us, old man,” said Bob, with what Drina considered unnecessary cordiality.
“I’ll sit with you,” said Creighton, “but I won’t eat. I’ve just had tea—alone.” The last with a reproachful roll of his eyes that Drina caught and rolled back again. Bob was not oblivious to these manoeuvres.
“All my fault, Crate,” he said, “I took her off; but you’ve had her all year, you know, and I’ve come a long way for the purpose of seeing her once.”
This explanation cast rather a fog over the three, which Drina strove to dispel by further explanation “We—” she began; but Bob interrupted her with a warning glance.
“We’ve been walking around to some of the old points of interest and I haven’t been up to the house yet. Did we get a good crowd of Freshmen this year?”
As they plunged into collegiate discussion, Drina bit her lips, a little angry and not a little chagrined. It had required courage to plunge into the explanation that Bob obviously did not wish her to give. Why had he interrupted?
THE waitresshad the surprising perception to bring dinner for two, and Drina hoped that Creighton would perceive he was a minus quantity and leave after a period of discretion. But no, he stayed on with his usual blandness and talked college and fraternity to Bob, who naturally was interested.
Any other girl would have been humiliated, as well as bored, during the course of the dinner; but Drina was sufficiently cognizant of Ardsley life to be interested in the conversation, even to put in an intelligent word now and then. She knew the college mind and so she realized that this was a compliment rather than an insult to her charms. Nevertheless, the particular circumstances rendered the situation difficult and she was thankful when Creighton pulled out his watch and announced a dinner engagement.
“Just a minute, Crate,” said Bob, “I’ll have to ask you to pay the bill here; haven’t a cent in my jeans.”
“Love to,” said Creighton; “if you remember, I owe you a dinner from last year anyway. When will you be up to the house?”
“I don’t know. Give my best to everybody, will you?”
When they were alone Drina lost no time.
“Why didn’t you let me tell Crate Oliver about us?” she demanded.
“Because it’s better this way,” Bob replied quietly.
“How do you know it’s better this way? Perhaps you don't know that I was going to Commencement with him and his old family; perhaps you don’t know a lot of other things that complicate the situation and that I wanted to set right!”
Drina was sorry she had spoken so vehemently when she saw his expression. It was more than sad; it was patient. “Drina,” he said, “I love you. You won’t understand just now—but that’s why I wanted to leave things as they were with Crate Oliver.”
_ “Surely you don’t want me to smirk at his fat family all through Commencement —after this!” cried Drina.
“I want you to choose what you’re going to do about him—later.”
Drina pulled herself up with a scarcely perceptible jerk. That Bob did not make sense was no reason to bring a disagreeable tint into the conversation. So she slipped away from the subject of Creighton. It was easy to do so.
FOR the first time in her life, Drina strolled in the Ardsley dusk with lingering feet and was so terribly sincere about it all that it hurt. She had seen that hurt come to others and had steeled herself against it; but, now, it was a unique part of this phenomenon.
It was late when they came to Professor Mallinson’s cottage. One tiny light burned welcome in the hall, thus Drina’s father paid tribute of resignation to her erratic hours. They stood outside on the vine-covered veranda, because even that tiny light was too much. Drina gave a casual thought to the many times she had stood behind those vines and flirted with good-byes. The vines always listened; they always were interested. Did they forget as easily as Drina? No one knew; noncommittally they spread their screen against the street. Drina’s life now seemed what she had always dimly desired it to be—a procession of men leading up to the last and best. Was not that life, after all, the one for which all girls longed and worked?
“Promise me one thing, Drina,” said Bob; and Drina realized it was the first time in their Litany that he had made a request. “Promise me that you’ll never forget what we’ve said to-day.”
It came to Drina as an anti-climax. “Now that’s a silly promise,” she objected. “How could I possibly forget the only day that’s ever mattered?”
"I didn’t say the day—I said, what we’ve said to-day. And people do forget— things that matter. Do you remember war times—how permeated everyone was with the spirit of self-sacrifice, how we all
wanted to do something good, something that counted for someone? Do you remember the start of the scramble, every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost—-immediately on the signing of the armistice? People do forget!”
“You sound so final!” Drina cried. “I’m going to see you every day of my life after this; how can you talk of forgetting? You make me afraid, Bob—afraid that you’re going to stop caring, when you talk like that!”
“Drina—listen to me!” Solemnly through the -darkness came his words: “As long as I have an immortal soul, or whatever it is God gives us to think and dream and live on with—so long will I love you. And that is infinity—if we have faith.”
He was gone in the darkness, and Drina with his kiss on her lips, shivered alone among the listening vines.
THE morning was bright with joyousness, a perfect day to usher in Commencement. From her window, Drina could see the green of the campus all flecked and barred with gilt, and her heart bounded high with the sun.
“All this glory is an omen,” she told herself; “an omen of what lies before us.” But since the sun laughs at inconsistencies, she remembered that, as yet, the question of Commencement had not been decided. Why had Bob said nothing about taking her himself? It was beyond range of human possibility that he should expect her to go with Creighton now! Frowning, she began to inspect her wardrobe. No matter with whom she was going, certain clothes had to be worn and worn well.
She was dallying between changing a ribbon and looking out of the window over the campus in impatient anticipation when Creighton Oliver swung into sight down the road. He was walking swiftly, almost disjointedly; even at that distance, Drina could see that he was upset about something.
“Oh, bother!” she said, and threw down her work. “I suppose Bob’s told him.” Annoyed both by anticipation of# the scene that must follow and the disappointment of seeing Creighton instead of Bob, she went downstairs and poised herself coldly On the vine-covered veranda.
“Good-morning, Crate,” she said without welcome. “You’re up early.” Purposely she did not look at him until he spoke; then his tone compelled a startled glance.
Creighton’s ruddy color had been sucked away; his eyes stared blankly at her; his face was jerking in an odd manner. “Drina—Drina—” he cried; “I’ve got something to tell you, something that you’ve got to stand—you’ve got to have pluck and see it through, do you hear?” Drina’s hysteria rose and matched his. “What is it? What is it, Crate Oliver— how do you expect me to see it through if I don’t know what it is—”
“It’s—that the fraternity flag’s at halfmast this morning,” Creighton said, in a voice that spun far away from her: “at half-mast for Bob Marshall.”
AGREAT calm seemed to descend upon Drina. She ignored the roaring in her ears, a sudden stiffness in her knees; with an agonized wish to show an un felt intelligence she repeated mechanically. “For Bob Marshall? You mean that he—”
“Is dead. And Drina—that isn’t all!” Deceived by her calm, he rushed on. “My God—-that isn’t all! Drina—he died yesterday morning—in Edmonton. The news was wired to the house late last night and verified early in the morning. Do you hear me? Bob Marshall died yesterday morning in Edmonton...” “What do you mean?” Drina cried fiercely. “You saw him with me. He was with me all afternoon and evening—You. saw him with me! Didn’t he come back to the Fraternity House? What do you mean?”
“No, he didn’t come back to the Fraternity House,” Crate droned. “He isn’t registered anywhere in fown—I’ve been around with a fine-toothed comb this a.m. And, Drina—steady, dear— the waitress at the Inn swears that you came in alone last night and I joined youthat there was no third person there!”
The listening vines caught Drina as she fell.