Dell was very interested in my affairs both of heart and hand. She added glamor to my clothes and, occasionally, for a musical soiree of importance, docked me in her own models. Since she was lissom and I well-rounded, I had to pull the strings of my armor to avoid looking like today’s sweater girl.
Although I was still in swaddling clothes, musically speaking, Professor Lutkin had set me to work on a group of compositions that I was to play at the Spring Concert of the school. One of them was an ornamental “Concertstueck” with a second piano part and I was absorbed with its exactions. Studying music might be a hardship to some but it was never humdrum for me.
I had had quite a lot of attention from boys of late, though much of it could be attributed to rivalry. As soon as Bill proffered an invitation, Eric conceived a plan that he hoped would outdo Bill’s and the affair simmered as to which would be quicker on the draw. Since I was mentally and emotionally on the Cream-of-Wheat level (Mr. Lutkin had guessed I was fourteen), I had not regarded the attentions of either Bill or Eric with more than light-hearted pleasure. My eyes were fixed on the pianoforte. Love and marriage were too obscured in a nebulous future to have more than ephemeral marriage on my calendar
One day as I passed up the porch steps and into the house, Isabel, sitting on the steps, said with much eye-rolling, “I know someone who’s in love!” Frances Boker, sitting beside her, said quickly, “Don’t be silly, Isabel,” and sent warning glances in her direction as I continued into the house. I hadn’t bothered to answer because everyone knew that Isabel only thought in terms of love and marriage, and was forever talking about her latest crush.
Bill had a room on the main highway of my route to school and in case he were in doubt as to my movements, he could study by the window. He was writing a thesis and it consumed a good many hours.
One evening, as I returned from a recital, he had suddenly appeared like Red Ridinghood’s wolf from among the tree shadows and, with a “Good-evening,” had taken his place beside me. I was in a very excited mood, looking forward to two weeks crowded with gayeties that were to be topped off with the Beta picnic to Highland Park by boat, our departure for Springfield, and Frances Boker’s wedding set for early July.
Chatter came easily from sheer good spirits and infantile judgment led me to laughingly tell how Isabel had said I was in love. Before I could add that she was crazy to think such a thing, he said, “Well, I guess she’s right, Una,” and with a crash my gay spirits tumbled about my ears.
“But it isn’t true,” I said. “I’m not in love.”
“I hoped it was,” he replied, for I’ve been wanting for a long time to tell you that I’m quite hopelessly in love with you.”
I was definitely shocked. Easy words dried on my lips and I tried to tell him that it was a schoolboy fancy. (I had taken that from some book I had read.) But he looked so serious that I was scared and I almost ran the last block to get to Mother. As we walked up the steps he said, “You tell your mother, Una, what I have told you,” and he turned and left.
I was still goggle-eyed when I took off my hat and walked into the room upstairs where Mother was getting ready for bed.
“Did you have a nice recital?” she asked, and then looking at me added, “Who brought you home?”
“Mr. Plow,” I said, “and he thinks he’s in love with me.”
“You mean that he declared himself?” she quizzed.
“I guess that’s what you would call it,” I said with inertia.
“Did he ask you to marry him?” she followed up.
“No. He just told me to tell you what he had said to me,” I repeated.
Mother gave me a keen look. “And what did you say?” she inquired.
“O, I told him he’d get over it, but he didn’t think so,” I replied.
“Neither do I,” said Mother.
“How do you feel about him?” she asked cautiously.
“I told him I liked him but I wasn’t anxious to get married for a long time.”
“Well, you’d better get to bed and I’ll talk to Bill tomorrow,” she said and closed the conversation.
I undressed quickly and climbed into bed but excitement left my eyes strained and I felt no desire to sleep. I was first of all chagrined that the episode had happened. I had avoided dangerous conversation with boys before and I knew now that I had skated on thin ice and was in for a ducking. I had no idea of the anguish I had caused. I’d never so much as had a crush on a man. Indeed, I liked Bill better than anyone I had ever met outside my own family, and I was sorry as I knew how to be. Mostly, however, I was surprised and elated that such a thing could happen to me. I hadn’t believed, up to that moment, that I was attractive enough to make a man fall in love with me. With that thought in mind I finally fell asleep.
I woke in the morning to recall in a flash the happenings of the night before. I knew that in spite of all that had been said, there would be repercussions. Bill and I had dates ahead every day and I was sure that Mother would enter into the picture.
She had already written a note to him and delivered it to his roommate when I had breakfasted, although I didn’t know it. I never knew, either, what happened at their interview except that Bill hadn’t enjoyed it. I think Mother hoped that ultimately I would marry Bill, but not at eighteen.
Being proposed to had certainly done something to me and all at once I felt a sympathy with mothers who wanted to see their daughters profitably wed. I began to wonder what was the matter with me that I hadn’t fallen in love like the rest of the girls, and I wrote in my diary, “I don’t see why I’m not in love unless it’s just that I’m too childish and immature.”