Marjorie Dean's Romance
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“Say, have you heard from old Hal lately?” Jerry asked her on the evening of Leila’s play, as the two girls were dressing for the event. “Because I’m going to wear my turquoise necklace I happened to think of him. He gave it to me, you know.”
“I’ve wondered myself why he hasn’t answered my last letter.” Marjorie stood before the long wall mirror surveying herself with a critical and unenthusiastic eye. She was dressed in the shaded violet frock of Chinese crepe which she had owned for five years and which was still a la mode. She had worn it only on rare occasions. It was still fresh and charming as on the night when she had worn it as a freshman to the Beauty contest. Leila had begged her to wear it “in honor of your Celtic friend and Irish playwright,” she had laughingly stipulated.
“He’s probably away on a business trip for the governor.” Jerry delivered this opinion as she poked her arms into her white fur evening coat. “Don’t forget your violets.” She patted the huge bunch of scented purple beauties at her own corsage.
Marjorie turned from the mirror. She took her own bunch of violets from the water, dried the stems and pinned them on. The faint exquisite perfume of them all but brought tears to her eyes. She thought of Angela, of Brooke Hamilton, of how they had loved violets. And then – back went her mind to the winter day when Hal had stood before the portrait of a girl who wore violets.
“I’m going for a long, long walk tomorrow,” she announced. “My head is full of cobwebs. I shall let the fresh air sweep it clear. I hope there will be a good old high wind blowing. I’ll love to walk out and fight with it.”
“I’ll go with you. Bean. Never believe you can lose me.”
“I look upon you as a permanent fixture,” Marjorie graciously assured.
“Make the most of me tonight. I’m going to leave you tomorrow. I happen to remember that I can’t be always with you.” Jerry trailed out the remark in a melancholy tone. “I like the permanent fixture idea, but I can’t be it. I have to go the round of the campus houses tomorrow and see what I can gather up for the auction. There are times when I wish I were not quite so necessary to Hamilton,” was Jerry’s regretfully modest ending.
“You don’t know what you are talking about.” Marjorie gave a funny little chuckle. “First you said I couldn’t lose you. Then you said just the opposite.”
“I know it. I seem to be like that, don’t I?” Jerry beamed foolishly upon her lovely chum.
Marjorie got into her own evening coat, a springtime affair of pale tinted silk and lace, and the pair paraded downstairs arm in arm. Jerry’s nonsense had served to restore Marjorie’s lighter spirits to normal light-heartedness. During the short ride in the limousine to Hamilton Concert Hall an energetic conversation occupied the attention of all three. It concerned the library which was to be presented to the dormitory girls when the dormitory should be completed.
Miss Susanna was determined that the students who were now the dormitory seniors should be present the next fall when the dormitory would be finished and opened.She had just announced her intention of defraying the railway expenses of the graduate “dorms” wherever they might be.
All three were also happy over Guiseppe Baretti’s present to the dormitory. He had long announced his intention of giving the “dorm a nice present.” A few days previous he had sent for Robin and Marjorie and solemnly informed them that he wished to take the expense of furnishing the dorm with the best grill room that money could secure. “I buy all for it; all,” he declared with an inclusive spread of the arms. “Then I do this. What you want buy. You give me the list ev’ry week. I buy for the dorm same I buy for me. This don’ cost me half’s much it cost the dorm.” His offer was accepted with the same deep gratitude which it seemed to Marjorie that the Travelers owed almost everyone.
The orchestra pit of the hall looked like a florist’s shop. As the trio entered the fragrance of roses and violets was wafted to their nostrils.
“Um-m. All the actors are in line for a donation,” muttered Jerry. “I hope our offerings to the bunch haven’t been side tracked.” The Travelers had gathered up among themselves a goodly sum of money for the purpose of honoring the members of the cast with flowers. Vera’s dainty pen and ink were all gone before the Hamilton Arms detail reached there.
“Miss Mason said to tell you that she had saved some sketches for you,” was the comforting assurance that met the party at the door. The message was delivered by a sophomore who was doing usher duty.
Seats of honor well up front had been reserved for the mistress of the Arms and her bodyguard. Seated in the brilliantly lighted room, the perfume of flowers on the air, the pleasant, well-bred murmur of subdued voices in her ears Marjorie thrilled to it all as she had always vibrated to the social side of Hamilton College.
She loved to think of herself as a part of it, alive and moving along with that busy, mind-profitable life. She was glad that she had such clever, wonderful friends. Not one of her chums but that had specialized in some particular talent or craft. She alone was the only one who had no hold on the fine arts beyond being an appreciative worshipper of those who were talented. Thus her thoughts ran until the rise of the curtain on “Desmond O’Dowd.”
From then on she thought only of the play itself. Leila herself had arranged the most of the setting for the first act. The opening scene was laid in the old-fashioned hall of an Irish country house of early eighteenth century. Desmond O’Dowd, the hero, whose free thinking and free speech had placed him in disfavor with the Earl of Claflin, had come to Claflin Eyrie, the earl’s home, in the hope of seeing Mona, the earl’s niece. He wished to say goodbye to her before joining a revolutionary political party which he believed to be the only one working for the good of Ireland.
It was during this act that Leila and Vera were to dance the Irish minuet of which the Hamilton girls were so fond. The play opened with a number of young men and women of Mona’s acquaintance gathered for a little evening party. The high-waisted, comparatively simple costumes of the young women were dainty foils for the dark knee trousers, square cut coats, silk stockings, fancy low shoes and lace falls of the young men. Shoulder length hair, ribbon-tied, formed a part of the picturesque dressing of the young Irish gentlemen of this period.
After a gay little dance in which the whole company joined, came the entrance into the hall of Desmond. Leila played the part with true Celtic intensity and understanding. Vera who took color from constant association with Leila, was no less convincing in the role of dainty Mona. Marjorie leaned forward in her seat breathlessly waiting for the moment to come which would introduce the minuet. She had seen it danced by the two a number of times and never tired of it. She was particularly fond of the charming setting of words that went with a part of the tune. The minuet had special music which Leila had brought from Ireland and which was very old.
“Leila can’t sing the words this time,” Marjorie whispered to Jerry. “She was grumbling to me about it not so very long ago. She can’t sing like a man and she doesn’t care to sing them in her own voice.”
The pleading, persuasive voice of Desmond to Mona, saying: “Just one dance, acushla. Tomorrow I’ll be far away across the lakes and with only the thought of you and your love to keep my poor heart from breaking.”
Marjorie breathed a long sigh of anticipatory pleasure as the preliminary strains of the minuet rose from the orchestra pit where Phillys Moore was conducting her own capable ten piece orchestra. With the usual number of deep, courtly bows the minuet began. Followed the gradual advance down the center of the pair of dancers. The odd, dainty stepping, dignified in its deliberateness. Each step in perfect accord with each note of the music combined to make a poetry of motion difficult to describe. Then – From somewhere off stage a voice suddenly began to sing:
It was a high, sweet tenor voice, vigorous of tone yet giving the Irish lilt the true lyric delicacy necessary to the rendering of any Irish song. Marjorie listened to it, entranced, yet with the vague impression that she had heard it somewhere before.
The voice sang on, seeming to grow more and more impassioned. The tender import of the love words brought a quick veil of tears to Marjorie’s eyes. It was all so real. The two lovers, surrounded in the very beginning with unsurmountable difficulties, their brave attempt to defy life and fate. Ardent Desmond pleading for the constancy of his “small white treasure.” Then that voice, ringing, a thread of defiant laughter running through its music.
Marjorie came back to reality in time to hear an excited voice in her ear growling softly: “Old Hal. Now can you beat that. It is Hal that’s doing the singing. I know it. That’s some of Leila Harper’s work. Oh-h-h. Wait until I grab both of them. I’m going behind the scenes the minute the show’s over. I’d go at the end of the first act, but I might make a nuisance of myself. If Hal Macy knows what is good for him he will march himself out front like a kind and loving brother.”
Marjorie heard Jerry’s words in a kind of pleased daze. She was conscious of one emotion above everything else. She would be very glad to see Hal. She wished he would soon come to them. But Hal did not appear. Wily Leila had enlisted his services in helping with a mob scene at the end of the second act. She needed him again to direct another third-act ensemble where the revolutionists gather about their chief, Desmond O’Dowd, in the haunted house at the foot of the Cragsmore cliff. Leila knew precisely what she was about in keeping Hal from Marjorie. She was certain both Jerry and Marjorie must have recognized his singing voice.
When the final curtain had descended after Leila and the cast had been surfeited with flowers and curtain calls, and after Leila had made a speech of few and embarrassed words, Hal had still not appeared.
“Let him go.” Jerry had grown out of patience. “I disown him. I never had a brother. I’ll will old Hal to Leila Harper for a stage hand. She has kept him back on the stage and made him work. She – ” Jerry suddenly subsided with an articulate murmur.
Marjorie looked blank. She had never before thought of Leila Harper in conjunction with Hal. How had Hal happened to know the words to the old Irish song? Leila must have sent them to him by letter. No, she must have sent the music for the minuet. She thought that he had not been in Hamilton more than a few hours. Still he might have been on the campus all day and she had never —
There she stopped. Leila was her most devoted friend. She was glad that Hal had at last shown a preference for some one beside herself. Marjorie stopped the thought process again. She found she did not wish to think about Hal and Leila as being interested in each other. She wondered next if they had been corresponding long. Leila had never mentioned in her presence that she had received a letter from Hal. Leila had —
“Marjorie.” The sound of the voice whose tender cadences had lately thrilled her was now speaking her name, and in the same ardent tone.
“Oh, Hal.” Involuntarily both hands went out to meet the strong warm ones which clasped her slender fingers close.
“You gave us a positive electric shock,” complained Jerry. “How long have you been here? Give an account of yourself.”
“Not very long.” Hal relinquished Marjorie’s hands slowly, deliberately. She stood looking at him with an expression of sweet welcome which came to him vaguely as something he had not hitherto seen in her face.
He had already warmly greeted Miss Susanna. She was now engaged in conversation with Professor Wenderblatt, who had come up to speak to her.
“There’s Lillian Wenderblatt over by the orchestra pit talking to Phil. I must see her about the auction. Back in a minute.” Jerry had not noticed any difference in Marjorie’s demeanor toward Hal. She left the two together on general principles.
“Were you surprised to hear my voice before you saw me?” Hal asked with a smile. He was trying to tell himself that he must not show Marjorie that he loved her. She did not like that.
“Yes; I didn’t recognize it for a minute. I only knew it was familiar – and beautiful,” she added with her charming lighting up of feature.
“Thank you. How are you, Marjorie, and the biography? You are the portrait girl tonight, aren’t you?” Hal was struggling valiantly to be impersonal. He wished instead to say to this lovely violet girl: “I love you. I love you.” The grace of her beauty was in his heart. The perfume from the violets at her waist was a breath of sweetness to his hungry soul.
“Yes, I am wearing my violet dress. I am well. The biography is progressing very slowly.” Marjorie felt an odd little chill at Hal’s pleasant inquiries.
“I’m going to the Arms with you,” Hal announced. “Miss Susanna insists that I shall stay there tonight. I must be on my way tomorrow. I’m planning a trip to Alaska. Expect to be gone all summer. I’ll go over to the campus tomorrow before I leave and call on Leila. She certainly is a grand old comrade.”
“I love Leila Greatheart, Hal,” Marjorie said loyally. “I’m so glad you came here to help her with her play.”
“Aren’t you just a little bit glad to see me for myself, Marjorie?” Hal could not resist putting this one question.
“You know I am.” Marjorie attempted to look into his face with her old-time frank smile. She smiled, but the smile was one of shyness. Her brown eyes rested on Hal only an instant. The rose deepened in her cheeks. Hal looked at her, and wondered.