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Adler, Philip A. (ed.) / Wisconsin literary magazine
Volume XVII, Number 4 (January 1918)

Colvin, Jessica B.
At twenty-seven,   pp. 92-95


Page 92

WISCONSIN LITERARY MAGAZINE
January, 1918
At Twenty-Seven
I HAVE been thinking this morning of the day that
Marian and I had luncheon together at the Ches-
shire Cheese, when we were in London five years ago.
To be perfectly frank I suppose it was because I am
hungry that my mind has wandered to the toasted
cheese we had in little oblong tin pans, the pigeon pie,
and the strawberries with Devonshire cream. It was
almost the only good meal we had in England that
summer and just having come down from Oxford,
where no one cares what he eats, we certainly appre-
ciated it. So when I am hungry and think of England
it is of that luncheon. But as I think of it now in the
light of all that has happened to Marian since that day
it is memorable for more than the menu.
We stayed there talking for hours in the dingy lit-
tle booth where our luncheon was served. The wait-
ers went about their business ignoring us, and we felt
very isolated and intimate in our dark corner. Marian
had on a tiny hat of brilliant blue feathers, which
brought out the gold in her hair and brightened her
eyes, her whole face in fact. She did most of the talk-
ing. Well as I have always known Marian, her per-
sonality is a little mysterious and baffling to me and I
listen spellbound if a mood of self-revealment comes
upon her. Our conversation of that day is still very
distinct in my mind.
We talked about our careers for a long time, more
or less vaguely, for we were just out of college and
they were pretty much matters of theory then. I re-
member that Marian finally said to me quite seriously:
"You know, Alice, Paul's nice letter this morning
made me wonder why it is that I've never been in love.
It's really a queer record for a girl of my age."
"You have an extraordinary capacity for being im-
personal," I replied in a matter of fact tone, which
suddenly reminded me of the way I used to answer
questions in my English classes. "You know," I said,
"you've admitted before that people don't interest you
except as purveyors of ideas. You never notice stupid
people, unless it happens to be some old man with a
long beard and a picturesque blue shirt who takes your
fancy, or maybe a little girl with a freckled face and
cute pig-tails."
She did not seem to notice what I was saying. She
was toying with her silver bag and looking out of the
window, evidently thinking.
Finally she said, "Alice, I feel sure today that I
shall never marry. Every one has always taken for
granted that I would some time soon, and I had more
or less accepted the idea myself, But there is so much
I want to do. I'd like to take up one thing after an-
other and do all extremely well. I'd like to prove to
everyone, especially to men, that I am independent
and capable and intelligent. I am always furious when
men don't treat me as an equal. I want to show
them!"
Her big, eager brown eyes were shining with en-
thusiasm. I hadn't seen her so animated for a long
time. "But, heavens," she added after a while, "I
don't know why I am so excited. So far as I know,
no one has the slightest desire to hinder my determina-
tion to be an old maid."
I looked at the delicate lines of her face, and the
smart tilt of her hat and wondered. But of course I
knew that she was not the kind of -girl the average
American man falls in love with. She was too intelli-
gent, or too aloof somehow.
"What about Paul?" I asked her.
"My dear, that's an impersonal friendship if ever
there was one," she said. "That's why I like him so
much. We can sit for hours talking about everything
under the sun, and he just takes it for granted that my
brain is as good as his. We like to do so many of the
same things. Well, we just naturally have an awfully
good time together. If all men were like Paul-! But
of course he's never thought of falling in love with me,
and I certainly can't conceive of loving him."
"Marian, you're so good looking that I never could
understand how even your brains saved you from be-
ing a social butterfly. And here you are just naturally
being the perfect modern woman." Flattery means
nothing to Marian, in fact she hates compliments about
her looks, so I knew that it was all right to say this to
her. "Not another girl I know could have a friend-
ship like that. They all talk about it, and would like
to, but they simply can't. Most people with your am-
bitions, are homely and untidy. You have everything
in your favor to start out with-looks, taste, brains,
determination. It would be almost a shame to waste
you on a home. I can't imagine your being anything
but a success."
Marian smiled a little vaguely. Again I knew that
she was hardly listening. After a minute she said very
positively, "I am sure now that I shall never marry."
I had a feeling that she was actually formulating her
intention that day for the first time, and I suppose that
that is why her words and the expression of her face
are so vivid to me now. There was just a faint tight-
ening of the muscles at the corners of her mouth as she
said these words. There was a slightly grim expres-
92


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