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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 93

sion in her eyes, no humor at all. I had a sudden con-
ception of how she would look as she grew older if she
carried out her intention. But she was still twenty-two
and very lovely.
That was five years ago and many, many things
have happened since. But let me confine myself to
Marian's story. The winter after our trip to England
she taught History and coached Dramatics in a girls'
boarding school near New York City. I had pathetic
letters from her that year. She didn't like the work;
the girls got on her nerves terribly, and the other teach-
ers bored her to death. She wrote that she was stifling
in that conventional atmosphere. She kept insisting
that she was an outcast among the teachers for not be-
ing religious. She said that when she tried to study
the girls made such a racket that she either had to go
for a walk by herself or go to bed. I was disappointed
in her because I had expected that she would be more
adaptable. I was anxious to see her again because I
felt sure that I should find her very much changed.
So the next winter, when she took an apartment in
New York and started in writing for periodicals and
playing with a small company of actors who were try-
ing to do the new things, I went East to stay for a
month with her.
We spent the first day just looking at one another
and saying foolish things, trying to get adjusted again.
Marian's manner was a complete surprise to me, and
for a while it annoyed me unspeakably. She seemed
to be very conscious of being a sort of superwoman.
Yes, she certainly was conscious of herself in a way
that was entirely new. She treated nearly every one
with a sort of supercilious disdain. I had been rather
afraid that her experience as a teacher would have de-
prived her of her confidence. Not at all! She appar-
ently blamed everyone but herself for all that was un-
fortunate about it. Much of her sweetness and spon-
taneity was gone.
The first night that I was there Paul came and took
Marian and me to some sort of a gathering of poets
and artists and writers, most of them not yet arrived,
in a studio I have never known quite where. The lit-
tle Russian sculptor who owned it lent the proper at-
mosphere by his bobbed hair, which nearly reached
his shoulders, his short-waisted corduroy trousers with
a jeweled belt, and his blue shirt, opened at the throat.
The room was lighted by candles. There were a num-
ber of half-finished busts wrapped in dirty-looking rags
on stands.
"If this is what Marian likes," flashed through my
mind, "I certainly don't marvel that she was unhappy
in a boarding-school."
And before the evening was over I had ceased to
be surprised at any of the changes I had noticed in her.
I was only wondering how she had kept her sanity so
well. It was evident to me that Marian was accepted
by this motely group as a sort of superior being. They
gathered around her, asking her opinion on this thing
and that, giving her odd scraps of information the min-
ute she entered the room. As soon as they knew that
I was her friend, most of them stared at me with an
interest which was almost rude. Marian was radiant.
The little lines which were beginning to harden in her
face relaxed. She smiled graciously at all of them,
perfectly at her ease, replied cleverly, and then sat
down on a low stool near the tea-table, just where the
glimmering light from a candle fell on her profile.
But I was more interested in Paul than in these peo-
ple who were so obviously enjoying their eccentricities.
It was the first time I had met him, and I knew that
Marian was still seeing him constantly.  I am always
surprised in people I have heard a great deal about and
never seen. Paul looked a lot younger and more
boyish than I had expected. He had black hair which
waved back from his forehead almost too perfectly.
If it had not been for his vigorous physique he would
have looked a little effeminate, I thought. His mouth
was almost too small for a man, but he had such a
warm smile that one got the impression that he was
extremely handsome.
At first a tall, slender man with dark hair and a sal-
low face drew him aside and spoke to him in a tense
undertone. Paul was so open and responsive that the
contrast between the two men was striking. He evi-
dently was not interested in what the other man was
saying. He laughed at him good-humoredly and then
came over to talk to me.
"You really look about as out of place here as I
feel," I said to him.
"Oh, I bring Marian over quite often," he answered
apologetically. "They're a queer bunch, but you
know, there are a lot of things a fellow can't help lik-
ing about them. They aren't interested in this money-
grabbing business a bit. All they care about is art.
You see that fellow over there," he nodded toward a
man with a shock of tawny hair which looked all the
more luxuriant because of his pinched, freckled face.
"I know for a fact that he has lived for the last four
months on fifty dollars which he borrowed from an
uncle. His poetry isn't such bad stuff. Marion thinks
he's pretty good."
"You know," I said to him, hesitatingly and feel-
ing my ground, "it's hard for me to understand Marian
now. She has changed awfully. Now, at college she
had no use for anything not classical in art. She had
radical ideas, but she liked conventional people."
"Yes, she's changed," he said thoughtfully, "but
January, 1918

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