The Plastic Age
Prom came early in May, and Hugh looked forward to it joyously, partly because
it would be his first Prom and partly because Cynthia was coming. Cynthia! He
thought of her constantly, dreamed of her, wrote poems about her and to her. At
times his longing for her swelled into an ecstasy of desire that racked and tore
him. He was lost in love, his moods sweeping him from lyric happiness to black
despair. He wrote to her several times a week, and between letters he took long
walks composing dithyrambic epistles that fortunately were never written.
When he received her letter saying that she would come to Prom, he yelled like a
lunatic, pounded the astonished Vinton on the back, and raced down-stairs to the
"She's coming!" he shouted.
There were several men in the room, and they all turned and looked at him,
some of them grinning broadly.
"What th' hell, Hugh?" Leonard Gates asked amiably. "Who's coming? Who's
Hugh blushed and shuffled his feet. He knew that he had laid himself open to a
"royal razzing," but he proceeded to bluff himself out of the dilemma.
"She? Oh, yes, she. Well, she is she. Altogether divine, Len." He was trying hard
to be casual and flippant, but his eyes were dancing and his lips trembled with
Gates grinned at him. "A poor bluff, old man—a darn poor bluff. You're in love,
pauvre enfant, and I'm afraid that you're in a very bad way. Come on, tell us the
lady's name, her pedigree, and list of charms."
Hugh grinned back at Gates. "Chase yourself," he said gaily. "I won't tell you a
blamed thing about her."
"You'd better," said Jim Saunders from the depths of a leather chair. "Is she the
jane whose picture adorns your desk?"
"Yeah," Hugh admitted. "How do you like her?"
"Very fair, very fair." Saunders was magnificently lofty. "I've seen better, of
course, but I've seen worse, too. Not bad—um, not very bad."
The "razzing" had started, and Hugh lost his nerve.
"Jim, you can go to hell," he said definitely, prepared to rush up-stairs before
Saunders could reply. "You don't know a queen when you see one. Why,
"Cynthia!" four of the boys shouted. "So her name's Cynthia. That's—"
But Hugh was half-way up-stairs, embarrassed and delighted.
The girls arrived on Thursday, the train which brought most of them reaching
Haydensville early in the afternoon. Hugh paced up and down the station, trying
to keep up a pretense of a conversation with two or three others. He gave the
wrong reply twice and then decided to say nothing more. He listened with his
whole body for the first whistle of the train, and so great was the chatter of the
hundreds of waiting youths that he never heard it. Suddenly the engine rounded