The Plastic Age
Hugh spent the summer at home, working on the farm, reading a little, and
occasionally visiting a lake summer resort a few miles away. Helen had left
Merrytown to attend a secretarial school in a neighboring city, and Hugh was
genuinely glad to find her gone when he returned from college. Helen was
becoming not only a bore but a problem. Besides, he met a girl at Corley Lake,
the summer resort, whom he found much more fascinating. For a month or two
he thought that he was in love with Janet Harton. Night after night he drove to
Corley Lake in his father's car, sometimes dancing with Janet in the pavilion,
sometimes canoeing with her on the lake, sometimes taking her for long rides in
the car, but often merely wandering through the pines with her or sitting on the
shore of the lake and staring at the rippling water.
Janet was small and delicate; she seemed almost fragile. She did everything
daintily—like a little girl playing tea-party. Her hands and feet were exquisitely
small, her features childlike and indefinite, except her little coral mouth, which
was as clearly outlined with color as a doll's and as mobile as a fluttering leaf.
She had wide blue eyes and hair that was truly golden. Strangely, she had not
bobbed it but wore it bound into a shining coil around her head.
Hugh wrote a poem to her. It began thus:
Maiden with the clear blue eyes,
Lady with the golden hair,
Exquisite child, serenely wise,
Sweetly tender, morning fair.
He wasn't sure that it was a very good poem; there was something reminiscent
about the first line, and he was dubious about "morning fair." He had, however,
studied German for a year in high school, and he guessed that if morgenschön
was all right in German it was all right in English, too.
They rarely talked. Hugh was content to sit for hours with the delicate child
nestling in his arm, her hand lying passive and cool in his. She made him feel
very strong and protective. Nights, he dreamed of doing brave deeds for her, of
saving her from terrible dangers. At first her vague, fleeting kisses thrilled him,
but as the weeks went by and his passion grew, he found them strangely
When she cuddled her lovely head in the hollow of his shoulder, he would lean
forward and whisper: "Kiss me, Janet. Kiss me." Obediently she would turn her
face upward, her little mouth pursed into a coral bud, but if he held her too tightly
or prolonged the kiss, she pushed him away or turned her face. Then he felt
repelled, chilled. She kissed him much as she kissed her mother every night, and
he wanted—well he didn't quite know what he did want except that he didn't want
to be kissed that way.
Finally he protested. "What's the matter, Janet?" he asked gently. "Don't you love
"Of course," she answered calmly in her small flute-like voice; "of course I love
you, but you are so rough. You mustn't kiss me hard like that; it isn't nice."