Hugh wrote two letters before he went to bed, one to his mother and father and the other to Helen Simpson. His letter to Helen was very brief, merely a request for her photograph.
Then, his mind in a whirl of excitement, he went to bed and lay awake dreaming, thinking of Carl, the college, and, most of all, of Helen and his walk with her the day before.
He had called on her to say good-by. They had been "going together" for a year, and she was generally considered his girl. She was a pretty child with really beautiful brown hair, which she had foolishly bobbed, lively blue eyes, and an absurdly tiny snub nose. She was little, with quick, eager hands—a shallow creature who was proud to be seen with Hugh because he had been captain of the high-school track team. But she did wish that he wasn't so slow. Why, he had kissed her only once, and that had been a silly peck on the cheek. Perhaps he was just shy, but sometimes she was almost sure that he was "plain dumb." They had walked silently along the country road to the woods that skirted the town. An early frost had already touched the foliage with scarlet and orange. They sat down on a fallen log, and Hugh gazed at a radiant maple-tree. Helen let her hand drop lightly on his. "Thinking of me?" she asked softly. Hugh squeezed her hand. "Yes," he whispered, and looked at the ground while he scuffed some fallen leaves with the toe of his shoe.
"I am going to miss you, Hughie—oh, awfully. Are you going to miss me?" He held her hand tightly and said nothing. He was aware only of her hand. His throat seemed to be stopped, choked with something.
A bird that should have been on its way south chirped from a tree near by. The sound made Hugh look up. He noticed that the shadows were lengthening. He and Helen would have to start back pretty soon or he would be late for dinner. There was still packing to do; his mother had said that his father wanted to have a talk with him—and through all his thoughts there ran like a fiery red line the desire to kiss the girl whose hand was clasped in his.
He turned slightly toward her. "Hughie," she whispered and moved close to him. His heart stopped as he loosened her hand from his and put his arm around her. With a contented sigh she rested her head on one shoulder and her hand on the other. "Hughie dear," she breathed softly.
He hesitated no longer. His heart was beating so that he could not speak, but he bent and kissed her. And there they sat for half an hour more, close in each other's embrace, speaking no words, but losing themselves in kisses that seemed to have no end.
Finally Hugh realized that darkness had fallen. He drew the yielding girl to her feet and started home, his arm around her. When they reached her gate, he embraced her once more and kissed her as if he could never let her go. A light flashed in a window. Frightened, he tried to leave, but she clung to him. "I must go," he whispered desperately.
"I'm going to miss you awfully." He thought that she was weeping—and kissed her again. Then as another window shot light into the yard, he forced her arms from around his neck.
"Good-by, Helen. Write to me." His voice was rough and husky.
"Oh, I will. Good-by—darling."
He walked home tingling with emotion. He wanted to shout; he felt suddenly grown up. Golly, but Helen was a little peach. He felt her arms around his neck again, her lips pressed maddeningly to his. For an instant he was dizzy....
As he lay in bed in 19 Surrey thinking of Helen, he tried to summon that glorious intoxication again. But he failed. Carl, the college, registration—a thousand thoughts intruded themselves. Already Helen seemed far away, a little nebulous. He wondered why....