The first inkling Buddy had he was not going to Europe with Hilda was one morning, without a hint of warning, she produced her disfigured passport before him in the Student Union.
They had planned their trip together for nearly four years—ever since they were freshmen, and the sight of her passport, savagely torn, with the photo missing, left him entirely wordless. He felt almost as though she had disfigured herself.
"You'll have to send for another passport right away," Buddy told her.
"But I don't mean to!" Hilda said, laughing. She was in wonderful humor.
They sat right by the window where she could wave to her friends who passed, and as she said she didn't mean to, she waved to a girl.
"What do you mean you don't mean to," he said. He had been eating a dish of chocolate-marshmallow ice cream, and now he pushed it away quickly, nodded to the bus-boy, who with the rapidity of a walk-on in a play, took the dish from him.
"What did you say?" Hilda asked suddenly, bringing her attention from the window.
"How are you going to get to Europe?" he said.
"I'm using Corinne's passport. My sister Corinne's," Hilda told him.
"Look, have you gone bats or what," he picked up the pieces of passport and stared at them. "What in hell did you tear this with?" he inquired.
"Don't be tiresome," she said. "Seriously!" she exclaimed, and she looked at the window now.
"But Hilda, I mean," he began, and his voice was suddenly like that of a man of forty.
"I told you what I'm going to do," she said. "Stop nagging."
"You can't use Corinne's passport," he said. "It's against the law."
"My own sister's? Why I look more like her than she does."
Hilda finished her lime-ade, and smiling at the bus-boy handed the glass to him.
"You have really gone bats," he told her.
"You say that much too much," she replied.
"Why we could both get into terrible..." He stopped because he saw that there must be something he didn't know.
"You don't want to go to Europe, then," he said, unconvinced that this statement had anything to do with their situation.
She looked at him. "Why of course I want to," she said, and she sounded very sincere. "I'm dying to. I've waited four years!"
"Of course, I know you are crazy," he told her. "I wouldn't want to go with you if you weren't. But I don't think we should take on the whole United States Government."
"Oh, it's only the passport people," she replied. "And it's only Corinne. If they arrested anybody, they would arrest her, for Pete's sake."
"Then the whole trip's off, you mean," he said without any expression, as though he had read this statement on the table. "Three,—four years of planning," he said in the same expressionless voice, and then, with a bit more force: "What do you think I'm going to tell my folks?"
"Tell them anything you like," she said.
His wounded look brought up something like attention in her and she began to talk a little more. "You see, Buddy, I couldn't bear that photograph of me in the passport, for one thing. It made me look like our French teacher or something. About 100 and a permanent virgin. I couldn't appear in European capitals with that photo."
"But you could have another made."
"And the boat sailing in three days," she said.
He admitted she was right.
"We planned this trip ever since we were freshmen," he repeated this bit of knowledge. "And now that we're engaged too and all," he said, looking up from the bits of her passport.
"But if you cared anything at all about me, you wouldn't care," she said. "You're just afraid is all. I don't know what you're afraid of, but you are. And I hate you for it. I just hate you for it."
"For the love of mud," he said.
"Oh, how tiresome," she replied.
"Well," Hilda said, after a pause during which she had watched him for some sign of decision, and she stood up, still watching him lazily. "I hope you'll come to your senses," she said. "Let Corinne worry. She deserves to."
Suddenly her eye lighting on the remains of her passport, she seized the pieces quietly and tearing them in even finer pieces, left them with him.
"For the love of mud," he said again. His face went a terrible red as though she had thrown a chemical in his eyes.
He sat there in the deserted student union trying to think of what to do, and finally he decided he must see Hilda's mother. Corinne was in another city, and he couldn't just let the whole thing rest here. Picking up the pieces of her passport, he walked out of the building, and headed for Mrs. Wormley's.
Buddy told Hilda's mother about her daughter's not wanting to use her own passport, and he found not too much to his surprise that Mrs. Wormley was almost as unaware of the nature of law as her daughter. Mrs. Wormley had purple fingernails today, he noticed, and her hair was close to a certain shade of purple also. She was too nervous to sit down during their talk and kept looking out the window.
"I'm expecting a special delivery letter," she told Buddy.
"How about my daughter," Mrs. Wormley said finally, half-turning to him. "Let her use her sister's passport. You know she looks more like Corinne than Corinne does."
"Could I have a glass of water, do you suppose?" Buddy asked her.
She looked at him a short while before answering. "Of course you may," she said at last, and she pulled on a cord.
"Bring the young man a glass of cold water," she told the maid who entered.
"You see," Mrs. Wormley said, still not sitting down, and repeating her thought, "Hilda looks more like Corinne than Corinne does. Always has. You've met Corinne, haven't you," Mrs. Wormley wanted to know.
"We just can't go then, I guess," he said when he had drunk the water.
"Well that's up to you, of course," Mrs. Wormley told him. "Quite up to you...But I don't see why you should cross Hilda in a small thing like this...You see, you're engaged to her now, and that makes a bit of a difference..."
"I know I'm engaged, of course," he told Mrs. Wormley.
"You're both engaged," Mrs. Wormley said. "Remember that." She looked out the window again. "I can't understand why that letter doesn't come," she said.
"Are you sure it's coming?" he said, and he immediately regretted saying this. He didn't understand somehow what his own statement meant. But Mrs. Wormley did not seem to mind at all.
"I'm not sure of a thing," she said. "I've so much to worry me!"
Finally she sat down, but the moment she did so she noticed a runner in her right hose, and she let out a soft cry of disbelief.
"I try not to intervene in my children's lives," Mrs. Wormley said after a pause.
"You see," she went on, "since Hilda has been thirteen I have tried to make her make all her own decisions. Now if she does want to use her sister Corinne's passport, I won't interfere."
Buddy drank a little more of the water, and pulled out a package of cigarettes.
"You smoke in here, don't you?" he said, a bit unsure why he made this statement also.
Mrs. Wormley stared at him. "Why we smoke everywhere in my house," she said, and she seemed, he thought, quite puzzled at this. She was going to say more, he could see, but instead she got up and looked out the window.
"Hilda will simply have to make up her own mind," Mrs. Wormley told him. "I won't do a thing."
"I CAN'T go with her!" Buddy suddenly almost shouted at her.
Mrs. Wormley looked at him carefully.
"I CAN'T!" he said, this time shouting.
"Well, there you are," Mrs. Wormley said. "I suppose she'll go anyhow."
"On Corinne's passport?"
"Oh you always come back to that," Mrs. Wormley said.
"If her father were only alive," Buddy finally expressed a wish.
"Mr. Wormley never interfered in our way of doing things," she said, but with her mouth so close to the wall near the window Buddy was not sure he had heard her.
"If somebody could only tell her!" Buddy cried.
"But you're still only in college!" Mrs. Wormley said.
"But what has that to do with passports?" he said, more hysterical than angry now.
"You're so serious, you see," Mrs. Wormley told him. "You shouldn't be when you're in college. You should have fun. Why is it you don't know that?"
"Your daughter is going to be arrested or something, Mrs. Wormley."
"Oh come now," she replied. "What ever brought you to such a conclusion."
Buddy got up, he wanted to leave the house at once, but he was somehow too dizzy, actually dizzy, with confusion to know whether he could manage to get out of the house without stumbling over something.
"You'll just have to tell her no then, Mrs. Wormley," he said, ready to leave.
"No to what?" Mrs. Wormley wondered vaguely.
"No to Europe," he said. "No to everything."
Mrs. Wormley nodded. Then, walking behind a large vase of flowers she said: "Well she'll be disappointed, of course," she said as though perhaps she saw things clearly at last. "But she'll get over it!" she finished, more like herself again. "And you will too."
Buddy stared at her, puffing audibly in the room.
"And maybe she didn't want to go, poor dear," Mrs. Wormley said thoughtfully, as though at last she had had the time to consider the question. "She's had to wait you know all through college!"
On his way out, Buddy found a postman ready to ring the bell. The postman was holding a special delivery letter.
"She's ready for you," Buddy shouted at the postman, who stared at Buddy's face with grave surprise, and Buddy feeling he must look very peculiar, headed on back to the student union.