Professor Henry Wilkenson usually didn't have to go to faculty parties. His well-cultivated image as a grump often freed him from such obligations. At 67 he was the oldest member of the German Department and for the most part got what he wanted. But this party was different. The college president provided an annual September bash to welcome new professors, and he insisted that senior faculty be there.
About the time Henry Wilkenson was leaving his house, complaining to himself about having to go, Sylvia Donald was leaving her apartment for the same destination. But Sylvia was excited and eager to get there. She had just arrived at the college as visiting professor of English with a fine reputation as a novelist. This was her first chance to meet other faculty.
Shortly after arriving at the party, Sylvia and Henry eyed each other across a crowded buffet table as they filled their plates with high-calorie sweets. Staring at the petite stranger, Henry wondered how such an old gal-she must be 55-could be a new faculty member. She was smartly dressed. Stylish. But from his point of view that was not in her favor. She's probably an artist, he thought. Or worse-a poet. Maybe even a feminist. He decided not to talk to her. Still, he admired her trim five-foot-two-inch figure, reddish hair, and almost Oriental dark eyes. If she wiped that silly smile off her face, she'd be very attractive.
Sylvia's first glance at Henry produced equally mixed reactions. Mark Twain, she thought. Perhaps an interesting person, probably a chemist or physicist. He was of medium height, straight and thin, and could be handsome if he stopped looking so grouchy.
Henry noticed the redhead watching him as he absentmindedly piled his plate with sweets. Embarrassed, he put back a piece of cake and two cookies. Sylvia laughed, and Henry deemed humor the best cover-up.
"Well, you know how it is with growing boys," he said, grinning.
"No, how is it with growing boys?"
"Is that a quotation?" he asked, rather sure that it was.
"Melvyn Douglas and Irene Dunne, Theodora Goes Wild, 1937," Sylvia responded and smiled with pleasure.
"Wonderful! Except," he said, "it was 1936." Thus they bonded and, before the party ended, found that in addition to liking old movies, they liked each other.