But at all sorts of times, and in all sorts of places when they were alone together, the great battle was renewed; mostly through the dead hours of the night, in Rose’s bedroom, she sitting up in bed, he tramping up and down, shivering and shuddering in a big bath-robe. It had a horrible way of interrupting itself for small domestic commonplaces, which in their assumption of the permanency of their old life, their blind disregard of the impending disaster, had an almost unendurable poignancy. A breakfast on the morning of an execution is something like that.
The hardest thing about it all for Rose—the thing that came nearest to breaking down her courage—was to see how slowly Rodney came to realize it at all. He was like a trapped animal pacing the four sides of his cage confident that in a moment or two he would find the way out, and then, incredulously, dazedly, coming to the surmise that there was no way out. She really meant to go away and leave him—leave the babies; go somewhere where his care and protection could not reach her! She was actually planning to do it—planning the details of doing it! By the end of one of their long talks, it would seem to her he had grasped this monstrous intention and accepted it. But before the beginning of the next one, he seemed to manage somehow to dismiss the thing as an impossible nightmare.
An invitation came in from the Crawfords for a dance at the Blackstone, the fifth of December, and he said something about accepting it.
“I shan’t be here then, Roddy, you know,” she said.
He went completely to pieces at that, as if the notion of her going away had never really reached his mind before.
The struggle ranged through the widest possible gamut of moods. They had their moments of rapturous love—passionate attempts at self-surrender. They had long hours of cool discussion, as impersonal as if they had been talking about the characters out of a hook instead of about themselves. They had stormy nerve-tearing hours of blind agonizing, around and around in circles, lacerating each other, lashing out at each other, getting nowhere. They had moments of incandescent anger.
He tried, just once, early in the fight, to take the ground he had taken once before; that she was irresponsible, obsessed. There was a fracture somewhere, as James Randolph’s jargon had it, in her unconscious mind. She didn’t let him go far with that. He saw her blaze up in a splendid burst of wrath, as she had blazed once—oh, an eternity ago, at a street-car conductor. Her challenge rang like a sword out of a scabbard.
“We’ll settle that before we go any further,” she said. “Telephone for James Randolph, or any other alienist you like. Let him take me and put me in a sanatorium somewhere and keep me under observation as long as he pleases, until he’s satisfied whether I’m out of my mind or not. But unless you’re willing to do that, don’t call me irresponsible.”