Then, “Oh, I was furious with you an hour ago,” she went on. “I’d made such a nice, reasonable, really beautiful plan for you, and given you a tip about it, and then I sat and watched you in that thoroughgoing way of yours, kicking it all to bits. But somehow, when I see you all by yourself, this way, it changes things. I get to thinking that perhaps my plan was silly after all—anyhow, it was silly to make it. The plan was, of course, to marry you off to Hermione Woodruff.”
He turned this over in his deliberate way, during the process of blowing two or three smoke rings, began gradually to grin, and said at last, “That was some plan, little sister. How do you think of things like that? You ought to write romances for the magazines, that’s what you ought to do.”
“I don’t know,” she objected. “If reasonableness counted for anything in things like that, it was a pretty good plan. It would have to be somebody like Hermione. You can’t get on at all with young girls. As long as you remember they’re around, you’re afraid to say anything except milk and water out of a bottle that makes them furious, and then if you forget whom you’re talking to and begin thinking out loud, developing some idea or other, you—simply paralyze them.
“Well, Hermione’s sophisticated and clever, she’s lived all over the place; she isn’t old yet, and she was a brick about that awful husband of hers—never made any fuss—bluffed it out until he, luckily, died. Of course she’ll marry again, and I just thought, if you liked the idea, it might as well be you.”
“I don’t know,” said Rodney, “whether Mrs. Woodruff knows what she wants or not, but I do. She wants a run for her money—a big house to live in three months in the year, with a flock of servants and a fleet of motor-cars, and a string of what she’ll call cottages to float around among, the rest of the time. And she’ll want a nice, tame, trick husband to manage things for her and be considerate and affectionate and amusing, and, generally speaking, Johnny-on-the-spot whenever she wants him. If she has sense enough to know what she wants in advance, it will be all right. She can take her pick of dozens. But if she gets a sentimental notion in her head—and I’ve a hunch that she’s subject to them—that she wants a real man, with something of his own to do, there’ll be, saving your presence, hell to pay. And if the man happened to be me ...!”
Frederica stretched her slim arms outward. Thoughtful-faced, she made no comment on his analysis of the situation, unless a much more observant person than Rodney might have imagined there was one in the deliberate way in which she turned her rings, one at a time, so that the brilliant masses of gems were inside, and then clenched her hands over them.
He had got up and was ranging comfortably up and down the room.
“I know I look more or less like a nut to the people who’ve always known us—father’s and mother’s friends, and most of their children. But I give you my word, Freddy, that most of them look like nuts to me. Why, they live in curiosity shops—so many things around, things they have and things they’ve got to do, that they can’t act or think for fear of breaking something.