“Why a man should load himself up with three houses and a yacht, a stable of motor-cars, and God knows what besides, when he’s rich enough to buy himself real space and leisure to live in, is a thing I can’t figure out on any basis except of defective intelligence. I suppose they’re equally puzzled about me when I refuse a profitable piece of law work they’ve offered me, because I don’t consider it interesting. All the same, I get what I want, and I’m pretty dubious sometimes whether they do. I want space—comfortable elbow room, so that if I happen to get an idea by the tail, I can swing it around my head without knocking over the lamp.”
“It’s a luxury though, Rod, that kind of spaciousness, and you aren’t very rich. If you married a girl without anything ...”
He broke in on her with that big laugh of his. “You’ve kept your sense of humor pretty well, sis, considering you’ve been married all these years to a man as rich as Martin, but don’t spring remarks like that, or I’ll think you’ve lost it. If a man can’t keep an open space around him, even after he’s married, on an income, outside of what he can earn, of ten or twelve thousand dollars a year, the trouble isn’t with his income. It’s with the content of his own skull.”
She gave a little shiver and snuggled closer into a big down pillow.
“You will marry somebody, though, won’t you, Roddy? I’ll try not to nag at you and I won’t make any more silly plans, but I can’t help worrying about you, living alone in that awful big old house. Anybody but you would die of despondency.”
“Oh,” he said, “that’s what I meant to talk to you about! I sold it to-day—fifty thousand dollars—immediate possession. Man wants to build a printing establishment there. You come down sometime next week and pick out all the things you think you and Harriet would like to keep, and I’ll auction off the rest.”
She shivered again and, to her disgust, found that her eyes were blurring up with tears. She was a little bit slack and edgy to-day, anyhow.
But really there was something rather remorseless about Rodney. It occurred to her that the woman he finally did marry would need to be strong and courageous and rather insensitive to sentimental fancies, to avoid a certain amount of unhappiness.
What he had just referred to in a dozen brisk words, was the final disappearance of the home they had all grown up in. Their father, one of Chicago’s great men during the twenty great years between the Fire and the Fair, had built it when the neighborhood included nearly all the other big men of that robust period, and had always been proud of it. There was hardly a stone or stick about it that hadn’t some tender happy association for her. Of course for years the neighborhood had been impossible. Her mother had clung to it after her husband’s death, as was of course natural.
But when she had followed him, a year ago now, it was evident that the old place would have to go. Rodney, who had lived alone with her there, had simply stayed on, since her death, waiting for an offer for it that suited him. Frederica had known that, of course—had worried about him, as she said, and in her imagination, had colored his loneliness to the same dismal hue her own would have taken on in similar circumstances.