All the same, his curt announcement that the long-looked-for change had come, brought up quick unwelcomed tears. She squeezed them away with her palms.
“You’ll come to us then, won’t you?” she asked, but quite without conviction. She knew what he’d say.
“Heavens, no! Oh, I’ll go to a hotel for a while—maybe look up a little down-town apartment, with a Jap. It doesn’t matter much about that. It’s a load off, all right.”
“Is that,” she asked, “why you’ve been looking so sort of—gay, all the evening—as if you were licking the last of the canary’s feathers off your whiskers?”
“Perhaps so,” he said. “It’s been a pretty good day, take it all round.”
She got up from the couch, shook herself down into her clothes a little, and came over to him.
“All right, since it’s been a good day, let’s go to bed.” She put her hands upon his shoulders. “You’re rather dreadful,” she said, “but you’re a dear. You don’t bite my head off when I urge you to get married, though I know you want to. But you will some day—I don’t mean bite my head off—won’t you, Rod?”
“When I see any prospect of being as lucky as Martin—find a girl who won’t mind when I turn up for dinner looking like a drowned tramp, or kick her plans to bits, after she’s tipped me off as to what she wants me to do ...”
Frederica took her hands off, stepped back and looked at him. There was an ironical sort of smile on her lips.
“You’re such an innocent,” she said. “You’ve got an idea you know me—know how I treat Martin. Roddy, dear, a girl’s brother doesn’t matter. She isn’t dependent on him, nor responsible for him. And if she’s rather sillily fond of him, she’s likely to spoil him frightfully. Don’t think the girl you marry will ever treat you like that.”
“But look here!” he exclaimed. “You say I don’t know you, whom I’ve lived with off and on for thirty years—don’t know how you’d treat me if you were married to me. How in thunder am I going to know about the girl I get engaged to, before it’s too late?”
“You won’t,” she said. “You haven’t a chance in the world.”
“Hm!” he grunted, obviously struck with this idea. “You’re giving the prospect of marriage new attractions. You’re making the thing out—an adventure.”
She nodded rather soberly. “Oh, I’m not afraid for you,” she said. “Men like adventures—you more than most. But women don’t. They like to dream about them, but they want to turn over to the last chapter and see how it’s going to end. It’s the girl I’m worried about.... Oh, come along! We’re talking nonsense. I’ll go up with you and see that they’ve given you pajamas and a tooth-brush.”
She had accomplished this purpose, kissed him good night, and under the hint of his unbuttoned waistcoat and his winding watch, turned to leave the room, when her eye fell on a heap of damp, warped, pasteboard-bound note-books, which she remembered having observed in his side pockets when he first came in. The color on the pasteboard binding had run, and as they lay on the drawn linen cover to the chiffonier, she went over and picked them up to see how much damage they’d done. Then she frowned, peered at the paper label that had half peeled off of the topmost cover, and read what was written on it.