Buzzing around in the back of John Galbraith’s mind was an unworded protest against the way Rose had just killed her own beauty with a thick white veil so nearly opaque that all it let him see of her face was an intermittent gleam of her eyes. Keenly aware—a good deal more keenly aware than he was willing to admit—of the sort of splendor which, but for the veil, he’d be looking at now, a splendor which nothing short of a complete mask could hide, he was not quite in the mood to wax enthusiastic over a beauty so fragile as that of the girl they had been talking about. There was a momentary silence, broken again, by Rose.
“Of course, you’ll want to take a look at her for yourself, before you decide,” she said; “but I’m pretty sure you’ll see it.” She put a cadence of finality into her voice. The business between them was over, it said, and all she was waiting for was a word of dismissal, to nod him a farewell and go swinging away down the avenue. Still he didn’t speak, and she moved a little restlessly. At last:—
“Do you mind crossing the street?” he asked abruptly. “Then we can talk as we walk along.” She must have hesitated, because he added, “It’s too cold to stand here.”
“Of course,” she said then. All that had made her hesitate was her surprise over his having made a request instead of giving an order.
Galbraith turned her north on the vast empty east sidewalk—a highway in itself broader than many a famous European street, and they walked a little way in silence.
No observant Chicagoan, Rose reflected, need ever yearn for the wastes of the Sahara when a desire for solitude or the need of privacy came upon him. The east side of Michigan Avenue was just as solitary and despite the difficulty of getting across to it, really a good deal more accessible. The west side was one unbroken glow of light and though the Christmas crowds had thinned somewhat with the closing of the shops, they were still thick enough to have made it difficult for two people to walk and talk together. A quadruple stream of motors, bellowing warnings at one another, roaring with suddenly opened throttles, squealing under sudden applications of the brake, occupied the roadway and served more than the mere distance would have done, to isolate the pair that had the east sidewalk all to themselves.
He couldn’t be looking for a better place to talk than this, Rose thought. Why didn’t he begin? Probably he’d got started thinking about something else. A motor coming along near the curb emitted a particularly wanton bellow, and she saw him jump like a nervous woman, then stand still and glare after the offender. He must be feeling specially irritable to-night, she thought.