She came up behind Portia, whom she had not seen before that day, and enveloped her in a big lazy hug.
“Back to work another Saturday afternoon, Angel?” she asked commiseratingly. “Aren’t you ever going to stop and have any fun?” Then she slumped into a chair, heaved a yawning sigh and rubbed her eyes.
“Tired, dear?” asked her mother. She said it under her breath in the hope that Portia wouldn’t hear.
“No,” said Rose. “Just sleepy.” She yawned again, turned to Portia, and, somewhat to their surprise, said: “Yes, what do you mean—the real Rodney Aldrich? He looked real enough to me. And his arm felt real—the one he was going to punch the conductor with.”
“I didn’t mean he was imaginary,” Portia explained. “I only meant I didn’t believe it was the Rodney Aldrich—who’s so awfully prominent; either somebody else who happened to have the same name, or somebody who just—said that was his name.”
“What’s the matter with the prominent one?” Rose wanted to know. “Why couldn’t it have been him?”
Portia admitted that it could, so far as that went, but insisted on an inherent improbability. A millionaire, a member of one of the oldest families in the city—a social swell, the brother of that Mrs. Martin Whitney whose pictures the papers were always publishing on the slightest excuse—wasn’t likely to be found riding in street-cars, in the first place, and the improbability reached a climax during a furious storm like that of last night, when, if ever during the year, the real Rodney Aldrich would be saying, “Home, James,” to a liveried chauffeur, and sinking back luxuriously among the whip-cord cushions of a palatial limousine.
I hasten to say that these were not Portia’s words; all the same, what Portia did say, formed a basis for Rose’s unspoken caricature.
“Millionaires have legs,” she said aloud. “I bet they can walk around like anybody else. However, I don’t care who he is, if he’ll send back my books.”
Portia went back presently to the shop, and it wasn’t long after that that her mother came down-stairs clad for the street, with her Modern Tendencies under her arm in a leather portfolio.
It had turned cold overnight, and there was a buffeting gusty wind which shook the windows and rattled the stiff branches of the trees. Her mother’s valedictory, given with more confidence now that Portia was out of the house, was a strong recommendation that Rose stay quietly within doors and keep warm.
The girl might have palmed off her own inclination as an example of filial obedience, but she didn’t.
“I was going to, anyway,” she said. “Home and fireside for mine to-day.”
Ordinarily, the gale would have tempted her. It was such good fun to lean up against it and force your way through, while it tugged at your skirts and hair and slapped your face.
But to-day, the warmest corner of the sitting-room lounge, the quiet of the house, deserted except for Inga in the kitchen, engaged in the principal sporting event of her domestic routine—the weekly baking; the fact that she needn’t speak to a soul for three hours, a detective story just wild enough to make little intervals in the occupation of doing nothing at all—presented an ideal a hundred per cent. perfect.