He cried out her name at that, but she went on as if she hadn’t heard; only calm again—or so one might have thought from the sound of her voice.
“I went away, you see, because I couldn’t bear to have the love part of your life without a sort of friendly partnership in the rest of it. But I didn’t know then that you could love me while you hated me, while you felt that I’d unspeakably degraded myself and disgraced you. So that while you loved me and had me in your arms, you felt degraded for doing it. I didn’t know that till now.
“I suppose I’ll be glad some day that it all happened; that I met you and loved you and had the babies, even though it’s all had to end,” she shuddered again, “like this.”
It wasn’t till he tried to speak that her apparent calm was broken. Then, with a sudden frantic terror in her eyes, she begged him, not to—begged him to go away, if he had any mercy for her at all, quickly and without a word. In a sort of daze he obeyed her.
The tardy winter morning, looking through her grimy window, found her sitting there, huddled in a big bath-robe, just as she’d been when he closed the door.
“I’M ALL ALONE”
The same grizzly dawn that looked in on Rose through the dim window of her room on Clark Street, saw Rodney letting himself in his own front door with a latch-key after hours of aimless tramping through deserted, unrecognized streets. He was in a welter of emotions he could no more have given names to than to the streets whose dreary lengths he had plodded.
The one thing that isolated itself from the rest, climbed up into his mind and there kept goading him into a weak helpless fury, was a jingling tune and a set of silly words that Rose and her sisters in the sextette had sung the night before: “You’re all alone, I’m all alone; come on, let’s be lonesome together.” And then a line he couldn’t remember exactly, containing, for the sake of the rhyme, some total irrelevancy about the weather, and a sickening bit of false rhyming to end up with, about loving forever and ever. The jingle of that tune had kept time to his steps, and the silly words had sung themselves over and over endlessly in his brain until the mockery of it had become absolutely excruciating. Except for that damnable tune, there was nothing in his mind at all. Everything else was synthesized into a dull ache, a hollow, gnawing, physical ache. But he’d endure that, he thought, if he could get rid of the diabolical malice of that tune. Perhaps if he stopped walking and just sat still it would go away.
That’s why he went home, let himself in with his latch-key and made his way furtively to the library, where the embers of last night’s fire were still warm. He had an hour at least before the servants would be stirring. He was terribly cold and pretty well exhausted, and the comfort of his big chair and the glow of the fire carried him off irresistibly into a doze—a doze that was troubled by fantastic dreams.