With the first early morning stirrings in the house, the sounds of opening doors here and there, the penetrating cry of one of the babies—muffled, to be sure, and a long way off, but still audible—he came broad awake again, but sat for a while staring about the room; at the wonderful ornate perfection of the Italian marble chimney-piece that framed the dying fire; at the tall carved chairs, the simple grandeur of the three-hundred-year-old table and the subdued richness, in the half light, of the tapestries that hung on the walls.
It was Florence McCrea’s masterpiece, this room. But this morning its perfections mocked him with the ferocious irony of the contrast they presented to that other room—that unspeakably horrible room where he had left Rose. Details of its hideousness, that he hadn’t been conscious of observing during the hours he had spent in it, came back to him, bitten out with acid clearness;—the varnished top of the bureau mottled with water stains, the worn splintered floor, the horrible hard blue of the iron bed, the florid pattern on the hand-painted slop-jar.
And that abominable room was where Rose was now! She was sitting, perhaps, just as he’d left her, with that look of frozen, dumb agony still in her face, while he sat here ...
He sprang up in a sort of frenzy. The parlor maid would be in here any minute now, on her morning rounds, and would wish him a respectful good morning, and ask him what he wanted for breakfast. And then, with automatic perfection, would appear his coffee, his grapefruit, and the rest of it—all exactly right, the result of a perfect precalculation of his wishes. While Rose ...
He put on his outdoor things and left the house, motivated now, for the first time in many hours, with a clear purpose. He’d go back to that room and get Rose out of it. He was incapable of planning how it should be done, but somehow—anyhow, it should be; that was all he knew!
But this purpose was frustrated the moment he reached Clark Street, by the realization that he hadn’t an idea within half a mile at least, where the room was. Neither when he went into it with Rose, nor when he left it, had he picked up any sort of landmark. There was a passage, he remembered, leading back between two buildings, which projected to the sidewalk. But there were a dozen of these in every block.
A miserable little lunch-room caught his eye, displaying in its dingy windows, pies, oranges, big shallow pans of pork and beans. This was the sort of place Rose would have to come to, he reflected, for her breakfast. And with that thought—hardly the conscious hope that she would actually come to this place this morning—he turned in, sat down at a cloth spotted with coffee and catsup stains, and ordered his breakfast of a yawning waiter. He even forced himself, when it was brought in, to eat it. If it was good enough for Rose, wasn’t it good enough for him?