This was intolerable! To break it up, he bought a magazine from the train-boy and tried to read. But the story he lighted on concerned itself with a ravishingly beautiful young woman and an incredibly meritorious young man, and worked itself out, cleverly enough to be sure—which made it worse—upon the assumption that all that was needed for their supreme and permanent happiness was to get into each other’s arms, which eventually they did.
Rose had been in his arms last night!
So the scorching treadmill round began again. But at last sheer physical exhaustion intervened and he fell heavily asleep. He didn’t waken until the conductor took up his bit of pasteboard again, shook him by the shoulder, and told him that he’d be at his destination in five minutes.
Presently, in the hotel, he locked his door, opened the window and sat down to think.
Two days later, at half past eight in the morning, he walked in on Frederica at breakfast with her two eldest children. He had been able to count on this because the Whitneys had a certain pride in preserving some of the customs of the generation before them; at least Martin had, and Frederica’s good-natured, rueful acquiescence gave her at once something to laugh at him a little about and a handy leverage for the extraction of miscellaneous concessions. It wasn’t exactly a misdemeanor to be late to breakfast—it began promptly at eight o’clock—but it was distinctly meritorious not to be. Martin never was and he always left the house for his office at exactly eight-twenty. His chauffeur was trained to take just ten minutes trundling the big car down-town, and eight-thirty found him at his desk as invariably as it had found his father before him. It was all perfectly ritualistic, of course. There wasn’t the slightest need for any of it.
A knowledge of the ritual, though, stood Rodney in good stead this morning. He liked Martin well enough—had really a traditional and vicarious affection for him. But he was about the last man he wanted to see to-day.
The children were a boy of ten, Martin, junior, and a girl, Ellen, of eight. There was a three-year-old baby, too, but his nurse looked after him. They had finished breakfast, but Frederica had a way of keeping them at the table for a little while every morning, chatting with her—oh, about anything they pleased. If it was a design for their improvement, they didn’t suspect it. The talk broke off short when the three of them, almost simultaneously, looked up and saw Rodney in the doorway.
“Hello!” Frederica said, holding out a hand to him, but not rising. “Just in time for breakfast.”
“Don’t ring,” he said quickly. “I’ve had all I want. My train got in an hour ago and I had a try at the station restaurant.”
“Well, sit down anyway,” said Frederica.