“She did play fair,” he interrupted. “She offered to tell me what she was going to do. I wouldn’t let her.”
Harriet’s only commentary on this was a faint shrug.
“Anyhow,” she went on, “the point is that once we begin pretending, everybody else will have to pretend to believe us. Of course the thing to do is to get her out of that horrible place as soon as we can. And I suppose the best way of doing it, will be to get her into something else—take her down to New York and work her into a small part in some good company. Almost anything, if it came to that, as long as it wasn’t music. Oh, and have her use her own name, and let us make as much of it as we can. Face it out. Pretend we like it. I don’t say it’s ideal, but it’s better than this.”
“Her own name!” he echoed blankly. “Do you mean she made one up?”
Harriet nodded. “Constance mentioned it,” she said, “but that was before I knew what she was talking about. And of course I couldn’t go back and ask. Daphne something, I think. It sounded exactly like a chorus name, anyhow.” And then: “Well, how about it? Will you play the game?”
“Oh, yes,” he said with a docility that surprised Frederica. “I’ll play it. It comes to exactly the same thing, what we both want done, and our reasons for doing it are important to nobody but ourselves.”
She turned to Frederica.
“You too, Freddy?” she asked. “Will you give your moral principles a vacation and take Rod’s message to Rose, even though you may think it’s Quixotic nonsense?”
“I’ll see Rose myself,” said Rodney quietly.
It struck Frederica that if not his natural self, he had gone a long way at least, to recovering his natural manner. Telling Martin all about it that night, as she always told him about everything (because Martin was Frederica’s discovery and her secret. No one else suspected, not even Martin himself, how intelligent and understanding he was, nor how luminous his simple remarks about complex situations could sometimes be), she adverted to a paradox which had often puzzled her in the past. Rodney was twice as fond of her as he was of Harriet, just as she was twice as fond of him as Harriet was. And yet, again and again, where her own love and sympathy had failed dismally to effect anything, Harriet’s dry astringent cynicism would come along and produce highly desirable results.
“It seems as if it oughtn’t to work out that way,” she concluded. “You’d think that loving a person and feeling his troubles the way he feels them himself, ought to enable you to help him rather than just irritate. However, as long as it doesn’t work that way with you ...”
He reached out, took her by the chin, tilted her face back and kissed her expertly on the mouth. A rather horrifyingly familiar thing to do, one might think, to the Venus of Milo, or Frederica, or any one as simply and grandly beautiful as that. But she seemed to like it.