She was aware that Portia stole a look at her in a puzzled penetrating sort of way every now and then, but didn’t concern herself as to the basis of her curiosity. She knew that it was getting on toward their dinner-time, but didn’t disturb herself as to the effect Inga’s premonitory rattlings out in the dining-room might have on her guest. As a matter of fact, they had none whatever.
She smiled once widely to herself, over a thought of the half-back. The man here in the room with her now, chatting so pleasantly with her mother, wouldn’t ask for favors—would accept nothing that wasn’t offered as eagerly as it was sought.
It wasn’t until he rose to go that she aroused herself and went with him into the hall. There, after he’d got into his overcoat and hooked his stick over his arm, he held out his hand to her in formal leave-taking. Only it didn’t turn out that way. For the effect of that warm lithe grip flew its flag in both their faces.
“You’re such a wonder!” he said.
She smiled. “So are y-you.” It was the first time she had ever stammered in her life.
When she came back into the sitting-room, she found Portia inclined to be severe.
“Did you ask him to come again?” she wanted to know.
Rose smiled. “I never thought of it,” she said.
“Perhaps it’s just as well,” said Portia. “Did you have anything at all to say to him before we came home, or were you like that all the while? How long ago did he come?”
“I don’t know,” said Rose behind a very real yawn. “I was asleep on the couch when he came in. That’s why I was dressed like this.” And then she said she was hungry.
There wasn’t, on the whole, a happier person in the world at that moment.
Because Rodney Aldrich, pounding along at five miles an hour, in a direction left to chance, was not happy. Or, if he was, he didn’t know it. He couldn’t yield instantly, and easily, to his intuitions, as Rose had done. He felt that he must think—felt that he had never stood in such dire need of cool level consideration as at this moment:
But the process was impossible. That fine instrument of precision, his mind, that had, for many years, done without complaint the work he gave it to do, had simply gone on a strike. Instead of ratiocinating properly, it presented pictures. Mainly four: a girl, flaming with indignation, holding a street-car conductor pinned by the wrists; a girl in absurd bedroom slippers, her skirt twisted around her knees, her hair a chaos, stretching herself awake like a big cat; a girl with wonderful, blue, tear-brimming eyes, from whose glory he had had to turn away. Last of all, the girl who had said with that adorable stammer, “So are y-you,” and smiled a smile that had summed up everything that was desirable in the world.
It was late that night when his mind, in a dazed sort of way, came back on the job. And the first thing it pointed out to him was that Frederica had undoubtedly been right in telling him that, though they had lived together off and on for thirty years, they didn’t know each other. The pictures his memory held of his sister, covered no such emotional range as these four. Did Martin’s? It seemed absurd, yet there was a strong intrinsic probability of it.