Yet now, she protested, she was being as unfair to herself as she had been to him. What sort of situation would they have found themselves in, had she confessed her true new feelings about the love-storm that had swept over them, that night of the February gale? What good would protestations of love and sympathy for him do, if she had to go on denying him the tangible evidence and guarantee of these feelings?
She must deny them. Could she go home to him now, a repentant prodigal? Or even if, after hearing her story, he denied she was a prodigal; professed to see in it a reason for taking her fully into his life as his friend and partner? They might have a wonderful week together, living up to their new standard, professing all sorts of new understandings. But the thing wasn’t to be for a week. It was for the rest of their lives. She’d never be able to feel that, in the bottom of his heart, he wasn’t ashamed of her, as his world would say he ought to be. What satisfying guarantee could he ever give her that he wasn’t ashamed? She couldn’t think of any.
Oh, it was all hopeless! It didn’t matter what you did. You didn’t do things, anyway. They got done for you—and to you, by a blind force that masqueraded as your own will. The things she and Rodney had been saying to each other hadn’t been the things they’d wanted to say. They’d been things wrung out between the rollers of a situation they hadn’t produced and couldn’t control.
What were they, the pair of them, but chips floating down the current; thrown together by one casual eddy, and parted by another! Half an hour ago, longing for each other unspeakably, they had been within hand’s reach. Now, thanks to a few meaningless words, arguments, ideas—what was the good of ideas and words? Why couldn’t they be like animals?—they were parted and she was clutching as a sole tangible memento of him, a rolled-up newspaper that she loved because she’d seen his strong lean hands gripping it.
She unrolled it and pressed it against her face, then laid it on her knee and smoothed out its rumpled folds and stroked it.
When Dolly came in a half-hour later, or so, to put on her other suit preparatory to the matinee, Rose opened up the paper and pretended to read. She was glad of the protection of it. As she felt just now, she didn’t think she could stand Dolly’s chatter without the intervention of some excuse for monosyllabic replies. She didn’t notice that Dolly wasn’t chattering. Mechanically she read the head-lines: Mortimore Banks Crash! She knew who Mortimore was. Once a powerful boss, now a discredited politician. He’d owned a whole string of banks, it appeared—along with the hitherto unheard of Milligan—whose solvency seemed to have evaporated along with the decay of his prestige.
She read without interest, but just because it was printed in black-faced type, a list of the banks in Chicago that the examiner had closed. But presently she turned back with a look a little more thoughtful, and read it again. The names of banks were so absurdly alike one never could tell. Presently she went over to her suit-case, rummaged in it, and produced a little bank-book. Then she dropped the book and the newspaper together into her bag and shut it.