It was not a lack of daring that kept Rose from asking the questions that were so patently waiting to be answered, or from making the remonstrances that Dolly’s behavior so definitely invited. She knew she ought to stir herself up and do something. She had assumed, she knew, a measure of moral responsibility for the fluffy helpless little thing she had conquered so easily at first and taken for her chum. Of course remonstrances, moral lectures, scoldings, wouldn’t accomplish anything. What the situation called for was a second conquest; a reassertion of her moral dominance over the girl. She would have to reconstruct the relation which, since the first week of their tour, she had, in her apathy, allowed to lapse. But that apathy had become too strong to break. She couldn’t rouse herself from it. And, failing that, she kept silent; let Dolly go her ways.
But a fortnight after Dubuque, an incident occurred that even her acquiescent passivity couldn’t ignore. There came a fine bright afternoon with no matinee and no washing or mending that needed to be done, when she suggested to Dolly that they go out for a good walk. Dolly didn’t assent to the proposal, though the suggestion seemed to interest her.
“Where is there to walk to?” she asked. “These towns are all alike.”
“I don’t mean just a stroll around the town,” Rose said. “Look here! I’ll show you.” She pointed from the window. “Across that bridge (they were playing one of the Mississippi River towns) and up to the top of that hill on the other side.”
“Gee!” said Dolly. “That’s miles.”
“Do you good,” said Rose.
“Are you going there anyway?” asked Dolly.
Rose nodded. “You’d better come along,” she said. By turning on her full powers of persuasion, she might, she felt, have pulled Dolly along with her; swept her off and begun the reconquest she knew she ought to make. But somehow her will failed her. Dolly could come if she liked.
Dolly didn’t refuse very decisively, but she watched Rose’s preparations for departure without making any of her own. It wasn’t until Rose, at the door, turned back to renew the invitation for the last time, that she said impatiently: “Oh, go along! I’ll take a nap, I guess.”
So Rose set out by herself.
The day proved colder than it looked; a fact that Rose tried to correct by walking more briskly. But when she got out on the bridge where the sharp wind got a full sweep at her, she saw it wasn’t going to do. She’d be chilled to the bones long before she reached that hill and it would be colder coming back. She must go back for her ulster.
Fifteen minutes later, she tried the door of her room and found it locked. There was a moment of dead silence. But the realization that it hadn’t been quite so silent the moment before, caused her to knock again. Then she heard the creak of the bed and the thud of Dolly’s unshod feet on the floor, and then her steps coming toward the door.