Without knowing it, yielding to a blind, unscrutinized instinct, he’d wanted Rose to live on his love. He’d tried to smooth things out for her, anticipate her wants. He’d wanted her soft, helpless, dependent. As a trophy? That was what Randolph had said. Had he been as bad as that? From what other desire of his than that could have come the sting of exasperation he’d always felt when she’d urged him to let her work for him; help him to economize, dust and make beds, so that he could go on writing his book? She’d seen, even then, something he’d been blind to—something he’d blinded himself to; that love, by itself, was not enough. That it could poison, as well as feed.
And, seeing, she had the courage ... He pressed his hands against his eyes.
When there could be friendship as well as love between them, she said, she’d come back. Would she come back now, even for his friendship? He doubted it. Dared not hope. There came up before him that face of frozen agony that had confronted him in the room on Clark Street, and he remembered what she’d said then—with a shudder—about it all ending “like this.” Ending!
His love had played her false; had tried, instinctively, to smother her, and defeated at that, had outraged and tortured her. She couldn’t possibly look at it any way but that. And now that she was free, self-discovered, victorious, was it likely she would submit to its blind caprices again? The thing Randolph had said was his notion of Heaven, she’d triumphantly attained. Wouldn’t it be her notion of Heaven too?
But she had won, among the rest of her spoils of victory, the thing she had originally set out to get. His friendship and respect. Friendship, he remembered her saying, was a thing you had to earn. When you’d earned it, it couldn’t be withheld from you. Well, it was right she should be told that; made to understand it to the full. He couldn’t ask her to come back to him. But she must know that her respect was as necessary now to him, as she’d once said his was to her. He must tell her that. He must see her and tell her that.
He stopped abruptly in his walk. His bones, as the Psalmist said, turned to water. How should he confront that gaze of hers, which knew so much and understood so deeply—he with the memory of his two last ignominious encounters with her, behind him?
Except for the vacuum where the core and heart of it all ought to have been, Rose’s life in New York during the year that put her on the high road to success as a designer of costumes for the theater, was a good life, broadening, stimulating, seasoning. It rested, to begin with, on a foundation of adequate material comfort which the unwonted physical privations of the six months that preceded it—the room on Clark Street, the nightmare tour on the road, and even the little back room in Miss Gibbons’ apartment over the drug-store in Centropolis—made seem like positive luxury.