And then suddenly her voice came back. A voice that startled her with its distinctness. “Hello, Rodney,” she said; “this is Rose.”
There was a perfectly blank silence after that and, then the crisp voice of an operator somewhere—“Waiting?”
“Yes,” she heard Rodney say, “get off the line.” And then to her. “I came to see you this afternoon and again to-night.”
“Yes, I know,” she said. “I just this minute got in. Can’t you come back again now?”
How in the world, she had wondered, could she manage her voice like that! From the way it sounded she might have been speaking to Alice Perosini; and yet her shaking hand could hardly hold the receiver. She heard him say:
“It’s pretty late, isn’t it? I don’t want to ... You’ll be tired and ...”
“It’s not too late for me,” she said, “only you might come straight along before it gets any later.”
She managed to wait until she heard him say, “All right,” before she hung up the receiver. Then a big racking sob, not to be denied any longer, pounced on her and shook her.
The fact that the length of time it would take a taxi to bring him down from his hotel to her apartment was not enough to decide anything in, plan anything in, was no more than enough, indeed, to give her a chance to stop crying and wash her face, was a saving factor in the situation.
In the back of her mind, as with a hairpin or two she righted her hair and decided, glancing down over herself, against attempting to change even her tumbled blouse or her dusty boots, was an echoing consciousness of something Galbraith had said that afternoon—“And you know when your next big thing comes along you will do that too.”
Without actually quoting those words to herself, she experienced a sudden confidence that was almost serene. In a few minutes now, not more than five, probably—she hoped not more than that—something incalculable, tremendous, was going to begin happening to her. A thing whose issue would in all likelihood determine the course of her whole life. There might be a struggle, a tempest, but she made no effort to foresee the nature of it. She just relaxed physical and spiritual muscles and waited. Only she hoped she wouldn’t have to wait long.
No—there was the bell.
It was altogether fortunate for Rose that she had attempted no preparation, because the situation she found herself in when she’d opened the door for her husband, shaken hands with him, led him into her sitting-room and asked him to sit down, was one that the wildest cast of her imagination would never have suggested as a possible one for her and Rodney. And it lasted—recurred, at least, whenever they were together—almost unaltered, for two whole days.