It was his manner, she felt sure, that had created it; and yet, so prompt and automatic had been her response that she couldn’t be sure, not for the first half-hour or so, anyway, that he wasn’t attributing it to her. It wasn’t so much the first words he said, when, opening her door, she saw him standing in the hallway, as it was his attitude; his rather formal attitude; the way he held his hat; the fact—this was absurd, of course, but she reconstructed the memory very clearly afterward—that his clothes were freshly pressed. It was the slightly anxious, very determined attitude of an estimable and rather shy young man making his first call on a young lady, on whom he is desperately desirous of making a favorable impression.
What he said was something not very coherent about being very glad and its being very good of her, and almost simultaneously she gasped out that she was glad, and wouldn’t he come in. She held out her hand to him, politely, and he, compensating for an imperceptible hesitation with a kind of clumsy haste, took it and released it almost as hastily. She showed him where to hang his coat and hat, conducted him into her sitting-room and invited him to sit down. And there they were.
And he was Rodney, and she was Rose! It was like an absurd dream.
For a while she talked desperately, under the same sort of delirious conviction one has in dreams that if he desists one moment from some grotesquely futile form of activity a cosmic disaster will instantly take place. A moment of silence between them would be, she felt, something unthinkably terrible. It was not a fear of what might emerge from such a silence, the sudden rending of veils and the confrontation of two realities; it was a dread, purely, of the silence itself. But the feeling did not last very long.
“Won’t you smoke?” she asked suddenly; and hurried on when he hesitated, “I don’t do it myself, but most of my friends do, and I keep the things.” From a drawer in her writing-desk she produced a tin box of cigarettes. “They’re your kind—unless you’ve changed,” she commented, and went over to the mantel shelf for an ash-tray and a match-safe. The match-safe was empty and she left the room to get a fresh supply from her kitchenette.
On the inner face of her front door was a big mirror, and in it, as she came back through the unlighted passage, she saw her husband. He was sitting just as she’d left him, and as his face was partly turned away from her, it could not have been from the expression of it that she got her revelation. But she stopped there in the dark and caught her breath and leaned back against the wall and squeezed the tears out of her eyes.
Perhaps it was just because he was sitting so still, a thing it was utterly unlike him to do. The Rodney of her memories was always ranging about the rooms that confined him. Or the grip of the one hand she could see upon the chair-arm it rested on may have had something to do with it. But it was not, really, a consciously deductive process at all; just a clairvoyant look—into him, and a sudden, complete, utterly confident understanding.