One of these, that neither of them will ever forget, came at the end of a long tramp through the dawn of their second day. They had been swinging along in almost unbroken silence through the gray mist, had mounted a little hillock and halted, hand in hand, as the first lance of sunlight transfixed and flushed the still vaporous air, and it had seemed to them, as they watched, breathless, while the sun mounted, that the whole of the life that lay before them was a track of gold like that which blazed across the sea, leading to an intolerable glory.
And there were other hours of equally memorable transfiguration, which their surroundings had nothing whatever to do with—hours lighted only by the flame that flared up from their two selves.
But life, of course, can not be made up of hours like that. No sane person can even want to live in a perpetual ecstasy. What makes a mountain peak is the fall away into the surrounding valleys.
In their valleys of commonplace, every-day existence—and these occurred even in their first days together—they were stiff, shy, self-conscious with each other. And their attempt to ignore this fact only made the self-consciousness the worse. It troubled and bewildered both of them.
Rose’s misgiving had been justified. They weren’t the old Rodney and Rose. Those two splendid careless savages, who had lived for a fortnight on an island in the midst of Martin Whitney’s carefully preserved solitude in Northern Wisconsin, accepting the gifts of the gods with such joyous confidence that none of them could ever turn bitter, those two zestful children, had ceased to exist.
John Galbraith had spoken truth when he said there was no such thing as a fresh start. For good or evil, you were the product of your yesterdays. The nightmare tour on the road with The Girl Up-stairs company was a part of Rose; the day in Centropolis, the night when Galbraith had made love to her. The hour in the University Club, when Rodney’s heart had first shrunk from an unacknowledged fear; the days and weeks of humiliation and distress that had succeeded it, were a part of him—an ineffaceable part.
So it was natural enough—though not, therefore, the less distressing—that Rose should note, with wonder, a tendency in him to revert to the manner which had characterized his first call on her in New York; a tendency to be—of all things—polite. He didn’t swear any more, nor contradict. He chose his words, got up when she did, picked up things she dropped. And when she was quite sure she was safe from discovery, she sometimes wept forlornly, for the rough, outrageous, absent-minded, imperious lover of the old days.
She did not know that she was different too—as remote from the girl she had been during the first six months of their marriage—the girl who, “all eyes,” had held her breath while Doctor Randolph told her things; the girl who had smiled over Bertie Willis’ love-making, because she didn’t know that such things happened except in books—as he was from the old Rodney. Even Violet had seen, in the glimpse she’d caught across two taxicabs, that her smile was somehow different, and James Randolph had come back from his tea with her in the Knickerbocker, saying that she was a thousand years old.