So, when she asked him what he was looking so solemn about, he said with more truth than he pretended to himself, that it was enough to make anybody solemn to look at her. And then, to break the spell, he asked her why she had laughed a little while back, over something she had said about Robert W. Chambers’ novels.
“I was thinking,” she said, “of the awful disgrace I got into yesterday, with somebody—well, with Bertram Willis, by saying something like that. I’ll have to tell you about it.”
Bertram Willis, it should be said, was the young architect with the upturned mustaches and the soft Byronic collars, who had done the house for the McCreas. And I must warn you to take the adjective young, with a grain of salt. Youth was no mere accident with him. He made an art of it, just as he did of eating and drinking and love-making and, incidentally, architecture. He was enormously in demand, chiefly perhaps, among young married women whose respectability and social position were alike beyond cavil. He never carried anything too far, you see. He was no pirate—a sort, rather, of licensed privateer. And what made him so invincibly attractive—after you had granted his other qualities, that is—was that he professed himself, among women, exceedingly difficult to please, so that attentions from him, even of a casual sort, became ex hypothesi compliments of the first order. If he asked you, in his innocently shameless way, to belong to his hareem, you boasted of it afterward;—jocularly, to be sure, but you felt pleased just the same. The thing that had given the final cachet of distinction to Rose’s social success that season, had been the fact that he had shown a disposition to flirt with her quite furiously.
Rose didn’t need to tell her husband that, of course, because he knew it already, as he also knew that Willis had asked her to be one of the Watteau group he was getting up for the charity ball (the ball was to be a sumptuously picturesque affair that year), nor that he had been spending hours with her over the question of costumes—getting as good as he gave, too, because her eye for clothes amounted to a really special talent.
All that Rodney didn’t know, was about the conversation the two of them had had yesterday afternoon at tea-time.
Rose, intent on telling him all about it, had postponed the recital while she made up her own mind as to how she should regard the thing herself; whether she ought to have been annoyed, or seriously remonstrant, or whether the smile of pure amusement which had come so spontaneously to her lips, had expressed, after all, an adequate emotion.
The look in her husband’s face made an end of all doubts, reduced the episode of yesterday to its proper scale. Married to a man who could look at her like that, she needn’t take any one else’s looks or speeches very seriously. It was at this angle that she told about it.