“Why,” she said, “of course he’s always talked to me as if I were about six—sixteen, anyway, no older than that, and the names he makes up to call me are simply too silly to repeat. But I never paid any attention, because—well, everybody knows he’s that way to everybody. ‘Flower face’ was one of his favorites, but there were others that were worse. Well, yesterday he brought around some old costume plates, but he wouldn’t let me look at them without coming round beside me and—holding my hand, so that didn’t work very well. And then he got quite solemn and said I’d—given him the only real regret of his life, because he hadn’t seen me until it was too late.”
“I didn’t know,” said Rodney, “that he ever let obstacles like husbands bother him.”
“That’s what I thought he meant at first,” said Rose, “but it wasn’t. He didn’t mean it was too late because of my being married to you. He meant too late because of him. He couldn’t love me, he said, as I deserved, because he’d been in love so many times before, himself.
“And then, of course, just when I should have been looking awfully sad and sympathetic, I had to go and grin, and he wanted to know why, and I said, ‘Nothing,’ but he insisted, you know, so then I told him.
“Well, it was just what I said to you a while ago—that I didn’t know any men ever talked like that except in books by Hichens or Chambers—why do you suppose they’re both named Robert?—and he went perfectly purple with rage and said I was a savage. And then he got madder still and said he’d like to be a savage himself for about five minutes; and I wanted to tell him to go ahead and try, and see what happened, but I didn’t. I asked him how he wanted his tea, and he didn’t want it at all, and went away.”
As she finished, she glanced up into his face for a hardly-needed reassurance that the episode looked to him, as it had looked to her, trivial. Then, with a contented little sigh, for his look gave her just what she wanted, she sat up and slid her arms around his neck.
“How plumb ridiculous it would have been,” she said, “if either of us had married anybody else.”
If Rodney, that is, had married a girl who’d have taken Bertram Willis seriously; or if she had married a man capable of thinking the architect’s attentions important.
THE FIRST QUESTION AND AN ANSWER TO IT
But within a day or two, when a conversation overheard at a luncheon table recalled the architect to her mind, a rather perplexing question propounded itself to her. Why had it infuriated him so—why had he glared at her with that air of astounded incredulity, on discovering that she wasn’t prepared to take him seriously? There could be only one answer to that question. He could not have expected Rose to be properly impressed and fluttered, unless that were the effect he was in the habit of producing on