Because she had hesitated, a little perplexed. Did he mean not to tell her—to “spare” her, as he’d have said? The kiss she gave had a different quality from those that ordinarily constituted her greetings, and the arms that went round his neck, didn’t give him their customary hug. But they stayed there.
“You poor dear old boy!” she said. And then, “Don’t you care, Roddy!”
He returned the caress with interest, before he seemed to realize the different significance of it. Then he pushed her away by the shoulders and held her where he could look into her face.
“What do you mean?” he asked. “Don’t care about what?”
It didn’t seem like bravado—like an acted out pretense, and yet of course it must be.
“Don’t,” she said. “Because I know. I’ve known all day. I read it in the paper this morning.”
From puzzled concern, the look in his face took on a deeper intensity. “Tell me what it is,” he said very quietly. “I don’t know. I didn’t read the paper this morning. Is it Harriet?” Harriet was his other sister—married, and not very happily, it was beginning to appear, to an Italian count.
A revulsion—a sort of sick misgiving took the color out of Rose’s cheeks.
“It isn’t any one,” she said. “It’s nothing like that. It’s—it’s that case.” Her lips stumbled over the title of it. “It’s been decided against you. Didn’t you know?”
For a moment his expression was simply the absence of all expression whatever. “Good lord!” he murmured. Then, “But how the dickens did you know anything about it? How did you happen to see it in the paper? How did you know the title of it?”
“I was in the court the day you argued it,” she said unevenly. “And when I found they printed those things in the paper, I kept watch. And to-day ...”
“Why, you dear child!” he said. And the queer ragged quality of his voice drew her eyes back to his, so that she saw, wonderingly, that they were bright with tears. “And you never said a word, and you’ve been bothering your dear little head about it all the time. Why, you darling!”
He sat down on the edge of the table, and pulled her up tight into his arms again. She was glad to put her head down—didn’t want to look at his face; she knew that there was a smile there along with the tears.
“And you thought I was worrying about it,” he persisted, “and that I’d be unhappy because I was beaten?” He patted her shoulder consolingly with a big hand. “But that’s all in the day’s work, child. I’m beaten somewhere nearly as often as I win. And really, down inside, leaving out a little superficial pleasure, I don’t care a damn whether I win or lose. A man couldn’t be any good as a lawyer, if he did care, any more than a surgeon could be any good if he did. You’ve got to keep a cold mind or you can’t do your best work. And if you’ve done your best work, there’s nothing to care about. I honestly haven’t thought about the thing once from that day to this. Don’t you see how it is?”