He couldn’t see how it was, that was plain enough. What he very reasonably expected was that after so lucid an explanation, she would turn her wet face up to his, with her old wide smile on it. But that was not what happened at all. Instead, she just went limp in his arms, and the sobs that shook her seemed to be meeting no resistance whatever. It wasn’t like her to work herself up in that way over trifles, either; yet, surely a trifle was all this could be called—a laughable mistake he couldn’t help loving her for, or a touching demonstration of affection that he couldn’t help smiling at. Either way you took it, it was nothing to make a scene about. Where was her sense of humor? That was the thing to do—get her quiet first, and then persuade her to laugh at the whole affair with him.
He was saved from carrying out this program by the fact that Rose, of her own accord, anticipated him. At least she controlled, rather suddenly, her sobs, sat up, wiped her eyes and, after a fashion, smiled. Not at him, though; resolutely away from him, he might almost have thought—as if she didn’t want him to see.
“That’s right,” he said, craning round to make sure that the smile was there. “Have a look at the funny side of it.”
She winced at that as from a blow and pulled herself away from him. Then she controlled herself and, in answer to his look of troubled amazement, said:
“It’s all right. Only it happens that you’re the one who d-doesn’t know how awfully funny it really is.” Her voice shook, but she got it in hand again. “No, I don’t mean anything by that. Here! Give me a kiss and then let me wash my face.”
And for the whole evening, and again next morning until he left the house, she managed to keep him in the only half-questioning belief that nothing was the matter.
It was about an hour after that, that her maid came into her bedroom, where she had had her breakfast, and said that Miss Stanton wanted to see her.
THE DAMASCUS ROAD
It argued no real lack of sisterly affection that Rose didn’t want to see Portia that morning. Even if there had been no other reason, being found in bed at half past ten in the morning by a sister who inflexibly opened her little shop at half past eight, regardless of bad weather, backaches and other potentially valid excuses, was enough to make one feel apologetic and worthless. Rose could truthfully say that she was feeling wretched. But Portia would sit there, slim and erect, in a little straight-backed chair, and whatever perfunctory commiseration she might manage to express, the look of her fine eyebrows would be skeptical. Justly, too. Rose could never deny that. Not so long as she could remember the innumerable times when she had yielded to her mother’s persuasions that she was over-tired and that a morning in bed was just what she needed. Portia, so far as she could remember, had never been the subject of these persuasions.