“No, that’s a lie. I’ve wanted to. The only thing I could ever hate you for, would be for failing. You’ve got to make good! You’ve had my share as well as yours—you’re living my life as well as yours. I’m the branch they cut off so that you could grow. If you give up and let the big thing slip out of your hands the way you were talking this morning, because you’re too weak to hold it and haven’t pluck enough to fight for it....”
“Look at me!” said Rose. The words rang like a command on a battle-field.
Portia looked. Rose’s blue eyes were blazing. “I won’t do that,” she said very quietly. “I promise you that.” Then the hard determination in her face changed to something softer, and as if Portia’s resistance counted no more than that of a child, she pulled her sister up in her arms and held her tight. And so at last Portia got the relief of tears.
HOW THE PATTERN WAS CUT
Through the two weeks that intervened before Portia and her mother left for the West, Rose disregarded the physical wretchedness—which went on getting worse instead of better—and dismissed her psychical worries until she should have time to attend to them. She helped Portia pack, she presented a steady cheerful radiance of optimism to her mother, that never faltered until the last farewells were said.
Just how she’d take up the fight again for the great thing Portia had adjured her not to miss, she didn’t know. She supposed she’d go back to her law-books—at any rate until she could work out something better.
But the pattern, it seemed, was cut differently. She went to the doctor’s office the day after Portia took her mother away, and discovered the cause of her physical wretchedness. She was pregnant.
Rodney heard young Craig, who deviled up law for him, saying good night to the stenographer; glanced at his watch and opened the door to his outer office.
“You may go home, Miss Beach,” he said. “I’m staying on for a while but I shan’t want you.” Then, to the office boy: “You, too, Albert.”
He waited till he heard them go, then went out and disconnected his own desk telephone, which the office boy, on going home, always left plugged through; went back into his inner office again and shut the door after him.
There was more than enough pressing work on his desk to fill the clear hour that remained to him before he had to start for home. But he didn’t mean to do it. He didn’t mean to do anything except drink down thirstily the sixty minutes of pure solitude that were before him; to let his mind run free from the clutch of circumstance. That hour had become a habit with him lately, like—he smiled at the comparison—like taking a drug. When something happened that forced him to forego it, he felt cheated—irrationally irritable. He was furtive about it, too. He never corrected Rose’s assumption that the thing which kept him late at the office so much of the time nowadays was a press of work. He even concealed the fact that he pulled his telephone plug, by sticking it back again every night just before he left.