It was almost her first contribution to the talk that evening. She had asked a few questions and said the things a hostess has to say. The other three were manifestly taken by surprise—Rodney as well as his guests.
But surprise was not the only effect she produced. Her husband had never seen her look just like that before (remember, he had not been a guest at the Randolphs’ dinner on the night he had turned her out of his office), the flash in her eyes, the splash of bright color in her cheeks.
Barry saved him the necessity of trying to answer, by taking up the cudgels himself. Rodney didn’t feel like answering, nor, for the moment, like listening to Barry. His interest in the discussion was eclipsed for the moment, by the thrill and wonder of his wife’s beauty.
He walked round behind her chair, on the pretext of getting his coffee cup, and rested his hand, for an instant, on her bare shoulder. He was puzzled at the absence of response to the caress. For there was none, unless you could call it a response that she sat as still as ivory until he took his hand away. And looking into her face, he thought she had gone pale. Evidently though, it was nothing. Her color came back in a moment, and for the next half-hour she matched wits with Barry Lake very prettily.
When Jane declared that they must go, her husband protested.
“I haven’t managed yet to get a word out of Rodney about any of his things. He dodged when I asked him how his Criminal Procedure Reform Society was getting on, and he changed the subject when I wanted to know about his model Expert Testimony Act.” He turned on Rodney. “But there’s one thing you’re not going to get out of. I want to know how far you’ve come along with your book on Actual Government. It was a great start you had on that, and a bully plan. I shan’t let you off any details. I want the whole thing. Now.”
“I’ve had my fling,” said Rodney, with a sort of embarrassed good humor. “And I don’t say I shall never have another. But just now, there are no more intellectual wild-oats for me. What I sow, I sow in a field and in a furrow. And I take good care to be on hand to gather the crop. Model Acts and Reform of Procedure! Have you forgotten you’re talking to a married man?”
On learning their determination to walk down-town, he said he’d go with them part of the way. Would Rose go, too? But she thought not.
“Well, I can’t pretend to think you need it,” he admitted. Then, turning to the Lakes: “You people must spend a lot of evenings with us like this. You’ve done Rose a world of good. I haven’t seen her look so well in a month of Sundays.”
The gown that Rodney had spoken of apologetically to the Lakes as a coronation robe, was put away; the maid was sent to bed. Rose, huddled into a big quilted bath-robe, and in spite of the comfortable warmth of the room, feeling cold clear in to the bones—cold and tremulous, and sure that when she tried to talk her teeth would chatter—sat waiting for Rodney to come back from seeing the Lakes part way home.