He seemed to stand it rather well, except that in time he came to have that same sharpened look of delicacy which added a spiritual note to Rosalie’s rich bloom. He always lighted up when he spoke of his wife, and he was always urging me to come and see them. I must admit that except for the meals I liked to go. Rosalie’s success at painting had been negligible, but her love of beauty was expressed in the atmosphere she gave to her little home; she had achieved rather triumphant results in backgrounds and in furnishing.
I remember one spring twilight. I was out for the week-end, and we dined late. The little house was on a hill, and with the French windows wide open we seemed to hang above an abyss of purple sky, cut by a thin crescent. White candles lighted the table, and there were white lilacs. There was a silver band about Rosalie’s red hair.
There was not much to eat, and Perry apologized, “Rose hates to fuss with food in hot weather.”
Rosalie, as mysterious in that light as the young moon, smiled dreamily.
“Why should one think about such things—when there is so much else in the world?”
Perry removed the plates and made the coffee. Rosalie did not drink coffee. She wandered out into the garden, and came back with three violets, which she kissed and stuck in Perry’s coat.
The next morning when I came down Rosalie was cutting bread for toast. She was always exquisitely neat, and in her white linen and in her white-tiled kitchen she seemed indubitably domestic. I was hungry and had hopes of her efforts.
“Peer is setting the table”, she told me.
She always called him “Peer”. She had her own way of finding names for people. I was never “Roger”, but “Jim Crow”. When questioned as to her reason for the appellation she decided vaguely that it might be some connection of ideas—dances—Sir Roger de Coverley—and didn’t somebody “dance Jim Crow”?
“You don’t mind, do you?” she had asked, and I had replied that I did not.
I did not confess how much I liked it. I had always been treated in a distinctly distant and dignified fashion by my family and friends, so that Rosalie’s easy assumption of intimacy was delightful.
Well, I went out on the porch and left Rosalie to her culinary devices. I found the morning paper, and fifteen minutes later there came up across the lawn a radiant figure.
Rosalie, hearing the garden call, had chucked responsibility—and her arms were full of daffodils!
We had burned toast for breakfast! Rosalie had forgotten it and Perry had not rescued it until it was well charred. There was no bread to make more, so we had to eat it.
For the rest we had coffee and fruit. It was an expensive season for eggs, and Rosalie had her eye on a bit of old brocade which was to light a corner of her studio. She breakfasted contentedly on grapefruit, but Perry was rather silent, and I saw for the first time a shadow on his countenance. I wondered if for the moment his mind had wandered to the past, and to his mother’s table, with Sunday waffles, omelet, broiled bacon. Yet—there had been no bits of gay brocade to light the mid-Victorian dullness of his mother’s dining-room, no daffodils on a radiant morning, no white lilacs on a purple twilight, no slender goddess, mysterious as the moon.