Following her gaze I saw that the old gentleman had sunk in his chair and was gently nodding. His wife leaned toward me.
“Milton always takes a cat nap after meals,” she said, smiling. And I smiled back, she was so rosy and round and altogether comfortable.
Rosalie and I went with them to the train, and it was as we drove back that I spoke of them.
“They are rather great dears, aren’t they?”
Rosalie was vehement. “I hate old people!”
A chill struck to my bones. “You hate them? Why?”
“They’re—ugly, Jim Crow. Did you see how they had shrunk since I last saw them—and the veins in their hands—and the skull showing through his forehead?”
She was twenty-five, and I was almost twice her age. When I was old she would still be young—young enough to see my shrunken body and the skull showing through!
The look that had been in her eyes for Perry would some day be in her eyes for me. And I knew that if I ever saw it it would strike me dead. It might not kill me physically, but it would wither like a flame all joy and hope forever.
When we reached the bungalow I built up a fire, and Rosalie, leaving me for a little, came back in something sheer and lovely in green. It was the first time since Perry’s death that she had discarded her purple robes. She sank into a big chair opposite me and put her silver-slippered feet on the green cushion.
“Isn’t it heavenly to be alone, Jim Crow?”
It was the high moment which I had planned, but I could not grasp it. Between me and happiness stood the shadow of that other Rosalie, shrinking from me when I was old as she had shrunk from Perry.
“My dear,” I said, and I did not look at her, “I’ve been thinking a lot about you.”
Her chin was in her hand. “I know.”
But she didn’t know.
“I’ve been thinking, Rosalie; and I want to give you something for Christmas which will make you happy throughout the year.”
“You are such a darling, Jim Crow.”
“And I have thought of this—a trip to Europe. You’ll let me do it, won’t you? There’ll be the art galleries, and you can stay as long as you like.”
I could see that she was puzzled. “Do you mean that I am to go—alone?” she asked slowly.
“There may be some one going. I’ll find out.”
There was dead silence.
“You will let me do it?” I asked finally.
She came over to my chair and stood looking down at me.
“Why are you sending me alone, Jim Crow?”
I think, then, that she saw the anguish in my eyes. She sank on her knees beside my chair.
“I don’t want to go alone, Jim Crow. I want to stay—with—you.”
* * * * *
Well, the jewel is on her breast and a ring to match
is on her finger.
And when the spring comes we are to sail for Italy, for France.