Nora could never after think of what followed with any feeling of reality so far as her personal participation in the scene was concerned. It was like watching a play in which one is interested, without being in any degree emotionally stirred.
She saw Gertie, erect and stern in her big chair; she saw herself, standing behind the ironing-board, as if at a Bar of Justice, her hands resting loosely upon it; and she saw the door open to admit her brother, followed by Taylor and Trotter; noted that the former had discarded the familiar overalls and was wearing a sort of pea-jacket with a fur collar, and that her brother’s face was once more sad and a little stern.
She had been obliged to press her handkerchief to her mouth to hide the crooked smile that the thought: ‘he is the executioner,’ had brought to her lips.
Then the figures which were Gertie and her brother had exchanged some words.
“He’s just coming.”
“Do they know what they’re here for!”
“No, I didn’t tell them.”
Then the figure which was Reggie had come in with some laughing remark about being torn away from his work, but, stopping so suddenly in the midst of his laughter at the sight of Gertie’s face that it was comical; once more she had had to press her handkerchief to her lips.
And all the time she knew that this Nora whom she seemed to be watching had flushed a cruel red clear to her temples and that a funny little pulse was beating,—oh, so fast, so fast!—way up by her cheek-bone. It couldn’t have been her heart. Her heart had never gone as fast as that.
Then she had heard Gertie say: “Nora insulted me a while ago before all of you and I guess she wants to apologize.”
And then Frank had said: “If you told me it was that, Ed, you wanted me to come here for, I reckon I’d have told you to go to hell.”
It must have been she who had asked the question, although she was not conscious that her lips had moved and the voice did not seem like her own. Her own voice was rather deep. This voice was curiously thin and high.
“I’ve got other things to do besides bothering my head about women’s quarrels.”
“Oh, I beg your pardon,” still in the same high tone. “I thought it might be some kindly feeling in you.”
“Go on, Nora, we’re waiting,” came the voice from the big chair.
Sour-dough! That’s what those coats, such as Frank had on, were called. She had been wondering all the time what the name was. It was only the other day that Gertie had used the word in saying that she wished Eddie—no, Ed—could afford a new one. What a ridiculous name for a garment.
“I’m sorry I was rude to you, Gertie. I apologize to you for what I said.”
“If there’s nothing more to be said, we’d better go back to our work.”