“You’ve spoken to me once or twice in a way I don’t like. I think we shall get on better if you ask me to do things.”
“Don’t forget that I can make you do them,” he said brutally.
“How?” Really, he was amusing!
“Well, I’m stronger than you are.”
“A man can hardly use force in his dealings with a woman,” she reminded him.
“You seem surprised.”
“What’s going to prevent him?”
“Don’t be so silly,” she retorted as she turned to look once more out of the window. But her hands were clammy and, somehow, even though her back was turned toward him, she knew that he was smiling.
How much time elapsed before he spoke she had no means of knowing; probably, at most, two or three minutes. But to the woman gazing out blindly through the cobweb-covered window into the night, it might well have been hours. For some illogical reason, which she could not have explained to herself, she had the feeling that the victory in the coming struggle would lie with the one who kept silent the longer. To break the nerve-wrecking spell would be a betrayal of weakness.
None the less, she had arrived at the point when, the tension on her own nerves becoming too great, she felt she must scream, drive her clenched hand through the glass of the window, or perform some other act of hysterical violence; then he spoke, and in the ordinary tone of daily life.
“Well, I’m going to unpack my grip.”
The tone, together with the commonplace words, had the effect of a cold douche. She drew a sharp breath of relief, her hands unclenched. She was herself once more. She’d won.
She turned slowly, as if reluctant to abandon the starry prospect without, to find him bending over a clutter of things scattered about his half-emptied case. She had been about to say that she must see to unpacking some of her own things.
“Wash up them things.” He jerked his bowed head toward the littered table.
For the first time, his tone was curt.
But she was too much mistress of herself and the situation now to be more than faintly annoyed by it.
“I’ll wash them up in the morning,” she said casually. She started toward the door behind which her box had been carried.
“Wash ’em up now, my girl. You’ll find the only way to keep things clean is to wash ’em the moment you’ve done with ’em.”
She smiled at him over her shoulder, her hand on the knob of the door. But she did not move.
“Did you hear what I said?”
“Then why don’t you do as I tell you?”
“Because I don’t choose to.”
“You ain’t taking long to try it out, are you?” His face wore an ugly sneer.
“They say there’s no time like the present.”
“Are you going to wash up them things?”