The Rose Door

Chapter 6

Saturday morning came to Wistaria House –and other places. Office and store claimed the men of the neighborhood party of the previous night; home and social duties occupied the women of that party.

Saturday night came to the Rose Door – and other places. The Rose Door was a house. It was so named by its visitors from a small carving above the front entrance of a full-blown rose with an upright leaf on either side, and a bud below, also upright.

" Ladies!" she called, with the sliding rising inflection.

Down the stairs they rustled; blonde, brunette, the plump, the ethereal. Take your pick.

Robert Miller stepped up to a girl called Anna, and as the piano played, Lieutenant Kenyon crossed over to one, Rebecca by name. With arms around waists, they ascended the stairs.

A little later hilarious singing came from a room:"Oh, you'll be the peaches, and I'll be –" " Sh! Herb, the police!" silenced Rebecca.

In another room." Where did you get this bracelet, Anna?"

"A friend brought it to me from Hawaii; it was his great-grandmother's. Don't take it off, Robert!"

"Why not?"

" Well, I put it on to cover up a bruise."

"Let's see, I'll diagnose the case."

The girl laughed and pulled her arm loose from his grasp.

" You needn't laugh. I studied medicine for a year once, when I had caught the professional fever," and he renewed his hold on her arm. She struggled, but he pulled off the bracelet and studied the hurt.

" All it needs, is to be opened; get me a needle," ordered the doctor.

The patient complied, and he pricked it several times.

" Nothing doing," was his dictum and he gave back the needle.

The prophesied Twenty-Seventh arrived one morning at Dr. Hamilton's office; in the evening it will have reached Wistaria House–the Twenty-Seventh foretold at the neighborhood party.

Among the large number always waiting in Dr. Hamilton's reception room sat a woman in a dark, tailored suit, like many another there; and veiled, as were others. In her turn, she entered the private office.

"What's the trouble this time, Anna?"

" I don't know myself, but I'll show you," and she bared her arm.

When his last patient had left and his office door been locked, Dr. Hamilton reached for paper and pen to write a letter, although he would be hurried to make his professional calls and dress and reach Wistaria House by six o'clock. It was a letter of many pages, well sprinkled with interrogation points.

The wistarias were all in the shade when Dr. Hamilton passed beneath them. Not because it was dark, for never had they been so deluged with light. Festoons of electric globules, three deep, wound about the verandas; every palm and pepper was a mighty Christmas tree, a-glitter from top to bottom. Out in space hung balls of light, suspended from nothing. From house to waiting automobiles a roadway of roses made soft stepping. A flood tide of brightness swept from basement to attic.

The great unsociable dining-room is all too small. Again flowers wreathe the walls, fill vases and lie by the plates. The choicest of fruit and fowl await the order of the chef. In the conservatory an orchestra bides the signal of their leader, who in turn watches tensely through the doorway. She comes! His hand upraises. Half a hundred strings thrill out:

" Hail to the Bride!"

Again glad words and happy replies, around a prodigal table, through all of which the orchestra sings in whispers.

Deserted is the table at last; hand shaking, kissing and good-byes follow. Down the rose road walks a man in uniform leading the daughter – the only daughter of the house.

" So long, Mary," calls her big brother.

A shower of rice from Philip; a wave of hand from the father; a flutter of handkerchief by the mother. The machine is out of sight.

Another night came to the Rose Door. As a matter of fact nights never failed to come to that Public Benefit; had the calamity of an immortal day fallen on that tollbooth its commanding buccaneer would have wirelessed Mars to put out the sun. Nights were indispensable to the Rose Door.

Two girls were holding a conversation – were they? The dictionary defines"conversation" as" an interchange of ideas."

" You make me tired, Mary Sullivan, honest to God you do, standing up for folks that don't lift a finger for you. Here we are and here we have always got to stay; but the men in the bit with us, call leave it and get to be mayor or senator or preacher. Oh, the preachers! We here, and they sitting with their bellies full, studying their Sunday lesson, 'Whatever is, is right.' Ugh, to hell with them–my Rabbi and your Priest!"

"But maybe, Rebecca –"

"Oh, shut up with your 'maybes.' Maybe they are tearing their hair out because we are sick to the death of this life. Maybe they walk the floor all night because we can't get out and make a living another way, any more than a fly that is pulling itself in two on sticky fly paper, can ever get off it. Didn't you try? Didn't I try? Did you ever hear of a preacher going insane thinking about our case? A prize fight makes them nutty, but us –"

"Still, Rebecca, maybe –"

"Yes, maybe they'll pull down these walls tonight, like the French people did to that prison and maybe they'll just go to bed and sleep," and Rebecca removed her cigarette, to spit straight out into their faces, while Mary Sullivan gave up and went out of the room.

The wise man smiles in business hours. The customer has troubles, certainly, but the seller of goods has none.

"I heard you got married, Herb."

"Who told you?"

"Oh, a little bird. I didn't think I'd see Lieutenant Kenyon any more."

"A man can't give up all his friends just because he gets married, Rebecca."

Rebecca hummed:

"There's no place like home, dear,
But I'm afraid to come home in the dark."