I need to understand a sentence in the story of O Henry, The Gift of the Magi
Della wants to buy her husband a present but she doesn't have enough money:
"There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.
While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad."
I'm not sure if I got the meaning of the underlined part. So, to subside means to go down. What does stage refer to exactly? I though stage means here a level or a story of a building, but then why did he say from the first to the second? Isn't the second floor higher than the first in his country?
O. Henry tells us that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating. These are the 'stages'. (First stage: sobs; second stage: sniffles; third stage: smiles)
Then he tells us that Della is "gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second". He is telling us that Della has stopped 'howling' (sobbing) and has begun to sniffle. Her violent emotion is subsiding (growing weaker). She is calming down.
I hope this is helpful,