As the year grows apace, as the evenings draw themselves out, and the sun every day puts on fresh strength, we seem to grow ever more certainly apart. Our bodies, indeed, are nigh each other, but our souls are sundered. It never seems to strike any one, it is true, that we are not a happy couple; indeed, it would be very absurd if it did. We never wrangle—we never contradict each other—we have no tiffs; but we are two and not one. Whatever may be the cause, whether it be due to his shaken confidence in me, or (I myself assign this latter as its chief reason) to the constant neighborhood of the woman whom I know him to have loved and coveted years before he ever saw me; whatever may be the cause, the fact remains; I no longer please him. It does not surprise me much. After all, the boys always told me that men would not care about me; that I was not the sort of woman to get on with them! Well, perhaps! It certainly seems so.
I meet Mrs. Huntley pretty often in society nowadays, at such staid and sober dinners as the neighborhood thinks fit to indulge in, in this lenten season; and, whenever I do so, I cannot refrain from a stealthy and wistful observation of her.
She is ten-twelve years older than I. Between her and me lie the ten years best worth living of a woman’s life; and yet, how easily she distances me! With no straining, with no hard-breathed effort, she canters lightly past me. So I think, as I intently and curiously watch her—watch her graceful, languid silence with women, her pretty, lady-like playfulness with men. And how successful she is with them! how highly they relish her! While I, in the uselessness of my round, white youth, sit benched among the old women, dropping spiritless, pointless “yeses” and “noes” among the veteran worldliness of their talk, how they crowd about her, like swarmed bees on some honeyed, spring day! how they scowl at each other! and finesse as to who shall approach most nearly to her cloudy skirts!
Several times I have strained my ears to catch what are the utterances that make them laugh so much, make them look both so fluttered and so smoothed. Each time that I succeed, I am disappointed. There is no touch of genius, no salt of wit in any thing she says. Her utterances are hardly more brilliant than my own.
You will despise me, I think, friends, when I tell you that in these days I made one or two pitiful little efforts to imitate her, to copy, distantly and humbly indeed, the fashion of her clothes, to learn the trick of her voice, of her slow, soft gait, of her little, surprised laugh. But I soon give it up. If I tried till my death-day, I should never arrive at any thing but a miserable travesty. Before—ere Roger’s return—I used complacently to treasure up any little civil speeches, any small compliments that people paid me, thinking, “If such and such a one think me pleasing, why may not Roger?” But now I have given this up, too.