Deliberate as his progress was, the diminishing number of store-fronts along the sidewalk, and the increasing proportion of picket-fences enclosing domestic lawns, forced upon Theron’s attention the fact that he was nearing home. It was a trifle past the hour for his midday meal. He was not in the least hungry; still less did he feel any desire just now to sit about in that library living-room of his. Why should he go home at all? There was no reason whatever—save that Alice would be expecting him. Upon reflection, that hardly amounted to a reason. Wives, with their limited grasp of the realities of life, were always expecting their husbands to do things which it turned out not to be feasible for them to do. The customary male animal spent a considerable part of his life in explaining to his mate why it had been necessary to disappoint or upset her little plans for his comings and goings. It was in the very nature of things that it should be so.
Sustained by these considerations, Mr. Ware slackened his steps, then halted irresolutely, and after a minute’s hesitation, entered the small temperance restaurant before which, as by intuition, he had paused. The elderly woman who placed on the tiny table before him the tea and rolls he ordered, was entirely unknown to him, he felt sure, yet none the less she smiled at him, and spoke almost familiarly—“I suppose Mrs. Ware is at the seaside, and you are keeping bachelor’s hall?”
“Not quite that,” he responded stiffly, and hurried through the meagre and distasteful repast, to avoid any further conversation.
There was an idea underlying her remark, however, which recurred to him when he had paid his ten cents and got out on the street again. There was something interesting in the thought of Alice at the seaside. Neither of them had ever laid eyes on salt water, but Theron took for granted the most extravagant landsman’s conception of its curative and invigorating powers. It was apparent to him that he was going to pay much greater attention to Alice’s happiness and well-being in the future than he had latterly done. He had bought her, this very day, a superb new piano. He was going to simply insist on her having a hired girl. And this seaside notion—why, that was best of all.
His fancy built up pleasant visions of her feasting her delighted eyes upon the marvel of a great ocean storm, or roaming along a beach strewn with wonderful marine shells, exhibiting an innocent joy in their beauty. The fresh sea-breeze blew through her hair, as he saw her in mind’s eye, and brought the hardy flush of health back upon her rather pallid cheeks. He was prepared already hardly to know her, so robust and revivified would she have become, by the time he went down to the depot to meet her on her return.