It wasn’t the first time he had done that. But always before, on seeing her come in, he had chucked the book away and come to meet her. This time, he went on reading.
She moved over toward him, meaning to sit down on the arm of his chair, cuddle her arm around his neck, and at the same time, discover what it was that so absorbed him. But half-way across the room, she changed her mind. He hadn’t even reached out an unconscious hand toward her. He went on reading as if, actually, he were alone in the room. Evidently, too, it was a book he’d brought with him—a formidable-looking volume printed in German—she got near enough to see that. So she picked up an old magazine from the table, and found a chair of her own, smiling a little in anticipation of the effect this maneuver would have.
She opened the magazine at random, and, presently, for the sake of verisimilitude, turned a page. Rodney was turning pages as regularly as clockwork. It was a silly magazine! She wished she’d found something that really could interest her. It was getting harder and harder to sit still. He couldn’t be angry about anything, could he? No, that was absurd. There hadn’t been the slightest trace of a disagreement between them. She wouldn’t go on pretending to read, anyhow, and she tossed the magazine away.
She had meant it to fall back on the table. But she put more nervous force than she realized into the toss, so that it skittered across the table and fell on the floor with a slap.
That roused him. He closed his book—on his finger, though—looked around at her, stretched his arms and smiled. “Isn’t this great?” he said.
It wasn’t a sentiment she could echo quite whole-heartedly just then, so she asked him what he meant—wasn’t what great.
“Oh, this,” he told her. “Being like this.”
“Sitting half a mile apart this way,” she asked, “each of us reading our own book?”
She didn’t realize how completely provocative her meaning was, until, to her incredulous bewilderment, he said enthusiastically, “Yes! exactly!”
He wasn’t looking at her now, but into the fire, and he rummaged for a match and relighted his pipe before he said anything more. “Being permanent, you know,” he explained, “and—well, our real selves again.”
She tried hard to keep her voice even when she asked, “But—but what have we been?”
And at that he laughed out. “Good heavens, what haven’t we been! A couple of transfigured lunatics. Why, Rose, I haven’t been able to see straight, or think straight, for the last six weeks. And I don’t believe you have either. My ideas have just been running in circles around you. How I ever got through those last two cases in the Appellate Court, I don’t see. When I made an argument before the bench, I was—talking to you. When I wrote my briefs, I was writing you love-letters. And if I’d had sense enough to realize my condition, I’d have been frightened to death. But now—well, we’ve been sitting here reading away for an hour, without having an idea of each other in our heads.”