THE effort to interest her husband in things purely intellectual failed, and a shade of disappointment settled on the feelings of Mrs. Dexter. She soared, altogether, too far up into the mental atmosphere for him. He thought her ideal and transcendental; and she felt that only the sensual principles in his mind were living and active. Conversation died between them, and both relapsed into that abstracted silence—musing on one side and moody on the other—which filled so large a portion of their time when together.
“Shall we go down to the parlors?” said Mr. Dexter, rousing himself. “The afternoon is running away fast towards evening.”
“I am more fatigued than usual,” was answered, “and do not care to make my appearance before tea-time. You go down; and I will occupy myself with a book. When the tea-bell rings, I will wait for you to come and escort me to the table.”
Mr. Dexter did not urge his wife to leave their rooms, but went down as she had suggested. The moment he left her, there occurred a great change in her whole appearance. She was sitting on a lounge by the window. Instead of rising to get a book, or seeking for any external means of passing a solitary hour, she shrunk down in her seat, letting her eyes droop gradually to the floor. At first, her countenance was disturbed; but its aspect changed to one of deep abstraction. And thus she sat for nearly an hour. The opening of her room door startled her into a life of external (sic) conciousness. Her husband entered. She glanced at his face, and saw that something had occurred to ruffle his feelings. He looked at her strangely for some moments, as if searching for expected meanings in her countenance.
“Are you not well?” Mrs. Dexter asked.
“Oh, yes, I’m well enough,” he answered with unusual abruptness of manner.
She said no more, and he commenced pacing the floor of their small parlor backwards and forwards with restless footsteps.
Once, without moving her head or body, Mrs. Dexter stole a glance towards her husband; she encountered his eyes turning stealthily upon her, and scanning her face with an earnest scrutiny. A moment their eyes lingered, mutually spell-bound, and then the glances were mutually withdrawn. Mr. Dexter continued his nervous perambulations, and his wife remained seated and silent.
The ringing of the bell announced tea. Mr. Dexter paused, and Mrs. Dexter, rising without remark, took his arm, and they went down to the dining-hall, neither of them speaking a word. On taking her place at the table, Mrs. Dexter’s eyes ran quickly up and down the lines of faces opposite.
This was done with so slight a movement of the head, that her husband, who was on the alert, did not detect the rapid observation. For some three or four minutes the guests came filing in, and all the while Mrs. Dexter kept glancing from face to face. She did not move her head or seem interested in the people around her; but her eyes told a very different story. Twice the waiter asked if she would take tea or coffee, before she noticed him, and her answer, “Coffee,” apprised her watchful husband of the fact that she was more than usually lost in thought.