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another kind of attention; changes in the room

                                          “Just as a matter of curiosity, how far did you get, old lady?”
      Nancy looked at her father across the table without answering. Then she watched the thin amethyst spiral of smoke from her cigarette. Finally she spoke. “I don’t know where I drove, but I got farther than I’ve ever been before.”
      They knew each other’s moods and tenses very well, these two. Wherever close empathy exists, an inflection of a hesitation can be more potent forms of expression than speech. There was a note in her voice now which took hold of the conversation and lifted it into an entirely new plane, awakened different perceptions, aroused another kind of attention.
      Nancy continued. “I landed myself up against something pretty fundamental out there in the car.”
      “Yes?” said Jim.
      Nancy nodded. She was staring at her plate, — at that curve of the river with the fish plopping...
      A silence fell between them.
      They became a little self-conscious. Whatever flattering things each might think of the other, it was never their practice to come out with them in cold blood like this. They never got nearer than a slangy phrase.
      But in spite of the fact that for the life of her she didn’t know what to say, and shifted uneasily in her seat, Nancy flushed with pleasure.
      “You’re a dear to say that,” she said at last, “but it just shows how points of view differ! Out there in the car I was telling myself that apart from my work I was not really living at all, that I was just puttering along from day to day, getting absolutely nowhere...

ex A. Hamilton Gibbs, Soundings : A Novel (1925) : 266 : link (hathitrust)

The night was very still and cold.
      In Michael’s den the fire made little puttering noises as the coal blew out thin funnels of gas which ignited and expired again. A live haze of tobacco smoke hung midway between floor and ceiling, shifting indeterminately, never quite still.
      There were changes in the room.

ex A. Hamilton Gibbs, Harness : A Novel (1928) : 96 : link (google books)

Gibbs was at this point recently moved to the U.S.; I wonder where he got his puttering — in two of its possible senses, here — if not from his American wife Jeannette Phillips (Gibbs).

have seen Soundings characterized as “romance” fiction.
Matt Kahn, in his blog Kahn’s Corner (May 15, 2013) : link

20 February 2024