Then he thought of what she had said about the Cowans tonight on the drive to New York, that the Cowans had changed towards them because of his ‘bad taste’ in telling the McRae story, that the Mellers as well as the Cowans were cooler towards them. People were shunning them, Melinda insisted, though Vic, insisting that they weren’t, pointed out incidents that proved people were not shunning them at all, and reminded her that the Cowans were leading a quiet life just now because Phil was working hard on his economics book, trying to finish it before he had to start teaching again in September.
Perhaps his marriage with Melinda had been something short of ideal, but there were certainly many worse marriages in the world – marriages with drunkenness, with poverty, with sickness or insanity, with mothers-in-law, with unfaithfulness but unfaithfulness that was not forgiven. Vic treated Melinda with as much respect and affection as he had at the beginning of their marriage, perhaps with even more now, because he realized she missed Ralph. He did not want her to feel bored or lonely, or to think that he was unconcerned if she did feel that way. He took her to two or three more shows in New York, to a couple of Tanglewood concerts, and on one week-end they drove up to Kennebunkport with Trixie to see a play that Judith Anderson was in, and they spent the night at a hotel. Nearly every evening Vic came home with a little present for Melinda – flowers, a bottle of perfume, or a scarf he had seen at the Bandana, the only chic women’s shop in Wesley, or simply a magazine that she liked, like Holiday, which they didn’t subscribe to because Melinda said it was expensive and that the house was already cluttered with magazines that came every month, though Holiday in Vic’s opinion was better than many of the magazines whose subscription they continually renewed. Melinda’s sense of economy was odd.
Why is it that Vic's attention to Melinda feels a lot more like gaslighting than a genuine effort to please her?
Oh, that's right. It seems that way because it is!
But Vic did not mind the shunning and the whispers. It made him feel strangely more comfortable and secure, in fact, than he usually felt at parties, perhaps because the whispering and pointing, at both him and Melinda, fairly guaranteed that Melinda would behave herself tonight. Melinda was having a good time, he could see that, though tonight she would probably tell him that she had not had a good time at all. She looked beautiful in a new amber-coloured taffeta gown that had no belt and fitted her strong narrow waist and her hips as if it had been cut for her to the millimetre. By midnight she had danced with about fifteen partners, including a couple of youngish men Vic didn’t know, either one of whom might have been Ralph Gosden’s successor under ordinary circumstances, but Melinda was merely pleasant and gracious to them without being coy or hoydenish or femme fatale or pretending to have been swept off her feet by them – all of which tactics he had seen her use on other occasions. Neither did she drink too much. Vic was extremely proud of Melinda that evening. He had often been proud of the way she looked, but seldom, that he could remember, of the way she behaved.
As Melinda came towards him after a dance, he heard a woman say, ‘That’s his wife.’