Myra Babbitt--Mrs. George F. Babbitt--was definitely mature. She had creases from the corners of her mouth to the bottom of her chin, and her plump neck bagged. But the thing that marked her as having passed the line was that she
no longer had reticences before her husband, and no longer worried about not having reticences. She was in a petticoat
now, and corset
s which bulged, and
unaware of being seen in bulgy corsets. She had become so dully habituated to married life that in her full matronliness
she was as sexless
as an anemic
. She was a good woman, a kind woman, a diligent woman, but no one, save perhaps Tinka her ten-year-old, was at all interested in her or entirely aware that she was alive.
After a rather thorough discussion of all the domestic and social aspects of towels
she apologized to Babbitt for his having an alcoholic headache
; and he
recovered enough to endure the search for a B.V.D. undershirt
which had, he pointed out, malevolently been concealed among his clean pajamas
He was fairly amiable
in the conference on the brown suit.
"What do you think, Myra?" He pawed at the clothes hunched on a chair in their bedroom
, while she moved about mysteriously adjusting and patting her petticoat and, to his jaundiced
eye, never seeming to get on with her
dressing. "How about it? Shall I wear the brown suit another day?"
"Well, it looks awfully nice on you."
"I know, but gosh, it needs pressing."
"That's so. Perhaps it does."
"It certainly could stand being pressed, all right."
"Yes, perhaps it wouldn't hurt it to be pressed."
"But gee, the coat
doesn't need pressing. No sense in having the whole darn suit pressed, when the coat doesn't need it."
"But the pants
certainly need it, all right. Look at them--look at those wrinkles--the pants certainly do need pressing."
"That's so. Oh, Georgie, why couldn't you wear the brown coat with the blue trousers we were wondering what we'd do with them?"
! Did you ever in all my life know me to wear the coat of one suit and the pants of another? What do you think I am? A busted bookkeeper
"Well, why don't you put on the dark gray suit to-day, and stop in at the tailor
and leave the brown trousers?"
"Well, they certainly need--Now where the devil is that gray suit? Oh, yes, here we are."
He was able to get through the other crises of dressing with comparative resoluteness and calm.
His first adornment was the sleeveless dimity B.V.D. undershirt, in which he resembled a small boy humorlessly wearing a cheesecloth tabard
at a civic
. He never put on B.V.D.'s without thanking the God of Progress
that he didn't wear tight, long, old-fashioned undergarments, like his father-in-law and partner, Henry Thompson. His second embellishment was
combing and slicking back his hair. It gave him a tremendous forehead, arching up two inches beyond the former hair-line. But most wonder-working of
all was the donning of his spectacles
There is character in spectacles--the pretentious tortoiseshell, the meek pince-nez
of the school teacher, the twisted silver-framed glasses of the old
villager. Babbitt's spectacles had huge, circular, frameless lenses of the very best glass; the ear-pieces were thin bars of gold. In them he was the modern business man; one who gave orders to clerks and drove a car and played occasional golf
and was scholarly in regard to Salesmanship. His head suddenly appeared not babyish but weighty, and you noted his heavy, blunt nose, his straight mouth and thick, long upper lip, his chin overfleshy but
strong; with respect you beheld him put on the rest of his uniform as a Solid Citizen
The gray suit was well cut, well made, and completely undistinguished. It was a standard suit. White piping on the V of the vest added a flavor of law
. His shoes were black laced boots
, good boots, honest boots, standard boots, extraordinarily uninteresting boots. The only frivolity was in his purple knitted scarf. With considerable comment on the matter to Mrs. Babbitt (who, acrobatically fastening the back of her blouse
to her skirt
with a safety-pin
, did not hear a word he said), he chose between the purple scarf
and a tapestry
effect with stringless brown harps among blown palms, and into
it he thrust a snake-head pin with opal
A sensational event was changing from the brown suit to the gray the contents of his pockets. He was earnest about these objects. They were of eternal importance, like baseball
or the Republican Party
. They included a fountain pen
and a silver pencil
(always lacking a supply of new leads) which belonged in the righthand upper vest pocket. Without them he would have felt naked. On
his watch-chain were a gold penknife
, silver cigar-cutter
, seven keys (the use of two of which he had forgotten), and incidentally a good watch
from the chain was a large, yellowish elk's-tooth-proclamation of his membership in the Brotherly and Protective Order of Elks
. Most significant of all was his loose-leaf pocket note-book, that modern and efficient note-book which contained the addresses of people whom he had forgotten, prudent memoranda of postal money-orders
which had reached their destinations months ago, stamps
which had lost their mucilage, clippings of verses by T.
and of the newspaper editorials from which Babbitt got his opinions and his polysyllables
, notes to be sure and do things which he did not intend to do, and one curious inscription--D.S.S. D.M.Y.P.D.F.
But he had no cigarette-case
. No one had ever happened to give him one, so he hadn't the habit, and people who carried cigarette-cases he regarded as effeminate
Last, he stuck in his lapel the Boosters' Club
button. With the conciseness of great art the button displayed two words: "Boosters-Pep!" It made Babbitt feel
loyal and important. It associated him with Good Fellows, with men who were nice and human, and important in business circles. It was his V.C., his Legion of Honor
ribbon, his Phi Beta Kappa
With the subtleties of dressing ran other complex worries. "I feel kind of punk
this morning," he said. "I think I had too much dinner last evening. You
oughtn't to serve those heavy banana fritters
"But you asked me to have some."
"I know, but--I tell you, when a fellow gets past forty he has to look after his digestion
. There's a lot of fellows that don't take proper care of themselves. I tell you at forty a man's a fool or his doctor
--I mean, his own
doctor. Folks don't give enough attention to this matter of dieting. Now I think--Course a man ought to have a good meal after the day's work, but it would be a good thing for both of us if we took lighter lunch
"But Georgie, here at home I always do have a light lunch."
"Mean to imply I make a hog
of myself, eating down-town? Yes, sure! You'd have a swell time if you had to eat the truck that new steward
hands out to us at
the Athletic Club! But I certainly do feel out of sorts, this morning. Funny, got a pain down here on the left side--but no, that wouldn't be appendicitis
, would it? Last night, when I was driving over to Verg Gunch's, I felt a pain in my stomach, too. Right here it was--kind of a sharp shooting pain. I--Where'd that dime
go to? Why don't you serve more prunes
? Of course I eat an apple
every evening--an apple a day keeps the
--but still, you ought to have more prunes, and not all these fancy doodads."
"The last time I had prunes you didn't eat them."
"Well, I didn't feel like eating 'em, I suppose. Matter of fact, I think I did eat some of 'em. Anyway--I tell you it's mighty important to--I was saying to Verg Gunch, just last evening, most people don't take sufficient care of their diges--"
"Shall we have the Gunches for our dinner, next week?"
"Why sure; you bet."
"Now see here, George: I want you to put on your nice dinner-jacket that evening."
"Rats! The rest of 'em won't want to dress."
"Of course they will. You remember when you didn't dress for the Littlefields' supper-party, and all the rest did, and how embarrassed you were."
"Embarrassed, hell! I wasn't embarrassed. Everybody knows I can put on as expensive a Tux
as anybody else, and I should worry if I don't happen to have it on sometimes. All a darn nuisance, anyway. All right for a woman, that stays around the house all the time, but when a fellow's worked like the dickens all day, he doesn't want to go and hustle his head off getting into the soup-and-fish for a lot of folks that he's seen in just reg'lar ordinary
clothes that same day."
"You know you enjoy being seen in one. The other evening you admitted you were glad I'd insisted on your dressing. You said you felt a lot better for it. And oh, Georgie, I do wish you wouldn't say 'Tux.' It's 'dinner-jacket.'"
"Rats, what's the odds?"
"Well, it's what all the nice folks say. Suppose Lucile McKelvey heard you calling it a 'Tux.'"
"Well, that's all right now! Lucile McKelvey can't pull anything on me! Her folks are common as mud, even if her husband and her dad are millionaires
suppose you're trying to rub in your exalted social position! Well, let me tell you that your revered paternal ancestor, Henry T., doesn't even call it a
'Tux.'! He calls it a 'bobtail jacket for a ringtail monkey,' and you couldn't get him into one unless you chloroformed him!"
"Now don't be horrid, George."
"Well, I don't want to be horrid, but Lord! you're getting as fussy as Verona. Ever since she got out of college
she's been too rambunctious
to live with--doesn't know what she wants--well, I know what she wants!--all she wants
is to marry a millionaire, and live in Europe
, and hold some preacher
and simultaneously at the same time stay right here in Zenith and be some blooming kind of a socialist
agitator or boss charity-worker or some damn
thing! Lord, and Ted is just as bad! He wants to go to college, and he doesn't want to go to college. Only one of the three that knows her own mind is Tinka. Simply can't understand how I ever came to have a pair of shillyshallying children like Rone and Ted. I may not be any Rockefeller
or James J. Shakespeare
, but I certainly do know my own mind, and I do keep right
on plugging along in the office and--Do you know the latest? Far as I can figure out, Ted's new bee is he'd like to be a movie actor
and--And here I've
told him a hundred times, if he'll go to college and law-school and make good, I'll set him up in business and--Verona just exactly as bad. Doesn't know what
she wants. Well, well, come on! Aren't you ready yet? The girl rang the bell three minutes ago."
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