“A twilight like blue dust sifted into the shallow fold of the thickly wooded hills. It was early October, but a crisping frost had already stamped the maple trees with gold, the Spanish oaks were hung with patches of wine red, the sumach was brilliant in the darkening underbrush. A pattern of wild geese, flying low and unconcerned above the hills, wavered against the serene ashen evening. Howat Penny, standing in the comparative clearing of a road, decided that the shifting regular flight would not come close enough for a shot.... He had no intention of hunting the geese. With the drooping of day his keenness had evaporated; an habitual indifference strengthened, permeating him....”
There it was again: discontent with the good common ways. Babbitt laid down the book and listened to the stillness. The inner doors of the house were open. He heard from the kitchen the steady drip of the refrigerator, a rhythm demanding and disquieting. He roamed to the window. The summer evening was foggy and, seen through the wire screen, the street lamps were crosses of pale fire. The whole world was abnormal. While he brooded, Verona and Ted came in and went up to bed. Silence thickened in the sleeping house. He put on his hat, his respectable derby, lighted a cigar, and walked up and down before the house, a portly, worthy, unimaginative figure, humming “Silver Threads among the Gold.” He casually considered, “Might call up Paul.” Then he remembered. He saw Paul in a jailbird’s uniform, but while he agonized he didn’t believe the tale. It was part of the unreality of this fog-enchanted evening.
If she were here Myra would be hinting, “Isn’t it late, Georgie?” He tramped in forlorn and unwanted freedom. Fog hid the house now. The world was uncreated, a chaos without turmoil or desire.
Through the mist came a man at so feverish a pace that he seemed to dance with fury as he entered the orb of glow from a street-lamp. At each step he brandished his stick and brought it down with a crash. His glasses on their broad pretentious ribbon banged against his stomach. Babbitt incredulously saw that it was Chum Frink.
Frink stopped, focused his vision, and spoke with gravity: