She was gone. Babbitt utterly repudiated the view that he had been trying to discover how approachable was Miss McGoun. “Course! knew there was nothing doing!” he said.
Eddie Swanson, the motor-car agent who lived across the street from Babbitt, was giving a Sunday supper. His wife Louetta, young Louetta who loved jazz in music and in clothes and laughter, was at her wildest. She cried, “We’ll have a real party!” as she received the guests. Babbitt had uneasily felt that to many men she might be alluring; now he admitted that to himself she was overwhelmingly alluring. Mrs. Babbitt had never quite approved of Louetta; Babbitt was glad that she was not here this evening.
He insisted on helping Louetta in the kitchen: taking the chicken croquettes from the warming-oven, the lettuce sandwiches from the ice-box. He held her hand, once, and she depressingly didn’t notice it. She caroled, “You’re a good little mother’s-helper, Georgie. Now trot in with the tray and leave it on the side-table.”
He wished that Eddie Swanson would give them cocktails; that Louetta would have one. He wanted—Oh, he wanted to be one of these Bohemians you read about. Studio parties. Wild lovely girls who were independent. Not necessarily bad. Certainly not! But not tame, like Floral Heights. How he’d ever stood it all these years—
Eddie did not give them cocktails. True, they supped with mirth, and with several repetitions by Orville Jones of “Any time Louetta wants to come sit on my lap I’ll tell this sandwich to beat it!” but they were respectable, as befitted Sunday evening. Babbitt had discreetly preempted a place beside Louetta on the piano bench. While he talked about motors, while he listened with a fixed smile to her account of the film she had seen last Wednesday, while he hoped that she would hurry up and finish her description of the plot, the beauty of the leading man, and the luxury of the setting, he studied her. Slim waist girdled with raw silk, strong brows, ardent eyes, hair parted above a broad forehead—she meant youth to him and a charm which saddened. He thought of how valiant a companion she would be on a long motor tour, exploring mountains, picnicking in a pine grove high above a valley. Her frailness touched him; he was angry at Eddie Swanson for the incessant family bickering. All at once he identified Louetta with the fairy girl. He was startled by the conviction that they had always had a romantic attraction for each other.
“I suppose you’re leading a simply terrible life, now you’re a widower,” she said.
“You bet! I’m a bad little fellow and proud of it. Some evening you slip Eddie some dope in his coffee and sneak across the road and I’ll show you how to mix a cocktail,” he roared.
“Well, now, I might do it! You never can tell!”
“Well, whenever you’re ready, you just hang a towel out of the attic window and I’ll jump for the gin!”