“Was it a nice dream?”
“Oh, well, they say dreams go by opposites! Now I must run in.”
She was on her feet.
“Oh, don’t go in yet! Please, Louetta!”
“Yes, I must. Have to look out for my guests.”
“Let ’em look out for ’emselves!”
“I couldn’t do that.” She carelessly tapped his shoulder and slipped away.
But after two minutes of shamed and childish longing to sneak home he was snorting, “Certainly I wasn’t trying to get chummy with her! Knew there was nothing doing, all the time!” and he ambled in to dance with Mrs. Orville Jones, and to avoid Louetta, virtuously and conspicuously.
His visit to Paul was as unreal as his night of fog and questioning. Unseeing he went through prison corridors stinking of carbolic acid to a room lined with pale yellow settees pierced in rosettes, like the shoe-store benches he had known as a boy. The guard led in Paul. Above his uniform of linty gray, Paul’s face was pale and without expression. He moved timorously in response to the guard’s commands; he meekly pushed Babbitt’s gifts of tobacco and magazines across the table to the guard for examination. He had nothing to say but “Oh, I’m getting used to it” and “I’m working in the tailor shop; the stuff hurts my fingers.”
Babbitt knew that in this place of death Paul was already dead. And as he pondered on the train home something in his own self seemed to have died: a loyal and vigorous faith in the goodness of the world, a fear of public disfavor, a pride in success. He was glad that his wife was away. He admitted it without justifying it. He did not care.
Her card read “Mrs. Daniel Judique.” Babbitt knew of her as the widow of a wholesale paper-dealer. She must have been forty or forty-two but he thought her younger when he saw her in the office, that afternoon. She had come to inquire about renting an apartment, and he took her away from the unskilled girl accountant. He was nervously attracted by her smartness. She was a slender woman, in a black Swiss frock dotted with white, a cool-looking graceful frock. A broad black hat shaded her face. Her eyes were lustrous, her soft chin of an agreeable plumpness, and her cheeks an even rose. Babbitt wondered afterward if she was made up, but no man living knew less of such arts.
She sat revolving her violet parasol. Her voice was appealing without being coy. “I wonder if you can help me?”
“I’ve looked everywhere and—I want a little flat, just a bedroom, or perhaps two, and sitting-room and kitchenette and bath, but I want one that really has some charm to it, not these dingy places or these new ones with terrible gaudy chandeliers. And I can’t pay so dreadfully much. My name’s Tanis Judique.”