“Let’s drive some other place, where we can get a drink and dance!” he demanded.
“Sure, some other night. But I promised Ma I’d be home early to-night.”
“Rats! It’s too nice to go home.”
“I’d just love to, but Ma would give me fits.”
He was trembling. She was everything that was young and exquisite. He put his arm about her. She snuggled against his shoulder, unafraid, and he was triumphant. Then she ran down the steps of the Inn, singing, “Come on, Georgie, we’ll have a nice drive and get cool.”
It was a night of lovers. All along the highway into Zenith, under the low and gentle moon, motors were parked and dim figures were clasped in revery. He held out hungry hands to Ida, and when she patted them he was grateful. There was no sense of struggle and transition; he kissed her and simply she responded to his kiss, they two behind the stolid back of the chauffeur.
Her hat fell off, and she broke from his embrace to reach for it.
“Oh, let it be!” he implored.
“Huh? My hat? Not a chance!”
He waited till she had pinned it on, then his arm sank about her. She drew away from it, and said with maternal soothing, “Now, don’t be a silly boy! Mustn’t make Ittle Mama scold! Just sit back, dearie, and see what a swell night it is. If you’re a good boy, maybe I’ll kiss you when we say nighty-night. Now give me a cigarette.”
He was solicitous about lighting her cigarette and inquiring as to her comfort. Then he sat as far from her as possible. He was cold with failure. No one could have told Babbitt that he was a fool with more vigor, precision, and intelligence than he himself displayed. He reflected that from the standpoint of the Rev. Dr. John Jennison Drew he was a wicked man, and from the standpoint of Miss Ida Putiak, an old bore who had to be endured as the penalty attached to eating a large dinner.
“Dearie, you aren’t going to go and get peevish, are you?”
She spoke pertly. He wanted to spank her. He brooded, “I don’t have to take anything off this gutter-pup! Darn immigrant! Well, let’s get it over as quick as we can, and sneak home and kick ourselves for the rest of the night.”
He snorted, “Huh? Me peevish? Why, you baby, why should I be peevish? Now, listen, Ida; listen to Uncle George. I want to put you wise about this scrapping with your head-barber all the time. I’ve had a lot of experience with employees, and let me tell you it doesn’t pay to antagonize—”
At the drab wooden house in which she lived he said good-night briefly and amiably, but as the taxicab drove off he was praying “Oh, my God!”