He drove happily off toward the Bellevue district, conscious of the presence of Mrs. Judique as of a brilliant light on the horizon. The maple leaves had fallen and they lined the gutters of the asphalted streets. It was a day of pale gold and faded green, tranquil and lingering. Babbitt was aware of the meditative day, and of the barrenness of Bellevue—blocks of wooden houses, garages, little shops, weedy lots. “Needs pepping up; needs the touch that people like Mrs. Judique could give a place,” he ruminated, as he rattled through the long, crude, airy streets. The wind rose, enlivening, keen, and in a blaze of well-being he came to the flat of Tanis Judique.
She was wearing, when she flutteringly admitted him, a frock of black chiffon cut modestly round at the base of her pretty throat. She seemed to him immensely sophisticated. He glanced at the cretonnes and colored prints in her living-room, and gurgled, “Gosh, you’ve fixed the place nice! Takes a clever woman to know how to make a home, all right!”
“You really like it? I’m so glad! But you’ve neglected me, scandalously. You promised to come some time and learn to dance.”
Rather unsteadily, “Oh, but you didn’t mean it seriously!”
“Perhaps not. But you might have tried!”
“Well, here I’ve come for my lesson, and you might just as well prepare to have me stay for supper!”
They both laughed in a manner which indicated that of course he didn’t mean it.
“But first I guess I better look at that leak.”
She climbed with him to the flat roof of the apartment-house a detached world of slatted wooden walks, clotheslines, water-tank in a penthouse. He poked at things with his toe, and sought to impress her by being learned about copper gutters, the desirability of passing plumbing pipes through a lead collar and sleeve and flashing them with copper, and the advantages of cedar over boiler-iron for roof-tanks.
“You have to know so much, in real estate!” she admired.
He promised that the roof should be repaired within two days. “Do you mind my ’phoning from your apartment?” he asked.
He stood a moment at the coping, looking over a land of hard little bungalows with abnormally large porches, and new apartment-houses, small, but brave with variegated brick walls and terra-cotta trimmings. Beyond them was a hill with a gouge of yellow clay like a vast wound. Behind every apartment-house, beside each dwelling, were small garages. It was a world of good little people, comfortable, industrious, credulous.
In the autumnal light the flat newness was mellowed, and the air was a sun-tinted pool.
“Golly, it’s one fine afternoon. You get a great view here, right up Tanner’s Hill,” said Babbitt.
“Yes, isn’t it nice and open.”
“So darn few people appreciate a View.”
“Don’t you go raising my rent on that account! Oh, that was naughty of me! I was just teasing. Seriously though, there are so few who respond—who react to Views. I mean—they haven’t any feeling of poetry and beauty.”