Babbitt was to be heard sonorously agreeing with the once-hated Miss Minnie Sonntag that persons who let a night go by without dancing to jazz music were crabs, pikers, and poor fish; and he roared “You bet!” when Mrs. Carrie Nork gurgled, “Don’t you love to sit on the floor? It’s so Bohemian!” He began to think extremely well of the Bunch. When he mentioned his friends Sir Gerald Doak, Lord Wycombe, William Washington Eathorne, and Chum Frink, he was proud of their condescending interest. He got so thoroughly into the jocund spirit that he didn’t much mind seeing Tanis drooping against the shoulder of the youngest and milkiest of the young men, and he himself desired to hold Carrie Nork’s pulpy hand, and dropped it only because Tanis looked angry.
When he went home, at two, he was fully a member of the Bunch, and all the week thereafter he was bound by the exceedingly straitened conventions, the exceedingly wearing demands, of their life of pleasure and freedom. He had to go to their parties; he was involved in the agitation when everybody telephoned to everybody else that she hadn’t meant what she’d said when she’d said that, and anyway, why was Pete going around saying she’d said it?
Never was a Family more insistent on learning one another’s movements than were the Bunch. All of them volubly knew, or indignantly desired to know, where all the others had been every minute of the week. Babbitt found himself explaining to Carrie or Fulton Bemis just what he had been doing that he should not have joined them till ten o’clock, and apologizing for having gone to dinner with a business acquaintance.
Every member of the Bunch was expected to telephone to every other member at least once a week. “Why haven’t you called me up?” Babbitt was asked accusingly, not only by Tanis and Carrie but presently by new ancient friends, Jennie and Capitolina and Toots.
If for a moment he had seen Tanis as withering and sentimental, he lost that impression at Carrie Nork’s dance. Mrs. Nork had a large house and a small husband. To her party came all of the Bunch, perhaps thirty-five of them when they were completely mobilized. Babbitt, under the name of “Old Georgie,” was now a pioneer of the Bunch, since each month it changed half its membership and he who could recall the prehistoric days of a fortnight ago, before Mrs. Absolom, the food-demonstrator, had gone to Indianapolis, and Mac had “got sore at” Minnie, was a venerable leader and able to condescend to new Petes and Minnies and Gladyses.
At Carrie’s, Tanis did not have to work at being hostess. She was dignified and sure, a clear fine figure in the black chiffon frock he had always loved; and in the wider spaces of that ugly house Babbitt was able to sit quietly with her. He repented of his first revulsion, mooned at her feet, and happily drove her home. Next day he bought a violent yellow tie, to make himself young for her. He knew, a little sadly, that he could not make himself beautiful; he beheld himself as heavy, hinting of fatness, but he danced, he dressed, he chattered, to be as young as she was . . . as young as she seemed to be.