As all converts, whether to a religion, love, or gardening, find as by magic that though hitherto these hobbies have not seemed to exist, now the whole world is filled with their fury, so, once he was converted to dissipation, Babbitt discovered agreeable opportunities for it everywhere.
He had a new view of his sporting neighbor, Sam Doppelbrau. The Doppelbraus were respectable people, industrious people, prosperous people, whose ideal of happiness was an eternal cabaret. Their life was dominated by suburban bacchanalia of alcohol, nicotine, gasoline, and kisses. They and their set worked capably all the week, and all week looked forward to Saturday night, when they would, as they expressed it, “throw a party;” and the thrown party grew noisier and noisier up to Sunday dawn, and usually included an extremely rapid motor expedition to nowhere in particular.
One evening when Tanis was at the theater, Babbitt found himself being lively with the Doppelbraus, pledging friendship with men whom he had for years privily denounced to Mrs. Babbitt as a “rotten bunch of tin-horns that I wouldn’t go out with, rot if they were the last people on earth.” That evening he had sulkily come home and poked about in front of the house, chipping off the walk the ice-clots, like fossil footprints, made by the steps of passers-by during the recent snow. Howard Littlefield came up snuffling.
“Still a widower, George?”
“Yump. Cold again to-night.”
“What do you hear from the wife?”
“She’s feeling fine, but her sister is still pretty sick.”
“Say, better come in and have dinner with us to-night, George.”
“Oh—oh, thanks. Have to go out.”
Suddenly he could not endure Littlefield’s recitals of the more interesting statistics about totally uninteresting problems. He scraped at the walk and grunted.
Sam Doppelbrau appeared.
“Evenin’, Babbitt. Working hard?”
“Yuh, lil exercise.”
“Cold enough for you to-night?”
“Well, just about.”
“Still a widower?”
“Say, Babbitt, while she’s away—I know you don’t care much for booze-fights, but the Missus and I’d be awfully glad if you could come in some night. Think you could stand a good cocktail for once?”
“Stand it? Young fella, I bet old Uncle George can mix the best cocktail in these United States!”
“Hurray! That’s the way to talk! Look here: There’s some folks coming to the house to-night, Louetta Swanson and some other live ones, and I’m going to open up a bottle of pre-war gin, and maybe we’ll dance a while. Why don’t you drop in and jazz it up a little, just for a change?”
“Well—What time they coming?”
He was at Sam Doppelbrau’s at nine. It was the third time he had entered the house. By ten he was calling Mr. Doppelbrau “Sam, old hoss.”