As he began to drift away he also began to see her as a human being, to like and dislike her instead of accepting her as a comparatively movable part of the furniture, and he compassionated that husband-and-wife relation which, in twenty-five years of married life, had become a separate and real entity. He recalled their high lights the summer vacation in Virginia meadows under the blue wall of the mountains; their motor tour through Ohio, and the exploration of Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus; the birth of Verona; their building of this new house, planned to comfort them through a happy old age—chokingly they had said that it might be the last home either of them would ever have. Yet his most softening remembrance of these dear moments did not keep him from barking at dinner, “Yep, going out f’ few hours. Don’t sit up for me.”
He did not dare now to come home drunk, and though he rejoiced in his return to high morality and spoke with gravity to Pete and Fulton Bemis about their drinking, he prickled at Myra’s unexpressed criticisms and sulkily meditated that a “fellow couldn’t ever learn to handle himself if he was always bossed by a lot of women.”
He no longer wondered if Tanis wasn’t a bit worn and sentimental. In contrast to the complacent Myra he saw her as swift and air-borne and radiant, a fire-spirit tenderly stooping to the hearth, and however pitifully he brooded on his wife, he longed to be with Tanis.
Then Mrs. Babbitt tore the decent cloak from her unhappiness and the astounded male discovered that she was having a small determined rebellion of her own.
They were beside the fireless fire-place, in the evening.
“Georgie,” she said, “you haven’t given me the list of your household expenses while I was away.”
“No, I—Haven’t made it out yet.” Very affably: “Gosh, we must try to keep down expenses this year.”
“That’s so. I don’t know where all the money goes to. I try to economize, but it just seems to evaporate.”
“I suppose I oughtn’t to spend so much on cigars. Don’t know but what I’ll cut down my smoking, maybe cut it out entirely. I was thinking of a good way to do it, the other day: start on these cubeb cigarettes, and they’d kind of disgust me with smoking.”
“Oh, I do wish you would! It isn’t that I care, but honestly, George, it is so bad for you to smoke so much. Don’t you think you could reduce the amount? And George—I notice now, when you come home from these lodges and all, that sometimes you smell of whisky. Dearie, you know I don’t worry so much about the moral side of it, but you have a weak stomach and you can’t stand all this drinking.”
“Weak stomach, hell! I guess I can carry my booze about as well as most folks!”
“Well, I do think you ought to be careful. Don’t you see, dear, I don’t want you to get sick.”