His wife was up when he came in. “Did you have a good time?” she sniffed.
“I did not. I had a rotten time! Anything else I got to explain?”
“George, how can you speak like—Oh, I don’t know what’s come over you!”
“Good Lord, there’s nothing come over me! Why do you look for trouble all the time?” He was warning himself, “Careful! Stop being so disagreeable. Course she feels it, being left alone here all evening.” But he forgot his warning as she went on:
“Why do you go out and see all sorts of strange people? I suppose you’ll say you’ve been to another committee-meeting this evening!”
“Nope. I’ve been calling on a woman. We sat by the fire and kidded each other and had a whale of a good time, if you want to know!”
“Well—From the way you say it, I suppose it’s my fault you went there! I probably sent you!”
“Well, upon my word—”
“You hate ‘strange people’ as you call ’em. If you had your way, I’d be as much of an old stick-in-the-mud as Howard Littlefield. You never want to have anybody with any git to ’em at the house; you want a bunch of old stiffs that sit around and gas about the weather. You’re doing your level best to make me old. Well, let me tell you, I’m not going to have—”
Overwhelmed she bent to his unprecedented tirade, and in answer she mourned:
“Oh, dearest, I don’t think that’s true. I don’t mean to make you old, I know. Perhaps you’re partly right. Perhaps I am slow about getting acquainted with new people. But when you think of all the dear good times we have, and the supper-parties and the movies and all—”
With true masculine wiles he not only convinced himself that she had injured him but, by the loudness of his voice and the brutality of his attack, he convinced her also, and presently he had her apologizing for his having spent the evening with Tanis. He went up to bed well pleased, not only the master but the martyr of the household. For a distasteful moment after he had lain down he wondered if he had been altogether just. “Ought to be ashamed, bullying her. Maybe there is her side to things. Maybe she hasn’t had such a bloomin’ hectic time herself. But I don’t care! Good for her to get waked up a little. And I’m going to keep free. Of her and Tanis and the fellows at the club and everybody. I’m going to run my own life!”
In this mood he was particularly objectionable at the Boosters’ Club lunch next day. They were addressed by a congressman who had just returned from an exhaustive three-months study of the finances, ethnology, political systems, linguistic divisions, mineral resources, and agriculture of Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Jugoslavia, and Bulgaria. He told them all about those subjects, together with three funny stories about European misconceptions of America and some spirited words on the necessity of keeping ignorant foreigners out of America.