“Good Lord, I don’t know what ‘rights’ a man has! And I don’t know the solution of boredom. If I did, I’d be the one philosopher that had the cure for living. But I do know that about ten times as many people find their lives dull, and unnecessarily dull, as ever admit it; and I do believe that if we busted out and admitted it sometimes, instead of being nice and patient and loyal for sixty years, and then nice and patient and dead for the rest of eternity, why, maybe, possibly, we might make life more fun.”
They drifted into a maze of speculation. Babbitt was elephantishly uneasy. Paul was bold, but not quite sure about what he was being bold. Now and then Babbitt suddenly agreed with Paul in an admission which contradicted all his defense of duty and Christian patience, and at each admission he had a curious reckless joy. He said at last:
“Look here, old Paul, you do a lot of talking about kicking things in the face, but you never kick. Why don’t you?”
“Nobody does. Habit too strong. But—Georgie, I’ve been thinking of one mild bat—oh, don’t worry, old pillar of monogamy; it’s highly proper. It seems to be settled now, isn’t it—though of course Zilla keeps rooting for a nice expensive vacation in New York and Atlantic City, with the bright lights and the bootlegged cocktails and a bunch of lounge-lizards to dance with—but the Babbitts and the Rieslings are sure-enough going to Lake Sunasquam, aren’t we? Why couldn’t you and I make some excuse—say business in New York—and get up to Maine four or five days before they do, and just loaf by ourselves and smoke and cuss and be natural?”
“Great! Great idea!” Babbitt admired.
Not for fourteen years had he taken a holiday without his wife, and neither of them quite believed they could commit this audacity. Many members of the Athletic Club did go camping without their wives, but they were officially dedicated to fishing and hunting, whereas the sacred and unchangeable sports of Babbitt and Paul Riesling were golfing, motoring, and bridge. For either the fishermen or the golfers to have changed their habits would have been an infraction of their self-imposed discipline which would have shocked all right-thinking and regularized citizens.
Babbitt blustered, “Why don’t we just put our foot down and say, ’We’re going on ahead of you, and that’s all there is to it!’ Nothing criminal in it. Simply say to Zilla—”
“You don’t say anything to Zilla simply. Why, Georgie, she’s almost as much of a moralist as you are, and if I told her the truth she’d believe we were going to meet some dames in New York. And even Myra—she never nags you, the way Zilla does, but she’d worry. She’d say, ’Don’t you want me to go to Maine with you? I shouldn’t dream of going unless you wanted me;’ and you’d give in to save her feelings. Oh, the devil! Let’s have a shot at duck-pins.”
During the game of duck-pins, a juvenile form of bowling, Paul was silent. As they came down the steps of the club, not more than half an hour after the time at which Babbitt had sternly told Miss McGoun he would be back, Paul sighed, “Look here, old man, oughtn’t to talked about Zilla way I did.”