“After all, Stan isn’t a boy any more. Oughtn’t to call him so hard. But rats, got to haul folks over the coals now and then for their own good. Unpleasant duty, but—I wonder if Stan is sore? What’s he saying to McGoun out there?”
So chill a wind of hatred blew from the outer office that the normal comfort of his evening home-going was ruined. He was distressed by losing that approval of his employees to which an executive is always slave. Ordinarily he left the office with a thousand enjoyable fussy directions to the effect that there would undoubtedly be important tasks to-morrow, and Miss McGoun and Miss Bannigan would do well to be there early, and for heaven’s sake remind him to call up Conrad Lyte soon ’s he came in. To-night he departed with feigned and apologetic liveliness. He was as afraid of his still-faced clerks—of the eyes focused on him, Miss McGoun staring with head lifted from her typing, Miss Bannigan looking over her ledger, Mat Penniman craning around at his desk in the dark alcove, Stanley Graff sullenly expressionless—as a parvenu before the bleak propriety of his butler. He hated to expose his back to their laughter, and in his effort to be casually merry he stammered and was raucously friendly and oozed wretchedly out of the door.
But he forgot his misery when he saw from Smith Street the charms of Floral Heights; the roofs of red tile and green slate, the shining new sun-parlors, and the stainless walls.
He stopped to inform Howard Littlefield, his scholarly neighbor, that though the day had been springlike the evening might be cold. He went in to shout “Where are you?” at his wife, with no very definite desire to know where she was. He examined the lawn to see whether the furnace-man had raked it properly. With some satisfaction and a good deal of discussion of the matter with Mrs. Babbitt, Ted, and Howard Littlefield, he concluded that the furnace-man had not raked it properly. He cut two tufts of wild grass with his wife’s largest dressmaking-scissors; he informed Ted that it was all nonsense having a furnace-man—“big husky fellow like you ought to do all the work around the house;” and privately he meditated that it was agreeable to have it known throughout the neighborhood that he was so prosperous that his son never worked around the house.
He stood on the sleeping-porch and did his day’s exercises: arms out sidewise for two minutes, up for two minutes, while he muttered, “Ought take more exercise; keep in shape;” then went in to see whether his collar needed changing before dinner. As usual it apparently did not.
The Lettish-Croat maid, a powerful woman, beat the dinner-gong.
The roast of beef, roasted potatoes, and string beans were excellent this evening and, after an adequate sketch of the day’s progressive weather-states, his four-hundred-and-fifty-dollar fee, his lunch with Paul Riesling, and the proven merits of the new cigar-lighter, he was moved to a benign, “Sort o’ thinking about buyin, a new car. Don’t believe we’ll get one till next year, but still we might.”