At home, Babbitt never read with absorption. He was concentrated enough at the office but here he crossed his legs and fidgeted. When his story was interesting he read the best, that is the funniest, paragraphs to his wife; when it did not hold him he coughed, scratched his ankles and his right ear, thrust his left thumb into his vest pocket, jingled his silver, whirled the cigar-cutter and the keys on one end of his watch chain, yawned, rubbed his nose, and found errands to do. He went upstairs to put on his slippers—his elegant slippers of seal-brown, shaped like medieval shoes. He brought up an apple from the barrel which stood by the trunk-closet in the basement.
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” he enlightened Mrs. Babbitt, for quite the first time in fourteen hours.
“An apple is Nature’s best regulator.”
“Trouble with women is, they never have sense enough to form regular habits.”
“Always nibbling and eating between meals.”
“George!” She looked up from her reading. “Did you have a light lunch to-day, like you were going to? I did!”
This malicious and unprovoked attack astounded him. “Well, maybe it wasn’t as light as—Went to lunch with Paul and didn’t have much chance to diet. Oh, you needn’t to grin like a chessy cat! If it wasn’t for me watching out and keeping an eye on our diet—I’m the only member of this family that appreciates the value of oatmeal for breakfast. I—”
She stooped over her story while he piously sliced and gulped down the apple, discoursing:
“One thing I’ve done: cut down my smoking.
“Had kind of a run-in with Graff in the office. He’s getting too darn fresh. I’ll stand for a good deal, but once in a while I got to assert my authority, and I jumped him. ‘Stan,’ I said—Well, I told him just exactly where he got off.
“Funny kind of a day. Makes you feel restless.
“Wellllllllll, uh—” That sleepiest sound in the world, the terminal yawn. Mrs. Babbitt yawned with it, and looked grateful as he droned, “How about going to bed, eh? Don’t suppose Rone and Ted will be in till all hours. Yep, funny kind of a day; not terribly warm but yet—Gosh, I’d like—Some day I’m going to take a long motor trip.”
“Yes, we’d enjoy that,” she yawned.
He looked away from her as he realized that he did not wish to have her go with him. As he locked doors and tried windows and set the heat regulator so that the furnace-drafts would open automatically in the morning, he sighed a little, heavy with a lonely feeling which perplexed and frightened him. So absent-minded was he that he could not remember which window-catches he had inspected, and through the darkness, fumbling at unseen perilous chairs, he crept back to try them all over again. His feet were loud on the steps as he clumped upstairs at the end of this great and treacherous day of veiled rebellions.