He had three weeks of Maine. At the end of the second week he began to feel calm, and interested in life. He planned an expedition to climb Sachem Mountain, and wanted to camp overnight at Box Car Pond. He was curiously weak, yet cheerful, as though he had cleansed his veins of poisonous energy and was filling them with wholesome blood.
He ceased to be irritated by Ted’s infatuation with a waitress (his seventh tragic affair this year); he played catch with Ted, and with pride taught him to cast a fly in the pine-shadowed silence of Skowtuit Pond.
At the end he sighed, “Hang it, I’m just beginning to enjoy my vacation. But, well, I feel a lot better. And it’s going to be one great year! Maybe the Real Estate Board will elect me president, instead of some fuzzy old-fashioned faker like Chan Mott.”
On the way home, whenever he went into the smoking-compartment he felt guilty at deserting his wife and angry at being expected to feel guilty, but each time he triumphed, “Oh, this is going to be a great year, a great old year!”
All the way home from Maine, Babbitt was certain that he was a changed man. He was converted to serenity. He was going to cease worrying about business. He was going to have more “interests”—theaters, public affairs, reading. And suddenly, as he finished an especially heavy cigar, he was going to stop smoking.
He invented a new and perfect method. He would buy no tobacco; he would depend on borrowing it; and, of course, he would be ashamed to borrow often. In a spasm of righteousness he flung his cigar-case out of the smoking-compartment window. He went back and was kind to his wife about nothing in particular; he admired his own purity, and decided, “Absolutely simple. Just a matter of will-power.” He started a magazine serial about a scientific detective. Ten miles on, he was conscious that he desired to smoke. He ducked his head, like a turtle going into its shell; he appeared uneasy; he skipped two pages in his story and didn’t know it. Five miles later, he leaped up and sought the porter. “Say, uh, George, have you got a—” The porter looked patient. “Have you got a time-table?” Babbitt finished. At the next stop he went out and bought a cigar. Since it was to be his last before he reached Zenith, he finished it down to an inch stub.
Four days later he again remembered that he had stopped smoking, but he was too busy catching up with his office-work to keep it remembered.
Baseball, he determined, would be an excellent hobby. “No sense a man’s working his fool head off. I’m going out to the Game three times a week. Besides, fellow ought to support the home team.”