Teas were not unknown to Babbitt—his wife and he earnestly attended them at least twice a year—but they were sufficiently exotic to make him feel important. He sat at a glass-covered table in the Art Room of the Inn, with its painted rabbits, mottoes lettered on birch bark, and waitresses being artistic in Dutch caps; he ate insufficient lettuce sandwiches, and was lively and naughty with Mrs. Sassburger, who was as smooth and large-eyed as a cloak-model. Sassburger and he had met two days before, so they were calling each other “Georgie” and “Sassy.”
Sassburger said prayerfully, “Say, boys, before you go, seeing this is the last chance, I’ve got it, up in my room, and Miriam here is the best little mixelogist in the Stati Unidos like us Italians say.”
With wide flowing gestures, Babbitt and Rogers followed the Sassburgers to their room. Mrs. Sassburger shrieked, “Oh, how terrible!” when she saw that she had left a chemise of sheer lavender crepe on the bed. She tucked it into a bag, while Babbitt giggled, “Don’t mind us; we’re a couple o’ little divvils!”
Sassburger telephoned for ice, and the bell-boy who brought it said, prosaically and unprompted, “Highball glasses or cocktail?” Miriam Sassburger mixed the cocktails in one of those dismal, nakedly white water-pitchers which exist only in hotels. When they had finished the first round she proved by intoning “Think you boys could stand another—you got a dividend coming” that, though she was but a woman, she knew the complete and perfect rite of cocktail-drinking.
Outside, Babbitt hinted to Rogers, “Say, W. A., old rooster, it comes over me that I could stand it if we didn’t go back to the lovin’ wives, this handsome Abend, but just kind of stayed in Monarch and threw a party, heh?”
“George, you speak with the tongue of wisdom and sagashiteriferousness. El Wing’s wife has gone on to Pittsburg. Let’s see if we can’t gather him in.”
At half-past seven they sat in their room, with Elbert Wing and two up-state delegates. Their coats were off, their vests open, their faces red, their voices emphatic. They were finishing a bottle of corrosive bootlegged whisky and imploring the bell-boy, “Say, son, can you get us some more of this embalming fluid?” They were smoking large cigars and dropping ashes and stubs on the carpet. With windy guffaws they were telling stories. They were, in fact, males in a happy state of nature.
Babbitt sighed, “I don’t know how it strikes you hellions, but personally I like this busting loose for a change, and kicking over a couple of mountains and climbing up on the North Pole and waving the aurora borealis around.”