They had always had two morning papers—he his, she hers. The Times. Both. Nothing could illustrate more clearly the plan on which Mr. and Mrs. T.A. Buck conducted their married life. Theirs was the morning calm and harmony which comes to two people who are free to digest breakfast and the First Page simultaneously with no—“Just let me see the inside sheet, will you, dear?” to mar the day’s beginning.
In the days when she had been Mrs. Emma McChesney, travelling saleswoman for the T.A. Buck Featherloom Petticoat Company, New York, her perusal of the morning’s news had been, perforce, a hasty process, accomplished between trains, or in a small-town hotel ’bus, jolting its way to the depot for the 7.52; or over an American-plan breakfast throughout which seven eighths of her mind was intent on the purchasing possibilities of a prospective nine o’clock skirt buyer. There was no need now of haste, but the habit of years still clung. From eight-thirty to eight thirty-five A.M. Emma McChesney Buck was always in partial eclipse behind the billowing pages of her newspaper. Only the tip of her topmost coil of bright hair was visible. She read swiftly, darting from war news to health hints, from stock market to sport page, and finding something of interest in each. For her there was nothing cryptic in a headline such as “Rudie Slams One Home”; and Do pfd followed by dotted lines and vulgar fractions were to her as easily translated as the Daily Hint From Paris. Hers was the photographic eye and the alert brain that can film a column or a page at a glance.
Across the table her husband sat turned slightly sidewise in his chair, his paper folded in a tidy oblong. He read down one column, top of the next and down that, seriously and methodically; giving to toast or coffee-cup the single-handed and groping attention of one whose interest is elsewhere. The light from the big bay window fell on the printed page and cameoed his profile. After three years of daily contact with it, Emma still caught herself occasionally gazing with appreciation at that clear-cut profile and the clean, shining line of his hair as it grew away from the temple.
“T.A.,” she had announced one morning, to his mystification, “you’re the Francis X. Bushman of the breakfast table. I believe you sit that way purposely.”
“Francis X—?” He was not a follower of the films.
Emma elucidated. “Discoverer and world’s champion exponent of the side face.”
“I might punish you, Emma, by making a pun about its all being Greek to me, but I shan’t.” He returned to Page Two, Column Four.
Usually their conversation was comfortably monosyllabic and disjointed, as is the breakfast talk of two people who understand each other. Amicable silence was the rule, broken only by the rustle of paper, the clink of china, an occasional, “Toast, dear?” And when Buck, in a low, vibrating tone (slightly muffled by buttered corn muffin) said, “Dogs!” Emma knew he was pursuing the daily schrecklichkeit.