But really it was a very good thing; for Gladys Frisbie Gudge was an excellent manager, and set to work making herself a nest as busily as any female beaver. She still hung on to her manicurist job, for she had figured it out that the Red movement must be just about destroyed by now, and pretty soon Peter might find himself without work. In the evenings she took to house-hunting, and during her noon hour, without consulting Peter she selected the furniture and the wall-paper, and pretty nearly bought out the stock of a five-and-ten-cent store to equip the beaver’s nest.
Gladys Frisbie Gudge was a diligent reader of the fashion magazines, and kept herself right up to the minute with the styles; also she had got herself a book on etiquette, and learned it by heart from cover to cover, and now she took Peter in hand and taught it to him. Why must he always be a “Jimmie Higgins” of the “Whites?” Why should he not acquire the vocabulary of an educated man, the arts and graces of the well-to-do? Gladys knew that it is these subtleties which determine your salary in the long run; so every Sunday morning she would dress him up with a new brown derby and a new pair of brown kid gloves, and take him to the Church of the Divine Compassion, and they would listen to the patriotic sermon of the Rev. de Willoughby Stotterbridge, and Gladys would bow her head in prayer, and out of the corner of her eye would get points on costumes from the lady in the next pew. And afterwards they would join the Sunday parade, and Gladys would point out to Peter the marks of what she called “gentility.” In the evenings they would go walking, and she would stop in front of the big shop-windows, or take him into the hotel lobbies where the rich could be seen free of charge. Peter would be hungry, and would want to go to a cheap restaurant and fill himself up with honest grub; but Gladys, who had the appetite of a bird, would insist on marching him into the dining-room of the Hotel de Soto and making a meal upon a cup of broth and some bread and butter—just in order that they might gaze upon a scene of elegance and see bow “genteel” people ate their food.
And just as ardently as Gladys Frisbie Gudge adored the rich, so ardently did she object to the poor. If you pinned her down to it, she would admit that there had to be poor; there could not be gentility, except on the basis of a large class of ungentility. The poor were all right in their place; what Gladys objected to was their presuming to try to get out of their place, or to criticise their betters. She had a word by which she summed up everything that she despised in the world, and that word was “common;” she used it to describe the sort of people she declined to meet, and she used it in correcting Peter’s manners and his taste in hats. To be “common” was to be damned; and when Gladys saw people who were indubitably and inescapably “common,” presuming to set themselves up and form standards of their own, she took it as a personal affront, she became vindictive and implacable towards them. Each and every one of them became to her a personal enemy, an enemy to something far more precious than her person, an enemy to the thing she aspired to become, to her ideal.