Dodsworth, by Sinclair Lewis

Chapter 15

They ceased to be children exploring together, rather happy in their loneliness. They were dominated by Endicott Everett Atkins and Madame de Penable and their smart groups. Madame de Penable saw that because in her fresh, keen, naive way Fran was different from European women, she was the more novel and attractive to the innumerable European men whom the De Penable always had about her, running her errands, drinking her excellent Moselle, listening to her scandalous anecdotes; she saw also that Sam was likely to keep Fran from snatching such of these men as the De Penable wanted to hold for her own.

She cultivated the Dodsworths enthusiastically.

Fran’s life became hectic as life can be only in Paris: a ride in the Bois, lunch, shopping, tea, bridge, cocktails, dressing, dinner, the theater, dancing at such icily glittering haunts as the Jardin de Ma Soeur, cold cream and exhausted sleep. In between she managed to fit three hours a week of French lessons.

And Sam — he came along.

He enjoyed it, for a month. There was color to this life, and motion, like waves under the gray cliff that was Paris. There were pretty women who took him seriously, as one of the financial captains of America (he suspected, with an inward chuckle, that they thought him far richer than he was). There were gorgeous clothes and marvelous food. He learned something of the art of wine. He had long known that Rhine wines should be cold; that Burgundy is better than that womanish drink, champagne. But now, meeting people who took wine as seriously as he had motor engines, and listening to their reverent discussion of it, he learned the epochal differences between the several Burgundies — between Nuits St. Georges and Nuits–Premeaux; the cataclysmic differences between vintages — between the lordly crop of 1911 and the mediocre product of 1912. He learned that it was a crime to dull the palate with a cocktail before a sacred bottle of good wine, and that it was bloody treason to heat Burgundy suddenly by plunging it in the hot water, instead of decently decanting it hours before drinking and letting — it — come — SLOWLY (the connoisseurs breathed)— to — room — temperature.

It interested him, this cyclone of new excitements. And Fran was, for the first time in years, altogether satisfied.

Between them, Atkins and the De Penable knew a dozen sets. Atkins fished for portrait painters, French critics, American ladies from the choicer portions of Back Bay and Rittenhouse Square, English poets who pretended to be biologists and English biologists who were flattered at being taken for poets. Madame de Penable went in for assorted titles — a judicious mixture of Italians, French, Roumanian, Georgian, Hungarian — and she always had one sound, carefully selected freak: a delightfully droll pickpocket or a minor Arctic explorer.

The man out of all this boiling whom Fran most liked was an Italian aviator, Captain Gioserro, a bright-eyed, very smiling man, ten years younger than herself. He was dazzled by her; bewildered by her quick speech. He said that she was the Norse goddess, Freya, that she was an Easter lily, and a number of other highly elegant things, and she liked it and went riding with him.

Sam hoped that there was not going to be another Lockert explosion. He believed her when she insisted that she considered Gioserro a “mere boy.” But alone, brooding, he was worried. He wondered if her rigid distaste for flirtation had existed only because she had not found American men attractive. She seemed softer, more relaxed, more lovely, and considerably less dependent on him. She was surrounded by amusing men, and warmed by their extravagant compliments. His conscious self declared that she couldn’t possibly be tempted, but his sub-conscious self was alarmed.

And presently he became weary of their insane dashing. The voices — the voices that never ceased — the high thin laughter — the reference to Mike This and Jacques That and the amours of Lady the Other — the duty of being seen at every exhibition, every select tea, every concert —

Fran had sharply dropped for him the people they knew, all the low adventurers who sat about bars, the couples from Zenith whom they had met at the hotel, even the unfortunate Jerry Lycurgus Watts, once Jerry had served his biological purpose by producing Endicott Everett Atkins. And so Sam became exceedingly hungry for a good wholesome lowness; for poker, shirt-sleeves, sauerkraut, obscene vaudeville, and conversation about motor sales and Zenith politics.

Fran was having her portrait painted, glossily and very expensively, by a Belgian whose manner of serving tea and commenting on new frocks had enabled him to capture a number of rich American women. With him, painting was a social function; while he worked he was surrounded by the most decorative human parrots and peacocks, shrieking their admiration of his craftsmanship, which was excellent. He managed to add the muzziness of a Laurencin to the photography of a Sargent; he made his women look rich, and all alike.

Madame de Penable had insisted on Fran’s going to this good man, and when Sam learned that the De Penable had also insisted on a number of other women benefiting by the Belgian’s gifts, he wondered if possibly the lively De Penable might not have some interest in the business. But Fran was magnificently offended when he made the hint.

“It may interest you to KNOW,” she raged, “that M. Saurier wanted to paint me for NOTHING, because he said I was the most perfect type of American beauty he had ever seen! But of course I couldn’t let him do that. Of course you wouldn’t have noticed that certain Europeans think I’m rather good-looking —”

“Don’t,” said Sam mildly, “be a damn’ fool, my darling.”

He went once to the orgy of her sittings; and he, the rock of ages in business crises, wanted to scream as he heard Madame de Penable, and six women, who spoke all languages, except French, with a French accent, lilting that “le Maitre” was at least a genius, and that he was particularly historic in the matter of “flesh tints.”

He did not go again.

He came to like the affabilities of Endicott Everett Atkins even less than the expensive sunset-hues of Madame de Penable. The De Penable was surrounded by gay people. “Not so bad,” Sam considered, “to have a cocktail with a pretty girl that tells you that you look like a cross between Sir Lancelot and Jack Dempsey.” But Mr. Atkins had not yet heard of cocktails. And Mr. Atkins held forth. He had been everywhere, and he could make everywhere sound uninteresting. He would look at you earnestly and demand to know whether you had made a pilgrimage to Viterbo to see the Etruscan remains, and he made it sound so nagging a duty that Sam vowed he would never let himself be caught near Viterbo; he was so severe about American music that he made Sam long for the jazz which he had always rather irritably detested.

Toward the seven deadly arts Sam had had the inarticulate reverence which an Irish policeman might have toward a shrine of the Virgin on his beat . . . that little light seen at three of a winter’s morning. They were to him romance, escape, and he was irritated when they were presented to him as a preacher presents the virtues of sobriety and chastity. He hadn’t the training to lose himself in Bach or Goethe; but in Chesterton, in Schubert, in a Corot, he had been able to forget motors and Alec Kynance, and always he had chuckled over the gay anarchy of Mencken. But with rising stubbornness he asserted that if he had to take the arts as something in which he must pass an examination, he would chuck them altogether and be content with poker.

As Fran had both a sitting and a fitting that afternoon (to Sam they seemed much the same, except that Fran’s costumer was more virile and less grasping than her portrait-painter) he had a whole afternoon off.

Secretly, a little guiltily, he reflected, “I’ve done Notre Dame right, with Fran. Now I think I’ll sneak off and see if I really like it! You can’t tell! I might! Even though old Atkins says I have to. . . . Hell! I wish I were back in Zenith!”

Solemnly, his Baedeker shamelessly in hand, Sam lumbered out of his taxi before Notre Dame, and quite as shamelessly slipped off across the river to a cafe facing the cathedral. There, quietly, without Fran’s quivers of appreciation, he began to feel at home.

He admitted the cathedral’s gray domination. There was strength there; strength and endurance and wisdom. The flying buttresses soared like wings. The whole cathedral expanded before his eyes; the work of human hands seemed to tower larger than the sky. He felt, dimly and disconnectedly, that he too had done things with his hands; that the motor car was no contemptible creation; that he was nearer to the forgotten, the anonymous and merry and vulgar artisans who had created this somber epic of stone, than was any Endicott Everett Atkins with his Adam’s apple ecclesiastically throbbing as he uttered pomposities about “the transition in Gothic motifs.” How those cheery artisans would have laughed — drinking their wine, perhaps, at this same corner!

He read in the Book of Words. (Did Ruskin and Cellini and Dante actually travel without Baedekers? How strange it seemed, and new!)

“Notre Dame . . . in early Roman times the site was occupied by a temple of Jupiter. The present church was begun in 1163.”

He laid the book down and drifted into the pleasantest dreaming he had known for all the fatal weeks since he had been adopted by the Right People.

A temple of Jupiter. Priests in white robes. Sacrificial bulls with patient wondering eyes, tossing their thick garlanded heads. Chariots pounding across the square — right across the river there! The past, which had been to the young Sam Dodsworth playing football, to the man harassed by building motor cars, only a flamboyant myth, was suddenly authentic, and he walked with Julius Caesar, who in that moment ceased to be merely a drawing in a school-book, a ventriloquist’s dummy talking the kind of overgrammatical rot that only school-masters could understand, and became a living, lively, talkative acquaintance, having a drink here with Sam, and extraordinarily resembling Roosevelt off-stage.

Heavy with meditation, happy in being unobserved and not having to act up to the splendors of Fran, he paid his bill and ambled across the bridge and into the cathedral.

It bothered him, as always, that there were no prim and cushioned pews such as he knew in Protestant churches in America; it made the cathedral seem bare and a little unfriendly; but beside a vast pillar, eternal as mountains or the sea, he found a chair, tipped a verger, forgot his irritation with people who buzzed up and wanted to guide him, and lost himself in impenetrable thoughts.

He roused himself to read, patiently, in Baedeker: “Geoffrey Plantagenet, son of Henry II of England, was buried beneath the high altar in 1186. In 1430 Henry VI of England was crowned king of France and in 1560 Mary Stuart (afterward Mary Queen of Scots) was crowned as queen-consort of Francis II. The coronation of Napoleon I and Josephine de Beauharnais by Pope Pius VII (1804) . . . was celebrated here with great ceremony.”

(And in Saurier’s studio brassy women were chattering about the races!)

Plantagenet! Rearing lions on scarlet banners edged with bullion. Mary Stuart and her proud little head. Napoleon himself — here, where Sam Dodsworth was sitting.

“Humph!” he said.

He stared at the Rose Window, but he was seeing what it meant, not what it said. He saw life as something greater and more exciting than food and a little sleep. He felt that he was no longer merely a pedler of motor cars; he felt that he could adventure into this Past about him — and possibly adventure into the far more elusive Present. He saw, unhappily, that the Atkins and De Penable existence into which Fran had led him was not the realization of the “great life” for which he had yearned, but its very negation — the bustle, the little snobberies, the cheap little titles, the cheap little patronage of “art.”

“I’m going to get out of this town and do something — Something exciting. And I’ll make her go with me! I’ve been too weak with her,” he said weakly.

His longing for low and intelligent company could not be denied. He went to the New York Bar. Through the correspondent of a New York newspaper whom he had known as a reporter in Zenith, Sam had met a dozen journalists there, and he felt at home with them. They did not heap on him the slightly patronizing compliments which he had from the women in Madame de Penable’s den of celebrities. He was stimulated by what was to the journalists only commonplace shop-talk: how Trotsky really got along with Stalin — what Briand had said to Sir Austen Chamberlain — what was the “low-down” on the international battle of oil.

This afternoon he met Ross Ireland.

Sam had heard of Ireland, roving foreign correspondent of the Quackenbos Feature Syndicate, as one of the best fellows among the American journalists. The former Zenith reporter introduced Sam to him. Ross Ireland was a man of forty, as large as Sam, and in his over-sized rimless spectacles he looked like a surgeon.

“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Dodsworth,” he said, and his voice still had all the innocence of Iowa. “Staying over here long?”

“Well, yes — some months.”

“This your first trip across?”

“Yes.”

“Say, I’ve just been driving one of your Revelation cars in the jungle in India. Great performance, even in rough going —”

“India?”

“Yes, just back. Real Kipling country. Oh, I don’t know as I saw any Mowglis gassing with tigers and sixteen-foot snakes, and I heard more about jute and indigo than I did about Mrs. Hauksbees, but it certainly knocks your eye out! That big temple at Tanjore — tower eleven stories high, all carved. And the life there — everything different — SMELLS different (and sometimes not so good!)— and the people still in masquerade costumes, and queer curry kind of grub, and Eurasian shops where the Babus will tell you grand lies — every one good for a mail-story. You ought to get out there, if you can take the time. And then beyond India, Burma — take a river-boat — regular floating market-place, with natives in funny turbans squatting all over the decks — go up the Irrawaddy to Mandalay and on to Bhamo. Or you can get steamers at Rangoon for Penang and Sandoway and Akyab and Chittagong and all kinds of fancy places.”

(Rangoon! Akyab! Chittagong!)

“And then around to Java and China and Japan, and home by way of California.”

“I’d like to do it,” said Sam. “Paris is a lovely city, but —”

“Oh, Paris! Paris is nothing but a post-graduate course in Broadway.”

“Looks good to me,” said the ex-Zenith-newspaperman.

“It would! Paris is a town for Americans that can’t stand work,” said Ross Ireland. “I’m keen to see America; tickled to death I’m going back in June. I’ve been away three years — first time I’ve ever been away. I’m homesick as the devil. But I like my America straight. I don’t want it in the form of a lot of expatriates sitting around Paris cafes. And when I want to travel, I want to TRAVEL! Say, you land in Bangkok, with that big gold temple rising over the town, and the boatmen singing in-whatever it is that they DO sing in-or you go to Moscow and see the moujiks in felt boots and sheepskin coats, with the church spires absolutely like white and gold lace-work against the sky — Say, that’s travel!”

Yes. That’s the stuff! Sam was going to travel like that. He’d go — Oh, to Constantinople, back through Italy or Austria, and home for his thirtieth class reunion — just time to do it now, if he hustled. Then Fran and he might start out again next autumn and see Egypt and Morocco — Yes.

It is a favorite American Credo that “if the acting is good enough, you can enjoy a play in a language you don’t understand as well as in English.” Fran held to that credo. Sam urgently did not. He hated to sit through French plays, and when he returned to the hotel from the New York Bar and Ross Ireland — from the Irrawaddy River and Chittagong — he found Fran with tickets for “Le Singe qui Parle,” a slightly bad temper, and the aviator Gioserro.

“You smell of whisky! Atrociously! Now please hurry and dress! Captain Gioserro and you and I are going to the theater. Now please hurry, can’t you? I’ll order the cocktails meanwhile. As you see, I’m all ready. After the theater, we’ll meet Renee de Penable and some other people and dance.”

As he dressed, Sam fretted, “French play! Humph! I won’t know which is the husband and which is the lover for at least the first two acts!”

If he slept at the play, he did it ever so modestly and retiringly, and he was unusually polite to Madame de Penable. Fran was approving on their way home, and quite as easily as though they were back in Zenith, he asserted while they were undressing:

“Fran, I’ve got an idea that —”

“Just unfasten this snap on my shoulder-strap, would you mind? Thanks. You were so nice tonight. Much the best-looking man in the room!”

“That’s —”

“And I’m so glad you’ve come to like Renee de Penable. She’s really a darling — so loyal. But, uh — Sam, I do wish you hadn’t brought up that question as to what right the French have in the Riff.”

“But, my God, they talked about us in Haiti and Nicaragua first!”

“I know, but that’s entirely different. This is an ANCIENT question, and of course Renee was shocked, and so was that English woman, Mrs. What’s-her-name. But it doesn’t matter. I just thought I’d mention it.”

And he’d thought he’d behaved so beautifully tonight!

“But,” he went on heavily, becoming dimly irritated as he noted how little she heeded him while she brushed her hair, “I wanted to suggest that — Look here, Fran, I’ve got kind of an idea. It’s almost May, but we could get in a month or more on the Mediterranean and still have time to get home late in June, and then I could go to my class reunion — thirtieth —”

“Really? THIRTIETH?”

“Oh, I’m not so old! But I mean: we haven’t talked especially about when we would go home —”

“But I want to see a lot more of Europe. Oh, I haven’t started!”

“Neither have I. I agree. But I just mean: there’s several business things I ought to settle up at home, and there’s this reunion, and I’d like to see Emily and her new home, and Brent —”

“But perhaps we could get them to come over here this summer. Would you mind handing me the cold cream that’s in the bathroom — no — no — I think it’s on the bureau — oh, thanks —”

“I thought we could go home for just a couple months, or maybe three, and then start out again. Say go West this time, and sail for China and Japan and round to Rangoon and India and so on.”

“Yes, I’d like to do that sometime. . . . Oh, dear, how sleepy I am! . . . But not now, of course, now that we know nice people here.”

“But that’s just what I mean! I don’t — Oh, they’re a lively bunch, and lots of ’em good families and so on, but I don’t think they ARE nice.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean they’re a bunch of wasters. All they do, Penable and her whole gang, and Atkins’s hangers-on aren’t much better, all they do is just dance and chatter and show off their clothes. Their idea of a good time is just about that of a chorus-girl —”

Fran had been inattentive. She wasn’t now. She snatched up a lace wrap, slapped it about her shoulders over her nightgown, and faced him, like a snarling white cat:

“Sam! Let’s get this straight. I’ve felt you’ve been sulking, that you’ve been too afraid to —”

“Too polite!”

“— say what you thought. Well, I’m sick and tired of having to apologize, yes, to APOLOGIZE, for the crime of having introduced you to some of the nicest and most amusing people in Paris, and for having backed you up when they were offended by your boorishness! Am I to understand that you regard Madame de Penable and her whole GANG, as you so elegantly call it, as simply rotters? May I point out to you that if I don’t have quite so lively an appreciation of such nature’s noblemen as Mr. A. B. Hurd —”

“Fran!”

“— yet possibly I may be a little better equipped to understand really smart, cosmopolitan people than you are! Kindly let me remind you that Renee de Penable is the intimate friend of the most exclusive aristocracy of the ancien regime here —”

“But is she? And what of it?”

“Will you KINDLY stop sneering? You that are so fond of accusing ME of sneering! And, my dear Samuel, you really don’t do it so very well! Delicate irony isn’t your long suit, my dear good man!”

“Damn it, I won’t be talked to like a stable boy!”

“Then don’t act like one! And if I may be permitted to go on and answer the charges which YOU brought up, not I— the whole subject is thoroughly distasteful to me — and oh, Sam, so vulgar, so beastly vulgar!” For a second she was dramatically mournful and hurt, but instantly she was a charging Cossack again: “But when you attack any one that’s been as sweet to me as Renee, all I can say is — Do you happen to realize that she is the dearest friend of the Duchesse de Quatrefleurs — she’s promised to take me down to the Duchesse’s chateau in Burgundy —”

“She’s never done it!”

“As it HAPPENS, the Duchesse is ill, just at the moment! And your charming remark illustrates perfectly what I mean by your sneering! . . . Or, to take the example of Renee’s friend, Mrs. Sittingwall. She’s the widow of a very distinguished English general who was killed in the war —”

“He wasn’t a general — he was a colonel — and now the woman is engaged to that old rip of a French stock-broker, Andillet.”

“What of it? M. Andillet does dress too loudly, and he drives a car too fast, but he’s a most amusing old dear, and he orders the best meal in Paris. And knows cabinet ministers — bankers — diplomats — everybody that’s influential.”

“Well, he looks to me like a crook. And what about the young gigolos that are always hanging around Mrs. Penable?”

“I do think it’s too gracious of you to take the word ‘gigolo,’ which I taught you in the first place —”

“You did not!”

“— and use it against me, my dear polylingual Sam! I suppose you are referring to boys like Gioserro and Billy Dawson. Yes, they’re not at all like American business men, are they! They actually enjoy being charming to women, they enjoy sharing their leisure with women, they dance beautifully, they talk about something besides the stockmarket —”

“Oh, they enjoy leisure, all right! Oh, now, Fran, I don’t mean to be nasty about them, but you know they graft on women —”

“My dear man, Captain Gioserro (and he could call himself Count Gioserro, if he wanted to!) has a perfectly good family income, as his people have had before him, for generations —”

“Whoa now! Hold up! I question his having a very GOOD family income. I notice that whenever he’s with us, he always manages to let me pay. Not that I mind, but — Why say, I’ve never seen him spend a cent except tonight, when he gave ten centimes to the fellow that opened the cab door. Now please listen, Fran, and don’t go off into a tantrum. Don’t you and Mrs. Penable almost always pay the bills — for feeds, for taxis, for tips, for tickets — for Gioserro and young Dawson and most of these other slick young men that she has hanging around?”

“What of it? We can afford it. (The name, by the way, as I have remarked several hundred times before, is MADAME DE PENABLE!) Or are you —” She became regally outraged and deliberate. “Are you perhaps hinting that because you so generously support me, you have the right to dictate on whom and for what I spend every cent? Do you desire me to give you a detailed account of my expenses, like an office boy? Then let me remind you — oh, this is SO distasteful to me, but I must remind you that I have twenty thousand a year of my own, and now that I have a chance to be happy, with amusing people —”

She was sobbing. He caught her shoulders, and demanded, “Will you stop self-dramatizing yourself, my young lady? You know, and you know good and well, that I’m criticizing these young men for grafting just because I want to point out that they’re no good; nothing but a lot of butterflies.”

She broke away from his grasp and from her own sobs, and she was tart again: “Then thank God for the butterflies! I’m so tired of the worthy ants! . . . Sam, we might just as well have this out . . . if we’re going on together.”

The last five words chilled him. He was incredulous. She seemed a little to mean it, and she went on resolutely:

“Let’s get it straight — just what we are up to; what we want. Now that we are meeting them, do you appreciate people with wit and elegance, or have you already had enough of them? Are you going to insist on returning to — oh, decent enough people, but people that can’t see anything in life more amusing than poker and golf and motoring, that are afraid of suave manners, that think to be roughneck is to be strong? Does the accumulated civilization of two thousand years of Europe mean something to you or —”

“Oh, come off it, Fran! I’m not a roughneck and you know it. And I’m not uncivilized. And I like nice manners. But I like nice manners in people that are something more than amateur head-waiters and — And after all, a rock takes a better polish than a sponge! These people, even Penable herself, are parrots. What I’d like to meet — Well, you take the colonial administrators and so on out in the British possessions. People that are doing something besides going night after night to these restaurants where your gigolos hang out —”

“Sam, if you don’t mind, I think I’ve stood all the insults to my friends that I can for one night! You can think up a few new ones for tomorrow. I’m going to sleep. And now.”

Whether she slept or not, she was rigidly silent, her face turned from him.

He expected her to be soft, fluttery, apologetic, in the morning. But, awakening at nine, she looked unrepentant as steel. He trundled out talk about breakfast, about the laundry, then he grumbled, “I don’t know that I made myself quite clear last evening —”

“Oh yes, you did! Thoroughly! And I don’t think I care to discuss it. Shall we not say anything more about it?” She was so brightly forgiving and superior that he was infuriated. “I’m going out now. I’ll be back here about twelve. I’m lunching with Renee de Penable, and if you think you can endure another hour with my degenerate friends, I should be glad to have you join us.”

She vanished into the bathroom, to dress, and nothing more could be get out of her. When she was gone, he sat in bathrobe and slippers, over a second order of coffee.

She’d never before let a quarrel last overnight, at least when she’d been in the wrong —

Or was it possible that she had not been in the wrong in their controversy?

And (each second he was more confused) just what was the controversy about?

Anyway, she couldn’t really have meant anything by her “if we’re going on together.” But suppose she had? Married couples did break up, quite incredibly, after years. Did he, in order to hold her, have to obey her, to associate forever with peacocks like this Mrs. Sittingwall and this fellow Andillet — who was certainly a little more than friendly with the Penable woman?

No, hanged if he would!

But if that meant losing Fran? Good God! Why, now that he had no work, he had nothing to absorb him save Fran, Emily, Brent, and three or four friends like Tub Pearson. Nor would he have anything new: he doubted if any other job could stimulate him like building up the Revelation Company; he doubted if he would make any new friends; he doubted if travel, pictures, music, hobbies, would ever be anything more than diversions interesting for an hour at a time. And of what he had left to keep life tolerable, Fran was first. She was the reason for everything! It was a second, a renewed Fran that he loved in his daughter Emily. His business and his making of money had been all for Fran — well no, maybe not all — hell! how hard it was to be honest about one’s own self — maybe not all — fun putting business across, too — but she’d been the chief reason for it, anyway. As for his friends — Why, he’d’ve chucked even Tub, if Fran hadn’t liked him!

Fran! That just the other day had been a girl, cool and sparkling and strange, on the Canoe Club porch — Good Lord, the Canoe Club had burned down twenty years ago.

In the radiant May of Paris, with the horse chestnuts out on the Champs Elysees, he sat huddled, feeling cold.

He went to lunch with Fran, Madame de Penable, and Billy Dawson, a young American who was the airiest and most objectionable of the De Penable’s gentlemen valets. Sam was gravely polite. For two weeks he went with Fran and the De Penable’s court to all sorts of restaurants reeking with cigarette smoke and expensive perfume and smart scandal. Between times, he sneaked off, like a small boy going to the circus, to low places, looking particularly for the roving correspondent, Ross Ireland, and when he found that Ireland was sailing on June fifteenth on the Aquitania, which would arrive in time for Sam’s thirtieth reunion at Yale, he anxiously engaged a stateroom for “self & wife.” He liked Ross Ireland; he found particularly amusing, very like his own cultural pretenses, the fact that since Ireland was totally unable to learn any language save Iowan, he thundered that English was “enough to take anybody anywhere” and that “these fellows that talk about your having to know French if you’re going to do political stuff in Europe are just trying to show what smart guys they are.” And he liked the way in which Ireland mingled stories of Burmese temples with stories of Old Doc Jevons back t’ home in Ioway.

This lowness Sam hid from his wife, and hid the fact that he was agonizingly bored by not having enough to do. Yet his devotion did not win her back. There was a courteous coolness about her, always.

When he had definitely to know about returning to America, she answered briskly:

“Yes, I’ve thought it over. I can understand that you need to go back. But I’m not going. I’ve practically promised Renee de Penable to take a villa with her near Montreux for the summer. But I want you to go and see Tub and every one and thoroughly enjoy yourself, and then come back and join me in the late summer, and we’ll think about the Orient.”

But when she saw him off at the Gare St. Lazare she was suddenly softened.

She cried; she clung; she sobbed, “Oh, I didn’t realize how much I’ll miss you! Perhaps I’ll come join you in Zenith. Do have the very best time you can, darling. Go camping with Tub — and give him my love — and tell him and Matey I hope they’ll come over here — and try to get Em and Brent to come. Oh, my dear, forgive your idiotic, feather-brained wife! But let her have her foolish fling now! I did make a real home for you, didn’t I? I shall again. Take care of yourself, my dear, and write me every day, and don’t be angry with me — or do be angry, if it’ll make you any happier! Bless you!”

And the first day out she sent him a radio: “You are a big brown bear and worth seventy-nine thousand gigolos even when their hair greased best butter stop did I remember to tell you that I adore you.”

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/l/lewis/sinclair/dodsworth/chapter15.html

Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:38