AS he walked through the train, looking for familiar faces, he saw only one person whom he knew, and that was Seneca Doane, the lawyer who, after the blessings of being in Babbitts own class at college and of becoming a corporation-counsel, had turned crank, had headed farmer-labor tickets and fraternized with admitted socialists. Though he was in rebellion, naturally Babbitt did not care to be seen talking with such a fanatic, but in all the Pullmans he could find no other acquaintance, and reluctantly he halted. Seneca Doane was a slight, thin-haired man, rather like Chum Frink except that he hadnt Frinks grin. He was reading a book called The Way of All Flesh. It looked religious to Babbitt, and he wondered if Doane could possibly have been converted and turned decent and patriotic.
Yuh, might be good idea, all right. WellShame I havent seen more of you, recent years. Oh, say, hope you havent held it against me, my bucking you as mayor, going on the stump for Prout. You see, Im an organization Republican, and I kind of felt
Theres no reason why you shouldnt fight me. I have no doubt youre good for the Organization. I rememberin college you were an unusually liberal, sensitive chap. I can still recall your saying to me that you were going to be a lawyer, and take the cases of the poor for nothing, and fight the rich. And I remember I said I was going to be one of the rich myself, and buy paintings and live at Newport. Im sure you inspired us all.
Well.... Well.... Ive always aimed to be liberal. Babbitt was enormously shy and proud and self-conscious; he tried to look like the boy he had been a quarter-century ago, and he shone upon his old friend Seneca Doane as he rumbled, Trouble with a lot of these fellows, even the live wires and some of em that think theyre forward-looking, is they arent broad-minded and liberal. Now, I always believe in giving the other fellow a chance, and listening to his ideas.
I always say a fellow ought to have Vision and Ideals. I guess some of the fellows in my business think Im pretty visionary, but I just let em think what they want to and go right onsame as you do.... By golly, this is nice to have a chance to sit and visit and kind of, you might say, brush up on our ideals.
This, Doane explained, was indeed the general conception of Beecher Ingram, but he himself saw Beecher Ingram as a priest of the brotherhood of man, of which Babbitt was notoriously an upholder. So would Babbitt keep his acquaintances from hounding Ingram and his forlorn little church?
Doane warmed up and became reminiscent. He spoke of student days in Germany, of lobbying for single tax in Washington, of international labor conferences. He mentioned his friends, Lord Wycombe, Colonel Wedgwood, Professor Piccoli. Babbitt had always supposed that Doane associated only with the I. W. W., but now he nodded gravely, as one who knew Lord Wycombes by the score, and he got in two references to Sir Gerald Doak. He felt daring and idealistic and cosmopolitan.
Five hours after he had arrived in Zenith and told his wife how hot it was in New York, he went to call on Zilla. He was buzzing with ideas and forgiveness. Hed get Paul released; hed do things, vague but highly benevolent things, for Zilla; hed be as generous as his friend Seneca Doane.
He had not seen Zilla since Paul had shot her, and he still pictured her as buxom, high-colored, lively, and a little blowsy. As he drove up to her boarding-house, in a depressing back street below the wholesale district, he stopped in discomfort. At an upper window, leaning on her elbow, was a woman with the features of Zilla, but she was bloodless and aged, like a yellowed wad of old paper crumpled into wrinkles. Where Zilla had bounced and jiggled, this woman was dreadfully still.
He waited half an hour before she came into the boarding-house parlor. Fifty times he opened the book of photographs of the Chicago Worlds Fair of 1893, fifty times he looked at the picture of the Court of Honor.
He was startled to find Zilla in the room. She wore a black streaky gown which she had tried to brighten with a girdle of crimson ribbon. The ribbon had been torn and patiently mended. He noted this carefully, because he did not wish to look at her shoulders. One shoulder was lower than the other; one arm she carried in contorted fashion, as though it were paralyzed; and behind a high collar of cheap lace there was a gouge in the anemic neck which had once been shining and softly plump.
Well, you know how it is. Figured you wouldnt want to see a friend of his for quite some time and Sit down, honey! Lets be sensible. Weve all of us done a bunch of things that we hadnt ought to, but maybe we can sort of start over again. Honest, Zilla, Id like to do something to make you both happy. Know what I thought to-day? Mind you, Paul doesnt know a thing about thisdoesnt know I was going to come see you. I got to thinking: Zillas a fine? big-hearted woman, and shell understand that, uh, Pauls had his lesson now. Why wouldnt it be a fine idea if you asked the governor to pardon him? Believe he would, if it came from you. No! Wait! Just think how good youd feel if you were generous.
Yes, I wish to be generous. She was sitting primly, speaking icily. For that reason I wish to keep him in prison, as an example to evil-doers. Ive gotten religion, George, since the terrible thing that man did to me. Sometimes I used to be unkind, and I wished for worldly pleasures, for dancing and the theater. But when I was in the hospital the pastor of the Pentecostal Communion Faith used to come to see me, and he showed me, right from the prophecies written in the Word of God, that the Day of Judgment is coming and all the members of the older churches are going straight to eternal damnation, because they only do lip-service and swallow the world, the flesh, and the devil
For fifteen wild minutes she talked, pouring out admonitions to flee the wrath to come, and her face flushed, her dead voice recaptured something of the shrill energy of the old Zilla. She wound up with a furious:
Its the blessing of God himself that Paul should be in prison now, and torn and humbled by punishment, so that he may yet save his soul, and so other wicked men, these horrible chasers after women and lust, may have an example.
Yes, I know, Zilla. But gosh, it certainly is the essence of religion to be charitable, isnt it? Let me tell you how I figure it: What we need in the world is liberalism, liberality, if were going to get anywhere. Ive always believed in being broad-minded and liberal
Ill bet you do! With Pauls money! But just to show you how liberal I am, Im going to send a check for ten bucks to this Beecher Ingram, because a lot of fellows are saying the poor cuss preaches sedition and free love, and theyre trying to run him out of town.
And theyre right! They ought to run him out of town! Why, he preachesif you can call it preachingin a theater, in the House of Satan! You dont know what it is to find God, to find peace, to behold the snares that the devil spreads out for our feet. Oh, Im so glad to see the mysterious purposes of God in having Paul harm me and stop my wickednessand Pauls getting his, good and plenty, for the cruel things he did to me, and I hope he dies in prison!
Vast is the power of cities to reclaim the wanderer. More than mountains or the shore-devouring sea, a city retains its character, imperturbable, cynical, holding behind apparent changes its essential purpose. Though Babbitt had deserted his family and dwelt with Joe Paradise in the wilderness, though he had become a liberal, though he had been quite sure, on the night before he reached Zenith, that neither he nor the city would be the same again, ten days after his return he could not believe that he had ever been away. Nor was it at all evident to his acquaintances that there was a new George F. Babbitt, save that he was more irritable under the incessant chaffing at the Athletic Club, and once, when Vergil Gunch observed that Seneca Doane ought to be hanged, Babbitt snorted, Oh, rats, hes not so bad.
At home he grunted Eh? across the newspaper to his commentatory wife, and was delighted by Tinkas new red tam oshanter, and announced, No class to that corrugated iron garage. Have to build me a nice frame one.
Verona and Kenneth Escott appeared really to be engaged. In his newspaper Escott had conducted a pure-food crusade against commission-houses. As a result he had been given an excellent job in a commission-house, and he was making a salary on which he could marry, and denouncing irresponsible reporters who wrote stories criticizing commission-houses without knowing what they were talking about.
This September Ted had entered the State University as a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. The university was at Mohalis, only fifteen miles from Zenith, and Ted often came down for the week-end. Babbitt was worried. Ted was going in for everything but books. He had tried to makethe football team as a light half-back, he was looking forward to the basket-ball season, he was on the committee for the Freshman Hop, and (as a Zenithite, an aristocrat among the yokels) he was being rushed by two fraternities. But of his studies Babbitt could learn nothing save a mumbled, Oh, gosh, these old stiffs of teachers just give you a lot of junk about literature and economics.
One week-end Ted proposed, Say, Dad, why cant I transfer over from the College to the School of Engineering and take mechanical engineering? You always holler that I never study, but honest, I would study there.
There was much explanation of the dollars-and-cents value of being known as a college man when you go into the law, and a truly oratorical account of the lawyers life. Before he was through with it, Babbitt had Ted a United States Senator.
Thats no way to speak of a great man! Doanes always been a good friend of minefact I helped him in collegeI started him out and you might say inspired him. Just because hes sympathetic with the aims of Labor, a lot of chumps that lack liberality and broad-mindedness think hes a crank, but let me tell you theres mighty few of em that rake in the fees he does, and hes a friend of some of the strongest; most conservative men in the worldlike Lord Wycombe, this, uh, this big English nobleman thats so well known. And you now, which would you rather do: be in with a lot of greasy mechanics and laboring-men, or chum up to a real fellow like Lord Wycombe, and get invited to his house for parties?
The next week-end he came in joyously with, Say, Dad, why couldnt I take mining engineering instead of the academic course? You talk about standingmaybe there isnt much in mechanical engineering, but the Miners, gee, they got seven out of eleven in the new elections to Nu Tau Tau!