HE forgot Paul Riesling in an afternoon of not unagreeable details. After a return to his office, which seemed to have staggered on without him, he drove a prospect out to view a four-flat tenement in the Linton district. He was inspired by the customers admiration of the new cigar-lighter. Thrice its novelty made him use it, and thrice he hurled half-smoked cigarettes from the car, protesting, I got to quit smoking so blame much!
Their ample discussion of every detail of the cigar-lighter led them to speak of electric flat-irons and bed-warmers. Babbitt apologized for being so shabbily old-fashioned as still to use a hot-water bottle, and he announced that he would have the sleeping-porch wired at once. He had enormous and poetic admiration, though very little understanding, of all mechanical devices. They were his symbols of truth and beauty. Regarding each new intricate mechanismmetal lathe, two-jet carburetor, machine gun, oxyacetylene welderhe learned one good realistic-sounding phrase, and used it over and over, with a delightful feeling of being technical and initiated.
The customer joined him in the worship of machinery, and they came buoyantly up to the tenement and began that examination of plastic slate roof, kalamein doors, and seven-eighths-inch blind-nailed flooring, began those diplomacies of hurt surprise and readiness to be persuaded to do something they had already decided to do, which would some day result in a sale.
On the way back Babbitt picked up his partner and father-in-law, Henry T. Thompson, at his kitchen-cabinet works, and they drove through South Zenith, a high-colored, banging, exciting region: new factories of hollow tile with gigantic wire-glass windows, surly old red-brick factories stained with tar, high-perched water-tanks, big red trucks like locomotives, and, on a score of hectic side-tracks, far-wandering freight-cars from the New York Central and apple orchards, the Great Northern and wheat-plateaus, the Southern Pacific and orange groves.
They talked to the secretary of the Zenith Foundry Company about an interesting artistic projecta cast-iron fence for Linden Lane Cemetery. They drove on to the Zeeco Motor Company and interviewed the sales-manager, Noël Ryland, about a discount on a Zeeco car for Thompson. Babbitt and Ryland were fellow-members of the Boosters Club, and no Booster felt right if he bought anything from another Booster without receiving a discount. But Henry Thompson growled, Oh, t hell with em! Im not going to crawl around mooching discounts, not from nobody. It was one of the differences between Thompson, the old-fashioned, lean Yankee, rugged, traditional, stage type of American business man, and Babbitt, the plump, smooth, efficient, up-to-the-minute and otherwise perfected modern. Whenever Thompson twanged, Put your John Hancock on that line, Babbitt was as much amused by the antiquated provincialism as any proper Englishman by any American. He knew himself to be of a breeding altogether more esthetic and sensitive than Thompsons. He was a college graduate, he played golf, he often smoked cigarettes instead of cigars, and when he went to Chicago he took a room with a private bath. The whole thing is, he explained to Paul Riesling, these old codgers lack the subtlety that you got to have to-day.
This advance in civilization could be carried too far, Babbitt perceived. Noël Ryland, sales-manager of the Zeeco, was a frivolous graduate of Princeton, while Babbitt was a sound and standard ware from that great department-store, the State University. Ryland wore spats, he wrote long letters about City Planning and Community Singing, and, though he was a Booster, he was known to carry in his pocket small volumes of poetry in a foreign language. All this was going too far. Henry Thompson was the extreme of insularity, and Noël Ryland the extreme of frothiness, while between them, supporting the state, defending the evangelical churches and domestic brightness and sound business, were Babbitt and his friends.
But as he went through the corridor of the Reeves Building he sighed, Poor old Paul! I got toOh, damn Noël Ryland! Damn Charley McKelvey! Just because they make more money than I do, they think theyre so superior. I wouldnt be found dead in their stuffy old Union Club! ISomehow, to-day, I dont feel like going back to work. Oh well
Young Graff, the outside salesman, was always hinting that he deserved an increase of commission, and to-day he complained, I think I ought to get a bonus if I put through the Heiler sale. Im chasing around and working on it every single evening, almost.
Babbitt frequently remarked to his wife that it was better to con your office-help along and keep em happy stead of jumping on em and poking em upget more work out of em that way, but this unexampled lack of appreciation hurt him, and he turned on Graff:
Look here, Stan; lets get this clear. Youve got an idea somehow that its you that do all the selling. Where d you get that stuff? Where d you think youd be if it wasnt for our capital behind you, and our lists of properties, and all the prospects we find for you? All you got to do is follow up our tips and close the deal. The hall-porter could sell Babbitt-Thompson listings! You say youre engaged to a girl, but have to put in your evenings chasing after buyers. Well, why the devil shouldnt you? What do you want to do? Sit around holding her hand? Let me tell you, Stan, if your girl is worth her salt, shell be glad to know youre out hustling, making some money to furnish the home-nest, instead of doing the lovey-dovey. The kind of fellow that kicks about working overtime, that wants to spend his evenings reading trashy novels or spooning and exchanging a lot of nonsense and foolishness with some girl, he aint the kind of upstanding, energetic young man, with a futureand with Vision!that we want here. How about it? Whats your Ideal, anyway? Do you want to make money and be a responsible member of the community, or do you want to be a loafer, with no Inspiration or Pep?
Graff was not so amenable to Vision and Ideals as usual. You bet I want to make money! Thats why I want that bonus! Honest, Mr. Babbitt, I dont want to get fresh, but this Heiler house is a terror. Nobodyll fall for it. The flooring is rotten and the walls are full of cracks
Thats exactly what I mean! To a salesman with a love for his profession, its hard problems like that that inspire him to do his best. Besides, Stan Matter o fact, Thompson and I are against bonuses, as a matter of principle. We like you, and we want to help you so you can get married, but we cant be unfair to the others on the staff. If we start giving you bonuses, dont you see were going to hurt the feeling and be unjust to Penniman and Laylock? Rights right, and discrimination is unfair, and there aint going to be any of it in this office! Dont get the idea, Stan, that because during the war salesmen were hard to hire, now, when theres a lot of men out of work, there arent a slew of bright young fellows that would be glad to step in and enjoy your opportunities, and not act as if Thompson and I were his enemies and not do any work except for bonuses. How about it, heh? How about it?
Babbitt did not often squabble with his employees. He liked to like the people about him; he was dismayed when they did not like him. It was only when they attacked the sacred purse that he was frightened into fury, but then, being a man given to oratory and high principles, he enjoyed the sound of his own vocabulary and the warmth of his own virtue. To-day he had so passionately indulged in self-approval that he wondered whether he had been entirely just:
After all, Stan isnt a boy any more. Oughtnt to call him so hard. But rats, got to haul folks over the coals now and then for their own good. Unpleasant duty, but I wonder if Stan is sore? Whats he saying to McGoun out there?
So chill a wind of hatred blew from the outer office that the normal comfort of his evening home-going was ruined. He was distressed by losing that approval of his employees to which an executive is always slave. Ordinarily he left the office with a thousand enjoyable fussy directions to the effect that there would undoubtedly be important tasks to-morrow, and Miss McGoun and Miss Bannigan would do well to be there early, and for heavens sake remind him to call up Conrad Lyte soon s he came in. To-night he departed with feigned and apologetic liveliness. He was as afraid of his still-faced clerksof the eyes focused on him, Miss McGoun staring with head lifted from her typing, Miss Bannigan looking over her ledger, Mat Penniman craning around at his desk in the dark alcove, Stanley Graff sullenly expressionlessas a parvenu before the bleak propriety of his butler. He hated to expose his back to their laughter, and in his effort to be casually merry he stammered and was raucously friendly and oozed wretchedly out of the door.
He stopped to inform Howard Littlefield, his scholarly neighbor, that though the day had been springlike the evening might be cold. He went in to shout Where are you? at his wife, with no very definite desire to know where she was. He examined the lawn to see whether the furnace-man had raked it properly. With some satisfaction and a good deal of discussion of the matter with Mrs. Babbitt, Ted, and Howard Littlefield, he concluded that the furnace-man had not raked it properly. He cut two tufts of wild grass with his wifes largest dressmaking-scissors; he informed Ted that it was all nonsense having a furnace-manbig husky fellow like you ought to do all the work around the house; and privately he meditated that it was agreeable to have it known throughout the neighborhood that he was so prosperous that his son never worked around the house.
He stood on the sleeping-porch and did his days exercises: arms out sidewise for two minutes, up for two minutes, while he muttered, Ought take more exercise; keep in shape; then went in to see whether his collar needed changing before dinner. As usual it apparently did not.
The roast of beef, roasted potatoes, and string beans were excellent this evening and, after an adequate sketch of the days progressive weather-states, his four-hundred-and-fifty-dollar fee, his lunch with Paul Riesling, and the proven merits of the new cigar-lighter, he was moved to a benign, Sort o thinking about buying a new car. Dont believe well get one till next year, but still we might.
A closed car does keep the clothes nicer, from Mrs. Babbitt; You dont get your hair blown all to pieces, from Verona; Its a lot sportier, from Ted; and from Tinka, the youngest, Oh, lets have a sedan! Mary Ellens father has got one. Ted wound up, Oh, everybodys got a closed car now, except us!
Babbitt faced them: I guess you got nothing very terrible to complain about! Anyway, I dont keep a car just to enable you children to look like millionaires! And I like an open car, so you can put the top down on summer evenings and go out for a drive and get some good fresh air. Besides A closed car costs more money.
Humph! I make eight thousand a year to his seven! But I dont blow it all in and waste it and throw it around, the way he does! Dont believe in this business of going and spending a whole lot of money to show off and
They went, with ardor and some thoroughness, into the matters of streamline bodies, hill-climbing power, wire wheels, chrome steel, ignition systems, and body colors. It was much more than a study of transportation. It was an aspiration for knightly rank. In the city of Zenith, in the barbarous twentieth century, a familys motor indicated its social rank as precisely as the grades of the peerage determined the rank of an English familyindeed, more precisely, considering the opinion of old county families upon newly created brewery barons and woolen-mill viscounts. The details of precedence were never officially determined. There was no court to decide whether the second son of a Pierce Arrow limousine should go in to dinner before the first son of a Buick roadster, but of their respective social importance there was no doubt; and where Babbitt as a boy had aspired to the presidency, his son Ted aspired to a Packard twin-six and an established position in the motored gentry.
The favor which Babbitt had won from his family by speaking of a new car evaporated as they realized that he didnt intend to buy one this year. Ted lamented, Oh, punk! The old boat looks as if itd had fleas and been scratching its varnish off. Mrs. Babbitt said abstractedly, Snoway talkcher father. Babbitt raged, If youre too much of a high-class gentleman, and you belong to the bon ton and so on, why, you neednt take the car out this evening. Ted explained, I didnt mean and dinner dragged on with normal domestic delight to the inevitable point at which Babbitt protested, Come, come now, we cant sit here all evening. Give the girl a chance to clear away the table.
He was fretting, What a family! I dont know how we all get to scrapping this way. Like to go off some place and be able to hear myself think.... Paul ... Maine ... Wear old pants, and loaf, and cuss. He said cautiously to his wife, Ive been in correspondence with a man in New Yorkwants me to see him about a real-estate trademay not come off till summer. Hope it doesnt break just when we and the Rieslings get ready to go to Maine. Be a shame if we couldnt make the trip there together. Well, no use worrying now.
I dont see why they give us this old-fashioned junk by Milton and Shakespeare and Wordsworth and all these has-beens, he protested. Oh, I guess I could stand it to see a show by Shakespeare, if they had swell scenery and put on a lot of dog, but to sit down in cold blood and read em These teachershow do they get that way?
Mrs. Babbitt, darning socks, speculated, Yes, I wonder why. Of course I dont want to fly in the face of the professors and everybody, but I do think theres things in Shakespearenot that I read him much, but when I was young the girls used to show me passages that werent, really, they werent at all nice.
Babbitt looked up irritably from the comic strips in the Evening Advocate. They composed his favorite literature and art, these illustrated chronicles in which Mr. Mutt hit Mr. Jeff with a rotten egg, and Mother corrected Fathers vulgarisms by means of a rolling-pin. With the solemn face of a devotee, breathing heavily through his open mouth, he plodded nightly through every picture, and during the rite he detested interruptions. Furthermore, he felt that on the subject of Shakespeare he wasnt really an authority. Neither the Advocate-Times, the Evening Advocate, nor the Bulletin of the Zenith Chamber of Commerce had ever had an editorial on the matter, and until one of them had spoken he found it hard to form an original opinion. But even at risk of floundering in strange bogs, he could not keep out of an open controversy.
Ill tell you why you have to study Shakespeare and those. Its because theyre required for college entrance, and thats all there is to it! Personally, I dont see myself why they stuck em into an up-to-date high-school system like we have in this state. Be a good deal better if you took Business English, and learned how to write an ad, or letters that would pull. But there it is, and theres no tall, argument, or discussion about it! Trouble with you, Ted, is you always want to do something different! If youre going to law-schooland you are!I never had a chance to, but Ill see that you dowhy, youll want to lay in all the English and Latin you can get.
Oh punk. I dont see whats the use of law-schoolor even finishing high school. I dont want to go to college specially. Honest, theres lot of fellows that have graduated from colleges that dont begin to make as much money as fellows that went to work early. Old Shimmy Peters, that teaches Latin in the High, hes a what-is-it from Columbia and he sits up all night reading a lot of greasy books and hes always spieling about the value of languages, and the poor soak doesnt make but eighteen hundred a year, and no traveling salesman would think of working for that. I know what Id like to do. Id like to be an aviator, or own a corking big garage, or elsea fellow was telling me about it yesterday Id like to be one of these fellows that the Standard Oil Company sends out to China, and you live in a compound and dont have to do any work, and you get to see the world and pagodas and the ocean and everything! And then I could take up correspondence-courses. Thats the real stuff! You dont have to recite to some frosty-faced old dame thats trying to show off to the principal, and you can study any subject you want to. Just listen to these! I clipped out the ads of some swell courses.
He snatched from the back of his geometry half a hundred advertisements of those home-study courses which the energy and foresight of American commerce have contributed to the science of education. The first displayed the portrait of a young man with a pure brow, an iron jaw, silk socks, and hair like patent leather. Standing with one hand in his trousers-pocket and the other extended with chiding forefinger, he was bewitching an audience of men with gray beards, paunches, bald heads, and every other sign of wisdom and prosperity. Above the picture was an inspiring educational symbolno antiquated lamp or torch or owl of Minerva, but a row of dollar signs. The text ran:
WHAT WE TEACH YOU!
How to address your lodge.
How to give toasts.
How to tell dialect stories.
How to propose to a lady.
How to entertain banquets.
How to make convincing selling-talks.
How to build big vocabulary.
How to create a strong personality.
How to become a rational, powerful and original thinker.
How to be a MASTER MAN!
Who do you think I ran into the other evening at the De Luxe Restaurant? Why, old Freddy Durkee, that used to be a dead-or-alive shipping clerk in my old placeMr. Mouse-Man we used to laughingly call the dear fellow. One time he was so timid he was plumb scared of the Super, and never got credit for the dandy work he did. Him at the De Luxe! And if he wasnt ordering a tony feed with all the fixings from celery to nuts! And instead of being embarrassed by the waiters, like he used to be at the little dump where we lunched in Old Lang Syne, he was bossing them around like he was a millionaire!
I cautiously asked him what he was doing. Freddy laughed and said, Say, old chum, I guess youre wondering whats come over me. Youll be glad to know Im now Assistant Super at the old shop, and right on the High Road to Prosperity and Domination, and I look forward with confidence to a twelve-cylinder car, and the wife is making things hum in the best society and the kiddies getting a first-class education.
PROF. W. F. PEET author of the Shortcut Course in Public-Speaking, is easily the foremost figure in practical literature, psychology & oratory. A graduate of some of our leading universities, lecturer, extensive traveler, author of books, poetry, etc., a man with the unique PERSONALITY OF THE MASTER MINDS, he is ready to give YOU all the secrets of his culture and hammering Force, in a few easy lessons that will not interfere with other occupations.
Heres how it happened. I ran across an ad of a course that claimed to teach people how to talk easily and on their feet, how to answer complaints, how to lay a proposition before the Boss, how to hit a bank for a loan, how to hold a big audience spellbound with wit, humor, anecdote, inspiration, etc. It was compiled by the Master Orator, Prof. Waldo F. Peet. I was skeptical, too, but I wrote (just on a postcard, with name and address) to the publisher for the lessonssent On Trial, money back if you are not absolutely satisfied. There were eight simple lessons in plain language anybody could understand, and I studied them just a few hours a night, then started practising on the wife. Soon found I could talk right up to the Super and get due credit for all the good work I did. They began to appreciate me and advance me fast, and say, old doggo, what do you think theyre paying me now? $6,500 per year! And say, I find I can keep a big audience fascinated, speaking on any topic. As a friend, old boy, I advise you to send for circular (no obligation) and valuable free Art Picture to:
SHORTCUT EDUCATIONAL PUB. CO. Desk WA Sandpit, Iowa.
Babbitt was again without a canon which would enable him to speak with authority. Nothing in motoring or real estate had indicated what a Solid Citizen and Regular Fellow ought to think about culture by mail. He began with hesitation:
Wellsounds as if it covered the ground. It certainly is a fine thing to be able to orate. Ive sometimes thought I had a little talent that way myself, and I know darn well that one reason why a fourflushing old back-number like Chan Mott can get away with it in real estate is just because he can make a good talk, even when he hasnt got a doggone thing to say! And it certainly is pretty cute the way they get out all these courses on various topics and subjects nowadays. Ill tell you, though: No need to blow in a lot of good money on this stuff when you can get a first-rate course in eloquence and English and all that right in your own schooland one of the biggest school buildings in the entire country!
Yuh, but Dad, they just teach a lot of old junk that isnt any practical useexcept the manual training and typewriting and basketball and dancingand in these correspondence-courses, gee, you can get all kinds of stuff that would come in handy. Say, listen to this one:
CAN YOU PLAY A MANS PART?
If you are walking with your mother, sister or best girl and some one passes a slighting remark or uses improper language, wont you be ashamed if you cant take her part? Well, can you?
We teach boxing and self-defense by mail. Many pupils have written saying that after a few lessons theyve outboxed bigger and heavier opponents. The lessons start with simple movements practised before your mirrorholding out your hand for a coin, the breast-stroke in swimming, etc. Before you realize it you are striking scientifically, ducking, guarding and feinting, just as if you had a real opponent before you.
Nobodys going to pass no slighting remarks on nobody, Babbitt observed, not if they stay home and study their geometry and mind their own affairs instead of hanging around a lot of poolrooms and soda-fountains and places where nobodys got any business to be!
Mrs. Babbitt chirped, Well, if they did, I wouldnt do them the honor of paying any attention to them! Besides, they never do. You always hear about these women that get followed and insulted and all, but I dont believe a word of it, or its their own fault, the way some women look at a person. I certainly never ve been insulted by
Certainly your mother can imagine thingsand suppose things! Think youre the only member of this household thats got an imagination? Babbitt demanded. But whats the use of a lot of supposing? Supposing never gets you anywhere. No sense supposing when theres a lot of real facts to take into considera
I dont intend to suppose anything of the kind! Theres plenty of fellows in my profession that stoop and hate their competitors, but if you were a little older and understood business, instead of always going to the movies and running around with a lot of fool girls with their dresses up to their knees and powdered and painted and rouged and God knows what all as if they were chorus-girls, then youd knowand youd supposethat if theres any one thing that I stand for in the real-estate circles of Zenith, it is that we ought to always speak of each other only in the friendliest terms and institute a spirit of brotherhood and coöperation, and so I certainly cant suppose and I cant imagine my hating any realtor, not even that dirty, fourflushing society sneak, Cecil Rountree!
And theres no If, And or But about it! But if I were going to lambaste somebody, I wouldnt require any fancy ducks or swimming-strokes before a mirror, or any of these doodads and flipflops! Suppose you were out some place and a fellow called you vile names. Think youd want to box and jump around like a dancing-master? Youd just lay him out cold (at least I certainly hope any son of mine would!) and then youd dust off your hands and go on about your business, and thats all there is to it, and you arent going to have any boxing-lessons by mail, either!
Thats different. They stick you up there and some big stiff amuses himself pounding the stuffins out of you before you have a chance to learn. Hunka! Not any! But anyway Listen to some of these others.
The advertisements were truly philanthropic. One of them bore the rousing headline: Money! Money!! Money!!! The second announced that Mr. P. R., formerly making only eighteen a week in a barber shop, writes to us that since taking our course he is now pulling down $5,000 as an Osteo-vitalic Physician; and the third that Miss J. L., recently a wrapper in a store, is now getting Ten Real Dollars a day teaching our Hindu System of Vibratory Breathing and Mental Control.
Ted had collected fifty or sixty announcements, from annual reference-books, from Sunday School periodicals, fiction-magazines, and journals of discussion. One benefactor implored, Dont be a WallflowerBe More Popular and Make More MoneyYou Can Ukulele or Sing Yourself into Society! By the secret principles of a Newly Discovered System of Music Teaching, any oneman, lady or childcan, without tiresome exercises, special training or long drawn out study, and without waste of time, money or energy, learn to play by note, piano, banjo, cornet, clarinet, saxophone, violin or drum, and learn sight-singing.
The next, under the wistful appeal Finger Print Detectives WantedBig Incomes! confided: YOU red-blooded men and womenthis is the PROFESSION you have been looking for. Theres MONEY in it, BIG money, and that rapid change of scene, that entrancing and compelling interest and fascination, which your active mind and adventurous spirit crave. Think of being the chief figure and directing factor in solving strange mysteries and baffling crimes. This wonderful profession brings you into contact with influential men on the basis of equality, and often calls upon you to travel everywhere, maybe to distant landsall expenses paid. NO SPECIAL EDUCATION REQUIRED.
Well, I dont think much of that. Doggone likely to get hurt. Still, that music-study stunt might be pretty fair, though. Theres no reason why, if efficiency-experts put their minds to it the way they have to routing products in a factory, they couldnt figure out some scheme so a person wouldnt have to monkey with all this practising and exercises that you get in music. Babbitt was impressed, and he had a delightful parental feeling that they two, the men of the family, understood each other.
He listened to the notices of mail-box universities which taught Short-story Writing and Improving the Memory, Motion-picture-acting and Developing the Soul-power, Banking and Spanish, Chiropody and Photography, Electrical Engineering and Window-trimming, Poultry-raising and Chemistry.
Wellwell Babbitt sought for adequate expression of his admiration. Im a son of a gun! I knew this correspondence-school business had become a mighty profitable gamemakes suburban real-estate look like two cents!but I didnt realize itd got to be such a reglar key-industry! Must rank right up with groceries and movies. Always figured somebodyd come along with the brains to not leave education to a lot of bookworms and impractical theorists but make a big thing out of it. Yes, I can see how a lot of these courses might interest you. I must ask the fellows at the Athletic if they ever realized But same time, Ted, you know how advertisers, I means some advertisers, exaggerate. I dont know as theyd be able to jam you through these courses as fast as they claim they can.
I can see what an influence these courses might have on the whole educational works. Course Id never admit it publiclyfellow like myself, a State U. graduate, its only decent and patriotic for him to blow his horn and boost the Alma Materbut smatter of fact, theres a whole lot of valuable time lost even at the U., studying poetry and French and subjects that never brought in anybody a cent. I dont know but what maybe these correspondence-courses might prove to be one of the most important American inventions.
Trouble with a lot of folks is: theyre so blame material; they dont see the spiritual and mental side of American supremacy; they think that inventions like the telephone and the areoplane and wirelessno, that was a Wop invention, but anyway: they think these mechanical improvements are all that we stand for; whereas to a real thinker, he sees that spiritual and, uh, dominating movements like Efficiency, and Rotarianism, and Prohibition, and Democracy are what compose our deepest and truest wealth. And maybe this new principle in education-at-home may be anothermay be another factor. I tell you, Ted, weve got to have Vision
The philosophers gasped. It was Mrs. Babbitt who had made this discord in their spiritual harmony, and one of Mrs. Babbitts virtues was that, except during dinner-parties, when she was transformed into a raging hostess, she took care of the house and didnt bother the males by thinking. She went on firmly:
It sounds awful to me, the way they coax those poor young folks to think theyre learning something, and nobody round to help them and You two learn so quick, but me, I always was slow. But just the same
Babbitt attended to her: Nonsense! Get just as much, studying at home. You dont think a fellow learns any more because he blows in his fathers hard-earned money and sits around in Morris chairs in a swell Harvard dormitory with pictures and shields and table-covers and those doodads, do you? I tell you, Im a college manI know! There is one objection you might make though. I certainly do protest against any effort to get a lot of fellows out of barber shops and factories into the professions. Theyre too crowded already, and whatll we do for workmen if all those fellows go and get educated?
Ted was leaning back, smoking a cigarette without reproof. He was, for the moment, sharing the high thin air of Babbitts speculation as though he were Paul Riesling or even Dr. Howard Littlefield. He hinted:
No, and Ill tell you why, son. Ive found out its a mighty nice thing to be able to say youre a B. A. Some client that doesnt know what you are and thinks youre just a plug business man, he gets to shooting off his mouth about economics or literature or foreign trade conditions, and you just ease in something like, When I was in collegecourse I got my B. A. in sociology and all that junk Oh, it puts an awful crimp in their style! But there wouldnt be any class to saying I got the degree of Stamp-licker from the Bezuzus Mail-order University! You see My dad was a pretty good old coot, but he never had much style to him, and I had to work darn hard to earn my way through college. Well, its been worth it, to be able to associate with the finest gentlemen in Zenith, at the clubs and so on, and I wouldnt want you to drop out of the gentlemen classthe class that are just as red-blooded as the Common People but still have power and personality. It would kind of hurt me if you did that, old man!
Six times in the past sixty days Babbitt had stormed, You will not do it first thing in the morning! Youll do it right now! but to-night he said, Well, better hustle, and his smile was the rare shy radiance he kept for Paul Riesling.
I dont know. Oh dear, Ted never tells me anything any more. I dont understand whats come over the children of this generation. I used to have to tell Papa and Mama everything, but seems like the children to-day have just slipped away from all control.
Well, I dont know. Way I figure it, Myra, no sense suggesting a lot of Things to a boys mind. Think up enough devilment by himself. But I wonderIts kind of a hard question. Wonder what Littlefield thinks about it?
simply cant beat him at getting in on the ground floor of a deal, but let me tell you whenever he springs any ideas about higher things and education, then I know I think just the opposite. You may not regard me as any great brain-shark, but believe me, Im a regular college president, compared with Henry T.! Yes sir, by golly, Im going to take Ted aside and tell him why I lead a strictly moral life.
When? When? Whats the use of trying to pin me down to When and Why and Where and How and When? Thats the trouble with women, thats why they dont make high-class executives; they havent any sense of diplomacy. When the proper opportunity and occasion arises so it just comes in natural, why then Ill have a friendly little talk with him andand Was that Tinka hollering up-stairs? She ought to been asleep, long ago.
He prowled through the living-room, and stood in the sun-parlor, that glass-walled room of wicker chairs and swinging couch in which they loafed on Sunday afternoons. Outside only the lights of Doppelbraus house and the dim presence of Babbitts favorite elm broke the softness of April night.
Good visit with the boy. Getting over feeling cranky, way I did this morning. And restless. Though, by golly, I will have a few days alone with Paul in Maine!... That devil Zilla!... But ... Teds all right. Whole family all right. And good business. Not many fellows make four hundred and fifty bucks, practically half of a thousand dollars easy as I did to-day! Maybe when we all get to rowing its just as much my fault as it is theirs. Oughtnt to get grouchy like I do. But Wish Id been a pioneer, same as my grand-dad. But then, wouldnt have a house like this. I Oh, gosh, I dont know!
When Babbitt had graduated from the State University, twenty-four years ago, he had intended to be a lawyer. He had been a ponderous debater in college; he felt that he was an orator; he saw himself becoming governor of the state. While he read law he worked as a real-estate salesman. He saved money, lived in a boarding-house, supped on poached egg on hash. The lively Paul Riesling (who was certainly going off to Europe to study violin, next month or next year) was his refuge till Paul was bespelled by Zilla Colbeck, who laughed and danced and drew men after her plump and gaily wagging finger.
Babbitts evenings were barren then, and he found comfort only in Pauls second cousin, Myra Thompson, a sleek and gentle girl who showed her capacity by agreeing with the ardent young Babbitt that of course he was going to be governor some day. Where Zilla mocked him as a country boy, Myra said indignantly that he was ever so much solider than the young dandies who had been born in the great city of Zenithan ancient settlement in 1897, one hundred and five years old, with two hundred thousand population, the queen and wonder of all the state and, to the Catawba boy, George Babbitt, so vast and thunderous and luxurious that he was flattered to know a girl ennobled by birth in Zenith.
Of love there was no talk between them. He knew that if he was to study law he could not marry for years; and Myra was distinctly a Nice Girlone didnt kiss her, one didnt think about her that way at all unless one was going to marry her. But she was a dependable companion. She was always ready to go skating, walking; always content to hear his discourses on the great things he was going to do, the distressed poor whom he would defend against the Unjust Rich, the speeches he would make at Banquets, the inexactitudes of popular thought which he would correct.
One evening when he was weary and soft-minded, he saw that she had been weeping. She had been left out of a party given by Zilla. Somehow her head was on his shoulder and he was kissing away the tearsand she raised her head to say trustingly, Now that were engaged, shall we be married soon or shall we wait?
Engaged? It was his first hint of it. His affection for this brown tender woman thing went cold and fearful, but he could not hurt her, could not abuse her trust. He mumbled something about waiting, and escaped. He walked for an hour, trying to find a way of telling her that it was a mistake. Often, in the month after, he got near to telling her, but it was pleasant to have a girl in his arms, and less and less could he insult her by blurting that he didnt love her. He himself had no doubt. The evening before his marriage was an agony, and the morning wild with the desire to flee.
She made him what is known as a Good Wife. She was loyal, industrious, and at rare times merry. She passed from a feeble disgust at their closer relations into what promised to be ardent affection, but it drooped into bored routine. Yet she existed only for him and for the children, and she was as sorry, as worried as himself, when he gave up the law and trudged on in a rut of listing real estate.
Poor kid, she hasnt had much better time than I have, Babbitt reflected, standing in the dark sun-parlor. But I wish I could ve had a whirl at law and politics. Seen what I could do. Well Maybe Ive made more money as it is.