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Babbitt
by Sinclair Lewis
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When he had played four or five holes, he relaxed a bit, his tobacco-fluttering heart beat more normally, and his voice slowed to the drawling of his hundred generations of peasant ancestors.

IV

At least once a week Mr. and Mrs. Babbitt and Tinka went to the movies. Their favorite motion-picture theater was the Chateau, which held three thousand spectators and had an orchestra of fifty pieces which played Arrangements from the Operas and suites portraying a Day on the Farm, or a Four-alarm Fire. In the stone rotunda, decorated with crown-embroidered velvet chairs and almost medieval tapestries, parrakeets sat on gilded lotos columns.

With exclamations of "Well, by golly!" and "You got to go some to beat this dump!" Babbitt admired the Chateau. As he stared across the thousands of heads, a gray plain in the dimness, as he smelled good clothes and mild perfume and chewing-gum, he felt as when he had first seen a mountain and realized how very, very much earth and rock there was in it.

He liked three kinds of films: pretty bathing girls with bare legs; policemen or cowboys and an industrious shooting of revolvers; and funny fat men who ate spaghetti. He chuckled with immense, moist-eyed sentimentality at interludes portraying puppies, kittens, and chubby babies; and he wept at deathbeds and old mothers being patient in mortgaged cottages. Mrs. Babbitt preferred the pictures in which handsome young women in elaborate frocks moved through sets ticketed as the drawing-rooms of New York millionaires. As for Tinka, she preferred, or was believed to prefer, whatever her parents told her to.

All his relaxations—baseball, golf, movies, bridge, motoring, long talks with Paul at the Athletic Club, or at the Good Red Beef and Old English Chop House—were necessary to Babbitt, for he was entering a year of such activity as he had never known.



CHAPTER XIII

I

IT was by accident that Babbitt had his opportunity to address the S. A. R. E. B.

The S. A. R. E. B., as its members called it, with the universal passion for mysterious and important-sounding initials, was the State Association of Real Estate Boards; the organization of brokers and operators. It was to hold its annual convention at Monarch, Zenith's chief rival among the cities of the state. Babbitt was an official delegate; another was Cecil Rountree, whom Babbitt admired for his picaresque speculative building, and hated for his social position, for being present at the smartest dances on Royal Ridge. Rountree was chairman of the convention program-committee.

Babbitt had growled to him, "Makes me tired the way these doctors and profs and preachers put on lugs about being 'professional men.' A good realtor has to have more knowledge and finesse than any of 'em."

"Right you are! I say: Why don't you put that into a paper, and give it at the S. A. R. E. B.?" suggested Rountree.

"Well, if it would help you in making up the program—Tell you: the way I look at it is this: First place, we ought to insist that folks call us 'realtors' and not 'real-estate men.' Sounds more like a reg'lar profession. Second place—What is it distinguishes a profession from a mere trade, business, or occupation? What is it? Why, it's the public service and the skill, the trained skill, and the knowledge and, uh, all that, whereas a fellow that merely goes out for the jack, he never considers the-public service and trained skill and so on. Now as a professional—"

"Rather! That's perfectly bully! Perfectly corking! Now you write it in a paper," said Rountree, as he rapidly and firmly moved away.

II

However accustomed to the literary labors of advertisements and correspondence, Babbitt was dismayed on the evening when he sat down to prepare a paper which would take a whole ten minutes to read.

He laid out a new fifteen-cent school exercise-book on his wife's collapsible sewing-table, set up for the event in the living-room. The household had been bullied into silence; Verona and Ted requested to disappear, and Tinka threatened with "If I hear one sound out of you—if you holler for a glass of water one single solitary time—You better not, that's all!" Mrs. Babbitt sat over by the piano, making a nightgown and gazing with respect while Babbitt wrote in the exercise-book, to the rhythmical wiggling and squeaking of the sewing-table.

When he rose, damp and jumpy, and his throat dusty from cigarettes, she marveled, "I don't see how you can just sit down and make up things right out of your own head!"

"Oh, it's the training in constructive imagination that a fellow gets in modern business life."

He had written seven pages, whereof the first page set forth:

{illustration omitted: consists of several doodles and "(1) a profession (2) Not just a trade crossed out (3) Skill & vision (3) Shd be called "realtor" & not just real est man"}

The other six pages were rather like the first.

For a week he went about looking important. Every morning, as he dressed, he thought aloud: "Jever stop to consider, Myra, that before a town can have buildings or prosperity or any of those things, some realtor has got to sell 'em the land? All civilization starts with him. Jever realize that?" At the Athletic Club he led unwilling men aside to inquire, "Say, if you had to read a paper before a big convention, would you start in with the funny stories or just kind of scatter 'em all through?" He asked Howard Littlefield for a "set of statistics about real-estate sales; something good and impressive," and Littlefield provided something exceedingly good and impressive.

But it was to T. Cholmondeley Frink that Babbitt most often turned. He caught Frink at the club every noon, and demanded, while Frink looked hunted and evasive, "Say, Chum—you're a shark on this writing stuff—how would you put this sentence, see here in my manuscript—manuscript now where the deuce is that?—oh, yes, here. Would you say 'We ought not also to alone think?' or 'We ought also not to think alone?' or—"

One evening when his wife was away and he had no one to impress, Babbitt forgot about Style, Order, and the other mysteries, and scrawled off what he really thought about the real-estate business and about himself, and he found the paper written. When he read it to his wife she yearned, "Why, dear, it's splendid; beautifully written, and so clear and interesting, and such splendid ideas! Why, it's just—it's just splendid!"

Next day he cornered Chum Frink and crowed, "Well, old son, I finished it last evening! Just lammed it out! I used to think you writing-guys must have a hard job making up pieces, but Lord, it's a cinch. Pretty soft for you fellows; you certainly earn your money easy! Some day when I get ready to retire, guess I'll take to writing and show you boys how to do it. I always used to think I could write better stuff, and more punch and originality, than all this stuff you see printed, and now I'm doggone sure of it!"

He had four copies of the paper typed in black with a gorgeous red title, had them bound in pale blue manilla, and affably presented one to old Ira Runyon, the managing editor of the Advocate-Times, who said yes, indeed yes, he was very glad to have it, and he certainly would read it all through—as soon as he could find time.

Mrs. Babbitt could not go to Monarch. She had a women's-club meeting. Babbitt said that he was very sorry.

III

Besides the five official delegates to the convention—Babbitt, Rountree, W. A. Rogers, Alvin Thayer, and Elbert Wing—there were fifty unofficial delegates, most of them with their wives.

They met at the Union Station for the midnight train to Monarch. All of them, save Cecil Rountree, who was such a snob that he never wore badges, displayed celluloid buttons the size of dollars and lettered "We zoom for Zenith." The official delegates were magnificent with silver and magenta ribbons. Martin Lumsen's little boy Willy carried a tasseled banner inscribed "Zenith the Zip City—Zeal, Zest and Zowie—1,000,000 in 1935." As the delegates arrived, not in taxicabs but in the family automobile driven by the oldest son or by Cousin Fred, they formed impromptu processions through the station waiting-room.

It was a new and enormous waiting-room, with marble pilasters, and frescoes depicting the exploration of the Chaloosa River Valley by Pere Emile Fauthoux in 1740. The benches were shelves of ponderous mahogany; the news-stand a marble kiosk with a brass grill. Down the echoing spaces of the hall the delegates paraded after Willy Lumsen's banner, the men waving their cigars, the women conscious of their new frocks and strings of beads, all singing to the tune of Auld Lang Syne the official City Song, written by Chum Frink:

Good old Zenith, Our kin and kith, Wherever we may be, Hats in the ring, We blithely sing Of thy Prosperity.

Warren Whitby, the broker, who had a gift of verse for banquets and birthdays, had added to Frink's City Song a special verse for the realtors' convention:

Oh, here we come, The fellows from Zenith, the Zip Citee. We wish to state In real estate There's none so live as we.

Babbitt was stirred to hysteric patriotism. He leaped on a bench, shouting to the crowd:

"What's the matter with Zenith?"

"She's all right!"

"What's best ole town in the U. S. A.?"

"Zeeeeeen-ith!"

The patient poor people waiting for the midnight train stared in unenvious wonder—Italian women with shawls, old weary men with broken shoes, roving road-wise boys in suits which had been flashy when they were new but which were faded now and wrinkled.

Babbitt perceived that as an official delegate he must be more dignified. With Wing and Rogers he tramped up and down the cement platform beside the waiting Pullmans. Motor-driven baggage-trucks and red-capped porters carrying bags sped down the platform with an agreeable effect of activity. Arc-lights glared and stammered overhead. The glossy yellow sleeping-cars shone impressively. Babbitt made his voice to be measured and lordly; he thrust out his abdomen and rumbled, "We got to see to it that the convention lets the Legislature understand just where they get off in this matter of taxing realty transfers." Wing uttered approving grunts and Babbitt swelled—gloated.

The blind of a Pullman compartment was raised, and Babbitt looked into an unfamiliar world. The occupant of the compartment was Lucile McKelvey, the pretty wife of the millionaire contractor. Possibly, Babbitt thrilled, she was going to Europe! On the seat beside her was a bunch of orchids and violets, and a yellow paper-bound book which seemed foreign. While he stared, she picked up the book, then glanced out of the window as though she was bored. She must have looked straight at him, and he had met her, but she gave no sign. She languidly pulled down the blind, and he stood still, a cold feeling of insignificance in his heart.

But on the train his pride was restored by meeting delegates from Sparta, Pioneer, and other smaller cities of the state, who listened respectfully when, as a magnifico from the metropolis of Zenith, he explained politics and the value of a Good Sound Business Administration. They fell joyfully into shop-talk, the purest and most rapturous form of conversation:

"How'd this fellow Rountree make out with this big apartment-hotel he was going to put up? Whadde do? Get out bonds to finance it?" asked a Sparta broker.

"Well, I'll tell you," said Babbitt. "Now if I'd been handling it—"

"So," Elbert Wing was droning, "I hired this shop-window for a week, and put up a big sign, 'Toy Town for Tiny Tots,' and stuck in a lot of doll houses and some dinky little trees, and then down at the bottom, 'Baby Likes This Dollydale, but Papa and Mama Will Prefer Our Beautiful Bungalows,' and you know, that certainly got folks talking, and first week we sold—"

The trucks sang "lickety-lick, lickety-lick" as the train ran through the factory district. Furnaces spurted flame, and power-hammers were clanging. Red lights, green lights, furious white lights rushed past, and Babbitt was important again, and eager.

IV

He did a voluptuous thing: he had his clothes pressed on the train. In the morning, half an hour before they reached Monarch, the porter came to his berth and whispered, "There's a drawing-room vacant, sir. I put your suit in there." In tan autumn overcoat over his pajamas, Babbitt slipped down the green-curtain-lined aisle to the glory of his first private compartment. The porter indicated that he knew Babbitt was used to a man-servant; he held the ends of Babbitt's trousers, that the beautifully sponged garment might not be soiled, filled the bowl in the private washroom, and waited with a towel.

To have a private washroom was luxurious. However enlivening a Pullman smoking-compartment was by night, even to Babbitt it was depressing in the morning, when it was jammed with fat men in woolen undershirts, every hook filled with wrinkled cottony shirts, the leather seat piled with dingy toilet-kits, and the air nauseating with the smell of soap and toothpaste. Babbitt did not ordinarily think much of privacy, but now he reveled in it, reveled in his valet, and purred with pleasure as he gave the man a tip of a dollar and a half.

He rather hoped that he was being noticed as, in his newly pressed clothes, with the adoring porter carrying his suit-case, he disembarked at Monarch.

He was to share a room at the Hotel Sedgwick with W. A. Rogers, that shrewd, rustic-looking Zenith dealer in farm-lands. Together they had a noble breakfast, with waffles, and coffee not in exiguous cups but in large pots. Babbitt grew expansive, and told Rogers about the art of writing; he gave a bellboy a quarter to fetch a morning newspaper from the lobby, and sent to Tinka a post-card: "Papa wishes you were here to bat round with him."

V

The meetings of the convention were held in the ballroom of the Allen House. In an anteroom was the office of the chairman of the executive committee. He was the busiest man in the convention; he was so busy that he got nothing done whatever. He sat at a marquetry table, in a room littered with crumpled paper and, all day long, town-boosters and lobbyists and orators who wished to lead debates came and whispered to him, whereupon he looked vague, and said rapidly, "Yes, yes, that's a fine idea; we'll do that," and instantly forgot all about it, lighted a cigar and forgot that too, while the telephone rang mercilessly and about him men kept beseeching, "Say, Mr. Chairman—say, Mr. Chairman!" without penetrating his exhausted hearing.

In the exhibit-room were plans of the new suburbs of Sparta, pictures of the new state capitol, at Galop de Vache, and large ears of corn with the label, "Nature's Gold, from Shelby County, the Garden Spot of God's Own Country."

The real convention consisted of men muttering in hotel bedrooms or in groups amid the badge-spotted crowd in the hotel-lobby, but there was a show of public meetings.

The first of them opened with a welcome by the mayor of Monarch. The pastor of the First Christian Church of Monarch, a large man with a long damp frontal lock, informed God that the real-estate men were here now.

The venerable Minnemagantic realtor, Major Carlton Tuke, read a paper in which he denounced cooperative stores. William A. Larkin of Eureka gave a comforting prognosis of "The Prospects for Increased Construction," and reminded them that plate-glass prices were two points lower.

The convention was on.

The delegates were entertained, incessantly and firmly. The Monarch Chamber of Commerce gave them a banquet, and the Manufacturers' Association an afternoon reception, at which a chrysanthemum was presented to each of the ladies, and to each of the men a leather bill-fold inscribed "From Monarch the Mighty Motor Mart."

Mrs. Crosby Knowlton, wife of the manufacturer of Fleetwing Automobiles, opened her celebrated Italian garden and served tea. Six hundred real-estate men and wives ambled down the autumnal paths. Perhaps three hundred of them were quietly inconspicuous; perhaps three hundred vigorously exclaimed, "This is pretty slick, eh?" surreptitiously picked the late asters and concealed them in their pockets, and tried to get near enough to Mrs. Knowlton to shake her lovely hand. Without request, the Zenith delegates (except Rountree) gathered round a marble dancing nymph and sang "Here we come, the fellows from Zenith, the Zip Citee."

It chanced that all the delegates from Pioneer belonged to the Brotherly and Protective Order of Elks, and they produced an enormous banner lettered: "B. P. O. E.—Best People on Earth—Boost Pioneer, Oh Eddie." Nor was Galop de Vache, the state capital, to be slighted. The leader of the Galop de Vache delegation was a large, reddish, roundish man, but active. He took off his coat, hurled his broad black felt hat on the ground, rolled up his sleeves, climbed upon the sundial, spat, and bellowed:

"We'll tell the world, and the good lady who's giving the show this afternoon, that the bonniest burg in this man's state is Galop de Vache. You boys can talk about your zip, but jus' lemme murmur that old Galop has the largest proportion of home-owning citizens in the state; and when folks own their homes, they ain't starting labor-troubles, and they're raising kids instead of raising hell! Galop de Vache! The town for homey folks! The town that eats 'em alive oh, Bosco! We'll—tell—the—world!"

The guests drove off; the garden shivered into quiet. But Mrs. Crosby Knowlton sighed as she looked at a marble seat warm from five hundred summers of Amalfi. On the face of a winged sphinx which supported it some one had drawn a mustache in lead-pencil. Crumpled paper napkins were dumped among the Michaelmas daisies. On the walk, like shredded lovely flesh, were the petals of the last gallant rose. Cigarette stubs floated in the goldfish pool, trailing an evil stain as they swelled and disintegrated, and beneath the marble seat, the fragments carefully put together, was a smashed teacup.

VI

As he rode back to the hotel Babbitt reflected, "Myra would have enjoyed all this social agony." For himself he cared less for the garden party than for the motor tours which the Monarch Chamber of Commerce had arranged. Indefatigably he viewed water-reservoirs, suburban trolley-stations, and tanneries. He devoured the statistics which were given to him, and marveled to his roommate, W. A. Rogers, "Of course this town isn't a patch on Zenith; it hasn't got our outlook and natural resources; but did you know—I nev' did till to-day—that they manufactured seven hundred and sixty-three million feet of lumber last year? What d' you think of that!"

He was nervous as the time for reading his paper approached. When he stood on the low platform before the convention, he trembled and saw only a purple haze. But he was in earnest, and when he had finished the formal paper he talked to them, his hands in his pockets, his spectacled face a flashing disk, like a plate set up on edge in the lamplight. They shouted "That's the stuff!" and in the discussion afterward they referred with impressiveness to "our friend and brother, Mr. George F. Babbitt." He had in fifteen minutes changed from a minor delegate to a personage almost as well known as that diplomat of business, Cecil Rountree. After the meeting, delegates from all over the state said, "Hower you, Brother Babbitt?" Sixteen complete strangers called him "George," and three men took him into corners to confide, "Mighty glad you had the courage to stand up and give the Profession a real boost. Now I've always maintained—"

Next morning, with tremendous casualness, Babbitt asked the girl at the hotel news-stand for the newspapers from Zenith. There was nothing in the Press, but in the Advocate-Times, on the third page—He gasped. They had printed his picture and a half-column account. The heading was "Sensation at Annual Land-men's Convention. G. F. Babbitt, Prominent Ziptown Realtor, Keynoter in Fine Address."

He murmured reverently, "I guess some of the folks on Floral Heights will sit up and take notice now, and pay a little attention to old Georgie!"

VII

It was the last meeting. The delegations were presenting the claims of their several cities to the next year's convention. Orators were announcing that "Galop de Vache, the Capital City, the site of Kremer College and of the Upholtz Knitting Works, is the recognized center of culture and high-class enterprise;" and that "Hamburg, the Big Little City with the Logical Location, where every man is open-handed and every woman a heaven-born hostess, throws wide to you her hospitable gates."

In the midst of these more diffident invitations, the golden doors of the ballroom opened with a blatting of trumpets, and a circus parade rolled in. It was composed of the Zenith brokers, dressed as cowpunchers, bareback riders, Japanese jugglers. At the head was big Warren Whitby, in the bearskin and gold-and-crimson coat of a drum-major. Behind him, as a clown, beating a bass drum, extraordinarily happy and noisy, was Babbitt.

Warren Whitby leaped on the platform, made merry play with his baton, and observed, "Boyses and girlses, the time has came to get down to cases. A dyed-in-the-wool Zenithite sure loves his neighbors, but we've made up our minds to grab this convention off our neighbor burgs like we've grabbed the condensed-milk business and the paper-box business and—"

J. Harry Barmhill, the convention chairman, hinted, "We're grateful to you, Mr. Uh, but you must give the other boys a chance to hand in their bids now."

A fog-horn voice blared, "In Eureka we'll promise free motor rides through the prettiest country—"

Running down the aisle, clapping his hands, a lean bald young man cried, "I'm from Sparta! Our Chamber of Commerce has wired me they've set aside eight thousand dollars, in real money, for the entertainment of the convention!"

A clerical-looking man rose to clamor, "Money talks! Move we accept the bid from Sparta!"

It was accepted.

VIII

The Committee on Resolutions was reporting. They said that Whereas Almighty God in his beneficent mercy had seen fit to remove to a sphere of higher usefulness some thirty-six realtors of the state the past year, Therefore it was the sentiment of this convention assembled that they were sorry God had done it, and the secretary should be, and hereby was, instructed to spread these resolutions on the minutes, and to console the bereaved families by sending them each a copy.

A second resolution authorized the president of the S.A.R.E.B. to spend fifteen thousand dollars in lobbying for sane tax measures in the State Legislature. This resolution had a good deal to say about Menaces to Sound Business and clearing the Wheels of Progress from ill-advised and shortsighted obstacles.

The Committee on Committees reported, and with startled awe Babbitt learned that he had been appointed a member of the Committee on Torrens Titles.

He rejoiced, "I said it was going to be a great year! Georgie, old son, you got big things ahead of you! You're a natural-born orator and a good mixer and—Zowie!"

IX

There was no formal entertainment provided for the last evening. Babbitt had planned to go home, but that afternoon the Jered Sassburgers of Pioneer suggested that Babbitt and W. A. Rogers have tea with them at the Catalpa Inn.

Teas were not unknown to Babbitt—his wife and he earnestly attended them at least twice a year—but they were sufficiently exotic to make him feel important. He sat at a glass-covered table in the Art Room of the Inn, with its painted rabbits, mottoes lettered on birch bark, and waitresses being artistic in Dutch caps; he ate insufficient lettuce sandwiches, and was lively and naughty with Mrs. Sassburger, who was as smooth and large-eyed as a cloak-model. Sassburger and he had met two days before, so they were calling each other "Georgie" and "Sassy."

Sassburger said prayerfully, "Say, boys, before you go, seeing this is the last chance, I've GOT IT, up in my room, and Miriam here is the best little mixelogist in the Stati Unidos like us Italians say."

With wide flowing gestures, Babbitt and Rogers followed the Sassburgers to their room. Mrs. Sassburger shrieked, "Oh, how terrible!" when she saw that she had left a chemise of sheer lavender crepe on the bed. She tucked it into a bag, while Babbitt giggled, "Don't mind us; we're a couple o' little divvils!"

Sassburger telephoned for ice, and the bell-boy who brought it said, prosaically and unprompted, "Highball glasses or cocktail?" Miriam Sassburger mixed the cocktails in one of those dismal, nakedly white water-pitchers which exist only in hotels. When they had finished the first round she proved by intoning "Think you boys could stand another—you got a dividend coming" that, though she was but a woman, she knew the complete and perfect rite of cocktail-drinking.

Outside, Babbitt hinted to Rogers, "Say, W. A., old rooster, it comes over me that I could stand it if we didn't go back to the lovin' wives, this handsome ABEND, but just kind of stayed in Monarch and threw a party, heh?"

"George, you speak with the tongue of wisdom and sagashiteriferousness. El Wing's wife has gone on to Pittsburg. Let's see if we can't gather him in."

At half-past seven they sat in their room, with Elbert Wing and two up-state delegates. Their coats were off, their vests open, their faces red, their voices emphatic. They were finishing a bottle of corrosive bootlegged whisky and imploring the bell-boy, "Say, son, can you get us some more of this embalming fluid?" They were smoking large cigars and dropping ashes and stubs on the carpet. With windy guffaws they were telling stories. They were, in fact, males in a happy state of nature.

Babbitt sighed, "I don't know how it strikes you hellions, but personally I like this busting loose for a change, and kicking over a couple of mountains and climbing up on the North Pole and waving the aurora borealis around."

The man from Sparta, a grave, intense youngster, babbled, "Say! I guess I'm as good a husband as the run of the mill, but God, I do get so tired of going home every evening, and nothing to see but the movies. That's why I go out and drill with the National Guard. I guess I got the nicest little wife in my burg, but—Say! Know what I wanted to do as a kid? Know what I wanted to do? Wanted to be a big chemist. Tha's what I wanted to do. But Dad chased me out on the road selling kitchenware, and here I'm settled down—settled for LIFE—not a chance! Oh, who the devil started this funeral talk? How 'bout 'nother lil drink? 'And a-noth-er drink wouldn' do 's 'ny harmmmmmmm.'"

"Yea. Cut the sob-stuff," said W. A. Rogers genially. "You boys know I'm the village songster? Come on nowsing up:

Said the old Obadiah to the young Obadiah, 'I am dry, Obadiah, I am dry.' Said the young Obadiah to the old Obadiah, 'So am I, Obadiah, so am I.'"

X

They had dinner in the Moorish Grillroom of the Hotel Sedgwick. Somewhere, somehow, they seemed to have gathered in two other comrades: a manufacturer of fly-paper and a dentist. They all drank whisky from tea-cups, and they were humorous, and never listened to one another, except when W. A. Rogers "kidded" the Italian waiter.

"Say, Gooseppy," he said innocently, "I want a couple o' fried elephants' ears."

"Sorry, sir, we haven't any."

"Huh? No elephants' ears? What do you know about that!" Rogers turned to Babbitt. "Pedro says the elephants' ears are all out!"

"Well, I'll be switched!" said the man from Sparta, with difficulty hiding his laughter.

"Well, in that case, Carlo, just bring me a hunk o' steak and a couple o' bushels o' French fried potatoes and some peas," Rogers went on. "I suppose back in dear old sunny It' the Eyetalians get their fresh garden peas out of the can."

"No, sir, we have very nice peas in Italy."

"Is that a fact! Georgie, do you hear that? They get their fresh garden peas out of the garden, in Italy! By golly, you live and learn, don't you, Antonio, you certainly do live and learn, if you live long enough and keep your strength. All right, Garibaldi, just shoot me in that steak, with about two printers'-reams of French fried spuds on the promenade deck, comprehenez-vous, Michelovitch Angeloni?"

Afterward Elbert Wing admired, "Gee, you certainly did have that poor Dago going, W. A. He couldn't make you out at all!"

In the Monarch Herald, Babbitt found an advertisement which he read aloud, to applause and laughter:

Old Colony Theatre

Shake the Old Dogs to the WROLLICKING WRENS The bonniest bevy of beauteous bathing babes in burlesque. Pete Menutti and his Oh, Gee, Kids.

This is the straight steer, Benny, the painless chicklets of the Wrollicking Wrens are the cuddlingest bunch that ever hit town. Steer the feet, get the card board, and twist the pupils to the PDQest show ever. You will get 111% on your kale in this fun-fest. The Calroza Sisters are sure some lookers and will give you a run for your gelt. Jock Silbersteen is one of the pepper lads and slips you a dose of real laughter. Shoot the up and down to Jackson and West for graceful tappers. They run 1-2 under the wire. Provin and Adams will blow the blues in their laugh skit "Hootch Mon!" Something doing, boys. Listen to what the Hep Bird twitters.

"Sounds like a juicy show to me. Let's all take it in," said Babbitt.

But they put off departure as long as they could. They were safe while they sat here, legs firmly crossed under the table, but they felt unsteady; they were afraid of navigating the long and slippery floor of the grillroom under the eyes of the other guests and the too-attentive waiters.

When they did venture, tables got in their way, and they sought to cover embarrassment by heavy jocularity at the coatroom. As the girl handed out their hats, they smiled at her, and hoped that she, a cool and expert judge, would feel that they were gentlemen. They croaked at one another, "Who owns the bum lid?" and "You take a good one, George; I'll take what's left," and to the check-girl they stammered, "Better come along, sister! High, wide, and fancy evening ahead!" All of them tried to tip her, urging one another, "No! Wait! Here! I got it right here!" Among them, they gave her three dollars.

XI

Flamboyantly smoking cigars they sat in a box at the burlesque show, their feet up on the rail, while a chorus of twenty daubed, worried, and inextinguishably respectable grandams swung their legs in the more elementary chorus-evolutions, and a Jewish comedian made vicious fun of Jews. In the entr'actes they met other lone delegates. A dozen of them went in taxicabs out to Bright Blossom Inn, where the blossoms were made of dusty paper festooned along a room low and stinking, like a cow-stable no longer wisely used.

Here, whisky was served openly, in glasses. Two or three clerks, who on pay-day longed to be taken for millionaires, sheepishly danced with telephone-girls and manicure-girls in the narrow space between the tables. Fantastically whirled the professionals, a young man in sleek evening-clothes and a slim mad girl in emerald silk, with amber hair flung up as jaggedly as flames. Babbitt tried to dance with her. He shuffled along the floor, too bulky to be guided, his steps unrelated to the rhythm of the jungle music, and in his staggering he would have fallen, had she not held him with supple kindly strength. He was blind and deaf from prohibition-era alcohol; he could not see the tables, the faces. But he was overwhelmed by the girl and her young pliant warmth.

When she had firmly returned him to his group, he remembered, by a connection quite untraceable, that his mother's mother had been Scotch, and with head thrown back, eyes closed, wide mouth indicating ecstasy, he sang, very slowly and richly, "Loch Lomond."

But that was the last of his mellowness and jolly companionship. The man from Sparta said he was a "bum singer," and for ten minutes Babbitt quarreled with him, in a loud, unsteady, heroic indignation. They called for drinks till the manager insisted that the place was closed. All the while Babbitt felt a hot raw desire for more brutal amusements. When W. A. Rogers drawled, "What say we go down the line and look over the girls?" he agreed savagely. Before they went, three of them secretly made appointments with the professional dancing girl, who agreed "Yes, yes, sure, darling" to everything they said, and amiably forgot them.

As they drove back through the outskirts of Monarch, down streets of small brown wooden cottages of workmen, characterless as cells, as they rattled across warehouse-districts which by drunken night seemed vast and perilous, as they were borne toward the red lights and violent automatic pianos and the stocky women who simpered, Babbitt was frightened. He wanted to leap from the taxicab, but all his body was a murky fire, and he groaned, "Too late to quit now," and knew that he did not want to quit.

There was, they felt, one very humorous incident on the way. A broker from Minnemagantic said, "Monarch is a lot sportier than Zenith. You Zenith tightwads haven't got any joints like these here." Babbitt raged, "That's a dirty lie! Snothin' you can't find in Zenith. Believe me, we got more houses and hootch-parlors an' all kinds o' dives than any burg in the state."

He realized they were laughing at him; he desired to fight; and forgot it in such musty unsatisfying experiments as he had not known since college.

In the morning, when he returned to Zenith, his desire for rebellion was partly satisfied. He had retrograded to a shamefaced contentment. He was irritable. He did not smile when W. A. Rogers complained, "Ow, what a head! I certainly do feel like the wrath of God this morning. Say! I know what was the trouble! Somebody went and put alcohol in my booze last night."

Babbitt's excursion was never known to his family, nor to any one in Zenith save Rogers and Wing. It was not officially recognized even by himself. If it had any consequences, they have not been discovered.



CHAPTER XIV

THIS autumn a Mr. W. G. Harding, of Marion, Ohio, was appointed President of the United States, but Zenith was less interested in the national campaign than in the local election. Seneca Doane, though he was a lawyer and a graduate of the State University, was candidate for mayor of Zenith on an alarming labor ticket. To oppose him the Democrats and Republicans united on Lucas Prout, a mattress-manufacturer with a perfect record for sanity. Mr. Prout was supported by the banks, the Chamber of Commerce, all the decent newspapers, and George F. Babbitt.

Babbitt was precinct-leader on Floral Heights, but his district was safe and he longed for stouter battling. His convention paper had given him the beginning of a reputation for oratory, so the Republican-Democratic Central Committee sent him to the Seventh Ward and South Zenith, to address small audiences of workmen and clerks, and wives uneasy with their new votes. He acquired a fame enduring for weeks. Now and then a reporter was present at one of his meetings, and the headlines (though they were not very large) indicated that George F. Babbitt had addressed Cheering Throng, and Distinguished Man of Affairs had pointed out the Fallacies of Doane. Once, in the rotogravure section of the Sunday Advocate-Times, there was a photograph of Babbitt and a dozen other business men, with the caption "Leaders of Zenith Finance and Commerce Who Back Prout."

He deserved his glory. He was an excellent campaigner. He had faith; he was certain that if Lincoln were alive, he would be electioneering for Mr. W. G. Harding—unless he came to Zenith and electioneered for Lucas Prout. He did not confuse audiences by silly subtleties; Prout represented honest industry, Seneca Doane represented whining laziness, and you could take your choice. With his broad shoulders and vigorous voice, he was obviously a Good Fellow; and, rarest of all, he really liked people. He almost liked common workmen. He wanted them to be well paid, and able to afford high rents—though, naturally, they must not interfere with the reasonable profits of stockholders. Thus nobly endowed, and keyed high by the discovery that he was a natural orator, he was popular with audiences, and he raged through the campaign, renowned not only in the Seventh and Eighth Wards but even in parts of the Sixteenth.

II

Crowded in his car, they came driving up to Turnverein Hall, South Zenith—Babbitt, his wife, Verona, Ted, and Paul and Zilla Riesling. The hall was over a delicatessen shop, in a street banging with trolleys and smelling of onions and gasoline and fried fish. A new appreciation of Babbitt filled all of them, including Babbitt.

"Don't know how you keep it up, talking to three bunches in one evening. Wish I had your strength," said Paul; and Ted exclaimed to Verona, "The old man certainly does know how to kid these roughnecks along!"

Men in black sateen shirts, their faces new-washed but with a hint of grime under their eyes, were loitering on the broad stairs up to the hall. Babbitt's party politely edged through them and into the whitewashed room, at the front of which was a dais with a red-plush throne and a pine altar painted watery blue, as used nightly by the Grand Masters and Supreme Potentates of innumerable lodges. The hall was full. As Babbitt pushed through the fringe standing at the back, he heard the precious tribute, "That's him!" The chairman bustled down the center aisle with an impressive, "The speaker? All ready, sir! Uh—let's see—what was the name, sir?"

Then Babbitt slid into a sea of eloquence:

"Ladies and gentlemen of the Sixteenth Ward, there is one who cannot be with us here to-night, a man than whom there is no more stalwart Trojan in all the political arena—I refer to our leader, the Honorable Lucas Prout, standard-bearer of the city and county of Zenith. Since he is not here, I trust that you will bear with me if, as a friend and neighbor, as one who is proud to share with you the common blessing of being a resident of the great city of Zenith, I tell you in all candor, honesty, and sincerity how the issues of this critical campaign appear to one plain man of business—to one who, brought up to the blessings of poverty and of manual labor, has, even when Fate condemned him to sit at a desk, yet never forgotten how it feels, by heck, to be up at five-thirty and at the factory with the ole dinner-pail in his hardened mitt when the whistle blew at seven, unless the owner sneaked in ten minutes on us and blew it early! (Laughter.) To come down to the basic and fundamental issues of this campaign, the great error, insincerely promulgated by Seneca Doane—"

There were workmen who jeered—young cynical workmen, for the most part foreigners, Jews, Swedes, Irishmen, Italians—but the older men, the patient, bleached, stooped carpenters and mechanics, cheered him; and when he worked up to his anecdote of Lincoln their eyes were wet.

Modestly, busily, he hurried out of the hall on delicious applause, and sped off to his third audience of the evening. "Ted, you better drive," he said. "Kind of all in after that spiel. Well, Paul, how'd it go? Did I get 'em?"

"Bully! Corking! You had a lot of pep."

Mrs. Babbitt worshiped, "Oh, it was fine! So clear and interesting, and such nice ideas. When I hear you orating I realize I don't appreciate how profoundly you think and what a splendid brain and vocabulary you have. Just—splendid." But Verona was irritating. "Dad," she worried, "how do you know that public ownership of utilities and so on and so forth will always be a failure?"

Mrs. Babbitt reproved, "Rone, I should think you could see and realize that when your father's all worn out with orating, it's no time to expect him to explain these complicated subjects. I'm sure when he's rested he'll be glad to explain it to you. Now let's all be quiet and give Papa a chance to get ready for his next speech. Just think! Right now they're gathering in Maccabee Temple, and WAITING for us!"

III

Mr. Lucas Prout and Sound Business defeated Mr. Seneca Doane and Class Rule, and Zenith was again saved. Babbitt was offered several minor appointments to distribute among poor relations, but he preferred advance information about the extension of paved highways, and this a grateful administration gave to him. Also, he was one of only nineteen speakers at the dinner with which the Chamber of Commerce celebrated the victory of righteousness.

His reputation for oratory established, at the dinner of the Zenith Real Estate Board he made the Annual Address. The Advocate-Times reported this speech with unusual fullness:

"One of the livest banquets that has recently been pulled off occurred last night in the annual Get-Together Fest of the Zenith Real Estate Board, held in the Venetian Ball Room of the O'Hearn House. Mine host Gil O'Hearn had as usual done himself proud and those assembled feasted on such an assemblage of plates as could be rivaled nowhere west of New York, if there, and washed down the plenteous feed with the cup which inspired but did not inebriate in the shape of cider from the farm of Chandler Mott, president of the board and who acted as witty and efficient chairman.

"As Mr. Mott was suffering from slight infection and sore throat, G. F. Babbitt made the principal talk. Besides outlining the progress of Torrensing real estate titles, Mr. Babbitt spoke in part as follows:

"'In rising to address you, with my impromptu speech carefully tucked into my vest pocket, I am reminded of the story of the two Irishmen, Mike and Pat, who were riding on the Pullman. Both of them, I forgot to say, were sailors in the Navy. It seems Mike had the lower berth and by and by he heard a terrible racket from the upper, and when he yelled up to find out what the trouble was, Pat answered, "Shure an' bedad an' how can I ever get a night's sleep at all, at all? I been trying to get into this darned little hammock ever since eight bells!"

"'Now, gentlemen, standing up here before you, I feel a good deal like Pat, and maybe after I've spieled along for a while, I may feel so darn small that I'll be able to crawl into a Pullman hammock with no trouble at all, at all!

"'Gentlemen, it strikes me that each year at this annual occasion when friend and foe get together and lay down the battle-ax and let the waves of good-fellowship waft them up the flowery slopes of amity, it behooves us, standing together eye to eye and shoulder to shoulder as fellow-citizens of the best city in the world, to consider where we are both as regards ourselves and the common weal.

"'It is true that even with our 361,000, or practically 362,000, population, there are, by the last census, almost a score of larger cities in the United States. But, gentlemen, if by the next census we do not stand at least tenth, then I'll be the first to request any knocker to remove my shirt and to eat the same, with the compliments of G. F. Babbitt, Esquire! It may be true that New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia will continue to keep ahead of us in size. But aside from these three cities, which are notoriously so overgrown that no decent white man, nobody who loves his wife and kiddies and God's good out-o'doors and likes to shake the hand of his neighbor in greeting, would want to live in them—and let me tell you right here and now, I wouldn't trade a high-class Zenith acreage development for the whole length and breadth of Broadway or State Street!—aside from these three, it's evident to any one with a head for facts that Zenith is the finest example of American life and prosperity to be found anywhere.

"'I don't mean to say we're perfect. We've got a lot to do in the way of extending the paving of motor boulevards, for, believe me, it's the fellow with four to ten thousand a year, say, and an automobile and a nice little family in a bungalow on the edge of town, that makes the wheels of progress go round!

"'That's the type of fellow that's ruling America to-day; in fact, it's the ideal type to which the entire world must tend, if there's to be a decent, well-balanced, Christian, go-ahead future for this little old planet! Once in a while I just naturally sit back and size up this Solid American Citizen, with a whale of a lot of satisfaction.

"'Our Ideal Citizen—I picture him first and foremost as being busier than a bird-dog, not wasting a lot of good time in day-dreaming or going to sassiety teas or kicking about things that are none of his business, but putting the zip into some store or profession or art. At night he lights up a good cigar, and climbs into the little old 'bus, and maybe cusses the carburetor, and shoots out home. He mows the lawn, or sneaks in some practice putting, and then he's ready for dinner. After dinner he tells the kiddies a story, or takes the family to the movies, or plays a few fists of bridge, or reads the evening paper, and a chapter or two of some good lively Western novel if he has a taste for literature, and maybe the folks next-door drop in and they sit and visit about their friends and the topics of the day. Then he goes happily to bed, his conscience clear, having contributed his mite to the prosperity of the city and to his own bank-account.

"'In politics and religion this Sane Citizen is the canniest man on earth; and in the arts he invariably has a natural taste which makes him pick out the best, every time. In no country in the world will you find so many reproductions of the Old Masters and of well-known paintings on parlor walls as in these United States. No country has anything like our number of phonographs, with not only dance records and comic but also the best operas, such as Verdi, rendered by the world's highest-paid singers.

"'In other countries, art and literature are left to a lot of shabby bums living in attics and feeding on booze and spaghetti, but in America the successful writer or picture-painter is indistinguishable from any other decent business man; and I, for one, am only too glad that the man who has the rare skill to season his message with interesting reading matter and who shows both purpose and pep in handling his literary wares has a chance to drag down his fifty thousand bucks a year, to mingle with the biggest executives on terms of perfect equality, and to show as big a house and as swell a car as any Captain of Industry! But, mind you, it's the appreciation of the Regular Guy who I have been depicting which has made this possible, and you got to hand as much credit to him as to the authors themselves.

"'Finally, but most important, our Standardized Citizen, even if he is a bachelor, is a lover of the Little Ones, a supporter of the hearthstone which is the basic foundation of our civilization, first, last, and all the time, and the thing that most distinguishes us from the decayed nations of Europe.

"'I have never yet toured Europe—and as a matter of fact, I don't know that I care to such an awful lot, as long as there's our own mighty cities and mountains to be seen—but, the way I figure it out, there must be a good many of our own sort of folks abroad. Indeed, one of the most enthusiastic Rotarians I ever met boosted the tenets of one-hundred-per-cent pep in a burr that smacked o' bonny Scutlond and all ye bonny braes o' Bobby Burns. But same time, one thing that distinguishes us from our good brothers, the hustlers over there, is that they're willing to take a lot off the snobs and journalists and politicians, while the modern American business man knows how to talk right up for himself, knows how to make it good and plenty clear that he intends to run the works. He doesn't have to call in some highbrow hired-man when it's necessary for him to answer the crooked critics of the sane and efficient life. He's not dumb, like the old-fashioned merchant. He's got a vocabulary and a punch.

"'With all modesty, I want to stand up here as a representative business man and gently whisper, "Here's our kind of folks! Here's the specifications of the Standardized American Citizen! Here's the new generation of Americans: fellows with hair on their chests and smiles in their eyes and adding-machines in their offices. We're not doing any boasting, but we like ourselves first-rate, and if you don't like us, look out—better get under cover before the cyclone hits town!"

"'So! In my clumsy way I have tried to sketch the Real He-man, the fellow with Zip and Bang. And it's because Zenith has so large a proportion of such men that it's the most stable, the greatest of our cities. New York also has its thousands of Real Folks, but New York is cursed with unnumbered foreigners. So are Chicago and San Francisco. Oh, we have a golden roster of cities—Detroit and Cleveland with their renowned factories, Cincinnati with its great machine-tool and soap products, Pittsburg and Birmingham with their steel, Kansas City and Minneapolis and Omaha that open their bountiful gates on the bosom of the ocean-like wheatlands, and countless other magnificent sister-cities, for, by the last census, there were no less than sixty-eight glorious American burgs with a population of over one hundred thousand! And all these cities stand together for power and purity, and against foreign ideas and communism—Atlanta with Hartford, Rochester with Denver, Milwaukee with Indianapolis, Los Angeles with Scranton, Portland, Maine, with Portland, Oregon. A good live wire from Baltimore or Seattle or Duluth is the twin-brother of every like fellow booster from Buffalo or Akron, Fort Worth or Oskaloosa!

"'But it's here in Zenith, the home for manly men and womanly women and bright kids, that you find the largest proportion of these Regular Guys, and that's what sets it in a class by itself; that's why Zenith will be remembered in history as having set the pace for a civilization that shall endure when the old time-killing ways are gone forever and the day of earnest efficient endeavor shall have dawned all round the world!

"'Some time I hope folks will quit handing all the credit to a lot of moth-eaten, mildewed, out-of-date, old, European dumps, and give proper credit to the famous Zenith spirit, that clean fighting determination to win Success that has made the little old Zip City celebrated in every land and clime, wherever condensed milk and pasteboard cartons are known! Believe me, the world has fallen too long for these worn-out countries that aren't producing anything but bootblacks and scenery and booze, that haven't got one bathroom per hundred people, and that don't know a loose-leaf ledger from a slip-cover; and it's just about time for some Zenithite to get his back up and holler for a show-down!

"'I tell you, Zenith and her sister-cities are producing a new type of civilization. There are many resemblances between Zenith and these other burgs, and I'm darn glad of it! The extraordinary, growing, and sane standardization of stores, offices, streets, hotels, clothes, and newspapers throughout the United States shows how strong and enduring a type is ours.

"'I always like to remember a piece that Chum Frink wrote for the newspapers about his lecture-tours. It is doubtless familiar to many of you, but if you will permit me, I'll take a chance and read it. It's one of the classic poems, like "If" by Kipling, or Ella Wheeler Wilcox's "The Man Worth While"; and I always carry this clipping of it in my note-book:

"When I am out upon the road, a poet with a pedler's load I mostly sing a hearty song, and take a chew and hike along, a-handing out my samples fine of Cheero Brand of sweet sunshine, and peddling optimistic pokes and stable lines of japes and jokes to Lyceums and other folks, to Rotarys, Kiwanis' Clubs, and feel I ain't like other dubs. And then old Major Silas Satan, a brainy cuss who's always waitin', he gives his tail a lively quirk, and gets in quick his dirty work. He fills me up with mullygrubs; my hair the backward way he rubs; he makes me lonelier than a hound, on Sunday when the folks ain't round. And then b' gosh, I would prefer to never be a lecturer, a-ridin' round in classy cars and smoking fifty-cent cigars, and never more I want to roam; I simply want to be back home, a-eatin' flap jacks, hash, and ham, with folks who savvy whom I am!

"But when I get that lonely spell, I simply seek the best hotel, no matter in what town I be—St. Paul, Toledo, or K.C., in Washington, Schenectady, in Louisville or Albany. And at that inn it hits my dome that I again am right at home. If I should stand a lengthy spell in front of that first-class hotel, that to the drummers loves to cater, across from some big film theayter; if I should look around and buzz, and wonder in what town I was, I swear that I could never tell! For all the crowd would be so swell, in just the same fine sort of jeans they wear at home, and all the queens with spiffy bonnets on their beans, and all the fellows standing round a-talkin' always, I'll be bound, the same good jolly kind of guff, 'bout autos, politics and stuff and baseball players of renown that Nice Guys talk in my home town!

"Then when I entered that hotel, I'd look around and say, "Well, well!" For there would be the same news-stand, same magazines and candies grand, same smokes of famous standard brand, I'd find at home, I'll tell! And when I saw the jolly bunch come waltzing in for eats at lunch, and squaring up in natty duds to platters large of French Fried spuds, why then I'd stand right up and bawl, "I've never left my home at all!" And all replete I'd sit me down beside some guy in derby brown upon a lobby chair of plush, and murmur to him in a rush, "Hello, Bill, tell me, good old scout, how is your stock a-holdin' out?" Then we'd be off, two solid pals, a-chatterin' like giddy gals of flivvers, weather, home, and wives, lodge-brothers then for all our lives! So when Sam Satan makes you blue, good friend, that's what I'd up and do, for in these States where'er you roam, you never leave your home sweet home."

"'Yes, sir, these other burgs are our true partners in the great game of vital living. But let's not have any mistake about this. I claim that Zenith is the best partner and the fastest-growing partner of the whole caboodle. I trust I may be pardoned if I give a few statistics to back up my claims. If they are old stuff to any of you, yet the tidings of prosperity, like the good news of the Bible, never become tedious to the ears of a real hustler, no matter how oft the sweet story is told! Every intelligent person knows that Zenith manufactures more condensed milk and evaporated cream, more paper boxes, and more lighting-fixtures, than any other city in the United States, if not in the world. But it is not so universally known that we also stand second in the manufacture of package-butter, sixth in the giant realm of motors and automobiles, and somewhere about third in cheese, leather findings, tar roofing, breakfast food, and overalls!

"'Our greatness, however, lies not alone in punchful prosperity but equally in that public spirit, that forward-looking idealism and brotherhood, which has marked Zenith ever since its foundation by the Fathers. We have a right, indeed we have a duty toward our fair city, to announce broadcast the facts about our high schools, characterized by their complete plants and the finest school-ventilating systems in the country, bar none; our magnificent new hotels and banks and the paintings and carved marble in their lobbies; and the Second National Tower, the second highest business building in any inland city in the entire country. When I add that we have an unparalleled number of miles of paved streets, bathrooms vacuum cleaners, and all the other signs of civilization; that our library and art museum are well supported and housed in convenient and roomy buildings; that our park-system is more than up to par, with its handsome driveways adorned with grass, shrubs, and statuary, then I give but a hint of the all round unlimited greatness of Zenith!

"'I believe, however, in keeping the best to the last. When I remind you that we have one motor car for every five and seven-eighths persons in the city, then I give a rock-ribbed practical indication of the kind of progress and braininess which is synonymous with the name Zenith!

"'But the way of the righteous is not all roses. Before I close I must call your attention to a problem we have to face, this coming year. The worst menace to sound government is not the avowed socialists but a lot of cowards who work under cover—the long-haired gentry who call themselves "liberals" and "radicals" and "non-partisan" and "intelligentsia" and God only knows how many other trick names! Irresponsible teachers and professors constitute the worst of this whole gang, and I am ashamed to say that several of them are on the faculty of our great State University! The U. is my own Alma Mater, and I am proud to be known as an alumni, but there are certain instructors there who seem to think we ought to turn the conduct of the nation over to hoboes and roustabouts.

"'Those profs are the snakes to be scotched—they and all their milk-and-water ilk! The American business man is generous to a fault. But one thing he does demand of all teachers and lecturers and journalists: if we're going to pay them our good money, they've got to help us by selling efficiency and whooping it up for rational prosperity! And when it comes to these blab-mouth, fault-finding, pessimistic, cynical University teachers, let me tell you that during this golden coming year it's just as much our duty to bring influence to have those cusses fired as it is to sell all the real estate and gather in all the good shekels we can.

"'Not till that is done will our sons and daughters see that the ideal of American manhood and culture isn't a lot of cranks sitting around chewing the rag about their Rights and their Wrongs, but a God-fearing, hustling, successful, two-fisted Regular Guy, who belongs to some church with pep and piety to it, who belongs to the Boosters or the Rotarians or the Kiwanis, to the Elks or Moose or Red Men or Knights of Columbus or any one of a score of organizations of good, jolly, kidding, laughing, sweating, upstanding, lend-a-handing Royal Good Fellows, who plays hard and works hard, and whose answer to his critics is a square-toed boot that'll teach the grouches and smart alecks to respect the He-man and get out and root for Uncle Samuel, U.S.A.!'"

IV

Babbitt promised to become a recognized orator. He entertained a Smoker of the Men's Club of the Chatham Road presbyterian Church with Irish, Jewish, and Chinese dialect stories.

But in nothing was he more clearly revealed as the Prominent Citizen than in his lecture on "Brass Tacks Facts on Real Estate," as delivered before the class in Sales Methods at the Zenith Y.M.C.A.

The Advocate-Times reported the lecture so fully that Vergil Gunch said to Babbitt, "You're getting to be one of the classiest spellbinders in town. Seems 's if I couldn't pick up a paper without reading about your well-known eloquence. All this guff ought to bring a lot of business into your office. Good work! Keep it up!"

"Go on, quit your kidding," said Babbitt feebly, but at this tribute from Gunch, himself a man of no mean oratorical fame, he expanded with delight and wondered how, before his vacation, he could have questioned the joys of being a solid citizen.



CHAPTER XV

HIS march to greatness was not without disastrous stumbling.

Fame did not bring the social advancement which the Babbitts deserved. They were not asked to join the Tonawanda Country Club nor invited to the dances at the Union. Himself, Babbitt fretted, he didn't "care a fat hoot for all these highrollers, but the wife would kind of like to be Among Those Present." He nervously awaited his university class-dinner and an evening of furious intimacy with such social leaders as Charles McKelvey the millionaire contractor, Max Kruger the banker, Irving Tate the tool-manufacturer, and Adelbert Dobson the fashionable interior decorator. Theoretically he was their friend, as he had been in college, and when he encountered them they still called him "Georgie," but he didn't seem to encounter them often, and they never invited him to dinner (with champagne and a butler) at their houses on Royal Ridge.

All the week before the class-dinner he thought of them. "No reason why we shouldn't become real chummy now!"

II

Like all true American diversions and spiritual outpourings, the dinner of the men of the Class of 1896 was thoroughly organized. The dinner-committee hammered like a sales-corporation. Once a week they sent out reminders:

TICKLER NO. 3

Old man, are you going to be with us at the livest Friendship Feed the alumni of the good old U have ever known? The alumnae of '08 turned out 60% strong. Are we boys going to be beaten by a bunch of skirts? Come on, fellows, let's work up some real genuine enthusiasm and all boost together for the snappiest dinner yet! Elegant eats, short ginger-talks, and memories shared together of the brightest, gladdest days of life.

The dinner was held in a private room at the Union Club. The club was a dingy building, three pretentious old dwellings knocked together, and the entrance-hall resembled a potato cellar, yet the Babbitt who was free of the magnificence of the Athletic Club entered with embarrassment. He nodded to the doorman, an ancient proud negro with brass buttons and a blue tail-coat, and paraded through the hall, trying to look like a member.

Sixty men had come to the dinner. They made islands and eddies in the hall; they packed the elevator and the corners of the private dining-room. They tried to be intimate and enthusiastic. They appeared to one another exactly as they had in college—as raw youngsters whose present mustaches, baldnesses, paunches, and wrinkles were but jovial disguises put on for the evening. "You haven't changed a particle!" they marveled. The men whom they could not recall they addressed, "Well, well, great to see you again, old man. What are you—Still doing the same thing?"

Some one was always starting a cheer or a college song, and it was always thinning into silence. Despite their resolution to be democratic they divided into two sets: the men with dress-clothes and the men without. Babbitt (extremely in dress-clothes) went from one group to the other. Though he was, almost frankly, out for social conquest, he sought Paul Riesling first. He found him alone, neat and silent.

Paul sighed, "I'm no good at this handshaking and 'well, look who's here' bunk."

"Rats now, Paulibus, loosen up and be a mixer! Finest bunch of boys on earth! Say, you seem kind of glum. What's matter?"

"Oh, the usual. Run-in with Zilla."

"Come on! Let's wade in and forget our troubles."

He kept Paul beside him, but worked toward the spot where Charles McKelvey stood warming his admirers like a furnace.

McKelvey had been the hero of the Class of '96; not only football captain and hammer-thrower but debater, and passable in what the State University considered scholarship. He had gone on, had captured the construction-company once owned by the Dodsworths, best-known pioneer family of Zenith. He built state capitols, skyscrapers, railway terminals. He was a heavy-shouldered, big-chested man, but not sluggish. There was a quiet humor in his eyes, a syrup-smooth quickness in his speech, which intimidated politicians and warned reporters; and in his presence the most intelligent scientist or the most sensitive artist felt thin-blooded, unworldly, and a little shabby. He was, particularly when he was influencing legislatures or hiring labor-spies, very easy and lovable and gorgeous. He was baronial; he was a peer in the rapidly crystallizing American aristocracy, inferior only to the haughty Old Families. (In Zenith, an Old Family is one which came to town before 1840.) His power was the greater because he was not hindered by scruples, by either the vice or the virtue of the older Puritan tradition.

McKelvey was being placidly merry now with the great, the manufacturers and bankers, the land-owners and lawyers and surgeons who had chauffeurs and went to Europe. Babbitt squeezed among them. He liked McKelvey's smile as much as the social advancement to be had from his favor. If in Paul's company he felt ponderous and protective, with McKelvey he felt slight and adoring.

He heard McKelvey say to Max Kruger, the banker, "Yes, we'll put up Sir Gerald Doak." Babbitt's democratic love for titles became a rich relish. "You know, he's one of the biggest iron-men in England, Max. Horribly well-off.... Why, hello, old Georgie! Say, Max, George Babbitt is getting fatter than I am!"

The chairman shouted, "Take your seats, fellows!"

"Shall we make a move, Charley?" Babbitt said casually to McKelvey.

"Right. Hello, Paul! How's the old fiddler? Planning to sit anywhere special, George? Come on, let's grab some seats. Come on, Max. Georgie, I read about your speeches in the campaign. Bully work!"

After that, Babbitt would have followed him through fire. He was enormously busy during the dinner, now bumblingly cheering Paul, now approaching McKelvey with "Hear, you're going to build some piers in Brooklyn," now noting how enviously the failures of the class, sitting by themselves in a weedy group, looked up to him in his association with the nobility, now warming himself in the Society Talk of McKelvey and Max Kruger. They spoke of a "jungle dance" for which Mona Dodsworth had decorated her house with thousands of orchids. They spoke, with an excellent imitation of casualness, of a dinner in Washington at which McKelvey had met a Senator, a Balkan princess, and an English major-general. McKelvey called the princess "Jenny," and let it be known that he had danced with her.

Babbitt was thrilled, but not so weighted with awe as to be silent. If he was not invited by them to dinner, he was yet accustomed to talking with bank-presidents, congressmen, and clubwomen who entertained poets. He was bright and referential with McKelvey:

"Say, Charley, juh remember in Junior year how we chartered a sea-going hack and chased down to Riverdale, to the big show Madame Brown used to put on? Remember how you beat up that hick constabule that tried to run us in, and we pinched the pants-pressing sign and took and hung it on Prof. Morrison's door? Oh, gosh, those were the days!"

Those, McKelvey agreed, were the days.

Babbitt had reached "It isn't the books you study in college but the friendships you make that counts" when the men at head of the table broke into song. He attacked McKelvey:

"It's a shame, uh, shame to drift apart because our, uh, business activities lie in different fields. I've enjoyed talking over the good old days. You and Mrs. McKelvey must come to dinner some night."

Vaguely, "Yes, indeed—"

"Like to talk to you about the growth of real estate out beyond your Grantsville warehouse. I might be able to tip you off to a thing or two, possibly."

"Splendid! We must have dinner together, Georgie. Just let me know. And it will be a great pleasure to have your wife and you at the house," said McKelvey, much less vaguely.

Then the chairman's voice, that prodigious voice which once had roused them to cheer defiance at rooters from Ohio or Michigan or Indiana, whooped, "Come on, you wombats! All together in the long yell!" Babbitt felt that life would never be sweeter than now, when he joined with Paul Riesling and the newly recovered hero, McKelvey, in:

Baaaaaattle-ax Get an ax, Bal-ax, Get-nax, Who, who? The U.! Hooroo!

III

The Babbitts invited the McKelveys to dinner, in early December, and the McKelveys not only accepted but, after changing the date once or twice, actually came.

The Babbitts somewhat thoroughly discussed the details of the dinner, from the purchase of a bottle of champagne to the number of salted almonds to be placed before each person. Especially did they mention the matter of the other guests. To the last Babbitt held out for giving Paul Riesling the benefit of being with the McKelveys. "Good old Charley would like Paul and Verg Gunch better than some highfalutin' Willy boy," he insisted, but Mrs. Babbitt interrupted his observations with, "Yes—perhaps—I think I'll try to get some Lynnhaven oysters," and when she was quite ready she invited Dr. J. T. Angus, the oculist, and a dismally respectable lawyer named Maxwell, with their glittering wives.

Neither Angus nor Maxwell belonged to the Elks or to the Athletic Club; neither of them had ever called Babbitt "brother" or asked his opinions on carburetors. The only "human people" whom she invited, Babbitt raged, were the Littlefields; and Howard Littlefield at times became so statistical that Babbitt longed for the refreshment of Gunch's, "Well, old lemon-pie-face, what's the good word?"

Immediately after lunch Mrs. Babbitt began to set the table for the seven-thirty dinner to the McKelveys, and Babbitt was, by order, home at four. But they didn't find anything for him to do, and three times Mrs. Babbitt scolded, "Do please try to keep out of the way!" He stood in the door of the garage, his lips drooping, and wished that Littlefield or Sam Doppelbrau or somebody would come along and talk to him. He saw Ted sneaking about the corner of the house.

"What's the matter, old man?" said Babbitt.

"Is that you, thin, owld one? Gee, Ma certainly is on the warpath! I told her Rone and I would jus' soon not be let in on the fiesta to-night, and she bit me. She says I got to take a bath, too. But, say, the Babbitt men will be some lookers to-night! Little Theodore in a dress-suit!"

"The Babbitt men!" Babbitt liked the sound of it. He put his arm about the boy's shoulder. He wished that Paul Riesling had a daughter, so that Ted might marry her. "Yes, your mother is kind of rouncing round, all right," he said, and they laughed together, and sighed together, and dutifully went in to dress.

The McKelveys were less than fifteen minutes late.

Babbitt hoped that the Doppelbraus would see the McKelveys' limousine, and their uniformed chauffeur, waiting in front.

The dinner was well cooked and incredibly plentiful, and Mrs. Babbitt had brought out her grandmother's silver candlesticks. Babbitt worked hard. He was good. He told none of the jokes he wanted to tell. He listened to the others. He started Maxwell off with a resounding, "Let's hear about your trip to the Yellowstone." He was laudatory, extremely laudatory. He found opportunities to remark that Dr. Angus was a benefactor to humanity, Maxwell and Howard Littlefield profound scholars, Charles McKelvey an inspiration to ambitious youth, and Mrs. McKelvey an adornment to the social circles of Zenith, Washington, New York, Paris, and numbers of other places.

But he could not stir them. It was a dinner without a soul. For no reason that was clear to Babbitt, heaviness was over them and they spoke laboriously and unwillingly.

He concentrated on Lucille McKelvey, carefully not looking at her blanched lovely shoulder and the tawny silken bared which supported her frock.

"I suppose you'll be going to Europe pretty soon again, won't you?" he invited.

"I'd like awfully to run over to Rome for a few weeks."

"I suppose you see a lot of pictures and music and curios and everything there."

"No, what I really go for is: there's a little trattoria on the Via della Scrofa where you get the best fettuccine in the world."

"Oh, I—Yes. That must be nice to try that. Yes."

At a quarter to ten McKelvey discovered with profound regret that his wife had a headache. He said blithely, as Babbitt helped him with his coat, "We must lunch together some time, and talk over the old days."

When the others had labored out, at half-past ten, Babbitt turned to his wife, pleading, "Charley said he had a corking time and we must lunch—said they wanted to have us up to the house for dinner before long."

She achieved, "Oh, it's just been one of those quiet evenings that are often so much more enjoyable than noisy parties where everybody talks at once and doesn't really settle down to-nice quiet enjoyment."

But from his cot on the sleeping-porch he heard her weeping, slowly, without hope.

IV

For a month they watched the social columns, and waited for a return dinner-invitation.

As the hosts of Sir Gerald Doak, the McKelveys were headlined all the week after the Babbitts' dinner. Zenith ardently received Sir Gerald (who had come to America to buy coal). The newspapers interviewed him on prohibition, Ireland, unemployment, naval aviation, the rate of exchange, tea-drinking versus whisky-drinking, the psychology of American women, and daily life as lived by English county families. Sir Gerald seemed to have heard of all those topics. The McKelveys gave him a Singhalese dinner, and Miss Elnora Pearl Bates, society editor of the Advocate-Times, rose to her highest lark-note. Babbitt read aloud at breakfast-table:

'Twixt the original and Oriental decorations, the strange and delicious food, and the personalities both of the distinguished guests, the charming hostess and the noted host, never has Zenith seen a more recherche affair than the Ceylon dinner-dance given last evening by Mr. and Mrs. Charles McKelvey to Sir Gerald Doak. Methought as we—fortunate one!—were privileged to view that fairy and foreign scene, nothing at Monte Carlo or the choicest ambassadorial sets of foreign capitals could be more lovely. It is not for nothing that Zenith is in matters social rapidly becoming known as the choosiest inland city in the country.

Though he is too modest to admit it, Lord Doak gives a cachet to our smart quartier such as it has not received since the ever-memorable visit of the Earl of Sittingbourne. Not only is he of the British peerage, but he is also, on dit, a leader of the British metal industries. As he comes from Nottingham, a favorite haunt of Robin Hood, though now, we are informed by Lord Doak, a live modern city of 275,573 inhabitants, and important lace as well as other industries, we like to think that perhaps through his veins runs some of the blood, both virile red and bonny blue, of that earlier lord o' the good greenwood, the roguish Robin.

The lovely Mrs. McKelvey never was more fascinating than last evening in her black net gown relieved by dainty bands of silver and at her exquisite waist a glowing cluster of Aaron Ward roses.

Babbitt said bravely, "I hope they don't invite us to meet this Lord Doak guy. Darn sight rather just have a nice quiet little dinner with Charley and the Missus."

At the Zenith Athletic Club they discussed it amply. "I s'pose we'll have to call McKelvey 'Lord Chaz' from now on," said Sidney Finkelstein.

"It beats all get-out," meditated that man of data, Howard Littlefield, "how hard it is for some people to get things straight. Here they call this fellow 'Lord Doak' when it ought to be 'Sir Gerald.'"

Babbitt marvelled, "Is that a fact! Well, well! 'Sir Gerald,' eh? That's what you call um, eh? Well, sir, I'm glad to know that."

Later he informed his salesmen, "It's funnier 'n a goat the way some folks that, just because they happen to lay up a big wad, go entertaining famous foreigners, don't have any more idea 'n a rabbit how to address 'em so's to make 'em feel at home!"

That evening, as he was driving home, he passed McKelvey's limousine and saw Sir Gerald, a large, ruddy, pop-eyed, Teutonic Englishman whose dribble of yellow mustache gave him an aspect sad and doubtful. Babbitt drove on slowly, oppressed by futility. He had a sudden, unexplained, and horrible conviction that the McKelveys were laughing at him.

He betrayed his depression by the violence with which he informed his wife, "Folks that really tend to business haven't got the time to waste on a bunch like the McKelveys. This society stuff is like any other hobby; if you devote yourself to it, you get on. But I like to have a chance to visit with you and the children instead of all this idiotic chasing round."

They did not speak of the McKelveys again.

V

It was a shame, at this worried time, to have to think about the Overbrooks.

Ed Overbrook was a classmate of Babbitt who had been a failure. He had a large family and a feeble insurance business out in the suburb of Dorchester. He was gray and thin and unimportant. He had always been gray and thin and unimportant. He was the person whom, in any group, you forgot to introduce, then introduced with extra enthusiasm. He had admired Babbitt's good-fellowship in college, had admired ever since his power in real estate, his beautiful house and wonderful clothes. It pleased Babbitt, though it bothered him with a sense of responsibility. At the class-dinner he had seen poor Overbrook, in a shiny blue serge business-suit, being diffident in a corner with three other failures. He had gone over and been cordial: "Why, hello, young Ed! I hear you're writing all the insurance in Dorchester now. Bully work!"

They recalled the good old days when Overbrook used to write poetry. Overbrook embarrassed him by blurting, "Say, Georgie, I hate to think of how we been drifting apart. I wish you and Mrs. Babbitt would come to dinner some night."

Babbitt boomed, "Fine! Sure! Just let me know. And the wife and I want to have you at the house." He forgot it, but unfortunately Ed Overbrook did not. Repeatedly he telephoned to Babbitt, inviting him to dinner. "Might as well go and get it over," Babbitt groaned to his wife. "But don't it simply amaze you the way the poor fish doesn't know the first thing about social etiquette? Think of him 'phoning me, instead of his wife sitting down and writing us a regular bid! Well, I guess we're stuck for it. That's the trouble with all this class-brother hooptedoodle."

He accepted Overbrook's next plaintive invitation, for an evening two weeks off. A dinner two weeks off, even a family dinner, never seems so appalling, till the two weeks have astoundingly disappeared and one comes dismayed to the ambushed hour. They had to change the date, because of their own dinner to the McKelveys, but at last they gloomily drove out to the Overbrooks' house in Dorchester.

It was miserable from the beginning. The Overbrooks had dinner at six-thirty, while the Babbitts never dined before seven. Babbitt permitted himself to be ten minutes late. "Let's make it as short as possible. I think we'll duck out quick. I'll say I have to be at the office extra early to-morrow," he planned.

The Overbrook house was depressing. It was the second story of a wooden two-family dwelling; a place of baby-carriages, old hats hung in the hall, cabbage-smell, and a Family Bible on the parlor table. Ed Overbrook and his wife were as awkward and threadbare as usual, and the other guests were two dreadful families whose names Babbitt never caught and never desired to catch. But he was touched, and disconcerted, by the tactless way in which Overbrook praised him: "We're mighty proud to have old George here to-night! Of course you've all read about his speeches and oratory in the papers—and the boy's good-looking, too, eh?—but what I always think of is back in college, and what a great old mixer he was, and one of the best swimmers in the class."

Babbitt tried to be jovial; he worked at it; but he could find nothing to interest him in Overbrook's timorousness, the blankness of the other guests, or the drained stupidity of Mrs. Overbrook, with her spectacles, drab skin, and tight-drawn hair. He told his best Irish story, but it sank like soggy cake. Most bleary moment of all was when Mrs. Overbrook, peering out of her fog of nursing eight children and cooking and scrubbing, tried to be conversational.

"I suppose you go to Chicago and New York right along, Mr. Babbitt," she prodded.

"Well, I get to Chicago fairly often."

"It must be awfully interesting. I suppose you take in all the theaters."

"Well, to tell the truth, Mrs. Overbrook, thing that hits me best is a great big beefsteak at a Dutch restaurant in the Loop!"

They had nothing more to say. Babbitt was sorry, but there was no hope; the dinner was a failure. At ten, rousing out of the stupor of meaningless talk, he said as cheerily as he could, "'Fraid we got to be starting, Ed. I've got a fellow coming to see me early to-morrow." As Overbrook helped him with his coat, Babbitt said, "Nice to rub up on the old days! We must have lunch together, P.D.Q."

Mrs. Babbitt sighed, on their drive home, "It was pretty terrible. But how Mr. Overbrook does admire you!"

"Yep. Poor cuss! Seems to think I'm a little tin archangel, and the best-looking man in Zenith."

"Well, you're certainly not that but—Oh, Georgie, you don't suppose we have to invite them to dinner at our house now, do we?"

"Ouch! Gaw, I hope not!"

"See here, now, George! You didn't say anything about it to Mr. Overbrook, did you?"

"No! Gee! No! Honest, I didn't! Just made a bluff about having him to lunch some time."

"Well.... Oh, dear.... I don't want to hurt their feelings. But I don't see how I could stand another evening like this one. And suppose somebody like Dr. and Mrs. Angus came in when we had the Overbrooks there, and thought they were friends of ours!"

For a week they worried, "We really ought to invite Ed and his wife, poor devils!" But as they never saw the Overbrooks, they forgot them, and after a month or two they said, "That really was the best way, just to let it slide. It wouldn't be kind to THEM to have them here. They'd feel so out of place and hard-up in our home."

They did not speak of the Overbrooks again.



CHAPTER XVI

THE certainty that he was not going to be accepted by the McKelveys made Babbitt feel guilty and a little absurd. But he went more regularly to the Elks; at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon he was oratorical regarding the wickedness of strikes; and again he saw himself as a Prominent Citizen.

His clubs and associations were food comfortable to his spirit.

Of a decent man in Zenith it was required that he should belong to one, preferably two or three, of the innumerous "lodges" and prosperity-boosting lunch-clubs; to the Rotarians, the Kiwanis, or the Boosters; to the Oddfellows, Moose, Masons, Red Men, Woodmen, Owls, Eagles, Maccabees, Knights of Pythias, Knights of Columbus, and other secret orders characterized by a high degree of heartiness, sound morals, and reverence for the Constitution. There were four reasons for joining these orders: It was the thing to do. It was good for business, since lodge-brothers frequently became customers. It gave to Americans unable to become Geheimrate or Commendatori such unctuous honorifics as High Worthy Recording Scribe and Grand Hoogow to add to the commonplace distinctions of Colonel, Judge, and Professor. And it permitted the swaddled American husband to stay away from home for one evening a week. The lodge was his piazza, his pavement cafe. He could shoot pool and talk man-talk and be obscene and valiant.

Babbitt was what he called a "joiner" for all these reasons.

Behind the gold and scarlet banner of his public achievements was the dun background of office-routine: leases, sales-contracts, lists of properties to rent. The evenings of oratory and committees and lodges stimulated him like brandy, but every morning he was sandy-tongued. Week by week he accumulated nervousness. He was in open disagreement with his outside salesman, Stanley Graff; and once, though her charms had always kept him nickeringly polite to her, he snarled at Miss McGoun for changing his letters.

But in the presence of Paul Riesling he relaxed. At least once a week they fled from maturity. On Saturday they played golf, jeering, "As a golfer, you're a fine tennis-player," or they motored all Sunday afternoon, stopping at village lunchrooms to sit on high stools at a counter and drink coffee from thick cups. Sometimes Paul came over in the evening with his violin, and even Zilla was silent as the lonely man who had lost his way and forever crept down unfamiliar roads spun out his dark soul in music.

II

Nothing gave Babbitt more purification and publicity than his labors for the Sunday School.

His church, the Chatham Road Presbyterian, was one of the largest and richest, one of the most oaken and velvety, in Zenith. The pastor was the Reverend John Jennison Drew, M.A., D.D., LL.D. (The M.A. and the D.D. were from Elbert University, Nebraska, the LL.D. from Waterbury College, Oklahoma.) He was eloquent, efficient, and versatile. He presided at meetings for the denunciation of unions or the elevation of domestic service, and confided to the audiences that as a poor boy he had carried newspapers. For the Saturday edition of the Evening Advocate he wrote editorials on "The Manly Man's Religion" and "The Dollars and Sense Value of Christianity," which were printed in bold type surrounded by a wiggly border. He often said that he was "proud to be known as primarily a business man" and that he certainly was not going to "permit the old Satan to monopolize all the pep and punch." He was a thin, rustic-faced young man with gold spectacles and a bang of dull brown hair, but when he hurled himself into oratory he glowed with power. He admitted that he was too much the scholar and poet to imitate the evangelist, Mike Monday, yet he had once awakened his fold to new life, and to larger collections, by the challenge, "My brethren, the real cheap skate is the man who won't lend to the Lord!"

He had made his church a true community center. It contained everything but a bar. It had a nursery, a Thursday evening supper with a short bright missionary lecture afterward, a gymnasium, a fortnightly motion-picture show, a library of technical books for young workmen—though, unfortunately, no young workman ever entered the church except to wash the windows or repair the furnace—and a sewing-circle which made short little pants for the children of the poor while Mrs. Drew read aloud from earnest novels.

Though Dr. Drew's theology was Presbyterian, his church-building was gracefully Episcopalian. As he said, it had the "most perdurable features of those noble ecclesiastical monuments of grand Old England which stand as symbols of the eternity of faith, religious and civil." It was built of cheery iron-spot brick in an improved Gothic style, and the main auditorium had indirect lighting from electric globes in lavish alabaster bowls.

On a December morning when the Babbitts went to church, Dr. John Jennison Drew was unusually eloquent. The crowd was immense. Ten brisk young ushers, in morning coats with white roses, were bringing folding chairs up from the basement. There was an impressive musical program, conducted by Sheldon Smeeth, educational director of the Y.M.C.A., who also sang the offertory. Babbitt cared less for this, because some misguided person had taught young Mr. Smeeth to smile, smile, smile while he was singing, but with all the appreciation of a fellow-orator he admired Dr. Drew's sermon. It had the intellectual quality which distinguished the Chatham Road congregation from the grubby chapels on Smith Street.

"At this abundant harvest-time of all the year," Dr. Drew chanted, "when, though stormy the sky and laborious the path to the drudging wayfarer, yet the hovering and bodiless spirit swoops back o'er all the labors and desires of the past twelve months, oh, then it seems to me there sounds behind all our apparent failures the golden chorus of greeting from those passed happily on; and lo! on the dim horizon we see behind dolorous clouds the mighty mass of mountains—mountains of melody, mountains of mirth, mountains of might!"

"I certainly do like a sermon with culture and thought in it," meditated Babbitt.

At the end of the service he was delighted when the pastor, actively shaking hands at the door, twittered, "Oh, Brother Babbitt, can you wait a jiffy? Want your advice."

"Sure, doctor! You bet!"

"Drop into my office. I think you'll like the cigars there." Babbitt did like the cigars. He also liked the office, which was distinguished from other offices only by the spirited change of the familiar wall-placard to "This is the Lord's Busy Day." Chum Frink came in, then William W. Eathorne.

Mr. Eathorne was the seventy-year-old president of the First State Bank of Zenith. He still wore the delicate patches of side-whiskers which had been the uniform of bankers in 1870. If Babbitt was envious of the Smart Set of the McKelveys, before William Washington Eathorne he was reverent. Mr. Eathorne had nothing to do with the Smart Set. He was above it. He was the great-grandson of one of the five men who founded Zenith, in 1792, and he was of the third generation of bankers. He could examine credits, make loans, promote or injure a man's business. In his presence Babbitt breathed quickly and felt young.

The Reverend Dr. Drew bounced into the room and flowered into speech:

"I've asked you gentlemen to stay so I can put a proposition before you. The Sunday School needs bucking up. It's the fourth largest in Zenith, but there's no reason why we should take anybody's dust. We ought to be first. I want to request you, if you will, to form a committee of advice and publicity for the Sunday School; look it over and make any suggestions for its betterment, and then, perhaps, see that the press gives us some attention—give the public some really helpful and constructive news instead of all these murders and divorces."

"Excellent," said the banker.

Babbitt and Frink were enchanted to join him.

III

If you had asked Babbitt what his religion was, he would have answered in sonorous Boosters'-Club rhetoric, "My religion is to serve my fellow men, to honor my brother as myself, and to do my bit to make life happier for one and all." If you had pressed him for more detail, he would have announced, "I'm a member of the Presbyterian Church, and naturally, I accept its doctrines." If you had been so brutal as to go on, he would have protested, "There's no use discussing and arguing about religion; it just stirs up bad feeling."

Actually, the content of his theology was that there was a supreme being who had tried to make us perfect, but presumably had failed; that if one was a Good Man he would go to a place called Heaven (Babbitt unconsciously pictured it as rather like an excellent hotel with a private garden), but if one was a Bad Man, that is, if he murdered or committed burglary or used cocaine or had mistresses or sold non-existent real estate, he would be punished. Babbitt was uncertain, however, about what he called "this business of Hell." He explained to Ted, "Of course I'm pretty liberal; I don't exactly believe in a fire-and-brimstone Hell. Stands to reason, though, that a fellow can't get away with all sorts of Vice and not get nicked for it, see how I mean?"

Upon this theology he rarely pondered. The kernel of his practical religion was that it was respectable, and beneficial to one's business, to be seen going to services; that the church kept the Worst Elements from being still worse; and that the pastor's sermons, however dull they might seem at the time of taking, yet had a voodooistic power which "did a fellow good—kept him in touch with Higher Things."

His first investigations for the Sunday School Advisory Committee did not inspire him.

He liked the Busy Folks' Bible Class, composed of mature men and women and addressed by the old-school physician, Dr. T. Atkins Jordan, in a sparkling style comparable to that of the more refined humorous after-dinner speakers, but when he went down to the junior classes he was disconcerted. He heard Sheldon Smeeth, educational director of the Y.M.C.A. and leader of the church-choir, a pale but strenuous young man with curly hair and a smile, teaching a class of sixteen-year-old boys. Smeeth lovingly admonished them, "Now, fellows, I'm going to have a Heart to Heart Talk Evening at my house next Thursday. We'll get off by ourselves and be frank about our Secret Worries. You can just tell old Sheldy anything, like all the fellows do at the Y. I'm going to explain frankly about the horrible practises a kiddy falls into unless he's guided by a Big Brother, and about the perils and glory of Sex." Old Sheldy beamed damply; the boys looked ashamed; and Babbitt didn't know which way to turn his embarrassed eyes.

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