chapter i the towers of zenith aspired above themorning mist; austere towers of steel and cement and limestone, sturdy as cliffs anddelicate as silver rods. they were neither citadels nor churches,but frankly and beautifully office- buildings. the mist took pity on the frettedstructures of earlier generations: the post office with its shingle-tortured mansard,the red brick minarets of hulking old houses, factories with stingy and sootedwindows, wooden tenements colored like mud. the city was full of such grotesqueries,but the clean towers were thrusting them
from the business center, and on thefarther hills were shining new houses, homes--they seemed--for laughter andtranquillity. over a concrete bridge fled a limousine oflong sleek hood and noiseless engine. these people in evening clothes werereturning from an all-night rehearsal of a little theater play, an artistic adventureconsiderably illuminated by champagne. below the bridge curved a railroad, a mazeof green and crimson lights. the new york flyer boomed past, and twentylines of polished steel leaped into the glare. in one of the skyscrapers the wires of theassociated press were closing down.
the telegraph operators wearily raisedtheir celluloid eye-shades after a night of talking with paris and peking. through the building crawled thescrubwomen, yawning, their old shoes slapping.the dawn mist spun away. cues of men with lunch-boxes clumped towardthe immensity of new factories, sheets of glass and hollow tile, glittering shopswhere five thousand men worked beneath one roof, pouring out the honest wares that would be sold up the euphrates and acrossthe veldt. the whistles rolled out in greeting achorus cheerful as the april dawn; the song
of labor in a city built--it seemed--forgiants. ii there was nothing of the giant in theaspect of the man who was beginning to awaken on the sleeping-porch of a dutchcolonial house in that residential district of zenith known as floral heights. his name was george f. babbitt. he was forty-six years old now, in april,1920, and he made nothing in particular, neither butter nor shoes nor poetry, but hewas nimble in the calling of selling houses for more than people could afford to pay.
his large head was pink, his brown hairthin and dry. his face was babyish in slumber, despitehis wrinkles and the red spectacle-dents on the slopes of his nose. he was not fat but he was exceedingly wellfed; his cheeks were pads, and the unroughened hand which lay helpless uponthe khaki-colored blanket was slightly puffy. he seemed prosperous, extremely married andunromantic; and altogether unromantic appeared this sleeping-porch, which lookedon one sizable elm, two respectable grass- plots, a cement driveway, and a corrugatediron garage.
yet babbitt was again dreaming of the fairychild, a dream more romantic than scarlet pagodas by a silver sea. for years the fairy child had come to him.where others saw but georgie babbitt, she discerned gallant youth.she waited for him, in the darkness beyond mysterious groves. when at last he could slip away from thecrowded house he darted to her. his wife, his clamoring friends, sought tofollow, but he escaped, the girl fleet beside him, and they crouched together on ashadowy hillside. she was so slim, so white, so eager!
she cried that he was gay and valiant, thatshe would wait for him, that they would sail--rumble and bang of the milk-truck. babbitt moaned; turned over; struggled backtoward his dream. he could see only her face now, beyondmisty waters. the furnace-man slammed the basement door. a dog barked in the next yard.as babbitt sank blissfully into a dim warm tide, the paper-carrier went by whistling,and the rolled-up advocate thumped the front door. babbitt roused, his stomach constrictedwith alarm.
as he relaxed, he was pierced by thefamiliar and irritating rattle of some one cranking a ford: snap-ah-ah, snap-ah-ah,snap-ah-ah. himself a pious motorist, babbitt crankedwith the unseen driver, with him waited through taut hours for the roar of thestarting engine, with him agonized as the roar ceased and again began the infernal patient snap-ah-ah--a round, flat sound, ashivering cold-morning sound, a sound infuriating and inescapable. not till the rising voice of the motor toldhim that the ford was moving was he released from the panting tension.
he glanced once at his favorite tree, elmtwigs against the gold patina of sky, and fumbled for sleep as for a drug. he who had been a boy very credulous oflife was no longer greatly interested in the possible and improbable adventures ofeach new day. he escaped from reality till the alarm-clock rang, at seven-twenty. iii it was the best of nationally advertisedand quantitatively produced alarm-clocks, with all modern attachments, includingcathedral chime, intermittent alarm, and a phosphorescent dial.
babbitt was proud of being awakened by sucha rich device. socially it was almost as creditable asbuying expensive cord tires. he sulkily admitted now that there was nomore escape, but he lay and detested the grind of the real-estate business, anddisliked his family, and disliked himself for disliking them. the evening before, he had played poker atvergil gunch's till midnight, and after such holidays he was irritable beforebreakfast. it may have been the tremendous home-brewedbeer of the prohibition-era and the cigars to which that beer enticed him; it may havebeen resentment of return from this fine,
bold man-world to a restricted region of wives and stenographers, and of suggestionsnot to smoke so much. from the bedroom beside the sleeping-porch,his wife's detestably cheerful "time to get up, georgie boy," and the itchy sound, thebrisk and scratchy sound, of combing hairs out of a stiff brush. he grunted; he dragged his thick legs, infaded baby-blue pajamas, from under the khaki blanket; he sat on the edge of thecot, running his fingers through his wild hair, while his plump feet mechanicallyfelt for his slippers. he looked regretfully at the blanket--forever a suggestion to him of freedom and
heroism. he had bought it for a camping trip whichhad never come off. it symbolized gorgeous loafing, gorgeouscursing, virile flannel shirts. he creaked to his feet, groaning at thewaves of pain which passed behind his eyeballs. though he waited for their scorchingrecurrence, he looked blurrily out at the yard. it delighted him, as always; it was theneat yard of a successful business man of zenith, that is, it was perfection, andmade him also perfect.
he regarded the corrugated iron garage. for the three-hundred-and-sixty-fifth timein a year he reflected, "no class to that tin shack.have to build me a frame garage. but by golly it's the only thing on theplace that isn't up-to-date!" while he stared he thought of a communitygarage for his acreage development, glen oriole. he stopped puffing and jiggling.his arms were akimbo. his petulant, sleep-swollen face was set inharder lines. he suddenly seemed capable, an official, aman to contrive, to direct, to get things
done. on the vigor of his idea he was carrieddown the hard, dean, unused-looking hall into the bathroom. though the house was not large it had, likeall houses on floral heights, an altogether royal bathroom of porcelain and glazed tileand metal sleek as silver. the towel-rack was a rod of clear glass setin nickel. the tub was long enough for a prussianguard, and above the set bowl was a sensational exhibit of tooth-brush holder,shaving-brush holder, soap-dish, sponge- dish, and medicine-cabinet, so glittering
and so ingenious that they resembled anelectrical instrument-board. but the babbitt whose god was modernappliances was not pleased. the air of the bathroom was thick with thesmell of a heathen toothpaste. "verona been at it again! 'stead of sticking to lilidol, like i'vere-peat-ed-ly asked her, she's gone and gotten some confounded stinkum stuff thatmakes you sick!" the bath-mat was wrinkled and the floor waswet. (his daughter verona eccentrically tookbaths in the morning, now and then.) he slipped on the mat, and slid against thetub.
he said "damn!" furiously he snatched up his tube ofshaving-cream, furiously he lathered, with a belligerent slapping of the unctuousbrush, furiously he raked his plump cheeks with a safety-razor. it pulled.the blade was dull. he said, "damn--oh--oh--damn it!" he hunted through the medicine-cabinet fora packet of new razor-blades (reflecting, as invariably, "be cheaper to buy one ofthese dinguses and strop your own blades,") and when he discovered the packet, behind
the round box of bicarbonate of soda, hethought ill of his wife for putting it there and very well of himself for notsaying "damn." but he did say it, immediately afterward,when with wet and soap-slippery fingers he tried to remove the horrible littleenvelope and crisp clinging oiled paper from the new blade. then there was the problem, oft-pondered,never solved, of what to do with the old blade, which might imperil the fingers ofhis young. as usual, he tossed it on top of themedicine-cabinet, with a mental note that some day he must remove the fifty or sixtyother blades that were also temporarily,
piled up there. he finished his shaving in a growingtestiness increased by his spinning headache and by the emptiness in hisstomach. when he was done, his round face smooth andstreamy and his eyes stinging from soapy water, he reached for a towel. the family towels were wet, wet and clammyand vile, all of them wet, he found, as he blindly snatched them--his own face-towel,his wife's, verona's, ted's, tinka's, and the lone bath-towel with the huge welt ofinitial. then george f. babbitt did a dismayingthing.
he wiped his face on the guest-towel! it was a pansy-embroidered trifle whichalways hung there to indicate that the babbitts were in the best floral heightssociety. no one had ever used it. no guest had ever dared to.guests secretively took a corner of the nearest regular towel. he was raging, "by golly, here they go anduse up all the towels, every doggone one of 'em, and they use 'em and get 'em all wetand sopping, and never put out a dry one for me--of course, i'm the goat!--and then
i want one and--i'm the only person in thedoggone house that's got the slightest doggone bit of consideration for otherpeople and thoughtfulness and consider there may be others that may want to use the doggone bathroom after me and consider--" he was pitching the chill abominations intothe bath-tub, pleased by the vindictiveness of that desolate flapping sound; and in themidst his wife serenely trotted in, observed serenely, "why georgie dear, whatare you doing? are you going to wash out the towels?why, you needn't wash out the towels. oh, georgie, you didn't go and use theguest-towel, did you?"
it is not recorded that he was able toanswer. for the first time in weeks he wassufficiently roused by his wife to look at her. ivmyra babbitt--mrs. george f. babbitt--was definitely mature. she had creases from the corners of hermouth to the bottom of her chin, and her plump neck bagged. but the thing that marked her as havingpassed the line was that she no longer had reticences before her husband, and nolonger worried about not having reticences.
she was in a petticoat now, and corsetswhich bulged, and unaware of being seen in bulgy corsets. she had become so dully habituated tomarried life that in her full matronliness she was as sexless as an anemic nun. she was a good woman, a kind woman, adiligent woman, but no one, save perhaps tinka her ten-year-old, was at allinterested in her or entirely aware that she was alive. after a rather thorough discussion of allthe domestic and social aspects of towels she apologized to babbitt for his having analcoholic headache; and he recovered enough
to endure the search for a b.v.d. undershirt which had, he pointed out,malevolently been concealed among his clean pajamas.he was fairly amiable in the conference on the brown suit. "what do you think, myra?" he pawed at the clothes hunched on a chairin their bedroom, while she moved about mysteriously adjusting and patting herpetticoat and, to his jaundiced eye, never seeming to get on with her dressing. "how about it?shall i wear the brown suit another day?"
"well, it looks awfully nice on you.""i know, but gosh, it needs pressing." "that's so. perhaps it does.""it certainly could stand being pressed, all right.""yes, perhaps it wouldn't hurt it to be pressed." "but gee, the coat doesn't need pressing.no sense in having the whole darn suit pressed, when the coat doesn't need it.""that's so." "but the pants certainly need it, allright. look at them--look at those wrinkles--thepants certainly do need pressing."
oh, georgie, why couldn't you wear thebrown coat with the blue trousers we were wondering what we'd do with them?""good lord! did you ever in all my life know me to wearthe coat of one suit and the pants of another?what do you think i am? a busted bookkeeper?" "well, why don't you put on the dark graysuit to-day, and stop in at the tailor and leave the brown trousers?""well, they certainly need--now where the devil is that gray suit? oh, yes, here we are."he was able to get through the other crises
of dressing with comparative resolutenessand calm. his first adornment was the sleevelessdimity b.v.d. undershirt, in which he resembled a small boy humorlessly wearing acheesecloth tabard at a civic pageant. he never put on b.v.d.'s without thankingthe god of progress that he didn't wear tight, long, old-fashioned undergarments,like his father-in-law and partner, henry thompson. his second embellishment was combing andslicking back his hair. it gave him a tremendous forehead, archingup two inches beyond the former hair-line. but most wonder-working of all was thedonning of his spectacles.
there is character in spectacles--thepretentious tortoiseshell, the meek pince- nez of the school teacher, the twistedsilver-framed glasses of the old villager. babbitt's spectacles had huge, circular,frameless lenses of the very best glass; the ear-pieces were thin bars of gold. in them he was the modern business man; onewho gave orders to clerks and drove a car and played occasional golf and wasscholarly in regard to salesmanship. his head suddenly appeared not babyish butweighty, and you noted his heavy, blunt nose, his straight mouth and thick, longupper lip, his chin overfleshy but strong; with respect you beheld him put on the restof his uniform as a solid citizen.
the gray suit was well cut, well made, andcompletely undistinguished. it was a standard suit. white piping on the v of the vest added aflavor of law and learning. his shoes were black laced boots, goodboots, honest boots, standard boots, extraordinarily uninteresting boots. the only frivolity was in his purpleknitted scarf. with considerable comment on the matter tomrs. babbitt (who, acrobatically fastening the back of her blouse to her skirt with asafety-pin, did not hear a word he said), he chose between the purple scarf and a
tapestry effect with stringless brown harpsamong blown palms, and into it he thrust a snake-head pin with opal eyes. a sensational event was changing from thebrown suit to the gray the contents of his pockets.he was earnest about these objects. they were of eternal importance, likebaseball or the republican party. they included a fountain pen and a silverpencil (always lacking a supply of new leads) which belonged in the righthandupper vest pocket. without them he would have felt naked. on his watch-chain were a gold penknife,silver cigar-cutter, seven keys (the use of
two of which he had forgotten), andincidentally a good watch. depending from the chain was a large,yellowish elk's-tooth-proclamation of his membership in the brotherly and protectiveorder of elks. most significant of all was his loose-leafpocket note-book, that modern and efficient note-book which contained the addresses ofpeople whom he had forgotten, prudent memoranda of postal money-orders which had reached their destinations months ago,stamps which had lost their mucilage, clippings of verses by t. cholmondeleyfrink and of the newspaper editorials from which babbitt got his opinions and his
polysyllables, notes to be sure and dothings which he did not intend to do, and one curious inscription--d.s.s.d.m.y.p.d.f. but he had no cigarette-case. no one had ever happened to give him one,so he hadn't the habit, and people who carried cigarette-cases he regarded aseffeminate. last, he stuck in his lapel the boosters'club button. with the conciseness of great art thebutton displayed two words: "boosters-pep!" it made babbitt feel loyal and important. it associated him with good fellows, withmen who were nice and human, and important
in business circles.it was his v.c., his legion of honor ribbon, his phi beta kappa key. with the subtleties of dressing ran othercomplex worries. "i feel kind of punk this morning," hesaid. "i think i had too much dinner lastevening. you oughtn't to serve those heavy bananafritters." "but you asked me to have some." "i know, but--i tell you, when a fellowgets past forty he has to look after his digestion.there's a lot of fellows that don't take
proper care of themselves. i tell you at forty a man's a fool or hisdoctor--i mean, his own doctor. folks don't give enough attention to thismatter of dieting. now i think--course a man ought to have agood meal after the day's work, but it would be a good thing for both of us if wetook lighter lunches." "but georgie, here at home i always do havea light lunch." "mean to imply i make a hog of myself,eating down-town? yes, sure! you'd have a swell time if you had to eatthe truck that new steward hands out to us
at the athletic club!but i certainly do feel out of sorts, this morning. funny, got a pain down here on the leftside--but no, that wouldn't be appendicitis, would it?last night, when i was driving over to verg gunch's, i felt a pain in my stomach, too. right here it was--kind of a sharp shootingpain. i--where'd that dime go to?why don't you serve more prunes at breakfast? of course i eat an apple every evening--anapple a day keeps the doctor away--but
still, you ought to have more prunes, andnot all these fancy doodads." "the last time i had prunes you didn't eatthem." "well, i didn't feel like eating 'em, isuppose. matter of fact, i think i did eat some of'em. anyway--i tell you it's mighty importantto--i was saying to verg gunch, just last evening, most people don't take sufficientcare of their diges--" "shall we have the gunches for our dinner,next week?" "why sure; you bet.""now see here, george: i want you to put on your nice dinner-jacket that evening."
"rats!the rest of 'em won't want to dress." "of course they will. you remember when you didn't dress for thelittlefields' supper-party, and all the rest did, and how embarrassed you were.""embarrassed, hell! i wasn't embarrassed. everybody knows i can put on as expensive atux. as anybody else, and i should worry if i don't happen to have it on sometimes.all a darn nuisance, anyway. all right for a woman, that stays aroundthe house all the time, but when a fellow's worked like the dickens all day, he doesn'twant to go and hustle his head off getting
into the soup-and-fish for a lot of folks that he's seen in just reg'lar ordinaryclothes that same day." "you know you enjoy being seen in one.the other evening you admitted you were glad i'd insisted on your dressing. you said you felt a lot better for it.and oh, georgie, i do wish you wouldn't say 'tux.'it's 'dinner-jacket.'" "rats, what's the odds?" "well, it's what all the nice folks say.suppose lucile mckelvey heard you calling it a 'tux.'""well, that's all right now!
lucile mckelvey can't pull anything on me! her folks are common as mud, even if herhusband and her dad are millionaires! i suppose you're trying to rub in yourexalted social position! well, let me tell you that your reveredpaternal ancestor, henry t., doesn't even call it a 'tux.'! he calls it a 'bobtail jacket for aringtail monkey,' and you couldn't get him into one unless you chloroformed him!""now don't be horrid, george." "well, i don't want to be horrid, but lord!you're getting as fussy as verona. ever since she got out of college she'sbeen too rambunctious to live with--doesn't
know what she wants--well, i know what shewants!--all she wants is to marry a millionaire, and live in europe, and hold some preacher's hand, and simultaneously atthe same time stay right here in zenith and be some blooming kind of a socialistagitator or boss charity-worker or some damn thing! lord, and ted is just as bad!he wants to go to college, and he doesn't want to go to college.only one of the three that knows her own mind is tinka. simply can't understand how i ever came tohave a pair of shillyshallying children
like rone and ted. i may not be any rockefeller or james j.shakespeare, but i certainly do know my own mind, and i do keep right on plugging alongin the office and--do you know the latest? far as i can figure out, ted's new bee ishe'd like to be a movie actor and--and here i've told him a hundred times, if he'll goto college and law-school and make good, i'll set him up in business and--veronajust exactly as bad. doesn't know what she wants.well, well, come on! aren't you ready yet? the girl rang the bell three minutes ago."
vbefore he followed his wife, babbitt stood at the westernmost window of their room. this residential settlement, floralheights, was on a rise; and though the center of the city was three miles away--zenith had between three and four hundred thousand inhabitants now--he could see the top of the second national tower, anindiana limestone building of thirty-five stories. its shining walls rose against april sky toa simple cornice like a streak of white fire.integrity was in the tower, and decision.
it bore its strength lightly as a tallsoldier. as babbitt stared, the nervousness wassoothed from his face, his slack chin lifted in reverence. all he articulated was "that's one lovelysight!" but he was inspired by the rhythm of the city; his love of it renewed. he beheld the tower as a temple-spire ofthe religion of business, a faith passionate, exalted, surpassing common men;and as he clumped down to breakfast he whistled the ballad "oh, by gee, by gosh, by jingo" as though it were a hymnmelancholy and noble.
> chapter ii relieved of babbitt's bumbling and the softgrunts with which his wife expressed the sympathy she was too experienced to feeland much too experienced not to show, their bedroom settled instantly intoimpersonality. it gave on the sleeping-porch. it served both of them as dressing-room,and on the coldest nights babbitt luxuriously gave up the duty of being manlyand retreated to the bed inside, to curl his toes in the warmth and laugh at thejanuary gale.
the room displayed a modest and pleasantcolor-scheme, after one of the best standard designs of the decorator who "didthe interiors" for most of the speculative- builders' houses in zenith. the walls were gray, the woodwork white,the rug a serene blue; and very much like mahogany was the furniture--the bureau withits great clear mirror, mrs. babbitt's dressing-table with toilet-articles of almost solid silver, the plain twin beds,between them a small table holding a standard electric bedside lamp, a glass forwater, and a standard bedside book with colored illustrations--what particular book
it was cannot be ascertained, since no onehad ever opened it. the mattresses were firm but not hard,triumphant modern mattresses which had cost a great deal of money; the hot-waterradiator was of exactly the proper scientific surface for the cubic contentsof the room. the windows were large and easily opened,with the best catches and cords, and holland roller-shades guaranteed not tocrack. it was a masterpiece among bedrooms, rightout of cheerful modern houses for medium incomes.only it had nothing to do with the babbitts, nor with any one else.
if people had ever lived and loved here,read thrillers at midnight and lain in beautiful indolence on a sunday morning,there were no signs of it. it had the air of being a very good room ina very good hotel. one expected the chambermaid to come in andmake it ready for people who would stay but one night, go without looking back, andnever think of it again. every second house in floral heights had abedroom precisely like this. the babbitts' house was five years old.it was all as competent and glossy as this bedroom. it had the best of taste, the best ofinexpensive rugs, a simple and laudable
architecture, and the latest conveniences.throughout, electricity took the place of candles and slatternly hearth-fires. along the bedroom baseboard were threeplugs for electric lamps, concealed by little brass doors. in the halls were plugs for the vacuumcleaner, and in the living-room plugs for the piano lamp, for the electric fan. the trim dining-room (with its admirableoak buffet, its leaded-glass cupboard, its creamy plaster walls, its modest scene of asalmon expiring upon a pile of oysters) had plugs which supplied the electricpercolator and the electric toaster.
in fact there was but one thing wrong withthe babbitt house: it was not a home. iioften of a morning babbitt came bouncing and jesting in to breakfast.but things were mysteriously awry to-day. as he pontifically tread the upper hall helooked into verona's bedroom and protested, "what's the use of giving the family ahigh-class house when they don't appreciate it and tend to business and get down tobrass tacks?" he marched upon them: verona, a dumpybrown-haired girl of twenty-two, just out of bryn mawr, given to solicitudes aboutduty and sex and god and the unconquerable bagginess of the gray sports-suit she wasnow wearing.
ted--theodore roosevelt babbitt--adecorative boy of seventeen. tinka--katherine--still a baby at ten, withradiant red hair and a thin skin which hinted of too much candy and too many icecream sodas. babbitt did not show his vague irritationas he tramped in. he really disliked being a family tyrant,and his nagging was as meaningless as it was frequent. he shouted at tinka, "well, kittiedoolie!"it was the only pet name in his vocabulary, except the "dear" and "hon." with which herecognized his wife, and he flung it at tinka every morning.
he gulped a cup of coffee in the hope ofpacifying his stomach and his soul. his stomach ceased to feel as though it didnot belong to him, but verona began to be conscientious and annoying, and abruptlythere returned to babbitt the doubts regarding life and families and business which had clawed at him when his dream-lifeand the slim fairy girl had fled. verona had for six months been filing-clerkat the gruensberg leather company offices, with a prospect of becoming secretary tomr. gruensberg and thus, as babbitt defined it, "getting some good out of your expensive college education till you'reready to marry and settle down."
but now said verona: "father! i was talking to a classmate of mine that'sworking for the associated charities--oh, dad, there's the sweetest little babiesthat come to the milk-station there!--and i feel as though i ought to be doingsomething worth while like that." "what do you mean 'worth while'? if you get to be gruensberg's secretary--and maybe you would, if you kept up your shorthand and didn't go sneaking off toconcerts and talkfests every evening--i guess you'll find thirty-five or fortybones a week worth while!" "i know, but--oh, i want to--contribute--iwish i were working in a settlement-house.
i wonder if i could get one of thedepartment-stores to let me put in a welfare-department with a nice rest-roomand chintzes and wicker chairs and so on and so forth. or i could--""now you look here! the first thing you got to understand isthat all this uplift and flipflop and settlement-work and recreation is nothingin god's world but the entering wedge for socialism. the sooner a man learns he isn't going tobe coddled, and he needn't expect a lot of free grub and, uh, all these free classesand flipflop and doodads for his kids
unless he earns 'em, why, the sooner he'll get on the job and produce--produce--produce! that's what the country needs, and not allthis fancy stuff that just enfeebles the will-power of the working man and gives hiskids a lot of notions above their class. and you--if you'd tend to business insteadof fooling and fussing--all the time! when i was a young man i made up my mindwhat i wanted to do, and stuck to it through thick and thin, and that's why i'mwhere i am to-day, and--myra! what do you let the girl chop the toast upinto these dinky little chunks for? can't get your fist onto 'em.half cold, anyway!"
ted babbitt, junior in the great east sidehigh school, had been making hiccup-like sounds of interruption.he blurted now, "say, rone, you going to--" verona whirled. "ted!will you kindly not interrupt us when we're talking about serious matters!""aw punk," said ted judicially. "ever since somebody slipped up and let youout of college, ammonia, you been pulling these nut conversations about what-nots andso-on-and-so-forths. are you going to--i want to use the cartonight." babbitt snorted, "oh, you do!may want it myself!"
verona protested, "oh, you do, mr. smarty! i'm going to take it myself!"tinka wailed, "oh, papa, you said maybe you'd drive us down to rosedale!" and mrs.babbitt, "careful, tinka, your sleeve is in the butter." they glared, and verona hurled, "ted,you're a perfect pig about the car!" "course you're not!not a-tall!" ted could be maddeningly bland. "you just want to grab it off, right afterdinner, and leave it in front of some skirt's house all evening while you sit andgas about lite'ature and the highbrows
you're going to marry--if they onlypropose!" "well, dad oughtn't to ever let you haveit! you and those beastly jones boys drive likemaniacs. the idea of your taking the turn onchautauqua place at forty miles an hour!" "aw, where do you get that stuff! you're so darn scared of the car that youdrive up-hill with the emergency brake on!" "i do not! and you--always talking about how much youknow about motors, and eunice littlefield told me you said the battery fed thegenerator!"
"you--why, my good woman, you don't know agenerator from a differential." not unreasonably was ted lofty with her. he was a natural mechanic, a maker andtinkerer of machines; he lisped in blueprints for the blueprints came."that'll do now!" babbitt flung in mechanically, as helighted the gloriously satisfying first cigar of the day and tasted theexhilarating drug of the advocate-times headlines. ted negotiated: "gee, honest, rone, i don'twant to take the old boat, but i promised couple o' girls in my class i'd drive 'emdown to the rehearsal of the school chorus,
and, gee, i don't want to, but a gentleman's got to keep his socialengagements." "well, upon my word!you and your social engagements! in high school!" "oh, ain't we select since we went to thathen college! let me tell you there isn't a privateschool in the state that's got as swell a bunch as we got in gamma digamma this year. there's two fellows that their dads aremillionaires. say, gee, i ought to have a car of my own,like lots of the fellows."
babbitt almost rose. "a car of your own!don't you want a yacht, and a house and lot?that pretty nearly takes the cake! a boy that can't pass his latinexaminations, like any other boy ought to, and he expects me to give him a motor-car,and i suppose a chauffeur, and an areoplane maybe, as a reward for the hard work he puts in going to the movies with eunicelittlefield! well, when you see me giving you--" somewhat later, after diplomacies, tedpersuaded verona to admit that she was
merely going to the armory, that evening,to see the dog and cat show. she was then, ted planned, to park the carin front of the candy-store across from the armory and he would pick it up. there were masterly arrangements regardingleaving the key, and having the gasoline tank filled; and passionately, devotees ofthe great god motor, they hymned the patch on the spare inner-tube, and the lost jack-handle. their truce dissolving, ted observed thather friends were "a scream of a bunch- stuck-up gabby four-flushers." his friends, she indicated, were"disgusting imitation sports, and horrid
little shrieking ignorant girls." further: "it's disgusting of you to smokecigarettes, and so on and so forth, and those clothes you've got on this morning,they're too utterly ridiculous--honestly, simply disgusting." ted balanced over to the low beveled mirrorin the buffet, regarded his charms, and smirked. his suit, the latest thing in old eli togs,was skin-tight, with skimpy trousers to the tops of his glaring tan boots, a chorus-manwaistline, pattern of an agitated check, and across the back a belt which beltednothing.
his scarf was an enormous black silk wad.his flaxen hair was ice-smooth, pasted back without parting. when he went to school he would add a capwith a long vizor like a shovel-blade. proudest of all was his waistcoat, savedfor, begged for, plotted for; a real fancy vest of fawn with polka dots of a decayedred, the points astoundingly long. on the lower edge of it he wore a high-school button, a class button, and a fraternity pin.and none of it mattered. he was supple and swift and flushed; hiseyes (which he believed to be cynical) were candidly eager.but he was not over-gentle.
he waved his hand at poor dumpy verona anddrawled: "yes, i guess we're pretty ridiculous and disgusticulus, and i ratherguess our new necktie is some smear!" babbitt barked: "it is! and while you're admiring yourself, let metell you it might add to your manly beauty if you wiped some of that egg off yourmouth!" verona giggled, momentary victor in thegreatest of great wars, which is the family war. ted looked at her hopelessly, then shriekedat tinka: "for the love o' pete, quit pouring the whole sugar bowl on your cornflakes!"
when verona and ted were gone and tinkaupstairs, babbitt groaned to his wife: "nice family, i must say! i don't pretend to be any baa-lamb, andmaybe i'm a little cross-grained at breakfast sometimes, but the way they go onjab-jab-jabbering, i simply can't stand it. i swear, i feel like going off some placewhere i can get a little peace. i do think after a man's spent his lifetimetrying to give his kids a chance and a decent education, it's pretty discouragingto hear them all the time scrapping like a bunch of hyenas and never--and never-- curious; here in the paper it says--neversilent for one mom--seen the morning paper
yet?""no, dear." in twenty-three years of married life, mrs.babbitt had seen the paper before her husband just sixty-seven times."lots of news. terrible big tornado in the south. hard luck, all right.but this, say, this is corking! beginning of the end for those fellows! new york assembly has passed some billsthat ought to completely outlaw the socialists! and there's an elevator-runners' strike innew york and a lot of college boys are
taking their places.that's the stuff! and a mass-meeting in birmingham's demandedthat this mick agitator, this fellow de valera, be deported.dead right, by golly! all these agitators paid with german goldanyway. and we got no business interfering with theirish or any other foreign government. keep our hands strictly off. and there's another well-authenticatedrumor from russia that lenin is dead. that's fine.it's beyond me why we don't just step in there and kick those bolshevik cusses out."
"that's so," said mrs. babbitt."and it says here a fellow was inaugurated mayor in overalls--a preacher, too!what do you think of that!" "humph! well!" he searched for an attitude, but neither asa republican, a presbyterian, an elk, nor a real-estate broker did he have any doctrineabout preacher-mayors laid down for him, so he grunted and went on. she looked sympathetic and did not hear aword. later she would read the headlines, thesociety columns, and the department-store
advertisements. "what do you know about this!charley mckelvey still doing the sassiety stunt as heavy as ever.here's what that gushy woman reporter says about last night:" never is society with the big, big s moreflattered than when they are bidden to partake of good cheer at the distinguishedand hospitable residence of mr. and mrs. charles l. mckelvey as they were last night. set in its spacious lawns and landscaping,one of the notable sights crowning royal
ridge, but merry and homelike despite itsmighty stone walls and its vast rooms famed for their decoration, their home was thrown open last night for a dance in honor ofmrs. mckelvey's notable guest, miss j. sneeth of washington. the wide hall is so generous in itsproportions that it made a perfect ballroom, its hardwood floor reflecting thecharming pageant above its polished surface. even the delights of dancing paled beforethe alluring opportunities for tete-a-tetes that invited the soul to loaf in the longlibrary before the baronial fireplace, or
in the drawing-room with its deep comfy armchairs, its shaded lamps just made for asly whisper of pretty nothings all a deux; or even in the billiard room where onecould take a cue and show a prowess at still another game than that sponsored bycupid and terpsichore. there was more, a great deal more, in thebest urban journalistic style of miss elnora pearl bates, the popular societyeditor of the advocate-times. but babbitt could not abide it. he grunted.he wrinkled the newspaper. he protested: "can you beat it!i'm willing to hand a lot of credit to
charley mckelvey. when we were in college together, he wasjust as hard up as any of us, and he's made a million good bucks out of contracting andhasn't been any dishonester or bought any more city councils than was necessary. and that's a good house of his--though itain't any 'mighty stone walls' and it ain't worth the ninety thousand it cost him. but when it comes to talking as thoughcharley mckelvey and all that booze- hoisting set of his are any blooming bunchof of, of vanderbilts, why, it makes me tired!"
timidly from mrs. babbitt: "i would like tosee the inside of their house though. it must be lovely.i've never been inside." "well, i have! lots of--couple of times.to see chaz about business deals, in the evening.it's not so much. i wouldn't want to go there to dinner withthat gang of, of high-binders. and i'll bet i make a whole lot more moneythan some of those tin-horns that spend all they got on dress-suits and haven't got adecent suit of underwear to their name! hey!
what do you think of this!"mrs. babbitt was strangely unmoved by the tidings from the real estate and buildingcolumn of the advocate-times: ashtabula street, 496--j. k. dawson tothomas mullally, april 17, 15.7 x 112.2, mtg.$4000............ . nom and this morning babbitt was too disquietedto entertain her with items from mechanics' liens, mortgages recorded, and contractsawarded. he rose.
as he looked at her his eyebrows seemedshaggier than usual. suddenly:"yes, maybe--kind of shame to not keep in touch with folks like the mckelveys. we might try inviting them to dinner, someevening. oh, thunder, let's not waste our good timethinking about 'em! our little bunch has a lot liver times thanall those plutes. just compare a real human like you withthese neurotic birds like lucile mckelvey-- all highbrow talk and dressed up like aplush horse! you're a great old girl, hon.!"
he covered his betrayal of softness with acomplaining: "say, don't let tinka go and eat any more of that poison nutfudge.for heaven's sake, try to keep her from ruining her digestion. i tell you, most folks don't appreciate howimportant it is to have a good digestion and regular habits.be back 'bout usual time, i guess." he kissed her--he didn't quite kiss her--helaid unmoving lips against her unflushing cheek.he hurried out to the garage, muttering: "lord, what a family! and now myra is going to get pathetic on mebecause we don't train with this
millionaire outfit.oh, lord, sometimes i'd like to quit the whole game. and the office worry and detail just asbad. and i act cranky and--i don't mean to, buti get--so darn tired!" chapter iii to george f. babbitt, as to most prosperouscitizens of zenith, his motor car was poetry and tragedy, love and heroism.the office was his pirate ship but the car his perilous excursion ashore. among the tremendous crises of each daynone was more dramatic than starting the
engine. it was slow on cold mornings; there was thelong, anxious whirr of the starter; and sometimes he had to drip ether into thecocks of the cylinders, which was so very interesting that at lunch he would chronicle it drop by drop, and orallycalculate how much each drop had cost him. this morning he was darkly prepared to findsomething wrong, and he felt belittled when the mixture exploded sweet and strong, andthe car didn't even brush the door-jamb, gouged and splintery with many bruisings byfenders, as he backed out of the garage. he was confused.he shouted "morning!" to sam doppelbrau
with more cordiality than he had intended. babbitt's green and white dutch colonialhouse was one of three in that block on chatham road. to the left of it was the residence of mr.samuel doppelbrau, secretary of an excellent firm of bathroom-fixture jobbers. his was a comfortable house with noarchitectural manners whatever; a large wooden box with a squat tower, a broadporch, and glossy paint yellow as a yolk. babbitt disapproved of mr. and mrs.doppelbrau as "bohemian." from their house came midnight music andobscene laughter; there were neighborhood
rumors of bootlegged whisky and fast motorrides. they furnished babbitt with many happyevenings of discussion, during which he announced firmly, "i'm not strait-laced,and i don't mind seeing a fellow throw in a drink once in a while, but when it comes to deliberately trying to get away with a lotof hell-raising all the while like the doppelbraus do, it's too rich for myblood!" on the other side of babbitt lived howardlittlefield, ph.d., in a strictly modern house whereof the lower part was dark redtapestry brick, with a leaded oriel, the upper part of pale stucco like spatteredclay, and the roof red-tiled.
littlefield was the great scholar of theneighborhood; the authority on everything in the world except babies, cooking, andmotors. he was a bachelor of arts of blodgettcollege, and a doctor of philosophy in economics of yale. he was the employment-manager andpublicity-counsel of the zenith street traction company. he could, on ten hours' notice, appearbefore the board of aldermen or the state legislature and prove, absolutely, withfigures all in rows and with precedents from poland and new zealand, that the
street-car company loved the public andyearned over its employees; that all its stock was owned by widows and orphans; andthat whatever it desired to do would benefit property-owners by increasing rental values, and help the poor bylowering rents. all his acquaintances turned to littlefieldwhen they desired to know the date of the battle of saragossa, the definition of theword "sabotage," the future of the german mark, the translation of "hinc illae lachrimae," or the number of products ofcoal tar. he awed babbitt by confessing that he oftensat up till midnight reading the figures
and footnotes in government reports, orskimming (with amusement at the author's mistakes) the latest volumes of chemistry,archeology, and ichthyology. but littlefield's great value was as aspiritual example. despite his strange learnings he was asstrict a presbyterian and as firm a republican as george f. babbitt.he confirmed the business men in the faith. where they knew only by passionate instinctthat their system of industry and manners was perfect, dr. howard littlefield provedit to them, out of history, economics, and the confessions of reformed radicals. babbitt had a good deal of honest pride inbeing the neighbor of such a savant, and in
ted's intimacy with eunice littlefield. at sixteen eunice was interested in nostatistics save those regarding the ages and salaries of motion-picture stars, but--as babbitt definitively put it--"she was her father's daughter." the difference between a light man like samdoppelbrau and a really fine character like littlefield was revealed in theirappearances. doppelbrau was disturbingly young for a manof forty-eight. he wore his derby on the back of his head,and his red face was wrinkled with meaningless laughter.
but littlefield was old for a man of forty-two. he was tall, broad, thick; his gold-rimmedspectacles were engulfed in the folds of his long face; his hair was a tossed massof greasy blackness; he puffed and rumbled as he talked; his phi beta kappa key shone against a spotty black vest; he smelled ofold pipes; he was altogether funereal and archidiaconal; and to real-estate brokerageand the jobbing of bathroom-fixtures he added an aroma of sanctity. this morning he was in front of his house,inspecting the grass parking between the curb and the broad cement sidewalk.babbitt stopped his car and leaned out to
shout "mornin'!" littlefield lumbered over and stood withone foot up on the running-board. "fine morning," said babbitt, lighting--illegally early--his second cigar of the day. "yes, it's a mighty fine morning," saidlittlefield. "spring coming along fast now.""yes, it's real spring now, all right," said littlefield. "still cold nights, though.had to have a couple blankets, on the sleeping-porch last night.""yes, it wasn't any too warm last night,"
"but i don't anticipate we'll have any morereal cold weather now." "no, but still, there was snow at tiflis,montana, yesterday," said the scholar, "and you remember the blizzard they had out westthree days ago--thirty inches of snow at greeley, colorado--and two years ago we had a snow-squall right here in zenith on thetwenty-fifth of april." "is that a fact!say, old man, what do you think about the republican candidate? who'll they nominate for president?don't you think it's about time we had a real business administration?"
"in my opinion, what the country needs,first and foremost, is a good, sound, business-like conduct of its affairs.what we need is--a business administration!" said littlefield. "i'm glad to hear you say that!i certainly am glad to hear you say that! i didn't know how you'd feel about it, withall your associations with colleges and so on, and i'm glad you feel that way. what the country needs--just at thispresent juncture--is neither a college president nor a lot of monkeying withforeign affairs, but a good--sound economical--business--administration, that
will give us a chance to have somethinglike a decent turnover." "yes. it isn't generally realized that even inchina the schoolmen are giving way to more practical men, and of course you can seewhat that implies." "is that a fact! well, well!" breathed babbitt, feeling muchcalmer, and much happier about the way things were going in the world."well, it's been nice to stop and parleyvoo a second. guess i'll have to get down to the officenow and sting a few clients.
well, so long, old man.see you tonight. so long." iithey had labored, these solid citizens. twenty years before, the hill on whichfloral heights was spread, with its bright roofs and immaculate turf and amazingcomfort, had been a wilderness of rank second-growth elms and oaks and maples. along the precise streets were still a fewwooded vacant lots, and the fragment of an old orchard. it was brilliant to-day; the apple boughswere lit with fresh leaves like torches of
green fire. the first white of cherry blossomsflickered down a gully, and robins clamored. babbitt sniffed the earth, chuckled at thehysteric robins as he would have chuckled at kittens or at a comic movie. he was, to the eye, the perfect office-going executive--a well-fed man in a correct brown soft hat and framelessspectacles, smoking a large cigar, driving a good motor along a semi-suburban parkway. but in him was some genius of authenticlove for his neighborhood, his city, his
clan. the winter was over; the time was come forthe building, the visible growth, which to him was glory. he lost his dawn depression; he was ruddilycheerful when he stopped on smith street to leave the brown trousers, and to have thegasoline-tank filled. the familiarity of the rite fortified him:the sight of the tall red iron gasoline- pump, the hollow-tile and terra-cottagarage, the window full of the most agreeable accessories--shiny casings, spark-plugs with immaculate porcelainjackets tire-chains of gold and silver.
he was flattered by the friendliness withwhich sylvester moon, dirtiest and most skilled of motor mechanics, came out toserve him. "mornin', mr. babbitt!" said moon, andbabbitt felt himself a person of importance, one whose name even busygaragemen remembered--not one of these cheap-sports flying around in flivvers. he admired the ingenuity of the automaticdial, clicking off gallon by gallon; admired the smartness of the sign: "a fillin time saves getting stuck--gas to-day 31 cents"; admired the rhythmic gurgle of the gasoline as it flowed into the tank, andthe mechanical regularity with which moon
turned the handle. "how much we takin' to-day?" asked moon, ina manner which combined the independence of the great specialist, the friendliness of afamiliar gossip, and respect for a man of weight in the community, like george f.babbitt. "fill 'er up.""who you rootin' for for republican candidate, mr. babbitt?" "it's too early to make any predictionsyet. after all, there's still a good month andtwo weeks--no, three weeks--must be almost three weeks--well, there's more than sixweeks in all before the republican
convention, and i feel a fellow ought to keep an open mind and give all thecandidates a show--look 'em all over and size 'em up, and then decide carefully.""that's a fact, mr. babbitt." "but i'll tell you--and my stand on this isjust the same as it was four years ago, and eight years ago, and it'll be my stand fouryears from now--yes, and eight years from now! what i tell everybody, and it can't be toogenerally understood, is that what we need first, last, and all the time is a good,sound business administration!" "by golly, that's right!"
"how do those front tires look to you?""fine! fine! wouldn't be much work for garages ifeverybody looked after their car the way you do.""well, i do try and have some sense about it." babbitt paid his bill, said adequately,"oh, keep the change," and drove off in an ecstasy of honest self-appreciation. it was with the manner of a good samaritanthat he shouted at a respectable-looking man who was waiting for a trolley car,"have a lift?"
as the man climbed in babbitt condescended,"going clear down-town? whenever i see a fellow waiting for atrolley, i always make it a practice to give him a lift--unless, of course, helooks like a bum." "wish there were more folks that were sogenerous with their machines," dutifully said the victim of benevolence."oh, no, 'tain't a question of generosity, hardly. fact, i always feel--i was saying to my sonjust the other night--it's a fellow's duty to share the good things of this world withhis neighbors, and it gets my goat when a fellow gets stuck on himself and goes
around tooting his horn merely because he'scharitable." the victim seemed unable to find the rightanswer. babbitt boomed on: "pretty punk service the company giving uson these car-lines. nonsense to only run the portland road carsonce every seven minutes. fellow gets mighty cold on a wintermorning, waiting on a street corner with the wind nipping at his ankles.""that's right. the street car company don't care a damnwhat kind of a deal they give us. something ought to happen to 'em."babbitt was alarmed.
"but still, of course it won't do to justkeep knocking the traction company and not realize the difficulties they're operatingunder, like these cranks that want municipal ownership. the way these workmen hold up the companyfor high wages is simply a crime, and of course the burden falls on you and me thathave to pay a seven-cent fare! fact, there's remarkable service on alltheir lines--considering." "well--" uneasily."darn fine morning," babbitt explained. "spring coming along fast." "yes, it's real spring now."
the victim had no originality, no wit, andbabbitt fell into a great silence and devoted himself to the game of beatingtrolley cars to the corner: a spurt, a tail-chase, nervous speeding between the huge yellow side of the trolley and thejagged row of parked motors, shooting past just as the trolley stopped--a rare gameand valiant. and all the while he was conscious of theloveliness of zenith. for weeks together he noticed nothing butclients and the vexing to rent signs of rival brokers. to-day, in mysterious malaise, he raged orrejoiced with equal nervous swiftness, and
to-day the light of spring was so winsomethat he lifted his head and saw. he admired each district along his familiarroute to the office: the bungalows and shrubs and winding irregular drive ways offloral heights. the one-story shops on smith street, aglare of plate-glass and new yellow brick; groceries and laundries and drug-stores tosupply the more immediate needs of east side housewives. the market gardens in dutch hollow, theirshanties patched with corrugated iron and stolen doors. billboards with crimson goddesses nine feettall advertising cinema films, pipe
tobacco, and talcum powder. the old "mansions" along ninth street, s.e., like aged dandies in filthy linen; wooden castles turned into boarding-houses,with muddy walks and rusty hedges, jostled by fast-intruding garages, cheap apartment- houses, and fruit-stands conducted bybland, sleek athenians. across the belt of railroad-tracks,factories with high-perched water-tanks and tall stacks-factories producing condensedmilk, paper boxes, lighting-fixtures, motor cars. then the business center, the thickeningdarting traffic, the crammed trolleys
unloading, and high doorways of marble andpolished granite. it was big--and babbitt respected bignessin anything; in mountains, jewels, muscles, wealth, or words.he was, for a spring-enchanted moment, the lyric and almost unselfish lover of zenith. he thought of the outlying factory suburbs;of the chaloosa river with its strangely eroded banks; of the orchard-dappledtonawanda hills to the north, and all the fat dairy land and big barns andcomfortable herds. as he dropped his passenger he cried,"gosh, i feel pretty good this morning!" iiiepochal as starting the car was the drama
of parking it before he entered his office. as he turned from oberlin avenue round thecorner into third street, n.e., he peered ahead for a space in the line of parkedcars. he angrily just missed a space as a rivaldriver slid into it. ahead, another car was leaving the curb,and babbitt slowed up, holding out his hand to the cars pressing on him from behind,agitatedly motioning an old woman to go ahead, avoiding a truck which bore down onhim from one side. with front wheels nicking the wrought-steelbumper of the car in front, he stopped, feverishly cramped his steering-wheel, slidback into the vacant space and, with
eighteen inches of room, manoeuvered tobring the car level with the curb. it was a virile adventure masterfullyexecuted. with satisfaction he locked a thief-proofsteel wedge on the front wheel, and crossed the street to his real-estate office on theground floor of the reeves building. the reeves building was as fireproof as arock and as efficient as a typewriter; fourteen stories of yellow pressed brick,with clean, upright, unornamented lines. it was filled with the offices of lawyers,doctors, agents for machinery, for emery wheels, for wire fencing, for mining-stock.their gold signs shone on the windows. the entrance was too modern to beflamboyant with pillars; it was quiet,
shrewd, neat. along the third street side were a westernunion telegraph office, the blue delft candy shop, shotwell's stationery shop, andthe babbitt-thompson realty company. babbitt could have entered his office fromthe street, as customers did, but it made him feel an insider to go through thecorridor of the building and enter by the back door. thus he was greeted by the villagers. the little unknown people who inhabited thereeves building corridors--elevator- runners, starter, engineers,superintendent, and the doubtful-looking
lame man who conducted the news and cigarstand--were in no way city-dwellers. they were rustics, living in a constrictedvalley, interested only in one another and in the building. their main street was the entrance hall,with its stone floor, severe marble ceiling, and the inner windows of theshops. the liveliest place on the street was thereeves building barber shop, but this was also babbitt's one embarrassment. himself, he patronized the glitteringpompeian barber shop in the hotel thornleigh, and every time he passed thereeves shop--ten times a day, a hundred
times--he felt untrue to his own village. now, as one of the squirearchy, greetedwith honorable salutations by the villagers, he marched into his office, andpeace and dignity were upon him, and the morning's dissonances all unheard. they were heard again, immediately. stanley graff, the outside salesman, wastalking on the telephone with tragic lack of that firm manner which disciplinesclients: "say, uh, i think i got just the house that would suit you--the percivalhouse, in linton.... oh, you've seen it.well, how'd it strike you?...
huh? ...oh," irresolutely, "oh, i see." as babbitt marched into his private room,a coop with semi-partition of oak and frosted glass, at the back of the office, hereflected how hard it was to find employees who had his own faith that he was going tomake sales. there were nine members of the staff,besides babbitt and his partner and father- in-law, henry thompson, who rarely came tothe office. the nine were stanley graff, the outsidesalesman--a youngish man given to cigarettes and the playing of pool; old matpenniman, general utility man, collector of
rents and salesman of insurance--broken, silent, gray; a mystery, reputed to havebeen a "crack" real-estate man with a firm of his own in haughty brooklyn; chesterkirby laylock, resident salesman out at the glen oriole acreage development--an enthusiastic person with a silky mustacheand much family; miss theresa mcgoun, the swift and rather pretty stenographer; misswilberta bannigan, the thick, slow, laborious accountant and file-clerk; and four freelance part-time commissionsalesmen. as he looked from his own cage into themain room babbitt mourned, "mcgoun's a good
stenog., smart's a whip, but stan graff andall those bums--" the zest of the spring morning was smothered in the stale officeair. normally he admired the office, with apleased surprise that he should have created this sure lovely thing; normally hewas stimulated by the clean newness of it and the air of bustle; but to-day it seemed flat--the tiled floor, like a bathroom, theocher-colored metal ceiling, the faded maps on the hard plaster walls, the chairs ofvarnished pale oak, the desks and filing- cabinets of steel painted in olive drab. it was a vault, a steel chapel whereloafing and laughter were raw sin.
he hadn't even any satisfaction in the newwater-cooler! and it was the very best of water-coolers,up-to-date, scientific, and right-thinking. it had cost a great deal of money (initself a virtue). it possessed a non-conducting fiber ice-container, a porcelain water-jar (guaranteed hygienic), a drip-less non-clogging sanitary faucet, and machine- painted decorations in two tones of gold. he looked down the relentless stretch oftiled floor at the water-cooler, and assured himself that no tenant of thereeves building had a more expensive one, but he could not recapture the feeling ofsocial superiority it had given him.
he astoundingly grunted, "i'd like to beatit off to the woods right now. and loaf all day. and go to gunch's again to-night, and playpoker, and cuss as much as i feel like, and drink a hundred and nine-thousand bottlesof beer." he sighed; he read through his mail; heshouted "msgoun," which meant "miss mcgoun"; and began to dictate.this was his own version of his first letter: "omar gribble, send it to his office, missmcgoun, yours of twentieth to hand and in reply would say look here, gribble, i'mawfully afraid if we go on shilly-shallying
like this we'll just naturally lose the allen sale, i had allen up on carpet daybefore yesterday and got right down to cases and think i can assure you--uh, uh,no, change that: all my experience indicates he is all right, means to do business, looked into his financial recordwhich is fine--that sentence seems to be a little balled up, miss mcgoun; make acouple sentences out of it if you have to, period, new paragraph. "he is perfectly willing to pro rate thespecial assessment and strikes me, am dead sure there will be no difficulty in gettinghim to pay for title insurance, so now for
heaven's sake let's get busy--no, make that: so now let's go to it and get down--no, that's enough--you can tie those sentences up a little better when you type'em, miss mcgoun--your sincerely, etcetera." this is the version of his letter which hereceived, typed, from miss mcgoun that afternoon: babbitt-thompson realty co.homes for folks reeves bldg., oberlin avenue & 3d st., n.e zenith omar gribble, esq., 376 north americanbuilding, zenith.
dear mr. gribble:your letter of the twentieth to hand. i must say i'm awfully afraid that if we goon shilly-shallying like this we'll just naturally lose the allen sale.i had allen up on the carpet day before yesterday, and got right down to cases. all my experience indicates that he meansto do business. i have also looked into his financialrecord, which is fine. he is perfectly willing to pro rate thespecial assessment and there will be no difficulty in getting him to pay for titleinsurance. so let's go!
yours sincerely,as he read and signed it, in his correct flowing business-college hand, babbittreflected, "now that's a good, strong letter, and clear's a bell. now what the--i never told mcgoun to make athird paragraph there! wish she'd quit trying to improve on mydictation! but what i can't understand is: why can'tstan graff or chet laylock write a letter like that?with punch! with a kick!" the most important thing he dictated thatmorning was the fortnightly form-letter, to
be mimeographed and sent out to a thousand"prospects." it was diligently imitative of the bestliterary models of the day; of heart-to- heart-talk advertisements, "sales-pulling"letters, discourses on the "development of will-power," and hand-shaking house-organs, as richly poured forth by the new school ofpoets of business. he had painfully written out a first draft,and he intoned it now like a poet delicate and distrait: say, old man!i just want to know can i do you a whaleuva favor?honest!
no kidding! i know you're interested in getting ahouse, not merely a place where you hang up the old bonnet but a love-nest for the wifeand kiddies--and maybe for the flivver out beyant (be sure and spell that b-e-y-a-n-t,miss mcgoun) the spud garden. say, did you ever stop to think that we'rehere to save you trouble? that's how we make a living--folks don'tpay us for our lovely beauty! now take a look: sit right down at the handsome carvedmahogany escritoire and shoot us in a line telling us just what you want, and if wecan find it we'll come hopping down your
lane with the good tidings, and if wecan't, we won't bother you. to save your time, just fill out the blankenclosed. on request will also send blank regardingstore properties in floral heights, silver grove, linton, bellevue, and all east sideresidential districts. yours for service, p.s.--just a hint of some plums we can pickfor you--some genuine bargains that came in to-day: silver grove.--cute four-room californiabungalow, a.m.i., garage, dandy shade tree, swell neighborhood, handy car line.$3700, $780 down and balance liberal,
babbitt-thompson terms, cheaper than rent. dorchester.--a corker!artistic two-family house, all oak trim, parquet floors, lovely gas log, bigporches, colonial, heated all-weather garage, a bargain at $11,250. dictation over, with its need of sittingand thinking instead of bustling around and making a noise and really doing something,babbitt sat creakily back in his revolving desk-chair and beamed on miss mcgoun. he was conscious of her as a girl, of blackbobbed hair against demure cheeks. a longing which was indistinguishable fromloneliness enfeebled him.
while she waited, tapping a long, precisepencil-point on the desk-tablet, he half identified her with the fairy girl of hisdreams. he imagined their eyes meeting withterrifying recognition; imagined touching her lips with frightened reverence and--shewas chirping, "any more, mist' babbitt?" he grunted, "that winds it up, i guess,"and turned heavily away. for all his wandering thoughts, they hadnever been more intimate than this. he often reflected, "nev' forget how oldjake offutt said a wise bird never goes love-making in his own office or his ownhome. start trouble.
sure.but--" in twenty-three years of married life hehad peered uneasily at every graceful ankle, every soft shoulder; in thought hehad treasured them; but not once had he hazarded respectability by adventuring. now, as he calculated the cost ofrepapering the styles house, he was restless again, discontented about nothingand everything, ashamed of his discontentment, and lonely for the fairygirl. chapter iv it was a morning of artistic creation.
fifteen minutes after the purple prose ofbabbitt's form-letter, chester kirby laylock, the resident salesman at glenoriole, came in to report a sale and submit an advertisement. babbitt disapproved of laylock, who sang inchoirs and was merry at home over games of hearts and old maid.he had a tenor voice, wavy chestnut hair, and a mustache like a camel's-hair brush. babbitt considered it excusable in afamily-man to growl, "seen this new picture of the kid--husky little devil, eh?" butlaylock's domestic confidences were as bubbling as a girl's.
"say, i think i got a peach of an ad forthe glen, mr. babbitt. why don't we try something in poetry?honest, it'd have wonderful pulling-power. listen: 'mid pleasures and palaces,wherever you may roam, you just provide the little brideand we'll provide the home. do you get it?see--like 'home sweet home.' don't you--""yes, yes, yes, hell yes, of course i get it. but--oh, i think we'd better use somethingmore dignified and forceful, like 'we lead,
others follow,' or 'eventually, why notnow?' course i believe in using poetry and humorand all that junk when it turns the trick, but with a high-class restricteddevelopment like the glen we better stick to the more dignified approach, see how imean? well, i guess that's all, this morning,chet." iiby a tragedy familiar to the world of art, the april enthusiasm of chet laylock servedonly to stimulate the talent of the older craftsman, george f. babbitt. he grumbled to stanley graff, "that tan-colored voice of chet's gets on my nerves,"
yet he was aroused and in one swoop hewrote: do you respect your loved ones? when the last sad rites of bereavement areover, do you know for certain that you have done your best for the departed?you haven't unless they lie in the cemetery beautiful, linden lane the only strictly up-to-dateburial place in or near zenith, where exquisitely gardened plots look from daisy-dotted hill-slopes across the smiling fields of dorchester. sole agents babbitt-thompson realty companyreeves building
he rejoiced, "i guess that'll show chanmott and his weedy old wildwood cemetery something about modern merchandizing!" he sent mat penniman to the recorder'soffice to dig out the names of the owners of houses which were displaying for rentsigns of other brokers; he talked to a man who desired to lease a store-building for a pool-room; he ran over the list of home-leases which were about to expire; he sent thomas bywaters, a street-car conductor whoplayed at real estate in spare time, to call on side-street "prospects" who wereunworthy the strategies of stanley graff. but he had spent his credulous excitementof creation, and these routine details
annoyed him. one moment of heroism he had, indiscovering a new way of stopping smoking. he stopped smoking at least once a month. he went through with it like the solidcitizen he was: admitted the evils of tobacco, courageously made resolves, laidout plans to check the vice, tapered off his allowance of cigars, and expounded the pleasures of virtuousness to every one hemet. he did everything, in fact, except stopsmoking. two months before, by ruling out aschedule, noting down the hour and minute
of each smoke, and ecstatically increasingthe intervals between smokes, he had brought himself down to three cigars a day. then he had lost the schedule.a week ago he had invented a system of leaving his cigar-case and cigarette-box inan unused drawer at the bottom of the correspondence-file, in the outer office. "i'll just naturally be ashamed to gopoking in there all day long, making a fool of myself before my own employees!" hereasoned. by the end of three days he was trained toleave his desk, walk to the file, take out and light a cigar, without knowing that hewas doing it.
this morning it was revealed to him that ithad been too easy to open the file. lock it, that was the thing! inspired, he rushed out and locked up hiscigars, his cigarettes, and even his box of safety matches; and the key to the filedrawer he hid in his desk. but the crusading passion of it made him sotobacco-hungry that he immediately recovered the key, walked with forbiddingdignity to the file, took out a cigar and a match--"but only one match; if ole cigargoes out, it'll by golly have to stay out!" later, when the cigar did go out, he tookone more match from the file, and when a buyer and a seller came in for a conferenceat eleven-thirty, naturally he had to offer
them cigars. his conscience protested, "why, you'resmoking with them!" but he bullied it, "oh, shut up!i'm busy now. of course by-and-by--" there was no by-and-by, yet his belief that he had crushed the unclean habit made him feel noble and veryhappy. when he called up paul riesling he was, inhis moral splendor, unusually eager. he was fonder of paul riesling than of anyone on earth except himself and his daughter tinka. they had been classmates, roommates, in thestate university, but always he thought of
paul riesling, with his dark slimness, hisprecisely parted hair, his nose-glasses, his hesitant speech, his moodiness, his love of music, as a younger brother, to bepetted and protected. paul had gone into his father's business,after graduation; he was now a wholesaler and small manufacturer of prepared-paperroofing. but babbitt strenuously believed andlengthily announced to the world of good fellows that paul could have been a greatviolinist or painter or writer. "why say, the letters that boy sent me onhis trip to the canadian rockies, they just absolutely make you see the place as if youwere standing there.
believe me, he could have given any ofthese bloomin' authors a whale of a run for their money!"yet on the telephone they said only: "south 343. no, no, no!i said south--south 343. say, operator, what the dickens is thetrouble? can't you get me south 343? why certainly they'll answer.oh, hello, 343? wanta speak mist' riesling, mist' babbitttalking...'lo, paul?" "yuh."
"'s george speaking.""yuh." "how's old socks?""fair to middlin'. how 're you?" "fine, paulibus.well, what do you know?" "oh, nothing much.""where you been keepin' yourself?" "oh, just stickin' round. what's up, georgie?""how 'bout lil lunch 's noon?" "be all right with me, i guess.club?' "yuh.
meet you there twelve-thirty.""a' right. twelve-thirty.s' long, georgie." ivhis morning was not sharply marked into divisions. interwoven with correspondence andadvertisement-writing were a thousand nervous details: calls from clerks who wereincessantly and hopefully seeking five furnished rooms and bath at sixty dollars a month; advice to mat penniman on gettingmoney out of tenants who had no money. babbitt's virtues as a real-estate broker--as the servant of society in the department
of finding homes for families and shops fordistributors of food--were steadiness and diligence. he was conventionally honest, he kept hisrecords of buyers and sellers complete, he had experience with leases and titles andan excellent memory for prices. his shoulders were broad enough, his voicedeep enough, his relish of hearty humor strong enough, to establish him as one ofthe ruling caste of good fellows. yet his eventual importance to mankind wasperhaps lessened by his large and complacent ignorance of all architecturesave the types of houses turned out by speculative builders; all landscape
gardening save the use of curving roads,grass, and six ordinary shrubs; and all the commonest axioms of economics. he serenely believed that the one purposeof the real-estate business was to make money for george f. babbitt. true, it was a good advertisement atboosters' club lunches, and all the varieties of annual banquets to which goodfellows were invited, to speak sonorously of unselfish public service, the broker's obligation to keep inviolate the trust ofhis clients, and a thing called ethics, whose nature was confusing but if you hadit you were a high-class realtor and if you
hadn't you were a shyster, a piker, and afly-by-night. these virtues awakened confidence, andenabled you to handle bigger propositions. but they didn't imply that you were to beimpractical and refuse to take twice the value of a house if a buyer was such anidiot that he didn't jew you down on the asking-price. babbitt spoke well--and often--at theseorgies of commercial righteousness about the "realtor's function as a seer of thefuture development of the community, and as a prophetic engineer clearing the pathway for inevitable changes"--which meant that areal-estate broker could make money by
guessing which way the town would grow.this guessing he called vision. in an address at the boosters' club he hadadmitted, "it is at once the duty and the privilege of the realtor to know everythingabout his own city and its environs. where a surgeon is a specialist on everyvein and mysterious cell of the human body, and the engineer upon electricity in allits phases, or every bolt of some great bridge majestically arching o'er a mighty flood, the realtor must know his city, inchby inch, and all its faults and virtues." though he did know the market-price, inchby inch, of certain districts of zenith, he did not know whether the police force wastoo large or too small, or whether it was
in alliance with gambling and prostitution. he knew the means of fire-proofingbuildings and the relation of insurance- rates to fire-proofing, but he did not knowhow many firemen there were in the city, how they were trained and paid, or howcomplete their apparatus. he sang eloquently the advantages ofproximity of school-buildings to rentable homes, but he did not know--he did not knowthat it was worth while to know--whether the city schoolrooms were properly heated, lighted, ventilated, furnished; he did notknow how the teachers were chosen; and though he chanted "one of the boasts ofzenith is that we pay our teachers
adequately," that was because he had readthe statement in the advocate-times. himself, he could not have given theaverage salary of teachers in zenith or anywhere else. he had heard it said that "conditions" inthe county jail and the zenith city prison were not very "scientific;" he had, withindignation at the criticism of zenith, skimmed through a report in which the notorious pessimist seneca doane, theradical lawyer, asserted that to throw boys and young girls into a bull-pen crammedwith men suffering from syphilis, delirium tremens, and insanity was not the perfectway of educating them.
he had controverted the report by growling,"folks that think a jail ought to be a bloomin' hotel thornleigh make me sick. if people don't like a jail, let 'em behave'emselves and keep out of it. besides, these reform cranks alwaysexaggerate." that was the beginning and quite completelythe end of his investigations into zenith's charities and corrections; and as to the"vice districts" he brightly expressed it, "those are things that no decent manmonkeys with. besides, smatter fact, i'll tell youconfidentially: it's a protection to our daughters and to decent women to have adistrict where tough nuts can raise cain.
keeps 'em away from our own homes." as to industrial conditions, however,babbitt had thought a great deal, and his opinions may be coordinated as follows: "a good labor union is of value because itkeeps out radical unions, which would destroy property.no one ought to be forced to belong to a union, however. all labor agitators who try to force men tojoin a union should be hanged. in fact, just between ourselves, thereoughtn't to be any unions allowed at all; and as it's the best way of fighting theunions, every business man ought to belong
to an employers'-association and to thechamber of commerce. in union there is strength.so any selfish hog who doesn't join the chamber of commerce ought to be forced to." in nothing--as the expert on whose advicefamilies moved to new neighborhoods to live there for a generation--was babbitt moresplendidly innocent than in the science of sanitation. he did not know a malaria-bearing mosquitofrom a bat; he knew nothing about tests of drinking water; and in the matters ofplumbing and sewage he was as unlearned as he was voluble.
he often referred to the excellence of thebathrooms in the houses he sold. he was fond of explaining why it was thatno european ever bathed. some one had told him, when he was twenty-two, that all cesspools were unhealthy, and he still denounced them. if a client impertinently wanted him tosell a house which had a cesspool, babbitt always spoke about it--before accepting thehouse and selling it. when he laid out the glen oriole acreagedevelopment, when he ironed woodland and dipping meadow into a glenless, orioleless,sunburnt flat prickly with small boards displaying the names of imaginary streets,
he righteously put in a complete sewage-system. it made him feel superior; it enabled himto sneer privily at the martin lumsen development, avonlea, which had a cesspool;and it provided a chorus for the full-page advertisements in which he announced the beauty, convenience, cheapness, andsupererogatory healthfulness of glen the only flaw was that the glen oriolesewers had insufficient outlet, so that waste remained in them, not very agreeably,while the avonlea cesspool was a waring septic tank. the whole of the glen oriole project was asuggestion that babbitt, though he really
did hate men recognized as swindlers, wasnot too unreasonably honest. operators and buyers prefer that brokersshould not be in competition with them as operators and buyers themselves, but attendto their clients' interests only. it was supposed that the babbitt-thompsoncompany were merely agents for glen oriole, serving the real owner, jake offutt, butthe fact was that babbitt and thompson owned sixty-two per cent. of the glen, the president and purchasing agent of thezenith street traction company owned twenty-eight per cent., and jake offutt (agang-politician, a small manufacturer, a tobacco-chewing old farceur who enjoyed
dirty politics, business diplomacy, andcheating at poker) had only ten per cent., which babbitt and the traction officialshad given to him for "fixing" health inspectors and fire inspectors and a memberof the state transportation commission. but babbitt was virtuous. he advocated, though he did not practise,the prohibition of alcohol; he praised, though he did not obey, the laws againstmotor-speeding; he paid his debts; he contributed to the church, the red cross, and the y. m. c. a.; he followed the customof his clan and cheated only as it was sanctified by precedent; and he neverdescended to trickery--though, as he
explained to paul riesling: "course i don't mean to say that every ad iwrite is literally true or that i always believe everything i say when i give somebuyer a good strong selling-spiel. you see--you see it's like this: in thefirst place, maybe the owner of the property exaggerated when he put it into myhands, and it certainly isn't my place to go proving my principal a liar! and then most folks are so darn crookedthemselves that they expect a fellow to do a little lying, so if i was fool enough tonever whoop the ante i'd get the credit for lying anyway!
in self-defense i got to toot my own horn,like a lawyer defending a client--his bounden duty, ain't it, to bring out thepoor dub's good points? why, the judge himself would bawl out alawyer that didn't, even if they both knew the guy was guilty! but even so, i don't pad out the truth likececil rountree or thayer or the rest of these realtors. fact, i think a fellow that's willing todeliberately up and profit by lying ought to be shot!" babbitt's value to his clients was rarelybetter shown than this morning, in the
conference at eleven-thirty betweenhimself, conrad lyte, and archibald purdy. vconrad lyte was a real-estate speculator. he was a nervous speculator. before he gambled he consulted bankers,lawyers, architects, contracting builders, and all of their clerks and stenographerswho were willing to be cornered and give him advice. he was a bold entrepreneur, and he desirednothing more than complete safety in his investments, freedom from attention todetails, and the thirty or forty per cent. profit which, according to all authorities,
a pioneer deserves for his risks andforesight. he was a stubby man with a cap-like mass ofshort gray curls and clothes which, no matter how well cut, seemed shaggy. below his eyes were semicircular hollows,as though silver dollars had been pressed against them and had left an imprint. particularly and always lyte consultedbabbitt, and trusted in his slow cautiousness. six months ago babbitt had learned that onearchibald purdy, a grocer in the indecisive residential district known as linton, wastalking of opening a butcher shop beside
his grocery. looking up the ownership of adjoiningparcels of land, babbitt found that purdy owned his present shop but did not own theone available lot adjoining. he advised conrad lyte to purchase thislot, for eleven thousand dollars, though an appraisal on a basis of rents did notindicate its value as above nine thousand. the rents, declared babbitt, were too low;and by waiting they could make purdy come to their price.(this was vision.) he had to bully lyte into buying. his first act as agent for lyte was toincrease the rent of the battered store-
building on the lot.the tenant said a number of rude things, but he paid. now, purdy seemed ready to buy, and hisdelay was going to cost him ten thousand extra dollars--the reward paid by thecommunity to mr. conrad lyte for the virtue of employing a broker who had vision and who understood talking points, strategicvalues, key situations, underappraisals, and the psychology of salesmanship.lyte came to the conference exultantly. he was fond of babbitt, this morning, andcalled him "old hoss." purdy, the grocer, a long-nosed man andsolemn, seemed to care less for babbitt and
for vision, but babbitt met him at thestreet door of the office and guided him toward the private room with affectionatelittle cries of "this way, brother purdy!" he took from the correspondence-file theentire box of cigars and forced them on his guests. he pushed their chairs two inches forwardand three inches back, which gave an hospitable note, then leaned back in hisdesk-chair and looked plump and jolly. but he spoke to the weakling grocer withfirmness. "well, brother purdy, we been having somepretty tempting offers from butchers and a slew of other folks for that lot next toyour store, but i persuaded brother lyte
that we ought to give you a shot at theproperty first. i said to lyte, 'it'd be a rotten shame,'i said, 'if somebody went and opened a combination grocery and meat market rightnext door and ruined purdy's nice little business.' especially--" babbitt leaned forward, andhis voice was harsh, "--it would be hard luck if one of these cash-and-carry chain-stores got in there and started cutting prices below cost till they got rid ofcompetition and forced you to the wall!" purdy snatched his thin hands from hispockets, pulled up his trousers, thrust his hands back into his pockets, tilted in theheavy oak chair, and tried to look amused,
as he struggled: "yes, they're bad competition.but i guess you don't realize the pulling power that personality has in aneighborhood business." the great babbitt smiled. "that's so.just as you feel, old man. we thought we'd give you first chance.all right then--" "now look here!" purdy wailed. "i know f'r a fact that a piece of property'bout same size, right near, sold for less
'n eighty-five hundred, 'twa'n't two yearsago, and here you fellows are asking me twenty-four thousand dollars! why, i'd have to mortgage--i wouldn't mindso much paying twelve thousand but--why good god, mr. babbitt, you're asking more'n twice its value! and threatening to ruin me if i don't takeit!" "purdy, i don't like your way of talking!i don't like it one little bit! supposing lyte and i were stinking enoughto want to ruin any fellow human, don't you suppose we know it's to our own selfishinterest to have everybody in zenith prosperous?
but all this is beside the point. tell you what we'll do: we'll come down totwenty-three thousand-five thousand down and the rest on mortgage--and if you wantto wreck the old shack and rebuild, i guess i can get lyte here to loosen up for abuilding-mortgage on good liberal terms. heavens, man, we'd be glad to oblige you!we don't like these foreign grocery trusts any better 'n you do! but it isn't reasonable to expect us tosacrifice eleven thousand or more just for neighborliness, is it!how about it, lyte? you willing to come down?"
by warmly taking purdy's part, babbittpersuaded the benevolent mr. lyte to reduce his price to twenty-one thousand dollars. at the right moment babbitt snatched from adrawer the agreement he had had miss mcgoun type out a week ago and thrust it intopurdy's hands. he genially shook his fountain pen to makecertain that it was flowing, handed it to purdy, and approvingly watched him sign.the work of the world was being done. lyte had made something over nine thousanddollars, babbitt had made a four-hundred- and-fifty dollar commission, purdy had, bythe sensitive mechanism of modern finance, been provided with a business-building, and
soon the happy inhabitants of linton wouldhave meat lavished upon them at prices only a little higher than those down-town.it had been a manly battle, but after it babbitt drooped. this was the only really amusing contest hehad been planning. there was nothing ahead save details ofleases, appraisals, mortgages. he muttered, "makes me sick to think oflyte carrying off most of the profit when i did all the work, the old skinflint!and--what else have i got to do to-day?... like to take a good long vacation. motor trip.something."
he sprang up, rekindled by the thought oflunching with paul riesling. chapter v babbitt's preparations for leaving theoffice to its feeble self during the hour and a half of his lunch-period weresomewhat less elaborate than the plans for a general european war. he fretted to miss mcgoun, "what time yougoing to lunch? well, make sure miss bannigan is in then. explain to her that if wiedenfeldt callsup, she's to tell him i'm already having the title traced.and oh, b' the way, remind me to-morrow to
have penniman trace it. now if anybody comes in looking for a cheaphouse, remember we got to shove that bangor road place off onto somebody.if you need me, i'll be at the athletic club. and--uh--and--uh--i'll be back by two."he dusted the cigar-ashes off his vest. he placed a difficult unanswered letter onthe pile of unfinished work, that he might not fail to attend to it that afternoon. (for three noons, now, he had placed thesame letter on the unfinished pile.) he scrawled on a sheet of yellow backing-paper the memorandum: "see abt apt h drs,"
which gave him an agreeable feeling ofhaving already seen about the apartment- house doors. he discovered that he was smoking anothercigar. he threw it away, protesting, "darn it, ithought you'd quit this darn smoking!" he courageously returned the cigar-box tothe correspondence-file, locked it up, hid the key in a more difficult place, andraged, "ought to take care of myself. and need more exercise--walk to the club,every single noon--just what i'll do--every noon-cut out this motoring all the time."the resolution made him feel exemplary. immediately after it he decided that thisnoon it was too late to walk.
it took but little more time to start hiscar and edge it into the traffic than it would have taken to walk the three and ahalf blocks to the club. iias he drove he glanced with the fondness of familiarity at the buildings. a stranger suddenly dropped into thebusiness-center of zenith could not have told whether he was in a city of oregon orgeorgia, ohio or maine, oklahoma or manitoba. but to babbitt every inch was individualand stirring. as always he noted that the californiabuilding across the way was three stories
lower, therefore three stories lessbeautiful, than his own reeves building. as always when he passed the parthenon shoeshine parlor, a one-story hut which beside the granite and red-brick ponderousness ofthe old california building resembled a bath-house under a cliff, he commented, "gosh, ought to get my shoes shined thisafternoon. keep forgetting it." at the simplex office furniture shop, thenational cash register agency, he yearned for a dictaphone, for a typewriter whichwould add and multiply, as a poet yearns for quartos or a physician for radium.
at the nobby men's wear shop he took hisleft hand off the steering-wheel to touch his scarf, and thought well of himself asone who bought expensive ties "and could pay cash for 'em, too, by golly;" and at the united cigar store, with its crimsonand gold alertness, he reflected, "wonder if i need some cigars--idiot--plumb forgot--going t' cut down my fool smoking." he looked at his bank, the miners' anddrovers' national, and considered how clever and solid he was to bank with somarbled an establishment. his high moment came in the clash oftraffic when he was halted at the corner beneath the lofty second national tower.
his car was banked with four others in aline of steel restless as cavalry, while the cross town traffic, limousines andenormous moving-vans and insistent motor- cycles, poured by; on the farther corner, pneumatic riveters rang on the sun-platedskeleton of a new building; and out of this tornado flashed the inspiration of afamiliar face, and a fellow booster shouted, "h' are you, george!" babbitt waved in neighborly affection, andslid on with the traffic as the policeman lifted his hand.he noted how quickly his car picked up. he felt superior and powerful, like ashuttle of polished steel darting in a vast
machine. as always he ignored the next two blocks,decayed blocks not yet reclaimed from the grime and shabbiness of the zenith of 1885. while he was passing the five-and-ten-centstore, the dakota lodging house, concordia hall with its lodge-rooms and the officesof fortune-tellers and chiropractors, he thought of how much money he made, and he boasted a little and worried a little anddid old familiar sums: "four hundred fifty plunks this morningfrom the lyte deal. but taxes due.
let's see: i ought to pull out eightthousand net this year, and save fifteen hundred of that--no, not if i put up garageand--let's see: six hundred and forty clear last month, and twelve times six-forty makes--makes--let see: six times twelve isseventy-two hundred and--oh rats, anyway, i'll make eight thousand--gee now, that'snot so bad; mighty few fellows pulling down eight thousand dollars a year--eight thousand good hard iron dollars--bet thereisn't more than five per cent. of the people in the whole united states that makemore than uncle george does, by golly! right up at the top of the heap!
but--way expenses are--family wastinggasoline, and always dressed like millionaires, and sending that eighty amonth to mother--and all these stenographers and salesmen gouging me forevery cent they can get--" the effect of his scientific budget-planning was that he felt at once triumphantly wealthy and perilously poor,and in the midst of these dissertations he stopped his car, rushed into a small news- and-miscellany shop, and bought theelectric cigar-lighter which he had coveted for a week. he dodged his conscience by being jerky andnoisy, and by shouting at the clerk, "guess
this will prett' near pay for itself inmatches, eh?" it was a pretty thing, a nickeled cylinderwith an almost silvery socket, to be attached to the dashboard of his car. it was not only, as the placard on thecounter observed, "a dandy little refinement, lending the last touch of classto a gentleman's auto," but a priceless time-saver. by freeing him from halting the car tolight a match, it would in a month or two easily save ten minutes.as he drove on he glanced at it. "pretty nice.
always wanted one," he said wistfully."the one thing a smoker needs, too." then he remembered that he had given upsmoking. "darn it!" he mourned. "oh well, i suppose i'll hit a cigar oncein a while. and--be a great convenience for otherfolks. might make just the difference in gettingchummy with some fellow that would put over a sale.and--certainly looks nice there. certainly is a mighty clever little jigger. gives the last touch of refinement andclass.
i--by golly, i guess i can afford it if iwant to! not going to be the only member of thisfamily that never has a single doggone luxury!" thus, laden with treasure, after three anda half blocks of romantic adventure, he drove up to the club. iiithe zenith athletic club is not athletic and it isn't exactly a club, but it iszenith in perfection. it has an active and smoke-misted billiardroom, it is represented by baseball and football teams, and in the pool and thegymnasium a tenth of the members
sporadically try to reduce. but most of its three thousand members useit as a cafe in which to lunch, play cards, tell stories, meet customers, and entertainout-of town uncles at dinner. it is the largest club in the city, and itschief hatred is the conservative union club, which all sound members of theathletic call "a rotten, snobbish, dull, expensive old hole--not one good mixer inthe place--you couldn't hire me to join." statistics show that no member of theathletic has ever refused election to the union, and of those who are elected, sixty-seven per cent. resign from the athletic and are thereafter heard to say, in the
drowsy sanctity of the union lounge, "theathletic would be a pretty good hotel, if it were more exclusive." the athletic club building is nine storieshigh, yellow brick with glassy roof-garden above and portico of huge limestone columnsbelow. the lobby, with its thick pillars of porouscaen stone, its pointed vaulting, and a brown glazed-tile floor like well-bakedbread-crust, is a combination of cathedral- crypt and rathskellar. the members rush into the lobby as thoughthey were shopping and hadn't much time for thus did babbitt enter, and to the groupstanding by the cigar-counter he whooped,
"how's the boys?how's the boys? well, well, fine day!" jovially they whooped back--vergil gunch,the coal-dealer, sidney finkelstein, the ladies'-ready-to-wear buyer for parcher &stein's department-store, and professor joseph k. pumphrey, owner of the riteway business college and instructor in publicspeaking, business english, scenario writing, and commercial law. though babbitt admired this savant, andappreciated sidney finkelstein as "a mighty smart buyer and a good liberal spender," itwas to vergil gunch that he turned with
enthusiasm. mr. gunch was president of the boosters'club, a weekly lunch-club, local chapter of a national organization which promotedsound business and friendliness among regular fellows. he was also no less an official thanesteemed leading knight in the benevolent and protective order of elks, and it wasrumored that at the next election he would be a candidate for exalted ruler. he was a jolly man, given to oratory and tochumminess with the arts. he called on the famous actors andvaudeville artists when they came to town,
gave them cigars, addressed them by theirfirst names, and--sometimes--succeeded in bringing them to the boosters' lunches togive the boys a free entertainment. he was a large man with hair en brosse, andhe knew the latest jokes, but he played poker close to the chest. it was at his party that babbitt had suckedin the virus of to-day's restlessness. gunch shouted, "how's the old bolsheviki?how do you feel, the morning after the night before?" "oh, boy!some head! that was a regular party you threw, verg!hope you haven't forgotten i took that last
cute little jack-pot!" babbitt bellowed.(he was three feet from gunch.) "that's all right now!what i'll hand you next time, georgie! say, juh notice in the paper the way thenew york assembly stood up to the reds?" "you bet i did.that was fine, eh? nice day to-day." "yes, it's one mighty fine spring day, butnights still cold." "yeh, you're right they are!had to have coupla blankets last night, out on the sleeping-porch.
say, sid," babbitt turned to finkelstein,the buyer, "got something wanta ask you about.i went out and bought me an electric cigar- lighter for the car, this noon, and--" "good hunch!" said finkelstein, while eventhe learned professor pumphrey, a bulbous man with a pepper-and-salt cutaway and apipe-organ voice, commented, "that makes a dandy accessory. cigar-lighter gives tone to the dashboard.""yep, finally decided i'd buy me one. got the best on the market, the clerk saidit was. paid five bucks for it.
just wondering if i got stuck.what do they charge for 'em at the store, sid?" finkelstein asserted that five dollars wasnot too great a sum, not for a really high- class lighter which was suitably nickeledand provided with connections of the very best quality. "i always say--and believe me, i base it ona pretty fairly extensive mercantile experience--the best is the cheapest in thelong run. of course if a fellow wants to be a jewabout it, he can get cheap junk, but in the long run, the cheapest thing is--the bestyou can get!
now you take here just th' other day: i gota new top for my old boat and some upholstery, and i paid out a hundred andtwenty-six fifty, and of course a lot of fellows would say that was too much--lord, if the old folks--they live in one of thesehick towns up-state and they simply can't get onto the way a city fellow's mindworks, and then, of course, they're jews, and they'd lie right down and die if they knew sid had anted up a hundred and twenty-six bones. but i don't figure i was stuck, george, nota bit. machine looks brand new now--not that it'sso darned old, of course; had it less 'n
three years, but i give it hard service;never drive less 'n a hundred miles on sunday and, uh--oh, i don't really thinkyou got stuck, george. in the long run, the best is, you mightsay, it's unquestionably the cheapest." "that's right," said vergil gunch. "that's the way i look at it. if a fellow is keyed up to what you mightcall intensive living, the way you get it here in zenith--all the hustle and mentalactivity that's going on with a bunch of live-wires like the boosters and here in the z.a.c., why, he's got to save hisnerves by having the best."
babbitt nodded his head at every fifth wordin the roaring rhythm; and by the conclusion, in gunch's renowned humorousvein, he was enchanted: "still, at that, george, don't know's youcan afford it. i've heard your business has been kind ofunder the eye of the gov'ment since you stole the tail of eathorne park and soldit!" "oh, you're a great little josher, verg. but when it comes to kidding, how aboutthis report that you stole the black marble steps off the post-office and sold 'em forhigh-grade coal!" in delight babbitt patted gunch's back,stroked his arm.
"that's all right, but what i want to knowis: who's the real-estate shark that bought that coal for his apartment-houses?" "i guess that'll hold you for a while,george!" said finkelstein. "i'll tell you, though, boys, what i didhear: george's missus went into the gents' wear department at parcher's to buy himsome collars, and before she could give his neck-size the clerk slips her somethirteens. 'how juh know the size?' says mrs. babbitt,and the clerk says, 'men that let their wives buy collars for 'em always wearthirteen, madam.' how's that!
that's pretty good, eh?how's that, eh? i guess that'll about fix you, george!""i--i--" babbitt sought for amiable insults in answer. he stopped, stared at the door.paul riesling was coming in. babbitt cried, "see you later, boys," andhastened across the lobby. he was, just then, neither the sulky childof the sleeping-porch, the domestic tyrant of the breakfast table, the crafty money-changer of the lyte-purdy conference, nor the blaring good fellow, the josher andregular guy, of the athletic club. he was an older brother to paul riesling,swift to defend him, admiring him with a
proud and credulous love passing the loveof women. paul and he shook hands solemnly; theysmiled as shyly as though they had been parted three years, not three days--andthey said: "how's the old horse-thief?" "all right, i guess.how're you, you poor shrimp?" "i'm first-rate, you second-hand hunk o'cheese." reassured thus of their high fondness,babbitt grunted, "you're a fine guy, you are!ten minutes late!" riesling snapped, "well, you're lucky tohave a chance to lunch with a gentleman!"
they grinned and went into the neronianwashroom, where a line of men bent over the bowls inset along a prodigious slab ofmarble as in religious prostration before their own images in the massy mirror. voices thick, satisfied, authoritative,hurtled along the marble walls, bounded from the ceiling of lavender-bordered milkytiles, while the lords of the city, the barons of insurance and law and fertilizers and motor tires, laid down the law forzenith; announced that the day was warm- indeed, indisputably of spring; that wageswere too high and the interest on mortgages too low; that babe ruth, the eminent player
of baseball, was a noble man; and that"those two nuts at the climax vaudeville theater this week certainly are a slickpair of actors." babbitt, though ordinarily his voice wasthe surest and most episcopal of all, was silent. in the presence of the slight darkreticence of paul riesling, he was awkward, he desired to be quiet and firm and deft. the entrance lobby of the athletic club wasgothic, the washroom roman imperial, the lounge spanish mission, and the reading-room in chinese chippendale, but the gem of the club was the dining-room, the
masterpiece of ferdinand reitman, zenith'sbusiest architect. it was lofty and half-timbered, with tudorleaded casements, an oriel, a somewhat musicianless musicians'-gallery, andtapestries believed to illustrate the granting of magna charta. the open beams had been hand-adzed at jakeoffutt's car-body works, the hinge; were of hand-wrought iron, the wainscot studdedwith handmade wooden pegs, and at one end of the room was a heraldic and hooded stone fireplace which the club's advertising-pamphlet asserted to be not only larger than any of the fireplaces in europeancastles but of a draught incomparably more
scientific. it was also much cleaner, as no fire hadever been built in it. half of the tables were mammoth slabs whichseated twenty or thirty men. babbitt usually sat at the one near thedoor, with a group including gunch, finkelstein, professor pumphrey, howardlittlefield, his neighbor, t. cholmondeley frink, the poet and advertising-agent, and orville jones, whose laundry was in manyways the best in zenith. they composed a club within the club, andmerrily called themselves "the roughnecks." to-day as he passed their table theroughnecks greeted him, "come on, sit in!
you 'n' paul too proud to feed with poorfolks? afraid somebody might stick you for abottle of bevo, george? strikes me you swells are getting awfuldarn exclusive!" he thundered, "you bet! we can't afford to have our reps ruined bybeing seen with you tightwads!" and guided paul to one of the small tables beneath themusicians'-gallery. he felt guilty. at the zenith athletic club, privacy wasvery bad form. but he wanted paul to himself.
that morning he had advocated lighterlunches and now he ordered nothing but english mutton chop, radishes, peas, deep-dish apple pie, a bit of cheese, and a pot of coffee with cream, adding, as he did invariably, "and uh--oh, and you might giveme an order of french fried potatoes." when the chop came he vigorously pepperedit and salted it. he always peppered and salted his meat, andvigorously, before tasting it. paul and he took up the spring-like qualityof the spring, the virtues of the electric cigar-lighter, and the action of the newyork state assembly. it was not till babbitt was thick anddisconsolate with mutton grease that he
flung out: "i wound up a nice little deal with conradlyte this morning that put five hundred good round plunks in my pocket.pretty nice--pretty nice! and yet--i don't know what's the matterwith me to-day. maybe it's an attack of spring fever, orstaying up too late at verg gunch's, or maybe it's just the winter's work pilingup, but i've felt kind of down in the mouth all day long. course i wouldn't beef about it to thefellows at the roughnecks' table there, but you--ever feel that way, paul?
kind of comes over me: here i've prettymuch done all the things i ought to; supported my family, and got a good houseand a six-cylinder car, and built up a nice little business, and i haven't any vices 'specially, except smoking--and i'mpractically cutting that out, by the way. and i belong to the church, and play enoughgolf to keep in trim, and i only associate with good decent fellows. and yet, even so, i don't know that i'mentirely satisfied!" it was drawled out, broken by shouts fromthe neighboring tables, by mechanical love- making to the waitress, by stertorousgrunts as the coffee filled him with
dizziness and indigestion. he was apologetic and doubtful, and it waspaul, with his thin voice, who pierced the fog: "good lord, george, you don't suppose it'sany novelty to me to find that we hustlers, that think we're so all-fired successful,aren't getting much out of it? you look as if you expected me to reportyou as seditious! you know what my own life's been.""i know, old man." "i ought to have been a fiddler, and i'm apedler of tar-roofing! and zilla--oh, i don't want to squeal, butyou know as well as i do about how
inspiring a wife she is.... typical instance last evening: we went tothe movies. there was a big crowd waiting in the lobby,us at the tail-end. she began to push right through it with her'sir, how dare you?' manner--honestly, sometimes when i look at her and see howshe's always so made up and stinking of perfume and looking for trouble and kind of always yelping, 'i tell yuh i'm a lady,damn yuh!'--why, i want to kill her! well, she keeps elbowing through the crowd,me after her, feeling good and ashamed, till she's almost up to the velvet rope andready to be the next let in.
but there was a little squirt of a manthere--probably been waiting half an hour-- i kind of admired the little cuss--and heturns on zilla and says, perfectly polite, 'madam, why are you trying to push pastme?' and she simply--god, i was so ashamed!--sherips out at him, 'you're no gentleman,' and she drags me into it and hollers, 'paul,this person insulted me!' and the poor skate he got ready to fight. "i made out i hadn't heard them--sure! sameas you wouldn't hear a boiler-factory!--and i tried to look away--i can tell youexactly how every tile looks in the ceiling of that lobby; there's one with brown spots
on it like the face of the devil--and allthe time the people there--they were packed in like sardines--they kept making remarksabout us, and zilla went right on talking about the little chap, and screeching that 'folks like him oughtn't to be admitted ina place that's supposed to be for ladies and gentlemen,' and 'paul, will you kindlycall the manager, so i can report this dirty rat?' and--oof! maybe i wasn't glad when i could sneakinside and hide in the dark! "after twenty-four years of that kind ofthing, you don't expect me to fall down and foam at the mouth when you hint that thissweet, clean, respectable, moral life isn't
all it's cracked up to be, do you? i can't even talk about it, except to you,because anybody else would think i was yellow.maybe i am. don't care any longer.... gosh, you've had to stand a lot of whiningfrom me, first and last, georgie!" "rats, now, paul, you've never really whatyou could call whined. sometimes--i'm always blowing to myra andthe kids about what a whale of a realtor i am, and yet sometimes i get a sneaking ideai'm not such a pierpont morgan as i let on to be.
but if i ever do help by jollying youalong, old paulski, i guess maybe saint pete may let me in after all!" "yuh, you're an old blow-hard, georgie, youcheerful cut-throat, but you've certainly kept me going.""why don't you divorce zilla?" "why don't i! if i only could!if she'd just give me the chance! you couldn't hire her to divorce me, no,nor desert me. she's too fond of her three squares and afew pounds of nut-center chocolates in between.if she'd only be what they call unfaithful
to me! george, i don't want to be too much of astinker; back in college i'd 've thought a man who could say that ought to be shot atsunrise. but honestly, i'd be tickled to death ifshe'd really go making love with somebody. fat chance! of course she'll flirt with anything--youknow how she holds hands and laughs--that laugh--that horrible brassy laugh--the wayshe yaps, 'you naughty man, you better be careful or my big husband will be after you!'--and the guy looking me over andthinking, 'why, you cute little thing, you
run away now or i'll spank you!' and she'll let him go just far enough soshe gets some excitement out of it and then she'll begin to do the injured innocent andhave a beautiful time wailing, 'i didn't think you were that kind of a person.' they talk about these demi-vierges instories--" "these whats?" "--but the wise, hard, corseted, oldmarried women like zilla are worse than any bobbed-haired girl that ever went boldlyout into this-here storm of life--and kept her umbrella slid up her sleeve!
but rats, you know what zilla is.how she nags--nags--nags. how she wants everything i can buy her, anda lot that i can't, and how absolutely unreasonable she is, and when i get soreand try to have it out with her she plays the perfect lady so well that even i get fooled and get all tangled up in a lot of'why did you say's' and 'i didn't mean's.' i'll tell you, georgie: you know my tastesare pretty fairly simple--in the matter of food, at least. course, as you're always complaining, i dolike decent cigars--not those flor de cabagos you're smoking--""that's all right now!
that's a good two-for. by the way, paul, did i tell you i decidedto practically cut out smok--" "yes you--at the same time, if i can't getwhat i like, why, i can do without it. i don't mind sitting down to burnt steak,with canned peaches and store cake for a thrilling little dessert afterwards, but ido draw the line at having to sympathize with zilla because she's so rotten bad- tempered that the cook has quit, and she'sbeen so busy sitting in a dirty lace negligee all afternoon, reading about somebrave manly western hero, that she hasn't had time to do any cooking.
you're always talking about 'morals'--meaning monogamy, i suppose. you've been the rock of ages to me, allright, but you're essentially a simp. you--" "where d' you get that 'simp,' little man?let me tell you--" "--love to look earnest and inform theworld that it's the 'duty of responsible business men to be strictly moral, as anexample to the community.' in fact you're so earnest about morality,old georgie, that i hate to think how essentially immoral you must be underneath.all right, you can--" "wait, wait now!
what's--" "--talk about morals all you want to, oldthing, but believe me, if it hadn't been for you and an occasional evening playingthe violin to terrill o'farrell's 'cello, and three or four darling girls that let me forget this beastly joke they call'respectable life,' i'd 've killed myself years ago."and business! the roofing business! roofs for cowsheds!oh, i don't mean i haven't had a lot of fun out of the game; out of putting it over onthe labor unions, and seeing a big check
coming in, and the business increasing. but what's the use of it?you know, my business isn't distributing roofing--it's principally keeping mycompetitors from distributing roofing. same with you. all we do is cut each other's throats andmake the public pay for it!" "look here now, paul!you're pretty darn near talking socialism!" "oh yes, of course i don't really exactlymean that--i s'pose. course--competition--brings out the best--survival of the fittest--but--but i mean: take all these fellows we know, the kindright here in the club now, that seem to be
perfectly content with their home-life and their businesses, and that boost zenith andthe chamber of commerce and holler for a million population. i bet if you could cut into their headsyou'd find that one-third of 'em are sure- enough satisfied with their wives and kidsand friends and their offices; and one- third feel kind of restless but won't admit it; and one-third are miserable and knowit. they hate the whole peppy, boosting, go-ahead game, and they're bored by their wives and think their families are fools--at least when they come to forty or forty-
five they're bored--and they hate business, and they'd go--why do you suppose there'sso many 'mysterious' suicides? why do you suppose so many substantialcitizens jumped right into the war? think it was all patriotism?" babbitt snorted, "what do you expect?think we were sent into the world to have a soft time and--what is it?--'float onflowery beds of ease'? think man was just made to be happy?" "why not?though i've never discovered anybody that knew what the deuce man really was madefor!"
"well we know--not just in the bible alone,but it stands to reason--a man who doesn't buckle down and do his duty, even if itdoes bore him sometimes, is nothing but a-- well, he's simply a weakling. mollycoddle, in fact!and what do you advocate? come down to cases! if a man is bored by his wife, do youseriously mean he has a right to chuck her and take a sneak, or even kill himself?""good lord, i don't know what 'rights' a man has! and i don't know the solution of boredom.if i did, i'd be the one philosopher that
had the cure for living. but i do know that about ten times as manypeople find their lives dull, and unnecessarily dull, as ever admit it; and ido believe that if we busted out and admitted it sometimes, instead of being nice and patient and loyal for sixty years,and then nice and patient and dead for the rest of eternity, why, maybe, possibly, wemight make life more fun." they drifted into a maze of speculation. babbitt was elephantishly uneasy.paul was bold, but not quite sure about what he was being bold.
now and then babbitt suddenly agreed withpaul in an admission which contradicted all his defense of duty and christian patience,and at each admission he had a curious reckless joy. he said at last:"look here, old paul, you do a lot of talking about kicking things in the face,but you never kick. why don't you?" "nobody does.habit too strong. but--georgie, i've been thinking of onemild bat--oh, don't worry, old pillar of monogamy; it's highly proper.
it seems to be settled now, isn't it--though of course zilla keeps rooting for a nice expensive vacation in new york andatlantic city, with the bright lights and the bootlegged cocktails and a bunch of lounge-lizards to dance with--but thebabbitts and the rieslings are sure-enough going to lake sunasquam, aren't we? why couldn't you and i make some excuse--say business in new york--and get up to maine four or five days before they do, andjust loaf by ourselves and smoke and cuss and be natural?" "great!great idea!"
babbitt admired. not for fourteen years had he taken aholiday without his wife, and neither of them quite believed they could commit thisaudacity. many members of the athletic club did gocamping without their wives, but they were officially dedicated to fishing andhunting, whereas the sacred and unchangeable sports of babbitt and paul riesling were golfing, motoring, andbridge. for either the fishermen or the golfers tohave changed their habits would have been an infraction of their self-imposeddiscipline which would have shocked all
right-thinking and regularized citizens. babbitt blustered, "why don't we just putour foot down and say, 'we're going on ahead of you, and that's all there is toit!' nothing criminal in it. simply say to zilla--""you don't say anything to zilla simply. why, georgie, she's almost as much of amoralist as you are, and if i told her the truth she'd believe we were going to meetsome dames in new york. and even myra--she never nags you, the wayzilla does, but she'd worry. she'd say, 'don't you want me to go tomaine with you?
i shouldn't dream of going unless youwanted me;' and you'd give in to save her feelings.oh, the devil! let's have a shot at duck-pins." during the game of duck-pins, a juvenileform of bowling, paul was silent. as they came down the steps of the club,not more than half an hour after the time at which babbitt had sternly told missmcgoun he would be back, paul sighed, "look here, old man, oughtn't to talked aboutzilla way i did." "rats, old man, it lets off steam.""oh, i know! after spending all noon sneering at theconventional stuff, i'm conventional enough
to be ashamed of saving my life by bustingout with my fool troubles!" "old paul, your nerves are kind of on thebum. i'm going to take you away.i'm going to rig this thing. i'm going to have an important deal in newyork and--and sure, of course!--i'll need you to advise me on the roof of thebuilding! and the ole deal will fall through, andthere'll be nothing for us but to go on ahead to maine.i--paul, when it comes right down to it, i don't care whether you bust loose or not. i do like having a rep for being one of thebunch, but if you ever needed me i'd chuck
it and come out for you every time! not of course but what you're--course idon't mean you'd ever do anything that would put--that would put a decent positionon the fritz but--see how i mean? i'm kind of a clumsy old codger, and i needyour fine eyetalian hand. we--oh, hell, i can't stand here gassingall day! on the job! s' long!don't take any wooden money, paulibus! see you soon!s' long!"