ford badewanne bilder
chapter vi ihe forgot paul riesling in an afternoon of not unagreeable details. after a return to his office, which seemedto have staggered on without him, he drove a "prospect" out to view a four-flattenement in the linton district. he was inspired by the customer'sadmiration of the new cigar-lighter. thrice its novelty made him use it, andthrice he hurled half-smoked cigarettes from the car, protesting, "i got to quitsmoking so blame much!" their ample discussion of every detail ofthe cigar-lighter led them to speak of
electric flat-irons and bed-warmers. babbitt apologized for being so shabbilyold-fashioned as still to use a hot-water bottle, and he announced that he would havethe sleeping-porch wired at once. he had enormous and poetic admiration,though very little understanding, of all mechanical devices.they were his symbols of truth and beauty. regarding each new intricate mechanism--metal lathe, two-jet carburetor, machine gun, oxyacetylene welder--he learned onegood realistic-sounding phrase, and used it over and over, with a delightful feeling ofbeing technical and initiated. the customer joined him in the worship ofmachinery, and they came buoyantly up to
the tenement and began that examination ofplastic slate roof, kalamein doors, and seven-eighths-inch blind-nailed flooring, began those diplomacies of hurt surpriseand readiness to be persuaded to do something they had already decided to do,which would some day result in a sale. on the way back babbitt picked up hispartner and father-in-law, henry t. thompson, at his kitchen-cabinet works, andthey drove through south zenith, a high- colored, banging, exciting region: new factories of hollow tile with giganticwire-glass windows, surly old red-brick factories stained with tar, high-perchedwater-tanks, big red trucks like
locomotives, and, on a score of hectic side-tracks, far-wandering freight-carsfrom the new york central and apple orchards, the great northern and wheat-plateaus, the southern pacific and orange groves. they talked to the secretary of the zenithfoundry company about an interesting artistic project--a cast-iron fence forlinden lane cemetery. they drove on to the zeeco motor companyand interviewed the sales-manager, noel ryland, about a discount on a zeeco car forthompson. babbitt and ryland were fellow-members ofthe boosters' club, and no booster felt
right if he bought anything from anotherbooster without receiving a discount. but henry thompson growled, "oh, t' hellwith 'em! i'm not going to crawl around moochingdiscounts, not from nobody." it was one of the differences betweenthompson, the old-fashioned, lean yankee, rugged, traditional, stage type of americanbusiness man, and babbitt, the plump, smooth, efficient, up-to-the-minute andotherwise perfected modern. whenever thompson twanged, "put your johnhancock on that line," babbitt was as much amused by the antiquated provincialism asany proper englishman by any american. he knew himself to be of a breedingaltogether more esthetic and sensitive than
thompson's. he was a college graduate, he played golf,he often smoked cigarettes instead of cigars, and when he went to chicago he tooka room with a private bath. "the whole thing is," he explained to paulriesling, "these old codgers lack the subtlety that you got to have to-day."this advance in civilization could be carried too far, babbitt perceived. noel ryland, sales-manager of the zeeco,was a frivolous graduate of princeton, while babbitt was a sound and standard warefrom that great department-store, the state university.
ryland wore spats, he wrote long lettersabout city planning and community singing, and, though he was a booster, he was knownto carry in his pocket small volumes of poetry in a foreign language. all this was going too far. henry thompson was the extreme ofinsularity, and noel ryland the extreme of frothiness, while between them, supportingthe state, defending the evangelical churches and domestic brightness and soundbusiness, were babbitt and his friends. with this just estimate of himself--andwith the promise of a discount on thompson's car--he returned to his officein triumph.
but as he went through the corridor of thereeves building he sighed, "poor old paul! i got to--oh, damn noel ryland!damn charley mckelvey! just because they make more money than ido, they think they're so superior. i wouldn't be found dead in their stuffyold union club! i--somehow, to-day, i don't feel like goingback to work. oh well--" iihe answered telephone calls, he read the four o'clock mail, he signed his morning'sletters, he talked to a tenant about repairs, he fought with stanley graff.
young graff, the outside salesman, wasalways hinting that he deserved an increase of commission, and to-day he complained, "ithink i ought to get a bonus if i put through the heiler sale. i'm chasing around and working on it everysingle evening, almost." babbitt frequently remarked to his wifethat it was better to "con your office-help along and keep 'em happy 'stead of jumpingon 'em and poking 'em up--get more work out of 'em that way," but this unexampled lack of appreciation hurt him, and he turned ongraff: "look here, stan; let's get this clear.you've got an idea somehow that it's you
that do all the selling. where d' you get that stuff?where d' you think you'd be if it wasn't for our capital behind you, and our listsof properties, and all the prospects we find for you? all you got to do is follow up our tips andclose the deal. the hall-porter could sell babbitt-thompsonlistings! you say you're engaged to a girl, but haveto put in your evenings chasing after buyers.well, why the devil shouldn't you? what do you want to do?
sit around holding her hand? let me tell you, stan, if your girl isworth her salt, she'll be glad to know you're out hustling, making some money tofurnish the home-nest, instead of doing the lovey-dovey. the kind of fellow that kicks about workingovertime, that wants to spend his evenings reading trashy novels or spooning andexchanging a lot of nonsense and foolishness with some girl, he ain't the kind of upstanding, energetic young man,with a future--and with vision!--that we want here.how about it?
what's your ideal, anyway? do you want to make money and be aresponsible member of the community, or do you want to be a loafer, with noinspiration or pep?" graff was not so amenable to vision andideals as usual. "you bet i want to make money!that's why i want that bonus! honest, mr. babbitt, i don't want to getfresh, but this heiler house is a terror. nobody'll fall for it.the flooring is rotten and the walls are full of cracks." "that's exactly what i mean!to a salesman with a love for his
profession, it's hard problems like thatthat inspire him to do his best. besides, stan--matter o' fact, thompson andi are against bonuses, as a matter of principle. we like you, and we want to help you so youcan get married, but we can't be unfair to the others on the staff. if we start giving you bonuses, don't yousee we're going to hurt the feeling and be unjust to penniman and laylock? right's right, and discrimination isunfair, and there ain't going to be any of it in this office!
don't get the idea, stan, that becauseduring the war salesmen were hard to hire, now, when there's a lot of men out of work,there aren't a slew of bright young fellows that would be glad to step in and enjoy your opportunities, and not act as ifthompson and i were his enemies and not do any work except for bonuses.how about it, heh? how about it?" "oh--well--gee--of course--" sighed graff,as he went out, crabwise. babbitt did not often squabble with hisemployees. he liked to like the people about him; hewas dismayed when they did not like him.
it was only when they attacked the sacredpurse that he was frightened into fury, but then, being a man given to oratory and highprinciples, he enjoyed the sound of his own vocabulary and the warmth of his ownvirtue. today he had so passionately indulged inself-approval that he wondered whether he had been entirely just: "after all, stan isn't a boy any more.oughtn't to call him so hard. but rats, got to haul folks over the coalsnow and then for their own good. unpleasant duty, but--i wonder if stan issore? what's he saying to mcgoun out there?"
so chill a wind of hatred blew from theouter office that the normal comfort of his evening home-going was ruined. he was distressed by losing that approvalof his employees to which an executive is always slave. ordinarily he left the office with athousand enjoyable fussy directions to the effect that there would undoubtedly beimportant tasks to-morrow, and miss mcgoun and miss bannigan would do well to be there early, and for heaven's sake remind him tocall up conrad lyte soon 's he came in. to-night he departed with feigned andapologetic liveliness.
he was as afraid of his still-faced clerks--of the eyes focused on him, miss mcgoun staring with head lifted from her typing,miss bannigan looking over her ledger, mat penniman craning around at his desk in the dark alcove, stanley graff sullenlyexpressionless--as a parvenu before the bleak propriety of his butler. he hated to expose his back to theirlaughter, and in his effort to be casually merry he stammered and was raucouslyfriendly and oozed wretchedly out of the door. but he forgot his misery when he saw fromsmith street the charms of floral heights;
the roofs of red tile and green slate, theshining new sun-parlors, and the stainless walls. iiihe stopped to inform howard littlefield, his scholarly neighbor, that though the dayhad been springlike the evening might be cold. he went in to shout "where are you?" at hiswife, with no very definite desire to know where she was.he examined the lawn to see whether the furnace-man had raked it properly. with some satisfaction and a good deal ofdiscussion of the matter with mrs. babbitt,
ted, and howard littlefield, he concludedthat the furnace-man had not raked it properly. he cut two tufts of wild grass with hiswife's largest dressmaking-scissors; he informed ted that it was all nonsensehaving a furnace-man--"big husky fellow like you ought to do all the work around the house;" and privately he meditated thatit was agreeable to have it known throughout the neighborhood that he was soprosperous that his son never worked around the house. he stood on the sleeping-porch and did hisday's exercises: arms out sidewise for two
minutes, up for two minutes, while hemuttered, "ought take more exercise; keep in shape;" then went in to see whether hiscollar needed changing before dinner. as usual it apparently did not.the lettish-croat maid, a powerful woman, beat the dinner-gong. the roast of beef, roasted potatoes, andstring beans were excellent this evening and, after an adequate sketch of the day'sprogressive weather-states, his four- hundred-and-fifty-dollar fee, his lunch with paul riesling, and the proven meritsof the new cigar-lighter, he was moved to a benign, "sort o' thinking about buyin, anew car.
don't believe we'll get one till next year,but still we might." verona, the older daughter, cried, "oh,dad, if you do, why don't you get a sedan? that would be perfectly slick! a closed car is so much more comfy than anopen one." "well now, i don't know about that.i kind of like an open car. you get more fresh air that way." "oh, shoot, that's just because you nevertried a sedan. let's get one.it's got a lot more class," said ted. "a closed car does keep the clothes nicer,"from mrs. babbitt; "you don't get your hair
blown all to pieces," from verona; "it's alot sportier," from ted; and from tinka, the youngest, "oh, let's have a sedan! mary ellen's father has got one."ted wound up, "oh, everybody's got a closed car now, except us!"babbitt faced them: "i guess you got nothing very terrible to complain about! anyway, i don't keep a car just to enableyou children to look like millionaires! and i like an open car, so you can put thetop down on summer evenings and go out for a drive and get some good fresh air. besides--a closed car costs more money.""aw, gee whiz, if the doppelbraus can
afford a closed car, i guess we can!"prodded ted. "humph! i make eight thousand a year to his seven!but i don't blow it all in and waste it and throw it around, the way he does! don't believe in this business of going andspending a whole lot of money to show off and--" they went, with ardor and somethoroughness, into the matters of streamline bodies, hill-climbing power,wire wheels, chrome steel, ignition systems, and body colors.
it was much more than a study oftransportation. it was an aspiration for knightly rank. in the city of zenith, in the barbaroustwentieth century, a family's motor indicated its social rank as precisely asthe grades of the peerage determined the rank of an english family--indeed, more precisely, considering the opinion of oldcounty families upon newly created brewery barons and woolen-mill viscounts.the details of precedence were never officially determined. there was no court to decide whether thesecond son of a pierce arrow limousine
should go in to dinner before the first sonof a buick roadster, but of their respective social importance there was no doubt; and where babbitt as a boy hadaspired to the presidency, his son ted aspired to a packard twin-six and anestablished position in the motored gentry. the favor which babbitt had won from hisfamily by speaking of a new car evaporated as they realized that he didn't intend tobuy one this year. ted lamented, "oh, punk! the old boat looks as if it'd had fleas andbeen scratching its varnish off." mrs. babbitt said abstractedly, "snowaytalkcher father."
babbitt raged, "if you're too much of ahigh-class gentleman, and you belong to the bon ton and so on, why, you needn't takethe car out this evening." ted explained, "i didn't mean--" and dinnerdragged on with normal domestic delight to the inevitable point at which babbittprotested, "come, come now, we can't sit here all evening. give the girl a chance to clear away thetable." he was fretting, "what a family!i don't know how we all get to scrapping this way. like to go off some place and be able tohear myself think....
paul ...maine ... wear old pants, and loaf, and cuss." he said cautiously to his wife, "i've beenin correspondence with a man in new york-- wants me to see him about a real-estatetrade--may not come off till summer. hope it doesn't break just when we and therieslings get ready to go to maine. be a shame if we couldn't make the tripthere together. well, no use worrying now." verona escaped, immediately after dinner,with no discussion save an automatic "why don't you ever stay home?" from babbitt.
in the living-room, in a corner of thedavenport, ted settled down to his home study; plain geometry, cicero, and theagonizing metaphors of comus. "i don't see why they give us this old-fashioned junk by milton and shakespeare and wordsworth and all these has-beens," heprotested. "oh, i guess i could stand it to see a showby shakespeare, if they had swell scenery and put on a lot of dog, but to sit down incold blood and read 'em--these teachers-- how do they get that way?" mrs. babbitt, darning socks, speculated,"yes, i wonder why. of course i don't want to fly in the faceof the professors and everybody, but i do
think there's things in shakespeare--notthat i read him much, but when i was young the girls used to show me passages thatweren't, really, they weren't at all nice." babbitt looked up irritably from the comicstrips in the evening advocate. they composed his favorite literature andart, these illustrated chronicles in which mr. mutt hit mr. jeff with a rotten egg,and mother corrected father's vulgarisms by means of a rolling-pin. with the solemn face of a devotee,breathing heavily through his open mouth, he plodded nightly through every picture,and during the rite he detested interruptions.
furthermore, he felt that on the subject ofshakespeare he wasn't really an authority. neither the advocate-times, the eveningadvocate, nor the bulletin of the zenith chamber of commerce had ever had aneditorial on the matter, and until one of them had spoken he found it hard to form anoriginal opinion. but even at risk of floundering in strangebogs, he could not keep out of an open controversy. "i'll tell you why you have to studyshakespeare and those. it's because they're required for collegeentrance, and that's all there is to it! personally, i don't see myself why theystuck 'em into an up-to-date high-school
system like we have in this state. be a good deal better if you took businessenglish, and learned how to write an ad, or letters that would pull.but there it is, and there's no tall, argument, or discussion about it! trouble with you, ted, is you always wantto do something different! if you're going to law-school--and youare!--i never had a chance to, but i'll see that you do--why, you'll want to lay in allthe english and latin you can get." "oh punk. i don't see what's the use of law-school--or even finishing high school.
i don't want to go to college 'specially. honest, there's lot of fellows that havegraduated from colleges that don't begin to make as much money as fellows that went towork early. old shimmy peters, that teaches latin inthe high, he's a what-is-it from columbia and he sits up all night reading a lot ofgreasy books and he's always spieling about the 'value of languages,' and the poor soak doesn't make but eighteen hundred a year,and no traveling salesman would think of working for that.i know what i'd like to do. i'd like to be an aviator, or own a corkingbig garage, or else--a fellow was telling
me about it yesterday--i'd like to be oneof these fellows that the standard oil company sends out to china, and you live in a compound and don't have to do any work,and you get to see the world and pagodas and the ocean and everything!and then i could take up correspondence- courses. that's the real stuff!you don't have to recite to some frosty- faced old dame that's trying to show off tothe principal, and you can study any subject you want to. just listen to these!i clipped out the ads of some swell
courses." he snatched from the back of his geometryhalf a hundred advertisements of those home-study courses which the energy andforesight of american commerce have contributed to the science of education. the first displayed the portrait of a youngman with a pure brow, an iron jaw, silk socks, and hair like patent leather. standing with one hand in his trousers-pocket and the other extended with chiding forefinger, he was bewitching an audienceof men with gray beards, paunches, bald heads, and every other sign of wisdom andprosperity.
above the picture was an inspiringeducational symbol--no antiquated lamp or torch or owl of minerva, but a row ofdollar signs. the text ran: $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ power andprosperity in public speaking a yarn told at the club who do you think i ran into the otherevening at the de luxe restaurant? why, old freddy durkee, that used to be adead or-alive shipping clerk in my old place--mr. mouse-man we used to laughinglycall the dear fellow. one time he was so timid he was plumbscared of the super, and never got credit
for the dandy work he did.him at the de luxe! and if he wasn't ordering a tony feed withall the "fixings" from celery to nuts! and instead of being embarrassed by thewaiters, like he used to be at the little dump where we lunched in old lang syne, hewas bossing them around like he was a millionaire! i cautiously asked him what he was doing.freddy laughed and said, "say, old chum, i guess you're wondering what's come over me. you'll be glad to know i'm now assistantsuper at the old shop, and right on the high road to prosperity and domination, andi look forward with confidence to a twelve-
cylinder car, and the wife is making things hum in the best society and the kiddiesgetting a first-class education." ------ what we teach youhow to address your lodge. how to give toasts.how to tell dialect stories. how to propose to a lady. how to entertain banquets.how to make convincing selling-talks. how to build big vocabulary.how to create a strong personality. how to become a rational, powerfuland original thinker. how to be a master man!
----prof. w. f. peetauthor of the shortcut course in public- speaking, is easily the foremost figure inpractical literature, psychology & oratory. a graduate of some of our leadinguniversities, lecturer, extensive traveler, author of books, poetry, etc., a man withthe unique personality of the master minds, he is ready to give you all the secrets of his culture and hammering force, in a feweasy lessons that will not interfere with other occupations."here's how it happened. i ran across an ad of a course that claimedto teach people how to talk easily and on their feet, how to answer complaints, howto lay a proposition before the boss, how
to hit a bank for a loan, how to hold a big audience spellbound with wit, humor,anecdote, inspiration, etc. it was compiled by the master orator, prof.waldo f. peet. i was skeptical, too, but i wrote (just ona postcard, with name and address) to the publisher for the lessons--sent on trial,money back if you are not absolutely satisfied. there were eight simple lessons in plainlanguage anybody could understand, and i studied them just a few hours a night, thenstarted practising on the wife. soon found i could talk right up to thesuper and get due credit for all the good
work i did. they began to appreciate me and advance mefast, and say, old doggo, what do you think they're paying me now?$6,500 per year! and say, i find i can keep a big audiencefascinated, speaking on any topic. as a friend, old boy, i advise you to sendfor circular (no obligation) and valuable free art picture to:-- shortcuteducationalpub.co.deskwasandpit,iowa. areyoua100percenterora10percenter?" babbitt was again without a canon whichwould enable him to speak with authority.
nothing in motoring or real estate hadindicated what a solid citizen and regular fellow ought to think about culture bymail. he began with hesitation: "well--sounds as if it covered the ground.it certainly is a fine thing to be able to orate. i've sometimes thought i had a littletalent that way myself, and i know darn well that one reason why a fourflushing oldback-number like chan mott can get away with it in real estate is just because he can make a good talk, even when he hasn'tgot a doggone thing to say!
and it certainly is pretty cute the waythey get out all these courses on various topics and subjects nowadays. i'll tell you, though: no need to blow in alot of good money on this stuff when you can get a first-rate course in eloquenceand english and all that right in your own school--and one of the biggest schoolbuildings in the entire country!" "that's so," said mrs. babbitt comfortably,while ted complained: "yuh, but dad, they just teach a lot of oldjunk that isn't any practical use--except the manual training and typewriting andbasketball and dancing--and in these correspondence-courses, gee, you can get
all kinds of stuff that would come inhandy. say, listen to this one:'can you play a man's part? 'if you are walking with your mother,sister or best girl and some one passes a slighting remark or uses improper language,won't you be ashamed if you can't take her part? well, can you?'we teach boxing and self-defense by mail. many pupils have written saying that aftera few lessons they've outboxed bigger and heavier opponents. the lessons start with simple movementspractised before your mirror--holding out
your hand for a coin, the breast-stroke inswimming, etc. before you realize it you are strikingscientifically, ducking, guarding and feinting, just as if you had a realopponent before you.'" "oh, baby, maybe i wouldn't like that!" ted chanted."i'll tell the world! gosh, i'd like to take one fellow i know inschool that's always shooting off his mouth, and catch him alone--" "nonsense!the idea! most useless thing i ever heard of!"babbitt fulminated.
"well, just suppose i was walking with mamaor rone, and somebody passed a slighting remark or used improper language.what would i do?" "why, you'd probably bust the record forthe hundred-yard dash!" "i would not! i'd stand right up to any mucker thatpassed a slighting remark on my sister and i'd show him--""look here, young dempsey! if i ever catch you fighting i'll whale theeverlasting daylights out of you--and i'll do it without practising holding out myhand for a coin before the mirror, too!" "why, ted dear," mrs. babbitt saidplacidly, "it's not at all nice, your
talking of fighting this way!" "well, gosh almighty, that's a fine way toappreciate--and then suppose i was walking with you, ma, and somebody passed aslighting remark--" "nobody's going to pass no slightingremarks on nobody," babbitt observed, "not if they stay home and study their geometryand mind their own affairs instead of hanging around a lot of poolrooms and soda- fountains and places where nobody's got anybusiness to be!" "but gooooooosh, dad, if they did!" mrs. babbitt chirped, "well, if they did,i wouldn't do them the honor of paying any
attention to them!besides, they never do. you always hear about these women that getfollowed and insulted and all, but i don't believe a word of it, or it's their ownfault, the way some women look at a person. i certainly never 've been insulted by--" "aw shoot.mother, just suppose you were sometime! just suppose!can't you suppose something? can't you imagine things?" "certainly i can imagine things!the idea!" "certainly your mother can imagine things--and suppose things!
think you're the only member of thishousehold that's got an imagination?" babbitt demanded."but what's the use of a lot of supposing? supposing never gets you anywhere. no sense supposing when there's a lot ofreal facts to take into considera--" "look here, dad. suppose--i mean, just--just suppose youwere in your office and some rival real- estate man--""realtor!" "--some realtor that you hated came in--" "i don't hate any realtor.""but suppose you did!"
"i don't intend to suppose anything of thekind! there's plenty of fellows in my professionthat stoop and hate their competitors, but if you were a little older and understoodbusiness, instead of always going to the movies and running around with a lot of fool girls with their dresses up to theirknees and powdered and painted and rouged and god knows what all as if they werechorus-girls, then you'd know--and you'd suppose--that if there's any one thing that i stand for in the real-estate circles ofzenith, it is that we ought to always speak of each other only in the friendliest termsand institute a spirit of brotherhood and
cooperation, and so i certainly can't suppose and i can't imagine my hating anyrealtor, not even that dirty, fourflushing society sneak, cecil rountree!""but--" "and there's no if, and or but about it! but if i were going to lambaste somebody,i wouldn't require any fancy ducks or swimming-strokes before a mirror, or any ofthese doodads and flipflops! suppose you were out some place and afellow called you vile names. think you'd want to box and jump aroundlike a dancing-master? you'd just lay him out cold (at least icertainly hope any son of mine would!) and
then you'd dust off your hands and go onabout your business, and that's all there is to it, and you aren't going to have anyboxing-lessons by mail, either!" "well but--yes--i just wanted to show howmany different kinds of correspondence- courses there are, instead of all thecamembert they teach us in the high." "but i thought they taught boxing in theschool gymnasium." "that's different. they stick you up there and some big stiffamuses himself pounding the stuffin's out of you before you have a chance to learn.hunka! not any!
but anyway--listen to some of theseothers." the advertisements were trulyphilanthropic. one of them bore the rousing headline:"money! money!!money!!!" the second announced that "mr. p. r.,formerly making only eighteen a week in a barber shop, writes to us that since takingour course he is now pulling down $5,000 as an osteo-vitalic physician;" and the third that "miss j. l., recently a wrapper in astore, is now getting ten real dollars a day teaching our hindu system of vibratorybreathing and mental control."
ted had collected fifty or sixtyannouncements, from annual reference-books, from sunday school periodicals, fiction-magazines, and journals of discussion. one benefactor implored, "don't be awallflower--be more popular and make more money--you can ukulele or sing yourselfinto society! by the secret principles of a newlydiscovered system of music teaching, any one--man, lady or child--can, withouttiresome exercises, special training or long drawn out study, and without waste of time, money or energy, learn to play bynote, piano, banjo, cornet, clarinet, saxophone, violin or drum, and learn sight-singing."
the next, under the wistful appeal "fingerprint detectives wanted--big incomes!" confided: "you red-blooded men and women--this is the profession you have been looking for. there's money in it, big money, and thatrapid change of scene, that entrancing and compelling interest and fascination, whichyour active mind and adventurous spirit crave. think of being the chief figure anddirecting factor in solving strange mysteries and baffling crimes. this wonderful profession brings you intocontact with influential men on the basis
of equality, and often calls upon you totravel everywhere, maybe to distant lands-- all expenses paid. no special education required.""oh, boy! i guess that wins the fire-brick necklace!wouldn't it be swell to travel everywhere and nab some famous crook!" whooped ted. "well, i don't think much of that.doggone likely to get hurt. still, that music-study stunt might bepretty fair, though. there's no reason why, if efficiency-experts put their minds to it the way they have to routing products in a factory, theycouldn't figure out some scheme so a person
wouldn't have to monkey with all this practising and exercises that you get inmusic." babbitt was impressed, and he had adelightful parental feeling that they two, the men of the family, understood eachother. he listened to the notices of mail-boxuniversities which taught short-story writing and improving the memory, motion-picture-acting and developing the soul- power, banking and spanish, chiropody and photography, electrical engineering andwindow-trimming, poultry-raising and chemistry."well--well--" babbitt sought for adequate
expression of his admiration. "i'm a son of a gun! i knew this correspondence-school businesshad become a mighty profitable game--makes suburban real-estate look like two cents!--but i didn't realize it'd got to be such a reg'lar key-industry! must rank right up with groceries andmovies. always figured somebody'd come along withthe brains to not leave education to a lot of bookworms and impractical theorists butmake a big thing out of it. yes, i can see how a lot of these coursesmight interest you.
i must ask the fellows at the athletic ifthey ever realized--but same time, ted, you know how advertisers, i means someadvertisers, exaggerate. i don't know as they'd be able to jam youthrough these courses as fast as they claim they can.""oh sure, dad; of course." ted had the immense and joyful maturity ofa boy who is respectfully listened to by his elders.babbitt concentrated on him with grateful affection: "i can see what an influence these coursesmight have on the whole educational works. course i'd never admit it publicly--fellowlike myself, a state u. graduate, it's only
decent and patriotic for him to blow hishorn and boost the alma mater--but smatter of fact, there's a whole lot of valuable time lost even at the u., studying poetryand french and subjects that never brought in anybody a cent. i don't know but what maybe thesecorrespondence-courses might prove to be one of the most important americaninventions. "trouble with a lot of folks is: they're soblame material; they don't see the spiritual and mental side of americansupremacy; they think that inventions like the telephone and the areoplane and
wireless--no, that was a wop invention, butanyway: they think these mechanical improvements are all that we stand for;whereas to a real thinker, he sees that spiritual and, uh, dominating movements like efficiency, and rotarianism, andprohibition, and democracy are what compose our deepest and truest wealth. and maybe this new principle in education-at-home may be another--may be another factor.i tell you, ted, we've got to have vision-- " "i think those correspondence-courses areterrible!"
the philosophers gasped. it was mrs. babbitt who had made thisdiscord in their spiritual harmony, and one of mrs. babbitt's virtues was that, exceptduring dinner-parties, when she was transformed into a raging hostess, she took care of the house and didn't bother themales by thinking. she went on firmly: "it sounds awful to me, the way they coaxthose poor young folks to think they're learning something, and nobody 'round tohelp them and--you two learn so quick, but me, i always was slow.
but just the same--"babbitt attended to her: "nonsense! get just as much, studying at home. you don't think a fellow learns any morebecause he blows in his father's hard- earned money and sits around in morrischairs in a swell harvard dormitory with pictures and shields and table-covers andthose doodads, do you? i tell you, i'm a college man--i know!there is one objection you might make though. i certainly do protest against any effortto get a lot of fellows out of barber shops and factories into the professions.
they're too crowded already, and what'll wedo for workmen if all those fellows go and get educated?"ted was leaning back, smoking a cigarette without reproof. he was, for the moment, sharing the highthin air of babbitt's speculation as though he were paul riesling or even dr. howardlittlefield. he hinted: "well, what do you think then, dad?wouldn't it be a good idea if i could go off to china or some peppy place, and studyengineering or something by mail?" "no, and i'll tell you why, son.
i've found out it's a mighty nice thing tobe able to say you're a b.a. some client that doesn't know what you areand thinks you're just a plug business man, he gets to shooting off his mouth abouteconomics or literature or foreign trade conditions, and you just ease in something like, 'when i was in college--course i gotmy b.a. in sociology and all that junk--' oh, it puts an awful crimp in their style! but there wouldn't be any class to saying'i got the degree of stamp-licker from the bezuzus mail-order university!' you see--my dad was a pretty good old coot,but he never had much style to him, and i
had to work darn hard to earn my waythrough college. well, it's been worth it, to be able toassociate with the finest gentlemen in zenith, at the clubs and so on, and iwouldn't want you to drop out of the gentlemen class--the class that are just as red-blooded as the common people but stillhave power and personality. it would kind of hurt me if you did that,old man!" "i know, dad! sure!all right. i'll stick to it.say!
gosh! gee whiz!i forgot all about those kids i was going to take to the chorus rehearsal.i'll have to duck!" "but you haven't done all your home-work." "do it first thing in the morning.""well--" six times in the past sixty days babbitthad stormed, "you will not 'do it first thing in the morning'! you'll do it right now!" but to-night hesaid, "well, better hustle," and his smile was the rare shy radiance he kept for paulriesling.
iv"ted's a good boy," he said to mrs. babbitt."oh, he is!" "who's these girls he's going to pick up? are they nice decent girls?""i don't know. oh dear, ted never tells me anything anymore. i don't understand what's come over thechildren of this generation. i used to have to tell papa and mamaeverything, but seems like the children to- day have just slipped away from allcontrol." "i hope they're decent girls.
course ted's no longer a kid, and iwouldn't want him to, uh, get mixed up and everything.""george: i wonder if you oughtn't to take him aside and tell him about--things!" she blushed and lowered her eyes."well, i don't know. way i figure it, myra, no sense suggestinga lot of things to a boy's mind. think up enough devilment by himself. but i wonder--it's kind of a hard question.wonder what littlefield thinks about it?" "course papa agrees with you.he says all this--instruction is--he says 'tisn't decent."
"oh, he does, does he!well, let me tell you that whatever henry t. thompson thinks--about morals, i mean,though course you can't beat the old duffer--" "why, what a way to talk of papa!" "--simply can't beat him at getting in onthe ground floor of a deal, but let me tell you whenever he springs any ideas abouthigher things and education, then i know i think just the opposite. you may not regard me as any great brain-shark, but believe me, i'm a regular college president, compared with henry t.!
yes sir, by golly, i'm going to take tedaside and tell him why i lead a strictly moral life.""oh, will you? when?" "when?when? what's the use of trying to pin me down towhen and why and where and how and when? that's the trouble with women, that's whythey don't make high-class executives; they haven't any sense of diplomacy. when the proper opportunity and occasionarises so it just comes in natural, why then i'll have a friendly little talk withhim and--and--was that tinka hollering up-
stairs? she ought to been asleep, long ago."he prowled through the living-room, and stood in the sun-parlor, that glass-walledroom of wicker chairs and swinging couch in which they loafed on sunday afternoons. outside only the lights of doppelbrau'shouse and the dim presence of babbitt's favorite elm broke the softness of aprilnight. "good visit with the boy. getting over feeling cranky, way i did thismorning. and restless.
though, by golly, i will have a few daysalone with paul in maine!...that devil zilla!...but...ted's all right.whole family all right. and good business. not many fellows make four hundred andfifty bucks, practically half of a thousand dollars easy as i did to-day!maybe when we all get to rowing it's just as much my fault as it is theirs. oughtn't to get grouchy like i do.but--wish i'd been a pioneer, same as my grand-dad.but then, wouldn't have a house like this. i--oh, gosh, i don't know!"
he thought moodily of paul riesling, oftheir youth together, of the girls they had known. when babbitt had graduated from the stateuniversity, twenty-four years ago, he had intended to be a lawyer. he had been a ponderous debater in college;he felt that he was an orator; he saw himself becoming governor of the state.while he read law he worked as a real- estate salesman. he saved money, lived in a boarding-house,supped on poached egg on hash. the lively paul riesling (who was certainlygoing off to europe to study violin, next
month or next year) was his refuge tillpaul was bespelled by zilla colbeck, who laughed and danced and drew men after herplump and gaily wagging finger. babbitt's evenings were barren then, and hefound comfort only in paul's second cousin, myra thompson, a sleek and gentle girl whoshowed her capacity by agreeing with the ardent young babbitt that of course he wasgoing to be governor some day. where zilla mocked him as a country boy,myra said indignantly that he was ever so much solider than the young dandies who hadbeen born in the great city of zenith--an ancient settlement in 1897, one hundred and five years old, with two hundred thousandpopulation, the queen and wonder of all the
state and, to the catawba boy, georgebabbitt, so vast and thunderous and luxurious that he was flattered to know agirl ennobled by birth in zenith. of love there was no talk between them. he knew that if he was to study law hecould not marry for years; and myra was distinctly a nice girl--one didn't kissher, one didn't "think about her that way at all" unless one was going to marry her. but she was a dependable companion. she was always ready to go skating,walking; always content to hear his discourses on the great things he was goingto do, the distressed poor whom he would
defend against the unjust rich, the speeches he would make at banquets, theinexactitudes of popular thought which he would correct.one evening when he was weary and soft- minded, he saw that she had been weeping. she had been left out of a party given byzilla. somehow her head was on his shoulder and hewas kissing away the tears--and she raised her head to say trustingly, "now that we'reengaged, shall we be married soon or shall we wait?" engaged?it was his first hint of it.
his affection for this brown tender womanthing went cold and fearful, but he could not hurt her, could not abuse her trust. he mumbled something about waiting, andescaped. he walked for an hour, trying to find a wayof telling her that it was a mistake. often, in the month after, he got near totelling her, but it was pleasant to have a girl in his arms, and less and less couldhe insult her by blurting that he didn't love her. he himself had no doubt.the evening before his marriage was an agony, and the morning wild with the desireto flee.
she made him what is known as a good wife. she was loyal, industrious, and at raretimes merry. she passed from a feeble disgust at theircloser relations into what promised to be ardent affection, but it drooped into boredroutine. yet she existed only for him and for thechildren, and she was as sorry, as worried as himself, when he gave up the law andtrudged on in a rut of listing real estate. "poor kid, she hasn't had much better timethan i have," babbitt reflected, standing in the dark sun-parlor."but--i wish i could 've had a whirl at law and politics.
seen what i could do.well--maybe i've made more money as it is." he returned to the living-room but beforehe settled down he smoothed his wife's hair, and she glanced up, happy andsomewhat surprised. > chapter vii i he solemnly finished the last copy of theamerican magazine, while his wife sighed, laid away her darning, and looked enviouslyat the lingerie designs in a women's magazine.
the room was very still.it was a room which observed the best floral heights standards.the gray walls were divided into artificial paneling by strips of white-enameled pine. from the babbitts' former house had cometwo much-carved rocking-chairs, but the other chairs were new, very deep andrestful, upholstered in blue and gold- striped velvet. a blue velvet davenport faced thefireplace, and behind it was a cherrywood table and a tall piano-lamp with a shade ofgolden silk. (two out of every three houses in floralheights had before the fireplace a
davenport, a mahogany table real orimitation, and a piano-lamp or a reading- lamp with a shade of yellow or rose silk.) on the table was a runner of gold-threadedchinese fabric, four magazines, a silver box containing cigarette-crumbs, and three"gift-books"--large, expensive editions of fairy-tales illustrated by english artists and as yet unread by any babbitt savetinka. in a corner by the front windows was alarge cabinet victrola. (eight out of every nine floral heightshouses had a cabinet phonograph.) among the pictures, hung in the exactcenter of each gray panel, were a red and
black imitation english hunting-print, ananemic imitation boudoir-print with a french caption of whose morality babbitt had always been rather suspicious, and a"hand-colored" photograph of a colonial room--rag rug, maiden spinning, cat demurebefore a white fireplace. (nineteen out of every twenty houses infloral heights had either a hunting-print, a madame feit la toilette print, a coloredphotograph of a new england house, a photograph of a rocky mountain, or allfour.) it was a room as superior in comfort to the"parlor" of babbitt's boyhood as his motor was superior to his father's buggy.
though there was nothing in the room thatwas interesting, there was nothing that was offensive.it was as neat, and as negative, as a block of artificial ice. the fireplace was unsoftened by downy ashesor by sooty brick; the brass fire-irons were of immaculate polish; and thegrenadier andirons were like samples in a shop, desolate, unwanted, lifeless thingsof commerce. against the wall was a piano, with anotherpiano-lamp, but no one used it save tinka. the hard briskness of the phonographcontented them; their store of jazz records made them feel wealthy and cultured; andall they knew of creating music was the
nice adjustment of a bamboo needle. the books on the table were unspotted andlaid in rigid parallels; not one corner of the carpet-rug was curled; and nowhere wasthere a hockey-stick, a torn picture-book, an old cap, or a gregarious anddisorganizing dog. iiat home, babbitt never read with absorption.he was concentrated enough at the office but here he crossed his legs and fidgeted. when his story was interesting he read thebest, that is the funniest, paragraphs to his wife; when it did not hold him hecoughed, scratched his ankles and his right
ear, thrust his left thumb into his vest pocket, jingled his silver, whirled thecigar-cutter and the keys on one end of his watch chain, yawned, rubbed his nose, andfound errands to do. he went upstairs to put on his slippers--his elegant slippers of seal-brown, shaped like medieval shoes. he brought up an apple from the barrelwhich stood by the trunk-closet in the basement. "an apple a day keeps the doctor away," heenlightened mrs. babbitt, for quite the first time in fourteen hours."that's so."
"an apple is nature's best regulator." "yes, it--""trouble with women is, they never have sense enough to form regular habits.""well, i--" "always nibbling and eating between meals." "george!"she looked up from her reading. "did you have a light lunch to-day, likeyou were going to? i did!" this malicious and unprovoked attackastounded him. "well, maybe it wasn't as light as--went tolunch with paul and didn't have much chance
to diet. oh, you needn't to grin like a chessy cat!if it wasn't for me watching out and keeping an eye on our diet--i'm the onlymember of this family that appreciates the value of oatmeal for breakfast. i--"she stooped over her story while he piously sliced and gulped down the apple,discoursing: "one thing i've done: cut down my smoking. "had kind of a run-in with graff in theoffice. he's getting too darn fresh.
i'll stand for a good deal, but once in awhile i got to assert my authority, and i jumped him.'stan,' i said--well, i told him just exactly where he got off. "funny kind of a day.makes you feel restless. "wellllllllll, uh--" that sleepiest soundin the world, the terminal yawn. mrs. babbitt yawned with it, and lookedgrateful as he droned, "how about going to bed, eh?don't suppose rone and ted will be in till all hours. yep, funny kind of a day; not terribly warmbut yet--gosh, i'd like--some day i'm going
to take a long motor trip.""yes, we'd enjoy that," she yawned. he looked away from her as he realized thathe did not wish to have her go with him. as he locked doors and tried windows andset the heat regulator so that the furnace- drafts would open automatically in themorning, he sighed a little, heavy with a lonely feeling which perplexed andfrightened him. so absent-minded was he that he could notremember which window-catches he had inspected, and through the darkness,fumbling at unseen perilous chairs, he crept back to try them all over again. his feet were loud on the steps as heclumped upstairs at the end of this great
and treacherous day of veiled rebellions. iii before breakfast he always reverted to up-state village boyhood, and shrank from the complex urban demands of shaving, bathing,deciding whether the current shirt was clean enough for another day. whenever he stayed home in the evening hewent to bed early, and thriftily got ahead in those dismal duties.it was his luxurious custom to shave while sitting snugly in a tubful of hot water. he may be viewed to-night as a plump,smooth, pink, baldish, podgy goodman,
robbed of the importance of spectacles,squatting in breast-high water, scraping his lather-smeared cheeks with a safety- razor like a tiny lawn-mower, and withmelancholy dignity clawing through the water to recover a slippery and activepiece of soap. he was lulled to dreaming by the caressingwarmth. the light fell on the inner surface of thetub in a pattern of delicate wrinkled lines which slipped with a green sparkle over thecurving porcelain as the clear water trembled. babbitt lazily watched it; noted that alongthe silhouette of his legs against the
radiance on the bottom of the tub, theshadows of the air-bubbles clinging to the hairs were reproduced as strange junglemosses. he patted the water, and the reflectedlight capsized and leaped and volleyed. he was content and childish. he played.he shaved a swath down the calf of one plump leg. the drain-pipe was dripping, a dulcet andlively song: drippety drip drip dribble, drippety drip drip drip.he was enchanted by it. he looked at the solid tub, the beautifulnickel taps, the tiled walls of the room,
and felt virtuous in the possession of thissplendor. he roused himself and spoke gruffly to hisbath-things. "come here! you've done enough fooling!" he reprovedthe treacherous soap, and defied the scratchy nail-brush with "oh, you would,would you!" he soaped himself, and rinsed himself, andausterely rubbed himself; he noted a hole in the turkish towel, and meditativelythrust a finger through it, and marched back to the bedroom, a grave and unbendingcitizen. there was a moment of gorgeous abandon, aflash of melodrama such as he found in
traffic-driving, when he laid out a cleancollar, discovered that it was frayed in front, and tore it up with a magnificentyeeeeeing sound. most important of all was the preparationof his bed and the sleeping-porch. it is not known whether he enjoyed hissleeping-porch because of the fresh air or because it was the standard thing to have asleeping-porch. just as he was an elk, a booster, and amember of the chamber of commerce, just as the priests of the presbyterian churchdetermined his every religious belief and the senators who controlled the republican party decided in little smoky rooms inwashington what he should think about
disarmament, tariff, and germany, so didthe large national advertisers fix the surface of his life, fix what he believedto be his individuality. these standard advertised wares--toothpastes, socks, tires, cameras, instantaneous hot-water heaters--were hissymbols and proofs of excellence; at first the signs, then the substitutes, for joyand passion and wisdom. but none of these advertised tokens offinancial and social success was more significant than a sleeping-porch with asun-parlor below. the rites of preparing for bed wereelaborate and unchanging. the blankets had to be tucked in at thefoot of his cot.
(also, the reason why the maid hadn'ttucked in the blankets had to be discussed with mrs. babbitt.) the rag rug was adjusted so that his barefeet would strike it when he arose in the morning.the alarm clock was wound. the hot-water bottle was filled and placedprecisely two feet from the bottom of the cot. these tremendous undertakings yielded tohis determination; one by one they were announced to mrs. babbitt and smashedthrough to accomplishment. at last his brow cleared, and in his"gnight!" rang virile power.
but there was yet need of courage. as he sank into sleep, just at the firstexquisite relaxation, the doppelbrau car came home. he bounced into wakefulness, lamenting,"why the devil can't some people never get to bed at a reasonable hour?" so familiar was he with the process ofputting up his own car that he awaited each step like an able executioner condemned tohis own rack. the car insultingly cheerful on thedriveway. the car door opened and banged shut, thenthe garage door slid open, grating on the
sill, and the car door again. the motor raced for the climb up into thegarage and raced once more, explosively, before it was shut off.a final opening and slamming of the car silence then, a horrible silence filledwith waiting, till the leisurely mr. doppelbrau had examined the state of histires and had at last shut the garage door. instantly, for babbitt, a blessed state ofoblivion. iv at that moment in the city of zenith,horace updike was making love to lucile mckelvey in her mauve drawing-room on royalridge, after their return from a lecture by
an eminent english novelist. updike was zenith's professional bachelor;a slim-waisted man of forty-six with an effeminate voice and taste in flowers,cretonnes, and flappers. mrs. mckelvey was red-haired, creamy,discontented, exquisite, rude, and honest. updike tried his invariable first maneuver--touching her nervous wrist. "don't be an idiot!" she said. "do you mind awfully?""no! that's what i mind!" he changed to conversation.he was famous at conversation. he spoke reasonably of psychoanalysis, longisland polo, and the ming platter he had
found in vancouver. she promised to meet him in deauville, thecoming summer, "though," she sighed, "it's becoming too dreadfully banal; nothing butamericans and frowsy english baronesses." and at that moment in zenith, a cocaine-runner and a prostitute were drinking cocktails in healey hanson's saloon onfront street. since national prohibition was now inforce, and since zenith was notoriously law-abiding, they were compelled to keepthe cocktails innocent by drinking them out of tea-cups. the lady threw her cup at the cocaine-runner's head.
he worked his revolver out of the pocket inhis sleeve, and casually murdered her. at that moment in zenith, two men sat in alaboratory. for thirty-seven hours now they had beenworking on a report of their investigations of synthetic rubber. at that moment in zenith, there was aconference of four union officials as to whether the twelve thousand coal-minerswithin a hundred miles of the city should strike. of these men one resembled a testy andprosperous grocer, one a yankee carpenter, one a soda-clerk, and one a russian jewishactor the russian jew quoted kautsky, gene
debs, and abraham lincoln. at that moment a g. a. r. veteran wasdying. he had come from the civil war straight toa farm which, though it was officially within the city-limits of zenith, wasprimitive as the backwoods. he had never ridden in a motor car, neverseen a bath-tub, never read any book save the bible, mcguffey's readers, andreligious tracts; and he believed that the earth is flat, that the english are the lost ten tribes of israel, and that theunited states is a democracy. at that moment the steel and cement townwhich composed the factory of the pullmore
tractor company of zenith was running onnight shift to fill an order of tractors for the polish army. it hummed like a million bees, glaredthrough its wide windows like a volcano. along the high wire fences, searchlightsplayed on cinder-lined yards, switch- tracks, and armed guards on patrol. at that moment mike monday was finishing ameeting. mr. monday, the distinguished evangelist,the best-known protestant pontiff in america, had once been a prize-fighter. satan had not dealt justly with him.as a prize-fighter he gained nothing but
his crooked nose, his celebratedvocabulary, and his stage-presence. the service of the lord had been moreprofitable. he was about to retire with a fortune. it had been well earned, for, to quote hislast report, "rev. mr. monday, the prophet with a punch, has shown that he is theworld's greatest salesman of salvation, and that by efficient organization the overhead of spiritual regeneration may be kept downto an unprecedented rock-bottom basis. he has converted over two hundred thousandlost and priceless souls at an average cost of less than ten dollars a head."
of the larger cities of the land, onlyzenith had hesitated to submit its vices to mike monday and his expert reclamationcorps. the more enterprising organizations of thecity had voted to invite him--mr. george f. babbitt had once praised him in a speech atthe boosters' club. but there was opposition from certainepiscopalian and congregationalist ministers, those renegades whom mr. mondayso finely called "a bunch of gospel-pushers with dish-water instead of blood, a gang of squealers that need more dust on the kneesof their pants and more hair on their skinny old chests."
this opposition had been crushed when thesecretary of the chamber of commerce had reported to a committee of manufacturersthat in every city where he had appeared, mr. monday had turned the minds of workmen from wages and hours to higher things, andthus averted strikes. he was immediately invited. an expense fund of forty thousand dollarshad been underwritten; out on the county fair grounds a mike monday tabernacle hadbeen erected, to seat fifteen thousand people. in it the prophet was at this momentconcluding his message:
"there's a lot of smart college professorsand tea-guzzling slobs in this burg that say i'm a roughneck and a never-wuzzer andmy knowledge of history is not-yet. oh, there's a gang of woolly-whiskeredbook-lice that think they know more than almighty god, and prefer a lot of hunscience and smutty german criticism to the straight and simple word of god. oh, there's a swell bunch of lizzie boysand lemon-suckers and pie-faces and infidels and beer-bloated scribblers thatlove to fire off their filthy mouths and yip that mike monday is vulgar and full ofmush. those pups are saying now that i hog thegospel-show, that i'm in it for the coin.
well, now listen, folks! i'm going to give those birds a chance!they can stand right up here and tell me to my face that i'm a galoot and a liar and ahick! only if they do--if they do!--don't faintwith surprise if some of those rum-dumm liars get one good swift poke from mike,with all the kick of god's flaming righteousness behind the wallop! well, come on, folks!who says it? who says mike monday is a fourflush and ayahoo? huh?
don't i see anybody standing up?well, there you are! now i guess the folks in this man's townwill quit listening to all this kyoodling from behind the fence; i guess you'll quitlistening to the guys that pan and roast and kick and beef, and vomit out filthy atheism; and all of you 'll come in, withevery grain of pep and reverence you got, and boost all together for jesus christ andhis everlasting mercy and tenderness!" at that moment seneca doane, the radicallawyer, and dr. kurt yavitch, the histologist (whose report on thedestruction of epithelial cells under radium had made the name of zenith known in
munich, prague, and rome), were talking indoane's library. "zenith's a city with gigantic power--gigantic buildings, gigantic machines, gigantic transportation," meditated doane. "i hate your city.it has standardized all the beauty out of life. it is one big railroad station--with allthe people taking tickets for the best cemeteries," dr. yavitch said placidly.doane roused. "i'm hanged if it is! you make me sick, kurt, with your perpetualwhine about 'standardization.'
don't you suppose any other nation is'standardized?' is anything more standardized than england,with every house that can afford it having the same muffins at the same tea-hour, andevery retired general going to exactly the same evensong at the same gray stone church with a square tower, and every golfing prigin harris tweeds saying 'right you are!' to every other prosperous ass?yet i love england. and for standardization--just look at thesidewalk cafes in france and the love- making in italy!"standardization is excellent, per se. when i buy an ingersoll watch or a ford, iget a better tool for less money, and i
know precisely what i'm getting, and thatleaves me more time and energy to be individual in. and--i remember once in london i saw apicture of an american suburb, in a toothpaste ad on the back of the saturdayevening post--an elm-lined snowy street of these new houses, georgian some of 'em, or with low raking roofs and--the kind ofstreet you'd find here in zenith, say in floral heights.open. trees. grass.and i was homesick!
there's no other country in the world thathas such pleasant houses. and i don't care if they are standardized. it's a corking standard!"no, what i fight in zenith is standardization of thought, and, of course,the traditions of competition. the real villains of the piece are theclean, kind, industrious family men who use every known brand of trickery and crueltyto insure the prosperity of their cubs. the worst thing about these fellows is thatthey're so good and, in their work at least, so intelligent.you can't hate them properly, and yet their standardized minds are the enemy.
"then this boosting--sneakingly i have anotion that zenith is a better place to live in than manchester or glasgow or lyonsor berlin or turin--" "it is not, and i have lift in most ofthem," murmured dr. yavitch. "well, matter of taste.personally, i prefer a city with a future so unknown that it excites my imagination. but what i particularly want--""you," said dr. yavitch, "are a middle-road liberal, and you haven't the slightest ideawhat you want. i, being a revolutionist, know exactly whati want--and what i want now is a drink." viat that moment in zenith, jake offutt, the
politician, and henry t. thompson were inconference. offutt suggested, "the thing to do is toget your fool son-in-law, babbitt, to put it over.he's one of these patriotic guys. when he grabs a piece of property for thegang, he makes it look like we were dyin' of love for the dear peepul, and i do loveto buy respectability--reasonable. wonder how long we can keep it up, hank? we're safe as long as the good little boyslike george babbitt and all the nice respectable labor-leaders think you and meare rugged patriots. there's swell pickings for an honestpolitician here, hank: a whole city working
to provide cigars and fried chicken and drymartinis for us, and rallying to our banner with indignation, oh, fierce indignation, whenever some squealer like this fellow seneca doane comes along! honest, hank, a smart codger like me ought to be ashamed of himself if he didn't milkcattle like them, when they come around mooing for it! but the traction gang can't get away with grand larceny like it used to.i wonder when--hank, i wish we could fix
some way to run this fellow seneca doane out of town.it's him or us!" at that moment in zenith, three hundred andforty or fifty thousand ordinary people were asleep, a vast unpenetrated shadow. in the slum beyond the railroad tracks, a young man who for six months had soughtwork turned on the gas and killed himself and his wife. at that moment lloyd mallam, the poet, owner of the hafiz book shop, was finishinga rondeau to show how diverting was life
amid the feuds of medieval florence, but how dull it was in so obvious a place as zenith. and at that moment george f. babbitt turned ponderously in bed--the last turn,signifying that he'd had enough of this worried business of falling asleep and was about it in earnest.instantly he was in the magic dream. he was somewhere among unknown people wholaughed at him. he slipped away, ran down the paths of a
midnight garden, and at the gate the fairychild was waiting. her dear and tranquil hand caressed his cheek.he was gallant and wise and well-beloved; warm ivory were her arms; and beyondperilous moors the brave sea glittered. chapter viii the great events of babbitt's spring werethe secret buying of real-estate options in linton for certain street-tractionofficials, before the public announcement that the linton avenue car line would be extended, and a dinner which was, as herejoiced to his wife, not only "a regular
society spread but a real sure-enoughhighbrow affair, with some of the keenest intellects and the brightest bunch oflittle women in town." it was so absorbing an occasion that healmost forgot his desire to run off to maine with paul riesling. though he had been born in the village ofcatawba, babbitt had risen to that metropolitan social plane on which hostshave as many as four people at dinner without planning it for more than anevening or two. but a dinner of twelve, with flowers fromthe florist's and all the cut-glass out, staggered even the babbitts.
for two weeks they studied, debated, andarbitrated the list of guests. babbitt marveled, "of course we're up-to-date ourselves, but still, think of us entertaining a famous poet like chum frink,a fellow that on nothing but a poem or so every day and just writing a few advertisements pulls down fifteen thousandberries a year!" "yes, and howard littlefield. do you know, the other evening eunice toldme her papa speaks three languages!" said mrs. babbitt."huh! that's nothing! so do i--american, baseball, and poker!"
"i don't think it's nice to be funny abouta matter like that. think how wonderful it must be to speakthree languages, and so useful and--and with people like that, i don't see why weinvite the orville joneses." "well now, orville is a mighty up-and-coming fellow!" "yes, i know, but--a laundry!" "i'll admit a laundry hasn't got the classof poetry or real estate, but just the same, orvy is mighty deep.ever start him spieling about gardening? say, that fellow can tell you the name ofevery kind of tree, and some of their greek and latin names too!besides, we owe the joneses a dinner.
besides, gosh, we got to have some boob foraudience, when a bunch of hot-air artists like frink and littlefield get going." "well, dear--i meant to speak of this--i dothink that as host you ought to sit back and listen, and let your guests have achance to talk once in a while!" "oh, you do, do you! sure!i talk all the time! and i'm just a business man--oh sure!--i'mno ph.d. like littlefield, and no poet, and i haven't anything to spring! well, let me tell you, just the other dayyour darn chum frink comes up to me at the
club begging to know what i thought aboutthe springfield school-bond issue. and who told him? i did!you bet your life i told him! little me!i certainly did! he came up and asked me, and i told him allabout it! you bet!and he was darn glad to listen to me and-- duty as a host! i guess i know my duty as a host and let metell you--" in fact, the orville joneses were invited.
iion the morning of the dinner, mrs. babbitt was restive."now, george, i want you to be sure and be home early tonight. remember, you have to dress.""uh-huh. i see by the advocate that the presbyteriangeneral assembly has voted to quit the interchurch world movement. that--""george! did you hear what i said?you must be home in time to dress to- night."
"dress?hell! i'm dressed now!think i'm going down to the office in my b.v.d.'s?" "i will not have you talking indecentlybefore the children! and you do have to put on your dinner-jacket!" "i guess you mean my tux. i tell you, of all the doggone nonsensicalnuisances that was ever invented--" three minutes later, after babbitt hadwailed, "well, i don't know whether i'm going to dress or not" in a manner whichshowed that he was going to dress, the
discussion moved on. "now, george, you mustn't forget to call inat vecchia's on the way home and get the ice cream.their delivery-wagon is broken down, and i don't want to trust them to send it by--" "all right!you told me that before breakfast!" "well, i don't want you to forget. i'll be working my head off all day long,training the girl that's to help with the dinner--""all nonsense, anyway, hiring an extra girl for the feed.
matilda could perfectly well--" "--and i have to go out and buy theflowers, and fix them, and set the table, and order the salted almonds, and look atthe chickens, and arrange for the children to have their supper upstairs and--and i simply must depend on you to go tovecchia's for the ice cream." "all riiiiiight!gosh, i'm going to get it!" "all you have to do is to go in and say youwant the ice cream that mrs. babbitt ordered yesterday by 'phone, and it will beall ready for you." at ten-thirty she telephoned to him not toforget the ice cream from vecchia's.
he was surprised and blasted then by athought. he wondered whether floral heights dinnerswere worth the hideous toil involved. but he repented the sacrilege in theexcitement of buying the materials for cocktails. now this was the manner of obtainingalcohol under the reign of righteousness and prohibition: he drove from the severe rectangularstreets of the modern business center into the tangled byways of old town--jaggedblocks filled with sooty warehouses and lofts; on into the arbor, once a pleasant
orchard but now a morass of lodging-houses,tenements, and brothels. exquisite shivers chilled his spine andstomach, and he looked at every policeman with intense innocence, as one who lovedthe law, and admired the force, and longed to stop and play with them. he parked his car a block from healeyhanson's saloon, worrying, "well, rats, if anybody did see me, they'd think i was hereon business." he entered a place curiously like thesaloons of ante-prohibition days, with a long greasy bar with sawdust in front andstreaky mirror behind, a pine table at which a dirty old man dreamed over a glass
of something which resembled whisky, andwith two men at the bar, drinking something which resembled beer, and giving thatimpression of forming a large crowd which two men always give in a saloon. the bartender, a tall pale swede with adiamond in his lilac scarf, stared at babbitt as he stalked plumply up to the barand whispered, "i'd, uh--friend of hanson's sent me here. like to get some gin."the bartender gazed down on him in the manner of an outraged bishop."i guess you got the wrong place, my friend.
we sell nothing but soft drinks here."he cleaned the bar with a rag which would itself have done with a little cleaning,and glared across his mechanically moving elbow. the old dreamer at the table petitioned thebartender, "say, oscar, listen." oscar did not listen."aw, say, oscar, listen, will yuh? say, lis-sen!" the decayed and drowsy voice of the loafer,the agreeable stink of beer-dregs, threw a spell of inanition over babbitt.the bartender moved grimly toward the crowd of two men.
babbitt followed him as delicately as acat, and wheedled, "say, oscar, i want to speak to mr. hanson.""whajuh wanta see him for?" "i just want to talk to him. here's my card."it was a beautiful card, an engraved card, a card in the blackest black and thesharpest red, announcing that mr. george f. babbitt was estates, insurance, rents. the bartender held it as though it weighedten pounds, and read it as though it were a hundred words long.he did not bend from his episcopal dignity, but he growled, "i'll see if he's around."
from the back room he brought an immenselyold young man, a quiet sharp-eyed man, in tan silk shirt, checked vest hanging open,and burning brown trousers--mr. healey hanson. mr. hanson said only "yuh?" but hisimplacable and contemptuous eyes queried babbitt's soul, and he seemed not at allimpressed by the new dark-gray suit for which (as he had admitted to every acquaintance at the athletic club) babbitthad paid a hundred and twenty-five dollars. "glad meet you, mr. hanson.say, uh--i'm george babbitt of the babbitt- thompson realty company.
i'm a great friend of jake offutt's.""well, what of it?" "say, uh, i'm going to have a party, andjake told me you'd be able to fix me up with a little gin." in alarm, in obsequiousness, as hanson'seyes grew more bored, "you telephone to jake about me, if you want to." hanson answered by jerking his head toindicate the entrance to the back room, and strolled away. babbitt melodramatically crept into anapartment containing four round tables, eleven chairs, a brewery calendar, and asmell.
he waited. thrice he saw healey hanson saunterthrough, humming, hands in pockets, ignoring him. by this time babbitt had modified hisvaliant morning vow, "i won't pay one cent over seven dollars a quart" to "i might payten." on hanson's next weary entrance he besought"could you fix that up?" hanson scowled, and grated, "just a minute--pete's sake--just a min-ute!" in growing meekness babbitt went on waitingtill hanson casually reappeared with a quart of gin--what is euphemistically knownas a quart--in his disdainful long white
hands. "twelve bucks," he snapped."say, uh, but say, cap'n, jake thought you'd be able to fix me up for eight ornine a bottle." "nup. twelve. this is the real stuff, smuggled fromcanada. this is none o' your neutral spirits with adrop of juniper extract," the honest merchant said virtuously. "twelve bones--if you want it.course y' understand i'm just doing this anyway as a friend of jake's.""sure!
sure! i understand!"babbitt gratefully held out twelve dollars. he felt honored by contact with greatnessas hanson yawned, stuffed the bills, uncounted, into his radiant vest, andswaggered away. he had a number of titillations out ofconcealing the gin-bottle under his coat and out of hiding it in his desk. all afternoon he snorted and chuckled andgurgled over his ability to "give the boys a real shot in the arm to-night." he was, in fact, so exhilarated that he waswithin a block of his house before he
remembered that there was a certain matter,mentioned by his wife, of fetching ice cream from vecchia's. he explained, "well, darn it--" and droveback. vecchia was not a caterer, he was thecaterer of zenith. most coming-out parties were held in thewhite and gold ballroom of the maison vecchia; at all nice teas the guestsrecognized the five kinds of vecchia sandwiches and the seven kinds of vecchia cakes; and all really smart dinners ended,as on a resolving chord, in vecchia neapolitan ice cream in one of the threereliable molds--the melon mold, the round
mold like a layer cake, and the long brick. vecchia's shop had pale blue woodwork,tracery of plaster roses, attendants in frilled aprons, and glass shelves of"kisses" with all the refinement that inheres in whites of eggs. babbitt felt heavy and thick amid thisprofessional daintiness, and as he waited for the ice cream he decided, with hotprickles at the back of his neck, that a girl customer was giggling at him. he went home in a touchy temper.the first thing he heard was his wife's agitated:"george!
did you remember to go to vecchia's and getthe ice cream?" "say!look here! do i ever forget to do things?" "yes! often!" "well now, it's darn seldom i do, and itcertainly makes me tired, after going into a pink-tea joint like vecchia's and havingto stand around looking at a lot of half- naked young girls, all rouged up like they were sixty and eating a lot of stuff thatsimply ruins their stomachs--" "oh, it's too bad about you!i've noticed how you hate to look at pretty
girls!" with a jar babbitt realized that his wifewas too busy to be impressed by that moral indignation with which males rule theworld, and he went humbly up-stairs to dress. he had an impression of a glorified dining-room, of cut-glass, candles, polished wood, lace, silver, roses. with the awed swelling of the heartsuitable to so grave a business as giving a dinner, he slew the temptation to wear hisplaited dress-shirt for a fourth time, took out an entirely fresh one, tightened his
black bow, and rubbed his patent-leatherpumps with a handkerchief. he glanced with pleasure at his garnet andsilver studs. he smoothed and patted his ankles,transformed by silk socks from the sturdy shanks of george babbitt to the elegantlimbs of what is called a clubman. he stood before the pier-glass, viewing histrim dinner-coat, his beautiful triple- braided trousers; and murmured in lyricbeatitude, "by golly, i don't look so bad. i certainly don't look like catawba. if the hicks back home could see me in thisrig, they'd have a fit!" he moved majestically down to mix thecocktails.
as he chipped ice, as he squeezed oranges,as he collected vast stores of bottles, glasses, and spoons at the sink in thepantry, he felt as authoritative as the bartender at healey hanson's saloon. true, mrs. babbitt said he was under foot,and matilda and the maid hired for the evening brushed by him, elbowed him,shrieked "pleasopn door," as they tottered through with trays, but in this high momenthe ignored them. besides the new bottle of gin, his cellarconsisted of one half-bottle of bourbon whisky, a quarter of a bottle of italianvermouth, and approximately one hundred drops of orange bitters.
he did not possess a cocktail-shaker.a shaker was proof of dissipation, the symbol of a drinker, and babbitt dislikedbeing known as a drinker even more than he liked a drink. he mixed by pouring from an ancient gravy-boat into a handleless pitcher; he poured with a noble dignity, holding his alembicshigh beneath the powerful mazda globe, his face hot, his shirt-front a glaring white,the copper sink a scoured red-gold. he tasted the sacred essence."now, by golly, if that isn't pretty near one fine old cocktail! kind of a bronx, and yet like a manhattan.ummmmmm!
hey, myra, want a little nip before thefolks come?" bustling into the dining-room, moving eachglass a quarter of an inch, rushing back with resolution implacable on her face hergray and silver-lace party frock protected by a denim towel, mrs. babbitt glared athim, and rebuked him, "certainly not!" "well," in a loose, jocose manner, "i thinkthe old man will!" the cocktail filled him with a whirlingexhilaration behind which he was aware of devastating desires--to rush places in fastmotors, to kiss girls, to sing, to be witty. he sought to regain his lost dignity byannouncing to matilda:
"i'm going to stick this pitcher ofcocktails in the refrigerator. be sure you don't upset any of 'em." "yeh.""well, be sure now. don't go putting anything on this topshelf." "yeh." "well, be--" he was dizzy.his voice was thin and distant. "whee!" with enormous impressiveness he commanded,"well, be sure now," and minced into the safety of the living-room.
he wondered whether he could persuade "asslow a bunch as myra and the littlefields to go some place aft' dinner and raise cainand maybe dig up smore booze." he perceived that he had gifts ofprofligacy which had been neglected. by the time the guests had come, includingthe inevitable late couple for whom the others waited with painful amiability, agreat gray emptiness had replaced the purple swirling in babbitt's head, and he had to force the tumultuous greetingssuitable to a host on floral heights. the guests were howard littlefield, thedoctor of philosophy who furnished publicity and comforting economics to thestreet traction company; vergil gunch, the
coal-dealer, equally powerful in the elks and in the boosters' club; eddie swansonthe agent for the javelin motor car, who lived across the street; and orville jones,owner of the lily white laundry, which justly announced itself "the biggest, busiest, bulliest cleanerie shoppe inzenith." but, naturally, the most distinguished ofall was t. cholmondeley frink, who was not only the author of "poemulations," which,syndicated daily in sixty-seven leading newspapers, gave him one of the largest audiences of any poet in the world, butalso an optimistic lecturer and the creator
of "ads that add." despite the searching philosophy and highmorality of his verses, they were humorous and easily understood by any child oftwelve; and it added a neat air of pleasantry to them that they were set notas verse but as prose. mr. frink was known from coast to coast as"chum." with them were six wives, more or less--itwas hard to tell, so early in the evening, as at first glance they all looked alike,and as they all said, "oh, isn't this nice!" in the same tone of determinedliveliness. to the eye, the men were less similar:littlefield, a hedge-scholar, tall and
horse-faced; chum frink, a trifle of a manwith soft and mouse-like hair, advertising his profession as poet by a silk cord on his eye-glasses; vergil gunch, broad, withcoarse black hair en brosse; eddie swanson, a bald and bouncing young man who showedhis taste for elegance by an evening waistcoat of figured black silk with glass buttons; orville jones, a steady-looking,stubby, not very memorable person, with a hemp-colored toothbrush mustache. yet they were all so well fed and clean,they all shouted "'evenin', georgie!" with such robustness, that they seemed to becousins, and the strange thing is that the
longer one knew the women, the less alike they seemed; while the longer one knew themen, the more alike their bold patterns appeared.the drinking of the cocktails was as canonical a rite as the mixing. the company waited, uneasily, hopefully,agreeing in a strained manner that the weather had been rather warm and slightlycold, but still babbitt said nothing about drinks. they became despondent.but when the late couple (the swansons) had arrived, babbitt hinted, "well, folks, doyou think you could stand breaking the law
a little?" they looked at chum frink, the recognizedlord of language. frink pulled at his eye-glass cord as at abell-rope, he cleared his throat and said that which was the custom: "i'll tell you, george: i'm a law-abidingman, but they do say verg gunch is a regular yegg, and of course he's bigger 'ni am, and i just can't figure out what i'd do if he tried to force me into anythingcriminal!" gunch was roaring, "well, i'll take achance--" when frink held up his hand and went on, "so if verg and you insist,georgie, i'll park my car on the wrong side
of the street, because i take it for granted that's the crime you're hintingat!" there was a great deal of laughter.mrs. jones asserted, "mr. frink is simply too killing! you'd think he was so innocent!"babbitt clamored, "how did you guess it, chum?well, you-all just wait a moment while i go out and get the--keys to your cars!" through a froth of merriment he brought theshining promise, the mighty tray of glasses with the cloudy yellow cocktails in theglass pitcher in the center.
the men babbled, "oh, gosh, have a look!"and "this gets me right where i live!" and "let me at it!" but chum frink, a traveled man and notunused to woes, was stricken by the thought that the potion might be merely fruit-juicewith a little neutral spirits. he looked timorous as babbitt, a moist andecstatic almoner, held out a glass, but as he tasted it he piped, "oh, man, let medream on! it ain't true, but don't waken me! jus' lemme slumber!"two hours before, frink had completed a newspaper lyric beginning:
"i sat alone and groused and thunk, andscratched my head and sighed and wunk, and groaned, there still are boobs, alack,who'd like the old-time gin-mill back; that den that makes a sage a loon, the vile andsmelly old saloon! i'll never miss their poison booze, whilsti the bubbling spring can use, that leaves my head at merry morn as clear as any babenew-born!" babbitt drank with the others; his moment'sdepression was gone; he perceived that these were the best fellows in the world;he wanted to give them a thousand "think you could stand another?" he cried.the wives refused, with giggles, but the men, speaking in a wide, elaborate,enjoyable manner, gloated, "well, sooner
than have you get sore at me, georgie--" "you got a little dividend coming," saidbabbitt to each of them, and each intoned, "squeeze it, georgie, squeeze it!"when, beyond hope, the pitcher was empty, they stood and talked about prohibition. the men leaned back on their heels, puttheir hands in their trousers-pockets, and proclaimed their views with the boomingprofundity of a prosperous male repeating a thoroughly hackneyed statement about amatter of which he knows nothing whatever. "now, i'll tell you," said vergil gunch;"way i figure it is this, and i can speak by the book, because i've talked to a lotof doctors and fellows that ought to know,
and the way i see it is that it's a good thing to get rid of the saloon, but theyought to let a fellow have beer and light wines." howard littlefield observed, "what isn'tgenerally realized is that it's a dangerous prop'sition to invade the rights ofpersonal liberty. now, take this for instance: the king of--bavaria? i think it was bavaria--yes, bavaria, itwas--in 1862, march, 1862, he issued a proclamation against public grazing oflive-stock. the peasantry had stood for overtaxationwithout the slightest complaint, but when
this proclamation came out, they rebelled.or it may have been saxony. but it just goes to show the dangers ofinvading the rights of personal liberty." "that's it--no one got a right to invadepersonal liberty," said orville jones. "just the same, you don't want to forgetprohibition is a mighty good thing for the working-classes. keeps 'em from wasting their money andlowering their productiveness," said vergil gunch."yes, that's so. but the trouble is the manner ofenforcement," insisted howard littlefield. "congress didn't understand the rightsystem.
now, if i'd been running the thing, i'dhave arranged it so that the drinker himself was licensed, and then we couldhave taken care of the shiftless workman-- kept him from drinking--and yet not 've interfered with the rights--with thepersonal liberty--of fellows like ourselves." they bobbed their heads, looked admiringlyat one another, and stated, "that's so, that would be the stunt." "the thing that worries me is that a lot ofthese guys will take to cocaine," sighed eddie swanson.they bobbed more violently, and groaned,
"that's so, there is a danger of that." chum frink chanted, "oh, say, i got hold ofa swell new receipt for home-made beer the other day.you take--" gunch interrupted, "wait! let me tell you mine!"littlefield snorted, "beer! rats!thing to do is to ferment cider!" jones insisted, "i've got the receipt thatdoes the business!" swanson begged, "oh, say, lemme tell youthe story--" but frink went on resolutely, "you take and save the shells from peas,and pour six gallons of water on a bushel
of shells and boil the mixture till--" mrs. babbitt turned toward them withyearning sweetness; frink hastened to finish even his best beer-recipe; and shesaid gaily, "dinner is served." there was a good deal of friendly argumentamong the men as to which should go in last, and while they were crossing the hallfrom the living-room to the dining-room vergil gunch made them laugh by thundering, "if i can't sit next to myra babbitt andhold her hand under the table, i won't play--i'm goin' home." in the dining-room they stood embarrassedwhile mrs. babbitt fluttered, "now, let me
see--oh, i was going to have some nicehand-painted place-cards for you but--oh, let me see; mr. frink, you sit there." the dinner was in the best style ofwomen's-magazine art, whereby the salad was served in hollowed apples, and everythingbut the invincible fried chicken resembled something else. ordinarily the men found it hard to talk tothe women; flirtation was an art unknown on floral heights, and the realms of officesand of kitchens had no alliances. but under the inspiration of the cocktails,conversation was violent. each of the men still had a number ofimportant things to say about prohibition,
and now that each had a loyal listener inhis dinner-partner he burst out: "i found a place where i can get all thehootch i want at eight a quart--" "did you read about this fellow that wentand paid a thousand dollars for ten cases of red-eye that proved to be nothing butwater? seems this fellow was standing on thecorner and fellow comes up to him--" "they say there's a whole raft of stuffbeing smuggled across at detroit--" "what i always say is--what a lot of folksdon't realize about prohibition--" "and then you get all this awful poisonstuff--wood alcohol and everything--" "course i believe in it on principle, but idon't propose to have anybody telling me
what i got to think and do.no american 'll ever stand for that!" but they all felt that it was rather in badtaste for orville jones--and he not recognized as one of the wits of theoccasion anyway--to say, "in fact, the whole thing about prohibition is this: itisn't the initial cost, it's the humidity." not till the one required topic had beendealt with did the conversation become general. it was often and admiringly said of vergilgunch, "gee, that fellow can get away with murder! why, he can pull a raw one in mixed companyand all the ladies 'll laugh their heads
off, but me, gosh, if i crack anythingthat's just the least bit off color i get the razz for fair!" now gunch delighted them by crying to mrs.eddie swanson, youngest of the women, "louetta! i managed to pinch eddie's doorkey out ofhis pocket, and what say you and me sneak across the street when the folks aren'tlooking? got something," with a gorgeous leer,"awful important to tell you!" the women wriggled, and babbitt was stirredto like naughtiness. "say, folks, i wished i dared show you abook i borrowed from doc patten!"
"now, george!the idea!" mrs. babbitt warned him. "this book--racy isn't the word!it's some kind of an anthropological report about--about customs, in the south seas,and what it doesn't say! it's a book you can't buy. verg, i'll lend it to you.""me first!" insisted eddie swanson. "sounds spicy!" orville jones announced, "say, i heard agood one the other day about a coupla swedes and their wives," and, in the bestjewish accent, he resolutely carried the
good one to a slightly disinfected ending. gunch capped it.but the cocktails waned, the seekers dropped back into cautious reality. chum frink had recently been on a lecture-tour among the small towns, and he chuckled, "awful good to get back tocivilization! i certainly been seeing some hick towns! i mean--course the folks there are the beston earth, but, gee whiz, those main street burgs are slow, and you fellows can'thardly appreciate what it means to be here with a bunch of live ones!"
"you bet!" exulted orville jones."they're the best folks on earth, those small-town folks, but, oh, mama! whatconversation! why, say, they can't talk about anythingbut the weather and the ne-oo ford, by heckalorum!""that's right. they all talk about just the same things,"said eddie swanson. "don't they, though!they just say the same things over and over," said vergil gunch. "yes, it's really remarkable.they seem to lack all power of looking at things impersonally.
they simply go over and over the same talkabout fords and the weather and so on." said howard littlefield."still, at that, you can't blame 'em. they haven't got any intellectual stimulussuch as you get up here in the city," said chum frink."gosh, that's right," said babbitt. "i don't want you highbrows to get stuck onyourselves but i must say it keeps a fellow right up on his toes to sit in with a poetand with howard, the guy that put the con in economics! but these small-town boobs, with nobody buteach other to talk to, no wonder they get so sloppy and uncultured in their speech,and so balled-up in their thinking!"
orville jones commented, "and, then takeour other advantages--the movies, frinstance. these yapville sports think they're all-get-out if they have one change of bill a week, where here in the city you got yourchoice of a dozen diff'rent movies any evening you want to name!" "sure, and the inspiration we get fromrubbing up against high-class hustlers every day and getting jam full of ginger,"said eddie swanson. "same time," said babbitt, "no senseexcusing these rube burgs too easy. fellow's own fault if he doesn't show theinitiative to up and beat it to the city,
like we done--did. and, just speaking in confidence amongfriends, they're jealous as the devil of a city man. every time i go up to catawba i have to goaround apologizing to the fellows i was brought up with because i've more or lesssucceeded and they haven't. and if you talk natural to 'em, way we dohere, and show finesse and what you might call a broad point of view, why, they thinkyou're putting on side. there's my own half-brother martin--runsthe little ole general store my dad used to keep.say, i'll bet he don't know there is such a
thing as a tux--as a dinner-jacket. if he was to come in here now, he'd thinkwe were a bunch of--of--why, gosh, i swear, he wouldn't know what to think!yes, sir, they're jealous!" chum frink agreed, "that's so. but what i mind is their lack of cultureand appreciation of the beautiful--if you'll excuse me for being highbrow. now, i like to give a high-class lecture,and read some of my best poetry--not the newspaper stuff but the magazine things. but say, when i get out in the tall grass,there's nothing will take but a lot of
cheesy old stories and slang and junk thatif any of us were to indulge in it here, he'd get the gate so fast it would make hishead swim." vergil gunch summed it up: "fact is, we'remighty lucky to be living among a bunch of city-folks, that recognize artistic thingsand business-punch equally. we'd feel pretty glum if we got stuck insome main street burg and tried to wise up the old codgers to the kind of life we'reused to here. but, by golly, there's this you got to sayfor 'em: every small american town is trying to get population and modern ideals.and darn if a lot of 'em don't put it across!
somebody starts panning a rube crossroads,telling how he was there in 1900 and it consisted of one muddy street, count 'em,one, and nine hundred human clams. well, you go back there in 1920, and youfind pavements and a swell little hotel and a first-class ladies' ready-to-wear shop-real perfection, in fact! you don't want to just look at what thesesmall towns are, you want to look at what they're aiming to become, and they all gotan ambition that in the long run is going to make 'em the finest spots on earth--theyall want to be just like zenith!" however intimate they might be with t.cholmondeley frink as a neighbor, as a borrower of lawn-mowers and monkey-wrenches, they knew that he was also a
famous poet and a distinguished advertising-agent; that behind his easinesswere sultry literary mysteries which they could not penetrate. but to-night, in the gin-evolvedconfidence, he admitted them to the arcanum:"i've got a literary problem that's worrying me to death. i'm doing a series of ads for the zeeco carand i want to make each of 'em a real little gem--reg'lar stylistic stuff. i'm all for this theory that perfection isthe stunt, or nothing at all, and these are
as tough things as i ever tackled. you might think it'd be harder to do mypoems--all these heart topics: home and fireside and happiness--but they'recinches. you can't go wrong on 'em; you know whatsentiments any decent go-ahead fellow must have if he plays the game, and you stickright to 'em. but the poetry of industrialism, nowthere's a literary line where you got to open up new territory.do you know the fellow who's really the american genius? the fellow who you don't know his name andi don't either, but his work ought to be
preserved so's future generations can judgeour american thought and originality to- day? why, the fellow that writes the princealbert tobacco ads! just listen to this:it's p.a. that jams such joy in jimmy pipes. say--bet you've often bent-an-ear to thatspill-of-speech about hopping from five to f-i-f-t-y p-e-r by "stepping on her a bit!" guess that's going some, all right--butjust among ourselves, you better start a rapidwhiz system to keep tabs as to howfast you'll buzz from low smoke spirits to
tip-top-high--once you line up behind a jimmy pipe that's all aglow with thatpeach-of-a-pal, prince albert. prince albert is john-on-the-job--alwaysjoy'usly more-ish in flavor; always delightfully cool and fragrant! for a fact, you never hooked such double-decked, copper-riveted, two-fisted smoke enjoyment!go to a pipe--speed-o-quick like you light on a good thing! why--packed with prince albert you can playa joy'us jimmy straight across the boards! and you know what that means!""now that," caroled the motor agent, eddie
swanson, "that's what i call he-literature! that prince albert fellow--though, gosh,there can't be just one fellow that writes 'em; must be a big board of classy ink-slingers in conference, but anyway: now, him, he doesn't write for long-haired pikers, he writes for regular guys, hewrites for me, and i tip my benny to him! the only thing is: i wonder if it sells thegoods? course, like all these poets, this princealbert fellow lets his idea run away with him.it makes elegant reading, but it don't say nothing.
i'd never go out and buy prince alberttobacco after reading it, because it doesn't tell me anything about the stuff.it's just a bunch of fluff." frink faced him: "oh, you're crazy! have i got to sell you the idea of style?anyway that's the kind of stuff i'd like to do for the zeeco.but i simply can't. so i decided to stick to the straightpoetic, and i took a shot at a highbrow ad for the zeeco.how do you like this: the long white trail is calling--calling-and it's over the hills and far away for every man or woman that has red blood inhis veins and on his lips the ancient song
of the buccaneers. it's away with dull drudging, and a fig forcare. speed--glorious speed--it's more than justa moment's exhilaration--it's life for you and me! this great new truth the makers of thezeeco car have considered as much as price and style. it's fleet as the antelope, smooth as theglide of a swallow, yet powerful as the charge of a bull-elephant.class breathes in every line. listen, brother!
you'll never know what the high art ofhiking is till you try life's zippingest zest--the zeeco!" "yes," frink mused, "that's got an elegantcolor to it, if i do say so, but it ain't got the originality of 'spill-of-speech!'"the whole company sighed with sympathy and admiration. chapter ix babbitt was fond of his friends, he lovedthe importance of being host and shouting, "certainly, you're going to have smorechicken--the idea!" and he appreciated the genius of t. cholmondeley frink, but the
vigor of the cocktails was gone, and themore he ate the less joyful he felt. then the amity of the dinner was destroyedby the nagging of the swansons. in floral heights and the other prosperoussections of zenith, especially in the "young married set," there were many womenwho had nothing to do. though they had few servants, yet with gasstoves, electric ranges and dish-washers and vacuum cleaners, and tiled kitchenwalls, their houses were so convenient that they had little housework, and much of their food came from bakeries anddelicatessens. they had but two, one, or no children; anddespite the myth that the great war had
made work respectable, their husbandsobjected to their "wasting time and getting a lot of crank ideas" in unpaid social work, and still more to their causing arumor, by earning money, that they were not adequately supported. they worked perhaps two hours a day, andthe rest of the time they ate chocolates, went to the motion-pictures, went window-shopping, went in gossiping twos and threes to card-parties, read magazines, thought timorously of the lovers who neverappeared, and accumulated a splendid restlessness which they got rid of bynagging their husbands.
the husbands nagged back. of these naggers the swansons were perfectspecimens. throughout the dinner eddie swanson hadbeen complaining, publicly, about his wife's new frock. it was, he submitted, too short, too low,too immodestly thin, and much too expensive.he appealed to babbitt: "honest, george, what do you think of thatrag louetta went and bought? don't you think it's the limit?""what's eating you, eddie? i call it a swell little dress."
"oh, it is, mr. swanson.it's a sweet frock," mrs. babbitt protested."there now, do you see, smarty! you're such an authority on clothes!" louetta raged, while the guests ruminatedand peeped at her shoulders. "that's all right now," said swanson. "i'm authority enough so i know it was awaste of money, and it makes me tired to see you not wearing out a whole closetfulof clothes you got already. i've expressed my idea about this before,and you know good and well you didn't pay the least bit of attention.i have to camp on your trail to get you to
do anything--" there was much more of it, and they allassisted, all but babbitt. everything about him was dim except hisstomach, and that was a bright scarlet disturbance. "had too much grub; oughtn't to eat thisstuff," he groaned--while he went on eating, while he gulped down a chill andglutinous slice of the ice-cream brick, and cocoanut cake as oozy as shaving-cream. he felt as though he had been stuffed withclay; his body was bursting, his throat was bursting, his brain was hot mud; and onlywith agony did he continue to smile and
shout as became a host on floral heights. he would, except for his guests, have fledoutdoors and walked off the intoxication of food, but in the haze which filled the roomthey sat forever, talking, talking, while he agonized, "darn fool to be eating all this--not 'nother mouthful," and discoveredthat he was again tasting the sickly welter of melted ice cream on his plate. there was no magic in his friends; he wasnot uplifted when howard littlefield produced from his treasure-house ofscholarship the information that the chemical symbol for raw rubber is c10h16,which turns into isoprene, or 2c5h8.
suddenly, without precedent, babbitt wasnot merely bored but admitting that he was bored. it was ecstasy to escape from the table,from the torture of a straight chair, and loll on the davenport in the living-room. the others, from their fitful unconvincingtalk, their expressions of being slowly and painfully smothered, seemed to be sufferingfrom the toil of social life and the horror of good food as much as himself. all of them accepted with relief thesuggestion of bridge. babbitt recovered from the feeling of beingboiled.
he won at bridge. he was again able to endure vergil gunch'sinexorable heartiness. but he pictured loafing with paul rieslingbeside a lake in maine. it was as overpowering and imaginative ashomesickness. he had never seen maine, yet he beheld theshrouded mountains, the tranquil lake of evening. "that boy paul's worth all theseballyhooing highbrows put together," he muttered; and, "i'd like to get away from--everything." even louetta swanson did not rouse him.
mrs. swanson was pretty and pliant.babbitt was not an analyst of women, except as to their tastes in furnished houses torent. he divided them into real ladies, workingwomen, old cranks, and fly chickens. he mooned over their charms but he was ofopinion that all of them (save the women of his own family) were "different" and"mysterious." yet he had known by instinct that louettaswanson could be approached. her eyes and lips were moist. her face tapered from a broad forehead to apointed chin, her mouth was thin but strong and avid, and between her brows were twooutcurving and passionate wrinkles.
she was thirty, perhaps, or younger. gossip had never touched her, but every mannaturally and instantly rose to flirtatiousness when he spoke to her, andevery woman watched her with stilled blankness. between games, sitting on the davenport,babbitt spoke to her with the requisite gallantry, that sonorous floral heightsgallantry which is not flirtation but a terrified flight from it: "you're looking like a new soda-fountain to night,louetta." "am i?""ole eddie kind of on the rampage."
"yes. i get so sick of it." "well, when you get tired of hubby, you canrun off with uncle george." "if i ran away--oh, well--""anybody ever tell you your hands are awful pretty?" she looked down at them, she pulled thelace of her sleeves over them, but otherwise she did not heed him.she was lost in unexpressed imaginings. babbitt was too languid this evening topursue his duty of being a captivating (though strictly moral) male.he ambled back to the bridge-tables. he was not much thrilled when mrs. frink,a small twittering woman, proposed that they
"try and do some spiritualism and table-tipping--you know chum can make the spirits come--honest, he just scares me!" the ladies of the party had not emerged allevening, but now, as the sex given to things of the spirit while the men warredagainst base things material, they took command and cried, "oh, let's!" in the dimness the men were rather solemnand foolish, but the goodwives quivered and adored as they sat about the table. they laughed, "now, you be good or i'lltell!" when the men took their hands in the circle.
babbitt tingled with a slight return ofinterest in life as louetta swanson's hand closed on his with quiet firmness.all of them hunched over, intent. they startled as some one drew a strainedbreath. in the dusty light from the hall theylooked unreal, they felt disembodied. mrs. gunch squeaked, and they jumped withunnatural jocularity, but at frink's hiss they sank into subdued awe.suddenly, incredibly, they heard a knocking. they stared at frink's half-revealed handsand found them lying still. they wriggled, and pretended not to beimpressed.
frink spoke with gravity: "is some onethere?" a thud."is one knock to be the sign for 'yes'?" a thud. "and two for 'no'?"a thud. "now, ladies and gentlemen, shall we askthe guide to put us into communication with the spirit of some great one passed over?" frink mumbled.mrs orville jones begged, "oh, let's talk to dante!we studied him at the reading circle. you know who he was, orvy."
"certainly i know who he was!the wop poet. where do you think i was raised?" from herinsulted husband. "sure--the fellow that took the cook's tourto hell. i've never waded through his po'try, but welearned about him in the u.," said babbitt. "page mr. dannnnnty!" intoned eddieswanson. "you ought to get him easy, mr. frink, youand he being fellow-poets," said louetta swanson. "fellow-poets, rats!where d' you get that stuff?" protested vergil gunch.
"i suppose dante showed a lot of speed foran old-timer--not that i've actually read him, of course--but to come right down tohard facts, he wouldn't stand one-two-three if he had to buckle down to practical literature and turn out a poem for thenewspaper-syndicate every day, like chum does!""that's so," from eddie swanson. "those old birds could take their time. judas priest, i could write poetry myselfif i had a whole year for it, and just wrote about that old-fashioned junk likedante wrote about." frink demanded, "hush, now!
i'll call him...o, laughing eyes, emergeforth into the, uh, the ultimates and bring hither the spirit of dante, that we mortalsmay list to his words of wisdom." "you forgot to give um the address: 1658brimstone avenue, fiery heights, hell," gunch chuckled, but the others felt thatthis was irreligious. and besides--"probably it was just chummaking the knocks, but still, if there did happen to be something to all this, beexciting to talk to an old fellow belonging to--way back in early times--" a thud.the spirit of dante had come to the parlor of george f. babbitt.he was, it seemed, quite ready to answer
their questions. he was "glad to be with them, thisevening." frink spelled out the messages by runningthrough the alphabet till the spirit interpreter knocked at the right letter. littlefield asked, in a learned tone, "doyou like it in the paradiso, messire?" "we are very happy on the higher plane,signor. we are glad that you are studying thisgreat truth of spiritualism," dante replied.the circle moved with an awed creaking of stays and shirt-fronts.
"suppose--suppose there were something tothis?" babbitt had a different worry."suppose chum frink was really one of these spiritualists! chum had, for a literary fellow, alwaysseemed to be a regular guy; he belonged to the chatham road presbyterian church andwent to the boosters' lunches and liked cigars and motors and racy stories. but suppose that secretly--after all, younever could tell about these darn highbrows; and to be an out-and-outspiritualist would be almost like being a socialist!"
no one could long be serious in thepresence of vergil gunch. "ask dant' how jack shakespeare and oldverg'--the guy they named after me--are gettin' along, and don't they wish theycould get into the movie game!" he blared, and instantly all was mirth. mrs. jones shrieked, and eddie swansondesired to know whether dante didn't catch cold with nothing on but his wreath.the pleased dante made humble answer. but babbitt--the curst discontent wastorturing him again, and heavily, in the impersonal darkness, he pondered, "i don't--we're all so flip and think we're so smart.
there'd be--a fellow like dante--i wish i'dread some of his pieces. i don't suppose i ever will, now." he had, without explanation, the impressionof a slaggy cliff and on it, in silhouette against menacing clouds, a lone and austerefigure. he was dismayed by a sudden contempt forhis surest friends. he grasped louetta swanson's hand, andfound the comfort of human warmth. habit came, a veteran warrior; and he shookhimself. "what the deuce is the matter with me, thisevening?" he patted louetta's hand, to indicate thathe hadn't meant anything improper by
squeezing it, and demanded of frink, "say,see if you can get old dant' to spiel us some of his poetry. talk up to him.tell him, 'buena giorna, senor, com sa va, wie geht's?keskersaykersa a little pome, senor?'" ii the lights were switched on; the women saton the fronts of their chairs in that determined suspense whereby a wifeindicates that as soon as the present speaker has finished, she is going to remark brightly to her husband, "well,dear, i think per-haps it's about time for
us to be saying good-night."for once babbitt did not break out in blustering efforts to keep the party going. he had--there was something he wished tothink out--but the psychical research had started them off again.("why didn't they go home! why didn't they go home!") though he was impressed by the profundityof the statement, he was only half- enthusiastic when howard littlefieldlectured, "the united states is the only nation in which the government is a moralideal and not just a social arrangement." ("true--true--weren't they ever goinghome?")
he was usually delighted to have an "insideview" of the momentous world of motors but to-night he scarcely listened to eddieswanson's revelation: "if you want to go above the javelin class, the zeeco is amighty good buy. couple weeks ago, and mind you, this was afair, square test, they took a zeeco stock touring-car and they slid up the tonawandahill on high, and fellow told me--" ("zeeco good boat but--were they planning to stayall night?") they really were going, with a flutter of"we did have the best time!" most aggressively friendly of all wasbabbitt, yet as he burbled he was reflecting, "i got through it, but for awhile there i didn't hardly think i'd last
out." he prepared to taste that most delicatepleasure of the host: making fun of his guests in the relaxation of midnight. as the door closed he yawned voluptuously,chest out, shoulders wriggling, and turned cynically to his wife.she was beaming. "oh, it was nice, wasn't it! i know they enjoyed every minute of it.don't you think so?" he couldn't do it.he couldn't mock. it would have been like sneering at a happychild.
he lied ponderously: "you bet!best party this year, by a long shot." "wasn't the dinner good! and honestly i thought the fried chickenwas delicious!" "you bet!fried to the queen's taste. best fried chicken i've tasted for a coon'sage." "didn't matilda fry it beautifully!and don't you think the soup was simply delicious?" "it certainly was!it was corking! best soup i've tasted since heck was apup!"
but his voice was seeping away. they stood in the hall, under the electriclight in its square box-like shade of red glass bound with nickel.she stared at him. "why, george, you don't sound--you sound asif you hadn't really enjoyed it." "sure i did!course i did!" "george! what is it?""oh, i'm kind of tired, i guess. been pounding pretty hard at the office.need to get away and rest up a little." "well, we're going to maine in just a fewweeks now, dear."
"yuh--" then he was pouring it out nakedly,robbed of reticence. "myra: i think it'd be a good thing for meto get up there early." "but you have this man you have to meet innew york about business." "what man? oh, sure. him.oh, that's all off. but i want to hit maine early--get in alittle fishing, catch me a big trout, by golly!" a nervous, artificial laugh."well, why don't we do it? verona and matilda can run the housebetween them, and you and i can go any
time, if you think we can afford it." "but that's--i've been feeling so jumpylately, i thought maybe it might be a good thing if i kind of got off by myself andsweat it out of me." don't you want me to go along?"she was too wretchedly in earnest to be tragic, or gloriously insulted, or anythingsave dumpy and defenseless and flushed to the red steaminess of a boiled beet. "of course i do!i just meant--" remembering that paul riesling had predicted this, he was asdesperate as she. "i mean, sometimes it's a good thing for anold grouch like me to go off and get it out
of his system."he tried to sound paternal. "then when you and the kids arrive--ifigured maybe i might skip up to maine just a few days ahead of you--i'd be ready for areal bat, see how i mean?" he coaxed her with large booming sounds,with affable smiles, like a popular preacher blessing an easter congregation,like a humorous lecturer completing his stint of eloquence, like all perpetratorsof masculine wiles. she stared at him, the joy of festivaldrained from her face. "do i bother you when we go on vacations? don't i add anything to your fun?"he broke.
suddenly, dreadfully, he was hysterical, hewas a yelping baby. "yes, yes, yes! hell, yes!but can't you understand i'm shot to pieces?i'm all in! i got to take care of myself! i tell you, i got to--i'm sick ofeverything and everybody! i got to--"it was she who was mature and protective now. "why, of course!you shall run off by yourself!
why don't you get paul to go along, and youboys just fish and have a good time?" she patted his shoulder--reaching up to it--while he shook with palsied helplessness, and in that moment was not merely by habitfond of her but clung to her strength. she cried cheerily, "now up-stairs you go,and pop into bed. we'll fix it all up.i'll see to the doors. now skip!" for many minutes, for many hours, for ableak eternity, he lay awake, shivering, reduced to primitive terror, comprehendingthat he had won freedom, and wondering what he could do with anything so unknown and soembarrassing as freedom.