kleines bad gemütlich einrichten
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.