Babbitt By Sinclair Lewis Chapters 13-14


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

The convention was on.

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

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

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

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

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At the end of the novel, Babbitt rotely endorses the notion that America's world-famous equality