"Oh, I am, am I! Well, just let me tell you, just — let me — tell — you, I'm as by golly liberal as you are religious, anyway! YOU RELIGIOUS!"
"I am so! Our pastor says I sustain him in the faith!"
"I'll bet you do! With Paul's money! But just to show you how liberal I am, I'm going to send a check for ten bucks to this Beecher Ingram, because a lot of fellows are saying the poor cuss preaches sedition and free love, and they're trying to run him out of town."
"And they're right! They ought to run him out of town! Why, he preaches — if you can call it preaching — in a theater, in the House of Satan! You don't know what it is to find God, to find peace, to behold the snares that the devil spreads out for our feet. Oh, I'm so glad to see the mysterious purposes of God in having Paul harm me and stop my wickedness — and Paul's getting his, good and plenty, for the cruel things he did to me, and I hope he DIES in prison!"
Babbitt was up, hat in hand, growling, "Well, if that's what you call being at peace, for heaven's sake just warn me before you go to war, will you?"
Vast is the power of cities to reclaim the wanderer. More than mountains or the shore-devouring sea, a city retains its character, imperturbable, cynical, holding behind apparent changes its essential purpose. Though Babbitt had deserted his family and dwelt with Joe Paradise in the wilderness, though he had become a liberal, though he had been quite sure, on the night before he reached Zenith, that neither he nor the city would be the same again, ten days after his return he could not believe that he had ever been away. Nor was it at all evident to his acquaintances that there was a new George F. Babbitt, save that he was more irritable under the incessant chaffing at the Athletic Club, and once, when Vergil Gunch observed that Seneca Doane ought to be hanged, Babbitt snorted, "Oh, rats, he's not so bad."
At home he grunted "Eh?" across the newspaper to his commentatory wife, and was delighted by Tinka's new red tam o'shanter, and announced, "No class to that corrugated iron garage. Have to build me a nice frame one."
Verona and Kenneth Escott appeared really to be engaged. In his newspaper Escott had conducted a pure-food crusade against commission-houses. As a result he had been given an excellent job in a commission-house, and he was making a salary on which he could marry, and denouncing irresponsible reporters who wrote stories criticizing commission-houses without knowing what they were talking about.
This September Ted had entered the State University as a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. The university was at Mohalis only fifteen miles from Zenith, and Ted often came down for the week-end. Babbitt was worried. Ted was "going in for" everything but books. He had tried to "make" the football team as a light half-back, he was looking forward to the basket-ball season, he was on the committee for the Freshman Hop, and (as a Zenithite, an aristocrat among the yokels) he was being "rushed" by two fraternities. But of his studies Babbitt could learn nothing save a mumbled, "Oh, gosh, these old stiffs of teachers just give you a lot of junk about literature and economics."
One week-end Ted proposed, "Say, Dad, why can't I transfer over from the College to the School of Engineering and take mechanical engineering? You always holler that I never study, but honest, I would study there."
"No, the Engineering School hasn't got the standing the College has," fretted Babbitt.
"I'd like to know how it hasn't! The Engineers can play on any of the teams!"
There was much explanation of the "dollars-and-cents value of being known as a college man when you go into the law," and a truly oratorical account of the lawyer's life. Before he was through with it, Babbitt had Ted a United States Senator.
Among the great lawyers whom he mentioned was Seneca Doane.
"But, gee whiz," Ted marveled, "I thought you always said this Doane was a reg'lar nut!"
"That's no way to speak of a great man! Doane's always been a good friend of mine — fact I helped him in college — I started him out and you might say inspired him. Just because he's sympathetic with the aims of Labor, a lot of chumps that lack liberality and broad-mindedness think he's a crank, but let me tell you there's mighty few of 'em that rake in the fees he does, and he's a friend of some of the strongest; most conservative men in the world — like Lord Wycombe, this, uh, this big English nobleman that's so well known. And you now, which would you rather do: be in with a lot of greasy mechanics and laboring-men, or chum up to a real fellow like Lord Wycombe, and get invited to his house for parties?"
"Well — gosh," sighed Ted.
The next week-end he came in joyously with, "Say, Dad, why couldn't I take mining engineering instead of the academic course? You talk about standing — maybe there isn't much in mechanical engineering, but the Miners, gee, they got seven out of eleven in the new elections to Nu Tau Tau!"