After that, Babbitt would have followed him through fire. He was enormously busy during the dinner, now bumblingly cheering Paul, now approaching McKelvey with “Hear, you’re going to build some piers in Brooklyn,” now noting how enviously the failures of the class, sitting by themselves in a weedy group, looked up to him in his association with the nobility, now warming himself in the Society Talk of McKelvey and Max Kruger. They spoke of a “jungle dance” for which Mona Dodsworth had decorated her house with thousands of orchids. They spoke, with an excellent imitation of casualness, of a dinner in Washington at which McKelvey had met a Senator, a Balkan princess, and an English major-general. McKelvey called the princess “Jenny,” and let it be known that he had danced with her.
Babbitt was thrilled, but not so weighted with awe as to be silent. If he was not invited by them to dinner, he was yet accustomed to talking with bank-presidents, congressmen, and clubwomen who entertained poets. He was bright and referential with McKelvey:
“Say, Charley, juh remember in Junior year how we chartered a sea-going hack and chased down to Riverdale, to the big show Madame Brown used to put on? Remember how you beat up that hick constabule that tried to run us in, and we pinched the pants-pressing sign and took and hung it on Prof. Morrison’s door? Oh, gosh, those were the days!”
Those, McKelvey agreed, were the days.
Babbitt had reached “It isn’t the books you study in college but the friendships you make that counts” when the men at head of the table broke into song. He attacked McKelvey:
“It’s a shame, uh, shame to drift apart because our, uh, business activities lie in different fields. I’ve enjoyed talking over the good old days. You and Mrs. McKelvey must come to dinner some night.”
Vaguely, “Yes, indeed—”
“Like to talk to you about the growth of real estate out beyond your Grantsville warehouse. I might be able to tip you off to a thing or two, possibly.”
“Splendid! We must have dinner together, Georgie. Just let me know. And it will be a great pleasure to have your wife and you at the house,” said McKelvey, much less vaguely.
Then the chairman’s voice, that prodigious voice which once had roused them to cheer defiance at rooters from Ohio or Michigan or Indiana, whooped, “Come on, you wombats! All together in the long yell!” Babbitt felt that life would never be sweeter than now, when he joined with Paul Riesling and the newly recovered hero, McKelvey, in:
Baaaaaattle-ax Get an ax, Bal-ax, Get-nax, Who, who? The U.! Hooroo!
The Babbitts invited the McKelveys to dinner, in early December, and the McKelveys not only accepted but, after changing the date once or twice, actually came.