They roared together, and together lighted cigars.
“What are we going to do with ’em?” Babbitt consulted.
“Gosh, I don’t know. I swear, sometimes I feel like taking Ken aside and putting him over the jumps and saying to him, ’Young fella me lad, are you going to marry young Rone, or are you going to talk her to death? Here you are getting on toward thirty, and you’re only making twenty or twenty-five a week. When you going to develop a sense of responsibility and get a raise? If there’s anything that George F. or I can do to help you, call on us, but show a little speed, anyway!’”
“Well, at that, it might not be so bad if you or I talked to him, except he might not understand. He’s one of these high brows. He can’t come down to cases and lay his cards on the table and talk straight out from the shoulder, like you or I can.”
“That’s right, he’s like all these highbrows.”
“That’s so, like all of ’em.”
“That’s a fact.”
They sighed, and were silent and thoughtful and happy.
The conductor came in. He had once called at Babbitt’s office, to ask about houses. “H’ are you, Mr. Babbitt! We going to have you with us to Chicago? This your boy?”
“Yes, this is my son Ted.”
“Well now, what do you know about that! Here I been thinking you were a youngster yourself, not a day over forty, hardly, and you with this great big fellow!”
“Forty? Why, brother, I’ll never see forty-five again!”
“Is that a fact! Wouldn’t hardly ‘a’ thought it!”
“Yes, sir, it’s a bad give-away for the old man when he has to travel with a young whale like Ted here!”
“You’re right, it is.” To Ted: “I suppose you’re in college now?”
Proudly, “No, not till next fall. I’m just kind of giving the diff’rent colleges the once-over now.”
As the conductor went on his affable way, huge watch-chain jingling against his blue chest, Babbitt and Ted gravely considered colleges. They arrived at Chicago late at night; they lay abed in the morning, rejoicing, “Pretty nice not to have to get up and get down to breakfast, heh?” They were staying at the modest Eden Hotel, because Zenith business men always stayed at the Eden, but they had dinner in the brocade and crystal Versailles Room of the Regency Hotel. Babbitt ordered Blue Point oysters with cocktail sauce, a tremendous steak with a tremendous platter of French fried potatoes, two pots of coffee, apple pie with ice cream for both of them and, for Ted, an extra piece of mince pie.
“Hot stuff! Some feed, young fella!” Ted admired.
“Huh! You stick around with me, old man, and I’ll show you a good time!”
They went to a musical comedy and nudged each other at the matrimonial jokes and the prohibition jokes; they paraded the lobby, arm in arm, between acts, and in the glee of his first release from the shame which dissevers fathers and sons Ted chuckled, “Dad, did you ever hear the one about the three milliners and the judge?”