“Tell you how I figure it: A little opposition is good for all of us, so a fellow, especially if he’s a business man and engaged in doing the work of the world, ought to be liberal.”
“I always say a fellow ought to have Vision and Ideals. I guess some of the fellows in my business think I’m pretty visionary, but I just let ’em think what they want to and go right on—same as you do.... By golly, this is nice to have a chance to sit and visit and kind of, you might say, brush up on our ideals.”
“But of course we visionaries do rather get beaten. Doesn’t it bother you?”
“Not a bit! Nobody can dictate to me what I think!”
“You’re the man I want to help me. I want you to talk to some of the business men and try to make them a little more liberal in their attitude toward poor Beecher Ingram.”
“Ingram? But, why, he’s this nut preacher that got kicked out of the Congregationalist Church, isn’t he, and preaches free love and sedition?”
This, Doane explained, was indeed the general conception of Beecher Ingram, but he himself saw Beecher Ingram as a priest of the brotherhood of man, of which Babbitt was notoriously an upholder. So would Babbitt keep his acquaintances from hounding Ingram and his forlorn little church?
“You bet! I’ll call down any of the boys I hear getting funny about Ingram,” Babbitt said affectionately to his dear friend Doane.
Doane warmed up and became reminiscent. He spoke of student days in Germany, of lobbying for single tax in Washington, of international labor conferences. He mentioned his friends, Lord Wycombe, Colonel Wedgwood, Professor Piccoli. Babbitt had always supposed that Doane associated only with the I. W. W., but now he nodded gravely, as one who knew Lord Wycombes by the score, and he got in two references to Sir Gerald Doak. He felt daring and idealistic and cosmopolitan.
Suddenly, in his new spiritual grandeur, he was sorry for Zilla Riesling, and understood her as these ordinary fellows at the Boosters’ Club never could.
Five hours after he had arrived in Zenith and told his wife how hot it was in New York, he went to call on Zilla. He was buzzing with ideas and forgiveness. He’d get Paul released; he’d do things, vague but highly benevolent things, for Zilla; he’d be as generous as his friend Seneca Doane.
He had not seen Zilla since Paul had shot her, and he still pictured her as buxom, high-colored, lively, and a little blowsy. As he drove up to her boarding-house, in a depressing back street below the wholesale district, he stopped in discomfort. At an upper window, leaning on her elbow, was a woman with the features of Zilla, but she was bloodless and aged, like a yellowed wad of old paper crumpled into wrinkles. Where Zilla had bounced and jiggled, this woman was dreadfully still.