“But if it’s the fad now, don’t you think you—”
“No, I don’t! Oh, Myra, please quit nagging me about it. I’m sick of hearing about the confounded G.C.L. I almost wish I’d joined it when Verg first came around, and got it over. And maybe I’d ’ve come in to-day if the committee hadn’t tried to bullyrag me, but, by God, as long as I’m a free-born independent American cit—”
“Now, George, you’re talking exactly like the German furnace-man.”
“Oh, I am, am I! Then, I won’t talk at all!”
He longed, that evening, to see Tanis Judique, to be strengthened by her sympathy. When all the family were up-stairs he got as far as telephoning to her apartment-house, but he was agitated about it and when the janitor answered he blurted, “Nev’ mind—I’ll call later,” and hung up the receiver.
If Babbitt had not been certain about Vergil Gunch’s avoiding him, there could be little doubt about William Washington Eathorne, next morning. When Babbitt was driving down to the office he overtook Eathorne’s car, with the great banker sitting in anemic solemnity behind his chauffeur. Babbitt waved and cried, “Mornin’!” Eathorne looked at him deliberately, hesitated, and gave him a nod more contemptuous than a direct cut.
Babbitt’s partner and father-in-law came in at ten:
“George, what’s this I hear about some song and dance you gave Colonel Snow about not wanting to join the G.C.L.? What the dickens you trying to do? Wreck the firm? You don’t suppose these Big Guns will stand your bucking them and springing all this ‘liberal’ poppycock you been getting off lately, do you?”
“Oh, rats, Henry T., you been reading bum fiction. There ain’t any such a thing as these plots to keep folks from being liberal. This is a free country. A man can do anything he wants to.”
“Course th’ ain’t any plots. Who said they was? Only if folks get an idea you’re scatter-brained and unstable, you don’t suppose they’ll want to do business with you, do you? One little rumor about your being a crank would do more to ruin this business than all the plots and stuff that these fool story-writers could think up in a month of Sundays.”
That afternoon, when the old reliable Conrad Lyte, the merry miser, Conrad Lyte, appeared, and Babbitt suggested his buying a parcel of land in the new residential section of Dorchester, Lyte said hastily, too hastily, “No, no, don’t want to go into anything new just now.”
A week later Babbitt learned, through Henry Thompson, that the officials of the Street Traction Company were planning another real-estate coup, and that Sanders, Torrey and Wing, not the Babbitt-Thompson Company, were to handle it for them. “I figure that Jake Offutt is kind of leery about the way folks are talking about you. Of course Jake is a rock-ribbed old die-hard, and he probably advised the Traction fellows to get some other broker. George, you got to do something!” trembled Thompson.