All his friends ceased whispering about him, suspecting him. At the Athletic Club they asked after her daily. Club members whose names he did not know stopped him to inquire, “How’s your good lady getting on?” Babbitt felt that he was swinging from bleak uplands down into the rich warm air of a valley pleasant with cottages.
One noon Vergil Gunch suggested, “You planning to be at the hospital about six? The wife and I thought we’d drop in.” They did drop in. Gunch was so humorous that Mrs. Babbitt said he must “stop making her laugh because honestly it was hurting her incision.” As they passed down the hall Gunch demanded amiably, “George, old scout, you were soreheaded about something, here a while back. I don’t know why, and it’s none of my business. But you seem to be feeling all hunky-dory again, and why don’t you come join us in the Good Citizens’ League, old man? We have some corking times together, and we need your advice.”
Then did Babbitt, almost tearful with joy at being coaxed instead of bullied, at being permitted to stop fighting, at being able to desert without injuring his opinion of himself, cease utterly to be a domestic revolutionist. He patted Gunch’s shoulder, and next day he became a member of the Good Citizens’ League.
Within two weeks no one in the League was more violent regarding the wickedness of Seneca Doane, the crimes of labor unions, the perils of immigration, and the delights of golf, morality, and bank-accounts than was George F. Babbitt.
The Good Citizens’ League had spread through the country, but nowhere was it so effective and well esteemed as in cities of the type of Zenith, commercial cities of a few hundred thousand inhabitants, most of which—though not all—lay inland, against a background of cornfields and mines and of small towns which depended upon them for mortgage-loans, table-manners, art, social philosophy and millinery.
To the League belonged most of the prosperous citizens of Zenith. They were not all of the kind who called themselves “Regular Guys.” Besides these hearty fellows, these salesmen of prosperity, there were the aristocrats, that is, the men who were richer or had been rich for more generations: the presidents of banks and of factories, the land-owners, the corporation lawyers, the fashionable doctors, and the few young-old men who worked not at all but, reluctantly remaining in Zenith, collected luster-ware and first editions as though they were back in Paris. All of them agreed that the working-classes must be kept in their place; and all of them perceived that American Democracy did not imply any equality of wealth, but did demand a wholesome sameness of thought, dress, painting, morals, and vocabulary.
In this they were like the ruling-class of any other country, particularly of Great Britain, but they differed in being more vigorous and in actually trying to produce the accepted standards which all classes, everywhere, desire, but usually despair of realizing.