By warmly taking Purdy’s part, Babbitt persuaded the benevolent Mr. Lyte to reduce his price to twenty-one thousand dollars. At the right moment Babbitt snatched from a drawer the agreement he had had Miss McGoun type out a week ago and thrust it into Purdy’s hands. He genially shook his fountain pen to make certain that it was flowing, handed it to Purdy, and approvingly watched him sign.
The work of the world was being done. Lyte had made something over nine thousand dollars, Babbitt had made a four-hundred-and-fifty dollar commission, Purdy had, by the sensitive mechanism of modern finance, been provided with a business-building, and soon the happy inhabitants of Linton would have meat lavished upon them at prices only a little higher than those down-town.
It had been a manly battle, but after it Babbitt drooped. This was the only really amusing contest he had been planning. There was nothing ahead save details of leases, appraisals, mortgages.
He muttered, “Makes me sick to think of Lyte carrying off most of the profit when I did all the work, the old skinflint! And—What else have I got to do to-day?... Like to take a good long vacation. Motor trip. Something.” He sprang up, rekindled by the thought of lunching with Paul Riesling.
Babbitt’s preparations for leaving the office to its feeble self during the hour and a half of his lunch-period were somewhat less elaborate than the plans for a general European war.
He fretted to Miss McGoun, “What time you going to lunch? Well, make sure Miss Bannigan is in then. Explain to her that if Wiedenfeldt calls up, she’s to tell him I’m already having the title traced. And oh, b’ the way, remind me to-morrow to have Penniman trace it. Now if anybody comes in looking for a cheap house, remember we got to shove that Bangor Road place off onto somebody. If you need me, I’ll be at the Athletic Club. And—uh—And—uh—I’ll be back by two.”
He dusted the cigar-ashes off his vest. He placed a difficult unanswered letter on the pile of unfinished work, that he might not fail to attend to it that afternoon. (For three noons, now, he had placed the same letter on the unfinished pile.) He scrawled on a sheet of yellow backing-paper the memorandum: “See abt apt h drs,” which gave him an agreeable feeling of having already seen about the apartment-house doors.
He discovered that he was smoking another cigar. He threw it away, protesting, “Darn it, I thought you’d quit this darn smoking!” He courageously returned the cigar-box to the correspondence-file, locked it up, hid the key in a more difficult place, and raged, “Ought to take care of myself. And need more exercise—walk to the club, every single noon—just what I’ll do—every noon-cut out this motoring all the time.”
The resolution made him feel exemplary. Immediately after it he decided that this noon it was too late to walk.