Babbitt attended to her: “Nonsense! Get just as much, studying at home. You don’t think a fellow learns any more because he blows in his father’s hard-earned money and sits around in Morris chairs in a swell Harvard dormitory with pictures and shields and table-covers and those doodads, do you? I tell you, I’m a college man—I know! There is one objection you might make though. I certainly do protest against any effort to get a lot of fellows out of barber shops and factories into the professions. They’re too crowded already, and what’ll we do for workmen if all those fellows go and get educated?”
Ted was leaning back, smoking a cigarette without reproof. He was, for the moment, sharing the high thin air of Babbitt’s speculation as though he were Paul Riesling or even Dr. Howard Littlefield. He hinted:
“Well, what do you think then, Dad? Wouldn’t it be a good idea if I could go off to China or some peppy place, and study engineering or something by mail?”
“No, and I’ll tell you why, son. I’ve found out it’s a mighty nice thing to be able to say you’re a B.A. Some client that doesn’t know what you are and thinks you’re just a plug business man, he gets to shooting off his mouth about economics or literature or foreign trade conditions, and you just ease in something like, ’When I was in college—course I got my B.A. in sociology and all that junk—’ Oh, it puts an awful crimp in their style! But there wouldn’t be any class to saying ’I got the degree of Stamp-licker from the Bezuzus Mail-order University!’ You see—My dad was a pretty good old coot, but he never had much style to him, and I had to work darn hard to earn my way through college. Well, it’s been worth it, to be able to associate with the finest gentlemen in Zenith, at the clubs and so on, and I wouldn’t want you to drop out of the gentlemen class—the class that are just as red-blooded as the Common People but still have power and personality. It would kind of hurt me if you did that, old man!”
“I know, Dad! Sure! All right. I’ll stick to it. Say! Gosh! Gee whiz! I forgot all about those kids I was going to take to the chorus rehearsal. I’ll have to duck!”
“But you haven’t done all your home-work.”
“Do it first thing in the morning.”
Six times in the past sixty days Babbitt had stormed, “You will not ’do it first thing in the morning’! You’ll do it right now!” but to-night he said, “Well, better hustle,” and his smile was the rare shy radiance he kept for Paul Riesling.
“Ted’s a good boy,” he said to Mrs. Babbitt.
“Oh, he is!”
“Who’s these girls he’s going to pick up? Are they nice decent girls?”
“I don’t know. Oh dear, Ted never tells me anything any more. I don’t understand what’s come over the children of this generation. I used to have to tell Papa and Mama everything, but seems like the children to-day have just slipped away from all control.”