Not till the one required topic had been dealt with did the conversation become general.
It was often and admiringly said of Vergil Gunch, “Gee, that fellow can get away with murder! Why, he can pull a Raw One in mixed company and all the ladies ’ll laugh their heads off, but me, gosh, if I crack anything that’s just the least bit off color I get the razz for fair!” Now Gunch delighted them by crying to Mrs. Eddie Swanson, youngest of the women, “Louetta! I managed to pinch Eddie’s doorkey out of his pocket, and what say you and me sneak across the street when the folks aren’t looking? Got something,” with a gorgeous leer, “awful important to tell you!”
The women wriggled, and Babbitt was stirred to like naughtiness. “Say, folks, I wished I dared show you a book I borrowed from Doc Patten!”
“Now, George! The idea!” Mrs. Babbitt warned him.
“This book—racy isn’t the word! It’s some kind of an anthropological report about—about Customs, in the South Seas, and what it doesn’t say! It’s a book you can’t buy. Verg, I’ll lend it to you.”
“Me first!” insisted Eddie Swanson. “Sounds spicy!”
Orville Jones announced, “Say, I heard a Good One the other day about a coupla Swedes and their wives,” and, in the best Jewish accent, he resolutely carried the Good One to a slightly disinfected ending. Gunch capped it. But the cocktails waned, the seekers dropped back into cautious reality.
Chum Frink had recently been on a lecture-tour among the small towns, and he chuckled, “Awful good to get back to civilization! I certainly been seeing some hick towns! I mean—Course the folks there are the best on earth, but, gee whiz, those Main Street burgs are slow, and you fellows can’t hardly appreciate what it means to be here with a bunch of live ones!”
“You bet!” exulted Orville Jones. “They’re the best folks on earth, those small-town folks, but, oh, mama! what conversation! Why, say, they can’t talk about anything but the weather and the ne-oo Ford, by heckalorum!”
“That’s right. They all talk about just the same things,” said Eddie Swanson.
“Don’t they, though! They just say the same things over and over,” said Vergil Gunch.
“Yes, it’s really remarkable. They seem to lack all power of looking at things impersonally. They simply go over and over the same talk about Fords and the weather and so on.” said Howard Littlefield.
“Still, at that, you can’t blame ’em. They haven’t got any intellectual stimulus such as you get up here in the city,” said Chum Frink.
“Gosh, that’s right,” said Babbitt. “I don’t want you highbrows to get stuck on yourselves but I must say it keeps a fellow right up on his toes to sit in with a poet and with Howard, the guy that put the con in economics! But these small-town boobs, with nobody but each other to talk to, no wonder they get so sloppy and uncultured in their speech, and so balled-up in their thinking!”