“Say, gee, I had a wild old time in Zenith!” he gloried. “Say, if a fellow knows the ropes there he can have as wild a time as he can in New York!”
“Yuh, I bet you simply raised the old Ned. I figured you were a bad man when I saw you get on the train!” chuckled the fat one.
The others delightedly laid down their papers.
“Well, that’s all right now! I guess I seen some things in the Arbor you never seen!” complained the boy.
“Oh, I’ll bet you did! I bet you lapped up the malted milk like a reg’lar little devil!”
Then, the boy having served as introduction, they ignored him and charged into real talk. Only Paul, sitting by himself, reading at a serial story in a newspaper, failed to join them and all but Babbitt regarded him as a snob, an eccentric, a person of no spirit.
Which of them said which has never been determined, and does not matter, since they all had the same ideas and expressed them always with the same ponderous and brassy assurance. If it was not Babbitt who was delivering any given verdict, at least he was beaming on the chancellor who did deliver it.
“At that, though,” announced the first “they’re selling quite some booze in Zenith. Guess they are everywhere. I don’t know how you fellows feel about prohibition, but the way it strikes me is that it’s a mighty beneficial thing for the poor zob that hasn’t got any will-power but for fellows like us, it’s an infringement of personal liberty.”
“That’s a fact. Congress has got no right to interfere with a fellow’s personal liberty,” contended the second.
A man came in from the car, but as all the seats were full he stood up while he smoked his cigarette. He was an Outsider; he was not one of the Old Families of the smoking-compartment. They looked upon him bleakly and, after trying to appear at ease by examining his chin in the mirror, he gave it up and went out in silence.
“Just been making a trip through the South. Business conditions not very good down there,” said one of the council.
“Is that a fact! Not very good, eh?”
“No, didn’t strike me they were up to normal.”
“Not up to normal, eh?”
“No, I wouldn’t hardly say they were.”
The whole council nodded sagely and decided, “Yump, not hardly up to snuff.”
“Well, business conditions ain’t what they ought to be out West, neither, not by a long shot.”
“That’s a fact. And I guess the hotel business feels it. That’s one good thing, though: these hotels that’ve been charging five bucks a day—yes, and maybe six—seven!—for a rotten room are going to be darn glad to get four, and maybe give you a little service.”
“That’s a fact. Say, uh, speaknubout hotels, I hit the St. Francis at San Francisco for the first time, the other day, and, say, it certainly is a first-class place.”
“You’re right, brother! The St. Francis is a swell place—absolutely A1.”