Good old Zenith,
Our kin and kith,
Wherever we may be,
Hats in the ring,
We blithely sing
Of thy Prosperity.
Warren Whitby, the broker, who had a gift of verse for banquets and birthdays, had added to Frink’s City Song a special verse for the realtors’ convention:
Oh, here we come,
The fellows from
Zenith, the Zip Citee.
We wish to state
In real estate
There’s none so live as we.
Babbitt was stirred to hysteric patriotism. He leaped on a bench, shouting to the crowd:
“What’s the matter with Zenith?”
“She’s all right!”
“What’s best ole town in the U. S. A.?”
The patient poor people waiting for the midnight train stared in unenvious wonder—Italian women with shawls, old weary men with broken shoes, roving road-wise boys in suits which had been flashy when they were new but which were faded now and wrinkled.
Babbitt perceived that as an official delegate he must be more dignified. With Wing and Rogers he tramped up and down the cement platform beside the waiting Pullmans. Motor-driven baggage-trucks and red-capped porters carrying bags sped down the platform with an agreeable effect of activity. Arc-lights glared and stammered overhead. The glossy yellow sleeping-cars shone impressively. Babbitt made his voice to be measured and lordly; he thrust out his abdomen and rumbled, “We got to see to it that the convention lets the Legislature understand just where they get off in this matter of taxing realty transfers.” Wing uttered approving grunts and Babbitt swelled—gloated.
The blind of a Pullman compartment was raised, and Babbitt looked into an unfamiliar world. The occupant of the compartment was Lucile McKelvey, the pretty wife of the millionaire contractor. Possibly, Babbitt thrilled, she was going to Europe! On the seat beside her was a bunch of orchids and violets, and a yellow paper-bound book which seemed foreign. While he stared, she picked up the book, then glanced out of the window as though she was bored. She must have looked straight at him, and he had met her, but she gave no sign. She languidly pulled down the blind, and he stood still, a cold feeling of insignificance in his heart.
But on the train his pride was restored by meeting delegates from Sparta, Pioneer, and other smaller cities of the state, who listened respectfully when, as a magnifico from the metropolis of Zenith, he explained politics and the value of a Good Sound Business Administration. They fell joyfully into shop-talk, the purest and most rapturous form of conversation:
“How’d this fellow Rountree make out with this big apartment-hotel he was going to put up? Whadde do? Get out bonds to finance it?” asked a Sparta broker.
“Well, I’ll tell you,” said Babbitt. “Now if I’d been handling it—”