The guests drove off; the garden shivered into quiet. But Mrs. Crosby Knowlton sighed as she looked at a marble seat warm from five hundred summers of Amalfi. On the face of a winged sphinx which supported it some one had drawn a mustache in lead-pencil. Crumpled paper napkins were dumped among the Michaelmas daisies. On the walk, like shredded lovely flesh, were the petals of the last gallant rose. Cigarette stubs floated in the goldfish pool, trailing an evil stain as they swelled and disintegrated, and beneath the marble seat, the fragments carefully put together, was a smashed teacup.
As he rode back to the hotel Babbitt reflected, “Myra would have enjoyed all this social agony.” For himself he cared less for the garden party than for the motor tours which the Monarch Chamber of Commerce had arranged. Indefatigably he viewed water-reservoirs, suburban trolley-stations, and tanneries. He devoured the statistics which were given to him, and marveled to his roommate, W. A. Rogers, “Of course this town isn’t a patch on Zenith; it hasn’t got our outlook and natural resources; but did you know—I nev’ did till to-day—that they manufactured seven hundred and sixty-three million feet of lumber last year? What d’ you think of that!”
He was nervous as the time for reading his paper approached. When he stood on the low platform before the convention, he trembled and saw only a purple haze. But he was in earnest, and when he had finished the formal paper he talked to them, his hands in his pockets, his spectacled face a flashing disk, like a plate set up on edge in the lamplight. They shouted “That’s the stuff!” and in the discussion afterward they referred with impressiveness to “our friend and brother, Mr. George F. Babbitt.” He had in fifteen minutes changed from a minor delegate to a personage almost as well known as that diplomat of business, Cecil Rountree. After the meeting, delegates from all over the state said, “Hower you, Brother Babbitt?” Sixteen complete strangers called him “George,” and three men took him into corners to confide, “Mighty glad you had the courage to stand up and give the Profession a real boost. Now I’ve always maintained—”
Next morning, with tremendous casualness, Babbitt asked the girl at the hotel news-stand for the newspapers from Zenith. There was nothing in the Press, but in the Advocate-Times, on the third page—He gasped. They had printed his picture and a half-column account. The heading was “Sensation at Annual Land-men’s Convention. G. F. Babbitt, Prominent Ziptown Realtor, Keynoter in Fine Address.”
He murmured reverently, “I guess some of the folks on Floral Heights will sit up and take notice now, and pay a little attention to old Georgie!”
It was the last meeting. The delegations were presenting the claims of their several cities to the next year’s convention. Orators were announcing that “Galop de Vache, the Capital City, the site of Kremer College and of the Upholtz Knitting Works, is the recognized center of culture and high-class enterprise;” and that “Hamburg, the Big Little City with the Logical Location, where every man is open-handed and every woman a heaven-born hostess, throws wide to you her hospitable gates.”