The grandfather was Zebulun Dibble. He had a mustache like a
horse’s mane; he wore a boiled shirt with no collar, and he
manufactured oatmeal, very wholesome and tasteless. He moved from
New Hampshire out to the city of Zenith in 1875, and in 1880 became
the proud but irritated father of T. Jefferson Dibble.
T. Jefferson turned the dusty oatmeal factory into a lyric
steel-and-glass establishment for the manufacture of Oatees,
Barlenated Rice and Puffy Wuffles, whereby he garnered a million
dollars and became cultured, along about 1905. This was the
beginning of the American fashion in culture which has expanded now
into lectures by poetic Grand Dukes and Symphonies on the
T. Jefferson belonged to the Opera Festival Committee and the
Batik Exposition Conference, and he was the chairman of the Lecture
Committee of the Phoenix Club. Not that all this enervating culture
kept him from burning up the sales manager from nine-thirty A.M. to
five P.M. He felt that he had been betrayed; he felt that his
staff, Congress, and the labor unions had bitten the hand that fed
them, if the sale of Rye Yeasties (Vitaminized) did not annually
increase four per cent.
But away from the office, he announced at every club and
committee where he could wriggle into the chairman’s seat
that America was the best country in the world, by heavens, and
Zenith the best city in America, and how were we going to prove it?
Not by any vulgar boasting and boosting! No, sir! By showing more
culture than any other burg of equal size in the world! Give him
ten years! He’d see that Zenith had more square feet of old
masters, more fiddles in the symphony orchestra, and more marble
statues per square mile than Munich!
T. Jefferson’s only son, Whitney, appeared in 1906. T.
Jefferson winced every time the boys called him “Whit.”
He winced pretty regularly. Whit showed more vocation for swimming,
ringing the doorbells of timorous spinsters, and driving a flivver
than for the life of culture. But T. Jefferson was determined.
Just as he bellowed, “By golly, you’ll sell Barley
Gems to the wholesalers or get out!” in the daytime, so when
he arrived at his neat slate-roofed English Manor Style residence
in Floral Heights, he bellowed at Whit, “By golly,
you’ll learn to play the piano or I’ll lam the
everlasting daylights out of you! Ain’t you ashamed! Wanting
to go skating! The idea!”
Whitney was taught—at least theoretically he was
taught—the several arts of piano-playing, singing, drawing,
water-color painting, fencing, and French. And through it all Whit
remained ruddy, grinning, and irretrievably given to money-making.
For years, without T. Jefferson’s ever discovering it, he
conducted a lucrative trade in transporting empty gin bottles in
his father’s spare sedan from the Zenith Athletic Club to the
emporia of the bootleggers.
But he could draw. He sang like a crow, he fenced like a
sculptor, but he could draw, and when he was sent to Yale he became
the chief caricaturist of the Yale Record.
For the first time his father was delighted. He had Whit’s
original drawings framed in heavy gold, and showed all of them to
his friends and his committees before they could escape. When Whit
sold a small sketch to Life, T. Jefferson sent him an autographed
check for a hundred dollars, so that Whit, otherwise a decent
youth, became a little vain about the world’s need of his
art. At Christmas, senior year, T. Jefferson (with the solemn
expression of a Father about to Give Good Advice to his Son) lured
him into the library, and flowered in language:
“Now, Whitney, the time has come, my boy, when you must
take thought and decide what rôle in this world’s—what
rôle in the world—in fact, to what rôle you feel your talents
are urging you, if you get what I mean.”
“You mean what job I’ll get after
“No, no, no! The Dibbleses have had enough of jobs! I have
money enough for all of us. I have had to toil and moil. But the
Dibbleses are essentially an artistic family. Your grandfather
loved to paint. It is true that circumstances were such that he was
never able to paint anything but the barn, but he had a fine eye
for color—he painted it blue and salmon-pink instead of red;
and he was responsible for designing the old family mansion on Clay
Street—I should never have given it up except that the
bathrooms were antiquated—not a single colored tile in
“It was he who had the Moorish turret with the copper roof
put on the mansion, when the architect wanted a square tower with a
pagoda roof. And I myself, if I may say so, while I have not had
the opportunity to develop my creative gifts, I was responsible for
raising the fund of $267,800 to buy the Rembrandt for the Zenith
Art Institute, and the fact that the Rembrandt later proved to be a
fake, painted by a scoundrel named John J. Jones, was no fault of
mine. So—in fact—if you understand me—how would
you like to go to Paris, after graduation, and study
Whit had never been abroad. He pictured Paris as a series of
bars, interspersed with sloe-eyed girls (he wasn’t quite sure
what sloe eyes were, but he was certain that the eyes of all
Parisian cuties were sloe), palms blooming in January, and Bohemian
studios where jolly artists and lively models lived on spaghetti,
red wine, and a continuous singing of “Auprès de Ma
“Paris!” he said; and, “That would be elegant,
“My boy!” T. Jefferson put his puffy palm on
Whit’s shoulder in a marvelous impersonation of a Father
about to Send His Son Forth into the Maelstrom of Life, “I am
proud of you.
“I hope I shall live to see you one of the world’s
great pictorial artists, exhibiting in London, Rome, Zenith, and
elsewhere, and whose pictures will carry a message of high ideals
to all those who are dusty with striving, lifting their souls from
the sordid struggle to the farther green places.
“That’s what I often tell my sales manager, Mr.
Mountgins—he ought to get away from mere thoughts of commerce
and refresh himself at the Art Institute—and the stubborn
jackass, he simply won’t increase the sale of Korn Krumbles
in southern Michigan! But as I was saying, I don’t want you
to approach Paris in any spirit of frivolity, but earnestly, as an
opportunity of making a bigger and better—no, no, I mean a
bigger and—a bigger—I mean a better world! I give you
“Great! Watch me, Dad!”
When, after Christmas, Whit’s classmates reveled in the
great Senior Year pastime of wondering what they would do after
graduation, Whit was offensively smug.
“I got an idea,” said his classmate, Stuyvesant
Wescott, who also came from Zenith. “Of course it’s
swell to go into law or bond selling—good for a hundred thou.
a year—and a fellow oughtn’t to waste his education and
opportunities by going out for lower ideals. Think of that poor
fish Ted Page, planning to teach in a prep school—associate
with a lot of dirty kids and never make more’n five thou. a
year! But the bond game is pretty well jammed. What do you think of
getting in early on television? Millions in it!”
Mr. Whitney Dibble languidly rose, drew a six-inch scarlet
cigarette holder from his pocket, lighted a cigarette and flicked
the ash off it with a disdainful forefinger. The cigarette holder,
the languor, the disdain, and the flicking habit were all strictly
new to him, and they were extremely disapproved of by his kind.
“I am not,” he breathed, “at all interested in
your lowbrow plans. I am going to Paris to study art. In five years
from now I shall be exhibiting in-in all those galleries you
exhibit in. I hope you have success with your money-grubbing and
your golf. Drop in to see me at my petit château when you’re
abroad. I must dot out now and do a bit of sketching.”
Whitney Dibble, riding a Pullman to greatness, arrived in Paris
on an October day of pearl and amber. When he had dropped his
baggage at his hotel, Whit walked out exultantly. The Place de la
Concorde seemed to him a royal courtyard; Gabriel’s twin
buildings of the Marine Ministry were the residences of emperors
themselves. They seemed taller than the most pushing skyscraper of
New York, taller and nobler and more wise.
All Paris spoke to him of a life at once more vivid and more
demanding, less hospitable to intrusive strangers, than any he had
known. He felt young and provincial, yet hotly ambitious.
Quivering with quiet exultation, he sat on a balcony that
evening, watching the lights fret the ancient Seine, and next
morning he scampered to the atelier of Monsieur Cyprien Schoelkopf,
where he was immediately to be recognized as a genius.
He was not disappointed. Monsieur Schoelkopf (he was of the
celebrated Breton family of Schoelkopf, he explained) had a studio
right out of fiction; very long, very filthy, with a naked model on
the throne. The girls wore smocks baggy at the throat, and the men
wore corduroy jackets.
Monsieur Schoelkopf was delighted to accept Whit, also his ten
thousand francs in advance.
Whit longed to be seated at an easel, whanging immortal paint
onto a taut canvas. He’d catch the model’s very soul,
make it speak through her eyes, with her mere body just indicated.
. . . Great if his very first picture should be a salon piece!
But before leaping into grandeur he had to have a Bohemian
background, and he went uneasily over the Left Bank looking for an
apartment. (To live in comfort on the Right Bank would be bourgeois
and even American.)
He rented an apartment ‘way out on the Avenue Félix-Faure.
It was quiet and light—and Whit was tired.
That evening he went to the famous Café Fanfaron, on the
Boulevard Raspail, of which he had heard as the international (i.
e., American) headquarters for everything that was newest and most
shocking in painting, poetry, and devastating criticism in little
In front of the café the sidewalk was jammed with tables at
which sat hundreds of young people, most of them laughing, most of
them noticeable—girls in slinksy dresses, very low, young men
with jaunty tweed jackets, curly hair and keen eyes; large men (and
they seemed the most youthful of all) with huge beards that looked
Whit was waved to a table with a group of Americans. In half an
hour he had made a date to go walking in the Bois de Boulogne with
a large-eyed young lady named Isadora, he had been reassured that
Paris was the one place in the world for a person with Creative
Hormones, and he had been invited to a studio party by a lively man
who was twenty-four as far up as the pouches beneath his eyes, and
It was a good party.
They sat on the floor and drank cognac and shouted. The host,
with no great urging, showed a few score of his paintings. In them,
the houses staggered and the hills looked like garbage heaps, so
Whit knew they were the genuine advanced things, and he was proud
From that night on, Whit was in a joyous turmoil of artistic
adventure. He was the real thing—except, perhaps, during the
hours at Monsieur Schoelkopf’s, when he tried to paint.
Like most active young Americans, he discovered the extreme
difficulty of going slow. During a fifty-minute class in Yale he
had been able to draw twenty caricatures, all amusing, all vivid.
That was the trouble with him! It was infinitely harder to spend
fifty minutes on a square inch of painting.
Whit was reasonably honest. He snarled at himself that his
pictures had about as much depth and significance as a croquis for
a dressmakers’ magazine.
And Monsieur Schoelkopf told him all about it. He stood tickling
the back of Whit’s neck with his beard, and observed
“Huh!” And when Monsieur Schoelkopf said
“Huh!” Whit wanted to go off and dig sewers.
So Whit fled from that morgue to the Café Fanfaron, and to
Isadora, whom he had met his first night in Paris.
Isadora was not a painter. She wrote. She carried a brief case,
of course. Once it snapped open, and in it Whit saw a bottle of
vermouth, some blank paper, lovely pencils all red and blue and
green and purple, a handkerchief and a pair of silk stockings. Yet
he was not shocked when, later in the evening, Isadora announced
that she was carrying in that brief case the manuscript of her
Isadora came from Omaha, Nebraska, and she liked to be
They picnicked in the Forest of Fontainebleau, Isadora and he.
Whit was certain that all his life he had longed for just this; to
lunch on bread and cheese and cherries and Burgundy, then to lie
under the fretwork of oak boughs, stripped by October, holding the
hand of a girl who knew everything and who would certainly, in a
year or two, drive Edith Wharton and Willa Cather off the map; to
have with her a relationship as innocent as children, and, withal,
romantic as the steeple-hatted princesses who had once hallooed to
the hunt in this same royal forest.
“I think your water-color sketch of Notre Dame is
wonderful!” said Isadora.
“I’m glad you like it,” said Whitney.
“So original in concept!”
“Well, I tried to give it a new concept.”
“That’s the thing! The new! We must get away from
the old-fashioned Cubists and Expressionists. It’s so
old-fashioned now to be crazy! We must have restraint.”
“That’s so. Austerity. That’s the stuff. . . .
Gee, doggone it, I wish there was some more of that wine
left,” said Whit.
“You’re a darling!”
She leaned on her elbow to kiss him, she sprang up and fled
through the woodland aisle. And he gamboled after her in a rapture
which endured even through a bus ride back to the Fontainebleau
station with a mess of tourists who admired all the wrong
The Fanfaron school of wisdom had a magnificent show window but
not much on the shelves. It was a high-class evening’s
entertainment to listen to Miles O’Sullivan, the celebrated
Irish critic from South Brooklyn, on the beauties of Proust. But
when, for the fifth time, Whit had heard O’Sullivan gasp in a
drowning voice, “I remember dear old Marcel saying to me,
‘Miles, mon petit, you alone understand that exteriority can
be expressed only by inferiority,’” then Whit was
stirred to taxi defiantly over to the Anglo–American Pharmacy
and do the most American thing a man can do—buy a package of
Chewing gum was not the only American vice which was in low
repute at the Fanfaron. In fact, the exiles agreed that with the
possible exceptions of Poland, Guatemala, and mid-Victorian
England, the United States was the dumbest country that had ever
existed. They were equally strong about the inferiority of American
skyscrapers, pork and beans, Chicago, hired girls, jazz, Reno,
evening-jacket lapels, Tom Thumb golf courses, aviation records,
tooth paste, bungalows, kitchenettes, dinettes, diswashettes,
eating tobacco, cafeterias, Booth Tarkington, corn flakes,
flivvers, incinerators, corn on the cob, Coney Island, Rotarians,
cement roads, trial marriages, Fundamentalism, preachers who talk
on the radio, drugstore sandwiches, letters dictated but not read,
noisy streets, noiseless typewriters, Mutt and Jeff, eye shades,
mauve-and-crocus-yellow golf stockings, chile con carne, the
Chrysler Building, Jimmy Walker, Hollywood, all the Ruths in
Congress, Boy Scouts, Tourists–Welcome camps, hot dogs,
Admiral Byrd, flagpole sitters, safety razors, the Chautauqua, and
The exiles unanimously declared that they were waiting to join
the Foreign Legion of whatever country should first wipe out the
United States in war.
For three months Whit was able to agree with all of this
indictment, but a week after his picnic with Isadora he went
suddenly democratic. Miles O’Sullivan had denounced the
puerility of American fried chicken.
Now it was before dinner, and Miles was an excellent reporter.
The more Whit listened, the more he longed for the crisp, crunching
taste of fried chicken, with corn fritters and maple sirup, candied
sweet potatoes, and all the other vulgarities loathed by the
artistic American exiles who were brought up on them.
Whit sprang up, muttering “Urghhg,” which Miles took
as a tribute to his wit.
Whit fled down the Boulevard Raspail. He had often noted, with
low cultured sneers, a horribly American restaurant called
“Cabin Mammy’s Grill.” He plunged into it now. In
a voice of restrained hysteria he ordered fried chicken, candied
sweets and corn fritters with sirup.
Now, to be fair on all sides—which is an
impossibility—the chicken was dry, the corn fritters were
soggy, the fried sweets were poisonous and the sirup had never seen
Vermont. Yet Whit enjoyed that meal more than any of the superior
food he had discovered in Paris.
The taste of it brought back everything that was native in him.
. . . Return home for Christmas vacation in his freshman year; the
good smell of the midwestern snow; the girls whom he had loved as a
brat; the boys with whom he had played. A dinner down at Momauguin
in senior year, and the kindly tragedy of parting.
They had been good days; cool and realistic and decent.
So Whit came out of Cabin Mammy’s Grill thinking of snow
on Chapel Street and the New Haven Green—and he was buffeted
by the first snow of the Paris winter, and that wasn’t so
Although he was a college graduate, Whitney had learned a little
about geography, and he shouldn’t have expected Paris to be
tropical. Yet he had confusedly felt that this capital of the world
could never conceivably be cold and grim. He turned up the collar
of his light topcoat and started for—oh, for Nowhere.
After ten blocks, he was exhilarated by the snow and the blasty
cold which had first dismayed him. From time to time he muttered
something like a sketch for future thoughts:
“I can’t paint! I’d be all right drawing
machinery for a catalogue. That’s about all! Paris! More
beautiful than any town in America. But I’m not part of it.
Have nothing to do with it. I’ve never met a real Frenchman,
except my landlady, and that hired girl at the apartment and a few
waiters and a few cops and the French literary gents that hang
around the Fanfaron because we give ’em more of a hand than
their own people would.
“Poor old T. Jefferson! He wants me to be a Genius! I
guess you have to have a little genius to be a Genius. Gosh,
I’d like to see Stuyvy Wescott tonight. With him, it would be
fun to have a drink!”
Without being quite conscious of it, Whit drifted from the
sacred Left Bank to the bourgeois Right. Instead of returning to
the Fanfaron and Isadora, he took refuge at the Café de la
Just inside the door was a round-faced, spectacled American,
perhaps fifty years old, looking wistfully about for company.
Whit could never have told by what long and involved process of
thought he decided to pick up this Babbitt. He flopped down at the
stranger’s table, and muttered, “Mind ‘f I sit
“No, son, tickled to death! American?”
“Well, say, it certainly is good to talk to a white man
again! Living here?”
“I’m studying art.”
“Well, well, is that a fact!”
“Sometimes I wonder if it is! I’m pretty
“Well, what the deuce! You’ll have a swell time here
while you’re a kid, and I guess prob’ly you’ll
learn a lot, and then you can go back to the States and start
something. Easterner, ain’t you?”
“No; I was born in Zenith.”
“Well, is that a fact! Folks live there?”
“Yes. My father is T. Jefferson Dibble of the Small Grain
“Well, I’m a son-of-a-gun! Why, say, I know your
dad. My name’s Titus—Buffalo Grain Forwarding
Corp.—why, I’ve had a lot of dealings with your dad.
Golly! Think of meeting somebody you know in this town! I’m
leaving tomorrow, and this is the first time I’ve had a shot
at any home-grown conversation. Say, son, I’d be honored if
you’d come out and bust the town loose with me this
They went to the Exhibit of the Two Hemispheres, which Miles
O’Sullivan had recommended as the dirtiest show in Europe.
Whit was shocked. He tried to enjoy it. He told himself that
otherwise he would prove himself a provincial, a lowbrow—in
fact, an American. But he was increasingly uncomfortable at the
antics of the ladies at the Exhibit. He peeped at Mr. Titus, and
discovered that he was nervously twirling a glass and clearing his
“I don’t care so much for this,” muttered
“Neither do I, son! Let’s beat it!”
They drove to the New Orleans bar and had a whisky-soda. They
drove to the Kansas City bar and had a highball. They drove to the
El Paso bar and had a rock and rye. They drove to the Virginia bar,
and by now Mr. Titus was full of friendliness and manly joy.
Leaning against the bar, discoursing to a gentleman from South
Dakota, Mr. Titus observed:
“I come from Buffalo. Name’s Titus.”
“I come from Yankton. Smith is my name.”
“Well, well, so you’re this fellow Smith I’ve
heard so much about!”
“Ha, ha, ha, that’s right.”
“Just passing through on the train.”
“Well, now, I want to make you a bet that Buffalo will
increase in pop’lation not less than twenty-seven per cent
“Have one on me.”
“Well, let’s toss for it.”
“That’s the idea. We’ll toss for it. . . .
Hey, Billy, got any galloping dominoes?”
When they had gambled for the drink, Mr. Titus bellowed,
“Say, you haven’t met my young friend Whinney
“Glad meet you.”
“He’s an artist!”
“Yessir, great artist. Sells pictures everywhere. London
and Fort Worth and Cop’nagen and everywhere. Thousands and
thousands dollars. His dad’s pal of mine. Wish I could see
good old Dibble! Wish he were here tonight!”
And Mr. Titus wept, quietly, and Whit took him home.
Next morning, at a time when he should have been in the atelier
of Monsieur Schoelkopf, Whit saw Mr. Titus off at the Gare
St.-Lazare, and he was melancholy. There were so many pretty
American girls taking the boat train; girls with whom he would have
liked to play deck tennis.
So it chanced that Whit fell into the lowest vice any American
can show in Paris. He constantly picked up beefy and lonesome
Americans and took them to precisely those places in Paris, like
the Eiffel Tower, which were most taboo to the brave lads of the
He tried frenziedly to paint one good picture at Monsieur
Schoelkopf’s; tried to rid himself of facility. He produced a
decoration in purple and stony reds which he felt to be far from
his neat photography.
And looking upon it, for once Monsieur Schoelkopf spoke:
“You will be, some time, a good banker.”
The day before Whit sailed for summer in Zenith, he took Isadora
to the little glassed-in restaurant that from the shoulder of
Montmartre looks over all Paris. She dropped her flowery airs. With
both hands she held his, and besought him:
“Whit! Lover! You are going back to your poisonous Middle
West. Your people will try to alienate you from Paris and all the
freedom, all the impetus to creation, all the strange and lovely
things that will exist here long after machines have been scrapped.
Darling, don’t let them get you, with their efficiency and
their promise of millions!”
“Silly! Of course! I hate business. And next year
I’ll be back here with you!”
He had told the Fanfaron initiates not to see him off at the
train. Feeling a little bleak, a little disregarded by this humming
city of Paris, he went alone to the station, and he looked for no
one as he wretchedly followed the porter to a seat in the boat
Suddenly he was overwhelmed by the shouts of a dozen familiars
from the Fanfaron. It wasn’t so important—though
improbable—that they should have paid fifty centimes each for
a billet de quai, for that they should have arisen before nine
o’clock to see him off was astounding.
Isadora’s kind arms were around him, and she was wailing,
“You won’t forget us; darling, you won’t forget
Miles O’Sullivan was wringing his hand and crying,
“Whit, lad, don’t let the dollars get you!”
All the rest were clamoring that they would feverishly await his
As the train banged out, he leaned out waving to them, and he
was conscious that whatever affectations and egotism they had shown
in their drool at the Fanfaron, all pretentiousness was wiped now
from their faces, and that he loved them.
He would come back to them.
All the way to Cherbourg he fretted over the things he had not
seen in Paris. He had been in the Louvre only three times. He had
never gone to Moret or to the battlemented walls of Provins.
Whit ran into the living room at Floral Heights, patted T.
Jefferson on the shoulder, kissed his mother and muttered:
“Gee, it certainly is grand to be back!”
“Oh, you can speak to us in French, if you want to,”
said T. Jefferson Dibble, “we’ve been studying it so we
can return to Paris with you some time. Avez vous oo un temps
charmant cette—uh— year?”
“Oh, sure, oui. Say, you’ve redecorated the
breakfast room. That red-and-yellow tiling certainly is
“Now écoutez—écoute, moh fis. It’s not
necessary for you, Whitney, now that you have become a man of the
world, to spare our feelings. I know, and you know, that that
red-and-yellow tiling is vulgar. But to return to pleasanter
topics, I long for your impressions of Paris. How many times did
you go to the Louvre?”
“Oh. Oh, the Louvre! Well, a lot.”
“I’m sure of it. By the way, a funny thing happened,
Whitney. A vulgarian by the name of Titus, from Buffalo, if I
remember, wrote to me that he met you in Paris. A shame that such a
man, under pretense of friendship with me, should have disturbed
“I thought he was a fine old coot, Dad.”
“Mon père! No, my boy, you are again being conciliatory
and trying to spare my feelings. This Titus is a man for whom I
have neither esteem nor—in fact, we have nothing in common.
Besides, the old hellion, he did me out of eleven hundred and
seventy dollars on a grain deal sixteen years ago! But as I say,
your impressions of Paris! It must seem like a dream wreathed with
the vapors of golden memory.
“Now, I believe, you intend to stay here for two months. I
have been making plans. Even in this wretched mid-western town, I
think that, with my aid, you will be able to avoid the banalities
of the young men with whom you were reared. There is a splendid new
Little Theater under process of organization, and perhaps you will
wish to paint the scenery and act and even design the costumes.
“Then we are planning to raise a fund to get the E. Heez
Flemming Finnish Grand Opera Company here for a week. That will
help to occupy you. You’ll be able to give these hicks your
trained European view of Finnish Grand Opera. So, to start with
this evening, I thought we might drop in on the lecture by
Professor Gilfillan at the Walter Peter Club on ‘Traces of
Mechanistic Culture in the Coptic.’”
“That would be splendid, sir, but unfortunately—On
the way I received a wire from Stuyv Wescott asking me to the dance
at the country club this evening. I thought I’d dine with you
and Mother, and then skip out there. Hate like the dickens to hurt
“Of course, of course, my boy. A gentleman, especially
when he is also a man of culture, must always think of noblesse
oblige. I mean, you understand, of the duties of a gentleman. But
don’t let these vulgarians like Wescott impose on you. You
see, my idea of it is like this . . .”
As he drove his father’s smaller six to the country club,
Whit was angry. He was thinking of what his
friends—ex-friends—at the club would do in the way of
boisterous “kidding.” He could hear them—Stuyv
Wescott, his roommate in Yale, Gilbert Scott, Tim Clark (Princeton
‘28) and all the rest—mocking:
“Why, it’s our little Alphonse Gauguin!”
“Where’s the corduroy pants?”
“I don’t suppose you’d condescend to take a
drink with a poor dumb Babbitt that’s been selling hardware
while you’ve been associating with the counts and jukes and
highbrows and highbrowesses!”
And, sniggering shamefacedly, “Say, how’s the little
midinettes and the je ne sais quoi’s in Paris?”
He determined to tell them all to go to hell, to speak with
quiet affection of Isadora and Miles O’Sullivan, and to
hustle back to Paris as soon as possible. Stick in this provincial
town, when there on Boulevard Raspail were inspiration and his
Stay here? What an idea!
He came sulkily into the lounge of the country club, cleared now
for dancing. Stuyvy Wescott, tangoing with a girl who glittered
like a Christmas tree, saw him glowering at the door, chucked the
girl into the ragbag, dashed over and grunted, “Whit, you old
hound, I’m glad to see you! Let’s duck the bunch and
sneak down to the locker room. The trusty gin awaits!”
On the way, Stuyv nipped Gil Scott and Tim Clark out of the
Whit croaked—Youth, so self-conscious, so conservative, so
little “flaming,” so afraid of what it most desires and
admires!—he croaked, “Well, let’s get the razzing
over! I s’pose you babies are ready to pan me good for being
a loafer while you’ve been saving the country by discounting
The other three looked at him with mild, fond wonder.
Stuyv said meekly, “Why, what a low idea! Listen, Whit,
we’re tickled to death you’ve had a chance to do
something besides keep the pot boiling. Must have been swell to
have a chance at the real Europe and art. We’ve all done
pretty well, but I guess any one of us would give his left leg to
be able to sit down on the Champs Élysées and take time to figure
out what it’s all about.”
Then Whit knew that these were his own people. He blurted,
“Honestly, Stuyv, you mean to say you’ve envied me?
Well, it’s a grand town, Paris. And some great eggs there.
And even some guys that can paint. But me, I’m no
“Nonsense! Look, Whit, you have no idea what this
money-grubbing is. Boy, you’re lucky! And don’t stay
here! Don’t let the dollars get you! Don’t let all
these babies with their promises of millions catch you! Beat it
back to Paris. Culture, that’s the new note!”
“Urghhg!” observed Whit.
“You bet,” said Tim Clark.
Tim Clark had a sister, and the name of that sister was
Whit Dibble remembered her as a sub-flapper, always going off to
be “finished” somewhere in the East. She was a Young
Lady of twenty-odd now, and even to Whit’s professionally
artistic eye it seemed that her hair, sleek as a new-polished
range, was interesting. They danced together, and looked at each
other with a fury of traditional dislike.
Midmost of that dance Whit observed, “Betty,
“Let’s go out and sit on the lawn.”
“I want to find out why you hate me.”
“Hm. The lawn. I imagine it takes a training in Yale
athletics and Paris artisticking to be so frank. Usually the kits
start out with a suggestion of the club porch and the handsome
modernist reed chairs and then they suggest the lawn and ‘Oh,
Greta, so charmé to meet you’ afterwards!”
But during these intolerabilities Betty had swayed with him to
the long high-pillared veranda, where they crouched together on a
Whit tried to throw himself into what he conceived, largely from
novels, to be Betty’s youthful era. He murmured:
“Kiddo, where have you been all my life?”
From Betty’s end of the glider, a coolness like the long
wet stretches of the golf course; a silence; then a very little
“Whit, my child, you have been away too long! It’s a
year now, at least, since anyone—I mean anyone you could
know—has said ‘Where have you been all my life?’
Listen, dear! The worst thing about anybody’s going artistic,
like you, is that they’re always so ashamed of it. Jiminy!
Your revered father and the Onward and Upward Bookshop have grabbed
off Culture for keeps in this town. And yet—
“Dear, I think that somewhere there must be people who do
all these darn’ arts without either being ashamed of
’em—like you, you poor fish!—or thinking they
make the nice gilded cornice on the skyscraper, like your dad.
Dear, let’s us be US. Cultured or hoboes, or both.
She had fled before he could spring up and be wise in the manner
of Isadora and Miles O’Sullivan, or the more portentous
manner of T. Jefferson Dibble.
Yet, irritably longing all the while for Betty Clark, he had a
tremendous time that night at the country club, on the land where
his grandfather had once grown corn.
What did they know, there in Paris? What did either Isadora or
Miles O’Sullivan know of those deep provincialisms, smelling
always of the cornfields, which were in him? For the first time
since he had left Paris, Whit felt that in himself might be some
He danced that night with many girls.
He saw Betty Clark only now and then, and from afar. And the
less he saw of her, the more important it seemed to him that she
should take him seriously.
There had been a time when Whit had each morning heard the good,
noisy, indignant call of T. Jefferson demanding, “Are you
going to get up or ain’t you going to get up? Hey! Whit! If
you don’t wanna come down for breakfast, you ain’t
gonna have any breakfast!”
Indeed it slightly disturbed him, when he awoke at eleven of the
morning, to find there had been no such splendid, infuriating,
decent uproar from T. Jefferson.
He crawled out of bed and descended the stairs. In the lower
hall he found his mother.
(It is unfortunate that in this earnest report of the turning of
males in the United States of America toward culture, it is not
possible to give any great attention to Mrs. T. Jefferson Dibble.
Aside from the fact that she was a woman, kindly and rather
beautiful, she has no existence here except as the wife of T.
Jefferson and the mother of Whitney.)
“Oh, Whit! Dear! I do hope your father won’t be
angry! He waited such a long while for you. But I am so glad,
dearie, that he understands, at last, that possibly you may have
just as much to do with all this Painting and Art and so on as he
has! . . . But I mean to say: Your father is expecting you to join
him at three this afternoon for the meeting of the Finnish Opera
Furtherance Association. Oh, I guess it will be awfully
interesting—it will be at the Thornleigh. Oh, Whit, dear,
it’s lovely to have you back!”
The meeting of the Finnish Opera Furtherance Association at the
Hotel Thornleigh was interesting.
It was more than interesting.
Mrs. Montgomery Zeiss said that the Finns put it all over the
Germans and Italians at giving a real modernistic version of
Mr. T. Jefferson Dibble said that as his son, Whitney, had been
so fortunate as to obtain a rather authoritative knowledge of
European music, he (Whitney) would now explain everything to
After a lot of explanation about how artistic opera was, and how
unquestionably artistic Zenith was, Whit muttered that he had to
beat it. And while T. Jefferson stared at him with a sorrowful
face, Whit fled the room.
At five o’clock Whit was sitting on the dock of Stuyv
Wescott’s bungalow on Lake Kennepoose, muttering,
“Look, Stuyv, have you got a real job?”
“Yeah, I guess you’d call it a job.”
“D’you mind telling me what you are making a year
“About three thou. I guess I’ll make six in a coupla
“Hm! I’d like to make some money. By the
way—it just occurs to me, and I hope that I am not being too
rude in asking—what ARE you doing?”
“I am an insurance agent,” remarked Stuyv with a
“And you’re already making three thousand dollars a
“Yeah, something like that.”
“I think I ought to be making some money. It’s
funny. In Europe it’s the smart thing to live on money that
somebody else made for you. I don’t know whether it’s
good or bad, but fact is, somehow, most Americans feel lazy, feel
useless, if they don’t make their own money.
“Prob’ly the Europeans are right. Prob’ly
it’s because we’re restless. But anyway, I’ll be
hanged if I’m going to live on the Old Man the rest of my
life and pretend I’m a painter! The which I ain’t!
Listen, Stuyv! D’yuh think I’d make a good insurance
“You’re helpful. Everybody is helpful. Say!
What’s this new idea that it’s disgraceful to make your
“Don’t be a fool, Whit. Nobody thinks it’s
disgraceful, but you don’t get this new current of thought in
the Middle West that we gotta have art.”
“Get it! Good heavens, I’ve got nothing else! I will
say this for Paris—you can get away from people who believe
in art just by going to the next café. Maybe I’ll have to
live there in order to be allowed to be an insurance
Stuyv Wescott was called to the telephone, and for three minutes
Whit sat alone on the dock, looking across that clear, that candid,
that sun-iced lake, round which hung silver birches and delicate
willows and solid spruce. Here, Whit felt, was a place in which an
American might find again, even in these days of eighty-story
buildings and one-story manners, the courage of his
A hell-diver, forever at his old game of pretending to be a
duck, bobbed out of the mirror of the lake, and Whitney Dibble at
last knew that he was at home.
And not so unlike the hell-diver in her quickness and
imperturbable complexity, Betty Clark ran down from the road behind
the Wescott bungalow and profoundly remarked, “Oh!
“I’m going to be an insurance man,” remarked
“You’re going to be an artist!”
“Sure I am. As an insurance man!”
“You make me sick.”
“Betty, my child, you have been away too long! It’s
a year now, at least, since anyone—I mean anyone you could
know—has said, ‘You make me sick!’”
“Oh—oh! You make me sick!”
T. Jefferson was extremely angry when Whit appeared for dinner.
He said that Whit had no idea how he had offended the Opera
Committee that afternoon. Consequently, Whit had to go through the
gruesome ordeal of accompanying his father to an artistic reception
in the evening. It was not until eleven that he could escape for a
poker game in an obscure suite of the Hotel Thornleigh.
There were present here not only such raw collegians as Stuyv
Wescott, Gil Scott, and Tim Clark, but also a couple of older and
more hardened vulgarians, whereof one was a Mr. Seidel, who had
made a million dollars by developing the new University Heights
district of Zenith.
When they had played for two hours, they stopped for hot dogs;
and Room Service was again drastically ordered to “hustle up
with the White Rock and ice.”
Mr. Seidel, glass in hand, grumbled: “So you’re an
artist, Dibble? In Paris?”
“And to think that a fella that could bluff me out of
seven dollars on a pair of deuces should live over there, when
he’d be an A-1 real-estate salesman.”
“Are you offering me a job?”
“Well, I hadn’t thought about it. . . . Sure I
“Twenty-five a week and commissions.”
And the revolution was effected, save for the voice of Stuyv
Wescott, wailing, “Don’t do it, Whit! Don’t let
these babies get you with their promise of millions!”
Whit had never altogether lost his awe of T. Jefferson and he
was unable to dig up the courage to tell his father of his
treachery in becoming American again until eleven of the morning,
when he called upon him at his office.
“Well, well, my boy, it’s nice to see you!”
said T. Jefferson. “I’m sorry that there is nothing
really interesting for us to do today. But tomorrow noon we are
going to a luncheon of the Bibliophile Club.”
“That’s what I came to see you about, Dad. I’m
sorry, but I shan’t be able to go tomorrow. I’ll be
“Yes, sir. I’ve taken a job with the Seidel
“Well, that may be interesting for this summer. When you
return to Paris—”
“I’m not going back to Paris. I can’t paint.
I’m going to sell real estate.”
The sound that T. Jefferson now made was rather like a carload
of steers arriving at the Chicago stockyards. In this restricted
space it is possible to give only a hundredth of his observations
on Life and Culture, but among many other things he said:
“I might have known! I might have known it! I’ve
always suspected that you were your mother’s boy as much as
mine. How sharper than a serpent’s tooth! Serpent in a
fella’s own bosom!
“Here I’ve given up my life to manufacturing Puffy
Wuffles, when all the time my longing was to be artistic, and now
when I give you the chance—Serpent’s tooth! The old
bard said it perfectly! Whit, my boy, I hope it isn’t that
you feel I can’t afford it! In just a few days now, I’m
going to start my schemes for extending the plant; going to get
options on the five acres to the eastward. The production of Ritzy
Rice will be doubled in the next year. And so, my boy . . .
You’ll either stick to your art or I’ll disown you,
sir! I mean, cut you off with a shilling! Yes, sir, a shilling!
I’ll by thunder make you artistic, if it’s the last
thing I do!”
On the same afternoon when he had, and very properly, been
thrown out into the snowstorm with a shawl over his head, Whit
borrowed five thousand from Stuyv Wescott’s father, with it
obtained options on the five acres upon which his father planned to
build, with them reported to Mr. Seidel, from that low realtor
received the five thousand dollars to repay Mr. Wescott, plus a
five-thousand-dollar commission for himself and spent twenty-five
dollars in flowers, and with them appeared at the house of Betty
Clark at six-fifteen.
Betty came down, so lovely, so cool, so refreshing in skirts
that clipped her ankles; and so coolly and refreshingly she said:
“Hey, Whit, my dear! What can I do for you?”
“I don’t think you can do anything besides help me
spend the five thousand and twenty-five dollars I’ve made
today. I spent the twenty-five for these flowers. They’re
very nice, aren’t they?”
“They certainly are.”
“But do you think they’re worth twenty-five
“Sure they are. Listen, darling! I’m so sorry that
you wasted your time making five thousand dollars when you might
have been painting. But of course an artist has to be an
adventurer. I’m glad that you’ve tried it and that
it’s all over. We’ll go back to Paris as soon as
we’re married, and have a jolly li’l’ Bohemian
flat there, and I’ll try so hard to make all of your artistic
“Betty! Is your brother still here?”
“How should I know?”
“Would you mind finding out?”
“Why no? But why?”
“Dear Betty, you will understand what a scoundrel I am in
a few minutes. Funny! I never meant to be a scoundrel. I never even
meant to be a bad son. . . . Will you yell for Timmy,
“Of course I will.” She yelled, very
Tim came downstairs, beaming. “I hope it’s all
“That’s the point,” said Whit. “I am
trying to persuade T. Jefferson that I don’t want to be an
artist. I’m trying—Lord knows what I’m
trying!” With which childish statement Whit fled from the
He found a taxi and gave the driver the address of his boss, Mr.
Seidel, at the Zenith Athletic Club.
In his room, sitting on the edge of his bed, Mr. Seidel was
eating dinner. “Hello, boy, what’s the trouble?”
“Will you let me pay for a telephone call if I make it
“Sure I will.”
Whit remarked to the Athletic Club telephone girl,
“I’d like to speak to Isadora at the Café Fanfaron,
The voice of that unknown beauty answered, “Which state,
“And what was the name, please?”
“What is the lady’s last name?”
“I don’t know. . . . Hey, get me Miles
O’Sullivan, same address.”
“Just a moment, please. I will get the
A cool voice said, “To whom do you wish to speak,
“I wish to speak, if I may, to Miles O’Sullivan at
the Café Fanfaron. In Paris. . . . Right. Thank you very much. Will
you call me as soon as you can?
“All right, thank you. . . . I am speaking from the Zenith
Athletic Club and the bill is to be charged to Mr. Tiberius
When the telephone rang, it was the voice of the head waiter of
the Fanfaron, a Russian, that answered.
He said, “Allo—allo!”
“May I speak to Miles O’Sullivan?” demanded
“Je ne comprends pas.”
“C’est Monsieur Dibble que
“Oui, et je desire to talk to Monsieur Miles
O’Sullivan, right away, tout suite.”
“Mais oui; je comprends. Vous desirez parler avec Monsieur
“That’s the idea. Make it snappy.”
“Oui, right away.”
Then O’Sullivan’s voice on the phone.
While Mr. Seidel smiled and watched the second hand of his
watch, Whit bellowed into the telephone, “Miles! Listen! I
want to speak to Isadora.”
That voice, coming across four thousand miles of rolling waves
and laboring ships and darkness, mumbled, “Isadora who? Jones
or Pater or Elgantine?”
“For heaven’s sake, Miles, this is Whitney Dibble
speaking from America! I want to speak to Isadora. MY
“Oh, you want to speak to Isadora? Well, I think
she’s out in front. Listen, laddie, I’ll try to find
“Miles, this has already cost me more than a hundred
“And you have been caught by the people who think about
“You’re darned right I have! Will you please get
“You mean quickly, don’t you?”
“Yeah, quick or quickly, but please get
“Right you are, my lad.”
It was after only $16.75 more worth of conversation that Isadora
was saying to him, “Hello, Whit darling, what is
“Would you marry a real-estate man in Zenith, in the
Middle West? Would you stand for my making ten thousand dollars a
From four thousand miles away Isadora crowed, “Sure I
“You may have to interrupt your creative work.”
“Oh, my darling, my darling, I’ll be so glad to quit
Mr. Whitney Dibble looked at his chief and observed,
“After I find out how much this long-distance call has cost,
do you mind if I make a local call?”
Mr. Seidel observed, “Go as far as you like, but please
give me a pension when you fire me out of the firm.”
Whit telephoned to the mansion of T. Jefferson Dibble.
T. Jefferson answered the telephone with a roar: “Yes,
yes, yes, what do you want?”
“Dad, this is Whit. I tried to tell you this morning that
I am engaged to a lovely intellectual author in
“Do you mean to tell me you don’t know who Isadora
“Oh, Isadora! The writer? Congratulations, my boy.
I’m sorry I misunderstood you before.”
“Yes. Just talked to her, long-distance, and she’s
promised to join me here.”
“That’s fine, boy! We’ll certainly have an
artistic center here in Zenith.”
“Yeah, we certainly will.”
Mr. Seidel remarked, “That local call will cost you just
five cents besides the eighty-seven fifty.”
“Fine, boss,” said Whitney Dibble. “Say, can I
interest you in a bungalow on Lake Kennepoose? It has two baths, a
lovely living room, and—Why do you waste your life in this
stuffy club room, when you might have a real home?”