square face moved with smiling as in half-dreams he was certain
that some day he would take that train and be welcomed in lofty
rooms by millionaires and poets and actresses. He would be one of
them, and much admired.
His present state, at the age of ten, in 1902, was well enough.
His father was not only a veterinarian but a taxidermist, a man who
had not done so badly in a city like this--for Vulcan, with its
population of 38,000, was the seventh city in the great State of
Winnemac. The Planishes' red-brick house, too, was one of the most
decorated in that whole row on Sycamore Terrace, and they had a
telephone and a leather-bound set of the Encyclopedia Americana. A
cultured and enterprising household, altogether. But as the small
Gideon Planish heard the enticing train, he was certain that he was
going far beyond eagle-stuffing and the treatment of water-
He would be a senator or a popular minister, something rotund and
oratorical, and he would make audiences of two and three hundred
people listen while he shot off red-hot adjectives about Liberty
and Plymouth Rock.
But even as the boy was smiling, the last whistle of the train,
coming across the swamps and outlying factory yards, was so lost
and lonely that he fell back into his habitual doubt of himself and
of his rhetorical genius; and that small square face tightened now,
with the anxiety and compromise of the prophet who wants both
divine sanction and a diet much spicier than locusts and wild
honey. Gid already felt a little dizzy on the path that mounted
high above his father's business of embalming hoot-owls. He could
feel a forecast of regret that life was going to yank him up to
greatness and mountain-sickness.
Into the office of the dean of Adelbert College hastened a chunky
young man with hair like a tortoise-shell cat. He glared down at
the astonished dean, upraised a sturdy arm like a traffic officer,
"'If they dare to come out in the open field and defend the gold
standard as a good thing, we will fight them to the uttermost!'
"Yes, yes," the dean said, soothingly. He was an aging man and a
careful scholar, for Adelbert was a respectable small Presbyterian
college. And he was used to freshmen. But Gid Planish was
furiously going on:
"'Having behind us the producing masses of this nation and the
world, supported by the industrial interests--'"
The dean interrupted, "It's 'commercial interests,' not 'industrial
interests.' If you must quote William Jennings Bryan, do be
accurate, my young friend."
Gid looked pained. Through all of his long and ambitious life--he
was now eighteen--he had been oppressed by just such cynical
misunderstanding. But he knew the Bryan speech clear to the end,
and he was a natural public leader, who never wasted any
information that he possessed. He roared on:
"'--supported by the commercial interests, the laboring interests,
and the toilers everywhere, we will answer their demand for a gold
standard by saying to them: "You shall not press down upon the
brow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind
upon a cross of gold,"' and look, Dean, I got to take Forensics and
Extempore Speaking, I got to, that's what I came to Adelbert for,
and I asked the prof--"
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About the Author
Born in 1885 in Minnesota, Sinclair Lewis worked as a newspaper journalist before becoming an acclaimed novelist. Known for their satirical take on modern affairs, his best-known books include Main Street, Arrowsmith, Babbitt, and Dodsworth. In 1930, he became the first U.S. writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Lewis died in1951 in Italy.