Part 3 out of 12
and screwing them to second-story jambs. While Kennicott
put up his windows Carol danced inside the bedrooms and
begged him not to swallow the screws, which he held in his
mouth like an extraordinary set of external false teeth.
The universal sign of winter was the town handyman--
Miles Bjornstam, a tall, thick, red-mustached bachelor, opinionated
atheist, general-store arguer, cynical Santa Claus. Children
loved him, and he sneaked away from work to tell them
improbable stories of sea-faring and horse-trading and bears.
The children's parents either laughed at him or hated him. He
was the one democrat in town. He called both Lyman Cass
the miller and the Finn homesteader from Lost Lake by their
first names. He was known as "The Red Swede," and considered
Bjornstam could do anything with his hands--solder a pan,
weld an automobile spring, soothe a frightened filly, tinker a
clock, carve a Gloucester schooner which magically went into
a bottle. Now, for a week, he was commissioner general of
Gopher Prairie. He was the only person besides the repairman
at Sam Clark's who understood plumbing. Everybody begged
him to look over the furnace and the water-pipes. He rushed
from house to house till after bedtime--ten o'clock. Icicles
from burst water-pipes hung along the skirt of his brown dog-
skin overcoat; his plush cap, which he never took off in the
house, was a pulp of ice and coal-dust; his red hands were
cracked to rawness; he chewed the stub of a cigar.
But he was courtly to Carol. He stooped to examine the
furnace flues; he straightened, glanced down at her, and
hemmed, "Got to fix your furnace, no matter what else I do."
The poorer houses of Gopher Prairie, where the services of
Miles Bjornstam were a luxury--which included the shanty
of Miles Bjornstam--were banked to the lower windows with
earth and manure. Along the railroad the sections of snow
fence, which had been stacked all summer in romantic wooden
tents occupied by roving small boys, were set up to prevent
drifts from covering the track.
The farmers came into town in home-made sleighs, with bed-
quilts and hay piled in the rough boxes.
Fur coats, fur caps, fur mittens, overshoes buckling almost
to the knees, gray knitted scarfs ten feet long, thick woolen
socks, canvas jackets lined with fluffy yellow wool like the
plumage of ducklings, moccasins, red flannel wristlets for the
blazing chapped wrists of boys--these protections against winter
were busily dug out of moth-ball-sprinkled drawers and
tar-bags in closets, and all over town small boys were squealing,
"Oh, there's my mittens!" or "Look at my shoe-packs!"
There is so sharp a division between the panting summer and
the stinging winter of the Northern plains that they rediscovered
with surprise and a feeling of heroism this armor of
an Artic explorer.
Winter garments surpassed even personal gossip as the
topic at parties. It was good form to ask, "Put on your
heavies yet?" There were as many distinctions in wraps as in
motor cars. The lesser sort appeared in yellow and black
dogskin coats, but Kennicott was lordly in a long raccoon
ulster and a new seal cap. When the snow was too deep for
his motor he went off on country calls in a shiny, floral, steel-
tipped cutter, only his ruddy nose and his cigar emerging from
Carol herself stirred Main Street by a loose coat of nutria.
Her finger-tips loved the silken fur.
Her liveliest activity now was organizing outdoor sports in
the motor-paralyzed town.
The automobile and bridge-whist had not only made more
evident the social divisions in Gopher Prairie but they had
also enfeebled the love of activity. It was so rich-looking to
sit and drive--and so easy. Skiing and sliding were "stupid"
and "old-fashioned." In fact, the village longed for the ele-
gance of city recreations almost as much as the cities longed
for village sports; and Gopher Prairie took as much pride in
neglecting coasting as St. Paul--or New York--in going
coasting. Carol did inspire a successful skating-party in mid-
November. Plover Lake glistened in clear sweeps of gray-
green ice, ringing to the skates. On shore the ice-tipped reeds
clattered in the wind, and oak twigs with stubborn last leaves
hung against a milky sky. Harry Haydock did figure-eights,
and Carol was certain that she had found the perfect life.
But when snow had ended the skating and she tried to get up
a moonlight sliding party, the matrons hesitated to stir away
from their radiators and their daily bridge-whist imitations of
the city. She had to nag them. They scooted down a long
hill on a bob-sled, they upset and got snow down their necks
they shrieked that they would do it again immediately--and
they did not do it again at all.
She badgered another group into going skiing. They shouted
and threw snowballs, and informed her that it was SUCH fun,
and they'd have another skiing expedition right away, and
they jollily returned home and never thereafter left their
manuals of bridge.
Carol was discouraged. She was grateful when Kennicott
invited her to go rabbit-hunting in the woods. She waded
down stilly cloisters between burnt stump and icy oak, through
drifts marked with a million hieroglyphics of rabbit and mouse
and bird. She squealed as he leaped on a pile of brush and
fired at the rabbit which ran out. He belonged there,
masculine in reefer and sweater and high-laced boots. That night
she ate prodigiously of steak and fried potatoes; she produced
electric sparks by touching his ear with her finger-tip; she slept
twelve hours; and awoke to think how glorious was this brave land.
She rose to a radiance of sun on snow. Snug in her furs she
trotted up-town. Frosted shingles smoked against a sky colored
like flax-blossoms, sleigh-bells clinked, shouts of greeting
were loud in the thin bright air, and everywhere was a
rhythmic sound of wood-sawing. It was Saturday, and the
neighbors' sons were getting up the winter fuel. Behind walls
of corded wood in back yards their sawbucks stood in
depressions scattered with canary-yellow flakes of sawdust. The
frames of their buck-saws were cherry-red, the blades blued
steel, and the fresh cut ends of the sticks--poplar, maple, iron-
wood, birch--were marked with engraved rings of growth. The
boys wore shoe-packs, blue flannel shirts with enormous pearl
buttons, and mackinaws of crimson, lemon yellow, and foxy brown.
Carol cried "Fine day!" to the boys; she came in a glow
to Howland & Gould's grocery, her collar white with frost
from her breath; she bought a can of tomatoes as though it
were Orient fruit; and returned home planning to surprise
Kennicott with an omelet creole for dinner.
So brilliant was the snow-glare that when she entered the
house she saw the door-knobs, the newspaper on the table,
every white surface as dazzling mauve, and her head was dizzy
in the pyrotechnic dimness. When her eyes had recovered she
felt expanded, drunk with health, mistress of life. The world
was so luminous that she sat down at her rickety little desk in
the living-room to make a poem. (She got no farther than
"The sky is bright, the sun is warm, there ne'er will be
In the mid-afternoon of this same day Kennicott was called
into the country. It was Bea's evening out--her evening for
the Lutheran Dance. Carol was alone from three till midnight.
She wearied of reading pure love stories in the magazines
and sat by a radiator, beginning to brood.
Thus she chanced to discover that she had nothing to do.
She had, she meditated, passed through the novelty of seeing
the town and meeting people, of skating and sliding and
hunting. Bea was competent; there was no household labor
except sewing and darning and gossipy assistance to Bea in
bed-making. She couldn't satisfy her ingenuity in planning
meals. At Dahl & Oleson's Meat Market you didn't give
orders--you wofully inquired whether there was anything
today besides steak and pork and ham. The cuts of beef were
not cuts. They were hacks. Lamb chops were as exotic as
sharks' fins. The meat-dealers shipped their best to the city,
with its higher prices.
In all the shops there was the same lack of choice. She
could not find a glass-headed picture-nail in town; she did
not hunt for the sort of veiling she wanted--she took what
she could get; and only at Howland & Gould's was there such
a luxury as canned asparagus. Routine care was all she could
devote to the house. Only by such fussing as the Widow
Bogart's could she make it fill her time.
She could not have outside employment. To the village
doctor's wife it was taboo.
She was a woman with a working brain and no work.
There were only three things which she could do: Have
children; start her career of reforming; or become so definitely
a part of the town that she would be fulfilled by the activities
of church and study-club and bridge-parties.
Children, yes, she wanted them, but---- She was not quite
ready. She had been embarrassed by Kennicott's frankness,
but she agreed with him that in the insane condition of civilization,
which made the rearing of citizens more costly and perilous
than any other crime, it was inadvisable to have children till
he had made more money. She was sorry---- Perhaps he had
made all the mystery of love a mechanical cautiousness but----
She fled from the thought with a dubious, "Some day."
Her "reforms," her impulses toward beauty in raw Main
Street, they had become indistinct. But she would set them
going now. She would! She swore it with soft fist beating
the edges of the radiator. And at the end of all her vows
she had no notion as to when and where the crusade was to
Become an authentic part of the town? She began to think
with unpleasant lucidity. She reflected that she did not know
whether the people liked her. She had gone to the women at
afternoon-coffees, to the merchants in their stores, with so many
outpouring comments and whimsies that she hadn't given them
a chance to betray their opinions of her. The men smiled--
but did they like her? She was lively among the women--
but was she one of them? She could not recall many times
when she had been admitted to the whispering of scandal
which is the secret chamber of Gopher Prairie conversation.
She was poisoned with doubt, as she drooped up to bed.
Next day, through her shopping, her mind sat back and
observed. Dave Dyer and Sam Clark were as cordial as
she had been fancying; but wasn't there an impersonal abruptness
in the "H' are yuh?" of Chet Dashaway? Howland the
grocer was curt. Was that merely his usual manner?
"It's infuriating to have to pay attention to what people
think. In St. Paul I didn't care. But here I'm spied on.
They're watching me. I mustn't let it make me self-conscious,"
she coaxed herself--overstimulated by the drug of thought,
and offensively on the defensive.
A thaw which stripped the snow from the sidewalks; a
ringing iron night when the lakes could be heard booming;
a clear roistering morning. In tam o'shanter and tweed skirt
Carol felt herself a college junior going out to play hockey.
She wanted to whoop, her legs ached to run. On the way
home from shopping she yielded, as a pup would have yielded.
She galloped down a block and as she jumped from a curb
across a welter of slush, she gave a student "Yippee!"
She saw that in a window three old women were gasping.
Their triple glare was paralyzing. Across the street, at
another window, the curtain had secretively moved. She stopped,
walked on sedately, changed from the girl Carol into Mrs. Dr.
She never again felt quite young enough and defiant enough
and free enough to run and halloo in the public streets; and
it was as a Nice Married Woman that she attended the next
weekly bridge of the Jolly Seventeen.
The Jolly Seventeen (the membership of which ranged from
fourteen to twenty-six) was the social cornice of Gopher
Prairie. It was the country club, the diplomatic set, the St.
Cecilia, the Ritz oval room, the Club de Vingt. To belong to
it was to be "in." Though its membership partly coincided
with that of the Thanatopsis study club, the Jolly Seventeen
as a separate entity guffawed at the Thanatopsis, and
considered it middle-class and even "highbrow."
Most of the Jolly Seventeen were young married women,
with their husbands as associate members. Once a week they
had a women's afternoon-bridge; once a month the husbands
joined them for supper and evening-bridge; twice a year they
had dances at I. O. O. F. Hall. Then the town exploded. Only
at the annual balls of the Firemen and of the Eastern Star
was there such prodigality of chiffon scarfs and tangoing and
heart-burnings, and these rival institutions were not select--
hired girls attended the Firemen's Ball, with section-hands
and laborers. Ella Stowbody had once gone to a Jolly Seventeen
Soiree in the village hack, hitherto confined to chief
mourners at funerals; and Harry Haydock and Dr. Terry Gould
always appeared in the town's only specimens of evening clothes.
The afternoon-bridge of the Jolly Seventeen which followed
Carol's lonely doubting was held at Juanita Haydock's new
concrete bungalow, with its door of polished oak and beveled
plate-glass, jar of ferns in the plastered hall, and in the
living-room, a fumed oak Morris chair, sixteen color-prints,
and a square varnished table with a mat made of cigar-ribbons
on which was one Illustrated Gift Edition and one pack of
cards in a burnt-leather case.
Carol stepped into a sirocco of furnace heat. They were
already playing. Despite her flabby resolves she had not yet
learned bridge. She was winningly apologetic about it to
Juanita, and ashamed that she should have to go on being
Mrs. Dave Dyer, a sallow woman with a thin prettiness
devoted to experiments in religious cults, illnesses, and scandal-
bearing, shook her finger at Carol and trilled, "You're a
naughty one! I don't believe you appreciate the honor, when
you got into the Jolly Seventeen so easy!"
Mrs. Chet Dashaway nudged her neighbor at the second
table. But Carol kept up the appealing bridal manner so far
as possible. She twittered, "You're perfectly right. I'm a
lazy thing. I'll make Will start teaching me this very evening."
Her supplication had all the sound of birdies in the nest, and
Easter church-bells, and frosted Christmas cards. Internally
she snarled, "That ought to be saccharine enough." She sat
in the smallest rocking-chair, a model of Victorian modesty.
But she saw or she imagined that the women who had gurgled
at her so welcomingly when she had first come to Gopher
Prairie were nodding at her brusquely.
During the pause after the first game she petitioned Mrs.
Jackson Elder, "Don't you think we ought to get up another
bob-sled party soon?"
"It's so cold when you get dumped in the snow," said
Mrs. Elder, indifferently.
"I hate snow down my neck," volunteered Mrs. Dave Dyer,
with an unpleasant look at Carol and, turning her back, she
bubbled at Rita Simons, "Dearie, won't you run in this
evening? I've got the loveliest new Butterick pattern I want to
Carol crept back to her chair. In the fervor of discussing
the game they ignored her. She was not used to being a
wallflower. She struggled to keep from oversensitiveness, from
becoming unpopular by the sure method of believing that she
was unpopular; but she hadn't much reserve of patience, and
at the end of the second game, when Ella Stowbody sniffily
asked her, "Are you going to send to Minneapolis for your
dress for the next soiree--heard you were," Carol said "Don't
know yet" with unnecessary sharpness.
She was relieved by the admiration with which the jeune fille
Rita Simons looked at the steel buckles on her pumps; but
she resented Mrs. Howland's tart demand, "Don't you find
that new couch of yours is too broad to be practical?" She
nodded, then shook her head, and touchily left Mrs. Howland
to get out of it any meaning she desired. Immediately she
wanted to make peace. She was close to simpering in the
sweetness with which she addressed Mrs Howland: "I think
that is the prettiest display of beef-tea your husband has in
"Oh yes, Gopher Prairie isn't so much behind the times,"
gibed Mrs. Howland. Some one giggled.
Their rebuffs made her haughty; her haughtiness irritated
them to franker rebuffs; they were working up to a state of
painfully righteous war when they were saved by the coming
Though Juanita Haydock was highly advanced in the matters
of finger-bowls, doilies, and bath-mats, her "refreshments"
were typical of all the afternoon-coffees. Juanita's best friends,
Mrs. Dyer and Mrs. Dashaway, passed large dinner plates,
each with a spoon, a fork, and a coffee cup without saucer.
They apologized and discussed the afternoon's game as they
passed through the thicket of women's feet. Then they
distributed hot buttered rolls, coffee poured from an enamel-ware
pot, stuffed olives, potato salad, and angel's-food cake. There
was, even in the most strictly conforming Gopher Prairie
circles, a certain option as to collations. The olives need not
be stuffed. Doughnuts were in some houses well thought of as
a substitute for the hot buttered rolls. But there was in all
the town no heretic save Carol who omitted angel's-food.
They ate enormously. Carol had a suspicion that the
thriftier housewives made the afternoon treat do for evening
She tried to get back into the current. She edged over to
Mrs. McGanum. Chunky, amiable, young Mrs. McGanum
with her breast and arms of a milkmaid, and her loud delayed
laugh which burst startlingly from a sober face, was the
daughter of old Dr. Westlake, and the wife of Westlake's
partner, Dr. McGanum. Kennicott asserted that Westlake and
McGanum and their contaminated families were tricky, but
Carol had found them gracious. She asked for friendliness by
crying to Mrs. McGanum, "How is the baby's throat now?"
and she was attentive while Mrs. McGanum rocked and knitted
and placidly described symptoms.
Vida Sherwin came in after school, with Miss Ethel Villets,
the town librarian. Miss Sherwin's optimistic presence gave
Carol more confidence. She talked. She informed the circle
"I drove almost down to Wahkeenyan with Will, a few days
ago. Isn't the country lovely! And I do admire the Scandinavian
farmers down there so: their big red barns and silos
and milking-machines and everything. Do you all know that
lonely Lutheran church, with the tin-covered spire, that stands
out alone on a hill? It's so bleak; somehow it seems so brave.
I do think the Scandinavians are the hardiest and best
"Oh, do you THINK so?" protested Mrs. Jackson Elder.
"My husband says the Svenskas that work in the planing-mill
are perfectly terrible--so silent and cranky, and so selfish, the
way they keep demanding raises. If they had their way they'd
simply ruin the business."
"Yes, and they're simply GHASTLY hired girls!" wailed Mrs.
Dave Dyer. "I swear, I work myself to skin and bone trying
to please my hired girls--when I can get them! I do everything
in the world for them. They can have their gentleman
friends call on them in the kitchen any time, and they get
just the same to eat as we do, if there's, any left over, and I
practically never jump on them."
Juanita Haydock rattled, "They're ungrateful, all that class
of people. I do think the domestic problem is simply becoming
awful. I don't know what the country's coming to, with these
Scandahoofian clodhoppers demanding every cent you can save,
and so ignorant and impertinent, and on my word, demanding
bath-tubs and everything--as if they weren't mighty good and
lucky at home if they got a bath in the wash-tub."
They were off, riding hard. Carol thought of Bea and waylaid them:
"But isn't it possibly the fault of the mistresses if the maids
are ungrateful? For generations we've given them the leavings
of food, and holes to live in. I don't want to boast, but I
must say I don't have much trouble with Bea. She's so friendly.
The Scandinavians are sturdy and honest----"
Mrs. Dave Dyer snapped, "Honest? Do you call it honest
to hold us up for every cent of pay they can get? I can't
say that I've had any of them steal anything (though you
might call it stealing to eat so much that a roast of beef hardly
lasts three days), but just the same I don't intend to let them
think they can put anything over on ME! I always make them
pack and unpack their trunks down-stairs, right under my
eyes, and then I know they aren't being tempted to dishonesty
by any slackness on MY part!"
"How much do the maids get here?" Carol ventured.
Mrs. B. J. Gougerling, wife of the banker, stated in a shocked
manner, "Any place from three-fifty to five-fifty a week! I
know positively that Mrs. Clark, after swearing that she
wouldn't weaken and encourage them in their outrageous
demands, went and paid five-fifty--think of it! practically a
dollar a day for unskilled work and, of course, her food and
room and a chance to do her own washing right in with the
rest of the wash. HOW MUCH DO YOU PAY, Mrs. KENNICOTT?"
"Yes! How much do you pay?" insisted half a dozen.
"W-why, I pay six a week," she feebly confessed.
They gasped. Juanita protested, "Don't you think it's hard
on the rest of us when you pay so much?" Juanita's demand
was re-inforced by the universal glower.
Carol was angry. "I don't care! A maid has one of the
hardest jobs on earth. She works from ten to eighteen hours
a day. She has to wash slimy dishes and dirty clothes. She
tends the children and runs to the door with wet chapped
Mrs. Dave Dyer broke into Carol's peroration with a furious,
"That's all very well, but believe me, I do those things myself
when I'm without a maid--and that's a good share of the time
for a person that isn't willing to yield and pay exorbitant
Carol was retorting, "But a maid does it for strangers, and
all she gets out of it is the pay----"
Their eyes were hostile. Four of them were talking at once
Vida Sherwin's dictatorial voice cut through, took control of
"Tut, tut, tut, tut! What angry passions--and what an
idiotic discussion! All of you getting too serious. Stop it!
Carol Kennicott, you're probably right, but you're too much
ahead of the times. Juanita, quit looking so belligerent. What
is this, a card party or a hen fight? Carol, you stop admiring
yourself as the Joan of Arc of the hired girls, or I'll spank
you. You come over here and talk libraries with Ethel Villets.
Boooooo! If there's any more pecking, I'll take charge of
the hen roost myself!"
They all laughed artificially, and Carol obediently "talked
A small-town bungalow, the wives of a village doctor and
a village dry-goods merchant, a provincial teacher, a colloquial
brawl over paying a servant a dollar more a week. Yet this
insignificance echoed cellar-plots and cabinet meetings and
labor conferences in Persia and Prussia, Rome and Boston, and
the orators who deemed themselves international leaders were
but the raised voices of a billion Juanitas denouncing a million
Carols, with a hundred thousand Vida Sherwins trying to shoo
away the storm.
Carol felt guilty. She devoted herself to admiring the
spinsterish Miss Villets--and immediately committed another
offense against the laws of decency.
"We haven't seen you at the library yet," Miss Villets
"I've wanted to run in so much but I've been getting settled
and---- I'll probably come in so often you'll get tired of
me! I hear you have such a nice library."
"There are many who like it. We have two thousand more
books than Wakamin."
"Isn't that fine. I'm sure you are largely responsible.
I've had some experience, in St. Paul."
"So I have been informed. Not that I entirely approve
of library methods in these large cities. So careless, letting
tramps and all sorts of dirty persons practically sleep in the
"I know, but the poor souls---- Well, I'm sure you will
agree with me in one thing: The chief task of a librarian is to
get people to read."
"You feel so? My feeling, Mrs. Kennicott, and I am merely quoting
the librarian of a very large college, is that the first duty
of the CONSCIENTIOUS librarian is to preserve the books."
"Oh!" Carol repented her "Oh." Miss Villets stiffened,
"It may be all very well in cities, where they have unlimited funds,
to let nasty children ruin books and just deliberately tear them up,
and fresh young men take more books out than they are entitled to by
the regulations, but I'm never going to permit it in this library!"
"What if some children are destructive? They learn to read.
Books are cheaper than minds."
"Nothing is cheaper than the minds of some of these children
that come in and bother me simply because their mothers
don't keep them home where they belong. Some librarians
may choose to be so wishy-washy and turn their libraries into
nursing-homes and kindergartens, but as long as I'm in charge,
the Gopher Prairie library is going to be quiet and decent, and
the books well kept!"
Carol saw that the others were listening, waiting for her
to be objectionable. She flinched before their dislike. She
hastened to smile in agreement with Miss Villets, to glance
publicly at her wrist-watch, to warble that it was "so late--
have to hurry home--husband--such nice party--maybe you
were right about maids, prejudiced because Bea so nice--such
perfectly divine angel's-food, Mrs. Haydock must give me the
recipe--good-by, such happy party----"
She walked home. She reflected, "It was my fault. I was
touchy. And I opposed them so much. Only---- I can't!
I can't be one of them if I must damn all the maids toiling
in filthy kitchens, all the ragged hungry children. And these
women are to be my arbiters, the rest of my life!"
She ignored Bea's call from the kitchen; she ran up-stairs
to the unfrequented guest-room; she wept in terror, her body
a pale arc as she knelt beside a cumbrous black-walnut bed,
beside a puffy mattress covered with a red quilt, in a shuttered
and airless room.
"DON'T I, in looking for things to do, show that I'm not
attentive enough to Will? Am I impressed enough by his
work? I will be. Oh, I will be. If I can't be one of the
town, if I must be an outcast----"
When Kennicott came home she bustled, "Dear, you must
tell me a lot more about your cases. I want to know. I want
"Sure. You bet." And he went down to fix the furnace.
At supper she asked, "For instance, what did you do
"Do today? How do you mean?"
"Medically. I want to understand----"
"Today? Oh, there wasn't much of anything: couple
chumps with bellyaches, and a sprained wrist, and a fool
woman that thinks she wants to kill herself because her
husband doesn't like her and---- Just routine work."
"But the unhappy woman doesn't sound routine!"
"Her? Just case of nerves. You can't do much with these
"But dear, PLEASE, will you tell me about the next case
that you do think is interesting?"
"Sure. You bet. Tell you about anything that---- Say
that's pretty good salmon. Get it at Howland's?"
Four days after the Jolly Seventeen debacle Vida Sherwin
called and casually blew Carol's world to pieces.
"May I come in and gossip a while?" she said, with such
excess of bright innocence that Carol was uneasy. Vida took
off her furs with a bounce, she sat down as though it were
a gymnasium exercise, she flung out:
"Feel disgracefully good, this weather! Raymond Wutherspoon
says if he had my energy he'd be a grand opera singer.
I always think this climate is the finest in the world, and my
friends are the dearest people in the world, and my work is
the most essential thing in the world. Probably I fool myself.
But I know one thing for certain: You're the pluckiest little
idiot in the world."
"And so you are about to flay me alive." Carol was
cheerful about it.
"Am I? Perhaps. I've been wondering--I know that the
third party to a squabble is often the most to blame: the one
who runs between A and B having a beautiful time telling each
of them what the other has said. But I want you to take a
big part in vitalizing Gopher Prairie and so---- Such a very
unique opportunity and---- Am I silly?"
"I know what you mean. I was too abrupt at the Jolly
"It isn't that. Matter of fact, I'm glad you told them some
wholesome truths about servants. (Though perhaps you were
just a bit tactless.) It's bigger than that. I wonder if you
understand that in a secluded community like this every
newcomer is on test? People cordial to her but watching her all
the time. I remember when a Latin teacher came here from
Wellesley, they resented her broad A. Were sure it was
affected. Of course they have discussed you----"
"Have they talked about me much?"
"I always feel as though I walked around in a cloud, looking
out at others but not being seen. I feel so inconspicuous and
so normal--so normal that there's nothing about me to discuss.
I can't realize that Mr. and Mrs. Haydock must gossip about
me." Carol was working up a small passion of distaste. "And
I don't like it. It makes me crawly to think of their daring
to talk over all I do and say. Pawing me over! I resent it.
"Wait, child! Perhaps they resent some things in you. I
want you to try and be impersonal. They'd paw over anybody
who came in new. Didn't you, with newcomers in
"Well then! Will you be impersonal? I'm paying you the
compliment of supposing that you can be. I want you to
be big enough to help me make this town worth while."
"I'll be as impersonal as cold boiled potatoes. (Not that
I shall ever be able to help you `make the town worth while.')
What do they say about me? Really. I want to know."
"Of course the illiterate ones resent your references to
anything farther away than Minneapolis. They're so suspicious--
that's it, suspicious. And some think you dress too well."
"Oh, they do, do they! Shall I dress in gunny-sacking to
"Please! Are you going to be a baby?"
"I'll be good," sulkily.
"You certainly will, or I won't tell you one single thing.
You must understand this: I'm not asking you to change yourself.
Just want you to know what they think. You must
do that, no matter how absurd their prejudices are, if you're
going to handle them. Is it your ambition to make this a
better town, or isn't it?"
"I don't know whether it is or not!"
"Why--why---- Tut, tut, now, of course it is! Why, I
depend on you. You're a born reformer."
"I am not--not any more!"
"Of course you are."
"Oh, if I really could help---- So they think I'm
"My lamb, they do! Now don't say they're nervy. After
all, Gopher Prairie standards are as reasonable to Gopher
Prairie as Lake Shore Drive standards are to Chicago. And
there's more Gopher Prairies than there are Chicagos. Or
Londons. And---- I'll tell you the whole story: They think
you're showing off when you say `American' instead of
`Ammurrican.' They think you're too frivolous. Life's so
serious to them that they can't imagine any kind of laughter
except Juanita's snortling. Ethel Villets was sure you were
patronizing her when----"
"Oh, I was not!"
"----you talked about encouraging reading; and Mrs. Elder
thought you were patronizing when you said she had `such
a pretty little car.' She thinks it's an enormous car! And
some of the merchants say you're too flip when you talk to
them in the store and----"
"Poor me, when I was trying to be friendly!"
"----every housewife in town is doubtful about your being
so chummy with your Bea. All right to be kind, but they say
you act as though she were your cousin. (Wait now! There's
plenty more.) And they think you were eccentric in
furnishing this room--they think the broad couch and that
Japanese dingus are absurd. (Wait! I know they're silly.) And
I guess I've heard a dozen criticize you because you don't
go to church oftener and----"
"I can't stand it--I can't bear to realize that they've been
saying all these things while I've been going about so happily
and liking them. I wonder if you ought to have told me? It
will make me self-conscious."
"I wonder the same thing. Only answer I can get is the
old saw about knowledge being power. And some day you'll
see how absorbing it is to have power, even here; to control
the town---- Oh, I'm a crank. But I do like to see things
"It hurts. It makes these people seem so beastly and
treacherous, when I've been perfectly natural with them. But
let's have it all. What did they say about my Chinese house-
"Go on. Or I'll make up worse things than anything you
can tell me."
"They did enjoy it. But I guess some of them felt you
were showing off--pretending that your husband is richer than
"I can't---- Their meanness of mind is beyond any horrors
I could imagine. They really thought that I---- And you
want to `reform' people like that when dynamite is so cheap?
Who dared to say that? The rich or the poor?"
"Fairly well assorted."
"Can't they at least understand me well enough to see
that though I might be affected and culturine, at least I simply
couldn't commit that other kind of vulgarity? If they must
know, you may tell them, with my compliments, that Will
makes about four thousand a year, and the party cost half of
what they probably thought it did. Chinese things are not
very expensive, and I made my own costume----"
"Stop it! Stop beating me! I know all that. What they
meant was: they felt you were starting dangerous competition
by giving a party such as most people here can't afford. Four
thousand is a pretty big income for this town."
"I never thought of starting competition. Will you believe
that it was in all love and friendliness that I tried to give
them the gayest party I could? It was foolish; it was childish
and noisy. But I did mean it so well."
"I know, of course. And it certainly is unfair of them to
make fun of your having that Chinese food--chow men, was
it?--and to laugh about your wearing those pretty trousers----"
Carol sprang up, whimpering, "Oh, they didn't do that!
They didn't poke fun at my feast, that I ordered so carefully
for them! And my little Chinese costume that I was so happy
making--I made it secretly, to surprise them. And they've
been ridiculing it, all this while!"
She was huddled on the couch.
Vida was stroking her hair, muttering, "I shouldn't----"
Shrouded in shame, Carol did not know when Vida slipped
away. The clock's bell, at half past five, aroused her. "I
must get hold of myself before Will comes. I hope he never
knows what a fool his wife is. . . . Frozen, sneering,
Like a very small, very lonely girl she trudged up-stairs,
slow step by step, her feet dragging, her hand on the rail.
It was not her husband to whom she wanted to run for
protection--it was her father, her smiling understanding father,
dead these twelve years.
Kennicott was yawning, stretched in the largest chair,
between the radiator and a small kerosene stove
Cautiously, "Will dear, I wonder if the people here don't
criticize me sometimes? They must. I mean: if they ever do,
you mustn't let it bother you."
"Criticize you? Lord, I should say not. They all keep
telling me you're the swellest girl they ever saw."
"Well, I've just fancied---- The merchants probably think
I'm too fussy about shopping. I'm afraid I bore Mr. Dashaway
and Mr. Howland and Mr. Ludelmeyer."
"I can tell you how that is. I didn't want to speak of it
but since you've brought it up: Chet Dashaway probably
resents the fact that you got this new furniture down in the
Cities instead of here. I didn't want to raise any objection at
the time but---- After all, I make my money here and they
naturally expect me to spend it here."
"If Mr. Dashaway will kindly tell me how any civilized
person can furnish a room out of the mortuary pieces that he
calls----" She remembered. She said meekly, "But I understand."
"And Howland and Ludelmeyer---- Oh, you've probably
handed 'em a few roasts for the bum stocks they carry, when
you just meant to jolly 'em. But rats, what do we care!
This is an independent town, not like these Eastern holes
where you have to watch your step all the time, and live up
to fool demands and social customs, and a lot of old tabbies
always busy criticizing. Everybody's free here to do what he
wants to." He said it with a flourish, and Carol perceived
that he believed it. She turned her breath of fury into a
"By the way, Carrie, while we're talking of this: Of course
I like to keep independent, and I don't believe in this business
of binding yourself to trade with the man that trades with
you unless you really want to, but same time: I'd be just
as glad if you dealt with Jenson or Ludelmeyer as much as
you ran, instead of Howland & Gould, who go to Dr. Gould
every last time, and the whole tribe of 'em the same way.
I don't see why I should be paying out my good money for
groceries and having them pass it on to Terry Gould!"
"I've gone to Howland & Gould because they're better, and
"I know. I don't mean cut them out entirely. Course
Jenson is tricky--give you short weight--and Ludelmeyer is
a shiftless old Dutch hog. But same time, I mean let's keep
the trade in the family whenever it is convenient, see how I
"Well, guess it's about time to turn in."
He yawned, went out to look at the thermometer, slammed
the door, patted her head, unbuttoned his waistcoat, yawned,
wound the clock, went down to look at the furnace, yawned,
and clumped up-stairs to bed, casually scratching his thick
Till he bawled, "Aren't you ever coming up to bed?" she
SHE had tripped into the meadow to teach the lambs a pretty
educational dance and found that the lambs were wolves.
There was no way out between their pressing gray shoulders.
She was surrounded by fangs and sneering eyes.
She could not go on enduring the hidden derision. She
wanted to flee. She wanted to hide in the generous indifference
of cities. She practised saying to Kennicott, "Think perhaps
I'll run down to St. Paul for a few days." But she could
not trust herself to say it carelessly; could not abide his
Reform the town? All she wanted was to be tolerated!
She could not look directly at people. She flushed and
winced before citizens who a week ago had been amusing
objects of study, and in their good-mornings she heard a cruel
She encountered Juanita Haydock at Ole Jenson's grocery.
She besought, "Oh, how do you do! Heavens, what beautiful
celery that is!"
"Yes, doesn't it look fresh. Harry simply has to have his
celery on Sunday, drat the man!"
Carol hastened out of the shop exulting, "She didn't make
fun of me. . . . Did she?"
In a week she had recovered from consciousness of
insecurity, of shame and whispering notoriety, but she kept her
habit of avoiding people. She walked the streets with her head
down. When she spied Mrs. McGanum or Mrs. Dyer ahead
she crossed over with an elaborate pretense of looking at a
billboard. Always she was acting, for the benefit of every one
she saw--and for the benefit of the ambushed leering eyes
which she did not see.
She perceived that Vida Sherwin had told the truth. Whether
she entered a store, or swept the back porch, or stood at the
bay-window in the living-room, the village peeped at her.
Once she had swung along the street triumphant in making
a home. Now she glanced at each house, and felt, when she
was safely home, that she had won past a thousand enemies
armed with ridicule. She told herself that her sensitiveness
was preposterous, but daily she was thrown into panic. She
saw curtains slide back into innocent smoothness. Old women
who had been entering their houses slipped out again to stare
at her--in the wintry quiet she could hear them tiptoeing
on their porches. When she had for a blessed hour forgotten
the searchlight, when she was scampering through a chill dusk,
happy in yellow windows against gray night, her heart checked
as she realized that a head covered with a shawl was thrust
up over a snow-tipped bush to watch her.
She admitted that she was taking herself too seriously; that
villagers gape at every one. She became placid, and thought
well of her philosophy. But next morning she had a shock
of shame as she entered Ludelmeyer's The grocer, his clerk,
and neurotic Mrs. Dave Dyer had been giggling about something.
They halted, looked embarrassed, babbled about onions.
Carol felt guilty. That evening when Kennicott took her to
call on the crochety Lyman Casses, their hosts seemed flustered
at their arrival. Kennicott jovially hooted, "What makes you
so hang-dog, Lym?" The Casses tittered feebly.
Except Dave Dyer, Sam Clark, and Raymie Wutherspoon,
there were no merchants of whose welcome Carol was certain.
She knew that she read mockery into greetings but she could
not control her suspicion, could not rise from her psychic
collapse. She alternately raged and flinched at the superiority of
the merchants. They did not know that they were being rude,
but they meant to have it understood that they were prosperous
and "not scared of no doctor's wife." They often said, "One
man's as good as another--and a darn sight better." This
motto, however, they did not commend to farmer customers
who had had crop failures. The Yankee merchants were
crabbed; and Ole Jenson, Ludelmeyer, and Gus Dahl, from the
"Old Country," wished to be taken for Yankees. James
Madison Howland, born in New Hampshire, and Ole Jenson,
born in Sweden, both proved that they were free American
citizens by grunting, "I don't know whether I got any or not,"
or "Well, you can't expect me to get it delivered by noon."
It was good form for the customers to fight back. Juanita
Haydock cheerfully jabbered, "You have it there by twelve or
I'll snatch that fresh delivery-boy bald-headed." But Carol
had never been able to play the game of friendly rudeness;
and now she was certain that she never would learn it. She
formed the cowardly habit of going to Axel Egge's.
Axel was not respectable and rude. He was still a foreigner,
and he expected to remain one. His manner was heavy and
uninterrogative. His establishment was more fantastic than
any cross-roads store. No one save Axel himself could find
anything. A part of the assortment of children's stockings
was under a blanket on a shelf, a part in a tin ginger-snap box,
the rest heaped like a nest of black-cotton snakes upon a flour-
barrel which was surrounded by brooms, Norwegian Bibles,
dried cod for ludfisk, boxes of apricots, and a pair and a half
of lumbermen's rubber-footed boots. The place was crowded
with Scandinavian farmwives, standing aloof in shawls and
ancient fawn-colored leg o' mutton jackets, awaiting the return
of their lords. They spoke Norwegian or Swedish, and looked
at Carol uncomprehendingly. They were a relief to her--
they were not whispering that she was a poseur.
But what she told herself was that Axel Egge's was "so
picturesque and romantic."
It was in the matter of clothes that she was most self-
When she dared to go shopping in her new checked suit with
the black-embroidered sulphur collar, she had as good as
invited all of Gopher Prairie (which interested itself in nothing
so intimately as in new clothes and the cost thereof) to
investigate her. It was a smart suit with lines unfamiliar to the
dragging yellow and pink frocks of the town. The Widow
Bogart's stare, from her porch, indicated, "Well I never saw
anything like that before!" Mrs. McGanum stopped Carol
at the notions shop to hint, "My, that's a nice suit--wasn't
it terribly expensive?" The gang of boys in front of the
drug store commented, "Hey, Pudgie, play you a game of
checkers on that dress." Carol could not endure it. She
drew her fur coat over the suit and hastily fastened the buttons,
while the boys snickered.
No group angered her quite so much as these staring young
She had tried to convince herself that the village, with its
fresh air, its lakes for fishing and swimming, was healthier than
the artificial city. But she was sickened by glimpses of the
gang of boys from fourteen to twenty who loafed before Dyer's
Drug Store, smoking cigarettes, displaying "fancy" shoes and
purple ties and coats of diamond-shaped buttons, whistling
the Hoochi-Koochi and catcalling, "Oh, you baby-doll" at
every passing girl.
She saw them playing pool in the stinking room behind Del
Snafflin's barber shop, and shaking dice in "The Smoke House,"
and gathered in a snickering knot to listen to the "juicy
stories" of Bert Tybee, the bartender of the Minniemashie
House. She heard them smacking moist lips over every love-
scene at the Rosebud Movie Palace. At the counter of the
Greek Confectionery Parlor, while they ate dreadful messes
of decayed bananas, acid cherries, whipped cream, and gelatinous
ice-cream, they screamed to one another, "Hey, lemme
'lone," "Quit dog-gone you, looka what you went and done,
you almost spilled my glass swater," "Like hell I did," "Hey,
gol darn your hide, don't you go sticking your coffin nail in
my i-scream," "Oh you Batty, how juh like dancing with Tillie
McGuire, last night? Some squeezing, heh, kid?"
By diligent consultation of American fiction she discovered
that this was the only virile and amusing manner in which
boys could function; that boys who were not compounded of
the gutter and the mining-camp were mollycoddles and
unhappy. She had taken this for granted. She had studied the
boys pityingly, but impersonally. It had not occurred to her
that they might touch her.
Now she was aware that they knew all about her; that they
were waiting for some affectation over which they could guffaw.
No schoolgirl passed their observation-posts more flushingly
than did Mrs. Dr. Kennicott. In shame she knew that they
glanced appraisingly at her snowy overshoes, speculating about
her legs. Theirs were not young eyes there was no youth
in all the town, she agonized. They were born old, grim and
old and spying and censorious.
She cried again that their youth was senile and cruel on the
day when she overheard Cy Bogart and Earl Haydock.
Cyrus N. Bogart, son of the righteous widow who lived
across the alley, was at this time a boy of fourteen or fifteen.
Carol had already seen quite enough of Cy Bogart. On her
first evening in Gopher Prairie Cy had appeared at the head
of a "charivari," banging immensely upon a discarded
automobile fender. His companions were yelping in imitation of
coyotes. Kennicott had felt rather complimented; had gone
out and distributed a dollar. But Cy was a capitalist in
charivaris. He returned with an entirely new group, and this
time there were three automobile fenders and a carnival rattle.
When Kennicott again interrupted his shaving, Cy piped,
"Naw, you got to give us two dollars," and he got it. A week
later Cy rigged a tic-tac to a window of the living-room, and
the tattoo out of the darkness frightened Carol into screaming.
Since then, in four months, she had beheld Cy hanging a cat,
stealing melons, throwing tomatoes at the Kennicott house, and
making ski-tracks across the lawn, and had heard him
explaining the mysteries of generation, with great audibility and
dismaying knowledge. He was, in fact, a museum specimen
of what a small town, a well-disciplined public school, a
tradition of hearty humor, and a pious mother could produce from
the material of a courageous and ingenious mind.
Carol was afraid of him. Far from protesting when he set
his mongrel on a kitten, she worked hard at not seeing him.
The Kennicott garage was a shed littered with paint-cans,
tools, a lawn-mower, and ancient wisps of hay. Above it was
a loft which Cy Bogart and Earl Haydock, young brother of
Harry, used as a den, for smoking, hiding from whippings,
and planning secret societies. They climbed to it by a ladder
on the alley side of the shed.
This morning of late January, two or three weeks after
Vida's revelations, Carol had gone into the stable-garage to
find a hammer. Snow softened her step. She heard voices
in the loft above her:
"Ah gee, lez--oh, lez go down the lake and swipe some
mushrats out of somebody's traps," Cy was yawning.
"And get our ears beat off!" grumbled Earl Haydock.
"Gosh, these cigarettes are dandy. 'Member when we were
just kids, and used to smoke corn-silk and hayseed?"
"Say Earl, ma says if you chew tobacco you get consumption."
"Aw rats, your old lady is a crank."
"Yuh, that's so." Pause. "But she says she knows a fella
"Aw, gee whiz, didn't Doc Kennicott used to chew tobacco
all the time before he married this-here girl from the Cities?
He used to spit--- Gee! Some shot! He could hit a tree
ten feet off."
This was news to the girl from the Cities.
"Say, how is she?" continued Earl.
"Huh? How's who?"
"You know who I mean, smarty."
A tussle, a thumping of loose boards, silence, weary
narration from Cy:
"Mrs. Kennicott? Oh, she's all right, I guess." Relief to
Carol, below. "She gimme a hunk o' cake, one time. But
Ma says she's stuck-up as hell. Ma's always talking about
her. Ma says if Mrs. Kennicott thought as much about the
doc as she does about her clothes, the doc wouldn't look so
"Yuh. Juanita's always talking about her, too," from Earl.
"She says Mrs. Kennicott thinks she knows it all. Juanita
says she has to laugh till she almost busts every time she
sees Mrs. Kennicott peerading along the street with that `take
a look--I'm a swell skirt' way she's got. But gosh, I don't
pay no attention to Juanita. She's meaner 'n a crab."
"Ma was telling somebody that she heard that Mrs.
Kennicott claimed she made forty dollars a week when she was
on some job in the Cities, and Ma says she knows
posolutely that she never made but eighteen a week--Ma says
that when she's lived here a while she won't go round making
a fool of herself, pulling that bighead stuff on folks that know
a whole lot more than she does. They're all laughing up their
sleeves at her."
"Say, jever notice how Mrs. Kennicott fusses around the
house? Other evening when I was coming over here, she'd
forgot to pull down the curtain, and I watched her for ten
minutes. Jeeze, you'd 'a' died laughing. She was there all
alone, and she must 'a' spent five minutes getting a picture
straight. It was funny as hell the way she'd stick out her finger
to straighten the picture--deedle-dee, see my tunnin' 'ittle
finger, oh my, ain't I cute, what a fine long tail my cat's got!"
"But say, Earl, she's some good-looker, just the same, and
O Ignatz! the glad rags she must of bought for her wedding.
Jever notice these low-cut dresses and these thin shimmy-shirts
she wears? I had a good squint at 'em when they were out
on the line with the wash. And some ankles she's got, heh?"
Then Carol fled.
In her innocence she had not known that the whole town
could discuss even her garments, her body. She felt that she
was being dragged naked down Main Street.
The moment it was dusk she pulled down the window-shades
all the shades, flush with the sill, but beyond them she felt
moist fleering eyes.
She remembered, and tried to forget, and remembered more
sharply the vulgar detail of her husband's having observed the
ancient customs of the land by chewing tobacco. She would
have preferred a prettier vice--gambling or a mistress. For
these she might have found a luxury of forgiveness. She could
not remember any fascinatingly wicked hero of fiction who
chewed tobacco. She asserted that it proved him to be a man
of the bold free West. She tried to align him with the hairy-
chested heroes of the motion-pictures. She curled on the couch
a pallid softness in the twilight, and fought herself, and lost the
battle. Spitting did not identify him with rangers riding the
buttes; it merely bound him to Gopher Prairie--to Nat Hicks
the tailor and Bert Tybee the bartender.
"But he gave it up for me. Oh, what does it matter! We're
all filthy in some things. I think of myself as so superior,
but I do eat and digest, I do wash my dirty paws and scratch.
I'm not a cool slim goddess on a column. There aren't any!
He gave it up for me. He stands by me, believing that every
one loves me. He's the Rock of Ages--in a storm of meanness
that's driving me mad. . .it will drive me mad."
All evening she sang Scotch ballads to Kennicott, and when
she noticed that he was chewing an unlighted cigar she smiled
maternally at his secret.
She could not escape asking (in the exact words and mental
intonations which a thousand million women, dairy wenches
and mischief-making queens, had used before her, and which
a million million women will know hereafter), "Was it all
a horrible mistake, my marrying him?" She quieted the
doubt--without answering it.
Kennicott had taken her north to Lac-qui-Meurt, in the Big
Woods. It was the entrance to a Chippewa Indian reservation,
a sandy settlement among Norway pines on the shore of a
huge snow-glaring lake. She had her first sight of his mother,
except the glimpse at the wedding. Mrs. Kennicott had a
hushed and delicate breeding which dignified her woodeny over-
scrubbed cottage with its worn hard cushions in heavy rockers.
She had never lost the child's miraculous power of wonder.
She asked questions about books and cities. She murmured:
"Will is a dear hard-working boy but he's inclined to be too
serious, and you've taught him how to play. Last night I
heard you both laughing about the old Indian basket-seller,
and I just lay in bed and enjoyed your happiness."
Carol forgot her misery-hunting in this solidarity of family
life. She could depend upon them; she was not battling alone.
Watching Mrs. Kennicott flit about the kitchen she was better
able to translate Kennicott himself. He was matter-of-fact,
yes, and incurably mature. He didn't really play; he let Carol
play with him. But he had his mother's genius for trusting,
her disdain for prying, her sure integrity.
From the two days at Lac-qui-Meurt Carol drew confidence
in herself, and she returned to Gopher Prairie in a throbbing
calm like those golden drugged seconds when, because he is
for an instant free from pain, a sick man revels in living.
A bright hard winter day, the wind shrill, black and silver
clouds booming across the sky, everything in panicky motion
during the brief light. They struggled against the surf of wind,
through deep snow. Kennicott was cheerful. He hailed Loren
Wheeler, "Behave yourself while I been away?" The editor
bellowed, "B' gosh you stayed so long that all your patients
have got well!" and importantly took notes for the Dauntless
about their journey. Jackson Elder cried, "Hey, folks! How's
tricks up North?" Mrs. McGanum waved to them from her
"They're glad to see us. We mean something here. These
people are satisfied. Why can't I be? But can I sit back
all my life and be satisfied with `Hey, folks'? They want
shouts on Main Street, and I want violins in a paneled room.
Vida Sherwin ran in after school a dozen times. She was tactful,
torrentially anecdotal. She had scuttled about town and plucked
compliments: Mrs. Dr. Westlake had pronounced Carol a "very sweet,
bright, cultured young woman," and Brad Bemis, the tinsmith at
Clark's Hardware Store, had declared that she was "easy to work for
and awful easy to look at."
But Carol could not yet take her in. She resented this
outsider's knowledge of her shame. Vida was not too long
tolerant. She hinted, "You're a great brooder, child. Buck up
now. The town's quit criticizing you, almost entirely. Come
with me to the Thanatopsis Club. They have some of the
BEST papers, and current-events discussions--SO interesting."
In Vida's demands Carol felt a compulsion, but she was too
listless to obey.
It was Bea Sorenson who was really her confidante.
However charitable toward the Lower Classes she may have
thought herself, Carol had been reared to assume that servants
belong to a distinct and inferior species. But she discovered
that Bea was extraordinarily like girls she had loved in college,
and as a companion altogether superior to the young matrons
of the Jolly Seventeen. Daily they became more frankly two
girls playing at housework. Bea artlessly considered Carol
the most beautiful and accomplished lady in the country; she
was always shrieking, "My, dot's a swell hat!" or, "Ay t'ink
all dese ladies yoost die when dey see how elegant you do
your hair!" But it was not the humbleness of a servant, nor
the hypocrisy of a slave; it was the admiration of Freshman
They made out the day's menus together. Though they
began with propriety, Carol sitting by the kitchen table and
Bea at the sink or blacking the stove, the conference was
likely to end with both of them by the table, while Bea gurgled
over the ice-man's attempt to kiss her, or Carol admitted,
"Everybody knows that the doctor is lots more clever than
Dr. McGanum." When Carol came in from marketing, Bea
plunged into the hall to take off her coat, rub her frostied
hands, and ask, "Vos dere lots of folks up-town today?"
This was the welcome upon which Carol depended.
Through her weeks of cowering there was no change in
her surface life. No one save Vida was aware of her agonizing.
On her most despairing days she chatted to women on the
street, in stores. But without the protection of Kennicott's
presence she did not go to the Jolly Seventeen; she delivered
herself to the judgment of the town only when she went shopping
and on the ritualistic occasions of formal afternoon calls,
when Mrs. Lyman Cass or Mrs. George Edwin Mott, with
clean gloves and minute handkerchiefs and sealskin card-cases
and countenances of frozen approbation, sat on the edges of
chairs and inquired, "Do you find Gopher Prairie pleasing?"
When they spent evenings of social profit-and-loss at the
Haydocks' or the Dyers' she hid behind Kennicott, playing the
Now she was unprotected. Kennicott had taken a patient
to Rochester for an operation. He would be away for two
or three days. She had not minded; she would loosen the
matrimonial tension and be a fanciful girl for a time. But
now that he was gone the house was listeningly empty. Bea
was out this afternoon--presumably drinking coffee and talking
about "fellows" with her cousin Tina. It was the day
for the monthly supper and evening-bridge of the Jolly
Seventeen, but Carol dared not go.
She sat alone.
THE house was haunted, long before evening. Shadows slipped
down the walls and waited behind every chair.
Did that door move?
No. She wouldn't go to the Jolly Seventeen. She hadn't
energy enough to caper before them, to smile blandly at
Juanita's rudeness. Not today. But she did want a party.
Now! If some one would come in this afternoon, some one
who liked her--Vida or Mrs. Sam Clark or old Mrs. Champ
Perry or gentle Mrs. Dr. Westlake. Or Guy Pollock! She'd
No. That wouldn't be it. They must come of themselves.
Perhaps they would.
She'd have tea ready, anyway. If they came--splendid.
If not--what did she care? She wasn't going to yield to the
village and let down; she was going to keep up a belief in the
rite of tea, to which she had always looked forward as the
symbol of a leisurely fine existence. And it would be just
as much fun, even if it was so babyish, to have tea by herself
and pretend that she was entertaining clever men. It
She turned the shining thought into action. She bustled to
the kitchen, stoked the wood-range, sang Schumann while she
boiled the kettle, warmed up raisin cookies on a newspaper
spread on the rack in the oven. She scampered up-stairs to
bring down her filmiest tea-cloth. She arranged a silver tray.
She proudly carried it into the living-room and set it on the
long cherrywood table, pushing aside a hoop of embroidery,
a volume of Conrad from the library, copies of the Saturday
Evening Post, the Literary Digest, and Kennicott's National
She moved the tray back and forth and regarded the effect.
She shook her head. She busily unfolded the sewing-table
set it in the bay-window, patted the tea-cloth to smoothness,
moved the tray. "Some time I'll have a mahogany tea-table,"
she said happily.
She had brought in two cups, two plates. For herself, a
straight chair, but for the guest the big wing-chair, which she
pantingly tugged to the table.
She had finished all the preparations she could think of. She
sat and waited. She listened for the door-bell, the telephone.
Her eagerness was stilled. Her hands drooped.
Surely Vida Sherwin would hear the summons.
She glanced through the bay-window. Snow was sifting over
the ridge of the Howland house like sprays of water from a
hose. The wide yards across the street were gray with moving
eddies. The black trees shivered. The roadway was gashed
with ruts of ice.
She looked at the extra cup and plate. She looked at
the wing-chair. It was so empty.
The tea was cold in the pot. With wearily dipping fingertip
she tested it. Yes. Quite cold. She couldn't wait any
The cup across from her was icily clean, glisteningly empty.
Simply absurd to wait. She poured her own cup of tea. She
sat and stared at it. What was it she was going to do now?
Oh yes; how idiotic; take a lump of sugar.
She didn't want the beastly tea.
She was springing up. She was on the couch, sobbing.
She was thinking more sharply than she had for weeks.
She reverted to her resolution to change the town--awaken
it, prod it, "reform" it. What if they were wolves instead
of lambs? They'd eat her all the sooner if she was meek to
them. Fight or be eaten. It was easier to change the town
completely than to conciliate it! She could not take their point
of view; it was a negative thing; an intellectual squalor; a
swamp of prejudices and fears. She would have to make them
take hers. She was not a Vincent de Paul, to govern and
mold a people. What of that? The tiniest change in their
distrust of beauty would be the beginning of the end; a seed
to sprout and some day with thickening roots to crack their
wall of mediocrity. If she could not, as she desired, do a
great thing nobly and with laughter, yet she need not be con-
tent with village nothingness. She would plant one seed in the
Was she just? Was it merely a blank wall, this town which
to three thousand and more people was the center of the
universe? Hadn't she, returning from Lac-qui-Meurt, felt the
heartiness of their greetings? No. The ten thousand Gopher
Prairies had no monopoly of greetings and friendly hands. Sam
Clark was no more loyal than girl librarians she knew in St.
Paul, the people she had met in Chicago. And those others
had so much that Gopher Prairie complacently lacked--the
world of gaiety and adventure, of music and the integrity of
bronze, of remembered mists from tropic isles and Paris nights
and the walls of Bagdad, of industrial justice and a God who
spake not in doggerel hymns.
One seed. Which seed it was did not matter. All knowledge
and freedom were one. But she had delayed so long in
finding that seed. Could she do something with this Thanatopsis
Club? Or should she make her house so charming that
it would be an influence? She'd make Kennicott like poetry.
That was it, for a beginning! She conceived so clear a picture
of their bending over large fair pages by the fire (in a non-
existent fireplace) that the spectral presences slipped away.
Doors no longer moved; curtains were not creeping shadows
but lovely dark masses in the dusk; and when Bea came home
Carol was singing at the piano which she had not touched for
Their supper was the feast of two girls. Carol was in the
dining-room, in a frock of black satin edged with gold, and
Bea, in blue gingham and an apron, dined in the kitchen; but
the door was open between, and Carol was inquiring, "Did
you see any ducks in Dahl's window?" and Bea chanting,
"No, ma'am. Say, ve have a svell time, dis afternoon. Tina
she have coffee and knackebrod, and her fella vos dere, and
ve yoost laughed and laughed, and her fella say he vos president
and he going to make me queen of Finland, and Ay stick a
fedder in may hair and say Ay bane going to go to var--oh,
ve vos so foolish and ve LAUGH so!"
When Carol sat at the piano again she did not think of
her husband but of the book-drugged hermit, Guy Pollock.
She wished that Pollock would come calling.
"If a girl really kissed him, he'd creep out of his den and
be human. If Will were as literate as Guy, or Guy were as
executive as Will, I think I could endure even Gopher Prairie.
"It's so hard to mother Will. I could be maternal with
Guy. Is that what I want, something to mother, a man or
a baby or a town? I WILL have a baby. Some day. But to
have him isolated here all his receptive years----
"And so to bed.
"Have I found my real level in Bea and kitchen-gossip?
"Oh, I do miss you, Will. But it will be pleasant to turn
over in bed as often as I want to, without worrying about
waking you up.
"Am I really this settled thing called a `married woman'?
I feel so unmarried tonight. So free. To think that there
was once a Mrs. Kennicott who let herself worry over a town
called Gopher Prairie when there was a whole world outside
"Of course Will is going to like poetry."
A black February day. Clouds hewn of ponderous timber
weighing down on the earth; an irresolute dropping of snow
specks upon the trampled wastes. Gloom but no veiling of
angularity. The lines of roofs and sidewalks sharp and
The second day of Kennicott's absence.
She fled from the creepy house for a walk. It was thirty
below zero; too cold to exhilarate her. In the spaces between
houses the wind caught her. It stung, it gnawed at nose and
ears and aching cheeks, and she hastened from shelter to
shelter, catching her breath in the lee of a barn, grateful for
the protection of a billboard covered with ragged posters showing
layer under layer of paste-smeared green and streaky red.
The grove of oaks at the end of the street suggested Indians,
hunting, snow-shoes, and she struggled past the earth-banked
cottages to the open country, to a farm and a low hill
corrugated with hard snow. In her loose nutria coat, seal
toque, virginal cheeks unmarked by lines of village jealousies,
she was as out of place on this dreary hillside as a scarlet
tanager on an ice-floe. She looked down on Gopher Prairie.
The snow, stretching without break from streets to devouring
prairie beyond, wiped out the town's pretense of being a shelter.
The houses were black specks on a white sheet. Her heart
shivered with that still loneliness as her body shivered with
She ran back into the huddle of streets, all the while
protesting that she wanted a city's yellow glare of shop-windows
and restaurants, or the primitive forest with hooded furs and
a rifle, or a barnyard warm and steamy, noisy with hens and
cattle, certainly not these dun houses, these yards choked with
winter ash-piles, these roads of dirty snow and clotted frozen
mud. The zest of winter was gone. Three months more, till
May, the cold might drag on, with the snow ever filthier, the
weakened body less resistent. She wondered why the good
citizens insisted on adding the chill of prejudice, why they
did not make the houses of their spirits more warm and frivolous,
like the wise chatterers of Stockholm and Moscow.
She circled the outskirts of the town and viewed the slum
of "Swede Hollow." Wherever as many as three houses are
gathered there will be a slum of at least one house. In
Gopher Prairie, the Sam Clarks boasted, "you don't get any of
this poverty that you find in cities--always plenty of work--
no need of charity--man got to be blame shiftless if he don't
get ahead." But now that the summer mask of leaves and
grass was gone, Carol discovered misery and dead hope. In
a shack of thin boards covered with tar-paper she saw the
washerwoman, Mrs. Steinhof, working in gray steam. Outside,
her six-year-old boy chopped wood. He had a torn jacket,
muffler of a blue like skimmed milk. His hands were covered
with red mittens through which protruded his chapped raw
knuckles. He halted to blow on them, to cry disinterestedly.
A family of recently arrived Finns were camped in an
abandoned stable. A man of eighty was picking up lumps of coal
along the railroad.
She did not know what to do about it. She felt that these
independent citizens, who had been taught that they belonged
to a democracy, would resent her trying to play Lady
She lost her loneliness in the activity of the village
industries--the railroad-yards with a freight-train switching, the
wheat-elevator, oil-tanks, a slaughter-house with blood-marks
on the snow, the creamery with the sleds of farmers and piles
of milk-cans, an unexplained stone hut labeled "Danger-.
Powder Stored Here." The jolly tombstone-yard, where a
utilitarian sculptor in a red calfskin overcoat whistled as he
hammered the shiniest of granite headstones. Jackson Elder's
small planing-mill, with the smell of fresh pine shavings and
the burr of circular saws. Most important, the Gopher Prairie
Flour and Milling Company, Lyman, Cass president. Its windows
were blanketed with flour-dust, but it was the most
stirring spot in town. Workmen were wheeling barrels of flour
into a box-car; a farmer sitting on sacks of wheat in a bobsled
argued with the wheat-buyer; machinery within the mill
boomed and whined, water gurgled in the ice-freed mill-race.
The clatter was a relief to Carol after months of smug
houses. She wished that she could work in the mill; that
she did not belong to the caste of professional-man's-wife.
She started for home, through the small slum. Before a
tar-paper shack, at a gateless gate, a man in rough brown
dogskin coat and black plush cap with lappets was watching
her. His square face was confident, his foxy mustache was
picaresque. He stood erect, his hands in his side-pockets, his
pipe puffing slowly. He was forty-five or -six, perhaps.
"How do, Mrs. Kennicott," he drawled.
She recalled him--the town handyman, who had repaired
their furnace at the beginning of winter.
"Oh, how do you do," she fluttered.
"My name 's Bjornstam. `The Red Swede' they call me.
Remember? Always thought I'd kind of like to say howdy
to you again."
"Ye--yes---- I've been exploring the outskirts of town."
"Yump. Fine mess. No sewage, no street cleaning, and
the Lutheran minister and the priest represent the arts and
sciences. Well, thunder, we submerged tenth down here in
Swede Hollow are no worse off than you folks. Thank God,
we don't have to go and purr at Juanity Haydock at the
Jolly Old Seventeen."
The Carol who regarded herself as completely adaptable
was uncomfortable at being chosen as comrade by a pipe-
reeking odd-job man. Probably he was one of her husband's
patients. But she must keep her dignity.
"Yes, even the Jolly Seventeen isn't always so exciting.
It's very cold again today, isn't it. Well----"
Bjornstam was not respectfully valedictory. He showed no
signs of pulling a forelock. His eyebrows moved as though
they had a life of their own. With a subgrin he went on:
"Maybe I hadn't ought to talk about Mrs. Haydock and
her Solemcholy Seventeen in that fresh way. I suppose I'd
be tickled to death if I was invited to sit in with that gang.
I'm what they call a pariah, I guess. I'm the town badman,
Mrs. Kennicott: town atheist, and I suppose I must be an
anarchist, too. Everybody who doesn't love the bankers and
the Grand Old Republican Party is an anarchist."
Carol had unconsciously slipped from her attitude of
departure into an attitude of listening, her face full toward him,
her muff lowered. She fumbled:
"Yes, I suppose so." Her own grudges came in a flood. "I
don't see why you shouldn't criticize the Jolly Seventeen if
you want to. They aren't sacred."
"Oh yes, they are! The dollar-sign has chased the crucifix
clean off the map. But then, I've got no kick. I do what
I please, and I suppose I ought to let them do the same."
"What do you mean by saying you're a pariah?"
"I'm poor, and yet I don't decently envy the rich. I'm an
old bach. I make enough money for a stake, and then I sit
around by myself, and shake hands with myself, and have a
smoke, and read history, and I don't contribute to the wealth
of Brother Elder or Daddy Cass."
"You---- I fancy you read a good deal."
"Yep. In a hit-or-a-miss way. I'll tell you: I'm a lone
wolf. I trade horses, and saw wood, and work in lumber-camps
--I'm a first-rate swamper. Always wished I could go to
college. Though I s'pose I'd find it pretty slow, and they'd
probably kick me out."
"You really are a curious person, Mr.----"
"Bjornstam. Miles Bjornstam. Half Yank and half Swede.
Usually known as `that damn lazy big-mouthed calamity-howler
that ain't satisfied with the way we run things.' No, I ain't
curious--whatever you mean by that! I'm just a bookworm.
Probably too much reading for the amount of digestion I've
got. Probably half-baked. I'm going to get in `half-baked'
first, and beat you to it, because it's dead sure to be handed
to a radical that wears jeans!"
They grinned together. She demanded:
"You say that the Jolly Seventeen is stupid. What makes
you think so?"
"Oh, trust us borers into the foundation to know about
your leisure class. Fact, Mrs. Kennicott, I'll say that far as
I can make out, the only people in this man's town that do
have any brains--I don't mean ledger-keeping brains or duck-
hunting brains or baby-spanking brains, but real imaginative
brains--are you and me and Guy Pollock and the foreman at
the flour-mill. He's a socialist, the foreman. (Don't tell
Lym Cass that! Lym would fire a socialist quicker than he
would a horse-thief!)"
"Indeed no, I sha'n't tell him."
"This foreman and I have some great set-to's. He's a
regular old-line party-member. Too dogmatic. Expects to
reform everything from deforestration to nosebleed by saying
phrases like `surplus value.' Like reading the prayer-book.
But same time, he's a Plato J. Aristotle compared with people
like Ezry Stowbody or Professor Mott or Julius Flickerbaugh."
"It's interesting to hear about him."
He dug his toe into a drift, like a schoolboy. "Rats. You
mean I talk too much. Well, I do, when I get hold of somebody
like you. You probably want to run along and keep
your nose from freezing."
"Yes, I must go, I suppose. But tell me: Why did you
leave Miss Sherwin, of the high school, out of your list of the
"I guess maybe she does belong in it. From all I can hear
she's in everything and behind everything that looks like a
reform--lot more than most folks realize. She lets Mrs.
Reverend Warren, the president of this-here Thanatopsis Club,
think she's running the works, but Miss Sherwin is the secret
boss, and nags all the easy-going dames into doing something.
But way I figure it out---- You see, I'm not interested in these
dinky reforms. Miss Sherwin's trying to repair the holes in
this barnacle-covered ship of a town by keeping busy bailing
out the water. And Pollock tries to repair it by reading poetry
to the crew! Me, I want to yank it up on the ways, and fire
the poor bum of a shoemaker that built it so it sails crooked,
and have it rebuilt right, from the keel up."
"Yes--that--that would be better. But I must run home.
My poor nose is nearly frozen."
"Say, you better come in and get warm, and see what an
old bach's shack is like."
She looked doubtfully at him, at the low shanty, the yard
that was littered with cord-wood, moldy planks, a hoopless
wash-tub. She was disquieted, but Bjornstam did not give her
the opportunity to be delicate. He flung out his hand in a
welcoming gesture which assumed that she was her own
counselor, that she was not a Respectable Married Woman but fully
a human being. With a shaky, "Well, just a moment, to
warm my nose," she glanced down the street to make sure
that she was not spied on, and bolted toward the shanty.
She remained for one hour, and never had she known a more
considerate host than the Red Swede.
He had but one room: bare pine floor, small work-bench,
wall bunk with amazingly neat bed, frying-pan and ash-
stippled coffee-pot on the shelf behind the pot-bellied cannon-
ball stove, backwoods chairs--one constructed from half a
barrel, one from a tilted plank-and a row of books incredibly
assorted; Byron and Tennyson and Stevenson, a manual of
gas-engines, a book by Thorstein Veblen, and a spotty treatise
on "The Care, Feeding, Diseases, and Breeding of Poultry
There was but one picture--a magazine color-plate of a
steep-roofed village in the Harz Mountains which suggested
kobolds and maidens with golden hair.
Bjornstam did not fuss over her. He suggested, "Might
throw open your coat and put your feet up on the box in front
of the stove." He tossed his dogskin coat into the bunk,
lowered himself into the barrel chair, and droned on:
"Yeh, I'm probably a yahoo, but by gum I do keep my
independence by doing odd jobs, and that's more 'n these polite
cusses like the clerks in the banks do. When I'm rude to some
slob, it may be partly because I don't know better (and God
knows I'm not no authority on trick forks and what pants you
wear with a Prince Albert), but mostly it's because I mean
something. I'm about the only man in Johnson County that
remembers the joker in the Declaration of Independence about
Americans being supposed to have the right to `life, liberty,
and the pursuit of happiness.'
"I meet old Ezra Stowbody on the street. He looks at
me like he wants me to remember he's a highmuckamuck and
worth two hundred thousand dollars, and he says, `Uh, Bjornquist----'
"`Bjornstam's my name, Ezra,' I says. HE knows my name, all rightee.
"`Well, whatever your name is,' he says, `I understand you
have a gasoline saw. I want you to come around and saw
up four cords of maple for me,' he says.
"`So you like my looks, eh?' I says, kind of innocent.
"`What difference does that make? Want you to saw that
wood before Saturday,' he says, real sharp. Common workman
going and getting fresh with a fifth of a million dollars
all walking around in a hand-me-down fur coat!
"`Here's the difference it makes,' I says, just to devil him.
`How do you know I like YOUR looks?' Maybe he didn't look
sore! Nope,' I says, `thinking it all over, I don't like your
application for a loan. Take it to another bank, only there
ain't any,' I says, and I walks off on him.
"Sure. Probably I was surly--and foolish. But I figured there
had to be ONE man in town independent enough to sass the banker!"
He hitched out of his chair, made coffee, gave Carol a
cup, and talked on, half defiant and half apologetic, half wistful
for friendliness and half amused by her surprise at the
discovery that there was a proletarian philosophy.
At the door, she hinted:
"Mr. Bjornstam, if you were I, would you worry when
people thought you were affected?"
"Huh? Kick 'em in the face! Say, if I were a sea-gull,
and all over silver, think I'd care what a pack of dirty seals
thought about my flying?"
It was not the wind at her back, it was the thrust of
Bjornstam's scorn which carried her through town. She faced
Juanita Haydock, cocked her head at Maud Dyer's brief nod,
and came home to Bea radiant. She telephoned Vida Sherwin
to "run over this evening." She lustily played Tschaikowsky--
the virile chords an echo of the red laughing philosopher of
the tar-paper shack.
(When she hinted to Vida, "Isn't there a man here who
amuses himself by being irreverent to the village gods--Bjornstam,
some such a name?" the reform-leader said "Bjornstam?
Oh yes. Fixes things. He's awfully impertinent.")
Kennicott had returned at midnight. At breakfast he said
four several times that he had missed her every moment.
On her way to market Sam Clark hailed her, "The top o' the
mornin' to yez! Going to stop and pass the time of day mit
Sam'l? Warmer, eh? What'd the doc's thermometer say it
was? Say, you folks better come round and visit with us,
one of these evenings. Don't be so dog-gone proud, staying by
Champ Perry the pioneer, wheat-buyer at the elevator,
stopped her in the post-office, held her hand in his withered
paws, peered at her with faded eyes, and chuckled, "You are
so fresh and blooming, my dear. Mother was saying t'other day
that a sight of you was better 'n a dose of medicine."
In the Bon Ton Store she found Guy Pollock tentatively
buying a modest gray scarf. "We haven't seen you for so
long," she said. "Wouldn't you like to come in and play cribbage,
some evening?" As though he meant it, Pollock begged,
"May I, really?"
While she was purchasing two yards of malines the vocal
Raymie Wutherspoon tiptoed up to her, his long sallow face
bobbing, and he besought, "You've just got to come back to
my department and see a pair of patent leather slippers I set
aside for you."
In a manner of more than sacerdotal reverence he unlaced
her boots, tucked her skirt about her ankles, slid on the
slippers. She took them.
"You're a good salesman," she said.
"I'm not a salesman at all! I just like elegant things. All
this is so inartistic." He indicated with a forlornly waving
hand the shelves of shoe-boxes, the seat of thin wood
perforated in rosettes, the display of shoe-trees and tin boxes of
blacking, the lithograph of a smirking young woman with cherry
cheeks who proclaimed in the exalted poetry of advertising,
"My tootsies never got hep to what pedal perfection was till
I got a pair of clever classy Cleopatra Shoes."
"But sometimes," Raymie sighed, "there is a pair of dainty
little shoes like these, and I set them aside for some one who
will appreciate. When I saw these I said right away, `Wouldn't
it be nice if they fitted Mrs. Kennicott,' and I meant to speak
to you first chance I had. I haven't forgotten our jolly talks
at Mrs. Gurrey's!"
That evening Guy Pollock came in and, though Kennicott
instantly impressed him into a cribbage game, Carol was
She did not, in recovering something of her buoyancy, forget
her determination to begin the liberalizing of Gopher Prairie
by the easy and agreeable propaganda of teaching Kennicott to
enjoy reading poetry in the lamplight. The campaign was
delayed. Twice he suggested that they call on neighbors;
once he was in the country. The fourth evening he yawned
pleasantly, stretched, and inquired, "Well, what'll we do
tonight? Shall we go to the movies?"
"I know exactly what we're going to do. Now don't ask
questions! Come and sit down by the table. There, are
you comfy? Lean back and forget you're a practical man,
and listen to me."
It may be that she had been influenced by the managerial
Vida Sherwin; certainly she sounded as though she was selling
culture. But she dropped it when she sat on the couch, her
chin in her hands, a volume of Yeats on her knees, and read
Instantly she was released from the homely comfort of a
prairie town. She was in the world of lonely things--the flutter
of twilight linnets, the aching call of gulls along a shore
to which the netted foam crept out of darkness, the island
of Aengus and the elder gods and the eternal glories that
never were, tall kings and women girdled with crusted gold,
the woful incessant chanting and the----
"Heh-cha-cha!" coughed Dr. Kennicott. She stopped. She
remembered that he was the sort of person who chewed tobacco.
She glared, while he uneasily petitioned, "That's great stuff.
Study it in college? I like poetry fine--James Whitcomb
Riley and some of Longfellow--this `Hiawatha.' Gosh, I wish
I could appreciate that highbrow art stuff. But I guess I'm
too old a dog to learn new tricks."
With pity for his bewilderment, and a certain desire to
giggle, she consoled him, "Then let's try some Tennyson.
You've read him?"
"Tennyson? You bet. Read him in school. There's that:
And let there be no (what is it?) of farewell
When I put out to sea,
But let the----
Well, I don't remember all of it but---- Oh, sure! And
there's that `I met a little country boy who----' I don't
remember exactly how it goes, but the chorus ends up, `We
are seven.' "
"Yes. Well---- Shall we try `The Idylls of the King?'
They're so full of color."
"Go to it. Shoot." But he hastened to shelter himself
behind a cigar.
She was not transported to Camelot. She read with an
eye cocked on him, and when she saw how much he was
suffering she ran to him, kissed his forehead, cried, "You poor
forced tube-rose that wants to be a decent turnip!"
"Look here now, that ain't----"
"Anyway, I sha'n't torture you any longer."
She could not quite give up. She read Kipling, with a great
deal of emphasis: