Part 4 out of 12
There's a REGIMENT a-COMING down the
GRAND Trunk ROAD.
He tapped his foot to the rhythm; he looked normal and
reassured. But when he complimented her, "That was fine.
I don't know but what you can elocute just as good as Ella
Stowbody," she banged the book and suggested that they were
not too late for the nine o'clock show at the movies.
That was her last effort to harvest the April wind, to teach
divine unhappiness by a correspondence course, to buy the
lilies of Avalon and the sunsets of Cockaigne in tin cans at
Ole Jenson's Grocery.
But the fact is that at the motion-pictures she discovered
herself laughing as heartily as Kennicott at the humor of an
actor who stuffed spaghetti down a woman's evening frock.
For a second she loathed her laughter; mourned for the day
when on her hill by the Mississippi she had walked the battlements
with queens. But the celebrated cinema jester's conceit
of dropping toads into a soup-plate flung her into unwilling
tittering, and the afterglow faded, the dead queens fled
She went to the Jolly Seventeen's afternoon bridge. She
had learned the elements of the game from the Sam Clarks.
She played quietly and reasonably badly. She had no opinions
on anything more polemic than woolen union-suits, a topic on
which Mrs. Howland discoursed for five minutes. She smiled
frequently, and was the complete canary-bird in her manner
of thanking the hostess, Mrs. Dave Dyer.
Her only anxious period was during the conference on husbands.
The young matrons discussed the intimacies of domesticity
with a frankness and a minuteness which dismayed Carol.
Juanita Haydock communicated Harry's method of shaving,
and his interest in deer-shooting. Mrs. Gougerling reported
fully, and with some irritation, her husband's inappreciation
of liver and bacon. Maud Dyer chronicled Dave's digestive
disorders; quoted a recent bedtime controversy with him in
regard to Christian Science, socks and the sewing of buttons
upon vests; announced that she "simply wasn't going to stand
his always pawing girls when he went and got crazy-jealous if
a man just danced with her"; and rather more than sketched
Dave's varieties of kisses.
So meekly did Carol give attention, so obviously was she at
last desirous of being one of them, that they looked on her
fondly, and encouraged her to give such details of her honeymoon
as might be of interest. She was embarrassed rather
than resentful. She deliberately misunderstood. She talked of
Kennicott's overshoes and medical ideals till they were
thoroughly bored. They regarded her as agreeable but green.
Till the end she labored to satisfy the inquisition. She
bubbled at Juanita, the president of the club, that she wanted
to entertain them. "Only," she said, "I don't know that I
can give you any refreshments as nice as Mrs. Dyer's salad,
or that simply delicious angel's-food we had at your house,
"Fine! We need a hostess for the seventeenth of March.
Wouldn't it be awfully original if you made it a St. Patrick's
Day bridge! I'll be tickled to death to help you with it.
I'm glad you've learned to play bridge. At first I didn't hardly
know if you were going to like Gopher Prairie. Isn't it dandy
that you've settled down to being homey with us! Maybe
we aren't as highbrow as the Cities, but we do have the daisiest
times and--oh, we go swimming in summer, and dances and--
oh, lots of good times. If folks will just take us as we are,
I think we're a pretty good bunch!"
"I'm sure of it. Thank you so much for the idea about
having a St. Patrick's Day bridge."
"Oh, that's nothing. I always think the Jolly Seventeen
are so good at original ideas. If you knew these other towns
Wakamin and Joralemon and all, you'd find out and realize
that G. P. is the liveliest, smartest town in the state. Did
you know that Percy Bresnahan, the famous auto manufacturer,
came from here and---- Yes, I think that a St. Patrick's
Day party would be awfully cunning and original, and yet not
too queer or freaky or anything."
SHE had often been invited to the weekly meetings of the
Thanatopsis, the women's study club, but she had put it off.
The Thanatopsis was, Vida Sherwin promised, "such a cozy
group, and yet it puts you in touch with all the intellectual
thoughts that are going on everywhere."
Early in March Mrs. Westlake, wife of the veteran physician,
marched into Carol's living-room like an amiable old pussy
and suggested, "My dear, you really must come to the
Thanatopsis this afternoon. Mrs. Dawson is going to be leader
and the poor soul is frightened to death. She wanted me to
get you to come. She says she's sure you will brighten up
the meeting with your knowledge of books and writings.
(English poetry is our topic today.) So shoo! Put on your
"English poetry? Really? I'd love to go. I didn't realize
you were reading poetry."
"Oh, we're not so slow!"
Mrs. Luke Dawson, wife of the richest man in town, gaped
at them piteously when they appeared. Her expensive frock
of beaver-colored satin with rows, plasters, and pendants of
solemn brown beads was intended for a woman twice her size.
She stood wringing her hands in front of nineteen folding
chairs, in her front parlor with its faded photograph of
Minnehaha Falls in 1890, its "colored enlargement" of Mr. Dawson,
its bulbous lamp painted with sepia cows and mountains and
standing on a mortuary marble column.
She creaked, "O Mrs. Kennicott, I'm in such a fix. I'm
supposed to lead the discussion, and I wondered would you
come and help?"
"What poet do you take up today?" demanded Carol, in
her library tone of "What book do you wish to take out?"
"Why, the English ones."
"Not all of them?"
"W-why yes. We're learning all of European Literature
this year. The club gets such a nice magazine, Culture Hints,
and we follow its programs. Last year our subject was Men
and Women of the Bible, and next year we'll probably take
up Furnishings and China. My, it does make a body hustle
to keep up with all these new culture subjects, but it is
improving. So will you help us with the discussion today?"
On her way over Carol had decided to use the Thanatopsis
as the tool with which to liberalize the town. She had
immediately conceived enormous enthusiasm; she had chanted,
"These are the real people. When the housewives, who bear
the burdens, are interested in poetry, it means something. I'll
work with them--for them--anything!"
Her enthusiasm had become watery even before thirteen
women resolutely removed their overshoes, sat down meatily,
ate peppermints, dusted their fingers, folded their hands,
composed their lower thoughts, and invited the naked muse of
poetry to deliver her most improving message. They had
greeted Carol affectionately, and she tried to be a daughter
to them. But she felt insecure. Her chair was out in the
open, exposed to their gaze, and it was a hard-slatted, quivery,
slippery church-parlor chair, likely to collapse publicly and
without warning. It was impossible to sit on it without folding
the hands and listening piously.
She wanted to kick the chair and run. It would make a
She saw that Vida Sherwin was watching her. She pinched
her wrist, as though she were a noisy child in church, and
when she was decent and cramped again, she listened.
Mrs. Dawson opened the meeting by sighing, "I'm sure
I'm glad to see you all here today, and I understand that the
ladies have prepared a number of very interesting papers, this
is such an interesting subject, the poets, they have been an
inspiration for higher thought, in fact wasn't it Reverend
Benlick who said that some of the poets have been as much an
inspiration as a good many of the ministers, and so we shall
be glad to hear----"
The poor lady smiled neuralgically, panted with fright,
scrabbled about the small oak table to find her eye-glasses,
and continued, "We will first have the pleasure of hearing
Mrs. Jenson on the subject `Shakespeare and Milton.' "
Mrs. Ole Jenson said that Shakespeare was born in 1564
and died 1616. He lived in London, England, and in Stratford
on-Avon, which many American tourists loved to visit, a lovely
town with many curios and old houses well worth examination.
Many people believed that Shakespeare was the greatest play-
wright who ever lived, also a fine poet. Not much was known
about his life, but after all that did not really make so much
difference, because they loved to read his numerous plays,
several of the best known of which she would now criticize.
Perhaps the best known of his plays was "The Merchant of
Venice," having a beautiful love story and a fine appreciation
of a woman's brains, which a woman's club, even those who
did not care to commit themselves on the question of suffrage,
ought to appreciate. (Laughter.) Mrs. Jenson was sure that
she, for one, would love to be like Portia. The play was
about a Jew named Shylock, and he didn't want his daughter
to marry a Venice gentleman named Antonio----
Mrs. Leonard Warren, a slender, gray, nervous woman,
president of the Thanatopsis and wife of the Congregational
pastor, reported the birth and death dates of Byron, Scott,
Moore, Burns; and wound up:
"Burns was quite a poor boy and he did not enjoy the
advantages we enjoy today, except for the advantages of the
fine old Scotch kirk where he heard the Word of God preached
more fearlessly than even in the finest big brick churches in
the big and so-called advanced cities of today, but he did not
have our educational advantages and Latin and the other
treasures of the mind so richly strewn before the, alas, too
ofttimes inattentive feet of our youth who do not always
sufficiently appreciate the privileges freely granted to every
American boy rich or poor. Burns had to work hard and was
sometimes led by evil companionship into low habits. But
it is morally instructive to know that he was a good student
and educated himself, in striking contrast to the loose ways
and so-called aristocratic society-life of Lord Byron, on which
I have just spoken. And certainly though the lords and earls
of his day may have looked down upon Burns as a humble
person, many of us have greatly enjoyed his pieces about the
mouse and other rustic subjects, with their message of humble
beauty--I am so sorry I have not got the time to quote some
Mrs. George Edwin Mott gave ten minutes to Tennyson
Mrs. Nat Hicks, a wry-faced, curiously sweet woman, so
awed by her betters that Carol wanted to kiss her, completed
the day's grim task by a paper on "Other Poets." The other
poets worthy of consideration were Coleridge, Wordsworth
Shelley, Gray, Mrs. Hemans, and Kipling.
Miss Ella Stowbody obliged with a recital of "The
Recessional" and extracts from "Lalla Rookh." By request, she
gave "An Old Sweetheart of Mine" as encore.
Gopher Prairie had finished the poets. It was ready for
the next week's labor: English Fiction and Essays.
Mrs. Dawson besought, "Now we will have a discussion of
the papers, and I am sure we shall all enjoy hearing from one
who we hope to have as a new member, Mrs. Kennicott, who
with her splendid literary training and all should be able to
give us many pointers and--many helpful pointers."
Carol had warned herself not to be so "beastly
supercilious." She had insisted that in the belated quest of these
work-stained women was an aspiration which ought to stir her
tears. "But they're so self-satisfied. They think they're
doing Burns a favor. They don't believe they have a `belated
quest.' They're sure that they have culture salted and hung
up." It was out of this stupor of doubt that Mrs. Dawson's
summons roused her. She was in a panic. How could she
speak without hurting them?
Mrs. Champ Perry leaned over to stroke her hand and
whisper, "You look tired, dearie. Don't you talk unless you
Affection flooded Carol; she was on her feet, searching for
words and courtesies:
"The only thing in the way of suggestion---- I know
you are following a definite program, but I do wish that now
you've had such a splendid introduction, instead of going on
with some other subject next year you could return and take up
the poets more in detail. Especially actual quotations--even
though their lives are so interesting and, as Mrs. Warren said,
so morally instructive. And perhaps there are several poets
not mentioned today whom it might be worth while considering
--Keats, for instance, and Matthew Arnold and Rossetti and
Swinburne. Swinburne would be such a--well, that is, such
a contrast to life as we all enjoy it in our beautiful Middle-
She saw that Mrs. Leonard Warren was not with her. She
captured her by innocently continuing:
"Unless perhaps Swinburne tends to be, uh, more outspoken
than you, than we really like. What do you think, Mrs.
The pastor's wife decided, "Why, you've caught my very thoughts,
Mrs. Kennicott. Of course I have never READ Swinburne,
but years ago, when he was in vogue, I remember Mr. Warren
saying that Swinburne (or was it Oscar Wilde? but anyway:)
he said that though many so-called intellectual people posed
and pretended to find beauty in Swinburne, there can never
be genuine beauty without the message from the heart.
But at the same time I do think you have an excellent
idea, and though we have talked about Furnishings and China
as the probable subject for next year, I believe that it would
be nice if the program committee would try to work in another
day entirely devoted to English poetry! In fact, Madame
Chairman, I so move you."
When Mrs. Dawson's coffee and angel's-food had helped them
to recover from the depression caused by thoughts of Shakespeare's
death they all told Carol that it was a pleasure to
have her with them. The membership committee retired to
the sitting-room for three minutes and elected her a member.
And she stopped being patronizing.
She wanted to be one of them. They were so loyal and
kind. It was they who would carry out her aspiration. Her
campaign against village sloth was actually begun! On what
specific reform should she first loose her army? During the
gossip after the meeting Mrs. George Edwin Mott remarked
that the city hall seemed inadequate for the splendid modern
Gopher Prairie. Mrs. Nat Hicks timidly wished that the
young people could have free dances there--the lodge dances
were so exclusive. The city hall. That was it! Carol hurried
She had not realized that Gopher Prairie was a city. From
Kennicott she discovered that it was legally organized with a
mayor and city-council and wards. She was delighted by the
simplicity of voting one's self a metropolis. Why not?
She was a proud and patriotic citizen, all evening.
She examined the city hall, next morning. She had
remembered it only as a bleak inconspicuousness. She found it
a liver-colored frame coop half a block from Main Street. The
front was an unrelieved wall of clapboards and dirty windows.
It had an unobstructed view of a vacant lot and Nat Hicks's
tailor shop. It was larger than the carpenter shop beside it,
but not so well built.
No one was about. She walked into the corridor. On one
side was the municipal court, like a country school; on the
other, the room of the volunteer fire company, with a Ford
hose-cart and the ornamental helmets used in parades, at
the end of the hall, a filthy two-cell jail, now empty but smelling
of ammonia and ancient sweat. The whole second story
was a large unfinished room littered with piles of folding
chairs, a lime-crusted mortar-mixing box, and the skeletons of
Fourth of July floats covered with decomposing plaster shields
and faded red, white, and blue bunting. At the end was an
abortive stage. The room was large enough for the community
dances which Mrs. Nat Hicks advocated. But Carol was after
something bigger than dances.
In the afternoon she scampered to the public library.
The library was open three afternoons and four evenings a
week. It was housed in an old dwelling, sufficient but
unattractive. Carol caught herself picturing pleasanter reading-
rooms, chairs for children, an art collection, a librarian young
enough to experiment.
She berated herself, "Stop this fever of reforming everything!
I WILL be satisfied with the library! The city hall is
enough for a beginning. And it's really an excellent library.
It's--it isn't so bad. . . . Is it possible that I am to
find dishonesties and stupidity in every human activity I
encounter? In schools and business and government and everything?
Is there never any contentment, never any rest?"
She shook her head as though she were shaking off water,
and hastened into the library, a young, light, amiable presence,
modest in unbuttoned fur coat, blue suit, fresh organdy collar,
and tan boots roughened from scuffling snow. Miss Villets
stared at her, and Carol purred, "I was so sorry not to see
you at the Thanatopsis yesterday. Vida said you might come."
"Oh. You went to the Thanatopsis. Did you enjoy it?"
"So much. Such good papers on the poets." Carol lied
resolutely. "But I did think they should have had you give
one of the papers on poetry!"
"Well---- Of course I'm not one of the bunch that seem to
have the time to take and run the club, and if they prefer
to have papers on literature by other ladies who have no
literary training--after all, why should I complain? What
am I but a city employee!"
"You're not! You're the one person that does--that does--
oh, you do so much. Tell me, is there, uh---- Who are the
people who control the club?"
Miss Villets emphatically stamped a date in the front of
"Frank on the Lower Mississippi" for a small flaxen boy,
glowered at him as though she were stamping a warning on
his brain, and sighed:
"I wouldn't put myself forward or criticize any one for the
world, and Vida is one of my best friends, and such a splendid
teacher, and there is no one in town more advanced and
interested in all movements, but I must say that no matter
who the president or the committees are, Vida Sherwin seems
to be behind them all the time, and though she is always
telling me about what she is pleased to call my `fine work
in the library,' I notice that I'm not often called on for papers,
though Mrs. Lyman Cass once volunteered and told me that
she thought my paper on `The Cathedrals of England' was
the most interesting paper we had, the year we took up English
and French travel and architecture. But---- And of course
Mrs. Mott and Mrs. Warren are very important in the club,
as you might expect of the wives of the superintendent of
schools and the Congregational pastor, and indeed they are
both very cultured, but---- No, you may regard me as entirely
unimportant. I'm sure what I say doesn't matter a bit!"
"You're much too modest, and I'm going to tell Vida so,
and, uh, I wonder if you can give me just a teeny bit of your
time and show me where the magazine files are kept?"
She had won. She was profusely escorted to a room like a
grandmother's attic, where she discovered periodicals devoted
to house-decoration and town-planning, with a six-year file of
the National Geographic. Miss Villets blessedly left her alone.
Humming, fluttering pages with delighted fingers, Carol sat
cross-legged on the floor, the magazines in heaps about her.
She found pictures of New England streets: the dignity of
Falmouth, the charm of Concord, Stockbridge and Farmington
and Hillhouse Avenue. The fairy-book suburb of Forest Hills
on Long Island. Devonshire cottages and Essex manors and
a Yorkshire High Street and Port Sunlight. The Arab village
of Djeddah--an intricately chased jewel-box. A town in California
which had changed itself from the barren brick fronts
and slatternly frame sheds of a Main Street to a way which
led the eye down a vista of arcades and gardens.
Assured that she was not quite mad in her belief that a
small American town might be lovely, as well as useful in
buying wheat and selling plows, she sat brooding, her thin
fingers playing a tattoo on her cheeks. She saw in Gopher
Prairie a Georgian city hall: warm brick walls with white
shutters, a fanlight, a wide hall and curving stair. She saw it
the common home and inspiration not only of the town but
of the country about. It should contain the court-room (she
couldn't get herself to put in a jail), public library, a collection
of excellent prints, rest-room and model kitchen for farmwives,
theater, lecture room, free community ballroom, farm-bureau,
gymnasium. Forming about it and influenced by it, as
mediaeval villages gathered about the castle, she saw a new
Georgian town as graceful and beloved as Annapolis or that
bowery Alexandria to which Washington rode.
All this the Thanatopsis Club was to accomplish with no
difficulty whatever, since its several husbands were the
controllers of business and politics. She was proud of herself for
this practical view.
She had taken only half an hour to change a wire-fenced
potato-plot into a walled rose-garden. She hurried out to
apprize Mrs. Leonard Warren, as president of the Thanatopsis,
of the miracle which had been worked.
At a quarter to three Carol had left home; at half-past four
she had created the Georgian town; at a quarter to five she
was in the dignified poverty of the Congregational parsonage,
her enthusiasm pattering upon Mrs. Leonard Warren like summer
rain upon an old gray roof; at two minutes to five a town
of demure courtyards and welcoming dormer windows had
been erected, and at two minutes past five the entire town
was as flat as Babylon.
Erect in a black William and Mary chair against gray and
speckly-brown volumes of sermons and Biblical commentaries
and Palestine geographies upon long pine shelves, her neat
black shoes firm on a rag-rug, herself as correct and low-toned
as her background, Mrs. Warren listened without comment till
Carol was quite through, then answered delicately:
"Yes, I think you draw a very nice picture of what might
easily come to pass--some day. I have no doubt that such
villages will be found on the prairie--some day. But if I might
make just the least little criticism: it seems to me that you
are wrong in supposing either that the city hall would be the
proper start, or that the Thanatopsis would be the right
instrument. After all, it's the churches, isn't it, that are the
real heart of the community. As you may possibly know, my
husband is prominent in Congregational circles all through the
state for his advocacy of church-union. He hopes to see all
the evangelical denominations joined in one strong body,
opposing Catholicism and Christian Science, and properly guiding
all movements that make for morality and prohibition. Here,
the combined churches could afford a splendid club-house,
maybe a stucco and half-timber building with gargoyles and
all sorts of pleasing decorations on it, which, it seems to me,
would be lots better to impress the ordinary class of people
than just a plain old-fashioned colonial house, such as you
describe. And that would be the proper center for all
educational and pleasurable activities, instead of letting them fall
into the hands of the politicians."
"I don't suppose it will take more than thirty or forty
years for the churches to get together?" Carol said innocently.
"Hardly that long even; things are moving so rapidly. So
it would be a mistake to make any other plans."
Carol did not recover her zeal till two days after, when she
tried Mrs. George Edwin Mott, wife of the superintendent of
Mrs. Mott commented, "Personally, I am terribly busy with
dressmaking and having the seamstress in the house and all,
but it would be splendid to have the other members of the
Thanatopsis take up the question. Except for one thing: First
and foremost, we must have a new schoolbuilding. Mr. Mott
says they are terribly cramped."
Carol went to view the old building. The grades and the
high school were combined in a damp yellow-brick structure
with the narrow windows of an antiquated jail--a hulk which
expressed hatred and compulsory training. She conceded Mrs.
Mott's demand so violently that for two days she dropped her
own campaign. Then she built the school and city hall together,
as the center of the reborn town.
She ventured to the lead-colored dwelling of Mrs. Dave Dyer.
Behind the mask of winter-stripped vines and a wide porch
only a foot above the ground, the cottage was so impersonal
that Carol could never visualize it. Nor could she remember
anything that was inside it. But Mrs. Dyer was personal
enough. With Carol, Mrs. Howland, Mrs. McGanum, and
Vida Sherwin she was a link between the Jolly Seventeen and
the serious Thanatopsis (in contrast to Juanita Haydock, who
unnecessarily boasted of being a "lowbrow" and publicly
stated that she would "see herself in jail before she'd write
any darned old club papers"). Mrs. Dyer was superfeminine
in the kimono in which she received Carol. Her skin was fine,
pale, soft, suggesting a weak voluptuousness. At afternoon-
coffees she had been rude but now she addressed Carol as
"dear," and insisted on being called Maud. Carol did not
quite know why she was uncomfortable in this talcum-powder
atmosphere, but she hastened to get into the fresh air of her
Maud Dyer granted that the city hall wasn't "so very nice,"
yet, as Dave said, there was no use doing anything about it
till they received an appropriation from the state and
combined a new city hall with a national guard armory. Dave
had given verdict, "What these mouthy youngsters that hang
around the pool-room need is universal military training. Make
men of 'em."
Mrs. Dyer removed the new schoolbuilding from the city
"Oh, so Mrs. Mott has got you going on her school craze!
She's been dinging at that till everybody's sick and tired. What
she really wants is a big office for her dear bald-headed Gawge
to sit around and look important in. Of course I admire
Mrs. Mott, and I'm very fond of her, she's so brainy, even
if she does try to butt in and run the Thanatopsis, but I must
say we're sick of her nagging. The old building was good
enough for us when we were kids! I hate these would-be
women politicians, don't you?"
The first week of March had given promise of spring and
stirred Carol with a thousand desires for lakes and fields and
roads. The snow was gone except for filthy woolly patches
under trees, the thermometer leaped in a day from wind-bitten
chill to itchy warmth. As soon as Carol was convinced that
even in this imprisoned North, spring could exist again, the
snow came down as abruptly as a paper storm in a theater;
the northwest gale flung it up in a half blizzard; and with
her hope of a glorified town went hope of summer meadows.
But a week later, though the snow was everywhere in slushy
heaps, the promise was unmistakable. By the invisible hints
in air and sky and earth which had aroused her every year
through ten thousand generations she knew that spring was
coming. It was not a scorching, hard, dusty day like the
treacherous intruder of a week before, but soaked with languor,
softened with a milky light. Rivulets were hurrying in each
alley; a calling robin appeared by magic on the crab-apple
tree in the Howlands' yard. Everybody chuckled, "Looks
like winter is going," and "This 'll bring the frost out of the
roads--have the autos out pretty soon now--wonder what kind
of bass-fishing we'll get this summer--ought to be good crops
Each evening Kennicott repeated, "We better not take off
our Heavy Underwear or the storm windows too soon--might
be 'nother spell of cold--got to be careful 'bout catching cold--
wonder if the coal will last through?"
The expanding forces of life within her choked the desire
for reforming. She trotted through the house, planning the
spring cleaning with Bea. When she attended her second
meeting of the Thanatopsis she said nothing about remaking
the town. She listened respectably to statistics on Dickens,
Thackeray, Jane Austen, George Eliot, Scott, Hardy, Lamb,
De Quincey, and Mrs. Humphry Ward, who, it seemed,
constituted the writers of English Fiction and Essays.
Not till she inspected the rest-room did she again become
a fanatic. She had often glanced at the store-building which
had been turned into a refuge in which farmwives could wait
while their husbands transacted business. She had heard Vida
Sherwin and Mrs. Warren caress the virtue of the Thanatopsis
in establishing the rest-room and in sharing with the city
council the expense of maintaining it. But she had never
entered it till this March day.
She went in impulsively; nodded at the matron, a plump
worthy widow named Nodelquist, and at a couple of farm-
women who were meekly rocking. The rest-room resembled
a second-hand store. It was furnished with discarded patent
rockers, lopsided reed chairs, a scratched pine table, a gritty
straw mat, old steel engravings of milkmaids being morally
amorous under willow-trees, faded chromos of roses and fish,
and a kerosene stove for warming lunches. The front window
was darkened by torn net curtains and by a mound of geraniums
While she was listening to Mrs. Nodelquist's account of how
many thousands of farmers' wives used the rest-room every
year, and how much they "appreciated the kindness of the
ladies in providing them with this lovely place, and all free,"
she thought, "Kindness nothing! The kind-ladies' husbands
get the farmers' trade. This is mere commercial accommodation.
And it's horrible. It ought to be the most charming
room in town, to comfort women sick of prairie kitchens.
Certainly it ought to have a clear window, so that they can
see the metropolitan life go by. Some day I'm going to make
a better rest-room--a club-room. Why! I've already planned
that as part of my Georgian town hall!"
So it chanced that she was plotting against the peace of the
Thanatopsis at her third meeting (which covered Scandinavian,
Russian, and Polish Literature, with remarks by Mrs. Leonard
Warren on the sinful paganism of the Russian so-called
church). Even before the entrance of the coffee and hot rolls
Carol seized on Mrs. Champ Perry, the kind and ample-
bosomed pioneer woman who gave historic dignity to the
modern matrons of the Thanatopsis. She poured out her
plans. Mrs. Perry nodded and stroked Carol's hand, but at
the end she sighed:
"I wish I could agree with you, dearie. I'm sure you're
one of the Lord's anointed (even if we don't see you at the
Baptist Church as often as we'd like to)! But I'm afraid
you're too tender-hearted. When Champ and I came here
we teamed-it with an ox-cart from Sauk Centre to Gopher
Prairie, and there was nothing here then but a stockade and
a few soldiers and some log cabins. When we wanted salt pork
and gunpowder, we sent out a man on horseback, and probably
he was shot dead by the Injuns before he got back. We
ladies--of course we were all farmers at first--we didn't expect
any rest-room in those days. My, we'd have thought the one
they have now was simply elegant! My house was roofed
with hay and it leaked something terrible when it rained--
only dry place was under a shelf.
"And when the town grew up we thought the new city
hall was real fine. And I don't see any need for dance-halls.
Dancing isn't what it was, anyway. We used to dance modest,
and we had just as much fun as all these young folks do
now with their terrible Turkey Trots and hugging and all.
But if they must neglect the Lord's injunction that young girls
ought to be modest, then I guess they manage pretty well at
the K. P. Hall and the Oddfellows', even if some of tie lodges
don't always welcome a lot of these foreigners and hired
help to all their dances. And I certainly don't see any
need of a farm-bureau or this domestic science demonstration
you talk about. In my day the boys learned to farm by honest
sweating, and every gal could cook, or her ma learned her
how across her knee! Besides, ain't there a county agent at
Wakamin? He comes here once a fortnight, maybe. That's
enough monkeying with this scientific farming--Champ says
there's nothing to it anyway.
"And as for a lecture hall--haven't we got the churches?
Good deal better to listen to a good old-fashioned sermon than
a lot of geography and books and things that nobody needs
to know--more 'n enough heathen learning right here in the
Thanatopsis. And as for trying to make a whole town in this
Colonial architecture you talk about---- I do love nice things;
to this day I run ribbons into my petticoats, even if Champ
Perry does laugh at me, the old villain! But just the same
I don't believe any of us old-timers would like to see the town
that we worked so hard to build being tore down to make a
place that wouldn't look like nothing but some Dutch story-
book and not a bit like the place we loved. And don't you think
it's sweet now? All the trees and lawns? And such comfy
houses, and hot-water heat and electric lights and telephones
and cement walks and everything? Why, I thought everybody
from the Twin Cities always said it was such a beautiful
Carol forswore herself; declared that Gopher Prairie had
the color of Algiers and the gaiety of Mardi Gras.
Yet the next afternoon she was pouncing on Mrs. Lyman
Cass, the hook-nosed consort of the owner of the flour-mill.
Mrs. Cass's parlor belonged to the crammed-Victorian school,
as Mrs. Luke Dawson's belonged to the bare-Victorian. It was
furnished on two principles: First, everything must resemble
something else. A rocker had a back like a lyre, a near-leather
seat imitating tufted cloth, and arms like Scotch Presbyterian
lions; with knobs, scrolls, shields, and spear-points on
unexpected portions of the chair. The second principle of the
crammed-Victorian school was that every inch of the interior
must be filled with useless objects.
The walls of Mrs. Cass's parlor were plastered with "hand-
painted" pictures, "buckeye" pictures, of birch-trees, news-
boys, puppies, and church-steeples on Christmas Eve; with a
plaque depicting the Exposition Building in Minneapolis, burnt-
wood portraits of Indian chiefs of no tribe in particular, a
pansy-decked poetic motto, a Yard of Roses, and the banners of
the educational institutions attended by the Casses' two sons--
Chicopee Falls Business College and McGilllcuddy University.
One small square table contained a card-receiver of painted
china with a rim of wrought and gilded lead, a Family Bible,
Grant's Memoirs, the latest novel by Mrs. Gene Stratton
Porter, a wooden model of a Swiss chalet which was also a bank
for dimes, a polished abalone shell holding one black-headed
pin and one empty spool, a velvet pin-cushion in a gilded
metal slipper with "Souvenir of Troy, N. Y." stamped on the
toe, and an unexplained red glass dish which had warts.
Mrs. Cass's first remark was, "I must show you all my
pretty things and art objects."
She piped, after Carol's appeal:
"I see. You think the New England villages and Colonial
houses are so much more cunning than these Middlewestern
towns. I'm glad you feel that way. You'll be interested to
know I was born in Vermont."
"And don't you think we ought to try to make Gopher
"My gracious no! We can't afford it. Taxes are much too
high as it is. We ought to retrench, and not let the city council
spend another cent. Uh---- Don't you think that was a grand
paper Mrs. Westlake read about Tolstoy? I was so glad
she pointed out how all his silly socialistic ideas failed."
What Mrs. Cass said was what Kennicott said, that evening.
Not in twenty years would the council propose or Gopher
Prairie vote the funds for a new city hall.
Carol had avoided exposing her plans to Vida Sherwin. She
was shy of the big-sister manner; Vida would either laugh
at her or snatch the idea and change it to suit herself. But
there was no other hope. When Vida came in to tea Carol
sketched her Utopia.
Vida was soothing but decisive:
"My dear, you're all off. I would like to see it: a real
gardeny place to shut out the gales. But it can't be done.
What could the clubwomen accomplish?"
"Their husbands are the most important men in town.
They ARE the town!"
"But the town as a separate unit is not the husband of the
Thanatopsis. If you knew the trouble we had in getting the
city council to spend the money and cover the pumping-station
with vines! Whatever you may think of Gopher Prairie
women, they're twice as progressive as the men."
"But can't the men see the ugliness?"
"They don't think it's ugly. And how can you prove it?
Matter of taste. Why should they like what a Boston architect likes?"
"What they like is to sell prunes!"
"Well, why not? Anyway, the point is that you have to
work from the inside, with what we have, rather than from
the outside, with foreign ideas. The shell ought not to be
forced on the spirit. It can't be! The bright shell has to
grow out of the spirit, and express it. That means waiting.
If we keep after the city council for another ten years they
MAY vote the bonds for a new school."
"I refuse to believe that if they saw it the big men would
be too tight-fisted to spend a few dollars each for a building--
think!--dancing and lectures and plays, all done co-operatively!"
"You mention the word `co-operative' to the merchants and
they'll lynch you! The one thing they fear more than mail-
order houses is that farmers' co-operative movements may get started."
"The secret trails that lead to scared pocket-books! Always,
in everything! And I don't have any of the fine melodrama
of fiction: the dictagraphs and speeches by torchlight. I'm
merely blocked by stupidity. Oh, I know I'm a fool. I dream
of Venice, and I live in Archangel and scold because the
Northern seas aren't tender-colored. But at least they sha'n't
keep me from loving Venice, and sometime I'll run away----
All right. No more."
She flung out her hands in a gesture of renunciation.
Early May; wheat springing up in blades like grass; corn
and potatoes being planted; the land humming. For two days
there had been steady rain. Even in town the roads were a
furrowed welter of mud, hideous to view and difficult to cross.
Main Street was a black swamp from curb to curb; on residence
streets the grass parking beside the walks oozed gray water.
It was prickly hot, yet the town was barren under the bleak
sky. Softened neither by snow nor by waving boughs the
houses squatted and scowled, revealed in their unkempt harshness.
As she dragged homeward Carol looked with distaste at her
clay-loaded rubbers, the smeared hem of her skirt. She passed
Lyman Cass's pinnacled, dark-red, hulking house. She waded
a streaky yellow pool. This morass was not her home, she
insisted. Her home, and her beautiful town, existed in her
mind. They had already been created. The task was done.
What she really had been questing was some one to share them
with her. Vida would not; Kennicott could not.
Some one to share her refuge.
Suddenly she was thinking of Guy Pollock.
She dismissed him. He was too cautious. She needed a
spirit as young and unreasonable as her own. And she would
never find it. Youth would never come singing. She was
Yet that same evening she had an idea which solved the
rebuilding of Gopher Prairie.
Within ten minutes she was jerking the old-fashioned bell-
pull of Luke Dawson. Mrs. Dawson opened the door and
peered doubtfully about the edge of it. Carol kissed her
cheek, and frisked into the lugubrious sitting-room.
"Well, well, you're a sight for sore eyes!" chuckled Mr.
Dawson, dropping his newspaper, pushing his spectacles back
on his forehead.
"You seem so excited," sighed Mrs. Dawson.
"I am! Mr. Dawson, aren't you a millionaire?"
He cocked his head, and purred, "Well, I guess if I cashed
in on all my securities and farm-holdings and my interests in
iron on the Mesaba and in Northern timber and cut-over lands,
I could push two million dollars pretty close, and I've made
every cent of it by hard work and having the sense to not go
out and spend every----"
"I think I want most of it from you!"
The Dawsons glanced at each other in appreciation of the
jest; and he chirped, "You're worse than Reverend Benlick!
He don't hardly ever strike me for more than ten dollars--
at a time!"
"I'm not joking. I mean it! Your children in the Cities are
grown-up and well-to-do. You don't want to die and leave
your name unknown. Why not do a big, original thing? Why
not rebuild the whole town? Get a great architect, and have
him plan a town that would be suitable to the prairie. Perhaps
he'd create some entirely new form of architecture. Then tear
down all these shambling buildings----"
Mr. Dawson had decided that she really did mean it. He
wailed, "Why, that would cost at least three or four million
"But you alone, just one man, have two of those millions!"
"Me? Spend all my hard-earned cash on building houses
for a lot of shiftless beggars that never had the sense to save
their money? Not that I've ever been mean. Mama could
always have a hired girl to do the work--when we could find
one. But her and I have worked our fingers to the bone and--
spend it on a lot of these rascals----?"
"Please! Don't be angry! I just mean--I mean---- Oh,
not spend all of it, of course, but if you led off the list, and
the others came in, and if they heard you talk about a more
"Why now, child, you've got a lot of notions. Besides
what's the matter with the town? Looks good to me. I've
had people that have traveled all over the world tell me time
and again that Gopher Prairie is the prettiest place in the
Middlewest. Good enough for anybody. Certainly good
enough for Mama and me. Besides! Mama and me are plan-
ning to go out to Pasadena and buy a bungalow and live
She had met Miles Bjornstam on the street. For the second
of welcome encounter this workman with the bandit mustache
and the muddy overalls seemed nearer than any one else to
the credulous youth which she was seeking to fight beside her,
and she told him, as a cheerful anecdote, a little of her story.
He grunted, "I never thought I'd be agreeing with Old Man
Dawson, the penny-pinching old land-thief--and a fine briber
he is, too. But you got the wrong slant. You aren't one of
the people--yet. You want to do something for the town. I
don't! I want the town to do something for itself. We don't
want old Dawson's money--not if it's a gift, with a string.
We'll take it away from him, because it belongs to us. You
got to get more iron and cussedness into you. Come join us
cheerful bums, and some day--when we educate ourselves and
quit being bums--we'll take things and run 'em straight."
He had changed from her friend to a cynical man in over
alls. She could not relish the autocracy of "cheerful bums."
She forgot him as she tramped the outskirts of town.
She had replaced The city hall project by an entirely new
and highly exhilarating thought of how little was done for
these unpicturesque poor.
The spring of the plains is not a reluctant virgin but brazen
and soon away. The mud roads of a few days ago are powdery
dust and the puddles beside them have hardened into lozenges
of black sleek earth like cracked patent leather.
Carol was panting as she crept to the meeting of the
Thanatopsis program committee which was to decide the subject for
next fall and winter.
Madam Chairman (Miss Ella Stowbody in an oyster-
colored blouse) asked if there was any new business.
Carol rose. She suggested that the Thanatopsis ought to
help the poor of the town. She was ever so correct and modern.
She did not, she said, want charity for them, but a chance of
self-help; an employment bureau, direction in washing babies
and making pleasing stews, possibly a municipal fund for home-
building. "What do you think of my plans, Mrs. Warren?"
Speaking judiciously, as one related to the church by
marriage, Mrs. Warren gave verdict:
"I'm sure we're all heartily in accord with Mrs. Kennicott
in feeling that wherever genuine poverty is encountered, it is
not only noblesse oblige but a joy to fulfil our duty to the less
fortunate ones. But I must say it seems to me we should
lose the whole point of the thing by not regarding it as charity.
Why, that's the chief adornment of the true Christian and the
church! The Bible has laid it down for our guidance. `Faith,
Hope, and CHARITY,' it says, and, `The poor ye have with ye
always,' which indicates that there never can be anything to
these so-called scientific schemes for abolishing charity, never!
And isn't it better so? I should hate to think of a world in
which we were deprived of all the pleasure of giving. Besides,
if these shiftless folks realize they're getting charity, and not
something to which they have a right, they're so much more grateful."
"Besides," snorted Miss Ella Stowbody, "they've been
fooling you, Mrs. Kennicott. There isn't any real poverty here.
Take that Mrs. Steinhof you speak of: I send her our washing
whenever there's too much for our hired girl--I must have
sent her ten dollars' worth the past year alone! I'm sure Papa
would never approve of a city home-building fund. Papa says
these folks are fakers. Especially all these tenant farmers
that pretend they have so much trouble getting seed and
machinery. Papa says they simply won't pay their debts. He
says he's sure he hates to foreclose mortgages, but it's the only
way to make them respect the law."
"And then think of all the clothes we give these people!"
said Mrs. Jackson Elder.
Carol intruded again. "Oh yes. The clothes. I was going
to speak of that. Don't you think that when we give clothes
to the poor, if we do give them old ones, we ought to mend
them first and make them as presentable as we can? Next
Christmas when the Thanatopsis makes its distribution,
wouldn't it be jolly if we got together and sewed on the clothes,
and trimmed hats, and made them----"
"Heavens and earth, they have more time than we have!
They ought to be mighty good and grateful to get anything,
no matter what shape it's in. I know I'm not going to sit
and sew for that lazy Mrs. Vopni, with all I've got to do!"
snapped Ella Stowbody.
They were glaring at Carol. She reflected that Mrs. Vopni,
whose husband had been killed by a train, had ten children.
But Mrs. Mary Ellen Wilks was smiling. Mrs. Wilks was
the proprietor of Ye Art Shoppe and Magazine and Book Store,
and the reader of the small Christian Science church. She
made it all clear:
"If this class of people had an understanding of Science and
that we are the children of God and nothing can harm us,
they wouldn't be in error and poverty."
Mrs. Jackson Elder confirmed, "Besides, it strikes me the
club is already doing enough, with tree-planting and the anti-
fly campaign and the responsibility for the rest-room--to say
nothing of the fact that we've talked of trying to get the
railroad to put in a park at the station!"
"I think so too!" said Madam Chairman. She glanced
uneasily at Miss Sherwin. "But what do you think, Vida?"
Vida smiled tactfully at each of the committee, and
announced, "Well, I don't believe we'd better start anything
more right now. But it's been a privilege to hear Carol's dear
generous ideas, hasn't it! Oh! There is one thing we must
decide on at once. We must get together and oppose any move
on the part of the Minneapolis clubs to elect another State
Federation president from the Twin Cities. And this Mrs.
Edgar Potbury they're putting forward--I know there are
people who think she's a bright interesting speaker, but I
regard her as very shallow. What do you say to my writing
to the Lake Ojibawasha Club, telling them that if their district
will support Mrs. Warren for second vice-president, we'll
support their Mrs. Hagelton (and such a dear, lovely, cultivated
woman, too) for president."
"Yes! We ought to show up those Minneapolis folks!"
Ella Stowbody said acidly. "And oh, by the way, we must
oppose this movement of Mrs. Potbury's to have the state clubs
come out definitely in favor of woman suffrage. Women
haven't any place in politics. They would lose all their daintiness
and charm if they became involved in these horried plots
and log-rolling and all this awful political stuff about scandal
and personalities and so on."
All--save one--nodded. They interrupted the formal
business-meeting to discuss Mrs. Edgar Potbury's husband,
Mrs. Potbury's income, Mrs. Potbury's sedan, Mrs. Potbury's
residence, Mrs. Potbury's oratorical style, Mrs. Potbury's
mandarin evening coat, Mrs. Potbury's coiffure, and Mrs. Potbury's
altogether reprehensible influence on the State Federation of
Before the program committee adjourned they took three
minutes to decide which of the subjects suggested by the
magazine Culture Hints, Furnishings and China, or The Bible
as Literature, would be better for the coming year. There
was one annoying incident. Mrs. Dr. Kennicott interfered
and showed off again. She commented, "Don't you think
that we already get enough of the Bible in our churches and
Mrs. Leonard Warren, somewhat out of order but much
more out of temper, cried, "Well upon my word! I didn't
suppose there was any one who felt that we could get enough
of the Bible! I guess if the Grand Old Book has withstood
the attacks of infidels for these two thousand years it is worth
our SLIGHT consideration!"
"Oh, I didn't mean----" Carol begged. Inasmuch as she
did mean, it was hard to be extremely lucid. "But I wish,
instead of limiting ourselves either to the Bible, or to anecdotes
about the Brothers Adam's wigs, which Culture Hints seems
to regard as the significant point about furniture, we could
study some of the really stirring ideas that are springing up
today--whether it's chemistry or anthropology or labor problems--
the things that are going to mean so terribly much."
Everybody cleared her polite throat.
Madam Chairman inquired, "Is there any other discussion?
Will some one make a motion to adopt the suggestion of Vida
Sherwin--to take up Furnishings and China?"
It was adopted, unanimously.
"Checkmate!" murmured Carol, as she held up her hand.
Had she actually believed that she could plant a seed of
liberalism in the blank wall of mediocrity? How had she
fallen into the folly of trying to plant anything whatever in a
wall so smooth and sun-glazed, and so satisfying to the happy
ONE week of authentic spring, one rare sweet week of May,
one tranquil moment between the blast of winter and the charge
of summer. Daily Carol walked from town into flashing
country hysteric with new life.
One enchanted hour when she returned to youth and a
belief in the possibility of beauty.
She had walked northward toward the upper shore of Plover
Lake, taking to the railroad track, whose directness and
dryness make it the natural highway for pedestrians on the
plains. She stepped from tie to tie, in long strides. At each
road-crossing she had to crawl over a cattle-guard of sharpened
timbers. She walked the rails, balancing with arms extended,
cautious heel before toe. As she lost balance her body bent
over, her arms revolved wildly, and when she toppled she
The thick grass beside the track, coarse and prickly with
many burnings, hid canary-yellow buttercups and the mauve
petals and woolly sage-green coats of the pasque flowers. The
branches of the kinnikinic brush were red and smooth as
lacquer on a saki bowl.
She ran down the gravelly embankment, smiled at children
gathering flowers in a little basket, thrust a handful of the
soft pasque flowers into the bosom of her white blouse. Fields
of springing wheat drew her from the straight propriety of the
railroad and she crawled through the rusty barbed-wire fence.
She followed a furrow between low wheat blades and a field of
rye which showed silver lights as it flowed before the wind.
She found a pasture by the lake. So sprinkled was the pasture
with rag-baby blossoms and the cottony herb of Indian tobacco
that it spread out like a rare old Persian carpet of cream
and rose and delicate green. Under her feet the rough grass
made a pleasant crunching. Sweet winds blew from the sunny
lake beside her, and small waves sputtered on the meadowy
shore. She leaped a tiny creek bowered in pussy-willow buds.
She was nearing a frivolous grove of birch and poplar and
wild plum trees.
The poplar foliage had the downiness of a Corot arbor;
the green and silver trunks were as candid as the birches, as
slender and lustrous as the limbs of a Pierrot. The cloudy
white blossoms of the plum trees filled the grove with a
springtime mistiness which gave an illusion of distance.
She ran into the wood, crying out for joy of freedom regained
after winter. Choke-cherry blossoms lured her from the outer
sun-warmed spaces to depths of green stillness, where a
submarine light came through the young leaves. She walked
pensively along an abandoned road. She found a moccasin-
flower beside a lichen-covered log. At the end of the road
she saw the open acres--dipping rolling fields bright with
"I believe! The woodland gods still live! And out there,
the great land. It's beautiful as the mountains. What do
I care for Thanatopsises?"
She came out on the prairie, spacious under an arch of boldly
cut clouds. Small pools glittered. Above a marsh red-winged
blackbirds chased a crow in a swift melodrama of the air.
On a hill was silhouetted a man following a drag. His horse
bent its neck and plodded, content.
A path took her to the Corinth road, leading back to town.
Dandelions glowed in patches amidst the wild grass by the
way. A stream golloped through a concrete culvert beneath
the road. She trudged in healthy weariness.
A man in a bumping Ford rattled up beside her, hailed,
"Give you a lift, Mrs. Kennicott?"
"Thank you. It's awfully good of you, but I'm enjoying the
"Great day, by golly. I seen some wheat that must of
been five inches high. Well, so long."
She hadn't the dimmest notion who he was, but his greeting
warmed her. This countryman gave her a companionship
which she had never (whether by her fault or theirs or neither)
been able to find in the matrons and commercial lords of the
Half a mile from town, in a hollow between hazelnut bushes
and a brook, she discovered a gipsy encampment: a covered
wagon, a tent, a bunch of pegged-out horses. A broad-
shouldered man was squatted on his heels, holding a frying-
pan over a camp-fire. He looked toward her. He was Miles
"Well, well, what you doing out here?" he roared. "Come
have a hunk o' bacon. Pete! Hey, Pete!"
A tousled person came from behind the covered wagon.
"Pete, here's the one honest-to-God lady in my bum town.
Come on, crawl in and set a couple minutes, Mrs. Kennicott.
I'm hiking off for all summer."
The Red Swede staggered up, rubbed his cramped knees,
lumbered to the wire fence, held the strands apart for her.
She unconsciously smiled at him as she went through. Her
skirt caught on a barb; he carefully freed it.
Beside this man in blue flannel shirt, baggy khaki trousers,
uneven suspenders, and vile felt hat, she was small and
The surly Pete set out an upturned bucket for her. She
lounged on it, her elbows on her knees. "Where are you
going?" she asked.
"Just starting off for the summer, horse-trading." Bjornstam
chuckled. His red mustache caught the sun. "Regular
hoboes and public benefactors we are. Take a hike like this
every once in a while. Sharks on horses. Buy 'em from
farmers and sell 'em to others. We're honest--frequently.
Great time. Camp along the road. I was wishing I had a
chance to say good-by to you before I ducked out but----
Say, you better come along with us."
"I'd like to."
"While you're playing mumblety-peg with Mrs. Lym Cass,
Pete and me will be rambling across Dakota, through the
Bad Lands, into the butte country, and when fall comes,
we'll be crossing over a pass of the Big Horn Mountains,
maybe, and camp in a snow-storm, quarter of a mile right
straight up above a lake. Then in the morning we'll lie snug
in our blankets and look up through the pines at an eagle.
How'd it strike you? Heh? Eagle soaring and soaring all
day--big wide sky----"
"Don't! Or I will go with you, and I'm afraid there might
be some slight scandal. Perhaps some day I'll do it. Good-by."
Her hand disappeared in his blackened leather glove. From
the turn in the road she waved at him. She walked on more
soberly now, and she was lonely.
But the wheat and grass were sleek velvet under the sun-
set; the prairie clouds were tawny gold; and she swung happily
into Main Street.
Through the first days of June she drove with Kennicott on
his calls. She identified him with the virile land; she admired
him as she saw with what respect the farmers obeyed him.
She was out in the early chill, after a hasty cup of coffee,
reaching open country as the fresh sun came up in that
unspoiled world. Meadow larks called from the tops of thin
split fence-posts. The wild roses smelled clean.
As they returned in late afternoon the low sun was a
solemnity of radial bands, like a heavenly fan of beaten gold;
the limitless circle of the grain was a green sea rimmed with
fog, and the willow wind-breaks were palmy isles.
Before July the close heat blanketed them. The tortured
earth cracked. Farmers panted through corn-fields behind
cultivators and the sweating flanks of horses. While she waited
for Kennicott in the car, before a farmhouse, the seat burned
her fingers and her head ached with the glare on fenders and
A black thunder-shower was followed by a dust storm which
turned the sky yellow with the hint of a coming tornado.
Impalpable black dust far-borne from Dakota covered the
inner sills of the closed windows.
The July heat was ever more stifling. They crawled along
Main Street by day; they found it hard to sleep at night. They
brought mattresses down to the living-room, and thrashed and
turned by the open window. Ten times a night they talked of
going out to soak themselves with the hose and wade through
the dew, but they were too listless to take the trouble. On
cool evenings, when they tried to go walking, the gnats
appeared in swarms which peppered their faces and caught in
She wanted the Northern pines, the Eastern sea, but Kennicott
declared that it would be "kind of hard to get away, just NOW."
The Health and Improvement Committee of the Thanatopsis asked her
to take part in the anti-fly campaign, and she toiled about town
persuading householders to use the fly-traps furnished by the club,
or giving out money prizes to fly-swatting children. She was loyal
enough but not ardent, and without ever quite intending to,
she began to neglect the task as heat sucked at her strength.
Kennicott and she motored North and spent a week with
his mother--that is, Carol spent it with his mother, while he
fished for bass.
The great event was their purchase of a summer cottage,
down on Lake Minniemashie.
Perhaps the most amiable feature of life in Gopher Prairie
was the summer cottages. They were merely two-room
shanties, with a seepage of broken-down chairs, peeling veneered
tables, chromos pasted on wooden walls, and inefficient kerosene
stoves. They were so thin-walled and so close together that
you could--and did--hear a baby being spanked in the fifth
cottage off. But they were set among elms and lindens on a
bluff which looked across the lake to fields of ripened wheat
sloping up to green woods.
Here the matrons forgot social jealousies, and sat gossiping
in gingham; or, in old bathing-suits, surrounded by hysterical
children, they paddled for hours. Carol joined them; she
ducked shrieking small boys, and helped babies construct sand-
basins for unfortunate minnows. She liked Juanita Haydock
and Maud Dyer when she helped them make picnic-supper
for the men, who came motoring out from town each evening.
She was easier and more natural with them. In the debate
as to whether there should be veal loaf or poached egg on hash,
she had no chance to be heretical and oversensitive.
They danced sometimes, in the evening; they had a minstrel
show, with Kennicott surprisingly good as end-man; always
they were encircled by children wise in the lore of woodchucks
and gophers and rafts and willow whistles.
If they could have continued this normal barbaric life Carol
would have been the most enthusiastic citizen of Gopher
Prairie. She was relieved to be assured that she did not want
bookish conversation alone; that she did not expect the town
to become a Bohemia. She was content now. She did not
But in September, when the year was at its richest, custom
dictated that it was time to return to town; to remove the
children from the waste occupation of learning the earth, and
send them back to lessons about the number of potatoes which
(in a delightful world untroubled by commission-houses or
shortages in freight-cars) William sold to John. The women
who had cheerfully gone bathing all summer looked doubtful
when Carol begged, "Let's keep up an outdoor life this winter,
let's slide and skate." Their hearts shut again till spring, and
the nine months of cliques and radiators and dainty refreshments
began all over.
Carol had started a salon.
Since Kennicott, Vida Sherwin, and Guy Pollock were her
only lions, and since Kennicott would have preferred Sam
Clark to all the poets and radicals in the entire world, her
private and self-defensive clique did not get beyond one
evening dinner for Vida and Guy, on her first wedding
anniversary; and that dinner did not get beyond a controversy
regarding Raymie Wutherspoon's yearnings.
Guy Pollock was the gentlest person she had found here.
He spoke of her new jade and cream frock naturally, not
jocosely; he held her chair for her as they sat down to dinner;
and he did not, like Kennicott, interrupt her to shout, "Oh
say, speaking of that, I heard a good story today." But Guy
was incurably hermit. He sat late and talked hard, and did
not come again.
Then she met Champ Perry in the post-office--and decided
that in the history of the pioneers was the panacea for Gopher
Prairie, for all of America. We have lost their sturdiness, she
told herself. We must restore the last of the veterans to power
and follow them on the backward path to the integrity of
Lincoln, to the gaiety of settlers dancing in a saw-mill.
She read in the records of the Minnesota Territorial
Pioneers that only sixty years ago, not so far back as the birth
of her own father, four cabins had composed Gopher Prairie.
The log stockade which Mrs. Champ Perry was to find when
she trekked in was built afterward by the soldiers as a defense
against the Sioux. The four cabins were inhabited by Maine
Yankees who had come up the Mississippi to St. Paul and
driven north over virgin prairie into virgin woods. They
ground their own corn; the men-folks shot ducks and pigeons
and prairie chickens; the new breakings yielded the turnip-
like rutabagas, which they ate raw and boiled and baked and
raw again. For treat they had wild plums and crab-apples and
tiny wild strawberries.
Grasshoppers came darkening the sky, and in an hour ate
the farmwife's garden and the farmer's coat. Precious horses
painfully brought from Illinois, were drowned in bogs or
stampeded by the fear of blizzards. Snow blew through the
chinks of new-made cabins, and Eastern children, with flowery
muslin dresses, shivered all winter and in summer were red
and black with mosquito bites. Indians were everywhere; they
camped in dooryards, stalked into kitchens to demand doughnuts,
came with rifles across their backs into schoolhouses and
begged to see the pictures in the geographies. Packs of timber-
wolves treed the children; and the settlers found dens of rattle-
snakes, killed fifty, a hundred, in a day.
Yet it was a buoyant life. Carol read enviously in the
admirable Minnesota chronicles called "Old Rail Fence Corners"
the reminiscence of Mrs. Mahlon Black, who settled in
Stillwater in 1848:
"There was nothing to parade over in those days. We took
it as it came and had happy lives. . . . We would all
gather together and in about two minutes would be having
a good time--playing cards or dancing. . . . We used to
waltz and dance contra dances. None of these new jigs and
not wear any clothes to speak of. We covered our hides in
those days; no tight skirts like now. You could take three or
four steps inside our skirts and then not reach the edge. One
of the boys would fiddle a while and then some one would
spell him and he could get a dance. Sometimes they would
dance and fiddle too."
She reflected that if she could not have ballrooms of gray
and rose and crystal, she wanted to be swinging across a
puncheon-floor with a dancing fiddler. This smug in-between
town, which had exchanged "Money Musk" for phonographs
grinding out ragtime, it was neither the heroic old nor the
sophisticated new. Couldn't she somehow, some yet
unimagined how, turn it back to simplicity?
She herself knew two of the pioneers: the Perrys. Champ
Perry was the buyer at the grain-elevator. He weighed wagons
of wheat on a rough platform-scale, in the cracks of which the
kernels sprouted every spring. Between times he napped in
the dusty peace of his office.
She called on the Perrys at their rooms above Howland &
When they were already old they had lost the money,
which they had invested in an elevator. They had given up
their beloved yellow brick house and moved into these rooms
over a store, which were the Gopher Prairie equivalent of a
flat. A broad stairway led from the street to the upper hall,
along which were the doors of a lawyer's office, a dentist's,
a photographer's "studio," the lodge-rooms of the Affiliated
Order of Spartans and, at the back, the Perrys' apartment.
They received her (their first caller in a month) with aged
fluttering tenderness. Mrs. Perry confided, "My, it's a shame
we got to entertain you in such a cramped place. And there
ain't any water except that ole iron sink outside in the hall,
but still, as I say to Champ, beggars can't be choosers. 'Sides,
the brick house was too big for me to sweep, and it was way
out, and it's nice to be living down here among folks. Yes,
we're glad to be here. But---- Some day, maybe we can
have a house of our own again. We're saving up---- Oh,
dear, if we could have our own home! But these rooms are
real nice, ain't they!"
As old people will, the world over, they had moved as much
as possible of their familiar furniture into this small space.
Carol had none of the superiority she felt toward Mrs. Lyman
Cass's plutocratic parlor. She was at home here. She noted
with tenderness all the makeshifts: the darned chair-arms, the
patent rocker covered with sleazy cretonne, the pasted strips
of paper mending the birch-bark napkin-rings labeled "Papa "
She hinted of her new enthusiasm. To find one of the
"young folks" who took them seriously, heartened the Perrys,
and she easily drew from them the principles by which Gopher
Prairie should be born again--should again become amusing
to live in.
This was their philosophy complete. . .in the era of
aeroplanes and syndicalism:
The Baptist Church (and, somewhat less, the Methodist,
Congregational, and Presbyterian Churches) is the perfect, the
divinely ordained standard in music, oratory, philanthropy, and
ethics. "We don't need all this new-fangled science, or this
terrible Higher Criticism that's ruining our young men in
colleges. What we need is to get back to the true Word of
God, and a good sound belief in hell, like we used to have
it preached to us."
The Republican Party, the Grand Old Party of Blaine and
McKinley, is the agent of the Lord and of the Baptist Church
in temporal affairs.
All socialists ought to be hanged.
"Harold Bell Wright is a lovely writer, and he teaches such
good morals in his novels, and folks say he's made prett' near
a million dollars out of 'em."
People who make more than ten thousand a year or less
than eight hundred are wicked.
Europeans are still wickeder.
It doesn't hurt any to drink a glass of beer on a warm day,
but anybody who touches wine is headed straight for hell.
Virgins are not so virginal as they used to be
Nobody needs drug-store ice cream; pie is good enough for
The farmers want too much for their wheat.
The owners of the elevator-company expect too much for the
salaries they pay.
There would be no more trouble or discontent in the world
if everybody worked as hard as Pa did when he cleared our
Carol's hero-worship dwindled to polite nodding, and the
nodding dwindled to a desire to escape, and she went home
with a headache.
Next day she saw Miles Bjornstam on the street.
"Just back from Montana. Great summer. Pumped my
lungs chuck-full of Rocky Mountain air. Now for another
whirl at sassing the bosses of Gopher Prairie." She smiled at
him, and the Perrys faded, the pioneers faded, till they were
but daguerreotypes in a black walnut cupboard.
SHE tried, more from loyalty than from desire, to call upon
the Perrys on a November evening when Kennicott was away.
They were not at home.
Like a child who has no one to play with she loitered through
the dark hall. She saw a light under an office door. She
knocked. To the person who opened she murmured, "Do you
happen to know where the Perrys are?" She realized that
it was Guy Pollock.
"I'm awfully sorry, Mrs. Kennicott, but I don't know.
Won't you come in and wait for them?"
"W-why----" she observed, as she reflected that in Gopher
Prairie it is not decent to call on a man; as she decided that
no, really, she wouldn't go in; and as she went in.
"I didn't know your office was up here."
"Yes, office, town-house, and chateau in Picardy. But you
can't see the chateau and town-house (next to the Duke of
Sutherland's). They're beyond that inner door. They are a
cot and a wash-stand and my other suit and the blue crepe tie
you said you liked."
"You remember my saying that?"
"Of course. I always shall. Please try this chair."
She glanced about the rusty office--gaunt stove, shelves
of tan law-books, desk-chair filled with newspapers so long
sat upon that they were in holes and smudged to grayness.
There were only two things which suggested Guy Pollock. On
the green felt of the table-desk, between legal blanks and a
clotted inkwell, was a cloissone vase. On a swing shelf was a
row of books unfamiliar to Gopher Prairie: Mosher editions
of the poets, black and red German novels, a Charles Lamb in
Guy did not sit down. He quartered the office, a grayhound
on the scent; a grayhound with glasses tilted forward on his
thin nose, and a silky indecisive brown mustache. He had a
golf jacket of jersey, worn through at the creases in the sleeves.
She noted that he did not apologize for it, as Kennicott would
He made conversation: "I didn't know you were a bosom
friend of the Perrys. Champ is the salt of the earth but somehow
I can't imagine him joining you in symbolic dancing, or
making improvements on the Diesel engine."
"No. He's a dear soul, bless him, but he belongs in the
National Museum, along with General Grant's sword, and
I'm---- Oh, I suppose I'm seeking for a gospel that will
evangelize Gopher Prairie."
"Really? Evangelize it to what?"
"To anything that's definite. Seriousness or frivolousness or
both. I wouldn't care whether it was a laboratory or a carnival.
But it's merely safe. Tell me, Mr. Pollock, what is the
matter with Gopher Prairie?"
"Is anything the matter with it? Isn't there perhaps
something the matter with you and me? (May I join you in the
honor of having something the matter?)"
"(Yes, thanks.) No, I think it's the town."
"Because they enjoy skating more than biology?"
"But I'm not only more interested in biology than the Jolly
Seventeen, but also in skating! I'll skate with them, or
slide, or throw snowballs, just as gladly as talk with you."
("Yes!) But they want to stay home and embroider."
"Perhaps. I'm not defending the town. It's merely----
I'm a confirmed doubter of myself. (Probably I'm conceited
about my lack of conceit!) Anyway, Gopher Prairie isn't
particularly bad. It's like all villages in all countries. Most
places that have lost the smell of earth but not yet acquired
the smell of patchouli--or of factory-smoke--are just as
suspicious and righteous. I wonder if the small town isn't, with
some lovely exceptions, a social appendix? Some day these
dull market-towns may be as obsolete as monasteries. I can
imagine the farmer and his local store-manager going by
monorail, at the end of the day, into a city more charming
than any William Morris Utopia--music, a university, clubs
for loafers like me. (Lord, how I'd like to have a real club!)"
She asked impulsively, "You, why do you stay here?"
"I have the Village Virus."
"It sounds dangerous."
"It is. More dangerous than the cancer that will certainly
get me at fifty unless I stop this smoking. The Village Virus
is the germ which--it's extraordinarily like the hook-worm--it
infects ambitious people who stay too long in the provinces.
You'll find it epidemic among lawyers and doctors and ministers
and college-bred merchants--all these people who have had a
glimpse of the world that thinks and laughs, but have returned
to their swamp. I'm a perfect example. But I sha'n't pester
you with my dolors."
"You won't. And do sit down, so I can see you."
He dropped into the shrieking desk-chair. He looked
squarely at her; she was conscious of the pupils of his eyes; of
the fact that he was a man, and lonely. They were embarrassed.
They elaborately glanced away, and were relieved as he went
"The diagnosis of my Village Virus is simple enough. I
was born in an Ohio town about the same size as Gopher
Prairie, and much less friendly. It'd had more generations in
which to form an oligarchy of respectability. Here, a stranger
is taken in if he is correct, if he likes hunting and motoring and
God and our Senator. There, we didn't take in even our own
till we had contemptuously got used to them. It was a red-
brick Ohio town, and the trees made it damp, and it smelled of
rotten apples. The country wasn't like our lakes and prairie.
There were small stuffy corn-fields and brick-yards and greasy
"I went to a denominational college and learned that since
dictating the Bible, and hiring a perfect race of ministers to
explain it, God has never done much but creep around and try
to catch us disobeying it. From college I went to New York,
to the Columbia Law School. And for four years I lived.
Oh, I won't rhapsodize about New York. It was dirty and
noisy and breathless and ghastly expensive. But compared with
the moldy academy in which I had been smothered----! I
went to symphonies twice a week. I saw Irving and Terry
and Duse and Bernhardt, from the top gallery. I walked in
Gramercy Park. And I read, oh, everything.
"Through a cousin I learned that Julius Flickerbaugh was
sick and needed a partner. I came here. Julius got well.
He didn't like my way of loafing five hours and then doing
my work (really not so badly) in one. We parted.
"When I first came here I swore I'd `keep up my interests.'
Very lofty! I read Browning, and went to Minneapolis for the
theaters. I thought I was `keeping up.' But I guess the
Village Virus had me already. I was reading four copies of
cheap fiction-magazines to one poem. I'd put off the
Minneapolis trips till I simply had to go there on a lot of legal
"A few years ago I was talking to a patent lawyer from
Chicago, and I realized that---- I'd always felt so superior
to people like Julius Flickerbaugh, but I saw that I was as
provincial and behind-the-times as Julius. (Worse! Julius
plows through the Literary Digest and the Outlook faithfully,
while I'm turning over pages of a book by Charles Flandrau
that I already know by heart.)
"I decided to leave here. Stern resolution. Grasp the
world. Then I found that the Village Virus had me, absolute:
I didn't want to face new streets and younger men--real
competition. It was too easy to go on making out conveyances
and arguing ditching cases. So---- That's all of the biography
of a living dead man, except the diverting last chapter, the lies
about my having been `a tower of strength and legal wisdom'
which some day a preacher will spin over my lean dry body."
He looked down at his table-desk, fingering the starry
She could not comment. She pictured herself running across
the room to pat his hair. She saw that his lips were firm,
under his soft faded mustache. She sat still and maundered,
"I know. The Village Virus. Perhaps it will get me. Some
day I'm going---- Oh, no matter. At least, I am making you
talk! Usually you have to be polite to my garrulousness, but
now I'm sitting at your feet."
"It would be rather nice to have you literally sitting at my
feet, by a fire."
"Would you have a fireplace for me?"
"Naturally! Please don't snub me now! Let the old man
rave. How old are you, Carol?"
"Twenty-six! I was just leaving New York, at twenty-six.
I heard Patti sing, at twenty-six. And now I'm forty-seven. I
feel like a child, yet I'm old enough to be your father. So it's
decently paternal to imagine you curled at my feet. . . .
Of course I hope it isn't, but we'll reflect the morals of Gopher
Prairie by officially announcing that it is! . . . These
standards that you and I live up to! There's one thing that's the
matter with Gopher Prairie, at least with the ruling-class
(there is a ruling-class, despite all our professions of democ-
racy). And the penalty we tribal rulers pay is that our
subjects watch us every minute. We can't get wholesomely drunk
and relax. We have to be so correct about sex morals, and
inconspicuous clothes, and doing our commercial trickery only
in the traditional ways, that none of us can live up to it, and we
become horribly hypocritical. Unavoidably. The widow-robbing
deacon of fiction can't help being hypocritical. The
widows themselves demand it! They admire his unctuousness.
And look at me. Suppose I did dare to make love to--some
exquisite married woman. I wouldn't admit it to myself. I
giggle with the most revolting salaciousness over La Vie Parisienne,
when I get hold of one in Chicago, yet I shouldn't even
try to hold your hand. I'm broken. It's the historical Anglo-
Saxon way of making life miserable. . . . Oh, my dear, I haven't
talked to anybody about myself and all our selves for years."
"Guy! Can't we do something with the town? Really?"
"No, we can't!" He disposed of it like a judge ruling out
an improper objection; returned to matters less uncomfortably
energetic: "Curious. Most troubles are unnecessary. We
have Nature beaten; we can make her grow wheat; we can keep
warm when she sends blizzards. So we raise the devil just
for pleasure--wars, politics, race-hatreds, labor-disputes. Here
in Gopher Prairie we've cleared the fields, and become soft,
so we make ourselves unhappy artificially, at great expense and
exertion: Methodists disliking Episcopalians, the man with
the Hudson laughing at the man with the flivver. The worst
is the commercial hatred--the grocer feeling that any man who
doesn't deal with him is robbing him. What hurts me is that
it applies to lawyers and doctors (and decidedly to their wives!)
as much as to grocers. The doctors--you know about that--
how your husband and Westlake and Gould dislike one
"No! I won't admit it!"
"Oh, maybe once or twice, when Will has positively known
of a case where Doctor--where one of the others has continued
to call on patients longer than necessary, he has
laughed about it, but----"
He still grinned.
"No, REALLY! And when you say the wives of the doctors
share these jealousies---- Mrs. McGanum and I haven't any
particular crush on each other; she's so stolid. But her
mother, Mrs. Westlake--nobody could be sweeter."
"Yes, I'm sure she's very bland. But I wouldn't tell her my
heart's secrets if I were you, my dear. I insist that there's
only one professional-man's wife in this town who doesn't
plot, and that is you, you blessed, credulous outsider!"
"I won't be cajoled! I won't believe that medicine, the
priesthood of healing, can be turned into a penny-picking
"See here: Hasn't Kennicott ever hinted to you that you'd
better be nice to some old woman because she tells her friends
which doctor to call in? But I oughtn't to----"
She remembered certain remarks which Kennicott had
offered regarding the Widow Bogart. She flinched, looked at
He sprang up, strode to her with a nervous step, smoothed
her hand. She wondered if she ought to be offended by his
caress. Then she wondered if he liked her hat, the new
Oriental turban of rose and silver brocade.
He dropped her hand. His elbow brushed her shoulder. He
flitted over to the desk-chair, his thin back stooped. He
picked up the cloisonne vase. Across it he peered at her
with such loneliness that she was startled. But his eyes faded
into impersonality as he talked of the jealousies of Gopher
Prairie. He stopped himself with a sharp, "Good Lord,
Carol, you're not a jury. You are within your legal rights
in refusing to be subjected to this summing-up. I'm a tedious
old fool analyzing the obvious, while you're the spirit of
rebellion. Tell me your side. What is Gopher Prairie to you?"
"Can I help?"
"How could you?"
"I don't know. Perhaps by listening. I haven't done that
tonight. But normally---- Can't I be the confidant of
the old French plays, the tiring-maid with the mirror and the
"Oh, what is there to confide? The people are savorless
and proud of it. And even if I liked you tremendously, I
couldn't talk to you without twenty old hexes watching,
"But you will come talk to me, once in a while?"
"I'm not sure that I shall. I'm trying to develop my own
large capacity for dullness and contentment. I've failed at
every positive thing I've tried. I'd better `settle down,' as
they call it, and be satisfied to be--nothing."
"Don't be cynical. It hurts me, in you. It's like blood on
the wing of a humming-bird."
"I'm not a humming-bird. I'm a hawk; a tiny leashed
hawk, pecked to death by these large, white, flabby, wormy
hens. But I am grateful to you for confirming me in the faith.
And I'm going home!"
"Please stay and have some coffee with me."
"I'd like to. But they've succeeded in terrorizing me. I'm
afraid of what people might say."
"I'm not afraid of that. I'm only afraid of what you might
say!" He stalked to her; took her unresponsive hand.
"Carol! You have been happy here tonight? (Yes. I'm
She squeezed his hand quickly, then snatched hers away.
She had but little of the curiosity of the flirt, and none of the
intrigante's joy in furtiveness. If she was the naive girl, Guy
Pollock was the clumsy boy. He raced about the office; he
rammed his fists into his pockets. He stammered, "I--I--I
---- Oh, the devil! Why do I awaken from smooth dustiness
to this jagged rawness? I'll make I'm going to trot
down the hall and bring in the Dillons, and we'll all have coffee
"Yes. Really quite a decent young pair--Harvey Dillon
and his wife. He's a dentist, just come to town. They live in a
room behind his office, same as I do here. They don't know
much of anybody----"
"I've heard of them. And I've never thought to call. I'm
horribly ashamed. Do bring them----"
She stopped, for no very clear reason, but his expression
said, her faltering admitted, that they wished they had never
mentioned the Dillons. With spurious enthusiasm he said,
"Splendid! I will." From the door he glanced at her, curled
in the peeled leather chair. He slipped out, came back with
Dr. and Mrs. Dillon.
The four of them drank rather bad coffee which Pollock
made on a kerosene burner. They laughed, and spoke of
Minneapolis, and were tremendously tactful; and Carol
started for home, through the November wind.
SHE was marching home.
"No. I couldn't fall in love with him. I like him, very
much. But he's too much of a recluse. Could I kiss him?
No! No! Guy Pollock at twenty-six I could have kissed
him then, maybe, even if I were married to some one else, and
probably I'd have been glib in persuading myself that `it wasn't
"The amazing thing is that I'm not more amazed at
myself. I, the virtuous young matron. Am I to be trusted?
If the Prince Charming came----
"A Gopher Prairie housewife, married a year, and yearning
for a `Prince Charming' like a bachfisch of sixteen! They
say that marriage is a magic change. But I'm not changed.
"No! I wouldn't want to fall in love, even if the Prince did
come. I wouldn't want to hurt Will. I am fond of Will. I
am! He doesn't stir me, not any longer. But I depend on
him. He is home and children.
"I wonder when we will begin to have children? I do
"I wonder whether I remembered to tell Bea to have
hominy tomorrow, instead of oatmeal? She will have gone to
bed by now. Perhaps I'll be up early enough----
"Ever so fond of Will. I wouldn't hurt him, even if I had
to lose the mad love. If the Prince came I'd look once at him,
and run. Darn fast! Oh, Carol, you are not heroic nor
fine. You are the immutable vulgar young female.
"But I'm not the faithless wife who enjoys confiding that
she's `misunderstood.' Oh, I'm not, I'm not!
"At least I didn't whisper to Guy about Will's faults and
his blindness to my remarkable soul. I didn't! Matter of
fact, Will probably understands me perfectly! If only--if
he would just back me up in rousing the town.
"How many, how incredibly many wives there must be who
tingle over the first Guy Pollock who smiles at them. No! I
will not be one of that herd of yearners! The coy virgin
brides. Yet probably if the Prince were young and dared to
"I'm not half as well oriented as that Mrs. Dillon. So
obviously adoring her dentist! And seeing Guy only as an
"They weren't silk, Mrs. Dillon's stockings. They were
lisle. Her legs are nice and slim. But no nicer than mine. I
hate cotton tops on silk stockings. . . . Are my ankles getting
fat? I will NOT have fat ankles!
"No. I am fond of Will. His work--one farmer he pulls
through diphtheria is worth all my yammering for a castle in
Spain. A castle with baths.
"This hat is so tight. I must stretch it. Guy liked it.
"There's the house. I'm awfully chilly. Time to get out the
fur coat. I wonder if I'll ever have a beaver coat? Nutria is
NOT the same thing! Beaver-glossy. Like to run my fingers
over it. Guy's mustache like beaver. How utterly absurd!