all the time. But I wouldn't trust any Westlake out of the whole lot,
and while Mrs. McGanum SEEMS square enough, you don't never want to
forget that she's Westlake's daughter. You bet!"
"What about Dr. Gould? Don't you think he's worse than either Westlake
or McGanum? He's so cheap--drinking, and playing pool, and always
smoking cigars in such a cocky way----"
"That's all right now! Terry Gould is a good deal of a tin-horn sport,
but he knows a lot about medicine, and don't you forget it for one
She stared down Guy's grin, and asked more cheerfully, "Is he honest,
"Ooooooooooo! Gosh I'm sleepy!" He burrowed beneath the bedclothes in
a luxurious stretch, and came up like a diver, shaking his head, as
he complained, "How's that? Who? Terry Gould honest? Don't start me
laughing--I'm too nice and sleepy! I didn't say he was honest. I said
he had savvy enough to find the index in 'Gray's Anatomy,' which is more
than McGanum can do! But I didn't say anything about his being honest.
He isn't. Terry is crooked as a dog's hind leg. He's done me more than
one dirty trick. He told Mrs. Glorbach, seventeen miles out, that I
wasn't up-to-date in obstetrics. Fat lot of good it did him! She came
right in and told me! And Terry's lazy. He'd let a pneumonia patient
choke rather than interrupt a poker game."
"Oh no. I can't believe----"
"Well now, I'm telling you!"
"Does he play much poker? Dr. Dillon told me that Dr. Gould wanted him
"Dillon told you what? Where'd you meet Dillon? He's just come to town."
"He and his wife were at Mr. Pollock's tonight."
"Say, uh, what'd you think of them? Didn't Dillon strike you as pretty
"Why no. He seemed intelligent. I'm sure he's much more wide-awake than
"Well now, the old man is a good dentist. He knows his business. And
Dillon----I wouldn't cuddle up to the Dillons too close, if I were you.
All right for Pollock, and that's none of our business, but we----I
think I'd just give the Dillons the glad hand and pass 'em up."
"But why? He isn't a rival."
"That's--all--right!" Kennicott was aggressively awake now. "He'll work
right in with Westlake and McGanum. Matter of fact, I suspect they
were largely responsible for his locating here. They'll be sending him
patients, and he'll send all that he can get hold of to them. I don't
trust anybody that's too much hand-in-glove with Westlake. You give
Dillon a shot at some fellow that's just bought a farm here and drifts
into town to get his teeth looked at, and after Dillon gets through with
him, you'll see him edging around to Westlake and McGanum, every time!"
Carol reached for her blouse, which hung on a chair by the bed. She
draped it about her shoulders, and sat up studying Kennicott, her chin
in her hands. In the gray light from the small electric bulb down the
hall she could see that he was frowning.
"Will, this is--I must get this straight. Some one said to me the other
day that in towns like this, even more than in cities, all the doctors
hate each other, because of the money----"
"Who said that?"
"It doesn't matter."
"I'll bet a hat it was your Vida Sherwin. She's a brainy woman, but
she'd be a damn sight brainier if she kept her mouth shut and didn't let
so much of her brains ooze out that way."
"Will! O Will! That's horrible! Aside from the vulgarity----Some ways,
Vida is my best friend. Even if she HAD said it. Which, as a matter of
fact, she didn't." He reared up his thick shoulders, in absurd pink and
green flannelette pajamas. He sat straight, and irritatingly snapped his
fingers, and growled:
"Well, if she didn't say it, let's forget her. Doesn't make any
difference who said it, anyway. The point is that you believe it. God!
To think you don't understand me any better than that! Money!"
("This is the first real quarrel we've ever had," she was agonizing.)
He thrust out his long arm and snatched his wrinkly vest from a chair.
He took out a cigar, a match. He tossed the vest on the floor. He
lighted the cigar and puffed savagely. He broke up the match and snapped
the fragments at the foot-board.
She suddenly saw the foot-board of the bed as the foot-stone of the
grave of love.
The room was drab-colored and ill-ventilated--Kennicott did not "believe
in opening the windows so darn wide that you heat all outdoors." The
stale air seemed never to change. In the light from the hall they were
two lumps of bedclothes with shoulders and tousled heads attached.
She begged, "I didn't mean to wake you up, dear. And please don't smoke.
You've been smoking so much. Please go back to sleep. I'm sorry."
"Being sorry 's all right, but I'm going to tell you one or two things.
This falling for anybody's say-so about medical jealousy and competition
is simply part and parcel of your usual willingness to think the worst
you possibly can of us poor dubs in Gopher Prairie. Trouble with women
like you is, you always want to ARGUE. Can't take things the way they
are. Got to argue. Well, I'm not going to argue about this in any way,
shape, manner, or form. Trouble with you is, you don't make any effort
to appreciate us. You're so damned superior, and think the city is such
a hell of a lot finer place, and you want us to do what YOU want, all
"That's not true! It's I who make the effort. It's they--it's you--who
stand back and criticize. I have to come over to the town's opinion;
I have to devote myself to their interests. They can't even SEE my
interests, to say nothing of adopting them. I get ever so excited about
their old Lake Minniemashie and the cottages, but they simply guffaw (in
that lovely friendly way you advertise so much) if I speak of wanting to
see Taormina also."
"Sure, Tormina, whatever that is--some nice expensive millionaire
colony, I suppose. Sure; that's the idea; champagne taste and beer
income; and make sure that we never will have more than a beer income,
"Are you by any chance implying that I am not economical?"
"Well, I hadn't intended to, but since you bring it up yourself, I don't
mind saying the grocery bills are about twice what they ought to be."
"Yes, they probably are. I'm not economical. I can't be. Thanks to you!"
"Where d' you get that 'thanks to you'?"
"Please don't be quite so colloquial--or shall I say VULGAR?"
"I'll be as damn colloquial as I want to. How do you get that 'thanks to
you'? Here about a year ago you jump me for not remembering to give you
money. Well, I'm reasonable. I didn't blame you, and I SAID I was to
blame. But have I ever forgotten it since--practically?"
"No. You haven't--practically! But that isn't it. I ought to have an
allowance. I will, too! I must have an agreement for a regular stated
amount, every month."
"Fine idea! Of course a doctor gets a regular stated amount! Sure! A
thousand one month--and lucky if he makes a hundred the next."
"Very well then, a percentage. Or something else. No matter how much you
vary, you can make a rough average for----"
"But what's the idea? What are you trying to get at? Mean to say I'm
unreasonable? Think I'm so unreliable and tightwad that you've got to
tie me down with a contract? By God, that hurts! I thought I'd been
pretty generous and decent, and I took a lot of pleasure--thinks I,
'she'll be tickled when I hand her over this twenty'--or fifty, or
whatever it was; and now seems you been wanting to make it a kind of
alimony. Me, like a poor fool, thinking I was liberal all the while, and
"Please stop pitying yourself! You're having a beautiful time feeling
injured. I admit all you say. Certainly. You've given me money both
freely and amiably. Quite as if I were your mistress!"
"I mean it! What was a magnificent spectacle of generosity to you was
humiliation to me. You GAVE me money--gave it to your mistress, if she
was complaisant, and then you----"
"(Don't interrupt me!)--then you felt you'd discharged all obligation.
Well, hereafter I'll refuse your money, as a gift. Either I'm your
partner, in charge of the household department of our business, with a
regular budget for it, or else I'm nothing. If I'm to be a mistress,
I shall choose my lovers. Oh, I hate it--I hate it--this smirking and
hoping for money--and then not even spending it on jewels as a mistress
has a right to, but spending it on double-boilers and socks for you!
Yes indeed! You're generous! You give me a dollar, right out--the only
proviso is that I must spend it on a tie for you! And you give it when
and as you wish. How can I be anything but uneconomical?"
"Oh well, of course, looking at it that way----"
"I can't shop around, can't buy in large quantities, have to stick to
stores where I have a charge account, good deal of the time, can't plan
because I don't know how much money I can depend on. That's what I pay
for your charming sentimentalities about giving so generously. You make
"Wait! Wait! You know you're exaggerating. You never thought about that
mistress stuff till just this minute! Matter of fact, you never have
'smirked and hoped for money.' But all the same, you may be right. You
ought to run the household as a business. I'll figure out a definite
plan tomorrow, and hereafter you'll be on a regular amount or
percentage, with your own checking account."
"Oh, that IS decent of you!" She turned toward him, trying to be
affectionate. But his eyes were pink and unlovely in the flare of the
match with which he lighted his dead and malodorous cigar. His head
drooped, and a ridge of flesh scattered with pale small bristles bulged
out under his chin.
She sat in abeyance till he croaked:
"No. 'Tisn't especially decent. It's just fair. And God knows I want
to be fair. But I expect others to be fair, too. And you're so high and
mighty about people. Take Sam Clark; best soul that ever lived, honest
and loyal and a damn good fellow----"
("Yes, and a good shot at ducks, don't forget that!")
("Well, and he is a good shot, too!) Sam drops around in the evening to
sit and visit, and by golly just because he takes a dry smoke and rolls
his cigar around in his mouth, and maybe spits a few times, you look
at him as if he was a hog. Oh, you didn't know I was onto you, and I
certainly hope Sam hasn't noticed it, but I never miss it."
"I have felt that way. Spitting--ugh! But I'm sorry you caught my
thoughts. I tried to be nice; I tried to hide them."
"Maybe I catch a whole lot more than you think I do!"
"Yes, perhaps you do."
"And d' you know why Sam doesn't light his cigar when he's here?"
"He's so darn afraid you'll be offended if he smokes. You scare him.
Every time he speaks of the weather you jump him because he ain't
talking about poetry or Gertie--Goethe?--or some other highbrow junk.
You've got him so leery he scarcely dares to come here."
"Oh, I AM sorry. (Though I'm sure it's you who are exaggerating now.")
"Well now, I don't know as I am! And I can tell you one thing: if you
keep on you'll manage to drive away every friend I've got."
"That would be horrible of me. You KNOW I don't mean to Will, what is it
about me that frightens Sam--if I do frighten him."
"Oh, you do, all right! 'Stead of putting his legs up on another chair,
and unbuttoning his vest, and telling a good story or maybe kidding
me about something, he sits on the edge of his chair and tries to make
conversation about politics, and he doesn't even cuss, and Sam's never
real comfortable unless he can cuss a little!"
"In other words, he isn't comfortable unless he can behave like a
peasant in a mud hut!"
"Now that'll be about enough of that! You want to know how you scare
him? First you deliberately fire some question at him that you know darn
well he can't answer--any fool could see you were experimenting with
him--and then you shock him by talking of mistresses or something, like
you were doing just now----"
"Of course the pure Samuel never speaks of such erring ladies in his
"Not when there's ladies around! You can bet your life on that!"
"So the impurity lies in failing to pretend that----"
"Now we won't go into all that--eugenics or whatever damn fad you choose
to call it. As I say, first you shock him, and then you become so darn
flighty that nobody can follow you. Either you want to dance, or you
bang the piano, or else you get moody as the devil and don't want to
talk or anything else. If you must be temperamental, why can't you be
that way by yourself?"
"My dear man, there's nothing I'd like better than to be by myself
occasionally! To have a room of my own! I suppose you expect me to sit
here and dream delicately and satisfy my 'temperamentality' while you
wander in from the bathroom with lather all over your face, and shout,
'Seen my brown pants?'"
"Huh!" He did not sound impressed. He made no answer. He turned out of
bed, his feet making one solid thud on the floor. He marched from the
room, a grotesque figure in baggy union-pajamas. She heard him drawing
a drink of water at the bathroom tap. She was furious at the
contemptuousness of his exit. She snuggled down in bed, and looked
away from him as he returned. He ignored her. As he flumped into bed he
yawned, and casually stated:
"Well, you'll have plenty of privacy when we build a new house.
"Oh, I'll build it all right, don't you fret! But of course I don't
expect any credit for it."
Now it was she who grunted "Huh!" and ignored him, and felt independent
and masterful as she shot up out of bed, turned her back on him,
fished a lone and petrified chocolate out of her glove-box in the
top right-hand drawer of the bureau, gnawed at it, found that it had
cocoanut filling, said "Damn!" wished that she had not said it, so that
she might be superior to his colloquialism, and hurled the chocolate
into the wastebasket, where it made an evil and mocking clatter among
the debris of torn linen collars and toothpaste box. Then, in great
dignity and self-dramatization, she returned to bed.
All this time he had been talking on, embroidering his assertion that
he "didn't expect any credit." She was reflecting that he was a rustic,
that she hated him, that she had been insane to marry him, that she had
married him only because she was tired of work, that she must get her
long gloves cleaned, that she would never do anything more for him,
and that she mustn't forget his hominy for breakfast. She was roused to
attention by his storming:
"I'm a fool to think about a new house. By the time I get it built
you'll probably have succeeded in your plan to get me completely in
Dutch with every friend and every patient I've got."
She sat up with a bounce. She said coldly, "Thank you very much for
revealing your real opinion of me. If that's the way you feel, if I'm
such a hindrance to you, I can't stay under this roof another minute.
And I am perfectly well able to earn my own living. I will go at once,
and you may get a divorce at your pleasure! What you want is a nice
sweet cow of a woman who will enjoy having your dear friends talk about
the weather and spit on the floor!"
"Tut! Don't be a fool!"
"You will very soon find out whether I'm a fool or not! I mean it! Do
you think I'd stay here one second after I found out that I was injuring
you? At least I have enough sense of justice not to do that."
"Please stop flying off at tangents, Carrie. This----"
"Tangents? TANGENTS! Let me tell you----"
"----isn't a theater-play; it's a serious effort to have us get together
on fundamentals. We've both been cranky, and said a lot of things we
didn't mean. I wish we were a couple o' bloomin' poets and just talked
about roses and moonshine, but we're human. All right. Let's cut out
jabbing at each other. Let's admit we both do fool things. See here: You
KNOW you feel superior to folks. You're not as bad as I say, but you're
not as good as you say--not by a long shot! What's the reason you're so
superior? Why can't you take folks as they are?"
Her preparations for stalking out of the Doll's House were not yet
visible. She mused:
"I think perhaps it's my childhood." She halted. When she went on
her voice had an artificial sound, her words the bookish quality of
emotional meditation. "My father was the tenderest man in the world, but
he did feel superior to ordinary people. Well, he was! And the Minnesota
Valley----I used to sit there on the cliffs above Mankato for hours at a
time, my chin in my hand, looking way down the valley, wanting to write
poems. The shiny tilted roofs below me, and the river, and beyond it the
level fields in the mist, and the rim of palisades across----It held my
thoughts in. I LIVED, in the valley. But the prairie--all my thoughts go
flying off into the big space. Do you think it might be that?"
"Um, well, maybe, but----Carrie, you always talk so much about getting
all you can out of life, and not letting the years slip by, and here you
deliberately go and deprive yourself of a lot of real good home pleasure
by not enjoying people unless they wear frock coats and trot out----"
("Morning clothes. Oh. Sorry. Didn't mean t' interrupt you.")
"----to a lot of tea-parties. Take Jack Elder. You think Jack hasn't got
any ideas about anything but manufacturing and the tariff on lumber.
But do you know that Jack is nutty about music? He'll put a grand-opera
record on the phonograph and sit and listen to it and close his
eyes----Or you take Lym Cass. Ever realize what a well-informed man he
"But IS he? Gopher Prairie calls anybody 'well-informed' who's been
through the State Capitol and heard about Gladstone."
"Now I'm telling you! Lym reads a lot--solid stuff--history. Or take
Mart Mahoney, the garageman. He's got a lot of Perry prints of famous
pictures in his office. Or old Bingham Playfair, that died here 'bout a
year ago--lived seven miles out. He was a captain in the Civil War,
and knew General Sherman, and they say he was a miner in Nevada right
alongside of Mark Twain. You'll find these characters in all these small
towns, and a pile of savvy in every single one of them, if you just dig
"I know. And I do love them. Especially people like Champ Perry. But I
can't be so very enthusiastic over the smug cits like Jack Elder."
"Then I'm a smug cit, too, whatever that is."
"No, you're a scientist. Oh, I will try and get the music out of Mr.
Elder. Only, why can't he let it COME out, instead of being ashamed of
it, and always talking about hunting dogs? But I will try. Is it all
"Sure. But there's one other thing. You might give me some attention,
"That's unjust! You have everything I am!"
"No, I haven't. You think you respect me--you always hand out some
spiel about my being so 'useful.' But you never think of me as having
ambitions, just as much as you have----"
"Perhaps not. I think of you as being perfectly satisfied."
"Well, I'm not, not by a long shot! I don't want to be a plug general
practitioner all my life, like Westlake, and die in harness because I
can't get out of it, and have 'em say, 'He was a good fellow, but he
couldn't save a cent.' Not that I care a whoop what they say, after I've
kicked in and can't hear 'em, but I want to put enough money away so you
and I can be independent some day, and not have to work unless I feel
like it, and I want to have a good house--by golly, I'll have as good
a house as anybody in THIS town!--and if we want to travel and see your
Tormina or whatever it is, why we can do it, with enough money in our
jeans so we won't have to take anything off anybody, or fret about our
old age. You never worry about what might happen if we got sick and
didn't have a good fat wad salted away, do you!"
"I don't suppose I do."
"Well then, I have to do it for you. And if you think for one moment
I want to be stuck in this burg all my life, and not have a chance to
travel and see the different points of interest and all that, then you
simply don't get me. I want to have a squint at the world, much's you
do. Only, I'm practical about it. First place, I'm going to make the
money--I'm investing in good safe farmlands. Do you understand why now?"
"Will you try and see if you can't think of me as something more than
just a dollar-chasing roughneck?"
"Oh, my dear, I haven't been just! I AM difficile. And I won't call on
the Dillons! And if Dr. Dillon is working for Westlake and McGanum, I
THAT December she was in love with her husband.
She romanticized herself not as a great reformer but as the wife of a
country physician. The realities of the doctor's household were colored
by her pride.
Late at night, a step on the wooden porch, heard through her confusion
of sleep; the storm-door opened; fumbling over the inner door-panels;
the buzz of the electric bell. Kennicott muttering "Gol darn it," but
patiently creeping out of bed, remembering to draw the covers up to keep
her warm, feeling for slippers and bathrobe, clumping down-stairs.
From below, half-heard in her drowsiness, a colloquy in the
pidgin-German of the farmers who have forgotten the Old Country language
without learning the new:
"Hello, Barney, wass willst du?"
"Morgen, doctor. Die Frau ist ja awful sick. All night she been having
an awful pain in de belly."
"How long she been this way? Wie lang, eh?"
"I dunno, maybe two days."
"Why didn't you come for me yesterday, instead of waking me up out of a
sound sleep? Here it is two o'clock! So spat--warum, eh?"
"Nun aber, I know it, but she got soch a lot vorse last evening. I
t'ought maybe all de time it go avay, but it got a lot vorse."
"Vell ja, I t'ink she got fever."
"Which side is the pain on?"
"Das Schmertz--die Weh--which side is it on? Here?"
"So. Right here it is."
"Any rigidity there?"
"Is it rigid--stiff--I mean, does the belly feel hard to the fingers?"
"I dunno. She ain't said yet."
"What she been eating?"
"Vell, I t'ink about vot ve alwis eat, maybe corn beef and cabbage and
sausage, und so weiter. Doc, sie weint immer, all the time she holler