The Project Gutenberg ebook of Main Street, by Sinclair Lewis



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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

second!"
She stared down Guy's grin, and asked more cheerfully, "Is he honest,

too?"
"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

to play----"


"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

light-waisted?"


"Why no. He seemed intelligent. I'm sure he's much more wide-awake than

our dentist."


"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

the time----"


"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,

too!"
"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

you----"
"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!"


"Carrie!"
"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----"
"Carrie!"
"(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

me----"
"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?"
"Why?"
"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

private conversations!"


"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.
"When?"
"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

is?"
"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

for it."
"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

right now?"


"Sure. But there's one other thing. You might give me some attention,

too!"
"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?"


"Yes."
"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

hate him!"

CHAPTER XV


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."


"Any fever?"
"Vell ja, I t'ink she got fever."
"Which side is the pain on?"
"Huh?"
"Das Schmertz--die Weh--which side is it on? Here?"
"So. Right here it is."
"Any rigidity there?"
"Huh?"
"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

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