the whole day. Might help some to make up for our trip. Fine fellow, Dr.
Joralemon was a prairie town of the size of Gopher Prairie.
Their motor was out of order, and there was no passenger-train at an
early hour. They went down by freight-train, after the weighty and
conversational business of leaving Hugh with Aunt Bessie. Carol was
exultant over this irregular jaunting. It was the first unusual thing,
except the glance of Bresnahan, that had happened since the weaning of
Hugh. They rode in the caboose, the small red cupola-topped car jerked
along at the end of the train. It was a roving shanty, the cabin of a
land schooner, with black oilcloth seats along the side, and for desk, a
pine board to be let down on hinges. Kennicott played seven-up with the
conductor and two brakemen. Carol liked the blue silk kerchiefs about
the brakemen's throats; she liked their welcome to her, and their air of
friendly independence. Since there were no sweating passengers crammed
in beside her, she reveled in the train's slowness. She was part of
these lakes and tawny wheat-fields. She liked the smell of hot earth and
clean grease; and the leisurely chug-a-chug, chug-a-chug of the trucks
was a song of contentment in the sun.
She pretended that she was going to the Rockies. When they reached
Joralemon she was radiant with holiday-making.
Her eagerness began to lessen the moment they stopped at a red frame
station exactly like the one they had just left at Gopher Prairie,
and Kennicott yawned, "Right on time. Just in time for dinner at the
Calibrees'. I 'phoned the doctor from G. P. that we'd be here. 'We'll
catch the freight that gets in before twelve,' I told him. He said
he'd meet us at the depot and take us right up to the house for dinner.
Calibree is a good man, and you'll find his wife is a mighty brainy
little woman, bright as a dollar. By golly, there he is."
Dr. Calibree was a squat, clean-shaven, conscientious-looking man of
forty. He was curiously like his own brown-painted motor car, with
eye-glasses for windshield. "Want you to meet my wife, doctor--Carrie,
make you 'quainted with Dr. Calibree," said Kennicott. Calibree bowed
quietly and shook her hand, but before he had finished shaking it he was
concentrating upon Kennicott with, "Nice to see you, doctor. Say, don't
let me forget to ask you about what you did in that exopthalmic goiter
case--that Bohemian woman at Wahkeenyan."
The two men, on the front seat of the car, chanted goiters and ignored
her. She did not know it. She was trying to feed her illusion of
adventure by staring at unfamiliar houses . . . drab cottages, artificial
stone bungalows, square painty stolidities with immaculate clapboards
and broad screened porches and tidy grass-plots.
Calibree handed her over to his wife, a thick woman who called
her "dearie," and asked if she was hot and, visibly searching for
conversation, produced, "Let's see, you and the doctor have a Little
One, haven't you?" At dinner Mrs. Calibree served the corned beef and
cabbage and looked steamy, looked like the steamy leaves of cabbage. The
men were oblivious of their wives as they gave the social passwords of
Main Street, the orthodox opinions on weather, crops, and motor cars,
then flung away restraint and gyrated in the debauch of shop-talk.
Stroking his chin, drawling in the ecstasy of being erudite, Kennicott
inquired, "Say, doctor, what success have you had with thyroid for
treatment of pains in the legs before child-birth?"
Carol did not resent their assumption that she was too ignorant to be
admitted to masculine mysteries. She was used to it. But the cabbage and
Mrs. Calibree's monotonous "I don't know what we're coming to with
all this difficulty getting hired girls" were gumming her eyes with
drowsiness. She sought to clear them by appealing to Calibree, in a
manner of exaggerated liveliness, "Doctor, have the medical societies
in Minnesota ever advocated legislation for help to nursing mothers?"
Calibree slowly revolved toward her. "Uh--I've never--uh--never looked
into it. I don't believe much in getting mixed up in politics." He
turned squarely from her and, peering earnestly at Kennicott, resumed,
"Doctor, what's been your experience with unilateral pyelonephritis?
Buckburn of Baltimore advocates decapsulation and nephrotomy, but seems
Not till after two did they rise. In the lee of the stonily mature trio
Carol proceeded to the street fair which added mundane gaiety to the
annual rites of the United and Fraternal Order of Beavers. Beavers,
human Beavers, were everywhere: thirty-second degree Beavers in gray
sack suits and decent derbies, more flippant Beavers in crash summer
coats and straw hats, rustic Beavers in shirt sleeves and frayed
suspenders; but whatever his caste-symbols, every Beaver was
distinguished by an enormous shrimp-colored ribbon lettered in silver,
"Sir Knight and Brother, U. F. O. B., Annual State Convention." On the
motherly shirtwaist of each of their wives was a badge "Sir Knight's
Lady." The Duluth delegation had brought their famous Beaver amateur
band, in Zouave costumes of green velvet jacket, blue trousers, and
scarlet fez. The strange thing was that beneath their scarlet pride the
Zouaves' faces remained those of American business-men, pink, smooth,
eye-glassed; and as they stood playing in a circle, at the corner of
Main Street and Second, as they tootled on fifes or with swelling cheeks
blew into cornets, their eyes remained as owlish as though they were
sitting at desks under the sign "This Is My Busy Day."
Carol had supposed that the Beavers were average citizens organized for
the purposes of getting cheap life-insurance and playing poker at the
lodge-rooms every second Wednesday, but she saw a large poster which
U. F. O. B.
The greatest influence for good citizenship in the
country. The jolliest aggregation of red-blooded,
open-handed, hustle-em-up good fellows in the world.
Joralemon welcomes you to her hospitable city.
Kennicott read the poster and to Calibree admired, "Strong lodge, the
Beavers. Never joined. Don't know but what I will."
Calibree adumbrated, "They're a good bunch. Good strong lodge. See that
fellow there that's playing the snare drum? He's the smartest wholesale
grocer in Duluth, they say. Guess it would be worth joining. Oh say, are
you doing much insurance examining?"
They went on to the street fair.
Lining one block of Main Street were the "attractions"--two hot-dog
stands, a lemonade and pop-corn stand, a merry-go-round, and booths in
which balls might be thrown at rag dolls, if one wished to throw balls
at rag dolls. The dignified delegates were shy of the booths, but
country boys with brickred necks and pale-blue ties and bright-yellow
shoes, who had brought sweethearts into town in somewhat dusty and
listed Fords, were wolfing sandwiches, drinking strawberry pop out of
bottles, and riding the revolving crimson and gold horses. They shrieked
and giggled; peanut-roasters whistled; the merry-go-round pounded out
monotonous music; the barkers bawled, "Here's your chance--here's
your chance--come on here, boy--come on here--give that girl a good
time--give her a swell time--here's your chance to win a genuwine gold
watch for five cents, half a dime, the twentieth part of a dollah!"
The prairie sun jabbed the unshaded street with shafts that were like
poisonous thorns the tinny cornices above the brick stores were glaring;
the dull breeze scattered dust on sweaty Beavers who crawled along in
tight scorching new shoes, up two blocks and back, up two blocks and
back, wondering what to do next, working at having a good time.
Carol's head ached as she trailed behind the unsmiling Calibrees along
the block of booths. She chirruped at Kennicott, "Let's be wild! Let's
ride on the merry-go-round and grab a gold ring!"
Kennicott considered it, and mumbled to Calibree, "Think you folks would
like to stop and try a ride on the merry-go-round?"
Calibree considered it, and mumbled to his wife, "Think you'd like to
stop and try a ride on the merry-go-round?"
Mrs. Calibree smiled in a washed-out manner, and sighed, "Oh no, I don't
believe I care to much, but you folks go ahead and try it."
Calibree stated to Kennicott, "No, I don't believe we care to a whole
lot, but you folks go ahead and try it."
Kennicott summarized the whole case against wildness: "Let's try it some
other time, Carrie."
She gave it up. She looked at the town. She saw that in adventuring
from Main Street, Gopher Prairie, to Main Street, Joralemon, she had not
stirred. There were the same two-story brick groceries with lodge-signs
above the awnings; the same one-story wooden millinery shop; the same
fire-brick garages; the same prairie at the open end of the wide
street; the same people wondering whether the levity of eating a hot-dog
sandwich would break their taboos.
They reached Gopher Prairie at nine in the evening.
"You look kind of hot," said Kennicott.
"Joralemon is an enterprising town, don't you think so?" She broke. "No!
I think it's an ash-heap."
He worried over it for a week. While he ground his plate with his knife
as he energetically pursued fragments of bacon, he peeped at her.
"CARRIE'S all right. She's finicky, but she'll get over it. But I wish
she'd hurry up about it! What she can't understand is that a fellow
practising medicine in a small town like this has got to cut out the
highbrow stuff, and not spend all his time going to concerts and
shining his shoes. (Not but what he might be just as good at all these
intellectual and art things as some other folks, if he had the time
for it!)" Dr. Will Kennicott was brooding in his office, during a free
moment toward the end of the summer afternoon. He hunched down in his
tilted desk-chair, undid a button of his shirt, glanced at the state
news in the back of the Journal of the American Medical Association,
dropped the magazine, leaned back with his right thumb hooked in the
arm-hole of his vest and his left thumb stroking the back of his hair.
"By golly, she's taking an awful big chance, though. You'd expect her
to learn by and by that I won't be a parlor lizard. She says we try
to 'make her over.' Well, she's always trying to make me over, from a
perfectly good M. D. into a damn poet with a socialist necktie! She'd
have a fit if she knew how many women would be willing to cuddle up to
Friend Will and comfort him, if he'd give 'em the chance! There's still
a few dames that think the old man isn't so darn unattractive! I'm
glad I've ducked all that woman-game since I've been married but----Be
switched if sometimes I don't feel tempted to shine up to some girl that
has sense enough to take life as it is; some frau that doesn't want to
talk Longfellow all the time, but just hold my hand and say, 'You look
all in, honey. Take it easy, and don't try to talk.'
"Carrie thinks she's such a whale at analyzing folks. Giving the town
the once-over. Telling us where we get off. Why, she'd simply turn up
her toes and croak if she found out how much she doesn't know about the
high old times a wise guy could have in this burg on the Q.T., if he
wasn't faithful to his wife. But I am. At that, no matter what faults
she's got, there's nobody here, no, nor in Minn'aplus either, that's as
nice-looking and square and bright as Carrie. She ought to of been an
artist or a writer or one of those things. But once she took a shot at
living here, she ought to stick by it. Pretty----Lord yes. But cold. She
simply doesn't know what passion is. She simply hasn't got an í-dea how
hard it is for a full-blooded man to go on pretending to be satisfied
with just being endured. It gets awful tiresome, having to feel like a
criminal just because I'm normal. She's getting so she doesn't even care
for my kissing her. Well----
"I guess I can weather it, same as I did earning my way through school
and getting started in practise. But I wonder how long I can stand being
an outsider in my own home?"
He sat up at the entrance of Mrs. Dave Dyer. She slumped into a chair
and gasped with the heat. He chuckled, "Well, well, Maud, this is fine.
Where's the subscription-list? What cause do I get robbed for, this
"I haven't any subscription-list, Will. I want to see you
"And you a Christian Scientist? Have you given that up? What next? New
Thought or Spiritualism?"
"No, I have not given it up!"
"Strikes me it's kind of a knock on the sisterhood, your coming to see a
"No, it isn't. It's just that my faith isn't strong enough yet. So there
now! And besides, you ARE kind of consoling, Will. I mean as a man, not
just as a doctor. You're so strong and placid."
He sat on the edge of his desk, coatless, his vest swinging open with
the thick gold line of his watch-chain across the gap, his hands in his
trousers pockets, his big arms bent and easy. As she purred he cocked
an interested eye. Maud Dyer was neurotic, religiocentric, faded; her
emotions were moist, and her figure was unsystematic--splendid thighs
and arms, with thick ankles, and a body that was bulgy in the wrong
places. But her milky skin was delicious, her eyes were alive, her
chestnut hair shone, and there was a tender slope from her ears to the
shadowy place below her jaw.
With unusual solicitude he uttered his stock phrase, "Well, what seems
to be the matter, Maud?"
"I've got such a backache all the time. I'm afraid the organic trouble
that you treated me for is coming back."
"Any definite signs of it?"
"N-no, but I think you'd better examine me."
"Nope. Don't believe it's necessary, Maud. To be honest, between old
friends, I think your troubles are mostly imaginary. I can't really
advise you to have an examination."
She flushed, looked out of the window. He was conscious that his voice
was not impersonal and even.
She turned quickly. "Will, you always say my troubles are imaginary. Why
can't you be scientific? I've been reading an article about these new
nerve-specialists, and they claim that lots of 'imaginary' ailments,
yes, and lots of real pain, too, are what they call psychoses, and they
order a change in a woman's way of living so she can get on a higher
"Wait! Wait! Whoa-up! Wait now! Don't mix up your Christian Science and
your psychology! They're two entirely different fads! You'll be mixing
in socialism next! You're as bad as Carrie, with your 'psychoses.'
Why, Good Lord, Maud, I could talk about neuroses and psychoses and
inhibitions and repressions and complexes just as well as any damn
specialist, if I got paid for it, if I was in the city and had the nerve
to charge the fees that those fellows do. If a specialist stung you for
a hundred-dollar consultation-fee and told you to go to New York to duck
Dave's nagging, you'd do it, to save the hundred dollars! But you know
me--I'm your neighbor--you see me mowing the lawn--you figure I'm just
a plug general practitioner. If I said, 'Go to New York,' Dave and you
would laugh your heads off and say, 'Look at the airs Will is putting
on. What does he think he is?'
"As a matter of fact, you're right. You have a perfectly well-developed
case of repression of sex instinct, and it raises the old Ned with your
body. What you need is to get away from Dave and travel, yes, and go to
every dog-gone kind of New Thought and Bahai and Swami and Hooptedoodle
meeting you can find. I know it, well 's you do. But how can I advise
it? Dave would be up here taking my hide off. I'm willing to be family
physician and priest and lawyer and plumber and wet-nurse, but I draw
the line at making Dave loosen up on money. Too hard a job in weather
like this! So, savvy, my dear? Believe it will rain if this heat
"But, Will, he'd never give it to me on my say-so. He'd never let me
go away. You know how Dave is: so jolly and liberal in society, and oh,
just LOVES to match quarters, and such a perfect sport if he loses! But
at home he pinches a nickel till the buffalo drips blood. I have to nag
him for every single dollar."
"Sure, I know, but it's your fight, honey. Keep after him. He'd simply
resent my butting in."
He crossed over and patted her shoulder. Outside the window, beyond the
fly-screen that was opaque with dust and cottonwood lint, Main Street
was hushed except for the impatient throb of a standing motor car. She
took his firm hand, pressed his knuckles against her cheek.
"O Will, Dave is so mean and little and noisy--the shrimp! You're
so calm. When he's cutting up at parties I see you standing back and
watching him--the way a mastiff watches a terrier."
He fought for professional dignity with, "Dave 's not a bad fellow."
Lingeringly she released his hand. "Will, drop round by the house this
evening and scold me. Make me be good and sensible. And I'm so lonely."
"If I did, Dave would be there, and we'd have to play cards. It's his
evening off from the store."
"No. The clerk just got called to Corinth--mother sick. Dave will be in
the store till midnight. Oh, come on over. There's some lovely beer on
the ice, and we can sit and talk and be all cool and lazy. That wouldn't
be wrong of us, WOULD it!"
"No, no, course it wouldn't be wrong. But still, oughtn't to----" He saw
Carol, slim black and ivory, cool, scornful of intrigue.
"All right. But I'll be so lonely."
Her throat seemed young, above her loose blouse of muslin and
"Tell you, Maud: I'll drop in just for a minute, if I happen to be
called down that way."
"If you'd like," demurely. "O Will, I just want comfort. I know you're
all married, and my, such a proud papa, and of course now----If I could
just sit near you in the dusk, and be quiet, and forget Dave! You WILL
"Sure I will!"
"I'll expect you. I'll be lonely if you don't come! Good-by."
He cursed himself: "Darned fool, what 'd I promise to go for? I'll
have to keep my promise, or she'll feel hurt. She's a good, decent,
affectionate girl, and Dave's a cheap skate, all right. She's got more
life to her than Carol has. All my fault, anyway. Why can't I be more
cagey, like Calibree and McGanum and the rest of the doctors? Oh, I
am, but Maud's such a demanding idiot. Deliberately bamboozling me into
going up there tonight. Matter of principle: ought not to let her get
away with it. I won't go. I'll call her up and tell her I won't go.
Me, with Carrie at home, finest little woman in the world, and a
messy-minded female like Maud Dyer--no, SIR! Though there's no need of
hurting her feelings. I may just drop in for a second, to tell her I
can't stay. All my fault anyway; ought never to have started in and
jollied Maud along in the old days. If it's my fault, I've got no right
to punish Maud. I could just drop in for a second and then pretend I
had a country call and beat it. Damn nuisance, though, having to fake up
excuses. Lord, why can't the women let you alone? Just because once or
twice, seven hundred million years ago, you were a poor fool, why can't
they let you forget it? Maud's own fault. I'll stay strictly away. Take
Carrie to the movies, and forget Maud. . . . But it would be kind of hot
at the movies tonight."
He fled from himself. He rammed on his hat, threw his coat over his arm,
banged the door, locked it, tramped downstairs. "I won't go!" he said
sturdily and, as he said it, he would have given a good deal to know
whether he was going.
He was refreshed, as always, by the familiar windows and faces. It
restored his soul to have Sam Clark trustingly bellow, "Better come down
to the lake this evening and have a swim, doc. Ain't you going to open
your cottage at all, this summer? By golly, we miss you." He noted the
progress on the new garage. He had triumphed in the laying of every
course of bricks; in them he had seen the growth of the town. His pride
was ushered back to its throne by the respectfulness of Oley Sundquist:
"Evenin', doc! The woman is a lot better. That was swell medicine you
gave her." He was calmed by the mechanicalness of the tasks at home:
burning the gray web of a tent-worm on the wild cherry tree, sealing
with gum a cut in the right front tire of the car, sprinkling the road
before the house. The hose was cool to his hands. As the bright arrows
fell with a faint puttering sound, a crescent of blackness was formed in
the gray dust.
Dave Dyer came along.
"Where going, Dave?"
"Down to the store. Just had supper."
"But Thursday 's your night off."
"Sure, but Pete went home. His mother 's supposed to be sick. Gosh,
these clerks you get nowadays--overpay 'em and then they won't work!"
"That's tough, Dave. You'll have to work clear up till twelve, then."
"Yup. Better drop in and have a cigar, if you're downtown.
"Well, I may, at that. May have to go down and see Mrs. Champ Perry.
She's ailing. So long, Dave."
Kennicott had not yet entered the house. He was conscious that Carol was
near him, that she was important, that he was afraid of her disapproval;
but he was content to be alone. When he had finished sprinkling he
strolled into the house, up to the baby's room, and cried to Hugh,
"Story-time for the old man, eh?"
Carol was in a low chair, framed and haloed by the window behind her,
an image in pale gold. The baby curled in her lap, his head on her arm,
listening with gravity while she sang from Gene Field:
'Tis little Luddy-Dud in the morning--
'Tis little Luddy-Dud at night:
And all day long
'Tis the same dear song
Of that growing, crowing, knowing little sprite.
Kennicott was enchanted.
"Maud Dyer? I should say not!"
When the current maid bawled up-stairs, "Supper on de table!" Kennicott
was upon his back, flapping his hands in the earnest effort to be a
seal, thrilled by the strength with which his son kicked him. He slipped
his arm about Carol's shoulder; he went down to supper rejoicing that he
was cleansed of perilous stuff. While Carol was putting the baby to