KENNICOTT was not so inhumanly patient that he could continue to forgive
Carol's heresies, to woo her as he had on the venture to California. She
tried to be inconspicuous, but she was betrayed by her failure to glow
over the boosting. Kennicott believed in it; demanded that she say
patriotic things about the White Way and the new factory. He snorted,
"By golly, I've done all I could, and now I expect you to play the game.
Here you been complaining for years about us being so poky, and now when
Blausser comes along and does stir up excitement and beautify the town
like you've always wanted somebody to, why, you say he's a roughneck,
and you won't jump on the band-wagon."
Once, when Kennicott announced at noon-dinner, "What do you know
about this! They say there's a chance we may get another
factory--cream-separator works!" he added, "You might try to look
interested, even if you ain't!" The baby was frightened by the Jovian
roar; ran wailing to hide his face in Carol's lap; and Kennicott had to
make himself humble and court both mother and child. The dim injustice
of not being understood even by his son left him irritable. He felt
An event which did not directly touch them brought down his wrath.
In the early autumn, news came from Wakamin that the sheriff had
forbidden an organizer for the National Nonpartisan League to speak
anywhere in the county. The organizer had defied the sheriff, and
announced that in a few days he would address a farmers' political
meeting. That night, the news ran, a mob of a hundred business men
led by the sheriff--the tame village street and the smug village faces
ruddled by the light of bobbing lanterns, the mob flowing between the
squatty rows of shops--had taken the organizer from his hotel, ridden
him on a fence-rail, put him on a freight train, and warned him not to
The story was threshed out in Dave Dyer's drug store, with Sam Clark,
Kennicott, and Carol present.
"That's the way to treat those fellows--only they ought to have lynched
him!" declared Sam, and Kennicott and Dave Dyer joined in a proud "You
Carol walked out hastily, Kennicott observing her.
Through supper-time she knew that he was bubbling and would soon boil
over. When the baby was abed, and they sat composedly in canvas chairs
on the porch, he experimented; "I had a hunch you thought Sam was kind
of hard on that fellow they kicked out of Wakamin."
"Wasn't Sam rather needlessly heroic?"
"All these organizers, yes, and a whole lot of the German and
Squarehead farmers themselves, they're seditious as the devil--disloyal,
non-patriotic, pro-German pacifists, that's what they are!"
"Did this organizer say anything pro-German?"
"Not on your life! They didn't give him a chance!" His laugh was stagey.
"So the whole thing was illegal--and led by the sheriff! Precisely how
do you expect these aliens to obey your law if the officer of the law
teaches them to break it? Is it a new kind of logic?"
"Maybe it wasn't exactly regular, but what's the odds? They knew this
fellow would try to stir up trouble. Whenever it comes right down to a
question of defending Americanism and our constitutional rights, it's
justifiable to set aside ordinary procedure."
"What editorial did he get that from?" she wondered, as she protested,
"See here, my beloved, why can't you Tories declare war honestly? You
don't oppose this organizer because you think he's seditious but
because you're afraid that the farmers he is organizing will deprive you
townsmen of the money you make out of mortgages and wheat and shops.
Of course, since we're at war with Germany, anything that any one of us
doesn't like is 'pro-German,' whether it's business competition or
bad music. If we were fighting England, you'd call the radicals
'pro-English.' When this war is over, I suppose you'll be calling them
'red anarchists.' What an eternal art it is--such a glittery delightful
art--finding hard names for our opponents! How we do sanctify our
efforts to keep them from getting the holy dollars we want for
ourselves! The churches have always done it, and the political
orators--and I suppose I do it when I call Mrs. Bogart a 'Puritan' and
Mr. Stowbody a 'capitalist.' But you business men are going to beat all
the rest of us at it, with your simple-hearted, energetic, pompous----"
She got so far only because Kennicott was slow in shaking off respect
for her. Now he bayed:
"That'll be about all from you! I've stood for your sneering at this
town, and saying how ugly and dull it is. I've stood for your refusing
to appreciate good fellows like Sam. I've even stood for your ridiculing
our Watch Gopher Prairie Grow campaign. But one thing I'm not going
to stand: I'm not going to stand my own wife being seditious. You can
camouflage all you want to, but you know darn well that these radicals,
as you call 'em, are opposed to the war, and let me tell you right here
and now, and you and all these long-haired men and short-haired women
can beef all you want to, but we're going to take these fellows, and if
they ain't patriotic, we're going to make them be patriotic. And--Lord
knows I never thought I'd have to say this to my own wife--but if you go
defending these fellows, then the same thing applies to you! Next thing,
I suppose you'll be yapping about free speech. Free speech! There's too
much free speech and free gas and free beer and free love and all the
rest of your damned mouthy freedom, and if I had my way I'd make you
folks live up to the established rules of decency even if I had to take
"Will!" She was not timorous now. "Am I pro-German if I fail to throb to
Honest Jim Blausser, too? Let's have my whole duty as a wife!"
He was grumbling, "The whole thing's right in line with the criticism
you've always been making. Might have known you'd oppose any decent
constructive work for the town or for----"
"You're right. All I've done has been in line. I don't belong to Gopher
Prairie. That isn't meant as a condemnation of Gopher Prairie, and it
may be a condemnation of me. All right! I don't care! I don't belong
here, and I'm going. I'm not asking permission any more. I'm simply
He grunted. "Do you mind telling me, if it isn't too much trouble, how
long you're going for?"
"I don't know. Perhaps for a year. Perhaps for a lifetime."
"I see. Well, of course, I'll be tickled to death to sell out my
practise and go anywhere you say. Would you like to have me go with you
to Paris and study art, maybe, and wear velveteen pants and a woman's
bonnet, and live on spaghetti?"
"No, I think we can save you that trouble. You don't quite understand.
I am going--I really am--and alone! I've got to find out what my work
"Work? Work? Sure! That's the whole trouble with you! You haven't got
enough work to do. If you had five kids and no hired girl, and had to
help with the chores and separate the cream, like these farmers' wives,
then you wouldn't be so discontented."
"I know. That's what most men--and women--like you WOULD say. That's how
they would explain all I am and all I want. And I shouldn't argue with
them. These business men, from their crushing labors of sitting in an
office seven hours a day, would calmly recommend that I have a dozen
children. As it happens, I've done that sort of thing. There've been a
good many times when we hadn't a maid, and I did all the housework, and
cared for Hugh, and went to Red Cross, and did it all very efficiently.
I'm a good cook and a good sweeper, and you don't dare say I'm not!"
"But was I more happy when I was drudging? I was not. I was just
bedraggled and unhappy. It's work--but not my work. I could run
an office or a library, or nurse and teach children. But solitary
dish-washing isn't enough to satisfy me--or many other women. We're
going to chuck it. We're going to wash 'em by machinery, and come out
and play with you men in the offices and clubs and politics you've
cleverly kept for yourselves! Oh, we're hopeless, we dissatisfied women!
Then why do you want to have us about the place, to fret you? So it's
for your sake that I'm going!"
"Of course a little thing like Hugh makes no difference!"
"Yes, all the difference. That's why I'm going to take him with me."
"Suppose I refuse?"
Forlornly, "Uh----Carrie, what the devil is it you want, anyway?"
"Oh, conversation! No, it's much more than that. I think it's a
greatness of life--a refusal to be content with even the healthiest
"Don't you know that nobody ever solved a problem by running away from
"Perhaps. Only I choose to make my own definition of 'running away' I
don't call----Do you realize how big a world there is beyond this Gopher
Prairie where you'd keep me all my life? It may be that some day I'll
come back, but not till I can bring something more than I have now. And
even if I am cowardly and run away--all right, call it cowardly, call me
anything you want to! I've been ruled too long by fear of being called
things. I'm going away to be quiet and think. I'm--I'm going! I have a
right to my own life."
"So have I to mine!"
"I have a right to my life--and you're it, you're my life! You've made
yourself so. I'm damned if I'll agree to all your freak notions, but I
will say I've got to depend on you. Never thought of that complication,
did you, in this 'off to Bohemia, and express yourself, and free love,
and live your own life' stuff!"
"You have a right to me if you can keep me. Can you?"
He moved uneasily.
For a month they discussed it. They hurt each other very much, and
sometimes they were close to weeping, and invariably he used banal
phrases about her duties and she used phrases quite as banal about
freedom, and through it all, her discovery that she really could get
away from Main Street was as sweet as the discovery of love. Kennicott
never consented definitely. At most he agreed to a public theory that
she was "going to take a short trip and see what the East was like in
She set out for Washington in October--just before the war ended.
She had determined on Washington because it was less intimidating than
the obvious New York, because she hoped to find streets in which Hugh
could play, and because in the stress of war-work, with its demand for
thousands of temporary clerks, she could be initiated into the world of
Hugh was to go with her, despite the wails and rather extensive comments
of Aunt Bessie.
She wondered if she might not encounter Erik in the East but it was a
chance thought, soon forgotten.
The last thing she saw on the station platform was Kennicott, faithfully
waving his hand, his face so full of uncomprehending loneliness that he
could not smile but only twitch up his lips. She waved to him as long
as she could, and when he was lost she wanted to leap from the vestibule
and run back to him. She thought of a hundred tendernesses she had
She had her freedom, and it was empty. The moment was not the highest
of her life, but the lowest and most desolate, which was altogether
excellent, for instead of slipping downward she began to climb.
She sighed, "I couldn't do this if it weren't for Will's kindness, his
giving me money." But a second after: "I wonder how many women would
always stay home if they had the money?"
Hugh complained, "Notice me, mummy!" He was beside her on the red plush
seat of the day-coach; a boy of three and a half. "I'm tired of playing
train. Let's play something else. Let's go see Auntie Bogart."
"Oh, NO! Do you really like Mrs. Bogart?"
"Yes. She gives me cookies and she tells me about the Dear Lord. You
never tell me about the Dear Lord. Why don't you tell me about the
Dear Lord? Auntie Bogart says I'm going to be a preacher. Can I be a
preacher? Can I preach about the Dear Lord?"
"Oh, please wait till my generation has stopped rebelling before yours
"What's a generation?"
"It's a ray in the illumination of the spirit."
"That's foolish." He was a serious and literal person, and rather
humorless. She kissed his frown, and marveled:
"I am running away from my husband, after liking a Swedish ne'er-do-well
and expressing immoral opinions, just as in a romantic story. And my own
son reproves me because I haven't given him religious instruction. But
the story doesn't go right. I'm neither groaning nor being dramatically
saved. I keep on running away, and I enjoy it. I'm mad with joy over it.
Gopher Prairie is lost back there in the dust and stubble, and I look
She continued it to Hugh: "Darling, do you know what mother and you are
going to find beyond the blue horizon rim?"
"We're going to find elephants with golden howdahs from which peep young
maharanees with necklaces of rubies, and a dawn sea colored like the
breast of a dove, and a white and green house filled with books and
"Cookies? Oh, most decidedly cookies. We've had enough of bread and
porridge. We'd get sick on too many cookies, but ever so much sicker on
no cookies at all."
"It is, O male Kennicott!"
"Huh!" said Kennicott II, and went to sleep on her shoulder.
The theory of the Dauntless regarding Carol's absence:
Mrs. Will Kennicott and son Hugh left on No. 24 on Saturday last for
a stay of some months in Minneapolis, Chicago, New York and Washington.
Mrs. Kennicott confided to _Ye Scribe_ that she will be connected with one
of the multifarious war activities now centering in the Nation's
Capital for a brief period before returning. Her countless friends who
appreciate her splendid labors with the local Red Cross realize how
valuable she will be to any war board with which she chooses to become
connected. Gopher Prairie thus adds another shining star to its service
flag and without wishing to knock any neighboring communities, we would
like to know any town of anywheres near our size in the state that has
such a sterling war record. Another reason why you'd better Watch Gopher
* * *
Mr. and Mrs. David Dyer, Mrs. Dyer's sister, Mrs. Jennie Dayborn of
Jackrabbit, and Dr. Will Kennicott drove to Minniemashie on Tuesday for
a delightful picnic.
SHE found employment in the Bureau of War Risk Insurance. Though the
armistice with Germany was signed a few weeks after her coming to
Washington, the work of the bureau continued. She filed correspondence
all day; then she dictated answers to letters of inquiry. It was an
endurance of monotonous details, yet she asserted that she had found
Disillusions she did have. She discovered that in the afternoon, office
routine stretches to the grave. She discovered that an office is as full
of cliques and scandals as a Gopher Prairie. She discovered that most
of the women in the government bureaus lived unhealthfully, dining
on snatches in their crammed apartments. But she also discovered that
business women may have friendships and enmities as frankly as men and
may revel in a bliss which no housewife attains--a free Sunday. It did
not appear that the Great World needed her inspiration, but she felt
that her letters, her contact with the anxieties of men and women all
over the country, were a part of vast affairs, not confined to Main
Street and a kitchen but linked with Paris, Bangkok, Madrid.
She perceived that she could do office work without losing any of the
putative feminine virtue of domesticity; that cooking and cleaning, when
divested of the fussing of an Aunt Bessie, take but a tenth of the time
which, in a Gopher Prairie, it is but decent to devote to them.
Not to have to apologize for her thoughts to the Jolly Seventeen, not to
have to report to Kennicott at the end of the day all that she had done
or might do, was a relief which made up for the office weariness. She
felt that she was no longer one-half of a marriage but the whole of a
Washington gave her all the graciousness in which she had had faith:
white columns seen across leafy parks, spacious avenues, twisty alleys.
Daily she passed a dark square house with a hint of magnolias and a
courtyard behind it, and a tall curtained second-story window through
which a woman was always peering. The woman was mystery, romance, a
story which told itself differently every day; now she was a murderess,
now the neglected wife of an ambassador. It was mystery which Carol had
most lacked in Gopher Prairie, where every house was open to view, where
every person was but too easy to meet, where there were no secret gates
opening upon moors over which one might walk by moss-deadened paths to
strange high adventures in an ancient garden.
As she flitted up Sixteenth Street after a Kreisler recital, given late
in the afternoon for the government clerks, as the lamps kindled in
spheres of soft fire, as the breeze flowed into the street, fresh
as prairie winds and kindlier, as she glanced up the elm alley of
Massachusetts Avenue, as she was rested by the integrity of the Scottish
Rite Temple, she loved the city as she loved no one save Hugh. She
encountered negro shanties turned into studios, with orange curtains and
pots of mignonette; marble houses on New Hampshire Avenue, with
butlers and limousines; and men who looked like fictional explorers and
aviators. Her days were swift, and she knew that in her folly of running
away she had found the courage to be wise.
She had a dispiriting first month of hunting lodgings in the crowded
city. She had to roost in a hall-room in a moldy mansion conducted by an
indignant decayed gentlewoman, and leave Hugh to the care of a doubtful
nurse. But later she made a home.
Her first acquaintances were the members of the Tincomb Methodist
Church, a vast red-brick tabernacle. Vida Sherwin had given her a letter
to an earnest woman with eye-glasses, plaid silk waist, and a belief in
Bible Classes, who introduced her to the Pastor and the Nicer Members
of Tincomb. Carol recognized in Washington as she had in California a
transplanted and guarded Main Street. Two-thirds of the church-members
had come from Gopher Prairies. The church was their society and
their standard; they went to Sunday service, Sunday School, Christian
Endeavor, missionary lectures, church suppers, precisely as they had at
home; they agreed that ambassadors and flippant newspapermen and infidel
scientists of the bureaus were equally wicked and to be avoided; and
by cleaving to Tincomb Church they kept their ideals from all
They welcomed Carol, asked about her husband, gave her advice regarding
colic in babies, passed her the gingerbread and scalloped potatoes at
church suppers, and in general made her very unhappy and lonely, so
that she wondered if she might not enlist in the militant suffrage
organization and be allowed to go to jail.
Always she was to perceive in Washington (as doubtless she would have
perceived in New York or London) a thick streak of Main Street. The
cautious dullness of a Gopher Prairie appeared in boarding-houses where
ladylike bureau-clerks gossiped to polite young army officers about
the movies; a thousand Sam Clarks and a few Widow Bogarts were to be
identified in the Sunday motor procession, in theater parties, and
at the dinners of State Societies, to which the emigres from Texas or
Michigan surged that they might confirm themselves in the faith that
their several Gopher Prairies were notoriously "a whole lot peppier and
chummier than this stuck-up East."
But she found a Washington which did not cleave to Main Street.
Guy Pollock wrote to a cousin, a temporary army captain, a confiding and
buoyant lad who took Carol to tea-dances, and laughed, as she had always
wanted some one to laugh, about nothing in particular. The captain
introduced her to the secretary of a congressman, a cynical young widow
with many acquaintances in the navy. Through her Carol met commanders
and majors, newspapermen, chemists and geographers and fiscal experts
from the bureaus, and a teacher who was a familiar of the militant
suffrage headquarters. The teacher took her to headquarters. Carol never
became a prominent suffragist. Indeed her only recognized position was
as an able addresser of envelopes. But she was casually adopted by
this family of friendly women who, when they were not being mobbed or
arrested, took dancing lessons or went picnicking up the Chesapeake
Canal or talked about the politics of the American Federation of Labor.
With the congressman's secretary and the teacher Carol leased a small
flat. Here she found home, her own place and her own people. She had,
though it absorbed most of her salary, an excellent nurse for Hugh. She
herself put him to bed and played with him on holidays. There were
walks with him, there were motionless evenings of reading, but chiefly
Washington was associated with people, scores of them, sitting about the
flat, talking, talking, talking, not always wisely but always excitedly.
It was not at all the "artist's studio" of which, because of its
persistence in fiction, she had dreamed. Most of them were in offices
all day, and thought more in card-catalogues or statistics than in mass
and color. But they played, very simply, and they saw no reason why
anything which exists cannot also be acknowledged.
She was sometimes shocked quite as she had shocked Gopher Prairie by
these girls with their cigarettes and elfish knowledge. When they were
most eager about soviets or canoeing, she listened, longed to have
some special learning which would distinguish her, and sighed that her
adventure had come so late. Kennicott and Main Street had drained
her self-reliance; the presence of Hugh made her feel temporary. Some
day--oh, she'd have to take him back to open fields and the right to
climb about hay-lofts.
But the fact that she could never be eminent among these scoffing
enthusiasts did not keep her from being proud of them, from defending