supposing that you can be. I want you to be big enough to help me make
this town worth while."
"I'll be as impersonal as cold boiled potatoes. (Not that I shall ever
be able to help you 'make the town worth while.') What do they say about
me? Really. I want to know."
"Of course the illiterate ones resent your references to anything
farther away than Minneapolis. They're so suspicious--that's it,
suspicious. And some think you dress too well."
"Oh, they do, do they! Shall I dress in gunny-sacking to suit them?"
"Please! Are you going to be a baby?"
"I'll be good," sulkily.
"You certainly will, or I won't tell you one single thing. You must
understand this: I'm not asking you to change yourself. Just want you
to know what they think. You must do that, no matter how absurd their
prejudices are, if you're going to handle them. Is it your ambition to
make this a better town, or isn't it?"
"I don't know whether it is or not!"
"Why--why----Tut, tut, now, of course it is! Why, I depend on you.
You're a born reformer."
"I am not--not any more!"
"Of course you are."
"Oh, if I really could help----So they think I'm affected?"
"My lamb, they do! Now don't say they're nervy. After all, Gopher
Prairie standards are as reasonable to Gopher Prairie as Lake Shore
Drive standards are to Chicago. And there's more Gopher Prairies than
there are Chicagos. Or Londons. And----I'll tell you the whole story:
They think you're showing off when you say 'American' instead of
'Ammurrican.' They think you're too frivolous. Life's so serious to them
that they can't imagine any kind of laughter except Juanita's snortling.
Ethel Villets was sure you were patronizing her when----"
"Oh, I was not!"
"----you talked about encouraging reading; and Mrs. Elder thought you
were patronizing when you said she had 'such a pretty little car.' She
thinks it's an enormous car! And some of the merchants say you're too
flip when you talk to them in the store and----"
"Poor me, when I was trying to be friendly!"
"----every housewife in town is doubtful about your being so chummy with
your Bea. All right to be kind, but they say you act as though she were
your cousin. (Wait now! There's plenty more.) And they think you were
eccentric in furnishing this room--they think the broad couch and that
Japanese dingus are absurd. (Wait! I know they're silly.) And I guess
I've heard a dozen criticize you because you don't go to church oftener
"I can't stand it--I can't bear to realize that they've been saying all
these things while I've been going about so happily and liking them. I
wonder if you ought to have told me? It will make me self-conscious."
"I wonder the same thing. Only answer I can get is the old saw about
knowledge being power. And some day you'll see how absorbing it is to
have power, even here; to control the town----Oh, I'm a crank. But I do
like to see things moving."
"It hurts. It makes these people seem so beastly and treacherous, when
I've been perfectly natural with them. But let's have it all. What did
they say about my Chinese house-warming party?"
"Go on. Or I'll make up worse things than anything you can tell me."
"They did enjoy it. But I guess some of them felt you were showing
off--pretending that your husband is richer than he is."