of legs and pie was clear and sure. Bathing and modeling were equally
sound occasions for legs; the wedding-scene was but an approach to the
thunderous climax when Mr. Schnarken slipped a piece of custard pie into
the clergyman's rear pocket.
The audience in the Rosebud Movie Palace squealed and wiped their eyes;
they scrambled under the seats for overshoes, mittens, and mufflers,
while the screen announced that next week Mr. Schnarken might be seen
in a new, riproaring, extra-special superfeature of the Clean Comedy
Corporation entitled, "Under Mollie's Bed."
"I'm glad," said Carol to Kennicott as they stooped before the northwest
gale which was torturing the barren street, "that this is a moral
country. We don't allow any of these beastly frank novels."
"Yump. Vice Society and Postal Department won't stand for them. The
American people don't like filth."
"Yes. It's fine. I'm glad we have such dainty romances as 'Right on the
"Say what in heck do you think you're trying to do? Kid me?"
He was silent. She awaited his anger. She meditated upon his gutter
patois, the Boeotian dialect characteristic of Gopher Prairie. He
laughed puzzlingly. When they came into the glow of the house he laughed
again. He condescended:
"I've got to hand it to you. You're consistent, all right. I'd of
thought that after getting this look-in at a lot of good decent farmers,
you'd get over this high-art stuff, but you hang right on."
"Well----" To herself: "He takes advantage of my trying to be good."
"Tell you, Carrie: There's just three classes of people: folks that
haven't got any ideas at all; and cranks that kick about everything; and
Regular Guys, the fellows with sticktuitiveness, that boost and get the
world's work done."
"Then I'm probably a crank." She smiled negligently.
"No. I won't admit it. You do like to talk, but at a show-down you'd
prefer Sam Clark to any damn long-haired artist."
"Oh well!" mockingly. "My, we're just going to change everything, aren't
we! Going to tell fellows that have been making movies for ten years
how to direct 'em; and tell architects how to build towns; and make the
magazines publish nothing but a lot of highbrow stories about old maids,
and about wives that don't know what they want. Oh, we're a terror! . . .
Come on now, Carrie; come out of it; wake up! You've got a fine nerve,
kicking about a movie because it shows a few legs! Why, you're always
touting these Greek dancers, or whatever they are, that don't even wear
"But, dear, the trouble with that film--it wasn't that it got in so many
legs, but that it giggled coyly and promised to show more of them, and
then didn't keep the promise. It was Peeping Tom's idea of humor."
"I don't get you. Look here now----"
She lay awake, while he rumbled with sleep
"I must go on. My 'crank ideas;' he calls them. I thought that adoring
him, watching him operate, would be enough. It isn't. Not after the
"I don't want to hurt him. But I must go on.
"It isn't enough, to stand by while he fills an automobile radiator and
chucks me bits of information.
"If I stood by and admired him long enough, I would be content. I would
become a 'nice little woman.' The Village Virus. Already----I'm not
reading anything. I haven't touched the piano for a week. I'm letting
the days drown in worship of 'a good deal, ten plunks more per acre.' I
won't! I won't succumb!
"How? I've failed at everything: the Thanatopsis, parties, pioneers,
city hall, Guy and Vida. But----It doesn't MATTER! I'm not trying to
'reform the town' now. I'm not trying to organize Browning Clubs,
and sit in clean white kids yearning up at lecturers with ribbony
eyeglasses. I am trying to save my soul.
"Will Kennicott, asleep there, trusting me, thinking he holds me. And
I'm leaving him. All of me left him when he laughed at me. It wasn't
enough for him that I admired him; I must change myself and grow like
him. He takes advantage. No more. It's finished. I will go on."
Her violin lay on top of the upright piano. She picked it up. Since she
had last touched it the dried strings had snapped, and upon it lay a
gold and crimson cigar-band.
She longed to see Guy Pollock, for the confirming of the brethren in
the faith. But Kennicott's dominance was heavy upon her. She could not
determine whether she was checked by fear or him, or by inertia--by
dislike of the emotional labor of the "scenes" which would be involved
in asserting independence. She was like the revolutionist at fifty:
not afraid of death, but bored by the probability of bad steaks and bad
breaths and sitting up all night on windy barricades.
The second evening after the movies she impulsively summoned Vida
she did not care, because it did not matter.
She smiled at him with the exasperating tactfulness of a woman checking
a flirtation; a smile like an airy pat on the arm. She sighed, "You're
a dear to let me tell you my imaginary troubles." She bounced up, and
trilled, "Shall we take the pop-corn in to them now?"
Guy looked after her desolately.
While she teased Vida and Kennicott she was repeating, "I must go on."
Miles Bjornstam, the pariah "Red Swede," had brought his circular saw
and portable gasoline engine to the house, to cut the cords of poplar
for the kitchen range. Kennicott had given the order; Carol knew nothing
of it till she heard the ringing of the saw, and glanced out to see
Bjornstam, in black leather jacket and enormous ragged purple
mittens, pressing sticks against the whirling blade, and flinging
the stove-lengths to one side. The red irritable motor kept up a red
irritable "tip-tip-tip-tip-tip-tip." The whine of the saw rose till it
simulated the shriek of a fire-alarm whistle at night, but always at the
end it gave a lively metallic clang, and in the stillness she heard the
flump of the cut stick falling on the pile.
She threw a motor robe over her, ran out. Bjornstam welcomed her, "Well,
well, well! Here's old Miles, fresh as ever. Well say, that's all right;
he ain't even begun to be cheeky yet; next summer he's going to take you
out on his horse-trading trip, clear into Idaho."
"Yes, and I may go!"
"How's tricks? Crazy about the town yet?"
"No, but I probably shall be, some day."
"Don't let 'em get you. Kick 'em in the face!"
He shouted at her while he worked. The pile of stove-wood grew
solemnly tipped over backward.
Mrs. Elder and Mrs. Sam Clark made coffee in an enormous blackened tin
pot; Vida Sherwin and Mrs. McGanum unpacked doughnuts and gingerbread;
Mrs. Dave Dyer warmed up "hot dogs"--frankfurters in rolls; Dr. Terry
Gould, after announcing, "Ladies and gents, prepare to be shocked; shock
line forms on the right," produced a bottle of bourbon whisky.
The others danced, muttering "Ouch!" as their frosted feet struck the
pine planks. Carol had lost her dream. Harry Haydock lifted her by the
waist and swung her. She laughed. The gravity of the people who stood
apart and talked made her the more impatient for frolic.
Kennicott, Sam Clark, Jackson Elder, young Dr. McGanum, and James
Madison Howland, teetering on their toes near the stove, conversed
with the sedate pomposity of the commercialist. In details the men were
unlike, yet they said the same things in the same hearty monotonous
voices. You had to look at them to see which was speaking.
"Well, we made pretty good time coming up," from one--any one.
"Yump, we hit it up after we struck the good going on the lake."
"Seems kind of slow though, after driving an auto."
"Yump, it does, at that. Say, how'd you make out with that Sphinx tire
"Seems to hold out fine. Still, I don't know's I like it any better than
the Roadeater Cord."
"Yump, nothing better than a Roadeater. Especially the cord. The cord's
lots better than the fabric."
"Yump, you said something----Roadeater's a good tire."
"Say, how'd you come out with Pete Garsheim on his payments?"
"He's paying up pretty good. That's a nice piece of land he's got."
"Yump, that's a dandy farm."
"Yump, Pete's got a good place there."
They glided from these serious topics into the jocose insults which are
the wit of Main Street. Sam Clark was particularly apt at them. "What's
this wild-eyed sale of summer caps you think you're trying to pull
off?" he clamored at Harry Haydock. "Did you steal 'em, or are you just
overcharging us, as usual? . . . Oh say, speaking about caps, d'I ever
tell you the good one I've got on Will? The doc thinks he's a pretty
good driver, fact, he thinks he's almost got human intelligence, but one
time he had his machine out in the rain, and the poor fish, he hadn't
put on chains, and thinks I----"
Carol had heard the story rather often. She fled back to the dancers,
and at Dave Dyer's masterstroke of dropping an icicle down Mrs.
McGanum's back she applauded hysterically.
They sat on the floor, devouring the food. The men giggled amiably as
they passed the whisky bottle, and laughed, "There's a real sport!" when
Juanita Haydock took a sip. Carol tried to follow; she believed that she
desired to be drunk and riotous; but the whisky choked her and as she
saw Kennicott frown she handed the bottle on repentantly. Somewhat too
late she remembered that she had given up domesticity and repentance.
"Let's play charades!" said Raymie Wutherspoon.
"Oh yes, do let us," said Ella Stowbody.
"That's the caper," sanctioned Harry Haydock.
They interpreted the word "making" as May and King. The crown was a red
flannel mitten cocked on Sam Clark's broad pink bald head. They forgot
they were respectable. They made-believe. Carol was stimulated to cry:
"Let's form a dramatic club and give a play! Shall we? It's been so much
They looked affable.
"Sure," observed Sam Clark loyally.
"Oh, do let us! I think it would be lovely to present 'Romeo and
Juliet'!" yearned Ella Stowbody.
"Be a whale of a lot of fun," Dr. Terry Gould granted.
"But if we did," Carol cautioned, "it would be awfully silly to have
amateur theatricals. We ought to paint our own scenery and everything,
and really do something fine. There'd be a lot of hard work. Would
you--would we all be punctual at rehearsals, do you suppose?"
"You bet!" "Sure." "That's the idea." "Fellow ought to be prompt at
rehearsals," they all agreed.
"Then let's meet next week and form the Gopher Prairie Dramatic
Association!" Carol sang.
She drove home loving these friends who raced through moonlit snow,
had Bohemian parties, and were about to create beauty in the theater.
Everything was solved. She would be an authentic part of the town,
yet escape the coma of the Village Virus. . . . She would be free of
Kennicott again, without hurting him, without his knowing.
She had triumphed.
The moon was small and high now, and unheeding.
Though they had all been certain that they longed for the privilege of
attending committee meetings and rehearsals, the dramatic association as
definitely formed consisted only of Kennicott, Carol, Guy Pollock,