man's cap, a skinny fur like a dead cat, a necklace of imitation pearls,
a scabrous satin blouse, and a thick cloth skirt hiked up in front.
"Come in. Sit down. Stick the baby in that rocker. Hope you don't mind
the house looking like a rat's nest. You don't like this town. Neither
do I," said Mrs. Flickerbaugh.
"Course you don't!"
"Well then, I don't! But I'm sure that some day I'll find some solution.
Probably I'm a hexagonal peg. Solution: find the hexagonal hole." Carol
was very brisk.
"How do you know you ever will find it?"
"There's Mrs. Westlake. She's naturally a big-city woman--she ought to
have a lovely old house in Philadelphia or Boston--but she escapes by
being absorbed in reading."
"You be satisfied to never do anything but read?"
"No, but Heavens, one can't go on hating a town always!"
"Why not? I can! I've hated it for thirty-two years. I'll die here--and
I'll hate it till I die. I ought to have been a business woman. I had
a good deal of talent for tending to figures. All gone now. Some folks
think I'm crazy. Guess I am. Sit and grouch. Go to church and sing
hymns. Folks think I'm religious. Tut! Trying to forget washing and
ironing and mending socks. Want an office of my own, and sell things.
Julius never hear of it. Too late."
Carol sat on the gritty couch, and sank into fear. Could this drabness
of life keep up forever, then? Would she some day so despise herself
and her neighbors that she too would walk Main Street an old skinny
eccentric woman in a mangy cat's-fur? As she crept home she felt that
the trap had finally closed. She went into the house, a frail small
woman, still winsome but hopeless of eye as she staggered with the
weight of the drowsy boy in her arms.
She sat alone on the porch, that evening. It seemed that Kennicott had
to make a professional call on Mrs. Dave Dyer.
Under the stilly boughs and the black gauze of dusk the street was
meshed in silence. There was but the hum of motor tires crunching the
road, the creak of a rocker on the Howlands' porch, the slap of a hand
attacking a mosquito, a heat-weary conversation starting and dying, the
precise rhythm of crickets, the thud of moths against the screen--sounds
that were a distilled silence. It was a street beyond the end of
the world, beyond the boundaries of hope. Though she should sit here
forever, no brave procession, no one who was interesting, would be
coming by. It was tediousness made tangible, a street builded of