with crystallized expressions. She went on:
"Tell me, Mr. Mott: Have you ever tried any experiments with any of the
new educational systems? The modern kindergarten methods or the Gary
"Oh. Those. Most of these would-be reformers are simply
notoriety-seekers. I believe in manual training, but Latin and
mathematics always will be the backbone of sound Americanism, no matter
what these faddists advocate--heaven knows what they do want--knitting,
I suppose, and classes in wiggling the ears!"
The Dawsons smiled their appreciation of listening to a savant. Carol
waited till Kennicott should rescue her. The rest of the party waited
for the miracle of being amused.
Harry and Juanita Haydock, Rita Simons and Dr. Terry Gould--the young
smart set of Gopher Prairie. She was led to them. Juanita Haydock flung
at her in a high, cackling, friendly voice:
"Well, this is SO nice to have you here. We'll have some good
parties--dances and everything. You'll have to join the Jolly Seventeen.
We play bridge and we have a supper once a month. You play, of course?"
"N-no, I don't."
"Really? In St. Paul?"
"I've always been such a book-worm."
"We'll have to teach you. Bridge is half the fun of life." Juanita had
become patronizing, and she glanced disrespectfully at Carol's golden
sash, which she had previously admired.
Harry Haydock said politely, "How do you think you're going to like the
"I'm sure I shall like it tremendously."
"Best people on earth here. Great hustlers, too. Course I've had lots
of chances to go live in Minneapolis, but we like it here. Real he-town.
Did you know that Percy Bresnahan came from here?"
Carol perceived that she had been weakened in the biological struggle
by disclosing her lack of bridge. Roused to nervous desire to regain
her position she turned on Dr. Terry Gould, the young and pool-playing
competitor of her husband. Her eyes coquetted with him while she gushed:
"I'll learn bridge. But what I really love most is the outdoors. Can't
we all get up a boating party, and fish, or whatever you do, and have a
picnic supper afterwards?"
"Now you're talking!" Dr. Gould affirmed. He looked rather too obviously
at the cream-smooth slope of her shoulder. "Like fishing? Fishing is my
middle name. I'll teach you bridge. Like cards at all?"
"I used to be rather good at bezique."
She knew that bezique was a game of cards--or a game of something else.
Roulette, possibly. But her lie was a triumph. Juanita's handsome,
pussyfoot--but he had never before been called a flirt.
"He is wicked, isn't he, Mrs. Dawson? Don't you have to lock him up?"
"Oh no, but maybe I better," attempted Mrs. Dawson, a tint on her pallid
For fifteen minutes Carol kept it up. She asserted that she was going
to stage a musical comedy, that she preferred cafe parfait to beefsteak,
that she hoped Dr. Kennicott would never lose his ability to make love
to charming women, and that she had a pair of gold stockings. They gaped
for more. But she could not keep it up. She retired to a chair behind
Sam Clark's bulk. The smile-wrinkles solemnly flattened out in the faces
of all the other collaborators in having a party, and again they stood
about hoping but not expecting to be amused.
Carol listened. She discovered that conversation did not exist in Gopher
Prairie. Even at this affair, which brought out the young smart set,
the hunting squire set, the respectable intellectual set, and the solid
financial set, they sat up with gaiety as with a corpse.
Juanita Haydock talked a good deal in her rattling voice but it was
invariably of personalities: the rumor that Raymie Wutherspoon was going
to send for a pair of patent leather shoes with gray buttoned tops; the
rheumatism of Champ Perry; the state of Guy Pollock's grippe; and the
dementia of Jim Howland in painting his fence salmon-pink.
Sam Clark had been talking to Carol about motor cars, but he felt
his duties as host. While he droned, his brows popped up and down. He
interrupted himself, "Must stir 'em up." He worried at his wife, "Don't
you think I better stir 'em up?" He shouldered into the center of the
room, and cried:
"Let's have some stunts, folks."
"Yes, let's!" shrieked Juanita Haydock.
"Say, Dave, give us that stunt about the Norwegian catching a hen."
"You bet; that's a slick stunt; do that, Dave!" cheered Chet Dashaway.
Mr. Dave Dyer obliged.
All the guests moved their lips in anticipation of being called on for
their own stunts.
"Ella, come on and recite 'Old Sweetheart of Mine,' for us," demanded
Miss Ella Stowbody, the spinster daughter of the Ionic bank, scratched
her dry palms and blushed. "Oh, you don't want to hear that old thing
"Sure we do! You bet!" asserted Sam.
"My voice is in terrible shape tonight."
"Tut! Come on!"
Sam loudly explained to Carol, "Ella is our shark at elocuting. She's
had professional training. She studied singing and oratory and dramatic
art and shorthand for a year, in Milwaukee."
Miss Stowbody was reciting. As encore to "An Old Sweetheart of Mine,"
she gave a peculiarly optimistic poem regarding the value of smiles.
There were four other stunts: one Jewish, one Irish, one juvenile, and
Nat Hicks's parody of Mark Antony's funeral oration.
During the winter Carol was to hear Dave Dyer's hen-catching
impersonation seven times, "An Old Sweetheart of Mine" nine times, the
Jewish story and the funeral oration twice; but now she was ardent
and, because she did so want to be happy and simple-hearted, she was as
disappointed as the others when the stunts were finished, and the party
instantly sank back into coma.
They gave up trying to be festive; they began to talk naturally, as they
did at their shops and homes.
The men and women divided, as they had been tending to do all evening.
Carol was deserted by the men, left to a group of matrons who steadily
pattered of children, sickness, and cooks--their own shop-talk. She was
piqued. She remembered visions of herself as a smart married woman in
a drawing-room, fencing with clever men. Her dejection was relieved by
speculation as to what the men were discussing, in the corner between
the piano and the phonograph. Did they rise from these housewifely
personalities to a larger world of abstractions and affairs?
She made her best curtsy to Mrs. Dawson; she twittered, "I won't have my
husband leaving me so soon! I'm going over and pull the wretch's