extravagant little rabbit." But the budget book made her realize how
inexact were her finances. She became self-conscious; occasionally she
was indignant that she should always have to petition him for the money
with which to buy his food. She caught herself criticizing his belief
that, since his joke about trying to keep her out of the poorhouse had
once been accepted as admirable humor, it should continue to be his
daily bon mot. It was a nuisance to have to run down the street after
him because she had forgotten to ask him for money at breakfast.
But she couldn't "hurt his feelings," she reflected. He liked the
lordliness of giving largess.
She tried to reduce the frequency of begging by opening accounts and
having the bills sent to him. She had found that staple groceries,
sugar, flour, could be most cheaply purchased at Axel Egge's rustic
general store. She said sweetly to Axel:
"I think I'd better open a charge account here."
"I don't do no business except for cash," grunted Axel.
She flared, "Do you know who I am?"
"Yuh, sure, I know. The doc is good for it. But that's yoost a rule I
made. I make low prices. I do business for cash."
She stared at his red impassive face, and her fingers had the
undignified desire to slap him, but her reason agreed with him. "You're
quite right. You shouldn't break your rule for me."
Her rage had not been lost. It had been transferred to her husband. She
wanted ten pounds of sugar in a hurry, but she had no money. She ran up
the stairs to Kennicott's office. On the door was a sign advertising a
headache cure and stating, "The doctor is out, back at----" Naturally,
the blank space was not filled out. She stamped her foot. She ran down
to the drug store--the doctor's club.
As she entered she heard Mrs. Dyer demanding, "Dave, I've got to have
Carol saw that her husband was there, and two other men, all listening
Dave Dyer snapped, "How much do you want? Dollar be enough?"
"No, it won't! I've got to get some underclothes for the kids."
"Why, good Lord, they got enough now to fill the closet so I couldn't
find my hunting boots, last time I wanted them."
"I don't care. They're all in rags. You got to give me ten dollars----"
Carol perceived that Mrs. Dyer was accustomed to this indignity. She
perceived that the men, particularly Dave, regarded it as an excellent
jest. She waited--she knew what would come--it did. Dave yelped,
"Where's that ten dollars I gave you last year?" and he looked to the
other men to laugh. They laughed.
Cold and still, Carol walked up to Kennicott and commanded, "I want to
see you upstairs."
"Why--something the matter?"
He clumped after her, up the stairs, into his barren office. Before he
could get out a query she stated:
"Yesterday, in front of a saloon, I heard a German farm-wife beg her
husband for a quarter, to get a toy for the baby--and he refused. Just
now I've heard Mrs. Dyer going through the same humiliation. And I--I'm
in the same position! I have to beg you for money. Daily! I have just
been informed that I couldn't have any sugar because I hadn't the money
to pay for it!"
"Who said that? By God, I'll kill any----"
"Tut. It wasn't his fault. It was yours. And mine. I now humbly beg
you to give me the money with which to buy meals for you to eat. And
hereafter to remember it. The next time, I sha'n't beg. I shall simply
starve. Do you understand? I can't go on being a slave----"
Her defiance, her enjoyment of the role, ran out. She was sobbing
against his overcoat, "How can you shame me so?" and he was blubbering,
"Dog-gone it, I meant to give you some, and I forgot it. I swear I won't
again. By golly I won't!"
He pressed fifty dollars upon her, and after that he remembered to give
her money regularly . . . sometimes.
Daily she determined, "But I must have a stated amount--be
business-like. System. I must do something about it." And daily she
didn't do anything about it.
Mrs. Bogart had, by the simpering viciousness of her comments on the new
furniture, stirred Carol to economy. She spoke judiciously to Bea
about left-overs. She read the cookbook again and, like a child with
a picture-book, she studied the diagram of the beef which gallantly
continues to browse though it is divided into cuts.
But she was a deliberate and joyous spendthrift in her preparations for