The final item was a man who neither lectured, inspired, nor entertained; a plain little man with his hands in his pockets. All the other speakers had confessed, "I cannot keep from telling the citizens of your beautiful city that none of the talent on this circuit have found a more charming spot or more enterprising and hospitable people." But the little man suggested that the architecture of Gopher Prairie was haphazard, and that it was sottish to let the lake-front be monopolized by the cinder-heaped wall of the railroad embankment. Afterward the audience grumbled, "Maybe that guy's got the right dope, but what's the use of looking on the dark side of things all the time? New ideas are first-rate, but not all this criticism. Enough trouble in life without looking for it!"
Thus the Chautauqua, as Carol saw it. After it, the town felt proud and educated.
Two weeks later the Great War smote Europe.
For a month Gopher Prairie had the delight of shuddering, then, as the war settled down to a business of trench-fighting, they forgot.
When Carol talked about the Balkans, and the possibility of a German revolution, Kennicott yawned, "Oh yes, it's a great old scrap, but it's none of our business. Folks out here are too busy growing corn to monkey with any fool war that those foreigners want to get themselves into."
It was Miles Bjornstam who said, "I can't figure it out. I'm opposed to wars, but still, seems like Germany has got to be licked because them Junkers stands in the way of progress."
She was calling on Miles and Bea, early in autumn. They had received her with cries, with dusting of chairs, and a running to fetch water for coffee. Miles stood and beamed at her. He fell often and joyously into his old irreverence about the lords of Gopher Prairie, but always — with a certain difficulty — he added something decorous and appreciative.
"Lots of people have come to see you, haven't they?" Carol hinted.
"Why, Bea's cousin Tina comes in right along, and the foreman at the mill, and — — Oh, we have good times. Say, take a look at that Bea! Wouldn't you think she was a canary-bird, to listen to her, and to see that Scandahoofian tow-head of hers? But say, know what she is? She's a mother hen! Way she fusses over me — way she makes old Miles wear a necktie! Hate to spoil her by letting her hear it, but she's one pretty darn nice — nice — — Hell! What do we care if none of the dirty snobs come and call? We've got each other."
Carol worried about their struggle, but she forgot it in the stress of sickness and fear. For that autumn she knew that a baby was coming, that at last life promised to be interesting in the peril of the great change.