The weariness of dish-washing had increased her desire to go. She pictured herself looking at Emerson's manse, bathing in a surf of jade and ivory, wearing a trottoir and a summer fur, meeting an aristocratic Stranger. In the spring Kennicott had pathetically volunteered, "S'pose you'd like to get in a good long tour this summer, but with Gould and Mac away and so many patients depending on me, don't see how I can make it. By golly, I feel like a tightwad though, not taking you." Through all this restless July after she had tasted Bresnahan's disturbing flavor of travel and gaiety, she wanted to go, but she said nothing. They spoke of and postponed a trip to the Twin Cities. When she suggested, as though it were a tremendous joke, "I think baby and I might up and leave you, and run off to Cape Cod by ourselves!" his only reaction was "Golly, don't know but what you may almost have to do that, if we don't get in a trip next year."
Toward the end of July he proposed, "Say, the Beavers are holding a convention in Joralemon, street fair and everything. We might go down tomorrow. And I'd like to see Dr. Calibree about some business. Put in the whole day. Might help some to make up for our trip. Fine fellow, Dr. Calibree."
Joralemon was a prairie town of the size of Gopher Prairie.
Their motor was out of order, and there was no passenger-train at an early hour. They went down by freight-train, after the weighty and conversational business of leaving Hugh with Aunt Bessie. Carol was exultant over this irregular jaunting. It was the first unusual thing, except the glance of Bresnahan, that had happened since the weaning of Hugh. They rode in the caboose, the small red cupola-topped car jerked along at the end of the train. It was a roving shanty, the cabin of a land schooner, with black oilcloth seats along the side, and for desk, a pine board to be let down on hinges. Kennicott played seven-up with the conductor and two brakemen. Carol liked the blue silk kerchiefs about the brakemen's throats; she liked their welcome to her, and their air of friendly independence. Since there were no sweating passengers crammed in beside her, she reveled in the train's slowness. She was part of these lakes and tawny wheat-fields. She liked the smell of hot earth and clean grease; and the leisurely chug-a-chug, chug-a-chug of the trucks was a song of contentment in the sun.
She pretended that she was going to the Rockies. When they reached Joralemon she was radiant with holiday-making.
Her eagerness began to lessen the moment they stopped at a red frame station exactly like the one they had just left at Gopher Prairie, and Kennicott yawned, "Right on time. Just in time for dinner at the Calibrees'. I 'phoned the doctor from G. P. that we'd be here. 'We'll catch the freight that gets in before twelve,' I told him. He said he'd meet us at the depot and take us right up to the house for dinner. Calibree is a good man, and you'll find his wife is a mighty brainy little woman, bright as a dollar. By golly, there he is."
Dr. Calibree was a squat, clean-shaven, conscientious-looking man of forty. He was curiously like his own brown-painted motor car, with eye-glasses for windshield. "Want you to meet my wife, doctor — Carrie, make you 'quainted with Dr. Calibree," said Kennicott. Calibree bowed quietly and shook her hand, but before he had finished shaking it he was concentrating upon Kennicott with, "Nice to see you, doctor. Say, don't let me forget to ask you about what you did in that exopthalmic goiter case — that Bohemian woman at Wahkeenyan."
The two men, on the front seat of the car, chanted goiters and ignored her. She did not know it. She was trying to feed her illusion of adventure by staring at unfamiliar houses . . . drab cottages, artificial stone bungalows, square painty stolidities with immaculate clapboards and broad screened porches and tidy grass-plots.
Calibree handed her over to his wife, a thick woman who called her "dearie," and asked if she was hot and, visibly searching for conversation, produced, "Let's see, you and the doctor have a Little One, haven't you?" At dinner Mrs. Calibree served the corned beef and cabbage and looked steamy, looked like the steamy leaves of cabbage. The men were oblivious of their wives as they gave the social passwords of Main Street, the orthodox opinions on weather, crops, and motor cars, then flung away restraint and gyrated in the debauch of shop-talk. Stroking his chin, drawling in the ecstasy of being erudite, Kennicott inquired, "Say, doctor, what success have you had with thyroid for treatment of pains in the legs before child-birth?"
Carol did not resent their assumption that she was too ignorant to be admitted to masculine mysteries. She was used to it. But the cabbage and Mrs. Calibree's monotonous "I don't know what we're coming to with all this difficulty getting hired girls" were gumming her eyes with drowsiness. She sought to clear them by appealing to Calibree, in a manner of exaggerated liveliness, "Doctor, have the medical societies in Minnesota ever advocated legislation for help to nursing mothers?"
Calibree slowly revolved toward her. "Uh — I've never — uh — never looked into it. I don't believe much in getting mixed up in politics." He turned squarely from her and, peering earnestly at Kennicott, resumed, "Doctor, what's been your experience with unilateral pyelonephritis? Buckburn of Baltimore advocates decapsulation and nephrotomy, but seems to me — — "
Not till after two did they rise. In the lee of the stonily mature trio Carol proceeded to the street fair which added mundane gaiety to the annual rites of the United and Fraternal Order of Beavers. Beavers, human Beavers, were everywhere: thirty-second degree Beavers in gray sack suits and decent derbies, more flippant Beavers in crash summer coats and straw hats, rustic Beavers in shirt sleeves and frayed suspenders; but whatever his caste-symbols, every Beaver was distinguished by an enormous shrimp-colored ribbon lettered in silver, "Sir Knight and Brother, U. F. O. B., Annual State Convention." On the motherly shirtwaist of each of their wives was a badge "Sir Knight's Lady." The Duluth delegation had brought their famous Beaver amateur band, in Zouave costumes of green velvet jacket, blue trousers, and scarlet fez. The strange thing was that beneath their scarlet pride the Zouaves' faces remained those of American business-men, pink, smooth, eye-glassed; and as they stood playing in a circle, at the corner of Main Street and Second, as they tootled on fifes or with swelling cheeks blew into cornets, their eyes remained as owlish as though they were sitting at desks under the sign "This Is My Busy Day."
Carol had supposed that the Beavers were average citizens organized for the purposes of getting cheap life-insurance and playing poker at the lodge-rooms every second Wednesday, but she saw a large poster which proclaimed:
BEAVERS U. F. O. B.
The greatest influence for good citizenship in the
country. The jolliest aggregation of red-blooded,
open-handed, hustle-em-up good fellows in the world.
Joralemon welcomes you to her hospitable city.
Kennicott read the poster and to Calibree admired, "Strong lodge, the Beavers. Never joined. Don't know but what I will."
Calibree adumbrated, "They're a good bunch. Good strong lodge. See that fellow there that's playing the snare drum? He's the smartest wholesale grocer in Duluth, they say. Guess it would be worth joining. Oh say, are you doing much insurance examining?"
They went on to the street fair.
Lining one block of Main Street were the "attractions" — two hot-dog stands, a lemonade and pop-corn stand, a merry-go-round, and booths in which balls might be thrown at rag dolls, if one wished to throw balls at rag dolls. The dignified delegates were shy of the booths, but country boys with brickred necks and pale-blue ties and bright-yellow shoes, who had brought sweethearts into town in somewhat dusty and listed Fords, were wolfing sandwiches, drinking strawberry pop out of bottles, and riding the revolving crimson and gold horses. They shrieked and giggled; peanut-roasters whistled; the merry-go-round pounded out monotonous music; the barkers bawled, "Here's your chance — here's your chance — come on here, boy — come on here — give that girl a good time — give her a swell time — here's your chance to win a genuwine gold watch for five cents, half a dime, the twentieth part of a dollah!" The prairie sun jabbed the unshaded street with shafts that were like poisonous thorns the tinny cornices above the brick stores were glaring; the dull breeze scattered dust on sweaty Beavers who crawled along in tight scorching new shoes, up two blocks and back, up two blocks and back, wondering what to do next, working at having a good time.
Carol's head ached as she trailed behind the unsmiling Calibrees along the block of booths. She chirruped at Kennicott, "Let's be wild! Let's ride on the merry-go-round and grab a gold ring!"
Kennicott considered it, and mumbled to Calibree, "Think you folks would like to stop and try a ride on the merry-go-round?"
Calibree considered it, and mumbled to his wife, "Think you'd like to stop and try a ride on the merry-go-round?"
Mrs. Calibree smiled in a washed-out manner, and sighed, "Oh no, I don't believe I care to much, but you folks go ahead and try it."
Calibree stated to Kennicott, "No, I don't believe we care to a whole lot, but you folks go ahead and try it."
Kennicott summarized the whole case against wildness: "Let's try it some other time, Carrie."
She gave it up. She looked at the town. She saw that in adventuring from Main Street, Gopher Prairie, to Main Street, Joralemon, she had not stirred. There were the same two-story brick groceries with lodge-signs above the awnings; the same one-story wooden millinery shop; the same fire-brick garages; the same prairie at the open end of the wide street; the same people wondering whether the levity of eating a hot-dog sandwich would break their taboos.
They reached Gopher Prairie at nine in the evening.
"You look kind of hot," said Kennicott.
"Joralemon is an enterprising town, don't you think so?" She broke. "No! I think it's an ash-heap."
He worried over it for a week. While he ground his plate with his knife as he energetically pursued fragments of bacon, he peeped at her.