"Of Them! Of my rulers — Gopher Prairie. . . . My dear boy, we are talking very foolishly. I am a normal wife and a good mother, and you are — oh, a college freshman."
"You do like me! I'm going to make you love me!"
She looked at him once, recklessly, and walked away with a serene gait that was a disordered flight.
Kennicott grumbled on their way home, "You and this Valborg fellow seem quite chummy."
"Oh, we are. He's interested in Myrtle Cass, and I was telling him how nice she is."
In her room she marveled, "I have become a liar. I'm snarled with lies and foggy analyses and desires — I who was clear and sure."
She hurried into Kennicott's room, sat on the edge of his bed. He flapped a drowsy welcoming hand at her from the expanse of quilt and dented pillows.
"Will, I really think I ought to trot off to St. Paul or Chicago or some place."
"I thought we settled all that, few nights ago! Wait till we can have a real trip." He shook himself out of his drowsiness. "You might give me a good-night kiss."
She did — dutifully. He held her lips against his for an intolerable time. "Don't you like the old man any more?" he coaxed. He sat up and shyly fitted his palm about the slimness of her waist.
"Of course. I like you very much indeed." Even to herself it sounded flat. She longed to be able to throw into her voice the facile passion of a light woman. She patted his cheek.
He sighed, "I'm sorry you're so tired. Seems like — — But of course you aren't very strong."
"Yes. . . . Then you don't think — you're quite sure I ought to stay here in town?"
"I told you so! I certainly do!"
She crept back to her room, a small timorous figure in white.
"I can't face Will down — demand the right. He'd be obstinate. And I can't even go off and earn my living again. Out of the habit of it. He's driving me — — I'm afraid of what he's driving me to. Afraid.
"That man in there, snoring in stale air, my husband? Could any ceremony make him my husband?
"No. I don't want to hurt him. I want to love him. I can't, when I'm thinking of Erik. Am I too honest — a funny topsy-turvy honesty — the faithfulness of unfaith? I wish I had a more compartmental mind, like men. I'm too monogamous — toward Erik! — my child Erik, who needs me.
"Is an illicit affair like a gambling debt — demands stricter honor than the legitimate debt of matrimony, because it's not legally enforced?
"That's nonsense! I don't care in the least for Erik! Not for any man. I want to be let alone, in a woman world — a world without Main Street, or politicians, or business men, or men with that sudden beastly hungry look, that glistening unfrank expression that wives know — —
"If Erik were here, if he would just sit quiet and kind and talk, I could be still, I could go to sleep.
"I am so tired. If I could sleep — — "