Main Street: The Story of Carol Kennicott

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Author: Sinclair Lewis

I

"THE Clarks have invited some folks to their house to meet us, tonight," said Kennicott, as he unpacked his suit-case.

"Oh, that is nice of them!"

"You bet. I told you you’d like ’em. Squarest people on earth. Uh, Carrie---- Would you mind if I sneaked down to the office for an hour, just to see how things are?"

"Why, no. Of course not. I know you’re keen to get back to work."

"Sure you don’t mind?"

"Not a bit. Out of my way. Let me unpack."

But the advocate of freedom in marriage was as much disappointed as a drooping bride at the alacrity with which he took that freedom and escaped to the world of men’s affairs. She gazed about their bedroom, and its full dismalness crawled over her: the awkward knuckly L-shape of it; the black walnut bed with apples and spotty pears carved on the headboard; the imitation maple bureau, with pink-daubed scent-bottles and a petticoated pin-cushion on a marble slab uncomfortably like a gravestone; the plain pine washstand and the garlanded water- pitcher and bowl. The scent was of horsehair and plush and Florida Water.

"How could people ever live with things like this?" she shuddered. She saw the furniture as a circle of elderly judges, condemning her to death by smothering. The tottering brocade chair squeaked, "Choke her—choke her—smother her." The old linen smelled of the tomb. She was alone in this house, this strange still house, among the shadows of dead thoughts and haunting repressions. "I hate it! I hate it!" she panted. "Why did I ever----"

She remembered that Kennicott’s mother had brought these family relics from the old home in Lac-qui-Meurt. "Stop it! They’re perfectly comfortable things. They’re—comfortable. Besides---- Oh, they’re horrible! We’ll change them, right away."

Then, "But of course he HAS to see how things are at the office----"

She made a pretense of busying herself with unpacking. The chintz-lined, silver-fitted bag which had seemed so desirable a luxury in St. Paul was an extravagant vanity here. The daring black chemise of frail chiffon and lace was a hussy at which the deep-bosomed bed stiffened in disgust, and she hurled it into a bureau drawer, hid it beneath a sensible linen blouse.

She gave up unpacking. She went to the window, with a purely literary thought of village charm—hollyhocks and lanes and apple-cheeked cottagers. What she saw was the side of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church—a plain clapboard wall of a sour liver color; the ash-pile back of the church; an unpainted stable; and an alley in which a Ford delivery-wagon had been stranded. This was the terraced garden below her boudoir; this was to be her scenery for----

"I mustn’t! I mustn’t! I’m nervous this afternoon. Am I sick? . . . Good Lord, I hope it isn’t that! Not now! How people lie! How these stories lie! They say the bride is always so blushing and proud and happy when she finds that out, but—I’d hate it! I’d be scared to death! Some day but---- Please, dear nebulous Lord, not now! Bearded sniffy old men sitting and demanding that we bear children. If THEY had to bear them----! I wish they did have to! Not now! Not till I’ve got hold of this job of liking the ash-pile out there! . . . I must shut up. I’m mildly insane. I’m going out for a walk. I’ll see the town by myself. My first view of the empire I’m going to conquer!"

She fled from the house.

She stared with seriousness at every concrete crossing, every hitching-post, every rake for leaves; and to each house she devoted all her speculation. What would they come to mean? How would they look six months from now? In which of them would she be dining? Which of these people whom she passed, now mere arrangements of hair and clothes, would turn into intimates, loved or dreaded, different from all the other people in the world?

As she came into the small business-section she inspected a broad-beamed grocer in an alpaca coat who was bending over the apples and celery on a slanted platform in front of his store. Would she ever talk to him? What would he say if she stopped and stated, "I am Mrs. Dr. Kennicott. Some day I hope to confide that a heap of extremely dubious pumpkins as a window-display doesn’t exhilarate me much."

(The grocer was Mr. Frederick F. Ludelmeyer, whose market is at the corner of Main Street and Lincoln Avenue. In supposing that only she was observant Carol was ignorant, misled by the indifference of cities. She fancied that she was slipping through the streets invisible; but when she had passed, Mr. Ludelmeyer puffed into the store and coughed at his clerk, "I seen a young woman, she come along the side street. I bet she iss Doc Kennicott’s new bride, good-looker, nice legs, but she wore a hell of a plain suit, no style, I wonder will she pay cash, I bet she goes to Howland & Gould’s more as she does here, what you done with the poster for Fluffed Oats?")

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Chicago: Sinclair Lewis, "I," Main Street: The Story of Carol Kennicott in Main Street: The Story of Carol Kennicott (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1920), Original Sources, accessed August 17, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4UJLJF95RMSKNL4.

MLA: Lewis, Sinclair. "I." Main Street: The Story of Carol Kennicott, in Main Street: The Story of Carol Kennicott, New York, Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1920, Original Sources. 17 Aug. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4UJLJF95RMSKNL4.

Harvard: Lewis, S, 'I' in Main Street: The Story of Carol Kennicott. cited in 1920, Main Street: The Story of Carol Kennicott, Harcourt, Brace & Co., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 17 August 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4UJLJF95RMSKNL4.