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9. CHAPTER IX
SHE had tripped into the meadow to teach the lambs a pretty educational dance and found that the lambs were wolves. There was no way out between their pressing gray shoulders. She was surrounded by fangs and sneering eyes.
She could not go on enduring the hidden derision. She wanted to flee. She wanted to hide in the generous indifference of cities. She practised saying to Kennicott, "Think perhaps I'll run down to St. Paul for a few days." But she could not trust herself to say it carelessly; could not abide his certain questioning.
Reform the town? All she wanted was to be tolerated!
She could not look directly at people. She flushed and winced before citizens who a week ago had been amusing objects of study, and in their good-mornings she heard a cruel sniggering.
She encountered Juanita Haydock at Ole Jenson's grocery. She besought, "Oh, how do you do! Heavens, what beautiful celery that is!"
"Yes, doesn't it look fresh. Harry simply has to have his celery on Sunday, drat the man!"
Carol hastened out of the shop exulting, "She didn't make fun of me. . . . Did she?"
In a week she had recovered from consciousness of insecurity, of shame and whispering notoriety, but she kept her habit of avoiding people. She walked the streets with her head down. When she spied Mrs. McGanum or Mrs. Dyer ahead she crossed over with an elaborate pretense of looking at a billboard. Always she was acting, for the benefit of every one she saw--and for the benefit of the ambushed leering eyes which she did not see.
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