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The Prairie Child   By: (1874-1950)

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First Page:

[Illustration: We gathered wood and made a fire]

THE PRAIRIE CHILD

By ARTHUR STRINGER

Author of

"Are All Men Alike and the Lost Titian," "The Prairie Mother," "The Prairie Wife," "The Wine of Life," "The Door of Dread," "The Man Who Couldn't Sleep," etc.

[Illustration]

With Frontispiece by

E. F. WARD

A. L. BURT COMPANY

Publishers New York

Published by arrangement with The Bobbs Merrill Company

Printed in U. S. A.

Copyright 1922

The Pictorial Review Company

Copyright 1922

The Bobbs Merrill Company

Printed in the United States of America

THE PRAIRIE CHILD

Friday the Eighth of March

"But the thing I can't understand, Dinky Dunk, is how you ever could ."

"Could what?" my husband asked in an aerated tone of voice.

I had to gulp before I got it out.

"Could kiss a woman like that," I managed to explain.

Duncan Argyll McKail looked at me with a much cooler eye than I had expected. If he saw my shudder, he paid no attention to it.

"On much the same principle," he quietly announced, "that the Chinese eat birds' nests."

"Just what do you mean by that?" I demanded, resenting the fact that he could stand as silent as a December beehive before my morosely questioning eyes.

"I mean that, being married, you've run away with the idea that all birds' nests are made out of mud and straw, with possibly a garnish of horse hairs. But if you'd really examine these edible nests you'd find they were made of surprisingly appealing and succulent tendrils. They're quite appetizing, you may be sure, or they'd never be eaten!"

I stood turning this over, exactly as I've seen my Dinkie turn over an unexpectedly rancid nut.

"Aren't you, under the circumstances, being rather stupidly clever?" I finally asked.

"When I suppose you'd rather see me cleverly stupid?" he found the heart to suggest.

"But that woman, to me, always looked like a frog," I protested, doing my best to duplicate his pose of impersonality.

"Well, she doesn't make love like a frog," he retorted with his first betraying touch of anger. I turned to the window, to the end that my Eliza Crossing the Ice look wouldn't be entirely at his mercy. A belated March blizzard was slapping at the panes and cuffing the house corners. At the end of a long winter, I knew, tempers were apt to be short. But this was much more than a matter of barometers. The man I'd wanted to live with like a second "Suzanne de Sirmont" in Daudet's Happiness had not only cut me to the quick but was rubbing salt in the wound. He had said what he did with deliberate intent to hurt me, for it was only too obvious that he was tired of being on the defensive. And it did hurt. It couldn't help hurting. For the man, after all, was my husband. He was the husband to whom I'd given up the best part of my life, the two legged basket into which I'd packed all my eggs of allegiance. And now he was scrambling that precious collection for a cheap omelette of amorous adventure. He was my husband, I kept reminding myself. But that didn't cover the entire case. No husband whose heart is right stands holding another woman's shoulder and tries to read her shoe numbers through her ardently upturned eyes. It shows the wind is not blowing right in the home circle. It shows a rent in the dyke, a flaw in the blade, a breach in the fortress wall of faith. For marriage, to the wife who is a mother as well, impresses me as rather like the spliced arrow of the Esquimos: it is cemented together with blood. It is a solemn matter. And for the sake of mutter schutz , if for nothing else, it must be kept that way.

There was a time, I suppose, when the thought of such a thing would have taken my breath away, would have chilled me to the bone. But I'd been through my refining fires, in that respect, and you can't burn the prairie over twice in the same season. I tried to tell myself it was the setting, and not the essential fact, that seemed so odious. I did my best to believe it wasn't so much that Duncan Argyll McKail had stooped to make advances to this bandy legged she teacher whom I'd so charitably housed at Casa Grande since the beginning of the year for I'd long since learned not to swallow the antique claim that of all terrestrial carnivora only man and the lion are truly monogamous but more the fact it had been made such a back stairs affair with no solitary redeeming touch of dignity... Continue reading book >>




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