She was a proud and patriotic citizen, all evening.
She examined the city hall, next morning. She had remembered it only as a bleak inconspicuousness. She found it a liver-colored frame coop half a block from Main Street. The front was an unrelieved wall of clapboards and dirty windows. It had an unobstructed view of a vacant lot and Nat Hicks’s tailor shop. It was larger than the carpenter shop beside it, but not so well built.
No one was about. She walked into the corridor. On one side was the municipal court, like a country school; on the other, the room of the volunteer fire company, with a Ford hose-cart and the ornamental helmets used in parades, at the end of the hall, a filthy two-cell jail, now empty but smelling of ammonia and ancient sweat. The whole second story was a large unfinished room littered with piles of folding chairs, a lime-crusted mortar-mixing box, and the skeletons of Fourth of July floats covered with decomposing plaster shields and faded red, white, and blue bunting. At the end was an abortive stage. The room was large enough for the community dances which Mrs. Nat Hicks advocated. But Carol was after something bigger than dances.
In the afternoon she scampered to the public library.
The library was open three afternoons and four evenings a week. It was housed in an old dwelling, sufficient but unattractive. Carol caught herself picturing pleasanter reading-rooms, chairs for children, an art collection, a librarian young enough to experiment.
She berated herself, “Stop this fever of reforming everything! I will be satisfied with the library! The city hall is enough for a beginning. And it’s really an excellent library. It’s—it isn’t so bad. . . . Is it possible that I am to find dishonesties and stupidity in every human activity I encounter? In schools and business and government and everything? Is there never any contentment, never any rest?”
She shook her head as though she were shaking off water, and hastened into the library, a young, light, amiable presence, modest in unbuttoned fur coat, blue suit, fresh organdy collar, and tan boots roughened from scuffling snow. Miss Villets stared at her, and Carol purred, “I was so sorry not to see you at the Thanatopsis yesterday. Vida said you might come.”
“Oh. You went to the Thanatopsis. Did you enjoy it?”
“So much. Such good papers on the poets.” Carol lied resolutely. “But I did think they should have had you give one of the papers on poetry!”
“Well——Of course I’m not one of the bunch that seem to have the time to take and run the club, and if they prefer to have papers on literature by other ladies who have no literary training—after all, why should I complain? What am I but a city employee!”
“You’re not! You’re the one person that does—that does—oh, you do so much. Tell me, is there, uh——Who are the people who control the club?”