Free Air (Chapter 4, page 1 of 10)


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Chapter 4

Gopher Prairie has all of five thousand people. Its commercial club
asserts that it has at least a thousand more population and an
infinitely better band than the ridiculously envious neighboring town of
Joralemon. But there were few signs that a suite had been engaged for
the Boltwoods, or that Prince Collars and Cuffs had on his royal tour of
America spent much time in Gopher Prairie. Claire reached it somewhat
before seven. She gaped at it in a hazy way. Though this was her first
prairie town for a considerable stay, she could not pump up interest.

The state of mind of the touring motorist entering a strange place at
night is as peculiar and definite as that of a prospector. It is
compounded of gratitude at having got safely in; of perception of a new
town, yet with all eagerness about new things dulled by weariness; of
hope that there is going to be a good hotel, but small expectation--and
absolutely no probability--that there really will be one.

Claire had only a blotched impression of peaked wooden buildings and
squatty brick stores with faded awnings; of a red grain elevator and a
crouching station and a lumberyard; then of the hopelessly muddy road
leading on again into the country. She felt that if she didn't stop at
once, she would miss the town entirely. The driving-instinct sustained
her, made her take corners sharply, spot a garage, send the Gomez
whirling in on the cement floor.

The garage attendant looked at her and yawned.

"Where do you want the car?" Claire asked sharply.

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