Pulitzer Prize winner Edna Ferber moved in the identical circles as Dorothy Parker and Noël Coward within the Algonquin Spherical Desk. Ferber wrote Present Boat, So Massive, and Big, along with a number of different novels tailored into musicals and Oscar-winning movies. Her 1913 story “The Girl Who Went Right” follows a brand new division retailer salesgirl studying the tough enterprise of promoting lingerie within the ritzy a part of city.
Revealed on August 16, 1913
There’s a story — Kipling, I feel — that tells of a spirited horse galloping in the dead of night out of the blue drawing up tense, hoofs bunched, slim flanks quivering, nostrils dilated, ears pricked. Urging being of no avail the rider dismounts, strikes a match, advances a cautious step or so, and finds himself on the precipitous brink of a newly shaped crevasse.
So it’s together with your educated editor. A miraculous sixth sense guides him. A mysterious one thing warns him of hazard lurking inside the seemingly harmless rectangular white envelope. With out slitting the flap, with out pausing to regulate his tortoise-rimmed glasses, with out clearing his throat, with out lighting his cigarette — he is aware of.
The lethal newspaper story he scents at the hours of darkness. Cub reporter. Crusty metropolis editor. Cub fired. Stumbles on to huge story. Staggers into newspaper workplace wild-eyed. Final version. “Hold the presses!” Crusty C. E. stands over cub’s typewriter grabbing story line by line. Even foreman of pressroom moved to tears by story. “Boys, this ain’t just a story this kid’s writin’. This is history!” Story completed. Cub faints. C. E. makes him star reporter.
The athletic story: “I could never marry a mollycoddle like you, Harold Hammond!” Massive recreation of the yr. Group crippled. Second half. Halfback harm. Harold Hammond, scrub, into the sport. Landing! Damaged leg. 5 to nothing. “Harold, can you ever, ever forgive me?”
The pseudo-psychological story: She had been sitting earlier than the hearth for an extended, very long time. The flame had flickered and died right down to a smoldering ash. The sound of his departing footsteps echoed and reechoed via her mind. However the little room was very, very nonetheless.
The shop-girl story: Torn boots and temptation, tears and sneers, pathos and bathos, all the best way from Zola to the vice inquiry.
Having thus tried to cover the lethal commonplaceness of this story with a skinny layer of cynicism, maybe even the wily editor could also be tricked into taking the leap.
“It ain’t bad. How much did you say?” (Illustrated by Henry Raleigh)
4 weeks earlier than the completion of the brand new 12-story addition the shop marketed for 200 skilled saleswomen. Rachel Wiletzky, getting into the superintendent’s workplace after a wait of three hours, was Applicant No. 179. The superintendent didn’t lookup as Rachel got here in. He scribbled busily on a pad of paper at his desk, thus observing guidelines one and two within the correct conduct of superintendents when interviewing candidates. Rachel Wiletzky, standing by his desk, didn’t cough or wriggle or rustle her skirts or sag on one hip. A way of her quiet penetrated the superintendent’s subconsciousness. He glanced up hurriedly over his left shoulder. Then he laid down his pencil and sat up slowly. His thoughts was working shortly sufficient although. Within the 12 seconds that intervened between the laying down of the pencil and the sitting up in his chair he had rapidly readjusted all his well-founded preconceived concepts on the looks of shop-girl candidates.
Rachel Wiletzky had the coloring and physique of a dairymaid. It was the type of coloring that you simply affiliate in your thoughts with lush inexperienced fields, and Jersey cows, and village maids, in Watteau frocks, balancing brimming pails aloft within the defending curve of 1 rounded upraised arm, with maybe a Maypole dance or so within the background. Altogether, had the superintendent been given to figures of speech, he may need stated that Rachel was as a lot misplaced among the many previous 178 cold, hollow-chested, stoop-shouldered candidates as a sunflower can be in a patch of dank white fungi.
He himself was a type of bleached males that you simply discover on the workplace flooring of department shops. Grey pores and skin, grey eyes, graying hair, cautious grey garments — seemingly as void of pigment as a type of sunless belongings you disclose whenever you flip over a board that has lengthy lain on the moldy flooring of a humid cellar. It was solely once you appeared intently that you simply observed a fleck of golden brown within the chilly grey of every eye, and a streak of heat brown forming an unquenchable forelock that the conquering grey had not been capable of vanquish. It might have been a one thing inside him akin to these outward bits of human coloring that tempted him to yield to a queer impulse. He whipped from his breast-pocket the gray-bordered handkerchief, reached up swiftly and handed one white nook of it down the size of Rachel Wiletzky’s Killarney-rose left cheek. The impolite path down which the handkerchief had traveled deepened to purple for a second earlier than each rose-pink cheeks bloomed into scarlet. The superintendent gazed moderately ruefully from unblemished handkerchief to cheek and again once more.
“Why — it — it’s real!” he stammered.
Rachel Wiletzky smiled a good-natured little smile that had in it a touch of superiority.
“If I was putting it on,” she stated, “I hope I’d have sense enough to leave something to the imagination. This color out of a box would take a spiderweb veil to tone it down.”
Not rather more than a rating of phrases. And but earlier than the half have been spoken you have been sure that Rachel Wiletzky’s information of lush inexperienced fields and bucolic scenes was that gleaned from the condensed milk advertisements that glare down at one from billboards and street-car chromos. Hers was the ghetto voice — harsh, metallic, but fraught with the resonant music of tragedy.
“H’m — name?” requested the grey superintendent. He knew that vocal high quality.
A queer look stole into Rachel Wiletzky’s face, a glance of crafty and willpower and shrewdness.
“Ray Willets,” she replied composedly. “Double l.”
“Clerked before, of course. Our advertisement stated — ”
“Oh, yes,” interrupted Ray Willets rapidly, eagerly. “I can sell goods. My customers like me. And I don’t get tired. I don’t know why, but I don’t.”
The superintendent glanced up once more on the purple that glowed greater with the woman’s suppressed pleasure. He took a printed slip from the little pile of paper that lay on his desk.
“Well, anyway, you’re the first clerk I ever saw who had so much red blood that she could afford to use it for decorative purposes. Step into the next room, answer the questions on this card and turn it in. You’ll be notified.”
Ray Willets took the looking, telltale clean that put its questions so pertinently. “Where last employed?” it demanded. “Why did you leave? Do you live at home?”
“Well, sure. Did you think I had a flat up on the drive?” (Illustrated by Henry Raleigh)
Ray Willets moved slowly away towards the door reverse. The superintendent reached ahead to press the button that may summon Applicant No. 180. However earlier than his finger touched it Ray Willets turned and got here again swiftly. She held the cardboard out earlier than his stunned eyes.
“I can’t fill this out. If I do I won’t get the job. I work over at the Halsted Street Bazaar. You know — the Cheap Store. I lied and sent word I was sick so I could come over here this morning. And they dock you for time off whether you’re sick or not.”
The superintendent drummed impatiently together with his fingers. “I can’t listen to all this. Haven’t time. Fill out your blank, and if — ”
All that latent dramatic drive which is a heritage of her race got here to the woman’s assist now.
“The blank! How can I say on a blank that I’m leaving because I want to be where real people are? What chance has a girl got over there on the West Side? I’m different. I don’t know why, but I am. Look at my face! Where should I get red cheeks from? From not having enough to eat half the time and sleeping three in a bed?”
She snatched off her shabby glove and held one hand out earlier than the person’s face.
“From where do I get such hands? Not from selling hardware over at 12th and Halsted. Look at it! Say, couldn’t that hand sell silk and lace?”
Somebody has stated that to make fingers and wrists like these which Ray Willets held out for inspection it’s essential to have had no less than 5 generations of ancestors who’ve sat with their palms folded of their laps. Slender, tapering, delicate arms they have been, pink-tipped, temperamental. Wistful palms they have been, talking palms, an inheritance, maybe, from some dreamer ancestor inside the old-world ghetto, some long-haired, velvet-eyed scholar of the Talmud dwelling inside the pale with its squalor and noise, and dreaming of unseen issues past the confining gates — issues uncommon and beautiful and wonderful.
“Ashamed of your folks?” snapped the superintendent.
“N-no — No! But I want to be different. I am different! Give me a chance, will you? I’m straight. And I’ll work. And I can sell goods. Try me.”
That each one-pervading grayness appeared to have lifted from the person on the desk. The brown flecks within the eyes appeared to unfold and engulf the encompassing colorlessness. His face, too, took on a glow that appeared to return from inside. It was just like the lifting of a thick grey mist on a foggy morning, in order that the solar shines brilliant and clear for a quick second earlier than the damp curtain rolls down once more and effaces it.
He leaned ahead in his chair, a queer half-smile on his face.
“I’ll give you your chance,” he stated, “for one month. At the end of that time I’ll send for you. I’m not going to watch you. I’m not going to have you watched. Of course your sale slips will show the office whether you’re selling goods or not. If you’re not they’ll discharge you. But that’s routine. What do you want to sell?”
“What do I want to Do you mean — Why, I want to sell the lacy things.”
“The lacy — ”
Ray, very red-cheeked, made the plunge. “The — the lawnjeree, you know. The things with ribbon and handwork and yards and yards of real lace. I’ve seen ’em in the glass case in the French Room. Seventy-nine dollars marked down from 100.”
The superintendent scribbled on a card. “Show this Monday morning. Miss Jevne is the head of your department. You’ll spend two hours a day in the store school of instruction for clerks. Here, you’re forgetting your glove.”
The grey look had settled down on him once more as he reached out to press the desk button. Ray Willets handed out on the door reverse the one via which Rachel Wiletzky had entered.
Somebody within the division nicknamed her Chubbs earlier than she had spent half a day within the underwear and imported lingerie. On the retailer faculty she listened and discovered. She discovered how essential have been issues of which Halsted Road took no cognizance. She discovered to make out a sale slip as difficult as an engineering blueprint. She discovered that a clerk should develop suavity and endurance in the identical diploma as a buyer waxes waspish and insulting, and that the spectrum’s colours don’t exist within the costume of the girl-behind-the-counter. For her there are solely black and white. This stuff she discovered and lots of extra, and remembered them, for behind the rosy cheeks and the terrier-bright eyes burned the indomitable want to get on. And the completed embodiment of all of Ray Willets’ wishes and ambitions was every day earlier than her eyes within the presence of Miss Jevne, head of the lingeries and negligées.
Of Miss Jevne it could be stated that she was actual the place Ray was synthetic, and synthetic the place Ray was actual. All the things that Miss Jevne wore was actual. She was as modish as Ray was shabby, as slim as Ray was stocky, as artificially tinted and tinctured as Ray was naturally rosy-cheeked and buxom. It takes actual cash to purchase garments as actual as these worn by Miss Jevne. The smooth charmeuse in her sleek robe was actual and miraculously draped. The cobweb-lace collar that so delicately traced its sample towards the black background of her robe was actual. So was the ripple of lace that cascaded down the entrance of her shirt. The straight, right, hideously trendy strains of her determine bespoke an actual 18-dollar corset. Realest of all, there reposed on Miss Jevne’s bosom a bar pin of platinum and diamonds — very actual diamonds set in a severely plain however very actual bar of valuable platinum. So in case you besides Miss Jevne’s changeless shade, her synthetic smile, her glittering hair and her undulating head-of-the-department stroll, you possibly can see that every thing about Miss Jevne was as actual as cash could make one.
Miss Jevne, when she deigned to note Ray Willets in any respect, referred to as her “girl,” thus: “Girl, get down one of those Number Seventeens for me — with the pink ribbons.” Ray didn’t resent the tone. She considered Miss Jevne as she labored. She considered her at night time when she was washing and ironing her different shirtwaist for subsequent day’s put on. Within the Halsted Road Bazaar the women had been on phrases of dreadful intimacy with these affairs in one another’s lives which popularly are imagined to be personal information. They knew the sum which every earned per week; how a lot they turned in to assist swell the household coffers and the way a lot they have been allowed to maintain for their very own use. They knew every time a woman spent 1 / 4 for an inexpensive sailor collar or a pair of near-silk stockings. Ray Willets, who needed passionately to be totally different, whose palms so beloved the contact of the lacy, silky clothes that made up the lingerie and negligee departments, acknowledged the perfection of Miss Jevne’s faultless realness — acknowledged it, appreciated it, envied it. It fearful her too. How did she do it? How did one go about attaining the identical diploma of realness?
In the meantime she labored. She discovered shortly. She took care all the time to be cheerful, , well mannered. After a brief week’s dealing with of lacy silken clothes she ceased to really feel a shock when she noticed Miss Jevne displaying a robe-de-nuit made up of white cloud and sea-foam and languidly assuring the client that in fact it wasn’t to be anticipated that you can get a fantastic handmade lace at that worth — solely 27.50. Now if she cared to take a look at one thing actually fantastic — made completely by hand — why —
The top of the primary 10 days discovered a lot information crammed into Ray Willets’ intelligent, formidable little head that the pink of her cheeks had deepened to carmine, as a toddler grows flushed and too bright-eyed when overstimulated and overtired.
Miss Myrtle, the shop magnificence, strolled as much as Ray, who was straightening a pile of corset covers and brassieres. Miss Myrtle was the shop’s star cloak-and-suit mannequin. Tall, svelte, sleek, pretty in line and contour, she was remarkably like a type of beautiful imbeciles that Rossetti used to like to color. Hers have been the good cowlike eyes, the fantastic oval face, the marvelous little nostril, the right lips and chin. Miss Myrtle might don a 40-dollar robe, parade it earlier than a attainable purchaser, and make it appear to be an imported mannequin at 125. When Miss Myrtle opened these beautiful lips and spoke you bought a shock that harm. She laid one cool slim finger on Ray’s ruddy cheek.
“Sure enough!” she drawled nasally. “Whereja get it anyway, kid? You must of been brought up on peaches ‘n’ cream and slept in a pink cloud somewheres.”
“Me!” laughed Ray, her deft fingers busy straightening a bow right here, a ruffle of lace there. “Me! The L-train runs so near my bed that if it was ever to get a notion to take a short cut it would slice off my legs to the knees.”
“Live at home?” Miss Myrtle’s grasshopper thoughts by no means dwelt lengthy on one topic.
“Well, sure,” replied Ray. “Did you think I had a flat up on the Drive?”
“I live at home too,” Miss Myrtle introduced impressively. She was leaning indolently towards the desk. Her eyes adopted the deft, fast actions of Ray’s slender, succesful arms. Miss Myrtle all the time leaned when there was something to lean on. Involuntarily she fell into melting poses. One shoulder all the time drooped barely, one toe all the time trailed a bit like the image on the duvet of the style magazines, one hand and arm all the time adopted the road of her draperies whereas the opposite was raised to hip or breast or head.
Ray’s busy palms paused a second. She appeared up on the picturesque Myrtle. “All the girls do, don’t they?”
“Huh?” stated Myrtle blankly.
“Live at home, I mean? The application blank says — ”
“Say, you’ve got clever hands, ain’t you?” put in Miss Myrtle irrelevantly. She appeared ruefully at her personal brief, stubby, unintelligent arms, that so completely mirrored her character in that marvelous means arms have. “Mine are stupid-looking. I’ll bet you’ll get on.” She sagged to the opposite hip with a weary gracefulness. “I ain’t got no brains,” she complained.
“Where do they live then?” continued Ray.
“Who? Oh, I live at home” — once more virtuously — “but I’ve got some heart if I am dumb. My folks couldn’t get along without what I bring home every week. A lot of the girls have flats. But that don’t last. Now Jevne — ”
“Yes?” stated Ray eagerly. Her plump face with its clever eyes was all aglow.
“We had the doctor — and medicine — I — say, your own folks come before black one-piece dresses.” (Illustrated by Henry Raleigh)
Miss Myrtle lowered her voice discreetly. “Her own folks don’t know where she lives. They says she sends ’em money every month, but with the understanding that they don’t try to come to see her. They live way over on the West Side somewhere. She makes her buying trip to Europe every year. Speaks French and everything. They say when she started to earn real money she just cut loose from her folks. They was a drag on her and she wanted to get to the top.”
“Say, that pin’s real, ain’t it?”
“Real? Well, I should say it is! Catch Jevne wearing anything that’s phony. I saw her at the theater one night. Dressed! Well, you’d have thought that birds of paradise were national pests, like English sparrows. Not that she looked loud. But that quiet, rich elegance, you know, that just smells of money. Say, but I’ll bet she has her lonesome evenings!”
Ray Willets’ eyes darted throughout the lengthy room and rested upon the shining black-clad determine of Miss Jevne shifting about towards the luxurious ivory-and-rose background of the French Room.
“She — she left her folks, h’m?” she mused aloud.
Miss Myrtle, the brainless, regarded the information of her shabby boots.
“What did it get her?” she requested as if to herself. “I know what it does to a girl, seeing and handling stuff that’s made for millionaires, you get a taste for it yourself. Take it from me, it ain’t the six-dollar girl that needs looking after. She’s taking her little pay envelope home to her mother that’s a widow and it goes to buy milk for the kids. Sometimes I think the more you get the more you want. Somebody ought to turn that vice inquiry on to the tracks of that 30-dollar-a-week girl in the Irish crochet waist and the diamond bar pin. She’d make swell readin’.”
There fell slightly silence between the 2 — a silence of which neither was acutely aware. Each have been considering, Myrtle disjointedly, purposelessly, all unconscious that her sluggish, untrained thoughts had groped for an amazing and very important fact and located it; Ray shortly, eagerly, connectedly, a brand new and daring resolve rising with lightning rapidity.
“There’s another new baby at our house,” she stated aloud all of the sudden. “It cries all night pretty near.”
“Ain’t they fierce?” laughed Myrtle. “And yet I dunno — ”
She fell silent once more. Then with the half-sigh with which we waken from daydreams she moved away in response to the beckoning finger of a saleswoman within the night coat part. Ten minutes later her beautiful face rose above the gentle folds of a black charmeuse coat that rippled away from her slender, supple physique in strains that a sculptor goals of and by no means achieves.
Ray Willets completed straightening her counter. Commerce was sluggish. She moved idly within the course of the black-garbed determine that flitted about within the pricey environment of the French part. It have to be a really particular buyer to say Miss Jevne’s professional providers. Ray glanced in by means of the half-opened glass and ivory-enamel doorways.
“Here, girl,” referred to as Miss Jevne. Ray paused and entered. Miss Jevne was frowning. “Miss Myrtle’s busy. Just slip this on. Careful now. Keep your arms close to your head.”
She slipped a marvelously wrought garment over Ray’s modern head. Fluffy drifts of equally beautiful lingerie lay scattered about on chairs, over mirrors, throughout showtables. On one of many fragile little ivory-and-rose chairs, within the middle of the pricey little room, sat a big, blonde, perfumed lady who clanked and rustled and swished as she moved. Her eyes have been white-lidded and heavy, however unusually vibrant. One ungloved hand was very white too, however pudgy and coated so thickly with gems that your eye might get no clear image of any single stone or setting.
Ray, clad within the diaphanous folds of the robe-de-nuit that was so superbly adorned with delicate embroideries wrought by the affected person, needle-scarred fingers of some silent, white-faced nun in a far-away convent, paced slowly up and down the brief size of the room that the crucial eye of this coarse, unlettered creature may behold the wonders woven by this weary French nun and, beholding, approve.
“It ain’t bad,” spake the blonde lady grudgingly. “How much did you say?”
“Ninety-five,” Miss Jevne made reply easily. “I selected it myself when I was in France my last trip. A bargain.”
She slid the gown rigorously over Ray’s head. The frown got here as soon as extra to her forehead. She bent near Ray’s ear. “Your waist’s ripped under the left arm. Disgraceful!”
The blonde lady moved and jangled a bit in her chair. “Well, I’ll take it,” she sighed. “Look at the color on that girl! And it’s real too.” She rose closely and came to visit to Ray, reached up and pinched her cheek appraisingly with perfumed white thumb and forefinger.
“That’ll do, girl,” stated Miss Jevne sweetly. “Take this along and change these ribbons from blue to pink.”
Ray Willets bore the fairy garment away together with her. She bore it tenderly, virtually reverently. It was greater than a garment. It represented in her thoughts a brand new normal of all that was lovely and beautiful and fascinating.
Ten days earlier than the formal opening of the brand new 12-story addition there was issued from the superintendent’s workplace an order that made somewhat flurry among the many clerks within the sections dedicated to ladies’s gown. The brand new retailer when thrown open would mark an epoch within the retail dry items enterprise of the town, the order started. Hundreds have been to be spent on perishable decorations alone. The very best sort of patronage was to be catered to. Subsequently the ladies within the lingerie, negligee, millinery, gown, go well with and corset sections have been requested to put on throughout opening week a modest however modish black one-piece robe that might mix with the air of magnificence which these departments have been to take care of.
Ray Willets of the lingerie and negligée sections learn her order slip slowly. Then she reread it. Then she did a psychological sum in easy arithmetic. A infantile sum it was. And but earlier than she acquired her reply the fixing of it had stamped on her face a sure onerous, set, resolute look.
The shop administration had chosen Wednesday to be the opening day. By eight-thirty o’clock Wednesday morning the French lingerie, millinery, and gown sections, with their ladies clerks garbed in modest however modish black one-piece robes, seemed like a levee at Buckingham when the courtroom is in mourning. However the ladies-in-waiting, grouped about right here and there, fell again in respectful silence when there paced down the aisle the queen royal within the individual of Miss Jevne. There’s a sure kind of black robe that’s extra startling and daring than scarlet. Miss Jevne’s was that fashion. Quick black you may time period it. Miss Jevne was conscious of the flurry and flutter that adopted her majestic progress down the aisle to her personal part. She knew that every eye was caught within the tip of the little dog-eared practice that slipped and slunk and wriggled alongside the bottom, thence as much as the gentle material caught so cunningly slightly below the knee, up larger to the marvelously easy sash that swayed with every step, to the smooth folds of black towards which rested the very actual diamond and platinum bar pin, as much as the lace at her throat, after which stopping, blinking and staring once more gazed fixedly on the string of pearls that lay about her throat, pearls rosily pink, mistily grey. An aura of self-satisfaction enveloping her, Miss Jevne disappeared behind the rose-garlanded portals of the brand new cream-and-mauve French part. And there the aura vanished, quivering. For standing earlier than one of many plate-glass instances and patting into place with deft fingers the satin bow of a hand-wrought chemise was Ray Willets, in her shiny little black serge skirt and the braver of her two white shirtwaists.
Miss Jevne quickened her tempo. Ray turned. Her shiny brown eyes grew brighter at sight of Miss Jevne’s wondrous black. Miss Jevne, her practice wound around her ft like an actress’ photograph, lifted her eyebrows to an unbelievable peak.
“Explain that costume!” she stated.
“Costume?” repeated Ray, fencing.
Miss Jevne’s skinny lips grew thinner. “You understood that women in this department were to wear black one-piece gowns this week!”
Ray smiled just a little twisted smile. “Yes, I understood.”
“Then what — ”
Ray’s little smile grew a trifle extra unsure. “I — I had the money — last week — I was going to — The baby took sick — the heat I guess, coming so sudden. We had the doctor — and medicine — I Say, your own folks come before black one-piece dresses!”
Miss Jevne’s chilly eyes noticed the cautious patch underneath Ray’s left arm the place a number of days earlier than the torn place had gained her a reproof. It was the final straw.
“You can’t stay in this department in that rig!”
“Who says so?” snapped Ray with a flash of Halsted Road bravado. “If my customers want a peek at Paquin I’ll send ’em to you.”
“I’ll show you who says so!” retorted Miss Jevne, fairly dropping sight of the queen enterprise. The stately type of the ground supervisor was seen among the many glass showcases past. Miss Jevne sought him agitatedly. All of the little sagging strains about her mouth confirmed up sharply, defying years of cautious therapeutic massage.
The ground supervisor bent his stately head and listened. Then, led by Miss Jevne, he approached Ray Willets, whose deft fingers, trembling a little or no now, have been nonetheless pretending to regulate the right pink-satin bow.
The supervisor touched her on the arm not unkindly. “Report for work in the kitchen utensils, fifth floor,” he stated. Then at sight of the woman’s face: “We can’t have one disobeying orders, you know. The rest of the clerks would raise a row in no time.”
Down within the kitchen utensils and family items there was no rule demanding modest however modish one-piece robes. Within the kitchenware one might don black sateen sleevelets to guard one’s clear white waist with out breaking the division’s tenets of trend. You would even pin a handkerchief throughout the entrance of your waist, in case your job was that of dusting the granite ware.
At first Ray’s delicate fingers, accustomed to the contact of sentimental, sheer white stuff and ribbon and lace and silk, shrank from contact with meat grinders, and aluminum stewpans, and egg beaters, and waffle irons, and pie tins. She dealt with them contemptuously. She bought them listlessly. After weeks of expatiating to clients on the beauties and excellencies of gossamer lingerie she discovered it troublesome to work up enthusiasm over the virtues of dishpans and spice packing containers. By midday she was much less resentful. By two o’clock she was saying to a fellow clerk:
“Well, anyway, in this section you don’t have to tell a woman how graceful and charming she’s going to look while she’s working the washing machine.”
She was a born saleswoman. Regardless of herself she took an interest within the shopping for issues of the sensible and plain-visaged housewives who patronized this part. By three o’clock she was wanting considerate — considerate and contented.
Then got here the summons. The lingerie part was swamped! Report back to Miss Jevne directly! Virtually regretfully Ray gave her buyer over to an idle clerk and sought out Miss Jevne. A few of that woman’s statuesqueness was gone. The bar pin on her bosom rose and fell quickly. She espied Ray and met her midway. In her hand she carried a mushy black one thing which she thrust at Ray.
“Here, put that on in one of the fitting rooms. Be quick about it. It’s your size. The department’s swamped. Hurry now!”
Ray took from Miss Jevne the black-silk robe, modest however modish. There was no pleasure in Ray’s face. Ten minutes later she emerged within the limp and clinging little frock that toned down her shade and made her plumpness appear however rounded allure.
The large retailer will speak for a lot of a day of that afternoon and the three afternoons that adopted, till Sunday introduced pause to the hundreds of ft beating a ceaseless tattoo up and down the thronged aisles. On the Monday following hundreds swarmed down upon the shop once more, however not in such overwhelming numbers. There have been respiration areas. It was throughout one in every of these that Miss Myrtle, the sweetness, discovered time for a quick second’s chat with Ray Willets.
Ray was straightening her counter once more. She had a ardour for order. Myrtle eyed her wearily. Her slender shoulders carried an countless quantity and number of clothes throughout these 4 days and her ft had paced weary miles that these clothes may the higher be displayed.
“Black’s grand on you,” noticed Myrtle. “Tones you down.” She glanced sharply on the robe. “Looks just like one of our 18-dollar models. Copy it?”
“No,” stated Ray, nonetheless straightening petticoats and corset covers. Myrtle reached out a weary, sleek arm and touched one of many lacy piles adorned with crafty bows of pink and blue to catch the buying eye.
“Ain’t that sweet!” she exclaimed. “I’m crazy about that shadow lace. It’s swell under voiles. I wonder if I could take one of them home to copy it.”
Ray glanced up. “Oh, that!” she stated contemptuously. “That’s just a cheap skirt. Only twelve-fifty. Machine-made lace. Imitation embroidery — ”
She stopped. She stared a second at Myrtle with the fastened and wide-eyed gaze of 1 who doesn’t see.
“What’d I just say to you?”
“Huh?” ejaculated Myrtle, mystified.
“What’d I just say?” repeated Ray.
Myrtle laughed, half understanding. “You stated that was an affordable junk skirt at solely 12.50, with machine lace and imitation
However Ray Willets didn’t wait to listen to the remaining. She was off down the aisle towards the elevator marked “Employees.” The superintendent’s workplace was on the ninth flooring. She stopped there. The grey superintendent was writing at his desk. He didn’t lookup as Ray entered, thus observing guidelines one and two within the correct conduct of superintendents when interviewing staff. Ray Willets, standing by his desk, didn’t cough or wriggle or rustle her skirts or sag on one hip. A consciousness of her quiet penetrated the superintendent’s thoughts. He glanced up hurriedly over his left shoulder. Then he laid down his pencil and sat up slowly.
“Oh, it’s you!” he stated.
“Yes, it’s me,” replied Ray Willets merely. “I’ve been here a month today.”
“Oh, yes.” He ran his fingers via his hair in order that the brown forelock stood away from the grey. “You’ve lost some of your roses,” he stated, and tapped his cheek. “What’s the trouble?”
“I guess it’s the dress,” defined Ray, and glanced down on the folds of her robe. She hesitated a second awkwardly. “You said you’d send for me at the end of the month. You didn’t.”
“That’s all right,” stated the grey superintendent. “I was pretty sure I hadn’t made a mistake. I can gauge applicants pretty fairly. Let’s see — you’re in the lingerie, aren’t you?”
Then with a rush: “That’s what I want to talk to you about. I’ve changed my mind. I don’t want to stay in the lingeries. I’d like to be transferred to the kitchen utensils and household goods.”
“Transferred! Well, I’ll see what I can do. What was the name now? I forget.”
A queer look stole into Ray Willets’ face, a glance of willpower and shrewdness.
“Name?” she stated. “My name is Rachel Wiletzky.”
Learn the brief story “The Girl Who Went Right” by Edna Ferber.
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