The Girl Who Went Right by Edna Ferber
There is a story—Kipling, I think—that tells of a spirited horse
galloping in the dark suddenly 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 at the precipitous brink of a newly formed
So it is with your trained editor. A miraculous sixth sense guides
him. A mysterious something warns him of danger lurking within the
seemingly innocent oblong white envelope. Without slitting the flap,
without pausing to adjust his tortoise-rimmed glasses, without clearing
his throat, without lighting his cigarette—he knows.
The deadly newspaper story he scents in the dark. Cub reporter.
Crusty city editor. Cub fired. Stumbles on to a big story. Staggers
into newspaper office wild-eyed. Last edition. “Hold the presses!”
Crusty C.E. stands over cub's typewriter grabbing story line by line.
Even foreman of pressroom moved to tears by tale. “Boys, this ain't
just a story this kid's writin'. This is history!” Story finished. Cub
faints. C.E. makes him star reporter.
The athletic story: “I could never marry a mollycoddle like you,
Harold Hammond!” Big game of the year. Team crippled. Second half.
Halfback hurt. Harold Hammond, scrub, into the game. Touchdown! Broken
leg. Five to nothing. “Harold, can you ever, ever forgive me?”
The pseudo-psychological story: She had been sitting before the fire
for a long, long time. The flame had flickered and died down to a
smouldering ash. The sound of his departing footsteps echoed and
re-echoed through her brain. But the little room was very, very still.
The shop-girl story: Torn boots and temptation, tears and snears,
pathos and bathos, all the way from Zola to the vice inquiry.
Having thus attempted to hide the deadly commonplaceness of this
story with a thin layer of cynicism, perhaps even the wily editor may
be tricked into taking the leap.
* * * * *
Four weeks before the completion of the new twelve-story addition
the store advertised for two hundred experienced saleswomen. Rachel
Wiletzky, entering the superintendent's office after a wait of three
hours, was Applicant No. 179. The superintendent did not look up as
Rachel came in. He scribbled busily on a pad of paper at his desk, thus
observing rules one and two in the proper conduct of superintendents
when interviewing applicants. Rachel Wiletzky, standing by his desk,
did not cough or wriggle or rustle her skirts or sag on one hip. A
sense 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 mind was working quickly enough though.
In the twelve seconds that intervened between the laying down of the
pencil and the sitting up in his chair he had hastily readjusted all
his well-founded preconceived ideas on the appearance of shop-girl
Rachel Wiletzky had the colouring and physique of a dairymaid. It
was the sort of colouring that you associate in your mind with lush
green fields, and Jersey cows, and village maids, in Watteau frocks,
balancing brimming pails aloft in the protecting curve of one rounded
upraised arm, with perhaps a Maypole dance or so in the background.
Altogether, had the superintendent been given to figures of speech, he
might have said that Rachel was as much out of place among the
preceding one hundred and seventy-eight bloodless, hollow-chested,
stoop-shouldered applicants as a sunflower would be in a patch of dank
He himself was one of those bleached men that you find on the office
floor of department stores. Grey skin, grey eyes, greying hair, careful
grey clothes—seemingly as void of pigment as one of those sunless
things you disclose when you turn over a board that has long lain on
the mouldy floor of a damp cellar. It was only when you looked closely
that you noticed a fleck of golden brown in the cold grey of each eye,
and a streak of warm brown forming an unquenchable forelock that the
conquering grey had not been able to vanquish. It may have been a
something within him corresponding to those outward bits of human
colouring that tempted him to yield to a queer impulse. He whipped from
his breast-pocket the grey-bordered handkerchief, reached up swiftly
and passed one white corner of it down the length of Rachel Wiletzky's
Killarney-rose left cheek. The rude path down which the handkerchief
had travelled deepened to red for a moment before both rose-pink cheeks
bloomed into scarlet. The superintendent gazed rather ruefully from
unblemished handkerchief to cheek and back again.
“Why—it—it's real!” he stammered.
Rachel Wiletzky smiled a good-natured little smile that had in it a
dash of superiority.
“If I was putting it on,” she said, “I hope I'd have sense enough to
leave something to the imagination. This colour out of a box would take
a spiderweb veil to tone it down.”
Not much more than a score of words. And yet before the half were
spoken you were certain that Rachel Wiletzky's knowledge of lush green
fields and bucolic scenes was that gleaned from the condensed-milk ads
that glare down at one from billboards and street-car chromos. Hers was
the ghetto voice—harsh, metallic, yet fraught with the resonant music
“H'm—name?” asked the grey superintendent. He knew that vocal
A queer look stole into Rachel Wiletzky's face, a look of cunning
and determination and shrewdness.
“Ray Willets,” she replied composedly. “Double l.”
“Clerked before, of course. Our advertisement stated—”
“Oh yes,” interrupted Ray Willets hastily, 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 again at the red that glowed higher
with the girl's suppressed excitement. 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 searching, telltale blank that put its
questions so pertinently. “Where last employed?” it demanded. “Why did
you leave? Do you live at home?”
Ray Willets moved slowly away toward the door opposite. The
superintendent reached forward to press the button that would summon
Applicant No. 180. But before his finger touched it Ray Willets turned
and came back swiftly. She held the card out before his surprised 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 with his fingers. “I can't
listen to all this. Haven't time. Fill out your blank, and if—”
All that latent dramatic force which is a heritage of her race came
to the girl's aid 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 before the
“From where do I get such hands? Not from selling hardware over at
Twelfth and Halsted. Look at it! Say, couldn't that hand sell silk and
Some one has said that to make fingers and wrists like those which
Ray Willets held out for inspection it is necessary to have had at
least five generations of ancestors who have sat with their hands
folded in their laps. Slender, tapering, sensitive hands they were,
pink-tipped, temperamental. Wistful hands they were, speaking hands, an
inheritance, perhaps, from some dreamer ancestor within the old-world
ghetto, some long-haired, velvet-eyed student of the Talmud dwelling
within the pale with its squalor and noise, and dreaming of unseen
things beyond the confining gates—things rare and exquisite and fine.
“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.
That all-pervading greyness seemed to have lifted from the man at
the desk. The brown flecks in the eyes seemed to spread and engulf the
surrounding colourlessness. His face, too, took on a glow that seemed
to come from within. It was like the lifting of a thick grey mist on a
foggy morning, so that the sun shines bright and clear for a brief
moment before the damp curtain rolls down again and effaces it.
He leaned forward in his chair, a queer half-smile on his face.
“I'll give you your chance,” he said, “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
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 one hundred.”
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
The grey look had settled down on him again as he reached out to
press the desk button. Ray Willets passed out at the door opposite the
one through which Rachel Wiletzky had entered.
Some one in the department nick-named her Chubbs before she had
spent half a day in the underwear and imported lingerie. At the store
school she listened and learned. She learned how important were things
of which Halsted Street took no cognisance. She learned to make out a
sale slip as complicated as an engineering blueprint. She learned that
a clerk must develop suavity and patience in the same degree as a
customer waxes waspish and insulting, and that the spectrum's colours
do not exist in the costume of the girl-behind-the-counter. For her
there are only black and white. These things she learned and many more,
and remembered them, for behind the rosy cheeks and the terrier-bright
eyes burned the indomitable desire to get on. And the finished
embodiment of all of Ray Willets' desires and ambitions was daily
before her eyes in the presence of Miss Jevne, head of the lingerie and
Of Miss Jevne it might be said that she was real where Ray was
artificial, and artificial where Ray was real. Everything that Miss
Jevne wore was real. 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 real money to buy clothes as
real as those worn by Miss Jevne. The soft charmeuse in her graceful
gown was real and miraculously draped. The cobweb-lace collar that so
delicately traced its pattern against the black background of her gown
was real. So was the ripple of lace that cascaded down the front of her
blouse. The straight, correct, hideously modern lines of her figure
bespoke a real eighteen-dollar corset. Realest of all, there reposed on
Miss Jevne's bosom a bar pin of platinum and diamonds—very real
diamonds set in a severely plain but very real bar of precious
platinum. So if you except Miss Jevne's changeless colour, her
artificial smile, her glittering hair and her undulating
head-of-the-department walk, you can see that everything about Miss
Jevne was as real as money can make one.
Miss Jevne, when she deigned to notice Ray Willets at all, called
her “girl,” thus: “Girl, get down one of those Number Seventeens for
me—with the pink ribbons.” Ray did not resent the tone. She thought
about Miss Jevne as she worked. She thought about her at night when she
was washing and ironing her other shirtwaist for next day's wear. In
the Halsted Street Bazaar the girls had been on terms of dreadful
intimacy with those affairs in each other's lives which popularly are
supposed to be private knowledge. They knew the sum which each earned
per week; how much they turned in to help swell the family coffers and
how much they were allowed to keep for their own use. They knew each
time a girl spent a quarter for a cheap sailor collar or a pair of
near-silk stockings. Ray Willets, who wanted passionately to be
different, whose hands so loved the touch of the lacy, silky garments
that made up the lingerie and negligee departments, recognised the
perfection of Miss Jevne's faultless realness—recognised it,
appreciated it, envied it. It worried her too. How did she do it? How
did one go about attaining the same degree of realness?
Meanwhile she worked. She learned quickly. She took care always to
be cheerful, interested, polite. After a short week's handling of lacy
silken garments she ceased to feel a shock when she saw Miss Jevne
displaying a robe-de-nuit made up of white cloud and sea-foam
and languidly assuring the customer that of course it wasn't to be
expected that you could get a fine handmade lace at that price—only
twenty-seven-fifty. Now if she cared to look at something really
fine—made entirely by hand—why—
The end of the first ten days found so much knowledge crammed into
Ray Willets' clever, ambitious little head that the pink of her cheeks
had deepened to carmine, as a child grows flushed and too bright-eyed
when overstimulated and overtired.
Miss Myrtle, the store beauty, strolled up to Ray, who was
straightening a pile of corset covers and brassieres. Miss
Myrtle was the store's star cloak-and-suit model. Tall, svelte,
graceful, lovely in line and contour, she was remarkably like one of
those exquisite imbeciles that Rossetti used to love to paint. Hers
were the great cowlike eyes, the wonderful oval face, the marvellous
little nose, the perfect lips and chin. Miss Myrtle could don a
forty-dollar gown, parade it before a possible purchaser, and make it
look like an imported model at one hundred and twenty-five. When Miss
Myrtle opened those exquisite lips and spoke you got a shock that hurt.
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
“Me!” laughed Ray, her deft fingers busy straightening a bow 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 mind never dwelt long on
“Well, sure,” replied Ray. “Did you think I had a flat up on the
“I live at home too,” Miss Myrtle announced impressively. She was
leaning indolently against the table. Her eyes followed the deft, quick
movements of Ray's slender, capable hands. Miss Myrtle always leaned
when there was anything to lean on. Involuntarily she fell into melting
poses. One shoulder always drooped slightly, one toe always trailed a
bit like the picture on the cover of the fashion magazines, one hand
and arm always followed the line of her draperies while the other was
raised to hip or breast or head.
Ray's busy hands paused a moment. She looked up at the picturesque
Myrtle. “All the girls do, don't they?”
“Huh?” said 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 looked ruefully at her own short, stubby,
unintelligent hands, that so perfectly reflected her character in that
marvellous way hands have. “Mine are stupid-looking. I'll bet you'll
get on.” She sagged to the other hip with a weary gracefulness. “I
ain't got no brains,” she complained.
“Where do they live then?” persisted Ray.
“Who? Oh, I live at home”—again 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.
“Yes?” said Ray eagerly. Her plump face with its intelligent eyes
was all aglow.
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 theatre 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
Ray Willets' eyes darted across the long room and rested upon the
shining black-clad figure of Miss Jevne moving about against 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 tips of her shabby boots.
“What did it get her?” she asked as though 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
thirty-dollar-a-week girl in the Irish crochet waist and the diamond
bar pin. She'd make swell readin'.”
There fell a little silence between the two—a silence of which
neither was conscious. Both were thinking, Myrtle disjointedly,
purposelessly, all unconscious that her slow, untrained mind had groped
for a great and vital truth and found it; Ray quickly, eagerly,
connectedly, a new and daring resolve growing with lightning rapidity.
“There's another new baby at our house,” she said aloud suddenly.
“It cries all night pretty near.”
“Ain't they fierce?” laughed Myrtle. “And yet I dunno—”
She fell silent again. Then with the half-sign with which we waken
from day dreams she moved away in response to the beckoning finger of a
saleswoman in the evening-coat section. Ten minutes later her exquisite
face rose above the soft folds of a black charmeuse coat that rippled
away from her slender, supple body in lines that a sculptor dreams of
and never achieves.
Ray Willets finished straightening her counter. Trade was slow. She
moved idly in the direction of the black-garbed figure that flitted
about in the costly atmosphere of the French section. It must be a very
special customer to claim Miss Jevne's expert services. Ray glanced in
through the half-opened glass and ivory-enamel doors.
“Here, girl,” called 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 marvellously wrought garment over Ray's sleek head.
Fluffy drifts of equally exquisite lingerie lay scattered about on
chairs, over mirrors, across showtables. On one of the fragile little
ivory-and-rose chairs, in the centre of the costly little room, sat a
large, blonde, perfumed woman who clanked and rustled and swished as
she moved. Her eyes were white-lidded and heavy, but strangely bright.
One ungloved hand was very white too, but pudgy and covered so thickly
with gems that your eye could get no clear picture of any single stone
Ray, clad in the diaphanous folds of the robe-de-nuit that
was so beautifully adorned with delicate embroideries wrought by the
patient, needle-scarred fingers of some silent, white-faced nun in a
far-away convent, paced slowly up and down the short length of the room
that the critical eye of this coarse, unlettered creature might behold
the wonders woven by this weary French nun, and, beholding, approve.
“It ain't bad,” spake the blonde woman grudgingly. “How much did you
“Ninety-five,” Miss Jevne made answer smoothly. “I selected it
myself when I was in France my last trip. A bargain.”
She slid the robe carefully over Ray's head. The frown came once
more to her brow. She bent close to Ray's ear. “Your waist's ripped
under the left arm. Disgraceful!”
The blonde woman moved and jangled a bit in her chair. “Well, I'll
take it,” she sighed. “Look at the colour on that girl! And it's real
too.” She rose heavily and came over to Ray, reached up and pinched her
cheek appraisingly with perfumed white thumb and forefinger.
“That'll do, girl,” said Miss Jevne sweetly. “Take this along and
change these ribbons from blue to pink.”
Ray Willets bore the fairy garment away with her. She bore it
tenderly, almost reverently. It was more than a garment. It represented
in her mind a new standard of all that was beautiful and exquisite and
Ten days before the formal opening of the new twelve-story addition
there was issued from the superintendent's office an order that made a
little flurry among the clerks in the sections devoted to women's
dress. The new store when thrown open would mark an epoch in the retail
drygoods business of the city, the order began. Thousands were to be
spent on perishable decorations alone. The highest type of patronage
was to be catered to. Therefore the women in the lingerie, negligee,
millinery, dress, suit and corset sections were requested to wear
during opening week a modest but modish black one-piece gown that would
blend with the air of elegance which those departments were to
Ray Willets of the lingerie and negligee sections read her order
slip slowly. Then she reread it. Then she did a mental sum in simple
arithmetic. A childish sum it was. And yet before she got her answer
the solving of it had stamped on her face a certain hard, set, resolute
The store management had chosen Wednesday to be the opening day. By
eight-thirty o'clock Wednesday morning the French lingerie, millinery
and dress sections, with their women clerks garbed in modest but modish
black one-piece gowns, looked like a levee at Buckingham when the court
is in mourning. But the ladies-in-waiting, grouped about here and
there, fell back in respectful silence when there paced down the aisle
the queen royal in the person of Miss Jevne. There is a certain sort of
black gown that is more startling and daring than scarlet. Miss Jevne's
was that style. Fast black you might term it. Miss Jevne was aware of
the flurry and flutter that followed her majestic progress down the
aisle to her own section. She knew that each eye was caught in the tip
of the little dog-eared train that slipped and slunk and wriggled along
the ground, thence up to the soft drapery caught so cunningly just
below the knee, up higher to the marvelously simple sash that swayed
with each step, to the soft folds of black against which rested the
very real diamond and platinum bar pin, up to the lace at her throat,
and then stopping, blinking and staring again gazed fixedly at 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 new
cream-and-mauve French section. And there the aura vanished, quivering.
For standing before one of the plate-glass cases 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 pace. Ray turned. Her bright brown eyes
grew brighter at sight of Miss Jevne's wondrous black. Miss Jevne, her
train wound round her feet like an actress' photograph, lifted her
eyebrows to an unbelievable height.
“Explain that costume!” she said.
“Costume?” repeated Ray, fencing.
Miss Jevne's thin lips grew thinner. “You understood that women in
this department were to wear black one-piece gowns this week!”
Ray smiled a little twisted smile. “Yes, I understood.”
Ray's little smile grew a trifle more uncertain. “—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 cold eyes saw the careful patch under Ray's left arm
where a few days before the torn place had won her a reproof. It was
the last straw.
“You can't stay in this department in that rig!”
“Who says so?” snapped Ray with a flash of Halsted Street 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, quite losing sight
of the queen business. The stately form of the floor manager was
visible among the glass showcases beyond. Miss Jevne sought him
agitatedly. All the little sagging lines about her mouth showed up
sharply, defying years of careful massage.
The floor manager bent his stately head and listened. Then, led by
Miss Jevne, he approached Ray Willets, whose deft fingers, trembling a
very little now, were still pretending to adjust the perfect pink-satin
The manager touched her on the arm not unkindly. “Report for work in
the kitchen utensils, fifth floor,” he said. Then at sight of the
girl's face: “We can't have one disobeying orders, you know. The rest
of the clerks would raise a row in no time.”
Down in the kitchen utensils and household goods there was no rule
demanding modest but modish one-piece gowns. In the kitchenware one
could don black sateen sleevelets to protect one's clean white waist
without breaking the department's tenets of fashion. You could even pin
a handkerchief across the front of your waist, if your job was that of
dusting the granite ware.
At first Ray's delicate fingers, accustomed to the touch of soft,
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 handled them contemptuously. She sold them
listlessly. After weeks of expatiating to customers on the beauties and
excellencies of gossamer lingerie she found it difficult to work up
enthusiasm over the virtues of dishpans and spice boxes. By noon she
was 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
She was a born saleswoman. In spite of herself she became interested
in the buying problems of the practical and plain-visaged housewives
who patronised this section. By three o'clock she was looking
thoughtful—thoughtful and contented.
Then came the summons. The lingerie section was swamped! Report to
Miss Jevne at once! Almost regretfully Ray gave her customer over to an
idle clerk and sought out Miss Jevne. Some of that lady's
statuesqueness was gone. The bar pin on her bosom rose and fell
rapidly. She espied Ray and met her halfway. In her hand she carried a
soft black something 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 gown, modest but modish.
There was no joy in Ray's face. Ten minutes later she emerged in the
limp and clinging little frock that toned down her colour and made her
plumpness seem but rounded charm.
The big store will talk for many a day of that afternoon and the
three afternoons that followed, until Sunday brought pause to the
thousands of feet beating a ceaseless tattoo up and down the thronged
aisles. On the Monday following thousands swarmed down upon the store
again, but not in such overwhelming numbers. There were breathing
spaces. It was during one of these that Miss Myrtle, the beauty, found
time for a brief moment's chat with Ray Willets.
Ray was straightening her counter again. She had a passion for
order. Myrtle eyed her wearily. Her slender shoulders had carried an
endless number and variety of garments during those four days and her
feet had paced weary miles that those garments might the better be
“Black's grand on you,” observed Myrtle. “Tones you down.” She
glanced sharply at the gown. “Looks just like one of our
eighteen-dollar models. Copy it?”
“No,” said Ray, still straightening petticoats and corset covers.
Myrtle reached out a weary, graceful arm and touched one of the lacy
piles adorned with cunning bows of pink and blue to catch the shopping
“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 said contemptuously. “That's just a
cheap skirt. Only twelve-fifty. Machine-made lace. Imitation
She stopped. She stared a moment at Myrtle with the fixed and
wide-eyed gaze of one who does not see.
“What'd I just say to you?”
“Huh?” ejaculated Myrtle, mystified.
“What'd I just say?” repeated Ray.
Myrtle laughed, half understanding. “You said that was a cheap junk
skirt at only twelve-fifty, with machine lace and imitation—”
But Ray Willets did not wait to hear the rest. She was off down the
aisle toward the elevator marked “Employees.” The superintendent's
office was on the ninth floor. She stopped there. The grey
superintendent was writing at his desk. He did not look up as Ray
entered, thus observing rules one and two in the proper conduct of
superintendents when interviewing employees. Ray Willets, standing by
his desk, did not cough or wriggle or rustle her skirts or sag on one
hip. A consciousness of her quiet penetrated the superintendent's mind.
He glanced up hurriedly over his left shoulder. Then he laid down his
pencil and sat up slowly.
“Oh, it's you!” he said.
“Yes, it's me,” replied Ray Willets simply. “I've been here a month
“Oh, yes.” He ran his fingers through his hair so that the brown
forelock stood away from the grey. “You've lost some of your roses,” he
said, and tapped his cheek. “What's the trouble?”
“I guess it's the dress,” explained Ray, and glanced down at the
folds of her gown. She hesitated a moment awkwardly. “You said you'd
send for me at the end of the month. You didn't.”
“That's all right,” said 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
A queer look stole into Ray Willets' face, a look of determination
“Name?” she said. “My name is Rachel Wiletzky.”