Emma McChesney & Co.
Part 3 out of 3
from chiffon to velvet. Come back here at one, if you like. If
I'm not here, come over to the show. But--lunch! I'd choke."
At twelve-thirty, there scampered into Emma's office a very
white-faced, round-eyed little stock-girl. Emma, deep in a
last-minute discussion with Buck, had a premonition of trouble
before the girl gasped out her message.
"Oh, Mrs. Buck, Gertie's awful sick!"
"Sick!" echoed Emma and Buck, in duet. Then Emma:
"But she can't be! It's impossible! She was all right a half
hour ago." She was hurrying down the hall as she spoke.
"Where is she?"
"They've got her on one of the tables in the workroom. She's
Gertie's appendix, with that innate sense of the dramatic so
often found in temperamental appendices, had indeed chosen this
moment to call attention to itself. Gertie, the demurely pretty
and quietly charming, was rolled in a very tight ball on the
workroom cutting-table. At one o'clock, she was on her way home
in a cab, under the care of a doctor, Miss Kelly, the bookkeeper,
and Jock, who, coming in gaily at one, had been pressed into
service, bewildered but willing.
Three rather tragic figures stared at one another in the junior
partner's office. They were Emma, Buck, and Grace Galt, Jock's
wife-to-be. Grace Galt, slim, lovely, girlish, was known, at
twenty-four, as one of the most expert copy writers in the
advertising world. In her clear-headed, capable manner, she
tried to suggest a way out of the difficulty now.
"But surely the world's full of girls," she said. "It's late,
I know; but any theatrical agency will send a girl over."
"That's just what I tried to avoid," Emma replied. "I wanted
to show this skirt on a sweet, pretty, refined sort of girl who
looks and acts like a lady. One of those blond show girls would
Gloom settled down again over the three. Emma broke the silence
with a rueful little laugh.
"I think," she said, "that perhaps you're right, T. A., and
this is the Lord's way of showing me that the world is not quite
ready for this skirt."
"You're not beaten yet, Emma," Buck assured her vigorously.
"How about this new girl--what's her name?--Myrtle. She's one
of those thin, limp ones, isn't she? Try her."
"I will," said Emma. "You're right. I'm not beaten yet.
I've had to fight for everything worth while in my life. I'm
superstitious about it now. When things come easy I'm afraid of
them." Then, to the stock-girl, "Annie, tell Myrtle I want to
Silence fell again upon the three. Myrtle, very limp, very thin,
very languid indeed, roused them at her entrance. The hopeful
look in Emma's eyes faded as she beheld her. Myrtle was so
obviously limp, so hopelessly new.
"Annie says you want me to take Gertie's place," drawled
Myrtle, striking a magazine-cover attitude.
"I don't know that you are just the--er--type; but perhaps, if
"Of course I didn't come here as a model," said Myrtle, and
sagged on the other hip. "But, as a special favor to you I'm
willing to try it--at special model's rates."
Emma ran a somewhat frenzied hand through her hair.
"Then, as a special favor to me, will you begin by trying to
stand up straight, please? That debutante slouch would kill a
queen's coronation costume."
Myrtle straightened, slumped again.
"I can't help it if I am willowy"--listlessly.
"Your hair!" Myrtle's hand went vaguely to her head. "I can't
have you wear it that way."
"Why, this is the French roll!" protested Myrtle, offended.
"Then do it in a German bun!" snapped Emma. "Any way but
that. Will you walk, please?"
"Yes, walk; I want to see how you----"
Myrtle walked across the room. A groan came from Emma.
"I thought so." She took a long breath.
"Myrtle, listen: That Australian crawl was necessary when our
skirts were so narrow we had to negotiate a curbing before we
could take it. But the skirt you're going to demonstrate is
wide. Like that! You're practically a free woman in it. Step
out! Stride! Swing! Walk!"
Myrtle tried it, stumbled, sulked.
Emma, half smiling, half woeful, patted the girl's shoulder.
"Oh, I see; you're wearing a tight one. Well, run in and get
into the skirt. Miss Loeb will help you. Then come back
here--and quickly, please."
The three looked at each other in silence. It was a silence
brimming with eloquent meaning. Each sought encouragement in the
eyes of the other--and failed to find it. Failing, they broke
into helpless laughter. It proved a safety-valve.
"She may do, Emma--when she has her hair done differently, and
if she'll only stand up."
But Emma shook her head.
"T. A., something tells me you're going to have a wonderful
chance to say, `I told you so!' at three o'clock this
"You know I wouldn't say it, Emma."
"Yes; I do know it, dear. But what's the difference, if the
chance is there?"
Suspense settled down on the little office. Billy Spalding
entered, smiling. After five minutes of waiting, even his
buoyant spirits sank.
"Don't you think--if you were to go in and--and sort of help
adjust things----" suggested Buck vaguely.
"No; I don't want to prop her up. She'll have to stand alone
when she gets there. She'll either do, or not. When she enters
that door, I'll know."
When Myrtle entered, wearing the fascinatingly fashioned new
model, they all knew.
Emma spoke decisively.
"That settles it."
"What's the matter? Don't it look all right?" demanded Myrtle.
"Take it off, Myrtle."
Then, to the others, as Myrtle, sulking, left the room:
"I can stand to see that skirt die if necessary. But I won't
help murder it."
"But, Mrs. Buck," protested Spalding, almost tearfully,
"you've got to exhibit that skirt. You've got to!"
Emma shook a sorrowing head.
"That wouldn't be an exhibition, Billy. It would be an
Spalding clapped a desperate hand to his bald head.
"If only I had Julian Eltinge's shape, I'd wear it to the show
for you myself."
"That's all it needs now," retorted Emma grimly.
Whereupon, Grace Galt spoke up in her clear, decisive voice.
"Wait a minute," she said quietly. "I'm going to wear that
skirt at the fashion show."
"You!" cried the three, like a trained trio.
"Why not?" demanded Grace Galt, coolly. Then: "No; don't
tell me why not. I won't listen."
But Emma, equally cool, would have none of it.
"It's impossible, dear. You're an angel to want to help me.
But you must know it's quite out of the question."
"It's nothing of the kind. This skirt isn't merely a fad. It
has a fortune in it. I'm business woman enough to know that.
You've got to let me do it. It isn't only for yourself. It's
for T. A. and for the future of the firm."
"Do you suppose I'd allow you to stand up before all those
"Why not? I don't know them. They don't know me. I can make
them get the idea in that skirt. And I'm going to do it. You
don't object to me on the same grounds that you did to Myrtle, do
"You!" burst from the admiring Spalding. "Say, you'd make a
red-flannel petticoat look like crepe de Chine and lace."
"There!" said Grace, triumphant. "That settles it!" And she
was off down the hall. They stood a moment in stunned silence.
"But Jock!" protested Emma, following her "What will Jock say?
Grace! Grace dear! I can't let you do it! I can't!"
"Just unhook this for me, will you?" replied Grace Galt
At two o'clock, Jock McChesney, returned from his errand of
mercy, burst into the office to find mother, step-father, and
fiancee all flown.
"Where? What?" he demanded of the outer office.
"Fashion show!" chorused the office staff
"Might have waited for me," Jock said to himself, much injured.
And hurled himself into a taxi.
There was a crush of motors and carriages for a block on all
sides of Madison Square Garden. He had to wait for what seemed
an interminable time at the box-office. Then he began the task
of worming his way through the close-packed throng in the great
auditorium. It was a crowd such as the great place had not seen
since the palmy days of the horse show. It was a crowd that
sparkled and shone in silks and feathers and furs and jewels.
"Jove, if mother has half a chance at this gang!" Jock told
himself. "If only she has grabbed some one who can really show
He was swept with the crowd toward a high platform at the extreme
end of the auditorium. All about that platform stood hundreds,
close packed, faces raised eagerly, the better to see the slight,
graceful, girlish figure occupying the center of the stage--a
figure strangely familiar to Jock's eyes in spite of its quaintly
billowing, ante-bellum garb. She was speaking. Jock, mouth
agape, eyes protruding, ears straining, heard, as in a daze, the
sweet, clear, charmingly modulated voice:
"The feature of the skirt, ladies and gentlemen, is that it
gives a fulness without weight, something which the skirt-maker
has never before been able to achieve. This is due to the patent
featherboning process invented by Mrs. T. A. Buck, of the T. A.
Buck Featherloom Petticoat Company, New York. Note, please, that
it has all the advantages of our grandmother's hoop-skirt, but
none of its awkward features. It is graceful"--she turned
slowly, lightly--"it is bouffant" she twirled on her toes--"it
is practical, serviceable, elegant. It can be made up in any
shade, in any material-- silk, lace, crepe de Chine, charmeuse,
taffeta. The T. A. Buck Featherloom Petticoat Company is
prepared to fill orders for immediate----"
"Well, I'll be darned!" said Jock McChesney aloud. And, again,
heedless of the protesting "Sh-sh-sh-sh!" that his neighbors
turned upon him, "Well, I'll--be--darned!"
A hand twitched his coat sleeve. He turned, still dazed. His
mother, very pink-cheeked, very bright-eyed, pulled him through
the throng. As they reached the edge of the crowd, there came a
great burst of applause, a buzz of conversation, the turning,
shifting, nodding, staccato movements which mean approval in a
mass of people.
"What the dickens! How!" stammered Jock. "When--did she--did
Emma, half smiling, half tearful, raised a protesting hand.
"I don't know. Don't ask me, dear. And don't hate me for it.
I tried to tell her not to, but she insisted. And, Jock, she's
done it, I tell you! She's done it! They love the skirt!
Listen to 'em!"
"Don't want to," said Jock. "Lead me to her."
"Me? No! I'm--I'm proud of her! She hasn't only brains and
looks, that little girl; she's got nerve--the real kind! Gee,
how did I ever have the gall to ask her to marry me!"
Together they sped toward the door that led to the
dressing-rooms. Buck, his fine eyes more luminous than ever as
he looked at this wonder-wife of his, met them at the entrance.
"She's waiting for you, Jock," he said, smiling. Jock took the
steps in one leap.
"Well, T. A. ?" said Emma.
"Well, Emma?" said T. A.
Which burst of eloquence was interrupted abruptly by a short,
squat, dark man, who seized Emma's hand in his left and Buck's in
his right, and pumped them up and down vigorously. It was that
volatile, voluble person known to the skirt trade as Abel I.
Fromkin, of the "Fromkin Form-fit Skirt. It Clings!"
"I'm looking everywhere for you!" he panted. Then, his shrewd
little eyes narrowing, "You want to talk business?"
"Not here," said Buck abruptly.
"Sure--here," insisted Fromkin. "Say, that's me. When I got
a thing on my mind, I like to settle it. How much you take for
the rights to that skirt?"
"Take for it!" exclaimed Emma, in the tone a mother would use
to one who has suggested taking a beloved child from her.
"Now wait a minute. Don't get mad. You ain't started that
skirt right. It should have been advertised. It's too much of a
shock. You'll see. They won't buy. They're afraid of it. I'll
take it off your hands and push it right, see? I offer you forty
thousand for the rights to make that skirt and advertise it as
the `Fromkin Full-flounce Skirt. It Flares!' "
"How much?" she asked quizzically.
Abel I. Fromkin gulped.
"Fifty thousand," he said.
"Fifty thousand," repeated Emma quietly, and looked at Buck.
"Thanks, Mr. Fromkin! I know, now, that if it's worth fifty
thousand to you to-day as the `Fromkin Full-flounce Skirt. It
Flares!' then it's worth one hundred and fifty thousand to us as
the `T. A. Buck Balloon-Petticoat. It Billows!' "
And it was.
SISTERS UNDER THEIR SKIN
Women who know the joys and sorrows of a pay envelope do not
speak of girls who work as Working Girls. Neither do they use
the term Laboring Class, as one would speak of a distinct and
separate race, like the Ethiopian.
Emma McChesney Buck was no exception to this rule. Her fifteen
years of man-size work for a man-size salary in the employ of the
T. A. Buck Featherloom Petticoat Company, New York, precluded
that. In those days, she had been Mrs. Emma McChesney, known
from coast to coast as the most successful traveling saleswoman
in the business. It was due to her that no feminine
clothes-closet was complete without a Featherloom dangling from
one hook. During those fifteen years she had educated her son,
Jock McChesney, and made a man of him; she had worked, fought,
saved, triumphed, smiled under hardship; and she had acquired a
broad and deep knowledge of those fascinating and diversified
subjects which we lump carelessly under the heading of Human
Nature. She was Mrs. T. A. Buck now, wife of the head of the
firm, and partner in the most successful skirt manufactory in the
country. But the hard-working, clear-thinking, sane-acting
habits of those fifteen years still clung.
Perhaps this explained why every machine-girl in the big, bright
shop back of the offices raised adoring eyes when Emma entered
the workroom. Italian, German, Hungarian, Russian--they lifted
their faces toward this source of love and sympathetic
understanding as naturally as a plant turns its leaves toward the
sun. They glowed under her praise; they confided to her their
troubles; they came to her with their joys--and they copied her
This last caused her some uneasiness. When Mrs. T. A. Buck wore
blue serge, an epidemic of blue serge broke out in the workroom.
Did Emma's spring hat flaunt flowers, the elevators, at closing
time, looked like gardens abloom. If she appeared on Monday
morning in severely tailored white-linen blouse, the shop on
Tuesday was a Boston seminary in its starched primness.
"It worries me," Emma told her husband-partner. "I can't
help thinking of the story of the girl and the pet chameleon.
What would happen if I were to forget myself some day and come
down to work in black velvet and pearls?"
"They'd manage it somehow," Buck assured her. "I don't know
just how; but I'm sure that twenty-four hours later our shop
would look like a Buckingham drawing-room when the court is in
Emma never ceased to marvel at their ingenuity, at their almost
uncanny clothes-instinct. Their cheap skirts hung and fitted
with an art as perfect as that of a Fifty-seventh Street modiste;
their blouses, in some miraculous way, were of to-day's style,
down to the last detail of cuff or collar or stitching; their
hats were of the shape that the season demanded, set at the angle
that the season approved, and finished with just that repression
of decoration which is known as "single trimming." They wore
their clothes with a chic that would make the far-famed Parisian
outriere look dowdy and down at heel in comparison. Upper Fifth
Avenue, during the shopping or tea-hour, has been sung, painted,
vaunted, boasted. Its furs and millinery, its eyes and figure,
its complexion and ankles have flashed out at us from ten
thousand magazine covers, have been adjectived in reams of
Sunday-supplement stories. Who will picture Lower Fifth Avenue
between five and six, when New York's unsung beauties pour into
the streets from a thousand loft-buildings? Theirs is no mere
empty pink-and-white prettiness. Poverty can make prettiness
almost poignantly lovely, for it works with a scalpel. Your
Twenty-sixth Street beauty has a certain wistful appeal that
your Forty-sixth Street beauty lacks; her very bravado, too,
which falls just short of boldness, adds a final piquant touch.
In the face of the girl who works, whether she be a
spindle-legged errand-girl or a ten-thousand-a-year foreign
buyer, you will find both vivacity and depth of expression. What
she loses in softness and bloom she gains in a something that
peeps from her eyes, that lurks in the corners of her mouth.
Emma never tired of studying them--these girls with their firm,
slim throats, their lovely faces, their Oriental eyes, and their
conscious grace. Often, as she looked, an unaccountable mist of
tears would blur her vision.
So that sunny little room whose door was marked "MRS. BUCK" had
come to be more than a mere private office for the transaction of
business. It was a clearing-house for trouble; it was a shrine,
a confessional, and a court of justice. When Carmela Colarossi,
her face swollen with weeping, told a story of parental harshness
grown unbearable, Emma would put aside business to listen, and
six o'clock would find her seated in the dark and smelly
Colarossi kitchen, trying, with all her tact and patience and
sympathy, to make home life possible again for the flashing-eyed
Carmela. When the deft, brown fingers of Otti Markis became
clumsy at her machine, and her wage slumped unaccountably from
sixteen to six dollars a week, it was in Emma's quiet little
office that it became clear why Otti's eyes were shadowed and why
Otti's mouth drooped so pathetically. Emma prescribed a love
philter made up of common sense, understanding, and world-
wisdom. Otti took it, only half comprehending, but sure of its
power. In a week, Otti's eyes were shadowless, her lips smiling,
her pay-envelope bulging. But it was in Sophy Kumpf that the T.
A. Buck Company best exemplified its policy. Sophy Kumpf had
come to Buck's thirty years before, slim, pink-cheeked, brown-
haired. She was a grandmother now, at forty-six, broad-bosomed,
broad-hipped, but still pink of cheek and brown of hair. In
those thirty years she had spent just three away from Buck's.
She had brought her children into the world; she had fed them and
clothed them and sent them to school, had Sophy, and seen them
married, and helped them to bring their children into the world
in turn. In her round, red, wholesome face shone a great wisdom,
much love, and that infinite understanding which is born only of
bitter experience. She had come to Buck's when old T. A. was
just beginning to make Featherlooms a national institution. She
had seen his struggles, his prosperity; she had grieved at his
death; she had watched young T. A. take the reins in his
unaccustomed hands, and she had gloried in Emma McChesney's rise
from office to salesroom, from salesroom to road, from road to
private office and recognized authority. Sophy had left her
early work far behind. She had her own desk now in the busy
workshop, and it was she who allotted the piece-work, marked it
in her much-thumbed ledger--that powerful ledger which, at the
week's end, decided just how plump or thin each pay-envelope
would be. So the shop and office at T. A. Buck's were bound
together by many ties of affection and sympathy and loyalty; and
these bonds were strongest where, at one end, they touched Emma
McChesney Buck, and, at the other, faithful Sophy Kumpf. Each a
triumphant example of Woman in Business.
It was at this comfortable stage of Featherloom affairs that the
Movement struck the T. A. Buck Company. Emma McChesney Buck had
never mingled much in movements. Not that she lacked sympathy
with them; she often approved of them, heart and soul. But she
had been heard to say that the Movers got on her nerves. Those
well-dressed, glib, staccato ladies who spoke with such ease from
platforms and whose pictures stared out at one from the woman's
page failed, somehow, to convince her. When Emma approved a new
movement, it was generally in spite of them, never because of
them. She was brazenly unapologetic when she said that she would
rather listen to ten minutes of Sophy Kumpf's world-wisdom than
to an hour's talk by the most magnetic and silken-clad
spellbinder in any cause. For fifteen business years, in the
office, on the road, and in the thriving workshop, Emma McChesney
had met working women galore. Women in offices, women in stores,
women in hotels--chamber-maids, clerks, buyers, waitresses,
actresses in road companies, women demonstrators, occasional
traveling saleswomen, women in factories, scrubwomen,
stenographers, models--every grade, type and variety of working
woman, trained and untrained. She never missed a chance to talk
with them. She never failed to learn from them. She had been
one of them, and still was. She was in the position of one who is
on the inside, looking out. Those other women urging this cause
or that were on the outside, striving to peer in.
The Movement struck T. A. Buck's at eleven o'clock Monday
morning. Eleven o'clock Monday morning in the middle of a busy
fall season is not a propitious moment for idle chit-chat. The
three women who stepped out of the lift at the Buck Company's
floor looked very much out of place in that hummingly busy
establishment and appeared, on the surface, at least, very
chit-chatty indeed. So much so, that T. A. Buck, glancing up
from the cards which had preceded them, had difficulty in
repressing a frown of annoyance. T. A. Buck, during his
college-days, and for a lamentably long time after, had been
known as "Beau" Buck, because of his faultless clothes and his
charming manner. His eyes had something to do with it, too, no
doubt. He had lived down the title by sheer force of business
ability. No one thought of using the nickname now, though the
clothes, the manner, and the eyes were the same. At the entrance
of the three women, he had been engrossed in the difficult task
of selling a fall line to Mannie Nussbaum, of Portland, Oregon.
Mannie was what is known as a temperamental buyer. He couldn't
be forced; he couldn't be coaxed; he couldn't be led. But when
he liked a line he bought like mad, never cancelled, and T. A.
Buck had just got him going. It spoke volumes for his self-
control that he could advance toward the waiting three, his
manner correct, his expression bland.
"I am Mr. Buck," he said. "Mrs. Buck is very much engaged. I
understand your visit has something to do with the girls in the
shop. I'm sure our manager will be able to answer any
The eldest women raised a protesting, white-gloved hand.
"Oh, no--no, indeed! We must see Mrs. Buck." She spoke in the
crisp, decisive platform-tones of one who is often addressed as
Buck took a firmer grip on his self-control.
"I'm sorry; Mrs. Buck is in the cutting-room."
"We'll wait," said the lady, brightly. She stepped back a
pace. "This is Miss Susan H. Croft"--indicating a rather
sparse person of very certain years--"But I need scarcely
"Scarcely," murmured Buck, and wondered why.
"This is my daughter, Miss Gladys Orton-Wells."
Buck found himself wondering why this slim, negative creature
should have such sad eyes. There came an impatient snort from
Mannie Nussbaum. Buck waved a hasty hand in the direction of
"If you'll wait there, I'll send in to Mrs. Buck."
The three turned toward Emma's bright little office. Buck
scribbled a hasty word on one of the cards.
Emma McChesney Buck was leaning over the great cutting-table,
shears in hand. It might almost be said that she sprawled. Her
eyes were very bright, and her cheeks were very pink. Across the
table stood a designer and two cutters, and they were watching
Emma with an intentness as flattering as it was sincere. They
were looking not only at cloth but at an idea.
"Get that?" asked Emma crisply, and tapped the pattern spread
before her with the point of her shears. "That gives you the
fulness without bunching, d'you see?"
"Sure," assented Koritz, head designer; "but when you get it
cut you'll find this piece is wasted, ain't it?" He marked out
a triangular section of cloth with one expert forefinger.
"No; that works into the ruffle," explained Emma. "Here, I'll
cut it. Then you'll see."
She grasped the shears firmly in her right hand, smoothed the
cloth spread before her with a nervous little pat of her left,
pushed her bright hair back from her forehead, and prepared to
cut. At which critical moment there entered Annie, the
errand-girl, with the three bits of white pasteboard.
Emma glanced down at them and waved Annie away.
"Can't see them. Busy."
Annie stood her ground.
"Mr. Buck said you'd see 'em. They're waiting."
Emma picked up one of the cards. On it Buck had scribbled a
single word: "Movers." Mrs. T. A. Buck smiled. A little
malicious gleam came into her eyes.
"Show 'em in here, Annie," she commanded, with a wave of the
huge shears. "I'll teach 'em to interrupt me when I've got my
hands in the bluing-water."
She bent over the table again, measuring with her keen eye. When
the three were ushered in a moment later, she looked up briefly
and nodded, then bent over the table again. But in that brief
moment she had the three marked, indexed and pigeonholed. If one
could have looked into that lightning mind of hers, one would
have found something like this:
"Hmm! What Ida Tarbell calls `Restless women.' Money, and
always have had it. Those hats were born in one of those
exclusive little shops off the Avenue. Rich but somber. They
think they're advanced, but they still resent the triumph of the
motor-car over the horse. That girl can't call her soul her own.
Good eyes, but too sad. He probably didn't suit mother."
What she said was:
"Howdy-do. We're just bringing a new skirt into the world. I
thought you might like to be in at the birth."
"How very interesting!" chirped the two older women. The girl
said nothing, but a look of anticipation brightened her eyes. It
deepened and glowed as Emma McChesney Buck bent to her task and
the great jaws of the shears opened and shut on the virgin cloth.
Six pairs of eyes followed the fascinating steel before which the
cloth rippled and fell away, as water is cleft by the prow of a
stanch little boat. Around the curves went the shears, guided by
Emma's firm white hands, snipping, slashing, doubling on itself,
a very swashbuckler of a shears.
"There!" exclaimed Emma at last, and dropped the shears on the
table with a clatter. "Put that together and see whether it makes
a skirt or not. Now, ladies!"
The three drew a long breath. It was the sort of sound that
comes up from the crowd when a sky-rocket has gone off
successfully, with a final shower of stars.
"Do you do that often?" ventured Mrs. Orton-Wells.
"Often enough to keep my hand in," replied Emma, and led the
way to her office.
The three followed in silence. They were strangely silent, too,
as they seated themselves around Emma Buck's desk. Curiously
enough, it was the subdued Miss Orton-Wells who was the first to
"I'll never rest," she said, "until I see that skirt finished
and actually ready to wear."
She smiled at Emma. When she did that, you saw that Miss
Orton-Wells had her charm. Emma smiled back, and patted the
girl's hand just once. At that there came a look into Miss
Orton-Wells' eyes, and you saw that most decidedly she had her
Up spoke Mrs. Orton-Wells.
"Gladys is such an enthusiast! That's really her reason for
being here. Gladys is very much interested in working girls. In
fact, we are all, as you probably know, intensely interested in
the working woman."
"Thank you!" said Emma McChesney Buck.
"That's very kind. We working women are very grateful to you."
"We!" exclaimed Mrs. Orton-Wells and Miss Susan Croft blankly,
and in perfect time.
Emma smiled sweetly.
"Surely you'll admit that I'm a working woman."
Miss Susan H. Croft was not a person to be trifled with. She
"We mean women who work with their hands."
"By what power do you think those shears were moved across the
cutting-table? We don't cut our patterns with an ouija-board."
Mrs. Orton-Wells rustled protestingly.
"But, my dear Mrs. Buck, you know, we mean women of the Laboring
"I'm in this place of business from nine to five, Monday to
Saturday, inclusive. If that doesn't make me a member of the
laboring class I don't want to belong."
It was here that Mrs. Orton-Wells showed herself a woman not to
be trifled with. She moved forward to the edge of her chair,
fixed Emma Buck with determined eyes, and swept into midstream,
"Don't be frivolous, Mrs. Buck. We are here on a serious
errand. It ought to interest you vitally because of the position
you occupy in the world of business. We are launching a campaign
against the extravagant, ridiculous, and oftentimes indecent
dress of the working girl, with especial reference to the girl
who works in garment factories. They squander their earnings in
costumes absurdly unfitted to their station in life. Our plan is
to influence them in the direction of neatness, modesty, and
economy in dress. At present each tries to outdo the other in
style and variety of costume. Their shoes are high-heeled,
cloth-topped, their blouses lacy and collarless, their hats
absurd. We propose a costume which shall be neat, becoming, and
appropriate. Not exactly a uniform, perhaps, but something with
a fixed idea in cut, color, and style. A corps of twelve young
ladies belonging to our best families has been chosen to speak to
the shop girls at noon meetings on the subject of good taste,
health, and morality in women's dress. My daughter Gladys is one
of them. In this way, we hope to convince them that simplicity,
and practicality, and neatness are the only proper notes in the
costume of the working girl. Occupying as you do a position
unique in the business world, Mrs. Buck, we expect much from your
cooperation with us in this cause."
Emma McChesney Buck had been gazing at Mrs. Orton-Wells with an
intentness as flattering as it was unfeigned. But at the close
of Mrs. Orton-Wells' speech she was strangely silent. She
glanced down at her shoes. Now, Emma McChesney Buck had a
weakness for smart shoes which her slim, well-arched foot
excused. Hers were what might be called intelligent-looking
feet. There was nothing thick, nothing clumsy, nothing awkward
about them. And Emma treated them with the consideration they
deserved. They were shod now, in a pair of slim, aristocratic,
and modish ties above which the grateful eye caught a flashing
glimpse of black-silk stocking. Then her eye traveled up her
smartly tailored skirt, up the bodice of that well-made and
becoming costume until her glance rested on her own shoulder and
paused. Then she looked up at Mrs. Orton-Wells. The eyes of
Mrs. Orton-Wells, Miss Susan H. Croft, and Miss Gladys
Orton-Wells had, by some strange power of magnetism, followed the
path of Emma's eyes. They finished just one second behind her,
so that when she raised her eyes it was to encounter theirs.
"I have explained," retorted Mrs. Orton- Wells, tartly, in
reply to nothing, seemingly, "that our problem is with the
factory girl. She represents a distinct and separate class."
Emma McChesney Buck nodded:
"I understand. Our girls are very young-- eighteen, twenty,
twenty-two. At eighteen, or thereabouts, practical garments
haven't the strong appeal that you might think they have."
"They should have," insisted Mrs. Orton-Wells.
"Maybe," said Emma Buck gently. "But to me it seems just as
reasonable to argue that an apple tree has no right to wear
pink-and-white blossoms in the spring, so long as it is going to
bear sober russets in the autumn."
Miss Susan H. Croft rustled indignantly.
"Then you refuse to work with us? You will not consent to Miss
Orton-Wells' speaking to the girls in your shop this noon?"
Emma looked at Gladys Orton-Wells. Gladys was wearing black, and
black did not become her. It made her creamy skin sallow. Her
suit was severely tailored, and her hat was small and harshly
outlined, and her hair was drawn back from her face. All this,
in spite of the fact that Miss Orton-Wells was of the limp and
fragile type, which demands ruffles, fluffiness, flowing lines
and frou-frou. Emma's glance at the suppressed Gladys was as
fleeting as it was keen, but it sufficed to bring her to a
decision. She pressed a buzzer at her desk.
"I shall be happy to have Miss Orton-Wells speak to the girls in
our shop this noon, and as often as she cares to speak. If she
can convince the girls that a--er--fixed idea in cut, color, and
style is the thing to be adopted by shop-workers I am perfectly
willing that they be convinced."
Then to Annie, who appeared in answer to the buzzer,
"Will you tell Sophy Kumpf to come here, please?"
Mrs. Orton-Wells beamed. The somber plumes in her correct hat
bobbed and dipped to Emma. The austere Miss Susan H. Croft
unbent in a nutcracker smile. Only Miss Gladys Orton-Wells
remained silent, thoughtful, unenthusiastic. Her eyes were on
A heavy, comfortable step sounded in the hall outside the office
door. Emma turned with a smile to the stout, motherly,
red-cheeked woman who entered, smoothing her coarse brown hair
with work-roughened fingers.
Emma took one of those calloused hands in hers.
"Sophy, we need your advice. This is Mrs. Sophy Kumpf--Mrs.
Orton-Wells, Miss Susan H. Croft"--Sophy threw her a keen
glance; she knew that name--"and Miss Orton-Wells." Of the
four, Sophy was the most at ease.
"Pleased to meet you," said Sophy Kumpf.
The three bowed, but did not commit themselves. Emma, her hand
still on Sophy's, elaborated:
"Sophy Kumpf has been with the T. A. Buck Company for thirty
years. She could run this business single-handed, if she had to.
She knows any machine in the shop, can cut a pattern, keep books,
run the entire plant if necessary. If there's anything about
petticoats that Sophy doesn't know, it's because it hasn't been
invented yet. Sophy was sixteen when she came to Buck's. I've
heard she was the prettiest and best dressed girl in the shop."
"Oh, now, Mrs. Buck!" remonstrated Sophy.
Emma tried to frown as she surveyed Sophy's bright eyes, her rosy
cheeks, her broad bosom, her ample hips--all that made Sophy an
object to comfort and rest the eye.
"Don't dispute, Sophy. Sophy has educated her children, married
them off, and welcomed their children. She thinks that excuses
her for having been frivolous and extravagant at sixteen. But we
know better, don't we? I'm using you as a horrible example,
Sophy turned affably to the listening three.
"Don't let her string you," she said, and winked one knowing
Mrs. Orton-Wells stiffened. Miss Susan H. Croft congealed. But
Miss Gladys Orton- Wells smiled. And then Emma knew she was
"Sophy, who's the prettiest girl in our shop? And the best
"Lily Bernstein," Sophy made prompt answer.
"Send her in to us, will you? And give her credit for lost time
when she comes back to the shop."
Sophy, with a last beamingly good-natured smile, withdrew. Five
minutes later, when Lily Bernstein entered the office, Sophy
qualified as a judge of beauty. Lily Bernstein was a tiger-
lily--all browns and golds and creams, all graciousness and
warmth and lovely curves. As she came into the room, Gladys
Orton-Wells seemed as bloodless and pale and ineffectual as a
white moth beside a gorgeous tawny butterfly.
Emma presented the girl as formally as she had Sophy Kumpf. And
Lily Bernstein smiled upon them, and her teeth were as white and
even as one knew they would be before she smiled. Lily had taken
off her shop-apron. Her gown was blue serge, cheap in quality,
flawless as to cut and fit, and incredibly becoming. Above it,
her vivid face glowed like a golden rose.
"Lily," said Emma, "Miss Orton-Wells is going to speak to the
girls this noon. I thought you might help by telling her
whatever she wants to know about the girls' work and all that,
and by making her feel at home."
"Well, sure," said Lily, and smiled again her heart-warming
smile. "I'd love to."
"Miss Orton-Wells," went on Emma smoothly, "wants to speak to
the girls about clothes."
Lily looked again at Miss Orton-Wells, and she did not mean to be
cruel. Then she looked quickly at Emma, to detect a possible
joke. But Mrs. Buck's face bore no trace of a smile.
"Clothes!" repeated Lily. And a slow red mounted to Gladys
Orton-Wells' pale face. When Lily went out Sunday afternoons, she
might have passed for a millionaire's daughter if she hadn't been
so well dressed.
"Suppose you take Miss Orton-Wells into the shop," suggested
Emma, "so that she may have some idea of the size and character
of our family before she speaks to it. How long shall you want
Miss Orton-Wells started nervously, stammered a little, stopped.
"Oh, ten minutes," said Mrs. Orton-Wells graciously.
"Five," said Gladys, quickly, and followed Lily Bernstein into
Mrs. Orton-Wells and Miss Susan H. Croft gazed after them.
"Rather attractive, that girl, in a coarse way," mused Mrs.
Orton-Wells. "If only we can teach them to avoid the cheap and
tawdry. If only we can train them to appreciate the finer things
in life. Of course, their life is peculiar. Their problems are
not our problems; their----"
"Their problems are just exactly our problems," interrupted
Emma crisply. "They use garlic instead of onion, and they don't
bathe as often as we do; but, then, perhaps we wouldn't either,
if we hadn't tubs and showers so handy."
In the shop, queer things were happening to Gladys Orton-Wells.
At her entrance into the big workroom, one hundred pairs of eyes
had lifted, dropped, and, in that one look, condemned her hat,
suit, blouse, veil and tout ensemble. When you are on piece-work
you squander very little time gazing at uplift visitors in the
wrong kind of clothes.
Gladys Orton-Wells looked about the big, bright workroom. The
noonday sun streamed in from a dozen great windows. There
seemed, somehow, to be a look of content and capableness about
those heads bent so busily over the stitching.
"It looks--pleasant," said Gladys Orton-Wells.
"It ain't bad. Of course it's hard sitting all day. But I'd
rather do that than stand from eight to six behind a counter.
And there's good money in it."
Gladys Orton-Wells turned wistful eyes on friendly little Lily
"I'd like to earn money," she said. "I'd like to work."
"Well, why don't you?" demanded Lily.
"Work's all the style this year. They're all doing it. Look at
the Vanderbilts and that Morgan girl, and the whole crowd. These
days you can't tell whether the girl at the machine next to you
lives in the Bronx or on Fifth Avenue."
"It must be wonderful to earn your own clothes."
"Believe me," laughed Lily Bernstein, "it ain't so wonderful
when you've had to do it all your life."
She studied the pale girl before her with brows thoughtfully
knit. Lily had met too many uplifters to be in awe of them.
Besides, a certain warm-hearted friendliness was hers for every
one she met. So, like the child she was, she spoke what was in
"Say, listen, dearie. I wouldn't wear black if I was you. And
that plain stuff--it don't suit you. I'm like that, too.
There's some things I can wear and others I look fierce in. I'd
like you in one of them big flat hats and a full skirt like you
see in the ads, with lots of ribbons and tag ends and bows on it.
D'you know what I mean?"
"My mother was a Van Cleve," said Gladys drearily, as though
that explained everything. So it might have, to any but a Lily
Lily didn't know what a Van Cleve was, but she sensed it as a
"Don't you care. Everybody's folks have got something the
matter with 'em. Especially when you're a girl. But if I was
you, I'd go right ahead and do what I wanted to."
In the doorway at the far end of the shop appeared Emma with her
two visitors. Mrs. Orton-Wells stopped and said something to a
girl at a machine, and her very posture and smile reeked of an
offensive kindliness, a condescending patronage.
Gladys Orton-Wells did a strange thing. She saw her mother
coming toward her. She put one hand on Lily Bernstein's arm and
she spoke hurriedly and in a little gasping voice.
"Listen! Would you--would you marry a man who hadn't any money
to speak of, and no sort of family, if you loved him, even if
your mother wouldn't--wouldn't----"
"Would I! Say, you go out to-morrow morning and buy yourself
one of them floppy hats and a lace waist over flesh-colored
chiffon and get married in it. Don't get it white, with your
coloring. Get it kind of cream. You're so grand and thin, this
year's things will look lovely on you."
A bell shrilled somewhere in the shop. A hundred machines
stopped their whirring. A hundred heads came up with a sigh of
relief. Chairs were pushed back, aprons unbuttoned.
Emma McChesney Buck stepped forward and raised a hand for
attention. The noise of a hundred tongues was stilled.
"Girls, Miss Gladys Orton-Wells is going to speak to you for
five minutes on the subject of dress. Will you give her your
attention, please. The five minutes will be added to your noon
Gladys Orton-Wells looked down at her hands for one terrified
moment, then she threw her head up bravely. There was no lack of
color in her cheeks now. She stepped to the middle of the room.
"What I have to say won't take five minutes," she said, in her
clear, well-bred tones.
"You all dress so smartly, and I'm such a dowd, I just want to
ask you whether you think I ought to get blue, or that new shade
of gray for a traveling-suit."
And the shop, hardened to the eccentricities of noonday speakers,
made composed and ready answer:
"Oh, get blue; it's always good."
"Thank you," laughed Gladys Orton-Wells, and was off down the
hall and away, with never a backward glance at her gasping and
Emma McChesney Buck took Lily Bernstein's soft cheek between
thumb and forefinger and pinched it ever so fondly.
"I knew you'd do it, Judy O'Grady," she said.
"O'Grady--a lady famous in history."
"Oh, now, quit your kiddin', Mrs. Buck!" said Lily Bernstein.
AN ETUDE FOR EMMA
If you listen long enough, and earnestly enough, and with ear
sufficiently attuned to the music of this sphere there will come
to you this reward: The violins and oboes and 'cellos and
brasses of humanity which seemed all at variance with each other
will unite as one instrument; seeming discords and dissonances
will blend into harmony, and the wail and blare and thrum of
humanity's orchestra will sound in your ear the sublime melody of
that great symphony called Life.
In her sunny little private office on the twelfth floor of the
great loft-building that housed the T. A. Buck Company, Emma
McChesney Buck sat listening to the street-sounds that were
wafted to her, mellowed by height and distance. The noises,
taken separately, were the nerve-racking sounds common to a busy
down-town New York cross-street. By the time they reached the
little office on the twelfth floor, they were softened, mellowed,
debrutalized, welded into a weird choirlike chant first high,
then low, rising, swelling, dying away, rising again to a dull
roar, with now and then vast undertones like the rumbling of a
cathedral pipe-organ. Emma knew that the high, clear tenor note
was the shrill cry of the lame "newsie" at the corner of Sixth
Avenue and Twenty-sixth Street. Those deep, thunderous bass
notes were the combined reverberation of nearby "L" trains,
distant subway and clanging surface cars. That sharp staccato
was a motorman clanging his bell of warning. These things she
knew. But she liked, nevertheless, to shut her eyes for a moment
in the midst of her busy day and listen to the chant of the city
as it came up to her, subdued, softened, strangely beautified.
The sound saddened even while it filled her with a certain
exaltation. We have no one word for that sensation. The German
(there's a language!) has it--Weltschmerz.
As distance softened the harsh sounds to her ears, so time and
experience had given her a perspective on life itself. She saw
it, not as a series of incidents, pleasant and unpleasant, but as
a great universal scheme too mighty to comprehend--a scheme that
always worked itself out in some miraculous way.
She had had a singularly full life, had Emma McChesney Buck. A
life replete with work, leavened by sorrows, sweetened with
happiness. These ingredients make for tolerance. She saw, for
example, how the capable, modern staff in the main business
office had forged ahead of old Pop Henderson. Pop Henderson had
been head bookkeeper for years. But the pen in his trembling
hand made queer spidery marks in the ledgers now, and his figure
seven was very likely to look like a drunken letter "z." The
great bulk of his work was done by the capable, comely Miss Kelly
who could juggle figures like a Cinquevalli. His shaking,
blue-veined yellow hand was no match for Miss Kelly's cool, firm
fingers. But he stayed on at Buck's, and no one dreamed of
insulting him with talk of a pension, least of all Emma. She saw
the work-worn pathetic old man not only as a figure but as a
Jock McChesney, very young, very handsome, very successful,
coming on to New York from Chicago to be married in June, found
his mother wrapped in this contemplative calm. Now, Emma
McChesney Buck, mother of an about-to-be-married son, was also
surprisingly young and astonishingly handsome and highly
successful. Jock, in a lucid moment the day before his wedding,
took occasion to comment rather resentfully on his mother's
"It seems to me," he said gloomily, "that for a mother whose
only son is about to be handed over to what the writers call the
other woman, you're pretty resigned, not to say cheerful."
Emma glanced up at him as he stood there, so tall and straight
and altogether good to look at, and the glow of love and pride in
her eyes belied the lightness of her words.
"I know it," she said, with mock seriousness, "and it worries
me. I can't imagine why I fail to feel those pangs that mothers
are supposed to suffer at this time. I ought to rend my garments
and beat my breast, but I can't help thinking of what a stunning
girl Grace Galt is, and what a brain she has, and how lucky you
are to get her. Any girl--with the future that girl had in the
advertising field--who'll give up four thousand a year and her
independence to marry a man does it for love, let me tell you.
If anybody knows you better than your mother, son, I'd hate to
know who it is. And if anybody loves you more than your
mother--well, we needn't go into that, because it would have to
be hypothetical, anyway. You see, Jock, I've loved you so long
and so well that I know your faults as well as your virtues; and
I love you, not in spite of them but because of them.
"Oh, I don't know," interrupted Jock, with some warmth, "I'm
not perfect, but a fellow----"
"Perfect! Jock McChesney, when I think of Grace's feelings when
she discovers that you never close a closet door! When I
contemplate her emotions on hearing your howl at finding one seed
in your orange juice at breakfast! When she learns of your
secret and unholy passion for neckties that have a dash of red in
'em, and how you have to be restrained by force from----"
With a simulated roar of rage, Jock McChesney fell upon his
mother with a series of bear-hugs that left her flushed, panting,
limp, but bright-eyed.
It was to her husband that Emma revealed the real source of her
Spartan calm. The wedding was over. There had been a quiet
little celebration, after which Jock McChesney had gone West with
his very lovely young wife. Emma had kissed her very tenderly,
very soberly after the brief ceremony. "Mrs. McChesney," she
had said, and her voice shook ever so little; "Mrs. Jock
McChesney!" And the new Mrs. McChesney, a most astonishingly
intuitive young woman indeed, had understood.
T. A. Buck, being a man, puzzled over it a little. That night,
when Emma had reached the kimono and hair-brushing stage, he
ventured to speak his wonderment.
"D'you know, Emma, you were about the calmest and most serene
mother that I ever did see at a son's wedding. Of course I
didn't expect you to have hysterics, or anything like that. I've
always said that, when it came to repose and self-control, you
could make the German Empress look like a hoyden. But I always
thought that, at such times, a mother viewed her new
daughter-in-law as a rival, that the very sight of her filled her
with a jealous rage like that of a tigress whose cub is taken
from her. I must say you were so smiling and urbane that I
thought it was almost uncomplimentary to the young couple. You
didn't even weep, you unnatural woman!"
Emma, seated before her dressing-table, stopped brushing her hair
and sat silent a moment, looking down with unseeing eyes at the
brush in her hand.
"I know it, T. A. Would you like to have me tell you why?"
He came over to her then and ran a tender hand down the length of
her bright hair. Then he kissed the top of her head. This
satisfactory performance he capped by saying:
"I think I know why. It's because the minister hesitated a
minute and looked from you to Grace and back again, not knowing
which was the bride. The way you looked in that dress, Emma, was
enough to reconcile any woman to losing her entire family."
"T. A., you do say the nicest things to me."
"Like 'em, Emma?"
"Like 'em? You know perfectly well that you never can offend me
by making me compliments like that. I not only like them; I
actually believe them!"
"That's because I mean them, Emma. Now, out with that reason!"
Emma stood up then and put her hands on his shoulders. But she
was not looking at him. She was gazing past him, her eyes
"I don't know whether I'll be able to explain to you just how I
feel about it. I'll probably make a mess of it. But I'll try.
You see, dear, it's just this way: Two years ago--a year ago,
even--I might have felt just that sensation of personal
resentment and loss. But somehow, lately, I've been looking at
life through--how shall I put it?--through seven-league glasses.
I used to see life in its relation to me and mine. Now I see it
in terms of my relation to it. Do you get me? I was the
soloist, and the world my orchestral accompaniment. Lately, I've
been content just to step back with the other instruments and let
my little share go to make up a more perfect whole. In those
years, long before I met you, when Jock was all I had in the
world, I worked and fought and saved that he might have the
proper start, the proper training, and environment. And I did
succeed in giving him those things. Well, as I looked at him
there to-day I saw him, not as my son, my property that was going
out of my control into the hands of another woman, but as a link
in the great chain that I had helped to forge--a link as strong
and sound and perfect as I could make it. I saw him, not as my
boy, Jock McChesney, but as a unit. When I am gone I shall still
live in him, and he in turn will live in his children. There!
I've muddled it--haven't I?--as I said I would. But I think"--
And she looked into her husband's glowing eyes.--"No; I'm sure
you understand. And when I die, T. A.----"
"You, Emma!" And he held her close, and then held her off to
look at her through quizzical, appreciative eyes. "Why, girl, I
can't imagine you doing anything so passive."
In the busy year that followed, anyone watching Emma McChesney
Buck as she worked and played and constructed, and helped others
to work and play and construct, would have agreed with T. A.
Buck. She did not seem a woman who was looking at life
objectively. As she went about her home in the evening, or the
office, the workroom, or the showrooms during the day, adjusting
this, arranging that, smoothing out snarls, solving problems of
business or household, she was very much alive, very vital, very
personal, very electric. In that year there came to her many
letters from Jock and Grace--happy letters, all of them, some
with an undertone of great seriousness, as is fitting when two
people are readjusting their lives. Then, in spring, came the
news of the baby. The telegram came to Emma as she sat in her
office near the close of a busy day. As she read it and reread
it, the slip of paper became a misty yellow with vague lines of
blue dancing about on it; then it became a blur of nothing in
particular, as Emma's tears fell on it in a little shower of joy
and pride and wonder at the eternal miracle.
Then she dried her eyes, mopped the telegram and her lace jabot
impartially, went across the hall and opened the door marked "T.
T. A. looked up from his desk, smiled, held out a hand.
"Girl or boy?"
"Girl, of course," said Emma tremulously, "and her name is
T. A. stood up and put an arm about his wife's shoulders.
"Lean on me, grandma," he said.
"Fiend!" retorted Emma, and reread the telegram happily. She
folded it then, with a pensive sigh, "I hope she'll look like
Grace. But with Jock's eyes. They were wasted in a man. At any
rate, she ought to be a raving, tearing beauty with that father
"What about her grandmother, when it comes to looks! Yes, and
think of the brain she'll have," Buck reminded her excitedly.
"Great Scott! With a grandmother who has made the T. A. Buck
Featherloom Petticoat a household word, and a mother who was the
cleverest woman advertising copy-writer in New York, this young
lady ought to be a composite Hetty Green, Madame de Stael,
Hypatia, and Emma McChesney Buck. She'll be a lady wizard of
finance or a----"
"She'll be nothing of the kind," Emma disputed calmly. "That
child will be a throwback. The third generation generally is.
With a militant mother and a grandmother such as that child has,
she'll just naturally be a clinging vine. She'll be a reversion
to type. She'll be the kind who'll make eyes and wear pale blue
and be crazy about new embroidery-stitches. Just mark my words,
Buck had a brilliant idea.
"Why don't you pack a bag and run over to Chicago for a few days
and see this marvel of the age?"
But Emma shook her head.
"Not now, T. A. Later. Let the delicate machinery of that new
household adjust itself and begin to run smoothly and sweetly
again. Anyone who might come in now--even Jock's mother--would
be only an outsider."
So she waited very patiently and considerately. There was much
to occupy her mind that spring. Business was unexpectedly and
gratifyingly good. Then, too, one of their pet dreams was being
realized; they were to have their own house in the country, at
Westchester. Together they had pored over the plans. It was to
be a house of wide, spacious verandas, of fireplaces, of
bookshelves, of great, bright windows, and white enamel and
cheerful chintz. By the end of May it was finished, furnished,
and complete. At which a surprising thing happened; and yet, not
so surprising. A demon of restlessness seized Emma McChesney
Buck. It had been a busy, happy winter, filled with work. Now
that it was finished, there came upon Emma and Buck that
unconscious and quite natural irritation which follows a long
winter spent together by two people, no matter how much in
harmony. Emma pulled herself up now and then, horrified to find
a rasping note of impatience in her voice. Buck found himself,
once or twice, fairly caught in a little whirlpool of ill temper
of his own making. These conditions they discovered almost
simultaneously. And like the comrades they were, they talked it
over and came to a sensible understanding.
"We're a bit ragged and saw-edged," said Emma. "We're getting
on each other's nerves. What we need is a vacation from each
other. This morning I found myself on the verge of snapping at
you. At you! Imagine, T. A.!"
Whereupon Buck came forward with his confession.
"It's a couple of late cases of spring fever. You've been tied
to this office all winter. So've I. We need a change. You've
had too much petticoats, too much husband, too much cutting room
and sales-room and rush orders and business generally. Too much
Featherloom and not enough foolishness." He came over and put a
gentle hand on his wife's shoulder, a thing strictly against the
rules during business hours. And Emma not only permitted it but
reached over and covered his hand with her own. "You're tired,
and you're a wee bit nervous; so g'wan," said T. A., ever so
gently, and kissed his wife, "g'wan; get out of here!"
And Emma got.
She went, not to the mountains or the seashore but with her face
to the west. In her trunks were tiny garments--garments pink-
ribboned, blue-ribboned, things embroidered and scalloped and
hemstitched and hand-made and lacy. She went looking less
grandmotherly than ever in her smart, blue tailor suit, her
rakish hat, her quietly correct gloves, and slim shoes and softly
becoming jabot. Her husband had got her a compartment, had laden
her down with books, magazines, fruit, flowers, candy. Five
minutes before the train pulled out, Emma looked about the little
room and sighed, even while she smiled.
"You're an extravagant boy, T. A. I look as if I were equipped
for a dash to the pole instead of an eighteen-hour run to
Chicago. But I love you for it. I suppose I ought to be ashamed
to confess how I like having a whole compartment just for myself.
You see, a compartment always will spell luxury to me. There
were all those years on the road, you know, when I often
considered myself in luck to get an upper on a local of a branch
line that threw you around in your berth like a bean in a tin can
every time the engineer stopped or started."
Buck looked at his watch, then stooped in farewell. Quite
suddenly they did not want to part. They had grown curiously
used to each other, these two. Emma found herself clinging to
this man with the tender eyes, and Buck held her close,
regardless of train-schedules. Emma rushed him to the platform
and watched him, wide-eyed, as he swung off the slowly moving
"Come on along!" she called, almost tearfully.
Buck looked up at her. At her trim, erect figure, at her clear
youthful coloring, at the brightness of her eye.
"If you want to get a reputation for comedy," he laughed,
"tell somebody on that train that you're going to visit your
Jock met her at the station in Chicago and drove her home in a
very dapper and glittering black runabout.
"Grace wanted to come down," he explained, as they sped along,
"but they're changing the baby's food or something, and she
didn't want to leave. You know those nurses." Emma felt a
curious little pang. This was her boy, her baby, talking about
his baby and nurses. She had a sense of unreality. He turned to
her with shining eyes. "That's a stunning get-up, Blonde.
Honestly, you're a wiz, mother. Grace has told all her friends
that you're coming, and their mothers are going to call. But,
good Lord, you look like my younger sister, on the square you
The apartment reached, it seemed to Emma that she floated across
the walk and up the stairs, so eagerly did her heart cry out for
a glimpse of this little being who was flesh of her flesh.
Grace, a little pale but more beautiful than ever, met them at
the door. Her arms went about Emma's neck. Then she stood her
handsome mother-in-law off and gazed at her.
"You wonder! How lovely you look! Good heavens, are they
wearing that kind of hat in New York! And those collars! I
haven't seen a thing like 'em here. `East is east and West is
west and----' "
"Where's that child?" demanded Emma McChesney Buck. "Where's
"Sh-sh-sh-sh!" came in a sibilant duet from Grace and Jock.
"Not now. She's sleeping. We were up with her for three hours
last night. It was the new food. She's not used to it yet."
"But, you foolish children, can't I peek at her?"
"Oh, dear, no!" said Grace hastily. "We never go into her
room when she's asleep. This is your room, mother dear. And
just as soon as she wakes up--this is your bath--you'll want to
freshen up. Dear me; who could have hung the baby's little shirt
here? The nurse, I suppose. If I don't attend to every little
Emma took off her hat and smoothed her hair with light, deft
fingers. She turned a smiling face toward Jock and Grace
standing there in the doorway.
"Now don't bother, dear. If you knew how I love having that
little shirt to look at! And I've such things in my trunk! Wait
till you see them."
So she possessed her soul in patience for one hour, two hours.
At the end of the second hour, a little wail went up. Grace
vanished down the hall. Emma, her heart beating very fast,
followed her. A moment later she was bending over a very pink
morsel with very blue eyes and she was saying, over and over in a
rapture of delightful idiocy:
"Say hello to your gran-muzzer, yes her is! Say, hello,
granny!" And her longing arms reached down to take up her
"Not now!" Grace said hastily. "We never play with her just
before feeding-time. We find that it excites her, and that's bad
for her digestion."
"Dear me!" marveled Emma. "I don't remember worrying about
Jock's digestion when he was two and a half months old!"
It was thus that Emma McChesney Buck, for many years accustomed
to leadership, learned to follow humbly and in silence. She had
always been the orbit about which her world revolved. Years of
brilliant success, of triumphant execution, had not spoiled her,
or made her offensively dictatorial. But they had taught her a
certain self-confidence; had accustomed her to a degree of
deference from others. Now she was the humblest of the
satellites revolving about this sun of the household. She
learned to tiptoe when small Emma McChesney was sleeping. She
learned that the modern mother does not approve of the holding of
a child in one's arms, no matter how those arms might be aching
to feel the frail weight of the soft, sweet body. She who had
brought a child into the world, who had had to train that child
alone, had raised him single-handed, had educated him, denied
herself for him, made a man of him, now found herself all
ignorant of twentieth century child-raising methods. She learned
strange things about barley-water and formulae and units and
olive oil, and orange juice and ounces and farina, and
bath-thermometers and blue-and-white striped nurses who view
grandmothers with a coldly disapproving and pitying eye.
She watched the bathing-process for the first time with wonder as
frank as it was unfeigned.
"And I thought I was a modern woman!" she marveled. "When I
used to bathe Jock I tested the temperature of the water with my
elbow; and I know my mother used to test my bath-water when I was
a baby by putting me into it. She used to say that if I turned
blue she knew the water was too cold, and if I turned red she
knew it was too hot."
"Humph!" snorted the blue-and-white striped nurse, and rightly.
"Oh, I don't say that your method isn't the proper one," Emma
hastened to say humbly, and watched Grace scrutinize the
bath-thermometer with critical eye.
In the days that followed, there came calling the mothers of
Grace's young-women friends, as Jock had predicted. Charming
elderly women, most of them, all of them gracious and friendly
with that generous friendliness which is of the West. But each
fell into one of two classes--the placid, black-silk, rather
vague woman of middle age, whose face has the blank look of the
sheltered woman and who wrinkles early from sheer lack of
sufficient activity or vital interest in life; and the wiry,
well-dressed, assertive type who talked about her club work and
her charities, her voice always taking the rising inflection at
the end of a sentence, as though addressing a meeting. When they
met Emma, it was always with a little startled look of surprise,
followed by something that bordered on disapproval. Emma, the
keenly observant, watching them, felt vaguely uncomfortable. She
tried to be politely interested in what they had to say, but she
found her thoughts straying a thousand miles away to the man whom
she loved and who loved her, to the big, busy factory with its
humming machinery and its capable office staff, to the tasteful,
comfortable, spacious house that she had helped to plan; to all
the vital absorbing, fascinating and constructive interests with
which her busy New York life was filled to overflowing.
So she looked smilingly at the plump, gray-haired ladies who
came a-calling in their smart black with the softening
lace-effect at the throat, and they looked, smiling politely,
too, at this slim, erect, pink-cheeked, bright-eyed woman with
the shining golden hair and the firm, smooth skin, and the alert
manner; and in their eyes was that distrust which lurks in the
eyes of a woman as she looks at another woman of her own age who
doesn't show it.
In the weeks of her stay, Emma managed, little by little, to take
the place of second mother in the household. She had tact and
finesse and cleverness enough even for that herculean feat.
Grace's pale cheeks and last year's wardrobe made her firm in her
"Grace," she said, one day, "listen to me: I want you to get
some clothes--a lot of them, and foolish ones, all of them.
Babies are all very well, but husbands have some slight right to
consideration. The clock, for you, is an instrument devised to
cut up the day and night into your baby's eating- and
sleeping-periods. I want you to get some floppy hats with roses
on 'em, and dresses with ruffles and sashes. I'll stay home and
guard your child from vandals and ogres. Scat!"
Her stay lengthened to four weeks, five weeks, six. She had the
satisfaction of seeing the roses blooming in Grace's cheeks as
well as in her hats. She learned to efface her own personality
that others might shine who had a better right. And she lost
some of her own bright color, a measure of her own buoyancy. In
the sixth week she saw, in her mirror, something that caused her
to lean forward, to stare for one intent moment, then to shrink
back, wide-eyed. A little sunburst, hair-fine but undeniable,
was etched delicately about the corners of her eyes. Fifteen
minutes later, she had wired New York thus:
Home Friday. Do you still love me? EMMA.
When she left, little Emma McChesney was sleeping, by a curious
coincidence, as she had been when Emma arrived, so that she could
not have the satisfaction of a last pressure of the lips against
the rose-petal cheek. She had to content herself with listening
close to the door in the vain hope of catching a last sound of
the child's breathing.
She was laden with fruits and flowers and magazines on her
departure, as she had been when she left New York. But, somehow,
these things did not seem to interest her. After the train had
left Chicago's smoky buildings far behind, she sat very still for
a long time, her eyes shut. She told herself that she felt and
looked very old, very tired, very unlike the Emma McChesney Buck
who had left New York a few weeks before. Then she thought of T.
A., and her eyes unclosed and she smiled. By the time the train
had reached Cleveland the little lines seemed miraculously to
have disappeared, somehow, from about her eyes. When they left
the One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street station she was a
creature transformed. And when the train rolled into the great
down-town shed, Emma was herself again, bright-eyed, alert,
There was no searching, no hesitation. Her eyes met his, and his
eyes found hers with a quite natural magnetism.
"Oh, T. A., my dear, my dear! I didn't know you were so
handsome! And how beautiful New York is! Tell me: Have I grown
old? Have I?"
T. A. bundled her into a taxi and gazed at her in some alarm.
"You! Old! What put that nonsense into your head? You're
tired, dear. We'll go home, and you'll have a good rest, and a
"Rest!" echoed Emma, and sat up very straight, her cheeks pink.
"Quiet evening! T. A. Buck, listen to me. I've had nothing but
rest and quiet evenings for six weeks. I feel a million years
old. One more day of being a grandmother and I should have died!
Do you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to stop at Fifth
Avenue this minute and buy a hat that's a thousand times too
young for me, and you're going with me to tell me that it isn't.
And then you'll take me somewhere to dinner--a place with music
and pink shades. And then I want to see a wicked play,
preferably with a runway through the center aisle for the chorus.
And then I want to go somewhere and dance! Get that, dear?
Dance! Tell me, T. A.--tell me the truth: Do you think I'm old,
and faded, and wistful and grandmotherly?"
"I think," said T. A. Buck, "that you're the most beautiful,
the most wonderful, the most adorable woman in the world, and the
more foolish your new hat is and the later we dance the better
I'll like it. It has been awful without you, Emma."
Emma closed her eyes and there came from the depths of her heart
a great sigh of relief, and comfort and gratification.
"Oh, T. A., my dear, it's all very well to drown your identity
in the music of the orchestra, but there's nothing equal to the
soul-filling satisfaction that you get in solo work."
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