Part 2 out of 7
voice. "Oh, Mother!"
And in that moment Molly Brandeis knew. Emil Bauer
introduced them, floridly. Molly Brandeis held out her
hand, and her keen brown eyes looked straight and long into
the gifted Russian's pale blue ones. According to all rules
he should have started a dramatic speech, beginning with
"Madame!" hand on heart. But Schabelitz the great had
sprung from Schabelitz the peasant boy, and in the process
he had managed, somehow, to retain the simplicity which was
his charm. Still, there was something queer and foreign in
the way he bent over Mrs. Brandeis's hand. We do not bow
like that in Winnebago.
"Mrs. Brandeis, I am honored to meet you."
"And I to meet you," replied the shopkeeper in the black
"I have just had the pleasure of hearing your son play,"
"Mr. Bauer called me out of my economics class at school,
Mother, and said that----"
"Theodore!" Theodore subsided.
"He is only a boy," went on Schabelitz, and put one hand on
Theodore's shoulder. "A very gifted boy. I hear hundreds.
Oh, how I suffer, sometimes, to listen to their devilish
scraping! To-day, my friend Bauer met me with that old
plea, `You must hear this pupil play. He has genius.'
`Bah! Genius!' I said, and I swore at him a little, for he
is my friend, Bauer. But I went with him to his studio--
Bauer, that is a remarkably fine place you have there, above
that drug store; a room of exceptional proportions. And
those rugs, let me tell you----"
"Never mind the rugs, Schabelitz. Mrs. Brandeis here----"
"Oh, yes, yes! Well, dear lady, this boy of yours will be a
great violinist if he is willing to work, and work, and
work. He has what you in America call the spark. To make
it a flame he must work, always work. You must send him to
Dresden, under Auer."
"Dresden!" echoed Molly Brandeis faintly, and put one hand
on the table that held the fancy cups and saucers, and they
jingled a little.
"A year, perhaps, first, in New York with Wolfsohn."
Wolfsohn! New York! Dresden! It was too much even for
Molly Brandeis' well-balanced brain. She was conscious of
feeling a little dizzy. At that moment Pearl approached
apologetically. "Pardon me, Mis' Brandeis, but Mrs. Trost
wants to know if you'll send the boiler special this
afternoon. She wants it for the washing early to-morrow
That served to steady her.
"Tell Mrs. Trost I'll send it before six to-night." Her
eyes rested on Theodore's face, flushed now, and glowing.
Then she turned and faced Schabelitz squarely. "Perhaps you
do not know that this store is our support. I earn a living
here for myself and my two children. You see what it is--
just a novelty and notion store in a country town. I speak
of this because it is the important thing. I have known for
a long time that Theodore's playing was not the playing of
the average boy, musically gifted. So what you tell me does
not altogether surprise me. But when you say Dresden--well,
from Brandeis' Bazaar in Winnebago, Wisconsin, to Auer, in
Dresden, Germany, is a long journey for one afternoon."
"But of course you must have time to think it over. It must
be brought about, somehow."
"Somehow----" Mrs. Brandeis stared straight ahead, and you
could almost hear that indomitable will of hers working,
crashing over obstacles, plowing through difficulties.
Theodore watched her, breathless, as though expecting an
immediate solution. His mother's eyes met his own
intent ones, and at that her mobile mouth quirked in a
sudden smile. "You look as if you expected pearls to pop
out of my mouth, son. And, by the way, if you're going to a
concert this evening don't you think it would be a good idea
to squander an hour on study this afternoon? You may be a
musical prodigy, but geometry's geometry."
"Oh, Mother! Please!"
"I want to talk to Mr. Schabelitz and Mr. Bauer, alone."
She patted his shoulder, and the last pat ended in a gentle
push. "Run along."
"I'll work, Mother. You know perfectly well I'll work."
But he looked so startlingly like his father as he said it
that Mrs. Brandeis felt a clutching at her heart.
Theodore out of the way, they seemed to find very little to
discuss, after all. Schabelitz was so quietly certain,
Bauer so triumphantly proud.
Said Schabelitz, "Wolfsohn, of course, receives ten dollars
a lesson ordinarily."
"But a pupil like Theodore is in the nature of an
investment," Bauer hastened to explain. "An advertisement.
After hearing him play, and after what Schabelitz here will
have to say for him, Wolfsohn will certainly give Theodore
lessons for nothing, or next to nothing. You remember" --
proudly-- "I offered to teach him without charge, but you
would not have it."
Schabelitz smote his friend sharply on the shoulder "The
true musician! Oh, Bauer, Bauer! That you should bury
yourself in this----"
But Bauer stopped him with a gesture. "Mrs. Brandeis is a
busy woman. And as she says, this thing needs thinking
"After all," said Mrs. Brandeis, "there isn't much to think
about. I know just where I stand. It's a case of
mathematics, that's all. This business of mine is just
beginning to pay. From now on I shall be able to save
something every year. It might be enough to cover his
musical education. It would mean that Fanny--my daughter--
and I would have to give up everything. For myself, I
should be only too happy, too proud. But it doesn't seem
fair to her. After all, a girl----"
"It isn't fair," broke in Schabelitz. "It isn't fair. But
that is the way of genius. It never is fair. It takes, and
takes, and takes. I know. My mother could tell you, if she
were alive. She sold the little farm, and my sisters gave
up their dowries, and with them their hopes of marriage, and
they lived on bread and cabbage. That was not to pay for my
lessons. They never could have done that. It was only to
send me to Moscow. We were very poor. They must have
starved. I have come to know, since, that it was not worth
it. That nothing could be worth it."
"But it was worth it. Your mother would do it all over
again, if she had the chance. That's what we're for."
Bauer pulled out his watch and uttered a horrified
exclamation. "Himmel! Four o'clock! And I have a pupil at
four." He turned hastily to Mrs. Brandeis. "I am giving a
little supper in my studio after the concert to-night."
"Oh, Gott!" groaned Schabelitz.
"It is in honor of Schabelitz here. You see how overcome he
is. Will you let me bring Theodore back with me after the
concert? There will be some music, and perhaps he will play
Schabelitz bent again in his queer little foreign bow. "And
you, of course, will honor us, Mrs. Brandeis." He had never
lived in Winnebago.
"Oh, certainly," Bauer hastened to say. He had.
"I!" Molly Brandeis looked down at her apron, and
stroked it with her fingers. Then she looked up with a
little smile that was not so pleasant as her smile usually
was. There had flashed across her quick mind a picture of
Mrs. G. Manville Smith. Mrs. G. Manville Smith, in an
evening gown whose decolletage was discussed from the Haley
House to Gerretson's department store next morning, was
always a guest at Bauer's studio affairs. "Thank you, but
it is impossible. And Theodore is only a schoolboy. Just
now he needs, more than anything else in the world, nine
hours of sleep every night. There will be plenty of time
for studio suppers later. When a boy's voice is changing,
and he doesn't know what to do with his hands and feet, he
is better off at home."
"God! These mothers!" exclaimed Schabelitz. "What do they
"I suppose you are right." Bauer was both rueful and
relieved. It would have been fine to show off Theodore as
his pupil and Schabelitz's protege. But Mrs. Brandeis? No,
that would never do. "Well, I must go. We will talk about
this again, Mrs. Brandeis. In two weeks Schabelitz will
pass through Winnebago again on his way back to Chicago.
Meanwhile he will write Wolfsohn. I also. So! Come,
He turned to see that gentleman strolling off in the
direction of the notion counter behind which his expert eye
had caught a glimpse of Sadie in her white shirtwaist and
her trim skirt. Sadie always knew what they were wearing on
State Street, Chicago, half an hour after Mrs. Brandeis
returned from one of her buying trips. Shirtwaists had just
come in, and with them those neat leather belts with a
buckle, and about the throat they were wearing folds of
white satin ribbon, smooth and high and tight, the two ends
tied pertly at the back. Sadie would never be the
saleswoman that Pearl was, but her unfailing good nature and
her cheery self-confidence made her an asset in the store.
Besides, she was pretty. Mrs. Brandeis knew the value
of a pretty clerk.
At the approach of this stranger Sadie leaned coyly against
the stocking rack and patted her paper sleevelets that were
secured at wrist and elbow with elastic bands. Her method
was sure death to traveling men. She prepared now to try it
on the world-famous virtuoso. The ease with which she
succeeded surprised even Sadie, accustomed though she was to
"Come, come, Schabelitz!" said Bauer again. "I must get
"Then go, my friend. Go along and make your preparations
for that studio supper. The only interesting woman in
Winnebago--" he bowed to Mrs. Brandeis-- "will not be there.
I know them, these small-town society women, with their
imitation city ways. And bony! Always! I am enjoying
myself. I shall stay here."
And he did stay. Sadie, talking it over afterward with
Pearl and Aloysius, put it thus:
"They say he's the grandest violin player in the world. Not
that I care much for the violin, myself. Kind of squeaky, I
always think. But it just goes to show they're all alike.
Ain't it the truth? I jollied him just like I did Sam
Bloom, of Ganz & Pick, Novelties, an hour before. He
laughed just where Sam did. And they both handed me a line
of talk about my hair and eyes, only Sam said I was a doll,
and this Schabelitz, or whatever his name is, said I was as
alluring as a Lorelei. I guess he thought he had me there,
but I didn't go through the seventh reader for nothing. `If
you think I'm flattered,' I said to him, `you're mistaken.
She was the mess who used to sit out on a rock with her back
hair down, combing away and singing like mad, and keeping an
eye out for sailors up and down the river. If I had to work
that hard to get some attention,' I said, `I'd give up the
struggle, and settle down with a cat and a teakettle.'
At that he just threw back his head and roared. And when
Mrs. Brandeis came up he said something about the wit of
these American women. `Work is a great sharpener of wit--
and wits,' Mrs. Brandeis said to him. `Pearl, did Aloysius
send Eddie out with that boiler, special?' And she didn't
pay any more attention to him, or make any more fuss over
him, than she would to a traveler with a line of samples she
wasn't interested in. I guess that's why he had such a good
Sadie was right. That was the reason. Fanny, coming into
the store half an hour later, saw this man who had swayed
thousands with his music, down on his hands and knees in the
toy section at the rear of Brandeis' Bazaar. He and Sadie
and Aloysius were winding up toy bears, and clowns, and
engines, and carriages, and sending them madly racing across
the floor. Sometimes their careening career was threatened
with disaster in the form of a clump of brooms or a stack of
galvanized pails. But Schabelitz would scramble forward
with a shout and rescue them just before the crash came, and
set them deftly off again in the opposite direction.
"This I must have for my boy in New York." He held up a
miniature hook and ladder. "And this windmill that whirls
so busily. My Leo is seven, and his head is full of
engines, and motors, and things that run on wheels. He
cares no more for music, the little savage, than the son of
"Who is that man?" Fanny whispered, staring at him.
"Schabelitz! Not the--"
"But he's playing on the floor like--like a little boy! And
laughing! Why, Mother, he's just like anybody else, only
If Fanny had been more than fourteen her mother might have
told her that all really great people are like that, finding
joy in simple things. I think that is the secret of their
genius--the child in them that keeps their viewpoint fresh,
and that makes us children again when we listen to them. It
is the Schabelitzes of this world who can shout over a toy
engine that would bore a Bauer to death.
Fanny stood looking at him thoughtfully. She knew all about
him. Theodore's talk of the past week had accomplished
that. Fanny knew that here was a man who did one thing
better than any one else in the world. She thrilled to that
thought. She adored the quality in people that caused them
to excel. Schabelitz had got hold of a jack-in-the-box, and
each time the absurd head popped out, with its grin and its
squawk, he laughed like a boy. Fanny, standing behind the
wrapping counter, and leaning on it with her elbows the
better to see this great man, smiled too, as her flexible
spirit and her mobile mind caught his mood. She did not
know she was smiling. Neither did she know why she suddenly
frowned in the intensity of her concentration, reached up
for one of the pencils on the desk next the wrapping
counter, and bent over the topmost sheet of yellow wrapping
paper that lay spread out before her. Her tongue-tip curled
excitedly at one corner of her mouth. Her head was cocked
to one side.
She was rapidly sketching a crude and startling likeness of
Levine Schabelitz as he stood there with the ridiculous toy
in his hand. It was a trick she often amused herself with
at school. She had drawn her school-teacher one day as she
had looked when gazing up into the eyes of the visiting
superintendent, who was a married man. Quite innocently and
unconsciously she had caught the adoring look in the eyes of
Miss McCook, the teacher, and that lady, happening upon the
sketch later, had dealt with Fanny in a manner seemingly
unwarranted. In the same way it was not only the exterior
likeness of the man which she was catching now--the
pompadour that stood stiffly perpendicular like a brush; the
square, yellow peasant teeth; the strong, slender hands and
wrists; the stocky figure; the high cheek bones; the square-
toed, foreign-looking shoes and the trousers too wide at the
instep to have been cut by an American tailor. She caught
and transmitted to paper, in some uncanny way, the
simplicity of the man who was grinning at the jack-in-the-
box that smirked back at him. Behind the veneer of poise
and polish born of success and adulation she had caught a
glimpse of the Russian peasant boy delighted with the crude
toy in his hand. And she put it down eagerly, wetting her
pencil between her lips, shading here, erasing there.
Mrs. Brandeis, bustling up to the desk for a customer's
change, and with a fancy dish to be wrapped, in her hand,
glanced over Fanny's shoulder. She leaned closer. "Why,
Fanny, you witch!"
Fanny gave a little crow of delight and tossed her head in a
way that switched her short curls back from where they had
fallen over her shoulders. "It's like him, isn't it?"
"It looks more like him than he does himself." With which
Molly Brandeis unconsciously defined the art of cartooning.
Fanny looked down at it, a smile curving her lips. Mrs.
Brandeis, dish in hand, counted her change expertly from the
till below the desk, and reached for the sheet of wrapping
paper just beneath that on which Fanny had made her drawing.
At that moment Schabelitz, glancing up, saw her, and came
forward, smiling, the jack-in-the-box still in his hand.
"Dear lady, I hope I have not entirely disorganized your
shop. I have had a most glorious time. Would you believe
it, this jack-in-the-box looks exactly--but exactly--
like my manager, Weber, when the box-office receipts are
good. He grins just--"
And then his eye fell on the drawing that Fanny was trying
to cover with one brown paw. "Hello! What's this?" Then
he looked at Fanny. Then he grasped her wrist in his
fingers of steel and looked at the sketch that grinned back
at him impishly. "Well, I'm damned!" exploded Schabelitz in
amusement, and surprise, and appreciation. And did not
apologize. "And who is this young lady with the sense of
"This is my little girl, Fanny."
He looked down at the rough sketch again, with its clean-cut
satire, and up again at the little girl in the school coat
and the faded red tam o' shanter, who was looking at him
shyly, and defiantly, and provokingly, all at once.
"Your little girl Fanny, h'm? The one who is to give up
everything that the boy Theodore may become a great
violinist." He bent again over the crude, effective
cartoon, then put a forefinger gently under the child's chin
and tipped her glowing face up to the light. "I am not so
sure now that it will work. As for its being fair! Why,
Fanny waited for her mother that evening, and they walked
home together. Their step and swing were very much alike,
now that Fanny's legs were growing longer. She was at the
"What did he mean, Mother, when he said that about Theodore
being a great violinist, and its not being fair? What isn't
fair? And how did he happen to be in the store, anyway? He
bought a heap of toys, didn't he? I suppose he's awfully
"To-night, when Theodore's at the concert, I'll tell you
what he meant, and all about it."
"I'd love to hear him play, wouldn't you? I'd just love
Over Molly Brandeis's face there came a curious look.
"You could hear him, Fanny, in Theodore's place. Theodore
would have to stay home if I told him to."
Fanny's eyes and mouth grew round with horror. "Theodore
stay home! Why Mrs.--Molly--Brandeis!" Then she broke into
a little relieved laugh. "But you're just fooling, of
"No, I'm not. If you really want to go I'll tell Theodore
to give up his ticket to his sister."
"Well, my goodness! I guess I'm not a pig. I wouldn't have
Theodore stay home, not for a million dollars."
"I knew you wouldn't," said Molly Brandeis as they swung
down Norris Street. And she told Fanny briefly of what
Schabelitz had said about Theodore.
It was typical of Theodore that he ate his usual supper that
night. He may have got his excitement vicariously from
Fanny. She was thrilled enough for two. Her food lay
almost untouched on her plate. She chattered incessantly.
When Theodore began to eat his second baked apple with
cream, her outraged feelings voiced their protest.
"But, Theodore, I don't see how you can!"
"Eat like that. When you're going to hear him play. And
after what he said, and everything."
"Well, is that any reason why I should starve to death?"
"But I don't see how you can," repeated Fanny helplessly,
and looked at her mother. Mrs. Brandeis reached for the
cream pitcher and poured a little more cream over Theodore's
baked apple. Even as she did it her eyes met Fanny's, and
in them was a certain sly amusement, a little gleam of fun,
a look that said, "Neither do I." Fanny sat back,
satisfied. Here, at least, was some one who understood.
At half past seven Theodore, looking very brushed and
sleek, went off to meet Emil Bauer. Mrs. Brandeis had
looked him over, and had said, "Your nails!" and sent him
back to the bathroom, and she had resisted the desire to
kiss him because Theodore disliked demonstration. "He hated
to be pawed over," was the way he put it. After he had
gone, Mrs. Brandeis went into the dining-room where Fanny
was sitting. Mattie had cleared the table, and Fanny was
busy over a book and a tablet, by the light of the lamp that
they always used for studying. It was one of the rare
occasions when she had brought home a school lesson. It was
arithmetic, and Fanny loathed arithmetic. She had no head
for mathematics. The set of problems were eighth-grade
horrors, in which A is digging a well 20 feet deep and 9
feet wide; or in which A and B are papering two rooms, or
building two fences, or plastering a wall. If A does his
room in 9 1/2 days, the room being 12 feet high, 20 feet
long, and 15 1/2 feet wide, how long will it take B to do a
room 14 feet high, 11 3/4 feet, etc.
Fanny hated the indefatigable A and B with a bitter personal
hatred. And as for that occasional person named C, who
complicated matters still more--!
Sometimes Mrs. Brandeis helped to disentangle Fanny from the
mazes of her wall paper problems, or dragged her up from the
bottom of the well when it seemed that she was down there
for eternity unless a friendly hand rescued her. As a rule
she insisted that Fanny crack her own mathematical nuts.
She said it was good mental training, not to speak of the
moral side of it. But to-night she bent her quick mind upon
the problems that were puzzling her little daughter, and
cleared them up in no time.
When Fanny had folded her arithmetic papers neatly inside
her book and leaned back with a relieved sigh Molly Brandeis
bent forward in the lamplight and began to talk very
soberly. Fanny, red-cheeked and bright-eyed from her
recent mental struggles, listened interestedly, then
intently, then absorbedly. She attempted to interrupt,
sometimes, with an occasional, "But, Mother, how--" but Mrs.
Brandeis shook her head and went on. She told Fanny a few
things about her early married life--things that made Fanny
look at her with new eyes. She had always thought of her
mother as her mother, in the way a fourteen-year-old girl
does. It never occurred to her that this mother person, who
was so capable, so confident, so worldly-wise, had once been
a very young bride, with her life before her, and her hopes
stepping high, and her love keeping time with her hopes.
Fanny heard, fascinated, the story of this girl who had
married against the advice of her family and her friends.
Molly Brandeis talked curtly and briefly, and her very
brevity and lack of embroidering details made the story
stand out with stark realism. It was such a story of
courage, and pride, and indomitable will, and sheer pluck as
can only be found among the seemingly commonplace.
"And so," she finished, "I used to wonder, sometimes,
whether it was worth while to keep on, and what it was all
for. And now I know. Theodore is going to make up for
everything. Only we'll have to help him, first. It's going
to be hard on you, Fanchen. I'm talking to you as if you
were eighteen, instead of fourteen. But I want you to
understand. That isn't fair to you either--my expecting you
to understand. Only I don't want you to hate me too much
when you're a woman, and I'm gone, and you'll remember--"
"Why, Mother, what in the world are you talking about? Hate
"For what I took from you to give to him, Fanny. You don't
understand now. Things must be made easy for Theodore. It
will mean that you and I will have to scrimp and save. Not
now and then, but all the time. It will mean that we
can't go to the theater, even occasionally, or to lectures,
or concerts. It will mean that your clothes won't be as
pretty or as new as the other girls' clothes. You'll sit on
the front porch evenings, and watch them go by, and you'll
want to go too."
"As if I cared."
"But you will care. I know. I know. It's easy enough to
talk about sacrifice in a burst of feeling; but it's the
everyday, shriveling grind that's hard. You'll want
clothes, and books, and beaux, and education, and you ought
to have them. They're your right. You ought to have them!"
Suddenly Molly Brandeis' arms were folded on the table, and
her head came down on her arms and she was crying, quietly,
horribly, as a man cries. Fanny stared at her a moment in
unbelief. She had not seen her mother cry since the day of
Ferdinand Brandeis' death. She scrambled out of her chair
and thrust her head down next her mother's, so that her hot,
smooth cheek touched the wet, cold one. "Mother, don't!
Don't Molly dearie. I can't bear it. I'm going to cry too.
Do you think I care for old dresses and things? I should
say not. It's going to be fun going without things. It'll
be like having a secret or something. Now stop, and let's
talk about it."
Molly Brandeis wiped her eyes, and sat up, and smiled. It
was a watery and wavering smile, but it showed that she was
mistress of herself again.
"No," she said, "we just won't talk about it any more. I'm
tired, that's what's the matter with me, and I haven't sense
enough to know it. I'll tell you what. I'm going to put on
my kimono, and you'll make some fudge. Will you? We'll
have a party, all by ourselves, and if Mattie scolds about
the milk to-morrow you just tell her I said you could. And
I think there are some walnut meats in the third cocoa can
on the shelf in the pantry. Use 'em all."
Theodore came home at twelve o'clock that night. He had
gone to Bauer's studio party after all. It was the first
time he had deliberately disobeyed his mother in a really
big thing. Mrs. Brandeis and Fanny had nibbled fudge all
evening (it had turned out deliciously velvety) and had gone
to bed at their usual time. At half past ten Mrs. Brandeis
had wakened with the instinctive feeling that Theodore was
not in the house. She lay there, wide awake, staring into
the darkness until eleven. Then she got up and went into
his room, though she knew he was not there. She was not
worried as to his whereabouts or his well-being. That same
instinctive feeling told her where he was. She was very
angry, and a little terrified at the significance of his
act. She went back to bed again, and she felt the blood
pounding in her head. Molly Brandeis had a temper, and it
was surging now, and beating against the barriers of her
She told herself, as she lay there, that she must deal with
him coolly and firmly, though she wanted to spank him. The
time for spankings was past. Some one was coming down the
street with a quick, light step. She sat up in bed,
listening. The steps passed the house, went on. A half
hour passed. Some one turned the corner, whistling
blithely. But, no, he would not be whistling, she told
herself. He would sneak in, quietly. It was a little after
twelve when she heard the front door open (Winnebago rarely
locked its doors). She was surprised to feel her heart
beating rapidly. He was trying to be quiet, and was making
a great deal of noise about it. His shoes and the squeaky
fifth stair alone would have convicted him. The imp
of perversity in Molly Brandeis made her smile, angry as she
was, at the thought of how furious he must be at that stair.
"Theodore!" she called quietly, just as he was tip-toeing
past her room.
"Come in here. And turn on the light."
He switched on the light and stood there in the doorway.
Molly Brandeis, sitting up in bed in the chilly room, with
her covers about her, was conscious of a little sick
feeling, not at what he had done, but that a son of hers
should ever wear the sullen, defiant, hang-dog look that
disfigured Theodore's face now.
A pause. "Yes."
"I just stopped in there for a minute after the concert. I
didn't mean to stay. And then Bauer introduced me around to
everybody. And then they asked me to play, and--"
"And you played badly."
"Well, I didn't have my own violin."
"No football game Saturday. And no pocket money this week.
Go to bed."
He went, breathing hard, and muttering a little under his
breath. At breakfast next morning Fanny plied him with
questions and was furious at his cool uncommunicativeness.
"Was it wonderful, Theodore? Did he play--oh--like an
"Played all right. Except the `Swan' thing. Maybe he
thought it was too easy, or something, but I thought he
murdered it. Pass the toast, unless you want it all."
It was not until the following autumn that Theodore went
to New York. The thing that had seemed so impossible was
arranged. He was to live in Brooklyn with a distant cousin
of Ferdinand Brandeis, on a business basis, and he was to
come into New York three times a week for his lessons. Mrs.
Brandeis took him as far as Chicago, treated him to an
extravagant dinner, put him on the train and with difficulty
stifled the impulse to tell all the other passengers in the
car to look after her Theodore. He looked incredibly grown
up and at ease in his new suit and the hat that they had
wisely bought in Chicago. She did not cry at all (in the
train), and she kissed him only twice, and no man can ask
more than that of any mother.
Molly Brandeis went back to Winnebago and the store with her
shoulders a little more consciously squared, her jaw a
little more firmly set. There was something almost terrible
about her concentrativeness. Together she and Fanny began a
life of self-denial of which only a woman could be capable.
They saved in ways that only a woman's mind could devise;
petty ways, that included cream and ice, and clothes, and
candy. It was rather fun at first. When that wore off it
had become a habit. Mrs. Brandeis made two resolutions
regarding Fanny. One was that she should have at least a
high school education, and graduate. The other that she
should help in the business of the store as little as
possible. To the first Fanny acceded gladly. To the second
"But why? If you can work, why can't I? I could help you a
lot on Saturdays and at Christmas time, and after school."
"I don't want you to," Mrs. Brandeis had replied, almost
fiercely. "I'm giving my life to it. That's enough. I
don't want you to know about buying and selling. I don't
want you to know a bill of lading from a sales slip when you
see it. I don't want you to know whether f. o. b. is a
wireless signal or a branch of the Masons." At which
Fanny grinned. No one appreciated her mother's humor more
"But I do know already. The other day when that fat man was
selling you those go-carts I heard him say. `F. o. b.
Buffalo,' and I asked Aloysius what it meant and he told
It was inevitable that Fanny Brandeis should come to know
these things, for the little household revolved about the
store on Elm Street. By the time she was eighteen and had
graduated from the Winnebago high school, she knew so many
things that the average girl of eighteen did not know, and
was ignorant of so many things that the average girl of
eighteen did know, that Winnebago was almost justified in
thinking her queer. She had had a joyous time at school, in
spite of algebra and geometry and physics. She took the
part of the heroine in the senior class play given at the
Winnebago opera house, and at the last rehearsal electrified
those present by announcing that if Albert Finkbein (who
played the dashing Southern hero) didn't kiss her properly
when the curtain went down on the first act, just as he was
going into battle, she'd rather he didn't kiss her at all.
"He just makes it ridiculous," she protested. "He sort of
gives a peck two inches from my nose, and then giggles.
Everybody will laugh, and it'll spoil everything."
With the rather startled elocution teacher backing her she
rehearsed the bashful Albert in that kiss until she had
achieved the effect of realism that she thought the scene
demanded. But when, on the school sleighing parties and hay
rides the boy next her slipped a wooden and uncertain arm
about her waist while they all were singing "Jingle Bells,
Jingle Bells," and "Good Night Ladies," and "Merrily We Roll
Along," she sat up stiffly and unyieldingly until the arm,
discouraged, withdrew to its normal position. Which two
instances are quoted as being of a piece with what
Winnebago termed her queerness.
Not that Fanny Brandeis went beauless through school. On
the contrary, she always had some one to carry her books,
and to take her to the school parties and home from the
Friday night debating society meetings. Her first love
affair turned out disastrously. She was twelve, and she
chose as the object of her affections a bullet-headed boy
named Simpson. One morning, as the last bell rang and they
were taking their seats, Fanny passed his desk and gave his
coarse and stubbly hair a tweak. It was really a love
tweak, and intended to be playful, but she probably put more
fervor into it than she knew. It brought the tears of pain
to his eyes, and he turned and called her the name at which
she shrank back, horrified. Her shock and unbelief must
have been stamped on her face, for the boy, still smarting,
had snarled, "Ya-as, I mean it,
It was strange how she remembered that incident years after
she had forgotten important happenings in her life.
Clarence Heyl, whose very existence you will have failed to
remember, used to hover about her uncertainly, always
looking as if he would like to walk home with her, but never
summoning the courage to do it. They were graduated from
the grammar school together, and Clarence solemnly read a
graduation essay entitled "Where is the Horse?" Automobiles
were just beginning to flash plentifully up and down Elm
Street. Clarence had always been what Winnebago termed
sickly, in spite of his mother's noodle soup, and coddling.
He was sent West, to Colorado, or to a ranch in Wyoming,
Fanny was not quite sure which, perhaps because she was not
interested. He had come over one afternoon to bid her good-
by, and had dangled about the front porch until she went
into the house and shut the door.
When she was sixteen there was a blond German boy whose
taciturnity attracted her volubility and vivacity. She
mistook his stolidness for depth, and it was a long time
before she realized that his silence was not due to the
weight of his thoughts but to the fact that he had nothing
to say. In her last year at high school she found herself
singled out for the attentions of Harmon Kent, who was the
Beau Nash of the Winnebago high school. His clothes were
made by Schwartze, the tailor, when all the other boys of
his age got theirs at the spring and fall sales of the
Golden Eagle Clothing Store. It was always nip and tuck
between his semester standings and his track team and
football possibilities. The faculty refused to allow
flunkers to take part in athletics.
He was one of those boys who have definite charm, and
manner, and poise at seventeen, and who crib their exams off
their cuffs. He was always at the head of any social plans
in the school, and at the dances he rushed about wearing in
his coat lapel a ribbon marked Floor Committee. The
teachers all knew he was a bluff, but his engaging manner
carried him through. When he went away to the state
university he made Fanny solemnly promise to write; to come
down to Madison for the football games; to be sure to
remember about the Junior prom. He wrote once--a badly
spelled scrawl--and she answered. But he was the sort of
person who must be present to be felt. He could not project
his personality. When he came home for the Christmas
holidays Fanny was helping in the store. He dropped in one
afternoon when she was selling whisky glasses to Mike Hearn
of the Farmers' Rest Hotel.
They did not write at all during the following semester, and
when he came back for the long summer vacation they met on
the street one day and exchanged a few rather forced
pleasantries. It suddenly dawned on Fanny that he was
patronizing her much as the scion of an aristocratic line
banters the housemaid whom he meets on the stairs. She bit
an imaginary apron corner, and bobbed a curtsy right there
on Elm Street, in front of the Courier office and walked
off, leaving him staring. It was shortly after this that
she began a queer line of reading for a girl--lives of
Disraeli, Spinoza, Mendelssohn, Mozart--distinguished Jews
who had found their religion a handicap.
The year of her graduation she did a thing for which
Winnebago felt itself justified in calling her different.
Each member of the graduating class was allowed to choose a
theme for a thesis. Fanny Brandeis called hers "A Piece of
Paper." On Winnebago's Fox River were located a number of
the largest and most important paper mills in the country.
There were mills in which paper was made of wood fiber, and
others in which paper was made of rags. You could smell the
sulphur as soon as you crossed the bridge that led to the
Flats. Sometimes, when the wind was right, the pungent odor
of it spread all over the town. Strangers sniffed it and
made a wry face, but the natives liked it.
The mills themselves were great ugly brick buildings, their
windows festooned with dust webs. Some of them boasted high
detached tower-like structures where a secret acid process
went on. In the early days the mills had employed many
workers, but newly invented machinery had come to take the
place of hand labor. The rag-rooms alone still employed
hundreds of girls who picked, sorted, dusted over the great
suction bins. The rooms in which they worked were gray with
dust. They wore caps over their hair to protect it from the
motes that you could see spinning and swirling in the watery
sunlight that occasionally found its way through the gray-
filmed window panes. It never seemed to occur to them that
the dust cap so carefully pulled down about their heads
did not afford protection for their lungs. They were pale
girls, the rag-room girls, with a peculiarly gray-white
Fanny Brandeis had once been through the Winnebago Paper
Company's mill and she had watched, fascinated, while a pair
of soiled and greasy old blue overalls were dusted and
cleaned, and put through this acid vat, and that acid tub,
growing whiter and more pulpy with each process until it was
fed into a great crushing roller that pressed the moisture
out of it, flattened it to the proper thinness and spewed it
out at last, miraculously, in the form of rolls of crisp,
On the first day of the Easter vacation Fanny Brandeis
walked down to the office of the Winnebago Paper Company's
mill and applied at the superintendent's office for a job.
She got it. They were generally shorthanded in the rag-
room. When Mrs. Brandeis heard of it there followed one of
the few stormy scenes between mother and daughter.
"Why did you do it?" demanded Mrs. Brandeis.
"I had to, to get it right."
"Oh, don't be silly. You could have visited the mill a
Fanny twisted the fingers of her left hand in the fingers of
her right as was her way when she was terribly in earnest,
and rather excited.
"But I don't want to write about the paper business as a
"Well, then, what do you want?"
"I want to write about the overalls on some railroad
engineer, perhaps; or the blue calico wrapper that belonged,
maybe, to a scrub woman. And how they came to be spotted,
or faded, or torn, and finally all worn out. And how the
rag man got them, and the mill, and how the girls sorted
them. And the room in which they do it. And the bins. And
the machinery. Oh, it's the most fascinating, and--and sort
of relentless machinery. And the acid burns on the
hands of the men at the vats. And their shoes. And then
the paper, so white. And the way we tear it up, or crumple
it, and throw it in the waste basket. Just a piece of
paper, don't you see what I mean? Just a piece of paper,
and yet all that--" she stopped and frowned a little, and
grew inarticulate, and gave it up with a final, "Don't you
see what I mean, Mother? Don't you see what I mean?"
Molly Brandeis looked at her daughter in a startled way,
like one who, walking tranquilly along an accustomed path,
finds himself confronting a new and hitherto unsuspected
vista, formed by a peculiar arrangement of clouds, perhaps,
or light, or foliage, or all three blended. "I see what you
mean," she said. "But I wish you wouldn't do it. I--I wish
you didn't feel that you wanted to do it."
"But how can I make it real if I don't?"
"You can't," said Molly Brandeis. "That's just it. You
Fanny got up before six every morning of that Easter
vacation, and went to the mill, lunch box in hand. She came
home at night dead-tired. She did not take the street car
to and from the mill, as she might have, because she said
the other girls in the rag-room walked, some of them from
the very edge of town. Mrs. Brandeis said that she was
carrying things too far, but Fanny stuck it out for the two
weeks, at the end of which period she spent an entire Sunday
in a hair-washing, face-steaming, and manicuring bee. She
wrote her paper from notes she had taken, and turned it in
at the office of the high school principal with the feeling
that it was not at all what she had meant it to be. A week
later Professor Henning called her into his office. The
essay lay on his desk.
"I've read your thesis," he began, and stopped, and cleared
his throat. He was not an eloquent man. "Where did you
get your information, Miss Brandeis?"
"I got it at the mill."
"From one of the employees?"
"Oh, no. I worked there, in the rag-room."
Professor Henning gave a little startled exclamation that he
turned hastily into a cough. "I thought that perhaps the
editor of the Courier might like to see it--it being
local. And interesting."
He brought it down to the office of the little paper
himself, and promised to call for it again in an hour or
two, when Lem Davis should have read it. Lem Davis did read
it, and snorted, and scuffled with his feet in the drift of
papers under his desk, which was a way he had when enraged.
"Read it!" he echoed, at Professor Henning's question.
"Read it! Yes, I read it. And let me tell you it's
socialism of the rankest kind, that's what! It's anarchism,
that's what! Who's this girl? Mrs. Brandeis's daughter--of
the Bazaar? Let me tell you I'd go over there and tell her
what I think of the way she's bringing up that girl--if she
wasn't an advertiser. `A Piece of Paper'! Hell!" And to
show his contempt for what he had read he wadded together a
great mass of exchanges that littered his desk and hurled
them, a crumpled heap, to the floor, and then spat tobacco
juice upon them.
"I'm sorry," said Professor Henning, and rose; but at the
door he turned and said something highly unprofessorial.
"It's a darn fine piece of writing." And slammed the door.
At supper that night he told Mrs. Henning about it. Mrs.
Henning was a practical woman, as the wife of a small-town
high school principal must needs be. "But don't you know,"
she said, "that Roscoe Moore, who is president of the
Outagamie Pulp Mill and the Winnebago Paper Company,
practically owns the Courier?"
Professor Henning passed a hand over his hair, ruefully,
like a school boy. "No, Martha, I didn't know. If I knew
those things, dear, I suppose we wouldn't be eating sausage
for supper to-night." There was a little silence between
them. Then he looked up. "Some day I'm going to brag about
having been that Brandeis girl's teacher."
Fanny was in the store a great deal now. After she finished
high school they sent Mattie away and Fanny took over the
housekeeping duties, but it was not her milieu. Not that
she didn't do it well. She put a perfect fury of energy and
care into the preparation of a pot roast. After she had
iced a cake she enhanced it with cunning arabesques of
jelly. The house shone as it never had, even under Mattie's
honest regime. But it was like hitching a high-power engine
to a butter churn. There were periods of maddening
restlessness. At such times she would set about cleaning
the cellar, perhaps. It was a three-roomed cellar, brick-
floored, cool, and having about it that indefinable cellar
smell which is of mold, and coal, and potatoes, and onions,
and kindling wood, and dill pickles and ashes.
Other girls of Fanny's age, at such times, cleaned out their
bureau drawers and read forbidden novels. Fanny armed
herself with the third best broom, the dust-pan, and an old
bushel basket. She swept up chips, scraped up ashes,
scoured the preserve shelves, washed the windows, cleaned
the vegetable bins, and got gritty, and scarlet-cheeked and
streaked with soot. It was a wonderful safety valve, that
cellar. A pity it was that the house had no attic.
Then there were long, lazy summer afternoons when there was
nothing to do but read. And dream. And watch the town go
by to supper. I think that is why our great men and women
so often have sprung from small towns, or villages. They
have had time to dream in their adolescence. No cars to
catch, no matinees, no city streets, none of the teeming,
empty, energy-consuming occupations of the city child.
Little that is competitive, much that is unconsciously
absorbed at the most impressionable period, long evenings
for reading, long afternoons in the fields or woods. With
the cloth laid, and the bread cut and covered with a napkin,
and the sauce in the glass bowl, and the cookies on a blue
plate, and the potatoes doing very, very slowly, and the
kettle steaming with a Peerybingle cheerfulness, Fanny would
stroll out to the front porch again to watch for the
familiar figure to appear around the corner of Norris
Street. She would wear her blue-and-white checked gingham
apron deftly twisted over one hip, and tucked in, in
deference to the passers-by. And the town would go by--Hen
Cody's drays, rattling and thundering; the high school boys
thudding down the road, dog-tired and sweaty in their
football suits, or their track pants and jersies, on their
way from the athletic field to the school shower baths; Mrs.
Mosher flying home, her skirts billowing behind her, after a
protracted afternoon at whist; little Ernie Trost with a
napkin-covered peach basket carefully balanced in his hand,
waiting for the six-fifteen interurban to round the corner
near the switch, so that he could hand up his father's
supper; Rudie Mass, the butcher, with a moist little packet
of meat in his hand, and lurching ever so slightly, and
looking about defiantly. Oh, Fanny probably never realized
how much she saw and absorbed, sitting there on Brandeis'
front porch, watching Winnebago go by to supper.
At Christmas time she helped in the store, afternoons and
evenings. Then, one Christmas, Mrs. Brandeis was ill for
three weeks with grippe. They had to have a helper in the
house. When Mrs. Brandeis was able to come back to the
store Sadie left to marry, not one of her traveling-men
victims, but a steady person, in the paper-hanging way,
whose suit had long been considered hopeless. After that
Fanny took her place. She developed a surprising knack
at selling. Yet it was not so surprising, perhaps, when one
considered her teacher. She learned as only a woman can
learn who is brought into daily contact with the outside
world. It was not only contact: it was the relation of
buyer and seller. She learned to judge people because she
had to. How else could one gauge their tastes,
temperaments, and pocketbooks? They passed in and out of
Brandeis' Bazaar, day after day, in an endless and varied
procession--traveling men, school children, housewives,
farmers, worried hostesses, newly married couples bent on
house furnishing, business men.
She learned that it was the girls from the paper mills who
bought the expensive plates--the ones with the red roses and
green leaves hand-painted in great smears and costing two
dollars and a half, while the golf club crowd selected for a
gift or prize one of the little white plates with the faded-
looking blue sprig pattern, costing thirty-nine cents. One
day, after she had spent endless time and patience over the
sale of a nondescript little plate to one of Winnebago's
socially elect, she stared wrathfully after the retreating
back of the trying customer.
"Did you see that? I spent an hour with her. One hour! I
showed her everything from the imported Limoges bowls to the
Sevres cups and saucers, and all she bought was that
miserable little bonbon dish with the cornflower pattern.
Mrs. Brandeis spoke from the depths of her wisdom.
"Fanny, I didn't miss much that went on during that hour,
and I was dying to come over and take her away from you,
but I didn't because I knew you needed the lesson, and I
knew that that McNulty woman never spends more than
twenty-five cents, anyway. But I want to tell you now
that it isn't only a matter of plates. It's a matter of
understanding folks. When you've learned whom to show
the expensive hand-painted things to, and when to
suggest quietly the little, vague things, with what you
call the faded look, why, you've learned just about all
there is to know of human nature. Don't expect it, at
Molly Brandeis had never lost her trick of chatting with
customers, or listening to them, whenever she had a moment's
time. People used to drop in, and perch themselves on one
of the stools near the big glowing base burner and talk to
Mrs. Brandeis. It was incredible, the secrets they revealed
of business, and love and disgrace; of hopes and
aspirations, and troubles, and happiness. The farmer women
used to fascinate Fanny by their very drabness. Mrs.
Brandeis had a long and loyal following of these women. It
was before the day when every farmhouse boasted an
automobile, a telephone, and a phonograph.
A worn and dreary lot, these farmer women, living a skimmed
milk existence, putting their youth, and health, and looks
into the soil. They used often to sit back near the stove
in winter, or in a cool corner near the front of the store
in summer, and reveal, bit by bit, the sordid, tragic
details of their starved existence. Fanny was often shocked
when they told their age--twenty-five, twenty-eight, thirty,
but old and withered from drudgery, and child-bearing, and
coarse, unwholesome food. Ignorant women, and terribly
lonely, with the dumb, lack-luster eyes that bespeak
monotony. When they smiled they showed blue-white, glassily
perfect false teeth that flashed incongruously in the ruin
of their wrinkled, sallow, weather-beaten faces. Mrs.
Brandeis would question them gently.
Children? Ten. Living? Four. Doctor? Never had one in
the house. Why? He didn't believe in them. No proper
kitchen utensils, none of the devices that lighten the
deadeningly monotonous drudgery of housework. Everything
went to make his work easier--new harrows, plows, tractors,
wind mills, reapers, barns, silos. The story would come
out, bit by bit, as the woman sat there, a worn, unlovely
figure, her hands--toil-blackened, seamed, calloused,
unlovelier than any woman's hands were ever meant to be--
lying in unaccustomed idleness in her lap.
Fanny learned, too, that the woman with the shawl, and with
her money tied in a corner of her handkerchief, was more
likely to buy the six-dollar doll, with the blue satin
dress, and the real hair and eye-lashes, while the Winnebago
East End society woman haggled over the forty-nine cent
kind, which she dressed herself.
I think their loyalty to Mrs. Brandeis might be explained by
her honesty and her sympathy. She was so square with them.
When Minnie Mahler, out Centerville way, got married, she
knew there would be no redundancy of water sets, hanging
lamps, or pickle dishes.
"I thought like I'd get her a chamber set," Minnie's aunt
would confide to Mrs. Brandeis.
"Is this for Minnie Mahler, of Centerville?"
"Yes; she gets married Sunday."
"I sold a chamber set for that wedding yesterday. And a set
of dishes. But I don't think she's got a parlor lamp. At
least I haven't sold one. Why don't you get her that? If
she doesn't like it she can change it. Now there's that
blue one with the pink roses."
And Minnie's aunt would end by buying the lamp.
Fanny learned that the mill girls liked the bright-colored
and expensive wares, and why; she learned that the woman
with the "fascinator" (tragic misnomer!) over her head
wanted the finest sled for her boy. She learned to keep her
temper. She learned to suggest without seeming to suggest.
She learned to do surprisingly well all those things that
her mother did so surprisingly well--surprisingly because
both the women secretly hated the business of buying and
selling. Once, on the Fourth of July, when there was a
stand outside the store laden with all sorts of fireworks,
Fanny came down to find Aloysius and the boy Eddie absent on
other work, and Mrs. Brandeis momentarily in charge. The
sight sickened her, then infuriated her.
"Come in," she said, between her teeth. "That isn't your
"Somebody had to be there. Pearl's at dinner. And Aloysius
and Eddie were--"
"Then leave it alone. We're not starving--yet. I won't
have you selling fireworks like that--on the street. I
won't have it! I won't have it!"
The store was paying, now. Not magnificently, but well
enough. Most of the money went to Theodore, in Dresden. He
was progressing, though not so meteorically as Bauer and
Schabelitz had predicted. But that sort of thing took time,
Mrs. Brandeis argued. Fanny often found her mother looking
at her these days with a questioning sadness in her eyes.
Once she suggested that Fanny join the class in drawing at
the Winnebago university--a small fresh-water college.
Fanny did try it for a few months, but the work was not what
she wanted; they did fruit pictures and vases, with a book,
on a table; or a clump of very pink and very white flowers.
Fanny quit in disgust and boredom. Besides, they were busy
at the store, and needed her.
There came often to Winnebago a woman whom Fanny Brandeis
admired intensely. She was a traveling saleswoman,
successful, magnetic, and very much alive. Her name was
Mrs. Emma McChesney, and between her and Mrs. Brandeis there
existed a warm friendship. She always took dinner with Mrs.
Brandeis and Fanny, and they made a special effort to give
her all those delectable home-cooked dishes denied her in
her endless round of hotels.
"Noodle soup!" she used to say, almost lyrically.
"With real hand-made, egg noodles! You don't know what it
means. You haven't been eating vermicelli soup all through
Illinois and Wisconsin."
"We've made a dessert, though, that--"
"Molly Brandeis, don't you dare to tell me what you've got
for dessert. I couldn't stand it. But, oh, suppose,
SUPPOSE it's homemade strawberry shortcake!"
Which it more than likely was.
Fanny Brandeis used to think that she would dress exactly as
Mrs. McChesney dressed, if she too were a successful
business woman earning a man-size salary. Mrs. McChesney
was a blue serge sort of woman--and her blue serge never was
shiny in the back. Her collar, or jabot, or tie, or cuffs,
or whatever relieving bit of white she wore, was always of
the freshest and crispest. Her hats were apt to be small
and full of what is known as "line." She usually would try
to arrange her schedule so as to spend a Sunday in
Winnebago, and the three alert, humor-loving women, grown
wise and tolerant from much contact with human beings, would
have a delightful day together.
"Molly," Mrs. McChesney would say, when they were
comfortably settled in the living-room, or on the front
porch, "with your shrewdness, and experience, and brains,
you ought to be one of those five or ten thousand a year
buyers. You know how to sell goods and handle people. And
you know values. That's all there is to the whole game of
business. I don't advise you to go on the road. Heaven
knows I wouldn't advise my dearest enemy to do that, much
less a friend. But you could do bigger things, and get
bigger results. You know most of the big wholesalers, and
retailers too. Why don't you speak to them about a
department position? Or let me nose around a bit for you."
Molly Brandeis shook her head, though her expressive eyes
were eager and interested. "Don't you think I've thought of
that, Emma? A thousand times? But I'm--I'm afraid.
There's too much at stake. Suppose I couldn't succeed?
There's Theodore. His whole future is dependent on me for
the next few years. And there's Fanny here. No, I guess
I'm too old. And I'm sure of the business here, small as it
Emma McChesney glanced at the girl. "I'm thinking that
Fanny has the making of a pretty capable business woman
Fanny drew in her breath sharply, and her face sparkled into
sudden life, as always when she was tremendously interested.
"Do you know what I'd do if I were in Mother's place? I'd
take a great, big running jump for it and land! I'd take a
chance. What is there for her in this town? Nothing!
She's been giving things up all her life, and what has it
"It has brought me a comfortable living, and the love of my
two children, and the respect of my townspeople."
"Respect? Why shouldn't they respect you? You're the
smartest woman in Winnebago, and the hardest working."
Emma McChesney frowned a little, in thought. "What do you
two girls do for recreation?"
"I'm afraid we have too little of that, Emma. I know Fanny
has. I'm so dog-tired at the end of the day. All I want is
to take my hairpins out and go to bed."
"Oh, I read. I'm free to pick my book friends, at least."
"Now, just what do you mean by that, child? It sounds a
"I was thinking of what Chesterfield said in one of his
Letters to His Son. `Choose always to be in the society of
those above you,' he wrote. I guess he lived in Winnebago,
Wisconsin. I'm a working woman, and a Jew, and we
haven't any money or social position. And unless she's a
Becky Sharp any small town girl with all those handicaps
might as well choose a certain constellation of stars in the
sky to wear as a breastpin, as try to choose the friends she
From Molly Brandeis to Emma McChesney there flashed a look
that said, "You see?" And from Emma McChesney to Molly
Brandeis another that said, "Yes; and it's your fault."
"Look here, Fanny, don't you see any boys--men?"
"No. There aren't any. Those who have any sense and
initiative leave to go to Milwaukee, or Chicago, or New
York. Those that stay marry the banker's lovely daughter."
Emma McChesney laughed at that, and Molly Brandeis too, and
Fanny joined them a bit ruefully. Then quite suddenly,
there came into her face a melting, softening look that made
it almost lovely. She crossed swiftly over to where her
mother sat, and put a hand on either cheek (grown thinner of
late) and kissed the tip of her nose. "We don't care--
really. Do we Mother? We're poor wurkin' girruls. But
gosh! Ain't we proud? Mother, your mistake was in not
doing as Ruth did."
"In the Bible. Remember when What's-his-name, her husband,
died? Did she go back to her home town? No, she didn't.
She'd lived there all her life, and she knew better. She
said to Naomi, her mother-in-law, `Whither thou goest I will
go.' And she went. And when they got to Bethlehem, Ruth
looked around, knowingly, until she saw Boaz, the catch of
the town. So she went to work in his fields, gleaning, and
she gleaned away, trying to look just as girlish, and
dreamy, and unconscious, but watching him out of the corner
of her eye all the time. Presently Boaz came along, looking
over the crops, and he saw her. `Who's the new damsel?'
he asked. `The peach?'"
"Fanny Brandeis, aren't you ashamed?"
"But, Mother, that's what it says in the Bible, actually.
`Whose damsel is this?' They told him it was Ruth, the
dashing widow. After that it was all off with the Bethlehem
girls. Boaz paid no more attention to them than if they had
never existed. He married Ruth, and she led society. Just
a little careful scheming, that's all."
"I should say you have been reading, Fanny Brandeis," said
Emma McChesney. She was smiling, but her eyes were serious.
"Now listen to me, child. The very next time a traveling
man in a brown suit and a red necktie asks you to take
dinner with him at the Haley House--even one of those roast
pork, queen-fritter-with-rum-sauce, Roman punch Sunday
dinners--I want you to accept."
"Even if he wears an Elks' pin, and a Masonic charm, and a
diamond ring and a brown derby?"
"Even if he shows you the letters from his girl in
Manistee," said Mrs. McChesney solemnly. "You've been
seeing too much of Fanny Brandeis."
Theodore had been gone six years. His letters, all too
brief, were events in the lives of the two women. They read
and reread them. Fanny unconsciously embellished them with
fascinating details made up out of her own imagination.
"They're really triumphs of stupidity and dullness," she
said one day in disgust, after one of Theodore's long-
awaited letters had proved particularly dry and sparse.
"Just think of it! Dresden, Munich, Leipsic, Vienna,
Berlin, Frankfurt! And from his letters you would never
know he had left Winnebago. I don't believe he actually
sees anything of these cities--their people, and the queer
houses, and the streets. I suppose a new city means nothing
to him but another platform, another audience, another
piano, all intended as a background for his violin. He
could travel all over the world and it wouldn't touch him
once. He's got his mental fingers crossed all the time."
Theodore had begun to play in concert with some success, but
he wrote that there was no real money in it yet. He was not
well enough known. It took time. He would have to get a
name in Europe before he could attempt an American tour.
Just now every one was mad over Greinert. He was drawing
immense audiences. He sent them a photograph at which they
gasped, and then laughed, surprisedly. He looked so awfully
German, so different, somehow.
"It's the way his hair is clipped, I suppose," said Fanny.
"High, like that, on the temples. And look at his clothes!
That tie! And his pants! And that awful collar!
Why, his very features look German, don't they? I suppose
it's the effect of that haberdashery."
A month after the photograph, came a letter announcing his
marriage. Fanny's quick eye, leaping ahead from line to
line, took in the facts that her mind seemed unable to
grasp. Her name was Olga Stumpf. (In the midst of her
horror some imp in Fanny's brain said that her hands would
be red, and thick, with a name like that.) An orphan. She
sang. One of the Vienna concert halls, but so different
from the other girls. And he was so happy. And he hated to
ask them for it, but if they could cable a hundred or so.
That would help. And here was her picture.
And there was her picture. One of the so-called vivacious
type of Viennese of the lower class, smiling a conscious
smile, her hair elaborately waved and dressed, her figure
high-busted, narrow-waisted; earrings, chains, bracelets.
You knew that she used a heavy scent. She was older than
Theodore. Or perhaps it was the earrings.
They cabled the hundred.
After the first shock of it Molly Brandeis found excuses for
him. "He must have been awfully lonely, Fanny. Often. And
perhaps it will steady him, and make him more ambitious.
He'll probably work all the harder now."
"No, he won't. But you will. And I will. I didn't mind
working for Theodore, and scrimping, and never having any of
the things I wanted, from blouses to music. But I won't
work and deny myself to keep a great, thick, cheap, German
barmaid, or whatever she is in comfort. I won't!"
But she did. And quite suddenly Molly Brandeis, of the
straight, firm figure and the bright, alert eye, and the
buoyant humor, seemed to lose some of those electric
qualities. It was an almost imperceptible letting down.
You have seen a fine race horse suddenly break and lose his
stride in the midst of the field, and pull up and try to
gain it again, and go bravely on, his stride and form still
there, but his spirit broken? That was Molly Brandeis.
Fanny did much of the buying now. She bought quickly and
shrewdly, like her mother. She even went to the Haley House
to buy, when necessary, and Winnebagoans, passing the hotel,
would see her slim, erect figure in one of the sample-rooms
with its white-covered tables laden with china, or
glassware, or Christmas goods, or whatever that particular
salesman happened to carry. They lifted their eye-brows at
first, but, somehow, it was impossible to associate this
girl with the blithe, shirt-sleeved, cigar-smoking traveling
men who followed her about the sample-room, order book in
As time went on she introduced some new features into the
business, and did away with various old ones. The
overflowing benches outside the store were curbed, and
finally disappeared altogether. Fanny took charge of the
window displays, and often came back to the store at night
to spend the evening at work with Aloysius. They would tack
a piece of muslin around the window to keep off the gaze of
passers-by, and together evolve a window that more than made
up for the absent show benches.
This, I suppose, is no time to stop for a description of
Fanny Brandeis. And yet the impulse to do so is
irresistible. Personally, I like to know about the hair,
and eyes, and mouth of the person whose life I am following.
How did she look when she said that? What sort of
expression did she wear when this happened? Perhaps the
thing that Fanny Brandeis said about herself one day, when
she was having one of her talks with Emma McChesney, who was
on her fall trip for the Featherbloom Petticoat Company,
"No ballroom would ever be hushed into admiring awe when I
entered," she said. "No waiter would ever drop his tray,
dazzled, and no diners in a restaurant would stop to gaze at
me, their forks poised halfway, their eyes blinded by my
beauty. I could tramp up and down between the tables for
hours, and no one would know I was there. I'm one of a
million women who look their best in a tailor suit and a hat
with a line. Not that I ever had either. But I have my
points, only they're blunted just now."
Still, that bit of description doesn't do, after all.
Because she had distinct charm, and some beauty. She was
not what is known as the Jewish type, in spite of her
coloring. The hair that used to curl, waved now. In a day
when coiffures were a bird's-nest of puffs and curls and
pompadour, she wore her hair straight back from her forehead
and wound in a coil at the neck. Her face in repose was apt
to be rather lifeless, and almost heavy. But when she
talked, it flashed into sudden life, and you found yourself
watching her mouth, fascinated. It was the key to her whole
character, that mouth. Mobile, humorous, sensitive, the
sensuousness of the lower lip corrected by the firmness of
the upper. She had large, square teeth, very regular, and
of the yellow-white tone that bespeaks health. She used to
make many of her own clothes, and she always trimmed her
hats. Mrs. Brandeis used to bring home material and styles
from her Chicago buying trips, and Fanny's quick mind
adapted them. She managed, somehow, to look miraculously
The Christmas following Theodore's marriage was the most
successful one in the history of Brandeis' Bazaar. And it
bred in Fanny Brandeis a lifelong hatred of the holiday
season. In years after she always tried to get away from
the city at Christmas time. The two women did the work of
four men. They had a big stock on hand. Mrs. Brandeis was
everywhere at once. She got an enormous amount of work
out of her clerks, and they did not resent it. It is a gift
that all born leaders have. She herself never sat down, and
the clerks unconsciously followed her example. She never
complained of weariness, she never lost her temper, she
never lost patience with a customer, even the tight-fisted
farmer type who doled their money out with that reluctance
found only in those who have wrung it from the soil.
In the midst of the rush she managed, somehow, never to fail
to grasp the humor of a situation. A farmer woman came in
for a doll's head, which she chose with incredible
deliberation and pains. As it was being wrapped she
explained that it was for her little girl, Minnie. She had
promised the head this year. Next Christmas they would buy
a body for it. Molly Brandeis's quick sympathy went out to
the little girl who was to lavish her mother-love on a
doll's head for a whole year. She saw the head, in ghastly
decapitation, staring stiffly out from the cushions of the
chill and funereal parlor sofa, and the small Minnie peering
in to feast her eyes upon its blond and waxen beauty.
"Here," she had said, "take this, and sew it on the head, so
Minnie'll have something she can hold, at least." And she
had wrapped a pink cambric, sawdust-stuffed body in with the
It was a snowy and picturesque Christmas, and intensely
cold, with the hard, dry, cutting cold of Wisconsin. Near
the door the little store was freezing. Every time the door
opened it let in a blast. Near the big glowing stove it was
The aisles were packed so that sometimes it was almost
impossible to wedge one's way through. The china plates,
stacked high, fairly melted away, as did the dolls piled on
the counters. Mrs. Brandeis imported her china and dolls,
and no store in Winnebago, not even Gerretson's big
department store, could touch them for value.
The two women scarcely stopped to eat in the last ten days
of the holiday rush. Often Annie, the girl who had taken
Mattie's place in the household, would bring down their
supper, hot and hot, and they would eat it quickly up in the
little gallery where they kept the sleds, and doll buggies,
and drums. At night (the store was open until ten or eleven
at Christmas time) they would trudge home through the snow,
so numb with weariness that they hardly minded the cold.
The icy wind cut their foreheads like a knife, and made the
temples ache. The snow, hard and resilient, squeaked
beneath their heels. They would open the front door and
stagger in, blinking. The house seemed so weirdly quiet and
peaceful after the rush and clamor of the store.
"Don't you want a sandwich, Mother, with a glass of beer?"
"I'm too tired to eat it, Fanny. I just want to get to
Fanny grew to hate the stock phrases that met her with each
customer. "I want something for a little boy about ten.
He's really got everything." Or, "I'm looking for a present
for a lady friend. Do you think a plate would be nice?"
She began to loathe them--these satiated little boys, these
unknown friends, for whom she must rack her brains.
They cleared a snug little fortune that Christmas. On
Christmas Eve they smiled wanly at each other, like two
comrades who have fought and bled together, and won. When
they left the store it was nearly midnight. Belated
shoppers, bundle-laden, carrying holly wreaths, with strange
handles, and painted heads, and sticks protruding from lumpy
brown paper burdens, were hurrying home.
They stumbled home, too spent to talk. Fanny, groping
for the keyhole, stubbed her toe against a wooden box
between the storm door and the inner door. It had evidently
been left there by the expressman or a delivery boy. It was
a very heavy box.
"A Christmas present!" Fanny exclaimed. "Do you think it
is? But it must be." She looked at the address, "Miss
Fanny Brandeis." She went to the kitchen for a crowbar, and
came back, still in her hat and coat. She pried open the
box expertly, tore away the wrappings, and disclosed a
gleaming leather-bound set of Balzac, and beneath that,
incongruously enough, Mark Twain.
"Why!" exclaimed Fanny, sitting down on the floor rather
heavily. Then her eye fell upon a card tossed aside in the
hurry of unpacking. She picked it up, read it hastily.
"Merry Christmas to the best daughter in the world. From
Mrs. Brandeis had taken off her wraps and was standing over
the sitting-room register, rubbing her numbed hands and
smiling a little.
"Why, Mother!" Fanny scrambled to her feet. "You darling!
In all that rush and work, to take time to think of me!
Why--" Her arms were around her mother's shoulders. She was
pressing her glowing cheek against the pale, cold one. And
they both wept a little, from emotion, and weariness, and
relief, and enjoyed it, as women sometimes do.
Fanny made her mother stay in bed next morning, a thing that
Mrs. Brandeis took to most ungracefully. After the holiday
rush and strain she invariably had a severe cold, the
protest of the body she had over-driven and under-nourished
for two or three weeks. As a patient she was as trying and
fractious as a man, tossing about, threatening to get up,
demanding hot-water bags, cold compresses, alcohol rubs.
She fretted about the business, and imagined that things
were at a stand-still during her absence.
Fanny herself rose early. Her healthy young body, after a
night's sleep, was already recuperating from the month's
strain. She had planned a real Christmas dinner, to banish
the memory of the hasty and unpalatable lunches they had had
to gulp during the rush. There was to be a turkey, and
Fanny had warned Annie not to touch it. She wanted to stuff
it and roast it herself. She spent the morning in the
kitchen, aside from an occasional tip-toeing visit to her
mother's room. At eleven she found her mother up, and no
amount of coaxing would induce her to go back to bed. She
had read the papers and she said she felt rested already.
The turkey came out a delicate golden-brown, and deliciously
crackly. Fanny, looking up over a drumstick, noticed, with
a shock, that her mother's eyes looked strangely sunken, and
her skin, around the jaws and just under the chin, where her
loose wrapper revealed her throat, was queerly yellow and
shriveled. She had eaten almost nothing.
"Mother, you're not eating a thing! You really must eat a
Mrs. Brandeis began a pretense of using knife and fork, but
gave it up finally and sat back, smiling rather wanly. "I
guess I'm tireder than I thought I was, dear. I think I've
got a cold coming on, too. I'll lie down again after
dinner, and by to-morrow I'll be as chipper as a sparrow.
The turkey's wonderful, isn't it? I'll have some, cold, for
After dinner the house felt very warm and stuffy. It was
crisply cold and sunny outdoors. The snow was piled high
except on the sidewalks, where it had been neatly shoveled
away by the mufflered Winnebago sons and fathers. There was
no man in the Brandeis household, and Aloysius had been too
busy to perform the chores usually considered his work about
the house. The snow lay in drifts upon the sidewalk in
front of the Brandeis house, except where passing feet
had trampled it a bit.
"I'm going to shovel the walk," Fanny announced suddenly.
"Way around to the woodshed. Where are those old mittens of
mine? Annie, where's the snow shovel? Sure I am. Why
She shoveled and scraped and pounded, bending rhythmically
to the work, lifting each heaping shovelful with her strong
young arms, tossing it to the side, digging in again, and
under. An occasional neighbor passed by, or a friend, and
she waved at them, gayly, and tossed back their badinage.
"Merry Christmas!" she called, again and again, in reply to
a passing acquaintance. "Same to you!"
At two o'clock Bella Weinberg telephoned to say that a
little party of them were going to the river to skate. The
ice was wonderful. Oh, come on! Fanny skated very well.
But she hesitated. Mrs. Brandeis, dozing on the couch,
sensed what was going on in her daughter's mind, and roused
herself with something of her old asperity.
"Don't be foolish, child. Run along! You don't intend to
sit here and gaze upon your sleeping beauty of a mother all
afternoon, do you? Well, then!"
So Fanny changed her clothes, got her skates, and ran out
into the snap and sparkle of the day. The winter darkness
had settled down before she returned, all glowing and rosy,
and bright-eyed. Her blood was racing through her body.
Her lips were parted. The drudgery of the past three weeks
seemed to have been blotted out by this one radiant
The house was dark when she entered. It seemed very quiet,
and close, and depressing after the sparkle and rush of the
afternoon on the river. "Mother! Mother dear! Still
Mrs. Brandeis stirred, sighed, awoke. Fanny flicked on the
light. Her mother was huddled in a kimono on the sofa.
She sat up rather dazedly now, and stared at Fanny.
"Why--what time is it? What? Have I been sleeping all
afternoon? Your mother's getting old."
She yawned, and in the midst of it caught her breath with a
little cry of pain.
"What is it? What's the matter?"
Molly Brandeis pressed a hand to her breast. "A stitch, I
guess. It's this miserable cold coming on. Is there any
asperin in the house? I'll dose myself after supper, and
take a hot foot bath and go to bed. I'm dead."
She ate less for supper than she had for dinner. She hardly
tasted the cup of tea that Fanny insisted on making for her.
She swayed a little as she sat, and her lids came down over
her eyes, flutteringly, as if the weight of them was too
great to keep up. At seven she was up-stairs, in bed,
sleeping, and breathing heavily.
At eleven, or thereabouts, Fanny woke up with a
start. She sat up in bed, wide-eyed, peering into the
darkness and listening. Some one was talking in a high,
queer voice, a voice like her mother's, and yet unlike. She
ran, shivering with the cold, into her mother's bedroom.
She switched on the light. Mrs. Brandeis was lying on the
pillow, her eyes almost closed, except for a terrifying slit
of white that showed between the lids. Her head was tossing
to and fro on the pillow. She was talking, sometimes
clearly, and sometimes mumblingly.
"One gross cups and saucers . . . and now what do you think
you'd like for a second prize . . . in the basement,
Aloysius . . . the trains . . . I'll see that they get there
to-day . . . yours of the tenth at hand . . ."
"Mother! Mother! Molly dear!" She shook her gently, then
almost roughly. The voice ceased. The eyes remained the
same. "Oh, God!" She ran to the back of the house.
"Annie! Annie, get up! Mother's sick. She's out of her
head. I'm going to 'phone for the doctor. Go in with her."
She got the doctor at last. She tried to keep her voice
under control, and thought, with a certain pride, that she
was succeeding. She ran up-stairs again. The voice had
begun again, but it seemed thicker now. She got into her
clothes, shaking with cold and terror, and yet thinking very
clearly, as she always did in a crisis. She put clean
towels in the bathroom, pushed the table up to the bed, got
a glass of water, straightened the covers, put away the
clothes that the tired woman had left about the room.
Doctor Hertz came. He went through the usual preliminaries,
listened, tapped, counted, straightened up at last.
"Fresh air," he said. "Cold air. All the windows open."
They rigged up a device of screens and sheets to protect the
bed from the drafts. Fanny obeyed orders silently, like a
soldier. But her eyes went from the face on the pillow to
that of the man bent over the bed. Something vague, cold,
clammy, seemed to be closing itself around her heart. It
was like an icy hand, squeezing there. There had suddenly
sprung up that indefinable atmosphere of the sick-room--a
sick-room in which a fight is being waged. Bottles on the
table, glasses, a spoon, a paper shade over the electric
"What is it?" said Fanny, at last. "Grip?--grip?"
Doctor Hertz hesitated a moment. "Pneumonia."
Fanny's hands grasped the footboard tightly. "Do you think
we'd better have a nurse?"
The nurse seemed to be there, somehow, miraculously. And
the morning came. And in the kitchen Annie went about her
work, a little more quietly than usual. And yesterday
seemed far away. It was afternoon; it was twilight. Doctor
Hertz had been there for hours. The last time he
brought another doctor with him--Thorn. Mrs. Brandeis was
not talking now. But she was breathing. It filled the
room, that breathing; it filled the house. Fanny took her
mother's hand, that hand with the work-hardened palm and the
broken nails. It was very cold. She looked down at it.
The nails were blue. She began to rub it. She looked up
into the faces of the two men. She picked up the other
hand--snatched at it. "Look here!" she said. "Look here!"
And then she stood up. The vague, clammy thing that had
been wound about her heart suddenly relaxed. And at that
something icy hot rushed all over her body and shook her.
She came around to the foot of the bed, and gripped it with
her two hands. Her chin was thrust forward, and her eyes
were bright and staring. She looked very much like her
mother, just then. It was a fighting face. A desperate
"Look here," she began, and was surprised to find that she
was only whispering. She wet her lips and smiled, and tried
again, forming the words carefully with her lips. "Look
here. She's dying--isn't she? Isn't she! She's dying,
Doctor Hertz pursed his lips. The nurse came over to her,
and put a hand on her shoulder. Fanny shook her off.
"Answer me. I've got a right to know. Look at this!" She
reached forward and picked up that inert, cold, strangely
shriveled blue hand again.
"My dear child--I'm afraid so."
There came from Fanny's throat a moan that began high, and
poignant, and quavering, and ended in a shiver that seemed
to die in her heart. The room was still again, except for
the breathing, and even that was less raucous.
Fanny stared at the woman on the bed--at the long, finely-
shaped head, with the black hair wadded up so carelessly
now; at the long, straight, clever nose; the full,
generous mouth. There flooded her whole being a great,
blinding rage. What had she had of life? she demanded
fiercely. What? What? Her teeth came together grindingly.
She breathed heavily through her nostrils, as if she had
been running. And suddenly she began to pray, not with the
sounding, unctions thees and thous of the Church and Bible;
not elegantly or eloquently, with well-rounded phrases, as
the righteous pray, but threateningly, hoarsely, as a
desperate woman prays. It was not a prayer so much as a cry
of defiance---a challenge.
"Look here, God!" and there was nothing profane as she said
it. "Look here, God! She's done her part. It's up to You
now. Don't You let her die! Look at her. Look at her!"
She choked and shook herself angrily, and went on. "Is that
fair? That's a rotten trick to play on a woman that gave
what she gave! What did she ever have of life? Nothing!
That little miserable, dirty store, and those little
miserable, dirty people. You give her a chance, d'You hear?
You give her a chance, God, or I'll----"
Her voice broke in a thin, cracked quaver. The nurse turned
her around, suddenly and sharply, and led her from the room.
"You can come down now. They're all here, I guess. Doctor
Thalmann's going to begin." Fanny, huddled in a chair in
her bedroom, looked up into the plump, kindly face of the
woman who was bending over her. Then she stood up,
docilely, and walked toward the stairs with a heavy,
"I'd put down my veil if I were you," said the neighbor
woman. And reached up for the black folds that draped
Fanny's hat. Fanny's fingers reached for them too,
fumblingly. "I'd forgotten about it," she said. The heavy
crape fell about her shoulders, mercifully hiding the
swollen, discolored face. She went down the stairs. There
was a little stir, a swaying toward her, a sibilant murmur
of sympathy from the crowded sitting-room as she passed
through to the parlor where Rabbi Thalmann stood waiting,
prayer book in hand, in front of that which was covered with
flowers. Fanny sat down. A feeling of unreality was strong
upon her. Doctor Thalmann cleared his throat and opened the
After all, it was not Rabbi Thalmann's funeral sermon that
testified to Mrs. Brandeis's standing in the community. It
was the character of the gathering that listened to what he
had to say. Each had his own opinion of Molly Brandeis, and
needed no final eulogy to confirm it. Father Fitzpatrick
was there, tall, handsome, ruddy, the two wings of white
showing at the temples making him look more than ever like a
leading man. He had been of those who had sat in what he
called Mrs. Brandeis's confessional, there in the quiet
little store. The two had talked of things
theological and things earthy. His wit, quick though it
was, was no match for hers, but they both had a humor sense
and a drama sense, and one day they discovered, queerly
enough, that they worshiped the same God. Any one of these
things is basis enough for a friendship. Besides, Molly
Brandeis could tell an Irish story inimitably. And you
should have heard Father Fitzpatrick do the one about Ikey
and the nickel. No, I think the Catholic priest, seeming to
listen with such respectful attention, really heard very
little of what Rabbi Thalmann had to say.
Herman Walthers was there, he of the First National Bank of
Winnebago, whose visits had once brought such terror to
Molly Brandeis. Augustus G. Gerretson was there, and three
of his department heads. Emil Bauer sat just behind him.
In a corner was Sadie, the erstwhile coquette, very subdued
now, and months behind the fashions in everything but baby
clothes. Hen Cody, who had done all of Molly Brandeis's
draying, sat, in unaccustomed black, next to Mayor A. J.
Dawes. Temple Emmanu-el was there, almost a unit. The
officers of Temple Emanu-el Ladies' Aid Society sat in a
row. They had never honored Molly Brandeis with office in
the society--she who could have managed its business,
politics and social activities with one hand tied behind
her, and both her bright eyes shut. In the kitchen and on
the porch and in the hallway stood certain obscure people--
women whose finger tips stuck out of their cotton gloves,
and whose skirts dipped ludicrously in the back. Only Molly
Brandeis could have identified them for you. Mrs. Brosch,
the butter and egg woman, hovered in the dining-room
doorway. She had brought a pound of butter. It was her
contribution to the funeral baked meats. She had deposited
it furtively on the kitchen table. Birdie Callahan, head
waitress at the Haley House, found a seat just next to
the elegant Mrs. Morehouse, who led the Golf Club crowd. A
haughty young lady in the dining-room, Birdie Callahan, in
her stiffly starched white, but beneath the icy crust of her
hauteur was a molten mass of good humor and friendliness.
She and Molly Brandeis had had much in common.
But no one--not even Fanny Brandeis--ever knew who sent the
great cluster of American Beauty roses that had come all the
way from Milwaukee. There had been no card, so who could
have guessed that they came from Blanche Devine. Blanche
Devine, of the white powder, and the minks, and the
diamonds, and the high-heeled shoes, and the plumes, lived
in the house with the closed shutters, near the freight
depot. She often came into Brandeis' Bazaar. Molly
Brandeis had never allowed Sadie, or Pearl, or Fanny or
Aloysius to wait on her. She had attended to her herself.
And one day, for some reason, Blanche Devine found herself
telling Molly Brandeis how she had come to be Blanche
Devine, and it was a moving and terrible story. And now her
cardless flowers, a great, scarlet sheaf of them, lay next
the chaste white roses that had been sent by the Temple
Emanu-el Ladies' Aid. Truly, death is a great leveler.
In a vague way Fanny seemed to realize that all these people
were there. I think she must even have found a certain grim
comfort in their presence. Hers had not been the dry-eyed
grief of the strong, such as you read about. She had wept,
night and day, hopelessly, inconsolably, torturing herself
with remorseful questions. If she had not gone skating,
might she not have seen how ill her mother was? Why hadn't
she insisted on the doctor when her mother refused to eat
the Christmas dinner? Blind and selfish, she told herself;
blind and selfish. Her face was swollen and distorted now,
and she was thankful for the black veil that shielded
her. Winnebago was scandalized to see that she wore no
other black. Mrs. Brandeis had never wanted Fanny to wear
it; she hadn't enough color, she said. So now she was
dressed in her winter suit of blue, and her hat with the
pert blue quill. And the little rabbi's voice went on and
on, and Fanny knew that it could not be true. What had all
this dust-to-dust talk to do with any one as vital, and
electric, and constructive as Molly Brandeis. In the midst
of the service there was a sharp cry, and a little stir, and
the sound of stifled sobbing. It was Aloysius the merry,
Aloysius the faithful, whose Irish heart was quite broken.
Fanny ground her teeth together in an effort at self-
And so to the end, and out past the little hushed,
respectful group on the porch, to the Jewish cemetery on the
state road. The snow of Christmas week was quite virgin
there, except for that one spot where the sexton and his men
had been at work. Then back at a smart jog trot through the
early dusk of the winter afternoon, the carriage wheels
creaking upon the hard, dry snow. And Fanny Brandeis said
to herself (she must have been a little light-headed from
hunger and weeping):
"Now I'll know whether it's true or not. When I go into the
house. If she's there she'll say, `Well Fanchen! Hungry?
Oh, but my little girl's hands are cold! Come here to the
register and warm them.' O God, let her be there! Let her
But she wasn't. The house had been set to rights by brisk
and unaccustomed hands. There was a bustle and stir in the
dining-room, and from the kitchen came the appetizing odors
of cooking food. Fanny went up to a chair that was out of
its place, and shoved it back against the wall where it
belonged. She straightened a rug, carried the waste basket
from the desk to the spot near the living-room table where
it had always served to hide the shabby, worn place in
the rug. Fanny went up-stairs, past The Room that was once
more just a comfortable, old fashioned bedroom, instead of a
mysterious and awful chamber; bathed her face, tidied her
hair, came down-stairs again, ate and drank things hot and
revivifying. The house was full of kindly women.
Fanny found herself clinging to them--clinging desperately
to these ample, broad-bosomed, soothing women whom she had
scarcely known before. They were always there, those women,
and their husbands too; kindly, awkward men, who patted her
shoulder, and who spoke of Molly Brandeis with that
sincerity of admiration such as men usually give only to
men. People were constantly popping in at the back door
with napkin-covered trays, and dishes and baskets. A
wonderful and beautiful thing, that homely small-town
sympathy that knows the value of physical comfort in time of
Two days after the funeral Fanny Brandeis went back to the
store, much as her mother had done many years before, after
her husband's death. She looked about at the bright, well-
stocked shelves and tables with a new eye--a speculative
eye. The Christmas season was over. January was the time
for inventory and for replenishment. Mrs. Brandeis had
always gone to Chicago the second week in January for the
spring stock. But something was forming in Fanny Brandeis's
mind--a resolve that grew so rapidly as to take her breath
away. Her brain felt strangely clear and keen after the
crashing storm of grief that had shaken her during the past
"What are you going to do now?" people had asked her,
curious and interested. "Is Theodore coming back?"
"I don't know--yet." In answer to the first. And, "No.
Why should he? He has his work."
"But he could be of such help to you."
"I'll help myself," said Fanny Brandeis, and smiled a
curious smile that had in it more of bitterness and less of
mirth than any smile has a right to have.
Mrs. Brandeis had left a will, far-sighted business woman
that she was. It was a terse, clear-headed document, that
gave "to Fanny Brandeis, my daughter," the six-thousand-
dollar insurance, the stock, good-will and fixtures of
Brandeis' Bazaar, the house furnishings, the few pieces of