HERSELF by EDNA FERBER
WILLIAM ALLEN WHITE
It has become the fashion among novelists to introduce their
hero in knee pants, their heroine in pinafore and pigtails.
Time was when we were rushed up to a stalwart young man of
twenty-four, who was presented as the pivot about whom the
plot would revolve. Now we are led, protesting, up to a
grubby urchin of five and are invited to watch him through
twenty years of intimate minutiae. In extreme cases we have
been obliged to witness his evolution from swaddling clothes
to dresses, from dresses to shorts (he is so often English),
from shorts to Etons.
The thrill we get for our pains is when, at twenty-five, he
jumps over the traces and marries the young lady we met in
her cradle on page two. The process is known as a
psychological study. A publisher's note on page five
hundred and seventy-three assures us that the author is now
at work on Volume Two, dealing with the hero's adult life.
A third volume will present his pleasing senility. The
whole is known as a trilogy. If the chief character is of
the other sex we are dragged through her dreamy girlhood, or
hoydenish. We see her in her graduation white, in her
bridal finery. By the time she is twenty we know her better
than her mother ever will, and are infinitely more bored by
Yet who would exchange one page in the life of the boy,
David Copperfield, for whole chapters dealing with Trotwood
Copperfield, the man? Who would relinquish the button-
bursting Peggotty for the saintly Agnes? And that other
David--he of the slingshot; one could not love him so well
in his psalm-singing days had one not known him first as
the gallant, dauntless vanquisher of giants. As for Becky
Sharp, with her treachery, her cruelty, her vindicativeness,
perhaps we could better have understood and forgiven her had
we known her lonely and neglected childhood, with the
drunken artist father and her mother, the French opera girl.
With which modest preamble you are asked to be patient with
Miss Fanny Brandeis, aged thirteen. Not only must you
suffer Fanny, but Fanny's mother as well, without whom there
could be no understanding Fanny. For that matter, we
shouldn't wonder if Mrs. Brandeis were to turn out the
heroine in the end. She is that kind of person.
You could not have lived a week in Winnebago without being
aware of Mrs. Brandeis. In a town of ten thousand, where
every one was a personality, from Hen Cody, the drayman, in
blue overalls (magically transformed on Sunday mornings into
a suave black-broadcloth usher at the Congregational
Church), to A. J. Dawes, who owned the waterworks before the
city bought it. Mrs. Brandeis was a super-personality.
Winnebago did not know it. Winnebago, buying its dolls, and
china, and Battenberg braid and tinware and toys of Mrs.
Brandeis, of Brandeis' Bazaar, realized vaguely that here
was some one different.
When you entered the long, cool, narrow store on Elm Street,
Mrs. Brandeis herself came forward to serve you, unless she
already was busy with two customers. There were two
clerks--three, if you count Aloysius, the boy--but to Mrs.
Brandeis belonged the privilege of docketing you first. If
you happened in during a moment of business lull, you were
likely to find her reading in the left-hand corner at the
front of the store, near the shelf where were ranged the
dolls' heads, the pens, the pencils, and school supplies.
You saw a sturdy, well-set-up, alert woman, of the kind that
looks taller than she really is; a woman with a long,
straight, clever nose that indexed her character, as did
everything about her, from her crisp, vigorous, abundant
hair to the way she came down hard on her heels in
walking. She was what might be called a very definite
person. But first you remarked her eyes. Will you concede
that eyes can be piercing, yet velvety? Their piercingness
was a mental quality, I suppose, and the velvety softness a
physical one. One could only think, somehow, of wild
pansies--the brown kind. If Winnebago had taken the trouble
to glance at the title of the book she laid face down on the
pencil boxes as you entered, it would have learned that the
book was one of Balzac's, or, perhaps, Zangwill's, or
Zola's. She never could overcome that habit of snatching a
chapter here and there during dull moments. She was too
tired to read when night came.
There were many times when the little Wisconsin town lay
broiling in the August sun, or locked in the January drifts,
and the main business street was as silent as that of a
deserted village. But more often she came forward to you
from the rear of the store, with bits of excelsior clinging
to her black sateen apron. You knew that she had been
helping Aloysius as he unpacked a consignment of chamber
sets or a hogshead of china or glassware, chalking each
piece with the price mark as it was dug from its nest of
straw and paper.
"How do you do!" she would say. "What can I do for you?"
And in that moment she had you listed, indexed, and filed,
were you a farmer woman in a black shawl and rusty bonnet
with a faded rose bobbing grotesquely atop it, or one of the
patronizing East End set who came to Brandeis' Bazaar
because Mrs. Brandeis' party favors, for one thing, were of
a variety that could be got nowhere else this side of
Chicago. If, after greeting you, Mrs. Brandeis called,
"Sadie! Stockings!" (supposing stockings were your quest),
you might know that Mrs. Brandeis had weighed you and found
There had always been a store--at least, ever since Fanny
could remember. She often thought how queer it would seem
to have to buy pins, or needles, or dishes, or soap, or
thread. The store held all these things, and many more.
Just to glance at the bewildering display outside gave you
promise of the variety within. Winnebago was rather ashamed
of that display. It was before the day of repression in
decoration, and the two benches in front of the windows
overflowed with lamps, and water sets, and brooms, and
boilers and tinware and hampers. Once the Winnebago
Courier had had a sarcastic editorial about what they
called the Oriental bazaar (that was after the editor, Lem
Davis, had bumped his shin against a toy cart that protruded
unduly), but Mrs. Brandeis changed nothing. She knew that
the farmer women who stood outside with their husbands on
busy Saturdays would not have understood repression in
display, but they did understand the tickets that marked the
wares in plain figures--this berry set, $1.59; that lamp,
$1.23. They talked it over, outside, and drifted away, and
came back, and entered, and bought.
She knew when to be old-fashioned, did Mrs. Brandeis, and
when to be modern. She had worn the first short walking
skirt in Winnebago. It cleared the ground in a day before
germs were discovered, when women's skirts trailed and
flounced behind them in a cloud of dust. One of her
scandalized neighbors (Mrs. Nathan Pereles, it was) had
taken her aside to tell her that no decent woman would dress
"Next year," said Mrs. Brandeis, "when you are wearing one,
I'll remind you of that." And she did, too. She had worn
shirtwaists with a broad "Gibson" shoulder tuck, when other
Winnebago women were still encased in linings and bodices.
Do not get the impression that she stood for emancipation,
or feminism, or any of those advanced things. They had
scarcely been touched on in those days. She was just an
extraordinarily alert woman, mentally and physically,
with a shrewd sense of values. Molly Brandeis never could
set a table without forgetting the spoons, or the salt, or
something, but she could add a double column of figures in
her head as fast as her eye could travel.
There she goes, running off with the story, as we were
afraid she would. Not only that, she is using up whole
pages of description when she should be giving us dialogue.
Prospective readers, running their eyes over a printed page,
object to the solid block formation of the descriptive
passage. And yet it is fascinating to weave words about
her, as it is fascinating to turn a fine diamond this way
and that in the sunlight, to catch its prismatic hues.
Besides, you want to know--do you not?--how this woman who
reads Balzac should be waiting upon you in a little general
store in Winnebago, Wisconsin?
In the first place, Ferdinand Brandeis had been a dreamer,
and a potential poet, which is bad equipment for success in
the business of general merchandise. Four times, since her
marriage, Molly Brandeis had packed her household goods,
bade her friends good-by, and with her two children, Fanny
and Theodore, had followed her husband to pastures new. A
heart-breaking business, that, but broadening. She knew
nothing of the art of buying and selling at the time of her
marriage, but as the years went by she learned unconsciously
the things one should not do in business, from watching
Ferdinand Brandeis do them all. She even suggested this
change and that, but to no avail. Ferdinand Brandeis was a
gentle and lovable man at home; a testy, quick-tempered one
That was because he had been miscast from the first, and yet
had played one part too long, even though unsuccessfully,
ever to learn another. He did not make friends with the
genial traveling salesmen who breezed in, slapped him on
the back, offered him a cigar, inquired after his health,
opened their sample cases and flirted with the girl clerks,
all in a breath. He was a man who talked little, listened
little, learned little. He had never got the trick of
turning his money over quickly--that trick so necessary to
the success of the small-town business.
So it was that, in the year preceding Ferdinand Brandeis'
death, there came often to the store a certain grim visitor.
Herman Walthers, cashier of the First National Bank of
Winnebago, was a kindly-enough, shrewd, small-town banker,
but to Ferdinand Brandeis and his wife his visits, growing
more and more frequent, typified all that was frightful,
presaged misery and despair. He would drop in on a bright
summer morning, perhaps, with a cheerful greeting. He would
stand for a moment at the front of the store, balancing
airily from toe to heel, and glancing about from shelf to
bin and back again in a large, speculative way. Then he
would begin to walk slowly and ruminatively about, his
shrewd little German eyes appraising the stock. He would
hum a little absent-minded tune as he walked, up one aisle
and down the next (there were only two), picking up a piece
of china there, turning it over to look at its stamp,
holding it up to the light, tapping it a bit with his
knuckles, and putting it down carefully before going
musically on down the aisle to the water sets, the lamps,
the stockings, the hardware, the toys. And so, his hands
behind his back, still humming, out the swinging screen door
and into the sunshine of Elm Street, leaving gloom and fear
One year after Molly Brandeis took hold, Herman Walthers'
visits ceased, and in two years he used to rise to greet her
from his little cubbyhole when she came into the bank.
Which brings us to the plush photograph album. The plush
photograph album is a concrete example of what makes
business failure and success. More than that, its brief
history presents a complete characterization of Ferdinand
and Molly Brandeis.
Ten years before, Ferdinand Brandeis had bought a large bill
of Christmas fancy-goods--celluloid toilette sets, leather
collar boxes, velvet glove cases. Among the lot was a
photograph album in the shape of a huge acorn done in
lightning-struck plush. It was a hideous thing, and
expensive. It stood on a brass stand, and its leaves were
edged in gilt, and its color was a nauseous green and blue,
and it was altogether the sort of thing to grace the chill
and funereal best room in a Wisconsin farmhouse. Ferdinand
Brandeis marked it at six dollars and stood it up for the
Christmas trade. That had been ten years before. It was
too expensive; or too pretentious, or perhaps even too
horrible for the bucolic purse. At any rate, it had been
taken out, brushed, dusted, and placed on its stand every
holiday season for ten years. On the day after Christmas it
was always there, its lightning-struck plush face staring
wildly out upon the ravaged fancy-goods counter. It would
be packed in its box again and consigned to its long
summer's sleep. It had seen three towns, and many changes.
The four dollars that Ferdinand Brandeis had invested in it
still remained unturned.
One snowy day in November (Ferdinand Brandeis died a
fortnight later) Mrs. Brandeis, entering the store, saw two
women standing at the fancy-goods counter, laughing in a
stifled sort of way. One of them was bowing elaborately to
a person unseen. Mrs. Brandeis was puzzled. She watched
them for a moment, interested. One of the women was known
to her. She came up to them and put her question, bluntly,
though her quick wits had already given her a suspicion of
"What are you bowing to?"
The one who had done the bowing blushed a little, but
giggled too, as she said, "I'm greeting my old friend, the
plush album. I've seen it here every Christmas for five
Ferdinand Brandeis died suddenly a little more than a week
later. It was a terrible period, and one that might have
prostrated a less resolute and balanced woman. There were
long-standing debts, not to speak of the entire stock of
holiday goods to be paid for. The day after the funeral
Winnebago got a shock. The Brandeis house was besieged by
condoling callers. Every member of the little Jewish
congregation of Winnebago came, of course, as they had come
before the funeral. Those who had not brought cakes, and
salads, and meats, and pies, brought them now, as was the
invariable custom in time of mourning.
Others of the townspeople called, too; men and women who had
known and respected Ferdinand Brandeis. And the shock they
got was this: Mrs. Brandeis was out. Any one could have
told you that she should have been sitting at home in a
darkened room, wearing a black gown, clasping Fanny and
Theodore to her, and holding a black-bordered handkerchief
at intervals to her reddened eyes. And that is what she
really wanted to do, for she had loved her husband, and she
respected the conventions. What she did was to put on a
white shirtwaist and a black skirt at seven o'clock the
morning after the funeral.
The store had been closed the day before. She entered it at
seven forty-five, as Aloysius was sweeping out with wet
sawdust and a languid broom. The extra force of holiday
clerks straggled in, uncertainly, at eight or after,
expecting an hour or two of undisciplined gossip. At eight-
ten Molly Brandeis walked briskly up to the plush photograph
album, whisked off its six-dollar price mark, and stuck
in its place a neatly printed card bearing these figures:
"To-day-- 79@!" The plush album went home in a farmer's
wagon that afternoon.
Right here there should be something said about Fanny
Brandeis. And yet, each time I turn to her I find her
mother plucking at my sleeve. There comes to my mind the
picture of Mrs. Brandeis turning down Norris Street at
quarter to eight every morning, her walk almost a march, so
firm and measured it was, her head high, her chin thrust
forward a little, as a fighter walks, but not pugnaciously;
her short gray skirt clearing the ground, her shoulders
almost consciously squared. Other Winnebago women were just
tying up their daughters' pigtails for school, or sweeping
the front porch, or watering the hanging baskets. Norris
Street residents got into the habit of timing themselves by
Mrs. Brandeis. When she marched by at seven forty-five they
hurried a little with the tying of the hair bow, as they
glanced out of the window. When she came by again, a little
before twelve, for her hasty dinner, they turned up the fire
under the potatoes and stirred the flour thickening for the
Mrs. Brandeis had soon learned that Fanny and Theodore could
manage their own school toilettes, with, perhaps, some
speeding up on the part of Mattie, the servant girl. But it
needed her keen brown eye to detect corners that Aloysius
had neglected to sweep out with wet sawdust, and her
presence to make sure that the counter covers were taken off
and folded, the outside show dusted and arranged, the
windows washed, the whole store shining and ready for
business by eight o'clock. So Fanny had even learned to do
her own tight, shiny, black, shoulder-length curls, which
she tied back with a black bow. They were wet, meek,
and tractable curls at eight in the morning. By the time
school was out at four they were as wildly unruly as if
charged with electric currents--which they really were, when
you consider the little dynamo that wore them.
Mrs. Brandeis took a scant half hour to walk the six blocks
between the store and the house, to snatch a hurried dinner,
and traverse the distance to the store again. It was a
program that would have killed a woman less magnificently
healthy and determined. She seemed to thrive on it, and she
kept her figure and her wit when other women of her age grew
dull, and heavy, and ineffectual. On summer days the little
town often lay shimmering in the heat, the yellow road
glaring in it, the red bricks of the high school reflecting
it in waves, the very pine knots in the sidewalks gummy and
resinous with heat, and sending up a pungent smell that was
of the woods, and yet stifling. She must have felt an
almost irresistible temptation to sit for a moment on the
cool, shady front porch, with its green-painted flower
boxes, its hanging fern baskets and the catalpa tree looking
boskily down upon it.
But she never did. She had an almost savage energy and
determination. The unpaid debts were ever ahead of her;
there were the children to be dressed and sent to school;
there was the household to be kept up; there were Theodore's
violin lessons that must not be neglected--not after what
Professor Bauer had said about him.
You may think that undue stress is being laid upon this
driving force in her, upon this business ability. But
remember that this was fifteen years or more ago, before
women had invaded the world of business by the thousands, to
take their place, side by side, salary for salary, with men.
Oh, there were plenty of women wage earners in Winnebago, as
elsewhere; clerks, stenographers, school teachers,
bookkeepers. The paper mills were full of girls, and the
canning factory too. But here was a woman gently bred,
untrained in business, left widowed with two children at
thirty-eight, and worse than penniless--in debt.
And that was not all. As Ferdinand Brandeis' wife she had
occupied a certain social position in the little Jewish
community of Winnebago. True, they had never been moneyed,
while the others of her own faith in the little town were
wealthy, and somewhat purse-proud. They had carriages, most
of them, with two handsome horses, and their houses were
spacious and veranda-encircled, and set in shady lawns.
When the Brandeis family came to Winnebago five years
before, these people had waited, cautiously, and
investigated, and then had called. They were of a type to
be found in every small town; prosperous, conservative,
constructive citizens, clannish, but not so much so as their
city cousins, mingling socially with their Gentile
neighbors, living well, spending their money freely, taking
a vast pride in the education of their children. But here
was Molly Brandeis, a Jewess, setting out to earn her living
in business, like a man. It was a thing to stir
Congregation Emanu-el to its depths. Jewish women, they
would tell you, did not work thus. Their husbands worked
for them, or their sons, or their brothers.
"Oh, I don't know," said Mrs. Brandeis, when she heard of
it. "I seem to remember a Jewess named Ruth who was left
widowed, and who gleaned in the fields for her living, and
yet the neighbors didn't talk. For that matter, she seems
to be pretty well thought of, to this day."
But there is no denying that she lost caste among her own
people. Custom and training are difficult to overcome. But
Molly Brandeis was too deep in her own affairs to care.
That Christmas season following her husband's death was
a ghastly time, and yet a grimly wonderful one, for it
applied the acid test to Molly Brandeis and showed her up
The first week in January she, with Sadie and Pearl, the two
clerks, and Aloysius, the boy, took inventory. It was a
terrifying thing, that process of casting up accounts. It
showed with such starkness how hideously the Brandeis ledger
sagged on the wrong side. The three women and the boy
worked with a sort of dogged cheerfulness at it, counting,
marking, dusting, washing. They found shelves full of
forgotten stock, dust-covered and profitless. They found
many articles of what is known as hard stock, akin to the
plush album; glass and plated condiment casters for the
dining table, in a day when individual salts and separate
vinegar cruets were already the thing; lamps with straight
wicks when round wicks were in demand.
They scoured shelves, removed the grime of years from boxes,
washed whole battalions of chamber sets, bathed piles of
plates, and bins of cups and saucers. It was a dirty, back-
breaking job, that ruined the finger nails, tried the
disposition, and caked the throat with dust. Besides, the
store was stove-heated and, near the front door,
uncomfortably cold. The women wore little shoulder shawls
pinned over their waists, for warmth, and all four,
including Aloysius, sniffled for weeks afterward.
That inventory developed a new, grim line around Mrs.
Brandeis' mouth, and carved another at the corner of each
eye. After it was over she washed her hair, steamed her
face over a bowl of hot water, packed two valises, left
minute and masterful instructions with Mattie as to the
household, and with Sadie and Pearl as to the store, and was
off to Chicago on her first buying trip. She took Fanny
with her, as ballast. It was a trial at which many men
would have quailed. On the shrewdness and judgment of that
buying trip depended the future of Brandeis' Bazaar, and
Mrs. Brandeis, and Fanny, and Theodore.
Mrs. Brandeis had accompanied her husband on many of his
trips to Chicago. She had even gone with him occasionally
to the wholesale houses around La Salle Street, and Madison,
and Fifth Avenue, but she had never bought a dollar's worth
herself. She saw that he bought slowly, cautiously, and
without imagination. She made up her mind that she would
buy quickly, intuitively. She knew slightly some of the
salesmen in the wholesale houses. They had often made
presents to her of a vase, a pocketbook, a handkerchief, or
some such trifle, which she accepted reluctantly, when at
all. She was thankful now for these visits. She found
herself remembering many details of them. She made up her
mind, with a canny knowingness, that there should be no
presents this time, no theater invitations, no lunches or
dinners. This was business, she told herself; more than
business--it was grim war.
They still tell of that trip, sometimes, when buyers and
jobbers and wholesale men get together. Don't imagine that
she came to be a woman captain of finance. Don't think that
we are to see her at the head of a magnificent business
establishment, with buyers and department heads below her,
and a private office done up in mahogany, and stenographers
and secretaries. No, she was Mrs. Brandeis, of Brandeis'
Bazaar, to the end. The bills she bought were ridiculously
small, I suppose, and the tricks she turned on that first
trip were pitiful, perhaps. But they were magnificent too,
in their way. I am even bold enough to think that she might
have made business history, that plucky woman, if she had
had an earlier start, and if she had not, to the very end,
had a pack of unmanageable handicaps yelping at her heels,
pulling at her skirts.
It was only a six-hour trip to Chicago. Fanny Brandeis'
eyes, big enough at any time, were surely twice their size
during the entire journey of two hundred miles or more.
They were to have lunch on the train! They were to stop at
an hotel! They were to go to the theater! She would have
lain back against the red plush seat of the car, in a swoon
of joy, if there had not been so much to see in the car
itself, and through the car window.
"We'll have something for lunch," said Mrs. Brandeis when
they were seated in the dining car, "that we never have at
home, shall we?"
"Oh, yes!" replied Fanny in a whisper of excitement.
"Something--something queer, and different, and not so very
They had oysters (a New Yorker would have sniffed at them),
and chicken potpie, and asparagus, and ice cream. If that
doesn't prove Mrs. Brandeis was game, I should like to know
what could! They stopped at the Windsor-Clifton, because it
was quieter and less expensive than the Palmer House, though
quite as full of red plush and walnut. Besides, she had
stopped at the Palmer House with her husband, and she knew
how buyers were likely to be besieged by eager salesmen with
cards, and with tempting lines of goods spread knowingly in
the various sample-rooms.
Fanny Brandeis was thirteen, and emotional, and incredibly
receptive and alive. It is impossible to tell what she
learned during that Chicago trip, it was so crowded, so
wonderful. She went with her mother to the wholesale houses
and heard and saw and, unconsciously, remembered. When she
became fatigued with the close air of the dim showrooms,
with their endless aisles piled with every sort of ware, she
would sit on a chair in some obscure corner, watching those
sleek, over-lunched, genial-looking salesmen who were
chewing their cigars somewhat wildly when Mrs. Brandeis
finished with them. Sometimes she did not accompany her
mother, but lay in bed, deliciously, until the middle of the
morning, then dressed, and chatted with the obliging Irish
chamber maid, and read until her mother came for her at
Everything she did was a delightful adventure; everything
she saw had the tang of novelty. Fanny Brandeis was to see
much that was beautiful and rare in her full lifetime, but
she never again, perhaps, got quite the thrill that those
ugly, dim, red-carpeted, gas-lighted hotel corridors gave
her, or the grim bedroom, with its walnut furniture and its
Nottingham curtains. As for the Chicago streets themselves,
with their perilous corners (there were no czars in blue to
regulate traffic in those days), older and more
sophisticated pedestrians experienced various emotions while
negotiating the corner of State and Madison.
That buying trip lasted ten days. It was a racking
business, physically and mentally. There were the hours of
tramping up one aisle and down the other in the big
wholesale lofts. But that brought bodily fatigue only. It
was the mental strain that left Mrs. Brandeis spent and limp
at the end of the day. Was she buying wisely? Was she
over-buying? What did she know about buying, anyway? She
would come back to her hotel at six, sometimes so exhausted
that the dining-room and dinner were unthinkable. At such
times they would have dinner in their room another delicious
adventure for Fanny. She would try to tempt the fagged
woman on the bed with bits of this or that from one of the
many dishes that dotted the dinner tray. But Molly
Brandeis, harrowed in spirit and numbed in body, was too
spent to eat.
But that was not always the case. There was that
unforgettable night when they went to see Bernhardt the
divine. Fanny spent the entire morning following standing
before the bedroom mirror, with her hair pulled out in a
wild fluff in front, her mother's old marten-fur scarf high
and choky around her neck, trying to smile that slow, sad,
poignant, tear-compelling smile; but she had to give it up,
clever mimic though she was. She only succeeded in looking
as though a pin were sticking her somewhere. Besides,
Fanny's own smile was a quick, broad, flashing grin, with a
generous glint of white teeth in it, and she always forgot
about being exquisitely wistful over it until it was too
I wonder if the story of the china religious figures will
give a wrong impression of Mrs. Brandeis. Perhaps not, if
you will only remember this woman's white-lipped
determination to wrest a livelihood from the world, for her
children and herself. They had been in Chicago a week, and
she was buying at Bauder & Peck's. Now, Bauder & Peck,
importers, are known the world over. It is doubtful if
there is one of you who has not been supplied, indirectly,
with some imported bit of china or glassware, with French
opera glasses or cunning toys and dolls, from the great New
York and Chicago showrooms of that company.
Young Bauder himself was waiting on Mrs. Brandeis, and he
was frowning because he hated to sell women. Young Bauder
was being broken into the Chicago end of the business, and
he was not taking gracefully to the process.
At the end of a long aisle, on an obscure shelf in a dim
corner, Molly Brandeis' sharp eyes espied a motley
collection of dusty, grimy china figures of the kind one
sees on the mantel in the parlor of the small-town Catholic
home. Winnebago's population was two-thirds Catholic,
German and Irish, and very devout.
Mrs. Brandeis stopped short. "How much for that lot?" She
pointed to the shelf. Young Bauder's gaze followed hers,
puzzled. The figures were from five inches to a foot high,
in crude, effective blues, and gold, and crimson, and
white. All the saints were there in assorted sizes, the
Pieta, the cradle in the manger. There were probably two
hundred or more of the little figures.
"Oh, those!" said young Bauder vaguely. "You don't want
that stuff. Now, about that Limoges china. As I said, I
can make you a special price on it if you carry it as an
open-stock pattern. You'll find----"
"How much for that lot?" repeated Mrs. Brandeis.
"Those are left-over samples, Mrs. Brandeis. Last year's
stuff. They're all dirty. I'd forgotten they were there."
"How much for the lot?" said Mrs. Brandeis, pleasantly, for
the third time.
"I really don't know. Three hundred, I should say.
"I'll give you two hundred," ventured Mrs. Brandeis, her
heart in her mouth and her mouth very firm.
"Oh, come now, Mrs. Brandeis! Bauder & Peck don't do
business that way, you know. We'd really rather not sell
them at all. The things aren't worth much to us, or to you,
for that matter. But three hundred----"
"Two hundred," repeated Mrs. Brandeis, "or I cancel my
order, including the Limoges. I want those figures."
And she got them. Which isn't the point of the story. The
holy figures were fine examples of foreign workmanship,
their colors, beneath the coating of dust, as brilliant and
fadeless as those found in the churches of Europe. They
reached Winnebago duly, packed in straw and paper, still
dusty and shelf-worn. Mrs. Brandeis and Sadie and Pearl sat
on up-ended boxes at the rear of the store, in the big barn-
like room in which newly arrived goods were unpacked. As
Aloysius dived deep into the crate and brought up figure
after figure, the three women plunged them into warm and
soapy water and proceeded to bathe and scour the entire
school of saints, angels, and cherubim. They came out
brilliantly fresh and rosy.
All the Irish ingenuity and artistry in Aloysius came to the
surface as he dived again and again into the great barrel
and brought up the glittering pieces.
"It'll make an elegant window," he gasped from the depths of
the hay, his lean, lengthy frame jack-knifed over the edge.
"And cheap." His shrewd wit had long ago divined the
store's price mark. "If Father Fitzpatrick steps by in the
forenoon I'll bet they'll be gone before nighttime to-
morrow. You'll be letting me do the trim, Mrs. Brandeis?"
He came back that evening to do it, and he threw his whole
soul into it, which, considering his ancestry and
temperament, was very high voltage for one small-town store
window. He covered the floor of the window with black crepe
paper, and hung it in long folds, like a curtain, against
the rear wall. The gilt of the scepters, and halos, and
capes showed up dazzlingly against this background. The
scarlets, and pinks, and blues, and whites of the robes
appeared doubly bright. The whole made a picture that
struck and held you by its vividness and contrast.
Father Fitzpatrick, very tall and straight, and handsome,
with his iron-gray hair and his cheeks pink as a girl's, did
step by next morning on his way to the post-office. It was
whispered that in his youth Father Fitzpatrick had been an
actor, and that he had deserted the footlights for the altar
lights because of a disappointment. The drama's loss was
the Church's gain. You should have heard him on Sunday
morning, now flaying them, now swaying them! He still had
the actor's flexible voice, vibrant, tremulous, or strident,
at will. And no amount of fasting or praying had ever
dimmed that certain something in his eye--the something
which makes the matinee idol.
Not only did he step by now; he turned, came back; stopped
before the window. Then he entered.
"Madam," he said to Mrs. Brandeis, "you'll probably save
more souls with your window display than I could in a month
of hell-fire sermons." He raised his hand. "You have the
sanction of the Church." Which was the beginning of a queer
friendship between the Roman Catholic priest and the Jewess
shopkeeper that lasted as long as Molly Brandeis lived.
By noon it seemed that the entire population of Winnebago
had turned devout. The figures, a tremendous bargain,
though sold at a high profit, seemed to melt away from the
counter that held them.
By three o'clock, "Only one to a customer!" announced Mrs.
Brandeis. By the middle of the week the window itself was
ravished of its show. By the end of the week there remained
only a handful of the duller and less desirable pieces--the
minor saints, so to speak. Saturday night Mrs. Brandeis did
a little figuring on paper. The lot had cost her two
hundred dollars. She had sold for six hundred. Two from
six leaves four. Four hundred dollars! She repeated it to
herself, quietly. Her mind leaped back to the plush
photograph album, then to young Bauder and his cool
contempt. And there stole over her that warm, comfortable
glow born of reassurance and triumph. Four hundred dollars.
Not much in these days of big business. We said, you will
remember, that it was a pitiful enough little trick she
turned to make it, though an honest one. And--in the face
of disapproval--a rather magnificent one too. For it gave
to Molly Brandeis that precious quality, self-confidence,
out of which is born success.
By spring Mrs. Brandeis had the farmer women coming to her
for their threshing dishes and kitchenware, and the West End
Culture Club for their whist prizes. She seemed to realize
that the days of the general store were numbered, and she
set about making hers a novelty store. There was something
terrible about the earnestness with which she stuck to
business. She was not more than thirty-eight at this time,
intelligent, healthy, fun-loving. But she stayed at it all
day. She listened and chatted to every one, and learned
much. There was about her that human quality that invites
She made friends by the hundreds, and friends are a business
asset. Those blithe, dressy, and smooth-spoken gentlemen
known as traveling men used to tell her their troubles,
perched on a stool near the stove, and show her the picture
of their girl in the back of their watch, and asked her to
dinner at the Haley House. She listened to their tale of
woe, and advised them; she admired the picture of the girl,
and gave some wholesome counsel on the subject of traveling
men's lonely wives; but she never went to dinner at the
It had not taken these debonair young men long to learn that
there was a woman buyer who bought quickly, decisively, and
intelligently, and that she always demanded a duplicate
slip. Even the most unscrupulous could not stuff an order
of hers, and when it came to dating she gave no quarter.
Though they wore clothes that were two leaps ahead of the
styles worn by the Winnebago young men--their straw
sailors were likely to be saw-edged when the local edges
were smooth, and their coats were more flaring, or their
trousers wider than the coats and trousers of the Winnebago
boys--they were not, for the most part, the gay dogs that
Winnebago's fancy painted them. Many of them were very
lonely married men who missed their wives and babies, and
loathed the cuspidored discomfort of the small-town hotel
lobby. They appreciated Mrs. Brandeis' good-natured
sympathy, and gave her the long end of a deal when they
could. It was Sam Kiser who had begged her to listen to his
advice to put in Battenberg patterns and braid, long before
the Battenberg epidemic had become widespread and virulent.
"Now listen to me, Mrs. Brandeis," he begged, almost
tearfully. "You're a smart woman. Don't let this get by
you. You know that I know that a salesman would have as
much chance to sell you a gold brick as to sell old John D.
Rockefeller a gallon of oil."
Mrs. Brandeis eyed his samples coldly. "But it looks so
unattractive. And the average person has no imagination. A
bolt of white braid and a handful of buttons--they wouldn't
get a mental picture of the completed piece. Now,
"Then give 'em a real picture!" interrupted Sam. "Work up
one of these water-lily pattern table covers. Use No. 100
braid and the smallest buttons. Stick it in the window and
they'll tear their hair to get patterns."
She did it, taking turns with Pearl and Sadie at weaving the
great, lacy square during dull moments. When it was
finished they placed it in the window, where it lay like
frosted lace, exquisitely graceful and delicate, with its
tracery of curling petals and feathery fern sprays.
Winnebago gazed and was bitten by the Battenberg bug. It
wound itself up in a network of Battenberg braid, in all
the numbers. It bought buttons of every size; it stitched
away at Battenberg covers, doilies, bedspreads, blouses,
curtains. Battenberg tumbled, foamed, cascaded over
Winnebago's front porches all that summer. Listening to Sam
Kiser had done it.
She listened to the farmer women too, and to the mill girls,
and to the scant and precious pearls that dropped from the
lips of the East End society section. There was something
about her brown eyes and her straight, sensible nose that
reassured them so that few suspected the mischievous in her.
For she was mischievous. If she had not been I think she
could not have stood the drudgery, and the heartbreaks, and
the struggle, and the terrific manual labor.
She used to guy people, gently, and they never guessed it.
Mrs. G. Manville Smith, for example, never dreamed of the
joy that her patronage brought Molly Brandeis, who waited on
her so demurely. Mrs. G. Manville Smith (nee Finnegan)
scorned the Winnebago shops, and was said to send to Chicago
for her hairpins. It was known that her household was run
on the most niggardly basis, however, and she short-rationed
her two maids outrageously. It was said that she could
serve less real food on more real lace doilies than any
other housekeeper in Winnebago. Now, Mrs. Brandeis sold
Scourine two cents cheaper than the grocery stores, using it
as an advertisement to attract housewives, and making no
profit on the article itself. Mrs. G. Manville Smith always
patronized Brandeis' Bazaar for Scourine alone, and thus
represented pure loss. Also she my-good-womaned Mrs.
Brandeis. That lady, seeing her enter one day with her
comic, undulating gait, double-actioned like a giraffe's,
and her plumes that would have shamed a Knight of Pythias,
decided to put a stop to these unprofitable visits.
She waited on Mrs. G. Manville Smith, a dangerous gleam in
"Scourine," spake Mrs. G. Manville Smith.
"No. Send them."
Mrs. Brandeis, scribbling in her sales book, stopped, pencil
poised. "We cannot send Scourine unless with a purchase of
other goods amounting to a dollar or more."
Mrs. G. Manville Smith's plumes tossed and soared
agitatedly. "But my good woman, I don't want anything
"Then you'll have to carry the Scourine?"
"Certainly not! I'll send for it."
"The sale closes at five." It was then 4:57.
"I never heard of such a thing! You can't expect me to
Now, Mrs. G. Manville Smith had been a dining-room girl at
the old Haley House before she married George Smith, and
long before he made his money in lumber.
"You won't find them so heavy," Molly Brandeis said
"I certainly would! Perhaps you would not. You're used to
that sort of thing. Rough work, and all that."
Aloysius, doubled up behind the lamps, knew what was coming,
from the gleam in his boss's eye.
"There may be something in that," Molly Brandeis returned
sweetly. "That's why I thought you might not mind taking
them. They're really not much heavier than a laden tray."
"Oh!" exclaimed the outraged Mrs. G. Manville Smith. And
took her plumes and her patronage out of Brandeis' Bazaar
That was as malicious as Molly Brandeis ever could be. And
it was forgivable malice.
Most families must be described against the background of
their homes, but the Brandeis family life was bounded and
controlled by the store. Their meals and sleeping hours and
amusements were regulated by it. It taught them much, and
brought them much, and lost them much. Fanny Brandeis
always said she hated it, but it made her wise, and
tolerant, and, in the end, famous. I don't know what more
one could ask of any institution. It brought her in contact
with men and women, taught her how to deal with them. After
school she used often to run down to the store to see her
mother, while Theodore went home to practice. Perched on a
high stool in some corner she heard, and saw, and absorbed.
It was a great school for the sensitive, highly-organized,
dramatic little Jewish girl, for, to paraphrase a well-known
stage line, there are just as many kinds of people in
Winnebago as there are in Washington.
It was about this time that Fanny Brandeis began to realize,
actively, that she was different. Of course, other little
Winnebago girls' mothers did not work like a man, in a
store. And she and Bella Weinberg were the only two in her
room at school who stayed out on the Day of Atonement, and
on New Year, and the lesser Jewish holidays. Also, she went
to temple on Friday night and Saturday morning, when the
other girls she knew went to church on Sunday. These things
set her apart in the little Middle Western town; but it was
not these that constituted the real difference. She played,
and slept, and ate, and studied like the other healthy
little animals of her age. The real difference was
temperamental, or emotional, or dramatic, or historic, or
all four. They would be playing tag, perhaps, in one of the
cool, green ravines that were the beauty spots of the little
They nestled like exquisite emeralds in the embrace of the
hills, those ravines, and Winnebago's civic surge had not
yet swept them away in a deluge of old tin cans, ashes, dirt
and refuse, to be sold later for building lots. The Indians
had camped and hunted in them. The one under the Court
Street bridge, near the Catholic church and monastery, was
the favorite for play. It lay, a lovely, gracious thing,
below the hot little town, all green, and lush, and cool, a
tiny stream dimpling through it. The plump Capuchin
Fathers, in their coarse brown robes, knotted about the
waist with a cord, their bare feet thrust into sandals,
would come out and sun themselves on the stone bench at the
side of the monastery on the hill, or would potter about the
garden. And suddenly Fanny would stop quite still in the
midst of her tag game, struck with the beauty of the picture
it called from the past.
Little Oriental that she was, she was able to combine the
dry text of her history book with the green of the trees,
the gray of the church, and the brown of the monk's robes,
and evolve a thrilling mental picture therefrom. The tag
game and her noisy little companions vanished. She was
peopling the place with stealthy Indians. Stealthy,
cunning, yet savagely brave. They bore no relation to the
abject, contemptible, and rather smelly Oneidas who came to
the back door on summer mornings, in calico, and ragged
overalls, with baskets of huckleberries on their arm, their
pride gone, a broken and conquered people. She saw them
wild, free, sovereign, and there were no greasy, berry-
peddling Oneidas among them. They were Sioux, and
Pottawatomies (that last had the real Indian sound), and
Winnebagos, and Menomonees, and Outagamis. She made them
taciturn, and beady-eyed, and lithe, and fleet, and every
other adjectival thing her imagination and history book
could supply. The fat and placid Capuchin Fathers on the
hill became Jesuits, sinister, silent, powerful, with
France and the Church of Rome behind them. From the shelter
of that big oak would step Nicolet, the brave, first among
Wisconsin explorers, and last to receive the credit for his
hardihood. Jean Nicolet! She loved the sound of it. And
with him was La Salle, straight, and slim, and elegant, and
surely wearing ruffles and plumes and sword even in a canoe.
And Tonty, his Italian friend and fellow adventurer--Tonty
of the satins and velvets, graceful, tactful, poised, a
shadowy figure; his menacing iron hand, so feared by the
ignorant savages, encased always in a glove. Surely a
perfumed g--- Slap! A rude shove that jerked her head back
sharply and sent her forward, stumbling, and jarred her like
"Ya-a-a! Tag! You're it! Fanny's it!"
Indians, priests, cavaliers, coureurs de bois, all
vanished. Fanny would stand a moment, blinking stupidly.
The next moment she was running as fleetly as the best of
the boys in savage pursuit of one of her companions in the
She was a strange mixture of tomboy and bookworm, which was
a mercifully kind arrangement for both body and mind. The
spiritual side of her was groping and staggering and feeling
its way about as does that of any little girl whose mind is
exceptionally active, and whose mother is unusually busy.
It was on the Day of Atonement, known in the Hebrew as Yom
Kippur, in the year following her father's death that that
side of her performed a rather interesting handspring.
Fanny Brandeis had never been allowed to fast on this, the
greatest and most solemn of Jewish holy days Molly Brandeis'
modern side refused to countenance the practice of
withholding food from any child for twenty-four hours. So
it was in the face of disapproval that Fanny, making deep
inroads into the steak and fried sweet potatoes at
supper on the eve of the Day of Atonement, announced her
intention of fasting from that meal to supper on the
following evening. She had just passed her plate for a
third helping of potatoes. Theodore, one lap behind her in
the race, had entered his objection.
"Well, for the land's sakes!" he protested. "I guess you're
not the only one who likes sweet potatoes."
Fanny applied a generous dab of butter to an already buttery
morsel, and chewed it with an air of conscious virtue.
"I've got to eat a lot. This is the last bite I'll have
until to-morrow night."
"What's that?" exclaimed Mrs. Brandeis, sharply.
"Yes, it is!" hooted Theodore.
Fanny went on conscientiously eating as she explained.
"Bella Weinberg and I are going to fast all day. We just
want to see if we can."
"Betcha can't," Theodore said.
Mrs. Brandeis regarded her small daughter with a thoughtful
gaze. "But that isn't the object in fasting, Fanny--just to
see if you can. If you're going to think of food all
through the Yom Kippur services----"
"I sha'n't?" protested Fanny passionately. "Theodore would,
but I won't."
"Wouldn't any such thing," denied Theodore. "But if I'm
going to play a violin solo during the memorial service I
guess I've got to eat my regular meals."
Theodore sometimes played at temple, on special occasions.
The little congregation, listening to the throbbing rise and
fall of this fifteen-year-old boy's violin playing,
realized, vaguely, that here was something disturbingly,
harrowingly beautiful. They did not know that they were
listening to genius.
Molly Brandeis, in her second best dress, walked to
temple Yom Kippur eve, her son at her right side, her
daughter at her left. She had made up her mind that she
would not let this next day, with its poignantly beautiful
service, move her too deeply. It was the first since her
husband's death, and Rabbi Thalmann rather prided himself on
his rendition of the memorial service that came at three in
A man of learning, of sweetness, and of gentle wit was Rabbi
Thalmann, and unappreciated by his congregation. He stuck
to the Scriptures for his texts, finding Moses a greater
leader than Roosevelt, and the miracle of the Burning Bush
more wonderful than the marvels of twentieth-century wizardy
in electricity. A little man, Rabbi Thalmann, with hands
and feet as small and delicate as those of a woman. Fanny
found him fascinating to look on, in his rabbinical black
broadcloth and his two pairs of glasses perched, in reading,
upon his small hooked nose. He stood very straight in the
pulpit, but on the street you saw that his back was bent
just the least bit in the world--or perhaps it was only his
student stoop, as he walked along with his eyes on the
ground, smoking those slender, dapper, pale brown cigars
that looked as if they had been expressly cut and rolled to
The evening service was at seven. The congregation,
rustling in silks, was approaching the little temple from
all directions. Inside, there was a low-toned buzz of
conversation. The Brandeis' seat was well toward the rear,
as befitted a less prosperous member of the rich little
congregation. This enabled them to get a complete picture
of the room in its holiday splendor. Fanny drank it in
eagerly, her dark eyes soft and luminous. The bare, yellow-
varnished wooden pews glowed with the reflection from the
chandeliers. The seven-branched candlesticks on either side
of the pulpit were entwined with smilax. The red plush
curtain that hung in front of the Ark on ordinary days, and
the red plush pulpit cover too, were replaced by
gleaming white satin edged with gold fringe and finished at
the corners with heavy gold tassels. How the rich white
satin glistened in the light of the electric candles! Fanny
Brandeis loved the lights, and the gleam, and the music, so
majestic, and solemn, and the sight of the little rabbi,
sitting so straight and serious in his high-backed chair, or
standing to read from the great Bible. There came to this
emotional little Jewess a thrill that was not born of
religious fervor at all, I am afraid.
The sheer drama of the thing got her. In fact, the thing
she had set herself to do to-day had in it very little of
religion. Mrs. Brandeis had been right about that. It was
a test of endurance, as planned. Fanny had never fasted in
all her healthy life. She would come home from school to
eat formidable stacks of bread and butter, enhanced by brown
sugar or grape jelly, and topped off with three or four
apples from the barrel in the cellar. Two hours later she
would attack a supper of fried potatoes, and liver, and tea,
and peach preserve, and more stacks of bread and butter.
Then there were the cherry trees in the back yard, and the
berry bushes, not to speak of sundry bags of small, hard
candies of the jelly-bean variety, fitted for quick and
secret munching during school. She liked good things to
eat, this sturdy little girl, as did her friend, that blonde
and creamy person, Bella Weinberg.
The two girls exchanged meaningful glances during the
evening service. The Weinbergs, as befitted their station,
sat in the third row at the right, and Bella had to turn
around to convey her silent messages to Fanny. The evening
service was brief, even to the sermon. Rabbi Thalmann and
his congregation would need their strength for to-morrow's
The Brandeises walked home through the soft September
night, and the children had to use all their Yom Kippur
dignity to keep from scuffling through the piled-up drifts
of crackling autumn leaves. Theodore went to the cellar and
got an apple, which he ate with what Fanny considered an
unnecessary amount of scrunching. It was a firm, juicy
apple, and it gave forth a cracking sound when his teeth met
in its white meat. Fanny, after regarding him with gloomy
superiority, went to bed.
She had willed to sleep late, for gastronomic reasons, but
the mental command disobeyed itself, and she woke early,
with a heavy feeling. Early as it was, Molly Brandeis had
tiptoed in still earlier to look at her strange little
daughter. She sometimes did that on Saturday mornings when
she left early for the store and Fanny slept late. This
morning Fanny's black hair was spread over the pillow as she
lay on her back, one arm outflung, the other at her breast.
She made a rather startlingly black and white and scarlet
picture as she lay there asleep. Fanny did things very much
in that way, too, with broad, vivid, unmistakable splashes
of color. Mrs. Brandeis, looking at the black-haired, red-
lipped child sleeping there, wondered just how much
determination lay back of the broad white brow. She had
said little to Fanny about this feat of fasting, and she
told herself that she disapproved of it. But in her heart
she wanted the girl to see it through, once attempted.
Fanny awoke at half past seven, and her nostrils dilated to
that most exquisite, tantalizing and fragrant of smells--the
aroma of simmering coffee. It permeated the house. It
tickled the senses. It carried with it visions of hot,
brown breakfast rolls, and eggs, and butter. Fanny loved
her breakfast. She turned over now, and decided to go to
sleep again. But she could not. She got up and dressed
slowly and carefully. There was no one to hurry her this
morning with the call from the foot of the stairs of,
"Fanny! Your egg'll get cold!"
She put on clean, crisp underwear, and did her hair
expertly. She slipped an all-enveloping pinafore over her
head, that the new silk dress might not be crushed before
church time. She thought that Theodore would surely have
finished his breakfast by this time. But when she came
down-stairs he was at the table. Not only that, he had just
begun his breakfast. An egg, all golden, and white, and
crisply brown at the frilly edges, lay on his plate.
Theodore always ate his egg in a mathematical sort of way.
He swallowed the white hastily first, because he disliked
it, and Mrs. Brandeis insisted that he eat it. Then he
would brood a moment over the yolk that lay, unmarred and
complete, like an amber jewel in the center of his plate.
Then he would suddenly plunge his fork into the very heart
of the jewel, and it would flow over his plate, mingling
with the butter, and he would catch it deftly with little
mops of warm, crisp, buttery roll.
Fanny passed the breakfast table just as Theodore plunged
his fork into the egg yolk. She caught her breath sharply,
and closed her eyes. Then she turned and fled to the front
porch and breathed deeply and windily of the heady September
Wisconsin morning air. As she stood there, with her stiff,
short black curls still damp and glistening, in her best
shoes and stockings, with the all-enveloping apron covering
her sturdy little figure, the light of struggle and
renunciation in her face, she typified something at once
fine and earthy.
But the real struggle was to come later. They went to
temple at ten, Theodore with his beloved violin tucked
carefully under his arm. Bella Weinberg was waiting at the
"Did you?" she asked eagerly.
"Of course not," replied Fanny disdainfully. "Do you
think I'd eat old breakfast when I said I was going to fast
all day?" Then, with sudden suspicion, "Did you?"
And they entered, and took their seats. It was fascinating
to watch the other members of the congregation come in, the
women rustling, the men subdued in the unaccustomed dignity
of black on a week day. One glance at the yellow pews was
like reading a complete social and financial register. The
seating arrangement of the temple was the Almanach de Gotha
of Congregation Emanu-el. Old Ben Reitman, patriarch among
the Jewish settlers of Winnebago, who had come over an
immigrant youth, and who now owned hundreds of rich farm
acres, besides houses, mills and banks, kinged it from the
front seat of the center section. He was a magnificent old
man, with a ruddy face, and a fine head with a shock of
heavy iron-gray hair, keen eyes, undimmed by years, and a
startling and unexpected dimple in one cheek that gave him a
mischievous and boyish look.
Behind this dignitary sat his sons, and their wives, and his
daughters and their husbands, and their children, and so on,
back to the Brandeis pew, third from the last, behind which
sat only a few obscure families branded as Russians, as only
the German-born Jew can brand those whose misfortune it is
to be born in that region known as hinter-Berlin.
The morning flew by, with its music, its responses, its
sermon in German, full of four- and five-syllable German
words like Barmherzigkeit and Eigentumlichkeit. All
during the sermon Fanny sat and dreamed and watched the
shadow on the window of the pine tree that stood close to
the temple, and was vastly amused at the jaundiced look that
the square of yellow window glass cast upon the face of the
vain and overdressed Mrs. Nathan Pereles. From time to time
Bella would turn to bestow upon her a look intended to
convey intense suffering and a resolute though dying
condition. Fanny stonily ignored these mute messages. They
offended something in her, though she could not tell what.
At the noon intermission she did not go home to the tempting
dinner smells, but wandered off through the little city park
and down to the river, where she sat on the bank and felt
very virtuous, and spiritual, and hollow. She was back in
her seat when the afternoon service was begun. Some of the
more devout members had remained to pray all through the
midday. The congregation came straggling in by twos and
threes. Many of the women had exchanged the severely
corseted discomfort of the morning's splendor for the
comparative ease of second-best silks. Mrs. Brandeis,
absent from her business throughout this holy day, came
hurrying in at two, to look with a rather anxious eye upon
her pale and resolute little daughter.
The memorial service was to begin shortly after three, and
lasted almost two hours. At quarter to three Bella slipped
out through the side aisle, beckoning mysteriously and
alluringly to Fanny as she went. Fanny looked at her
"Run along," said Mrs. Brandeis. "The air will be good for
you. Come back before the memorial service begins."
Fanny and Bella met, giggling, in the vestibule.
"Come on over to my house for a minute," Bella suggested.
"I want to show you something." The Weinberg house, a
great, comfortable, well-built home, with encircling
veranda, and a well-cared-for lawn, was just a scant block
away. They skipped across the street, down the block, and
in at the back door. The big sunny kitchen was deserted.
The house seemed very quiet and hushed. Over it hung the
delicious fragrance of freshly-baked pastry. Bella, a
rather baleful look in her eyes, led the way to the
butler's pantry that was as large as the average kitchen.
And there, ranged on platters, and baking boards, and on
snowy-white napkins, was that which made Tantalus's feast
seem a dry and barren snack. The Weinberg's had baked.
It is the custom in the household of Atonement Day fasters
of the old school to begin the evening meal, after the
twenty-four hours of abstainment, with coffee and freshly-
baked coffee cake of every variety. It was a lead-pipe blow
at one's digestion, but delicious beyond imagining. Bella's
mother was a famous cook, and her two maids followed in the
ways of their mistress. There were to be sisters and
brothers and out-of-town relations as guests at the evening
meal, and Mrs. Weinberg had outdone herself.
"Oh!" exclaimed Fanny in a sort of agony and delight.
"Take some," said Bella, the temptress.
The pantry was fragrant as a garden with spices, and fruit
scents, and the melting, delectable perfume of brown,
freshly-baked dough, sugar-coated. There was one giant
platter devoted wholly to round, plump cakes, with puffy
edges, in the center of each a sunken pool that was all
plum, bearing on its bosom a snowy sifting of powdered
sugar. There were others whose centers were apricot, pure
molten gold in the sunlight. There were speckled expanses
of cheese kuchen, the golden-brown surface showing rich
cracks through which one caught glimpses of the lemon-yellow
cheese beneath--cottage cheese that had been beaten up with
eggs, and spices, and sugar, and lemon. Flaky crust rose,
jaggedly, above this plateau. There were cakes with jelly,
and cinnamon kuchen, and cunning cakes with almond slices
nestling side by side. And there was freshly-baked bread--
twisted loaf, with poppy seed freckling its braid, and its
sides glistening with the butter that had been liberally
swabbed on it before it had been thrust into the oven.
Fanny Brandeis gazed, hypnotized. As she gazed Bella
selected a plum tart and bit into it--bit generously, so
that her white little teeth met in the very middle of the
oozing red-brown juice and one heard a little squirt as they
closed on the luscious fruit. At the sound Fanny quivered
all through her plump and starved little body.
"Have one," said Bella generously. "Go on. Nobody'll ever
know. Anyway, we've fasted long enough for our age. I
could fast till supper time if I wanted to, but I don't want
to." She swallowed the last morsel of the plum tart, and
selected another--apricot, this time, and opened her moist
red lips. But just before she bit into it (the Inquisition
could have used Bella's talents) she selected its
counterpart and held it out to Fanny. Fanny shook her head
slightly. Her hand came up involuntarily. Her eyes were
fastened on Bella's face.
"Go on," urged Bella. "Take it. They're grand! M-m-m-m!"
The first bite of apricot vanished between her rows of sharp
white teeth. Fanny shut her eyes as if in pain. She was
fighting the great fight of her life. She was to meet other
temptations, and perhaps more glittering ones, in her
lifetime, but to her dying day she never forgot that first
battle between the flesh and the spirit, there in the sugar-
scented pantry--and the spirit won. As Bella's lips closed
upon the second bite of apricot tart, the while her eye
roved over the almond cakes and her hand still held the
sweet out to Fanny, that young lady turned sharply, like a
soldier, and marched blindly out of the house, down the back
steps, across the street, and so into the temple.
The evening lights had just been turned on. The little
congregation, relaxed, weary, weak from hunger, many of
them, sat rapt and still except at those times when the
prayer book demanded spoken responses. The voice of the
little rabbi, rather weak now, had in it a timbre that made
it startlingly sweet and clear and resonant. Fanny slid
very quietly into the seat beside Mrs. Brandeis, and slipped
her moist and cold little hand into her mother's warm, work-
roughened palm. The mother's brown eyes, very bright with
unshed tears, left their perusal of the prayer book to dwell
upon the white little face that was smiling rather wanly up
at her. The pages of the prayer book lay two-thirds or more
to the left. Just as Fanny remarked this, there was a
little moment of hush in the march of the day's long
service. The memorial hour had begun.
Little Doctor Thalmann cleared his throat. The congregation
stirred a bit, changed its cramped position. Bella, the
guilty, came stealing in, a pink-and-gold picture of angelic
virtue. Fanny, looking at her, felt very aloof, and clean,
Molly Brandeis seemed to sense what had happened.
"But you didn't, did you?" she whispered softly.
Fanny shook her head.
Rabbi Thalmann was seated in his great carved chair. His
eyes were closed. The wheezy little organ in the choir loft
at the rear of the temple began the opening bars of
Schumann's Traumerei. And then, above the cracked voice of
the organ, rose the clear, poignant wail of a violin.
Theodore Brandeis had begun to play. You know the playing
of the average boy of fifteen--that nerve-destroying,
uninspired scraping. There was nothing of this in the
sounds that this boy called forth from the little wooden box
and the stick with its taut lines of catgut. Whatever it
was--the length of the thin, sensitive fingers, the turn of
the wrist, the articulation of the forearm, the something in
the brain, or all these combined--Theodore Brandeis
possessed that which makes for greatness. You realized
that as he crouched over his violin to get his cello tones.
As he played to-day the little congregation sat very still,
and each was thinking of his ambitions and his failures; of
the lover lost, of the duty left undone, of the hope
deferred; of the wrong that was never righted; of the lost
one whose memory spells remorse. It felt the salt taste on
its lips. It put up a furtive, shamed hand to dab at its
cheeks, and saw that the one who sat in the pew just ahead
was doing likewise. This is what happened when this boy of
fifteen wedded his bow to his violin. And he who makes us
feel all this has that indefinable, magic, glorious thing
known as Genius.
When it was over, there swept through the room that sigh
following tension relieved. Rabbi Thalmann passed a hand
over his tired eyes, like one returning from a far mental
journey; then rose, and came forward to the pulpit. He
began, in Hebrew, the opening words of the memorial service,
and so on to the prayers in English, with their words of
infinite humility and wisdom.
"Thou hast implanted in us the capacity for sin, but not sin
Fanny stirred. She had learned that a brief half hour ago.
The service marched on, a moving and harrowing thing. The
amens rolled out with a new fervor from the listeners.
There seemed nothing comic now in the way old Ben Reitman,
with his slower eyes, always came out five words behind the
rest who tumbled upon the responses and scurried briskly
through them, so that his fine old voice, somewhat hoarse
and quavering now, rolled out its "Amen!" in solitary
majesty. They came to that gem of humility, the mourners'
prayer; the ancient and ever-solemn Kaddish prayer. There
is nothing in the written language that, for sheer drama and
magnificence, can equal it as it is chanted in the Hebrew.
As Rabbi Thalmann began to intone it in its monotonous
repetition of praise, there arose certain black-robed
figures from their places and stood with heads bowed over
their prayer books. These were members of the congregation
from whom death had taken a toll during the past year.
Fanny rose with her mother and Theodore, who had left the
choir loft to join them. The little wheezy organ played
very softly. The black-robed figures swayed. Here and
there a half-stifled sob rose, and was crushed. Fanny felt
a hot haze that blurred her vision. She winked it away, and
another burned in its place. Her shoulders shook with a
sob. She felt her mother's hand close over her own that
held one side of the book. The prayer, that was not of
mourning but of praise, ended with a final crescendo from
the organ, The silent black-robed figures were seated.
Over the little, spent congregation hung a glorious
atmosphere of detachment. These Jews, listening to the
words that had come from the lips of the prophets in Israel,
had been, on this day, thrown back thousands of years, to
the time when the destruction of the temple was as real as
the shattered spires and dome of the cathedral at Rheims.
Old Ben Reitman, faint with fasting, was far removed from
his everyday thoughts of his horses, his lumber mills, his
farms, his mortgages. Even Mrs. Nathan Pereles, in her
black satin and bugles and jets, her cold, hard face usually
unlighted by sympathy or love, seemed to feel something of
this emotional wave. Fanny Brandeis was shaken by it. Her
head ached (that was hunger) and her hands were icy. The
little Russian girl in the seat just behind them had ceased
to wriggle and squirm, and slept against her mother's side.
Rabbi Thalmann, there on the platform, seemed somehow very
far away and vague. The scent of clove apples and ammonia
salts filled the air. The atmosphere seemed strangely
wavering and luminous. The white satin of the Ark
curtain gleamed and shifted.
The long service swept on to its close. Suddenly organ and
choir burst into a paeon. Little Doctor Thalmann raised his
arms. The congregation swept to its feet with a mighty
surge. Fanny rose with them, her face very white in its
frame of black curls, her eyes luminous. She raised her
face for the words of the ancient benediction that rolled,
in its simplicity and grandeur, from the lips of the rabbi:
"May the blessing of the Lord our God rest upon you all.
God bless thee and keep thee. May God cause His countenance
to shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee. May God lift
up His countenance unto thee, and grant thee peace."
The Day of Atonement had come to an end. It was a very
quiet, subdued and spent little flock that dispersed to
their homes. Fanny walked out with scarcely a thought of
Bella. She felt, vaguely, that she and this school friend
were formed of different stuff. She knew that the bond
between them had been the grubby, physical one of childhood,
and that they never would come together in the finer
relation of the spirit, though she could not have put this
new knowledge into words.
Molly Brandeis put a hand on her daughter's shoulder.
"Bet you're hungry!" from Theodore.
"I was, but I'm not now."
"M-m-m--wait! Noodle soup. And chicken!"
She had intended to tell of the trial in the Weinberg's
pantry. But now something within her--something fine, born
of this day--kept her from it. But Molly Brandeis, to whom
two and two often made five, guessed something of what had
happened. She had felt a great surge of pride, had Molly
Brandeis, when her son had swayed the congregation with
the magic of his music. She had kissed him good night with
infinite tenderness and love. But she came into her
daughter's tiny room after Fanny had gone to bed, and leaned
over, and put a cool hand on the hot forehead.
"Do you feel all right, my darling?"
"Umhmph," replied Fanny drowsily.
"Fanchen, doesn't it make you feel happy and clean to know
that you were able to do the thing you started out to do?"
"Only," Molly Brandeis was thinking aloud now, quite
forgetting that she was talking to a very little girl,
"only, life seems to take such special delight in offering
temptation to those who are able to withstand it. I don't
know why that's true, but it is. I hope--oh, my little
girl, my baby--I hope----"
But Fanny never knew whether her mother finished that
sentence or not. She remembered waiting for the end of it,
to learn what it was her mother hoped. And she had felt a
sudden, scalding drop on her hand where her mother bent over
her. And the next thing she knew it was morning, with
mellow September sunshine.
It was the week following this feat of fasting that two
things happened to Fanny Brandeis--two seemingly unimportant
and childish things--that were to affect the whole tenor of
her life. It is pleasant to predict thus. It gives a
certain weight to a story and a sense of inevitableness. It
should insure, too, the readers's support to the point, at
least, where the prediction is fulfilled. Sometimes a
careless author loses sight altogether of his promise, and
then the tricked reader is likely to go on to the very final
page, teased by the expectation that that which was hinted
at will be revealed.
Fanny Brandeis had a way of going to the public library on
Saturday afternoons (with a bag of very sticky peanut candy
in her pocket, the little sensualist!) and there, huddled in
a chair, dreamily and almost automatically munching peanut
brittle, her cheeks growing redder and redder in the close
air of the ill-ventilated room, she would read, and read,
and read. There was no one to censor her reading, so she
read promiscuously, wading gloriously through trash and
classic and historical and hysterical alike, and finding
something of interest in them all.
She read the sprightly "Duchess" novels, where mad offers of
marriage were always made in flower-scented conservatories;
she read Dickens, and Thelma, and old bound Cosmopolitans,
and Zola, and de Maupassant, and the "Wide, Wide World," and
"Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates," and "Jane Eyre." All
of which are merely mentioned as examples of her
catholicism in literature. As she read she was unaware
of the giggling boys and girls who came in noisily, and made
dates, and were coldly frowned on by the austere Miss
Perkins, the librarian. She would read until the fading
light would remind her that the short fall or winter day was
drawing to a close.
She would come, shivering a little after the fetid
atmosphere of the overheated library, into the crisp, cold
snap of the astringent Wisconsin air. Sometimes she would
stop at the store for her mother. Sometimes she would run
home alone through the twilight, her heels scrunching the
snow, her whole being filled with a vague and unchildish
sadness and disquiet as she faced the tender rose, and
orange, and mauve, and pale lemon of the winter sunset.
There were times when her very heart ached with the beauty
of that color-flooded sky; there were times, later, when it
ached in much the same way at the look in the eyes of a
pushcart peddler; there were times when it ached, seemingly,
for no reason at all--as is sometimes the case when one is a
little Jew girl, with whole centuries of suffering behind
On this day she had taken a book from the library Miss
Perkins, at sight of the title, had glared disapprovingly,
and had hesitated a moment before stamping the card.
"Is this for yourself?" she had asked.
"It isn't a book for little girls," snapped Miss Perkins.
"I've read half of it already," Fanny informed her sweetly.
And went out with it under her arm. It was Zola's "The
Ladies' Paradise" (Au Bonheur des Dames). The story of
the shop girl, and the crushing of the little dealer by the
great and moneyed company had thrilled and fascinated her.
Her mind was full of it as she turned the corner on Norris Street
and ran full-tilt, into a yowling, taunting, torturing little pack
of boys. They were gathered in close formation about some object
which they were teasing, and knocking about in the mud, and
otherwise abusing with the savagery of their years. Fanny, the
fiery, stopped short. She pushed into the ring. The object of
their efforts was a weak-kneed and hollow-chested little boy
who could not fight because he was cowardly as well as weak,
and his name (oh, pity!) was Clarence--Clarence Heyl. There
are few things that a mischievous group of small boys cannot
do with a name like Clarence. They whined it, they
catcalled it, they shrieked it in falsetto imitation of
Clarence's mother. He was a wide-mouthed, sallow and
pindling little boy, whose pipe-stemmed legs looked all the
thinner for being contrasted with his feet, which were long
and narrow. At that time he wore spectacles, too, to
correct a muscular weakness, so that his one good feature--
great soft, liquid eyes--passed unnoticed. He was the kind
of little boy whose mother insists on dressing him in cloth-
top, buttoned, patent-leather shoes for school. His blue
serge suit was never patched or shiny. His stockings were
virgin at the knee. He wore an overcoat on cool autumn
days. Fanny despised and pitied him. We ask you not to,
because in this puny, shy and ugly little boy of fifteen you
behold Our Hero.
He staggered to his feet now, as Fanny came up. His school
reefer was mud-bespattered. His stockings were torn. His
cap was gone and his hair was wild. There was a cut or
scratch on one cheek, from which the blood flowed.
"I'll tell my mother on you!" he screamed impotently, and
shook with rage and terror. "You'll see, you will! You let
me alone, now!"
Fanny felt a sick sensation at the pit of her stomach and in
her throat. Then:
"He'll tell his ma!" sneered the boys in chorus. "Oh,
mamma!" And called him the Name. And at that a she wildcat
broke loose among them. She pounced on them without
warning, a little fury of blazing eyes and flying hair, and
white teeth showing in a snarl. If she had fought fair, or
if she had not taken them so by surprise, she would have
been powerless among them. But she had sprung at them with
the suddenness of rage. She kicked, and scratched, and bit,
and clawed and spat. She seemed not to feel the defensive
blows that were showered upon her in turn. Her own hard
little fists were now doubled for a thump or opened, like a
claw, for scratching.
"Go on home!" she yelled to Clarence, even while she fought.
And Clarence, gathering up his tattered school books, went,
and stood not on the order of his going. Whereupon Fanny
darted nimbly to one side, out of the way of boyish brown
fists. In that moment she was transformed from a raging
fury into a very meek and trembling little girl, who looked
shyly and pleadingly out from a tangle of curls. The boys
were for rushing at her again.
"Cowardy-cats! Five of you fighting one girl," cried Fanny,
her lower lip trembling ever so little. "Come on! Hit me!
Afraid to fight anything but girls! Cowardy-cats!" A tear,
pearly, pathetic, coursed down her cheek.
The drive was broken. Five sullen little boys stood and
glared at her, impotently.
"You hit us first," declared one boy. "What business d' you
have scratching around like that, I'd like to know! You old
"He's sickly," said Fanny. "He can't fight. There's
something the matter with his lungs, or something, and
they're going to make him quit school. Besides, he's a
billion times better than any of you, anyway."
At once, "Fanny's stuck on Clar-ence! Fanny's stuck on
Fanny picked up her somewhat battered Zola from where it had
flown at her first onslaught. "It's a lie!" she shouted.
And fled, followed by the hateful chant.
She came in at the back door, trying to look casual. But
Mattie's keen eye detected the marks of battle, even while
her knife turned the frying potatoes.
"Fanny Brandeis! Look at your sweater! And your hair!"
Fanny glanced down at the torn pocket dangling untidily.
"Oh, that!" she said airily. And, passing the kitchen
table, deftly filched a slice of cold veal from the platter,
and mounted the back stairs to her room. It was a hungry
business, this fighting. When Mrs. Brandeis came in at six
her small daughter was demurely reading. At supper time
Mrs. Brandeis looked up at her daughter with a sharp
"Fanny! There's a scratch on your cheek from your eye to
Fanny put up her hand. "Is there?"
"Why, you must have felt it. How did you get it?"
Fanny said nothing. "I'll bet she was fighting," said
Theodore with the intuitive knowledge that one child has of
"Fanny!" The keen brown eyes were upon her.
"Some boys were picking on Clarence Heyl, and it made me
mad. They called him names."
"Fanny dear, if you're going to fight every time you hear
Fanny thought of the torn sweater, the battered Zola, the
scratched cheek. "It is pretty expensive," she said
After supper she settled down at once to her book. Theodore
would labor over his algebra after the dining-room table
was cleared. He stuck his cap on his head now, and slammed
out of the door for a half-hour's play under the corner arc-
light. Fanny rarely brought books from school, and yet she
seemed to get on rather brilliantly, especially in the
studies she liked. During that winter following her
husband's death Mrs. Brandeis had a way of playing solitaire
after supper; one of the simpler forms of the game. It
seemed to help her to think out the day's problems, and to
soothe her at the same time. She would turn down the front
of the writing desk, and draw up the piano stool.
All through that winter Fanny seemed to remember reading to
the slap-slap of cards, and the whir of their shuffling. In
after years she was never able to pick up a volume of
Dickens without having her mind hark back to those long,
quiet evenings. She read a great deal of Dickens at that
time. She had a fine contempt for his sentiment, and his
great ladies bored her. She did not know that this was
because they were badly drawn. The humor she loved, and she
read and reread the passages dealing with Samuel Weller, and
Mr. Micawber, and Sairey Gamp, and Fanny Squeers. It was
rather trying to read Dickens before supper, she had
discovered. Pickwick Papers was fatal, she had found. It
sent one to the pantry in a sort of trance, to ransack for
food--cookies, apples, cold meat, anything. But whatever
one found, it always fell short of the succulent sounding
beefsteak pies, and saddles of mutton, and hot pineapple
toddy of the printed page.
To-night Mrs. Brandeis, coming in from the kitchen after a
conference with Mattie, found her daughter in conversational
mood, though book in hand.
"Mother, did you ever read this?" She held up "The Ladies'
"Yes; but child alive, what ever made you get it? That
isn't the kind of thing for you to read. Oh, I wish I had
more time to give----"
Fanny leaned forward eagerly. "It made me think a lot of
you. You know--the way the big store was crushing the
little one, and everything. Like the thing you were talking
to that man about the other day. You said it was killing
the small-town dealer, and he said some day it would be
illegal, and you said you'd never live to see it."
"Oh, that! We were talking about the mail-order business,
and how hard it was to compete with it, when the farmers
bought everything from a catalogue, and had whole boxes of
household goods expressed to them. I didn't know you were
"I was. I almost always do when you and some traveling man
or somebody like that are talking. It--it's interesting."
Fanny went back to her book then. But Molly Brandeis sat a
moment, eyeing her queer little daughter thoughtfully. Then
she sighed, and laid out her cards for solitaire. By eight
o'clock she was usually so sleepy that she would fall, dead-
tired, asleep on the worn leather couch in the sitting-room.
She must have been fearfully exhausted, mind and body. The
house would be very quiet, except for Mattie, perhaps,
moving about in the kitchen or in her corner room upstairs.
Sometimes the weary woman on the couch would start suddenly
from her sleep and cry out, choked and gasping, "No! No!
No!" The children would jump, terrified, and come running
to her at first, but later they got used to it, and only
looked up to say, when she asked them, bewildered, what it
was that wakened her, "You had the no-no-nos."
She had never told of the thing that made her start out of
her sleep and cry out like that. Perhaps it was just the
protest of the exhausted body and the overwrought nerves.
Usually, after that, she would sit up, haggardly, and take
the hairpins out of her short thick hair, and announce her
intention of going to bed. She always insisted that the
children go too, though they often won an extra half hour by
protesting and teasing. It was a good thing for them, these
nine o'clock bed hours, for it gave them the tonic sleep
that their young, high-strung natures demanded.
"Come, children," she would say, yawning.
"Oh, mother, please just let me finish this chapter!"
"Just this little bit. See? Just this."
"Well, just that, then," for Mrs. Brandeis was a reasonable
woman, and she had the book-lover's knowledge of the
fascination of the unfinished chapter.
Fanny and Theodore were not always honest about the bargain.
They would gallop, hot-cheeked, through the allotted
chapter. Mrs. Brandeis would have fallen into a doze,
perhaps. And the two conspirators would read on, turning
the leaves softly and swiftly, gulping the pages, cramming
them down in an orgy of mental bolting, like naughty
children stuffing cake when their mother's back is turned.
But the very concentration of their dread of waking her
often brought about the feared result. Mrs. Brandeis would
start up rather wildly, look about her, and see the two
buried, red-cheeked and eager, in their books.
"Fanny! Theodore! Come now! Not another minute!"
Fanny, shameless little glutton, would try it again. "Just
to the end of this chapter! Just this weenty bit!"
"Fiddlesticks! You've read four chapters since I spoke to
you the last time. Come now!"
Molly Brandeis would see to the doors, and the windows, and
the clock, and then, waiting for the weary little figures to
climb the stairs, would turn out the light, and, hairpins in
one hand, corset in the other, perhaps, mount to bed.
By nine o'clock the little household would be sleeping, the
children sweetly and dreamlessly, the tired woman
restlessly and fitfully, her overwrought brain still surging
with the day's problems. It was not like a household at
rest, somehow. It was like a spirited thing standing,
quivering for a moment, its nerves tense, its muscles
Perhaps you have quite forgotten that here were to be
retailed two epochal events in Fanny Brandeis's life. If
you have remembered, you will have guessed that the one was
the reading of that book of social protest, though its
writer has fallen into disfavor in these fickle days. The
other was the wild and unladylike street brawl in which she
took part so that a terrified and tortured little boy might
escape his tormentors.
There was no hard stock in Brandeis' Bazaar now. The
packing-room was always littered with straw and excelsior
dug from hogsheads and great crates. Aloysius lorded it
over a small red-headed satellite who disappeared inside
barrels and dived head first into huge boxes, coming up
again with a lamp, or a doll, or a piece of glassware, like
a magician. Fanny, perched on an overturned box, used to
watch him, fascinated, while he laboriously completed a
water set, or a tea set. A preliminary dive would bring up
the first of a half dozen related pieces, each swathed in
tissue paper. A deft twist on the part of the attendant
Aloysius would strip the paper wrappings and disclose a
ruby-tinted tumbler, perhaps. Another dive, and another,
until six gleaming glasses stood revealed, like chicks
without a hen mother. A final dip, much scratching and
burrowing, during which armfuls of hay and excelsior were
thrown out, and then the red-headed genie of the barrel
would emerge, flushed and triumphant, with the water pitcher
itself, thus completing the happy family.
Aloysius, meanwhile, would regale her with one of those
choice bits of gossip he had always about him, like a jewel
concealed, and only to be brought out for the appreciative.
Mrs. Brandeis disapproved of store gossip, and frowned on
Sadie and Pearl whenever she found them, their heads close
together, their stifled shrieks testifying to his wit.
There were times when Molly Brandeis herself could not
resist the spell of his tongue. No one knew where Aloysius
got his information. He had news that Winnebago's
two daily papers never could get, and wouldn't have dared to
print if they had.
"Did you hear about Myrtle Krieger," he would begin, "that's
marryin' the Hempel boy next month? The one in the bank.
She's exhibiting her trewsow at the Outagamie County Fair
this week, for the handwork and embroid'ry prize. Ain't it
brazen? They say the crowd's so thick around the table that
they had to take down the more pers'nal pieces. The first
day of the fair the grand-stand was, you might say, empty,
even when they was pullin' off the trottin' races and the
balloon ascension. It's funny--ain't it?--how them garmints
that you wouldn't turn for a second look at on the
clothesline or in a store winda' becomes kind of wicked and
interestin' the minute they get what they call the human
note. There it lays, that virgin lawnjerie, for all the
county to look at, with pink ribbons run through everything,
and the poor Krieger girl never dreamin' she's doin'
somethin' indelicate. She says yesterday if she wins the
prize she's going to put it toward one of these kitchen
I wish we could stop a while with Aloysius. He is well
worth it. Aloysius, who looked a pass between Ichabod Crane
and Smike; Aloysius, with his bit of scandal burnished with
wit; who, after a long, hard Saturday, would go home to
scrub the floor of the dingy lodgings where he lived with
his invalid mother, and who rose in the cold dawn of Sunday
morning to go to early mass, so that he might return to cook
the dinner and wait upon the sick woman. Aloysius, whose
trousers flapped grotesquely about his bony legs, and whose
thin red wrists hung awkwardly from his too-short sleeves,
had in him that tender, faithful and courageous stuff of
which unsung heroes are made. And he adored his clever,
resourceful boss to the point of imitation. You should have
seen him trying to sell a sled or a doll's go-cart in
her best style. But we cannot stop for Aloysius. He is
irrelevant, and irrelevant matter halts the progress of a
story. Any one, from Barrie to Harold Bell Wright, will
tell you that a story, to be successful, must march.
We'll keep step, then, with Molly Brandeis until she drops
out of the ranks. There is no detouring with Mrs. Brandeis
for a leader. She is the sort that, once her face is set
toward her goal, looks neither to right nor left until she
has reached it.
When Fanny Brandeis was fourteen, and Theodore was not quite
sixteen, a tremendous thing happened. Schabelitz, the
famous violinist, came to Winnebago to give a concert under
the auspices of the Young Men's Sunday Evening Club.
The Young Men's Sunday Evening Club of the Congregational
Church prided itself (and justifiably) on what the papers
called its "auspices." It scorned to present to Winnebago
the usual lyceum attractions--Swiss bell ringers, negro glee
clubs, and Family Fours. Instead, Schumann-Heink sang her
lieder for them; McCutcheon talked and cartooned for them;
Madame Bloomfield-Zeisler played. Winnebago was one of
those wealthy little Mid-Western towns whose people
appreciate the best and set out to acquire it for
To the Easterner, Winnebago, and Oshkosh, and Kalamazoo, and
Emporia are names invented to get a laugh from a vaudeville
audience. Yet it is the people from Winnebago and Emporia
and the like whom you meet in Egypt, and the Catalina
Islands, and at Honolulu, and St. Moritz. It is in the
Winnebago living-room that you are likely to find a prayer
rug got in Persia, a bit of gorgeous glaze from China, a
scarf from some temple in India, and on it a book, hand-
tooled and rare. The Winnebagoans seem to know what is
being served and worn, from salad to veilings,
surprisingly soon after New York has informed itself on
those subjects. The 7:52 Northwestern morning train out of
Winnebago was always pretty comfortably crowded with
shoppers who were taking a five-hour run down to Chicago to
get a hat and see the new musical show at the Illinois.
So Schabelitz's coming was an event, but not an
unprecedented one. Except to Theodore. Theodore had a
ticket for the concert (his mother had seen to that), and he
talked of nothing else. He was going with his violin
teacher, Emil Bauer. There were strange stories as to why
Emil Bauer, with his gift of teaching, should choose to bury
himself in this obscure little Wisconsin town. It was known
that he had acquaintance with the great and famous of the
musical world. The East End set fawned upon him, and his
studio suppers were the exclusive social events in
Schabelitz was to play in the evening. At half past three
that afternoon there entered Brandeis' Bazaar a white-faced,
wide-eyed boy who was Theodore Brandeis; a plump, voluble,
and excited person who was Emil Bauer; and a short, stocky
man who looked rather like a foreign-born artisan--plumber
or steam-fitter--in his Sunday clothes. This was Levine
Molly Brandeis was selling a wash boiler to a fussy
housewife who, in her anxiety to assure herself of the
flawlessness of her purchase, had done everything but climb
inside it. It had early been instilled in the minds of Mrs.
Brandeis's children that she was never to be approached when
busy with a customer. There were times when they rushed
into the store bursting with news or plans, but they had
learned to control their eagerness. This, though, was no
ordinary news that had blanched Theodore's face. At sight
of the three, Mrs. Brandeis quietly turned her boiler
purchaser over to Pearl and came forward from the rear of
"Oh, Mother!" cried Theodore, an hysterical note in his