“They never do!” said we.
THE GIRL WHO WENT RIGHT
There is a story—Kipling, I think—that tells of a spirited horse galloping in the dark suddenly drawing up tense, hoofs bunched, slim flanks quivering, nostrils dilated, ears pricked. Urging being of no avail the rider dismounts, strikes a match, advances a cautious step or so, and finds himself at the precipitous brink of a newly formed crevasse.
So it is with your trained editor. A miraculous sixth sense guides him. A mysterious something warns him of danger lurking within the seemingly innocent oblong white envelope. Without slitting the flap, without pausing to adjust his tortoise-rimmed glasses, without clearing his throat, without lighting his cigarette—he knows.
The deadly newspaper story he scents in the dark. Cub reporter. Crusty city editor. Cub fired. Stumbles on to a big story. Staggers into newspaper office wild-eyed. Last edition. “Hold the presses!” Crusty C.E. stands over cub’s typewriter grabbing story line by line. Even foreman of pressroom moved to tears by tale. “Boys, this ain’t just a story this kid’s writin’. This is history!” Story finished. Cub faints. C.E. makes him star reporter.
The athletic story: “I could never marry a mollycoddle like you, Harold Hammond!” Big game of the year. Team crippled. Second half. Halfback hurt. Harold Hammond, scrub, into the game. Touchdown! Broken leg. Five to nothing. “Harold, can you ever, ever forgive me?”
The pseudo-psychological story: She had been sitting before the fire for a long, long time. The flame had flickered and died down to a smouldering ash. The sound of his departing footsteps echoed and re-echoed through her brain. But the little room was very, very still.
The shop-girl story: Torn boots and temptation, tears and snears, pathos and bathos, all the way from Zola to the vice inquiry.
Having thus attempted to hide the deadly commonplaceness of this story with a thin layer of cynicism, perhaps even the wily editor may be tricked into taking the leap.
* * * * *
Four weeks before the completion of the new twelve-story addition the store advertised for two hundred experienced saleswomen. Rachel Wiletzky, entering the superintendent’s office after a wait of three hours, was Applicant No. 179. The superintendent did not look up as Rachel came in. He scribbled busily on a pad of paper at his desk, thus observing rules one and two in the proper conduct of superintendents when interviewing applicants. Rachel Wiletzky, standing by his desk, did not cough or wriggle or rustle her skirts or sag on one hip. A sense of her quiet penetrated the superintendent’s subconsciousness. He glanced up hurriedly over his left shoulder. Then he laid down his pencil and sat up slowly. His mind was working quickly enough though. In the twelve seconds that intervened between the laying down of the pencil and the sitting up in his chair he had hastily readjusted all his well-founded preconceived ideas on the appearance of shop-girl applicants.