Rachel Wiletzky had the colouring and physique of a dairymaid. It was the sort of colouring that you associate in your mind with lush green fields, and Jersey cows, and village maids, in Watteau frocks, balancing brimming pails aloft in the protecting curve of one rounded upraised arm, with perhaps a Maypole dance or so in the background. Altogether, had the superintendent been given to figures of speech, he might have said that Rachel was as much out of place among the preceding one hundred and seventy-eight bloodless, hollow-chested, stoop-shouldered applicants as a sunflower would be in a patch of dank white fungi.
He himself was one of those bleached men that you find on the office floor of department stores. Grey skin, grey eyes, greying hair, careful grey clothes—seemingly as void of pigment as one of those sunless things you disclose when you turn over a board that has long lain on the mouldy floor of a damp cellar. It was only when you looked closely that you noticed a fleck of golden brown in the cold grey of each eye, and a streak of warm brown forming an unquenchable forelock that the conquering grey had not been able to vanquish. It may have been a something within him corresponding to those outward bits of human colouring that tempted him to yield to a queer impulse. He whipped from his breast-pocket the grey-bordered handkerchief, reached up swiftly and passed one white corner of it down the length of Rachel Wiletzky’s Killarney-rose left cheek. The rude path down which the handkerchief had travelled deepened to red for a moment before both rose-pink cheeks bloomed into scarlet. The superintendent gazed rather ruefully from unblemished handkerchief to cheek and back again.
“Why—it—it’s real!” he stammered.
Rachel Wiletzky smiled a good-natured little smile that had in it a dash of superiority.
“If I was putting it on,” she said, “I hope I’d have sense enough to leave something to the imagination. This colour out of a box would take a spiderweb veil to tone it down.”
Not much more than a score of words. And yet before the half were spoken you were certain that Rachel Wiletzky’s knowledge of lush green fields and bucolic scenes was that gleaned from the condensed-milk ads that glare down at one from billboards and street-car chromos. Hers was the ghetto voice—harsh, metallic, yet fraught with the resonant music of tragedy.
“H’m—name?” asked the grey superintendent. He knew that vocal quality.
A queer look stole into Rachel Wiletzky’s face, a look of cunning and determination and shrewdness.
“Ray Willets,” she replied composedly. “Double l.”
“Clerked before, of course. Our advertisement stated—”
“Oh yes,” interrupted Ray Willets hastily, eagerly. “I can sell goods. My customers like me. And I don’t get tired. I don’t know why, but I don’t.”
The superintendent glanced up again at the red that glowed higher with the girl’s suppressed excitement. He took a printed slip from the little pile of paper that lay on his desk.