My own tones were so conversational when I said, “Will you please show me your black satin ribbon?” that, while I did not say it, my voice implied such questions as “How are your father and mother?” and “I hope the baby is better?” and “Doesn’t that draught there on your back annoy you?” and “Don’t you get very tired standing up all day?”
It was Bee, as usual, who gave me my first lesson in the insolent bearing which alone obtains the best results from the average British shopman.
Still without having thoroughly asserted myself, not having been to that particular manner born, I went next to Paris, where my politeness met with the just reward which virtue is always supposed to get and seldom does.
I consider shopping in Paris one of the greatest pleasures to be found in this vale of tears. The shops, with the exception of the Louvre, the Bon Marche, and one or two of the large department stores of similar scope, are all small—tiny, in fact, and exploit but one or two things. A little shop for fans will be next to a milliner who makes a specialty of nothing but gauze theatre bonnets. Perhaps next will come a linen store, where the windows will have nothing but the most fascinating embroidery, handkerchiefs, and neckware. Then comes the man who sells belts of every description, and parasol handles. Perhaps your next window will have such a display of diamond necklaces as would justify you in supposing that his stock would make Tiffany choke with envy, but if you enter, you will find yourself in an aperture in the wall, holding an iron safe, a two-by-four show-case, and three chairs, and you will find that everything of value he has, except the clothes he wears, are all in his window.
As long as these shops are all crowded together and so small, to shop in Paris is really much more convenient than in one of our large department stores at home, with the additional delight of having smiling interested service. The proprietor himself enters into your wants, and uses all his quickness and intelligence to supply your demands. He may be, very likely he is, doubling the price on you, because you are an American, but, if your bruised spirit is like mine, you will be perfectly willing to pay a little extra for politeness.
It is a truth that I have brought home with me no article from Paris which does not carry with it pleasant recollections of the way I bought it. Can any woman who has shopped only in America bring forward a similar statement?
All this changes, however, when once you get into the clutches of the average French dressmaker. By his side, Barabbas would appear a gentleman of exceptional honesty. I have often, in idle moments, imagined myself a cannibal, and, in preparing my daily menu, my first dish would be a fricassee of French dressmakers. Perhaps in that I am unjust. In thinking it over, I will amend it by saying a fricassee of all dressmakers. It would be unfair to limit it to the French.