“You musta come by money since Milly died,” said Mrs. Baxter. “Yes, sure we’ll take the hundred. We ain’t refusin’ money. It’s little enough, too, considerin’ all I done for that girl!”
Mr. Champneys counted out ten crisp bills into the greedy hand, and the three waited silently until Nancy appeared. Champneys almost screamed at sight of her. His heart sank like lead, and the task he had set for himself of a sudden assumed monumental proportions.
“I ain’t took nothin’ out of this house but the few things belongin’ to my mother. You’re welcome to the rest,” she told the woman, briefly. The man she ignored altogether.
A cab rattled up to the door. In silence the aristocratic old man in white linen, and the red-headed girl in a cheap embroidered shirt-waist, a dark, shabby skirt, and a hat that was an outrage on millinery, climbed in. There were no farewells. The girl settled back, clutching her hand-satchel. “Giddap,” said the driver, and cracked his whip. The cab rolled away from the dingy, smelly house, and turned a corner. So rode Nancy Simms out of her old life into her new one.
When Mr. Chadwick Champneys had visualized to himself Milly’s niece, it had always been in Milly’s image and likeness—sweet, fair, brave, merry, gentle, and strong. Milly’s niece, of course, would be companionable. He would only have to put upon her the finishing touches, so to speak, embellish her natural graces with a finer social polish. At the very worst, he hadn’t dreamed that anybody belonging to Milly could be like this red-headed Nancy. Perhaps, though, she would be less objectionable when she was properly clad.
“Drive to the best department store in town,” he told the driver, briefly.
Once in the store he summoned the manager and briefly stated his needs. The young lady must be furnished with everything she needed, and as quickly as possible. She needed, it appeared, about everything. The shrewd young Jew looked her over with his trained eyes.
“Should you prefer our Miss Smith to proffer aid and advice? Miss Smith is an expert.”
Mr. Champneys reacted almost with terror against Nancy Simms’s probable choice.
“See that the young lady gets the best you have; and make Miss Smith the final authority,” he said, briefly.
At the end of two hours Nancy returned, the two clerks and the manager accompanying her. The store people were slightly flushed, Nancy herself sullenly acquiescent. For the first time in her life she had had the opportunity to buy enough clothes of her own, and yet she hadn’t been allowed to choose what she really wanted. Gently but inexorably they had rejected the garments Nancy selected, smoothly insisting that these weren’t “just the thing” for her. They slid her into quiet-colored, plainly cut things that she wouldn’t have looked at if left to her own devices. It took their united tact, firmness, and diplomacy to steer Nancy over the reefs of what the manager called hired-girl taste.