’Tis a merry life, the book clerk’s, and a hard one. Customers: Two youngish women. “Can you wait on us?” They want to get something, do not know just what, for a present. “Oh, no!” they say, “we don’t want anything like so big a set as that. Something nicely bound.” A copy of “Cranford” is near by. “Oh, when I read it I didn’t think it much good.” “Poetry?” “No, I don’t think she is much interested in poetry.” “Do you suppose an art book?”------“No, she is not interested in art.” “Memoirs, then?” “No, she would not care for that.” “Why, I had no idea,” said one somewhat reprovingly to us, “that it would be as hard as this.”
A calling which requires the practitioner to turn easily from the recondite gentleman inquiring the author of “Religious Teachers of Ancient Greece” to consideration of the problem (no less recondite) of a lady anxious to find something to entertain a child of five and a half inculcates some degree of mental agility. “I want,” said the very fashionable lady, “to get a book for an old man—a” (with some petulance) “very stupid old man.” “I want,” from a serious old lady, “to get a book for a young man studying for the ministry.” “I want,” exclaimed a very smart apparition, “a dashing book for a man!” “What is the best book on Russia?” “Do you know, now, if this is a good story?—there are so many poor books nowadays.” Says a large, uncommonly black lady, “I want ‘Spears of Wheat, No. 3.’” (Discovered to be a prayer book.) “I want the latest book, please, on how to bring up a baby.” “I’d like to see what you have on ‘physical research.’” “Can you recommend a book for a young man with softening of the brain? Poor fellow, he’s in Bloomingdale.” “Is there any discount to Christian workers?” “Do you know,” a demure person, an awful blank look coming over her face, “what I want has gone quite out of my head.” There is an appealing look for help. “Something American,” in a patrician voice, “for the ladies to read going over on the boat. This is American, now, is it? New York society? Ah, very good! Have you anything about the Rocky Mountains, or that sort of thing?”
Now we see coming the man who has been directed in a letter from his wife to get a certain book, about which he knows nothing, and the title of which he can not decipher. Here is a person asking for “comfort books” for the sick. Here is Mrs. So-and-So, who tells us her husband is very ill, unconscious; she has to sit up by him all night, and must have something “very amusing” to divert her mind. Here is the angry man to whom by mistake was sent a book inscribed “to my good wife and true.” Heaven help the poor book clerk when the same good wife and true comes in with her present of a naughty book with humorous remarks written in it!
Now, how do you like the job?