Of late, Emma had spent less and less time in the offices of the Featherloom Company. For more than ten years that flourishing business, and the career of her son, Jock McChesney, had been the twin orbits about which her existence had revolved. But Jock McChesney was a man of family now, with a wife, two babies, and an uncanny advertising sense that threatened to put his name on the letterhead of the Raynor Advertising Company of Chicago. As for the Featherloom factory—it seemed to go of its own momentum. After her marriage to the firm’s head, Emma’s interest in the business was unflagging.
“Now look here, Emma,” Buck would say. “You’ve given enough to this firm. Play a while. Cut up. Forget you’re the ‘And Company’ in T.A. Buck & Co.”
“But I’m so used to it. I’d miss it so. You know what happened that first year of our marriage when I tried to do the duchess. I don’t know how to loll. If you take Featherlooms away from me I’ll degenerate into a Madam Chairman. You’ll see.”
She might have, too, if the War had not come along and saved her.
By midsummer the workrooms were turning out strange garments, such as gray and khaki flannel shirts, flannelette one-piece pajamas, and woollen bloomers, all intended for the needs of women war workers going abroad.
Emma had dropped into the workroom one day and had picked up a half-finished gray flannel garment. She eyed it critically, her deft fingers manipulating the neckband. A little frown gathered between her eyes.
“Somehow a woman in a flannel shirt always looks as if she had quinsy. It’s the collar. They cut them like a man’s small-size. But a woman’s neck is as different from a man’s as her collarbone is.”
She picked up a piece of flannel and smoothed it on the cutting-table. The head designer had looked on in disapproval while her employer’s wife had experimented with scraps of cloth, and pins, and chalk, and scissors. But Emma had gone on serenely cutting and snipping and pinning. They made up samples of service shirts with the new neck-hugging collar and submitted them to Miss Nevins, the head of the woman’s uniform department at Fyfe & Gordon’s. That astute lady had been obliged to listen to scores of canteeners, nurses, secretaries, and motor leaguers who, standing before a long mirror in one of the many fitting-rooms, had gazed, frowned, fumbled at collar and topmost button, and said, “But it looks so—so lumpy around the neck.”
Miss Kate Nevins’s reply to this plaint was: “Oh, when you get your tie on—”
“Perhaps they’ll let me wear a turn-down collar.”
“Absolutely against regulations. The rules strictly forbid anything but the high, close-fitting collar.”
The fair war worker would sigh, mutter something about supposing they’d shoot you at sunrise for wearing a becoming shirt, and order six, grumbling.
Kate Nevins had known Mrs. T.A. Buck in that lady’s Emma McChesney days. At the end of the first day’s trial of the new Featherloom shirt she had telephoned the Featherloom factory and had asked for Emma McChesney. People who had known her by that name never seemed able to get the trick of calling her by any other.