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Buttered Side Down: Stories

6. One Of The Old Girls
All of those ladies who end their conversation with you by wearily suggesting that you go
down to the basement to find what you seek, do not receive a meager seven dollars a
week as a reward for their efforts. Neither are they all obliged to climb five weary flights
of stairs to reach the dismal little court room which is their home, and there are several
who need not walk thirty-three blocks to save carfare, only to spend wretched evenings
washing out handkerchiefs and stockings in the cracked little washbowl, while one ear is
cocked for the stealthy tread of the Lady Who Objects.
The earnest compiler of working girls' budgets would pass Effie Bauer hurriedly by.
Effie's budget bulged here and there with such pathetic items as hand-embroidered
blouses, thick club steaks, and parquet tickets for Maude Adams. That you may visualize
her at once I may say that Effie looked twenty-four--from the rear (all women do in these
days of girlish simplicity in hats and tailor-mades); her skirts never sagged, her
shirtwaists were marvels of plainness and fit, and her switch had cost her sixteen dollars,
wholesale (a lady friend in the business). Oh, there was nothing tragic about Effie. She
had a plump, assured style, a keen blue eye, a gift of repartee, and a way of doing her hair
so that the gray at the sides scarcely showed at all. Also a knowledge of corsets that had
placed her at the buying end of that important department at Spiegel's. Effie knew to the
minute when coral beads went out and pearl beads came in, and just by looking at her
blouses you could tell when Cluny died and Irish was born. Meeting Effie on the street,
you would have put her down as one of the many well-dressed, prosperous-looking
women shoppers--if you hadn't looked at her feet. Veteran clerks and policemen cannot
disguise their feet.
Effie Bauer's reason for not marrying when a girl was the same as that of most of the
capable, wise-eyed, good-looking women one finds at the head of departments. She had
not had a chance. If Effie had been as attractive at twenty as she was at--there, we won't
betray confidences. Still, it is certain that if Effie had been as attractive when a young girl
as she was when an old girl, she never would have been an old girl and head of Spiegel's
corset department at a salary of something very comfortably over one hundred and
twenty-five a month (and commissions). Effie had improved with the years, and ripened
with experience. She knew her value. At twenty she had been pale, anaemic and bony,
with a startled-faun manner and bad teeth. Years of saleswomanship had broadened her,
mentally and physically, until she possessed a wide and varied knowledge of that great
and diversified subject known as human nature. She knew human nature all the way from
the fifty- nine-cent girdles to the twenty-five-dollar made-to-orders. And if the years had
brought, among other things, a certain hardness about the jaw and a line or two at the
corners of the eyes, it was not surprising. You can't rub up against the sharp edges of this
world and expect to come out without a scratch or so.
So much for Effie. Enter the hero. Webster defines a hero in romance as the person who
has the principal share in the transactions related. He says nothing which would debar a
gentleman just because he may be a trifle bald and in the habit of combing his hair over
 
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