Buttered Side Down: Stories
The Homely Heroine
Millie Whitcomb, of the fancy goods and notions, beckoned me with her finger. I had
been standing at Kate O'Malley's counter, pretending to admire her new basket-weave
suitings, but in reality reveling in her droll account of how, in the train coming up from
Chicago, Mrs. Judge Porterfield had worn the negro porter's coat over her chilly
shoulders in mistake for her husband's. Kate O'Malley can tell a funny story in a way to
make the after-dinner pleasantries of a Washington diplomat sound like the clumsy jests
told around the village grocery stove.
"I wanted to tell you that I read that last story of yours," said Millie, sociably, when I had
strolled over to her counter, "and I liked it, all but the heroine. She had an `adorable
throat' and hair that `waved away from her white brow,' and eyes that `now were blue and
now gray.' Say, why don't you write a story about an ugly girl?"
"My land!" protested I. "It's bad enough trying to make them accept my stories as it is.
That last heroine was a raving beauty, but she came back eleven times before the editor
of Blakely's succumbed to her charms."
Millie's fingers were busy straightening the contents of a tray of combs and imitation jet
barrettes. Millie's fingers were not intended for that task. They are slender, tapering
fingers, pink-tipped and sensitive.
"I should think," mused she, rubbing a cloudy piece of jet with a bit of soft cloth, "that
they'd welcome a homely one with relief. These goddesses are so cloying."
Millie Whitcomb's black hair is touched with soft mists of gray, and she wears lavender
shirtwaists and white stocks edged with lavender. There is a Colonial air about her that
has nothing to do with celluloid combs and imitation jet barrettes. It breathes of dim old
rooms, rich with the tones of mahogany and old brass, and Millie in the midst of it, gray-
gowned, a soft white fichu crossed upon her breast.
In our town the clerks are not the pert and gum-chewing young persons that story-writers
are wont to describe. The girls at Bascom's are institutions. They know us all by our first
names, and our lives are as an open book to them. Kate O'Malley, who has been at
Bascom's for so many years that she is rumored to have stock in the company, may be
said to govern the fashions of our town. She is wont to say, when we express a fancy for
gray as the color of our new spring suit:
"Oh, now, Nellie, don't get gray again. You had it year before last, and don't you think it
was just the least leetle bit trying? Let me show you that green that came in yesterday. I
said the minute I clapped my eyes on it that it was just the color for you, with your brown
hair and all."
And we end by deciding on the green.