9. The Serpent
Rose Wiley had the brightest eyes in Edgewood. It was impossible to look at her without
realizing that her physical sight was perfect. What mysterious species of blindness is it
that descends, now and then, upon human creatures, and renders them incapable of
judgment or discrimination?
Claude Merrill was a glove salesman in a Boston fancy-goods store. The calling itself is
undoubtedly respectable, and it is quite conceivable that a man can sell gloves and still be
a man; but Claude Merrill was a manikin. He inhabited a very narrow space behind a
very short counter, but to him it seemed the earth and the fullness thereof.
When, irreproachably neat and even exquisite in dress, he gave a Napoleonic glance at
his array of glove-boxes to see if the female assistant had put them in proper order for the
day, when, with that wonderful eye for detail that had wafted him to his present height of
power, he pounced upon the powder-sprinklers and found them, as he expected, empty;
when, with masterly judgment, he had made up and ticketed a basket of misfits and odd
sizes to attract the eyes of women who were their human counterparts, he felt himself
bursting with the pride and pomp of circumstance. His cambric handkerchief adjusted in
his coat with the monogram corner well displayed, a last touch to the carefully trained
lock on his forehead, and he was ready for his customers.
"Six, did you say, miss? I should have thought five and three quarters-- Attend to that
gentleman, Miss Dix, please; I am very busy."
"Six-and-a-half gray sue'de? Here they are, an exquisite shade. Shall I try them on? The
right hand, if you will. Perhaps you'd better remove your elegant ring; I should n't like to
have anything catch in the setting."
"Miss Dix! Six-and-a-half black glace'--upper shelf, third box--for this lady. She's in a
hurry. We shall see you often after this, I hope, madam."
"No; we don't keep silk or lisle gloves. We have no call for them; our customers prefer
Oh, but he was in his element, was Claude Merrill; though the glamour that surrounded
him in the minds of the Edgewood girls did not emanate wholly from his finicky little
person: something of it was the glamour that belonged to Boston,--remote, fashionable,
gay, rich, almost inaccessible Boston, which none could see without the expenditure of
five or six dollars in railway fare, with the added extravagance of a night in a hotel, if one
would explore it thoroughly and come home possessed of all its illimitable treasures of
wisdom and experience.