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Marching Men

CHAPTER II.6
Edith Carson the milliner, whom fate had thrown into the company of McGregor,
was a frail woman of thirty-four and lived alone in two rooms at the back of her
millinery store. Her life was almost devoid of colour. On Sunday morning she
wrote a long letter to her family on an Indiana farm and then put on a hat from
among the samples in the show case along the wall and went to church, sitting
by herself in the same seat Sunday after Sunday and afterward remembering
nothing of the sermon.
On Sunday afternoon Edith went by street-car to a park and walked alone under
the trees. If it threatened rain she sat in the larger of the two rooms back of the
shop sewing on new dresses for herself or for a sister who had married a
blacksmith in the Indiana town and who had four children.
Edith had soft mouse-coloured hair and grey eyes with small brown spots on the
iris. She was so slender that she wore pads about her body under her dress to fill
it out. In her youth she had had a sweetheart--a fat round-cheeked boy who lived
on the next farm. Once they had gone together to the fair at the county seat and
coming home in the buggy at night he had put his arm about her and kissed her.
"You ain't very big," he had said.
Edith sent to a mail order house in Chicago and bought the padding which she
wore under her dress With it came an oil which she rubbed on herself. The label
on the bottle spoke of the contents with great respect as a wonderful developer.
The heavy pads wore raw places on her side against which her clothes rubbed
but she bore the pain with grim stoicism, remembering what the fat boy had said.
After Edith came to Chicago and opened a shop of her own she had a letter from
her former admirer. "It pleases me to think that the same wind that blows over me
blows also over you," it said. After that one letter she did not hear from him again.
He had the phrase out of a book he had read and had written the letter to Edith
that he might use it. After the letter had gone he thought of her frail figure and
repented of the impulse that had tricked him into writing. Half in alarm he began
courting and soon married another girl.
Sometimes on her rare visits home Edith had seen her former lover driving along
the road. The sister who had married the blacksmith said that he was stingy, that
his wife had nothing to wear but a cheap calico dress and that on Saturday he
drove off to town alone, leaving her to milk the cows and feed the pigs and
horses. Once he encountered Edith on the road and tried to get her into the
wagon to ride with him. Although she had walked along the road ignoring him she
took the letter about the wind that blew over them both out of a drawer on spring
evenings or after a walk in the park and read it over. After she had read it she sat
in the darkness at the front of the store looking through the screen door at people
 
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