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The Third Ingredient
The (so-called) Vallambrosa Apartment-House is not an apartment-house. It is composed
of two old-fashioned, brownstone-front residences welded into one. The parlor floor of
one side is gay with the wraps and head-gear of a modiste; the other is lugubrious with
the sophistical promises and grisly display of a painless dentist. You may have a room
there for two dollars a week or you may have one for twenty dollars. Among the
Vallambrosa's roomers are stenographers, musicians, brokers, shop-girls, space-rate
writers, art students, wire-tappers, and other people who lean far over the banister-rail
when the door-bell rings.
This treatise shall have to do with but two of the Vallambrosians-- though meaning no
disrespect to the others.
At six o'clock one afternoon Hetty Pepper came back to her third-floor rear $3.50 room in
the Vallambrosa with her nose and chin more sharply pointed than usual. To be
discharged from the department store where you have been working four years, and with
only fifteen cents in your purse, does have a tendency to make your features appear more
finely chiseled.
And now for Hetty's thumb-nail biography while she climbs the two flights of stairs.
She walked into the Biggest Store one morning four years before with seventy-five other
girls, applying for a job behind the waist department counter. The phalanx of wage-
earners formed a bewildering scene of beauty, carrying a total mass of blond hair
sufficient to have justified the horseback gallops of a hundred Lady Godivas.
The capable, cool-eyed, impersonal, young, bald-headed man whose task it was to engage
six of the contestants, was aware of a feeling of suffocation as if he were drowning in a
sea of frangipanni, while white clouds, hand-embroidered, floated about him. And then a
sail hove in sight. Hetty Pepper, homely of countenance, with small, contemptuous, green
eyes and chocolate-colored hair, dressed in a suit of plain burlap and a common-sense
hat, stood before him with every one of her twenty-nine years of life unmistakably in
"You're on!." shouted the bald-headed young man, and was saved. And that is how Hetty
came to be employed in the Biggest Store. The story of her rise to an eight-dollar-a-week
salary is the combined stories of Hercules, Joan of Arc, Una, Job, and Little-Red-Riding-
Hood. You shall not learn from me the salary that was paid her as a beginner. There is a
sentiment growing about such things, and I want no millionaire store-proprietors
climbing the fire-escape of my tenement- house to throw dynamite bombs into my
skylight boudoir.