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HOME > Short Stories > The Disagreeable Woman > CHAPTER VII. MACY'S.
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One day I dropped in at Macy's. I wished to make some trifling purchase. Possibly I could have bought to equal advantage elsewhere, but I was curious to see this great emporium. Years before, I had heard of it in my country home, and even then I knew just where it was located, at the corner of Fourteenth Street and Sixth Avenue.

Curious as I had been about the place, I had actually spent three months in New York and had not visited it. It was something of a shock to me when I first learned there was no Macy, that the original proprietor had vanished from the stage and left his famous shop in[Pg 62] charge of men of alien race and name. Macy had become nominis umbra—the shadow of a name. Yet the name had been wisely retained. Under no other name could the great store have retained its ancient and well-earned popularity.

I made my purchase—it was trifling and did not materially swell the day's receipts—and began to walk slowly about the store, taking a leisurely survey of the infinite variety of goods which it offered to the prospective purchaser.

As I was making my leisurely round, all at once I heard my name called in a low but distinct tone.

"Dr. Fenwick!"

I turned quickly, and behind the handkerchief counter I saw the young woman from Macy's, whose pleasant face I had seen so often at our table.

She nodded and smiled, and I instantly went up to the counter.

I was sensible that I must not take up the time of one of the salesladies—I [Pg 63]believe that the genteel designation of this class—without some pretense of business, so, after greeting Ruth Canby, I said:

"You may show me some of your handkerchiefs, please."

"Do you wish something nice?" she asked.

"I wish something cheap," I answered. "It doesn't matter much what a forlorn bachelor uses."

"You may not always be a bachelor," said Ruth, with a suggestive smile.

"I must get better established in my profession before I assume new responsibilities."

"These handkerchiefs are ten cents, Dr. Fenwick," said Ruth, showing a fair article.

"I think I can go a little higher."

"And these are fifteen. They are nearly all linen."

"I will buy a couple to try," I said, by way of excusing my small purchase.

The young lady called "Cash," and[Pg 64] soon a small girl was carrying the handkerchiefs and a fifty cent piece to the cashier. This left me five minutes for conversation, as no other customer was at hand.

"So you are in the handkerchief department?" I remarked, by way of starting a conversation.


"Do you like it?"

"I should prefer the book department. That is up-stairs, on the second floor. My tastes are litery."

I am sure this was the word Ruth used. I was not disposed to criticise, however, only I wondered mildly how it happened that a young woman of literary tastes should make such a mistake.

"I suppose you are fond of reading?"

"Oh, yes, I have read considerable."

"What, for instance?"

"I have read one of Cooper's novels, I disremember the name, and the Gunmaker of Moscow, by Sylvanus Cobb,[Pg 65] and Poe's Tales, but I didn't like them much, they are so queer, and—and ever so many others."

"I see you are quite a reader."

"I should read more and find out more about books if I was in the book department. A friend of mine—Mary Ann Toner—is up there, and she knows a lot about books and authors."

"Do any authors ever come in here, or rather to the book department?"

"Yes; Mary Ann told me that there was a lady with long ringlets who wrote for the story papers who came in often. She had had two books published, and always inquired how they sold."

"Do you remember her name?"

"No, I disremember."

I should like to have given her a hint that this word is hardly accounted correct, but I suspected that if I undertook to correct Miss Canby's English I should have my hands full.

[Pg 66]

"Do you think you stand a chance to get into the book department?"

"Mary Ann has agreed to speak for me when there is a vacancy. Do you often come into Macy's, Dr. Fenwick?"

"This is my first visit."

"You don't mean it? I thought everybody came to Macy's at least once a month."

"Truly it looks like it," said I, looking about and noting the crowds of customers.

"I hope you'll come again soon," said Ruth, as she turned to wait upon a lady.

"I certainly will, Miss Canby. And it won't be altogether to buy goods."

Ruth looked gratified and smiled her appreciation of the compliment. Certainly she looked comely and attractive with her rather high-colored country face, and I should have been excusable, being a bachelor, in letting my eyes rest complacently upon her rustic charms. But I was heart-proof so far as Ruth was[Pg 67] concerned, I could not think of seeking a litery wife. No, she was meant for some honest but uncultured young man, whose tastes and education were commensurate with hers. And yet, as I afterwards found, Ruth had made an impression in a quarter quite unexpected.

I was not in search of a wife. It would have been the height of imprudence for me, with my small income and precarious prospects, to think of setting up a home and a family in this great, expensive city. Yet, had it been otherwise, perhaps Ruth would have made me a better wife than some graduate of a fashionable young ladies' seminary with her smattering of French, and superficial knowledge of the various ologies taught in high-class schools. The young woman from Macy's, though she probably knew nothing of political economy, was doubtless skilled in household economy and able to cook a dinner, as in all probability my wife would find it necessary to do.

[Pg 68]

As we entered the room at supper, Miss Canby smiled upon me pleasantly.

"I hope you are pleased with your handkerchiefs, Dr. Fenwick."

"I have not had occasion to use them as yet, thank you."

"Aha, what is that?" asked Prof. Poppendorf, who was just behind us.

"Dr. Fenwick called to see me at Macy's," answered Ruth.

Prof. Poppendorf frowned a little, as if not approving the visit.

"Do you have gentlemen call upon you at Macy's, Mees Ruth?" he asked.

"Only when they wish to buy articles," said Ruth, smiling and blushing.

"What do you sell, Mees Ruth?"

"Handkerchiefs, Professor."

"Do you have any like this?" and he pulled out a large red silk handkerchief.

"No, I have only white linen handkerchiefs."

"I haf never use any but red ones, but I might come in and see what you have."

[Pg 69]

"I shall be glad to show you what I have, Professor."

Prof. Poppendorf was soon engaged in the discussion of dinner. He had a good German appetite which never failed. He seldom talked much during a meal, as it would interfere with more important business.

Now that I had changed my place at the table, I sat on one side of the Disagreeable Woman, and Ruth Canby on the other. Next to Ruth sat the Professor, but for the reason already stated, he was not a social companion.

Just opposite sat Mrs. Wyman and Count Penelli. So far as I could judge, he was a quiet young man, and had very little to say for himself. Mrs. Wyman, however, kept plying him with questions and remarks, and did her best to appear on terms of intimate acquaintance with him. Some fragments of her conversation floated across the table.

[Pg 70]

"You have no idea, Count, how I long to visit Italy, your dear country."

"It is ver' nice," he said, vaguely.

"Nice? It must be lovely. Have you ever seen the Bay of Naples?"

"Oh, si, signora, many times."

"It is charming, is it not?"

"Si, signora, it is beautiful."

"And the Italian ladies, I have heard so much of them."

"I like ze American ladies better."

"Do you, indeed, Count? How gratifying! When do you expect to return to Italy?"

"I do not know—some time."

"I hope it will not be for a long time. We should miss you so much."

"The signora is very kind."

This will do for a sample of the conversation between the Count and the widow. Though several years his senior, it looked as if she was bent on making a conquest of the young nobleman.

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