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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesFanny Herself - Chapter 14
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Fanny Herself - Chapter 14 Post by :Rickster Category :Long Stories Author :Edna Ferber Date :March 2011 Read :3224

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Fanny Herself - Chapter 14

Fanny Brandeis' blouses showed real Cluny now, and her hats
were nothing but line. A scant two years before she had
wondered if she would ever reach a pinnacle of success lofty
enough to enable her to wear blue tailor suits as smart as
the well-cut garments worn by her mother's friend, Mrs. Emma
McChesney. Mrs. McChesney's trig little suits had cost
fifty dollars, and had looked sixty. Fanny's now cost one
hundred and twenty-five, and looked one hundred and twenty-
five. Her sleeves alone gave it away. If you would test
the soul of a tailor you have only to glance at shoulder-
seam, elbow and wrist. Therein lies the wizardry. Fanny's
sleeve flowed from arm-pit to thumb-bone without a ripple.
Also she moved from the South side to the North side, always
a sign of prosperity or social ambition, in Chicago. Her
new apartment was near the lake, exhilaratingly high,
correspondingly expensive. And she was hideously lonely.
She was earning a man-size salary now, and she was working
like a man. A less magnificently healthy woman could not
have stood the strain, for Fanny Brandeis was working with
her head, not her heart. When we say heart we have come to
mean something more than the hollow muscular structure that
propels the blood through the veins. That, in the
dictionary, is the primary definition. The secondary
definition has to do with such words as emotion, sympathy,
tenderness, courage, conviction. She was working, now, as
Michael Fenger worked, relentlessly, coldly, indomitably,
using all the material at hand as a means to an end, with
never a thought of the material itself, as a
builder reaches for a brick, or stone, and fits it into
place, smoothly, almost without actually seeing the brick
itself, except as something which will help to make a
finished wall. She rarely prowled the city now. She told
herself she was too tired at night, and on Sundays and
holidays, and I suppose she was. Indeed, she no longer saw
things with her former vision. It was as though her soul
had shriveled in direct proportion to her salary's
expansion. The streets seldom furnished her with a rich
mental meal now. When she met a woman with a child, in the
park, her keen eye noted the child's dress before it saw the
child itself, if, indeed, she noticed the child at all.

Fascinating Facts, the guileless, pink-cheeked youth who had
driven her home the night of her first visit to the Fengers,
shortly after her coming to Haynes-Cooper's, had proved her
faithful slave, and she had not abused his devotion.
Indeed, she hardly considered it that. The sex side of her
was being repressed with the artist side. Most men found
her curt, brisk, businesslike manner a little repellent,
though interesting. They never made love to her, in spite
of her undeniable attractiveness. Fascinating Facts drove
her about in his smart little roadster and one night he
established himself in her memory forever as the first man
who had ever asked her to marry him. He did it haltingly,
painfully, almost grudgingly. Fanny was frankly amazed.
She had enjoyed going about with him. He rested and soothed
her. He, in turn, had been stimulated by her energy, her
humor, her electric force. Nothing was said for a minute
after his awkward declaration.

"But," he persisted, "you like me, don't you?"

"Of course I do. Immensely."

"Then why?"

"When a woman of my sort marries it's a miracle. I'm
twenty-six, and intelligent and very successful. A
frightful combination. Unmarried women of my type
aren't content just to feel. They must analyze their
feelings. And analysis is death to romance."

"Great Scott! You expect to marry somebody sometime, don't
you, Fanny?"

"No one I know now. When I do marry, if I do, it will be
with the idea of making a definite gain. I don't mean
necessarily worldly gain, though that would be a factor,
too."
Fascinating Facts had been staring straight ahead, his hands
gripping the wheel with unnecessary rigidity. He relaxed a
little now, and even laughed, though not very successfully.
Then he said something very wise, for him.

"Listen to me, girl. You'll never get away with that
vampire stuff. Talons are things you have to be born with.
You'll never learn to grab with these." He reached over,
and picked up her left hand lying inertly in her lap, and
brought it up to his lips, and kissed it, glove and all.
"They're built on the open-face pattern--for giving. You
can't fool me. I know."

A year and a half after her coming to Haynes-Cooper Fanny's
department was doing a business of a million a year. The
need had been there. She had merely given it the impetus.
She was working more or less directly with Fenger now, with
an eye on every one of the departments that had to do with
women's clothing, from shoes to hats. Not that she did any
actual buying, or selling in these departments. She still
confined her actual selecting of goods to the infants' wear
section, but she occupied, unofficially, the position of
assistant to the General Merchandise Manager. They worked
well together, she and Fenger, their minds often marching
along without the necessity of a single spoken word. There
was no doubt that Fenger's mind was a marvelous piece of
mechanism. Under it the Haynes-Cooper plant functioned with
the clockwork regularity of a gigantic automaton. System
and Results--these were his twin gods. With his mind
intent on them he failed to see that new gods, born of
spiritual unrest, were being set up in the temples of Big
Business. Their coming had been rumored for many years.
Words such as Brotherhood, Labor, Rights, Humanity, Hours,
once regarded as the special property of the street corner
ranter, were creeping into our everyday vocabulary. And
strangely enough, Nathan Haynes, the gentle, the bewildered,
the uninspired, heard them, and listened. Nathan Haynes had
begun to accustom himself to the roar of the flood that had
formerly deafened him. He was no longer stunned by the
inrush of his millions. The report sheet handed him daily
had never ceased to be a wildly unexpected thing, and he
still shrank from it, sometimes. It was so fantastic, so
out of all reason. But he even dared, now and then, to put
out a tentative hand to guide the flood. He began to
realize, vaguely, that Italian Gardens, and marble pools,
educational endowments and pet charities were but poor,
ineffectual barriers of mud and sticks, soon swept away by
the torrent. As he sat there in his great, luxurious
office, with the dim, rich old portraits gleaming down on
him from the walls, he began, gropingly, to evolve a new
plan; a plan by which the golden flood was to be curbed,
divided, and made to form a sub-stream, to be utilized for
the good of the many; for the good of the Ten Thousand, who
were almost Fifteen Thousand now, with another fifteen
thousand in mills and factories at distant points, whose
entire output was swallowed up by the Haynes-Cooper plant.
Michael Fenger, Super-Manager, listened to the plan, smiled
tolerantly, and went on perfecting an already miraculous
System. Sarah Sapinsky, at seven a week, was just so much
untrained labor material, easily replaced by material
exactly like it. No, Michael Fenger, with his head in the
sand, heard no talk of new gods. He only knew that the
monster plant under his management was yielding the
greatest possible profit under the least possible outlay.

In Fanny Brandeis he had found a stimulating, energizing
fellow worker. That had been from the beginning. In the
first month or two of her work, when her keen brain was
darting here and there, into forgotten and neglected
corners, ferreting out dusty scraps of business waste and
holding them up to the light, disdainfully, Fenger had
watched her with a mingling of amusement and a sort of fond
pride, as one would a precocious child. As the months went
on the pride and amusement welded into something more than
admiration, such as one expert feels for a fellow-craftsman.
Long before the end of the first year he knew that here was
a woman such as he had dreamed of all his life and never
hoped to find. He often found himself sitting at his office
desk, or in his library at home, staring straight ahead for
a longer time than he dared admit, his papers or book
forgotten in his hand. His thoughts applied to her
adjectives which proved her a paradox: Generous,
sympathetic, warm-hearted, impulsive, imaginative; cold,
indomitable, brilliant, daring, intuitive. He would rouse
himself almost angrily and force himself to concentrate
again upon the page before him. I don't know how he thought
it all would end--he whose life-habit it was to follow out
every process to its ultimate step, whether mental or
mechanical. As for Fanny, there was nothing of the
intriguant about her. She was used to admiration. She was
accustomed to deference from men. Brandeis' Bazaar had
insured that. All her life men had taken orders from her,
all the way from Aloysius and the blithe traveling men of
whom she bought goods, to the salesmen and importers in the
Chicago wholesale houses. If they had attempted,
occasionally, to mingle the social and personal with the
commercial Fanny had not resented their attitude. She had
accepted their admiration and refused their invitations
with equal good nature, and thus retained their friendship.
It is not exaggeration to say that she looked upon Michael
Fenger much as she had upon these genial fellow-workers. A
woman as straightforward and direct as she has what is known
as a single-track mind in such matters. It is your soft and
silken mollusc type of woman whose mind pursues a slimy and
labyrinthine trail. But it is useless to say that she did
not feel something of the intense personal attraction of the
man. Often it used to puzzle and annoy her to find that as
they sat arguing in the brisk, everyday atmosphere of office
or merchandise room the air between them would suddenly
become electric, vibrant. They met each other's eyes with
effort. When their hands touched, accidentally, over papers
or samples they snatched them back. Fanny found herself
laughing uncertainly, at nothing, and was furious. When a
silence fell between them they would pounce upon it,
breathlessly, and smother it with talk.

Do not think that any furtive love-making went on,
sandwiched between shop talk. Their conversation might have
taken place between two men. Indeed, they often were
brutally frank to each other. Fanny had the vision, Fenger
the science to apply it. Sometimes her intuition leaped
ahead of his reasoning. Then he would say, "I'm not sold on
that," which is modern business slang meaning, "You haven't
convinced me." She would go back and start afresh, covering
the ground more slowly.

Usually her suggestions were practical and what might be
termed human. They seemed to be founded on an uncanny
knowledge of people's frailties. It was only when she
touched upon his beloved System that he was adamant.

"None of that socialistic stuff," he would say. "This isn't
a Benevolent Association we're running. It's the biggest
mail order business in the world, and its back-bone is
System. I've been just fifteen years perfecting that
System. It's my job. Hands off."

"A fifteen year old system ought to be scrapped," Fanny
would retort, boldly. "Anyway, the Simon Legree thing has
gone out."

No one in the plant had ever dared to talk to him like that.
He would glare down at Fanny for a moment, like a mastiff on
a terrier. Fanny, seeing his face rage-red, would flash him
a cheerful and impudent smile. The anger, fading slowly,
gave way to another look, so that admiration and resentment
mingled for a moment.

"Lucky for you you're not a man."

"I wish I were."

"I'm glad you're not."

Not a very thrilling conversation for those of you who are
seeking heartthrobs.

In May Fanny made her first trip to Europe for the firm. It
was a sudden plan. Instantly Theodore leaped to her mind
and she was startled at the tumult she felt at the thought
of seeing him and his child. The baby, a girl, was more
than a year old. Her business, a matter of two weeks,
perhaps, was all in Berlin and Paris, but she cabled
Theodore that she would come to them in Munich, if only for
a day or two. She had very little curiosity about the woman
Theodore had married. The memory of that first photograph
of hers, befrizzed, bejeweled, and asmirk, had never effaced
itself. It had stamped her indelibly in Fanny's mind.

The day before she left for New York (she sailed from there)
she had a letter from Theodore. It was evident at once that
he had not received her cable. He was in Russia, giving a
series of concerts. Olga and the baby were with him. He
would be back in Munich in June. There was some talk of
America. When Fanny realized that she was not to see him
she experienced a strange feeling that was a mixture of
regret and relief. All the family love in her, a
racial trait, had been stirred at the thought of again
seeing that dear blond brother, the self-centered, willful,
gifted boy who had held the little congregation rapt, there
in the Jewish house of worship in Winnebago. But she had
recoiled a little from the meeting with this other unknown
person who gave concerts in Russia, who had adopted Munich
as his home, who was the husband of this Olga person, and
the father of a ridiculously German looking baby in a very
German looking dress, all lace and tucks, and wearing
bracelets on its chubby arms, and a locket round its neck.
That was what one might expect of Olga's baby. But not of
Theodore's. Besides, what business had that boy with a
baby, anyway? Himself a baby.

Fenger had arranged for her cabin, and she rather resented
its luxury until she learned later, that it is the buyers
who always occupy the staterooms de luxe on ocean liners.
She learned, too, that the men in yachting caps and white
flannels, and the women in the smartest and most subdued of
blue serge and furs were not millionaires temporarily
deprived of their own private seagoing craft, but buyers
like herself, shrewd, aggressive, wise and incredibly
endowed with savoir faire. Merely to watch one of them
dealing with a deck steward was to know for all time the
superiority of mind over matter.

Most incongruously, it was Ella Monahan and Clarence Heyl
who waved good-by to her as her ship swung clear of the
dock. Ella was in New York on her monthly trip. Heyl had
appeared at the hotel as Fanny was adjusting her veil and
casting a last rather wild look around the room. Molly
Brandeis had been the kind of woman who never misses a train
or overlooks a hairpin. Fanny's early training had proved
invaluable more than once in the last two years.
Nevertheless, she was rather flustered, for her, as the
elevator took her down to the main floor. She told
herself it was not the contemplation of the voyage itself
that thrilled her. It was the fact that here was another
step definitely marking her progress.
Heyl, looking incredibly limp, was leaning against a gaudy
marble pillar, his eyes on the downcoming elevators. Fanny
saw him just an instant before he saw her, and in that
moment she found herself wondering why this boy (she felt
years older than he) should look so fantastically out of
place in this great, glittering, feverish hotel lobby. Just
a shy, rather swarthy Jewish boy, who wore the right kind of
clothes in the wrong manner--then Heyl saw her and came
swiftly toward her.

"Hello, Fan!"

"Hello, Clancy!" They had not seen each other in six
months.

"Anybody else going down with you?"

"No. Ella Monahan had a last-minute business appointment,
but she promised to be at the dock, somehow, before the boat
leaves. I'm going to be grand, and taxi all the way."

"I've an open car, waiting."

"But I won't have it! I can't let you do that."

"Oh, yes you can. Don't take it so hard. That's the
trouble with you business women. You're killing the
gallantry of a nation. Some day one of you will get up and
give me a seat in a subway----"

"I'll punish you for that, Clancy. If you want the Jane
Austen thing I'll accommodate. I'll drop my handkerchief,
gloves, bag, flowers and fur scarf at intervals of five
minutes all the way downtown. Then you may scramble around
on the floor of the cab and feel like a knight."

Fanny had long ago ceased to try to define the charm of this
man. She always meant to be serenely dignified with him.
She always ended by feeling very young, and, somehow,
gloriously carefree and lighthearted. There was about him a
naturalness, a simplicity, to which one responded in kind.

Seated beside her he turned and regarded her with
disconcerting scrutiny.

"Like it?" demanded Fanny, pertly. And smoothed her veil,
consciously.

"No."

"Well, for a man who looks negligee even in evening clothes
aren't you overcritical?"

"I'm not criticizing your clothes. Even I can see that that
hat and suit have the repressed note that means money. And
you're the kind of woman who looks her best in those plain
dark things."

"Well, then?"

"You look like a buyer. In two more years your face will
have that hard finish that never comes off."

"I am a buyer."

"You're not. You're a creator. Remember, I'm not
belittling your job. It's a wonderful job--for Ella
Monahan. I wish I had the gift of eloquence. I wish I had
the right to spank you. I wish I could prove to you,
somehow, that with your gift, and heritage, and racial right
it's as criminal for you to be earning your thousands at
Haynes-Cooper's as it would have been for a vestal virgin to
desert her altar fire to stoke a furnace. Your eyes are
bright and hard, instead of tolerant. Your mouth is losing
its graciousness. Your whole face is beginning to be
stamped with a look that says shrewdness and experience, and
success."

"I am successful. Why shouldn't I look it?"

"Because you're a failure. I'm sick, I tell you--sick with
disappointment in you. Jane Addams would have been a
success in business, too. She was born with a humanity
sense, and a value sense, and a something else that can't be
acquired. Ida Tarbell could have managed your whole Haynes-
Cooper plant, if she'd had to. So could a dozen other
women I could name. You don't see any sign of what you call
success on Jane Addams's face, do you? You wouldn't say, on
seeing her, that here was a woman who looked as if she might
afford hundred-dollar tailor suits and a town car. No. All
you see in her face is the reflection of the souls of all
the men and women she has worked to save. She has covered
her job--the job that the Lord intended her to cover. And
to me she is the most radiantly beautiful woman I have ever
seen."

Fanny sat silent. She was twisting the fingers of one hand
in the grip of the other, as she had since childhood, when
deeply disturbed. And suddenly she began to cry--silently,
harrowingly, as a man cries, her shoulders shaking, her face
buried in her furs.

"Fanny! Fanny girl!" He was horribly disturbed and
contrite. He patted her arm, awkwardly. She shook free of
his hand, childishly. "Don't cry, dear. I'm sorry. It's
just that I care so much. It's just----"

She raised an angry, tear-stained face. "It's just that you
have an exalted idea of your own perceptions. It's just
that you've grown up from what they used to call a bright
little boy to a bright young man, and you're just as
tiresome now as you were then. I'm happy enough, except
when I see you. I'm getting the things I starved for all
those years. Why, I'll never get over being thrilled at the
idea of being able to go to the theater, or to a concert,
whenever I like. Actually whenever I want to. And to be
able to buy a jabot, or a smart hat, or a book. You don't
know how I wanted things, and how tired I got of never
having them. I'm happy! I'm happy! Leave me alone!"

"It's an awful price to pay for a hat, and a jabot, and a
book and a theater ticket, Fan."

Ella Monahan had taken the tube, and was standing in the
great shed, watching arrivals with interest, long
before they bumped over the cobblestones of Hoboken.
The three descended to Fanny's cabin. Ella had sent
champagne--six cosy pints in a wicker basket.

"They say it's good for seasickness," she announced,
cheerfully, "but it's a lie. Nothing's good for
seasickness, except death, or dry land. But even if you do
feel miserable--and you probably will--there's something
about being able to lie in your berth and drink champagne
alone, by the spoonful, that's sort of soothing."

Heyl had fallen silent. Fanny was radiant again, and
exclamatory over her books and flowers.

"Of course it's my first trip," she explained, "and an event
in my life, but I didn't suppose that anybody else would
care. What's this? Candy? Glace fruit." She glanced
around the luxurious little cabin, then up at Heyl,
impudently. "I may be a coarse commercial person, Clancy,
but I must say I like this very, very much. Sorry."

They went up on deck. Ella, a seasoned traveler, was full
of parting instructions. "And be sure to eat at
Kempinski's, in Berlin. Twenty cents for lobster. And
caviar! Big as hen's eggs, and as cheap as codfish. And
don't forget to order mai-bowle. It tastes like
champagne, but isn't, and it has the most delicious dwarf
strawberries floating on top. This is just the season for
it. You're lucky. If you tip the waiter one mark he's
yours for life. Oh, and remember the plum compote.
You'll be disappointed in their Wertheim's that they're
always bragging about. After all, Field's makes 'em all
look like country stores."

"Wertheim's? Is that something to eat, too?"

"No, idiot. It's their big department store." Ella turned
to Heyl, for whom she felt mingled awe and liking. "If this
trip of hers is successful, the firm will probably send her
over three or four times a year. It's a wonderful chance
for a kid like her."

"Then I hope," said Heyl, quietly, "that this trip may be a
failure."

Ella smiled, uncertainly.

"Don't laugh," said Fanny, sharply. "He means it."

Ella, sensing an unpleasant something in which she had no
part, covered the situation with another rush of
conversation.

"You'll get the jolt of your life when you come to Paris and
find that you're expected to pay for the lunches, and all
the cab fares, and everything, of those shrimpy little
commissionaires. Polite little fellows, they are, in
frock coats, and mustaches, and they just stand aside, as
courtly as you please, while you pay for everything. Their
house expects it. I almost passed away, the first time, but
you get used to it. Say, imagine one of our traveling men
letting you pay for his lunch and taxi."

She rattled on, genially. Heyl listened with unfeigned
delight. Ella found herself suddenly abashed before those
clear, far-seeing eyes. "You think I'm a gabby old girl,
don't you?"

"I think you're a wonderful woman," said Heyl. "Very wise,
and very kind."

"Why--thanks," faltered Ella. "Why--thanks."

They said their good-bys. Ella hugged Fanny warm-heartedly.
Then she turned away, awkwardly. Heyl put his two hands on
Fanny's shoulders and looked down at her. For a breathless
second she thought he was about to kiss her. She was amazed
to find herself hoping that he would. But he didn't.
"Good-by," he said, simply. And took her hand in his steel
grip a moment, and dropped it. And turned away. A
messenger boy, very much out of breath, came running up to
her, a telegram in his hand.

"For me?" Fanny opened it, frowned, smiled. "It's from Mr.
Fenger. Good wishes. As if all those flowers weren't
enough."

"Mm," said Ella. She and Heyl descended the gang-way, and
stood at the dock's edge, looking rather foolish and
uncertain, as people do at such times. There followed a few
moments of scramble, of absurdly shouted last messages, of
bells, and frantic waving of handkerchiefs. Fanny, at the
rail, found her two among the crowd, and smiled down upon
them, mistily. Ella was waving energetically. Heyl was
standing quite still, looking up. The ship swung clear,
crept away from the dock. The good-bys swelled to a roar.
Fanny leaned far over the rail and waved too, a sob in her
throat. Then she saw that she was waving with the hand that
held the yellow telegram. She crumpled it in the other
hand, and substituted her handkerchief. Heyl still stood,
hat in hand, motionless.

"Why don't you wave good-by?" she called, though he could
not possibly hear. "Wave good-by!" And then the hand with
the handkerchief went to her face, and she was weeping. I
think it was that old drama-thrill in her, dormant for so
long. But at that Heyl swung his hat above his head, three
times, like a schoolboy, and, grasping Ella's plump and
resisting arm, marched abruptly away.

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