When she entered, her appearance created no surprise or concern, as she had half feared it might.
She was very hungry. Another time she would have ignored the desire for food until reaching her own home. But the force that was guiding her would not permit her to act on such a thought.
For the first time she seemed to be taking a rest from the tiring act of thought. She had let herself be controlled by some machine-like force that directed her actions and freed her of responsibility.
She smiled as if she had been asked to inspect diamond jewelry with the aim of purchasing it. But she went on feeling the soft, costly items. Now she used both hands, holding the stockings up to see the light shine through them.
How good was the touch of the silk on her skin! She felt like lying back in the soft chair and enjoying the richness of it. She put her shoes back on and put her old stockings into her bag. Next, she went to the shoe department, sat down and waited to be fitted.
She seated herself at a small table. A waiter came at once to take her order. While waiting to be served she removed her gloves very slowly and set them beside her.
It was all very agreeable. The table cloths were even more clean and white than they had seemed through the window. And the crystal drinking glasses shined even more brightly. There were ladies and gentlemen, who did not notice her, lunching at the small tables like her own.
There was a restaurant at the corner. She had noted the white table cloths, shining glasses and waiters serving wealthy people.
The question of investment was one she considered carefully. For a day or two she walked around in a dreamy state as she thought about her choices. She did not wish to act quickly and do anything she might regret.
She lifted her skirts as she crossed the street. Her new stockings and boots and gloves had worked wonders for her appearance. They had given her a feeling of satisfaction, a sense of belonging to the well-dressed crowds.
A dollar or two could be added to the price she usually paid for her daughter Janie’s shoes. This would guarantee they would last a great deal longer than usual. She would buy cloth for new shirts for the boys. Her daughter Mag should have another dress. And still there would be enough left for new stockings—two pairs per child. The idea of her little family looking fresh and new for once in their lives made her restless with excitement.
A pleasing piece of music could be heard, and a gentle wind was blowing through the window. She tasted a bite, and she slowly drank the wine. She moved her toes around in the silk stockings. The price of it all made no difference.
Mrs. Sommers knew the value of finding things for sale at reduced prices. But that day she was tired and a little bit weak. When she arrived at the large department store, she sat in front of an empty counter. She rested her hand upon the counter.
A man with sharp eyes sat opposite her. It was hard for him to fully understand what he saw in her expression. In truth, he saw nothing—unless he was a magician. Then he would sense her heartbreaking wish that the cable car would never stop anywhere, but go on and on with her forever.
A young shop girl drew a soft, leather glove over Mrs. Sommers’hand. She smoothed it down over the wrist and buttoned it neatly. Both women lost themselves for a second or two as they quietly praised the little gloved hand.