Fanny Herself

Author: Edna Ferber

Chapter Ten

The invitation to tea came in due time from Mrs. Fenger. A thin, querulous voice over the telephone prepared one for the thin, querulous Mrs. Fenger herself. A sallow, plaintive woman, with a misbehaving valve. The valve, she confided to Fanny, made any effort dangerous. Also it made her susceptible to draughts. She wore over her shoulders a scarf that was constantly slipping and constantly being retrieved by Michael Fenger. The sight of this man, a physical and mental giant, performing this task ever so gently and patiently, sent a little pang of pity through Fanny, as Michael Fenger knew it would. The Fengers lived in an apartment on the Lake Shore Drive—an apartment such as only Chicago boasts. A view straight across the lake, rooms huge and many-windowed, a glass-enclosed sun-porch gay with chintz and wicker, an incredible number of bathrooms. The guests, besides Fanny, included a young pair, newly married and interested solely in rents, hangings, linen closets, and the superiority of the Florentine over the Jacobean for dining room purposes; and a very scrubbed looking, handsome, spectacled man of thirty-two or three who was a mechanical engineer. Fanny failed to catch his name, though she learned it later. Privately, she dubbed him Fascinating Facts, and he always remained that. His conversation was invariably prefaced with, "Funny thing happened down at the works to-day." The rest of it sounded like something one reads at the foot of each page of a loose-leaf desk calendar.

At tea there was a great deal of silver, and lace, but Fanny thought she could have improved on the chicken a la king. It lacked paprika and personality. Mrs. Fenger was constantly directing one or the other of the neat maids in an irritating aside.

After tea Michael Fenger showed Fanny his pictures, not boastfully, but as one who loves them reveals his treasures to an appreciative friend. He showed her his library, too, and it was the library of a reader. Fanny nibbled at it, hungrily. She pulled out a book here, a book there, read a paragraph, skimmed a page. There was no attempt at classification. Lever rubbed elbows with Spinoza; Mark Twain dug a facetious thumb into Haeckel’s ribs. Fanny wanted to sit down on the floor, legs crossed, before the open shelves, and read, and read, and read. Fenger, watching the light in her face, seemed himself to take on a certain glow, as people generally did who found this girl in sympathy with them.

They were deep in book talk when Fascinating Facts strolled in, looking aggrieved, and spoiled it with the thoroughness of one who never reads, and is not ashamed of it.

"My word, I’m having a rotten time, Fenger," he said, plaintively. "They’ve got a tape-measure out of your wife’s sewing basket, those two in there, and they’re down on their hands and knees, measuring something. It has to do with their rug, over your rug, or some such rot. And then you take Miss Brandeis and go off into the library."

"Then stay here," said Fanny, "and talk books."

"My book’s a blue-print," admitted Fascinating Facts, cheerfully. "I never get time to read. There’s enough fiction, and romance, and adventure in my job to give me all the thrill I want. Why, just last Tuesday—no, Thursday it was—down at the works----"

Between Fanny and Fenger there flashed a look made up of dismay, and amusement, and secret sympathy. It was a look that said, "We both see the humor of this. Most people wouldn’t. Our angle is the same." Such a glance jumps the gap between acquaintance and friendship that whole days of spoken conversation cannot cover.

"Cigar?" asked Fenger, hoping to stay the flood.

"No, thanks. Say, Fenger, would there be a row if I smoked my pipe?"

"That black one? With the smell?"

"The black one, yes."

"There would." Fenger glanced in toward his wife, and smiled, dryly. Fascinating Facts took his hand out of his pocket, regretfully.

"Wouldn’t it sour a fellow on marriage! Wouldn’t it! First those two in there, with their damned linen closets, and their rugs—I beg your pardon, Miss Brandeis! And now your missus objects to my pipe. You wouldn’t treat me like that, would you, Miss Brandeis?"

There was about him something that appealed—something boyish and likeable.

"No, I wouldn’t. I’d let you smoke a nargileh, if you wanted to, surrounded by rolls of blue prints."

"I knew it. I’m going to drive you home for that."

And he did, in his trim little roadster. It is a fairy road at night, that lake drive between the north and south sides. Even the Rush street bridge cannot quite spoil it. Fanny sat back luxuriously and let the soft splendor of the late August night enfold her. She was intelligently monosyllabic, while Fascinating Facts talked. At the door of her apartment house (she had left the Mendota weeks before) Fascinating Facts surprised her.

"I—I’d like to see you again, Miss Brandeis. If you’ll let me."

"I’m so busy," faltered Fanny. Then it came to her that perhaps he did not know. "I’m with Haynes-Cooper, you know. Assistant buyer in the infants’ wear department."

"Yes, I know. I suppose a girl like you couldn’t be interested in seeing a chap like me again, but I thought maybe----"

"But I would," interrupted Fanny, impulsively. "Indeed I would."

"Really! Perhaps you’ll drive, some evening. Over to the Bismarck Gardens, or somewhere. It would rest you."

"I’m sure it would. Suppose you telephone me."

That was her honest, forthright, Winnebago Wisconsin self talking. But up in her apartment the other Fanny Brandeis, the calculating, ambitious, determined woman, said: "Now why did I say that! I never want to see the boy again.

"Use him. Experiment with him. Evidently men are going to enter into this thing. Michael Fenger has, already. And now this boy. Why not try certain tests with them as we used to follow certain formulae in the chemistry laboratory at high school? This compound, that compound, what reaction? Then, when the time comes to apply your knowledge, you’ll know."

Which shows how ignorant she was of this dangerous phase of her experiment. If she had not been, she must have known that these were not chemicals, but explosives with which she proposed to play.

The trouble was that Fanny Brandeis, the creative, was not being fed. And the creative fire requires fuel. Fanny Brandeis fed on people, not things. And her work at Haynes- Cooper was all with inanimate objects. The three months since her coming to Chicago had been crowded and eventful. Haynes-Cooper claimed every ounce of her energy, every atom of her wit and resourcefulness. In return it gave—salary. Not too much salary. That would come later, perhaps. Unfortunately, Fanny Brandeis did not thrive on that kind of fare. She needed people. She craved contact. All these millions whom she served—these unseen, unheard men and women, and children—she wanted to see them. She wanted to touch them. She wanted to talk with them. It was as though a lover of the drama, eager to see his favorite actress in her greatest part, were to find himself viewing her in a badly constructed film play.

So Fanny Brandeis took to prowling. There are people who have a penchant for cities—more than that, a talent for them, a gift of sensing them, of feeling their rhythm and pulse-beats, as others have a highly developed music sense, or color reaction. It is a thing that cannot be acquired. In Fanny Brandeis there was this abnormal response to the color and tone of any city. And Chicago was a huge, polyglot orchestra, made up of players in every possible sort of bizarre costume, performing on every known instrument, leaderless, terrifyingly discordant, yet with an occasional strain, exquisite and poignant, to be heard through the clamor and din.

A walk along State street (the wrong side) or Michigan avenue at five, or through one of the city’s foreign quarters, or along the lake front at dusk, stimulated her like strong wine. She was drunk with it. And all the time she would say to herself, little blind fool that she was:

"Don’t let it get you. Look at it, but don’t think about it. Don’t let the human end of it touch you. There’s nothing in it."

And meanwhile she was feasting on those faces in the crowds. Those faces in the crowds! They seemed to leap out at her. They called to her. So she sketched them, telling herself that she did it by way of relaxation, and diversion. One afternoon she left her desk early, and perched herself on one of the marble benches that lined the sunken garden just across from the main group of Haynes-Cooper buildings. She wanted to see what happened when those great buildings emptied. Even her imagination did not meet the actuality. At 5:30 the streets about the plant were empty, except for an occasional passerby. At 5:31 there trickled down the broad steps of building after building thin dark streams of humanity, like the first slow line of lava that crawls down the side of an erupting volcano. The trickle broadened into a stream, spread into a flood, became a torrent that inundated the streets, the sidewalks, filling every nook and crevice, a moving mass. Ten thousand people! A city! Fanny found herself shaking with excitement, and something like terror at the immensity of it. She tried to get a picture of it, a sketch, with the gleaming windows of the red brick buildings as a background. Amazingly enough, she succeeded in doing it. That was because she tried for broad effects, and relied on one bit of detail for her story. It was the face of a girl—a very tired and tawdry girl, of sixteen, perhaps. On her face the look that the day’s work had stamped there was being wiped gently away by another look; a look that said release, and a sweetheart, and an evening at the movies. Fanny, in some miraculous way, got it.

She prowled in the Ghetto, and sketched those patient Jewish faces, often grotesque, sometimes repulsive, always mobile. She wandered down South Clark street, flaring with purplewhite arc-lights, and looked in at its windows that displayed a pawnbroker’s glittering wares, or, just next door, a flat-topped stove over which a white-capped magician whose face smacked of the galley, performed deft tricks with a pancake turner. "Southern chicken dinner," a lying sign read, "with waffles and real maple syrup, 35??@." Past these windows promenaded the Clark street women, hard-eyed, highheeled, aigretted; on the street corners loafed the Clark street men, blue-shaven, wearing checked suits, soiled faun-topped shoes, and diamond scarf pins. And even as she watched them, fascinated, they vanished. Clark street changed overnight, and became a business thoroughfare, lined with stately office buildings, boasting marble and gold-leaf banks, filled with hurrying clerks, stenographers, and prosperous bond salesmen. It was like a sporting man who, thriving in middle age, endeavors to live down his shady past.

Fanny discovered Cottage Grove avenue, and Halsted street, and Jefferson, and South State, where she should never have walked. There is an ugliness about Chicago’s ugly streets that, for sheer, naked brutality, is equaled nowhere in the world. London has its foul streets, smoke-blackened, sinister. But they are ugly as crime is ugly—and as fascinating. It is like the ugliness of an old hag who has lived a life, and who could tell you strange tales, if she would. Walking through them you think of Fagin, of Children of the Ghetto, of Tales of Mean Streets. Naples is honeycombed with narrow, teeming alleys, grimed with the sediment of centuries, colored like old Stilton, and smelling much worse. But where is there another Cottage Grove avenue! Sylvan misnomer! A hideous street, and sordid. A street of flat-wheeled cars, of delicatessen shops and moving picture houses, of clanging bells, of frowsy women, of men who dart around corners with pitchers, their coat collars turned up to hide the absence of linen. One day Fanny found herself at Fifty-first street, and there before her lay Washington Park, with its gracious meadow, its Italian garden, its rose walk, its lagoon, and drooping willows. But then, that was Chicago. All contrast. The Illinois Central railroad puffed contemptuous cinders into the great blue lake. And almost in the shadow of the City Hall nestled Bath-House John’s groggery.

Michigan Avenue fascinated her most. Here was a street developing before one’s eyes. To walk on it was like being present at a birth. It is one of the few streets in the world. New York has two, Paris a hundred, London none, Vienna one. Berlin, before the war, knew that no one walked Unter den Linden but American tourists and German shopkeepers from the provinces, with their fat wives. But this Michigan Boulevard, unfinished as Chicago itself, shifting and changing daily, still manages to take on a certain form and rugged beauty. It has about it a gracious breadth. As you turn into it from the crash and thunder of Wabash there comes to you a sense of peace. That’s the sweep of it, and the lake just beyond, for Michigan avenue is a one-side street. It’s west side is a sheer mountain wall of office buildings, clubs, and hotels, whose ground floors are fascinating with specialty shops. A milliner tantalizes the passer-by with a single hat stuck knowingly on a carved stick. An art store shows two etchings, and a vase. A jeweler’s window holds square blobs of emeralds, on velvet, and perhaps a gold mesh bag, sprawling limp and invertebrate, or a diamond and platinum la valliere, chastely barbaric. Past these windows, from Randolph to Twelfth surges the crowd: matinee girls, all white fox, and giggles and orchids; wise-eyed saleswomen from the smart specialty shops, dressed in next week’s mode; art students, hugging their precious flat packages under their arms; immigrants, in corduroys and shawls, just landed at the Twelfth street station; sightseeing families, dazed and weary, from Kansas; tailored and sabled Lake Shore Drive dwellers; convention delegates spilling out of the Auditorium hotel, red-faced, hoarse, with satin badges pinned on their coats, and their hats (the wrong kind) stuck far back on their heads; music students to whom Michigan Avenue means the Fine Arts Building. There you have the west side. But just across the street the walk is as deserted as though a pestilence lurked there. Here the Art Institute rears its smoke-blackened face, and Grant Park’s greenery struggles bravely against the poisonous breath of the Illinois Central engines.

Just below Twelfth street block after block shows the solid plate glass of the automobile shops, their glittering wares displayed against an absurd background of oriental rugs, Tiffany lamps, potted plants, and mahogany. In the windows pose the salesmen, no less sleek and glittering than their wares. Just below these, for a block or two, rows of sinister looking houses, fallen into decay, with slatternly women lolling at their windows, and gas jets flaring blue in dim hallways. Below Eighteenth still another change, where the fat stone mansions of Chicago’s old families (save the mark!) hide their diminished heads behind signs that read:

"Marguerite. Robes et Manteaux." And, "Smolkin. Tailor."

Now, you know that women buyers for mail order houses do not spend their Saturday afternoons and Sundays thus, prowling about a city’s streets. Fanny Brandeis knew it too, in her heart. She knew that the Ella Monahans of her world spent their holidays in stayless relaxation, manicuring, mending a bit, skimming the Sunday papers, massaging crows’-feet somewhat futilely. She knew that women buyers do not, as a rule, catch their breath with delight at sight of the pockmarked old Field Columbian museum in Jackson Park, softened and beautified by the kindly gray chiffon of the lake mist, and tinted by the rouge of the sunset glow, so that it is a thing of spectral loveliness. Successful mercantile women, seeing the furnace glare of the South Chicago steel mills flaring a sullen red against the lowering sky, do not draw a disquieting mental picture of men toiling there, naked to the waist, and glistening with sweat in the devouring heat of the fires.

I don’t know how she tricked herself. I suppose she said it was the city’s appeal to the country dweller, but she lied, and she knew she was lying. She must have known it was the spirit of Molly Brandeis in her, and of Molly Brandeis’ mother, and of her mother’s mother’s mother, down the centuries to Sarah; repressed women, suffering women, troubled, patient, nomadic women, struggling now in her for expression.

And Fanny Brandeis went doggedly on, buying and selling infants’ wear, and doing it expertly. Her office desk would have interested you. It was so likely to be littered with the most appealing bits of apparel—a pair of tiny, crocheted bootees, pink and white; a sturdy linen smock; a silken hood so small that one’s doubled fist filled it.

The new catalogue was on the presses. Fanny had slaved over it, hampered by Slosson. Fenger had given her practically a free hand. Results would not come in for many days. The Christmas trade would not tell the tale, for that was always a time of abnormal business. The dull season following the holiday rush would show the real returns. Slosson was discouragement itself. His attitude was not resentful; it was pitying, and that frightened Fanny. She wished that he would storm a little. Then she read her department catalogue proof sheets, and these reassured her. They were attractive. And the new baby book had turned out very well, with a colored cover that would appeal to any one who had ever been or seen a baby.

September brought a letter from Theodore. A letter from Theodore meant just one thing. Fanny hesitated a moment before opening it. She always hesitated before opening Theodore’s letters. While she hesitated the old struggle would rage in her.

"I don’t owe him anything," the thing within her would say. "God knows I don’t. What have I done all my life but give, and give, and give to him! I’m a woman. He’s a man. Let him work with his hands, as I do. He’s had his share. More than his share."

Nevertheless she had sent him one thousand of the six thousand her mother had bequeathed to her. She didn’t want to do it. She fought doing it. But she did it.

Now, as she held this last letter in her hands, and stared at the Bavarian stamp, she said to herself:

"He wants something. Money. If I send him some I can’t have that new tailor suit, or the furs. And I need them. I’m going to have them."

She tore open the letter.

"Dear Old Fan:

"Olga and I are back in Munich, as you see. I think we’ll be here all winter, though Olga hates it. She says it isn’t lustig. Well, it isn’t Vienna, but I think there’s a chance for a class here of American pupils. Munich’s swarming with Americans—whole families who come here to live for a year or two. I think I might get together a very decent class, backed by Auer’s recommendations. Teaching! Good God, how I hate it! But Auer is planning a series of twenty concerts for me. They ought to be a success, if slaving can do it. I worked six hours a day all summer. I wanted to spend the summer—most of it, that is—in Holzhausen Am Ammersee, which is a little village, or artist’s colony in the valley, an hour’s ride from here, and within sight of the Bavarian Alps. We had Kurt Stein’s little villa for almost nothing. But Olga was bored, and she wasn’t well, poor girl, so we went to Interlaken and it was awful. And that brings me to what I want to tell you.

"There’s going to be a baby. No use saying I’m glad, because I’m not, and neither is Olga. About February, I think. Olga has been simply wretched, but the doctor says she’ll feel better from now on. The truth of it is she needs a lot of things and I can’t give them to her. I told you I’d been working on this concerto of mine. Sometimes I think it’s the real thing, if only I could get the leisure and the peace of mind I need to work on it. You don’t know what it means to be eaten up with ambition and to be handicapped "

"Oh, don’t I!" said Fanny Brandeis, between her teeth, and crumpled the letter in her strong fingers. "Don’t I!" She got up from her chair and began to walk up and down her little office, up and down. A man often works off his feelings thus; a woman rarely. Fenger, who had not been twice in her office since her coming to the Haynes-Cooper plant, chose this moment to visit her, his hands full of papers, his head full of plans. He sensed something wrong at once, as a highly organized human instrument responds to a similarly constructed one.

"What’s wrong, girl?"

"Everything. And don’t call me girl."

Fenger saw the letter crushed in her hand.

"Brother?" She had told him about Theodore and he had been tremendously interested.


"Money again, I suppose?"

"Yes, but----"

"You know your salary’s going up, after Christmas."

"Catalogue or no catalogue?"

"Catalogue or no catalogue."


"Because you’ve earned it."

Fanny faced him squarely. "I know that Haynes-Cooper isn’t exactly a philanthropic institution. A salary raise here usually means a battle. I’ve only been here three months." Fenger seated himself in the chair beside her desk and ran a cool finger through the sheaf of papers in his hand. "My dear girl—I beg your pardon. I forgot. My good woman then—if you like that better—you’ve transfused red blood into a dying department. It may suffer a relapse after Christmas, but I don’t think so. That’s why you’re getting more money, and not because I happen to be tremendously interested in you, personally."

Fanny’s face flamed scarlet. "I didn’t mean that."

"Yes you did. Here are those comparative lists you sent me. If I didn’t know Slosson to be as honest as Old Dog Tray I’d think he had been selling us to the manufacturers. No wonder this department hasn’t paid. He’s been giving ’em top prices for shoddy. Now what’s this new plan of yours?"

In an instant Fanny forgot about Theodore, the new winter suit and furs, everything but the idea that was clamoring to be born. She sat at her desk, her fingers folding and unfolding a bit of paper, her face all light and animation as she talked.

"My idea is to have a person known as a selector for each important department. It would mean a boiling down of the products of every manufacturer we deal with, and skimming the cream off the top. As it is now a department buyer has to do the selecting and buying too. He can’t do both and get results. We ought to set aside an entire floor for the display of manufacturers’ samples. The selector would make his choice among these, six months in advance of the season. The selector would go to the eastern markets too, of course. Not to buy. Merely to select. Then, with the line chosen as far as style, quality, and value is concerned, the buyer would be free to deal directly with the manufacturer as to quantity, time, and all that. You know as well as I that that’s enough of a job for any one person, with the labor situation what it is. He wouldn’t need to bother about styles or colors, or any of that. It would all have been done for him. The selector would have the real responsibility. Don’t you see the simplicity of it, and the way it would grease the entire machinery?"

Something very like jealousy came into Michael Fenger’s face as he looked at her. But it was gone in an instant. "Gad! You’ll have my job away from me in two years. You’re a super-woman, do you know that?"

"Super nothing! It’s just a perfectly good idea, founded on common sense and economy."

"M-m-m, but that’s all Columbus had in mind when he started out to find a short cut to India."

Fanny laughed out at that. "Yes, but see where he landed!"

But Fenger was serious. "We’ll have to have a meeting on this. Are you prepared to go into detail on it, before Mr. Haynes and the two Coopers, at a real meeting in a real mahogany directors’ room? Wednesday, say?"

"I think so."

Fenger got up. "Look here, Miss Brandeis. You need a day in the country. Why don’t you run up to your home town over Sunday? Wisconsin, wasn’t it?"

"Oh, no! No. I mean yes it was Wisconsin, but no I don’t want to go."

"Then let me send you my car."

"Car! No, thanks. That’s not my idea of the country."

"It was just a suggestion. What do you call going to the country, then?"

"Tramping all day, and getting lost, if possible. Lying down under a tree for hours, and letting the ants amble over you. Dreaming. And coming back tired, hungry, dusty, and refreshed."

"It sounds awfully uncomfortable. But I wish you’d try it, this week."

"Do I look such a wreck?" Fanny demanded, rather pettishly.

"You!" Fenger’s voice was vibrant. "You’re the most splendidly alive looking woman I ever saw. When you came into my office that first day you seemed to spark with health, and repressed energy, and electricity, so that you radiated them. People who can do that, stimulate. That’s what you are to me—a stimulant."

What can one do with a man who talks like that? After all, what he said was harmless enough. His tone was quietly sincere. One can’t resent an expression of the eyes. Then, too, just as she made up her mind to be angry she remembered the limp and querulous Mrs. Fenger, and the valve and the scarf. And her anger became pity. There flashed back to her the illuminating bit of conversation with which Fascinating Facts had regaled her on the homeward drive that night of the tea.

"Nice chap, Fenger. And a wiz in business. Get’s a king’s salary; Must be hell for a man to be tied, hand and foot, the way he is."


"Mrs. Fenger’s a semi-invalid. At that I don’t believe she’s as helpless as she seems. I think she just holds him by that shawl of hers, that’s forever slipping. You know he was a machine boy in her father’s woolen mill. She met him after he’d worked his way up to an office job. He has forged ahead like a locomotive ever since."

That had been their conversation, gossipy, but tremendously enlightening for Fanny. She looked up at him now.

"Thanks for the vacation suggestion. I may go off somewhere. Just a last-minute leap. It usually turns out better, that way. I’ll be ready for the Wednesday discussion."

She sounded very final and busy. The crumpled letter lay on her desk. She smoothed it out, and the crumple transferred itself to her forehead. Fenger stood a moment, looking down at her. Then he turned, abruptly and left the office. Fanny did not look up.

That was Friday. On Saturday her vacation took a personally conducted turn. She had planned to get away at noon, as most office heads did on Saturday, during the warm weather. When her ’phone rang at eleven she answered it mechanically as does one whose telephone calls mean a row with a tardy manufacturer, an argument with a merchandise man, or a catalogue query from the printer’s.

The name that came to her over the telephone conveyed nothing to her.

"Who?" Again the name. "Heyl?" She repeated the name uncertainly. "I’m afraid I—O, of course! Clarence Heyl. Howdy-do."

"I want to see you," said the voice, promptly.

There rose up in Fanny’s mind a cruelly clear picture of the little, sallow, sniveling school boy of her girlhood. The little boy with the big glasses and the shiny shoes, and the weak lungs.

"Sorry," she replied, promptly, "but I’m afraid it’s impossible. I’m leaving the office early, and I’m swamped." Which was a lie.

"This evening?"

"I rarely plan anything for the evening. Too tired, as a rule."

"Too tired to drive?"

"I’m afraid so."

A brief silence. Then, "I’m coming out there to see you."

"Where? Here? The plant! That’s impossible, Mr. Heyl. I’m terribly sorry, but I can’t----"

"Yes, I know. Also terribly sure that if I ever get to you it will be over your office boy’s dead body. Well, arm him. I’m coming. Good-by."

"Wait a minute! Mr. Heyl! Clarence! Hello! Hello!"

A jiggling of the hook. "Number, please?" droned the voice of the operator.

Fanny jammed the receiver down on the hook and turned to her work, lips compressed, a frown forming a double cleft between her eyes.

Half an hour later he was there. Her office boy brought in his card, as she had rehearsed him to do. Fanny noted that it was the wrong kind of card. She would show him what happened to pushers who pestered business women during office hours.

"Bring him in in twenty minutes," she said, grimly. Her office boy (and slave) always took his cue from her. She hoped he wouldn’t be too rude to Heyl, and turned back to her work again. Thirty-nine seconds later Clarence Heyl walked in.

"Hello, Fan!" he said, and had her limp hand in a grip that made her wince.

"But I told----"

"Yes, I know. But he’s a crushed and broken office boy by now. I had to be real harsh with him."

Fanny stood up, really angry now. She looked up at Clarence Heyl, and her eyes were flashing. Clarence Heyl looked down at her, and his eyes were the keenest, kindest, most gently humorous eyes she had ever encountered. You know that picture of Lincoln that shows us his eyes with much that expression in them? That’s as near as I can come to conveying to you the whimsical pathos in this man. They were the eyes of a lonely little boy grown up. And they had seen much in the process.

Fanny felt her little blaze of anger flicker and die.

"That’s the girl," said Heyl, and patted her hand. "You’ll like me—presently. After you’ve forgotten about that sniveling kid you hated." He stepped back a pace and threw back his coat senatorially. "How do I look?" he demanded.

"Look?" repeated Fanny, feebly.

"I’ve been hours preparing for this. Years! And now something tells me—This tie, for instance."

Fanny bit her lip in a vain effort to retain her solemnity. Then she gave it up and giggled, frankly. "Well, since you ask me, that tie!----"

"What’s the matter with it?"

Fanny giggled again. "It’s red, that’s what."

"Well, what of it! Red’s all right. I’ve always considered red one of our leading colors."

"But you can’t wear it."

"Can’t! Why can’t I?"

"Because you’re the brunest kind of brunette. And dark people have a special curse hanging over them that makes them want to wear red. It’s fatal. That tie makes you look like a Mafia murderer dressed for business."

"I knew it," groaned Heyl. "Something told me." He sank into a chair at the side of her desk, a picture of mock dejection. "And I chose it. Deliberately. I had black ones, and blue ones, and green ones. And I chose—this." He covered his face with a shaking hand.

Fanny Brandeis leaned back in her chair, and laughed, and laughed, and laughed. Surely she hadn’t laughed like that in a year at least.

"You’re a madman," she said, finally.

At that Heyl looked up with his singularly winning smile. "But different. Concede that, Fanny. Be fair, now. Refreshingly different."

"Different," said Fanny, "doesn’t begin to cover it. Well, now you’re here, tell me what you’re doing here."

"Seeing you."

"I mean here, in Chicago."

"So do I. I’m on my way from Winnebago to New York, and I’m in Chicago to see Fanny Brandeis."

"Don’t expect me to believe that."

Heyl put an arm on Fanny’s desk and learned forward, his face very earnest. "I do expect you to believe it. I expect you to believe everything I say to you. Not only that, I expect you not to be surprised at anything I say. I’ve done such a mass of private thinking about you in the last ten years that I’m likely to forget I’ve scarcely seen you in that time. Just remember, will you, that like the girl in the sob song, `You made me what I am to-day?’"

"I! You’re being humorous again."

"Never less so in my life. Listen, Fan. That cowardly, sickly little boy you fought for in the street, that day in Winnebago, showed every sign of growing up a cowardly, sickly man. You’re the real reason for his not doing so. Now, wait a minute. I was an impressionable little kid, I guess. Sickly ones are apt to be. I worshiped you and hated you from that day. Worshiped you for the blazing, generous, whole-souled little devil of a spitfire that you were. Hated you because—well, what boy wouldn’t hate a girl who had to fight for him. Gosh! It makes me sick to think of it, even now. Pasty-faced rat!"

"What nonsense! I’d forgotten all about it."

"No you hadn’t. Tell me, what flashed into your mind when you saw me in Temple that night before you left Winnebago? The truth, now."

She learned, later, that people did not lie to him. She tried it now, and found herself saying, rather shamefacedly, "I thought `Why, it’s Clarence Heyl, the Cowardy-Cat!’"

"There! That’s why I’m here to-day. I knew you were thinking that. I knew it all the time I was in Colorado, growing up from a sickly kid, with a bum lung, to a heap big strong man. It forced me to do things I was afraid to do. It goaded me on to stunts at the very thought of which I’d break out in a clammy sweat. Don’t you see how I’ll have to turn handsprings in front of you, like the school-boy in the McCutcheon cartoon? Don’t you see how I’ll have to flex my muscles—like this—to show you how strong I am? I may even have to beat you, eventually. Why, child, I’ve chummed with lions, and bears, and wolves, and everything, because of you, you little devil in the red cap! I’ve climbed unclimbable mountains. I’ve frozen my feet in blizzards. I’ve wandered for days on a mountain top, lost, living on dried currants and milk chocolate,—and Lord! how I hate milk chocolate! I’ve dodged snowslides, and slept in trees; I’ve endured cold, and hunger and thirst, through you. It took me years to get used to the idea of passing a timber wolf without looking around, but I learned to do it— because of you. You made me. They sent me to Colorado, a lonely kid, with a pretty fair chance of dying, and I would have, if it hadn’t been for you. There! How’s that for a burst of speech, young woman! And wait a minute. Remember, too, my name was Clarence. I had that to live down."

Fanny was staring at him eyes round, lips parted. "But why?" she said, faintly. "Why?"

Heyl smiled that singularly winning smile of his. "Since you force me to it, I think I’m in love with that little, warm-hearted spitfire in the red cap. That’s why."

Fanny sat forward now. She had been leaning back in her chair, her hands grasping its arms, her face a lovely, mobile thing, across which laughter, and pity, and sympathy and surprise rippled and played. It hardened now, and set. She looked down at her hands, and clasped them in her lap, then up at him. "In that case, you can forsake the strenuous life with a free conscience. You need never climb another mountain, or wrestle with another—er—hippopotamus. That little girl in the red cap is dead."


"Yes. She died a year ago. If the one who has taken her place were to pass you on the street today, and see you beset by forty thieves, she’d not even stop. Not she. She’d say, `Let him fight it out alone. It’s none of your business. You’ve got your own fights to handle.’"

"Why—Fanny. You don’t mean that, do you? What could have made her like that?"

"She just discovered that fighting for others didn’t pay. She just happened to know some one else who had done that all her life and—it killed her."

"Her mother?"


A little silence. "Fanny, let’s play outdoors tomorrow, will you? All day."

Involuntarily Fanny glanced around the room. Papers, catalogues, files, desk, chair, typewriter. "I’m afraid I’ve forgotten how."

"I’ll teach you. You look as if you could stand a little of it."

"I must be a pretty sight. You’re the second man to tell me that in two days."

Heyl leaned forward a little. "That so? Who’s the other one?"

"Fenger, the General Manager."

"Oh! Paternal old chap, I suppose. No? Well, anyway, I don’t know what he had in mind, but you’re going to spend Sunday at the dunes of Indiana with me."

"Dunes? Of Indiana?"

"There’s nothing like them in the world. Literally. In September that combination of yellow sand, and blue lake, and the woods beyond is—well, you’ll see what it is. It’s only a little more than an hour’s ride by train. And it will just wipe that tired look out of your face, Fan." He stood up. "I’ll call for you tomorrow morning at eight, or thereabouts. That’s early for Sunday, but it’s going to be worth it."

"I can’t. Really. Besides, I don’t think I even want to. I----"

"I promise not to lecture on Nature, if that’s what’s worrying you." He took her hand in a parting grip. "Bring some sandwiches, will you? Quite a lot of ’em. I’ll have some other stuff in my rucksack. And wear some clothes you don’t mind wrecking. I suppose you haven’t got a red tam o’ shanter?"

"Heavens, no!"

"I just thought it might help to keep me humble." He was at the door, and so was she, somehow, her hand still in his. "Eight o’clock. How do you stand it in this place, Fan? Oh, well—I’ll find that out to-morrow. Good-by."

Fanny went back to her desk and papers. The room seemed all at once impossibly stuffy, her papers and letters dry, meaningless things. In the next office, separated from her by a partition half glass, half wood, she saw the top of Slosson’s bald head as he stood up to shut his old-fashioned roll-top desk. He was leaving. She looked out of the window. Ella Monahan, in hat and suit, passed and came back to poke her head in the door.

"Run along!" she said. "It’s Saturday afternoon. You’ll work overtime enough when the Christmas rush begins. Come on, child, and call it a day!"

And Fanny gathered papers, figures, catalogue proofs into a glorious heap, thrust them into a drawer, locked the drawer, pushed back her chair, and came.


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Chicago: Edna Ferber, "Chapter Ten," Fanny Herself, ed. Davis, Charles Belmont, 1866-1926 in Fanny Herself (New York: George E. Wood, 1912), Original Sources, accessed March 22, 2019,

MLA: Ferber, Edna. "Chapter Ten." Fanny Herself, edited by Davis, Charles Belmont, 1866-1926, in Fanny Herself, Vol. 22, New York, George E. Wood, 1912, Original Sources. 22 Mar. 2019.

Harvard: Ferber, E, 'Chapter Ten' in Fanny Herself, ed. . cited in 1912, Fanny Herself, George E. Wood, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 22 March 2019, from