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The Purple Dress
by [?]

Mr. Ramsay was master of ceremonies at the dinners. Always they had two Italians in to play a violin and harp and had a little dance in the store.

And here were two dresses being conceived to charm. Ramsay–one purple and the other red. Of course, the other eight girls were going to have dresses too, but they didn’t count. Very likely they’d wear some shirt-waist-and-black-skirt-affairs–nothing as resplendent as purple or red.

Grace had saved her money, too. She was going to buy her dress ready-made. Oh, what’s the use of bothering with a tailor–when you’ve got a figger it’s easy to get a fit–the ready-made are intended for a perfect figger–except I have to have ’em all taken in at the waist–the average figger is so large waisted.

The night before Thanksgiving came. Maida hurried home, keen and bright with the thoughts of the blessed morrow. Her thoughts were of purple, but they were white themselves–the joyous enthusiasm of the young for the pleasures that youth must have or wither. She knew purple would become her, and–for the thousandth time she tried to assure herself that it was purple Mr. Ramsay said he liked and not red. She was going home first to get the $4 wrapped in a piece of tissue paper in the bottom drawer of her dresser, and then she was going to pay Schlegel and take the dress home herself.

Grace lived in the same house. She occupied the hall room above Maida’s.

At home Maida found clamor and confusion. The landlady’s tongue clattering sourly in the halls like a churn dasher dabbing in buttermilk. And then Grace come down to her room crying with eyes as red as any dress.

“She says I’ve got to get out,” said Grace. “The old beast. Because I owe her $4. She’s put my trunk in the hall and locked the door. I can’t go anywhere else. I haven’t got a cent of money.”

“You had some yesterday,” said Maida.

“I paid it on my dress,” said Grace. “I thought she’d wait till next week for the rent.”

Sniffle, sniffle, sob, sniffle.

Out came–out it had to come–Maida’s $4.

“You blessed darling,” cried Grace, now a rainbow instead of sunset. “I’ll pay the mean old thing and then I’m going to try on my dress. I think it’s heavenly. Come up and look at it. I’ll pay the money back, a dollar a week–honest I will.”


The dinner was to be at noon. At a quarter to twelve Grace switched into Maida’s room. Yes, she looked charming. Red was her color. Maida sat by the window in her old cheviot skirt and blue waist darning a st–. Oh, doing fancy work.

“Why, goodness me! ain’t you dressed yet?” shrilled the red one. “How does it fit in the back? Don’t you think these velvet tabs look awful swell? Why ain’t you dressed, Maida?”

“My dress didn’t get finished in time,” said Maida. “I’m not going to the dinner.”

“That’s too bad. Why, I’m awfully sorry, Maida. Why don’t you put on anything and come along–it’s just the store folks, you know, and, they won’t mind.”

“I was set on my purple,” said Maida. “If I can’t have it I won’t go at all. Don’t bother about me. Run along or you’ll be late. You look awful nice in red.”

At her window Maida sat through the long morning and past the time of the dinner at the store. In her mind she could hear the girls shrieking over a pull-bone, could he
ar old Bachman’s roar over his own deeply-concealed jokes, could see the diamonds of fat Mrs. Bachman, who came to the store only on Thanksgiving days, could see Mr. Ramsay moving about, alert, kindly, looking to the comfort of all.

At four in the afternoon, with an expressionless face and a lifeless air she slowly made her way to Schlegel’s shop and told him she could not pay the $4 due on the dress.

“Gott!” cried Schlegel, angrily. “For what do you look so glum? Take him away. He is ready. Pay me some time. Haf I not seen you pass mine shop every day in two years? If I make clothes is it that I do not know how to read beoples because? You will pay me some time when you can. Take him away. He is made goot; and if you look bretty in him all right. So. Pay me when you can.”