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For Gold or Soul? The Story of a Great Department Store   By:

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The monster department store of Messrs. Denton, Day & Co. was thronged with shoppers, although the morning was still young.

Scores of pale faced women and narrow chested men stood behind the counters, while "cash girls," with waxen cheeks and scrawny figures, darted here and there on their ceaseless errands. On the fifth floor of the building, where the firm's offices were quartered, a score or more of anxious girls and women waited eagerly for an opportunity to enter their applications for service.

At last a private door was opened by an elfish looking boy, and the earliest applicant was allowed to enter, the boy warning her, as she did so, to "be quick about it."

"So you are looking for work? Well, what can you do? Got any references? Talk fast, for I have no time to waste on applicants."

The speaker was Mr. Duncan Forbes, junior partner, as well as business superintendent of the establishment, and the person spoken to was a beautiful girl, about seventeen years of age, who had called to apply for a position as saleswoman.

"I have never worked before, sir," said the young girl, trying to obey and talk as rapidly as possible, "but I am sure I could learn in a very short time, if only you will give me a trial as saleswoman. Do please give me a trial!"

The keen eyed superintendent looked over her scrutinizingly.

He at once saw that she was a girl unaccustomed to drudgery, and that her clothes were of fine materials, although they were fast growing shabby.

Her cheeks were rosy from plenty of exercise in the sun and air, her figure was rounded, and her carriage graceful.

She did not resemble in the least the sallow faced specimens of womanhood who swarmed over Denton, Day & Co.'s various departments, but these very differences seemed to influence him against her. He wanted girls with experience, and experience, in their line of business, meant haggard expressions and sallow faces.

His answer was as heartless as crisp words could make it.

"Can't do it! The thing would be ridiculous! We have no time nor inclination to break in green hands, besides, we've got help enough at present; it's almost our dull season."

"But I would be a cash girl, anything!" the girl urged, eagerly. "Oh, I need work so badly, and I've been all over the city!"

The tears had risen to her eyes and were trembling on her lashes. She clasped her hands entreatingly as the superintendent rudely turned his back upon her.

"Can't do it, I tell you, so there's no use taking up any more of my time! Well, what is it, Watkins?"

The question was addressed to an employee, a pale, slim young man, who had just entered the office.

"Excuse me, Mr. Forbes, but there's three clerks absent to day. They have sent word that they are sick. Mr. Gibson told me to tell you."

"Who are they, do you know?"

Mr. Forbes spoke sharply, his face flushing with anger.

"Miss Jennings and Miss Brown " began the young man, but his superior stopped him before he could finish.

"That Miss Jennings is faking! She is no more sick than I am! This is the third time this month that she has staid away because of sickness! It's probably an excuse to go on some picnic or other. Tell Mr. Gibson that I say to fine her double the regular amount. We must put a stop to this sham sickness among the women clerks; it's getting too frequent!"

"But I am sure Miss Jennings is sick," began Mr. Watkins, impetuously. "You should hear her cough! And I know her mother died of consumption."

"You know too much for your own good, Watkins," broke in the superintendent, sharply. "Just keep your knowledge to yourself if you wish to hold your position in this establishment!"

A flush rose quickly to the young man's brow. He bit his lips and locked his fingers together nervously.

It was plain that another word would have meant his immediate discharge, and there was an invalid mother depending upon him... Continue reading book >>

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