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The Grain of Dust   By: (1867-1911)

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[Illustration: "'I will teach you to love me,' he cried."]







"'I will teach you to love he,' he cried"

"'You won't make an out and out idiot of yourself, will you Ursula?'"

"'Would you like to think I was marrying you for what you have? or for any other reason whatever but for what you are?'"

"'It has killed me,' he groaned."

"She glanced complacently down at her softly glistening shoulders."

"'Father . . . I have asked you not to interfere between Fred and me.'"

"Evidently she had been crying."

"At Josephine's right sat a handsome young foreigner."



Into the offices of Lockyer, Sanders, Benchley, Lockyer & Norman, corporation lawyers, there drifted on a December afternoon a girl in search of work at stenography and typewriting. The firm was about the most important and most famous radical orators often said infamous in New York. The girl seemed, at a glance, about as unimportant and obscure an atom as the city hid in its vast ferment. She was blonde tawny hair, fair skin, blue eyes. Aside from this hardly conclusive mark of identity there was nothing positive, nothing definite, about her. She was neither tall nor short, neither fat nor thin, neither grave nor gay. She gave the impression of a young person of the feminine gender that, and nothing more. She was plainly dressed, like thousands of other girls, in darkish blue jacket and skirt and white shirt waist. Her boots and gloves were neat, her hair simply and well arranged. Perhaps in these respects in neatness and taste she did excel the average, which is depressingly low. But in a city where more or less strikingly pretty women, bent upon being seen, are as plentiful as the blackberries of Kentucky's July in New York no one would have given her a second look, this quiet young woman screened in an atmosphere of self effacement.

She applied to the head clerk. It so happened that need for another typewriter had just arisen. She got a trial, showed enough skill to warrant the modest wage of ten dollars a week; she became part of the office force of twenty or twenty five young men and women similarly employed. As her lack of skill was compensated by industry and regularity, she would have a job so long as business did not slacken. When it did, she would be among the first to be let go. She shrank into her obscure niche in the great firm, came and went in mouse like fashion, said little, obtruded herself never, was all but forgotten.

Nothing could have been more commonplace, more trivial than the whole incident. The name of the girl was Hallowell Miss Hallowell. On the chief clerk's pay roll appeared the additional information that her first name was Dorothea. The head office boy, in one of his occasional spells of "freshness," addressed her as Miss Dottie. She looked at him with a puzzled expression; it presently changed to a slight, sweet smile, and she went about her business. There was no rebuke in her manner, she was far too self effacing for anything so positive as the mildest rebuke. But the head office boy blushed awkwardly why he did not know and could not discover, though he often cogitated upon it. She remained Miss Hallowell.

Opposites suggest each other. The dimmest personality in those offices was the girl whose name imaged to everyone little more than a pencil, notebook, and typewriting machine. The vividest personality was Frederick Norman. In the list of names upon the outer doors of the firm's vast labyrinthine suite, on the seventeenth floor of the Syndicate Building, his name came last and, in the newest lettering, suggesting recentness of partnership. In age he was the youngest of the partners. Lockyer was archaic, Sanders an antique; Benchley, actually only about fifty five, had the air of one born in the grandfather class. Lockyer the son dyed his hair and affected jauntiness, but was in fact not many years younger than Benchley and had the stiffening jerky legs of one paying for a lively youth... Continue reading book >>

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