Three from Dunsterville

Once upon a time there was erected in Longacre Square, New York, a large white statue, labelled “Our City,” the figure of a woman in Grecian robes holding aloft a shield. Critical citizens objected to it for various reasons, but its real fault was that its symbolism was faulty. The sculptor should have represented New York as a conjurer in evening dress, smiling blandly as he changed a rabbit into a bowl of goldfish. For that, above all else, is New York’s speciality. It changes.

Between 1 May, when she stepped off the train, and 16 May, when she received Eddy Moore’s letter containing the information that he had found her a post as stenographer in the office of Joe Rendal, it had changed Mary Hill quite remarkably.

Mary was from Dunsterville, which is in Canada. Emigrations from Dunsterville were rare. It is a somnolent town; and, as a rule, young men born there follow in their father’s footsteps, working on the paternal farm or helping in the paternal store. Occasionally a daring spirit will break away. but seldom farther than Montreal. Two only of the younger generation, Joe Rendal and Eddy Moore, had set out to make their fortunes in New York; and both, despite the gloomy prophecies of the village sages, had prospered.

Mary, third and last emigrant, did not aspire to such heights. All she demanded from New York for the present was that it should pay her a living wage, and to that end, having studied by stealth typewriting and shorthand, she had taken the plunge, thrilling with excitement and the romance of things; and New York had looked at her, raised its eyebrows, and looked away again. If every city has a voice, New York’s at that moment had said “Huh!” This had damped Mary. She saw that there were going to be obstacles. For one thing, she had depended so greatly on Eddy Moore, and he had failed her. Three years before, at a church festival, he had stated specifically that he would die for her. Perhaps he was still willing to do that—she had not inquired—but, at any rate, he did not see his way to employing her as a secretary. He had been very nice about it. He had smiled kindly, taken her address, and said he would do what he could, and had then hurried off to meet a man at lunch. But he had not given her a position. And as the days went by and she found no employment, and her little stock of money dwindled, and no word came from Eddy, New York got to work and changed her outlook on things wonderfully. What had seemed romantic became merely frightening. What had been exciting gave her a feeling of dazed helplessness.

But it was not until Eddy’s letter came that she realized the completeness of the change. On I May she would have thanked Eddy politely for his trouble, adding, however, that she would really prefer not to meet poor Joe again. On 16 May she welcomed him as something Heaven-sent. The fact that she was to be employed outweighed a thousand-fold the fact that her employer was to be Joe.

It was not that she disliked Joe. She was sorry for him.

She remembered Joe, a silent, shambling youth, all hands, feet, and shyness, who had spent most of his spare time twisting his fingers and staring adoringly at her from afar. The opinion of those in the social whirl of Dunsterville had been that it was his hopeless passion for her that had made him fly to New York. It would be embarrassing meeting him again. It would require tact to discourage his silent worshipping without wounding him more deeply. She hated hurting people.

But, even at the cost of that, she must accept the post. To refuse meant ignominious retreat to Dunsterville, and from that her pride revolted. She must revisit Dunsterville in triumph or not at all.

Joe Rendal’s office was in the heart of the financial district, situated about half-way up a building that, to Mary, reared amidst the less impressive architecture of her home-town, seemed to reach nearly to the sky. A proud-looking office-boy, apparently baffled and mortified by the information that she had an appointment, took her name, and she sat down, filled with a fine mixed assortment of emotions, to wait.

For the first time since her arrival in New York she felt almost easy in her mind. New York, with its shoving, jostling, hurrying crowds; a giant fowl-run, full of human fowls scurrying to and fro; clucking, ever on the look-out for some desired morsel, and ever ready to swoop down and snatch it from its temporary possessor,

  By PanEris using Melati.

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