Little Mrs. Sommers one day found herself the unexpected owner of fifteen dollars. It seemed to her a very large amount of money. The way it filled up her worn money holder gave her a feeling of importance that she had not enjoyed for years.
The question of investment was one she considered carefully. For a day or two she walked around in a dreamy state as she thought about her choices. She did not wish to act quickly and do anything she might regret.
A dollar or two could be added to the price she usually paid for her daughter Janie’s shoes. This would guarantee they would last a great deal longer than usual. She would buy cloth for new shirts for the boys. Her daughter Mag should have another dress. And still there would be enough left for new stockings—two pairs per child. The idea of her little family looking fresh and new for once in their lives made her restless with excitement.
Mrs. Sommers knew the value of finding things for sale at reduced prices. But that day she was tired and a little bit weak. When she arrived at the large department store, she sat in front of an empty counter. She rested her hand upon the counter.
She wore no gloves. She slowly grew aware that her hand had felt something very pleasant to touch. She looked down to see that her hand lay upon a pile of silk stockings. A young girl who stood behind the counter asked her if she wished to examine the silky leg coverings.
She smiled as if she had been asked to inspect diamond jewelry with the aim of purchasing it. But she went on feeling the soft, costly items. Now she used both hands, holding the stockings up to see the light shine through them.
Mrs. Sommers chose a black pair and looked at them closely.
“A dollar and ninety-eight cents,” she said aloud. “Well, I will buy this pair.”
She handed the girl a five dollar bill and waited for her change and the wrapped box with the stockings. What a very small box it was! It seemed lost in her worn, old shopping bag.
Mrs. Sommers then took the elevator which carried her to an upper floor into the ladies’ rest area. In an empty corner, she replaced her cotton stockings for the new silk ones.
For the first time she seemed to be taking a rest from the tiring act of thought. She had let herself be controlled by some machine-like force that directed her actions and freed her of responsibility.
How good was the touch of the silk on her skin! She felt like lying back in the soft chair and enjoying the richness of it. She put her shoes back on and put her old stockings into her bag. Next, she went to the shoe department, sat down and waited to be fitted.
She tried on a pair of new boots.
She held back her skirts and turned her feet one way and her head another way as she looked down at the shiny, pointed boots. Her foot and ankle looked very lovely. She could not believe that they were a part of herself.
After buying the new boots, she went to the glove department. It was a long time since Mrs. Sommers had been fitted with gloves. When she had bought a pair they were always “bargains,” so cheap that it would have been unreasonable to have expected them to be fitted to her hands.
A young shop girl drew a soft, leather glove over Mrs. Sommers’ hand. She smoothed it down over the wrist and buttoned it neatly. Both women lost themselves for a second or two as they quietly praised the little gloved hand.
She lifted her skirts as she crossed the street. Her new stockings and boots and gloves had worked wonders[产生神奇作用] for her appearance. They had given her a feeling of satisfaction, a sense of belonging to the well-dressed crowds.
She was very hungry. Another time she would have ignored the desire for food until reaching her own home. But the force that was guiding her would not permit her to act on such a thought.
There was a restaurant at the corner. She had noted the white table cloths, shining glasses and waiters serving wealthy people.
When she entered, her appearance created no surprise or concern, as she had half feared it might.
She seated herself at a small table. A waiter came at once to take her order. While waiting to be served she removed her gloves very slowly and set them beside her.
It was all very agreeable. The table cloths were even more clean and white than they had seemed through the window. And the crystal drinking glasses shined even more brightly. There were ladies and gentlemen, who did not notice her, lunching at the small tables like her own.
A pleasing piece of music could be heard, and a gentle wind was blowing through the window. She tasted a bite, and she slowly drank the wine. She moved her toes around in the silk stockings. The price of it all made no difference.
When she was finished, she counted the money out to the waiter and left an extra coin on his tray[托盘]. He bowed to her as if she were a princess of royal blood.
It was like a dream ended. Mrs. Sommers went to wait for the cable car.
A man with sharp eyes sat opposite her. It was hard for him to fully understand what he saw in her expression. In truth, he saw nothing—unless he was a magician. Then he would sense her heartbreaking wish that the cable car would never stop anywhere, but go on and on with her forever.