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"Who?"
"Steve."
"Oh,my!"
Bothwerequietforalongtime.ThenKatiesaid,"Ofcourse,thatwasaccidental."
"Ofcourse,"agreedSissy."Oneofthefellowsinhisshoptoldhim,hesaid;afellowwholived
onLucia'sblock."
"Ofcourse,"Katierepeated."YouknowfunnythingshappenhereinBrooklynthathaveno
meaningatall.LikesometimesI'mwalkingonthestreetandIthinkofsomeoneIhaven'tseen
maybe,infiveyearsandIturnacornerandthere'sthatpersonwalkingtowardsme."
"Iknow,"answeredSissy."SometimesI'mdoingsomethingthatIneverdidbeforeinmylifeand
allofasuddenIhavethefeelingthatIdidthatsamethingbefore-maybeinanotherlife...."Her
voicediedaway.Afterawhileshesaid,"Stevealwayssaidhe'dnevertakeanotherman's
child."
"
All
mensaythat.Life'sfunny,"Katiewenton."Acoupleofaccidentalthingscometogetherand
apersoncouldmakealotoutofthem.Itwasjustanaccidentthatyougottoknowaboutthat
girl.Thatsamefellowmusthavetoldadozenmenintheshop.Stevejustmentionedittoyou
accidentally.Itwasjustbyaccidentthatyougotinwiththatfamilyandjustaccidentalthatthe
babyhasaroundinsteadofasquarechin.It'sevenlessthanaccidental.It's…"Katiestopped
tosearchforaword.
Francieinthekitchenhadbecomesointerestedthatsheforgotthatshewasn'tsupposedtobe
listening.Whensheknewhermotherwasgropingforaword,shesupplieditunthinkingly.
"Youmean
coincidental
,Mama?"shecalledout.
Ashockedsilencecamefromthebedroom.Thentheconversationwasresumed-butthistime
inwhispers.
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XLVIII
ANEWSPAPERlayonFrancie'sdesk.Itwasan"extra"andhadcomedirectlyfromthe
presses.Theinkwasstilldamponitsheadline.Thepaperhadbeentherefiveminutesandas
yetshehadnotpickedupherpenciltomarkit.Shestaredatthedate.
April6,1917.
Theone-wordheadlinewassixincheshigh.Thethreelettersweresmudgedattheedgesand
theword,WAR,seemedtowaver.
Franciehadavision.Fiftyyearsfromnow,she'dbetellinghergrandchildrenhowshehadcome
totheoffice,satatherreader'sdeskandintheroutineofworkhadreadthatwarhadbeen
declared.Sheknewfromlisteningtohergrandmotherthatoldagewasmadeupofsuch
remembrancesofyouth.
Butshedidn'twanttorecallthings.Shewantedtolivethings-orasacompromise,re-liverather
thanreminisce.
Shedecidedtofixthistimeinherlifeexactlythewayitwasthisinstant.Perhapsthatwayshe
couldholdontoitasalivingthingandnothaveitbecomesomethingcalledamemory.
Shebroughthereyesclosetothesurfaceofherdeskandexaminedthepatternedgrainofthe
wood.Sheranherfingersalongthegroovewhereherpencilsrested,fixingthefeelofthe
grooveinhermind.Usingarazorblade,shenickedthenextdotononeofherpencilsand
unraveledthepaper.Sheheldtheravelinginherpalm,toucheditwithherforefinger,andnote
itsspiraling.Shedroppeditintothemetalwastebasketcountingthesecondsittooktofall.She
listenedintentlysoasnottomissitsalmostnoiselessthudasithitthebottom.Shepressedher
fingertipstothedampheadline,examinedherinkedfingertips,thenmadefingerprintsona
sheetofwhitepaper.
Notcaringaboutclientswhomightbementionedonpagesoneandtwo,shedetachedthefront
sheetofthenewspaperandfoldedthesheetintoacarefuloblong,watchingthecreasescome
underherthumb.SheinserteditintooneofthestrongmanilaenvelopesthattheBureauused
tomailclippingsin.
Francieheard,asifforthefirsttime,thesoundthedeskdrawermadewhensheopeneditto
getherpurse.Shenotedthedeviceofthepurse'scatch-thesoundofitsclick.Shefeltthe
leather,memorizeditssmellandstudiedthewhorlingsoftheblackmoiré-silklining.Sheread
thedatesonthecoinsinherchangepurse.There,wasanew1917pennywhichsheputinthe
envelope.Sheuncappedherlipstickandmadealinewithitunderherfingerprints.Theclear
redcolor,thetextureandthescentofitpleasedher.Sheexaminedinturnthepowderinher
compact,theridgesonhernailfile,thewayhercombwasinflexibleandthethreadsofher
handkerchief.Therewasawornclippinginthepurse,apoemshehadtornoutofanOklahoma
newspaper.IthadbeenwrittenbyapoetwhohadlivedinBrooklyn,gonetotheBrooklynpublic
schoolsand,asayoungman,hadeditedTheBrooklynEagle.Sherereaditforthetwentieth
timehandlingeachwordinhermind.
Iamofoldandyoung,ofthefoolishasmuchasthewise;
Regardlessofothers,everregardfulofothers.
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Maternalaswellaspaternal,achildaswellasaman,
Stuff'dwiththestuffthatiscoarse,andstuffdwiththestuffthatisfine.
Thetatteredpoemwentintotheenvelope.Inthemirrorofhercompact,shelookedattheway
herhairwasbraided-howthebraidswoundaroundherhead.Shenoticedhowherstraight
blackeyelasheswereuneveninlength.Thenhershoeswereinspected.Sheranherhand
downherstockingsandforthefirsttimenoticedthatthesilkfeltroughinsteadofsmooth.The
fabricofherdresswasmadeoftinycords.Sheturnedbackthehemandnoticedthatthe
narrowlaceedgeofherslipwasdiamond-shapedindesign.
"IfIcanfixeverydetailofthistimeinmymind,Icankeepthismomentalways,"shethought.
Usingtherazorblade,sheclippedalockofherhair,wrappeditinthesquareofpaperonwhich
wereherfingerprintsandlipstickmark,foldedit,placeditintheenvelopeandsealedthe
envelope.Ontheoutsideshewrote:
FrancesNolan,age15yearsand4months.April6,1917.
Shethought:"IfIopenthisenvelopefiftyyearsfromnow,IwillbeagainasIamnowandthere
willbenobeingoldforme.There'salong,longtimeyetbeforefiftyyears...millionsofhoursof
time.ButonehourhasgonealreadysinceIsathere...onehourlesstolive...onehourgone
awayfromallthehoursofmylife.
"DearGod,"sheprayed,"letmebe
something
everyminuteofeveryhourofmylife.Letmebe
gay;letmebesad.Letmebecold;letmebewarm.Letmebehungry...havetoomuchtoeat.
Letmeberaggedorwelldressed.Letmebesincere-bedeceitful.Letmebetruthful;letmebe
aliar.Letmebehonorableandletmesin.Onlyletmebe
something
everyblessedminute.And
whenIsleep,letmedreamallthetimesothatnotonelittlepieceoflivingiseverlost."
Thedeliveryboycamebyandslappedanothercitypaperonherdesk.Thisonehadatwo-word
headline.
WARDECLARED!
Thefloorseemedtoswerveup,colorsflashedbeforehereyesandsheputherheaddownon
theink-damppaperandweptquietly.Oneoftheolderreaders,returningfromthewashroom,
pausedbyFrancie'sdesk.Shenoticedtheheadlineandtheweepinggirl.Shethoughtshe
understood.
"Ah,thewar!"Shesighed."Youhaveasweetheartorabrother,Ipresume?"sheaskedinher
stiltedreaderishway.
"Yes,Ihaveabrother,"Francieansweredtruthfullyenough.
"Mysympathies,MissNolan."Thereaderwentbacktoherdesk.
"I'mdrunkagain,"thoughtFrancie,"andthistimeonanewspaperheadline.Andthisisabad
one-I'vegotacryingjag."
ThewartouchedtheModelPressClippingBureauwithitsmailedfingerandmadeitwither
away.First,theclientwhowasthebackboneofthebusiness-themanwhopaidoutthousands
ayearforclippingsonthePanamaCanalandsuch-cameinthedayafterthedeclarationofwar
andsaidthatsincehisaddresswouldbeuncertainforawhile,he'dcallinpersoneachdayfor
hisclippings.
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Afewdayslater,twoslow-movingmenwithheavyfeetcameintoseetheBoss.Oneofthem
pushedhispalmundertheBoss'noseandwhathesawinthatpalmmadetheBossturnpale.
Hegotathickstackofclippingsfromthefileboxofthemostimportantclient.Theheavy-footed
oneslookedthemoverandreturnedthemtotheBosswhoputtheminanenvelopeandputthe
envelopeinhisdesk.ThetwomenwentintotheBoss'lavatoryleavingthedoorajar.They
waitedinthereallday.Atnoon,theysentanerrandboyoutforabagofsandwichesanda
cartonofcoffeeandtheyatetheirlunchinthelavatory.
ThePanamaCanalclientcameinatfour-thirty.Inslowmotion,theBosshandedhimthefat
envelope.Justastheclientputitinhisinnercoatpocket,theheavyonesstrolledoutofthe
lavatory.Oneofthemtouchedtheclientontheshoulder.Hesighed,tooktheenvelopeoutof
hispocketandsurrenderedit.Thesecondheavyonetouchedhimontheshoulder.Theclient
clickedhisheelstogether,bowedstifflyandwalkedoutbetweenthetwomen.TheBosswent
homewithanacuteattackofdyspepsia.
Thatevening,FrancietoldmamaandNeeleyhowaGermanspyhadbeencaughtrightinthe
office.
Thenextday,abrisk-lookingmancameinwithabriefcase.TheBosshadtoansweralotof
questionsandthebriskmanwrotedowntheanswersinspacesprovidedonaprintedform.
Thencamethesadpart.TheBosshadtomakeoutacheckfornearlyfourhundreddollars-the
balancedueontheinvoluntarily-canceledaccount.Afterthebriskmanleft,theBossrushedout
toborrowmoneytomakethecheckgood.
Afterthat,everythingwenttopieces.TheBosswasafraidtotakeinnewaccountsnomatter
howinnocenttheyseemed.Thetheatricalseasonwasrunningoutandactoraccountsfelloff.
Thedelugeofspring-publishedbookswhichbroughtinhundredsofseasonalfive-dollarauthor
clientsanddozensofhundred-dollarpublisherclients,hadnotbeenadelugebutameretrickle.
Houseswereholdingoffimportantpublicationsuntilthingssettleddownabit.Manyresearch
workerscanceledtheiraccountsinexpectationofbeingcalledupinthedraft.Evenifbusiness
hadbeennormaltheBureaucouldn'thavehandleditbecausetheworkersbegantogo.
Thegovernment,anticipatingamanshortage,threwopenCivilServiceexaminationsfor
womenworkersinthebigThirty-fourthStreetpostoffice.Manyofthereaderstookandpassed
theexaminationandwerecalledtoworkimmediately.Themanualworkers,TheClub,left
almostinabodytoworkinwarprojectsplants.Theynotonlytripledtheirearningsbutthey
receivedmuchpraisefortheirunselfishpatriotism.TheBoss'wifecamebacktoreadandhe
firedalltheremainingreadersexceptFrancie.
Thehugeloftechoedwithemptinessasthethreeofthemtriedtocarryonthebusinessalone.
Francieandthewiferead,filed,andattendedtotheofficework.TheBossslashedimpotentlyat
newspapers,printedblurryslipsandpasteditemsaskew.
InthemiddleofJune,hegaveup.Hemadearrangementsforthesaleofhisofficeequipment,
brokehislease,andsettledthematterofrefundstoclientsverysimplyby saying,"Let'emsue
me."
FranciephonedtheonlyotherclippingbureausheknewofinNewYorkandaskedwhether
theyneededareader.Shewastoldthattheyneverhirednewreaders."Wetreatourreaders
right,"saidanargumentativevoice,"andneverhavetomakereplacements."Franciethought
thatwasverynice,saidso,andhungup.
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ShespentherlastmorningattheBureaumarkinghelpwantedads.Sheskippedtheofficejobs
knowingshe'dhavetostartasafileclerkagain.Youdidn'tstandachanceinanofficeunless
youwereastenographerandtypist.Anyhowshepreferredfactorywork.Shelikedfactory
peoplebetterandshelikedkeepinghermindfreewhilesheworkedwithherhands.Butof
coursemamawouldn'tletherworkinafactoryagain.
Shefoundanadthatseemedahappycombinationoffactoryandoffice;operatingamachinein
officesurroundings.ACommunicationsCorporationofferedtoteachgirlsteletypemachine
operatingandtopaythemtwelve-fiftyaweekwhiletheywerelearning.Thehourswerefive
PM
toone
AM
.Atleastthatwouldgivehersomethingtodowithherevenings-ifshegotthejob.
WhenshewenttosaygoodbyetotheBoss,hetoldherthathe'dhavetooweherthelast
week'ssalary.Hehadheraddress,hesaid,andwouldsendit.Franciesaidgoodbyetothe
Boss,tohiswife,andtoherfinalweek'spay.
TheCommunicationsCorporationhadaskyscraperofficeoverlookingtheEastRiverin
downtownNewYork.Alongwithadozenothergirls,Franciefilledoutanapplicationafter
presentingaferventletterofrecommendationfromherex-Boss.Shetookanaptitudetestin
whichsheansweredquestionswhichseemedsilly-whichweighsthemost,apoundofleadora
poundoffeathers,wasanexample.Evidentlyshepassedthetestforshewasgivenanumber,
alockerkeyforwhichshehadtopayaquarterdeposit,andtoldtoreportthenextdayatfive
o'clock.
Itwasn'tquitefourwhenFranciegothome.Katiewascleaningintheirhouseandshelooked
upsetwhenshesawFranciecomeupthestairs.
"Don'tlooksoworried,Mama.I'mnotsickoranything."
"Oh,"saidKatierelieved."ForamomentIthoughtyouhadlostyourjob."
"Ihave."
"Oh,my!"
"AndIwon'tgetmylastweek'spayeither.ButIgotanotherjob...starttomorrow...twelveand
ahalfaweek.I'llgetaraiseintime,Iexpect."Katiestartedtoaskquestions."Mama,I'mtired.
Mama,Idon'twanttotalk.We'lltalkaboutittomorrow.AndIdon'twantsupper.Ijustwanttogo
tobed."Shewentupstairs.
Katiesatonthestepsandstartedtoworry.Sincewarstarted,pricesoffoodandeverything
elsehadskyrocketed.Inthepastmonth,KatiehadnotbeenabletoaddtoFrancie'sbank
account.Thetendollarsaweekhadn'tbeenenough.Lauriehadtohaveaquartoffreshmilk
everydayandthemilkmodifierwasexpensive.Thentherehadtobeorangejuice.Nowwith
twelve-fiftyaweek...afterFrancie'sexpensesweretakenoutthere'dbelessmoney.Soonit
wouldbevacation.Neeleycouldworkduringthesummer.Butwhataboutthefall?Neeley
wouldreturntohighschool.Franciehadtogettohighschoolthatfall.How?How?Shesat
thereandworried.
Francie,afterabriefglanceatthesleepingbaby,undressedandgotintobed.Shefoldedher
handsunderherheadandstaredatthegraypatchwhichwastheairshaftwindow.
"HereIam,"shethought,"fifteenyearsoldandadrifter.I'vebeenworkinglessthanayearand
I'vehadthreejobsalready.Iusedtothinkitwouldbefuntogofromonejobtotheother.But
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nowI'mscared.I'vebeenfiredfromtwojobsthroughnofaultofmyown.Ateachjob,Iworked
asbestIcould.IgaveeverythingIcouldgive.AndhereI'mstartingalloveragainsomewhere
else.OnlynowI'mfrightened.Thistimewhenthenewbosssays'jumponce,'I'lljumptwice
becauseI'llbeafraidoflosingthejob.I'mscaredbecausethey'redependingonmeherefor
money.HowdidweevergetalongbeforeIworked?Well,therewasn'tLauriethen.Neeleyand
Iweresmallerandcoulddowithlessandofcourse,papahelpedsome.
"Well...goodbyecollege.Goodbyeeverythingforthatmatter."Sheturnedherfaceawayfrom
thegraylightandclosedhereyes.
Franciesatatatypewriterinabigroom.Therewasametalrooffastenedoverthetopof
Francie'smachinesothatshecouldn'tseethekeyboard.Anenormouschartofthekeyboard
diagramwastackedupinfrontoftheroom.Francieconsultedthechartandfeltfortheletters
undertheshield.Thatwasthefirstday.Ontheseconddayshewasgivenastackofold
telegramstocopy.Hereyeswentfromthecopytothechartasherfingersgropedfortheletters.
Attheendoftheseconddayshehadmemorizedthepositionofthelettersonthemachineand
didn'thavetoconsultthechart.Aweeklater,theytooktheshieldoff.Itmadenodifferencenow.
Franciewasatouchtypist.
Aninstructorexplainedtheworkingsoftheteletypemachine.Foraday,Franciepracticed
sendingandreceivingdummymessages.ThenshewasputontheNewYork-Clevelandwire.
Shethoughtitawonderfulmiraclethatshecouldsitatthatmachineandtypeandhavethe
wordscomeouthundredsofmilesawayonapieceofpaperontherollerofamachinein
Cleveland,Ohio!
NolessmiraculouswasthatagirltypingawayinClevelandmadethe
hammersof
Francie's
machinepoundoutthewords.
Itwaseasywork.Franciewouldsendforanhour,thenreceiveforanhour.Thereweretwo
fifteen-minuterestperiodsintheworkshiftandhalfanhourfor"lunch"atnineo'clock.Herpay
hadbeenincreasedtofifteenaweekwhenshewentonawire.Allinall,itwasn'tabadjob.
ThehouseholdadjusteditselftoFrancie'snewschedule.Shelefthomesoonafterfourinthe
afternoonandgothomealittlebeforetwointhemorning.Shepressedthebellbuttonthree
timesbeforesheenteredthehallwaysothatmamacouldbeonthealertandmakesurethat
Franciewouldn'tbeattackedbysomeonelurkinginthehallways.
Franciesleptmorningsuntileleveno'clock.Mamadidn'thavetogetupsoearlybecause
FranciewasintheflatwithLaurie.Shestartedworkinherownhousefirst.Bythetimeshewas
readyfortheothertwohouses,FranciewasupandlookingafterLaurie.Franciehadtoworkon
SundaynightsbutshehadWednesdaynightoff.
Francielikedthenewarrangement.Ittookcareofherlonelyevenings,ithelpedmamaoutand
gaveFrancieafewhourseachdaytositintheparkwithLaurie.Thewarmsundidbothofthem
alotofgood.
AplantookshapeinKatie'smindandshespoketoFrancieaboutit.
"Willtheykeepyouonnightwork?"sheasked.
"Willthey!They'retickledtodeath.Nogirlwantstoworknights.That'swhytheypushitoffon
thenewgirls."
"Iwasthinkingthatmaybeinthefallyoucouldkeeponworkingnightsandgotohighschoolin
thedaytime.Iknowit'llbehardbutitcouldbedonesomehow."
"Mama,nomatterwhatyousay,Iwon'tgotohighschool."
"Butyoufoughttogolastyear."
"Thatwaslastyear.Thatwastherighttimetogo.Nowit'stoolate."
"It'snottoolateanddon'tbestubborn."
"ButwhatintheworldcouldIlearninhighschoolnow?Oh,I'mnotconceitedoranything,but
afterall,IreadeighthoursadayforalmostayearandIlearnedthings.I'vegotmyownideas
abouthistoryandgovernmentandgeographyandwritingandpoetry.I'vereadtoomuchabout
people-whattheydoandhowtheylive.I'vereadaboutcrimesandaboutheroicthings.Mama,
I'vereadabout
everything
.Icouldn'tsitstillnowinaclassroomwithabunchofbabykidsand
listentoanoldmaidteacherdroolawayaboutthisandthat.I'dbejumpingupandcorrecting
herallthetime.Orelse,I'dbegoodandswallowitalldownandthenI'dhatemyselffor...well...
eatingmushinsteadofbread.SoIwillnotgotohighschool.ButI
will
gotocollegesomeday."
"Butyou'vegottogothroughhighschoolbeforethey'llletyouincollege."
"Fouryearsofhighschool...no,five.Becausesomethingwouldcomeuptodelayme.Then
fouryearsofcollege.I'dbeadried-upoldmaidoftwenty-fivebeforeIwasfinished."
"Whetheryoulikeitornot,you'llgettobetwenty-fiveintimenomatterwhatyoudo.Youmight
aswellbegettingeducatedwhileyou'regoingtowardsit."
"Onceandforall,Mama,Iwillnotgotohighschool."
"We'llsee,"saidKatieasherjawsettledintoasquareline.
Franciesaidnothingmore.Butthesetofherjawwaslikehermother's.
However,theconversationgaveFrancieanidea.Ifmamathoughtshecouldworkevenings
andgotohighschoolintheday,whycouldn'tshegotocollegethatway?Shestudieda
newspaperad.Brooklyn'soldestandmostreputablecollegewasadvertisingsummercourses
availableforcollegestudentswishingtotakeadvancedworkortomakeuporworkoff
conditions,andforhighschoolstudentswishingtogainadvancecollegecredits.Francie
thoughtshemightcomeunderthelastheading.Shewasn'texactlyahighschoolstudentbut
shewaseligibletobeone.Shesentforthecatalogue.
Fromthecatalogue,shechosethreecourseswithclassesmeetingintheafternoon.She'dbe
abletosleepasusualuntileleven,attendclassesandgostraighttoworkfromthecollege.She
choseBeginningFrench,ElementaryChemistry,andsomethingcalledRestorationDrama.She
figuredupthetuition;alittleoversixtydollarswithlaboratoryfees.Shehadonehundredand
fivedollarsinhersavingsaccount.ShewenttoKatie.
"Mama,couldIhavesixty-fivedollarsofthemoneyyou'vebeensavingformetowards
college?"
"Whatfor?"
"College,ofcourse."Shewasdeliberatelycasualforthedramaofit.Shewasrewardedby the
waymama'svoicescaledupassherepeatedafterFrancie:
"College?"
"Summerschoolcollege."
"But-but-but,"sputteredKatie.
"Iknow.Nohighschool.ButmaybeIcangetinifItellthemIdon'twantadiplomaorany
grades-thatIjustwantthelessons."Katiegothergreenhatdownfromtheclosetshelf.
"Where'reyougoing,Mama?"
"Tothebankforthemoney."
Francielaughedathermother'seagerness."It'safterhours.Thebank'sclosed.Besidesthere's
nohurry.Registration'saweekoffyet."
ThecollegewaslocatedinBrooklynHeights,anotherstrangesectionofgreatBrooklynfor
Francietoexplore.Asshefilledouttheregistrationblank,herpenhoveredoverthequestionof
previouseducation.Therewerethreeheadingswithblanksafterthem:ElementarySchools,
HighSchools,andColleges.Afteralittlethought,shecrossedoutthewordsandwroteinthe
spaceabovethem,"Privatelyeducated."
"Andwhenyoucomerightdowntoit,that'snolie,"sheassuredherself.
Toherutterreliefandastonishment,shewasnotchallengedinanyway.Thecashiertookher
moneyandgaveherareceiptforhertuition.Shewasgivenaregistrationnumber,apasstothe
library,ascheduleofherclasses,andalistofthetextbookssheneeded.
Shefollowedacrowdtothecollegebookshopfurtherdowntheblock.Sheconsultedherlist
andordereda"BeginningFrench"andan"ElementaryChemistry."
"Neworsecond-hand?"askedtheclerk.
"Why,Idon'tknow.WhichamIsupposedtohave?"
"New,"saidtheclerk.
Someonetouchedherontheshoulder.Sheturnedandsawahandsomewell-dressedboy.He
said,"Getsecondhand.Servesthesamepurposeasnewandhalftheprice."
"Thankyou."Sheturnedtotheclerk."Second-hand,"shesaidfirmly.Shestartedtoorderthe
twobooksforthedramacourse.Againthetouchonhershoulder.
"Uh,uh,"saidtheboynegatively."Youcanreadtheminthelibrarybeforeandafterclassesand
whenyougetcuts."
"Thankyouagain,"shesaid.
"Anytime,"heansweredandsaunteredaway.
Hereyesfollowedhimoutofthestore."Gosh,he'stallandgood-looking,"shethought."College
iscertainlywonderful."
ShesatintheEltrainonherwaytotheoffice,clutchingthetwotextbooks.Asthetraingrated
overthetracksitsrhythmseemedtobe,college-college-college.Franciestartedtofeelsick.
Shefeltsosickthatshehadtogetoffatthenextstationeventhoughsheknewshe'dbelatefor
work.Sheleanedagainstapennyweighingmachinewonderingwhatwasthematterwithher.It
couldn'thavebeenanythingsheatebecauseshehadforgottentoeatlunch.Thena
thunderousthoughtcametoher.
"Mygrandparentsneverknewhowtoreadorwrite.Thosewhocamebeforethemcouldn'tread
orwrite.Mymother'ssistercan'treadorwrite.Myparentsneverevengraduatedfromgrade
school.Ineverwenttohighschool.ButI,M.FrancesK.Nolan,amnowincollege.Doyouhear
that,Francie?
You'reincollege!
"Ohgosh,Ifeelsick."
XLIX
FRANCIEcameawayfromherfirstchemistrylectureinaglow.Inonehourshehadfoundout
thateverythingwasmadeupofatomswhichwereincontinualmotion.Shegraspedtheidea
thatnothingwaseverlostordestroyed.Evenifsomethingwasburneduporlefttorotaway,it
didnotdisappearfromthefaceoftheearth;itchangedintosomethingelse-gases,liquids,and
powders.Everything,decidedFrancieafterthatfirstlecture,wasvibrantwithlifeandtherewas
nodeathinchemistry.Shewaspuzzledastowhylearnedpeopledidn'tadoptchemistryasa
religion.
ThedramaoftheRestoration,asidefromthetime-consumingreadingrequired,waseasyto
manageafterherhomestudyofShakespeare.Shehadnoworriesaboutthatcoursenorthe
chemistrycourse.ButwhenitcametoBeginningFrench,shewaslost.Itwasn'treally
beginning
French.Theinstructor,workingontheknowledgethathisstudentseitherhadtakenit
beforeandflunkedit,orhadalreadyhaditinhighschool,sluffedoverthepreliminariesandgot
rightdowntotranslation.Francie,shakyenoughregardingEnglishgrammar,spelling,and
punctuation,didn'tstandachancewiththeFrenchlanguage.She'dneverpassthecourse.All
shecoulddowasmemorizevocabularyeachdayandtrytohangon.
ShestudiedgoingbackandforthontheEl.Shestudiedinherrestperiodsandatehermeals
withabookproppeduponthetablebeforeher.Shetypedoutherassignmentsononeofthe
machinesintheinstructionroomoftheCommunicationsCorporation.Shewasneverlateor
absentandsheaskednothingmorethantopassatleasttwoofhercourses.
Theboywhohadbefriendedherinthebookstorebecameherguardianangel.Hisnamewas
BenBlakeandhewasamostamazingfellow.HewasaseniorinaMaspethhighschool.He
waseditoroftheschoolmagazine,presidentofhisclass,playedhalf-backonthefootballteam,
andwasanhonorstudent.Forthepastthreesummers,hehadbeentakingcollegecourses.
Hewouldfinishhighschoolwithmorethanoneyearofcollegeworkoutoftheway.
Inadditiontohisschoolwork,heputinhisafternoonsworkingforalawfirm.Hedrewupbriefs,
servedsummonses,examineddeedsandrecords,andsearchedoutprecedents.Hewas
familiarwiththestate'sstatutesandwascompletelycapableoftryingacaseincourt.Besides
doingsowellinschool,heearnedtwenty-fivedollarsaweek.Hisfirmwantedhimtocomeinto
theofficefull-timeafterhisgraduationfromhighschool,readlawwiththem,andeventuallytake
thebarexam.ButBenwascontemptuousofnon-collegelawyers.HehadagreatMidwestern
collegepickedout..HeplannedtocompleteworkforanA.B.degreeandthenenterlawschool.
Atnineteen,hislifewasplannedoutinastraightunswervingline.Afterpassingthebarexam,
hewasallsettotakeoveracountrylawpractice.Hebelievedthatayounglawyerhadmore
politicalopportunitiesinasmall-townpractice.Heevenhadthepracticepickedout.Hewasto
succeedadistantrelative,anagedcountrylawyerwhohadawell-establishedpractice.Hewas
inconstanttouchwithhisfuturepredecessorandreceivedlongweeklylettersofguidancefrom
him.
Benplannedtotakeoverthispracticeandawaithisturntobecountryprosecutor.(By
agreement,thelawyersinthissmallcountyrotatedtheofficeamongthem.)Thatwouldbehis
startinpolitics.He'dworkhard,gethimselfwell-knownandtrusted,andeventuallybeelected
totheHouseofRepresentativesfromhisstate.He'dservefaithfullyandbere-elected.Then
he'dcomebackandworkhimselfuptothegovernshipofhisstate.Thatwashisplan.
Documents you may be interested
Documents you may be interested