Edna Ferber: Fanny Herself


Fanny Brandeis' blouses showed real Cluny now, and her hats were nothing but line. A scant two years before she had wondered if she would ever reach a pinnacle of success lofty enough to enable her to wear blue tailor suits as smart as the well-cut garments worn by her mother's friend, Mrs. Emma McChesney. Mrs. McChesney's trig little suits had cost fifty dollars, and had looked sixty. Fanny's now cost one hundred and twenty-five, and looked one hundred and twenty-five. Her sleeves alone gave it away. If you would test the soul of a tailor you have only to glance at shoulder-seam, elbow and wrist. Therein lies the wizardry. Fanny's sleeve flowed from arm-pit to thumb-bone without a ripple. Also she moved from the South side to the North side, always a sign of prosperity or social ambition, in Chicago. Her new apartment was near the lake, exhilaratingly high, correspondingly expensive. And she was hideously lonely. She was earning a man-size salary now, and she was working like a man. A less magnificently healthy woman could not have stood the strain, for Fanny Brandeis was working with her head, not her heart. When we say heart we have come to mean something more than the hollow muscular structure that propels the blood through the veins. That, in the dictionary, is the primary definition. The secondary definition has to do with such words as emotion, sympathy, tenderness, courage, conviction. She was working, now, as Michael Fenger worked, relentlessly, coldly, indomitably, using all the material at hand as a means to an end, with never a thought of the material itself, as a builder reaches for a brick, or stone, and fits it into place, smoothly, almost without actually seeing the brick itself, except as something which will help to make a finished wall. She rarely prowled the city now. She told herself she was too tired at night, and on Sundays and holidays, and I suppose she was. Indeed, she no longer saw things with her former vision. It was as though her soul had shriveled in direct proportion to her salary's expansion. The streets seldom furnished her with a rich mental meal now. When she met a woman with a child, in the park, her keen eye noted the child's dress before it saw the child itself, if, indeed, she noticed the child at all.

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