Edna Ferber: Fanny Herself


The first week in June found her back in New York. That month of absence had worked a subtle change. The two weeks spent in crossing and recrossing had provided her with a let-down that had been almost jarring in its completeness. Everything competitive had seemed to fade away with the receding shore, and to loom up again only when the skyline became a thing of smoke-banks, spires, and shafts. She had had only two weeks for the actual transaction of her business. She must have been something of a revelation to those Paris and Berlin manufacturers, accustomed though they were to the brisk and irresistible methods of the American business woman. She was, after all, absurdly young to be talking in terms of millions, and she was amazingly well dressed. This last passed unnoticed, or was taken for granted in Paris, but in Berlin, home of the frump and the flour-sack figure, she was stared at, appreciatively. Her business, except for one or two unimportant side lines, had to do with two factories on whose product the Haynes-Cooper company had long had a covetous eye. Quantity, as usual, was the keynote of their demand, and Fanny's task was that of talking in six-figure terms to these conservative and over-wary foreign manufacturers. That she had successfully accomplished this, and that she had managed to impress them also with the important part that time and promptness in delivery played in a swift-moving machine like the Haynes-Cooper concern, was due to many things beside her natural business ability. Self-confidence was there, and physical vigor, and diplomacy. But above all there was that sheer love of the game; the dramatic sense that enabled her to see herself in the part. That alone precluded the possibility of failure. She knew how youthful she looked, and how glowing. She anticipated the look that came into their faces when she left polite small-talk behind and soared up into the cold, rarefied atmosphere of business. She delighted in seeing the admiring and tolerant smirk vanish and give way to a startled and defensive attentiveness.

It might be mentioned that she managed, somehow, to spend almost half a day in Petticoat Lane, and its squalid surroundings, while in London. She actually prowled, alone, at night, in the evil-smelling, narrow streets of the poorer quarter of Paris, and how she escaped unharmed is a mystery that never bothered her, because she had never known fear of streets. She had always walked on the streets of Winnebago, Wisconsin, alone. It never occurred to her not to do the same in the streets of Chicago, or New York, or London, or Paris. She found Berlin, with its Adlon, its appalling cleanliness, its overfed populace, and its omnipresent Kaiser forever scudding up and down Unter den Linden in his chocolate-colored car, incredibly dull, and unpicturesque. Something she had temporarily lost there in the busy atmosphere of the Haynes-Cooper plant, seemed to have returned, miraculously.

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