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left enough for new stockings--two pairs apiece--and what darning
that would save for a while! She would get caps for the boys and
sailor-hats for the girls. The vision of her little brood
looking fresh and dainty and new for once in their lives
excited her and made her restless and wakeful with anticipation.
The neighbors sometimes talked of certain "better days" that
little Mrs. Sommers had known before she had ever thought of being
Mrs. Sommers. She herself indulged in no such morbid
retrospection. She had no time--no second of time to devote to the
past. The needs of the present absorbed her every faculty. A
vision of the future like some dim, gaunt monster sometimes
appalled her, but luckily to-morrow never comes.
Mrs. Sommers was one who knew the value of bargains; who could
stand for hours making her way inch by inch toward the desired
object that was selling below cost. She could elbow her way if
need be; she had learned to clutch a piece of goods and hold it and
stick to it with persistence and determination till her turn came
to be served, no matter when it came.
But that day she was a little faint and tired. She had
swallowed a light luncheon--no! when she came to think of it,
between getting the children fed and the place righted, and
preparing herself for the shopping bout, she had actually forgotten
to eat any luncheon at all!
She sat herself upon a revolving stool before a counter that
was comparatively deserted, trying to gather strength and courage
to charge through an eager multitude that was besieging
breastworks of shirting and figured lawn. An all-gone limp feeling had
come over her and she rested her hand aimlessly upon the counter.
She wore no gloves. By degrees she grew aware that her hand had
encountered something very soothing, very pleasant to touch. She
looked down to see that her hand lay upon a pile of silk stockings.
A placard near by announced that they had been reduced in price
from two dollars and fifty cents to one dollar and ninety-eight
cents; and a young girl who stood behind the counter asked her if
she wished to examine their line of silk hosiery. She smiled,
just as if she had been asked to inspect a tiara of diamonds
with the ultimate view of purchasing it. But she went on
feeling the soft, sheeny luxurious things--with both hands now,
holding them up to see them glisten, and to feel them glide
serpent-like through her fingers.