"Too much," Aunt Margaret pronounced, clearly referring to the style of the hat rather than its price, which she hadn't even inquired about yet.
"Something more youthful, with a rolled brim, I think," Aunt Margaret said. "This style is neat and tasty," the saleswoman said, putting another hat on Hattie's head. She still sounded calm. By now, though, tiny beads of perspiration were spangling her brow. "Just a small cluster of violets on top," she added a little desperately.
Aunt Margaret stared at Hattie's reflection for a full minute in silence, and then nodded. "Very becoming," she said. "But can your modiste trim it with a narrow black velvet ribbon, do you think? The child is in mourning, and my husband seems to think it would be appropriate." And so the sale was made.
Following a hurried chicken-salad lunch at a tea shop on nearby Washington Square, during which Hattie and Aunt Margaret barely said a word, the entire afternoon was spent at a small place that sold ladies' lingerie. This establishment was nondescript from the outside but as fragrant and luxurious inside as the hatmaker's shop had been. A plump, tightly swaddled saleswoman welcomed them as if they had happened by for a social call.
Hattie blushed as she removed her dress in the fitting room, ashamed to reveal her patched drawers and heavy woolen stockings, much darned. Aunt Margaret and the saleswoman exchanged significant glances. "We might start with some nice forms," the saleswoman suggested, averting her eyes from Hattie's painfully stretched ribbed cotton vest. "They're edged with Valenciennes lace. Thoroughly hygienic," she added, whispering to Aunt Margaret.
"Naturally," Aunt Margaret said, nodding sharply. "And she'll need some corsets, of course." Miserable, Hattie folded her arms across her chest." Our most popular model is sateen--very elegant. Seventy-five cents," the saleswoman added, whispering again.
Aunt Margaret looked at the woman coolly for a moment, as if disgusted that so base a thing as money had been mentioned.
Seventy-five cents, Hattie thought, much shocked. Why, that was near enough for a family as small as hers had been to live on for a day--or two, if they...
Copyright Sally Warner 2001. Reproduced with the permission of Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved.
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