But her quick ears had caught the word, "PROHIBA!" "Speak English," she said, and went on unpacking. "INGLES!" shouted the official. "No!" Then, with a superhuman effort, as Emma McChesney stood up, her arms laden with Featherloom samples of rainbow hues, "PARE! Ar-r-r-rest!" Mrs. McChesney slammed down the trunk top, locked it, clutched her samples firmly, and faced the enraged official.
Out in the stock-room, under her supervision, there was scientifically packed into sample-trunks and cases a line of Featherloom skirts and knickers calculated to dazzle Brazil and entrance Argentina. And into her own personal trunk there went a wardrobe, each article of which was a garment with a purpose. Emma McChesney knew the value of a smartly tailored suit in a business argument.
They had understood each other, those two, from the time that Emma McChesney, divorced, penniless, refusing support from the man she had married eight years before, had found work in the office of the T. A. Buck Featherloom Petticoat Company.
The title stuck. It was late in September when Mrs. McChesney, sunburned, decidedly under weight, but gloriously triumphant, returned from a four months' tour of South America. Against the earnest protests of her business partner, T. A. Buck, president of the Buck Featherloom Petticoat Company, she had invaded the southern continent and left it abloom with Featherlooms from the Plata to the Canal.
It was at this critical moment that the office door opened, and there entered T. A. Buck, president of the T. A. Buck Featherloom Petticoat and Lingerie Company. He entered smiling, leisurely, serene-eyed, as one who anticipates something pleasurable. At sight of Emma McChesney standing, hatted before the mirror, the pleasurable look became less confident. "Hello!" said T. A. Buck.
"We'll see," said Emma McChesney curtly. So it was that ten days later the first important conference in the interests of the Featherloom Petticoat Company's advertising campaign was called. But in those ten days of hurried preparation a little silent tragedy had come about. For the first time in her brave, sunny life Emma McChesney had lost faith in herself.
It's a shelter. It's built like a tent. If once I can introduce the T. A. Buck Featherloom petticoat and knickerbocker into sunny South America, they'll use those English and German petticoats for linoleum floor-coverings. Heaven knows they'll fit the floor better than the human form!" But Buck was unsmiling. The muscles of his jaw were tense. "I won't let you go. Understand that!
If you stare at it long enough you begin to see things. Emma McChesney, who pulled down something over thirty-two hundred a year selling Featherloom Petticoats, saw this: A kitchen, very bright and clean, with a cluttered kind of cleanliness that bespeaks many housewifely tasks under way.
For four years women had been mincing along in garments so absurdly narrow that each step was a thing to be considered, each curbing or car-step demanding careful negotiation. Now, Fashion, in her freakiest mood, commanded a bewildering width of skirt that was just one remove from the flaring hoops of Civil War days. Emma knew what that meant for the Featherloom workrooms and selling staff.
She patted the flat top of her desk with loving fingers. "I can't help it," she said, with a little shamed laugh; "I'm so glad to be back. I'll probably hug the forewoman and bite a piece out of the first Featherloom I lay hands on. I had to use all my self-control to keep from kissing Jake, the elevator-man, coming up."