You see them every morning at a quarter to nine, rushing out of the maw of the subway tunnel, filing out of Grand Central Station, crossing Lexington and Park and Madison and Fifth avenues, the hundreds and hundreds of girls. Some of them look eager and some look resentful, and some of them look as if they haven't left their beds yet. Some of them have been up since six-thirty in the morning, the ones who commute from Brooklyn and Yonkers and New Jersey and Staten Island and Connecticut. They carry the morning newspapers and overstuffed handbags. Some of them are wearing pink or chartreuse fuzzy overcoats and five-year-old ankle-strap shoes and have their hair up in pin curls underneath kerchiefs. Some of them are wearing chic black suits (maybe last year's but who can tell?) and kid gloves and are carrying their lunches in violet- sprigged Bonwit Teller paper bags. None of them has enough money.
At eight-forty-five Wednesday morning, January second, 1952, a twenty-year-old girl named Caroline Bender came out of Grand Central Station and headed west and uptown toward Radio City. She was a more than pretty girl with dark hair and light eyes and a face with a good deal of softness and intelligence in it. She was wearing a gray tweed suit, which had been her dress-up suit in college, and was carrying a small attaché case, which contained a wallet with five dollars in it, a book of commuter tickets, some make-up, and three magazines entitled respectively 'The Cross', 'My Secret Life', and 'America's Woman'.
It was one of those cold, foggy midwinter mornings in New York, the kind that makes you think of lung ailments. Caroline hurried along with the rest of the crowd, hardly noticing anybody, nervous and frightened and slightly elated. It was her first day at the first job she had ever had in her life, and she did not consider herself basically a career girl. Last year, looking ahead to this damp day in January, she had thought she would be married. Since she'd had a fiancé it seemed logical. Now she had no fiancé and no one she was interested in, and the new job was more than an economic convenience, it was an emotional necessity. She wasn't sure that being a secretary in a typing pool could possibly be engrossing, but she was going to have to make it so. Otherwise she would have time to think, and would remember too much. . . .
Fabian Publications occupied five air-conditioned floors in one of the modern buildings in Radio City. On this first week of the new year the annual hiring had just been completed. Three secretaries had left the typing pool, one to get married, the other two for better jobs. Three new secretaries had been hired to start on Wednesday, the second of January. One of these was Caroline Bender.
It was five minutes before nine when Caroline reached the floor where the typing pool was located, and she was surprised to find the large room dark and all the typewriters still neatly covered. She had been afraid she would be late, and now she was the first one. She found the switch that turned on the ceiling lights and prowled around waiting for someone to appear. There was a large center room with rows of desks for the secretaries, and on the edges of this room were the closed doors of the offices for editors. Tinsel Christmas bells and red bows were still taped to some of the doors, looking bedraggled and sad now that the season was over.
She looked into several of the offices and saw that they seemed to progress in order of the occupant's importance from small tile- floored cubicles with two desks, to larger ones with one desk, and finally to two large offices with carpet on the floor, leather lounging chairs, and wood- paneled walls. From the books and magazines lying around in them she could see that one of these belonged to the editor of Derby Books and the other to the editor of 'The Cross'. She heard voices then in the main room, and the sound of laughter and greetings. Stricken with a sudden attack of shyness, she came slowly out of the editor's office.
It was nine o'clock and the room was suddenly filling up with girls, none of whom noticed her presence at all. The teletype operator was combing her hair out of its pin curls, one of the typists was going from desk to desk collecting empty glass jars and taking coffee orders. Covers were being pulled off typewriters, coats hung up, newspapers spread out on desks to be read, and as each new arrival came in she was greeted with delighted cries. It sounded as though they had all been separated from one another for four weeks, not four days. Caroline didn't know which desk was hers and she was afraid to sit at someone else's, so she kept standing, watching, and feeling for the first time that morning that she was an outsider at a private club.
A lone man came in then, briskly, with an amused, rather self- conscious look, as if he were intruding on a ladies' tea. At the sight of him some of the girls sat up and tried to look more businesslike. He was in his late forties, of medium height but wiry so that he looked smaller, with a pale, dissipated face that looked even more ravaged because there were signs that it had once been very handsome. He stopped at the water fountain and drank for a long time, then he straightened up and went on into one of the editors' offices. He was wearing a camel's-hair coat with a large cigarette burn on the lapel.
"Who's that?" Caroline asked the girl nearest her.
"Mr. Rice, editor of 'The Cross'. You're new, aren't you?" the girl said. "My name is Mary Agnes."
"I hope you like it here," Mary Agnes said. She was a thin, plain- looking girl with wavy dark hair, and she wore a black wool skirt and a transparent white nylon blouse. She was extremely flat- chested.
"I hope so too," Caroline said.
"Well, you can have either of those two desks over there if you want to put anything away. You'll be working for Miss Farrow this week, because her secretary quit on her. She usually comes in around ten o'clock. She'll take you around and introduce you to everybody. Would you like some coffee?"
"I'd love some," Caroline said. She put her attaché case and gloves into the drawer of one of the empty desks and hung her jacket over the back of the chair.
Mary Agnes waved over the girl who was taking coffee orders. "Brenda, this is Caroline."
"Hi," Brenda said. She was a plump, quite pretty blonde, but when she smiled there was a tooth conspicuously absent on either side, giving her the look of a werewolf. "How do you want your coffee? You'd better take it in a jar instead of a paper container."
"Thank you," Caroline said.
Brenda walked back to her desk with a twitch of her hips. "Watch out for her," Mary Agnes said conspiratorially when she was out of earshot. "She makes you pay for the coffee and the jar, and then she gives back the jars and keeps all the deposit money. Don't let her get away with it."
"I'll try not to," Caroline said.
"Do you have a key to the ladies' room?"
"Well, you can use mine until you get one. Just ask. Did you notice her teeth?"
"Brenda's. She's engaged to be married and she's having all her bad teeth pulled so her husband will have to pay for the new ones. Did you ever hear of such a thing?" Mary Agnes giggled and began putting sheets of carbon paper and letter paper into the roller of her typewriter.
"What's Mr. Rice—is that his name? What's he like?" asked Caroline. She liked camel's-hair coats on men, they reminded her of 'The Front Page'.
A genuinely stricken look of piety came over Mary Agnes' plain face. "It's very sad," she said. "I always feel sorry for a person like him. I wish somebody could help him."
"What's the matter with him?"
"Wait till you read that magazine he puts out. It will sicken you."
"You mean he writes that stuff because he believes it, is that it?"
"Worse," said Mary Agnes. "He writes it because he doesn't believe in anything. Those articles he writes sound very pious but they're just a lot of words. I feel sorry for the poor souls who believe them, but I feel sorrier for Mr. Rice. I often think he must be very lonely." She smiled ruefully. "Well, don't get me started on Mr. Rice's lack of faith, it's a subject I feel very strongly about and right now I've got to get these letters typed."
"Maybe you and I can have lunch together," Caroline suggested.
"Oh, that would have been fun . . . but I can't. I always have lunch with my boy friend. That is, some days he brings his lunch up here and eats it with me, and some days I bring my sandwiches downtown and eat them with him. He works downtown in a furniture factory. We're saving up to get married. We're getting married a year from this coming June."
"That's a long time from now," Caroline said.
"I know," Mary Agnes said matter-of-factly. "But it could have been even longer."
"I certainly wish you luck," Caroline said. She went over to her desk and sat down. She'd come here to get away from thoughts of marriage, and the first two girls she had met were engaged. Well, she would clean out the drawers of this desk, and then Miss What's- her-name would arrive and give her more work probably than she could handle, nervous as she was on her first day, and soon her mind would be so filled with office problems that there would be no room for remembering things she shouldn't.
She had a mental list now of things she had to keep out of her mind, but it was hard because they were everyday things for anyone else and they kept cropping up. Boys named Eddie. Paris. Almost any Noel Coward song. Three or four particular restaurants. Any book or story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Chianti. W. B. Yeats. Steamships going to Europe. Steamships coming back from Europe.
She didn't really want to forget all of it, because it had all meant happiness at the time it happened. She only wanted to be able someday to remember without finding it painful. That was the trick, to keep all the good things from the past and cast away the ones that hurt.
She had been a junior at Radcliffe when she met Eddie Harris. He was a senior at Harvard. He was a marvelous, funny, appealing-looking boy, he played jazz piano, he read books none of the others had even heard of, he had a sense of humor that could keep her laughing for hours. He had moody spells too, when he walked around his room in a turtleneck sweater and khaki pants and bare feet and played Noel Coward songs on the phonograph and wouldn't talk to anyone but her for days. He got all A's in school with a minimum of study, it seemed, and his family had money. She couldn't really believe it was happening to her, a girl of eighteen who had never met a boy she cared about at all, and now Eddie Harris was in love with her and she adored him.
She was quite sure that she loved him more than he loved her, but he was a man, after all, and men had other things to worry about.
They planned to get married the autumn after he was graduated from Harvard. Meanwhile she was to go to summer school and get her diploma. It was something her parents insisted upon, she was only nineteen then and they told her she would regret it someday if she had gone this far toward a degree and then given it up. Girls of nineteen didn't have to rush into marriage, they told her, although they were as pleased about her engagement to Eddie as she was. Eddie encouraged her, and of course she would do anything he wanted, although she couldn't really see how another few months of classes could make any difference when simply being near Eddie made her so much more aware of everything she read and heard and saw that she felt like a different person. College was supposed to make you think, wasn't it? Well, Eddie made her think, and what she really wanted out of life was to be a good and interesting wife for him and make him happy, not cram down another hundred lines of Shakespeare.
Anyway, she went to summer school. And Eddie's parents sent him to Europe for a graduation present. She thought it would have been nicer if they had waited and then let Eddie and her go there on their honeymoon, but the thought struck her as so selfish that she didn't even mention it to him. There had been a big boom in world travel at Harvard and Radcliffe in those years; everyone went. Travel was a new experience for their generation those early years after the war, and Caroline had already grown tired of the constant cocktail-party conversation which consisted mainly of place- dropping. She kept her mouth shut and everyone said to her, "'You've' been to Europe, of course, haven't you?" She thought the college boys who ran to Paris and then sat around in cafés looking for American girls whom they had known at home were very funny. She knew Eddie would get a lot more out of his trip than that.
When she saw him off on the ship she gave him a bottle of champagne and a brave smile, although all the time they were kissing goodbye she wanted to cry out, "Take me with you, don't go alone." He told her it would be only six weeks, that the time would go quickly, that he would think of her all the time. He told her, "Miss me a little" (smiling), when they both knew he meant she should miss him a great deal, and that she would whether he told her to or not. On the deck he discovered the parents of a girl he had known years ago when he was in prep school, Helen Lowe, and he latched onto the father. See, his smile said comfortingly to Caroline as the ship pulled away from the harbor, here I am with this nice middle-aged man, see how well I'm keeping out of trouble.
Helen had been on the ship too, she had been down in her stateroom with four of her classmates from Sarah Lawrence getting drunk together. She was a tall, slim, bosomy girl with the kind of ash- blond hair that looks almost gray and was not a really popular color until several years later. She had a white French poodle and she had taken French lessons before she left on the ship.
When the six weeks were finally over, a letter arrived for Caroline on the day Eddie's ship came in to New York without him.
"I don't know how to tell you this," the letter began. "This is the fourth time I've tried to write you about it, the other three efforts I've torn up." He sounded rather sorry for himself because he had to tell her. He probably thought, What a mess, what a mess. How much easier to declare love than to withdraw it, especially from someone you still like very much. He sounded even sorrier for himself and his unpleasant predicament than he was for her, who only had to read what he had written and see her future and her happiness shatter quietly around her.
Eddie had always hated anything unpleasant. Perhaps he thought marriage to Helen Lowe would solve everything, she was sophisticated and poised and intelligent and pretty, and her father owned oil wells. You couldn't say much against oil wells. Or perhaps he had been just like those other lonely college boys in Paris sitting in the cafés (or in his case on shipboard) looking for a familiar face. Perhaps Caroline had overestimated him. So Helen and her parents accompanied him back on the ship to America, and a month later there was a monstrously expensive wedding in Dallas.
Having finished summer school, Caroline did not have another term of college to help her occupy herself, so she took a business and shorthand course and the day after she was graduated she took the first job she was offered. It didn't make much difference to her, really, as long as it was something from nine to five, which meant eight hours less to think about herself. She was rather glad, however, when it turned out to be a job in publishing. She bought three of the Fabian magazines and read them from cover to cover the night before her first day at Fabian, and she couldn't make up her mind who seemed more startling—the people who read such trash or the people who published it. The strange thing was, though, that lately whenever she read a story with a happy ending she found herself crying.
"You're the new secretary? I'm Amanda Farrow."
Caroline jumped to her feet, shaking off her daydream. The woman in front of her desk was in her late thirties, tall and slim with bright copper hair pulled back into a chignon. She was cool and polished and fashionably dressed. She even wore a little hat, two fluffy feathers really, with a tiny black veil. "My name's Caroline Bender."
"You can come into my office in a moment. Number nine."
She watched Amanda Farrow disappear into Office Nine and then found a shorthand pad and some pencils in the drawer of her new desk. From her investigation in the early morning Caroline knew that Amanda Farrow's office was one of the executive ones, one rank lower than the offices with carpets. She saw the overhead lights go on in Number Nine and waited a moment more, then opened the door and went in.
Amanda Farrow was seated behind her large desk. She was still wearing her hat, and she was busy applying nail polish to her fingernails. There was a large filing cabinet against one wall, and two armchairs in front of the desk.
"First you can order me some coffee, black with sugar," Amanda Farrow said. "All the filing to be done is in this box here. My secretary left last week and the place is a mess. The mail comes four times a day, you open it, and anything that requires a personal answer goes in this box. Some of the letters you can answer yourself, if they're from cranks, for instance. But show me everything you write before you send it out. Do you have a Social Security card?"
"Well, you'll have to get it on your lunch hour. Mr. Fabian is very strict about employees working without their Social Security cards. You get one hour for lunch and I want you back here on time so you can answer my phone. Oh, and if you have time you can pick up a box of dusting powder for me at Saks."
Caroline was beginning to dislike this woman, she talked so fast it was hard to follow her. She sat down in one of the armchairs beside Amanda Farrow's desk and picked up the telephone receiver to dial the coffee shop.
"Not here!" Miss Farrow said in annoyance, capping her bottle of nail polish. "You use 'your' phone outside. You always answer my telephone at your desk and say 'Miss Farrow's office.' After you've ordered my coffee you can come back in here and take some dictation."
Caroline hurried back to her desk, called the coffee shop, went back to take dictation, was interrupted in her filing to take another letter, was interrupted in her typing of the letters to do more filing. Amanda Farrow seemed to have anything but an orderly mind; the minute she thought of something she wanted to have done immediately she thought of something else she wanted done more immediately. Every time the phone rang Caroline had to run out of the office, if she was filing, and answer it at her own desk. Once in a while Miss Farrow would stroll out of her office and come to peer over Caroline's shoulder. The first time she did this it made Caroline so nervous she made two mistakes.
"I thought you were supposed to be a good typist," Miss Farrow said.
At twelve noon on the dot, having been in the office two hours, Miss Farrow went out to lunch. "How do you like your new boss?" Mary Agnes asked.
"I hope she's only going to be my temporary boss," Caroline said worriedly.
"She's had twelve secretaries in three years," Mary Agnes said. She took a sandwich wrapped in brown paper out of her desk drawer and put on a white orlon sweater with glass beads sewn on it. "Come on, I'll ride you down in the elevator."
"Can you tell me where I can get a Social Security card?"
"There's a place two blocks from here. You'd better eat first, it will take you 'hours' to get one."
"Oh, but I only have an hour for lunch," Caroline said.
"She doesn't come back until three-thirty. She'll never know. Just get back by three."
"How does she get any work done?" Caroline asked. "Or is that a naïve question?"
"Executives don't do the work," Mary Agnes said. "The higher up you get the less you have to do. Until you're the top man, and then you have to make decisions, and that's hard. It's the ones just under the top who have the best deal."
When Mary Agnes had gone off in the direction of the subway Caroline strolled down Fifth Avenue looking around. Everyone seemed to be in a hurry to get somewhere, meet someone, do something. The girls trying to do some hasty lunch-hour shopping in the department stores, the messengers shuffling along to get the envelope or the package to its destination before the recipient went out to lunch, the executives rushing to embrace that first Martini. On the steps of St. Patrick's Cathedral were some tourists, focusing leather- encased cameras on each other, beaming in front of the historic architecture. A flock of pigeons rose up with a dry, snapping sound from the top step, like white wood shavings flung into the cold air. The sun had come out and everything was glittering.
Caroline was suddenly taken with excitement. It was her first day at a new job, she was going to make fifty dollars a week. It seemed like a fortune. She was still living with her parents, in Port Blair, New York, and she had almost no expenses except for clothes, lunches and commuter tickets. Perhaps by summer she would get a raise, and then she could rent an apartment in New York with another girl. There must be a hundred girls working at Fabian, she thought, and I'll certainly find someone I'll really like who'll want to share an apartment with me. She jostled her way along with the stream of people, blinking in the unexpected winter sunshine, and she realized that she had been smiling, because a delivery boy in a leather jacket grinned at her and said, "Hi Beautiful."
He thinks he's being so fresh, she thought; if I turned around and said, Hello, yourself, he'd probably faint. She laughed. She was still used to the friendly informality of a small college town, where in the fifteen minutes it took you to walk from the dorms to classes your face could get stiff from smiling greetings to all your casual acquaintances. And of course in Port Blair everyone knew everyone else, if not in person, then at least through gossip.
She found the grimy-looking gray building that housed the Social Security office and went upstairs. She realized that she had forgotten to stop for lunch, but she was too excited to eat anyway. The small room was crowded with people, sitting dully in rows of straight-backed wooden chairs. She took her place at the end of the line and looked around.
What a group of unhappy-looking people! All of them looked as if they were waiting in line to pour out their troubles to Miss Lonelyhearts. Perhaps it was only because they had all been waiting in line for a long time, boredom has a tendency to bring out the worst in people's faces. She looked at their clothes. Most of them were frayed at the cuff and run down at the heel. It made her feel self-conscious with her raccoon collar and clean kid gloves. Where were all the happy, comfortably-off people? Didn't they work? Or were the people in this room the ones who had not worked for a long time? Perhaps she had come to the Social Security office for failures, and there was another one uptown or downtown for successes.
I'll never look like that, she thought firmly. No matter what, I'll never let myself look like that. As long as I have to work, I'm going to get something out of it. These people look as if they have—just jobs. They don't look as if they particularly like their work, they look as if they can't help themselves. I don't want to look like them, I want my job to be one of the happy things in my life.
"Next," said the bored man behind the counter. The line moved up one. It's like musical chairs, Caroline thought, except no one is having a good time and they all want to get out of here soon so they won't be fired. She looked at her watch and began to glance through a leaflet the woman ahead of her had left on her chair.
'Protect your future', the leaflet said. Sixty-five years old for women. It seemed so long away. Caroline could hardly imagine what she would be like at twenty-five. Last year, even six months ago, she had been sure. Now the future was a mystery. She wondered whether it could ever be for her the same thing it once was going to be.
She came back to her desk at two o'clock with her lunch in a paper bag, her Social Security card in her wallet, and Miss Farrow's dusting powder (gift-wrapped) in a gold-and-white-striped box. Mary Agnes was sitting at her own desk, looking contented. Brenda was talking animatedly on the telephone, making use of the office to save on her personal phone bill. The desk next to Caroline's, which had been unoccupied that morning, now bore a straw handbag with flowers sewn on it and a pair of white cotton gloves with a hole in one of the fingers.
"Hi," Mary Agnes said. "Did you get everything all right?"
"Yes," said Caroline. "Is Miss Farrow back yet?"
"Are you kidding?"
She sat down at her desk and began to eat her sandwich. The coffee container had already leaked through the bottom of the bag and now was making rings on her new blotter. Looking at them, she began to feel as if she'd been at this desk for a long time.
"The third new girl finally came," Mary Agnes said, gesturing toward the other desk. "She told Mr. Rice she was sick this morning and he was very nice about it. But she told 'me' that she forgot to set her alarm clock! Can you imagine such a scatterbrain? I was up all night the day before I went to my first job."
"Oh, is it her first job too?"
"Yes, and she's only been in New York for a few weeks. She comes from Springs, Colorado. She just got out of junior college."
Mary Agnes, the Louella Parsons of the thirty-fifth floor, Caroline thought.
"Her name is April Morrison," Mary Agnes went on. "That's a pretty name, isn't it—April. That's her with the long hair."
She nodded toward a girl crossing the bullpen from one of the side offices to another, carrying a shorthand pad, one of the oddest girls Caroline had ever seen. April Morrison had an almost breath- takingly beautiful face, and she wore no make-up except for some pale-pink lipstick. But her hair, which was a tawny gold, cascaded down her back to the middle of her shoulder blades, thick and tangled, making her look like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. She wore a shiny baby- blue gabardine suit. She had big blue eyes and freckles on her delicately sculptured nose, and Caroline almost expected to see her carrying a sunbonnet.
"It's lucky for her she hasn't got your job," Mary Agnes whispered, as April went into an office and closed the door. "Miss Farrow would eat her alive."
"Well, thank you," Caroline said. "You mean I look like I could hold my own against 'Miss Farrow'?"
"You should be able to if anyone can. But if she asks you if you want to be promoted out of the typing pool to be her private secretary, say no, no, no."
What would I ever have done without someone to give me tips and advice on my first day, Caroline thought gratefully.
"Were you ever her secretary?"
"Oh, I worked for her a few times from the pool, that's all. But everyone knows what a terror she is."
"What were her regular secretaries like?"
"Sophisticated," said Mary Agnes. "Like you, a little. College graduates. Usually pretty. She always hires a secretary who has the qualities to make a successful career women eventually and then she always hates the poor girl's guts."
"I guess working for Miss Farrow is kind of like hell week for getting into a sorority, is that it?"
"Hey," said Mary Agnes, "that's cute."
"Doesn't anyone else need a private secretary right now?"
"Uh-uh. All the other girls like their jobs. See, being a private secretary is a good deal around here because from there you can get into editorial work. If you're interested, that is. Me, I wouldn't want to be a reader, even though they pay seventy-five dollars a week to start. I like to read magazines but I wouldn't know where to 'begin' to criticize them."
I would, Caroline thought. I'd start with 'My Secret Life' and tell them that "My Two Days in an Attic with a Sex-Mad Criminal!" is the worst piece of trash I ever read. And I bet they'd sell more copies if they didn't have covers that people were ashamed to have lying around their living rooms.
"Look sharp," Mary Agnes said, and bent over her work with a diligent expression. Miss Farrow, pink of cheek and long of breath, was walking dreamily toward her office. Caroline picked up the box of dusting powder and followed her.
"Here's your powder, Miss Farrow. I charged it to you."
"What's the matter, didn't you have any money?" It was obvious that Miss Farrow's lunch-hour euphoria did not extend to her treatment of the office help.
"As a matter of fact, I didn't."
Miss Farrow raised her eyebrows. "That's funny. I thought, to look at you, that you were another one of those Vassar girls who wants to be an editor just because she majored in English."
"Radcliffe. And I did major in English." Caroline smiled.
"I suppose you think it's easy to be an editor."
"I'm not even sure it's easy to be a secretary."
Miss Farrow looked at her sharply to determine if she was being sarcastic or serious. Caroline tried to keep a very bland, amused and slightly humble expression on her face, and not to look frightened.
"It's not easy to be my secretary," Miss Farrow said finally. "I'll try to do the best I can until your regular secretary comes."
"How much are you making now?"
"Fifty dollars a week."
"No experience, eh?"
"I've just finished six weeks of a business and secretarial course. So my shorthand is better than a girl's who hasn't been working for a while."
"Private secretaries start here at sixty-five, you know. Are you ambitious?" What a look of dislike and mistrust this woman has on her face, Caroline thought with surprise. What in the world does she think I might do to her?
"Well, sixty-five sounds a lot better than fifty," Caroline answered gently.
The look of mistrust softened a little. "I haven't looked for a permanent replacement for my other girl yet. Maybe I won't have to. We'll see if your typing improves."
It will if you stop peering over my shoulder, Caroline thought. "I have some letters at my desk for you to sign," she said. "I'll bring them in. Is that all for now?"
"Yes," Miss Farrow said with a little half-smile. "That's all for now."
The rest of the afternoon went by as rapidly as the morning had, with Miss Farrow firing her disjointed commands and Caroline trying to follow them as well as she could. She felt like a girl who knows she is going to be invited to a dance by the football hero who also happens to be the notorious class wolf, and has to decide what she really wants. She didn't know what she wanted. A pleasant job, yes, but to be in a rut like Mary Agnes, no. Something in between would be ideal, but she was already beginning to realize that the working world was more complicated than she had ever dreamed. She knew that although right now she found the office routine exciting and tiring, that was only because it was new to her, and in a few weeks she would find it boring. Her mind wanted more creative work. But most important of all, if she found herself mired down in a job that bored her, she would be thinking about Eddie and what might have been, and that was what she had come here to escape.
At a quarter to five Miss Farrow came out of her office pulling on her gloves. "There's an editorial report on my desk," she said. "Type it up for me, double-spaced. That's all for today unless you have some work left over. Good night."
"Good night, Miss Farrow."
"Ooh . . . what next?" Mary Agnes whispered in righteous indignation. "She's the only editor who doesn't type her own reading reports. She's probably afraid she'll mess up her nail polish."
Caroline laughed and went into Miss Farrow's office. It was already dark outside the huge window that made up the entire fourth wall, and through the opened blinds Caroline could see the lights of the city. She pulled up the blind and stood there for a moment. Every square of light was an office, and in every office all over the twilit city there were girls much like herself, happy or disappointed, ambitious or bored, covering their typewriters hastily and going off to meet people they loved, or delaying the minutes of departure because home meant the loneliness of a long dark night. Suddenly her throat hurt so that she could hardly swallow. She turned to Miss Farrow's desk and picked up the manuscript.
It was a heavy manuscript, of loose sheets of white typing paper held together with a thick rubber band. She leafed through the first few pages curiously. The top sheet was headed 'Derby Books. Comment Sheet.'
She read Miss Farrow's comments, which had been scrawled in a large, ostentatious hand. It was a rave review: "Clever writing, plot held me from beginning to end." She typed the review neatly on a clean comment sheet and attached the typed copy to the manuscript. From St. Patrick's outside, bells were chiming five o'clock.
Mary Agnes opened the office door and looked in. She was already wearing her sweater and coat and was carrying her purse. "Good night, Caroline."
"Don't stay here all night. Ha-ha." Mary Agnes waved and started to leave. "Mary Agnes . . ."
"Do you think it would be all right if I took this manuscript home with me tonight to read? I mean, are there any rules about it?"
"You want to 'read' it? On your own time?"
"I think it would be exciting—to read a book that's this good, before it's even been published!" Mary Agnes shrugged. "Help yourself. There are some big red envelopes in that filing cabinet."
The door shut and Caroline found an envelope and put the manuscript carefully into it. Then she gathered her things together and walked to the elevator. At five minutes past five the bullpen was empty; it had cleared out as rapidly as if an air-raid alarm had sounded. From a lone office down the hall she could hear the sound of a typewriter. It had been a long day, and she was just beginning to realize how tired she was. She remembered, riding down in the elevator, that Miss Farrow had never gotten around to taking her on the introduction tour Mary Agnes had promised. It didn't matter. She'd had quite an introduction anyway. And she could hardly wait to read the novel she'd found. She hugged the manuscript under her arm as she walked quickly to catch the five-twenty-nine.