Page:Manhattan Transfer (John Dos Passos, 1925).djvu/408

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Manhattan Transfer

Madame Soubrine

She forgot everything in the catlike smile of Madame Soubrine herself, a stout blackhaired perhaps Russian woman who came out to her from behind a curtain with outstretched arms, while other customers waiting on sofas in a sort of Empress Josephine parlor, looked on enviously.

"My dear Mrs. Herf, where have you been? We've had your dress for a week," she exclaimed in too perfect English. "Ah my dear, you wait . . . it's magnificent. . . . And how is Mr. Harrpiscourt?"

"I've been very busy. . . . You see I'm giving up my job."

Madame Soubrine nodded and blinked knowingly and led the way through the tapestry curtains into the back of the shop.

"Ah ça se voit. . . . II ne faut pas trravailler, on peut voir dejà des toutes petites rrides. Mais ils dispareaitront. Forgive me, dear." The thick arm round her waist squeezed her. Ellen edged off a little. . . . "Vous la femme la plus belle de New Yorrk. . . . Angelica Mrs. Herf's evening dress," she shouted in a shrill grating voice like a guineahen's.

A hollowcheeked washedout blond girl came in with the dress on a hanger. Ellen slipped off her gray tailored walkingsuit. Madame Soubrine circled round her, purring.

"Angelica look at those shoulders, the color of the hair. . . . Ah c'est le rêve," edging a little too near like a cat that wants its back rubbed. The dress was pale green with a slash of scarlet and dark blue.

"This is the last time I have a dress like this, I'm sick of always wearing blue and green. . . ." Madame Soubrine, her mouth full of pins, was at her feet, fussing with the hem.

"Perfect Greek simplicity, wellgirdled like Diana. . . . Spiritual with Spring . . . the ultimate restraint of an Annette Kellermann, holding up the lamp of liberty, the wise virgin," she was muttering through her pins.

She's right, Ellen was thinking, I am getting a hard look.