Page:Manhattan Transfer (John Dos Passos, 1925).djvu/410

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Manhattan Transfer

bands, hoarse voices singing Die Rote Fahne in Yiddish; far away, from the Woolworth a banner shakes into the wind. 'Look Elmer darhng' elmer duskin for mayor. And they're dancing the Charleston in all the officebuildings. . . . Thump. Thump. That Charleston dance. . . . Thump. Thump. . . . Perhaps I do love him. Elmer take me. Elmer, loving as Valentino, crushing me to him with Dougstrong arms, hot as flame, Elmer.

Through the dream she is stitching white fingers beckon. The white tulle shines too bright. Red hands clutch suddenly out of the tulle, she cant fight off the red tulle all round her biting into her, coiled about her head. The skylight's blackened with swirling smoke. The room's full of smoke and screaming. Anna is on her feet whirling round fighting with her hands the burning tulle all round her.

Ellen stands looking at herself in the pierglass in the fitting room. The smell of singed fabrics gets stronger. After walking to and fro nervously a little while she goes through the glass door, down a passage hung with dresses, ducks under a cloud of smoke, and sees through streaming eyes the big workroom, screaming girls huddling behind Madame Soubrine, who is pointing a chemical extinguisher at charred piles of goods about a table. They are picking something moaning out of the charred goods. Out of the corner of her eye she sees an arm in shreds, a seared black red face, a horrible naked head.

"Oh Mrs. Herf, please tell them in front it's nothing, absolutely nothing. . . . I'll be there at once," Madame Soubrine shrieks breathlessly at her. Ellen runs with closed eyes through the smokefilled corridor into the clean air of the fitting room, then, when her eyes have stopped running, she goes through the curtains to the agitated women in the waiting room.

"Madame Soubrine asked me to tell everybody it was nothing, absolutely nothing. Just a little blaze in a pile of rubbish. . . . She put it out herself with an extinguisher."

"Nothing, absolutely nothing," the women say one to another settling back onto the Empress Josephine sofas.