Band of Sisters
the back of the store. They stopped before a wall, and Maureen wondered if the woman had lost her senses, until the wall opened, revealing a tiny room with a man inside.
    “Fourth floor, Eddie.” The woman stepped inside the minuscule room, then said impatiently, “Are you coming?”
    “Yes, yes, of course.” Maureen stepped into the tiny room, feigning understanding.
    The young man swung a lever; a caged door closed. He pushed a button, and the wall slid shut before her. Maureen gasped as immediately the tiny room jolted and jerked. She felt as if the floor might be falling beneath her feet. She grasped the wall, feeling the blood drain from her head and her stomach plummet to her toes.
    The woman and the young man glanced her way, exchanged a quiet snicker between them, and turned their faces toward the gate. She saw the woman turn slightly, mouth “greenhorn” to the man called Eddie, and he grinned again.
    Maureen clenched her jaw.
    Suddenly the little room stopped, jerked, and jolted once more. Eddie pulled back the accordion gate, and the wall opened before them. “Fourth floor, ladies,” he announced.
    The clerk walked out, her head high. When Maureen felt certain the tiny room would no longer move, she followed, straightening her skirt. The young man winked appreciatively, and Maureen felt the heat rise in her face.
    “It’s an elevator, that’s all,” he whispered. “Nothing to worry.” And he winked a second time. Maureen fastened her eyes straight ahead and quickened her step.
    The hallway opened into a series of rooms. As they passed open doors, Maureen glimpsed men and women bent over long ledgers with pens in hand, and others hunched or sitting straight before a half-dozen metal machines that shouted clackety-clack as their operators punched raised buttons. Farther down the hallway they passed a room of tailors, straight pins between their lips and cloth measures round their necks. She heard a more familiar hum from somewhere beyond, and though she couldn’t see them, she envisioned treadle sewing machine operators—something modern but familiar from her days at Orthbridge Hall.
    At last they came to a closed door. The woman knocked and, not waiting for a reply, walked in, Maureen at her heels.
    A graying and middle-aged man with a loosened tie hanging over a paunch stomach sat behind a desk, banging away on one of the clackety-clack machines Maureen had seen through open doors.
    “Well?” He didn’t look up.
    “Excuse me, Mr. Kreegle; this girl says she’s come with references.” The woman spoke loud enough to be heard.
    The man barely glanced at Maureen, never breaking rhythm on the machine. “Send her to Bert.”
    “Not those references, Mr. Kreegle.” The woman fidgeted. “The Wakefields sent her—and some missionary society woman.”
    The clacking stopped. The man studied Maureen, his eyes lighting on her carpetbag.
    Maureen felt the warmth shoot up her neck but lifted her chin and set her bag squarely at her feet, as if it was perfectly proper to apply for a shopgirl position with all her worldly goods in tow.
    “You can go, Mrs. Gordon.” He leaned back in his chair as the door closed. “You say the Wakefields sent you?”
    “Yes, sir, for a sales position.”
    He looked doubtful.
    “The Wakefields of Morningside, sir.”
    “A bit out of their line, I’d imagine.” He frowned, looking her up and down but resting his eyes in places that flustered Maureen.
    “I’m a friend of the family,” she lied and felt the heat rise up her neck again. “Our fathers were friends.” That felt more natural.
    “I see.” But clearly he didn’t. Still, he pulled a printed form from his desk drawer. “Fill out this application and bring it back tomorrow.”
    “I could bring it back today,” Maureen offered quickly.
    “Eager little thing, aren’t you?” He grinned. Maureen hated his grin.
    “It’s just that I need to begin, sir, to establish my employment,” she

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