Click here to Download Bunner Sisters PDF Book by Edith Wharton Language English having PDF Size 1 MB and No of Pages 58.
In the days when New York’s traffic moved at the pace of the drooping horse-car, when society applauded Christine Nilsson at the Academy of Music and basked in the sunsets of the Hudson River School on the walls of the National Academy of Design, an inconspicuous shop with a single show-window was intimately and favourably known to the feminine population of the quarter bordering on Stuyvesant Square.
Bunner Sisters PDF Book by Edith Wharton
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It was a very small shop, in a shabby basement, in a side-street already doomed to decline; and from the miscellaneous display behind the window-pane, and the brevity of the sign surmounting it (merely “Bunner Sisters” in blotchy gold on a black ground) it would have been difficult for the uninitiated to guess the precise nature of the business carried on within.
But that was of little consequence, since its fame was so purely local that the customers on whom its existence depended were almost congenitally aware of the exact range of “goods” to be found at Bunner Sisters’. The house of which Bunner Sisters had annexed the basement was a private dwelling with a brick front, green shutters on weak hinges.
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And a dress-maker’s sign in the window above the shop. On each side of its modest three stories stood higher buildings, with fronts of brown stone, cracked and blistered, cast-iron balconies and cat-haunted grass-patches behind twisted railings. These houses too had once been private, but now a cheap lunchroom filled the basement of one, while the other announced itself.
Above the knotty wistaria that clasped its central balcony, as the Mendoza Family Hotel. It was obvious from the chronic cluster of refuse-barrels at its area-gate and the blurred surface of its curtainless windows, that the families frequenting the Mendoza Hotel were not exacting in their tastes.
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Though they doubtless indulged in as much fastidiousness as they could afford to pay for, and rather more than their landlord thought they had a right to express. These three houses fairly exemplified the general character of the street, which, as it stretched eastward, rapidly fell from shabbiness to squalor, with an increasing frequency of projecting sign-boards.
And of swinging doors that softly shut or opened at the touch of rednosed men and pale little girls with broken jugs. The middle of the street was full of irregular depressions, well adapted to retain the long swirls of dust and straw and twisted paper that the wind drove up and down its sad untended length.
And toward the end of the day, when traffic had been active, the fissured pavement formed a mosaic of coloured hand-bills, lids of tomato-cans, old shoes, cigar-stumps and banana skins, cemented together by a layer of mud, or veiled in a powdering of dust, as the state of the weather determined. Bunner Sisters PDF Book
The sole refuge offered from the contemplation of this depressing waste was the sight of the Bunner Sisters’ window. Its panes were always well-washed, and though their display of artificial flowers, bands of scalloped flannel, wire hat-frames, and jars of home-made preserves, had the undefinable greyish tinge of objects long preserved in the show-case of a museum.
The window revealed a background of orderly counters and white-washed walls in pleasant contrast to the adjoining dinginess. The Bunner sisters were proud of the neatness of their shop and content with its humble prosperity. It was not what they had once imagined it would be, but though it presented but a shrunken image of their earlier ambitions it enabled them to pay their rent and keep themselves alive.
And out of debt; and it was long since their hopes had soared higher. Now and then, however, among their greyer hours there came one not bright enough to be called sunny, but rather of the silvery twilight hue which sometimes ends a day of storm. It was such an hour that Ann Eliza, the elder of the firm, was soberly enjoying as she sat one January evening in the back room which served as bedroom. Bunner Sisters PDF Book
Kitchen and parlour to herself and her sister Evelina. In the shop the blinds had been drawn down, the counters cleared and the wares in the window lightly covered with an old sheet; but the shop-door remained unlocked till Evelina, who had taken a parcel to the dyer’s, should come back.
In the back room a kettle bubbled on the stove, and Ann Eliza had laid a cloth over one end of the centre table, and placed near the green-shaded sewing lamp two tea-cups, two plates, a sugar-bowl and a piece of pie. The rest of the room remained in a greenish shadow which discreetly veiled the outline of an old-fashioned mahogany bedstead surmounted by a chromo of a young lady.
In a night-gown who clung with eloquently-rolling eyes to a crag described in illuminated letters as the Rock of Ages; and against the unshaded windows two rocking-chairs and a sewing-machine were silhouetted on the dusk. “Thank you, ma’am,” he replied, and taking his thread-bare over-coat and shabby hat she laid them on a chair with the gesture. Bunner Sisters PDF Book
She imagined the lady with the puffed sleeves might make use of on similar occasions. Ann Eliza’s social sense was roused, and she felt that the next act of hospitality must be hers. “Won’t you suit yourself to a seat?” she suggested. “My sister will reach down the clock; but I’m sure she’s all right again.
She’s went beautiful ever since you fixed her.” “Dat’s good,” said Mr. Ramy. His lips parted in a smile which showed a row of yellowish teeth with one or two gaps in it; but in spite of this disclosure Ann Eliza thought his smile extremely pleasant: there was something wistful and conciliating in it which agreed with the pathos of his sunken cheeks and prominent eyes.
As he took the lamp, the light fell on his bulging forehead and wide skull thinly covered with grayish hair. His hands were pale and broad, with knotty joints and square finger-tips rimmed with grime; but his touch was as light as a woman’s. “Well, ladies, dat clock’s all right,” he pronounced. Bunner Sisters PDF Book
“I’m sure we’re very much obliged to you,” said Evelina, throwing a glance at her sister. “Oh,” Ann Eliza murmured, involuntarily answering the admonition. She selected a key from the bunch that hung at her waist with her cutting-out scissors, and fitting it into the lock of the cupboard, brought out the cherry brandy and three old-fashioned glasses engraved with vine-wreaths.
“It’s a very cold night,” she said, “and maybe you’d like a sip of this cordial. It was made a great while ago by our grandmother.” “It looks fine,” said Mr. Ramy bowing, and Ann Eliza filled the glasses. In her own and Evelina’s she poured only a few drops, but she filled their guest’s to the brim.
“My sister and I seldom take wine,” she explained. With another bow, which included both his hostesses, Mr. Ramy drank off the cherry brandy and pronounced it excellent. Evelina meanwhile, with an assumption of industry intended to put their guest at ease, had taken up her instruments and was twisting a rose-petal into shape. Bunner Sisters PDF Book Download
“You make artificial flowers, I see, ma’am,” said Mr. Ramy with interest. “It’s very pretty work. I had a lady-vriend in Shermany dat used to make flowers.” He put out a square fingertip to touch the petal. Evelina blushed a little. “You left Germany long ago, I suppose?” “Dear me yes, a goot while ago.
I was only ninedeen when I come to the States.” After this the conversation dragged on intermittently till Mr. Ramy, peering about the room with the short-sighted glance of his race, said with an air of interest: “You’re pleasantly fixed here; it looks real cosy.” The note of wistfulness in his voice was obscurely moving to Ann Eliza.
“Oh, we live very plainly,” said Evelina, with an affectation of grandeur deeply impressive to her sister. “We have very simple tastes.” “You look real comfortable, anyhow,” said Mr. Ramy. His bulging eyes seemed to muster the details of the scene with a gentle envy. “I wisht I had as good a store; but I guess no blace seems home-like when you’re always alone in it.” Bunner Sisters PDF Book Download
For some minutes longer the conversation moved on at this desultory pace, and then Mr. Ramy, who had been obviously nerving himself for the difficult act of departure, took his leave with an abruptness which would have startled anyone used to the subtler gradations of intercourse.
But to Ann Eliza and her sister there was nothing surprising in his abrupt retreat. The long-drawn agonies of preparing to leave, and the subsequent dumb plunge through the door, were so usual in their circle that they would have been as much embarrassed as Mr. Ramy if he had tried to put any fluency into his adieux.
After he had left both sisters remained silent for a while; then Evelina, laying aside her unfinished flower, said: “I’ll go and lock up.” For four days after their Sunday in the Park the Bunner sisters had no news of Mr. Ramy. At first neither one betrayed her disappointment and anxiety to the other; but on the fifth morning Evelina, always the first to yield to her feelings, said, as she turned from her untasted tea. Bunner Sisters PDF Book Download
“I thought you’d oughter take that money out by now, Ann Eliza.” Ann Eliza understood and reddened. The winter had been a fairly prosperous one for the sisters, and their slowly accumulated savings had now reached the handsome sum of two hundred dollars; but the satisfaction they might have felt in this unwonted opulence had been clouded by a suggestion of Miss Mellins’s.
That there were dark rumours concerning the savings bank in which their funds were deposited. They knew Miss Mellins was given to vain alarms; but her words, by the sheer force of repetition, had so shaken Ann Eliza’s peace that after long hours of midnight counsel the sisters had decided to advise with Mr. Ramy; and on Ann Eliza, as the head of the house, this duty had devolved.
Mr. Ramy, when consulted, had not only confirmed the dress-maker’s report, but had offered to find some safe investment which should give the sisters a higher rate of interest than the suspected savings bank; and Ann Eliza knew that Evelina alluded to the suggested transfer. “Why, yes, to be sure,” she agreed. Bunner Sisters PDF Book Free
“Mr. Ramy said if he was us he wouldn’t want to leave his money there any longer’n he could help.” “It was over a week ago he said it,” Evelina reminded her. “I know; but he told me to wait till he’d found out for sure about that other investment; and we ain’t seen him since then.” Ann Eliza’s words released their secret fear. “I wonder what’s happened to him,” Evelina said.
“You don’t suppose he could be sick?” “I was wondering too,” Ann Eliza rejoined; and the sisters looked down at their plates. “I should think you’d oughter do something about that money pretty soon,” Evelina began again. “Well, I know I’d oughter. What would you do if you was me?”
“If I was you,” said her sister, with perceptible emphasis and a rising blush, “I’d go right round and see if Mr. Ramy was sick. You could.” The words pierced Ann Eliza like a blade. “Yes, that’s so,” she said. “It would only seem friendly, if he really is sick. If I was you I’d go to-day,” Evelina continued; and after dinner Ann Eliza went. Bunner Sisters PDF Book Free
On the way she had to leave a parcel at the dyer’s, and having performed that errand she turned toward Mr. Ramy’s shop. Never before had she felt so old, so hopeless and humble. She knew she was bound on a love-errand of Evelina’s, and the knowledge seemed to dry the last drop of young blood in her veins.
It took from her, too, all her faded virginal shyness; and with a brisk composure she turned the handle of the clock-maker’s door. The Sunday was a very hot one, and once on the ferry-boat Ann Eliza revived at the touch of the salt breeze, and the spectacle of the crowded waters; but when they reached the other shore, and stepped out on the dirty wharf, she began to ache with anticipated weariness.
They got into a street-car, and were jolted from one mean street to another, till at length Mr. Ramy pulled the conductor’s sleeve and they got out again; then they stood in the blazing sun, near the door of a crowded beer-saloon, waiting for another car to come; and that carried them out to a thinly settled district, past vacant lots and narrow brick houses standing in unsupported solitude. Bunner Sisters PDF Book Free
Till they finally reached an almost rural region of scattered cottages and low wooden buildings that looked like village “stores.” Here the car finally stopped of its own accord, and they walked along a rutty road, past a stone-cutter’s yard with a high fence tapestried with theatrical advertisements, to a little red house with green blinds and a garden paling.
Really, Mr. Ramy had not deceived them. Clumps of dielytra and day-lilies bloomed behind the paling, and a crooked elm hung romantically over the gable of the house. At the gate Mrs. Hochmuller, a broad woman in brick-brown merino, met them with nods and smiles, while her daughter Linda, a flaxen-haired girl with mottled red cheeks and a sidelong stare, hovered inquisitively behind her.
Mrs. Hochmuller, leading the way into the house, conducted the Bunner sisters the way to her bedroom. Here they were invited to spread out on a mountainous white featherbed the cashmere mantles under which the solemnity of the occasion had compelled them to swelter, and when they had given their black silks the necessary twitch of readjustment. Bunner Sisters PDF Book Free
And Evelina had fluffed out her hair before a looking-glass framed in pink-shell work, their hostess led them to a stuffy parlour smelling of gingerbread. After another ceremonial pause, broken by polite enquiries and shy ejaculations, they were shown into the kitchen, where the table was already spread with strange-looking spice-cakes and stewed fruits.
And where they presently found themselves seated between Mrs. Hochmuller and Mr. Ramy, while the staring Linda bumped back and forth from the stove with steaming dishes.