原文 ：Christopher Morley
There was some dramaticnervein Gissing’s nature thatresponded eloquentlyto the floorwalking job. Never, in the history of Beagle and Company, had there been a floorwalker who threw so much passion and zeal into his task. The very hang of his coattails, even the erect carriage of his back, the rubbery way in which his feet trod the aisles, showed his sense ofdignityand glamour. There seemed to be a great tradition which enriched and upheld him. Mr. Beagle senior used to stand on the little balcony at the rear of the main floor, transfixed with the pleasure of seeing Gissing move among the crowded passages. Alert, watchful,urbane, with just the ideal blend of courtesyand condescension, he raised floorwalking to asocial art. Female customers asked him the way to departments they knew perfectly well, for the pleasure of hearing him direct them. Business began to improve before he had been there a week.
And how he enjoyed himself! The perfection of his bearing on the floor was no careful pose: it was due to the brimming overplus of his happiness. Happiness is surely the best teacher of good manners: only the unhappy are churlish in deportment. He was young, remember; and this was his first job. His precocious experience as a paterfamiliashad added to his mienjust that suggestion of unconsciousgravitywhich is so appealing to ladies. He looked (they thought) as though he had been touched--but Oh so lightly!--by poetic sorrowor strangeexperience: to ask him the way tothe notion counterwas as much of an adventure as to meet a reigningactor at a tea. The faint cloud of melancholy that shadowed his brow may have been only due to the fact that his new boots were pinching painfully; but they did not know that.
So, quite unconsciously, he began to “establish” himself in his role, just as an actor does. At first he felt his way tentatively and with tact. Every store has its own tone and atmosphere: in a day or so he divinedthe characteristic cachet of the Beagle establishment. He saw what kind of customers were typical, and what sort of conduct they expected. And the secret of conquest being always to give people a little more than they expect, hepursued that course. Since they expected in a floorwalker the mechanical and servile gentility of a hired puppet, he exhibited the easy, offhand simplicity of a fellow club-member.With perfect naturalness he went out of his way toassist in their shopping concerns: gave advice in the selection of dress materials, acted as arbiter in the matching offrocksand stockings. His taste being faultless, it often happened that the things he recommended were not the most expensive: this again endeared him to customers. When sales slipswere brought to him by ladies who wished to make an exchange, he affixed his O. K. with a magnificent flourish, and with such evident pleasure, that patrons felt genuine elation, and plunged into the tumult with new enthusiasm.It was not long before there were always people waiting for his counsel; and husbands would appear at the store to convey (a little irritably) some such message as: “Mrs. Sealyhamsays, please choose her a scarf that will go nicely with that brown moire dressof hers. She says you will remember the dress.”--This popularitybecame even a bit perplexing, as for instance when old Mrs.Dachshund, the store’s biggest Charge Account, insisted on his leaving his beat at a very busy time, to go up to the tenth floor to tell her which piano he thought had the richer tone.
Of course all this was very entertaining, and an admirable opportunity for studying his fellow-creatures; but it did not go very deep into his mind. He livedfor some timein a confused glamour andglitter; surrounded by the fascinating specious life of the store, but drifting merely superficially upon it. The great place, with its columns of artificial marbleand white censers of upward-shiningelectricity, glimmered like a birch forest by moonlight.Silver and jewels and silks and slippers flashed all abouthim. It was a marvellouseducation, for he soon learned to estimate these things at their proper value; which is low, for they have little to do with life itself. His work wastiring in the extreme--merely having to remain upright on his hind legs for such long hours WAS an ordeal--but it did not penetrate tothe secret observantself of which he was always aware. This was advantageous. If you have no intellect, or only just enough to get along with, it does not much matter what you do. But if you really have a mind--by which is meant that rare andcuriouspower of reason, of imagination, and of emotion; very different from a mere fertilityof conversation and intelligent curiosity--it is better not to weary and wear it out over trifles.
So, when he left the store in the evening, no matter how his legs ached, his head was clear and untarnished. He did not hurry away at closing time. Places where people work are particularly fascinating after the bustle is over. He loved to linger in the long aisles, to see the tumbled counters being swiftly brought to order, to hear the pungent cynicisms of the weary shopgirls. To these, by the way, he was a bit of a mystery. The punctilioof his manner, the extreme courtliness of his remarks, embarrassed them a little. Behind his back they spoke of him as“The Duke” and admired him hugely; little MissWhippet, at the stocking counter, said that he was an English noble of long pedigree, who had been unjustly deprived of his estates.
Down in the basement of this palatial store was a little dressing room and lavatory for the floorwalkers, where they doffed their formal raiment and resumed street attire. His colleagues grumbled and hastened to depart, but Gissingmade himself entirely comfortable.In his locker he kept a baby’s bathtub, which he leisurely filled with hot water at one of the basins. Then he sat serenely and bathed his feet; although it was against the rules he often managed to smoke a pipe while doing so. Then he hung up his store clothes neatly, and went off refreshed into the summer evening.
A warm rosy light floods the city at that hour. At the foot of every crosstown street is a bonfire of sunset. What a mood ofsecret smiling beset him as he viewed the great territory of his enjoyment. “The freedom of the city”--a phrase he had somewhere heard--echoed in his mind. The freedom of the city! A magnificent saying, Electric signs, first burning wanly in the pink air, then brightened and grew strong. “Not light, but rather darkness visible,” in that magic hour that just holds the balance between paling day and the spendthrift jewellery of evening. Or, if it rained, to sit blithely on the roof of a bus, revelling inthe gust and whipping of the shower. Why had no one told him of the glory of the city? She was pride, she was exultation, she was madness. She was what he had obscurely craved. In every line of her gallant profile he saw conquest, triumph, victory! Empty conquest, futile triumph, doomedvictory--but that wasthe essence ofthedrama. Inthunderclaps of dumb ecstasy he saw her whole gigantic fabric, leaning and clamouring upwardwith terrible yearning. Burnt with pitiless sunlight,drenched withpurple explosions of summer storm, he saw her cleansed and pure. Where were her recreant poets that they had never made these things plain?