I was going to town one
morning when my wife gave me a little piece of red calico cloth. She asked me
if I would have time, during the day, to buy her two and a half meters of calico
cloth like that. I told her that it would be no trouble at all. Putting the
piece of brightly colored cloth in my pocket, I took the train to the city.
During the day, I stopped
in at a large store. I saw a man walking the floor and asked him where I could
see some red calico.
"This way, sir." And he
led me up the store. "Miss Stone," said he to a young woman, "show this
gentleman some red calico."
"What kind of red do you
want?" asked Miss Stone.
I showed her the little
piece of calico cloth that my wife had given me. She looked at it and gave it
back to me. Then she took down a great roll of cloth and spread it out on the
"Why, that isn't the right
kind of red!" said I.
"No, not exactly," said
she; "but it looks nicer than your sample."
"That may be," said I,
"but, you see, I want it to look like this piece. There is something already
made of this kind of calico which needs to be enlarged or fixed or something. I
want some calico of the same shade."
The girl made no answer,
but took down another roll of cloth.
"That's the right color,"
"Yes," I answered, "but it
"Stripes are worn more
than anything else in calicoes," said she.
"Yes, but this isn't to be
worn,” I said. “It's for a piece of furniture, I think. At any rate, I want
perfectly plain material, to go with something already in use."
"Well, I don't think you
can find it perfectly plain unless you get Turkey red," she said.
"What is Turkey red?" I
"Turkey red is perfectly
plain in calicoes," she answered.
"Well, let me see some."
"We haven't any Turkey red
calico left," she said, "but we have some very nice plain calicoes in other
"I don't want any other
color. I want cloth to go with this."
"It's hard to find
low-cost calico like that," she said. And so I left her.
I next went into a store a
few doors up the street. I gave a salesman my sample, and asked:"Have you any
calico like this?"
"Yes, sir," said he.
"Third counter to the right."
I went to the third
counter to the right. A man there looked at my sample on both sides. Then he
said: "We haven't any of this."
"I was told you had," said
"We had it, but we're out
of it now. You'll get that from an upholsterer, someone who recovers
I went across the street
to the upholsterer's store.
"Have you anything like
this?" I asked.
"No," said the man, "we
haven't. Is it for furniture?"
"Yes," I answered.
"Then Turkey red is what
"Is Turkey red just like
this?" I asked.
"No," said he, "but it's
"That makes no difference
to me," I said. "I want something just like this."
"But they don't use that
for furniture," he said.
"I should think people
could use anything they wanted for furniture," I said, somewhat sharply.
"They can, but they
don't," he said, calmly. "They don't use red like that. They use Turkey red."
I said no more, but left.
The next place I visited was a very large store. Of the first salesman I saw, I
asked if they sold red calico like my sample.
"You'll find that on the
second floor," said he.
I went up the steps.
There I asked a man: "Where will I find red calico?"
"In the far room to the
left. Over there." And he pointed to a distant corner.
I walked through the
crowds of purchasers and salespeople, and around the counters and tables filled
with goods, to the far room to the left. When I got there I asked for red
"The second counter down
this side," said the man. I went there and produced my sample.
"Calicoes are downstairs,"
said the man.
"They told me they were up
here," I said.
"Not these plain goods.
You'll find them downstairs at the back of the store, over on that side."
I went downstairs to the
back of the store. "Where will I find red calico like this?" I asked.
"Next counter but one,"
said the man, walking with me in the direction he pointed out.
"Dunn, show this man red
calicoes." Mr. Dunn took my sample and looked at it.
"We haven't this shade in
that quality of goods," he said.
"Well, do you have it in
any quality of goods?" I asked.
"Yes; we've got it
finer." And he took down a piece of calico, and unrolled a meter or two of it
on the counter.
"That's not this shade," I
"No," said he. "It is
finer and the color is better."
"I want it to match this,"
"I thought you didn’t care
about the match," said the salesman. "You said you didn't care for the quality
of the goods. You know you can't match goods unless you take into consideration
quality and color both. If you want that quality of goods in red, you ought to
get Turkey red."
I did not think it
necessary to answer this comment, but said: "Then you've got nothing like this?"
"No, sir. But perhaps
they may have it in the upholstery department on the sixth floor." So I got in
the elevator and went to the sixth floor.
"Have you any red material
like this?" I said to a young man.
"Red material? Upholstery
department -- other end of this floor."
I went to the other end of
the floor. "I want some red calico," I said to a man.
"Furniture goods?" he
"Yes," said I.
"Fourth counter to the
I went to the fourth
counter to the left, and showed my sample to a salesman. He looked at it, and
said, "You'll get this down on the first floor -- calico department."
I went down in the
elevator, and out on the street. I was completely sick of red calico.
But I decided to make one
My wife had bought her red
calico not long before, and there must be some to be had somewhere. I should
have asked her where she got it. But I thought a simple little thing like that
could be bought anywhere.
I went into another large
store. As I entered the door, a sudden nervousness took hold of me. I just
could not take out that piece of red calico again. If I had had any other kind
of a cloth, I think I would have asked them if they could match that.
But I stepped up to a
young woman and presented my sample, with the usual question.
"Back room, counter on the
left," she said. I went there.
"Have you any red calico
like this?" I asked the saleswoman.
"No, sir," she said, "but
we have it in Turkey red."
Turkey red again! I
"All right," I said, "give
me Turkey red."
"How much, sir?" she
"I don't know -- say
She looked at me
strangely, but measured off fifteen meters of Turkey red calico. Then she
touched the counter and called out, "Cash!"
A young girl with yellow
hair appeared. The woman wrote the number of meters, the name of the goods, her
own number, the price, and the amount of money I gave her, on a piece of paper.
She probably wrote some other things, like the color of my eyes and the
direction and speed of the wind.
She then copied all this
into a little book. Then she gave the piece of paper, the money, and the Turkey
red cloth to the yellow-haired girl. This girl copied the information into a
little book she carried. Then she went away with the calico, the paper and the
After a very long time,
the girl came back, bringing the money I was owed and the package of Turkey red
calico. I returned to my office, but had time for very little work the rest of
the day. When I reached home I gave the package of calico to my wife. She
opened it and declared, "Why, this doesn’t match the piece I gave you!"
"Match it!" I cried. "Oh,
no! It doesn’t match it. You didn't want that matched. You were mistaken.
What you wanted was Turkey red — third counter to the left. I mean, Turkey red
is what they use."
My wife looked at me in
surprise, and then I told her my troubles.
"Well," said she, "this
Turkey red is much nicer looking than what I had. You've got so much of it that
I don’t have to use the other at all. I wish I had thought of Turkey red before."
"I wish from the bottom of
my heart you had," said I.