It was a day in March.
Never, never begin a story this way when you write one. No opening could possibly be worse. It is without imagination. It is flat and dry. But here it is allowable, because the following sentence is too extravagant to be thrown in the face of the reader without preparation.
Sarah was crying over the menu.
Think of a New York girl crying over a menu card!
To explain this you will probably guess that the lobsters were all out, or that she had ordered onions, or that she had just come from a cinema. But all your guesses are wrong.
Sarah was crying over the menu she was going to type. That was her work - typing. She was a typewriter and worked at home.
The greatest success of Sarah's battle with the world was the deal she made with Schulenberg's Home Restaurant. The restaurant was next door to the old building where she had a room. One evening, after dining at Schulenberg's Sarah took the menu away with her. It was written in almost unreadable handwriting, neither English nor German, and if you were not careful you began with the dessert and ended with the soup.
The next day Sarah showed Schulenberg a beautifully typewritten menu. Schulenberg was so pleased that he made an agreement with her. She would type menus for the twenty-one tables in the restaurant - a new menu for each day's breakfast, lunch and dinner - and in return for this Schulenberg would send three meals a day.
Both were satisfied with the agreement. Schulenberg's clients now knew what the food they ate was called. And Sarah had food during a cold, dull winter, which was the main thing for her.
Then the calendar lied, and said that spring had come. Spring comes when it comes. New York City was still in the power of winter with frozen snows of January still lying in the streets.
One afternoon Sarah was shivering in her bedroom. She had no work to do except Schulenberg's menu cards. Sarah sat in her rocking chair and looked out the window. The calendar on the wall kept crying to her: "Springtime is here, Sarah -springtime is here, I tell you. Look at me, Sarah, my figures show it. You've got a neat figure yourself, Sarah - a nice springtime figure - why do you look out the window so sadly?"
Sarah's room was at the back of the house. Looking out the window she could see the window-less brick wall of the box factory in the next street. But it seemed to her that she was looking at a grassy lane shaded with cherry trees, raspberry bushes and roses.
Last summer Sarah had gone into the country and fallen in love with a farmer.
(In writing your story never go backwards like this. It is bad art, and destroys interest.)
Sarah stayed two weeks at Sunnybrook Farm. There she learned to love old Farmer Franklin's son Walter. It was in this shaded lane that Walter told her about his love. And together they had sat and made a crown of dandelions for her hair. He had praised the effect of the yellow flowers against her brown hair; and she had left the dandelions there, and walked back to the house swinging her straw hat in her hands.
They were to marry in the spring - at the very first signs of spring, Walter said. And Sarah came back to the city to hit her typewriter.
A knock at the door drove away Sarah's dreams of that happy day. A waiter had brought the rough draft of the Home Restaurant's menu for the next day.
Sarah sat down to her typewriter. Today, there were more changes on the menu than usual and the spirit of spring filled the whole list. Sarah's fingers danced over the typewriter. Just above the desserts came the list of vegetables. Carrots and peas, asparagus on toast, tomatoes and corn, cabbage -and then -
Sarah was crying over the menu. Tears from the depths of despair rose in her heart and gathered to her eyes. Down went her head on the little typewriter; and the keyboard rattled a dry accompaniment to her sobs.
For she had received no letter from Walter in two weeks, and the next thing on the menu was dandelions - dandelions with some kind of egg - but the egg didn't matter! - dandelions, with whose golden flowers Walter had crowned her his queen of love and future bride - dandelions, the messengers of spring - reminder of her happiest days.
But what a witch is Spring! Into the great cold city of stone and iron a message had to be sent. There was none to bring it but the little messenger of the fields with his rough green coat, the dandelion.
By and by Sarah forced back her tears. The menu cards must be typed. But, still in a faint, golden light from her dandelion dream, she fingered the typewriter keys absently for a little while, her mind and heart in the meadow lane with her young farmer. But soon she came back to the stone lanes of Manhattan, and ,the typewriter began to rattle and jump like a motor car.
At six o'clock the waiter brought her dinner and carried away the typewritten menu. When Sarah ate, she put aside, with a sigh, the dish of dandelions. Love may, as Shakespeare said, feed on itself: but Sarah could not force herself to eat the dandelions that reminded her of the happiest days of her life.
At seven thirty the couple in the next room began to quarrel; the man in the room above looked for A on his flute; the gas light went a little lower; cats could be heard on the back fences. By these signs Sarah knew that it was time for her to read. She got out her book and started reading.
The front door bell rang. The landlady answered it. Sarah listened. Oh, yes; you would, just as she did!
And then a strong voice was heard in the hall below, and Sarah jumped for her door, leaving the book on the floor.
You have guessed it. She reached the top of the stairs just as her farmer came up, three steps at a jump, and hugged her tightly.
"Why haven't you written - oh, why?" cried Sarah.
"New York is a pretty large town", said Walter Franklin. "I came in a week ago to your old address. I found that you had gone away on a Thursday. The police and I have been hunting you ever since".
"But I've written to you!" cried Sarah.
"Never got it!"
"Then how did you find me?"
The young farmer smiled a springtime smile.
"I dropped into that Home Restaurant next door this evening", said he. "I don't care who knows it; I like a dish of some kind of greens at this time of the year. I ran my eye down that nice typewritten menu looking for something like that. When I got below cabbage I turned my chair over and shouted for the owner. He told me where you lived".
"I remember", sighed Sarah, happily. "That was dandelions below cabbage".
"I'd know the capital W above the line that your typewriter makes anywhere in the world", said Franklin.
"Why, there's no W in dandelions", said Sarah, in surprise.
The young man took the menu out of his pocket, and pointed to a line.
Sarah recognised the card she had typed that afternoon. There was still a mark in the upper right-hand corner where a tear had fallen. But over the spot where one should have read the name of the meadow plant, the memory of their golden flowers had allowed her fingers to strike strange keys.
Between the red cabbage and the stuffed green peppers was the following:
"DEAREST WALTER, WITH HARD-BOILED EGG".
Springtime on the menu
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