A PIECE OF RED CALICO
BY FRANK R. STOCKTON
Before beginning the relation of the following
incidents, I wish to state that I am a young
married man, doing business in a large city,
in the suburbs of which I live.
I was going into town the other morning, when
my wife handed me a little piece of red calico,
and asked me if I would have time, during the
day, to buy her two yards and a half of calico
like it. I assured her that it would be no
trouble at all, and putting the piece of
calico in my pocket, I took the train for
At lunch-time I stopped in at a large dry-goods
store to attend to my wife's commission. I
saw a well-dressed man walking the floor
between the counters, where long lines of
girls were waiting on much longer lines of
customers, 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 lady, "show
this gentleman some red calico."
"What shade do you want?" asked Miss Stone.
I showed her the little piece of calico that
my wife had given me. She looked at it and
handed it back to me. Then she took down a
great roll of red calico and spread it out
on the counter.
"Why, that isn't the shade!" said I.
"No, not exactly," said she. "But it is
prettier than your sample."
"That may be," said I. "But, you see, I
want to match this piece. There is something
already in my house, made of this kind of
calico, which needs to be made larger, or
mended, or something. I want some calico
of the same shade."
The girl made no answer, but took down
"That's the shade," said she.
"Yes," I replied, "but it's striped."
"Stripes are more worn than anything else
in calicoes," said she.
"Yes. But this isn't to be worn. It's for
furniture, I think. At any rate, I want
perfectly plain stuff, to match something
already in use."
"Well, I don't think you can find it perfectly
plain, unless you get Turkey red."
"What is Turkey red?" I asked.
"Turkey red is perfectly plain in calicoes,"
"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 colors."
"I don't want any other color. I want stuff
to match this."
"It's hard to match cheap calico like that,"
she said, and so I left her.
I next went into a store a few doors farther
up Broadway. When I entered I approached the
"floorwalker," and handing him my sample,
"Have you any calico like this?"
"Yes, sir," said he. "Third counter to the
right." I went to the third counter to the
right, and showed my sample to the salesman
in attendance there. He looked at it on both
sides. Then he said:
"We haven't any of this."
"The floorwalker said you had," said I.
"We had it, but we're out of it now. You'll
get that goods at an upholsterers."
I went across the street to an upholsterer's.
"Have you any stuff like this?" I asked.
"No," said the salesman, "we haven't. Is it
"Yes," I replied.
"Then Turkey red is what you want."
"Is Turkey red just like this?" I asked.
"No," said he, "but it's much better."
"That makes no difference to me," I replied.
"I want something just like this."
"But they don't use that for furniture,"
"I should think people could use anything they
wanted for furniture," I remarked, somewhat
"They can, but they don't," he said quite
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 dry-goods store. Of
the first salesman I saw I inquired if they
kept red calico like my sample.
"You'll find that on the second story," said he.
I went up-stairs. There I asked a man:
"Where shall I find red calico?"
"In the far room to the left," and he pointed
to a distant corner.
I walked through the crowds of purchasers and
salespeople, around the counters and tables
filled with goods, to the far room to the left.
When I got there I asked for red calico.
"The second counter down this side," said the
man. I went there and produced my sample.
"Calicoes down-stairs," 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 down-stairs to the back of the store.
"Where can I find red calico like this?" I asked.
"Next counter but one," said the man addressed,
walking with me in the direction pointed out.
"Dunn, show red calicoes."
Mr. Dunn took my sample and looked at it. "We
haven't this shade in that quality of goods,"
"Well, have you it in any quality of goods?"
"Yes. We've got it finer." He took down a
piece of calico, and unrolled a yard or two
"That's not this shade," I said.
"No," said he. "The goods is finer and the
"I want it to match this," I said.
"I thought you weren't particular about the
match," said the salesman. "You said you
didn't care for the quality of the goods,
and you know you can't match goods without
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
remark, but said:
"Then you've got nothing to match this?"
"No, sir. But perhaps they may have it in
the upholstery department, in the sixth story."
I got into the elevator and went up to the
top of the house.
"Have you any red stuff like this?" I said
to a young man.
"Red stuff? 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 asked.
"Yes," said I.
"Fourth counter to the left."
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 turned on my heel, descended in the elevator,
and went out on Broadway. I was thoroughly
sick of red calico. But I determined to make
one more trial. My wife had bought her red
calico not long before, and there must be
some to be had somewhere. I ought to have
asked her where she bought it, but I thought
a simple little thing like that could be
I went into another large dry-goods store.
As I entered the door a sudden tremor seized
me. I could not bear to take out that piece
of red calico. If I had had any other kind
of a rag about me--a pen-wiper or anything
of the sort--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
of the lady behind the counter.
"No, sir," she said, "but we have it in Turkey red."
Turkey red again! I surrendered.
"All right," I said. "Give me Turkey red."
"How much, sir?" she asked.
"I don't know--say five yards."
The lady looked at me rather strangely, but
measured off five yards of Turkey red calico.
Then she rapped on the counter and called
out, "Cash!" A little girl, with yellow hair
in two long plaits, came slowly up. The lady
wrote the number of yards; the name of the
goods; her own number; the price; the amount
of the bank-note I handed her; and some other
matters--probably the color of my eyes and
the direction and velocity of the wind--on
a slip of paper. She then copied all this
in a little book which she kept by her. Then
she handed the slip of paper, the money, and
the Turkey red to the yellow-haired girl.
This young girl copied the slip in a little
book she carried, and then she went away with
the calico, the paper slip, and the money.
After a very long time--during which the little
girl probably took the goods, the money, and
the slip to some central desk, where the note
was received, its amount and number entered
in a book; change given to the girl; a copy
of the slip made and entered; girl's entry
examined and approved; goods wrapped up; girl
registered; plaits counted and entered on a
slip of paper and copied by the girl in her
book; girl taken to a hydrant and washed;
number of towel entered on a paper slip and
copied by the girl in her book; value of my
note and amount of change branded somewhere
on the child, and said process noted on a slip
of paper and copied in her book--the girl
came to me, bringing my change and the
package of Turkey red calico.
I had time for but very little work at the
office that afternoon, and when I reached
home I handed the package of calico to my
wife. She unrolled it and exclaimed:
"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 amazement, and
then I detailed to her my troubles.
"Well," said she, "this Turkey red is a
great deal prettier than what I had, and
you've bought so much of it that I needn't
use the other at all. I wish I had thought
of Turkey red before."
"I wish from my heart you had!" said I.
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~