Silk Scarves


The other day, at the junction of a narrow side street with a still narrower off-shoot, a man stood at the kerb, with an open suit case at his feet and an assortment of delicately shaded silk scarves across his arm. His patter was strictly limited to one phrase: "If you want them that is the price; if you don't want them, please pass along the street" - delivered in an accent that was fascinatingly foreign to the ears of the listeners. Pinned to his coat was a card bearing the legend, "One shilling for a scarf," and, as he repeated his phrase in unvarying tones, he pointed to this card. The crowd about him was composed of very poor people, but it was astonishing to see how those scarves disappeared. A woman bought a white one, and immediately she was surrounded by onlookers who wanted to see just what it was like. "You'd imagine there must be some catch in it," one of them said; but no catch could be found. A man bought a pale blue scarf and stuffed it into a pocket that was far from clean, to judge by the rest of the coat. There was no nonsense about tissue paper or anything like that. He just stuck the thing into a pocket and took it home. In an almost incredibly short time the suit case was empty, and the olive-skinned stranger went his way. He seemed to be giving extraordinary good value and to be selling a really popular article.

The Irish Times, December 19th, 1930