Part 1 out of 11
by Theodore Dreiser
THE MAGNET ATTRACTING--A WAIF AMID FORCES
When Caroline Meeber boarded the afternoon train for Chicago, her
total outfit consisted of a small trunk, a cheap imitation
alligator-skin satchel, a small lunch in a paper box, and a
yellow leather snap purse, containing her ticket, a scrap of
paper with her sister's address in Van Buren Street, and four
dollars in money. It was in August, 1889. She was eighteen
years of age, bright, timid, and full of the illusions of
ignorance and youth. Whatever touch of regret at parting
characterised her thoughts, it was certainly not for advantages
now being given up. A gush of tears at her mother's farewell
kiss, a touch in her throat when the cars clacked by the flour
mill where her father worked by the day, a pathetic sigh as the
familiar green environs of the village passed in review, and the
threads which bound her so lightly to girlhood and home were
To be sure there was always the next station, where one might
descend and return. There was the great city, bound more closely
by these very trains which came up daily. Columbia City was not
so very far away, even once she was in Chicago. What, pray, is a
few hours--a few hundred miles? She looked at the little slip
bearing her sister's address and wondered. She gazed at the
green landscape, now passing in swift review, until her swifter
thoughts replaced its impression with vague conjectures of what
Chicago might be.
When a girl leaves her home at eighteen, she does one of two
things. Either she falls into saving hands and becomes better,
or she rapidly assumes the cosmopolitan standard of virtue and
becomes worse. Of an intermediate balance, under the
circumstances, there is no possibility. The city has its cunning
wiles, no less than the infinitely smaller and more human
tempter. There are large forces which allure with all the
soulfulness of expression possible in the most cultured human.
The gleam of a thousand lights is often as effective as the
persuasive light in a wooing and fascinating eye. Half the
undoing of the unsophisticated and natural mind is accomplished
by forces wholly superhuman. A blare of sound, a roar of life, a
vast array of human hives, appeal to the astonished senses in
equivocal terms. Without a counsellor at hand to whisper
cautious interpretations, what falsehoods may not these things
breathe into the unguarded ear! Unrecognised for what they are,
their beauty, like music, too often relaxes, then weakens, then
perverts the simpler human perceptions.
Caroline, or Sister Carrie, as she had been half affectionately
termed by the family, was possessed of a mind rudimentary in its
power of observation and analysis. Self-interest with her was
high, but not strong. It was, nevertheless, her guiding
characteristic. Warm with the fancies of youth, pretty with the
insipid prettiness of the formative period, possessed of a figure
promising eventual shapeliness and an eye alight with certain
native intelligence, she was a fair example of the middle
American class--two generations removed from the emigrant. Books
were beyond her interest--knowledge a sealed book. In the
intuitive graces she was still crude. She could scarcely toss
her head gracefully. Her hands were almost ineffectual. The
feet, though small, were set flatly. And yet she was interested
in her charms, quick to understand the keener pleasures of life,
ambitious to gain in material things. A half-equipped little
knight she was, venturing to reconnoitre the mysterious city and
dreaming wild dreams of some vague, far-off supremacy, which
should make it prey and subject--the proper penitent, grovelling
at a woman's slipper.
"That," said a voice in her ear, "is one of the prettiest little
resorts in Wisconsin."
"Is it?" she answered nervously.
The train was just pulling out of Waukesha. For some time she
had been conscious of a man behind. She felt him observing her
mass of hair. He had been fidgetting, and with natural intuition
she felt a certain interest growing in that quarter. Her
maidenly reserve, and a certain sense of what was conventional
under the circumstances, called her to forestall and deny this
familiarity, but the daring and magnetism of the individual, born
of past experiences and triumphs, prevailed. She answered.
He leaned forward to put his elbows upon the back of her seat and
proceeded to make himself volubly agreeable.
"Yes, that is a great resort for Chicago people. The hotels are
swell. You are not familiar with this part of the country, are
"Oh, yes, I am," answered Carrie. "That is, I live at Columbia
City. I have never been through here, though."
"And so this is your first visit to Chicago," he observed.
All the time she was conscious of certain features out of the
side of her eye. Flush, colourful cheeks, a light moustache, a
grey fedora hat. She now turned and looked upon him in full, the
instincts of self-protection and coquetry mingling confusedly in
"I didn't say that," she said.
"Oh," he answered, in a very pleasing way and with an assumed air
of mistake, "I thought you did."
Here was a type of the travelling canvasser for a manufacturing
house--a class which at that time was first being dubbed by the
slang of the day "drummers." He came within the meaning of a
still newer term, which had sprung into general use among
Americans in 1880, and which concisely expressed the thought of
one whose dress or manners are calculated to elicit the
admiration of susceptible young women--a "masher." His suit was
of a striped and crossed pattern of brown wool, new at that time,
but since become familiar as a business suit. The low crotch of
the vest revealed a stiff shirt bosom of white and pink stripes.
From his coat sleeves protruded a pair of linen cuffs of the same
pattern, fastened with large, gold plate buttons, set with the
common yellow agates known as "cat's-eyes." His fingers bore
several rings--one, the ever-enduring heavy seal--and from his
vest dangled a neat gold watch chain, from which was suspended
the secret insignia of the Order of Elks. The whole suit was
rather tight-fitting, and was finished off with heavy-soled tan
shoes, highly polished, and the grey fedora hat. He was, for the
order of intellect represented, attractive, and whatever he had
to recommend him, you may be sure was not lost upon Carrie, in
this, her first glance.
Lest this order of individual should permanently pass, let me put
down some of the most striking characteristics of his most
successful manner and method. Good clothes, of course, were the
first essential, the things without which he was nothing. A
strong physical nature, actuated by a keen desire for the
feminine, was the next. A mind free of any consideration of the
problems or forces of the world and actuated not by greed, but an
insatiable love of variable pleasure. His method was always
simple. Its principal element was daring, backed, of course, by
an intense desire and admiration for the sex. Let him meet with
a young woman once and he would approach her with an air of
kindly familiarity, not unmixed with pleading, which would result
in most cases in a tolerant acceptance. If she showed any
tendency to coquetry he would be apt to straighten her tie, or if
she "took up" with him at all, to call her by her first name. If
he visited a department store it was to lounge familiarly over
the counter and ask some leading questions. In more exclusive
circles, on the train or in waiting stations, he went slower. If
some seemingly vulnerable object appeared he was all attention--
to pass the compliments of the day, to lead the way to the parlor
car, carrying her grip, or, failing that, to take a seat next her
with the hope of being able to court her to her destination.
Pillows, books, a footstool, the shade lowered; all these figured
in the things which he could do. If, when she reached her
destination he did not alight and attend her baggage for her, it
was because, in his own estimation, he had signally failed.
A woman should some day write the complete philosophy of clothes.
No matter how young, it is one of the things she wholly
comprehends. There is an indescribably faint line in the matter
of man's apparel which somehow divides for her those who are
worth glancing at and those who are not. Once an individual has
passed this faint line on the way downward he will get no glance
from her. There is another line at which the dress of a man will
cause her to study her own. This line the individual at her elbow
now marked for Carrie. She became conscious of an inequality.
Her own plain blue dress, with its black cotton tape trimmings,
now seemed to her shabby. She felt the worn state of her shoes.
"Let's see," he went on, "I know quite a number of people in your
town. Morgenroth the clothier and Gibson the dry goods man."
"Oh, do you?" she interrupted, aroused by memories of longings
their show windows had cost her.
At last he had a clew to her interest, and followed it deftly.
In a few minutes he had come about into her seat. He talked of
sales of clothing, his travels, Chicago, and the amusements of
"If you are going there, you will enjoy it immensely. Have you
"I am going to visit my sister," she explained.
"You want to see Lincoln Park," he said, "and Michigan Boulevard.
They are putting up great buildings there. It's a second New
York--great. So much to see--theatres, crowds, fine houses--oh,
you'll like that."
There was a little ache in her fancy of all he described. Her
insignificance in the presence of so much magnificence faintly
affected her. She realised that hers was not to be a round of
pleasure, and yet there was something promising in all the
material prospect he set forth. There was something satisfactory
in the attention of this individual with his good clothes. She
could not help smiling as he told her of some popular actress of
whom she reminded him. She was not silly, and yet attention of
this sort had its weight.
"You will be in Chicago some little time, won't you?" he observed
at one turn of the now easy conversation.
"I don't know," said Carrie vaguely--a flash vision of the
possibility of her not securing employment rising in her mind.
"Several weeks, anyhow," he said, looking steadily into her eyes.
There was much more passing now than the mere words indicated.
He recognised the indescribable thing that made up for
fascination and beauty in her. She realised that she was of
interest to him from the one standpoint which a woman both
delights in and fears. Her manner was simple, though for the very
reason that she had not yet learned the many little affectations
with which women conceal their true feelings. Some things she
did appeared bold. A clever companion--had she ever had one--
would have warned her never to look a man in the eyes so
"Why do you ask?" she said.
"Well, I'm going to be there several weeks. I'm going to study
stock at our place and get new samples. I might show you
"I don't know whether you can or not. I mean I don't know
whether I can. I shall be living with my sister, and----"
"Well, if she minds, we'll fix that." He took out his pencil and
a little pocket note-book as if it were all settled. "What is
your address there?"
She fumbled her purse which contained the address slip.
He reached down in his hip pocket and took out a fat purse. It
was filled with slips of paper, some mileage books, a roll of
greenbacks. It impressed her deeply. Such a purse had never been
carried by any one attentive to her. Indeed, an experienced
traveller, a brisk man of the world, had never come within such
close range before. The purse, the shiny tan shoes, the smart
new suit, and the air with which he did things, built up for her
a dim world of fortune, of which he was the centre. It disposed
her pleasantly toward all he might do.
He took out a neat business card, on which was engraved Bartlett,
Caryoe & Company, and down in the left-hand corner, Chas. H.
"That's me," he said, putting the card in her hand and touching
his name. "It's pronounced Drew-eh. Our family was French, on
my father's side."
She looked at it while he put up his purse. Then he got out a
letter from a bunch in his coat pocket. "This is the house I
travel for," he went on, pointing to a picture on it, "corner of
State and Lake." There was pride in his voice. He felt that it
was something to be connected with such a place, and he made her
feel that way.
"What is your address?" he began again, fixing his pencil to
She looked at his hand.
"Carrie Meeber," she said slowly. "Three hundred and fifty-four
West Van Buren Street, care S. C. Hanson."
He wrote it carefully down and got out the purse again. "You'll
be at home if I come around Monday night?" he said.
"I think so," she answered.
How true it is that words are but the vague shadows of the
volumes we mean. Little audible links, they are, chaining
together great inaudible feelings and purposes. Here were these
two, bandying little phrases, drawing purses, looking at cards,
and both unconscious of how inarticulate all their real feelings
were. Neither was wise enough to be sure of the working of the
mind of the other. He could not tell how his luring succeeded.
She could not realise that she was drifting, until he secured her
address. Now she felt that she had yielded something--he, that
he had gained a victory. Already they felt that they were
somehow associated. Already he took control in directing the
conversation. His words were easy. Her manner was relaxed.
They were nearing Chicago. Signs were everywhere numerous.
Trains flashed by them. Across wide stretches of flat, open
prairie they could see lines of telegraph poles stalking across
the fields toward the great city. Far away were indications of
suburban towns, some big smokestacks towering high in the air.
Frequently there were two-story frame houses standing out in the
open fields, without fence or trees, lone outposts of the
approaching army of homes.
To the child, the genius with imagination, or the wholly
untravelled, the approach to a great city for the first time is a
wonderful thing. Particularly if it be evening--that mystic
period between the glare and gloom of the world when life is
changing from one sphere or condition to another. Ah, the
promise of the night. What does it not hold for the weary! What
old illusion of hope is not here forever repeated! Says the soul
of the toiler to itself, "I shall soon be free. I shall be in
the ways and the hosts of the merry. The streets, the lamps, the
lighted chamber set for dining, are for me. The theatre, the
halls, the parties, the ways of rest and the paths of song--these
are mine in the night." Though all humanity be still enclosed in
the shops, the thrill runs abroad. It is in the air. The
dullest feel something which they may not always express or
describe. It is the lifting of the burden of toil.
Sister Carrie gazed out of the window. Her companion, affected
by her wonder, so contagious are all things, felt anew some
interest in the city and pointed out its marvels.
"This is Northwest Chicago," said Drouet. "This is the Chicago
River," and he pointed to a little muddy creek, crowded with the
huge masted wanderers from far-off waters nosing the black-posted
banks. With a puff, a clang, and a clatter of rails it was gone.
"Chicago is getting to be a great town," he went on. "It's a
wonder. You'll find lots to see here."
She did not hear this very well. Her heart was troubled by a
kind of terror. The fact that she was alone, away from home,
rushing into a great sea of life and endeavour, began to tell.
She could not help but feel a little choked for breath--a little
sick as her heart beat so fast. She half closed her eyes and
tried to think it was nothing, that Columbia City was only a
little way off.
"Chicago! Chicago!" called the brakeman, slamming open the door.
They were rushing into a more crowded yard, alive with the
clatter and clang of life. She began to gather up her poor
little grip and closed her hand firmly upon her purse. Drouet
arose, kicked his legs to straighten his trousers, and seized his
clean yellow grip.
"I suppose your people will be here to meet you?" he said. "Let
me carry your grip."
"Oh, no," she said. "I'd rather you wouldn't. I'd rather you
wouldn't be with me when I meet my sister."
"All right," he said in all kindness. "I'll be near, though, in
case she isn't here, and take you out there safely."
"You're so kind," said Carrie, feeling the goodness of such
attention in her strange situation.
"Chicago!" called the brakeman, drawing the word out long. They
were under a great shadowy train shed, where the lamps were
already beginning to shine out, with passenger cars all about and
the train moving at a snail's pace. The people in the car were
all up and crowding about the door.
"Well, here we are," said Drouet, leading the way to the door.
"Good-bye, till I see you Monday."
"Good-bye," she answered, taking his proffered hand.
"Remember, I'll be looking till you find your sister."
She smiled into his eyes.
They filed out, and he affected to take no notice of her. A
lean-faced, rather commonplace woman recognised Carrie on the
platform and hurried forward.
"Why, Sister Carrie!" she began, and there was embrace of
Carrie realised the change of affectional atmosphere at once.
Amid all the maze, uproar, and novelty she felt cold reality
taking her by the hand. No world of light and merriment. No
round of amusement. Her sister carried with her most of the
grimness of shift and toil.
"Why, how are all the folks at home?" she began; "how is father,
Carrie answered, but was looking away. Down the aisle, toward
the gate leading into the waiting-room and the street, stood
Drouet. He was looking back. When he saw that she saw him and
was safe with her sister he turned to go, sending back the shadow
of a smile. Only Carrie saw it. She felt something lost to her
when he moved away. When he disappeared she felt his absence
thoroughly. With her sister she was much alone, a lone figure in
a tossing, thoughtless sea.
WHAT POVERTY THREATENED--OF GRANITE AND BRASS
Minnie's flat, as the one-floor resident apartments were then
being called, was in a part of West Van Buren Street inhabited by
families of labourers and clerks, men who had come, and were
still coming, with the rush of population pouring in at the rate
of 50,000 a year. It was on the third floor, the front windows
looking down into the street, where, at night, the lights of
grocery stores were shining and children were playing. To Carrie,
the sound of the little bells upon the horse-cars, as they
tinkled in and out of hearing, was as pleasing as it was novel.
She gazed into the lighted street when Minnie brought her into
the front room, and wondered at the sounds, the movement, the
murmur of the vast city which stretched for miles and miles in
Mrs. Hanson, after the first greetings were over, gave Carrie the
baby and proceeded to get supper. Her husband asked a few
questions and sat down to read the evening paper. He was a
silent man, American born, of a Swede father, and now employed as
a cleaner of refrigerator cars at the stock-yards. To him the
presence or absence of his wife's sister was a matter of
indifference. Her personal appearance did not affect him one way
or the other. His one observation to the point was concerning
the chances of work in Chicago.
"It's a big place," he said. "You can get in somewhere in a few
days. Everybody does."
It had been tacitly understood beforehand that she was to get
work and pay her board. He was of a clean, saving disposition,
and had already paid a number of monthly instalments on two lots
far out on the West Side. His ambition was some day to build a
house on them.
In the interval which marked the preparation of the meal Carrie
found time to study the flat. She had some slight gift of
observation and that sense, so rich in every woman--intuition.
She felt the drag of a lean and narrow life. The walls of the
rooms were discordantly papered. The floors were covered with
matting and the hall laid with a thin rag carpet. One could see
that the furniture was of that poor, hurriedly patched together
quality sold by the instalment houses.
She sat with Minnie, in the kitchen, holding the baby until it
began to cry. Then she walked and sang to it, until Hanson,
disturbed in his reading, came and took it. A pleasant side to
his nature came out here. He was patient. One could see that he
was very much wrapped up in his offspring.
"Now, now," he said, walking. "There, there," and there was a
certain Swedish accent noticeable in his voice.
"You'll want to see the city first, won't you?" said Minnie, when
they were eating. "Well, we'll go out Sunday and see Lincoln
Carrie noticed that Hanson had said nothing to this. He seemed to
be thinking of something else.
"Well," she said, "I think I'll look around tomorrow. I've got
Friday and Saturday, and it won't be any trouble. Which way is
the business part?"
Minnie began to explain, but her husband took this part of the
conversation to himself.
"It's that way," he said, pointing east. "That's east." Then he
went off into the longest speech he had yet indulged in,
concerning the lay of Chicago. "You'd better look in those big
manufacturing houses along Franklin Street and just the other
side of the river," he concluded. "Lots of girls work there.
You could get home easy, too. It isn't very far."
Carrie nodded and asked her sister about the neighbourhood. The
latter talked in a subdued tone, telling the little she knew
about it, while Hanson concerned himself with the baby. Finally
he jumped up and handed the child to his wife.
"I've got to get up early in the morning, so I'll go to bed," and
off he went, disappearing into the dark little bedroom off the
hall, for the night.
"He works way down at the stock-yards," explained Minnie, "so
he's got to get up at half-past five."
"What time do you get up to get breakfast?" asked Carrie.
"At about twenty minutes of five."
Together they finished the labour of the day, Carrie washing the
dishes while Minnie undressed the baby and put it to bed.
Minnie's manner was one of trained industry, and Carrie could see
that it was a steady round of toil with her.
She began to see that her relations with Drouet would have to be
abandoned. He could not come here. She read from the manner of
Hanson, in the subdued air of Minnie, and, indeed, the whole
atmosphere of the flat, a settled opposition to anything save a
conservative round of toil. If Hanson sat every evening in the
front room and read his paper, if he went to bed at nine, and
Minnie a little later, what would they expect of her? She saw
that she would first need to get work and establish herself on a
paying basis before she could think of having company of any
sort. Her little flirtation with Drouet seemed now an
"No," she said to herself, "he can't come here."
She asked Minnie for ink and paper, which were upon the mantel in
the dining-room, and when the latter had gone to bed at ten, got
out Drouet's card and wrote him.
"I cannot have you call on me here. You will have to wait until
you hear from me again. My sister's place is so small."
She troubled herself over what else to put in the letter. She
wanted to make some reference to their relations upon the train,
but was too timid. She concluded by thanking him for his
kindness in a crude way, then puzzled over the formality of
signing her name, and finally decided upon the severe, winding up
with a "Very truly," which she subsequently changed to
"Sincerely." She scaled and addressed the letter, and going in
the front room, the alcove of which contained her bed, drew the
one small rocking-chair up to the open window, and sat looking
out upon the night and streets in silent wonder. Finally,
wearied by her own reflections, she began to grow dull in her
chair, and feeling the need of sleep, arranged her clothing for
the night and went to bed.
When she awoke at eight the next morning, Hanson had gone. Her
sister was busy in the dining-room, which was also the sitting-
room, sewing. She worked, after dressing, to arrange a little
breakfast for herself, and then advised with Minnie as to which
way to look. The latter had changed considerably since Carrie had
seen her. She was now a thin, though rugged, woman of twenty-
seven, with ideas of life coloured by her husband's, and fast
hardening into narrower conceptions of pleasure and duty than had
ever been hers in a thoroughly circumscribed youth. She had
invited Carrie, not because she longed for her presence, but
because the latter was dissatisfied at home, and could probably
get work and pay her board here. She was pleased to see her in a
way but reflected her husband's point of view in the matter of
work. Anything was good enough so long as it paid--say, five
dollars a week to begin with. A shop girl was the destiny
prefigured for the newcomer. She would get in one of the great
shops and do well enough until--well, until something happened.
Neither of them knew exactly what. They did not figure on
promotion. They did not exactly count on marriage. Things would
go on, though, in a dim kind of way until the better thing would
eventuate, and Carrie would be rewarded for coming and toiling in
the city. It was under such auspicious circumstances that she
started out this morning to look for work.
Before following her in her round of seeking, let us look at the
sphere in which her future was to lie. In 1889 Chicago had the
peculiar qualifications of growth which made such adventuresome
pilgrimages even on the part of young girls plausible. Its many
and growing commercial opportunities gave it widespread fame,
which made of it a giant magnet, drawing to itself, from all
quarters, the hopeful and the hopeless--those who had their
fortune yet to make and those whose fortunes and affairs had
reached a disastrous climax elsewhere. It was a city of over
500,000, with the ambition, the daring, the activity of a
metropolis of a million. Its streets and houses were already
scattered over an area of seventy-five square miles. Its
population was not so much thriving upon established commerce as
upon the industries which prepared for the arrival of others. The
sound of the hammer engaged upon the erection of new structures
was everywhere heard. Great industries were moving in. The huge
railroad corporations which had long before recognised the
prospects of the place had seized upon vast tracts of land for
transfer and shipping purposes. Street-car lines had been
extended far out into the open country in anticipation of rapid
growth. The city had laid miles and miles of streets and sewers
through regions where, perhaps, one solitary house stood out
alone--a pioneer of the populous ways to be. There were regions
open to the sweeping winds and rain, which were yet lighted
throughout the night with long, blinking lines of gas-lamps,
fluttering in the wind. Narrow board walks extended out, passing
here a house, and there a store, at far intervals, eventually
ending on the open prairie.
In the central portion was the vast wholesale and shopping
district, to which the uninformed seeker for work usually
drifted. It was a characteristic of Chicago then, and one not
generally shared by other cities, that individual firms of any
pretension occupied individual buildings. The presence of ample
ground made this possible. It gave an imposing appearance to
most of the wholesale houses, whose offices were upon the ground
floor and in plain view of the street. The large plates of
window glass, now so common, were then rapidly coming into use,
and gave to the ground floor offices a distinguished and
prosperous look. The casual wanderer could see as he passed a
polished array of office fixtures, much frosted glass, clerks
hard at work, and genteel businessmen in "nobby" suits and clean
linen lounging about or sitting in groups. Polished brass or
nickel signs at the square stone entrances announced the firm and
the nature of the business in rather neat and reserved terms.
The entire metropolitan centre possessed a high and mighty air
calculated to overawe and abash the common applicant, and to make
the gulf between poverty and success seem both wide and deep.
Into this important commercial region the timid Carrie went. She
walked east along Van Buren Street through a region of lessening
importance, until it deteriorated into a mass of shanties and
coal-yards, and finally verged upon the river. She walked
bravely forward, led by an honest desire to find employment and
delayed at every step by the interest of the unfolding scene, and
a sense of helplessness amid so much evidence of power and force
which she did not understand. These vast buildings, what were
they? These strange energies and huge interests, for what
purposes were they there? She could have understood the meaning
of a little stone-cutter's yard at Columbia City, carving little
pieces of marble for individual use, but when the yards of some
huge stone corporation came into view, filled with spur tracks
and flat cars, transpierced by docks from the river and traversed
overhead by immense trundling cranes of wood and steel, it lost
all significance in her little world.
It was so with the vast railroad yards, with the crowded array of
vessels she saw at the river, and the huge factories over the
way, lining the water's edge. Through the open windows she could
see the figures of men and women in working aprons, moving busily
about. The great streets were wall-lined mysteries to her; the
vast offices, strange mazes which concerned far-off individuals
of importance. She could only think of people connected with
them as counting money, dressing magnificently, and riding in
carriages. What they dealt in, how they laboured, to what end it
all came, she had only the vaguest conception. It was all
wonderful, all vast, all far removed, and she sank in spirit
inwardly and fluttered feebly at the heart as she thought of
entering any one of these mighty concerns and asking for
something to do--something that she could do--anything.
WEE QUESTION OF FORTUNE--FOUR-FIFTY A WEEK
Once across the river and into the wholesale district, she
glanced about her for some likely door at which to apply. As she
contemplated the wide windows and imposing signs, she became
conscious of being gazed upon and understood for what she was--a
wage-seeker. She had never done this thing before, and lacked
courage. To avoid a certain indefinable shame she felt at being
caught spying about for a position, she quickened her steps and
assumed an air of indifference supposedly common to one upon an
errand. In this way she passed many manufacturing and wholesale
houses without once glancing in. At last, after several blocks
of walking, she felt that this would not do, and began to look
about again, though without relaxing her pace. A little way on
she saw a great door which, for some reason, attracted her
attention. It was ornamented by a small brass sign, and seemed
to be the entrance to a vast hive of six or seven floors.
"Perhaps," she thought, "they may want some one," and crossed
over to enter. When she came within a score of feet of the
desired goal, she saw through the window a young man in a grey
checked suit. That he had anything to do with the concern, she
could not tell, but because he happened to be looking in her
direction her weakening heart misgave her and she hurried by, too
overcome with shame to enter. Over the way stood a great six-
story structure, labelled Storm and King, which she viewed with
rising hope. It was a wholesale dry goods concern and employed
women. She could see them moving about now and then upon the
upper floors. This place she decided to enter, no matter what.
She crossed over and walked directly toward the entrance. As she
did so, two men came out and paused in the door. A telegraph
messenger in blue dashed past her and up the few steps that led
to the entrance and disappeared. Several pedestrians out of the
hurrying throng which filled the sidewalks passed about her as
she paused, hesitating. She looked helplessly around, and then,
seeing herself observed, retreated. It was too difficult a task.
She could not go past them.
So severe a defeat told sadly upon her nerves. Her feet carried
her mechanically forward, every foot of her progress being a
satisfactory portion of a flight which she gladly made. Block
after block passed by. Upon streetlamps at the various corners
she read names such as Madison, Monroe, La Salle, Clark,
Dearborn, State, and still she went, her feet beginning to tire
upon the broad stone flagging. She was pleased in part that the
streets were bright and clean. The morning sun, shining down
with steadily increasing warmth, made the shady side of the
streets pleasantly cool. She looked at the blue sky overhead with
more realisation of its charm than had ever come to her before.
Her cowardice began to trouble her in a way. She turned back,
resolving to hunt up Storm and King and enter. On the way, she
encountered a great wholesale shoe company, through the broad
plate windows of which she saw an enclosed executive department,
hidden by frosted glass. Without this enclosure, but just within
the street entrance, sat a grey-haired gentleman at a small
table, with a large open ledger before him. She walked by this
institution several times hesitating, but, finding herself
unobserved, faltered past the screen door and stood humble
"Well, young lady," observed the old gentleman, looking at her
somewhat kindly, "what is it you wish?"
"I am, that is, do you--I mean, do you need any help?" she
"Not just at present," he answered smiling. "Not just at
present. Come in some time next week. Occasionally we need some
She received the answer in silence and backed awkwardly out. The
pleasant nature of her reception rather astonished her. She had
expected that it would be more difficult, that something cold and
harsh would be said--she knew not what. That she had not been
put to shame and made to feel her unfortunate position, seemed
Somewhat encouraged, she ventured into another large structure.
It was a clothing company, and more people were in evidence--
well-dressed men of forty and more, surrounded by brass railings.
An office boy approached her.
"Who is it you wish to see?" he asked.
"I want to see the manager," she said.
He ran away and spoke to one of a group of three men who were
conferring together. One of these came towards her.
"Well?" he said coldly. The greeting drove all courage from her
"Do you need any help?" she stammered.
"No," he replied abruptly, and turned upon his heel.
She went foolishly out, the office boy deferentially swinging the
door for her, and gladly sank into the obscuring crowd. It was a
severe setback to her recently pleased mental state.
Now she walked quite aimlessly for a time, turning here and
there, seeing one great company after another, but finding no
courage to prosecute her single inquiry. High noon came, and with
it hunger. She hunted out an unassuming restaurant and entered,
but was disturbed to find that the prices were exorbitant for the
size of her purse. A bowl of soup was all that she could afford,
and, with this quickly eaten, she went out again. It restored
her strength somewhat and made her moderately bold to pursue the
In walking a few blocks to fix upon some probable place, she
again encountered the firm of Storm and King, and this time
managed to get in. Some gentlemen were conferring close at hand,
but took no notice of her. She was left standing, gazing
nervously upon the floor. When the limit of her distress had
been nearly reached, she was beckoned to by a man at one of the
many desks within the near-by railing.
"Who is it you wish to see?" he required.
"Why, any one, if you please," she answered. "I am looking for
something to do."
"Oh, you want to see Mr. McManus," he returned. "Sit down," and
he pointed to a chair against the neighbouring wall. He went on
leisurely writing, until after a time a short, stout gentleman
came in from the street.
"Mr. McManus," called the man at the desk, "this young woman
wants to see you."
The short gentleman turned about towards Carrie, and she arose
and came forward.
"What can I do for you, miss?" he inquired, surveying her
"I want to know if I can get a position," she inquired.
"As what?" he asked.
"Not as anything in particular," she faltered.
"Have you ever had any experience in the wholesale dry goods
business?" he questioned.
"No, sir," she replied.
"Are you a stenographer or typewriter?"
"Well, we haven't anything here," he said. "We employ only
She began to step backward toward the door, when something about
her plaintive face attracted him.
"Have you ever worked at anything before?" he inquired.
"No, sir," she said.
"Well, now, it's hardly possible that you would get anything to
do in a wholesale house of this kind. Have you tried the
She acknowledged that she had not.
"Well, if I were you," he said, looking at her rather genially,
"I would try the department stores. They often need young women
"Thank you," she said, her whole nature relieved by this spark of
"Yes," he said, as she moved toward the door, "you try the
department stores," and off he went.
At that time the department store was in its earliest form of
successful operation, and there were not many. The first three in
the United States, established about 1884, were in Chicago.
Carrie was familiar with the names of several through the
advertisements in the "Daily News," and now proceeded to seek
them. The words of Mr. McManus had somehow managed to restore
her courage, which had fallen low, and she dared to hope that
this new line would offer her something. Some time she spent in
wandering up and down, thinking to encounter the buildings by
chance, so readily is the mind, bent upon prosecuting a hard but
needful errand, eased by that self-deception which the semblance
of search, without the reality, gives. At last she inquired of a
police officer, and was directed to proceed "two blocks up,"
where she would find "The Fair."
The nature of these vast retail combinations, should they ever
permanently disappear, will form an interesting chapter in the
commercial history of our nation. Such a flowering out of a
modest trade principle the world had never witnessed up to that
time. They were along the line of the most effective retail
organisation, with hundreds of stores coordinated into one and
laid out upon the most imposing and economic basis. They were
handsome, bustling, successful affairs, with a host of clerks and
a swarm of patrons. Carrie passed along the busy aisles, much
affected by the remarkable displays of trinkets, dress goods,
stationery, and jewelry. Each separate counter was a show place
of dazzling interest and attraction. She could not help feeling
the claim of each trinket and valuable upon her personally, and
yet she did not stop. There was nothing there which she could
not have used--nothing which she did not long to own. The dainty
slippers and stockings, the delicately frilled skirts and
petticoats, the laces, ribbons, hair-combs, purses, all touched
her with individual desire, and she felt keenly the fact that not
any of these things were in the range of her purchase. She was a
work-seeker, an outcast without employment, one whom the average
employee could tell at a glance was poor and in need of a
It must not be thought that any one could have mistaken her for a
nervous, sensitive, high-strung nature, cast unduly upon a cold,
calculating, and unpoetic world. Such certainly she was not. But
women are peculiarly sensitive to their adornment.
Not only did Carrie feel the drag of desire for all which was new
and pleasing in apparel for women, but she noticed too, with a
touch at the heart, the fine ladies who elbowed and ignored her,
brushing past in utter disregard of her presence, themselves
eagerly enlisted in the materials which the store contained.
Carrie was not familiar with the appearance of her more fortunate
sisters of the city. Neither had she before known the nature and
appearance of the shop girls with whom she now compared poorly.
They were pretty in the main, some even handsome, with an air of
independence and indifference which added, in the case of the
more favoured, a certain piquancy. Their clothes were neat, in
many instances fine, and wherever she encountered the eye of one
it was only to recognise in it a keen analysis of her own
position--her individual shortcomings of dress and that shadow of
manner which she thought must hang about her and make clear to
all who and what she was. A flame of envy lighted in her heart.
She realised in a dim way how much the city held--wealth,
fashion, ease--every adornment for women, and she longed for
dress and beauty with a whole heart.
On the second floor were the managerial offices, to which, after
some inquiry, she was now directed. There she found other girls
ahead of her, applicants like herself, but with more of that
self-satisfied and independent air which experience of the city
lends; girls who scrutinised her in a painful manner. After a
wait of perhaps three-quarters of an hour, she was called in
"Now," said a sharp, quick-mannered Jew, who was sitting at a
roll-top desk near the window, "have you ever worked in any other
"No, sir," said Carrie.
"Oh, you haven't," he said, eyeing her keenly.
"No, sir," she replied.
"Well, we prefer young women just now with some experience. I
guess we can't use you."
Carrie stood waiting a moment, hardly certain whether the
interview had terminated.
"Don't wait!" he exclaimed. "Remember we are very busy here."
Carrie began to move quickly to the door.
"Hold on," he said, calling her back. "Give me your name and
address. We want girls occasionally."
When she had gotten safely into the street, she could scarcely
restrain the tears. It was not so much the particular rebuff
which she had just experienced, but the whole abashing trend of
the day. She was tired and nervous. She abandoned the thought
of appealing to the other department stores and now wandered on,
feeling a certain safety and relief in mingling with the crowd.
In her indifferent wandering she turned into Jackson Street, not
far from the river, and was keeping her way along the south side
of that imposing thoroughfare, when a piece of wrapping paper,
written on with marking ink and tacked up on the door, attracted
her attention. It read, "Girls wanted--wrappers & stitchers."
She hesitated a moment, then entered.
The firm of Speigelheim & Co., makers of boys' caps, occupied one
floor of the building, fifty feet in width and some eighty feet
in depth. It was a place rather dingily lighted, the darkest
portions having incandescent lights, filled with machines and
work benches. At the latter laboured quite a company of girls
and some men. The former were drabby-looking creatures, stained
in face with oil and dust, clad in thin, shapeless, cotton
dresses and shod with more or less worn shoes. Many of them had
their sleeves rolled up, revealing bare arms, and in some cases,
owing to the heat, their dresses were open at the neck. They
were a fair type of nearly the lowest order of shop-girls--
careless, slouchy, and more or less pale from confinement. They
were not timid, however; were rich in curiosity, and strong in
daring and slang.
Carrie looked about her, very much disturbed and quite sure that
she did not want to work here. Aside from making her
uncomfortable by sidelong glances, no one paid her the least
attention. She waited until the whole department was aware of
her presence. Then some word was sent around, and a foreman, in
an apron and shirt sleeves, the latter rolled up to his
"Do you want to see me?" he asked.
"Do you need any help?" said Carrie, already learning directness
"Do you know how to stitch caps?" he returned.
"No, sir," she replied.
"Have you ever had any experience at this kind of work?" he
She answered that she had not.
"Well," said the foreman, scratching his ear meditatively, "we do
need a stitcher. We like experienced help, though. We've hardly
got time to break people in." He paused and looked away out of
the window. "We might, though, put you at finishing," he
"How much do you pay a week?" ventured Carrie, emboldened by a
certain softness in the man's manner and his simplicity of
"Three and a half," he answered.
"Oh," she was about to exclaim, but checked herself and allowed
her thoughts to die without expression.
"We're not exactly in need of anybody," he went on vaguely,
looking her over as one would a package. "You can come on Monday
morning, though," he added, "and I'll put you to work."
"Thank you," said Carrie weakly.
"If you come, bring an apron," he added.
He walked away and left her standing by the elevator, never so
much as inquiring her name.
While the appearance of the shop and the announcement of the
price paid per week operated very much as a blow to Carrie's
fancy, the fact that work of any kind was offered after so rude a
round of experience was gratifying. She could not begin to
believe that she would take the place, modest as her aspirations
were. She had been used to better than that. Her mere experience
and the free out-of-door life of the country caused her nature to
revolt at such confinement. Dirt had never been her share. Her
sister's flat was clean. This place was grimy and low, the girls
were careless and hardened. They must be bad-minded and hearted,
she imagined. Still, a place had been offered her. Surely
Chicago was not so bad if she could find one place in one day.
She might find another and better later.
Her subsequent experiences were not of a reassuring nature,
however. From all the more pleasing or imposing places she was
turned away abruptly with the most chilling formality. In others
where she applied only the experienced were required. She met
with painful rebuffs, the most trying of which had been in a
manufacturing cloak house, where she had gone to the fourth floor
"No, no," said the foreman, a rough, heavily built individual,
who looked after a miserably lighted workshop, "we don't want any
one. Don't come here."
With the wane of the afternoon went her hopes, her courage, and
her strength. She had been astonishingly persistent. So earnest
an effort was well deserving of a better reward. On every hand,
to her fatigued senses, the great business portion grew larger,
harder, more stolid in its indifference. It seemed as if it was
all closed to her, that the struggle was too fierce for her to
hope to do anything at all. Men and women hurried by in long,
shifting lines. She felt the flow of the tide of effort and
interest--felt her own helplessness without quite realising the
wisp on the tide that she was. She cast about vainly for some
possible place to apply, but found no door which she had the
courage to enter. It would be the same thing all over. The old
humiliation of her plea, rewarded by curt denial. Sick at heart
and in body, she turned to the west, the direction of Minnie's
flat, which she had now fixed in mind, and began that wearisome,
baffled retreat which the seeker for employment at nightfall too
often makes. In passing through Fifth Avenue, south towards Van
Buren Street, where she intended to take a car, she passed the
door of a large wholesale shoe house, through the plate-glass
windows of which she could see a middle-aged gentleman sitting at
a small desk. One of those forlorn impulses which often grow out
of a fixed sense of defeat, the last sprouting of a baffled and
uprooted growth of ideas, seized upon her. She walked
deliberately through the door and up to the gentleman, who looked
at her weary face with partially awakened interest.
"What is it?" he said.
"Can you give me something to do?" said Carrie.
"Now, I really don't know," he said kindly. "What kind of work
is it you want--you're not a typewriter, are you?"
"Oh, no," answered Carrie.
"Well, we only employ book-keepers and typewriters here. You
might go around to the side and inquire upstairs. They did want
some help upstairs a few days ago. Ask for Mr. Brown."
She hastened around to the side entrance and was taken up by the
elevator to the fourth floor.
"Call Mr. Brown, Willie," said the elevator man to a boy near by.
Willie went off and presently returned with the information that
Mr. Brown said she should sit down and that he would be around in
a little while.
It was a portion of the stock room which gave no idea of the
general character of the place, and Carrie could form no opinion
of the nature of the work.
"So you want something to do," said Mr. Brown, after he inquired
concerning the nature of her errand. "Have you ever been
employed in a shoe factory before?"
"No, sir," said Carrie.
"What is your name?" he inquired, and being informed, "Well, I
don't know as I have anything for you. Would you work for four
and a half a week?"
Carrie was too worn by defeat not to feel that it was
considerable. She had not expected that he would offer her less
than six. She acquiesced, however, and he took her name and
"Well," he said, finally, "you report here at eight o'clock
Monday morning. I think I can find something for you to do."
He left her revived by the possibilities, sure that she had found
something at last. Instantly the blood crept warmly over her
body. Her nervous tension relaxed. She walked out into the busy
street and discovered a new atmosphere. Behold, the throng was
moving with a lightsome step. She noticed that men and women
were smiling. Scraps of conversation and notes of laughter
floated to her. The air was light. People were already pouring
out of the buildings, their labour ended for the day. She
noticed that they were pleased, and thoughts of her sister's home
and the meal that would be awaiting her quickened her steps. She
hurried on, tired perhaps, but no longer weary of foot. What
would not Minnie say! Ah, the long winter in Chicago--the
lights, the crowd, the amusement! This was a great, pleasing
metropolis after all. Her new firm was a goodly institution.
Its windows were of huge plate glass. She could probably do well
there. Thoughts of Drouet returned--of the things he had told
her. She now felt that life was better, that it was livelier,
sprightlier. She boarded a car in the best of spirits, feeling
her blood still flowing pleasantly. She would live in Chicago,
her mind kept saying to itself. She would have a better time
than she had ever had before--she would be happy.
THE SPENDINGS OF FANCY--FACTS ANSWER WITH SNEERS
For the next two days Carrie indulged in the most high-flown
Her fancy plunged recklessly into privileges and amusements which
would have been much more becoming had she been cradled a child
of fortune. With ready will and quick mental selection she
scattered her meagre four-fifty per week with a swift and
graceful hand. Indeed, as she sat in her rocking-chair these
several evenings before going to bed and looked out upon the
pleasantly lighted street, this money cleared for its prospective
possessor the way to every joy and every bauble which the heart
of woman may desire. "I will have a fine time," she thought.
Her sister Minnie knew nothing of these rather wild cerebrations,
though they exhausted the markets of delight. She was too busy
scrubbing the kitchen woodwork and calculating the purchasing
power of eighty cents for Sunday's dinner. When Carrie had
returned home, flushed with her first success and ready, for all
her weariness, to discuss the now interesting events which led up
to her achievement, the former had merely smiled approvingly and
inquired whether she would have to spend any of it for car fare.
This consideration had not entered in before, and it did not now
for long affect the glow of Carrie's enthusiasm. Disposed as she
then was to calculate upon that vague basis which allows the
subtraction of one sum from another without any perceptible
diminution, she was happy.
When Hanson came home at seven o'clock, he was inclined to be a
little crusty--his usual demeanour before supper. This never
showed so much in anything he said as in a certain solemnity of
countenance and the silent manner in which he slopped about. He
had a pair of yellow carpet slippers which he enjoyed wearing,
and these he would immediately substitute for his solid pair of
shoes. This, and washing his face with the aid of common washing
soap until it glowed a shiny red, constituted his only
preparation for his evening meal. He would then get his evening
paper and read in silence.
For a young man, this was rather a morbid turn of character, and
so affected Carrie. Indeed, it affected the entire atmosphere of
the flat, as such things are inclined to do, and gave to his
wife's mind its subdued and tactful turn, anxious to avoid
taciturn replies. Under the influence of Carrie's announcement he
brightened up somewhat.
"You didn't lose any time, did you?" he remarked, smiling a
"No," returned Carrie with a touch of pride.
He asked her one or two more questions and then turned to play
with the baby, leaving the subject until it was brought up again
by Minnie at the table.
Carrie, however, was not to be reduced to the common level of
observation which prevailed in the flat.
"It seems to be such a large company," she said, at one place.
"Great big plate-glass windows and lots of clerks. The man I saw
said they hired ever so many people."
"It's not very hard to get work now," put in Hanson, "if you look
Minnie, under the warming influence of Carrie's good spirits and
her husband's somewhat conversational mood, began to tell Carrie
of some of the well-known things to see--things the enjoyment of
which cost nothing.
"You'd like to see Michigan Avenue. There are such fine houses.
It is such a fine street."
"Where is H. R. Jacob's?" interrupted Carrie, mentioning one of
the theatres devoted to melodrama which went by that name at the
"Oh, it's not very far from here," answered Minnie. "It's in
Halstead Street, right up here."
"How I'd like to go there. I crossed Halstead Street to-day,
At this there was a slight halt in the natural reply. Thoughts
are a strangely permeating factor. At her suggestion of going to
the theatre, the unspoken shade of disapproval to the doing of
those things which involved the expenditure of money--shades of
feeling which arose in the mind of Hanson and then in Minnie--
slightly affected the atmosphere of the table. Minnie answered
"yes," but Carrie could feel that going to the theatre was poorly
advocated here. The subject was put off for a little while until
Hanson, through with his meal, took his paper and went into the
When they were alone, the two sisters began a somewhat freer
conversation, Carrie interrupting it to hum a little, as they
worked at the dishes.
"I should like to walk up and see Halstead Street, if it isn't
too far," said Carrie, after a time. "Why don't we go to the
"Oh, I don't think Sven would want to go to-night," returned
Minnie. "He has to get up so early."
"He wouldn't mind--he'd enjoy it," said Carrie.
"No, he doesn't go very often," returned Minnie.
"Well, I'd like to go," rejoined Carrie. "Let's you and me go."
Minnie pondered a while, not upon whether she could or would go--
for that point was already negatively settled with her--but upon
some means of diverting the thoughts of her sister to some other
"We'll go some other time," she said at last, finding no ready
means of escape.
Carrie sensed the root of the opposition at once.
"I have some money," she said. "You go with me." Minnie shook
"He could go along," said Carrie.
"No," returned Minnie softly, and rattling the dishes to drown
the conversation. "He wouldn't."
It had been several years since Minnie had seen Carrie, and in
that time the latter's character had developed a few shades.
Naturally timid in all things that related to her own
advancement, and especially so when without power or resource,
her craving for pleasure was so strong that it was the one stay
of her nature. She would speak for that when silent on all else.
"Ask him," she pleaded softly.
Minnie was thinking of the resource which Carrie's board would
add. It would pay the rent and would make the subject of
expenditure a little less difficult to talk about with her
husband. But if Carrie was going to think of running around in
the beginning there would be a hitch somewhere. Unless Carrie
submitted to a solemn round of industry and saw the need of hard
work without longing for play, how was her coming to the city to
profit them? These thoughts were not those of a cold, hard
nature at all. They were the serious reflections of a mind which
invariably adjusted itself, without much complaining, to such
surroundings as its industry could make for it.
At last she yielded enough to ask Hanson. It was a half-hearted
procedure without a shade of desire on her part.
"Carrie wants us to go to the theatre," she said, looking in upon
her husband. Hanson looked up from his paper, and they exchanged
a mild look, which said as plainly as anything: "This isn't what
"I don't care to go," he returned. "What does she want to see?"
"H. R. Jacob's," said Minnie.
He looked down at his paper and shook his head negatively.
When Carrie saw how they looked upon her proposition, she gained
a still clearer feeling of their way of life. It weighed on her,
but took no definite form of opposition.
"I think I'll go down and stand at the foot of the stairs," she
said, after a time.
Minnie made no objection to this, and Carrie put on her hat and
"Where has Carrie gone?" asked Hanson, coming back into the
dining-room when he heard the door close.
"She said she was going down to the foot of the stairs," answered
Minnie. "I guess she just wants to look out a while."
"She oughtn't to be thinking about spending her money on theatres
already, do you think?" he said.
"She just feels a little curious, I guess," ventured Minnie.
"Everything is so new."
"I don't know," said Hanson, and went over to the baby, his
forehead slightly wrinkled.
He was thinking of a full career of vanity and wastefulness which
a young girl might indulge in, and wondering how Carrie could
contemplate such a course when she had so little, as yet, with
which to do.
On Saturday Carrie went out by herself--first toward the river,
which interested her, and then back along Jackson Street, which
was then lined by the pretty houses and fine lawns which
subsequently caused it to be made into a boulevard. She was
struck with the evidences of wealth, although there was, perhaps,
not a person on the street worth more than a hundred thousand
dollars. She was glad to be out of the flat, because already she
felt that it was a narrow, humdrum place, and that interest and
joy lay elsewhere. Her thoughts now were of a more liberal
character, and she punctuated them with speculations as to the
whereabouts of Drouet. She was not sure but that he might call
anyhow Monday night, and, while she felt a little disturbed at
the possibility, there was, nevertheless, just the shade of a
wish that he would.
On Monday she arose early and prepared to go to work. She dressed
herself in a worn shirt-waist of dotted blue percale, a skirt of
light-brown serge rather faded, and a small straw hat which she
had worn all summer at Columbia City. Her shoes were old, and
her necktie was in that crumpled, flattened state which time and
much wearing impart. She made a very average looking shop-girl
with the exception of her features. These were slightly more even
than common, and gave her a sweet, reserved, and pleasing
It is no easy thing to get up early in the morning when one is
used to sleeping until seven and eight, as Carrie had been at
home. She gained some inkling of the character of Hanson's life
when, half asleep, she looked out into the dining-room at six
o'clock and saw him silently finishing his breakfast. By the
time she was dressed he was gone, and she, Minnie, and the baby
ate together, the latter being just old enough to sit in a high
chair and disturb the dishes with a spoon. Her spirits were
greatly subdued now when the fact of entering upon strange and
untried duties confronted her. Only the ashes of all her fine
fancies were remaining--ashes still concealing, nevertheless, a
few red embers of hope. So subdued was she by her weakening
nerves, that she ate quite in silence going over imaginary
conceptions of the character of the shoe company, the nature of
the work, her employer's attitude. She was vaguely feeling that
she would come in contact with the great owners, that her work
would be where grave, stylishly dressed men occasionally look on.
"Well, good luck," said Minnie, when she was ready to go. They
had agreed it was best to walk, that morning at least, to see if
she could do it every day--sixty cents a week for car fare being
quite an item under the circumstances.
"I'll tell you how it goes to-night," said Carrie.
Once in the sunlit street, with labourers tramping by in either
direction, the horse-cars passing crowded to the rails with the
small clerks and floor help in the great wholesale houses, and
men and women generally coming out of doors and passing about the
neighbourhood, Carrie felt slightly reassured. In the sunshine
of the morning, beneath the wide, blue heavens, with a fresh wind
astir, what fears, except the most desperate, can find a
harbourage? In the night, or the gloomy chambers of the day,
fears and misgivings wax strong, but out in the sunlight there
is, for a time, cessation even of the terror of death.
Carrie went straight forward until she crossed the river, and
then turned into Fifth Avenue. The thoroughfare, in this part,
was like a walled canon of brown stone and dark red brick. The
big windows looked shiny and clean. Trucks were rumbling in
increasing numbers; men and women, girls and boys were moving
onward in all directions. She met girls of her own age, who
looked at her as if with contempt for her diffidence. She
wondered at the magnitude of this life and at the importance of
knowing much in order to do anything in it at all. Dread at her
own inefficiency crept upon her. She would not know how, she
would not be quick enough. Had not all the other places refused
her because she did not know something or other? She would be
scolded, abused, ignominiously discharged.
It was with weak knees and a slight catch in her breathing that
she came up to the great shoe company at Adams and Fifth Avenue
and entered the elevator. When she stepped out on the fourth
floor there was no one at hand, only great aisles of boxes piled
to the ceiling. She stood, very much frightened, awaiting some
Presently Mr. Brown came up. He did not seem to recosnise her.
"What is it you want?" he inquired.
Carrie's heart sank.
"You said I should come this morning to see about work--"
"Oh," he interrupted. "Um--yes. What is your name?"
"Yes," said he. "You come with me."
He led the way through dark, box-lined aisles which had the smell
of new shoes, until they came to an iron door which opened into
the factory proper. There was a large, low-ceiled room, with
clacking, rattling machines at which men in white shirt sleeves
and blue gingham aprons were working. She followed him
diffidently through the clattering automatons, keeping her eyes
straight before her, and flushing slightly. They crossed to a far
corner and took an elevator to the sixth floor. Out of the array
of machines and benches, Mr. Brown signalled a foreman.
"This is the girl," he said, and turning to Carrie, "You go with
him." He then returned, and Carrie followed her new superior to
a little desk in a corner, which he used as a kind of official
"You've never worked at anything like this before, have you?" he
questioned, rather sternly.
"No, sir," she answered.
He seemed rather annoyed at having to bother with such help, but
put down her name and then led her across to where a line of
girls occupied stools in front of clacking machines. On the
shoulder of one of the girls who was punching eye-holes in one
piece of the upper, by the aid of the machine, he put his hand.
"You," he said, "show this girl how to do what you're doing.
When you get through, come to me."
The girl so addressed rose promptly and gave Carrie her place.
"It isn't hard to do," she said, bending over. "You just take
this so, fasten it with this clamp, and start the machine."
She suited action to word, fastened the piece of leather, which
was eventually to form the right half of the upper of a man's
shoe, by little adjustable clamps, and pushed a small steel rod
at the side of the machine. The latter jumped to the task of
punching, with sharp, snapping clicks, cutting circular bits of
leather out of the side of the upper, leaving the holes which
were to hold the laces. After observing a few times, the girl
let her work at it alone. Seeing that it was fairly well done,
she went away.
The pieces of leather came from the girl at the machine to her
right, and were passed on to the girl at her left. Carrie saw at
once that an average speed was necessary or the work would pile
up on her and all those below would be delayed. She had no time
to look about, and bent anxiously to her task. The girls at her
left and right realised her predicament and feelings, and, in a
way, tried to aid her, as much as they dared, by working slower.
At this task she laboured incessantly for some time, finding
relief from her own nervous fears and imaginings in the humdrum,
mechanical movement of the machine. She felt, as the minutes
passed, that the room was not very light. It had a thick odour
of fresh leather, but that did not worry her. She felt the eyes
of the other help upon her, and troubled lest she was not working
Once, when she was fumbling at the little clamp, having made a
slight error in setting in the leather, a great hand appeared
before her eyes and fastened the clamp for her. It was the
foreman. Her heart thumped so that she could scarcely see to go
"Start your machine," he said, "start your machine. Don't keep
the line waiting."
This recovered her sufficiently and she went excitedly on, hardly
breathing until the shadow moved away from behind her. Then she
heaved a great breath.
As the morning wore on the room became hotter. She felt the need
of a breath of fresh air and a drink of water, but did not
venture to stir. The stool she sat on was without a back or
foot-rest, and she began to feel uncomfortable. She found, after
a time, that her back was beginning to ache. She twisted and
turned from one position to another slightly different, but it
did not ease her for long. She was beginning to weary.
"Stand up, why don't you?" said the girl at her right, without
any form of introduction. "They won't care."
Carrie looked at her gratefully. "I guess I will," she said.
She stood up from her stool and worked that way for a while, but
it was a more difficult position. Her neck and shoulders ached
in bending over.
The spirit of the place impressed itself on her in a rough way.
She did not venture to look around, but above the clack of the
machine she could hear an occasional remark. She could also note
a thing or two out of the side of her eye.
"Did you see Harry last night?" said the girl at her left,
addressing her neighbour.
"You ought to have seen the tie he had on. Gee, but he was a
"S-s-t," said the other girl, bending over her work. The first,
silenced, instantly assumed a solemn face. The foreman passed
slowly along, eyeing each worker distinctly. The moment he was
gone, the conversation was resumed again.
"Say," began the girl at her left, "what jeh think he said?"
"I don't know."
"He said he saw us with Eddie Harris at Martin's last night."
"No!" They both giggled.
A youth with tan-coloured hair, that needed clipping very badly,
came shuffling along between the machines, bearing a basket of
leather findings under his left arm, and pressed against his
stomach. When near Carrie, he stretched out his right hand and
gripped one girl under the arm.
"Aw, let me go," she exclaimed angrily. "Duffer."
He only grinned broadly in return.
"Rubber!" he called back as she looked after him. There was
nothing of the gallant in him.
Carrie at last could scarcely sit still. Her legs began to tire
and she wanted to get up and stretch. Would noon never come? It
seemed as if she had worked an entire day. She was not hungry at
all, but weak, and her eyes were tired, straining at the one
point where the eye-punch came down. The girl at the right
noticed her squirmings and felt sorry for her. She was
concentrating herself too thoroughly--what she did really
required less mental and physical strain. There was nothing to
be done, however. The halves of the uppers came piling steadily
down. Her hands began to ache at the wrists and then in the
fingers, and towards the last she seemed one mass of dull,
complaining muscles, fixed in an eternal position and performing
a single mechanical movement which became more and more
distasteful, until as last it was absolutely nauseating. When
she was wondering whether the strain would ever cease, a dull-
sounding bell clanged somewhere down an elevator shaft, and the
end came. In an instant there was a buzz of action and
conversation. All the girls instantly left their stools and
hurried away in an adjoining room, men passed through, coming
from some department which opened on the right. The whirling
wheels began to sing in a steadily modifying key, until at last
they died away in a low buzz. There was an audible stillness, in
which the common voice sounded strange.
Carrie got up and sought her lunch box. She was stiff, a little
dizzy, and very thirsty. On the way to the small space portioned
off by wood, where all the wraps and lunches were kept, she
encountered the foreman, who stared at her hard.
"Well," he said, "did you get along all right?"
"I think so," she replied, very respectfully.
"Um," he replied, for want of something better, and walked on.
Under better material conditions, this kind of work would not
have been so bad, but the new socialism which involves pleasant
working conditions for employees had not then taken hold upon
The place smelled of the oil of the machines and the new leather--
a combination which, added to the stale odours of the building,
was not pleasant even in cold weather. The floor, though
regularly swept every evening, presented a littered surface. Not
the slightest provision had been made for the comfort of the
employees, the idea being that something was gained by giving
them as little and making the work as hard and unremunerative as
possible. What we know of foot-rests, swivel-back chairs,
dining-rooms for the girls, clean aprons and curling irons
supplied free, and a decent cloak room, were unthought of. The
washrooms were disagreeable, crude, if not foul places, and the
whole atmosphere was sordid.
Carrie looked about her, after she had drunk a tinful of water
from a bucket in one corner, for a place to sit and eat. The
other girls had ranged themselves about the windows or the work-
benches of those of the men who had gone out. She saw no place
which did not hold a couple or a group of girls, and being too
timid to think of intruding herself, she sought out her machine
and, seated upon her stool, opened her lunch on her lap. There
she sat listening to the chatter and comment about her. It was,
for the most part, silly and graced by the current slang.
Several of the men in the room exchanged compliments with the
girls at long range.
"Say, Kitty," called one to a girl who was doing a waltz step in
a few feet of space near one of the windows, "are you going to
the ball with me?"
"Look out, Kitty," called another, "you'll jar your back hair."
"Go on, Rubber," was her only comment.
As Carrie listened to this and much more of similar familiar
badinage among the men and girls, she instinctively withdrew into
herself. She was not used to this type, and felt that there was
something hard and low about it all. She feared that the young
boys about would address such remarks to her--boys who, beside
Drouet, seemed uncouth and ridiculous. She made the average
feminine distinction between clothes, putting worth, goodness,
and distinction in a dress suit, and leaving all the unlovely
qualities and those beneath notice in overalls and jumper.
She was glad when the short half hour was over and the wheels
began to whirr again. Though wearied, she would be
inconspicuous. This illusion ended when another young man passed
along the aisle and poked her indifferently in the ribs with his
thumb. She turned about, indignation leaping to her eyes, but he
had gone on and only once turned to grin. She found it difficult
to conquer an inclination to cry.
The girl next her noticed her state of mind. "Don't you mind,"
she said. "He's too fresh."
Carrie said nothing, but bent over her work. She felt as though
she could hardly endure such a life. Her idea of work had been
so entirely different. All during the long afternoon she thought
of the city outside and its imposing show, crowds, and fine
buildings. Columbia City and the better side of her home life
came back. By three o'clock she was sure it must be six, and by
four it seemed as if they had forgotten to note the hour and were
letting all work overtime. The foreman became a true ogre,
prowling constantly about, keeping her tied down to her miserable
task. What she heard of the conversation about her only made her
feel sure that she did not want to make friends with any of
these. When six o'clock came she hurried eagerly away, her arms
aching and her limbs stiff from sitting in one position.
As she passed out along the hall after getting her hat, a young
machine hand, attracted by her looks, made bold to jest with her.
"Say, Maggie," he called, "if you wait, I'll walk with you."
It was thrown so straight in her direction that she knew who was
meant, but never turned to look.
In the crowded elevator, another dusty, toil-stained youth tried
to make an impression on her by leering in her face.
One young man, waiting on the walk outside for the appearance of
another, grinned at her as she passed.
"Ain't going my way, are you?" he called jocosely.
Carrie turned her face to the west with a subdued heart. As she
turned the corner, she saw through the great shiny window the
small desk at which she had applied. There were the crowds,
hurrying with the same buzz and energy-yielding enthusiasm. She
felt a slight relief, but it was only at her escape. She felt
ashamed in the face of better dressed girls who went by. She
felt as though she should be better served, and her heart
A GLITTERING NIGHT FLOWER--THE USE OF A NAME
Drouet did not call that evening. After receiving the letter, he
had laid aside all thought of Carrie for the time being and was
floating around having what he considered a gay time. On this
particular evening he dined at "Rector's," a restaurant of some
local fame, which occupied a basement at Clark and Monroe
Streets. There--after he visited the resort of Fitzgerald and
Moy's in Adams Street, opposite the imposing Federal Building.
There he leaned over the splendid bar and swallowed a glass of
plain whiskey and purchased a couple of cigars, one of which he
lighted. This to him represented in part high life--a fair
sample of what the whole must be. Drouet was not a drinker in
excess. He was not a moneyed man. He only craved the best, as
his mind conceived it, and such doings seemed to him a part of
the best. Rector's, with its polished marble walls and floor,
its profusion of lights, its show of china and silverware, and,
above all, its reputation as a resort for actors and professional
men, seemed to him the proper place for a successful man to go.
He loved fine clothes, good eating, and particularly the company
and acquaintanceship of successful men. When dining, it was a
source of keen satisfaction to him to know that Joseph Jefferson
was wont to come to this same place, or that Henry E. Dixie, a
well-known performer of the day, was then only a few tables off.
At Rector's he could always obtain this satisfaction, for there
one could encounter politicians, brokers, actors, some rich young
"rounders" of the town, all eating and drinking amid a buzz of
popular commonplace conversation.
"That's So-and-so over there," was a common remark of these
gentlemen among themselves, particularly among those who had not
yet reached, but hoped to do so, the dazzling height which money
to dine here lavishly represented.
"You don't say so," would be the reply.
"Why, yes, didn't you know that? Why, he's manager of the Grand
When these things would fall upon Drouet's ears, he would
straighten himself a little more stiffly and eat with solid
comfort. If he had any vanity, this augmented it, and if he had
any ambition, this stirred it. He would be able to flash a roll
of greenbacks too some day. As it was, he could eat where THEY
His preference for Fitzgerald and Moy's Adams Street place was
another yard off the same cloth. This was really a gorgeous
saloon from a Chicago standpoint. Like Rector's, it was also
ornamented with a blaze of incandescent lights, held in handsome
chandeliers. The floors were of brightly coloured tiles, the
walls a composition of rich, dark, polished wood, which reflected
the light, and coloured stucco-work, which gave the place a very
sumptuous appearance. The long bar was a blaze of lights,
polished woodwork, coloured and cut glassware, and many fancy
bottles. It was a truly swell saloon, with rich screens, fancy
wines, and a line of bar goods unsurpassed in the country.
At Rector's, Drouet had met Mr. G. W. Hurstwood, manager of
Fitzgerald and Moy's. He had been pointed out as a very
successful and well-known man about town. Hurstwood looked the
part, for, besides being slightly under forty, he had a good,
stout constitution, an active manner, and a solid, substantial
air, which was composed in part of his fine clothes, his clean
linen, his jewels, and, above all, his own sense of his
importance. Drouet immediately conceived a notion of him as
being some one worth knowing, and was glad not only to meet him,
but to visit the Adams Street bar thereafter whenever he wanted a
drink or a cigar.
Hurstwood was an interesting character after his kind. He was
shrewd and clever in many little things, and capable of creating
a good impression. His managerial position was fairly important--
a kind of stewardship which was imposing, but lacked financial
control. He had risen by perseverance and industry, through long
years of service, from the position of barkeeper in a commonplace
saloon to his present altitude. He had a little office in the
place, set off in polished cherry and grill-work, where he kept,
in a roll-top desk, the rather simple accounts of the place--
supplies ordered and needed. The chief executive and financial
functions devolved upon the owners--Messrs. Fitzgerald and Moy--
and upon a cashier who looked after the money taken in.
For the most part he lounged about, dressed in excellent tailored
suits of imported goods, a solitaire ring, a fine blue diamond in
his tie, a striking vest of some new pattern, and a watch-chain
of solid gold, which held a charm of rich design, and a watch of
the latest make and engraving. He knew by name, and could greet
personally with a "Well, old fellow," hundreds of actors,
merchants, politicians, and the general run of successful
characters about town, and it was part of his success to do so.
He had a finely graduated scale of informality and friendship,
which improved from the "How do you do?" addressed to the
fifteen-dollar-a-week clerks and office attaches, who, by long
frequenting of the place, became aware of his position, to the
"Why, old man, how are you?" which he addressed to those noted or
rich individuals who knew him and were inclined to be friendly.
There was a class, however, too rich, too famous, or too
successful, with whom he could not attempt any familiarity of
address, and with these he was professionally tactful, assuming a
grave and dignified attitude, paying them the deference which
would win their good feeling without in the least compromising
his own bearing and opinions. There were, in the last place, a
few good followers, neither rich nor poor, famous, nor yet
remarkably successful, with whom he was friendly on the score of
good-fellowship. These were the kind of men with whom he would
converse longest and most seriously. He loved to go out and have
a good time once in a while--to go to the races, the theatres,
the sporting entertainments at some of the clubs. He kept a
horse and neat trap, had his wife and two children, who were well
established in a neat house on the North Side near Lincoln Park,
and was altogether a very acceptable individual of our great
American upper class--the first grade below the luxuriously rich.
Hurstwood liked Drouet. The latter's genial nature and dressy
appearance pleased him. He knew that Drouet was only a
travelling salesman--and not one of many years at that--but the
firm of Bartlett, Caryoe & Company was a large and prosperous
house, and Drouet stood well. Hurstwood knew Caryoe quite well,
having drunk a glass now and then with him, in company with
several others, when the conversation was general. Drouet had
what was a help in his business, a moderate sense of humour, and
could tell a good story when the occasion required. He could
talk races with Hurstwood, tell interesting incidents concerning
himself and his experiences with women, and report the state of
trade in the cities which he visited, and so managed to make
himself almost invariably agreeable. To-night he was
particularly so, since his report to the company had been
favourably commented upon, his new samples had been
satisfactorily selected, and his trip marked out for the next six
"Why, hello, Charlie, old man," said Hurstwood, as Drouet came in
that evening about eight o'clock. "How goes it?" The room was
Drouet shook hands, beaming good nature, and they strolled
towards the bar.
"Oh, all right."
"I haven't seen you in six weeks. When did you get in?"
"Friday," said Drouet. "Had a fine trip."
"Glad of it," said Hurstwood, his black eyes lit with a warmth
which half displaced the cold make-believe that usually dwelt in
them. "What are you going to take?" he added, as the barkeeper,
in snowy jacket and tie, leaned toward them from behind the bar.
"Old Pepper," said Drouet.
"A little of the same for me," put in Hurstwood.
"How long are you in town this time?" inquired Hurstwood.
"Only until Wednesday. I'm going up to St. Paul."
"George Evans was in here Saturday and said he saw you in
Milwaukee last week."
"Yes, I saw George," returned Drouet. "Great old boy, isn't he?
We had quite a time there together."
The barkeeper was setting out the glasses and bottle before them,
and they now poured out the draught as they talked, Drouet
filling his to within a third of full, as was considered proper,
and Hurstwood taking the barest suggestion of whiskey and
modifying it with seltzer.
"What's become of Caryoe?" remarked Hurstwood. "I haven't seen
him around here in two weeks."
"Laid up, they say," exclaimed Drouet. "Say, he's a gouty old
"Made a lot of money in his time, though, hasn't he?"
"Yes, wads of it," returned Drouet. "He won't live much longer.
Barely comes down to the office now."
"Just one boy, hasn't he?" asked Hurstwood.
"Yes, and a swift-pacer," laughed Drouet.
"I guess he can't hurt the business very much, though, with the
other members all there."
"No, he can't injure that any, I guess."
Hurstwood was standing, his coat open, his thumbs in his pockets,
the light on his jewels and rings relieving them with agreeable
distinctness. He was the picture of fastidious comfort.
To one not inclined to drink, and gifted with a more serious turn
of mind, such a bubbling, chattering, glittering chamber must
ever seem an anomaly, a strange commentary on nature and life.
Here come the moths, in endless procession, to bask in the light
of the flame. Such conversation as one may hear would not warrant
a commendation of the scene upon intellectual grounds. It seems
plain that schemers would choose more sequestered quarters to
arrange their plans, that politicians would not gather here in
company to discuss anything save formalities, where the sharp-
eared may hear, and it would scarcely be justified on the score
of thirst, for the majority of those who frequent these more
gorgeous places have no craving for liquor. Nevertheless, the
fact that here men gather, here chatter, here love to pass and
rub elbows, must be explained upon some grounds. It must be that
a strange bundle of passions and vague desires give rise to such
a curious social institution or it would not be.
Drouet, for one, was lured as much by his longing for pleasure as
by his desire to shine among his betters. The many friends he met
here dropped in because they craved, without, perhaps,
consciously analysing it, the company, the glow, the atmosphere
which they found. One might take it, after all, as an augur of
the better social order, for the things which they satisfied
here, though sensory, were not evil. No evil could come out of
the contemplation of an expensively decorated chamber. The worst
effect of such a thing would be, perhaps, to stir up in the
material-minded an ambition to arrange their lives upon a
similarly splendid basis. In the last analysis, that would
scarcely be called the fault of the decorations, but rather of
the innate trend of the mind. That such a scene might stir the
less expensively dressed to emulate the more expensively dressed
could scarcely be laid at the door of anything save the false
ambition of the minds of those so affected. Remove the element
so thoroughly and solely complained of--liquor--and there would
not be one to gainsay the qualities of beauty and enthusiasm
which would remain. The pleased eye with which our modern
restaurants of fashion are looked upon is proof of this
Yet, here is the fact of the lighted chamber, the dressy, greedy
company, the small, self-interested palaver, the disorganized,
aimless, wandering mental action which it represents--the love of
light and show and finery which, to one outside, under the serene
light of the eternal stars, must seem a strange and shiny thing.
Under the stars and sweeping night winds, what a lamp-flower it
must bloom; a strange, glittering night-flower, odour-yielding,
insect-drawing, insect-infested rose of pleasure.
"See that fellow coming in there?" said Hurstwood, glancing at a
gentleman just entering, arrayed in a high hat and Prince Albert
coat, his fat cheeks puffed and red as with good eating.
"No, where?" said Drouet.
"There," said Hurstwood, indicating the direction by a cast of
his eye, "the man with the silk hat."
"Oh, yes," said Drouet, now affecting not to see. "Who is he?"
"That's Jules Wallace, the spiritualist."
Drouet followed him with his eyes, much interested.
"Doesn't look much like a man who sees spirits, does he?" said
"Oh, I don't know," returned Hurstwood. "He's got the money, all
right," and a little twinkle passed over his eyes.
"I don't go much on those things, do you?" asked Drouet.
"Well, you never can tell," said Hurstwood. "There may be
something to it. I wouldn't bother about it myself, though. By
the way," he added, "are you going anywhere to-night?"
"'The Hole in the Ground,'" said Drouet, mentioning the popular
farce of the time.
"Well, you'd better be going. It's half after eight already,"
and he drew out his watch.
The crowd was already thinning out considerably--some bound for
the theatres, some to their clubs, and some to that most
fascinating of all the pleasures--for the type of man there
represented, at least--the ladies.
"Yes, I will," said Drouet.
"Come around after the show. I have something I want to show
you," said Hurstwood.
"Sure," said Drouet, elated.
"You haven't anything on hand for the night, have you?" added
"Not a thing."
"Well, come round, then."
"I struck a little peach coming in on the train Friday," remarked
Drouet, by way of parting. "By George, that's so, I must go and
call on her before I go away."
"Oh, never mind her," Hurstwood remarked.
"Say, she was a little dandy, I tell you," went on Drouet
confidentially, and trying to impress his friend.
"Twelve o'clock," said Hurstwood.
"That's right," said Drouet, going out.
Thus was Carrie's name bandied about in the most frivolous and
gay of places, and that also when the little toiler was bemoaning
her narrow lot, which was almost inseparable from the early
stages of this, her unfolding fate.
THE MACHINE AND THE MAIDEN--A KNIGHT OF TO-DAY
At the flat that evening Carrie felt a new phase of its
atmosphere. The fact that it was unchanged, while her feelings
were different, increased her knowledge of its character.
Minnie, after the good spirits Carrie manifested at first,
expected a fair report. Hanson supposed that Carrie would be
"Well," he said, as he came in from the hall in his working