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 other 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 to inquire.
"No, no," said 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 realizing 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 Minie's flat, which she had now fixed in mind, and begat that wearisome, baffled retreat 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-grass window 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 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 address.
"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 labor 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 flowering 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.