Carrie proceeded to get the "Clipper," and tried to find the agents by looking over it as she stood beside the stand. This could not be done so easily. Thirteenth Street was a number of blocks off, but she went back, carrying the precious paper and regretting the waste of time.
Hurstwood was already there, sitting in his place.
"Where were you?" he asked.
"I've been trying to find some dramatic agents."
He felt a little diffident about asking concerning her success. The paper she began to scan attracted his attention.
"What have you got there?" he asked.
"The 'Clipper.' The man said I'd find their addresses in here."
"Have you been all the way over to Broadway to find that out? I could have told you."
"Why didn't you?" she asked, without looking up.
"You never asked me," he returned.
She went hunting aimlessly through the crowded columns. Her mind was distracted by this man's indifference. The difficulty of the situation she was facing was only added to by all he did. Self commiseration brewed in her heart. Tears trembled along her eyelids but did not fall. Hurstwood noticed something.
"Let me look."
To recover herself she went into the front room while he searched. Presently she returned. He had a pencil, and was writing upon an envelope.
"Here're three," he said.
Carrie took it and found that one was Mrs. Bermudez, another Marcus Jenks, a third Percy Weil. She paused only a moment, and then moved toward the door.
"I might as well go right away," she said, without looking back.
Hurstwood saw her depart with some faint stirrings of shame, which were the expression of a manhood rapidly becoming stultified. He sat a while, and then it became too much. He got up and put on his hat.
"I guess I'll go out," he said to himself, and went, strolling nowhere in particular, but feeling somehow that he must go.
Carrie's first call was upon Mrs. Bermudez, whose address was quite the nearest. It was an old-fashioned residence turned into offices. Mrs. Bermudez's offices consisted of what formerly had been a back chamber and a hall bedroom, marked "Private."
As Carrie entered she noticed several persons lounging about-men, who said nothing and did nothing.
While she was waiting to be noticed, the door of the hall bedroom opened and from it issued two very mannish-looking women, very tightly dressed, and wearing white collars and cuffs. After them came a portly lady of about forty-five, light-haired, sharp-eyed, and evidently good- natured. At least she was smiling.
"Now, don't forget about that," said one of the mannish women.
"I won't," said the portly woman. "Let's see," she added, "where are you the first week in February?" "Pittsburgh," said the woman.
"I'll write you there."
"All right," said the other, and the two passed out.
Instantly the portly lady's face became exceedingly sober and shrewd. She turned about and fixed on Carrie a very searching eye.
"Well," she said, "young woman, what can I do for you?"
"Are you Mrs. Bermudez?"
"Well," said Carrie, hesitating how to begin, "do you get places for persons upon the stage?"
"Could you get me one?"
"Have you ever had any experience?"
"A very little," said Carrie.
"Whom did you play with?"
"Oh, with no one," said Carrie. "It was just a show gotten — — "
"Oh, I see," said the woman, interrupting her. "No, I don't know of anything now."
Carrie's countenance fell.
"You want to get some New York experience," concluded the affable Mrs. Bermudez. "We'll take your name, though."
Carrie stood looking while the lady retired to her office.
"What is your address?" inquired a young lady behind the counter, taking up the curtailed conversation.
"Mrs. George Wheeler," said Carrie, moving over to where she was writing. The woman wrote her address in full and then allowed her to depart at her leisure.
She encountered a very similar experience in the office of Mr. Jenks, only he varied it by saying at the close: "If you could play at some local house, or had a program with your name on it, I might do something."
In the third place the individual asked:
"What sort of work do you want to do?"
"What do you mean?" said Carrie.
"Well, do you want to get in a comedy or on the vaudeville or in the chorus?"
"Oh, I'd like to get a part in a play," said Carrie.
"Well," said the man, "it'll cost you something to do that." "How much?" said Carrie, who, ridiculous as it may seem, had not thought of this before.
"Well, that's for you to say," he answered shrewdly.
Carrie looked at him curiously. She hardly knew how to continue the inquiry.
"Could you get me a part if I paid?"
"If we didn't you'd get your money back."
"Oh," she said.
The agent saw he was dealing with an inexperienced soul, and continued accordingly.
"You'd want to deposit fifty dollars, anyway. No agent would trouble about you for less than that."
Carrie saw a light.
"Thank you," she said. "I'll think about it."
She started to go, and then bethought herself.
"How soon would I get a place?" she asked.
"Well, that's hard to say," said the man. "You might get one in a week, or it might be a month. You'd get the first thing that we thought you could do."
"I see," said Carrie, and then, half-smiling to be agreeable, she walked out.
The agent studied a moment, and then said to himself:
"It's funny how anxious these women are to get on the stage."
Carrie found ample food for reflection in the fifty-dollar proposition. "Maybe they'd take my money and not give me anything," she thought. She had some jewelry — a diamond ring and pin and several other pieces. She could get fifty dollars for those if she went to a pawnbroker.
Hurstwood was home before her. He had not thought she would be so long seeking.
"Well?" he said, not venturing to ask what news.
"I didn't find out anything to-day," said Carrie, taking off her gloves. "They all want money to get you a place."
"How much?" asked Hurstwood.
"They don't want anything, do they?"
"Oh, they're like everybody else. You can't tell whether they'd ever get you anything after you did pay them."
"Well, I wouldn't put up fifty on that basis," said Hurstwood, as if he were deciding, money in hand.
"I don't know," said Carrie. "I think I'll try some of the managers."
Hurstwood heard this, dead to the horror of it. He rocked a little to and fro, and chewed at his finger. It seemed all very natural in such extreme states. He would do better later on.