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 satisfied.
"Well," he said, as he came in from the hall in his working clothes, and looked at Carrie through the dining-room door, " how did you make out?"
"Oh," said Carrie, " it's pretty hard. I don't like it."
There was an air about her which showed plainer than any words that she was both weary and disappointed.
"What sort of work is it?" he asked, lingering a moment as he turned upon his heel to go into the bathroom.
"Running a machine," answered Carrie.
It was very evident that it did not concern him much, save from the side of the flat's success. He was irritated a shade because it could not have come about in the throw of fortune for Carrie to be pleased.
Minnie worked with less elation than she had just before Carrie arrived. The sizzle of the meat frying did not sound quite so pleasing now that Carrie had reported her discontent. To Carrie, the one relief of the whole day would have been a jolly home, a sympathetic reception, a bright supper table, and some one to say: " Oh, well stand it a little while. You will get something better," put now this was ashes. She began to see that they looked upon her complaint as unwarranted, and that she was supposed to work on and say nothing. She knew that she was to pay four dollar for her board and room, and now she felt that it would be an exceedingly gloomy round living with these people.
Minnie was no companion for her sister-she was too old. Her thoughts were staid and solemnly adapted to a condition. If Hanson had any pleasant thoughts or happy feelings he concealed them. He seemed to do all his mental operations without the aid of physical expression. He was as still as a deserted chamber. Carrie, on the other hand, had the blood of youth and some imagination. Her day of love and the mysteries of courtship were still ahead. She could think of things she would like to do, of clothes she would like to wear, and of places she would like to visit. These were the things upon which her mind ran, and it was like meeting with opposition at every turn to find no one here to call forth or respond to her feelings.
She had forgotten, in considering and explaining the result of her day, that Drouet might come. Now, when she saw how unreceptive these two people were, she hoped he would not. She did not know exactly what she would do or how she would explain to Drouet, if he came. After supper she changed her clothes. When she was trimly dressed she was rather a sweet little being, with large eyes and a sad mouth. Her face expressed the mingled expectancy, dissatisfaction, and depression she felt. She wandered about after the dishes were put away, talked a little with Minnie, and then decided to go down and stand in the door at the foot of the stairs. If Drouet came, she could meet him there. Her face took on the semblance of a look of happiness as she put on her hat to go below.
"Carrie doesn't seem to like her place very well," said Minnie to her husband when the latter came out, paper in hand, to sit in the dining- room a few minutes.
"She ought to keep it for a time, anyhow," said Hanson. " Has she gone downstairs?"
"Yes," said Minnie.
"I'd tell her to keep it if I were you. She might be here weeks without getting another one."
Minnie said she would, and Hanson read his paper.
"If I were you," he said a little later, " I wouldn't let her stand in the door down there. It don't look good."
"I'll tell her," said Minnie.
The life of the streets contained for a long time to interest Carrie. She never wearied of wondering where the people in the cars were going or what their enjoyments were. Her imagination trod a very narrow round, always winding up at points which concerned money, looks, clothes or enjoyment. She would have a far-off thought of Columbia City now and then, or an irritating rush of feeling concerning her experiences of the present day, but, on the whole, the little world about her enlisted her whole attention.
The first floor of the building, of which Hanson's flat was the third, was occupied by a bakery, and to this, while she was standing there, Hanson came down to buy a loaf of bread. She was not aware of his presence until he was quite near her.
"I'm after bread," was all he said as he passed. The contagion of thought here demonstrated itself. While Hanson really came for bread, the though dwelt with him that now he would see what Carrie was doing. No sooner did he draw near her with that in mind than she felt it. Of course, she had no understanding of what put it into her head, but, nevertheless, it aroused in her the first shade of real antipathy to him. She knew now that she did not like him. He was suspicious.
A though will color a world for us. The flow of Carrie's meditations had been disturbed, and Hanson had not long gone upstairs before she followed. She had realized with the lapse of the quarter hours that Drouet was not coming, and somehow she felt a little resentful, a little as if she had been forsaken-was not good enough. She went upstairs, where everything was silent. Minnie was sewing by a lamp at the table. Hanson has already turned in for the night. In her weariness and disappointment Carrie did no more than announce that she was going to bed.
"Yes, you'd better," returned Minnie. " You've got to get up early, you know."
The morning was no better. Hanson was just going out the door as Carrie came from her room. Minnie tried to talk with her during breakfast, but there was not much of interest which they could mutually discuss. As on the previous morning, Carrie walked down town, for she began to realize now that her four-fifty would not even allow her cat fare after she paid her board. This seemed a miserable arrangement. But the morning light swept away the first misgivings of the day, as morning light is ever won't to do.
At the shoe factory she put in a long day, scarcely so wearisome as the preceding, but considerably less novel. The head foreman, on his round, stopped by her machine.
"Where did you come from?" he inquired.
"Mr. Brown hired me," she replied.
"Oh, he did, eh!" and then, " She that you keep things going."
The machine girls impressed her even less favorably. They seemed satisfied with their lot, and were in a sense " common." Carrie had more imagination than they She was not used to slang. Her instinct in the matter of dress was naturally better. She disliked to listen to the girl next to her, who was rather hardened by experience.
"I'm going to quit this," she heard her remark to her neighbor. " What with the stipend and being up late, it's too much for me health."
They were free with the follows, young and old, about the place, and exchanged banter in rude phrases, which at first shocked her. She saw that she was taken to be of the same sort and addressed accordingly.
"Hello," remarked one of the stout-wristed sole-workers to her at noon. " You're a daisy." He really expected to hear the common " Aw! go chase yourself!" in return, and was sufficiently abashed, by Carrie's silently moving away, to retreat, awkwardly grinning.