That night at the flat she was even more lonely-the dull situation was becoming harder to endure. She could see that the Hassons seldom or never had any company. Standing at the street door looking out, she ventured to walk out a little way. Her easy gait and idle manner attracted attention of an offensive but common sort. She was slightly taken back at the overtures of a well-dressed man of thirty, who in passing looked at her, reduced his pace, turned back, and said:
"Out for a little stroll, are you, this evening?"
Carrie looked at him in amazement, and then summoned sufficient thoughts to reply: " Why, I don't know you," backing away as she did so.
"Oh, that don't matter," said the other affably.
She bandied no more words with him, but hurried away, reaching her own door quite out of breath. There was something in the man's look which frightened her.
During the remainder of the week it was very much the same. One or two nights she found herself too tried to walk home, and expended car fare. She was not very strong, and sitting all day affected her back. She went to bed one night before Hanson.
Transplantation is not always successful in the matter of flowers or maidens. It requires sometimes a richer soil, a better atmosphere to continue even a natural growth. It would have been better if her acclimatization had been more gradual-less rigid. She would have done better if she had not secured a position so quickly, and had seen more of the city which she constantly troubled to know about.
On the first morning it rained she found that she no umbrella. Minnie loaned her one of hers, which was worn and faded. There was the kind of vanity in Carrie that troubled at this. She went to one of the great department stores and bought herself one, using a dollar and a quarter of her small store to pay for it.
"What did you do that for, Carrie?" asked Minnie, when she saw it.
"Oh, I need one," said Carrie.
"You foolish girl."
Carrie resented this, though she did not reply. She was not going to be a common shop-girl, she though; they need not think it, either.
One the first Saturday night Carrie paid her board, four dollars. Minnie had a quaver of conscience as she took it, but did not know how to explain to Hanson if she took less. That worthy gave up just four dollar less toward the household expenses with a smile of satisfaction. He contemplated increasing his Building and Loan payments. As for Carrie, she studied over the problem of finding clothes and amusement on fifty cents a week. She brooded over this until she was in a state of mental rebellion.
"I'm going up the street for a walk," she said after supper.
"Not alone, are you? asked Hanson.
"Yes," returned Carrie.
"I wouldn't," said Minnie.
"I want to see something," said Carrie, and by the tone she put into the last word they realized for the first time she was not pleased with them.
"What's the matter with her?" asked Hanson, when she went into the front room to get her hat.
"I don't know," said Minnie.
"Well, she ought to know better than to want to go out alone."
Carrie did not go very far, after all. She returned and stood in the door. The next day they went out to Garfield Park, but it did not please her. She did not look well enough. In the shop next day she heard the highly colored reports which girls give of their trivial amusements. They had been happy. On several days it rained and she used up car fare. One night she got thoroughly that evening she sat alone in the front room looking out upon the street, where the lights were reflected on the wet pavements, thinking. She had imagination enough to be moody.
On Saturday she paid another four dollars and pocketed her fifty cents in despair. The speaking acquaintanceship which she formed with some of the girls at the shop discovered to her the fact that they had more of their earnings to use for themselves than she did. They had young men of the kind whom she, since her experience with Drouet, felt above, who took them about. She came to thoroughly dislike the light-headed young fellows of the shop. Not one of them had a show of refinement. She saw only their workday side.
There came a day when the first premonitory blast of winter swept over the city. It scudded the fleecy clouds in the heavens, trailed long, thin streamers of smoke from the tall stacks, and raced about the streets and corners in sharp and sudden puffs. Carrie now felt the problem of winter clothes. What was she to do? She had no winter jacket, no hat, no shoes. It was difficult to speak to Minnie about this, but at last she summoned the courage.
"I don't know what I'm going to do about clothes," she said one evening when they were together. " I need a hat."
Minnie looked serious.
"Why don't you keep part of your money and buy yourself one?" she suggested, worried over the situation which the withholding of Carrie's money would create.
"I'd like to for a week or so, if you don't mind," ventured Carrie.
"Could you pay two dollars?" asked Minnie.
Carrie readily acquiesced, glad to escape the trying situation, and liberal now that she saw a way out. She was elated and began figuring at once. She needed a hat first of all. How Minnie explained to Hanson she never knew. He said nothing at all, but there were thoughts in the air which left disagreeable impressions.
The new arrangement might have worked if sickness had not intervened. It blew up cold after a rain one afternoon when Carrie was still without a jacket. She came out of the warm shop at six and shivered as the wind struck her. In the morning she was sneezing, and going down town made it worse. That day her bones ached and she felt light-headed. Towards evening she felt very ill, and when she reached home was not hungry. Minnie noticed her drooping actions and asked her about herself.
"I don't know," said Carrie. " I feel real bad."
She hung about the stove, suffered a chattering chill, and went to bed sick. The next morning she was thoroughly feverish.
Minnie was truly distressed at this, but maintained a kindly demeanor. Hanson said perhaps she had better go back home for a while. When she got up after three days, it was taken for granted that her position was lost. The winter was near at hand, she had no clothes, and now she was out of work.
"I don't know," said Carrie; " I'll go down Monday and see if I can't get something."