If anything, her efforts were more poorly rewarded on this trail than the last. Her clothes were nothing suitable for fall wearing. Her last money she had spent for a hat. For three days she wandered about, utterly dispirited. The attitude of the flat was fast becoming unbearable. She hated to think of going back there each evening. Hanson was so cold. She knew it could not last much longer. Shortly she would have to give up and go home.
On the fourth day she was down town all day, having borrowed ten cents for lunch from Minnie. She had applied in the cheapest kind of places without success. She even answered for a waitress in a small restaurant where she saw a card in the window, but they wanted an experienced girl. She moved through the thick throng of strangers, utterly subdued in spirit. Suddenly a hand pulled her arm and turned her about.
"Well, well!" said a voice. In the first glance she beheld Drouet. He was not only rosy-cheeked, but radiant. He was the essence of sunshine and good-humor.
"Why, how are you, Carrie?" he said. " You're a daisy
Where have been?"
Carrie smiled under his irresistible flood of geniality.
"I've been out home," she said.
"Well," he said, " I saw you across the street there. I thought it was you. I was just coming out to your place.
How are you, anywhere?"
"I'm all right," said Carrie, smiling.
Drouet looked her over and saw something different.
"Well," he said, " I want to talk to you. You're not going anywhere in particular, are you?"
"Not just now," said Carrie.
"Let's go up here and have something to eat. George! but I'm glad to see you again."
She felt so relieved in his radiant presence, so much though with the slightest air of holding back.
"Well," he said, as he took her arm-and there was an exuberance of good-fellowship in the word which fairly warmed the cockles of her heart.
They went through Monroe Street to the old Windson dining-room, which was then a large, comfortable place with an excellent cuisine and substantial service. Drouet selected a table close by the window, where the busy route of the street could be seen. He loved the changing panorama of the street-to see and be seen as he dined.
"Now," he said, getting Carrie and himself comfortably settled, " what will you have?"
Carrie looked over the large bill of fare which the waiter handed her without really considering it. She was very hungry, and the things she saw there awakened her desires, but the high prices held her attention. " Half broiled spring chicken-seventy-five. Sirloin steak with mushrooms-one twenty-five." She had dimly heard of these things, but it seemed strange to be called to order from the list.
"I'll fix this," exclaimed Drouet. " Sst! waiter."
That officer of the board, a full-chested, round-faced negro, approached, and inclined his ear.
"Sirloin with mushrooms," said Drouet. " Stuffed tomatoes."
"Yassah," assented the negro, nodding his head.
"Hashed brown potatoes."
"And a pot of coffee."
Drouet turned to Carrie. " I haven't had a thing since breakfast. Just got in from Rock Island. I was going off to dine when I saw you."
Carrie smiled and smiled.
"What have you been doing?" he went on. " Tell me all about yourself. How is your sister?"
"She's well," returned Carrie, answering the last query.
He looked at her hard.
"Say," he said," you haven't been sick, have you?"
"Well, now that's a blooming shame, isn't it? You don't look very well. I thought you looked a little pale.
What have you been doing?"
"Working," said Carrie.
"You don't say so! At what?"
She told him.
"Rhodes, Morgenthua and Scott-why I know that house. Over here on Fifth Avenue, isn't it? They're a close-fisted concern. What made you go there?"
"I couldn't get anything else," said Carrie frankly.
"Well, that's an outrage," said Drouet. " You oughtn't to be working for those people. Have the factory right back of the store, don't they?"
"Yes," said Carrie.
"That isn't a good house," said Drouet. " You don't want to work at anything like that, anyhow."
He chattered on at a great rate, asking questions, explaining things about himself, telling her what a good restaurant it was, until the waiter returned with an immense tray, bearing the hot savory dished which had been ordered. Drouet fairly shone in the matter of serving. He appeared to great advantage behind the white napery and silver platters of the table and displaying his arms with a knife and fork. As he cut the meat his rings almost spoke. His new suit creaked as he stretched to helped Carrie to a rousing plateful and contributed the warmth of his spirit to her body until she was a new girl. He was a splendid fellow in the true popular understanding of the term, and captivated Carrie completely.
That little soldier of fortune took her good turn in an easy way. She felt a little out of place, but the great room soothed her and the view of the well-dressed throng outside seemed a splendid thing. Ah, what was it not to have money! What a thing it was to be able to come in here and dine! Drouet must be fortunate. He rod on trains, dressed in such nice clothes, was so strong, and ate in these fine places. He seemed quite a figure of a man, and she wondered at his friendship and regard for her.
"So you lost your place because you got sick, eh?" he said. " What are you going to do now?"
"Look around," she said, a thought of the need that hung outside this fine restaurant like a hungry dog at her wheels passing into her eyes.
"Oh, no," said Drouet, " that won't do. How long have you been looking?"
"Four days," she answered.
"Think of that!" he said, addressing some problematical individual. " You oughtn't to be doing anything like that. These girls," and he waved an inclusion of all shop and factory girls, " don't get anything. Why, you can't live on it, can you?"