Without much thinking, she reached Dearborn Street. Here was the great Fair store with its multitude of delivery wagons about, its long window display, its crowd of shoppers. It readily changed her thoughts, she who was so weary of them. It was here that she had intended to come and get her new things. Now for relief from distress; she thought she would go in and see. She would look at the jackets.
There is nothing in this world more delightful than that middle state in which we mentally balance at times, possessed of the means, lured by desire, and yet deterred by conscience or what of decision. When Carrie began wandering around the store amid the fine displays she was in this mood. Her original experience in this same place had given her a high opinion of its merits. Now she paused at each individual bit of finery, where before she had hurried on. Her woman's heart was warm with desire for them. How would she look in this, how charming that would make her! She came upon the corset counter and pauses in rich reverie as she noted the dainty concoctions of color and lace their displayed. If she would only make up her mind, she could have one or those now. She lingered in the jewelry department. She saw the earrings, the bracelets, the pins, the chains. What would she not have given if she could have had them all! She would look fine too, if only she had some of these things.
The jackets were the greatest attraction. When she entered the store, she already had her heart fixed upon the peculiar little tan jacket with large mother-of-pearl buttons which was all the rage that fall. Still she delighted to convince herself that there was nothing she would like better. She went about among the glass cases and racks where these things were displayed, and satisfied herself that the one she thought of was the proper one. All the time she wavered in mind, now persuading herself that she could buy it right away if she chose, now recalling to herself the actual condition. At last the noon hour was dangerously near, and she had done nothing. She must go now and return the money.
Drouet was on the corner when she came up.
"Hello," he said, " where is the jacket and"-looking down-" the shoes?"
Carrie had thought lead up to her decision in some intelligent way, but this swept the whole fore-schemed situation by the board.
"I came to tell you that-that I can't take the money."
"Oh, that's it, is it?" he returned. " Well, you come on with me. Let's go over here to Partridge's."
Carrie walked with him. Behold, the whole fabric of doubt and impossibility had slipped from her mind. She could not get at the points that were so serious, the things she was going to make plain to him.
"Have you had lunch yet? Of course you haven't. Let's go in here," and Drouet turned into one of the very nicely furnished restaurants off State Street, in Monroe.
"I mustn't take money," said Carrie, after they were settled in a cozy corner, and Drouet had ordered the lunch. " I can't wear those things out there. They wouldn't know where I got them."
"What do you want to do," he smiled, " go without them?"
"I think I'll go home," she said, wearily.
"Oh, come," he said, " you've been thinking it over too long. I'll tell you what you do. You rent a furnished room and leave them in that for a week?"
Carrie shook her head. Like all women, she was there to object and be convinced. It was for him to brush the doubts away and clear the path if he could.
"Why are you going home?" he asked.
"Oh, I can't get anything here."
"They won't keep you?" he remarked, intuitively.
"They can't" said Carrie.
"I'll tell you what you do," he said. " You come with me. I'll take care of you."
Carrie heard this passively. The peculiar state which she was in made it sound like the welcome breath of an open door. Drouet seemed of her own spirit and pleasing. He was clean, handsome, well-dressed, and sympathetic. His voice was the voice of a friend.
"What can you do back at Columbia City?" he went on, rousing by the words in Carrie's mind a picture of the dull world she had left. " There isn't anything down there. Chicago's the place. You can get a nice room.
Carrie looked out through the window into the busy street. There it was, the admirable, great city, so fine sing pair of bays, passed by, carrying in its upholstered depths a young lady.
"What will you have if you go back?" asked Drouet. There was no subtle undercurrent to the question. He imagined that she would have nothing at all of the things he thought worth while.
Carrie sat still, looking out. She was wondering what she could do. They would be expecting her to go home this week.
Drouet turned to the subject of the clothes she was going to buy.
"Why not get yourself a nice little jacket? You've got to have it. I'll loan you the money. You needn't worry about taking it. You can get yourself a nice room by yourself. I won't hurt you."
Carrie saw the drift, but could not express her thoughts. She felt more than ever the helplessness of her case.
"If I could only get something to do," she said.
"Maybe you can," went on Drouet, " if you stay here. You can't if you go away. They won't let you stay out there. Now, why not let me get you a nice room? I won't bother you needn't be afraid. Then, when you get fixed up, maybe you could get something."
He looked at her pretty face and vivified his mental resources. She was a sweet little mortal to him-there was no doubt of that. She seemed to have some power back of her actions. She was not like the common run of store-girls. She wasn't silly.
In reality, Carrie had more imagination than he-more taste. It was a finer mental strain in her that made possible her depression and loneliness. Her poor clothes were neat, and she held her head unconsciously in a dainty way.
"DO you think I could get something?" she asked.
"Sure," he said, reaching over and filling her cup with tea. " I'll help you."
She looked at him, and he laughed reassuringly.
"Now I'll tell you what we'll do. We'll go over her to Partridge's and you pick out what you want. The we'll look around for a room for you. You can leave the things there. Then we'll go to the show to-night."
Carrie shook her head.
"We'll, you can go out to the flat them, that's all right You don't need to stay in the room. Just take it and leave your things there."
She hung in doubt about this until the dinner was over.
"Let's go over and look at the jackets," he said.
Together they went. In the store they found that shine and rustle of new things which immediately laid hold of Carrie's heart. Under the influence of a good dinner and Drouet's radiating presence, the scheme proposed seemed feasible. She looked about and picked a jacket like the one which she had admired at The Fair. When she got it in her hand it seemed so much nicer. The saleswoman helped her on with it, and, by accident it fitted perfectly. Drouet's face lightened as he saw the improvement. She looked quite smart.
"That's the thing," he said.
Carrie turned before the glass. She could not help feeling pleased as she looked at herself. A warm glow crept into her cheeks.
"That's the thing," said Drouet. " Now pay for it."
"It's nine dollar," said Carrie.
"That's all right-take it," said Drouet.