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WHAT POVERTY THREATENED: OF GRANITE
Minnieís flat, as the one-floor resident apartments were then
being called, was in a part of West Van Buren Street inhabited by
families of labourers and clerks, men who had come, and were
still coming, with the rush of population pouring in at the rate of
50,000 a year. It was on the third floor, the front windows looking
down into the street, where, at night, the lights of grocery stores
were shining and children were playing. To Carrie, the sound of
the little bells upon the horse-cars, as they tinkled in and out of
hearing, was as pleasing as it was novel. She gazed into the
lighted street when Minnie brought her into the front room, and
wondered at the sounds, the movement, the murmur of the vast
city which stretched for miles and miles in every direction.
Mrs. Hanson, after the first greetings were over, gave Carrie the
baby and proceeded to get supper. Her husband asked a few
questions and sat down to read the evening paper. He was a silent
man, American born, of a Swede father, and now employed as a
cleaner of refrigerator cars at the stock-yards. To him the presence
or absence of his wifeís sister was a matter of indifference. Her
personal appearance did not affect him one way or the other. His
one observation to the point was concerning the chances of work
"Itís a big place," he said. "You can get in somewhere in a few
days. Everybody does."
It had been tacitly understood beforehand that she was to get work
and pay her board. He was of a clean, saving disposition, and had
already paid a number of monthly instalments on two lots far out
on the West Side. His ambition was some day to build a house on
In the interval which marked the preparation of the meal Carrie
found time to study the flat. She had some slight gift of
observation and that sense, so rich in every woman-intuition.
She felt the drag of a lean and narrow life. The walls of the rooms
were discordantly papered. The floors were covered with matting
and the hall laid with a thin rag carpet. One could see that the
furniture was of that poor, hurriedly patched together quality sold
by the instalment houses.
She sat with Minnie, in the kitchen, holding the baby until it
began to cry. Then she walked and sang to it, until Hanson,
disturbed in his reading, came and took it. A pleasant side to his
nature came out here. He was patient. One could see that he was
very much wrapped up in his offspring.
"Now, now," he said, walking. "There, there," and there was a
certain Swedish accent noticeable in his voice.
"Youíll want to see the city first, wonít you?" said Minnie, when
they were eating. "Well, weíll go out Sunday and see Lincoln
Carrie noticed that Hanson had said nothing to this. He seemed to
be thinking of something else.
"Well," she said, "I think Iíll look around to-morrow. Iíve got
Friday and Saturday, and it wonít be any trouble. Which way is
the business part?"
Minnie began to explain, but her husband took this part of the
conversation to himself.
"Itís that way," he said, pointing east. "Thatís east." Then he went
off into the longest speech he had yet indulged in, concerning the
lay of Chicago. "Youíd better look in those big manufacturing
houses along Franklin Street and just the other side of the river,"
he concluded. "Lots of girls work there. You could get home easy,
too. It isnít very far."
Carrie nodded and asked her sister about the neighbourhood. The
latter talked in a subdued tone, telling the little she knew about it,
while Hanson concerned himself with the baby. Finally he jumped
up and handed the child to his wife.
"Iíve got to get up early in the morning, so Iíll go to bed," and off
he went, disappearing into the dark little bedroom off the hall, for
"He works way down at the stock-yards," explained Minnie,
"What time do you get up to get breakfast?" asked Carrie. "so heís
got to get up at half-past five."
"At about twenty minutes of five."
Together they finished the labour of the day, Carrie washing the
dishes while Minnie undressed the baby and put it to bed.
Minnieís manner was one of trained industry, and Carrie could
see that it was a steady round of toil with her.