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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser


Chapter III
WE QUESTION OF FORTUNE: FOUR-FIFTY A
WEEK


Once across the river and into the wholesale district, she glanced
about her for some likely door at which to apply. As she
contemplated the wide windows and imposing signs, she became
conscious of being gazed upon and understood for what she was-a
wage-seeker. She had never done this thing before, and lacked
courage. To avoid a certain indefinable shame she felt at being
caught spying about for a position, she quickened her steps and
assumed an air of indifference supposedly common to one upon
an errand. In this way she passed many manufacturing and
wholesale houses without once glancing in. At last, after several
blocks of walking, she felt that this would not do, and began to
look about again; though without relaxing her pace. A little way
on she saw a great door which, for some reason, attracted her
attention. It was ornamented by a small brass sign, and seemed to
be the entrance to a vast hive of six or seven floors. "Perhaps," she
thought, "they may want some one," and crossed over to enter.
When she came within a score of feet of the desired goal, she saw
through the window a young man in a grey checked suit. That he
had anything to do with the concern, she could not tell, but
because he happened to be looking in her direction her weakening
heart misgave her and she hurried by, too overcome with shame to
enter. Over the way stood a great six-story structure, labelled
Storm and King, which she viewed with rising hope. It was a
wholesale dry goods concern and employed

women. She could see them moving about now and then upon the
upper floors. This place she decided to enter, no matter what. She
crossed over and walked directly toward the entrance. As she did
so, two men came out and paused in the door. A telegraph
messenger in blue dashed past her and up the few steps that led to
the entrance and disappeared. Several pedestrians out of the
hurrying throng which filled the sidewalks passed about her as she
paused, hesitating. She looked helplessly around, and then, seeing
herself observed, retreated. It was too difficult a task. She could
not go past them.

So severe a defeat told sadly upon her nerves. Her feet carried her
mechanically forward, every foot of her progress being a
satisfactory portion of a flight which she gladly made. Block after
block passed by. Upon street-lamps at the various corners she read
names such as Madison, Monroe, La Salle, Clark, Dearborn,
State, and still she went, her feet beginning to tire upon the broad
stone flagging. She was pleased in part that the streets were bright
and clean. The morning sun, shining down with steadily
increasing warmth, made the shady side of the streets pleasantly
cool. She looked at the blue sky overhead with more realisation of
its charm than had ever come to her before.

Her cowardice began to trouble her in a way. She turned back,
resolving to bunt up Storm and King and enter. On the way she
encountered a great wholesale shoe company, through the broad
plate windows of which she saw an enclosed executive
department, hidden by frosted glass. Without this enclosure, but
just within the street entrance, sat a grey-haired gentleman at a
small table, with a

large open ledger before him. She walked by this institution
several times hesitating, but, finding herself unobserved, faltered
past the screen door and stood humbly waiting.

"Well, young lady," observed the old gentleman, looking at her
somewhat kindly, "what is it you wish?"

"I am, that is, do you-I mean, do you need any help?" she
stammered.

"Not just at present," he answered smiling. "Not just at present.
Come in some time next week. Occasionally we need some one."

She received the answer in silence and backed awkwardly out.
The pleasant nature of her reception rather astonished her. She
had expected that it would be more difficult, that something cold
and harsh would be said-she knew not what. That she had not
been put to shame and made to feel her unfortunate position,
seemed remarkable.

Somewhat encouraged, she ventured into another large structure.
It was a clothing company, and more people were in evidence-
well-dressed men of forty and more, surrounded by brass railings.

An office boy approached her.

"Who is it you wish to see?" he asked.

"I want to see the manager," she said.

He ran away and spoke to one of a group of three men who were
conferring together. One of these came towards her.

"Well?" he said coldly. The greeting drove all courage from her at
once.
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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser



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