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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser


"Do you need any help?" she stammered.

"No," he replied abruptly, and turned upon his heel.

She went foolishly out, the office boy deferentially swinging the
door for her, and gladly sank into the obscuring crowd. It was a
severe setback to her recently pleased mental state.

Now she walked quite aimlessly for a time, turning here and there,
seeing one great company after another, but finding no courage to
prosecute her single inquiry. High noon came, and with it hunger.
She hunted out an unassuming restaurant and entered, but was
disturbed to find that the prices were exorbitant for the size of her
purse. A bowl of soup was all that she could afford, and, with this
quickly eaten, she went out again. It restored her strength
somewhat and made her moderately bold to pursue the search.

In walking a few blocks to fix upon some probable place, she
again encountered the firm of Storm and King, and this time
managed to get in. Some gentlemen were conferring close at
hand, but took no notice of her. She was left standing, gazing
nervously upon the floor. When the limit of her distress had been
nearly reached, she was beckoned to by a man at one of the many
desks within the near-by railing.

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

"Why, any one, if you please," she answered. "I am looking for
something to do."

"Oh, you want to see Mr. McManus," he returned. "Sit down,"
and he pointed to a chair against the neighbouring wall. He went
on leisurely writing, until after a time a short, stout gentleman
came in from the street.

"Mr. McManus," called the man at the desk, "this young woman
wants to see you."

The short gentleman turned about towards Carrie, and she arose
and came forward.

"What can I do for you, miss?" he inquired, surveying her
curiously.

"I want to know if I can get a position," she inquired.

"As what?" he asked.

"Not as anything in particular," she faltered.

"Have you ever had any experience in the wholesale dry goods
business?" he questioned.

"No, sir," she replied.

"Are you a stenographer or typewriter?"

"No, sir."

"Well, we havenít anything here," he said. "We employ only
experienced help."

She began to step backward toward the door, when something
about her plaintive face attracted him.

"Have you ever worked at anything before?" he inquired.

"No, sir," she said.

"Well, now, itís hardly possible that you would get anything to do
in a wholesale house of this kind. Have you tried the department
stores?"

She acknowledged that she had not.

"Well, if I were you," he said, looking at her rather genially "I
would try the department stores. They often need young women
as clerks."

"Thank you," she said, her whole nature relieved by this spark of
friendly interest.

"Yes," he said, as she moved toward the door, "you try the
department stores," and off he went.

At that time the department store was in its earliest form of
successful operation, and there were not many. The first three in
the United States, established about 1884, were in Chicago. Carrie
was familiar with the names of several through the advertisements
in the "Daily News," and now proceeded to seek them. The words
of Mr. McManus had somehow managed to restore her courage,

which had fallen low, and she dared to hope that this new line
would offer her something. Some time she spent in wandering up
and down, thinking to encounter the buildings by chance, so
readily is the mind, bent upon prosecuting a hard but needful
errand, eased by that self-deception which the semblance of
search, without the reality, gives. At last she inquired of a police
officer, and was directed to proceed "two blocks up," where she
would find "The Fair."
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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser



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