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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser


The nature of these vast retail combinations, should they ever
permanently dis-appear, will form an interesting chapter in the
commercial history of our nation. Such a flowering out of a
modest trade principle the world had never witnessed up to that
time. They were along the line of the most effective retail
organisation, with hundreds of stores coordinated into one and
laid out upon the most imposing and economic basis. They were
handsome, bustling, successful affairs, with a host of clerks and a
swarm of patrons. Carrie passed along the busy aisles, much
affected by the remarkable displays of trinkets, dress goods,
stationery, and jewelry. Each separate counter was a show place
of dazzling interest and attraction. She could not help feeling the
claim of each trinket and valuable upon her personally, and yet
she did not stop. There was nothing there which she could not
have used-nothing which she did not long to own. The dainty
slippers and stockings, the delicately frilled skirts and petticoats,
the laces, ribbons, hair-combs, purses, all touched her with
individual desire, and she felt keenly the fact that not any of these
things were in the range of her purchase. She was a work-seeker,
an outcast

without employment, one whom the average employee could tell
at a glance was poor and in need of a situation.

It must not be thought that any one could have mistaken her for a
nervous, sensitive, high-strung nature, cast unduly upon a cold,
calculating, and unpoetic world. Such certainly she was not. But
women are peculiarly sensitive to their adornment.

Not only did Carrie feel the drag of desire for all which was new
and pleasing in apparel for women, but she noticed too, with a
touch at the heart, the fine ladies who elbowed and ignored her,
brushing past in utter disregard of her presence, themselves
eagerly enlisted in the materials which the store contained. Carrie
was not familiar with the appearance of her more fortunate sisters
of the city. Neither had she before known the nature and
appearance of the shop girls with whom she now compared
poorly. They were pretty in the main, some even handsome, with
an air of independence and indifference which added, in the case
of the more favoured, a certain piquancy. Their clothes were neat,
in many instances fine, and wherever she encountered the eye of
one it was only to recognise in it a keen analysis of her own
position-her individual shortcomings of dress and that shadow of
manner which she thought must hang about her and make clear to
all who and what she was. A flame of envy lighted in her heart.
She realised in a dim way how much the city held-wealth, fashion,
ease-every adornment for women, and she longed for dress and
beauty with a whole heart.

On the second floor were the managerial offices, to which, after
some inquiry, she was now directed. There she found other girls
ahead of her, applicants like herself, but with more of that self-
satisfied and independent air which experience of the city lends;
girls who scrutinised her in a painful manner. After a wait of
perhaps three-quarters of an hour, she was called in turn.

"Now," said a sharp, quick-mannered Jew, who was sitting at a
roll-top desk near the window, "have you ever worked in any
other store?"

"No, sir," said Carrie.

"Oh, you havenít," he said, eyeing her keenly.

"No, sir," she replied.

"Well, we prefer young women just now with some experience. I
guess we canít use you."

Carrie stood waiting a moment, hardly certain whether the
interview had terminated.

"Donít wait!" he exclaimed. "Remember we are very busy here."

Carrie began to move quickly to the door.

"Hold on," he said, calling her back. "Give me your name and
address. We want girls occasionally."

When she had gotten safely into the street, she could scarcely
restrain the tears. It was not so much the particular rebuff which
she had just experienced, but

the whole abashing trend of the day. She was tired and nervous.
She abandoned the thought of appealing to the other department
stores and now wandered on, feeling a certain safety and relief in
mingling with the crowd.

In her indifferent wandering she turned into Jackson Street, not far
from the river, and was keeping her way along the south side of
that imposing thoroughfare, when a piece of wrapping paper,
written on with marking ink and tacked up on the door, attracted
her attention. It read, "Girls wanted-wrappers & stitchers." She
hesitated a moment, then entered.
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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser



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