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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser


The firm of Speigelheim & Co., makers of boysí caps, occupied
one floor of the building, fifty feet in width and some eighty feet
in depth. It was a place rather dingily lighted, the darkest portions
having incandescent lights, filled with machines and work
benches. At the latter laboured quite a company of girls and some
men. The former were drabby-looking creatures, stained in face
with oil and dust, clad in thin, shapeless, cotton dresses and shod
with more or less worn shoes. Many of them had their sleeves
rolled up, revealing bare arms, and in some cases, owing to the
heat, their dresses were open at the neck. They were a fair type of
nearly the lowest order of shop-girls-careless, slouchy, and more
or less pale from confinement. They were not timid, however;
were rich in curiosity, and strong in daring and slang.

Carrie looked about her, very much disturbed and quite sure that
she did not want to work here. Aside from making her
uncomfortable by sidelong glances, no one paid her the least
attention. She waited until the whole department was aware

of her presence. Then some word was sent around, and a foreman,
in an apron and shirt sleeves, the latter rolled up to his shoulders,
approached.

"Do you want to see me?" he asked.

"Do you need any help?" said Carrie, already learning directness
of address.

"Do you know how to stitch caps?" he returned.

"No, sir," she replied.

"Have you ever had any experience at this kind of work?" he
inquired.

She answered that she had not.

"Well," said the foreman, scratching his ear meditatively, "we do
need a stitcher. We like experienced help, though. Weíve hardly
got time to break people in." He paused and looked away out of
the window. "We might, though, put you at finishing," he
concluded reflectively.

"How much do you pay a week?" ventured Carrie, emboldened by
a certain softness in the manís manner and his simplicity of
address.

"Three and a half," he answered.

"Oh," she was about to exclaim, but checked herself and allowed
her thoughts to die without expression.

"Weíre not exactly in need of anybody," he went on vaguely,
looking her over as one would a package. "You can come on
Monday morning, though," he added, "and Iíll put you to work."

"Thank you," said Carrie weakly.

"If you come, bring an apron," he added.

He walked away and left her standing by the elevator, never so
much as inquiring her name.

While the appearance of the shop and the announcement of the
price paid per week operated very much as a blow to Carrieís
fancy, the fact that work of any kind was offered after so rude a
round of experience was gratifying. She could not begin to believe
that she would take the place, modest as her aspirations were. She
had been used to better than that. Her mere experience and the
free out-of-door life of the country caused her nature to revolt at
such confinement. Dirt had never been her share. Her sisterís flat
was clean. This place was grimy and low, the girls were careless
and hardened. They must be bad-minded and hearted, she
imagined. Still, a place had been offered her. Surely Chicago was
not so bad if she could find one place in one day. She might find
another and better later.

Her subsequent experiences were not of a reassuring nature,
however. From all the more pleasing or imposing places she was
turned away abruptly with the most chilling formality. In others
where she applied only the experienced were required. She met
with painful rebuffs, the most trying of which had been in a
manufacturing cloak house, where she had gone to the fourth floor
to inquire.

"No, no," said the foreman, a rough, heavily built individual, who
looked after a miserably lighted workshop, "we donít want any
one. Donít come here."
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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser



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