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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser

Chapter XLI

The barn at which Hurstwood applied was exceedingly short-
handed, and was being operated practically by three men as
directors. There were a lot of green hands around-queer, hungry-
looking men, who looked as if want had driven them to desperate
means. They tried to be lively and willing, but there was an air of
hang-dog diffidence about the place.

Hurstwood went back through the barns and out into a large,
enclosed lot, where were a series of tracks and loops. A half-
dozen cars were there, manned by instructors, each with a pupil at
the lever. More pupils were waiting at one of the rear doors of the

In silence Hurstwood viewed this scene, and waited. His
companions took his eye for a while, though they did not interest
him much more than the cars. They were an uncomfortable-
looking gang, however. One or two were very thin and lean.
Several were quite stout. Several others were rawboned and
sallow, as if they had been beaten upon by all sorts of rough

"Did you see by the paper they are going to call out the militia?"
Hurstwood heard one of them remark.

"Oh, they’ll do that," returned the other. "They always do."

"Think we’re liable to have much trouble?" said another, whom
Hurstwood did not see.

"Not very."

"That Scotchman that went out on the last car," put in a voice,
"told me that they hit him in the car with a cinder."

A small, nervous laugh accompanied this.

"One of those fellows on the Fifth Avenue line must have had a
hell of a time, according to the papers," drawled another. "They
broke his car windows and pulled him off into the street ‘fore the
police could stop ‘em."

"Yes; but there are more police around to-day," was added by

Hurstwood hearkened without much mental comment. These
talkers seemed scared to him. Their gabbling was feverish-things
said to quiet their own minds. He looked out into the yard and

Two of the men got around quite near him, but behind his back.
They were rather social, and he listened to what they said.

"Are you a railroad man?" said one.

"Me? No. I’ve always worked in a paper factory."

"I had a job in Newark until last October," returned the other, with
reciprocal feeling.

There were some words which passed too low to hear. Then the
conversation became strong again.

"I don’t blame these fellers for striking," said one. "They’ve got
the right of it, all right, but I had to get something to do."

"Same here," said the other. "If I had any job in Newark I
wouldn’t be over here takin’ chances like these."

"It’s hell these days, ain’t it?" said the man. "A poor man ain’t
nowhere. You could starve, by God, right in the streets, and there
ain’t most no one would help you."

"Right you are," said the other. "The job I had I lost ‘cause they
shut down. They run all summer and lay up a big stock, and then
shut down."

Hurstwood paid some little attention to this. Somehow, he felt a
little superior to these two-a little better off. To him these were
ignorant and commonplace, poor sheep in a driver’s hand.

"Poor devils," he thought, speaking out of the thoughts and
feelings of a bygone period of success.

"Next," said one of the instructors.

"You’re next," said a neighbour, touching him.

He went out and climbed on the platform. The instructor took it
for granted that no preliminaries were needed.

"You see this handle," he said, reaching up to an electric cut-off,
which was fastened to the roof. "This throws the current off or on.
If you want to reverse the car you turn it over here. If you want to
send it forward, you put it over here. If you want to cut off the
power, you keep it in the middle."

Hurstwood smiled at the simple information.
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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser

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