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Sister Carrie, by Theodore Dreiser
Just Over The Border--A Hail And Farewell
By the evening of the 16th the
subtle hand of Hurstwood had made itself apparent.
He had given the word among his friends--and they were many and
influential--that here was something which they ought to attend, and, as a
consequence, the sale of tickets by Mr. Quincel, acting for the lodge, had
been large. Small four-line
notes had appeared in all of the daily newspapers. These he had arranged
for by the aid of one of his newspaper friends on the "Times,"
Mr. Harry McGarren, the managing editor.
"Say, Harry," Hurstwood
said to him one evening, as the latter stood at the bar drinking before
wending his belated way homeward, "you can help the boys out, I
"What is it?" said
McGarren, pleased to be consulted by the opulent manager.
"The Custer Lodge is getting
up a little entertainment for their own good, and they'd like a little
newspaper notice. You know
what I mean--a squib or two saying that it's going to take place."
McGarren, "I can fix that for you, George."
At the same time Hurstwood kept
himself wholly in the background. The members of Custer Lodge could
scarcely understand why their little affair was taking so well.
Mr. Harry Quincel was looked upon as quite a star for this sort of
By the time the 16th had arrived
Hurstwood's friends had rallied like Romans to a senator's call.
A well-dressed, good-natured, flatteringly-inclined audience was
assured from the moment he thought of assisting Carrie.
That little student had mastered
her part to her own satisfaction, much as she trembled for her fate when
she should once face the gathered throng, behind the glare of the
footlights. She tried to
console herself with the thought that a score of other persons, men and
women, were equally tremulous concerning the outcome of their efforts, but
she could not disassociate the general danger from her own individual
liability. She feared that she would forget her lines, that she might be
unable to master the feeling which she now felt concerning her own
movements in the play. At
times she wished that she had never gone into the affair; at others, she
trembled lest she should be paralysed with fear and stand white and
gasping, not knowing what to say and spoiling the entire performance.
In the matter of the company, Mr.
Bamberger had disappeared. That hopeless example had fallen under the
lance of the director's criticism. Mrs.
Morgan was still present, but envious and determined, if for nothing more
than spite, to do as well as Carrie at least.
A loafing professional had been called in to assume the role of
Ray, and, while he was a poor stick of his kind, he was not troubled by
any of those qualms which attack the spirit of those who have never faced
an audience. He swashed about
(cautioned though he was to maintain silence concerning his past
theatrical relationships) in such a self-confident manner that he was like
to convince every one of his identity by mere matter of circumstantial
"It is so easy," he
said to Mrs. Morgan, in the usual affected stage voice.
"An audience would be the last thing to trouble me. It's the
spirit of the part, you know, that is difficult."
Carrie disliked his appearance,
but she was too much the actress not to swallow his qualities with
complaisance, seeing that she must suffer his fictitious love for the
At six she was ready to go.
Theatrical paraphernalia had been provided over and above her care.
She had practised her make-up in the morning, had rehearsed and
arranged her material for the evening by one o'clock, and had gone home to
have a final look at her part, waiting for the evening to come.
On this occasion the lodge sent a
carriage. Drouet rode with her
as far as the door, and then went about the neighbouring stores, looking for
some good cigars. The little
actress marched nervously into her dressing-room and began that painfully
anticipated matter of make-up which was to transform her, a simple maiden,
to Laura, The Belle of Society.
The flare of the gas-jets, the
open trunks, suggestive of travel and display, the scattered contents of the
make-up box--rouge, pearl powder, whiting, burnt cork, India ink, pencils
for the eye-lids, wigs, scissors, looking-glasses, drapery--in short, all
the nameless paraphernalia of disguise, have a remarkable atmosphere of
their own. Since her arrival in
the city many things had influenced her, but always in a far-removed manner.
This new atmosphere was more friendly.
It was wholly unlike the great brilliant mansions which waved her
coldly away, permitting her only awe and distant wonder.
This took her by the hand kindly, as one who says, "My dear,
come in." It opened for her as if for its own.
She had wondered at the greatness of the names upon the bill-boards,
the marvel of the long notices in the papers, the beauty of the dresses upon
the stage, the atmosphere of carriages, flowers, refinement.
Here was no illusion. Here
was an open door to see all of that. She
had come upon it as one who stumbles upon a secret passage and, behold, she
was in the chamber of diamonds and delight!
As she dressed with a flutter, in
her little stage room, hearing the voices outside, seeing Mr. Quincel
hurrying here and there, noting Mrs. Morgan and Mrs. Hoagland at their
nervous work of preparation, seeing all the twenty members of the cast
moving about and worrying over what the result would be, she could not help
thinking what a delight this would be if it would endure; how perfect a
state, if she could only do well now, and then some time get a place as a
real actress. The thought had
taken a mighty hold upon her. It
hummed in her ears as the melody of an old song.
Outside in the little lobby
another scene was begin enacted. Without the interest of Hurstwood, the
little hall would probably have been comfortably filled, for the members of
the lodge were moderately interested in its welfare.
Hurstwood's word, however, had gone the rounds.
It was to be a full-dress affair.
The four boxes had been taken. Dr.
Norman McNeill Hale and his wife were to occupy one.
This was quite a card. C.
R. Walker, dry-goods merchant and possessor of at least two hundred thousand
dollars, had taken another; a well-known coal merchant had been induced to
take the third, and Hurstwood and his friends the fourth.
Among the latter was Drouet. The
people who were now pouring here were not celebrities, nor even local
notabilities, in a general sense. They were the lights of a certain
circle--the circle of small fortunes and secret order distinctions.
These gentlemen Elks knew the standing of one another. They had regard for the ability which could amass a small
fortune, own a nice home, keep a barouche or carriage, perhaps, wear fine
clothes, and maintain a good mercantile position. Naturally, Hurstwood, who was a little above the order of
mind which accepted this standard as perfect, who had shrewdness and much
assumption of dignity, who held an imposing and authoritative position, and
commanded friendship by intuitive tact in handling people, was quite a
figure. He was more generally
known than most others in the same circle, and was looked upon as some one
whose reserve covered a mine of influence and solid financial prosperity.
To-night he was in his element.
He came with several friends directly from Rector's in a carriage.
In the lobby he met Drouet, who was just returning from a trip for
more cigars. All five now
joined in an animated conversation concerning the company present and the
general drift of lodge affairs.
"Who's here?" said
Hurstwood, passing into the theatre proper, where the lights were turned up
and a company of gentlemen were laughing and talking in the open space back
of the seats.
"Why, how do you do, Mr.
Hurstwood?" came from the first individual recognised.
"Glad to see you," said
the latter, grasping his hand lightly.
"Looks quite an affair,
"Yes, indeed," said the
"Custer seems to have the
backing of its members," observed the friend.
"So it should," said
the knowing manager. "I'm
glad to see it."
"Well, George," said
another rotund citizen, whose avoirdupois made necessary an almost alarming
display of starched shirt bosom, "how goes it with you?"
"Excellent," said the
"What brings you over here?
You're not a member of Custer."
the manager. "Like to see
the boys, you know."
"She couldn't come to-night.
She's not well."
"Sorry to hear it--nothing
serious, I hope."
"No, just feeling a little
"I remember Mrs.
Hurstwood when she was travelling once with you over to St.
Joe--" and here the newcomer launched off in a trivial recollection,
which was terminated by the arrival of more friends.
"Why, George, how are
you?" said another genial West Side politician and lodge member. "My, but I'm glad to see you again; how are things,
"Very well; I see you got
that nomination for alderman."
"Yes, we whipped them out
over there without much trouble."
"What do you suppose
Hennessy will do now?"
"Oh, he'll go back to his
brick business. He has a
brick-yard, you know."
"I didn't know that,"
said the manager. "Felt
pretty sore, I suppose, over his defeat." "Perhaps," said the
other, winking shrewdly.
Some of the more favoured of his
friends whom he had invited began to roll up in carriages now.
They came shuffling in with a great show of finery and much evident
feeling of content and importance.
"Here we are," said
Hurstwood, turning to one from a group with whom he was talking.
returned the newcomer, a gentleman of about forty-five.
"And say," he
whispered, jovially, pulling Hurstwood over by the shoulder so that he might
whisper in his ear, "if this isn't a good show, I'll punch your
"You ought to pay for seeing
your old friends. Bother the
To another who inquired, "Is
it something really good?" the manager replied:
"I don't know.
I don't suppose so." Then, lifting his hand graciously,
"For the lodge."
"Lots of boys out, eh?"
"Yes, look up Shanahan.
He was just asking for you a moment ago."
It was thus that the little
theatre resounded to a babble of successful voices, the creak of fine
clothes, the commonplace of good-nature, and all largely because of this
man's bidding. Look at him any
time within the half hour before the curtain was up, he was a member of an
eminent group--a rounded company of five or more whose stout figures, large
white bosoms, and shining pins bespoke the character of their success.
The gentlemen who brought their wives called him out to shake hands.
Seats clicked, ushers bowed while he looked blandly on.
He was evidently a light among them, reflecting in his personality
the ambitions of those who greeted him.
He was acknowledged, fawned upon, in a way lionised.
Through it all one could see the standing of the man.
It was greatness in a way, small as it was.
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