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Sister Carrie, by Theodore Dreiser
The Spirit Awakens--New Search For The Gate
It would be useless to explain
how in due time the last fifty dollars was in sight.
The seven hundred, by his process of handling, had only carried
them into June. Before the
final hundred mark was reached he began to indicate that a calamity was
"I don't know," he said
one day, taking a trivial expenditure for meat as a text, "it seems
to take an awful lot for us to live."
"It doesn't seem to
me," said Carrie, "that we spend very much."
"My money is nearly
gone," he said, "and I hardly know where it's gone to."
"All that seven hundred
dollars?" asked Carrie.
"All but a hundred."
He looked so disconsolate that it
scared her. She began to see
that she herself had been drifting. She
had felt it all the time.
"Well, George," she
exclaimed, "why don't you get out and look for something? You could
"I have looked," he
said. "You can t make
people give you a place."
She gazed weakly at him and said:
"Well, what do you think you will do? A hundred dollars won't last
"I don't know," he
said. "I can't do any
more than look."
Carrie became frightened over
this announcement. She thought
desperately upon the subject. Frequently
she had considered the stage as a door through which she might enter that
gilded state which she had so much craved.
Now, as in Chicago, it came as a last resource in distress. Something must be done if he did not get work soon.
Perhaps she would have to go out and battle again alone.
She began to wonder how one would
go about getting a place. Her
experience in Chicago proved that she had not tried the right way. There must be people who would listen to and try you--men who
would give you an opportunity.
They were talking at the
breakfast table, a morning or two later, when she brought up the dramatic
subject by saying that she saw that Sarah Bernhardt was coming to this
country. Hurstwood had seen it,
"How do people get on the
stage, George?" she finally asked, innocently.
"I don't know," he
said. "There must be
Carrie was sipping coffee, and
did not look up.
"Regular people who get you
"Yes, I think so," he
Suddenly the air with which she
asked attracted his attention.
"You're not still thinking
about being an actress, are you?" he asked.
"No," she answered,
"I was just wondering."
Without being clear, there was
something in the thought which he objected to.
He did not believe any more, after three years of observation, that
Carrie would ever do anything great in that line.
She seemed too simple, too yielding.
His idea of the art was that it involved something more pompous.
If she tried to get on the stage she would fall into the hands of
some cheap manager and become like the rest of them.
He had a good idea of what he meant by THEM.
Carrie was pretty. She
would get along all right, but where would he be?
"I'd get that idea out of my
head, if I were you. It's a lot
more difficult than you think."
Carrie felt this to contain, in
some way, an aspersion upon her ability.
"You said I did real well in
Chicago," she rejoined.
"You did," he answered,
seeing that he was arousing opposition, "but Chicago isn't New York, by
a big jump."
Carrie did not answer this at
all. It hurt her.
"The stage," he went
on, "is all right if you can be one of the big guns, but there's
nothing to the rest of it. It
takes a long while to get up."
"Oh, I don't know,"
said Carrie, slightly aroused.
In a flash, he thought he foresaw
the result of this thing. Now,
when the worst of his situation was approaching, she would get on the stage
in some cheap way and forsake him. Strangely,
he had not conceived well of her mental ability. That was because he did not understand the nature of
emotional greatness. He had
never learned that a person might be emotionally--instead of
Hall was too far away for him to look back and sharply remember.
He had lived with this woman too long.
"Well, I do," he
answered. "If I were you I
wouldn't think of it. It's not
much of a profession for a woman."
"It's better than going
hungry," said Carrie. "If
you don't want me to do that, why don't you get work yourself?"
There was no answer ready for
this. He had got used to the
"Oh, let up," he
The result of this was that she
secretly resolved to try. It
didn't matter about him. She
was not going to be dragged into poverty and something worse to suit him.
She could act. She could
get something and then work up. What
would he say then? She pictured herself already appearing in some fine
performance on Broadway; of going every evening to her dressing-room and
making up. Then she would come
out at eleven o'clock and see the carriages ranged about, waiting for the
people. It did not matter
whether she was the star or not. If
she were only once in, getting a decent salary, wearing the kind of clothes
she liked, having the money to do with, going here and there as she pleased,
how delightful it would all be. Her
mind ran over this picture all the day long.
Hurstwood's dreary state made its beauty become more and more vivid.
Curiously this idea soon took
hold of Hurstwood. His
vanishing sum suggested that he would need sustenance.
Why could not Carrie assist him a little until he could get
He came in one day with something
of this idea in his mind.
"I met John B. Drake
to-day," he said. "He's
going to open a hotel here in the fall.
He says that he can make a place for me then."
"Who is he?" asked
"He's the man that runs the
Grand Pacific in Chicago."
"Oh," said Carrie.
"I'd get about fourteen
hundred a year out of that."
"That would be good,
wouldn't it?" she said, sympathetically.
"If I can only get over this
summer," he added, "I think I'll be all right.
I'm hearing from some of my friends again."
Carrie swallowed this story in
all its pristine beauty. She
sincerely wished he could get through the summer.
He looked so hopeless.
"How much money have you
"Only fifty dollars."
"Oh, mercy," she
exclaimed, "what will we do? It's only twenty days until the rent will
be due again."
Hurstwood rested his head on his
hands and looked blankly at the floor.
"Maybe you could get
something in the stage line?" he blandly suggested.
"Maybe I could," said
Carrie, glad that some one approved of the idea.
"I'll lay my hand to
whatever I can get," he said, now that he saw her brighten up. "I can get something."
She cleaned up the things one
morning after he had gone, dressed as neatly as her wardrobe permitted, and
set out for Broadway. She did not know that thoroughfare very well.
To her it was a wonderful conglomeration of everything great and
mighty. The theatres were
there--these agencies must be somewhere about.
She decided to stop in at the
Madison Square Theatre and ask how to find the theatrical agents.
This seemed the sensible way. Accordingly, when she reached that
theatre she applied to the clerk at the box office.
"Eh?" he said, looking
out. "Dramatic agents? I
don't know. You'll find them in the 'Clipper,' though.
They all advertise in that."
"Is that a paper?" said
"Yes," said the clerk,
marvelling at such ignorance of a common fact.
"You can get it at the news-stands," he added politely,
seeing how pretty the inquirer was.
Carrie proceeded to get the
"Clipper," and tried to find the agents by looking over it as she
stood beside the stand. This
could not be done so easily. Thirteenth
Street was a number of blocks off, but she went back, carrying the precious
paper and regretting the waste of time.
Hurstwood was already there,
sitting in his place.
"Where were you?" he
"I've been trying to find
some dramatic agents."
He felt a little diffident about
asking concerning her success. The paper she began to scan attracted his
"What have you got
there?" he asked.
"The 'Clipper.' The man said
I'd find their addresses in here."
"Have you been all the way
over to Broadway to find that out? I could have told you."
"Why didn't you?" she
asked, without looking up.
"You never asked me,"
She went hunting aimlessly
through the crowded columns. Her
mind was distracted by this man's indifference.
The difficulty of the situation she was facing was only added to by
all he did. Self- commiseration
brewed in her heart. Tears
trembled along her eyelids but did not fall.
Hurstwood noticed something.
"Let me look."
To recover herself she went into
the front room while he searched. Presently
she returned. He had a pencil,
and was writing upon an envelope.
"Here're three," he
Carrie took it and found that one
was Mrs. Bermudez, another Marcus Jenks, a third Percy Weil. She paused only a moment, and then moved toward the door.
"I might as well go right
away," she said, without looking back.
Hurstwood saw her depart with
some faint stirrings of shame, which were the expression of a manhood
rapidly becoming stultified. He
sat a while, and then it became too much.
He got up and put on his hat.
"I guess I'll go out,"
he said to himself, and went, strolling nowhere in particular, but feeling
somehow that he must go.
Carrie's first call was upon Mrs.
Bermudez, whose address was quite the nearest.
It was an old-fashioned residence turned into offices.
Mrs. Bermudez's offices consisted of what formerly had been a back
chamber and a hall bedroom, marked "Private."
As Carrie entered she noticed
several persons lounging about-- men, who said nothing and did nothing.
While she was waiting to be
noticed, the door of the hall bedroom opened and from it issued two very
mannish-looking women, very tightly dressed, and wearing white collars and
cuffs. After them came a portly
lady of about forty-five, light-haired, sharp-eyed, and evidently
good-natured. At least she was
"Now, don't forget about
that," said one of the mannish women.
"I won't," said the
portly woman. "Let's
see," she added, "where are you the first week in February?"
"Pittsburg," said the woman.
"I'll write you there."
"All right," said the
other, and the two passed out.
Instantly the portly lady's face
became exceedingly sober and shrewd. She
turned about and fixed on Carrie a very searching eye.
"Well," she said,
"young woman, what can I do for you?"
"Are you Mrs. Bermudez?"
"Well," said Carrie,
hesitating how to begin, "do you get places for persons upon the
"Could you get me one?"
"Have you ever had any
"A very little," said
"Whom did you play
"Oh, with no one," said
Carrie. "It was just a
"Oh, I see," said the
woman, interrupting her. "No,
I don't know of anything now."
Carrie's countenance fell.
"You want to get some New
York experience," concluded the affable Mrs. Bermudez.
"We'll take your name, though."
Carrie stood looking while the
lady retired to her office.
"What is your address?"
inquired a young lady behind the counter, taking up the curtailed
"Mrs. George Wheeler,"
said Carrie, moving over to where she was writing.
The woman wrote her address in full and then allowed her to depart at
She encountered a very similar
experience in the office of Mr. Jenks, only he varied it by saying at the
close: "If you could play at some local house, or had a programme with
your name on it, I might do something."
In the third place the individual
"What sort of work do you
want to do?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, do you want to get in
a comedy or on the vaudeville or in the chorus?"
"Oh, I'd like to get a part
in a play," said Carrie.
"Well," said the man,
"it'll cost you something to do that." "How much?" said
Carrie, who, ridiculous as it may seem, had not thought of this before.
"Well, that's for you to
say," he answered shrewdly.
Carrie looked at him curiously.
She hardly knew how to continue the inquiry.
"Could you get me a part if
"If we didn't you'd get your
"Oh," she said.
The agent saw he was dealing with
an inexperienced soul, and continued accordingly.
"You'd want to deposit fifty
dollars, anyway. No agent would
trouble about you for less than that."
Carrie saw a light.
"Thank you," she said.
"I'll think about it."
She started to go, and then
"How soon would I get a
place?" she asked.
"Well, that's hard to
say," said the man. "You
might get one in a week, or it might be a month.
You'd get the first thing that we thought you could do."
"I see," said Carrie,
and then, half-smiling to be agreeable, she walked out.
The agent studied a moment, and
then said to himself:
"It's funny how anxious
these women are to get on the stage."
Carrie found ample food for
reflection in the fifty-dollar proposition.
"Maybe they'd take my money and not give me anything," she
thought. She had some
jewelry--a diamond ring and pin and several other pieces.
She could get fifty dollars for those if she went to a pawnbroker.
Hurstwood was home before her.
He had not thought she would be so long seeking.
"Well?" he said, not
venturing to ask what news.
"I didn't find out anything
to-day," said Carrie, taking off her gloves. "They all want money to get you a place."
"How much?" asked
"They don't want anything,
"Oh, they're like everybody
else. You can't tell whether
they'd ever get you anything after you did pay them."
"Well, I wouldn't put up
fifty on that basis," said Hurstwood, as if he were deciding, money in
"I don't know," said
Carrie. "I think I'll try
some of the managers."
Hurstwood heard this, dead to the
horror of it. He rocked a
little to and fro, and chewed at his finger.
It seemed all very natural in such extreme states.
He would do better later on.
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