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Sister Carrie, by Theodore Dreiser
The World Turns Flatterer--An Eye In The Dark
Installed in her comfortable
room, Carrie wondered how Hurstwood had taken her departure. She arranged a few things hastily and then left for the
theatre, half expecting to encounter him at the door.
Not finding him, her dread lifted, and she felt more kindly toward
him. She quite forgot him
until about to come out, after the show, when the chance of his being
there frightened her. As day
after day passed and she heard nothing at all, the thought of being
bothered by him passed. In a
little while she was, except for occasional thoughts, wholly free of the
gloom with which her life had been weighed in the flat.
It is curious to note how quickly
a profession absorbs one. Carrie became wise in theatrical lore, hearing
the gossip of little Lola. She
learned what the theatrical papers were, which ones published items about
actresses and the like. She
began to read the newspaper notices, not only of the opera in which she
had so small a part, but of others. Gradually
the desire for notice took hold of her.
She longed to be renowned like others, and read with avidity all
the complimentary or critical comments made concerning others high in her
profession. The showy world
in which her interest lay completely absorbed her.
It was about this time that the
newspapers and magazines were beginning to pay that illustrative attention
to the beauties of the stage which has since become fervid.
The newspapers, and particularly the Sunday newspapers, indulged in
large decorative theatrical pages, in which the faces and forms of
well-known theatrical celebrities appeared, enclosed with artistic
scrolls. The magazines also or at least one or two of the newer ones--
published occasional portraits of pretty stars, and now and again photos
of scenes from various plays. Carrie
watched these with growing interest.
When would a scene from her opera appear? When would some paper
think her photo worth while?
The Sunday before taking her new
part she scanned the theatrical pages for some little notice. It would have accorded with her expectations if nothing had
been said, but there in the squibs, tailing off several more substantial
items, was a wee notice. Carrie read it with a tingling body:
"The part of Katisha, the country maid, in 'The Wives of
Abdul' at the Broadway, heretofore played by Inez Carew, will be hereafter
filled by Carrie Madenda, one of the cleverest members of the chorus."
Carrie hugged herself with delight. Oh, wasn't it just fine! At last! The first, the long-hoped
for, the delightful notice! And they called her clever. She could hardly restrain herself from laughing loudly.
Had Lola seen it?
"They've got a notice here
of the part I'm going to play to- morrow night," said Carrie to her
"Oh, jolly! Have they?"
cried Lola, running to her. "That's
all right," she said, looking. "You'll
get more now, if you do well. I had my picture in the 'World' once."
"Did you?" asked
"Did I? Well, I should
say," returned the little girl. "They
had a frame around it."
"They've never published my
"But they will," said
Lola. "You'll see. You do better than most that get theirs in now."
Carrie felt deeply grateful for
this. She almost loved Lola for
the sympathy and praise she extended. It
was so helpful to her-- so almost necessary.
Fulfilling her part capably
brought another notice in the papers that she was doing her work acceptably.
This pleased her immensely. She
began to think the world was taking note of her.
The first week she got her
thirty-five dollars, it seemed an enormous sum.
Paying only three dollars for room rent seemed ridiculous.
After giving Lola her twenty-five, she still had seven dollars left.
With four left over from previous earnings, she had eleven.
Five of this went to pay the regular installment on the clothes she
had to buy. The next week she
was even in greater feather. Now,
only three dollars need be paid for room rent and five on her clothes.
The rest she had for food and her own whims.
"You'd better save a little
for summer," cautioned Lola. "We'll
probably close in May."
"I intend to," said
The regular entrance of
thirty-five dollars a week to one who has endured scant allowances for
several years is a demoralising thing.
Carrie found her purse bursting with good green bills of comfortable
denominations. Having no one
dependent upon her, she began to buy pretty clothes and pleasing trinkets,
to eat well, and to ornament her room.
Friends were not long in gathering about.
She met a few young men who belonged to Lola's staff. The members of
the opera company made her acquaintance without the formality of
introduction. One of these discovered a fancy for her.
On several occasions he strolled home with her.
"Let's stop in and have a
rarebit," he suggested one midnight.
"Very well," said
In the rosy restaurant, filled
with the merry lovers of late hours, she found herself criticising this man.
He was too stilted, too self-opinionated.
He did not talk of anything that lifted her above the common run of
clothes and material success. When it was all over, he smiled most
"Got to go straight home,
have you?" he said.
"Yes," she answered,
with an air of quiet understanding.
"She's not so inexperienced
as she looks," he thought, and thereafter his respect and ardour were
She could not help sharing in
Lola's love for a good time. There
were days when they went carriage riding, nights when after the show they
dined, afternoons when they strolled along Broadway, tastefully dressed.
She was getting in the metropolitan whirl of pleasure.
At last her picture appeared in
one of the weeklies. She had
not known of it, and it took her breath.
"Miss Carrie Madenda," it was labelled.
"One of the favourites of 'The Wives of Abdul' company." At
Lola's advice she had had some pictures taken by Sarony.
They had got one there. She
thought of going down and buying a few copies of the paper, but remembered
that there was no one she knew well enough to send them to.
Only Lola, apparently, in all the world was interested.
The metropolis is a cold place
socially, and Carrie soon found that a little money brought her nothing.
The world of wealth and distinction was quite as far away as ever.
She could feel that there was no warm, sympathetic friendship back of
the easy merriment with which many approached her.
All seemed to be seeking their own amusement, regardless of the
possible sad consequence to others. So
much for the lessons of Hurstwood and Drouet.
In April she learned that the
opera would probably last until the middle or the end of May, according to
the size of the audiences. Next season it would go on the road. She wondered if she would be with it. As usual, Miss Osborne, owing to her moderate salary, was for
securing a home engagement.
"They're putting on a summer
play at the Casino," she announced, after figuratively putting her ear
to the ground. "Let's try
and get in that."
"I'm willing," said
They tried in time and were
apprised of the proper date to apply again.
That was May 16th. Meanwhile
their own show closed May 5th.
"Those that want to go with
the show next season," said the manager, "will have to sign this
"Don't you sign,"
advised Lola. "I wouldn't
"I know," said Carrie,
"but maybe I can't get anything else."
"Well, I won't," said
the little girl, who had a resource in her admirers.
"I went once and I didn't have anything at the end of the
Carrie thought this over.
She had never been on the road.
"We can get along,"
added Lola. "I always
Carrie did not sign.
The manager who was putting on
the summer skit at the Casino had never heard of Carrie, but the several
notices she had received, her published picture, and the programme bearing
her name had some little weight with him.
He gave her a silent part at thirty dollars a week.
"Didn't I tell you?"
said Lola. "It doesn't do
you any good to go away from New York.
They forget all about you if you do."
Now, because Carrie was pretty,
the gentlemen who made up the advance illustrations of shows about to appear
for the Sunday papers selected Carrie's photo along with others to
illustrate the announcement. Because
she was very pretty, they gave it excellent space and drew scrolls about it.
Carrie was delighted. Still, the management did not seem to have seen
anything of it. At least, no more attention was paid to her than before.
At the same time there seemed very little in her part.
It consisted of standing around in all sorts of scenes, a silent
little Quakeress. The author of
the skit had fancied that a great deal could be made of such a part, given
to the right actress, but now, since it had been doled out to Carrie, he
would as leave have had it cut out.
"Don't kick, old man,"
remarked the manager. "If
it don't go the first week we will cut it out."
Carrie had no warning of this
halcyon intention. She
practised her part ruefully, feeling that she was effectually shelved. At the dress rehearsal she was disconsolate.
"That isn't so bad,"
said the author, the manager noting the curious effect which Carrie's blues
had upon the part. "Tell
her to frown a little more when Sparks dances."
Carrie did not know it, but there
was the least show of wrinkles between her eyes and her mouth was puckered
"Frown a little more, Miss
Madenda," said the stage manager.
Carrie instantly brightened up,
thinking he had meant it as a rebuke.
"No; frown," he said.
"Frown as you did before."
Carrie looked at him in
"I mean it," he said.
"Frown hard when Mr. Sparks dances.
I want to see how it looks."
It was easy enough to do.
Carrie scowled. The effect was something so quaint and droll it caught even
"That is good," he
said. "If she'll do that
all through, I think it will take."
Going over to Carrie, he said:
"Suppose you try frowning
all through. Do it hard.
Look mad. It'll make the part really funny."
On the opening night it looked to
Carrie as if there were nothing to her part, after all. The happy, sweltering audience did not seem to see her in the
first act. She frowned and
frowned, but to no effect. Eyes
were riveted upon the more elaborate efforts of the stars.
In the second act, the crowd,
wearied by a dull conversation, roved with its eyes about the stage and
sighted her. There she was,
grey-suited, sweet-faced, demure, but scowling.
At first the general idea was that she was temporarily irritated,
that the look was genuine and not fun at all.
As she went on frowning, looking now at one principal and now at the
other, the audience began to smile. The
portly gentlemen in the front rows began to feel that she was a delicious
little morsel. It was the kind
of frown they would have loved to force away with kisses.
All the gentlemen yearned toward her.
She was capital.
At last, the chief comedian,
singing in the centre of the stage, noticed a giggle where it was not
expected. Then another and
another. When the place came
for loud applause it was only moderate.
What could be the trouble? He realised that something was up.
All at once, after an exit, he
caught sight of Carrie. She was
frowning alone on the stage and the audience was giggling and laughing.
"By George, I won't stand
that!" thought the thespian. "I'm
not going to have my work cut up by some one else.
Either she quits that when I do my turn or I quit."
"Why, that's all
right," said the manager, when the kick came. "That's what she's
supposed to do. You needn't pay
any attention to that."
"But she ruins my
"No, she don't,"
returned the former, soothingly. "It's
only a little fun on the side."
"It is, eh?" exclaimed
the big comedian. "She
killed my hand all right. I'm
not going to stand that."
"Well, wait until after the
show. Wait until to-morrow.
We'll see what we can do."
The next act, however, settled
what was to be done. Carrie was
the chief feature of the play. The
audience, the more it studied her, the more it indicated its delight. Every other feature paled beside the quaint, teasing,
delightful atmosphere which Carrie contributed while on the stage.
Manager and company realised she had made a hit.
The critics of the daily papers
completed her triumph. There
were long notices in praise of the quality of the burlesque, touched with
recurrent references to Carrie. The
contagious mirth of the thing was repeatedly emphasised.
"Miss Madenda presents one of the most delightful bits of
character work ever seen on the Casino stage," observed the stage
critic of the "Sun." "It
is a bit of quiet, unassuming drollery which warms like good wine.
Evidently the part was not intended to take precedence, as Miss
Madenda is not often on the stage, but the audience, with the characteristic
perversity of such bodies, selected for itself.
The little Quakeress was marked for a favourite the moment she
appeared, and thereafter easily held attention and applause.
The vagaries of fortune are indeed curious."
The critic of the "Evening World," seeking as usual
to establish a catch phrase which should "go" with the town, wound
up by advising: "If you wish to be merry, see Carrie frown."
The result was miraculous so far
as Carrie's fortune was concerned. Even
during the morning she received a congratulatory message from the manager.
"You seem to have taken the
town by storm," he wrote. "This
is delightful. I am as glad for
your sake as for my own."
The author also sent word.
That evening when she entered the
theatre the manager had a most pleasant greeting for her.
"Mr. Stevens," he said,
referring to the author, "is preparing a little song, which he would
like you to sing next week."
"Oh, I can't sing,"
"It isn't anything
difficult. 'It's something that
is very simple,' he says, 'and would suit you exactly.'"
"Of course, I wouldn't mind
trying," said Carrie, archly.
"Would you mind coming to
the box-office a few moments before you dress?" observed the manager,
in addition. "There's a
little matter I want to speak to you about."
In that latter place the manager
produced a paper.
"Now, of course," he
said, "we want to be fair with you in the matter of salary.
Your contract here only calls for thirty dollars a week for the next
three months. How would it do
to make it, say, one hundred and fifty a week and extend it for twelve
"Oh, very well," said
Carrie, scarcely believing her ears.
"Supposing, then, you just
Carrie looked and beheld a new
contract made out like the other one, with the exception of the new figures
of salary and time. With a hand trembling from excitement she affixed her
"One hundred and fifty a
week!" she murmured, when she was again alone.
She found, after all--as what millionaire has not?--that there was no
realising, in consciousness, the meaning of large sums.
It was only a shimmering, glittering phrase in which lay a world of
Down in a third-rate Bleecker
Street hotel, the brooding Hurstwood read the dramatic item covering
Carrie's success, without at first realising who was meant.
Then suddenly it came to him and he read the whole thing over again.
"That's her, all right, I
guess," he said.
Then he looked about upon a
dingy, moth-eaten hotel lobby.
"I guess she's struck
it," he thought, a picture of the old shiny, plush-covered world coming
back, with its lights, its ornaments, its carriages, and flowers. Ah, she was in the walled city now! Its splendid gates had
opened, admitting her from a cold, dreary outside. She seemed a creature afar off--like every other celebrity he
"Well, let her have
it," he said. "I
won't bother her."
It was the grim resolution of a
bent, bedraggled, but unbroken pride.
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