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 barn.
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 weather.
"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.
"That Scotchman that went out on the last car," put in a voice, "told me that they hit him in the ear 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 another.
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 waited.
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.
"Now, this handle here regulates your speed. To here," he said, pointing with his finger, "gives you about four miles an hour. This is eight. When it's full on, you make about fourteen miles an hour."
Hurstwood watched him calmly. He had seen motormen work before. He knew just about how they did it, and was sure he could do as well, with a very little practice.
The instructor explained a few more details, and then said:
"Now, we'll back her up."
Hurstwood stood placidly by, while the car rolled back into the yard.
"One thing you want to be careful about, and that is to start easy. Give one degree time to act before you start another. The one fault of most men is that they always want to throw her wide open. That's bad. It's dangerous, too. Wears out the motor. You don't want to do that."
"I see," said Hurstwood.
He waited and waited, while the man talked on.
"Now you take it," he said, finally.
The ex-manager laid hand to the lever and pushed it gently, as he thought. It worked much easier than he imagined, however, with the result that the car jerked quickly forward, throwing him back against the door. He straightened up sheepishly, while the instructor stopped the car with the brake.
"You want to be careful about that," was all he said.
Hurstwood found, however, that handling a brake and regulating speed were not so instantly mastered as he had imagined. Once or twice he would have ploughed through the rear fence if it had not been for the hand and word of his companion. The latter was rather patient with him, but he never smiled.
"You've got to get the knack of working both arms at once," he said. "It takes a little practice."
One o'clock came while he was still on the car practising, and he began to feel hungry. The day set in snowing, and he was cold. He grew weary of running to and fro on the short track.
They ran the car to the end and both got off. Hurstwood went into the barn and sought a car step, pulling out his paper- wrapped lunch from his pocket. There was no water and the bread was dry, but he enjoyed it. There was no ceremony about dining. He swallowed and looked about, contemplating the dull, homely labour of the thing. It was disagreeable - miserably disagreeable - in all its phases. Not because it was bitter, but because it was hard. It would be hard to any one, he thought.
After eating, he stood about as before, waiting until his turn came.
The intention was to give him an afternoon of practice, but the greater part of the time was spent in waiting about.
At last evening came, and with it hunger and a debate with himself as to how he should spend the night. It was half-past five. He must soon eat. If he tried to go home, it would take him two hours and a half of cold walking and riding. Besides he had orders to report at seven the next morning, and going home would necessitate his rising at an unholy and disagreeable hour. He had only something like a dollar and fifteen cents of Carrie's money, with which he had intended to pay the two weeks' coal bill before the present idea struck him.
"They must have some place around here," he thought. "Where does that fellow from Newark stay?"
Finally he decided to ask. There was a young fellow standing near one of the doors in the cold, waiting a last turn. He was a mere boy in years - twenty-one about - but with a body lank and long, because of privation. A little good living would have made this youth plump and swaggering.
"How do they arrange this, if a man hasn't any money?" inquired Hurstwood, discreetly.
The fellow turned a keen, watchful face on the inquirer.
"You mean eat?" he replied.
"Yes, and sleep. I can't go back to New York to-night."
"The foreman 'll fix that if you ask him, I guess. He did me."
"Yes. I just told him I didn't have anything. Gee, I couldn't go home. I live way over in Hoboken."
Hurstwood only cleared his throat by way of acknowledgment.
"They've got a place upstairs here, I understand. I don't know what sort of a thing it is. Purty tough, I guess. He gave me a meal ticket this noon. I know that wasn't much."
Hurstwood smiled grimly, and the boy laughed.
"It ain't no fun, is it?" he inquired, wishing vainly for a cheery reply.
"Not much," answered Hurstwood.
"I'd tackle him now," volunteered the youth. "He may go 'way."
Hurstwood did so.
"Isn't there some place I can stay around here to-night?" he inquired. "If I have to go back to New York, I'm afraid I won't"
"There're some cots upstairs," interrupted the man, "if you want one of them."
"That'll do," he assented.
He meant to ask for a meal ticket, but the seemingly proper moment never came, and he decided to pay himself that night.
"I'll ask him in the morning."
He ate in a cheap restaurant in the vicinity, and, being cold and lonely, went straight off to seek the loft in question. The company was not attempting to run cars after nightfall. It was so advised by the police.
The room seemed to have been a lounging place for night workers. There were some nine cots in the place, two or three wooden chairs, a soap box, and a small, round-bellied stove, in which a fire was blazing. Early as he was, another man was there before him. The latter was sitting beside the stove warming his hands.
Hurstwood approached and held out his own toward the fire. He was sick of the bareness and privation of all things connected with his venture, but was steeling himself to hold out. He fancied he could for a while.
"Cold, isn't it?" said the early guest.
A long silence.
"Not much of a place to sleep in, is it?" said the man.
"Better than nothing," replied Hurstwood.
"I believe I'll turn in," said the man.
Rising, he went to one of the cots and stretched himself, removing only his shoes, and pulling the one blanket and dirty old comforter over him in a sort of bundle. The sight disgusted Hurstwood, but he did not dwell on it, choosing to gaze into the stove and think of something else. Presently he decided to retire, and picked a cot, also removing his shoes.
While he was doing so, the youth who had advised him to come here entered, and, seeing Hurstwood, tried to be genial.
"Better'n nothin'," he observed, looking around.
Hurstwood did not take this to himself. He thought it to be an expression of individual satisfaction, and so did not answer. The youth imagined he was out of sorts, and set to whistling softly. Seeing another man asleep, he quit that and lapsed into silence.
Hurstwood made the best of a bad lot by keeping on his clothes and pushing away the dirty covering from his head, but at last he dozed in sheer weariness. The covering became more and more comfortable, its character was forgotten, and he pulled it about his neck and slept. In the morning he was aroused out of a pleasant dream by several men stirring about in the cold, cheerless room. He had been back in Chicago in fancy, in his own comfortable home. Jessica had been arranging to go somewhere, and he had been talking with her about it. This was so clear in his mind, that he was startled now by the contrast of this room. He raised his head, and the cold, bitter reality jarred him into wakefulness.
"Guess I'd better get up," he said.
There was no water on this floor. He put on his shoes in the cold and stood up, shaking himself in his stiffness. His clothes felt disagreeable, his hair bad.
"Hell!" he muttered, as he put on his hat.
Downstairs things were stirring again.
He found a hydrant, with a trough which had once been used for horses, but there was no towel here, and his handkerchief was soiled from yesterday. He contented himself with wetting his eyes with the ice-cold water. Then he sought the foreman, who was already on the ground.
"Had your breakfast yet?" inquired that worthy.
"No," said Hurstwood.
"Better get it, then; your car won't be ready for a little while."
"Could you let me have a meal ticket?" he asked with an effort.
"Here you are," said the man, handing him one.
He breakfasted as poorly as the night before on some fried steak and bad coffee. Then he went back.
"Here," said the foreman, motioning him, when he came in. "You take this car out in a few minutes."
Hurstwood climbed up on the platform in the gloomy barn and waited for a signal. He was nervous, and yet the thing was a relief. Anything was better than the barn.
On this the fourth day of the strike, the situation had taken a turn for the worse. The strikers, following the counsel of their leaders and the newspapers, had struggled peaceably enough. There had been no great violence done. Cars had been stopped, it is true, and the men argued with. Some crews had been won over and led away, some windows broken, some jeering and yelling done; but in no more than five or six instances had men been seriously injured. These by crowds whose acts the leaders disclaimed.
Idleness, however, and the sight of the company, backed by the police, triumphing, angered the men. They saw that each day more cars were going on, each day more declarations were being made by the company officials that the effective opposition of the strikers was broken. This put desperate thoughts in the minds of the men. Peaceful methods meant, they saw, that the companies would soon run all their cars and those who had complained would be forgotten. There was nothing so helpful to the companies as peaceful methods. All at once they blazed forth, and for a week there was storm and stress. Cars were assailed, men attacked, policemen struggled with, tracks torn up, and shots fired, until at last street fights and mob movements became frequent, and the city was invested with militia.
Hurstwood knew nothing of the change of temper.
"Run your car out," called the foreman, waving a vigorous hand at him. A green conductor jumped up behind and rang the bell twice as a signal to start. Hurstwood turned the lever and ran the car out through the door into the street in front of the barn. Here two brawny policemen got up beside him on the platform - one on either hand.
At the sound of a gong near the barn door, two bells were given by the conductor and Hurstwood opened his lever.
The two policemen looked about them calmly.
"'Tis cold, all right, this morning," said the one on the left, who possessed a rich brogue.
"I had enough of it yesterday," said the other. "I wouldn't want a steady job of this."
Neither paid the slightest attention to Hurstwood, who stood facing the cold wind, which was chilling him completely, and thinking of his orders.
"Keep a steady gait," the foreman had said. "Don't stop for any one who doesn't look like a real passenger. Whatever you do, don't stop for a crowd."
The two officers kept silent for a few moments.
"The last man must have gone through all right," said the officer on the left. "I don't see his car anywhere."
"Who's on there?" asked the second officer, referring, of course, to its complement of policemen.
"Schaeffer and Ryan."
There was another silence, in which the car ran smoothly along. There were not so many houses along this part of the way. Hurstwood did not see many people either. The situation was not wholly disagreeable to him. If he were not so cold, he thought he would do well enough.
He was brought out of this feeling by the sudden appearance of a curve ahead, which he had not expected. He shut off the current and did an energetic turn at the brake, but not in time to avoid an unnaturally quick turn. It shook him up and made him feel like making some apologetic remarks, but he refrained.
"You want to look out for them things," said the officer on the left, condescendingly.
"That's right," agreed Hurstwood, shamefacedly.
"There's lots of them on this line," said the officer on the right. Around the corner a more populated way appeared. One or two pedestrians were in view ahead. A boy coming out of a gate with a tin milk bucket gave Hurstwood his first objectionable greeting.
"Scab!" he yelled. "Scab!"
Hurstwood heard it, but tried to make no comment, even to himself. He knew he would get that, and much more of the same sort, probably.
At a corner farther up a man stood by the track and signalled the car to stop.
"Never mind him," said one of the officers. "He's up to some game."
Hurstwood obeyed. At the corner he saw the wisdom of it. No sooner did the man perceive the intention to ignore him, than he shook his fist.
"Ah, you bloody coward!" he yelled.
Some half dozen men, standing on the corner, flung taunts and jeers after the speeding car.
Hurstwood winced the least bit. The real thing was slightly worse than the thoughts of it had been.
Now came in sight, three or four blocks farther on, a heap of something on the track.
"They've been at work, here, all right," said one of the policemen.
"We'll have an argument, maybe," said the other.
Hurstwood ran the car close and stopped. He had not done so wholly, however, before a crowd gathered about. It was composed of ex-motormen and conductors in part, with a sprinkling of friends and sympathisers.
"Come off the car, pardner," said one of the men in a voice meant to be conciliatory. "You don't want to take the bread out of another man's mouth, do you?"
Hurstwood held to his brake and lever, pale and very uncertain what to do.
"Stand back," yelled one of the officers, leaning over the platform railing. "Clear out of this, now. Give the man a chance to do his work."
"Listen, pardner," said the leader, ignoring the policeman and addressing Hurstwood. "We're all working men, like yourself. If you were a regular motorman, and had been treated as we've been, you wouldn't want any one to come in and take your place, would you? You wouldn't want any one to do you out of your chance to get your rights, would you?"
"Shut her off! shut her off!" urged the other of the policemen, roughly. "Get out of this, now," and he jumped the railing and landed before the crowd and began shoving. Instantly the other officer was down beside him.
"Stand back, now," they yelled. "Get out of this. What the hell do you mean? Out, now."
It was like a small swarm of bees.
"Don't shove me," said one of the strikers, determinedly. "I'm not doing anything."
"Get out of this!" cried the officer, swinging his club. "I'll give ye a bat on the sconce. Back, now."
"What the hell!" cried another of the strikers, pushing the other way, adding at the same time some lusty oaths.
Crack came an officer's club on his forehead. He blinked his eyes blindly a few times, wabbled on his legs, threw up his hands, and staggered back. In return, a swift fist landed on the officer's neck.
Infuriated by this, the latter plunged left and right, laying about madly with his club. He was ably assisted by his brother of the blue, who poured ponderous oaths upon the troubled waters. No severe damage was done, owing to the agility of the strikers in keeping out of reach. They stood about the sidewalk now and jeered.
"Where is the conductor?" yelled one of the officers, getting his eye on that individual, who had come nervously forward to stand by Hurstwood. The latter had stood gazing upon the scene with more astonishment than fear.
"Why don't you come down here and get these stones off the track?" inquired the officer. "What you standing there for? Do you want to stay here all day? Get down."
Hurstwood breathed heavily in excitement and jumped down with the nervous conductor as if he had been called.
"Hurry up, now," said the other policeman.
Cold as it was, these officers were hot and mad. Hurstwood worked with the conductor, lifting stone after stone and warming himself by the work.
"Ah, you scab, you!" yelled the crowd. "You coward! Steal a man's job, will you? Rob the poor, will you, you thief? We'll get you yet, now. Wait."
Not all of this was delivered by one man. It came from here and there, incorporated with much more of the same sort and curses.
"Work, you blackguards," yelled a voice. "Do the dirty work. You're the suckers that keep the poor people down!"
"May God starve ye yet," yelled an old Irish woman, who now threw open a nearby window and stuck out her head.
"Yes, and you," she added, catching the eye of one of the policemen. "You bloody, murtherin' thafe! Crack my son over the head, will you, you hardhearted, murtherin' divil? Ah, ye - - "
But the officer turned a deaf ear.
"Go to the devil, you old hag," he half muttered as he stared round upon the scattered company.
Now the stones were off, and Hurstwood took his place again amid a continued chorus of epithets. Both officers got up beside him and the conductor rang the bell, when, bang! bang! through window and door came rocks and stones. One narrowly grazed Hurstwood's head. Another shattered the window behind.
"Throw open your lever," yelled one of the officers, grabbing at the handle himself.
Hurstwood complied and the car shot away, followed by a rattle of stones and a rain of curses.
"That - - - - - - - - hit me in the neck," said one of the officers. "I gave him a good crack for it, though."
"I think I must have left spots on some of them," said the other.
"I know that big guy that called us a - - - - - - - - " said the first. "I'll get him yet for that."
"I thought we were in for it sure, once there," said the second.
Hurstwood, warmed and excited, gazed steadily ahead. It was an astonishing experience for him. He had read of these things, but the reality seemed something altogether new. He was no coward in spirit. The fact that he had suffered this much now rather operated to arouse a stolid determination to stick it out. He did not recur in thought to New York or the flat. This one trip seemed a consuming thing.
They now ran into the business heart of Brooklyn uninterrupted. People gazed at the broken windows of the car and at Hurstwood in his plain clothes. Voices called "scab" now and then, as well as other epithets, but no crowd attacked the car. At the downtown end of the line, one of the officers went to call up his station and report the trouble.
"There's a gang out there," he said, "laying for us yet. Better send some one over there and clean them out."
The car ran back more quietly - hooted, watched, flung at, but not attacked. Hurstwood breathed freely when he saw the barns.
"Well," he observed to himself, "I came out of that all right."
The car was turned in and he was allowed to loaf a while, but later he was again called. This time a new team of officers was aboard. Slightly more confident, he sped the car along the commonplace streets and felt somewhat less fearful. On one side, however, he suffered intensely. The day was raw, with a sprinkling of snow and a gusty wind, made all the more intolerable by the speed of the car. His clothing was not intended for this sort of work. He shivered, stamped his feet, and beat his arms as he had seen other motormen do in the past, but said nothing. The novelty and danger of the situation modified in a way his disgust and distress at being compelled to be here, but not enough to prevent him from feeling grim and sour. This was a dog's life, he thought. It was a tough thing to have to come to.
The one thought that strengthened him was the insult offered by Carrie. He was not down so low as to take all that, he thought. He could do something - this, even - for a while. It would get better. He would save a little.
A boy threw a clod of mud while he was thus reflecting and hit him upon the arm. It hurt sharply and angered him more than he had been any time since morning.
"The little cur!" he muttered.
"Hurt you?" asked one of the policemen.
"No," he answered.
At one of the corners, where the car slowed up because of a turn, an ex-motorman, standing on the sidewalk, called to him:
"Won't you come out, pardner, and be a man? Remember we're fighting for decent day's wages, that's all. We've got families to support." The man seemed most peaceably inclined.
Hurstwood pretended not to see him. He kept his eyes straight on before and opened the lever wide. The voice had something appealing in it.
All morning this went on and long into the afternoon. He made three such trips. The dinner he had was no stay for such work and the cold was telling on him. At each end of the line he stopped to thaw out, but he could have groaned at the anguish of it. One of the barnmen, out of pity, loaned him a heavy cap and a pair of sheepskin gloves, and for once he was extremely thankful.
On the second trip of the afternoon he ran into a crowd about half way along the line, that had blocked the car's progress with an old telegraph pole.
"Get that thing off the track," shouted the two policemen.
"Yah, yah, yah!" yelled the crowd. "Get it off yourself."
The two policemen got down and Hurstwood started to follow.
"You stay there," one called. "Some one will run away with your car."
Amid the babel of voices, Hurstwood heard one close beside him.
"Come down, pardner, and be a man. Don't fight the poor. Leave that to the corporations."
He saw the same fellow who had called to him from the corner. Now, as before, he pretended not to hear him.
"Come down," the man repeated gently. "You don't want to fight poor men. Don't fight at all." It was a most philosophic and jesuitical motorman.
A third policeman joined the other two from somewhere and some one ran to telephone for more officers. Hurstwood gazed about, determined but fearful.
A man grabbed him by the coat.
"Come off of that," he exclaimed, jerking at him and trying to pull him over the railing.
"Let go," said Hurstwood, savagely.
"I'll show you - you scab!" cried a young Irishman, jumping up on the car and aiming a blow at Hurstwood. The latter ducked and caught it on the shoulder instead of the jaw.
"Away from here," shouted an officer, hastening to the rescue, and adding, of course, the usual oaths.
Hurstwood recovered himself, pale and trembling. It was becoming serious with him now. People were looking up and jeering at him. One girl was making faces.
He began to waver in his resolution, when a patrol wagon rolled up and more officers dismounted. Now the track was quickly cleared and the release effected.
"Let her go now, quick," said the officer, and again he was off.
The end came with a real mob, which met the car on its return trip a mile or two from the barns. It was an exceedingly poor- looking neighbourhood. He wanted to run fast through it, but again the track was blocked. He saw men carrying something out to it when he was yet a half-dozen blocks away.
"There they are again!" exclaimed one policeman.
"I'll give them something this time," said the second officer, whose patience was becoming worn. Hurstwood suffered a qualm of body as the car rolled up. As before, the crowd began hooting, but now, rather than come near, they threw things. One or two windows were smashed and Hurstwood dodged a stone.
Both policemen ran out toward the crowd, but the latter replied by running toward the car. A woman - a mere girl in appearance - was among these, bearing a rough stick. She was exceedingly wrathful and struck at Hurstwood, who dodged. Thereupon, her companions, duly encouraged, jumped on the car and pulled Hurstwood over. He had hardly time to speak or shout before he fell.
"Let go of me," he said, falling on his side.
"Ah, you sucker," he heard some one say. Kicks and blows rained on him. He seemed to be suffocating. Then two men seemed to be dragging him off and he wrestled for freedom.
"Let up," said a voice, "you're all right. Stand up."
He was let loose and recovered himself. Now he recognised two officers. He felt as if he would faint from exhaustion. Something was wet on his chin. He put up his hand and felt, then looked. It was red.
"They cut me," he said, foolishly, fishing for his handkerchief.
"Now, now," said one of the officers. "It's only a scratch."
His senses became cleared now and he looked around. He was standing in a little store, where they left him for the moment. Outside, he could see, as he stood wiping his chin, the car and the excited crowd. A patrol wagon was there, and another.
He walked over and looked out. It was an ambulance, backing in.
He saw some energetic charging by the police and arrests being made.
"Come on, now, if you want to take your car," said an officer, opening the door and looking in. He walked out, feeling rather uncertain of himself. He was very cold and frightened.
"Where's the conductor?" he asked.
"Oh, he's not here now," said the policeman.
Hurstwood went toward the car and stepped nervously on. As he did so there was a pistol shot. Something stung his shoulder.
"Who fired that?" he heard an officer exclaim. "By God! who did that?" Both left him, running toward a certain building. He paused a moment and then got down.
"George!" exclaimed Hurstwood, weakly, "this is too much for me."
He walked nervously to the corner and hurried down a side street.
"Whew!" he said, drawing in his breath.
A half block away, a small girl gazed at him.
"You'd better sneak," she called.
He walked homeward in a blinding snowstorm, reaching the ferry by dusk. The cabins were filled with comfortable souls, who studied him curiously. His head was still in such a whirl that he felt confused. All the wonder of the twinkling lights of the river in a white storm passed for nothing. He trudged doggedly on until he reached the flat. There he entered and found the room warm. Carrie was gone. A couple of evening papers were lying on the table where she left them. He lit the gas and sat down. Then he got up and stripped to examine his shoulder. It was a mere scratch. He washed his hands and face, still in a brown study, apparently, and combed his hair. Then he looked for something to eat, and finally, his hunger gone, sat down in his comfortable rocking-chair. It was a wonderful relief.
He put his hand to his chin, forgetting, for the moment, the papers.
"Well," he said, after a time, his nature recovering itself, "that's a pretty tough game over there."
Then he turned and saw the papers. With half a sigh he picked up the "World."
"Strike Spreading in Brooklyn," he read. "Rioting Breaks Out in all Parts of the City."
He adjusted his paper very comfortably and continued. It was the one thing he read with absorbing interest.
A TOUCH OF SPRING - THE EMPTY SHELL
Those who look upon Hurstwood's Brooklyn venture as an error of judgment will none the less realise the negative influence on him of the fact that he had tried and failed. Carrie got a wrong idea of it. He said so little that she imagined he had encountered nothing worse than the ordinary roughness - quitting so soon in the face of this seemed trifling. He did not want to work.
She was now one of a group of oriental beauties who, in the second act of the comic opera, were paraded by the vizier before the new potentate as the treasures of his harem. There was no word assigned to any of them, but on the evening when Hurstwood was housing himself in the loft of the street-car barn, the leading comedian and star, feeling exceedingly facetious, said in a profound voice, which created a ripple of laughter:
"Well, who are you?"
It merely happened to be Carrie who was courtesying before him. It might as well have been any of the others, so far as he was concerned. He expected no answer and a dull one would have been reproved. But Carrie, whose experience and belief in herself gave her daring, courtesied sweetly again and answered:
"I am yours truly."
It was a trivial thing to say, and yet something in the way she did it caught the audience, which laughed heartily at the mock- fierce potentate towering before the young woman. The comedian also liked it, hearing the laughter.
"I thought your name was Smith," he returned, endeavouring to get the last laugh.
Carrie almost trembled for her daring after she had said this. All members of the company had been warned that to interpolate lines or "business" meant a fine or worse. She did not know what to think.
As she was standing in her proper position in the wings, awaiting another entry, the great comedian made his exit past her and paused in recognition.
"You can just leave that in hereafter," he remarked, seeing how intelligent she appeared. "Don't add any more, though."
"Thank you," said Carrie, humbly. When he went on she found herself trembling violently.
"Well, you're in luck," remarked another member of the chorus. "There isn't another one of us has got a line."
There was no gainsaying the value of this. Everybody in the company realised that she had got a start. Carrie hugged herself when next evening the lines got the same applause. She went home rejoicing, knowing that soon something must come of it. It was Hurstwood who, by his presence, caused her merry thoughts to flee and replaced them with sharp longings for an end of distress.
The next day she asked him about his venture.
"They're not trying to run any cars except with police. They don't want anybody just now - not before next week."
Next week came, but Carrie saw no change. Hurstwood seemed more apathetic than ever. He saw her off mornings to rehearsals and the like with the utmost calm. He read and read. Several times he found himself staring at an item, but thinking of something else. The first of these lapses that he sharply noticed concerned a hilarious party he had once attended at a driving club, of which he had been a member. He sat, gazing downward, and gradually thought he heard the old voices and the clink of glasses.
"You're a dandy, Hurstwood," his friend Walker said. He was standing again well dressed, smiling, good-natured, the recipient of encores for a good story.
All at once he looked up. The room was so still it seemed ghostlike. He heard the clock ticking audibly and half suspected that he had been dozing. The paper was so straight in his hands, however, and the items he had been reading so directly before him, that he rid himself of the doze idea. Still, it seemed peculiar. When it occurred a second time, however, it did not seem quite so strange.
Butcher and grocery man, baker and coal man - not the group with whom he was then dealing, but those who had trusted him to the limit - called. He met them all blandly, becoming deft in excuse. At last he became bold, pretended to be out, or waved them off.
"They can't get blood out of a turnip," he said. "if I had it I'd pay them."
Carrie's little soldier friend, Miss Osborne, seeing her succeeding, had become a sort of satellite. Little Osborne could never of herself amount to anything. She seemed to realise it in a sort of pussy-like way and instinctively concluded to cling with her soft little claws to Carrie.
"Oh, you'll get up," she kept telling Carrie with admiration. "You're so good."
Timid as Carrie was, she was strong in capability. The reliance of others made her feel as if she must, and when she must she dared. Experience of the world and of necessity was in her favour. No longer the lightest word of a man made her head dizzy. She had learned that men could change and fail. Flattery in its most palpable form had lost its force with her. It required superiority - kindly superiority - to move her - the superiority of a genius like Ames.
"I don't like the actors in our company," she told Lola one day. "They're all so struck on themselves."
"Don't you think Mr. Barclay's pretty nice?" inquired Lola, who had received a condescending smile or two from that quarter.
"Oh, he's nice enough," answered Carrie; "but he isn't sincere. He assumes such an air."
Lola felt for her first hold upon Carrie in the following manner:
"Are you paying room-rent where you are?"
"Certainly," answered Carrie. "Why?"
"I know where I could get the loveliest room and bath, cheap. It's too big for me, but it would be just right for two, and the rent is only six dollars a week for both."
"Where?" said Carrie.
"In Seventeenth Street."
"Well, I don't know as I'd care to change," said Carrie, who was already turning over the three-dollar rate in her mind. She was thinking if she had only herself to support this would leave her seventeen for herself.
Nothing came of this until after the Brooklyn adventure of Hurstwood's and her success with the speaking part. Then she began to feel as if she must be free. She thought of leaving Hurstwood and thus making him act for himself, but he had developed such peculiar traits she feared he might resist any effort to throw him off. He might hunt her out at the show and hound her in that way. She did not wholly believe that he would, but he might. This, she knew, would be an embarrassing thing if he made himself conspicuous in any way. It troubled her greatly.
Things were precipitated by the offer of a better part. One of the actresses playing the part of a modest sweetheart gave notice of leaving and Carrie was selected.
"How much are you going to get?" asked Miss Osborne, on hearing the good news.
"I didn't ask him," said Carrie.
"Well, find out. Goodness, you'll never get anything if you don't ask. Tell them you must have forty dollars, anyhow."
"Oh, no," said Carrie.
"Certainly!" exclaimed Lola. "Ask 'em, anyway."
Carrie succumbed to this prompting, waiting, however, until the manager gave her notice of what clothing she must have to fit the part.
"How much do I get?" she inquired.
"Thirty-five dollars," he replied.
Carrie was too much astonished and delighted to think of mentioning forty. She was nearly beside herself, and almost hugged Lola, who clung to her at the news.
"It isn't as much as you ought to get," said the latter, "especially when you've got to buy clothes."
Carrie remembered this with a start. Where to get the money? She had none laid up for such an emergency. Rent day was drawing near.
"I'll not do it," she said, remembering her necessity. "I don't use the flat. I'm not going to give up my money this time. I'll move."
Fitting into this came another appeal from Miss Osborne, more urgent than ever.
"Come live with me, won't you?" she pleaded. "We can have the loveliest room. It won't cost you hardly anything that way."
"I'd like to," said Carrie, frankly.
"Oh, do," said Lola. "We'll have such a good time."
Carrie thought a while.
"I believe I will," she said, and then added: "I'll have to see first, though." With the idea thus grounded, rent day approaching, and clothes calling for instant purchase, she soon found excuse in Hurstwood's lassitude. He said less and drooped more than ever.
As rent day approached, an idea grew in him. It was fostered by the demands of creditors and the impossibility of holding up many more. Twenty-eight dollars was too much for rent. "It's hard on her," he thought. "We could get a cheaper place."
Stirred with this idea, he spoke at the breakfast table.
"Don't you think we pay too much rent here?" he asked.
"Indeed I do," said Carrie, not catching his drift.
"I should think we could get a smaller place," he suggested. "We don't need four rooms."
Her countenance, had he been scrutinising her, would have exhibited the disturbance she felt at this evidence of his determination to stay by her. He saw nothing remarkable in asking her to come down lower.
"Oh, I don't know," she answered, growing wary.
"There must be places around here where we could get a couple of rooms, which would do just as well."
Her heart revolted. "Never!" she thought. Who would furnish the money to move? To think of being in two rooms with him! She resolved to spend her money for clothes quickly, before something terrible happened. That very day she did it. Having done so, there was but one other thing to do.
"Lola," she said, visiting her friend, "I think I'll come."
"Oh, jolly!" cried the latter.
"Can we get it right away?" she asked, meaning the room.
"Certainly," cried Lola.
They went to look at it. Carrie had saved ten dollars from her expenditures - enough for this and her board beside. Her enlarged salary would not begin for ten days yet - would not reach her for seventeen. She paid half of the six dollars with her friend.
"Now, I've just enough to get on to the end of the week," she confided.
"Oh, I've got some," said Lola. "I've got twenty-five dollars, if you need it."
"No," said Carrie. "I guess I'll get along."
They decided to move Friday, which was two days away. Now that the thing was settled, Carrie's heart misgave her. She felt very much like a criminal in the matter. Each day looking at Hurstwood, she had realised that, along with the disagreeableness of his attitude, there was something pathetic.
She looked at him the same evening she had made up her mind to go, and now he seemed not so shiftless and worthless, but run down and beaten upon by chance. His eyes were not keen, his face marked, his hands flabby. She thought his hair had a touch of grey. All unconscious of his doom, he rocked and read his paper, while she glanced at him.
Knowing that the end was so near, she became rather solicitous.
"Will you go over and get some canned peaches?" she asked Hurstwood, laying down a two-dollar bill.
"Certainly," he said, looking in wonder at the money.
"See if you can get some nice asparagus," she added. "I'll cook it for dinner."
Hurstwood rose and took the money, slipping on his overcoat and getting his hat. Carrie noticed that both of these articles of apparel were old and poor looking in appearance. It was plain enough before, but now it came home with peculiar force. Perhaps he couldn't help it, after all. He had done well in Chicago. She remembered his fine appearance the days he had met her in the park. Then he was so sprightly, so clean. Had it been all his fault?
He came back and laid the change down with the food.
"You'd better keep it," she observed. "We'll need other things."
"No," he said, with a sort of pride; "you keep it."
"Oh, go on and keep it," she replied, rather unnerved. "There'll be other things."
He wondered at this, not knowing the pathetic figure he had become in her eyes. She restrained herself with difficulty from showing a quaver in her voice.
To say truly, this would have been Carrie's attitude in any case. She had looked back at times upon her parting from Drouet and had regretted that she had served him so badly. She hoped she would never meet him again, but she was ashamed of her conduct. Not that she had any choice in the final separation. She had gone willingly to seek him, with sympathy in her heart, when Hurstwood had reported him ill. There was something cruel somewhere, and not being able to track it mentally to its logical lair, she concluded with feeling that he would never understand what Hurstwood had done and would see hard-hearted decision in her deed; hence her shame. Not that she cared for him. She did not want to make any one who had been good to her feel badly.
She did not realise what she was doing by allowing these feelings to possess her. Hurstwood, noticing the kindness, conceived better of her. "Carrie's good-natured, anyhow," he thought.
Going to Miss Osborne's that afternoon, she found that little lady packing and singing.
"Why don't you come over with me today?" she asked.
"Oh, I can't," said Carrie. "I'll be there Friday. Would you mind lending me the twenty-five dollars you spoke of?"
"Why, no," said Lola, going for her purse.
"I want to get some other things," said Carrie.
"Oh, that's all right," answered the little girl, good-naturedly, glad to be of service. It had been days since Hurstwood had done more than go to the grocery or to the news-stand. Now the weariness of indoors was upon him - had been for two days - but chill, grey weather had held him back. Friday broke fair and warm. It was one of those lovely harbingers of spring, given as a sign in dreary winter that earth is not forsaken of warmth and beauty. The blue heaven, holding its one golden orb, poured down a crystal wash of warm light. It was plain, from the voice of the sparrows, that all was halcyon outside. Carrie raised the front windows, and felt the south wind blowing.
"It's lovely out to-day," she remarked.
"Is it?" said Hurstwood.
After breakfast, he immediately got his other clothes.
"Will you be back for lunch?" asked Carrie nervously.
"No," he said.
He went out into the streets and tramped north, along Seventh Avenue, idly fixing upon the Harlem River as an objective point. He had seen some ships up there, the time he had called upon the brewers. He wondered how the territory thereabouts was growing.
Passing Fifty-ninth Street, he took the west side of Central Park, which he followed to Seventy-eighth Street. Then he remembered the neighbourhood and turned over to look at the mass of buildings erected. It was very much improved. The great open spaces were filling up. Coming back, he kept to the Park until 110th Street, and then turned into Seventh Avenue again, reaching the pretty river by one o'clock.
There it ran winding before his gaze, shining brightly in the clear light, between the undulating banks on the right and the tall, tree-covered heights on the left. The spring-like atmosphere woke him to a sense of its loveliness, and for a few moments he stood looking at it, folding his hands behind his back. Then he turned and followed it toward the east side, idly seeking the ships he had seen. It was four o'clock before the waning day, with its suggestion of a cooler evening, caused him to return. He was hungry and would enjoy eating in the warm room.
When he reached the flat by half-past five, it was still dark. He knew that Carrie was not there, not only because there was no light showing through the transom, but because the evening papers were stuck between the outside knob and the door. He opened with his key and went in. Everything was still dark. Lighting the gas, he sat down, preparing to wait a little while. Even if Carrie did come now, dinner would be late. He read until six, then got up to fix something for himself.
As he did so, he noticed that the room seemed a little queer. What was it? He looked around, as if he missed something, and then saw an envelope near where he had been sitting. It spoke for itself, almost without further action on his part.
Reaching over, he took it, a sort of chill settling upon him even while he reached. The crackle of the envelope in his hands was loud. Green paper money lay soft within the note.
"Dear George," he read, crunching the money in one hand, "I'm going away. I'm not coming back any more. It's no use trying to keep up the flat; I can't do it. I wouldn't mind helping you, if I could, but I can't support us both, and pay the rent. I need what little I make to pay for my clothes. I'm leaving twenty dollars. It's all I have just now. You can do whatever you like with the furniture. I won't want it. - CARRIE.
He dropped the note and looked quietly round. Now he knew what he missed. It was the little ornamental clock, which was hers. It had gone from the mantelpiece. He went into the front room, his bedroom, the parlour, lighting the gas as he went. From the chiffonier had gone the knick-knacks of silver and plate. From the table-top, the lace coverings. He opened the wardrobe - no clothes of hers. He opened the drawers - nothing of hers. Her trunk was gone from its accustomed place. Back in his own room hung his old clothes, just as he had left them. Nothing else was gone.
He stepped into the parlour and stood for a few moments looking vacantly at the floor. The silence grew oppressive. The little flat seemed wonderfully deserted. He wholly forgot that he was hungry, that it was only dinner-time. It seemed later in the night.
Suddenly, he found that the money was still in his hands. There were twenty dollars in all, as she had said. Now he walked back, leaving the lights ablaze, and feeling as if the flat were empty.
"I'll get out of this," he said to himself.
Then the sheer loneliness of his situation rushed upon him in full.
"Left me!" he muttered, and repeated, "left me!"
The place that had been so comfortable, where he had spent so many days of warmth, was now a memory. Something colder and chillier confronted him. He sank down in his chair, resting his chin in his hand - mere sensation, without thought, holding him.
Then something like a bereaved affection and self-pity swept over him.
"She needn't have gone away," he said. "I'd have got something."
He sat a long while without rocking, and added quite clearly, out loud:
"I tried, didn't I?"
At midnight he was still rocking, staring at the floor.
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 friend.
"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 Carrie.
"Did I? Well, I should say," returned the little girl. "They had a frame around it."
"They've never published my picture."
"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 Carrie.
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 Carrie.
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 graciously.
"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 increased.
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 Carrie.
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 week."
"Don't you sign," advised Lola. "I wouldn't go."
"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 season."
Carrie thought this over. She had never been on the road.
"We can get along," added Lola. "I always have."
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 quaintly.
"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 astonishment.
"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 the manager.
"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 work."
"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," returned Carrie.
"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."
"Certainly," replied Carrie.
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 months?"
"Oh, very well," said Carrie, scarcely believing her ears.
"Supposing, then, you just sign this."
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 name.
"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 possibilities.
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 had known.
"Well, let her have it," he said. "I won't bother her."
It was the grim resolution of a bent, bedraggled, but unbroken pride.
AND THIS IS NOT ELF LAND - WHAT GOLD WILL NOT BUY
When Carrie got back on the stage, she found that over night her dressing-room had been changed.
"You are to use this room, Miss Madenda," said one of the stage lackeys.
No longer any need of climbing several flights of steps to a small coop shared with another. Instead, a comparatively large and commodious chamber with conveniences not enjoyed by the small fry overhead. She breathed deeply and with delight. Her sensations were more physical than mental. In fact, she was scarcely thinking at all. Heart and body were having their say.
Gradually the deference and congratulation gave her a mental appreciation of her state. She was no longer ordered, but requested, and that politely. The other members of the cast looked at her enviously as she came out arrayed in her simple habit, which she wore all through the play. All those who had supposedly been her equals and superiors now smiled the smile of sociability, as much as to say: "How friendly we have always been." Only the star comedian whose part had been so deeply injured stalked by himself. Figuratively, he could not kiss the hand that smote him.
Doing her simple part, Carrie gradually realised the meaning of the applause which was for her, and it was sweet. She felt mildly guilty of something - perhaps unworthiness. When her associates addressed her in the wings she only smiled weakly. The pride and daring of place were not for her. It never once crossed her mind to be reserved or haughty - to be other than she had been. After the performances she rode to her room with Lola, in a carriage provided.
Then came a week in which the first fruits of success were offered to her lips - bowl after bowl. It did not matter that her splendid salary had not begun. The world seemed satisfied with the promise. She began to get letters and cards. A Mr. Withers - whom she did not know from Adam - having learned by some hook or crook where she resided, bowed himself politely in.
"You will excuse me for intruding," he said; "but have you been thinking of changing your apartments?"
"I hadn't thought of it," returned Carrie.
"Well, I am connected with the Wellington - the new hotel on Broadway. You have probably seen notices of it in the papers."
Carrie recognised the name as standing for one of the newest and most imposing hostelries. She had heard it spoken of as having a splendid restaurant.
"Just so," went on Mr. Withers, accepting her acknowledgment of familiarity. "We have some very elegant rooms at present which we would like to have you look at, if you have not made up your mind where you intend to reside for the summer. Our apartments are perfect in every detail - hot and cold water, private baths, special hall service for every floor, elevators, and all that. You know what our restaurant is."
Carrie looked at him quietly. She was wondering whether he took her to be a millionaire.
"What are your rates?" she inquired.
"Well, now, that is what I came to talk with you privately about. Our regular rates are anywhere from three to fifty dollars a day."
"Mercy!" interrupted Carrie. "I couldn't pay any such rate as that."
"I know how you feel about it," exclaimed Mr. Withers, halting. "But just let me explain. I said those are our regular rates. Like every other hotel we make special ones however. Possibly you have not thought about it, but your name is worth something to us." "Oh!" ejaculated Carrie, seeing at a glance.
"Of course. Every hotel depends upon the repute of its patrons. A well-known actress like yourself," and he bowed politely, while Carrie flushed, "draws attention to the hotel, and - although you may not believe it - patrons."
"Oh, yes," returned Carrie, vacantly, trying to arrange this curious proposition in her mind.
"Now," continued Mr. Withers, swaying his derby hat softly and beating one of his polished shoes upon the floor, "I want to arrange, if possible, to have you come and stop at the Wellington. You need not trouble about terms. In fact, we need hardly discuss them. Anything will do for the summer - a mere figure - anything that you think you could afford to pay."
Carrie was about to interrupt, but he gave her no chance.
"You can come to-day or to-morrow - the earlier the better - and we will give you your choice of nice, light, outside rooms - the very best we have."
"You're very kind," said Carrie, touched by the agent's extreme affability. "I should like to come very much. I would want to pay what is right, however. I shouldn't want to - - "
"You need not trouble about that at all," interrupted Mr. Withers. "We can arrange that to your entire satisfaction at any time. If three dollars a day is satisfactory to you, it will be so to us. All you have to do is to pay that sum to the clerk at the end of the week or month, just as you wish, and he will give you a receipt for what the rooms would cost if charged for at our regular rates."
The speaker paused.
"Suppose you come and look at the rooms," he added.
"I'd be glad to," said Carrie, "but I have a rehearsal this morning."
"I did not mean at once," he returned. "Any time will do. Would this afternoon be inconvenient?"
"Not at all," said Carrie.
Suddenly she remembered Lola, who was out at the time.
"I have a room-mate," she added, "who will have to go wherever I do. I forgot about that."
"Oh, very well," said Mr. Withers, blandly. "It is for you to say whom you want with you. As I say, all that can be arranged to suit yourself."
He bowed and backed toward the door.
"At four, then, we may expect you?"
"Yes," said Carrie.
"I will be there to show you," and so Mr. Withers withdrew.
After rehearsal Carrie informed Lola. "Did they really?" exclaimed the latter, thinking of the Wellington as a group of managers. "Isn't that fine? Oh, jolly! It's so swell. That's where we dined that night we went with those two Cushing boys. Don't you know?"
"I remember," said Carrie.
"Oh, it's as fine as it can be."
"We'd better be going up there," observed Carrie later in the afternoon.
The rooms which Mr. Withers displayed to Carrie and Lola were three and bath - a suite on the parlour floor. They were done in chocolate and dark red, with rugs and hangings to match. Three windows looked down into busy Broadway on the east, three into a side street which crossed there. There were two lovely bedrooms, set with brass and white enamel beds, white ribbon-trimmed chairs and chiffoniers to match. In the third room, or parlour, was a piano, a heavy piano lamp, with a shade of gorgeous pattern, a library table, several huge easy rockers, some dado book shelves, and a gilt curio case, filled with oddities. Pictures were upon the walls, soft Turkish pillows upon the divan footstools of brown plush upon the floor. Such accommodations would ordinarily cost a hundred dollars a week.
"Oh, lovely!" exclaimed Lola, walking about.
"It is comfortable," said Carrie, who was lifting a lace curtain and looking down into crowded Broadway.
The bath was a handsome affair, done in white enamel, with a large, blue-bordered stone tub and nickel trimmings. It was bright and commodious, with a bevelled mirror set in the wall at one end and incandescent lights arranged in three places.
"Do you find these satisfactory?" observed Mr. Withers.
"Oh, very," answered Carrie.
"Well, then, any time you find it convenient to move in, they are ready. The boy will bring you the keys at the door."
Carrie noted the elegantly carpeted and decorated hall, the marbled lobby, and showy waiting-room. It was such a place as she had often dreamed of occupying.
"I guess we'd better move right away, don't you think so?" she observed to Lola, thinking of the commonplace chamber in Seventeenth Street.
"Oh, by all means," said the latter.
The next day her trunks left for the new abode.
Dressing, after the matinee on Wednesday, a knock came at her dressing-room door.
Carrie looked at the card handed by the boy and suffered a shock of surprise.
"Tell her I'll be right out," she said softly. Then, looking at the card, added: "Mrs. Vance."
"Why, you little sinner," the latter exclaimed, as she saw Carrie coming toward her across the now vacant stage. "How in the world did this happen?"
Carrie laughed merrily. There was no trace of embarrassment in her friend's manner. You would have thought that the long separation had come about accidentally.
"I don't know," returned Carrie, warming, in spite of her first troubled feelings, toward this handsome, good-natured young matron.
"Well, you know, I saw your picture in the Sunday paper, but your name threw me off. I thought it must be you or somebody that looked just like you, and I said: 'Well, now, I will go right down there and see.' I was never more surprised in my life. How are you, anyway?"
"Oh, very well," returned Carrie. "How have you been?"
"Fine. But aren't you a success! Dear, oh! All the papers talking about you. I should think you would be just too proud to breathe. I was almost afraid to come back here this afternoon."
"Oh, nonsense," said Carrie, blushing. "You know I'd be glad to see you."
"Well, anyhow, here you are. Can't you come up and take dinner with me now? Where are you stopping?"
"At the Wellington," said Carrie, who permitted herself a touch of pride in the acknowledgment.
"Oh, are you?" exclaimed the other, upon whom the name was not without its proper effect.
Tactfully, Mrs. Vance avoided the subject of Hurstwood, of whom she could not help thinking. No doubt Carrie had left him. That much she surmised.
"Oh, I don't think I can," said Carrie, "to-night. I have so little time. I must be back here by 7.30. Won't you come and dine with me?"
"I'd be delighted, but I can't to-night," said Mrs. Vance studying Carrie's fine appearance. The latter's good fortune made her seem more than ever worthy and delightful in the others eyes. "I promised faithfully to be home at six." Glancing at the small gold watch pinned to her bosom, she added: "I must be going, too. Tell me when you're coming up, if at all."
"Why, any time you like," said Carrie.
"Well, to-morrow then. I'm living at the Chelsea now."
"Moved again?" exclaimed Carrie, laughing.
"Yes. You know I can't stay six months in one place. I just have to move. Remember now - half-past five."
"I won't forget," said Carrie, casting a glance at her as she went away. Then it came to her that she was as good as this woman now - perhaps better. Something in the other's solicitude and interest made her feel as if she were the one to condescend.
Now, as on each preceding day, letters were handed her by the doorman at the Casino. This was a feature which had rapidly developed since Monday. What they contained she well knew. MASH NOTES were old affairs in their mildest form. She remembered having received her first one far back in Columbia City. Since then, as a chorus girl, she had received others - gentlemen who prayed for an engagement. They were common sport between her and Lola, who received some also. They both frequently made light of them.
Now, however, they came thick and fast. Gentlemen with fortunes did not hesitate to note, as an addition to their own amiable collection of virtues, that they had their horses and carriages. Thus one:
"I have a million in my own right. I could give you every luxury. There isn't anything you could ask for that you couldn't have. I say this, not because I want to speak of my money, but because I love you and wish to gratify your every desire. It is love that prompts me to write. Will you not give me one half- hour in which to plead my cause?"
Such of these letters as came while Carrie was still in the Seventeenth Street place were read with more interest - though never delight - than those which arrived after she was installed in her luxurious quarters at the Wellington. Even there her vanity - or that self-appreciation which, in its more rabid form, is called vanity - was not sufficiently cloyed to make these things wearisome. Adulation, being new in any form, pleased her. Only she was sufficiently wise to distinguish between her old condition and her new one. She had not had fame or money before. Now they had come. She had not had adulation and affectionate propositions before. Now they had come. Wherefore? She smiled to think that men should suddenly find her so much more attractive. In the least way it incited her to coolness and indifference.
"Do look here," she remarked to Lola. "See what this man says: 'If you will only deign to grant me one half-hour,'" she repeated, with an imitation of languor. "The idea. Aren't men silly?"
"He must have lots of money, the way he talks," observed Lola. "That's what they all say," said Carrie, innocently.
"Why don't you see him," suggested Lola, "and hear what he has to say?"
"Indeed I won't," said Carrie. "I know what he'd say. I don't want to meet anybody that way."
Lola looked at her with big, merry eyes.
"He couldn't hurt you," she returned. "You might have some fun with him."
Carrie shook her head.
"You're awfully queer," returned the little, blue-eyed soldier.
Thus crowded fortune. For this whole week, though her large salary had not yet arrived, it was as if the world understood and trusted her. Without money - or the requisite sum, at least - she enjoyed the luxuries which money could buy. For her the doors of fine places seemed to open quite without the asking. These palatial chambers, how marvellously they came to her. The elegant apartments of Mrs. Vance in the Chelsea - these were hers. Men sent flowers, love notes, offers of fortune. And still her dreams ran riot. The one hundred and fifty! the one hundred and fifty! What a door to an Aladdin's cave it seemed to be. Each day, her head almost turned by developments, her fancies of what her fortune must be, with ample money, grew and multiplied. She conceived of delights which were not - saw lights of joy that never were on land or sea. Then, at last, after a world of anticipation, came her first installment of one hundred and fifty dollars.
It was paid to her in greenbacks - three twenties, six tens, and six fives. Thus collected it made a very convenient roll. It was accompanied by a smile and a salutation from the cashier who paid it.
"Ah, yes," said the latter, when she applied; "Miss Madenda - one hundred and fifty dollars. Quite a success the show seems to have made."
"Yes, indeed," returned Carrie.
Right after came one of the insignificant members of the company, and she heard the changed tone of address.
"How much?" said the same cashier, sharply. One, such as she had only recently been, was waiting for her modest salary. It took her back to the few weeks in which she had collected - or rather had received - almost with the air of a domestic, four-fifty per week from a lordly foreman in a shoe factory - a man who, in distributing the envelopes, had the manner of a prince doling out favours to a servile group of petitioners. She knew that out in Chicago this very day the same factory chamber was full of poor homely-clad girls working in long lines at clattering machines; that at noon they would eat a miserable lunch in a half-hour; that Saturday they would gather, as they had when she was one of them, and accept the small pay for work a hundred times harder than she was now doing. Oh, it was so easy now! The world was so rosy and bright. She felt so thrilled that she must needs walk back to the hotel to think, wondering what she should do.
It does not take money long to make plain its impotence, providing the desires are in the realm of affection. With her one hundred and fifty in hand, Carrie could think of nothing particularly to do. In itself, as a tangible, apparent thing which she could touch and look upon, it was a diverting thing for a few days, but this soon passed. Her hotel bill did not require its use. Her clothes had for some time been wholly satisfactory. Another day or two and she would receive another hundred and fifty. It began to appear as if this were not so startlingly necessary to maintain her present state. If she wanted to do anything better or move higher she must have more - a great deal more.
Now a critic called to get up one of those tinsel interviews which shine with clever observations, show up the wit of critics, display the folly of celebrities, and divert the public. He liked Carrie, and said so, publicly - adding, however, that she was merely pretty, good-natured, and lucky. This cut like a knife. The "Herald," getting up an entertainment for the benefit of its free ice fund, did her the honour to beg her to appear along with celebrities for nothing. She was visited by a young author, who had a play which he thought she could produce. Alas, she could not judge. It hurt her to think it. Then she found she must put her money in the bank for safety, and so moving, finally reached the place where it struck her that the door to life's perfect enjoyment was not open.
Gradually she began to think it was because it was summer. Nothing was going on much save such entertainments as the one in which she was the star. Fifth Avenue was boarded up where the rich had deserted their mansions. Madison Avenue was little better. Broadway was full of loafing thespians in search of next season's engagements. The whole city was quiet and her nights were taken up with her work. Hence the feeling that there was little to do.
"I don't know," she said to Lola one day, sitting at one of the windows which looked down into Broadway, "I get lonely; don't you?"
"No," said Lola, "not very often. You won't go anywhere. That's what's the matter with you."
"Where can I go?"
"Why, there're lots of places," returned Lola, who was thinking of her own lightsome tourneys with the gay youths. "You won't go with anybody."
"I don't want to go with these people who write to me. I know what kind they are."
"You oughtn't to be lonely," said Lola, thinking of Carrie's success. "There're lots would give their ears to be in your shoes."
Carrie looked out again at the passing crowd.
"I don't know," she said.
Unconsciously her idle hands were beginning to weary.
CURIOUS SHIFTS OF THE POOR
The gloomy Hurstwood, sitting in his cheap hotel, where he had taken refuge with seventy dollars - the price of his furniture - between him and nothing, saw a hot summer out and a cool fall in, reading. He was not wholly indifferent to the fact that his money was slipping away. As fifty cents after fifty cents were paid out for a day's lodging he became uneasy, and finally took a cheaper room - thirty-five cents a day - to make his money last longer. Frequently he saw notices of Carrie. Her picture was in the "World" once or twice, and an old "Herald" he found in a chair informed him that she had recently appeared with some others at a benefit for something or other. He read these things with mingled feelings. Each one seemed to put her farther and farther away into a realm which became more imposing as it receded from him. On the billboards, too, he saw a pretty poster, showing her as the Quaker Maid, demure and dainty. More than once he stopped and looked at these, gazing at the pretty face in a sullen sort of way. His clothes were shabby, and he presented a marked contrast to all that she now seemed to be.
Somehow, so long as he knew she was at the Casino, though he had never any intention of going near her, there was a subconscious comfort for him - he was not quite alone. The show seemed such a fixture that, after a month or two, he began to take it for granted that it was still running. In September it went on the road and he did not notice it. When all but twenty dollars of his money was gone, he moved to a fifteen-cent lodging-house in the Bowery, where there was a bare lounging-room filled with tables and benches as well as some chairs. Here his preference was to close his eyes and dream of other days, a habit which grew upon him. It was not sleep at first, but a mental hearkening back to scenes and incidents in his Chicago life. As the present became darker, the past grew brighter, and all that concerned it stood in relief.
He was unconscious of just how much this habit had hold of him until one day he found his lips repeating an old answer he had made to one of his friends. They were in Fitzgerald and Moy's. It was as if he stood in the door of his elegant little office, comfortably dressed, talking to Sagar Morrison about the value of South Chicago real estate in which the latter was about to invest.
"How would you like to come in on that with me?" he heard Morrison say.
"Not me," he answered, just as he had years before. "I have my hands full now."
The movement of his lips aroused him. He wondered whether he had really spoken. The next time he noticed anything of the sort he really did talk.
"Why don't you jump, you bloody fool?" he was saying. "Jump!"
It was a funny English story he was telling to a company of actors. Even as his voice recalled him, he was smiling. A crusty old codger, sitting near by, seemed disturbed; at least, he stared in a most pointed way. Hurstwood straightened up. The humour of the memory fled in an instant and he felt ashamed. For relief, he left his chair and strolled out into the streets.
One day, looking down the ad. columns of the "Evening World," he saw where a new play was at the Casino. Instantly, he came to a mental halt. Carrie had gone! He remembered seeing a poster of her only yesterday, but no doubt it was one left uncovered by the new signs. Curiously, this fact shook him up. He had almost to admit that somehow he was depending upon her being in the city. Now she was gone. He wondered how this important fact had skipped him. Goodness knows when she would be back now. Impelled by a nervous fear, he rose and went into the dingy hall, where he counted his remaining money, unseen. There were but ten dollars in all.
He wondered how all these other lodging-house people around him got along. They didn't seem to do anything. Perhaps they begged - unquestionably they did. Many was the dime he had given to such as they in his day. He had seen other men asking for money on the streets. Maybe he could get some that way. There was horror in this thought.
Sitting in the lodging-house room, he came to his last fifty cents. He had saved and counted until his health was affected. His stoutness had gone. With it, even the semblance of a fit in his clothes. Now he decided he must do something, and, walking about, saw another day go by, bringing him down to his last twenty cents - not enough to eat for the morrow.
Summoning all his courage, he crossed to Broadway and up to the Broadway Central hotel. Within a block he halted, undecided. A big, heavy-faced porter was standing at one of the side entrances, looking out. Hurstwood purposed to appeal to him. Walking straight up, he was upon him before he could turn away.
"My friend," he said, recognising even in his plight the man's inferiority, "is there anything about this hotel that I could get to do?"
The porter stared at him the while he continued to talk.
"I'm out of work and out of money and I've got to get something, - it doesn't matter what. I don't care to talk about what I've been, but if you'd tell me how to get something to do, I'd be much obliged to you. It wouldn't matter if it only lasted a few days just now. I've got to have something."
The porter still gazed, trying to look indifferent. Then, seeing that Hurstwood was about to go on, he said:
"I've nothing to do with it. You'll have to ask inside."
Curiously, this stirred Hurstwood to further effort.
"I thought you might tell me."
The fellow shook his head irritably.
Inside went the ex-manager and straight to an office off the clerk's desk. One of the managers of the hotel happened to be there. Hurstwood looked him straight in the eye.
"Could you give me something to do for a few days?" he said. "I'm in a position where I have to get something at once."
The comfortable manager looked at him, as much as to say: "Well, I should judge so."
"I came here," explained Hurstwood, nervously, "because I've been a manager myself in my day. I've had bad luck in a way but I'm not here to tell you that. I want something to do, if only for a week."
The man imagined he saw a feverish gleam in the applicant's eye.
"What hotel did you manage?" he inquired.
"It wasn't a hotel," said Hurstwood. "I was manager of Fitzgerald and Moy's place in Chicago for fifteen years."
"Is that so?" said the hotel man. "How did you come to get out of that?"
The figure of Hurstwood was rather surprising in contrast to the fact.
"Well, by foolishness of my own. It isn't anything to talk about now. You could find out if you wanted to. I'm 'broke' now and, if you will believe me, I haven't eaten anything to-day."
The hotel man was slightly interested in this story. He could hardly tell what to do with such a figure, and yet Hurstwood's earnestness made him wish to do something.
"Call Olsen," he said, turning to the clerk.
In reply to a bell and a disappearing hall-boy, Olsen, the head porter, appeared.
"Olsen," said the manager, "is there anything downstairs you could find for this man to do? I'd like to give him something."
"I don't know, sir," said Olsen. "We have about all the help we need. I think I could find something, sir, though, if you like."
"Do. Take him to the kitchen and tell Wilson to give him something to eat."
"All right, sir," said Olsen.
Hurstwood followed. Out of the manager's sight, the head porter's manner changed.
"I don't know what the devil there is to do," he observed.
Hurstwood said nothing. To him the big trunk hustler was a subject for private contempt.
"You're to give this man something to eat," he observed to the cook.
The latter looked Hurstwood over, and seeing something keen and intellectual in his eyes, said:
"Well, sit down over there."
Thus was Hurstwood installed in the Broadway Central, but not for long. He was in no shape or mood to do the scrub work that exists about the foundation of every hotel. Nothing better offering, he was set to aid the fireman, to work about the basement, to do anything and everything that might offer. Porters, cooks, firemen, clerks - all were over him. Moreover his appearance did not please these individuals - his temper was too lonely - and they made it disagreeable for him.
With the stolidity and indifference of despair, however, he endured it all, sleeping in an attic at the roof of the house, eating what the cook gave him, accepting a few dollars a week, which he tried to save. His constitution was in no shape to endure.
One day the following February he was sent on an errand to a large coal company's office. It had been snowing and thawing and the streets were sloppy. He soaked his shoes in his progress and came back feeling dull and weary. All the next day he felt unusually depressed and sat about as much as possible, to the irritation of those who admired energy in others.
In the afternoon some boxes were to be moved to make room for new culinary supplies. He was ordered to handle a truck. Encountering a big box, he could not lift it.
"What's the matter there?" said the head porter. "Can't you handle it?"
He was straining to lift it, but now he quit.
"No," he said, weakly.
The man looked at him and saw that he was deathly pale.
"Not sick, are you?" he asked. "I think I am," returned Hurstwood.
"Well, you'd better go sit down, then."
This he did, but soon grew rapidly worse. It seemed all he could do to crawl to his room, where he remained for a day.
"That man Wheeler's sick," reported one of the lackeys to the night clerk.
"What's the matter with him?"
"I don't know. He's got a high fever."
The hotel physician looked at him.
"Better send him to Bellevue," he recommended. "He's got pneumonia."
Accordingly, he was carted away.
In three weeks the worst was over, but it was nearly the first of May before his strength permitted him to be turned out. Then he was discharged.
No more weakly looking object ever strolled out into the spring sunshine than the once hale, lusty manager. All his corpulency had fled. His face was thin and pale, his hands white, his body flabby. Clothes and all, he weighed but one hundred and thirty- five pounds. Some old garments had been given him - a cheap brown coat and misfit pair of trousers. Also some change and advice. He was told to apply to the charities.
Again he resorted to the Bowery lodging-house, brooding over where to look. From this it was but a step to beggary.
"What can a man do?" he said. "I can't starve."
His first application was in sunny Second Avenue. A well-dressed man came leisurely strolling toward him out of Stuyvesant Park. Hurstwood nerved himself and sidled near.
"Would you mind giving me ten cents?" he said, directly. "I'm in a position where I must ask some one."
The man scarcely looked at him, fished in his vest pocket and took out a dime.
"There you are," he said.
"Much obliged," said Hurstwood, softly, but the other paid no more attention to him.
Satisfied with his success and yet ashamed of his situation, he decided that he would only ask for twenty-five cents more, since that would be sufficient. He strolled about sizing up people, but it was long before just the right face and situation arrived. When he asked, he was refused. Shocked by this result, he took an hour to recover and then asked again. This time a nickel was given him. By the most watchful effort he did get twenty cents more, but it was painful.
The next day he resorted to the same effort, experiencing a variety of rebuffs and one or two generous receptions. At last it crossed his mind that there was a science of faces, and that a man could pick the liberal countenance if he tried.
It was no pleasure to him, however, this stopping of passers-by. He saw one man taken up for it and now troubled lest he should be arrested. Nevertheless, he went on, vaguely anticipating that indefinite something which is always better.
It was with a sense of satisfaction, then, that he saw announced one morning the return of the Casino Company, "with Miss Carrie Madenda." He had thought of her often enough in days past. How successful she was - how much money she must have! Even now, however, it took a severe run of ill luck to decide him to appeal to her. He was truly hungry before he said:
"I'll ask her. She won't refuse me a few dollars."
Accordingly, he headed for the Casino one afternoon, passing it several times in an effort to locate the stage entrance. Then he sat in Bryant Park, a block away, waiting. "She can't refuse to help me a little," he kept saying to himself.
Beginning with half-past six, he hovered like a shadow about the Thirty-ninth Street entrance, pretending always to be a hurrying pedestrian and yet fearful lest he should miss his object. He was slightly nervous, too, now that the eventful hour had arrived; but being weak and hungry, his ability to suffer was modified. At last he saw that the actors were beginning to arrive, and his nervous tension increased, until it seemed as if he could not stand much more.
Once he thought he saw Carrie coming and moved forward, only to see that he was mistaken.
"She can't be long, now," he said to himself, half fearing to encounter her and equally depressed at the thought that she might have gone in by another way. His stomach was so empty that it ached.
Individual after individual passed him, nearly all well dressed, almost all indifferent. He saw coaches rolling by, gentlemen passing with ladies - the evening's merriment was beginning in this region of theatres and hotels.
Suddenly a coach rolled up and the driver jumped down to open the door. Before Hurstwood could act, two ladies flounced across the broad walk and disappeared in the stage door. He thought he saw Carrie, but it was so unexpected, so elegant and far away, he could hardly tell. He waited a while longer, growing feverish with want, and then seeing that the stage door no longer opened, and that a merry audience was arriving, he concluded it must have been Carrie and turned away.
"Lord," he said, hastening out of the street into which the more fortunate were pouring, "I've got to get something."
At that hour, when Broadway is wont to assume its most interesting aspect, a peculiar individual invariably took his stand at the corner of Twenty-sixth Street and Broadway - a spot which is also intersected by Fifth Avenue. This was the hour when the theatres were just beginning to receive their patrons. Fire signs announcing the night's amusements blazed on every hand. Cabs and carriages, their lamps gleaming like yellow eyes, pattered by. Couples and parties of three and four freely mingled in the common crowd, which poured by in a thick stream, laughing and jesting. On Fifth Avenue were loungers - a few wealthy strollers, a gentleman in evening dress with his lady on his arm, some club-men passing from one smoking-room to another. Across the way the great hotels showed a hundred gleaming windows, their cafes and billiard-rooms filled with a comfortable, well-dressed, and pleasure-loving throng. All about was the night, pulsating with the thoughts of pleasure and exhilaration - the curious enthusiasm of a great city bent upon finding joy in a thousand different ways.
This unique individual was no less than an ex-soldier turned religionist, who, having suffered the whips and privations of our peculiar social system, had concluded that his duty to the God which he conceived lay in aiding his fellow-man. The form of aid which he chose to administer was entirely original with himself. It consisted of securing a bed for all such homeless wayfarers as should apply to him at this particular spot, though he had scarcely the wherewithal to provide a comfortable habitation for himself. Taking his place amid this lightsome atmosphere, he would stand, his stocky figure cloaked in a great cape overcoat, his head protected by a broad slouch hat, awaiting the applicants who had in various ways learned the nature of his charity. For a while he would stand alone, gazing like any idler upon an ever- fascinating scene. On the evening in question, a policeman passing saluted him as "captain," in a friendly way. An urchin who had frequently seen him before, stopped to gaze. All others took him for nothing out of the ordinary, save in the matter of dress, and conceived of him as a stranger whistling and idling for his own amusement.
As the first half-hour waned, certain characters appeared. Here and there in the passing crowds one might see, now and then, a loiterer edging interestedly near. A slouchy figure crossed the opposite corner and glanced furtively in his direction. Another came down Fifth Avenue to the corner of Twenty-sixth Street, took a general survey, and hobbled off again. Two or three noticeable Bowery types edged along the Fifth Avenue side of Madison Square, but did not venture over. The soldier, in his cape overcoat, walked a short line of ten feet at his corner, to and fro, indifferently whistling.
As nine o'clock approached, some of the hubbub of the earlier hour passed. The atmosphere of the hotels was not so youthful. The air, too, was colder. On every hand curious figures were moving - watchers and peepers, without an imaginary circle, which they seemed afraid to enter - a dozen in all. Presently, with the arrival of a keener sense of cold, one figure came forward. It crossed Broadway from out the shadow of Twenty-sixth Street, and, in a halting, circuitous way, arrived close to the waiting figure. There was something shamefaced or diffident about the movement, as if the intention were to conceal any idea of stopping until the very last moment. Then suddenly, close to the soldier, came the halt.
The captain looked in recognition, but there was no especial greeting. The newcomer nodded slightly and murmured something like one who waits for gifts. The other simply motioned to-ward the edge of the walk.
"Stand over there," he said.
By this the spell was broken. Even while the soldier resumed his short, solemn walk, other figures shuffled forward. They did not so much as greet the leader, but joined the one, sniffling and hitching and scraping their feet.
"Gold, ain't it?"
"I'm glad winter's over."
"Looks as though it might rain."
The motley company had increased to ten. One or two knew each other and conversed. Others stood off a few feet, not wishing to be in the crowd and yet not counted out. They were peevish, crusty, silent, eying nothing in particular and moving their feet.
There would have been talking soon, but the soldier gave them no chance. Counting sufficient to begin, he came forward.
"Beds, eh, all of you?"
There was a general shuffle and murmur of approval.
"Well, line up here. I'll see what I can do. I haven't a cent myself."
They fell into a sort of broken, ragged line. One might see, now, some of the chief characteristics by contrast. There was a wooden leg in the line. Hats were all drooping, a group that would ill become a second-hand Hester Street basement collection. Trousers were all warped and frayed at the bottom and coats worn and faded. In the glare of the store lights, some of the faces looked dry and chalky; others were red with blotches and puffed in the cheeks and under the eyes; one or two were rawboned and reminded one of railroad hands. A few spectators came near, drawn by the seemingly conferring group, then more and more, and quickly there was a pushing, gaping crowd. Some one in the line began to talk.
"Silence!" exclaimed the captain. "Now, then, gentlemen, these men are without beds. They have to have some place to sleep to- night. They can't lie out in the streets. I need twelve cents to put one of them to bed. Who will give it to me?"
"Well, we'll have to wait here, boys, until some one does. Twelve cents isn't so very much for one man."
"Here's fifteen," exclaimed a young man, peering forward with strained eyes. "It's all I can afford."
"All right. Now I have fifteen. Step out of the line," and seizing one by the shoulder, the captain marched him off a little way and stood him up alone.
Coming back, he resumed his place and began again.
"I have three cents left. These men must be put to bed somehow. There are" - counting - "one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve men. Nine cents more will put the next man to bed; give him a good, comfortable bed for the night. I go right along and look after that myself. Who will give me nine cents?"
One of the watchers, this time a middle-aged man, handed him a five-cent piece.
"Now, I have eight cents. Four more will give this man a bed. Come, gentlemen. We are going very slow this evening. You all have good beds. How about these?"
"Here you are," remarked a bystander, putting a coin into his hand.
"That," said the captain, looking at the coin, "pays for two beds for two men and gives me five on the next one. Who will give me seven cents more?"
"I will," said a voice.
Coming down Sixth Avenue this evening, Hurstwood chanced to cross east through Twenty-sixth Street toward Third Avenue. He was wholly disconsolate in spirit, hungry to what he deemed an almost mortal extent, weary, and defeated. How should he get at Carrie now? It would be eleven before the show was over. If she came in a coach, she would go away in one. He would need to interrupt under most trying circumstances. Worst of all, he was hungry and weary, and at best a whole day must intervene, for he had not heart to try again to-night. He had no food and no bed.
When he neared Broadway, he noticed the captain's gathering of wanderers, but thinking it to be the result of a street preacher or some patent medicine fakir, was about to pass on. However, in crossing the street toward Madison Square Park, he noticed the line of men whose beds were already secured, stretching out from the main body of the crowd. In the glare of the neighbouring electric light he recognised a type of his own kind - the figures whom he saw about the streets and in the lodging-houses, drifting in mind and body like himself. He wondered what it could be and turned back.
There was the captain curtly pleading as before. He heard with astonishment and a sense of relief the oft-repeated words: "These men must have a bed." Before him was the line of unfortunates whose beds were yet to be had, and seeing a newcomer quietly edge up and take a position at the end of the line, he decided to do likewise. What use to contend? He was weary to-night. It was a simple way out of one difficulty, at least. To-morrow, maybe, he would do better.
Back of him, where some of those were whose beds were safe, a relaxed air was apparent. The strain of uncertainty being removed, he heard them talking with moderate freedom and some leaning toward sociability. Politics, religion, the state of the government, some newspaper sensations, and the more notorious facts the world over, found mouthpieces and auditors there. Cracked and husky voices pronounced forcibly upon odd matters. Vague and rambling observations were made in reply.
There were squints, and leers, and some dull, ox-like stares from those who were too dull or too weary to converse.
Standing tells. Hurstwood became more weary waiting. He thought he should drop soon and shifted restlessly from one foot to the other. At last his turn came. The man ahead had been paid for and gone to the blessed line of success. He was now first, and already the captain was talking for him.
"Twelve cents, gentlemen - twelve cents puts this man to bed. He wouldn't stand here in the cold if he had any place to go."
Hurstwood swallowed something that rose to his throat. Hunger and weakness had made a coward of him.
"Here you are," said a stranger, handing money to the captain.
Now the latter put a kindly hand on the ex-manager's shoulder. "Line up over there," he said.
Once there, Hurstwood breathed easier. He felt as if the world were not quite so bad with such a good man in it. Others seemed to feel like himself about this.
"Captain's a great feller, ain't he?" said the man ahead - a little, woebegone, helpless-looking sort of individual, who looked as though he had ever been the sport and care of fortune.
"Yes," said Hurstwood, indifferently.
"Huh! there's a lot back there yet," said a man farther up, leaning out and looking back at the applicants for whom the captain was pleading.
"Yes. Must be over a hundred to-night," said another.
"Look at the guy in the cab," observed a third.
A cab had stopped. Some gentleman in evening dress reached out a bill to the captain, who took it with simple thanks and turned away to his line. There was a general craning of necks as the jewel in the white shirt front sparkled and the cab moved off. Even the crowd gaped in awe.
"That fixes up nine men for the night," said the captain, counting out as many of the line near him. "Line up over there. Now, then, there are only seven. I need twelve cents."
Money came slowly. In the course of time the crowd thinned out to a meagre handful. Fifth Avenue, save for an occasional cab or foot passenger, was bare. Broadway was thinly peopled with pedestrians. Only now and then a stranger passing noticed the small group, handed out a coin, and went away, unheeding.
The captain remained stolid and determined. He talked on, very slowly, uttering the fewest words and with a certain assurance, as though he could not fail.
"Come; I can't stay out here all night. These men are getting tired and cold. Some one give me four cents."
There came a time when he said nothing at all. Money was handed him, and for each twelve cents he singled out a man and put him in the other line. Then he walked up and down as before, looking at the ground.
The theatres let out. Fire signs disappeared. A clock struck eleven. Another half-hour and he was down to the last two men.
"Come, now," he exclaimed to several curious observers; "eighteen cents will fix us all up for the night. Eighteen cents. I have six. Somebody give me the money. Remember, I have to go over to Brooklyn yet to-night. Before that I have to take these men down and put them to bed. Eighteen cents."
No one responded. He walked to and fro, looking down for several minutes, occasionally saying softly: "Eighteen cents." It seemed as if this paltry sum would delay the desired culmination longer than all the rest had. Hurstwood, buoyed up slightly by the long line of which he was a part, refrained with an effort from groaning, he was so weak.
At last a lady in opera cape and rustling skirts came down Fifth Avenue, accompanied by her escort. Hurstwood gazed wearily, reminded by her both of Carrie in her new world and of the time when he had escorted his own wife in like manner.
While he was gazing, she turned and, looking at the remarkable company, sent her escort over. He came, holding a bill in his fingers, all elegant and graceful.
"Here you are," he said.
"Thanks," said the captain, turning to the two remaining applicants. "Now we have some for to-morrow night," he added.
Therewith he lined up the last two and proceeded to the head, counting as he went.
"One hundred and thirty-seven," he announced. "Now, boys, line up. Right dress there. We won't be much longer about this. Steady, now."
He placed himself at the head and called out "Forward." Hurstwood moved with the line. Across Fifth Avenue, through Madison Square by the winding paths, east on Twenty-third Street, and down Third Avenue wound the long, serpentine company. Midnight pedestrians and loiterers stopped and stared as the company passed. Chatting policemen, at various corners, stared indifferently or nodded to the leader, whom they had seen before. On Third Avenue they marched, a seemingly weary way, to Eighth Street, where there was a lodginghouse, closed, apparently, for the night. They were expected, however.
Outside in the gloom they stood, while the leader parleyed within. Then doors swung open and they were invited in with a "Steady, now."
Some one was at the head showing rooms, so that there was no delay for keys. Toiling up the creaky stairs, Hurstwood looked back and saw the captain, watching; the last one of the line being included in his broad solicitude. Then he gathered his cloak about him and strolled out into the night.
"I can't stand much of this," said Hurstwood, whose legs ached him painfully, as he sat down upon the miserable bunk in the small, lightless chamber allotted to him. "I've got to eat, or I'll die."
STIRRING TROUBLED WATERS
Playing in New York one evening on this her return, Carrie was putting the finishing touches to her toilet before leaving for the night, when a commotion near the stage door caught her ear. It included a familiar voice.
"Never mind, now. I want to see Miss Madenda."
"You'll have to send in your card."
"Oh, come off! Here."
A half-dollar was passed over, and now a knock came at her dressing-room door. Carrie opened it.
"Well, well!" said Drouet. "I do swear! Why, how are you? I knew that was you the moment I saw you."
Carrie fell back a pace, expecting a most embarrassing conversation.
"Aren't you going to shake hands with me? Well, you're a dandy! That's all right, shake hands."
Carrie put out her hand, smiling, if for nothing more than the man's exuberant good-nature. Though older, he was but slightly changed. The same fine clothes, the same stocky body, the same rosy countenance.
"That fellow at the door there didn't want to let me in, until I paid him. I knew it was you, all right. Say, you've got a great show. You do your part fine. I knew you would. I just happened to be passing to night and thought I'd drop in for a few minutes. I saw your name on the programme, but I didn't remember it until you came on the stage. Then it struck me all at once. Say, you could have knocked me down with a feather. That's the same name you used out there in Chicago, isn't it?"
"Yes," answered Carrie, mildly, overwhelmed by the man's assurance.
"I knew it was, the moment I saw you. Well, how have you been, anyhow?"
"Oh, very well," said Carrie, lingering in her dressing-room. She was rather dazed by the assault. "How have you been?"
"Me? Oh, fine. I'm here now."
"Is that so?" said Carrie.
"Yes. I've been here for six months. I've got charge of a branch here."
"Well, when did you go on the stage, anyhow?" inquired Drouet.
"About three years ago," said Carrie.
"You don't say so! Well, sir, this is the first I've heard of it. I knew you would, though. I always said you could act - didn't I?"
"Yes, you did," she said.
"Well, you do look great," he said. "I never saw anybody improve so. You're taller, aren't you?"
"Me? Oh, a little, maybe."
He gazed at her dress, then at her hair, where a becoming hat was set jauntily, then into her eyes, which she took all occasion to avert. Evidently he expected to restore their old friendship at once and without modification.
"Well," he said, seeing her gather up her purse, handkerchief, and the like, preparatory to departing, "I want you to come out to dinner with me; won't you? I've got a friend out here."
"Oh, I can't," said Carrie. "Not to-night. I have an early engagement to-morrow."
"Aw, let the engagement go. Come on. I can get rid of him. I want to have a good talk with you."
"No, no," said Carrie; "I can't. You mustn't ask me any more. I don't care for a late dinner."
"Well, come on and have a talk, then, anyhow."
"Not to-night," she said, shaking her head. "We'll have a talk some other time."
As a result of this, she noticed a shade of thought pass over his face, as if he were beginning to realise that things were changed. Good-nature dictated something better than this for one who had always liked her.
"You come around to the hotel to-morrow," she said, as sort of penance for error. "You can take dinner with me."
"All right," said Drouet, brightening. "Where are you stopping?"
"At the Waldorf," she answered, mentioning the fashionable hostelry then but newly erected.
"Well, come at three," said Carrie, pleasantly.
The next day Drouet called, but it was with no especial delight that Carrie remembered her appointment. However, seeing him, handsome as ever, after his kind, and most genially disposed, her doubts as to whether the dinner would be disagreeable were swept away. He talked as volubly as ever.
"They put on a lot of lugs here, don't they?" was his first remark.
"Yes; they do," said Carrie.
Genial egotist that he was, he went at once into a detailed account of his own career.
"I'm going to have a business of my own pretty soon," he observed in one place. "I can get backing for two hundred thousand dollars."
Carrie listened most good-naturedly.
"Say," he said, suddenly; "where is Hurstwood now?"
Carrie flushed a little.
"He's here in New York, I guess," she said. "I haven't seen him for some time."
Drouet mused for a moment. He had not been sure until now that the ex-manager was not an influential figure in the background. He imagined not; but this assurance relieved him. It must be that Carrie had got rid of him - as well she ought, he thought. "A man always makes a mistake when he does anything like that," he observed.
"Like what?" said Carrie, unwitting of what was coming.
"Oh, you know," and Drouet waved her intelligence, as it were, with his hand.
"No, I don't," she answered. "What do you mean?"
"Why that affair in Chicago - the time he left."
"I don't know what you are talking about," said Carrie. Could it be he would refer so rudely to Hurstwood's flight with her?
"Oho!" said Drouet, incredulously. "You knew he took ten thousand dollars with him when he left, didn't you?"
"What!" said Carrie. "You don't mean to say he stole money, do you?"
"Why," said Drouet, puzzled at her tone, "you knew that, didn't you?"
"Why, no," said Carrie. "Of course I didn't."
"Well, that's funny," said Drouet. "He did, you know. It was in all the papers."
"How much did you say he took?" said Carrie.
"Ten thousand dollars. I heard he sent most of it back afterwards, though."
Carrie looked vacantly at the richly carpeted floor. A new light was shining upon all the years since her enforced flight. She remembered now a hundred things that indicated as much. She also imagined that he took it on her account. Instead of hatred springing up there was a kind of sorrow generated. Poor fellow! What a thing to have had hanging over his head all the time.
At dinner Drouet, warmed up by eating and drinking and softened in mood, fancied he was winning Carrie to her old-time good- natured regard for him. He began to imagine it would not be so difficult to enter into her life again, high as she was. Ah, what a prize! he thought. How beautiful, how elegant, how famous! In her theatrical and Waldorf setting, Carrie was to him the all desirable.
"Do you remember how nervous you were that night at the Avery?" he asked.
Carrie smiled to think of it.
"I never saw anybody do better than you did then, Cad," he added ruefully, as he leaned an elbow on the table; "I thought you and I were going to get along fine those days."
"You mustn't talk that way," said Carrie, bringing in the least touch of coldness.
"Won't you let me tell you - - "
"No," she answered, rising. "Besides, it's time I was getting ready for the theatre. I'll have to leave you. Come, now." "Oh, stay a minute," pleaded Drouet. "You've got plenty of time."
"No," said Carrie, gently.
Reluctantly Drouet gave up the bright table and followed. He saw her to the elevator and, standing there, said:
"When do I see you again?"
"Oh, some time, possibly," said Carrie. "I'll be here all summer. Good-night!"
The elevator door was open.
"Good-night!" said Drouet, as she rustled in.
Then he strolled sadly down the hall, all his old longing revived, because she was now so far off. The merry frou-frou of the place spoke all of her. He thought himself hardly dealt with. Carrie, however, had other thoughts.
That night it was that she passed Hurstwood, waiting at the Casino, without observing him.
The next night, walking to the theatre, she encountered him face to face. He was waiting, more gaunt than ever, determined to see her, if he had to send in word. At first she did not recognise the shabby, baggy figure. He frightened her, edging so close, a seemingly hungry stranger.
"Carrie," he half whispered, "can I have a few words with you?"
She turned and recognised him on the instant. If there ever had lurked any feeling in her heart against him, it deserted her now. Still, she remembered what Drouet said about his having stolen the money.
"Why, George," she said; "what's the matter with you?"
"I've been sick," he answered. "I've just got out of the hospital. For God's sake, let me have a little money, will you?"
"Of course," said Carrie, her lip trembling in a strong effort to maintain her composure. "But what's the matter with you, anyhow?"
She was opening her purse, and now pulled out all the bills in it - a five and two twos.
"I've been sick, I told you," he said, peevishly, almost resenting her excessive pity. It came hard to him to receive it from such a source.
"Here," she said. "It's all I have with me."
"All right," he answered, softly. "I'll give it back to you some day."
Carrie looked at him, while pedestrians stared at her. She felt the strain of publicity. So did Hurstwood.
"Why don't you tell me what's the matter with you?" she asked, hardly knowing what to do. "Where are you living?"
"Oh, I've got a room down in the Bowery," he answered. "There's no use trying to tell you here. I'm all right now."
He seemed in a way to resent her kindly inquiries - so much better had fate dealt with her.
"Better go on in," he said. "I'm much obliged, but I won't bother you any more."
She tried to answer, but he turned away and shuffled off toward the east.
For days this apparition was a drag on her soul before it began to wear partially away. Drouet called again, but now he was not even seen by her. His attentions seemed out of place.
"I'm out," was her reply to the boy.
So peculiar, indeed, was her lonely, self-withdrawing temper, that she was becoming an interesting figure in the public eye - she was so quiet and reserved.
Not long after the management decided to transfer the show to London. A second summer season did not seem to promise well here.
"How would you like to try subduing London?" asked her manager, one afternoon.
"It might be just the other way," said Carrie.
"I think we'll go in June," he answered.
In the hurry of departure, Hurstwood was forgotten. Both he and Drouet were left to discover that she was gone. The latter called once, and exclaimed at the news. Then he stood in the lobby, chewing the ends of his moustache. At last he reached a conclusion - the old days had gone for good.
"She isn't so much," he said; but in his heart of hearts he did not believe this.
Hurstwood shifted by curious means through a long summer and fall. A small job as janitor of a dance hall helped him for a month. Begging, sometimes going hungry, sometimes sleeping in the park, carried him over more days. Resorting to those peculiar charities, several of which, in the press of hungry search, he accidentally stumbled upon, did the rest. Toward the dead of winter, Carrie came back, appearing on Broadway in a new play; but he was not aware of it. For weeks he wandered about the city, begging, while the fire sign, announcing her engagement, blazed nightly upon the crowded street of amusements. Drouet saw it, but did not venture in.
About this time Ames returned to New York. He had made a little success in the West, and now opened a laboratory in Wooster Street. Of course, he encountered Carrie through Mrs. Vance; but there was nothing responsive between them. He thought she was still united to Hurstwood, until otherwise informed. Not knowing the facts then, he did not profess to understand, and refrained from comment.
With Mrs. Vance, he saw the new play, and expressed himself accordingly.
"She ought not to be in comedy," he said. "I think she could do better than that."
One afternoon they met at the Vances' accidentally, and began a very friendly conversation. She could hardly tell why the one- time keen interest in him was no longer with her. Unquestionably, it was because at that time he had represented something which she did not have; but this she did not understand. Success had given her the momentary feeling that she was now blessed with much of which he would approve. As a matter of fact, her little newspaper fame was nothing at all to him. He thought she could have done better, by far.
"You didn't go into comedy-drama, after all?" he said, remembering her interest in that form of art.
"No," she answered; "I haven't, so far."
He looked at her in such a peculiar way that she realised she had failed. It moved her to add: "I want to, though."
"I should think you would," he said. "You have the sort of disposition that would do well in comedy-drama."
It surprised her that he should speak of disposition. Was she, then, so clearly in his mind?
"Why?" she asked.
"Well," he said, "I should judge you were rather sympathetic in your nature."
Carrie smiled and coloured slightly. He was so innocently frank with her that she drew nearer in friendship. The old call of the ideal was sounding.
"I don't know," she answered, pleased, nevertheless, beyond all concealment.
"I saw your play," he remarked. "It's very good."
"I'm glad you liked it."
"Very good, indeed," he said, "for a comedy."
This is all that was said at the time, owing to an interruption, but later they met again. He was sitting in a corner after dinner, staring at the floor, when Carrie came up with another of the guests. Hard work had given his face the look of one who is weary. It was not for Carrie to know the thing in it which appealed to her.
"All alone?" she said.
"I was listening to the music."
"I'll be back in a moment," said her companion, who saw nothing in the inventor.
Now he looked up in her face, for she was standing a moment, while he sat.
"Isn't that a pathetic strain?" he inquired, listening.
"Oh, very," she returned, also catching it, now that her attention was called.
"Sit down," he added, offering her the chair beside him.
They listened a few moments in silence, touched by the same feeling, only hers reached her through the heart. Music still charmed her as in the old days.
"I don't know what it is about music," she started to say, moved by the inexplicable longings which surged within her; "but it always makes me feel as if I wanted something - I - - "
"Yes," he replied; "I know how you feel."
Suddenly he turned to considering the peculiarity of her disposition, expressing her feelings so frankly.
"You ought not to be melancholy," he said.
He thought a while, and then went off into a seemingly alien observation which, however, accorded with their feelings.
"The world is full of desirable situations, but, unfortunately, we can occupy but one at a time. It doesn't do us any good to wring our hands over the far-off things."
The music ceased and he arose, taking a standing position before her, as if to rest himself.
"Why don't you get into some good, strong comedy-drama?" he said. He was looking directly at her now, studying her face. Her large, sympathetic eyes and pain-touched mouth appealed to him as proofs of his judgment.
"Perhaps I shall," she returned.
"That's your field," he added.
"Do you think so?"
"Yes," he said; "I do. I don't suppose you're aware of it, but there is something about your eyes and mouth which fits you for that sort of work."
Carrie thrilled to be taken so seriously. For the moment, loneliness deserted her. Here was praise which was keen and analytical.
"It's in your eyes and mouth," he went on abstractedly. "I remember thinking, the first time I saw you, that there was something peculiar about your mouth. I thought you were about to cry."
"How odd," said Carrie, warm with delight. This was what her heart craved.
"Then I noticed that that was your natural look, and to-night I saw it again. There's a shadow about your eyes, too, which gives your face much this same character. It's in the depth of them, I think."
Carrie looked straight into his face, wholly aroused.
"You probably are not aware of it," he added.
She looked away, pleased that he should speak thus, longing to be equal to this feeling written upon her countenance. It unlocked the door to a new desire. She had cause to ponder over this until they met again - several weeks or more. It showed her she was drifting away from the old ideal which had filled her in the dressing-rooms of the Avery stage and thereafter, for a long time. Why had she lost it?
"I know why you should be a success," he said, another time, "if you had a more dramatic part. I've studied it out - - "
"What is it?" said Carrie.
"Well," he said, as one pleased with a puzzle, "the expression in your face is one that comes out in different things. You get the same thing in a pathetic song, or any picture which moves you deeply. It's a thing the world likes to see, because it's a natural expression of its longing."
Carrie gazed without exactly getting the import of what he meant.
"The world is always struggling to express itself," he went on. "Most people are not capable of voicing their feelings. They depend upon others. That is what genius is for. One man expresses their desires for them in music; another one in poetry; another one in a play. Sometimes nature does it in a face - it makes the face representative of all desire. That's what has happened in your case."
He looked at her with so much of the import of the thing in his eyes that she caught it. At least, she got the idea that her look was something which represented the world's longing. She took it to heart as a creditable thing, until he added:
"That puts a burden of duty on you. It so happens that you have this thing. It is no credit to you - that is, I mean, you might not have had it. You paid nothing to get it. But now that you have it, you must do something with it."
"What?" asked Carrie.
"I should say, turn to the dramatic field. You have so much sympathy and such a melodious voice. Make them valuable to others. It will make your powers endure."
Carrie did not understand this last. All the rest showed her that her comedy success was little or nothing.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"Why, just this. You have this quality in your eyes and mouth and in your nature. You can lose it, you know. If you turn away from it and live to satisfy yourself alone, it will go fast enough. The look will leave your eyes. Your mouth will change. Your power to act will disappear. You may think they won't, but they will. Nature takes care of that."
He was so interested in forwarding all good causes that he sometimes became enthusiastic, giving vent to these preachments. Something in Carrie appealed to him. He wanted to stir her up.
"I know," she said, absently, feeling slightly guilty of neglect.
"If I were you," he said, "I'd change."
The effect of this was like roiling helpless waters. Carrie troubled over it in her rocking-chair for days.
"I don't believe I'll stay in comedy so very much longer," she eventually remarked to Lola.
"Oh, why not?" said the latter.
"I think," she said, "I can do better in a serious play."
"What put that idea in your head?"
"Oh, nothing," she answered; "I've always thought so."
Still, she did nothing - grieving. It was a long way to this better thing - or seemed so - and comfort was about her; hence the inactivity and longing.
THE WAY OF THE BEATEN - A HARP IN THE WIND
In the city, at that time, there were a number of charities similar in nature to that of the captain's, which Hurstwood now patronised in a like unfortunate way. One was a convent mission- house of the Sisters of Mercy in Fifteenth Street - a row of red brick family dwellings, before the door of which hung a plain wooden contribution box, on which was painted the statement that every noon a meal was given free to all those who might apply and ask for aid. This simple announcement was modest in the extreme, covering, as it did, a charity so broad. Institutions and charities are so large and so numerous in New York that such things as this are not often noticed by the more comfortably situated. But to one whose mind is upon the matter, they grow exceedingly under inspection. Unless one were looking up this matter in particular, he could have stood at Sixth Avenue and Fifteenth Street for days around the noon hour and never have noticed that out of the vast crowd that surged along that busy thoroughfare there turned out, every few seconds, some weather- beaten, heavy-footed specimen of humanity, gaunt in countenance and dilapidated in the matter of clothes. The fact is none the less true, however, and the colder the day the more apparent it became. Space and a lack of culinary room in the mission-house, compelled an arrangement which permitted of only twenty-five or thirty eating at one time, so that a line had to be formed outside and an orderly entrance effected. This caused a daily spectacle which, however, had become so common by repetition during a number of years that now nothing was thought of it. The men waited patiently, like cattle, in the coldest weather - waited for several hours before they could be admitted. No questions were asked and no service rendered. They ate and went away again, some of them returning regularly day after day the winter through.
A big, motherly looking woman invariably stood guard at the door during the entire operation and counted the admissible number. The men moved up in solemn order. There was no haste and no eagerness displayed. It was almost a dumb procession. In the bitterest weather this line was to be found here. Under an icy wind there was a prodigious slapping of hands and a dancing of feet. Fingers and the features of the face looked as if severely nipped by the cold. A study of these men in broad light proved them to be nearly all of a type. They belonged to the class that sit on the park benches during the endurable days and sleep upon them during the summer nights. They frequent the Bowery and those down-at-the-heels East Side streets where poor clothes and shrunken features are not singled out as curious. They are the men who are in the lodginghouse sitting-rooms during bleak and bitter weather and who swarm about the cheaper shelters which only open at six in a number of the lower East Side streets. Miserable food, ill-timed and greedily eaten, had played havoc with bone and muscle. They were all pale, flabby, sunken-eyed, hollow-chested, with eyes that glinted and shone and lips that were a sickly red by contrast. Their hair was but half attended to, their ears anaemic in hue, and their shoes broken in leather and run down at heel and toe. They were of the class which simply floats and drifts, every wave of people washing up one, as breakers do driftwood upon a stormy shore.
For nearly a quarter of a century, in another section of the city, Fleischmann, the baker, had given a loaf of bread to any one who would come for it to the side door of his restaurant at the corner of Broadway and Tenth Street, at midnight. Every night during twenty years about three hundred men had formed in line and at the appointed time marched past the doorway, picked their loaf from a great box placed just outside, and vanished again into the night. From the beginning to the present time there had been little change in the character or number of these men. There were two or three figures that had grown familiar to those who had seen this little procession pass year after year. Two of them had missed scarcely a night in fifteen years. There were about forty, more or less, regular callers. The remainder of the line was formed of strangers. In times of panic and unusual hardships there were seldom more than three hundred. In times of prosperity, when little is heard of the unemployed, there were seldom less. The same number, winter and summer, in storm or calm, in good times and bad, held this melancholy midnight rendezvous at Fleischmann's bread box.
At both of these two charities, during the severe winter which was now on, Hurstwood was a frequent visitor. On one occasion it was peculiarly cold, and finding no comfort in begging about the streets, he waited until noon before seeking this free offering to the poor. Already, at eleven o'clock of this morning, several such as he had shambled forward out of Sixth Avenue, their thin clothes flapping and fluttering in the wind. They leaned against the iron railing which protects the walls of the Ninth Regiment Armory, which fronts upon that section of Fifteenth Street, having come early in order to be first in. Having an hour to wait, they at first lingered at a respectful distance; but others coming up, they moved closer in order to protect their right of precedence. To this collection Hurstwood came up from the west out of Seventh Avenue and stopped close to the door, nearer than all the others. Those who had been waiting before him, but farther away, now drew near, and by a certain stolidity of demeanour, no words being spoken, indicated that they were first.
Seeing the opposition to his action, he looked sullenly along the line, then moved out, taking his place at the foot. When order had been restored, the animal feeling of opposition relaxed.
"Must be pretty near noon," ventured one.
"It is," said another. "I've been waiting nearly an hour."
"Gee, but it's cold!"
They peered eagerly at the door, where all must enter. A grocery man drove up and carried in several baskets of eatables. This started some words upon grocery men and the cost of food in general.
"I see meat's gone up," said one.
"If there wuz war, it would help this country a lot."
The line was growing rapidly. Already there were fifty or more, and those at the head, by their demeanour, evidently congratulated themselves upon not having so long to wait as those at the foot. There was much jerking of heads, and looking down the line.
"It don't matter how near you get to the front, so long as you're in the first twenty-five," commented one of the first twenty- five. "You all go in together."
"Humph!" ejaculated Hurstwood, who had been so sturdily displaced.
"This here Single Tax is the thing," said another. "There ain't going to be no order till it comes."
For the most part there was silence; gaunt men shuffling, glancing, and beating their arms.
At last the door opened and the motherly-looking sister appeared. She only looked an order. Slowly the line moved up and, one by one, passed in, until twenty-five were counted. Then she interposed a stout arm, and the line halted, with six men on the steps. Of these the ex-manager was one. Waiting thus, some talked, some ejaculated concerning the misery of it; some brooded, as did Hurstwood. At last he was admitted, and, having eaten, came away, almost angered because of his pains in getting it.
At eleven o'clock of another evening, perhaps two weeks later, he was at the midnight offering of a loaf - waiting patiently. It had been an unfortunate day with him, but now he took his fate with a touch of philosophy. If he could secure no supper, or was hungry late in the evening, here was a place he could come. A few minutes before twelve, a great box of bread was pushed out, and exactly on the hour a portly, round-faced German took position by it, calling "Ready." The whole line at once moved forward each taking his loaf in turn and going his separate way. On this occasion, the ex-manager ate his as he went plodding the dark streets in silence to his bed.
By January he had about concluded that the game was up with him. Life had always seemed a precious thing, but now constant want and weakened vitality had made the charms of earth rather dull and inconspicuous. Several times, when fortune pressed most harshly, he thought he would end his troubles; but with a change of weather, or the arrival of a quarter or a dime, his mood would change, and he would wait. Each day he would find some old paper lying about and look into it, to see if there was any trace of Carrie, but all summer and fall he had looked in vain. Then he noticed that his eyes were beginning to hurt him, and this ailment rapidly increased until, in the dark chambers of the lodgings he frequented, he did not attempt to read. Bad and irregular eating was weakening every function of his body. The one recourse left him was to doze when a place offered and he could get the money to occupy it.
He was beginning to find, in his wretched clothing and meagre state of body, that people took him for a chronic type of bum and beggar. Police hustled him along, restaurant and lodginghouse keepers turned him out promptly the moment he had his due; pedestrians waved him off. He found it more and more difficult to get anything from anybody.
At last he admitted to himself that the game was up. It was after a long series of appeals to pedestrians, in which he had been refused and refused - every one hastening from contact.
"Give me a little something, will you, mister?" he said to the last one. "For God's sake, do; I'm starving."
"Aw, get out," said the man, who happened to be a common type himself. "You're no good. I'll give you nawthin'."
Hurstwood put his hands, red from cold, down in his pockets. Tears came into his eyes.
"That's right," he said; "I'm no good now. I was all right. I had money. I'm going to quit this," and, with death in his heart, he started down toward the Bowery. People had turned on the gas before and died; why shouldn't he? He remembered a lodginghouse where there were little, close rooms, with gas-jets in them, almost pre-arranged, he thought, for what he wanted to do, which rented for fifteen cents. Then he remembered that he had no fifteen cents.
On the way he met a comfortable-looking gentleman, coming, clean- shaven, out of a fine barber shop.
"Would you mind giving me a little something?" he asked this man boldly.
The gentleman looked him over and fished for a dime. Nothing but quarters were in his pocket.
"Here," he said, handing him one, to be rid of him. "Be off, now."
Hurstwood moved on, wondering. The sight of the large, bright coin pleased him a little. He remembered that he was hungry and that he could get a bed for ten cents. With this, the idea of death passed, for the time being, out of his mind. It was only when he could get nothing but insults that death seemed worth while.
One day, in the middle of the winter, the sharpest spell of the season set in. It broke grey and cold in the first day, and on the second snowed. Poor luck pursuing him, he had secured but ten cents by nightfall, and this he had spent for food. At evening he found himself at the Boulevard and Sixty-seventh Street, where he finally turned his face Bowery-ward. Especially fatigued because of the wandering propensity which had seized him in the morning, he now half dragged his wet feet, shuffling the soles upon the sidewalk. An old, thin coat was turned up about his red ears - his cracked derby hat was pulled down until it turned them outward. His hands were in his pockets.
"I'll just go down Broadway," he said to himself.
When he reached Forty-second Street, the fire signs were already blazing brightly. Crowds were hastening to dine. Through bright windows, at every corner, might be seen gay companies in luxuriant restaurants. There were coaches and crowded cable cars.
In his weary and hungry state, he should never have come here. The contrast was too sharp. Even he was recalled keenly to better things. "What's the use?" he thought. "It's all up with me. I'll quit this."
People turned to look after him, so uncouth was his shambling figure. Several officers followed him with their eyes, to see that he did not beg of anybody.
Once he paused in an aimless, incoherent sort of way and looked through the windows of an imposing restaurant, before which blazed a fire sign, and through the large, plate windows of which could be seen the red and gold decorations, the palms, the white napery, and shining glassware, and, above all, the comfortable crowd. Weak as his mind had become, his hunger was sharp enough to show the importance of this. He stopped stock still, his frayed trousers soaking in the slush, and peered foolishly in.
"Eat," he mumbled. "That's right, eat. Nobody else wants any."
Then his voice dropped even lower, and his mind half lost the fancy it had.
"It's mighty cold," he said. "Awful cold."
At Broadway and Thirty-ninth Street was blazing, in incandescent fire, Carrie's name. "Carrie Madenda," it read, "and the Casino Company." All the wet, snowy sidewalk was bright with this radiated fire. It was so bright that it attracted Hurstwood's gaze. He looked up, and then at a large, gilt-framed posterboard, on which was a fine lithograph of Carrie, lifesize.
Hurstwood gazed at it a moment, snuffling and hunching one shoulder, as if something were scratching him. He was so run down, however, that his mind was not exactly clear.
He approached that entrance and went in.
"Well?" said the attendant, staring at him. Seeing him pause, he went over and shoved him. "Get out of here," he said.
"I want to see Miss Madenda," he said.
"You do, eh?" the other said, almost tickled at the spectacle. "Get out of here," and he shoved him again. Hurstwood had no strength to resist.
"I want to see Miss Madenda," he tried to explain, even as he was being hustled away. "I'm all right. I - - "
The man gave him a last push and closed the door. As he did so, Hurstwood slipped and fell in the snow. It hurt him, and some vague sense of shame returned. He began to cry and swear foolishly.
"God damned dog!" he said. "Damned old cur," wiping the slush from his worthless coat. "I - I hired such people as you once."
Now a fierce feeling against Carrie welled up - just one fierce, angry thought before the whole thing slipped out of his mind.
"She owes me something to eat," he said. "She owes it to me."
Hopelessly he turned back into Broadway again and slopped onward and away, begging, crying, losing track of his thoughts, one after another, as a mind decayed and disjointed is wont to do.
It was truly a wintry evening, a few days later, when his one distinct mental decision was reached. Already, at four o'clock, the sombre hue of night was thickening the air. A heavy snow was falling - a fine picking, whipping snow, borne forward by a swift wind in long, thin lines. The streets were bedded with it - six inches of cold, soft carpet, churned to a dirty brown by the crush of teams and the feet of men. Along Broadway men picked their way in ulsters and umbrellas. Along the Bowery, men slouched through it with collars and hats pulled over their ears. In the former thoroughfare businessmen and travellers were making for comfortable hotels. In the latter, crowds on cold errands shifted past dingy stores, in the deep recesses of which lights were already gleaming. There were early lights in the cable cars, whose usual clatter was reduced by the mantle about the wheels. The whole city was muffled by this fast-thickening mantle.
In her comfortable chambers at the Waldorf, Carrie was reading at this time "Pere Goriot," which Ames had recommended to her. It was so strong, and Ames's mere recommendation had so aroused her interest, that she caught nearly the full sympathetic significance of it. For the first time, it was being borne in upon her how silly and worthless had been her earlier reading, as a whole. Becoming wearied, however, she yawned and came to the window, looking out upon the old winding procession of carriages rolling up Fifth Avenue.
"Isn't it bad?" she observed to Lola.
"Terrible!" said that little lady, joining her. "I hope it snows enough to go sleigh riding."
"Oh, dear," said Carrie, with whom the sufferings of Father Goriot were still keen. "That's all you think of. Aren't you sorry for the people who haven't anything to-night?"
"Of course I am," said Lola; "but what can I do? I haven't anything."
"You wouldn't care, if you had," she returned.
"I would, too," said Lola. "But people never gave me anything when I was hard up."
"Isn't it just awful?" said Carrie, studying the winter's storm.
"Look at that man over there," laughed Lola, who had caught sight of some one falling down. "How sheepish men look when they fall, don't they?"
"We'll have to take a coach to-night," answered Carrie absently.
In the lobby of the Imperial, Mr. Charles Drouet was just arriving, shaking the snow from a very handsome ulster. Bad weather had driven him home early and stirred his desire for those pleasures which shut out the snow and gloom of life. A good dinner, the company of a young woman, and an evening at the theatre were the chief things for him.
"Why, hello, Harry!" he said, addressing a lounger in one of the comfortable lobby chairs. "How are you?"
"Oh, about six and six," said the other. "Rotten weather, isn't it?"
"Well, I should say," said the other. "I've been just sitting here thinking where I'd go to-night."
"Come along with me," said Drouet. "I can introduce you to something dead swell."
"Who is it?" said the other.
"Oh, a couple of girls over here in Fortieth Street. We could have a dandy time. I was just looking for you."
"Supposing you get 'em and take 'em out to dinner?"
"Sure," said Drouet. "Wait'll I go upstairs and change my clothes."
"Well, I'll be in the barber shop," said the other. "I want to get a shave."
"All right," said Drouet, creaking off in his good shoes toward the elevator. The old butterfly was as light on the wing as ever.
On an incoming vestibuled Pullman, speeding at forty miles an hour through the snow of the evening, were three others, all related.
"First call for dinner in the dining-car," a Pullman servitor was announcing, as he hastened through the aisle in snow-white apron and jacket.
"I don't believe I want to play any more," said the youngest, a black-haired beauty, turned supercilious by fortune, as she pushed a euchre hand away from her.
"Shall we go into dinner?" inquired her husband, who was all that fine raiment can make.
"Oh, not yet," she answered. "I don't want to play any more, though."
"Jessica," said her mother, who was also a study in what good clothing can do for age, "push that pin down in your tie - it's coming up."
Jessica obeyed, incidentally touching at her lovely hair and looking at a little jewel-faced watch. Her husband studied her, for beauty, even cold, is fascinating from one point of view.
"Well, we won't have much more of this weather," he said. "It only takes two weeks to get to Rome."
Mrs. Hurstwood nestled comfortably in her corner and smiled. It was so nice to be the mother-in-law of a rich young man - one whose financial state had borne her personal inspection.
"Do you suppose the boat will sail promptly?" asked Jessica, "if it keeps up like this?"
"Oh, yes," answered her husband. "This won't make any difference."
Passing down the aisle came a very fair-haired banker's son, also of Chicago, who had long eyed this supercilious beauty. Even now he did not hesitate to glance at her, and she was conscious of it. With a specially conjured show of indifference, she turned her pretty face wholly away. It was not wifely modesty at all. By so much was her pride satisfied.
At this moment Hurstwood stood before a dirty four story building in a side street quite near the Bowery, whose one-time coat of buff had been changed by soot and rain. He mingled with a crowd of men - a crowd which had been, and was still, gathering by degrees.
It began with the approach of two or three, who hung about the closed wooden doors and beat their feet to keep them warm. They had on faded derby hats with dents in them. Their misfit coats were heavy with melted snow and turned up at the collars. Their trousers were mere bags, frayed at the bottom and wobbling over big, soppy shoes, torn at the sides and worn almost to shreds. They made no effort to go in, but shifted ruefully about, digging their hands deep in their pockets and leering at the crowd and the increasing lamps. With the minutes, increased the number. There were old men with grizzled beards and sunken eyes, men who were comparatively young but shrunken by diseases, men who were middle-aged. None were fat. There was a face in the thick of the collection which was as white as drained veal. There was another red as brick. Some came with thin, rounded shoulders, others with wooden legs, still others with frames so lean that clothes only flapped about them. There were great ears, swollen noses, thick lips, and, above all, red, blood-shot eyes. Not a normal, healthy face in the whole mass; not a straight figure; not a straightforward, steady glance.
In the drive of the wind and sleet they pushed in on one another. There were wrists, unprotected by coat or pocket, which were red with cold. There were ears, half covered by every conceivable semblance of a hat, which still looked stiff and bitten. In the snow they shifted, now one foot, now another, almost rocking in unison.
With the growth of the crowd about the door came a murmur. It was not conversation, but a running comment directed at any one in general. It contained oaths and slang phrases.
"By damn, I wish they'd hurry up."
"Look at the copper watchin'."
"Maybe it ain't winter, nuther!"
"I wisht I was in Sing Sing."
Now a sharper lash of wind cut down and they huddled closer. It was an edging, shifting, pushing throng. There was no anger, no pleading, no threatening words. It was all sullen endurance, unlightened by either wit or good fellowship.
A carriage went jingling by with some reclining figure in it. One of the men nearest the door saw it.
"Look at the bloke ridin'."
"He ain't so cold."
"Eh, eh, eh!" yelled another, the carriage having long since passed out of hearing.
Little by little the night crept on. Along the walk a crowd turned out on its way home. Men and shop-girls went by with quick steps. The cross-town cars began to be crowded. The gas lamps were blazing, and every window bloomed ruddy with a steady flame. Still the crowd hung about the door, unwavering.
"Ain't they ever goin' to open up?" queried a hoarse voice, suggestively.
This seemed to renew the general interest in the closed door, and many gazed in that direction. They looked at it as dumb brutes look, as dogs paw and whine and study the knob. They shifted and blinked and muttered, now a curse, now a comment. Still they waited and still the snow whirled and cut them with biting flakes. On the old hats and peaked shoulders it was piling. It gathered in little heaps and curves and no one brushed it off. In the centre of the crowd the warmth and steam melted it, and water trickled off hat rims and down noses, which the owners could not reach to scratch. On the outer rim the piles remained unmelted. Hurstwood, who could not get in the centre, stood with head lowered to the weather and bent his form.
A light appeared through the transom overhead. It sent a thrill of possibility through the watchers. There was a murmur of recognition. At last the bars grated inside and the crowd pricked up its ears. Footsteps shuffled within and it murmured again. Some one called: "Slow up there, now," and then the door opened. It was push and jam for a minute, with grim, beast silence to prove its quality, and then it melted inward, like logs floating, and disappeared. There were wet hats and wet shoulders, a cold, shrunken, disgruntled mass, pouring in between bleak walls. It was just six o'clock and there was supper in every hurrying pedestrian's face. And yet no supper was provided here - nothing but beds.
Hurstwood laid down his fifteen cents and crept off with weary steps to his allotted room. It was a dingy affair - wooden, dusty, hard. A small gas-jet furnished sufficient light for so rueful a corner.
"Hm!" he said, clearing his throat and locking the door.
Now he began leisurely to take off his clothes, but stopped first with his coat, and tucked it along the crack under the door. His vest he arranged in the same place. His old wet, cracked hat he laid softly upon the table. Then he pulled off his shoes and lay down.
It seemed as if he thought a while, for now he arose and turned the gas out, standing calmly in the blackness, hidden from view. After a few moments, in which he reviewed nothing, but merely hesitated, he turned the gas on again, but applied no match. Even then he stood there, hidden wholly in that kindness which is night, while the uprising fumes filled the room. When the odour reached his nostrils, he quit his attitude and fumbled for the bed. "What's the use?" he said, weakly, as he stretched himself to rest.
And now Carrie had attained that which in the beginning seemed life's object, or, at least, such fraction of it as human beings ever attain of their original desires. She could look about on her gowns and carriage, her furniture and bank account. Friends there were, as the world takes it - those who would bow and smile in acknowledgment of her success. For these she had once craved. Applause there was, and publicity - once far off, essential things, but now grown trivial and indifferent. Beauty also - her type of loveliness - and yet she was lonely. In her rocking-chair she sat, when not otherwise engaged - singing and dreaming.
Thus in life there is ever the intellectual and the emotional nature - the mind that reasons, and the mind that feels. Of one come the men of action - generals and statesmen; of the other, the poets and dreamers - artists all.
As harps in the wind, the latter respond to every breath of fancy, voicing in their moods all the ebb and flow of the ideal.
Man has not yet comprehended the dreamer any more than he has the ideal. For him the laws and morals of the world are unduly severe. Ever hearkening to the sound of beauty, straining for the flash of its distant wings, he watches to follow, wearying his feet in travelling. So watched Carrie, so followed, rocking and singing.
And it must be remembered that reason had little part in this. Chicago dawning, she saw the city offering more of loveliness than she had ever known, and instinctively, by force of her moods alone, clung to it. In fine raiment and elegant surroundings, men seemed to be contented. Hence, she drew near these things. Chicago, New York; Drouet, Hurstwood; the world of fashion and the world of stage - these were but incidents. Not them, but that which they represented, she longed for. Time proved the representation false.
Oh, the tangle of human life! How dimly as yet we see. Here was Carrie, in the beginning poor, unsophisticated. emotional; responding with desire to everything most lovely in life, yet finding herself turned as by a wall. Laws to say: "Be allured, if you will, by everything lovely, but draw not nigh unless by righteousness." Convention to say: "You shall not better your situation save by honest labour." If honest labour be unremunerative and difficult to endure; if it be the long, long road which never reaches beauty, but wearies the feet and the heart; if the drag to follow beauty be such that one abandons the admired way, taking rather the despised path leading to her dreams quickly, who shall cast the first stone? Not evil, but longing for that which is better, more often directs the steps of the erring. Not evil, but goodness more often allures the feeling mind unused to reason.
Amid the tinsel and shine of her state walked Carrie, unhappy. As when Drouet took her, she had thought: "Now I am lifted into that which is best"; as when Hurstwood seemingly offered her the better way: "Now am I happy." But since the world goes its way past all who will not partake of its folly, she now found herself alone. Her purse was open to him whose need was greatest. In her walks on Broadway, she no longer thought of the elegance of the creatures who passed her. Had they more of that peace and beauty which glimmered afar off, then were they to be envied.
Drouet abandoned his claim and was seen no more. Of Hurstwood's death she was not even aware. A slow, black boat setting out from the pier at Twenty-seventh Street upon its weekly errand bore, with many others, his nameless body to the Potter's Field.
Thus passed all that was of interest concerning these twain in their relation to her. Their influence upon her life is explicable alone by the nature of her longings. Time was when both represented for her all that was most potent in earthly success. They were the personal representatives of a state most blessed to attain - the titled ambassadors of comfort and peace, aglow with their credentials. It is but natural that when the world which they represented no longer allured her, its ambassadors should be discredited. Even had Hurstwood returned in his original beauty and glory, he could not now have allured her. She had learned that in his world, as in her own present state, was not happiness.
Sitting alone, she was now an illustration of the devious ways by which one who feels, rather than reasons, may be led in the pursuit of beauty. Though often disillusioned, she was still waiting for that halcyon day when she would be led forth among dreams become real. Ames had pointed out a farther step, but on and on beyond that, if accomplished, would lie others for her. It was forever to be the pursuit of that radiance of delight which tints the distant hilltops of the world.
Oh, Carrie, Carrie! Oh, blind strivings of the human heart! Onward onward, it saith, and where beauty leads, there it follows. Whether it be the tinkle of a lone sheep bell o'er some quiet landscape, or the glimmer of beauty in sylvan places, or the show of soul in some passing eye, the heart knows and makes answer, following. It is when the feet weary and hope seems vain that the heartaches and the longings arise. Know, then, that for you is neither surfeit nor content. In your rocking-chair, by your window dreaming, shall you long, alone. In your rocking- chair, by your window, shall you dream such happiness as you may never feel.