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What Hurstwood got as the result of this determination was more self-assurance that each particular day was not the day. At the same time, Carrie passed through thirty days of mental distress.
Her need of clothes—to say nothing of her desire for ornaments—grew rapidly as the fact developed that for all her work she was not to have them. The sympathy she felt for Hurstwood, at the time he asked her to tide him over, vanished with these newer urgings of decency. He was not always renewing his request, but this love of good appearance was. It insisted, and Carrie wished to satisfy it, wished more and more that Hurstwood was not in the way.
Hurstwood reasoned, when he neared the last ten dollars, that he had better keep a little pocket change and not become wholly dependent for car-fare, shaves, and the like; so when this sum was still in his hand he announced himself as penniless.
"I'm clear out," he said to Carrie one afternoon. "I paid for some coal this morning, and that took all but ten or fifteen cents."
"I've got some money there in my purse."
Hurstwood went to get it, starting for a can of tomatoes. Carrie scarcely noticed that this was the beginning of the new order. He took out fifteen cents and bought the can with it. Thereafter it was dribs and drabs of this sort, until one morning Carrie suddenly remembered that she would not be back until close to dinner time.
"We're all out of flour," she said; "you'd better get some this afternoon. We haven't any meat, either. How would it do if we had liver and bacon?"
"Suits me," said Hurstwood.
"Better get a half or three-quarters of a pound of that."
"Half 'll be enough," volunteered Hurstwood.
She opened her purse and laid down a half dollar. He pretended not to notice it.
Hurstwood bought the flour—which all grocers sold in 3 1/2-pound packages—for thirteen cents and paid fifteen cents for a half-pound of liver and bacon. He left the packages, together with the balance of twenty-two cents, upon the kitchen table, where Carrie found it. It did not escape her that the change was accurate. There was something sad in realising that, after all, all that he wanted of her was something to eat. She felt as if hard thoughts were unjust. Maybe he would get something yet. He had no vices.
That very evening, however, on going into the theatre, one of the chorus girls passed her all newly arrayed in a pretty mottled tweed suit, which took Carrie's eye. The young woman wore a fine bunch of violets and seemed in high spirits. She smiled at Carrie good-naturedly as she passed, showing pretty, even teeth, and Carrie smiled back.
"She can afford to dress well," thought Carrie, "and so could I, if I could only keep my money. I haven't a decent tie of any kind to wear."
She put out her foot and looked at her shoe reflectively. "I'll get a pair of shoes Saturday, anyhow; I don't care what happens."
One of the sweetest and most sympathetic little chorus girls in the company made friends with her because in Carrie she found nothing to frighten her away. She was a gay little Manon, unwitting of society's fierce conception of morality, but, nevertheless, good to her neighbour and charitable. Little license was allowed the chorus in the matter of conversation, but, nevertheless, some was indulged in.
"It's warm to-night, isn't it?" said this girl, arrayed in pink fleshings and an imitation golden helmet. She also carried a shining shield.
"Yes; it is," said Carrie, pleased that some one should talk to her.
"I'm almost roasting," said the girl.
Carrie looked into her pretty face, with its large blue eyes, and saw little beads of moisture.
"There's more marching in this opera than ever I did before," added the girl.
"Have you been in others?" asked Carrie, surprised at her experience.
"Lots of them," said the girl; "haven't you?"
"This is my first experience."
"Oh, is it? I thought I saw you the time they ran 'The Queen's Mate' here."
"No," said Carrie, shaking her head; "not me."
This conversation was interrupted by the blare of the orchestra and the sputtering of the calcium lights in the wings as the line was called to form for a new entrance. No further opportunity for conversation occurred, but the next evening, when they were getting ready for the stage, this girl appeared anew at her side.
"They say this show is going on the road next month."
"Is it?" said Carrie.
"Yes; do you think you'll go?"
"I don't know; I guess so, if they'll take me."
"Oh, they'll take you. I wouldn't go. They won't give you any more, and it will cost you everything you make to live. I never leave New York. There are too many shows going on here."
"Can you always get in another show?"
"I always have. There's one going on up at the Broadway this month. I'm going to try and get in that if this one really goes."
Carrie heard this with aroused intelligence. Evidently it wasn't so very difficult to get on. Maybe she also could get a place if this show went away. "Do they all pay about the same?" she asked.
"Yes. Sometimes you get a little more. This show doesn't pay very much."
"I get twelve," said Carrie.
"Do you?" said the girl. "They pay me fifteen, and you do more work than I do. I wouldn't stand it if I were you. They're just giving you less because they think you don't know. You ought to be making fifteen."
"Well, I'm not," said Carrie.
"Well, you'll get more at the next place if you want it," went on the girl, who admired Carrie very much. "You do fine, and the manager knows it."
To say the truth, Carrie did unconsciously move about with an air pleasing and somewhat distinctive. It was due wholly to her natural manner and total lack of self-consciousness.
"Do you suppose I could get more up at the Broadway?"
"Of course you can," answered the girl. "You come with me when I go. I'll do the talking."
Carrie heard this, flushing with thankfulness. She liked this little gaslight soldier. She seemed so experienced and self-reliant in her tinsel helmet and military accoutrements.
"My future must be assured if I can always get work this way," thought Carrie.
Still, in the morning, when her household duties would infringe upon her and Hurstwood sat there, a perfect load to contemplate, her fate seemed dismal and unrelieved. It did not take so very much to feed them under Hurstwood's close-measured buying, and there would possibly be enough for rent, but it left nothing else. Carrie bought the shoes and some other things, which complicated the rent problem very seriously. Suddenly, a week from the fatal day, Carrie realised that they were going to run short.
"I don't believe," she exclaimed, looking into her purse at breakfast, "that I'll have enough to pay the rent."
"How much have you?" inquired Hurstwood.
"Well, I've got twenty-two dollars, but there's everything to be paid for this week yet, and if I use all I get Saturday to pay this, there won't be any left for next week. Do you think your hotel man will open his hotel this month?"
"I think so," returned Hurstwood. "He said he would."
After a while, Hurstwood said:
"Don't worry about it. Maybe the grocer will wait. He can do that. We've traded there long enough to make him trust us for a week or two."
"Do you think he will?" she asked.
"I think so." On this account, Hurstwood, this very day, looked grocer Oeslogge clearly in the eye as he ordered a pound of coffee, and said:
"Do you mind carrying my account until the end of every week?"
"No, no, Mr. Wheeler," said Mr. Oeslogge. "Dat iss all right."
Hurstwood, still tactful in distress, added nothing to this. It seemed an easy thing. He looked out of the door, and then gathered up his coffee when ready and came away. The game of a desperate man had begun.
Rent was paid, and now came the grocer. Hurstwood managed by paying out of his own ten and collecting from Carrie at the end of the week. Then he delayed a day next time settling with the grocer, and so soon had his ten back, with Oeslogge getting his pay on this Thursday or Friday for last Saturday's bill.
This entanglement made Carrie anxious for a change of some sort. Hurstwood did not seem to realise that she had a right to anything. He schemed to make what she earned cover all expenses, but seemed not to trouble over adding anything himself.
"He talks about worrying," thought Carrie. "If he worried enough he couldn't sit there and wait for me. He'd get something to do. No man could go seven months without finding something if he tried."
The sight of him always around in his untidy clothes and gloomy appearance drove Carrie to seek relief in other places. Twice a week there were matinees, and then Hurstwood ate a cold snack, which he prepared himself. Two other days there were rehearsals beginning at ten in the morning and lasting usually until one. Now, to this Carrie added a few visits to one or two chorus girls, including the blue-eyed soldier of the golden helmet. She did it because it was pleasant and a relief from dulness of the home over which her husband brooded.
The blue-eyed soldier's name was Osborne—Lola Osborne. Her room was in Nineteenth Street near Fourth Avenue, a block now given up wholly to office buildings. Here she had a comfortable back room, looking over a collection of back yards in which grew a number of shade trees pleasant to see.
"Isn't your home in New York?" she asked of Lola one day.
"Yes; but I can't get along with my people. They always want me to do what they want. Do you live here?"
"Yes," said Carrie.
"With your family?"
Carrie was ashamed to say that she was married. She had talked so much about getting more salary and confessed to so much anxiety about her future, that now, when the direct question of fact was waiting, she could not tell this girl.
"With some relatives," she answered.
Miss Osborne took it for granted that, like herself, Carrie's time was her own. She invariably asked her to stay, proposing little outings and other things of that sort until Carrie began neglecting her dinner hours. Hurstwood noticed it, but felt in no position to quarrel with her. Several times she came so late as scarcely to have an hour in which to patch up a meal and start for the theatre.
"Do you rehearse in the afternoons?" Hurstwood once asked, concealing almost completely the cynical protest and regret which prompted it.
"No; I was looking around for another place," said Carrie.
As a matter of fact she was, but only in such a way as furnished the least straw of an excuse. Miss Osborne and she had gone to the office of the manager who was to produce the new opera at the Broadway and returned straight to the former's room, where they had been since three o'clock.
Carrie felt this question to be an infringement on her liberty. She did not take into account how much liberty she was securing. Only the latest step, the newest freedom, must not be questioned.
Hurstwood saw it all clearly enough. He was shrewd after his kind, and yet there was enough decency in the man to stop him from making any effectual protest. In his almost inexplicable apathy he was content to droop supinely while Carrie drifted out of his life, just as he was willing supinely to see opportunity pass beyond his control. He could not help clinging and protesting in a mild, irritating, and ineffectual way, however—a way that simply widened the breach by slow degrees.
A further enlargement of this chasm between them came when the manager, looking between the wings upon the brightly lighted stage where the chorus was going through some of its glittering evolutions, said to the master of the ballet:
"Who is that fourth girl there on the right—the one coming round at the end now?"
"Oh," said the ballet-master, "that's Miss Madenda."
"She's good looking. Why don't you let her head that line?"
"I will," said the man.
"Just do that. She'll look better there than the woman you've got."
"All right. I will do that," said the master.
The next evening Carrie was called out, much as if for an error.
"You lead your company to night," said the master.
"Yes, sir," said Carrie.
"Put snap into it," he added. "We must have snap."
"Yes, sir," replied Carrie.
Astonished at this change, she thought that the heretofore leader must be ill; but when she saw her in the line, with a distinct expression of something unfavourable in her eye, she began to think that perhaps it was merit.
She had a chic way of tossing her head to one side, and holding her arms as if for action—not listlessly. In front of the line this showed up even more effectually.
"That girl knows how to carry herself," said the manager, another evening. He began to think that he should like to talk with her. If he hadn't made it a rule to have nothing to do with the members of the chorus, he would have approached her most unbendingly.
"Put that girl at the head of the white column," he suggested to the man in charge of the ballet.
This white column consisted of some twenty girls, all in snow-white flannel trimmed with silver and blue. Its leader was most stunningly arrayed in the same colours, elaborated, however, with epaulets and a belt of silver, with a short sword dangling at one side. Carrie was fitted for this costume, and a few days later appeared, proud of her new laurels. She was especially gratified to find that her salary was now eighteen instead of twelve.
Hurstwood heard nothing about this.
"I'll not give him the rest of my money," said Carrie. "I do enough. I am going to get me something to wear."
As a matter of fact, during this second month she had been buying for herself as recklessly as she dared, regardless of the consequences. There were impending more complications rent day, and more extension of the credit system in the neighbourhood. Now, however, she proposed to do better by herself.
Her first move was to buy a shirt waist, and in studying these she found how little her money would buy—how much, if she could only use all. She forgot that if she were alone she would have to pay for a room and board, and imagined that every cent of her eighteen could be spent for clothes and things that she liked.
At last she picked upon something, which not only used up all her surplus above twelve, but invaded that sum. She knew she was going too far, but her feminine love of finery prevailed. The next day Hurstwood said:
"We owe the grocer five dollars and forty cents this week."
"Do we?" said Carrie, frowning a little.
She looked in her purse to leave it.
"I've only got eight dollars and twenty cents altogether."
"We owe the milkman sixty cents," added Hurstwood.
"Yes, and there's the coal man," said Carrie.
Hurstwood said nothing. He had seen the new things she was buying; the way she was neglecting household duties; the readiness with which she was slipping out afternoons and staying. He felt that something was going to happen. All at once she spoke:
"I don't know," she said; "I can't do it all. I don't earn enough."
This was a direct challenge. Hurstwood had to take it up. He tried to be calm.
"I don't want you to do it all," he said. "I only want a little help until I can get something to do."
"Oh, yes," answered Carrie. "That's always the way. It takes more than I can earn to pay for things. I don't see what I'm going to do.
"Well, I've tried to get something," he exclaimed. What do you want me to do?"
"You couldn't have tried so very hard," said Carrie. "I got something."
"Well, I did," he said, angered almost to harsh words. "You needn't throw up your success to me. All I asked was a little help until I could get something. I'm not down yet. I'll come up all right."
He tried to speak steadily, but his voice trembled a little.
Carrie's anger melted on the instant. She felt ashamed.
"Well," she said, "here's the money," and emptied it out on the table. "I haven't got quite enough to pay it all. If they can wait until Saturday, though, I'll have some more."
"You keep it," said Hurstwood sadly. "I only want enough to pay the grocer."
She put it back, and proceeded to get dinner early and in good time. Her little bravado made her feel as if she ought to make amends.
In a little while their old thoughts returned to both.
"She's making more than she says," thought Hurstwood. "She says she's making twelve, but that wouldn't buy all those things. I don't care. Let her keep her money. I'll get something again one of these days. Then she can go to the deuce."
He only said this in his anger, but it prefigured a possible course of action and attitude well enough.
"I don't care," thought Carrie. "He ought to be told to get out and do something. It isn't right that I should support him."
In these days Carrie was introduced to several youths, friends of Miss Osborne, who were of the kind most aptly described as gay and festive. They called once to get Miss Osborne for an afternoon drive. Carrie was with her at the time.
"Come and go along," said Lola.
"No, I can't," said Carrie.
"Oh, yes, come and go. What have you got to do?"
"I have to be home by five," said Carrie.
"They'll take us to dinner," said Lola.
"Oh, no," said Carrie. "I won't go. I can't."
"Oh, do come. They're awful nice boys. We'll get you back in time. We're only going for a drive in Central Park." Carrie thought a while, and at last yielded.
"Now, I must be back by half-past four," she said.
The information went in one ear of Lola and out the other.
After Drouet and Hurstwood, there was the least touch of cynicism in her attitude toward young men—especially of the gay and frivolous sort. She felt a little older than they. Some of their pretty compliments seemed silly. Still, she was young in heart and body and youth appealed to her.
"Oh, we'll be right back, Miss Madenda," said one of the chaps, bowing. "You wouldn't think we'd keep you over time, now, would you?"
"Well, I don't know," said Carrie, smiling.
They were off for a drive—she, looking about and noticing fine clothing, the young men voicing those silly pleasantries and weak quips which pass for humour in coy circles. Carrie saw the great park parade of carriages, beginning at the Fifty-ninth Street entrance and winding past the Museum of Art to the exit at One Hundred and Tenth Street and Seventh Avenue. Her eye was once more taken by the show of wealth—the elaborate costumes, elegant harnesses, spirited horses, and, above all, the beauty. Once more the plague of poverty galled her, but now she forgot in a measure her own troubles so far as to forget Hurstwood. He waited until four, five, and even six. It was getting dark when he got up out of his chair.
"I guess she isn't coming home," he said, grimly.
"That's the way," he thought. "She's getting a start now. I'm out of it."
Carrie had really discovered her neglect, but only at a quarter after five, and the open carriage was now far up Seventh Avenue, near the Harlem River.
"What time is it?" she inquired. "I must be getting back."
"A quarter after five," said her companion, consulting an elegant, open-faced watch.
"Oh, dear me!" exclaimed Carrie. Then she settled back with a sigh. "There's no use crying over spilt milk," she said. "It's too late."
"Of course it is," said the youth, who saw visions of a fine dinner now, and such invigorating talk as would result in a reunion after the show. He was greatly taken with Carrie. "We'll drive down to Delmonico's now and have something there, won't we, Orrin?"
"To be sure," replied Orrin, gaily.
Carrie thought of Hurstwood. Never before had she neglected dinner without an excuse.
They drove back, and at 6.15 sat down to dine. It was the Sherry incident over again, the remembrance of which came painfully back to Carrie. She remembered Mrs. Vance, who had never called again after Hurstwood's reception, and Ames.
At this figure her mind halted. It was a strong, clean vision. He liked better books than she read, better people than she associated with. His ideals burned in her heart.
"It's fine to be a good actress," came distinctly back.
What sort of an actress was she?
"What are you thinking about, Miss Madenda?" inquired her merry companion. "Come, now, let's see if I can guess."
"Oh, no," said Carrie. "Don't try."
She shook it off and ate. She forgot, in part, and was merry. When it came to the after-theatre proposition, however, she shook her head.
"No," she said, "I can't. I have a previous engagement."
"Oh, now, Miss Madenda," pleaded the youth.
"No," said Carrie, "I can't. You've been so kind, but you'll have to excuse me."
The youth looked exceedingly crestfallen.
"Cheer up, old man," whispered his companion. "We'll go around, anyhow. She may change her mind."
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