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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser


They were nearing Chicago. Signs were everywhere numerous.
Trains flashed by them. Across wide stretches of flat, open prairie
they could see lines of telegraph poles stalking across the fields
toward the great city. Far away were indications of suburban
towns, some big smoke-stacks towering high in the air.

Frequently there were two-story frame houses standing out in the
open fields, without fence or trees, lone outposts of the
approaching army of homes.

To the child, the genius with imagination, or the wholly
untravelled, the approach to a great city for the first time is a
wonderful thing. Particularly if it be evening-that mystic period
between the glare and gloom of the world when life is changing
from one sphere or condition to another. Ah, the promise of the
night. What does it not hold for the weary! What old illusion of
hope is not here forever repeated! Says the soul of the toiler to
itself, "I shall soon be free. I shall be in the ways and the hosts of
the merry. The streets, the lamps, the lighted chamber set for
dining, are for me. The theatre, the halls, the parties, the ways of
rest and the paths of song-these are mine in the night." Though all
humanity be still enclosed in the shops, the thrill runs abroad. It is
in the air. The dullest feel something which they may not always
express or describe. It is the lifting of the burden of toil.

Sister Carrie gazed out of the window. Her companion, affected
by her wonder, so contagious are all things, felt anew some
interest in the city and pointed out its marvels.

"This is Northwest Chicago," said Drouet. "This is the Chicago
River," and he pointed to a little muddy creek, crowded with the
huge masted wanderers from far-off waters nosing the black-
posted banks. With a puff, a clang, and a clatter of rails it was
gone. "Chicago is getting to be a great town," he went on. "Itís a
wonder. Youíll find lots to see here."

She did not hear this very well. Her heart was troubled by a kind
of terror. The fact that she was alone, away from home, rushing
into a great sea of life and endeavour, began to tell. She could not
help but feel a little choked for breath-a little sick as her heart beat
so fast. She half closed her eyes and tried to think it was nothing,
that Columbia City was only a little way off.

"Chicago! Chicago!" called the brakeman, slamming open the
door. They were rushing into a more crowded yard, alive with the
clatter and clang of life. She began to gather up her poor little grip
and closed her hand firmly upon her purse. Drouet arose, kicked
his legs to straighten his trousers, and seized his clean yellow grip.

"I suppose your people will be here to meet you?" he said. "Let
me carry your grip."

"Oh, no," she said. "Iíd rather you wouldnít. Iíd rather you
wouldnít be with me when I meet my sister."

"All right," he said in all kindness. "Iíll be near, though, in case
she isnít here, and take you out there safely."

"Youíre so kind," said Carrie, feeling the goodness of such
attention in her strange situation.

"Chicago!" called the brakeman, drawing the word out long. They
were under a great shadowy train shed, where the lamps were
already beginning to shine out, with passenger cars all about and
the train moving at a snailís pace. The people in the car were all
up and crowding about the door.

"Well, here we are," said Drouet, leading the way to the door.
"Good-bye, till I see you Monday."

"Good-bye," she answered, taking his proffered hand.

"Remember, Iíll be looking till you find your sister."

She smiled into his eyes.

They filed out, and he affected to take no notice of her. A lean-
faced, rather commonplace woman recognised Carrie on the
platform and hurried forward.

"Why, Sister Carrie!" she began, and there was a perfunctory
embrace of welcome.

Carrie realised the change of affectional atmosphere at once.
Amid all the maze, uproar, and novelty she felt cold reality taking
her by the hand. No world of light and merriment. No round of
amusement. Her sister carried with her most of the grimness of
shift and toil.

"Why, how are all the folks at home?" she began; "how is father,
and mother?"

Carrie answered, but was looking away. Down the aisle, toward
the gate leading into the waiting-room and the street, stood
Drouet. He was looking back. When he saw that she saw him and
was safe with her sister he turned to go, sending back the shadow
of a smile. Only Carrie saw it. She felt something lost to her when
he moved away. When he disappeared she felt his absence
thoroughly. With her sister she was much alone, a lone figure in a
tossing, thoughtless sea.
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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser



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