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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser


Chapter XXII
THE BLAZE OF THE TINDER: FLESH WARS
WITH THE FLESH


The misfortune of the Hurstwood household was due to the fact
that jealousy, having been born of love, did not perish with it.
Mrs. Hurstwood retained this in such form that subsequent
influences could transform it into hate. Hurstwood was still
worthy, in a physical sense, of the affection his wife had once
bestowed upon him, but in a social sense he fell short. With his
regard died his power to be attentive to her, and this, to a woman,
is much greater than outright crime toward another. Our self-love
dictates our appreciation of the good or evil in another. In Mrs.
Hurstwood it discoloured the very hue of her husbandís
indifferent nature. She saw design in deeds and phrases which
sprung only from a faded appreciation of her presence.

As a consequence, she was resentful and suspicious. The jealousy
that prompted her to observe every falling away from the little
amenities of the married relation on his part served to give her
notice of the airy grace with which he still took the world. She
could see from the scrupulous care which he exercised in the
matter of his personal appearance that his interest in life had
abated not a jot. Every motion, every glance had something in it
of the pleasure he felt in Carrie,

of the zest this new pursuit of pleasure lent to his days. Mrs.
Hurstwood felt something, sniffing change, as animals do danger,
afar off.

This feeling was strengthened by actions of a direct and more
potent nature on the part of Hurstwood. We have seen with what
irritation he shirked those little duties which no longer contained
any amusement or satisfaction for him, and the open snarls with
which, more recently, he resented her irritating goads. These little
rows were really precipitated by an atmosphere which was
surcharged with dissension. That it would shower, with a sky so
full of blackening thunder-clouds, would scarcely be thought
worthy of comment. Thus, after leaving the breakfast table this
morning, raging inwardly at his blank declaration of indifference
at her plans, Mrs. Hurstwood encountered Jessica in her dressing-
room, very leisurely arranging her hair. Hurstwood had already
left the house.

"I wish you wouldnít be so late coming down to breakfast," she
said, addressing Jessica, while making for her crochet basket.
"Now here the things are quite cold, and you havenít eaten."

Her natural composure was sadly ruffled, and Jessica was doomed
to feel the fag end of the storm.

"Iím not hungry," she answered.

"Then why donít you say so, and let the girl put away the things,
instead of keeping her waiting all morning?"

"She doesnít mind," answered Jessica, coolly.

"Well, I do, if she doesnít," returned the mother, "and, anyhow, I
donít like you to talk that way to me. Youíre too young to put on
such an air with your mother."

"Oh, mamma, donít row," answered Jessica. "Whatís the matter
this morning, anyway?"

"Nothingís the matter, and Iím not rowing. You mustnít think
because I indulge you in some things that you can keep everybody
waiting. I wonít have it."

"Iím not keeping anybody waiting," returned Jessica, sharply,
stirred out of a cynical indifference to a sharp defence. "I said I
wasnít hungry. I donít want any breakfast."

"Mind how you address me, missy. Iíll not have it. Hear me now;
Iíll not have

it!"

Jessica heard this last while walking out of the room, with a toss
of her head and a flick of her pretty skirts indicative of the
independence and indifference she felt. She did not propose to be
quarrelled with.
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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser



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