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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser


The manager was no fool to be led blindly away by such an errant
proposition as this, but his situation was peculiar. Wine was in his
veins. It had crept up into his head and given him a warm view of
the situation. It also coloured the possibilities of ten thousand for
him. He could see great opportunities with that. He could get
Carrie. Oh, yes, he could! He could get rid of his wife. That letter,
too, was waiting discussion to-morrow morning. He would not
need to answer that. He went back to the safe and put his hand on
the knob. Then he pulled the door open and took the drawer with
the money quite out.

With it once out and before him, it seemed a foolish thing to think
about leaving it. Certainly it would. Why, he could live quietly
with Carrie for years.

Lord! what was that? For the first time he was tense, as if a stern
hand had been laid upon his shoulder. He looked fearfully around.
Not a soul was present. Not a sound. Some one was shuffling by
on the sidewalk. He took the box and the money and put it back in
the safe. Then he partly closed the door again.

To those who have never wavered in conscience, the predicament
of the individual whose mind is less strongly constituted and who
trembles in the balance between duty and desire is scarcely
appreciable, unless graphically portrayed. Those who have never
heard that solemn voice of the ghostly clock which ticks with
awful distinctness, "thou shalt," "thou shalt not," "thou shalt,"
"thou shalt not," are in no position to judge. Not alone in
sensitive, highly organised natures is such a mental conflict
possible. The dullest specimen of humanity, when drawn by
desire toward evil, is recalled by a sense of right, which is
proportionate in power and strength to his evil tendency. We must
remember that it may not be a knowledge of right, for no
knowledge of right is predicated of the animalís instinctive

recoil at evil. Men are still led by instinct before they are
regulated by knowledge. It is instinct which recalls the criminal-it
is instinct (where highly organised reasoning is absent) which
gives the criminal his feeling of danger, his fear of wrong.

At every first adventure, then, into some untried evil, the mind
wavers. The clock of thought ticks out its wish and its denial. To
those who have never experienced such a mental dilemma, the
following will appeal on the simple ground of revelation.

When Hurstwood put the money back, his nature again resumed
its ease and daring. No one had observed him. He was quite alone.
No one could tell what he wished to do. He could work this thing
out for himself.

The imbibation of the evening had not yet worn off. Moist as was
his brow, tremble as did his hand once after the nameless fright,
he was still flushed with the fumes of liquor. He scarcely noticed
that the time was passing. He went over his situation once again,
his eye always seeing the money in a lump, his mind always
seeing what it would do. He strolled into his little room, then to
the door, then to the safe again. He put his hand on the knob and
opened it. There was the money! Surely no harm could come from
looking at it!

He took out the drawer again and lifted the bills. They were so
smooth, so compact, so portable. How little they made, after all.
He decided he would take them. Yes, he would. He would put
them in his pocket. Then he looked at that and saw they would not
go there. His hand satchel! To be sure, his hand satchel. They
would go in that-all of it would. No one would think anything of it
either. He went into the little office and took it from the shelf in
the corner. Now he set it upon his desk and went out toward the
safe. For some reason he did not want to fill it out in the big room.

First he brought the bills and then the loose receipts of the day. He
would take it all. He put the empty drawers back and pushed the
iron door almost to, then stood beside it meditating.

The wavering of a mind under such circumstances is an almost
inexplicable thing, and yet it is absolutely true. Hurstwood could
not bring himself to act definitely. He wanted to think about it-to
ponder over it, to decide whether it were best. He was drawn by
such a keen desire for Carrie, driven by such a state of turmoil in
his own affairs that he thought constantly it would be best, and yet
he wavered. He did not know what evil might result from it to
him-how soon he might come to grief. The true ethics of the
situation never once occurred to him, and never would have,
under any circumstances.

After he had all the money in the hand bag, a revulsion of feeling
seized him. He would not do it-no! Think of what a scandal it
would make. The police! They would be after him. He would
have to fly, and where? Oh, the terror of being a fugitive from
justice! He took out the two boxes and put all the money back. In
his excitement he forgot what he was doing, and put the sums in
the wrong boxes. As he pushed the door to, he thought he
remembered doing it wrong and opened the door again. There
were the two boxes mixed.

He took them out and straightened the matter, but now the terror
had gone. Why be afraid?

While the money was in his hand the lock clicked. It had sprung!
Did he do it? He grabbed at the knob and pulled vigorously. It had
closed. Heavens! he was in for it now, sure enough.
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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser



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