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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser


Chapter XXXIII
WITHOUT THE WALLED CITY: THE SLOPE OF
THE YEARS


The immediate result of this was nothing. Results from such
things are usually long in growing. Morning brings a change of
feeling. The existent condition invariably pleads for itself. It is
only at odd moments that we get glimpses of the misery of things.
The heart understands when it is confronted with contrasts. Take
them away and the ache subsides.

Carrie went on, leading much this same life for six months
thereafter or more. She did not see Ames any more. He called
once upon the Vances, but she only heard about it through the
young wife. Then he went West, and there was a gradual
subsidence of whatever personal attraction had existed. The
mental effect of the thing had not gone, however, and never would
entirely. She had an ideal to contrast men by-particularly men
close to her.

During all this time-a period rapidly approaching three years-
Hurstwood had been moving along in an even path. There was no
apparent slope downward, and Ďdistinctly none upward, so far as
the casual observer might have seen. But psychologically there
was a change, which was marked enough to suggest the future
very distinctly indeed. This was in the mere matter of the halt his
career had received when he departed from Chicago. A manís
fortune or material progress is

very much the same as his bodily growth. Either he is growing
stronger, healthier, wiser, as the youth approaching manhood, or
he is growing weaker, older, less incisive mentally, as the man
approaching old age. There are no other states. Frequently there is
a period between the cessation of youthful accretion and the
setting in, in the case of the middle-aged man, of the tendency
toward decay when the two processes are almost perfectly
balanced and there is little doing in either direction. Given time
enough, however, the balance becomes a sagging to the grave
side. Slowly at first, then with a modest momentum, and at last
the grave-ward process is in the full swing. So it is frequently with
manís fortune. If its process of accretion is never halted, if the
balancing stage is never reached, there will be no toppling. Rich
men are, frequently, in these days, saved from this dissolution of
their fortune by their ability to hire younger brains. These younger
brains look upon the interests of the fortune as their own, and so
steady and direct its progress. If each individual were left
absolutely to the care of his own interests, and were given time
enough in which to grow exceedingly old, his fortune would pass
as his strength and will. He and his would be utterly dissolved and
scattered unto the four winds of the heavens.

But now see wherein the parallel changes. A fortune, like a man,
is an organism which draws to itself other minds and other
strength than that inherent in the founder. Beside the young minds
drawn to it by salaries, it becomes allied with young forces, which
make for its existence even when the strength and wisdom of the
founder are fading. It may be conserved by the growth of a
community or of a

state. It may be involved in providing something for which there
is a growing demand. This removes it at once beyond the special
care of the founder. It needs not so much foresight now as
direction. The man wanes, the need continues or grows, and the
fortune, fallen into whose hands it may, continues. Hence, some
men never recognise the turning in the tide of their abilities. It is
only in chance cases, where a fortune or a state of success is
wrested from them, that the lack of ability to do as they did
formerly becomes apparent. Hurstwood, set down under new
conditions, was in a position to see that he was no longer young.
If he did not, it was due wholly to the fact that his state was so
well balanced that an absolute change for the worse did not show.

Not trained to reason or introspect himself, he could not analyse
the change that was taking place in his mind, and hence his body,
but he felt the depression of it. Constant comparison between his
old state and his new showed a balance for the worse, which
produced a constant state of gloom or, at least, depression. Now, it
has been shown experimentally that a constantly subdued frame of
mind produces certain poisons in the blood, called katastates, just
as virtuous feelings of pleasure and delight produce helpful
chemicals called anastates. The poisons generated by remorse
inveigh against the system, and eventually produce marked
physical deterioration. To these Hurstwood was subject.

In the course of time it told upon his temper. His eye no longer
possessed that buoyant, searching shrewdness which had
characterised it in Adams Street. His step was not as sharp and
firm. He was given to thinking, thinking, thinking. The new
friends he made were not celebrities. They were of a cheaper, a
slightly more sensual and cruder, grade. He could not possibly
take the pleasure in this company that he had in that of those fine
frequenters of the Chicago resort. He was left to brood.
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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser



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