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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser


Chapter XXXIV
THE GRIND OF THE MILLSTONES: A SAMPLE
OF CHAFF


Carrie pondered over this situation as consistently as Hurstwood,
once she got the facts adjusted in her mind. It took several days
for her to fully realise that the approach of the dissolution of her
husbandís business meant commonplace struggle and privation.
Her mind went back to her early venture in Chicago, the Hansons
and their flat, and her heart revolted. That was terrible!
Everything about poverty was terrible. She wished she knew a
way out. Her recent experiences with the Vances had wholly
unfitted her to view her own state with complacence. The glamour
of the high life of the city had, in the few experiences afforded her
by the former, seized her completely. She had been taught how to
dress and where to go without having ample means to do either.
Now, these things-ever-present realities as they were-filled her
eyes and mind. The more circumscribed became her state, the
more entrancing seemed this other. And now poverty threatened
to seize her entirely and to remove this other world far upward
like a heaven to which any Lazarus might extend, appealingly, his
hands.

So, too, the ideal brought into her life by Ames remained. He had
gone, but here was his word that riches were not everything; that
there was a great deal more in the world than she knew; that the
stage was good, and the literature she

read poor. He was a strong man and clean-how much stronger and
better than Hurstwood and Drouet she only half formulated to
herself, but the difference was painful. It was something to which
she voluntarily closed her eyes.

During the last three months of the Warren Street connection,
Hurstwood took parts of days off and hunted, tracking the
business advertisements. It was a more or less depressing
business, wholly because of the thought that he must soon get
something or he would begin to live on the few hundred dollars he
was saving, and then he would have nothing to invest-he would
have to hire out as a clerk.

Everything he discovered in his line advertised as an opportunity,
was either too expensive or too wretched for him. Besides, winter
was coming, the papers were announcing hardships, and there was
a general feeling of hard times in the air, or, at least, he thought
so. In his worry, other peopleís worries became apparent. No item
about a firm failing, a family starving, or a man dying upon the
streets, supposedly of starvation, but arrested his eye as he
scanned the morning papers. Once the "World" came out with a
flaring announcement about "80,000 people out of employment in
New York this winter," which struck as a knife at his heart.

"Eighty thousand!" he thought. "What an awful thing that is."

This was new reasoning for Hurstwood. In the old days the world
had seemed to be getting along well enough. He had been wont to
see similar things in the "Daily News," in Chicago, but they did
not hold his attention. Now, these things were like grey clouds
hovering along the horizon of a clear day. They threatened

to cover and obscure his life with chilly greyness. He tried to
shake them off, to forget and brace up. Sometimes he said to
himself, mentally:

"Whatís the use worrying? Iím not out yet. Iíve got six weeks
more. Even if worst comes to worst, Iíve got enough to live on for
six months."

Curiously, as he troubled over his future, his thoughts
occasionally reverted to his wife and family. He had avoided such
thoughts for the first three years as much as possible. He hated
her, and he could get along without her. Let her go. He would do
well enough. Now, however, when he was not doing well enough,
he began to wonder what she was doing, how his children were
getting along. He could see them living as nicely as ever,
occupying the comfortable house and using his property.

"By George! itís a shame they should have it all," he vaguely
thought to himself on several occasions. "I didnít do anything."

As he looked back now and analysed the situation which led up to
his taking the money, he began mildly to justify himself. What
had he done-what in the world-that should bar him out this way
and heap such difficulties upon him? It seemed only yesterday to
him since he was comfortable and well-to-do. But now it was all
wrested from him.

"She didnít deserve what she got out of me, that is sure. I didnít
do so much, if everybody could just know."

There was no thought that the facts ought to be advertised. It was
only a mental justification he was seeking from himself-
something that would enable him to bear his state as a righteous
man.
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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser



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