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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser


Carrie was very indifferent to the suggestion. These were things
which she did not like at all.

"How much do you pay for a pound of meat?" he asked one day.

"Oh, there are different prices," said Carrie. "Sirloin steak is
twenty-two cents."

"Thatís steep, isnít it?" he answered.

So he asked about other things, until finally, with the passing
days, it seemed to become a mania with him. He learned the
prices and remembered them.

His errand-running capacity also improved. It began in a small
way, of course. Carrie, going to get her hat one morning, was
stopped by him.

"Where are you going, Carrie?" he asked.

"Over to the bakerís," she answered.

"Iíd just as leave go for you," he said.

She acquiesced, and he went. Each afternoon he would go to the
corner for the papers.

"Is there anything you want?" he would say.

By degrees she began to use him. Doing this, however, she lost
the weekly payment of twelve dollars.

"You want to pay me to-day," she said one Tuesday, about this
time.

"How much?" he asked.

She understood well enough what it meant.

"Well, about five dollars," she answered. "I owe the coal man."

The same day he said:

"I think this Italian up here on the corner sells coal at twenty-five
cents a bushel. Iíll trade with him."

Carrie heard this with indifference.

"All right," she said.

Then it came to be:

"George, I must have some coal to-day," or, "You must get some
meat of some kind for dinner."

He would find out what she needed and order.

Accompanying this plan came skimpiness.

"I only got a half-pound of steak," he said, coming in one
afternoon with his papers. "We never seem to eat very much."

These miserable details ate the heart out of Carrie. They
blackened her days and grieved her soul. Oh, how this man had
changed! All day and all day, here he sat, reading his papers. The
world seemed to have no attraction. Once in a while he would go
out, in fine weather, it might be four or five hours, between eleven
and four. She could do nothing but view him with gnawing
contempt.

It was apathy with Hurstwood, resulting from his inability to see
his way out. Each month drew from his small store. Now, he had
only five hundred dollars left, and this he hugged, half feeling as
if he could stave off absolute necessity for an indefinite period.
Sitting around the house, he decided to wear some old clothes he
had. This came first with the bad days. Only once he apologised
in the very beginning:

"Itís so bad to-day, Iíll just wear these around."

Eventually these became the permanent thing.

Also, he had been wont to pay fifteen cents for a shave, and a tip
of ten cents. In his first distress, he cut down the tip to five, then
to nothing. Later, he tried a ten-cent barber shop, and, finding that
the shave was satisfactory, patronised regularly. Later still, he put
off shaving to every other day, then to every third, and so on, until
once a week became the rule. On Saturday he was a sight to see.

Of course, as his own self-respect vanished, it perished for him in
Carrie. She could not understand what had gotten into the man.
He had some money, he had a decent suit remaining, he was not
bad looking when dressed up. She did not forget her own difficult
struggle in Chicago, but she did not forget either that she had
never ceased trying. He never tried. He did not even consult the
ads. in the papers any more.
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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser



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