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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser


Chapter XLV
CURIOUS SHIFTS OF THE POOR


The gloomy Hurstwood, sitting in his cheap hotel, where he had
taken refuge with seventy dollars-the price of his furniture-
between him and nothing, saw a hot summer out and a cool fall in,
reading. He was not wholly indifferent to the fact that his money
was slipping away. As fifty cents after fifty cents were paid out
for a dayís lodging he became uneasy, and finally took a cheaper
room-thirty-five cents a day-to make his money last longer.
Frequently he saw notices of Carrie. Her picture was in the
"World" once or twice, and an old "Herald" he found in a chair
informed him that she had recently appeared with some others at a
benefit for something or other. He read these things with mingled
feelings. Each one seemed to put her farther and farther away into
a realm which became more imposing as it receded from him. On
the bill-boards, too, he saw a pretty poster, showing her as the
Quaker Maid, demure and dainty. More than once he stopped and
looked at these, gazing at the pretty face in a sullen sort of way.
His clothes were shabby, and he presented a marked contrast to all
that she now seemed to be.

Somehow, so long as he knew she was at the Casino, though he
had never any intention of going near her, there was a
subconscious comfort for him-he was not quite alone. The show
seemed such a fixture that, after a month or two, he began to take
it for granted that it was still running. In September it went on the
road and he did not notice it. When all but twenty dollars of his
money was gone, he moved to a fifteen-cent lodging-house in the
Bowery, where there was a bare lounging-room filled with tables
and benches as well as some chairs. Here his preference was to
close his eyes and dream of other days, a habit which grew upon
him. It was not sleep at first, but a mental hearkening back to
scenes and incidents in his Chicago life. As the present became
darker, the past grew brighter, and all that concerned it stood in
relief.

He was unconscious of just how much this habit had hold of him
until one day he found his lips repeating an old answer he had
made to one of his friends. They were in Fitzgerald and Moyís. It
was as if he stood in the door of his elegant little office,
comfortably dressed, talking to Sagar Morrison about the value of
South Chicago real estate in which the latter was about to invest.

"How would you like to come in on that with me?" he heard
Morrison say.

"Not me," he answered, just as he had years before. "I have my
hands full now."

The movement of his lips aroused him. He wondered whether he
had really spoken. The next time he noticed anything of the sort
he did talk.

"Why donít you jump, you bloody fool?" he was saying. "Jump!"

It was a funny English story he was telling to a company of
actors, Even as his voice recalled him, he was smiling. A crusty
old codger, sitting near by seemed disturbed; at least, he stared in
a most pointed way. Hurstwood straight-

ened up. The humour of the memory fled in an instant and he felt
ashamed. For relief, he left his chair and strolled out into the
streets.

One day, looking down the ad. columns of the "Evening World,"
he saw where a new play was at the Casino. Instantly, he came to
a mental halt. Carrie had gone! He remembered seeing a poster of
her only yesterday, but no doubt it was one left uncovered by the
new signs. Curiously, this fact shook him up. He had almost to
admit that somehow he was depending upon her being in the city.
Now she was gone. He wondered how this important fact had
skipped him. Goodness knows when she would be back now.
Impelled by a nervous fear, he rose and went into the dingy hall,
where he counted his remaining money, unseen. There were but
ten dollars in all.

He wondered how all these other lodging-house people around
him got along. They didnít seem to do anything. Perhaps they
begged-unquestionably they did. Many was the dime he had given
to such as they in his day. He had seen other men asking for
money on the streets. Maybe he could get some that way. There
was horror in this thought.

Sitting in the lodging-house room, he came to his last fifty cents.
He had saved and counted until his health was affected. His
stoutness had gone. With it, even the semblance of a fit in his
clothes. Now he decided he must do something, and, walking
about, saw another day go by, bringing him down to his last
twenty cents-not enough to eat for the morrow.
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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser



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