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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser


At both of these two charities, during the severe winter which was
now on, Hurstwood was a frequent visitor. On one occasion it was
peculiarly cold, and finding no comfort in begging about the
streets, he waited until noon before seeking this free offering to
the poor. Already, at eleven oíclock of this morning, several such
as he had shambled forward out of Sixth Avenue, their thin
clothes flapping and fluttering in the wind. They leaned against
the iron railing which protects the walls of the Ninth Regiment
Armory, which fronts upon that section of Fifteenth Street, having
come early in order to be first in. Having an hour to wait, they at
first lingered at a respectful distance; but others coming up, they
moved closer in order to protect their right of precedence. To this
collection Hurstwood came up from the west out of Seventh
Avenue and stopped close to the door, nearer than all the others.
Those who had been waiting before him, but farther away, now
drew near, and by a certain stolidity of demeanour, no words
being spoken, indicated that they were first.

Seeing the opposition to his action, he looked sullenly along the
line, then moved out, taking his place at the foot. When order had
been restored, the animal feeling of opposition relaxed.

"Must be pretty near noon," ventured one.

"It is," said another. "Iíve been waiting nearly an hour."

"Gee, but itís cold!"

They peered eagerly at the door, where all must enter. A grocery
man drove up and carried in several baskets of eatables. This
started some words upon grocery men and the cost of food in
general.

"I see meatís gone up," said one.

"If there wuz war, it would help this country a lot."

The line was growing rapidly. Already there were fifty or more,
and those at the head, by their demeanour, evidently congratulated
themselves upon not having so long to wait as those at the foot.
There was much jerking of heads, and looking down the line.

"It donít matter how near you get to the front, so long as youíre in
the first twenty-five," commented one of the first twenty-five.
"You all go in together."

"Humph!" ejaculated Hurstwood, who bad been so sturdily
displaced.

"This here Single Tax is the thing," said another. "There ainít
going to be no order till it comes."

For the most part there was silence; gaunt men shuffling,
glancing, and beating their arms.

At last the door opened and the motherly-looking sister appeared.
She only looked an order. Slowly the line moved up and, one by
one, passed in, until twenty-five were counted. Then she
interposed a stout arm, and the line halted, with six men on the
steps. Of these the ex-manager was one. Waiting thus, some
talked, some ejaculated concerning the misery of it; some
brooded, as did Hurstwood. At last he was admitted, and, having
eaten, came away, almost angered because of his pains in getting
it.

At eleven oíclock of another evening, perhaps two weeks later, he
was at the midnight offering of a loaf-waiting patiently. It had
been an unfortunate day with him, but now he took his fate with a
touch of philosophy. If he could secure no

supper, or was hungry late in the evening, here was a place he
could come. A few minutes before twelve, a great box of bread
was pushed out, and exactly on the hour a portly, round-faced
German took position by it, calling "Ready." The whole line at
once moved forward, each taking his loaf in turn and going his
separate way. On this occasion, the ex-manager ate his as he went,
plodding the dark streets in silence to his bed.

By January he had about concluded that the game was up with
him. Life had always seemed a precious thing, but now constant
want and weakened vitality had made the charms of earth rather
dull and inconspicuous. Several times, when fortune pressed most
harshly, he thought he would end his troubles; but with a change
of weather, or the arrival of a quarter or a dime, his mood would
change, and he would wait. Each day he would find some old
paper lying about and look into it, to see if there was any trace of
Carrie, but all summer and fall he had looked in vain. Then he
noticed that his eyes were beginning to hurt him, and this ailment
rapidly increased until, in the dark chambers of the lodgings he
frequented, he did not attempt to read. Bad and irregular eating
was weakening every function of his body. The one recourse left
him was to doze when a place offered and he could get the money
to occupy it.
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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser



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