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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser

Chapter IX

Hurstwood’s residence on the North Side, near Lincoln Park, was
a brick building of a very popular type then, a three-story affair
with the first floor sunk a very little below the level of the street.
It had a large bay window bulging out from the second floor, and
was graced in front by a small grassy plot, twenty-five feet wide
and ten feet deep. There was also a small rear yard, walled in by
the fences of the neighbours and holding a stable where he kept
his horse and trap.

The ten rooms of the house were occupied by himself, his wife
Julia, and his son and daughter, George, Jr., and Jessica. There
were besides these a maid-servant, represented from time to time
by girls of various extraction, for Mrs. Hurstwood was not always
easy to please.

"George, I let Mary go yesterday," was not an unfrequent
salutation at the dinner table.

"All right," was his only reply. He had long since wearied of
discussing the rancorous subject.

A lovely home atmosphere is one of the flowers of the world, than
which there is nothing more tender, nothing more delicate,
nothing more calculated to make strong and just the natures
cradled and nourished within it. Those who have never
experienced such a beneficent influence will not understand
wherefore the tear springs glistening to the eyelids at some
strange breath in lovely music. The mystic chords which bind and
thrill the heart of the nation, they will never know.

Hurstwood’s residence could scarcely be said to be infused with
this home spirit. It lacked that toleration and regard without which
the home is nothing. There was fine furniture, arranged as
soothingly as the artistic perception of the occupants warranted.
There were soft rugs, rich, upholstered chairs and divans, a grand
piano, a marble carving of some unknown Venus by some
unknown artist, and a number of small bronzes gathered from
heaven knows where, but generally sold by the large furniture
houses along with everything else which goes to make the
"perfectly appointed house."

In the dining-room stood a sideboard laden with glistening
decanters and other utilities and ornaments in glass, the
arrangement of which could not be questioned. Here was
something Hurstwood knew about. He had studied the subject for
years in his business. He took no little satisfaction in telling each
Mary, shortly after she arrived, something of what the art of the
thing required. He was not garrulous by any means. On the
contrary, there was a fine reserve in his manner toward the entire
domestic economy of his life which was all that is comprehended
by the popular term, gentlemanly. He would not argue, he would
not talk freely. In his manner was something of the dogmatist.
What he could not correct, he would ignore. There was a tendency
in him to walk away from the impossible thing.

There was a time when he had been considerably enamoured of
his Jessica, especially when he was younger and more confined in
his success. Now, however, in her seventeenth year, Jessica had
developed a certain amount of reserve and independence which
was not inviting to the richest form of parental devotion. She was
in the high school, and had notions of life which were decidedly
those of a patrician. She liked nice clothes and urged for them
constantly. Thoughts of love and elegant individual
establishments were running in her head. She met girls at the high
school whose parents were truly rich and whose fathers had
standing locally as partners or owners of solid businesses. These
girls gave themselves the airs befitting the thriving domestic
establishments from whence they issued. They were the only ones
of the school about whom Jessica concerned herself.

Young Hurstwood, Jr., was in his twentieth year, and was already
connected in a promising capacity with a large real estate firm. He
contributed nothing for the domestic expenses of the family, but
was thought to be saving his money to invest in real estate. He
had some ability, considerable vanity, and a love of pleasure that
had not, as yet, infringed upon his duties, whatever they were. He
came in and went out, pursuing his own plans and fancies,
addressing a few words to his mother occasionally, relating some
little incident to his father, but for the most part confining himself
to those generalities with which most conversation concerns itself.
He was not laying bare his desires for any one to see. He did not
find any one in the house who particularly cared to see.
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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser

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