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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser


"Who was that with you, Jessica?" she inquired, as Jessica came
upstairs.

"Itís Mr. Blyford, mamma," she replied.

"Is it?" said Mrs. Hurstwood.

"Yes, and he wants me to stroll over into the park with him,"
explained Jessica, a little flushed with running up the stairs.

"All right, my dear," said Mrs. Hurstwood. "Donít be gone long."

As the two went down the street, she glanced interestedly out of
the window. It was a most satisfactory spectacle indeed, most
satisfactory.

In this atmosphere Hurstwood had moved for a number of years,
not thinking deeply concerning it. His was not the order of nature
to trouble for something better, unless the better was immediately
and sharply contrasted. As it was, he received and gave, irritated
sometimes by the little displays of selfish indifference, pleased at
times by some show of finery which supposedly made for dignity
and social distinction. The life of the resort which he managed
was his life. There he spent most of his time. When he went home
evenings the house looked nice. With rare exceptions the meals
were acceptable, being the kind that an ordinary servant can
arrange. In part, he was interested in the talk of his son and
daughter, who always looked well. The vanity of Mrs. Hurstwood
caused her to keep her person rather showily arrayed, but to
Hurstwood this was much better than plainness. There was no
love lost between them. There was no great feeling of
dissatisfaction. Her opinion on any subject was not startling. They
did not talk enough together to come to the argument of any one
point. In the accepted and popular phrase, she had her ideas and
he had his. Once in a while he would meet a woman whose youth,
sprightliness, and humour would make his wife seem rather
deficient by contrast, but the temporary dissatisfaction which such
an encounter might arouse would be counterbalanced by his social
position and a certain matter of policy. He could not complicate
his home life, because it might affect his relations with his
employers. They wanted no scandals. A man, to hold his position,
must have a dignified manner, a clean record, a respectable home
anchorage. Therefore he was circumspect in all he did, and
whenever he appeared in the public ways in the afternoon, or on
Sunday, it was with his wife, and sometimes his children. He
would visit the local resorts, or those near by in Wisconsin, and
spend a few stiff, polished days strolling about conventional
places doing conventional things. He knew the need of it.

When some one of the many middle-class individuals whom he
knew, who had money, would get into trouble, he would shake his
head. It didnít do to talk about those things. If it came up for
discussion among such friends as with him passed for close, he
would deprecate the folly of the thing. "It was all right to do it-all
men do those things-but why wasnít he careful? A man canít be
too careful." He lost sympathy for the man that made a mistake
and was found out.

On this account he still devoted some time to showing his wife
about-time which would have been wearisome indeed if it had not
been for the people he would meet and the little enjoyments which
did not depend upon her presence or absence. He watched her
with considerable curiosity at times, for she was still attractive in
a way and men looked at her. She was affable, vain, subject to
flattery, and this combination, he knew quite well, might produce
a tragedy in a woman of her home position. Owing to his order of
mind, his confidence in the sex was not great. His wife never
possessed the virtues which would win the confidence and
admiration of a man of his nature. As long as she loved him
vigorously he could see how confidence could be, but when that
was no longer the binding chain-well, something might happen.

During the last year or two the expenses of the family seemed a
large thing. Jessica wanted fine clothes, and Mrs. Hurstwood, not
to be outshone by her daughter, also frequently enlivened her
apparel. Hurstwood had said nothing in the past, but one day he
murmured.

"Jessica must have a new dress this month," said Mrs. Hurstwood
one morning.

Hurstwood was arraying himself in one of his perfection vests
before the glass at the time.

"I thought she just bought one," he said.

"That was just something for evening wear," returned his wife
complacently.
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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser



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