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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser

Chapter XI

Carrie was an apt student of fortune’s ways-of fortune’s
superficialities. Seeing a thing, she would immediately set to
inquiring how she would look, properly related to it. Be it known
that this is not fine feeling, it is not wisdom. The greatest minds
are not so afflicted; and, on the contrary the lowest order of mind
is not so disturbed. Fine clothes to her were a vast persuasion;
they spoke tenderly and Jesuitically for themselves. When she
came within earshot of their pleading, desire in her bent a willing
ear. The voice of the so-called inanimate! Who shall translate for
us the language of the stones?

"My dear," said the lace collar she secured from Partridge’s, "I fit
you beautifully; don’t give me up."

"Ah, such little feet," said the leather of the soft new shoes; "how
effectively I cover them. What a pity they should ever want my

Once these things were in her hand, on her person, she might
dream of giving them up; the method by which they came might
intrude itself so forcibly that she would ache to be rid of the
thought of it, but she would not give them up. "Put on the old
clothes-that torn pair of shoes," was called to her by her
conscience in vain. She could possibly have conquered the fear of
hunger and gone back; the thought of hard work and a narrow
round of suffering would, under the last pressure of conscience,
have yielded, but spoil her appearance?- be old-clothed and poor-
appearing?- never!

Drouet heightened her opinion on this and allied subjects in such a
manner as to weaken her power of resisting their influence. It is so
easy to do this when the thing opined is in the line of what we
desire. In his hearty way, he insisted upon her good looks. He
looked at her admiringly, and she took it at its full value. Under
the circumstances, she did not need to carry herself as pretty
women do. She picked that knowledge up fast enough for herself.
Drouet had a habit, characteristic of his kind, of looking after
stylishly dressed or pretty women on the street and remarking
upon them. He had just enough of the feminine love of dress to be
a good judge-not of intellect, but of clothes. He saw how they set
their little feet, how they carried their chins, with what grace and
sinuosity they swung their bodies. A dainty, self-conscious
swaying of the hips by a woman was to him as alluring as the
glint of rare wine to a toper. He would turn and follow the
disappearing vision with his eyes. He would thrill as a child with
the unhindered passion that was in him. He loved the thing that
women love in themselves, grace. At this, their own shrine, he
knelt with them, an ardent devotee.

"Did you see that woman who went by just now?" he said to
Carrie on the first day they took a walk together. "Fine stepper,
wasn’t she?"

Carrie looked, and observed the grace commended.

"Yes, she is," she returned, cheerfully, a little suggestion of
possible defect in herself awakening in her mind. If that was so
fine, she must look at it more closely. Instinctively, she felt a
desire to imitate it. Surely she could do that too.

When one of her mind sees many things emphasized and
reemphasized and admired, she gathers the logic of it and applies
accordingly. Drouet was not shrewd enough to see that this was
not tactful. He could not see that it would be better to make her
feel that she was competing with herself, not others better than
herself. He would not have done it with an older, wiser woman,
but in Carrie he saw only the novice. Less clever than she, he was
naturally unable to comprehend her sensibility. He went on
educating and wounding her, a thing rather foolish in one whose
admiration for his pupil and victim was apt to grow.

Carrie took the instructions affably. She saw what Drouet liked; in
a vague way she saw where he was weak. It lessens a woman’s
opinion of a man when she learns that his admiration is so
pointedly and generously distributed. She sees but one object of
supreme compliment in this world, and that is herself. If a man is
to succeed with many women, he must be all in all to each.
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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser

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