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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser

Chapter XIII

It was not quite two days after the scene between Carrie and
Hurstwood in the Ogden Place parlour before he again put in his
appearance. He had been thinking almost uninterruptedly of her.
Her leniency had, in a way, inflamed his regard. He felt that he
must succeed with her, and that speedily.

The reason for his interest, not to say fascination, was deeper than
mere desire. It was a flowering out of feelings which had been
withering in dry and almost barren soil for many years. It is
probable that Carrie represented a better order of woman than had
ever attracted him before. He had had no love affair since that
which culminated in his marriage, and since then time and the
world had taught him how raw and erroneous was his original
judgment. Whenever he thought of it, he told himself that, if he
had it to do over again, he would never marry such a woman. At
the same time, his experience with women in general had lessened
his respect for the sex. He maintained a cynical attitude, well
grounded on numerous experiences. Such women as he had
known were of nearly one type, selfish, ignorant, flashy. The
wives of his friends were not inspiring to look upon. His own wife
had developed a cold, commonplace nature which to him was
anything but pleasing. What he knew of that under-world where
grovel the beast-men of society (and he knew a great deal) had
hardened his nature. He looked upon most women with suspicion-
a single eye to the utility of beauty and dress. He followed them
with a keen, suggestive glance. At the same time, he was not so
dull but that a good woman commanded his respect. Personally,
he did not attempt to analyse the marvel of a saintly woman. He
would take off his hat, and would silence the light-tongued and
the vicious in her presence-much as the Irish keeper of a Bowery
hall will humble himself before a Sister of Mercy, and pay toll to
charity with a willing and reverent hand. But he would not think
much upon the question of why he did so.

A man in his situation who comes, after a long round of worthless
or hardening experiences, upon a young, unsophisticated,
innocent soul, is apt either to hold aloof, out of a sense of his own
remoteness, or to draw near and become fascinated and elated by
his discovery. It is only by a roundabout process that such men
ever do draw near such a girl. They have no method, no
understanding of how to ingratiate themselves in youthful favour,
save when they find virtue in the toils. If, unfortunately, the fly
has got caught in the net, the spider can come forth and talk
business upon its own terms. So when maidenhood has wandered
into the moil of the city, when it is brought within the circle of the
"rounder" and the roue, even though it be at the outermost rim,
they can come forth and use their alluring arts.

Hurstwood had gone, at Drouet’s invitation, to meet a new
baggage of fine clothes and pretty features. He entered, expecting
to indulge in an evening of lightsome frolic, and then lose track of
the newcomer forever. Instead he found a woman whose youth
and beauty attracted him. In the mild light of Carrie’s eye was
nothing of the calculation of the mistress. In the diffident manner
was nothing of the art of the courtesan. He saw at once that a
mistake had been made, that some difficult conditions had pushed
this troubled creature into his presence, and his interest was
enlisted. Here sympathy sprang to the rescue, but it was not
unmixed with selfishness. He wanted to win Carrie because he
thought her fate mingled with his was better than if it were united
with Drouet’s. He envied the drummer his conquest as he had
never envied any man in all the course of his experience.
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PinkMonkey Digital Library-Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser

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