Sister Carrie By Theodore Dreiser Chapters 8-10

Chapter VIII

INTIMATIONS BY WINTER: AN AMBASSADOR SUMMONER

Among the force which sweep and play throughout the universe, untutored man is but a wisp in the wind. Our civilization is still in a middle stage, scarcely beast in that it is no longer wholly guided by instinct; scarcely human, in that it is not yet wholly guided by reason. On the tiger no responsibility rests. We see him aligned by nature with the forces of life-he is born into their keeping and without though he is protected. We see man far removed from the lairs of the jungles, his innate instincts dulled by too near an approach to free-will, his free-will not sufficiently developed to replace his instincts and afford him perfect guidance. He is becoming too wise to hearken always to instincts and desires; he is still too weak to always prevail against them. As a beast, the forces of life aligned him with them; with the forces. In this intermediate stage he wavers-neither drawn in her money with nature by his instincts nor yet wisely putting himself into harmony by his own free-will. He is even as wisp in the wind, moved by every breath of passion, acting now by his will and now by his instincts, erring with one, only-a creature of incalculable variability. We have the consolation of knowing that evolution is ever in action, that the ideal is a light that cannot fail. He will not forever balance thus between good and evil. When this jangle of free- will and instinct shall have been adjusted, when perfect understanding has given the former the power to replace the latter entirely, man will no longer vary. The nettle of understanding will yet point steadfast and unwavering to the distant pole of truth.

In Carrie-as in how many of our wordings do they not?-instinct and reason, desire and understanding, were at war for the mastery. She followed whither her craving led. She was as yet more drawn than she drew.

When Minnie found the note next morning, after a night of mingled wonder and anxiety, which was not exactly touched by yearning, sorrow, or love, she exclaimed:

"Well, what do you think of that?"

"What?" said Hanson.

"Sister Carrie has gone to live somewhere else."

Hanson jumped out of bed with more celerity than he usually displayed and looked at the note. The only indication of his thoughts came in the form of a little clicking sound made by his tongue; the sound some people make when they wish to urge on a horse.

"Where do you suppose she's gone to?" said Minnie thoroughly aroused.

"I don't know," a touch of cynicism lighting his eye.

"Now she has gone and done it."

Minnie moved her head in a puzzled way.

"Oh, oh," she said, " she doesn't know what she has done."

"Well," said Hanson after a while, sticking his hands out before him, " what can you do?"

Minnie's womanly nature was higher than this. She figured the possibilities in such cases.

"Oh," she said at least, " poor Sister Carrie!"

At the time of this particular conversation, which occurred at 5 am, that little soldier of fortune was sleeping in rather troubled sleep in her new room, alone.

Carrie's new state was remarkable in that she saw possibilities in it. She was no sensualist, longing to drowse sleepily in the lap of luxury. She turned about, troubled by her daring, glad of her release, wondering whether she would get something to do, wondering what Drouet would do. That worthy had his future fixed for him beyond a peradventure. He could not see clearly enough to wish to do differently. He was drawn by his innate desire to act the old pursuing part. He would need to delight himself with Carrie as surely as he would need to eat his heavy breakfast. He might suffer the least rudimentary twinge of conscience in whatever he did, and in just so far he was evil and sinning. But whatever twinges of conscience he might have would be rudimentary, you may be sure.

The next day he called upon Carrie, and she saw him in her chamber. He was the same jolly, enlivening soul.

"Aw," he said, " what are you looking so blue about? Come on out to breakfast. You want to get your other clothes to-day."

Carrie looked at him with the hew of shifting thought in her large eyes.

"I wish I could get something to do," she said.

"You'll get that all right," said Drouet. " What's the use worrying right now? Get yourself fixed up. See the city. I won't hurt you."

"I know you won't," she remarked, half truthfully.

"Got on the new shoes, haven't you? Stick 'em out George, they look fine. Put on your jacket."

Carrie obeyed.

"Say, that fits like a T, don't it?" he remarked, feeling the set of it at the waist and eyeing it from a few paces with real pleasure. " What you need now is a new shirt. Let's go to breakfast."

Carrie put on her hat.

"Where are the gloves?" he inquired.

"Here," she said, taking them out of the bureau drawer.

"Now, come on," he said.

Thus the first hour of misgiving was swept away.

It went this way on every occasion. Drouet did not leave her much alone. She had time for some lone wanderings, but mostly he filled her hours with skirt and shirt waist. With his money she purchased the little necessaries of toilet, until at last she looked quite another maiden. The mirror convinced her of a few things which she had long believed. She was pretty, yes, indeed! How nice her had set, and weren't her eyes pretty. She caught her little red lip with her teeth and felt her first thrill of power Drouet was so good.

They went to see " The Mikado" one evening, an open which was hilariously popular at that time. Before going they made off for the Windsor dinning-room, which was in Dearborn Street, a considerable distance from Carrie's room. It was blowing up cold, and out of her window. Carrie could see the western sky, still pink with the fading light, but steely blue at the top where it met the darkness. A long, thin cloud of pink hung in midair, shape like some island in a far-off sea. Somehow the swaying of some dead branches of trees across the way brought back the picture with which she was familiar when she looked from their front window in December days a home.

She paused and wrung her little hands.

"What's the matter?" said Drouet.

"Oh, I don't know," she said, her lip trembling.

He sensed something, and slipped his arm over her shoulder, patting her arm.

"Come on," he said gently, " you're all right."

She turned to slip on her jacket.

"Better wear that boa about throat to-night."

They walked north on Wabash to Adams Street and then west. The lights in the stores were already shinning out in gushes of golden hue. The are lights were sputtering overhead, and high up were the lighted window of the tall office buildings. The chill wind whipped in and out in gusty breaths. Homeward bound, the six o'clock throng bumped and jostled. Light overcoats were turned up about the ears, hats were pulled down. Little shop girls went fluttering by in pairs and fours, chattering, laughing. It was a spectacle of warm-blooded humanity.

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