Sister Carrie, by Theodore Dreiser

Chapter XXIX

The Solace of Travel — The Boats of the Sea

To the untravelled, territory other than their own familiar heath is invariably fascinating. Next to love, it is the one thing which solaces and delights. Things new are too important to be neglected, and mind, which is a mere reflection of sensory impressions, succumbs to the flood of objects. Thus lovers are forgotten, sorrows laid aside, death hidden from view. There is a world of accumulated feeling back of the trite dramatic expression — “I am going away.”

As Carrie looked out upon the flying scenery she almost forgot that she had been tricked into this long journey against her will and that she was without the necessary apparel for travelling. She quite forgot Hurstwood’s presence at times, and looked away to homely farmhouses and cosey cottages in villages with wondering eyes. It was an interesting world to her. Her life had just begun. She did not feel herself defeated at all. Neither was she blasted in hope. The great city held much. Possibly she would come out of bondage into freedom — who knows? Perhaps she would be happy. These thoughts raised her above the level of erring. She was saved in that she was hopeful.

The following morning the train pulled safely into Montreal and they stepped down, Hurstwood glad to be out of danger, Carrie wondering at the novel atmosphere of the northern city. Long before, Hurstwood had been here, and now he remembered the name of the hotel at which he had stopped. As they came out of the main entrance of the depot he heard it called anew by a busman.

“We’ll go right up and get rooms,” he said.

At the clerk’s office Hurstwood swung the register about while the clerk came forward. He was thinking what name he would put down. With the latter before him he found no time for hesitation. A name he had seen out of the car window came swiftly to him. It was pleasing enough. With an easy hand he wrote, “G. W. Murdock and wife.” It was the largest concession to necessity he felt like making. His initials he could not spare.

When they were shown their room Carrie saw at once that he had secured her a lovely chamber.

“You have a bath there,” said he. “Now you can clean up when you get ready.”

Carrie went over and looked out the window, while Hurstwood looked at himself in the glass. He felt dusty and unclean. He had no trunk, no change of linen, not even a hair-brush.

“I’ll ring for soap and towels,” he said, “and send you up a hair-brush. Then you can bathe and get ready for breakfast. I’ll go for a shave and come back and get you, and then we’ll go out and look for some clothes for you.”

He smiled good-naturedly as he said this.

“All right,” said Carrie.

She sat down in one of the rocking-chairs, while Hurstwood waited for the boy, who soon knocked.

“Soap, towels, and a pitcher of ice-water.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I’ll go now,” he said to Carrie, coming toward her and holding out his hands, but she did not move to take them.

“You’re not mad at me, are you?” he asked softly.

“Oh, no!” she answered, rather indifferently.

“Don’t you care for me at all?”

She made no answer, but looked steadily toward the window.

“Don’t you think you could love me a little?” he pleaded, taking one of her hands, which she endeavoured to draw away. “You once said you did.”

“What made you deceive me so?” asked Carrie.

“I couldn’t help it,” he said, “I wanted you too much.”

“You didn’t have any right to want me,” she answered, striking cleanly home.

“Oh, well, Carrie,” he answered, “here I am. It’s too late now. Won’t you try and care for me a little?”

He looked rather worsted in thought as he stood before her.

She shook her head negatively.

“Let me start all over again. Be my wife from today on.”

Carrie rose up as if to step away, he holding her hand. Now he slipped his arm about her and she struggled, but in vain. He held her quite close. Instantly there flamed up in his body the all compelling desire. His affection took an ardent form.

“Let me go,” said Carrie, who was folded close to him.

“Won’t you love me?” he said. “Won’t you be mine from now on?”

Carrie had never been ill-disposed toward him. Only a moment before she had been listening with some complacency, remembering her old affection for him. He was so handsome, so daring!

Now, however, this feeling had changed to one of opposition, which rose feebly. It mastered her for a moment, and then, held close as she was, began to wane. Something else in her spoke. This man, to whose bosom she was being pressed, was strong; he was passionate, he loved her, and she was alone. If she did not turn to him — accept of his love — where else might she go? Her resistance half dissolved in the flood of his strong feeling.

She found him lifting her head and looking into her eyes. What magnetism there was she could never know. His many sins, however, were for the moment all forgotten.

He pressed her closer and kissed her, and she felt that further opposition was useless.

“Will you marry me?” she asked, forgetting how.

“This very day,” he said, with all delight.

Now the hall-boy pounded on the door and he released his hold upon her regretfully.

“You get ready now, will you,” he said, “at once?”

“Yes,” she answered.

“I’ll be back in three-quarters of an hour.”

Carrie, flushed and excited, moved away as he admitted the boy.

Below stairs, he halted in the lobby to look for a barber shop. For the moment, he was in fine feather. His recent victory over Carrie seemed to atone for much he had endured during the last few days. Life seemed worth fighting for. This eastward flight from all things customary and attached seemed as if it might have happiness in store. The storm showed a rainbow at the end of which might be a pot of gold.

He was about to cross to a little red-and-white striped bar which was fastened up beside a door when a voice greeted him familiarly. Instantly his heart sank. “Why, hello, George, old man!” said the voice. “What are you doing down here?”

Hurstwood was already confronted, and recognised his friend Kenny, the stock-broker.

“Just attending to a little private matter,” he answered, his mind working like a key-board of a telephone station. This man evidently did not know — he had not read the papers.

“Well, it seems strange to see you way up here,” said Mr. Kenny genially. “Stopping here?”

“Yes,” said Hurstwood uneasily, thinking of his handwriting on the register.

“Going to be in town long?”

“No, only a day or so.”

“Is that so? Had your breakfast?”

“Yes,” said Hurstwood, lying blandly. “I’m just going for a shave.”

“Won’t you come have a drink?”

“Not until afterwards,” said the ex-manager. “I’ll see you later. Are you stopping here?”

“Yes,” said Mr. Kenny, and then, turning the word again added: “How are things out in Chicago?”

“About the same as usual,” said Hurstwood, smiling genially.

“Wife with you?”

“No.”

“Well, I must see more of you today. I’m just going in here for breakfast. Come in when you’re through.”

“I will,” said Hurstwood, moving away. The whole conversation was a trial to him. It seemed to add complications with very word. This man called up a thousand memories. He represented everything he had left. Chicago, his wife, the elegant resort — all these were in his greeting and inquiries. And here he was in this same hotel expecting to confer with him, unquestionably waiting to have a good time with him. All at once the Chicago papers would arrive. The local papers would have accounts in them this very day. He forgot his triumph with Carrie in the possibility of soon being known for what he was, in this man’s eyes, a safe-breaker. He could have groaned as he went into the barber shop. He decided to escape and seek a more secluded hotel.

Accordingly, when he came out he was glad to see the lobby clear, and hastened toward the stairs. He would get Carrie and go out by the ladies’ entrance. They would have breakfast in some more inconspicuous place.

Across the lobby, however, another individual was surveying him. He was of a commonplace Irish type, small of stature, cheaply dressed, and with a head that seemed a smaller edition of some huge ward politician’s. This individual had been evidently talking with the clerk, but now he surveyed the ex-manager keenly.

Hurstwood felt the long-range examination and recognised the type. Instinctively he felt that the man was a detective — that he was being watched. He hurried across, pretending not to notice, but in his mind was a world of thoughts. What would happen now? What could these people do? He began to trouble concerning the extradition laws. He did not understand them absolutely. Perhaps he could be arrested. Oh, if Carrie should find out! Montreal was too warm for him. He began to long to be out of it.

Carrie had bathed and was waiting when he arrived. She looked refreshed — more delightful than ever, but reserved. Since he had gone she had resumed somewhat of her cold attitude towards him. Love was not blazing in her heart. He felt it, and his troubles seemed increased. He could not take her in his arms; he did not even try. Something about her forbade it. In part his opinion was the result of his own experiences and reflections below stairs.

“You’re ready, are you?” he said kindly.

“Yes,” she answered.

“We’ll go out for breakfast. This place down here doesn’t appeal to me very much.”

“All right,” said Carrie.

They went out, and at the corner the commonplace Irish individual was standing, eyeing him. Hurstwood could scarcely refrain from showing that he knew of this chap’s presence. The insolence in the fellow’s eye was galling. Still they passed, and he explained to Carrie concerning the city. Another restaurant was not long in showing itself, and here they entered.

“What a queer town this is,” said Carrie, who marvelled at it solely because it was not like Chicago.

“It Isn’t as lively as Chicago,” said Hurstwood. “Don’t you like it?”

“No,” said Carrie, whose feelings were already localised in the great Western city.

“Well, it isn’t as interesting,” said Hurstwood.

“What’s here?” asked Carrie, wondering at his choosing to visit this town.

“Nothing much,” returned Hurstwood. “It’s quite a resort. There’s some pretty scenery about here.”

Carrie listened, but with a feeling of unrest. There was much about her situation which destroyed the possibility of appreciation.

“We won’t stay here long,” said Hurstwood, who was now really glad to note her dissatisfaction. “You pick out your clothes as soon as breakfast is over and we’ll run down to New York soon. You’ll like that. It’s a lot more like a city than any place outside Chicago.”

He was really planning to slip out and away. He would see what these detectives would do — what move his employers at Chicago would make — then he would slip away — down to New York, where it was easy to hide. He knew enough about that city to know that its mysteries and possibilities of mystification were infinite.

The more he thought, however, the more wretched his situation became. He saw that getting here did not exactly clear up the ground. The firm would probably employ detectives to watch him — Pinkerton men or agents of Mooney and Boland. They might arrest him the moment he tried to leave Canada. So he might be compelled to remain here months, and in what a state!

Back at the hotel Hurstwood was anxious and yet fearful to see the morning papers. He wanted to know how far the news of his criminal deed had spread. So he told Carrie he would be up in a few moments, and went to secure and scan the dailies. No familiar or suspicious faces were about, and yet he did not like reading in the lobby, so he sought the main parlour on the floor above and, seated by a window there, looked them over. Very little was given to his crime, but it was there, several “sticks” in all, among all the riffraff of telegraphed murders, accidents, marriages, and other news. He wished, half sadly, that he could undo it all. Every moment of his time in this far-off abode of safety but added to his feeling that he had made a great mistake. There could have been an easier way out if he had only known.

He left the papers before going to the room, thinking thus to keep them out of the hands of Carrie.

“Well, how are you feeling?” he asked of her. She was engaged in looking out of the window.

“Oh, all right,” she answered.

He came over, and was about to begin a conversation with her, when a knock came at their door.

“Maybe it’s one of my parcels,” said Carrie.

Hurstwood opened the door, outside of which stood the individual whom he had so thoroughly suspected.

“You’re Mr. Hurstwood, are you?” said the latter, with a volume of affected shrewdness and assurance.

“Yes,” said Hurstwood calmly. He knew the type so thoroughly that some of his old familiar indifference to it returned. Such men as these were of the lowest stratum welcomed at the resort. He stepped out and closed the door.

“Well, you know what I am here for, don’t you?” said the man confidentially.

“I can guess,” said Hurstwood softly.

“Well, do you intend to try and keep the money?”

“That’s my affair,” said Hurstwood grimly.

“You can’t do it, you know,” said the detective, eyeing him coolly.

“Look here, my man,” said Hurstwood authoritatively, “you don’t understand anything about this case, and I can’t explain to you. Whatever I intend to do I’ll do without advice from the outside. You’ll have to excuse me.” “Well, now, there’s no use of your talking that way,” said the man, “when you’re in the hands of the police. We can make a lot of trouble for you if we want to. You’re not registered right in this house, you haven’t got your wife with you, and the newspapers don’t know you’re here yet. You might as well be reasonable.”

“What do you want to know?” asked Hurstwood.

“Whether you’re going to send back that money or not.”

Hurstwood paused and studied the floor.

“There’s no use explaining to you about this,” he said at last. “There’s no use of your asking me. I’m no fool, you know. I know just what you can do and what you can’t. You can create a lot of trouble if you want to. I know that all right, but it won’t help you to get the money. Now, I’ve made up my mind what to do. I’ve already written Fitzgerald and Moy, so there’s nothing I can say. You wait until you hear more from them.”

All the time he had been talking he had been moving away from the door, down the corridor, out of the hearing of Carrie. They were now near the end where the corridor opened into the large general parlour.

“You won’t give it up?” said the man.

The words irritated Hurstwood greatly. Hot blood poured into his brain. Many thoughts formulated themselves. He was no thief. He didn’t want the money. If he could only explain to Fitzgerald and Moy, maybe it would be all right again.

“See here,” he said, “there’s no use my talking about this at all. I respect your power all right, but I’ll have to deal with the people who know.”

“Well, you can’t get out of Canada with it,” said the man.

“I don’t want to get out,” said Hurstwood. “When I get ready there’ll be nothing to stop me for.”

He turned back, and the detective watched him closely. It seemed an intolerable thing. Still he went on and into the room.

“Who was it?” asked Carrie.

“A friend of mine from Chicago.”

The whole of this conversation was such a shock that, coming as it did after all the other worry of the past week, it sufficed to induce a deep gloom and moral revulsion in Hurstwood. What hurt him most was the fact that he was being pursued as a thief. He began to see the nature of that social injustice which sees but one side — often but a single point in a long tragedy. All the newspapers noted but one thing, his taking the money. How and wherefore were but indifferently dealt with. All the complications which led up to it were unknown. He was accused without being understood.

Sitting in his room with Carrie the same day, he decided to send the money back. He would write Fitzgerald and Moy, explain all, and then send it by express. Maybe they would forgive him. Perhaps they would ask him back. He would make good the false statement he had made about writing them. Then he would leave this peculiar town.

For an hour he thought over this plausible statement of the tangle. He wanted to tell them about his wife, but couldn’t. He finally narrowed it down to an assertion that he was light-headed from entertaining friends, had found the safe open, and having gone so far as to take the money out, had accidentally closed it. This act he regretted very much. He was sorry he had put them to so much trouble. He would undo what he could by sending the money back — the major portion of it. The remainder he would pay up as soon as he could. Was there any possibility of his being restored? This he only hinted at.

The troubled state of the man’s mind may be judged by the very construction of this letter. For the nonce he forgot what a painful thing it would be to resume his old place, even if it were given him. He forgot that he had severed himself from the past as by a sword, and that if he did manage to in some way reunite himself with it, the jagged line of separation and reunion would always show. He was always forgetting something — his wife, Carrie, his need of money, present situation, or something — and so did not reason clearly. Nevertheless, he sent the letter, waiting a reply before sending the money.

Meanwhile, he accepted his present situation with Carrie, getting what joy out of it he could.

Out came the sun by noon, and poured a golden flood through their open windows. Sparrows were twittering. There were laughter and song in the air. Hurstwood could not keep his eyes from Carrie. She seemed the one ray of sunshine in all his trouble. Oh, if she would only love him wholly — only throw her arms around him in the blissful spirit in which he had seen her in the little park in Chicago — how happy he would be! It would repay him; it would show him that he had not lost all. He would not care.

“Carrie,” he said, getting up once and coming over to her, “are you going to stay with me from now on?”

She looked at him quizzically, but melted with sympathy as the value of the look upon his face forced itself upon her. It was love now, keen and strong — love enhanced by difficulty and worry. She could not help smiling.

“Let me be everything to you from now on,” he said. “Don’t make me worry any more. I’ll be true to you. We’ll go to New York and get a nice flat. I’ll go into business again, and we’ll be happy. Won’t you be mine?”

Carrie listened quite solemnly. There was no great passion in her, but the drift of things and this man’s proximity created a semblance of affection. She felt rather sorry for him — a sorrow born of what had only recently been a great admiration. True love she had never felt for him. She would have known as much if she could have analysed her feelings, but this thing which she now felt aroused by his great feeling broke down the barriers between them.

“You’ll stay with me, won’t you?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said, nodding her head.

He gathered her to himself, imprinting kisses upon her lips and cheeks.

“You must marry me, though,” she said. “I’ll get a license today,” he answered.

“How?” she asked.

“Under a new name,” he answered. “I’ll take a new name and live a new life. From now on I’m Murdock.”

“Oh, don’t take that name,” said Carrie.

“Why not?” he said.

“I don’t like it.”

“Well, what shall I take?” he asked.

“Oh, anything, only don’t take that.”

He thought a while, still keeping his arms about her, and then said:

“How would Wheeler do?”

“That’s all right,” said Carrie.

“Well, then, Wheeler,” he said. “I’ll get the license this afternoon.”

They were married by a Baptist minister, the first divine they found convenient.

At last the Chicago firm answered. It was by Mr. Moy’s dictation. He was astonished that Hurstwood had done this; very sorry that it had come about as it had. If the money were returned, they would not trouble to prosecute him, as they really bore him no ill-will. As for his returning, or their restoring him to his former position, they had not quite decided what the effect of it would be. They would think it over and correspond with him later, possibly, after a little time, and so on.

The sum and substance of it was that there was no hope, and they wanted the money with the least trouble possible. Hurstwood read his doom. He decided to pay $9,500 to the agent whom they said they would send, keeping $1,300 for his own use. He telegraphed his acquiescence, explained to the representative who called at the hotel the same day, took a certificate of payment, and told Carrie to pack her trunk. He was slightly depressed over this newest move at the time he began to make it, but eventually restored himself. He feared that even yet he might be seized and taken back, so he tried to conceal his movements, but it was scarcely possible. He ordered Carrie’s trunk sent to the depot, where he had it sent by express to New York. No one seemed to be observing him, but he left at night. He was greatly agitated lest at the first station across the border or at the depot in New York there should be waiting for him an officer of the law.

Carrie, ignorant of his theft and his fears, enjoyed the entry into the latter city in the morning. The round green hills sentinelling the broad, expansive bosom of the Hudson held her attention by their beauty as the train followed the line of the stream. She had heard of the Hudson River, the great city of New York, and now she looked out, filling her mind with the wonder of it.

As the train turned east at Spuyten Duyvil and followed the east bank of the Harlem River, Hurstwood nervously called her attention to the fact that they were on the edge of the city. After her experience with Chicago, she expected long lines of cars — a great highway of tracks — and noted the difference. The sight of a few boats in the Harlem and more in the East River tickled her young heart. It was the first sign of the great sea. Next came a plain street with five-story brick flats, and then the train plunged into the tunnel.

“Grand Central Station!” called the trainman, as, after a few minutes of darkness and smoke, daylight reappeared. Hurstwood arose and gathered up his small grip. He was screwed up to the highest tension. With Carrie he waited at the door and then dismounted. No one approached him, but he glanced furtively to and fro as he made for the street entrance. So excited was he that he forgot all about Carrie, who fell behind, wondering at his self-absorption. As he passed through the depot proper the strain reached its climax and began to wane. All at once he was on the sidewalk, and none but cabmen hailed him. He heaved a great breath and turned, remembering Carrie.

“I thought you were going to run off and leave me,” she said.

“I was trying to remember which car takes us to the Gilsey,” he answered.

Carrie hardly heard him, so interested was she in the busy scene.

“How large is New York?” she asked.

“Oh a million or more,” said Hurstwood.

He looked around and hailed a cab, but he did so in a changed way.

For the first time in years the thought that he must count these little expenses flashed through his mind. It was a disagreeable thing.

He decided he would lose no time living in hotels but would rent a flat. Accordingly he told Carrie, and she agreed.

“We’ll look today, if you want to,” she said.

Suddenly he thought of his experience in Montreal. At the more important hotels he would be certain to meet Chicagoans whom he knew. He stood up and spoke to the driver.

“Take me to the Belford,” he said, knowing it to be less frequented by those whom he knew. Then he sat down.

“Where is the residence part?” asked Carrie, who did not take the tall five-story walls on either hand to be the abodes of families.

“Everywhere,” said Hurstwood, who knew the city fairly well. “There are no lawns in New York. All these are houses.”

“Well, then, I don’t like it,” said Carrie, who was coming to have a few opinions of her own.

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:37