Cover

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About the Authors. Frontispiece, Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Introduction

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pp. vii-xvii

When Theodore Dreiser began composing Jennie Gerhardt on January 6, 1901, he could not have known that it would be more than ten years before the narrative would see print. His first novel, Sister Carrie, had been published by Doubleday, Page & Co. two months earlier, and he still had high hopes...

Suggestions for Further Reading

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pp. xviii-xix

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A Note on the Text

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pp. xx-xx

The text of this paperback edition of Jennie Gerhardt reproduces the Pennsylvania Edition of the novel, first published in 1992 by the University of Pennsylvania Press. That edition is an eclectic text prepared in accordance with the principles of Greg-Bowers-Tanselle copy-text editing...

Jennie Gerhardt

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pp. 1-2

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Chapter 1

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pp. 3-16

One morning, in the fall of 1880, a middle-aged woman, accompanied by a young girl of eighteen, presented herself at the clerk's desk of the principal hotel in Columbus, Ohio, and made inquiry as to whether there was anything about the place that she could do. She was of a helpless, fleshy build...

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Chapter 2

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pp. 16-18

The spirit of Jennie-who shall express it? This daughter of poverty, who was now to fetch and carry the laundry of this distinguished citizen of Columbus, was a creature of a mellowness which words can but vaguely suggest. There are natures hom to the inheritance of flesh that come without understanding...

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Chapter 3

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pp. 19-30

The junior senator from Ohio, George Sylvester Brander, was a man of peculiar mould. In him there were joined, to a re· markable degree, the wisdom of the opportunist and the sympa· thies of the true representative of the people. Born a native of southern Ohio, he had been raised and educated there...

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Chapter 4

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pp. 31-40

The desire to flee, which Jennie experienced upon seeing the senator again, was attributable to what she considered the disgrace of her position. She was ashamed to think that he, who thought so well of her, should discover her doing so common a thing...

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Chapter 5

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pp. 41-49

Having been conducted by circumstances into so obligated an attitude toward the senator, it was not unnatural for Jennie to conceive most generously of everything he had done, or, from now on, did. New benefactions contributed to this feeling. The senator gave her father a letter to a local mill-owner...

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Chapter 6

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pp. 50-65

The father of this unfortunate family, William Gerhardt, was a man of considerable interest on his personal side. Born in the Kingdom of Saxony, he had had character enough to oppose the army-conscription iniquity, and flee, in his eighteenth year, to Paris. From there he had set forth for America...

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Chapter 7

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pp. 65-74

The outcome of this was in true keeping with the dictates of poverty. Gerhardt had no time to act. He did not know any one to whom he could appeal between the hours of two and nine o'clock in the morning. He went back to talk with his wife, and then to his post of duty...

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Chapter 8

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pp. 74-87

It cannot be said that at this time a clear sense of what had happened-of what social and physical significance this new relationship to the senator entailed, was present in Jennie's mind. She was not conscious as yet of that shock which the possibility of maternity, even under the most favorable conditions...

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Chapter 9

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pp. 87-92

The world into which Jennie was thus unduly sent forth was that in which virtue has always struggled since time immemorial, for virtue is the wishing well and the doing well unto others. Since time immemorial, those who have been gentle enough to carry the burdens...

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Chapter 10

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pp. 92-97

The incidents of the days that followed, relating as they did peculiarly to Jennie, were of an order which the morality of our day has agreed to taboo. Certain processes of the All-mother, the great artificing wisdom of the power that in silence and darkness...

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Chapter 11

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pp. 98-102

It is marvelous with what rapidity facts take hold upon the young mind and how new phases of life will sometimes create the illusion of a new and different order of society. Bass was no sooner in Cleveland than the marvel of that growing city was sufficient...

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Chapter 12

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pp. 102-110

The details of this family transfer were not long in working themselves out. At the depot, where Bass met Jennie, he at once began that explanation of things which led to the final arrangement of matters as originally planned. She was to get work....

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Chapter 13

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pp. 110-118

For the first winter things went smoothly enough. By the closest economy the children were clothed and kept in school, the rent paid and the installments met. Once it looked as though there might be some difficulty about the continuance of the home life, and that was when Gerhardt wrote...

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Chapter 14

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pp. 118-123

The difficulty after this was not so much concerning Gerhardt's attitude toward Jennie, for time seemed inclined to mend this gradually, but with the financial problem. It is true he did not recognize her presence, but this was a part of the unsubdued element of a storm that was on the wane...

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Chapter 15

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pp. 123-130

The shock of this sudden encounter was so great to Jennie that she was hours in recovering herself. She did not understand clearly at first just what had happened. This man had appeared attractive to her truly, but she did not know that it warranted any more than a passing glance...

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Chapter 16

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pp. 130-135

Meanwhile Jennie was going through the agony of one who has a varied and complicated problem to confront. Her baby, her father, her brothers and sisters all rose up to confront her. What was this thing she was doing? What other wretched relationship...

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Chapter 17

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pp. 135-141

The inconclusive nature of this interview, exciting as it was, did not leave any doubt in either Lester Kane's or Jennie's mind; certainly this was not the end of the affair. Kane knew that he was deeply fascinated. This girl was lovely. She was sweeter than he had had any idea of...

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Chapter 18

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pp. 141-147

This dinner, his conversation with his father, his visit to the Knowles' coming-out party still further emphasized the dis· tinctive nature of his home life, so different from the quality of the liaison he had fallen on in Cleveland. As Lester came down· stairs after making his toilet, he found his father in the library...

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Chapter 19

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pp. 147-153

The arrival of this letter, coming after a week of silence and after she had had a chance to think deeply, served to concentrate all Jennie's ideas and feelings, not only concerning Lester, but also concerning her home, her child and herself, and presented them in rapid order...

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Chapter 20

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pp. 153-159

The fatal Friday came, and with it the soul dread she had been suffering was heightened to the Nth power. She was over-wrought with the necessity of this thing-the tragedy; really she was not herself, and she went through the details of her toilet in the morning with a sense of weariness...

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Chapter 21

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pp. 159-168

The business of arranging for this sudden departure was really not as difficult as it had appeared. Jennie proposed to tell her mother the whole truth, and there was nothing to say to her father except that she was going with Mrs. Bracebridge at the latter's request. He might question her...

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Chapter 22

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pp. 168-173

The problem of the Gerhardt family and its relationship to himself comparatively settled, Kane betook himself to Cin· cinnati and those commercial duties that ordinarily held him in reasonable check. He was heartily interested in the immense plant, which occupied two whole blocks...

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Chapter 23

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pp. 173-177

It was only a little time after this, a month in all, before Jennie was able to announce that Lester intended to marry her. Lester's visits had of course paved the way for this, and it seemed natural enough. She had come to be looked upon in the family as something rather out of the ordinary...

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Chapter 24

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pp. 177-185

The fact that Lester did not at this time permanently establish Jennie in a home of her own was due to certain chilling complications at the commercial and social ends of his life. It appeared that in spite of his personal precautions, someone had seen him in New York...

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Chapter 25

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pp. 185-193

In the home of the Kane family at Cincinnati there were also things transpiring which made it look as though readjustments would have to take place in that quarter. During the last three years in which Lester had been thus tentatively associated with Jennie at his convenience...

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Chapter 26

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pp. 193-202

During the three years in which Jennie and Lester had been associated, there had grown up between them an understanding which, while it may have appeared rather weak and unsatisfactory to the outsider, had a number of elements of strength...

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Chapter 27

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pp. 202-212

Nothing more was said about the incident of the toy lamb. Time might have wholly effaced the impression from Lester's memory had nothing else intervened to arouse his suspicions, but a mishap of any kind seems invariably to be linked with others which follow as a matter of course...

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Chapter 28

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pp. 213-216

The sullen, philosophic Lester was not as determined upon a course of action as he appeared to be. Solemn as was his mood and speculative, he did not see after all exactly what grounds he had for complaint. The child's existence complicated matters considerably...

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Chapter 29

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pp. 216-223

There was peace and quiet for some time after this storm. Jennie went the next day and brought Vesta away with her.· She had no difficulty in explaining to the Swede mother, since Vesta's health offered a sufficient excuse. There was then the reunion of the mother and child...

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Chapter 30

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pp. 223-228

The following spring the new showrooms and warehouse were completed and Lester took up his work in the building proper. Heretofore, he had been transacting all his business affairs at the Grand Pacific and the club. From now on he felt himself to be firmly established in Chicago...

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Chapter 31

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pp. 228-235

The storm of feeling which Lester anticipated Louise's report would arouse was not long in making itself felt even in Chicago. Outraged in her family pride, Louise lost no time in returning to Cincinnati, where she told the story of her discovery, embellished with many details...

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Chapter 32

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pp. 235-238

In this world of ours the activities of animal life seem to be limited to a plane or circle, as if that were an inherent necessity to the creatures of a planet which is perforce compelled to swing about the sun. A fish, for instance, may not pass out of the circle of the seas without courting annihilation...

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Chapter 33

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pp. 238-243

In the meantime Jennie had been going through a moral siege of her own. For the first time in her life, aside from her family's attitude, which had afflicted her greatly, she had a taste of what the outer world thought. She was bad-she knew that. She had yielded on two occasions to circumstances...

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Chapter 34

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pp. 243-250

The trouble with Jennie's plan was that it did not definitely include a sane interpretation of Lester's attitude. He did care for her in a feral, Hyperborean way, but he was hedged about by the ideas of the conventional world in which he had been reared. To say that he cared enough...

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Chapter 35

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pp. 250-253

The proposition in regard to a residence in Hyde Park was not long in materializing. After several weeks had gone and things had quieted down again, Lester invited Jennie to go with him to South Hyde Park to look for a house, and on the first trip they found something which suited him admirably...

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Chapter 36

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pp. 254-259

The progress of the general situation in regard to Lester, Jen· nie, and the home, after Gerhardt's arrival, was considerable. Gerhardt, having been duly installed, a rather emaciated old figure, bestirred himself at once about the labors which he felt instinctively concerned him...

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Chapter 37

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pp. 259-272

The first impressions of a neighborhood are seldom enduring, as we all know well enough, and the first impressions of this particular neighborhood were subject to some modification, for they had been altogether a little too favorable. Jennie was charming to look at...

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Chapter 38

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pp. 272-278

During the time in which Lester had been putting his "matrimonial" relationship upon a more pretentious basis, the Kane family had been contemplating his stolid ignoring of the conventions with mingled pain and dissatisfaction. That it could not help but become a general scandal...

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Chapter 39

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pp. 278-283

This information as to Lester's new arrangements in Chicago, communicated by degrees to the family, did not really make the opposition any more marked than it had been, though it fanned the flames anew. Although his sisters and brother were compelled to believe the information...

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Chapter 40

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pp. 283-290

To contravene the social conventions of your time, to fly in the face of what people consider to be right and proper and to present a determined and self-willed attitude toward the world in matters of desire is quite an interesting and striking thing to contemplate as a policy...

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Chapter 41

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pp. 290-298

The fact that Lester had seen this page was made perfectly clear to Jennie that evening, for he brought it home himself, having concluded, after mature deliberation, that he ought to. He had told her once that there was to be no concealment between them, and this thing, coming brutally as it did...

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Chapter 42

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pp. 298-304

This attempt at coercion was quite the one thing which could definitely and firmly set Lester in opposition to his family, for the time being anyhow. He had realized clearly enough of late that he had made a very big mistake in not having married Jennie in the first place...

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Chapter 43

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pp. 304-308

This attempt at coercion was quite the one thing which could definitely and firmly set Lester in opposition to his family, for the time being anyhow. He had realized clearly enough of late that he had made a very big mistake in not having married Jennie in the first place...

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Chapter 44

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pp. 308-315

It was while travelling abroad that Lester came across, first at the Savoy in London and later at Shepheard's in Cairo, the former favorite of his father and the one girl, before Jennie, whom it might have been said he truly admired-Letty Pace. He had not seen her for a long time...

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Chapter 45

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pp. 315-320

That night after dinner, the music was already sounding in the ball-room of the great hotel, adjacent to the palm gardens, when Mrs. Gerald found Lester smoking on one of the verandas with Jennie by his side. The latter was in white satin and white silk slippers, her hair lying a heavy, enticing mass...

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Chapter 46

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pp. 320-326

0n his return from Europe, Lester set to work in earnest to find a business opening. He was not sounded out, as he had hoped, by any of the big companies for the single reason, principally, that he was considered a strong man who was looking for control in anything he touched...

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Chapter 47

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pp. 326-330

Lester had been doing some pretty hard thinking, but so far he had been unable to formulate any feasible plan for his reentrance into active life. The successful organization of Robert's carriage-trade trust had knocked in the head any further thought on his part of taking an interest...

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Chapter 48

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pp. 330-335

Since Lester had been cut off by his father's will and had left the Kane Company, he had not made one single move which, in his judgement, had shown the least initiative or cleverness. If up to this time he had made any such, he would have felt better about life in general...

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Chapter 49

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pp. 335-341

While this real-estate deal was first being mediated and engineered, Mrs. Gerald decided to move to Chicago. She had been in Cincinnati during the few months Lester had been looking about and had learned a great deal, from this person and that, as to the real facts of his life...

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Chapter 50

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pp. 341-348

Lester had thought of this predicament of his earnestly enough, and he would have been satisfied to have acted shortly after this, if it had not been that one of those delaying and disrupting influences which sometimes complicate our affairs for us began to manifest itself in his Hyde Park domicile...

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Chapter 51

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pp. 348-355

The fact that Gerhardt was dead did not really make so much difference to Lester sympathetically. He had a1 h1lired the old German for several sterling qualities, but beyond that he had thought nothing of him, one way or the other. He took Jennie to a watering place for ten days after it was all over...

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Chapter 52

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pp. 355-361

The explanation which Lester had concluded must come, whether it led to separation or legalization of their hitherto banal condition, followed quickly upon the appearance of Mr. O'Brien; for Lester was ready to talk to Jennie and felt that any day now might see the important conversation...

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Chapter 53

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pp. 361-367

The little town of Sandwood, "this side of Kenosha," as Jennie had expressed it, was only a little distance ftom Chicago, an hour and fifteen minutes by any of the local trains which stopped there. It had a population of some three hundred families, dwelling in small cottages...

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Chapter 54

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pp. 367-375

The social worlds of Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland and other cities saw, during the year or two which followed the breaking of his relationship with Jennie, a curious rejuvenation in the social and business spirit of Lester Kane. He had become rather distant and indifferent...

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Chapter 55

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pp. 375-381

It is difficult to say whether Lester might not have returned to Jennie after all but for certain influential factors. After a time, with his control of his portion of the estate firmly settled in his hands and the storm of original feeling forgotten, he was well aware that diplomacy...

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Chapter 56

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pp. 381-387

The engagement of Lester to Mrs. Gerald came to its formal fruition rapidly enough. Because of her charm and eagerness, and her persistent and consummate diplomacy, he found himself gradually contenting himself with the idea that this union was as it should be...

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Chapter 57

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pp. 387-393

This additional blow, which fortune so inconsiderately administered, was quite sufficient to return Jennie to that state of hyper-melancholia from which she had been with difficulty extracted by the few years of comfort and affection which she had enjoyed with Lester in Hyde Park...

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Chapter 58

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pp. 393-402

The drift of events for a period of five years saw a marked divergence in the affairs of Lester and Jennie-a period in which they settled naturally into their respective spheres without that exchange of relationship, or at least very little of it...

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Chapter 59

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pp. 402-411

The days of man under the old dispensation, or, rather, according to that supposedly biblical formula, which persists, are threescore years and ten. It is so ingrained in the race-consciousness by mouth-to-mouth utterance that it seems the profoundest of truths...

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Chapter 60

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pp. 411-418

The end came after four days during which Jennie, as a friend of his wife's apparently, watched over him as she had always watched over everything which commanded her love, sympathy or sense of duty. She was by his bed constantly, never leaving it longer than was required...

Explanatory Notes

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pp. 419-483