A GLIMPSE THROUGH THE GATEWAY - HOPE LIGHTENS THE EYE
The, to Carrie, very important theatrical performance was to take place at the Avery on conditions which were to make it more noteworthy than was at first anticipated. The little dramatic student had written to Hurstwood the very morning her part was brought her that she was going to take part in a play.
"I really am," she wrote, feeling that he might take it as a jest; "I have my part now, honest, truly."
Hurstwood smiled in an indulgent way as he read this.
"I wonder what it is going to be? I must see that."
He answered at once, making a pleasant reference to her ability. "I haven't the slightest doubt you will make a success. You must come to the park to-morrow morning and tell me all about it."
Carrie gladly complied, and revealed all the details of the undertaking as she understood it.
"Well," he said, "that's fine. I'm glad to hear it. Of course, you will do well, you're so clever."
He had truly never seen so much spirit in the girl before. Her tendency to discover a touch of sadness had for the nonce disappeared. As she spoke her eyes were bright, her cheeks red. She radiated much of the pleasure which her undertakings gave her. For all her misgivings - and they were as plentiful as the moments of the day - she was still happy. She could not repress her delight in doing this little thing which, to an ordinary observer, had no importance at all.
Hurstwood was charmed by the development of the fact that the girl had capabilities. There is nothing so inspiring in life as the sight of a legitimate ambition, no matter how incipient. It gives colour, force, and beauty to the possessor.
Carrie was now lightened by a touch of this divine afflatus. She drew to herself commendation from her two admirers which she had not earned. Their affection for her naturally heightened their perception of what she was trying to do and their approval of what she did. Her inexperience conserved her own exuberant fancy, which ran riot with every straw of opportunity, making of it a golden divining rod whereby the treasure of life was to be discovered.
"Let's see," said Hurstwood, "I ought to know some of the boys in the lodge. I'm an Elk myself."
"Oh, you mustn't let him know I told you."
"That's so," said the manager.
"I'd like for you to be there, if you want to come, but I don't see how you can unless he asks you."
"I'll be there," said Hurstwood affectionately. "I can fix it so he won't know you told me. You leave it to me."
This interest of the manager was a large thing in itself for the performance, for his standing among the Elks was something worth talking about. Already he was thinking of a box with some friends, and flowers for Carrie. He would make it a dress-suit affair and give the little girl a chance.
Within a day or two, Drouet dropped into the Adams Street resort, and he was at once spied by Hurstwood. It was at five in the afternoon and the place was crowded with merchants, actors, managers, politicians, a goodly company of rotund, rosy figures, silk-hatted, starchy-bosomed, beringed and bescarfpinned to the queen's taste. John L. Sullivan, the pugilist, was at one end of the glittering bar, surrounded by a company of loudly dressed sports, who were holding a most animated conversation. Drouet came across the floor with a festive stride, a new pair of tan shoes squeaking audibly at his progress.
"Well, sir," said Hurstwood, "I was wondering what had become of you. I thought you had gone out of town again."
"If you don't report more regularly we'll have to cut you off the list."
"Couldn't help it," said the drummer, "I've been busy."
They strolled over toward the bar amid the noisy, shifting company of notables. The dressy manager was shaken by the hand three times in as many minutes.
"I hear your lodge is going to give a performance," observed Hurstwood, in the most offhand manner.
"Yes, who told you?"
"No one," said Hurstwood. "They just sent me a couple of tickets, which I can have for two dollars. Is it going to be any good?"
"I don't know," replied the drummer. "They've been trying to get me to get some woman to take a part."
"I wasn't intending to go," said the manager easily. "I'll subscribe, of course. How are things over there?"
"All right. They're going to fit things up out of the proceeds."
"Well," said the manager, "I hope they make a success of it. Have another?"
He did not intend to say any more. Now, if he should appear on the scene with a few friends, he could say that he had been urged to come along. Drouet had a desire to wipe out the possibility of confusion.
"I think the girl is going to take a part in it," he said abruptly, after thinking it over.
"You don't say so! How did that happen?"
"Well, they were short and wanted me to find them some one. I told Carrie, and she seems to want to try."
"Good for her," said the manager. "It'll be a real nice affair. Do her good, too. Has she ever had any experience?"
"Not a bit."
"Oh, well, it isn't anything very serious."
"She's clever, though," said Drouet, casting off any imputation against Carrie's ability. "She picks up her part quick enough."
"You don't say so!" said the manager.
"Yes, sir; she surprised me the other night. By George, if she didn't."
"We must give her a nice little send-off," said the manager. "I'll look after the flowers."
Drouet smiled at his good-nature.
"After the show you must come with me and we'll have a little supper."
"I think she'll do all right," said Drouet.
"I want to see her. She's got to do all right. We'll make her," and the manager gave one of his quick, steely half-smiles, which was a compound of good-nature and shrewdness.
Carrie, meanwhile, attended the first rehearsal. At this performance Mr. Quincel presided, aided by Mr. Millice, a young man who had some qualifications of past experience, which were not exactly understood by any one. He was so experienced and so business-like, however, that he came very near being rude - failing to remember, as he did, that the individuals he was trying to instruct were volunteer players and not salaried underlings.
"Now, Miss Madenda," he said, addressing Carrie, who stood in one part uncertain as to what move to make, "you don't want to stand like that. Put expression in your face. Remember, you are troubled over the intrusion of the stranger. Walk so," and he struck out across the Avery stage in almost drooping manner.
Carrie did not exactly fancy the suggestion, but the novelty of the situation, the presence of strangers, all more or less nervous, and the desire to do anything rather than make a failure, made her timid. She walked in imitation of her mentor as requested, inwardly feeling that there was something strangely lacking.
"Now, Mrs. Morgan," said the director to one young married woman who was to take the part of Pearl, "you sit here. Now, Mr. Bamberger, you stand here, so. Now, what is it you say?"
"Explain," said Mr. Bamberger feebly. He had the part of Ray, Laura's lover, the society individual who was to waver in his thoughts of marrying her, upon finding that she was a waif and a nobody by birth.
"How is that - what does your text say?"
"Explain," repeated Mr. Bamberger, looking intently at his part.
"Yes, but it also says," the director remarked, "that you are to look shocked. Now, say it again, and see if you can't look shocked."
"Explain!" demanded Mr. Bamberger vigorously.
"No, no, that won't do! Say it this way - EXPLAIN."
"Explain," said Mr. Bamberger, giving a modified imitation.
"That's better. Now go on."
"One night," resumed Mrs. Morgan, whose lines came next, "father and mother were going to the opera. When they were crossing Broadway, the usual crowd of children accosted them for alms - "
"Hold on," said the director, rushing forward, his arm extended. "Put more feeling into what you are saying."
Mrs. Morgan looked at him as if she feared a personal assault. Her eye lightened with resentment.
"Remember, Mrs. Morgan," he added, ignoring the gleam, but modifying his manner, "that you're detailing a pathetic story. You are now supposed to be telling something that is a grief to you. It requires feeling, repression, thus: 'The usual crowd of children accosted them for alms.'"
"All right," said Mrs. Morgan.
"Now, go on."
"As mother felt in her pocket for some change, her fingers touched a cold and trembling hand which had clutched her purse."
"Very good," interrupted the director, nodding his head significantly.
"A pickpocket! Well!" exclaimed Mr. Bamberger, speaking the lines that here fell to him.
"No, no, Mr. Bamberger," said the director, approaching, "not that way. 'A pickpocket - well?' so. That's the idea."
"Don't you think," said Carrie weakly, noticing that it had not been proved yet whether the members of the company knew their lines, let alone the details of expression, "that it would be better if we just went through our lines once to see if we know them? We might pick up some points."
"A very good idea, Miss Madenda," said Mr. Quincel, who sat at the side of the stage, looking serenely on and volunteering opinions which the director did not heed.
"All right," said the latter, somewhat abashed, "it might be well to do it." Then brightening, with a show of authority, "Suppose we run right through, putting in as much expression as we can."
"Good," said Mr. Quincel.
"This hand," resumed Mrs. Morgan, glancing up at Mr. Bamberger and down at her book, as the lines proceeded, "my mother grasped in her own, and so tight that a small, feeble voice uttered an exclamation of pain. Mother looked down, and there beside her was a little ragged girl."
"Very good," observed the director, now hopelessly idle.
"The thief!" exclaimed Mr. Bamberger.
"Louder," put in the director, finding it almost impossible to keep his hands off.
"The thief!" roared poor Bamberger.
"Yes, but a thief hardly six years old, with a face like an angel's. 'Stop,' said my mother. 'What are you doing?'
"'Trying to steal,' said the child.
"'Don't you know that it is wicked to do so?' asked my father.
"'No,' said the girl, 'but it is dreadful to be hungry.'
"'Who told you to steal?' asked my mother.
"'She - there,' said the child, pointing to a squalid woman in a doorway opposite, who fled suddenly down the street. 'That is old Judas,' said the girl."
Mrs. Morgan read this rather flatly, and the director was in despair. He fidgeted around, and then went over to Mr. Quincel.
"What do you think of them?" he asked.
"Oh, I guess we'll be able to whip them into shape," said the latter, with an air of strength under difficulties.
"I don't know," said the director. "That fellow Bamberger strikes me as being a pretty poor shift for a lover."
"He's all we've got," said Quincel, rolling up his eyes. "Harrison went back on me at the last minute. Who else can we get?"
"I don't know," said the director. "I'm afraid he'll never pick up."
At this moment Bamberger was exclaiming, "Pearl, you are joking with me." "Look at that now," said the director, whispering behind his hand. "My Lord! what can you do with a man who drawls out a sentence like that?"
"Do the best you can," said Quincel consolingly.
The rendition ran on in this wise until it came to where Carrie, as Laura, comes into the room to explain to Ray, who, after hearing Pearl's statement about her birth, had written the letter repudiating her, which, however, he did not deliver. Bamberger was just concluding the words of Ray, "I must go before she returns. Her step! Too late," and was cramming the letter in his pocket, when she began sweetly with:
"Miss - Miss Courtland," Bamberger faltered weakly.
Carrie looked at him a moment and forgot all about the company present. She began to feel the part, and summoned an indifferent smile to her lips, turning as the lines directed and going to a window, as if he were not present. She did it with a grace which was fascinating to look upon.
"Who is that woman?" asked the director, watching Carrie in her little scene with Bamberger.
"Miss Madenda," said Quincel.
"I know her name," said the director, "but what does she do?"
"I don't know," said Quincel. "She's a friend of one of our members."
"Well, she's got more gumption than any one I've seen here so far - seems to take an interest in what she's doing."
"Pretty, too, isn't she?" said Quincel.
The director strolled away without answering.
In the second scene, where she was supposed to face the company in the ball-room, she did even better, winning the smile of the director, who volunteered, because of her fascination for him, to come over and speak with her.
"Were you ever on the stage?" he asked insinuatingly.
"No," said Carrie.
"You do so well, I thought you might have had some experience."
Carrie only smiled consciously.
He walked away to listen to Bamberger, who was feebly spouting some ardent line.
Mrs. Morgan saw the drift of things and gleamed at Carrie with envious and snapping black eyes.
"She's some cheap professional," she gave herself the satisfaction of thinking, and scorned and hated her accordingly.
The rehearsal ended for one day, and Carrie went home feeling that she had acquitted herself satisfactorily. The words of the director were ringing in her ears, and she longed for an opportunity to tell Hurstwood. She wanted him to know just how well she was doing. Drouet, too, was an object for her confidences. She could hardly wait until he should ask her, and yet she did not have the vanity to bring it up. The drummer, however, had another line of thought to-night, and her little experience did not appeal to him as important. He let the conversation drop, save for what she chose to recite without solicitation, and Carrie was not good at that. He took it for granted that she was doing very well and he was relieved of further worry. Consequently he threw Carrie into repression, which was irritating. She felt his indifference keenly and longed to see Hurstwood. It was as if he were now the only friend she had on earth. The next morning Drouet was interested again, but the damage had been done.
She got a pretty letter from the manager, saying that by the time she got it he would be waiting for her in the park. When she came, he shone upon her as the morning sun.
"Well, my dear," he asked, "how did you come out?"
"Well enough," she said, still somewhat reduced after Drouet.
"Now, tell me just what you did. Was it pleasant?"
Carrie related the incidents of the rehearsal, warming up as she proceeded.
"Well, that's delightful," said Hurstwood. "I'm so glad. I must get over there to see you. When is the next rehearsal?"
"Tuesday," said Carrie, "but they don't allow visitors."
"I imagine I could get in," said Hurstwood significantly.
She was completely restored and delighted by his consideration, but she made him promise not to come around.
"Now, you must do your best to please me," he said encouragingly. "Just remember that I want you to succeed. We will make the performance worth while. You do that now."
"I'll try," said Carrie, brimming with affection and enthusiasm.
"That's the girl," said Hurstwood fondly. "Now, remember," shaking an affectionate finger at her, "your best."
"I will," she answered, looking back.
The whole earth was brimming sunshine that morning. She tripped along, the clear sky pouring liquid blue into her soul. Oh, blessed are the children of endeavour in this, that they try and are hopeful. And blessed also are they who, knowing, smile and approve.
JUST OVER THE BORDER - A HAIL AND FAREWELL
By the evening of the 16th the subtle hand of Hurstwood had made itself apparent. He had given the word among his friends - and they were many and influential - that here was something which they ought to attend, and, as a consequence, the sale of tickets by Mr. Quincel, acting for the lodge, had been large. Small four-line notes had appeared in all of the daily newspapers. These he had arranged for by the aid of one of his newspaper friends on the "Times," Mr. Harry McGarren, the managing editor.
"Say, Harry," Hurstwood said to him one evening, as the latter stood at the bar drinking before wending his belated way homeward, "you can help the boys out, I guess."
"What is it?" said McGarren, pleased to be consulted by the opulent manager.
"The Custer Lodge is getting up a little entertainment for their own good, and they'd like a little newspaper notice. You know what I mean - a squib or two saying that it's going to take place."
"Certainly," said McGarren, "I can fix that for you, George."
At the same time Hurstwood kept himself wholly in the background. The members of Custer Lodge could scarcely understand why their little affair was taking so well. Mr. Harry Quincel was looked upon as quite a star for this sort of work.
By the time the 16th had arrived Hurstwood's friends had rallied like Romans to a senator's call. A well-dressed, good-natured, flatteringly-inclined audience was assured from the moment he thought of assisting Carrie.
That little student had mastered her part to her own satisfaction, much as she trembled for her fate when she should once face the gathered throng, behind the glare of the footlights. She tried to console herself with the thought that a score of other persons, men and women, were equally tremulous concerning the outcome of their efforts, but she could not disassociate the general danger from her own individual liability. She feared that she would forget her lines, that she might be unable to master the feeling which she now felt concerning her own movements in the play. At times she wished that she had never gone into the affair; at others, she trembled lest she should be paralysed with fear and stand white and gasping, not knowing what to say and spoiling the entire performance.
In the matter of the company, Mr. Bamberger had disappeared. That hopeless example had fallen under the lance of the director's criticism. Mrs. Morgan was still present, but envious and determined, if for nothing more than spite, to do as well as Carrie at least. A loafing professional had been called in to assume the role of Ray, and, while he was a poor stick of his kind, he was not troubled by any of those qualms which attack the spirit of those who have never faced an audience. He swashed about (cautioned though he was to maintain silence concerning his past theatrical relationships) in such a self-confident manner that he was like to convince every one of his identity by mere matter of circumstantial evidence.
"It is so easy," he said to Mrs. Morgan, in the usual affected stage voice. "An audience would be the last thing to trouble me. It's the spirit of the part, you know, that is difficult."
Carrie disliked his appearance, but she was too much the actress not to swallow his qualities with complaisance, seeing that she must suffer his fictitious love for the evening.
At six she was ready to go. Theatrical paraphernalia had been provided over and above her care. She had practised her make-up in the morning, had rehearsed and arranged her material for the evening by one o'clock, and had gone home to have a final look at her part, waiting for the evening to come.
On this occasion the lodge sent a carriage. Drouet rode with her as far as the door, and then went about the neighbouring stores, looking for some good cigars. The little actress marched nervously into her dressing-room and began that painfully anticipated matter of make-up which was to transform her, a simple maiden, to Laura, The Belle of Society.
The flare of the gas-jets, the open trunks, suggestive of travel and display, the scattered contents of the make-up box - rouge, pearl powder, whiting, burnt cork, India ink, pencils for the eye-lids, wigs, scissors, looking-glasses, drapery - in short, all the nameless paraphernalia of disguise, have a remarkable atmosphere of their own. Since her arrival in the city many things had influenced her, but always in a far-removed manner. This new atmosphere was more friendly. It was wholly unlike the great brilliant mansions which waved her coldly away, permitting her only awe and distant wonder. This took her by the hand kindly, as one who says, "My dear, come in." It opened for her as if for its own. She had wondered at the greatness of the names upon the bill-boards, the marvel of the long notices in the papers, the beauty of the dresses upon the stage, the atmosphere of carriages, flowers, refinement. Here was no illusion. Here was an open door to see all of that. She had come upon it as one who stumbles upon a secret passage and, behold, she was in the chamber of diamonds and delight!
As she dressed with a flutter, in her little stage room, hearing the voices outside, seeing Mr. Quincel hurrying here and there, noting Mrs. Morgan and Mrs. Hoagland at their nervous work of preparation, seeing all the twenty members of the cast moving about and worrying over what the result would be, she could not help thinking what a delight this would be if it would endure; how perfect a state, if she could only do well now, and then some time get a place as a real actress. The thought had taken a mighty hold upon her. It hummed in her ears as the melody of an old song.
Outside in the little lobby another scene was begin enacted. Without the interest of Hurstwood, the little hall would probably have been comfortably filled, for the members of the lodge were moderately interested in its welfare. Hurstwood's word, however, had gone the rounds. It was to be a full-dress affair. The four boxes had been taken. Dr. Norman McNeill Hale and his wife were to occupy one. This was quite a card. C. R. Walker, dry-goods merchant and possessor of at least two hundred thousand dollars, had taken another; a well-known coal merchant had been induced to take the third, and Hurstwood and his friends the fourth. Among the latter was Drouet. The people who were now pouring here were not celebrities, nor even local notabilities, in a general sense. They were the lights of a certain circle - the circle of small fortunes and secret order distinctions. These gentlemen Elks knew the standing of one another. They had regard for the ability which could amass a small fortune, own a nice home, keep a barouche or carriage, perhaps, wear fine clothes, and maintain a good mercantile position. Naturally, Hurstwood, who was a little above the order of mind which accepted this standard as perfect, who had shrewdness and much assumption of dignity, who held an imposing and authoritative position, and commanded friendship by intuitive tact in handling people, was quite a figure. He was more generally known than most others in the same circle, and was looked upon as some one whose reserve covered a mine of influence and solid financial prosperity.
To-night he was in his element. He came with several friends directly from Rector's in a carriage. In the lobby he met Drouet, who was just returning from a trip for more cigars. All five now joined in an animated conversation concerning the company present and the general drift of lodge affairs.
"Who's here?" said Hurstwood, passing into the theatre proper, where the lights were turned up and a company of gentlemen were laughing and talking in the open space back of the seats.
"Why, how do you do, Mr. Hurstwood?" came from the first individual recognised.
"Glad to see you," said the latter, grasping his hand lightly.
"Looks quite an affair, doesn't it?"
"Yes, indeed," said the manager.
"Custer seems to have the backing of its members," observed the friend.
"So it should," said the knowing manager. "I'm glad to see it."
"Well, George," said another rotund citizen, whose avoirdupois made necessary an almost alarming display of starched shirt bosom, "how goes it with you?"
"Excellent," said the manager.
"What brings you over here? You're not a member of Custer."
"Good-nature," returned the manager. "Like to see the boys, you know."
"She couldn't come to-night. She's not well."
"Sorry to hear it - nothing serious, I hope."
"No, just feeling a little ill."
"I remember Mrs. Hurstwood when she was travelling once with you over to St. Joe - " and here the newcomer launched off in a trivial recollection, which was terminated by the arrival of more friends.
"Why, George, how are you?" said another genial West Side politician and lodge member. "My, but I'm glad to see you again; how are things, anyhow?"
"Very well; I see you got that nomination for alderman."
"Yes, we whipped them out over there without much trouble."
"What do you suppose Hennessy will do now?"
"Oh, he'll go back to his brick business. He has a brick-yard, you know."
"I didn't know that," said the manager. "Felt pretty sore, I suppose, over his defeat." "Perhaps," said the other, winking shrewdly.
Some of the more favoured of his friends whom he had invited began to roll up in carriages now. They came shuffling in with a great show of finery and much evident feeling of content and importance.
"Here we are," said Hurstwood, turning to one from a group with whom he was talking.
"That's right," returned the newcomer, a gentleman of about forty-five.
"And say," he whispered, jovially, pulling Hurstwood over by the shoulder so that he might whisper in his ear, "if this isn't a good show, I'll punch your head."
"You ought to pay for seeing your old friends. Bother the show!"
To another who inquired, "Is it something really good?" the manager replied:
"I don't know. I don't suppose so." Then, lifting his hand graciously, "For the lodge."
"Lots of boys out, eh?"
"Yes, look up Shanahan. He was just asking for you a moment ago."
It was thus that the little theatre resounded to a babble of successful voices, the creak of fine clothes, the commonplace of good-nature, and all largely because of this man's bidding. Look at him any time within the half hour before the curtain was up, he was a member of an eminent group - a rounded company of five or more whose stout figures, large white bosoms, and shining pins bespoke the character of their success. The gentlemen who brought their wives called him out to shake hands. Seats clicked, ushers bowed while he looked blandly on. He was evidently a light among them, reflecting in his personality the ambitions of those who greeted him. He was acknowledged, fawned upon, in a way lionised. Through it all one could see the standing of the man. It was greatness in a way, small as it was.
AN HOUR IN ELFLAND - A CLAMOUR HALF HEARD
At last the curtain was ready to go up. All the details of the make-up had been completed, and the company settled down as the leader of the small, hired orchestra tapped significantly upon his music rack with his baton and began the soft curtain-raising strain. Hurstwood ceased talking, and went with Drouet and his friend Sagar Morrison around to the box.
"Now, we'll see how the little girl does," he said to Drouet, in a tone which no one else could hear.
On the stage, six of the characters had already appeared in the opening parlour scene. Drouet and Hurstwood saw at a glance that Carrie was not among them, and went on talking in a whisper. Mrs. Morgan, Mrs. Hoagland, and the actor who had taken Bamberger's part were representing the principal roles in this scene. The professional, whose name was Patton, had little to recommend him outside of his assurance, but this at the present moment was most palpably needed. Mrs. Morgan, as Pearl, was stiff with fright. Mrs. Hoagland was husky in the throat. The whole company was so weak-kneed that the lines were merely spoken, and nothing more. It took all the hope and uncritical good-nature of the audience to keep from manifesting pity by that unrest which is the agony of failure.
Hurstwood was perfectly indifferent. He took it for granted that it would be worthless. All he cared for was to have it endurable enough to allow for pretension and congratulation afterward.
After the first rush of fright, however, the players got over the danger of collapse. They rambled weakly forward, losing nearly all the expression which was intended, and making the thing dull in the extreme, when Carrie came in.
One glance at her, and both Hurstwood and Drouet saw plainly that she also was weak-kneed. She came faintly across the stage, saying:
"And you, sir; we have been looking for you since eight o'clock," but with so little colour and in such a feeble voice that it was positively painful.
"She's frightened," whispered Drouet to Hurstwood.
The manager made no answer.
She had a line presently which was supposed to be funny.
"Well, that's as much as to say that I'm a sort of life pill."
It came out so flat, however, that it was a deathly thing. Drouet fidgeted. Hurstwood moved his toe the least bit.
There was another place in which Laura was to rise and, with a sense of impending disaster, say, sadly:
"I wish you hadn't said that, Pearl. You know the old proverb, 'Call a maid by a married name.'"
The lack of feeling in the thing was ridiculous. Carrie did not get it at all. She seemed to be talking in her sleep. It looked as if she were certain to be a wretched failure. She was more hopeless than Mrs. Morgan, who had recovered somewhat, and was now saying her lines clearly at least. Drouet looked away from the stage at the audience. The latter held out silently, hoping for a general change, of course. Hurstwood fixed his eye on Carrie, as if to hypnotise her into doing better. He was pouring determination of his own in her direction. He felt sorry for her.
In a few more minutes it fell to her to read the letter sent in by the strange villain. The audience had been slightly diverted by a conversation between the professional actor and a character called Snorky, impersonated by a short little American, who really developed some humour as a half-crazed, one-armed soldier, turned messenger for a living. He bawled his lines out with such defiance that, while they really did not partake of the humour intended, they were funny. Now he was off, however, and it was back to pathos, with Carrie as the chief figure. She did not recover. She wandered through the whole scene between herself and the intruding villain, straining the patience of the audience, and finally exiting, much to their relief.
"She's too nervous," said Drouet, feeling in the mildness of the remark that he was lying for once.
"Better go back and say a word to her."
Drouet was glad to do anything for relief. He fairly hustled around to the side entrance, and was let in by the friendly door- keeper. Carrie was standing in the wings, weakly waiting her next cue, all the snap and nerve gone out of her.
"Say, Cad," he said, looking at her, "you mustn't be nervous. Wake up. Those guys out there don't amount to anything. What are you afraid of?"
"I don't know," said Carrie. "I just don't seem to be able to do it."
She was grateful for the drummer's presence, though. She had found the company so nervous that her own strength had gone.
"Come on," said Drouet. "Brace up. What are you afraid of? Go on out there now, and do the trick. What do you care?"
Carrie revived a little under the drummer's electrical, nervous condition.
"Did I do so very bad?"
"Not a bit. All you need is a little more ginger. Do it as you showed me. Get that toss of your head you had the other night."
Carrie remembered her triumph in the room. She tried to think she could to it.
'What's next?" he said, looking at her part, which she had been studying.
"Why, the scene between Ray and me when I refuse him."
"Well, now you do that lively," said the drummer. "Put in snap, that's the thing. Act as if you didn't care."
"Your turn next, Miss Madenda," said the prompter.
"Oh, dear," said Carrie.
"Well, you're a chump for being afraid," said Drouet. "Come on now, brace up. I'll watch you from right here."
"Will you?" said Carrie.
"Yes, now go on. Don't be afraid."
The prompter signalled her.
She started out, weak as ever, but suddenly her nerve partially returned. She thought of Drouet looking.
"Ray," she said, gently, using a tone of voice much more calm than when she had last appeared. It was the scene which had pleased the director at the rehearsal.
"She's easier," thought Hurstwood to himself.
She did not do the part as she had at rehearsal, but she was better. The audience was at least not irritated. The improvement of the work of the entire company took away direct observation from her. They were making very fair progress, and now it looked as if the play would be passable, in the less trying parts at least.
Carrie came off warm and nervous.
"Well," she said, looking at him, "was it any better?"
"Well, I should say so. That's the way. Put life into it. You did that about a thousand per cent. better than you did the other scene. Now go on and fire up. You can do it. Knock 'em."
"Was it really better?"
"Better, I should say so. What comes next?"
"That ballroom scene."
"Well, you can do that all right," he said.
"I don't know," answered Carrie.
"Why, woman," he exclaimed, "you did it for me! Now you go out there and do it. It'll be fun for you. Just do as you did in the room. If you'll reel it off that way, I'll bet you make a hit. Now, what'll you bet? You do it."
The drummer usually allowed his ardent good-nature to get the better of his speech. He really did think that Carrie had acted this particular scene very well, and he wanted her to repeat it in public. His enthusiasm was due to the mere spirit of the occasion.
When the time came, he buoyed Carrie up most effectually. He began to make her feel as if she had done very well. The old melancholy of desire began to come back as he talked at her, and by the time the situation rolled around she was running high in feeling.
"I think I can do this."
"Sure you can. Now you go ahead and see."
On the stage, Mrs. Van Dam was making her cruel insinuation against Laura.
Carrie listened, and caught the infection of something - she did not know what. Her nostrils sniffed thinly.
"It means," the professional actor began, speaking as Ray, "that society is a terrible avenger of insult. Have you ever heard of the Siberian wolves? When one of the pack falls through weakness, the others devour him. It is not an elegant comparison, but there is something wolfish in society. Laura has mocked it with a pretence, and society, which is made up of pretence, will bitterly resent the mockery."
At the sound of her stage name Carrie started. She began to feel the bitterness of the situation. The feelings of the outcast descended upon her. She hung at the wing's edge, wrapt in her own mounting thoughts. She hardly heard anything more, save her own rumbling blood.
"Come, girls," said Mrs. Van Dam, solemnly, "let us look after our things. They are no longer safe when such an accomplished thief enters."
"Cue," said the prompter, close to her side, but she did not hear. Already she was moving forward with a steady grace, born of inspiration. She dawned upon the audience, handsome and proud, shifting, with the necessity of the situation, to a cold, white, helpless object, as the social pack moved away from her scornfully.
Hurstwood blinked his eyes and caught the infection. The radiating waves of feeling and sincerity were already breaking against the farthest walls of the chamber. The magic of passion, which will yet dissolve the world, was here at work.
There was a drawing, too, of attention, a riveting of feeling, heretofore wandering.
"Ray! Ray! Why do you not come back to her?" was the cry of Pearl.
Every eye was fixed on Carrie, still proud and scornful. They moved as she moved. Their eyes were with her eyes.
Mrs. Morgan, as Pearl, approached her.
"Let us go home," she said.
"No," answered Carrie, her voice assuming for the first time a penetrating quality which it had never known. "Stay with him!"
She pointed an almost accusing hand toward her lover. Then, with a pathos which struck home because of its utter simplicity, "He shall not suffer long."
Hurstwood realised that he was seeing something extraordinarily good. It was heightened for him by the applause of the audience as the curtain descended and the fact that it was Carrie. He thought now that she was beautiful. She had done something which was above his sphere. He felt a keen delight in realising that she was his.
"Fine," he said, and then, seized by a sudden impulse, arose and went about to the stage door.
When he came in upon Carrie she was still with Drouet. His feelings for her were most exuberant. He was almost swept away by the strength and feeling she exhibited. His desire was to pour forth his praise with the unbounded feelings of a lover, but here was Drouet, whose affection was also rapidly reviving. The latter was more fascinated, if anything, than Hurstwood. At least, in the nature of things, it took a more ruddy form.
"Well, well," said Drouet, "you did out of sight. That was simply great. I knew you could do it. Oh, but you're a little daisy!"
Carrie's eyes flamed with the light of achievement.
"Did I do all right?"
"Did you? Well, I guess. Didn't you hear the applause?"
There was some faint sound of clapping yet.
"I thought I got it something like - I felt it."
Just then Hurstwood came in. Instinctively he felt the change in Drouet. He saw that the drummer was near to Carrie, and jealousy leaped alight in his bosom. In a flash of thought, he reproached himself for having sent him back. Also, he hated him as an intruder. He could scarcely pull himself down to the level where he would have to congratulate Carrie as a friend. Nevertheless, the man mastered himself, and it was a triumph. He almost jerked the old subtle light to his eyes.
"I thought," he said, looking at Carrie, "I would come around and tell you how well you did, Mrs. Drouet. It was delightful."
Carrie took the cue, and replied:
"Oh, thank you."
"I was just telling her," put in Drouet, now delighted with his possession, "that I thought she did fine."
"Indeed you did," said Hurstwood, turning upon Carrie eyes in which she read more than the words.
Carrie laughed luxuriantly.
"If you do as well in the rest of the play, you will make us all think you are a born actress."
Carrie smiled again. She felt the acuteness of Hurstwood's position, and wished deeply that she could be alone with him, but she did not understand the change in Drouet. Hurstwood found that he could not talk, repressed as he was, and grudging Drouet every moment of his presence, he bowed himself out with the elegance of a Faust. Outside he set his teeth with envy.
"Damn it!" he said, "is he always going to be in the way?" He was moody when he got back to the box, and could not talk for thinking of his wretched situation.
As the curtain for the next act arose, Drouet came back. He was very much enlivened in temper and inclined to whisper, but Hurstwood pretended interest. He fixed his eyes on the stage, although Carrie was not there, a short bit of melodramatic comedy preceding her entrance. He did not see what was going on, however. He was thinking his own thoughts, and they were wretched.
The progress of the play did not improve matters for him. Carrie, from now on, was easily the centre of interest. The audience, which had been inclined to feel that nothing could be good after the first gloomy impression, now went to the other extreme and saw power where it was not. The general feeling reacted on Carrie. She presented her part with some felicity, though nothing like the intensity which had aroused the feeling at the end of the long first act.
Both Hurstwood and Drouet viewed her pretty figure with rising feelings. The fact that such ability should reveal itself in her, that they should see it set forth under such effective circumstances, framed almost in massy gold and shone upon by the appropriate lights of sentiment and personality, heightened her charm for them. She was more than the old Carrie to Drouet. He longed to be at home with her until he could tell her. He awaited impatiently the end, when they should go home alone.
Hurstwood, on the contrary, saw in the strength of her new attractiveness his miserable predicament. He could have cursed the man beside him. By the Lord, he could not even applaud feelingly as he would. For once he must simulate when it left a taste in his mouth.
It was in the last act that Carrie's fascination for her lovers assumed its most effective character.
Hurstwood listened to its progress, wondering when Carrie would come on. He had not long to wait. The author had used the artifice of sending all the merry company for a drive, and now Carrie came in alone. It was the first time that Hurstwood had had a chance to see her facing the audience quite alone, for nowhere else had she been without a foil of some sort. He suddenly felt, as she entered, that her old strength - the power that had grasped him at the end of the first act - had come back. She seemed to be gaining feeling, now that the play was drawing to a close and the opportunity for great action was passing.
"Poor Pearl," she said, speaking with natural pathos. "It is a sad thing to want for happiness, but it is a terrible thing to see another groping about blindly for it, when it is almost within the grasp."
She was gazing now sadly out upon the open sea, her arm resting listlessly upon the polished door-post.
Hurstwood began to feel a deep sympathy for her and for himself. He could almost feel that she was talking to him. He was, by a combination of feelings and entanglements, almost deluded by that quality of voice and manner which, like a pathetic strain of music, seems ever a personal and intimate thing. Pathos has this quality, that it seems ever addressed to one alone.
"And yet, she can be very happy with him," went on the little actress. "Her sunny temper, her joyous face will brighten any home."
She turned slowly toward the audience without seeing. There was so much simplicity in her movements that she seemed wholly alone. Then she found a seat by a table, and turned over some books, devoting a thought to them.
"With no longings for what I may not have," she breathed in conclusion - and it was almost a sigh - "my existence hidden from all save two in the wide world, and making my joy out of the joy of that innocent girl who will soon be his wife."
Hurstwood was sorry when a character, known as Peach Blossom, interrupted her. He stirred irritably, for he wished her to go on. He was charmed by the pale face, the lissome figure, draped in pearl grey, with a coiled string of pearls at the throat. Carrie had the air of one who was weary and in need of protection, and, under the fascinating make-believe of the moment, he rose in feeling until he was ready in spirit to go to her and ease her out of her misery by adding to his own delight.
In a moment Carrie was alone again, and was saying, with animation:
"I must return to the city, no matter what dangers may lurk here. I must go, secretly if I can; openly, if I must."
There was a sound of horses' hoofs outside, and then Ray's voice saying: "No, I shall not ride again. Put him up."
He entered, and then began a scene which had as much to do with the creation of the tragedy of affection in Hurstwood as anything in his peculiar and involved career. For Carrie had resolved to make something of this scene, and, now that the cue had come, it began to take a feeling hold upon her. Both Hurstwood and Drouet noted the rising sentiment as she proceeded.
"I thought you had gone with Pearl," she said to her lover.
"I did go part of the way, but I left the Party a mile down the road."
"You and Pearl had no disagreement?"
"No - yes; that is, we always have. Our social barometers always stand at 'cloudy' and 'overcast.'"
"And whose fault is that?" she said, easily.
"Not mine," he answered, pettishly. "I know I do all I can - I say all I can - but she - - "
This was rather awkwardly put by Patton, but Carrie redeemed it with a grace which was inspiring.
"But she is your wife," she said, fixing her whole attention upon the stilled actor, and softening the quality of her voice until it was again low and musical. "Ray, my friend, courtship is the text from which the whole sermon of married life takes its theme. Do not let yours be discontented and unhappy."
She put her two little hands together and pressed them appealingly.
Hurstwood gazed with slightly parted lips. Drouet was fidgeting with satisfaction.
"To be my wife, yes," went on the actor in a manner which was weak by comparison, but which could not now spoil the tender atmosphere which Carrie had created and maintained. She did not seem to feel that he was wretched. She would have done nearly as well with a block of wood. The accessories she needed were within her own imagination. The acting of others could not affect them.
"And you repent already?" she said, slowly.
"I lost you," he said, seizing her little hand, "and I was at the mercy of any flirt who chose to give me an inviting look. It was your fault - you know it was - why did you leave me?"
Carrie turned slowly away, and seemed to be mastering some impulse in silence. Then she turned back.
"Ray," she said, "the greatest happiness I have ever felt has been the thought that all your affection was forever bestowed upon a virtuous woman, your equal in family, fortune, and accomplishments. What a revelation do you make to me now! What is it makes you continually war with your happiness?"
The last question was asked so simply that it came to the audience and the lover as a personal thing.
At last it came to the part where the lover exclaimed, "Be to me as you used to be."
Carrie answered, with affecting sweetness, "I cannot be that to you, but I can speak in the spirit of the Laura who is dead to you forever."
"Be it as you will," said Patton.
Hurstwood leaned forward. The whole audience was silent and intent.
"Let the woman you look upon be wise or vain," said Carrie, her eyes bent sadly upon the lover, who had sunk into a seat, "beautiful or homely, rich or poor, she has but one thing she can really give or refuse - her heart."
Drouet felt a scratch in his throat.
"Her beauty, her wit, her accomplishments, she may sell to you; but her love is the treasure without money and without price."
The manager suffered this as a personal appeal. It came to him as if they were alone, and he could hardly restrain the tears for sorrow over the hopeless, pathetic, and yet dainty and appealing woman whom he loved. Drouet also was beside himself. He was resolving that he would be to Carrie what he had never been before. He would marry her, by George! She was worth it.
"She asks only in return," said Carrie, scarcely hearing the small, scheduled reply of her lover, and putting herself even more in harmony with the plaintive melody now issuing from the orchestra, "that when you look upon her your eyes shall speak devotion; that when you address her your voice shall be gentle, loving, and kind; that you shall not despise her because she cannot understand all at once your vigorous thoughts and ambitious designs; for, when misfortune and evil have defeated your greatest purposes, her love remains to console you. You look to the trees," she continued, while Hurstwood restrained his feelings only by the grimmest repression, "for strength and grandeur; do not despise the flowers because their fragrance is all they have to give. Remember," she concluded, tenderly, "love is all a woman has to give," and she laid a strange, sweet accent on the all, "but it is the only thing which God permits us to carry beyond the grave."
The two men were in the most harrowed state of affection. They scarcely heard the few remaining words with which the scene concluded. They only saw their idol, moving about with appealing grace, continuing a power which to them was a revelation.
Hurstwood resolved a thousands things, Drouet as well. They joined equally in the burst of applause which called Carrie out. Drouet pounded his hands until they ached. Then he jumped up again and started out. As he went, Carrie came out, and, seeing an immense basket of flowers being hurried down the aisle toward her she waited. They were Hurstwood's. She looked toward the manager's box for a moment, caught his eye, and smiled. He could have leaped out of the box to enfold her. He forgot the need of circumspectness which his married state enforced. He almost forgot that he had with him in the box those who knew him. By the Lord, he would have that lovely girl if it took his all. He would act at once. This should be the end of Drouet, and don't you forget it. He would not wait another day. The drummer should not have her.
He was so excited that he could not stay in the box. He went into the lobby, and then into the street, thinking. Drouet did not return. In a few minutes the last act was over, and he was crazy to have Carrie alone. He cursed the luck that could keep him smiling, bowing, shamming, when he wanted to tell her that he loved her, when he wanted to whisper to her alone. He groaned as he saw that his hopes were futile. He must even take her to supper, shamming. He finally went about and asked how she was getting along. The actors were all dressing, talking, hurrying about. Drouet was palavering himself with the looseness of excitement and passion. The manager mastered himself only by a great effort.
"We are going to supper, of course," he said, with a voice that was a mockery of his heart.
"Oh, yes," said Carrie, smiling.
The little actress was in fine feather. She was realising now what it was to be petted. For once she was the admired, the sought-for. The independence of success now made its first faint showing. With the tables turned, she was looking down, rather than up, to her lover. She did not fully realise that this was so, but there was something in condescension coming from her which was infinitely sweet. When she was ready they climbed into the waiting coach and drove down town; once, only, did she find an opportunity to express her feeling, and that was when the manager preceded Drouet in the coach and sat beside her. Before Drouet was fully in she had squeezed Hurstwood's hand in a gentle, impulsive manner. The manager was beside himself with affection. He could have sold his soul to be with her alone. "Ah," he thought, "the agony of it."
Drouet hung on, thinking he was all in all. The dinner was spoiled by his enthusiasm. Hurstwood went home feeling as if he should die if he did not find affectionate relief. He whispered "to-morrow" passionately to Carrie, and she understood. He walked away from the drummer and his prize at parting feeling as if he could slay him and not regret. Carrie also felt the misery of it.
"Good-night," he said, simulating an easy friendliness.
"Good-night," said the little actress, tenderly.
"The fool!" he said, now hating Drouet. "The idiot! I'll do him yet, and that quick! We'll see to-morrow."
"Well, if you aren't a wonder," Drouet was saying, complacently, squeezing Carrie's arm. "You are the dandiest little girl on earth."
THE LURE OF THE SPIRIT - THE FLESH IN PURSUIT
Passion in a man of Hurstwood's nature takes a vigorous form. It is no musing, dreamy thing. There is none of the tendency to sing outside of my lady's window - to languish and repine in the face of difficulties. In the night he was long getting to sleep because of too much thinking, and in the morning he was early awake, seizing with alacrity upon the same dear subject and pursuing it with vigour. He was out of sorts physically, as well as disordered mentally, for did he not delight in a new manner in his Carrie, and was not Drouet in the way? Never was man more harassed than he by the thoughts of his love being held by the elated, flush-mannered drummer. He would have given anything, it seemed to him, to have the complication ended - to have Carrie acquiesce to an arrangement which would dispose of Drouet effectually and forever.
What to do. He dressed thinking. He moved about in the same chamber with his wife, unmindful of her presence.
At breakfast he found himself without an appetite. The meat to which he helped himself remained on his plate untouched. His coffee grew cold, while he scanned the paper indifferently. Here and there he read a little thing, but remembered nothing. Jessica had not yet come down. His wife sat at one end of the table revolving thoughts of her own in silence. A new servant had been recently installed and had forgot the napkins. On this account the silence was irritably broken by a reproof.
"I've told you about this before, Maggie," said Mrs. Hurstwood. "I'm not going to tell you again."
Hurstwood took a glance at his wife. She was frowning. Just now her manner irritated him excessively. Her next remark was addressed to him.
"Have you made up your mind, George, when you will take your vacation?"
It was customary for them to discuss the regular summer outing at this season of the year.
"Not yet," he said, "I'm very busy just now."
"Well, you'll want to make up your mind pretty soon, won't you, if we're going?" she returned.
"I guess we have a few days yet," he said.
"Hmff," she returned. "Don't wait until the season's over."
She stirred in aggravation as she said this.
"There you go again," he observed. "One would think I never did anything, the way you begin."
"Well, I want to know about it," she reiterated.
"You've got a few days yet," he insisted. "You'll not want to start before the races are over."
He was irritated to think that this should come up when he wished to have his thoughts for other purposes.
"Well, we may. Jessica doesn't want to stay until the end of the races."
"What did you want with a season ticket, then?"
"Uh!" she said, using the sound as an exclamation of disgust, "I'll not argue with you," and therewith arose to leave the table.
"Say," he said, rising, putting a note of determination in his voice which caused her to delay her departure, "what's the matter with you of late? Can't I talk with you any more?"
"Certainly, you can TALK with me," she replied, laying emphasis on the word.
"Well, you wouldn't think so by the way you act. Now, you want to know when I'll be ready - not for a month yet. Maybe not then."
"We'll go without you."
"You will, eh?" he sneered.
"Yes, we will."
He was astonished at the woman's determination, but it only irritated him the more.
"Well, we'll see about that. It seems to me you're trying to run things with a pretty high hand of late. You talk as though you settled my affairs for me. Well, you don't. You don't regulate anything that's connected with me. If you want to go, go, but you won't hurry me by any such talk as that."
He was thoroughly aroused now. His dark eyes snapped, and he crunched his paper as he laid it down. Mrs. Hurstwood said nothing more. He was just finishing when she turned on her heel and went out into the hall and upstairs. He paused for a moment, as if hesitating, then sat down and drank a little coffee, and thereafter arose and went for his hat and gloves upon the main floor.
His wife had really not anticipated a row of this character. She had come down to the breakfast table feeling a little out of sorts with herself and revolving a scheme which she had in her mind. Jessica had called her attention to the fact that the races were not what they were supposed to be. The social opportunities were not what they had thought they would be this year. The beautiful girl found going every day a dull thing. There was an earlier exodus this year of people who were anybody to the watering places and Europe. In her own circle of acquaintances several young men in whom she was interested had gone to Waukesha. She began to feel that she would like to go too, and her mother agreed with her.
Accordingly, Mrs. Hurstwood decided to broach the subject. She was thinking this over when she came down to the table, but for some reason the atmosphere was wrong. She was not sure, after it was all over, just how the trouble had begun. She was determined now, however, that her husband was a brute, and that, under no circumstances, would she let this go by unsettled. She would have more lady-like treatment or she would know why.
For his part, the manager was loaded with the care of this new argument until he reached his office and started from there to meet Carrie. Then the other complications of love, desire, and opposition possessed him. His thoughts fled on before him upon eagles' wings. He could hardly wait until he should meet Carrie face to face. What was the night, after all, without her - what the day? She must and should be his.
For her part, Carrie had experienced a world of fancy and feeling since she had left him, the night before. She had listened to Drouet's enthusiastic maunderings with much regard for that part which concerned herself, with very little for that which affected his own gain. She kept him at such lengths as she could, because her thoughts were with her own triumph. She felt Hurstwood's passion as a delightful background to her own achievement, and she wondered what he would have to say. She was sorry for him, too, with that peculiar sorrow which finds something complimentary to itself in the misery of another. She was now experiencing the first shades of feeling of that subtle change which removes one out of the ranks of the suppliants into the lines of the dispensers of charity. She was, all in all, exceedingly happy.
On the morrow, however, there was nothing in the papers concerning the event, and, in view of the flow of common, everyday things about, it now lost a shade of the glow of the previous evening. Drouet himself was not talking so much OF as FOR her. He felt instinctively that, for some reason or other, he needed reconstruction in her regard.
"I think," he said, as he spruced around their chambers the next morning, preparatory to going down town, "that I'll straighten out that little deal of mine this month and then we'll get married. I was talking with Mosher about that yesterday."
"No, you won't," said Carrie, who was coming to feel a certain faint power to jest with the drummer.
"Yes, I will," he exclaimed, more feelingly than usual, adding, with the tone of one who pleads, "Don't you believe what I've told you?"
Carrie laughed a little.
"Of course I do," she answered.
Drouet's assurance now misgave him. Shallow as was his mental observation, there was that in the things which had happened which made his little power of analysis useless. Carrie was still with him, but not helpless and pleading. There was a lilt in her voice which was new. She did not study him with eyes expressive of dependence. The drummer was feeling the shadow of something which was coming. It coloured his feelings and made him develop those little attentions and say those little words which were mere forefendations against danger.
Shortly afterward he departed, and Carrie prepared for her meeting with Hurstwood. She hurried at her toilet, which was soon made, and hastened down the stairs. At the corner she passed Drouet, but they did not see each other.
The drummer had forgotten some bills which he wished to turn into his house. He hastened up the stairs and burst into the room, but found only the chambermaid, who was cleaning up.
"Hello," he exclaimed, half to himself, "has Carrie gone?"
"Your wife? Yes, she went out just a few minutes ago."
"That's strange," thought Drouet. "She didn't say a word to me. I wonder where she went?"
He hastened about, rummaging in his valise for what he wanted, and finally pocketing it. Then he turned his attention to his fair neighbour, who was good-looking and kindly disposed towards him.
"What are you up to?" he said, smiling.
"Just cleaning," she replied, stopping and winding a dusting towel about her hand.
"Tired of it?"
"Not so very."
"Let me show you something," he said, affably, coming over and taking out of his pocket a little lithographed card which had been issued by a wholesale tobacco company. On this was printed a picture of a pretty girl, holding a striped parasol, the colours of which could be changed by means of a revolving disk in the back, which showed red, yellow, green, and blue through little interstices made in the ground occupied by the umbrella top.
"Isn't that clever?" he said, handing it to her and showing her how it worked. "You never saw anything like that before."
"Isn't it nice?" she answered.
"You can have it if you want it," he remarked.
"That's a pretty ring you have," he said, touching a commonplace setting which adorned the hand holding the card he had given her.
"Do you think so?"
"That's right," he answered, making use of a pretence at examination to secure her finger. "That's fine."
The ice being thus broken, he launched into further observation pretending to forget that her fingers were still retained by his. She soon withdrew them, however, and retreated a few feet to rest against the window-sill.
"I didn't see you for a long time," she said, coquettishly, repulsing one of his exuberant approaches. "You must have been away."
"I was," said Drouet.
"Do you travel far?"
"Pretty far - yes."
"Do you like it?"
"Oh, not very well. You get tired of it after a while."
"I wish I could travel," said the girl, gazing idly out of the window.
"What has become of your friend, Mr. Hurstwood?" she suddenly asked, bethinking herself of the manager, who, from her own observation, seemed to contain promising material.
"He's here in town. What makes you ask about him?"
"Oh, nothing, only he hasn't been here since you got back."
"How did you come to know him?"
"Didn't I take up his name a dozen times in the last month?"
"Get out," said the drummer, lightly. "He hasn't called more than half a dozen times since we've been here."
"He hasn't, eh?" said the girl, smiling. "That's all you know about it."
Drouet took on a slightly more serious tone. He was uncertain as to whether she was joking or not.
"Tease," he said, "what makes you smile that way?"
"Have you seen him recently?"
"Not since you came back," she laughed.
"Why, nearly every day."
She was a mischievous newsmonger, and was keenly wondering what the effect of her words would be.
"Who did he come to see?" asked the drummer, incredulously.
He looked rather foolish at this answer, and then attempted to correct himself so as not to appear a dupe.
"Well," he said, "what of it?"
"Nothing," replied the girl, her head cocked coquettishly on one side.
"He's an old friend," he went on, getting deeper into the mire.
He would have gone on further with his little flirtation, but the taste for it was temporarily removed. He was quite relieved when the girl's named was called from below.
"I've got to go," she said, moving away from him airily.
"I'll see you later," he said, with a pretence of disturbance at being interrupted.
When she was gone, he gave freer play to his feelings. His face, never easily controlled by him, expressed all the perplexity and disturbance which he felt. Could it be that Carrie had received so many visits and yet said nothing about them? Was Hurstwood lying? What did the chambermaid mean by it, anyway? He had thought there was something odd about Carrie's manner at the time. Why did she look so disturbed when he had asked her how many times Hurstwood had called? By George! He remembered now. There was something strange about the whole thing.
He sat down in a rocking-chair to think the better, drawing up one leg on his knee and frowning mightily. His mind ran on at a great rate.
And yet Carrie hadn't acted out of the ordinary. It couldn't be, by George, that she was deceiving him. She hadn't acted that way. Why, even last night she had been as friendly toward him as could be, and Hurstwood too. Look how they acted! He could hardly believe they would try to deceive him.
His thoughts burst into words.
"She did act sort of funny at times. Here she had dressed, and gone out this morning and never said a word."
He scratched his head and prepared to go down town. He was still frowning. As he came into the hall he encountered the girl, who was now looking after another chamber. She had on a white dusting cap, beneath which her chubby face shone good-naturedly. Drouet almost forgot his worry in the fact that she was smiling on him. He put his hand familiarly on her shoulder, as if only to greet her in passing.
"Got over being mad?" she said, still mischievously inclined.
"I'm not mad," he answered.
"I thought you were," she said, smiling.
"Quit your fooling about that," he said, in an offhand way. "Were you serious?"
"Certainly," she answered. Then, with an air of one who did not intentionally mean to create trouble, "He came lots of times. I thought you knew."
The game of deception was up with Drouet. He did not try to simulate indifference further.
"Did he spend the evenings here?" he asked.
"Sometimes. Sometimes they went out."
"In the evening?"
"Yes. You mustn't look so mad, though."
"I'm not," he said. "Did any one else see him?"
"Of course," said the girl, as if, after all, it were nothing in particular.
"How long ago was this?"
"Just before you came back."
The drummer pinched his lip nervously.
"Don't say anything, will you?" he asked, giving the girl's arm a gentle squeeze.
"Certainly not," she returned. "I wouldn't worry over it."
"All right," he said, passing on, seriously brooding for once, and yet not wholly unconscious of the fact that he was making a most excellent impression upon the chambermaid.
"I'll see her about that," he said to himself, passionately, feeling that he had been unduly wronged. "I'll find out, b'George, whether she'll act that way or not."
THE LURE OF THE SPIRIT - THE FLESH IN PURSUIT
When Carrie came Hurstwood had been waiting many minutes. His blood was warm; his nerves wrought up. He was anxious to see the woman who had stirred him so profoundly the night before.
"Here you are," he said, repressedly, feeling a spring in his limbs and an elation which was tragic in itself.
"Yes," said Carrie.
They walked on as if bound for some objective point, while Hurstwood drank in the radiance of her presence. The rustle of her pretty skirt was like music to him.
"Are you satisfied?" he asked, thinking of how well she did the night before.
He tightened his fingers as he saw the smile she gave him.
"It was wonderful."
Carrie laughed ecstatically.
"That was one of the best things I've seen in a long time," he added.
He was dwelling on her attractiveness as he had felt it the evening before, and mingling it with the feeling her presence inspired now.
Carrie was dwelling in the atmosphere which this man created for her. Already she was enlivened and suffused with a glow. She felt his drawing toward her in every sound of his voice.
"Those were such nice flowers you sent me," she said, after a moment or two. "They were beautiful."
"Glad you liked them," he answered, simply.
He was thinking all the time that the subject of his desire was being delayed. He was anxious to turn the talk to his own feelings. All was ripe for it. His Carrie was beside him. He wanted to plunge in and expostulate with her, and yet he found himself fishing for words and feeling for a way.
"You got home all right," he said, gloomily, of a sudden, his tune modifying itself to one of self-commiseration.
"Yes," said Carrie, easily.
He looked at her steadily for a moment, slowing his pace and fixing her with his eye.
She felt the flood of feeling.
"How about me?" he asked.
This confused Carrie considerably, for she realised the flood- gates were open. She didn't know exactly what to answer. "I don't know," she answered.
He took his lower lip between his teeth for a moment, and then let it go. He stopped by the walk side and kicked the grass with his toe. He searched her face with a tender, appealing glance.
"Won't you come away from him?" he asked, intensely.
"I don't know," returned Carrie, still illogically drifting and finding nothing at which to catch.
As a matter of fact, she was in a most hopeless quandary. Here was a man whom she thoroughly liked, who exercised an influence over her, sufficient almost to delude her into the belief that she was possessed of a lively passion for him. She was still the victim of his keen eyes, his suave manners, his fine clothes. She looked and saw before her a man who was most gracious and sympathetic, who leaned toward her with a feeling that was a delight to observe. She could not resist the glow of his temperament, the light of his eye. She could hardly keep from feeling what he felt.
And yet she was not without thoughts which were disturbing. What did he know? What had Drouet told him? Was she a wife in his eyes, or what? Would he marry her? Even while he talked, and she softened, and her eyes were lighted with a tender glow, she was asking herself if Drouet had told him they were not married. There was never anything at all convincing about what Drouet said.
And yet she was not grieved at Hurstwood's love. No strain of bitterness was in it for her, whatever he knew. He was evidently sincere. His passion was real and warm. There was power in what he said. What should she do? She went on thinking this, answering vaguely, languishing affectionately, and altogether drifting, until she was on a borderless sea of speculation.
"Why don't you come away?" he said, tenderly. "I will arrange for you whatever - "
"Oh, don't," said Carrie.
"Don't what?" he asked. "What do you mean?"
There was a look of confusion and pain in her face. She was wondering why that miserable thought must be brought in. She was struck as by a blade with the miserable provision which was outside the pale of marriage.
He himself realized that it was a wretched thing to have dragged in. He wanted to weigh the effects of it, and yet he could not see. He went beating on, flushed by her presence, clearly awakened, intensely enlisted in his plan.
"Won't you come?" he said, beginning over and with a more reverent feeling. "You know I can't do without you - you know it - it can't go on this way - can it?"
"I know," said Carrie.
"I wouldn't ask if I - I wouldn't argue with you if I could help it. Look at me, Carrie. Put yourself in my place. You don't want to stay away from me, do you?"
She shook her head as if in deep thought. "Then why not settle the whole thing, once and for all?"
"I don't know," said Carrie.
"Don't know! Ah, Carrie, what makes you say that? Don't torment me. Be serious."
"I am," said Carrie, softly.
"You can't be, dearest, and say that. Not when you know how I love you. Look at last night."
His manner as he said this was the most quiet imaginable. His face and body retained utter composure. Only his eyes moved, and they flashed a subtle, dissolving fire. In them the whole intensity of the man's nature was distilling itself.
Carrie made no answer.
"How can you act this way, dearest?" he inquired, after a time. "You love me, don't you?"
He turned on her such a storm of feeling that she was overwhelmed. For the moment all doubts were cleared away.
"Yes," she answered, frankly and tenderly.
"Well, then you'll come, won't you - come to-night?"
Carrie shook her head in spite of her distress.
"I can't wait any longer," urged Hurstwood. "If that is too soon, come Saturday."
"When will we be married?" she asked, diffidently, forgetting in her difficult situation that she had hoped he took her to be Drouet's wife.
The manager started, hit as he was by a problem which was more difficult than hers. He gave no sign of the thoughts that flashed like messages to his mind.
"Any time you say," he said, with ease, refusing to discolour his present delight with this miserable problem.
"Saturday?" asked Carrie.
He nodded his head.
"Well, if you will marry me then," she said, "I'll go."
The manager looked at his lovely prize, so beautiful, so winsome, so difficult to be won, and made strange resolutions. His passion had gotten to that stage now where it was no longer coloured with reason. He did not trouble over little barriers of this sort in the face of so much loveliness. He would accept the situation with all its difficulties; he would not try to answer the objections which cold truth thrust upon him. He would promise anything, everything, and trust to fortune to disentangle him. He would make a try for Paradise, whatever might be the result. He would be happy, by the Lord, if it cost all honesty of statement, all abandonment of truth.
Carrie looked at him tenderly. She could have laid her head upon his shoulder, so delightful did it all seem. "Well," she said, "I'll try and get ready then."
Hurstwood looked into her pretty face, crossed with little shadows of wonder and misgiving, and thought he had never seen anything more lovely.
"I'll see you again to-morrow," he said, joyously, "and we'll talk over the plans."
He walked on with her, elated beyond words, so delightful had been the result. He impressed a long story of joy and affection upon her, though there was but here and there a word. After a half-hour he began to realise that the meeting must come to an end, so exacting is the world.
"To-morrow," he said at parting, a gayety of manner adding wonderfully to his brave demeanour.
"Yes," said Carrie, tripping elatedly away.
There had been so much enthusiasm engendered that she was believing herself deeply in love. She sighed as she thought of her handsome adorer. Yes, she would get ready by Saturday. She would go, and they would be happy.
THE BLAZE OF THE TINDER - FLESH WARS WITH THE FLESH
The misfortune of the Hurstwood household was due to the fact that jealousy, having been born of love, did not perish with it. Mrs. Hurstwood retained this in such form that subsequent influences could transform it into hate. Hurstwood was still worthy, in a physical sense, of the affection his wife had once bestowed upon him, but in a social sense he fell short. With his regard died his power to be attentive to her, and this, to a woman, is much greater than outright crime toward another. Our self-love dictates our appreciation of the good or evil in another. In Mrs. Hurstwood it discoloured the very hue of her husband's indifferent nature. She saw design in deeds and phrases which sprung only from a faded appreciation of her presence.
As a consequence, she was resentful and suspicious. The jealousy that prompted her to observe every falling away from the little amenities of the married relation on his part served to give her notice of the airy grace with which he still took the world. She could see from the scrupulous care which he exercised in the matter of his personal appearance that his interest in life had abated not a jot. Every motion, every glance had something in it of the pleasure he felt in Carrie, of the zest this new pursuit of pleasure lent to his days. Mrs. Hurstwood felt something, sniffing change, as animals do danger, afar off.
This feeling was strengthened by actions of a direct and more potent nature on the part of Hurstwood. We have seen with what irritation he shirked those little duties which no longer contained any amusement of satisfaction for him, and the open snarls with which, more recently, he resented her irritating goads. These little rows were really precipitated by an atmosphere which was surcharged with dissension. That it would shower, with a sky so full of blackening thunderclouds, would scarcely be thought worthy of comment. Thus, after leaving the breakfast table this morning, raging inwardly at his blank declaration of indifference at her plans, Mrs. Hurstwood encountered Jessica in her dressing-room, very leisurely arranging her hair. Hurstwood had already left the house.
"I wish you wouldn't be so late coming down to breakfast," she said, addressing Jessica, while making for her crochet basket. "Now here the things are quite cold, and you haven't eaten."
Her natural composure was sadly ruffled, and Jessica was doomed to feel the fag end of the storm.
"I'm not hungry," she answered.
"Then why don't you say so, and let the girl put away the things, instead of keeping her waiting all morning?"
"She doesn't mind," answered Jessica, coolly.
"Well, I do, if she doesn't," returned the mother, "and, anyhow, I don't like you to talk that way to me. You're too young to put on such an air with your mother."
"Oh, mamma, don't row,"; answered Jessica. "What's the matter this morning, anyway?"
"Nothing's the matter, and I'm not rowing. You mustn't think because I indulge you in some things that you can keep everybody waiting. I won't have it."
"I'm not keeping anybody waiting," returned Jessica, sharply, stirred out of a cynical indifference to a sharp defence. "I said I wasn't hungry. I don't want any breakfast."
"Mind how you address me, missy. I'll not have it. Hear me now; I'll not have it!"
Jessica heard this last while walking out of the room, with a toss of her head and a flick of her pretty skirts indicative of the independence and indifference she felt. She did not propose to be quarrelled with.
Such little arguments were all too frequent, the result of a growth of natures which were largely independent and selfish. George, Jr., manifested even greater touchiness and exaggeration in the matter of his individual rights, and attempted to make all feel that he was a man with a man's privileges - an assumption which, of all things, is most groundless and pointless in a youth of nineteen.
Hurstwood was a man of authority and some fine feeling, and it irritated him excessively to find himself surrounded more and more by a world upon which he had no hold, and of which he had a lessening understanding.
Now, when such little things, such as the proposed earlier start to Waukesha, came up, they made clear to him his position. He was being made to follow, was not leading. When, in addition, a sharp temper was manifested, and to the process of shouldering him out of his authority was added a rousing intellectual kick, such as a sneer or a cynical laugh, he was unable to keep his temper. He flew into hardly repressed passion, and wished himself clear of the whole household. It seemed a most irritating drag upon all his desires and opportunities.
For all this, he still retained the semblance of leadership and control, even though his wife was straining to revolt. Her display of temper and open assertion of opposition were based upon nothing more than the feeling that she could do it. She had no special evidence wherewith to justify herself - the knowledge of something which would give her both authority and excuse. The latter was all that was lacking, however, to give a solid foundation to what, in a way, seemed groundless discontent. The clear proof of one overt deed was the cold breath needed to convert the lowering clouds of suspicion into a rain of wrath.
An inkling of untoward deeds on the part of Hurstwood had come. Doctor Beale, the handsome resident physician of the neighbourhood, met Mrs. Hurstwood at her own doorstep some days after Hurstwood and Carrie had taken the drive west on Washington
Boulevard. Dr. Beale, coming east on the same drive, had recognised Hurstwood, but not before he was quite past him. He was not so sure of Carrie - did not know whether it was Hurstwood's wife or daughter.
"You don't speak to your friends when you meet them out driving, do you?" he said, jocosely, to Mrs. Hurstwood.
"If I see them, I do. Where was I?"
"On Washington Boulevard." he answered, expecting her eye to light with immediate remembrance.
She shook her head.
"Yes, out near Hoyne Avenue. You were with your husband."
"I guess you're mistaken," she answered. Then, remembering her husband's part in the affair, she immediately fell a prey to a host of young suspicions, of which, however, she gave no sign.
"I know I saw your husband," he went on. "I wasn't so sure about you. Perhaps it was your daughter."
"Perhaps it was," said Mrs. Hurstwood, knowing full well that such was not the case, as Jessica had been her companion for weeks. She had recovered herself sufficiently to wish to know more of the details.
"Was it in the afternoon?" she asked, artfully, assuming an air of acquaintanceship with the matter.
"Yes, about two or three."
"It must have been Jessica," said Mrs. Hurstwood, not wishing to seem to attach any importance to the incident.
The physician had a thought or two of his own, but dismissed the matter as worthy of no further discussion on his part at least.
Mrs. Hurstwood gave this bit of information considerable thought during the next few hours, and even days. She took it for granted that the doctor had really seen her husband, and that he had been riding, most likely, with some other woman, after announcing himself as BUSY to her. As a consequence, she recalled, with rising feeling, how often he had refused to go to places with her, to share in little visits, or, indeed, take part in any of the social amenities which furnished the diversion of her existence. He had been seen at the theatre with people whom he called Moy's friends; now he was seen driving, and, most likely, would have an excuse for that. Perhaps there were others of whom she did not hear, or why should he be so busy, so indifferent, of late? In the last six weeks he had become strangely irritable - strangely satisfied to pick up and go out, whether things were right or wrong in the house. Why?
She recalled, with more subtle emotions, that he did not look at her now with any of the old light of satisfaction or approval in his eye. Evidently, along with other things, he was taking her to be getting old and uninteresting. He saw her wrinkles, perhaps. She was fading, while he was still preening himself in his elegance and youth. He was still an interested factor in the merry-makings of the world, while she - but she did not pursue the thought. She only found the whole situation bitter, and hated him for it thoroughly.
Nothing came of this incident at the time, for the truth is it did not seem conclusive enough to warrant any discussion. Only the atmosphere of distrust and ill-feeling was strengthened, precipitating every now and then little sprinklings of irritable conversation, enlivened by flashes of wrath. The matter of the Waukesha outing was merely a continuation of other things of the same nature.
The day after Carrie's appearance on the Avery stage, Mrs. Hurstwood visited the races with Jessica and a youth of her acquaintance, Mr. Bart Taylor, the son of the owner of a local house-furnishing establishment. They had driven out early, and, as it chanced, encountered several friends of Hurstwood, all Elks, and two of whom had attended the performance the evening before. A thousand chances the subject of the performance had never been brought up had Jessica not been so engaged by the attentions of her young companion, who usurped as much time as possible. This left Mrs. Hurstwood in the mood to extend the perfunctory greetings of some who knew her into short conversations, and the short conversations of friends into long ones. It was from one who meant but to greet her perfunctorily that this interesting intelligence came.
"I see," said this individual, who wore sporting clothes of the most attractive pattern, and had a field-glass strung over his shoulder, "that you did not get over to our little entertainment last evening."
"No?" said Mrs. Hurstwood, inquiringly, and wondering why he should be using the tone he did in noting the fact that she had not been to something she knew nothing about. It was on her lips to say, "What was it?" when he added, "I saw your husband."
Her wonder was at once replaced by the more subtle quality of suspicion.
"Yes," she said, cautiously, "was it pleasant? He did not tell me much about it."
"Very. Really one of the best private theatricals I ever attended. There was one actress who surprised us all."
"Indeed," said Mrs. Hurstwood.
"It's too bad you couldn't have been there, really. I was sorry to hear you weren't feeling well."
Feeling well! Mrs. Hurstwood could have echoed the words after him open-mouthed. As it was, she extricated herself from her mingled impulse to deny and question, and said, almost raspingly:
"Yes, it is too bad."
"Looks like there will be quite a crowd here to-day, doesn't it?" the acquaintance observed, drifting off upon another topic.
The manager's wife would have questioned farther, but she saw no opportunity. She was for the moment wholly at sea, anxious to think for herself, and wondering what new deception was this which caused him to give out that she was ill when she was not. Another case of her company not wanted, and excuses being made. She resolved to find out more.
"Were you at the performance last evening?" she asked of the next of Hurstwood's friends who greeted her as she sat in her box.
"Yes. You didn't get around."
"No," she answered, "I was not feeling very well."
"So your husband told me," he answered. "Well, it was really very enjoyable. Turned out much better than I expected."
"Were there many there?"
"The house was full. It was quite an Elk night. I saw quite a number of your friends - Mrs. Harrison, Mrs. Barnes, Mrs. Collins."
"Quite a social gathering."
"Indeed it was. My wife enjoyed it very much."
Mrs. Hurstwood bit her lip.
"So," she thought, "that's the way he does. Tells my friends I am sick and cannot come."
She wondered what could induce him to go alone. There was something back of this. She rummaged her brain for a reason.
By evening, when Hurstwood reached home, she had brooded herself into a state of sullen desire for explanation and revenge. She wanted to know what this peculiar action of his imported. She was certain there was more behind it all than what she had heard, and evil curiosity mingled well with distrust and the remnants of her wrath of the morning. She, impending disaster itself, walked about with gathered shadow at the eyes and the rudimentary muscles of savagery fixing the hard lines of her mouth.
On the other hand, as we may well believe, the manager came home in the sunniest mood. His conversation and agreement with Carrie had raised his spirits until he was in the frame of mind of one who sings joyously. He was proud of himself, proud of his success, proud of Carrie. He could have been genial to all the world, and he bore no grudge against his wife. He meant to be pleasant, to forget her presence, to live in the atmosphere of youth and pleasure which had been restored to him.
So now, the house, to his mind, had a most pleasing and comfortable appearance. In the hall he found an evening paper, laid there by the maid and forgotten by Mrs. Hurstwood. In the dining-room the table was clean laid with linen and napery and shiny with glasses and decorated china. Through an open door he saw into the kitchen, where the fire was crackling in the stove and the evening meal already well under way. Out in the small back yard was George, Jr., frolicking with a young dog he had recently purchased, and in the parlour Jessica was playing at the piano, the sounds of a merry waltz filling every nook and corner of the comfortable home. Every one, like himself, seemed to have regained his good spirits, to be in sympathy with youth and beauty, to be inclined to joy and merry-making. He felt as if he could say a good word all around himself, and took a most genial glance at the spread table and polished sideboard before going upstairs to read his paper in the comfortable armchair of the sitting-room which looked through the open windows into the street. When he entered there, however, he found his wife brushing her hair and musing to herself the while.
He came lightly in, thinking to smooth over any feeling that might still exist by a kindly word and a ready promise, but Mrs. Hurstwood said nothing. He seated himself in the large chair, stirred lightly in making himself comfortable, opened his paper, and began to read. In a few moments he was smiling merrily over a very comical account of a baseball game which had taken place between the Chicago and Detroit teams.
The while he was doing this Mrs. Hurstwood was observing him casually through the medium of the mirror which was before her. She noticed his pleasant and contented manner, his airy grace and smiling humour, and it merely aggravated her the more. She wondered how he could think to carry himself so in her presence after the cynicism, indifference, and neglect he had heretofore manifested and would continue to manifest so long as she would endure it. She thought how she should like to tell him - what stress and emphasis she would lend her assertions, how she should drive over this whole affair until satisfaction should be rendered her. Indeed, the shining sword of her wrath was but weakly suspended by a thread of thought.
In the meanwhile Hurstwood encountered a humorous item concerning a stranger who had arrived in the city and became entangled with a bunco-steerer. It amused him immensely, and at last he stirred and chuckled to himself. He wished that he might enlist his wife's attention and read it to her.
"Ha, ha," he exclaimed softly, as if to himself, "that's funny."
Mrs. Hurstwood kept on arranging her hair, not so much as deigning a glance.
He stirred again and went on to another subject. At last he felt as if his good-humour must find some outlet. Julia was probably still out of humour over that affair of this morning, but that could easily be straightened. As a matter of fact, she was in the wrong, but he didn't care. She could go to Waukesha right away if she wanted to. The sooner the better. He would tell her that as soon as he got a chance, and the whole thing would blow over.
"Did you notice," he said, at last, breaking forth concerning another item which he had found, "that they have entered suit to compel the Illinois Central to get off the lake front, Julia?" he asked.
She could scarcely force herself to answer, but managed to say "No," sharply.
Hurstwood pricked up his ears. There was a note in her voice which vibrated keenly.
"It would be a good thing if they did," he went on, half to himself, half to her, though he felt that something was amiss in that quarter. He withdrew his attention to his paper very circumspectly, listening mentally for the little sounds which should show him what was on foot.
As a matter of fact, no man as clever as Hurstwood - as observant and sensitive to atmospheres of many sorts, particularly upon his own plane of thought - would have made the mistake which he did in regard to his wife, wrought up as she was, had he not been occupied mentally with a very different train of thought. Had not the influence of Carrie's regard for him, the elation which her promise aroused in him, lasted over, he would not have seen the house in so pleasant a mood. It was not extraordinarily bright and merry this evening. He was merely very much mistaken, and would have been much more fitted to cope with it had he come home in his normal state.
After he had studied his paper a few moments longer, he felt that he ought to modify matters in some way or other. Evidently his wife was not going to patch up peace at a word. So he said:
"Where did George get the dog he has there in the yard?"
"I don't know," she snapped.
He put his paper down on his knees and gazed idly out of the window. He did not propose to lose his temper, but merely to be persistent and agreeable, and by a few questions bring around a mild understanding of some sort.
"Why do you feel so bad about that affair of this morning? he said, at last. "We needn't quarrel about that. You know you can go to Waukesha if you want to."
"So you can stay here and trifle around with some one else?" she exclaimed, turning to him a determined countenance upon which was drawn a sharp and wrathful sneer.
He stopped as if slapped in the face. In an instant his persuasive, conciliatory manner fled. He was on the defensive at a wink and puzzled for a word to reply.
"What do you mean?" he said at last, straightening himself and gazing at the cold, determined figure before him, who paid no attention, but went on arranging herself before the mirror.
"You know what I mean," she said, finally, as if there were a world of information which she held in reserve - which she did not need to tell.
"Well, I don't," he said, stubbornly, yet nervous and alert for what should come next. The finality of the woman's manner took away his feeling of superiority in battle.
She made no answer.
"Hmph!" he murmured, with a movement of his head to one side. It was the weakest thing he had ever done. It was totally unassured.
Mrs. Hurstwood noticed the lack of colour in it. She turned upon him, animal-like, able to strike an effectual second blow.
"I want the Waukesha money to-morrow morning," she said.
He looked at her in amazement. Never before had he seen such a cold, steely determination in her eye - such a cruel look of indifference. She seemed a thorough master of her mood - thoroughly confident and determined to wrest all control from him. He felt that all his resources could not defend him. He must attack.
"What do you mean?" he said, jumping up. "You want! I'd like to know what's got into you to-night."
"Nothing's GOT into me," she said, flaming. "I want that money. You can do your swaggering afterwards."
"Swaggering, eh! What! You'll get nothing from me. What do you mean by your insinuations, anyhow?"
"Where were you last night?" she answered. The words were hot as they came. "Who were you driving with on Washington Boulevard? Who were you with at the theatre when George saw you? Do you think I'm a fool to be duped by you? Do you think I'll sit at home here and take your 'too busys' and 'can't come,' while you parade around and make out that I'm unable to come? I want you to know that lordly airs have come to an end so far as I am concerned. You can't dictate to me nor my children. I'm through with you entirely."
"It's a lie," he said, driven to a corner and knowing no other excuse.
"Lie, eh!" she said, fiercely, but with returning reserve; "you may call it a lie if you want to, but I know."
"It's a lie, I tell you," he said, in a low, sharp voice. "You've been searching around for some cheap accusation for months and now you think you have it. You think you'll spring something and get the upper hand. Well, I tell you, you can't. As long as I'm in this house I'm master of it, and you or any one else won't dictate to me - do you hear?"
He crept toward her with a light in his eye that was ominous. Something in the woman's cool, cynical, upper-handish manner, as if she were already master, caused him to feel for the moment as if he could strangle her.
She gazed at him - a pythoness in humour.
"I'm not dictating to you," she returned; "I'm telling you what I want."
The answer was so cool, so rich in bravado, that somehow it took the wind out of his sails. He could not attack her, he could not ask her for proofs. Somehow he felt evidence, law, the remembrance of all his property which she held in her name, to be shining in her glance. He was like a vessel, powerful and dangerous, but rolling and floundering without sail.
"And I'm telling you," he said in the end, slightly recovering himself, "what you'll not get."
"We'll see about it," she said. "I'll find out what my rights are. Perhaps you'll talk to a lawyer, if you won't to me."
It was a magnificent play, and had its effect. Hurstwood fell back beaten. He knew now that he had more than mere bluff to contend with. He felt that he was face to face with a dull proposition. What to say he hardly knew. All the merriment had gone out of the day. He was disturbed, wretched, resentful. What should he do? "Do as you please," he said, at last. "I'll have nothing more to do with you," and out he strode.
A SPIRIT IN TRAVAIL - ONE RUNG PUT BEHIND
When Carrie reached her own room she had already fallen a prey to those doubts and misgivings which are ever the result of a lack of decision. She could not persuade herself as to the advisability of her promise, or that now, having given her word, she ought to keep it. She went over the whole ground in Hurstwood's absence, and discovered little objections that had not occurred to her in the warmth of the manager's argument. She saw where she had put herself in a peculiar light, namely, that of agreeing to marry when she was already supposedly married. She remembered a few things Drouet had done, and now that it came to walking away from him without a word, she felt as if she were doing wrong. Now, she was comfortably situated, and to one who is more or less afraid of the world, this is an urgent matter, and one which puts up strange, uncanny arguments. "You do not know what will come. There are miserable things outside. People go a-begging. Women are wretched. You never can tell what will happen. Remember the time you were hungry. Stick to what you have."
Curiously, for all her leaning towards Hurstwood, he had not taken a firm hold on her understanding. She was listening, smiling, approving, and yet not finally agreeing. This was due to a lack of power on his part, a lack of that majesty of passion that sweeps the mind from its seat, fuses and melts all arguments and theories into a tangled mass, and destroys for the time being the reasoning power. This majesty of passion is possessed by nearly every man once in his life, but it is usually an attribute of youth and conduces to the first successful mating.
Hurstwood, being an older man, could scarcely be said to retain the fire of youth, though he did possess a passion warm and unreasoning. It was strong enough to induce the leaning toward him which, on Carrie's part, we have seen. She might have been said to be imagining herself in love, when she was not. Women frequently do this. It flows from the fact that in each exists a bias toward affection, a craving for the pleasure of being loved. The longing to be shielded, bettered, sympathised with, is one of the attributes of the sex. This, coupled with sentiment and a natural tendency to emotion, often makes refusing difficult. It persuades them that they are in love.
Once at home, she changed her clothes and straightened the rooms for herself. In the matter of the arrangement of the furniture she never took the housemaid's opinion. That young woman invariably put one of the rocking-chairs in the corner, and Carrie as regularly moved it out. To-day she hardly noticed that it was in the wrong place, so absorbed was she in her own thoughts. She worked about the room until Drouet put in appearance at five o'clock. The drummer was flushed and excited and full of determination to know all about her relations with Hurstwood. Nevertheless, after going over the subject in his mind the livelong day, he was rather weary of it and wished it over with. He did not foresee serious consequences of any sort, and yet he rather hesitated to begin. Carrie was sitting by the window when he came in, rocking and looking out. "Well," she said innocently, weary of her own mental discussion and wondering at his haste and ill-concealed excitement, "what makes you hurry so?"
Drouet hesitated, now that he was in her presence, uncertain as to what course to pursue. He was no diplomat. He could neither read nor see.
"When did you get home?" he asked foolishly.
"Oh, an hour or so ago. What makes you ask that?"
"You weren't here," he said, "when I came back this morning, and I thought you had gone out."
"So I did," said Carrie simply. "I went for a walk."
Drouet looked at her wonderingly. For all his lack of dignity in such matters he did not know how to begin. He stared at her in the most flagrant manner until at last she said:
"What makes you stare at me so? What's the matter?"
"Nothing," he answered. "I was just thinking."
"Just thinking what?" she returned smilingly, puzzled by his attitude.
"Oh, nothing - nothing much."
"Well, then, what makes you look so?"
Drouet was standing by the dresser, gazing at her in a comic manner. He had laid off his hat and gloves and was now fidgeting with the little toilet pieces which were nearest him. He hesitated to believe that the pretty woman before him was involved in anything so unsatisfactory to himself. He was very much inclined to feel that it was all right, after all. Yet the knowledge imparted to him by the chambermaid was rankling in his mind. He wanted to plunge in with a straight remark of some sort, but he knew not what.
"Where did you go this morning?" he finally asked weakly.
"Why, I went for a walk," said Carrie.
"Sure you did?" he asked.
"Yes, what makes you ask?"
She was beginning to see now that he knew something. Instantly she drew herself into a more reserved position. Her cheeks blanched slightly.
"I thought maybe you didn't," he said, beating about the bush in the most useless manner.
Carrie gazed at him, and as she did so her ebbing courage halted. She saw that he himself was hesitating, and with a woman's intuition realised that there was no occasion for great alarm.
"What makes you talk like that?" she asked, wrinkling her pretty forehead. "You act so funny to-night."
"I feel funny," he answered. They looked at one another for a moment, and then Drouet plunged desperately into his subject.
"What's this about you and Hurstwood?" he asked.
"Me and Hurstwood - what do you mean?"
"Didn't he come here a dozen times while I was away?"
"A dozen times," repeated Carrie, guiltily. "No, but what do you mean?"
"Somebody said that you went out riding with him and that he came here every night."
"No such thing," answered Carrie. "It isn't true. Who told you that?"
She was flushing scarlet to the roots of her hair, but Drouet did not catch the full hue of her face, owing to the modified light of the room. He was regaining much confidence as Carrie defended herself with denials.
"Well, some one," he said. "You're sure you didn't?"
"Certainly," said Carrie. "You know how often he came."
Drouet paused for a moment and thought.
"I know what you told me," he said finally.
He moved nervously about, while Carrie looked at him confusedly.
"Well, I know that I didn't tell you any such thing as that," said Carrie, recovering herself.
"If I were you," went on Drouet, ignoring her last remark, "I wouldn't have anything to do with him. He's a married man, you know."
"Who - who is?" said Carrie, stumbling at the word.
"Why, Hurstwood," said Drouet, noting the effect and feeling that he was delivering a telling blow.
"Hurstwood!" exclaimed Carrie, rising. Her face had changed several shades since this announcement was made. She looked within and without herself in a half-dazed way.
"Who told you this?" she asked, forgetting that her interest was out of order and exceedingly incriminating.
"Why, I know it. I've always known it," said Drouet.
Carrie was feeling about for a right thought. She was making a most miserable showing, and yet feelings were generating within her which were anything but crumbling cowardice.
"I thought I told you," he added.
"No, you didn't," she contradicted, suddenly recovering her voice. "You didn't do anything of the kind."
Drouet listened to her in astonishment. This was something new.
"I thought I did," he said.
Carrie looked around her very solemnly, and then went over to the window.
"You oughtn't to have had anything to do with him," said Drouet in an injured tone, "after all I've done for you."
"You," said Carrie, "you! What have you done for me?"
Her little brain had been surging with contradictory feelings - shame at exposure, shame at Hurstwood's perfidy, anger at Drouet's deception, the mockery he had made at her. Now one clear idea came into her head. He was at fault. There was no doubt about it. Why did he bring Hurstwood out - Hurstwood, a married man, and never say a word to her? Never mind now about Hurstwood's perfidy - why had he done this? Why hadn't he warned her? There he stood now, guilty of this miserable breach of confidence and talking about what he had done for her!
"Well, I like that," exclaimed Drouet, little realising the fire his remark had generated. "I think I've done a good deal."
"You have, eh?" she answered. "You've deceived me - that's what you've done. You've brought your old friends out here under false pretences. You've made me out to be - Oh," and with this her voice broke and she pressed her two little hands together tragically.
"I don't see what that's got to do with it," said the drummer quaintly.
"No," she answered, recovering herself and shutting her teeth. "No, of course you don't see. There isn't anything you see. You couldn't have told me in the first place, could you? You had to make me out wrong until it was too late. Now you come sneaking around with your information and your talk about what you have done."
Drouet had never suspected this side of Carrie's nature. She was alive with feeling, her eyes snapping, her lips quivering, her whole body sensible of the injury she felt, and partaking of her wrath.
"Who's sneaking?" he asked, mildly conscious of error on his part, but certain that he was wronged.
"You are," stamped Carrie. "You're a horrid, conceited coward, that's what you are. If you had any sense of manhood in you, you wouldn't have thought of doing any such thing."
The drummer stared.
"I'm not a coward," he said. "What do you mean by going with other men, anyway?"
"Other men!" exclaimed Carrie. "Other men - you know better than that. I did go with Mr. Hurstwood, but whose fault was it? Didn't you bring him here? You told him yourself that he should come out here and take me out. Now, after it's all over, you come and tell me that I oughtn't to go with him and that he's a married man."
She paused at the sound of the last two words and wrung her hands. The knowledge of Hurstwood's perfidy wounded her like a knife. "Oh," she sobbed, repressing herself wonderfully and keeping her eyes dry. "Oh, oh!"
"Well, I didn't think you'd be running around with him when I was away," insisted Drouet.
"Didn't think!" said Carrie, now angered to the core by the man's peculiar attitude. "Of course not. You thought only of what would be to your satisfaction. You thought you'd make a toy of me - a plaything. Well, I'll show you that you won't. I'll have nothing more to do with you at all. You can take your old things and keep them," and unfastening a little pin he had given her, she flung it vigorously upon the floor and began to move about as if to gather up the things which belonged to her.
By this Drouet was not only irritated but fascinated the more. He looked at her in amazement, and finally said:
"I don't see where your wrath comes in. I've got the right of this thing. You oughtn't to have done anything that wasn't right after all I did for you."
"What have you done for me?" asked Carrie blazing, her head thrown back and her lips parted.
"I think I've done a good deal," said the drummer, looking around. "I've given you all the clothes you wanted, haven't I? I've taken you everywhere you wanted to go. You've had as much as I've had, and more too."
Carrie was not ungrateful, whatever else might be said of her. In so far as her mind could construe, she acknowledged benefits received. She hardly knew how to answer this, and yet her wrath was not placated. She felt that the drummer had injured her irreparably.
"Did I ask you to?" she returned.
"Well, I did it," said Drouet, "and you took it."
"You talk as though I had persuaded you," answered Carrie. "You stand there and throw up what you've done. I don't want your old things. I'll not have them. You take them to-night and do what you please with them. I'll not stay here another minute."
"That's nice!" he answered, becoming angered now at the sense of his own approaching loss. "Use everything and abuse me and then walk off. That's just like a woman. I take you when you haven't got anything, and then when some one else comes along, why I'm no good. I always thought it'd come out that way."
He felt really hurt as he thought of his treatment, and looked as if he saw no way of obtaining justice.
"It's not so," said Carrie, "and I'm not going with anybody else. You have been as miserable and inconsiderate as you can be. I hate you, I tell you, and I wouldn't live with you another minute. You're a big, insulting" - here she hesitated and used no word at all - "or you wouldn't talk that way."
She had secured her hat and jacket and slipped the latter on over her little evening dress. Some wisps of wavy hair had loosened from the bands at the side of her head and were straggling over her hot, red cheeks. She was angry, mortified, grief-stricken. Her large eyes were full of the anguish of tears, but her lids were not yet wet. She was distracted and uncertain, deciding and doing things without an aim or conclusion, and she had not the slightest conception of how the whole difficulty would end.
"Well, that's a fine finish," said Drouet. "Pack up and pull out, eh? You take the cake. I bet you were knocking around with Hurstwood or you wouldn't act like that. I don't want the old rooms. You needn't pull out for me. You can have them for all I care, but b'George, you haven't done me right."
"I'll not live with you," said Carrie. "I don't want to live with you. You've done nothing but brag around ever since you've been here."
"Aw, I haven't anything of the kind," he answered.
Carrie walked over to the door.
"Where are you going?" he said, stepping over and heading her off.
"Let me out," she said.
"Where are you going?" he repeated.
He was, above all, sympathetic, and the sight of Carrie wandering out, he knew not where, affected him, despite his grievance.
Carrie merely pulled at the door.
The strain of the situation was too much for her, however. She made one more vain effort and then burst into tears.
"Now, be reasonable, Cad," said Drouet gently. "What do you want to rush out for this way? You haven't any place to go. Why not stay here now and be quiet? I'll not bother you. I don't want to stay here any longer."
Carrie had gone sobbing from the door to the window. She was so overcome she could not speak.
"Be reasonable now," he said. "I don't want to hold you. You can go if you want to, but why don't you think it over? Lord knows, I don't want to stop you."
He received no answer. Carrie was quieting, however, under the influence of his plea.
"You stay here now, and I'll go," he added at last.
Carrie listened to this with mingled feelings. Her mind was shaken loose from the little mooring of logic that it had. She was stirred by this thought, angered by that - her own injustice, Hurstwood's, Drouet's, their respective qualities of kindness and favour, the threat of the world outside, in which she had failed once before, the impossibility of this state inside, where the chambers were no longer justly hers, the effect of the argument upon her nerves, all combined to make her a mass of jangling fibres - an anchorless, storm-beaten little craft which could do absolutely nothing but drift.
"Say," said Drouet, coming over to her after a few moments, with a new idea, and putting his hand upon her.
"Don't!" said Carrie, drawing away, but not removing her handkerchief from her eyes. "Never mind about this quarrel now. Let it go. You stay here until the month's out, anyhow, and then you can tell better what you want to do. Eh?"
Carrie made no answer.
"You'd better do that," he said. "There's no use your packing up now. You can't go anywhere."
Still he got nothing for his words.
"If you'll do that, we'll call it off for the present and I'll get out."
Carrie lowered her handkerchief slightly and looked out of the window.
"Will you do that?" he asked.
Still no answer.
"Will you?" he repeated.
She only looked vaguely into the street.
"Aw! come on," he said, "tell me. Will you?"
"I don't know," said Carrie softly, forced to answer.
"Promise me you'll do that," he said, "and we'll quit talking about it. It'll be the best thing for you."
Carrie heard him, but she could not bring herself to answer reasonably. She felt that the man was gentle, and that his interest in her had not abated, and it made her suffer a pang of regret. She was in a most helpless plight.
As for Drouet, his attitude had been that of the jealous lover. Now his feelings were a mixture of anger at deception, sorrow at losing Carrie, misery at being defeated. He wanted his rights in some way or other, and yet his rights included the retaining of Carrie, the making her feel her error.
"Will you?" he urged.
"Well, I'll see," said Carrie.
This left the matter as open as before, but it was something. It looked as if the quarrel would blow over, if they could only get some way of talking to one another. Carrie was ashamed, and Drouet aggrieved. He pretended to take up the task of packing some things in a valise.
Now, as Carrie watched him out of the corner of her eye, certain sound thoughts came into her head. He had erred, true, but what had she done? He was kindly and good-natured for all his egotism. Throughout this argument he had said nothing very harsh. On the other hand, there was Hurstwood - a greater deceiver than he. He had pretended all this affection, all this passion, and he was lying to her all the while. Oh, the perfidy of men! And she had loved him. There could be nothing more in that quarter. She would see Hurstwood no more. She would write him and let him know what she thought. Thereupon what would she do? Here were these rooms. Here was Drouet, pleading for her to remain. Evidently things could go on here somewhat as before, if all were arranged. It would be better than the street, without a place to lay her head.
All this she thought of as Drouet rummaged the drawers for collars and laboured long and painstakingly at finding a shirt- stud. He was in no hurry to rush this matter. He felt an attraction to Carrie which would not down. He could not think that the thing would end by his walking out of the room. There must be some way round, some way to make her own up that he was right and she was wrong - to patch up a peace and shut out Hurstwood for ever. Mercy, how he turned at the man's shameless duplicity.
"Do you think," he said, after a few moments' silence, "that you'll try and get on the stage?"
He was wondering what she was intending.
"I don't know what I'll do yet," said Carrie.
"If you do, maybe I can help you. I've got a lot of friends in that line."
She made no answer to this.
"Don't go and try to knock around now without any money. Let me help you," he said. "It's no easy thing to go on your own hook here."
Carrie only rocked back and forth in her chair.
"I don't want you to go up against a hard game that way."
He bestirred himself about some other details and Carrie rocked on.
"Why don't you tell me all about this thing," he said, after a time, "and let's call it off? You don't really care for Hurstwood, do you?"
"Why do you want to start on that again?" said Carrie. "You were to blame."
"No, I wasn't," he answered.
"Yes, you were, too," said Carrie. "You shouldn't have ever told me such a story as that."
"But you didn't have much to do with him, did you?" went on Drouet, anxious for his own peace of mind to get some direct denial from her.
"I won't talk about it," said Carrie, pained at the quizzical turn the peace arrangement had taken.
"What's the use of acting like that now, Cad?" insisted the drummer, stopping in his work and putting up a hand expressively. "You might let me know where I stand, at least."
"I won't," said Carrie, feeling no refuge but in anger. "Whatever has happened is your own fault."
"Then you do care for him?" said Drouet, stopping completely and experiencing a rush of feeling.
"Oh, stop!" said Carrie. "Well, I'll not be made a fool of," exclaimed Drouet. "You may trifle around with him if you want to, but you can't lead me. You can tell me or not, just as you want to, but I won't fool any longer!"
He shoved the last few remaining things he had laid out into his valise and snapped it with a vengeance. Then he grabbed his coat, which he had laid off to work, picked up his gloves, and started out.
"You can go to the deuce as far as I am concerned," he said, as he reached the door. "I'm no sucker," and with that he opened it with a jerk and closed it equally vigorously.
Carrie listened at her window view, more astonished than anything else at this sudden rise of passion in the drummer. She could hardly believe her senses - so good-natured and tractable had he invariably been. It was not for her to see the wellspring of human passion. A real flame of love is a subtle thing. It burns as a will-o'-the-wisp, dancing onward to fairylands of delight. It roars as a furnace. Too often jealousy is the quality upon which it feeds.
ASHES OF TINDER - A FACE AT THE WINDOW
That night Hurstwood remained down town entirely, going to the Palmer House for a bed after his work was through. He was in a fevered state of mind, owing to the blight his wife's action threatened to cast upon his entire future. While he was not sure how much significance might be attached to the threat she had made, he was sure that her attitude, if long continued, would cause him no end of trouble. She was determined, and had worsted him in a very important contest. How would it be from now on? He walked the floor of his little office, and later that of his room, putting one thing and another together to no avail.
Mrs. Hurstwood, on the contrary, had decided not to lose her advantage by inaction. Now that she had practically cowed him, she would follow up her work with demands, the acknowledgment of which would make her word LAW in the future. He would have to pay her the money which she would now regularly demand or there would be trouble. It did not matter what he did. She really did not care whether he came home any more or not. The household would move along much more pleasantly without him, and she could do as she wished without consulting any one. Now she proposed to consult a lawyer and hire a detective. She would find out at once just what advantages she could gain.
Hurstwood walked the floor, mentally arranging the chief points of his situation. "She has that property in her name," he kept saying to himself. "What a fool trick that was. Curse it! What a fool move that was."
He also thought of his managerial position. "If she raises a row now I'll lose this thing. They won't have me around if my name gets in the papers. My friends, too!" He grew more angry as he thought of the talk any action on her part would create. How would the papers talk about it? Every man he knew would be wondering. He would have to explain and deny and make a general mark of himself. Then Moy would come and confer with him and there would be the devil to pay.
Many little wrinkles gathered between his eyes as he contemplated this, and his brow moistened. He saw no solution of anything - not a loophole left.
Through all this thoughts of Carrie flashed upon him, and the approaching affair of Saturday. Tangled as all his matters were, he did not worry over that. It was the one pleasing thing in this whole rout of trouble. He could arrange that satisfactorily, for Carrie would be glad to wait, if necessary. He would see how things turned out to-morrow, and then he would talk to her. They were going to meet as usual. He saw only her pretty face and neat figure and wondered why life was not arranged so that such joy as he found with her could be steadily maintained. How much more pleasant it would be. Then he would take up his wife's threat again, and the wrinkles and moisture would return.
In the morning he came over from the hotel and opened his mail, but there was nothing in it outside the ordinary run. For some reason he felt as if something might come that way, and was relieved when all the envelopes had been scanned and nothing suspicious noticed. He began to feel the appetite that had been wanting before he had reached the office, and decided before going out to the park to meet Carrie to drop in at the Grand Pacific and have a pot of coffee and some rolls. While the danger had not lessened, it had not as yet materialised, and with him no news was good news. If he could only get plenty of time to think, perhaps something would turn up. Surely, surely, this thing would not drift along to catastrophe and he not find a way out.
His spirits fell, however, when, upon reaching the park, he waited and waited and Carrie did not come. He held his favourite post for an hour or more, then arose and began to walk about restlessly. Could something have happened out there to keep her away? Could she have been reached by his wife? Surely not. So little did he consider Drouet that it never once occurred to him to worry about his finding out. He grew restless as he ruminated, and then decided that perhaps it was nothing. She had not been able to get away this morning. That was why no letter notifying him had come. He would get one to-day. It would probably be on his desk when he got back. He would look for it at once.
After a time he gave up waiting and drearily headed for the Madison car. To add to his distress, the bright blue sky became overcast with little fleecy clouds which shut out the sun. The wind veered to the east, and by the time he reached his office it was threatening to drizzle all afternoon.
He went in and examined his letters, but there was nothing from Carrie. Fortunately, there was nothing from his wife either. He thanked his stars that he did not have to confront that proposition just now when he needed to think so much. He walked the floor again, pretending to be in an ordinary mood, but secretly troubled beyond the expression of words.
At one-thirty he went to Rector's for lunch, and when he returned a messenger was waiting for him. He looked at the little chap with a feeling of doubt.
"I'm to bring an answer," said the boy.
Hurstwood recognised his wife's writing. He tore it open and read without a show of feeling. It began in the most formal manner and was sharply and coldly worded throughout.
"I want you to send the money I asked for at once. I need it to carry out my plans. You can stay away if you want to. It doesn't matter in the least. But I must have some money. So don't delay, but send it by the boy."
When he had finished it, he stood holding it in his hands. The audacity of the thing took his breath. It roused his ire also - the deepest element of revolt in him. His first impulse was to write but four words in reply - "Go to the devil!" - but he compromised by telling the boy that there would be no reply. Then he sat down in his chair and gazed without seeing, contemplating the result of his work. What would she do about that? The confounded wretch! Was she going to try to bulldoze him into submission? He would go up there and have it out with her, that's what he would do. She was carrying things with too high a hand. These were his first thoughts.
Later, however, his old discretion asserted itself. Something had to be done. A climax was near and she would not sit idle. He knew her well enough to know that when she had decided upon a plan she would follow it up. Possibly matters would go into a lawyer's hands at once.
"Damn her!" he said softly, with his teeth firmly set, "I'll make it hot for her if she causes me trouble. I'll make her change her tone if I have to use force to do it!"
He arose from his chair and went and looked out into the street. The long drizzle had begun. Pedestrians had turned up collars, and trousers at the bottom. Hands were hidden in the pockets of the umbrellaless; umbrellas were up. The street looked like a sea of round black cloth roofs, twisting, bobbing, moving. Trucks and vans were rattling in a noisy line and everywhere men were shielding themselves as best they could. He scarcely noticed the picture. He was forever confronting his wife, demanding of her to change her attitude toward him before he worked her bodily harm.
At four o'clock another note came, which simply said that if the money was not forthcoming that evening the matter would be laid before Fitzgerald and Moy on the morrow, and other steps would be taken to get it.
Hurstwood almost exclaimed out loud at the insistency of this thing. Yes, he would send her the money. He'd take it to her - he would go up there and have a talk with her, and that at once.
He put on his hat and looked around for his umbrella. He would have some arrangement of this thing.
He called a cab and was driven through the dreary rain to the North Side. On the way his temper cooled as he thought of the details of the case. What did she know? What had she done? Maybe she'd got hold of Carrie, who knows - or - or Drouet. Perhaps she really had evidence, and was prepared to fell him as a man does another from secret ambush. She was shrewd. Why should she taunt him this way unless she had good grounds?
He began to wish that he had compromised in some way or other - that he had sent the money. Perhaps he could do it up here. He would go in and see, anyhow. He would have no row. By the time he reached his own street he was keenly alive to the difficulties of his situation and wished over and over that some solution would offer itself, that he could see his way out. He alighted and went up the steps to the front door, but it was with a nervous palpitation of the heart. He pulled out his key and tried to insert it, but another key was on the inside. He shook at the knob, but the door was locked. Then he rang the bell. No answer. He rang again - this time harder. Still no answer. He jangled it fiercely several times in succession, but without avail. Then he went below.
There was a door which opened under the steps into the kitchen, protected by an iron grating, intended as a safeguard against burglars. When he reached this he noticed that it also was bolted and that the kitchen windows were down. What could it mean? He rang the bell and then waited. Finally, seeing that no one was coming, he turned and went back to his cab.
"I guess they've gone out," he said apologetically to the individual who was hiding his red face in a loose tarpaulin raincoat.
"I saw a young girl up in that winder," returned the cabby.
Hurstwood looked, but there was no face there now. He climbed moodily into the cab, relieved and distressed.
So this was the game, was it? Shut him out and make him pay. Well, by the Lord, that did beat all!