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  • 1900
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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?”

“Oh, nothing.”

“Have you seen him recently?”

“Not since you came back,” she laughed.

“Before?”

“Certainly.”

“How often?”

“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.

“Mrs. Drouet.”

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.”

Chapter XXI

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.

“Are you?”

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.

Chapter XXII

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.

Chapter XXIII

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.

Chapter XXIV

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!

Chapter XXV

ASHES OF TINDER–THE LOOSING OF STAYS

When Hurstwood got back to his office again he was in a greater quandary than ever. Lord, Lord, he thought, what had he got into? How could things have taken such a violent turn, and so quickly? He could hardly realise how it had all come about. It seemed a monstrous, unnatural, unwarranted condition which had suddenly descended upon him without his let or hindrance.

Meanwhile he gave a thought now and then to Carrie. What could be the trouble in that quarter? No letter had come, no word of any kind, and yet here it was late in the evening and she had agreed to meet him that morning. To-morrow they were to have met and gone off–where? He saw that in the excitement of recent events he had not formulated a plan upon that score. He was desperately in love, and would have taken great chances to win her under ordinary circumstances, but now–now what? Supposing she had found out something? Supposing she, too, wrote him and told him that she knew all–that she would have nothing more to do with him? It would be just like this to happen as things were going now. Meanwhile he had not sent the money.

He strolled up and down the polished floor of the resort, his hands in his pockets, his brow wrinkled, his mouth set. He was getting some vague comfort out of a good cigar, but it was no panacea for the ill which affected him. Every once in a while he would clinch his fingers and tap his foot–signs of the stirring mental process he was undergoing. His whole nature was vigorously and powerfully shaken up, and he was finding what limits the mind has to endurance. He drank more brandy and soda than he had any evening in months. He was altogether a fine example of great mental perturbation.

For all his study nothing came of the evening except this–he sent the money. It was with great opposition, after two or three hours of the most urgent mental affirmation and denial, that at last he got an envelope, placed in it the requested amount, and slowly sealed it up.

Then he called Harry, the boy of all work around the place.

“You take this to this address,” he said, handing him the envelope, “and give it to Mrs. Hurstwood.”

“Yes, sir,” said the boy.

“If she isn’t there bring it back.”

“Yes, sir”

“You’ve seen my wife?” he asked as a precautionary measure as the boy turned to go.

“Oh, yes, sir. I know her.”

“All right, now. Hurry right back.”

“Any answer?”

“I guess not.”

The boy hastened away and the manager fell to his musings. Now he had done it. There was no use speculating over that. He was beaten for to-night and he might just as well make the best of it. But, oh, the wretchedness of being forced this way! He could see her meeting the boy at the door and smiling sardonically. She would take the envelope and know that she had triumphed. If he only had that letter back he wouldn’t send it. He breathed heavily and wiped the moisture from his face.

For relief, he arose and joined in conversation with a few friends who were drinking. He tried to get the interest of things about him, but it was not to be. All the time his thoughts would run out to his home and see the scene being therein enacted. All the time he was wondering what she would say when the boy handed her the envelope.

In about an hour and three-quarters the boy returned. He had evidently delivered the package, for, as he came up, he made no sign of taking anything out of his pocket.

“Well?” said Hurstwood.

“I gave it to her.”

“My wife?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Any answer?”

“She said it was high time.”

Hurstwood scowled fiercely.

There was no more to be done upon that score that night. He went on brooding over his situation until midnight, when he repaired again to the Palmer House. He wondered what the morning would bring forth, and slept anything but soundly upon it. Next day he went again to the office and opened his mail, suspicious and hopeful of its contents. No word from Carrie. Nothing from his wife, which was pleasant.

The fact that he had sent the money and that she had received it worked to the ease of his mind, for, as the thought that he had done it receded, his chagrin at it grew less and his hope of peace more. He fancied, as he sat at his desk, that nothing would be done for a week or two. Meanwhile, he would have time to think.

This process of THINKING began by a reversion to Carrie and the arrangement by which he was to get her away from Drouet. How about that now? His pain at her failure to meet or write him rapidly increased as he devoted himself to this subject. He decided to write her care of the West Side Post-office and ask for an explanation, as well as to have her meet him. The thought that this letter would probably not reach her until Monday chafed him exceedingly. He must get some speedier method–but how?

He thought upon it for a half-hour, not contemplating a messenger or a cab direct to the house, owing to the exposure of it, but finding that time was slipping away to no purpose, he wrote the letter and then began to think again.

The hours slipped by, and with them the possibility of the union he had contemplated. He had thought to be joyously aiding Carrie by now in the task of joining her interests to his, and here it was afternoon and nothing done. Three o’clock came, four, five, six, and no letter. The helpless manager paced the floor and grimly endured the gloom of defeat. He saw a busy Saturday ushered out, the Sabbath in, and nothing done. All day, the bar being closed, he brooded alone, shut out from home, from the excitement of his resort, from Carrie, and without the ability to alter his condition one iota. It was the worst Sunday he had spent in his life.

In Monday’s second mail he encountered a very legal-looking letter, which held his interest for some time. It bore the imprint of the law offices of McGregor, James and Hay, and with a very formal “Dear Sir,” and “We beg to state,” went on to inform him briefly that they had been retained by Mrs. Julia Hurstwood to adjust certain matters which related to her sustenance and property rights, and would he kindly call and see them about the matter at once.

He read it through carefully several times, and then merely shook his head. It seemed as if his family troubles were just beginning.

“Well!” he said after a time, quite audibly, “I don’t know.”

Then he folded it up and put it in his pocket.

To add to his misery there was no word from Carrie. He was quite certain now that she knew he was married and was angered at his perfidy. His loss seemed all the more bitter now that he needed her most. He thought he would go out and insist on seeing her if she did not send him word of some sort soon. He was really affected most miserably of all by this desertion. He had loved her earnestly enough, but now that the possibility of losing her