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A SPIRIT IN TRAVAIL: ONE RUNG PUT
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
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
towards 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 house-maid’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
"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
"Oh, nothing-nothing much."
"Well, then, what makes you look so?"