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THE FEAST OF BELSHAZZAR: A SEER TO
Such feelings as were generated in Carrie by this walk put her in
an exceed-ingly receptive mood for the pathos which followed in
the play. The actor whom they had gone to see had achieved his
popularity by presenting a mellow type of comedy, in which
sufficient sorrow was introduced to lend contrast and relief to
humour. For Carrie, as we well know, the stage had a great
attraction. She had never forgotten her one histrionic achievement
in Chicago. It dwelt in her mind and occupied her consciousness
during many long afternoons in which her rock-ing-chair and her
latest novel contributed the only pleasures of her state. Never
could she witness a play without having her own ability vividly
brought to consciousness. Some scenes made her long to be a part
of them-to give expression to the feelings which she, in the place
of the character represented, would feel. Almost invariably she
would carry the vivid imaginations away with her and brood over
them the next day alone. She lived as much in these things as in
the realities which made up her daily life.
It was not often that she came to the play stirred to her heart’s
core by actualities. To-day a low song of longing had been set
singing in her heart by the finery, the merriment, the beauty she
had seen. Oh, these women who had passed her by,
hundreds and hundreds strong, who were they? Whence came the
rich, elegant dresses, the astonishingly coloured buttons, the
knick-knacks of silver and gold? Where were these lovely
creatures housed? Amid what elegancies of carved furniture,
decorated walls, elaborate tapestries did they move? Where were
their rich apartments, loaded with all that money could provide?
In what stables champed these sleek, nervous horses and rested
the gorgeous carriages? Where lounged the richly groomed
footmen? Oh, the mansions, the lights, the perfume, the loaded
boudoirs and tables! New York must be filled with such bowers,
or the beautiful, insolent, supercilious creatures could not be.
Some hot-houses held them. It ached her to know that she was not
one of them-that, alas, she had dreamed a dream and it had not
come true. She wondered at her own solitude these two years
past-her indifference to the fact that she had never achieved what
she had expected.
The play was one of those drawing-room concoctions in which
charmingly overdressed ladies and gentlemen suffer the pangs of
love and jealousy amid gilded surroundings. Such bon-mots are
ever enticing to those who have all their days longed for such
material surroundings and have never had them gratified. They
have the charm of showing suffering under ideal conditions. Who
would not grieve upon a gilded chair? Who would not suffer amid
perfumed tapestries, cushioned furniture, and liveried servants?
Grief under such circumstances becomes an enticing thing. Carrie
longed to be of it. She wanted to take her sufferings, whatever
they were, in such a world, or failing that, at least to simulate
them under such charming conditions upon the stage. So affected
was her mind by what
she had seen, that the play now seemed an extraordinarily
beautiful thing. She was soon lost in the world it represented, and
wished that she might never return. Between the acts she studied
the galaxy of matinee attendants in front rows and boxes, and
conceived a new idea of the possibilities of New York. She was
sure she had not seen it all-that the city was one whirl of pleasure
Going out, the same Broadway taught her a sharper lesson. The
scene she had witnessed coming down was now augmented and at
its height. Such a crush of finery and folly she had never seen. It
clinched her convictions concerning her state. She had not lived,
could not lay claim to having lived, until something of this had
come into her own life. Women were spending money like water;
she could see that in every elegant shop she passed. Flowers,
candy, jewelry, seemed the principal things in which the elegant
dames were interested. And she had scarcely enough pin money to
indulge in such outings as this a few times a month.
That night the pretty little flat seemed a commonplace thing. It
was not what the rest of the world was enjoying. She saw the
servant working at dinner with an indifferent eye. In her mind
were running scenes of the play. Particularly she remembered one
beautiful actress-the sweetheart who had been wooed and won.
The grace of this woman had won Carrie’s heart. Her dresses had
been all that art could suggest, her sufferings had been so real.
The anguish which she had portrayed Carrie could feel. It was
done as she was sure she could do it. There were places in which
she could even do better. Hence she repeated the lines to herself.
Oh, if she could only have such a part, how broad would be her
life! She, too, could act appealingly.