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"Well, I don’t know," answered Carrie, puzzling, but not offering
to break her promise in his favour.
Just then a knock came at their door and the maid-serveant handed
a letter in.
"He says there’s an answer expected," she explained.
"It’s from Hurstwood," said Drouet, noting the superscription as
he tore it open.
"You are to come down and see Joe Jefferson with me tonight," it
ran in part. "It’s my turn, as we agreed the other day. All other
bets are off."
"Well, what do you say to this?" asked Drouet, innocently, while
Carrie’s mind bubbled with favourable replies.
"You had better decide, Charlie," she said, reservedly.
"I guess we had better go, if you can break that engagement
upstairs," said Drouet.
"Oh, I can," returned Carrie without thinking.
Drouet selected writing paper while Carrie went to change her
dress. She hardly explained to herself why this latest invitation
appealed to her most.
"Shall I wear my hair as I did yesterday?" she asked, as she came
out with several articles of apparel pending.
"Sure," he returned, pleasantly.
She was relieved to see that he felt nothing. She did not credit her
willingness to go to any fascination Hurstwood held for her. It
seemed that the combination of Hurstwood, Drouet, and herself
was more agreeable than anything else that had
been suggested. She arrayed herself most carefully and they
started off, extending excuses upstairs.
"I say," said Hurstwood, as they came up the theatre lobby, "we
are exceed-ingly charming this evening."
Carrie fluttered under his approving glance.
"Now, then," he said, leading the way up the foyer into the
If ever there was dressiness it was here. It was the personification
of the old term spick and span.
"Did you ever see Jefferson?" he questioned, as he leaned toward
Carrie in the box.
"I never did," she returned.
"He’s delightful, delightful," he went on, giving the commonplace
rendition of approval which such men know. He sent Drouet after
a programme, and then discoursed to Carrie concerning Jefferson
as he had heard of him. The former was pleased beyond
expression, and was really hypnotised by the environment, the
trappings of the box, the elegance of her companion. Several
times their eyes accidentally met, and then there poured into hers
such a flood of feeling as she had never before experienced. She
could not for the moment explain it, for in the next glance or the
next move of the hand there was seeming indifference, mingled
only with the kindest attention.
Drouet shared in the conversation, but he was almost dull in
comparison. Hurstwood entertained them both, and now it was
driven into Carrie’s mind that here was the superior man. She
instinctively felt that he was stronger and higher, and yet withal so
simple. By the end of the third act she was sure that Drouet was
only a kindly soul, but otherwise defective. He sank every
moment in her estimation by the strong comparison.
"I have had such a nice time," said Carrie, when it was all over
and they were coming out.
"Yes, indeed," added Drouet, who was not in the least aware that
a battle had been fought and his defences weakened. He was like
the Emperor of China, who sat glorying in himself, unaware that
his fairest provinces were being wrested from him.
"Well, you have saved me a dreary evening," returned Hurstwood.
He took Carrie’s little hand, and a current of feeling swept from
one to the other.
"I’m so tired," said Carrie, leaning back in the car when Drouet
began to talk.
"Well, you rest a little while I smoke," he said, rising, and then he
foolishly went to the forward platform of the car and left the game
as it stood.