"Oh, yes I do--course I do--what put that into your head?"
He had stopped his trifling before the mirror now and crossed over to her. For the first time Carrie felt as if she must move away from him.
"But you've been saying that so long," she said, looking with her pretty face upturned into his.
"Well, and I mean it too, but it takes money to live as I want to. Now, when I get this increase, I can come pretty near fixing things all right, and I'll do it. Now, don't you worry, girlie."
He patted her reassuringly upon the shoulder, but Carrie felt how really futile had been her hopes. She could clearly see that this easy-going soul intended no move in her behalf. He was simply letting things drift because he preferred the free round of his present state to any legal trammellings.
In contrast, Hurstwood appeared strong and sincere. He had no easy manner of putting her off. He sympathised with her and showed her what her true value was. He needed her, while Drouet did not care.
"Oh, no," she said remorsefully, her tone reflecting some of her own success and more of her helplessness, "you never will."
"Well, you wait a little while and see," he concluded. "I'll marry you all right."
Carrie looked at him and felt justified. She was looking for something which would calm her conscience, and here it was, a light, airy disregard of her claims upon his justice. He had faithfully promised to marry her, and this was the way he fulfilled his promise.
"Say," he said, after he had, as he thought, pleasantly disposed of the marriage question, "I saw Hurstwood to-day, and he wants us to go to the theatre with him."
Carrie started at the name, but recovered quickly enough to avoid notice.
"When?" she asked, with assumed indifference.
"Wednesday. We'll go, won't we?"
"If you think so," she answered, her manner being so enforcedly reserved as to almost excite suspicion. Drouet noticed something but he thought it was due to her feelings concerning their talk about marriage. "He called once, he said."
"Yes," said Carrie, "he was out here Sunday evening."
"Was he?" said Drouet. "I thought from what he said that he had called a week or so ago."
"So he did," answered Carrie, who was wholly unaware of what conversation her lovers might have held. She was all at sea mentally, and fearful of some entanglement which might ensue from what she would answer.
"Oh, then he called twice?" said Drouet, the first shade of misunderstanding showing in his face.
"Yes," said Carrie innocently, feeling now that Hurstwood must have mentioned but one call.
Drouet imagined that he must have misunderstood his friend. He did not attach particular importance to the information, after all.
"What did he have to say?" he queried, with slightly increased curiosity.
"He said he came because he thought I might be lonely. You hadn't been in there so long he wondered what had become of you."
"George is a fine fellow," said Drouet, rather gratified by his conception of the manager's interest. "Come on and we'll go out to dinner."
When Hurstwood saw that Drouet was back he wrote at once to Carrie, saying:
"I told him I called on you, dearest, when he was away. I did not say how often, but he probably thought once. Let me know of anything you may have said. Answer by special messenger when you get this, and, darling, I must see you. Let me know if you can't meet me at Jackson and Throop Streets Wednesday afternoon at two o'clock. I want to speak with you before we meet at the theatre."
Carrie received this Tuesday morning when she called at the West Side branch of the post-office, and answered at once.
"I said you called twice," she wrote. "He didn't seem to mind. I will try and be at Throop Street if nothing interferes. I seem to be getting very bad. It's wrong to act as I do, I know."
Hurstwood, when he met her as agreed, reassured her on this score.
"You mustn't worry, sweetheart," he said. "Just as soon as he goes on the road again we will arrange something. We'll fix it so that you won't have to deceive any one."
Carrie imagined that he would marry her at once, though he had not directly said so, and her spirits rose. She proposed to make the best of the situation until Drouet left again.
"Don't show any more interest in me than you ever have," Hurstwood counselled concerning the evening at the theatre.
"You mustn't look at me steadily then," she answered, mindful of the power of his eyes.
"I won't," he said, squeezing her hand at parting and giving the glance she had just cautioned against.
"There," she said playfully, pointing a finger at him.
"The show hasn't begun yet," he returned.
He watched her walk from him with tender solicitation. Such youth and prettiness reacted upon him more subtly than wine.
At the theatre things passed as they had in Hurstwood's favour. If he had been pleasing to Carrie before, how much more so was he now. His grace was more permeating because it found a readier medium. Carrie watched his every movement with pleasure. She almost forgot poor Drouet, who babbled on as if he were the host.
Hurstwood was too clever to give the slightest indication of a change. He paid, if anything, more attention to his old friend than usual, and yet in no way held him up to that subtle ridicule which a lover in favour may so secretly practise before the mistress of his heart. If anything, he felt the injustice of the game as it stood, and was not cheap enough to add to it the slightest mental taunt.
Only the play produced an ironical situation, and this was due to Drouet alone.
The scene was one in "The Covenant," in which the wife listened to the seductive voice of a lover in the absence of her husband.
"Served him right," said Drouet afterward, even in view of her keen expiation of her error. "I haven't any pity for a man who would be such a chump as that."
"Well, you never can tell," returned Hurstwood gently. "He probably thought he was right."
"Well, a man ought to be more attentive than that to his wife if he wants to keep her."
They had come out of the lobby and made their way through the showy crush about the entrance way.
"Say, mister," said a voice at Hurstwood's side, "would you mind giving me the price of a bed?"
Hurstwood was interestedly remarking to Carrie.
"Honest to God, mister, I'm without a place to sleep."
The plea was that of a gaunt-faced man of about thirty, who looked the picture of privation and wretchedness. Drouet was the first to see. He handed over a dime with an upwelling feeling of pity in his heart. Hurstwood scarcely noticed the incident. Carrie quickly forgot.