"He probably could be happy," she thought to herself, "all alone. He's so strong."
Mr. and Mrs. Vance kept up a running fire of interruptions, and these impressive things by Ames came at odd moments. They were sufficient, however, for the atmosphere that went with this youth impressed itself upon Carrie without words. There was something in him, or the world he moved in, which appealed to her. He reminded her of scenes she had seen on the stage — the sorrows and sacrifices that always went with she knew not what. He had taken away some of the bitterness of the contrast between this life and her life, and all by a certain calm indifference which concerned only him.
As they went out, he took her arm and helped her into the coach, and then they were off again, and so to the show.
During the acts Carrie found herself listening to him very attentively. He mentioned things in the play which she most approved of — things which swayed her deeply.
"Don't you think it rather fine to be an actor?" she asked once.
"Yes, I do," he said, "to be a good one. I think the theatre a great thing."
Just this little approval set Carrie's heart bounding. Ah, if she could only be an actress — a good one! This man was wise — he knew — and he approved of it. If she were a fine actress, such men as he would approve of her. She felt that he was good to speak as he had, although it did not concern her at all. She did not know why she felt this way.
At the close of the show it suddenly developed that he was not going back with them.
"Oh, aren't you?" said Carrie, with an unwarrantable feeling.
"Oh, no," he said; "I'm stopping right around here in Thirty-third Street."
Carrie could not say anything else, but somehow this development shocked her. She had been regretting the wane of a pleasant evening, but she had thought there was a half-hour more. Oh, the half-hours, the minutes of the world; what miseries and griefs are crowded into them!
She said good-bye with feigned indifference. What matter could it make? Still, the coach seemed lorn.
When she went into her own flat she had this to think about. She did not know whether she would ever see this man any more. What difference could it make — what difference could it make?
Hurstwood had returned, and was already in bed. His clothes were scattered loosely about. Carrie came to the door and saw him, then retreated. She did not want to go in yet a while. She wanted to think. It was disagreeable to her.
Back in the dining-room she sat in her chair and rocked. Her little hands were folded tightly as she thought. Through a fog of longing and conflicting desires she was beginning to see. Oh, ye legions of hope and pity — of sorrow and pain! She was rocking, and beginning to see.