"I saw your play," he remarked. "It's very good."
"I'm glad you liked it."
"Very good, indeed," he said, "for a comedy."
This is all that was said at the time, owing to an interruption, but later they met again. He was sitting in a corner after dinner, staring at the floor, when Carrie came up with another of the guests. Hard work had given his face the look of one who is weary. It was not for Carrie to know the thing in it which appealed to her.
"All alone?" she said.
"I was listening to the music."
"I'll be back in a moment," said her companion, who saw nothing in the inventor.
Now he looked up in her face, for she was standing a moment, while he sat.
"Isn't that a pathetic strain?" he inquired, listening.
"Oh, very," she returned, also catching it, now that her attention was called.
"Sit down," he added, offering her the chair beside him.
They listened a few moments in silence, touched by the same feeling, only hers reached her through the heart. Music still charmed her as in the old days.
"I don't know what it is about music," she started to say, moved by the inexplicable longings which surged within her; "but it always makes me feel as if I wanted something — I — — "
"Yes," he replied; "I know how you feel."
Suddenly he turned to considering the peculiarity of her disposition, expressing her feelings so frankly.
"You ought not to be melancholy," he said.
He thought a while, and then went off into a seemingly alien observation which, however, accorded with their feelings.
"The world is full of desirable situations, but, unfortunately, we can occupy but one at a time. It doesn't do us any good to wring our hands over the far-off things."
The music ceased and he arose, taking a standing position before her, as if to rest himself.
"Why don't you get into some good, strong comedy-drama?" he said. He was looking directly at her now, studying her face. Her large, sympathetic eyes and pain-touched mouth appealed to him as proofs of his judgment.
"Perhaps I shall," she returned.
"That's your field," he added.
"Do you think so?"
"Yes," he said; "I do. I don't suppose you're aware of it, but there is something about your eyes and mouth which fits you for that sort of work."
Carrie thrilled to be taken so seriously. For the moment, loneliness deserted her. Here was praise which was keen and analytical.
"It's in your eyes and mouth," he went on abstractedly. "I remember thinking, the first time I saw you, that there was something peculiar about your mouth. I thought you were about to cry."
"How odd," said Carrie, warm with delight. This was what her heart craved.
"Then I noticed that that was your natural look, and to-night I saw it again. There's a shadow about your eyes, too, which gives your face much this same character. It's in the depth of them, I think."
Carrie looked straight into his face, wholly aroused.
"You probably are not aware of it," he added.
She looked away, pleased that he should speak thus, longing to be equal to this feeling written upon her countenance. It unlocked the door to a new desire. She had cause to ponder over this until they met again- several weeks or more. It showed her she was drifting away from the old ideal which had filled her in the dressing-rooms of the Avery stage and thereafter, for a long time. Why had she lost it?
"I know why you should be a success," he said, another time, "if you had a more dramatic part. I've studied it out — — "
"What is it?" said Carrie.
"Well," he said, as one pleased with a puzzle, "the expression in your face is one that comes out in different things. You get the same thing in a pathetic song, or any picture which moves you deeply. It's a thing the world likes to see, because it's a natural expression of its longing."
Carrie gazed without exactly getting the import of what he meant.
"The world is always struggling to express itself," he went on "Most people are not capable of voicing their feelings. They depend upon others. That is what genius is for. One man expresses their desires for them in music; another one in poetry; another one in a play. Sometimes nature does it in a face-it makes the face representative of all desire. That's what has happened in your case."
He looked at her with so much of the import of the thing in his eyes that she caught it. At least, she got the idea that her look was something which represented the world's longing. She took it to heart as a creditable thing, until he added:
"That puts a burden of duty on you. It so happens that you have this thing. It is no credit to you — that is, I mean, you might not have had it. You paid nothing to get it. But now that you have it, you must do something with it."
"What?" asked Carrie.
"I should say, turn to the dramatic field. You have so much sympathy and such a melodious voice. Make them valuable to others. It will make your powers endure."
Carrie did not understand this last. All the rest showed her that her comedy success was little or nothing.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"Why, just this. You have this quality in your eyes and mouth and in your nature. You can lose it, you know. If you turn away from it and live to satisfy yourself alone, it will go fast enough. The look will leave your eyes. Your mouth will change. Your power to act will disappear. You may think they won't, but they will. Nature takes care of that."
He was so interested in forwarding all good causes that he sometimes became enthusiastic, giving vent to these preachments. Something in Carrie appealed to him. He wanted to stir her up.
"I know," she said, absently, feeling slightly guilty of neglect.
"If I were you," he said, "I'd change."
The effect of this was like roiling helpless waters. Carrie troubled over it in her rocking-chair for days.
"I don't believe I'll stay in comedy so very much longer," she eventually remarked to Lola.
"Oh, why not?" said the latter.
"I think," she said, "I can do better in a serious play."
"What put that idea in your head?"
"Oh, nothing," she answered; "I've always thought so."
Still, she did nothing — grieving. It was a long way to this better thing — or seemed so — and comfort was about her; hence the inactivity and longing.