Just then a knock came at their door and the maidservant 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 to-night," it ran it 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 favorable replies.
"You had better decided, 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 that 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 exceeding charming this evening." Carrie fluttered under his approving glance.
"Now, then," he said, leading the way up the foyer into the theater.
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 program, and then discoursed to Carrie concerning Jefferson as he had heard of him. The former was pleased beyond expression, and was really hypnotized 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 with a 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 defenses 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. " Good-night."
He took Carrie's little hand, and a current of feeling Swept from one to the other.
"I'm so tried," 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