"Now, Mrs. Morgan," said the director to one young married woman who was to take the part of Pearl, "you sit here. Now, Mr. Bamberger, you stand here, so. Now, what is it you say?"
"Explain," said Mr. Bamberger feebly. He had the part of Ray, Laura's lover, the society individual who was to waver in his thoughts of marrying her, upon finding that she was a waif and a nobody by birth.
"How is that — what does your text say?"
"Explain," repeated Mr. Bamberger, looking intently at his part.
"Yes, but it also says," the director remarked, "that you are to look shocked. Now, say it again, and see if you can't look shocked."
"Explain!" demanded Mr. Bamberger vigorously.
"No, no, that won't do! Say it this way — EXPLAIN."
"Explain," said Mr. Bamberger, giving a modified imitation.
"That's better. Now go on."
"One night," resumed Mrs. Morgan, whose lines came next, "father and mother were going to the opera. When they were crossing Broadway, the usual crowd of children accosted them for alms — "
"Hold on," said the director, rushing forward, his arm extended. "Put more feeling into what you are saying."
Mrs. Morgan looked at him as if she feared a personal assault. Her eye lightened with resentment.
"Remember, Mrs. Morgan," he added, ignoring the gleam, but modifying his manner, "that you're detailing a pathetic story. You are now supposed to be telling something that is a grief to you. It requires feeling, repression, thus: 'The usual crowd of children accosted them for alms.'"
"All right," said Mrs. Morgan.
"Now, go on."
"As mother felt in her pocket for some change, her fingers touched a cold and trembling hand which had clutched her purse."
"Very good," interrupted the director, nodding his head significantly.
"A pickpocket! Well!" exclaimed Mr. Bamberger, speaking the lines that here fell to him.
"No, no, Mr. Bamberger," said the director, approaching, "not that way. 'A pickpocket — well?' so. That's the idea."
"Don't you think," said Carrie weakly, noticing that it had not been proved yet whether the members of the company knew their lines, let alone the details of expression, "that it would be better if we just went through our lines once to see if we know them? We might pick up some points."
"A very good idea, Miss Madenda," said Mr. Quincel, who sat at the side of the stage, looking serenely on and volunteering opinions which the director did not heed.
"All right," said the latter, somewhat abashed, "it might be well to do it." Then brightening, with a show of authority, "Suppose we run right through, putting in as much expression as we can."
"Good," said Mr. Quincel.
"This hand," resumed Mrs. Morgan, glancing up at Mr. Bamberger and down at her book, as the lines proceeded, "my mother grasped in her own, and so tight that a small, feeble voice uttered an exclamation of pain. Mother looked down, and there beside her was a little ragged girl."
"Very good," observed the director, now hopelessly idle.
"The thief!" exclaimed Mr. Bamberger.
"Louder," put in the director, finding it almost impossible to keep his hands off.
"The thief!" roared poor Bamberger.
"Yes, but a thief hardly six years old, with a face like an angel's. 'Stop,' said my mother. 'What are you doing?'
"'Trying to steal,' said the child.
"'Don't you know that it is wicked to do so?' asked my father.
"'No,' said the girl, 'but it is dreadful to be hungry.'
"'Who told you to steal?' asked my mother.
"'She — there,' said the child, pointing to a squalid woman in a doorway opposite, who fled suddenly down the street. 'That is old Judas,' said the girl."
Mrs. Morgan read this rather flatly, and the director was in despair. He fidgeted around, and then went over to Mr. Quincel.
"What do you think of them?" he asked.
"Oh, I guess we'll be able to whip them into shape," said the latter, with an air of strength under difficulties.
"I don't know," said the director. "That fellow Bamberger strikes me as being a pretty poor shift for a lover."
"He's all we've got," said Quincel, rolling up his eyes. "Harrison went back on me at the last minute. Who else can we get?"
"I don't know," said the director. "I'm afraid he'll never pick up."
At this moment Bamberger was exclaiming, "Pearl, you are joking with me." "Look at that now," said the director, whispering behind his hand. "My Lord! what can you do with a man who drawls out a sentence like that?"
"Do the best you can," said Quincel consolingly.
The rendition ran on in this wise until it came to where Carrie, as Laura, comes into the room to explain to Ray, who, after hearing Pearl's statement about her birth, had written the letter repudiating her, which, however, he did not deliver. Bamberger was just concluding the words of Ray, "I must go before she returns. Her step! Too late," and was cramming the letter in his pocket, when she began sweetly with:
"Miss — Miss Courtland," Bamberger faltered weakly.
Carrie looked at him a moment and forgot all about the company present. She began to feel the part, and summoned an indifferent smile to her lips, turning as the lines directed and going to a window, as if he were not present. She did it with a grace which was fascinating to look upon.
"Who is that woman?" asked the director, watching Carrie in her little scene with Bamberger.
"Miss Madenda," said Quincel.
"I know her name," said the director, "but what does she do?"
"I don't know," said Quincel. "She's a friend of one of our members."
"Well, she's got more gumption than any one I've seen here so far — seems to take an interest in what she's doing."
"Pretty, too, isn't she?" said Quincel.
The director strolled away without answering.
In the second scene, where she was supposed to face the company in the ball-room, she did even better, winning the smile of the director, who volunteered, because of her fascination for him, to come over and speak with her.
"Were you ever on the stage?" he asked insinuatingly.
"No," said Carrie.
"You do so well, I thought you might have had some experience."
Carrie only smiled consciously.
He walked away to listen to Bamberger, who was feebly spouting some ardent line.
Mrs. Morgan saw the drift of things and gleamed at Carrie with envious and snapping black eyes.
"She's some cheap professional," she gave herself the satisfaction of thinking, and scorned and hated her accordingly.
The rehearsal ended for one day, and Carrie went home feeling that she had acquitted herself satisfactorily. The words of the director were ringing in her ears, and she longed for an opportunity to tell Hurstwood. She wanted him to know just how well she was doing. Drouet, too, was an object for her confidences. She could hardly wait until he should ask her, and yet she did not have the vanity to bring it up. The drummer, however, had another line of thought to-night, and her little experience did not appeal to him as important. He let the conversation drop, save for what she chose to recite without solicitation, and Carrie was not good at that. He took it for granted that she was doing very well and he was relieved of further worry. Consequently he threw Carrie into repression, which was irritating. She felt his indifference keenly and longed to see Hurstwood. It was as if he were now the only friend she had on earth. The next morning Drouet was interested again, but the damage had been done.
She got a pretty letter from the manager, saying that by the time she got it he would be waiting for her in the park. When she came, he shone upon her as the morning sun.
"Well, my dear," he asked, "how did you come out?"
"Well enough," she said, still somewhat reduced after Drouet.
"Now, tell me just what you did. Was it pleasant?"
Carrie related the incidents of the rehearsal, warming up as she proceeded.
"Well, that's delightful," said Hurstwood. "I'm so glad. I must get over there to see you. When is the next rehearsal?"
"Tuesday," said Carrie, "but they don't allow visitors."
"I imagine I could get in," said Hurstwood significantly.
She was completely restored and delighted by his consideration, but she made him promise not to come around.
"Now, you must do your best to please me," he said encouragingly. "Just remember that I want you to succeed. We will make the performance worth while. You do that now."
"I'll try," said Carrie, brimming with affection and enthusiasm.
"That's the girl," said Hurstwood fondly. "Now, remember," shaking an affectionate finger at her, "your best."
"I will," she answered, looking back.
The whole earth was brimming sunshine that morning. She tripped along, the clear sky pouring liquid blue into her soul. Oh, blessed are the children of endeavor in this, that they try and are hopeful. And blessed also are they who, knowing, smile and approve.