"Don't!" said Carrie, drawing away, but not removing her handkerchief from her eyes. "Never mind about this quarrel now. Let it go. You stay here until the month's out, anyhow, and then you can tell better what you want to do. Eh?"
Carrie made no answer.
"You'd better do that," he said. "There's no use your packing up now. You can't go anywhere."
Still he got nothing for his words.
"If you'll do that, we'll call it off for the present and I'll get out."
Carrie lowered her handkerchief slightly and looked out of the window.
"Will you do that?" he asked.
Still no answer.
"Will you?" he repeated.
She only looked vaguely into the street.
"Aw! come on," he said, "tell me. Will you?"
"I don't know," said Carrie softly, forced to answer.
"Promise me you'll do that," he said, "and we'll quit talking about it. It'll be the best thing for you."
Carrie heard him, but she could not bring herself to answer reasonably. She felt that the man was gentle, and that his interest in her had not abated, and it made her suffer a pang of regret. She was in a most helpless plight.
As for Drouet, his attitude had been that of the jealous lover. Now his feelings were a mixture of anger at deception, sorrow at losing Carrie, misery at being defeated. He wanted his rights in some way or other, and yet his rights included the retaining of Carrie, the making her feel her error.
"Will you?" he urged.
"Well, I'll see," said Carrie.
This left the matter as open as before, but it was something. It looked as if the quarrel would blow over, if they could only get some way of talking to one another. Carrie was ashamed, and Drouet aggrieved. He pretended to take up the task of packing some things in a valise.
Now, as Carrie watched him out of the corner of her eye, certain sound thoughts came into her head. He had erred, true, but what had she done? He was kindly and good-natured for all his egotism. Throughout this argument he had said nothing very harsh. On the other hand, there was Hurstwood — a greater deceiver than he. He had pretended all this affection, all this passion, and he was lying to her all the while. Oh, the perfidy of men! And she had loved him. There could be nothing more in that quarter. She would see Hurstwood no more. She would write him and let him know what she thought. Thereupon what would she do? Here were these rooms. Here was Drouet, pleading for her to remain. Evidently things could go on here somewhat as before, if all were arranged. It would be better than the street, without a place to lay her head.
All this she thought of as Drouet rummaged the drawers for collars and labored long and painstakingly at finding a shirt stud. He was in no hurry to rush this matter. He felt an attraction to Carrie which would not down. He could not think that the thing would end by his walking out of the room. There must be some way round, some way to make her own up that he was right and she was wrong — to patch up a peace and shut out Hurstwood for ever. Mercy, how he turned at the man's shameless duplicity.
"Do you think," he said, after a few moments' silence, "that you'll try and get on the stage?"
He was wondering what she was intending.
"I don't know what I'll do yet," said Carrie.
"If you do, maybe I can help you. I've got a lot of friends in that line."
She made no answer to this.
"Don't go and try to knock around now without any money. Let me help you," he said. "It's no easy thing to go on your own hook here."
Carrie only rocked back and forth in her chair.
"I don't want you to go up against a hard game that way."
He bestirred himself about some other details and Carrie rocked on.
"Why don't you tell me all about this thing," he said, after a time, "and let's call it off? You don't really care for Hurstwood, do you?"
"Why do you want to start on that again?" said Carrie. "You were to blame."
"No, I wasn't," he answered.
"Yes, you were, too," said Carrie. "You shouldn't have ever told me such a story as that."
"But you didn't have much to do with him, did you?" went on Drouet, anxious for his own peace of mind to get some direct denial from her.
"I won't talk about it," said Carrie, pained at the quizzical turn the peace arrangement had taken.
"What's the use of acting like that now, Cad?" insisted the drummer, stopping in his work and putting up a hand expressively. "You might let me know where I stand, at least."
"I won't," said Carrie, feeling no refuge but in anger. "Whatever has happened is your own fault."
"Then you do care for him?" said Drouet, stopping completely and experiencing a rush of feeling.
"Oh, stop!" said Carrie. "Well, I'll not be made a fool of," exclaimed Drouet. "You may trifle around with him if you want to, but you can't lead me. You can tell me or not, just as you want to, but I won't fool any longer!"
He shoved the last few remaining things he had laid out into his valise and snapped it with a vengeance. Then he grabbed his coat, which he had laid off to work, picked up his gloves, and started out.
"You can go to the deuce as far as I am concerned," he said, as he reached the door. "I'm no sucker," and with that he opened it with a jerk and closed it equally vigorously.
Carrie listened at her window view, more astonished than anything else at this sudden rise of passion in the drummer. She could hardly believe her senses — so good-natured and tractable had he invariably been. It was not for her to see the wellspring of human passion. A real flame of love is a subtle thing. It burns as a will-o'-the-wisp, dancing onward to fairylands of delight. It roars as a furnace. Too often jealousy is the quality upon which it feeds.