WHEN WATERS ENGULF US WE REACH FOR A STAR
It was when he returned from his disturbed stroll about
the streets, after receiving the decisive note from McGregor, James and
Hay, that Hurstwood found the letter Carrie had written him that morning.
He thrilled intensely as he noted the handwriting, and rapidly tore it
BACK | FORWARD
"Then," he thought, "she loves me or she would
not have written to me at all."
He was slightly depressed at the tenor of the
note for the first few minutes, but soon recovered. "She wouldn't
write at all if she didn't care for me."
This was his one resource against the depression
which held him. He could extract little from the wording of the letter,
but the spirit he thought he knew.
There was really something exceedingly human--if
not pathetic--in his being thus relieved by a clearly worded reproof.
He who had for so long remained satisfied with himself now looked outside
of himself for comfort--and to such a source. The mystic cords of
affection! How they bind us all.
The colour came to his cheeks. For the moment
he forgot the letter from McGregor, James and Hay. If he could only
have Carrie, perhaps he could get out of the whole entanglement-- perhaps
it would not matter. He wouldn't care what his wife did with herself
if only he might not lose Carrie. He stood up and walked about, dreaming
his delightful dream of a life continued with this lovely possessor of
It was not long, however, before the old worry
was back for consideration, and with it what weariness! He thought of the
morrow and the suit. He had done nothing, and here was the afternoon
slipping away. It was now a quarter of four. At five the attorneys
would have gone home. He still had the morrow until noon. Even
as he thought, the last fifteen minutes passed away and it was five.
Then he abandoned the thought of seeing them any more that day and turned
It is to be observed that the man did not justify
himself to himself. He was not troubling about that. His whole
thought was the possibility of persuading Carrie. Nothing was wrong
in that. He loved her dearly. Their mutual happiness depended upon
it. Would that Drouet were only away!
While he was thinking thus elatedly, he remembered
that he wanted some clean linen in the morning.
This he purchased, together with a half-dozen
ties, and went to the Palmer House. As he entered he thought he saw
Drouet ascending the stairs with a key. Surely not Drouet! Then he
thought, perhaps they had changed their abode temporarily. He went
straight up to the desk.
"Is Mr. Drouet stopping here?" he asked of the
"I think he is," said the latter, consulting his
private registry list. "Yes."
"Is that so?" exclaimed Hurstwood, otherwise concealing
his astonishment. "Alone?" he added.
"Yes," said the clerk.
Hurstwood turned away and set his lips so as best
to express and conceal his feelings.
"How's that?" he thought. "They've had a
He hastened to his room with rising spirits and
changed his linen. As he did so, he made up his mind that if Carrie
was alone, or if she had gone to another place, it behooved him to find
out. He decided to call at once.
"I know what I'll do," he thought. "I'll
go to the door and ask if Mr. Drouet is at home. That will bring
out whether he is there or not and where Carrie is."
He was almost moved to some muscular display as
he thought of it. He decided to go immediately after supper.
On coming down from his room at six, he looked
carefully about to see if Drouet was present and then went out to lunch.
He could scarcely eat, however, he was so anxious to be about his errand.
Before starting he thought it well to discover where Drouet would be, and
returned to his hotel.
"Has Mr. Drouet gone out?" he asked of the clerk.
"No," answered the latter, "he's in his room.
Do you wish to send up a card?" "No, I'll call around later," answered
Hurstwood, and strolled out.
He took a Madison car and went direct to Ogden
Place this time walking boldly up to the door. The chambermaid answered
"Is Mr. Drouet in?" said Hurstwood blandly.
"He is out of the city," said the girl, who had
heard Carrie tell this to Mrs. Hale.
"Is Mrs. Drouet in?"
"No, she has gone to the theatre."
"Is that so?" said Hurstwood, considerably taken
back; then, as if burdened with something important, "You don't know to
The girl really had no idea where she had gone,
but not liking Hurstwood, and wishing to cause him trouble, answered: "Yes,
"Thank you," returned the manager, and, tipping
his hat slightly, went away.
"I'll look in at Hooley's," thought he, but as
a matter of fact he did not. Before he had reached the central portion
of the city he thought the whole matter over and decided it would be useless.
As much as he longed to see Carrie, he knew she would be with some one
and did not wish to intrude with his plea there. A little later he might
do so--in the morning. Only in the morning he had the lawyer question
This little pilgrimage threw quite a wet blanket
upon his rising spirits. He was soon down again to his old worry,
and reached the resort anxious to find relief. Quite a company of
gentlemen were making the place lively with their conversation. A
group of Cook County politicians were conferring about a round cherry-wood
table in the rear portion of the room. Several young merrymakers
were chattering at the bar before making a belated visit to the theatre.
A shabbily-genteel individual, with a red nose and an old high hat, was
sipping a quiet glass of ale alone at one end of the bar. Hurstwood
nodded to the politicians and went into his office.
About ten o'clock a friend of his, Mr. Frank L.
Taintor, a local sport and racing man, dropped in, and seeing Hurstwood
alone in his office came to the door.
"Hello, George!" he exclaimed.
"How are you, Frank?" said Hurstwood, somewhat
relieved by the sight of him. "Sit down," and he motioned him to
one of the chairs in the little room.
"What's the matter, George?" asked Taintor.
"You look a little glum. Haven't lost at the track, have you?"
"I'm not feeling very well to-night. I had
a slight cold the other day."
"Take whiskey, George," said Taintor. "You
ought to know that."
While they were still conferring there, several
other of Hurstwood's friends entered, and not long after eleven, the theatres
being out, some actors began to drop in--among them some notabilities.
Then began one of those pointless social conversations
so common in American resorts where the would-be gilded attempt to rub
off gilt from those who have it in abundance. If Hurstwood had one
leaning, it was toward notabilities. He considered that, if anywhere,
he belonged among them. He was too proud to toady, too keen not to
strictly observe the plane he occupied when there were those present who
did not appreciate him, but, in situations like the present, where he could
shine as a gentleman and be received without equivocation as a friend and
equal among men of known ability, he was most delighted. It was on
such occasions, if ever, that he would "take something." When the
social flavour was strong enough he would even unbend to the extent of
drinking glass for glass with his associates, punctiliously observing his
turn to pay as if he were an outsider like the others. If he ever
approached intoxication--or rather that ruddy warmth and comfortableness
which precedes the more sloven state--it was when individuals such as these
were gathered about him, when he was one of a circle of chatting celebrities.
To-night, disturbed as was his state, he was rather relieved to find company,
and now that notabilities were gathered, he laid aside his troubles for
the nonce, and joined in right heartily.
It was not long before the imbibing began to tell.
Stories began to crop up--those ever-enduring, droll stories which form
the major portion of the conversation among American men under such circumstances.
Twelve o'clock arrived, the hour for closing,
and with it the company took leave. Hurstwood shook hands with them
most cordially. He was very roseate physically. He had arrived
at that state where his mind, though clear, was, nevertheless, warm in
its fancies. He felt as if his troubles were not very serious.
Going into his office, he began to turn over certain accounts, awaiting
the departure of the bartenders and the cashier, who soon left.
It was the manager's duty, as well as his custom,
after all were gone to see that everything was safely closed up for the
night. As a rule, no money except the cash taken in after banking hours
was kept about the place, and that was locked in the safe by the cashier,
who, with the owners, was joint keeper of the secret combination, but,
nevertheless, Hurstwood nightly took the precaution to try the cash drawers
and the safe in order to see that they were tightly closed. Then
he would lock his own little office and set the proper light burning near
the safe, after which he would take his departure.
Never in his experience had he found anything
out of order, but to-night, after shutting down his desk, he came out and
tried the safe. His way was to give a sharp pull. This time
the door responded. He was slightly surprised at that, and looking
in found the money cases as left for the day, apparently unprotected.
His first thought was, of course, to inspect the drawers and shut the door.
"I'll speak to Mayhew about this to-morrow," he
The latter had certainly imagined upon going out
a half-hour before that he had turned the knob on the door so as to spring
the lock. He had never failed to do so before. But to-night
Mayhew had other thoughts. He had been revolving the problem of a
business of his own.
"I'll look in here," thought the manager, pulling
out the money drawers. He did not know why he wished to look in there.
It was quite a superfluous action, which another time might not have happened
As he did so, a layer of bills, in parcels of
a thousand, such as banks issue, caught his eye. He could not tell
how much they represented, but paused to view them. Then he pulled
out the second of the cash drawers. In that were the receipts of
"I didn't know Fitzgerald and Moy ever left any
money this way," his mind said to itself. "They must have forgotten
He looked at the other drawer and paused again.
"Count them," said a voice in his ear.
He put his hand into the first of the boxes and
lifted the stack, letting the separate parcels fall. They were bills
of fifty and one hundred dollars done in packages of a thousand.
He thought he counted ten such.
"Why don't I shut the safe?" his mind said to
itself, lingering. "What makes me pause here?"
For answer there came the strangest words:
"Did you ever have ten thousand dollars in ready
Lo, the manager remembered that he had never had
so much. All his property had been slowly accumulated, and now his
wife owned that. He was worth more than forty thousand, all told--but
she would get that.
He puzzled as he thought of these things, then
pushed in the drawers and closed the door, pausing with his hand upon the
knob, which might so easily lock it all beyond temptation. Still
he paused. Finally he went to the windows and pulled down the curtains.
Then he tried the door, which he had previously locked. What was
this thing, making him suspicious? Why did he wish to move about so quietly.
He came back to the end of the counter as if to rest his arm and think.
Then he went and unlocked his little office door and turned on the light.
He also opened his desk, sitting down before it, only to think strange
"The safe is open," said a voice. "There
is just the least little crack in it. The lock has not been sprung."
The manager floundered among a jumble of thoughts.
Now all the entanglement of the day came back. Also the thought that
here was a solution. That money would do it. If he had that
and Carrie. He rose up and stood stock-still, looking at the floor.
"What about it?" his mind asked, and for answer
he put his hand slowly up and scratched his head.
The manager was no fool to be led blindly away
by such an errant proposition as this, but his situation was peculiar.
Wine was in his veins. It had crept up into his head and given him
a warm view of the situation. It also coloured the possibilities
of ten thousand for him. He could see great opportunities with that.
He could get Carrie. Oh, yes, he could! He could get rid of his wife.
That letter, too, was waiting discussion to-morrow morning. He would
not need to answer that. He went back to the safe and put his hand
on the knob. Then he pulled the door open and took the drawer with
the money quite out.
With it once out and before him, it seemed a foolish
thing to think about leaving it. Certainly it would. Why, he
could live quietly with Carrie for years.
Lord! what was that? For the first time he was
tense, as if a stern hand had been laid upon his shoulder. He looked
fearfully around. Not a soul was present. Not a sound.
Some one was shuffling by on the sidewalk. He took the box and the
money and put it back in the safe. Then he partly closed the door
To those who have never wavered in conscience,
the predicament of the individual whose mind is less strongly constituted
and who trembles in the balance between duty and desire is scarcely appreciable,
unless graphically portrayed. Those who have never heard that solemn
voice of the ghostly clock which ticks with awful distinctness, "thou shalt,"
"thou shalt not," "thou shalt," "thou shalt not," are in no position to
judge. Not alone in sensitive, highly organised natures is such a
mental conflict possible. The dullest specimen of humanity, when
drawn by desire toward evil, is recalled by a sense of right, which is
proportionate in power and strength to his evil tendency. We must
remember that it may not be a knowledge of right, for no knowledge of right
is predicated of the animal's instinctive recoil at evil. Men are
still led by instinct before they are regulated by knowledge. It
is instinct which recalls the criminal--it is instinct (where highly organised
reasoning is absent) which gives the criminal his feeling of danger, his
fear of wrong.
At every first adventure, then, into some untried
evil, the mind wavers. The clock of thought ticks out its wish and
its denial. To those who have never experienced such a mental dilemma,
the following will appeal on the simple ground of revelation.
When Hurstwood put the money back, his nature
again resumed its ease and daring. No one had observed him.
He was quite alone. No one could tell what he wished to do. He could
work this thing out for himself.
The imbibation of the evening had not yet worn
off. Moist as was his brow, tremble as did his hand once after the
nameless fright, he was still flushed with the fumes of liquor. He
scarcely noticed that the time was passing. He went over his situation
once again, his eye always seeing the money in a lump, his mind always
seeing what it would do. He strolled into his little room, then to
the door, then to the safe again. He put his hand on the knob and
opened it. There was the money! Surely no harm could come from looking
He took out the drawer again and lifted the bills.
They were so smooth, so compact, so portable. How little they made,
after all. He decided he would take them. Yes, he would.
He would put them in his pocket. Then he looked at that and saw they
would not go there. His hand satchel! To be sure, his hand satchel.
They would go in that--all of it would. No one would think anything
of it either. He went into the little office and took it from the
shelf in the corner. Now he set it upon his desk and went out toward
the safe. For some reason he did not want to fill it out in the big
room. First he brought the bills and then the loose receipts of the day.
He would take it all. He put the empty drawers back and pushed the
iron door almost to, then stood beside it meditating.
The wavering of a mind under such circumstances
is an almost inexplicable thing, and yet it is absolutely true. Hurstwood
could not bring himself to act definitely. He wanted to think about
it--to ponder over it, to decide whether it were best. He was drawn
by such a keen desire for Carrie, driven by such a state of turmoil in
his own affairs that he thought constantly it would be best, and yet he
wavered. He did not know what evil might result from it to him--how
soon he might come to grief. The true ethics of the situation never once
occurred to him, and never would have, under any circumstances.
After he had all the money in the handbag, a revulsion
of feeling seized him. He would not do it--no! Think of what a scandal
it would make. The police! They would be after him. He would
have to fly, and where? Oh, the terror of being a fugitive from justice!
He took out the two boxes and put all the money back. In his excitement
he forgot what he was doing, and put the sums in the wrong boxes.
As he pushed the door to, he thought he remembered doing it wrong and opened
the door again. There were the two boxes mixed.
He took them out and straightened the matter,
but now the terror had gone. Why be afraid?
While the money was in his hand the lock clicked.
It had sprung! Did he do it? He grabbed at the knob and pulled vigorously.
It had closed. Heavens! he was in for it now, sure enough.
The moment he realised that the safe was locked
for a surety, the sweat burst out upon his brow and he trembled violently.
He looked about him and decided instantly. There was no delaying
"Supposing I do lay it on the top," he said, "and
go away, they'll know who took it. I'm the last to close up.
Besides, other things will happen."
At once he became the man of action.
"I must get out of this," he thought.
He hurried into his little room, took down his
light overcoat and hat, locked his desk, and grabbed the satchel.
Then he turned out all but one light and opened the door. He tried
to put on his old assured air, but it was almost gone. He was repenting
"I wish I hadn't done that," he said. "That
was a mistake."
He walked steadily down the street, greeting a
night watchman whom he knew who was trying doors. He must get out
of the city, and that quickly.
"I wonder how the trains run?" he thought.
Instantly he pulled out his watch and looked.
It was nearly half-past one.
At the first drugstore he stopped, seeing a long-distance
telephone booth inside. It was a famous drugstore, and contained
one of the first private telephone booths ever erected. "I want to use
your 'phone a minute," he said to the night clerk.
The latter nodded.
"Give me 1643," he called to Central, after looking
up the Michigan Central depot number. Soon he got the ticket agent.
"How do the trains leave here for Detroit?" he
The man explained the hours.
"No more to-night?"
"Nothing with a sleeper. Yes, there is,
too," he added. "There is a mail train out of here at three o'clock."
"All right," said Hurstwood. "What time
does that get to Detroit?"
He was thinking if he could only get there and
cross the river into Canada, he could take his time about getting to Montreal.
He was relieved to learn that it would reach there by noon.
"Mayhew won't open the safe till nine," he thought.
"They can't get on my track before noon."
Then he thought of Carrie. With what speed
must he get her, if he got her at all. She would have to come along.
He jumped into the nearest cab standing by.
"To Ogden Place," he said sharply. "I'll
give you a dollar more if you make good time."
The cabby beat his horse into a sort of imitation
gallop which was fairly fast, however. On the way Hurstwood thought
what to do. Reaching the number, he hurried up the steps and did
not spare the bell in waking the servant.
"Is Mrs. Drouet in?" he asked.
"Yes," said the astonished girl.
"Tell her to dress and come to the door at once.
Her husband is in the hospital, injured, and wants to see her."
The servant girl hurried upstairs, convinced by
the man's strained and emphatic manner.
"What!" said Carrie, lighting the gas and searching
for her clothes.
"Mr. Drouet is hurt and in the hospital.
He wants to see you. The cab's downstairs."
Carrie dressed very rapidly, and soon appeared
below, forgetting everything save the necessities.
"Drouet is hurt," said Hurstwood quickly.
"He wants to see you. Come quickly."
Carrie was so bewildered that she swallowed the
"Get in," said Hurstwood, helping her and jumping
The cabby began to turn the horse around. "Michigan
Central depot," he said, standing up and speaking so low that Carrie could
not hear, "as fast as you can go."