Hurstwood lives in a fashionable three-story home with his family. Hurstwood's wife, Julia, hopes that her daughter, Jessica, will marry rich and that her son, George Hurstwood, Jr., will prosper even more than Hurstwood has. She is not exactly dissatisfied with Hurstwood's success, but she still longs for something more. Hurstwood's life is his job, and he spends most of his time there.
Hurstwood knows that an indiscreet affair would endanger his comfortable social position. He often goes out with his family in public to keep up appearances and to satisfy Julia. Hurstwood announces that he is going to Philadelphia on business and that he cannot take Julia along as he usually does. His real plan is to go with his male friends and "have a good time" where no one will recognize them. He dismisses the trip as insignificant, but Julia mulls over his failure to invite her.
Drouet informs Carrie that he has invited Hurstwood to spend the evening with them. Drouet says that he has told Hurstwood they are married. Carrie asks why they cannot get married in reality as well, but Drouet puts her off, saying that he needs to wrap up a real estate deal first. Since Carrie does not really love Drouet, she accepts his vague promise without further questions.
Hurstwood's elegant clothing and manners catch Carries attention. She compares him to Drouet and notices small deficiencies in her lover's personality and demeanor. Hurstwood entertains Carrie with a skilled flair, allowing her to win the card game. Although he is aware that Drouet and Carrie are not actually married, he is careful not to endanger the charade.
Carrie takes care to imitate all the graceful motions Drouet notes in other women, and in the process she becomes a girl with "considerable taste." She befriends the wife of a neighbor, Mr. Hale, who is a theater manager. In her conversations with Carrie, Mrs. Hale imparts detailed gossip about the social world of the rich and famous. The music of a skilled piano player who lives across the hall awakens in Carrie a longing for something undefined. One evening Drouet finds Carrie in the dark with tears on her face. When he suggests they waltz to the music, Carrie realizes he cannot sympathize with her feelings.
Hurstwood wonders how Drouet came to win Carrie. He feels a strong attraction for her, and he knows that Drouet, whatever he may say, has no plans to marry her. Hurstwood invites the two of them out to the theater. The atmosphere of the theater enthralls Carrie. Hurstwood is in fine form, entertaining both of them; Drouet seems dull in comparison.