After Jarvis had departed on his conquering way Bambi turned her attention to herself. She made a most careful toilette. When she was hatted, and veiled, and gloved, she tripped up and down before her mirror, trying herself out, as it were. She made several entrances into editorial sanctums. Once she entered haltingly, drawn to her full five-feet-one; once she bounced in, confidently, but she vetoed that, and decided upon a dignified but cordial entrance. One more trip to the mirror for a close inspection.
“Oh, you pretty thing!” she nodded to herself.
She set forth, as Jarvis had done, with the address on the publisher’s letter clasped in her hand. She marched uptown with a singing heart. She saw everything and everybody. She wondered how many of them carried happy secrets, like hers, in their thoughts—how many of them were going toward thrilling experiences. She shot her imagination, like a boomerang, at every passing face, in the hope of getting back secrets that lay behind the masks. She was unaware how her direct gaze riveted attention to her own eager face. She thought the people who smiled at her were friendly, and she tossed them back as good as they gave. Even when a waxed and fashionable old dandy remarked, “Good morning, my dear,” she only laughed. Naturally, he misunderstood, and fell in step beside her.
“Are you alone?” he asked, coyly.
She gave him a direct glance and answered seriously.
“No. I am walking with my five little brothers and sisters.” He looked at her in such utter amazement that she laughed again. This time he understood.
“Good day,” said he, and right-about-faced.
She knew she had plenty of time, so she sauntered into a bookshop and turned over the new books, thinking that maybe some day she would come into such a shop and ask for her own books, or Jarvis’s published plays. She chatted with a clerk for a few minutes, then went back to the avenue, like a needle to a magnet.
In and out of shops she went. She looked at hats and frocks, and touched with envious fingers soft stuffs and laces.
“Some day,” she hummed, “some day!”
She even turned in at Tiffany’s seductive door. Colour was a madness with her, and her little cries of delight over a sapphire encouraged a young clerk to take it out of the case and lay it on the velvet square.
“Oh, it’s so beautiful it hurts!” Bambi exclaimed.
He smiled at her sympathetically.
“Magnificent, isn’t it? Are you interested in jewels?” he added.
“I am interested, but I am not a buyer,” she admitted to him. “I adore colour.”
“Let me show you some things,” he said.
“Oh, no. I mustn’t take up your time.”
“That’s all right. I have nothing else to do just now.”
So he laid before her enraptured gaze the wealth of the Indies—the treasure baubles of a hundred queens—blue and green, and red and yellow, they gleamed at her. In an instinctive gesture she put out her hand, then drew it back quickly.
“Mustn’t touch?” she asked, so like a child that he laughed.
“Take it up if you like.”
She took the superb emerald. “Do you suppose it knows how beautiful it is?”
“It takes a fine colour on your hand. Some people kill stones, you know. You ought to wear them.”
He told her some of the history of the jewels he showed her. He explained how stones were judged. He described the precautions necessary when famous jewels were to be taken from one place to another. Bambi sat hypnotized, and listened. She might have spent the entire day there if the man had not been called by an important customer. “I have been here hours, haven’t I? I feel as if I ought to buy something. Could you show me something about $1.55?” The man laughed so spontaneously and Bambi joined him so gayly, that they felt most friendly.
“Come in next week. I’ll show you a most gorgeous string of pearls which is coming to be restrung,” he said.
“Oh, thank you. I have had such a good time.”
He took her to the door as if she were a Vanderbilt, and bowed her out. The carriage man bowed, too, and Bambi felt that she was getting on.
This time she loitered no longer. She inspected her address for the hundredth time, and went to the magazine office, where she was to find the golden egg. She was impressed by the elegance of the busy reception room, with its mahogany and good pictures. She sent her card to the editor and waited fifteen minutes, then the card bearer returned. She was sorry, but the editor was extremely occupied this morning. Was there anything she could do for Mrs. Jocelyn? Bambi’s face registered her disappointment.
“Would it do any good for me to wait?”
“Have you a letter of introduction? Mr. Strong seemed not to know your name.”
“He told me to come.”
“Told you? How do you mean?”
Bambi offered the letter to her. As she read it her face changed.
“Oh, are you the girl who won the prize?” Bambi nodded.
“You are?” she protested her amazement.
“I’m just as surprised as you are,” Bambi assured her.
“Of course Mr. Strong will see you. He didn’t understand.” She was off in great haste, and back in a jiffy.
“Come right in,” she invited.
Bambi wanted to run. Her breath came in little, short gasps. She wished she could take hold of the other girl’s hand and hold on tight. A door stood open into an outside office, and several clerks stared at her. The sanctum door was open.
“Mr. Strong, this is Mrs. Jocelyn,” said her guide, and the door closed behind her. A tall, pleasant-faced young man rose and tried to cover his surprise.
“How do you do?” he said cordially, with outstretched hand.
Bambi laid hers in it.
“I’m frightened to death,” she answered.
“Well, not you, exactly, but editorism.” He laughed.
“I can match amazement with your terror, then. You are a surprise.”
“You are disappointed in me,” she said quickly.
“I expected a—a—well, a bigger woman, and older.”
“I see. You didn’t expect a half portion?”
“Exactly,” he smiled. “Well, we were extremely interested in your story.”
“I am so glad.”
“What else have you done?”
“That your first story?”
“How did you happen to write it, Mrs. Jocelyn?”
“I am looking for a career,” she began, but his surprised glance stopped her. “You see I ought to dance. That’s what the Lord intended me to do. I can dance.”
“I can imagine that.”
“But dancing would take me away from home so much, and the ‘Heavenly Twins’ need me so.”
“Twins? You haven’t twins!”
“Yes. Oh, no, not real ones, but my father and Jarvis.”
“Jarvis is a poet and a dreamer.”
“Is Jarvis a friend?”
“Oh, no, I am married to him. They are both so helpless. My father is a mathematician. I have to take care of them both, you see.”
“You mean in a financial way?”
“My father makes a fair income, and of course Jarvis may sell his plays, but when I married him I expected to support him.”
“He is delicate, I suppose?”
“He’s six feet and over, wide and strong as a battleship.”
“And he expects you to support him?”
“No. He protests, but you see I took a sort of advantage of him when I married him. He didn’t want to marry me.”
“You are a most extraordinary young woman,” remarked Mr. Strong.
“Oh, no, I am usual enough. I help Jarvis with his plays, and what I say seems to have sense. Do you know?”
“So just for fun I wrote the story, and just for fun I sent it to your contest.”
“Well, just for fun we gave you the prize.”
“We want a whole series of tales about that girl. She’s new.”
“How many is a series?”
“Oh, eight or ten, if you have material enough.”
“Oh, yes, I live—I mean I get material all the time.”
“What do you want for them?”
“Oh, I’d like a lot for them. New York is full of things I want.”
He laughed again.
“We could give you $150 a story. That would be $1,500 for the ten. Then, eventually, we would make a book of them, and you would get 10 per cent. on that.”
“A book? A book, with illustrations, and covers, and all?”
He nodded. “Are those terms satisfactory?”
“Oh, mercy, yes. It sounds like a fortune!”
“When could you begin, Mrs. Jocelyn?”
“Right away, to-day!”
“Well, that will hardly be necessary. If you send copy to us by the fifth, that will be soon enough.”
“All right. Jarvis is selling a play to-day, so probably we will be rich shortly.”
“To whom is Mr. Jocelyn selling his play?”
“So! That’s fine! You’ll never have to support him, at that rate.”
“He doesn’t know about my getting the prize and coming to see you, and all. I want to keep it a secret for a time.”
“It would be rather awful for me to be famous first.”
“I don’t know about that. It would be selfish of your husband to stand in your way.”
“Oh, Jarvis is selfish. He’s utterly, absorbedly selfish, but not just that way. He’d never stand in my way.”
“I’d like to meet Jarvis.”
“Well, when the secret is out I’ll bring him here. He’s unusual, Jarvis is. Some day he’ll be great.”
“He is in luck to be Mr. to your Mrs.”
She flushed furiously.
“Yes, I think he is,” she admitted, as she rose.
“How long are you to be in New York?”
“As long as your five hundred holds out.”
“You must come in again. If I can be of any use to you, while you are here, give you letters to anybody, have you meet people, I’ll be delighted to do so.”
“You’re a very nice man,” said she. “You have removed the ban from the whole tribe of editors in twenty minutes’ talk.”
“That’s a tribute worth living for. It has been a delightful twenty minutes. Come in again.”
Out in the office, and in the impressive reception room, interested faces turned toward her. The girl who had acted sponsor for her nodded. She tasted the first fruits of success, and they were sweet. The only imperfection was the fact she could not tell Jarvis. She could not brag of her triumphs nor repeat the friendly chat with Mr. Strong. It would be such fun to see his surprise at the news—he had so lately patronized her. “You are not the stuff of which creative artists are made, of course.”
Tra-la-la! She’d make him eat those words.
Then she began at once to do the next story of the series, and by the time she reached the club she had it all thought out. It was then that Jarvis’s telephone message came to her, and she decided that he was even now reading his play aloud to Belasco; that he, too, had found a golden key.
She worked on the new story all the afternoon, and waited for Jarvis’s triumphant return, in a seventh heaven of joyous anticipation.
Jarvis marshalled his reluctant feet into “Forward, March!” down the hall, and trod softly in the hope that he could get past Bambi’s door; but at his first step on the corridor it was flung open, and the small figure silhouetted against the light of the room behind.
“You read him the play?”
He led her gently into the room, closed the door, and faced her.
“Jarvis, he refused it?” she cried.
“I have spent seven hours sitting in an anteroom with a blond steno, waiting. Nobody has been near, all day, excepting fat old girls and Billy boys, looking for jobs.”
“Belasco didn’t come?”
“He did not. What’s more, he sometimes does not come for days.”
“Couldn’t they send him word you were there?”
Even Jarvis smiled at this.
“My dear, they treated me with the same consideration afforded the janitor. It occurred to me, during those seven hours of enforced thought, that our ideas of the simplicity of selling a play were a trifle arrogant. It seems to have unforeseen complications.”
Bambi sat down on the bed, her brow knitted.
“Seven hours sitting? That’s awful!”
“The blond young woman suggested a letter of introduction or an appointment, but I don’t know any one to give me a letter. I doubt if he will give me the appointment without it.”
“I can get it for you!” she said.
“You can? Where? How?”
“I know a way. Never you mind.”
“I was afraid you would be so disappointed I was tempted not to come back at all,” he remarked.
“Disappointed? Not I! Why, we can wait seven years, if need be. In the end we will win.”
“You are a very good sport, Miss Mite.”
“I are,” laughed she. “I am a very able woman, Jarvis. Some day you will be proud of me.”
“You are a terrible egotist,” he objected.
“If I didn’t believe in myself, where would I be? You and father scarcely notice me.”
“I’m beginning to notice you,” Jarvis interrupted. “I was really surprised to find how concerned I was not to disappoint you.”
“That was nice of you, Jarvis,” she beamed at him.
“Don’t do that,” he said sharply.
“Smile like a cat at a mouse,” he said.
“I intended that for a grateful smile.”
“It didn’t turn out that. It was possessive. If I can’t be friendly with you without your over-occupying my thoughts, I shall ignore you.”
“You mustn’t worry about liking me, Jarvis. It’s inevitable. People always like me. I become a necessity, like salt and pepper. Just accept me cheerfully, for here I am.”
He looked at her, frowning.
“Yes, there you are.”
“That scowl is very becoming to you. You look like an angry viking.”
“I am in no good mood to play.”
“Oh, very well, Grandfather Grunt. I had such a nice day. Why don’t you ask me about it?”
“I should be interested to hear what you did.”
“Your manners are painful but impeccable,” she laughed. “Well, I flittered and fluttered up and down the avenue, like a distracted butterfly. I spent a few hours in Tiffany’s with such a pleasant man.”
“Who was he?”
“I don’t know. He was a clerk there. I went in to look at jewels.”
“Just for the joy of it.”
“And a clerk spent two hours with you?”
“Because I’m so charming, stupid. He asked me to come in next week to see some famous pearls. I also inspected a bookshop. I asked about the sale of published plays. I thought we might make your things into a book.”
“If Broadway doesn’t want them?”
“Better still if Broadway does.”
“Do you always go about making acquaintances?” he inquired.
“Always. People like to talk to me. I look so inoffensive.”
He smiled at her saucy, tip-tilted face.
“Any more adventures?”
“Oh, yes. A gay old man asked me if I was alone?”
“What?” he exploded.
“He did. He liked my looks enormously. I could see it.”
“Did you call a policeman?”
“Not I. Do you think I am a ‘bitty-lum’?”
“A what?” he asked.
“Once a pig molicepan,
Saw a bitty-lum,
Sitting on a surbcone,
Chewing gubber rum.
Hi, said the molicepan,
Will you sim me gome?
Tinny on your nintype,
Said the bitty-lum.”
“How old are you?” inquired Jarvis.
“Well, I’ve got all my teeth.”
“What did you do with the old masher?”
“I squelched him.”
“Did he go away?”
“You must be more careful on the streets, Bambi. People misunderstand you.”
“Well, I can always explain myself,” she added, laughing.
“Then what did you do?”
“More or less directly, I came here, and lunched, in the conviction that you were closeted with Belasco. Did you have any lunch?”
“Yes. The blond one drove me out for half an hour.”
“I should have gone with you.”
“I would never sit anywhere seven hours.”
“What would you have done?”
“Gone to Belasco’s house, or telephoned something startling that would have brought him down quickly.”
“Well, that the theatre was on fire.”
“But when he got there?”
“I’d have made him see it was a joke.”
“Maybe he hasn’t that kind of a sense of humour?”
“Then I should have perished bravely.”
So the incidents of their first day’s careering ended jocularly.
Bambi called Mr. Strong on the wire next day, and told him of Jarvis’s unprofitable sitting. Could he get her a letter to Belasco? Or to any other leading manager? He laughed, said he did not know Belasco, but thought he could arrange it for her. He promised to send a letter to the club.
With this assurance to fall back upon, she persuaded Jarvis to go to the office of one of the newer managers who seemed to be of an open mind in regard to untried playwrights. She showed him a magazine article about this “live wire,” named over his productions, and repeated his cordial invitation to new writers.
Jarvis set forth reluctantly. He liked salesman work as little as he had expected to. But he felt he owed some effort to Bambi, since he was her guest, and her mind was so set on his success.
This time the cheeky-faced office boy admitted that the manager was in. He accepted and scrutinized Jarvis’s card with disdain, but on his return from the inner office he ejaculated, “Wait!” So Jarvis sat down for his second endurance feat. The same Johnnies and Billies and Fays came to this office in their endless seeking. He began to vision the great, ceaseless army of them “making the rounds,” as they call it, often hungry and tired. They were most of them uneducated, you could tell by their speech, for all their long “a’s” and short “r’s.” That they were physically unadapted to the profession was obvious enough in many cases. They were probably badly trained. How did they live? Where did they go? They began to haunt him.
He was interrupted by hearing his name called. He rose mechanically, and followed the boy into a very large and ornate office. A fat Jewish man, in loud clothes, a brown derby hat, and a cigar, sat at a desk, dictating.
“H’are ye?” he ejaculated as Jarvis entered. He went on dictating and smoking, until Jarvis finally interrupted him, saying he wanted to see the manager. The fat man glared at him.
“Sit down until I get through!” he shouted. “I’m the manager.”
Jarvis took a chair and looked at the man closely. What would such a creature find in his play, with its roots in a modern condition, no more grasped by this man than by Professor Parkhurst? The absurdity of the idea struck Jarvis so forcibly that he laughed out loud.
“Let’s have it, if it’s any good,” said the fat man.
“I beg your pardon,” Jarvis replied.
The manager dismissed the stenographer, took up Jarvis’s card, looked at it, and then at his victim.
“Jarvis Jocelyn,” he read. “Good stage name. What’s your line, Jarvis?”
“I’ve come to see you about a play.”
“Oh, you’re a writer? What have you done?”
“Several plays, and some poetry.”
“Nix on the poetry. Who brought out the plays?”
“Nobody yet. I am just beginning to offer them.”
“What sort of stuff is it?”
“It’s a dramatic handling of the feminist movement.”
“The emancipation of woman.”
“I hadn’t heard about it. Is your stuff funny?”
“No. It is a serious presentation of an unique revolution——”
“Well, believe me, that high-brow stuff is on the toboggan. I knew it couldn’t last. I gave it to them when they demanded it, but I am cutting it out now. Haven’t you got a good melodrama, or a funny show?”
“I have not,” superbly.
“Say, do you know any Jews? I got a great idea for a Jew play that would take like the measles if some fellow would work it up. Pile of money in it.”
Jarvis rose, furious.
“It is so apparent that we have nothing to say to each other that I’ll bid you good morning.”
“If you fellows who come in here from the country to run Broadway could put yourselves in a show, it would be the scream of the town,” said the fat man in Jarvis’s wake.
“I’d rather starve than endure a pig like you!” cried Jarvis, as he fled.
The fat man’s laugh followed him to the street. He hated himself, and the whole situation. It galled him to think he had deliberately submitted himself to such treatment. Even Bambi could not expect it of him,—to set him to sell his dreams in such a market. He charged down Broadway, clearing a wake as wide as a battleship in action. He saw red. He was unconscious of people. He only felt the animus of the atmosphere, the sense of things tugging at him, which had to be cast off. Why was he here? He wanted the quiet, the open stretches, and his own free thoughts. What turn of the wheel had brought him into this maelstrom? Bambi! The old story, Samson and Delilah! He had visioned great things. She had shorn him, and pushed him into a net of circumstances. He would not endure it. He would sweep her out of his life, and be about his work.
He was disappointed to find her out when he returned to the club. He had his opening speech all ready and it was annoying to have his scene delayed. He raged about, to keep his wrath hot, until she came. “Greeting,” she began; then saw his face, and added, “Jungle beast!”
“I’ll not stay here another day!” he cried.
“You saw the manager?”
“He asked me if the stuff was funny! He invited me to write a Jew play, and make a pot of money! He said ‘Nix on the high-brow stuff,’ and never heard of the feminist movement,” he blurted out in one breath.
She sat down under the onslaught, trying to arrange her rebellious features.
” ‘Nix on the high-brow stuff.’ To me!” he repeated.
Bambi gave up. She rolled on the bed, and laughed.
Jarvis raged the room up and down. There was no gleam of humour in it for him. When her paroxysm had passed, she sat up and looked at him.
“Poor old Knight with the Broken Lance,” she said. “It’s tough, but it had to be done.”
“What had to be done?”
“This morning’s work. It was part of your training. You must know just what the situation is here, in the market-place.”
“But there is no place for me here.”
“After two days’ failure, you give up?”
“I told you I couldn’t sell my things. They are too good.”
“That’s rubbish. Nothing you, nor I, nor any other human can think, is too good. If we have big thoughts, and want to tell them to our brothers who speak another tongue, if we have the brains, we must learn their tongue, not hope for them to acquire ours. That is what I hoped you would see.”
“You think I’ve got to learn the Broadway lingo?”
“I do. If you have anything to say, Broadway needs it.”
“I can’t translate what I want to say into that speech.”
“But you can. It will mean hard work, hard work and heartache, and disappointment, but you can do it, because you have the soul stuff of a great man.”
Her eyes shone now, misted with feeling. He saw again his multitudes flocking to him in the wilderness. He saw them aroused, revived, triumphant over life through him.
“Will you help me?” he cried to her. It was his first uttered need of her, and her heart beat high in response.
“I will, if you will let me, Jack o’ Dreams.”
“Don’t let me give up! Don’t let me lose heart!”
“No, I won’t. I’ll push, or haul you, to the top!”
“I came to scoff, and I stay to pray,” said Jarvis, cryptically. “God bless you, Bambi!” he added, as he left her.
No letter from Mr. Strong arrived in the morning’s mail, so Bambi induced Jarvis to go over to the Cubist show, by himself, on the plea that she had a headache. He went, most willingly, anywhere, except Broadway.
The minute he was out of the way her languid, headachey manner changed to one of brisk energy. She donned her smartest frock and hat. She was more earnest in her effort to allure the eye than she was on the day of her own conquest. “You must look your best, you little old Bambi, you, and see what you can do for big Jarvis!”
After the last nod of approval at her reflected self, she tucked Jarvis’s manuscript under her arm, and started forth. She had made a close study of all the theatrical columns of the papers and magazines since their arrival in New York, so she was beginning to have a formal bowing acquaintance with the names of the leading managers.
In spite of her cheerful acceptance of Jarvis’s mood of despair, the day before, she was really deeply touched by it, and appealed to by his helplessness to cope with the situation. She remembered her words to her father, “He cannot accommodate himself to the commercial standards of the times.” It was so true. And was she right in submitting him to them so ruthlessly? Was she blunting something fine in him by this ugly picture she was holding up for him to see, of a thoroughly commercialized drama, the laws and restrictions of which he must know and conquer, or be silenced? All the mother in her hated to have him hurt, but the sensible helpmeet part of her knew that it must be done. Of course he could not be expected to know how to approach managers, all at once. He was probably very tactless. He admitted that he had called the enemy of yesterday a “pig.” Naturally that was no way to help his cause. Perhaps, after this experience, and his new cognizance of conditions, it would be better for him to write in quiet and solitude, while she acted as salesman.
“I’m just plain adventuress enough to love the fight of it,” she admitted to herself as she approached the office she had selected for her first try. She tripped in, confidently, and addressed the office boy.
“Mr. Claghorn in?” she asked.
“When do you expect him?”
“Oh, any time. He’s in and out.”
“Probably won’t be back until after lunch.”
A railing shut off the hall where she stood from the office proper, where the boy was on guard. Doors opened off this central room into the private offices. There were no chairs in this hall, and the boy made no move to open the railing.
“Is that large armchair in there rented for the day?” Bambi inquired.
“Not so far as I know,” he grinned.
“Does this thing open, or do I have to jump it?” she smiled.
“Where are you goin’?”
“To the large armchair.”
“Welcome to our city,” said he, as he lifted the rail. “Nobody allowed in here except by appointment.”
“That’s all right. I understand that,” she said nonchalantly, and sank into the haven of the chair.
All the details of the office, which bored Jarvis, or which he entirely failed to see, fascinated Bambi. She set herself to the subjection of the office boy, by a request for the baseball score.
“Say, are you a fan?” he asked.
“Can’t you see it in my eye?”
He was launched. He gave her a minute biographical sketch of every player on the team, his past and future possibilities. He went over all the games of the past season, while Bambi turned an enraptured face upon him.
He was frequently interrupted by actors and actresses who came by appointment, or otherwise, and he gave her all the racy details concerning them at his disposal. By indirection she obtained a description of Claghorn, so that he might not escape her if he came in.
All the actors looked at her with interest, the actresses with disdain. One whispered to the boy, who shook his head.
“Say, what you wid?” he asked her later.
“I don’t understand you.”
His look became suspicious. “What show you with?”
“With ‘Success,’ ” she answered hastily, patting the manuscript.
“Playing New York?”
“Gimme two pasteboards when you come to town. I’d like to see you.”
“All right. What’s your name?”
“Robert Mantell Moses. I’m going on, in comic opera, some day.”
“So?” said Bambi.
“Song and dance. Are you a dancer?”
“Toe or Tango?”
“I beg pardon.”
“Toe dancer, or Tango artist?”
“Oh, I do them both.”
“Do you do the Kitchen Sink? And the Wash Tub?”
Bambi thought fast. “Yes. And the One-legged Smelt. Also the Jabberwock Jig.”
He inspected her suspiciously.
“Say, those are new ones on me.” “Really?”
She was thoroughly enjoying herself when the brazen-mouthed clock twanged twelve.
“Goodness! Is it as late as that? Claghorn’s ins are mostly outs.”
“Give me that again.”
“You said he was in and out.”
“Nix on the rough stuff.”
“What a lovely phrase! I must tell that to Jarvis.”
“Who’s Jarvis? Your steady?”
“No. He’s a—relative by marriage.”
“Nix on the ‘in-laws’ for me.”
He suddenly straightened up to attention as a big, fierce-looking man plunged in, nearly demolished the railing in passage, and made for a door marked “Private.”
“Any mail?” he shouted.
“No. Lady to see you, sir,” the boy replied.
Bambi rose to meet the foe, who never glanced at her. He jerked open the door, but he was not quick enough for the originator of the Jabberwock Jig. Her small foot was slid into the space between the door and the threshold. It was at the risk of losing a valuable member, but she was so angry at being ignored that she never thought of it. When the gentleman found that the door would not close, he stuck his head out, and nearly kissed Bambi, whose smiling countenance happened to be in the way.
“Well?” he ejaculated.
“Quite well, thank you,” she replied as she slid in the crack. He looked her over.
“Where did you come from?” he demanded.
“I was out there when you swept the horizon with your eye, but you must have missed me. I didn’t run up a flag.”
She was so little and so saucy that he had to smile.
“What do you want?” he asked directly.
“I want to talk with you, for about three minutes.”
“I don’t engage people for the shows.”
“I don’t want a job.”
“Well, what do you want? Talk fast. My time is precious.”
“I have here a very fine play, called ‘Success,’ which would be a good investment for you.”
“Who wrote it?”
He glanced at her.
“I thought child marriage was prohibited in this state.”
She dimpled back at him, deliciously.
“It is modern, dramatic.”
“Nothing else has much chance. Leave it, and I will read it.”
“As soon as I can.”
“But we have to go home next Thursday.”
“You don’t expect me to read it before then?”
“I wouldn’t read Pinero’s latest before then.”
“How soon would you read it?”
“I’ve got nine productions to look after. I only read on trains. I’m going to Buffalo to-night.”
“Then you could take it along to-night?” she cried happily.
“Say, who let you in here, anyhow?”
“I’ve got no time to talk to anybody.”
“I’m not anybody. I’m I. Just promise me you’ll read it to-night and I’ll go.”
“Is this it? Name and address on it?”
“All right. To-night. Now get out!”
“Thanks. I’ve had such a nice call.” As she reached the door he spoke.
“Tell your husband to put you in a play and I’ll put it on.”
“Much obliged. I’ll tell him. Good morning.”
She made her farewells to Robert Mantell Moses, went out and down the street. It was definitely settled in her mind that she was to market Jarvis’s wares. She had a gift for it, a desperate courage in a crisis, that made her do anything to win her point and get what she came for. Jarvis would, no doubt, be sitting, still. He was waiting for her at the club.
“I was getting anxious about you. Did you go to a doctor?”
“For your head?”
“Oh, my head. I’d forgotten all about it. After you left, I felt so much better that I decided to go out.”
“Looking for more adventures?”
“I never look for them. They—flock to my standard. No, I took the play and stormed a manager’s office. I saw him, in spite of himself, and got him to promise to read the play to-night on the way to Buffalo.”
“Who was he?”
“How did you get to him?”
“He ran through the big office into his private one, and was just about to pull up the drawbridge, when I sprang in after him.”
“Just tell it to me in plain English, Bambi.”
She described her entrance, with the subjection of the office boy, the ruse by which she got into the inner office, her interview with Claghorn, and his subsequent promise.
“You are a wonder!” he exclaimed. “I never could have thought of it.”
“I should say you wouldn’t. You’d have been sitting there yet.”
“Did you tell him about the play?”
“In three minutes? I should say not! I had to cram my words in, like loading a rapid-fire gun. Pouf! Pouf! And out!”
“Did he seem intelligent?”
“Yes, rather. I have decided to see managers after this, Jarvis. It will be Jocelyn & Co. You do the work and I’ll sell it. It’s fun.”
“It’s wonderful how the gods look after me,” he said.
“Gods nothing! It’s wonderful how I look after you. You can burn incense to me.”
The play came back shortly, with a brief note from Claghorn. It had some good points, but it was too serious. Not dramatic enough. The third act was weak.
“All the silly asses want me to make them laugh,” raged Jarvis.
“I am disappointed in my new friend, but the letter to Belasco is here now, so we’ll have a talk with him. Will you go, or shall I?”
“I think I’d like to talk with him, and tell him my views,” Jarvis said.
They sent in the letter, with a request for an interview. In the course of a few days a reply came saying that Mr. Belasco had gone West to see a new production, but if Mr. Jocelyn would send his play to the office it would receive the earliest possible attention. It was a blow to their hopes, but there was nothing else to do, so they dispatched it by messenger.
“I think, maybe, we had better plan to go back home to-morrow, and wait the decision there. The money is vanishing, and I am getting anxious about the Professor. He forgets to write anything of importance.”
“All right. I’ll be glad to go back.”
“Let’s go shop this afternoon, and take the morning train to-morrow.”
“Good. Suits me.”
“What shall I take the Professor? I’ve thought and thought. He’s so hard to shop for.”
“Get him an adding machine!”
Bambi withered him.
“He would disinherit me on the spot. That’s like sending Paderewski a pianola.”
“We must get something for Ardelia, too.”
“I got her a red dress, a red hat, a salmon-pink waist, and handkerchiefs with a coloured border.”
Once their thoughts turned toward the little house, and the arithmetical garden, they were anxious to get back. Their shopping tour was a gay affair, because it was their last outing.
“Don’t you feel differently about New York?” she asked him as they walked back. “It seems to me like a fascinating new friend I have made. I am sorry to leave it.”
“I’m not. I’m not made for cities. People interest me for a while, then I forget them, and they are always under foot, in places like this. I trip over them, and they interrupt my thoughts.”
“I’m so glad you are true to type,” she smiled up at him.
“I’m deeply grateful and appreciative of your bringing me here,” he added awkwardly.
“That was out of character, Jarvis. A month ago you would have taken it as your right.”
“I’m beginning to realize that others may have rights, that even you may have some, Miss Mite.”
“Never fear. I’ll protect mine,” she boasted.
On the morrow they turned their faces toward home and the Professor.
“It looks very out-of-the-worldly, doesn’t it?” Bambi said as they came in sight of home.
“It looks like Paradise to me,” sighed Jarvis, holding open the gate for her.
“Enter Eve, dragging the serpent,” she laughed as she passed in. “Eve never played in an arithmetical garden,” she added. “If she had, there would probably have been no immortal fall.”
“The number eights look tired,” Jarvis commented, ignoring her witticism.
She spied the Professor afar sitting at work on the piazza. She flew along the path and burst in upon him.
“Daddy!” she cried, and enveloped him. His astonishment was poignant.
“My dear,” he said, “my dear. Why, I must have forgotten that you were coming. I would have been at the station.”
“I knew you’d forget, so I didn’t bother you with it. How are you? Have you been lonesome? Did you miss us? Where’s Ardelia?” all in a breath. The Professor smiled.
“Question one, I am well. Two, I cannot say that I have been lonesome. Three, I did not miss you. Four, Ardelia is in the kitchen. How are you, Jarvis?” he added as his son-in-law appeared.
“I am well, sir. I trust you are the same.”
“Thank you. I enjoy good health.”
“Stop it! Sounds like the first aid to manners. Here’s Ardelia. Well, how do you do?”
Ardelia’s face was decorated with a most expansive grin.
“Howdy, Miss Bambi? Howdy, Massa Jarvis? I sho’r am glad to see you folks home again.” She shook hands with both of them.
“How’s everything, Ardelia?”
“All right, Miss. Eberything is all right. We got ‘long fine together, the Perfessor and me. We des went about forgettin’ eberyting and habin’ a mighty comfortable time. Did you all have a good time on your honeymoon?”
“Fine,” said Bambi. “We brought you some presents, that will make your eyes ache, and, ‘Delia, we’re famished.”
“Dog’s foot! Heah I stan’ a-gassin’ and a-talkin’ and you all hungry as wolfses.” She hurried off, muttering.
Jarvis and Bambi sat down.
“Isn’t there something you want to tell me? I can’t just remember what you went to New York for?”
“We went to sell my play,” Jarvis prompted.
“To be sure. It had escaped me for a moment. Were you successful?”
“We were not.”
“Oh, Jarvis, how can you say that? We don’t know yet. Belasco is considering it.”
“What is this Belasco?”
Bambi looked at Jarvis, and they both laughed.
“Isn’t he refreshing?” she remarked. “I’ve thought for two weeks in terms of managers. They fill the universe. They are the gods. Their nod is life or death, and now my nearest relative says, ‘What is Belasco?’ ”
“It’s a sort of meat sauce, isn’t it?”
Consternation on both their faces, then an outburst from Bambi.
“No, no! That’s tabasco, you dear, blessed innocent.”
“Belasco is one of the leading managers in New York, Professor,” explained Jarvis, patiently. “He is as well known as Pierpont Morgan or Theodore Roosevelt.”
“Indeed! Well, I am not surprised at my ignorance. I have no interest in present-day drama. It is degenerate mush.”
“Have you seen anything, since ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’?” Jarvis inquired.
“I have seen ‘The Second Mrs. Tanqueray,’ ” he replied conclusively.
“That was considered strong meat in its day, but now we have ‘Damaged Goods,’ ” mused Jarvis.
“And what are ‘Damaged Goods’?” inquired the Professor.
“What are Yonkers? Don’t tell him, Jarvis—he’s too young to know. It’s an ugly modern play. We saw some things you might have enjoyed. Oh, I often wished for you.”
“Thank you, my dear, but I have no desire to enter that cauldron of humanity.”
“I agree with you, Professor Parkhurst.”
“That is a rare occurrence, I may say,” answered the Professor, with a twinkle.
“Thank goodness, you have me to prod you into life. You would both sit in your dens and figure and write until you blinked like owls in the night. I have stored up energy enough, from these two weeks in the cauldron, to run me for months. I didn’t miss one thing, ugly or beautiful. I shall use it all.”
“Use it? How use it, my dear?”
“In my thoughts, my opinions, my life.”
“Dear me!” said her father, staring at her. “What odd things you say!”
“It’s true, what she says,” Jarvis ejaculated. “She rolled New York up on reels, like a moving-picture show, and I have no doubt she could give us a very good performance.”
“I shall,” quoth Bambi.
“It is rather a pity you waste your impressions, Bambi. Why don’t you write them down?” Jarvis patronized.
“In a young lady’s diary, I suppose. No, thanks.”
“One author in a family is enough,” commented the Professor, heartily.
“You ought to tell us your conclusion about your career. Did you settle it in your mind?”
“A career?” anxiously, from Professor Parkhurst.
“Yes, wealth and fame are in my grasp.”
“You haven’t done anything rash, my dear?”
“Well, slightly rash, but not the rashest I could do.”
“Is it dancing?” from Jarvis.
“Of a sort.”
“Not public dancing?”
“No, private,” she giggled.
“Will it take you away much?” Jarvis asked her.
“Oh, I’ll go to New York occasionally.”
“It is to be a secret, I take it?” the Professor said.
“It is, old Sherlock Holmes.”
They slipped back into their routine of life as if it had never been broken. Jarvis, after two perturbed days of restlessness, went into a work fit over a new play. The Professor was busy with final examinations, so Bambi was left alone with plenty of leisure in which to do her next story.
She wisely decided to write herself—in other words, to dramatize her own experiences, to draw on her emotions, her own views of life. She must leave it to Jarvis to rouse and stir people. She would be content to amuse and charm them. So she boldly called her tale by her own name, “Francesca,” and she shamelessly introduced the Professor and Jarvis, with a thin disguise, and chortled over their true likeness after she had dipped them in the solution of her imagination. She relied on the fact that neither of them ever looked between the covers of a magazine. Besides, even if they chanced upon the story, they would never recognize their own portraits.
A few days before the prize story was published, a special copy came to her from Mr. Strong. She hid it until the “Twins” were gone. Then she hurried out to the piazza and the hammock with it. It was a thrilling moment. “Prize Story by a Wonderful New Writer” stared up at her from the front page. Her tale had the place of honour in the makeup, and it was illustrated—double-page illustrations—by James Montgomery Flagg, the supreme desire of every young writer. She hugged the magazine. She scanned it over and over. She laid it on the table, picked it up casually, and turned to the first story indifferently, just to squeeze the full joy out of it. Then she pounded a pile of pillows into shape, drew her feet up under her, and began to read her own work. She smiled a good deal, she chuckled, finally she laughed outright, hugging herself. At this unfortunate moment Jarvis appeared. She looked as guilty as a detected criminal.
“What’s the joke?”
“Oh, I was laughing at a story in here.”
“How can you read that trash?”
“It isn’t trash. It’s perfectly delightful.”
“What is it?” He came nearer to her, and she clutched the magazine tightly.
“Oh, just a prize story.”
“A prize story? And funny enough to make you laugh? Not O. Henry?”
“Of course not. He’s dead. A new writer, it says.”
He held out his hands for it, and, perforce, she resigned it to him.
“Francesca!” he exclaimed.
“Odd, isn’t it? That’s what attracted me to it,” Bambi lied.
“Well, I suppose there are other Francescas. I came to ask you to listen to a scenario.”
“Good! I shall be delighted,” she replied cordially, folding the magazine over her finger.
So the fatal moment came and passed. Her secret was safe. She kept the cherished magazine in her own room, read and reread it, patting its cover, as one would a curly head.
Upon the receipt of her second story came a telegram from Strong, “Can you see me on Thursday? New plan for stories. Arrive in Sunnyside ten in the morning.” She wired him to come, then sat down to work up an explanation of him for the “Heavenly Twins.” He would be there for lunch—he must be accounted for. She discarded several plans, and finally decided to introduce him as the brother of a college classmate, in town for the day. She would get rid of the family speedily, so that she and Mr. Strong might have time for the conference. What on earth did he want to see her about? It must be important, to bring him from New York. Maybe he was disappointed with the second story, and wanted to break the contract. It was his kind way to come and say it, instead of writing it, but it was a blow. She had felt that the second tale was so much better than the first. She went over it, in her mind, trying to pick flaws in it. Well, she could always go to dancing, if everything else failed.
At lunch she casually remarked, “Richard Strong is coming to lunch on Thursday. I hope you will both be here.”
“Who may Richard Strong be?” inquired her father.
“He is the brother of an old classmate, Mary Strong.”
“Does he live here?” Jarvis asked.
“No. He lives in New York.”
“What brings him to Sunnyside?”
“He didn’t say.”
“I never heard of him before,” Professor Parkhurst said.
“Oh, yes. I used to talk about him a great deal. He’s a fine fellow.”
“Was he a special friend?” Jarvis asked, roused to some interest.
Bambi hesitated. She was getting in deeper than she planned.
“Yes, rather special. Not intimate, but special.”
“What is his business?” asked her father.
“I don’t remember.”
“Rich idler, I suppose,” Jarvis scorned.
“He used to work when I knew him.”
“Well, we shall be glad to see the young man. Would you like me to change off my afternoon classes and remain at home?”
“Oh, no. Don’t think of it!” Bambi cried, with unpremeditated warmth, which focussed Jarvis’s eyes upon her. “He’ll be here only a little while, and we will reminisce. He would bore you to death.”
“I like to be cordial to your beaus.”
“Professor Parkhurst, I am a married woman.”
“Dear me, so you are. I am always forgetting Jarvis. If he is a bore, I’ll lunch at the club.”
“Possibly you would prefer me to lunch out, too,” said Jarvis, pointedly.
“Not at all. I want you both here,” said Bambi, with irritation, closing the incident. She had a feeling that she had not handled the situation as well as she had planned to do.
Thursday, and Mr. Strong arrived with the inevitableness of dreaded events. Bambi felt convinced that his coming meant the premature death of her new-born career, so, naturally, she was prepared for grief. An element of amusement was added, however, by Jarvis’s astonishing behaviour. Ever since the first mention of Mr. Strong’s name he had shown unmistakable signs of dislike for that gentleman. ‘It was the most remarkable revelation of his strange character. Having totally ignored Bambi himself, it distressed him to think of any other man being attracted by her. His references to Mr. Strong’s coming were many and satirical. This display of manly inconsistency was nuts and ale to Bambi. She wondered how much Mr. Strong would play up, and she decided to give Jarvis Jocelyn an uncomfortable hour. She herself was an adept in amatory science, but she was a trifle unsure of Mr. Strong. However, she remembered a certain twinkle in his eye that augured well.
Because it was necessary to enlighten him as to the situation in advance, she arrayed herself most carefully to go and meet him. She encountered Jarvis on the stairs. He inspected her charming self, in a frock the colour of spring green leaves, topped by a crocus-coloured hat, like a flower. She deliberately pranced before him.
“Aren’t I a delight to the eye?”
He stared at her coldly.
“Such ardent admiration embarrasses me, Jarvis,” she protested.
“You look very nice,” he admitted.
“Nice! Nice! I look like a daffodil, or a crocus, or some other pleasant spring beauty.”
“I am glad you are so pleased with yourself. I trust Strong will be equally appreciative.”
“I hope so when I have gone to so much trouble for him,” she tossed back over her shoulder, in punishment.
As Mr. Strong stepped off the train and faced her, it would be hard to say whether admiration or astonishment constituted the greater part of his expression.
“Mrs. Jocelyn, why this is too kind of you!”
“Not at all. City people are so unused to our devious country ways that I was afraid you would get lost.”
Admiration was certainly on top now.
“If you don’t mind, we will walk. It isn’t far.”
“The farther the better,” he replied gallantly.
They set forth, down the shady village street, where the trees almost met overhead. Strong drew in deep breaths of the fresh morning air. His eyes kept returning to the little French figure at his side, so metropolitan, and yet so much the dominant note in any setting in which he had seen her. She chattered on, about the town, the university, and the sights.
“I refrain from pointing out the town hall, and the Carnegie Library,” she said.
“I am grateful,” he bowed.
“Are you married?” she darted at him, out of their impersonality.
“That helps a little.”
His surprise was evident.
“I’m afraid I’ve got you into rather a box.”
“I don’t mind, if you will play Pandora.”
“Thanks. You remember that I told you that my—my career was to be a secret from the ‘Heavenly Twins’?”
“I suppose my career is about over, but I don’t want them to know about it.”
“Excuse me. What’s that—about your career being over?”
“That’s why you’ve come, isn’t it? You didn’t like the last story?”
He stared at her, and then burst out laughing.
“You thought I would come way out here from New York to tell you I didn’t like it?”
“I have a high opinion of your kindness,” she nodded.
“You nice little girl!” he added impetuously. “I came partly because I wanted to talk to you again, partly because I wanted to see Jarvis and the Professor.”
She smiled and nodded encouragement.
“Then, too, we’ve had such a raft of letters about the ‘Francesca’ story that I want to talk to you about making a novel of it, to run serially, instead of the short stories we arranged for.”
“A novel? You want me to write a novel?”
“But I wonder if I could?” she said, in an awed voice.
“Of course you could. The second story was ripping.”
“Was it? Was it?” She clapped her hands joyously.
“We can use it as Chapter Two, with very few changes, and from now on you can build your story about the characters you have introduced, with a spinal cord of plot to give it shape.”
“It frightens me to death, to think of doing it. I have always thought it took genius to write a novel.”
“My dear young woman, not in this day, when publishing houses gush books like so many geysers. Anybody with your gift of words and vivid reactions ought to find writing the line of least resistance. Of course you can do it.”
“I’d adore trying if you’d help me.”
He watched the concentration of her face with interest. She was wrapped in the thought of the book. She was attacking it, on all sides, with the lance of her mind. When she threw herself into every new interest with such abandon, it was no wonder that she gave out impressions with the same intensity.
“What about the box I’m in?” he reminded her. She came out of her trance with a start.
“I’d forgotten all about you,” she said frankly. “I had to explain you to the ‘Heavenly Twins,’ somehow. If I said you were an editor, they would naturally ask why you came to see me?”
“I never thought of that. I am afraid I’ve put you in an embarrassing position.”
“Oh, not at all. I’ve put you in one. I told them you were the brother of an old classmate, stopping over in town for a day, and that you were to look me up.”
“Did I know you well when you were in college?”, he smiled.
“I didn’t intend to have you know me well, but Jarvis showed such unexpected interest in you that you are suspected of having known me rather well.”
“Sort of an old affair?”
“Sort of,” she laughed up at him.
“I get the idea. Have I your permission to play the rôle in my own way?”
“Yes, only don’t betray me. The ‘Twins’ will only be around at lunch-time. After that, we can talk book.”
“Good! I’ll play up with my best amateur theatrical manner,” he responded, as they entered the garden. “This is the arithmetical garden,” he said “It’s true. Why, it’s just like an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ experience, coming into something I have known in some other state of consciousness.”
“Oh, yes, it’s true. That’s all I am, a sort of a camera.”
“What a picture-book house!” he added. “It’s just right for you.”
As they went into the screened porch Jarvis arose, slowly, from the hammock. Mr. Strong stopped, really amazed, as the splendid figure, with its Apollo head, advanced. Bambi, too, was struck with some new alive quality in Jarvis that was compelling.
“This is Mr. Strong, Jarvis.” The two men measured each other swiftly.
“I am glad to meet you,” said Jarvis, with determined politeness.
“Thank you. It’s a pleasure to meet Mrs. Jocelyn’s husband.”
“Mrs. Jocelyn’s husband is a new rôle for Jarvis,” said she.
“I understand you and Mrs. Jocelyn are old friends,” said Jarvis, perfunctorily.
“We are indeed old and dear friends.”
“It has been some years since you met?”
“Yes, although I couldn’t realize it this morning. There is a vivid quality about Mrs. Jocelyn which makes it impossible to forget anything about her. Don’t you think so?”
Jarvis looked at Bambi, who grinned.
“Do you find me vivid, Jarvis?”
“You are certainly highly coloured.”
“Ugh! That sounds like a Sunday supplement.”
Conversation limped along like a tired cab horse. Even Bambi could not prod it into a semblance of life. Besides, she was choked with laughter at the picture of Jarvis sitting up, during his sacred work hours, full of bromides and manners. A discussion of New York almost released him. He thundered against modern cities with force. New York, discovered to be the home of Strong, became anathema to his host. It was the Goliath of Tyranny, Wealth, Degeneration, against which, David-like, he aimed his sling. Strong led him on, interested in his personality.
“Mrs. Jocelyn does not share your opinion of New York?”
“There are many of my opinions in which Mrs. Jocelyn does not share.”
“Fortunately. Same opinions ought to constitute grounds for divorce,” said Bambi.
“I understand you write plays, Mr. Jocelyn?”
“You will have to endure New York, now and again, I suppose, when you begin to produce.”
“We have formed a partnership,” Bambi interpolated. “He writes and I sell.”
“You are a lucky man,” Strong complimented him.
Jarvis ignored the remark. Strong wondered why on earth Bambi had married him. He was wonderful to look at, but his manners were impossible. If he was in love with her, he disguised it successfully. The entrance of the Professor saved the situation.
“This is Mr. Strong, Professor. My father, Professor Parkhurst.”
The Professor’s hand-clasp and absent-minded smile seemed like a perfect character make-up. It was the kind of thing David Warfield would have played excellently. Strong had to shake himself to realize that these were real people, they were so individualized, so emphasized, like characters in a play.
“I am always glad to welcome my daughter’s old friends,” he said. “I forget when it was you knew each other, my dear.”
“Ah, yes, I remember. In college. How is your sister?”
“My sister?” repeated Strong. Bambi gasped. She had forgotten to tell him about Mary.
“I refer to your sister Mary,” the Professor went on.
“Oh, sister Mary? Oh——” Strong recovered himself.
“You have other sisters?”
“Yes, oh, yes. Many.”
“Many, indeed! How many, may I ask?”
“Thirteen,” at a venture.
“Thirteen sisters! That is astonishing! And you are the only brother?”
“The only one.”
“Are they all living?”
“No. All dead.”
“Not Mary?” exclaimed Bambi.
“No, no, I meant to omit Mary. All but Mary are gone.”
“That is very sad,” sighed the Professor. “Thirteen sisters! How were they named?”
“After the thirteen original states,” replied Ananias Strong.
“Extraordinary, but Mary——”
“Short for Maryland,” prompted Strong.
Bambi almost choked. The subject seemed to fascinate her father.
“Is Mary married?” he inquired.
“Yes, quite. Quite married.”
“I forget whether she visited us, my dear.”
“No, Mary never came to Sunnyside.”
“What a pity the friendships of our young days pass away, isn’t it?”
“Not at all. It’s a blessing,” snapped Jarvis. “When you think of all the donkeys you played with in your youth——”
“Mary was not a donkey,” giggled Bambi.
“I wasn’t speaking of Mary,” he remarked.
“I thought you said you were going to lunch in your room to-day, Jarvis,” the Professor remarked.
“That was yesterday,” Bambi said quickly.
“Oh, I can never remember details.”
“I thought that was what you did remember,” challenged Jarvis.
“You refer to figures. They, are not details. They are of enormous importance,” began Professor Parkhurst.
“Now, children, let us not trot out the family skeleton. The ‘Heavenly Twins’ can talk from now until doomsday tolls on the importance or non-importance of mathematics. It’s as thrilling as modern warfare when they get started, but I can’t afford to let them go, because they get so excited.”
“Luncheon am served, Miss Bambi,” announced Ardelia.
Bambi led the way, with a sigh of relief. If she could only get through with it, and get the happy family out of the way! Jarvis must be punished for bad behaviour, and she set herself to the task at once. She turned her attention wholly upon Mr. Strong. She laughed and shined her eyes at him, referring to the dear, old days in the most shameless manner. She fairly caressed him with her voice, and his devotion capped her own.
The Professor ate his lunch oblivious to the comedy, but Jarvis scarcely touched his. Some new, painful thing was at work in him. He resented it every time this man looked at Bambi. He wanted to knock him down, and order her off to her room. Most of all, he was furious with himself for caring. He had the same instinct which possessed him in New York when he rushed to the club to sweep her out of his life, and so save himself. He determined to leave the moment luncheon was over. She must never know what a bad hour she had given him. Poor, ostrich Jarvis, with his head in the sands!
The luncheon was one of the most amusing events in Richard Strong’s experience, and as for Bambi, she was at her best. She enjoyed herself utterly, until coffee put a period to Act Two.
Mr. Strong’s visit left its impress on all three members of the household. The Professor referred to him as the man with the thirteen sisters, and wished him reinvited to the house. Bambi treasured the day he spent with her as a turning point in her life. Surely new vistas opened up to her as a result of his coming. But to Jarvis the memory of the day was extremely painful. He took Bambi’s punishment very seriously. He conceived Strong to be a former lover whom she welcomed back with affectionate ardour. He knew enough of her odd personality to be totally in the dark as to what she would do if she found herself suddenly in love with Strong. The main difficulty was, however, that he cared what she did—he, Jarvis, the free man! He realized that this was a flag of danger, and he answered the warning by sedulously avoiding Bambi for the next few days. She was too busy with the plans for the book to notice, although she caught him looking at her once or twice in a strange, speculative way. Their peace was broken, however, a few days after Mr. Strong’s famous visit by a letter from the Belasco office, accompanied by the play. Mr. Belasco regretted that the play was not just what he wanted. It had some excellent points, etc., but as he had already arranged for so many productions during the coming season, he felt he could not take on anything more at present. He would be glad to read anything Mr. Jocelyn might submit. Jarvis handed it on to Bambi.
“As I told you,” he remarked.
“It never got to Belasco,” said Bambi, confidently. “If it had, he would have seen its possibilities.”
“Is something the matter?” inquired the Professor.
“Belasco has refused Jarvis’s play.”
“So. He didn’t like that abominable woman any better than I did.”
“She is not abominable!” from Jarvis.
“Be quiet, you two, and let me think.”
“If you would learn concentration you would not need quiet in which to think,” protested her parent.
“Oh, if I would learn to be a camel I wouldn’t need a hump,” returned Bambi, shortly.
“I don’t think a hump would be becoming to you,” mused the Professor, turning back to his book.
“We’ll send it to Parke, Jarvis.”
“What’s the use?”
“Don’t be silly. Every manager in New York shall see that play before we stop. We will send it to his wife. Maybe she will read it.”
“Do as you like about it,” he answered, with superb impersonality.
She took his advice and got it off at once, addressed to the actress. In a week came a letter in reply saying that Miss Harper would like to talk to Mr. Jocelyn about the play, and making an appointment at her house two days later.
This letter threw them into great excitement. Jarvis protested, first, that he could not be interrupted at his present work, which interested him. Bambi pooh-poohed that excuse. Then he said he had never talked to an actress, and he had heard they were a fussy lot. She would probably want him to change the play; as he would not do that, there was no use seeing the woman. Bambi informed him that if Miss Harper would get the play produced, it would pay Jarvis to do exactly what she wanted done. Then he protested he hated New York. He didn’t want to go back there. Bambi finally lost her temper.
“If you are going to act like a balky horse, I give you up. Until you get started, you will have to do a great many things you will not like, but if I were a man, I would never let any obstacles down me.”
“When can I get a train?” meekly.
“You can take the same train we took before, to-morrow morning.”
A great light broke for Jarvis.
“I can’t go. I haven’t any money.”
“I have. I’ll lend it to you.”
“I must owe you thousands now.”
“Not quite. We can do this all right.”
“Have you got it all down?”
“In the Black Maria,” she nodded.
So the long and the short of it was that Jarvis went off to New York again. No martyr ever approached the stake with a more saddened visage than he turned upon Bambi as the train pulled out. She waved her hand at him, smiling pleasantly, but he was sorrowful to the last glimpse.
“Poor old baby!” she laughed. “He shall stay in New York a while. He is getting too dependent on mamma.”
She really welcomed his absence. It gave her so much more time for her own work, which absorbed and delighted her. She had never known any sensation so pleasurable as that sense of adventure with which, each morning, she went to work. First, she patted the manuscript pile, which grew so amazingly fast. Then she filled her fountain pen and looked off over the treetops, beyond her window, until, like Peter Pan, she slipped off into another world, the Land of Make Believe, a country she had discovered for herself and peopled with human beings to suit her own taste. To be sure, heir story concerned itself mainly with herself, Jarvis, and the Professor, but only the traits that made them individual, that made them “they,” were selected, and the experiences she took them through were entirely of her own making. It was such fun to make them real by the power of words; to make many people know them and love them, or condemn them, as the case might be. In fact, creation was absorbing.
“It’s very quiet around here since Jarvis left,” commented the Professor a few days later.
“I never thought Jarvis was noisy.”
“Well, he’s like distant thunder.”
“And heat lightning,” laughed Bambi.
“Do you happen to miss him?”
“Me? Oh, not at all. Do you?”
“It always frets me to have things mislaid that I am used to seeing around. When you change the furnishings about, it upsets me.”
“Do you look upon Jarvis as furniture?” she teased him.
“I look upon him as an anomaly.”
“William Morris said, ‘You should never have anything in your house which you do not know to be useful, and believe to be beautiful.’ ”
“I think Jarvis is beautiful.”
“That great mammoth?”
“He’s like Apollo, or Adonis.”
“He certainly needs all Olympus to stretch out on. He clutters up this little house.”
“I am sorry you don’t like Jarvis, Professor.”
“I do like him. I am used to him. I enjoy disagreeing with him. I wish he would come home.”
His daughter beamed on him.
“Then he is also useful as a whetstone upon which you sharpen your wits. William Morris had nothing on me when I added Jarvis to our Penates.”
Jarvis’s first letter she read aloud to her father, and they both laughed at it, it was so Jarvis-like.
“Dear Bambi,” he wrote, “I am in this vile cesspool of humanity again, and I feel like a drowning gnat. I did not go to the club, as you told me to, because I thought I could live more economically if I took a room somewhere and ‘ate around,’ I left my bag at the station, while I went to an address given me by a young man I met on the train. He said it was plain but clean. He told me some experiences he had had in boarding and lodging houses. They were awful! This place is an old three-story house, of the fiendish mid-Victorian brand—dark halls, high ceilings, and marble mantels. It seemed clean, so I took a room, almost as large as your linen closet, where I shall spend the few days I am here. My room has a court outlook, and was hotter than Tophet last night, but of course you expect to be hot in summer.
“I went to see Miss Harper, at the time appointed, this morning. She lives up Riverside Drive. She is a pleasant woman, who seems to know what she wants. She thinks that if I write a new third act, and change some things in the second act, Mr. Parke might produce it. I defended the present form, and tried to show her that the changes she wants will weaken the message of the play. She says she doesn’t care a fig for my message. She wants a good part. My impulse was to take my work and leave, but I remembered how important this chance seemed to you, so I swallowed my pride, though it choked me, and promised to make a scenario of the changes, to submit at once. I may have to stay on a few days to do things over as she wants me to do. The play is ruined for me, already.
“I suppose it is cool and quiet where you are. The noise and heat are terrible here. I forgot to say that I have to hurry with ‘Success,’ because the lady is going to Europe in a fortnight, and insists it must be finished by that time. I hope she won’t crack the whip. It makes me nervous. I am such a new trained bear.
“I’d rather argue with the Professor to-night than be here, or even talk with you. I wish you didn’t want me to be a success, Bambi. Couldn’t you let me off? My regards to you both. Tell Ardelia that nobody in New York knows anything about cooking. There seem to be thousands of people eating around, and oh, such food! Good night.
“He is homesick,” said the Professor, as Bambi finished and folded the letter.
“Homesick to argue with you,” snapped Bambi.
“He said, ‘Or talk with you.’ ”
“Excuse me. He said, ‘Or even talk with you.’ I shall punish him for that.”
“He isn’t comfortable. Hot and mid-Victorian. He isn’t responsible,” excused her father.
“He won’t be comfortable when he gets the penalty,” said Bambi, fiercely.
“I am surprised that he consented to change his play. Samson’s locks are certainly shorn.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“You have shaved him, my dear.”
“Are you calling me Delilah?”
“You can’t deny that he would never be where he is, doing what he is now, if he were not married to you.”
“What of it? Time he had a little discipline. He needs it and his work needs it.”
“Well, he’s getting it.”
“Are you pitying him because he isn’t as mad as he was when I caught him?”
“He’s still mad, nor’ by nor’east.”
“I’ll make a human being and a big artist out of Jarvis before I am through.”
“Be careful that you don’t lose everything in him that makes him Jarvis.”
“Do you think that I can’t do it?”
“I only say that creation, like vengeance, is God’s. It is dangerous when man tampers with it.”
Upon a sudden impulse, she went to lean over him and kiss his bald head.
“I’ll remember that, Herr Vater,” said she.
As the result of their talk, her reply to Jarvis was not so fierce as she had planned to make it, in her first indignation at his “even you.” She did not pat him on the back for making concessions about the play. She merely said she was glad he was acting so sensibly about it, and that if she was the mainspring of that action she was proud. As for letting him off, he was the only living person who could keep him on, or let him off. If he was the sort of softling who could not stand up under life’s discipline because it was uncomfortable or unpleasant, then no power on earth could hold him to accomplishment. But, endowed as he was, with brain, imagination, sensibilities, health, it lay in his power to actually create himself, to say “such and such a man will I be,” making every touch of life’s sculpturing fingers count, “even the pinches,” she added, picturesquely. Of course he must stay in New York as long as necessary. If he was uncomfortable, he must move. He could not do good work under irritating conditions. She told him that the Professor missed him, and Ardelia contemplated sending a box of goodies. She omitted any mention of her own state of mind or feelings in regard to him or his actions. Here was the punishment for his “even you,” and he pondered long over it.
“What on earth did she marry me for? She doesn’t care a straw about me, only what I can make of myself,” he mused, a trifle bitterly. But he went to work at “Success” with the abandon of a house-wrecker, pulling it to the foundation. He used the sledgehammer on scenes he loved. He loosened and pitched out phrases he had mulled over long, and in the dust of the affray he forgot the sting that lay behind Bambi’s words. If she wanted him famous, famous would he be.
Three boiling days, and the major part of three boiling nights, Jarvis sweated and toiled over the scenario for the revised two acts. It was work that irked him, because he hated doing things over when the first glad joy of inspiration was gone, but he stuck to it. And the fourth day he set out for the house far up the Riverside Drive, armed with his manuscript and a sense of triumph.
Arrived at his destination, the butler announced that Miss Harper had gone on a motor trip for two days. No, she had left no word. Angry at himself for not having provided against such a situation by an appointment with the lady, furious at the thought of two days’ delay, he betook himself to the Parke offices in the hope of finding some word for him there. Mr. Parke was busy and could not see him, announced the keeper of the keys to heaven, who sat at the outer gate. No, Mrs. Parke had left no word for a Mr. Jocelyn. No, she knew nothing of Mrs. Parke’s plans or movements. No, she could not ask Mr. Parke. Besides, he wouldn’t know.
Jarvis descended the many stairs in a thickening gloom. Wait, wait, wait! That was part of the discipline Bambi talked of so wisely. Well, he then and there decided that the day would come when he would walk past every managerial outpost in the city, and invade the sanctum without so much as presenting a visiting-card.
The automobile trip lasted four days instead of two, and he spent them in a fret of impatience. He worked at the third act, sure of her approval. On the fifth day she received him. She liked the idea of the second act—she would have none of the new third act. At the end of his enthusiastic sketch of how it would run, the reading of new scenes, the telling of new business, she yawned slightly, and said she didn’t like it at all. Unless he could get a good third act, she wouldn’t care for the piece. He assured her this would be a good third act when it was worked up. No use working it up. She knew now she would never like it. Jarvis rose.
“I will submit the new third act to-morrow. Have you any suggestions you wish to incorporate?”
“Oh, no. If I could write plays, I would not be acting them. It’s easier and more lucrative to write.”
“I don’t find it easy enough to be a bore,” replied Jarvis. “I will be here at eleven to-morrow.”
“Make it three.”
“Very well, three.”
“Some of the pinches,” he muttered as he climbed the bus to go back to his hot hall bedroom, his mind a blank, and only twenty-five hours in which to work out a new third act.
He stripped for action and worked until midnight. Then he foraged on Fourth Avenue for food at an all-night cafe patronized by car-men, chauffeurs, and messenger boys. He ate ravenously. Afterward he swung downward to Madison Square Park, to stretch his tired body. The stars were very bright, but a warm wind crowded people on to the streets. A restless, aimless crowd of strollers! Several of them spoke to Jarvis. Many of them marked him. But he paid no attention to individuals. His mind was full of the whole picture. Mile after mile of narrow streets between blocks of stone and brick and wood. Thousands of people tramping the miles like so many animals driven from the jungle by fire or flood. This men called civilization—this City of Stone Blocks! How far was it from the jungle? Hunger, thirst, lust, jealousy, anger, courage, and cowardice—these were the passions of both fastnesses. How far was Man from his blood brother, the Wolf?
He reached the green square, and started to cross it. On every bench, crowded together, huddled the sleepers. He walked slowly, and looked at them closely. Most of them were old—old men and old women—warped out of all semblance to human beings, their hideous faces and crooked bodies more awful in the abandon of sleep. Some young ones there were, too: a thin boy with a cough; a tired girl of the streets, snatching a moment of sleep before she went about her trade. It was like some fantastic dream.
“Softlings! Poor softlings!” Jarvis muttered, Bambi’s words coming back to him. The tawdry little girl stirred, saw him, spoke to him, her hand upon his arm.
“Go get a decent bed, child,” he said, giving her some money.
Her eyes shone at him in the half light like Bambi’s, and he shuddered. As she sped away a sudden rage possessed him. Why did they endure, these patient beasts? They numbered thousands upon thousands, these down-and-outs. Why did they not stand together, rise up, and take? Why didn’t he shout them awake, and lead them himself? “Gimme a nickel to get a drink?” whined a voice at his elbow.
“Here, you, move on!” said the policeman, roughly, arousing Jarvis from his trance.
On the way uptown to his room he thought it over. If they could organize and stand together, they wouldn’t be what they were. It was because they were morally and physically disintegrated that they were derelicts. This waste was part of the price we must pay for commercial supremacy, for money power, for—oh, sardonic jest!—for a democracy.
He went back to work with squared shoulders, and worked until dawn. At three the next afternoon he again presented himself to the Parke butler. Madame was indisposed, could see no one. Mr. Jocelyn was to come the next day at three.
This time he wasted no energy in rage at the delay. He began to see that this was no sham battle on a green hillside of a summer’s day, but a real hand-to-hand fight. It was to place him, for all time, at the head of the regiment or with the discards. He had believed that what he had to say was the most important thing, that this errand Bambi had sent him on was a stupid interruption. But all at once he saw it straight. This was his fight, here and now. He would not go back to her until he had won. He must find the way to finance himself in the meantime. No more provisions from the Professor or his daughter. As he made his way downtown he thought over all the possibilities of making enough to live on. He had never bothered his head about it before. Like the sparrow, he had been provided for. But something of his arrogant demanding of life seemed to have fled, a sort of terror had been planted in him by that view of the park-bench sleepers.
How he wished Bambi were here to advise him, to laugh at him, or with him! The thought of her was constantly creeping into his mind, to be shoved out by a determined effort of his will. He told himself he was becoming as boneless as the Professor, who relied on her for everything. That night he wrote to her:
“I seem to have come to my senses to-day for the first time. Queer how a man can go on walking, talking, and thinking in his sleep. I don’t know why I should have wakened up to-day, but a walk I took last night at midnight stirred something in me. And a futile attempt to see Miss Harper to-day did the rest. You saw clearly, as you so often do. This is my fight, right here and now. I must make somebody believe in this play and produce it. It may take a long time—months, perhaps—but I must stay and face it out.
“I wanted you sorely to-night, Miss Mite, to talk it over with me. I am always coming upon things I want to talk over with you, these days. You have such a decided way of seeing things.
“I shall not be needing any more money, because I am about to make something, on the side, for myself. Keep the Black Maria, and when the play goes we will have a mighty reckoning. I am not going to say thanks for what you and the Professor have done for me. I am going to act thanks.
“I shall read the scenario of the third act to Miss Harper to-morrow, the gods and the lady permitting. This is the third third act. I trust it will be ‘three and out,’ or, rather, three and on. My regards to the Professor and you. It is very hot here, and I relax by thinking myself in the arithmetical garden. It seems years ago since I was there. Has the Professor laid out any new figures? I think the ‘X’ bed ought to be wild orchids. He will understand.”
He took the letter out to mail, and went for another walk. The night crowds began to interest him. He planned to take a different walk every night, and learn something of this city which he was setting out to conquer.
The next morning he went from one newspaper office to another trying to get a job. His lack of experience handicapped him everywhere. Cub reporters were as thick as summer flies. He walked, to save carfare.
At three he gained admittance to Miss Harper and read her the new scenario. She decided that she liked the second one better. He arranged to go to work on it at once, so that she might have Mr. Parke read it before she sailed. The siren Hope sang a happy song to Jarvis as he swung down the drive. He had the golden apple in his grasp this time.
“I’m coming, oh, you people,” he apostrophized them with his old assurance. “You’ll hear from me soon!”
He celebrated his coming fortune with a fifty-cent table d’hôte, to which he did full justice. Up in the hot hall bedroom he took stock of ammunition. If he went light on food, he could afford to keep right at the play until he finished it. He estimated just what amount he could spend a day, and divided up his cash into the daily portion, each in an envelope. He purchased an alcohol stove and a coffee-pot, and set to work.
There were only twelve days in which to do or die, and he went at it in a frenzy. Day faded into night, night faded into day, marked only by the thumping of the outraged chambermaid, at whom he thundered. When he remembered, he dashed out for food, but for the most part he drank coffee, and more coffee.
Once he went for a long walk. He could never remember, afterward, whether it was day or night. But during it he thought out a new scene, and ran miles to get back and get it down. He grew thinner and more hollow-eyed each day, but he cared for nothing but accomplishing this thing. He knew the act was good. He felt sure Miss Harper would like it.
At dawn of the day he was to finish it he rushed into a dairy lunch to get a sandwich and a glass of milk. While he waited for the heavy-eyed clerk to get it, he picked up a morning paper. The date caught his eye. This was his last day of grace, sure enough. He must call up and get an appointment for the afternoon, for Miss Harper would be sailing to-morrow. Idly his eye travelled across the page, and suddenly was riveted by a headline: “Bertram Parke and his wife, Helen Harper, sail on the Mauretania to-day. They will hasten to London, to sign a contract for a play for Miss Harper by Galsworthy, which will be produced in New York immediately on her return.”
The print blurred before Jarvis’s eyes. Everything swayed and swam. Out of the chaos came the voice of the tired clerk, shouting: “Say, you, what’s the matter with you? Can’t you take your sandwich? Think I’m going to hold it all day?”
Jarvis didn’t understand him. He didn’t even hear him. He just laid down his last quarter and went out, a bit unsteadily.
“Soused!” grinned the clerk, looking after him.
Bambi sat, chin on hand, staring off into the distance so long that the Professor’s attention was finally attracted to her. She held Jarvis’s letter in her hand—his call-to-arms letter.
“No bad news, I hope?” ventured her father.
“Oh, no; good news. The best. Jarvis is alive!”
“Why, you didn’t think he was dead?”
“Yes, in a sense he was dead.”
“Strange I never noticed it.”
“I mean that he was only fully alive to himself. He was dead to other people. He has been dangerously self-centred.”
“Now many hands are knocking at his postern gate!”
“What enigmatic things you do say, my child!”
“Don’t you understand? Jarvis has built a high wall about himself, his precious self. He was a sort of superman, called to sit in a high tower and dream, to think, to formulate a message to the world. No claims of earth were allowed to enter in.”
“But you climbed over the wall? You were a claim of earth?”
“You know how I sneaked in when he wasn’t looking.”
“If you could read me the letter, Bambina, or such portions of it as are not private, I might understand better what you are trying to say.”
“I’ll read it to you. It’s none of it private. He has nothing private to say to me.”
The Professor composed himself to listen, while she read Jarvis’s long screed aloud. At the end he, too, sat thoughtfully a few moments, his finger tips neatly matched in church steeples before him.
“I’m sometimes amazed at your judgment,” he said.
“Why my judgment?”
“I never would have seen any possibilities, myself, in the Jarvis whom you married.”
“Speaking of cryptic remarks——”
“I was trying to convey to your mind my belief that he may turn out a real man.”
“Oh, Jarvis was a good investment. I knew it at the time. Poor old thing, he’s frightfully lonesome.”
“He ought to come home for a while, on a visit. I am saving several topics for disagreement.”
“No, it’s better for him to stick it out. No human being ever treated Jarvis like this Miss Harper is treating him, and it’s fine for him.”
“Aren’t you rather Spartan, my dear?”
“I am. I have felt all along that I had pushed him overboard before I was sure he could swim. Now I know he can.”
“You may tell him for me that our agreement was for two years, and it holds good.”
“I don’t know what your agreement was, Herr Professor, but if it had money in it, cancel it. I want him to learn that lesson, too.”
“Poor old Jarvis!”
“Don’t you poor old Jarvis me. Remember the abuse you heaped on him when I married him. I want him to be practical!”
The Professor rose and started for the garden.
“It’s your own affair, my dear.”
The outcome of Bambi’s thoughts was a letter to Mr. Strong. She invited him to spend the weekend with her father and herself, to talk over the book and other things. She added that she hoped that he would prepare himself with data about the thirteen sisters, because her father would be primed with questions about them. Mr. Strong’s acceptance came by return mail, and he, himself, followed Saturday morning.
Bambi met him, as on the other occasion, and at sight of his cordial smile she suddenly felt as if he were an old friend.
“I am so glad to see you!” she exclaimed in her impulsive way.
Mr. Strong shook her hand vigorously.
“It’s mutual, I may say,” and he fell into step. “Bless this old town, it’s like——”
“A soporific,” she supplied, and joined his laugh.
“How’s the Professor? And my old friend Jarvis?”
“The Professor is in a quiver of expectation to talk sisters with you.”
“Good! I am ready for him. And Jarvis?”
“Jarvis was the ‘other things’ I asked you here to talk about.”
“He’s in New York.”
“He is? Why didn’t he look me up?”
“He doesn’t like you.”
“He took us seriously the other day?”
“Jealous, is he? That isn’t why he is in New York?”
“Oh, no! He went to sell a play.”
“Belasco refused it?”
“Yes, and two others. The Parkes have it now. They are going to take it.”
“Jarvis may have to stay in the city for some time. He doesn’t know any one. He hates cities. I suspect he is economizing too much to be comfortable. I thought maybe you would look him up—keep an eye on him.”
“I should be delighted to, if you think he doesn’t dislike me too much.”
“Oh, no, he was annoyed that day we flirted so outrageously, but I know he would be glad to see you.”
“I had a wonderful time that day, myself.”
“It was fun. Everybody was so at cross purposes.”
“Do I continue the rôle of old beau?”
“Oh, no. You’ve established yourself with father, so there’s no use in playing up.”
“Old beau exit with regret,” he sighed.
“You’re a nice man, and I’m glad of you.”
“Thanks. Give me Jocelyn’s address before you forget it. Ah, there’s the Professor now,” he added, as he pocketed the card and hastened into the garden.
The rest of the two days they spent in easy companionship. They played tennis, they drove through the woods in an old surrey, Bambi as whip. Then, when the Professor’s early bedtime removed him to the second story, they sat on the moonlit piazza and talked.
The novel had grown into ten chapters. Three instalments had been published, and the public was showing a most flattering interest in it. Strong brought a box of letters for her to read from enthusiastic readers.
“It’s extraordinary how real you make your characters when you are such a novice,” he said to her.
“I tell you I am a photographer. The musician in my story is Jarvis, with a thin disguise. The old fiddler is my father, and the girl is shamelessly ‘me.’ ”
“Delightfully you,” he corrected her. “Has the Professor or your husband read any of your stories?”
“No. They never read magazines. Jarvis saw the announcement of the prize story, and commented on the use of my name, but I threw him off the scent easily.”
“I don’t see why you don’t ‘fess’ up, now that the thing is an established success.”
“No, not yet. It’s such a lovely secret. I want to wait for just the moment to spring it on them.”
“Couldn’t you invite me in when that moment comes?”
“We’ll see. I may invite the neighbours in, and crown myself with a laurel wreath.”
“I’d rely on your doing it in a novel way.”
“The surest way of being considered eccentric is just to be yourself. So few of us have the nerve.”
They talked late. He told her his plans and hopes for the magazine. He spoke of his people, of his past life, of his preparation for his work, and when the clock finally interrupted with twelve strokes, they arose, nearer friends than ever.
After Strong’s departure Bambi wrote Jarvis to prepare him for the friendly visit:
“You’ll remember Richard Strong, the brother of Maryland and the thirteen sisters? He came to spend the weekend with us, and expressed such disappointment at your absence that I gave him your address so he could look you up. Do be nice to him. I am sure you will like him when you get to know him. He is a fine, sensible fellow. He might find something for you to do on a magazine, if you wanted it. I did not speak to him about it, thinking you could do it best yourself, if you chose to. We had a pleasant two days’ visit—much talk, tennis, drives, and more talk. It seemed to please and rest him, and we enjoyed him greatly. The Professor has taken a great liking to him.
“By the time this reaches you, you will have read the new third act to your leading lady. I feel so confident that she is going to like it. Wire me when she accepts. I can’t wait for a letter. Good luck and congratulations, from both of us.
“P.S. Will you come home after the contract is signed?”
She tripped down to the corner in the moonlight to mail the letter, congratulating herself that she had handled the report of Mr. Strong’s visit with great tact. She recalled Jarvis’s unexpected jealousy with a smile. Where was he at this moment? Tossing in a hot bedroom, or prowling the streets, as he seemed prone to do these nights?
She pondered the processes which made success so easy for some people—hers, for instance, a happy accident—while others, Jarvis-like, had to be tied to the wheel before the fickle goddess released them and crowned them. Was it all chance? Or was there some big plan back of it all? Was she spared this incarnation that she might strive harder in the next? Was Jarvis expiating for past immunity? It was all a tangle, surely, to our mortal eyes.
She gave it up, snapped off her light, and went to bed. A shaft of silver, like a prayer rug, lay across the floor.
“Lady Moon, shine softly on my Knight of the Broken Lance,” she whispered, as she closed her eyes.