Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Susan Woodring and PG Distributed Proofreaders
by Marjorie Benton Cooke
Illustrated by Mary Greene Blumenschein
Originally Published in 1914
With thanks to her for being Herself!
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
She saw Jarvis before the curtain, making a first-night speech.
Bambi fluttered the joy-bringing letter above her head and circled the breakfast-room in a whirl of happiness.
“Good evening, Mrs. New York, and all you people out there! We’re here, Jarvis and I.”
“Well, believe me, that high-brow stuff is on the toboggan.”
“Tell your husband to put you in a play, and I’ll put it on.” “Much obliged, I’ll tell him. Good morning.”
Her tale had the place of honour and was illustrated by James Montgomery Flagg, the supreme desire of every young writer.
“Softlings! Poor softlings!” Jarvis muttered, Bambi’s words coming back to him.
“I have got to do something violent, Ardelia. I am going to jerk the stems off of berries, chop the pits out of cherries, and skin peaches.”
He taught himself to abandon his old introspective habits during these days on the box.
“Professor James Parkhurst, I consider you a colossal failure as an educator,” said Francesca, his daughter, known to friend and family as Bambina, or Bambi for short.
Professor Parkhurst lifted a startled face from his newspaper and surveyed his only child across the breakfast table.
“My dear, what causes this sweeping assertion of my incompetence?”
“I do! I do! Just what did you expect me to do when I grew up?”
“Why, to be happy.”
“That’s the profession you intended me for? Who’s to pay the piper? It’s expensive to be happy and also unlucrative.”
“I have always expected to support you until your husband claimed that privilege.”
“Suppose I want a husband who can’t support me?”
“Dear me, that would be unfortunate. It is the first duty of a husband to support his wife.”
“Old-fashioned husbands, yes–but not modern ones. Lots of men marry to be supported nowadays. How on earth could I support the man I love?”
“You are not without talents, my dear.”
“Talents? You almost said accomplishments! If you were not living in the Pliocene age, Professor James Parkhurst, you would know that accomplishments are a curse–accomplishment is the only thing that counts. I can sing a little, play the piano a little, auction bridge a good deal; I can cook, and sew fancy things. The only thing I can do well is to dance, and no real man wants to be supported by his wife’s toes.”
The Professor smiled mirthlessly. “Is this a general discussion, or are you leading to a specific point, Bambi?” he inquired.
“It’s a specific charge of incompetence against you and me. Why didn’t you teach me something? You know more about mathematics than the man who invented them, and I am not even sure that two and two make four.”
“You’re young yet, my dear; you can learn. What is it you want to study?”
“Success, and how to get it.”
“Success, in the general sense of the word, has never seemed very important to me. To do your work well—-“
“Yes, I know. It is the fact that you have not thought success important that hampers me so in the choice of a husband.”
“Bambina, that is the second time a husband has been mentioned in this discussion. Have you some individual under consideration?”
“I have. I have practically decided on him.”
“You don’t tell me! Do I know the young man?”
“Oh, yes–Jarvis Jocelyn.”
“He has proposed to you?”
“Oh, no. He doesn’t know anything about it. I have just decided on him.”
“But, my dear, he is penniless.”
“That’s why I reproach you that you haven’t brought me up to support Jarvis in a luxury he will have to get used to.”
“But why have you settled on this youth? I seem to recall a great many young men who are always about. I presume they admire you. Certainly this dreamer is the most ineligible of them all.”
“Oh, that–yes. That’s why I must take him. He’ll starve to death unless some one takes him on, and looks after him.”
“Isn’t there some asylum, perhaps?”
Bambi’s laugh rang out like a chime.
“A home for geniuses. There’s an idea! No, Professor Parkhurst, Society does not yet provide for that particular brand of incompetents.”
“It seems as if you were going rather far in your quixotism to marry him.”
Again the girl laughed.
“I total him up like this: fine family, good blood, decent habits, handsome, healthy, poetic. He might even be affectionate. His one fault is that he is not adjusted to modern commercial standards. He cannot make money, or he will not–it comes to the same thing.”
“I am unable to see why you are elected to take care of him. He must fit his time, or perish. You don’t happen to be in love with him, do you?”
“No, I–I think not. He interests me more than anybody. I suppose I am fond of him rather.”
“Have you any reason for thinking him in love with you?”
“Mercy, no! He hardly knows I’m alive. He uses me for a conversational blotting-pad. That’s my only use in his eyes.”
“He’s so very impractical.”
“I am used to impractical men. I have taken care of you since I was five years old.”
“Yes, my dear. But I am not trying to feed the world bread when it demands cheese.”
“No, you are distinctly practical. You are only trying to prove a fourth dimension, when three have sufficed the world up to date.”
“No buts. If it had not been for me you would have gone naked and been arrested, or have forgotten to eat and starved to death.”
“Now, my dear Bambi, I protest—-“
“It will do you no good. Don’t I remember how you started off to meet your nine o’clock class clad in your pyjamas?”
“Oh, my child!”
“Don’t talk to me about impracticality. It’s my birthright.”
“Well, I can prove to you—-“
“I never believe anything you have to prove. If I can’t see it, first thing, without any process, it isn’t true.”
“But if you represent yourself as Y, and Jarvis as X, an unknown quantity—-“
“Professor Parkhurst, stop there! There’s nothing so unreliable as figures, and everybody but a mathematician knows that. Figures lie right to your face.”
“Bambina, if you could coin your conversation—-” Professor Parkhurst began.
“I am sorry to find you unreasonable about Jarvis, Professor.”
He gazed at her, in his absent-minded, startled way. He had never understood her since she was first put into his hands, aged six months, a fluffy bundle of motherless babyhood. She never ceased to startle him. She was an enigma beyond any puzzle in mathematics he had ever brought his mind to bear upon.
“How old are you, Bambina?”
“Shame on you, and you a mathematician. If James is forty-five, and Bambina is two thirds of half his age, how old is Bambi? I’m nineteen.”
His startled gaze deepened.
“Oh, you cannot be!” he objected.
“There you are. I told you figures lie. It says so in the family Bible, but maybe I’m only two.”
“Nineteen years old! Dearie me!”
“You see I’m quite old enough to know my own mind. Have you a nine o’clock class this morning?”
“Well, hasten, Professor, or you’ll get a tardy mark. It’s ten minutes of nine now.”
He jumped up from his chair and started for the door.
“Don’t you want this notebook?” she called, taking up the pad beside his plate.
“Yes, oh, yes, those are my notes. Where have I laid my glasses? Quick, my dear! I must not be late.”
“On your head,” said she.
She followed him to the hall, reminded him of his hat, his umbrella, restored the notebook, and finally saw him off, his thin back, with its scholarly stoop, disappearing down the street.
Bambina went back to the breakfast table, and took up the paper. She read all the want “ads” headed “female.”
“Nothing promising here,” she said. “I wonder if I could bring myself to teach little kids one, two, and one, two, three, in a select dancing class? I’d loathe it.”
A ponderous black woman appeared in the door and filled it.
“Is you froo?”
“Yes, go ahead, Ardelia.”
“Hab the Perfessor gone already?”
“Yes, he’s gone.”
“Well, he suttinly did tell me to remin’ him of suthin’ this mohnin’, and I cain’t des perzactly bemember what it was.”
“Was it important?”
“Yassum. Seemed lak I bemember he tell me it was impo’tant.”
“Serves him right for not telling me.”
“It suttinly am queer the way he can’t bemember. Seem lak his haid so full of figgers, or what you call them, ain’ no room for nuthin’ else.”
“You and father get zero in memory–that’s sure.”
“I ain’t got no trubble dat way, Miss Bambi. I bemember everything, ‘cepting wot you tell me to bemember.”
The dining-room door flew open at this point, and a handsome youth, with his hair upstanding, and his clothes in a wrinkle, appeared on the threshold. Bambi rose and started for him.
“Jarvis!” she exclaimed. “What has happened? Where have you been?”
“Sleeping in the garden.”
“Dat’s it–dat’s it! Dat was wat I was to remin’ the Perfessor of, dat a man was sleepin’ in the garden.”
“Sleeping in our garden? But why?”
“Because of the filthy commercialism of this age! Here I am, at the climax of my big play, a revolutionary play, I tell you, teeming with new and vital ideas, for a people on the down-slide, and a landlady, a puny, insignificant ant of a female, interrupts me to demand money, and when I assure her, most politely, that I have none, she puts me out, actually puts me out!”
Bambi choked back a laugh.
“Why didn’t you come here?”
“I did. Your father refused to see me; he was working at his crazy figures. I burst in, and demanded you, but he couldn’t remember where you had gone.”
“What a pity! Well—-“
“I told him I would wait in the garden. If necessary, I would sleep there.”
“Yas’m, yas’m, dat’s when he called me in, to tell me to bemin’ him.”
“That will do, Ardelia.”
“Yassum,” said the handmaiden, and withdrew.
“Now, go on.”
“I was full of my big act, so I walked and walked for hours. Then I lay down in the summer-house, and I must have gone to sleep.”
“Go up and take a bath, and come down to some breakfast. I will send Ardelia to get some of father’s things for you if you need them.”
“All right, but don’t delay with breakfast. If I don’t get this act down, I may lose it. That fiend, in female guise, held my paper.”
“Go on! Get ready!”
He plunged out, and Bambi went to send Ardelia to him, while she cooked his eggs and fried his bacon. As she worked, she smiled, out of sheer amusement.
In due course of time, he appeared, freshened up, and with renewed eagerness to be at work. He scarcely noticed Bambina as she served his breakfast. He ate as if he were starved.
“I suppose the landlady held your clothes?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t ask. It was unimportant.”
“How much do you owe her?”
He looked at her in surprise.
“I have no idea.”
“Have you any money at all?”
“Certainly not. I’d have given it to her if I had, so she wouldn’t interrupt me.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I can’t think about it now. I am full of this big idea. It’s a dramatization of the Brotherhood of Man, of a sublime, socialistic world—-“
“Has it occurred to you, ever, Jarvis, that the world isn’t ready for the Brotherhood of Man yet? It’s just out of the tent stage, where War is the whole duty of Man.”
“But it must be ready,” he urged, seriously, “for I am here with my message.”
She smiled at him as one would at a conceited child.
“Poor old Jarvis, strayed out of Elysian fields! Were you thinking of sleeping in the summer-house permanently?”
“Oh, it doesn’t matter; only the play matters. Give me some paper, Bambi, and let me get to work.”
She rose and went to stand before him.
“Would you mind looking at me?”
He turned his eyes on her.
“Not just your eyes, Jarvis. Look at me with your mind.”
“What’s the matter with you?” he asked, slightly irritated.
“Do you like my looks?”
“I’ve never noticed them.”
“That’s what I’m asking you to do. Look me over.”
He stared at her.
“Yes, you’re pretty–you’re very pretty. Some people might call you beautiful.”
“Don’t overdo it, Jarvis! Have you ever noticed my disposition?”
“No–yes. Well, I know you’re patient, and you must be good-natured.”
“I am. I am also healthy and cheerful.”
“I don’t doubt it. Where is the paper?”
She put her hands on his shoulders and shook him gently.
“Jarvis, I want you to give me your full attention for five minutes.”
“What ails you to-day, Bambi?”
“The only thing I lack is a useful education, so that I am not sure I can make a very big living just at first, unless I dance on the stage.”
“What are you driving at?”
“Would you have any special objection to marrying me, Jarvis?”
“Marrying you? Are you crazy?”
“Obviously. Have you?”
“Certainly I won’t marry you. I am too busy. You disappoint me, Bambi; you do, indeed. I always thought you were such a sensible girl—-“
“Father can help out a little, at first, but I may as well tell you, he doesn’t approve of you as a son-in-law.”
“I don’t approve of him, impractical dreamer! Where is that paper?”
“You’ve got to be taken care of until you get an awful tumble. Then you will wake up and do big things, but in the meantime you must eat.”
“You talk nonsense, and you’re interrupting me. If I don’t get at that scene—-“
“Will you marry me? I can’t take care of you if you don’t, because the neighbours will talk.”
“I won’t marry you. I don’t love you.”
“No more do I love you. That’s got nothing to do with it. Here’s one of father’s empty notebooks. Say yes, and you can have it.”
His eyes fairly glistened as they fell on the book.
“For heaven’s sake, don’t torture me. Give me the book and have it your own way, whatever it is you want.”
She laughed, gave him the book, and he was at the table instantly, sweeping back the dishes with a ruthless hand.
“No, no, into the study you go, while I make a descent on your landlady, rescue your clothes, and get the license and the minister, my liege lord.”
She settled him at his desk, where he was immediately lost to his surroundings.
Bambi slipped out noiselessly, dressed for the street, humming a little song, and presently departed.
Meanwhile, his first recitations being over, the Professor returned for two hours’ research in his study, to find Jarvis ensconced there, oblivious to the outside world. “Go away, go away!” he shouted to Professor Parkhurst.
“I’ll trouble you to get out of my study,” said the Professor.
“You’ll get your filthy money in due time, my good woman, so go away!” cried Jarvis.
“Whom are you addressing? Good woman, indeed!”
At this moment Bambi returned, and sensed the situation.
“Oh, I didn’t expect you back, Father Professor. This is Jarvis. You see he’s come. He has no objection at all to my marrying him, so I got a minister.”
“A minister? You got him?”
“Yes, you see Jarvis is busy. There is no need of our waiting, so we are going to be married in half an hour or so.”
“Yes, right here, as soon as Jarvis finishes this scene.”
“Is he going to occupy my library permanently?” wailed the Professor.
“No, no. I’ll fix him a place on the top floor.”
“He’s not at all my choice,” said Professor Parkhurst firmly, gazing at the unconscious Jocelyn. “You can see by the way he tosses paper about that he is neither methodical nor orderly.”
“Those are husband traits that I can do without, thank you.”
“‘Scuse me, but yo’ all expectin’ the preacher up here? He say Miss Bambi tol’ him to cum here at eleben o’clock.”
“Yes, show him right in here.”
Ardelia reappeared with the Reverend Dr. Short at her heels. Bambi greeted him, and Professor Parkhurst shook hands absently. Bambi went to lean over Jarvis. He suddenly threw down his pen, stretched himself, and groaned.
“Now, if I can just get the last act outlined—-“
“Jarvis, just a minute, please.”
He suddenly looked at her, and at the other two.
“This is Reverend Dr. Short, Mr. Jarvis Jocelyn.”
“I have nothing to say to orthodoxy,” Jarvis began, but Bambi interrupted him.
“Doctor Short has come to marry us. Stand up here for a few moments, and then you can go on with your third act.”
She laid her hand on his arm, and drew him to his feet.
“The shortest possible service, please, Doctor Short. Jarvis is so busy to-day.”
Doctor Short looked from the strange pair to Professor Parkhurst, who looked back at him.
“You are sure this is all right?” he questioned.
“Do tell him to be quick, Bambi. If it’s about that landlady I cannot—-“
“‘Sh! Go ahead, Doctor Short.”
Doctor Short read the service, and between the three of them they induced Jarvis to make the proper responses. He seemed utterly unaware of what was going on about him, and at the end of a brief service, when Bambi’s hand was taken from his arm, he sat down to work at once. Bambi led the other two men from the room.
“He acted as if he were drunk, or drugged, but he isn’t. He’s just full of an idea,” she smilingly explained.
“Have you known this young man long?” Doctor Short asked the Professor.
“Have we, my dear?”
“We have known him fifteen years,” she answered.
“Well, of course that makes a difference,” murmured the reverend gentleman. “I wish you every happiness, Mrs. Jocelyn,” he added, and took his departure.
“How soon can you get him out of my study?” asked the Professor, looking at his watch. “I have only one hour left before lunch.”
“Felicitate me, Professor, felicitate me on my marriage.”
“I hope you will be happy, my dear, but I doubt it. His lack of consideration in taking my study—-“
Bambina looked at him, and began to laugh. Peal followed peal of laughter until tears stood in her eyes.
“I’ll go rescue the study, Herr Professor. Oh, this is too rich! Bernard Shaw ought to know about me,” she laughed, as she tripped upstairs.
So it was that Bambina acquired a husband.
Two days later Jarvis, shaved, properly dressed, and apparently sane, appeared on the piazza, where Bambi and the Professor were at lunch. He hesitated on the threshold until they both turned toward him.
“Good morning,” he ventured.
“Good morning, Jarvis,” said Bambi gayly.
“Morning,” tersely, from the head of the house.
“Might I ask how long I have been sojourning on the top floor of this house, and how I got there?”
“Do you mean to say you don’t know?”
“Haven’t an idea. I have a faint recollection of a big disturbance, and then peace, heavenly peace, with black coffee every once in a while, and big ideas flowing like Niagara.”
Bambina’s eyes shone at him, but her father looked troubled.
“You know what the big disturbance was, don’t you?” he asked.
“It seems to me I wanted paper–that somebody was taking my things away—-“
“You’d better tell him, Francesca; he doesn’t remember, so I don’t think it can be legal.”
Jarvis looked from one to the other.
“What’s all this? I don’t seem to get you.”
Bambi’s laugh bubbled over.
“You get me, all right.”
“For goodness’ sake, talk sense.”
“You came here, three days ago, in a trance, and announced that you had been bounced from the boarding-house, and that you needed paper to blot up the big ideas–the Niagara ideas—-“
“So I took you in, redeemed your clothes for you—-“
“It was you who planted me upstairs in that heavenly quiet place, and brought black coffee?”
“God bless you for it.”
“I did something else, too.”
“Did you? What?”
“I married you.”
He looked at her, dazed, and then at the Professor.
“What’s the joke?” he asked.
“There is no joke,” said the Professor sternly. “She did it. I tried to stop her, but she never listens to me.”
“Do you mean, Bambi—-” he began.
“I mean you told me to go ahead, so I got a license and a minister, and married you.”
“But where was I when you did it?”
“You were there, I thought, but it didn’t seem to take. Can’t you remember anything at all about it, Jarvis?”
“Not a thing. Word of honour! How long have we been married?”
“Three days. You couldn’t come out of the play, so I dragged you upstairs, fed you at stated periods, and let you alone.”
He looked at her as if for the first time.
“Why, Bambi,” he said, “you are a wonderful person.”
“I have known it all along,” she replied, sweetly.
“But why, in God’s name, did you do it?”
“That’s what I say,” interpolated the Professor.
“Oh, it just came to me when I saw you needed looking after—-“
“Don’t you believe it. She intended to do it all along,” said her father, grimly. “I tried to dissuade her. I told her you were a dreamer, penniless, and always would be, but she wouldn’t listen to my practical talk.”
“I seem to get a pretty definite idea of your opinion of me, sir. Why didn’t you wake me up, so I could prevent this catastrophe?”
“I supposed you were awake. I didn’t know you worked in a cataleptic fit.”
“Catastrophe!” echoed Bambina.
“Certainly. Why don’t you look at it in a practical way, as your father says? I never had any money. I probably never will. I hate the stuff. It’s the curse of the age.”
“I know all that.”
“You will be wanting food and clothes no doubt, and you will expect me to provide them.”
“Oh, never! You don’t think I would take such an advantage of you, Jarvis, as to marry you when you were in a work fit and then expect you to support me?”
The Professor shook his head in despair, and arose.
“It’s beyond me, all this modern madness. I wash my hands of the whole affair.”
“That’s right, Professor Parkhurst. I married him, you know; you didn’t.”
“Well, keep him out of my study,” he warned.
Then he gathered up his scattered belongings, and turned his absent gaze on Bambi.
“What is it I want? Oh, yes. Call Ardelia.”
Bambi rang, and Ardelia answered the summons.
“Ardelia, did I ask you to remind me of anything this morning?”
She scratched her head in deep thought.
“No, sah, not’s as I recolleck. It was yistiddy you tol’ me to remin’ you, and I done forgot what it was.”
“Ardelia, you are not entirely reliable,” he remarked, as he passed her.
“No, sah. I ain’t jes’ what you call—-” she muttered, following him out.
Bambi brought up the rear, chuckling over this daily controversy, which never failed to amuse her.
When the front door slammed, she came back to where Jarvis sat, his untouched luncheon before him. He watched her closely as she flashed into the room, like some swift, vivid bird perching opposite him.
“I spoiled your luncheon,” she laughed.
“Bambi, why did you do this thing?”
“Good heavens, I don’t know. I did it because I’m I, I suppose.”
“You wanted to marry me?” he persisted.
“I thought I ought to. Somebody had to look after you, and I am used to looking after father. I like helpless men.”
“So you were sorry for me? It was pity—-“
“Rubbish. I believe in you. If you have a chance to work out your salvation you will be a big man. If you are hectored to death, you will kill yourself, or compromise, and that will be the end of you.”
“You see that–you understand—-“
He pushed back his chair and came to her.
“You think that little you can stand between me and these things that I must compromise with?”
She nodded at him, brightly. He leaned over, took her two small hands, and leaned his face against them.
“Thank you,” he said, simply; “but I won’t have it.”
“Because I am not worth it. You saw me in a work fit. I’m a devil. I’m like one possessed. I swear and rave if I am interrupted. I can’t eat nor sleep till I get the madness out of me. I am not human. I am not normal. I am not fit to live with.”
“Very well, we will build a cage at the top of the house, and when you feel a fit coming on you can go up there. I’ll slip you food through a wire door so you can’t bite me, and I’ll exhibit you for a fee as the wildest genius in captivity.”
“Bambi, be serious. This is no joke. This is awful!”
“You consider it awful to be married to me?”
“I am not thinking of myself. I am thinking of you. You have got yourself into a pretty mess, and I’ve got to get you out of it.”
“I’ll divorce you.”
“You’ve got no grounds. I’ve been a kind, dutiful wife to you. I haven’t been near you since I married you, except to give you food.”
“How do you expect we are to live? Nobody wants my plays.”
“How do you know? You never try to sell them. You told me so yourself. You feel so superior to managers and audiences that you never offer them.”
“I know. I occasionally go to the theatre, by mistake, and I see what they want.”
“That’s no criterion. We won’t condemn even a Broadway manager until he proves himself such a dummy as not to want your plays.”
“Broadway? Think of a play of mine on Broadway! Think of the fat swine who waddle into those theatres!”
“My dear, there are men of brains writing for the theatre to-day who do not scorn those swine.”
“Men of brains? Who, who, I ask you?”
“Pinero knows his trade,” he admitted.
“Galsworthy is a pamphleteer. Brieux is no artist. He is a surgeon. They have nothing to say to Broadway. Broadway swallows the pills they offer because of their names, but they might just as well give them the sugar drip they want, for all the good it does.”
“Well, they get heard, anyhow. What’s the use of writing a play if it isn’t acted? Of course we’ll sell your plays.”
“But if we don’t, where will you be?”
“Oh, I’ll be all right. I mean to support myself, anyhow, and you, too, if the plays don’t go.”
“You are an amusing mite. Queer I never noticed you before.”
“You’ll like me, if you continue to be aware of me. I’m nice,” she laughed up at him, and he smiled back.
“How do you intend to make this fortune, may I ask?”
“I haven’t decided yet. Of course I can dance. If worst came to worst, I can make a big salary dancing.”
“Dancing?” he exploded.
“Yes, didn’t you ever hear of it? With the feet, you know, and the body, and the eyes, and the arms. So!”
She twirled about him in a circle, like a gay little figurine. He watched her, fascinated.
“You can dance, can’t you?”
“I can. At times I am quite inspired. Now, if you and the Professor will be sensible, and let me go to New York and take a job, I could support us all in luxury. You could write and he could figure.”
“I don’t see that it is any business of ours what you do, but I certainly won’t let you support me.”
“Do you really mean it isn’t your business?”
“Why should it be?”
“Well, if I am your wife, and his daughter, some people would think that it was distantly related to your business.”
“Why New York? Why not here?”
“In this town they think I am crazy now. But if I burst out as a professional dancer—-Wow!”
“That’s so. It’s a mean little town, but it’s quiet. That’s why I stay. It’s quiet.”
“You wouldn’t mind my being away, if I went to New York, would you?”
“Oh, no. I’d be busy.”
“That’s good. I really think you are almost ideal.”
“As a husband. They are usually so exacting and interfering.”
“I’ve not decided yet to be your husband.”
“But you are it.”
“Suppose you should fall in love with somebody else?”
“I’m much more apt to fall in love with you.”
“Heaven forbid!” he exclaimed, and came to her side quickly. “Bambi, promise me that no matter what happens you will not do that. You will not fall in love with me.”
She looked at him a minute, and then laughed contagiously.
“I am serious about this. My work is everything to me. Nothing matters but just that, and it might be a dreadful interruption if you fell in love with me.”
“I don’t see why, unless you fell in love with me.”
“No danger of that,” said he, and at her laugh turned to her again. “If ever you see any signs of my being such a fool as that, you warn me, will you?”
“And what will you do then?”
“I’ll run away. I will go to the ends of the earth. That particular madness is death to creative genius.”
“All right. I’ll warn you.”
“I’ve got to begin to polish my first draft to-day, so I’ll go upstairs and get at it.”
“Will you be gone two days this trip?”
He turned to smile at her.
“Some people would think you were eccentric,” he said.
“They might,” she responded.
“I am almost sane when I polish,” he laughed. “It’s only when I create that I am crazy.”
“It’s all right then, is it? We go on?”
“Well, I have no objection, if you insist, but you’d better think over what I told you. I think you have made a mistake; and you shall never support me.”
“I never think over my mistakes,” said Bambi. “I just live up to them.”
“I agree with your father that you risk a good deal.”
“Risks are exciting.”
“If you don’t like it, you can divorce me the next time I am in a work fit. I’ll never know it, so it will be painless.”
“Jarvis, that’s unfair.”
He came back quickly.
“That was intended for humour,” he explained.
“I so diagnosed it,” she flashed back at him.
He looked down at her diminutive figure with its well-shaped, patrician head, its sensitive mouth, its wide-set, shining eyes.
“Star-shine,” he smiled.
She poked him with a sharp “What?”
“You don’t think I ought to–to–kiss you, possibly, do you?”
“Good! I was afraid you might expect something of me.”
“Oh, no. Think what you have done for the girl,” she quoted, and he heard her laugh down the hall and out into the garden. He took a step as if to follow her. Then, with a shake of his shoulders, he climbed the stairs to his new workshop with a smile on his lips.
The Professor was working in his garden. It was one of his few relaxations, and he took it as seriously as a problem. He had great success with flowers, owing to what he called his system. He was methodical as a machine in everything he did, so the plants were fed with the regularity of hospital patients, and flourished accordingly. To-day he was in pursuit of slugs. He followed up one row, and down the next, slaying with the ruthlessness of fate.
The general effect of his garden was rather striking. He laid out each bed in the shape of an arithmetical figure. The pansy beds were in figure eights, the nasturtiums were pruned and ordered into stubby figure ones, while the asters and fall flowers ranged from fours to twenties.
The Professor carried his arithmetical sense to extremes. He insisted that figures had personality, just as people have, and it was a favourite method of his to nickname his friends and pupils according to a numeral. He was watching the death-throes of a slug, with scientific indifference, as his son-in-law approached him, carrying a wide-brimmed hat.
“Professor Parkhurst, your daughter desires you to put on your hat. You forgot it.”
“Oh, yes. Thank you!”
“I should like the opportunity of a few words with you, sir, if you can spare the time.”
“Well, I cannot. My time is very precious. If you desire to walk along with me while I destroy these slugs, I will listen to what you say.”
He pursued his course, and Jarvis, perforce, followed.
“I have been in your house for a week, now, Professor Parkhurst, and I have merely encountered you at meals.”
“Often enough,” said the Professor, making a sudden turn that almost upset Jarvis. “I go fifty steps up, and fifty steps back,” he explained, and Jarvis stared at him open-mouthed.
“You count your steps?” he repeated.
“Certainly, no matter what I do, I count. When I eat, when I sleep, walk, talk, think, I always count.”
“How awful! A human metronome. I must make a note of that.” And Jarvis took out a notebook to make an entry.
“You have the notebook habit?” snorted the Professor.
“Yes, I can’t afford to waste ideas, suggestions, thoughts.”
“Bah! A most offensive habit.”
“I gather, from your general attitude,” Jarvis began again, “that you dislike me.”
“I neither like nor dislike you. I don’t know you.”
“You never will know me, at this rate.”
“I am not sure that I care to.”
“Why not? What have you against me?”
“You are not practical.”
“Do you consider yourself practical?”
“I do. I am the acme of practical. I am mathematical.”
He slew another bug.
“How can you do that?” cried Jarvis, his concern in his face. “That slug has a right to life. Why don’t you get the point of view of the slug?”
“He kills my roses,” justified the Professor. “He’s a murderer. Society has a right to extinguish him.”
“The old fallacy, a tooth for a tooth?”
“You’d sacrifice my roses to save this insect?”
“I’d teach the rose to take care of itself.”
“You’re crazy,” he snapped, and walked on, Jarvis at his heels.
“I didn’t come to quarrel with you about our views of gardening, or of life. I realize that we have no common ground. You are of the Past, and I am of the Future.”
“There is nobody more modern than I am!” cried the Professor.
“Rubbish! No modern wastes his life in rows of inanimate numerals. We get out and work at humanity and its problems.”
“What are the problems of humanity?”
“Food, employment, education, health.”
“All of them mathematical. Economics is mathematical.”
“Well, I wish instead of teaching a few thousand students higher algebra that you had taught your own daughter a little common sense.”
“Common sense is not taught. It is a gift of the gods, like genius,” said the Professor.
Jarvis glanced at him quickly, and took out the notebook.
“Put that thing away!” shouted the Professor. “I will not be annotated.”
Jarvis meekly returned it to his pocket, but as the Professor right-about faced, he exploded:
“For heaven’s sake, sit down and listen to me! This mathematical progression makes me crazy.”
“I have just so many rows to do,” the Professor replied, as he marched along. “Do I understand you to criticise my daughter’s education?”
“I don’t know anything about her education. I didn’t know she had one,” said Jarvis, “but this whim of hers, in marrying me, is very trying to me. It is most upsetting.”
“Have it annulled. It can’t possibly be legal.”
“She won’t hear of it. She desires to be married to me.”
The Professor rose and faced him.
“Then you may as well resign yourself. I have lived with her nineteen years and I know.”
“But it is absurd that a child like that should always have her own way. You have spoiled her.”
Even the Professor’s bent back showed pity.
“You have a great deal to learn, young man.”
“Can’t you persuade her to divorce me?”
“I cannot. I tried to persuade her to do that before she married you.”
“I suppose you think I ought to make a living for her?”
“At the risk of being called a back number, I do.”
“Just when I am beginning to count.”
“Count? Count what?”
“Count as a creative artist.”
“Just what is it you do, Jocelyn?”
“I try to express the Philosophy of Modernism through the medium of the Drama.”
“Who buys it?”
“How are you beginning to count, then?”
“Oh, not in the market-place. In my own soul.”
“Forty-nine, fifty,” said the Professor. “Turn here. In your own soul, you say?” He glanced at the youth beside him. “Bambi has sold her birthright for a mess of pottage,” he muttered.
“That’s just the question. Whose duty is it to provide the pottage?”
“Maybe you think it’s mine?”
“Why shouldn’t Science support Art?”
“Humph! Why not let Bambi support you? She says she wants to.”
“I am willing she should support herself, but not me.”
“So the only question is, will I support you?”
“Exactly. With Bambi off your hands, you will have no other responsibility, and you could not do a bigger thing for the world than to help me to instruct and inspire it.”
“Aristophanes!” exclaimed the Professor. “You are unique! You are number twenty-three.”
“Because that is neither much nor little.”
“Your daughter thinks my plays will sell, but I tell you frankly I doubt it.”
“How can you instruct and inspire if nobody listens?”
“They must listen in the end, else why am I here?”
The Professor relinquished his chase, to stare again. “You are at least sincere in your belief in yourself–twenty-three. I’d like to hear some of these great ideas of yours.”
“Very well. I am going to read a play to your daughter this evening. If you care to come, you may listen. Then you will see that it would pay you to stake me for a couple of years.”
“I’ll come and listen.”
“If you decide to undertake me, I insist that you shall not continue this scornful avoidance of me. If we three are to live together, we must live in harmony, which is necessary to my work.”
“Whose favour is this, yours or mine?”
“Favour? Good heavens! you don’t think it is a favour to give me food and a roof for two years, do you? I thought it was an opportunity for you.”
The Professor, not easily moved to mirth, did an imitation of laughter, holding both his sides. Jarvis turned his charming, boyish smile upon him, and walked up the path to the house. Strange what things amused Bambi and her parent!
That night, after dinner, Bambi arranged the electric reading light in the screened porch, drew a big chair beside it, placed the Professor’s favourite chaise-lounge near by, and got him into it. Then she went in search of her performer. She looked all over the house for him, to finally discover him on the top floor in hiding.
“Come on! I’ve got everything all ready, even the Professor.”
“I am terrified,” Jarvis admitted. “Suppose you should not understand what I have written? Suppose you thought it was all rubbish?”
“If I think so, I will say so. Isn’t that the idea? You are trying it on the dog to see if it goes?”
“If you think it is rubbish, don’t say anything.”
“How silly! If you are spending your time on trash, you ought to know it, and get over it, and begin to write sense.”
“I feel like one of the Professor’s slugs,” he muttered.
“Better try us on the simplest one.”
“Well, I will read you ‘Success.'”
She ran downstairs, and he followed, to the piazza.
There was no sign of the Professor.
“Ardelia,” called Bambi, “where is the Professor?”
“I don’t know, ma’am. I seen him headed for the garden.”
“Professor Parkhurst, come in here!” Bambi called. “We are to hear Jarvis’s play.”
“Oh, that is it. I couldn’t remember why I was placed in that chair, and Ardelia couldn’t remember. So it occurred to me that I had forgotten my trowel,” he said. He put the trowel, absent-mindedly, in the tea basket, and took the seat arranged for Jarvis.
“Here, you sit in your regular seat,” Bambi objected, hauling him up.
“That isn’t wise, my dear. I am sure to go to sleep.”
“We’ll see that you don’t,” she laughed.
“I’ve never heard a play read aloud that I can remember,” said the Professor.
“You will probably be very irritating, then. Don’t interrupt me. If you fumble things, or make a noise, I’ll stop.”
“That knowledge helps some,” retorted the Professor, with a twinkle. “If I can’t stand it, I’ll whistle.”
“Be quiet,” said his daughter. “Go ahead, Jarvis.”
“What is this play supposed to be about?” Professor Parkhurst inquired.
“The title is ‘Success.’ It is about a woman who sold herself for success, and paid with her soul.”
“Is it a comedy?”
“Good Lord, no! I don’t try to make people laugh. I make them think.”
“Don’t interrupt again, father.”
Jarvis began to read, nervously at first, then with greater confidence. He read intelligently, but without dramatic value, and Bambi longed to seize the manuscript and do it herself. Once, during the first act, the Professor cleared his throat.
“Don’t do that!” said Jarvis, without pausing for the Professor’s hasty apology.
The play told the story of a woman whose God was Success. She sacrificed everything to him. First her mother and father were offered up, that she might have a career. Then her lover. She married a man she did not love, that she might mount one step higher, and finally she sacrificed her child to her devouring ambition. When she reached the goal she had visioned from the first, she was no longer a human being, with powers of enjoyment or suffering. She was, instead, a monster, incapable of appreciating what she had won, and in despair she killed herself.
There were big scenes, some bold, telling strokes, in Jarvis’s handling of his theme. Again, it was utterly lacking in drama. The author stopped the action and took to the pulpit.
At the end of the first act he stopped and looked at the faces of his audience. The Professor was awake and deeply puzzled. This strange young man was holding up to his view a perfectly strange anomaly which he called a woman. The Professor had never dreamed of such a hybrid. He couldn’t grasp it. He gasped at Jarvis’s audacity.
Bambi sat curled up in the end of a wicker couch, her feet drawn under her, like a Chinese idol, every nerve attuned to attention. He noticed how, without words, she seemed to emanate responsiveness and understanding.
“Well?” he said.
“Let’s wait until you have finished to discuss it,” she said.
“Is it any good?”
“In spots it’s great. In other spots it is incredibly rotten.”
“My child,” protested the Professor.
“Go on!” she ordered.
The second act began well, mounted halfway to its climax, and fell flat. Some of the lines, embodying the new individualistic philosophy of woman, roused the Professor to protest.
“Rubbish, sir!” he cried. “Impossible rubbish! No woman ever thought such things.”
“Take your nose out of your calculus, and look about you, Professor,” retorted Jarvis. “You haven’t looked around since the stone age.”
Bambi gurgled with laughter, then looked serious.
“He’s fallen on an idea just the same, Jarvis. Your woman isn’t convincing.”
“But she’s true,” he protested.
“We don’t care a fig whether she’s true, unless she’s true to us,” she answered him. “Go on with your last act.”
“You don’t like it–what’s the use?”
“Don’t be silly. I am deeply interested. Go on!”
He began a little hopelessly, feeling the atmosphere, by that subtle sense that makes the creative artist like a sensitive plant where his work is at stake. The third act failed to ascend, or to resolve the situation. He merely carried it as far as it interested him, and then dropped it. As he closed the manuscript Bambi reached out her hand for it.
“Give it to me, in my hand!” she ordered. He obeyed, questioningly.
“I feel as if it was such a big thing, mangled and bleeding. I want to hold it and help it.”
“Yes. Don’t you feel it? She isn’t a woman! She’s a monster. You don’t believe her. You won’t believe her, because you hate her.”
“But she’s true. She lives to-day. She is the woman of now,” he repeated.
“No, no, no! Woman may approximate this, but she doesn’t reason it out. Let her be fine, and big, and righteously ambitious. Make us sympathize with her.”
“But I am preaching against her.”
“All the better. Make her a tragedy. Show the futility of it all. She didn’t kill herself. You killed her.”
“Do you write plays?” he asked her.
“No, but I feel drama. This is big, but it is all man psychology. You don’t know your woman.”
“I should hope not,” said the Professor. “You needn’t tell me there are such women in the world. She is worse than Lucretia Borgia.”
“Of course she is in the world, Father Professor. You haven’t looked at a woman since mother died, nineteen years ago, so you are not strictly up-to-date.”
“I have hundreds of young women in my classes.”
“Learning Euclid,” interpolated Jarvis.
“Well, Euclid is more desirable than what your heroine learned and taught.”
“Not at all. She learned life.”
The Professor turned to Bambi.
“Have you any ideas in common with this person, my dear?”
“Oh, yes, some. All of us are freebooters in this generation.”
“Why have you never spoken to me of them?”
“Oh, Professor, I never bother you with ideas. Jarvis, I think if you do it over, you could sell it.”
“I hate doing things over–the spontaneity all gone.”
“Well, you’ve got to do it over, that’s all. You’ve murdered that woman, and it is wicked. She must be resuscitated and given another chance.”
“Will you help me?”
She looked at him with a quick flash of pleasure.
“Oh, I would so love to. I can’t help you build it, but I can tell you what I feel is wrong.”
“We will begin to-morrow.”
“Are all your works as extreme as this?” queried the Professor.
“They are all cross-sections of life, which is extreme,” replied Jarvis.
“You young people read riddles into life. It is as simple as two plus two is four.”
“There you are–two plus two does not necessarily make four. It makes five or forty. It depends on the symbols. Nothing in the world is exact, or final. Everything is changeable, fluidic. That’s the whole fabric of modern thought.”
The Professor’s horrified glance was turned upon them.
“Oh, dear, oh, dear, there you go, upsetting everything. You are a pair of maniacs, both of you. You ought to be shut away from people, with your wild ideas.”
He rushed out into his garden, sure of its calm, its mathematical exactness. He was really disturbed by the ultra-modern theories these ardent young iconoclasts forced him to consider.
“Poor Father Professor,” laughed Bambi, at his retreat.
“Why do you let him stay back there in the Middle Ages?”
“He’s happier there. It’s peaceful. Modern times distress him so when he remembers them.”
“I suppose you are not an average family, are you?” he asked.
“I suppose not,” she admitted.
“You are irritating, but interesting.”
“I warn you to let father alone. He’s too old to be hauled up-to-date. Just consider him an interesting survival and let him be.”
“I’ll let him be. I’ll put him in a play. He’s good copy.”
“He’ll never know himself, so it won’t matter.”
They talked late about Jarvis’s work, his methods of writing, the length of time it took him to conceive and work out a play. It all fascinated Bambi. She felt that a wonderful interest had come into her life. A new thing was to be created, each day, under her roof, near her. She was to have part in it, help in its shaping to perfection. She gloated over the days to come, and a warm rush of gratitude to Jarvis for bringing her this sense of his need of her made her burst out:
“Oh, life is such fun!”
He looked at her closely.
“You are a queer little mite,” said he.
“The mite is mightier than the sword,” she laughed, starting for the garden. “You go to bed, so you can get an early start on that play. I’ll round up the Professor. He’s forgotten to bring himself in.”
He obeyed without objection. He felt, all at once, like a ship at anchor after long years of floating aimlessly, but, manlike, he took his good fortune as his just right, and it never occurred to him to thank Bambi for his new sense of peace and well-being.
The marriage of Jarvis and Bambi furnished the town with a ten days’ topic of conversation, a fact to which they were perfectly indifferent. Then it was accepted, as any other wonder, such as a comet passing, or an airship disaster.
In the meantime the strangely assorted trio fell into a more or less comfortable relationship. Jarvis and the Professor almost came to blows, but for the most part the diplomatic Bambi kept peace. Both men appealed to her for everything and she took care of them like babies. She called them the “Heavenly Twins” and found endless amusement in their dependence on her. Sometimes she did not see Jarvis for days. His study and bedroom were on the top floor, and when he was in a work fit he forgot to come to meals. She let him alone, only seeing that he ate what she sent up to him. Sometimes his light burned all night. She would go to the foot of the stairs and listen to him reading scenes aloud in the early dawn, but she never interfered with him in any way. He plunged into the remaking of “Success” with characteristic abandon. He destroyed the old version entirely, and began on a new one. When he had the framework completed, he summoned Bambi for a private view. She condemned certain parts, praised others, flashed new thoughts upon him, forced him to new viewpoints. He raved at her, defended his ideas, refuted her arguments, and invariably accepted every contribution. When he came to an impasse, he howled through the house for her, like a lost child wailing for its mother.
These daily councils of war, his incessant need of her, interfered with her plan of a career as a danseuse. She found that her days were resolving themselves into two portions–times when Jarvis needed her, and times when he did not. The hours they devoted together to his work constituted the core of her day, her happy time. She considered Jarvis as impersonally as she did the typewriter. It was the sense of being needed, of helping in his work, that filled her with such new zest. But the hours hung heavy between the third-floor summons, and one day, as she lay in the hammock, a book in her hand, it came to her that she might try it herself. She might put down her thoughts, her dreams, her ambitions, and make a story of them. Thought and action were one with Bambi. In five minutes’ time she had pencil and paper, and had set forth on her new adventure.
For the next few days she was so absorbed in her experiment that she almost neglected the “Heavenly Twins.” The Professor commented on her abstraction, and Ardelia complained that “everybody in dis heah house is crazy, all of them studyin’ and writin’; yo’ cain’t even sing a hallelujah but somebody is a shoutin’, ‘Sh!'”
Only Jarvis failed to note any change. It was too much to expect that the great Jocelyn could concentrate on any but his own mental attitudes.
Like most facile people, Bambi was bored with her masterpiece at the end of a week, and abandoned it without a sigh. She decided that literature was not to be enriched by her. In fact, she never gave a thought to her first-born child until a month after its birth, when a New York magazine fell into her hands offering a prize of $500 for a short story. She took out her manuscript and read it over with a sense of surprise. She marched off to a stenographer, had it typed, and sent it to the contest, using a pen name as a signature, and then she promptly forgot about it.
Six weeks more of hard labour brought “Success” almost to completion. Bambi was absorbed in the play. It was undoubtedly much better; her hopes were high that it would get a production. If only Jarvis could get to New York with it and show it to the managers; but that meant money, and they had none. Her busy brain spent hours scheming, but no light came.
Then out of the blue fell a shining bolt! A long envelope, with a magazine imprint on it, came with her morning’s mail and nearly ended a young and useful life. The editor begged to inform her that the committee of judges had awarded her the short-story prize, that her tale would be published in the forth-coming issue, and she would please find check enclosed. Had she any other manuscript that they might see? Would she honour them with a visit the next time she came to New York? They would like to talk over a series of stories similar to the prize winner.
The Professor and Jarvis had both departed to their lairs, or they would have witnessed the best pas seul of Bambi’s life. She fluttered the joy-bringing letter above her head, and circled the breakfast room in a whirl of happiness. Ardelia entered as she reached her climax.
[Illustration: BAMBI FLUTTERED THE JOY-BRINGING LETTER ABOVE HER HEAD AND CIRCLED THE BREAKFAST-ROOM IN A WHIRL OF HAPPINESS.]
“Mah good Lud, Miss Bambi, yo’ sho’ can dance better’n Jezebel! I ‘low the debil do git into yo’, the way yo’ all dance! Go ‘way frum me! Don’ yo’ drag me into no cunjer dance.”
“Ardelia, the gods do provide!” cried Bambi. “Such unutterably crazy good luck–to think of my getting it!”
“Did yo’ get a lottery prize, Miss Bambi?”
“That’s just what I got–a lottery prize.”
“Foh the Lud’s sake! What you gwine to do with it?”
“I am going to take Jarvis Jocelyn to New York, and between us we are going to harness Fame and drive her home.”
“Well, I don’ know who Fame is, but if she’s a hoss, wher’ yo’ goin’ to keep her when yo’ get her? We ain’t got no barn for her.”
“We’ll stable her all right, Ardelia, if we can catch her. This is a secret between you and me. Don’t you breathe it to a soul that I have won anything.”
“No, ma’am; yo’ kin trust me to the death.”
“I’ll bring you a present from New York if you won’t tell.”
She rushed off to her own room, to look over her clothes and plan. Having married Jarvis out of hand, she would now take him on a moneymoon; they would seek their fortune instead of love. He would peddle his play; she would honour the publisher with a visit. She hugged herself with joy over the prospect. She worked out various schemes by which she could break it to Jarvis and the Professor that she had money enough for a trip to New York, without saying how she got it. Fortunately, they were not of an inquiring mind, so she hoped that she could convince them without much difficulty. She tried out a scene or two just to prove how she would do it. At luncheon she paved the way.
“How much more work is there on the play, Jarvis?”
“I ought to finish it this week,” he answered. “It is good, too. It is a first-rate play.”
“You ought to go to New York with it, and see the managers,” she said.
“Well, it’s got to be done. You can’t teach school unless you have pupils.”
“I am not a pedant,” he protested.
“You’re a reformer, and you’ve got to get something to reform.”
“The work itself satisfies me.”
“It doesn’t satisfy me. You have got to produce and learn before you will grow.”
“You’re a wise body for such a small package.”
“That’s the way wisdom comes.”
“Perhaps, O sibyl, you will read the future and tell me how I am to finance a trip to New York.”
“Oh, the money will be provided,” airily.
“Yes, I suppose it will. It always is when actual need demands it, but how?”
“Never mind how. Just rest in the assurance that it will.”
He looked at her, smiling.
“Do you know I sometimes suspect that Fate had a hand in bringing us together? We are so alike.”
“We are so alike we’re different,” she amended, laughing.
She waited until next day to explode her bomb.
“I think if you finish up the play this week, Jarvis, we can have it typed early next week, and get off to New York on Friday or Saturday.”
He stared at her.
“On foot?” he inquired.
“Oh, no. I find I have the money.”
“You find you have it! You had that much and didn’t know it?” he exploded so loudly that the Professor came to, and paid attention.
“I am careless about these things,” Bambi murmured.
“What’s all this?” queried the Professor.
“What I can’t see is that if you had money enough to pay up my board bill, why you married me,” continued Jarvis.
“Just one of my whims. I am so whimsical,” retorted Bambi.
“Would you mind telling me?” begged the Professor.
“She’s got money enough to take us to New York,” repeated Jarvis.
“Thank you. I don’t wish to go to that terrible place. Of all the distressing, improbable places, New York is the worst,” replied Professor Parkhurst.
“Be calm, Professor. I was not planning to take you,” soothed his daughter.
“But what is to be done with me?” he inquired, anxiously.
“You are to be left the one sole duty of Ardelia, to be overfed and pampered until you aren’t fit to live with.”
“But you can’t go off alone with Jarvis.”
“Why not? I am married to him.”
“Yes, I suppose you are, but you seem so unmarried,” he objected.
“We will have to practise up a few married poses, Jarvis. You must not act so interested in me. Father says we don’t act married.”
“I am not in the least interested in you,” Jarvis defended himself, valiantly.
“There, father, could anything be more husband-like?”
“Where did you get the money, Jarvis?” the Professor asked.
“I didn’t get it. She got it.”
“Why, my dear,” protested her father, “where did you get any money?”
“I have turned lady burglar.”
“Cheer up. It’s butter-‘n’-eggs money.”
“Butter-‘n’-eggs money?” repeated Jarvis.
“Certainly. The downtrodden farmer’s wife always gives up her butter-‘n’-eggs money to save the family fortunes, or build a new barn.”
“What are you talking about?” interrupted the Professor.
“I don’t know why the fact that I have a little money saved up should start a riot in this family. I have to go to New York on business, and as Jarvis has to go to see managers about ‘Success,’ I merely proposed that we go together.”
“What business have you in New York, my dear?”
“My own, Professor darling.”
“Excuse me,” he hastened to add.
“Certainly,” she replied, blithely.
“I hate New York,” said Jarvis. “How long do you suppose we will have to stay?”
“I adore New York, and we will stay as long as the money holds out.”
“Would you mind stating, in round figures, how much you have?” the Professor remarked.
“I would. I detest figures, round or oblong. I have enough.”
“I hope you won’t get there, and then call on me for a supply, as you usually do, my dear. I am a little short this spring.”
“You two have no confidence in me. If you will just put your trust in Bambi, I’ll mend the fortunes of this family so you will never be able to find the patch.”
The two men laughed in spite of themselves, and the matter was dropped, but Bambi herself took the manuscript of “Success” to the stenographer, with strict orders as to a time limit; she led Jarvis, protesting, to a tailor’s, to order a suit of clothes; she restocked him in collars, shirts, and ties. In fact, she handled the situation like a diplomat, buying the railroad tickets with a thrill of anticipation.
Jarvis made no protest at all, until the night before they were to start. He came to her and offered her a little black notebook.
“What is this?”
“I want you to put down every cent we spend. This is a loan, you understand.”
“It’s a gift from the gods. Go offer libations. I don’t want your old debit and credit book.”
He laid his hand on her shoulder, and looked into her shining eyes.
“Good little fairy,” he said, “I want to put some gold dust in the pot, too.”
“Wait until we get to the end of the rainbow.”
“Just keep a record for me. My mind is such a sieve,” he said, offering the spurned black book.
“All right. Give me the Black Maria. I will ride your figures in it.”
“That was a pun. You ought to be spanked.”
“Oh, Jarvis, isn’t it fun?” she cried to him.
“Is it? I feel that turning salesman and approaching a manager is like marching to the block.”
“Poor old dreamer! Suppose you stay home, and let me peddle the play.”
“Not much. I will shoulder my own pack.”
“I feel like a Crusader myself. I’d rather be _me_ than anybody on earth.”
“The most extraordinary thing about you is your rapture,” he commented, seriously.
She ran away, singing “Then Longen folke to go on Pilgrimauges.”
The next day they set forth on their journey. Bambi left lists all over the house as reminders for the Professor. Ardelia had orders enough to manoeuvre an army. The Professor went to the station with them, and absent-mindedly kissed Jarvis good-bye, which infuriated his victim and nearly sent Bambi into hysterics. As the train pulled out, she leaned from the window and called, “Go home, now, Professor!” and with a mechanical jerk he turned and started off in the direction indicated.
“I never leave him with any comfort,” she admitted to Jarvis. “He is so apt to mislay himself.”
“He always makes me think of a mechanical toy, ever since he told me that he always counted whatever he did. I am sure that you wind him up, like a watch, every night.”
“Poor old dear! Funny I should have chosen him for a father, isn’t it?”
“I think your choice of relations is distinctly queer.”
“My queer relations! That’s a good title. Everybody would understand it at once.”
“Thank heaven, I haven’t any, queer, or otherwise.”
“Didn’t you ever have any?”
“I remember a funny old man you lived with, when I first knew you. Wasn’t he a relative?”
“No, he found me some place. What’s the difference? Do you care?”
“No, I’m glad. I am sure I couldn’t abide ‘in-laws.'”
Over the luncheon table he suddenly looked at her, as if for the first time. He noticed that all the eyes in the crowded diner were upon her.
“What’s the matter?” she asked, intercepting his glance.
“Do people always stare at you?” he inquired.
She swept the car with an indifferent glance.
“I don’t know. I never noticed.”
“It’s queer for us to be going off like this,” he said, in a startled tone.
“It seems perfectly natural to me. Are you embarrassed?” she asked, suddenly aware of a new quality in him.
“No, certainly not,” he defended himself.
It was five o’clock when they drew into Grand Central Station, a time when the whole duty of man seems to be to get out of New York and into the suburbs. An army of ants ran through the great blue-vaulted rotunda, streaming into the narrow tunnels, where the steel horses were puffing and steaming. The sense of rushing waters was upon Jarvis. He halted, stunned and helpless.
“Isn’t it great? All the tribes of Shem, Ham, and Japhet,” cried Bambi, at his elbow. She piloted him through–big, powerful, bewildered Jarvis. Many a hurrying suburbanite slowed up enough to look after them, the tall, blond giant, and a little girl with shining eyes.
“Where are we going?” Jarvis asked, with child-like confidence that she would know.
[Illustration: “GOOD EVENING, MRS. NEW YORK, AND ALL YOU PEOPLE OUT THERE! WE’RE HERE, JARVIS AND I.”]
“Gramercy Park. We’ll put up at a club. We’ll act rich and take a taxi.”
She ordered the driver to go down the avenue slowly, and as he jolted around the crowded corner of Forty-second Street, on to the smooth asphalt, Bambi leaned forward eagerly.
“Good evening, home of the books,” she nodded to the Library. “Good evening, Mrs. New York, and all you people there! We’re here, Jarvis and I.”
She turned and caught his rare smile.
“You’re happy, aren’t you?” he remarked.
“Perfectly. I feel as if I were breathing electricity. Don’t you like all these people?”
“No, I feel that there are too many of them. There should be half as many, and better done. Until we learn not to breed like rabbits, we will never accomplish a creditable race.”
“Such good-looking rabbits though, Jarvis.”
“Yes. Sleek and empty-headed.”
“All hopping uptown, to nibble something,” she chuckled.
“Life is such foolishness,” he said, in disgust.
“Oh, no. Life is such ecstasy,” she threw back at him, as the cab drew up to the clubhouse door.
Bambi was out of bed and at her window the next morning early. Her room faced on Gramercy Park, and the early morning sun fell across the little square so sacred to the memory of past glories, and bathed the trees in their new green drapery with a soft, impressionistic colour. Her eyes swept around the square, hastening over the great white apartment buildings, our modern atrocities, to linger over the old houses, which her swift imagination peopled with the fashion and pomp of another day.
“Spring in the city!” breathed Bambi. “Spring in New York!”
She was tempted to run to Jarvis’s door and tap him awake, to drink it in too, but she remembered that Jarvis did not care for the flesh-pots, so she enjoyed her early hour alone. It was very quiet in the Park; only an occasional milk wagon rattled down the street. There is a sort of hush that comes at that hour, even in New York. The early traffic is out of the way. The day’s work is not yet begun. There comes a pause before the opening gun is fired in the warfare of the day.
Many a gay-hearted girl has sat, as Bambi sat, looking off over the housetops in this “City of Beautiful Nonsense,” dreaming her dreams of conquest and success. Youth makes no compromise with life. It demands all, passionately; loses all, or wins, with anguish of spirit. So it was with Bambi, the high-handed, imperious little mite. She willed Fame and Fortune for Jarvis and herself in full measure. She wanted to count in this great maelstrom of a city. She wanted two pedestals–one for Jarvis and one for herself–to lift them above the crowd. If all the young things who think such thoughts as these, in hall bedrooms and attic chambers, could mount their visioned pedestals, the traffic police would be powerless, and all the road to Albany lined like a Hall of Fame.
But, fortunately, our practical heroine took no account of failure. She planned a campaign for Jarvis. She would go first to Belasco with his play. Mr. Belasco would receive him at once, recognize a master mind, and accept the play after an immediate hearing. Of course Jarvis would insist on reading his play aloud, so that Mr. Belasco might get the points clearly. He would come away with a thousand dollars advance royalty in his pocket, and then would come the delicious excitement of rehearsals, in which she would help. She saw Jarvis before the curtain making a first-night’s speech. A brilliant series of pictures followed, with the Jarvis Jocelyns as central figures, surrounded by the wealth and brains of New York, London, Paris!
While Jarvis was mounting like a meteor, she was making a reputation as a writer. When her place in the literary ranks was so assured that the _Saturday Evening Post_ accepted her stories without so much as reading them; when everybody was asking “Who is this brilliant writer?–this combination of O. Henry, Edith Wharton, and W.D. Howells?” then, and only then, would she come out from behind her _nom-de-plume_ and assume her position as Mrs. Jarvis Jocelyn, wife of the famous playwright.
So absorbed was she in her moving pictures that Jarvis’s rap sounded to her like a cannon shot.
“Yes? Who is it?” she called.
“Jarvis,” he answered. “Are you ready for breakfast?”
“Just a minute,” she prevaricated. “Wait for me in the library.”
She plunged into her tub and donned her clothes in record time. Fortunately, Jarvis did not fret over her tardiness. He was lost in an article on the drama in a current magazine.
“Good morrow, my liege lord,” quoth Bambi, radiant, fresh, bewitching.