“This man has no standards at all,” he replied, out of the magazine.
She quietly closed it and took it from him.
“I prefer to test the breakfast standards of this club,” she laughed. “Did you sleep?” she added.
“I always sleep.”
“Let’s play to-day,” she added, over the coffee cups.
“Yes. We’ve never been anywhere together before. I’ve put aside an appropriation for amusement. I say we draw on that to-day.”
“All right. Where shall we go?”
“Let’s go on top of the stage to Claremont for lunch, and then we might see some pictures this afternoon, dine here, and the theatre to-night.”
“Had it all thought out, did you?”
“What would you plan?” she inquired.
“We will do my way to-morrow, and your way to-day,” he said.
“All right. I promise to enjoy your way if you will promise to enjoy mine, not just endure it scornfully.”
“You must think I’m a boor.”
“No. But I think that until you learn that an artist cannot afford to scorn any phase of life that is human, you will never do great work.”
He looked at her keenly.
“Fifth Avenue isn’t human. It’s an imitation,” he objected.
“You’re very young, Jarvis,” she commented.
“Upon my soul,” he laughed, so spontaneously that an old fogy at the next table said audibly to his waitress, “Bride and groom,” and for some reason Bambi resented it with a flare of colour.
“It’s true,” she continued; “until you realize that Fifth Avenue and the Bowery are as inevitable as the two ends of the teeter-totter, you won’t see the picture true.”
“Sometimes you show a most surprising poise,” he granted her. “But of course you are not the stuff of which creative artists are made.”
She chuckled, and patted her bag where the bill fold lay, with its crisp hundreds due to some imitation of creative impulse.
“Just where, and in what, am I lacking?” she asked, most humbly.
“A creative artist would not care a fig for truth. He creates an impression of truth out of a lie if necessary.”
“But I am in the direct line from Ananias,” she protested. “I inherit creative talent of that brand.”
So they laughed and chattered, in the first real companionship they had ever known.
True to the plan, they ascended the stage at Eighteenth Street, Bambi in a flutter of happiness. As the panorama of that most fascinating highway unrolled before them, she constantly touched this and that and the other object with the wand of her vivid imagination. Jarvis watched her with amused astonishment, for the first time really thoroughly aware of her. Again he noticed that wherever she was she was a lodestone for all eyes. He decided that it was not beauty, in the strictest sense of the word, but a sort of radiance which emanated from her like an aura.
Twenty-third Street cut across their path with its teeming throngs. Madison Square lay smiling in the sunshine like a happy courtesan, with no hint of its real use as Wayside Inn for all the old, the poor, the derelict, whose tired feet could find refuge there. The vista of the avenue lay ahead.
“It’s like a necklace of sparkling pearls,” Bambi said, with incessant craning of her neck. “I feel like standing up and singing ‘The Song of the Bazaars.’ There isn’t a stuff, nor a silk, nor a gem from Araby to Samarkand that isn’t here.”
“It bewitches you, doesn’t it?” Jarvis commented.
“Think of the wonder of it! Camel trains, and caravans, merchant ships on all the seas, trains, and electric trucks, all bringing the booty of the world to this great, shining bazaar for you and me. It’s thrilling.”
“So it is,” he agreed. “I hope you mark the proportion of shops for men–dresses, hats, jewels, furs, motor clothes, tea rooms, candy shops, corsetieres, florists, bootmakers, all for women. Motor cars are full of women. Are there no men in this menagerie?”
“No. They are all cliff-dwellers downtown. They probably wear loin cloths of a fashionable cut,” she laughed back at him.
“They all look just alike–so many manikins on parade. I suppose there are distinctions in class. There must be some shopgirls in this crowd. Can you distinguish them?” he asked.
“Oh, yes. Not by cut, for the general line is the same for ‘Judy O’Grady and the Captain’s Lady,’ but there is a subtle difference to the feminine eye.”
“But you don’t look like all the rest of them.”
“No, alas, I look distinctly suburban. All I need is a package to make the disguise complete. Oh, Jarvis, do let’s hurry and make much red gold, so I can look like these finished things that trip up Fifth Avenue.”
“You want to be like them–like those dolls?” he scorned, with a magnificent gesture.
“Yes. I’d like to be so putrid with wealth that I could have rows of wardrobe trunks, with full sets of clothes for every me.”
“How many of you are there?”
“Oh, lots. I’ve never counted myself. Some days I’d dress up like a Broadway siren, some days I’d be a Fifth Avenue lady, or a suburbanite, or a reformer, or a ballet dancer, or a visitor from Boston.”
“What would I be doing while you were all these?”
“Oh, you’d be married to all of us. We’d keep you busy.”
“The idea is appalling. A harem of misfits.”
“We’d be good for your character.”
“And death to my work.”
“You’d know more about life when you had taken a course of us.”
“Too much knowledge is a dangerous thing,” he remarked. “Shall we get off and go into the Library?”
“Not to-day. That’s part of your day. I want just people and things in mine.”
“What are you to-day?” he inquired.
“An houri, a soulless houri,” she retorted.
As they approached the University Club, Jarvis recognized it with scorn.
“Monument to the stupidity of modern education, probably full this minute of provincials from Harvard and Yale, all smugly resting in the assurance that they are men of culture.”
“I adore the way you demolish worlds,” Bambi sparkled up at him.
“Another monument,” he remarked, indicating a new church lifting its spires among the money-changers’ booths.
“_Hic jacet,_ education and religion. Look at that slim white lady called the Plaza.”
“You ought to name her ‘Miss New York.'”
“Good, Jarvis. In time you will learn to play with me.”
He frowned slightly.
“I know,” she added, “I am scheduled under _Interruptions_ in that famous notebook. Unless you play with me occasionally I shall become actively interruptive.”
“You are as clever as a squirrel,” he said. “Always hiding things and finding them.”
“_Hic jacet_ Bambi, along with the other self-important, modern institutions,” she sighed humbly.
They rattled across the Circle and up Broadway. Bambi was silent, bored with its stupidity. It was not until they turned on to Riverside Drive that her enthusiasm bubbled up again.
“Don’t you love rivers?” she exclaimed, as the Hudson sparkled at them in the sun.
“I’ve never known any,” he replied.
“Oh, Mr. Hudson, Mr. Jocelyn,” she said, instantly. “I thought, of course, you had met.”
“You absurdity!” laughed Jarvis. “What is it that you love about rivers?”
“Oh, their subtlety, I suppose. They look and act so aimless, and they are going somewhere all the time. They are lazy and useful and–wet. I like them.”
“Is there anything in the universe you don’t like?” Jarvis inquired.
“Yes, but I can’t think what it is just now,” she answered, and sang “Ships of mine are floating–will they all come home?” so zestfully that an old gentleman in the front seat turned, with a smiling “I hope so, my dear!”
She nodded back at him gayly, to Jarvis’s annoyance. As they approached Grant’s Tomb, she glanced at him suspiciously. When they got safely by, she sighed with content.
“If you had said anything bromidic about Grant’s Tomb, Jarvis Jocelyn, I should have thrown myself off the top of the stage to certain death.”
“At times you underestimate me,” he replied.
At Claremont, Bambi ordered a most enticing repast, and they were very gay. Everybody seemed gay, too. The sun shone, the early spring air was soft, and a certain gala “stolen sweets” air of Claremont made it seem their most intimate meal.
Everybody smiled at Bambi and she smiled back.
“Nice sort of hookey place, isn’t it?” she commented.
“Do you know the man at the next table?”
“The fat one, who is staring so.”
“Oh, no. I thought you meant the one who lifts his glass to me every time he drinks.”
Jarvis pushed back his chair furiously.
“I will smash his head,” he said, rising.
“Jarvis! Sit down! You silly thing! He’s only in fun. It’s the spirit of the place.”
“I won’t have you toasted by strange men,” he thundered.
“All right. I’ll make a face at him next time,” she said, soothingly; but somewhere, down in the depths of her being, where her cave ancestor lurked, she was pleased. As they finished their coffee, Bambi picked up the check, which the waiter laid beside Jarvis’s plate.
“Do you mind my paying it? Would you rather do it?”
“Certainly not. It’s your money. Why should I pretend about it?”
She could have hugged him for it. Instead, she overfed the waiter.
“It’s too heavenly, out of doors, for pictures, after all,” she said, as they came out on to the drive. “What shall we do?”
“Let’s get that double-decker again, and ride until we come to the end of the world.”
“Righto. Here it comes, now.”
Downtown they went, to Washington Square, where they dismounted, to wander off at random. All at once they were in another world. It was like an Alice in Wonderland adventure. They stepped out of the quiet of the green, shady quadrangle into a narrow street, swarming with life.
Innumerable children, everywhere, shrieking and running at games. Fat mothers and babies along the curb, bargaining with pushcart men. A wheezing hurdy-gurdy, with every other note gone to the limbo of lost chords, rasped and leaked jerky tunes. All the shops had foreign names on the windows–not even an “English spoken here” sign. The fresh wind blew down the dirty street, and peppered everything with dust. Newspapers increased their circulation in a most irritating manner under foot. The place was hideous, lifting its raucous cry to the fair spring sky.
Jarvis looked at Bambi, silenced, for once. Her face registered a loud protest.
“Well?” he challenged her.
“Oh, I hate ugliness so. It’s like pain. Is it very weak of me to hate ugliness?” she begged.
“It’s very natural, and no doubt weak.”
“I wouldn’t mind the thought of poverty so much–not hunger, nor thirst, nor cold–but dirt and hideousness–they are too terrible.”
“This is life in the raw. You like it dressed for Fifth Avenue better,” he taunted.
“Do you prefer this?”
She looked about again, with a sense of having missed his point.
“Because it’s fight, hand-to-throat fight?”
“Yes. You can teach these people. They don’t know anything. They are dumb beasts. You can give them tongue. It’s too late to teach your Upper End.”
A woman passed close, with a baby, covered with great sores. Bambi caught at Jarvis’s sleeve and tottered a step.
“I feel a little sick,” she faltered.
He caught her hand through his arm, and hurried her quickly back the way they had come. As they mounted the stage, he looked at her white face.
“We will have to expurgate life for you, Miss Mite.”
“No, no. I want it all. I must get hardened.”
Back at the club, she hurried into her hot bath, with a vague hope of washing off all traces of that awful street. But their talk at dinner was desultory and rather serious. Jarvis talked for the most part, elaborating schemes of social reform and the handling of our immigrant brothers.
They started off to the theatre, with no definite plan. Bambi’s spirits rose to the lights of Broadway, like a trout to a silver shiner. There is a hectic joyousness on Broadway, a personification of the “Eat, drink and be merry, for to-morrow we die” spirit which warms you, like champagne, or chills you, like the icy hand of despair, according to your mood. Bambi skipped along beside Jarvis, twittering gayly.
“People are happy, aren’t they?”
“Jarvis, you old bogie-man, hiding in the dark, to jump out and say ‘Boo!'”
“That’s my work–booing frauds. Let’s go in here,” he added.
“‘Damaged Goods,'” Bambi read on the theatre poster. “Do you know anything about it?”
“I’ve read it. It is not amusing,” he added.
She followed him without replying. The theatre was packed with a motley audience of unrelated people. Professors and their wives, reformers, writers, mothers with adolescent sons, mothers with young daughters–what, in Broadway parlance, is called a “high-brow” audience–a striking group of people gathered together to mark a daring experiment of our audacious times; a surgical clinic on a social sore, up to this moment hidden, neglected, whispered about.
Bambi came to it with an open mind. She had heard of Brieux, his dramatic tracts, but she had not seen the text of this play, nor was she prepared for it. The first act horrified her into silence during the whole intermission. The second act racked her with sobs, and the last act piled up the agony to the breaking point. They made their way out to the street, part of that quiet audience which scarcely spoke, so deep was the impression of the play.
Broadway glared and grinned and gambolled, goat-like. Bambi clung to Jarvis tightly. He looked down at her swollen face, red eyes, and bewildered mouth without a word. He put her into a taxicab and got in after her. In silence she looked out at the glittering white way.
“The veneer is all rubbed off. I can see only bones,” she said, and caught her breath in a sob.
Jarvis awkwardly took her hand and patted it.
“I am sorry we went to that play to-night. You must not feel things so,” he added.
“Didn’t you feel it?”
“I felt it, didactically, but not dramatically. It’s a big sermon and a poor play.”
“I feel as if I had had an appendicitis operation, and I am glad it is over.”
“I must meet young Richard Bennett. He has contributed to the big issues of the day. He’s a fine actor. He must be an intelligent man.”
For the rest of the way they drove in silence.
“Tired?” Jarvis asked as they neared the club.
She looked so little and crumpled, with all the shine drowned in her eyes.
“Life has beaten me raw to-day,” she answered him, with a shadowy smile.
Bambi announced the next morning that she had to have an entire day in which to get over “Damaged Goods.” Jarvis was nothing loath to put off the evil hour when he was to start on his manager-hunt. So they agreed on one more day of freedom.
The clouds threatened, so they looked over the papers for an announcement of picture exhibitions, concerts, and lectures. The choice was bewildering. They finally decided on a morning lecture, at Berkeley Lyceum, entitled “The Religion of the Democrat.” They made their way to the little theatre, in a leisurely manner, to find the street blocked with motor cars, the sidewalk and foyer crowded with fashionable women, fully half an hour before the lecture was announced. Distracted ushers tried to find places for the endless stream of ardent culturites, until even the stage was invaded and packed in solid rows.
“This is astonishing,” said Jarvis. “What on earth do these fine birds care for democracy?”
“Must be the lecturer,” said wise Bambi.
“Humph! A little mental pap before they run on to lunch.”
The cackle and babble ceased suddenly as the chairman and lecturer appeared. After a few announcements, the leading man was introduced. Bambi was right. It was the man. You felt personality in the slow way he swept the audience with his eyes, in the charming, friendly smile, in the humour of his face. The women fairly purred.
Jarvis grunted impatiently, and Bambi felt a sense of guilt for her ready response to this man, who had not yet spoken. Then he began, in a good, resonant voice, to hook this lecture to the one of the week before.
“Oh, it’s a course,” Bambi whispered.
Jarvis nodded. He wished he was well out of it. He hated the woman-idol kind of lecturer. Then a stray phrase caught his wandering attention, and he began to listen. The man had the “gift of tongues.” That was evident. This was his last conscious comment. It seemed but a few minutes later that he turned to Bambi, as the lecturer sat down. She sat forward in her chair, with that absorbed responsiveness he had marked in her before. He touched her before she realized that it was time to go.
“That was big, wasn’t it?” she said.
“It was. He is somebody. He gave them real meat instead of pap.”
“And they liked it,” Bambi said, reaching for her furs, her bag, and her umbrella, strewn under the seat in her trance.
“That fellow is all right. He makes you feel that there are fine, big things to be done in the world, and that you must be about it–not to-morrow, but to-day,” Jarvis said, as they pushed their way out.
“I wonder what these women are doing about it?” Bambi speculated.
“Boo!” she scoffed at him.
They strolled, with the strollers, on the avenue. They ate what Jarvis dubbed “a soupcon” of lunch in a tea-shop, and to elude a dribble of rain they betook themselves to the Armory, down on Seventeenth Street, to the much-talked-of International Modern Art Exhibition.
Adam and Eve, the first day in the Garden, could not have been any more dazed than these two young things who had strayed in out of the rain. No sated sensibilities here, prodded by the constant shocks of metropolitan “latest thing,” but fresh, enthusiastic interest was their priceless possession. They wandered aimlessly through several rooms, until they emerged into the Cubist and Futurist sections and stood rooted to the floor with surprise and horror.
“What are these?” Bambi demanded.
“Damaged Goods,” Jarvis laughed, with a rare attempt at a joke.
“Are they serious?”
“Tragic, I should say.”
He looked about with an expression of amusement, but Bambi felt actual, physical nausea at the sight of the vivid blue and orange and purple.
“It’s wicked!” she said, between closed teeth.
“Let’s sit down and try to get the idea,” said Jarvis.
“There isn’t any idea.”
“Oh, yes, there must be. The directors would never get together an acre of these atrocities unless there was some excuse.”
“It’s low and degenerate. It’s a school of hideousness. Come away!”
“You go sit in another room if you like. I am going to give these fellows a fair chance. Maybe they’ve got hold of something new.”
“There is nothing new about that awful woman with a decayed face. She has been dead for weeks.”
“Just put your emotions away, Bambi, and train your mind on this thing. Here is a whole school of men, working in a new medium, along new ideas. They can’t all be crazy, you know.”
“You like it?”
“Of course I don’t like it, but it interests me. I haven’t read or heard anything about it, so it is a shock.”
“You shall not make for yourselves false images,” she said, shaking her head.
“Maybe these maniacs are trying to break up the conventions of Painting and Sculpture. They want more freedom.”
“They are anarchists, vandals!”
“Possibly, but if they are necessary to the development of a bigger art expression—-“
“They ought to work in secret, and exhibit in the dark.”
“No, no! We have to be prepared for it. Our old standards have got to go.”
“I feel as medieval as the Professor. I never really understood him before.”
“We ought to bring him here.”
“I think it would kill him,” Bambi answered.
They spent a couple of hours, and then went back to the club. For some reason the Cubists had stirred Jarvis deeply. He divined something new and sincere, where Bambi felt only pose and degeneracy.
“When you think of that awful street, and ‘Damaged Goods,’ and that exhibit of horrors, all in two days, I don’t wonder I feel like an old, old woman,” she said.
“Suppose we stay in to-night? There is some kind of special meeting announced here, to discuss the drama. We might go in for a little while.”
“All right. But ‘early to bed,’ for to-morrow we set out on our careers.”
“You haven’t told me what yours is, yet,” he objected.
“Mine is a secret.”
The dining-room of the club was entirely full when they went down, and the hum of talk and laughter roused Bambi’s tired sensibilities.
“It’s quite jolly,” she said. “Some of the people look interesting, don’t they?”
“I talked to that little man, over there, with the red necktie, while I was waiting for you, and he has ideas.”
“Lovely woman with him.”
They chatted personalities for a while.
“Seems ages since we left home, doesn’t it?”
“Yes. Big mental experiences obliterate time.”
“The Professor has forgotten to write, of course.”
“He has probably forgotten us.”
“I feel that I am getting rather well acquainted with you,” he nodded and smiled.
“How do you like me, now that you have met me?” she teased.
“You are an interesting specimen over-sensitized.”
“Jarvis!” she protested. “I sound like a Cubist picture.”
After dinner they drifted with the crowd into the art gallery, where they talked to several people who introduced themselves. It was very friendly and social. The lecturer they had heard in the morning was there. Jarvis went to speak to him, and brought him back to Bambi. She found him jolly and responsive. She even dared to twit him about his feminine audience.
People seated themselves in groups, and finally a chairman made some remarks about the Modern Drama and invited a discussion. A dramatic critic made cynical comment on the so-called “uplift plays,” which roused Jarvis to indignation. To Bambi’s surprise, he was on his feet instantly, and a torrent of words was spilled upon the dramatic critic. He held the attention closely, in an impassioned plea for thoughtful drama, not necessarily didactic, but the serious handling of vital problems in comedy, if necessary, or even in farce. It need not be such harrowing work as Brieux makes it, but if the man who had things to say could and would conquer the technique of dramatic writing, he would reach the biggest audiences that could be provided, which ought to pay him for the severity of his apprenticeship.
Bambi thrilled with pride in him, his handsome face, his passionate idealism, and his eloquence. He sat down, amid much applause, and Bambi knew he had made his place among these clever people. He took some part in the discussion that followed, and when they went upstairs she marked the flush of excitement and the alive look of his face.
“I was proud of you, Jarvis,” she said, as they stopped at her door.
“Nonsense. The man I talked against was a duffer, but this has been a great day,” he said. “This place stimulates you every minute.”
“Tomorrow we move on Broadway, Captain Jocelyn. Get your forces in order to advance.”
“Very good, General. Good night, sir.”
As she closed her door she skipped across the room. She knew the first gun had been fired when Jarvis rose to speak. If she was to act as commander in the making of his career, she was glad she had a personality to work with. Nobody would forget that Greek head, with its close-cropped brown curls, those dreaming blue eyes, and that sensitive, over-controlled mouth. Her own dreams were wrought about them.
The day which Bambi foretold would some time be famous in history dawned propitiously, with sun and soft airs. A sense of excitement got them up early. Breakfast was over, and Jarvis ready for action, by eight-thirty.
“I don’t believe Mr. Belasco will be down this early, Jarvis,” Bambi said.
“Well, he is a busy man. He’ll probably get an early start. I want to be on the ground when he arrives, anyhow. If he should want me to read the play this morning, we should need time.”
She made no more objections. She straightened his tie, and brushed his coat, with shining eyes, full of excitement.
“Just think! In five hours we may know.” He took up his hat and his manuscript.
“Yes,” he answered confidently. “Shall we lunch here?”
“Yes, and do hurry back, Jarvis.”
At the door he remembered her.
“Where are you going? Do you want to come?”
“No. I have something to attend to myself. Good luck.”
She held out her hand to him. He held it a second, looking at it as if it was a specimen of something hitherto unknown.
“I am not forgetting that you are giving me this chance,” he said, and left abruptly.
Bambi leaped about the rooms in a series of joy-leaps that would have shamed Mordkin, before she began the serious business of the day.
Jarvis had carefully looked up the exact location of the Belasco Theatre. He decided to walk uptown, in order to arrange his thoughts, and to make up his mind just how much and what he would say to Mr. Belasco. The stir, the people, the noise and the roar were unseen, unheard. He strolled along, towering above the crowd, a blond young Achilles, with many an admiring eye turned in his wake.
None of the perquisites of success, so dear to Bambi’s dreams, appealed to him. He saw himself, like John the Baptist, crying in the wilderness, which was the world, and all the people, in all the cities, were roused out of their lethargy and dull submission at his call–not to prayer, but to thought. It was a great mission he was upon, and even Broadway became consecrated ground. He walked far beyond the cross street of the theatre in his absorption, so it was exactly half-after nine when he arrived at the box office.
“I want to speak to Mr. Belasco,” he said to the man there.
“Three flights up.”
“Is there an elevator?”
He resented the man’s grin, but he made no reply. He began to climb the long flights of dark stairs. Arrived at the top, the doors were all locked, so he was forced to descend again to the box office.
“There is nobody up there,” he said.
“You didn’t expect anybody to be there at this hour of the dawn, did you?”
“What time does Mr. Belasco usually come?”
“There is nothing usual about him. He is liable to land here any time between now and midnight, if he comes at all.”
“He doesn’t come every day, then?”
The man grinned.
“Say, you’re new to this game, ain’t you? Sometimes he don’t show up for days. The steno can tell you whether he is coming to-day.”
“Yes. The skirt that’s in his office.”
“When does she come?”
“Oh, about ten or eleven.”
“Don’t mention it.”
Jarvis made the ascent again. He stood about for nearly an hour before the office girl arrived. “Those stairs is the limit,” she gasped. “You waiting for me?”
“I am waiting for Mr. Belasco.”
“Got a letter to him?”
“What do you want to see him about? A job?”
“No. About a play.”
She ushered him in, opened the windows, took off her hat, looked at herself in the mirror, while she patted her wonderful hair. She powdered her nose, fixed her neck ruffle, apparently oblivious of Jarvis.
“What time do you expect Mr. Belasco?”
“Goodness only knows.”
“Do you think he will come to-day?”
“Far be it from me to say.”
“But I wish to see him.”
“Many a blond has twirled his thumbs around here for weeks for the same reason.”
“But I am only in New York for a little while.”
“I should worry,” said she, opening her typewriter desk. “Give me your play. I’ll see that it gets to him.”
“I’d rather talk to him myself.”
“I suppose I can wait here?”
“No charge for chairs,” said the cheerful one.
An hour passed, broken only by the click of the typewriter. Conventional overtures from the cheerful one being discouraged, she smashed the keys in sulky silence. From eleven to twelve things were considerably enlivened. Many sleek youths, of a type he had seen on Broadway, arrived. They saluted the cheerful one gayly as “Sally” and indulged in varying degrees of witty persiflage before the inevitable “The Governor in?”
“Expect him to-day?”
“Thank you, little one.”
Sometimes they departed, sometimes they joined Jarvis’s waiting party. Lovely ladies, and some not so lovely. Old and young, fat and thin, they climbed the many stairs and met their disappointment cheerfully. They usually fell upon Jack, or Billy, or Jim, of the waiters, who, in turn, fell upon Belle, or Susan, or Fay.
“What are you with? How’s business?” were always the first questions, followed by shop talk, unintelligible to Jarvis. One youth said that he had been to this office ten successive mornings without getting an appointment. The others laughed, and one woman boasted that she had the record, for she had gone twenty-eight times before she saw Frohman, the last engagement she sought.
“But he engaged me the 29th,” she laughed.
They impressed Jarvis as the lightest-hearted set he had ever encountered. They laughed over everything and nothing. By one o’clock Jarvis and the cheerful one were again in sole possession.
“Don’t you ever eat?” she asked him.
“Oh, is it lunch time?” he inquired.
“Come out of the trance.”
She went through the entire performance before the mirror, in putting on her hat.
“Shall I bring you anything, dearie?” she asked him, as she completed her toilette.
“I’m going, too,” he said. “I’ll be back.”
He plunged down the stairs. When he reached the street he thought of Bambi’s face when he returned with the announcement of his futile morning. He went into a shop, telephoned the club that he had been detained and would not be back to lunch. Then he foraged for food and went back to his sitting on the top floor of the Belasco.
“Well, little stranger,” said the cheerful one, on her return.
His interest in the afternoon callers waned. At five o’clock he gave it up. He arranged with his new friend to call her up in the morning to see if she had any news from the front. Then he slowly turned his footsteps toward the club. He was irritated at the long delay, and for the first time aware that there might be more difficulty in seeing managers than he had anticipated. He had thought the condescension all on his part, but eight hours of airing his heels in the outer purlieus had altered his viewpoint a trifle.
His main concern was Bambi’s disappointment. She had sent him out with such high hopes–she would receive him back with his Big Chief feathers drooping. He was sorrier than he would admit to drown the shine in her eyes. He walked downtown to postpone the evil hour, but in the end it had to be faced.
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?”
[Illustration: “WELL, BELIEVE ME, THAT HIGH-BROW STUFF IS ON THE TOBOGGAN.”]
“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.”
[Illustration: “TELL YOUR HUSBAND TO PUT YOU IN A PLAY, AND I’LL PUT IT ON.” “MUCH OBLIGED, I’LL TELL HIM. GOOD MORNING.”]
“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.