Jarvis and Bambi sat down.
“Isn’t there something you want to tell me? I can’t just remember what you went to New York for?”
“We went to sell my play,” Jarvis prompted.
“To be sure. It had escaped me for a moment. Were you successful?”
“We were not.”
“Oh, Jarvis, how can you say that? We don’t know yet. Belasco is considering it.”
“What is this Belasco?”
Bambi looked at Jarvis, and they both laughed.
“Isn’t he refreshing?” she remarked. “I’ve thought for two weeks in terms of managers. They fill the universe. They are the gods. Their nod is life or death, and now my nearest relative says, ‘What is Belasco?'”
“It’s a sort of meat sauce, isn’t it?”
Consternation on both their faces, then an outburst from Bambi.
“No, no! That’s tabasco, you dear, blessed innocent.”
“Belasco is one of the leading managers in New York, Professor,” explained Jarvis, patiently. “He is as well known as Pierpont Morgan or Theodore Roosevelt.”
“Indeed! Well, I am not surprised at my ignorance. I have no interest in present-day drama. It is degenerate mush.”
“Have you seen anything, since ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’?” Jarvis inquired.
“I have seen ‘The Second Mrs. Tanqueray,'” he replied conclusively.
“That was considered strong meat in its day, but now we have ‘Damaged Goods,'” mused Jarvis.
“And what are ‘Damaged Goods’?” inquired the Professor.
“What are Yonkers? Don’t tell him, Jarvis–he’s too young to know. It’s an ugly modern play. We saw some things you might have enjoyed. Oh, I often wished for you.”
“Thank you, my dear, but I have no desire to enter that cauldron of humanity.”
“I agree with you, Professor Parkhurst.”
“That is a rare occurrence, I may say,” answered the Professor, with a twinkle.
“Thank goodness, you have me to prod you into life. You would both sit in your dens and figure and write until you blinked like owls in the night. I have stored up energy enough, from these two weeks in the cauldron, to run me for months. I didn’t miss one thing, ugly or beautiful. I shall use it all.”
“Use it? How use it, my dear?”
“In my thoughts, my opinions, my life.”
“Dear me!” said her father, staring at her. “What odd things you say!”
“It’s true, what she says,” Jarvis ejaculated. “She rolled New York up on reels, like a moving-picture show, and I have no doubt she could give us a very good performance.”
“I shall,” quoth Bambi.
“It is rather a pity you waste your impressions, Bambi. Why don’t you write them down?” Jarvis patronized.
“In a young lady’s diary, I suppose. No, thanks.”
“One author in a family is enough,” commented the Professor, heartily.
“You ought to tell us your conclusion about your career. Did you settle it in your mind?”
“A career?” anxiously, from Professor Parkhurst.
“Yes, wealth and fame are in my grasp.”
“You haven’t done anything rash, my dear?”
“Well, slightly rash, but not the rashest I could do.”
“Is it dancing?” from Jarvis.
“Of a sort.”
“Not public dancing?”
“No, private,” she giggled.
“Will it take you away much?” Jarvis asked her.
“Oh, I’ll go to New York occasionally.”
“It is to be a secret, I take it?” the Professor said.
“It is, old Sherlock Holmes.”
They slipped back into their routine of life as if it had never been broken. Jarvis, after two perturbed days of restlessness, went into a work fit over a new play. The Professor was busy with final examinations, so Bambi was left alone with plenty of leisure in which to do her next story.
She wisely decided to write herself–in other words, to dramatize her own experiences, to draw on her emotions, her own views of life. She must leave it to Jarvis to rouse and stir people. She would be content to amuse and charm them. So she boldly called her tale by her own name, “Francesca,” and she shamelessly introduced the Professor and Jarvis, with a thin disguise, and chortled over their true likeness after she had dipped them in the solution of her imagination. She relied on the fact that neither of them ever looked between the covers of a magazine. Besides, even if they chanced upon the story, they would never recognize their own portraits.
[Illustration: HER TALE HAD THE PLACE OF HONOUR AND WAS ILLUSTRATED BY JAMES MONTGOMERY FLAGG, THE SUPREME DESIRE OF EVERY YOUNG WRITER.]
A few days before the prize story was published, a special copy came to her from Mr. Strong. She hid it until the “Twins” were gone. Then she hurried out to the piazza and the hammock with it. It was a thrilling moment. “Prize Story by a Wonderful New Writer” stared up at her from the front page. Her tale had the place of honour in the makeup, and it was illustrated–double-page illustrations–by James Montgomery Flagg, the supreme desire of every young writer. She hugged the magazine. She scanned it over and over. She laid it on the table, picked it up casually, and turned to the first story indifferently, just to squeeze the full joy out of it. Then she pounded a pile of pillows into shape, drew her feet up under her, and began to read her own work. She smiled a good deal, she chuckled, finally she laughed outright, hugging herself. At this unfortunate moment Jarvis appeared. She looked as guilty as a detected criminal.
“What’s the joke?”
“Oh, I was laughing at a story in here.”
“How can you read that trash?”
“It isn’t trash. It’s perfectly delightful.”
“What is it?” He came nearer to her, and she clutched the magazine tightly.
“Oh, just a prize story.”
“A prize story? And funny enough to make you laugh? Not O. Henry?”
“Of course not. He’s dead. A new writer, it says.”
He held out his hands for it, and, perforce, she resigned it to him.
“Francesca!” he exclaimed.
“Odd, isn’t it? That’s what attracted me to it,” Bambi lied.
“Well, I suppose there are other Francescas. I came to ask you to listen to a scenario.”
“Good! I shall be delighted,” she replied cordially, folding the magazine over her finger.
So the fatal moment came and passed. Her secret was safe. She kept the cherished magazine in her own room, read and reread it, patting its cover, as one would a curly head.
Upon the receipt of her second story came a telegram from Strong, “Can you see me on Thursday? New plan for stories. Arrive in Sunnyside ten in the morning.” She wired him to come, then sat down to work up an explanation of him for the “Heavenly Twins.” He would be there for lunch–he must be accounted for. She discarded several plans, and finally decided to introduce him as the brother of a college classmate, in town for the day. She would get rid of the family speedily, so that she and Mr. Strong might have time for the conference. What on earth did he want to see her about? It must be important, to bring him from New York. Maybe he was disappointed with the second story, and wanted to break the contract. It was his kind way to come and say it, instead of writing it, but it was a blow. She had felt that the second tale was so much better than the first. She went over it, in her mind, trying to pick flaws in it. Well, she could always go to dancing, if everything else failed.
At lunch she casually remarked, “Richard Strong is coming to lunch on Thursday. I hope you will both be here.”
“Who may Richard Strong be?” inquired her father.
“He is the brother of an old classmate, Mary Strong.”
“Does he live here?” Jarvis asked.
“No. He lives in New York.”
“What brings him to Sunnyside?”
“He didn’t say.”
“I never heard of him before,” Professor Parkhurst said.
“Oh, yes. I used to talk about him a great deal. He’s a fine fellow.”
“Was he a special friend?” Jarvis asked, roused to some interest.
Bambi hesitated. She was getting in deeper than she planned.
“Yes, rather special. Not intimate, but special.”
“What is his business?” asked her father.
“I don’t remember.”
“Rich idler, I suppose,” Jarvis scorned.
“He used to work when I knew him.”
“Well, we shall be glad to see the young man. Would you like me to change off my afternoon classes and remain at home?”
“Oh, no. Don’t think of it!” Bambi cried, with unpremeditated warmth, which focussed Jarvis’s eyes upon her. “He’ll be here only a little while, and we will reminisce. He would bore you to death.”
“I like to be cordial to your beaus.”
“Professor Parkhurst, I am a married woman.”
“Dear me, so you are. I am always forgetting Jarvis. If he is a bore, I’ll lunch at the club.”
“Possibly you would prefer me to lunch out, too,” said Jarvis, pointedly.
“Not at all. I want you both here,” said Bambi, with irritation, closing the incident. She had a feeling that she had not handled the situation as well as she had planned to do.
Thursday, and Mr. Strong arrived with the inevitableness of dreaded events. Bambi felt convinced that his coming meant the premature death of her new-born career, so, naturally, she was prepared for grief. An element of amusement was added, however, by Jarvis’s astonishing behaviour. Ever since the first mention of Mr. Strong’s name he had shown unmistakable signs of dislike for that gentleman. ‘It was the most remarkable revelation of his strange character. Having totally ignored Bambi himself, it distressed him to think of any other man being attracted by her. His references to Mr. Strong’s coming were many and satirical. This display of manly inconsistency was nuts and ale to Bambi. She wondered how much Mr. Strong would play up, and she decided to give Jarvis Jocelyn an uncomfortable hour. She herself was an adept in amatory science, but she was a trifle unsure of Mr. Strong. However, she remembered a certain twinkle in his eye that augured well.
Because it was necessary to enlighten him as to the situation in advance, she arrayed herself most carefully to go and meet him. She encountered Jarvis on the stairs. He inspected her charming self, in a frock the colour of spring green leaves, topped by a crocus-coloured hat, like a flower. She deliberately pranced before him.
“Aren’t I a delight to the eye?”
He stared at her coldly.
“Such ardent admiration embarrasses me, Jarvis,” she protested.
“You look very nice,” he admitted.
“Nice! Nice! I look like a daffodil, or a crocus, or some other pleasant spring beauty.”
“I am glad you are so pleased with yourself. I trust Strong will be equally appreciative.”
“I hope so when I have gone to so much trouble for him,” she tossed back over her shoulder, in punishment.
As Mr. Strong stepped off the train and faced her, it would be hard to say whether admiration or astonishment constituted the greater part of his expression.
“Mrs. Jocelyn, why this is too kind of you!”
“Not at all. City people are so unused to our devious country ways that I was afraid you would get lost.”
Admiration was certainly on top now.
“If you don’t mind, we will walk. It isn’t far.”
“The farther the better,” he replied gallantly.
They set forth, down the shady village street, where the trees almost met overhead. Strong drew in deep breaths of the fresh morning air. His eyes kept returning to the little French figure at his side, so metropolitan, and yet so much the dominant note in any setting in which he had seen her. She chattered on, about the town, the university, and the sights.
“I refrain from pointing out the town hall, and the Carnegie Library,” she said.
“I am grateful,” he bowed.
“Are you married?” she darted at him, out of their impersonality.
“That helps a little.”
His surprise was evident.
“I’m afraid I’ve got you into rather a box.”
“I don’t mind, if you will play Pandora.”
“Thanks. You remember that I told you that my–my career was to be a secret from the ‘Heavenly Twins’?”
“I suppose my career is about over, but I don’t want them to know about it.”
“Excuse me. What’s that–about your career being over?”
“That’s why you’ve come, isn’t it? You didn’t like the last story?”
He stared at her, and then burst out laughing.
“You thought I would come way out here from New York to tell you I didn’t like it?”
“I have a high opinion of your kindness,” she nodded.
“You nice little girl!” he added impetuously. “I came partly because I wanted to talk to you again, partly because I wanted to see Jarvis and the Professor.”
She smiled and nodded encouragement.
“Then, too, we’ve had such a raft of letters about the ‘Francesca’ story that I want to talk to you about making a novel of it, to run serially, instead of the short stories we arranged for.”
“A novel? You want me to write a novel?”
“But I wonder if I could?” she said, in an awed voice.
“Of course you could. The second story was ripping.”
“Was it? Was it?” She clapped her hands joyously.
“We can use it as Chapter Two, with very few changes, and from now on you can build your story about the characters you have introduced, with a spinal cord of plot to give it shape.”
“It frightens me to death, to think of doing it. I have always thought it took genius to write a novel.”
“My dear young woman, not in this day, when publishing houses gush books like so many geysers. Anybody with your gift of words and vivid reactions ought to find writing the line of least resistance. Of course you can do it.”
“I’d adore trying if you’d help me.”
He watched the concentration of her face with interest. She was wrapped in the thought of the book. She was attacking it, on all sides, with the lance of her mind. When she threw herself into every new interest with such abandon, it was no wonder that she gave out impressions with the same intensity.
“What about the box I’m in?” he reminded her. She came out of her trance with a start.
“I’d forgotten all about you,” she said frankly. “I had to explain you to the ‘Heavenly Twins,’ somehow. If I said you were an editor, they would naturally ask why you came to see me?”
“I never thought of that. I am afraid I’ve put you in an embarrassing position.”
“Oh, not at all. I’ve put you in one. I told them you were the brother of an old classmate, stopping over in town for a day, and that you were to look me up.”
“Did I know you well when you were in college?”, he smiled.
“I didn’t intend to have you know me well, but Jarvis showed such unexpected interest in you that you are suspected of having known me rather well.”
“Sort of an old affair?”
“Sort of,” she laughed up at him.
“I get the idea. Have I your permission to play the role in my own way?”
“Yes, only don’t betray me. The ‘Twins’ will only be around at lunch-time. After that, we can talk book.”
“Good! I’ll play up with my best amateur theatrical manner,” he responded, as they entered the garden. “This is the arithmetical garden,” he said “It’s true. Why, it’s just like an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ experience, coming into something I have known in some other state of consciousness.”
“Oh, yes, it’s true. That’s all I am, a sort of a camera.”
“What a picture-book house!” he added. “It’s just right for you.”
As they went into the screened porch Jarvis arose, slowly, from the hammock. Mr. Strong stopped, really amazed, as the splendid figure, with its Apollo head, advanced. Bambi, too, was struck with some new alive quality in Jarvis that was compelling.
“This is Mr. Strong, Jarvis.” The two men measured each other swiftly.
“I am glad to meet you,” said Jarvis, with determined politeness.
“Thank you. It’s a pleasure to meet Mrs. Jocelyn’s husband.”
“Mrs. Jocelyn’s husband is a new role for Jarvis,” said she.
“I understand you and Mrs. Jocelyn are old friends,” said Jarvis, perfunctorily.
“We are indeed old and dear friends.”
“It has been some years since you met?”
“Yes, although I couldn’t realize it this morning. There is a vivid quality about Mrs. Jocelyn which makes it impossible to forget anything about her. Don’t you think so?”
Jarvis looked at Bambi, who grinned.
“Do you find me vivid, Jarvis?”
“You are certainly highly coloured.”
“Ugh! That sounds like a Sunday supplement.”
Conversation limped along like a tired cab horse. Even Bambi could not prod it into a semblance of life. Besides, she was choked with laughter at the picture of Jarvis sitting up, during his sacred work hours, full of bromides and manners. A discussion of New York almost released him. He thundered against modern cities with force. New York, discovered to be the home of Strong, became anathema to his host. It was the Goliath of Tyranny, Wealth, Degeneration, against which, David-like, he aimed his sling. Strong led him on, interested in his personality.
“Mrs. Jocelyn does not share your opinion of New York?”
“There are many of my opinions in which Mrs. Jocelyn does not share.”
“Fortunately. Same opinions ought to constitute grounds for divorce,” said Bambi.
“I understand you write plays, Mr. Jocelyn?”
“You will have to endure New York, now and again, I suppose, when you begin to produce.”
“We have formed a partnership,” Bambi interpolated. “He writes and I sell.”
“You are a lucky man,” Strong complimented him.
Jarvis ignored the remark. Strong wondered why on earth Bambi had married him. He was wonderful to look at, but his manners were impossible. If he was in love with her, he disguised it successfully. The entrance of the Professor saved the situation.
“This is Mr. Strong, Professor. My father, Professor Parkhurst.”
The Professor’s hand-clasp and absent-minded smile seemed like a perfect character make-up. It was the kind of thing David Warfield would have played excellently. Strong had to shake himself to realize that these were real people, they were so individualized, so emphasized, like characters in a play.
“I am always glad to welcome my daughter’s old friends,” he said. “I forget when it was you knew each other, my dear.”
“Ah, yes, I remember. In college. How is your sister?”
“My sister?” repeated Strong. Bambi gasped. She had forgotten to tell him about Mary.
“I refer to your sister Mary,” the Professor went on.
“Oh, sister Mary? Oh—-” Strong recovered himself.
“You have other sisters?”
“Yes, oh, yes. Many.”
“Many, indeed! How many, may I ask?”
“Thirteen,” at a venture.
“Thirteen sisters! That is astonishing! And you are the only brother?”
“The only one.”
“Are they all living?”
“No. All dead.”
“Not Mary?” exclaimed Bambi.
“No, no, I meant to omit Mary. All but Mary are gone.”
“That is very sad,” sighed the Professor. “Thirteen sisters! How were they named?”
“After the thirteen original states,” replied Ananias Strong.
“Extraordinary, but Mary—-“
“Short for Maryland,” prompted Strong.
Bambi almost choked. The subject seemed to fascinate her father.
“Is Mary married?” he inquired.
“Yes, quite. Quite married.”
“I forget whether she visited us, my dear.”
“No, Mary never came to Sunnyside.”
“What a pity the friendships of our young days pass away, isn’t it?”
“Not at all. It’s a blessing,” snapped Jarvis. “When you think of all the donkeys you played with in your youth—-“
“Mary was not a donkey,” giggled Bambi.
“I wasn’t speaking of Mary,” he remarked.
“I thought you said you were going to lunch in your room to-day, Jarvis,” the Professor remarked.
“That was yesterday,” Bambi said quickly.
“Oh, I can never remember details.”
“I thought that was what you did remember,” challenged Jarvis.
“You refer to figures. They, are not details. They are of enormous importance,” began Professor Parkhurst.
“Now, children, let us not trot out the family skeleton. The ‘Heavenly Twins’ can talk from now until doomsday tolls on the importance or non-importance of mathematics. It’s as thrilling as modern warfare when they get started, but I can’t afford to let them go, because they get so excited.”
“Luncheon am served, Miss Bambi,” announced Ardelia.
Bambi led the way, with a sigh of relief. If she could only get through with it, and get the happy family out of the way! Jarvis must be punished for bad behaviour, and she set herself to the task at once. She turned her attention wholly upon Mr. Strong. She laughed and shined her eyes at him, referring to the dear, old days in the most shameless manner. She fairly caressed him with her voice, and his devotion capped her own.
The Professor ate his lunch oblivious to the comedy, but Jarvis scarcely touched his. Some new, painful thing was at work in him. He resented it every time this man looked at Bambi. He wanted to knock him down, and order her off to her room. Most of all, he was furious with himself for caring. He had the same instinct which possessed him in New York when he rushed to the club to sweep her out of his life, and so save himself. He determined to leave the moment luncheon was over. She must never know what a bad hour she had given him. Poor, ostrich Jarvis, with his head in the sands!
The luncheon was one of the most amusing events in Richard Strong’s experience, and as for Bambi, she was at her best. She enjoyed herself utterly, until coffee put a period to Act Two.
Mr. Strong’s visit left its impress on all three members of the household. The Professor referred to him as the man with the thirteen sisters, and wished him reinvited to the house. Bambi treasured the day he spent with her as a turning point in her life. Surely new vistas opened up to her as a result of his coming. But to Jarvis the memory of the day was extremely painful. He took Bambi’s punishment very seriously. He conceived Strong to be a former lover whom she welcomed back with affectionate ardour. He knew enough of her odd personality to be totally in the dark as to what she would do if she found herself suddenly in love with Strong. The main difficulty was, however, that he cared what she did–he, Jarvis, the free man! He realized that this was a flag of danger, and he answered the warning by sedulously avoiding Bambi for the next few days. She was too busy with the plans for the book to notice, although she caught him looking at her once or twice in a strange, speculative way. Their peace was broken, however, a few days after Mr. Strong’s famous visit by a letter from the Belasco office, accompanied by the play. Mr. Belasco regretted that the play was not just what he wanted. It had some excellent points, etc., but as he had already arranged for so many productions during the coming season, he felt he could not take on anything more at present. He would be glad to read anything Mr. Jocelyn might submit. Jarvis handed it on to Bambi.
“As I told you,” he remarked.
“It never got to Belasco,” said Bambi, confidently. “If it had, he would have seen its possibilities.”
“Is something the matter?” inquired the Professor.
“Belasco has refused Jarvis’s play.”
“So. He didn’t like that abominable woman any better than I did.”
“She is not abominable!” from Jarvis.
“Be quiet, you two, and let me think.”
“If you would learn concentration you would not need quiet in which to think,” protested her parent.
“Oh, if I would learn to be a camel I wouldn’t need a hump,” returned Bambi, shortly.
“I don’t think a hump would be becoming to you,” mused the Professor, turning back to his book.
“We’ll send it to Parke, Jarvis.”
“What’s the use?”
“Don’t be silly. Every manager in New York shall see that play before we stop. We will send it to his wife. Maybe she will read it.”
“Do as you like about it,” he answered, with superb impersonality.
She took his advice and got it off at once, addressed to the actress. In a week came a letter in reply saying that Miss Harper would like to talk to Mr. Jocelyn about the play, and making an appointment at her house two days later.
This letter threw them into great excitement. Jarvis protested, first, that he could not be interrupted at his present work, which interested him. Bambi pooh-poohed that excuse. Then he said he had never talked to an actress, and he had heard they were a fussy lot. She would probably want him to change the play; as he would not do that, there was no use seeing the woman. Bambi informed him that if Miss Harper would get the play produced, it would pay Jarvis to do exactly what she wanted done. Then he protested he hated New York. He didn’t want to go back there. Bambi finally lost her temper.
“If you are going to act like a balky horse, I give you up. Until you get started, you will have to do a great many things you will not like, but if I were a man, I would never let any obstacles down me.”
“When can I get a train?” meekly.
“You can take the same train we took before, to-morrow morning.”
A great light broke for Jarvis.
“I can’t go. I haven’t any money.”
“I have. I’ll lend it to you.”
“I must owe you thousands now.”
“Not quite. We can do this all right.”
“Have you got it all down?”
“In the Black Maria,” she nodded.
So the long and the short of it was that Jarvis went off to New York again. No martyr ever approached the stake with a more saddened visage than he turned upon Bambi as the train pulled out. She waved her hand at him, smiling pleasantly, but he was sorrowful to the last glimpse.
“Poor old baby!” she laughed. “He shall stay in New York a while. He is getting too dependent on mamma.”
She really welcomed his absence. It gave her so much more time for her own work, which absorbed and delighted her. She had never known any sensation so pleasurable as that sense of adventure with which, each morning, she went to work. First, she patted the manuscript pile, which grew so amazingly fast. Then she filled her fountain pen and looked off over the treetops, beyond her window, until, like Peter Pan, she slipped off into another world, the Land of Make Believe, a country she had discovered for herself and peopled with human beings to suit her own taste. To be sure, heir story concerned itself mainly with herself, Jarvis, and the Professor, but only the traits that made them individual, that made them “they,” were selected, and the experiences she took them through were entirely of her own making. It was such fun to make them real by the power of words; to make many people know them and love them, or condemn them, as the case might be. In fact, creation was absorbing.
“It’s very quiet around here since Jarvis left,” commented the Professor a few days later.
“I never thought Jarvis was noisy.”
“Well, he’s like distant thunder.”
“And heat lightning,” laughed Bambi.
“Do you happen to miss him?”
“Me? Oh, not at all. Do you?”
“It always frets me to have things mislaid that I am used to seeing around. When you change the furnishings about, it upsets me.”
“Do you look upon Jarvis as furniture?” she teased him.
“I look upon him as an anomaly.”
“William Morris said, ‘You should never have anything in your house which you do not know to be useful, and believe to be beautiful.'”
“I think Jarvis is beautiful.”
“That great mammoth?”
“He’s like Apollo, or Adonis.”
“He certainly needs all Olympus to stretch out on. He clutters up this little house.”
“I am sorry you don’t like Jarvis, Professor.”
“I do like him. I am used to him. I enjoy disagreeing with him. I wish he would come home.”
His daughter beamed on him.
“Then he is also useful as a whetstone upon which you sharpen your wits. William Morris had nothing on me when I added Jarvis to our Penates.”
Jarvis’s first letter she read aloud to her father, and they both laughed at it, it was so Jarvis-like.
“Dear Bambi,” he wrote, “I am in this vile cesspool of humanity again, and I feel like a drowning gnat. I did not go to the club, as you told me to, because I thought I could live more economically if I took a room somewhere and ‘ate around,’ I left my bag at the station, while I went to an address given me by a young man I met on the train. He said it was plain but clean. He told me some experiences he had had in boarding and lodging houses. They were awful! This place is an old three-story house, of the fiendish mid-Victorian brand–dark halls, high ceilings, and marble mantels. It seemed clean, so I took a room, almost as large as your linen closet, where I shall spend the few days I am here. My room has a court outlook, and was hotter than Tophet last night, but of course you expect to be hot in summer.
“I went to see Miss Harper, at the time appointed, this morning. She lives up Riverside Drive. She is a pleasant woman, who seems to know what she wants. She thinks that if I write a new third act, and change some things in the second act, Mr. Parke might produce it. I defended the present form, and tried to show her that the changes she wants will weaken the message of the play. She says she doesn’t care a fig for my message. She wants a good part. My impulse was to take my work and leave, but I remembered how important this chance seemed to you, so I swallowed my pride, though it choked me, and promised to make a scenario of the changes, to submit at once. I may have to stay on a few days to do things over as she wants me to do. The play is ruined for me, already.
“I suppose it is cool and quiet where you are. The noise and heat are terrible here. I forgot to say that I have to hurry with ‘Success,’ because the lady is going to Europe in a fortnight, and insists it must be finished by that time. I hope she won’t crack the whip. It makes me nervous. I am such a new trained bear.
“I’d rather argue with the Professor to-night than be here, or even talk with you. I wish you didn’t want me to be a success, Bambi. Couldn’t you let me off? My regards to you both. Tell Ardelia that nobody in New York knows anything about cooking. There seem to be thousands of people eating around, and oh, such food! Good night.
“He is homesick,” said the Professor, as Bambi finished and folded the letter.
“Homesick to argue with you,” snapped Bambi.
“He said, ‘Or talk with you.'”
“Excuse me. He said, ‘Or even talk with you.’ I shall punish him for that.”
“He isn’t comfortable. Hot and mid-Victorian. He isn’t responsible,” excused her father.
“He won’t be comfortable when he gets the penalty,” said Bambi, fiercely.
“I am surprised that he consented to change his play. Samson’s locks are certainly shorn.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“You have shaved him, my dear.”
“Are you calling me Delilah?”
“You can’t deny that he would never be where he is, doing what he is now, if he were not married to you.”
“What of it? Time he had a little discipline. He needs it and his work needs it.”
“Well, he’s getting it.”
“Are you pitying him because he isn’t as mad as he was when I caught him?”
“He’s still mad, nor’ by nor’east.”
“I’ll make a human being and a big artist out of Jarvis before I am through.”
“Be careful that you don’t lose everything in him that makes him Jarvis.”
“Do you think that I can’t do it?”
“I only say that creation, like vengeance, is God’s. It is dangerous when man tampers with it.”
Upon a sudden impulse, she went to lean over him and kiss his bald head.
“I’ll remember that, Herr Vater,” said she.
As the result of their talk, her reply to Jarvis was not so fierce as she had planned to make it, in her first indignation at his “even you.” She did not pat him on the back for making concessions about the play. She merely said she was glad he was acting so sensibly about it, and that if she was the mainspring of that action she was proud. As for letting him off, he was the only living person who could keep him on, or let him off. If he was the sort of softling who could not stand up under life’s discipline because it was uncomfortable or unpleasant, then no power on earth could hold him to accomplishment. But, endowed as he was, with brain, imagination, sensibilities, health, it lay in his power to actually create himself, to say “such and such a man will I be,” making every touch of life’s sculpturing fingers count, “even the pinches,” she added, picturesquely. Of course he must stay in New York as long as necessary. If he was uncomfortable, he must move. He could not do good work under irritating conditions. She told him that the Professor missed him, and Ardelia contemplated sending a box of goodies. She omitted any mention of her own state of mind or feelings in regard to him or his actions. Here was the punishment for his “even you,” and he pondered long over it.
“What on earth did she marry me for? She doesn’t care a straw about me, only what I can make of myself,” he mused, a trifle bitterly. But he went to work at “Success” with the abandon of a house-wrecker, pulling it to the foundation. He used the sledgehammer on scenes he loved. He loosened and pitched out phrases he had mulled over long, and in the dust of the affray he forgot the sting that lay behind Bambi’s words. If she wanted him famous, famous would he be.
Three boiling days, and the major part of three boiling nights, Jarvis sweated and toiled over the scenario for the revised two acts. It was work that irked him, because he hated doing things over when the first glad joy of inspiration was gone, but he stuck to it. And the fourth day he set out for the house far up the Riverside Drive, armed with his manuscript and a sense of triumph.
Arrived at his destination, the butler announced that Miss Harper had gone on a motor trip for two days. No, she had left no word. Angry at himself for not having provided against such a situation by an appointment with the lady, furious at the thought of two days’ delay, he betook himself to the Parke offices in the hope of finding some word for him there. Mr. Parke was busy and could not see him, announced the keeper of the keys to heaven, who sat at the outer gate. No, Mrs. Parke had left no word for a Mr. Jocelyn. No, she knew nothing of Mrs. Parke’s plans or movements. No, she could not ask Mr. Parke. Besides, he wouldn’t know.
Jarvis descended the many stairs in a thickening gloom. Wait, wait, wait! That was part of the discipline Bambi talked of so wisely. Well, he then and there decided that the day would come when he would walk past every managerial outpost in the city, and invade the sanctum without so much as presenting a visiting-card.
The automobile trip lasted four days instead of two, and he spent them in a fret of impatience. He worked at the third act, sure of her approval. On the fifth day she received him. She liked the idea of the second act–she would have none of the new third act. At the end of his enthusiastic sketch of how it would run, the reading of new scenes, the telling of new business, she yawned slightly, and said she didn’t like it at all. Unless he could get a good third act, she wouldn’t care for the piece. He assured her this would be a good third act when it was worked up. No use working it up. She knew now she would never like it. Jarvis rose.
“I will submit the new third act to-morrow. Have you any suggestions you wish to incorporate?”
“Oh, no. If I could write plays, I would not be acting them. It’s easier and more lucrative to write.”
“I don’t find it easy enough to be a bore,” replied Jarvis. “I will be here at eleven to-morrow.”
“Make it three.”
“Very well, three.”
“Some of the pinches,” he muttered as he climbed the bus to go back to his hot hall bedroom, his mind a blank, and only twenty-five hours in which to work out a new third act.
He stripped for action and worked until midnight. Then he foraged on Fourth Avenue for food at an all-night cafe patronized by car-men, chauffeurs, and messenger boys. He ate ravenously. Afterward he swung downward to Madison Square Park, to stretch his tired body. The stars were very bright, but a warm wind crowded people on to the streets. A restless, aimless crowd of strollers! Several of them spoke to Jarvis. Many of them marked him. But he paid no attention to individuals. His mind was full of the whole picture. Mile after mile of narrow streets between blocks of stone and brick and wood. Thousands of people tramping the miles like so many animals driven from the jungle by fire or flood. This men called civilization–this City of Stone Blocks! How far was it from the jungle? Hunger, thirst, lust, jealousy, anger, courage, and cowardice–these were the passions of both fastnesses. How far was Man from his blood brother, the Wolf?
[Illustration: “SOFTLINGS! POOR SOFTLINGS!” JARVIS MUTTERED, BAMBI’S WORDS COMING BACK TO HIM.]
He reached the green square, and started to cross it. On every bench, crowded together, huddled the sleepers. He walked slowly, and looked at them closely. Most of them were old–old men and old women–warped out of all semblance to human beings, their hideous faces and crooked bodies more awful in the abandon of sleep. Some young ones there were, too: a thin boy with a cough; a tired girl of the streets, snatching a moment of sleep before she went about her trade. It was like some fantastic dream.
“Softlings! Poor softlings!” Jarvis muttered, Bambi’s words coming back to him. The tawdry little girl stirred, saw him, spoke to him, her hand upon his arm.
“Go get a decent bed, child,” he said, giving her some money.
Her eyes shone at him in the half light like Bambi’s, and he shuddered. As she sped away a sudden rage possessed him. Why did they endure, these patient beasts? They numbered thousands upon thousands, these down-and-outs. Why did they not stand together, rise up, and take? Why didn’t he shout them awake, and lead them himself? “Gimme a nickel to get a drink?” whined a voice at his elbow.
“Here, you, move on!” said the policeman, roughly, arousing Jarvis from his trance.
On the way uptown to his room he thought it over. If they could organize and stand together, they wouldn’t be what they were. It was because they were morally and physically disintegrated that they were derelicts. This waste was part of the price we must pay for commercial supremacy, for money power, for–oh, sardonic jest!–for a democracy.
He went back to work with squared shoulders, and worked until dawn. At three the next afternoon he again presented himself to the Parke butler. Madame was indisposed, could see no one. Mr. Jocelyn was to come the next day at three.
This time he wasted no energy in rage at the delay. He began to see that this was no sham battle on a green hillside of a summer’s day, but a real hand-to-hand fight. It was to place him, for all time, at the head of the regiment or with the discards. He had believed that what he had to say was the most important thing, that this errand Bambi had sent him on was a stupid interruption. But all at once he saw it straight. This was his fight, here and now. He would not go back to her until he had won. He must find the way to finance himself in the meantime. No more provisions from the Professor or his daughter. As he made his way downtown he thought over all the possibilities of making enough to live on. He had never bothered his head about it before. Like the sparrow, he had been provided for. But something of his arrogant demanding of life seemed to have fled, a sort of terror had been planted in him by that view of the park-bench sleepers.
How he wished Bambi were here to advise him, to laugh at him, or with him! The thought of her was constantly creeping into his mind, to be shoved out by a determined effort of his will. He told himself he was becoming as boneless as the Professor, who relied on her for everything. That night he wrote to her:
“I seem to have come to my senses to-day for the first time. Queer how a man can go on walking, talking, and thinking in his sleep. I don’t know why I should have wakened up to-day, but a walk I took last night at midnight stirred something in me. And a futile attempt to see Miss Harper to-day did the rest. You saw clearly, as you so often do. This is my fight, right here and now. I must make somebody believe in this play and produce it. It may take a long time–months, perhaps–but I must stay and face it out.
“I wanted you sorely to-night, Miss Mite, to talk it over with me. I am always coming upon things I want to talk over with you, these days. You have such a decided way of seeing things.
“I shall not be needing any more money, because I am about to make something, on the side, for myself. Keep the Black Maria, and when the play goes we will have a mighty reckoning. I am not going to say thanks for what you and the Professor have done for me. I am going to act thanks.
“I shall read the scenario of the third act to Miss Harper to-morrow, the gods and the lady permitting. This is the _third_ third act. I trust it will be ‘three and out,’ or, rather, three and on. My regards to the Professor and you. It is very hot here, and I relax by thinking myself in the arithmetical garden. It seems years ago since I was there. Has the Professor laid out any new figures? I think the ‘X’ bed ought to be wild orchids. He will understand.”
He took the letter out to mail, and went for another walk. The night crowds began to interest him. He planned to take a different walk every night, and learn something of this city which he was setting out to conquer.
The next morning he went from one newspaper office to another trying to get a job. His lack of experience handicapped him everywhere. Cub reporters were as thick as summer flies. He walked, to save carfare.
At three he gained admittance to Miss Harper and read her the new scenario. She decided that she liked the second one better. He arranged to go to work on it at once, so that she might have Mr. Parke read it before she sailed. The siren Hope sang a happy song to Jarvis as he swung down the drive. He had the golden apple in his grasp this time.
“I’m coming, oh, you people,” he apostrophized them with his old assurance. “You’ll hear from me soon!”
He celebrated his coming fortune with a fifty-cent table d’hote, to which he did full justice. Up in the hot hall bedroom he took stock of ammunition. If he went light on food, he could afford to keep right at the play until he finished it. He estimated just what amount he could spend a day, and divided up his cash into the daily portion, each in an envelope. He purchased an alcohol stove and a coffee-pot, and set to work.
There were only twelve days in which to do or die, and he went at it in a frenzy. Day faded into night, night faded into day, marked only by the thumping of the outraged chambermaid, at whom he thundered. When he remembered, he dashed out for food, but for the most part he drank coffee, and more coffee.
Once he went for a long walk. He could never remember, afterward, whether it was day or night. But during it he thought out a new scene, and ran miles to get back and get it down. He grew thinner and more hollow-eyed each day, but he cared for nothing but accomplishing this thing. He knew the act was good. He felt sure Miss Harper would like it.
At dawn of the day he was to finish it he rushed into a dairy lunch to get a sandwich and a glass of milk. While he waited for the heavy-eyed clerk to get it, he picked up a morning paper. The date caught his eye. This was his last day of grace, sure enough. He must call up and get an appointment for the afternoon, for Miss Harper would be sailing to-morrow. Idly his eye travelled across the page, and suddenly was riveted by a headline: “Bertram Parke and his wife, Helen Harper, sail on the Mauretania to-day. They will hasten to London, to sign a contract for a play for Miss Harper by Galsworthy, which will be produced in New York immediately on her return.”
The print blurred before Jarvis’s eyes. Everything swayed and swam. Out of the chaos came the voice of the tired clerk, shouting: “Say, you, what’s the matter with you? Can’t you take your sandwich? Think I’m going to hold it all day?”
Jarvis didn’t understand him. He didn’t even hear him. He just laid down his last quarter and went out, a bit unsteadily.
“Soused!” grinned the clerk, looking after him.
Bambi sat, chin on hand, staring off into the distance so long that the Professor’s attention was finally attracted to her. She held Jarvis’s letter in her hand–his call-to-arms letter.
“No bad news, I hope?” ventured her father.
“Oh, no; good news. The best. Jarvis is alive!”
“Why, you didn’t think he was dead?”
“Yes, in a sense he was dead.”
“Strange I never noticed it.”
“I mean that he was only fully alive to himself. He was dead to other people. He has been dangerously self-centred.”
“Now many hands are knocking at his postern gate!”
“What enigmatic things you do say, my child!”
“Don’t you understand? Jarvis has built a high wall about himself, his precious self. He was a sort of superman, called to sit in a high tower and dream, to think, to formulate a message to the world. No claims of earth were allowed to enter in.”
“But you climbed over the wall? You were a claim of earth?”
“You know how I sneaked in when he wasn’t looking.”
“If you could read me the letter, Bambina, or such portions of it as are not private, I might understand better what you are trying to say.”
“I’ll read it to you. It’s none of it private. He has nothing private to say to me.”
The Professor composed himself to listen, while she read Jarvis’s long screed aloud. At the end he, too, sat thoughtfully a few moments, his finger tips neatly matched in church steeples before him.
“I’m sometimes amazed at your judgment,” he said.
“Why my judgment?”
“I never would have seen any possibilities, myself, in the Jarvis whom you married.”
“Speaking of cryptic remarks—-“
“I was trying to convey to your mind my belief that he may turn out a real man.”
“Oh, Jarvis was a good investment. I knew it at the time. Poor old thing, he’s frightfully lonesome.”
“He ought to come home for a while, on a visit. I am saving several topics for disagreement.”
“No, it’s better for him to stick it out. No human being ever treated Jarvis like this Miss Harper is treating him, and it’s fine for him.”
“Aren’t you rather Spartan, my dear?”
“I am. I have felt all along that I had pushed him overboard before I was sure he could swim. Now I know he can.”
“You may tell him for me that our agreement was for two years, and it holds good.”
“I don’t know what your agreement was, Herr Professor, but if it had money in it, cancel it. I want him to learn that lesson, too.”
“Poor old Jarvis!”
“Don’t you poor old Jarvis me. Remember the abuse you heaped on him when I married him. I want him to be practical!”
The Professor rose and started for the garden.
“It’s your own affair, my dear.”
The outcome of Bambi’s thoughts was a letter to Mr. Strong. She invited him to spend the weekend with her father and herself, to talk over the book and other things. She added that she hoped that he would prepare himself with data about the thirteen sisters, because her father would be primed with questions about them. Mr. Strong’s acceptance came by return mail, and he, himself, followed Saturday morning.
Bambi met him, as on the other occasion, and at sight of his cordial smile she suddenly felt as if he were an old friend.
“I am so glad to see you!” she exclaimed in her impulsive way.
Mr. Strong shook her hand vigorously.
“It’s mutual, I may say,” and he fell into step. “Bless this old town, it’s like—-“
“A soporific,” she supplied, and joined his laugh.
“How’s the Professor? And my old friend Jarvis?”
“The Professor is in a quiver of expectation to talk sisters with you.”
“Good! I am ready for him. And Jarvis?”
“Jarvis was the ‘other things’ I asked you here to talk about.”
“He’s in New York.”
“He is? Why didn’t he look me up?”
“He doesn’t like you.”
“He took us seriously the other day?”
“Jealous, is he? That isn’t why he is in New York?”
“Oh, no! He went to sell a play.”
“Belasco refused it?”
“Yes, and two others. The Parkes have it now. They are going to take it.”
“Jarvis may have to stay in the city for some time. He doesn’t know any one. He hates cities. I suspect he is economizing too much to be comfortable. I thought maybe you would look him up–keep an eye on him.”
“I should be delighted to, if you think he doesn’t dislike me too much.”
“Oh, no, he was annoyed that day we flirted so outrageously, but I know he would be glad to see you.”
“I had a wonderful time that day, myself.”
“It was fun. Everybody was so at cross purposes.”
“Do I continue the role of old beau?”
“Oh, no. You’ve established yourself with father, so there’s no use in playing up.”
“Old beau exit with regret,” he sighed.
“You’re a nice man, and I’m glad of you.”
“Thanks. Give me Jocelyn’s address before you forget it. Ah, there’s the Professor now,” he added, as he pocketed the card and hastened into the garden.
The rest of the two days they spent in easy companionship. They played tennis, they drove through the woods in an old surrey, Bambi as whip. Then, when the Professor’s early bedtime removed him to the second story, they sat on the moonlit piazza and talked.
The novel had grown into ten chapters. Three instalments had been published, and the public was showing a most flattering interest in it. Strong brought a box of letters for her to read from enthusiastic readers.
“It’s extraordinary how real you make your characters when you are such a novice,” he said to her.
“I tell you I am a photographer. The musician in my story is Jarvis, with a thin disguise. The old fiddler is my father, and the girl is shamelessly ‘me.'”
“Delightfully you,” he corrected her. “Has the Professor or your husband read any of your stories?”
“No. They never read magazines. Jarvis saw the announcement of the prize story, and commented on the use of my name, but I threw him off the scent easily.”
“I don’t see why you don’t ‘fess’ up, now that the thing is an established success.”
“No, not yet. It’s such a lovely secret. I want to wait for just the moment to spring it on them.”
“Couldn’t you invite me in when that moment comes?”
“We’ll see. I may invite the neighbours in, and crown myself with a laurel wreath.”
“I’d rely on your doing it in a novel way.”
“The surest way of being considered eccentric is just to be yourself. So few of us have the nerve.”
They talked late. He told her his plans and hopes for the magazine. He spoke of his people, of his past life, of his preparation for his work, and when the clock finally interrupted with twelve strokes, they arose, nearer friends than ever.
After Strong’s departure Bambi wrote Jarvis to prepare him for the friendly visit:
“You’ll remember Richard Strong, the brother of Maryland and the thirteen sisters? He came to spend the weekend with us, and expressed such disappointment at your absence that I gave him your address so he could look you up. Do be nice to him. I am sure you will like him when you get to know him. He is a fine, sensible fellow. He might find something for you to do on a magazine, if you wanted it. I did not speak to him about it, thinking you could do it best yourself, if you chose to. We had a pleasant two days’ visit–much talk, tennis, drives, and more talk. It seemed to please and rest him, and we enjoyed him greatly. The Professor has taken a great liking to him.
“By the time this reaches you, you will have read the new third act to your leading lady. I feel so confident that she is going to like it. Wire me when she accepts. I can’t wait for a letter. Good luck and congratulations, from both of us.
“P.S. Will you come home after the contract is signed?”
She tripped down to the corner in the moonlight to mail the letter, congratulating herself that she had handled the report of Mr. Strong’s visit with great tact. She recalled Jarvis’s unexpected jealousy with a smile. Where was he at this moment? Tossing in a hot bedroom, or prowling the streets, as he seemed prone to do these nights?
She pondered the processes which made success so easy for some people–hers, for instance, a happy accident–while others, Jarvis-like, had to be tied to the wheel before the fickle goddess released them and crowned them. Was it all chance? Or was there some big plan back of it all? Was she spared this incarnation that she might strive harder in the next? Was Jarvis expiating for past immunity? It was all a tangle, surely, to our mortal eyes.
She gave it up, snapped off her light, and went to bed. A shaft of silver, like a prayer rug, lay across the floor.
“Lady Moon, shine softly on my Knight of the Broken Lance,” she whispered, as she closed her eyes.
There was a faint idea in Jarvis’s mind, as he staggered out of the all-night lunch, of swimming after the Mauretania to overtake the Parkes. Then his wandering senses collected themselves. He realized that the vessel did not sail until eleven, or thereabouts; that there were still several hours before that.
He hurried back to his room, dressed carefully, took the manuscript, and started out. It never occurred to him to telephone. Arrived at the house, the butler informed him that the Parkes had left in the motor at 8:30. No word had been left for Mr. Jocelyn.
Jarvis’s jaw was set as he started downtown. He went to the wharf where the steamer lay, but there was only fifteen minutes left before her sailing. It was impossible to find out anything from anybody. So, with a sardonic calm, he watched the steamer slowly loosing from the wharf and making her stately exit.
On the way uptown he made up his mind as to the next move. He would begin action to-day on the Charles Frohman forces. He must also try to find a job. His resources were about exhausted.
At the Empire Theatre, where the king of managers rules, there was actually an elevator to carry one up to the throne room and its antechambers. At a window, in a sort of cashier’s booth, a boy received Jarvis’s manuscript, numbered and entered it on the file.
“How soon will it be read?” Jarvis asked.
“Oh, six weeks or so,” said the youth.
“No possible chance of seeing Mr. Frohman?”
“Only by appointment. He is in Europe now.”
Jarvis relinquished his precious bundle and departed. It occurred to him, when he reached the street, that part of his depression was from hunger. He bought a sandwich and coffee at a Childs restaurant. Later, he went into a drug store and looked up magazine offices in the telephone book. Then he set out. From _Collier’s_ to the _Cosmopolitan_ is many a weary mile. And Jarvis walked it, visiting all the intervening offices.
In only one case did he get to the editor. Mr. Davis, of _Munsey’s_, let him come in, and was decent to him, promised to read anything he sent in at once, took his address, and made him feel like a human being. Many a young writer besides Jarvis has to thank Mr. Bob Davis for just such a bit of encouragement. For the most part, he saw clerks or secretaries who made excuses for the editor, took his name and address with the same old “Come in again.” Out in the hot sun the pavement wavered and melted into hillocks before his dizzy eyes. So he went back to the hot bedroom, which seemed, all at once, a haven of rest.
He threw himself on the hard bed and was asleep in a second. It seemed aeons later that he was dragged up from the depths of slumber by continued pounding on his door. The slattern chambermaid announced that a gentleman wished to see him. He called to her it must be a mistake. He didn’t know any gentlemen.
“‘E h’ast for Jarvis Jocelyn. ‘Ere’s ‘is card,” she retorted, opening the door and marching to the bed with it.
“Richard Strong. Tell him I’m out.”
“Hi’ve already said you was in. Hi see you come hup.”
“The devil! Where is he?”
“Coolin’ ‘is ‘eels in the ‘all.”
“Say I’ll be down in a minute. Ask him to wait.”
“Hi get you,” said she, and clomped out.
Then Jarvis’s eye fell on Bambi’s letter on his table, unopened. It must have come the day before, when he was lost in his play. He glanced through it. At the mention of Strong’s visit he frowned. He read that part twice. There was no doubt of it. Strong had the only chance with her. He made no secret of his devotion to her, and the probabilities were that now that he, Jarvis, was out of the way, she would realize how much she cared for Strong.
“Well, what is, is,” he muttered. He’d have no favours from Strong, though, that was sure.
Twenty minutes later, shaved and dressed, he descended upon his guest, who sat in torment, on a hall-tree shelf, in Stygian darkness.
“How do you do?” said Jarvis, stiffly. “Sorry to keep you waiting in this hole of Calcutta.”
“How are you, Jocelyn?” said Strong, cordially. “Your wife gave me your address, and I thought you might save me from a deadly evening by dining with me at Claremont.”
“Thank you, I have dined,” replied Jarvis.
“So early? Well, come with me while I get a bite somewhere, and we will go to a show, or hear some music.”
“Much obliged. I am engaged for the evening.”
“Oh, that’s a pity. Your wife told me you were a friendless stranger in a foreign land, so I lost no time in coming to look you up.”
“Very kind of you.”
“I had a charming weekend in the country. We missed you very much.”
“You’re a lucky chap, Jocelyn. Your wife is one of the most enchanting women I ever met. She is unique.”
“I am glad she pleases you.”
“My dear fellow, I hope I haven’t annoyed you. I meant no disrespect in complimenting you on Mrs. Jocelyn’s charm.”
“You made your admiration a trifle conspicuous the last time I saw you,” said Jarvis in a rage.
“I apologize, I assure you. I bid you good night.”
“Unmannerly boor,” was Strong’s comment as he turned toward the avenue.
“Hope that settles Mr. Richard Strong,” fumed Jarvis as he turned away from the avenue.
Two letters were written Bambi that night concerning this meeting. Mr. Strong wrote:
“DEAR LADY: I cannot possibly tell you how much of the fragrance of the garden, and of you, stays with me even in the heat and ugliness of New York. I am so grateful to you and the Professor for your hospitality and your friendship.
“I went to see your Jarvis to-night, as I promised to do, but he made it exceedingly plain to me that he desired neither my visit nor my acquaintance. I thought he looked very tired and a trifle hectic. No doubt the heat has worn on him. I don’t mean to alarm you. I am only searching for some excuse for my own comfort for his reception of me.
“I shall look for the next chapters with eagerness. None of your many readers knows my proprietary delight in that tale of yours.
“My cordial regards to your father, and to yourself my thanks and my best wishes. Faithfully,
Jarvis was not so politic. He permitted himself some rancor.
“DEAR BAMBINA: I did not get your letter announcing Strong’s visit, and his approaching descent upon me, until this evening. He followed close upon its heels. I have no doubt you intended it kindly sending him here to look me up, but the truth is I am in no mood for callers, and I fear I made that rather plain to your friend. I may as well say, frankly, I disliked him exceedingly on the occasion of his visit to you. It would be useless for me to try to disguise the fact. I would never dream of asking him for work on his magazine, which I consider of a very low grade.
“By some misunderstanding the Parkes sailed sooner than they expected, and failed to see my play. I have offered it to Charles Frohman. I should prefer him to any other New York manager.
“The weather here is extremely hot, and I have been working rather hard, so I am a little knocked out. Will you send me the manuscript of my two unfinished plays you will find on the table in my study? With regards to the Professor and yourself. Hastily,
Having got this off his mind and into the mailbox, Jarvis went for his nightly prowl. His steps turned toward the crowded East Side district, where a new interest was beginning to attract him. Until now “men” were his only concern. These hot nights, as he tramped along, discouraged with his own futility, he was beginning to discover “Man.”
It seemed to him that all the children in the world were playing in these crowded streets. He had never turned his attention to children before. And he began to look at the shrewd, old faces, even to talk to a group here and there. They made him think of monkeys, clever, nervous little beasts.
He skirted several mothers’ meetings conducted on the sidewalk. He even went into a saloon to have a look at the men, but the odour of stale beer and hot bodies was insufferable and drove him out. As he sauntered along, he passed an unlighted business building. Out of the shadow a girl stole, and fell in step beside him.
“Hello, kid!” she began, her hand tucked under his arm. Before she could complete her sentence, a policeman was upon them. He laid hold of the girl roughly.
“Now I got you! I told you to keep off’n this block,” he growled.
“What’s the matter with you? What do you want?” Jarvis demanded.
“I want her to come along with me. That’s what I want.”
“She hasn’t done anything.”
“You bet she hasn’t. I didn’t give her time.”
“Let go of her! What charge are you taking her on?”
“Don’t get fresh, young guy. The charge is s’licitin’.”
“That’s a lie! She’s a friend of mine, and she merely said, ‘Good evening.'”
The copper laughed derisively, and the girl turned a cynical young-old face to Jarvis.
“Much obliged, kid, but it ain’t no use. He’s got me spotted.”
“If you arrest her, you must arrest me.”
“I got nottin’ on you.”
“Yes, you have. I said ‘Good evening’ to her, just what she said to me.”
“Get the hell out of here, and don’t give me none of your lip, or I’ll run you in. Come along!” the policeman ordered, and he and the girl started on toward Jefferson Market. Jarvis marched beside them. When they turned in at the door where prisoners are entered, the policeman again ordered Jarvis off.
“Go round in front if you’re crazy to be in on this,” he said.
Jarvis hurried round to the front door and went in. The courtroom was packed. He had trouble in finding a seat, but he finally got into the front row, just behind the rail that divides the dock from the spectators. One half of the room was full of swine–fat, blowse-necked Jewish men, lawyers, cadets, owners of houses–all the low breeds who fatten off the degradation of women. Their business was to pay the fines or go bail.
The other half of the room, to Jarvis’s horror, was full of young boys and girls, some almost children, there out of curiosity. A goodly number of street walkers sat at the back. It was their habit to come into court to see what judge was sitting. If it was one who levied strict fines, or was prone to send girls up to Bedford, they spent the evening there, instead of on the streets.
The first case called, after Jarvis’s entrance, was that of the keeper of a disorderly house. She was horrible. He felt she ought to be branded in some way, so that she and her vile trade would be known wherever she went. A man went her bail, and she flounced out in a cloud of patchouli.
Two coloured girls were brought in, and sent up for thirty days. Then several old women, the kind of human travesties Jarvis had seen sleeping on the benches, were marched before the judge, who called them all by name.
“Well, Annie,” he said to one of them, “you haven’t been here for some weeks. How did it happen this time?”
“I’ve been a-walkin’ all day, your honour. I guess I fell asleep in the doorway.”
“You’ve been pretty good lately. I’ll let you off easy. Fine, one dollar.”
“Oh, thanks, your honour.” She was led off, and Jarvis sickened at the sight.
A series of young girls followed, cheaply modish, with their willow plumes and their vanity bags. Some cheerful, some cynical, some defiant. One slip of a thing heard her sentence, looked up in the judge’s face, and laughed. Jarvis knew that never, while he lived, would he forget that girl’s laugh. It was into the face of our whole hideous Society that she hurled that bitter laugh.
Then his girl was brought in. He saw her clearly for the first time. A thin, wizened little face, framed in curly red hair, with bright, birdlike eyes. Her thin, flat child’s figure was outlined in a tight, black satin dress, with a red collar and sash. Her quick glance darted to him, and she smiled. The policeman made his charge. The judge glanced at her.
“Anything to say for yourself?”
She shook her head wearily. Jarvis was out of his seat before he thought.
“I have something to say for her. I am the man she was supposed to have approached.”
“Silence in the courtroom,” said the judge, sternly.
“She didn’t say one word to me, except ‘Good evening,'” shouted Jarvis.
“Is that the man?” the judge asked the officer.
“Yes. He’s made a lot of trouble, too, trying to make me arrest him.”
“If you have any evidence to give in this case, come to the front and be sworn in.”
Jarvis jumped the railing and stood before him. The oath was administered.
“Now, tell me, briefly, what the girl said to you.”
“She said, ‘Hello, kid!'”
A titter went over the courtroom. The clerk rapped for order.
“Then what happened?”
“This officer arrested her. I told him what had passed between us, and insisted on being arrested, too. We said the same thing, the girl and I.”
“The girl has been here before. She has a record.”
“Where are the men she made the record with?” demanded Jarvis.
“We do not deal with that feature of it,” replied the judge, turning to the officer.
“And why not?” demanded Jarvis. “It takes a solicitor and the solicited to make a crime. What kind of laws are these which hound women into the trade and hound them for following it?”
“It is neither the time nor the place to discuss that. The case is dismissed. This court has no time to waste, Flynn, in cases where there’s no evidence,” he added, sternly, to the detective.
The girl nodded to Jarvis and beckoned him, but instead of following her he went back to his seat. He would follow this ghastly puppet show to its end.
At a word from the judge a tall, handsome, gray-haired woman approached the bench. She wore no hat, and Jarvis marked her broad brow and pleasant smile and the wise, philosophic eyes. Her face looked cheerful and normal in this place of abnormalities.
“Who is that woman?” Jarvis asked his neighbour.
“Probation officer,” came the answer.
Jarvis watched her with passionate interest. He noted her low-voiced answers to the judge’s questions about the girl in hand. The curiosity seekers in the audience could not hear, no matter how they craned their necks. He watched her calm smile as she turned to take the girl off into her own office. He made up his mind to talk with her before the night was over.
Case followed case as the night wore on. It seemed to Jarvis that this bedraggled line had neither beginning nor end. He saw it winding through this place night after night, year after year, the old-timers and the new recruits. Uptown reputable citizens slept peacefully in their beds; this was no concern of theirs. He was no better than the rest, with his precious preaching about the brotherhood of man. What the body politic needed was a surgeon to cut away this abscess, eating its youth and strength.
The screams of a girl who had just been given a sentence to Bedford startled him out of his thoughts. She pleaded and cried, she tried to throw herself at the judge’s feet, but the policeman dragged her out, the crowd craning forward with avid interest. She was the last case before the court adjourned. Jarvis leaned across the rail and asked the probation officer if he might speak to her.
“Perhaps you will walk along with me toward my home?” she suggested. He gladly assented. In a few moments she came out, hatted and ready for the street. She looked keenly at this tall, serious youth who had so unexpectedly arraigned the court.
“My name is Jarvis Jocelyn,” he began. “There are so many things I want to ask you about.”
“I shall be glad to tell you what I can,” she said quietly.
“Have you been in this work long?”
“Good God! how can you be so calm? How can you look so hopeful?”
“Because I am hopeful. In all the thousands of cases I have known I have never once lost hope. When I do, my work is over.”
“You’re wonderful!” he exclaimed.
“No, I am reasonable. I don’t expect the impossible. I am glad of every inch of ground gained. I don’t demand an acre. If one girl is rescued out of twenty—-“
“But why does it need to be at all?” Jarvis interrupted her.
“Why does disease need to be? Why does unhappiness need to be, or war, or the money-lust that will one day wreck us? We only know that these things are. Our business is to set about doing what we can.”
“One girl out of twenty,” he repeated. “What becomes of the other nineteen?”
“I said I was glad of one girl in twenty. Sometimes several of the nineteen come out all right. Bedford helps a great many. They marry, they keep straight, or–they die very soon.”
“Tell me about Bedford.”
She outlined the work done in that farm home, which is such a credit to New York. She told him of the honour system, and all the modern methods employed there.
“Can you get opportunities for girls who want the chance?”
“Plenty of them. I have only to ask. When I need money, it comes. Lots of my girls are employed in uptown shops, leading good, hard-working lives.”
“Where does this money come from?”
“Private donations. That is one of my hope signs–the widespread interest in rescue work.”
“The old ones–those aged women?”
She sighed. “Yes, I know, they are terrible! There is a mighty army of them in New York. We grind them in and out of our courts, month after month. The institutions are all full. There is so much grafting that the poor-farm has been delayed, year after year, so there is no place to send them.”
“Where do they go?”
“Into East River, most of them, in the end.”
“Do you mean to say that we pay the machinery of the law to put these cases through the courts, over and over again, and then provide no place to harbour the derelicts?”
“That’s about the case,” she replied.
“How can we live and endure such things?” Jarvis demanded passionately.
“I used to feel that way about it. I used to be sick through and through with it, but I have grown to see that there is improvement, that there is a new social sense growing among us. Uptown women of leisure come to our night courts, take part in our working-girls’ strikes, and women, mind you, are always slowest to feel and react to new forces. Don’t be discouraged,” she smiled at him, stopping at the door.
“May I come and see you, some time? Are you ever free, or would that be asking too much?”
“No. Come! Come in Sunday afternoon if you like.”
She held out her hand, and he grasped it warmly.
“You’re great,” he said boyishly, at which she laughed.
“We need you young enthusiasts,” she said.
As he walked uptown to his lodgings Jarvis faced the fact that up to this present moment he had been on the wrong track. He had tried to pull from the top. That was all right, if only he also tried to push from the bottom. The world needed idealists, but not the old brand, blind to the actual, teaching out of a great ignorance. This probation officer woman, she was the modern idealist, as modern as Jesus Christ, who worked in the same spirit.
He would finish his vision-plays, as he called them, because he believed in them. But, in the meantime, he would learn something of the real issues of men and women as they live in great cities, so that he could write a play which would be so true, so vital, that it would be like watching the beating of the hot heart of life. That night was the beginning of a new era for Jarvis.
Bambina Parkhurst was a young woman not much given to wrath, but as she read the two letters from New York she grew thoroughly enraged at Jarvis. Evidently, he had been exceedingly rude to Mr. Strong, and evidently Mr. Strong had been exceedingly annoyed. She was so furious at him that when she sat down to her desk to write her daily chapters no ideas came. Her mind just went over and over the situation of kind Mr. Strong putting himself out to be polite for her sake–Jarvis, stiff and ill-mannered, repulsing him. She determined to omit the daily letter to the offender until she cooled off. She gave up work for the morning and descended upon Ardelia.
“Ardelia, I am so mad I can’t think of anything to do but put up fruit.”
“Law, Miss Bambi, you ain’t mad wif me, is you?”
“No. I’m mad with man.”
“Man! Wat’s the Perfessor bin doin’? Has he don’ forgot somfin’?”
“It isn’t the Professor. It’s the sex.”
“Well, don’ you go meddlin’ round wid fruit and gettin’ yo’ hands stained up, jus’ caus’ yo’s mad wid de sex.”
“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.”
“Laws a-massy, you suttinly is fierce this mohnin’. All right, go ahead, but der ain’t no need of it. I mos’ generally always has put up the fruit for the fam’ly wifout no help.”
“I know you don’t need me, Ardelia, but I need you.”
“Well, chile, heah’s de fust few bushels ob cherries.”
“Bushels? Mercy on us! Are you going to do all those?”
“Yassum. And den some more. Dat’s the Perfessor’s favourite fruit.”
Bambi was promptly enveloped in a huge apron and settled on the back piazza, surrounded with pans and baskets. Ardelia stood by, and handed her things, until she got started.
“Hurry up, and come out, Ardelia. I want you to talk to me and take my mind off of things.”
“I’ll be ‘long, by and by.”
[Illustration “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.”]
Bambi held up a bright-red cherry, named it Jarvis, pulled out its stem, cut out its heart, and finally plumped it into her mouth and chewed it viciously. Then she felt better. There was a cool morning breeze lifting the leaves of the big elms, and nodding the hollyhocks’ heads. The sound of late summer buzzing and humming, and bird songs, made the back porch a pleasant, placid spot–no place in which to keep rage hot.
Ardelia lumbered out, after a while, to sit near by, her slow movements and her beaming smile far from conducive to a state of excitement.
“Mighty purty out here, ain’t it?”
“I reckon Massa Jarvis be mighty glad to be home, a-sittin’ here a-seedin’ cherries ‘longside ob you?”
“Jarvis never did anything so useful. As for being alongside of me, that doesn’t interest him at all.”
“Yo’re suttinly the onlovingest bride and groom I’ve eber seen. You ain’t neber lovin’ nor kissin’ nor nottin’, when I come aroun’.”
“Mercy no, Ardelia!”
“I ‘low if I was married to such a han’som’ man, like Massa Jarvis, I’d be a lovin’ ob him all the time.”
“Suppose he wouldn’t let you?”
“Can’t tell me der’s a man libin’ who wouldn’t be crazy fur yo’ to lub him, Miss Bambi. Look at dat Mister Strong keeps a-comin’ here.”
“What about him?” asked Bambi in surprise.
“I see him lookin’ at you. I see him.”
“Nonsense! He has to look at me to talk with me.”
“He don’ need to do no talkin’, wid his eyes a-workin’ like dat.”
“You old romancer!”
“Look a-heah, chile, dose cherries fo’ to preserve. Dey ain’t fo’ eatin’. You’re eatin’ two and puttin’ one in de pan.”
Bambi made a face at her.
“What is your opinion of men, Ardelia?”
“I tink dey’s all right in dey place.”
“Where’s their place?”
“Out in the kennel wid the dawg!” said Ardelia, shaking with laughter. “All ‘cepin’ the Perfessor and Massa Jarvis,” she added.
“You think they are a lower order, do you?”
“Yassum. I sho’ do. Mos’ of dem just clutterin’ up the earth.”
“That’s the reason you don’t take that Johnson man on for good, is it?”
“Sho’! I ain’t a-goin’ to cook and wash fo’ no nigger dat ain’t got no appreciashun, when I can cook and wash fo’ the Perfessor dat know a lady when he sees her.”
“But he so infrequently sees her,” giggled Bambi, _sotto voce_.
“No, ma’am, I’s eatin’ my white bread right here, and I knows it. I ain’t goin’ to experimentify wid no marryin’, nor givin’ in marriage.”
“In your case, I believe you’re right. In my own, however, I know that, mad as I am this morning, ‘experimentification’ is the breath of life to me.”
They spent the morning in such peaceful converse. While Bambi may not have added greatly to the cherry-pitting, she rose rested and with a collected mind.
“Ardelia, I thank you for a dose of calm,” she said, laying her hand affectionately on the black woman’s broad shoulder.
“Law, honey, I done enjoyed your sassiety,” she said, laughing and patting her hand.
Within the course of a few days Bambi had an appeal from Jarvis:
“Are you ill? Is anything the matter? Are you merely tired of me that you do not write? Your letters are the only event of my days.”
This gave her the chance she wanted.
“You seem to be unaware, my dear Jarvis, that in offering a rude rebuff to Mr. Strong you offended me, since he is my good friend and came to see you at my request. I think you made as poor an impression on him as he did upon you, at the time of your meeting, and it was as a politeness to me that he came to look you up. I think an apology to both of us is rather necessary.”