“I never realized before how many people, how much work and money and brain go into the production of the simplest comedy for one night’s amusement,” she said to Mr. Frohman.
“And yet managers are always blamed because they don’t take more chances on new playwrights,” he smiled.
“Jarvis looks as if he were walking to the guillotine, doesn’t he?”
“It is a strain, isn’t it, Jocelyn? You get used to it after a few first-nights.”
Jarvis nodded, wetting his dry lips with a nervous tongue.
The curtain went down and came up. The first act began. Bambi scarcely breathed. Jarvis could be heard all over the house. The first part of the act hitched along and had to be repeated; the stage manager came out and scolded, while Mr. Frohman called directions from the front. Bambi turned to Jarvis.
“It’s going to be a failure,” she said.
“Oh, don’t say that!” he fairly groaned.
“Don’t be discouraged!” said Mr. Frohman, noting their despairing looks. “Dress rehearsals are usually the limit.”
“But it can’t go like this, and succeed,” Bambi wailed.
“Don’t you worry. It won’t go like this.”
The night wore on, miserably, for the authors. Everything had to be done over—lines were forgotten—everybody was in a nervous stew.
“The awful part of it is that we’ve done all we can do,” moaned Bambi. “If they ruin it, we can’t prevent them.”
“We’ll make them rehearse all day to-morrow,” said Jarvis, fiercely. “They were better than this two weeks ago.”
The end of the agony finally came. The stage manager assembled the weary company and gave them a few select and sarcastic remarks as to their single and collective failure. Mr. Frohman added a few words, and ordered them all to dismiss the play from their minds until the morrow night. Bambi tried to say a word of encouragement and thanks to them, but in the midst of it she broke down and wept.
“Take her home and keep her in bed to-morrow, Jocelyn,” Mr. Frohman said.
Jarvis hurried her into a cab, and she sobbed softly all the way home. He made no effort to touch her or comfort her; he was in torment himself. At the club he ordered eggnog and sandwiches sent to her room, whither he followed her, helpless to cope with her tears.
She threw her things off and bathed her eyes, while he set out the table for the food. When the boy appeared with it, Jarvis led her to her chair and served her. She smiled mistily at him.
“It’s nerves and excitement and overwork,” she explained. He nodded.
“If it failed now, it would be too awful,” he said.
“Don’t say that word; don’t even think it!” she cried.
“You mustn’t care so much,” he begged her.
“Don’t you care?”
“Of course, more than you know. But I am prepared for failure, if it comes.”
“I can’t be prepared for it. It cannot happen!” she sobbed.