He stood looking down at her helplessly.
“What can I do for you? What is it you want?” he demanded gently.
“I want to be rocked,” she sobbed.
She pushed him into a big chair, and climbed into his arms.
“Rocked,” she finished.
He held her a minute closely, then he rose and set her down.
“I can’t do it,” he began. “I have something to tell you that must be said——”
“Not to-night, Jarvis, I’m too tired.”
“Yes, to-night, before another hour passes. Sit down there, please.”
She obeyed, curiously.
“Do you remember Christmas Eve, when I came home?”
“Did you notice anything different about me?”
“Did it occur to you that I cared about you, for the first time?”
“I—I—suspicioned it a little.”
“Then you deliberately ignored it because you did not want my love?”
“I—I—didn’t mean to ignore it.”
“But you did.”
“I wasn’t sure; you never spoke of it, never said you cared. After that first night I thought I must have been mistaken.”
“But you were glad to be mistaken?”
“No. I was sorry,” she said, softly.
“I wanted your love, Jarvis.”
“You can’t mean that.”
“But I do!”
“But, Strong—you love Strong——”
She rose quickly, her face flushed.
“I love Richard Strong as my friend, and in no other way.”
“Certainly he loves you.”
“He has never told me so.”
“You let me believe you cared for him; you tortured me with your show of preference for him.”
“You imagined that, Jarvis. It is not true!”
“It is true!” he cried, passionately. “I came to you, eager for your love, wanting you as I had never wanted anything. You flaunted this man in my face, you shut me out, you drove me back on myself——”
“What did you expect me to do? Endure forever in silence?”
“What did you do? Or what do you mean to do?”
“I have come to care for a woman who understands me——”
“A woman, Jarvis?”
“The woman who wrote ‘Francesca.’ I cared first because she had put into her heroine so many things that were like you.”
“Well?” she said again.
“She has come to care for me. I wanted to tell you so long ago, when we first knew, but she begged me not to until after the play was tried out. But I can’t stand it another minute. There must be truth between us, Bambi. I want you to read her letters. I want you to try to understand how this has crept into my heart.”
“You wish to be free—to go to her?”
“There is no happiness for us, is there?”
“I’m too tired to think it out now, Jarvis. You must go away and let me get myself together.”