“Here they are! give them full stage!” said the stage manager, ringing up the curtain. “Now, go ahead, right out there!”
He opened a door in the set and Jarvis and Bambi went on. There was a hush for a second, then a big round of applause. Bambi laughed and waved her hand. There was a hush of expectancy.
“Now, Jarvis, go on!” she prompted him.
Jarvis, cold as death, began to speak. He thanked everybody in the prescribed way, beginning with the audience, ending with the company. He said he was happy that they liked the play, but that he was making the speech under false pretenses. All the credit for the success must go to two women, his wife and collaborator——Here he turned to include Bambi, but to his astonishment she was gone. The audience laughed at his discomfiture, but he turned it off wittily. The other woman, the one to whom most of the credit was due, was the author of the book. She had so far hidden behind an anonymity, but he believed she was in the house to-night, and it was to her that their congratulations should be offered. Cries of “Author! Author of the book!” with much clapping of hands. Jarvis stood there, scarcely breathing, cold sweat on his brow, waiting for her to come. The applause became a clamour. The door opened and Bambi floated in. She did not see the audience, her eyes were fixed on Jarvis’s face, and the strange expression she saw there. She came to him, put her hand in his, and smiled. He was so obviously nonplussed that the people grasped a new situation and were suddenly still. Bambi smiled at him and spoke:
“Dear People: If you have had as much fun to-night as I have, we owe each other nothing! And the most fun of all is the astonishment of Mr. Jarvis Jocelyn, who discovers himself to be a bigamist. He’s married to the co-dramatist and the author, and he never knew it! That I wrote the book has been a secret until this minute. If you hadn’t liked the play, I never would have admitted that I wrote it. You’re the very nicest first-nighters I ever met, and we are both most grateful to you, the bigamist and I.”
There was wild applause, flowers were tossed from the boxes, calls of “Brava!” greeted the little bowing figure clinging tightly to the big man’s hand. They finally made their escape to the wings, and Bambi turned to Jarvis for what was to her the real climax of the evening.
He looked at her so strangely that she laid her hand on his arm.
“You aren’t glad?” she questioned, anxiously.
Some members of the company surrounded them with congratulations, and when they were free they had to hurry out to rescue the rest of the family.
“What did you think of the secret, Daddy?”
“My child, I am past all thought. I wish to be taken home, put to bed, and allowed to recover slowly. I have had a shock of surprise that would kill a less vigorous man.”
“But you liked it? You were glad I did it?”