When he had gone, Jarvis hurried to his room and began to pack his bag. His heart beat like a trip-hammer with excitement. He was going to Bambi! She needed him. He had endured a week of the third degree, practised upon himself. He had peered into every nook and corner of his own soul. He knew himself for a blind, selfish egotist. He was ready now to fling his winter garments of repentance into the fires of spring. He understood himself, though Bambi baffled him more than ever. Never mind. She needed him. Strong said so—and he was going to her.
He was at the station an hour before the train left, pacing up and down the platform like an angry lion. Aboard the sleeper, and on the way, he tossed and turned in his berth in wakefulness. At dawn he was up and dressed, to sit in a fever of impatience while the landscape slowly slid by the car window.
At Sunnyside he hurried along the deserted street, where only the milkman wound his weary way in the early morning. There was a hint of spring in the air, fresh and exhilarating, with a faint earth smell.
The house lay, with closed blinds, still asleep. He let himself in with his latch-key, dropped his bag, hat, and coat in the hall, and rushed upstairs to Bambi’s rooms. No hesitation now. He would storm the citadel in truth. He opened her bedroom door softly and peered in. It was unknown country to him. The bed was empty. He entered and walked swiftly to the door beyond, where he heard a faint crackling, as of a fire burning. At the door he paused.
She was crouched before a fire, cross-legged, her face cupped on her hands. In her pink robe and cap she looked more like a child than ever. She half turned her head, as if feeling his presence, so he saw how pale she was, how black the circles round her eyes.
“My little love!” he cried to her. “My little love!”
She sprang to her feet, facing him; her hands went swiftly to her heart, as if a spasm shook her. As Jarvis came toward her, a great light in his face, she put her hands out to fend him off.
“I want you to know that I realize just how silly and cheap and theatrical I’ve been. I didn’t mean to hurt you,” she began in a monotone, as if it tired her too much to speak. He tried to stop her, but she shook her head.
“I have to say it all now. I cared so much when you came home that time, and after the first night I thought you didn’t care for me.”
“My best beloved, let me——”
“No, no—please. I was piqued and angry and I thought I could punish you by pretending to be the other woman you thought you were writing to. I wanted to make you care for her, and then——”
“It was you I cared for—you, you, you!”
“I thought that, when you knew I was both of us, you’d be so glad——” She broke off into a sob.
“I am, dearest, I am.”
“I never meant to hurt you. This week has nearly killed me.”