“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.”