The automobile trip lasted four days instead of two, and he spent them in a fret of impatience. He worked at the third act, sure of her approval. On the fifth day she received him. She liked the idea of the second act—she would have none of the new third act. At the end of his enthusiastic sketch of how it would run, the reading of new scenes, the telling of new business, she yawned slightly, and said she didn’t like it at all. Unless he could get a good third act, she wouldn’t care for the piece. He assured her this would be a good third act when it was worked up. No use working it up. She knew now she would never like it. Jarvis rose.
“I will submit the new third act to-morrow. Have you any suggestions you wish to incorporate?”
“Oh, no. If I could write plays, I would not be acting them. It’s easier and more lucrative to write.”
“I don’t find it easy enough to be a bore,” replied Jarvis. “I will be here at eleven to-morrow.”
“Make it three.”
“Very well, three.”
“Some of the pinches,” he muttered as he climbed the bus to go back to his hot hall bedroom, his mind a blank, and only twenty-five hours in which to work out a new third act.
He stripped for action and worked until midnight. Then he foraged on Fourth Avenue for food at an all-night cafe patronized by car-men, chauffeurs, and messenger boys. He ate ravenously. Afterward he swung downward to Madison Square Park, to stretch his tired body. The stars were very bright, but a warm wind crowded people on to the streets. A restless, aimless crowd of strollers! Several of them spoke to Jarvis. Many of them marked him. But he paid no attention to individuals. His mind was full of the whole picture. Mile after mile of narrow streets between blocks of stone and brick and wood. Thousands of people tramping the miles like so many animals driven from the jungle by fire or flood. This men called civilization—this City of Stone Blocks! How far was it from the jungle? Hunger, thirst, lust, jealousy, anger, courage, and cowardice—these were the passions of both fastnesses. How far was Man from his blood brother, the Wolf?
[Illustration: “Softlings! Poor softlings!” Jarvis muttered, Bambi’s words coming back to him.]
He reached the green square, and started to cross it. On every bench, crowded together, huddled the sleepers. He walked slowly, and looked at them closely. Most of them were old—old men and old women—warped out of all semblance to human beings, their hideous faces and crooked bodies more awful in the abandon of sleep. Some young ones there were, too: a thin boy with a cough; a tired girl of the streets, snatching a moment of sleep before she went about her trade. It was like some fantastic dream.
“Softlings! Poor softlings!” Jarvis muttered, Bambi’s words coming back to him. The tawdry little girl stirred, saw him, spoke to him, her hand upon his arm.