At dawn of the day he was to finish it he rushed into a dairy lunch to get a sandwich and a glass of milk. While he waited for the heavy-eyed clerk to get it, he picked up a morning paper. The date caught his eye. This was his last day of grace, sure enough. He must call up and get an appointment for the afternoon, for Miss Harper would be sailing to-morrow. Idly his eye travelled across the page, and suddenly was riveted by a headline: “Bertram Parke and his wife, Helen Harper, sail on the Mauretania to-day. They will hasten to London, to sign a contract for a play for Miss Harper by Galsworthy, which will be produced in New York immediately on her return.”
The print blurred before Jarvis’s eyes. Everything swayed and swam. Out of the chaos came the voice of the tired clerk, shouting: “Say, you, what’s the matter with you? Can’t you take your sandwich? Think I’m going to hold it all day?”
Jarvis didn’t understand him. He didn’t even hear him. He just laid down his last quarter and went out, a bit unsteadily.
“Soused!” grinned the clerk, looking after him.
Bambi sat, chin on hand, staring off into the distance so long that the Professor’s attention was finally attracted to her. She held Jarvis’s letter in her hand—his call-to-arms letter.
“No bad news, I hope?” ventured her father.
“Oh, no; good news. The best. Jarvis is alive!”
“Why, you didn’t think he was dead?”
“Yes, in a sense he was dead.”
“Strange I never noticed it.”
“I mean that he was only fully alive to himself. He was dead to other people. He has been dangerously self-centred.”
“Now many hands are knocking at his postern gate!”
“What enigmatic things you do say, my child!”
“Don’t you understand? Jarvis has built a high wall about himself, his precious self. He was a sort of superman, called to sit in a high tower and dream, to think, to formulate a message to the world. No claims of earth were allowed to enter in.”
“But you climbed over the wall? You were a claim of earth?”
“You know how I sneaked in when he wasn’t looking.”
“If you could read me the letter, Bambina, or such portions of it as are not private, I might understand better what you are trying to say.”
“I’ll read it to you. It’s none of it private. He has nothing private to say to me.”
The Professor composed himself to listen, while she read Jarvis’s long screed aloud. At the end he, too, sat thoughtfully a few moments, his finger tips neatly matched in church steeples before him.
“I’m sometimes amazed at your judgment,” he said.
“Why my judgment?”
“I never would have seen any possibilities, myself, in the Jarvis whom you married.”
“Speaking of cryptic remarks——”