At first Bambi did not notice where she was going, so happy was she to be back in this gay city.
“I know you’re a Painted Lady, but you’re so pretty!” she smiled, as the streets ran by. Downtown and still downtown the taxi sped, past the Washington Square district, which they had explored together, shooting off at a tangent into the kind of neighbourhood where Bambi had fallen sick at the sights and the filth. They drew up before an old-fashioned house, with dirty steps and windows and curtains. It looked like a better-class citizen on the down grade, beside the neighbouring houses, which were frankly low-class. The driver opened the door and Bambi stared up at the place.
“Why, this can’t be it!” she exclaimed.
“This is the number you gave me.”
“Wait,” she said. She ran up the rickety steps, her heart sick with fear. She rang and waited and rang. Finally, a dirty head appeared out of an upstairs window.
“What d’yer want?” a voice demanded.
“Does Mr. Jarvis Jocelyn live here?”
“Three flights up-back,” and the window slammed.
“Wait for me, driver,” she called. She began to climb the dirty stairs, tears in her eyes.
“Oh, my dear, my dear!” she said, over and over again.
She knocked at the third-floor back, with no response; so she opened the door and entered. One dark area window, a bed, a chair, a dresser, an improvised table with piles of manuscript. It was cleaner than the awful entrance suggested. But, oh, it was pitiful! Such a place for a dreamer! Bambi leaned her head on the dresser and sobbed. That he had been reduced to this, that he had never told them, that he had refused the Professor’s money and chosen poverty! It nearly killed her, while it thrilled her with a pride unspeakable. If he had the strength for such a fight, nothing could conquer him. She started at a step outside, thinking that it might be he.
Suddenly she realized that he might not want even her to see this; that he might not want her to know of this drab tent where he crawled for sleep off the field of battle. She went to the narrow bed and laid her hand gently where his cheek would rest.
“Jarvis, my dear!” she whispered.
Then she went down the rickety stairs, out to the waiting cab. She was sick, heart and body, at the revelation of what his struggle meant. All the mother in her cried out at the physical distress of such surroundings to a nature sensitive to environment.
He could have come back to the sunny, airy rooms he had made his, at home; but he had chosen to stay and win. So many things she had not understood about him were made clear now, and she wondered if Richard Strong had found him there. No wonder Jarvis had repulsed him, taken unawares, and at such a disadvantage!