The last act was, of course, an anti-climax.
Before it was finished,
Elise said to me, in a, stifled voice, “I’ve got to get back to Jimmie.”
It seemed significant that Jimmie had not come to her. Surely he had not forgotten the part she had played. For fifteen years she had worked for this.
We found ourselves presently behind the scenes. The curtain was down, the audience was still shouting, everybody was excited, everybody was shaking hands. The stage-people caught at Elise as she passed, and held her to offer congratulations. I was not held and went on until I came to where Jimmie and Ursula stood, a little separate from the rest. Although I went near enough to touch them, they were so absorbed in each other that they did not see me. Ursula was looking up at Jimmie and his head was bent to her.
“Jimmie,” she said, and her rich voice above the tumult was clear as a bell, “do you know how great you are?”
“Yes,” he said. “I—I feel a little drunk with it, Ursula.”
“Oh,” she said, and now her words stumbled, “I—I love you for it. Oh, Jimmie, Jimmie, let’s run away and love for a million years—”
All that he had wanted was in her words—the urge of youth, the beat of the wind, the song of the sea. My heart stood still.
He drew back a little. He had wanted this. But he did not want it now—with Ursula. I saw it and she saw it.
“What a joke it would be,” he said, “but we have other things to do, my dear.”
The roar of the crowd came louder to their ears. “Harding, Harding! Jimmie Harding!”
“Listen,” he said, and the light in his eyes was not for her. “Listen, Ursula, they’re calling me.”
She stood alone after he had left her. I am sure that even then she did not quite believe it was the end. She did not know how, in all the years, his wife had molded him.
When he had satisfied the crowd, Jimmie fought his way to where Elise and Duncan and I stood together.
Elise was wrapped in a great cloak of silver brocade. There was a touch of silver, too, in her hair. But she had never seemed to me so small, so childish.
“Oh, Jimmie,” she said, as he came up, “you’ve done it!”
“Yes”—he was flushed and laughing, his head held high—“you always said I could do it. And I shall do it again. Did you hear them shout, Elise?”
“Jove! I feel like the old woman in the nursery rhyme, ’Alack-a-daisy, do this be I?’” He was excited, eager, but it was not the old eagerness. There was an avidity, a greediness.
She laid her hand on his arm. “You’ve earned a rest, dearest. Let’s go up in the hills.”
“In the hills? Oh, we’re too old, Elise.”
“We’ll grow young.”
“To-night I’ve given youth to the world. That’s enough for me”—the light in his eyes was not for her—“that’s enough for me. We’ll hang around New York for a week or two, and then we’ll go back to Albemarle. I want to get to work on another play. It’s a great game, Elise. It’s a great game!”