Yet Jimmie got all of us down, not long after he was married, to what he called a housewarming. He had inherited a few pleasant acres in Virginia, and the house was two hundred years old. He had never lived in it until he came with Elise. It was in rather shocking condition, but Elise had managed to make it habitable by getting it scrubbed very clean, and by taking out everything that was not in keeping with the oldness and quaintness. The resulting effect was bare but beautiful. There were a great many books, a few oil-portraits, mahogany sideboards and tables and four-poster beds, candles in sconces and in branched candlesticks. They were married in April, and when we went down in June poppies were blowing in the wide grass spaces, and honeysuckle rioting over the low stone walls. I think we all felt as if we had passed through purgatory and had entered heaven. I know I did, because this was the kind of thing of which I had dreamed, and there had been a time when I, too, had wanted to write.
The room in which Jimmie wrote was in a little detached house, which had once been the office of his doctor grandfather. He had his typewriter out there, and a big desk, and from the window in front of his desk he could look out on green slopes and the distant blue of mountain ridges.
We envied him and told him so.
“Well, I don’t know,” Jimmie said. “Of course I’ll get a lot of work done. But I’ll miss your darling old heads bending over the other desks.”
“You couldn’t work, Jimmie,” Elise reminded him, “with other people in the room.”
“Perhaps not. Did I tell you old dears that I am going to write a play?”
That was, it seems, what Elise had had in mind for him from the beginning—a great play!
“She wouldn’t even, have a honeymoon”—Jimmie’s arm was around her; “she brought me here, and got this room ready the first thing.”
“Well, he mustn’t be wasting time,” said Elise, “must he? Jimmie’s rather wonderful, isn’t he?”
They seemed a pair of babies as they stood there together. Elise had on a childish one-piece pink frock, with sleeves above the elbow, and an organdie sash. Yet, intuitively, the truth came to me—she was ages older than Jimmie in spite of her twenty years to his twenty-four. Here was no Juliet, flaming to the moon—no mistress whose steed would gallop by wind-swept roads to midnight trysts. Here was, rather, the cool blood that had sacrificed a honeymoon—and, oh, to honeymoon with Jimmie Harding!—for the sake of an ambitious future.
She was telling us about it “We can always have a honeymoon, Jimmie and I. Some day, when he is famous, we’ll have it. But now we must not.”
“I picked out the place”—Jimmie was eager—“a dip in the hills, and big pines—And then Elise wouldn’t.”
We went in to lunch after that. The table was lovely and the food delicious. There was batter-bread, I remember, and an omelette, and peas from the garden.