He stayed away six weeks. And any one who knows him knows what hardship that was. He loved New York, and his own place, and his comfort, and his books; and hotel food gave him hideous indigestion.
Mizzi’s first appearance was a moderate success. It was nothing like the sensation of her later efforts. She wasn’t ready, and Hahn knew it. Mizzi and her middle-aged woman companion were installed at the Blackstone Hotel, which is just next door to the Blackstone Theatre, as any one is aware who knows Chicago. She was advertised as the Polish comedienne, Mizzi Markis, and the announcements hinted at her royal though remote ancestry. And on the night the play opened, as Mizzi stepped from the entrance of her hotel on her way to the stage door, just forty or fifty feet away, there she saw stretched on the pavement a scarlet path of soft-grained carpet for her feet to tread. From the steps of the hotel to the stage door of the theatre, there it lay, a rosy line of splendour.
The newspapers played it up as a publicity stunt. Every night, while the play lasted, the carpet was there. It was rolled up when the stage door closed upon her. It was unrolled and spread again when she came out after the performance. Hahn never forgot her face when she first saw it, and realized its significance. The look was there on the second night, and on the third, but after that it faded, vanished, and never came again. Mizzi had tasted of the golden fruit and found it dry and profitless, without nourishment or sweetness.
The show closed in the midst of a fairly good run. It closed abruptly, without warning. Together they came back to New York. Just outside New York Hahn knocked at the door of Mizzi’s drawing room and stuck his round, ugly face in at the opening.
“Let’s surprise Wallie,” he said.
“Yes,” said Mizzi, listlessly.
“He doesn’t know the show’s closed. We’ll take a chance on his being home for dinner. Unless you’re too tired.”
“I’m not tired.”
The Jap admitted them, and Hahn cut off his staccato exclamations with a quick and smothering hand. They tiptoed into the big, gracious, lamp-lighted room.
Wallie was seated at the piano. He had on a silk dressing gown with a purple cord. One of those dressing gowns you see in the haberdashers’ windows, and wonder who buys them. He looked very tall in it, and rather distinguished, but not quite happy. He was playing as they came in. They said, “Boo!” or something idiotic like that. He stood up. And his face!
“Why, hello!” he said, and came forward, swiftly. “Hello! Hello!”
“Hello!” Hahn answered; “Not to say hello-hello.”
Wallie looked at the girl. “Hello, Mizzi.”
“Hello,” said Mizzi.
“For God’s sake stop saying ‘hello!’” roared Hahn.
They both looked at him absently, and then at each other again.
Hahn flung his coat and hat at the Jap and rubbed his palms briskly together. “Well, how did you like it?” he said, and slapped Wallie on the back. “How’d you like it—the place I mean, and the Jap boy and all? H’m?”