She told herself this was a nightmare—something to be fought off, kept at bay. But how did that help her now, when the armor must be laid aside? Sometime or other she must turn out that light and lie down in that bed, defenseless. She had never in her life asked more of her courage than when, at last, she did that thing. There were nine hours then ahead of her before eleven o’clock and the next rehearsal.
ROSE KEEPS THE PATH
Rose rehearsed twice a day for a solid week without forming the faintest conception of who “the girl” was or why she was “the girl up-stairs.” She didn’t know what sort of scene it was for instance that they burst in on through the space marked by two of the little folding chairs brought up from the floor of the dance-hall for the purpose. The group of iron tables borrowed from the bar and set solidly together in the upper right-hand corner of the stage whenever they rehearsed a certain one of their song numbers, might with equal plausibility represent a mountain in Arizona, the front veranda of a house or a banquet table in the gilded dining-hall of some licentious multi-millionaire. They got up on the insecure thing and tried to dance; that was all she knew.
During the entire period, and for that matter, right up to the opening night she never saw a bar of music except what stood on the piano rack, nor a written word of the lyrics she was supposed to sing. Rose couldn’t sing very much. She had a rather timorous, throaty little contralto that contrasted oddly with the fine free thrill of her speaking voice. But nobody had asked her what her voice was, nor indeed, whether she could sing at all. She picked up the tunes quickly enough, by ear, but the words she was always a little uncertain about.
It all seemed too utterly haphazard to be possible, but Rose decided not to ask any of the authorities about this, because, while the possibility of Grant’s return dangled over her head, she didn’t want to remind anybody how green she was. But she finally questioned one of her colleagues in the chorus about it, and was told that back at the beginning of things, they had had their voices tried by the musical director, who had conducted three or four music rehearsals before John Galbraith arrived. They had never had any music to sing from but there had been half a dozen mimeograph copies of the words to the songs, which the girls had put their heads together over in groups of three or four, and more or less learned. What had become of this dope, and whether it was still available for Rose in case she were animated by a purely supererogatory desire to study it, the girl didn’t know.