She was a pale-haired girl, whom Rose thought she had heard addressed as Larson, and she had emerged rather slowly as an individual personality, out of the ruck of the chorus; a fact in her favor, really, because the girls who had first driven themselves home to Rose through the shell of her intense preoccupation with doing what John Galbraith wanted, had been the vividly and viciously objectionable ones. The thing that had prompted her to sit down beside Larson and, with this question about how one learned the words to the songs, take her first real step toward an acquaintance, was an absence of any strong dislike, rather than the presence of a real attraction.
She made a surprising discovery when the girl, with a friendly pat on the sofa beside her, for an invitation to her to sit down, began answering her question. She was a real beauty. Or, more accurately, she possessed the constituent qualities of beauty. She was pure English eighteenth century; might have stepped down out of a Gainsborough portrait. Dressed right, and made up a little, with her effects legitimately heightened (and warned not to speak), she could have gone to the Charity Ball as the Honorable Mrs. Graham, and Bertie Willis would have gone mad about her. Only you had to look twice at her to perceive that this was so; and what she lacked was just the unanalyzable quality that makes one look twice.
Her speaking voice would have driven Bertie mad, too—foaming, biting mad. It was disconcertingly loud, in the first place, and it came out upon the promontories of speech with a flat whang that fairly made you jump. Its undulations of pitch gave you something the same sensation as riding rapidly over a worn-out asphalt pavement in a five-hundred-dollar automobile; unforeseen springs into the air, descents into unexpected pits. Her grammar wasn’t flagrantly bad, though it had, rather pitiably, a touch of the genteel about it. But now, when she spoke to Rose, and with the lassitude of fatigue in her voice besides, Rose heard something friendly about it.
“I don’t know what you should worry about any of that stuff for,” she said. “How you sing or what you sing don’t make much difference.”
Rose admitted that it didn’t seem to. “But you see,” she said (she hadn’t had a human soul to talk to for more than a week and she had to make a friend of somebody); “you see, I’ve just got to keep this job. And if every little helps, as they say, perhaps that would.”
The girl looked at her oddly, almost suspiciously, as if for a moment she had doubted whether Rose had spoken in good faith. “You’ve got as good a chance of losing your job,” she said, “as Galbraith has of losing his.”
“I don’t worry about it,” said Rose, “when I’m up there on the stage at work. It’s too exciting. And then, I feel somehow that it’s going all right. But early in the morning, I get to imagining all sorts of things. He’s so terribly sudden. The girl whose place I got,—she hadn’t any warning, you know. It just happened.”