She was ashamed of the feeling—was she getting as small as that?—and, in consequence, she congratulated Olga a good deal more warmly than otherwise she would have done. But this warmer manner of hers opened Olga’s flood-gates so wide, swamped her in such a torrent of sentiment, that Rose simply took to flight.
There was an element of real maternal pity in Rose’s adoption of little Dolly Darling as her chum. Dolly was obviously as fragile and ephemeral as a transparent sand-fly. She had nothing that you could call a mind or a character, even of the most rudimentary sort. She knew nothing, except how to dance, and she knew that exactly as a kitten knows how to play with a ball of string; she dreamed of diamonds and wonderful restaurants and a sardonic hero nine feet tall with a straight nose and a long chin, who would clutch her passionately in his arms (there was no more real passion in her than there is in a soap-bubble) and murmur vows of eternal adoration in her ears.
She was a soap-bubble; that’s the figure for her; just an iridescent reflection, wondrously distorted, of the tawdry life about her—a reflection, and then nothing!
But just the thin empty frailness of her, her gaiety in the face of perfectly inevitable destruction, appealed to Rose. She had Dolly in her pocket in five minutes, and before the end of the rehearsal, their treaty was signed and sealed. They were to be chums, bosom friends! The notion of it gave Rose the most spontaneous smile she’d had in days; the first one that hadn’t had a bitter quirk in it.
When, down at the union station on Sunday morning, as they were leaving, Olga unfolded her plan that she and Rose should room together, Rose owned up to herself that there had been another element than maternal pity in her adoption of Dolly. She’d suspected that Olga would propose something of this sort, and she had fortified herself against it.
Olga was furious, of course, when she learned what Rose had done, and accused her, with a measure of justice, of having done it to be rid of her. If Rose didn’t want to remain under this imputation, she could break with Dolly. When Rose refused to do this, Olga cut her off utterly; damned her, disowned her. They were the first pair in the company to begin not to speak.
As I said, the chief discomforts for Rose in those first ten days on the road, were not the material ones. Olga’s absurd way of ignoring her, the fact that she attributed their quarrel, for the benefit of the company, to Rose’s jealousy of her success; worst of all, the fact that Rose couldn’t be sure she wasn’t jealous of Olga’s success, didn’t feel at least, contemplating their reversed positions, more like a failure than she would have felt had the original girl kept the leading part,—all this contributed to a discomfort that did matter, that tormented, abraded, rankled.
It became the core of a sensation that she had turned cheap and shabby; that the distinction, which with her first entrance into this life, she had built up between herself and most of her colleagues, was breaking down; that her fiber was coarsening, her fine sensitiveness becoming calloused. It troubled her that she should feel so languid an indifference over the vulgarity of the piece, a vulgarity which, under Webber’s infection, grew more blatant every day.