The first sent a goose without
The second sent a cherry without a stone;
The third sent a blanket without a thread;
The fourth sent a book that no man could read.
At the end of the settlement was a vast studio lighted by a glass roof. Entering, O-liver was transported at once to the dance hall on the Barbary Coast—a great room with a bar at one end, the musicians on a platform at the other, a stairway leading upward. Groups of people waited for a signal to dance, to drink, to act whatever part had been assigned them—people with unearthly pink complexions. The heat was intense.
With her face upturned to the director, who was mounted on a chair, stood a childish creature who was pinker, if possible, than the rest. She had fluffy hair of pale gold. She ran up the stairway presently, and the light was turned on her. It made of her fluffy hair a halo. In the strong glare everything about her was overemphasized, but O-liver knew that when she showed up on the screen she would be entrancing.
He had first seen her on the screen. He had met her afterward at her hotel. She had seemed as ingenuous as the parts she played. Perhaps she was. He could never be quite sure. Perhaps the money she had made afterward had spoiled her. She had jumped from fifty dollars a week to a thousand.
After that O-liver could give her nothing. He had an allowance from his mother of three thousand a year. Fluffy Hair made as much as that in three weeks. Where he had been king of his own domain he became a sort of gentleman footman, carrying her sables and her satchels. But that was not the worst of it. He found that they had not a taste in common. She laughed at his books, at his love of sea and sky. She even laughed at his Mary Pick, whose name suggested a hated rival.
And so he left her—laughing.
A certain sense of responsibility, however, took him to her once a month, and a letter went to her every week. She was his wife. He continued in a sense to watch over her. Yet she resented his watching.
From her stairway she had seen him, and when a rest was granted she came down to him.
“I’ll be through presently,” she said. “We can go to my hotel.”
Her rooms in the hotel overlooked the sea. There was a balcony, and they sat on it in long lazy chairs and had iced things to drink.
O-liver drank lemonade. His wife had something stronger.
“I have not been well,” she said; “it’s a part of the doctor’s prescription.”
She had removed the pink from her face, and he saw that she was pale.
“You are working too hard,” he told her. “You’d better take a month in the desert, out of doors.”
She shivered. She hated the out-of-doors that he raved about. They had spent their honeymoon in a tent. She had been wild to get back to civilization. It had been their first moment of disillusion.