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Edna Ferber: Buttered Side Down
8. VII. THE LEADING LADY
The leading lady lay on her bed and wept. Not as you have seen leading ladies weep, becomingly, with eyebrows pathetically V-shaped, mouth quivering, sequined bosom heaving. The leading lady lay on her bed in a red-and-blue-striped kimono and wept as a woman weeps, her head burrowing into the depths of the lumpy hotel pillow, her teeth biting the pillow-case to choke back the sounds so that the grouch in the next room might not hear.
Presently the leading lady's right hand began to grope about on the bedspread for her handkerchief. Failing to find it, she sat up wearily, raising herself on one elbow and pushing her hair back from her forehead--not as you have seen a leading lady pass a lily hand across her alabaster brow, but as a heart-sick woman does it. Her tears and sniffles had formed a little oasis of moisture on the pillow's white bosom so that the ugly stripe of the ticking showed through. She gazed down at the damp circle with smarting, swollen eyes, and another lump came up into her throat.
Then she sat up resolutely, and looked about her. The leading lady had a large and saving sense of humor. But there is nothing that blunts the sense of humor more quickly than a few months of one-night stands. Even O. Henry could have seen nothing funny about that room.
The bed was of green enamel, with fly-specked gold trimmings. It looked like a huge frog. The wall-paper was a crime. It represented an army of tan mustard plasters climbing up a chocolate-fudge wall. The leading lady was conscious of a feeling of nausea as she gazed at it. So she got up and walked to the window. The room faced west, and the hot afternoon sun smote full on her poor swollen eyes. Across the street the red brick walls of the engine-house caught the glare and sent it back. The firemen, in their blue shirt-sleeves, were seated in the shade before the door, their chairs tipped at an angle of sixty. The leading lady stared down into the sun-baked street, turned abruptly and made as though to fall upon the bed again, with a view to forming another little damp oasis on the pillow. But when she reached the center of the stifling little bedroom her eye chanced on the electric call-button near the door. Above the electric bell was tacked a printed placard giving information on the subjects of laundry, ice-water, bell-boys and dining-room hours.
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