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Edna Ferber: Buttered Side Down
8. VII. THE LEADING LADY (continued)
The leading lady stood staring at it a moment thoughtfully. Then with a sudden swift movement she applied her forefinger to the button and held it there for a long half-minute. Then she sat down on the edge of the bed, her kimono folded about her, and waited.
She waited until a lank bell-boy, in a brown uniform that was some sizes too small for him, had ceased to take any interest in the game of chess which Bauer and Merkle, the champion firemen chess-players, were contesting on the walk before the open doorway of the engine-house. The proprietor of the Burke House had originally intended that the brown uniform be worn by a diminutive bell-boy, such as one sees in musical comedies. But the available supply of stage size bell-boys in our town is somewhat limited and was soon exhausted. There followed a succession of lank bell-boys, with arms and legs sticking ungracefully out of sleeves and trousers.
"Come!" called the leading lady quickly, in answer to the lank youth's footsteps, and before he had had time to knock.
"Ring?" asked the boy, stepping into the torrid little room.
The leading lady did not reply immediately. She swallowed something in her throat and pushed back the hair from her moist forehead again. The brown uniform repeated his question, a trifle irritably. Whereupon the leading lady spoke, desperately:
"Is there a woman around this place? I don't mean dining-room girls, or the person behind the cigar-counter."
Since falling heir to the brown uniform the lank youth had heard some strange requests. He had been interviewed by various ladies in varicolored kimonos relative to liquid refreshment, laundry and the cost of hiring a horse and rig for a couple of hours. One had even summoned him to ask if there was a Bible in the house. But this latest question was a new one. He stared, leaning against the door and thrusting one hand into the depths of his very tight breeches pocket.
"Why, there's Pearlie Schultz," he said at last, with a grin.
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