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8. VII. THE LEADING LADY (continued)
"You tell me all about it," said she, smiling.
The leading lady opened her lips, gulped, tried again, gulped again--Pearlie Schultz shook a sympathetic head.
"Ain't had a decent, close-to-nature powwow with a woman for weeks and weeks, have you?"
"How did you know?" cried the leading lady.
"You've got that hungry look. There was a lady drummer here last winter, and she had the same expression. She was so dead sick of eating her supper and then going up to her ugly room and reading and sewing all evening that it was a wonder she'd stayed good. She said it was easy enough for the men. They could smoke, and play pool, and go to a show, and talk to any one that looked good to 'em. But if she tried to amuse herself everybody'd say she was tough. She cottoned to me like a burr to a wool skirt. She traveled for a perfumery house, and she said she hadn't talked to a woman, except the dry-goods clerks who were nice to her trying to work her for her perfume samples, for weeks an' weeks. Why, that woman made crochet by the bolt, and mended her clothes evenings whether they needed it or not, and read till her eyes come near going back on her."
The leading lady seized Pearlie's hand and squeezed it.
"That's it! Why, I haven't talked--really talked--to a real woman since the company went out on the road. I'm leading lady of the `Second Wife' company, you know. It's one of those small cast plays, with only five people in it. I play the wife, and I'm the only woman in the cast. It's terrible. I ought to be thankful to get the part these days. And I was, too. But I didn't know it would be like this. I'm going crazy. The men in the company are good kids, but I can't go trailing around after them all day. Besides, it wouldn't be right. They're all married, except Billy, who plays the kid, and he's busy writing a vawdeville skit that he thinks the New York managers are going to fight for when he gets back home. We were to play Athens, Wisconsin, to-night, but the house burned down night before last, and that left us with an open date. When I heard the news you'd have thought I had lost my mother. It's bad enough having a whole day to kill but when I think of to-night," the leading lady's voice took on a note of hysteria, "it seems as though I'd----"
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