Starting a New Role

Rockport had never looked so little as it did from the air. The plane
circled the town at dusk, just as the stewardess finished serving
supper, and as Peggy looked down from the oval window next to her seat,
she saw the street lights suddenly flick on, section by section, all
over the town. The familiar streets glowed under their canopies of
trees, the houses were almost hidden under other trees and, in the
center of the town, a few neon lights added warmth and color.

Peggy hardly knew what she felt for the place where she had been born
and where she had lived her whole life. A wave of tenderness came over
her for Rockport, so small and homelike, surrounded by its farms and
forests and lakes. And at the same time, she compared this view from the
air with the sight of New York, towering and dramatic in the afternoon
sunshine. Who could settle for Rockport, after breathing the excitement
of the giant city? Still … she wondered if New York could ever be to
her the home that Rockport was.

The somewhat bumpy runway of Armory Field was under their wheels. Peggy
was home again. But in her mind, she was still in the city, starting her
new and wonderful life.

After quickly unpacking and changing to a skirt and blouse more suitable
to Rockport than the smart traveling suit she had worn on the plane,
Peggy came running downstairs. Her father sat in his easy chair reading
the two issues of the _Eagle_ that had come out in his absence. Her
mother sat in the wing chair opposite, working serenely on her needle
point. To look at them, Peggy thought, one would suppose that they had
never left home, that nothing at all had changed from what it had been
two days ago.

“I’m going out for a while,” she announced. “I’ve just got to tell Jean
right away, or I’ll burst for sure!”

“All right, dear,” Mrs. Lane said. “But don’t stay out too late. You’ve
had an exciting day, and you’re going to need some sleep.”

With a wave of her hand, Peggy left and, whistling boyishly, skipped
down the front steps. Once on the street, the last of her grown-up
reserve left her, and she ran all the way to the Wilson house to arrive,
panting and breathlessly bright-eyed, a few moments later.

“Jean’s down at the Sweet Shop,” Mrs. Wilson said, “but I know she’ll
want to see you. I’ll call and tell her not to leave, and you can meet
her there.”

Peggy thanked Mrs. Wilson briefly, and ran back home once more to
collect her bike. As she pedaled down Chestnut Street, she wondered how
many more times she would ride her bike again. It was not the sort of
thing one did in New York, obviously. And besides, the bike was a part
of her childhood and early teens, and now she was coming out of them and
off to the great adventure of becoming a woman! Thinking this, she
slowed down a little, so as to enjoy the ride and the familiar sights
around her. Growing up would happen soon enough, she now knew.
Meanwhile, she wanted to slowly taste and enjoy the pleasures of
small-town girlhood that were not to come again.

Her subdued mood lasted only until she arrived at the Sweet Shop. There
she found Jean, Betty Dugan, Alice Schultz, and Millie Pratt crowded
around a soda-laden table, laughing and talking. They managed to make
room for one more chair and as soon as Peggy was seated, turned silent,
expectant faces to her.

Looking from face to face, Peggy suddenly laughed. “You look like a
nestful of baby birds waiting to be fed!”

Then she told her friends the whole story of her trip, starting, of
course, with the main fact that she had been accepted at Mr. Macaulay’s
famous New York Dramatic Academy. Describing him, she acted him out for
them, and soon had the girls in fits of laughter. Then she went on to
tell about May Berriman, the room she would live in, the quaint
old-fashioned neighborhood around Gramercy Park, the private park and
all the rest. When she had finished, she said to Jean, “Doesn’t it make
you want to change your mind? I do wish you’d come, too. It’s going to
be wonderful, but with you there, it would be absolutely perfect!”

Jean shook her head ruefully. “I must admit it sounds tempting,” she
said, “but I stand on what I told you before about what I want to do. I
don’t think I’m an actress at all, and if I tried to be one, I’d
probably only fail. And that wouldn’t make me happy at all. If I do what
I plan to, though, I’ll probably succeed, and that way I’ll have a happy
life.”

Peggy nodded her agreement. “I guess I was only testing you, in a way,”
she admitted, “just to see if you really meant it. Now that I know you
do, I’m sure that you’re absolutely right.”

Then she told her friend about the discussion she had had with May
Berriman about Mr. Macaulay, and what the older woman had told Peggy
about his great ability as a teacher and his lack of ability as an
actor.

“She said, too, that the ability to recognize talent and to develop it
is a lot rarer than the talent itself. And all the time she was talking,
I was thinking about you and our last talk together.”

“Well, that makes me feel a lot better,” Jean admitted. “It’s good to
know that there are other people—real professionals—who think about
things the same way I do. Thanks for telling me.”

Then the talk turned to other things besides the theater: clothes, boys,
the coming school year at Rockport Community College, for which Peggy
would not be there—all the hundreds of things that girls talk about.
Before Peggy realized it, it was ten-thirty, and she was beginning to
yawn.

“It’s not the company,” she said, “it’s the hour. Not exactly original,
but perfectly true. I’m afraid I’d better be getting home.”

The others agreed that it was their bedtime too, and they trooped out to
the bicycle rack to say their good nights. Peggy and Jean rode side by
side slowly down the leafy street, feeling the first slight chill that
announced the end of summer was at hand.

“When will you be leaving?” Jean asked.

“I guess in about a week,” Peggy said. “The term starts in two weeks,
and I want to get settled in New York before school begins, so that I
can have my mind all clear for work. I think I’ll need a week just to
get really comfortable in my room, do the shopping I’ll have to do, and
find my way around the city. I want to know about buses and subways and
things like that before I get started.”

“That sounds like a good idea to me,” Jean replied. “What I would do if
I were you is to get a street map of the city, and a guidebook, and
spend some time just wandering around so you get the idea of where
things are.”

“That’s just what I plan to do,” Peggy said. “In fact, my father
suggested the same thing. He said that I should go on a few guided
tours, too. They have buses that take tourists all around the city and
show them everything of interest. Dad says that native New Yorkers, and
people who are trying to make other people think that they’re native New
Yorkers, are ashamed to be seen on the sight-seeing buses, which seems
pretty silly to me. The result is that people who come from out of town
often know more about New York than the people who have grown up there!”

Both girls laughed at the idea, then Peggy continued, “I plan to spend
at least a week taking tours, and walking around the streets with a
guidebook, and shopping. I’d better leave next week, I guess.”

“It seems so soon,” Jean said a little sadly. “I’m going to miss you.”

“It is soon,” Peggy admitted, “but I’d rather be rushed than have to
wait for a month and think about nothing but the day I’m going to leave.
Even as it is, there’ll be too much time for good-bys, and I hate saying
good-by. Especially to people I care for.”

The girls rode the rest of the way in silence, each thinking her own
thoughts about their long association which was now to come to an end.
They came to Peggy’s house first and stopped their bikes.

Then Peggy said, “Of course I’ll write,” as if she were answering a
question that Jean had asked.

Jean laughed, “You’re right! That’s just what I was thinking! I wonder
how long it’ll be before either of us finds another person we can do
that with again?”

“I don’t suppose we ever will,” Peggy said. “And it’s probably just as
well. There’s something a little weird about it!”

Then, on common impulse, they recited in chorus the witches’ lines from
_Macbeth_, only changing the “three” to “two.”

“When shall we two meet again? In thunder, lightning, or in rain?”

And with laughter and witchlike cackles, they said good night.

The next week flew by in a continual round of farewells, packing,
endless talk in the Sweet Shop about acting and the life Peggy would be
leading in New York and, the night before her departure, a big farewell
party at Jean’s house. It was a tired Peggy, glad to be on her way at
last, who found herself once more at the airport with her parents. But
this time, she was to fly alone.

“Are you sure you packed everything?” her mother asked for perhaps the
tenth time.

“Positive,” Peggy assured her.

“And you know how to get from the airport to Gramercy Park?” her father
asked, also for perhaps the tenth time.

“I’ll never forget!” Peggy laughed.

“Well…” Mrs. Lane said.

“Well…” Mr. Lane said.

They stood, all three, looking at one another, not knowing what to say.
Then Peggy’s mother, with more than a faint suspicion of tears in her
eyes, threw her arms about her daughter and kissed her.

“Oh dear!” she said. “You’d better get on that plane right away, or I am
going to be silly and cry!”

Peggy kissed both her parents and started through the gate across the
concrete strip where the big plane waited. As she turned to wave
good-by, her mother called, “Are you sure you have—”

“Yes!” Peggy shouted back. “I’m sure!”

“And don’t forget to phone the minute you get there!” her father called,
his last words drowned out by the sound of a plane that swooped low
overhead.

At the top of the boarding steps, Peggy waved again for the last time,
then went in to her seat to start her first flight alone—a flight that
would bring her to all she had ever hoped for.

It was dark when the plane arrived in New York this time, and if Peggy
had thought the sight breathtaking when she first saw it, she was
absolutely stunned by this!

In every direction, as far as she could see, the streets stretched out
like blazing strings of lights, white, red, blue, green, with sudden
bursts and knots of brighter light where major streets joined. As the
plane banked and turned, she saw a superhighway winding along the edge
of a bay, interrupted by complicated cloverleafs, underpasses and
overpasses. The lights on the highway were diamond-blue, and the road
was dotted with headlights and taillights of thousands of cars like
fireflies in the night.

Then the turning of the plane revealed midtown Manhattan, tall and
sparkling! The Empire State Building towered over all, its four bright
beams sweeping the sky over the city. The UN building stood out like a
solid slab of brilliance against the rest of the skyline. Beyond it,
Times Square blazed like a bonfire.

All around her in the plane, Peggy saw the rest of the passengers,
including obviously experienced travelers, pressed against the windows,
enchanted by the fairy-tale sight below. They were all talking,
pointing, comparing notes on the beauty of this or that.

The plane swept lower now, and the skyline seemed to rise and grow even
more mighty. Over the East River, the bridges were spider-webs and
pearls; small boats like water bugs skimmed under them and out again.
Then, abruptly, a new and closer brilliance of searchlights and whirling
red and green signals—and the plane settled smoothly into the bustle and
roar of LaGuardia Airport.

Peggy was glad that she had been there before with her parents, or she
might never have found her way out. Crowds of people swarmed about the
place, sweeping past in every direction. Piles of luggage and groups of
waiting travelers seemed to block her way no matter where she turned.
Ignoring the crowds as best she could, and following her sense of
direction and her memory of where she had gone the previous week, Peggy
worked her way to the front of the terminal where the taxi stand was. A
bank of phone booths reminded her to call home before going on. Then she
hailed a cab and gave the driver the address of the Gramercy Arms.

She had planned to take the airport bus to the terminal in Manhattan and
a cab from there, but she had changed her mind. This one extravagance,
Peggy felt, would be worth the price. Settling back in comfort, she
opened the window to a cool rush of air and became absorbed in the
passing sights of parkways, streets, bridges and, finally, the entrance
over the giant Triborough Bridge into the enchanted isle of Manhattan.

“Your first trip to New York?” the taxi driver asked, noticing her
fascination with the sights.

“No,” Peggy answered, feeling herself quite the experienced traveler. “I
was here last week. But that was the first time,” she confessed.

“Staying long?”

“Forever, I hope!” Peggy replied. “I’m going to live here.”

The East River Drive went into a sort of tunnel, supported on one side
by pillars, through which Peggy could see a string of barges slowly
forging upstream.

“You know what’s above us?” the driver asked. “No? It’s a park! That’s
right. This road is built under a park!”

Farther on, after they had come out of the tunnel, they plunged into
another one. “Another park?” Peggy asked.

“Nope. This time it’s an apartment house!”

The third time the road went underground, it was the UN building that
was above them. What a fantastic city! Peggy thought. Everything seemed
topsy-turvy. The idea of driving under parks, apartment houses and giant
office buildings was so queer! She said as much to the driver, who only
laughed. “Miss, you’ll get used to all sorts of queer things if you live
here! I’ve been driving a cab in this town for twenty-four years now,
and I haven’t seen the end of odd things. As fast as you can see one,
they build two more!”

When they arrived at the Gramercy Arms, the driver leaped out and helped
her with her bags up the steep front steps. She didn’t know then how
unusual it was for a cab driver to help with luggage. He was being
really gallant.

“Good luck,” he said, on leaving. “You’ll need it. It’s not an easy town
to get started in, but young girls like you come here every day to try,
and most of them make it somehow. Just don’t let it scare you. It’s big,
but it’s not unfriendly. And there’s no place else in this world that
I’d rather live!” With a wave of farewell, he climbed into his cab and
rode off around the corner.

Peggy took a deep breath, patted her hair, and rang the bell of her new
home.

The door was opened, not by Mrs. Berriman, but by a small, dark-haired
girl with huge, black eyes and a gamin grin, who greeted her with a
decided French accent.

“Allo, allo!” she said brightly. “Come een! Are you Amee or Peggee?”

“I—I’m Peggy,” Peggy said, somewhat taken aback.

“Good!” the French girl cried. “You don’t look like an Amee! I’m Gaby,
wheech ees short for Gabrielle. I leeve ’ere. Maman Berriman she ees out
shopping, mais les autres girls sont ici. Pardon. I meex too much French
een with my talk. Parlez-vous Français?”

“Un peu,” Peggy said. “A very little peu, I’m afraid. But I understood
you. You said the other girls are here, right?”

“Parfait!” Gaby grinned. “Maybee I can teach you how to speak, if you
would like that?”

“I would,” Peggy agreed enthusiastically, but added quickly, “not
starting right now, though!”

“Okay,” Gaby shrugged. “Come on! I first introduce you.”

Four girls waited in the large, comfortable living room, all looking
expectantly at the door. As Peggy entered, a pert-faced redhead bounced
out of her chair to say hello.

“I’m Dot,” she announced. “Are you Peggy or Amy?”

“Peggee, of course!” Gaby cut in, before Peggy could answer. “Does she
look like an Amee to you?”

“No, I guess she doesn’t,” Dot said reflectively. “Well, welcome!”

“Thank you,” Peggy said. “Now will somebody tell me who Amy is?”

“Let me introduce you first,” Dot answered, taking Peggy by the arm.
“This is Irene, our household beauty queen,” she said. Irene, a tall,
startlingly beautiful brunette, languidly waved a gesture of welcome
with long, perfectly manicured fingers. Smiling, she said, “Don’t mind
her jealous tones, Peggy. They say that beauty is in the eye of the
beholder, and that means that she must love me, or she’d think I was
ugly.”

A pretty, round-faced girl with almost white blond hair done in a long
single braid came over to Peggy.

“They sound very catty,” she said with a gentle smile, “but we think
they wouldn’t know what to do without each other. Now, no fighting
tonight,” she said to Dot and Irene. “We want to give Peggy a chance to
get used to us first.” Then, turning back to Peggy, she said, “My name
is Greta. Your room is right next door to mine. And this is Maggie.”

Maggie, all freckles, brown bangs, and bright China-blue eyes, was
sitting cross-legged on the floor. Without uncrossing her legs, she rose
effortlessly, offered a wiry handshake and a warm grin, and sank back to
her former position in one fluid movement.

“She’s not showing off,” Dot said, noticing Peggy’s startled look. “She
does that sort of thing all the time without even thinking about it.
She’s a dancer, and she makes the rest of us seem like a herd of
elephants by comparison.”

“Not elephants,” Maggie said. “Not since I’ve been teaching you all how
to move and walk. Maybe buffalo, but not elephants!”

“Do you know ’ow to move and walk?” Gaby asked.

“I always thought so, but now I’m beginning to have my doubts,” Peggy
replied.

“Walk to the door and then back,” Maggie said.

Peggy did so, trying to be as graceful as she could, without seeming in
any way affected. She had never really considered her walking ability
before, and now that she was doing so, under the close scrutiny of the
five girls, she suddenly felt that she had never walked before. Coming
back to Maggie, she waited hopefully for her judgment. “Elephant?” she
asked.

“Nope,” Maggie said, as if trying to find just the right kind of beast.

“Buffalo?”

“A little better than buffalo, I think. Maybe a well-bred cart horse.
But don’t feel bad about it. You haven’t had lessons yet. Now, we can
start by—”

“We can start by sitting down and getting to know each other first,”
Greta interrupted. “Come on, Peggy. You must be really confused by all
this.”

“A little,” Peggy admitted. “It seems that everyone wants to teach me
something. I was hardly in the house when Gaby was offering French
lessons! What do you teach?”

“I try to teach good manners to my crazy friends here,” Greta said with
a laugh, “but I don’t seem to be very good at it!”

When Peggy was established in a comfortable chair, with the other girls
around her, the first thing she asked was, “Now, who is Amy?”

“Amy Shelby Preston is all we know about her,” Dot said, “just as Peggy
Lane is all we know about you. That, and the fact that you were both due
to get here tonight.”

“Good!” Peggy said. “Then I won’t be the only new girl in the place!
That ought to make it a little easier on me, and on all of you.”

“Oh, you’re not a new girl any more!” Irene laughed. “You’re only new
around here for the first five minutes, and you’ve been here nearly ten
by now! If Amy Shelby Preston takes another half hour to get here,
you’ll be an old-timer by then!”

“Oui, that ees so!” Gaby put in. “Everybodee here ees so open—they tell
you everytheeng about themselves so très vite—that means veree fast—that
you know them so like old friends in no time, yes?”

Peggy thought that this was a fine idea, and she said so. Then, in
accordance with what she now knew to be the household custom, she told
the five girls as much about herself as she felt would be interesting to
them: where she was from, why she was in New York—a five-minute
autobiography.

“… so, you see,” she finished, “I wanted to study acting and I felt
that this was the only place to go, so here I am.”

“It’s pretty much the same with us,” Dot said. “None of us is from New
York either, and we all came to be in the theater or some part of it.
I’m a comedienne and eccentric dancer, and I sing a little, too. I’m not
going to any school but I still work with a voice coach and a drama
coaching group. I’m from California originally. I was in a few movies,
but not in any good roles. I’m not a movie type. I came here when I got
a chance to do a television series that originated live from New York,
and when the series ended, I stuck around. I’m in a Broadway musical
now, lost in the chorus. It’s not much, but it pays the rent.”

“She’s too modest,” Greta said. “She’s not just in the chorus. She has a
dance specialty and a few lines, and she’s understudying the lead
comedienne. And she’s good at it, too.”

Dot blushed and said roughly, “For goodness’ sake, don’t be nice to me!
It makes me feel I have to be nice to you, and that’s not my character!”

Greta answered promptly, “All right, then, let’s talk about me! Anyone
who doesn’t want stage center isn’t going to get it!” She stood up,
walked to the center of the room and made a small pirouette, her thick
braid whirling around her. “I am Greta Larsen and I come from Boston,”
she recited in a little-girl voice. “I know I have a face like a Swedish
dumpling, and everybody thinks I should have come from there or at least
from Wisconsin like you. If you come from Boston, you’re supposed to be
Irish. I’m an ingénue and I’ve been in four off-Broadway plays and one
Broadway play, and all of them were flops. Right now I’m working as a
script editor for a TV producer, and trying to make him realize that I’m
an actress. So far he hardly realizes I’m a script editor. He thinks I’m
a hey-you.” With a comic bow like a mechanical doll, she sat down to a
round of laughter and applause.

“Who’s next?” Peggy said, still laughing. “I haven’t had such fun in
ages!”

Gaby, who stood up next, threw the girls into gales of laughter by
announcing first that she was French. Then she went on to tell Peggy
that her full name was Gabrielle Odette Francine DuChamps Goulet, but
that she only used the name Gaby Odette. Her mother was dead and her
father worked for the UN in New York, but spent most of his time
traveling about the world, only returning for a few weeks at a time.
Gaby had studied acting in France, and had even attracted some critical
attention and good personal reviews in her one acting part in Paris, but
when her father came to America, she decided to come with him and make a
new start here. Since her arrival about a year ago, she had been
devoting all of her energy to studying English, and hoped that in
another six months or so she would be good enough to start looking for
parts.

“I guess I’m next,” Irene said, stretching her long, well-shaped legs
and leaning back in her chair. “I’m Irene Marshall, and I’m—” But just
then the doorbell rang, interrupting her.

“That must be Amy,” she said. “Now I don’t have to tell my history
twice.”

She strode to the door to let the new arrival in, and in a few seconds
ushered her into the living room.

“This is Amy Preston,” she announced, “and this,” she continued, waving
a hand at the five girls in the living room, “is a room full of girls.
Come on in and meet them.”

Peggy thought that Amy Preston was just about the prettiest girl she had
ever seen, and as she watched her gracefully shaking hands and saying
hello, she felt sure that they would be friends. Amy’s honey-blond hair
framed a small oval face, large brown eyes and a smiling, self-possessed
expression. When she spoke, it was with a soft, pleasant Southern accent
and a low voice. Irene introduced Amy to Peggy last of all, and Peggy
said, “I’m really glad to have you here. I’m new too. I just came in
about a half hour ago, and I was so relieved to know that I wasn’t going
to be the only new girl.”

“It makes me feel heaps better too,” Amy said. “In fact, as much as I’ve
been looking forward to New York, I’ve been half dreading this first
meeting. I may not look it, but I’m really quite shy.”

“And I was just thinking how well you handled yourself during all these
introductions!” Peggy said.

“Oh, you have to do that if you’re shy,” Amy said. “That way, people
never know about it. It’s the same thing as going on the stage, I guess.
They say that the best actresses and actors are always just nearly
paralyzed with stage fright. In fact, I think that’s what adds the extra
excitement to their presence. At least I hope so!”

“Did you come to New York to act, too?” Peggy asked.

“I hope to, if I’m lucky,” Amy replied. “But first off, I came to
study.”

“So did I,” Peggy said. “Where are you studying?”

“The New York Academy,” Amy answered, with a faintly perceptible touch
of pride.

“Why, so am I!” Peggy cried with delight.

The two of them quickly fell into an animated discussion of the Academy
and of Mr. Macaulay. They were just comparing notes on their interviews
with him when Dot gently but firmly interrupted.

“You girls will have a lot of time for all that, but now it’s time to do
all the introductions. Amy, you tell us about you, and then we’ll go on
about us. Gaby and Greta and Peggy and I have told about us already, so
we won’t repeat it now. We’ll catch you tomorrow. So there’s only you
and Irene and Maggie to go.”

Then she explained about the household method of introduction, which Amy
agreed was a fine idea.

Amy’s speech was short and direct. “I’m Amy Preston, and I come from
Pine Hollow, North Carolina, which nobody ever heard of except the
people who live there. I went to college for a year and acted in four
plays, and then I persuaded my parents to let me come to New York to
act. There’s nothing else to tell about me, except that I think I’m the
luckiest girl I ever knew to find a place like this to live in and a
place like the Academy to study at. I know I’m going to like you all,
and I hope you’re going to like me, too.” Blushing slightly, she sat
down, and Peggy noticed that her hands were trembling a little. She
hadn’t been fooling about the shyness and stage fright then, Peggy
thought, but she was certainly able to keep it from showing, unless you
looked very closely. Peggy was sure that Amy would prove to be a good
actress.

The rest of the introductory speeches went swiftly. Irene, it turned
out, was from Cleveland. Her real name was Irma Matysko, but she
thought, and everybody agreed, that Irene Marshall sounded a lot better
for a would-be actress. She had acted in several television dramas in
minor parts, and was supporting herself mostly as a fashion model.

Maggie, the dancer, spoke next. “I’m Maggie Delahanty,” she began, “and
I was actually born in Ireland, only my parents brought me here when I
was two, so I don’t remember anything about it. I was raised in
Philadelphia, where my father is a bus driver, and I’ve been dancing
since I was three. I’ve worked in musicals on Broadway and on the road,
and I’ve worked in night clubs, which I hate. Right now I’m studying
singing with a fine coach, so that I can get some good work, because
there’s nothing much for a dancer who can’t sing. I just got back last
week from a summer tour with a music circus, in which I danced my way
through ten states in as many weeks. Right now, I don’t know what I’m
going to do, except sit down as much as I can.”

With another one of her uncanny, fluid movements, she sat down.

The general introductions done, Peggy and Amy went back to their
conversation about Mr. Macaulay and the Academy. Amy’s experience in her
interview had been much the same as Peggy’s. She too had prepared
material to read and, like Peggy, had thought at first that she was
rejected when Mr. Macaulay wouldn’t let her read it. Now she could
hardly wait to get started.

Irene, who had heard all about Mr. Macaulay and his brusque approach
before she had tried to get into the Academy a year ago, said that she
knew she hadn’t made the grade the minute he had started being kind to
her.

“Why did he reject you?” Peggy asked.

“He said that a girl as pretty as me didn’t need acting lessons,” Irene
said with a laugh. “He said that even if I learned to be a good actress,
I would never have a chance to prove it, because I would be given the
kind of parts that just need looks. I told him that I wanted to be a
good actress as well as a pretty one and he told me that it would be a
tragic mistake, because there aren’t any parts written for people like
that!” She laughed again, then in a more sober tone, added, “I think he
was just being kind to me and trying to make me feel good. And you know
what? He succeeded!”

As the conversation turned to plays and roles and types of actresses,
the other girls joined in. They had just gotten to a spirited and
somewhat noisy discussion of the ability of a well-known actress, when
May Berriman came in.

“Well, Amy and Peggy!” she said. “I see you’ve met everybody and you’re
right at home! Good! Now let me make you feel even more at home by
acting like a mother. Do you girls know that it’s very late? And do you
know that I’ve been busy making hot chocolate for you? And that it’s
waiting in the kitchen right now, getting cool? Well, now you know, so
get moving!”

The seven girls and May Berriman trooped downstairs to the big, homey
kitchen that Peggy had noticed on her first visit. Full of friendly
people and the smell of hot chocolate and homemade cookies, the kitchen
seemed to Peggy the nicest place she had ever been. Seated in antique
painted chairs around the long sawbuck table with May Berriman at its
head, they passed around cookies and chocolate and continued the
discussion of the prominent actress, carefully taking her apart, gesture
by gesture, until it seemed a wonder that she had ever gotten so much as
a walk-on role.

“It’s all very easy to criticize your elders and betters,” May Berriman
finally said, “but it’s quite another thing to stand up on the stage
with them and act on their level! That’s not to say that I disapprove of
discussions like this. I think they’re good, because they do develop
your critical abilities, but I think they can be carried too far.” With
a glance at the clock, she added, “And I think this one has gone far
enough into the night. Now all of you, get up to bed. Peggy and Amy
haven’t even unpacked yet!”