ALTRUISM

A Satire

By Karl Ettlinger
Translated by Benjamin F. Glazer.


Copyright, 1920, by Benjamin F. Glazer.
All rights reserved.

 

The first performance of Altruism was given by The Stage Society of Philadelphia at the Little Theatre, Philadelphia, on January 28, 1916, with the following cast:

A BeggarHenry C. Sheppard
A WaiterE. Ryland Carter
A Young ManWilliam H. McClure
A CocotteSylvia Loeb.
A ParisianEdward B. Latimer
His WifeFlorence Bernstein
Their ChildJean Massey
An ArtistTheron J. Bamberger
An AmericanWilliam J. Holt
A GentlemanCaspar W. Briggs
Another GentlemanNorris W. Corey
A PickpocketWalter E. Endy
A GendarmeWilliam H. Russell
Another GendarmeFrederick Cowperthwaite
A WorkingmanWalter D. Dalsimer
A Flower GirlKatherine Kennedy
A Passing LadyC. Warren Briggs
A BystanderCharles E. Sommer
An Old LadyPaulyne Brinkman
A GrisetteFlorence M. Lyman

[Time: The present. PLACE: A Parisian Café by the Seine.]

Produced under the direction of Benjamin F. Glazer. Scene designed by H. Devitt
Welsh. Costumes designed by Martha G. Speiser.

CHARACTERS
A Beggar
A Townsman
A Townswoman
Their Seven-year-old Son
An Artist
An American
A Cocotte
A Waiter
A Workingman
A Young Man
Two Officers
The Crowd
    Place: Paris.
    Time: Present.
    On the banks of the Seine.

 

The play was later produced by the Washington Square Players, at the Comedy Theatre, New York City. The professional and amateur stage rights are reserved by the translator, Mr. Benjamin F. Glazer, Editorial Department, The Press, Philadelphia, Pa., to whom all requests for permission to produce the play should be made.


ALTRUISM

A Satire

By Karl Ettlinger

 

[In the background the end of a pier. On a post hangs a rope and a life buoy. Close by the Beggar is sitting on the floor. At right a street café; two tables stand under the open sky on the street. At one of the tables sits the Waiter, reading a newspaper. At the other sits the Cocotte and the blond Young Man. At left on a public bench sits the Artist. He has a sketch book and pencil with which he is drawing the Cocotte, who has noticed it and is flirting with him.]

 

[Lady xes from Left to Right.]

[Man xes from Right to Left.]

Beggar [sings]:

Kind sir, have pity while you can,
Remember the old beggar man
The poor beggar man.

Waiter [sitting at table, R. C., looks up from his newspaper]. Shut up!

Beggar. Don't get fresh! I was once a head waiter!

Waiter. That must have been a fine place.

Beggar. It was too. I traveled all around the world as a waiter. I saw better days before I became a beggar.

Young Man [at table Left, fondly to the Cocotte]. Indeed if I were a millionaire—my word of honor I would buy you an automobile. Nothing would be too dear for you.

Cocotte [at table Left]. My darling Kangaroo. How liberal you are. I am sure I am your first love.

Young Man. Yes—you are—that is if I don't count the cook who has been at our house for five years—yes, on my word of honor.

[He finishes in pantomime.]

Beggar [to Waiter]: Yes, yes, one goes down. Life is a tight rope dance—before you look around you've lost your balance, and are lying in the dirt.

Waiter [laying aside the paper]. You ought to go to work. That would do you more good than talking.

Beggar. I've tried working too. But work for our kind is the surest way to remain poor. And, do you know, begging is no pleasure either. To get the money centime by centime and no rest from the police—well, well, if I'm born into this world again I will become a government official.

[A man passes. Enter lady from Left. Stops lady Center. Sings and holds out his hat.]

The rich man in his banquet hall,
Has everything I long for!
The poor man gets the scraps that fall;
That's what I sing this song for.
Kind sir, have pity while you can—

[Man exit Left.]

Do you see? he doesn't give me anything! (Social enlightenment ends with the lower classes. That is where need is greatest and the police are thickest.)

Young Man [to the Cocotte]. I would buy you a flying machine too, but you shouldn't fly alone in it—Ah, to soar with you a thousand meters above the earth—and far and wide nothing—only you and our love—

Cocotte. What a wonderful boy you are.

[She flirts with the Artist.]

Beggar. How often have I wanted to commit suicide. But why should I gratify my fellow man by doing that?—suicide is the one sin I can see nothing funny in. I always say to myself, so long as there's a jail one can never starve.

Waiter. You have no dignity.

Beggar. No. My dignity was taken away from me ten years ago by the law. But I'm not so sure I want it back.

Waiter [in disgust]. I ought to call the cops and have them drive you away from here.

Beggar [confidentially]. You wouldn't do that. Only yesterday I paid my colleagues 20 francs for this place. [Searches in his pockets.] Here is a receipt. I won't go away from here unless the police carry me away in their arms. The police seem to be the only people who make a fuss over me these days. [Laughs.]

Waiter. Disgusting old beggar. Why on earth such people—[The rest is lost in his teeth.]

[The Townsman, the Townswoman, and their child enter. The Townsman carries the child on his shoulder and is perspiring from the exertion.]

[Waiter X to Right of Table. Beggar goes up stage Center.]

Townswoman [center Left with boy; sighs]. That is all I have to say, just let me come to that. Just let me come to it. On the spot I'll get a divorce.

Townsman [following her]. Give me your word of honor on it.

Townsman. Now I know what they mean when they say that all men were polygamists.

Townsman. Calm yourself, old woman. It's all theoretical that married women are good cooks and married men are polygamists.

Beggar.

The rich man in his banquet hall
Has everything I long for!
The poor....

Townsman. Let him banquet in peace.

[They sit at the table from which the Waiter has just risen.]

Child. I want to give the poor man something. Papa! Money! Papa! Money!

Townsman [kisses child]. A heart of gold has my little Phillip. A disposition like butter. He gets that from me.

Townsman. What? Asking for money or the oleo margerine disposition?

Child. When I give the poor man something he makes a funny face and I have to laugh. Papa, money!

Townsman. Since I've been married I make all kinds of faces, but no one gives me anything. [Searches in his pocket book.] Too bad, I've nothing smaller than a centime piece.

Townsman. Of course, you'd rather bring up our Phillip to have a heart of stone. Children should be taught to love people. They must be brought up in that way—to have regard and respect for the most unfortunate fellow beings—How that woman is perfumed. Women like that shouldn't be permitted in the city.

Young Man [to the Cocotte]. I would buy you two beautiful air ships, a half moon for week days and a star for Sundays. All my millions I would lay at your feet. [Raising his hand.] Waiter—another glass of water, please.

Cocotte. I'd like to kiss you, my little wild horse.

[Waiter dusts table, Right Center. Flirts with the Artist.]

[Child, Man and Wife sit at table Right Center.]

Waiter [to the Townsman]. What can I bring you?

Townsman. For the child, a glass of milk, but be sure it's well cooked. [To the Child.] A little glass of good ninni for my darling, a glass of ninni from the big moo cow.

Townsman [mocking her]. And for me a glass of red wine—a little glass of good red wine for the big moo-ox.

Townswoman [angry]. That's just like you. Begrudge a glass of milk to your own child—naturally—so long as you have your cigar and your wine—

Townsman. My dear, I hereby give little Phillip permission to drink three cows dry. And of my next week's wages, you may buy him a whole herd of cows.

Child. I want chocolate! Chocolate, mama!

Townsman. You shall have it. As much as you want. Wouldn't you perhaps like to have a glass of champagne, little Phillip, and a Henry Clay cigar and a salad made of a big moo-chicken?

Young Man [getting up, x to Center. Jumps up and runs to the Artist]. Sir! Sir! This is unheard of. You've been drawing this lady all the time. She is a respectable lady, do you understand? For all you know she may be my wife.

Artist [phlegmatically]. More than that—for all I know she may be your mother.

Young Man [stammering]. My dear sir—I must call you to account—what do you mean by—

Artist. Why are you so excited? Isn't it a good likeness?

Young Man [confused]. Of course, it's a good likeness, that is—I ask you, sir, how dare you to draw a picture of my bride?

Townsman. These young people are quarreling. You always bring me to places like this. We can never go out together but there's a scandal.

Cocotte [who has drawn near and is examining the drawing]. I like that. I'd like to own the drawing.

Artist. My dear lady, if it would give you any pleasure....

Cocotte. I couldn't think of taking it. [To the boy.] Buy me the picture. Sweetheart, will you buy it for me?

Young Man. I don't think much of it. You are far, far prettier.

Cocotte. You won't refuse me this one little request. How much do you ask for the picture?

Artist. I hadn't thought of selling it—but because it is such a good likeness of you, ten francs. But you must promise that in return you will sit for me again—[With emphasis.] perhaps at my studio. To-morrow at noon?

Cocotte. Gladly! Very gladly! [The young man pays for the sketch.] Would you care to sit down and have something with us?

Artist. If your fiancé doesn't object?

Young Man [coldly]. Charmed! [The three sit.]

The Child. The chocolate is no good. I want some moo milk.

Townsman. In a minute, I'll take my moo stick and tan your moo hide.

American. [Enters leading a dog on a leash.] [From Left x Center.]

Beggar [sings].

The rich man his banquet hall
Has everything I long for,
The poor man gets the crumbs that fall,
That's what I sing this song for.
Kind sir, have pity while you can,
Remember the old beggar man,
The poor beggar man.

American. [Has listened to the entire song impassively.] Are you through? Waiter, put a muzzle on this man. [x to Table Right.]

Townswoman. That is what I call an elegant man. I have always wanted you to have a suit made like that. Ask him where he got it and what it cost.

Townsman. I couldn't ask an utter stranger what his clothes cost.

Townswoman. Of course not, but if it was a woman you would have been over there long ago.

Child. Mama, the bow-wow dog is biting me.

Townsman. My dear sir, your dog is biting my son.

American. You're mistaken, madame. My dog has been carefully trained to eat none other than boiled meat.

Artist [to the Young Man]. Pardon me for asking—but is the lady your wife or your fiancé?

American [sits, puts his legs on the two extra chairs]. Waiter! Garçon! Bring me a quart of Cliquot, and bring my dog a menu card.

[At the word "Cliquot" the Cocotte looks up and begins to flirt with the American.]

Child. The bow-wow dog is making faces at me.

Townsman. Look here, sir, your dog is certainly about to bite my child.

American [lights his pipe]. How much does your child cost?

Townsman. Cost! My child! Did you ever hear of such a thing? I want you to understand that my child p—

American. Waiter! Tell this woman not to shout so!—How much does your child cost?

Townsman. My child costs—nothing! Do you understand?

American. Well, your child costs nothing—my dog costs eight dollars. Think that over—is your son a thoroughbred? My dog is of the purest breed—think that over—if your son hurts my dog I'll hold you responsible. Think that over. [Fills his glass.]

Cocotte. What do you think that man to be, little mouse?

Young Man. A full blooded American.

Artist. I should say he's a German who has spent two weeks in New York.

Townsman. Aristide, are you going to sit there and permit your defenseless wife to be insulted like that?

Townsman. As long as you have your tongue, my dear, you are not defenseless.

Townswoman. It is your business to talk to him. [Kisses the Child.] My poor little Phillip! Your father is no man.

Townsman. I was before I got married. [Crosses to the American.] Sir, my name is Aristide Beaurepard.

American. Is that my fault?

Townsman. I am the father of a family.

American. I am very sorry for you, indeed.

Townsman. I have a wife and children—

American. You have only yourself to blame.

Townsman. Your dog—

American. I have no desire to discuss dogs with you. I don't believe you know anything about thoroughbred dogs. Waiter, sit this man down in his place.

Townsman. This is I must say, this is—

Waiter. Monsieur, you must not make a racket around you. This is a first class establishment. A real prince once dined here, I would have you understand. Come on now, if you please. [Leads Townsman back to his seat.]

Townsman [sits unwillingly]. Not a centime tip will that fellow get from me. Not a centime.

American. Waiter, Waiter, bring my dog a portion of liver, and not too fat. And a roast potato.

Beggar. [Coming down C.] [Jumps up, cries out wildly.] I can't stand any more. For eight days I have not had a warm morsel of food in my stomach. I am not a human being any more. I'll kill myself. [Runs to the edge of the dock and jumps overboard.] [The splash of the water is heard. The Townswoman and the Waiter call "help, help!" Whereupon, from every side a crowd collects so that the entire background is filled with people staring into the water.]

Townswoman. For God's sake he has thrown himself into the Seine. Oh, God! Oh, God!

Omnes. He's in the river!

American. [At table Right.] What a noisy place this is.

[Townsman at center throws off his coat and is unbuttoning his vest when his wife seizes him.]

Townswoman. [Center.] [Whimpering.] Aristide, remember you have a wife and children.

Townsman. That is why I want to do it.

Townswoman. Aristide, I'll jump in after you—as true as I live I'll jump in after you.

Townsman. [Slowly puts his coat on again.] Then I won't do it. [Goes with her into the crowd.]

A Voice. Get the life buoy. [Willing hands try to unloosen the life buoy, but it sticks.]

Another Voice. Let that life buoy alone. Don't you see the sign "Do not touch"?

A Man. The buoy is no good. It will not work.

Another Man. Of course not. It's city property.

Cocotte [shuddering]. I can't look at it. [Comes back to her table.]

A Woman. Look! He's come up! Over there!

Child. I can't see.

Townswoman. My little heart of gold [to her husband]. Why don't you lift him up? Don't you hear that the child can't see? [Townsman takes the child on his shoulder.]

Young Man [coming back to table]. These people are utterly heartless. It is revolting.

American [loudly]. I'll bet twenty dollars he drowns. Who'll take the bet? Twenty dollars.

Young Man. Are you a man or a beast?

American. Young man, better shut your mouth. [Fills his glass.]

Young Man. Does no one hear know the meaning of Altruism?

Artist. Altruism! Ha, ha! [Laughs scornfully.] Love of one's neighbor. God preserve mankind from Altruism!

Cocotte. What do you mean? You are not in earnest?

Artist. In dead earnest. [Some one in the crowd brings a boat hook and reaches down into the river.]

American. I'll bet twenty-five dollars that he doesn't drown—thirty dollars! [Disgustedly, seeing that no one takes him up.] Tightwads!

Artist. Life is like that. One man's success is another man's failure. He who sacrifices himself for an idea is a hero. He who sacrifices himself for a fellow man is a fool.

Young Man [theatrically]. No, it is the highest, the noblest of instincts. That is why my heart bleeds when I see all these people stand indifferently by while a fellow man is drowning. No one jumps in after him—

American. Jump in yourself, young man, jump in yourself.

Young Man [center]. It is different with me, I am with a lady—it wouldn't be right.

American. Nobody will bet. This is a hell of a bunch. They ought to see one of our nigger lynchings. [Strokes the dog.] Poor Molly! She is so nervous. Things like this get her all excited.

[Two Policemen enter.]

First Policeman. Look at the mob. Something is liable to happen there.

Second Policeman. Isn't it forbidden for such a mob to gather on the dock?

First Policeman. Sure, it's against the law. Why shouldn't it be?

Second Policeman [shaking their heads]. This is no place for us. [Exit Left.]

Artist [to the Young Man]. Does it begin to dawn on you that true love of one's neighbor would not only be monotonous but unbearable as well.

Young Man. Out there a man is drowning—and you stand there moralizing.

Artist. Why not? We read a dozen suicides every day. [x to Chair Left.] Yet we go home and eat our dinner with undiminished relish. Why then sentimentalize over a drowning beggar? I wouldn't rescue a man who had fallen into the water much less one who had jumped in.

Young Man [passionately]. Sir—I despise you! [Goes into the crowd.]

[A man has succeeded in prying up the life buoy, now he throws it into the water with the warning cry "Look out."]

Artist. Love of one's neighbor is a mask. A mask that people wear to hide from themselves their real faces.

American [x to Artist Left]. No, I don't agree with you. I am strong for love of one's neighbor. Indeed, the Bible tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Oh, I am very strong for it. I go to Church on Sundays in the U. S. A. I never touch a drop—in the U. S. A.

Voice. The life buoy is sinking.

Another Voice. That's why they call it a life buoy. [Laughter.]

Cocotte [sympathetically]. How interestingly you talk. I love Americans.

American. We have two kinds of neighborly love back home. Neighborly love that makes for entertaining and dancing, and neighborly love that you read about next day in the newspapers.

Omnes [Workingman who has just entered.] [Right.] What's the matter here? [Elbows his way through the crowd.] Make way there! Let me through! [Throws off coat, tightens his belt, spits in his hand and jumps into the water.] [Great excitement.]

Young Man [center]. [Ecstatically.] A hero! A hero!

American [loudly but indifferently]. I'll bet sixty dollars that both of them drown!—Seventy! Seventy-five! [Contemptuously.] I can't get a bet around here. I'm going back to America.

[The Artist goes into the crowd.]

Cocotte [at table Left, alone with American]. Going back so soon?

American. As soon as I have seen Paris. Wouldn't you like to show me the town? I'll meet you to-morrow at four in front of the Opera House.

Cocotte. I'll be there. I like Americans.

The Mob [cheering]. He's got him! Hurrah! [The pole is outstretched.]

American. I'd like to know how much longer that waiter means to keep my dog waiting for her order of liver. [x to table Right.]

Young Man [comes down to table, joyfully]. He is saved; thank God he is saved. Weren't you sorry at all when that poor wretch jumped into the river?

American. Young man, is it my river?

The Mob [cheering again]. Hurrah! [Great excitement.]

[The Workingman and the Beggar are dragged dripping out of the water. They help the Beggar to a chair.]

Workingman [center]. [Shaking himself.] That was no easy job.

A Woman [left, center]. Take care what you are doing. You are wetting my whole dress.

Beggar. [Left.] [Whimpering.] Oh!—Oh!—Oh!—

Young Man [left]. [Shaking the Workingman's hand.] You are a noble fellow. I saw how brave you were.

Workingman [business like]. Did you? Then give me your name and address.

Young Man [gives him a card]. Jules Leboeof, Rue d'Hauteville.

Workingman. Who else saw it?

Beggar. Oh! Oh! Oh!

Workingman. Shut your mouth. Your turn comes next. Who else saw me save him?

Townsman. [R. C.] Aristide Beaurepard, Rue de Lagny, a14.

Townsman. Must you mix in everything? This is nothing to you. Do you want to get in trouble? You didn't see a thing. Why you just want to get in trouble? You didn't see a thing. Why you just this moment came. What do you want the address for, eh?

Workingman. Do you think I am taking cold baths for my health? I want to get a medal for life saving.

A Man. You have a chance to get an award from the Carnegie fund for life saving.

Workingman. Don't I know it. I read all about it in "Humanitie" yesterday. Do you think I'd have jumped in the water otherwise?

[A crowd has collected around the Beggar.]

Beggar. O God! O God! I'm soaking wet.

American [cold bloodedly.] Isn't that surprising?

Beggar. I am freezing. I am freezing to death.

Cocotte. Waiter, bring him a glass of brandy and charge it to me. [Waiter exit Right.]

Child [whimpering]. I am freezing too, Mama, I'm cold.

Townswoman. My poor little Phillip. [To her husband.] You never think of bringing a coat for the child. There, my darling, you shall have a cup of hot coffee right away.

Child. Coffee is pfui. I want brandy!

Townsman [sternly]. Brandy is not for children. You'll drink coffee.

Townswoman. Who says brandy is not for children? You get the most foolish ideas in your head. Hush, hush, my baby, you shall have some brandy.

American. They ought to offer a medal for the murder of certain kinds of wives.

Beggar. Oh! [Whimpering.] Oh, what a life I lead! What a life!

A Man [feeding sugar to the dog].

Beggar. I wish I were dead. Why did they pull me out? I want to die. What does life mean to me? What joy is there in life for me?

Artist. There will be less joy for you in death. [Laughter.]

Beggar. If I were only young. If I only had my two strong arms again. I never dreamed I would come to this. I never would have believed it—Forty years ago I was a workingman, yes, forty years until an accident—

Workingman. Were you a Union man, brother?

Beggar. Certainly—certainly. [Guardedly.] That is, I wasn't exactly a Union man but—

Workingman. What! Not a Union man. [Rushes at him.]

Townsman. What do you want to do to that poor man?

Workingman. Throw him back in the river. [He is held back.]

Beggar. Forty years I worked at the machine—and now I have nothing to show for it but diseased lungs.

Townswoman [decisively]. Aristide, we are going home. Tuberculosis is contagious.

Workingman. That's capital for you. The capitalist sucks the workingman dry and then turns him out on the streets to starve. But we, the people, shall have our day. When first the uprising of the masses—

American. Oh, don't make a speech.

Beggar [whining]. And my military medal is gone. I must have lost it in the water. You can still see the saber wound on my arm.

Young Man. Thus the Fatherland repays its valiant sons.

Beggar. Nobody knows what I suffered for France. Twenty years I served in the foreign legion.

American. This fellow ought to be celebrating his two hundredth birthday soon.

Beggar. O God—my poor wife—my poor children—the youngest is just four months old—

Cocotte. Poor soul, here are two francs for you. [Other people take out their purses.]

Beggar. God bless you mademoiselle. [Holds out his hat for the other alms.]

[During the excitement the Beggar passes through the crowd begging and singing.]

Beggar.

The rich man in his banquet hall,
Has everything I long for.
The poor man gets the crumbs that fall,
That's what I sing this song for.
Help a poor man, sir.

American [cries out in sudden alarm.] My dog! My Molly! She has jumped into the river! [The crowd is still and listening to him.] She will drown! [Runs to the edge of the dock.] There she is—swimming. Oh, my Molly! She cost me eighty dollars. [Desperately.] A hundred dollars to the man that saves my dog. A hundred dollars.

A Man. Do you mean that?

American [deaf to everything but his anxiety]. A hundred dollars. Here, I'll put it up with the Waiter—a hundred dollars for my poor dog.

Voices in the Crowd. A hundred dollars! Five hundred francs!

[The Crowd moves, pushing and gesticulating to the water's edge. One by one they jump into the Seine with a great splashing. Only the American, the Young Man, the Cocotte and the Beggar remain.]

American. My poor Molly! She loved me like a son! Where is that pole? [Gets pole and thrusts with it in the water.]

A Voice. Hey! Oh! My head!

American [beside himself]. There—over there—the poor dog never had a swimming lesson. [Sees the Young Man.] What are you standing there for? You with your precious neighborly love! A hundred and fifty dollars for my dog! Jump in! Here is a deposit. [Pushes money in his hand.]

Young Man [makes ready to jump, but stops at the edge and turns around]. No! For a dog? Never!

American. It was a thoroughbred dog. Jump! I'll give you two hundred—I'll take you back to the U. S. A. with me—I'll pay for your musical education—anything—if you save my dog.

Young Man. Will you really pay for my musical education if I save your dog?

American [on knees by wall]. Every instrument there is—piano, piccolo, cornet, bass drum—only jump!—jump!

Young Man [upon wall throws a farewell kiss to the Cocotte, takes a heroic posture]. With God! [Makes a perfect dive into the river.]

American [at the end of the dock, brokenly]. Poor Molly! [Dries his eyes with handkerchief.] I'll endow a home for poor Parisians if she is brought back to me alive. [To the Cocotte.] Oh, dear lady, I don't know whether I shall be able to meet you to-morrow at the Avenue de l'Opera. I have had a bereavement. [Comes down to the pavement.] I must telephone to the lifeguard station. [Exits into the café.] Poor Molly! All the insurance I carried on her is three thousand dollars. [Exit with Artist into café, Right.] [There is a brief pause.]

Beggar [angrily]. Damn his heart; the dog tender! I hope he drowns himself. Just as I was doing the best business in weeks that damn dog had to spoil everything. The scabby beast.

Cocotte. How often have I asked you not to use those vulgar expressions.

Beggar. What! Is that how a daughter should speak to her father? You shameless wench! I'll teach you. I'll be lame again hereafter. For when I am lame I carry a stick and a stick is a good thing to have in your hand to teach a daughter respect. Ten francs; you know for the picture. [While he speaks he is taking off his coat and vest, showing a cork life belt beneath.] That suicide trick is getting played out anyhow—hardly 50 francs—and I had to pay 20 for the place. Come my daughter, we will go home. [Calls.] Waiter—Waiter!

Cocotte. He doesn't hear you, papa—Waiter if you don't come at once we shall go without paying. [The Waiter enters with hat wet.]

Beggar [slips him a gold piece]. Waiter, call a taxicab.

[The Waiter takes the coin with a respectful bow, blows his taxi whistle. As the answering whistle of the taxicab and the honk of the horn are heard the Beggar and Cocotte exit ceremoniously and the curtain falls.

 

[Curtain.]