THE SLUMP

A Play

By Frederic L. Day


Copyright, 1920, by Frederic L. Day.
All rights reserved.

 

The Slump was first produced February 5, 1920, by "The 47 Workshop" with the following cast:

Florence MaddenMiss Ruth Chorpenning.
James MaddenMr. Walton Butterfield.
Edward MixMr. W. B. Leach, Jr.

 

Permission to reprint, or for amateur or professional performances of any kind must first be obtained from "The 47 Workshop," Harvard College, Cambridge, Mass. Moving picture rights reserved.

Time: The Present. About four o'clock on a Saturday afternoon in December.


THE SLUMP

A Play

By Frederic L. Day

 

[Scene: A dingy room showing the very worst of contemporary lower middle-class American taste. The dining table in the center is of "golden oak"; and a sideboard at the left, a morris chair at the right and front, and three dining-room chairs (one of which is in the left rear corner, the others at the table) are all of this same finish. The paper on the walls is at once tawdry and faded. A tarnished imitation brass gas jet is suspended from the right wall, just over the morris chair. In the back wall and to the left is a door leading outside. Another door, in the left wall, leads to the rest of the house. A low, rather dirty window in the back wall, to the right of the center, looks out on a muddy river with the dispiriting houses of a small, grimy manufacturing city beyond. On the back wall are one or two old-fashioned engravings with sentimental subjects, and several highly-colored photographs of moving picture stars, each of them somewhat askew. A few pictures on the other walls are mostly cheap prints cut out of the rotogravure section of the Sunday paper. In the right-hand rear corner is an air-tight stove. The whole room has an appearance of hopeless untidiness and slovenliness. Close by the morris chair, at its right, is a phonograph on a stand. Outside it is a dull gray day. The afternoon light is already beginning to wane.

As the curtain rises, James Madden is sitting behind the table in the center of the room. He is a rather small man of thirty-five, his hair just beginning to turn gray at the temples. Spectacles, a peering manner, and the sallow pallor of his face all suggest the man of a sedentary mode of life. His clothes are faded and of a poor cut, but brushed and neat. There is something ineffectual but distinctly appealing about the little man. Madden is working on a pile of bills which are strewn over the top of the table. He picks up a bill, looks at it, and draws in his under lip with an expression of dismay. He writes down the amount of the bill on a piece of paper, below six or seven other rows of figures. He looks at another bill, and his expression becomes even more distracted.]

 

Madden [with exasperation]. Oh!

[He brings his fist down on the table with a limp whack, then turns and looks helplessly toward the door at the left. After a moment this door starts to open. Madden turns quickly to the front, trying to compose his face and busying himself with the bills. The door continues to open, and Mrs. Madden now issues from it lazily. She is thirty-two years old, and a good half head taller than her husband. Where he is thin and bony, she has already begun to lose her figure. Her yellow hair, the color of molasses kisses, is at once greasy and untidy, and seems ready to come to pieces. Her face is beginning to lose its contour—the uninspired face of a lower middle-class woman who has once been pretty in a rather cheap way. She is sloppily dressed in showy purple silk. Her skirt is short, and she wears brand new, high, shiny, mahogany-colored boots. She has powdered her nose.]

Mrs. Madden [uninterestedly, in a slow, flat, nasal voice]. How long y' been home? Yer pretty late f'r Sat'rdy.

Madden [still looking down and trying to control his feelings]. The head bookkeeper kept me, checkin' up the mill pay roll. I been here [consulting his watch] just seven minutes.

Mrs. Madden [yawning]. Thanks. Yer s' darn acc'rate, Jim. I didn' really wanta know.

[He looks at another bill and writes down the amount on the same piece of paper as before, keeping his head averted so that she may not see his face.]

Mrs. Madden. Jim. [With lazy self-satisfaction.] Look up an' glimpse yer wifey in 'r new boots. [She draws up her skirts sufficiently to show the boots.]

[He looks up unwillingly and makes a movement of exasperation.]

Madden. Oh, Florrie!

Mrs. Madden. W'at's a matter? Don'choo like 'em?

Madden. You didn't need another pair, Florrie.

Mrs. Madden [on the defensive]. Y' wouldn' have me look worse 'n one o' these furriners, would y'? There's Mrs. Montanio nex' door; she's jus' got a pair o' mahogany ones an' a pair o' lemon colored ones. An' her husban's on'y a "slasher."

Madden. Slashers get a big sight more pay than under bookkeepers these days, Florrie.

Mrs. Madden [persuasively]. Got 'em at a bargain, anyways. Jus' think, Jim. On'y twelve, an' they was sixteen. [Madden groans audibly. She changes the subject hastily.] W'at's a news down town?

Madden [seriously]. Florrie— [He hesitates and then seems to change his mind. He relaxes and speaks wearily, trying to affect an off-hand manner.] Nothin' much. [Struck by an unpleasant recollection.] Comin' home by Market Wharf I saw 'em pull a woman out o' the river.

Mrs. Madden [interested]. Y' don' say, Jim. Was she dead?

Madden [nervously]. I ... I don't know. I didn't stop. [He passes his hand across his face with a sudden gesture of horror.] You know, Florrie, I hate things like that!

Mrs. Madden. Well—y' poor boob! Not t' find out if she was dead!

[She gives an impatient shrug of the shoulders and passes behind him, going over to the back window and looking out aimlessly. Madden picks up another bill, regarding it malevolently. After a moment she turns carelessly toward him.]

Mrs. Madden. Jim. [He does not look up.] Say, Jim. I'm awful tired o' cookin'. There ain't a thing t' eat in th' house. Le's go down t' Horseman's f'r a lobster supper t'night, an' then take in a real show. Mrs. Montanio's tol' me—

Madden [interrupting very gravely]. Florrie. [He rises to his feet.]

Mrs. Madden [continuing without a pause]. There's an awful comical show down t' th' Hyperion. Regal'r scream, they say. Mrs. Montanio—

Madden [breaking in]. Florrie, there's somethin' I got to say to you.

Mrs. Madden [a little sulky]. I got lots I'd like t' say t' you. On'y I ain't sayin' it.

Madden [more quietly]. I wasn't goin' to say it now ... not 'till I finished goin' through these. [He makes a gesture toward the bills.] But when I saw your new shoes, an' specially when you spoke o' goin' out to-night....

Mrs. Madden. Well, why shouldn' I? I got t' have some fun.

Madden [keeping his self-control]. Look here, Florrie. D'you know what I was doin' when you came in?

Mrs. Madden. I didn't notice. Figgerin' somethin', I s'pose. Y' always are.

Madden. This mornin' at the office I got called to the phone. The Excelsior Shoe Comp'ny said you cashed a check there yesterday for fifteen dollars. Said you bought a pair o' shoes ... those, I suppose [He looks at her feet. She turns away sulkily.] ... an' had some money left over. Check came back to 'em this mornin' from the bank.—"No funds."

Mrs. Madden [with righteous but lazy indignation]. How'd I know there wasn't no money in th' bank?

Madden. If you kept your check book up to date you'd know.

Mrs. Madden. W'at right they got not t' cash my check?

Madden [still controlling himself]. The bank don't let you overdraw any more. [He glances back at the bills.] D'you know, I'm wonderin' why you didn't charge those boots.

Mrs. Madden. I ain't got any account at th' Excelsior.

Madden. I guess it's the only place in town you haven't got one.—You don't seem to remember what salary I get.

Mrs. Madden. Sure—I know. Ninety-five a month. Y' know mighty well I'm ashamed o' you f'r not gettin' more. Mrs. Montanio's husban'—

Madden [breaking in]. Hang the Montanios! [More quietly.] Don't you see what I'm gettin' at? Here it is the twelfth o' December; you know my pay don't come in till the end o' the month; an' here you go an' draw all our money out o' the bank ... an' more. [Turning toward the table.] An' look at these bills!

Mrs. Madden. James Madden, I like t' know w'at right you got t' talk t' me like that.

Madden [thoughtfully]. I've always argued it's the woman's job to run the house. [He walks around the table from front to rear, passing to its left, and looking down at the bills. With conviction.] It's no use!—I don't just see how we're goin' to get out of this mess; but I do know one thing. [Advancing toward her from the rear of the table.] After this I'm goin' to spend our money, even if I have to buy your dresses.

Mrs. Madden [with rising anger]. If you say I've been extrav'gant, James Madden, yer a plain liar!

Madden [biting his lip and stepping back a pace]. Easy, Florrie!—I know you don't mean that, or—

Mrs. Madden [interrupting viciously]. I do!

Madden [persuasively]. Look here, Florrie. We got to work this out together. There's no use gettin' mad. Prob'ly you aren't extravagant—really. Just considerin' the size o' my salary.

Mrs. Madden. A pig couldn' live decent on your salary!

Madden. Other folks seem to get on, even in these times. What would you do if we had kids?

Mrs. Madden. Thank the Lord we ain't got them t' think about.

Madden [shocked]. Florence!

Mrs. Madden. Well, I guess anybody'd be glad not t' have kids with you f'r a husban'. Y' don't earn enough money t' keep a cat—let alone kids! An' jus' t' think they'd be like you!

Madden [more surprised than angry]. Florence—you're talking like a street woman.

Mrs. Madden. Oh, I am, am I? Well, I guess you treat me like a street woman. Y' don' deserve t' have a wife.

Madden. Well, I don't guess I do. Not one like you!

Mrs. Madden. That's right! That's right! You don' know how t' treat a lady.

Madden [controlling himself]. Look here, Florrie. Don't let's get all het up over this.

Mrs. Madden. Who's gettin' het up? [Bursting past him toward the door at the left.] I wish t' God you was a gen'leman!

Madden. Florrie—don't!

Mrs. Madden [turning on him from the other side of the table]. W'y don't y' go out an' dig in th' ditch? Y'd earn a damn sight more money th'n—

Madden [with angry impatience]. You know I'm not strong enough.

Mrs. Madden. Bony little shrimp! Not even pep enough t' have kids!

Madden [beside himself]. Florence! [Going toward her.] I'm goin' to tell you some things I never thought I would. You're just a plain, common, selfish, vulgar woman! You don't care one penny for anybody except yourself. You an' your clothes an' your movies an' your sodas an' your candy! [Mrs. Madden is glowering at him across the table. She is beginning to weep with rage.—Two or three times she opens her mouth as if to speak, but each time he cuts her short.] Look at the way you been leavin' this house lately. [He makes an inclusive gesture toward the room.] The four years I've lived with you would drive a saint to Hell! [Mrs. Madden marches furiously by him and over to her hat and coat, which are hanging from pegs at the right, just in front of the stove.] I wish I'd never seen you!

Mrs. Madden [getting her coat and hat]. D' y' think I'm goin' t' stay in this house t' be talked to like that? [Putting on her hat viciously.] D' y' think I'm goin' t' stand that kind of a thing? [Putting on her coat.—Sobbing angrily.] I guess ... you'll be ... pretty sorry when I've ... gone. [Coming closer to him on her way to the outside door.] If ... if I did somethin' ... if somethin' ... happened t' me ... I guess you ... you wouldn't never ... f'give yerself! [She is at the door.]

Madden. I don't worry about you. [She turns on him at the door.] You wouldn't do anything like that. You're too yellow!

Mrs. Madden [at the door. Sobbing, in a fury]. You'll ... see!

[With one last glare at him, she turns, opens the door and goes outside, slamming the door behind her. Madden stares after her, almost beside himself. He takes several steps across the room, then crosses and recrosses it, trying to regain control of himself. Little by little his anger fades; the energy goes out of his pacing, and finally he approaches the table and sits down in his old place with a hopeless droop of the shoulders. He takes up another bill and looks at its amount helplessly, finally writing it down on the same piece of paper as before. He starts to add up the total of the bills he has already set down on the piece of paper. His hand moves mechanically. Suddenly a shadow crosses his face, as an idea begins to form itself in his mind. He looks straight ahead, his eyes opening wide with horror. With a sudden movement he springs up from the table and goes quickly to the window, where he looks out anxiously at the river. He turns back into the room, and passes his hand across his face with the same gesture of horror he used earlier in speaking to Mrs. Madden of the woman who had fallen into the river.]

Madden. Ugh!

[He returns to the table, his face dark with the fear that has seized him. At the table, he stands a moment, thinking. Once again he passes his hand across his forehead with the same gesture of horrified fear. He drops into the chair behind the table, still thoughtful. After a moment his face clears, and he shakes his head with an expression of disbelief. He bends again over the bills, and once more takes up his work of going over them. From outside comes the faint sound of some one whistling "Tell Me." Gradually the whistle grows louder and louder, as if the whistler were coming nearer up the street. There is a sharp rap at the door. Madden starts violently, and, jumping up, he goes quickly to the door. He opens it eagerly and slumps with obvious disappointment as Edgar Mix enters breezily. Mix is about twenty-five; a loosely put together, thin faced youth in a new suit of readymade clothes which are of too blatant a pattern and much too extreme a cut to be in really good taste. He is whistling the refrain of "Tell Me."]

Mix [as he passes]. H'llo, James. [Without stopping for an answer, he crosses the room and starts to remove his hat and coat.] Where's the sister?

Madden [he has closed the door. Dully.] She's gone out.

[As if struck by an idea, Madden reopens the door and goes outside. He can be seen, looking first to the left, then to the right, and finally down at the river before him. Mix finishes taking off his outer garments, which he hangs with a flourish on pegs near the stove. He is still whistling the same refrain.]

Mix. W'at's a matter with you? Tryin' t' freeze me out? [His voice has the same flat quality as his sister's, but it is full of energy.]

[Madden does not appear to hear him. He now comes back into the house, shutting the door behind him. His face is anxious, a fact he tries to hide.]

Madden. Did you want to see Florence? [Mix pauses in his whistling.]

Mix. Sure. Nothin' important, though. Just about a little party she said you an' she was goin' t' take me on t'night. [He commences whistling cheerily the opening bars of his refrain.]

Madden [dully]. Sorry. I don't know anythin' about it.

[Mix stops whistling suddenly and looks down with dismay. Then, with his hands in his pockets, he slowly whistles the four descending notes at the end of the third bar and the beginning of the fourth. He stops and shakes his head, then slowly whistles a few more bars of the refrain, starting where he just left off, and letting himself drop into the morris chair on the descending note in the fifth bar. After another brief silence he finishes the refrain, but with a sudden return of the same quick, light mood in which he entered. The refrain over, he begins again at the beginning and whistles two or three more bars. Madden has meanwhile sat down at the table and is again going over the bills.]

Mix. Jim—ever get a piece runnin' in yer head so y' can't get it out? [Madden is looking vacantly down at the bills.] I s'pose I been w'istlin' that tune steady f'r three whole weeks. [He whistles three or four more bars of the same refrain.] Like it? [Madden does not appear to have heard him.] P'raps Florrie's got th' record f'r that on th' phornograph. Has she, Jim? It ain't been out long.

Madden [impatiently]. Oh, I don't know, Ed.

Mix [after whistling very softly a bar or two more]. I see some girl fell in the river.

Madden [startled]. What?

Mix. Yep. They was tryin' t' make her come to. No use. She was a goner all right.

Madden [rising from his chair. Trying to control himself.] Where was this?

Mix. Oh, not s' far below here. Saw her m'self, I did.

Madden [with increasing fear. Taking a step or two toward Mix.] Did you see her face?

Mix. Nope. Somethin' 'd struck her face. Y'd hardly know she was a woman, 'cept f'r her clothes.

Madden [wildly. Coming closer]. How long ago?

Mix. W'at y' gettin' s' het up about? [Madden is almost frantic.] Oh ... 'bout 'n hour.

[Madden relaxes suddenly. The reaction is almost too much for him. He slowly goes back to the table.]

Madden [nervously]. Oh ... down by Market Wharf?

Mix. Sure. Did y' see her? [Madden sits down heavily.]

Madden. Uhuh.

[For a second or two there is silence. Madden rearranges the bills in front of him. Mix lolls in the armchair, whistling very softly.]

Madden. Ed.

Mix. Uhuh.

Madden. Would you call Florrie a ... a ... well one o' them high-strung girls?

Mix. Gosh, no!

Madden. You don't think she'd be the sort to fly off the handle an' do ... well, somethin' desp'rate?

Mix. Come off. You know's well's I do, Florrie's nothin' but a big jelly fish.

Madden. Ed—I don't want you to talk that way about Florrie. You don't 'preciate her.

Mix. Well, w'at's bitin' you? W'at y' askin' all these questions f'r, anyways?

Madden [dully]. Oh, nothin'.

[Madden looks down uneasily at the bills, but without giving them any real attention. Mix yawns and lazily shifts his position in the armchair.]

Madden. Ed—I do want to ask you somethin'.

Mix [indifferently]. Shoot.

Madden. I want you to tell the truth about this, Ed. Even if you think it will hurt my feelings. It won't.

Mix. Spit it out.

Madden. Just what sort of a chap do you think I am?

Mix [considering]. Huh! That's easy. D' y' really wanta know w'at I think?

Madden [gravely]. I cert'nly do.

Mix. Well—if you really wanta know, I think yer a damn good kid [Madden looks suddenly grateful] ... but a bit weak on th' pep.

Madden [a trifle dubiously]. Thanks. [Thoughtfully.] You don't think I'm unfair?

Mix. Unfair? Why, no. How d' y' mean?

Madden. Well ... here in the house, f'r instance.

Mix. Lord, no, Jim! Yer s' easy goin' it'd be a holy shame f'r any one t' slip anythin' over on y'. [After a short pause. Suspiciously.] W'at y' askin' all these questions f'r, anyways?

Madden. Oh—nothin'.

Mix [struck with an idea.—Starting up from his chair]. I know w'at's bitin' you. You an' Florrie's had a row. [He walks up to Madden and taps his arm familiarly with the back of his hand.] Come on. Own up! [He passes around behind Madden until he stands behind the chair at the left of the table.]

Madden. Well ... we did have a ... a sort of a ... disagreement.

Mix. I bet y' did. Look here, Jim. W'at's a use o' takin' it s' hard?

Madden [gravely]. The trouble is——[He breaks off] I guess I was mostly in the wrong.

Mix [sitting down vehemently]. Tell that to a poodle! I know you an' I know Florrie. I guess I know who'd be in the wrong, all right. She was bad enough w'en y' firs' got sweet on 'r—jus' a lazy fool, ev'n if she did have a pretty face. Gee, how you did fall f'r her face! Moonin' round an' sayin' how wonderful she was! [He chuckles.] An' Florrie twenty-eight years old ... an' jus' waitin' t' fall into yer arms.

Madden. Ed—don't say things like that, even in fun.

Mix. Hell! It's the truth.... But lately Florrie's jus' plain slumped. She's nothin' now but a selfish, lazy pig.

Madden [angrily]. I won't have you talk that way about Florrie. She's made me a good wife ... on the whole. She don't go trapesin' off like some o' your fly by nights. She's affection'te ... an' good tempered ... an'——[Mix is grinning incredulously.]

Mix. Rats! Yer havin' a damn hard time t' say anythin' real nice about 'r. I wouldn' stretch th' truth s' far 's that [snapping his fingers.] f'r her, ev'n if she is m' sister.

Madden [vehemently]. Ed—if you can't talk decently about a nice girl like Florrie, I guess you better get out.

Mix [slowly rising from his chair]. Well I'll be damned! All right, I will go.... Yer crazy, Jim!

Madden [rising and putting a restraining arm on Mix's shoulder. Nervously]. Don't mind me, Ed. I didn't really mean what I said. I'm all upset.

Mix. Sh'd think y' were. [After a slight hesitation, he sits down again.] W'at y' quarrelin' 'bout? Money?

Madden [sitting down again]. Uhuh.

Mix. Huh! Thought as much.... As I was sayin', I know Florrie.

Madden. It really wasn't her fault.

Mix [slowly and emphatically]. Well, you are sappy. Ever'body knows Florrie spends more money th'n you an' all my family put t'gether.

Madden. You wouldn't have me deny her ev'rythin'?... She's got to have some fun.

Mix. But, Lord, man, y' don't earn th' income of a John D. Rockefeller.

Madden [somberly]. I know.... I ought to do much better. But that isn't her fault. Besides, she's learned her lesson.

Mix. Well, I'll be damned! T' hear you talk this way. O' course, y' kep' yer mouth pretty well shut. But we all figgered you was havin' th' devil's own time with Florrie!

Madden [rising from his seat. With deep feeling]. Ed——[He turns and goes over to the window, looks out and then faces around]. I never knew ... till just now ... how fond I was of her.

[Mix regards him with a puzzled expression. Madden begins to walk up and down the floor, at first slowly and thoughtfully, then more and more nervously. The light outside begins to fade.]

Mix [after a pause. Looking up at Madden]. Jim. Y' never c'n tell w'at these women 're goin' t' do—can yer?

Madden [stopping abruptly. Intensely]. I s'pose not, Ed. [He goes on a few steps and then stops again.] Even ... even when they're not ... high strung.

[Madden continues his nervous pacing of the floor. Mix watches him with increasing annoyance.]

Madden [suddenly]. Was that a footstep?

[Mix shakes his head. Madden goes quickly to the window and looks out. From there he rushes to the door and peers out, first to one side and then to the other. He shuts the door, and with a hopeless look on his face comes back into the room. Outside the light is steadily fading.]

Mix [slowly rising from his chair, a look of still greater annoyance on his face]. I guess Florrie ain't comin' f'r some time. I'll be goin'. [He goes over toward his coat and hat.]

Madden [nervously]. Why don't you drop into Smith's soda parlor? That's where she always is, this time o' the afternoon.

Mix. She ain't there, I don't guess.... I jus' come from there m'self.

Madden [intensely]. You did?

Mix. Sure.

Madden [wildly]. Ed—I can't stand this waitin' f'r her any more. [He goes quickly and gets his hat and coat from a peg near the stove.] I'm goin' out.

[Madden goes swiftly across the room to the door at the back and goes out. He is seen to pass outside in front of the back window. Mix takes a few involuntary steps after him toward the door, then stops and gives a low whistle of astonishment. After a moment he turns and starts back toward his hat and coat.]

Mix [half aloud]. Poor ol' Jim.

[He gets his hat and coat, and puts them on. In the course of a few seconds the reflective look has gone from his face; he begins to whistle softly the same refrain as before. From his pocket he produces a cigarette, which he places in his mouth. He is preparing to light it when a thought strikes him. He goes quickly over to the phonograph and, bending down, takes a record and examines it. It has become so dark that he is unable to read the title; so he lights the neighboring gas jet. He then examines two or three records in quick succession, finally producing one which causes a smile to spread over his face.]

Mix. Ah!

[He places his find on the phonograph, winds the machine, and starts his record playing. The tune is the same one he has been whistling the whole afternoon. With an expression of great pleasure he hears the record start, at the same time producing a huge nickel watch from his pocket and glancing at it casually. As he sees the time, his whole expression changes.]

Mix [throwing his cigarette impatiently on the floor]. Hell!

[He stops the phonograph and tilts back the playing arm. He buttons up his overcoat, turns up his collar and adjusts his hat. Then, his whistle suddenly breaking out again loudly into his favorite refrain, he marches quickly across the room to the door at the back, and goes out. He is seen to pass by the window, and his whistling is heard to die away gradually down the street.

Stillness has hardly fallen when the door at the back opens, and Mrs. Madden enters. She appears a trifle chilly, but seems otherwise to have recovered her composure. Closing the door behind her, she comes forward lazily to the table. She looks down at the piles of bills before her with a perfectly vacant stare, and taking from her pocket a pound box of candy she tosses it down on the papers. She opens the cover and extracts a large chocolate cream, which she eats indolently and with evident pleasure. Next, she removes her hat and coat, throwing them carelessly on the table beside the candy. She walks, with a lazy, flat-footed step, over to the gas jet at the right, and turns up the gas sufficiently for reading. Looking down, she notices the record left on the phonograph.]

Mrs. Madden [with slow pleasure]. Hm!

[Without bothering to find out whether or not the phonograph is wound up, she starts it going and places the playing arm with apparent carelessness so that the record begins playing about a third of the way through. She listens to the music for three or four seconds with an expression of indolent appreciation, then she crosses the floor to the door at the left, always moving with the same flat-footed walk. Opening the door, she peers through it.]

Mrs. Madden [calling, her flat voice rising above the sound of the phonograph]. Oh Ji—im!

[She listens a moment for an answer; but as there is none, she closes the door and turns around. Once again the music catches and holds her attention. She listens for an instant and then goes back to the table, making a heavy attempt at a dance step or two. From the pocket of her overcoat she extracts a new cheap novel, whose content is well advertised by a lurid colored cover. This she takes over to the morris chair. Another thought strikes her; she tosses the novel into the chair and goes back to the table, where she gets five or six chocolate creams from the candy box, depositing them in a row on the right arm of the morris chair. Then she takes up her book and sits down. For a moment she tries to read, but all is not comfortable yet. She changes her position two or three times in the chair. At last she rises, heaving a disgusted sigh. Dropping her book into the chair she walks with flat, heavy steps across the room and out of the door at the left, leaving it open. She returns almost instantly, dragging two greasy looking sofa pillows after her. She kicks the door to, and crosses to the morris chair. Here she places one of the pillows on the ground for her feet, the other at the back of the chair. Picking up her book once more, she settles back into the chair with an expression of perfect animal contentment. She puts another chocolate cream in her mouth, and finds her place in the book. Then the music again engages her attention; she leans back with a foolish smile on her face as she listens. Constantly chewing the piece of candy, she hums a bar or two of the tune which is still being played by the phonograph. Then she settles down to her reading, eating candy as she feels inclined. The phonograph reaches the end of the record and makes that annoying clicking noise which shows it should be shut off. For two or three seconds Mrs. Madden pays no attention to it. Finally she raises herself in the chair, and without getting up she reaches over and switches off the phonograph, then settles back again to her reading.

Some one goes swiftly by the window outside. After a moment the door at the back opens, and Madden stands in the doorway.]

Madden [in the doorway, catching sight of Mrs. Madden. With pathetic eagerness]. Florrie! [He closes the door.]

Mrs. Madden [without looking up. In lazy, matter of fact tones]. 'Lo, Jim.

Madden [coming forward toward his wife]. Are you really safe, Florrie?

[She looks up with a glance of feeble annoyance.]

Mrs. Madden. Sure. I'm all right. [She looks down again.]

Madden [coming still closer]. Oh, I'm so thankful!... I ... I been lookin' for you, Florrie.—Where you been?

Mrs. Madden [without looking up]. Wat d' y' say?

Madden. Where you been, Florrie? [With even greater anxiety.] You didn't go down by the river?

Mrs. Madden [looking up]. Lord no! W'atev'r made y' think that? [She takes up a chocolate cream and bites off half of it.] I jus' took Mrs. Montanio over t' Brailey's new place f'r a couple o' ice cream sodas. [She looks down again.]

Madden [softly]. Oh. [A shadow passes over his face and vanishes.] Florrie. [He sits down on the left arm of the morris chair and puts his arm affectionately about her shoulders.] I didn't know what I was sayin'.

Mrs. Madden [puzzled. Without looking up]. W'at y' talkin' 'bout?

Madden [pathetically]. I guess I ought not to ask you to forgive me.

Mrs. Madden [looking up]. F'give y'? [Remembering.] Oh, yes—y' did call me some darn hard names.

Madden. I know. [Slowly. Looking into her face.] D' you think you could forgive me?

Mrs. Madden [lazily]. Sure. I guess so. Glad t' see y' got over yer pet.

[He smiles a pathetic, eager smile, and takes her left hand, which is lying in her lap. With an impatient movement, she stretches her left arm out and back, carrying his left hand with it and forcing him off the arm of the chair.]

Mrs. Madden. Say, Jim—look w'at's on th' table.

[Madden sighs softly and takes a few steps toward the table. He sees the candy box; a darker shadow appears on his face for a second or two, and is gone.]

Mrs. Madden. Have a chocklick, Jim.

[She herself picks one up from the arm of the chair; then she looks down again at her book, eating the candy as she reads.]

Madden [unheeding.—Taking a step or two back toward her from the table. With deep feeling]. Florrie. I got somethin' I want to tell you. [She does not look up. He takes another step toward her.] After you'd gone out, I kept thinkin' ... thinkin' what mighta happened to you.

Mrs. Madden [with a short chuckle]. Y' poor boob!

Madden. Florrie—look at me. [She looks up with an expression of lazy annoyance.] Out there—[He gestures toward the door] the river looked so cold an' black—An' I couldn't find you— ... I knew all of a sudden I ... I hadn't really meant what I said to you.

Mrs. Madden [impatiently]. That's all right. [She looks down again at her book.]

Madden [with increasing emotion. Going to the arm chair and looking down at her tenderly from behind it]. I kept thinkin' ... thinkin' how pretty an' how ... how good natured you are. [With some embarrassment.] I thought how we used to walk ... down by the river. Four years ago ... you know—just before we was married.

Mrs. Madden [with growing annoyance]. Don' choo want 'nuther choclick, Jim?

Madden [unheeding]. Florrie—d'you remember that time ... the first time you let me hold your hand?

Mrs. Madden [looking up impatiently]. W'at's bitin' you? Don't y' see I'm readin'? [He steps back and to the left a pace or two. She looks down again.]

Madden [humbly]. Scuse me, Florrie. I just wanted to tell you. [With great earnestness.] You know, I'd forgotten.... I mean I didn't realize ... till just now—[Awkwardly.] how fond ... how much I ... I love you.

Mrs. Madden [thickly, through a chocolate cream which she is eating. Without looking up.] Tha's ... nice.

[He looks at her pathetically, waiting, hoping that she will look up. His face is intense with longing. After a short interval he gives it up. He turns sadly and goes toward the door at the left, passing in back of the table.]

Mrs. Madden [taking another chocolate and looking after him. He has almost reached the door]. Jim. [He stops and turns eagerly.] You ain't such a bad ol' boy. [His face is suddenly radiant. He takes several steps back toward her, bringing him behind the table. She has looked down at her book again. Coaxingly.] Goin' t' take me t' Horseman's t'night f'r lobster?

[All the eagerness, the radiance, vanishes from his face.—He sits down heavily in the chair behind the table. He looks at her, uncomprehending, hurt, disillusionized.]

Mrs. Madden [without looking up]. An' say—[She puts another chocolate in her mouth. Speaking through it thickly.] I'm jus' dyin' t' see a real ... comical ... show.

[Madden's head droops. He looks at his wife dumbly, then back at the table. His left hand goes out toward the bills; then he drops both elbows limply on the table, resting his weight on them. Mrs. Madden does not look up, but continues to read and munch a chocolate cream. Madden stares in front of him miserably, hopelessly as

 

The Curtain Falls.]