The Pot Boiler is published for the first time. The editors are indebted to Miss Gerstenberg for permission to include it in this volume. The professional and amateur stage rights on this play are strictly reserved by the author. Applications from amateurs to produce the play should be addressed to Norman Lee Swartout, 24 Blackburn Road, Summit, N. J. Professionals should address Miss Alice Gerstenberg, 539 Deming Place, Chicago, Ill.
THE POT BOILER
By Alice Gerstenberg
[Scene: A stage only half set for a morning rehearsal and dimly lighted. Sud, a successful playwright, enters in a hurry carrying a leather bag of manuscripts.]
Stage Hand. Good morning, Mr. Sud.
Sud. Good morning, Gus. Just set two doors; that'll be all I'll need this morning. We're rehearsing for lines. [Steps down stage and calls front.] Joe, I'm expecting a young man, it's all right, let him in.
Wouldby [from auditorium back]. I'm here now, Mr. Sud.
Sud. Come up, Mr. Wouldby. Some more border lights, please.
Wouldby. It's very good of you to let me in.
Sud. I was fond of your father. I am glad to see his son.
Wouldby. I have written a play, too.
Sud. Too bad, too bad, you make the price of paper go up.
Wouldby. It must be wonderful to be the master playwright of our day. Everybody knows Mr. Thomas Pinikles Sud.
Sud [setting stage]. Yes, it is a privilege to be a friend of mine!
Wouldby [pursuing Sud]. Will you read my manuscript, sir?
Sud. Never roll a manuscript. I see very well you don't even know the first principles.
Wouldby. How can I learn the first principles? No one will tell me.
Sud. Wait, I will do a great thing for you, let you stay and see a dress rehearsal of my latest play, "The Pot Boiler." In it I have used all dramatic principles.
Wouldby. What are they?
Sud. Well, for instance, this pencil is the woman in the case.
Sud. This inkwell is the villain, although that's really too dark for him. Deep-eyed villains are out of fashion.
Sud. The heroine is Miss Ivory paper cutter.
Sud. Mr. Ruler is the hero.
[Other characters enter from stage door.]
Sud. I haven't finished writing it, but we're going through it this morning as far as I have written, then I shall see how to go on. Here are the players now. Line up, please, and let me see your costumes. [He studies them.] Now to work—[Rubbing his hands.] to work—clear the stage!
[Mrs. Pencil and Ruler go out left; Mr. and Miss Ivory and Inkwell go out right and close the door.]
Sud. Mr. Wouldby, if you sit down here with me, we'll be out of the way. [Sud and Wouldby sit on two stools way down right.] You must imagine that this room is the library in Mr. Ivory's house. [Sud claps his hands and calls.] Ready.
[There is a pause, then the door up left opens and Mrs. Pencil comes in; her pantomime is as Sud explains it to Wouldby.]
Sud [in stage whisper to Wouldby]. The adventuress—she comes in—she has been cut—she is worried—that nervous twitching of lips and narrowing of eyes are always full of suspense—she takes off her gloves, her hat—that's good business. A door opens—she starts—by starting she shows you she is guilty of something—
Miss Ivory [without hat or gloves enters from right]. Oh, there you are, Mrs. Pencil.
Mrs. Pencil. Yes, I'm back.
Miss Ivory. I thought I should have to drink my tea without you.
[They sit down to tea—Miss Ivory back of table center. Mrs. Pencil left of table.]
Sud [in stage whisper to Wouldby]. That tells the audience what time of the day it is; besides, drinking afternoon tea shows Miss Ivory is in society.
Mrs. Pencil. Isn't your father going to join us?
Sud [aside]. That's merely to show the girl has a father.
Miss Ivory. No, he is talking business with Mr. Inkwell.
Mrs. Pencil [starting]. Inkwell!
Miss Ivory. Yes, do you know him?
Mrs. Pencil [evasively]. I? Oh—no.
Miss Ivory. You've heard of him?
Mrs. Pencil. Yes—of course——
Sud [aside]. Do you catch it? Do you see how her nervousness and her few words at once suggest that there is a link between Mrs. Pencil and Inkwell? That's where I show my technique.
Wouldby [scratching his head]. Technique! How can I learn it?
Sud. It is the secret that every playwright locks in his breast. Keep the young ones out! Mum is the word!
Miss Ivory. I am so sorry father has all this trouble with the brick-layers. They shouldn't have gone on a strike—just now—when you are visiting us.
Sud [to Wouldby]. That tells that Mrs. Pencil is a guest in Miss Ivory's house.
Miss Ivory. When you were here last year my mother——
Sud [aside]. The girl hesitates—they both look sorrowful; we had to cut down the cast, so I killed off her mother.
Mrs. Pencil [sadly, with foreign accent]. Ah, my dear—we were such close friends—since my arrival in this country——
Sud [aside]. You see, I had to make her a foreigner. A villainess always talks with a foreign accent.
Mrs. Pencil. I haven't had much time to read particulars about the strike. Does your father still refuse to arbitrate?
Miss Ivory [haughtily]. What right have brick-layers to make rules for my father? He would show his weakness if he gave in—I have faith that what he does is right.
Sud [to Wouldby]. The innocent heroine, so cool and pure and white.
[The right door opens and Inkwell enters—he starts as he sees Mrs. Pencil; there is a straight look of recognition between them which Miss Ivory does not see.]
Sud [aside]. That's a dramatic scene. Doesn't it thrill your spine?
Miss Ivory. Mrs. Pencil, may I introduce Mr. Inkwell—[Inkwell and Mrs. Pencil bow slightly.] Will you have a dish of tea?
Sud. Cup, cup of tea.
Miss Ivory. Dish; dish of tea, or I quit. [Pause.] Which is it?
Sud. Oh, very well, dish if you like.
[Sud's manner indicates he gives in simply to let the rehearsal progress, but that he will settle with Miss Ivory later.]
Miss Ivory. Please tell me that you have ordered the strikers to come to father's terms?
Mr. Inkwell [at right of table]. He is looking through his safe for more papers so he asked me to wait in here.
Sud. That's an explanation why he came in.
Miss Ivory [offering cup]. How many lumps?
Sud [aside]. That question of the number of lumps is very important; it gives a natural air to the scene.
Miss Ivory. I am going to the dining-room to get some arrack for your tea.
Mr. Inkwell [nervously]. Oh, please don't trouble——
Miss Ivory. No trouble at all.
Sud. When you want to get a character out, you've got to get 'em out.
Mr. Inkwell [at right of table, to Mrs. Pencil]. You here!
Mrs. Pencil [at left of table]. Sch! I had to come! I couldn't live without you any longer——
Inkwell. But in this house?
Mrs. Pencil. I was her mother's friend.
Inkwell. You are indiscreet——
Mrs. Pencil. I was desperate for you! You kept putting me off—when I read about this strike I had to come.
Sud. Mrs. Pencil is the dreadful woman! A play can't exist without her——
Wouldby. You mean she was his——
Sud [seriously]. Oh, yes—the more fuss we make about her the better.
Mrs. Pencil. Oh! Clem! You aren't glad to see me! Oh! that I have lived for this!!!
[She tears around the stage waving her hands in grief—making faces of agony. Sud rises in astonishment and follows her left.]
Sud [shrieks in anger]. Idiot! Can't you talk! Do you think I write lines to be cut? How dare you cut my lines!!!
Mrs. Pencil. I've done just what it says. [She takes her part from table, reads from it and shows it to him.] "Mrs. Pencil shows extreme despair and passionately——"
Sud. That's not the play! That's the moving picture version!!! Come here.
[He fumbles with his papers. Takes blue pencil to her part, changes his mind and uses red pencil—and puts them back of different ears.]
Wouldby. Oh! Have you the same play ready for the movies?
Sud. I write in columns—alongside of each other. Dramatic version, moving picture, novelization—for magazines—newspapers and books.
Wouldby. All at once!
Wouldby. What are all the pins for?
Sud. When I cut out a line one place—I keep it until I find a place somewhere else to patch it in.
[Hands new lines to Mrs. Pencil, who is back of table center.]
Wouldby. A great playwright has to be economical with his great ideas!
Sud. Yes, if he wants a yacht.
Mrs. Pencil [studying her book]. Now I see, now I see—Mr. Sud. Shall I go on?
Sud. Yes, go on!
[Sud comes down right to Wouldby.]
Mrs. Pencil. Oh! Clem—I was so frightened when I heard about the strikers. Even if you are their leader now, they might turn and murder you.
[Mrs. Pencil and Inkwell play center, front of table.]
Inkwell. Nonsense, I control the strikers, they come to me for orders. I'll stop this strike as soon as old Ivory gives me my price.
Mrs. Pencil. What do the brick-layers want?
Inkwell. They want shorter hours, more pay, better light—better air——
[Inkwell stops and looks at Sud.]
Sud. Go on—go on—don't glare at me!
Inkwell. Pardon me, Mr. Sud—but you have me say the brick-layers want better air. It doesn't sound right. You see brick-layers work out of doors and the air there is—I beg your pardon—it's in no way of criticism, sir——
Sud. Come here. [He cuts the line, using wrong colored pencil first.] Leave out "light and air." That's a confusion from bad typing in the serial version. Go on, Mr. Inkwell.
Inkwell [sits right of table and Mrs. Pencil left]. See here, Kate, you keep out of this business—I'm not going to be spied on by any woman.
Mrs. Pencil [in whisper]. Who is spying on you?
Inkwell [in whisper]. You!!
Mrs. Pencil. I?
Sud [smacks his lips]. Now we are coming to a big scene! There is nothing so effective as the repetition of the same words brought up to a climax. Begin again, Mrs. Pencil. "Who is spying on you?"
Mrs. Pencil. Who is spying on you?
Mrs. Pencil. I?
Mrs. Pencil. I?
Mrs. Pencil. I?
Sud [tearing his hair—going to them]. Parrots! Nothing but parrots! Increase the stress—build up the scene—build—build!
Inkwell. How can we build when you don't give us any lines?
Sud. What do you call yourselves actors for if you can't supply acting when the playwright uses dashes!—This is the biggest scene in the play. [Crosses to lower left.] The very fact that I don't give you a lot of literary lines puts me in the class of the most forceful dramatists of the day! My plays are not wishy-washy lines! They are full of action—red-blood—of flesh and blood! Now you do your part—bing-bang stuff!—shake them in their chairs out there—make shivers run up their spines! Make 'em feel you! Compel their applause! Now go to it! Go to it!!!
[Sud sets the tempo, repeating their words.]
Mrs. Pencil. I?
Mrs. Pencil. I?
Sud [shouts]. Get it over! Get it over!
Mrs. Pencil. I?
Sud [shouts]. Get it over! Mr. Wouldby, is it getting over?
Wouldby [looks at footlights]. I don't see anything get over.
Sud. He doesn't see it! You hear? He doesn't see it! Begin again! And please, please, please—get it over—over!!
[He motions violently with his arms during following scene as if to help them raise the vitality of the scene. Sud sets tempo again.]
Mrs. Pencil. Who is spying on you?
Mrs. Pencil. I?
Mrs. Pencil. I??
Mrs. Pencil. I???
Mrs. Pencil. I??????
Inkwell [fiercely]. You!!!!!!!
Mrs. Pencil. I???????
Inkwell. What do you call it then, coming here after me like this?
Mrs. Pencil. What do you mean—like this?
Sud [shrieks—beside himself]. Like what?
Mrs. Pencil. Like this?
Sud. Accent it—stress it—increase it! Like what?
Mrs. Pencil. Like this!
Sud. Like what?
Mrs. Pencil. Like this!
Sud [rushes around circuit of stage and ends near Wouldby]. The best scene in the play—ruined—ruined! I'm noted for my strong, laconic scenes and you make me suffer like this. Perfectly hopeless—I say increase—you decrease; nothing but animal sounds! Nothing but a machine! Oh! What's the use! Go on, go on—now you see, Mr. Wouldby, how actors can make plays fail—
Mrs. Pencil. If you'd write us a decent play once we might—
Sud. No back-talk, madam! I haven't engaged you yet. If you can't play it any better, I'll let you out! Show us what you can do with the rest of the scene! By Heaven—if you can't pound his chest right the box office will lose money on you!
Wouldby [his eyes popping]. Oh! Must she pound him?
Sud. Seeing a woman pounding a man's chest and hearing her scream is worth two dollars to anybody. Go on, Mrs. Pencil.
Mrs. Pencil. You are keeping something from me? You have deceived me! You dog! Tell me! Tell me! Who is she? Where is she? You are keeping something from me!
[She pounds Inkwell in a rage.]
Wouldby [in innocent wonderment]. Is she trying to yank it out of his chest?
Sud. Pound! Pound! Get it over! [Sud rushes back between Mrs. Pencil and Inkwell, pushes her down left, drags Inkwell to center, grasps his coat lapel, shakes him violently and shouts her lines: "You are keeping something from me." and pushes Inkwell to right. Sud turns quickly to left and shows her his manuscript.] I wrote "applause" here. You've got to get applause here—so pound!
Inkwell. Would you mind skipping the scene to-day? I'll wear a foot-ball suit to-morrow.
Sud [in scorn]. Just like an actor to have a personal prejudice against a part.
Inkwell. I'm not "suited" to it yet—but with the proper costume—
Sud [in scorn]. You must not rely on costume! Think of your art!
Wouldby. But why must she pound him so hard?
Sud [down left]. Because he is the villain and the audience likes to see him get it.
Mrs. Pencil [at right and Inkwell to her left]. Who is she? You are keeping something from me!
Wouldby. What has he done to make him the villain?
Sud. I didn't want an explanation here, so I had to interrupt them—sch—here comes Miss Ivory.
[Miss Ivory enters.]
Sud. Such interruptions reek with dramatic intensity.
Miss Ivory. Here is the arrack for you, Mr. Inkwell—
Inkwell [accepting it]. Thank you.
Mrs. Pencil [nervously]. I think I'll take my hat to my room—
[Inkwell gives her her hat. She goes out.]
Sud [aside]. Not a bad excuse, the hat! Eh? I had to get her out.
Wouldby. Very natural—yes—indeed—
Miss Ivory [seated at right of table. Inkwell stands back of table—center]. Well, Mr. Inkwell, I hope we may yet succeed in claiming you as a friend—instead of coddling you as an enemy.
Inkwell. If you treat all your enemies so well—what must you do for your friends?
Miss Ivory. We abuse those we love.
Sud [nudging Wouldby—aside]. Quite epigrammatic, eh?
Inkwell. Even abuse at such fair hands could only please.
Sud [aside]. Did you catch the subtlety of that line?
Miss Ivory [nervously]. Wi—wi—will you have some more tea?
Inkwell [coming left of table—to be opposite her—catching her hand.] I don't want tea—I want you! I love you!
Sud. Wait a moment! That's too abrupt! I've some more lines here somewhere. [Looks through slips pinned in manuscript.] I cut some out of the beginning of the act. When the first curtain went up and the maid was discovered dusting the room I had the Irish butler make love to her. [To Wouldby.] [Handing Inkwell a paragraph.] There, Inkwell, are the love lines I was looking for. Proceed, please.
Miss Ivory. Shall I go back?
Inkwell. To tea.
Miss Ivory. Wi—will—will you have some m—more—t—tea?
Inkwell [catching her hand and bringing her forward, he gives speech with Irish accent]. I don't want tea—I want you! I love you! Oh! My darlint, it is a terrible sensation I'ave for you, I'ave—'and me your little 'and in moine, for the loikes of you I never—[As all look dazed and Inkwell has trouble twisting his tongue.] I beg pardon, Mr. Sud, but this is a butler making love—I am playing the part of a gentleman—
Sud [has dropped from his stool and retired in tears and rage up right]. Haven't you any brains of your own? If a musician can transpose music by sight, can't you do the same to dialogue?
Inkwell. But a gentleman doesn't make love like a—
Sud [goes up stage again—ends at his stool by Wouldby]. He means the same—now go on—I can't stand these arguments. They will give me apoplexy!
Miss Ivory. Oh! Come on, Robert, say anything.
[They sit at table again.]
Miss Ivory. Wi—wi—will you have some more t—tea?
Inkwell. I don't want tea! I want you! I love you! Oh! My darling—it is a wonderful feeling—this one—that—which I have for you—indeed—that one which I have for you—put your hand in mine—for a woman like you never before fr—fr—never before have I seen a woman such as you—
[Again he has brought Miss Ivory down center.]
Sud. My stars! Leave out the h's. That—which—such!—Get it clear for to-morrow's rehearsal.
Inkwell [puts paragraph in his pocket—hesitatingly, doubtfully, sarcastically]. I ought to have my name on the program as co-author.
Sud [jumps forward]. You ought to have it cut out of the program when you forget to act! [Raps on floor and cries out.] Mr. Ruler—Mr. Ruler—Pay some attention to your cues, please!—
[Sud goes off stage center over bridge into pit.]
Ruler [pokes head in from left]. Beg pardon, sir—I didn't hear my cue!
Sud [at right of center]. It's your business to listen for it.
Ruler. But they didn't give me the cue!
Sud. Well, what is your cue?
Ruler [not seen]. What is it?
Sud. I asked you what your cue was?
Ruler [appears]. What is it?
Sud. Is your hearing perfectly clear?
Sud. Then will you kindly tell me what your cue is?
Ruler. What is it?
Sud. I shall go mad! I'm dealing with lunatics! Lunatics—Once again I ask you, Mr. Ruler—if you can hear—[Yells.] Kindly read from your book and tell me what your cue is—
Ruler [yells furiously and is now down stage]. I've been trying to tell you my cue is "WHAT IS IT!"
[During this scene all the other players come in to see the fight and grin.]
Sud [wipes perspiration from brow]. Heart disease! Heart disease—I shall die of it! That line was cut long ago!!! [Sud walks back and forth across the pit.] The trouble with you actors is you can't forget. Oh! If you could only forget!
Wouldby [meekly]. I always thought actors had to remember.
Sud. Any fool can remember—
Ruler. See here, Mr. Sud—I don't take abuse! In fact, it's my first experience taking it from authors. In all the other companies I've been in the manager kept the playwright out. He wouldn't have him meddling about!
[Sud stops short during this speech—turns—straightens up—buttons coat—adjusts tie—faces Ruler.]
Sud. Mr. Ruler, I am backing the show. I haven't engaged you because you can act, but because you were born good-looking, which is scarcely a compliment to your own efforts. [Other players retire now laughing at Ruler.] If you please we will proceed. I'll find a line here somewhere in my treasure note books.
[He goes upstairs and stands near border lights aside to hunt through many books he has in his pockets. Ruler sits left of table to rest and smoke. Mr. Ivory and Mrs. Pencil play cards out of character up stage.]
Miss Ivory [talks out of character and gets light from Ruler for her cigarette]. Did you see the advance notices in the paper this morning, Jack—saying the Pot-Boiler is sold out three weeks in advance?
Ruler. Bill told me there's a steady line outside of the box office.
Miss Ivory. I have visions of rehearsing all night outside the night before the opening.
Ruler. I'm used to doing that, my dear. What gets me is the story of the plot the Sunday edition printed. How can the newspaper know the plot before the playwright does?
Miss Ivory. Doesn't Mr. Sud know his own plot?
Ruler. Why! No, my part's not written after the second act.
Miss Ivory. My part isn't either, but it doesn't worry me. These authors—[She points to her forehead.] I don't memorize until dress rehearsal night. What's the use. They don't know themselves by that time what lines they told you to keep in or put in or take out. The next morning the critics re-write it anyway for the manager—I don't begin to memorize really—until we're settled for a run.
Ruler [worried]. You'll throw me all out if you give wrong cues—
Miss Ivory [rises and strolls about]. Oh! When I can't use my tongue, I let my eyes talk. The public doesn't know the difference. I don't have to act, just be myself. They engage me for my eyes.
Sud. Ah! Here's a precious line [Goes up to Ruler.], take it down, Mr. Ruler. "I was in the neighborhood looking for some real estate." [All the players suppress a laugh.] Now, Mr. Ruler, you enter in time—[Sud goes down the stairs again.] You enter in time to interrupt Mr. Inkwell's declaration of love to Miss Ivory. They spring apart—spring! Mr. Inkwell! [Inkwell springs.] No, the house is not on fire!—I didn't say jump.
Inkwell. Spring is the same as jump!
[Ruler enters from left. Inkwell goes right, Miss Ivory comes center.]
Sud. There is no time to discuss synonyms. Go on, Miss Ivory.
Miss Ivory. Oh! Jack—hello!—where'd you come from?
Ruler. I was in the neighborhood looking at some real estate—Hello, Inkwell—how's the strike?
[Miss Ivory and Ruler cross to give Ruler the center.]
Inkwell. If you could persuade Mr. Ivory to—
Ruler. No—Inkwell—I'm not converted to your view! I have my own theories!
Sud [at left speaks across in delight to Wouldby]. Now we are coming to the kernel of the play's success. The new viewpoint—Use all the stock character and situations you want, but add a new twist.
Wouldby. What does Ruler think?
Ruler. I believe sternly in justice—righteous expiation of sin—only in that way can we progress to higher things.
Sud. Forms, not things.
Ruler. Beg pardon, forms—the position I hold to-day is the result of my desires in my previous life—when the trumpet calls me into the next—there I shall reap the harvest of what I have sown here. Why should we help the brick-layers?
[Miss Ivory interrupts, "Mr. Sud."]
Sud [waves her silent]. Sch!
Ruler. If they chose in their past life to be born brick-layers here, have we the right—
[Miss Ivory interrupts several times. Miss Ivory is on stage left.]
Ruler. I ask you—have we the right to tear down the building they designed when they were here before? Have we the right to say to them how they shall lay the bricks in the foundation for their next life? Have we the right—
Miss Ivory. Mr. Sudd!!!
Sud [at last in desperation]. Well, what is it, Miss Ivory?
Miss Ivory. Excuse me, Mr. Sud—but all this time—while Ruler is talking—I don't know what to do with my hands! Couldn't you cut his lines?
Ruler. I protest! Mr. Sud, I would resent having a part shortened on me because the leading lady doesn't know what to do with her hands. I really think in this speech of mine you have shown your talent. To cut one word of it would do you a great injustice!
Sud [smiles at Ruler]. Thank you! Quite so! Quite so! Miss Ivory, during this scene you might be—you might be—be—fanning yourself—to keep yourself the heroine, cool and white.
Wouldby. How well you understand human nature. The play is really more important than the players—isn't it?
Sud [aside. Goes back on stage and sits next to Wouldby]. Of course, but actors are so superbly conceited.
Wouldby. I know—poor things!
Sud. Mr. Ivory's entrance.
Wouldby. The girl's father?
Ivory [enters]. I could not find the papers in the safe, Inkwell. Ah—how-do-you-do, Jack.
Inkwell Miss Ivory
Mr. Ivory Ruler
[Ivory has crossed to Ruler and is between Miss Ivory and Ruler.]
Ruler. Good morning, Mr. Ivory.
Ivory. Daughter, dear—do you know anything about the papers in the safe?
Sud. Keep up the suspense—Inkwell.
Inkwell. I have no lines here.
Sud. A villain should sustain the suggestion of villainy whether he has lines or not. Look uneasy—tremble—
[Inkwell looks uneasy and trembles.]
Ivory. But if I see him tremble, Mr. Sud, wouldn't I ask him if he had a chill?
Sud. It's not your business to be looking his way just then. Again, Inkwell.
[Inkwell trembles, etc.]
Sud [yells to Ivory]. Don't catch his eye!
Ivory [to Inkwell]. Will you tremble again please?
[Inkwell does so patiently.]
Sud. Count five for the tremble. Again please, "Daughter dear, do you know anything about the papers in the safe?"
Ivory. Daughter, dear, do you know anything about the papers in the safe?
Sud [excitedly]. Everybody look away. Tremble, Inkwell—Now, Inkwell, count five—now look at Inkwell—Again, please.
Ivory. Daughter, dear, do you know anything about the papers in the safe?
Sud [claps his hands]. One—two—three—four—five—
Ivory. Those valuable papers!
Sud. That's it, go ahead!
Miss Ivory. I don't even know the combination, father. Could they have been stolen?
Wouldby. Did Inkwell really take them?
Sud. He's the villain, isn't he? I couldn't let the hero do it.
Ivory. What shall I do? Where shall I look? Where, oh where?
[Ivory goes up stage back of Miss Ivory to table and knocks off a revolver.]
Miss Ivory. Oh! Revolvers!
Ruler. Let me, sir. [Picks them up.]
Miss Ivory [in terror]. Where did they come from?
Wouldby [hands to ears]. Are they going to use them?
Sud. Of course. I had to show the audience the revolvers are there, so Ivory had to knock them down.
Ivory [is up stage. Places one revolver on table]. I have to have these near by when a strike is on, one never knows what to expect.
Ruler [places other revolver on table]. Even I have one in my pocket.
Inkwell [slaps his side pocket]. And I in mine—
Miss Ivory. Oh! dear, how dreadful! Suppose one of them should go off! Oh! Do be careful!
Inkwell [insinuatingly]. Have you changed your mind, Mr. Ivory? Have you decided to accept my proposition?
Miss Ivory. What is your proposition, Mr. Inkwell?
Inkwell [goes left to Ruler]. I believe your father wishes to discuss it with you. Mr. Ruler, will you have a smoke with me in the orangerie?
Sud [corrects him with great disgust]. Orangerie!!!
[Inkwell and Ruler exeunt right.]
Miss Ivory [crosses right—anxiously]. What does he want to know—
Ivory [almost breaking down. Sinks into chair left of table]. Oh! My daughter—how can I tell you—how can I—I am ruined—ruined!
[Sud rises, and beats time in rhythm like a conductor to their "Ohs."]
Miss Ivory [a little up and left of table]. You—ruined—Oh!—
Miss Ivory. Oh!
Sud [turning to Wouldby and whispering audibly]. When you are hard up for conversation use Oh's—
Ivory. We have lived beyond our means—Oh!—my child—I have only brought you misery—
Miss Ivory [goes to father, stands back of his chair and caresses him]. Poor father—don't take it that way—I love you—we must live differently—anything you say—
Wouldby [to Sud]. How sweet and sacrificial!
Sud [enthusiastically]. Ah! She's pure Ivory—a chip off the old block!
Ivory. That is not all. Inkwell represents the brick-layers; he will continue the strike unless I can buy him off.
[Sud goes up right, to be behind them. Faces them. Follows every line in his manuscript.]
Miss Ivory. And you can't raise the money?
Ivory. He doesn't want money. He wants to marry you! He will stop at nothing to get me into prison—any place to crush me—he has power. I have cause to fear him.
[Ivory at right.]
Miss Ivory [at left. In distress]. Oh! Oh!—How terrible—how terrible—what am I to say! Oh—father—and I can save you? And I hesitate? Yes—yes—I will—father!
[Rushes to Ivory's arms.]
Ivory. Oh! My daughter! My child! My child!
Miss Ivory. Yes, father, I will, cost me what it may. I will.
[She reads last line flatly.]
Sud. Miss Ivory! Show some feeling! Think how you feel when you read those lines!
Miss Ivory. I know how I feel [impudently. Then with some feeling.] Yes, father, I will. Cost me what it may, I will, Mr. Inkwell!
Sud. Abandonment, Miss Ivory—abandonment—
Miss Ivory [nods intelligently]. Mr. Inkwell! Mr. Ink—we—all—!
Ivory [rushing after Miss Ivory]. Wait—think—consider—
[Inkwell and Ruler enter right.]
Inkwell [takes her hand]. Ah, My dear!
Ivory [with bowed head]. Oh!
Ruler [in alarm, to Miss Ivory]. My dear—what is it?
Sud. Now, there's your line of "what is it?" I tucked it in there.
Miss Ivory [goes left to Mr. Ruler. Ivory is up center. Inkwell is right]. I can't keep my promise to you—Mr. Ruler—please don't ask for an explanation.
Ruler [excited, rushing up to Mr. Ivory]. What is it, Mr. Ivory?
Ivory [in despair, taking Ruler's arm for support]. Oh—I—am broken-hearted—she is going to marry Inkwell!
Ruler. No!—no!—not while I live!
Ivory. It must be! Come with me—I'll tell you—alone!
Ruler. Not while I live!
Sud [excitedly]. Mr. Ruler! Mr. Ruler! You go out too easily! Wait! I remember a precious line I cut out of one of my last year's plays. It is perfectly fresh! No novelty worn off and incontestably original! "I am coming back."
Ruler [deferentially Ruler writes the line]. I am coming back—yes, sir. I am coming back.
Sud. There is no, "yes, sir," in it.
Ruler. No, sir.
Sud. Do you wish to retire for a few minutes and commit to memory? [Ruler repeats the line.] Now that we are reaching the climax I want as few interruptions and references to the book as possible—
Ruler. I think I have it. [All resume former positions. Sud climbs on his stool.] Cue please, Mr. Ivory.
Ivory [drags Ruler across to go out right]. Come with me—I'll tell you!—alone!
Ruler. Not while I live! I am coming back! I am coming back!!!—I am coming back!
[Exeunt Ivory and Ruler right. Sud tiptoes up center to make sure Mrs. Pencil is ready for her cue.]
Inkwell [to Miss Ivory]. Now that they have left us alone—my darling—let me tell you how I have waited for this moment—
Miss Ivory [in despair and tears she tries to rush by to right, but he catches her]. No, let me pass—now, now. I have said yes, let it go at that—I cannot talk now—not now—
[Exit right weeping.]
Mrs. Pencil [in fury of jealousy opens door and enters in rage]. Coward! Villain!—I have been listening behind that door—all your false vows to me!
Inkwell [he tries to choke her]. Don't yell so!
Mrs. Pencil [in ordinary tone]. I will yell!
Sud [delighted]. Of course, she will! Shriek good, Mrs. Pencil.
Mrs. Pencil [shrieks]. Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah!
Inkwell [they struggle. Grabs Mrs. Pencil to put his hand over her mouth]. Stop—! Stop!
Sud. Tussle! Tussle! The audience loves it!
Wouldby. But what did Inkwell do?
Sud [talks fast over shoulder to Wouldby like a man in a fast auto talks to another passing]. Can't you tell. Haven't decided yet! Explanation in last act. No time now. Reaching climax of play. Keep it up! Keep it up!
Mrs. Pencil [yelling]. Oh! The treachery—perjury—You are not fit to live! I'll have my revenge—Revenge! Bing! Bang! [She grabs revolver from table and shoots Inkwell. He falls back and obligingly lies upon the table.] I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!
Miss Ivory [having heard the shot and shrieks, runs in from the wing]. Oh—who's hurt?
Mrs. Pencil [turning and aiming revolver at Miss Ivory]. Don't come near him or I'll shoot you!
Ruler [enters from right]. What's the matter?
Miss Ivory [screams at Ruler]. Don't move or she'll shoot you.
Ruler [taking a revolver out of his pocket aims it at Mrs. Pencil]. Harm her and I'll shoot you!
Inkwell [who has come to in the meantime, manages to get his own revolver out of his pocket, he half raises himself from his lying position on the table and aims at Ruler, crying hoarsely]. You thought you could be my rival—the girl said she would be mine! If you shoot the woman she'll kill the girl. I'm going to save the girl. Shoot and I'll kill YOU!
Mr. Ivory [he enters from right and, hearing these desperate words—takes revolver from his pocket and aims at Inkwell! Screams in fear and rage]. Stop! Save him or I'll shoot to kill! I'll shoot to kill! I'll shoot to kill!
Wouldby [thrilled and excited, cries out]. Who shoots?
Sud [overcome with sudden realization, jumps up, grabs his forehead]. My God! It's a deadlock!!! I don't know who shoots!
Others. Oh! Shoot the AUTHOR!!