Fifty Contemporary
One-Act Plays

Selected and Edited

BY

FRANK SHAY

AND

PIERRE LOVING

 

CINCINNATI
STEWART & KIDD COMPANY
PUBLISHERS


Copyright, 1920, by
STEWART & KIDD COMPANY
All rights reserved
Copyright in England


INTRODUCTION

Tradition in the sphere of books is relentlessly imperious and will not be denied. The present anthology of one-act plays, in defiance of a keen reluctance on the part of the editors, is condemned at birth to the heritage of a title; for this practice, as is well known, has been the unchallenged punctilio of book-making and book-editing from time immemorial. And yet if the truth be told, the editors have found precisely this to be by far the most embarrassing of the various tasks that have arisen in connection with the project. In the selection of a title, the immediate problem was of course to avoid, so far as possible, the slightest pretense or assumption of categorical standards of choice or even the merest intimation that there existed somewhere, attainable or unattainable, an ideal norm according to which one-act plays could be faultlessly assessed and pigeon-holed.

In point of fact, so many tolerably good one-act plays are being written and acted nowadays, that the editors early concluded that the business of editing a volume of fifty one-act pieces implies, so to speak, inviting the devil or the spirit that denies to the feast. Thus all manner of obstinate ribaldries and mischief began to infest our path of progress.

If it were only a naïve question of adjudging a golden apple to one of three lovely women, earthly or divine, the matter would have proved comparatively simple; but the question was more complex: it offered the public a meager book which could never hope to compress within itself the core and quiddity of about a thousand plays, or more, which the editors were privileged to examine from the first moment when they launched upon their task eight months ago, to this. Moreover it frequently happened that when the editors had flattered themselves on having picked a sure winner, the sure winner forthwith got out of hand and no persuasive cajolings availed to allure it back. In other words, not a few plays which the editors sought to include in the book were found unavailable by reason of previous copyrights. In several cases the copyright had passed entirely out of the control of the author or his accredited representative.

On the whole, however, both authors and those commissioned to act for them have responded most sympathetically to the project and have rendered valuable assistance and support, without which, let me hasten to add, the present collection would not have been possible.

The reader will observe that plays by American authors predominate over those of any other single country, and the reason for this is fairly obvious. American plays, besides being most readily available to the anthologist, are beginning to reflect the renascence that is gradually taking place in the American theater. There is growing up in this country a younger generation of dramatists, which is achieving its most notable work outside the beaten path of popular recognition, in small dramatic juntos and in the little theaters. In the main, the form they employ as being most suitable to their needs, is that offered by the concise scaffold of the one-act play. These efforts, we hold, deserve a wider audience.

On the other hand, a mere scrutiny of the table of contents will reveal that the editors have included a number of foreign plays heretofore not accessible to English-speaking readers. This aspect of the task, the effort of pioneer exploration, has indeed been by far the most pleasant, and most pleasant, too, has proved the discovery of several new American writers who have produced original work. Of the foreign writers, such men as Wied and Speenhof, for example, are practically if not totally unknown to American readers, and they, as well as a handful of others, are in the opinion of the editors worthy of an American following.

As concerns the procedure or technic of choice, it goes without saying, surely, that if a congruous method exists at all, it merely embodies a certain permissible viewpoint. This viewpoint will probably find unqualified favor with but a handful of readers; others it will frankly outrage to the extent of their casting it out, lock, stock and barrel. But this is to be looked for in an undertaking of this caliber in which individual bias, after all, plays so leading a part. And titling the volume came to be an arduous process only in virtue of the afore-mentioned viewpoint, cherished but shadowily defined, or to be exact, in virtue of the despair which succeeded upon each persistent attempt to capture what remained perennially elusive. Unfortunately it still remains elusive. If then a rationalization is demanded by the reader—a privilege none will question his right to exercise—he will, I am afraid, have to content himself with something as vague and fantastic as the following:

Imagine a playhouse, perfectly equipped, plastic and infinitely adaptable. Invite Arthur Hopkins, John Williams, Winthrop Ames, Sam Hume and George Cram Cook to manage it; let them run riot on the stage. Clear the wings and the front of the house of all routineers. Fill the seats at each performance with the usual gallery-haunters of the New York theaters. Do not overlook the hosts of experimental playhouse directors—unleash them in the backyard area with a kammerspielhaus to toy with at pleasure. Let the personnel of the play-reading committee consist of such men as Ludwig Lewisohn, Barrett H. Clark, George Jean Nathan and Francis Hackett. The result will take care of itself. This, in brief, is the theatrical ménage for which, in the main, the plays included in this volume were written.

Is this a hair-brained or a frivolous notion? It may be. But, please note, it expresses, no matter how limpingly, some approach to a viewpoint. At all events it is the only touchstone applied by the editors in their choice of fifty contemporary one-act plays.

Pierre Loving.

New York City, Sept., 1920.


CONTENTS

 

Madonna Dianora by von Hofmannsthal (Hugo)
Literature by Schnitzler (Arthur)
The Intruder by Maeterlinck (Maurice)
Interlude by More (Federico)
Monsieur Lamblin by Ancey (George)
Françoise' Luck by de Porto-Riche (Georges)
Altruism by Ettlinger (Karl)
The Tenor by Wedekind (Frank)
A Good Woman by Bennett (Arnold)
The Little Stone House by Calderon (George)
Mary's Wedding by Cannan (Gilbert)
The Baby Carriage by Crocker (Bosworth)
The Pierrot of the Minute by Dowson (Ernest)
The Subjection of Kezia by Ellis (Mrs. Havelock)
The Constant Lover by Hankin (St. John)
The Judgment of Indra by Mukerji (Dhan Gopal)
The Workhouse Ward by Gregory (Lady)
Louise by Speenhoff (J. H.)
The Grandmother by Biro (Lajos)
The Rights of the Soul by Giacosa (Giuseppe)
Love of One's Neighbor by Andreyev (Leonid)
The Boor by Tchekoff (Anton)
His Widow's Husband by Benevente (Jacinto)
A Sunny Morning by Quinteros (The)
The Creditor by Strindberg (August)
Autumn Fires by Wied (Gustav)
Brothers by Beach (Lewis)
In the Morgue by Cowan (Sada)
A Death in Fever Flat by Cronyn (George W.)
The Slave with Two Faces by Davies (Mary Carolyn)
The Slump by Day (Frederic L.)
Mansions by Flanner (Hildegarde)
Trifles by Glaspell (Susan)
The Pot Boiler by Gerstenberg (Alice)
Enter the Hero by Helburn (Theresa)
The Shepherd in the Distance by Hudson (Holland)
Boccaccio's Untold Tale by Kemp (Harry)
Another Way Out by Langner (Lawrence)
Aria Da Capo by Millay (Edna St. Vincent)
Helena's Husband by Moeller (Philip)
The Shadowed Star by MacMillan (Mary)
Ile by O'Neill (Eugene G.)
The Nursery Maid of Heaven by Stevens (Thomas Wood)
Three Travelers Watch a Sunrise by Stevens (Wallace)
Sham by Tompkins (Frank G.)
The Medicine Show by Walker (Stuart)
For All Time by Wellman (Rita)
The Finger of God by Wilde (Percival)
Night by Asch (Sholom)
Forgotten Souls by Pinski (David)


MADONNA DIANORA

A Play in Verse

By Hugo Von Hofmannsthal
Translated from the German by Harriet Betty Boas.


Copyright, 1916, by Richard S. Badger.
Toronto: The Copp Clark Co., Limited.
Copyright, 1920, The Four Seas Co., Boston.


MADONNA DIANORA

A Play in Verse

By Hugo von Hofmannsthal

 

La Demente: "Conosci la storia di Madonna Dianor?"

Il Medico: "Vagamente. Non ricordo piu."...
Sogno d'un mattino di primavera.

 

[Scene: The garden of a somber Lombardian Palace. To the right the wall of a house, which is at an angle with the moderately high garden wall that encloses it. The lower portion of the house is built of rough granite, above which rests a strip of plain marble forming a sill, which, under each window, is adorned with a lion's head in repose. Two windows are visible, each one having a small angular balcony with a stone railing, spaced sufficiently to show the feet of those standing there. Both windows are curtained to the floor. The garden is a mere lawn with a few scattered fruit trees. The corner of the garden between the wall and the house is crowded with high box wood bushes. A leafy grapevine, trained over stunted chestnut trees, forms an arbor which completely fills the left side of the stage; only this entrance is visible. The arbor slants irregularly to the left rear. Behind the rear wall there may be seen (by the gallery spectator) a narrow path beyond which is the neighbor's garden wall—no house is visible. In the neighbor's garden and as far as the eye can reach, the tops of the trees are illuminated by the evening glow of a brilliant sunset.]

 

Dianora [at the window].

A harvester I see, and not the last,
No, not the last, descending from the hill.
There are three more, and there, and there!
Have you no end, you never-ending day?
How have I dragged the hours away from you,
Torn them to shreds and cast them in the flood,
As I do now with these poor tattered blooms!
How have I coaxed each minute of this day.
Each bracelet, and each earring was clasped on,
Ta'en off again, then once more tried, until
'Twas thrown aside, exchanged, and others brought—
I slowly dripped the fountain, drop on drop
All through my tresses, dried them languidly;
With quiet, measured step, out in the sun
I walked me to and fro—oh! to and fro!
But 'twas still damp—the path is narrow there.
I looked among the bushes, for the birds,—
Less than a zephyr's breath I bent them back,
Those swaying branches, sat 'neath rustling trees,
And felt on cheeks and hands in waiting woe
The little flickerings of warm sunshine.
I closed my eyes, and almost thought soft lips
Gently caressing, strayed my clammy brow.
Sometimes hours come when this duplicity,
All this concealment, seems so fruitless, and
I cannot bear it. I can only gaze
With eyes of steel far up into the sky
Where flocks of wild geese float, or bend me low
O'er some mad, rushing plunging waterfall
That tears my weakling shadow with its flow,—
I will be patient—why, I must, I am!—
Madonna—I will climb the steepest mount
And on my knees will count me every stone
With this, my rosary, if only now,
Oh, soon,—this day will sink into the night.
It is so long! I have its measured tread
With these same beads been scanning o'er and o'er.
And now I talk so fev'rishly, instead
Of counting all the leaves upon that tree.
Oh! I have finished much too soon again.
See! See the yeoman, calling to his dog.
The shadows do upon his garden fall,
For him the night has come, but brings no joy;
He fears it, locks his door and is alone.—
See where the maidens wander to the well.
I know the manner in which each of them
Will fill her bucket—that one's prettiest.
Why does the stranger at the cross roads stay?
Distant's his goal, I warrant. He unwinds
And folds again the cloth about his feet.
What an existence! Draw the thorns, yes, draw
Them quickly out. You must speed. We all
Must hurry on, the restless day must down
And with it take this bright and scarlet glow
That's lingering in radiance on my cheeks.
All that is troubling us cast far away,
Fling wide the thorn into the field
Where waters flow and sheaves of brilliant flow'rs
Are bending, glowing, yearning towards the night.—
I draw my rings from off my fingers, and
They're happy as the naked children are
Who scamper quickly to the brook to bathe.—
Now all the girls have gone—
Only one maiden's left. Oh, what lovely hair!
I wonder if she knows its beauty's power?
Perhaps she's vain—but vanity, thou art
A plaything only for the empty years.
When once she has arrived where I am now,
She'll love her hair, she'll let it clasp her close,
Enwrap her round and whisper to her low,
Like echoing harpstrings throbbing with the touch
Of fev'rish fingers straying in the dark.

[She loosens her hair and lets it fall to the left and to the right in front of her.]

What, would you close to me? Down, down with you.—
I bid you greet him. When the dusk has come,
And when his hands hold fast the ladder there
A-sudden he will feel, instead the leaves,
The cool, firm leaves, a gently spraying rain,
A rain that falls at eve from golden clouds.

[She lets her hair fall over the balustrade.]

You are so long, and yet you barely reach
A third the distance; hardly are your ends
Touching the cold, white marble lion's nose.

[She laughs and rises.]

Ah! there's a spider! No, I will not fling
You off; I lay my hand once more
Upon this spot, so you may find again
The road you wish to speed so quickly on.
How I have changed! I am bewitched indeed!
In former days, I could not touch the fruit
Within a basket, if upon its edge
A spider had been seen. Now in my hand
It runs.—Intoxication makes me glad!
Why, I could walk along the very edge
Of narrow walls, and would not totter—no!—
Could I but fall into the waters deep!
In their cool velvet arms I would be well,
Sliding in grottoes of bright sapphire hues
Playing with wondrous beings of the deep
All golden finned, with eyes benignly sad.
Yes, if I were immured in the chestnut woods
Within some ruined walls, my soul were free.
For there the forest's animals would come
And tiny birds. The little weasels would
Brush up against and touch my naked toes
With their soft snouts and lashes of bright eyes
While in the moss I lay and ate wild fruit.—
What's rustling? 'Tis the little porcupine
Of that first night. What, are you there again,
Stepped from the dark? Art going on the hunt?
Oh! If my hunter would but come to me!

[Looking up.]

Now have the shadows vanished! Gone are all
Those of the pines and those of the dolls,
The ones that played about the little huts,
The large ones from the vineyards and the one
Upon the figtree at the crossroads—gone
As though the quiet earth had sucked them in!
The night has really come! The lamp
Is placed upon the table, closely press
The sheep together—close within the fold.
Within the darkest corners of the eaves
Where the dustvine-leaves meet, goblins do crouch,
And on the heights from out the clearing step
The blessed saints to gaze where churches stand
Well pleased at seeing chapels manifold.
Now, sweetest plaything, you may also come,
Finer than spider's web, stronger than steel.

[She fastens one end of the silk ladder to an iron hook on the floor in the balcony.]

Let me now play that it were highest time
And dip you deep down, down into my well,
To bring this parched one a sparkling draught.

[She pulls the ladder up again.]

Night, night has come! And yet how long might be,
Endlessly long, the time until he comes.

[She wrings her hands.]

Might be!

[With shining eyes.]

But must not—yet, it might—

[She puts up her hair. During this time the nurse has stepped to the front window and waters the red flowers there.]

Dianora [much frightened]. Who's there, who's there! Oh, nurse, nurse, is it you? I've ne'er before seen you in here so late. Has ought occurred?—

Nurse. Why nothing, gracious one. Do you not see, I quite forgot my flowers—they've not been watered. On my way from church I suddenly remembered, quickly came.

Dianora. Yes, give the flowers water. But how strange you look, your cheeks are feverish, your eyes are shining—

Nurse [does not answer].

Dianora. Who preached? Tell me, was it that monk, the one—

Nurse [curtly]. Yes, gracious one.

Dianora. The one from Spain, is it not?

Nurse [does not answer—pause].

Dianora [following her own train of thoughts]. Can you recall the kind of child I was?

Nurse. Proud, gracious one, a proud child, very proud.

Dianora [very softly]. How singular! Humanity's so sweet!—What?—

Nurse. I said no word, my gracious Lady, none—

Dianora. Yes, yes, whom does the Spanish monk resemble?

Nurse. He is different from the others.

Dianora. No—his appearance! Does he resemble my husband?

Nurse. No, gracious one.

Dianora. My brother-in-law?

Nurse. No.

Dianora. Ser Antonio Melzi?

Nurse. No.

Dianora. Messer Galeazza Swardi?

Nurse. No.

Dianora. Messer Palla degli Albizzi?

Nurse. His voice is a little like Messer Palla's—yes—I said to my son yesterday, that his voice reminded me a little of Messer Palla's voice.

Dianora. The voice—

Nurse. But his eyes are like Messer Guido Schio, the nephew of our gracious lord.

Dianora [is silent].

Nurse. I met him on the stairs yesterday—he stopped—

Dianora [suddenly flaring up]. Messer Palla?

Nurse. No! Our gracious lord. He ordered me to make some ointment. His wound is not yet entirely healed.

Dianora. Oh, yes! The horse's bite—did he show it to you?

Nurse. Yes—the back of the hand is quite healed, but on the palm there's a small dark spot, a curious spot, such as I've never seen in a wound—

Dianora. What horse did it, I wonder?

Nurse. The big roan, gracious Lady.

Dianora. Yes, yes, I remember. It was on the day of Francesco Chieregati's wedding. [She laughs loudly.]

Nurse [looks at her].

Dianora. I was thinking of something else. He told about it at table—he wore his arm in a sling. How was it, do you remember?

Nurse. What, gracious one?

Dianora. With the horse—

Nurse. Don't you remember, gracious one?

Dianora. He spoke about it at table. But I could not hear it. Messer Palla degli Albizzi sat next to me, and was so merry, and everybody laughed, so I could not hear just what my husband said.

Nurse. When our gracious lord came to the stall, the roan put back his ears, foamed with rage and suddenly snapped at the master's hand.

Dianora. And then?

Nurse. Then the master hit the roan behind the ears with his fist so that the big, strong horse staggered back as though it were a dog—

Dianora [is silent, looks dreamily down].

Nurse. Oh, our gracious lord is strong! He is the strongest gentleman of all the nobility the country 'round, and the cleverest.

Dianora. Yes, indeed. [Attentively now.] Who?

Nurse. Our master.

Dianora. Ah! our master. [Smiles.]—and his voice is so beautiful, and that is why everybody loves to listen to him in the large, dark church.

Nurse. Listen to whom, gracious one?

Dianora. To the Spanish monk, to whom else?

Nurse. No, my Lady, it isn't because of his voice that people listen to him.

Dianora [is again not listening].

Nurse. Gracious one—my Lady—is it true—what people say about the envoy?

Dianora. What envoy?

Nurse. The envoy whom the people of Como sent to our master.

Dianora. What are people saying?

Nurse. They say a shepherd saw it.

Dianora. What did he see?

Nurse. Our gracious lord was angry at the envoy—would not accept the letter that the people of Como had written him. Then he took it anyhow—the letter—read part of it, tore it into bits and held the pieces before the envoy's mouth and demanded that he swallow them. But the envoy went backwards, like a crab, and made stary eyes just like a crab, and everybody laughed, especially Signor Silvio, the master's brother. Then the master sent for the envoy's mule and had it brought to the gates. When the envoy was too slow in mounting, the master whistled for the dogs. The envoy left with his two yeomen. Our master went hunting with seven men and all the dogs. Towards evening, however, they say that our gracious lord, and the envoy met at the bridge over the Adda, there where Verese begins—our master and the envoy met. And the shepherd was passing and drove his sheep next to the bridge into a wheat-field—so that the horses would not kill them. And the shepherd heard our master cry, "There's the one who wouldn't eat, perhaps he'd like to drink." So four of our men seized the two yeomen, two others took the envoy, each one took hold of a leg, lifted him from the saddle—threw him screaming like a madman and struggling fiercely, over the parapet—he tore out a piece of the sleeve of one, together with the flesh. The Adda has very steep banks at that place—the river was dark and swollen from all the snow on the mountains. The envoy did not appear again, said the shepherd.

[Nurse stops, looks questioningly at Dianora.]

Dianora [anxiously]. I do not know.

[She shakes off the worried expression, her face assumes the dreamy, inwardly happy expression.]

Dianora. Tell me something about his preaching—the Spaniard's preaching.

Nurse. I don't know how to express it, gracious one.

Dianora. Just say a little. Does he preach of so many things?

Nurse. No, almost always about one thing.

Dianora. What?

Nurse. Of resignation to the Lord's will.

Dianora [looks at her and nods].

Nurse. Gracious one, you must understand, that is all.

Dianora. What do you mean by—all——

Nurse [while speaking, she is occupied with the flowers]. He says that all of life is in that—there's nothing else. He says everything is inevitable and that's the greatest joy—to realize that everything is inevitable—that is good, and there is no other good. The sun must glow, and stone must be on the dumb earth and every living creature must give utterance to its voice—whether he will or no—we must——

Dianora [is thinking—like a child].

Nurse [goes from window—pause].

Dianora.

As though 'twere mirrored in a placid pool
Self-prisoned lies the world asleep, adream—
The ivy's tendrils clamber through the dusk
Closely embracing thousandfold the wall.
An arbor vitae towers. At its feet
The quiet waters mirror what they see.
And from this window, on this balustrade
Of cool and heavy stones, I bend me o'er
Stretching my arms so they may touch the ground.
I feel as though I were a dual being
Gazing within me at my other self.

[Pause.]

Methinks such thoughts crowd in upon the soul
When grim, inexorable death is near.

[She shudders and crosses herself.]

Nurse [has returned several times to the window; in one hand she carries scissors with which she clips the dry branches from the plants].

Dianora [startled]. What? Good night, nurse, farewell. I'm dizzy, faint.

Nurse [goes off].

Dianora [with a great effort]. Nurse! Nurse!

Nurse [comes back].

Dianora. If the Spanish monk preaches to-morrow, I'll go with you.

Nurse. Yes, to-morrow, my Lady, if the Lord spare us.

Dianora [laughs]. Certainly,—if the Lord spare us. Good night.

[A long pause.]

Dianora.

His voice is all he has, the strange monk,
Yet people flock, hang on his words like bees
Upon the dark sweet blossoms, and they say
"This man is not like others—he
Does shake our souls, his voice melts into space,
Floats down to us, and penetrates our being—
We are all like children when we hear his voice."—
Oh, if a judge could have his lofty brow,
Who would not kneel upon the steps to read
Each sentence from his clear and shining brow.
How sweet to kneel upon the honest step
And know one's fate were safe within that hand,
Within those kingly, good and noble hands.


And oh, his merriment! How exquisite!
To see such people merry is a joy,
—He took me by the hand and drew me on.
My blood ran magic, backward stretched my hand.
The laughing throng upon it closely hung
A sinuous chain, we flew along arbored walks
Down through a deep and steep and narrow path
Cool as a well, and bordered very close
With cypresses that lived a century—
Then down the brightest slope.
Up to my knees the wild, warm flowers kissed
Where we were running like a breeze in May.
Then he released me, and along he leapt
Upon the marble stairs between cascades;
Astride he sat upon the dolphin's back
And held himself up on the arms of fauns,
Upon the dripping Triton's shoulders stood
Mounting always; high, higher still he clomb,
The wildest, handsomest of all the gods!—
Beneath his feet the waters bubbled forth,
They sparkled, foamed, and showered the air with spray,
Falling on me. The waves' tumultuous din
Drowned out, engulfed the entire world,
Beneath his feet the waters bubbled forth,
They sparkled, foamed and showered their spray on me.

[Pause—footsteps are heard in the distance.]

Dianora. Sh! Footsteps! No, it is so much too soon—And yet—and yet—[long waiting] they come.

[Pause.]

They do not come—
Oh, no, they do not come—They're shuffling steps,
They shuffle down the vineyard—now they reel—
There are the steps! A drunkard, verily!
Stay in the street, intoxicated one.
What would you do within our garden gates?—
No moon shines here to-night—were there a moon
I were not here—no, no, I were not here.
The little stars are flick'ring restlessly,
They cannot light the way for a drunken one,
But one not drunken from a musty wine.
His footsteps are as light as wind on grass
And surer than the tread of the young lion.

[Pause.]

These hours are martyrdom! No, no, no, no,
They're not—no, they are beautiful and good,
And lovely and so sweet! He comes, he comes;
A long, long way already he has walked—
The last tall tree down there has seen him come—-
It could—if that dark strip of woodland boughs
Did not obscure the road—and 'twere not dark—

[Pause.]

He comes—as certainly as I do now
Upon this hook bend this frail ladder—comes.
As surely as I now do let it down
In rustling murmur in the leaves enmeshed,
As certainly as it now swaying hangs,
Quivering softly as I bend me low,
Myself aquiver with a greater thrill—

[She remains for a long time bent over the balustrade. Suddenly she seems to hear the curtain between her balcony and the room thrown back. She turns her head and her features are distorted in deathly fear and terror. Messer Braccio stands silently in the door. He wears a simple, dark green robe, carries no weapons—his shoes are low. He is very tall and strong. His face resembles the portraits of aristocrats and captains of mercenaries. He has an extremely large forehead and small dark eyes, closely cropped, curly black hair and a small beard that covers his cheeks and chin.]

Dianora [wants to speak, but is unable to utter a sound].

Messer Braccio [beckons to her to pull up the ladder].

Dianora [does so like an automaton and drops the bundle, as in a trance, at her feet].

Braccio [looks at her quietly, reaches with his right hand to his left hip, also with his left hand; notices that he has no dagger. He moves his lips impatiently, glances toward the garden, then over his shoulders. He lifts his right hand for a moment and examines his palm, then walks firmly and quickly back into the room].

Dianora [looks after him incessantly; she cannot take her eyes away from him. As the curtain closes behind his retreating form, she passes her fingers excitedly over her face and through her hair, then folds her hands and murmurs a prayer, her lips wildly convulsed. Then she throws her arms backwards and folds them above the stone pillar, in a gesture that indicates a desperate resolve and a triumphant expectancy].

Braccio [steps into the doorway again, carrying an armchair, which he places in the opening of the door. He seats himself on it, facing his wife. His face does not change. From time to time he raises his right hand mechanically and examines the little wound upon his palm].

Braccio [his tone is cold, rather disdainful. He points with his foot and eyes to the ladder]. Who?

Dianora [raises her shoulders, and drops them slowly].

Braccio. I know!

Dianora [raises her shoulders and drops them slowly. Her teeth are clenched].

Braccio [moves his hand, barely glances at his wife, and looks again into the garden]. Palla degli Albizzi!

Dianora [between her teeth]. How ugly the most beautiful name becomes when uttered by unseemly tongue.

Braccio [looks at her as though he were about to speak, but remains silent. Pause].

Braccio. How old are you?

Dianora [does not answer].

Braccio. Fifteen and five. You are twenty years old.

Dianora [does not answer. Pause].

Dianora [almost screaming]. My father's name was Bartholomeno Colleone—you can let me say the Lord's Prayer and the Hail Mary, and then kill me, but not let me stand here like a fettered beast.

Braccio [looks at her as though surprised; does not answer—glances at his hand].

Dianora [strokes back her hair slowly, folds her elbows over her breast, stares at him, then drops her arms, seems to divine his plan. Her voice is completely changed and is like a string that is stretched to the breaking-point].

One of my women I desire, who will—

[She stops; her voice seems to give out.]

First braid my hair—'tis tangled, disarranged.

Braccio. You often help yourself without a maid.

Dianora [presses her lips together, says nothing, smoothes her hair at the temples, folds her hands].

I have no children. My mother I saw once—
I saw her once, just before she died.
My father led me and my sister to
A vaulted, high, severe and gloomy room.
The suff'rer I saw not; her hand alone
Hung like a greeting to me—that I kissed.
About my father I remember this.
He wore an armor of green burnished gold
With darker clasps—two always helped him mount
Upon his horse, for he was very old—
I hardly knew Medea. Not much joy,
Had she, my sister. Thin of hair,
Her forehead and her temples older seemed,
Much older, than her mouth and her hands to me—
She always held a flower in her hand.—
O Lord, have mercy unto these sweet souls
As unto mine, and bid them welcome me,
Greeting me kindly when I come to Thee.
I cannot kneel—there is no space to kneel.

Braccio [rises, pushes the chair into the room to make space for her. She does not notice him].

Dianora.

There's more—I must remember—Bergamo,
Where I was born—the house in Feltre where
The uncles and the cousins were....
Then they put me upon a gallant steed
Caparisoned most splendidly—they rode,
Cousins and many others by my side.
And so I came here, from whence I now go....

[She has leaned back and looked up at the glittering stars upon the black sky—she shudders].

I wanted something else—

[She searches her memory.]

In Bergamo where I was taught to walk
Upon the path that brought me here, I was
Often—most frequently through pride,—and now
I am contrite and would go to confession
For all those errors, and some graver ones;—
When I [She ponders.]—three days after Saint Magdalen
Was riding homeward from the chase with him.
This man, here, who's my husband—others too—
Upon the bridge an old lame beggar lay.
I knew that he was old and ill and sore
And there was something in his tired eyes
Reminded me of my dead father—but
Nevertheless—only because the one
Riding beside me touched my horse's bridle,
I did not pull aside, but let the dust
My horse kicked up, blind, choke that poor old man.
Yes, so close I rode that with his hands
He had to lift aside his injured leg.
This I remember, this I now regret.

Braccio. The one beside you held your horse's bridle? [He looks at her.]

Dianora [answers his look, understands him, says trenchantly]:

Yes! Then as often since—as often since—
And yet how rarely after all!
How meager is all joy—a shallow stream
In which you're forced to kneel, that it may reach
Up to your shoulders—

Braccio.

Of my servants who,—of all your women,
Who knew of these things?

Dianora [is silent].

Braccio [makes a disdainful gesture].

Dianora.

Falsely, quite falsely, you interpret now
My silence. How can I tell you who might know?—
But if you think that I am one of those
Who hides behind her hireling's her joy,
You know me ill. Now note—note and take heed.
Once may a woman be—yes, once she may
Be as I was for twelve weeks—once she may be
If she had found no need of veil before,
All veiled, protected by her own great pride
As by a shield—she once may rend that veil,
Feel her cheeks crimson, burning in the sun.
Horrible she, who twice could such a thing!
I'm not of these—that surely you must know.
Who knew?—Who guessed? I never hid my thoughts?
Your brother must have known—just as you knew,
Your brother just as you. Ask him, ask him!

[Her voice is strange, almost childlike, yet exalted.]

That day—'twas in July, Saint Magdalen
Francesco Chieregati's wedding day—
That nasty thing upon your hand came then,
Came on that day. Well, I remember too
We dined out in the arbor—near the lake,
And he sat next to me, while opposite
Your brother sat. Then passing me the fruit,
Palla did hold the heavy gold dish
Of luscious peaches so that I might take.
My eyes were fastened on his hands—I longed
To humbly kiss his hands, there,—before all.
Your brother—he's malicious and no fool—
Caught this my glance, and must have guessed my thought.
He paled with anger.—Sudden came a dog,
A tall dark greyhound brushed his slender head
Against my hand—the left one by my side,—
Your stupid brother kicked in furious rage
With all his might, the dog—only because
He could not with a shining dagger pierce
Me and my lover. I but looked at him.
Caressed and stroked the dog, and had to laugh

[She laughs immoderately and shrilly in a way that threatens to be a scream, or to break into tears at any moment.]

Braccio [seems to listen].

Dianora [also listens. Her face expresses horrible tension. Soon she cannot bear it, begins to speak again almost deliriously].

Why whosoever saw me walk would know!
Walked I not differently? Did not I ride
Ecstatically? I could look at you
And at your brother and this gloomy house
And feel as light as air, floating in space.
The myriad trees seemed all to come to me
Filled with the sunlight dancing toward me,
All paths were open in the azure air—
Those sunlit paths were all the roads to him.
To start with fright was sweet—he might appear
From any corner, any bush or tree—

[Her language becomes incoherent from terror, because she sees that Braccio has drawn the curtains behind him close. Her eyes are unnaturally wide open—her lips drawn more constantly.]

Braccio [in a tone that the actor must find for himself, not loud, not low, not strong, nor yet weak, but penetrating].

If I, your husband, had not at this hour
Come to your chamber to fetch me a salve,
An ointment for my wounded hand—
What would—
What had you done, intended, meant to do?

Dianora [looks at him, as though distraught, does not understand his latest question. Her right hand presses her forehead—with the left she shakes the ladder before his face, lets it fall at his feet, one end remains tied, shrieks].

What had I done? What had I done, you ask?
Why, waited thus—I would have waited—

[She sways her open arms before him like one intoxicated, throws herself around, with the upper part of her body over the balustrade, stretches her arms towards the ground—her hair falls over them.]

Braccio [with a hurried gesture tears off a piece of his sleeve and winds it around his right hand. With the sureness of a wild animal on the hunt, he grasps the ladder that is lying there, like a thin, dark rope, with both hands, makes a loop, throws it over his wife's head and pulls her body towards him.]

 

[During this time the curtain falls.]


LITERATURE

A Comedy

By Arthur Schnitzler
Translated by Pierre Loving.


Copyright, 1917, by Stewart & Kidd Company.
All rights reserved.

 

PERSONS
Margaret.
Clement.
Gilbert.

 

Literature is reprinted from "Comedies of Words" by Arthur Schnitzler, by
permission of Messrs. Stewart & Kidd Company, Cincinnati, Ohio.


LITERATURE

A Comedy

By Arthur Schnitzler

 

[Scene: Moderately well, but quite inexpensively furnished apartments occupied by Margaret. A small fireplace, a table, a small escritoire, a settee, a wardrobe cabinet, two windows in the back, entrances left and right.

As the curtain rises, Clement, dressed in a modish, tarnished-gray sack suit, is discovered reclining in a fauteuil near the fireplace. He is smoking a cigarette and perusing a newspaper. Margaret is standing at the window. She walks back and forth, finally goes up directly behind Clement, and playfully musses his hair. Evidently she has something troublesome on her mind.]

 

Clem. [reading, seizes her hand and kisses it]. Horner's certain about his pick and doubly certain about mine; Waterloo five to one; Barometer twenty-one to one; Busserl seven to one; Attila sixteen to one.

Marg. Sixteen to one!

Clem. Lord Byron one and one-half to one—that's us, my dear.

Marg. I know.

Clem. Besides, it's sixteen weeks yet to the Handicap.

Marg. Evidently he looks upon it as a clean "runaway."

Clem. Not quite—but where did you pick up your turf-lingo, Brava?

Marg. Oh, I used this kind of talk before I knew you. Is it settled that you are to ride Lord Byron yourself?

Clem. How absurd to ask! You forget, it's the Damenpreis Handicap. Whom else could I get to ride him? And if Horner thought for a moment that I wasn't going to ride him, he'd never put up one and a half to one. You may stake all you've got on that.

Marg. I'm well aware of that. You are so handsome when you mount a horse—honest and truly, too sweet for anything! I shall never forget that day in Munich, when I first made your acquaintance—

Clem. Please do not remind me of it. I had rotten luck that day. But you can believe me, Windy would never have won if it weren't for the ten lengths he gained at the start. But this time—never! You know, of course, it is decided; we leave town the same day.

Marg. Same evening, you mean.

Clem. If you will—but why?

Marg. Because it's been arranged we're to be married in the morning, hasn't it?

Clem. Quite so.

Marg. I am so happy. [Embraces him.] Now, where shall we spend our honeymoon?

Clem. I take it we're agreed. Aren't we? On the estate.

Marg. Oh, of course, later. Aren't we going to take in the Riviera, as a preliminary tidbit?

Clem. AS for that, it all depends on the Handicap. If we win—

Marg. Surest thing!

Clem. And besides, in April the Riviera's not at all good ton.

Marg. Is that your reason?

Clem. Of course it is, my love. In your former way of life, there were so few opportunities for your getting a clear idea of fashion—Pardon me, but whatever there was, you must admit, really had its origin in the comic journals.

Marg. Clem, please!

Clem. Well, well. We'll see. [Continues reading.] Badegast fifteen to one—

Marg. Badegast? There isn't a ghost of a show for him!

Clem. Where did you get that information?

Marg. Szigrati himself gave me a tip.

Clem. Where—and when?

Marg. Oh, this morning in the Fredenau, while you were talking with Milner.

Clem. Now, look here; Szigrati isn't fit company for you.

Marg. Jealous?

Clem. Not at all. Moreover, let it be understood that from now on I shall introduce you everywhere as my fiancée. [Margaret kisses him.]

Clem. Now, what did Szigrati say?

Marg. That he's not going to enter Badegast in the Handicap at all.

Clem. Well, don't you believe everything Szigrati is likely to say. He's circulating the rumor that Badegast will not be entered so that the odds may be bigger.

Marg. Nonsense! That's too much like an investment.

Clem. So you don't believe there is such a thing as investment in this game? For a great many it's all a commercial enterprise. Do you think that a fellow of Szigrati's ilk cares a fig for sport? He might just as well speculate on the market, and wouldn't realize the difference. Anyway, as far as Badegast is concerned, one hundred to one wouldn't be too much to put up against him.

Marg. Really? I found him in first-rate fettle this morning.

Clem. Then you saw Badegast, too?

Marg. Certainly. Didn't Butters put him through his paces, right behind Busserl?

Clem. But Butters isn't riding for Szigrati. He was only a stableboy. Badegast can be in as fine fettle as he chooses—it's all the same to me. He's nothing but a blind. Some day, Margaret, with the aid of your exceptional talent, you will be able to distinguish the veritable somebodies from the shams. Really, it's remarkable with what proficiency you have, so to speak, insinuated yourself into all these things. You go beyond my expectations.

Marg. [chagrined]. Pray, why do I go beyond your expectations? All this, as you know, is not so new to me. At our house we entertained very good people—Count Libowski and people of that sort—and at my husband's—

Clem. Quite so. No question about that. As a matter of principle, you realize, I've no grudge against the cotton industry.

Marg. Even if my husband happened to be the owner of a cotton mill, that didn't have to effect my personal outlook on life, did it? I always sought culture in my own way. Now, don't let's talk of that period of my life. It's dead and buried, thank heaven!

Clem. Yes. But there's another period which lies nearer.

Marg. I know. But why mention it?

Clem. Well, I simply mean that you couldn't possibly have heard much about sportsmanship from your friends in Munich—at least, as far as I am able to judge.

Marg. I do hope you will stop tormenting me about those friends in whose company you first made my acquaintance.

Clem. Tormenting you? Nonsense! Only it's incomprehensible to me how you ever got amongst those people.

Marg. You speak of them as if they were a gang of criminals.

Clem. Dearest, I'd stake my honor on it, some of them looked the very picture of pickpockets. Tell me, how did you manage to do it? I can't understand how you, with your refined taste—let alone your purity and the scent you used—could have tolerated their society. How could you have sat at the same table with them?

Marg. [laughing]. Didn't you do the same?

Clem. Next to them—not with them. And for your sake—merely for your sake, as you know. To do them justice, however, I will admit that many bettered upon closer acquaintance. There were some interesting people among them. You mustn't for a moment believe, dearest, that I hold myself superior to those who happen to be shabbily dressed. That's nothing against them. But there was something in their conduct, in their manners, which was positively revolting.

Marg. It wasn't quite so bad.

Clem. Don't take offense, dear. I said there were some interesting people among them. But that a lady should feel at ease in their company, for any length of time, I cannot and do not pretend to understand.

Marg. You forget, dear Clem, that in a sense I'm one of them—or was at one time.

Clem. Now, please! For my sake!

Marg. They were artists.

Clem. Thank goodness, we've returned to the old theme.

Marg. Yes, because it hurts me to think you always lose sight of that fact.

Clem. Lose sight of that fact! Nonsense! You know what pained me in your writings—things entirely personal.

Marg. Let me tell you, Clem, there are women who, in my situation, would have done worse than write poetry.

Clem. But what sort of poetry! What sort of poetry! [Takes a slender volume from the mantel-shelf.] That's what repels me. I assure you, every time I see this book lying here; every time I think of it, I blush with shame that it was you who wrote it.

Marg. That's why you fail to understand— Now, don't take offense. If you did understand, you'd be quite perfect, and that, obviously, is impossible. Why does it repel you? You know I didn't live through all the experiences I write about.

Clem. I hope not.

Marg. The poems are only visions.

Clem. That's just it. That's what makes me ask: How can a lady indulge in visions of that character? [Reads.] "Abandoned on thy breast and suckled by thy lips" [shaking his head]. How can a lady write such stuff—how can a lady have such stuff printed? That's what I simply cannot make out. Everybody who reads will inevitably conjure up the person of the authoress, and the particular breast mentioned, and the particular abandonment hinted at.

Marg. But, I'm telling you, no such breast ever existed.

Clem. I can't bring myself to imagine that it did. That's lucky for both of us, Margaret. But where did these visions originate? These glowing passion-poems could not have been inspired by your first husband. Besides, he could never appreciate you, as you yourself always say.

Marg. Certainly not. That's why I brought suit for divorce. You know the story. I just couldn't bear living with a man who had no other interest in life than eating and drinking and cotton.

Clem. I dare say. But that was three years ago. These poems were written later.

Marg. Quite so. But consider the position in which I found myself—

Clem. What do you mean? You didn't have to endure any privation? In this respect you must admit your husband acted very decently toward you. You were not under the necessity of earning your own living. And suppose the publishers did pay you one hundred gulden for a poem—surely they don't pay more than that—still, you were not bound to write a book of this sort.

Marg. I did not refer to position in a material sense. It was the state of my soul. Have you a notion how—when you came to know me—things were considerably improved. I had in many ways found myself again. But in the beginning! I was so friendless, so crushed! I tried my hand at everything; I painted, I gave English lessons in the pension where I lived. Just think of it! A divorcee, having nobody—

Clem. Why didn't you stay in Vienna?

Marg. Because I couldn't get along with my family. No one appreciated me. Oh, what people! Did any one of them realize that a woman of my type asks more of life than a husband, pretty dresses and social position? My God! If I had had a child, probably everything would have ended differently—and maybe not. I'm not quite lacking in accomplishments, you know. Are you still prepared to complain? Was it not for the best that I went to Munich? Would I have made your acquaintance else?

Clem. You didn't go there with that object in view.

Marg. I wanted to be free spiritually, I mean. I wanted to prove to myself whether I could succeed through my own efforts. And, admit, didn't it look as if I was jolly well going to? I had made some headway on the road to fame.

Clem. H'm!

Marg. But you were dearer to me than fame.

Clem [good-naturedly]. And surer.

Marg. I didn't give it a thought. I suppose it's because I loved you from the very start. For in my dreams, I always conjured up a man of your likeness. I always seemed to realize that it could only be a man like you who would make me happy. Blood—is no empty thing. Nothing whatever can weigh in the balance with that. You see, that's why I can't resist the belief—

Clem. What?

Marg. Oh, sometimes I think I must have blue blood in my veins, too.

Clem. How so?

Marg. It's not improbable?

Clem. I'm afraid I don't understand.

Marg. But I told you that members of the nobility were entertained at our house—

Clem. Well, and if they were?

Marg. Who knows—

Clem. Margaret, you're positively shocking. How can you hint at such a thing!

Marg. I can never say what I think in your presence! That's your only shortcoming—otherwise you would be quite perfect. [She smiles up to him.] You've won my heart completely. That very first evening, when you walked into the café with Wangenheim, I had an immediate presentiment: this is he! You came among that group, like a soul from another world.

Clem. I hope so. And I thank heaven that somehow you didn't seem to be altogether one of them, either. No. Whenever I call to mind that junto—the Russian girl, for instance, who because of her close-cropped hair gave the appearance of a student—except that she did not wear a cap—

Marg. Baranzewitsch is a very gifted painter.

Clem. No doubt. You pointed her out to me one day in the picture gallery. She was standing on a ladder at the time, copying. And then the fellow with the Polish name—

Marg. [beginning]. Zrkd—

Clem. Spare yourself the pains. You don't have to use it now any more. He read something at the café while I was there, without putting himself out the least bit.

Marg. He's a man of extraordinary talent. I'll vouch for it.

Clem. Oh, no doubt. Everybody is talented at the café. And then that yokel, that insufferable—

Marg. Who?

Clem. You know whom I mean. That fellow who persisted in making tactless observations about the aristocracy.

Marg. Gilbert. You must mean Gilbert.

Clem. Yes. Of course. I don't feel called upon to make a brief for my class. Profligates crop up everywhere, even among writers, I understand. But, don't you know it was very bad taste on his part while one of us was present?

Marg. That's just like him.

Clem. I had to hold myself in check not to knock him down.

Marg. In spite of that, he was quite interesting. And, then, you mustn't forget he was raving jealous of you.

Clem. I thought I noticed that, too. [Pause.]

Marg. Good heavens, they were all jealous of you. Naturally enough—you were so unlike them. They all paid court to me because I wouldn't discriminate in favor of any one of them. You certainly must have noticed that, eh? Why are you laughing?

Clem. Comical—is no word for it! If some one had prophesied to me that I was going to marry a regular frequenter of the Café Maxmillian—I fancied the two young painters most. They'd have made an incomparable vaudeville team. Do you know, they resembled each other so much and owned everything they possessed in common—and, if I'm not mistaken, the Russian on the ladder along with the rest.

Marg. I didn't bother myself with such things.

Clem. And, then, both must have been Jews?

Marg. Why so?

Clem. Oh, simply because they always jested in such a way. And their enunciation.

Marg. You may spare your anti-Semitic remarks.

Clem. Now, sweetheart, don't be touchy. I know that your blood is not untainted, and I have nothing whatever against the Jews. I once had a tutor in Greek who was a Jew. Upon my word! He was a capital fellow. One meets all sorts and conditions of people. I don't in the least regret having made the acquaintance of your associates in Munich. It's all the weave of our life experience. But I can't help thinking that I must have appeared to you like a hero come to rescue you in the nick of time.

Marg. Yes, so you did. My Clem! Clem! [Embraces him.]

Clem. What are you laughing at?

Marg. Something's just occurred to me.

Clem. What?

Marg. "Abandoned on thy breast and—"

Clem. [vexed]. Please! Must you always shatter my illusions?

Marg. Tell me truly, Clem, wouldn't you be proud if your fiancée, your wife, were to become a great, a famous writer?

Clem. I have already told you. I am rooted in my decision. And I promise you that if you begin scribbling or publishing poems in which you paint your passion for me, and sing to the world the progress of our love—it's all up with our wedding, and off I go.

Marg. You threaten—you, who have had a dozen well-known affairs.

Clem. My dear, well-known or not, I didn't tell anybody. I didn't bring out a book whenever a woman abandoned herself on my breast, so that any Tom, Dick or Harry could buy it for a gulden and a half. There's the rub. I know there are people who thrive by it, but, as for me, I find it extremely coarse. It's more degrading to me than if you were to pose as a Greek goddess in flesh-colored tights at Ronacher's. A Greek statue like that doesn't say "Mew." But a writer who makes copy of everything goes beyond the merely humorous.

Marg. [nervously]. Dearest, you forget that the poet does not always tell the truth.

Clem. And suppose he only vaporizes. Does that make it any better?

Marg. It isn't called vaporizing; it's "distillation."

Clem. What sort of an expression is that?

Marg. We disclose things we never experience, things we dreamed—plainly invented.

Clem. Don't say "we" any more, Margaret. Thank goodness, that is past.

Marg. Who knows?

Clem. What?

Marg. [tenderly]. Clement, I must tell you all.

Clem. What is it?

Marg. It is not past; I haven't given up my writing.

Clem. Why?

Marg. I'm still going on with my writing, or, rather, I've finished writing another book. Yes, the impulse is stronger than most people realize. I really believe I should have gone to pieces if it hadn't been for my writing.

Clem. What have you written now?

Marg. A novel. The weight was too heavy to be borne. It might have dragged me down—down. Until to-day, I tried to hide it from you, but it had to come out at last. Künigel is immensely taken with it.

Clem. Who's Künigel?

Marg. My publisher.

Clem. Then it's been read already.

Marg. Yes, and lots more will read it. Clement, you will have cause to be proud, believe me.

Clem. You're mistaken, my dear. I think—but, tell me, what's it about?

Marg. I can't tell you right off. The novel contains the greatest part, so to speak, and all that can be said of the greatest part.

Clem. My compliments!

Marg. That's why I'm going to promise you never to pick up a pen any more. I don't need to.

Clem. Margaret, do you love me?

Marg. What a question! You and you only. Though I have seen a great deal, though I have gadded about a great deal, I have experienced comparatively little. I have waited all my life for your coming.

Clem. Well, let me have the book.

Marg. Why—why? What do you mean?

Clem. I grant you, there was some excuse in your having written it; but it doesn't follow that it's got to be read. Let me have it, and we'll throw it into the fire.

Marg. Clem!

Clem. I make that request. I have a right to make it.

Marg. Impossible! It simply—

Clem. Why? If I wish it; if I tell you our whole future depends on it. Do you understand? Is it still impossible?

Marg. But, Clement, the novel has already been printed.

Clem. What! Printed?

Marg. Yes. In a few days it will be on sale on all the book-stalls.

Clem. Margaret, you did all that without a word to me—?

Marg. I couldn't do otherwise. When once you see it, you will forgive me. More than that, you will be proud.

Clem. My dear, this has progressed beyond a joke.

Marg. Clement!

Clem. Adieu, Margaret.

Marg. Clement, what does this mean? You are leaving?

Clem. As you see.

Marg. When are you coming back again?

Clem. I can't say just now. Adieu.

Marg. Clement! [Tries to hold him back.]

Clem. Please. [Goes out.]

Marg. [alone]. Clement! What does this mean? He's left me for good. What shall I do? Clement! Is everything between us at an end? No. It can't be. Clement! I'll go after him. [She looks for her hat. The doorbell rings.] Ah, he's coming back. He only wanted to frighten me. Oh, my Clement! [Goes to the door. Gilbert enters.]

Gil. [to the maid]. I told you so. Madame's at home. How do you do, Margaret?

Marg. [astonished]. You?

Gil. It's I—I. Amandus Gilbert.

Marg. I'm so surprised.

Gil. So I see. There's no cause for it. I merely thought I'd stop over. I'm on my way to Italy. I came to offer you my latest book for auld lang syne. [Hands her the book. As she does not take it, he places it on the table.]

Marg. It's very good of you. Thanks!

Gil. You have a certain proprietorship in that book. So you are living here?

Marg. Yes, but—

Gil. Opposite the stadium, I see. As far as furnished rooms go, it's passable enough. But these family portraits on the walls would drive me crazy.

Marg. My housekeeper's the widow of a general.

Gil. Oh, you needn't apologize.

Marg. Apologize! Really, the idea never occurred to me.

Gil. It's wonderful to hark back to it now.

Marg. To what?

Gil. Why shouldn't I say it? To the small room in Steinsdorf street, with its balcony abutting over the Isar. Do you remember, Margaret?

Marg. Suppose we drop the familiar.

Gil. As you please—as you please. [Pause, then suddenly.] You acted shamefully, Margaret.

Marg. What do you mean?

Gil. Would you much rather that I beat around the bush? I can find no other word, to my regret. And it was so uncalled for, too. Straightforwardness would have done just as nicely. It was quite unnecessary to run away from Munich under cover of a foggy night.

Marg. It wasn't night and it wasn't foggy. I left in the morning on the eight-thirty train, in open daylight.

Gil. At all events, you might have said good-by to me before leaving, eh? [Sits.]

Marg. I expect the Baron back any minute.

Gil. What difference does that make? Of course, you didn't tell him that you lay in my arms once and worshiped me. I'm just an old acquaintance from Munich. And there's no harm in an old acquaintance calling to see you?

Marg. Anybody but you.

Gil. Why? Why do you persist in misunderstanding me? I assure you, I come only as an old acquaintance. Everything else is dead and buried, long dead and buried. Here. See for yourself. [Indicates the book.]

Marg. What's that?

Gil. My latest novel.

Marg. Have you taken to writing novels?

Gil. Certainly.

Marg. Since when have you learned the trick?

Gil. What do you mean?

Marg. Heavens, can't I remember? Thumb-nail sketches were your specialty, observation of daily events.

Gil. [excitedly]. My specialty? My specialty is life itself. I write what suits me. I do not allow myself to be circumscribed. I don't see who's to prevent my writing a novel.

Marg. But the opinion of an authority was—

Gil. Pray, who's an authority?

Marg. I call to mind, for instance, an article by Neumann in the "Algemeine"—

Gil. [angrily]. Neumann's a blamed idiot! I boxed his ears for him once.

Marg. You—

Gil. In effigy— But you were quite as much wrought up about the business as I at that time. We were perfectly agreed that Neumann was a blamed idiot. "How can such a numbskull dare"—these were your very words—"to set bounds to your genius? How can he dare to stifle your next work still, so to speak, in the womb?" You said that! And to-day you quote that literary hawker.

Marg. Please do not shout. My housekeeper—

Gil. I don't propose to bother myself about the widows of defunct generals when every nerve in my body is a-tingle.

Marg. What did I say? I can't account for your touchiness.

Gil. Touchiness! You call me touchy? You! Who used to be seized with a violent fit of trembling every time some insignificant booby or some trumpery sheet happened to utter an unfavorable word of criticism.

Marg. I don't remember one word of unfavorable criticism against me.

Gil. H'm! I dare say you may be right. Critics are always chivalrous toward beautiful women.

Marg. Chivalrous? Do you think my poems were praised out of chivalry? What about your own estimate—

Gil. Mine? I'm not going to retract so much as one little word. I simply want to remind you that you composed your sheaf of lovely poems while we were living together.

Marg. And you actually consider yourself worthy of them?

Gil. Would you have written them if it weren't for me? They are addressed to me.

Marg. Never!

Gil. What! Do you mean to deny that they are addressed to me? This is monstrous!

Marg. No. They are not addressed to you.

Gil. I am dumbfounded. I shall remind you of the situations in which some of your loveliest verses had birth?

Marg. They were inscribed to an Ideal—[Gilbert points to himself]—whose representative on earth you happened to be.

Gil. Ha! This is precious. Where did you get that? Do you know what the French would say in a case like that? "C'est de la littérature!"

Marg. [mimicking him]. Ce n'est pas de la littérature! Now, that's the truth, the honest truth! Or do you really fancy that by the "slim boy" I meant you? Or that the curls I hymned belonged to you? At that time you were fat and your hair was never curly. [Runs her fingers through his hair. Gilbert seizes the opportunity to capture her hand and kiss it.] What an idea!

Gil. At that time you pictured it so; or, at all events, that is what you called it. To be sure, a poet is forced to take every sort of license for the sake of the rhythm. Didn't I once apostrophise you in a sonnet as "my canny lass"? In point of fact, you were neither—no, I don't want to be unfair—you were canny, shamefully canny, perversely canny. And it suited you perfectly. Well, I suppose I really oughtn't to wonder at you. You were at all times a snob. And, by Jove! you've attained your end. You have decoyed your blue-blooded boy with his well-manicured hands and his unmanicured brain, your matchless horseman, fencer, marksman, tennis player, heart-trifler—Marlitt could not have invented him more revolting than he actually is. Yes, what more can you wish? Whether he will satisfy you—who are acquainted with something nobler—is, of course, another question. I can only say that, in my view, you are degenerate in love.

Marg. That must have struck you on the train.

Gil. Not at all. It struck me this very moment.

Marg. Make a note of it then; it's an apt phrase.

Gil. I've another quite as apt. Formerly you were a woman; now you're a "sweet thing." Yes, that's it. What attracted you to a man of that type? Passion—frank and filthy passion—

Marg. Stop! You have a motive—

Gil. My dear, I still lay claim to the possession of a soul.

Marg. Except now and then.

Gil. Please don't try to disparage our former relations. It's no use. They are the noblest experiences you've ever had.

Marg. Heavens, when I think that I endured this twaddle for one whole year I—

Gil. Endure? You were intoxicated with joy. Don't try to be ungrateful. I'm not. Admitting that you behaved never so execrably at the end, yet I can't bring myself to look upon it with bitterness. It had to come just that way.

Marg. Indeed!

Gil. I owe you an explanation. This: at the moment when you were beginning to drift away from me, when homesickness for the stables gripped you—la nostalgie de l'écurie—at that moment I was done with you.

Marg. Impossible.

Gil. You failed to notice the least sign in your characteristic way. I was done with you. To be plain, I didn't need you any longer. What you had to give you gave me. Your uses were fulfilled. In the depths of your soul you knew, unconsciously you knew—

Marg. Please don't get so hot.

Gil. [unruffled]. That our day was over. Our relations had served their purpose. I don't regret having loved you.

Marg. I do!

Gil. Capital! This measly outburst must reveal to a person of any insight just one thing: the essential line of difference between the artist and the dilettante. To you, Margaret, our liaison means nothing more than the memory of a few abandoned nights, a few heart-to-heart talks in the winding ways of the English gardens. But I have made it over into a work of art.

Marg. So have I!

Gil. Eh? What do you mean?

Marg. I have done what you have done. I, too, have written a novel in which our relations are depicted. I, too, have embalmed our love—or what we thought was our love—for all time.

Gil. If I were you, I wouldn't talk of "for all time" before the appearance of the second edition.

Marg. Your writing a novel and my writing a novel are two different things.

Gil. Maybe.

Marg. You are a free man. You don't have to steal your hours devoted to artistic labor. And your future doesn't depend on the throw.

Gil. And you?

Marg. That's what I've done. Only a half hour ago Clement left me because I confessed to him that I had written a novel.

Gil. Left you—for good?

Marg. I don't know. But it isn't unlikely. He went away in a fit of anger. What he'll decide to do I can't say.

Gil. So he objects to your writing, does he? He can't bear to see his mistress put her intelligence to some use. Capital! And he represents the blood of the country! H'm! And you, you're not ashamed to give yourself up to the arms of an idiot of this sort, whom you once—

Marg. Don't you speak of him like that. You don't know him.

Gil. Ah!

Marg. You don't know why he objects to my writing. Purely out of love. He feels that if I go on I will be living in a world entirely apart from him. He blushes at the thought that I should make copy of the most sacred feelings of my soul for unknown people to read. It is his wish that I belong to him only, and that is why he dashed out—no, not dashed out—for Clement doesn't belong to the class that dashes out.

Gil. Your observation is well taken. In any case, he went away. We will not undertake to discuss the tempo of his going forth. And he went away because he could not bear to see you surrender yourself to the creative impulse.

Marg. Ah, if he could only understand that! But, of course, that can never be! I could be the best, the faithfulest, the noblest woman in the world if the right man only existed.

Gil. At all events, you admit he is not the right man.

Marg. I never said that!

Gil. But you ought to realize that he's fettering you, undoing you utterly, seeking through egotism, to destroy your inalienable self. Look back for a moment at the Margaret you were; at the freedom that was yours while you loved me. Think of the younger set who gathered about me and who belonged no whit less to you? Do you never long for those days? Do you never call to mind the small room with its balcony—Beneath us plunged the Isar—[He seizes her hand and presses her near.]

Marg. Ah!

Gil. All's not beyond recall. It need not be the Isar, need it? I have something to propose to you, Margaret. Tell him, when he returns, that you still have some important matters to arrange at Munich, and spend the time with me. Margaret, you are so lovely! We shall be happy again as then. Do you remember [very near her] "Abandoned on thy breast and—"

Marg. [retreating brusquely from him]. Go, go away. No, no. Please go away. I don't love you any more.

Gil. Oh, h'm—indeed! Oh, in that case I beg your pardon. [Pause.] Adieu, Margaret.

Marg. Adieu.

Gil. Won't you present me with a copy of your novel as a parting gift, as I have done?

Marg. It hasn't come out yet. It won't be on sale before next week.

Gil. Pardon my inquisitiveness, what kind of a story is it?

Marg. The story of my life. So veiled, to be sure, that I am in no danger of being recognized.

Gil. I see. How did you manage to do it?

Marg. Very simple. For one thing, the heroine is not a writer but a painter.

Gil. Very clever.

Marg. Her first husband is not a cotton manufacturer, but a big financier, and, of course, it wouldn't do to deceive him with a tenor—

Gil. Ha! Ha!

Marg. What strikes you so funny?

Gil. So you deceived him with a tenor? I didn't know that.

Marg. Whoever said so?

Gil. Why, you yourself, just now.

Marg. How so? I say the heroine of the book deceives her husband with a baritone.

Gil. Bass would have been more sublime, mezzo-soprano more piquant.

Marg. Then she doesn't go to Munich, but to Dresden; and there, has an affair with a sculptor.

Gil. That's me—veiled.

Marg. Very much veiled, I rather fear. The sculptor, as it happens, is young, handsome and a genius. In spite of that she leaves him.

Gil. For—

Marg. Guess?

Gil. A jockey, I fancy.

Marg. Wretch!

Gil. A count, a prince of the empire?

Marg. Wrong. An archduke.

Gil. I must say you have spared no costs.

Marg. Yes, an archduke, who gave up the court for her sake, married her and emigrated with her to the Canary Islands.

Gil. The Canary Islands! Splendid! And then—

Marg. With the disembarkation—

Gil. In Canaryland.

Marg. The story ends.

Gil. Good. I'm very much interested, especially in the veiling.

Marg. You yourself wouldn't recognize me were it not for—

Gil. What?

Marg. The third chapter from the end, where our correspondence is published entire.

Gil. What?

Marg. Yes, all the letters you sent me and those I sent you are included in the novel.

Gil. I see, but may I ask where you got those you sent me? I thought I had them.

Marg. I know. But, you see, I had the habit of always making a rough draft.

Gil. A rough draft?

Marg. Yes.

Gil. A rough draft? Those letters which seemed to have been dashed off in such tremendous haste. "Just one word, dearest, before I go to bed. My eyelids are heavy—" and when your eyelids were closed you wrote the whole thing over again.

Marg. Are you piqued about it?

Gil. I might have expected as much. I ought to be glad, however, that they weren't bought from a professional love-letter writer. Oh, how everything begins to crumble! The whole past is nothing but a heap of ruins. She made a rough draft of her letters!

Marg. Be content. Maybe my letters will be all that will remain immortal of your memory.

Gil. And along with them will remain the fatal story.

Marg. Why?

Gil. [indicating his book]. Because they also appear in my book.

Marg. In where?

Gil. In my novel.

Marg. What?

Gil. Our letters—yours and mine.

Marg. Where did you get your own? I've got them in my possession. Ah, so you, too, made a rough draft?

Gil. Nothing of the kind! I only copied them before mailing. I didn't want to lose them. There are some in my book which you didn't even get. They were, in my opinion, too beautiful for you. You wouldn't have understood them at all.

Marg. Merciful heavens! If this is so—[turning the leaves of Gilbert's book]. Yes, yes, it is so. Why, it's just like telling the world that we two—Merciful heavens! [Feverishly turning the leaves.] Is the letter you sent me the morning after the first night also—

Gil. Surely. That was brilliant.

Marg. This is horrible. Why, this is going to create a European sensation. And Clement—My God; I'm beginning to hope that he will not come back. I am ruined! And you along with me. Wherever you are, he'll be sure to find you and blow your brains out like a mad dog.

Gil. [pocketing his book]. Insipid comparison!

Marg. How did you hit upon such an insane idea? To publish the correspondence of a woman whom, in all sincerity, you professed to have loved! Oh, you're no gentleman.

Gil. Quite charming. Haven't you done the same?

Marg. I'm a woman.

Gil. Do you take refuge in that now?

Marg. Oh, it's true. I have nothing to reproach you with. We were made for one another. Yes, Clement was right. We're worse than those women who appear in flesh-colored tights. Our most sacred feelings, our pangs—everything—we make copy of everything. Pfui! Pfui! It's sickening. We two belong to one another. Clement would only be doing what is right if he drove me away. [Suddenly.] Come, Amandus.

Gil. What is it?

Marg. I accept your proposal.

Gil. What proposal?

Marg. I'm going to cut it with you. [Looks for her hat and cloak.]

Gil. Eh? What do you mean?

Marg. [very much excited; puts her hat on tightly]. Everything can be as it was. You've said it. It needn't be the Isar—well, I'm ready.

Gil. Sheer madness! Cut it—what's the meaning of this? Didn't you yourself say a minute ago that he'd find me anywhere. If you're with me, he'll have no difficulty in finding you, too. Wouldn't it be better if each—

Marg. Wretch! Now you want to leave me in a lurch! Why, only a few minutes ago you were on your knees before me. Have you no conscience?

Gil. What's the use? I am a sick, nervous man, suffering from hypochondria. [Margaret at the window utters a cry.]

Gil. What's up? What will the general's widow think?

Marg. It's he. He's coming back.

Gil. Well, then—

Marg. What? You intend to go?

Gil. I didn't come here to pay the baron a visit.

Marg. He'll encounter you on the stairs. That would be worse. Stay. I refuse to be sacrificed alone.

Gil. Now, don't lose your senses. Why do you tremble like that? It's quite absurd to believe that he's already gone through both novels. Calm yourself. Remove your hat. Off with your cloak. [Assists her.] If he catches you in this frame of mind he can't help but suspect.

Marg. It's all the same to me. Better now than later. I can't bear waiting and waiting for the horrible event. I'm going to tell him everything right away.

Gil. Everything?

Marg. Yes. And while you are still here. If I make a clean breast of everything now maybe he'll forgive me.

Gil. And me—what about me? I have a higher mission in the world, I think, than to suffer myself to be shot down like a mad dog by a jealous baron. [The bell rings.]

Marg. It's he! It's he.

Gil. Understand, you're not to breathe a word.

Marg. I've made up my mind.

Gil. Indeed, have a care. For, if you do, I shall sell my hide at a good price. I shall hurl such naked truths at him that he'll swear no baron heard the like of them.

Clem. [entering, somewhat surprised, but quite cool and courteous]. Oh, Mr. Gilbert! Am I right?

Gil. The very same, Baron. I'm traveling south, and I couldn't repress the desire to pay my respects to madame.

Clem. Ah, indeed. [Pause.] Pardon me, it seems I've interrupted your conversation. Pray, don't let me disturb you.

Gil. What were we talking about just now?

Clem. Perhaps I can assist your memory. In Munich, if I recall correctly, you always talked about your books.

Gil. Quite so. As a matter of fact, I was speaking about my new novel.

Clem. Pray, continue. Nowadays, I find that I, too, can talk literature. Eh, Margaret? Is it naturalistic? Symbolic? Autobiographical? Or—let me see—is it distilled?

Gil. Oh, in a certain sense we all write about our life-experiences.

Clem. H'm. That's good to know.

Gil. Yes, if you're painting the character of Nero, in my opinion it's absolutely necessary that you should have set fire to Rome—

Clem. Naturally.

Gil. From what source should a writer derive his inspiration if not from himself? Where should he go for his models if not to the life which is nearest to him? [Margaret becomes more and more uneasy.]

Clem. Isn't it a pity, though, that the models are so rarely consulted? But I must say, if I were a woman, I'd think twice before I'd let such people know anything—[Sharply.] In decent society, sir, that's the same as compromising a woman!

Gil. I don't know whether I belong to decent society or not, but, in my humble opinion, it's the same as ennobling a woman.

Clem. Indeed.

Gil. The essential thing is, does it really hit the mark! In a higher sense, what does it matter if the public does know that a woman was happy in this bed or that?

Clem. Mr. Gilbert, allow me to remind you that you are speaking in the presence of a lady.

Gil. I'm speaking in the presence of a comrade, Baron, who, perhaps, shares my views in these matters.

Clem. Oh!

Marg. Clement! [Throws herself at his feet.] Clement.

Clem. [staggered]. But—Margaret.

Marg. Your forgiveness, Clement!

Clem. But, Margaret. [To Gilbert.] It's very painful to me, Mr. Gilbert. Now, get up, Margaret. Get up, everything's all right; everything's arranged. Yes, yes. You have but to call up Künigel. I have already arranged everything with him. We are going to put it out for sale. Is that suitable to you?

Gil. What are you going to put out for sale, if I may be so bold as to ask? The novel madame has written?

Clem. Ah, so you know already. At all events, Mr. Gilbert, it seems that your camaraderie is not required any further.

Gil. Yes. There's really nothing left for me but to beg to be excused. I'm sorry.

Clem. I very much regret, Mr. Gilbert, that you had to witness a scene which might almost be called domestic.

Gil. Oh, I do not wish to intrude any further.

Gil. Madame—Baron, may I offer you a copy of my book as a token that all ill-feeling between us has vanished? As a feeble sign of my sympathy, Baron?

Clem. You're very good, Mr. Gilbert. I must, however, tell you that this is going to be the last, or the one before the last, that I ever intend to read.

Gil. The one before the last?

Clem. Yes.

Marg. And what's the last going to be?

Clem. Yours, my love. [Draws an advanced copy from his pocket.] I wheedled an advance copy from Künigel to bring to you, or, rather, to both of us. [Margaret and Gilbert exchange scared glances.]

Marg. How good of you! [Taking the book.] Yes, it's mine.

Clem. We will read it together.

Marg. No, Clement, no. I cannot accept so much kindness. [She throws the book into the fireplace.] I don't want to hear of this sort of thing any more.

Gil. [very joyful]. But, dear madame—

Clem. [going toward the fireplace]. Margaret, what have you done?

Marg. [in front of the fireplace, throwing her arms about Clement]. Now, do you believe that I love you!

Gil. [most gleeful]. It appears that I'm entirely de trop here. Dear Madame—Baron—[To himself.] Pity, though, I can't stay for the last chapter. [Goes out.]

 

[Curtain.]


THE INTRUDER

A Play

By Maurice Maeterlinck


CHARACTERS
The Grandfather [blind].
The Father.
The Three Daughters.
The Uncle.
The Servant.

The present translation of The Intruder is the anonymous version published by Mr. Heinemann in 1892, the editor having, however, made some slight alterations in order to bring it into conformity with the current French text. The particular edition used for this purpose was the 1911 (twenty-third) reprint of Vol. I of M. Maeterlinck's "Théâtre."

A. L. G.

 

Reprinted from "A Miracle of St. Antony and Five Other Plays" in the Modern
Library, by permission of Messrs. Boni & Liveright, Inc.


THE INTRUDER

A Play

By Maurice Maeterlinck

 

[A sombre room in an old Château. A door on the right, a door on the left, and a small concealed door in a corner. At the back, stained-glass windows, in which green is the dominant color, and a glass door giving on to a terrace. A big Dutch clock in one corner. A lighted lamp.]

 

The Three Daughters. Come here, grandfather. Sit down under the lamp.

The Grandfather. There does not seem to me to be much light here.

The Father. Shall we go out on the terrace, or stay in this room?

The Uncle. Would it not be better to stay here? It has rained the whole week, and the nights are damp and cold.

The Eldest Daughter. But the stars are shining.

The Uncle. Oh the stars—that's nothing.

The Grandfather. We had better stay here. One never knows what may happen.

The Father. There is no longer any cause for anxiety. The danger is over, and she is saved....

The Grandfather. I believe she is not doing so well....

The Father. Why do you say that?

The Grandfather. I have heard her voice.

The Father. But since the doctors assure us we may be easy....

The Uncle. You know quite well that your father-in-law likes to alarm us needlessly.

The Grandfather. I don't see things as you do.

The Uncle. You ought to rely on us, then, who can see. She looked very well this afternoon. She is sleeping quietly now; and we are not going to mar, needlessly, the first pleasant evening that chance has put in our way.... It seems to me we have a perfect right to peace, and even to laugh a little, this evening, without fear.

The Father. That's true; this is the first time I have felt at home with my family since this terrible confinement.

The Uncle. When once illness has come into a house, it is as though a stranger had forced himself into the family circle.

The Father. And then you understand, too, that you can count on no one outside the family.

The Uncle. You are quite right.

The Grandfather. Why couldn't I see my poor daughter to-day?

The Uncle. You know quite well—the doctor forbade it.

The Grandfather. I do not know what to think....

The Uncle. It is useless to worry.

The Grandfather [pointing to the door on the left]. She cannot hear us?

The Father. We will not talk too loud; besides, the door is very thick, and the Sister of Mercy is with her, and she is sure to warn us if we are making too much noise.

The Grandfather [pointing to the door on the right]. He cannot hear us?

The Father. No, no.

The Grandfather. He is asleep?

The Father. I suppose so.

The Grandfather. Some one had better go and see.

The Uncle. The little one would cause me more anxiety than your wife. It is now several weeks since he was born, and he has scarcely stirred. He has not cried once all the time! He is like a wax doll.

The Grandfather. I think he will be deaf—dumb too, perhaps—the usual result of a marriage between cousins.... [A reproving silence.]

The Father. I could almost wish him ill for the suffering he has caused his mother.

The Uncle. Do be reasonable; it is not the poor little thing's fault. He is quite alone in the room?

The Father. Yes; the doctor does not wish him to stay in his mother's room any longer.

The Uncle. But the nurse is with him?

The Father. No; she has gone to rest a little; she has well deserved it these last few days. Ursula, just go and see if he is asleep.

The Eldest Daughter. Yes, father. [The Three Sisters get up, and go into the room on the right, hand in hand.]

The Father. When will your sister come?

The Uncle. I think she will come about nine.

The Father. It is past nine. I hope she will come this evening, my wife is so anxious to see her.

The Uncle. She is sure to come. This will be the first time she has been here?

The Father. She has never been in the house.

The Uncle. It is very difficult for her to leave her convent.

The Father. Will she be alone?

The Uncle. I expect one of the nuns will come with her. They are not allowed to go out alone.

The Father. But she is the Superior.

The Uncle. The rule is the same for all.

The Grandfather. Do you not feel anxious?

The Uncle. Why should we feel anxious? What's the good of harping on that? There is nothing more to fear.

The Grandfather. Your sister is older than you?

The Uncle. She is the eldest.

The Grandfather. I do not know what ails me; I feel uneasy. I wish your sister were here.

The Uncle. She will come; she promised to.

The Grandfather. Ah, if this evening were only over!

[The three daughters come in again.]

The Father. He is asleep?

The Eldest Daughter. Yes, father; he is sleeping soundly.

The Uncle. What shall we do while we are waiting?

The Grandfather. Waiting for what?

The Uncle. Waiting for our sister.

The Father. You see nothing coming, Ursula?

The Eldest Daughter [at the window]. Nothing, father.

The Father. Not in the avenue? Can you see the avenue?

The Daughter. Yes, father; it is moonlight, and I can see the avenue as far as the cypress wood.

The Grandfather. And you do not see any one?

The Daughter. No one, grandfather.

The Uncle. What sort of a night is it?

The Daughter. Very fine. Do you hear the nightingales?

The Uncle. Yes, yes.

The Daughter. A little wind is rising in the avenue.

The Grandfather. A little wind in the avenue?

The Daughter. Yes; the trees are trembling a little.

The Uncle. I am surprised that my sister is not here yet.

The Grandfather. I cannot hear the nightingales any longer.

The Daughter. I think some one has come into the garden, grandfather.

The Grandfather. Who is it?

The Daughter. I do not know; I can see no one.

The Uncle. Because there is no one there.

The Daughter. There must be some one in the garden; the nightingales have suddenly ceased singing.

The Grandfather. But I do not hear any one coming.

The Daughter. Some one must be passing by the pond, because the swans are ruffled.

Another Daughter. All the fishes in the pond are diving suddenly.

The Father. You cannot see any one.

The Daughter. No one, father.

The Father. But the pond lies in the moonlight....

The Daughter. Yes; I can see that the swans are ruffled.

The Uncle. I am sure it is my sister who is scaring them. She must have come in by the little gate.

The Father. I cannot understand why the dogs do not bark.

The Daughter. I can see the watchdog right at the back of his kennel. The swans are crossing to the other bank!...

The Uncle. They are afraid of my sister. I will go and see. [He calls.] Sister! sister! Is that you?... There is no one there.

The Daughter. I am sure that some one has come into the garden. You will see.

The Uncle. But she would answer me!

The Grandfather. Are not the nightingales beginning to sing again, Ursula?

The Daughter. I cannot hear one anywhere.

The Grandfather. But there is no noise.

The Father. There is a silence of the grave.

The Grandfather. It must be a stranger that is frightening them, for if it were one of the family they would not be silent.

The Uncle. How much longer are you going to discuss these nightingales?

The Grandfather. Are all the windows open, Ursula?

The Daughter. The glass door is open, grandfather.

The Grandfather. It seems to me that the cold is penetrating into the room.

The Daughter. There is a little wind in the garden, grandfather, and the rose-leaves are falling.

The Father. Well, shut the door. It is late.

The Daughter. Yes, father.... I cannot shut the door.

The Two Other Daughters. We cannot shut the door.

The Grandfather. Why, what is the matter with the door, my children?

The Uncle. You need not say that in such an extraordinary voice. I will go and help them.

The Eldest Daughter. We cannot manage to shut it quite.

The Uncle. It is because of the damp. Let us all push together. There must be something in the way.

The Father. The carpenter will set it right to-morrow.

The Grandfather. Is the carpenter coming to-morrow.

The Daughter. Yes, grandfather; he is coming to do some work in the cellar.

The Grandfather. He will make a noise in the house.

The Daughter. I will tell him to work quietly.

[Suddenly the sound of a scythe being sharpened is heard outside.]

The Grandfather [with a shudder]. Oh!

The Uncle. What is that?

The Daughter. I don't quite know; I think it is the gardener. I cannot quite see; he is in the shadow of the house.

The Father. It is the gardener going to mow.

The Uncle. He mows by night?

The Father. Is not to-morrow Sunday?—Yes.—I noticed that the grass was very long round the house.

The Grandfather. It seems to me that his scythe makes as much noise....

The Daughter. He is mowing near the house.

The Grandfather. Can you see him, Ursula?

The Daughter. No, grandfather. He is standing in the dark.

The Grandfather. I am afraid he will wake my daughter.

The Uncle. We can scarcely hear him.

The Grandfather. It sounds as if he were mowing inside the house.

The Uncle. The invalid will not hear it; there is no danger.

The Father. It seems to me that the lamp is not burning well this evening.

The Uncle. It wants filling.

The Father. I saw it filled this morning. It has burnt badly since the window was shut.

The Uncle. I fancy the chimney is dirty.

The Father. It will burn better presently.

The Daughter. Grandfather is asleep. He has not slept for three nights.

The Father. He has been so much worried.

The Uncle. He always worries too much. At times he will not listen to reason.

The Father. It is quite excusable at his age.

The Uncle. God knows what we shall be like at his age!

The Father. He is nearly eighty.

The Uncle. Then he has a right to be strange.

The Father. He is like all blind people.

The Uncle. They think too much.

The Father. They have too much time to spare.

The Uncle. They have nothing else to do.

The Father. And, besides, they have no distractions.

The Uncle. That must be terrible.

The Father. Apparently one gets used to it.

The Uncle. I cannot imagine it.

The Father. They are certainly to be pitied.

The Uncle. Not to know where one is, not to know where one has come from, not to know whither one is going, not to be able to distinguish midday from midnight, or summer from winter—and always darkness, darkness! I would rather not live. Is it absolutely incurable?

The Father. Apparently so.

The Uncle. But he is not absolutely blind?

The Father. He can perceive a strong light.

The Uncle. Let us take care of our poor eyes.

The Father. He often has strange ideas.

The Uncle. At times he is not at all amusing.

The Father. He says absolutely everything he thinks.

The Uncle. But he was not always like this?

The Father. No; once he was as rational as we are; he never said anything extraordinary. I am afraid Ursula encourages him a little too much; she answers all his questions....

The Uncle. It would be better not to answer them. It's a mistaken kindness to him.

[Ten o'clock strikes.]

The Grandfather [waking up]. Am I facing the glass door?

The Daughter. You have had a nice sleep, grandfather?

The Grandfather. Am I facing the glass door?

The Daughter. Yes, grandfather.

The Grandfather. There is nobody at the glass door?

The Daughter. No, grandfather; I do not see any one.

The Grandfather. I thought some one was waiting. No one has come?

The Daughter. No one, grandfather.

The Grandfather [to the Uncle and Father]. And your sister has not come?

The Uncle. It is too late; she will not come now. It is not nice of her.

The Father. I'm beginning to be anxious about her. [A noise, as of some one coming into the house.]

The Uncle. She is here! Did you hear?

The Father. Yes; some one has come in at the basement.

The Uncle. It must be our sister. I recognized her step.

The Grandfather. I heard slow footsteps.

The Father. She came in very quietly.

The Uncle. She knows there is an invalid.

The Grandfather. I hear nothing now.

The Uncle. She will come up directly; they will tell her we are here.

The Father. I am glad she has come.

The Uncle. I was sure she would come this evening.

The Grandfather. She is a very long time coming up.

The Uncle. It must be she.

The Father. We are not expecting any other visitors.

The Grandfather. I cannot hear any noise in the basement.

The Father. I will call the servant. We shall know how things stand. [He pulls a bell-rope.]

The Grandfather. I can hear a noise on the stairs already.

The Father. It is the servant coming up.

The Grandfather. To me it sounds as if she were not alone.

The Father. She is coming up slowly....

The Grandfather. I hear your sister's step!

The Father. I can only hear the servant.

The Grandfather. It is your sister! It is your sister! [There is a knock at the little door.]

The Uncle. She is knocking at the door of the back stairs.

The Father. I will go and open it myself. [He opens the little door partly; the Servant remains outside in the opening.] Where are you?

The Servant. Here, sir.

The Grandfather. Your sister is at the door?

The Uncle. I can only see the servant.

The Father. It is only the servant. [To the Servant.] Who was that, that came into the house?

The Servant. Came into the house?

The Father. Yes; some one came in just now?

The Servant. No one came in, sir.

The Grandfather. Who is it sighing like that?

The Uncle. It is the servant; she is out of breath.

The Grandfather. Is she crying?

The Uncle. No; why should she be crying?

The Father [to the Servant]. No one came in just now?

The Servant. No, sir.

The Father. But we heard some one open the door!

The Servant. It was I shutting the door.

The Father. It was open?

The Servant. Yes, sir.

The Father. Why was it open at this time of night?

The Servant. I do not know, sir. I had shut it myself.

The Father. Then who was it that opened it?

The Servant. I do not know, sir. Some one must have gone out after me, sir....

The Father. You must be careful.—Don't push the door; you know what a noise it makes!

The Servant. But, sir, I am not touching the door.

The Father. But you are. You are pushing as if you were trying to get into the room.

The Servant. But, sir, I am three yards away from the door.

The Father. Don't talk so loud....

The Grandfather. Are they putting out the light?

The Eldest Daughter. No, grandfather.

The Grandfather. It seems to me it has grown pitch dark all at once.

The Father [to the Servant]. You can go down again now; but do not make so much noise on the stairs.

The Servant. I did not make any noise on the stairs.

The Father. I tell you that you did make a noise. Go down quietly; you will wake your mistress. And if any one comes now, say that we are not at home.

The Uncle. Yes; say that we are not at home.

The Grandfather [shuddering]. You must not say that!

The Father. ... Except to my sister and the doctor.

The Uncle. When will the doctor come?

The Father. He will not be able to come before midnight. [He shuts the door. A clock is heard striking eleven.]

The Grandfather. She has come in?

The Father. Who?

The Grandfather. The servant.

The Father. No, she has gone downstairs.

The Grandfather. I thought that she was sitting at the table.

The Uncle. The servant?

The Grandfather. Yes.

The Uncle. That would complete one's happiness!

The Grandfather. No one has come into the room?

The Father. No; no one has come in.

The Grandfather. And your sister is not here?

The Uncle. Our sister has not come.

The Grandfather. You want to deceive me.

The Uncle. Deceive you?

The Grandfather. Ursula, tell me the truth, for the love of God!

The Eldest Daughter. Grandfather! Grandfather! what is the matter with you?

The Grandfather. Something has happened! I am sure my daughter is worse!...

The Uncle. Are you dreaming?

The Grandfather. You do not want to tell me!... I can see quite well there is something....

The Uncle. In that case you can see better than we can.

The Grandfather. Ursula, tell me the truth!

The Daughter. But we have told you the truth, grandfather!

The Grandfather. You do not speak in your ordinary voice.

The Father. That is because you frighten her.

The Grandfather. Your voice is changed, too.

The Father. You are going mad! [He and the Uncle make signs to each other to signify the Grandfather has lost his reason.]

The Grandfather. I can hear quite well that you are afraid.

The Father. But what should we be afraid of?

The Grandfather. Why do you want to deceive me?

The Uncle. Who is thinking of deceiving you?

The Grandfather. Why have you put out the light?

The Uncle. But the light has not been put out; there is as much light as there was before.

The Daughter. It seems to me that the lamp has gone down.

The Father. I see as well now as ever.

The Grandfather. I have millstones on my eyes! Tell me, girls, what is going on here! Tell me, for the love of God, you who can see! I am here, all alone, in darkness without end! I do not know who seats himself beside me! I do not know what is happening a yard from me!... Why were you talking under your breath just now?

The Father. No one was talking under his breath.

The Grandfather. You did talk in a low voice at the door.

The Father. You heard all I said.

The Grandfather. You brought some one into the room!...

The Father. But I tell you no one has come in!

The Grandfather. Is it your sister or a priest?—You should not try to deceive me.—Ursula, who was it that came in?

The Daughter. No one, grandfather.

The Grandfather. You must not try to deceive me; I know what I know.—How many of us are there here?

The Daughter. There are six of us round the table, grandfather.

The Grandfather. You are all round the table?

The Daughter. Yes, grandfather.

The Grandfather. You are there, Paul?

The Father. Yes.

The Grandfather. You are there, Oliver?

The Uncle. Yes, of course I am here, in my usual place. That's not alarming, is it?

The Grandfather. You are there, Geneviève?

One of the Daughters. Yes, grandfather.

The Grandfather. You are there, Gertrude?

Another Daughter. Yes, grandfather.

The Grandfather. You are here, Ursula?

The Eldest Daughter. Yes, grandfather; next to you.

The Grandfather. And who is that sitting there?

The Daughter. Where do you mean, grandfather?—There is no one.

The Grandfather. There, there—in the midst of us!

The Daughter. But there is no one, grandfather!

The Father. We tell you there is no one!

The Grandfather. But you cannot see—any of you!

The Uncle. Pshaw! You are joking.

The Grandfather. I do not feel inclined for joking, I can assure you.

The Uncle. Then believe those who can see.

The Grandfather [undecidedly]. I thought there was some one.... I believe I shall not live long....

The Uncle. Why should we deceive you? What use would there be in that?

The Father. It would be our duty to tell you the truth....

The Uncle. What would be the good of deceiving each other?

The Father. You could not live in error long.

The Grandfather [trying to rise]. I should like to pierce this darkness!...

The Father. Where do you want to go?

The Grandfather. Over there....

The Father. Don't be so anxious.

The Uncle. You are strange this evening.

The Grandfather. It is all of you who seem to me to be strange!

The Father. Do you want anything?

The Grandfather. I do not know what ails me.

The Eldest Daughter. Grandfather! grandfather! What do you want, grandfather?

The Grandfather. Give me your little hands, my children.

The Three Daughters. Yes, grandfather.

The Grandfather. Why are you all three trembling, girls?

The Eldest Daughter. We are scarcely trembling at all, grandfather.

The Grandfather. I fancy you are all three pale.

The Eldest Daughter. It is late, grandfather, and we are tired.

The Father. You must go to bed, and grandfather himself would do well to take a little rest.

The Grandfather. I could not sleep to-night!

The Uncle. We will wait for the doctor.

The Grandfather. Prepare for the truth.

The Uncle. But there is no truth!

The Grandfather. Then I do not know what there is!

The Uncle. I tell you there is nothing at all!

The Grandfather. I wish I could see my poor daughter!

The Father. But you know quite well it is impossible; she must not be awakened unnecessarily.

The Uncle. You will see her to-morrow.

The Grandfather. There is no sound in her room.

The Uncle. I should be uneasy if I heard any sound.

The Grandfather. It is a very long time since I saw my daughter!... I took her hands yesterday evening, but I could not see her!... I do not know what has become of her.... I do not know how she is.... I do not know what her face is like now.... She must have changed these weeks!... I felt the little bones of her cheeks under my hands.... There is nothing but the darkness between her and me, and the rest of you!... I cannot go on living like this ... this is not living.... You sit there, all of you, looking with open eyes at my dead eyes, and not one of you has pity on me!... I do not know what ails me.... No one tells me what ought to be told me.... And everything is terrifying when one's dreams dwell upon it.... But why are you not speaking?

The Uncle. What should we say, since you will not believe us?

The Grandfather. You are afraid of betraying yourselves!

The Father. Come now, be rational!

The Grandfather. You have been hiding something from me for a long time!... Something has happened in the house.... But I am beginning to understand now.... You have been deceiving me too long!—You fancy that I shall never know anything?—There are moments when I am less blind than you, you know!... Do you think I have not heard you whispering—for days and days—as if you were in the house of some one who had been hanged—I dare not say what I know this evening.... But I shall know the truth!... I shall wait for you to tell me the truth; but I have known it for a long time, in spite of you!—And now, I feel that you are all paler than the dead!

The Three Daughters. Grandfather! grandfather! What is the matter, grandfather?

The Grandfather. It is not you that I am speaking of, girls. No; it is not you that I am speaking of.... I know quite well you would tell me the truth—if they were not by!... And besides, I feel sure that they are deceiving you as well.... You will see, children—you will see!... Do not I hear you all sobbing?

The Father. Is my wife really so ill?

The Grandfather. It is no good trying to deceive me any longer; it is too late now, and I know the truth better than you!...

The Uncle. But we are not blind; we are not.

The Father. Would you like to go into your daughter's room? This misunderstanding must be put an end to.—Would you?

The Grandfather [becoming suddenly undecided]. No, no, not now—not yet.

The Uncle. You see, you are not reasonable.

The Grandfather. One never knows how much a man has been unable to express in his life!... Who made that noise?

The Eldest Daughter. It is the lamp flickering, grandfather.

The Grandfather. It seems to me to be very unsteady—very!

The Daughter. It is the cold wind troubling it....

The Uncle. There is no cold wind, the windows are shut.

The Daughter. I think it is going out.

The Father. There is no more oil.

The Daughter. It has gone right out.

The Father. We cannot stay like this in the dark.

The Uncle. Why not?—I am quite accustomed to it.

The Father. There is a light in my wife's room.

The Uncle. We will take it from there presently, when the doctor has been.

The Father. Well, we can see enough here; there is the light from outside.

The Grandfather. Is it light outside?

The Father. Lighter than here.

The Uncle. For my part, I would as soon talk in the dark.

The Father. So would I. [Silence.]

The Grandfather. It seems to me the clock makes a great deal of noise....

The Eldest Daughter. That is because we are not talking any more, grandfather.

The Grandfather. But why are you all silent?

The Uncle. What do you want us to talk about?—You are really very peculiar to-night.

The Grandfather. Is it very dark in this room?

The Uncle. There is not much light. [Silence.]

The Grandfather. I do not feel well, Ursula; open the window a little.

The Father. Yes, child; open the window a little. I begin to feel the want of air myself. [The girl opens the window.]

The Uncle. I really believe we have stayed shut up too long.

The Grandfather. Is the window open?

The Daughter. Yes, grandfather; it is wide open.

The Grandfather. One would not have thought it was open; there was not a sound outside.

The Daughter. No, grandfather; there is not the slightest sound.

The Father. The silence is extraordinary!

The Daughter. One could hear an angel tread!

The Uncle. That is why I do not like the country.

The Grandfather. I wish I could hear some sound. What o'clock is it, Ursula?

The Daughter. It will soon be midnight, grandfather. [Here the Uncle begins to pace up and down the room.]

The Grandfather. Who is that walking round us like that?

The Uncle. Only I! only I! Do not be frightened! I want to walk about a little. [Silence.]—But I am going to sit down again;—I cannot see where I am going. [Silence.]

The Grandfather. I wish I were out of this place.

The Daughter. Where would you like to go, grandfather?

The Grandfather. I do not know where—into another room, no matter where! no matter where!

The Father. Where could we go?

The Uncle. It is too late to go anywhere else. [Silence. They are sitting, motionless, round the table.]

The Grandfather. What is that I hear, Ursula?

The Daughter. Nothing, grandfather; it is the leaves falling.—Yes, it is the leaves falling on the terrace.

The Grandfather. Go and shut the window, Ursula.

The Daughter. Yes, grandfather. [She shuts the window, comes back, and sits down.]

The Grandfather. I am cold. [Silence. The Three Sisters kiss each other.] What is that I hear now?

The Father. It is the three sisters kissing each other.

The Uncle. It seems to me they are very pale this evening. [Silence.]

The Grandfather. What is that I hear now, Ursula?

The Daughter. Nothing, grandfather; it is the clasping of my hands. [Silence.]

The Grandfather. And that?...

The Daughter. I do not know, grandfather ... perhaps my sisters are trembling a little?...

The Grandfather. I am afraid, too, my children. [Here a ray of moonlight penetrates through a corner of the stained glass, and throws strange gleams here and there in the room. A clock strikes midnight; at the last stroke there is a very vague sound, as of some one rising in haste.]

The Grandfather [shuddering with peculiar horror]. Who is that who got up?

The Uncle. No one got up!

The Father. I did not get up!

The Three Daughters. Nor I!—Nor I!—Nor I!

The Grandfather. Some one got up from the table!

The Uncle. Light the lamp!... [Cries of terror are suddenly heard from the child's room, on the right; these cries continue, with gradations of horror, until the end of the scene.]

The Father. Listen to the child!

The Uncle. He has never cried before!

The Father. Let us go and see him!

The Uncle. The light! The light! [At this moment, quick and heavy steps are heard in the room on the left.—Then a deathly silence.—They listen in mute terror, until the door of the room opens slowly; the light from it is cast into the room where they are sitting, and the Sister of Mercy appears on the threshold, in her black garments, and bows as she makes the sign of the cross, to announce the death of the wife. They understand, and, after a moment of hesitation and fright, silently enter the chamber of death, while the Uncle politely steps aside on the threshold to let the three girls pass. The blind man, left alone, gets up, agitated, and feels his way round the table in the darkness.]

The Grandfather. Where are you going?—Where are you going?—The girls have left me all alone!

 

[Curtain.]


INTERLUDE

By Federico More
Translated from the Spanish by Audrey Alden.


Copyright, 1920, by Stewart & Kidd Company. All rights reserved.

 

PERSONS
The Marquise.
The Poet.

 

Application for permission to produce Interlude must be addressed to Pierre Loving,
in care of Messrs. Stewart & Kidd Co., Cincinnati, Ohio.


INTERLUDE

By Federico More

 

Scene: A Salon.

Marquise [entering].

It is chic yet full of peril to be a marquise, betrothed
And on the brim of nineteen, with two whole years'
Devotion at the convent behind her. Well may the man
I am to marry place his faith in me.
And yet, I am obsessed with the sweet indecision
Of having met a poet who will shrive me in verse,
Drape my life with the vigor of his youth
Yet never kiss me.

Poet [entering].

I was looking for you, madame.

Marquise.

Well, here I am.

Poet.

Does the dance tire you or the music displease?

Marquise.

It has never before displeased me, and yet—now—

Poet.

In a life
Happy as yours, joy is reborn,
Your moods are versatile, and charming, marquise....
Bad humor de luxe ... perhaps mere caprice....

Marquise.

Perhaps mere caprice ... perhaps; but I am prey
To something more profound, something warmer....

Poet.

Have I not told you
That in happy lives such as your high-placed life
There is nothing of ennui, nothing to lead astray,
Nothing to spur you on, nothing to unfold,
Nor any dim wraith stalking by your side?

Marquise.

Ah, you have uttered my thought. I feel as though a ghost walked with me.

Poet.

And I could almost swear
You do not feel your grief molded as the phantom wills.

Marquise.

I do feel it. There is a spell,
An echo from afar.

Poet.

Nerves ... the dance ... fatigue!
Too many perfumes ... too many mirrors....

Marquise.

And the lack of a voice I love.

Poet.

Oh do not be romantic. Don't distort life.
Romance has always proved an evil scourge.

Marquise.

But you, a poet ... are not you romantic?

Poet.

I? Never.

Marquise.

Then how do you write your verse?

Poet.

I make poems
The way your seamstresses make your dresses.

Marquise.

With a pattern and a measure?

Poet.

With a pattern and a measure.

Marquise.

Impossible! Poets give tongue to truth sublime.

Poet.

Pardon, marquise, but it is folly
To think that poems are something more than needles
On which to thread the truth.

Marquise.

Truly, are they no more than that?

Poet.

Ephemeral and vain, in this age
Poetry is woven of agile thought.

Marquise.

What of the sort that weeps and yearns most woe-begone?
Poignancy that is the ending of a poem?

Poet.

All that
Is reached with the noble aid of a consonant
As great love is reached with a kiss.

Marquise.

And what of the void in which my soul is lost
Since no one, poet ... no one cries his need for me....

Poet.

Do not say that, marquise. I can assure you....

Marquise.

That I am a motif for a handful of consonants?

Poet.

Nonsense! I swear it by your clear eyes....

Marquise.

Comparable, I suppose, in verse to two clear diamonds....

Poet.

You scoff, but love is very serious....

Marquise.

Love serious, poet? A betrothal, it may be, is serious,
Arranged by grave-faced parents with stately rites;
Yawns are serious and so is repletion.

Poet.

But tell me, whence comes this deep cynicism?

Marquise.

Oh, do not take it ill. I say it but in jest,
Merely because I like to laugh at the abyss,
What do you think, poet?

Poet.

Well, marquise, I must confess
That I am capable of feeling various loves.

Marquise.

Then you were born for various women.

Poet.

No, I was born for various sorrows.

Marquise.

Or, by the same token, for various pleasures.

Poet.

Sheer vanity! Women always presume
That their mere earthly presence gives men pleasure.

Marquise.

You are clear-witted
And a pattern of such good common-sense. Who would believe
That a poet, dabbler in every sort of folly,
May turn discreet when mysterious love beckons?

Poet.

Mysterious love? Marquise, that is not so.... Love has abandons
Irrestrainable.

Marquise.

And shame restrains them.

Poet.

But what has shame to do with poetry?
It has no worth, it is a social value,
Value of a marquise, par excellence.

Marquise.

None the less, shame is a resigned and subtle justice,
The justice of women, poet.

Poet.

Which is no justice at all.

Marquise.

Poet, the stones you throw
In your defeat, will fall upon your head.

Poet.

That is my destiny. Your rising sun
Can never know the splendor of my sun that sets.

Marquise.

The fault is nowise mine....

Poet.

True.... I am insane
And a madman is insane, marquise, although he reason.

Marquise.

Oh, reason, poet. I would convince you
That even a marquise may be sincere.

Poet.

And I, my lady, I would fain believe it.

Marquise.

Believe it then, I beg of you.

Poet.

But there is this:
A marquise might also lose her head.

Marquise.

True she might lose her head ... but for a rhyme?

Poet.

Which, no matter how true, will always be a lie.

[Pause.]

Marquise.

But why did you protest against my skepticism?

Poet.

I riddled your words, but protested for myself.

Marquise.

So vain a reason, and so selfish?

Poet.

A prideful reason.... I stand aghast before the abyss.

Marquise.

I see that all your love has been in verse.

Poet.

No, marquise, but life
Cradles crude truths which the poet disdains.

Marquise.

And amiable truths which passion passes by.

Poet.

But about which the dreamer's world revolves.

Marquise.

I do not dream, I wish....

Poet.

I know well what I wish....

Marquise.

Well then, we wish that it should not be merely a consonant.

Poet.

No, rather that it should be poetry.

Marquise.

Suppose that it were so, would it content you?

Poet.

It is enough for me, and yet I fear
That this pale poetry, untried, unlived,
Can have no driving urge.

Marquise.

Why then should we refuse to live it?

Poet.

I shall tell you. It is not in high-born taste
To trifle with a heart.
The love of a marquise is the problematic
Love of elegance and froth,
And like other love a sort of mathematic
Love of addition, subtraction and division.
It is not rude passion, fierce, emphatic,
Song and orchestral counterpoint of life.
It is what the world would name platonic,
Love without fire, without virility,
With nothing of creation, nothing tonic,
One-step love, love of society.
And I will have none of this love sardonic,
None of its desperate futility.

Marquise.

I do not fear you though you are a poet,
And I say things to you, no other ears would endure.
You were not born, poor anchorite,
To say to a woman: "Be mine."
And such is your secret vanity,
You are a servile vassal of your own Utopia.
You pretend to transform women
Into laurel branches meaningless,
And with your cynic's blare
You thread upon the needle of your pride
Dregs from the utter depths of the abyss.

Poet.

Marquise, a poet's love has led you astray.

Marquise.

Oh, don't be vain and fanciful. I swear
That in my placid life, happiness brings no joy.
What I longed for was a love, profound and mature,
The profound love of a poet come to being,
And not the incongruities of adolescence in verse....
The radiant synthesis of a pungent existence
And not the disloyalties of a dispersed dream.
What woman has not dreamed of loving a poet
Who would be conqueror and conquered all in one?
What woman has not wished to be humble and forgiving
With the man who sings the great passions he has known?
We need you poets.... We are tormented by the desire
Of a harmonious life, filled with deep sound,
With the vigor and strength of wine poured out
Into bowls of truths, deep with the depth of death.
We crave no water, lymphatic, pure,
In glasses of wind, frail as life.
Better the vintage of the rich
Served in vile glasses of gold. And if the mind be coarse,
Perchance the hands will glitter with many stones.
And if I may not have a fragrant and well-ordered nest
Filled with clear rhythm and little blond heads,
Then let me have my palace where luxurious pleasure
Lends to love of earth, grief and deep dismay.
Why do you not love living, poets? Why is it,
The dullard who nor loves nor lives poaches your kisses?

Poet.

I do not comprehend, marquise. Why love living,
If that is to live loving? We know that life and love
Are wings forever fledging out
In a bird neither swan nor hawk.
I am resigned to my unequal destiny, for I know
That my two eyes cannot perceive the same color.
For even when there is calm, anxiety arises
And then, I am not master, not even of my pain.
I would be your friend, but there are obstacles,
Captious dynamics, that put a check upon my words.
I yield to the dumb pride of my huge torment,
The song without words, the sonorous silence,
And I do not desire any one to penetrate
The garden wherein flowers the mystery I adore.

Marquise.

Conserve your mysteries, poet; they will have no heirs.

Poet.

Death is the heir of everything impenetrable.

Marquise.

But only during life do the words of the sphinx
Possess a meaning for our ears.

Poet.

I am terror-stricken by the sphinx.

Marquise.

Coward! The sun blinds him who cannot hearken to the sphinx.

[Sounds of music in the distance.]

Poet.

Does not the music tempt you?

Marquise.

It does, and I feel sure
My lover must be waiting. Will you come with me?

Poet.

No, thanks. I shall remain and think of what has died.

Marquise.

May you have the protection of my defunct illusion.

[She goes out.]

 

[Curtain.]


MONSIEUR LAMBLIN

A Comedy

By George Ancey
Translated from the French by Barrett H. Clark.


CHARACTERS
Lamblin.
Marthe.
Madame Bail.
Madame Cogé.
Servant.

 

First published in the Stratford Journal, March, 1917. Reprinted by permission of
Mr. Barrett H. Clark.


MONSIEUR LAMBLIN

A Comedy

By George Ancey

Translated from the French by Barrett H. Clark.

 

[A stylish drawing-room. There are doors at the back, and on each side. Down-stage to the right is a window; near it, but protected by a screen, is a large arm-chair near a sewing-table. Down-stage opposite is a fire-place, on each side of which, facing it, are a sofa and another large arm-chair; next the sofa is a small table, and next to it, in turn, a stool and two chairs. This part of the stage should be so arranged as to make a little cozy-corner. The set is completed by various and sundry lamps, vases with flowers, and the like.

As the curtain rises, the servant enters to Lamblin, Marthe and Madame Bail, bringing coffee and cigarettes, which he lays on the small table.]

 

Lamblin [settling comfortably into his chair]. Ah, how comfortable it is! Mm—! [To Marthe.] Serve us our coffee, my child, serve us our coffee.

Marthe [sadly]. Yes, yes.

Lamblin [aside]. Always something going round and round in that little head of hers! Needn't worry about it—nothing serious.—Well, Mother-in-law, what do you say to the laces, eh?

Madame Bail. Delicious! It must have cost a small fortune! You have twenty yards there!

Lamblin. Five thousand francs! Five thousand francs! [To Marthe.] Yes, madame, your husband was particularly generous. He insists upon making his wife the most beautiful of women and giving her everything her heart desires. Has he succeeded?

Marthe. Thank you. I've really never seen such lovely malines. Madame Pertuis ordered some lately and they're not nearly so beautiful as these.

Lamblin. I'm glad to hear it. Well, aren't you going to kiss your husband—for his trouble? [She kisses him.] Good! There, now.

Madame Bail [to Lamblin]. You spoil her!

Lamblin [to Marthe]. Do I spoil you?

Marthe. Yes, yes, of course.

Lamblin. That's right. Everybody happy? That's all we can ask, isn't that so, Mamma Bail? Take care, I warn you! If you continue to look at me that way I'm likely to become dangerous!

Madame Bail. Silly man.

Lamblin. Ha!

Madame Bail [to Marthe]. Laugh, why don't you?

Marthe. I do.

Lamblin [bringing his wife to him and putting her upon his knee]. No, no, but you don't laugh enough, little one. Now, to punish you, I'm going to give you another kiss. [He kisses her.]

Marthe. Oh! Your beard pricks so! Now, take your coffee, or it'll get cold, and then you'll scold Julie again. [A pause.]

Lamblin. It looks like pleasant weather to-morrow!

Madame Bail. What made you think of that?

Lamblin. The particles of sugar have all collected at the bottom of my cup. [He drinks his coffee.]

Madame Bail. As a matter of fact, I hope the weather will be nice.

Lamblin. Do you have to go out?

Madame Bail. I must go to Argentuil.

Lamblin. Now, my dear mother-in-law, what are you going to do at Argentuil? I have an idea that there must be some old general there—?

MADAME BAIL [ironically]. Exactly! How would you like it if—?

Lamblin. Don't joke about such things!

Madame Bail. You needn't worry! Catch me marrying again!

Lamblin [timidly]. There is a great deal to be said for the happiness of married life.

Madame Bail. For the men!

Lamblin. For every one. Is not the hearth a refuge, a sacred spot, where both man and woman find sweet rest after a day's work? Deny it, Mother. Here we are, the three of us, each doing what he likes to do, in our comfortable little home, talking together happily. The mind is at rest, and the heart quiet. Six years of family life have brought us security in our affection, and rendered us kind and indulgent toward one another. It is ineffably sweet, and brings tears to the eyes. [He starts to take a sip of cognac.]

Marthe [preventing him]. Especially when one is a little—lit up!

Madame Bail. Marthe, that's not at all nice of you!

Lamblin [to Madame Bail]. Ah, you're the only one who understands me, Mother! Now, little one, you're going to give me a cigar, one of those on the table.

Marthe [giving him a cigar]. Lazy! He can't even stretch his arm out!

Lamblin. You see, I prefer to have my little wife serve me and be nice to me.

Madame Bail [looking at them both]. Shall I go?

Lamblin. Why should you?

Madame Bail. Well—because—

Lamblin [understanding]. Oh! No, no, stay with us and tell us stories. The little one is moody and severe, I don't dare risk putting my arm around her. Her religion forbids her—expanding!

Madame Bail. Then you don't think I'll be in the way?

Lamblin. You, Mother! I tell you, the day I took it into my head to bring you here to live with us, I was an extremely clever man. It's most convenient to have you here. Men of business like me haven't the time to spend all their leisure moments with their wives. Very often, after a day's work at the office, I'm not at liberty to spend the evening at home: I must return to the office, you know.

Marthe. As you did yesterday!

Lamblin. As I did yesterday. And when I take it into my head to stroll along the boulevard—

Madame Bail. Or elsewhere!

Lamblin. You insist on your little joke, Mother. If, I say, I take it into my head to go out, there's the little one all alone. You came here to live with us, and now my conscious is easy: I leave my little wife in good hands. I need not worry. There were a thousand liberties I never indulged in before you came. Now I take them without the slightest scruple.

Madame Bail. How kind of you!

Lamblin. Don't you think so, little one?

Marthe. I believe that Mamma did exactly the right thing.

Lamblin. You see, I want people to be happy. It is not enough that I should be: every one must be who is about me. I can't abide selfish people.

Madame Bail. You're right!

Lamblin. And it's so easy not to be! [A pause.] There is only one thing worrying me now: I brought a whole package of papers with me from the office, which I must sign.

Marthe. How is business now?

Lamblin. Not very good.

Marthe. Did M. Pacot reimburse you?

Madame Bail. Yes, did he?

Lamblin. It's been pretty hard these past three days, but I am reimbursed, and that's all I ask. Now I'm going to sign my papers. It won't take me more than a quarter of an hour. I'll find you here when I come back, shan't I? [To Marthe.] And the little one will leave me my cognac, eh? See you soon.

Madame Bail. Yes, see you soon.

Lamblin [to Marthe]. You'll let me have my cognac?

Marthe. No! It's ridiculous! It'll make you ill. [Lamblin goes out.]

Madame Bail. There's a good boy!

Marthe. You always stand up for him. The world is full of "good boys" of his sort. "Good boys"! They're all selfish!

Madame Bail. Don't get so excited!

Marthe. I'm not in the least excited. I'm as calm now as I was excited a year ago when I learned of Alfred's affair.

Madame Bail. I understand.

Marthe. No, you don't understand.

Madame Bail. You didn't behave at all reasonably, as you ought to have done long since. You still have absurd romantic ideas. You're not at all reasonable.

Marthe [very much put out]. Well, if I still have those absurd ideas, if I rebel at times, if, as you say, I'm unreasonable, whom does it harm but me alone? What do you expect? The bare idea of sharing him is repulsive to me. Think of it a moment—how perfectly abominable it all is! Why, we are practically accomplices! I thought we were going to discuss it with him just now! It will happen, I know!

Madame Bail. What do you intend to do about it? You keep on saying the same thing. I'm an experienced woman. Why don't you take my word, and be a philosopher, the way all women are, the way I've had to be more than once? If you think for one moment that your own father—! Well, we won't say anything about him.

Marthe. Philosopher, philosopher! A nice way to put it! In what way is that Mathilde Cogé, who is his mistress, better than I? I'd like to know that!

Madame Bail. In any event, he might have done much worse. She is a widow, a woman of the world, and she isn't ruining him. I know her slightly; I've seen her at Madame Parent's. She just seems a little mad, and not in the least spiteful!

Marthe [raging]. Ah!

Madame Bail. But what are you going to do about it?

Marthe. It would be best to separate.

Madame Bail. Why didn't you think of that sooner? You know very well you'd be sorry the moment you'd done it.

Marthe. Don't you think that would be best for us all? What am I doing here? What hopes have I for the future? Merely to complete the happiness of Monsieur, who deigns to see in me an agreeable nurse, who occasionally likes to rest by my side after his escapades elsewhere! Thank you so much! I might just as well go!

Madame Bail. That would be madness. You wouldn't be so foolish as to do it.

Marthe. Yes—I know—society would blame me!

Madame Bail. That's the first point. We should submit to everything rather than do as some others do and fly in the face of convention. We belong to society.

Marthe. In that case I should at least have peace.

Madame Bail. Peace! Nothing of the sort, my dear. You know very well, you would have regrets.

Marthe [ironically]. What regrets?

Madame Bail. God knows! Perhaps, though you don't know it, you still love him, in some hidden corner of your heart. You may pity him. You can go a long way with that feeling. Perhaps you have same vague hope—[Marthe is about to speak.] Well, we won't say any more about that. And then you are religious, you have a big forgiving soul. Aren't these sufficient reasons for waiting? You may regret it. Believe me, my dear child. [Marthe stands silent, and Madame Bail changes her attitude and tone of voice.] Now, you must admit, you haven't so much to complain of. Your husband is far from the worst; indeed, he's one of the best. What would you do if you were in Madame Ponceau's position? Her husband spends all their money and stays away for two and three months at a time. He goes away, is not seen anywhere, and when he returns, he has the most terrible scenes with poor Marie, and even beats her! Now, Alfred is very good to you, pays you all sorts of attentions, he comes home three evenings a week, gives you all sorts of presents. And these laces! He never bothers you or abuses you. See how nice he was just a few minutes ago, simple and natural! He was lovely, and said the pleasantest imaginable things.

Marthe [bitterly]. He flattered you!

Madame Bail. That isn't the reason!

Marthe. That you say nice things about him? Nonsense! He pleases and amuses you. You don't want me to apply for a separation because you want him near you, and because you are afraid of what people will say. Be frank and admit it.

Madame Bail. Marthe, that's not at all nice of you.

Marthe. It's the truth.

Madame Bail. No, no, nothing of the sort.

Marthe. Another thing that grates on me in this life we are leading is to see the way my mother takes her son-in-law's part against me. You find excuses for him on every occasion; and your one fear seems to be that he should hear some random word that will wound him; and the proof is that he never interrupts one of our conversations—which are always on the same subject—but that you don't fail to make desperate signs to me to keep still!

Madame Bail. What an idea! [Marthe is about to reply, when Madame Bail perceives Lamblin reëntering, and signs to Martha to say nothing more.] It's he! [Marthe shrugs her shoulders.]

[Enter Lamblin.]

Lamblin [joyfully]. There, that's done. One hundred and two signatures. Kiss me, little one. In less than an hour I've earned a thousand francs for us. Isn't that splendid?

[Enter a servant.]

Servant. Monsieur?

Lamblin. What is it?

Servant [embarrassed]. Some one—from the office—who wishes to speak with Monsieur.

Lamblin. From the office? At this time?

Servant. Yes, Monsieur.

Lamblin. Say that I am with my family, and that I am not receiving any one.

Servant. That is what I said, but the—person—insists.

Lamblin. How annoying!

Madame Bail. See him, dear, Marthe and I will go out and you may see him here. No one will disturb you.

Marthe. Yes, it's best to see him! [They make ready to go out; pick up their work, and so on.]

Lamblin [to the servant]. Tell him to come in. [The servant goes out.]

Marthe [to Madame Bail, as she points after the servant]. Did you notice? Adolphe was very embarrassed!

Madame Bail. Now what are you going to worry about?

Marthe. I tell you, I saw it! [The women go out.]

Lamblin. This is too much! Not a moment of peace!

[Enter Madame Cogé.]

You?

Madame Cogé. What do you think of my trick?

Lamblin. Detestable as well as dangerous.

Madame Cogé. Come, come. I wanted to go to the Bouffes, and I wanted you to go with me. It's nine o'clock, but we'll be in time for the principal play.

Lamblin. No, no, no, impossible. And what do you mean by falling upon me this way without warning! My dear Mathilde, what were you thinking about?

Madame Cogé. I decided this morning. You were so nice yesterday!

Lamblin. You must go at once! What if some one found you here?

Madame Cogé. Your wife? Quick, then, we must be going. Take your hat, say good-by. I'll wait for you downstairs. I have a cab. [A pause.]

Lamblin. I tell you, it's out of the question. Go alone. I have a headache—I've smoked too much.

Madame Cogé. You refuse? And I was looking forward so—!

Lamblin. Now, listen to me, my dear: I have told you once for all, I'm not a rounder. I like everything well regulated. I have my own little habits, and I don't like something to come along and upset everything. I'm very much of a family man, I've often impressed that fact upon you, and I'm astonished, perfectly astonished, that you don't take that into account.

Madame Cogé [in a high voice]. You make me tired. So there.

Lamblin. Don't scream so! I tell you, I wouldn't go out to-night for anything under the sun. Yesterday, Heaven knows, I was only too happy to be with you: we enjoyed ourselves; it was most pleasant. As for this evening—no: to-morrow. We decided on Mondays, Wednesday, Fridays, and a Sunday from time to time. I have no wish to alter that schedule. I'm regulated like a cuckoo clock. You don't seem to believe that. I strike when I'm intended to strike.

Madame Cogé. That is as much as to say that you like me three days a week, and the rest of the time I mean as little to you as the Grand Turk! That's a queer kind of love!

Lamblin. Not at all. I think of you very often, and if you were to disappear, I should miss you a great deal. Only it's a long way between that and disturbing my equilibrium.

Madame Cogé. And I suppose you love your wife?

Lamblin. Are you jealous?

Madame Cogé. I am, and I have reason to be be....

Lamblin. How childish of you! You know very well that you are the only woman, only—

Madame Cogé. Ah, there is an "only"!

Lamblin. Yes,—only, just because I love you is no reason why I should feel no affection for her, and that you should treat her as you do! She is so devoted!

Madame Cogé. What is there so extraordinary about her?

Lamblin [becoming excited]. She does for me what others would not do—you for instance! She has a steady affection for me; I keep it for my bad moments; her action doesn't turn in every wind. You should see her, so resigned, so anxious to do everything for my comfort and convenience! She's worried when I have a headache, she runs for my slippers when I come home in wet weather—from your house! [Deeply moved.] You see that cognac there? That was the second glass I poured out for myself this evening; the moment I started to drink it her little hand stretched forth and took it from me, because she said I would make myself ill! [He starts to weep.] You know, I poured it out just in order that she should prevent my drinking it. These things stir the heart! [A pause.] Now you must go.

Madame Cogé. No, no. I love you, and I—

Lamblin. You are selfish. And you know I can't stand selfish people. You want to deprive me of a quiet evening in the bosom of my family.

Madame Cogé. I want you to love me, and me alone. I want you to leave your home if need be.

Lamblin. Yes, and if I were to fall sick—which might happen, though I have a strong constitution, thank God!—I know you. You're the best woman in the world, but that doesn't prevent your being a little superficial!

Madame Cogé. Superficial!

Lamblin. Yes, you are, and you can't deny it! Your dropping in on me, like a bolt from the blue, proves it conclusively. And when you once begin chattering about yourself, about your dresses, oh, my! You never stop. You can't be serious, your conversation is not the sort that pleases a man, flatters and amuses him.

Madame Cogé. Oh!

Lamblin. You never talk about him! One night I remember, I was a little sick and you sent me home. There they made tea for me. The cook was already in bed, and Marthe didn't hesitate an instant to go to the kitchen and soil her hands!

Madame Cogé. When was that? When was that?

Lamblin. For God's sake, don't scream so! Not more than two weeks ago.

Madame Cogé. You didn't say what was the matter with you, that's all.

Lamblin. I complained enough, Heaven knows. [A pause.]

Madame Cogé. Then you won't come?

Lamblin. No.

Madame Cogé [resolutely]. Very well, then, farewell.

Lamblin. Now, you mustn't get angry. [He puts his arm round her waist]. You know I can't do without you. You are always my dear little Mathilde, my darling little girl. Aren't you? Do you remember yesterday, eh? You know I love you—deeply?

Madame Cogé. On Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and from time to time on Sundays. Thanks! [She starts to go.]

Lamblin. Mathilde!

Madame Cogé. Good evening. [Returning to him.] Do you want me to tell you something? Though I may be superficial, you are a selfish egotist, and you find your happiness in the tears and suffering of those who love you! Good-by! [She starts to go again.]

Lamblin. Mathilde, Mathilde, dear! To-morrow?

Madame Cogé [returning]. Do you want me to tell you something else? When a man is married and wants to have a mistress, he would do much better and act more uprightly to leave his wife!

Lamblin [simply]. Why?

Madame Cogé. Why?—Good evening! [She goes out.]

Lamblin. Mathilde, Mathilde! Did I make her angry? Oh, she'll forget it all in a quarter of an hour. My, what a headache! [Catching sight of Marthe, who enters from the right.] Marthe! She looks furious! She saw Mathilde go out! What luck!

Marthe [furiously]. Who was that who just left?

Lamblin. Why—

Marthe. Who was that who just left? Answer me!

Lamblin. It was—

Marthe. Madame Cogé, wasn't it? Don't lie, I saw her! What can you be thinking of? To bring your mistress here! I don't know what's prevented my going away before, and leaving you to your debauchery! This is the end—understand? I've had enough. You're going to live alone from now on. [He starts to speak.] Alone. Good-by, monsieur!

Lamblin [moved]. Marthe! [She dashes out. Lamblin goes to the door through which Marthe has gone.] Marthe, Marthe, little one! Tell me that you forgive me. [Coming down-stage.] It's all up! Good Lord!

[Enter Madame Bail.]

Lamblin [goes to her, nearly in tears]. Oh, Mother, all is lost!

Madame Bail. No, no, you great child! I know everything, and I promise it will be all right.

Lamblin. No, no, I tell you. Marthe told me she wanted to leave me.

Madame Bail. Now, don't carry on that way. I don't want to see you cry.

Lamblin. But how can I be calm when my whole future is ruined?

Madame Bail. Nothing of the sort. Don't you think I know my own daughter? She is too well educated, she has too much common sense, to leave you.

Lamblin [a little consoled]. You think so? Oh, if that were only true!

Madame Bail. But it is true! She's crying now; her tears will ease her, and make her change her mind.

Lamblin. Yes, yes, let her cry, let her cry all she wants to!

Madame Bail. I tell you she is yours; she loves you.

Lamblin [brightening]. Is that true? [Madame Bail nods.] How happy I am! [A pause. His attitude changes.] But there's one thing that troubles me.

Madame Bail. What?

Lamblin [embarrassed]. No, nothing.

Madame Bail. Confide in me. Tell me. [A pause.]

Lamblin. Well, that lady who came here this evening—I'm afraid I was a little short with her. I think I offended her. I practically showed her the door.

Madame Bail. Don't worry about that. Perhaps you weren't so rude as you thought you were.

Lamblin. No, I'm sure. I know very well that—

Madame Bail. You mustn't worry and get all excited—

Lamblin. Do you know anything about it?

Madame Bail. No, nothing, only—as I rather suspected what was going on in here—and was afraid—of a quarrel—I met her as she was going out, and I—spoke to her.

Lamblin [taking her hands—joyfully]. I thank you! [They are both embarrassed for a moment, then sit down.] Ah, good. Well, and Marthe?

Madame Bail [pointing to Marthe who enters]. There she is. What did I tell you? [Marthe enters without saying a word. She brings her work, Madame Bail takes up hers, and sits next her. A pause. Madame Bail speaks to Marthe.] What a pretty design! Where did you find the pattern?

Marthe. I just picked it up at the store.

Madame Bail. It's charming. I must get one like it.

Lamblin [ill at ease]. May I see it, little one? [Marthe unrolls the embroidery for him and shows it.] Oh, it's perfectly lovely! We men would be hard put to it to make anything half as beautiful! [He laughs awkwardly, and pours out some cognac, in full sight of Marthe.]

Marthe [quickly]. That's ridiculous, Alfred. [Then she says slowly, as she lowers her eyes.] You'll make yourself ill!

Lamblin [in perfect contentment]. How charming she is!

 

[Curtain.]


FRANÇOISE' LUCK

A Comedy

By Georges de Porto-Riche
(La Chance de Françoise.)
Translated by Barrett H. Clark.


Copyright, 1917, by Stewart & Kidd Company.
All rights reserved.

 

PERSONS REPRESENTED
Marcel Desroches.
Guérin.
Jean.
Françoise.
Madeleine.
    Scene: Auteuil.
    Time: Present.

Presented for the first time December 10,1888, in Paris, at the Théâtre Libre.

 

Françoise' Luck is reprinted from "Four Plays of the Free Theatre," translated by
Barrett H. Clark by permission of Messrs. Stewart & Kidd
Company, Cincinnati, Ohio.


FRANÇOISE' LUCK

A Comedy

By Georges de Porto-Riche

 

[A studio. At the back is a door opening upon a garden; doors to the right and left; likewise a small inconspicuous door to the left. There are a few pictures on easels. The table is littered with papers, books, weapons, bric-a-brac. Chairs and sofas. It is eleven o'clock in the morning.]

 

Françoise [a small, frail woman, with a melancholy look, at times rather mocking. As the curtain rises she is alone. She raises and lowers the window-blind from time to time]. A little more! There! Oh, the sunlight! How blinding! [Glancing at the studio with satisfaction.] How neat everything is! [In attempting to take something from the table, she knocks some papers to the floor.] Well! [Seeing a letter, among the papers she is picking up.] A letter! From Monsieur Guérin—[Reading.] "My dear friend, why do you persist in keeping silence? You say very little of the imprudent woman who has dared to become the companion of the handsome Marcel! Do you recompense her for her confidence in you, for her courage? You are not at all like other men: your frivolity, if you will permit the term, your—" [Interrupting herself.] He writes the word! [Continuing.] "Your cynicism makes me tremble for you. Absent for a year! How much friendship gone to waste! Why were we thrust apart the moment you were married? Why did my wife's health make sunlight an absolute necessity for her? We are now leaving Rome; in a month I'll drop in on you at Auteuil—" [Interrupting herself again.] Very soon!

[Marcel appears at the back.]

"I am very impatient to see you, and Very anxious to see Madame Desroches. I wonder whether she will take to me? I hope she will. Take care, you villain, I shall cross-question her carefully, and if I find the slightest shadow upon her happiness, her friend-to-be will be an angry man." [She stops reading and says to herself, sadly.] A friend—I should like that!

Marcel [carelessly dressed. He is of the type that appeals to women]. Ah, inquisitive, you read my letters?

Françoise. Oh, it's an old one—

Marcel [chaffing her]. From Guérin?

Françoise. I found it there, when I was putting the studio in order.

Marcel [tenderly]. The little romantic child is looking for a friend?

Françoise. I have so much to tell, so much about my recent happiness!

Marcel. Am I not that friend?

Françoise. You are the man I love. Should I consult with you, where your happiness is concerned?

Marcel. Too deep for me! [Yawning.] Oh, I'm tired!

Françoise. Did you come in late last night?

Marcel. Three o'clock.

Françoise. You were very quiet, you naughty man!

Marcel. Were you jealous?

Françoise. The idea! I am morally certain that you love no one except your wife.

Marcel [sadly]. It's true, I love no one except my wife.

Françoise [chaffing him in turn]. Poor Marcel!

Marcel. I was bored to death at that supper; I can't imagine why.—They all tell me I'm getting stout.

Françoise. That's no reason why you shouldn't please.

Marcel. God is very unjust.

Françoise. So they say!

Marcel [stretching out on a sofa]. Excuse my appearance, won't you, Françoise? [Making himself comfortable.] I can't keep my eyes open any longer nowadays. The days of my youth—Why, I was—[He stops.]

Françoise. You were just the right age for marriage.

Marcel [as if to banish the idea]. Oh! [A pause.] I'm sure you will get along well with Guérin. Yours are kindred spirits—you're alike—not in looks, however.

Françoise. Morally, you mean?

Marcel. Yes, The comparison flatters him.

Françoise. He's like this, then; sentimental, a good friend, and a man of honor. Yes, I think I shall get along nicely with him.

Marcel. What a sympathetic nature you have! You've never seen him, and you know him already.

Françoise. How long has he been married?

Marcel. He was born married!

Françoise. Tell me.

Marcel. Ten years, I think.

Françoise. He's happy.

Marcel. Very.

Françoise. What sort of woman is she?

Marcel. Lively.

Françoise. Though virtuous?

Marcel. So they say.

Françoise. Then Madame Guérin and the handsome Martel—eh?

Marcel. A friend's wife?

Françoise. It's very tempting—[Marcel seems to take this with ill-humor; he is about to put on his hat.] Are you going out?

Marcel. I lunch at the club.

Françoise. Very well.

Marcel. I'm—a little nervous; I need a breath of air.

Françoise. Paris air!

Marcel. Precisely.

Françoise. And your work?

Marcel. I'm not in the mood.

Françoise. It's only ten days before the Salon: you'll never be ready.

Marcel. What chance have I, with my talent?

Françoise. You have a great deal of talent—it's recognized everywhere.

Marcel. I did have.

[A pause.]

Françoise. Will you be home for dinner?

Marcel [tenderly]. Of course! And don't allow any black suspicion to get the better of you: I'm not lunching with anybody!

Françoise. I suspect you!

Marcel [gratefully]. 'Til later, then! [A pause. Frankly.] Of course, I don't always go where I tell you I'm going. Why should I worry you? But if you think I—do what I ought not to do, you are mistaken. I'm no longer a bachelor, you know.

Françoise. Just a trifle, aren't you?

Marcel. No jealousy, dear! The day of adventures is dead and buried. Thirty-five mortal years, a scarcity of hair, a noticeable rotundity—and married! Opportunities are fewer now!

Françoise [playfully]. Don't lose courage, your luck may return. A minute would suffice.

Marcel [mournfully]. I don't dare hope.

Françoise. Married! It was never your destiny to be a proprietor, you are doomed to be a tenant.

Marcel [as he is about to leave, sees a letter on the table]. Oh, a letter, and you said nothing to me about it!

Françoise. I didn't see it. Jean must have brought it while you were asleep.

Marcel. From Passy! I know that hand! [Aside, with surprise.] Madame Guérin—Madeleine! Well! [Reading.] "My dear friend I lunch to-day with my aunt Madame de Monglat, at La Muette—as I used to. Come and see me before noon, I have serious things to discuss with you." [He stops reading; aside, much pleased.] A rendezvous! And after three years! Poor Guérin! No! It wouldn't be decent now! No!

Françoise [aside]. He seems to be waking up!

Marcel [aside]. They must have returned! Françoise was right—a minute would suffice! The dear girl!

Françoise. No bad news?

Marcel [in spite of himself]. On the contrary!

Françoise. Oh!

Marcel [embarrassed]. It's from that American woman who saw my picture the other day—at Goupil's, you remember? She insists that I give it to her for ten thousand francs. I really think I'll let her have it. Nowadays you never can tell—

Françoise. I think you would be very wise to sell.

Marcel [handing her the letter]. Don't you believe me?

Françoise. Absolutely.

[Marcel puts the letter in his pocket. A pause.]

Marcel [hesitating before he leaves; aside]. She's a darling; a perfect little darling.

Françoise. Then you're not going out?

Marcel [surprised]. Do you want to send me away?

Françoise. If you're going out to lunch, you had better hurry—the train leaves in a few minutes.

Marcel [suddenly affectionate]. How can I hurry when you are so charming? You're adorable this morning!

Françoise. D'you think so?

[A pause.]

Marcel [aside]. Curious, but every time I have a rendezvous, she is like that!

Françoise. Good-by, then; I've had enough of you! If you stay you'll upset all my plans. I'd quite made up my mind to be melancholy and lonely. It's impossible to be either gay or sad with you! Run along!

Marcel [taking off his hat, which he had put on some moments before]. I tell you this is my house, and this my studio. Your house is there by the garden.

Françoise. Yes, it's only there that you are my husband.

Marcel. Oh! [Reproachfully, and with tenderness.] Tell me, Françoise, why don't you ever want to go out with me?

Françoise. You know I don't like society.

Marcel. I'm seen so much alone!

Françoise. So much the better for you; you will be taken for a bachelor!

Marcel. One might think the way you talk, that husband and wife ought never to live together.

Françoise. Perhaps I'd see you oftener if we weren't married!

Marcel. Isn't it a pleasure to you, Madame, to be in the arms of your husband?

Françoise. Isn't it likewise a pleasure to be able to say, "He is free, I am not his wife, he is not my husband; I am not his duty, a millstone around his neck; I am his avocation, his love? If he leaves me, I know he is tired of me, but if he comes back, then I know he loves me"?

Marcel. Françoise, you are an extremist!

Françoise. You think so?

Marcel. You are.

Françoise. Well?

Marcel. I know your philosophy is nothing but love. [A pause.] You cry sometimes, don't you? When I'm not here?

Françoise. Just a little.

Marcel. I make you very unhappy! When you are sad, don't conceal it from me, Françoise; one of your tears would make me do anything in the world for you.

Françoise. One, yes! But, many?

Marcel. Don't make fun of me: I am serious. If I told you that my affection for you is as great as yours, I—

Françoise. You would be lying.

Marcel. Perhaps! But I think I adore you! Every time I leave you, I feel so lonely; I wander about like a lost soul! I think something must be happening to you. And when I come home at midnight, and open the door, I feel an exquisite sensation—Is that love? You ought to know—you are an adept!

Françoise. Perhaps.

Marcel [unthinkingly]. You know, Françoise, one can never be sure of one's self.

Françoise. Of course!

Marcel. No one can say, "I love to-day, and I shall love to-morrow." You or any one else.

Françoise [offended]. I?

Marcel. How can you tell, whether in fifteen years—?

Françoise. Oh, I'm a little child—I'm different from the others: I shall always love the same man all his life. But go on, you were saying?

Marcel. Nothing. I want you to be happy, in spite of everything, no matter what may happen—no matter what I may do.

Françoise. Even if you should deceive me?

Marcel [tenderly]. Deceive you? Never! I care nothing about other women! You are my happiness—not a mere pastime.

Françoise. Alas!

Marcel. Why alas?

Françoise. Because it is easier to do without happiness than pleasure.

Marcel [tenderly]. Oh, you are all that is highest and best in my life. I prefer you to everything else! Let a woman come between us, and she shall have me to deal with! Call it selfishness, if you will, or egotism—but your peace of mind is an absolute necessity to me!

Françoise. You need not prepare me for the future, you bad boy: I resigned myself to "possibilities" some time ago. I'm inexperienced and young in years, but I'm older than you.

Marcel. Shall I tell you something? I never deserved you!

Françoise. That's true.

Marcel. When I think how happy you might have made some good and worthy man, and that—

Françoise. Who then would have made me happy?

Marcel. You are not happy now.

Françoise. I didn't marry for happiness; I married in order to have you.

Marcel. I'm a fool! It would be nice, wouldn't it, if I were an unfaithful husband!

Françoise. I'm sure you will never be that.

Marcel. Do you really think so?

Françoise. I am positive. What would be the use in deceiving me? I should be so unhappy, and you wouldn't be a bit happier.

Marcel. You are right.

Françoise. No, you will not deceive me. To begin with, I have great luck.

Marcel [gayly]. Of course, you have; you don't know how much!

Françoise [coquettishly]. Tell me!

Marcel. What a child you are!

Marcel. I should think so! Sometimes I imagine that my happiness does not lie altogether in those sparkling eyes of yours and I try to fall in love with another woman; I fall in deeper and deeper for a week or two, and think I am terribly infatuated. But just as I am about to take the fatal leap, I fail: Françoise' luck, you see! At bottom, I'm a commencer; I can't imagine what it is that saves me—and you. Sometimes she has done something to displease me, sometimes a divine word from your lips—and a mere nothing, something quite insignificant! For instance, Wednesday, I missed the train, and came back and had dinner with you. You see, Françoise' luck!

Françoise. Then you're not going out to-day, are you?

Marcel. Nor to-morrow; the whole day is yours. We'll close the door.

Françoise. Aren't you happy?

Marcel [kissing her behind the ear]. Hurry up, you lazy child!

Françoise. I'm not pretty, but I have my good points.

Marcel. Not pretty?

Françoise. No, but I deserve to be.

[Madeleine appears at the back.]

Madeleine. I beg your pardon!

[Françoise gives an exclamation of surprise and escapes through the door to the right without looking again at the visitor.]

Marcel [surprised]. Madeleine!

[A pause.]

Madeleine [stylishly dressed. With an air of bravura]. So this is the way you deceive me!

Marcel [gayly]. My dear, if you think that during these three years—

Madeleine. I beg your pardon for interrupting your little tête-à-tête, Marcel, but your door was open, and there was no servant to announce me.

Marcel. You know you are always welcome here.

Madeleine. Your wife is very attractive.

Marcel. Isn't she? Shall I introduce you?

Madeleine. Later—I've come to see you.

Marcel. I must confess your visit is a little surprising.

Madeleine. Especially after my sending that note this morning. I thought I should prefer not to trouble you.

Marcel [uncertain]. Ah!

Madeleine. Yes.

Marcel. Well?

Madeleine. Well, no!

Marcel. I'm sorry. [Kissing her hand.] Glad to see you, at any rate.

Madeleine. Same studio as always, eh?

Marcel. You are still as charming as ever.

Madeleine. You are as handsome as ever.

Marcel. I can say no less for you.

Madeleine. I'm only twenty-eight.

Marcel. But your husband is fifty: that keeps you young. How long have you been back?

Madeleine. A week.

Marcel. And I haven't seen Guérin yet!

Madeleine. There's no hurry.

Marcel. What's the matter?

Madeleine. He's a bit worried: you know how jealous he is! Well, yesterday, when I was out, he went through all my private papers—

Marcel. Naturally he came across some letters.

Madeleine. The letters, my dear!

Marcel. Mine?

Madeleine. Yes. [Gesture from Marcel.] Old letters.

Marcel. You kept them?

Madeleine. From a celebrity? Of course!

Marcel. The devil!

Madeleine. Ungrateful!

Marcel. I beg your pardon.

Madeleine. You can imagine my explanation following the discovery. My dear Marcel, there's going to be a divorce.

Marcel. A—! A divorce?

Madeleine. Don't feel too sorry for me. After all, I shall be free and almost happy.

Marcel. What resignation!

Madeleine. Only—

Marcel. Only what?

Madeleine. He is going to send you his seconds.

Marcel [gayly]. A duel? To-day? You're not serious?

Madeleine. I think he wants to kill you.

Marcel. But that affair was three years ago! Why, to begin with, he hasn't the right!

Madeleine. Because it was so long ago?

Marcel. Three years is three years.

Madeleine. You're right: now you are not in love with his wife: you love your own. Time has changed everything. Now your own happiness is all-sufficient. I can easily understand your indignation against my husband.

Marcel. Oh, I—

Madeleine. My husband is slow, but he's sure, isn't he?

Marcel. You're cruel, Madeleine.

Madeleine. If it's ancient history for you, it's only too recent for him!

Marcel. Let's not speak about him!

Madeleine. But he ought to be a very interesting topic of conversation just now!

Marcel. I hadn't foreseen his feeling so keenly.

Madeleine. You must tell him how sorry you are when you see him.

Marcel. At the duel?

Madeleine. Elsewhere!

Marcel. Where? Here, in my house?

Madeleine. My dear, he may want to tell you how he feels.

[A pause.]

Marcel [aside, troubled]. The devil! And Françoise? [Another pause.] Oh, a duel! Well, I ought to risk my life for you; you have done the same thing for me many times.

Madeleine. Oh, I was not so careful as you were then.

Marcel. You are not telling me everything, Madeleine. What put it into your husband's head to look through your papers?

Madeleine. Ah!

Marcel. Well, evidently I couldn't have excited his jealousy. For a long time he has had no reason to suspect me! Were they my letters he was looking for?

Madeleine. That is my affair!

Marcel. Then I am expiating for some one else?

Madeleine. I'm afraid so.

Marcel. Perfect!

Madeleine. Forgive me!

Marcel [reproachfully]. So you are deceiving him?

Madeleine. You are a perfect friend to-day!

Marcel. Then you really have a lover?

Madeleine. A second lover! That would be disgraceful, wouldn't it?

Marcel. The first step always brings the worst consequences.

Madeleine. What are you smiling at?

Marcel. Oh, the happiness of others! Well, let's have no bitterness.

Madeleine. No, you might feel remorse!

Marcel. Oh, Madeleine, why am I not the guilty one this time? You are always so beautiful!

Madeleine. Your fault! You should have kept what you had!

Marcel. I thought you were tired of me.

Madeleine. You will never know what I suffered; I cried like an abandoned shopgirl!

Marcel. Not for long, though?

Madeleine. Three months. When I think I once loved you so much, and here I am before you so calm and indifferent! You look like anybody else now. How funny, how disgusting life is! You meet some one, do no end of foolish and wicked and mean things in order to belong to him, and the day comes when you don't know one another. Each takes his turn! I think it would have been better—[Gesture from Marcel.] Yes—I ought to try to forget everything.

Marcel. That's all buried in the past! Wasn't it worth the trouble, and the suffering we have to undergo now?

Madeleine. You, too! You have to recall—!

Marcel. I'm sorry, but I didn't begin this conversation.

Madeleine. Never mind! It's all over, let's say no more about it!

Marcel. No, please! Let's—curse me, Madeleine say anything you like about me: I deserve it all!

Madeleine. Stop! Behave yourself, married man! What if your wife heard you!

Marcel. She? Dear child! She is much too afraid of what I might say to listen.

Madeleine. Dear child! You cynic! I'll wager you have not been a model husband since your marriage!

Marcel. You are mistaken this time, my dear.

Madeleine. You are lying!

Marcel. Seriously; and I'm more surprised than you at the fact—but it's true.

Madeleine. Poor Marcel!

Marcel. I do suffer!

Madeleine. Then you are a faithful husband?

Marcel. I am frivolous and—compromising—that is all.

Madeleine. It's rather funny: you seem somehow to be ready to belong to some one!

Marcel. Madeleine, you are the first who has come near tempting me.

Madeleine. Is it possible?

Marcel. I feel myself weakening.

Madeleine. Thank you so much for thinking of me, dear; I appreciate it, but for the time being, I'll—consider.

Marcel. Have you made up your mind?

Madeleine. We shall see later; I'll think it over—perhaps! Yet, I rather doubt if—. You haven't been nice to me to-day, your open honest face hasn't pleased me at all. You're so carelessly dressed! I don't think you're interesting any more. No, I hardly think so!

Marcel. But, Madeleine—

Madeleine. Don't call me Madeleine.

Marcel. Madame Guérin! Madame Guérin! if I told you how much your note meant to me! How excited I was! I trembled when I read it!

Madeleine. I'll warrant you read it before your wife?

Marcel. It was so charming of you!

Madeleine. How depraved you are!

Marcel. How well you know me!

Madeleine. Fool!

Marcel. I adore you!

Madeleine. That's merely a notion of yours! You imagine, since you haven't seen me for so long—I've just come back from a long trip!

Marcel. Don't shake my faith in you!

Madeleine. Think of your duties, my dear; don't forget—

Marcel. My children? I have none.

Madeleine. Your wife.

Marcel [in desperation]. You always speak of her!

Madeleine. Love her, my friend, and if my husband doesn't kill you to-morrow, continue to love her in peace and quiet. You are made for a virtuous life now—any one can see that. I flatter you when I consider you a libertine. You've been spoiled by too much happiness, that's the trouble with you!

Marcel [trying to kiss her]. Madeleine, if you only—!

Madeleine [evading him]. Are you out of your wits?

Marcel. Forgive me: I haven't quite forgotten! Well, if I am killed it will be for a good reason.

Madeleine. Poor dear!

Marcel. It will! This duel is going to compromise you fearfully. Come now, every one will accuse you to-morrow; what difference does it make to you?

Madeleine. I'm not in the mood!

Marcel. Now you are lying!

Madeleine. I don't love you.

Marcel. Nonsense! You're sulking!

Madeleine. How childish! Don't touch me! You want me to be unfaithful to everybody! Never! [Changing.] Yet—! No; it would be too foolish! Good-by.

Marcel [kissing her as she tries to pass him]. Not before—

Madeleine. Oh, you've mussed my hat; how awkward of you! [Trying to escape from Marcel's embrace.] Let me go!

Marcel [jokingly]. Let you go? In a few days!

Madeleine. Good-by. My husband may come any moment.

Marcel. Are you afraid?

Madeleine. Yes, I'm afraid he might forgive me!

Marcel. One minute more!

Madeleine. No! I have just time. I'm going away this evening—

Marcel. Going away?

Madeleine. To London.

Marcel. With—him, the other?

Madeleine. I hope so.

Marcel. Who knows? He may be waiting for you this moment at Madame de Montglat's, your aunt's—

Madeleine. They are playing cards together.

Marcel. The way we are! What a family!

Madeleine. Impudent!

Marcel. That's why you came.

Madeleine [about to leave]. Shall I go out through the models' door, as I used to?

Marcel. If I were still a bachelor you wouldn't leave me this way! You would miss your train this evening, I'll tell you that!

Madeleine. You may very well look at that long sofa! No, no, my dear: not to-day, thanks!

Marcel. In an hour, then, at Madame de Montglat's!

Madeleine. Take care, or I'll make you meet your successor!

Marcel. Then I can see whether you are still a woman of taste.

Madeleine. Ah, men are very—I'll say the word after I leave. [She goes out through the little door.]

Marcel [alone]. "Men are very—!" If we were, the women would have a very stupid time of it!

[He is about to follow Madeleine.]

[Enter Françoise.]

Françoise. Who was that stylish looking woman who just left, Marcel?

Marcel [embarrassed]. Madame Jackson, my American friend.

Françoise. Well?

Marcel. My picture? Sold!

Françoise. Ten thousand? Splendid! Don't you think so? You don't seem very happy!

Marcel. The idea!

[He picks up his hat.]

Françoise [jealously]. Are you going to leave me?

Marcel. I am just going to Goupil's and tell him.

Françoise. Then I'll have to lunch all by myself! [Marcel stops an instant before the mirror.] You look lovely.

Marcel [turning round]. I—

Françoise. Oh, you'll succeed!

[A pause.]

Marcel [enchanted, in spite of himself]. What can you be thinking of! [Aside.] What if she were after all my happiness? [Reproachfully.] Now, Françoise—

Françoise. I was only joking.

Marcel [ready to leave]. No moping, remember? I can't have that!

Françoise. I know!

Marcel [tenderly. He stands at the threshold. Aside]. Poor child! Well I may fail!

[He goes out, left.]

Françoise [sadly]. Where is he going? Probably to a rendezvous. Oh, if he is! Will my luck fail me to-day? Soon he'll come back again, so well satisfied with himself! I talk to him so much about my resignation, I wonder whether he believes in it? Why must I be tormented this way forever?

[Enter Jean, with a visiting-card.]

Jean. Is Monsieur here?

Françoise. Let me see!

[She takes the card.]

Jean. The gentleman is waiting, Madame.

Françoise. Ask him to come in. Quick, now!

[Jean goes out.]

[Enter Guérin, at the back. As he sees Françoise he hesitates before coming to her.]

Françoise [cordially]. Come in, Monsieur. I have never seen you, but I already know you very well.

Guérin [a large, strong man, with grayish hair]. Thank you, Madame. I thought I should find Monsieur Desroches at home. If you will excuse me—

Françoise. I beg you!

Guérin. I fear I am intruding: it's so early.

Françoise. You intruding in Marcel's home?

Guérin. Madame—

Françoise. My husband will return soon, Monsieur.

Guérin [brightening]. Good!

Françoise. Will you wait for him here in the studio?

Guérin [advancing]. Really, Madame, it would be most ungrateful of me to refuse your kindness.

Françoise. Here are magazines and newspapers—I shall ask to be excused. [As she is about to leave.] It was rather difficult to make you stay!

Guérin. Forgive me, Madame. [Aside ironically.] Too bad! She's decidedly charming!

[Having gone up-stage, Françoise suddenly returns.]

Françoise. It seems a little strange to you, Monsieur—doesn't it?—to see a woman in this bachelor studio—quite at home?

Guérin. Why, Madame—

Françoise. Before leaving you—which I shall do in a moment—you must know that there is one woman who is very glad to know you have returned to Paris!

Guérin. We just arrived this week.

Françoise. Good!

Guérin [ironically]. It's so long since I've seen Marcel.

Françoise. Three years.

Guérin. So many things have happened since!

Françoise. You find him a married man, for one thing—

Guérin. Happily married!

Françoise. Yes, happily!

Guérin. Dear old Marcel! I'll be so glad to see him!

Françoise. I see you haven't forgotten my husband, Monsieur. Thank you!

Guérin. How can I help admiring so stout and loyal a heart as his!

Françoise. You'll have to like me, too!

Guérin. I already do.

Françoise. Really? Then you believe everything you write?

Guérin. Yes, Madame.

Françoise. Take care! This morning I was re-reading one of your letters, in which you promised me your heartiest support. [Offering him her hand.] Then we're friends, are we not?

Guérin [after hesitating, takes her hand]. Good friends, Madame!

Françoise. Word of honor?

Guérin. Word of honor!

Françoise [sitting]. Then I'll stay. Sit down, and let's talk. [Guérin is uncertain.] We have so much to say to each other! Let's talk about you first.

Guérin [forced to sit down]. About me? But I—

Françoise. Yes, about you.

Guérin [quickly]. No, about your happiness, your welfare.

Françoise. About my great happiness!

Guérin [ironically]. Let us speak about your—existence—with which you are so content. I must know all the happiness of this house!

Françoise. Happy people never have anything to say.

Guérin. You never have troubles, I presume?

Françoise. None, so far.

Guérin. But what might happen? To-day you are living peacefully with Marcel, a man whose marriage was, it seems, strongly opposed. Life owes you no more than it has already given you.

Françoise. My happiness is complete. I had never imagined that a man's goodness could make a woman so happy!

Guérin. Goodness?

Françoise. Of course!

Guérin. Love, you mean Madame!

Françoise. Oh, Marcel's love for me—!

Guérin. Something lacking?

Françoise. No!

Guérin [interested]. Tell me. Am I not your friend?

Françoise. Seriously, Monsieur, you know him very well: how could he be in love with me? Is it even possible? He allows one to love him, and I ask nothing more.

Guérin. Nothing?

Françoise. Only to be allowed to continue. [Gesture from Guérin.] I am not like other women. I don't ask for rights; but I do demand tenderness, and consideration. He is free, I am not—I'll admit that. But I don't mind, I only hope that we may continue as we are!

Guérin. Have you some presentiment, Madame?

Françoise. I am afraid, Monsieur. My happiness is not of the proud, demonstrative variety, it is a kind of happiness that is continually trembling for its safety. If I told you—

Guérin. Do tell me!

Françoise. Later! How I pity any one who loves and has to suffer for it!

Guérin [surprised]. You—!

Françoise. I am not on the side of the jealous, of the betrayed—

Guérin [aside, sympathetically]. Poor little woman! [With great sincerity.] Then you are not sure of him?

Françoise [more and more excited]. He is Marcel! Admit for a moment that he loves me to-day—I want so to believe it! To-morrow will he love me? Does he himself know whether he will love me then? Isn't he at the mercy of a whim, a passing fancy—of the weather, or the appearance of the first woman he happens to meet? I am only twenty, and I am not always as careful as I might be. Happiness is so difficult!

Guérin. Yes, it is. [To himself.] It is! [To Françoise.] Perhaps you are conscientious, too sincere?

Françoise. I feel that; yes, I think I am, but every time I try to hide my affection from him, he becomes indifferent, almost mean—as if he were glad to be relieved of a duty—of being good!

Guérin. So it's come to that!

Françoise. You see, Marcel can't get used to the idea that his other life is over, dead and buried, that he's married for good—that he must do as others do. I do my best and tell him, but my very presence only reminds him of his duties as a husband. For instance [interrupting herself]. Here I am telling you all this—

Guérin. Oh!—Please.

Françoise [bitterly]. He likes to go out alone at night, without me. He knows me well enough to understand that his being away makes me very unhappy, and as a matter of form, of common courtesy, he asks me to go with him. I try to reason and convince myself that he doesn't mean what he says, but I can't help feeling sincerely happy when once in a while I do accept his invitation. But the moment we leave the house I realize my mistake. Then he pretends to be in high spirits, but I know all the time he is acting a part; and when we come home again he lets drop without fail some hint about having lost his liberty; he says he took me out in a moment of weakness, that he really wanted to be alone.

Guérin [interrupting]. And when he does go out alone?

Françoise. Then I am most unhappy; I'm in torment for hours and hours. I wonder where he can be, and then I'm afraid he won't come back at all. When the door opens, when I hear him come in, I'm so happy I pay no attention to what he tells me. But I made a solemn vow never to show the least sign of jealousy. My face is always tranquil, and what I say to him never betrays what I feel. I never knowingly betray myself, but his taking way, his tenderness, soon make me confess every fear; then he turns round and, using my own confession as a weapon, shows me how wrong I am to be afraid and suspicious. And when sometimes I say nothing to him, even when he tries to make me confess, he punishes me most severely by telling me stories of his affairs, narrow escapes, and all his temptations. He once told me about an old mistress of his, whom he had just seen, a very clever woman, who was never jealous! Or else he comes in so late that I must be glad, for if he came in later, it would have been all night! He tells me he had some splendid opportunity, and had to give it up! A thousand things like that! He seems to delight in making me suspect and doubt him!

Guérin. Poor little woman!

Françoise. That's my life; as for my happiness, it exists from day to day. [With determination.] If I only had the right to be unhappy! But I must always smile, I must be happy, not only in his presence, but to the very depths of my soul! So that he may deceive me without the least remorse! It is his pleasure!

[She bursts into tears.]

Guérin [rising]. The selfish brute!

Françoise. Isn't my suffering a reproach to him?

Guérin. I pity you, Madame, and I think I understand you better than any one else. I have trouble not unlike your own; perhaps greater, troubles for which there is no consolation.

Françoise. If you understand me, Monsieur, advise me! I need you!

Guérin [startled back into reality]. Me, help you? I? [Aside.] No!

Françoise. You spoke of your friendship. The time has come, prove that it is genuine!

Guérin. Madame, why did I ever see you? Why did I listen to you?

Françoise. What have you to regret?

Guérin. Nothing, Madame, nothing.

Françoise. Explain yourself, Monsieur. You—you make me afraid!

Guérin [trying to calm her suspicions]. Don't cry like that! There is no reason why you should behave that way! Your husband doesn't love you as he ought, but he does love you. You are jealous, that's what's troubling you. But for that matter, why should he deceive you? That would be too unjust.

Françoise [excited]. Too unjust! You are right, Monsieur! No matter how cynical, how blasé a man may be, isn't it his duty, his sacred duty, to say to himself, "I have found a good and true woman in this world of deceptions; she is a woman who adores me, who is only too ready to invent any excuse for me! She bears my name and honors it; no matter what I do, she is always true, of that I am positive. I am always foremost in her thoughts, and I shall be her only love." When a man can say all that, Monsieur, isn't that real, true happiness?

Guérin [sobbing]. Yes—that is happiness!

Françoise. You are crying! [A pause.]

Guérin. My wife—deceived me!

Françoise. Oh! [A pause.] Marcel—

Guérin. Your happiness is in no danger! Yesterday I found some old letters, in a desk—old letters—that was all! You weren't his wife at the time. It's ancient history.

Françoise [aside]. Who knows?

Guérin. Forgive me, Madame; your troubles remind me of my own. When you told of the happiness you still have to give, I couldn't help thinking of what I had lost!

Françoise. So you have come to fight a duel with my husband?

Guérin. Madame—

Françoise. You are going to fight him? Answer me.

Guérin. My life is a wreck now—I must—

Françoise. I don't ask you to forget; Monsieur—

Guérin. Don't you think I have a right?

Françoise. Stop!

Guérin. I shall not try to kill him. You love him too much! I couldn't do it now. In striking him I should be injuring you, and you don't deserve to suffer; you have betrayed no one. The happiness you have just taught me to know is as sacred and inviolable as my honor, my unhappiness. I shall not seek revenge.

Françoise [gratefully]. Oh, Monsieur.

Guérin. I am willing he should live, because he is so dear, so necessary to you. Keep him. If he wants to spoil your happiness, his be the blame! I shall not do it. It would be sacrilege. Good-by, Madame, good-by.

[Guérin goes out, back, Françoise falls into a chair, sobbing.]

[Enter Marcel by the little door.]

Marcel [aside, with a melancholy air]. Refused to see me!

Françoise [distinctly]. Oh, it's you!

Marcel [good-humoredly]. Yes, it's I. [A pause. He goes toward her.] You have been crying! Have you seen Guérin? He's been here!

Françoise. Marcel!

Marcel. Did he dare tell you!

Françoise. You won't see any more of him.

Marcel [astounded]. He's not going to fight?

Françoise. He refuses.

Marcel. Thank you!

Françoise. I took good care of your dignity, you may be sure of that. Here we were together; I told him the story of my life during the last year—how I loved you—and then he broke down. When I learned the truth, he said he would go away for my happiness' sake.

Marcel. I was a coward to deceive that man! Is this a final sentence that you pass on me?

Françoise. Marcel!

Marcel. Both of you are big! You have big hearts. I admire you both more than I can say.

Françoise [incredulously]. Where are you going? To get him to fight with you?

Marcel [returning to her; angrily]. How can I, now? After what you have done, it would be absurd. Why the devil did you have to mix yourself up in something that doesn't concern you? I was only looking for a chance to fight that duel!

Françoise. Looking for a chance?

Marcel. Oh, I—

Françoise. Why?

Marcel [between his teeth]. That's my affair! Everybody has his enemies—his insults to avenge. It was a very good thing that gentleman didn't happen across my path!

Françoise. How dare you recall what he has been generous enough to forget?

Marcel. How do you know that I haven't a special reason for fighting this duel? A legitimate reason, that must be concealed from you?

Françoise. You are mistaken, dear: I guess that reason perfectly.

Marcel. Really?

Françoise. I know it.

Marcel [bursting forth]. Oh! Good! You haven't always been so frightfully profound.

Françoise. Yes, I have, and your irony only proves that I have not been so much mistaken in what I felt by intuition.

Marcel. Ah, marriage.

Françoise. Ah, duty!

Marcel. I love Madame Guérin, don't I?

Françoise. I don't say that.

Marcel. You think it.

Françoise. And if I do? Would it be a crime to think it? You once loved her—perhaps you have seen her again, recently? Do I know where you go? You never tell me.

Marcel. I tell you too much!

Françoise. I think you do.

Marcel. You're jealous!

Françoise. Common, if you like. Come, you must admit, Marcel, Madame Guérin is in some way responsible for your excitement now?

Marcel. Very well then, I love her, I adore her! Are you satisfied?

Françoise. You should have told me that first, my dear; I should never have tried to keep you away from her.

[She breaks into tears.]

Marcel. She's crying! Good, there's liberty for you!

Françoise [bitterly]. Liberty? I did not suffer when I promised you your liberty.

Marcel. That was your "resignation."

Françoise. You knew life, I did not. You ought never to have accepted it!

Marcel. You're like all the rest!

Françoise [more excited]. Doesn't unhappiness level us all?

Marcel. I see it does!

Françoise. What can you ask for, then? So long as you have no great happiness like mine you are ready enough to make any sacrifice, but when once you have it, you never resign yourself to losing it.

Marcel. That's just the difficulty.

Françoise. Be a little patient, dear: I have not yet reached that state of cynicism and subtlety which you seem to want in your wife—I thought I came near to your ideal once! Perhaps there's some hope for me yet: I have promised myself to do my best to satisfy your ideal.

Marcel [moved]. I don't ask that.

Françoise. You are right, I am very foolish to try to struggle. What is the good? It will suffice when I have lost the dearest creature on earth—through my foolishness, my blunders!

Marcel. The dearest creature?

Françoise. I can't help it if he seems so to me!

Marcel [disarmed]. You—you're trying to appeal to my vanity!

Françoise. I am hardly in the mood for joking.

Marcel [tenderly, as he kneels at her feet]. But you make me say things like that—I don't know what! I am not bad—really bad! No, I have not deceived you! I love you, and only you! You! You know that, Françoise! Ask—ask any woman! All women!

[A pause.]

Françoise [smiling through her tears]. Best of husbands! You're not going out then? You'll stay?

Marcel [in Françoise's arms]. Can I go now, now that I'm here? You are so pretty that I—

Françoise. Not when I'm in trouble.

Marcel. Don't cry!

Françoise. I forgive you!

Marcel. Wait, I haven't confessed everything.

Françoise. Not another word!

Marcel. I want to be sincere.

Françoise. I prefer you to lie to me!

Marcel. First, read this note—the one I received this morning.

Françoise [surprised]. From Madame Guérin?

Marcel. You saw her not long ago. Yes, she calmly told me—

Françoise. That her husband had found some letters!

Marcel. And that she was about to leave for England with her lover.

Françoise. Then she is quite consoled?

Marcel. Perfectly.

Françoise. Poor Marcel! And you went to see her and try to prevent her going away with him?

Marcel. My foolishness was well punished. She wouldn't receive me.

Françoise. Then I am the only one left who loves you? How happy I am!

Marcel. I'll kill that love some day with my ridiculous philandering!

Françoise [gravely]. I defy you!

Marcel [playfully]. Then I no longer have the right to provoke Monsieur Guérin? Now?

Françoise [gayly]. You are growing old, Lovelace, his wife has deceived you!

Marcel [lovingly]. Françoise' luck! [Sadly.] Married!

 

[Curtain.]


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.]


THE TENOR

A Comedy

By Frank Wedekind
Translated by André Tridon.


Copyright, 1913, by André Tridon.
All rights reserved.

 

CHARACTERS

Gerardo [Wagnerian tenor, thirty-six years old].
Helen Marova [a beautiful dark-haired woman of twenty-five].
Professor Duhring [sixty, the typical "misunderstood genius"].
Miss Isabel Cœhurne [a blonde English girl of sixteen].
Muller [hotel manager].
A Valet.
A Bell Boy.
An Unknown Woman.

Time: The present.

Place: A city in Austria.

 

The Tenor was first produced in America by the Washington Square Players. Applications for permission to perform The Tenor must be addressed to André Tridon, 121 Madison Avenue, New York.


THE TENOR

A Comedy

By Frank Wedekind

 

[Scene: A large hotel room. There are doors at the right and in the center, and at the left a window with heavy portières. Behind a grand piano at the right stands a Japanese screen which conceals the fireplace. There are several large trunks, open; bunches of flowers are all over the room; many bouquets are piled up on the piano.]

 

Valet [entering from the adjoining room carrying an armful of clothes which he proceeds to pack in one of the trunks. There is a knock at the door]. Come in.

Bell Boy. There is a lady who wants to know if the Maestro is in.

Valet. He isn't in. [Exit Bell Boy. The Valet goes into the adjoining room and returns with another armful of clothes. There is another knock at the door. He puts the clothes on a chair and goes to the door.] What's this again? [He opens the door and some one hands him several large bunches of flowers, which he places carefully on the piano; then he goes back to his packing. There is another knock. He opens the door and takes a handful of letters. He glances at the addresses and reads aloud: "Mister Gerardo. Monsieur Gerardo. Gerardo Esquire. Signor Gerardo." [He drops the letters on a tray and resumes his packing.]

[Enter Gerardo.]

Gerardo. Haven't you finished packing yet? How much longer will it take you?

Valet. I'll be through in a minute, sir.

Gerardo. Hurry! I still have things to do. Let me see. [He reaches for something in a trunk.] God Almighty! Don't you know how to fold a pair of trousers? [Taking the trousers out.] This is what you call packing! Look here! You still have something to learn from me, after all. You take the trousers like this.... You lock this up here.... Then you take hold of these buttons. Watch these buttons here, that's the important thing. Then—you pull them straight.... There.... There.... Then you fold them here.... See.... Now these trousers would keep their shape for a hundred years.

Valet [respectfully, with downcast eyes]. You must have been a tailor once, sir.

Gerardo. What! Well, not exactly.... [He gives the trousers to the Valet.] Pack those up, but be quick about it. Now about that train. You are sure this is the last one we can take?

Valet. It is the only one that gets you there in time, sir. The next train does not reach Brussels until ten o'clock.

Gerardo. Well, then, we must catch this one. I will just have time to go over the second act. Unless I go over that.... Now don't let anybody.... I am out to everybody.

Valet. All right, sir. There are some letters for you, sir.

Gerardo. I have seen them.

Valet. And flowers!

Gerardo. Yes. all right. [He takes the letters from the tray and throws them on a chair before the piano. Then he opens the letters, glances over them with beaming eyes, crumples them up and throws them under the chair.] Remember! I am out to everybody.

Valet. I know, sir. [He locks the trunks.]

Gerardo. To everybody.

Valet. You needn't worry, sir. [Giving him the trunk keys.] Here are the keys, sir.

Gerardo [pocketing the keys]. To everybody!

Valet. The trunks will be taken down at once. [He goes out.]

Gerardo [looking at his watch]. Forty minutes. [He pulls the score of "Tristan" from underneath the flowers on the piano and walks up and down humming.] "Isolde! Geliebte! Bist du mein? Hab' ich dich wieder? Darf ich dich fassen?" [He clears his throat, strikes a chord on the piano and starts again.] "Isolde! Geliebte! Bist du mein? Hab' ich dich wieder?..." [He clears his throat.] The air is dead here. [He sings.] "Isolde! Geliebte...." It's oppressive here. Let's have a little fresh air. [He goes to the window at the left and fumbles for the curtain cord.] Where is the thing? On the other side! Here! [He pulls the cord and throws his head back with an annoyed expression when he sees Miss Cœurne.]

Miss Cœurne [in three-quarter length skirt, her blonde hair down her back, holding a bunch of red roses; she speaks with an English accent and looks straight at Gerardo]. Oh, please don't send me away.

Gerardo. What else can I do? God knows, I haven't asked you to come here. Do not take it badly, dear young lady, but I have to sing to-morrow night in Brussels. I must confess, I hoped I would have this half-hour to myself. I had just given positive orders not to let any one, whoever it might be, come up to my rooms.

Miss Cœurne [coming down stage]. Don't send me away. I heard you yesterday in "Tannhäuser," and I was just bringing you these roses, and—

Gerardo. And—and what?

Miss Cœurne. And myself.... I don't know whether you understand me.

Gerardo [holding the back of a chair; he hesitates, then shakes his head.] Who are you?

Miss Cœurne. My name is Miss Cœurne.

Gerardo. Yes.... Well?

Miss Cœurne. I am very silly.

Gerardo. I know. Come here, my dear girl. [He sits down in an armchair and she stands before him.] Let's have a good earnest talk, such as you have never had in your life—and seem to need. An artist like myself—don't misunderstand me; you are—how old are you?

Miss Cœurne. Twenty-two.

Gerardo. You are sixteen or perhaps seventeen. You make yourself a little older so as to appear more—tempting. Well? Yes, you are very silly. It is really none of my business, as an artist, to cure you of your silliness.... Don't take this badly.... Now then! Why are you staring away like this?

Miss Cœurne. I said I was very silly, because I thought you Germans liked that in a young girl.

Gerardo. I am not a German, but just the same....

Miss Cœurne. What! I am not as silly as all that.

Gerardo. Now look here, my dear girl—you have your tennis court, your skating club; you have your riding class, your dances; you have all a young girl can wish for. What on earth made you come to me?

Miss Cœurne. Because all those things are awful, and they bore me to death.

Gerardo. I will not dispute that. Personally, I must tell you, I know life from an entirely different side. But, my child, I am a man; I am thirty-six. The time will come when you, too, will claim a fuller existence. Wait another two years and there will be some one for you, and then you won't need to—hide yourself behind curtains, in my room, in the room of a man who—never asked you, and whom you don't know any better than—the whole continent of Europe knows him—in order to look at life from his—wonderful point of view. [Miss Cœurne sighs deeply.] Now then ... Many thanks from the bottom of my heart for your roses. [He presses her hand.] Will this do for to-day?

Miss Cœurne. I had never in all my life thought of a man, until I saw you on the stage last night in "Tannhäuser." And I promise you—

Gerardo. Oh, don't promise me anything, my child. What good could your promise do me? The burden of it would all fall upon you. You see, I am talking to you as lovingly as the most loving father could. Be thankful to God that with your recklessness you haven't fallen into the hands of another artist. [He presses her hand again.] Let this be a lesson to you and never try it again.

Miss Cœurne [holding her handkerchief to her face but shedding no tears]. Am I so homely?

Gerardo. Homely! Not homely, but young and indiscreet. [He rises nervously, goes to the right, comes back, puts his arm around her waist and takes her hand.] Listen to me, child. You are not homely because I have to be a singer, because I have to be an artist. Don't misunderstand me, but I can't see why I should simply, because I am an artist, have to assure you that I appreciate your youthful freshness and beauty. It is a question of time. Two hundred, maybe three hundred, nice, lovely girls of your age saw me last night in the rôle of Tannhäuser. Now if every one of those girls made the same demands upon me which you are making—what would become of my singing? What would become of my voice? What would become of my art?

[Miss Cœurne sinks into a seat, covers her face and weeps.]

Gerardo [leaning over the back of her chair, in a friendly tone]. It is a crime for you, child, to weep over the fact that you are still so young. Your whole life is ahead of you. Is it my fault if you fell in love with me? They all do. That is what I am for. Now won't you be a good girl and let me, for the few minutes I have left, prepare myself for to-morrow's appearance?

Miss Cœurne [rising and drying her tears]. I can't believe that any other girl would have acted the way I have.

Gerardo [leading her to the door]. No, dear child.

Miss Cœurne [with sobs in her voice]. At least, not if—

Gerardo. If my valet had stood before the door.

Miss Cœurne. If—

Gerardo. If the girl had been as beautiful and youthfully fresh as you.

Miss Cœurne. If—

Gerardo. If she had heard me only once in "Tannhäuser."

Miss Cœurne [indignant]. If she were as respectable as I am!

Gerardo [pointing to the piano]. Before saying good-by to me, child, have a look at all those flowers. May this be a warning to you in case you feel tempted again to fall in love with a singer. See how fresh they all are. And I have to let them wither, dry up, or I give them to the porter. And look at those letters. [He takes a handful of them from a tray.] I don't know any of those women. Don't worry; I leave them all to their fate. What else could I do? But I'll wager with you that every one of your lovely young friends sent in her little note.

Miss Cœurne. Well, I promise not to do it again, not to hide myself behind your curtains. But don't send me away.

Gerardo. My time, my time, dear child. If I were not on the point of taking a train! I have already told you, I am very sorry for you. But my train leaves in twenty-five minutes. What do you expect?

Miss Cœurne. A kiss.

Gerardo [stiffening up]. From me?

Miss Cœurne. Yes.

Gerardo [holding her around the waist and looking very serious]. You rob Art of its dignity, my child. I do not wish to appear an unfeeling brute, and I am going to give you my picture. Give me your word that after that you will leave me.

Miss Cœurne. Yes.

Gerardo. Good. [He sits at the table and autographs one of his pictures.] You should try to become interested in the operas themselves instead of the men who sing them. You would probably derive much greater enjoyment.

Miss Cœurne [to herself]. I am too young yet.

Gerardo. Sacrifice yourself to music. [He comes down stage and gives her the picture.] Don't see in me a famous tenor but a mere tool in the hands of a noble master. Look at all the married women among your acquaintances. All Wagnerians. Study Wagner's works; learn to understand his leit motifs. That will save you from further foolishness.

Miss Cœurne. I thank you.

[Gerardo leads her out and rings the bell. He takes up his piano score again. There is a knock at the door.]

Valet [coming in out of breath]. Yes, sir.

Gerardo. Are you standing at the door?

Valet. Not just now, sir.

Gerardo. Of course not! Be sure not to let anybody come up here.

Valet. There were three ladies who asked for you, sir.

Gerardo. Don't you dare to let any one of them come up, whatever she may tell you.

Valet. And then here are some more letters.

Gerardo. Oh, all right. [The Valet places the letters on a tray.] And don't you dare to let any one come up.

Valet [at the door]. No, sir.

Gerardo. Even if she offers to settle a fortune upon you.

Valet. No, sir. [He goes out.]

Gerardo [singing]. "Isolde! Geliebte! Bist du...." Well, if women don't get tired of me—Only the world is so full of them; and I am only one man. Every one has his burden to carry. [He strikes a chord on the piano.]

[Prof. Duhring, dressed all in black, with a long white beard, a red hooked nose, gold spectacles, Prince Albert coat and silk hat, an opera score under his arm, enters without knocking.]

Gerardo. What do you want?

Duhring. Maestro—I—I—have—an opera.

Gerardo. How did you get in?

Duhring. I have been watching for two hours for a chance to run up the stairs unnoticed.

Gerardo. But, my dear good man, I have no time.

Duhring. Oh, I will not play the whole opera for you.

Gerardo. I haven't the time. My train leaves in forty minutes.

Duhring. You haven't the time! What should I say? You are thirty and successful. You have your whole life to live yet. Just listen to your part in my opera. You promised to listen to it when you came to this city.

Gerardo. What is the use? I am not a free agent—

Duhring. Please! Please! Please! Maestro! I stand before you an old man, ready to fall on my knees before you; an old man who has never cared for anything in the world but his art. For fifty years I have been a willing victim to the tyranny of art—

Gerardo [interrupting him]. Yes, I understand; I understand, but—

Duhring [excitedly]. No, you don't understand. You could not understand. How could you, the favorite of fortune, you understand what fifty years of bootless work means? But I will try to make you understand it. You see, I am too old to take my own life. People who do that do it at twenty-five, and I let the time pass by. I must now drag along to the end of my days. Please, sir, please don't let these moments pass in vain for me, even if you have to lose a day thereby, a week even. This is in your own interest. A week ago, when you first came for your special appearances, you promised to let me play my opera for you. I have come here every day since; either you had a rehearsal or a woman caller. And now you are on the point of going away. You have only to say one word: I will sing the part of Hermann—and they will produce my opera. You will then thank God for my insistance.... Of course you sing Siegfried, you sing Florestan—but you have no rôle like Hermann in your repertoire, no rôle better suited to your middle register.

[Gerardo leans against the mantelpiece; while drumming on the top with his right hand, he discovers something behind the screen; he suddenly stretches out his arm and pulls out a woman in a gray gown, whom he leads out of the room through the middle door; after closing the door, he turns to Duhring.]

Gerardo. Oh, are you still there?

Duhring [undisturbed]. This opera is good; it is dramatic; it is a financial success. I can show you letters from Liszt, from Wagner, from Rubinstein, in which they consider me as a superior man. And why hasn't any opera ever been produced? Because I am not crying wares on the market-place. And then you know our directors: they will revive ten dead men before they give a live man a chance. Their walls are well guarded. At thirty you are in. At sixty I am still out. One word from you and I shall be in, too. This is why I have come, and [raising his voice] if you are not an unfeeling brute, if success has not killed in you the last spark of artistic sympathy, you will not refuse to hear my work.

Gerardo. I will give you an answer in a week. I will go over your opera. Let me have it.

Duhring. No, I am too old, Maestro. In a week, in what you call a week, I shall be dead and buried. In a week—that is what they all say; and then they keep it for years.

Gerardo. I am very sorry but—

Duhring. To-morrow perhaps you will be on your knees before me; you will boast of knowing me ... and to-day, in your sordid lust for gold, you cannot even spare the half-hour which would mean the breaking of my fetters.

Gerardo. No, really, I have only thirty-five minutes left, and unless I go over a few passages.... You know I sing Tristan in Brussels to-morrow night. [He pulls out his watch.] I haven't even half an hour....

Duhring. Half an hour.... Oh, then, let me play to you your big aria at the end of the first act. [He attempts to sit down on the piano bench. Gerardo restrains him.]

Gerardo. Now, frankly, my dear sir ... I am a singer; I am not a critic. If you wish to have your opera produced, address yourself to those gentlemen who are paid to know what is good and what is not. People scorn and ignore my opinions in such matters as completely as they appreciate and admire my singing.

Duhring. My dear Maestro, you may take it from me that I myself attach no importance whatever to your judgment. What do I care about your opinions? I know you tenors; I would like to play my score for you so that you could say: "I would like to sing the rôle of Hermann."

Gerardo. If you only knew how many things I would like to do and which I have to renounce, and how many things I must do for which I do not care in the least! Half a million a year does not repay me for the many joys of life which I must sacrifice for the sake of my profession. I am not a free man. But you were a free man all your life. Why didn't you go to the market-place and cry your wares?

Duhring. Oh, the vulgarity of it.... I have tried it a hundred times. I am a composer, Maestro, and nothing more.

Gerardo. By which you mean that you have exhausted all your strength in the writing of your operas and kept none of it to secure their production.

Duhring. That is true.

Gerardo. The composers I know reverse the process. They get their operas written somehow and then spend all their strength in an effort to get them produced.

Duhring. That is the type of artist I despise.

Gerardo. Well, I despise the type of man that wastes his life in useless endeavor. What have you done in those fifty years of struggle, for yourself or for the world? Fifty years of useless struggle! That should convince the worst blockhead of the impracticability of his dreams. What have you done with your life? You have wasted it shamefully. If I had wasted my life as you have wasted yours—of course I am only speaking for myself—I don't think I should have the courage to look any one in the face.

Duhring. I am not doing it for myself; I am doing it for my art.

Gerardo [scornfully]. Art, my dear man! Let me tell you that art is quite different from what the papers tell us it is.

Duhring. To me it is the highest thing in the world.

Gerardo. You may believe that, but nobody else does. We artists are merely a luxury for the use of the bourgeoisie. When I stand there on the stage I feel absolutely certain that not one solitary human being in the audience takes the slightest interest in what we, the artists, are doing. If they did, how could they listen to "Die Walküre," for instance? Why, it is an indecent story which could not be mentioned anywhere in polite society. And yet, when I sing Siegmund, the most puritanical mothers bring their fourteen-year-old daughters to hear me. This, you see, is the meaning of whatever you call art. This is what you have sacrificed fifty years of your life to. Find out how many people came to hear me sing and how many came to gape at me as they would at the Emperor of China if he should turn up here to-morrow. Do you know what the artistic wants of the public consist in? To applaud, to send flowers, to have a subject for conversation, to see and be seen. They pay me half a million, but then I make business for hundreds of cabbies, writers, dressmakers, restaurant keepers. It keeps money circulating; it keeps blood running. It gets girls engaged, spinsters married, wives tempted, old cronies supplied with gossip; a woman loses her pocketbook in the crowd, a fellow becomes insane during the performance. Doctors, lawyers made.... [He coughs.] And with this I must sing Tristan in Brussels to-morrow night! I tell you all this, not out of vanity, but to cure you of your delusions. The measure of a man's worth is the world's opinion of him, not the inner belief which one finally adopts after brooding over it for years. Don't imagine that you are a misunderstood genius. There are no misunderstood geniuses.

Duhring.. Let me just play to you the first scene of th second act. A park landscape as in the painting, "Embarkation for the Isle of Cythera."

Gerardo. I repeat to you I have no time. And furthermore, since Wagner's death the need for new operas has never been felt by any one. If you come with new music, you set against yourself all the music schools, the artists, the public. If you want to succeed just steal enough out of Wagner's works to make up a whole opera. Why should I cudgel my brains with your new music when I have cudgeled them cruelly with the old?

Duhring [holding out his trembling hand]. I am afraid I am too old to learn how to steal. Unless one begins very young, one can never learn it.

Gerardo. Don't feel hurt. My dear sir—if I could.... The thought of how you have to struggle.... I happen to have received some five hundred marks more than my fee....

Duhring [turning to the door]. Don't! Please don't! Do not say that. I did not try to show you my opera in order to work a touch. No, I think too much of this child of my brain.... No, Maestro.

[He goes out through the center door.]

Gerardo [following him to the door]. I beg your pardon.... Pleased to have met you.

[He closes the door and sinks into an armchair. A voice is heard outside: "I will not let that man step in my way." Helen rushes into the room followed by the Valet. She is an unusually beautiful young woman in street dress.]

Helen. That man stood there to prevent me from seeing you!

Gerardo. Helen!

Helen. You knew that I would come to see you.

Valet [rubbing his cheek]. I did all I could, sir, but this lady actually—

Helen. Yes, I slapped his face.

Gerardo. Helen!

Helen. Should I have let him insult me?

Gerardo [to the Valet]. Please leave us.

[The Valet goes out.]

Helen [placing her muff on a chair]. I can no longer live without you. Either you take me with you or I will kill myself.

Gerardo. Helen!

Helen. Yes, kill myself. A day like yesterday, without even seeing you—no, I could not live through that again. I am not strong enough. I beseech you, Oscar, take me with you.

Gerardo. I couldn't.

Helen. You could if you wanted to. You can't leave me without killing me. These are not mere words. This isn't a threat. It is a fact: I will die if I can no longer have you. You must take me with you—it is your duty—if only for a short time.

Gerardo. I give you my word of honor, Helen, I can't—I give you my word.

Helen. You must, Oscar. Whether you can or not, you must bear the consequences of your acts. I love life, but to me life and you are one and the same thing. Take me with you, Oscar, if you don't want to have my blood on your hands.

Gerardo. Do you remember what I said to you the first day we were together here?

Helen. I remember, but what good does that do me?

Gerardo. I said that there couldn't be any question of love between us.

Helen. I can't help that. I didn't know you then. I never knew what a man could be to me until I met you. You know very well that it would come to this, otherwise you wouldn't have obliged me to promise not to make you a parting scene.

Gerardo. I simply cannot take you with me.

Helen. Oh, God! I knew you would say that! I knew it when I came here. That's what you say to every woman. And I am just one of a hundred. I know it. But, Oscar, I am lovesick; I am dying of love. This is your work, and you can save me without any sacrifice on your part, without assuming any burden. Why can't you do it?

Gerardo [very slowly]. Because my contract forbids me to marry or to travel in the company of a woman.

Helen [disturbed]. What can prevent you?

Gerardo. My contract.

Helen. You cannot....

Gerardo. I cannot marry until my contract expires.

Helen. And you cannot....

Gerardo. I cannot travel in the company of a woman.

Helen. That is incredible. And whom in the world should it concern?

Gerardo. My manager.

Helen. Your manager! What business is it of his?

Gerardo. It is precisely his business.

Helen. Is it perhaps because it might—affect your voice?

Gerardo. Yes.

Helen. That is preposterous. Does it affect your voice?

[Gerardo chuckles.]

Helen. Does your manager believe that nonsense?

Gerardo. No, he doesn't.

Helen. This is beyond me. I can't understand how a decent man could sign such a contract.

Gerardo. I am an artist first and a man next.

Helen. Yes, that's what you are—a great artist—an eminent artist. Can't you understand how much I must love you? You are the first man whose superiority I have felt and whom I desired to please, and you despise me for it. I have bitten my lips many a time not to let you suspect how much you meant to me; I was so afraid I might bore you. Yesterday, however, put me in a state of mind which no woman can endure. If I didn't love you so insanely, Oscar, you would think more of me. That is the terrible thing about you—that you must scorn a woman who thinks the world of you.

Gerardo. Helen!

Helen. Your contract! Don't use your contract as a weapon to murder me with. Let me go with you, Oscar. You will see if your manager ever mentions a breach of contract. He would not do such a thing. I know men. And if he says a word, it will be time then for me to die.

Gerardo. We have no right to do that, Helen. You are just as little free to follow me, as I am to shoulder such a responsibility. I don't belong to myself; I belong to my art.

Helen. Oh, leave your art alone. What do I care about your art? Has God created a man like you to make a puppet of himself every night? You should be ashamed of it instead of boasting of it. You see, I overlooked the fact that you were merely an artist. What wouldn't I overlook for a god like you? Even if you were a convict, Oscar, my feelings would be the same. I would lie in the dust at your feet and beg for your pity. I would face death as I am facing it now.

Gerardo [laughing]. Facing death, Helen! Women who are endowed with your gifts for enjoying life don't make away with themselves. You know even better than I do the value of life.

Helen [dreamily]. Oscar, I didn't say that I would shoot myself. When did I say that? Where would I find the courage to do that? I only said that I will die, if you don't take me with you. I will die as I would of an illness, for I only live when I am with you. I can live without my home, without my children, but not without you, Oscar. I cannot live without you.

Gerardo. Helen, if you don't calm yourself.... You put me in an awful position.... I have only ten minutes left.... I can't explain in court that your excitement made me break my contract.... I can only give you ten minutes.... If you don't calm yourself in that time.... I can't leave you alone in this condition. Think all you have at stake!

Helen. As though I had anything else at stake!

Gerardo. You can lose your position in society.

Helen. I can lose you!

Gerardo. And your family?

Helen. I care for no one but you.

Gerardo. But I cannot be yours.

Helen. Then I have nothing to lose but my life.

Gerardo. Your children!

Helen. Who has taken me from them, Oscar? Who has taken me from my children?

Gerardo. Did I make any advances to you?

Helen [passionately]. No, no. I have thrown myself at you, and would throw myself at you again. Neither my husband nor my children could keep me back. When I die, at least I will have lived; thanks to you, Oscar! I thank you, Oscar, for revealing me to myself. I thank you for that.

Gerardo. Helen, calm yourself and listen to me.

Helen. Yes, yes, for ten minutes.

Gerardo. Listen to me. [Both sit down on the divan.]

Helen [staring at him]. Yes, I thank you for it.

Gerardo. Helen!

Helen. I don't even ask you to love me. Let me only breathe the air you breathe.

Gerardo[trying to be calm]. Helen—a man of my type cannot be swayed by any of the bourgeois ideas. I have known society women in every country of the world. Some made parting scenes to me, but at least they all knew what they owed to their position. This is the first time in my life that I have witnessed such an outburst of passion.... Helen, the temptation comes to me daily to step with some woman into an idyllic Arcadia. But every human being has his duties; you have your duties as I have mine, and the call of duty is the highest thing in the world....

Helen. I know better than you do what the highest duty is.

Gerardo. What, then? Your love for me? That's what they all say. Whatever a woman has set her heart on winning is to her good; whatever crosses her plans is evil. It is the fault of our playwrights. To draw full houses they set the world upside down, and when a woman abandons her children and her family to follow her instincts they call that—oh, broad-mindedness. I personally wouldn't mind living the way turtle doves live. But since I am a part of this world I must obey my duty first. Then whenever the opportunity arises I quaff of the cup of joy. Whoever refuses to do his duty has no right to make any demands upon another fellow being.

Helen [staring absent-mindedly]. That does not bring the dead back to life.

Gerardo [nervously]. Helen, I will give you back your life. I will give you back what you have sacrificed for me. For God's sake take it. What does it come to, after all? Helen, how can a woman lower herself to that point? Where is your pride? What am I in the eyes of the world? A man who makes a puppet of himself every night! Helen, are you going to kill yourself for a man whom hundreds of women loved before you, whom hundreds of women will love after you without letting their feelings disturb their life one second? Will you, by shedding your warm red blood, make yourself ridiculous before God and the world?

Helen [looking away from him]. I know I am asking a good deal, but—what else can I do?

Gerardo. Helen, you said I should bear the consequences of my acts. Will you reproach for not refusing to receive you when you first came here, ostensibly to ask me to try your voice? What can a man do in such a case? You are the beauty of this town. Either I would be known as the bear among artists who denies himself to all women callers, or I might have received you and pretended that I didn't understand what you meant and then pass for a fool. Or the very first day I might have talked to you as frankly as I am talking now. Dangerous business. You would have called me a conceited idiot. Tell me, Helen—what else could I do?

Helen [staring at him with, imploring eyes, shuddering and making an effort to speak]. O God! O God! Oscar, what would you say if to-morrow I should go and be as happy with another man as I have been with you? Oscar—what would you say?

Gerardo [after a silence]. Nothing. [He looks at his watch.] Helen—

Helen. Oscar! [She kneels before him.] For the last time, I implore you.... You don't know what you are doing.... It isn't your fault—but don't let me die.... Save me—save me!

Gerardo [raising her up]. Helen, I am not such a wonderful man. How many men have you known? The more men you come to know, the lower all men will fall in your estimation. When you know men better you will not take your life for any one of them. You will not think any more of them than I do of women.

Helen. I am not like you in that respect.

Gerardo. I speak earnestly, Helen. We don't fall in love with one person or another; we fall in love with our type, which we find everywhere in the world if we only look sharply enough.

Helen. And when we meet our type, are we sure then of being loved again?

Gerardo [angrily]. You have no right to complain of your husband. Was any girl ever compelled to marry against her will? That is all rot. It is only the women who have sold themselves for certain material advantages and then try to dodge their obligations who try to make us believe that nonsense.

Helen [smiling]. They break their contracts.

Gerardo [pounding his chest]. When I sell myself, at least I am honest about it.

Helen. Isn't love honest?

Gerardo. No! Love is a beastly bourgeois virtue. Love is the last refuge of the mollycoddle, of the coward. In my world every man has his actual value, and when two human beings make up a pact they know exactly what to expect from each other. Love has nothing to do with it, either.

Helen. Won't you lead me into your world, then?

Gerardo. Helen, will you compromise the happiness of your life and the happiness of your dear ones for just a few days' pleasure?

Helen. No.

Gerardo [much relieved]. Will you promise me to go home quietly now?

Helen. Yes.

Gerardo. And will you promise me that you will not die....

Helen. Yes.

Gerardo. You promise me that?

Helen. Yes.

Gerardo. And you promise me to fulfill your duties as mother and—as wife?

Helen. Yes.

Gerardo. Helen!

Helen. Yes. What else do you want? I will promise anything.

Gerardo. And now may I go away in peace?

Helen [rising]. Yes.

Gerardo. A last kiss?

Helen. Yes, yes, yes. [They kiss passionately.]

Gerardo. In a year I am booked again to sing here, Helen.

Helen. In a year! Oh, I am glad!

Gerardo [tenderly]. Helen!

[Helen presses his hand, takes a revolver out of her muff, shoots herself and falls.]

Gerardo. Helen! [He totters and collapses in an armchair.]

Bell Boy [rushing in]. My God! Mr. Gerardo! [Gerardo remains motionless; the Bell Boy rushes toward Helen.]

Gerardo [jumping up, running to the door and colliding with the manager of the hotel]. Send for the police! I must be arrested! If I went away now I should be a brute, and if I stay I break my contract. I still have [looking at his watch] one minute and ten seconds.

Manager. Fred, run and get a policeman.

Bell Boy. All right, sir.

Manager. Be quick about it. [To Gerardo.] Don't take it too hard, sir. Those things happen once in a while.

Gerardo [kneeling before Helen's body and taking her hand]. Helen!... She still lives—she still lives! If I am arrested I am not wilfully breaking my contract.... And my trunks? Is the carriage at the door?

Manager. It has been waiting twenty minutes, Mr. Gerardo. [He opens the door for the porter, who takes down one of the trunks.]

Gerardo [bending over her]. Helen! [To himself.] Well, after all.... [To Muller.] Have you called a doctor?

Manager. Yes, we had the doctor called at once. He will be here at any minute.

Gerardo [holding her under the arms]. Helen! Don't you know me any more? Helen! The doctor will be here right away, Helen. This is your Oscar.

Bell Boy [appearing in the door at the center]. Can't find any policeman, sir.

Gerardo [letting Helen's body drop back]. Well, if I can't get arrested, that settles it. I must catch that train and sing in Brussels to-morrow night. [He takes up his score and runs out through the center door, bumping against several chairs.]

 

[Curtain.]


A GOOD WOMAN

A Farce

By Arnold Bennett


CHARACTERS

James Brett [a Clerk in the War Office, 33].
Gerald O'Mara [a Civil Engineer, 24].
Rosamund Fife [a Spinster and a Lecturer on Cookery, 28].

 

Reprinted from "Polite Farces," published by George H. Doran Company, by special arrangement with Mr. Arnold Bennett.


A GOOD WOMAN

A Farce

By Arnold Bennett

 

[Scene: Rosamund's Flat; the drawing-room. The apartment is plainly furnished. There is a screen in the corner of the room furthest from the door. It is 9 A. M. Rosamund is seated alone at a table. She wears a neat travelling-dress, with a plain straw hat. Her gloves lie on a chair. A small portable desk full of papers is open before her. She gazes straight in front of her, smiling vaguely. With a start she recovers from her daydreams, and rushing to the looking-glass, inspects her features therein. Then she looks at her watch.]

 

Rosamund. Three hours yet! I'm a fool [with decision. She sits down again, and idly picks up a paper out of the desk. The door opens, unceremoniously but quietly, and James enters. The two stare at each other, James wearing a conciliatory smile].

Rosamund. You appalling creature!

James. I couldn't help it, I simply couldn't help it.

Rosamund. Do you know this is the very height and summit of indelicacy?

James. I was obliged to come.

Rosamund. If I had any relations—

James. Which you haven't.

Rosamund. I say if I had any relations—

James. I say which you haven't.

Rosamund. Never mind, it is a safe rule for unattached women always to behave as if they had relations, especially female relations whether they have any or not. My remark is, that if I had any relations they would be absolutely scandalized by this atrocious conduct of yours.

James. What have I done?

Rosamund. Can you ask? Here are you, and here am I. We are to be married to-day at twelve o'clock. The ceremony has not taken place, and yet you are found on my premises. You must surely be aware that on the day of the wedding the parties—yes, the "parties," that is the word—should on no account see each other till they see each other in church.

James. But since we are to be married at a registry office, does the rule apply?

Rosamund. Undoubtedly.

James. Then I must apologize. My excuse is that I am not up in these minute details of circumspection; you see I have been married so seldom.

Rosamund. Evidently. [A pause, during which James at last ventures to approach the middle of the room.] Now you must go back home, and we'll pretend we haven't seen each other.

James. Never, Rosamund! That would be acting a lie. And I couldn't dream of getting married with a lie on my lips. It would be so unusual. No; we have sinned, or rather I have sinned, on this occasion. I will continue to sin—openly, brazenly. Come here, my dove. A bird in the hand is worth two under a bushel. [He assumes an attitude of entreaty, and, leaving her chair, Rosamund goes towards him. They exchange an ardent kiss.]

Rosamund [quietly submissive]. I'm awfully busy, you know, Jim.

James. I will assist you in your little duties, dearest, and then I will accompany you to the sacred ed—to the registry office. Now, what were you doing? [She sits down, and he puts a chair for himself close beside her.]

Rosamund. You are singularly unlike yourself this morning, dearest.

James. Nervous tension, my angel. I should have deemed it impossible that an employé of the War Office could experience the marvelous and exquisite sensations now agitating my heart. But tell me, what are you doing with these papers?

Rosamund. Well, I was just going to look through them and see if they contained anything of a remarkable or valuable nature. You see, I hadn't anything to occupy myself with.

James. Was 'oo bored, waiting for the timey-pimey to come?

Rosamund [hands caressing]. 'Iss, little pet was bored, she was. Was Mr. Pet lonely this morning? Couldn't he keep away from his little cooky-lecturer? He should see his little cooky-lecturer.

James. And that reminds me, hadn't we better lunch in the train instead of at Willis's? That will give us more time?

Rosamund. Horrid greedy piggywiggy! Perhaps he will be satisfied if Mrs. Pet agrees to lunch both at Willis's and in the train?

James. Yes. Only piggywiggy doesn't want to trespass on Mrs. Pet's good nature. Let piggywiggy look at the papers. [He takes up a paper from the desk.]

Rosamund [a little seriously]. No, Jimmy. I don't think we'll go through them. Perhaps it wouldn't be wise. Just let's destroy them. [Takes papers from his hand and drops them in desk.]

James [sternly]. When you have been the wife of a War Office clerk for a week you will know that papers ought never to be destroyed. Now I come to think, it is not only my right but my duty to examine this secret dossier. Who knows—[Takes up at random another document, which proves to be a postcard. Reads.] "Shall come to-morrow night. Thine, Gerald."

Rosamund [after a startled shriek of consternation]. There! There! You've done it, first time! [She begins to think, with knitted brows.]

James. Does this highly suspicious postcard point to some—some episode in your past of which you have deemed it advisable to keep me in ignorance? If so, I seek not to inquire. I forgive you—I take you, Rosamund, as you are!

Rosamund [reflective, not heeding his remark]. I had absolutely forgotten the whole affair, absolutely. [Smiles a little. Aside.] Suppose he should come! [To James.] Jim, I think I had better tell you all about Gerald. It will interest you. Besides, there is no knowing what may happen.

James. As I have said, I seek not to inquire. [Stiffly.] Nor do I imagine that this matter, probably some childish entanglement, would interest me.

Rosamund. Oh, wouldn't it! Jim, don't be absurd. You know perfectly well you are dying to hear.

James. Very well, save my life, then, at the least expense of words. To begin with, who is this Gerald—"thine," thine own Gerald?

Rosamund. Don't you remember Gerald O'Mara? You met him at the Stokes's, I feel sure. You know—the young engineer.

James. Oh! That ass!

Rosamund. He isn't an ass. He's a very clever boy.

James. For the sake of argument and dispatch, agreed! Went out to Cyprus or somewhere, didn't he, to build a bridge, or make a dock, or dig a well, or something of that kind?

Rosamund [nodding]. Now, listen, I'll tell you all about it. [Settles herself for a long narration.] Four years ago poor, dear Gerald was madly in love with me. He was twenty and I was twenty-four. Keep calm—I felt like his aunt. Don't forget I was awfully pretty in those days. Well, he was so tremendously in love that in order to keep him from destroying himself—of course, I knew he was going out to Cyprus—I sort of pretended to be sympathetic. I simply had to; Irishmen are so passionate. And he was very nice. And I barely knew you then. Well, the time approached for him to leave for Cyprus, and two days before the ship sailed he sent me that very postcard that by pure chance you picked up.

James. He should have written a letter.

Rosamund. Oh! I expect he couldn't wait. He was so impulsive. Well, on the night before he left England he came here and proposed to me. I remember I was awfully tired and queer. I had been giving a lecture in the afternoon on "How to Pickle Pork," and the practical demonstration had been rather smelly. However, the proposal braced me up. It was the first I had had—that year. Well, I was so sorry for him that I couldn't say "No" outright. It would have been too brutal. He might have killed himself on the spot, and spoilt this carpet, which, by the way, was new then. So I said, "Look here, Gerald—"

James. You called him "Gerald"?

Rosamund. Rather! "Look here, Gerald," I said; "you are going to Cyprus for four years. If your feeling towards me is what you think it is, come back to me at the end of those four years, and I will then give you an answer." Of course I felt absolutely sure that in the intervening period he would fall in and out of love half a dozen times at least.

James. Of course, half a dozen times at least; probably seven. What did he say in reply?

Rosamund. He agreed with all the seriousness in the world. "On this day four years hence," he said, standing just there [pointing], "I will return for your answer. And in the meantime I will live only for you." That was what he said—his very words.

James. And a most touching speech, too! And then?

Rosamund. We shook hands, and he tore himself away, stifling a sob. Don't forget, he was a boy.

James. Have the four years expired?

Rosamund. What is the date of that postcard? Let me see it. [Snatches it, and smiles at the handwriting pensively.] July 4th—four years ago.

James. Then it's over. He's not coming. To-day is July 5th.

Rosamund. But yesterday was Sunday. He wouldn't come on Sunday. He was always very particular and nice.

James. Do you mean to imply that you think he will come to-day and demand from you an affirmative? A moment ago you gave me to understand that in your opinion he would have—er—other affairs to attend to.

Rosamund. Yes. I did think so at the time. But now—now I have a kind of idea that he may come, that after all he may have remained faithful. You know I was maddeningly pretty then, and he had my photograph.

James. Tell me, have you corresponded?

Rosamund. No, I expressly forbade it.

James. Ah!

Rosamund. But still, I have a premonition he may come.

James [assuming a pugnacious pose]. If he does, I will attend to him.

Rosamund. Gerald was a terrible fighter. [A resounding knock is heard at the door. Both start violently, and look at each other in silence. Rosamund goes to the door and opens it.]

Rosamund [with an unsteady laugh of relief]. Only the postman with a letter. [She returns to her seat.] No, I don't expect he will come, really. [Puts letter idly on table. Another knock still louder. Renewed start.]

Rosamund. Now that is he, I'm positive. He always knocked like that. Just fancy. After four years! Jim, just take the chair behind that screen for a bit. I must hide you.

James. No, thanks! The screen dodge is a trifle too frayed at the edges.

Rosamund. Only for a minute. It would be such fun.

James. No, thanks. [Another knock.]

Rosamund [with forced sweetness]. Oh, very well, then....

James. Oh, well, of course, if you take it in that way—[He proceeds to a chair behind screen, which does not, however, hide him from the audience.]

Rosamund [smiles his reward]. I'll explain it all right. [Loudly.] Come in! [Enter Gerald O'Mara.]

Gerald. So you are in! [Hastens across room to shake hands.]

Rosamund. Oh, yes, I am in. Gerald, how are you? I must say you look tolerably well. [They sit down.]

Gerald. Oh, I'm pretty fit, thanks. Had the most amazing time in spite of the climate. And you? Rosie, you haven't changed a little bit. How's the cookery trade getting along? Are you still showing people how to concoct French dinners out of old bones and a sardine tin?

Rosamund. Certainly. Only I can do it without the bones now. You see, the science has progressed while you've been stagnating in Cyprus.

Gerald. Stagnating is the word. You wouldn't believe that climate!

Rosamund. What! Not had nice weather? What a shame! I thought it was tremendously sunshiny in Cyprus.

Gerald. Yes, that's just what it is, 97° in the shade when it doesn't happen to be pouring with malarial rain. We started a little golf club at Nicosia, and laid out a nine-hole course. But the balls used to melt. So we had to alter the rules, keep the balls in an ice-box, and take a fresh one at every hole. Think of that!

Rosamund. My poor boy! But I suppose there were compensations? You referred to "an amazing time."

Gerald. Yes, there were compensations. And that reminds me, I want you to come out and lunch with me at the Savoy. I've got something awfully important to ask you. In fact, that's what I've come for.

Rosamund. Sorry I can't, Gerald. The fact is, I've got something awfully important myself just about lunch time.

Gerald. Oh, yours can wait. Look here, I've ordered the lunch. I made sure you'd come. [Rosamund shakes her head.] Why can't you? It's not cooking, is it?

Rosamund. Only a goose.

Gerald. What goose?

Rosamund. Well—my own, and somebody else's. Listen, Gerald. Had you not better ask me this awfully important question now? No time like the present.

Gerald. I can always talk easier, especially on delicate topics, with a pint of something handy. But if you positively won't come, I'll get it off my chest now. The fact is, Rosie, I'm in love.

Rosamund. With whom?

Gerald. Ah! That's just what I want you to tell me.

Rosamund [suddenly starting]. Gerald! what is that dreadful thing sticking out of your pocket, and pointing right at me?

Gerald. That? That's my revolver. Always carry them in Cyprus, you know. Plenty of sport there.

Rosamund [breathing again]. Kindly take it out of your pocket and put it on the table. Then if it does go off it will go off into something less valuable than a cookery-lecturer.

Gerald [laughingly obeying her]. There. If anything happens it will happen to the screen. Now, Rosie, I'm in love, and I desire that you should tell me whom I'm in love with. There's a magnificent girl in Cyprus, daughter of the Superintendent of Police—

Rosamund. Name?

Gerald. Evelyn. Age nineteen. I tell you I was absolutely gone on her.

Rosamund. Symptoms?

Gerald. Well—er—whenever her name was mentioned I blushed terrifically. Of course, that was only one symptom.... Then I met a girl on the home steamer—no father or mother. An orphan, you know, awfully interesting.

Rosamund. Name?

Gerald. Madge. Nice name, isn't it? [Rosamund nods.] I don't mind telling you, I was considerably struck by her—still am, in fact.

Rosamund. Symptoms?

Gerald. Oh!... Let me see, I never think of her without turning absolutely pale. I suppose it's what they call "pale with passion." Notice it?

Rosamund [somewhat coldly]. It seems to me the situation amounts to this. There are two girls. One is named Evelyn, and the thought of her makes you blush. The other is named Madge, and the thought of her makes you turn pale. You fancy yourself in love, and you wish me to decide for you whether it is Madge or Evelyn who agitates your breast the more deeply.

Gerald. That's not exactly the way to put it, Rosie. You take a fellow up too soon. Of course I must tell you lots more yet. You should hear Evelyn play the "Moonlight Sonata." It's the most marvelous thing.... And then Madge's eyes! The way that girl can look at a fellow.... I'm telling you all these things, you know, Rosie, because I've always looked up to you as an elder sister.

Rosamund [after a pause, during which she gazes into his face]. I suppose it was in my character of your elder sister, that you put a certain question to me four years ago last night?

Gerald [staggered; pulls himself together for a great resolve; after a long pause]. Rosie! I never thought afterwards you'd take it seriously. I forgot it all. I was only a boy then. [Speaking quicker and quicker.] But I see clearly now. I never could withstand you. It's all rot about Evelyn and Madge. It's you I'm in love with; and I never guessed it! Rosie!... [Rushes to her and impetuously flings his arms around her neck.]

James [who, during the foregoing scene, has been full of uneasy gestures; leaping with incredible swiftness from the shelter of the screen]. Sir!

Rosamund [pushing Gerald quickly away]. Gerald!

James. May I inquire, sir, what is the precise significance of this attitudinising? [Gerald has scarcely yet abandoned his amorous pose, but now does so quickly]. Are we in the middle of a scene from "Romeo and Juliet," or is this 9:30 A. M. in the nineteenth century? If Miss Fife had played the "Moonlight Sonata" to you, or looked at you as Madge does, there might perhaps have been some shadow of an excuse for your extraordinary and infamous conduct. But since she has performed neither of these feats of skill, I fail to grasp—I say I fail to grasp—er—

Gerald [slowly recovering from an amazement which has rendered him mute]. Rosie, a man concealed in your apartment! But perhaps it is the piano-tuner. I am willing to believe the best.

Rosamund. Let me introduce Mr. James Brett, my future husband. Jim, this is Gerald.

James. I have gathered as much. [The men bow stiffly.]

Rosamund [dreamily]. Poor, poor Gerald! [Her tone is full of feeling. James is evidently deeply affected by it. He walks calmly and steadily to the table and picks up the revolver.]

Gerald. Sir, that tool is mine.

James. Sir, the fact remains that it is an engine of destruction, and that I intend to use it. Rosamund, the tone in which you uttered those three words, "Poor, poor Gerald!" convinces me, a keen observer of symptoms, that I no longer possess your love. Without your love, life to me is meaningless. I object to anything meaningless—even a word. I shall therefore venture to deprive myself of life. Good-by! [To Gerald.] Sir, I may see you later. [Raises the revolver to his temples.]

Rosamund [appealing to Gerald to interfere]. Gerald.

Gerald. Mr. Brett, I repeat that that revolver is mine. It would be a serious breach of good manners if you used it without my consent, a social solecism of which I believe you, as a friend of Miss Fife's, to be absolutely incapable. Still, as the instrument happens to be in your hand, you may use it—but not on yourself. Have the goodness, sir, to aim at me. I could not permit myself to stand in the way of another's happiness, as I should do if I continued to exist. At the same time I have conscientious objections to suicide. You will therefore do me a service by aiming straight. Above all things, don't hit Miss Fife. I merely mention it because I perceive that you are unaccustomed to the use of firearms. [Folds his arms.]

James. Rosamund, do you love me?

Rosamund. My Jim!

James [deeply moved]. The possessive pronoun convinces me that you do. [Smiling blandly.] Sir, I will grant your most reasonable demand. [Aims at Gerald.]

Rosamund [half shrieking]. I don't love you if you shoot Gerald.

James. But, my dear, this is irrational. He has asked me to shoot him, and I have as good as promised to do so.

Rosamund [entreating]. James, in two hours we are to be married.... Think of the complications.

Gerald. Married! To-day! Then I withdraw my request.

James. Yes; perhaps it will be as well. [Lowers revolver.]

Gerald. I have never yet knowingly asked a friend, even an acquaintance, to shoot me on his wedding-day, and I will not begin now. Moreover, now I come to think of it, the revolver wasn't loaded. Mr. Brett, I inadvertently put you in a ridiculous position. I apologize.

James. I accept the apology. [The general tension slackens. Both the men begin to whistle gently, in the effort after unconcern.]

Rosamund. Jim, will you oblige me by putting that revolver down somewhere. I know it isn't loaded; but so many people have been killed by guns that weren't loaded that I should feel safer.... [He puts it down on the table.] Thank you!

James [picking up letter]. By the way, here's that letter that came just now. Aren't you going to open it? The writing seems to me to be something like Lottie Dickinson's.

Rosamund [taking the letter]. It isn't Lottie's; it's her sister's. [Stares at envelope.] I know what it is. I know what it is. Lottie is ill, or dead, or something, and can't come and be a witness at the wedding. I'm sure it's that. Now, if she's dead we can't be married to-day; it wouldn't be decent. And it's frightfully unlucky to have a wedding postponed. Oh, but there isn't a black border on the envelope, so she can't be dead. And yet perhaps it was so sudden they hadn't time to buy mourning stationery! This is the result of your coming here this morning. I felt sure something would happen. Didn't I tell you so?

James. No, you didn't, my dear. But why don't you open the letter?

Rosamund. I am opening it as fast as I can. [Reads it hurriedly.] There! I said so! Lottie fell off her bicycle last night, and broke her ankle—won't be able to stir for a fortnight—in great pain—hopes it won't inconvenience us!

James. Inconvenience! I must say I regard it as very thoughtless of Lottie to go bicycling the very night before our wedding. Where did she fall off?

Rosamund. Sloane Street.

James. That makes it positively criminal. She always falls off in Sloane Street. She makes a regular practice of it. I have noticed it before.

Rosamund. Perhaps she did it on purpose.

James. Not a doubt of it!

Rosamund. She doesn't want us to get married!

James. I have sometimes suspected that she had a certain tenderness for me. [Endeavoring to look meek.]

Rosamund. The cat!

James. By no means. Cats are never sympathetic. She is. Let us be just before we are jealous.

Rosamund. Jealous! My dear James! Have you noticed how her skirts hang?

James. Hang her skirts!

Rosamund. You wish to defend her?

James. On the contrary; it was I who first accused her. [Gerald, to avoid the approaching storm, seeks the shelter of the screen, sits down, and taking some paper from his pocket begins thoughtfully to write.]

Rosamund. My dear James, let me advise you to keep quite, quite calm. You are a little bit upset.

James. I am a perfect cucumber. But I can hear you breathing.

Rosamund. If you are a cucumber, you are a very indelicate cucumber. I'm not breathing more than is necessary to sustain life.

James. Yes, you are; and what's more you'll cry in a minute if you don't take care. You're getting worked up.

Rosamund. No, I shan't. [Sits down and cries.]

James. What did I tell you? Now perhaps you will inform me what we are quarreling about, because I haven't the least idea.

Rosamund [through her sobs]. I do think it's horrid of Lottie. We can't be married with one witness. And I didn't want to be married at a registry office at all.

James. My pet, we can easily get another witness. As for the registry office, it was yourself who proposed it, as a way out of a difficulty. I'm High and you're Low—

Rosamund. I'm not Low; I'm Broad, or else Evangelical.

James [beginning calmly again]. I'm High and you're Broad, and there was a serious question about candles and a genuflexion, and so we decided on the registry office, which, after all, is much cheaper.

Rosamund [drying her tears, and putting on a saintly expression]. Well, anyhow, James, we will consider our engagement at an end.

James. This extraordinary tiff has lasted long enough, Rosie. Come and be kissed.

Rosamund [with increased saintliness]. You mistake me, James. I am not quarreling. I am not angry.

James. Then you have ceased to love me?

Rosamund. I adore you passionately. But we can never marry. Do you not perceive the warnings against such a course? First of all you come here—drawn by some mysterious, sinister impulse—in breach of all etiquette. That was a Sign.

James. A sign of what?

Rosamund. Evil. Then you find that postcard, to remind me of a forgotten episode.

James. Damn the postcard! I wish I'd never picked it up.

Rosamund. Hush! Then comes this letter about Lottie.

James. Damn that, too!

Rosamund [sighs]. Then Gerald arrives.

James. Damn him, too! By the way, where is he?

Gerald [coming out from behind the screen]. Sir, if you want to influence my future state by means of a blasphemous expletive, let me beg you to do it when ladies are not present. There are certain prayers which should only be uttered in the smoking-room. [The two men stab each other with their eyes.]

James. I respectfully maintain, Mr. O'Mara, that you had no business to call on my future wife within three hours of her wedding, and throw her into such a condition of alarm and unrest that she doesn't know whether she is going to get married or not.

Gerald. Sir! How in the name of Heaven was I to guess—

Rosamund [rising, with an imperative gesture]. Stop! Sit down, both. James [who hesitates], this is the last request I shall ever make of you. [He sits]. Let me speak. Long ago, from a mistaken motive of kindness, I gave this poor boy [pointing to Gerald] to understand that I loved him; that any rate I should love him in time. Supported by that assurance, he existed for four years through the climatic terrors of a distant isle. I, pampered with all the superfluities of civilization, forgot this noble youth in his exile. I fell selfishly in love. I promised to marry ... while he, with nothing to assuage the rigors—

James. Pardon me, there was Evelyn's "Moonlight Sonata," not to mention Madge's eyes.

Rosamund. You jest, James, but the jest is untimely. Has he not himself said that these doubtless excellent young women were in fact nothing to him, that it was my image which he kept steadfastly in his heart?

Gerald. Ye—es, of course, Rosie.

Rosamund [chiefly to James]. The sight of this poor youth fills me with sorrow and compunction and shame. For it reminds me that four years ago I lied to him.

Gerald. It was awfully good of you, you know.

Rosamund. That is beside the point. At an earlier period of this unhappy morning, James, you asseverated that you could not dream of getting married with a lie on your lips. Neither can I. James, I love you to madness. [Takes his inert hand, shakes it, and drops it again.] Good-by, James! Henceforth we shall be strangers. My duty is towards Gerald.

Gerald. But if you love him?

Rosamund. With a good woman, conscience comes first, love second. In time I shall learn to love you. I was always quick at lessons. Gerald, take me. It is the only way by which I can purge my lips of the lie uttered four years ago. [Puts her hands on Gerald's shoulders.]

James. In about three-quarters of an hour you will regret this, Rosamund Fife.

Rosamund. One never regrets a good action.

Gerald. Oh! well! I say.... [inarticulate with embarrassment].

Rosamund [after a pause]. James, we are waiting.

James. What for?

Rosamund. For you to go.

James. Don't mind me. You forget that I am in the War Office, and accustomed to surprising situations.

Gerald. Look here, Rosie. It's awfully good of you, and you're doing me a frightfully kind turn; but I can't accept it, you know. It wouldn't do. Kindness spoils my character.

James. Yes, and think of the shock to the noble youth.

Gerald. I couldn't permit such a sacrifice.

Rosamund. To a good woman life should be one long sacrifice.

Gerald. Yes, that's all very well, and I tell you, Rosie, I'm awfully obliged to you. Of course I'm desperately in love with you. That goes without saying. But I also must sacrifice myself. The fact is ... there's Madge....

Rosamund. Well?

Gerald. Well, you know what a place a steamer is, especially in calm, warm weather. I'm afraid I've rather led her to expect.... The fact is, while you and Mr. Brett were having your little discussion just now, I employed the time in scribbling out a bit of a letter to her, and I rather fancy that I've struck one or two deuced good ideas in the proposal line. How's this for a novelty: "My dear Miss Madge, you cannot fail to have noticed from my behavior in your presence that I admire you tremendously?" Rather a neat beginning, eh?

Rosamund. But you said you loved me.

Gerald. Oh, well, so I do. You see I only state that I "admire" her. All the same I feel I'm sort of bound to her, ... you see how I'm fixed. I should much prefer, of course....

James. To a good man life should be one long sacrifice.

Gerald. Exactly, sir.

Rosamund [steadying herself and approaching James]. Jim, my sacrifice is over. It was a terrible ordeal, and nothing but a strict sense of duty could have supported me through such a trying crisis. I am yours. Lead me to the altar. I trust Gerald may be happy with this person named Madge.

James. The flame of your love has not faltered?

Rosamund. Ah, no!

James. Well, if my own particular flame hadn't been fairly robust, the recent draughts might have knocked it about a bit. You have no more sacrifices in immediate view?... [She looks at him in a certain marvelous way, and he suddenly swoops down and kisses her.] To the altar! March! Dash; we shall want another witness.

Gerald. Couldn't I serve?

Rosamund. You're sure it wouldn't be too much for your feelings?

Gerald. I should enjoy it.... I mean I shan't mind very much. Let us therefore start. If we're too soon you can watch the process at work on others, and learn how to comport yourselves. By the way, honeymoon?

James. Paris. Charing Cross 1:30. Dine at Dover.

Gerald. Then you shall eat that lunch I have ordered at the Savoy.

Rosamund. Er—talking of lunch, as I'm hostess here, perhaps I should ask you men if you'd like a drink.

James and Gerald [looking hopefully at each other]. Well, yes.

Rosamund. I have some beautiful lemonade.

James AND Gerald [still looking at each other, but with a different expression]. Oh, that will be delightful! [Lemonade and glasses produced.]

Gerald. I drink to the happy pair.

Rosamund [a little sinister]. And I—to Madge.

James. And I—to a good woman—Mrs. Pet [looking at her fixedly]. All men like a good woman, but she shouldn't be too good—it's a strain on the system. [General consumption of lemonade, the men bravely swallowing it down, Rosamund rests her head on James's shoulder.]

Rosamund. It occurs to me, Gerald, you only ordered lunch for two at the Savoy.

Gerald. Well, that's right. By that time you and James, if I may call him so, will be one, and me makes two.

 

[Curtain.]


THE LITTLE STONE HOUSE

A Play

By George Calderon


Copyright, 1913, by Sidgwick & Jackson, Ltd.
All rights reserved.

 

The Little Stone House is founded on a story by the same author, published anonymously some years ago in Temple Bar.

The agents for amateur rights in this play are Messrs. Samuel French, 28 West 38th Street, New York, and Joseph Williams, Ltd., 32 Great Portland Street, London, from whom a license to play it in public must be obtained.

It was first performed for the Stage Society at the Aldwych Theatre, London, January 29, 1911, with the following cast:

Praskóvya, a lodging-house keeperMrs. Saba Raleigh
Varvára, her servantMiss Eily Malyon
Astéryi, a lodgerMr. Franklin Dyall
Fomá, a lodgerMr. Stephen T. Ewart
Spiridón, a stonemasonMr. Leon M. Lion
A StrangerMr. O. P. Heggie
A CorporalMr. E. Cresfan

Produced by Mr. Kenelm Foss.

Scene: Small provincial town in Russia.

 

Reprinted by permission of, and special arrangement with, Messrs. Sidgwick and
Jackson, Ltd., publishers of the English edition.


THE LITTLE STONE HOUSE

A Play

By George Calderon

 

[Praskóvya's sitting-room. Street door in porch and a curtainless window at the back. It is night; the light of an oil-lamp in the street dimly shows snow-covered houses and falling snow. The room is plainly furnished: a bed, a curtain on a cord, some books, eikons on a shelf in the corner with a wick in a red glass bowl burning before them, paper flowers, and Easter eggs on strings. A photograph of a man of twenty hangs by the eikons. There are doors to kitchen and to the lodgers' rooms.

Varvára is discovered sitting by a lamp darning stockings.

There is an atmosphere of silence, solitude, and Russian monotony. The clock ticks. A man is seen passing in the street; his feet make no sound on the snowy ground. There is the sound of a concertina and a man who laughs in the distance out of doors. Then silence again.

Enter Astéryi, stout and lazy; gray hair thrown untidily back, a rough beard. He is in slippers and dirty dressing-gown, with a big case full of Russian cigarettes in his pocket.]

 

Ast. Is Praskóvya Petróvna not at home?

Var. [rising]. She is not at home, Astéryi Ivanovitch. She has gone to Vespers at St. Pantaléimon's in the Marsh. It is the festival of the translation of St. Pantaléimon's relics. [Varvára sits again. Astéryi walks to and fro smoking a cigarette.] Will you not have your game of patience as usual?

Ast. Without Praskóvya Petróvna?

Var. She would be sorry if you missed your game because she was late. You can play again when she returns; she likes to watch you.

Ast. Very well.

[Varvára gets a pack of cards. Astéryi sits at a table at one side and plays.]

Var. Shall I prepare the samovar?

Ast. Not yet; I will wait. How greasy these cards are [laying out a patience].

Var. No wonder, Astéryi Ivanovitch. It is two years since you bought this pack.

A Voice [without]. Varvára! Varvára! There is no water in my jug.

Ast. There is one of the lodgers calling you.

Var. It is the schoolmaster.

Ast. Better not keep him waiting; he is an angry man.

Var. I will go. Excuse me, please.

[Exit Varvára. The clock ticks again. Astéryi pauses and meditates, then murmurs, "Oh, Hóspodi!" as if in surprise at being so terribly bored. The concertina plays a few notes. A knock at the street door.]

Ast. Who's there? Come in, come in!

[Enter Spiridón, a man with a cringing, crafty manner, in a sheepskin coat with snow on it. He stands by the door, facing the eikon, crossing himself with large gestures and bowing very low towards it.]

Spir. [looking round]. Good-day, sir, good-day. [Crossing himself again.] May the holy saints preserve all in this house.

Ast. Ah! it's you, Spiridón?

Spir. Yes, sir. It is Spiridón the stonemason.

Ast. What brings you here, Spiridón?

Spir. Is Praskóvya Petróvna not at home?

Ast. No, she has gone to Vespers at St. Pantaléimon's in the Marsh.

Spir. The service is late to-night.

Ast. Yes.... You are a hard man, Spiridón.

Spir. Me, sir!

Ast. And you lose money by your hardness. Praskóvya Petróvna is a poor woman. For years she has been saving up money to build a stone house over the grave of her son in the Tróitski Cemetery. You say that you will build it for 500 roubles, but you ask too much. By starving herself and pinching in every way she has saved up 400 roubles at last, and if you were a wise man you would accept it. For see, she is old; if she starve herself to save up another 100 roubles she will be dead before she has got it; her money will be sent back to her village or it will go into the pocket of some official, and you will not have the tomb-house to build at all.

Spir. I have thought of all these things, Astéryi Ivanovitch, since you last spoke to me about it. And I said to myself: Astéryi Ivanovitch is perhaps right; it is not only Praskóvya Petróvna who is old; I myself am old also, and may die before she has saved up money enough. But it is very hard to work and be underpaid. Good Valdai stone is expensive and hard to cut, and workmen nowadays ask for unholy wages. Still, I said to myself, a tomb-house for her son—it is a God-fearing work: and I have resolved to make the sacrifice. I have come to tell her I will consent to build it for 400 roubles.

Ast. You have done rightly. You are an honest man, and God and St. Nicholas will perhaps save your soul.

[Enter Fomá in cap and great-coat from the door to the lodgers' rooms.]

Fomá. Good-evening, Astéryi Ivanovitch. Is Praskóvya not at home?

Ast. No, she is at Vespers.

Fomá. I come in and find my stove smoking. [Taking of his coat.] I wished to ask her permission to sit here awhile to escape a headache. Who is this? Ah, Spiridón. And by what miracle does Astéryi Ivanovitch hope that God and St. Nicholas will save your soul?

Ast. He has consented to build Praskóvya Petróvna the tomb-house over Sasha's grave for 400 roubles instead of 500.

Fomá. That is good! She will be glad to hear the news, and shake hands on the bargain, and christen the earnest-money with vodka.

Spir. The earnest-money? Ah no, sir, there can be no earnest-money. The whole sum of money must be paid at once. I am a poor man. I must pay the quarryman for the stone; my workmen cannot live on air.

Ast. If she has the money she will pay you.

Fomá. Well, if there is to be no earnest-money, at least we will have the vodka. Vodka is always good.

Ast. [to Spiridón]. Sit down and wait till she returns. She will not be long.

Spir. No, no; I will come again in an hour. I have to go to my brother-in-law two streets away. [Crossing himself before the eikons.] I will come again as I return.

[The tap of drums in the street.]

Ast. Why are they beating drums?

Fomá. It is a patrol passing.

Spir. The soldiers are very watchful to-day.

Fomá. It is because the Empress comes this way to-morrow on her journey to Smolensk.

Spir. They have arrested many suspicious people. All those who have no passports are being sent away to Siberia.

Fomá. Ah! poor creatures! [A patrol of soldiers passes the window quietly].

Spir. Why should you say "poor creatures"? If they were honest men they would not be without passports. Good-evening.

Fomá. Wait till they have gone.

Spir. We honest men have nothing to fear from them. Good-evening. I will return again in an hour. [Exit Spiridón.]

Fomá. How glad Praskóvya will be.

Ast. Say nothing of this to any one. We will keep it as a surprise.

[Enter Varvára.]

Fomá. Varvára, my pretty child, fetch the bottle of vodka from my room.

Var. Vodka in here? Praskóvya Petróvna will be angry.

Fomá. No, she will not be angry; she will be glad. [Exit Varvára.] Do you play patience here every night?

Ast. Every night for more than twenty years.

Fomá. What is it called?

Ast. It is called the Wolf!

Fomá. Does it ever come out?

Ast. It has come out twice. The first time I found a purse in the street which somebody had lost. The second time the man above me at the office died, and I got his place.

Fomá. It brings good luck then?

Ast. To me at least.

Fomá. How glad Praskóvya Petróvna will be!

[Enter Varvára with vodka bottle, which she sets on a table; no one drinks from it yet.]

Var. Do you not want to drink tea?

Fomá. Very much, you rogue.

Var. Then I will set the samovar for both of you in here. [She gets out tumblers, lemon and sugar.]

Ast. I did wrong in moving the seven.

Fomá. Put it back then.

Ast. It is too late. Once it has been moved, it must not be put back.

[Enter Praskóvya from the street hurriedly with a lantern.]

Pras. [crossing herself]. Hóspodi Bózhe moy!

Var. [running to her, frightened]. Have you seen him again?

Pras. [agitated]. I do not know. There seemed to be men standing everywhere in the shadows.... Good-evening, Fomá Ilyitch, good-evening, Astéryi Ivanovitch.

[Varvára goes out, and brings in the samovar.]

Fomá. I have been making myself at home; my stove smoked.

Pras. Sit down, sit down! What ceremony! Why should you not be here? And vodka too? What is the vodka for?

Ast. I will tell you when I have finished my patience. [They all drink tea.]

Pras. So you are playing already.

Ast. If it comes out, the good luck that it brings shall be for you!

Pras. For me? [They all watch Astéryi playing.] The knave goes on the queen. [A pause.]

Fomá. That is unfortunate.

Var. You should not have moved the ten. [A pause.]

Ast. That will be better. [A pause.]

Pras. How brightly the eikon lamp burns before the portrait of my boy.

Var. It does indeed.

Pras. It is the new fire from the Candlemas taper.

Fomá. It is the new oil that makes it burn brightly.

Pras. [crossing herself]. Nonsense! it is the new fire.

Fomá. Did ever one hear such stuff? She put out the lamp at Candlemas, and lighted it anew from the taper which she brought home from the midnight service, from the new fire struck by the priest with flint and steel; and now she thinks that is the reason why it burns so brightly.

Var. Is that not so then, Astéryi Ivanovitch?

Ast. Oh, Fomá Ilyitch is a chemist; he can tell you what fire is made of.

Fomá. So you have been all the way to St. Pantaléimon's in the Marsh? Oh, piety, thy name is Praskóvya Petróvna! Not a person can hold the most miserably little service in the remotest corner of the town but you smell it out and go to it.

Var. It is a Christian deed, Fomá Ilyitch.

Ast. Now I can get at the ace.

Var. [to Praskóvya]. I must get your supper. [She gets a plate of meat from a cupboard.]

Fomá. And on All Souls' Day she brought home holy water in a bottle and sprinkled the rooms of all the lodgers. The schoolmaster was very angry. You spotted the cover of his Greek Lexicon. He says it is a pagan custom, come down to us from the ancient Scythians.

Pras. I do not like to hear jokes about sacred things. One may provoke Heaven to anger.

Ast. Now I get all this row off.

Fomá. You are always afraid of offending Heaven.

Pras. Of course I am. Think what I have at stake. For you it is only a little thing. You have a life of your own on earth; I have none. I have been as good as dead for twenty years, and the only thing that I desire is to get safely to heaven to join my son who is there.

Fomá. We all wish to get to heaven.

Pras. Not so much as I do. If I were in hell it is not the brimstone that would matter; it would be to know that I should not see my son. [Fomá nods].

Ast. I believe it is coming out.

[They all concentrate their attention eagerly on the patience.]

Var. The six and the seven go. Saints preserve us! and the eight. [She takes up a card to move it.]

Ast. No, not that one; leave that.

Var. Where did it come from?

Ast. From here.

Pras. No, from there.

Var. It was from here.

Ast. It is all the same.

Fomá. It will go.

Pras. And the knave from off this row.

Var. The Wolf is going out!

Pras. It is seven years since it went out.

Fomá. Seven years?

Ast. It is out!

Pras. It is done!

Var. [clapping her hands]. Hooray!

Ast. [elated]. Some great good fortune is going to happen.

Var. What can it be? [A pause.]

Pras. And what is the vodka for?

Ast. The vodka?

Pras. You promised to tell me when the patience was done.

Ast. How much money have you saved up for the house on Sasha's tomb?

Pras. Four hundred and six roubles and a few kopecks.

Ast. And Spiridón asks for 500 roubles?

Pras. Five hundred roubles.

Ast. What if he should lower his price?

Pras. He will not lower his price.

Ast. What if he should say that he would take 450 roubles?

Pras. Why, if I went without food for a year.... [Laughing at herself.] If one could but live without food!

Ast. What if he should say that he would take 420 roubles?

Pras. Astéryi Ivanovitch, you know the proverb—the elbow is near, but you cannot bite it. I am old and feeble. I want it now, now, now. Shall I outlive the bitter winter? A shelter to sit in and talk to my son. A monument worthy of such a saint.

Ast. Spiridón has been here.

Pras. Spiridón has been here? What did he say? Tell me!

Ast. He will build it for 400 roubles.

Var. For 400 roubles!

Ast. He will return soon to strike a bargain.

Pras. Is it true?

Ast. As true as that I wear the cross.

Pras. Oh, all the holy saints be praised! Sláva Tebyé Hóspodi! [Kneeling before the eikons.] Oh, my darling Sasha, we will meet in a fine house, you and I, face to face. [She prostrates herself three times before the eikons.]

Var. Then this is the good luck.

Ast. No, this cannot be what the cards told us; for this had happened already before the Wolf came out.

Var. Then there is something else to follow?

Ast. Evidently.

Var. What can it be?

Ast. To-morrow perhaps we shall know.

Pras. [rising]. And in a month I shall have my tomb-house finished, for which I have been waiting twenty years! A little stone house safe against the rain. [Smiling and eager.] There will be a tile stove which I can light: in the middle a stone table and two chairs—one for me and one for my boy when he comes and sits with me, and....

Var. [at the window, shrieking]. Ah! Heaven defend us!

Pras. What is it?

Var. The face! the face!

Pras. The face again?

Fomá. What face?

Var. The face looked in at the window!

Ast. Whose face?

Var. It is the man that we have seen watching us in the cemetery.

Pras. [crossing herself]. Oh, Heaven preserve me from this man!

Fomá. [opening the street door]. There is nobody there.

Ast. This is a false alarm.

Fomá. People who tire their eyes by staring at window-panes at night often see faces looking in through them.

Pras. Oh, Hóspodi!

Ast. Spiridón will be returning soon. Have you the money ready?

Pras. The money? Yes, yes! I will get it ready. It is not here. Come, Varvára. [They put on coats and shawls.]

Ast. If it is in the bank we must wait till the daytime.

Pras. My money in the bank? I am not so foolish. [She lights the lantern.] Get the spade, Varvára. [Varvára goes out and fetches a spade.] It is buried in the field, in a place that no one knows but myself.

Ast. Are you not afraid to go out?

Pras. Afraid? No, I am not afraid.

Fomá. But your supper—you have not eaten your supper.

Pras. How can I think of supper at such a moment?

Fomá. No supper? Oh, what a wonderful thing is a mother's love!

Pras. [to Astéryi and Fomá]. Stay here till we return.

Var. [drawing back]. I am afraid, Praskóvya Petróvna.

Pras. Nonsense, there is nothing to fear.

Fomá. [throwing his coat over his back]. I will go with you to the corner of the street.

Ast. [shuffling the cards]. I must try one for myself.

Fomá. [mockingly]. What's the use? It will never come out.

Ast. [cheerfully]. Oh, it never does to be discouraged.

[Exeunt Praskóvya, Varvára, and Fomá. Astéryi plays patience. Everything is silent and monotonous again. The clock ticks.]

Fomá. [reënters, dancing and singing roguishly to the tune of the Russian folksong, "Vo sadú li v vogoróde"]:

In the shade there walked a maid
As fair as any flower,
Picking posies all of roses
For to deck her bower.

Ast. Don't make such a noise.

Fomá. I can't help it. I'm gay. I have a sympathetic soul. I rejoice with Praskóvya Petróvna. I think she is mad, but I rejoice with her.

Ast. So do I; but I don't disturb others on that account.

Fomá. Come, old grumbler, have a mouthful of vodka. [Melodramatically.] A glass of wine with Cæsar Borgia! [Singing.]

As she went adown the bent
She met a merry fellow,
He was drest in all his best
In red and blue and yellow.

So he was a saint, was he, that son of hers? Well, well, of what advantage is that? Saints are not so easy to love as sinners. You and I are not saints, are we, Astéryi Ivanovitch?

Ast. I do not care to parade my halo in public.

Fomá. Oh, as for me, I keep mine in a box under the bed; it only frightens people. Do you think he would have remained a saint all this time if he had lived?

Ast. Who can say?

Fomá. Nonsense! He would have become like the rest of us. Then why make all this fuss about him? Why go on for twenty years sacrificing her own life to a fantastic image?

Ast. Why not, if it please her to do so?

Fomá. Say what you please, but all the same she is mad; yes, Praskóvya is mad.

Ast. We call every one mad who is faithful to their ideas. If people think only of food and money and clothing we call them sane, but if they have ideas beyond those things we call them mad. I envy Praskóvya. Praskóvya has preserved in her old age what I myself have lost. I, too, had ideas once, but I have been unfaithful to them; they have evaporated and vanished.

Fomá. What ideas were these?

Ast. Liberty! Political regeneration!

Fomá. Ah, yes; you were a sad revolutionary once, I have been told.

Ast. I worshiped Liberty, as Praskóvya worships her Sasha. But I have lived my ideals down in the dull routine of my foolish, aimless life as an office hack, a clerk in the District Council, making copies that no one will ever see of documents that no one ever wants to read.... Suddenly there comes the Revolution; there is fighting in the streets; men raise the red flag; blood flows. I might go forth and strike a blow for that Liberty which I loved twenty years ago. But no, I have become indifferent. I do not care who wins, the Government or the Revolutionaries; it is all the same to me.

Fomá. You are afraid. One gets timid as one gets older.

Ast. Afraid? No. What have I to be afraid of? Death is surely not so much worse than life? No, it is because my idea is dead and cannot be made to live again, while Praskóvya, whose routine as a lodging-house keeper is a hundred times duller than mine, is still faithful to her old idea. Let us not call her mad; let us rather worship her as something holy, for her fidelity to an idea in this wretched little town where ideas are as rare as white ravens.

Fomá. She has no friends to love?

Ast. She has never had any friends; she needed none.

Fomá. She has relatives, I suppose?

Ast. None.

Fomá. What mystery explains this solitude?

Ast. If there is a mystery it is easily guessed. It is an everyday story; the story of a peasant woman betrayed and deserted by a nobleman. She came with her child to this town; and instead of sinking, set herself bravely to work, to win a living for the two of them. She was young and strong then; her work prospered with her.

Fomá. And her son was worthy of her love?

Ast. He was a fine boy—handsome and intelligent. By dint of the fiercest economy she got him a nobleman's education; sent him to the Gymnase, and thence, when he was eighteen, to the University of Moscow. Praskóvya herself cannot read or write, but her boy ... the books on that shelf are the prizes which he won. She thought him a pattern of all the virtues.

Fomá. Aha! now we're coming to it! So he was a sinner after all?

Ast. We are none of us perfect. His friends were ill-chosen. The hard-earned money that Praskóvya thought was spent on University expenses went on many other things—on drink, on women, and on gambling. But he did one good thing—he hid it all safely from his mother. I helped him in that. Together we kept her idea safe through a difficult period. And before he was twenty it was all over—he was dead.

Fomá. Yes, he was murdered by some foreigner, I know.

Ast. By Adámek, a Pole.

Fomá. And what was the motive of the crime?

Ast. It was for money. By inquiries which I made after the trial I ascertained that this Adámek was a bad character and an adventurer, who used to entice students to his rooms to drink and gamble with him. Sasha had become an intimate friend of his; and it was even said that they were partners in cheating the rest. Anyhow, there is no doubt that at one time or another they had won considerable sums at cards, and disputed as to the ownership of them. The last thing that was heard of them, they bought a sledge with two horses and set out saying they were going to Tula. On the road Adámek murdered the unfortunate boy. The facts were all clear and indisputable. There was no need to search into the motives. The murderer fell straight into the hands of the police. The District Inspector, coming silently along the road in his sledge, suddenly saw before him the boy lying dead by the roadside, and the murderer standing over him with the knife in his hand. He arrested him at once; there was no possibility of denying it.

Fomá. And it was quite clear that his victim was Sasha?

Ast. Quite clear. Adámek gave intimate details about him, such as only a friend of his could have known, which put his identity beyond a doubt. When the trial was over the body was sent in a coffin to Praskóvya Petróvna, who buried it here in the Tróitski Cemetery.

Fomá. And the Pole?

Ast. He was sent to penal servitude for life to the silver mines of Siberia.

Fomá. So Praskóvya is even madder than I thought. Her religion is founded on a myth. Her life is an absurd deception.

Ast. No; she has created something out of nothing; that is all.

Fomá. In your place I should have told her the truth.

Ast. No.

Fomá. Anything is better than a lie.

Ast. There is no lie in it. Praskóvya's idea and Sasha's life are two independent things. A statement of fact may be true or false; but an idea need only be clear and definite. That is all that matters. [There is a tapping at the door; the latch is lifted, and the Stranger peeps in.] Come in, come in!

[Enter the Stranger, ragged and degraded. He looks about the room, dazed by the light, and fixes his attention on Astéryi.]

Who are you? What do you want?

Stranger. I came to speak to you.

Ast. To speak to me?

Fomá. Take off your cap. Do you not see the eikons?

Ast. What do you want with me?

Stranger. Only a word, Astéryi Ivanovitch.

Ast. How have you learnt my name?

Fomá. Do you know the man?

Ast. No.

Stranger. You do not know me?

Ast. No.

Stranger. Have you forgotten me, Astéryi Ivanovitch?

Ast. [almost speechless]. Sasha!

Fomá. What is it? You look as if you had seen a ghost.

Ast. A ghost? There are no such things as ghosts. Would that it were a ghost. It is Sasha.

Fomá. Sasha?

Ast. It is Praskóvya's son alive.

Fomá. Praskóvya's son?

Sasha. You remember me now, Astéryi Ivanovitch.

Ast. How have you risen from the dead? How have you come back from the grave—you who were dead and buried these twenty years and more?

Sasha. I have not risen from the dead. I have not come back from the grave; but I have come a long, long journey.

Ast. From where?

Sasha. From Siberia.

Fomá. From Siberia?

Sasha. From Siberia.

Ast. What were you doing in Siberia?

Sasha. Do you not understand, Astéryi Ivanovitch? I am a criminal.

Ast. Ah!

Sasha. A convict, a felon. I have escaped and come home.

Ast. Of what crime have you been guilty?

Sasha. Do not ask me so many questions, but give me something to eat.

Ast. But tell me this....

Sasha. There is food here. I smelt it as I came in. [He eats the meat with his fingers ravenously, like a wild beast.]

Fomá. It is your mother's supper.

Sasha. I do not care whose supper it is. I am ravenous. I have had nothing to eat all day.

Fomá. Can this wild beast be Praskóvya's son?

Sasha. We are all wild beasts if we are kept from food. Ha! and vodka, too! [helping himself].

Ast. Are you a convict, a felon, Sasha? You who were dead? Then we have been deceived for many years.

Sasha. Have you?

Ast. Some other man was murdered twenty years ago. The murderer said that it was you.

Sasha. Ah, he said that it was me, did he?

Ast. Why did Adámek say that it was you?

Sasha. Can you not guess? Adámek murdered no one.

Ast. He murdered no one? But he was condemned.

Sasha. He was never condemned.

Ast. Never condemned? Then what became of him?

Sasha. He died.... Do you not understand? It was I who killed Adámek.

Ast. You!

Sasha. We had quarreled. We were alone in a solitary place. I killed him and stood looking down at him with the knife in my hand dripping scarlet in the snow, frightened at the sudden silence and what I had done. And while I thought I was alone, I turned and saw the police-officer with his revolver leveled at my head. Then amid the confusion and black horror that seized on me, a bright thought shot across my mind. Adámek had no relatives, no friends; he was an outcast. Stained with his flowing blood, I exchanged names with him; that's the old heroic custom of blood-brotherhood, you know. I named myself Adámek; I named my victim Sasha. Ingenious, wasn't it? I had romantic ideas in those days. Adámek has been cursed for a murderer, and my memory has been honored. Alexander Petróvitch has been a hero; my mother has wept for me. I have seen her in the graveyard lamenting on my tomb; I have read my name on the cross. I hardly know whether to laugh or to cry. Evidently she loves me still.

Ast. And you?

Sasha. Do I love her? No. There is no question of that. She is part of a life that was ended too long ago. I have only myself to think of now. What should I gain by loving her? Understand, I am an outlaw, an escaped convict; a word can send me back to the mines. I must hide myself, the patrols are everywhere.... Even here I am not safe. [Locks the street door.]

Ast. Why have you returned? Why have you spoilt what you began so well? Having resolved twenty years ago to vanish like a dead man....

Sasha. Ah! if they had killed me then I would have died willingly. But after twenty years remorse goes, pity goes, everything goes; entombed in the mines, but still alive.... I was worn out. I could bear it no longer. Others were escaping, I escaped with them.

Ast. This will break her heart. She has made an angel of you. The lamp is always burning....

Sasha [going to the eikon corner with a glass of vodka in his hand]. Aha! Alexander Nevski, my patron saint. I drink to you, my friend: but I cannot congratulate you on your work. As a guardian angel you have been something of a failure. And what is this? [taking a photograph]. Myself! Who would have known this for my portrait? Look at the angel child, with the soft cheeks and the pretty curly hair. How innocent and good I looked! [bringing it down]. And even then I was deceiving my mother. She never understood that a young man must live, he must live. We are animals first; we have instincts that need something warmer, something livelier, than the tame dull round of home. [He throws down the photograph; Fomá replaces it.] And even now I have no intention of dying. Yet how am I to live? I cannot work; the mines have sucked out all my strength. Has my mother any money?

Ast. [to Fomá]. What can we do with him?

Sasha. Has my mother any money?

Ast. Money? Of course not. Would she let lodgings if she had? Listen. I am a poor man myself, but I will give you ten roubles and your railway fare to go to St. Petersburg.

Sasha. St. Petersburg? And what shall I do there when I have spent the ten roubles?

Ast. [shrugging his shoulders]. How do I know? Live there, die there, only stay away from here.

Fomá. What right have you to send him away? Why do you suppose that she will not be glad to see him? Let her see her saint bedraggled, and love him still—that is what true love means. You have regaled her with lies all these years; but now it is no longer possible. [A knocking at the door.] She is at the door.

Ast. [to Sasha]. Come with me. [To Fomá.] He must go out by the other way.

Fomá [stopping them]. No, I forbid it. It is the hand of God that has led him here. Go and unlock the door. [Astéryi shrugs his shoulders, and goes to unlock the door.] [To Sasha, hiding him.] Stand here a moment till I have prepared your mother.

[Enter Praskóvya and Varvára, carrying a box.]

Pras. Why is the door locked? Were you afraid without old Praskóvya to protect you? Here is the money. Now let me count it. Have you two been quarreling? There are fifty roubles in this bag, all in little pieces of silver; it took me two years.

Fomá. How you must have denied yourself, Praskóvya, and all to build a hut in a churchyard!

Pras. On what better thing could money be spent?

Fomá. You are so much in love with your tomb-house, I believe that you would be sorry if it turned out that your son was not dead, but alive.

Pras. Why do you say such things? You know that I should be glad. Ah! if I could but see him once again as he was then, and hold him in my arms!

Fomá. But he would not be the same now.

Pras. If he were different, he would not be my son.

Fomá. What if all these years he had been an outcast, living in degradation?

Pras. Who has been eating here? Who has been drinking here? Something has happened! Tell me what it is.

Ast. Your son is not dead.

Pras. Not dead? Why do you say it so sadly? No, it is not true. I do not believe it. How can I be joyful at the news if you tell it so sadly? If he is alive, where is he? Let me see him.

Ast. He is here.

[Sasha comes forward.]

Pras. No, no! Tell me that that is not him ... my son whom I have loved all these years, my son that lies in the churchyard. [To Sasha.] Don't be cruel to me. Say that you are not my son; you cannot be my son.

Sasha. You know that I am your son.

Pras. My son is dead; he was murdered. I buried his body in the Tróitski Cemetery.

Sasha. But you see that I was not murdered. Touch me; feel me. I am alive. I and Adámek fought; it was not Adámek that slew me, it was....

Pras. No, no! I want to hear no more. You have come to torment me. Only say what you want of me, anything, and I will do it, if you will leave me in peace.

Sasha. I want food and clothing; I want shelter; I must have money.

Pras. You will go if I give you money? Yes? Say that you will go, far, far away, and never come back to tell lies.... But I have no money to give; I am a poor woman.

Sasha. Come, what's all this?

Pras. No, no! I need it; I can't spare it. What I have I have starved myself to get. Two roubles, five roubles, even ten roubles I will give you, if you will go far, far away....

Fomá. Before he can travel we must bribe some peasant to lend him his passport.

Pras. Has he no passport then?

Fomá. No.

[A knock. Enter Spiridón.]

Spir. Peace be on this house. May the saints watch over all of you! Astéryi Ivanovitch will have told you of my proposal.

Pras. Yes, I have heard of it, Spiridón.

Fomá. Good-by, Spiridón; there is no work for you here. That is all over.

Pras. Why do you say that that is all over?

Fomá. There will be no tomb-house to build.

Pras. No tomb-house? How dare you say so? He is laughing at us, Spiridón. The tomb-house that we have planned together, with the table in the middle, and the two chairs.... Do not listen to him, Spiridón. At last I have money enough; let us count it together.

Sasha. Give me my share, mother!

Pras. I have no money for you.

Sasha [advancing]. I must have money.

Pras. You shall not touch it.

Sasha. I will not go unless you give me money.

Pras. It is not mine. I have promised it all to Spiridón. Help me, Astéryi Ivanovitch; he will drive me mad! Oh, what must I do? What must I do? Is there no way, Varvára? [Tap of drums without.] [To Sasha.] Go! go! go quickly, or worse will befall you.

Sasha. I will not go and starve while you have all this money.

Pras. Ah! Since you will have it so.... It is you, not I! [Running out at the door and calling.] Patrol! Patrol!

Fomá. Stop her.

Var. Oh, Hóspodi!

Pras. Help! Help! Come here!

Fomá. What have you done? What have you done?

[Enter Corporal and Soldiers.]

Pras. This man is a thief and a murderer. He is a convict escaped from Siberia. He has no passport.

Corp. Is that true? Where is your passport?

Sasha. I have none.

Corp. We are looking for such men as you. Come!

Sasha. This woman is my mother.

Corp. That's her affair. You have no passport; that is enough for me. You'll soon be back on the road to the North with the rest of them.

Sasha. Woman! woman! Have pity on your son.

Corp. Come along, lad, and leave the old woman in peace.

[Exit Sasha in custody.]

Pras. The Lord help me!

[Praskóvya stumbles towards the eikons and sinks blindly before them.]

Fomá [looking after Sasha]. Poor devil!

Astéryi. What's a man compared to an idea?

[Praskóvya rolls over, dead.]

 

[Curtain.]


MARY'S WEDDING

A Play

By Gilbert Cannan


Copyright, 1913, by Sidgwick and Jackson.
All rights reserved.

 

Mary's Wedding was first produced at the Coronet Theatre, in May, 1912, with the following cast:

MaryMiss Irene Rooke
TomMr. Herbert Lomas
AnnMiss Mary Goulden
Mrs. AireyMiss Muriel Pratt
Bill AireyMr. Charles Bibby
Two Maids.
Villagers and Others.

Scene: The Davis's Cottage.

Note: There is no attempt made in the play to reproduce exactly the Westmoreland dialect, which would be unintelligible to ears coming new to it, but only to catch the rough music of it and the slow inflection of northern voices.

 

Reprinted from "Four Plays," by permission of Mr. Gilbert Cannan.


MARY'S WEDDING

A Play

By Gilbert Cannan

 

[The scene is the living-room in the Davis's cottage in the hill country. An old room low in the ceiling. Ann Davis is at the table in the center of the room untying a parcel. The door opens to admit Tom Davis, a sturdy quarryman dressed in his best and wearing a large nosegay.]

 

Ann. Well, 'ast seed un?

Tom. Ay, a seed un. 'Im and 'is ugly face—

Ann [untying her parcel].'Tis 'er dress come just in time an' no more from the maker-up—

Tom. Ef she wouldna do it....

Ann. But 'tis such long years she's been a-waitin'.... 'Tis long years since she bought t' dress.

Tom. An' 'tis long years she'll be a livin' wi' what she's been waitin' for; 'tis long years she'll live to think ower it and watch the thing she's taken for her man, an' long years that she'll find 'un feedin' on 'er, an' a dreary round she'll 'ave of et....

Ann. Three times she 'ave come to a month of weddin' an' three times 'e 'ave broke loose and gone down to the Mortal Man an' the woman that keeps 'arf our men in drink.... 'Tis she is the wicked one, giving 'em score an' score again 'till they owe more than they can ever pay with a year's money.

Tom. 'Tis a fearful thing to drink....

Ann. So I telled 'er in the beginnin' of it all, knowin' what like of man 'e was. An' so I telled 'er last night only.

Tom. She be set on it?

Ann. An', an' 'ere's t' pretty dress for 'er to be wedded in....

Tom. What did she say?

Ann. Twice she 'ave broke wi' 'im, and twice she 'ave said that ef 'e never touched the drink fur six months she would go to be churched wi' 'im. She never 'ave looked at another man.

Tom. Ay, she be one o' they quiet ones that goes about their work an' never 'as no romantical notions but love only the more for et. There've been men come for 'er that are twice the man that Bill is, but she never looks up from 'er work at 'em.

Ann. I think she must 'a' growed up lovin' Bill. 'Tis a set thing surely.

Tom. An' when that woman 'ad 'im again an' 'ad 'im roaring drunk fur a week, she never said owt but turned to 'er work agin an' set aside the things she was makin' agin the weddin'....

Ann. What did 'e say to 'er?

Tom. Nowt. 'E be 'most as chary o' words as she. 'E've got the 'ouse an' everything snug, and while 'e works 'e makes good money.

Ann. 'Twill not end, surely.

Tom. There was 'is father and two brothers all broken men by it.

[She hears Mary on the stairs, and they are silent.]

Ann. 'Ere's yer pretty dress, Mary.

Mary. Ay.... Thankye, Tom.

Tom. 'Twill be lovely for ye, my dear, an' grand. 'Tis a fine day fur yer weddin', my dear....

Mary. I'll be sorry to go, Tom.

Tom. An' sorry we'll be to lose ye....

Mary. I'll put the dress on.

[She throws the frock over her arm and goes out with it.]

Ann. Another girl would 'a' wedded him years ago in the first foolishness of it. But Mary, for all she says so little, 'as long, long thoughts that never comes to the likes o' you and me.... Another girl, when the day 'ad come at last, would 'a' been wild wi' the joy an' the fear o' it.... But Mary, she's sat on the fells under the stars, an' windin' among the sheep. D' ye mind the nights she's been out like an old shepherd wi' t' sheep? D' ye mind the nights when she was but a lile 'un an' we found 'er out in the dawn sleepin' snug again the side o' a fat ewe?

Tom. 'Tis not like a weddin' day for 'er.... If she'd 'ad a new dress, now—

Ann. I said to 'er would she like a new dress; but she would have only the old 'un cut an' shaped to be in the fashion.... Et 'as been a strange coortin', an' 'twill be a strange life for 'em both, I'm thinkin', for there seems no gladness in 'er, nor never was, for she never was foolish an' she never was young; but she was always like there was a great weight on 'er, so as she must be about the world alone, but always she 'ave turned to the little things an' the weak, an' always she 'ad some poor sick beast for tendin' or another woman's babe to 'old to 'er breast, an' I think sometimes that 'tis only because Bill is a poor sick beast wi' a poor sick soul that she be so set on 'im.

Tom. 'E be a sodden beast wi' never a soul to be saved or damned—

Ann. 'Cept for the drink, 'e've been a good son to 'is old mother when the others 'ud 'a' left 'er to rot i' the ditch, an' 'e was the on'y one as 'ud raise a finger again his father when the owd man, God rest him, was on to 'er like a madman. Drunk or sober 'e always was on 'is mother's side.

Tom. 'Twas a fearful 'ouse that.

Ann. 'Twas wonderful that for all they did to 'er, that wild old man wi' 'is wild young sons, she outlived 'em all, but never a one could she save from the curse that was on them, an', sober, they was the likeliest men 'n Troutbeck....

Tom. 'Tis when the rain comes and t' clouds come low an' black on the fells and the cold damp eats into a man's bones that the fearful thoughts come to 'im that must be drowned or 'im go mad—an' only the foreigners like me or them as 'as foreign blood new in 'em can 'old out again it; 'tis the curse o' livin' too long between two lines o' 'ills.

Ann. An' what that owd woman could never do, d'ye think our Mary'll do it? 'Im a Troutbeck man an' she a Troutbeck girl?

Tom. She've 'eld to 'er bargain an' brought 'im to it.

Ann. There's things that a maid can do that a wife cannot an' that's truth, an' shame it is to the men. [Comes a knock at the door.] 'Tisn't time for t' weddin' folk.

[Tom goes to the window.]

Tom. Gorm. 'Tis Mrs. Airey.

Ann. T' owd woman. She that 'as not been further than 'er garden-gate these ten years?

[She goes to the door, opens it to admit Mrs. Airey, an old gaunt woman just beginning to be bent with age.]

Mrs. A. Good day to you, Tom Davis.

Tom. Good day to you, Mrs. Airey.

Mrs. A. Good day to you, Ann Davis.

Ann. Good day to you, Mrs. Airey. Will ye sit down?

[She dusts a chair and Mrs. Airey sits by the fireside. She sits silent for a long while. Tom and Ann look uneasily at her and at each other.]

Mrs. A. So 'tis all ready for Bill's wedding.

Tom. Ay. 'Tis a fine day, an' the folks bid, and the sharry-bang got for to drive to Coniston, all the party of us. Will ye be coming, Mrs. Airey?

Mrs. A. I'll not. [Mrs. Airey sits silent again for long.] Is Mary in the 'ouse?

Ann. She be upstairs puttin' on 'er weddin' dress.

Mrs. A. 'Tis the sad day of 'er life.... They're a rotten lot an' who should know et better than me? Bill's the best of 'em, but Bill's rotten.... Six months is not enough, nor six years nor sixty, not while 'er stays in Troutbeck rememberin' all that 'as been an' all the trouble that was in the 'ouse along o' it, and so I've come for to say it.

Ann. She growed up lovin' Bill, and 'tis a set thing. She've waited long years. 'Tis done now, an' what they make for theirselves they make, an' 'tis not for us to go speirin' for the trouble they may make for theirselves, but only to pray that it may pass them by....

Mrs. A. But 'tis certain.... Six months is not enough, nor six years, nor sixty—

Ann. And are ye come for to tell Mary this...?

Mrs. A. This and much more....

Tom. And what 'ave ye said to Bill?

Mrs. A. Nowt. There never was a son would give 'eed to 'is mother.... 'Tisn't for 'im I'm thinkin', but for t' children that she's bear 'im. I 'oped, and went on 'opin' till there was no 'ope left in me, and I lived to curse the day that each one of my sons was born. John and Peter are dead an' left no child behind, and it were better for Bill also to leave no child behind. There's a day and 'alf a day o' peace and content for a woman with such a man, and there's long, long years of thinkin' on the peace and content that's gone. There's long, long years of watching the child that you've borne and suckled turn rotten, an' I say that t' birth-pangs are nowt to t' pangs that ye 'ave from the childer of such a man as Bill or Bill's father.... She's a strong girl an' a good girl; but there's this that is stronger than 'er.

[Mary comes again, very pretty in her blue dress. She is at once sensible of the strangeness in Tom and Ann. She stands looking from one to the other. Mrs. Airey sits gazing into the fire.]

Mary. Why, mother ... 'tis kind of you to come on this morning.

Mrs. A. Ay, 'tis kind of me. [Ann steals away upstairs and Tom, taking the lead from her, goes out into the road.] Come 'ere, my pretty.

[Mary goes and stands by her.]

Mary. The sun is shining and the bees all out and busy to gather in the honey.

Mrs. A. 'Tis the bees as is t' wise people to work away in t' dark when t' sun is hidden, and to work away in t' sun when 'tis bright and light. 'Tis the bees as is t' wise people that takes their men an' kills 'em for the 'arm that they may do, and it's us that's the foolish ones to make soft the way of our men an' let them strut before us and lie; and 'tis us that's the foolish ones ever to give a thought to their needs that give never a one to ours.

Mary. 'Tis us that's t' glorious ones to 'elp them that is so weak, and 'tis us that's the brave and the kind ones to let them 'ave the 'ole world to play with when they will give never a thought to us that gives it t' 'em.

Mrs. A. My pretty, my pretty, there's never a one of us can 'elp a man that thinks 'isself a man an' strong, poor fool, an' there's never a one of us can 'elp a man that's got a curse on 'im and is rotten through to t' bone, an' not one day can you be a 'elp to such a man as this....

Mary. There's not one day that I will not try, and not one day that I will not fight to win 'im back....

Mrs. A. The life of a woman is a sorrowful thing....

Mary. For all its sorrow, 'tis a greater thing than t' life of a man ... an' so I'll live it....

Mrs. A. Now you're strong and you're young.—'Ope's with ye still and life all before ye—and so I thought when my day came, and so I did. There was a day and 'alf a day of peace and content, and there was long, long years of thinking on the peace and content that are gone.... Four men all gone the same road, and me left looking down the way that they are gone and seeing it all black as the pit.... I be a poor old woman now with never a creature to come near me in kindness, an' I was such a poor old woman before ever the 'alf of life was gone, an' so you'll be if you take my son for your man. He's the best of my sons, but I curse the day that ever he was born....

Mary. There was never a man the like of Bill. If ye see 'un striding the 'ill, ye know 'tis a man by 'is strong, long stride; and if ye see 'un leapin' an' screein' down th' 'ill, ye know 'tis a man; and if we see 'un in t' quarry, ye know 'tis a strong man....

Mrs. A. An' if ye see 'un lyin' drunk i' the ditch, not roarin' drunk, but rotten drunk, wi' 'is face fouled an' 'is clothes mucked, ye know 'tis the lowest creature of the world.

[Mary stands staring straight in front of her.]

Mary. Is it for this that ye come to me to-day?

Mrs. A. Ay, for this: that ye may send 'un back to 'is rottenness, for back to it 'e'll surely go when 'tis too late, an' you a poor old woman like me, with never a creature to come near ye in kindness, before ever the bloom 'as gone from your bonny cheeks, an' maybe childer that'll grow up bonny an' then be blighted for all the tenderness ye give to them; an' those days will be the worst of all—far worse than the day when ye turn for good an' all into yourself from t' man that will give ye nowt.... 'Tis truly the bees as is the wise people....

Mary. It's a weary waitin' that I've had, and better the day and 'alf a day of peace and content with all the long years of thinking on it than all the long, long years of my life to go on waitin' and waitin' for what has passed me by, for if he be the rottenest, meanest man in t' world that ever was made, there is no other that I can see or ever will. It is no wild foolishness that I am doing: I never was like that; but it's a thing that's growed wi' me an' is a part o' me—an' though every day o' my life were set before me now so I could see to the very end, an' every day sadder and blacker than the last, I'd not turn back. I gave 'im the bargain, years back now, and three times e' 'as failed me; but 'e sets store by me enough to do this for me a fourth time—'Twas kind of ye to come....

Mrs. A. You're strong an' you're young, but there's this that's stronger than yourself—

Mary. Maybe, but 'twill not be for want o' fightin' wi' 't.

Mrs. A. 'Twill steal on ye when you're weakest, an' come on ye in your greatest need....

Mary. It 'as come to this day an' there is no goin' back. D' ye think I've not seed t' soft, gentle things that are given to other women, an' not envied them? D' ye think I've not seed 'em walkin' shut-eyed into all sorts o' foolishness an' never askin' for the trewth o' it, an' not envied 'em for doin' that? D' ye think I've not seed the girls I growed wi' matin' lightly an' lightly weddin', an' not envied 'em for that, they wi' a 'ouse an' babes an' me drudgin' away in t' farm, me wi' my man to 'and an' only this agin 'im? D' ye think I've not been tore in two wi' wantin' to close my eyes an' walk like others into it an' never think what is to come? There's many an' many a night that I've sat there under t' stars wi' t' three counties afore me an' t' sea, an' t' sheep croppin', an' my own thoughts for all the comp'ny that I 'ad, an' fightin' this way an' that for to take 'up an' let 'un be so rotten, as ever 'e might be; an' there's many an' many a night when the thoughts come so fast that they hurt me an' I lay pressed close to t' ground wi' me 'ands clawin' at it an' me teeth bitin' into t' ground for to get closer an' 'ide from myself; an' many a night when I sat there seein' the man as t' brave lad 'e was when I seed 'un first leapin' down the 'ill, an' knowin' that nothin' in the world, nothin' that I could do to 'un or that 'e could do 'isself, would ever take that fro' me.... In all my time o' my weary waitin' there 'as never been a soul that I told so much to, an' God knows there never 'as been an' never will be a time when I can tell as much to 'im....

Mrs. A. My pretty, my pretty, 'tis a waste an' a wicked, wicked waste....

Mary. 'Tis a day an' alf a day agin never a moment....

Mrs. A. 'Tis that, and so 'tis wi' all o' us ... an' so 'twill be.... God bless ye, my dear....

[Ann comes down. Mary is looking out of the window.]

Ann. Ye forgot the ribbon for yer 'air, that I fetched 'specially fro' t' town.

Mary. Why, yes. Will ye tie it, Ann?

[Ann ties the ribbon in her hair.]

Mrs. A. Pretty, my dear, oh! pretty—

Mary. I'm to walk to t' church o' Tom's arm...?

Ann. An' I to Tom's left; wi' the bridesmaids be'ind, an' the rest a followin'....

[Tom returns, followed by two girls bringing armfuls of flowers. With these they deck the room, and keep the choicest blooms for Mary. Ann and the three girls are busied with making Mary reach her most beautiful. Mrs. Airey goes. At intervals one villager and another comes to give greeting or to bring some small offering of food or some small article of clothing. Mary thanks them all with rare natural grace. They call her fine, and ejaculate remarks of admiration: "The purty bride...." "She's beautiful...." "'Tis a lucky lad, Bill Airey...." The church bell begins to ring.... All is prepared and all are ready.... Mary is given her gloves, which she draws on—when the door is thrown open and Bill Airey lunges against the lintel of the door and stands leering. He is just sober enough to know what he is at. He is near tears, poor wretch. He is not horribly drunk. He stands surveying the group and they him.]

Bill. I come—I come—I—c-come for to—to—to—show—to show myself....

[He turns in utter misery and goes. Mary plucks the flowers from her bosom and lets them fall to the ground; draws her gloves off her hands and lets them fall. The bell continues to ring.]

 

[Curtain.]


THE BABY CARRIAGE

A Play

By Bosworth Crocker


Copyright, 1920, by Bosworth Crocker.
All rights reserved.

 

The Baby Carriage was originally produced by the Provincetown Players, New York, February 14, 1919, with the following cast:

Mrs. LezinskyDorothy Miller.
Mrs. RooneyAlice Dostetter.
Mr. RosenbloomW. Clay Hill.
Solomon LezinskyO. K. Liveright.

Place: The Lezinsky Tailor Shop.

Time: To-day.

 

Application for the right of performing The Baby Carriage must be made to Mr. Bosworth Crocker, in care of the Society of American Dramatists and Composers, 148 West 45th Street, New York, or The Authors' League, Union Square, New York.


THE BABY CARRIAGE

A Play

By Bosworth Crocker

 

[The Scene is an ordinary tailor shop two steps down from the sidewalk. Mirror on one side. Equipment third rate. Mrs. Solomon Lezinsky, alone in the shop, is examining a torn pair of trousers as Mrs. Rooney comes in.]

 

Mrs. Lezinsky [27 years old, medium height and weight, dark, attractive. In a pleased voice with a slight Yiddish accent]. Mrs. Rooney!

Mrs. Rooney [30 years old. A plump and pretty Irish woman]. I only ran in for a minute to bring you these. [Holds up a pair of roller skates and a picture book.] Eileen's out there in the carriage. [Both women look out at the baby-carriage in front of the window.]

Mrs. Lezinsky. Bring her in, Mrs. Rooney. Such a beautiful child—your Eileen!

Mrs. Rooney. Can't stop—where's the kids?

Mrs. Lezinsky. The janitress takes them to the moving pictures with her Izzy.

Mrs. Rooney. You wouldn't believe the things I've run across this day, packing. [Puts down the skates.] I'm thinking these skates'll fit one of your lads. My Mickey—God rest his soul!—used to tear around great on them.

Mrs. Lezinsky. Fine, Mrs. Rooney! [Examines the skates. But couldn't you save them for Eileen?

Mrs. Rooney. Sure, she'd be long growing up to them and they be laying by gathering the rust.

Mrs. Lezinsky. My David and Julius and Benny could die for joy with these fine skates, I tell you, Mrs. Rooney.

Mrs. Rooney. Here's an old book [hands Mrs. Lezinsky the book], but too good to throw away entirely.

Mrs. Lezinsky [opens the book]. Fine, Mrs. Rooney! Such a book with pictures in it! My Benny's wild for picture books. Julius reads, reads—always learning. Something wonderful, I tell you. Just like the papa—my Solly ruins himself with his nose always stuck in the Torah.

Mrs. Rooney. The Toro? 'Tis a book I never heard tell of.

Mrs. Lezinsky. The law and the prophets—my Solly was meant to be a rabbi once.

Mrs. Rooney. A rabbi?

Mrs. Lezinsky. You know what a rabbi is by us, Mrs. Rooney?

Mrs. Rooney. Indeed, I know what a rabbi is, Mrs. Lezinsky—a rabbi is a Jewish priest.

Mrs. Lezinsky. You don't hate the Jewish religion, Mrs. Rooney?

Mrs. Rooney. Every one has a right to their own religion. Some of us are born Jewish—like you, Mrs. Lezinsky, and some are born Catholics, like me.

Mrs. Lezinsky. Catholics like you are fine, Mrs. Rooney. Such a good neighbor! A good customer, too! Why should you move away now, Mrs. Rooney?

Mrs. Rooney. The air in the Bronx will be fine for Eileen. 'Tis a great pity you couldn't be moving there, yourself. With the fresh air and the cheap rent, 'twould be great for yourself and the boys—not to mention the baby that's coming to you.

Mrs. Lezinsky. Thank God, that don't happen for a little while yet. But in the hottest weather—maybe—some Septembers—even so late yet—ain't it, Mrs. Rooney? Always trouble by us. Such expense, too. The agent takes the rent to-day. With Solly's eyes so bad it's a blessing when we can pay the rent even. And the gas bills! So much pants pressing! See? They send us this already. [Shows a paper.] A notice to pay right away or they shut it off. Only ten days overdue. Would you believe it, Mrs. Rooney? Maybe we catch up a little next month. It don't pay no longer, this business. And soon now another mouth to feed, and still my Solly sticks by his learning.

Mrs. Rooney. But he can't be a rabbi now, can he?

Mrs. Lezinsky. He can't be a rabbi now, no more, Mrs. Rooney, but such a pious man—my Solly. He must be a poor tailor, but he never gives up his learning—not for anything he gives that up. Learning's good for my David and Julius and Benny soon, but it's bad for my Solly. It leaves him no eyes for the business, Mrs. Rooney.

Mrs. Rooney. And are the poor eyes as bad as ever?

Mrs. Lezinsky. How should his eyes get better when he gives them no chance? Always he should have an operation and the operation—it don't help—maybe. [Mrs. Rooney turns to the door.] Must you go so quick, Mrs. Rooney? Now you move away, I never see you any more.

Mrs. Rooney. The subway runs in front of the house.

Mrs. Lezinsky. I tell you something, Mrs. Rooney: Solly couldn't keep the shop open without me. Sometimes his eyes go back on him altogether. And he should get an operation. But that costs something, I tell you, Mrs. Rooney. The doctors get rich from that. It costs something, that operation. And then, sometimes, may be it don't help.

Mrs. Rooney. 'Tis too bad, altogether. [Looks at the baby-carriage.] Wait a minute, Mrs. Lezinsky. [Starts out.]

Mrs. Lezinsky [as Mrs. Rooney goes]. What is it, Mrs. Rooney?

Mrs. Rooney [just outside the door, calls out]. Something else—I forgot. 'Tis out here in the carriage.

[Mrs. Lezinsky threads a needle and begins to sew buttons on a lady's coat. Mrs. Rooney comes back carrying a small square package wrapped in newspaper.]

Mrs. Rooney. Here's something. You'll like this, Mrs. Lezinsky. It belongs to Eileen.

Mrs. Lezinsky [looking out at the child in the carriage]. Was her collar stitched all right, Mrs. Rooney?

Mrs. Rooney. It was that. Fits her coat perfect. See the new cap on her? 'Twas for her birthday I bought it. Three years old now. Getting that big I can feel the weight of her.

Mrs. Lezinsky. Such a beautiful little girl, Mrs. Rooney! And such stylish clothes you buy for her. My David should have a new suit from his papa's right away now. Then we fix the old one over for Julius. Maybe my Benny gets a little good out of that suit too, sometime. We couldn't afford to buy new clothes. We should first get all the wear out of the old ones. Yes, Mrs. Rooney. Anyhow, boys! It don't so much matter. But girls! Girls is different. And such a beautiful little girl like Eileen!

Mrs. Rooney. She'll be spoilt on me entirely—every one giving her her own way. [In a gush of mother-pride.] 'Tis the darling she is—anyhow.

Mrs. Lezinsky. O, Mrs. Rooney, I could wish to have one just like her, I tell you, such a beautiful little girl just like her.

Mrs. Rooney. Maybe you will, Mrs. Lezinsky, maybe you will.

Mrs. Lezinsky. She sleeps nice in that baby-carriage.

Mrs. Rooney. 'Tis the last time she sleeps in it.

Mrs. Lezinsky. The last time, what?

Mrs. Rooney. Her pa'll be after buying me a go-cart for her now we're moving. 'Tis destroying me—the hauling that up and down stairs.

Mrs. Lezinsky. Such a gorgeous baby-carriage—all fresh painted—white—

Mrs. Rooney. It's fine for them that likes it. As for me—I'm that tired of dragging it, I'd rather be leaving it behind.

Mrs. Lezinsky [her face aglow]. What happens to that carriage, Mrs. Rooney?

Mrs. Rooney. I'll be selling it.

Mrs. Lezinsky. Who buys that carriage, Mrs. Rooney?

Mrs. Rooney. More than one has their eye on it, but I'll get my price. Mrs. Cohen has spoke for it.

Mrs. Lezinsky. How much you ask for that carriage, Mrs. Rooney?

Mrs. Rooney. Sure, and I'd let it go for a $5 bill, Mrs. Lezinsky.

Mrs. Lezinsky [her face falls]. Maybe you get that $5 ... Mrs. Rooney. Those Cohens make money by that stationery business.

Mrs. Rooney. And sure, the secondhand man would pay me as much.

Mrs. Lezinsky [longingly]. My David and Julius and Benny—they never had such a baby-carriage—in all their lives they never rode in a baby-carriage. My babies was pretty babies, too. And smart, Mrs. Rooney! You wouldn't believe it. My Benny was the smartest of the lot. When he was 18 months old, he puts two words together already.

Mrs. Rooney. He's a keener—that one. [Unwraps the package.] I'm clean forgetting the basket. [Holds it out to Mrs. Lezinsky's delighted gaze.] Now there you are—as good as new—Mrs. Lezinsky—and when you do be sticking the safety pins into the cushion [she points out the cushion] you can mind my Eileen. Some of the pinholes is rusty like, but the pins'll cover it—that it was herself gave your baby its first present.

Mrs. Lezinsky. O, Mrs. Rooney, such a beautiful basket! Such a beautiful, stylish basket!

Mrs. Rooney. And here's a box for the powder. [Opens a celluloid box and takes out a powder puff.] And here's an old puff. Sure the puff will do if you're not too particular.

Mrs. Lezinsky [handling the things]. Why should I be so particular? In all their lives my David and Julius and Benny never had such a box and puff, I tell you, Mrs. Rooney.

Mrs. Rooney [points]. Them little pockets is to stick things in.

Mrs. Lezinsky. Should you give away such a basket, Mrs. Rooney?

Mrs. Rooney. What good is it but to clutter up the closet, knocking about in my way.

Mrs. Lezinsky. My David and Julius and Benny, they never had such a basket, but my cousin, Morris Schapiro's wife,—she had such a basket—for her baby. All lined with pink it was.

Mrs. Rooney. Pink is for boys. I wanted a girl, having Mickey then.

Mrs. Lezinsky. Me, too, Mrs. Rooney. Three boys! Now it's time it should be a little girl. Yes, Mrs. Rooney. A little girl like Eileen.

Mrs. Rooney. Sure, then, if you're going by the basket 'tis a little girl you have coming to you. Blue's for girls.... A comb and a brush for it—you can buy.

Mrs. Lezinsky. Combs and brushes! What should I do with combs and brushes? My David and Julius and Benny are all born bald.

Mrs. Rooney. Sure, Eileen had the finest head of curls was ever seen on a baby—little soft yellow curls—like the down on a bird.

Mrs. Lezinsky. If I should have a little girl—like your Eileen—my David and Julius and Benny—they die for joy over their little sister, I tell you, Mrs. Rooney. Yes, it should be a girl and I name her Eileen. Such pretty names for girls: Eileen and Hazel and Gladys and Goldie. Goldie's a pretty name, too. I like that name so much I call myself Goldie when I go to school. Gietel's my Jewish name. Ugly? Yes, Mrs. Rooney? Goldie's better—much better. But Eileen's the best of all. Eileen's a gorgeous name. I name her Eileen, I do assure you. She should have another name, too, for Solly. Zipporah, maybe—for her dead grandmother.

Mrs. Rooney. Sure, Eileen has a second name: Bridget. 'Tis for my mother in the old country. A saint's name. Her father chose it for her. Bridget's a grand name—that—too.

Mrs. Lezinsky. Zipporah—that was Solly's mother.... But I call her Eileen.

Mrs. Rooney. That's a grand compliment, Mrs. Lezinsky, and 'tis myself would stand godmother for her should you be wanting me to.

Mrs. Lezinsky. I'm sorry, Mrs. Rooney, by our religion we don't have such god-mothers.

Mrs. Rooney. I'll be running on now not to keep you from your work and so much of it with your poor man and the drops in his sick eyes. Here! [She puts half a dollar into Mrs. Lezinsky's hand.]

Mrs. Lezinsky. For what?

Mrs. Rooney. For Mr. Lezinsky stitching the collar on Eileen's coat.

Mrs. Lezinsky [trying to make Mrs. Rooney take it back]. Mrs. Rooney—if you wouldn't insult me—please—when you bring all these lovely things.... [Mrs. Rooney pushes the money away.] And so you sell that fine baby-carriage.... That carriage holds my Benny, too, maybe?

Mrs. Rooney. Sure. Easy.

Mrs. Lezinsky. My David and Julius—they could wheel that carriage. The little sister sleeps in it. And my Benny—he rides at the foot. $5 is cheap for that elegant carriage when you should happen to have so much money. I ask my Solly. Do me the favor, Mrs. Rooney—you should speak to me first before you give it to Mrs. Cohen—yes?

Mrs. Rooney. Sure I will. I'll be leaving the carriage outside and carry the child up. You and Mr. Lezinsky can be making up your minds. [Mrs. Rooney looks through the window at a man turning in from the street.] Is it himself coming home?

Mrs. Lezinsky. Any time now, Mrs. Rooney, he comes from the doctor.

Mrs. Rooney. 'Tis not himself. 'Tis some customer.

Mrs. Lezinsky [as the door opens]. It's Mr. Rosenbloom.

Mrs. Rooney. See you later. [Rushes out. Through the window Mrs. Lezinsky watches her take the child out of the carriage.]

Mrs. Lezinsky [sighs, turns to her customer]. O, Mr. Rosenbloom! Glad to see you, Mr. Rosenbloom. You well now, Mr. Rosenbloom?

Mr. Rosenbloom. Able to get around once more, Mrs. Lezinsky.

Mrs. Lezinsky. I hope you keep that way. You got thinner with your sickness. You lose your face, Mr. Rosenbloom. [He hands her a coat and a pair of trousers.] Why should you bother to bring them in? I could send my David or Julius for them.

Mr. Rosenbloom. Right on my way to the barber-shop. The coat's a little loose now. [Slips off his coat and puts on the other.] Across the back. See?

Mrs. Lezinsky. He should take it in a little on the shoulders, Mr. Rosenbloom?

Mr. Rosenbloom [considers]. It wouldn't pay—so much alterations for this particular suit.

Mrs. Lezinsky. It's a good suit, Mr. Rosenbloom.

Mr. Rosenbloom. He should just shorten the sleeves. Those sleeves were from the first a little too long.

[He slips the coat off. Mrs. Lezinsky measures coat sleeve against his bent arm.]

Mrs. Lezinsky. About how much, Mr. Rosenbloom? Say—an inch?

Mr. Rosenbloom. An inch or an inch and a half—maybe.

Mrs. Lezinsky [measures again]. I think that makes them too short, Mr. Rosenbloom. One inch is plenty.

Mr. Rosenbloom. All right—one inch, then.

Mrs. Lezinsky. One inch.... All right, Mr. Rosenbloom—one inch.

Mr. Rosenbloom. How soon will they be ready?

Mrs. Lezinsky. Maybe to-morrow. He lets all this other work go—maybe—and sets to work on them right away when he gets back home.

Mr. Rosenbloom. All right.

Mrs. Lezinsky. I send my David or Julius with them, Mr. Rosenbloom?

Mr. Rosenbloom. I'll stop in the evening and try the coat on.

Mrs. Lezinsky. Maybe it wouldn't be ready to try on so soon—All right, Mr. Rosenbloom, this evening you come in. [She calls after him as he goes out.] O, Mr. Rosenbloom! The pants? What should he do to the pants?

Mr. Rosenbloom [from the doorway]. Press them. [He turns back.] Press the—whole thing—suit.

Mrs. Lezinsky. Press them. Sure. Press the suit. A fine suit. Certainly a fine piece of goods, Mr. Rosenbloom. Did my husband make it up for you?

Mr. Rosenbloom. Yes.

Mrs. Lezinsky. I thought so. Wears like iron, too, this goods. Yes, Mr. Rosenbloom? With one eye my husband picks the best pieces of goods I tell you, Mr. Rosenbloom.... He should shorten the sleeves one inch.... All right, he fixes it to your satisfaction, Mr. Rosenbloom—

Mr. Rosenbloom. Yes, yes. [Impatiently edges toward the door.]

Mrs. Lezinsky. This evening you come for them?

[He nods and hurries out.]

Mrs. Lezinsky. Five dollars! [Drops everything and stands looking dreamily through the shop window at the baby-carriage. She takes a roll of money from her bosom and counts it. Shakes her head dispiritedly and sighs. She makes an estimate of the money coming in from the work on hand. Pointing to Mr. Rosenbloom's suit.] Two dollars for that—[Turns from the suit to a pair of torn trousers.] Half a dollar, anyhow—[Points to the lady's coat on which she has been sewing buttons.] A dollar—maybe—[Hears some one coming, thrusts the roll of money back into her bosom.]

Lezinsky [comes in. Spare. Medium height. Pronounced Semitic type. He wears glasses with very thick lenses.] Where are the children?

Mrs. Lezinsky. Mrs. Klein takes them to the moving pictures with her Izzy.

Lezinsky. Always to the moving pictures! The children go blind, too, pretty soon.

Mrs. Lezinsky. The doctor didn't make your eyes no better, Solly?

Lezinsky. How should he make them better when he says all the time: "Don't use them." And all the time a man must keep right on working to put bread in the mouths of his children. And soon, now, another one comes—nebbich!

Mrs. Lezinsky. Maybe your eyes get much better now when our little Eileen comes.

Lezinsky. Better a boy, Goldie: that helps more in the business.

Mrs. Lezinsky. It's time our David and Julius and Benny should have a little sister now. They like that. Such another little girl like Mrs. Rooney's Eileen. When it is, maybe, a girl, we call her Eileen—like Mrs. Rooney's Eileen. Such a gorgeous name—that Eileen! Yes, Solly?

Lezinsky. Eileen! A Goy name! She should be Rebecca for your mother or Zipporah for mine.

Mrs. Lezinsky. Sure. Zipporah, too, Solly—Eileen Zipporah! When there should be sometime—another boy, Solly, then you name him what you like. When it a little girl—Eileen. I dress her up stylish. Such beautiful things they have in Gumpertz's window. And—Mrs. Rooney sells her baby-carriage. [Both look out at the carriage.] She gives it away.

Lezinsky. She gives you a baby-carriage?

Mrs. Lezinsky. For five dollars she gives me that lovely carriage good as new—all fresh painted white—and the little Eileen Zipporah sleeps at the head and Benny rides at the foot by his little sister. So elegant—Solly!

Lezinsky. I put my eyes out to earn the bread and this woman—she should buy a baby-carriage. Oi! Oi!

Mrs. Lezinsky [points to carriage]. Such a baby-carriage what Mrs. Rooney has—it only happens to us once, Solly. Only five one-dollars—all fresh painted white—just like new—and such a cover to keep out the sun. She gets a little new go-cart for Eileen. Otherwise she don't give up such an elegant carriage what cost her more money than we could even see at one time except for rents and gas-bills. Five dollars is cheap for that carriage. Five dollars is nothing for that carriage I tell you, Solly. Nothing at all. She sells it now before she moves to the Bronx this afternoon. Such a bargain we shouldn't lose, Solly—even if we don't pay all the money right away down. Yes, Solly? And Mrs. Rooney—she gives our David and Julius and Benny skates and a picture book—and their little sister this fine basket. [Shows him the basket.] Yes, Solly. Shouldn't we make sure to buy this baby-carriage? Only five dollars, Solly, this baby-carriage—

Lezinsky. Baby-carriage! Baby-carriage! If I had so much money for baby-carriages I hire me a cutter here. This way I go blind.

Mrs. Lezinsky. No, but by reading the Torah! And that way you lose good custom, too. [Wheedling him again.] Maybe you get good business and hire you a cutter when the little Eileen comes. Five dollars! Does that pay wages to a cutter? Yes, Solly? But it buys once a beautiful baby-carriage, and David and Julius go wild to ride their little sister in it—and Benny at the foot.

Lezinsky [waving his arms]. I should have a cutter not to lose my customers—and this woman—she would have a baby-carriage. I lose my eyes, but she would have a baby-carriage.

Mrs. Lezinsky. But it costs only five dollars. What costs a cutter?

Lezinsky. At Union wages! I might as well ask for the moon, Goldie. Oi! Oi! Soon we all starve together.

Mrs. Lezinsky. You hire you a cheap hand here, Solly. He does pressing and all the dirty work. He works and you boss him around. That looks good to the customers. Yes, Solly? And I save up that five dollars soon and give it back to you. Yes, Solly? Business goes better now already when people come back from the country and everything picks up a little. I help now and we spare that five dollars. Mr. Rosenbloom brings us a little work. See? [She points to the coat.] You should make the sleeves shorter—one inch. Mr. Rosenbloom gets thinner by his sickness. His clothes hang a little loose on him.

Lezinsky [looks at the trousers]. And the pants?

Mrs. Lezinsky. Mr. Rosenbloom didn't lose his stomach by his sickness. He only loses his face.

Lezinsky. Such a chutzpah!

Mrs. Lezinsky. Yes, nothing makes Mr. Rosenbloom to lose his cheek, ain't it, Solly? And plenty roast goose has he to fill up his stomach. By us is no more roast goose nowadays.

Lezinsky. We make up what we didn't get here maybe in the world to come, Goldie leben.

Mrs. Lezinsky. Roast goose in the world to come! Such a business! Angels shouldn't eat, Solly. I take my roast goose now—then I sure get it.... How much you charge Mr. Rosenbloom for this [points to the suit], Solly?

Lezinsky. One dollar and a half—maybe.

Mrs. Lezinsky. For such a job my cousin Morris Schapiro gets three dollars and not too dear then. Everything goes 'way up and you stay 'way behind. You should raise your prices. No wonder we shall all starve together. It's not baby-carriages what ruin us. Did our David or Julius or Benny ever have such a baby-carriage? No. But it is that you let the customers steal your work.

Lezinsky. All right—I charge two dollars.

Mrs. Lezinsky. What good should half a dollar do? Three dollars, Solly.

Lezinsky. Two dollars. Three dollars swindles him.

Mrs. Lezinsky. All right—then two dollars. Fifty cents is fifty cents anyhow. [She goes up to him and presses her face against his.] Solly, leben, shouldn't our David and Julius and Benny have a baby-carriage for their little sister?

Lezinsky. Baby-carriage—Oi! Peace, Goldie, my head aches.

Mrs. Lezinsky [picking up the trousers]. How much for these, Solly?

Lezinsky. One dollar.

Mrs. Lezinsky [derisively]. One dollar you say! And for the lady's coat?

Lezinsky. A couple of dollars, anyway.

Mrs. Lezinsky. A couple of dollars anyway! And he thinks he does good business when he charges a couple of dollars anyway. And for that, my cousin, Morris Schapiro charges three dollars each. A couple of dollars! Your children will be left without bread. [He mutters phrases from the Torah.] You hear me, Solly? [He goes on with his prayers.] Prayers are what he answers me. Soon you pray in the streets.

Lezinsky. Woe is me! Woe is me!

Mrs. Lezinsky. Could he even answer me? Yes, if it was roast goose I was asking for or black satin for a decent Shabbos dress. But no! [Satirically.] Maybe you even get roast goose from your learning.... Yes—on account of your praying we all have to go a begging yet.

Lezinsky. To-morrow is Rosch Hoschana, Gietel.

Mrs. Lezinsky. Does Rosch Hoschana mean a roast goose by us? Does it even mean a baby-carriage what costs five dollars?

Lezinsky. Roast goose and baby-carriage! You have no pious thoughts.... Go away.... My head swims.

Mrs. Lezinsky. That comes by fasting. Don't you fast enough every day?

Lezinsky. She comes now to roast goose again.

Mrs. Lezinsky. What should I care for roast goose? Rosch Hoschana comes next year again. But the baby-carriage—it never comes again.

Lezinsky. Baby-carriage! Baby-carriage! When you should fast and pray....

Mrs. Lezinsky. What! Should I fast and give our David and Julius and Benny a shadow—maybe—for a little sister?... But—yes—I fast, too ... that—even—for such a baby carriage. O, Solly—that much we all do—for our little Eileen.

Lezinsky [wearily, putting his hands to his eyes]. All right. How much money have you got there—Gietel?

Mrs. Lezinsky [sweetly]. Now call me Goldie, Solly, so I know you ain't mad.

Lezinsky. Yes, yes.

Mrs. Lezinsky. Goldie—say it—Solly leben—Go on—count it—Goldie. [She takes the money out and they count it together.]

Mr. and Mrs. Lezinsky [together]. One.... [Counting out another dollar bill]—Two.... [Counting out a third dollar bill]—Three.... [Counting out a two-dollar bill]—Five dollars.... [Another two-dollar bill]—Seven dollars.... [A ten-dollar bill]—Seventeen.... [Another ten-dollar bill]—Twenty-seven.... [The last ten-dollar bill]—Thirty-seven.

Lezinsky. Thirty-seven dollars in all—the rent and the gas!

Mrs. Lezinsky. And a little over, Solly, to pay on the baby carriage.

Lezinsky. And to-morrow Rosch Hoschana. Shall we starve the children on Rosch Hoschana?

Mrs. Lezinsky. They could go a little hungry once for their little sister, Eileen.

Lezinsky. Don't be too sure, Goldie, maybe another boy comes.

Mrs. Lezinsky. Well, even if—it needs the fresh air, too.

Lezinsky [firmly after a moment's thought]. No, Goldie, it couldn't be done. In the spring we buy a baby-carriage.

Mrs. Lezinsky. You think she waits till spring to sell that baby-carriage? She sells it now before she moves away—now, this afternoon, I tell you.

Lezinsky. Well, we buy another carriage, then.

Mrs. Lezinsky. You don't find such a bargain again anytime. She gives it away.

Lezinsky. My eyes get much better soon—now—by the operation.

Mrs. Lezinsky. Operation! Operation! Always operations! And the baby comes. No carriage for our David and Julius to wheel her in—with our Benny at the foot—in the fresh air—and she dies on us in the heat next summer—maybe—and David and Julius and Benny—they lose their little sister.

Lezinsky. Didn't David and Julius and Benny live without a baby-carriage?

Mrs. Lezinsky. Yes, a mile to the park, maybe, and I carry them to the fresh air. And a baby-carriage for her costs five dollars. What time shall I have for that with all the extra work and my back broken? In such a baby-carriage the little sister sleeps from morning to night—on the sidewalk by the stoop; she gets fat and healthy from that baby-carriage.

Lezinsky. When I could pay for the operation, maybe—then—

Mrs. Lezinsky [despairingly]. Operations again—always operations!

Lezinsky. Go away, Goldie, I must work.

Mrs. Lezinsky. I advise you not to have that operation now. He steals your money and don't help your eyes. Get another doctor. But baby-carriages like this ain't so plenty.

Lezinsky. God of Israel, shall I go blind because you would have a baby-carriage for our unborn son?

Mrs. Lezinsky. No, but by reading the Torah—and that way you lose good customers, too—and she shall die in the heat because David and Julius cannot push her in that baby-carriage.

Lezinsky. Go away, Gietel, I have work to do. Maybe you could rip out the sleeves from Mr. Rosenbloom's coat?

Mrs. Lezinsky. I do anything—anything you like, Solly, for that baby-carriage.... Yes, I rip out the sleeves when I finish sewing on the buttons.... I do anything—anything—so we get this baby carriage. We never get another such carriage.

Lezinsky. God of Israel, will she never hear me when I say: No!

Mrs. Lezinsky. Then—Mrs. Cohen—she gets that baby carriage—and every day of my life I see it go past my window—and the little sister—she goes without. [She picks up Mr. Rosenbloom's coat, looks it over and finds a small wallet in the breast pocket. Tucks the wallet into her bosom. Fiercely, half-aloud, but to herself.] No! No! Mrs. Cohen shouldn't get that baby-carriage—whatever happens—she shouldn't get it. [She crosses to the mirror, pulls the wallet from her bosom, hurriedly counts the money in it, glances at her husband, then takes out a five-dollar bill. She hears a noise outside and makes a move as though to restore the money to the wallet, but at the sound of steps on the stoop, she thrusts the loose bill into her bosom. As Mr. Rosenbloom comes in she has only time to stick the wallet back into the coat. Picks up the lady's coat and sews on buttons vigorously.]

Mr. Rosenbloom. I left my wallet in that coat.

Lezinsky [with a motion of his head toward the coat]. Goldie.

Mrs. Lezinsky [sewing the buttons onto the lady's coat]. In which pocket, Mr. Rosenbloom?

Mr. Rosenbloom [crosses to coat]. You don't begin work on it, yet?

Mrs. Lezinsky [slowly puts her work aside]. I rip the sleeves out so soon I sew these buttons on, Mr. Rosenbloom.

Mr. Rosenbloom [looks in breast pocket, draws back in astonishment to find the wallet gone.]

Mrs. Lezinsky. In which pocket, Mr. Rosenbloom?

Mr. Rosenbloom. I keep it always in that breast pocket.

Mrs. Lezinsky [taking the wallet from an outside pocket]. Why—here it is, Mr. Rosenbloom.

Mr. Rosenbloom [suspiciously]. From which pocket does it come?

Mrs. Lezinsky [points]. Right here, Mr. Rosenbloom.

Mr. Rosenbloom [shakes his head]. I don't see how it got in that pocket.

Mrs. Lezinsky. We didn't touch that coat, Mr. Rosenbloom—except Solly looks when I told him what he should do to it—ain't it, Solly? Otherwise we didn't touch it.

Mr. Rosenbloom [opens the wallet]. Funny! It couldn't walk out of one pocket into another all by itself.

Mrs. Lezinsky. We didn't touch it, Mr. Rosenbloom.

Mr. Rosenbloom [begins to count the bills]. Maybe some customer—

Mrs. Lezinsky. That may be—all kinds of customers, Mr. Rosenbloom—

Lezinsky [as Mr. Rosenbloom goes over the money for the second time.] But it hangs here always in our sight. Who has been here, Goldie?

Mr. Rosenbloom. There's a bill missing here.

Mrs. Lezinsky [pretending great astonishment]. Mr. Rosenbloom!

Lezinsky [with an accusing note in his tone, meant for her only]. Gietel?

Mrs. Lezinsky. How should I know? [To Mr. Rosenbloom.] Maybe you didn't count it right. [He counts it again.]

Mr. Rosenbloom. No—it's short—$5.

Lezinsky [under his breath, looking strangely at his wife.] Mr. Rosenbloom, however that happens—I make up that $5. Such a thing shouldn't happen in my business. I make it up right away. Gietel!—Gietel—give me the money.

Mrs. Lezinsky [in a trembling voice]. I didn't—

Lezinsky [checks her]. I pay you from my own money, Mr. Rosenbloom.... Gietel! [He puts out his hand for the money.]

Mrs. Lezinsky. All right, Solly.... [Turns her back to Mr. Rosenbloom and pulls the roll of money from her bosom, thrusting the loose bill back. Solomon, standing over her, sees this bill and puts out his hand for it.]

Lezinsky [in a tense undertone]. All—Gietel—all!

[Reluctantly she draws the $5 bill from her bosom and, seizing a moment when Mr. Rosenbloom is recounting his money, she thrusts it quickly into her husband's hand.]

Lezinsky [he crosses to Mr. Rosenbloom and counts out the five dollars from the bills in the roll.] One dollar—two dollars—three dollars—and two is five dollars. [Hands it to Mr. Rosenbloom.]

Mr. Rosenbloom [hesitates]. You shouldn't be out that $5, Mr. Lezinsky. Anyhow—pay me the difference when you charge for the suit.

Lezinsky. No, Mr. Rosenbloom—if you take the money now, please.... I couldn't rest—otherwise. In all my life—this—never—happened—before.

Mr. Rosenbloom [takes the money]. Well, if you want it that way, Mr. Lezinsky.... You have the suit ready this evening anyhow?

Lezinsky. You get the suit this evening, Mr. Rosenbloom. I stop everything else.... And I don't charge you anything for this work, Mr. Rosenbloom.

Mr. Rosenbloom. Of course, you charge. "Don't charge"! What kind of business is that?

Lezinsky. I make you a present, Mr. Rosenbloom—for your trouble.

Mr. Rosenbloom. I pay you for these alterations, all right. [He goes out.]

Lezinsky [searches his wife's face, with ominous calm]. Gietel! Gietel!

Mrs. Lezinsky. You make presents, eh, Solly? Are you a rabbi or a poor blind tailor—yes?

Lezinsky [bursts out]. She makes a mock at me—this shameless one!

Mrs. Lezinsky. No, no, Solly—

Lezinsky [scathingly]. Gietel!... [His eyes never leave her face.]

Mrs. Lezinsky [in a hushed voice]. Why do you look at me like that, Solly?

Lezinsky. Blind as I am, I see too much, Gietel.

Mrs. Lezinsky. Listen, Solly—I tell you now—

Lezinsky [silences her with a wave of his hand.] What I get I give—[He takes the five-dollar bill from his pocket, smooths it out and adds it to the roll.] I give my money. I give my eyes ... and this woman—she sells me for a baby-carriage.

Mrs. Lezinsky. No, no, Solly, you shouldn't say such things before you know—

Lezinsky. Silence, woman! How should I not know? It is here in my hand—the five-dollar bill—here in my hand. I have counted the money. Thirty-seven dollars we had. I have given him back his five and thirty-seven dollars remain. How is that, Gietel? What is the answer to that?... She cheats the customer and she cheats me.... Rather should I take my children by the hand and beg my bread from door to door.

Mrs. Lezinsky. Solly—Solly—I tell you—the baby-carriage—

Lezinsky. Out of my sight, woman; I forbid you to come into this shop again.

Mrs. Lezinsky. O, Solly leben, that couldn't be—

Lezinsky. The mother of my children—she sins—for a baby-carriage.

Mrs. Lezinsky. Listen, Solly—I didn't mean to keep that money. As there's a God of Israel I didn't mean to keep it. I should use it—just this afternoon—to buy the baby-carriage—and when the customers pay us—put the money back before he misses it.

Lezinsky. Meshugge! So much money isn't coming to us. And why should you use Mr. Rosenbloom's money? Why shouldn't you take it from the money you had?

Mrs. Lezinsky. How could I use that money? Don't you pay the rent this afternoon to the agent? And they shut off the gas when we don't settle: by five o'clock they shut it off. And Mrs. Rooney moves away—[Breaks into sobbing.] and so—I thought I lose the baby-carriage.

Lezinsky. Gietel—Gietel—you are a——. I can't speak the word, Gietel—It sticks in my throat.

Mrs. Lezinsky. No, no, Solly, you shouldn't speak that word. If I took it to keep it maybe. But—no. I couldn't do such a thing. Not for a million baby-carriages could I do such a thing. Not for anything could I keep what is not my own—I tell you, Solly.... [Pleadingly.] But just to keep it for a few hours, maybe? Why should a man with so much money miss a little for a few hours? Then Mr. Rosenbloom—he comes back in. I change my mind, but the door opens and it is too late already. Solly leben, did I keep it back—the five dollars? I ask you, Solly? Didn't I give it all into your hand? I ask you that, Solly?

Lezinsky. Woe is me!—The mother of my children—and she takes what is not her own!

Mrs. Lezinsky. So much money and not one dollar to pay Mrs. Rooney for the baby-carriage! You see, Solly—always fine-dressed people around—the mamas and the little children all dressed fine—with white socks and white shoes. And our David—and our Julius—and our Benny, even—what must they wear? Old clothes! Yes. And to save the money they should wear black stockings—and old shoes. Never no pretty things! And it's all the time work—work—work and we never have nothing—no new clothes—no pretty things—[She breaks down completely.]

Lezinsky. So our children grow up with the fear of God in their hearts—

Mrs. Lezinsky. What should little children know of all this pious business when they must play alone on the stoop with Izzi Klein together. For why? The Cohen children shouldn't play with our David and Julius and Benny. They make a snout at them. The Cohens dress them up stylish and they should play with Gentile children. They push my Benny in the stomach when he eats an ice-cream cone, and they say—regular—to my David and Julius: "Sheeny"—the same as if they wasn't Jewish, too.... Just for once I wanted something lovely and stylish—like other people have.... Then she asks—only five dollars for the baby-carriage—and—[Choking back a sob.] Mrs. Cohen—now, Mrs. Cohen—she gets it. She gets it and I must want—and want. First David—then Julius—then comes Benny—and now the little sister—and never once a baby-carriage! [Sobs.]

Lezinsky. We should raise our children to be pious.

[There is the sound of trundling wheels. Mrs. Lezinsky looks out. The carriage is gone from the window.]

Mrs. Lezinsky [as the door opens and Mrs. Rooney appears wheeling the carriage in, low voices]. Mrs. Rooney, Solly; she comes now to say good-by. [Mops her eyes, trys to put on a casual look.]

Mrs. Rooney. Now there you are, Mrs. Lezinsky, blanket and all.

[Lezinsky works feverishly without lifting his eyes.]

Mrs. Lezinsky [low appealing voice]. You should look at it once, Solly. [Lezinsky stops for a moment and lets his eyes rest on the baby-carriage.] Ain't it a beautiful, stylish baby-carriage, Solly?

Mrs. Rooney. There it is now and I'll be running on for Mrs. Klein's Anna's keeping Eileen and I have her to dress before her pa comes home. He's getting off earlier for the moving.

Mrs. Lezinsky. The little Eileen! Why didn't you bring her along with you, Mrs. Rooney?

Mrs. Rooney. She went to sleep on me or I would that.

Mrs. Lezinsky [her eyes on her husband's face in mute appeal]. O, Mrs. Rooney—so little business and so much expense—and my Solly has an operation for his sick eyes soon—it breaks my heart—but—Mrs. Cohen [Shaking voice.] she gets this lovely baby carriage.

Mrs. Rooney [taking in the situation]. Mrs. Cohen—she gets it! Does she now? Not if my name's Rooney does Mrs. Cohen get it and she only after offering to raise me a dollar to make sure of the baby-carriage, knowing your sore need of the same. Am I a lady or not, Mr. Lezinsky? 'Tis that I want to know. "I'll give you six dollars for it," says she to me. Says I to her: "Mrs. Cohen—when I spoke to you of that baby-carriage," says I, "it clean slipped me mind that I promised the same to Mrs. Lezinsky. I promised it to Mrs. Lezinsky long ago," says I—and so I did, though I forget to make mention of it to you at the time, Mrs. Lezinsky. So here it is and here it stays or my name's not Rooney.

Mrs. Lezinsky. But so much money we haven't got now—not even for the operation, Mrs. Rooney.... [Soft pleading undertone to her husband.] Only five dollars, Solly!... [Sinking her voice still lower.] Anyhow—I don't deserve no baby-carriage—maybe—[Lezinsky makes no sign.]

Mrs. Lezinsky. If we could possibly pay for that baby-carriage we keep it, Mrs. Rooney—[Turns back to her husband, voice shakes.] for our Benny and the little sister—yes, Solly? [She waits and watches him with mute appeal, then, forcing herself to speak casually.] But it couldn't be done, Mrs. Rooney—[Bravely.] Solly should have every dollar for that operation.

Mrs. Rooney. There now—no more about it! 'Tis your own from this day out.... You can take your own time to be paying for it.... I'll be wanting some work done anyhow—when the cold weather sets in.

Mrs. Lezinsky [between tears and laughter]. Solly!... Ain't it wonderful? Mrs. Rooney—she trusts us—for this beautiful baby-carriage!... O, Mrs. Rooney!

Mrs. Rooney. 'Tis little enough to be doing for my godchild that could be was she born a Catholic now.

Mrs. Lezinsky. O, Mrs. Rooney, dear Mrs. Rooney! Solly, Solly, we should have a baby-carriage at last! At last we should have a baby-carriage. O, Solly, Solly, what a mitzvah! Yes, Solly? [As Mrs. Rooney starts to leave.] But your blanket—Mrs. Rooney—

Mrs. Rooney. I'll be throwing that in—for good luck.

Mrs. Lezinsky. It breaks my heart you move away, Mrs. Rooney.

Mrs. Rooney. See you soon. [Opens the door; looks up the street as she stands in the doorway.] Here's the kids coming.

Mrs. Lezinsky. My David and Julius and Benny, they could die for joy to wheel their little sister in this baby-carriage.

Mrs. Rooney. Well, good luck—the both of you—and good-by! [With a sense of pride in the greater prosperity which the new address means to her.] Three thousand and thirty-seven Jerome Avenue—don't forget!

Mrs. Lezinsky [bending over the baby-carriage]. Good-by, Mrs. Rooney—next time you come, maybe you see her in the baby-carriage. [Soothing the blanket]—the little Eileen! [Turns to her husband as the door closes.] Yes, Solly?

[They look at each other in silence for a moment.—She puts out her hands imploringly. His face softens; he lays his hand on her shoulder as the three little boys, David, Julius and Benny pass by the window. As they come into the shop

 

the Curtain Falls.]


THE PIERROT OF THE MINUTE

A Dramatic Fantasy

By Ernest Dowson


CHARACTERS
A Moon Maiden.
Pierrot.

THE PIERROT OF THE MINUTE

A Dramatic Fantasy

By Ernest Dowson

 

[Scene: A glade in the Parc du Petit Trianon. In the center a Doric temple with steps coming down the stage. On the left a little Cupid on a pedestal. Twilight.

Enter Pierrot with his hands full of lilies. He is burdened with a little basket. He stands gazing at the Temple and the Statue.]

Pierrot.

My journey's end! This surely is the glade
Which I was promised: I have well obeyed!
A clue of lilies was I bid to find,
Where the green alleys most obscurely wind;
Where tall oaks darkliest canopy o'erhead,
And moss and violet make the softest bed;
Where the path ends, and leagues behind me lie
The gleaming courts and gardens of Versailles;
The lilies streamed before me, green and white;
I gathered, following: they led me right,
To the bright temple and the sacred grove:
This is, in truth, the very shrine of Love!

[He gathers together his flowers and lays them at the foot of Cupid's statue; then he goes timidly up the first steps of the temple and stops.]

It is so solitary, I grow afraid.
Is there no priest here, no devoted maid?
Is there no oracle, no voice to speak,
Interpreting to me the word I seek?

[A very gentle music of lutes floats out from the temple. Pierrot starts back; he shows extreme surprise; then he returns to the foreground, and crouches down in rapt attention until the music ceases. His face grows puzzled and petulant.]

Too soon! too soon! in that enchanting strain
Days yet unlived, I almost lived again:
It almost taught me that I most would know—
Why am I here, and why am I Pierrot?

[Absently he picks up a lily which has fallen to the ground, and repeats.]

Why came I here, and why am I Pierrot?
That music and this silence both affright;
Pierrot can never be a friend of night.
I never felt my solitude before—
Once safe at home, I will return no more.
Yet the commandment of the scroll was plain;
While the light lingers let me read again.

[He takes a scroll from his bosom and reads.]

"He loves to-night who never loved before;
Who ever loved, to-night shall love once more."
I never loved! I know not what love is.
I am so ignorant—but what is this?

[Reads.]

"Who would adventure to encounter Love
Must rest one night within this hallowed grove.
Cast down thy lilies, which have led thee on,
Before the tender feet of Cupidon."
Thus much is done, the night remains to me.
Well, Cupidon, be my security!
Here is more writing, but too faint to read.

[He puzzles for a moment, then casts the scroll down.]

Hence, vain old parchment. I have learnt thy rede!

[He looks round uneasily, starts at his shadow; then discovers his basket with glee. He takes out a flask of wine, pours it into a glass, and drinks.]

Courage mon Ami! I shall never miss
Society with such a friend as this.
How merrily the rosy bubbles pass,
Across the amber crystal of the glass.
I had forgotten you. Methinks this quest
Can wake no sweeter echo in my breast.

[Looks round at the statue, and starts.]

Nay, little god! forgive. I did but jest.

[He fills another glass, and pours it upon the statue.]

This libation, Cupid, take,
With the lilies at thy feet;
Cherish Pierrot for their sake,
Send him visions strange and sweet,
While he slumbers at thy feet.
Only love kiss him awake!
Only love kiss him awake!

[Slowly falls the darkness, soft music plays, while Pierrot gathers together fern and foliage into a rough couch at the foot of the steps which lead to the Temple d'Amour. Then he lies down upon it, having made his prayer. It is night. He speaks softly.]

Music, more music, far away and faint:
It is an echo of mine heart's complaint.
Why should I be so musical and sad?
I wonder why I used to be so glad?
In single glee I chased blue butterflies,
Half butterfly myself, but not so wise,
For they were twain, and I was only one.
Ah me! how pitiful to be alone.
My brown birds told me much, but in mine ear
They never whispered this—I learned it here:
The soft wood sounds, the rustling in the breeze,
Are but the stealthy kisses of the trees.
Each flower and fern in this enchanted wood
Leans to her fellow, and is understood;
The eglantine, in loftier station set,
Stoops down to woo the maidly violet.
In gracile pairs the very lilies grow:
None is companionless except Pierrot.
Music, more music! how its echoes steal
Upon my senses with unlooked for weal.
Tired am I, tired, and far from this lone glade
Seems mine old joy in rout and masquerade.
Sleep cometh over me, now will I prove,
By Cupid's grace, what is this thing called love.

[Sleeps.]

[There is more music of lutes for an interval, during which a bright radiance, white and cold, streams from the temple upon the face of Pierrot. Presently a Moon Maiden steps out of the temple; she descends and stands over the sleeper.]

The Lady.

Who is this mortal
Who ventures to-night
To woo an immortal?
Cold, cold the moon's light,
For sleep at this portal,
Bold lover of night.
Fair is the mortal
In soft, silken white,
Who seeks an immortal.
Ah, lover of night,
Be warned at the portal,
And save thee in flight!

[She stoops over him; Pierrot stirs in his sleep.]

Pierrot [murmuring].

Forget not, Cupid. Teach me all thy lore:
"He loves to-night who never loved before."

The Lady.

Unwitting boy! when, be it soon or late,
What Pierrot ever has escaped his fate?
What if I warned him! He might yet evade,
Through the long windings of this verdant glade;
Seek his companions in the blither way,
Which, else, must be as lost as yesterday.
So might he still pass some unheeding hours
In the sweet company of birds and flowers.
How fair he is, with red lips formed for joy,
As softly curved as those of Venus' boy.
Methinks his eyes, beneath their silver sheaves,
Rest tranquilly like lilies under leaves.
Arrayed in innocence, what touch of grace
Reveals the scion of a courtly race?
Well, I will warn him, though, I fear, too late—
What Pierrot ever has escaped his fate?
But, see, he stirs, new knowledge fires his brain,
And cupid's vision bids him wake again.
Dione's Daughter! but how fair he is,
Would it be wrong to rouse him with a kiss?

[She stoops down and kisses him, then withdraws into the shadow.]

Pierrot [rubbing his eyes].

Celestial messenger! remain, remain;
Or, if a vision, visit me again!
What is this light, and whither am I come
To sleep beneath the stars so far from home?

[Rises slowly to his feet.]

Stay, I remember this is Venus' Grove,
And I am hither come to encounter—

The Lady [coming forward, but veiled].

Love!

Pierrot [in ecstasy, throwing himself at her feet].

Then have I ventured and encountered Love?

The Lady.

Not yet, rash boy! and, if thou wouldst be wise,
Return unknowing; he is safe who flies.

Pierrot.

Never, sweet lady, will I leave this place
Until I see the wonder of thy face.
Goddess or Naiad! lady of this Grove,
Made mortal for a night to teach me love,
Unveil thyself, although thy beauty be
Too luminous for my mortality.

The Lady [unveiling].

Then, foolish boy, receive at length thy will:
Now knowest thou the greatness of thine ill.

Pierrot.

Now have I lost my heart, and gained my goal.

The Lady.

Didst thou not read the warning on the scroll?

[Picks up the parchment.]

Pierrot.

I read it all, as on this quest I fared,
Save where it was illegible and hard.

The Lady.

Alack! poor scholar, wast thou never taught
A little knowledge serveth less than naught?
Hadst thou perused—but, stay, I will explain
What was the writing which thou didst disdain.

[Reads.]

"Au Petit Trianon, at night's full noon,
Mortal, beware the kisses of the moon!
Whoso seeks her she gathers like a flower—
He gives a life, and only gains an hour."

Pierrot [laughing recklessly].

Bear me away to thine enchanted bower,
All of my life I venture for an hour.

The Lady.

Take up thy destiny of short delight;
I am thy lady for a summer's night,
Lift up your viols, maidens of my train,
And work such havoc on this mortal's brain
That for a moment he may touch and know
Immortal things, and be full Pierrot,
White music, Nymphs! Violet and Eglantine!
To stir his tired veins like magic wine,
What visitants across his spirit glance,
Lying on lilies, while he watch me dance?
Watch, and forget all weary things on earth,
All memories and cares, all joy and mirth,
While my dance woos him, light and rhythmical,
And weaves his heart into my coronal.
Music, more music for his soul's delight:
Love is his lady for a summer's night.

[Pierrot reclines, and gazes at her while she dances. The dance finished, she beckons to him: he rises dreamily, and stands at her side.]

Pierrot.

Whence came, dear Queen, such magic melody?

The Lady.

Pan made it long ago in Arcady.

Pierrot.

I heard it long ago, I know not where,
As I knew thee, or ever I came here.
But I forgot all things—my name and race,
All that I ever knew except thy face.
Who art thou, lady? Breathe a name to me,
That I may tell it like a rosary.
Thou, whom I sought, dear Dryad of the trees,
How art thou designate—art thou Heart's-Ease?

The Lady.

Waste not the night in idle questioning,
Since Love departs at dawn's awakening.

Pierrot.

Nay, thou art right; what recks thy name or state,
Since thou art lovely and passionate.
Play out thy will on me: I am thy lyre.

The Lady.

I am to each the face of his desire.

Pierrot.

I am not Pierrot, but Venus' dove,
Who craves a refuge on the breast of love.

The Lady.

What wouldst thou of the maiden of the moon?
Until the cock crow I may grant thy boon.

Pierrot.

Then, sweet Moon Maiden, in some magic car,
Wrought wondrously of many a homeless star—
Such must attend thy journeys through the skies,—
Drawn by a team of milk-white butterflies,
Whom, with soft voice and music of thy maids,
Thou urgest gently through the heavenly glades;
Mount me beside thee, bear me far away
From the low regions of the solar day;
Over the rainbow, up into the moon,
Where is thy palace and thine opal throne;
There on thy bosom—

The Lady.

Too ambitious boy!
I did but promise thee one hour of joy.
This tour thou plannest, with a heart so light,
Could hardly be completed in a night.
Hast thou no craving less remote than this?

Pierrot.

Would it be impudent to beg a kiss?

The Lady.

I say not that: yet prithee have a care!
Often audacity has proved a snare.
How wan and pale do moon-kissed roses grow—
Does thou not fear my kisses, Pierrot?

Pierrot.

As one who faints upon the Libyan plain
Fears the oasis which brings life again!

The Lady.

Where far away green palm trees seem to stand
May be a mirage of the wreathing sand.

Pierrot.

Nay, dear enchantress, I consider naught,
Save mine own ignorance, which would be taught.

The Lady.

Dost thou persist?

Pierrot.

I do entreat this boon!

[She bends forward, their lips meet: she withdraws with a petulant shiver. She utters a peal of clear laughter.]

The Lady.

Why art thou pale, fond lover of the moon?

Pierrot.

Cold are thy lips, more cold than I can tell;
Yet would I hang on them, thine icicle!
Cold is thy kiss, more cold than I could dream
Arctus sits, watching the Boreal stream:
But with its frost such sweetness did conspire
That all my veins are filled with running fire;
Never I knew that life contained such bliss
As the divine completeness of a kiss.

The Lady.

Apt scholar! so love's lesson has been taught,
Warning, as usual, has gone for naught.

Pierrot.

Had all my schooling been of this soft kind,
To play the truant I were less inclined.
Teach me again! I am a sorry dunce—
I never knew a task by conning once.

The Lady.

Then come with me! below this pleasant shrine
Of Venus we will presently recline,
Until birds' twitter beckon me away
To my own home, beyond the milky-way.
I will instruct thee, for I deem as yet
Of Love thou knowest but the alphabet.

Pierrot.

In its sweet grammar I shall grow most wise,
If all its rules be written in thine eyes.

[The Lady sits upon a step of the temple, and Pierrot leans upon his elbow at her feet, regarding her.]

Sweet contemplation! how my senses yearn to be thy scholar always, always learn.
Hold not so high from me thy radiant mouth,
Fragrant with all the spices of the South;
Nor turn, O sweet! thy golden face away,
For with it goes the light of all my day.
Let me peruse it, till I know by rote
Each line of it, like music, note by note;
Raise thy long lashes, Lady; smile again:
These studies profit me.

[Takes her hand.]

The Lady.

Refrain, refrain!

Pierrot [with passion].

I am but studious, so do not stir;
Thou art my star, I thine astronomer!
Geometry was founded on thy lip.

[Kisses her hand.]

The Lady.

This attitude becomes not scholarship!
Thy zeal I praise; but, prithee, not so fast,
Nor leave the rudiments until the last,
Science applied is good, but 'twere a schism
To study such before the catechism.
Bear thee more modestly, while I submit
Some easy problems to confirm thy wit.

Pierrot.

In all humility my mind I pit
Against her problems which would test my wit.

The Lady [questioning him from a little book bound deliciously in vellum].

What is Love?
Is it folly,
Is it mirth, or melancholy?
Joys above,
Are there many, or not any?
What is love?

Pierrot [answering in a very humble attitude of scholarship].

If you please,
A most sweet folly!
Full of mirth and melancholy:
Both of these!
In its sadness worth all gladness,
If you please!

The Lady.

Prithee where,
Goes Love a-hiding?
Is he long in his abiding
Anywhere?
Can you bind him when you find him;
Prithee, where?

Pierrot.

With spring days
Love comes and dallies:
Upon the mountains, through the valleys
Lie Love's ways.
Then he leaves you and deceives you
In spring days.

The Lady.

Thine answers please me: 'tis thy turn to ask.
To meet thy questioning be now my task.

Pierrot.

Since I know thee, dear Immortal,
Is my heart become a blossom,
To be worn upon thy bosom.
When thou turn me from this portal,
Whither shall I, hapless mortal,
Seek love out and win again
Heart of me that thou retain?

The Lady.

In and out the woods and valleys,
Circling, soaring like a swallow,
Love shall flee and thou shalt follow:
Though he stops awhile and dallies,
Never shalt thou stay his malice!
Moon-kissed mortals seek in vain
To possess their hearts again!

Pierrot.

Tell me, Lady, shall I never
Rid me of this grievous burden!
Follow Love and find his guerdon
In no maiden whatsoever?
Wilt thou hold my heart forever?
Rather would I thine forget,
In some earthly Pierrette!

The Lady.

Thus thy fate, what'er thy will is!
Moon-struck child, go seek my traces
Vainly in all mortal faces!
In and out among the lilies,
Court each rural Amaryllis:
Seek the signet of Love's hand
In each courtly Corisande!

Pierrot.

Now, verily, sweet maid, of school I tire;
These answers are not such as I desire.

The Lady.

Why art thou sad?

Pierrot.

I dare not tell.

The Lady [caressingly].

Come, say!

Pierrot.

Is love all schooling, with no time to play?

The Lady.

Though all love's lessons be a holiday,
Yet I will humor thee: what wouldst thou play?

Pierrot.

What are the games that small moon-maids enjoy:
Or is their time all spent in staid employ?

The Lady.

Sedate they are, yet games they much enjoy:
They skip with stars, the rainbow is their toy.

Pierrot.

That is too hard!

The Lady.

For mortal's play.

Pierrot.

What then?

The Lady.

Teach me some pastime from the world of men.

Pierrot.

I have it, maiden.

The Lady.

Can it soon be taught?

Pierrot.

A single game, I learnt it at the Court.

The Lady.

But, prithee, not so near.

Pierrot.

That is essential, as will soon appear.
Lay here thine hand, which cold night dews anoint,
Washing its white—

The Lady.

Now is this to the point?

Pierrot.

Prithee, forbear! Such is the game's design.

The Lady.

Here is my hand.

Pierrot.

I cover it with mine.

The Lady.

What must I next?

[They play.]

Pierrot.

Withdraw.

The Lady.

It goes too fast.

[They continue playing, until Pierrot catches her hand.]

Pierrot [laughing].

'Tis done. I win my forfeit at the last.

[He tries to embrace her. She escapes; he chases her round the stage; she eludes him.]

The Lady.

Thou art not quick enough. Who hopes to catch
A moon-beam, must use twice as much dispatch.

Pierrot [sitting down sulkily].

I grow aweary, and my heart is sore.
Thou dost not love me; I will play no more.

[He buries his face in his hands. The Lady stands over him.]

The Lady.

What is this petulance?

Pierrot.

'Tis quick to tell—
Thou hast but mocked me.

The Lady.

Nay! I love thee well!

Pierrot.

Repeat those words, for still within my breast
A whisper warns me they are said in jest.

The Lady.

I jested not: at daybreak I must go,
Yet loving thee far better than thou know.

Pierrot.

Then, by this altar, and this sacred shrine,
Take my sworn troth, and swear thee wholly mine!
The gods have wedded mortals long ere this.

The Lady.

There was enough betrothal in my kiss.
What need of further oaths?

Pierrot.

That bound not thee!

The Lady.

Peace! since I tell thee that it may not be.
But sit beside me whilst I soothe thy bale
With some moon fancy or celestial tale.

Pierrot.

Tell me of thee, and that dimy, happy place
Where lies thine home, with maidens of thy race!

The Lady [seating herself].

Calm is it yonder, very calm; the air
For mortals' breath is too refined and rare;
Hard by a green lagoon our palace rears
Its dome of agate through a myriad years.
A hundred chambers its bright walls enthrone,
Each one carved strangely from a precious stone.
Within the fairest, clad in purity,
Our mother dwelleth immemorially:
Moon-calm, moon-pale, with moon stones on her gown,
The floor she treads with little pearls is sown;
She sits upon a throne of amethysts,
And orders mortal fortunes as she lists;
I, and my sisters, all around her stand,
And, when she speaks, accomplish her demand.

Pierrot.

Methought grim Clotho and her sisters twain
With shriveled fingers spun this web of bane!

The Lady.

Theirs and my mother's realm is far apart;
Hers is the lustrous kingdom of the heart,
And dreamers all, and all who sing and love,
Her power acknowledge, and her rule approve.

Pierrot.

Me, even me, she hath led into this grove.

The Lady.

Yea, thou art one of hers! But, ere this night,
Often I watched my sisters take their flight
Down heaven's stairway of the clustered stars
To gaze on mortals through their lattice bars;
And some in sleep they woo with dreams of bliss
Too shadowy to tell, and some they kiss.
But all to whom they come, my sisters say,
Forthwith forget all joyance of the day,
Forget their laughter and forget their tears,
And dream away with singing all their years—
Moon-lovers always!

[She sighs.]

Pierrot.

Why art sad, sweet Moon?

[Laughs.]

The Lady.

For this, my story, grant me now a boon.

Pierrot.

I am thy servitor.

The Lady.

Would, then, I knew
More of the earth, what men and women do.

Pierrot.

I will explain.

The Lady.

Let brevity attend
Thy wit, for night approaches to its end.

Pierrot.

Once was I a page at Court, so trust in me:
That's the first lesson of society.

The Lady.

Society?

Pierrot.

I mean the very best
Pardy! thou wouldst not hear about the rest.
I know it not, but am a petit maître
At rout and festival and bal champêtre.
But since example be instruction's ease,
Let's play the thing.—Now, Madame, if you please!

[He helps her to rise, and leads her forward: then he kisses her hand, bowing over it with a very courtly air.]

The Lady.

What am I, then?

Pierrot.

A most divine Marquise!
Perhaps that attitude hath too much ease.

[Passes her.]

Ah, that is better! To complete the plan,
Nothing is necessary save a fan.

The Lady.

Cool is the night, what needs it?

Pierrot.

Madame, pray
Reflect, it is essential to our play.

The Lady [taking a lily].

Here is my fan!

Pierrot.

So, use it with intent:
The deadliest arm in beauty's armament!

The Lady.

What do we next?

Pierrot.

We talk!

The Lady.

But what about?

Pierrot.

We quiz the company and praise the rout;
Are polished, petulant, malicious, sly,
Or what you will, so reputations die.
Observe the Duchess in Venetian lace,
With the red eminence.

The Lady.

A pretty face!

Pierrot.

For something tarter set thy wits to search—
"She loves the churchman better than the church."

The Lady.

Her blush is charming; would it were her own!

Pierrot.

Madame is merciless!

The Lady.

Is that the tone?

Pierrot.

The very tone: I swear thou lackest naught.
Madame was evidently bred at Court.

The Lady.

Thou speakest glibly: 'tis not of thine age.

Pierrot.

I listened much, as best becomes a page.

The Lady.

I like thy Court but little—

Pierrot.

Hush! the Queen!
Bow, but not low—thou knowest what I mean.

The Lady.

Nay, that I know not!

Pierrot.

Though she wears a crown,
'Tis from La Pompadour one fears a frown.

The Lady.

Thou art a child: thy malice is a game.

Pierrot.

A most sweet pastime—scandal is its name.

The Lady.

Enough, it wearies me.

Pierrot.

Then, rare Marquise,
Desert the crowd to wander through the trees.

[He bows low, and she curtsies; they move round the stage. When they pass before the Statue he seizes her hand and falls on his knee.]

The Lady.

What wouldst thou now?

Pierrot.

Ah, prithee, what, save thee!

The Lady.

Was this included in thy comedy?

Pierrot.

Ah, mock me not! In vain with quirk and jest
I strive to quench the passion in my breast;
In vain thy blandishments would make me play:
Still I desire far more than I can say.
My knowledge halts, ah, sweet, be piteous,
Instruct me still, while time remains to us,
Be what thou wist, Goddess, moon-maid, Marquise,
So that I gather from thy lips heart's ease,
Nay, I implore thee, think thee how time flies!

The Lady.

Hush! I beseech thee, even now night dies.

Pierrot.

Night, day, are one to me for thy soft sake.

[He entreats her with imploring gestures, she hesitates: then puts her finger on her lip, hushing him.]

The Lady.

It is too late, for hark! the birds awake.

Pierrot.

The birds awake! It is the voice of day!

The Lady.

Farewell, dear youth! They summon me away.

[The light changes, it grows daylight: and the music imitates the twitter of the birds. They stand gazing at the morning: then Pierrot sinks back upon his bed, he covers his face in his hands.]

The Lady [bending over him].

Music, my maids! His weary senses steep
In soft untroubled and oblivious sleep,
With Mandragore anoint his tired eyes,
That they may open on mere memories,
Then shall a vision seem his lost delight,
With love, his lady for a summer night.
Dream thou hast dreamt all this, when thou awake,
Yet still be sorrowful, for a dream's sake.
I leave thee, sleeper! Yea, I leave thee now,
Yet take my legacy upon thy brow:
Remember me, who was compassionate,
And opened for thee once, the ivory gate.
I come no more, thou shalt not see my face
When I am gone to mine exalted place:
Yet all thy days are mine, dreamer of dreams,
All silvered over with the moon's pale beams:
Go forth and seek in each fair face in vain,
To find the image of thy love again.
All maids are kind to thee, yet never one
Shall hold thy truant heart till day be done.
Whom once the moon has kissed, loves long and late,
Yet never finds the maid to be his mate.
Farewell, dear sleeper, follow out thy fate.

[The Moon Maiden withdraws: a song is sung from behind: it is full day.]

The Moon Maiden's Song

Sleep! Cast thy canopy
Over this sleeper's brain,
Dim grows his memory,
When he awake again.

Love stays a summer night,
Till lights of morning come;
Then takes her wingèd flight
Back to her starry home.

Sleep! Yet thy days are mine;
Love's seal is over thee:
Far though my ways from thine,
Dim though thy memory.

Love stays a summer night,
Till lights of morning come;
Then takes her wingèd flight
Back to her starry home.

[When the song is finished, the curtain falls upon Pierrot sleeping.]

EPILOGUE

[Spoken in the character of Pierrot]

The sun is up, yet ere a body stirs,
A word with you, sweet ladies and dear sirs,


[Although on no account let any say
That
Pierrot finished Mr. Dowson's play].

One night not long ago, at Baden Baden,—
The birthday of the Duke,—his pleasure garden
Was lighted gayly with
feu d'artifice,
With candles, rockets, and a center-piece
Above the conversation house, on high,
Outlined in living fire against the sky,
A glittering
Pierrot, radiant, white,
Whose heart beat fast, who danced with sheer delight,
Whose eyes were blue, whose lips were rosy red,
Whose
pompons too were fire, while on his head
He wore a little cap, and I am told
That rockets covered him with showers of gold.
"Take our applause, you well deserve to win it,"
They cried: "Bravo! the
Pierrot of the minute!"

What with applause and gold, one must confess
That Pierrot had "arrived," achieved success,
When, as it happened, presently, alas!
A terrible disaster came to pass.
His nose grew dim, the people gave a shout,
His red lips paled, both his blue eyes went out.
There rose a sullen sound of discontent,
The golden shower of rockets was all spent;
He left off dancing with a sudden jerk,
For he was nothing but a firework.
The garden darkened and the people in it
Cried, "He is dead,—the
Pierrot of the minute!"

With every artist it is even so;
The artist, after all, is a
Pierrot—
A Pierrot of the minute, naïf, clever,
But Art is back of him, She lives for ever!


Then pardon my Moon Maid and me, because
We craved the golden shower of your applause!
Pray shrive us both for having tried to win it,
And cry, "Bravo! The
Pierrot of the minute!"


THE SUBJECTION OF KEZIA

A Play

By Mrs. Havelock Ellis


Copyright, 1915, by Edith M. O. Ellis.
As Author and Proprietor.

All rights reserved.

 

PERSONS IN THE PLAY.
Joe Pengilly.
Kezia [Joe Pengilly's wife].
Matthew Trevaskis [a friend of the Pengillys].
The Scene is laid in a Cornish village.
Time: The Present.

The whole action of the play takes place between seven o'clock and nine o'clock on a Saturday evening.

 

Reprinted from "Love in Danger" by permission of and special arrangements with, Houghton, Mifflin Company.

The professional and amateur stage rights on this play are strictly reserved by the author, to whose dramatic agent, Miss Galbraith Welch, 101 Park Avenue, New York, applications for permission to produce it should be made.


THE SUBJECTION OF KEZIA

A Play

By Mrs. Havelock Ellis

 

Scene: Interior of a cottage kitchen in a Cornish fishing village. The walls are distempered a pale blue; the ceiling wooden and beamed. Middle of back wall, a kitchen-range where fire is burning. At back R. is a door opening into an inner room. At back L. small cupboards. At side L. is a large kitchen-table laid for tea under a window facing sea. The floor is red brick. On mantelpiece, white china dogs, clock, copper candlesticks, tea-caddy, stirrups, and bits. On walls, family framed photographs, religious framed pictures. Below table is a door leading into street. Behind door, roller with hanging towel. Usual kitchen paraphernalia, chairs, pots and pans, etc. Cat basket with straw to R. of range. At back R. is a wooden settle with good upright sides. Joe Pengilly is wiping his face and hands, having just come in from the pump outside. He sighs and glances uneasily at Kezia, who has her back turned to him, and is frying mackerel at the stove. He rolls down his sleeves slowly and watches his wife uneasily. He is dressed as a laborer—corduroy trousers, hob-nailed boots, blue-and-white shirt, open throat. He takes down a sleeved waistcoat from a peg behind the door and puts it on. He is a slight man with thin light hair, gentle in manner, but with a strong keen face. Kezia is a little taller than Joe—slender and graceful, with a clean cotton dress fitting well to her figure; a clean apron, well-dressed and tidy hair; good-looking and energetic. Joe smiles to himself and crosses his arms and shuffles his feet as he looks towards Kezia. Kezia turns round suddenly and looks at him sideways, the cooking-fork in one hand and the handle of the frying-pan in the other. Joe sits down at table.]

 

Kezia. Why didn't thee speak?

Joe. Nothin' to say, my dear.

Kezia. Thee's not much company, for sure.

[Joe laughs and leans his arms on the table as he looks at Kezia; his face beams as he watches her landing the fish from the bubbling fat to a dish. She puts some on a plate in front of Joe, and pours out tea in a large cup. She suddenly looks at him as he begins picking off the tail of his mackerel with his fingers.]

Kezia. Cain't thee answer?

Joe. To what?

Kezia [snappily]. Why, to me, of course.

[Joe takes a long drink of tea and gazes at her over his cup.]

Joe. Thee'rt a great beauty, Kezia, sure enough!

[He puts the cup down and goes on picking his fish with the fingers of one hand, while the other holds bread and butter.]

Kezia. There you are again; always either grumblin' or jeerin' at me.

Joe. I'm not doin' neither, woman. I'm tryin' for to make up for thrawtin' of you this mornin' over they soaked crusties as I gave the cat and ruined the nice clean floor.

Kezia. Now [angrily], just when I were forgettin' all about it, of course you must bring it all up again, and you're tryin' now [pointing at the fish] all thee knows how, to make the tablecloth like a dish-clout with thy great greasy fingers!

[Joe licks his fingers, one by one, and wipes them on his trousers, as he smiles into her cross face.]

Kezia. Gracious! [whimpering] that's thee all over. Thee gives up one dirty trick for another. I believe you only married me to clean and tidy after you.

[Joe laughs heartily and looks up at her.]

Joe. Heart alive! I married you because you are the only woman I've ever met in my life I could never weary of, not even if you tormented me night and day. Love of 'e, my dear, seemly, makes a real fool of me most of my time.

[His face becomes very grave, and Kezia's brow clears as she sits down and begins to eat.]

Kezia. You was always one for pretty talk, Joe, but you're not a bit what you were i' deeds lately.

[Joe hands his cup for more tea.]

Joe. 'Cause you snap me up so.

Kezia. There you are again, tryin' to pick a quarrel.

[Joe pulls his chair away from the table and drags it nearer the grate. He takes his pipe from his pocket and blows into it.]

Kezia. Now, Joe, you know I cain't abide that 'baccy smell: it gives me a headache.

Joe. It gives me a headache to do without 'baccy.

[Joe polishes his pipe-bowl on his sleeve, puts the stem in his mouth, and takes out some shag. Kezia watches him as she removes the tea-things. Joe watches her out of the corner of his eye as he slowly fills his pipe.]

Kezia. I'm fair wore out.

[Joe gets up, puts his pipe on the mantelpiece and his knife and shag in his pocket, and advances towards Kezia. He puts his hands on her shoulders and looks in her eyes.]

Joe. Kiss us, old girl!

Kezia. Don't be so silly. I don't feel like it at all, and I want to be with mother again.

Joe. And married only two years!

Kezia. It seems like six to me.

Joe. What ails thee, lass?

Kezia. Don't keep allus askin' questions and bein' so quarrelsome; I'm mazed at the sight of 'e, sure enough. [She folds the cloth, pokes the fire, goes into the inner room, at back R., and comes in again with her hat and shawl on and a basket in her hand. She looks at Joe, and wipes her eyes.] You can sit there as long as you've a mind to, and smoke insides black and blue. I'm going to market a bit, and then I shall go into Blanch Sally and talk to she. She've got a bit of common sense. It's just on eight o'clock, and I shan't be more nor an hour or so.

[Joe does not stir as Kezia goes out of the front door. Kezia looks back to see if he'll turn, but he does not move. He gazes into the fire with his hands clasped behind his head, and his chair tilted back.]

Joe. I'd as soon be a dog as a man, sure enough! They can sit by the fire and be comfortable. [He jumps up suddenly as he hears a knock at the door.] Come in!

[The street door opens softly, and Matthew Trevaskis comes in very quietly. He is a stout, short man with bushy hair and a beard. He also is dressed as a laborer. He looks at Joe and gives a low whistle.]

Matthew. Hallo, mate!

Joe. Oh! you?

[Joe sits down again, points to another chair, and looks gloomily back into the fire.]

Matthew. Well, brother! Thee looks as if thee'd run out o' speerits and 'baccy both.

Joe. I'm moody, like a thing.

[Matthew laughs and draws his chair up close to Joe. He pulls down his waistcoat, and then puts his fingers in the arm-holes, as he contemplates Joe.]

Matthew. Got the hump, mate? Have 'e?

[Joe shakes his head dolefully from side to side and sighs.]

Matthew. Jaw, I suppose?

[Joe nods.]

Matthew. Thought so. I met the missus as I came along looking a bit teasy. Women's the devil that way; it's in their breed and bone, like fightin' in we. You began all wrong, like me, mate, and females always takes advantage of honeymoon ways, and stamps on we if we don't take 'em in hand at once.

[Joe sighs, crosses his legs and looks at his friend.]

Joe. Drat it all! I never began no different to what I am now. I cain't make things up at all. I'm fairly mazed, never having had dealin's with no female, except mother, who was mostly ill, and never in tantrums.

[Matthew rises, pokes Joe in the ribs and laughs.]

Matthew. Cheer up, brother, there's no bigger fool than a man as is sent crazy with a woman.

Joe. Women is mazy things.

Matthew. There's allus 'baccy for to fortify us against them, thanks be.

[Matthew draws a little black clay pipe out of his waistcoat pocket and points to Joe's pipe on the mantelpiece as he sits down.]

Joe. Kezia 'ates 'baccy in the house.

Matthew. Smoke all the time then; it's the only way.

[Joe smiles and smoothes his thin straight hair.]

Joe. You allus forgets I'm bent on pleasin' of Kezia.

[Matthew stretches out his legs, and his face becomes calm and thoughtful. He speaks very deliberately.]

Matthew. The more thee tries to please women, mate, the more crotchety they becomes. Within bounds I keep the peace in our place like a judge, but she've learnt, Jane Ann have, that I'll put my foot down on any out-of-the-way tantrums. Give them their heads and they'll soon have we by the heels.

Joe. Sometimes I wonder if we give 'em their heads enough. Perhaps they'd domineer less if we left 'em take their own grainy ways.

Matthew. You bet! If I gave in to Jane Ann entirely, where the devil do 'e think I should be at all?

[The two men laugh together and light their pipes and smoke hard.]

Joe. I've no notion.

Matthew. Well! I should be like a cat out in the rain, never certain where to put my feet. As it is, as you do know, I cain't keep no dog for fear of the mess its feet 'ud make on the floor; I cain't have a magpie in a cage 'cause its seed 'ud 'appen fall on the table. I've got to walk ginger like a rooster in wet grass for fear o' disturbin' the sand on the clean floor, and I rubs my feet on the mat afore I goes in to my meals enough to split it in half. I gives in to all things 'cause I was took captive over them, in a manner of speaking, almost afore I'd finished courting, and it takes years to understand women's fancies! It's worse nor any book learnin', is understandin' women; and then, when you think you've learnt 'em off by heart, any man 'ud fail under a first standard examination on 'em. [He gets up and shakes Joe by the shoulder.] Listen to me, mate! Bein' a real pal to thee, Joe, I'm warnin' of 'e now afore it's too late, for thee's only been wed two years, and there's time to alter things yet.

[Joe suddenly gets up and goes to the door to see if it is fastened, and returns to face his friend. He takes off his long-sleeved waistcoat and throws it on a chair, after putting down his pipe.]

Joe. Matthey!

Matthew. Yes?

Joe. Don't you think it is too late even now?

Matthew. Fur what? It's no use speakin' i' riddles, man. Trust or no trust—that's my plan. Thee's the only livin' man or woman, for the matter of that, as I've blackened Jane Ann to, and if it'll ease thy mind to tell what's worritin' of thee, you do know it's as safe as if you'd dropt your secret into the mouth of a mine shaft.

Joe. Done! Give me a hearing and let's have finished with it.

[Matthew cleans out the bowl of his pipe and knocks the ashes out against the grate as he waits for his friend to begin. Joe stands first on one leg and then on the other and gives a long whistle.]

Matthew. Sling along. It won't get no easier wi' keeping.

[Joe wipes his forehead with a red handkerchief, which he takes out of his trouser pocket.]

Joe. Awkward kind o' work, pullin' your lawful wife to bits.

Matthew. It'll get easier as thee goes on, man. I'll help thee. What's the row to-day?

Joe. Crusties.

[Matthew winks at Joe and lights his pipe again.]

Matthew. It's always some feeble thing like that as makes confusion in a house. Jane Ann began just like that. Dirty boots in the best parlor was my first offense, and it raised hell in our house for nigh on a whole day.

Joe. Well, I never! It was just the same thing in a way with me. I soaked the crusties in my tea this mornin' and threw 'em to the cat under the table, and I suppose I must 'ave put my foot in 'em, for Kezia went off like a thing gone mazy. She stormed and said—[he sits down and wipes his forehead again with his handkerchief as he pauses]—as she were a fool to take me, and all sorts, and then she cried fit to kill herself, and when I spoke she told me to hold my noise, and when I didn't speak she said I'd no feelin's, and was worse nor a stone. We scarcely spoke at dinner-time. She said she wished she was dead, and wanted her mother, and that, bein' a man, I was worse nor a devil; and when I kept on eatin' she said she wondered the food didn't choke me, and when I stopped eatin' she said I was never pleased wi' nothin' she'd got ready for me. My head is sore with the clang of the teasy things she drove into me, and I'm not good at replies, as you do know.

[Joe ends in a weary voice and pokes the fire listlessly. Matthew smokes hard and his eyes are on the ground.]

Matthew. Women be mysteries, and without little uns they'm worse nor monsters. A child do often alter and soften 'em, but a childless woman is as near a wolf as anything I do know.

[Joe's elbows sink on his knees and his hands support his woebegone face. When he next speaks he has a catch in his voice, and he speaks quickly.]

Joe. That's it, is it?

Matthew. Iss, mate! That's the mischief. Unless—[he looks up suddenly at Joe]—perhaps she be goin' to surprise 'e by telling 'e she be going to have a little one. That would account for her bein' teasy and moody.

[Joe laughs sorrowfully.]

Joe. Lor', I should be the first to know that, surely!

Matthew. Not a bit of it. Women loves secrets of that sort.

Joe. No; 'tain't that at all. I only wish it was, if what you say be true of women.

Matthew. True enough, my son. I did the cutest day's work in my life when I persuaded Jane Ann to take little Joe to help we. I watched the two of 'em together and found he caught his tongueing, too, from she, but it had a sort of nestle sound in it as if she were a-cuddlin' of him. She've been gentler wi' me ever since Joe come back again after his long bout at home.

[Joe scratches his head very thoughtfully; a pause, in which he seems to be thinking before speaking again.]

Joe. I don't know of no sister's child to take on for Kezia at all. What's the next remedy, think you?

Matthew. A thrashin'.

[Joe jumps up and stares at Matthew.]

Joe. A what?

Matthew. Wallop her just once.

[Matthew looks on the ground and taps it with his foot, and he does not see that Joe is standing over him with his hands clenched.]

Joe. Shame on thee, mate! I feel more like strikin' thee nor a female. I'm sorry I told thee, if thee can offer no more help than that. I'm not much of a chap, but I've never struck a woman yet.

Matthew. Strike on principle, then.

[He still looks fixedly at the floor, and Joe stands glaring at him.]

Joe. How?

Matthew. Like the Almighty strikes when He've got a lesson for we to learn, which we won't learn without strikes and tears. Nothin' is of no avail to stop His chastisement if He do think it's goin' to work out His plan for He and we, and that's what I'm wanting of you to do by your wife for her sake more than for yours. Wives must learn to submit. [Harshly.] It's Divine Providence as 'ave ordered it, and women be miserable, like ivy and trailers of all sorts, if they've no prop to bear 'em up. Beat her once and it'll make a man of you and be a life-long warnin' to she.

Joe. But I love her, man! [Softly.] The very thought of hurting her makes me creep.

[Joe shrugs his shoulders and shakes his head repeatedly.]

Mathew. Women likes bein' hurt. It's a real fondlin' to 'em at times.

[Joe sits down and folds his arms as he looks humbly at Matthew.]

Joe. Lor', I never heard that afore. How can you be sure of that at all?

Mathew. I've traveled, as you do knaw. I ain't been to Africa for nothin', mate. I've seen a deal o' things, which if I'd happened on afore I courted Jane Ann would have got me through the marriage scrimmage wi' no tiles off of my roof. That's why I'm a warnin' of you afore it's too late. Your woman be worth gettin' i' trim—[with a sigh]—for she's—well—she's—

[Joe's eyes rest on his friend's face and his face suddenly lights up with a smile.]

Joe. She's the best sort of woman a man could 'ave for a sweetheart when her moods is off, and it's only lately her 'ave altered so, and I expect it's really all my fault.

Mathew. Certainly it is; you've never shown master yet, and you must this very night.

Joe. [Coughs nervously.] How?

Mathew. You must thrash her before it is too late. Have 'e a cane?

[Joe jumps up, twists round his necktie, undoes it, ties it again—marches up and down the little kitchen, and wheels round on Matthew.]

Joe. You'm a fair brute, Matthew Trevaskis.

Mathew. And you'm a coward, Joe Pengilly. [Matthew clasps his hands round his raised knee and nods at Joe, who sits.] I've given you golden advice, and if only a pal had given it to me years ago I shouldn't be in the place I'm in now, but be master of my own wife and my own chimney-corner.

[Joe puts his hands in his pockets and tilts back his chair as he gazes up at the ceiling as if for inspiration.]

Joe. I cain't stomach the idea at all; it's like murderin' a baby, somehow.

Mathew. Stuff! You needn't lay on too hard to make bruises nor nothin'.

[Joe goes pale and puts his head in his hands for a moment, and he almost whispers.]

Joe. Good Lord! Bruises! Why, man, she've got flesh like a flower!

[Matthew suddenly holds out his hand to Joe, who shakes it feebly.]

Mathew. I almost envies thee, mate. Why, thee's fair daft wi' love still.

Joe. Of course I be! [Sullenly.] She's more nor meat and drink to me; allus have been since the first I took to she.

Mathew. All the more reason to beat her, and at once. [Sternly.] You'll lose her, sure enough, if you don't. It's the only chance for thee now, and I do knaw I'm speaking gospel truth.

[A long pause, in which Joe meditates with a grave face. He suddenly snaps the fingers of his right hand as he says quickly.]

Joe. I'll do it. It'll nearly be the finish of me, but if you're certain sure she'll love me more after it I'll shut my eyes and set my teeth and—and—yes, upon my soul, I'll do it! She'm more to me than all the world, and I'll save she and myself with her. But are you sure it will do any good?

[Matthew wrings Joe's hands and then slaps him on the back.]

Mathew. I swear it, brother. [Solemnly.] I've never once known it fail.

Joe [anxiously]. Never once in all your travels?

[Matthew looks down.]

Mathew. Iss, mate, once, sure enough, but the woman had never cared twopence for the man to start with. After it she left 'un altogether.

Joe [with a groan]. Oh! Good Lord!

Mathew. That was no fair start like a thing. See?

Joe. No, to be sure.

Mathew. Now! [He strikes Joe's shoulder briskly.] Now for it!

[Joe twists round towards the door, and a miserable smile is on his lips.]

Joe. Well, what now?

[Matthew bends down to Joe's ear and whispers.]

Mathew. We must go and buy the cane.

Joe. Sakes!

Mathew. Bear up! It'll all be over by this time to-morrow night, and that's a great stand by, isn't it?

Joe. I suppose it is. [Gloomily.] Who'll be spokesman over the buyin'?

Matthew. Me, my son. How far will 'e go i' price?

[Joe shakes his head and looks wearily at Matthew.]

Joe. It's no odds to me, Matthey; I don't know and don't care!

Matthew. Will sixpence ruin 'e?

Joe. It's all ruin. I'm sweatin' like a bull with fear and shame, and wish I was dead and buried.

[Matthew points to the door and the two men move slowly towards it.]

Matthew. It's just on nine o'clock. Kezia will be back afore we start if we don't mind. Don't stop to think when you come back, but rush right in and set at it at once, and she'll have time to come round before you settle for the night. Bein' Saturday night, all the neighbors be mostly i' town shoppin', and if there should be a scream I'll make up a yarn to any one who comes near as 'll stop all gossip. I shan't be far off till I reckon it's all over.

[Joe's teeth are set and his head down, and he gazes at the door and then at Matthew, irresolutely.]

Matthew. Thee deserves to lose her if thee be real chicken-hearted like this 'ere.

[Joe makes a dart forward, unlatches the door, rushes out followed by Matthew.]

Matthew [outside]. Go round by the croft and then we shan't meet her coming home.

[After a pause the door slowly opens and Kezia comes in. She has a basket in one hand and a string bag full of parcels in the other. She looks round, puts her parcels on the table and in the cupboards, pokes the fire, and then takes her basket in her hand again, looks at the clock and goes into the inner room. She comes back with her outdoor garments off and a loose dressing-jacket of white and blue linen over her arm. She goes to a drawer in the table and brings out a little comb and brush and stands thinking.]

Kezia. I'll do my hair down here. He cain't be long, and it's cold upstairs. Gone for tobacco, I suppose, and he'll want his tea when he comes in.

[She puts the kettle on the fire. She undoes her hair, facing audience; shakes it about her shoulders, puts on her dressing-jacket and begins to brush and comb her hair before the fire, and near the settle she bends down and warms her hands, singing a lullaby as she does so. She then stands facing the fire, smiling to herself as she sings. So absorbed is she in her thoughts that she does not see the street-door open and the white, scared face of Joe appear. He puts his hands behind his back when he has softly shut the door, and tip-toes towards Kezia, who never sees him till he has sat down swiftly on the settle, the further corner to where she stands. His left hand, with the cane in it, is not visible to Kezia, as it is hidden by the end of the settle. Tying a large plait on one side of her head—the nearest to him—with pink ribbon, she suddenly turns round and sees him, and their eyes meet. She sits down by him. Kezia's face is very sweet and smiling as she tosses the plait over her shoulder.]

Kezia. Seen a ghost, Joey, my dear, or is it Kezia come to her senses at last, think you?

[Joe does not stir. He gazes at Kezia with a puzzled and tender expression.]

Joe. What's come to thee, lass?

Kezia. Guess!

[Kezia clasps her hands behind her head and looks into Joe's face with a happy smile.]

Joe. Cain't at all.

Kezia. Come close, sweetheart.

[She draws nearer to Joe, who does not move, and tries to keep the cane hidden. He suddenly draws her close to him with his right arm, and whispers.]

Joe. Kezia.

Kezia [softly]. Joey, my dear! [She nestles closer to him and puts her head on his shoulder.] He'll be the dearest little thing a woman ever bore.

[Joe laughs softly, kisses Kezia gently on the eyes, brow, and then month, and holds her closely to him.]

Joe. Heaven cain't be more desirable than this.

Kezia. To think there'll be three of us soon. You see now why I've been so teasy lately. Now I'll sing all day long so he'll be a happy boy.

[Joe does not move. He makes furtive attempts to hide the cane behind the settle, and moves a little as he continues to smile at Kezia.]

Kezia. Thee'rt smiling, Joe! Thee and me 'ave both hungered for the same thing. Did thee guess it at all, I wonder? I've kept it from thee a while to make sure. But, lor'! my dear life! whatever be this that you've got here? [She pulls the long cane out of Joe's hands and holds it in hers. They both look at it very solemnly for a few moments, and Joe scratches his head sadly, unable to speak. She bursts into a merry laugh and her lips tremble.] Eh! Joe! lad! [softly.] Thee was always unlike other chaps; that's why I do love thee so. Fancy thee guessing, and going to buy him somethin' right away! [She puts her face in her hands and sobs and laughs together.] Oh! it brings it so near like. Most men would have thought of a cradle or a rattle, but thee! Oh! my dear! [She throws her arms round his neck and kisses him on the mouth.] Thee thought of the first beatin' we should be forced to give him, for, of course, he'll be a lad of tremenjous spirit.

Joe [suddenly, and snatching the cane from Kezia.] So he will. Both his father and mother be folk of great spirit, and—the first time as he dirts the tablecloth or frets his mother, I'll lay it on him as, thanks be, I've never laid it on nobody yet.

 

[Curtain.]


THE CONSTANT LOVER

A Comedy of Youth

By St. John Hankin


Copyright.

All rights reserved.

 

"As of old when the world's heart was lighter."

 

The Constant Lover was first produced at the Royalty Theatre, London, January 30, 1912, under the direction of Messrs. Vedrenne and Eadie, with the following cast:

Evelyn RiversMiss Gladys Cooper.
Cecil HarburtonMr. Dennis Eadie.

 

Reprinted from "The Dramatic Works of St. John Hankin," by permission of, and
by special arrangement with, Mr. Mitchell Kennerley.


THE CONSTANT LOVER

A Comedy

By St. John Hankin

 

[Before the curtain rises the orchestra will play the Woodland Music (cuckoo) from "Hansel and Gretel" and possibly some of the Grieg Pastoral Music from "Peer Gynt," or some Gabriél Fauré.

Scene: A glade in a wood. About C. a great beech-tree, the branches of which overhang the stage, the brilliant sunlight filtering through them. The sky where it can be seen through the branches is a cloudless blue.

When the curtain rises Cecil Harburton is discovered sitting on the ground under the tree, leaning his back against its trunk and reading a book. He wears a straw hat and the lightest of gray flannel suits. The chattering of innumerable small birds is heard while the curtain is still down, and this grows louder as it rises, and we find ourselves in the wood. Presently a wood pigeon coos in the distance. Then a thrush begins to sing in the tree above Cecil's head and is answered by another. After a moment Cecil looks up.]

 

Cecil. By Jove, that's jolly! [Listens for a moment, then returns to his book.]

[Suddenly a cuckoo begins to call insistently. After a moment or two he looks up again.]

Cuckoo too! Bravo! [Again he returns to his book.]

[A moment later enter Evelyn Rivers. She also wears the lightest of summer dresses, as it is a cloudless day in May. On her head is a shady straw hat. As she approaches the tree a twig snaps under her foot and Cecil looks up. He jumps to his feet, closing book, and advances to her, eagerly holding out his right hand, keeping the book in his left.]

[Reproachfully.] Here you are at last!

Evelyn. At last?

Cecil. Yes. You're awfully late! [Looks at watch.]

Evelyn. Am I?

Cecil. YOU know you are. I expected you at three.

Evelyn. Why? I never said I'd come at three. Indeed, I never said I'd come at all.

Cecil. No.—But it's always been three.

Evelyn. Has it?

Cecil. And now it's half-past. I consider I've been cheated out of a whole half-hour.

Evelyn. I couldn't help it. Mother kept me. She wanted the roses done in the drawing-room.

Cecil. How stupid of Mrs. Rivers!

Evelyn. Mr. Harburton!

Cecil. What's the matter?

Evelyn. I don't think you ought to call my mother stupid.

Cecil. Why not—if she is stupid? Most parents are stupid, by the way. I've noticed it before. Mrs. Rivers ought to have thought of the roses earlier. The morning is the proper time to gather roses. Didn't you tell her that?

Evelyn. I'm afraid I couldn't very well. You see it was really I who ought to have thought of the roses! I always do them. But this morning I forgot.

Cecil. I see. [Turning towards the tree.] Well, sit down now you are here. Isn't it a glorious day?

Evelyn [hesitating]. I don't believe I ought to sit down.

Cecil [turns to her]. Why not? There's no particular virtue about standing, is there? I hate standing. So let's sit down and be comfortable.

[She sits, so does he. She sits on bank under tree, left of it. He sits below bank to right of tree.]

Evelyn. But ought I to be sitting here with you? That's what I mean. It's—not as if I really knew you, is it?

Cecil. Not know me? [The chatter of birds dies away.]

Evelyn. Not properly—we've never even been introduced. We just met quite by chance here in the wood.

Cecil. Yes. [Ecstatically.] What a glorious chance!

Evelyn. Still, I'm sure mother wouldn't approve.

Cecil. And you say Mrs. Rivers isn't stupid!

Evelyn [laughing]. I expect most people would agree with her. Most people would say you oughtn't to have spoken to a girl you didn't know like that.

Cecil. Oh, come, I only asked my way back to the inn.

Evelyn. There was no harm in asking your way, of course. But then we began talking of other things. And then we sat down under this tree. And we've sat under this tree every afternoon since. And that was a week ago.

Cecil. Well, it's such an awfully jolly tree.

Evelyn. I don't know what mother would say if she heard of it!

Cecil. Would it be something unpleasant?

Evelyn [ruefully]. I'm afraid it would.

Cecil. How fortunate you don't know it then.

Evelyn [pondering]. Still, if I really oughtn't to be here.... Do you think I oughtn't to be here?

Cecil. I don't think I should go into that if I were you. Sensible people think of what they want to do, not of what they ought to do, otherwise they get confused. And then of course they do the wrong thing.

Evelyn. But if I do what I oughtn't, I generally find I'm sorry for it afterwards.

Cecil. Not half sorry as you would have been if you hadn't done it. In this world the things one regrets are the things one hasn't done. For instance, if I hadn't spoken to you a week ago here in the wood I should have regretted it all my life.

Evelyn. Would you?

[He nods.]

Really and truly?

Cecil [nods]. Really and truly.

[He lays his hand on hers for a moment, she lets it rest there. Cuckoo calls loudly once or twice—she draws her hand away.]

Evelyn. There's the cuckoo.

[Cecil rises and sits up on bank R. of her, leaning against tree.]

Cecil. Yes. Isn't he jolly? Don't you love cuckoos?

Evelyn. They are rather nice.

Cecil. Aren't they! And such clever beggars. Most birds are fools—like most people. As soon as they're grown up they go and get married, and then the rest of their lives are spent in bringing up herds of children and wondering how on earth to pay their school-bills. Your cuckoo sees the folly of all that. No school-bills for her! No nursing the baby! She just flits from hedgerow to hedgerow flirting with other cuckoos. And when she lays an egg she lays it in some one else's nest, which saves all the trouble of housekeeping. Oh, a wise bird!

Evelyn [pouting, looking away from him]. I don't know that I do like cuckoos so much after all. They sound to me rather selfish.

Cecil. Yes. But so sensible! The duck's a wise bird too in her way. [She turns to him.] But her way's different from the cuckoo's. [Matter-of-fact.] She always treads on her eggs.

Evelyn. Clumsy creature!

Cecil. Not a bit. She does it on purpose. You see, it's much less trouble than sitting on them. As soon as she's laid an egg she raises one foot absent-mindedly and gives a warning quack. Whereupon the farmer rushes up, takes it away, and puts it under some wretched hen, who has to do the sitting for her. I call that genius!

Evelyn. Genius!

Cecil. Yes. Genius is the infinite capacity for making other people take pains.

Evelyn. How can you say that?

Cecil. I didn't. Carlyle did.

Evelyn. I don't believe he said anything of the kind. And I don't believe ducks are clever one bit. They don't look clever.

Cecil. That's part of their cleverness. In this world if one is wise one should look like a fool. It puts people off their guard. That's what the duck does.

Evelyn. Well, I think ducks are horrid, and cuckoos, too. And I believe most birds like bringing up their chickens and feeding them and looking after them.

Cecil. They do. That's the extraordinary part of it. They spend their whole lives building nests and laying eggs and hatching them. And when the chickens come out the father has to fuss round finding worms. And the nest's abominably over-crowded and the babies are perpetually squalling, and that drives the husband to the public house, and it's all as uncomfortable as the Devil—

Evelyn. Mr. Harburton!

Cecil. Well, I shouldn't like it. In fact, I call it fatuous.

[Evelyn is leaning forward pondering this philosophy with a slightly puckered brow—a slight pause]. I say, you don't look a bit comfortable like that. Lean back against the tree. It's a first-rate tree. That's why I chose it.

Evelyn [tries and fails]. I can't. My hat gets in the way.

Cecil. Take it off then.

Evelyn. I think I will. [Does so.] That's better. [Leans back luxuriously against the trunk; puts her hat down on bank beside her.]

Cecil. Much better. [Looks at her with frank admiration.] By Jove, you do look jolly without your hat!

Evelyn. Do I?

Cecil. Yes. Your hair's such a jolly color. I noticed it the first time I saw you. You had your hat off then, you know. You were walking through the wood fanning yourself with it. And directly I caught sight of you the sun came out and simply flooded your hair with light. And there was the loveliest pink flush on your cheeks, and your eyes were soft and shining—

Evelyn [troubled]. Mr. Harburton, you mustn't say things to me like that.

Cecil. Mustn't I? Why not? Don't you like being told you look jolly?

Evelyn [naïvely]. I do like it, of course. But ought you...?

Cecil [groans]. Oh, it's that again.

Evelyn. I mean, it's not right for men to say those things to girls.

Cecil. I don't see that—if they're true. You are pretty and your eyes are soft and your cheeks—why, they're flushing at this moment! [Triumphant.] Why shouldn't I say it?

Evelyn. Please!... [She stops, and her eyes fill with tears.]

Cecil [much concerned]. Miss Rivers, what's the matter? Why, I believe you're crying!

Evelyn [sniffing suspiciously]. I'm ... not.

Cecil. You are, I can see the tears. Have I said anything to hurt you? What is it? Tell me. [Much concerned.]

Evelyn [recovering herself by an effort]. It's nothing, nothing really. I'm all right now. Only you won't say things to me like that again, will you? Promise. [Taking out handkerchief.]

Cecil. I promise ... if you really wish it. And now dry your eyes and let's be good children. That's what my nurse used to say when my sister and I quarreled. Shall I dry them for you? [Takes her handkerchief and does so tenderly.]

Evelyn [with a gulp]. Thank you. [Takes away handkerchief.] How absurd you are! [Puts it away.]

Cecil. Thank you!

[Evelyn moves down, sitting at bottom of bank, a little below him.]

Evelyn. Did you often quarrel with your sister?

Cecil. Perpetually. And my brothers. Didn't you?

Evelyn. I never had any.

Cecil. Poor little kid. You must have been rather lonely.

Evelyn [matter-of-fact]. There was always Reggie.

Cecil. Reggie?

Evelyn. My cousin, Reggie Townsend. He lived with us when we were children. His parents were in India.

Cecil [matter-of-fact]. So he used to quarrel with you instead.

Evelyn [shocked]. Oh no! We never quarreled. At least, Reggie never did. I did sometimes.

Cecil. How dull! There's no good in quarreling if people won't quarrel back.

Evelyn. I don't think there's any good in quarreling at all.

Cecil. Oh, yes, there is. There's the making it up again.

Evelyn. Was that why you used to quarrel with your sister?

Cecil. I expect so, though I didn't know it, of course—then. I used to tease her awfully, I remember, and pull her hair. She had awfully jolly hair. Like yours—oh! I forgot, I mustn't say that. Used you to pull Reggie's hair?

Evelyn [laughing]. I'm afraid I did sometimes.

Cecil. I was sure of it. How long was he with you?

Evelyn. Till he went to Winchester. And of course he used to be with us in the holidays after that. And he comes to us now whenever he can get away for a few days. He's in his uncle's office in the city. He'll be a partner some day.

Cecil. Poor chap!

Evelyn. Poor chap! Mother says he's very fortunate.

Cecil. She would. Parents always think it very fortunate when young men have to go to an office every day. I know mine do.

Evelyn. Do you go to an office every day?

Cecil. No.

Evelyn [with dignity]. Then I don't think you can know much about it, can you?

Cecil [carelessly]. I know too much. That's why I don't go.

Evelyn. What do you do?

Cecil. I don't do anything. I'm at the Bar.

Evelyn. If you're at the Bar, why are you down here instead of up in London working?

Cecil. Because if I were in London I might possibly get a brief. It's not likely, but it's possible. And if I got a brief I should have to be mugging in chambers, or wrangling in a stuffy court, instead of sitting under a tree in the shade with you.

Evelyn. But ought you to waste your time like that?

Cecil [genuinely shocked]. Waste my time! To sit under a tree—a really nice tree like this—talking to you. You can call that wasting time!

Evelyn. Isn't it?

Cecil. No! To sit in a frowsy office adding up figures when the sky's blue and the weather's heavenly, that's wasting time. The only real way in which one can waste time is not to enjoy it, to spend one's day blinking at a ledger and never notice how beautiful the world is, and how good it is to be alive. To be only making money when one might be making love, that is wasting time!

Evelyn. How earnestly you say that!

[Cecil leans forward—close to her.]

Cecil. Isn't it true?

Evelyn [troubled]. Perhaps it is. [Looks away from him.]

Cecil. You know it is. Every one knows it. Only people won't admit it. [Leaning towards her and looking into her eyes.] You know it at this moment.

Evelyn [returning his gaze slowly]. I think I do.

[For a long moment they look into each other's eyes. Then he takes her two hands, draws her slowly towards him and kisses her gently on the lips.]

Cecil. Ah! [Sigh of satisfaction. He releases her hands and leans back against the tree again.]

Evelyn [sadly]. Oh, Mr. Harburton, you oughtn't to have done that!

Cecil. Why not?

Evelyn. Because.... [Hesitates.] Because you oughtn't.... Because men oughtn't to kiss girls.

Cecil [scandalized]. Oughtn't to kiss girls! What nonsense! What on earth were girls made for if not to be kissed?

Evelyn. I mean they oughtn't ... unless.... [Looking away.]

Cecil [puzzled]. Unless?

Evelyn [looking down]. Unless they love them.

Cecil [relieved]. But I do love you. Of course I love you. That's why I kissed you.

[A thrush is heard calling in the distance.]

Evelyn. Really? [Cecil nods. Evelyn sighs contentedly.] That makes it all right then.

Cecil. I should think it did. And as it's all right I may kiss you again, mayn't I?

Evelyn [shyly]. If you like.

Cecil. You darling! [Takes her in his arms and kisses her long and tenderly.] Lean your head on my shoulder, you'll find it awfully comfortable. [He leans back against the tree.] [She does so.] There! Is that all right?

Evelyn. Quite. [Sigh of contentment.]

Cecil. How pretty your hair is! I always thought your hair lovely. And it's as soft as silk. I always knew it would be like silk. [Strokes it.] Do you like me to stroke your hair?

Evelyn. Yes!

Cecil. Sensible girl! [Pause; he laughs happily.] I say, what am I to call you? Do you know, I don't even know your Christian name yet?

Evelyn. Don't you?

Cecil. No. You've never told me. What is it? Mine's Cecil.

Evelyn. Mine's Evelyn.

Cecil. Evelyn? Oh, I don't like Evelyn. It's rather a stodgy sort of name. I think I shall call you Eve. Does any one else call you Eve?

Evelyn. No.

Cecil. Then I shall certainly call you Eve. After the first woman man ever loved. May I?

Evelyn. If you like—Cecil.

Cecil. That's settled then.

[He kisses her again. Pause of utter happiness, during which he settles her head more comfortably on his shoulder, and puts arm round her.]

Isn't it heavenly to be in love?

Evelyn. Heavenly!

Cecil. There's nothing like it in the whole world! Say so.

Evelyn. Love is the most beautiful thing in the whole world.

Cecil. Good girl! There's a reward for saying it right. [Kisses her.]

[Pause of complete happiness for both.]

Evelyn [meditatively]. I'm afraid Reggie won't be pleased.

[The chatter of sparrows is heard.]

Cecil [indifferently]. Won't he?

Evelyn [shakes her head]. No. You see, Reggie's in love with me too. He always has been in love with me, for years and years. [Sighs.] Poor Reggie!

Cecil. On the contrary. Happy Reggie!

Evelyn [astonished]. What do you mean?

Cecil. To have been in love with you years and years. I've only been in love with you a week.... I've only known you a week.

Evelyn. I'm afraid Reggie didn't look at it like that.

Cecil [nods]. No brains.

Evelyn. You see, I always refused him.

Cecil. Exactly. And he always went on loving you. What more could the silly fellow want?

Evelyn [shyly, looking up at him]. He wanted me to accept him, I suppose.

[The bird chatter dies away.]

Cecil. Ah!... Reggie ought to read Keats's "Ode to a Grecian Urn."... I say, what jolly eyes you've got! I noticed them the moment we met here in the wood. That was why I spoke to you.

Evelyn [demurely]. I thought it was to ask your way back to the inn.

Cecil. That was an excuse. I knew the way as well as you did. I'd only just come from there. But when I saw you with the sunshine on your pretty soft hair and lighting up your pretty soft eyes, I said I must speak to her. And I did. Are you glad I spoke to you?

Evelyn. Yes.

Cecil. Glad and glad?

Evelyn. Yes.

Cecil. Good girl! [Leans over and kisses her cheek.]

Evelyn [sigh of contentment; sits up]. And now we must go and tell mother.

Cecil [with a comic groan]. Need we?

Evelyn [brightly]. Of course.

Cecil [sigh]. Well, if you think so.

Evelyn [laughing]. You don't seem to look forward to it much.

Cecil. I don't. That's the part I always hate.

Evelyn. Always? [Starts forward and looks at him, puzzled.]

Cecil [quite unconscious]. Yes. The going to the parents and all that. Parents really are the most preposterous people. They've no feeling for romance whatever. You meet a girl in a wood. It's May. The sun's shining. There's not a cloud in the sky. She's adorably pretty. You fall in love. Everything heavenly! Then—why, I can't imagine—she wants you to tell her mother. Well, you do tell her mother. And her mother at once begins to ask you what your profession is, and how much money you earn, and how much money you have that you don't earn—and that spoils it all.

Evelyn [bewildered]. But I don't understand. You talk as if you had actually done all this before.

Cecil. So I have. Lots of times.

Evelyn. Oh! [Jumps up from the ground and faces him, her eyes flashing with rage.]

Cecil. I say, don't get up. It's not time to go yet. It's only four. Sit down again.

Evelyn [struggling for words]. Do you mean to say you've been in love with girls before? Other girls?

Cecil [apparently genuinely astonished at the question]. Of course I have.

Evelyn. And been engaged to them?

Cecil. Not engaged. I've never been engaged so far. But I've been in love over and over again.

[Evelyn stamps her foot with rage—turning away from him.]

My dear girl, what is the matter? You look quite cross. [Rises.]

Evelyn [furious]. And you're not even ashamed of it?

Cecil [roused to sit up by this question]. Ashamed of it? Ashamed of being in love? How can you say such a thing! Of course I'm not ashamed. What's the good of being alive at all if one isn't to be in love? I'm perpetually in love. In fact, I'm hardly ever out of love—with somebody.

Evelyn [still furious]. Then if you're in love, why don't you get engaged? A man has no business to make love to a girl and not be engaged to her. It's not right.

Cecil [reasoning with her]. That's the parents' fault. I told you parents were preposterous people. They won't allow me to get engaged.

Evelyn. Why not?

Cecil. Oh, for different reasons. They say I'm not serious enough. Or that I don't work enough. Or that I haven't got enough money. Or else they simply say they "don't think I'm fitted to make their daughter happy." Anyhow, they won't sanction an engagement. They all agree about that. Your mother would be just the same.

[Impatient exclamation from Evelyn.]

I don't blame her. I don't say she's not right. I don't say they haven't all been right. In fact, I believe they have been right. I'm only explaining how it is.

Evelyn [savagely]. I see how it is. You don't really want to be married.

Cecil. Of course I don't want to be married. Nobody does unless he's perfectly idiotic. One wants to be in love. Being in love's splendid. And I dare say being engaged isn't bad—though I've had no experience of that so far. But being married must be simply hateful.

Evelyn [boiling with rage]. Nonsense! How can it be hateful to be married if it's splendid to be in love?

[The cuckoo is heard.]

Cecil. Have you forgotten the cuckoo?

Evelyn. Oh!!!

Cecil. No ties, no responsibilities, no ghastly little villa with children bellowing in the nursery. Just life in the open hedgerow. Life and love. Happy cuckoo!

Evelyn [furious]. I think cuckoos detestable. They're mean, horrid, disgusting birds.

Cecil. No. No. I can't have you abusing cuckoos. They're particular friends of mine. In fact, I'm a sort of cuckoo myself.

Evelyn [turning on him]. Oh, I hate you! I hate you! [Stamps her foot.]

Cecil [with quiet conviction]. You don't.

Evelyn. I do!

Cecil [shaking his head]. You don't. [Quite gravely.] One never really hates the people one has once loved.

[He looks into her eyes. For a moment or two she returns his gaze fiercely. Then her eyes fall and they fill with tears.]

Evelyn [half crying]. How horrid you are to say that!

Cecil. Why?

Evelyn. Because it's true, I suppose. Ah, I'm so unhappy! [Begins to cry.]

Cecil [genuinely distressed]. Eve! You're crying. You mustn't do that. I can't bear seeing people cry. [Lays hand on her shoulder.]

Evelyn [shaking it off]. Don't. I can't bear you to touch me. After falling in love with one girl after another like that. When I thought you were only in love with me.

Cecil. So I am only in love with you—now.

Evelyn [tearfully]. But I thought you'd never been in love with any one else. And I let you call me Eve because you said she was the first woman man ever loved.

Cecil. But I never said she was the only one, did I? [Argumentatively.] And one can't help being in love with people when one is in love, can one? I couldn't help falling in love with you, for instance, the moment I saw you. You looked simply splendid. It was such a splendid day too. Of course I fell in love with you.

Evelyn [slightly appeased by his compliment, drying her eyes]. But you seem to fall in love with such a lot of people.

Cecil. I do. [Mischievously.] But ought you to throw stones at me? After all, being in love with more than one person is no worse than having more than one person in love with you. How about Reggie?

Evelyn. Reggie? [The sparrows' chatter starts again.]

Cecil [nods]. Reggie's in love with you, isn't he? So am I. And both at once too! I'm only in love with one person at a time.

Evelyn [rebelliously]. I can't help Reggie being in love with me.

Cecil. And I can't help my being in love with you. That's just my point. I knew you'd see it.

Evelyn. I don't see it at all. Reggie is quite different from you. Reggie's love is true and constant....

Cecil. Well, I'm a constant lover if you come to that.

Evelyn. You aren't. You know you aren't.

Cecil. Yes, I am. A constant lover is a lover who is constantly in love.

Evelyn. Only with the same person.

Cecil. It doesn't say so. It only says constant.

Evelyn [half-laughing]. How ridiculous you are! [Turns away.]

Cecil [sigh of relief]. That's right. Now you're good-tempered again.

Evelyn. I'm not.

Cecil. What a story!

Evelyn. I'm not. I'm very, very angry.

Cecil. That's impossible. You can't possibly be angry and laugh at the same time, can you? No one can. And you did laugh. You're doing it now.

[She does so unwillingly.]

So don't let's quarrel any more. It's absurd to quarrel on such a fine day, isn't it? Let's make it up, and be lovers again.

[The sparrows die away.]

Evelyn [shaking her head]. No.

Cecil. Please!

Evelyn [shaking her head]. No.

Cecil. Well, you're very foolish. Love isn't a thing to throw away. It's too precious for that. Love is the most beautiful thing in the whole world. You said so yourself not ten minutes ago.

Evelyn. I didn't. You said it. [Looking down.]

Cecil. But you said it after me. [Gently and gravely.] Eve, dear, don't be silly. Let's be in love while we can. Youth is the time to be in love, isn't it? Soon you and I will be dull and stupid and middle-aged like all the other tedious people. And then it will be too late. Youth passes so quickly. Don't let's waste a second of it. They say the May-fly only lives for one day. He is born in the morning. All the afternoon he flutters over the river in the sunshine, dodging the trout and flirting with other May-flies. And at evening he dies. Think of the poor May-fly who happens to be born on a wet day! The tragedy of it!

Evelyn [softly]. Poor May-fly.

Cecil. There! You're sorry for the May-fly, you see. You're only angry with me.

Evelyn. Because you're not a May-fly.

Cecil. Yes, I am. A sort of May-fly.

Evelyn [with suspicion of tears in her voice]. You aren't. How can you be? Besides, you said you were a cuckoo just now.

Cecil. I suppose I'm a cuckoo-May-fly. For I hate wet days. And if you're going to cry again, it might just as well be wet, mightn't it? So do dry your eyes like a good girl. Let me do it for you. [Does it with her handkerchief.]

[She laughs ruefully.]

There, that's better. And now we're going to be good children again, aren't we?

Cecil [holding out hand]. And you'll kiss and be friends?

Evelyn. I'll be friends, of course. [Sadly.] But you must never kiss me again.

Cecil. What a shame! Why not?

Evelyn. Because you mustn't.

Cecil [cheerfully]. Well, you'll sit down again anyhow, won't you? just to show we've made it up. [Moves towards tree.]

Evelyn [shakes head]. No.

Cecil [disappointed; turns]. A.... Then you haven't really made it up.

Evelyn. Yes, I have. [Picks up her hat.] But I must go now. Reggie's coming down by the five o'clock train, and I want to be at the station to meet him. [Holds out hand.] Good-by, Mr. Harburton.

Cecil [taking hand]. Eve! You're going to accept Reggie! [Pause.]

Evelyn [half to herself]. I wonder.

Cecil. And he'll have to tell your mother?

Evelyn. Of course.

Cecil [drops her hand]. Poor Reggie! So his romance ends too!

Evelyn. It won't! If I marry Reggie I shall make him very happy.

Cecil. Very likely. Marriage may be happiness, but I'm hanged if it's romance!

Evelyn. Oh! [Exclamation of impatience.]

[She turns away and exits R.]

[Cecil watches her departure with a smile half-amused, half-pained, till she is long out of sight. Then with half a sigh turns back to his tree.]

Cecil [re-seating himself]. Poor Reggie! [Re-opens his book and settles himself to read again.]

[A cuckoo hoots loudly from a distant thicket and is answered by another. Cecil looks up from his book to listen as the curtain falls.]

 

[Curtain.]


THE JUDGMENT OF INDRA

A Play

By Dhan Gopal Mukerji


Copyright, 1920, by Stewart & Kidd Company.
All rights reserved.

 

The professional and amateur stage rights of this play are strictly reserved by the author, to whose dramatic representative, Frank Shay, in care Stewart & Kidd Co., Cincinnati, Ohio, applications for permission to produce it should be made.


THE JUDGMENT OF INDRA

A Play

By Dhan Gopal Mukerji

 

[Time: The Fifteenth Century.]

[Place: A Monastery on one of the foothills of Himalaya.]

[Scene: In the foreground is the outer court of a Monastery. In the center of the court is a sacred plant, growing out of a small altar of earth about two feet square. On the left of the court is a sheer precipice, adown which a flight of stone steps—only a few of which are visible—connects the Monastery with the village in the valley below.

To the right are the temple and the adobe walls and the roof of the monastery cells. There is a little space between the temple and the adobe walls, which is the passage leading to the inner recesses of the monastery. Several steps lead to the doors of the temple, which give on the court. In the distance, rear, are the snowy peaks of the Himalayas, glowing under the emerald sky of an Indian afternoon. To the left, the distances stretch into vast spaces of wooded hills. Long bars of light glimmer and die as the vast clouds, with edges of crimson, golden and silver, spread portentously over the hills and forest.

A roll of thunder in the distance, accompanies the rise of the curtain.]

 

Shanta. [He is reading a palm-leaf manuscript near the Sacred Plant. He looks up at the sky.] It forbodes a calamity.

[Suddenly the Temple doors open. Shukra stands framed in the doorway. Seeing that Shanta is alone, Shukra walks down the steps toward him.]

Shukra. Are you able to make out the words?

Shanta. Aye, Master.

Shukra. Where is Kanada?

Shanta. He will be here presently. Listen, master: it sayeth: "Only a hair's breadth divides the true from the false. Upon him who by thought, word or deed confuses the two, will descend the Judgment of Indra."

Shukra. The thunder of Indra is just. It will strike the erring and the unrighteous no matter where they hide themselves; in the heart of the forest or in the silence of the cloisters, Indra's Judgment will descend on them. Even the erring heart that knows not that it is erring will be smitten and chastised by Indra. [Thunder rumbles in the distance.]

Shanta. Master, when you speak, you not only fill the heart with ecstasy, but also the soul with the beauty of truth.

Shukra. To praise is good. But why praise me, who have yet to find God and,—[Shakes his head sadly.]

Shanta. You will find Him soon; your time is nigh.

Shukra. I wish it were true.

Shanta. Master, if there be anything that I can do for you. If I could only lighten your burden a little,—

Shukra. Thou hast done that already. All the cares of the monastery thou hast taken from me. Thou hast bound me to thee by bonds of gratitude that can never break. [Enter Kanada.] Ah, Kanada, how be it with you to-day? [Coming to him.]

Kanada. [He is a lad of twenty and two.] By your blessing I am well and at peace. Have you finished your meditation?

Shukra. [Sadly.] Nine hours have I meditated, but—I shall say the prayers now. [Enters the temple and shuts the door.]

Kanada. He seems not to be himself.

Shanta. When he is in meditation for a long time, he becomes another being.

Kanada. There is sadness in his eyes.

Shanta. How can he be sad,—he who has risen above joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain, hate and love?

Kanada. Above love, too?

Shanta. Yea, hate and love being opposite, are Maya, illusion!

Kanada. Yet we must love the world.

Shanta. Yea, that we do to help the world.

Kanada. The Master is tender to the villagers even if they lead the worldly life.

Shanta. We be monks. We have broken all the ties of the world, even those of family, so that we can bestow our thoughts, care and love upon all the children of God. Our love is impartial. [The thunder growls in the distance.]

Kanada. Yea, that is the truth. Yet I think the Master loves thee more than any other.

Shanta. Nay, brother. He loves no one more than another. I have been with him ten years; that makes him depend on me. But if the truth were known,—he loves none. For he loves all. Indra, be my witness: the Master loveth no one more than another.

Kanada. Ah, noble-souled Master! Yet I feel happy to think that he loveth thee more than any.

Shanta. He loves each living creature. He is not as the worldly ones who love by comparison—this one more, the other less. Last night, as the rain wailed without like a heart-broken woman, how his voice rose in song of light and love! He is one of God's prophets, and a true singer of His praise.

Kanada. I can hear him yet.

Shanta. I will never forget the ineffable joy that glowed in his words. Only he who has renounced all ties, can speak with such deep and undying love. No anxiety—

Kanada. It was that of which I would speak to thee. Dost thou not see sadness and anxiety in the Master's face?

Shanta. He is deep in thought—naught else.

Kanada. Ever since that message was brought him the other day, he has seemed heavy hearted. It was melancholy tidings.

Shanta. Nay, that message had naught to do with him. [Thunder growls. The Temple doors open. Shukra comes out of the Temple and shuts the doors behind him. Then he stands still in front of the Temple.]

Shukra. [Calling.] Kanada.

Kanada. Yea, Master. [He goes up to Shukra, who gives him some directions. Kanada exits; Shukra stands looking at the sky.]

Shanta. How wonderful a vision he is! As he stands at the threshold of the temple he seems like a new God, another divinity come down to earth to lead the righteous on to the realms celestial. Ah, Master, how grateful am I to have thee as my teacher! I thank Brahma for giving thee to me.

[Enter Kanada. Shukra then walks to Shanta, with Kanada following him.]

Kanada. Master, all is ready.

Shukra. Go ye to the village; ask them if all be well with them. When the heavens are unkind—ah, if it rains another day all the crops will be destroyed. What will they live on? No, no, it cannot be. Go ye both down to them and take them my blessings: Tell them we will make another offering to Indra to-night. It must not rain any more.

Shanta. Bring out begging bowls, Kanada.

Kanada. Shall I bring the torches, too? [Crossing.]

Shukra. The clouds may hide the moon; yea, the torches, too. [Kanada exits R.]

Shukra. Yea. [Thunder growls above head.] The storm grows apace. I hope thou wilt find shelter ere it breaks. [A short silence.] The world is growing darker and darker each day. Sin and Vice are gathering around it like a vast coiling Serpent. We monks be the only ones that can save it and set it free. Shanta, be steadfast; strengthen me. Help me to bring the light to the world. Thou art not only my disciple, but my friend and brother. [He embraces Shanta.] Save me from the world.

Kanada. [Entering.] Here be—[Stops in surprise.]

Shukra. [Releasing Shanta.] Come to me, Kanada. [The latter does so, Shukra putting an arm around Kanada's neck.] Little Brother—

Kanada. [Radiantly.] Master—

Shukra. Be brave and free—free from the delusions of this world, Sansara. Go yet to the village; take them our blessings! Hari be with them all! May ye return hither safely. [Thunder and lightning.] Ah, Lord Indra!—Look, it is raining yonder. Go, hasten—

Shanta. [Taking a begging bowl and torch from Kanada.] Come!

Shukra. [Putting his hands on their heads.] I bless ye both. May Indra protect ye—[the rest of his words are drowned by the lightning flash and peal of thunder].

[The two disciples intone: "OM Shanti OM." They go down the steps.]

Shukra. May this storm pass. OM Shiva. Shiva love you, my Shanta. For ten long years he has been with me; he has greatly helped me in my search after Him who is the only living Reality. To-day I am nearer God—I stand at the threshold of realization. I seem to feel that it will not be long before the Veil will be lifted and I shall press my heart against the heart of the ultimate mystery—Who comes there? [Listens attentively]. They cannot have gone and come back so soon. Ha! another illusion! These days I am beset by endless illusions. Perhaps that betokens the end of my search, as the gloom is always thickest ere the dawn. Yea, after this will come the Light; I will see God! [Hears a noise; listens attentively.] Are they already returning? [Calling.] Shanta! [He crosses and looks down. Thunder rolls very loudly now. He does not heed that. Suddenly he recoils in agitation. Footsteps are heard from below, rising higher and higher. Shukra rubs his eyes to make sure that he has really seen something that is not an illusion. He goes forward a few steps. The head of an old man rises into view, Shukra is stupefied; walks backwards until his back touches the Sacred plant. He stands still. The old man at last climbs the last step. He has not noticed Shukra. He looks at the Himalayas in the rear. Then his eyes travel over the monastery walls—Now suddenly they catch sight of Shukra.]

Shukra. What seek ye here?

Old Man [eyeing him carefully]. Ah, Shukra! dost thou not recognize thine aged father? [He goes to Shukra with outstretched arms.]

Shukra. I have no father.

Old Man. But I am thy father. Did not my messenger come the other day? [Silence.] Did he lie to me? Dost thou not know thy mother is—

Shukra. Thy messenger came.

Old Man. Then come thou home at once. There is not time to be lost. Come, my son, ere thy mother leaves this earth.

Shukra. I cannot go.

Old Man. Thou canst not go? Dost thou not know that thy mother is on her death-bed?

Shukra. I have renounced the world. For twelve years I have had no father, nor mother.

Old Man. Thou didst leave us, but we did not renounce thee. And now thou shouldst come.

Shukra. I told thy messenger that I have no father nor mother,—I cannot come.

Old Man. I heard it all. If you art born of us, thou canst not have a heart of stone? Come, my son: I, thy father, implore thee.

Shukra. Nay, nay; God alone is my father.

Old Man. Hath it not been said in the scriptures that thy parents are thy God? Thy father should be obeyed.

Shukra. That was said by one who had not seen the Truth, the Light.

Old Man. I command thee in the name of the Scriptures.

Shukra. God alone can command me.

Old Man. Vishnu protect me! Art thou dreaming, my child? Yonder lies thy mother, fighting death,—

Shukra. I have heard it all.

Old Man. And yet thou wilt not go?

Shukra. Nay, father, I cannot go. The day I took the vow of a monk, that day I cut the bond that binds me to you all. I must be free of all ties. I must love none for myself that I may love all for God. Here I must remain where God has placed me, until He calls me elsewhere.

Old Man. But thy mother lies, fighting with each breath. She wishes to see thee.

Shukra. I cannot come.

Old Man. But thou must.

Shukra. I would if I could; but my life is in the hands of God.

Old Man [mocking]. God! Thy life belongs to God? Who gave thee life? Not God, but she who lies there dying; what ingratitude! This, indeed, is the age of darkness; sons are turning against their fathers,—and killing their own mother.

Shukra [quietly]. I may not love one more than another; my steps, as my heart, go whither God guides them.

Old Man [mocking]. Truth is thy witness?

Shukra. May Indra himself punish me if I love one more than another. Hear me, Indra. [The roll of thunder above.]

Old Man [in desperation]. Come, my son, in the name of thine own God I pray to thee, come to thy mother. I kneel at thy feet and beg for this boon. [He does so.]

Shukra [raising him to his feet. He puts his own head down on the old man's feet.]

Old Man. Then thou comest? [Shukra rises to his feet.]

Shukra [hesitating]. There is a law in the Sacred books that says an ascetic should see the place of his birth every twelfth year.

Old Man. And it is twelve years now since thou didst renounce us! Ah! blessed be the law.

Shukra. Yet, father, if I go, I go not in obedience to the law, but since the desire to see my mother is uppermost in me, I who dreamt not of the law hitherto—yea, now I hasten to abide by the law. Ah, what mockery! It is not the letter of the law, but the spirit in us that judges us sinners or saints. Now if I go with thee to obey the law, that would be betraying the law.

Old Man. Betraying the law!

Shukra. Thought alone is the measure of our innocence. He who thinks evil is a doer of evil indeed. Nay, nay, tempt me not with the law. I must remain here. I must keep my vow. [He looks up to heaven; it is covered with enormous black clouds.]

Old Man. The law is not written in the heavens. It is inscribed in the heart of man. Obey the dictates of thy heart.

Shukra. God alone shall be obeyed. I cannot betray His command. I, who am an ascetic, must not yield to the desire to see my mother—Nay! God—

Old Man. What manner of God is He that deprives a dying mother of her son? Such a God never was known in Hindu life. No such God lives, nor breathes. [Thunder and lightning.]

Shukra. Erring Soul, do not blaspheme your creator. He is the God of Truth—God of Love.

Old Man [disdainfully]. God of Love,— How can He be God of Love if He dries up the stream of thy heart and blinds thy reason as the clouds blind the eyes of the Sun? Nay, thou liest. It is not the God of Love, but the God of thine insane self—self-love that makes thee rob thy mother of her only joy in life. I—yea, I will answer to God for thee. If, by coming to see thy mother, thou sinnest, I ask God to make me pay for thy sin. Come, obey thy father,—I will take the burden of thy sin, if sin it be.

Shukra. Nay, each man pays for his sins as each man reaps the harvest of his own good deeds. None can atone for another. Ah, God! cursed be the hour when I was born. Cursed,—

Old Man [angrily]. Thou cursest thy birth?

Shukra. Yea, to be born in this world of woe is a curse indeed.

Old Man. Then curse thy tormented mind and thy desolate heart; curse not,—

Shukra. Nay, I curse the hour that saw me come to this earth of delusion and Maya. I do curse,—

Old Man. Thou dost dare curse the hour when thou wert born! Ah, vile sinner! To curse the hour of thy birth when thy mother is dying! God be my witness, he has incurred his father's wrath. Now,—no God can save thee.

Shukra. Nay, nay,—

Old Man. Shukra. I, thy father, thy God in life, curse thee. Thou hast deprived thy mother of her child, and her death of its solace. Thou hast incurred the wrath of the Spirits of all thy departed ancestors.

Shukra [cries out]. Not thus; not thus. [Thunder and lightning, the whole sky is swept by the clouds.]

Old Man. Not thus? Thus alone shall it be. Cursed be thou at night; cursed be thou by day; cursed be thou going; cursed be thou coming. Thou art cursed by the spirit of the race, by the spirit of God. [Continued thunder and lightning.]

Shukra [falling at his father's feet]. I beseech thee, my father,—

Old Man [shrinking away]. Touch me not. [Going left.] Cursed art thou in Life and Death forever.

Shukra. God!—Father, go not thus.

Old Man. I am not thy father. [Deafening and blinding thunder and lightning.]

Shukra. Father—

Old Man [going down the steps]. Pollute not my hearing by calling me thy father. May the judgment of Indra be upon thee! [He totters down out of sight, left, in anger and horror.]

Shukra. Father, hear, oh hear! [The rain comes down in a deluge; thunder and lightning. The rain blots everything out of sight. It pours in deep, dark sheets, through which the chains and sheets of lightning burn and run. After raining awhile, the sky clears. In the pale moonlight, Shukra is seen crouching near the Sacred plant. He is wet and disheveled. He slowly rises, swaying in exhaustion. Voices are heard below.]

Shukra. Can it be that it is over? Has Indra judged me and found me free of error? Yea, were I in error, the lightning would have struck me. I lay there blinded by rain awaiting my death. It did not come. Yea, Indra has judged! [Noises below; he does not hear.] O, thou shadowy world, I am free of thee at last. Free of love and loving, free of all bondage. I have no earthly ties,—I lean on God alone. At last, I am bound to no earthly being, not even—[strange pause]—not even,—Shanta. [He becomes conscious of the noise of approaching footsteps and the light of the torches from below.] Who is that? [He goes forward a few steps. Enter Kanada, torch in hand.]

Kanada. Master, Master.

Shukra. Kanada, thou,—[a pause, very brief but poignant]. Why this agitation? Shanta, where is Shanta?

Kanada. Shanta is—

Shukra [seeing the other torches rising suddenly]. Speak! Who comes hither?

Kanada. They bring a dead man.

Shukra. Who is he? [As a premonition of the truth comes over him.] Where is Shanta?

Kanada [blurts out]. At the foot of the hill the lightning struck him.

Shukra [with a terrible cry]. Shanta,—my Shanta! [Two men carrying torches with one hand, and dragging something white with the other, come up the steps. This vision silences Shukra. A pause follows. Another torch is seen rising behind them.]

Shukra [slowly], Shanta,—gone. [Pause again, looking into the starry heavens.] This is the Judgment of Indra!

 

[Curtain.]


THE WORKHOUSE WARD

A Play

By Lady Gregory


Copyright, 1909, by Lady Gregory.
All rights reserved.

 

PERSONS
Michael Miskell} [Paupers].
Mike McInerney
Mrs. Donohoe[a Countrywoman].

 

Reprinted from "Seven Short Plays," by Lady Gregory, published by G. P. Putnam's
Sons, by permission of Lady Gregory and Messrs. G. P. Putnam's Sons.

All acting rights, both professional and amateur, are reserved in the United States, Great Britain, and all countries of the Copyright Union, by the author. Performances forbidden and right of presentation reserved.

Application for the right of performing this play or reading it in public should be made to Samuel French, 28 West 38th Street, New York City, or 26 South Hampton Street, Strand, London.


THE WORKHOUSE WARD

A Play

By Lady Gregory

 

[Scene: A ward in Cloon Workhouse. The two old men in their beds.]

 

Michael Miskell. Isn't it a hard case, Mike McInerney, myself and yourself to be left here in the bed, and it the feast day of Saint Colman, and the rest of the ward attending on the Mass.

Mike McInerney. Is it sitting up by the hearth you are wishful to be, Michael Miskell, with cold in the shoulders and with speckled shins? Let you rise up so, and you well able to do it, not like myself that has pains the same as tin-tacks within in my inside.

Michael Miskell. If you have pains within in your inside there is no one can see it or know of it the way they can see my own knees that are swelled up with the rheumatism, and my hands that are twisted in ridges the same as an old cabbage stalk. It is easy to be talking about soreness and about pains, and they maybe not to be in it at all.

Mike McInerney. To open me and to analyze me you would know what sort of a pain and a soreness I have in my heart and in my chest. But I'm not one like yourself to be cursing and praying and tormenting the time the nuns are at hand, thinking to get a bigger share than myself of the nourishment and of the milk.

Michael Miskell. That's the way you do be picking at me and faulting me. I had a share and a good share in my early time, and it's well you know that, and the both of us reared in Skehanagh.

Mike McInerney. You may say that, indeed, we are both of us reared in Skehanagh. Little wonder you to have good nourishment the time we were both rising, and you bringing away my rabbits out of the snare.

Michael Miskell. And you didn't bring away my own eels, I suppose, I was after spearing in the Turlough? Selling them to the nuns in the convent you did, and letting on they to be your own. For you were always a cheater and a schemer, grabbing every earthly thing for your own profit.

Mike McInerney. And you were no grabber yourself, I suppose, till your land and all you had grabbed wore away from you!

Michael Miskell. If I lost it itself, it was through the crosses I met with and I going through the world. I never was a rambler and a card-player like yourself, Mike McInerney, that ran through all and lavished it unknown to your mother!

Mike McInerney. Lavished it, is it? And if I did was it you yourself led me to lavish it or some other one? It is on my own floor I would be to-day and in the face of my family, but for the misfortune I had to be put with a bad next door neighbor that was yourself. What way did my means go from me is it? Spending on fencing, spending on walls, making up gates, putting up doors, that would keep your hens and your ducks from coming in through starvation on my floor, and every four footed beast you had from preying and trespassing on my oats and my mangolds and my little lock of hay!

Michael Miskell. O to listen to you! And I striving to please you and to be kind to you and to close my ears to the abuse you would be calling and letting out of your mouth. To trespass on your crops is it? It's little temptation there was for my poor beasts to ask to cross the mering. My God Almighty! What had you but a little corner of a field!

Mike McInerney. And what do you say to my garden that your two pigs had destroyed on me the year of the big tree being knocked, and they making gaps in the wall.

Michael Miskell. Ah, there does be a great deal of gaps knocked in a twelve-month. Why wouldn't they be knocked by the thunder, the same as the tree, or some storm that came up from the west?

Mike McInerney. It was the west wind, I suppose, that devoured my green cabbage? And that rooted up my Champion potatoes? And that ate the gooseberries themselves from off the bush?

Michael Miskell. What are you saying? The two quietest pigs ever I had, no way wicked and well ringed. They were not ten minutes in it. It would be hard for them to eat strawberries in that time, let alone gooseberries that's full of thorns.

Mike McInerney. They were not quiet, but very ravenous pigs you had that time, as active as a fox they were, killing my young ducks. Once they had blood tasted you couldn't stop them.

Michael Miskell. And what happened myself the fair day of Esserkelly, the time I was passing your door? Two brazened dogs that rushed out and took a piece of me. I never was the better of it or of the start I got, but wasting from then till now!

Mike McInerney. Thinking you were a wild beast they did, that had made his escape out of the traveling show, with the red eyes of you and the ugly face of you, and the two crooked legs of you that wouldn't hardly stop a pig in a gap. Sure any dog that had any life in it at all would be roused and stirred seeing the like of you going the road!

Michael Miskell. I did well taking out a summons against you that time. It is a great wonder you not to have been bound over through your lifetime, but the laws of England is queer.

Mike McInerney. What ailed me that I did not summons yourself after you stealing away the clutch of eggs I had in the barrel, and I away in Ardrahan searching out a clocking hen.

Michael Miskell. To steal your eggs is it? Is that what you are saying now? [Holds up his hands.] The Lord is in heaven, and Peter and the saints, and yourself that was in Ardrahan that day put a hand on them as soon as myself! Isn't it a bad story for me to be wearing out my days beside you the same as a spancelled goat. Chained I am and tethered I am to a man that is ram-shacking his mind for lies!

Mike McInerney. If it is a bad story for you, Michael Miskell, it is a worse story again for myself. A Miskell to be next and near me through the whole of the four quarters of the year. I never heard there to be any great name on the Miskells as there was on my own race and name.

Michael Miskell. You didn't, is it? Well, you could hear it if you had but ears to hear it. Go across to Lisheen Crannagh and down to the sea and to Newtown Lynch and the mills of Duras and you'll find a Miskell, and as far as Dublin!

Mike McInerney. What signifies Crannagh and the mills of Duras? Look at all my own generations that are buried at the Seven Churches. And how many generations of the Miskells are buried in it? Answer me that!

Michael Miskell. I tell you but for the wheat that was to be sowed there would be more side cars and more common cars at my father's funeral (God rest his soul!) than at any funeral ever left your own door. And as to my mother, she was a Cuffe from Claregalway, and it's she had the purer blood!

Mike McInerney. And what do you say to the banshee? Isn't she apt to have knowledge of the ancient race? Was ever she heard to screech or to cry for the Miskells? Or for the Cuffes from Claregalway? She was not, but for the six families, the Hyneses, the Foxes, the Faheys, the Dooleys, the McInerneys. It is of the nature of the McInerneys she is I am thinking, crying them the same as a king's children.

Michael Miskell. It is a pity the banshee not to be crying for yourself at this minute, and giving you a warning to quit your lies and your chat and your arguing and your contrary ways; for there is no one under the rising sun could stand you. I tell you you are not behaving as in the presence of the Lord.

Mike McInerney. Is it wishful for my death you are? Let it come and meet me now and welcome so long as it will part me from yourself! And I say, and I would kiss the book on it, I to have one request only to be granted, and I leaving it in my will, it is what I would request, nine furrows of the field, nine ridges of the hills, nine waves of the ocean to be put between your grave and my own grave the time we will be laid in the ground!

Michael Miskell. Amen to that! Nine ridges, is it? No, but let the whole ridge of the world separate us till the Day of Judgment! I would not be laid anear you at the Seven Churches, I to get Ireland without a divide!

Mike McInerney. And after that again! I'd sooner than ten pound in my hand, I to know that my shadow and my ghost will not be knocking about with your shadow and your ghost, and the both of us waiting our time. I'd sooner be delayed in Purgatory! Now, have you anything to say?

Michael Miskell. I have everything to say, if I had but the time to say it!

Mike McInerney. [Sitting up.] Let me up out of this till I'll choke you!

Michael Miskell. You scolding pauper you!

Mike McInerney. [Shaking his fist at him.] Wait a while!

Michael Miskell. [Shaking his fist.] Wait a while yourself!

[Mrs. Donohoe comes in with a parcel. She is a countrywoman with a frilled cap and a shawl. She stands still a minute. The two old men lie down and compose themselves.]

Mrs. Donohoe. They bade me come up here by the stair. I never was in this place at all. I don't know am I right. Which now of the two of ye is Mike McInerney?

Mike McInerney. Who is it is calling me by my name?

Mrs. Donohoe. Sure amn't I your sister, Honor McInerney that was, that is now Honor Donohoe.

Mike McInerney. So you are, I believe. I didn't know you till you pushed anear me. It is time indeed for you to come see me, and I in this place five year or more. Thinking me to be no credit to you, I suppose, among that tribe of the Donohoes. I wonder they to give you leave to come ask am I living yet or dead?

Mrs. Donohoe. Ah, sure, I buried the whole string of them. Himself was the last to go. [Wipes her eyes.] The Lord be praised he got a fine natural death. Sure we must go through our crosses. And he got a lovely funeral; it would delight you to hear the priest reading the Mass. My poor John Donohoe! A nice clean man, you couldn't but be fond of him. Very severe on the tobacco he was, but he wouldn't touch the drink.

Mike McInerney. And is it in Curranroe you are living yet?

Mrs. Donohoe. It is so. He left all to myself. But it is a lonesome thing the head of a house to have died!

Mike McInerney. I hope that he has left you a nice way of living?

Mrs. Donohoe. Fair enough, fair enough. A wide lovely house I have; a few acres of grass land ... the grass does be very sweet that grows among the stones. And as to the sea, there is something from it every day of the year, a handful of periwinkles to make kitchen, or cockles maybe. There is many a thing in the sea is not decent, but cockles is fit to put before the Lord!

Mike McInerney. You have all that! And you without e'er a man in the house?

Mrs. Donohoe. It is what I am thinking, yourself might come and keep me company. It is no credit to me a brother of my own to be in this place at all.

Mike McInerney. I'll go with you! Let me out of this! It is the name of the McInerneys will be rising on every side!

Mrs. Donohoe. I don't know. I was ignorant of you being kept to the bed.

Mike McInerney. I am not kept to it, but maybe an odd time when there is a colic rises up within me. My stomach always gets better the time there is a change in the moon. I'd like well to draw anear you. My heavy blessing on you, Honor Donohoe, for the hand you have held out to me this day.

Mrs. Donohoe. Sure you could be keeping the fire in, and stirring the pot with the bit of Indian meal for the hens, and milking the goat and taking the tacklings off the donkey at the door; and maybe putting out the cabbage plants in their time. For when the old man died the garden died.

Mike McInerney. I could to be sure, and be cutting the potatoes for seed. What luck could there be in a place and a man not to be in it? Is that now a suit of clothes you have brought with you?

Mrs. Donohoe. It is so, the way you will be tasty coming in among the neighbors at Curranroe.

Mike McInerney. My joy you are! It is well you earned me! Let me up out of this! [He sits up and spreads out the clothes and tries on coat.] That now is a good frieze coat ... and a hat in the fashion.... [He puts on hat.]

Michael Miskell [alarmed]. And is it going out of this you are, Mike McInerney?

Mike McInerney. Don't you hear I am going? To Curranroe I am going. Going I am to a place where I will get every good thing!

Michael Miskell. And is it to leave me here after you you will?

Mike McInerney [in a rising chant]. Every good thing! The goat and the kid are there, the sheep and the lamb are there, the cow does be running and she coming to be milked! Plowing and seed sowing, blossom at Christmas time, the cuckoo speaking through the dark days of the year! Ah, what are you talking about? Wheat high in hedges, no talk about the rent! Salmon in the rivers as plenty as hurf! Spending and getting and nothing scarce! Sport and pleasure, and music on the strings! Age will go from me and I will be young again. Geese and turkeys for the hundreds and drink for the whole world!

Michael Miskell. Ah, Mike, is it truth you are saying, you to go from me and to leave me with rude people and with townspeople, and with people of every parish in the union, and they having no respect for me or no wish for me at all!

Mike McInerney. Whist now and I'll leave you ... my pipe [hands it over]; and I'll engage it is Honor Donohoe won't refuse to be sending you a few ounces of tobacco an odd time, and neighbors coming to the fair in November or in the month of May.

Michael Miskell. Ah, what signifies tobacco? All that I am craving is the talk. There to be no one at all to say out to whatever thought might be rising in my innate mind! To be lying here and no conversible person in it would be the abomination of misery!

Mike McInerney. Look now, Honor.... It is what I often heard said, two to be better than one.... Sure if you had an old trouser was full of holes ... or a skirt ... wouldn't you put another in under it that might be as tattered as itself, and the two of them together would make some sort of a decent show?

Mrs. Donohoe. Ah, what are you saying? There is no holes in that suit I brought you now, but as sound it is as the day I spun it for himself.

Mike McInerney. It is what I am thinking, Honor.... I do be weak an odd time.... Any load I would carry, it preys upon my side ... and this man does be weak an odd time with the swelling in his knees ... but the two of us together it's not likely it is at the one time we would fail. Bring the both of us with you, Honor, and the height of the castle of luck on you, and the both of us together will make one good hardy man!

Mrs. Donohoe. I'd like my job! Is it queer in the head you are grown asking me to bring in a stranger off the road?

Michael Miskell. I am not, ma'am, but an old neighbor I am. If I had forecasted this asking I would have asked it myself. Michael Miskell I am, that was in the next house to you in Skehanagh!

Mrs. Donohoe. For pity's sake! Michael Miskell is it? That's worse again. Yourself and Mike that never left fighting and scolding and attacking one another! Sparring at one another like two young pups you were, and threatening one another after like two grown dogs!

Mike McInerney. All the quarreling was ever in the place it was myself did it. Sure his anger rises fast and goes away like the wind. Bring him out with myself now, Honor Donohoe, and God bless you.

Mrs. Donohoe. Well, then, I will not bring him out, and I will not bring yourself out, and you not to learn better sense. Are you making yourself ready to come?

Mike McInerney. I am thinking, maybe ... it is a mean thing for a man that is shivering into seventy years to go changing from place to place.

Mrs. Donohoe. Well, take your luck or leave it. All I asked was to save you from the hurt and the harm of the year.

Mike McInerney. Bring the both of us with you or I will not stir out of this.

Mrs. Donohoe. Give me back my fine suit so [begins gathering up the clothes], till I go look for a man of my own!

Mike McInerney. Let you go so, as you are so unnatural and so disobliging, and look for some man of your own, God help him! For I will not go with you at all!

Mrs. Donohoe. It is too much time I lost with you, and dark night waiting to overtake me on the road. Let the two of you stop together, and the back of my hand to you. It is I will leave you there the same as God left the Jews!

[She goes out. The old men lie down and are silent for a moment.]

Michael Miskell. Maybe the house is not so wide as what she says.

Mike McInerney. Why wouldn't it be wide?

Michael Miskell. Ah, there does be a good deal of middling poor houses down by the sea.

Mike McInerney. What would you know about wide houses? Whatever sort of a house you had yourself it was too wide for the provision you had into it.

Michael Miskell. Whatever provision I had in my house it was wholesome provision and natural provision. Herself and her periwinkles! Periwinkles is a hungry sort of food.

Mike McInerney. Stop your impudence and your chat or it will be the worse for you. I'd bear with my own father and mother as long as any man would, but if they'd vex me I would give them the length of a rope as soon as another!

Michael Miskell. I would never ask at all to go eating periwinkles.

Mike McInerney [sitting up]. Have you any one to fight me?

Michael Miskell [whimpering]. I have not, only the Lord!

Mike McInerney. Let you leave putting insults on me so, and death picking at you!

Michael Miskell. Sure I am saying nothing at all to displease you. It is why I wouldn't go eating periwinkles, I'm in dread I might swallow the pin.

Mike McInerney. Who in the world wide is asking you to eat them? You're as tricky as a fish in the full tide!

Michael Miskell. Tricky is it! Oh, my curse and the curse of the four and twenty men upon you!

Mike McInerney. That the worm may chew you from skin to marrow bone! [Seizes his pillow.]

Michael Miskell [seizing his own pillow]. I'll leave my death on you, you scheming vagabone!

Mike McInerney. By cripes! I'll pull out your pin feathers! [throwing pillow].

Michael Miskell [throwing pillow]. You tyrant! You big bully you!

Mike McInerney [throwing pillow and seizing mug]. Take this so, you stabbing ruffian you!

[They throw all within their reach at one another, mugs, prayer books, pipes, etc.]

 

[Curtain.]


LOUISE

A Play

By J. H. Speenhoff
Translated from the Dutch by A. V. C. P. Huizinga and Pierre Loving.


Acting rights reserved by Pierre Loving.
All rights reserved.

 

PERSONS
Louise.
Van Der Elst [Notary].
Vennema [Louise's Father].
Sophie [Serving Maid].

 

Applications for permissions to produce Louise must be addressed to
Pierre Loving, 240 W. 4.


LOUISE

A Play

By J. H. Speenhoff

 

[Scene: A large fashionably appointed room with few decorations on the walls. The latter are papered in yellow with large black lilies. To the right, a tall broad window with heavy brown curtains. To the left, an old gold harp with a little footstool. Behind, to the right, a door with brown portières, affording a view of a vestibule and banister. To the left, down front, a broad couch with black head cushions. Next to it the end of a heavy broad oaken table, with the side turned toward the couch. Behind, the back wall has an open chimney with carved wood and ornaments on it. Beside the chimney, on both sides, are two large comfortable chairs and two others by the table and window respectively. On the table are the remains of breakfast: fruit glasses and two empty champagne bottles.

As the curtain rises Louise is discovered lying on the couch with her feet extended toward the audience. She lies quietly and gazes blankly in the distance. Closer scrutiny reveals that she is in the last stage of intoxication. On the whole, it is rather a lady-like inebriety and expresses itself now and again by way of a heavy sigh, looseness of limb, a languid flutter of the eyelids and a disposition to be humorous. It is about three in the afternoon. As for the tone of the room, there are a lot of yellows, blacks and browns; the light is quite subdued. Soon after the rise of the curtain, Louise begins slowly and dreamily to hum a melody. She stops for a while, gazes blankly around and starts humming again. Then she raises herself, crosses her arms on the tables and rests her head on them. Her hair is loosely arranged—or disarranged. Her dressing gown is black and white.

A bell is rung downstairs. Louise does not seem to hear it. Another ting-a-ling. You can hear the maid going downstairs. The door opens and shuts. Two pairs of feet are heard climbing the stairs. The maid parts the portières, shows Van der Elst in and points Louise out to him, meanwhile remaining discreetly behind the portières.

The truth is that Sophie is very much embarrassed. She looks as if she has been called away from her proper duties. She is a healthy maid, with tousled blond hair, cotton dress, blue apron, maid's cap and is in her stocking feet. She goes toward Louise, then stops confusedly at a little distance from her. She moves a chair needlessly, in timid embarrassment, and wipes her lips with her apron.]

 

Sophie. Here's a gentleman to see you—to see—you, madam.

[Louise doesn't hear.]

Sophie [approaches the end of table]. A gentleman has come—come to see—you.

Louise [raising herself on her elbows; with her head on her hands]. What are you doing?

Sophie [confusedly]. I—madam? Why, nothing. But there's a gentleman ... you see....

Louise. A gentleman? Very well, you may go. [She closes her eyes.]

Sophie. But ... but ... he wishes to speak to you. A gray-haired gentleman. He is standing by the portières ... over there. [Indicates Van Elst.]

[Louise does not pay any attention to Sophie or Van Elst, but composes herself for another nap on the couch.]

Sophie. May he come in? [A long pause.] May he...? [Louise does not answer. Sophie waits a bit, then she beckons Van Elst into the room.] She won't answer, sir. Maybe you'd better come back in an hour or so....

Van Elst. Hm! No. That's impossible. [Looks at Louise.] What's the matter with madam? Is she asleep?

Sophie. No ... you see ... she is, you know....

Van Elst [approaching]. What?

Sophie. She isn't well....

Van Elst. Ah, not well?

Sophie. Yes, from.... [Hesitates.]

Van Elst [spying the bottles on the table]. Has madam consumed those?

Sophie. Yes, yes. It's awful. [Pause.]

Van Elst. Does this happen very often?

Sophie. Yes. Oh, yes, quite often.

Van Elst. Indeed!

Sophie. Hadn't you better go until ... for a while?

Van Elst. No, no. I shall....

Sophie. Very well, sir, you know best. [Sophie goes out of the room on tiptoe.]

[Now that Sophie is out of the room, one has an opportunity to scrutinize Van Elst more closely. He is a prosperous-looking country gentleman about fifty years old. He wears a shining tophat, white vest with a gold chain across his stomach, tight-fitting blue trousers, low shoes, white socks and a short blue coat. He is clean-shaven and when he removes his hat, one observes that his hair is close-cropped. His walking-stick, contrary to expectations, is light and slim. He takes a chair near the window, directly behind the harp, puts his hat, cane and gloves beside him on the floor and looks around. He glances at Louise, shakes his head solemnly, coughs, wipes his forehead, puts his handkerchief carefully away, coughs again, moves his chair and after some signs of nervousness, says]:

Van Elst. Miss ... may I have a word with you? [Louise doesn't hear.]

Van Elst [with growing embarrassment]. I ... I should like to speak to you.

Louise [a little wildly]. Are you there?

Van Elst [taken aback]. Yes ... no ... yes.... I.... Whom do you mean?

Louise. Come here beside me.

Van Elst [astonished]. Certainly, but....

Louise [sighing]. Come ... come.

Van Elst. Aren't you making a mistake? I'm not....

Louise [raising herself halfway, left elbow on table, head on hand, the other arm outstretched on the table. She looks unseeingly at him]. Don't you want to?

Van Elst. But I'm not ... how shall I put it? I've come to speak with you very seriously.

Louise [has seated herself in the middle of the couch. She extends her arms with a smiling invitation]. Don't you dare?

Van Elst [very considerably embarrassed by this time. He coughs and mops his face]. It isn't quite necessary. We can talk this way.

Louise [smiling]. I will come to you, you know. Ah, you don't realize....

Van Elst [rising, disturbed]. No. Please stay where you are. Don't trouble yourself. I can hear you from where you are, and you can hear me.

Louise [ignores his words completely, gets up dizzily and gropes with the aid of the table toward the chair. She leans on the arm of the chair and looks at Van Elst. She points out the small chair]. Come here.

Van Elst [after some deliberation, sits at her side]. We had better.... [His voice dies in a mutter.]

Louise [insistent]. No. Here at my side. Sit close to me, then I'll be able to hear you better.

Van Elst [pulling his chair closer]. I don't see why....

Louise. Don't you think I'm very beautiful and wise?

Van Elst. I have very serious things to discuss with you. Will you listen to me? [He assumes an important pose.]

Louise. Why do you take on such a severe tone? You must be more gentle—very gentle.

Van Elst. Hm! Very well. First let me tell you who I am. My name is Van der Elst. I'm the new attorney back home, and I am a friend of your father's.

Louise. Well?

Van Elst. I think a lot of your father. As you know, Mr. Degudo was your father's lawyer; but he's gone away and I've taken his place.

Louise. Why am I honored with these confidences?

Van Elst. You ought to know who I am.

Louise. Well, what's your name?

Van Elst [angrily]. I told you that my name is Van der Elst, attorney-at-law.

Louise [smiling vapidly]. Have you any bonbons with you?

Van Elst. What sort of a question is that, madam? You're not listening to me. [He gets up angrily, about to collect his effects prior to leaving.]

Louise. Are you leaving me so soon? If I were you, I wouldn't leave.

[Van Elst walks back and forth in annoyance, muttering all the while.]

Louise. What are you muttering about? Come here and sit by my side. Last week I received flowers from an old gentleman, an old gentleman. At least that is what the girl said. He sent them for my shoulders, mind you. You see, he had seen my shoulders. Please sit down. That's why he sent me flowers—[extending her hand] and this ring came with them. Look! [Van der Elst has taken a seat. She thrusts her hand before his face.] It's the thin one.

Van Elst. Madam, I didn't come for this frivolity.

Louise. What would you give if you could kiss me?

[Van Elst coughs and fumbles with his handkerchief.]

Louise. Do you know what I suspect? I suspect that you are the old gentleman in question.

Van Elst [getting up in high dudgeon]. Madam, I consider that accusation entirely improper, in view of the fact that I am a respectable married man. I want you to know that I keep out of these things. My reputation is above reproach. Do you intend to listen to me or not?

Louise. Don't shout so.

Van Elst. Do you talk this way always? You amaze me.

Louise [smiling]. I suspect you are the gentleman with the pretty touch about my shoulders. Well, sit down. Is he gone? Are you gone?

Van Elst [stepping forwardly boldly]. I am still here. This is positively the last time I'll ask you to listen to me. I assure you, my patience is nearly exhausted. Your father and mother, your family have asked me to bring the following to your notice. Your present conduct has caused a great scandal. You've left your family for a man who is too far above you socially ever to make you his wife. Consequently, you have become his mistress.

Louise. Eh?

Van Elst. I'm not through yet. Your father and mother have requested me to ask you to come back home. They await you with open arms.

Louise. Don't be silly. Sit down.

Van Elst. Oh, it's useless.

Louise [incoherently]. Will you promise to tell me?

Van Elst. I suppose I'll have to wait. [He sits down in utter despair.]

Louise [goes up to him unsteadily, groping for the arm of the chair. With a laugh]. Tell me, which one was it. This shoulder or this one? Ah, aren't you clever! You're the old gentleman, aren't you, you old duck?

Van Elst. A useless commission. Poor parents!

Louise. What's that? The joke's on me.

Van Elst. Next she'll ask me to dance with her, I suppose.

Louise. Dance? No dancing. Don't get up. You needn't get up. I don't mean it ... really, I don't.

[Louise sits in front of the harp and runs her fingers idly over the strings. Then slowly, she plays the same melody she hummed previously. She hums it again dreamily. The music grows softer and softer. She sighs, stops playing, her head drops to her hands and she falls limply to the floor.]

Van Elst. Good God, what's this? It wasn't my fault. I suppose I was cruel to her. [Walks excitedly back and forth. Sophie enters.]

Sophie. What's the matter?

Van Elst. Look at your mistress. I can't make out what's wrong with her.

Sophie. Oh, that's nothing. It happens every day. Just a fainting fit.

Van Elst. What a life! What a life! Why don't you do something? She can't be allowed to lie there that way.

Sophie. Just a minute. [She seizes Louise by the waist and lifts her from the floor. Van Elst assists her.]

Sophie. Nothing to worry about [arranging Louise's clothes]. Now you lie here and you'll be quite all right in a very short while. She gets that way quite frequently.

Van Elst [sinks into a chair]. This is frightful.

Sophie [confidentially]. Madam drinks heavily in the afternoons and in the evening, too, when the master is here. Yes, and then they sing together and madam plays on that thing there. [Points to the harp.] It's very nice sometimes.

Van Elst. Who is the master?

Sophie. I don't know, sir. But that's what I've been told to call him.

Van Elst. Are they happy together? Or do they sometimes quarrel?

Sophie. I don't know. I don't think so, for he's very good and likes her very much.

Van Elst. Madam never weeps or is sad? I ask these questions for madam's sake.

Sophie. Oh, yes, she weeps sometimes. But it's mostly when she hasn't had a drink and feels out of sorts. But it's soon cured when I fetch the wine.

Van Elst. Then she occasionally thinks of her home. That may help us.

Sophie. May I suggest something, sir? [She busies herself clearing off the table.] If I were you, I should go away quietly.

Van Elst. Go away?

Sophie. For madam can't bear men folks around her when she sobers up. If I were you, I'd go away.

Van Elst. No, I'll stay. If she's sober after a while, perhaps she'll be able to talk to me coherently.

Sophie. You must know best. But I warn you, madam can't bear to have anybody else with her.

Van Elst. What! Do you think I came for that purpose?

Sophie. Of course. You're not trying to tell me that you came to read the newspaper with her.

Van Elst. You keep your mouth shut. I've come to ask madam to return to her parents.

Sophie. Oh, that's it, is it? You're from the family. I see. Of course ... but she won't go with you.

Louise [dreaming aloud]. William, William! He's bolting. Help! Help! Oh, the brown mare! Look! [Sighs.]

Sophie. She's delirious again. She goes on like that a lot. She was in a carriage with the master the other day, when the horse bolted. That's what she always dreams about these days.

Louise. Ah, wait. I left my earrings at the doctor's. Mother, mother, I love you so. [She sighs heavily. A ring is heard below.]

Van Elst. Ah, that's Mr. Vennema. Open the door for him. It's her father.

Sophie. Ought I let him in? He mustn't see her in that condition.

Van Elst. Please open the door.

Sophie. Oh, all right. [She goes out.]

[Van der Elst listens.]

Louise. Hopla, hopla, hopla....

[Vennema and Sophie mount the stairs.]

Sophie [to Vennema behind the portières]. Come this way, sir. You may come in.

[Vennema comes in hesitating and stops at the door. He is a kindly country parson type, wholly gray, with a gray beard and mustache. He is wearing an ecclesiastical hat, a black coat and black trousers. He gazes about anxiously and finally his eyes light on Van der Elst. Van der Elst beckons to Vennema and indicates Louise on the couch. Sophie goes out.]

Van Elst. There she is.

Vennema. Is she ill?

Van Elst. No, that isn't it. She's dreaming. She's very nervous. She was quite agitated a moment ago.

Vennema. What did she say?

Van Elst. She wouldn't listen to me. She insisted on speaking of other things. As a matter of fact; she acted very queerly.

Louise. First prize ... splendid.

Vennema. What's the matter with her?

Van Elst. I don't know. Nerves perhaps.

Vennema. Has she had a fainting spell?

Van Elst. Don't worry about it. She'll be better in a little while.

Vennema [noticing the bottles]. Is she...?

Van Elst. I don't know.

Vennema. Couldn't you tell? You may tell me.

Van Elst. Yes; I think a little.

Vennema. That hurts. I never thought she would allow herself to get into such a state. Has she been this way for a long time?

Van Elst. About ten minutes, I should say. But she'll be quite all right in a little while.

Vennema. I can't help being distressed over it. That she should have descended to this!

Van Elst. Do you know what the maid told me? She said that they are happy together, and that he is truly in love with her.

Vennema. Yes. But why did he allow her to go this far?

Van Elst. She won't see anybody.

Vennema. Not even me? Her father?

Van Elst. Perhaps you.

Vennema. What do you think? Will she come home with us? Have you found out?

Van Elst. She didn't pay any attention to me. She didn't quite understand my mission. I don't know. Perhaps you had better speak to her.

Louise [calling]. I.... Oh.... Help! [She sits up in the middle of the couch, with her hands to her face. She droops and seems to fall asleep in a sitting posture.]

Vennema. Is she...?

Van Elst. Yes, she's coming to.

Louise [wakes with a start]. Bah! [She looks around, does not recognize Van der Elst and Vennema. Then, peering closer, she registers surprise, sudden fright and finally anger. Van der Elst is about to speak, but she interrupts him.]

Louise. Who are you? [Coughs.] Who are you and what is your business here? Go away.... Go away.

Van Elst. Madam.... I....

Vennema. Let me speak. [He goes toward Louise.] Louise ... it is I. Don't you recognize me? [After a pause.] Louise!

Louise [after a pause]. Father!

Vennema. Aren't you glad to see your father?

Louise [in a low tone of voice]. Oh, father.

Vennema. You are not ill, my child?

Louise. No. Why have you come?

Vennema. I wanted to speak to you.

Louise. Why did you come? Why?

Vennema [seating himself beside Louise on the couch]. Listen to me, my dear.

Louise. Yes.

Vennema. I came to find out whether you are happy or not.

Louise. I don't know. Happy ... that's a strange word.

Vennema. Why strange? Are you happier here than—with us.

Louise [leaning forward on her hands]. Than with you? [Looking up.] I prefer to be here.

Vennema. Don't you miss us all, just the least little bit?

Louise. Sometimes, when I'm alone. All the same, I'd rather be here.

Vennema. Aren't you deluding yourself? Wasn't your life with us at home better?

Louise. Better? What do you mean, better?

Vennema. You know what I mean. Don't you regret running off with ... him ... and spreading sorrow in our hearts?

Louise. I loved him. And then I yearned for freedom, for the pleasures of life and travel. At home everything was so dull and monotonous. I couldn't stand the smug people at home. Their life is one round of lying and gossiping, of scolding and backbiting.

Vennema. But what of this sort of existence? You don't quite appreciate the damage you have done. How you have stained the fair reputation of your parents. I wonder whether that has ever occurred to you? You say that you do not like the people who are our neighbors back home, but it is these very people who make and unmake reputations. We must live with them. Can't you realize that?

Louise. Father, I'm sorry, but I couldn't go back to them. The commonplace tattlers with their humdrum, uneventful lives scarcely exist for me.

Vennema. They don't exist for you, you say. But, remember, that they despise you. They and their contempt do not reach you, but they reach us.

Louise [almost inaudibly]. Yes.

Vennema. But your future? Have you thought of that? What will it be? Wretchedness and contempt. When I came in and saw you stretched out in that condition, I....

Louise. Father, I want to forget. I don't want to think of the past.

Vennema. In order not to think of the past, you resort to drink?

Louise. Sometimes it is hard to forget.

Vennema. Tell me, Louise: does he love you, and do you love him? And even if this be true, will he continue to love you always? Won't the time come when he will grow indifferent to you?

Louise [getting up]. Never ... never. Not he. You don't believe that such a thing is impossible? He cannot forget me. I have given him everything ... my love, myself ... all that is truly myself.

Vennema. Aren't you a little too optimistic?

Louise. Not when it concerns him. He knows what I have sacrificed. He knows what I have given him. There is no room for doubt, father.

Vennema. Very well, we will not speak of it again. But how about us, Louise? Don't you ever think of us? Don't you ever long to come back to us, to the old home where you were born? Wouldn't you like to see it again?

Louise [sadly]. Yes.

Vennema [anxious and excited]. Then come back with me. Come back to us. You know my motive for coming. Won't you come back home with me? Everything is in perfect readiness for you: your little room, the flowers, the trees ... everything. Louise....

Louise. Father, that can never be. Never.

Vennema. Why not? We have arranged everything. Nothing will be lacking for your welcome, your comfort.

Louise. Why should I bring misfortune to you? It would simply add to your unhappiness. Isn't it better now that I am away from home? Later on, perhaps.

Vennema. Later on? Did it ever occur to you that there may be no later on? You may not find us then. We are getting old, your mother and I.

Louise. Don't, please!

Vennema. Come, Louise. Come. Think of the happiness.

Louise. How about the townfolks? Would they accept me again, do you think?

Vennema. Don't think of them. Those who are sincerely friendly to us, will continue to be so. The rest don't count. Ah, if we only could have you back, my child!

Louise [after a pause]. Father, I cannot go back. Don't you see that it is utterly impossible? I am changed now. And then I am not strong enough. Life is so long and I cannot bear to face it alone.

Vennema. But you will have us. You belong to us, and your place, if you have a place in the world, is with your mother and father. Your old home is waiting for you with welcoming arms. Summer is coming and you know how splendid the garden and the orchard are when the lilac trees are in bloom. Do you remember the little tree you planted once? Doesn't your heart yearn to see the little flowers that have sprouted on its branches? Everything is just waiting for you to come home.

Louise [dreamily]. Everything....

Vennema. You will come, won't you?

Louise. I cannot. I simply cannot. It is your happiness that I am thinking of. The intrusion of my life would spoil everything. Everybody will blame you.

Vennema. My child, I have long ago put behind me what the world says.

Louise [suddenly]. And William? What about William? What about him when I go back? No, I can't do it. I cannot leave him.

Vennema. What about your mother, Louise? She is waiting for you. She will be at the window to-night, waiting and peering out. Your chair is ready for you and she herself will open the door to greet you, to take you to her heart again. Do you know, Louise, she has been getting very gray of late. Come.

Louise. Mother isn't ill?

Vennema. Your mother wants to see you before she....

Louise [rising to her feet]. I ... I will do it.

Vennema. Thank you, my child. [He embraces her]. We shall go at once.

Louise. Ring for Sophie, please. Yes, we will go at once. [Close to him.] Mother is not seriously ill?

Vennema. I am sure, your return will be her cure.

Van Elst [who has listened attentively throughout the whole conversation]. Madam, permit me also to thank you for this resolve to return home. You are going to make many hearts joyful because of your decision.

Louise. I hope so.

Sophie [enters]. Is there anything you wish, madam?

Louise. Pack my traveling bag. Get my black hat and gray coat. I am leaving at once.

Sophie. Very well, madam, but....

Louise. Lose no time about it. I'm in a hurry.

Sophie. A lady called to see, madam, and I told her you were engaged.

Louise. What did she want? Did she say?

Sophie. She said she would come back. She insisted on speaking with you.

Louise. Do you know the lady?

Sophie. Yes ... no. That is, I don't know. I believe I've seen her before.

Louise. Didn't she say what her errand was?

Sophie. No, madam, but she said she would come back soon.

Louise. When she comes, show her into the drawing room.

Sophie. Yes, madam.

Louise. Have everything ready at once.

Sophie. Yes, madam. [She goes out.]

Louise. You will excuse me. I must change my clothes. I shall put my old ones on. You see, I kept them. Then I must write to him. I must tell him why I am going away. [She goes out by the side door.]

Vennema. I feel as if I have never been as happy as this before.

Van Elst. It will help your wife to get well. She hasn't been very well these last few weeks.

Vennema. Yes, I know it will do her heaps of good. I am quite happy.

Van Elst. Don't excite your wife unnecessarily to-night. Any shock may be too much for her.

Vennema. Yes, we will postpone our rejoicing until to-morrow. You must come to-morrow, but alone. Bring your wife Sunday evening. The process of acclamation will be slow, of course. There is a train about six, I believe.

Van Elst. Yes, at five forty-five. We have an hour yet.

Vennema. The sooner the better. She must have a change at first. I thought it mightn't be a bad idea if we paid my brother a visit at Frezier. It might do her a lot of good. Yes, I think what she needs is a change of scene.

Van Elst. If I were you I would stay home the first week.

Vennema. We'll attend to that later. It is terrible when you think of the condition she was in when we arrived.

Van Elst. The maid said that it happened quite often, too.

Vennema. What do you think he will do when he learns that she is gone?

Van Elst. If he is anything of a man, if he is a man of honor, then he will stay away. If not, there is the law. But I believe it can be arranged although she loves him very much.

Vennema. Let's not speak of it any more. She will change slowly, and so the past will be forgotten.

Sophie [enters with a traveling bag]. Oh, isn't Madam here?

Vennema. She will be back very shortly.

Sophie. Here's the bag. Everything is ready. [Puts Louise's things on the table.]

Louise [enters very simply dressed with a letter in her hand]. Here I am. [To Sophie.] Have you packed everything?

Sophie. Yes, everything is ready.

Louise. Help me then.

[Sophie helps Louise with her coat.]

Louise. Mail this letter for me. [The bell rings downstairs.] Go and see who it is. I am not at home to anybody now.

Sophie. It may be the lady who was here before.

Louise. Heavens, I had almost forgotten her. If it's the lady—

Sophie. Yes?

Louise. See who it is.

Sophie [going]. Yes, madam.

Vennema. What is it, Louise? What does the lady wish?

Louise. Nothing, father [with a forced laugh]. Nothing at all.

Vennema. Must you see her? Can't you say that you are about to go away on a trip and that you cannot see her? Say that, and let us go.

Louise. Oh, it's nothing. I will just speak to her, and then we will go at once. [She laughs again in a forced manner.]

Vennema. But why are you so excited?

Sophie [entering]. Madam, the lady has gone away. She left this. [She extends a visiting card.] But—

Louise. What is it, Sophie?

Sophie. She told me to tell you that you must think of the bay mare. Here is her card.

Louise [excitedly]. Oh, a card [tries to restrain herself]. Give it to me.

Sophie. Then she said nothing about Elsa and the race.

[Louise takes the card and goes a little to the side.]

Vennema. What's the matter, Louise? What ails you?

Louise [deeply affected]. Father, father! [She looks from the card to her father with tears in her eyes; then she goes mutely toward the couch, sits down, and stares blankly in front of her.]

Louise [sobbing]. I can't do it!

Vennema [takes the visiting card from her hands]. Must you pay all that? Have you lost all that money?

Louise. Yes.

Vennema. Through gambling?

Louise. Yes.

Vennema. Good God! Gambling, too? And to-night you must pay all that money.

Sophie [entering excitedly with a small bunch of flowers]. Madam, Madam.

Louise [looks up slowly and sees the flowers]. What is it?

Sophie. These are the compliments of Mr. De Brandeis.

Louise. Mr. De Brandeis?

Sophie. The gentleman is waiting below in a carriage.

Vennema. Tell that gentleman to go away.

Louise. It was too beautiful, too good to be true. Now it will never be.

Vennema. Why not? I shall give you the money.

Louise. Father, I tell you it can never be.

Vennema. What do you mean? What are you going to do, Louise?

Louise. Father, I can't go back home with you. [To Sophie.] Take the flowers and tell Mr. De Brandeis that—that—

[Vennema sinks into a chair. Sophie stands at the door with the flowers. Van der Elst stands listening anxiously.]

Louise [with a sob in her throat]. Tell him, that I am going to stand by him.

[She stands looking at the door, twitching her handkerchief nervously.]

 

[Curtain.]


THE GRANDMOTHER

A Play

By Lajos Biro


Authorized Translation by Charles Recht.
Copyright, 1920, by Charles Recht.

All rights reserved.

 

CHARACTERS
The Grandmother.
Her Grandchildren:
The Blond Young Lady.
The Brunette Young Lady.
The Bride.
The Vivacious Girl.
The Melancholy Girl.
The Sentimental High School Girl.
The Jovial Young Man.
The Polite Young Man.
The Disagreeable Young Man.

 

All rights reserved by Charles Recht and John Biro, 47 West 42nd Street, New York. Applications for permission to produce The Grandmother must be made to Mr. Charles Recht.


THE GRANDMOTHER

A Play

By Lajos Biro

 

[There is only this notable thing to be said about Grandmother—her hair is snow white, her cheeks rosy and her eyes violet blue. She is the most youthful and enthusiastic, best and most cordial grandmother ever beloved by her grandchildren.

The scene opens on a broad, sunny terrace furnished with garden furniture, chairs, small tables and chaises longues. Back of the terrace is the beautiful summer residence of Grandpa. Behind it is a large English garden in its lenten blossoms. The Disagreeable Young Man enters; yawns; stretches discontentedly; slouches here and there; picks up a volume from the table, then falls into a couch at right and, lighting a cigarette, begins to read. The other grandchildren enter in groups of two and three and seat themselves.]

 

The Jovial Young Man. My word, children, I am too full for utterance. What a spread! Now for a good cigar and a soft chair and I am as rich as a king.

The Blond Young Lady. We are having such charming weather. Is not this park like a paradise?

The Brunette Young Lady. How did you like the after-dinner speeches?

The Vivacious Girl. Uncle Heinrich was splendid. [There is great laughter.]

The Polite Young Man. Uncle Heinrich was never strong in speechmaking, but in the beginning even Demosthenes stuttered.

The Jovial Young Man. The trouble is that Uncle Heinrich stopped where Demosthenes began. Besides a manufacturer has no time to parade on the sea shore with pebbles under his tongue.

[There is more laughter.]

The Polite Young Man. Children, who wants a cigarette?

The Blond and Brunette Young Ladies. I!

The Polite Young Man [handing them cigarettes and lighting a match for them. He speaks to the Bride]. Aren't you going to smoke?

Bride. No, I thank you.

The Jovial Young Man. Lord, no! She must not! The noble bride must not permit tobacco smoke to contaminate her rosy lips. [They all laugh.]

The Vivacious Girl. May I have a cigarette, too?

The Jovial Young Man. You be careful or the same misfortune may happen to you at any minute that happened to Lucy [pointing to the Bride, he hands the Vivacious Girl a cigarette.]

The Vivacious Girl. If my bridegroom shall object to tobacco smoke, he can pack his things and—off.

The Brunette Young Lady. Well, young people, what are we going to do next?

The Melancholy Young Lady. Let's remain here. The park looks so beautiful.

The Blond Young Lady. Oh, I object. We'll remain here until the sun goes down a little and then we'll play tennis. [They agree.]

The Melancholy Young Lady. Can't we remain here? Let us enjoy the spring in the garden.

The Jovial Young Man. Let's play tennis. A little exercise is the best cure for romance. And you can enjoy your spring out there as well—you dreamer. [They laugh.]

The Disagreeable Young Man. You are as loud as the besiegers of Jericho in your planning.

The Jovial Young Man. Behold! He speaketh. [They laugh.]

The Disagreeable Young Man. You are so overbearing in your jollifications that it is positively disgusting. For the past hour you have been giggling away without the slightest reason. You have so much leisure you do not know what to do with yourselves.

The Brunette Young Lady. Curt, must you always be the killjoy in a party!

The Disagreeable Young Man. If you would at least take yourselves off from here.

The Brunette Young Lady. But admit that to-day there is reason enough for every kind of jollity.

The Disagreeable Young Man. Is there, indeed? You have finished a costly banquet and now are enjoying a good digestion. You are young and have a healthy animal appetite; but why deck sentimentalism on your horns?

The Polite Young Man. Your pardon! Do you suppose that all a person gets out of this remarkable occasion is a good dinner? Have you no appreciation? Do you realize what this day means to all of us?

The Disagreeable Young Man. Very well, my boy. Now tell me why you are so over-filled with joy?

The Polite Young Man. Yes, I will. I am glad that I can celebrate the golden wedding of my grandfather. I am glad that just thirty years ago to-day grandfather founded his factory. I am glad because of our large and happy family and that so many lovely and good and happy people have come here to celebrate this remarkable event; all of them good and prosperous.

The Disagreeable Young Man. Prosperous!

The Polite Young Man. Yes, I rejoice at their prosperity.

The Disagreeable Young Man. The laborers down there in the foundry, however, are not as over-joyed at this prosperity as you are. For this prosperity of yours they have been starving these past thirty years.

The Polite Young Man. Grandfather was always good to his employees.

The Disagreeable Young Man. Indeed! Our grandfather has managed by hook or by crook to amass an enormous fortune and you are glad that his fortune is now made and you do not have to resort to questionable means.

The Polite Young Man [hurt]. Questionable means? You do not intend to assert that our grandpapa....

The Disagreeable Young Man. I assert nothing. But mark you this. There is only one honest way to gain a large fortune: inheriting it. You cannot earn it without resorting to questionable means.

The Polite Young Man. Shame! to say a thing like that!

The Brunette Young Lady. Shame to say that of grandfather.

[All of them are upset and disturbed. Grandmother appears on the balcony.]

Grandmother. Why, children, what is it? What's wrong?

The Sentimental High School Girl. Why, grandma, just think of it! Curt said that grandpa made his fortune by questionable means.

The Disagreeable Young Man. I did not say exactly that—

The Polite Young Man. Yes, you did.

The Others [chiming in]. You said that. Yes, you said that.

Grandmother [as energetically as possible for her]. I think you are in error, Curt. In the entire fortune of your grandpa there is not a single copper that was not earned by him in the most honest way.

The Disagreeable Young Man. But look, grandma,—what I said was—generally in those cases no one—

Grandmother [hurt]. When I tell you this, boy, it is so. When I tell you anything, my child, you should never doubt it.

The Disagreeable Young Man. Yes, grandma, you are quite right. But I maintain that human learning and experience have proved—

The Polite Young Man. Why don't you stop? Do you perhaps want to insult grandma? You are taking too great an advantage of our good nature—I'll tell you that!

The Disagreeable Young Man. If you folks had any sense—

The Polite Young Man. Don't you know enough....

The Other Grandchildren. ... to shut up. [Attacks him.] Indeed. He's right. Stop—shut up!

[The Disagreeable Young Man, in spite of this scene, wants to continue, but the protests of the others drown his voice. He casts a contemptuous look at them, shrugs his shoulders, throws himself on the sofa and begins to read.]

The Polite Young Man. Now don't trouble yourself about him any longer, grandma dear. Here, rest yourself nicely in this chair among us.

The Jovial Young Man. There, grandma! The old folks are there at table. We young people are here in the fresh air. We lacked only the youngest one of us all. And here you are.

[There is a glad assent as the Grandmother sits down.]

The Vivacious Girl. Are you quite comfortable, grandma dear? Would you like something to rest your feet on?

Grandmother. Thanks, my child, I am quite all right, and I am very happy.

The Blond Young Lady. Yes, grandma, you ought to feel happy.

The Brunette Young Lady. How young you look, and how lovely and rosy!

The Bride. Grandma?

Grandmother. What is it, my angel?

The Bride. Tell me, how does a woman manage so that she is admired by her husband for full fifty years, as you are by grandfather?

The Brunette Young Lady. Yes, how did you manage that?

Grandmother. You will all be loved and admired after fifty years as I have been. A person must be good. We must love each other.

The Polite Young Man. But, grandmother, is it not wonderful at seventy and seventy-five to love so beautifully and purely as you and grandfather have loved?

Grandmother. You must always be good and patient with each other, and brave. Never lose courage.

The Vivacious Girl. But look, grandma, not even I could be as brave as you have been. And no one can ever say that I lose courage. [They all laugh.] I still shudder when I think how in those days in March of Forty-eight you had to run away! Or in the Sixties when the city was bombarded, you with my mamma and Aunt Olga escaped from the burning house....

The Sentimental High School Girl. How interesting that was! Tell us another story, grandma. [There is loud assent.] Yes, yes, grandma shall tell us another story!

Grandmother. But I have already told you so much. You heard all our history.

The Sentimental High School Girl. Not I, grandma; I have not heard the story of when you got lost in the Friedrichsrode forest.

Grandmother. That story I have told you so often, children. Ask your mother about it; she'll tell you.

The Polite Young Man. But, grandma, I haven't heard it, either. Just tell us that one and we'll go to play tennis.

The Disagreeable Young Man. If you'll pardon me, grandma, I believe you ought to tell us a different incident to-day. I've heard that history so often. Tell us something contemporaneous. Tell us about the first sewing machine, or the first railroad, or about crinolines or contemporary theater or art.

The Blond Young Lady. No. Tell us about the woods.

The Others. Yes, yes, that's right,—the story of how you got lost.

[The Disagreeable Young Man shrugs his shoulder and buries his head in his book. Grandmother begins to narrate, and the circle of her admiring and attentive audience grows narrower.]

Grandmother. Well, my children, it happened in the year eighteen hundred and forty, a year after grandfather was almost shot by error. In those days the happenings took us quite far away from here to Friedrichsrode, my dears, where you have never been. Your grandfather had a small estate there, and that's how we made our livelihood. We always wished and prayed to get the management of the large estate of the Count of Schwanhausen. But we lived there humbly in the little house.

The Blond Young Lady. Was my mamma home then?

Grandmother. No, she was not in this world yet. But a year later she was born. So your grandfather and I lived then in this little red-roofed house. Your grandfather used to be busy with the land the entire day. Those days I was taking on weight, and to reduce I would take long walks through the country. One day in October—in the afternoon—it was beautiful sunny autumn weather—as usual I went again on my long walk. The country there is very beautiful—all hills—covered with dense forests. This afternoon my way led into the famous forest of Friedrichsrode. When there I kept on walking—here and there I would stop to pick a flower.

The Blond Young Lady. Don't forget, grandma, that it was quite late when you left your house.

Grandmother. You are correct, my dear. After our dinner I had some things to attend to in the house and that is why I started that day later than usual. I was walking through the forest, going in deeper and deeper and suddenly I began to realize that it was getting dark. It was in the autumn and the days were getting short. When I saw how dark it was I turned homeward. But in the meanwhile evening came sooner than I counted, and suddenly it got dark altogether. Now, thought I, I must hustle. I hurried, as well as I could, but as much as I hurried I did not get home. Had I gone home the right way I would have reached it then, and so it dawned on me that I had lost my way.

The Sentimental High School Girl. Great Heavens....

Grandmother. Indeed, my child, I was really lost in the woods and in the Friedrichsrode forest, besides. What that meant you cannot now realize. Since that time these woods have been considerably cleared. Then also we live in a different world to-day. But in those days Friedrichsrode forest was a very, very dismal place. It spread away into the outskirts of the Harz Mountains and was a wild, primæval, godforsaken forest where highway robbers were hiding. And in the winter it was full of the wolves from the mountains.

[There is a short pause.]

The Vivacious Girl. And what did you do, grandmother?

Grandmother. Really, my child, a great anxiety came upon me. I stood still and tried to fix my direction. Then I turned to a path which I figured ought to lead me home. After I walked a half hour, however, I found that the forest instead of getting lighter was getting thicker and thicker. Three or four times I changed the direction, but no matter what I did I was walking deeper and deeper into the dark woods. Although the moon was shining then, the branches of the trees were so thick that I could see but little. And that which I saw only frightened me all the more. Every tree stump, every overhanging bough excited my fear. My feet were continuously caught in the roots of big trees and the undergrowth tore my bleeding face and feet; and it was getting cold. I felt frozen. And dismally quiet, terribly dark was the night in the forest.

[There is a pause and suspense.]

The Sentimental High School Girl. Good heavens, how perfectly terrible!

Grandmother. Then I collected all my wits. I said to myself, if I keep on walking I will lose my way all the more. I ought to remain where I am and wait. When grandfather arrives at home and misses me he will start a search with all the help and people. They will go into the woods with torchlights—and then I will see the lights from the distance and hear them call—and in that way I can get home.

The Melancholy Girl. How clever of our grandma!

The Vivacious Girl. And how brave!

Grandmother. After I figured it out that way I looked about for a sheltered nook. In between two great big tree trunks there was a cave, like a little house, a place all filled with soft moss. A pleasant camping place. I fell into this and prepared myself for a long wait. I waited and waited. The night peopled the woods with every kind of sound. There was whistling, whispering, humming, blowing, screeching and once from a distance a long-drawn deep howling. This, undoubtedly, was the wolves.

The Sentimental High School Girl [frightened]. Merciful God!

Grandmother. Then even I lost my courage. I wanted to run, run as long as my legs would carry me. But I realized that the wiser thing was to be brave and to remain. So I set my teeth and kept on waiting. And then gradually the howling ceased. So, I sat there on this moss bank gazing before me and thought of many things. Suddenly I heard a noise. I straightened up and listened. It was a breaking sound and a rustle as though some one were brushing aside the underbrush.... The noise was getting nearer and nearer.

The Sentimental High School Girl. Oh!

Grandmother. I was all ears. I could clearly distinguish now that the sound was the footstep of a human being. Frightened, I started through the darkness and in the dull moonlight I saw that actually a man was wading through the thick underbrush. What was I to do? I pressed against the tree trunk and my fast and loud-beating heart seemed to be in my throat. The man was coming directly toward me. When he was about three paces away from me and I could distinguish his features, I felt like fainting. It was "Red Mike," a very dangerous fellow from our neighborhood; every one knew that he was a robber. Later on he was imprisoned for murder, but he escaped from the prison. Now he was there.... What should I do?

The Vivacious Girl [breathlessly]. What did you do, grandma?

The Sentimental High School Girl. Great heavens!

Grandmother. Frenzied, I pressed against the tree trunk. I wanted to hide, but the robber came directly toward me. It was as though he could see me even in this darkness and behind the tree trunk. Later on when he was caught, I found out, that he had prepared this very place for his night's resting place. He had brought all this soft moss there. Of course, I did not know that he just came there to rest himself. All I saw was that he was making directly for me. Then such a great fear seized me that instead of pressing against the tree and letting him go past me I shrieked just as he came within reaching distance and began to run away.

[There is a pause and feverish suspense.]

The Melancholy Young Lady. And what did the robber do?

Grandmother. My sudden outcry and quick dash and flight scared him for the moment, but as soon as I appeared in the moonlight, he saw that it was only a woman who had frightened him. He hesitated about a half a minute and then started to pursue me. I flew. I was young then and I could run fast. But it was dark and I did not know my way. As I pressed forward I ran into a low branch and tore my cheek so that it bled. My skirt was torn into shreds. Suddenly I stumbled and fell to the ground. I hurt myself quite painfully, but in spite of that I rose quickly again and commenced to run. And the robber after me all the time. I could always hear his footsteps in my wake. My legs were about to give up under me when I got an idea to hide behind a stout tree trunk. But the robber began to look through the underbrush in the spot where he last saw me and he finally found me. He came near me.

The Vivacious Girl. How terrible!

Grandmother. With one single leap I jumped aside and started to run again. Once more I fell down and again I rose. Aimlessly I ran wildly over roots and stones and the robber kept right on after me.... And the distance between me and my pursuer was getting smaller and smaller. Then all of a sudden I heard the sound of his footsteps close to me—to escape him I tried to dash away to the side of him but with a sudden leap he was by my side. Grabbing me by my shoulder he threw me on the ground and I fell upon my back. He had run so fast that he dashed a couple of paces past me. He turned about.... And then I saw that he had a long knife in his hand.

The Sentimental High School Girl [horrified]. Merciful heaven!

Grandmother. I could not budge.... And unspeakable fear seized me.... Then I uttered a piercing shriek.... The robber approached me.... I cried out....

[There is a pause.]

The Melancholy Girl. Then, then—

The Vivacious Girl. Well, what then? What?

Grandmother. I cried out like an insane person.... Now the robber was near me.... He bent over me.... Suddenly a voice sounded,—"who is crying here?" the voice seemed to be near—the footsteps were audible—"who's crying here?" it asked the second time.... The branches parted and a man in a hunting habit with a gun in his hand appeared. The robber took to his heels and flew into the woods. The hunter now came near me and called to a second man who followed. They helped me to rise and they carried me over to a small clearing. There I saw a light buggy into which they lifted me. Soon they fetched the horses and in a half hour I was in the Schwanhausen castle sipping hot brandy which they had prepared for me. The man in the hunting habit was the Count of Schwanhausen, who had been hunting in the woods.

The Sentimental High School Girl. How interesting!

Grandmother. In the castle I quite recovered. Then the Count ordered another carriage to drive me home and at six in the morning I landed safely in our house. Your grandpa was sick with worry.... He and his people had searched for me in the woods for hours. And that's how I was almost lost. A few days later grandpa went to thank the Count for my rescue. The Count took a liking to him.

The Blond Young Lady. That was the old Count?

Grandmother. Yes, it was the old Count. The benefactor of all of us. Grandfather thanked him courteously for my rescue. The Count took a liking to him and soon after that grandfather got the management of the entire Schwanhausen estate, which proved the cornerstone of his good fortune. And that, my dears, is the story of my night wander in the forest of Friedrichsrode.

[Amid general approval, Grandma is surrounded. Everybody is indebted to her. They all speak at once, except the The Disagreeable Young Man.]

"We thank you cordially."

"It was wonderful, grandma, dear."

"Interesting."

"Beautiful."

The Vivacious Girl. Grandma is a story-telling genius!

The Polite Young Man. A most wonderful one!

Grandmother. Very well, my dears, but now run along to your tennis game. I'll come over later to watch on. [They all agree.]

The Polite Young Man. Three cheers for our very dear beloved charming grandma.

[They all cheer three times, then they surround her, kiss her cheeks and head and stroke her hair.]

The Blond Young Lady. Adieu—old sweetheart.

The Brunette Young Lady. Auf wiedersehen—precious grandma!

The Sentimental High School Girl [inspired]. Grandma...! [She rushes over to her and covers her with kisses.]

[Grandma bears all these amiabilities with pleasurable tolerance. She strokes and pats the grandchildren and as they retire, she fondly gazes after them, nodding to them with laughter.]

Grandmother. Curt—are not you going with the others?

The Disagreeable Young Man. No.

Grandmother. Why not, Curt? Why don't you follow the others?

The Disagreeable Young Man. They think that I am bad, and I know that they are stupid.

[Grandmother seats herself in silence. The Disagreeable Young Man continues to read. He lights a new cigarette. While lighting the cigarette—]

The Disagreeable Young Man. Grandma!

Grandmother. What is it, my child?

The Disagreeable Young Man. Whatever you say might, of course, never be questioned....

Grandmother. No, my child.

The Disagreeable Young Man. But do tell me, grandma, did that story really happen in that way?

Grandmother. What story?

The Disagreeable Young Man. The night wander through the Friedrichsrode forest.

Grandmother. Certainly it happened.

The Disagreeable Young Man. Exactly as you told it? Are you quite sure that you remember all those details.

Grandmother. Yes. Why?

The Disagreeable Young Man. Oh, just so. I merely wanted to inquire, grandma.

Grandmother. But why did you want to?

The Disagreeable Young Man. I was just interested. Thank you very much. Do not let me disturb you further, grandma.

[He takes up his book and continues to read. The Grandmother remains seated, but is greatly embarrassed. She would like to keep on gazing into the park and enjoying her quiet, but she is unable to concentrate her thoughts. She is getting more and more disturbed. There is a pause.]

Grandmother. Curt!

The Disagreeable Young Man. Yes—grandma, dear.

Grandmother. Curt, why have you asked me if the forest incident happened that way?

The Disagreeable Young Man. I merely wanted to find out, grandma.

Grandmother. You just wanted to find out. But one does not ask such things without some good reason.

The Disagreeable Young Man. I was interested.

Grandmother. Interested, but why are you interested?

The Disagreeable Young Man. Just in general. But do not get disturbed on account of that, grandma.

[The Grandmother is silent.]

[The Disagreeable Young Man picks up his book. The Grandmother wants to drop the subject at this point. She does not succeed, but continues to look over toward the young man. He reads on.]

Grandmother. Curt!

The Disagreeable Young Man. Yes, grandma, dear.

Grandmother. Curt, you shall tell me this instant the reason you asked if the incident really happened that way!

The Disagreeable Young Man. But, grandma ... I have already told you that....

Grandmother. Don't you tell me again that you asked because the matter interested you. You would have never asked such a question if you did not have some special reason for it.

The Disagreeable Young Man. But, grandma—

Grandmother. Curt, if you do not this moment tell me why you said that, then I will never—[her voice becomes unusually strong and shakes] I never in my life will speak to you again.

The Disagreeable Young Man. But, grandma, I do not want to insult you.

Grandmother. You will not insult me if you will be sincere and open. Be sincere always.... And you will not insult me. But when your trying to hide something from me, that's when you insult me. This cannot remain in this way. I must know what you are thinking of. I must know that.

The Disagreeable Young Man. Grandma, I was afraid you would be angry with me.

Grandmother. If you keep on concealing things I shall be angry. No matter what you have to say I will not hold it against you.

The Disagreeable Young Man. Are you not angry now?

Grandmother. No. I promise you I will not be angry. Say whatever you please.

[The Disagreeable Young Man hesitates.]

Grandmother. Well, then—out with it—speak up, my child—be it what it may as long as it is frank and sincere. Speak up, now. Come!

The Disagreeable Young Man. Very well then, grandma. It is impossible that the story could happen in that manner.

Grandmother [offended]. You mean that I told an untruth?

The Disagreeable Young Man. Oh, no. I did not say that the incident did not happen. I just maintain that it could not have happened in that fashion.

Grandmother. But why not?

The Disagreeable Young Man. On account of the details. Let us take it for granted, grandma, that as you state you commenced your exercise walk in the afternoon....

Grandmother. Yes.

The Disagreeable Young Man. Let's say that you had household duties and started out quite late—about four o'clock.

Grandmother [disturbed, but following the cross-examination intently]. Yes.

The Disagreeable Young Man. Very well, you started at four o'clock. The walk was a good one and consumed—let us say one hour and a half.

Grandmother. Yes.

The Disagreeable Young Man. Yes? This brings us to half-past five o'clock. In October and in a dense forest besides at half-past five it gets fairly dark at that hour. It was then that you lost your way?

The Grandmother [nods her head in assent].

The Disagreeable Young Man. Another hour and a half spent in wandering—that brings us to seven o'clock. You now reached the night lodging of the robber—here you were resting?

Grandmother. Exactly.

The Disagreeable Young Man. Quite right. Here you were waiting and resting—now we want to allow a long time for it—three—let us say—three and a half hours.

Grandmother [involuntarily]. Not that long....

The Disagreeable Young Man. Oh, yes ... let us ... we'll then have reached half-past ten o'clock. It could not have been later when this forest bandit came. These pirates never go to their bed earlier. They shun light and must get their sleep while the world is the darkest. He could not sleep during the day even in the darkest forests. In short, then, it was half-past ten?

Grandmother. Half-past ten.

The Disagreeable Young Man. Now began the flight and the pursuit. You ran—let us say—full twenty minutes. That is a great deal. I was a track runner in college and I know what a twenty-minute stretch means. Shall we say twenty minutes?

Grandmother. Twenty minutes....

The Disagreeable Young Man. In any circumstances it was not even eleven when you were safely out of danger?

Grandmother. Yes.

The Disagreeable Young Man. And—and a half hour later you were sipping hot brandy in the Schwanhausen castle?

Grandmother. Yes.

[The Disagreeable Young Man is silent.]

Grandmother [shaking with excitement]. And—what else?

[The Disagreeable Young Man is silent.]

Grandmother [she shakes with fear as to what will follow, but forces herself to face it]. Well, say on ... what else?...

The Disagreeable Young Man. At six on the following morning you reached your home and.... [He pauses.]

Grandmother [if her loud-speaking could be called an outcry, then she cries out]. Yes ... what else?... What happened then?... Go on ... say it ... what else?

The Disagreeable Young Man. [He makes a new attempt to tell everything bravely at once, but hesitates.] In the morning at six you arrived at home. The others had no idea as to the distance between Schwanhausen and Friederichsrode. But I wanted to see it myself, so last year with a friend I made a walking trip through that country. I tried this distance. In a half hour of slow walking I reached from one place to the other, and the horses in the Count's stables and the state roads were then in as good condition as to-day. Well, then you started from the castle at half-past five in the morning; but you reached there at half-past eleven the preceding night.... You spent six entire hours in the castle.... Then, another point—they all speak of the count, the "benefactor of us all," as the "old count."... When he died five years ago he was, of course, an old count—an old man of seventy.... But thirty-five years ago he was a young count of thirty years of age.

[The Grandmother stares blindly at The Disagreeable Young Man. Alarmed over Grandma's fright, he rises. He would very much like to make up to her, but he lacks words. The Grandmother rises. She is trembling. With a shaking hand she is nervously setting her dress to rights. Twice she turns to the young man to speak to him, but is unable to utter a word. Then she turns; she is about to return into the house, but remains near the doorstep. Again she turns; then she is about to go in, but turns again and remains standing.]

The Disagreeable Young Man [frightened]. Grandma, you gave me your word that you would not be angry.

Grandmother [she stumbles forward a few steps. She is disturbed, shivering, beside herself, complaining, almost sobbing]. You are an evil child! You are a bad, bad and evil child! For fifty years I have told the same story ... always the same, same way ... and that it happened differently never, never even came into my mind.

 

[Curtain.]


THE RIGHTS OF THE SOUL

A Play

By Giuseppe Giacosa
Translated by Theodora Marcone.


Copyright, 1920, by Stewart & Kidd Company.
All rights reserved.

 

CHARACTERS
Paolo.
Mario.
Anna.
Maddalena.

Place: A villa at Brianza.

Time: The Present.

 

Applications for the right of performing The Rights of the Soul must be made to
Frank Shay, who may be addressed in care of Stewart & Kidd Company.


THE RIGHTS OF THE SOUL

One Act

By Giuseppe Giacosa

 

[Scene: A living-room well furnished in an old fashioned style but not shabbily. An open fire-place which is practical. A sofa. A writing desk. A closet at the back. Door leading into Anna's room at the left. Window at the right.

Paolo discovered seated at the writing desk upon which there is a confusion of papers.]

 

[Servant—Maddalena enters.]

Paolo. Well, has he returned yet?

Maddalena. Not yet.

Paolo. He has taken a lot of time!

Maddalena. I have been to look for him at the post-office café.

Paolo. I told you to look in his room or in the garden. Was it necessary to run all over the country?

Maddalena. Well, he wasn't there. I thought—he wasn't at the café either, but they told me where he was. He'll be back shortly. He went to the station at Poggio to meet the engineer of the water-works. The tax collector saw him walking in that direction. He always walks. But he will return by the stage for the engineer's sake. The stage should be here at any moment. It is sure though—but are you listening?

Paolo. No, you may go.

Maddalena. Yes, sir. But it is sure that if the engineer of the water-works really has arrived, your brother will not go away to-morrow. You and the Madame intend leaving to-morrow, don't you?

Paolo. Yes, no. I don't know—yes, we will go to-morrow. Leave me alone.

Maddalena. All right, but see if I'm wrong; I say that your brother will not go to-morrow, nor the day after to-morrow. Here he is.

Mario. Were you looking for me?

Paolo. Yes, for the last hour.

Maddalena. Mr. Paolo—here asked me—

Paolo. I did not ask you anything. Go away. [He takes her by the arm and pushes her out.]

Mario. What has happened?

Paolo. She is insufferable. She isn't listening at the door, is she?

Mario. No, be calm. I hear her in the garden. What has happened. You look worried.

Paolo. [After a pause.] Do you know why Luciano killed himself?

Mario. No.

Paolo. He killed himself for love. For the love of Anna. I have the proofs—they are there. I just found it out to-day, a moment ago. He has killed himself for the love of my wife. You and I were his relatives; he was a companion of my youth, my dearest friend. He tried to force her to love him. Anna repulsed him. He insisted; Anna responded firmly. Highly strung as he was, he killed himself.

Mario. How did you find out?

Paolo. I have the proofs, I tell you. I have been reading them for an hour. I am still stunned! They have been there for a month. You know that as soon as I received the telegram in Milan which announced his suicide in London, I ran to Luciano's room and gathered all his papers, made a packet of them, sealed it and brought them here.

Mario. I told you to burn them.

Paolo. I wanted to in fact, but afterward I thought it better to await until the authorities of the hospital, to whom he left the estate, had verified the accounts. The Syndic came here an hour ago, at the order of the sub-Prefect, to give me the wallet which was found on the body and which our Consul at London had sent to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. I was just putting them away into the desk, when I felt the desire, I don't know why, to look for the reason of his suicide which no one seemed able to explain. [Mario starts.] You know? You suspect the reason?

Mario. I suspected—

Paolo. Suspected! You knew of this love?

Mario. There, there—I will tell you, don't excite yourself!

Paolo. No—answer me! You knew?

Mario. I felt it—yes, that Luciano had lost his head.

Paolo. And you never told me anything?

Mario. What had I to tell you? Seen by others these things appear greater and more offensive than they are. And then I might have been wrong; I only see you and Anna during your short visits to the country. If you, who are with her all the year, did not see anything—On the other hand, Anna was always on her guard, she knew perfectly how to defend herself.

Paolo. Oh, Anna! Anna is a saint! I have always thought of her as one. But now—

Mario. GO on—tell me.

Paolo. In the wallet I found a letter and noticed it was in Anna's handwriting.

Mario. It was perfectly natural that your wife should write to our cousin.

Paolo. Naturally. In fact I have read it. Here it is. [Mario starts to take the letter.] No, listen. [Paolo reads.] "You write me—" [Speaking.] There is no heading. [Reads.] "You write me that if I do not respond you will return immediately. I love my husband, that is my reply. This and only this forever. I beg you not to torment me. Anna."

Mario. Of course.

Paolo. The scoundrel.

Mario. What date is that letter?

Paolo. Luciano himself has noted the hour and date when he received it. He has written here in pencil: "Received to-day, June 26th, 11 A.M." He killed himself before noon.

Mario. Poor devil! One can see it was a stroke of insanity; the writing demonstrates that.

Paolo. You understand of course, that I did not stop there. I opened the wallet. I found four other letters from Anna all on the same subject and in the same tone. The first is of three years ago. There are few words; returning a letter Luciano had written. I looked for this letter of Luciano—it is not here. He must have destroyed it. He kept only hers. Then there is a little note from Rome; you know Anna visited her mother in Rome for a month last winter. It is evident that our friend followed her. Anna would not see him. Then there is a long one which must have been written when he was recovering from that fall he had from his horse. It is the only long one among the five—written in affectionate terms, reasoning and begging; a wonderful letter, good, noble; read—read.

Mario [turning away]. No, no, no.

Paolo. Listen, just a moment.

Mario. I don't like to.

Paolo. She does nothing but speak of me, of our brotherly youth. She also speaks of you. She says—

Mario. No, I beg of you. It is useless. I know what kind of a woman my sister-in-law is and I do not need proofs of her virtue. Why do you bother with those poor letters? Is it so painful that you have found them?

Paolo. Painful? It is painful that I am not able to weep for a false relative who wished to rob—

Mario. Let him alone. He is dead and he has not robbed you of anything. If he had lived he would not have robbed you of anything, the same. Anna knew how—

Paolo. And this? And this? You count as little? Is this painful? I never had the shadow of a doubt about Anna, but—nor has the thought even passed through my mind—but it is different not to have doubted and not to have thought, than to possess the palpable proof of her faith and love. "I love my husband." It is the refrain of all her letters.

Mario. Was it necessary that she tell you this?

Paolo. She did not tell it to me, she told it to him. She told it to him—do you understand? Luciano had all the qualities which attract a woman. He was younger, better looking than I, well spoken, full of fire and courage.

Mario. How it pleases you, eh? To praise him now!

Paolo. Painful? If I had burned, as you wished, those papers and then one day I should have discovered this love, who could then have lifted this suspicion from my mind?

Mario. The certainty makes you suspicious!

Paolo. What do you mean?

Mario. If you had feared this a year ago, that which has happened would not have occurred. I was wrong not to have opened your eyes. A long way off, perhaps Luciano would not have killed himself.

Paolo. But I would have lacked the proof.

Mario. Your tranquility costs much—to the others.

Paolo. You can't pretend that I should feel badly about the fate of Luciano?

Mario. I am not speaking of him.

Paolo. Of whom?

Mario. Of your wife. Think what she must be suffering!

Paolo. Do you think she blames herself?

Mario. Of course.

Paolo. I have noticed that she was distressed but not agitated.

Mario. You do not see the continuous things, you only see the unexpected. Besides, Anna is mistress of herself.

Paolo. And she has done her duty.

Mario. It is a long time that she has done her duty.

Paolo. I shall know how to comfort her, there, I shall know how to cheer her. You shall see, Mario. I feel that we have returned to the first days of our marriage, that I possess her only from to-day.

Mario. Leave it to time. You have read—you have known. It is enough. It is useless that Anna knows you know.

Paolo. She was here when the Syndic gave me the wallet. But she went out immediately.

Mario. She does not know, then, that you have read?

Paolo. She will have imagined it.

Mario. No. And in any case she would be grateful if you pretended to ignore....

Paolo. Let us be frank. Don't let's argue. Nothing is more dreadful than to plan out a line of conduct in these matters. What she has done, Anna has done for me. I must think how to repay her. She has done this for me, for me, do you understand?

Mario. And who says the contrary? See how you excite yourself.

Paolo. Excite myself! Certainly, I will not go and say: "I have read your letters and I thank you very much!" One understands that when I speak of comforting her and of cheering her I intend to do it with the utmost tenderness, with the utmost confidence. I have always been like that. That was why she loved me. There is no need to change even to please you.

Mario. How you take it!

Paolo. It is you who take it badly. You have not said a just word to me. I thought better of you. One would say, to hear you, that this discovery was a disgrace. What has happened new from this discovery? Luciano is dead a month ago, the first grief is passed. If I did continue to ignore everything he would not return to life! He did not arrive to do me the harm he wanted to; so peace be to his soul. There remains the certainty of my wife's love and for this, think as you wish, I rejoice for the best fortune which could befall me.

Mario. Come here. [He places an arm around Paolo's shoulders.] Are you persuaded that I love you?

Paolo. Yes.

Mario. Well then, if you are content, so am I. Is it all right?

Paolo. Yes. Now go and pack your bag.

Mario. Ah, that reminds me, I cannot go to-morrow.

Paolo. No!

Mario. The engineer Falchi has arrived. The day after to-morrow there is the meeting of the water-company.

Paolo. Send it to the devil.

Mario. I cannot, I am the president.

Paolo. It was arranged that we were to leave to-day. We put it off on your account.

Mario. How could it be helped? I had to sell the hay. It is now a question of three days, four at the most.

Paolo. Suppose Anna and I go meanwhile? The rent of the chalet started fifteen days ago. You can join us as soon as you are free.

Mario. If you think so—

Paolo. I'll tell you. The day after to-morrow is Anna's birthday. Until the business kept me in Milan all of July, we always passed that day together—just Anna and I. We did not do this on purpose, but things turned out so. Last year I was able to be free early in July and we came here to stay until September. Well, three days before her birthday, Anna begged me to take her for a trip to Switzerland. She did not tell me, you understand, the reason for her desire, but insisted upon leaving immediately. We went to Interlaken and from there we went up to Murren. The day of Saint Anna we were at Murren. The place was so lovely, Anna liked it so much, that then and there I arranged for a chalet for this year. Fifteen days ago you—who never go anywhere, proposed to accompany us—

Mario. Did you find it indiscreet of me?

Paolo. No. You saw that Anna was pleased. She is very fond of you.

Mario. I know.

Paolo. When you had to postpone your leaving it was the same as to propose that we wait for you. But the first delay would still have allowed us to arrive in time; this second one will not and I, for my part, now especially desire to be there at the date arranged. It is childish if you wish—

Mario. No. All right. I will join you there.

Paolo. We postponed leaving until to-morrow to await you; but now that you cannot come immediately we could leave this evening. [Jumping up.] I must go—to get out of here. Those letters—

Mario. Burn them. Give them to me.

Paolo. Ah, no. Not yet.

Mario. Go. Go to-night; it is better. But will Anna be ready?

Anna. [Who has entered.] To do what?

Mario. I was telling Paolo that I could not leave to-morrow; nor for three or four days. It is useless that you two remain here in the heat to wait for me. Paolo must be back in Milan at the beginning of September; every day shortens his vacation. I am old enough to travel alone; as soon as I am free I will join you. What do you say?

Anna. As you wish.

Mario. I also desire to thoroughly clean the house and garden. Your presence would disturb me, and mine is necessary.

Paolo. And as Mario cannot accompany us, we may as well leave this evening.

Anna. So soon?

Paolo. Your luggage is almost finished.

Mario. You will gain a day. At this season of the year it is better to travel by night than by day. It is full moon now and the Gottard road is charming.

Anna [distractedly]. Yes. Yes.

Mario [to Paolo]. Then you had better go immediately to the stable in the piazza and tell them to hold a carriage in readiness. At what time does the train leave from Poggio?

Paolo. At seven-thirty.

Mario. Tell him to be here at six. I would send Battista to order it, but the engineer has taken him with him. On the other hand, it is better that you see the carriage, they have some antediluvian arks!

Paolo. And why don't you go? He knows you and you know his arsenal—you could choose better.

Mario. You are right. Anna, I will send Maddalena to help you with your luggage?

Anna. Yes, thank you, Mario. Send Maddalena to help me.

Mario [going off]. And dinner is at five.

Paolo. Yes.

[Mario exits. Silence. Anna takes a few steps toward the desk. Paolo goes impetuously to Anna and takes her in his arms and kisses her. She breaks away violently.]

Anna. Oh—horrors! [The words escape from her lips involuntarily.]

Paolo [drawing back]. Anna!

Anna. There was one of my letters in that wallet, wasn't there?

Paolo. Yes, there was.

Anna. You have read it?

Paolo. Yes.

Anna. I have killed a man and you embrace me for that?

Paolo. I did not want to. I was tempted not to tell you. Mario advised me not to. Then when I saw you—you filled me with tenderness! But what did you say, Anna?

Anna. Pardon me. And promise me that you will never speak of all this again, either here or hereafter, directly or indirectly—never.

Paolo. I promise.

Anna. You will not keep your promise.

Paolo. Oh!

Anna. You will not keep it. I know you. What a misfortune that you should have known it! I saw it in your eyes when I came in, that you knew. I had hoped that you would always have ignored it. I prayed so. But as soon as I entered I saw immediately. [With imperceptible accent of mocking pity.] You had a modest and embarrassed air. I know you so well. Do you want to hear how well? When Mario proposed you go for the carriage, I thought—he will not go. When you sent him instead, I smiled.

Paolo. I noticed it, but I did not understand.

Paolo. That's nothing. That you should read me is natural.

Anna. In exchange, eh? And listen—when Mario was leaving, I also thought—now the minute we are alone—he will come to me and embrace me.

Paolo. You imagine very well....

Anna. This was also natural, wasn't it?

Paolo. I love you so much, Anna. [A long pause.] It is strange that in your presence I have a sense of restraint. I tell you something and immediately I think should I tell her? Was it better I kept silent? It is the first time I have had this feeling toward you. We both need distraction.

Anna. Yes, but to-day I do not leave.

Paolo. No? But you said—

Anna. I have thought better. There is not the time to get ready.

Paolo. Your luggage is ready.

Anna. Oh, there is a lot to do.

Paolo. We have eight hours yet.

Anna. I am tired.

Paolo. Mario has just gone to order the carriage.

Anna. It can be for another day.

Paolo. Perhaps to-morrow—

Anna. Not to-day, certainly.

Paolo. I do not know how to tell Mario. It looks like a whim.

Anna. Oh, Mario will understand.

Paolo. More than I do.

Anna. I did not wish to say—

Paolo. Anna, you do not pardon me for having read those letters.

Anna. You see, you have already begun to speak of them again! Well, no, no, no, poor Paolo, it is not that. I have nothing to pardon. Believe me. I feel no wrath or bitterness. I would have given, I don't know what, if you had ignored them; for you, for your own good, for your peace, not for me. But I felt that some time or other—[Pause.] It has been a useless tragedy—you will see.

Paolo. What do you mean?

Anna. I don't know, don't mind me—excuse me—[Moves up.]

Paolo. Are you going?

Anna. Yes.

Paolo. So you won't tell me if we go to-morrow?

Anna. We have time to decide.

Paolo. Oh, rather. [Anna exits. Silence.] A useless tragedy! [Sits with his elbows upon his knees and his head in his hands.]

Mario [coming in]. There, that is done. And Anna?

Paolo. She's there. [Points off.]

Mario. Maddalena will be here immediately, she was still at the wash-house. Well? Come, come, shake yourself, throw off that fixed idea. One knows that at the first opportunity—You do well to leave immediately, the trip will distract you.

Paolo. We do not go.

Mario. What?

Paolo. Anna does not want to.

Mario. Why?

Paolo [shrugs his shoulders].

Mario. She said so?

Paolo. She understood, she asked me.... I could not deny it.

Mario. She asked of her own accord, without you saying anything?

Paolo. Do me the favor of not judging me now. If you knew what I am thinking!

Mario. Do you wish that I speak to her? I am convinced that to remain here is the worse thing to do.

Paolo. Try it. Who knows? You understand her so well! She said so herself.

Mario. And you promise me not to worry meanwhile?

Paolo. What is the use of promising? I wouldn't keep it. She said that also. She knows me. Don't you know me?

Mario. Is she in her room?

Paolo. I think so.

Mario. Leave it to me.

Paolo. Look out. If—no, no, go—go—we shall see afterwards. [Mario exits. Paolo takes a letter from the wallet, reads it attentively, accentuating the words.] "You write me that if I do not respond you will return immediately." [Speaks.] You write me! Where is that letter? [Reads.] "I love my husband, that is my response. This and only this forever. I beg you not to torment me." [Speaks.] I beg you not to torment me. Ummm!

Maddalena. Here I am.

Paolo. I do not want you. It is not necessary now. If I need you I will call you.

Maddalena. Excuse me, Mr. Paolo, is it true what they say in the village?

Paolo. What?

Maddalena. That the Syndic brought the wallet of Mr. Luciano this morning with a lot of money in it for the poor!

Paolo. Why—no.

Maddalena. The servant of the Syndic said so just now at the wash-house.

Paolo. There was nothing in it, the Syndic also knows that.

Maddalena. Oh, it would not have been a surprise. Mr. Luciano came here rarely, but when he did he spent.

Paolo. I am glad to hear it.

Maddalena. Last year, to Liberata, the widow of the miner who went to America to join his son and to whom you gave fifty lire, well, Mr. Luciano gave her a hundred.

Paolo. What a story! He wasn't even here at that time.

Maddalena. Wasn't even here? I saw him—

Paolo. Nonsense. That woman received word that her husband was killed in the mine and that the son wanted her to come to America, the day I left for Switzerland, a year ago yesterday or to-day; I remember it because I gave her a little money in gold which I had been able to procure. She was to leave two days later....

Maddalena. There you are.

Paolo. There you are nothing. Luciano was not there. I know.

Maddalena. He arrived the day Liberata started on the trip.

Paolo. Oh, two days after we left.

Maddalena. Yes it was. He arrived in the morning.

Paolo. At his villa.

Maddalena. No, no, here; but he found only Mr. Mario; he was annoyed, poor man, and left immediately.

Paolo. Ah, I did not know that.... Then you are right. Ah, so he came? You are right. Oh, he was generous! He left all to the hospital.

Maddalena. Yes, yes. But what hospital?

Mario [off stage calls]. Maddalena!

Maddalena. Here I am.

Mario [entering]. Go to Madame, she needs you. [Maddalena exits.] [To Paolo.] I have persuaded her.

Paolo. How fortunate to have a good lawyer.

Mario. And as you see, it did not take long.

Paolo. Want to bet I know how you convinced her?

Mario. Oh, it was very easy—I said....

Paolo. No, let me tell you. I want my little triumph. You gave up the business which held you here and decided to leave with us.

Mario. Even that.

Paolo. Eh? Didn't I know it? When you went away I was just about to tell you and then I wanted to wait and see. So now Anna is disposed to go?

Mario. Are you sorry?

Paolo. I should say not! All the more as we are—are we not going to amuse ourselves? The place, the trip, the hotels,—yes, it is better. But the company! To run away there should be few of us.

Mario. What are you saying?

Paolo [putting his two hands on Mario's shoulders and facing him.] To run away—do you understand? We must be a few. To run away as Anna and I did last year.

Mario. I do not understand.

Paolo. You did not tell me that Luciano had been here last year, nor the day that he was here.

Mario. I don't know. I do not remember....

Paolo. There you are—there—there—I knew it! And you knew that Anna went away from here to avoid him. And I went with her all unconscious. You saw the husband take a train and run away before the other could arrive!

Mario. And if it is true. It does not tell you more or less than the letters did.

Paolo. No, a little more. Everything tells a little more. One grain of sand piles up upon another, then another until it makes the mill-stone which crushes you. It tells a little more. It is one thing to keep away and another to run away. One can keep away a trouble without begging it to keep its distance. But one runs away for fear.

Mario. Uh-h!

Paolo. And look here—look—look, let us examine the case. Let us see. It is improbable that he wrote her he was coming. It is sure he did not or she would have responded: "You write me that you are coming.... I love my husband—I beg you to remain away."

Mario. Oh!

Paolo. So she, foreseeing his intentions, felt that he would come ... by that divination....

Mario. You are the first husband to get angry because a wife did her duty.

Paolo. Uhm! Duty—the ugly word!

Mario. If there ever was a virtuous woman!

Paolo. Woman or wife?

Mario. It is the same.

Paolo. No, no. A woman is for all; a wife for myself alone. Do you believe one marries a woman because she is virtuous? Never! I marry her because I love her and because I believe she loves me. There are a thousand virtuous women, there is one that I love, one alone who loves me ... if there is one....

Mario. Paolo!

Paolo. And if she loved him? Tell me—and if she loved him? And if she repulsed him for virtue's sake, for duty's sake? Tell me. What remains for me? If he was alive I could fight, I might win out. But he is dead—and has killed himself for love of her. If she loved him no force can tear him from her heart.

Mario. You think—?

Paolo. I do not know. It is that—I do not know. And I want to—I want to hear her shout it to my face. And she shall tell me.... Oh, I had the feeling the minute I had read the first letter. I did not then understand anything, indeed, I believed; "I love my husband." But I immediately felt a blow here—and it hurt me so! And I did not know what it was. Oh, before some fears assume shape, it takes time. First they gnaw, they gnaw and one does not know what they are. I was content.... I told you I was content, I wanted to persuade myself, but you have seen that fear gnaws at my heart. And if she loved him? Oh, surely! The more admirable eh? All the world would admire her. I, myself, would admire her upon my knees if she were the wife of another. But she is mine. I am not the judge of my wife. I am too intimately concerned, I cannot judge, I am the owner—she is mine—a thing of mine own. I must admire her because, while she could have cheated me altogether, she has only cheated me a little. I see that which she has robbed me of, not that which remains.

Mario. You are crazy!

Paolo. Do you not see that I am odious to her?

Mario. Oh, God!

Paolo. Odious! You were not here a moment ago. Don't you see that it is necessary that she have your help in order to support my presence?

Mario. To-day. Because she knows that you have read—did I not tell you? Because it is embarrassing.

Paolo. Not only to-day. You never move from this place. For fifteen years that you have played at being a farmer, you have not been away for a week. And fifteen days ago you suddenly decided to make a tour of the world. She begged you to.

Mario. I swear—

Paolo. I do not believe you. Anna shall have to tell me. [Paolo starts to exit.]

Mario. What are you doing?

Paolo. I am going to ask her.

Mario. No, Paolo.

Paolo. Let me go.

Mario. No. Maddalena is also there.

Paolo. Oh, as far as that's concerned—[Calls.] Anna—Anna!

Mario. You are very ungrateful.

Paolo. If she loved me it did not come hard for her to repulse him. If she loved him, I owe her no gratitude.

Anna [entering]. Did you call me?

[Mario starts to exit.]

Paolo. No, no. Remain. Yes, Anna. I wanted to ask you something. Whatever you say, I shall believe you.

Anna. Of that I am certain.

Paolo. Was it you who begged Mario to come with us? Not to-day I don't mean.

Anna. Neither to-day nor before.

Mario. You see!

Anna. I did not beg him nor did I propose it to him. But I must say that if Mario had not come I would not have gone either.

Paolo. To-day. But fifteen days ago?

Mario. Listen, this is ridiculous.

Anna. It is natural that Paolo desires to know and he has the right to question me.

Paolo. I do not wish to impose my rights.

Anna. There you are wrong. We must value our own and respect those of the others. Fifteen days ago I would have gone with you alone.

Mario. Oh, blessed God!

Paolo. You were afraid that she would say no?

Anna. But his consent to accompany us greatly relieved me.

Paolo. Which is to say that my company would have weighed upon you.

Anna. Not weighed. It would have annoyed me.

Paolo. May one ask why?

Anna. You may as well. Because I was shadowed by an unhappiness which you ignored at the time, whereas now you know the reasons. Knowing them, you will understand that I must be very worried, but for the sake of your peace I must hide my unhappiness, seeing that I had nothing to reproach myself with in relation to you. You understand that for two to be together, always together, it would be more difficult to pretend all the time—all the time! While the presence of a third person—

Mario. But listen—listen—

Anna. Mario had the good idea to accompany us.

Paolo. Mario, who knew him!

Anna. I ignore that.

Paolo. Did he ever speak of it?

Mario. Do not reply, Anna, do not answer, come away—he is ill, he does not reason—poor devil—it will pass and he will understand then—

Anna. No, it is useless.

Paolo. A useless tragedy, isn't it, Anna?

Anna. Do you require anything more of me?

Paolo [imperiously]. Yes. I want the letters which you wrote to Luciano.

Anna. That is just. I will go and get them. [Exits.]

Paolo. All!

[Anna returns and hands Paolo a key.]

Anna. They're in my desk, in the first drawer at the right. They are tied with a black ribbon.

Paolo. Very well. [Exits.]

Mario. Pardon him, Anna, he does not know what he is doing. He loves you so much? He is rather weak.

Anna. Oh, without pity!

Mario. As are the weak. He loves you—he loves you.

Anna. Worse for him that he loves me. He will lose.

Mario. No, it is for you to help him.

Anna. As long as I can.

[Paolo returns with the letters in his hand, goes to the desk and takes out the others, throws them all into the fire-place and lights them.]

Mario. What are you doing? Look, Anna!

[Anna stands rigid, erect and watches the letters burn, and murmurs as though to herself.]

Anna. Gone! Gone! Gone!

[Paolo comes to Anna with hands clinched as though in prayer, bursts into tears and kneels before her. Mario goes off half in contempt and half in despair.]

Paolo [on his knees]. And now—can you pardon me?

[Anna reluctantly rests a hand upon his head, then indulgently and discouragingly.]

Anna. Rise—rise.

Paolo. Tell me that you pardon me. I swear that I want to die here and now.

Anna. Yes, yes. Arise; do not remain so. It hurts me.

Paolo [getting up]. I do not know what got into my head—but I have suffered a great deal.

Anna. Yes, I see. Yes ... calm yourself.

Paolo. Mario has no tact ... it was he who irritated me from the first. [Anna starts to go.] Do not go. Stay here a moment. [Anna sits upon the sofa.] You see the stroke of madness has passed. It was only because Mario was here. Mario is good, judicious, but his presence irritated me. Yes, yes, you were right. But you should also understand the state of my mind. [He walks up and down.] After all, what does all this disturbance mean? It means that I love you—and it seems to me that is the essential thing! One must consider the source of things. It is five years that we are husband and wife and you cannot say I have ever given you the slightest reason for regret. I do not believe so. Five years are five years. I have worked up to a good position, you have always figured in society; a pastime which I would never have enjoyed alone. I had friends, the club, the other husbands after the first year of marriage, in the evenings, I renounced everything. I do not wish to praise myself, but—

Anna. Please don't walk up and down so much!

Paolo. Excuse me. Will you allow me to sit here next to you? [Long silence.] When shall I see you smile, Anna? No, do not get up. Then it is not true that you have pardoned me!

Anna. What do you wish, Paolo? What do you wish of me? Say it quickly!

Paolo. You made me promise never to speak of it.

Anna. Oh, but I said that you would break your promise immediately. You are wrong though, believe me. Do not ask me anything. When there is no more danger I promise you, and I will keep my promise. I promise that I will tell you everything without your asking me. And it will be good for both of us. But I wish to choose the moment.

Paolo. All right then. Do not tell me anything, but come away with me, with me alone. I will attend to Mario. He was coming to please you and he will be much happier to see us leave together, as a sign of peace. I understand that it is repulsive to you to re-awaken those memories; all right, instead of awakening them I will make you forget them—I swear it—I swear that I will never speak of them again, but come away with me and you shall see how much love....

Anna. Do not insist, Paolo. If you insist I shall come—but—

Paolo. No, no, I do not insist. You see me here begging. I do not want you by force. But listen once more, listen. I am grateful, you must understand, for that which you have done. Oh, I shall recompense you for it all my life. I realize there is not a more saintly woman in all the world, but you must enter into my soul and feel a little pity also for me.

Anna. Ah, ah! [Laughs bitterly.]

Paolo. Why do you prolong this torment? You said when there is no more danger! What danger is there? Upon whom depends this danger—from you or from me? What can time change for us? I have always loved you, I love you now, and in this moment I love you as I have never loved you! Give me your hand—only your hand. God, Anna! You are beautiful! And you are my wife—you are my wife and the oath which you took when we were married, is not only one of faithfulness, but of love. Come away—come away.

Anna. No, no, no.

Paolo. No? Are you afraid? Afraid of being unfaithful to him?

Anna. Paolo—Paolo!

Paolo. And if I wish it?

Anna. You cannot wish it.

Paolo. And if I want?

Anna. Paolo!—

Paolo. And if I command?

Anna. You will, in one moment, destroy all my plan. Think—your violence is a liberation for me.

Paolo. Oh, come—or speak!

Anna. Do you wish it so? We have come to that? I have done all that I could.

Paolo. Yes, go on. Speak!

Anna. I loved Luciano and I love him still.

Paolo. Oh!

Anna. I loved him. I loved him—do you hear? I loved him and I feel an immense joy to say it here and you did not see that I was dying to say it—and when I saw you nearly stifling me with your ferocious curiosity, I said to myself: "It will out—it will out"... And it has come. I loved him, I love him and I have never loved any one in the world but him and I feel only remorse for my virtue. Now do you know?

Paolo. Very well! [Starts to go.]

Anna. Ah, no. Remain here—now you hear me. You wished that I speak, now I do.... It is I now who command you to stay. You must understand very well that after a scene such as this, everything is finished between us, so I must tell you everything. I listened to you and will listen to you again if you wish, but you also must listen to me. What have you ever done for me? What help have you given me? Have you known how to see when it was right that you should see? Have you known even how to suspect? Was it necessary that a man die.... Not even that! When you were not suffering, as you are suffering now, did you know how to see the way I suffered? You thought that my sorrow was for a dead relative! You did not understand that I was crazed; you slept next to me and yet you did not realize that the first few nights I bit the covers so as not to cry out. In a moment you realize all the facts. And what are these facts? That I, your wife for many years, have defended your peace in silence. I have fulfilled that which people call my duty. Then your curiosity is awakened and to make up for lost time you wish to violate my soul and penetrate down to its very depths. Ah—Paolo, no, no; one cannot do this. No, it will not help to know everything. One does not enter into the soul by the front door; one enters by stealth. You have tried to force an entrance; now you see there is nothing more inside for you.

Paolo. No? You think you are right, eh? You are right—it is true—I admit that you are right. So I have never had your love, eh? You have said so; that I never had your love! Then what? You are right. Still—do you know what I shall do? I throw you out of my house!

Anna [happily]. I go, I go, I go and I shall never come back! And do not beg me and do not come after me. I have no more strength to have pity, when I say good-by, I shall be as dead to you! [Runs off into her room. Paolo stunned, stares after her awaiting for her return. Anna returns with her hat and cloak, crosses to exit.]

Paolo. No, Anna, no, no, no. Anna, no. For pity's sake wait! We are both mad. What will become of us? I need you. [Paolo tries to get in her way to stop her.] Do not go. I do not want you to—remain here. I was crazy—do not go, you will see that—for all my life—[Anna tries to break away.] No, for pity's sake—if you go—if you break from me—if you speak—I feel that this will be the end of everything! Remain! Remain, Anna! [She breaks away.]

Anna. Good-by! [Exits.]

 

[Curtain.]


LOVE OF ONE'S NEIGHBOR

A Comedy

By Leonid Andreyev
Translated by Thomas Seltzer.


Copyright, 1914, by Albert and Charles Boni.

 

Reprinted from "The Plays of the Washington Square Players," published by Frank Shay.

The professional and amateur stage rights on this play are strictly reserved by Mr. Thomas Seltzer. Applications for permission to produce the play should be made to Mr. Seltzer, 5 West 50th St., New York City.


LOVE OF ONE'S NEIGHBOR

A Comedy

By Leonid Andreyev

 

[Scene: A wild place in the mountains.

A man in an attitude of despair is standing on a tiny projection of a rock that rises almost sheer from the ground. How he got there it is not easy to say, but he cannot be reached either from above or below. Short ladders, ropes and sticks show that attempts have been made to save the unknown person, but without success.

It seems that the unhappy man has been in that desperate position a long time. A considerable crowd has already collected, extremely varied in composition. There are venders of cold drinks; there is a whole little bar behind which the bartender skips about out of breath and perspiring—he has more on his hands than he can attend to; there are peddlers selling picture postal cards, coral beads, souvenirs, and all sorts of trash. One fellow is stubbornly trying to dispose of a tortoise-shell comb, which is really not tortoise-shell. Tourists keep pouring in from all sides, attracted by the report that a catastrophe is impending—Englishmen, Americans, Germans, Russians, Frenchmen, Italians, etc., with all their peculiar national traits of character, manner and dress. Nearly all carry alpenstocks, field-glasses and cameras. The conversation is in different languages, all of which, for the convenience of the reader, we shall translate into English.

At the foot of the rock where the unknown man is to fall, two policemen are chasing the children away and partitioning off a space, drawing a rope around short stakes stuck in the ground. It is noisy and jolly.]

 

Policeman. Get away, you loafer! The man'll fall on your head and then your mother and father will be making a hullabaloo about it.

Boy. Will he fall here?

Policeman. Yes, here.

Boy. Suppose he drops farther?

Second Policeman. The boy is right. He may get desperate and jump, land beyond the rope and hit some people in the crowd. I guess he weighs at least about two hundred pounds.

First Policeman. Move on, move on, you! Where are you going? Is that your daughter, lady? Please take her away! The young man will soon fall.

Lady. Soon? Did you say he is going to fall soon? Oh, heavens, and my husband's not here!

Little Girl. He's in the café, mamma.

Lady [desperately]. Yes, of course. He's always in the café. Go call him, Nellie. Tell him the man will soon drop. Hurry! Hurry!

Voices. Waiter!—Garçon—Kellner—Three beers out here!—No beer?—What?—Say, that's a fine bar—We'll have some in a moment—Hurry up—Waiter!—Waiter!—Garçon!

First Policeman. Say, boy, you're here again?

Boy. I wanted to take the stone away.

Policeman. What for?

Boy. So he shouldn't get hurt so badly when he falls.

Second Policeman. The boy is right. We ought to remove the stone. We ought to clear the place altogether. Isn't there any sawdust or sand about?

[Two English tourists enter. They look at the unknown man through field-glasses and exchange remarks.]

First Tourist. He's young.

Second Tourist. How old?

First Tourist. Twenty-eight.

Second Tourist. Twenty-six. Fright has made him look older.

First Tourist. How much will you bet?

Second Tourist. Ten to a hundred. Put it down.

First Tourist [writing in his notebook. To the policeman]. How did he get up there? Why don't they take him off?

Policeman. They tried, but they couldn't. Our ladders are too short.

Second Tourist. Has he been here long?

Policeman. Two days.

First Tourist. Aha! He'll drop at night.

Second Tourist. In two hours. A hundred to a hundred.

First Tourist. Put it down. [He shouts to the man on the rock.] How are you feeling? What? I can't hear you.

Unknown Man [in a scarcely audible voice]. Bad, very bad.

Lady. Oh, heavens, and my husband is not here!

Little Girl [running in]. Papa said he'll get here in plenty of time. He's playing chess.

Lady. Oh, heavens! Nellie, tell him he must come. I insist. But perhaps I had rather—Will he fall soon, Mr. Policeman? No? Nellie, you go. I'll stay here and keep the place for papa.

[A tall, lanky woman of unusually independent and military appearance and a tourist dispute for the same place. The tourist, a short, quiet, rather weak man, feebly defends his rights; the woman is resolute and aggressive.]

Tourist. But, lady, it is my place. I have been standing here for two hours.

Military Woman. What do I care how long you have been standing here. I want this place. Do you understand? It offers a good view, and that's just what I want. Do you understand?

Tourist [weakly]. It's what I want, too.

Military Woman. I beg your pardon, what do you know about these things anyway?

Tourist. What knowledge is required? A man will fall. That's all.

Military Woman [mimicking]. "A man will fall. That's all." Won't you have the goodness to tell me whether you have ever seen a man fall? No? Well, I did. Not one, but three. Two acrobats, one rope-walker and three aëronauts.

Tourist. That makes six.

Military Woman [mimicking]. "That makes six." Say, you are a mathematical prodigy. And did you ever see a tiger tear a woman to pieces in a zoo, right before your eyes? Eh? What? Yes, exactly. Now, I did—Please! Please!

[The tourist steps aside, shrugging his shoulders with an air of injury, and the tall woman triumphantly takes possession of the stone she has won by her prowess. She sits down, spreading out around her her bag, handkerchief, peppermints, and medicine bottle, takes off her gloves and wipes her field-glass, glancing pleasantly on all around. Finally she turns to the lady who is waiting for her husband in the café].

Military Woman [amiably]. You will tire yourself out, dear. Why don't you sit down?

Lady. Oh, my, don't talk about it. My legs are as stiff as that rock there.

Military Woman. Men are so rude nowadays. They will never give their place to a woman. Have you brought peppermints with you?

Lady [frightened]. No. Why? Is it necessary?

Military Woman. When you keep looking up a long time you are bound to get sick. Sure thing. Have you spirits of ammonia? No? Good gracious, how thoughtless! How will they bring you back to consciousness when he falls? You haven't any smelling salts either, I dare say. Of course not. Have you anybody to take care of you, seeing that you are so helpless yourself?

Lady [frightened]. I will tell my husband. He is in the café.

Military Woman. Your husband is a brute.

Policeman. Whose coat is this? Who threw this rag here?

Boy. It's mine. I spread my coat there so that he doesn't hurt himself so badly when he falls.

Policeman. Take it away.

[Two tourists armed with cameras contending for the same position.]

First Tourist. I wanted this place.

Second Tourist. You wanted it, but I got it.

First Tourist. You just came here. I have had this place for two days.

Second Tourist. Then why did you go without even leaving your shadow?

First Tourist. I wasn't going to starve myself to death.

Comb-Vender [mysteriously]. Tortoise-shell.

Tourist [savagely]. Well?

Vendor. Genuine tortoise-shell.

Tourist. Go to the devil.

Third Tourist, Photographer. For heaven's sake, lady, you're sitting on my camera!

Little Lady. Oh! Where is it?

Tourist. Under you, under you, lady.

Little Lady. I am so tired. What a wretched camera you have. I thought it felt uncomfortable and I was wondering why. Now I know; I am sitting on your camera.

Tourist [agonized]. Lady!

Little Lady. I thought it was a stone. I saw something lying there and I thought: A queer-looking stone; I wonder why it's so black. So that's what it was; it was your camera. I see.

Tourist [agonized]. Lady, for heaven's sake!

Little Lady. Why is it so large, tell me. Cameras are small, but this one is so large. I swear I never had the faintest suspicion it was a camera. Can you take my picture? I would so much like to have my picture taken with the mountains here for a background, in this wonderful setting.

Tourist. How can I take your picture if you are sitting on my camera?

Little Lady [jumping up, frightened]. Is it possible? You don't say so. Why didn't you tell me so? Does it take pictures?

Voices. Waiter, one beer!—What did you bring wine for?—I gave you my order long ago.—What will you have, sir?—One minute.—In a second. Waiter!—Waiter—Toothpicks!—

[A fat tourist enters in haste, panting, surrounded by a numerous family.]

Tourist [crying]. Mary! Aleck! Jimmie!—Where is Mary? For God's sake! Where is Mary?

Student [dismally]. Here she is, papa.

Tourist. Where is she? Mary!

Girl. Here I am, papa.

Tourist. Where in the world are you? [He turns around.] Ah, there! What are you standing back of me for? Look, look! For goodness' sake, where are you looking?

Girl [dismally]. I don't know, papa.

Tourist. No, that's impossible. Imagine! She never once saw a lightning flash. She always keeps her eyes open as wide as onions, but the instant it flashes she closes them. So she never saw lightning, not once. Mary, you are missing it again. There it is! You see!

Student. She sees, papa.

Tourist. Keep an eye on her. [Suddenly dropping into tone of profound pity.] Ah, poor young man. Imagine! He'll fall from that high rock. Look, children, see how pale he is! That should be a lesson to you how dangerous climbing is.

Student [dismally]. He won't fall to-day, papa!

Second Girl. Papa, Mary has closed her eyes again.

First Student. Let us sit down, papa! Upon my word, he won't fall to-day. The porter told me so. I can't stand it any more. You've been dragging us about every day from morning till night visiting art galleries.

Tourist. What's that? For whose benefit am I doing this? Do you think I enjoy spending my time with a dunce?

Second Girl. Papa, Mary is blinking her eyes.

Second Student. I can't stand it, either. I have terrible dreams. Yesterday I dreamed of garçons the whole night long.

Tourist. Jimmie.

First Student. I have gotten so thin I am nothing but skin and bones. I can't stand it any more, father. I'd rather be a farmer, or tend pigs.

Tourist. Aleck.

First Student. If he were really to fall—but it's a fake. You believe every lie told you! They all lie. Baedeker lies, too. Yes, your Baedeker lies!

Mary [dismally]. Papa, children, he's beginning to fall.

[The man on the rock shouts something down into the crowd. There is general commotion. (Voices.) "Look, he's falling." Field-glasses are raised; the photographers, violently agitated, click their cameras; the policemen diligently clean the place where he is to fall.]

Photographer. Oh, hang it! What is the matter with me? The devil! When a man's in a hurry—

Second Photographer. Brother, your camera is closed.

Photographer. The devil take it.

Voices. Hush! He's getting ready to fall.—No, he's saying something.—No, he's falling.—Hush!

Unknown Man on the Rock [faintly]. Save me! Save me!

Tourist. Ah, poor young man. Mary, Jimmie, there's a tragedy for you. The sky is clear, the weather is beautiful, and has he to fall and be shattered to death? Can you realize how dreadful that is, Aleck?

Student [wearily]. Yes, I can realize it.

Tourist. Mary, can you realize it? Imagine. There is the sky. There are people enjoying themselves and partaking of refreshments. Everything is so nice and pleasant, and he has to fall. What a tragedy! Do you remember Hamlet?

Second Girl [prompting]. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, of Elsinore.

James. Of Helsingfors, I know. Don't bother me, father!

Mary [dismally]. He dreamed about garçons all night long.

Aleck. Why don't you order sandwiches, father.

Comb-Vender [mysteriously]. Tortoise-shell. Genuine tortoise-shell.

Tourist [credulously]. Stolen?

Vendor. Why, sir, the idea!

Tourist [angrily]. Do you mean to tell me it's genuine if it isn't stolen? Go on. Not much.

Military Woman [amiably]. Are all these your children?

Tourist. Yes, madam. A father's duty. You see, they are protesting. It is the eternal conflict between fathers and children. Here is such a tragedy going on, such a heart-rending tragedy—Mary, you are blinking your eyes again.

Military Woman. You are quite right. Children must be hardened to things. But why do you call this a terrible tragedy? Every roofer, when he falls, falls from a great height. But this here—what is it? A hundred, two hundred feet. I saw a man fall plumb from the sky.

Tourist [overwhelmed]. You don't say?

Aleck. Children, listen. Plumb from the sky.

Military Woman. Yes, yes. I saw an aëronaut drop from the clouds and go crash upon an iron roof.

Tourist. How terrible!

Military Woman. That's what I call a tragedy. It took two hours to bring me back to consciousness, and all that time they pumped water on me, the scoundrels. I was nearly drowned. From that day on I never step out of the door without taking spirits of ammonia with me.

[Enter a strolling troop of Italian singers and musicians: a short, fat tenor, with a reddish beard and large, watery, stupidly dreamy eyes, singing with extraordinary sweetness; a skinny humpback with a jockey cap, and a screeching baritone; a bass who is also a mandolinist, looking like a bandit; a girl with a violin, closing her eyes when she plays, so that only the whites are seen. They take their stand and begin to sing: "Sul mare lucica—Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia—"]

Mary [dismally]. Papa, children, look. He is beginning to wave his hands.

Tourist. Is that the effect the music has upon him?

Military Woman. Quite possible. Music usually goes with such things. But that'll make him fall sooner than he should. Musicians, go away from here! Go!

[A tall tourist, with up-curled mustache, violently gesticulating, enters, followed by a small group attracted by curiosity.]

Tall Tourist. It's scandalous. Why don't they save him? Ladies and gentlemen, you all heard him shout: "Save me." Didn't you?

The Curious [in chorus]. Yes, yes, we heard him.

Tall Tourist. There you are. I distinctly heard these words: "Save me! Why don't they save me?" It's scandalous. Policemen, policemen! Why don't you save him? What are you doing there?

Policemen. We are cleaning up the place for him to fall.

Tall Tourist. That's a sensible thing to do, too. But why don't you save him? You ought to save him. If a man asks you to save him, it is absolutely essential to save him. Isn't it so, ladies and gentlemen?

The Curious [in chorus]. True, absolutely true. It is essential to save him.

Tall Tourist [with heat]. We are not heathens, we are Christians. We should love our neighbors. When a man asks to be saved every measure which the government has at its command should be taken to save him. Policemen, have you taken every measure?

Policeman. Every one!

Tall Tourist. Every one without exception? Gentleman, every measure has been taken. Listen, young man, every measure has been taken to save you. Did you hear?

Unknown Man [in a scarcely audible voice]. Save me!

Tall Tourist [excitedly]. Gentlemen, did you hear? He again asked to be saved. Policemen, did you hear?

One of the Curious [timidly]. It is my opinion that it is absolutely necessary to save him.

Tall Tourist. That's right. Exactly. Why, that's what I have been saying for the last two hours. Policemen, do you hear? It is scandalous.

One of the Curious [a little bolder]. It is my opinion that an appeal should be made to the highest authority.

The Rest [in chorus]. Yes, yes, a complaint should be made. It is scandalous. The government ought not to leave any of its citizens in danger. We all pay taxes. He must be saved.

Tall Tourist. Didn't I say so? Of course we must put up a complaint. Young man! Listen, young man. Do you pay taxes? What? I can't hear.

Tourist. Jimmie, Katie, listen! What a tragedy! Ah, the poor young man! He is soon to fall and they ask him to pay a domiciliary tax.

Kate [the girl with glasses, pedantically]. That can hardly be called a domicile, father. The meaning of domicile is—

James [pinching her]. Lickspittle.

Mary [wearily]. Papa, children, look! He's again beginning to fall.

[There is excitement in the crowd, and again a bustling and shouting among the photographers.]

Tall Tourist. We must hurry, ladies and gentlemen. He must be saved at any cost. Who's going with me?

The Curious [in chorus]. We are all going! We are all going?

Tall Tourist. Policemen, did you hear? Come, ladies and gentlemen!

[They depart, fiercely gesticulating. The café grows more lively. The sound of clinking beer glasses and the clatter of steins is heard, and the beginning of a loud German song. The bartender, who has forgotten himself while talking to somebody, starts suddenly and runs off, looks up to the sky with a hopeless air and wipes the perspiration from his face with his napkin. Angry calls of Waiter! Waiter!]

Unknown Man [rather loudly]. Can you let me have some soda water?

[The waiter is startled, looks at the sky, glances at the man on the rock, and pretending not to have heard him, walks away.]

Many Voices. Waiter! Beer!

Waiter. One moment, one moment!

[Two drunken men come out from the café.]

Lady. Ah, there is my husband. Come here quick.

Military Woman. A downright brute.

Drunken Man [waving his hand to the unknown man]. Say, is it very bad up there? Hey?

Unknown Man [rather loudly]. Yes, it's bad. I am sick and tired of it.

Drunken Man. Can't you get a drink?

Unknown Man. No, how can I?

Second Drunken Man. Say, what are you talking about? How can he get a drink? The man is about to die and you tempt him and try to get him excited. Listen, up there, we have been drinking your health right along. It won't hurt you, will it?

First Drunken Man. Ah, go on! What are you talking about? How can it hurt him? Why, it will only do him good. It will encourage him. Listen, honest to God, we are very sorry for you, but don't mind us. We are going to the café to have another drink. Good-by.

Second Drunken Man. Look, what a crowd.

First Drunken Man. Come, or he'll fall and then they'll close the café.

[Enter a new crowd of tourists, a very elegant gentleman, the chief correspondent of European newspapers at their head. He is followed by an ecstatic whisper of respect and admiration. Many leave the café to look at him, and even the waiter turns slightly around, glances at him quickly, smiles happily and continues on his way, spilling something from his tray.]

Voices. The correspondent! The correspondent! Look!

Lady. Oh, my, and my husband is gone again!

Tourist. Jimmie, Mary, Aleck, Katie, Charlie, look! This is the chief correspondent. Do you realize it? The very highest of all. Whatever he writes goes.

Kate. Mary, dear, again you are not looking.

Aleck. I wish you would order some sandwiches for us. I can't stand it any longer. A human being has to eat.

Tourist [ecstatically]. What a tragedy! Katie, dear, can you realize it? Consider how awful. The weather is so beautiful, and the chief correspondent. Take out your note-book, Jimmie.

James. I lost it, father.

Correspondent. Where is he?

Voices [obligingly]. There, there he is. There! A little higher. Still higher! A little lower! No, higher!

Correspondent. If you please, if you please, ladies and gentlemen, I will find him myself. Oh, yes, there he is. Hm! What a situation!

Tourist. Won't you have a chair?

Correspondent. Thank you. [Sits down.] Hm! What a situation! Very interesting. Very interesting, indeed! [Whisks out his note-book; amiably to the photographers.] Have you taken any pictures yet, gentlemen?

First Photographer. Yes, sir, certainly, certainly. We have photographed the place showing the general character of the locality—

Second Photographer. The tragic situation of the young man—

Correspondent. Ye-es, very, very interesting.

Tourist. Did you hear, Aleck? This smart man, the chief correspondent, says it's interesting, and you keep bothering about sandwiches. Dunce!

Aleck. May be he has had his dinner already.

Correspondent. Ladies and gentlemen, I beg you to be quiet.

Obliging Voices. It is quieter in the café.

Correspondent [shouts to the unknown man]. Permit me to introduce myself. I am the chief correspondent of the European press. I have been sent here at the special request of the editors. I should like to ask you several questions concerning your situation. What is your name? What is your general position? How old are you? [The unknown man mumbles something.]

Correspondent [a little puzzled]. I can't hear a thing. Has he been that way all the time?

Voice. Yes, it's impossible to hear a word he says.

Correspondent [jotting down something in his note-book]. Fine! Are you a bachelor? [The unknown man mumbles.]

Correspondent. I can't hear you. Are you married? Yes?

Tourist. He said he was a bachelor.

Second Tourist. No, he didn't. Of course, he's married.

Correspondent [carelessly]. You think so? All right. We'll put down, married. How many children have you? Can't hear. It seems to me he said three. Hm! Anyway, we'll put down five.

Tourist. Oh, my, what a tragedy. Five children! Imagine!

Military Woman. He is lying.

Correspondent [shouting]. How did you get into this position? What? I can't hear? Louder! Repeat. What did you say? [Perplexed, to the crowd.] What did he say? The fellow has a devilishly weak voice.

First Tourist. It seems to me he said that he lost his way.

Second Tourist. No, he doesn't know himself how he got there.

Voices. He was out hunting.—He was climbing up the rocks.—No, no! He is simply a lunatic!

Correspondent. I beg your pardon, I beg your pardon, ladies and gentlemen! Anyway, he didn't drop from the sky. However—[He quickly jots down in his note-book.] Unhappy young man—suffering from childhood with attacks of lunacy.—The bright light of the full moon—the wild rocks.—Sleepy janitor—didn't notice—

First Tourist [to the second, in a whisper]. But it's a new moon now.

Second Tourist. Go, what does a layman know about astronomy.

Tourist [ecstatically]. Mary, pay attention to this! You have before you an ocular demonstration of the influence of the moon on living organisms. What a terrible tragedy to go out walking on a moonlit night and find suddenly that you have climbed to a place where it is impossible to climb down or be taken down.

Correspondent [shouting]. What feelings are you experiencing? I can't hear. Louder! Ah, so? Well, well! What a situation!

Crowd [interested]. Listen, listen! Let's hear what his feelings are. How terrible!

Correspondent [writes in his note-book, tossing out detached remarks]. Mortal terror, numbs his limbs.—A cold shiver goes down his spinal column.—No hope.—Before his mental vision rises a picture of family bliss: Wife making sandwiches; his five children innocently lisping their love.—Grandma in the armchair with a tube to her ear, that is, grandpa in the arm-chair, with a tube to his ear and grandma.—Deeply moved by the sympathy of the public.—His last wish before his death that the words he uttered with his last breath should be published in our newspapers—

Military Woman [indignantly]. My! He lies like a salesman.

Mary [wearily]. Papa, children, look, he is starting to fall again.

Tourist [angrily]. Don't bother me. Such a tragedy is unfolding itself right before your very eyes—and you—What are you making such big eyes for again?

Correspondent [shouting]. Hold on fast. That's it! My last question: What message do you wish to leave for your fellow citizens before you depart for the better world?

Unknown Man. That they may all go to the devil.

Correspondent. What? Hm, yes—[He writes quickly.] Ardent love—is a stanch opponent of the law granting equal rights to negroes. His last words: "Let the black niggers—"

Pastor [out of breath, pushing through the crowd]. Where is he? Ah, where is he? Ah, there! Poor young man. Has there been no clergyman here yet? No? Thank you. Am I the first?

Correspondent [writes]. A touching dramatic moment.—A minister has arrived.—All are trembling on the verge of suspense. Many are shedding tears—

Pastor. Excuse me, excuse me! Ladies and gentlemen, a lost soul wishes to make its peace with God—[He shouts.] My son, don't you wish to make your peace with God? Confess your sins to me. I will grant you remission at once! What? I cannot hear?

Correspondent [writes]. The air is shaken with the people's groans. The minister of the church exhorts the criminal, that is, the unfortunate man, in touching language.—The unfortunate creature with tears in his eyes thanks him in a faint voice—

Unknown Man [faintly]. If you won't go away I will jump on your head. I weigh three hundred pounds. [All jump away frightened behind each other.]

Voices. He is falling! He is falling!

Tourist [agitatedly]. Mary, Aleck, Jimmie.

Policeman [energetically]. Clear the place, please! Move on!

Lady. Nellie, go quick and tell your father he is falling.

Photographer [in despair]. Oh my, I am out of films [tosses madly about, looking pitifully at the unknown man]. One minute, I'll go and get them. I have some in my overcoat pocket over there. [He walks a short distance, keeping his eyes fixed on the unknown man, and then returns.] I can't, I am afraid I'll miss it. Good heavens! They are over there in my overcoat. Just one minute, please. I'll fetch them right away. What a fix.

Pastor. Hurry, my friend. Pull yourself together and try to hold out long enough to tell me at least your principal sins. You needn't mention the lesser ones.

Tourist. What a tragedy?

Correspondent [writes]. The criminal, that is, the unhappy man, makes a public confession and does penance. Terrible secrets revealed. He is a bank robber—blew up safes.

Tourist [credulously]. The scoundrel.

Pastor [shouts]. In the first place, have you killed? Secondly, have you stolen? Thirdly, have you committed adultery?

Tourist. Mary, Jimmie, Katie, Aleck, Charlie, close your ears.

Correspondent [writing]. Tremendous excitement in the crowd.—Shouts of indignation.

Pastor [hurriedly]. Fourthly, have you blasphemed? Fifthly, have you coveted your neighbor's ass, his ox, his slave, his wife? Sixthly—

Photographer [alarmed]. Ladies and gentlemen, an ass!

Second Photographer. Where? I can't see it!

Photographer [calmed]. I thought I heard it.

Pastor. I congratulate you, my son! I congratulate you! You have made your peace with God. Now you may rest easy—Oh, God, what do I see? The Salvation Army! Policeman, chase them away!

[Enter a Salvation Army band, men and women in uniforms. There are only three instruments, a drum, a violin and a piercingly shrill trumpet.]

Salvation Army Man [frantically beating his drum and shouting in a nasal voice]. Brethren and sisters—

Pastor [shouting even louder in a still more nasal voice in an effort to drown the other's]. He has already confessed. Bear witness, ladies and gentlemen, that he has confessed and made his peace with heaven.

Salvation Army Woman [climbing on a rock and shrieking]. I once wandered in the dark just as this sinner and I lived a bad life and was a drunkard, but when the light of truth—

A Voice. Why, she is drunk now.

Pastor. Policeman, didn't he confess and make his peace with heaven?

[The Salvation Army man continues to beat his drum frantically; the rest begin to drawl a song. Shouts, laughter, whistling. Singing in the café, and calls of "Waiter!" in all languages. The bewildered policemen tear themselves away from the pastor, who is pulling them somewhere; the photographers turn and twist about as if the seats were burning under them. An English lady comes riding in on a donkey, who, stopping suddenly, sprawls out his legs and refuses to go farther, adding his noise to the rest. Gradually the noise subsides. The Salvation Army band solemnly withdraws, and the pastor, waving his hands, follows them.]

First English Tourist [to the other]. How impolite! This crowd doesn't know how to behave itself.

Second English Tourist. Come, let's go away from here.

First English Tourist. One minute. [He shouts.] Listen, won't you hurry up and fall?

Second English Tourist. What are you saying, Sir William?

First English Tourist [shouting]. Don't you see that's what they are waiting for? As a gentleman you should grant them this pleasure and so escape the humiliation of undergoing tortures before this mob.

Second English Tourist. Sir William.

Tourist [ecstatically]. See? It's true. Aleck, Jimmie, it's true. What a tragedy!

Several Tourists [going for the Englishman]. How dare you?

First English Tourist [shoving them aside]. Hurry up and fall! Do you hear? If you haven't the backbone I'll help you out with a pistol shot.

Voices. That red-haired devil has gone clear out of his mind.

Policeman [seizing the Englishman's hand]. You have no right to do it, it's against the law. I'll arrest you.

Some Tourists. A barbarous nation!

[The unknown man shouts something. Excitement below.]

Voices. Hear, hear, hear!

Unknown Man [aloud]. Take that jackass away to the devil. He wants to shoot me. And tell the boss that I can't stand it any longer.

Voices. What's that? What boss? He is losing his mind, the poor man.

Tourist. Aleck! Mary! This is a mad scene. Jimmie, you remember Hamlet? Quick.

Unknown Man [angrily]. Tell him my spinal column is broken.

Mary [wearily]. Papa, children, he's beginning to kick with his legs.

Kate. Is that what is called convulsions, papa?

Tourist [rapturously]. I don't know. I think it is. What a tragedy?

Aleck [glumly]. You fool! You keep cramming and cramming and you don't know that the right name for that is agony. And you wear eyeglasses, too. I can't bear it any longer, papa.

Tourist. Think of it, children. A man is about to fall down to his death and he is bothering about his spinal column.

[There is a noise. A man in a white vest, very much frightened, enters, almost dragged by angry tourists. He smiles, bows on all sides, stretches out his arms, now running forward as he is pushed, now trying to escape in the crowd, but is seized and pulled again.]

Voices. A bare-faced deception! It is an outrage. Policeman, policeman, he must be taught a lesson!

Other Voices. What is it? What deception? What is it all about? They have caught a thief!

The Man in the White Vest [bowing and smiling]. It's a joke, ladies and gentlemen, a joke, that's all. The people were bored, so I wanted to provide a little amusement for them.

Unknown Man [angrily]. Boss!

The Man in the White Vest. Wait a while, wait a while.

Unknown Man. Do you expect me to stay here until the Second Advent? The agreement was till twelve o'clock. What time is it now?

Tall Tourist [indignantly]. Do you hear, ladies and gentlemen? This scoundrel, this man here in the white vest hired that other scoundrel up there and just simply tied him to the rock.

Voices. Is he tied?

Tall Tourist. Yes, he is tied and he can't fall. We are excited and worrying, but he couldn't fall even if he tried.

Unknown Man. What else do you want? Do you think I am going to break my neck for your measly ten dollars? Boss, I can't stand it any more. One man wanted to shoot me. The pastor preached me for two hours. This is not in the agreement.

Aleck. Father, I told you that Baedeker lies. You believe everything anybody tells you and drag us about without eating.

Man in the White Vest. The people were bored. My only desire was to amuse the people.

Military Woman. What is the matter? I don't understand a thing. Why isn't he going to fall? Who, then, is going to fall?

Tourist. I don't understand a thing either. Of course he's got to fall!

James. You never understand anything, father. Weren't you told that he's tied to the rock?

Aleck. You can't convince him. He loves every Baedeker more than his own children.

James. A nice father!

Tourist. Silence!

Military Woman. What is the matter? He must fall.

Tall Tourist. The idea! What a deception. You'll have to explain this.

Man in the White Vest. The people were bored. Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen, but wishing to accommodate you—give you a few hours of pleasant excitement—elevate your spirits—inspire you with altruistic sentiments—

Englishman. Is the café yours?

Man in the White Vest. Yes.

Englishman. And is the hotel below also yours?

Gentleman. Yes. The people were bored—

Correspondent [writing]. The proprietor of the café, desiring to increase his profits from the sale of alcoholic beverages, exploits the best human sentiments.—The people's indignation—

Unknown Man [angrily]. Boss, will you have me taken off at once or won't you?

Hotel Keeper. What do you want up there? Aren't you satisfied? Didn't I have you taken off at night?

Unknown Man. Well, I should say so. You think I'd be hanging here nights, too!

Hotel Owner. Then you can stand it a few minutes longer. The people are bored—

Tall Tourist. Say, have you any idea of what you have done? Do you realize the enormity of it? You are scoundrels, who for your own sordid personal ends have impiously exploited the finest human sentiment, love of one's neighbor. You have caused us to undergo fear and suffering. You have poisoned our hearts with pity. And now, what is the upshot of it all? The upshot is that this scamp, your vile accomplice, is bound to the rock and not only will he not fall as everybody expects, but he can't.

Military Woman. What is the matter? He has got to fall.

Tourist. Policeman! Policeman!

[The pastor enters, out of breath.]

Pastor. What? Is he still living? Oh, there he is! What fakirs those Salvationists are.

Voices. Don't you know that he is bound?

Pastor. Bound! Bound to what? To life? Well, we are all bound to life until death snaps the cord. But whether he is bound or not bound, I reconciled him with heaven, and that's enough. But those fakirs—

Tourist. Policeman! Policeman, you must draw up an official report. There is no way out of it.

Military Woman [going for the hotel owner]. I will not allow myself to be fooled. I saw an aëronaut drop from the clouds and go crash upon a roof. I saw a tiger tear a woman to pieces—

Photographer. I spoiled three films photographing that scamp. You will have to answer for this, sir. I will hold you responsible.

Tourist. An official report! An official report! Such a bare-faced deception. Mary, Jimmie, Aleck, Charlie, call a policeman.

Hotel Keeper [drawing back, in despair]. But, I can't make him fall if he doesn't want to. I did everything in my power, ladies and gentlemen!

Military Woman. I will not allow it.

Hotel Keeper. Excuse me. I promise you on my word of honor that the next time he will fall. But he doesn't want to, to-day.

Unknown Man. What's that? What did you say about the next time?

Hotel Keeper. You shut up there!

Unknown Man. For ten dollars?

Pastor. Pray, what impudence! I just made his peace with heaven when he was in danger of his life. You have heard him threatening to fall on my head, haven't you? And still he is dissatisfied. Adulterer, thief, murderer, coveter of your neighbor's ass—

Photographer. Ladies and gentlemen, an ass!

Second Photographer. Where, where is an ass?

Photographer [calmed]. I thought I heard one.

Second Photographer. It is you who are an ass. I have become cross-eyed on account of your shouting: "An ass! An ass!"

Mary [wearily]. Papa, children, look! A policeman is coming.

[Excitement and noise. On one side a crowd pulling a policeman, on the other the hotel keeper; both keep crying: "Excuse me! Excuse me!"]

Tourist. Policeman, there he is, the fakir, the swindler.

Pastor. Policeman, there he is, the adulterer, the murderer, the coveter of his neighbor's ass—

Policeman. Excuse me, excuse me, ladies and gentlemen. We will bring him to his senses in short order and make him confess.

Hotel Keeper. I can't make him fall if he doesn't want to.

Policeman. Hey, you, young man out there! Can you fall or can't you? Confess!

Unknown Man [sullenly]. I don't want to fall!

Voices. Aha, he has confessed. What a scoundrel!

Tall Tourist. Write down what I dictate, policeman—"Desiring—for the sake of gain to exploit the sentiment of love of one's neighbor—the sacred feeling—a-a-a—"

Tourist. Listen, children, they are drawing up an official report. What exquisite choice of language!

Tall Tourist. The sacred feeling which—

Policeman [writing with painful effort, his tongue stuck out]. Love of one's neighbor—the sacred feeling which—

Mary [wearily]. Papa, children, look! An advertisement is coming.

[Enter musicians with trumpets and drums, a man at their head carrying on a long pole a huge placard with the picture of an absolutely bald head, and printed underneath: "I was bald."]

Unknown Man. Too late. They are drawing up a report here. You had better skidoo!

The Man Carrying the Pole [stopping and speaking in a loud voice]. I had been bald from the day of my birth and for a long time thereafter. That miserable growth, which in my tenth year covered my scalp was more like wool than real hair. When I was married my skull was as bare as a pillow and my young bride—

Tourist. What a tragedy! Newly married and with such a head! Can you realize how dreadful that is, children?

[All listen with interest, even the policeman stopping in his arduous task and inclining his ear with his pen in his hand.]

The Man Carrying the Pole [solemnly]. And the time came when my matrimonial happiness literally hung by a hair. All the medicines recommended by quacks to make my hair grow—

Tourist. Your note-book, Jimmie.

Military Woman. But when is he going to fall?

Hotel Keeper [amiably]. The next time, lady, the next time. I won't tie him so hard—you understand?

 

[Curtain.]


THE BOOR

A Comedy

By Anton Tchekoff
Translated by Hilmar Baukage.


Copyright, 1915, by Samuel French.

 

CHARACTERS
Helena Ivanovna Popov [a young widow, mistress of a country estate].
Grigorji Stepanovitch Smirnov [proprietor of a country estate].
Luka [servant of Mrs. Popov].
A Gardener.
A Coachman.
Several Workmen.
Place: The Estate of Mrs. Popov.
Time: The Present.

[The stage shows an elegantly furnished reception room.]

 

Reprinted from "The World's Best Plays by Celebrated European Authors," edited by Barrett H. Clark, and published by Samuel French, by permission of, and special arrangements with, Samuel French.


THE BOOR

A Comedy

By Anton Tchekoff

 

[Mrs. Popov discovered in deep mourning, sitting upon a sofa, gazing steadfastly at a photograph. Luka is also present.]

 

Luka. It isn't right, ma'am—You're wearing yourself out! The maid and the cook have gone looking for berries, everything that breathes is enjoying life, even the cat knows how to be happy—slips about the courtyard and catches birds; but you hide yourself here in the house as though you were in a cloister and have no pleasures—Yes, truly, by actual reckoning you haven't left this house for a whole year.

Mrs. Popov. And I shall never leave it—why should I? My life is over. He lies in his grave, and I have buried myself within these four walls. We are both dead.

Luka. There you are again! It's too awful to listen to, so it is! Nikolai Michailovitch is dead, it was the will of the Lord and the Lord has given him eternal peace. You have grieved over it and that ought to be enough. Now it's time to stop. One can't weep and wear mourning forever! My wife died a few years ago, too. I grieved for her, I wept a whole month—and then it was over. Must one be forever singing lamentations? That would be more than your husband was worth! [He sighs.] You have forgotten all your neighbors. You don't go out and you won't receive any one. We live,—you'll pardon me—like the spiders, and the good light of day we never see. All the livery is eaten by the mice—As though there weren't any more nice people in the world! But the whole neighborhood is full of gentlefolk. In Riblov the regiment is stationed, officers—simply beautiful! One can't see enough of them! Every Friday a ball, and military music every day. Oh, my dear, dear ma'am, young and pretty as you are, if you'd only let your spirits live! Beauty can't last forever. When ten short years are over, then you'll be glad enough to go out a bit! And meet the officers—and then it'll be too late.

Mrs. Popov [resolutely]. Please, don't speak of these things to me again. You know very well that since the death of Nikolai Michailovitch my life is absolutely nothing to me. You think I live, but it only seems that I live. Do you understand? Oh, that his departed soul may see how I love him—Oh, I know, it's no secret to you; he was often unjust towards me, cruel and—he wasn't faithful, but I shall be faithful to the grave and prove to him how I am able to love. There, in the beyond, he'll find me the same, as I was until his death.

Luka. What is the use of all these words? When you'd so much rather go walking in the garden or order Tobby or Welikan harnessed to the trap, and visit the neighbors.

Mrs. Popov [weeping]. Oh!

Luka. Madam, dear, dear Madam, what is it? In heaven's name?

Mrs. Popov. He loved Tobby so! He always took him when he drove to the Kortschagins or the Vlassovs. What a wonderful horseman he was! How fine he looked! When he pulled at the reins with all his might! Tobby, Tobby, give him an extra measure of oats to-day!

Luka. Yes, ma'am.

[A bell rings loudly.]

Mrs. Popov [shudders]. What's that? Say that I am receiving no one.

Luka. Yes, ma'am. [He goes out center.]

Mrs. Popov [gazing at the photograph]. You shall see, Nikol, how I can love and forgive—My love will die only with me—when my poor heart stops beating. [She smiles through her tears.] And aren't you ashamed? I have been a good, true wife, I have imprisoned myself and I shall remain true until the grave, and you—you—you're not ashamed of yourself, my dear monster! Betrayed me, quarreled with me, left me alone for weeks—

[Luka enters in great excitement.]

Luka. Oh, ma'am, some one is asking for you, insists on seeing you—

Mrs. Popov. You told him that since my husband's death I receive no one?

Luka. I said so, but he won't listen, he says that it is a pressing matter.

Mrs. Popov. I—re—ceive—no—one!

Luka. I told him that, but he's a wild-man, he swore and pushed himself into the room—he's in the dining room now.

Mrs. Popov [excitedly]. Good. Show him in. What an intruder!

[Luka goes out center.]

Mrs. Popov. What a bore people are! What can they want with me? Why do they disturb my peace? [She sighs.] Yes, it is clear I must go to a cloister. [Meditatively.] Yes, in a cloister—

[Smirnov enters followed by Luka.]

Smirnov [to Luka]. Fool, you make too much noise! You're an ass! [Discovering Mrs. Popov—politely.] Madam, I have the honor to introduce myself; Lieutenant in the Artillery, retired, country gentleman, Grigorji Stepanovitch Smirnov! I'm forced to bother you about an exceedingly important matter.

Mrs. Popov [without offering her hand]. What is it you wish?

Smirnov. Your deceased husband, with whom I had the honor to be acquainted, left me two notes amounting to about twelve hundred rubles. Inasmuch as I have to meet the interest to-morrow on a loan from the Agrarian Bank, I should like to request, madam, that you pay me the money to-day.

Mrs. Popov. Twelve hundred—and for what was my husband indebted to you?

Smirnov. He had bought oats from me.

Mrs. Popov [with a sigh to Luka]. Don't forget to have Tobby given an extra measure of oats.

[Luka goes out.]

Mrs. Popov [to Smirnov]. If Nikolai Michailovitch is indebted to you, I will of course pay you, but, I am sorry, I haven't the money to-day. To-morrow my manager will be back from the city and I shall notify him to pay you what is due you, but until then I cannot satisfy your request. Furthermore to-day it is just seven months since the death of my husband and I am not in the mood to discuss money matters.

Smirnov. And I am in the mood to fly up the chimney with my feet in the air if I can't lay hands on that interest to-morrow. They'll sequestrate my estate!

Mrs. Popov. Day after to-morrow you will receive the money.

Smirnov. I don't need the money day after to-morrow, I need it to-day.

Mrs. Popov. I'm sorry I can't pay you to-day.

Smirnov. And I can't wait until day after to-morrow.

Mrs. Popov. But what can I do if I haven't it?

Smirnov. So you can't pay?

Mrs. Popov. I cannot.

Smirnov. Hm.—Is that your last word?

Mrs. Popov. My last.

Smirnov. Absolutely?

Mrs. Popov. Absolutely.

Smirnov. Thank you. We shan't forget it. [He shrugs his shoulders.] And then they expect me to stand for all that. The toll gatherer just now met me in the road and asked, why are you always worrying, Grigorji Stepanovitch? Why in heaven's name shouldn't I worry? I need money, I feel the knife at my throat. Yesterday morning I left my house in the early dawn and called on all my debtors. If even one of them had paid his debt! I worked the skin off my fingers! The devil knows in what sort of Jew-inn I slept, in a room with a barrel of brandy! And now at last I come here, seventy versts from home, hope for a little money and all you give me is moods. Why shouldn't I worry?

Mrs. Popov. I thought I made it plain to you that my manager will return from town and then you will get your money?

Smirnov. I did not come to see the manager, I came to see you. What the devil—pardon the language—do I care for your manager?

Mrs. Popov. Really, sir, I am neither used to such language nor such manners. I shan't listen to you any further. [She goes out left.]

Smirnov. What can one say to that? Moods! Seven months since her husband died! And do I have to pay the interest or not? I repeat the question, have I to pay the interest or not? Well yes, the husband is dead and all that, the manager is—the devil with him—traveling somewhere. Now tell me, what am I to do? Shall I run away from my creditors in a balloon? Or push my head into a stone wall? If I call on Grusdev he chooses to be "not at home," Iroschevitch has simply hidden himself, I have quarreled with Kurzin until I came near throwing him out of the window, Masutov is ill and this one in here has—moods! Not one of the crew will pay up! And all because I've spoiled them all, because I'm an old whiner, an old dish rag! I'm too tender hearted with them. But you wait! I'll show you! I permit nobody to play tricks with me, the devil with 'em all! I'll stay here and not budge from the spot until she pays! Brrr! How angry I am, how terribly angry I am! Every tendon is trembling with anger and I can hardly breathe—ah, I'm even growing ill. [He calls out.] Servant!

[Luka enters.]

Luka. What is it you wish?

Smirnov. Bring me Kvas or water! [Luka goes out.] Well, what can we do? She hasn't it on hand? What sort of logic is that? A fellow stands with the knife at his throat, he needs money, he is just at the point of hanging himself, and she won't pay because she isn't in the mood to discuss money matters. See! Pure woman's logic. That's why I never liked to talk to women and why I hate to do it now. I would rather sit on a powder barrel than talk with a woman. Brr!—I'm getting cold as ice, this affair has made me so angry. I only need to see such a romantic creature from the distance to get so angry that I have cramps in the calves? It's enough to make one yell for help!

[Enter Luka.]

Luka [hands him water]. Madam is ill and is not receiving.

Smirnov. March! [Luka goes out.] Ill and isn't receiving! All right, it isn't necessary. I won't receive either. I'll sit here and stay until you bring that money. If you're ill a week, I'll sit here a week. If you're ill a year, I'll sit here a year. As heaven is a witness I'll get my money. You don't disturb me with your mourning—or with your dimples. We know these dimples! [He calls out the window.] Simon, unharness. We aren't going to leave right away. I am going to stay here. Tell them in the stable to give the horses some oats. The left horse has twisted the bridle again. [Imitating him.] Stop. I'll show you how. Stop. [Leaves window.] It's awful. Unbearable heat, no money, didn't sleep well last night and now mourning-dresses with moods. My head aches, perhaps I ought to have a drink. Ye-s, I must have a drink. [Calling.] Servant!

Luka. What do you wish?

Smirnov. A little drink. [Luka goes out. Smirnov sits down and looks at his clothes.] Ugh, a fine figure! No use denying that. Dust, dirty boots, unwashed, uncombed, straw on my vest—the lady probably took me for a highwayman. [He yawns.] It was a little impolite to come into a reception room with such clothes. Oh well, no harm done. I'm not here as guest. I'm a creditor. And there is no special costume for creditors.

Luka [entering with glass]. You take a great deal of liberty, sir.

Smirnov [angrily]. What?

Luka. I—I—I just—

Smirnov. Whom are you talking to? Keep quiet.

Luka [angrily]. Nice mess! This fellow won't leave! [He goes out.]

Smirnov. Lord, how angry I am! Angry enough to throw mud at the whole world! I even feel ill—servant!

[Mrs. Popov comes in with downcast eyes.]

Mrs. Popov. Sir, in my solitude I have become unaccustomed to the human voice and I cannot stand the sound of loud talking. I beg of you, please to cease disturbing my quiet.

Smirnov. Pay me my money and I'll leave.

Mrs. Popov. I told you once plainly in your native tongue that I haven't the money on hand; wait until day after to-morrow.

Smirnov. And I also have the honor of informing you in your native tongue that I need the money, not day after to-morrow, but to-day. If you don't pay me to-day I shall have to hang myself to-morrow.

Mrs. Popov. But what can I do when I haven't the money? How strange!

Smirnov. So you are not going to pay immediately? You're not?

Mrs. Popov. I can't.

Smirnov. Then I'll sit here and stay until I get the money. [He sits.] You will pay day after to-morrow? Excellent! Here I stay until day after to-morrow. [Jumps up.] I ask you: do I have to pay that interest to-morrow or not? Or do you think I'm joking?

Mrs. Popov. Sir, I beg of you, don't scream! This is not a stable.

Smirnov. I'm not asking you about a stable, I'm asking you whether I have to pay that interest to-morrow or not?

Mrs. Popov. You have no idea how a lady should be treated.

Smirnov. Oh, yes, I know how to treat ladies.

Mrs. Popov. No, you don't. You are an ill-bred, vulgar person—respectable people don't speak so with ladies.

Smirnov. Oh, how remarkable! How do you want one to speak with you? In French perhaps. Madame, je vous prie—how fortunate I am that you won't pay me my money! Pardon me for having disturbed you. What beautiful weather we are having to-day. And how this mourning becomes you. [He makes an ironic bow.]

Mrs. Popov. Not at all funny—vulgar!

Smirnov [imitating her]. Not at all funny—vulgar. I don't understand how to behave in the company of ladies. Madam, in the course of my life I have seen more women than you have sparrows. Three times I have fought duels over women, twelve women I threw over and nine threw me over. There was a time when I played the fool, used honeyed language, bows and scrapings. I loved, suffered, sighed to the moon, melted in love's torments. I loved passionately, I loved to madness, in every key, chattered like a magpie on emancipation, sacrificed half my fortune in the tender passion until now the devil knows I've had enough of it. Your obedient servant will let you lead him around by the nose no more. Enough! Black eyes, passionate eyes, coral lips, dimples in cheeks, moonlight whispers, soft, modest sighs,—for all that, madam, I wouldn't pay a copper cent. I am not speaking of the present company but of women in general; from the tiniest to the greatest, they are all conceited, hypocritical, chattering, odious, deceitful from top to toe; vain, petty, cruel with a maddening logic and [he strikes his forehead] in this respect, please excuse my frankness, but one sparrow is worth ten of the aforementioned petticoat-philosophers. When one sees one of the romantic creatures before him he imagines that he is looking at some holy being, so wonderful that its one breath could dissolve him in a sea of a thousand charms and delights—but if one looks into the soul—it's nothing but a common crocodile. [He seizes the arm-chair and breaks it in two.] But the worst of all is that this crocodile imagines that it is a chef-d'oeuvre and that it has a monopoly on all the tender passions. May the devil hang me upside down if there is anything to love about a woman! When she is in love all she knows is how to complain and shed tears. If the man suffers and makes sacrifices she trails her train about and tries to lead him around by the nose. You have the misfortune to be a woman and you naturally know woman's nature; tell me on your honor, have you ever in your life seen a woman who was really true and faithful? You never saw one. Only the old and the deformed are true and faithful. It's easier to find a cat with horns or a white woodcock than a faithful woman.

Mrs. Popov. But just allow me to ask, who is true and faithful in love? The man, perhaps?

Smirnov. Yes, indeed! The man!

Mrs. Popov. The man! [She laughs ironically.] The man is true and faithful in love! Well, that is something new. [She laughs bitterly.] How can you make such a statement? Men true and faithful! As long as we have gone as far as we have I may as well say that of all the men I have known my husband was the best—I loved him passionately with all my soul, as only a young, sensible woman may love, I gave him my youth, my happiness, my fortune, my life. I worshiped him like a heathen. And what happened? This best of all men betrayed me right and left in every possible fashion. After his death I found his desk filled with a collection of love letters. While he was alive he left me alone for months—it is horrible to even think about it—he made love to other women in my very presence, he wasted my money and made fun of my feelings,—and in spite of all that I trusted him and was true to him. And more than that, he is dead and I am still true to him. I have buried myself within these four walls and I shall wear this mourning to my grave.

Smirnov [laughing disrespectfully]. Mourning! What on earth do you take me for? As if I didn't know why you wore this black domino and why you buried yourself within these four walls. As if I didn't know! Such a secret! So romantic! Some knight will pass the castle, will gaze up at the windows and think to himself: "Here dwells the mysterious Tamara who, for love of her husband, has buried herself within four walls." Oh, I understand the art!

Mrs. Popov [springing up]. What? What do you mean by saying such things to me?

Smirnov. You have buried yourself alive, but meanwhile you have not forgotten to powder your nose!

Mrs. Popov. How dare you speak to me so?

Smirnov. Don't scream at me, please, I'm not the manager. Just let me call things by their right names. I am not a woman and I am accustomed to speak out what I think. So please don't scream.

Mrs. Popov. I'm not screaming. It is you who are doing the screaming. Please leave me, I beg of you.

Smirnov. Pay me my money and I'll leave.

Mrs. Popov. I won't give you the money.

Smirnov. You won't? You won't give me my money?

Mrs. Popov. I don't care what you do. You won't get a kopeck! Leave me alone.

Smirnov. As I haven't the pleasure of being either your husband or your fiancé please don't make a scene. [He sits down.] I can't stand it.

Mrs. Popov [breathing hard]. You are going to sit down?

Smirnov. I already have.

Mrs. Popov. Kindly leave the house!

Smirnov. Give me the money.

Mrs. Popov. I don't care to speak with impudent men. Leave! [Pause.] You aren't going?

Smirnov. No.

Mrs. Popov. No?

Smirnov. No.

Mrs. Popov. Very well. [She rings the bell.]

[Enter Luka.]

Mrs. Popov. Luka, show the gentleman out.

Luka [going to Smirnov]. Sir, why don't you leave when you are ordered? What do you want—

Smirnov [jumping up]. Whom do you think you are talking to? I'll grind you to powder.

Luka [puts his hand to his heart]. Good Lord! [He drops into a chair.] Oh, I'm ill, I can't breathe!

Mrs. Popov. Where is Dascha? [Calling.] Dascha! Pelageja! Dascha! [She rings.]

Luka. They're all gone! I'm ill. Water!

Mrs. Popov [to Smirnov]. Leave! Get out!

Smirnov. Kindly be a little more polite!

Mrs. Popov [striking her fists and stamping her feet]. You are vulgar! You're a boor! A monster!

Smirnov. Wh—at did you say?

Mrs. Popov. I said you were a boor, a monster!

Smirnov [steps toward her quickly]. Permit me to ask what right you have to insult me?

Mrs. Popov. Yes, I insult you. What of it? Do you think I am afraid of you?

Smirnov. And you think that because you are a romantic creature that you can insult me without being punished? I challenge you! Now you have it.

Luka. Merciful heaven! Water!

Smirnov. We'll have a duel.

Mrs. Popov. Do you think because you have big fists and a steer's neck that I am afraid of you?

Smirnov. That is the limit! I allow no one to insult me and I make no exception because you are a woman, one of the "weaker sex"!

Mrs. Popov [trying to cry him down]. Boor, boor, boor!

Smirnov. It is high time to do away with the old superstition that it is only a man who is forced to give satisfaction. If there is equity at all let there be equity in all things. There's a limit!

Mrs. Popov. You wish to fight a duel? Very well.

Smirnov. Immediately.

Mrs. Popov. Immediately. My husband had pistols. I'll bring them. [She hurries away, then turns.] Oh, what a pleasure it will be to put a bullet in your impudent head. The devil take you! [She goes out.]

Smirnov. I'll shoot her down! I'm no fledgling, no sentimental, young puppy. For me there is no weaker sex.

Luka. Oh, sir. [Falls to his knees.] Have mercy on me, an old man, and go away. You have frightened me to death already and now you want to fight a duel.

Smirnov [paying no attention]. A duel. That's equity, that's emancipation. That way the sexes are made equal. I'll shoot her down as a matter of principle. What can a person say to such a woman? [Imitating her.] "The devil take you. I'll put a bullet in your impudent head." What can a person say to that? She was angry, her eyes blazed, she accepted the challenge. On my honor it's the first time in my life that I ever saw such a woman.

Luka. Oh, sir. Go away. Go away from here.

Smirnov. That is a woman. I can understand her. A real woman. No shilly-shallying, but fire, powder, and noise! It would be a pity to shoot a woman like that.

Luka [weeping]. Oh, sir; go away.

[Enter Mrs. Popov.]

Mrs. Popov. Here are the pistols. But before we have our duel please show me how to shoot. I have never had a pistol in my hand before!

Luka. God be merciful and have pity upon us! I'll go and get the gardener and the coachman. Why has this horror come to us! [He goes out.]

Smirnov [looking at the pistols]. You see there are different kinds of pistols. There are special duelling pistols with cap and ball. But these are revolvers, Smith & Wesson, with ejectors, fine pistols. A pair like that cost at least ninety rubles. This is the way to hold a revolver. [Aside.] Those eyes, those eyes! A real woman!

Mrs. Popov. Like this?

Smirnov. Yes, that way. Then you pull the hammer back—so—then you aim—put your head back a little—just stretch your arm out, please. So—then press your finger on the thing like that, and that is all. The chief thing is this: don't get excited, don't hurry your aim, and take care that your hand doesn't tremble.

Mrs. Popov. It isn't as well to shoot inside, let's go into the garden.

Smirnov. Yes. I'll tell you now that I am going to shoot into the air.

Mrs. Popov. That is too much. Why?

Smirnov. Because—because—That's my business why.

Mrs. Popov. You are afraid. Yes. A-h-h-h. No, no, my dear sir, no welching. Please follow me. I won't rest myself, until I've made a hole in your head that I hate so much. Are you afraid?

Smirnov. Yes, I'm afraid.

Mrs. Popov. You are lying. Why won't you fight?

Smirnov. Because—because—I—like you.

Mrs. Popov [with an angry laugh]. You like me! He dares to say that he likes me. [She points to the door.] Go.

Smirnov [laying the revolver silently on the table, takes his hat and goes; at the door he stops a moment gazing at her silently, then he approaches her undecidedly]. Listen? Are you still angry? I was mad as the devil, but please understand me—how can I express myself?—The thing is like this—such things are—[He raises his voice.] How is it my fault that you owe me money? [Grasps the chair back which breaks.] The devil knows what breakable furniture you have! I like you! Do you understand?—I—I'm almost in love!

Mrs. Popov. Leave. I hate you.

Smirnov. Lord! What a woman! I never in my life met one like her. I'm lost, ruined! I've been caught like a mouse in a trap.

Mrs. Popov. Go, or I'll shoot.

Smirnov. Shoot! You have no idea what happiness it would be to die in sight of those beautiful eyes, to die from the revolver in this little velvet hand—I'm mad! Consider it and decide immediately for if I go now; we shall never see each other again. Decide—speak—I am a noble, a respectable man, have an income of ten thousand, can shoot a coin thrown into the air—I own some fine horses. Will you be my wife?

Mrs. Popov [swings the revolver angrily]. Shoot!

Smirnov. My mind is not clear—I can't understand—servant—water! I have fallen in love like any young man. [He takes her hand and she cries with pain.] I love you! [He kneels.] I love you as I have never loved before. Twelve women, I threw over, nine were untrue to me, but not one of them all have I loved as I love you. I am conquered, lost, I lie at your feet like a fool and beg for your hand. Shame and disgrace! For five years I haven't been in love, I thanked the Lord for it and now I am caught, like a carriage tongue in another carriage. I beg for your hand! Yes or no? Will you?—Good! [He gets up and goes to the door quickly.]

Mrs. Popov. Wait a moment—

Smirnov [stopping]. Well?

Mrs. Popov. Nothing. You may go. But—wait a moment. No, go on, go on. I hate you. Or no. Don't go. Oh, if you knew how angry I was, how angry! [She throws the revolver onto the chair.] My finger is swollen from this thing. [She angrily tears her handkerchief.] What are you standing there for? Get out!

Smirnov. Farewell!

Mrs. Popov. Yes, go. [Cries out.] What are you going for? Wait—no, go!! Oh, how angry I am! Don't come too near, don't come too near—er—come—no nearer.

Smirnov [approaching her]. How angry I am with myself. Fallen in love like a school-boy, thrown myself on my knees. I've got a chill! [Strongly.] I love you. This is fine,—all I needed was to fall in love. To-morrow I have to pay my interest, the hay harvest has begun and then you appear. [He takes her in his arms.] I can never forgive myself.

Mrs. Popov. Go away! Take your hands off me! I hate you—you—this is—[A long kiss.]

[Enter Luka with an ax, the gardener with a rake, the coachman with a pitch-fork, workmen with poles.]

Luka [staring at the pair]. Merciful Heavens! [A long pause.]

Mrs. Popov [dropping her eyes]. Tell them in the stable that Tobby isn't to have any oats.

 

[Curtain.]


HIS WIDOW'S HUSBAND

A Comedy

By Jacinto Benevente
Translated by John Garrett Underhill.


Copyright, 1917, by John Garrett Underhill.
All rights reserved.

 

First presented at the Teatro Principe Alfonso, Madrid, on the evening of the nineteenth of October, 1908.

CHARACTERS
Carolina.
Eudosia.
Paquita.
Florencio.
Casalonga.
Zurita.
Valdivieso.

The Scene is laid in a provincial capital.

 

Reprinted from "Plays: First Series," by permission of, and special arrangements with, Mr. John Garrett Underhill and Charles Scribner's Sons. Applications for permission to produce His Widow's Husband should be addressed to the Society of Spanish Authors, 20 Nassau Street, New York.


HIS WIDOW'S HUSBAND

A Comedy

By Jacinto Benevente

 

[Carolina is seated as Zurita enters.]

 

Zurita. My friend!

Carolina. My good Zurita, it is so thoughtful of you to come so promptly! I shall never be able to repay all your kindness.

Zurita. I am always delighted to be of service to a friend.

Carolina. I asked them to look for you everywhere. Pardon the inconvenience, but the emergency was extreme. I am in a terrible position; all the tact in the world can never extricate me from one of those embarrassing predicaments—unless you assist me by your advice.

Zurita. Count upon my advice; count upon me in anything. However, I cannot believe that you are really in an embarrassing predicament.

Carolina. But I am, my friend; and you are the only one who can advise me. You are a person of taste; your articles and society column are the standard of good form with us. Everybody accepts and respects your decisions.

Zurita. Not invariably, I am sorry to say—especially now that I have taken up the suppression of the hips, which are fatal to the success of any toilette. Society was formerly very select in this city, but it is no longer the same, as you no doubt have occasion to know. Too many fortunes have been improvised, too many aristocratic families have descended in the scale. There has been a great change in society. The parvenus dominate—and money is so insolent! People who have it imagine that other things can be improvised—as education, for example, manners, good taste. Surely you must realize that such things cannot be improvised. Distinction is a hothouse plant. We grow too few gardenias nowadays—like you, my friend. On the other hand, we have an abundance of sow-thistles. Not that I am referring to the Nuñez family.... How do you suppose those ladies enliven their Wednesday evenings? With a gramophone, my friend, with a gramophone—just like any vulgar café; although I must confess that it is an improvement upon the days when the youngest sang, the middle one recited, and all played together. Nevertheless it is horrible. You can imagine my distress.

Carolina. You know, of course, that I never take part in their Wednesdays. I never call unless I am sure they are not at home.

Zurita. But that is no longer a protection; they leave the gramophone. And the maid invites you to wait and entertain yourself with the Mochuelo. What is a man to do? It is impossible to resent the records upon the maid. But we are wandering from the subject. You excite my curiosity.

Carolina. You know that to-morrow is the day of the unveiling of the statue of my husband, of my previous husband—

Zurita. A fitting honor to the memory of that great, that illustrious man. This province owes him much, and so does all Spain. We who enjoyed the privilege of calling ourselves his friends, should be delighted to see justice done to his deserts at last, here where political jealousies and intrigues have always belittled the achievements of our eminent men. But Don Patricio Molinete could have no enemies. To-morrow will atone for much of the pettiness of the past.

Carolina. No doubt. I feel I ought to be proud and happy, although you understand the delicacy of my position. Now that I have married again, my name is not the same. Yet it is impossible to ignore the fact that once it was mine, especially as everybody knows that we were a model couple. I might perhaps have avoided the situation by leaving town for a few days on account of my health, but then that might have been misinterpreted. People might have thought that I was displeased, or that I declined to participate.

Zurita. Assuredly. Although your name is no longer the same, owing to circumstances, the force of which we appreciate, that is no reason why you should be deprived of the honor of having borne it worthily at the time. Your present husband has no right to take offense.

Carolina. No, poor Florencio! In fact, he was the first to realize that I ought to take a leading part in the rejoicing. Poor Florencio was always poor Patricio's greatest admirer. Their political ideas were the same; they agreed in everything.

Zurita. Apparently.

Carolina. As I have reason to know. Poor Patricio loved me dearly; perhaps that was what led poor Florencio to imagine that there was something in me to justify the affection of that great-hearted and intellectual man. It was enough for me to know that Florencio was Patricio's most intimate friend in order to form my opinion of him. Of course, I recognize that Florencio's gifts will never enable him to shine so brilliantly, but that is not to say that he is wanting in ability. He lacks ambition, that is all. All his desires are satisfied at home with me, at his own fireside. And I am as well pleased to have it so. I am not ambitious myself. The seasons which I spent with my husband in Madrid were a source of great uneasiness to me. I passed the week during which he was Minister of Agriculture in one continual state of anxiety. Twice he nearly had a duel—over some political question. I did not know which way to turn. If he had ever become Prime Minister, as was actually predicted by a newspaper which he controlled, I should have been obliged to take to my bed for the week.

Zurita. You are not like our senator's wife, Señora Espinosa, nor the wife of our present mayor. They will never rest, nor allow others to do so, until they see their husbands erected in marble.

Carolina. Do you think that either Espinosa or the mayor are of a caliber to deserve statues?

Zurita. Not publicly, perhaps. In a private chapel, in the class of martyrs and husbands, it might not be inappropriate. But I am growing impatient.

Carolina. As you say, friend Zurita, it might seem marked for me to leave the city. Yet if I remain I must attend the unveiling of the monument to my poor Patricio; I must be present at the memorial exercises to-night in his honor; I must receive the delegations from Madrid and the other cities, as well as the committees from the rest of the province. But what attitude ought I to assume? If I seem too sad, nobody will believe that my feeling is sincere. On the other hand, it would not be proper to appear altogether reconciled. Then people would think that I had forgotten too quickly. In fact, they think so already.

Zurita. Oh, no! You were very young when you became a widow. Life was just beginning for you.

Carolina. It is a delicate matter, however, to explain to my sisters-in-law. Tell me, what ought I to wear? Anything severe, an attempt at mourning, would be ridiculous, since I am going with my husband; on the other hand, I should not like to suggest a festive spirit. What do you think, friend Zurita? Give me your advice. What would you wear?

Zurita. It is hard to say; the problem is difficult. Something rich and black, perhaps, relieved by a note of violet. The unveiling of a monument to perpetuate the memory of a great man is not an occasion for mourning. Your husband is partaking already of the joys of immortality, in which no doubt, he anticipates you.

Carolina. Thank you so much.

Zurita. Do not thank me. You have done enough. You have been faithful to his memory. You have married again, but you have married a man who was your husband's most intimate friend. You have not acted like other widows of my acquaintance—Señora Benitez, for example. She has been living for two years with the deadliest enemy her husband had in the province, without any pretense at getting married—which in her case would have been preposterous.

Carolina. There is no comparison.

Zurita. No, my friend; everybody sympathizes with your position, as they ought.

Carolina. The only ones who worry me are my sisters-in-law. They insist that my position is ridiculous, and that of my husband still more so. They do not see how we can have the effrontery to present ourselves before the statue.

Zurita. Señora, I should not hesitate though it were that of the Commander. Your sisters-in-law exaggerate. Your present husband is the only one you have to consider.

Carolina. I have no misgivings upon that score. I know that both will appreciate that my feelings are sincere, one in this world, and the other from the next. As for the rest, the rest—

Zurita. The rest are your friends and your second husband's friends, as we were of the first. We shall all take your part. The others you can afford to neglect.

Carolina. Thanks for those words of comfort. I knew that you were a good friend of ours, as you were also of his.

Zurita. A friend to both, to all three; si, señora, to all three. But here is your husband.

[Don Florencio enters.]

Zurita. Don Florencio! My friend!

Florencio. My dear Zurita! I am delighted to see you! I wish to thank you for that charming article in memory of our never-to-be-forgotten friend. It was good of you, and I appreciate it. You have certainly proved yourself an excellent friend of his. Thanks, my dear Zurita, thanks! Carolina and I are both indebted to you for your charming article. It brought tears to our eyes. Am I right, Carolina?

Carolina. We were tremendously affected by it.

Florencio. Friend Zurita, I am deeply gratified. For the first time in the history of the province, all parties have united to do honor to this region's most eminent son. But have you seen the monument? It is a work of art. The statue is a perfect likeness—it is the man, the man himself! The allegorical features are wonderfully artistic—Commerce, Industry, and Truth taken altogether in the nude. Nothing finer could be wished. You can imagine the trouble, however, we had with the nudes. The conservative element opposed the nudes, but the sculptor declined to proceed if the nudes were suppressed. In the end we won a decisive victory for Art.

Carolina. Do you know, I think it would have been just as well not to have had any nudes? What was the use of offending anybody? Several of our friends are going to remain away from the ceremonies upon that account.

Florencio. How ridiculous! That only shows how far we are behind the times. You certainly have no feeling of that sort after having been the companion of that great, that liberal man. I remember the trip we took to Italy together—you surely recollect it, Carolina. I never saw a man so struck with admiration at those marvelous monuments of pagan and Renaissance art. Oh, what a man! What a wonderful man! He was an artist. Ah! Before I forget it, Carolina, Gutiérrez asked me for any pictures you have for the special edition of his paper, and I should like to have him publish the verses which he wrote you when you were first engaged. Did you ever see those verses? That man might have been a poet—he might have been anything else for that matter. Talk about letters! I wish you could see his letters. Carolina, let us see some of those letters he wrote you when you were engaged.

Carolina. Not now. That is hardly the time....

Florencio. Naturally. In spite of the satisfaction which we feel, these are trying days for us. We are united by our memories. I fear I shall never be able to control myself at the unveiling of the statue.

Carolina. Florencio, for heaven's sake, you must! You must control yourself.

Zurita. Yes, do control yourself. You must.

Florencio. I am controlling myself.

Zurita. If there is nothing further that I can do....

Carolina. No, thank you, Zurita. I am awfully obliged to you. Now that I know what I am to wear, the situation does not seem half so embarrassing.

Zurita. I understand. A woman's position is never so embarrassing as when she is hesitating as to what to put on.

Carolina. Until to-morrow then?

Zurita. Don Florencio!

Florencio. Thank you again for your charming article. It was admirable! Admirable!

[Zurita retires.]

Florencio. I see that you feel it deeply! you are touched. So am I. It is foolish to attempt to conceal it.

Carolina. I don't know how to express it, but—I am upset.

Florencio. Don't forget the pictures, however, especially the one where the three of us were taken together on the second platform of the Eiffel tower. It was particularly good.

Carolina. Yes, something out of the ordinary. Don't you think, perhaps, that our private affairs, our family life.... How do we know whether at this time, in our situation....

Florencio. What are you afraid of? That is the woman of it. How narrow-minded! You ought to be above such pettiness after having been the wife of such an intelligent man. Every detail of the private life of the great has its interest for history. Those of us who knew him, who in a certain sense were his colaborers—you will not accuse me of immodesty—his colaborers in the great work of his life, owe it to history to see that the truth be known.

Carolina. Nevertheless I hardly think I would print those letters—much less the verses. Do you remember what they said?

Florencio. Of course, I remember:

"Like a moth on a pin I preserve all your kisses!..."

Everybody makes allowances for poetry. Nobody is going to take seriously what he reads in a poem. He married you anyway. Why should any one object?

Carolina. Stop, Florencio! What are you talking about? We are making ourselves ridiculous.

Florencio. Why should we make ourselves ridiculous? Although I shall certainly stand by you, whatever you decide, if for no other reason than that I am your husband, his widow's husband. Otherwise people might think that I wanted you to forget, that I was jealous of his memory; and you know that is not the case. You know how I admired him, how I loved him—just as he did me. Nobody could get along with him as well as I could; he was not easy to get along with, I do not need to tell you that. He had his peculiarities—they were the peculiarities of a great man—but they were great peculiarities. Like all great men, he had an exaggerated opinion of himself. He was horribly stubborn, like all strong characters. Whenever he got on one of his hobbies no power on earth could pry him off of it. It is only out of respect that I do not say he was pig-headed. I was the only one who had the tact and the patience to do anything with him; you know that well enough. How often you said to me: "Oh, Florencio! I can't stand it any longer!" And then I would reason with you and talk to him, and every time that you had a quarrel I was the one who consoled you afterward.

Carolina. Florencio, you are perfectly disgusting! You have no right to talk like this.

Florencio. Very well then, my dear. I understand how you feel. This is a time when everybody is dwelling on his virtues, his good qualities, but I want you to remember that that great man had also his faults.

Carolina. You don't know what you are talking about.

Florencio. Compare me with him—

Carolina. Florencio? You know that in my mind there has never been any comparison. Comparisons are odious.

Florencio. Not necessarily. But of course you have not! You have never regretted giving up his distinguished name, have you, Carolina, for this humble one of mine? Only I want you to understand that if I had desired to shine, if I had been ambitious.... I have talent myself. Now admit it!

Carolina. Of course I do, my dear, of course! But what is the use of talking nonsense?

Florencio. What is the matter with you, anyway? You are nervous to-day. It is impossible to conduct a sensible conversation.—Hello! Your sisters-in-law! I am not at home.

Carolina. Don't excite yourself. They never ask for you.

Florencio. I am delighted!... Well, I wish you a short session and escape.

Carolina. I am in a fine humor for this sort of thing myself.

[Florencio goes out. Eudosia and Paquita enter.]

Eudosia. I trust that we do not intrude?

Carolina. How can you ask? Come right in.

Eudosia. It seems we find you at home for once.

Carolina. So it seems.

Paquita. Strange to say, whenever we call you always appear to be out.

Carolina. A coincidence.

Eudosia. The coincidence is to find you at home. [A pause.] We passed your husband on the street.

Carolina. Are you sure that you would recognize him?

Paquita. Oh! he was not alone.

Carolina. Is that so?

Eudosia. Paquita saw him with Somolino's wife, at Sanchez the confectioner's.

Carolina. Very possibly.

Paquita. I should not make light of it, if I were you. You know what Somolino's wife is, to say nothing of Sanchez the confectioner.

Carolina. I didn't know about the confectioner.

Eudosia. No respectable woman, no woman who even pretends to be respectable, would set foot in his shop since he married that French girl.

Carolina. I didn't know about the French girl.

Eudosia. Yes, he married her—I say married her to avoid using another term. He married her in Bayonne—if you call such a thing marriage—civilly, which is the way French people marry. It is a land of perdition.

Carolina. I am very sorry to hear it because I am awfully fond of sweetmeats. I adore bonbons and marrons glacés, and nobody here has as good ones as Sanchez, nor anywhere else for that matter.

Paquita. In that case you had as well deny yourself, unless you are prepared to invite criticism. Somolino's wife is the only woman who enters the shop and faces the French girl, who gave her a receipt for dyeing her hair on the spot. You must have noticed how she is doing it now.

Carolina. I hadn't noticed.

Eudosia. It is not jet-black any more; it is baby-pink—so she is having the Frenchwoman manicure her nails twice a week. Have you noticed the condition of her nails? They are the talk of the town.

[A pause.]

Paquita. Well, I trust he is satisfied.

Carolina. Who is he?

Paquita. I do not call him your husband. Oh, our poor, dear brother!

Carolina. I have not the slightest idea what you are talking about.

Eudosia. So he has had his way at last and desecrated the statue of our poor brother with the figures of those naked women?

Paquita. As large as life.

Carolina. But Florencio is not responsible. It was the sculptor and the committee. I cannot see anything objectionable in them myself. There are such figures on all monuments. They are allegorical.

Eudosia. I could understand, perhaps, why the statue of Truth should be unclothed. Something of the sort was always expected of Truth. But I must say that Commerce and Industry might have had a tunic at least. Commerce, in my opinion, is particularly indecent.

Paquita. We have declined the seats which were reserved for us. They were directly in front and you could see everything.

Eudosia. I suppose you still intend to be present? What a pity that there is nobody to give you proper advice!

Carolina. As I have been invited, I judge that I shall be welcome as I am.

Paquita. Possibly—if it were good form for you to appear at all. But when you exhibit yourself with that man—who was his best friend—after only three short years!

Carolina. Three long years.

Eudosia. No doubt they seemed long to you. Three years, did I say? They were like days to us who still keep his memory green!

Paquita. Who still bear his name, because no other name sounds so noble in our ears.

Eudosia. Rather than change it, we have declined very flattering proposals.

Carolina. I am afraid that you have made a mistake. You remember that your brother was very anxious to see you married.

Paquita. He imagined that all men were like him, and deserved wives like us, our poor, dear brother! Who would ever have dreamed he could have been forgotten so soon? Fancy his emotions as he looks down on you from the skies.

Carolina. I do not believe for one moment that he has any regrets. If he had, then what would be the use of being in paradise? Don't you worry about me. The best thing that a young widow can do is marry at once. I was a very young widow.

Eudosia. You were twenty-nine.

Carolina. Twenty-six.

Eudosia. We concede you twenty-six. At all events, you were not a child—not to speak of the fact that no widow can be said to be a child.

Carolina. No more than a single woman can be said to be old. However, I fail to see that there would be any impropriety in my being present at the unveiling of the statue.

Eudosia. Do you realize that the premature death of your husband will be the subject of all the speakers? They will dwell on the bereavement which we have suffered through the loss of such an eminent man. How do you propose to take it? When people see you standing there, complacent and satisfied, alongside of that man, do you suppose they will ever believe that you are not reconciled?

Paquita. What will your husband do while they are extolling the genius of our brother, and he knows that he never had any?

Carolina. That was not your brother's opinion. He thought very highly of Florencio.

Eudosia. Very highly. Our poor, dear brother! Among his other abilities he certainly had an extraordinary aptitude for allowing himself to be deceived.

Carolina. That assumption is offensive to me; it is unfair to all of us.

Eudosia. I hope you brought it with you, Paquita?

Paquita. Yes; here it is.

[Taking out a book.]

Eudosia. Just look through this book if you have a moment. It arrived to-day from Madrid and is on sale at Valdivieso's. Just glance through it.

Carolina. What is the book? [Reading the title upon the cover.] "Don Patricio Molinete, the Man and His Work. A Biography. Together with His Correspondence and an Estimate of His Life." Why, thanks—

Paquita. No, do not thank us. Read, read what our poor brother has written to the author of this book, who was one of his intimate friends.

Carolina. Recaredo Casalonga. Ah! I remember—a rascal we were obliged to turn out of the house. Do you mean to say that scamp Casalonga has any letters? Merely to hear the name makes me nervous.

Eudosia. But go on! Page two hundred and fourteen. Is that the page, Paquita?

Paquita. It begins on page two hundred and fourteen, but before it amounts to anything turn the page.

Carolina. Quick, quick! Let me see. What does he say? What are these letters? What is this? He says that I.... But there is not a word of truth in it. My husband could never have written this.

Eudosia. But there it is in cold type. You don't suppose they would dare to print—

Carolina. But this is outrageous; this book is a libel. It invades the private life—the most private part of it! It must be stopped.

Eudosia. It cannot be stopped. You will soon see whether or not it can be stopped.

Paquita. Probably the edition is exhausted by this time.

Carolina. Is that so? We shall see! We shall see!—Florencio! Florencio! Come quickly! Florencio!

Eudosia. Perhaps he has not yet returned.

Paquita. He seemed to be enjoying himself.

Carolina. Nonsense! He was never out of the house. You are two old busybodies!

Eudosia. Carolina! You said that without thinking.

Paquita. I cannot believe my ears. Did you say busybody.

Carolina. That is exactly what I said. Now leave me alone. I can't stand it. It is all your fault. You are insupportable!

Eudosia and Paquita. Carolina!

Carolina. Florencio! Florencio!

[Florencio enters.]

Florencio. What is it, my dear? What is the matter? Ah! You? I am delighted....

Eudosia. Yes, we! And we are leaving this house, where we have been insulted—forever!

Paquita. Where we have been called busybodies!

Eudosia. Where we have been told that we were insupportable!

Paquita. And when people say such things you can imagine what they think!

Florencio. But Eudosia, Paquita.... I do not understand. As far as I am concerned....

Eudosia. The person who is now your wife will make her explanations to you.

Paquita. I never expected to be driven out of our brother's house like this!

Eudosia. Our poor, dear brother!

Florencio. But, Carolina—

Carolina. Let them go! Let them go! They are impossible.

Paquita. Did you hear that, Eudosia? We are impossible!

Eudosia. I heard it, Paquita. There is nothing left for us to hear in this house.

Carolina. Yes there is! You are as impossible as all old maids.

Eudosia. There was something for us to hear after all! Come, Paquita.

Paquita. Come, Eudosia.

[They go out.]

Florencio. What is this trouble between you and your sisters-in-law?

Carolina. There isn't any trouble. We were arguing, that was all. There is nothing those women like so much as gossip, or making themselves disagreeable in any way they can. Do you remember Casalonga?

Florencio. Recaredo Casalonga? I should say I did remember him! That man was a character, and strange to say, a profound philosopher with it all. He was quite a humorist.

Carolina. Yes, he was. Well, this philosopher, this humorist, has conceived the terribly humorous idea of publishing this book.

Florencio. Let me see. "Don Patricio Molinete, the Man and His Work. A Biography. Together with His Correspondence and an Estimate of His Life." A capital idea! They were great friends, you know, although I don't suppose that there can be anything particular in this book. What could Casalonga tell us anyway?

Carolina. Us? Nothing. But go on, go on.

Florencio. You don't say! Letters of Patricio's. Addressed to whom?

Carolina. To the author of the book, so it seems. Personal letters, they are confidential. Go on, go on.

Florencio. "Dear Friend: Life is sad. Perhaps you ask the cause of my disillusionment. How is it that I have lost my faith in the future, in the future of our unfortunate land?" I remember that time. He was already ill. This letter was written after he had liver complaint and took a dark view of everything. Ah! What a pity that great men should be subject to such infirmities! Think of the intellect being made the slave of the liver! We are but dust. "The future of this unfortunate land...."

Carolina. No, that doesn't amount to anything. Lower down, lower down. Go on.

Florencio. "Life is sad!"

Carolina. Are you beginning all over again?

Florencio. No, he repeats himself. What is this? "I never loved but once in my life; I never loved but one woman—my wife." He means you.

Carolina.. Yes. Go on, go on.

Florencio "I never trusted but one friend, my friend Florencio." He means me.

Carolina. Yes, yes; he means you. But go on, go on.

Florencio. I wonder what he can be driving at. Ah! What does he say? That you, that I....

Carolina. Go on, go on.

Florencio. "This woman and this man, the two greatest, the two pure, the two unselfish passions of my life, in whom my very being was consumed—how can I bring myself to confess it? I hardly dare admit it to myself! They are in love—they love each other madly—in secret—perhaps without even suspecting themselves."

Carolina. What do you think of that?

Florencio. Suspecting themselves.... "They are struggling to overcome their guilty passion, but how long will they continue to struggle? Yet I am sorry for them both. What ought I to do? I cannot sleep."

Carolina. What do you say?

Florencio. Impossible! He never wrote such letters. Besides, if he did, they ought never to have been published.

Carolina. But true or false, they have been published, and here they are. Ah! But this is nothing! You ought to see what he says farther on. He goes on communicating his observations, and there are some, to be perfectly frank, which nobody could have made but himself.

Florencio. You don't mean to tell me that you think these letters are genuine?

Carolina. They might be for all we know. He gives dates and details.

Florencio. And all the time we thought he suspected nothing!

Carolina. You do jump so at conclusions, Florencio. How could he suspect? You know how careful we were about everything, no matter what happened, so as not to hurt his feelings.

Florencio. This only goes to show all the good that it did us.

Carolina. He could only suspect—that it was the truth; that we were loving in silence.

Florencio. Then perhaps you can explain to me what was the use of all this silence? Don't you see that what he has done now is to go and blurt the whole thing out to this rascal Casalonga?—an unscrupulous knave whose only interest in the matter is to turn these confidences to his own advantage! It is useless to attempt to defend it. Such foolishness was unpardonable. I should never have believed it of my friend. If he had any doubts about me—about us—why didn't he say so? Then we could have been more careful, and have done something to ease his mind. But this notion of running and telling the first person who happens along.... What a position does it leave me in? In what light do we appear at this time? Now, when everybody is paying respect to his memory, and I have put myself to all this trouble in order to raise money for this monument—what are people going to think when they read these things?

Carolina. I always said that we would have trouble with that monument.

Florencio. How shall I have the face to present myself to-morrow before the monument?

Carolina. My sisters-in-law were right. We are going to be conspicuous.

Florencio. Ah! But this must be stopped. I shall run at once to the offices of the papers, to the judicial authorities, to the governor, to all the booksellers. As for this Casalonga—Ah! I will settle with him! Either he will retract and confess that these letters are forgeries from beginning to end, or I will kill him! I will fight with him in earnest!

Carolina. Florencio! Don't forget yourself! You are going too far. You don't mean a duel? To expose your life?

Florencio. Don't you see that it is impossible to submit to such an indignity? Where is this thing going to stop? Is nobody's private life to be secure? And this goes deeper than the private life—it impugns the sanctity of our intentions.

Carolina. No, Florencio!

Florencio. Let me go!

Carolina. Florencio! Anything but a duel! No, no!

Florencio. Ah! Either he will retract and withdraw the edition of this libel or, should he refuse....

Carolina. Zurita!

Florencio. My friend.... You are just in time!

[Zurita enters.]

Zurita. Don Florencio.... Carolina.... Don't say a word! I know how you feel.

Florencio. Did you see it? Did you hear it? Is this a civilized country in which we live?

Carolina. But surely he has not heard it already?

Zurita. Yes, at the Club. Some one had the book; they were passing it around....

Florencio. At the Club?

Zurita. Don't be alarmed. Everybody thinks it is blackmail—a case of chantage. Don Patricio could never have written such letters.

Florencio. Ah! So they think that?

Zurita. Even if he had, they deal with private matters, which ought never to have been made public.

Florencio. Exactly my idea—with private matters; they are confidential.

Zurita. I lost no time, as you may be sure, of hurrying to Valdivieso's shop, where the books are on sale. I found him amazed; he was entirely innocent. He bought the copies supposing that the subject was of timely importance; that it was of a serious nature. He hurried at once to withdraw the copies from the window, and ran in search of the author.

Florencio. Of the author? Is the author in town?

Zurita. Yes, he came with the books; he arrived with them this morning.

Florencio. Ah! So this scamp Casalonga is here, is he? Tell me where I can find him!

Zurita. At the Hotel de Europa.

Carolina. Florencio! Don't you go! Hold him back! He means to challenge him.

Zurita. Never! It is not worth the trouble. Besides, you ought to hold yourself above such things. Your wife is above them.

Florencio. But what will people say, friend Zurita? What will people say?

Zurita. Everybody thinks it is a huge joke.

Florencio. A joke? Then our position is ridiculous.

Zurita. I did not say that. What I do say....

Florencio. No, no, friend Zurita; you are a man of honor, you know that it is necessary for me to kill this man.

Carolina. But suppose he is the one who kills you? No, Florencio, not a duel! What is the use of the courts?

Florencio. No, I prefer to fight. My dear Zurita, run in search of another friend and stop at the Hotel de Europa as my representatives. Seek out this man, exact reparation upon the spot—a reparation which shall be resounding, complete. Either he declares over his own signature that those letters are impudent forgeries or, should he refuse....

Carolina. Florencio!

Florencio. Stop at nothing! Do not haggle over terms. Let it be pistols with real bullets, as we pace forward each to each!

Zurita. But, Don Florencio!

Carolina. Don't go, I beg of you! Don't leave the house!

Florencio. You are my friend—go at once!

Carolina. No, he will never go!

Zurita. But, Don Florencio! Consider.... The situation is serious.

Florencio. When a man is made ridiculous the situation ceases to be serious! How shall I have the face to show myself before the monument! I—his most intimate friend! She, my wife, his widow! And everybody thinking all the while of those letters, imagining that I, that she.... No, no! Run! Bring me that retraction at once.

Zurita. Not so fast! I hear the voice of Valdivieso.

Florencio. Eh? And Casalonga's! Has that man the audacity to present himself in my house?

Zurita. Be calm! Since he is here, perhaps he comes to explain. Let me see—

[He goes out.]

Carolina. Florencio! Don't you receive him! Don't you have anything to do with that man!

Florencio. I am in my own house. Never fear! I shall not forget to conduct myself as a gentleman. Now we shall see how he explains the matter; we shall see. But you had better retire first. Questions of honor are not for women.

Carolina. You know best; only I think I might remain within earshot. I am nervous. My dear!—Where are your arms?

Florencio. What do I need of arms?

Carolina. Be careful just the same. Keep cool! Think of me.

Florencio. I am in my own house. Have no fear.

Carolina. It upsets me dreadfully to see you in such a state.

Florencio. What are you doing now?

Carolina. Removing these vases in case you should throw things. I should hate awfully to lose them; they were a present.

Florencio. Hurry, dear!

Carolina. I am horribly nervous. Keep cool, for heavens' sake! Control yourself.

[Carolina goes out. Zurita reënters.]

ZURITA. Are you calmer now?

FLORENCIO. Absolutely. Is that man here?

Zurita. Yes, Valdivieso brought him. He desires to explain.

Florencio. Who? Valdivieso? Naturally. But that other fellow, that Casalonga—what does he want?

Zurita. To have a few words with you; to offer a thousand explanations.

Florencio. No more than one explanation is possible.

Zurita. Consider a moment. In my opinion it will be wiser to receive him. He appears to be innocent.

Florencio. Of the first instincts of a gentleman.

Zurita. Exactly. I did not venture to put it so plainly. He attaches no importance to the affair whatever.

Florencio. Of course not! It is nothing to him.

Zurita. Nothing. However, you will find him disposed to go to any length—retract, make a denial, withdraw the book from circulation. You had best have a few words with him. But first promise to control yourself. Shall I ask them to come in?

Florencio. Yes ... yes! Ask them to come in.

Zurita. Poor Valdivieso is awfully put out. He always had such a high opinion of you. You are one of the two or three persons in this town who buy books. It would be a tremendous relief to him if you would only tell him that you knew he was incapable....

Florencio. Thoroughly! Poor Valdivieso! Ask him to come in; ask them both to come in.

[Zurita retires and returns presently with Valdivieso and Casalonga.]

Valdivieso. Señor Don Florencio! I hardly know what to say. I am sure that you will not question my good faith in the matter. I had no idea ... in fact, I never suspected....

Florencio. I always knew you were innocent! but this person....

Casalonga. Come, come now! Don't blame it on me. How the devil was I to know that you were here—and married to his widow! Sport for the gods!

Florencio. Do you hear what he says?

Zurita. I told you that he appeared to be innocent.

Florencio. And I told you that he was devoid of the first instincts of a gentleman; although I failed to realize to what an extent. Sir—

Casalonga. Don't be absurd! Stop making faces at me.

Florencio. In the first place, I don't recall that we were ever so intimate.

Casalonga. Of course we were! Of course! Anyhow, what difference does it make? We were together for a whole season; we were inseparable. Hard times those for us both! But what did we care? When one of us was out of money, all he had to do was to ask the other, and be satisfied.

Florencio. Yes; I seem to recall that the other was always I.

Casalonga. Ha, ha, ha! That might be. Stranger things have happened. But you are not angry with me, are you? The thing is not worth all this fuss.

Florencio. Do you hear what he says?

Valdivieso. You may be sure that if I had had the slightest idea.... I bought the books so as to take advantage of the timeliness of the monument. If I had ever suspected....

Casalonga. Identically my position—to take advantage of the monument. Life is hard. While the conservatives are in power, I am reduced to extremities. I am at my wit's end to earn an honest penny.

Florencio. I admire your colossal impudence. What are you going to do with a man like this?

Zurita. Exactly the question that occurred to me. What are you going to do?

Casalonga. For a time I was reduced to writing plays—like everybody else—although mine were better. That was the reason they did not succeed. Then I married my last landlady; I was obliged to settle with her somehow. A little difference arose between us, so we agreed to separate amicably after smashing all the furniture. However, that will be of no interest to you.

Florencio. No, no, it is of no interest to me.

Casalonga. A novel, my boy! A veritable work of romance! I wandered all over the country explaining views for the cinematograph. You know what a gift I have for talk? Wherever I appeared the picture houses were crowded—even to the exits. Then my voice gave out. I was obliged to find some other outlet for my activities. I thought of my friends. You know what friends are; as soon as a man needs them he hasn't any friends. Which way was I to turn? I happened to hear that you were unveiling a monument to the memory of friend Patricio. Poor Patricio! That man was a friend! He could always be relied upon. It occurred to me that I might write out a few pages of reminiscences—preferably something personal—and publish any letters of his which I had chanced to preserve.

Florencio. What luck!

Casalonga. Pshaw! Bread and butter—bread and butter, man! A mere pittance. It occurred to me that they would sell better here than anywhere else—this is where he lived. So I came this morning third class—think of that, third class!—and hurried at once to this fellow's shop. I placed two thousand copies with him, which he took from me at a horrible discount. You know what these booksellers are....

Valdivieso. I call you to witness—what was customary under the circumstances. He was selling for cash.

Casalonga. Am I the man to deny it? You can divide mankind into two classes—knaves and fools.

Valdivieso. Listen to this—

Casalonga. You are not one of the fools.

Valdivieso. I protest! How am I to profit by the transaction? Do you suppose that I shall sell a single copy of this libel now that I know that it is offensive to my particular, my excellent friend, Don Florencio, and to his respected wife?

Florencio. Thanks, friend Valdivieso, thanks for that.

Valdivieso. I shall burn the edition, although you can imagine what that will cost.

Florencio. The loss will be mine. It will be at my expense.

Casalonga. What did I tell you? Florencio will pay. What are you complaining about?—If I were in your place, though, I'd be hanged if I would give the man one penny.

Valdivieso. What? When you have collected spot cash?

Casalonga. You don't call that collecting? Not at that discount. The paper was worth more.

Florencio. The impudence of the thing was worth more than the paper.

Casalonga. Ha, ha, ha! Really, I cannot find it in my heart to be angry with you. You are too clever! But what was I to do? I had to find some outlet for my activities. Are you going to kill me?

Florencio. I have made my arrangements. Do you suppose that I will submit meekly to such an indignity? If you refuse to fight, I will hale you before the courts.

Casalonga. Drop that tragic tone. A duel? Between us? Over what? Because the wife of a friend—who at the same time happens to be your wife—has been intimate with you? Suppose it had been with some one else!

Florencio. The supposition is improper.

Casalonga. You are the first man I ever heard of who was offended because it was said that he had been intimate with his wife. The thing is preposterous. How are we ever going to fight over it?

Zurita. I can see his point of view.

Florencio. Patricio could never have written those letters, much less to you.

Casalonga. Talk as much as you like, the letters are genuine. Although it may have been foolish of Patricio to have written them—that is a debatable question. I published them so as to enliven the book. A little harmless suggestion—people look for it; it adds spice. Aside from that, what motive could I have had for dragging you into it?

Florencio. I admire your frankness at least.

Zurita. What do you propose to do with this man?

Florencio. What do you propose?

Casalonga. You know I was always fond of you. You are a man of ability.

Florencio. Thanks.

Casalonga. You have more ability than Patricio had. He was a worthy soul, no doubt, but between us, who were in the secret, an utter blockhead.

Florencio. Hardly that.

Casalonga. I need not tell you what reputations amount to in this country. If he had had your brains, your transcendent ability....

Florencio. How can I stop this man from talking?

Casalonga. You have always been too modest in my opinion; you have remained in the background in order to give him a chance to shine, to attract attention. Everybody knows that his best speeches were written by you.

Florence. You have no right to betray my confidence.

Casalonga. Yes, gentlemen, it is only just that you should know. The real brains belonged to this man, he is the one who should have had the statue. As a friend he is wonderful, unique!

Florencio. How am I going to fight with this man?

Casalonga. I will give out a statement at once—for public consumption—declaring that the letters are forgeries—or whatever you think best; as it appeals to you. Fix it up for yourself. It is of no consequence anyhow. I am above this sort of thing. I should be sorry, however, to see this fellow receive more than his due, which is two reals a copy, or what he paid me.

Valdivieso. I cannot permit you to meddle in my affairs. You are a rogue and a cheat.

Casalonga. A rogue and a cheat? In that case you are the one I will fight with. You are no friend of mine. You are an exploiter of other men's brains.

Valdivieso. You are willing to fight with me, are you—a respectable man, the father of a family? After swindling me out of my money!

Casalonga. Swindling? That is no language to use in this house.

Valdivieso. I use it where I like.

Florencio. Gentlemen, gentlemen! This is my house, this is the house of my wife!

Zurita. Valdivieso!

Casalonga [to Florencio]. I choose you for my second. And you too, my friend—what is your name?

Valdivieso. But will you listen to him? Do you suppose that I will fight with this rascal, with the first knave who happens along? I, the father of a family?

Casalonga. I cannot accept your explanation. My friends will confer with yours and apprise us as to the details. Have everything ready for this afternoon.

Valdivieso. Do you stand here and sanction this nonsense? You cannot believe one word that he says. No doubt it would be convenient for you to retire and use me as a Turk's head to receive all the blows, when you are the one who ought to fight!

Florencio. Friend Valdivieso, I cannot permit reflections upon my conduct from you. After all, you need not have purchased the book, which you did for money, knowing that it was improper, since it contained matter which was offensive to me.

Valdivieso. Are you speaking in earnest?

Florencio. I was never more in earnest in my life.

Casalonga. Yes, sir, and it is high time for us all to realize that it is in earnest. It was all your fault. Nobody buys without spending the wares. It was your business to have pointed out to me the indiscretion I was about to commit. [To Florencio.] I am perfectly willing to withdraw if you wish to fight him, to yield my place as the aggrieved party to you. I should be delighted to act as one of your seconds, with our good friend here—what is your name?

Zurita. Zurita.

Casalonga. My good friend Zurita.

Valdivieso. Am I losing my mind? This is a trap which you have set for me, a despicable trap!

Florencio. Friend Valdivieso, I cannot tolerate these reflections. I am incapable of setting a trap.

Zurita. Ah! And so am I! When you entered this house you were familiar with its reputation.

Casalonga. You have forgotten with whom you are speaking.

Valdivieso. Nonsense! This is too much. I wash my hands of the whole business. Is this the spirit in which my advances are received? What I will do now is sell the book—and if I can't sell it, I will give it away! Everybody can read it then—and they can talk as much as they want to. This is the end! I am through.

Florencio. Wait? What was that? I warn you not to sell so much as one copy?

Zurita. I should be sorry if you did. Take care not to drag me into it.

Casalonga. Nor me either.

Valdivieso. Enough! Do as you see fit—and I shall do the same. This is the end—the absolute end! It is the finish!

[Rushes out.]

Florencio. Stop him!

Casalonga. It won't be necessary. I shall go to the shop and take back the edition. Whatever you intended to pay him you can hand directly to me. I am your friend; besides I need the money. This man shall not get the best of me. Oh! By the way, what are you doing to-night? Have dinner with me. I shall expect you at the hotel. Don't forget! If you don't show up, I may drop in myself and have dinner with you.

Florencio. No! What would my wife say? She has trouble enough.

Casalonga. Nonsense! She knows me, and we should have a good laugh. Is she as charming, as good-looking, as striking as ever? I am keen for her. I don't need to ask whether she is happy. Poor Patricio was a character! What a sight he was! What a figure! And age doubled him for good measure. I'll look in on you later. It has been a rare pleasure this time. There are few friends like you. Come, shake hands! I am touched; you know how it is. See you later! If I don't come back, I have killed my man and am in jail for it. Tell your wife. If I can help out in any way.... Good-by, my friend—ah, yes! Zurita. I have a terrible head to-day. See you later!

[Goes out.]

Florencio. Did you ever see anything equal of it? I never did, and I knew him of old. But he has made progress.

Zurita. His assurance is fairly epic.

Florencio. What are you going to do with a man who takes it like this? You cannot kill him in cold blood—

[Carolina reënters.]

Florencio. Ah! Carolina! Were you listening? You heard everything.

Carolina. Yes, and in spite of it I think he is fascinating.

Florencio. Since Carolina feels that way it simplifies the situation.

Zurita. Why not? She heard the compliments. The man is irresistible.

Florencio. Carolina, it comes simply to this: nobody attaches any importance to the matter. Only two or three copies have been sold.

Carolina. Yes, but one of them was to my sisters-in-law, which is the same as if they had sold forty thousand. They will tell everybody.

Florencio. They were doing it anyhow; there is no further cause for worry.

Carolina. At all events, I shall not attend the unveiling to-morrow, and you ought not to go either.

Florencio. But, wife!

Zurita. Ah! The unveiling.... I had forgotten to mention it.

Carolina. To mention what?

Zurita. It has been postponed.

Florencio. How?

Zurita. The committee became nervous at the last moment over the protests against the nudes. After seeing the photographs many ladies declined to participate. At last the sculptor was convinced, and he has consented to withdraw the statue of Truth altogether, and to put a tunic upon Industry, while Commerce is to have a bathing-suit.

Carolina. That will be splendid!

Zurita. All this, however, will require several days, and by that time everything will have been forgotten.

[Casalonga reënters with the books. He is completely out of breath and drops them suddenly upon the floor, where they raise a tremendous cloud of dust.]

Carolina. Ay!

Casalonga. I had you scared! At your service.... Here is the entire edition. I returned him his thousand pesetas—I declined to make it another penny. I told you that would be all that was necessary. I am a man of my word. Now it is up to you. No more could be asked! I am your friend and have said enough. I shall have to find some other outlet for my activities. That will be all for to-day.

Florencio. I will give you two thousand pesetas. But beware of a second edition!

Casalonga. Don't begin to worry so soon. With this money I shall have enough to be decent at least—at least for two months. You know me, señora. I am Florencio's most intimate friend, as I was Patricio's most intimate friend, which is to say one of the most intimate friends you ever had.

Carolina. Yes, I remember.

Casalonga. But I have changed since that time.

Florencio. Not a bit of it! He is just the same.

Casalonga. Yes, the change is in you. You are the same, only you have improved. [To Carolina.] I am amazed at the opulence of your beauty, which a fortunate marriage has greatly enhanced. Have you any children?

Carolina. No....

Casalonga. You are going to have some.

Florencio. Flatterer!

Casalonga. But I must leave before night: there is nothing for me to do here.

Florencio. No, you have attended to everything. I shall send it after you to the hotel.

Casalonga. Add a little while you are about it to cover expenses—by way of a finishing touch.

Florencio. Oh, very well!

Casalonga. That will be all. Señora, if I can be of service.... My good Zurita! Friend Florencio! Before I die I hope to see you again.

Florencio. Yes! Unless I die first.

Casalonga. I know how you feel. You take the worst end for yourself.

Florencio. Allow me that consolation.

Casalonga. God be with you, my friend. Adios! Rest in peace. How different are our fates! Life to you is sweet. You have everything—love, riches, satisfaction. While I—I laugh through my tears!

[Goes out.]

Carolina. That cost you money.

Florencio. What else did you expect? I gave up to avoid a scandal upon your account. I could see that you were nervous. I would have fought if I could have had my way; I would have carried matters to the last extreme. Zurita will tell you so.

Carolina. I always said that monument would cost us dear.

Florencio. Obviously! Two thousand pesetas now, besides the twenty-five thousand which I subscribed for the monument, to say nothing of my uniform as Chief of Staff which I had ordered for the unveiling. Then there are the banquets to the delegates....

Zurita. Glory is always more expensive than it is worth.

Florencio. It is not safe to be famous even at second hand.

Carolina. But you are not sorry?

Florencio. No, my Carolina, the glory of being your husband far outweighs in my eyes the disadvantages of being the husband of his widow.

 

[Curtain.]


A SUNNY MORNING

A Comedy

By Serafin and Joaquin Alvarez Quintero
Translated from the Spanish by Lucretia Xavier Floyd.


Copyrighted, 1914, by Lucretia Xavier Floyd under the title of "A Morning of Sunshine."
All rights reserved.

 

CHARACTERS
Doña Laura.
Petra [her maid].
Don Gonzalo.
Juanito [his servant].

Time: The Present.

 

Published by special arrangement with Mrs. Lucretia Xavier Floyd and Mr. John Garrett Underhill, the Society of Spanish Authors. Applications for permission to produce this play must be made to the Society of Spanish Authors, Room 62, 20 Nassau Street, New York.


A SUNNY MORNING

A Comedy

By Serafin and Joaquin Alvarez Quintero

 

[Scene laid in a retired part of a park in Madrid, Spain. A bench at right. Bright, sunny morning in autumn. Doña Laura, a handsome old lady of about 70, with white hair and of very refined appearance, although elderly, her bright eyes and entire manner prove her mental facilities are unimpaired. She enters accompanied by her maid Petra, upon whose arm she leans with one hand, while the other holds a parasol which she uses as a cane.]

 

Doña Laura. I am so glad we have arrived. I feared my seat would be occupied. What a beautiful morning!

Petra. The sun is rather hot.

Doña Laura. Yes, to you who are only 20 years old. [She sits down on the bench.] Oh, I feel more tired to-day than usual. [Noticing Petra, who seems impatient.] Go, if you wish to chat with your guard.

Petra. He is not my guard, Señora; he belongs to the park.

Doña Laura. He belongs more to you than to the park. Go seek him, but remain within calling distance.

Petra. I see him over there waiting for me.

Doña Laura. Do not remain away more than ten minutes.

Petra. Very well, Señora. [Walks toward right, but is detained.]

Doña Laura. Wait a moment.

Petra. What does the Señora wish?

Doña Laura. You are carrying away the bread crumbs.

Petra. Very true. I don't know where my head is.

Doña Laura [smiling]. I do. It is where your heart is—with your guard.

Petra. Here, Señora. [She hands Doña Laura a small bag. Exit Petra.]

Doña Laura. Adios. [Glancing toward trees.] Here come the rogues. They know just when to expect me. [She rises, walks toward right, throws three handfuls of bread crumbs.] These are for the most daring, these for the gluttons, and these for the little ones which are the biggest rogues. Ha, ha. [She returns to her seat and watches with a pleased expression, the pigeons feeding.] There, that big one is always the first. That little fellow is the least timid. I believe he would eat from my hand. That one takes his piece and flies to that branch. He is a philosopher. But from where do they all come? It seems as if the news had been carried. Ha, ha. Don't quarrel. There is enough for all. To-morrow I'll bring more.

[Enter Don Gonzalo and Juanito. Don Gonzalo is an old gentleman over 70, gouty and impatient. He leans upon Juanito's arm and drags his feet along as he walks. He displays ill temper.]

Don Gonzalo. Idling their time away. They should be saying Mass.

Juanito. You can sit here, Señor. There is only a lady.

[Doña Laura turns her head and listens to the dialogue.]

Don Gonzalo. I won't, Juanito. I want a bench to myself.

Juanito. But there is none.

Don Gonzalo. But that one over there is mine.

Juanito. But there are three priests sitting there.

Don Gonzalo. Let them get up. Have they gone, Juanito?

Juanito. No, indeed. They are in animated conversation.

Don Gonzalo. Just as if they were glued to the seat. No hope of their leaving. Come this way, Juanito. [They walk toward birds.]

Doña Laura [indignantly]. Look out!

Don Gonzalo [turning his head]. Are you talking to me, Señora?

Doña Laura. Yes, to you.

Don Gonzalo. What do you wish?

Doña Laura. You have scared away the birds who were feeding on bread crumbs.

Don Gonzalo. What do I care about the birds.

Doña Laura. But I do.

Don Gonzalo. This is a public park.

Doña Laura. Then why do you complain that the priests have taken your bench?

Don Gonzalo. Señora, we have not been introduced to each other. I do not know why you take the liberty of addressing me. Come, Juanito. [Both exit.]

Doña Laura. What an ill-natured old man. Why must some people get so fussy and cross when they reach a certain age? I am glad. He lost that bench, too. Serves him right for scaring the birds. He is furious. Yes, yes; find a seat if you can. Poor fellow! He is wiping the perspiration from his face. Here he comes. A carriage would not raise more dust than he does with his feet.

[Enter Don Gonzalo and Juanito.]

Don Gonzalo. Have the priests gone yet, Juanito?

Juanito. No, indeed, Señor. They are still there.

Don Gonzalo. The authorities should place more benches here for these sunny mornings. Well, I suppose I must resign myself and sit on the same bench with the old lady. [Muttering to himself, he sits at the extreme end of Doña Laura's bench and looks at her indignantly. Touches his hat as he greets her.] Good morning.

Doña Laura. What, you here again?

Don Gonzalo. I repeat that we have not been introduced.

Doña Laura. I am responding to your greeting.

Don Gonzalo. Good morning should be answered by good morning, and that is what you should have said.

Doña Laura. And you should have asked permission to sit on this bench which is mine.

Don Gonzalo. The benches here are public property.

Doña Laura. Why, you said the one the priests occupied was yours.

Don Gonzalo. Very well, very well. I have nothing more to say. [Between his teeth.] Doting old woman. She should be at home with her knitting and counting her beads.

Doña Laura. Don't grumble any more. I'm not going to leave here just to please you.

Don Gonzalo [brushing the dust from his shoes with his handkerchief]. If the grounds were sprinkled more freely it would be an improvement.

Doña Laura. What an idea, to brush your shoes with your handkerchief.

Don Gonzalo. What?

Doña Laura. Do you use a shoe brush as a handkerchief?

Don Gonzalo. By what right do you criticize my actions?

Doña Laura. By the rights of a neighbor.

Don Gonzalo. Juanito, give me my book. I do not care to hear any more nonsense.

Doña Laura. You are very polite.

Don Gonzalo. Pardon me, Señora, but if you did not interfere with what does not concern you.

Doña Laura. I generally say what I think.

Don Gonzalo. And say more than you should. Give me the book, Juanito.

Juanito. Here it is, Señor. [Juanito takes book from pocket, hands it to Don Gonzalo; then exits.]

[Don Gonzalo, casting indignant glances at Doña Laura, puts on an enormous pair of glasses, takes from his pocket a reading-glass, adjusts both to suit him, opens his book.]

Doña Laura. I thought you were going to take out a telescope now.

Don Gonzalo. What, again?

Doña Laura. Your sight must be fine.

Don Gonzalo. Many times better than yours.

Doña Laura. Yes, it is very evident.

Don Gonzalo. Many hares and partridges could bear testimony to my words.

Doña Laura. Do you hunt?

Don Gonzalo. I did, and even now—

Doña Laura. Oh, yes, of course.

Don Gonzalo. Yes, Señora. Every Sunday I take my gun and dog, you understand, and go to one of my properties near Aravaca, just to kill time.

Doña Laura. Yes, to kill time. That is all you can kill.

Don Gonzalo. Do you think so? I could show you a wild boar's head in my study—

Doña Laura. Yes, and I could show you a tiger's skin in my boudoir. What an argument!

Don Gonzalo. Very well, Señora, please allow me to read. I do not feel like having more conversation.

Doña Laura. Well, keep quiet then.

Don Gonzalo. But first I shall take a pinch of snuff. [Takes out snuff box.] Will you have some? [Offers box to Doña Laura.]

Doña Laura. If it is good?

Don Gonzalo. It is of the finest. You will like it.

Doña Laura [taking pinch of snuff]. It clears my head.

Don Gonzalo. And mine.

Doña Laura. Do you sneeze?

Don Gonzalo. Yes, Señora, three times.

Doña Laura. And so do I. What a coincidence!

[After taking the snuff, they await the sneezes, making grimaces, and then sneeze alternately three times each.]

Don Gonzalo. There, I feel better.

Doña Laura. So do I. [Aside.] The snuff has made peace between us.

Don Gonzalo. You will excuse me if I read aloud?

Doña Laura. Read as you please; you will not disturb me.

Don Gonzalo [reading]. "All love is sad, but sad and all, it is the best thing that exists." That is from Campoamor.

Doña Laura. Ah!

Don Gonzalo [reading]. "The daughters of the mothers I once loved, kiss me now as they would kiss a wooden image." Those lines are in the humorous vein.

Doña Laura [laughing]. So I see.

Don Gonzalo. There are some beautiful poems in this book. Listen: "Twenty years have passed. He returns."

Doña Laura. You cannot imagine how it affects me to see you reading with all those glasses.

Don Gonzalo. Can it be possible that you read without requiring any?

Doña Laura. Certainly.

Don Gonzalo. At your age? You must be jesting.

Doña Laura. Pass me the book, please. [takes book, reads aloud.] "Twenty years have passed. He returns. And each upon beholding the other exclaims—Can it be possible that this is he? Merciful heavens, can this be she?"

[Doña Laura returns book to Don Gonzalo.]

Don Gonzalo. Indeed, you are to be envied for your wonderful eyesight.

Doña Laura [aside]. I knew the lines from memory.

Don Gonzalo. I am very fond of good verse, very fond. I even composed some in my youth.

Doña Laura. Good ones?

Don Gonzalo. Of all kinds. I was a great friend of Espronceda, Zorrilla, Becquer and others. I first met Zorrilla in America.

Doña Laura. Why, have you been in America?

Don Gonzalo. Several times. The first time I went I was only six years old.

Doña Laura. Columbus must have carried you in one of his caravels.

Don Gonzalo [laughing]. Not quite as bad as that. I am old, I admit, but I did not know Ferdinand and Isabella. [They both laugh.] I was also a great friend of Campoamor. I met him in Valencia. I am a native of that city.

Doña Laura. You are?

Don Gonzalo. I was brought up there and there I spent my early youth. Have you ever visited that city?

Doña Laura. Yes, Señor. Not far from Valencia there was a mansion that if still there, should retain memories of me. I spent there several seasons. This was many, many years ago. It was near the sea, concealed among lemon and orange trees. They called it—let me see, what did they call it?—"Maricela."

Don Gonzalo [startled]. Maricela?

Doña Laura. Maricela. Is the name familiar to you?

Don Gonzalo. Yes, very familiar. If my memory serves me right, for we forget as we grow old, there lived in that mansion the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, and I assure you I have seen a few. Let me see—what was her name? Laura—Laura—Laura Lorente.

Doña Laura [startled]. Laura Lorente?

Don Gonzalo. Yes. [They look at each other strangely.]

Doña Laura [recovering herself]. Nothing. You reminded me of my best friend.

Don Gonzalo. How strange!

Doña Laura. It is strange. She was called "The Silver Maiden."

Don Gonzalo. Precisely, "The Silver Maiden." By that name she was known in that locality. I seem to see her as if she were before me now, at that window of the red roses. Do you remember that window?

Doña Laura. Yes, I remember. It was that of her room.

Don Gonzalo. She spent many hours there. I mean in my days.

Doña Laura [sighing]. And in mine, too.

Don Gonzalo. She was ideal. Fair as a lily, jet black hair and black eyes, with a very sweet expression. She seemed to cast a radiance wherever she was. Her figure was beautiful, perfect. "What forms of sovereign beauty God models in human sculpture!" She was a dream.

Doña Laura [aside]. If you but knew that dream was now by your side, you would realize what dreams are worth. [Aloud.] She was very unfortunate and had a sad love affair.

Don Gonzalo. Very sad. [They look at each other.]

Doña Laura. You know of it?

Don Gonzalo. Yes. Doña Laura [aside]. Strange are the ways of Providence! This man is my early lover.

Don Gonzalo. The gallant lover, if we refer to the same affair—

Doña Laura. To the duel?

Don Gonzalo. Precisely, to the duel. The gallant lover was—my cousin, of whom I was very fond.

Doña Laura. Oh, yes, a cousin. My friend told me in one of her letters the story of that love affair, truly romantic. He, your cousin, passed by on horseback every morning by the rose path under her window, and tossed up to her balcony a bouquet of flowers which she caught.

Don Gonzalo. And later in the afternoon, the gallant horseman would return by the same path, and catch the bouquet of flowers she would toss him. Was it not so?

Doña Laura. Yes. They wanted to marry her to a merchant whom she did not fancy.

Don Gonzalo. And one night, when my cousin watched under her window to hear her sing, this new lover presented himself unexpectedly.

Doña Laura. And insulted your cousin.

Don Gonzalo. There was a quarrel.

Doña Laura. And later a duel.

Don Gonzalo. Yes, at sunrise, on the beach, and the merchant was badly wounded. My cousin had to conceal himself for a few days and later to fly.

Doña Laura. You seem to know the story perfectly.

Don Gonzalo. And so do you.

Doña Laura. I have told you that my friend related it to me.

Don Gonzalo. And my cousin to me. [Aside.] This woman is Laura. What a strange fate has brought us together again.

Doña Laura [aside]. He does not suspect who I am. Why tell him? Let him preserve his illusion.

Don Gonzalo [aside]. She does not suspect she is talking to her old lover. How can she? I will not reveal my identity.

Doña Laura. And was it you, by chance, who advised your cousin to forget Laura?

Don Gonzalo. Why, my cousin never forgot her for one instant.

Doña Laura. How do you account, then, for his conduct?

Don Gonzalo. I will explain. The young man first took refuge in my house, fearful of the consequences of his duel with that man, so much beloved in that locality. From my home he went to Seville, then came to Madrid. He wrote to Laura many letters, some in verse. But, undoubtedly, they were intercepted by her parents, for she never answered them. Gonzalo then, in despair, and believing his loved one lost to him forever, joined the army, went to Africa, and there, in a trench, met a glorious death, grasping the flag of Spain and repeating the name of his beloved—Laura—Laura—Laura.

Doña Laura [aside]. What an atrocious lie!

Don Gonzalo [aside]. I could not have killed myself in a more glorious manner.

Doña Laura. Such a calamity must have caused you the greatest sorrow.

Don Gonzalo. Yes, indeed, Señora. As great as if it were a brother. I presume though, that on the contrary, Laura in a short time was chasing butterflies in her garden, indifferent to everything.

Doña Laura. No, Señor, no indeed.

Don Gonzalo. It is usually a woman's way.

Doña Laura. Even if you consider it a woman's way, the "Silver Maiden" was not of that disposition. My friend awaited news for days, months, a year, and no letter came. One afternoon, just at sunset, and as the first stars were appearing, she was seen to leave the house, and with quick steps, wend her way toward the beach, that beach where her beloved had risked his life. She wrote his name on the sand, then sat upon a rock, her gaze fixed upon the horizon. The waves murmured their eternal monologue and slowly covered the rock where the maiden sat. Shall I tell you the rest?—The tide rose and carried her off to sea.

Don Gonzalo. Good heavens!

Doña Laura. The fishermen of that sea-coast who tell the story, affirm that it was a long time before the waves washed away that name written on the sand. [Aside.] You will not get ahead of me in inventing a romantic death.

Don Gonzalo [aside]. She lies more than I do.

Doña Laura. Poor Laura!

Don Gonzalo. Poor Gonzalo!

Doña Laura [aside]. I will not tell him that in two years I married another.

Don Gonzalo [aside]. I will not tell her that in three months I went to Paris with a ballet dancer.

Doña Laura. What strange pranks Fate plays! Here you and I, complete strangers, met by chance, and in discussing the romance of friends of long ago, we have been conversing as we were old friends.

Don Gonzalo. Yes, it is strange, considering we commenced our conversation quarreling.

Doña Laura. Because you scared away the birds.

Don Gonzalo. I was in a bad temper.

Doña Laura. Yes, that was evident. [Sweetly.] Are you coming to-morrow?

Don Gonzalo. Most certainly, if it is a sunny morning. And not only will I not scare away the birds, but will also bring them bread crumbs.

Doña Laura. Thank you very much. They are very interesting and deserve to be noticed. I wonder where my maid is? [Doña Laura rises; Don Gonzalo also rises.] What time can it be? [Doña Laura walks toward left.]

Don Gonzalo. It is nearly twelve o'clock. Where can that scamp Juanito be? [Walks toward right.]

Doña Laura. There she is talking with her guard. [Signals with her hand for her maid to approach.]

Don Gonzalo [looking at Laura, whose back is turned. Aside]. No, no, I will not reveal my identity. I am a grotesque figure now. Better that she recall the gallant horseman who passed daily under her window and tossed her flowers.

Doña Laura. How reluctant she is to leave him. Here she comes.

Don Gonzalo. But where can Juanito be? He has probably forgotten everything in the society of some nursemaid. [Looks toward right and signals with his hand.]

Doña Laura [looking at Gonzalo, whose back is turned. Aside]. No, I will not tell him I am Laura. I am too sadly altered. It is better he should remember me as the blackeyed girl who tossed him flowers as he passed through the rose path in that garden.

[Juanito enters by right: Petra by left. She has a bunch of violets in her hand.]

Doña Laura. Well, Petra, I thought you were never coming.

Don Gonzalo. But, Juanito, what delayed you so? It is very late.

Petra [handing violets to Doña Laura]. My lover gave me these violets for you, Señora.

Doña Laura. How very nice of him. Thank him for me. They are very fragrant. [As she takes the violets from her maid, a few loose ones drop to the ground.]

Don Gonzalo. My dear Señora, this has been a great honor and pleasure.

Doña Laura. And it has also been a pleasure to me.

Don Gonzalo. Good-by until to-morrow.

Doña Laura. Until to-morrow.

Don Gonzalo. If it is a sunny day.

Doña Laura. If it is a sunny day. Will you go to your bench?

Don Gonzalo. No, Señora, I will come to this, if you do not object?

Doña Laura. This bench is at your disposal. [Both laugh.]

Don Gonzalo. And I will surely bring the bread crumbs. [Both laugh again.]

Doña Laura. Until to-morrow.

Don Gonzalo. Until to-morrow.

[Laura walks away on her maid's arm toward right. Gonzalo, before leaving with Juanito, trembling and with a great effort, stoops to pick up the violets Laura dropped. Just then, Laura turns her head and sees him pick up flowers.]

Juanito. What are you doing, Señor?

Don Gonzalo. Wait, Juanito, wait.

Doña Laura [aside]. There is no doubt. It is he.

Don Gonzalo [walks toward left. Aside]. There can be no mistake. It is she.

[Doña Laura and Don Gonzalo wave farewells to each other from a distance.]

Doña Laura. Merciful heavens! This is Gonzalo.

Don Gonzalo. And to think that this is Laura.

[Before disappearing they give one last smiling look at each other.]

 

[Curtain.]


THE CREDITOR

A Play

By August Strindberg


PERSONS
Thelka.
Adolf [her husband, a painter].
Gustav [her divorced husband].
Two Ladies, a Waiter.

THE CREDITOR

A Play

By August Strindberg

 

[Scene: A small watering-place. Time, the present. Stage directions with reference to the actors.

A drawing-room in a watering-place; furnished as above.

Door in the middle, with a view out on the sea; side doors right and left; by the side door on the left the button of an electric bell; on the right of the door in the center a table, with a decanter of water and a glass. On the left of the door in the center a what-not; on the right a fireplace in front; on the right a round table and arm-chair; on the left a sofa, a square table, a settee; on the table a small pedestal with a draped figure—papers, books, arm-chairs. Only the items of furniture which are introduced into the action are referred to in the above plan. The rest of the scenery remains unaffected. It is summer, and the day-time.]

 

Scene I.

[Adolf sits on the settee on the left of the square table; his stick is propped up near him.]

Adolf. And it's you I've got to thank for all this.

Gustav [walks up and down on the right, smoking a cigar]. Oh, nonsense.

Adolf. Indeed, I have. Why, the first day after my wife went away, I lay on my sofa like a cripple and gave myself up to my depression; it was as though she had taken my crutches, and I couldn't move from the spot. A few days went by, and I cheered up and began to pull myself together. The delirious nightmares which my brain had produced, went away. My head became cooler and cooler. A thought which I once had came to the surface again. My desire to work, my impulse to create, woke up. My eye got back again its capacity for sound sharp observation. You came, old man.

Gustav. Yes, you were in pretty low water, old man, when I came across you, and you went about on crutches. Of course, that doesn't prove that it was simply my presence that helped so much to your recovery: you needed quiet, and you wanted masculine companionship.

Adolf. You're right in that, as you are in everything else you say. I used to have it in the old days. But after my marriage it seemed unnecessary. I was satisfied with the friend of my heart whom I had chosen. All the same I soon got into fresh sets, and made many new acquaintances. But then my wife got jealous. She wanted to have me quite to herself; but much worse than that, my friends wanted to have her quite to themselves—and so I was left out in the cold with my jealousy.

Gustav. You were predisposed to this illness, you know that.

[He passes on the left behind the square table and comes to Adolf's left.]

Adolf. I was afraid of losing her—and tried to prevent it. Are you surprised at it? I was never afraid for a moment that she'd be unfaithful to me.

Gustav. What husband ever was afraid?

Adolf. Strange, isn't it? All I troubled about was simply this—about friends getting influence over her and so being able indirectly to acquire power over me—and I couldn't bear that at all.

Gustav. So you and your wife didn't have quite identical views?

Adolf. I've told you so much, you may as well know everything—-my wife is an independent character. [Gustav laughs.] What are you laughing at, old man?

Gustav. Go on, go on. She's an independent character, is she?

Adolf. She won't take anything from me.

Gustav. But she does from everybody else?

Adolf [after a pause]. Yes. And I've felt about all this, that the only reason why my views were so awfully repugnant to her, was because they were mine, not because they appeared absurd on their intrinsic merits. For it often happened that she'd trot out my old ideas, and champion them with gusto as her own. Why, it even came about that one of my friends gave her ideas which he had borrowed direct from me. She found them delightful; she found everything delightful that didn't come from me.

Gustav. In other words, you're not truly happy.

Adolf. Oh yes, I am. The woman whom I desired is mine, and I never wished for any other.

Gustav. Do you never wish to be free either?

Adolf. I wouldn't like to go quite so far as that. Of course the thought crops up now and again, how calmly I should be able to live if I were free—but she scarcely leaves me before I immediately long for her again, as though she were my arm, my leg. Strange. When I'm alone I sometimes feel as though she didn't have any real self of her own, as though she were a part of my ego, a piece out of my inside, that stole away all my will, all my joie de vivre. Why, my very marrow itself, to use an anatomical expression, is situated in her; that's what it seems like.

Gustav. Viewing the matter broadly, that seems quite plausible.

Adolf. Nonsense. An independent person like she is, with such a tremendous lot of personal views, and when I met her, what was I then? Nothing. An artistic child which she brought up.

Gustav. But afterwards you developed her intellect and educated her, didn't you?

Adolf. No; her growth remained stationary, and I shot up.

Gustav. Yes; it's really remarkable, but her literary talent already began to deteriorate after her first book, or, to put it as charitably as possible, it didn't develop any further. [He sits down opposite Adolf on the sofa on the left.] Of course she then had the most promising subject-matter—for of course she drew the portrait of her first husband—you never knew him, old man? He must have been an unmitigated ass.

Adolf. I've never seen him. He was away for more than six months, but the good fellow must have been as perfect an ass as they're made, judging by her description—you can take it from me, old man, that her description wasn't exaggerated.

Gustav. Quite; but why did she marry him?

Adolf. She didn't know him then. People only get to know one another afterwards, don't you know.

Gustav. But, according to that, people have no business to marry until—Well, the man was a tyrant, obviously.

Adolf. Obviously?

Gustav. What husband wouldn't be? [Casually.] Why, old chap, you're as much a tyrant as any of the others.

Adolf. Me? I? Well, I allow my wife to come and go as she jolly well pleases!

Gustav [stands up]. Pah! a lot of good that is. I didn't suppose you kept her locked up. [He turns round behind the square table and comes over to Adolf on the right.] Don't you mind if she's out all night?

Adolf. I should think I do.

Gustav. Look here. [Resuming his earlier tone.] Speaking as man to man, it simply makes you ridiculous.

Adolf. Ridiculous? Can a man's trusting his wife make him ridiculous?

Gustav. Of course it can. And you've been so for some time. No doubt about it.

[He walks round the round table on the right.]

Adolf [excitedly]. Me? I'd have preferred to be anything but that. I must put matters right.

Gustav. Don't you get so excited, otherwise you'll get an attack again.

Adolf [after a pause]. Why doesn't she look ridiculous when I stay out all night?

Gustav. Why? Don't you bother about that. That's how the matter stands, and while you're fooling about moping, the mischief is done.

[He goes behind the square table, and walks behind the sofa.]

Adolf. What mischief?

Gustav. Her husband, you know, was a tyrant, and she simply married him in order to be free. For what other way is there for a girl to get free, than by getting the so-called husband to act as cover?

Adolf. Why, of course.

Gustav. And now, old man, you're the cover.

Adolf. I?

Gustav. As her husband.

Adolf [looks absent].

Gustav. Am I not right?

Adolf [uneasily]. I don't know. [Pause.] A man lives for years on end with a woman without coming to a clear conclusion about the woman herself, or how she stands in relation to his own way of looking at things. And then all of a sudden a man begins to reflect—and then there's no stopping. Gustav, old man, you're my friend, the only friend I've had for a long time, and this last week you've given me back all my life and pluck. It seems as though you'd radiated your magnetism over me. You were the watchmaker who repairs the works in my brain, and tightened the spring. [Pause.] Don't you see yourself how much more lucidly I think, how much more connectedly I speak, and at times it almost seems as though my voice had got back the timbre it used to have in the old days.

Gustav. I think so, too. What can be the cause of it?

Adolf. I don't know. Perhaps one gets accustomed to talk more softly to women. Thekla, at any rate, was always ragging me because I shrieked.

Gustav. And then you subsided into a minor key, and allowed yourself to be put in the corner.

Adolf. Don't say that. [Reflectively.] That wasn't the worst of it. Let's talk of something else—where was I then—I've got it. [Gustav turns round again at the back of the square table and comes to Adolf on his right.] You came here, old man, and opened my eyes to the mysteries of my art. As a matter of fact, I've been feeling for some time that my interest in painting was lessening, because it didn't provide me with a proper medium to express what I had in me; but when you gave me the reason for this state of affairs, and explained to me why painting could not possibly be the right form for the artistic impulse of the age, then I saw the true light and I recognized that it would be from now onwards impossible for me to create in colors.

Gustav. Are you so certain, old man, that you won't be able to paint any more, that you won't have any relapse?

Adolf. Quite. I have tested myself. When I went to bed the evening after our conversation I reviewed your chain of argument point by point, and felt convinced that it was sound. But the next morning, when my head cleared again, after the night's sleep, the thought flashed through me like lightning that you might be mistaken all the same. I jumped up, and snatched up a brush and palette, in order to paint, but—just think of it!—it was all up. I was no longer capable of any illusion. The whole thing was nothing but blobs of color, and I was horrified at the thought. I could never have believed I could convert any one else to the belief that painted canvas was anything else except painted canvas. The scales had fallen from my eyes, and I could as much paint again as I could become a child again.

Gustav. You realized then that the real striving of the age, its aspiration for reality, for actuality, can only find a corresponding medium in sculpture, which gives bodies extension in the three dimensions.

Adolf [hesitating]. The three dimensions? Yes—in a word, bodies.

Gustav. And now you want to become a sculptor? That means that you were a sculptor really from the beginning; you got off the line somehow, so you only needed a guide to direct you back again to the right track. I say, when you work now, does the great joy of creation come over you?

Adolf. Now, I live again.

Gustav. May I see what you're doing?

Adolf [undraping a figure on the small table]. A female figure.

Gustav [probing]. Without a model, and yet so lifelike?

Adolf [heavily]. Yes, but it is like somebody; extraordinary how this woman is in me, just as I am in her.

Gustav. That last is not so extraordinary—do you know anything about transfusion?

Adolf. Blood transfusion? Yes.

Gustav. It seems to me that you've allowed your veins to be opened a bit too much. The examination of this figure clears up many things which I'd previously only surmised. You loved her infinitely?

Adolf. Yes; so much that I could never tell whether she is I, or I am her; when she laughed I laughed; when she cried I cried, and when—just imagine it—our child came into the world I suffered the same as she did.

Gustav [stepping a little to the right]. Look here, old chap, I am awfully sorry to have to tell you, but the symptoms of epilepsy are already manifesting themselves.

Adolf [crushed]. In me? What makes you say so.

Gustav. Because I watched these symptoms in a younger brother of mine, who eventually died of excess.

[He sits down in the arm-chair by the circular table.]

Adolf. How did it manifest itself—that disease, I mean?

[Gustav gesticulates vividly; Adolf watches with strained attention, and involuntarily imitates Gustav's gestures.]

Gustav. A ghastly sight. If you feel at all off color, I'd rather not harrow you by describing the symptoms.

Adolf [nervously]. Go on; go on.

Gustav. Well, it's like this. Fate had given the youngster for a wife a little innocent, with kiss-curls, dove-like eyes, and a baby face, from which there spoke the pure soul of an angel. In spite of that, the little one managed to appropriate the man's prerogative.

Adolf. What is that?

Gustav. Initiative, of course; and the inevitable result was that the angel came precious near taking him away to heaven. He first had to be on the cross and feel the nails in his flesh.

Adolf [suffocating]. Tell me, what was it like?

Gustav [slowly]. There were times when he and I would sit quite quietly by each other and chat, and then—I'd scarcely been speaking a few minutes before his face became ashy white, his limbs were paralyzed, and his thumbs turned in towards the palm of the hand. [With a gesture.] Like that! [Adolf imitates the gesture.] And his eyes were shot with blood, and he began to chew, do you see, like this. [He moves his lips as though chewing; Adolf imitates him again.] The saliva stuck in his throat; the chest contracted as though it had been compressed by screws on a joiner's bench; there was a flicker in the pupils like gas jets; foam spurted from his mouth, and he sank gently back in the chair as though he were drowning. Then—

Adolf [hissing]. Stop!

Gustav. Then—are you unwell?

Adolf. Yes.

Gustav [gets up and fetches a glass of water from the table on the right near the center door]. Here, drink this, and let's change the subject.

Adolf [drinks, limp]. Thanks; go on.

Gustav. Good! When he woke up he had no idea what had taken place. [He takes the glass back to the table.] He had simply lost consciousness. Hasn't that ever happened to you?

Adolf. Now and again I have attacks of dizziness. The doctor puts it down to anæmia.

Gustav [on the right of Adolf]. That's just how the thing starts, mark you. Take it from me, you're in danger of contracting epilepsy; if you aren't on your guard, if you don't live a careful and abstemious life, all round.

Adolf. What can I do to effect that?

Gustav. Above all, you must exercise the most complete continence.

Adolf. For how long?

Gustav. Six months at least.

Adolf. I can't do it. It would upset all our life together.

Gustav. Then it's all up with you.

Adolf. I can't do it.

Gustav. You can't save your own life? But tell me, as you've taken me into your confidence so far, haven't you any other wound that hurts you?—some other secret trouble in this multifarious life of ours, with all its numerous opportunities for jars and complications? There is usually more than one motif which is responsible for a discord. Haven't you got a skeleton in the cupboard, old chap, which you hide even from yourself? You told me a minute ago you'd given your child to people to look after. Why didn't you keep it with you?

[He goes behind the square table on the left and then behind the sofa.]

Adolf [covers the figure on the small table with a cloth]. It was my wife's wish to have it nursed outside the house.

Gustav. The motive? Don't be afraid.

Adolf. Because when the kid was three years old she thought it began to look like her first husband.

Gustav. Re-a-lly? Ever seen the first husband?

Adolf. No, never. I just once cast a cursory glance over a bad photograph, but I couldn't discover any likeness.

Gustav. Oh, well, photographs are never like, and besides, his type of face may have changed with time. By the by, didn't that make you at all jealous?

Adolf. Not a bit. The child was born a year after our marriage, and the husband was traveling when I met Thekla, here—in this watering-place—in this very house. That's why we come here every summer.

Gustav. Then all suspicion on your part was out of the question? But so far as the intrinsic facts of the matter are concerned you needn't be jealous at all, because it not infrequently happens that the children of a widow who marries again are like the deceased husband. Very awkward business, no question about it; and that's why, don't you know, the widows are burned alive in India. Tell me, now, didn't you ever feel jealous of him, of the survival of his memory in your own self? Wouldn't it have rather gone against the grain if he had just met you when you were out for a walk, and, looking straight at Thekla, said "We," instead of "I"? "We."

Adolf. I can't deny that the thought has haunted me.

Gustav [sits down opposite Adolf on the sofa on the left]. I thought as much, and you'll never get away from it. There are discords in life, you know, which never get resolved, so you must stuff your ears with wax, and work. Work, get older, and heap up over the coffin a mass of new impressions, and then the corpse will rest in peace.

Adolf. Excuse my interrupting you—but it is extraordinary at times how your way of speaking reminds me of Thekla. You've got a trick, old man, of winking with your right eye as though you were counting, and your gaze has the same power over me as hers has.

Gustav. No, really?

Adolf. And now you pronounce your "No, really?" in the same indifferent tone that she does. "No, really?" is one of her favorite expressions, too, you know.

Gustav. Perhaps there is a distant relationship between us: all men and women are related of course. Anyway, there's no getting away from the strangeness of it, and it will be interesting for me to make the acquaintance of your wife, so as to observe this remarkable characteristic.

Adolf. But just think of this, she doesn't take a single expression from me; why, she seems rather to make a point of avoiding all my special tricks of speech; all the same, I have seen her make use of one of my gestures; but it is quite the usual thing in married life for a husband and a wife to develop the so-called marriage likeness.

Gustav. Quite. But look here now. [He stands up.] That woman has never loved you.

Adolf. Nonsense.

Gustav. Pray excuse me, woman's love consists simply in this—in taking in, in receiving. She does not love the man from whom she takes nothing: she has never loved you.

[He turns round behind the square table and walks to Adolf's right.]

Adolf. I suppose you don't think that she'd be able to love more than once?

Gustav. No. Once bit, twice shy. After the first time, one keeps one's eyes open, but you have never been really bitten yet. You be careful of those who have; they're dangerous customers.

[He goes round the circular table on the right.]

Adolf. What you say jabs a knife into my flesh. I've got a feeling as though something in me were cut through, but I can do nothing to stop it all by myself, and it's as well it should be so, for abscesses will be opened in that way which would otherwise never be able to come to a head. She never loved me? Why did she marry me, then?

Gustav. Tell me first how it came about that she did marry you, and whether she married you or you her?

Adolf. God knows! That's much too hard a question to be answered offhand, and how did it take place?—it took more than a day.

Gustav. Shall I guess?

[He goes behind the round table, toward the left, and sits on the sofa.]

Adolf. You'll get nothing for your pains.

Gustav. Not so fast! From the insight which you've given me into your own character, and that of your wife, I find it pretty easy to work out the sequence of the whole thing. Listen to me and you'll be quite convinced. [Dispassionately and in an almost jocular tone.] The husband happened to be traveling on study and she was alone. At first she found a pleasure in being free. Then she imagined that she felt the void, for I presume that she found it pretty boring after being alone for a fortnight. Then he turned up, and the void begins gradually to be filled—the picture of the absent man begins gradually to fade in comparison, for the simple reason that he is a long way off—you know of course the psychological algebra of distance? And when both of them, alone as they were, felt the awakening of passion, they were frightened of themselves, of him, of their own conscience. They sought for protection, skulked behind the fig-leaf, played at brother and sister, and the more sensual grew their feelings the more spiritual did they pretend their relationship really was.

Adolf. Brother and sister! How did you know that?

Gustav. I just thought that was how it was. Children play at mother and father, but of course when they grow older they play at brother and sister—so as to conceal what requires concealment; they then discard their chaste desires; they play blind man's bluff till they've caught each other in some dark corner, where they're pretty sure not to be seen by anybody. [With increased severity.] But they are warned by their inner consciences that an eye sees them through the darkness. They are afraid—and in their panic the absent man begins to haunt their imagination—to assume monstrous proportions—to become metamorphosed—he becomes a nightmare who oppresses them in that love's young dream of theirs. He becomes the creditor [he raps slowly on the table three times with his finger, as though knocking at the door] who knocks at the door. They see his black hand thrust itself between them when their own are reaching after the dish of pottage. They hear his unwelcome voice in the stillness of the night, which is only broken by the beating of their own pulses. He doesn't prevent their belonging to each other, but he is enough to mar their happiness, and when they have felt this invisible power of his, and when at last they want to run away, and make their futile efforts to escape the memory which haunts them, the guilt which they have left behind, the public opinion which they are afraid of, and they lack the strength to bear their own guilt, then a scapegoat has to be exterminated and slaughtered. They posed as believers in Free Love, but they didn't have the pluck to go straight to him, to speak straight out to him and say, "We love each other." They were cowardly, and that's why the tyrant had to be assassinated. Am I not right?

Adolf. Yes; but you're forgetting that she trained me, gave me new thoughts.

Gustav. I haven't forgotten it. But tell me, how was it that she wasn't able to succeed in educating the other man—in educating him into being really modern?

Adolf. He was an utter ass.

Gustav. Right you are—he was an ass; but that's a fairly elastic word, and according to her description of him, in her novel, his asinine nature seemed to have consisted principally in the fact that he didn't understand her. Excuse the question, but is your wife really as deep as all that? I haven't found anything particularly profound in her writings.

Adolf. Nor have I. I must really own that I too find it takes me all my time to understand her. It's as though the machinery of our brains couldn't catch on to each other properly—as though something in my head got broken when I try to understand her.

Gustav. Perhaps you're an ass as well.

Adolf. No, I flatter myself I'm not that, and I nearly always think that she's in the wrong—and, for the sake of argument, would you care to read this letter which I got from her to-day?

[He takes a letter out of his pocketbook.]

Gustav [reads it cursorily]. Hum, I seem to know the style so well.

Adolf. Like a man's, almost.

Gustav. Well, at any rate I know a man who had a style like that. [Standing up.] I see she goes on calling you brother all the time—do you always keep up the comedy for the benefit of your two selves? Do you still keep on using the fig leaves, even though they're a trifle withered—you don't use any term of endearment?

Adolf. No. In my view, I couldn't respect her quite so much if I did.

Gustav [hands back the letter]. I see, and she calls herself "sister" so as to inspire respect.

[He turns around and passes the square table on Adolf's right.]

Adolf. I want to esteem her more than I do myself. I want her to be my better self.

Gustav. Oh, you be your better self; though I quite admit it's less convenient than having somebody else to do it for you. Do you want, then, to be your wife's inferior?

Adolf. Yes, I do. I find pleasure in always allowing myself to be beaten by her a little. For instance, I taught her swimming, and it amuses me when she boasts about being better and pluckier than I am. At the beginning I simply pretended to be less skillful and courageous than she was, in order to give her pluck, but one day, God knows how it came about, I was actually the worse swimmer and the one with less pluck. It seemed as though she's taken all my grit away in real earnest.

Gustav. And haven't you taught her anything else?

Adolf. Yes—but this is in confidence—I taught her spelling, because she didn't know it. Just listen to this. When she took over the correspondence of the household I gave up writing letters, and—will you believe it?—simply from lack of practice I've lost one bit of grammar after another in the course of the year. But do you think she ever remembers that she has to thank me really for her proficiency? Not for a minute. Of course, I'm the ass now.

Gustav. Ah, really? You're the ass now, are you?

Adolf. I'm only joking, of course.

Gustav. Obviously. But this is pure cannibalism, isn't it? Do you know what I mean? Well, the savages devour their enemies so as to acquire their best qualities. Well, this woman has devoured your soul, your pluck, your knowledge.

Adolf. And my faith. It was I who kept her up to the mark and made her write her first book.

Gustav [with facial expression]. Re-a-lly?

Adolf. It was I who fed her up with praise, even when I thought her work was no good. It was I who introduced her into literary sets, and tried to make her feel herself in clover; defended her against criticism by my personal intervention. I blew courage into her, kept on blowing it for so long that I got out of breath myself. I gave and gave and gave—until nothing was left for me myself. Do you know—I'm going to tell you the whole story—do you know how the thing seems to me now? One's temperament is such an extraordinary thing, and when my artistic successes looked as though they would eclipse her—her prestige—I tried to buck her up by belittling myself and by representing that my art was one that was inferior to hers. I talked so much of the general insignificant rôle of my particular art, and harped on it so much, thought of so many good reasons for my contention, that one fine day I myself was soaked through and through with the worthlessness of the painter's art; so all that was left was a house of cards for you to blow down.

Gustav. Excuse my reminding you of what you said, but at the beginning of our conversation you were asserting that she took nothing from you.

Adolf. She doesn't—now, at any rate; now there is nothing left to take.

Gustav. So the snake has gorged herself, and now she vomits.

Adolf. Perhaps she took more from me than I knew of.

Gustav. Oh, you can reckon on that right enough—she took without your noticing it. [He goes behind the square table and comes in front of the sofa.] That's what people call stealing.

Adolf. Then what it comes to is that she hasn't educated me at all?

Gustav. Rather you her. Of course she knew the trick well enough of making you believe the contrary. Might I ask how she pretended to educate you?

Adolf. Oh—at first—hum!

Gustav. Well? [He leans his arms on the table.]

Adolf. Well, I—

Gustav. No; it was she—she.

Adolf. As a matter of fact I couldn't say which it was.

Gustav. You see.

Adolf. Besides, she destroyed my faith as well, and so I went backward until you came, old chap, and gave me a new faith.

Gustav [he laughs]. In sculpture?

[He turns round by the square table and comes to Adolf's right.]

Adolf [hesitating]. Yes.

Gustav. And you believed in it?—in that abstract, obsolete art from the childhood of the world. Do you believe that by means of pure form and three dimensions—no, you don't really—that you can produce an effect on the real spirit of this age of ours, that you can create illusions without color? Without color, I say. Do you believe that?

Adolf [tonelessly]. No.

Gustav. Nor do I.

Adolf. But why did you say you did?

Gustav. You make me pity you.

Adolf. Yes, I am indeed to be pitied. And now I'm bankrupt, absolutely—and the worst of it is I haven't got her any more.

Gustav [with a few steps toward the right]. What good would she be to you? She would be what God above was to me before I became an atheist—a subject on which I could lavish my reverence. You keep your feeling of reverence dark, and let something else grow on top of it—a healthy contempt, for instance.

Adolf. I can't live without some one to reverence.

Gustav. Slave!

[He goes round the table on the right.]

Adolf. And without a woman to reverence, to worship.

Gustav. Oh, the deuce! Then you go back to that God of yours—if you really must have something on which you can crucify yourself; but you call yourself an atheist when you've got the superstitious belief in women in your own blood; you call yourself a free thinker when you can't think freely about a lot of silly women. Do you know what all this illusive quality, this sphinx-like mystery, this profundity in your wife's temperament all really comes to? The whole thing is sheer stupidity; why, the woman can't distinguish between A.B. and bull's foot for the life of her. And look here, it's something shoddy in the mechanism, that's where the fault lies. Outside it looks like a fifty-guinea hunting watch, open it and you find it's tuppenny-halfpenny gun-metal. [He comes up to Adolf.] Put her in trousers, draw a mustache under her nose with a piece of coal, and then listen to her in the same state of mind, and then you'll be perfectly convinced that it is quite a different kettle of fish altogether—-a gramaphone which reproduces, with rather less volume, your words and other people's words. Do you know how a woman is constituted? Yes, of course you do. A boy with the breasts of a mother, an immature man, a precocious child whose growth has been stunted, a chronically anæmic creature that has a regular emission of blood thirteen times in the year. What can you do with a thing like that?

Adolf. Yes—but—but then how can I believe—that we are really on an equality?

Gustav [moves away from him again towards the right]. Sheer hallucination! The fascination of the petticoat. But it is so; perhaps, in fact you have become like each other, the leveling has taken place. But I say. [He takes out his watch.] We've been chatting for quite long enough. Your wife's bound to be here shortly. Wouldn't it be better to leave off now, so that you can rest for a little?

[He comes nearer and holds out his hand to say good-by. Adolf grips his hand all the tighter.]

Adolf. NO, don't leave me. I haven't got the pluck to be alone.

Gustav. Only for a little while. Your wife will be coming in a minute.

Adolf. Yes, yes—she's coming. [Pause.] Strange, isn't it? I long for her and yet I'm frightened of her. She caresses me, she is tender, but her kisses have something in them which smothers one, something which sucks, something which stupefies. It is as though I were the child at the circus whose face the clown is making up in the dressing-room, so that it can appear red-cheeked before the public.

Gustav [leaning on the arm of Adolf's chair]. I'm sorry for you, old man. Although I'm not a doctor I am in a position to tell you that you are a dying man. One only has to look at your last pictures to be quite clear on the point.

Adolf. What do you say—what do you mean?

Gustav. Your coloring is so watery, so consumptive and thin, that the yellow of the canvas shines through. It is just as though your hollow ashen white cheeks were looking out at me.

Adolf. Ah!

Gustav. Yes, and that's not only my view. Haven't you read to-day's paper?

Adolf [he starts]. No.

Gustav. It's before you on the table.

Adolf [he gropes after the paper without having the courage to take it]. Is it in here?

Gustav. Read it, or shall I read it to you?

Adolf. No.

Gustav [turns to leave]. If you prefer it, I'll go.

Adolf. NO, no, no! I don't know how it is—I think I am beginning to hate you, but all the same I can't do without your being near me. You have helped to drag me out of the slough which I was in, and, as luck would have it, I just managed to work my way clear and then you knocked me on the head and plunged me in again. As long as I kept my secrets to myself I still had some guts—now I'm empty. There's a picture by an Italian master that describes a torture scene. The entrails are dragged out of a saint by means of a windlass. The martyr lies there and sees himself getting continually thinner and thinner, but the roll on the windless always gets perpetually fatter, and so it seems to me that you get stronger since you've taken me up and that you're taking away now with you, as you go, my innermost essence, the core of my character, and there's nothing left of me but an empty husk.

Gustav. Oh, what fantastic notions; besides, your wife is coming back with your heart.

Adolf. No; no longer, after you have burnt it for me. You have passed through me, changing everything in your track to ashes—my art, my love, my hope, my faith.

Gustav [comes near to him again]. Were you so splendidly off before?

Adolf. No, I wasn't, but the situation might have been saved; now it's too late. Murderer!

Gustav. We've wasted a little time. Now we'll do some sowing in the ashes.

Adolf. I hate you! I curse you!

Gustav. A healthy symptom. You've still got some strength, and now I'll screw up your machinery again. I say. [He goes behind the square table on the left and comes in front of the sofa.] Will you listen to me and obey me?

Adolf. Do what you will with me, I'll obey.

Gustav. Look at me.

Adolf [looks him in the face]. And now you look at me again with that other expression in those eyes of yours, which draws me to you irresistibly.

Gustav. Now listen to me.

Adolf. Yes, but speak of yourself. Don't speak any more of me: it's as though I were wounded, every movement hurts me.

Gustav. Oh no, there isn't much to say about me, don't you know. I'm a private tutor in dead languages and a widower, that's all. [He goes in front of the table.] Hold my hand.

[Adolf does so.]

Adolf. What awful strength you must have, it seems as though a fellow were catching hold of an electric battery.

Gustav. And just think, I was once quite as weak as you are. [Sternly.] Get up.

Adolf [gets up]. I am like a child without any bones, and my brain is empty.

Gustav. Take a walk through the room.

Adolf. I can't.

Gustav. You must; if you don't I'll hit you.

Adolf [stands up]. What do you say?

Gustav. I've told you—I'll hit you.

Adolf [jumps back to the circular table on the right, beside himself.] You!

Gustav [follows him]. Bravo! That's driven the blood to your head, and woken up your self-respect. Now I'll give you an electric shock. Where's your wife?

Adolf. Where's my wife?

Gustav. Yes.

Adolf. At—a meeting.

Gustav. Certain?

Adolf. Absolutely.

Gustav. What kind of a meeting?

Adolf. An orphan association.

Gustav. Did you part friends?

Adolf [hesitating]. Not friends.

Gustav. Enemies, then? What did you say to make her angry?

Adolf. You're terrible. I'm frightened of you. How did you manage to know that?

Gustav. I've just got three known quantities, and by their help I work out the unknown. What did you say to her, old chap?

Adolf. I said—only two words—but two awful words. I regret them—I regret them.

Gustav. You shouldn't do that. Well, speak!

Adolf. I said, "Old coquette."

Gustav. And what else?

Adolf. I didn't say anything else.

Gustav. Oh yes, you did; you've only forgotten it. Perhaps because you haven't got the pluck to remember it. You've locked it up in a secret pigeonhole; open it.

Adolf. I don't remember.

Gustav. But I know what it was—the sense was roughly this: "You ought to be ashamed of yourself to be always flirting at your age. You're getting too old to find any more admirers."

Adolf. Did I say that—possibly? How did you manage to know it?

Gustav. On my way here I heard her tell the story on the steamer.

Adolf. To whom?

Gustav [walks up and down on the left]. To four boys, whom she happened to be with. She has a craze for pure boys, just like—

Adolf. A perfectly innocent penchant.

Gustav. Quite as innocent as playing brother and sister when one is father and mother.

Adolf. You saw her, then?

Gustav. Yes, of course; but you've never seen her if you didn't see her then—I mean, if you weren't present—and that's the reason, don't you know, why a husband can never know his wife. Have you got her photograph?

Adolf [takes a photo out of his pocketbook. Inquisitively]. Here you are.

Gustav [takes it]. Were you present when it was taken?

Adolf. No.

Gustav. Just look at it? Is it like the portrait you painted? No, the features are the same, but the expression is different. But you don't notice that, because you insist on seeing in it the picture of her which you've painted. Now look at this picture as a painter, without thinking of the original. What does it represent? I can see nothing but a tricked-out flirt, playing the decoy. Observe the cynical twist in the mouth, which you never managed to see. You see that her look is seeking a man quite different from you. Observe the dress is décolleté, the coiffure titivated to the last degree, the sleeves finished high up. You see?

Adolf. Yes, now I see.

Gustav. Be careful, my boy.

Adolf. Of what?

Gustav [gives him back the portrait]. Of her revenge. Don't forget that by saying she was no longer attractive to men you wounded her in the one thing which she took most seriously. If you'd called her literary works twaddle she'd have laughed, and pitied your bad taste, but now—take it from me—if she hasn't avenged herself already it's not her fault.

Adolf. I must be clear on that point.

[He goes over to Gustav, and sits down in his previous place. Gustav approaches him.]

Gustav. Find out yourself.

Adolf. Find out myself?

Gustav. Investigate. I'll help you, if you like.

Adolf [after a pause]. Good. Since I've been condemned to death once—so be it—sooner or later it's all the same what's to happen.

Gustav. One question first. Hasn't your wife got just one weak point?

Adolf. Not that I know of. [Adolf goes to the open door in the center]. Yes. You can hear the steamer in the Sound now—she'll be here soon. And I must go down to meet her.

Gustav [holding him back]. No, stay here. Be rude to her. If she's got a good conscience she'll let you have it so hot and strong that you won't know where you are. But if she feels guilty she'll come and caress you.

Adolf. Are you so sure of it?

Gustav. Not absolutely. At times a hare goes back in the tracks, but I'm not going to let this one escape me. My room is just here. [Points to the door on the right and goes behind Adolf's chair.] I'll keep this position, and be on the look-out, while you play your game here, and when you've played it to the end we'll exchange parts. I'll go in the cage and leave myself to the tender mercies of the snake, and you can stand at the keyhole. Afterwards we'll meet in the park and compare notes. But pull yourself together, old man, and if you show weakness I'll knock on the floor twice with a chair.

Adolf [getting up]. Right. But don't go away: I must know that you're in the next room.

Gustav. You can trust me for that. But be careful you aren't afraid when you see later on how I can dissect a human soul and lay the entrails here on the table. It may seem a bit uncanny to beginners, but if you've seen it done once you don't regret it. One thing more, don't say a word that you've met me, or that you have made any acquaintance during her absence—not a word. I'll ferret out her weak point myself. Hush! She's already up there in her room. She's whistling—then she's in a temper. Now stick to it. [He points to the left.] And sit here on this chair, then she'll have to sit there [He points to the sofa on the left.], and I can keep you both in view at the same time.

Adolf. We've still got an hour before dinner. There are no new visitors, for there has been no bell to announce them. We'll be alone together—more's the pity!

Gustav. You seem pretty limp. Are you unwell?

Adolf. I'm all right; unless, you know, I'm frightened of what's going to happen. But I can't help its happening. The stone rolls, but it was not the last drop of water that made it roll, nor yet the first—everything taken together brought it about.

Gustav. Let it roll, then; it won't have any peace until it does. Good-by, for the time being.

[Exit on the right. Adolf nods to him, stands up for a short time, looking at the photograph, tears it to pieces, and throws the fragments behind the circular table on the right; he then sits down in his previous place, nervously arranges his tie, runs his fingers through his hair, fumbles with the lapels of his coat, etc. Thekla enters on the left.]

 

Scene II.

Thekla [frank, cheerful and engaging, goes straight up to her husband and kisses him]. Good-day, little brother; how have you been getting on?

[She stands on his left.]

Adolf [half overcome but jocularly resisting]. What mischief have you been up to, for you to kiss me?

Thekla. Yes, let me just confess. Something very naughty—I've spent an awful lot of money.

Adolf. Did you have a good time, then?

Thekla. Excellent. [She goes to his right.] But not at the Congress. It was as dull as ditch-water, don't you know. But how has little brother been passing the time, when his little dove had flown away?

[She looks around the room, as though looking for somebody or scenting something, and thus comes behind the sofa on the left.]

Adolf. Oh, the time seemed awfully long.

Thekla. Nobody to visit you?

Adolf. Not a soul.

Thekla [looks him up and down and sits down on the sofa]. Who sat here?

Adolf. Here? No one.

Thekla. Strange! The sofa is as warm as anything, and there's the mark of an elbow in the cushion. Have you had a lady visitor?

[She stands up.]

Adolf. Me? You're not serious?

Thekla [turns away from the square table and comes to Adolf's right]. How he blushes! So the little brother wants to mystify me a bit, does he? Well, let him come here and confess what he's got on his conscience to his little wife.

[She draws him to her. Adolf lets his head sink on her breast; laughing.]

Adolf. You're a regular devil, do you know that?

Thekla. No, I know myself so little.

Adolf. Do you never think about yourself?

Thekla [looking in the air, while she looks at him searchingly]. About myself? I only think about myself. I am a shocking egoist, but how philosophical you've become, my dear.

Adolf. Put your hand on my forehead.

Thekla [playfully]. Has he got bees in his bonnet again? Shall I drive them away? [She kisses him on the forehead.] There, it's all right now? [Pause, moving away from him to the right.] Now let me hear what he's been doing to amuse himself. Painted anything pretty?

Adolf. No; I've given up painting!

Thekla. What, you've given up painting!

Adolf. Yes, but don't scold me about it. How could I help it if I wasn't able to paint any more?

Thekla. What are you going to take up then?

Adolf. I'm going to be a sculptor. [Thekla passes over in front of the square table and in front of the sofa.] Yes, but don't blame me—just look at this figure.

Thekla [unwraps the figure on the table]. Hallo, I say. Who's this meant to be?

Adolf. Guess!

Thekla [tenderly]. Is it meant to be his little wife? And he isn't ashamed of it, is he?

Adolf. Hasn't he hit the mark?

Thekla. How can I tell?—the face is lacking.

[She drapes the figure.]

Adolf. Quite so—but all the rest? Nice?

Thekla [taps him caressingly on yhe cheek]. Will he shut up? Otherwise I'll kiss him.

[She goes behind him; Adolf defending himself.]

Adolf. Look out, look out, anybody might come.

Thekla [nestling close to him]. What do I care! I'm surely allowed to kiss my own husband. That's only my legal right.

Adolf. Quite so; but do you know the people here in the hotel take the view that we're not married because we kiss each other so much, and our occasional quarreling makes them all the more cocksure about it, because lovers usually carry on like that.

Thekla. But need there be any quarrels? Can't he always be as sweet and good as he is at present. Let him tell me. Wouldn't he like it himself? Wouldn't he like us to be happy?

Adolf. I should like it, but—

Thekla [with a step to the right]. Who put it into his head not to paint any more?

Adolf. You're always scenting somebody behind me and my thoughts. You're jealous.

Thekla. I certainly am. I was always afraid some one might estrange you from me.

Adolf. You're afraid of that, you say, though you know very well that there isn't a woman living who can supplant you—that I can't live without you.

Thekla. I wasn't frightened the least bit of females. It was your friends I was afraid of: they put all kinds of ideas into your head.

Adolf [probing]. So you were afraid? What were you afraid of?

Thekla. Some one has been here. Who was it?

Adolf. Can't you stand my looking at you?

Thekla. Not in that way. You aren't accustomed to look at me like that.

Adolf. How am I looking at you then?

Thekla. You are spying underneath your eyelids.

Adolf. Right through. Yes, I want to know what it's like inside.

Thekla. I don't mind. As you like. I've nothing to hide, but—your very manner of speaking has changed—you employ expressions. [Probing.] You philosophize. Eh? [She goes toward him in a menacing manner.] Who has been here?

Adolf. My doctor—nobody else.

Thekla. Your doctor! What doctor?

Adolf. The doctor from Strömastad.

Thekla. What's his name?

Adolf. Sjöberg.

Thekla. What did he say?

Adolf. Well—he said, among other things—that I'm pretty near getting epilepsy.

Thekla [with a step to the right]. Among other things! What else did he say?

Adolf. Oh, something extremely unpleasant.

Thekla. Let me hear it.

Adolf. He forbade us to live together as man and wife for some time.

Thekla. There you are. I thought as much. They want to separate us. I've already noticed it for some time.

[She goes round the circular table toward the right.]

Adolf. There was nothing for you to notice. There was never the slightest incident of that description.

Thekla. What do you mean?

Adolf. How could it have been possible for you to have seen something which wasn't there if your fear hadn't heated your imagination to so violent a pitch that you saw what never existed? As a matter of fact, what were you afraid of? That I might borrow another's eye so as to see you as you really were, not as you appeared to me?

Thekla. Keep your imagination in check, Adolf. Imagination is the beast in the human soul.

Adolf. Where did you get this wisdom from? From the pure youths on the steamer, eh?

Thekla [without losing her self-possession]. Certainly—even youth can teach one a great deal.

Adolf. You seem for once in a way, to be awfully keen on youth?