The Red Chignon, for Female Characters Only

CHARACTERS.

Miss Priscilla Precise,
{ Principal of a genteel Boarding
School for Young Ladies.

Hetty Gray,
Fanny Rice,
Lizzie Bond,
Hannah Jones,
} Pupils.

Mrs. Lofty, a fashionable Lady.

Scene.—Parlor in Miss Precise's Establishment.

  Piano R., Lounge L., Chairs C.

  Enter Hetty, Fanny, and Lizzie, R., laughing.

Hetty.   O, such a fright!

Fanny.   Such a stupid!

Lizzie.   I never saw such a ridiculous figure in the whole course of my life!

Hetty.   I should think she came from the back-woods.

Fanny.   Who is she, any way?

Lizzie.   She's the daughter of the rich Mr. Jones,  a man, who, three years ago, was the proprietor of a very small saw-mill away down east. He managed to scrape together a little money, which he invested in certain railroad stocks, which nobody thought would ever pay. They did, however, and he has, no doubt to his own astonishment, made a great deal of money.

Hetty.   And that accounts for Miss Precise's partiality. Well, I'm not going to associate myself with her; and I mean to write to father this very day, and tell him to take me home. She dresses so ridiculously!

Lizzie.   And talks so horridly!

Fanny.   And plays so wretchedly!

Hetty.   O, girls, don't you think I caught her at the piano this morning playing Yankee Doodle and whistling an accompaniment!

Fanny.   Whistling!

Lizzie.   Good gracious! what would Miss Precise say. If there's anything she forbids, it's whistling.

Hetty.   Yes, and such a reader! I heard her reciting Longfellow's Excelsior; and such reading, and such gestures!   (Recites.)

"The shades of night were falling fast,

As through an All-pine village past—"

(All laugh.)

Fanny.   O, it's ridiculous!

Lizzie.   And then her dress! O, girls, I've made a discovery!

Fanny.   What is it? What is it?

Hetty.   O, do tell us!

Lizzie.   Well, then, you must be secret.

Fanny and Hetty.   Of course, of course!

Lizzie.   Well, yesterday, at just twelve o'clock, I was in the hall; the door-bell rang; I opened it;  there was a box for Miss Hannah Jones; I took it; I carried it to her room; I opened—

Fanny and Hetty.   The box?

Lizzie.   The door; she wasn't there. I put it on the table; it slipped off; the cover rolled off; and such a sight!

Fanny.   What was it?

Hetty.   O, do tell us!

Lizzie.   Four—great—red—

Fanny and Hetty.   What? What?

Lizzie.   Chignons!

Hetty.   Chignons? Why, Miss Precise has forbidden our wearing them.

Fanny.   O, it's horrible!

Lizzie.   Ain't it? And I did want one so bad!

Hetty.   But she cannot wear them.

Lizzie.   We shall see! Now comes Miss Precise's trial. She has taken Hannah Jones because her father is rich. She worships money; but if there is anything she hates, it is chignons. If she can stand this test, it will be the best thing in the world for us. Then we'll all have them.

Hetty.   Of course we will.

Fanny.   But I don't like the idea of having such an interloper here. She's no company for us.

Enter Miss Precise, l. She stands behind the Girls with folded arms.

Hetty.   Indeed she isn't! I think Miss Precise is real mean to allow her to stay.

Lizzie.   She'd better go where she belongs,—among the barbarians!

Miss Precise.   And pray, whom are you consigning to a place among the barbarians, young ladies?

Hetty.   Good gracious!

Fanny.   O, dear! O, dear!

 

Lizzie.   O, who'd have thought!

(They separate, Hetty and Fanny, l., Lizzie, r., Miss Precise, c.)

Miss P.   Speak, young ladies; upon whom has your dread anathema been bestowed?

Lizzie.   Well, Miss Precise, if I must tell, it's that hateful new pupil, Miss Jones. I detest her.

Fanny.   I can't abide her.

Hetty.   She's horrible!

Lizzie.   So awkward!

Fanny.   Talks so badly!

Hetty.   And dresses so ridiculously!

Lizzie.   If she stays here, I shan't!

Fanny.   Nor I.

Hetty.   Nor I.

Miss P.   Young ladies, are you pupils of the finest finishing-school in the city? Are you being nursed at the fount of learning? Are you being led in the paths of literature by my fostering hands?

Lizzie.   Don't know. S'pose so.

Miss P.   S'pose so! What language! S'pose so! Is this the fruit of my teaching? Young ladies, I blush for you!—you, who should be the patterns of propriety! Let me hear no more of this. Miss Jones is the daughter of one of the richest men in the city, and, as such, she should be respected by you.

Lizzie.   She's a low, ignorant girl.

Miss P.   Miss Bond!

Hetty.   With arms like a windmill.

Miss P.   Miss Gray!

Fanny.   A voice like a peacock.

Miss P.   Miss Rice!

Hetty, Lizzie, and Fanny.   O, she's awful!

Miss P.   Young ladies! I'm astonished! I'm shocked! I'm thunderstruck! Miss Jones is my pupil. She is your associate. As such, you will  respect her. Let me hear no more of this. Go to your studies. I highly respect Miss Jones. Imitate her. She's not given to conspiracies. She's not forever gossiping. Be like her, and you will deserve my respect. To your studies. Miss Jones is a model for your imitation.

[Exit, l.

Hetty.   Did you ever!

Fanny.   No, I never!

Lizzie.   A model for imitation! Girls, we'll have some fun out of this. Imitate Miss Jones! I only hope she'll put on one of her chignons.

[Exeunt.

Enter Hannah Jones, r., extravagantly dressed, with a red chignon, followed by Mrs. Lofty.

Hannah.   Come right in, marm; this is our setting-room, where we receive callers. Take a seat.

(Mrs. Lofty sits on lounge.)

Mrs. Lofty.   Will you please call your mistress at once?

Hannah.   My mistress? Law, neow, I s'pose yeou take me for a hired gal. Yeou make me laugh! Why, my pa's richer than all the rest of 'em's pas put together. I deon't look quite so scrumptious as the rest o 'em, p'r'aps, but I'm one of the scholars here.

Mrs. L.   I beg your pardon. No offence was intended.

Hannah.   Law, I don't mind it. Yeou see our folks come from deown east, and we haven't quite got the hang of rich folks yit. That's why I'm here to git polished up. Miss Precise is the schoolmarm, but she's so stiff, I don't expect she'll make much of me. I do hate airs. She makes the girls tend tu door, because she's too poor to keep help.

Mrs. L.   Will you please speak to her? I have not much time to spare, as this is my charity day.

 

Hannah.   Charity day! Pray, what's that?

Mrs. L.   I devote one day in the week to visiting poor people, and doing what I can to alleviate their misfortunes.

Hannah.   Well, marm, that's real clever in you. I do like to see rich folks look arter the poor ones. Won't you please to let me help you? I don't know the way among the poor yit, but I'm going to find out. Here's my pocket-book; there's lots uv money in it; and if you'll take and use it for the poor folks, I'll be obleeged.   (Gives pocket-book.)

Mrs. L.   O, thank you, thank you! you are very kind; I will use it, for I know just where it is needed. Can you really spare it?

Hannah.   Spare it? Of course I can. I know where to git lots more; and my pa says, 'What's the use of having money, if you don't do good with it?' Law, I forgot all about Miss Precise. You just make yourself to home, and I'll call her. [Exit, l.

Mrs. L.   A rough diamond. She has a kind heart. I hope she'll not be spoiled in the hands of Miss Precise. (Opens pocket-book.) What a roll of bills! I must speak to Miss Precise before I use her money. She may not be at liberty to dispose of it in this wholesale manner.

Enter Miss Precise, l.

Miss P.   My dear Mrs. Lofty, I hope I have not kept you waiting.   (Shakes hands with her, then sits in chair, c.)

Mrs. L.   O, no; though I'm in something of a hurry. I called to ask you if you could take my daughter as a pupil.

Miss P.   Well, I am rather full just now; and the duties of instructor are so arduous, and I am so feeble in health——

 

Mrs. L.   O, don't let me add to your trials. I will look elsewhere.

Miss P.   No, no; you did not hear me out. I was going to say I have decided to take but one more pupil.

Mrs. L.   What are the studies?

Miss P.   English branches, French, Italian, German, and Spanish languages, and music; all taught under my personal supervision.

Mrs. L.   Quite an array of studies; almost too much for one teacher.

Miss P.   Ah, Mrs. Lofty, the mind—the mind is capable of great expansion; and to one gifted with the power to lead the young in the flowery paths of learning, no toil is too difficult. My school is select, refined; nothing rough or improper is allowed to mingle with the high-toned elements with which I endeavour to form a fashionable education.

Mrs. L.   I should like to see some of your pupils.

Miss P.   O, certainly. You will take them unawares; but I flatter myself you will not find them unprepared.   (Strikes bell on piano.)

Enter Fanny, dressed as before, but with large, red chignon on her head.

Miss P.   This is Miss Fanny Rice. Mrs. Lofty, Fanny. There you see one of my pupils who has an exquisite touch for the piano, a refined, delicate appreciation of the sweetest strains of the great masters. Fanny, my dear, take your place at the piano, and play one of those pieces which you know I most admire.   (Fanny sits at piano, plays Yankee Doodle, whistling an accompaniment.)   What does this mean?   (Turns and looks at Fanny, starts, puts her eye-glass to her eye.—Aside.)   Heavens! that child has one of those horrible chignons on her  head!—(Aloud.)   Miss Rice, why did you make that selection?

Fanny.   (Imitates Hannah's manner of speaking.)   Cos I thought you'd like it.

Miss P.   "Cos?" O, I shall die! And why did you think I should like it?

Fanny.   Cos that's the way Hannah Jones does.

Miss P.   Send Miss Gray to me.   (Follows Fanny to door.)   And take that flaming turban off your head. I'll pay you for this!

[Exit Fanny, l.

Mrs. L.   Your pupil is exceedingly patriotic in her selection.

Miss P.   Yes; there's some mistake here. She's evidently not on her good behaviour.

Enter Hetty Gray, l., with red chignon.

Ah, here's Miss Gray. Mrs. Lofty, Miss Gray. She has a sweet voice, and sings sentimental songs in a bewitching manner. Miss Gray, take your place at the piano, and sing one of my favourites.

(Hetty sits at piano, plays and sings.)

"Father and I went down to camp

Along with Captain Goodin,

And there we saw the boys and girls

As thick as hasty-puddin."

Miss P.   Stop!   (Looks at her through eye-glass.)   She's got one of those hateful things on too,—chignons! Is there a conspiracy? Miss Gray, who taught you that song?

Hetty.   Miss Hannah Jones, if you please.

Miss P.   Go back to your studies, and send Miss Bond to me.   (Takes her by the ear, and leads her to the door.)

 

Hetty.   Ow! you hurt!

Miss P.   Silence, miss! Take off that horrid head-dress at once.

[Exit, Hetty, L.

Mrs. Lofty, how can I find words to express my indignation at the conduct of my pupils? I assure you, this is something out of the common course.

Enter Lizzie, L., with red chignon.

Here is one of my smartest pupils, Miss Bond. Mrs. Lofty, Miss Bond. She particularly excels in reading. Miss Bond, take a book from the piano and read, something sweet and pathetic! something that you think would suit me.

Lizzie takes a position, L., opens book, and reads, in imitation of Hannah's voice.

Lizzie.

What is it that salutes the light,

Making the heads of mortals bright,

And proves attractive to the sight?

My chignon.

Miss P.   Good gracious! is the girl mad?

Lizzie.

What moves the heart of Miss Precise

To throw aside all prejudice,

And gently whisper, It is nice?

My chignon!

Miss P.   Chignon, indeed! Who taught you to read in that manner?

Lizzie.   Hannah Jones.

Miss P.   O, this is too bad! You, too, with one of these horrid things on your head?   (Snatches it off, and beats her on head with it.)   Back to your room! You shall suffer for this!

[Exit Lizzie, L.

 

Mrs. L.   Excuse me, Miss Precise, but your pupils all wear red chignons. Pray, is this a uniform you have adopted in your school?

Miss P.   O, Mrs. Lofty, I'm dying with mortification! Chignons! I detest them; and my positive orders to my pupils are, never to wear them in the house.

Hannah.   (Outside, L.)   Wal, we'll see what Miss Precise will say to this.

Enters with a red chignon in each hand, followed by Lizzie, Hetty, and Fanny.

Miss P.   Good gracious! More of these horrid things!

Hannah.   Miss Precise, jest look at them! Here these pesky girls have been rummaging my boxes, and putting on my best chignons that pa sent me only yesterday. Look at them! They're teetotally ruined!

Miss P.   Why, Miss Jones, you've got one on your head now!

Hannah.   Of course I have. Have you got anything to say against it?

Miss P.   O, no; only it don't match your hair.

Hannah.   What of that? Pa always goes for the bright colours, and so do I.

Lizzie.   Miss Precise, I thought pupils were forbidden to wear them.

Miss P.   Well, yes—no—I must make exceptions. Miss Jones has permission to wear them.

Lizzie.   Then I want permission.

Hetty.   And so do I.

Fanny.   And so do I.

Miss P.   First tell me what is the meaning of this scene we have just had.

Lizzie.   Scene? Why, didn't you tell us to take  Miss Jones as a model for imitation? Haven't we done it?

Miss P.   But Miss Jones doesn't whistle.

Hannah.   Whistle? I bet I can. Want to hear me?

Miss P.   No. She don't sing comic songs.

Hannah.   Yes, she does.

Lizzie.   Yes, and she wears chignons. As we must imitate her, and hadn't any of our own, we appropriated hers.

Miss P.   Shame, shame! What will Mrs. Lofty say?

Mrs. L.   That she rather enjoyed it. I saw mischief in their eyes as they came in. And now, girls, I'm going to tell you what Miss Jones does that you don't know. A short time ago she placed in my hands her pocket-book, containing a large roll of bills, to be distributed among the poor.

Lizzie.   Why, isn't she splendid?

Hetty.   Why, she's "mag."

Fanny.   O, you dear old Hannah.   (Kisses her.)

Mrs. L.   I'm going to send my daughter here to school, and I shall tell her to make all the friends she can; but her first friend must be Hannah Jones.

Hannah.   Well, I'm sure, I'm obleeged to you.

Lizzie.   O, Miss Precise, we are so sorry we have acted so! Let us try again, and show Mrs. Lofty that we have benefited by your instruction.

Miss P.   Not now. If Mrs. Lofty will call again, we will try to entertain her. I see I was in the wrong to give you such general directions. I say now, imitate Hannah Jones—her warm heart, her generous hand.

Mrs. L.   And help her, by your friendship, to acquire the knowledge which Miss Precise so ably dispenses.

Lizzie.   We will, we will.

Miss P.   Only, ladies, avoid whistling.

Hetty.   Of course, of course.

Miss P.   And comic songs!

Fanny.   O, certainly.

Lizzie.   And there is one more thing we shall be sure to avoid.

Miss P.   What is that?

Lizzie.   The wearing of red chignons.

[Exeunt.