The Red Chignon, for Female Characters Only
Miss Priscilla Precise,
||Principal of a genteel Boarding
School for Young Ladies.
Mrs. Lofty, a fashionable Lady.
Scene.—Parlor in Miss Precise's Establishment.
Piano R., Lounge L., Chairs C.
Enter Hetty, Fanny, and Lizzie, R.,
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
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
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!
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—"
Fanny. O, it's ridiculous!
Lizzie. And then her dress! O, girls, I've made
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!
Fanny and Hetty. What? What?
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
Mrs. L. I beg your pardon. No offence was
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
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
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
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
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
(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,
imitation of Hannah's voice.
What is it that salutes the light,
Making the heads of mortals bright,
And proves attractive to the sight?
Miss P. Good gracious! is the girl mad?
What moves the heart of Miss Precise
To throw aside all prejudice,
And gently whisper, It is nice?
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
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
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
Miss P. Why, Miss Jones, you've got one on your
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
Miss P. But Miss Jones doesn't whistle.
Hannah. Whistle? I bet I can. Want to hear
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
Miss P. Shame, shame! What will Mrs. Lofty
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
Mrs. L. And help her, by your friendship, to
acquire the knowledge which Miss Precise so ably
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.