KING ARTHUR'S SOCKS AND OTHER VILLAGE PLAYS
BY FLOYD DELL
These plays, with one exception, were written in Greenwich Village, and, with another exception, first performed there—some at the old Liberal Club, and others by the Provincetown Players. They are souvenirs of an intellectual play-time which, being dead, deserves some not-too-solemn memorial.
HUMAN NATURE: A Very Short Morality Play,
THE CHASTE ADVENTURES OF JOSEPH: A Comedy,
THE ANGEL INTRUDES: A Comedy,
LEGEND: A Romance,
SWEET-AND-TWENTY: A Comedy,
A LONG TIME AGO: A Tragic Fantasy,
ENIGMA: A Domestic Conversation,
IBSEN REVISITED: A Piece of Foolishness,
KING ARTHUR'S SOCKS: A Comedy,
THE RIM OF THE WORLD: A Fantasy,
POOR HAROLD: A Comedy,
A VERY SHORT MORALITY PLAY
TO ARTHUR DAVISON FICKE
This is a much changed version of "A Five Minute Problem Play," originally given at the Liberal Club, New York City, in 1913.
Boundless blue space. Two celestial figures stand in front of it, talking. One of them carries a pointer, such as is used in class-room demonstrations at the blackboard. The other has a red-covered guidebook under his arm.
THE FIRST CELESTIAL FIGURE (the one with the pointer) Well, I think that is all. You've seen everything now.
THE SECOND CELESTIAL FIGURE (the One With the guidebook) It has all been very interesting, and I don't know how to thank you for the trouble you've taken.
THE FIRST CELESTIAL FIGURE. Don't mention it. That's my business, you know—to show young and curious Spirits what there is to see in the universe. And I must say that you've been an exceptionally patient pupil. I don't usually take as much time with youngsters as I have with you. But when I find someone as interested in the universe as you are, I don't mind spending a few more eons on the job. We've been all around, this trip. I don't believe we've missed anything of any importance. But if there is anything else you can think of that you'd like to see—
THE SECOND CELESTIAL FIGURE. (hesitantly) Well, there is one place . . . It's only mentioned in a footnote in the guide-book, but for that very reason I thought perhaps—
THE FIRST CELESTIAL FIGURE. You have the right attitude. There's nothing too small or insignificant to know about. Do you remember the name of the place?
THE SECOND CELESTIAL FIGURE. No, but—(He turns the leaves of the guide-book.) Here it is. (He holds the book closer so as to read the fine print at the bottom of the page.) Earth, it's called.
THE FIRST CELESTIAL FIGURE. Ah, yes, there is such a place. . . .
THE SECOND CELESTIAL FIGURE. The guide-book doesn't give any information about it. Just mentions its name.
THE FIRST CELESTIAL FIGURE. Well, there isn't very much to say about it. After what you've seen, you wouldn't be impressed by its art or its architecture, . . . Still, it has one curious feature that perhaps you'd be interested in. It's—
THE SECOND CELESTIAL FIGURE. Yes?
THE FIRST CELESTIAL FIGURE. Perhaps I had better just show you, and let you make what you can of it.
THE SECOND CELESTIAL FIGURE. (deferentially) As you say.
THE FIRST CELESTIAL FIGURE. Here, then—look for yourself!
He raises the pointer, and boundless space rolls up like a curtain, disclosing a comfortable drawing-room. The two celestial figures stand aside and look. A man and woman are sitting on a sofa, kissing each other. From time to time, in intervals between the kisses, they speak.
THE MAN. No! No! I must not!
But he does.
THE WOMAN. No! No! We must not!
But they do.
THE MAN. We must not—
The second celestial figure turns to look inquiringly at the first, and boundless space falls like a blue curtain between them and the scene.
THE SECOND CELESTIAL FIGURE. It is strange. I've seen nothing like that anywhere in the universe. But why do you suppose—
THE FIRST CELESTIAL FIGURE. Oh, as to that, I really cannot say. It's what is called "Human nature."
THE SECOND CELESTIAL FIGURE. Oh!
They walk off thoughtfully.
THE CHASTE ADVENTURES OF JOSEPH
"The Chaste Adventures of Joseph" was first produced at the Liberal Club, New York City, in 1914, with the following cast:
Madam Potiphar ....... Louise Murphy Asenath .............. Marjorie Jones Potiphar ............. Berkeley Tobey Joseph ............... Floyd Dell Slave ................ Maurice Becker
A room in Potiphar's house. It is sparingly furnished with a table, two stools, and a couch, all in the simpler style of the early dynasties.... The table, which is set at an angle, is piled with papyri, and one papyrus is half-unrolled and held open by paper-weights where somebody has been reading it.... There is a small window in one wall, opening on the pomegranate garden. At the back, between two heavy pillars, is a doorway.... Two women are heard to pass, laughing and talking, through the corridor outside, and pause at the doorway. One of them looks in curiously.
THE LADY. Such a lovely house, Madam Potiphar!—But what is this quiet room? Your husband's study?
MADAM POTIPHAR. (coming in) Oh, this is nothing—merely the room of one of the slaves. Come, dear Cousin Asenath, and I will show you the garden. The pomegranates are just beginning to blossom.
ASENATH. The room of a slave? Indeed! He seems to be an educated person!
MADAM POTIPHAR. Educated? Oh, yes—he is a sort of book-keeper for Potiphar. At least, that is what he is supposed to be. But he is never on hand when he is wanted. If he were here, we might get him to show us through the vineyard.
ASENATH. Why not send for him? I would love to see the vineyard before your husband takes me out in the chariot.
MADAM POTIPHAR. (ironically) Send for Joseph? It would be useless. Joseph has affairs of his own on hand, always.
ASENATH. (startled) Joseph! Is that his name?
MADAM POTIPHAR. Yes—"Joseph." An ugly, foreign-sounding name, don't you think?
ASENATH. It is rather an odd name—but I've heard it before. It was the name of a youth who used to be one of my father's slaves in Heliopolis.
MADAM POTIPHAR. Heliopolis? I wonder—what was he like?
ASENATH. Oh, he was a pretty boy, with nice manners.
MADAM POTIPHAR. I thought for a moment it might be the same one. But this Joseph is an ill-favoured creature—and insolent. . . . What colour was his hair?
ASENATH. I really don't remember. It's been a year since he was there.... You have a lovely house, my dear. I'm so glad I came to see you!
MADAM POTIPHAR. (also willing to change the subject) It's nice to see you again, dear Asenath. We haven't seen each other since we were little girls. Do you remember how we played together in the date-orchard? And the long, long talks we had?
ASENATH. Don't let's be sentimental about our childhood! MADAM POTIPHAR. Do you remember how we talked about being married? (Asenath goes to the little window.) We hated all men, as I remember.
ASENATH. I was eight years old then. . . . Who is that handsome young man I see out there?
MADAM POTIPHAR. In the garden?
Madam Potiphar comes to the window.
MADAM POTIPHAR. That—that is the slave we were speaking of. . . .
ASENATH. Joseph? . . . I wonder if it is the same one? . . .
MADAM POTIPHAR. Well—and what if it were?
ASENATH. He was really a very interesting young man. . . .
MADAM POTIPHAR. If you are so anxious to find out, why don't you go and talk to him?
ASENATH. (coolly) I think I shall.
She starts toward the door.
MADAM POTIPHAR. (shocked) Asenath! You, a daughter of the High Priest of Heliopolis—
ASENATH. As such, I am quite accustomed to doing as I please.
She goes out.
MADAM POTIPHAR. (looking amusedly after her) Silly little thing! (She stands there thinking.) There's no doubt of it! Joseph did come from Heliopolis last year. But what have I to be afraid of? (She sees a pair of sandals on the floor by the table. She picks one of them up, and kisses it passionately, whispering)—Joseph!
Enter Potiphar. Madam Potiphar puts the sandal behind her back.
POTIPHAR. (a dull, dignified gentleman) Oh, here's where you are! I was looking everywhere for you. But where's your cousin?
MADAM POTIPHAR. She will be back in a moment. I brought her here to show her the educated slave of whom you are so proud, at work. But he is away somewhere, as usual.
POTIPHAR. (defensively) He has other duties.
MADAM POTIPHAR. Oh, yes, no doubt!
POTIPHAR. What's the matter now?
MADAM POTIPHAR. Nothing new. You know what I think about this Joseph of yours.
POTIPHAR. (irritated) Now, if you are going to bring that subject up again—! Well, I tell you flatly, I won't do it.
MADAM POTIPHAR. You'd better take my advice!
POTIPHAR. It's the most unreasonable thing I ever heard of! For the first time in my life I get an efficient secretary—and you want me to get rid of him. It's ridiculous. What have you against Joseph, anyway?
MADAM POTIPHAR. I—I don't think he's honest.
POTIPHAR. Honest! Who expects the secretary of a government official to be honest? I don't want an honest man in charge of my affairs—all I want is a capable one. Besides, how would I know whether he is honest or not? I can't bother to go over his accounts, and I couldn't understand them if I did. Mathematics, my dear, is not an art that high-class Egyptians excel in. It takes slaves and Hebrews for that.
MADAM POTIPHAR. Well, just because he is able to add up a row of figures is no reason why he should be so high-handed with everybody. One would think he was the master here, instead of a slave.
POTIPHAR. A private secretary, my dear, is different from an ordinary slave. You mustn't expect him to behave like a doorkeeper. I remember now, he complained that you kept wanting him to run errands for you.
MADAM POTIPHAR. Yes, and he refused—in the most insolent manner. He is a proud and scheming man, I tell you. I am sure he is plotting some villainy against you.
POTIPHAR. (wearily) Yes, you have said that before.
MADAM POTIPHAR. I say it again. Joseph is a scoundrel.
POTIPHAR. You'll have to do more than say it, my dear. What proof have you of his villainy?
MADAM POTIPHAR. I think you might trust to my womanly intuition.
POTIPHAR. Bah! Joseph is going to stay! Do you understand?
He pounds on the table for emphasis. Madam Potiphar takes advantage of the occasion to drop the sandal unnoticed.
MADAM POTIPHAR. Well, you needn't create a domestic scene. Asenath may return at any moment.
POTIPHAR. (gloomily) I believe I'm to take her out in the chariot.
MADAM POTIPHAR. You don't begrudge my guest that much of your attention, do you? You know I cannot bear to ride behind those wild horses of yours. And she said she wanted to see the city.
POTIPHAR. Oh—I'll go. But I must see to my chariot. (He claps his hands. A servant appears, and bows deeply.) Send Joseph here at once.
With another deep bow, the slave disappears. A pause.
MADAM POTIPHAR. Now you know what it is to have your slave off attending to some business of his own when you want him.
POTIPHAR. (annoyed) Where can he be?
JOSEPH. (ignoring Madam Potiphar, and making a slight bow to Potiphar) Here I am, sir.
POTIPHAR. (after a triumphant glance at his wife) Have my chariot made ready for me, will you?
JOSEPH. It will give me great pleasure to do so, sir.
He bows slightly, and goes out.
MADAM POTIPHAR. Did you notice his insolence?
POTIPHAR. There you go again! He said he was glad to do it for me. What more do you want?
MADAM POTIPHAR. You are the stupidest man in Egypt.
POTIPHAR. Thank you, my dear.
POTIPHAR. Is the chariot ready so soon, Joseph?
JOSEPH. The chariot is quite ready.
POTIPHAR. Very well. (A pause) And are those accounts finished yet, Joseph?
JOSEPH. The accounts are quite finished. And I would like to suggest, if I may—
He is interrupted by the re-entrance of Asenath.
ASENATH. What a lovely garden you have!
MADAM POTIPHAR. (significantly) Yes!
ASENATH. The pomegranate blossoms are so beautiful!
MADAM POTIPHAR. You could hardly tear yourself away, could you?
POTIPHAR. (with a patient smile) And are you ready for your chariot ride now?
ASENATH. Oh, yes! I am so eager to see the city! But I fear my hair needs a touch or two, first. . . .
MADAM POTIPHAR. It is so hard to keep one's hair in order when one walks in the garden. I will take you to my room, dear Asenath. (To Potiphar) We shall be ready presently.
POTIPHAR. The horses are waiting!
ASENATH. It won't take me but a moment!
MADAM POTIPHAR. Come, my dear. (They go toward the door.) I am so glad you liked our garden—
They go out.
POTIPHAR. (turning to Joseph) What were you going to say, Joseph?
JOSEPH. You asked me about my accounts. I was about to suggest that I show them to you tonight, when you return from your ride.
POTIPHAR. (alarmed) No! No! I don't want to see them. . . . I just want to know that everything is getting on well.
JOSEPH. Everything is getting along quite well.
POTIPHAR. Very good. I have complete confidence in you. . . . Joseph— you have a mathematical mind; how long would you say it would take a woman to do her hair?
JOSEPH. Not less than half an hour, sir—especially if she has something to talk about with another woman while she is doing it.
POTIPHAR. (surprised) What should they have to talk about?
JOSEPH. What things are women especially interested in, sir?
POTIPHAR. Dress, perhaps?
JOSEPH. I doubt it, sir.
POTIPHAR. Joseph, you perturb me. Besides food and dress, there is only one subject, so far as I am aware, of interest to women. I hope you do not imply—
JOSEPH. Far be it from me, sir, to indulge in implications, with respect to an honoured guest, in the household in which I am a slave.
POTIPHAR. Still—it is hard to tell, sometimes. Women are mysterious creatures. What do you think of them, Joseph?
JOSEPH. I try not to, sir.
POTIPHAR. You are a wise man. Yes, I suppose you have your difficulties, too. The morality of the slave-girls is not all it should be. But if you will believe me, the morality of our women, too—
JOSEPH. Ah, sir!
POTIPHAR. Yes, Joseph, it leaves something to be desired. If you knew the advances that have been made to me by certain great ladies—
JOSEPH. If you will permit me to say so, sir, you have my sympathy.
POTIPHAR. Joseph—women are the very devil, aren't they?
JOSEPH. They are a great trial, sir. One must learn the secret of dealing with them.
POTIPHAR. Do you know that secret?
JOSEPH. I do, sir.
POTIPHAR. I am inclined to believe that you really do. You are a remarkable man. But then, you have a naturally cold disposition. It must come easy to you.
JOSEPH. Not so easy as you may think, sir. Temperamentally, I am very susceptible to the charms of women.
POTIPHAR. Then you are more remarkable even than I thought. Come, what is your secret?
JOSEPH. It is not the sort of secret that one gives away for nothing, sir.
POTIPHAR. I am sorry to see you display such a mercenary disposition, Joseph. But I see that I must come to terms with you. How much will you take to teach me your secret?
JOSEPH. This time, sir, I will not be mercenary. I will make you a sporting proposition.
POTIPHAR. (very much interested) Good! What is it?
JOSEPH. I will toss up a coin, and let you call it. If you win, I will teach you the secret for nothing. And if you lose—
POTIPHAR. And if I lose, you keep your secret—
JOSEPH. Not merely that. If you lose, you will give me my freedom.
POTIPHAR. But I cannot get along without you, Joseph!
JOSEPH. I will continue to work for you on a salary basis.
POTIPHAR. Done! Where is your coin?
Joseph takes a small coin from his wallet, flips it in the air, and covers it with his hand when it falls on the table. He looks up at Potiphar.
POTIPHAR. Much depends on this. What shall I say?
JOSEPH. I know what you will say, sir.
POTIPHAR. Impossible! Tails.
Joseph uncovers the coin. Potiphar bends over it.
JOSEPH. (without looking) It is heads.
POTIPHAR. So it is! I lose—Joseph, you are a lucky man!
JOSEPH. Not at all, sir—a clever one. You see, I knew just how the coin would fall. I tossed it so that it would fall that way.
POTIPHAR. But—how did you know what I was going to say?
JOSEPH. I will explain to you. On one side of the coin is a representation of the present Pharaoh, who has denied you advancement because of his daughter's interest in you. In consequence, you dislike any reminder of him—even on a coin. But on the other side is a representation of the goddess Isis; she is your favourite goddess—and moreover, you yourself have been heard to remark that her face and figure resemble remarkably that of a certain great lady, whose name—is never mentioned when the story is told. Naturally I knew how you would call the coin.
POTIPHAR. (trembling with rage) How dare you say such things! Do you forget that I can have you beaten with rods?
JOSEPH. (calmly) Do you forget, sir, that I am no longer a slave? Free men are not beaten in Egypt.
JOSEPH. Unless Potiphar takes back his word. It is true that I have no witnesses to it.
POTIPHAR. (with great dignity) Witnesses are unnecessary. I had forgotten for the moment. Let this remind me. (He gives Joseph a ring.) You are a free man. And so—what I thought was an insolence is merely a pleasantry. But—you take a quick advantage of your freedom.
JOSEPH. I accept the rebuke.
POTIPHAR. And—free man or slave—Joseph, you know too much!
Potiphar walks out of the room. . . . Joseph seats himself at the table, and takes up a scroll of papyrus. He reads a moment, then claps his hands. A slave enters, stands before the table, and bows.
JOSEPH. (consulting the papyrus) Bear word to the overseer of the winepress that the grapes in the southeast section will be brought in for pressing tomorrow morning. . . . Bear word to the chief carpenter that a table and two couches, of the standard pattern, are wanted—at once. . . . Bear word to the chief pastry-cook that his request for another helper is denied.
Joseph makes a gesture of dismissal, and the slave, with a bow, goes out. Joseph rises, and walking around the table, holds up 'his hand to look at his ring.
Madam Potiphar strolls in.
MADAM POTIPHAR. (familiarly) They have gone. . . .
Joseph picks up a scroll from the table.
MADAM POTIPHAR. (sharply) Joseph!
JOSEPH. (respectfully) Yes, madam.
MADAM POTIPHAR. I understood you to say a while ago that your work was quite finished?
JOSEPH. Yes, madam.
MADAM POTIPHAR. Then you have plenty of time now....
JOSEPH. Yes, plenty of time for more work.
MADAM POTIPHAR. Well, you need not begin immediately. I want a little of your time just now.
JOSEPH. If it is an errand, I will call one of the slaves.
MADAM POTIPHAR. Do you mean—one of the other slaves?
JOSEPH. I, madam, am no longer a slave.
He holds up his hand, and looks at the ring.
MADAM POTIPHAR. (incredulous) How did this happen? Did you buy your freedom, perchance?
JOSEPH. No. Your husband gave it to me a moment ago.
MADAM POTIPHAR. Gave it to you? You mean that you swindled him out of it in some way!
JOSEPH. As you please, madam.
MADAM POTIPHAR. Well, it is his own affair if he wishes to give away such valuable property. Only—it is difficult to adjust oneself to a change like that.
JOSEPH. Do not, I pray, let the change disturb you.
MADAM POTIPHAR. No, I insist. It is both a duty and a pleasure. Since you are now a free man, Joseph, I propose that we treat each other as equals and friends.
JOSEPH. That will be very considerate of us both.
MADAM POTIPHAR. Sir, you are insolent. No, no—I mean, my friend, you are very rude.
JOSEPH. Thank you for making the distinction. And now, since we are to treat each other as equals and friends, I beg you—(he takes some small objects from his wallet and holds them out in his hand)—to take these hairpins, which are the mementos of your various visits to my room. As a slave, no suspicion, of course, could attach to me in connection with a lady of your rank. But as equals and friends, we both have our reputations to preserve.
MADAM POTIPHAR. (taking them) Thank you.(She restores them to her hair.) I lose them everywhere I go. They fall out every time I speak. They mean nothing whatever.
JOSEPH. It is unnecessary to explain that to me. I am perfectly aware of the fact.
MADAM POTIPHAR. You are perfectly aware of everything, aren't you, Joseph?
JOSEPH. Everything that it is to my interest to be aware of, madam.
MADAM POTIPHAR. No—there is one thing you don't know, and I am going to tell you.
JOSEPH. Proceed, madam.
He takes the coin from the table.
MADAM POTIPHAR. (coming close to him and looking boldly into his eyes) Can't you guess?
At this moment Joseph drops the coin from his hand, and it rolls away. Joseph starts, looks after it, and goes across the room to pick it up.
JOSEPH. One must take care of the small coins!
MADAM POTIPHAR. (angrily) Oh!
She flings off to the window, Joseph returns and seats himself on the little stool at the nearer end of the table, with a papyrus in front of him. He reads it in silence. Madam Potiphar comes and seats herself on the table, and looks down at him. He continues to study the papyrus. She leans over to see what he is doing, and then, as he pays no attention, she turns so that she is reclining prone along its length, facing him, her chin in her hands, one foot idly waving in the air.
MADAM POTIPHAR. (gently) Am I bothering you?
JOSEPH. Not at all.
MADAM POTIPHAR. I like to watch you work.
JOSEPH. I don't mind.
MADAM POTIPHAR. You are very interesting to look at, do you know?
JOSEPH. (absently) Yes, I know.
MADAM POTIPHAR. Little egotist!
JOSEPH. (unperturbed) Yes.
He rises and seats himself at the side of the table. Propping his papyrus against the reclining body of Madam Potiphar, he takes a new sheet of papyrus, and commences to copy a passage.
MADAM POTIPHAR. (wriggling about to look at him) What are you copying?
JOSEPH. Be careful. Don't jiggle my manuscript, please!
MADAM POTIPHAR. I asked, what are you copying?
JOSEPH. I am copying some inaccurate information about the climate of Egypt, with reference to the yearly crop-yield. . . . I wonder if there is any one in Egypt who has exact information on that subject? . . .
MADAM POTIPHAR. The yearly crop-yield! What do you care about the yearly crop-yield?
JOSEPH. Never mind. You wouldn't understand if I told you.
MADAM POTIPHAR. You are quite right. Besides, I didn't come here to talk about crops.
JOSEPH. (writing) No. You came here to talk about me.
MADAM POTIPHAR. I came here to talk about my cousin Asenath. You knew she was coming—why didn't you tell me you had been in service in her father's household in Heliopolis?
JOSEPH. (writing) It wasn't necessary for me to tell you. I knew she would.
MADAM POTIPHAR. No doubt you think we sat there all the time she was combing her hair, and talked about you!
JOSEPH. (writing) Precisely.
MADAM POTIPHAR. I suppose you know she is crazy about you!
JOSEPH. (still writing) Is she?
MADAM POTIPHAR. She doesn't put it just that way. She says she takes an interest in your future.
JOSEPH. (continuing to work) She doesn't take half as much interest in it as I do.
MADAM POTIPHAR. She told me your romantic story: how you had been sold by your brothers into slavery because you wore a coat of many colours. Joseph, did you wear a coat of many colours? That seems a curious thing for any one to be angry about.
JOSEPH. (not ceasing to copy the manuscript) I wore it only figuratively—I am wearing it now. And it always makes you angry.
MADAM POTIPHAR. You mean the cloak of your insolence?
JOSEPH. I mean the cloak of my pride.
MADAM POTIPHAR. I can sympathize with your brothers. . . . Are you in love with her, Joseph?
JOSEPH. I am not.
He has finished—he rolls up the papyrus.
MADAM POTIPHAR. No—so I told her.
JOSEPH. But she didn't believe you. MADAM POTIPHAR. You seem to know our conversation pretty well.
JOSEPH. I can imagine it.
MADAM POTIPHAR. Well, go ahead and imagine it. What did we say?
JOSEPH. You both lied to each other.
MADAM POTIPHAR. About what?
JOSEPH. About me. MADAM POTIPHAR. (sitting up) Your conceit is insufferable!
JOSEPH. (rising politely) I hope so.
MADAM POTIPHAR. Is that a dismissal?
JOSEPH. If you will be so kind.
MADAM POTIPHAR. You interest me more and more.
JOSEPH. I feared as much.
MADAM POTIPHAR. I detest you!
JOSEPH. It is one of the symptoms.
MADAM POTIPHAR. Young man, do you really know nothing about love?
JOSEPH. If I don't, it is not the fault of the women of Egypt.
MADAM POTIPHAR. You are a strange youth. It cannot be that you love this work you are doing....
JOSEPH. No, madam—I hate it.
MADAM POTIPHAR. Then where do you find your happiness? Tell me, Joseph—what is the happiest hour of the day for you?
JOSEPH. (with complete sincerity) It is that hour when I have finished the day's work, and can lie down upon my couch. It is the hour before sleep comes, when the room is filled with moonlight, and there is no sound except the crickets singing in the orchard, and the music of the toads in the pool. The wind of the night comes in, cool with dew. Then I am happy—for I can lie and make plans for my future.
MADAM POTIPHAR. (softly) And in that hour of moonlight and dew and the music of the crickets, and the ancient love-song of the toads in the pool, when all the earth abandons itself to love,—what would you say to a woman who stole in to you like a moonbeam, like a breath of the night-wind, like a strain of music?
JOSEPH. I would tell her—to go, as her presence would interfere with my plans.
MADAM POTIPHAR. I call the gods to witness. A truly virtuous young man!
JOSEPH. (jumping down from the table, angrily) Virtue! Virtue! Oh, you stupid Egyptians! As though I cared about Virtue!
MADAM POTIPHAR. Well, what in the name of all the gods is it that you care about?
JOSEPH. (vehemently) In the name of all the gods, madam, I care about time.
MADAM POTIPHAR. Time! But what can you do with time?
JOSEPH. What can I do without it?
MADAM POTIPHAR. But I do not understand!
JOSEPH. (in a cold rage) Of course you do not understand. You are a great lady—and a fool. I am a wise man—and but an hour ago a slave. I have more intellect than all the population of Egypt put together. Do you expect me to be content to remain as I am? I want power and riches—and I intend to achieve them. And I cannot achieve them if I allow women to waste my time.
MADAM POTIPHAR. (deeply angered at last) Very well, I go—taking your secret with me! (She goes.)
JOSEPH. (furiously, to the empty room) Virtue! My God!
He sits down at his desk and writes vexedly.
* * * * *
Night. The room is filled with moonlight. Joseph is asleep at his desk.... He suddenly springs up in agitation.
JOSEPH. Ah! . . . It was only a dream! But what a dream! I thought I saw at the door—(he points) a strange and terrible animal! (There is a sound at the door, and he starts back in terror.) There it is now!
The curtains part, and Asenath enters, candle in hand.
ASENATH. Ssh! It is I—Asenath! Don't be afraid!
Joseph recovers his self-possession, and confronts her sternly.
JOSEPH. You, too!
ASENATH. My dear?
JOSEPH. So you have come to afflict me with more romantic folly!
ASENATH. (with concern) What is the matter with you, Joseph?
JOSEPH. What is the matter with me? Nothing is the matter with me. Why do you ask?
ASENATH. I think you are not well. You are behaving queerly. You must have been working too hard. How are your nerves?
She approaches him solicitously.
JOSEPH. (retreating around the table) Leave me alone, I tell you! Even in my own room can I have no peace? Must I be dogged even in my dreams by shameless and unscrupulous females? Oh, unfortunate youth that I am!
ASENATH. (setting her candle down on the table) Now I know what is the matter with you, Joseph! You have an obsession.
JOSEPH. What is an obsession?
ASENATH. Don't you know what an obsession is? (She sits down on the stool at the end of the table). Haven't you heard of the great wizard in the land of the barbarians who explains everything by a new magic?
JOSEPH. Is he the author of that popular new dream-book?
ASENATH. Yes. All Egypt is mad on the subject of dreams. Everybody, from Pharaoh to the fiddler's wife, is telling about his latest dream, or listening to some one else tell his.
JOSEPH. (sitting down on the other stool) Speaking of dreams, I had a curious one just before you came in.
ASENATH. Did you, Joseph? Tell it to me.
She leans across the table.
JOSEPH. I dreamed—that I saw a dragon with many heads. And each head had the face of a beautiful woman. I was frightened. But I took up a sword and struck. And all the heads except one were severed. All except one. And this one had upon it a crown of iron and a crown of gold. And then the dragon took the crowns from its head, and offered them to me! I did not know what to do. . . . And then I awoke.
ASENATH. Shall I interpret your dream for you, Joseph? The dragon with the many heads signifies the women of Egypt, who are all in love with you. The one that remains when you have struck off the rest, is the one who will succeed where all the others have failed. The crown of iron signifies power. The crown of gold, riches. She offers them to you. . .
JOSEPH. (leaning forward) Asenath—do you really think it means—
ASENATH. (coldly) I really think it means that you have a persecution—mania. You imagine that every woman you meet has designs on you. . . . I suppose you think that I came here to make love to you?
JOSEPH. No, my dear Asenath. I know better than that. When young women come to my room at midnight, it is only to borrow a book to read—or to ask my advice about their personal affairs. I know, because they tell me so. Which did you come for—a book, or advice?
ASENATH. Neither. I came to give a book to you—and to give you some advice.... Do you remember telling me, once in Heliopolis, that the man who knew enough about the climate of Egypt to predict a famine could make himself the richest man in the kingdom? Well—here is everything you want to know, in an old book I found in my father's library in Heliopolis. This is the book I came to give you.
She holds out a scroll.
JOSEPH. (taking it) Dear Asenath—
ASENATH. (interrupting him) And now the advice. It is this. Ally yourself to the wisest woman in the land of Egypt—one who can teach you to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh. Then you shall become the second in power in the kingdom.
JOSEPH. The second in power in the kingdom! Asenath—do not mock me. Can you do this?
ASENATH. I swear that I can and will!
JOSEPH. (overcome) You do love me....
ASENATH. (jumping up) Love you! What nonsense! (Scornfully) Love!
JOSEPH. You—you don't love me?
ASENATH. Not in the least!
JOSEPH. But—but—then what are you doing it for?
ASENATH. I am doing it for myself. Do you think I wish to stay in Heliopolis all my life? No—I want power and riches—and I intend to have them. But I cannot get them, unfortunately, without wasting my time with some man.
JOSEPH. And I—?
ASENATH. You are the man.
ASENATH. Hate me if you will—
JOSEPH. On the contrary! (He goes toward her.) Wonderful creature!
ASENATH. (retreating) What do you say?
JOSEPH. I say that you are a woman after my own heart. (He holds out his arms. She retreats to the other end of the table.) I did not think that there existed in all the world a woman as profoundly egoistic, as unscrupulously ambitious, as myself. You are my true mate. Come, we shall rule Egypt together!
ASENATH. (in front of the table) Am I to understand that this is a strictly business proposition?
JOSEPH. No. It is a declaration of love. I adore you! I desire you! I cannot live without you!
ASENATH. Please don't be silly.
JOSEPH. (hurt) Is it possible that you do not believe in my love?
ASENATH. It is a little difficult. . . .
JOSEPH. You think that I am a hard man—and so I am. But when I look at you, I tremble and grow weak. My knees are become as water, and the blood roaring in my veins confuses me.
ASENATH. Can I, a mere woman, so disturb you?
JOSEPH. You have more than a mere woman's beauty. Your hands are lotus petals. Your eyes are silver fireflies mirrored in a pool. Your breasts are white birds nestling behind the leaves of a pomegranate tree.
ASENATH. You have a smooth tongue, Joseph! One would think you really were in love at last. . . .
JOSEPH. I love you more than anything else in the world. You mean more to me than power, more than riches, more than freedom itself.
ASENATH. I could almost believe that you are in earnest. . . .
JOSEPH. Tell me, O lovely creature for whom my soul and body thirst, how can I prove my sincerity? What proof can I give you?
ASENATH. You can give me—that ring!
She points to the ring which Potiphar has given him.
JOSEPH. (looking at her, then at the ring, takes it off, saying)— Freedom!
He puts it on her finger. He draws her toward him. She resists. The candle is knocked over, and all is darkness.
ASENATH. (in the darkness, faintly) Joseph! Joseph!
THE ANGEL INTRUDES
To GEORGE CRAM COOK
"The Angel Intrudes" was first produced by the Provincetown Players, New York City, in 1917, with the following cast:
The Policeman...... Abram Gillette The Angel.......... James Light Jimmy Pendleton.... Justus Sheffield Annabelle.......... Edna St. Vincent Millay
_Washington Square by moonlight. A stream of Greenwich Villagers hurrying across to the Brevoort before the doors are locked. In their wake a sleepy policeman.
The policeman stops suddenly on seeing an Angel with shining garments and great white wings, who has just appeared out of nowhere_.
THE POLICEMAN. Hey, you!
THE ANGEL. (haughtily, turning) Sir! Are you addressing me?
THE POLICEMAN. (severely) Yes, an' I've a good mind to lock you up.
THE ANGEL. (surprised and indignant) How very inhospitable! Is that the way you treat strangers?
THE POLICEMAN. Don't you know it's agen the law of New York to parade the streets in a masquerade costume?
THE ANGEL. No. I didn't know. You see, I've just arrived this minute from Heaven.
THE POLICEMAN. Ye look it. (Taking his arm kindly) See here, me lad, you've been drinkin' too many of them stingers. Ye'd better take a taxi and go home.
THE ANGEL. What! So soon?
THE POLICEMAN. I know how ye feel. I've been that way meself. But I can't leave ye go traipsin' about in skirts.
THE ANGEL. (drawing away) Sir, I'm not traipsing about. I am attending to important business, and I must ask you not to detain me.
THE POLICEMAN. (suspiciously) Not so fast, me laddie-buck. What business have you at this hour of the night? Tell me that.
THE ANGEL. I don't mind telling you. It concerns a mortal called James Pendleton.
THE POLICEMAN. (genial again) Aha! So you're a friend of Jimmy Pendleton's, are you?
THE ANGEL. Not exactly. I am his Guardian Angel.
THE POLICEMAN. Well, faith, he needs one! Come, me b'y, I'll see ye safe to his door.
THE ANGEL. Thank you. But, if you don't mind, I prefer to go alone.
He turns away.
THE POLICEMAN. Good night to you, then.
_He idly watches the angelic figure walk away, and then stares with amazement as it spreads its wings and soars to the top of Washington Arch. Pausing there a moment, it soars again in the air, and is seen wafting its way over the neighbouring housetops to the northeast. The policeman shakes his head in disapproval.
Jimmy Pendleton is dozing in an easy chair before the grate-fire in Ms studio in Washington Mews. A yellow-backed French novel has fallen from his knee to the floor. It is Anatole France's "La Revolte des Anges". A suitcase stands beside the chair. Jimmy is evidently about to go on some journey.
A clock begins to strike somewhere. Jimmy Pendleton awakes_.
JIMMY. What a queer dream! (He looks at his watch.) Twelve o'clock. The taxi ought to be here. (He takes two tickets from his pocket, looks at them, and puts them back. Then he commences to pace nervously up and down the room, muttering to himself)—Fool! Idiot! Imbecile! (He is not, so that you could notice it, any of these things. He is a very handsome man of forty. There is the blast of an auto-horn outside. He makes an angry gesture.) Too late! That's the taxi. (But he stands uncertainly in the middle of the floor. There is a loud pounding on the knocker.) Yes, yes!
He makes a movement toward the door, when it suddenly opens, and a lovely lady enters. He stares at her in surprise.
Annabelle is little. Annabelle's petulant upturned lips are rosebud red. Annabelle's round eyes are baby-blue. Annabelle is—young.
ANNABELLE. Yes! It's me! (There is a tiny lisp in Annabelle's speech.) I got tired of waiting, and the door was unlocked, so I came right in.
ANNABELLE. (hurt) Aren't you glad to see me?
JIMMY. I'm—delighted. But—but—I thought we were to meet at the station.
ANNABELLE. So we were.
JIMMY. You haven't changed your mind?
ANNABELLE. No. . . .
ANNABELLE. I got to wondering. . . . (She drifts to the easy chair in front of the fire.)
JIMMY. Wondering . . . about what? (He looks at his watch.)
ANNABELLE. About love. . . .
JIMMY. Well . . . (He lights a cigarette)—it's a subject that can stand a good deal of wondering about. I've wondered about it myself.
ANNABELLE. That's just it—you speak so cynically about it. I don't believe you're in love with me at all!
JIMMY. Nonsense! Of course I'm in love with you.
ANNABELLE. (sadly) No you're not.
JIMMY. (angrily) But I tell you I am!
ANNABELLE. No. . . .
JIMMY. Foolish child!
ANNABELLE. Well, let's not quarrel about it. We'll talk about something else.
JIMMY. (vehemently) What do you suppose this insanity is if it is not love? What do you imagine leads me to this preposterous escapade, if not that preposterous passion?
ANNABELLE. That isn't the way I love you.
JIMMY. Then why do you come with me?
ANNABELLE. Perhaps I'm not coming.
JIMMY. Yes you are. It's foolish—mad—wicked—but you're coming. (She begins to cry softly.) If not—ten minutes away is safety and peace and comfort. Shall I call a taxi for you? (She shakes her head.) No, I thought not. Oh, it's love all right. . . . Antony and Cleopatra defying the Mann Act! Romance! Beauty! Adventure! How can you doubt it?
ANNABELLE. I hate you!
JIMMY. (cheerfully) I don't mind. (Smiling) I rather hate you myself. And that's the final proof that this is love.
ANNABELLE. (sobbing) I thought love was something quite—different!
JIMMY. You thought it was beautiful. It isn't. It's just blithering, blathering folly. We'll both regret it tomorrow.
ANNABELLE. I Won't!
JIMMY. Yes you will. It's human nature. Face the facts.
ANNABELLE. (tearfully) Facing the facts is one thing and being in love is another,
JIMMY. Quite so. Well, how long do you think your love for me will last?
ANNABELLE. For ever!
JIMMY. H'm! I predict that you will fall in love with the next man you meet.
ANNABELLE. I think you're perfectly horrid.
JIMMY. So do I. I disapprove of myself violently. I'm a doddering lunatic, incapable of thinking of anything but you. I can't work. I can't eat, I can't sleep. I'm no use to the world. I'm not a man, I'm a mess. I'm about to do something silly because I can't do anything else.
ANNABELLE. (pouting) You've no respect for me.
JIMMY. None whatever. I love you. And I'm going to carry you off.
ANNABELLE. You're a brute.
JIMMY. Absolutely. I'd advise you to go straight home.
ANNABELLE. (defiantly) Perhaps I shall!
JIMMY. Then go quick. (He takes out his watch.) In one minute, if you are still here, I shall pick you up and carry you off to South America.—Quick! there's the door!
ANNABELLE. (faintly) I—I want to go. . . .
JIMMY. Well, why don't you? . . . Thirty seconds!
ANNABELLE. I—I can't!
JIMMY. (shutting his watch) Time's up. The die is cast! (He lifts her from the chair. She clings to him helplessly.) My darling! My treasure! My beloved!—Idiot that I am!
He kisses her fiercely.
ANNABELLE. (struggling in his arms) No! No! No! Stop!
ANNABELLE. Stop! Please! Please! Oh! . . .
The light suddenly goes out, and an instant later blazes out again, revealing the Angel, who has suddenly arrived in the middle of the room. The two of them stare at the apparition.
THE ANGEL. (politely) I hope I am not intruding?
JIMMY. Why—why—not exactly!
ANNABELLE. (in his arms, indignantly) Jimmy! who is that man?
JIMMY. (becoming aware of her and putting her down carefully) I—why—the fact is, I don't—
THE ANGEL. The fact is, madam, I am his Guardian Angel.
ANNABELLE. An Angel! Oh!
THE ANGEL. Tell me, have I intruded?
ANNABELLE. No, not at all!
THE ANGEL. Thank you for reassuring me. I feared for a moment that I had made an inopportune entrance. I was about to suggest that I withdraw until you had finished the—er—ceremony—which I seem to have interrupted.
JIMMY. (surprised) But wasn't that what you came for—to interrupt?
THE ANGEL. I beg your pardon!
JIMMY. (bewilderedly) I mean—if you are my Guardian Angel, and all that sort of thing, you must have come to—to interfere!
THE ANGEL. I hope you will not think I would be capable of such presumption.
JIMMY. (puzzled) You don't want to—so to speak—reform me?
THE ANGEL. Not at all. Why, I scarcely know you!
JIMMY. But you're my—my Guardian Angel, you say?
THE ANGEL. Ah, yes, to be sure. But the relation of angelic guardianship has for some hundreds of years been a purely nominal one. We have come to feel that it is best to allow mortals to attend to their own affairs.
JIMMY. (abruptly) Then what did you come for?
THE ANGEL. For a change. One becomes tired of familiar scenes. And I thought that perhaps my relationship to you might serve in lieu of an introduction. I wanted to be among friends.
JIMMY. Oh—I see.
ANNABELLE. Of course. We're delighted to have you with us. Won't you sit down? (She leads the way to the fire.)
THE ANGEL. (perching on back of one of the big chairs) If you don't mind! My wings, you know.
JIMMY. (hesitantly) Have a cigarette?
THE ANGEL. Thank you. (He takes one.) I am most anxious to learn the more important of your earthly arts and sciences. Please correct me if I go wrong. This is my first attempt, remember. He blows out a puff of smoke.
ANNABELLE. (from the settle) You're doing it very nicely.
THE ANGEL. It is incense to the mind.
ANNABELLE. (laughing, blowing a series of smoke rings) You must learn to do it like this!
THE ANGEL. (in awe) That is too wonderful an art. I fear I can never learn it!
ANNABELLE. I will teach you.
THE ANGEL. (earnestly) If you were my teacher, I think I could learn anything.
ANNABELLE. (giggles charmingly).
JIMMY. (embarrassed) Really, Annabelle...!
ANNABELLE. What's the matter?
JIMMY. Ordinarily I wouldn't mind your flirting with strangers, but...
ANNABELLE. (indignantly) Jimmy! How can you?
THE ANGEL. It was my fault, I'm sure—if fault there was. But what is it—to flirt? You see, I wish to learn everything.
ANNABELLE. I hope you never learn that.
THE ANGEL. I put myself in your hands.
JIMMY. Er—would you like a—drink?
THE ANGEL. Thank you. I am very thirsty. (Taking the glass.) This is very different from what we have in Heaven. (He tastes it. A look of gratified surprise appears on his face.) And much better! (He drains the glass and hands it back.) May I have some more?
ANNABELLE. Be careful!
THE ANGEL. What should I be careful of?
ANNABELLE. Don't drink too much of that—if it's the first time.
THE ANGEL. Why not? It is an excellent drink.
JIMMY. (laughing) The maternal instinct! She is afraid you may make yourself—ridiculous.
THE ANGEL. Angels do not care for appearances. (He stands up magnificently in the chair, towering above them.) Besides . . . (refilling his glass) I feel that you do an injustice to this drink. Already it has made a new being of me. (He looks at Annabelle.) I feel an emotion that I have never known before. If I were in heaven, I should sing.
ANNABELLE. Oh! Won't you sing?
THE ANGEL. The fact is, I know nothing but hymns. And I'm tired of them. That was one reason why I left heaven. And this robe. . . . (He descends to the floor, viewing his garment with disapproval.) Have you an extra suit of clothes you could lend me?
JIMMY. (reflectively) Yes, I think I have some things that might fit. (The Angel waits.) Do you want them now? I'll look.
He goes into the bedroom. . . . The Angel looks at Annabelle until his gaze becomes insupportable, and she covers her eyes. Then he comes over to her side.
THE ANGEL. (gravely) I am very much afraid of you. (He takes her hands in his.)
ANNABELLE. (smiling) One would never guess it!
THE ANGEL. I am more afraid of you than I was of God. But even though I fear you, I must come close to you, and touch you. I feel a strange, new emotion like fire in my veins. This world has become beautiful to me because you are in it. I want to stay here so that I may be with you. . . .
ANNABELLE. (shaken, but doubting) For how long?
THE ANGEL. For ever. . . .
ANNABELLE. (in his arms) Darling!
THE ANGEL. I am so ignorant! There is something I want to do right now, only I do not know how to go about it properly.
He bends shyly toward her lips.
ANNABELLE. I will teach you.
She kisses him.
THE ANGEL. Heaven was nothing to this. They kiss again. . . . Enter Jimmy, with an old suit of clothes over his arm. He pauses in dumbfounderment. At last he regains his voice.
JIMMY. Well! They look up. Neither of them is perturbed.
THE ANGEL. (blandly) Has something happened to annoy you? (Jimmy shakes the clothes at him in an outraged gesture.) Oh, my new costume. Thank you so much!
He takes the clothes from Jimmy, and examines them with interest.
JIMMY. (bitterly, to Annabelle) I suppose I've no right to complain. You can make love to anybody you like. In fact, now that I come to think of it, I predicted this very thing. I said you'd fall in love with the next man you met. So it's off with the old love, and—
ANNABELLE. (calmly) I have never been in love before.
JIMMY. The fickleness of women is notorious. It is exceeded only by their mendacity. But Angels have up to this time stood in good repute. Your conduct, sir, is scandalous. I am amazed at you.
THE ANGEL. It may be scandalous, but it should not amaze you. It has happened too often before. I could quote you many texts from learned theological works. "And the sons of God looked at the daughters of men and saw that they were fair." But even if it were as unusual as you imagine, that would not deter me.
JIMMY. You are an unscrupulous wretch. If these are the manners of Heaven, I am glad it is so far away, and means of communication so difficult. A few more of you would corrupt the morals of five continents. You are utterly depraved—Here! what are you doing?
THE ANGEL. I am taking off my robes, so as to put on my new clothes.
JIMMY. Spare the common decencies at least. Go in the other room.
THE ANGEL. Certainly, if that is the custom here. With the clothes over his arm, he goes into the bedroom.
JIMMY. (sternly, to Annabelle) And now tell me, what do you mean by this?
ANNABELLE. (simply)—We are in love.
JIMMY. Do you mean to say you would throw me over for that fellow?
ANNABELLE. Why not?
JIMMY. What good is he? All he can do is sing hymns. In three months he'll be a tramp.
ANNABELLE. I don't care. And he won't be a tramp. I'll look after him.
JIMMY. (sneeringly) The maternal instinct! Well, take care of him if you like. But of course you know that in six weeks he'll fall in love with somebody else?
ANNABELLE. No he won't. I'm sure that I am the only girl in the world to him.
JIMMY. Of course you're the only girl in the world to him—now. You're the only one he's ever seen. But wait till he sees the others! Six weeks? On second thought I make it three days. Immortal love! (He laughs.)
ANNABELLE. What difference does it make? You don't understand. Whether it lasts a day or a year, while it lasts it will be immortal. The Angel enters, dressed in Jimmy's old clothes, and carrying his wings in his hands. He seems exhilarated.
THE ANGEL. How do I look?
JIMMY. It is customary to wear one's tie tucked inside the vest.
THE ANGEL. (flinging the ends of the gorgeous necktie over his shoulder) No! Though I have become a man, I do not without some regret put on the dull garb of mortality. I would not have my form lose all its original brightness. Even so it is the excess of glory obscured.
ANNABELLE. (coming over to him) You are quite right, darling.
She tucks the tie inside his vest.
THE ANGEL. Thank you, beloved.—And now these wings! Take them, and burn them with your own sweet hands, so that I can never leave you, even if I would.
ANNABELLE. No! I would rather put them away for you in a closet, so that you can go and look at them any time you want to, and see that you have the means to freedom ready to your hand. I shall never hold you against your will. I do not want to burn your wings. I really don't! But if you insist—!
She takes the wings, and approaches the grate.
JIMMY. (to the Angel) Don't let her do it! Fool! You don't know what you are doing. Listen to me! You think that she is wonderful— superior—divine. It is only natural. There are moments when I have thought so myself. But I know why I thought so, and you have yet to learn. Keep your wings, my friend, against the day of your awakening— the day when the glamour of sex has vanished, and you see in her, as you will see, an inferior being, with a weak body, a stunted mind, devoid of creative power, almost devoid of imagination, utterly lacking in critical capacity—a being who does not know how to work, nor how to talk, nor even how to play!
Annabelle, dropping the wings on the hearth, stares at him, in speechless anger.
THE ANGEL. Sir! Do you refer in these vulgar and insulting terms to the companion of my soul, the desire of my heart, the perfect lover whose lips have kindled my dull senses to ecstasy?
JIMMY. I do. Remember that I know her better than you do, young man. Take my advice and leave her alone. Even now it is not too late! Save yourself from this folly while there is still time!
THE ANGEL. Never!
JIMMY. Then take these tickets—and I hope that I never see either of you again! He holds out the tickets. Annabelle, after a pause, steps forward and takes them.
ANNABELLE. That is really sweet of you, Jimmy! The blast of an auto-horn is heard outside.
JIMMY. (bitterly) And there's my taxi. Take that, too.
THE ANGEL. Farewell!
He opens the door. Annabelle, at his side, turns and blows Jimmy a kiss. Stonily, Jimmy watches them go out. Then he picks up his suitcase and goes, with an air of complete finality, into the other room.
There is a moment's silence, and then the door opens softly, and the Angel looks in, enters surreptitiously, seizes up the wings, and with them safely clasped to his bosom, vanishes again through the door.
TO KIRAH MARKHAM
"Legend" was first produced, under the title, "My Lady's Mirror," at the Liberal Club, in 1915, with the following cast:
He ............... Clement Wood She............... Kirah Markham
A small room with a little table in the centre, and a chair on either side of it. At the back is the embrasure of a French window opening on a balcony. In another wall is the outer door. The room is lighted by tall candles. There is an image of the Virgin in a niche in the corner.
HE. (a cloaked figure, standing with hat and stick in one hand and holding in the other a large square parcel) First of all, I have a present for you.
SHE. (where she has just risen when he entered) A present! Oh, thank you, Luciano!
HE. It is not me you have to thank for this present! (He puts it on the table.) It is some one else. I am only the bearer.
SHE. Who can it be? Who would send me a present?
HE. What a question, Donna Violante! Not a man in Seville, not a man in Spain, but would send you gifts if he dared. It is not "Who would?" but "Who could?"
SHE. No man, as you know, Luciano, has that right.
HE. Have you so soon forgotten your husband, Violante? He, surely, has that right! And it is thoughtful of him, too, to pause in the midst of his antiquarian researches in Rome, to think of his young wife and send her a gift. He appreciates you more than I imagined. Under his grizzled and scientific exterior, he is a human being. I respect him for it.
He puts down his hat and stick.
SHE. My husband! But why, then, do you bring it?
HE. I was commissioned by him to do so. I received the package, this morning, with a letter. Shall I read it to you?
He takes out the letter.
SHE. Yes.... But why should he not send it direct to me?
HE. Your husband is a man of curious and perverse mind, Violante, and, in spite of his interest in dead things, not without some insight into the living soul. I think it gave him an obscure pleasure to think of me the bearer of his gift. But shall we let him speak for himself?
He opens the envelope.
SHE. Yes. Read the letter.
She sits down to listen.
HE. (reading) "My dear young friend: I am sending you a package, which I beg you, as a favour, to deliver to Donna Violante, my wife. It contains a gift of an unusual sort, which you as well as she will appreciate. As you know, it is the unusual which interests me—the unusual and the old. And yet, antiquarian though I am, I flatter myself that I understand the mind of a beautiful young woman, especially when that young woman is my wife. I have found her a mirror. Yes, a mirror! Under this name it seems commonplace enough, but when you have seen it I do not think you will say so. It is not the kind of mirror that is ordinarily found in a lady's boudoir. Yet it will give to her a faithful reflection of her loveliness as it is in truth. I found it— this will interest you—in the Catacombs. You would not think the early Christians had so much vanity! Yet it was a mirror into which the virgin-martyrs-to-be of the time of Nero looked each day. As they looked, let Donna Violante look. Say to her from me—'Look long and well into this mirror, and profit by what you see.'—Humbly your friend, Don Vincenzio." . . . Is not that a pleasant letter?
He restores the letter to his pocket.
SHE. There is something in it that makes me shiver.... Let us look.
She takes the paper from the box and is about to open it when he stops her.
HE. No. Not now. I want to talk to you.
SHE (lapsing into a hostile coldness) Yes.
HE. You know what I have to say. I have said it so often. I shall say it once more.
SHE. (appealingly) Luciano!
HE. No, let me speak. You are not happy. You do not love your husband. And you are too young and beautiful to live without love.
HE. I love you. And you love me. Why do you not surrender yourself to love?
SHE. Why do you say such things? They hurt me.
HE. They are reality. Does reality hurt you? Are you living in a shadow-world, that you should flinch from the hard touch of truth? I say it again. I love you.
SHE. Before you started to talk like that, we were so happy together.
HE. Before I spoke out the truth of my own heart and yours. You didn't want it spoken out. You didn't want to be told you were in love. It was a thing too harsh and sweet. It frightened you to think of. You wanted us to sit for ever, like two lovers painted on a fan, fixed in an everlasting and innocuous bliss.
SHE. Well, you have succeeded in spoiling that. You have made me unhappy, if that gives you any pleasure.
HE. It was not I who have spoiled your shadow-world. It is love, coming like the dawn on wings of flame, and shattering the shadows with spears of gold. It is love that has made you unhappy. You tremble at its coming, and try to flee. But the day of love has come for you.
SHE. Ah, if it had only come before—before....
HE. Before you married that perverse old man. If it had come while you were still a maiden, free, with a right to give yourself up to it! Ah, you would have given yourself gloriously! It is beautiful—but it is a dream, and the time calls for a deed. We love each other. We can take our happiness now. Will you do it? Will you come away with me?
HE. Then I if you cannot take your happiness, give me mine. If you cannot be a woman, be an angel, and lean down from your dream heaven to slake my earthly thirst.
HE. No angel? Then a goddess! You want to be worshipped. You want to be adored. I will worship you, but not from afar, I will adore you in my own fashion. I will praise you without words, and you shall be the answer to my prayer. Will you?
HE. "No." "No." "No." How did your lips learn to say that word so easily? They are not made to say such a word. They are too young, too red, to say "No" to Life. When you say that word, the world grows black. The stars go out, the leaves wither, the heart stops beating. It is a word that kills. It is the word of Death. Dare you say it again? Answer me, do we love each other? . . . Silence.
SHE. I think . . . I am going . . . to cry.
HE. And tears. Tears are a slave's answer. Speak. Defend yourself. Why do you stay here? Why do you deny yourself happiness? Why won't you come with me?
SHE. I cannot.
HE. Always the same phrase that means nothing. Ah, Violante, lady of few words, you know how to baffle argument. If I could only make you speak! If I could only see what the thoughts are that darken your will!
HE. By God! I wonder that I don't hate you instead of love you. There is something ignobly feminine about you. You are incapable of action— almost incapable of speech. Your lips are shut tight against kisses, and when they open to speak, all that they say is "Don't."
SHE. What do you expect to gain by scolding me?
HE. I gain the satisfaction of telling you the truth—that you have the most cowardly soul that was ever belied by a glorious body. Who would think to look at you that you were afraid?
SHE. It's no use bullying me.
HE. I know that, Violante. It's the poorest way to woo a woman. But I have tried every other way. I have pleaded, and been answered with silence. I have wooed you with caresses, and been answered with tears.
SHE. I am sorry, Luciano.
HE. I want you to be glad.
SHE. I am glad—glad of you—in spite of everything.
HE. Gladness is something fiercer than that. You are too tame. Oh, if I could reach and rouse your soul!
SHE. My soul is yours already....
HE. And your body...?
SHE. It is impossible.
HE. No. It isn't impossible. But I'll tell you what is impossible. This—for me to go on loving you and despising you.... I came here today to make one last appeal to you. I don't mean it as a threat. But I am going away tonight for ever—with you, or without you. You must decide.
SHE. (rising) But—I don't want you to go, Luciano!
HE. You will miss me, I know. But don't think too much of that. You will find a new friend—if you decide against me.
SHE. And I must decide now?
SHE. But how can I? Oh, Luciano!
HE. I know it is hard. But I will not make it harder. Violante: I have sought to appeal to your emotion when my appeal to your will was in vain. But tonight I will leave you to make your own decision. You must come to me freely or not at all. There must be no regrets.
SHE. I cannot do it.
HE. If you say that when I return I will accept it as a final answer. I am going out on the balcony—for a long minute. And while I am gone you must decide what to do. Will you?
HE. (turning at the window) And if while I am gone you wish to recall my arguments to your mind—(he points to the box on the table)—look in your mirror there. Your beauty will plead for me. As Don Vincenzio said: Look long and well into that mirror, lady, and profit by what you see.
He goes out. . . . She looks after him, and when he is gone holds out her arms towards the door. She makes a step towards it, and then stops, her hands falling to her sides. Her head droops for a moment or two, and then is slowly lifted. Her eyes sweep the room imploringly, and rest on the image of the Virgin. She goes over to it and kneels.
SHE. Mary, Mother of God, give me a sign. I do not know what to do. Help me. I must decide. Love has entered my heart, and it may be that I cannot be a good woman any longer. You will be kind to me, and pity me, and send me a sign. Perhaps you will let me have my lover, for you are kind.
She crosses herself, rises, and looks around. She sees the box on the table, and puts her hand to her face with a gesture of sudden thought. She smiles.
Perhaps that is the sign!
She goes to the box and touches it.
He said it would plead for him. . . .
She opens it—and starts back with a gesture and a cry.
It is the sign!
With one hand over her heart she approaches it again. She takes out of the box and puts on the table a skull. . . . She stares at it a long while, and then turns with a shiver.
How cold it is here! Where are the lights?
She is compelled to look again.
I had never thought of death. My heart is cold, too. The chill of the grave is on me. Was I ever in love? It seems strange to remember. What is his name? I almost have forgotten. And he is waiting for me. I will show him this. We should have looked at it together. . . .
A silence, as her mood changes.
So he had planned it! He wanted to cast the chill of the grave upon our love. He saw it all as though he had been here. He sent us— this! How well he knew me—better than I knew myself. An old man's cunning! To stop my pulses throbbing with love, and put out the fever in my eyes. A trick! Yes, but it suffices. One look into the eyeless face of Death turns me to ashes. I am no longer fit for love. . . .
She turns to the door.
Why does he not come for his answer?
She looks for a lingering moment toward the door, and then turns back again to the table. Her mood changes again.
A present from a husband to a wife!
She takes it up in her hands.
A lady's mirror! What was it that he said? "Look long and well into this mirror, and profit by what you see," My mirror from the Catacombs!
She sinks into a chair, holding it between her hands as it rests on the table. Her tone is trance-like.
I look. I see the end of all things. I see that nothing matters. Is that your message? Why do you grin at me? You laugh to think that my face is like your face—or will be soon—in a few years-tomorrow. You mock at me for thinking I am alive. I am dead, you say. Dead, like you. Am I?
No. Not yet. For a moment—a little lifetime—I have life, I Have lips and eyelids made for kisses. I have hands that burn to give caresses, and breasts that ache to take them. I have a body made to suffer the deep stings of love. This flesh of mine shall be a golden web woven of pain and joy.
She takes up the skull again.
You were alive once, and a virgin-martyr? You denied yourself love? You sent away your lover? No wonder you speak so plainly to me now. Back, girl, to your coffin!
She puts the skull in the box, and closes the lid softly. She turns to the door and waits. At last he enters.
HE. (dejected) You have—decided?
SHE. Yes. I have decided.
HE. I knew. It is no use. I will go.
He turns to the door.
SHE. Wait! (He turns back incredulously.) I have decided to go with you. (He stands stock-still.) Don't you understand? Take me. I am yours. Don't you believe it?
SHE. It is hard to believe, isn't it. I have been a child. Now I am a woman. And shall I tell you how I became a woman? (She points to the box on the table.) I looked in my mirror there. I saw that I was beautiful—and alive. Tell me, am I not beautiful—and alive?
HE. There is something terrible about you at this moment. I am almost afraid of you.
SHE. Kiss me, Luciano!
To EDNA ST. VINCENT MILLAY
"Sweet-and-Twenty" was first produced by the Provincetown Players, New York City, in 1918, with the following cast:
The Young Woman ........ Edna St. Vincent Millay The Young Man ... Ordway Tead The Agent .............. Otto Liveright The Guard .............. Louis Ell
The cherry-orchard scene was effectively produced on a small stage by a blue-green back-drop with a single conventionalized cherry-branch painted across it, and two three-leaved screens masking the wings, painted in blue-green with a spray of cherry blossoms.
_A corner of the cherry orchard on the country place of the late Mr. Boggley, now on sale and open for inspection to prospective buyers. The cherry orchard, now in full bloom, is a very pleasant place. There is a green-painted rustic bench beside the path. . . .
A young woman, dressed in a light summer frock and carrying a parasol, drifts in from the back. She sees the bench, comes over to it and sits down with an air of petulant weariness.
A handsome young man enters from the right. He stops short in surprise on seeing the charming stranger who lolls upon the bench. He takes off his hat_.
HE. Oh, I beg your pardon!
SHE. Oh, you needn't! I've no right to be here, either.
HE. (coming over to her) Now what do you mean by that?
SHE. I thought perhaps you were playing truant, as I am.
HE. Playing truant?
SHE. I was looking at the house, you know. And I got tired and ran away.
HE. Well, to tell the truth, so did I. It's dull work, isn't it?
SHE. I've been upstairs and down for two hours. That family portrait gallery finished me. It was so old and gloomy and dead that I felt as if I were dead myself. I just had to do something. I wanted to jab my parasol through the window-pane. I understood just how the suffragettes felt. But I was afraid of shocking the agent. He is such a meek little man, and he seemed to think so well of me. If I had broken the window I would have shattered his ideals of womanhood, too, I'm afraid. So I just slipped away quietly and came here.
HE. I've only been there half an hour and we—I've only been in the basement. That's why our tours of inspection didn't bring us together sooner. I've been cross-examining the furnace. Do you understand furnaces? (He sits down beside her) I don't.
SHE. Do you like family portraits? I hate 'em!
HE. What! Do the family portraits go with the house?
SHE. No, thank heaven. They've been bequeathed to some museum, I am told. They're valuable historically—early colonial governors and all that sort of stuff. But there is some one with me who—who takes a deep interest in such things.
HE. (frowning at a sudden memory) Hm. Didn't I see you at that real estate office in New York yesterday?
SHE. Yes. He was with me then.
HE. (compassionately) I—I thought I remembered seeing you with—with him.
SHE. (cheerfully) Isn't he just the sort of man who would be interested in family portraits?
HE. (confused) Well—since you ask me—
SHE. Oh, that's all right. Tubby's a dear, in spite of his funny old ideas. I like him very much.
HE. (gulping the pill) Yes....
SHE. He's so anxious to please me in buying this house. I suppose it's all right to have a house, but I'd like to become acquainted with it gradually. I'd like to feel that there was always some corner left to explore—some mystery saved up for a rainy day. Tubby can't understand that. He drags me everywhere, explaining how we'll keep this and change that—dormer windows here and perhaps a new wing there.... I suppose you've been rebuilding the house, too?
HE. No. Merely decided to turn that sunny south room into a study. It would make a very pleasant place to work. But if you really want the place, I'd hate to take it away from you.
SHE. I was just going to say that if you really wanted it, I'd withdraw. It was Tubby's idea to buy it, you know—not mine. You do want it, don't you?
HE. I can't say that I do. It's so infernally big. But Maria thinks I ought to have it. (Explanatorily)—Maria is—
SHE. (gently) She's—the one who is interested in furnaces. I understand. I saw her with you at the real-estate office yesterday. Well—furnaces are necessary, I suppose. (There is a pause, which she breaks suddenly.) Do you see that bee?
HE. A bee?
He follows her gaze up to a cluster of blossoms.
SHE. Yes—there! (Affectionately)—The rascal! There he goes.
Their eyes follow the flight of the bee across the orchard. There is a silence. Alone together beneath the blossoms, a spell seems to have fallen upon them. She tries to think of something to say—and at last succeeds.
SHE. Have you heard the story of the people who used to live here?
HE. No; why?
SHE. The agent was telling us. It's quite romantic—and rather sad. You see, the man that built this house was in love with a girl. He was building it for her—as a surprise. But he had neglected to mention to her that he was in love with her. And so, in pique, she married another man, though she was really in love with him. The news came just when he had finished the house. He shut it up for a year or two, but eventually married some one else, and they lived I here for ten years—most unhappily. Then they went abroad, and the house was sold. It was bought, curiously enough, by the husband of the girl he had been in love with. They lived here till they died-hating each other to the end, the agent says.
HE. It gives me the shivers. To think of that house, haunted by the memories of wasted love! Which of us, I wonder, will have to live in it? I don't want to.
SHE. (prosaically) Oh, don't take it so seriously as all that. If one can't live in a house where there's been an unhappy marriage, why, good heavens, where is one going to live? Most marriages, I fancy, are unhappy.
HE. A bitter philosophy for one so young and—
SHE. Nonsense! But listen to the rest of the story. The most interesting part is about this very orchard.
SHE. Yes. This orchard, it seems, was here before the house was. It was part of an old farm where he and she—the unhappy lovers, you know— stopped one day, while they were out driving, and asked for something to eat. The farmer's wife was busy, but she gave them each a glass of milk, and told them they could eat all the cherries they wanted. So they picked a hatful of cherries, and ate them, sitting on a bench like this one. And then he fell in love with her. . . .
HE. And . . . didn't tell her so. . . .
She glances at him in alarm. His self-possession has vanished. He is pale and frightened, but there is a desperate look in his eyes, as if some unknown power were forcing him to do something very rash. In short, he seems like a young man who has just fallen in love.
SHE. (hastily) So you see this orchard is haunted, too!
HE. I feel it. I seem to hear the ghost of that old-time lover whispering to me. . . .
SHE. (provocatively) Indeed! What does he say?
HE. He says: "I was a coward; you must be bold. I was silent; you must speak out."
SHE. (mischievously) That's very curious—because that old lover isn't dead at all. He's a Congressman or Senator or something, the Agent says.
HE. (earnestly) It's all the same. His youth is dead; and it is his youth that speaks to me.
SHE. quickly You mustn't believe all that ghosts tell you.
HE. Oh, but I must. For they know the folly of silence—the bitterness of cowardice.
SHE. The circumstances were—slightly—different, weren't they?
HE. (stubbornly) I don't care!
SHE. (soberly) You know perfectly well it's no use.
HE. I can't help that!
SHE. Please! You simply mustn't! It's disgraceful!
HE. What's disgraceful?
SHE. (confused) What you are going to say.
HE. (simply) Only that I love you. What is there disgraceful about that? It's beautiful!
SHE. It's wrong.
HE. It's inevitable.
SHE. Why inevitable? Can't you talk with a girl in an orchard for half an hour without falling in love with her?
HE. Not if the girl is you.
SHE. But why especially me?
HE. I don't know. Love—is a mystery. I only know that I was destined to love you.
SHE. How can you be so sure?
HE. Because you have changed the world for me. It's as though I had been groping about in the dark, and then—sunrise! And there's a queer feeling here. (He puts his hand on his heart.) To tell the honest truth, there's a still queerer feeling in the pit of my stomach. It's a gone feeling, if you must know. And my knees are weak. I know now why men used to fall on their knees when they told a girl they loved her; it was because they couldn't stand up. And there's a feeling in my feet as though I were walking on air. And—
SHE. (faintly) That's enough!
HE. And I could die for you and be glad of the chance. It's perfectly absurd, but it's absolutely true. I've never spoken to you before, and heaven knows I may never get a chance to speak to you again, but I'd never forgive myself if I didn't say this to you now. I love you! love you! love you! Now tell me I'm a fool. Tell me to go. Anything—I've said my say. . . . Why don't you speak?
SHE. I—I've nothing to say—except—except that I—well—(almost inaudibly) I feel some of those symptoms myself.
ME. (triumphantly) You love me!
SHE. I—don't know. Yes. Perhaps.
HE. Then kiss me!
SHE. (doubtfully) No. . . .
HE. Kiss me!
SHE. (tormentedly) Oh, what's the use?
HE. I don't know. I don't care. I only know that we love each other.
SHE. (after a moment's hesitation, desperately) I don't care, either! I do want to kiss you.
She does. . . . He is the first to awake from the ecstasy.
HE. It is wrong—
SHE. (absently) Is it?
HE. But, oh heaven! kiss me again! (She does.)
HE. Do you suppose any one is likely to come this way?
HE. (speculatively) Your husband is probably still in the portrait gallery....
SHE. My husband! (Drawing away) What do you mean? (Thoroughly awake now) You didn't think—? (She jumps up and laughs convulsively.) You thought poor old Tubby was my husband?
HE. (staring up at her bewildered) Why, isn't he your husband?
SHE. (scornfully) No!! He's my uncle!
HE. Your unc—
SHE. Yes, of course! (Indignantly) Do you suppose I would be married to a man that's fat and bald and forty years old?
HE. (distressed) I—I beg your pardon. I did think so.
SHE. Just because you saw me with him? How ridiculous!
HE. It was a silly mistake. But—the things you said! You spoke so— realistically—about marriage.
SHE. It was your marriage I was speaking about. (With hasty compunction) Oh, I beg your—
HE. My marriage! (He rises.) Good heavens! And to whom, pray, did you think I was married? (A light dawning) To Maria? Why, Maria is my aunt!
SHE. Yes—of course. How stupid of me.
HE. Let's get this straight. Are you married to anybody?
SHE. Certainly not. As if I would let myself be made love to, if I were a married woman!
HE. Now don't put on airs. You did something quite as improper. You made love to a married man.
SHE. I didn't.
HE. It's the same thing. You thought I was married.
SHE. But you aren't.
HE. No. I'm not married. And—and—you're not married. (The logic of the situation striking him all of a sudden) In fact—! He pauses, rather alarmed.
HE. In fact—well—there's no reason in the world why we shouldn't make love to each other!
SHE. (equally startled) Why—that's so!
HE. Then—then—shall we?
SHE. (sitting down and looking demurely at her toes) Oh, not if you don't want to!
HE. (adjusting himself to the situation) Well—under the circumstances—I suppose I ought to begin by asking you to marry me. .
SHE. (languidly, with a provoking glance) You don't seem very anxious to.
HE. (feeling at a disadvantage) It isn't that—but—well—
SHE. (lightly) Well what?
HE. Dash it all, I don't know your name!
SHE. (looking at him with mild curiosity) That didn't seem to stop you a while ago....
HE. (doggedly) Well, then—will you marry me?
SHE. (promptly) No.
HE. (surprised) No! Why do you say that?
SHE. (coolly) Why should I marry you? I know nothing about you. I've known you for less than an hour.
HE. (sardonically) That fact didn't seem to keep you from kissing me.
SHE. Besides—I don't like the way you go about it. If you'd propose the same way you made love to me, maybe I'd accept you.
HE. All right. (Dropping on one knee before her) Beloved! (An awkward pause) No, I can't do it. (He gets up and distractedly dusts off his knees with his handkerchief.) I'm very sorry.
SHE. (with calm inquiry) Perhaps it's because you don't love me any more?
HE. (fretfully) Of course I love you!
SHE. (coldly) But you don't want to marry me.... I see.
HE. Not at all! I do want to marry you. But—
HE. Marriage is a serious matter. Now don't take offense! I only meant that-well—(He starts again.) We are in love with each other, and that's the important thing. But, as you said, we don't know each other. I've no doubt that when we get acquainted we will like each other better still. But we've got to get acquainted first.
SHE. (rising) You're just like Tubby buying a house. You want to know all about it. Well! I warn you that you'll never know all about me. So you needn't try.
HE. (apologetically) It was your suggestion.
SHE. (impatiently) Oh, all right! Go ahead and cross-examine me if you like. I'll tell you to begin with that I'm perfectly healthy, and that there's no T. B., insanity, or Socialism in my family. What else do you want to know?
HE.(hesitantly) Why did you put in Socialism, along with insanity and T. B.?
SHE. Oh, just for fun. You aren't a Socialist, are you?
HE. Yes. (Earnestly) Do you know what Socialism is?
SHE. (innocently) It's the same thing as Anarchy, isn't it?
HE. (gently) No. At least not my kind. I believe in municipal ownership of street cars, and all that sort of thing. I'll give you some books to read.
SHE. Well, I never ride in street cars, so I don't care whether they're municipally owned or not. By the way, do you dance?
SHE. You must learn right away. I can't bother to teach you myself, but I know where you can get private lessons and become really good in a month. It is stupid not to be able to dance.
HE. (as if he had tasted quinine) I can see myself doing the tango! Grr!
SHE. The tango went out long ago, my dear.
HE. (with great decision) Well—I won't learn to dance. You might as well know that to begin with.
SHE. And I won't read your old books on Socialism. You might as well know that to begin with!
HE. Come, come! This will never do. You see, my dear, it's simply that I can't dance, and there's no use for me to try to learn.
SHE. Anybody can learn. I've made expert dancers out of the awkwardest men!
HE. But, you see, I've no inclination toward dancing. It's out of my world.
SHE. And I've no inclination toward municipal ownership. It's out of my world!
HE. It ought not to be out of the world of any intelligent person.
SHE. (turning her back on him) All right—if you want to call me stupid!
HE. (turning and looking away meditatively) It appears that we have very few tastes in common.
SHE. (tapping her foot) So it seems.
HE. If we married we might be happy for a month—
They remain with their backs to each other.
HE. And then—the old story. Quarrels. . . .
SHE. I never could bear quarrels. . . .
HE. An unhappy marriage. . . .
SHE. (realizing it) Oh!
HE. (hopelessly turning toward her) I can't marry you.
SHE. (recovering quickly and facing him with a smile) Nobody asked you, sir!
HE. (with a gesture of finality) Well—there seems to be no more to say.
SHE. (sweetly) Except good-bye.
HE. (firmly) Good-by, then.
He holds out his hand.
SHE. (taking it) Good-bye!
HE. (taking her other hand—after a pause, helplessly) Good-bye!
SHE. (drowning in his eyes) Good-bye!
They cling to each other, and are presently lost in a passionate embrace. He breaks loose and stamps away, then turns to her.
HE. Damn it all, we do love each other!
SHE. (wiping her eyes) What a pity that is the only taste we have in common!
HE. Do you suppose that is enough?
SHE. I wish it were!
HE. A month of happiness—
HE. And then—wretchedness,
HE. We mustn't do it.
SHE. I suppose not.
HE. Come, let us control ourselves.
SHE. Yes, let's (They take hands again.)
HE. (with an effort) I wish you happiness. I—I'll go to Europe for a year. Try to forget me.
SHE. I shall be married when you get back—perhaps.
HE. I hope it's somebody that's not bald and fat and forty. Otherwise—!
SHE. And you—for goodness sake! marry a girl that's very young and very, very pretty. That will help.
HE. We mustn't prolong this. If we stay together another minute—
SHE. Then go!
HE. I can't go!
SHE. You must, darling! You must!
HE. Oh, if somebody would only come along!
They are leaning toward each other, dizzy upon the brink of another kiss, when somebody does come—a short, mild-looking man in a derby hat. There is an odd gleam in his eyes.
THE INTRUDER. (startled) Excuse me!
They turn and stare at him, but their hands cling fast to each other.
SHE. (faintly) The Agent!
THE AGENT. (in despairing accents) Too late! Too late!
THE YOUNG MAN. No! Just in time!
THE AGENT. Too late, I say! I will go.
He turns away.
THE YOUNG MAN. No! Stay!
THE AGENT. What's the use? It has already begun. What good can I do now?
THE YOUNG MAN. I'll show you what good you can do now. Come here! (The Agent approaches.), Can you unloose my hands from those of this young woman?
THE YOUNG WOMAN. (haughtily, releasing herself and walking away) You needn't trouble! I can do it myself.