THE MOTH AND THE FLAME
Clyde Fitch brought a vivacity to the American stage that no other American playwright has thus far succeeded in emulating. The total impression of his work leads one to believe that he also brought to the American stage a style which was at the same time literary and distinctly his own. His personality was interesting and lovable, quickly responsive to a variety of human nature. No play of his was ever wholly worthless, because of that personal equation which lent youth and spontaneity to much of his dialogue. When he attained popular fame, he threw off his dramas—whether original or adapted from the French and German—with a rapidity and ease that did much to create a false impression as to his haste and casualness. But Fitch, though a nervously quick worker, was never careless. He pondered his dramas long, he carried his characters in mind for years, he almost memorized his dialogue before he set it down on paper. And if he wrote in his little note-books with the same staccato speed that an artist sketches, it was merely because he saw the picture vividly, and because the preliminaries had been done beforehand.
The present Editor was privileged to know Fitch as a friend. And to be taken into the magic circle was to be given freely of that personal equation which made his plays so personal. This association was begun over a negative criticism of a play. An invitation followed to come and talk it over in his Fortieth Street study, the same room which—decorations, furniture, books and all—was bequeathed to Amherst College, and practically reproduces there the Fitchean flavour.
I have seen Clyde Fitch on many diverse occasions. Through incisive comment on people, contemporary manners, and plays, which was let drop in conversation, I was able to estimate the natural tendency of Fitch's mind. His interest was never concerned solely with dominant characters; he was quick rather to sense the idiosyncrasies of the average person. His observation was caught by the seemingly unimportant, but no less identifying peculiarities of the middle class. Besides which, his irony was never more happy than when aimed against that social set which he knew, and good-humouredly satirized.
To know Clyde Fitch intimately—no matter for how short a while—was to be put in possession of his real self. From early years, he showed the same tendencies which later developed more fully, but were not different. Success gave him the money to gratify his tastes for objets d'art, which he used to calculate closely to satisfy in the days when "Beau Brummell" and "Frederic Lemaitre" gave hint of his dramatic talent. He was a man of deep sentiment, shown to his friends by the countless graceful acts as host, and shown to his players. As soon as a Fitch play began to be a commodity, coveted by the theatrical manager, he nearly always had personal control of its production, and could dictate who should be in his casts. No dramatist has left behind him more profoundly pleasing memories of artistic association than Clyde Fitch. The names of his plays form a roster of stage associations—the identification of "Beau Brummell" with Richard Mansfield; of "Nathan Hale" with N. C. Goodwin; of "Barbara Frietchie" with Julia Marlowe; of "The Climbers" with Amelia Bingham; of "The Stubbornness of Geraldine" with Mary Mannering; of "The Truth" and "The Girl With Green Eyes" with Clara Bloodgood—to mention a few instances. Those who recall happy hours spent with Fitch at his country homes—either at "Quiet Corner," Greenwich, Connecticut, or at "The Other House," Katonah, New York, have vivid memory of his pervasive cordiality. His players, likewise, those whose identifying talent caught his fancy, had the same care and attention paid them in his playwriting. Sometimes, it may be, this graciousness of his made him cut his cloth to suit the figure. "Beau Brummell" was the very mold and fashion of Mansfield: but that was Brummell's fault and Mansfield's genius, to which was added the adaptability of Fitch. But there are no seams or patches to "Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines"—its freshness caught the freshness of Ethel Barrymore, and Fitch was confident of the blend. His eye was unerring as to stage effect, and he would go to all ends of trouble, partly for sentiment, partly for accuracy, and always for novelty, to create the desired results. Did he not, with his own hands, wire the apple-blossoms for the orchard scene in "Lovers' Lane?" Was he not careful to get the right colour for the dawn in "Nathan Hale," and the Southern evening atmosphere in "Barbara Frietchie?" And in such a play as "Girls," did he not delight in the accessories, like the clatter of the steam-pipe radiator, for particular New York environment which he knew so graphically how to portray?
That was the boy—the Peter Pan quality—in Clyde Fitch; it was not his love for the trivial, for he could be serious in the midst of it. His temperament in playwriting was as variable as Spring weather—it was extravagant in its responsiveness to the momentary mood. He would suggest a whole play in one scene; a real flash of philosophy or of psychology would be lost in the midst of a slight play on words for the sake of a laugh. One finds that often the case in "A Happy Marriage." He was never more at home than when squeezing all the human traits and humour out of a given situation, which was subsidiary to the plot, yet in atmosphere complete in itself. The Hunter's drawing-room just after the funeral, in "The Climbers;" the church scene in "The Moth and the Flame," which for jocularity and small points is the equal of Langdon Mitchell's wedding scene in "The New York Idea," though not so sharply incisive in its satire; the deck on board ship in "The Stubbornness of Geraldine" (so beautifully burlesqued by Weber and Fields as "The Stickiness of Gelatine"); and Mr. Roland's rooms in Mrs. Crespigny's flat, which almost upset, in its humourous bad taste, the tragedy of "The Truth"—these are instances of his unusual vein. One finds it is by these fine points, these obvious clevernesses that Fitch paved the way to popular success. But there was far more to him than this—there was the literary sense which gave one the feeling of reality in his plays—not alone because of novelty or familiarity of scene, but because of the uttered word.
Human foibles and frailties were, therefore, his specialty. Out of his vast product of playwriting, one remembers stories and scenes, rather than personages; one recalls characteristics rather than characters; one treasures quick interplay of words rather than the close reason for such. Because of that, some are right in attributing to him a feminine quickness of observation, or rather a minute observation for the feminine. That is why he determined, in "The City," to dispel the illusion that he could not write a man's play, or draw masculine characters. Yet was not Sam Coast, in "Her Own Way," almost the equal of Georgiana Carley?
I recall, one midnight—the week before Mr. Fitch sailed on his last trip to Europe—he read me "The City," two acts of which were in their final shape, the third in process of completion. There used to be a superstition among the managers to the effect that if you ever wished to consider a play by Fitch, he must be kept from reading it himself; for if he did, you would accept it on the spot. All the horror of that powerful arraignment of city life, and the equally powerful criticism of country life, was brought out on this evening we were together, and I was able to see just where, as a stage director, Clyde Fitch must have been the mainstay at rehearsals. He never lived to give the final touches to his manuscript of "The City,"—touches which always meant so much to him; he was dead by the time rehearsals were called, and there slipped from the performance some of the significant atmosphere he described to me.
There comes vividly to my mind his questions after the reading—trying out his effects on me, so to speak. Rapidly he reviewed the work on the third act he had planned for the morrow, consulting with me as though suddenly I had become a collaborator. In such a way he must have planned with Mansfield over Brummell; thus he may have worked with Julia Marlowe, telling her some of the romantic incidents he had drawn from his mother's own Maryland love story for "Barbara Frietchie." In the same naive spirit, he consulted, by letter, with Arthur Byron for his "stardom" in "Major Andre"—which waned so soon after the first night.
Everything about the room that evening he read "The City" bore evidence of the playwright's personality. The paintings and bric-a-brac, the books—mostly biography and letters—the tapestries which seemed to blend with the bowls of flowers and furniture of French design, the windows looking out on lawns, gardens, and a pond with swans upon it, the moonlight on the Cupids that kept guard at intervals along the top of a snakelike stone fence—and Fitch, vital, happy in his work, happy in his friends, happy in life, as he had planned to live it in the years to come. And death waiting him across the water!
"Beau Brummell" began Clyde Fitch's career as a dramatist. It was produced at the New York Madison Square Theatre, May 17, 1890. At that time he had not evinced any determination to be a dramatist—but was writing juvenile sketches for The Churchman, afterwards gathered in a charming volume called "The Knighting of the Twins, and Ten Other Tales" (1891). Previous to this, he had attempted "A Wave of Life"—a novel whose chief value is autobiographic. Then he showed his clever facility at dialogue in a collection of "Six Conversations and Some Correspondence;" also in "The Smart Set." But, after the success of "Brummell," followed by "Frederic Lemaitre" (December 1, 1890) for Henry Miller, a dramatic season hardly passed that Fitch was not represented on the bill-boards by two or three comedies. It was very rarely that he rewrote his dramas under new titles; it was unusual for him to use over again material previously exploited. Exceptions to this were in the cases of "The Harvest," a one-act sketch given by the New York Theatre of Arts and Letters (January 26, 1893), afterwards (April 11, 1898) included as an act of "The Moth and the Flame;" "Mistress Betty" (October 15, 1895), for Mme. Modjeska, afterwards revamped as "The Toast of the Town" (November 27, 1905) for Viola Allen. Interest in the period of Beau Brummell stretched over into "The Last of the Dandies" for Beerbohm Tree. But otherwise the bulk of his work came each season as a Fitch novelty. He often played against himself, the popularity of one play killing the chances of the other. For instance, when "Lovers' Lane" opened in New York, there were also running "Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines," "Barbara Frietchie" and "The Climbers." When "The Cowboy and the Lady" was given in Philadelphia, "Nathan Hale" beat it in box-office receipts, and Fitch wrote to a friend: "If any play is going to beat it, I'd rather it was one of mine, eh?"
By the time he was ready to write "The Moth and the Flame," Fitch had won distinction with a variety of picturesque pieces, like "His Grace de Grammont," for Otis Skinner, and "Nathan Hale," for Goodwin and Maxine Elliott. It may be said to have come just when his vivacity was on the increase, for touches in it gave foretaste of his later society dramas, and showed his planning, in the manner of the French, for excellent theatrical effect. He was to become more expert in the use of materials, but no whit less clever in his expansion of "small talk" and society shallowness.
"The Harvest" is an early example of Fitch's method of workmanship. It was carefully planned and quickly written; in fact, it was set down on paper while Fitch was on the four o'clock train between New York and Boston; his motive was to show the dangerous power and fascination of a clever, dissipated, attractive man-of-the-world on a young girl, who, in her innocence, does not understand the warnings given her on all sides. The idea grew in his mind, and this growth resulted in "The Moth and the Flame," which entered more fully into the "fast" life of a man about town, and the dangerous ignorance of the society girl. Fitch loved to sketch the smart woman, like Mrs. Lorrimer, who, as someone has said, is frivolously constituted, but sharply witty and with some depth of heart. The fancy-dress party scene is autobiographic, he having attended such an occasion at Carroll Beckwith's studio, in New York. In technique, this scene is comparable with the one of similar gaiety in "Lord and Lady Algy"—both having an undercurrent of serious strain. The tragedy motive is relieved at almost calculated times by comedy, which shows that Fitch held to the old dramatic theory of comic relief. Often this was irritating, discounting the mood he was trying to maintain. He was not as skilful in the use of these varying elements as Pinero, with whom he might be compared—not for strength of characterization, for fullness of story or for the sheer art of interest, but for creative vitality and variety, as well as for literary feeling in the use of materials. But more important than all these was his desire to be true to the materials he had selected. On this subject he always had much to say, and his comments about Truth in the theatre comprise an enlightening exposition of his dramatic theory. This it is well to examine. In 1901, he adapted, from the French, "Sapho"—to the production of which was attached some unpleasant notoriety—and "The Marriage Game." And of these he wrote (in Harper's Weekly), in response to current criticism, as follows:
It is only fair to myself and to my work done on the two plays to say that my intention and desire in both instances were to be faithful to the French original, and to have the outcome a resultant moral—to the good. To put it mildly, I do not seem to have created that impression exactly in the minds of the public. From their verdict and yours I have picked myself up, pulled myself together, and realized my failure. I had thought I was taking a building from one country and rebuilding it in another with the same stones, but I discovered I had apparently pulled down one structure and raised no other. Believe me, no one regretted this more than I. But I think I have finally learned my lesson. I have learned another thing that I can't do, and I have added it to the list of things I sha'n't try to do. What I am trying to do is to reflect life of all kinds as I see it. To write, first, plays that will interest and mean something; and, after that, amuse. I would rather entertain everybody than one body. And always and in any case with a result to the good. I am trying especially to reflect our own life of the present, and to get into the heart of the pictures made by the past. To do this I do not consider any detail too small, so long as it is not boring. Nor any method wrong which I feel to be true. I am naturally not always believed in, and I do not always make myself clear. Sometimes I think I am misunderstood through laziness. To give one instance, of one or the other: in a recent play of mine, 'The Climbers', something which I meant to be psychologically true was taken to be a theatrical trick. A man who was dishonest in business, but who loved his wife with the really strong love that such weak natures are capable of, is asked to look that wife in the face and, before a group of angry friends and relatives, confess the extent of his crime, his disgrace! I felt, and I still feel, the man couldn't look into his wife's eyes and say the whole ugly truth. And doubly he couldn't with the to him cruel environment of the outraged circle holding back the sympathy of his wife from him. He would feel and cry out to her, 'Let me tell you alone, if I must tell it, and in the dark, in the dark!' when he could not see the heart-breaking shame grow upon her face, nor see his own guilty face reflected in her eyes. The end of this sentence he would reiterate, grasping it, too, on the impulse, as a means to put off the ordeal. 'In the dark,—later in the dark', he would tell her everything. But there is no time to be lost if a public scandal is to be averted. The worst must be known at once. The chief friend of them all is there. It is he who is to fight hardest to save them. He knows the house well, and besides he has seen that very evening, after dinner, the lights turned on by the servant with the electric lever. He stands beside this lever. He quickly seizes the last sentence of the cornered guilty man, and, before the latter can think or retract, cries: 'Tell it in the dark, then!' and plunges the room in darkness. The natural impulse of that defaulter under those circumstances would be to blurt out with it; at least so I believe. Such was his vacillating, impulsive nature. And for the same reason the attempt to escape in the dark, which was silly, futile! It was another sudden impulse; had it been otherwise, he was far too sensible to have tried it. I developed that scene by taking the place mentally, or trying to, of each one of the persons engaged in it. I did not start with the so-called 'dark scene'. I had no idea I was going to do what I did until I reached the moment in my writing when it had to be done—at least done that way or not at all. As it occurred to me, so it would have occurred to the friend in the play. And so it did! And knowing this evolution of the scene, I cannot think myself that it was 'a theatrical trick'. In all cases I try to paint my personages from the inside instead of the out, and to cling to human nature as both my starting-point and my goal. This is what I want to do and am trying to do—in a sentence—to tell the Truth in the Theatre. I am trying honestly, and my heart is in it. That's all, except that I am glad of your belief in me.
This frankness and sincerity were typical of Fitch's correspondence with everyone who took him seriously. He went to every pains to explain himself, and no man more gratefully acknowledged earnest attention. It was his quickness to detect in others the spark of creative appreciation that made him answer letters to perfect strangers, giving them advice as to playwriting. "I like the tone of that man's note," he once said to me. "I'll send for him; he may be a good actor."
It was not often that he wrote on the theory of his work. There is an essay by him, published in 1904, and called "The Play and the Public." It is often quoted. But a good thing bears constant repetition, and the following sounds Fitch's conviction on a fundamental belief:
I feel myself very strongly the particular value—a value which, rightly or wrongly, I can't help feeling inestimable—in a modern play of reflecting absolutely and truthfully the life and environment about us; every class, every kind, every emotion, every motive, every occupation, every business, every idleness! Never was life so varied, so complex; what a choice, then! Take what strikes you most, in the hope it will interest others. Take what suits you most to do—what perhaps you can do best—and then do it better. Be truthful, and then nothing can be too big, nothing should be too small, so long as it is here, and there! Apart from the question of literature, apart from the question of art, reflect the real thing with true observation and with sincere feeling for what it is and what it represents, and that is art and literature in a modern play. If you inculcate an idea in your play, so much the better for your play and for you—and for your audience. In fact, there is small hope for your play as a play if you haven't some small idea in it somewhere and somehow, even if it is hidden—it is sometimes better for you if it is hidden, but it must of course be integral. Some ideas are mechanical. Then they are no good. These are the ideas for which the author does all the work, instead of letting the ideas do the work for him. One should write what one sees, but observe under the surface. It is a mistake to look at the reflection of the sky in the water of theatrical convention. Instead, look up and into the sky of real life itself.
All sound advice, and a compressed manual of dramatic technique for the beginner! But Fitch had the darting eye of a migratory interest. He often didn't "follow through," as they say in golf. With the result that he is often scored for insufficient motivation. But my knowledge of him makes me realize he felt and saw deeper than his epigrammatic style indicated. His technique was therefore often threadbare in spots,—not of that even mesh which makes of Pinero such an exceptional designer. I would put Fitch's "Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines" above Edward Sheldon's "Romance" for the faithful reproduction of early New York atmosphere. I would put it by the side of Pinero's "Trelawney of the 'Wells'." But there is no play of Fitch's which, for strength, I would hold beside "The Thunderbolt." In his feminine analyses, too, he did not probe as deep as Pinero.
Within a few months of his death, Fitch was asked to deliver an address on the theatre at Harvard and at Yale. He enlarged his magazine article on "The Play and the Public" for that purpose. It is now easily accessible, included in the fourth volume of the Memorial Edition of his plays. It was found among his many papers and unfinished manuscripts. There is no recent playwright whose "Life and Letters" are more worthy of preservation. I have looked through most of the materials; have seen letters descriptive of his childhood in Schenectady, New York, (he was born, May 2, 1865 in Elmira); have read accounts of his student days at Amherst, where vagaries of dress used to stir his associates to student pranks; have relished an illustrated diary he kept while tutoring in his early years of struggle, his father refusing to countenance playwriting instead of architecture. These early years were filled with the same vivacity, affection and sympathy which later made him such a rare friend. It bears repeating what has been often said before—he had a genius for friendship, and an equal genius for losing those he did not want.
Such a biography as should be written of his picturesque popularity as a playwright would mostly be autobiographic. For a letter from Fitch had rare flavour, more personal than his plays but of the same Fitchean quality. It would, as well, be a personal record of the stage, and would set at rest many myths that have floated around his name—such as William Winter wilfully circulated about "Beau Brummell."[A]
"The Moth and the Flame" is here reproduced because it has never before been issued, and should be made available to the student of American Drama. To say that it is typically Fitchean does not mean that, in technique or in characterization, it is his best. But it is confession that whatever he wrote bore that incommunicable touch which gives him a unique position—a position no American playwright thus far has been able to usurp.
[Footnote A: Since this was written, it has been announced that a volume, "Clyde Fitch and his Letters," is being prepared by the Editors of the "Memorial Edition" of Fitch's plays.]
LYCEUM THEATRE. 12th Season.
NEW YORK THEATRE CO., PROPRIETORS
DANIEL FROHMAN, MANAGER
* * * * *
WEEK COMMENCING MONDAY EVENING, APRIL 11, 1898.
Evenings at 8.30. Thursday and Saturday Matinees, at 2.15.
* * * * *
DANIEL FROHMAN takes pleasure in presenting
THE KELCEY-SHANNON COMPANY,
Herbert Kelcey, Effie Shannon, Wm. J. LeMoyne, Sarah Cowell LeMoyne and their organization, under the management of
SAMUEL F. KINGSTON, presenting
THE MOTH AND THE FLAME
an Original Play, in Three Acts.
By CLYDE FITCH.
* * * * *
CAST OF CHARACTERS.
EDWARD FLETCHER Mr. KELCEY MR. DAWSON Mr. WM. J. LeMOYNE MR. WOLTON Mr. E. W. THOMAS DOUGLAS RHODES Mr. BRUCE McRAE JOHNSTONE Mr. EDWARD SEE FANSHAW Mr. DAVID TORRENCE TRIMMINS Mr. EDW. H. WILKINSON CLERGYMAN Mr. SYLVESTER DEEHAN HOWES Mr. EDWIN JAMES MARION WOLTON Miss SHANNON MRS. LORRIMER Mrs. SARAH COWELL LeMOYNE MRS. WOLTON Mrs. ISABEL WALDRON JEANNETTE GROSS Miss ELEANOR MORETTI ETHEL Miss LEILA ELLIS KITTY Miss EDNA PHILLIPS GERTRUDE Miss ETHEL KINGSTON BLANCHE Miss MARY HANSON BESSY Miss MAMIE DUNN MRS. FLETCHER, SR. Mrs. FRANCES FERREN MAID Miss EMMA JANVIER
Guests, Bridesmaids, etc., by Pupils of the Stanhope-Wheatcroft School.
Produced under the stage direction of the Author.
Costumes for Act I. from special designs executed by Maurice Herrmann.
Programme continued on second page following.
Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Wolton At Home Tuesday Evening, January —— at Ten O'clock.
Children's Costumes de rigueur. —— East 69th Street.
* * * * *
ACT II.—One year later—
Mrs. Lawrence Wolton requests the honor of your presence at the Marriage of her Daughter, Marion, to Mr. Edward Houghton Fletcher, Thursday, February 10th, at Five o'clock, St. Hubert's Chapel, New York.
* * * * *
ACT III.—THE FOLLOWING DAY.
THE MOTH AND THE FLAME
By CLYDE FITCH
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
BY CLYDE FITCH AND ALICE KAUSER
Copyright, 1919, by E. P. Dutton & Company, Alice Kauser, and Frank E. Whitman and Bernard M. L. Ernst, as Executors of the Estate of Alice M. Fitch, deceased.
[The Editor wishes to record here, in memoriam, his grateful appreciation of the desire shown by the late Mrs. Fitch to have in the present Collection a hitherto unpublished play by her son, Clyde Fitch. Through her courtesy, "The Moth and the Flame" is here included.]
CAST OF CHARACTERS
EDWARD FLETCHER MR DAWSON MR WOLTON DOUGLAS RHODES JOHNSTONE FANSHAW TRIMMINS CLERGYMAN HOWES MARION WOLTON MRS. LORRIMER MRS. WOLTON JEANETTE GROSS ETHEL KITTY GERTRUDE BLANCHE MAID MRS. FLETCHER
Guests, Bridesmaids, Choristers, Servants and others.
SCENE. The First Act takes place in the WOLTON'S house during a large fancy ball. All the guests are in children's costumes—that being insisted upon in the invitations. The stage represents a reception-room; the end of a conservatory, or ball-room, being seen through a large archway. In the upper right hand corner of the stage is a small stage built with curtains and foot-lights, for an amateur vaudeville performance, which is taking place.
At rise of curtain the room is filled with guests in costume, on chairs before improvised stage, and the curtain of stage is just falling, as one of the Lady Guests—who, dressed (and blacked) as a small Darky Girl, has been singing a popular negro ballad ("Warmest Baby.") The mimic curtain rises again, owing to the applause of the mimic audience. The chorus of song is repeated and the curtain again falls to applause. There is a general movement among guests—with laughter and conversation.
DISCOVERED. MARION WOLTON, dressed in Empire Child's gown, is sitting in one of the third row of chairs next the foot-lights. Up to now her back is partly turned toward the audience. KITTY RAND, dressed in short skirts, is just behind her.
FANSHAW. [Leaning over to MARION.] I think, Marion, this was really a most amusing idea of yours, having us all come as children.
Enter DOUGLAS RHODES, in white sailor costume. He meets MRS. WOLTON who enters. They talk.
MARION. [To KITTY.] Your costume, Kitty, is charming.
KITTY. [With a ball on rubber cord.] My dear, I'm sure I look a sight. I feel as if it were bathing hour at Narragansett.
MARION. Here's Bessie. How splendid she was. [Rises.] [Enter BESSIE. She laughs as she is greeted by shouts of laughter and applause by guests. She joins MARION, who shakes her hand.] You were too funny, Bessie. [A guest rises and offers seat to BESSIE. She accepts it and sits.
JOHNSTONE. [Monkey; white kilt suit.] [To BESSIE as she sits.] Yes. Isn't this an awfully lovely party? [To FANSHAW.] Here, Fanshaw, it's your turn.
GUESTS and ALL. Yes, come on Fanshaw, etc. [FANSHAW exits.
RHODES comes from MRS. WOLTON, nodding pleasantly to guests as he passes round behind them, to MARION. He shakes her hand.
MARION. Why so late, Douglas?
DOUGLAS. I was dining with Mrs. Lorrimer; but I hope you've saved me a seat by you. [BLANCHE exits, ready for stage.
MARION. I'm sorry, but I haven't. There's the curtain.
She sits and DOUGLAS takes a place back of guests, shaking hands with TRIMMINS as he does so. Mimic curtain rises, music begins, all interrupt with "Sh-h." FANSHAW enters on mimic stage, dressed as Little Lord Fauntleroy, and sings. Mimic curtain falls to applause. Curtain is raised. Black rag-baby thrown to him during song. FANSHAW enters, bows, and, as he does so, BLANCHE throws a small bouquet of flowers to him. This he catches and makes entrance upon stage by jumping over mimic foot-lights. He is congratulated and thanked by MARION and resumes his seat.
Music begins. All interrupt again with "Sh-h." Curtain is raised, and enter ETHEL, dressed as a child of 1840, in white and green. She comes forward and sings ("Henrietta"), with orchestral accompaniment, a flute obligato being a feature of the latter, which, every little while, indulges in loud variations, entirely drowning the singer's voice, much to her annoyance, and the only half-suppressed amusement of the guests. As she reaches the chorus all (at MARION'S suggestion) join in with her and finish the song. MARION rises, giving the signal that the entertainment is over. Servants come in and take away most of the chairs, leaving one in centre of stage and three up toward the left centre. All rise and form groups; those of guests near the door move into ball-room and off. ETHEL enters, and MARION at once greets her, KITTY and JOHNSTONE joining them.
MARION. Thank you ever so much.
JOHNSTONE. Yes, indeed. Isn't this an awfully lovely party.
ETHEL. [With large hoople and stick; quickly, much put out.] My dear Marion, I could choke that flute player.
MARION. Don't be selfish, Ethel; the man wanted to be heard. [Goes up to DOUGLAS.
ETHEL. If I were a witch, I'd curse him with asthma. Mr. Johnstone, go and curse him for me.
JOHNSTONE. With pleasure.
ETHEL. Just give him a piece of my mind. [Enter GIRL.
JOHNSTONE. [Flatteringly.] He doesn't deserve such a gift. But isn't this a lovely party? Will you excuse me? [He goes up stage to BLANCHE, offers his arm, which she takes, and they exit. KITTY and ETHEL watch BLANCHE and JOHNSTONE, amused.
KITTY. [To ETHEL.] Just look at Blanche. Do you suppose she's going to—
ETHEL. She's going to with all her might and main, if he will only ask her.
KITTY. A large if— [Laughing. FANSHAW and GERTRUDE join ETHEL and KITTY down stage.
FANSHAW. Looks as if Johnny were getting pretty stuck on Blanche, doesn't it? [Goes to KITTY. TRIMMINS moves up centre.
ETHEL. Yes, or just the other way round. [All laugh.
GERTRUDE. Who are you dancing the cotillon with, Ethel?
ETHEL. Don't know. I've promised two men, but I haven't made up my mind who I'll dance with yet.
FANSHAW. A nice person to engage for a partner. [Calling.] Trimmins!
ETHEL. Sh-h! He's one of the men I've promised.
FANSHAW. [Laughing.] Never mind. I'm the other. [All laugh. GERTRUDE says, "Oh, Ethel!" GERTRUDE goes toward MARION, ETHEL and KITTY at same time. MARION exits.
FANSHAW. [To TRIMMINS.] Who are you dancing the cotillon with, Trimmins?
TRIMMINS. Ethel Stevens!
TRIMMINS. Ethel Stevens!
FANSHAW. I'll bet a fiver you're not. She's dancing with me.
TRIMMINS. [Very pleased.] Delighted! I owe you the five with joy. [Rushes FANSHAW out of the way. Crossing to GERTRUDE.] Will you give me the pleasure? [DOUGLAS out at back, exits.] Thank you. [Offers his arm, which GERTRUDE takes, and they go out at back.
MARION. Are you going to stand perfectly still and be robbed in that manner? [Laughing.
FANSHAW. Well, but what am I— [Interrupted by one of the girl guests, who says, "I'm here!"] Oh, so you are. [Puts his arm in hers, and they run off together.
ETHEL. Marion, isn't Mr. Ned Fletcher coming to-night?
MARION. Yes. [Exit.
KITTY. I'm so glad; he's quite the most amusing man in town this winter. [Sitting on chair which servant left.
ETHEL. And so many people won't ask him to their houses, you know. Mamma won't.
KITTY. Well, you know, your mother's a ridiculous person; she asks lots of awfully fast men!
ETHEL. Yes, but they are all relatives.
KITTY. [Putting arm around ETHEL, pricks her finger.] I don't believe Net Fletcher is as bad as people hint. He's too good looking. [Fixing dress.
ETHEL. And I don't care whether he's bad or not, he's charming enough to make up for it. Besides, I suppose all men are bad.
KITTY. Oh—I don't know.
ETHEL. I mean all nice men.
KITTY. Where has Mr. Fletcher been before this winter?
ETHEL. My dear, he's one of those men who live all over the place—most of the time in Europe—but he's been here always off and on—and in Newport and in Lenox he has yachts and things, don't you know! [Exits down right.
MARION. [Enters.] Girls, will you go into the ball-room, till the men get the tables ready here? [She speaks aside to one of the servants, and exits. Servants bring on small table and place it with bottles, lunch, etc., a broken glass covered with napkins to fall on stage. Place seven chairs about table. Exit.
ETHEL. Of course. [To KITTY, crossing to her.] Do you notice how she won't talk about Fletcher and won't listen to any one else either?
KITTY. My dear, she's heels over head.
ETHEL. Poor Douglas Rhodes! [Half smiling, in part satire.
KITTY. Serves him right for hanging around her all his life! Why didn't he flirt with one of us girls for a time, if only to make her jealous! [ETHEL sees DOUGLAS enter, and tries to warn KITTY. ETHEL gives KITTY a violent pull of the arm to warn her to stop speaking of DOUGLAS.
ETHEL. [To DOUGLAS.] You can't stay here; we're driven out.
KITTY. Come, help us make fun of the other people.
DOUGLAS. In a few minutes. I must give you a chance to make fun of me!
KITTY. Oh, we've been doing that for years! [ETHEL blows DOUGLAS' whistle which he has suspended from neck, pulling it out of his pocket. ETHEL and KITTY smile coquettishly at DOUGLAS and exit into ball-room, arm in arm. Distant music off stage. DOUGLAS follows up centre. A pause. Enter MARION. DOUGLAS, up stage, looks admiringly at her, and smiles. Then, smiling and putting himself into a boyish attitude, he says boyishly.
DOUGLAS. Hello, Molly!
MARION. [Smiling back, catching his mood, speaks girlishly.] Hello, Dug! It does take one back to old days, doesn't it!
DOUGLAS. That was what I was thinking of, Marion, the days of dancing-school. How good you were to always be my partner, even though I couldn't reverse without treading on your toes!
MARION. [Smiling.] You were a bad dancer—and death to slippers.
DOUGLAS. And the children's parties, with the old games, "Post Office," "Copenhagen," "Kiss in the Ring."
MARION. [Smiling mischievously.] You were good enough at "Kiss in the Ring" to make up for your not reversing.
DOUGLAS. [With real sentiment, crosses to her.] Do you remember it all as well as I do?
MARION. [Realizing his sentiment, and trying to change their mood, but pleasantly.] Of course I do! We were great friends then, as we are now, and as I hope we always will be, Douglas.
DOUGLAS. But if we played the old games again, would it be the same?
MARION. No, no, things are never the same.
DOUGLAS. But would you let me choose you always? Would you pretend not to see me coming, so I could slap your hands on the Copenhagen rope and take my reward? If we played "Post Office," would I have all my letters from your lips! Would you mind if, in "bow to the wittiest, kneel to the prettiest, and kiss the one you loved best," I choose you again, openly, for all three? Would you give me all your dances?
MARION. [More serious, though still smiling kindly, sweetly.] That's just it, Douglas! You can reverse now, and there are so many other girls wanting partners!
DOUGLAS. But— [Interrupted.
MARION. Besides, after all, we're only children outside to-night; our hearts have come of age!
DOUGLAS. Yes, Marion, but, boy's and man's, my heart's the same. I want the same partner I did then, only I want her for the game of life!
MARION. I am so sorry!
DOUGLAS. Sorry? Then you won't let your hands lie on the rope for me any more?
MARION. I am very fond of you, Douglas, and I always was, but— [She hesitates.
DOUGLAS. [A little bitterly, disappointed.] I know what you mean. I was all right for dancing-school, but life is a more serious matter— [MARION goes to chair and sits down.] I know I'm not like you, Marion—I know what an intellectual woman you are, and what an ordinary sort of fellow I am. But I love you! and I hoped— [He breaks off and continues with his first idea.] You went to a woman's college, and I only to a man's—You made a study of sociology—I, [Smiling.] principally of athletics. I know I never read books, and you seem to read everything. But I love you. You have your clubs for working girls, your charities; I know the busy, helpful life you lead. You have so much in it, I was in hopes that what room was left for a husband was so little, even I could fill it. And somehow or other I've always taken it for granted you more or less understood, and were—willing.
MARION. I was—once—
DOUGLAS. You were?
MARION. There was no one in the world I liked so much to be with as you, and I think I, too, believed my happiness was in your hands, and that some day we would decide together it was so. But I lately— [She hesitates.
DOUGLAS. Some one else?
MARION. I don't like you one bit less, Douglas, only— [Rises.
DOUGLAS. Only you liked some one else more! I was afraid so. I've heard whispers and guesses—
MARION. Don't let it make any difference with us, Douglas!
DOUGLAS. You love him?
DOUGLAS. Very much?
MARION. You see, every one is against him, and I feel that I have a chance to save him.
DOUGLAS. You believe in him?
MARION. [Shortly.] Yes.
DOUGLAS. Would you believe anything against him?
MARION. [On the defensive, indignant.] No!
DOUGLAS. If some one told you of something dishonourable this man had done?
MARION. I would suspect the motive of the person who told me. Do you think I haven't heard plenty of gossip against him? Every girl I know has done her best to take away his character, and begged me to introduce him to her in the same breath.
DOUGLAS. And if I spoke against him?
MARION. [Leaning on back of chair.] I know I couldn't help it, after what you have told me; I should have to feel you might be influenced by jealousy.
DOUGLAS. To unjustly accuse a man?
MARION. Oh, Douglas, no, of course you would believe what you said, but I wouldn't trust your judgment. Don't I know every one is down on him. Even you men; are all the men in New York so proud of their past lives—not to mention the present of several I know?—Well, if men turn a cold shoulder, then we women must give him our hands.
DOUGLAS. You girls don't understand.
MARION. Oh, girls understand a good deal nowadays. Society and some of the newspapers attend to that. He doesn't pretend to be a saint to me—I find him perfectly frank—and I am afraid he has been rather fast! But I don't believe he is capable of an outright dishonourable action, and nothing would make me believe it!
DOUGLAS. No proof?
MARION. Only the proof of my own eyes. When I see him do something contemptible, then I'll believe half the stories I hear of him! [Moving a little up centre.
DOUGLAS. I see you do love him.
MARION. I do, though you are the only person I have confessed it to,—not even to him—and forgive me, [Down a little.] but I never liked you less than I do now when you have spoken against him. [Up to arch.
DOUGLAS. [Following her.] No, tell me you will forget it, and keep me the same old friend, and I'll promise not to speak against him to you again.
MARION. [Smiling.] Very well— [They shake hands.] Why, I want you two to be the best of friends—you must be—
DOUGLAS. [Also smiling.] Oh, I don't promise that—I haven't given you up yet, and I sha'n't until—
MARION. [Smiling.] When—?
DOUGLAS. [Smiling.] Until I see you going into the church to be married.
MARION. You'll say nothing more against Ned?
DOUGLAS. Not to you. [Moving down, right centre.
MARION. Oh, but you will to others? [Follows.
DOUGLAS. I will say what I have to say to—him.
MARION. To him?
Enter MRS. WOLTON and FLETCHER. FLETCHER is dressed in dark sailor clothes.
MRS. WOLTON. Marion, here's another little boy. [MARION turns and greets FLETCHER, going to him. DOUGLAS and FLETCHER see each other and say "Good evening" pleasantly.
MARION. It's too bad you missed the vaudeville.
FLETCHER. Did you do anything. [MARION laughs and exits with FLETCHER.
DOUGLAS turns around quickly, annoyed, to speak to MRS. WOLTON, but, in his quick turning and in his movement of annoyance, keeping his eyes on MARION and FLETCHER, he has struck glasses and a bottle on the little supper-table beside them. They crash on the floor. He and MRS. WOLTON both start.
DOUGLAS. Oh! Mrs. Wolton, forgive me; how clumsy! [Starts to pick up.
MRS. WOLTON. No, never mind. [As SERVANT enters.] Here is Howes— [To SERVANT.] Howes, see to this, please, at once.
SERVANT. Yes, m'm. Please, Mr. Dawson is here to see Mr. Wolton.
MRS. WOLTON. Mr. Dawson, my brother! Why, he's in Boston, Howes.
SERVANT. Beg pardon, m'm, but he must have returned to-day. Most important, he says, m'm. Where shall I show him? The ladies and gentlemen are playing "Blind Man's Buff" in Mr. Wolton's room.
MRS. WOLTON. This is the quietest place. Show Mr. Dawson in here. Where is Mr. Wolton?
SERVANT. [Trying not to smile.] He's blind-folded, m'm!
MRS. WOLTON. [Smiling.] Tell him.
SERVANT. Yes, m'm. [Exits.
DOUGLAS. Shall we join the game?
MRS. WOLTON. Yes, come, I will take Mr. Wolton's place! I haven't played Blind Man's Buff for— [She calculates a moment, and then speaks amusedly.] Good gracious!—never mind how many years!!
DOUGLAS. Oh, not so many as all that, I am sure! [They go out at back.
Enter SERVANT with DAWSON in cutaway coat and vest and usual trousers. SERVANT at once begins to pick up the debris made by DOUGLAS.
DAWSON. What's going on here, Howes?
SERVANT. A children's party, sir.
DAWSON. A what?
SERVANT. A children's party, sir.
DAWSON. Who are the children?
SERVANT. Mr. Wolton and Miss Wolton, sir, and her friends. Mr. Wolton's playing games now, sir, but he said he would join you in a minute.
DAWSON. [Out loud, involuntarily, but speaking to himself—very seriously, almost tragically.] Playing games! My God!
SERVANT. Yes, sir—one don't know what rich folks'll do next, sir. We're in hopes, in the kitchen, they'll take to pretending they're the servants, sir, and turn us loose in the ball-room. [Smiling. Exits.
DAWSON. [Who hardly hears SERVANT.] Playing games, with ruin and disgrace staring him in the face. [Enter MR. WOLTON.
MR. WOLTON. [Flushed and gay—an elderly man in knickerbockers and evening coat, a sort of English Court costume. The handkerchief, which was tied around his eyes in the game, has slipped, and lies about his neck.] Well, Fred, what's the good news?
DAWSON. The worst there could be!
MR. WOLTON. [Half whispers.] What do you mean!!
DAWSON. [Dragging off the Blind Man's Buff handkerchief from WOLTON'S neck.] What do you mean by going in for all this tomfoolery, to-night, with ruin and disgrace ready for you in the morning?
MR. WOLTON. So soon—?
DAWSON. How much longer did you think you could stave it off?
MR. WOLTON. [Sinks exhausted into a chair.] I didn't know.
DAWSON. Why didn't you tell me your credit was as exhausted in Boston as here? [Taking chair from table, and sitting right of WOLTON.
MR. WOLTON. I thought, with you doing the negotiating, it mightn't be!
DAWSON. Well, it is; do you hear me, you haven't any such thing as credit there nor here! nor anywhere, for aught I know! To-morrow is the last day of grace. Your sister-in-law has to pay this money?
MR. WOLTON. Yes.
DAWSON. What did you let her buy that house for?
MR. WOLTON. [Testily.] How could I help it! My brother didn't appoint me her guardian! He simply left her money in trust in my hands!
DAWSON. "In trust in your hands!" [Laughs cruelly.
MR. WOLTON. Don't do that!
DAWSON. And you speculated with it, and lost every cent!
MR. WOLTON. Yes.
DAWSON. What a scoundrel you are! [WOLTON squirms miserably in his chair. DAWSON adds quietly.] And yet I don't suppose there's at this moment a more popular man in New York, socially, than you.
MR. WOLTON. No, I don't believe there is!—but a damned lot of good it does me!
DAWSON. Will your sister-in-law accept her ruin quietly?
MR. WOLTON. No, she's never liked me; she'll take pleasure in exposing me!
DAWSON. But for your wife and child's sake!
MR. WOLTON. You know very well she hates them! They have never taken her up; she wasn't possible, socially. [DAWSON laughs again bitterly.] Don't do that!
DAWSON. Well, then, after ruining yourself and your brother's wife, you must ruin your own!
MR. WOLTON. [Alarmed, uneasy.] What do you mean?
DAWSON. I mean that my sister's own money is enough to pay for your sister's silence. Don't you understand? Your sister mustn't know, of course, that you've stolen her fortune. Instead, your wife must be told,—poor Laura—and for her daughter's sake, she must consent to beggar herself. Her bonds will about meet the payment of the house to-morrow—they must be sold the first thing—I will see to it.—— [As he speaks, he is looking WOLTON straight in the face. Something in WOLTON'S face grows upon him with conviction as he speaks his last few words. He breaks off suddenly.] What! you've taken hers, too! [He leans over WOLTON in the chair, his hands on his shoulders, close to his neck, in a rage. Rises.] You've beggared my sister, your wife and child! You— [Interrupted.
MR. WOLTON. [With a big effort, rises, throwing off DAWSON'S hands.] Sh!—For God's sake, lower your voice! You'll be heard!
DAWSON. [With a change of tone, but speaking with utter contempt.] By a couple hundred fools! To-morrow thousands will hear of your dirty dishonour!! [Going toward right a little.
MR. WOLTON. [To DAWSON.] But you, you have money—won't you come to my rescue?
DAWSON. I couldn't if I would. You have borrowed half a fortune of me already. What I have left must go to take care of my sister and niece. Do you think I'd support you! No, the State will do that.
MR. WOLTON. That!! You'd let me go to—?
DAWSON. You'll get twenty years at least!
MR. WOLTON. You won't help me escape!
MR. WOLTON. But Laura? she loves me, and Marion. They will suffer for me; I may be weakly dishonourable, but I've always loved them, and they me. Besides, any public dishonour which comes to my name must touch theirs too.
DAWSON. I'm not so sure about that—I think there is material for a divorce here.
MR. WOLTON. A divorce! My God, must I lose everything! Show a little pity, Fred! Remember the old days at school; was I a bad boy? We were chums for years, you know it!—You were my best man when I married Laura, and you were the gayest at the wedding! It's only been this curse of gambling with the stocks that has driven me to the devil,—that and my cursed luck.
DAWSON. Luck has nothing to do with honour.
MR. WOLTON. You don't know—oftener than you think, it has everything! [Enter SERVANT.
SERVANT. Supper is ready, sir. Can we have this room?
DAWSON. Yes, Howes, I'm going!
SERVANT. Thank you, sir. [Exits.
MR. WOLTON. Give me a word of hope, Fred!—something! What are you going to do?
DAWSON. Nothing till to-morrow morning.
MR. WOLTON. And that's all you have to say?
DAWSON. All. [The two men stand looking at each other a moment in a sort of grim embarrassment, then DAWSON exits. Music. It must be evident to the audience, though not to the hysterically excited WOLTON, that DAWSON has a little, a very little, pity, but doesn't wish to show it,—at any rate not yet. WOLTON, who has stood a moment lost in thought, an expression of despair in his face, shudders and comes to himself. He looks around to see that he is alone. He grasps his forehead tight a moment in his right hand, drops his hand, and with compressed lips nods his head determinedly. He is standing by one of the smaller supper-tables; he looks down at it and takes up a silver knife at one of the places, feels its dull edge, and throws it down sneering. A SERVANT appears.
MR. WOLTON. Howes?
SERVANT. [Coming into the room and going to WOLTON.] Yes, sir.
MR. WOLTON. I am going up to my room. [With a motion of his head, indicating upstairs.] I am not feeling well. If my absence should be noticed, explain to Mrs. Wolton, but do not disturb me—do you understand?
SERVANT. Yes, sir.
MR. WOLTON. On no account am I to be disturbed. No one is to come to me until after the party is entirely over. Don't make any mistake about that.
SERVANT. No, sir.
WOLTON, who is half way between centre and door right, turns for a moment, looking about the room. He is seized with a nervous twitching of his muscles. He clenches his fists, grinds his teeth to control himself, and, bowing his head, goes from the room by door. KITTY and JOHNSTONE appear in ball-room doorway, at exit of WOLTON.
KITTY. [Looking into room on stage.] Here's a dear table, all by itself. [Speaks as she appears in the doorway. The two turn and look off right at ETHEL and FANSHAW who are following them slowly.
JOHNSTONE. Come along, Fanshaw, here's a lovely, quiet table, where we can say just what we like about everybody! [They stand in doorway a moment, looking off right, waiting for the other couple with their backs to WOLTON and room. ETHEL and FANSHAW join the first couple, and all come forward, speaking. The following speeches are made as they come forward to table.
JOHNSTONE. [To FANSHAW and ETHEL.] How you dawdle.
ETHEL. Jack Wright tore my lace.
FANSHAW. Trying to kiss her in Copenhagen. [They are about the table. JOHNSTONE at once sits down first in the chair the SERVANT was holding for one of the ladies. SERVANT then opens a bottle of champagne and pours in the glasses.
JOHNSTONE. [Sitting.] Come on.
KITTY. Look at him!
ETHEL. What a rude little beast you are, Johnny!
FANSHAW. Get up! [Pushing him.
JOHNSTONE. Well, you girls dawdle so! [KITTY and ETHEL sit. Enter MRS. LORRIMER from ball-room, dressed as a Watteau Shepherdess. She is greeted by a chorus of four. Carries lamb and crook.
ETHEL, KITTY, JOHNSTONE, FANSHAW. Oh, look at Mrs. Lorrimer!
MRS. LORRIMER. [Pirouettes once around, and makes a bob curtsy.] Good evening. [Laughing.] Well, I don't want to throw bouquets at myself, but I don't think it's bad.
ETHEL and KITTY. You're splendid!
JOHNSTONE. Love—— [Sits.]
KITTY. Get Mrs. Lorrimer a chair. [They all move to make more room for her, and FANSHAW gets an extra chair from arch.
MRS. LORRIMER. I'm afraid I'm a fifth spoke in your wheel! [She sits. A SERVANT passes them bouillon which they take and eat.
ETHEL. Don't be foolish; girls at a ball nowadays can't expect to have a man apiece. [JOHNSTONE lights a cigarette and smokes. A SERVANT in ball-room is seen taking away the bouillon cups, while a second passes Bouches a la Reine there. FANSHAW sits above ETHEL left of table, after taking lamb and crook from MRS. LORRIMER and placing them down left corner.
MRS. LORRIMER. How is the party?
JOHNSTONE. Awfully lovely party!
KITTY. A tearing success!
ETHEL. You ought to have seen the vaudeville!
MRS. LORRIMER. How did your stunt go, Ethel?
ETHEL. Oh, my dear, a brute of a flute player ruined it. I felt like thirty cents.
FANSHAW. No one could spend much more money on a party than old Wolton is doing to-night.
MRS. LORRIMER. Does Marion show her age in a child's dress?
KITTY. She looks charmingly, but then Marion isn't so old.
ETHEL. Perhaps not so old as she usually looks.
JOHNSTONE. Aren't you a Kitty cat?
MRS. LORRIMER. Why doesn't she paint a little?
KITTY. Marion? Paint! Her face!
ETHEL. My dear, she'd die first! [All laugh, saying "Marion".
MRS. LORRIMER. [Grandiloquently.] Not that I approve of painting! [Music stops.
ALL. [Laughing.] Oh, no!
ETHEL. Nor I!
ALL. [Laughing.] Oh, no!
MRS. LORRIMER. Who's here?
MRS. LORRIMER. Anyone I can marry?
KITTY. Oh, Mrs. Lorrimer, do be decent. You haven't been divorced a year yet.
MRS. LORRIMER. My dear, divorce isn't like death—you don't have to go into mourning! Besides, that's what I want to get married for! I find I've a perfect passion for divorce! Just like men have it for drink. The more I get the more I want! [Laugh.] I've only had two divorces, and I want another!
JOHNSTONE. You must be damned careful—I beg your pardon—
MRS. LORRIMER. Oh, don't apologize, I say it myself!—careful about what?
JOHNSTONE. What sort of husband you choose.
MRS. LORRIMER. Exactly! None of your ideal men for me! I want a man with a bad record! [Laugh.] Plenty of proof concealed about his person, or not buried too deep in his past for me and my lawyer to ferret out. I've a perfect duck of a lawyer! He made up every bit of evidence about my last husband; that won me my case, and, my dears, it just happened to turn out to be true! [Laugh.
ETHEL. Speaking of records, who do you think is here to-night?
MRS. LORRIMER. Ned Fletcher—!!
MRS. LORRIMER. Girls—I'll tell you a secret—
JOHNSTONE. I don't want to hear it. [Takes a chair left centre, sits and lights cigarette.
MRS. LORRIMER. I'm crazy about him! Where is he? [Glancing over her shoulder.
KITTY. You've no chance; he's going to marry Marion, if she'll have him.
MRS. LORRIMER. What a shame! And will she?
ETHEL. She's mad about him!
MRS. LORRIMER. The moth and the flame! What a pity! because he'd be simply ideal for me! Why, do you know I hear that he— [Stops suddenly, looking at JOHNSTONE and FANSHAW.
JOHNSTONE. What do you hear? I'm in this.
MRS. LORRIMER. I forgot Johnny and Mr. Fanshaw—there are certain things you mustn't talk about before innocent little boys!
FANSHAW. You couldn't tell us anything about Ned Fletcher!
MRS. LORRIMER. [Laughing.] I don't want to! But I thought Marion was always going to marry Douglas Rhodes.
KITTY. Oh, that's all off now. It's Ned Fletcher or nothing with Marion.
ETHEL. [Laughing.] I believe she thinks she's going to reform him! [All laugh.
KITTY. There's one thing, he isn't after Marion's money.
ETHEL. Is he so rich?
JOHNSTONE. Oh, rotten! [KITTY slaps JOHNSTONE.
MRS. LORRIMER. Very well, do you know what I shall do? I shall take Douglas.
ETHEL. [Hastily.] Yes, catch his heart on the rebound; they say it's easier that way!
JOHNSTONE. That's one on you, Mrs. Lorrimer. [Party gag.]
MRS. LORRIMER. Oh, I'm not so very old, and have had two splendid husbands already. I don't think I have to bother about the easiest way.
JOHNSTONE. Philopene, Ethel? That's one on you.
MRS. LORRIMER. Has it been your method, my dear, because if so I can't congratulate you on the result. You must look out for a stronger rebound next time! Try a divorced man; I hear they come back with a terrific force! I'll be generous; try one of mine. [All laugh. As they stop laughing there is the sound of something heavy falling in the room above. The chandelier trembles slightly, the lustres sound. All four lift their heads and listen a moment. A short pause.
KITTY. What was that!
MRS. LORRIMER. The servants probably, upstairs! [Enter MARION from ball-room, smiling at the table of people as she passes.
JOHNSTONE. [As she comes.] Here's Miss Wolton.
MRS. LORRIMER. My dear Marion, pardon me for not rising, but I assure you I look much better sitting down! [MARION stops by MRS. LORRIMER.
JOHNSTONE. Not at all, Mrs. Lorrimer, they're awfully lovely!
MRS. LORRIMER. Well, I'm sure they don't compare with yours.
JOHNSTONE. Oh, I don't know, there are others. [MARION goes down centre.
MRS. LORRIMER. Marion, is Mr. Dawson here?
MARION. No, he's in Boston.—Why?
MRS. LORRIMER. Oh, nothing, only he's an unmarried man, so I thought I'd ask. [SERVANT in ball-room takes away plates, and second SERVANT passes ices.
MARION. [To MRS. LORRIMER.] Why are you so late, Emily? [Back to MRS. LORRIMER.
MRS. LORRIMER. My little girl was seedy, and I couldn't get away until I saw her asleep comfortably. It's an awful care for a young woman, my dear, having a posthumous child!
MARION. A what?
MRS. LORRIMER. A posthumous child!
MARION. [Laughing.] How do you mean, Emily?
MRS. LORRIMER. Why, born after it's father's divorce!
MARION. Are you girls going to have coffee?
MRS. LORRIMER. No.
ETHEL. Nor I.
MARION. Very well, then; join us for another game— [She makes a movement of starting.] Unless you men want to smoke. In that case, take your coffee in the library, where you'll find cigarettes and other smoking materials.
JOHNSTONE. [Who has a cigarette in his mouth, and has been smoking all through the supper.] I say! Oughtn't I to have smoked here?
MARION. [Smiling.] No! [She starts to go out through ball-room.
JOHNSTONE. I beg your pardon. Well, any way it's an awfully lovely party.
MRS. LORRIMER. Marion, is it true you're going to be divorced—I mean married?
MARION. [By doorway.] Married? I hope so, some day. [Smiling, exits into ball-room. JOHNSTONE is eating ice. MRS. LORRIMER crosses to him. KITTY in front of table. ETHEL takes up lamb. FANSHAW exits.
MRS. LORRIMER. Haven't you finished your ice, Johnny?
JOHNSTONE. No. I like to squash mine all up, and eat it soft.
MRS. LORRIMER. Johnny, who made your bow?
JOHNSTONE. Mother. [KITTY drives JOHNNY out of room by hitting him with her ball. MRS. LORRIMER crosses to ETHEL and takes lamb.
ETHEL. [Who has looked back over her shoulder into the ball-room, goes up to arch.] Mr. Fletcher has joined Marion.
MRS. LORRIMER. Oh, that's why Marion wished us to hurry! She wanted this room for herself and Fletcher!
MRS. LORRIMER. Let's go—as if we were gone for good, and then stroll back casually in a few minutes, and see how we find them!
KITTY. Isn't that eavesdropping?
MRS. LORRIMER. Don't be absurd! There isn't any such thing as eavesdropping nowadays. Everybody listens to everything they can, and everyone more or less knows they're being listened to.
KITTY. But what good will it do?
MRS. LORRIMER. Why, if we—come back and catch them with his arm around her, we can take it for granted they are engaged.
ETHEL. I don't think that follows. I'm sure if I were engaged to every man I let— [She stops quickly. All laugh.
KITTY. [Laughing.] You gave yourself away that time, Ethel! [They move out by door into ball-room. As they do so, SERVANT enters from right, and MARION enters, meeting girls and MRS. LORRIMER.
MARION. Going to dance?—
MRS. LORRIMER. No, play games. Kissing games. [All laugh and exeunt.
MARION. Oh, Mrs. Lorrimer! [Enter FLETCHER.
FLETCHER. Why did you run away?
MARION. I was afraid if I didn't the servants would never get this room ready.
FLETCHER. Have you a partner?
FLETCHER. [Pleased to be with her and yet embarrassed.] May I—will you—that is—won't you dance with me?
FLETCHER. [Near her.] I wonder why I feel so diffident with you. I think I never was diffident before! [Smiling.
MARION. [Smiling.] No, you haven't that reputation.
FLETCHER. [Smiling apologetically, but humourously.] Dear me, I hope you don't know what my reputation isn't—or is.
MARION. [Seriously.] I don't judge a man by his reputation.
FLETCHER. [Involuntarily half under his breath, humourously.] Thank heaven! [MARION looks at him, hearing him. There is a pause. She waits willingly for him to speak, hoping he will.] I've been a very bad fellow.
MARION. Some of the best men in the world have begun that way.
FLETCHER. They probably had some one to help—to believe in them.
MARION. And haven't you?
FLETCHER. Will you believe in me enough to— [Looks off in ball-room up a little; MARION follows. He loses his control and speaks passionately.] Don't you understand,—I love you— [He embraces her; she allows him. The embrace lasts a moment.] You can be my salvation! Will you be?
MARION. [In his arms, looking up at him.] I will—if I can—
FLETCHER. [Whose eyes never quite look into MARION'S, loosening the embrace.] You will marry me?
MARION. Yes. [Kisses him, then quickly moves down right.
FLETCHER. [Following her. Not looking at her.] People say I'm a blackguard!
MARION. People say a great many things that aren't true. What can a man do with all the world against him! "People" can force him into being as bad as they say he is.
FLETCHER. Then you won't believe them.
MARION. No, not if you deny what they say. [He holds out his hand; she takes it. At this moment, MRS. LORRIMER and ETHEL appear in ball-room, ostentatiously counting the chairs and making small calculation about the cotillion, but really watching slyly MARION and FLETCHER. MARION sees it and speaks to FLETCHER quickly under her breath.] Don't move! Don't drop my hand, but shake it as if we'd been making a bet, and follow my lead! [Aloud.] It's settled then! You take my bet?
FLETCHER. [Shaking her hand and then dropping it casually. A box of cigars, against a box of gloves! [Sotto voce.] What is it?
MARION [Sotto voce.] Mrs. Lorrimer in the next room watching us. [Speaks in low voce satirically to FLETCHER as if she were speaking to MRS. LORRIMER.] Oh, no, Emily! I am going to marry Mr. Fletcher, but I intend to be the one to announce that fact, and not you. [MRS. LORRIMER and ETHEL turn. They see MARION and FLETCHER and pretend surprise; they remain in the ball-room.]
MRS. LORRIMER. [With trumpet.] Oh! Marion! are you here?
MARION. Ahem! [With a quick, amused side glance to FLETCHER.] We've been watching you for some time; what was the matter with the chairs?
MRS. LORRIMER [Embarrassed.] Nothing—we were merely choosing places!
ETHEL. They lead from the other end, don't they? [Joining FLETCHER.
MARION. Yes, you know Kitty is leading for me. [Enter DOUGLAS. He joins them.] Who are you dancing with, Douglas?
DOUGLAS. No one; I'm stagging it.
MRS. LORRIMER You don't mean to say, Marion, you have more men than women to-night!
MARION. [With mock pride.] Who says I don't know how to give a party?
MRS. LORRIMER [To DOUGLAS.] Damn it! I wish I hadn't said I'd dance with little Johnny, or I'd come to your rescue. [DOUGLAS, secretly amused, bows his thanks. ETHEL and MARION exchange an amused glance.
ETHEL. [To MARION.] Douglas ought to give Johnny a vote of thanks.
MARION. Come, they are taking their places. [A movement of all to go off. DOUGLAS touches FLETCHER on the arm.
DOUGLAS. [To FLETCHER.] May I speak to you just a moment?
FLETCHER. Certainly— [All go but MARION.] Excuse me one moment, Miss Wolton,—Rhodes wants a word with me. [MARION starts slightly, and, turning quickly, looks questioningly at DOUGLAS. He answers her gaze seriously and unflinchingly. She turns to FLETCHER.
MARION. [To FLETCHER.] No—I won't excuse you. [Assuming a more or less coquettish air.] You must come with me at once. [FLETCHER looks surprised, but moves as if to obey her.
DOUGLAS. But why won't you trust Mr. Fletcher with me? [FLETCHER laughs amused.
MARION. [Nonplussed for a moment; then she changes her mind.] I was only jesting. [To FLETCHER.] But you won't— [To DOUGLAS, looking at him meaningly and seriously.] —keep us waiting long, will you? I warn you, Mr. Fletcher, I shall let them begin without us. [Exits through ball-room as FLETCHER quickly kisses her hand. DOUGLAS waits till they are quite alone. FLETCHER moves down right.
DOUGLAS. [Following. Quietly.] Are you going to ask Miss Wolton to marry you?
FLETCHER. I am not.
DOUGLAS. [Momentary surprise—doubt, then relief—a sigh.] In that case I've nothing more to say; let's join the others. [Both make a move to go.
FLETCHER. [Who cannot resist saying it.] You see, Rhodes, I have asked her already.
DOUGLAS. [Stops and, turning, faces FLETCHER, whose back is toward audience.]
FLETCHER. [Turning leisurely.] About fifteen minutes ago—but I can't see what business it is of yours.
DOUGLAS. I love her.
FLETCHER. That's no news to anybody!
DOUGLAS. And I don't intend she shall marry a— [He stops. Short pause.
FLETCHER. What? Why don't you finish?
DOUGLAS. [More quietly.] A man like you.
FLETCHER. Oh, I'm not so very unique; lots of girls run the risk of marrying a man like me!
DOUGLAS. I suppose you told her she is more to you than any one in the world.
FLETCHER. No. "Men like me" don't talk that rot. I put my arms around her— [Stops, interrupted by the movement of DOUGLAS, expressive of rage, controlled instantaneously; he clenches his fists. Finishes with a half-smile at DOUGLAS.] And told her I loved her.
DOUGLAS. [Suppressed anger.] You couldn't say she was more than any one else to you, because it would have been a lie!
FLETCHER. [Smiling.] You flatter me. [Crosses to left.
DOUGLAS. The one that is most to you is YOUR CHILD. [FLETCHER starts; is surprised.] You can't deny the child—
FLETCHER. I "can!" I can deny anything.
DOUGLAS. The lie could be proved to your face. In May, 1893, at Lenox, a young kindergarten teacher,—you blackguard, you!
FLETCHER. [A little angry.] Who told you that story?
DOUGLAS. [Sneers.] I'm not the only man who knows it! That sort of thing never lies buried!
FLETCHER. The girl's all right now!
DOUGLAS. Oh, I know, you sent her abroad, and pay for the child. Well, that's the mother's lookout, and not mine. But I don't believe she's the only case. One has only to look at your life now.—It was fortunate for you this winter that Mrs. Clipton's divorce trial didn't come off.
FLETCHER. [A little more angry. Back to DOUGLAS.] Still, what has all this to do with you, and I'll deny it all besides, if I feel like it, or need to.
DOUGLAS. You know you're not fit to marry Marion Wolton!
FLETCHER. I know I love her.
DOUGLAS. For how long?
FLETCHER. I can't say, but neither can you.—And besides, she loves me!
DOUGLAS. Would she if she knew you?
FLETCHER. [Smilingly.] Oh, come, Rhodes, drop it! I don't care a damn what I have done. I'm going to marry her! I haven't made any bones about myself. I've told her I've been a bad lot!
DOUGLAS. Oh, yes, I know, you've confessed probably to having been "fast;" that nearly always appeals to a woman, heaven knows why; I suppose it's the instinct for reformation in them. But how much of your life does that word "fast" convey to a pure girl like Marion?
FLETCHER. [Smiling.] Quite enough! [Serious.] But if she did know all there was to be known, Love forgives a great deal.
DOUGLAS. But not everything. There are certain things Marion would never accept. She would refuse to take the place that was the right of another.
FLETCHER. [Down to him.] Oh, that's your point, is it! Well, hunt out Jeannette Gros if you can; it'll do you no good! [Crosses.
DOUGLAS. [Follows quickly. Angry.] You can't prove that, because it's not true!
FLETCHER. [Facing DOUGLAS. Angry too.] I'll prove she had other lovers before me. Good God, man, you don't know what Marion Wolton's love means to me! I've never loved like this before! Why, if it were possible for me to treat her as I have—the other, I couldn't. I want to marry Marion Wolton—I want to make her my wife! and I will! I've had all there can be got out of my old life, and I'm sick of it. Here's my chance at a new life, and do you think I'm going to give it up? No! [Forgetting and raising his voice.] Do you hear me, No!!
DOUGLAS. [Softly.] Not so loud!
FLETCHER. [Lowered voice.] No! I'll fight for it with my last breath.
DOUGLAS. Then I say again, you're a blackguard!
FLETCHER. [Laughs, turns back to audience.] What do you want to do, fight? You know we can't here. I give you liberty to say to her all you can against me.
DOUGLAS. She won't believe me.
FLETCHER. Exactly—she loves me—
DOUGLAS. But there is one other I can tell the truth to, who may believe me.
FLETCHER. Look out you don't make yourself ridiculous, going about—the jilted lover, trying to take away the character of the accepted man! [Leisurely following him a little.
DOUGLAS. I don't have to do any "going about!" You are well enough known in our world to keep most of our doors closed against you. Few people are as blind as the Woltons, and I will open his eyes!
FLETCHER. You'll tell her father?
DOUGLAS. He is the one person she would listen to, and he can verify what I say.
FLETCHER. [Change of tone, showing he fears this.] Damn it! I mean to be a decent man.
DOUGLAS. [Goes close to him and looks straight in his face.] Then go to Jeannette Gros and marry her!
FLETCHER. [Angry again.] Go to H—. [Change of tone.] You think if I'm out of the way you'll get her?
DOUGLAS. She's told me she doesn't love me, and she proved to me that she won't believe the truth of you without extraordinary proof. There is only one person in the world who could naturally interfere and give her anything like that proof, and that's her father; and I shall tell him to-night, before I leave this house, before you can announce your engagement!
FLETCHER. With Miss Wolton's permission, I will announce our engagement to-night, in spite of you, and her father. [Music stops. Enter MRS. LORRIMER, with a favour, lamb and trumpet.
MRS. LORRIMER. Oh, here you men are! If you think this is going to be allowed, you are very much mistaken! What do men think we ask them to parties for? Eh? Anyway, a cotillion is a leap-year dance; on such an occasion you are our natural prey! Come, sir! [Pretending to blow trumpet.
DOUGLAS. No. [Smiling apologetically.] Postpone my pleasure till a little later in the evening, will you? Don't be angry with me; I want to have a few words with Mr. Wolton,—then I'll come and give all my favours to you!
MRS. LORRIMER. That sounds attractive; I'll let you off. [Makes lamby squeak. Smiling, turns to FLETCHER.] But I won't let you off.
FLETCHER. [Smiling.] Don't, please! I'm very happy to be your consolation prize. [Takes lamb. Music.
MRS. LORRIMER. I'm a dangerous woman to make that remark to. You'd better be careful, or I might take you literally at your word.
FLETCHER. Oh, if you only would! [Pulls lamb's head.
MRS. LORRIMER. What a charming speech. [She and FLETCHER go into ball-room and off. FLETCHER makes lamb squeak. MRS. WOLTON, her arms full of a set of gay favours, crosses the ball-room; DOUGLAS sees her and takes a step or two towards her, then waits till she has finished speaking to the girl. MRS. WOLTON turns, and DOUGLAS addresses her.
DOUGLAS. Mrs. Wolton, is Mr. Wolton in the ball-room?
MRS. WOLTON. No, I think he's in the smoking-room.—Aren't you going to dance? [Coming into room.
DOUGLAS. Not just yet—later— [Half bows apologetically. At the same moment, the music swells and the procession of dancers, in couples, dance in five or six couples into the front room, the line curving away to right to suggest that there are very many more couples in the ball-room out of sight. As they dance, they are laughing and talking—the first couple turns, the other couples making bridges under which the first couple goes, and passes into ball-room and off, followed by each couple the same. Music softens. MRS. WOLTON has drawn to one side, when the dancers came in. In this dance, scarfs are used by dancers.
DOUGLAS. Mr. Wolton there?
MRS. WOLTON. [Mildly surprised.] He?
DOUGLAS. I want to see Mr. Wolton very much to-night—now. It is a matter of the greatest importance. [Enter SERVANT from ball-room.
MRS. WOLTON. Where is Mr. Wolton, Howes?
SERVANT. He has gone to his bedroom, m'm. [Crosses behind MRS. WOLTON.
MRS. WOLTON. [Surprised, but not too much so.] What?
SERVANT. He said he was on no account to be disturbed until the party was over.
MRS. WOLTON. [A little anxious.] Was he ill?
SERVANT. He didn't appear so, m'm.
DOUGLAS. [To MRS. WOLTON.] Was he feeling ill to-night?
MRS. WOLTON. [With a relieved voice, showing no anxiety.] No, not at all. He was in splendid spirits. Probably he was bored and thought he would be quieter upstairs.
DOUGLAS. I don't want to be offensive, but I must, if possible, see him to-night.
MRS. WOLTON. [Speaking very casually.] Howes, you might go and say to Mr. Wolton, Mr. Rhodes wants to speak to him about something very urgent. [To DOUGLAS.] If he doesn't want to come down stairs again, he can send for you to come up.
SERVANT. Beg pardon, m'm, but he was so very strong with me that I shouldn't under any circumstances go to him, I don't quite like to— [He hesitates, embarrassed at having not to obey MRS. WOLTON'S request at once.
MRS. WOLTON. Really, he made such a point of it! Oh, very well then, you needn't go, Howes. [With a nod of dismissal. SERVANT exits into ball-room and off.
MRS. WOLTON. [Lowers her voice so that HOWES sha'n't hear her, as he goes.] Mr. Wolton is rather hard on the servants if they fail to obey his orders to the letter. I'll go myself and see if he won't see you. [Enter MARION from ball-room, as her mother starts.
MARION. Mother, where are you going with the favours?
MRS. WOLTON. To your father for a moment.
MARION. But you can't; we need them. [Crosses. Music stops.] I'll go for you. [MRS. WOLTON exits centre as MARION exits right. FANSHAW appears from ball-room, enters.
FANSHAW. Come on, Rhodes, we need your help. [Seizing DOUGLAS.
DOUGLAS. How long will it take?
FANSHAW. Oh, only a couple of minutes. [RHODES and FANSHAW exeunt, followed by MRS. WOLTON.
TRIMMINS. [Off stage.] Mrs. Lorrimer! Mrs. Lorrimer! [Enters.] Oh, Mrs. Lorrimer, won't you dance through with me? [TRIMMINS does this.
MRS. LORRIMER. Do excuse me. [Adds a little sotto voce and coaxingly.] And as a favour to me, go and take out poor Susie Woodruff. You know it's only "snap the whip" figure, so it won't make much difference to you if she is a bit heavy. [TRIMMINS makes a bored grimace, and goes up stage. MRS. LORRIMER catches him.] Yes, to please me! It isn't as if it were a waltz and you had to get her around all by yourself!
TRIMMINS. [Smiling.] Very well, to please you! But Susan Woodruff, she's the limit. [Doubles up his arm and feels his muscles meaningly, and exits. MARION enters tragically. White, frightened, she staggers quickly into the room and, stopping for a second, gasps in a horrified whisper.
MARION. Mother! [Crosses to arch.] Mother!! [Music, "Won't You Come And Play With Me." Singing heard. MARION turns, frightened, goes down. Her mother comes to her. They meet.
MRS. WOLTON. [Frightened, puzzled.] What is it? What's the matter?
MARION. [For a moment, can't speak. She opens her lips, but the words refuse to come. Then she manages to gasp out:] Father!
MRS. WOLTON. Your father—what? [Starts and looks at her questioningly, frightened, as the music swells, and is joined in by the voices of the dancers.
MARION. He is dead!
MRS. WOLTON. Dead!! [She makes a movement towards door. MARION stops her.
MARION. It's too horrible!—he has killed himself— [Adds the latter in lower tone, almost fainting. The dancers appear in the ball-room, hand in hand in single file, led by FANSHAW, and dance wildly in—all singing "Won't You Come And Play With Me." They make a big circle about MARION and MRS. WOLTON, dancing out through the ball-room, the music and singing becoming fainter as they disappear. The two women are left alone. Re-enter DOUGLAS from ball-room.
DOUGLAS. May I go up? [He sees the condition of MRS. WOLTON and the expression of MARION.] Is your mother ill?
MARION. Help me take her to—my room—I will tell you. [Dancers cross as they exit. Music changes to waltz. All go out. MRS. LORRIMER, on end, drops their hands. MRS. WOLTON and MARION shudder as they go out.
MRS. LORRIMER. Where is Mr. Rhodes?
FANSHAW. He was here a moment ago. [Enter SERVANT. He has his overcoat on and carries his hat. MRS. LORRIMER turns.
MRS. LORRIMER. Have you seen Mr. Rhodes?
SERVANT. He is just coming, m'm.
MRS. LORRIMER. [Looking at SERVANT and seeing something in his face and manner. SERVANT crosses hurriedly.] Is there anything the matter? Where is Mrs. Wolton? [DOUGLAS enters before SERVANT can answer. MRS. LORRIMER at once turns to him, ignoring SERVANT, who, on a run, bows slightly and exits.
MRS. LORRIMER. [To DOUGLAS.] What's the matter?
DOUGLAS. A most terrible thing has happened.
MRS. LORRIMER. What?
DOUGLAS. You must help me to get rid of all the guests!
MRS. LORRIMER. To get rid— [Interrupted.
DOUGLAS. [Interrupting.] Mr. Wolton has committed suicide.
MRS. LORRIMER. [Starts and shudders; speaks very rapidly.] Mr.—how awful! What are you going to do? You can't tell the people now. What in the world did the man mean by not waiting till the party was over! If it isn't like you men! Your own comfort before anybody else's.—Well—the only thing is to pretend it hasn't happened at all—make some excuse for Marion and her mother—the guests needn't know anything about it,—and finish the party!
DOUGLAS. Mrs. Lorrimer! Impossible!
MRS. LORRIMER. It would be sort of uncomfortable for us who know, [She adds sincerely.] —and the poor Woltons, of course,—it is awful for them.
DOUGLAS. I thought if you spoke to Fanshaw and stopped the cotillion and told a few of the guests— [Interrupted.
MRS. LORRIMER. [Aghast.] What! The truth?
DOUGLAS. No, say Mr. Wolton has been taken suddenly and most dangerously ill—
MRS. LORRIMER. [To DOUGLAS.] Very well, I'll do what I can.
DOUGLAS. Stop! [Music stops. DOUGLAS goes to doorway into ball-room and draws the heavy portieres, shutting out the ball-room. MARION enters.
MARION. [To DOUGLAS, who stays at curtains.] They are going?
MARION. They know?
DOUGLAS. Not the truth!
MARION. Thank you.
DOUGLAS. Mrs. Lorrimer is arranging it. [FOOTMAN off stage calls "43." The numbers are repeated in another voice and farther away. A moment's pause.
DOUGLAS. I wish I could comfort you.
MARION. [Smiling strainedly at him.] Thank you. [FOOTMAN calls "56!—56!—89!" "32!—32!—61!" DOUGLAS holds back the portiere into ball-room.
MARION. I'd better go back to mother. How good you are to us—believe me, I appreciate it all, Douglas, all. [Enter DAWSON hurriedly. Shows excitement and emotion. At the same moment enter FLETCHER from ball-room at back. The two men speak the word "Marion" at the same time, and turning, see each other. DAWSON also observes the presence of DOUGLAS.] Uncle Fred! [Crosses to him. FOOTMAN calls "115!"] [To DAWSON.] You know!
FLETCHER. [Gently, persuasively joining her.] Why didn't you send for me at once?
DAWSON. Gentlemen, you will forgive me if I thank you both and say the guests are leaving. The family would like to be alone.
DOUGLAS. I understand, but if I can be of any use?
DAWSON. Thank you.
DOUGLAS. Shall we go, Fletcher?
FLETCHER. Good-night, Rhodes. [Politely.] My place is here; it is my privilege to stay by Miss Wolton. [DAWSON looks up, surprised. RHODES looks angry. FLETCHER continues, to MARION.] May I speak? [MARION bows her head in assent.] Mr. Dawson, your niece has promised to-night to be my wife. At such a terrible moment as this, I claim the right of membership of the family, to be with you and help all I can. You will accept my offices? [Holding out his hand.
DAWSON. [Shaking his hand.] Certainly. You have won a wife in a thousand. But you may be called on to do more perhaps than you imagine.
FLETCHER. I am entirely at your service.
DOUGLAS. [Near doorway back, to all. At curtains, leaves curtains open.] Good-night! [All turn slightly. DOUGLAS bows and exits. FLETCHER going to MARION.
DAWSON. [Watching them.] Thank God! His money will save them! [SERVANT enters; speaks softly to DAWSON.
SERVANT. Mr. Dawson! [DAWSON starts, nods to SERVANT, who holds door open.
DAWSON. I'm coming. [Slowly, seriously, meaningly.] Fletcher, I want a long talk with you to-night before you go.
FLETCHER. Very well, sir. [DAWSON sighs heavily and exits. SERVANT leaves door open. The two, MARION and FLETCHER, hear the door shut behind them, and make a movement; they realize they are alone. A heavy front door slams. Lights out. There is silence. Taking MARION in his arms.] My poor little girl!—My poor little girl!—Cry, for God's sake, cry!
MARION. [With an outburst.] Oh, it is so horrible! [She sobs loud and hysterically in FLETCHER'S arms, her own arms about his neck.]—so—horrible—
SCENE. A church. At left are the steps leading to the chancel and the chancel rails. Beyond the rails are palms, grouped, which conceal the altar. Past the chancel, up stage, is the exit into the choir. Down stage is the exit to the vestry and robing-room. To right of centre begin the pews of the church on each side of a broad centre aisle. The stage is set a little diagonally so that the aisle runs from upper right toward centre stage. This will make a row or two more pews above the aisle than below it. White satin ribbons are stretched above the aisle on each side, across the entrances to the pews; this ribbon the ushers lift aside as they seat the guests. The exit right is made by the centre aisle.
DISCOVERED. Three ushers, JOHNSTONE, FANSHAW and TRIMMINS. JOHNSTONE is sitting in the first pew, FANSHAW standing outside and leaning over its front, talking to JOHNSTONE. TRIMMINS is leaning with his back against the side of the first pew across the aisle up stage. They are dressed in long frock coats, with buttonholes of white orchids. They are engaged in putting on white kid gloves.
FANSHAW. Is Fletcher in the vestry yet?
JOHNSTONE. Heavens, no! How long do you want him to hang around? But he won't be late; he's serious this time.
TRIMMINS. I'm glad to hear it, because he's going to marry a splendid girl. [A short pause.] I hope to goodness he really loves her.
JOHNSTONE. Oh, he does, I'm sure. I'll bet you, if you like; will you put up a silk hat on it? [Rises.
FANSHAW. Yes, I'll take you!
JOHNSTONE. All right. [Exit from pew. Holding out his hand which FANSHAW takes, and they shake.] Done!
FANSHAW. And I hope I'll lose. And if I were he, I'd tremble in my boots with a past like his, and the present getting so conspicuously favourable.
JOHNSTONE. Oh, I don't believe in your boomerang pasts!
FANSHAW. And I don't believe Fletcher can have one single memory of his own which he wouldn't rather forget since he has come to care for Marion Wolton. [Crosses to pew. JOHNSTONE crosses.
TRIMMINS. Yes, but don't you think a fellow can sow his wild oats and be done with them, and become a good man and an honest citizen.
FANSHAW. Of course I do, else, good Lord, where'd I be! We can't all be ideal chaps like Douglas Rhodes. But there are oats and oats, and Fletcher's are—oats!
JOHNSTONE. Well, he's sorry for them. [Crosses to pew. As DOUGLAS RHODES enters, TRIMMINS exits. RHODES is also dressed as an usher and comes up the aisle in time to hear JOHNSTONE'S speech, as he joins them.
DOUGLAS. Who's sorry for what?
JOHNSTONE. Fletcher for—for—for—everything!
DOUGLAS. Hum— [He goes up left.
FANSHAW. If he's honestly sorry, he's no business marrying Marion Wolton.
JOHNSTONE. Why not?
FANSHAW. He has a debt to be paid. He can't wash his hands of the kind of things he's done; if he were in earnest in regretting his old life, he would do something to make up for it.
JOHNSTONE. Well, isn't he? He's going to marry a nice girl and settle down.
FANSHAW. If he were in earnest he'd marry, instead, one of at least two girls I know of—not this one.
JOHNSTONE. Oh, come, there's no reason why he should do a quixotic thing like that, he has a future before him.
FANSHAW. He has their futures before him.
JOHNSTONE. Don't preach. Why should he be dragged down—
FANSHAW. [Interrupting.] To where he dragged them?
JOHNSTONE. Exactly; Fletcher's no fool. And then there's Mr. Dawson. He swears by Fletcher now; they're regular pals.
FANSHAW. Ever since Mr. Wolton's death. I don't understand it.
DOUGLAS. [Coming down left.] Yes, Dawson really believes in Fletcher—well, perhaps he's right. There must be some good in everybody, and perhaps Fletcher is just beginning to come to the top. Let's hope so.
JOHNSTONE. Hang it, fellows, brace up anyway. This isn't a funeral, you know. Hello, there's the organ. [Organ music begins, and selections appropriate and usual on such occasions continue uninterruptedly.] The people will be coming now. [He exits.] Two other ushers make a movement, throwing off a certain lazy, nonchalant manner, and getting themselves into more dignified readiness for their duties.
DOUGLAS. [Rises, crosses to left.] I tell you, Fanshaw, this is a hard day for me.
FANSHAW. But I'm glad you decided to come. It would have made all sorts of gossip if you hadn't.
DOUGLAS. [Sighs.] Yes. Anyway, as it's got to be now, we must all make the best of it.
FANSHAW. No one besides me dreams your life is still wrapped up in Marion Wolton.
DOUGLAS. [Embarrassed, but pleasantly. With a half laugh.] And I suppose that ought to be some consolation, but I don't know as it is. However, I shall never be able to thank you enough for the comfort you've been. A man must have some one to talk to. And it isn't every fellow who can have a friend like you.
FANSHAW. [Embarrassed, but pleased.] Shut up! Here's Fletcher's mother; she came on from Richmond yesterday. [He goes down aisle to meet her.] And behind are those girls they want put into the front pews. [FANSHAW and DOUGLAS exeunt. At the same moment that the two disappear, MRS. FLETCHER appears on the arm of the third usher, TRIMMINS.
MRS. FLETCHER. [To TRIMMINS, as he shows her into the first pew left.] You know Mrs. Wolton, of course?
TRIMMINS. The bride's mother? [Bows in affirmative.
MRS. FLETCHER. When she comes, won't you show her in here with me, please? [TRIMMINS bows and exits. MRS. FLETCHER sits, then kneels a moment, and then reseats herself with a touch to the trimming of the waist of her gown somewhere. Enter FANSHAW with MRS. LORRIMER, JOHNSTONE with KITTY, and TRIMMINS with ETHEL; ladies outside. Ushers exeunt as soon as guests are seated.
MRS. LORRIMER. [On being shown into the first pew down stage.] Is this the farthest front you can seat us? [In a dissatisfied tone.
FANSHAW. [Goes off right.] This is the front pew.
MRS. LORRIMER. [Laughing.] Of course, so it is. How silly of me! [She passes to the end of the pew nearest to the audience.
KITTY. [As she follows into the pew, to JOHNSTONE.] Are we late?
JOHNSTONE. [Off left.] No, you're awfully early. [TRIMMINS off right.
ETHEL. [Following into pew.] Oh, I say, girls. Isn't that a shame, we're early. [The three women are standing in the pew; they all turn around to glance back into the church, which is supposed to be filling with guests, every once in a while some one being seated by an usher in one of the pews visible to the audience. After a glance round, the three sit down.] What do you think of Douglas Rhodes being an usher?
MRS. LORRIMER. Oh, my dear, it doesn't take these men long to get over a hopeless passion!
KITTY. If he is over it.
GERTRUDE. Of course he's over it, or he wouldn't be here, would he?
MRS. LORRIMER. Every time I've tried to make love to him, he has seemed to me awfully in love with her still. [Laugh. Enter guests.
KITTY. I was wondering this morning where in the world Marion met Mr. Fletcher?
ETHEL. Perhaps it was at that Christian thing-a-may-gig she's interested in.
KITTY. You mean the Young Men's Christian Association?
ETHEL. Yes, I'd bet on it's being the Young Men's. [Laughs.
MRS. LORRIMER. Oh, my dear, you know he isn't that sort of a man at all. He's much more my style!
KITTY. Well, you know none of us ever met him till he began to go to the Woltons. [Enter ushers and guests. A new selection is started on the organ and all half rise and turn, but turn back again at once into their places complacently.
ETHEL. I think Marion's been getting to be a perfect stick anyway, these last few years, with all the plain covered books she reads and all her "university settlement" stuff in the slums, and her working-girls' clubs and things. But that makes it all the funnier for her to marry a man she's really not known very long, don't you think so?
GERTRUDE. Where did he come from anyway?
ETHEL. Everywhere—which you know is as good as nowhere. He's that sort of a man.
MRS. LORRIMER. Oh, no, his family comes from Virginia. And he's a Harvard man. [Enter TRIMMINS with guest to pew.] Was in the fastest set there, so he must have some position! [Laughs.
ETHEL. And he's rich.
KITTY. But Marion wouldn't marry for money.
ETHEL. Then why is she marrying him?
MRS. LORRIMER. I don't know. I think she must be in love with him.
ETHEL. [With a laugh.] Ha! And then everyone says she's so sensible! [Door slams. Another different selection is started on the organ and a door is shut off stage. The three women all half rise and turn again.
KITTY. Here they come!
GERTRUDE. No, not yet. [The three sit again with a murmur of disappointment.
GERTRUDE. Well. I only hope Marion will be happy,—she's taught so many others how to enjoy the best of life.
ETHEL. I don't see how you can sympathize with her in her philanthropic fads! I believe in being charitable, but there's a right and a wrong way!
KITTY. [Quietly.] Yes, I don't suppose there's a fashionable subscription list in town that hasn't your name on it.
ETHEL. Not one! And as near the top as I can get.
MRS. LORRIMER. [Leaning over to speak to ETHEL.] I agree with you! I went down to one of Marion's working women's evening meetings—and, really, I was bored to death.
ETHEL. Isn't the church trimmed horribly; looks as if they did it themselves. It would be just like Marion to have some silly sentiment about it. [Organ stops.
KITTY. [Strongly.] I like Marion for her sentiment. I only hope she isn't marrying Fletcher because of it, in the hope that she will make his life, and perhaps have to spoil her own.
BLANCHE. [Leaning over and speaking to the three women in front.] Doesn't the church look lovely!
ETHEL. [Who said it looked horridly.] Perfectly lovely!
MRS. LORRIMER. Girls, who is that doddy looking creature?
ALL. [Turning and looking back into the church.] Where?
MRS. LORRIMER. On the left-hand side of the aisle with a last winter's coat, don't you see, with the huge sleeves!
ETHEL. Oh, yes, with the cheap fur trimming and the mangy muff—who is it?
BLANCHE. Oh, that! It's one of the groom's country relatives.
MRS. LORRIMER. She looks it. The kind that gets cards only to the church. [All laugh. They rise again, excitedly, showing an increase of excitement over the first time they rose, and looking back.
ETHEL. Are they coming?
BLANCHE. No— [General murmur of disappointment.] It's the bride's mother. [All sit again. MRS. WOLTON enters on the arm of DOUGLAS. She is very handsomely dressed in black velvet and white lace. She is shown into the pew with MRS. FLETCHER. They exchange greetings. DOUGLAS exits, at the same time the CLERGYMAN enters behind the chancel rail and goes back behind the palms, &c. Meanwhile the following dialogue is taking place.