THE NEW YORK IDEA
(Born Philadelphia, Pa., February 17, 1862)
The performance of "The New York Idea" at the Lyric Theatre, New York, on November 19, 1906, was one of the rare, distinguished events in the American Theatre. It revealed the fact that at last an American playwright had written a drama comparable with the very best European models, scintillating with clear, cold brilliancy, whose dialogue carried with it an exceptional literary style. It was a play that showed a vitality which will serve to keep it alive for many generations, which will make it welcome, however often it is revived; for there is a universal import to its satire which raises it above the local, social condition it purports to portray. And though there is nothing of an ideal character about its situations, though it seems to be all head, with a minimum of apparent heart, it none the less is universal in the sense that Restoration comedy is universal. It presents a type of vulgarity, of sporting spirit, that is common in every generation, whether in the time of Congreve and Wycherley, whether in the period of Sheridan or Oscar Wilde. Its wit is not dependent on local colour, though ostensibly it is written about New York. On its first presentment, it challenged good writing on the part of the critics. High Comedy always does that—tickles the brain and stimulates it, drives it at a pace not usually to be had in the theatre. Is it comedy or is it farce, the critics queried? Is Mr. Mitchell sincere, and does he flay the evil he so photographically portrays? Does he treat the sacred subject of matrimony too flippantly? And should the play, in order to be effective, have a moral tag, or should it be, what on the surface it appears to be, a series of realistic scenes about people whom one cannot admire and does not want to know intimately? Some of the writers found the picture not to their liking—that is the effect good satire sometimes has when it strikes home. Yet when Grace George revived "The New York Idea" in a spirit so different from Mrs. Fiske's, nine years after, on September 28, 1915, at the Playhouse, New York, the Times was bound to make the following confession: "A vast array of American authors have turned out plays innumerable, but not one of them has quite matched in sparkling gayety and wit this work of Langdon Mitchell's. And the passing years have left its satire still pointed. They have not dimmed its polish nor so much as scratched its smart veneer."
The play was written expressly for Mrs. Fiske. Its hard, sharp interplay of humour was knowingly cut to suit her hard, sharp method of acting. Her interpretation was a triumph of head over heart. Grace George tried to read into Cynthia Karslake an element of romance which is suggested in the text, but which was somewhat over-sentimentalized by her soft portrayal. There is some element of relationship between "The New York Idea" and Henry Arthur Jones' "Mary Goes First;" there is the same free air of sporting life, so graphically set forth in "Lord and Lady Algy." But the American play is greater than these because of its impersonal strain.
In a letter to the present Editor, Mr. Mitchell has broken silence regarding the writing of "The New York Idea." Never before has he tried to analyze its evolution. He says:
The play was written for Mrs. Fiske. The choice of subject was mine. I demanded complete freedom in the treatment, and my most wise manager, Mr. Harrison Grey Fiske, accorded this. The play was produced and played as written, with the exception of one or two short scenes, which were not acceptable to Mrs. Fiske; that is, she felt, or would have felt, somewhat strained or unnatural in these scenes. Accordingly, I cut them out, or rather rewrote them. The temperament of the race-horse has to be considered—much more, that of the 'star'.
When I was writing the play, I had really no idea of satirizing divorce or a law or anything specially temperamental or local. What I wanted to satirize was a certain extreme frivolity in the American spirit and in our American life—frivolity in the deep sense—not just a girl's frivolity, but that profound, sterile, amazing frivolity which one observes and meets in our churches, in political life, in literature, in music; in short, in every department of American thought, feeling and action. The old-fashioned, high-bred family in "The New York Idea" are solemnly frivolous, and the fast, light-minded, highly intelligent hero and heroine are frivolous in their own delightful way—frivolity, of course, to be used for tragedy or comedy. Our frivolity is, I feel, on the edge of the tragic. Indeed, I think it entirely tragic, and there are lines, comedy lines, in "The New York Idea," that indicate this aspect of the thing.
Of course, there is more than merely satire or frivolity in the play: there is the Englishman who appears to Americans to be stupid on account of his manner, but who is frightfully intelligent; and there are also the energy and life and vigor of the two men characters. There is, too, throughout the play, the conscious humour of these two characters, and of the third woman, Vida. The clergyman is really more frivolous often and far less conscious of his frivolity—enough, that I rather thought one of the strongest things about the play was the consciousness of their own humour, of the three important characters.
The characters were selected from that especial class, or set, in our Society, whose ancestors and traditions go back to colonial times. They are not merely society characters, for, of course, people in society may lack all traditions. I mention this merely because my selection of characters from such a set of people gives the play a certain mellowness and a certain air which it otherwise would not have. If Jack and Cynthia were both completely self-made, or the son and daughter of powerful, self-made people, their tone could not be the same.
The piece was played in England as a farce; and it was given without the permission of the author or American manager. It was given for a considerable number of performances in Berlin, after the Great War began. In the German translation it was called "Jonathan's Daughter."[A] Our relations with Germany at the time were strained on account of 'certain happenings', but, notwithstanding, the play was extraordinarily well received.
When "The New York Idea" was first published by the Walter Baker Co., of Boston, it carried as an introduction a notice of the play written by William Archer, and originally published in the London Tribune of May 27, 1907. This critique follows the present foreword, as its use in the early edition represents Mr. Mitchell's choice.
The writing of "The New York Idea" was not Mr. Mitchell's first dramatic work for Mrs. Fiske. At the New York Fifth Avenue Theatre, on September 12, 1899, she appeared in "Becky Sharp," his successful version of Thackeray's "Vanity Fair," which held the stage for some time, and was later revived with considerable renewal of its former interest. Two years after, rival versions were presented in London, one by David Balsillie (Theatre Royal, Croydon, June 24, 1901) and the other by Robert Hichens and Cosmo Gordon Lennox (Prince of Wales's Theatre, August 27, 1901)—the latter play used during the existence of the New Theatre (New York). Most of Mr. Mitchell's attempts in play-writing have been in dramatization, first of his father's "The Adventures of Francois," and later of Thackeray's "Pendennis," Atlantic City, October 11, 1916. He was born February 17, 1862, at Philadelphia, the son of Silas Weir Mitchell, and received his education largely abroad. He studied law at Harvard and Columbia, and was admitted to the bar in 1882. He was married, in 1892, to Marion Lea, of London, whose name was connected with the early introduction of Ibsen to the English public; she was in the initial cast of "The New York Idea," and to her the play is dedicated.
MR. WILLIAM ARCHER'S NOTICE OF "THE NEW YORK IDEA."
... This play, too, I was unable to see, but I have read it with extraordinary interest. It is a social satire so largely conceived and so vigorously executed that it might take an honourable place in any dramatic literature. We have nothing quite like it on the latter-day English stage. In tone and treatment it reminds one of Mr. Carton; but it is far broader in conception and richer in detail than "Lord and Lady Algy" or "Lady Huntworth's Experiment." In France, it might perhaps be compared to "La Famille Benoiton" or "Le Monde ou l'on s'ennuie," or better, perhaps, to a more recent, but now almost forgotten satire of the 'nineties, "Paris Fin-de-Siecle."
I find it very hard to classify "The New York Idea" under any of the established rubrics. It is rather too extravagant to rank as a comedy; it is much too serious in its purport, too searching in its character-delineation and too thoughtful in its wit, to be treated as a mere farce. Its title—not, perhaps, a very happy one—is explained in this saying of one of the characters: "Marry for whim and leave the rest to the divorce court—that's the New York idea of marriage." And again: "The modern American marriage is like a wire fence—the woman's the wire—the posts are the husbands. One—two—three! And if you cast your eye over the future, you can count them, post after post, up hill, down dale, all the way to Dakota."
Like all the plays, from Sardou's "Divorcons" onward, which deal with a too facile system of divorce, this one shows a discontented woman, who has broken up her home for a caprice, suffering agonies of jealousy when her ex-husband proposes to make use of the freedom she has given him, and returning to him at last with the admission that their divorce was at least "premature." In this central conception there is nothing particularly original. It is the wealth of humourous invention displayed in the details both of character and situation that renders the play remarkable.
It is interesting to note, by the way, a return on Mr. Mitchell's part to that convenient assumption of the Restoration and eighteenth century comedy writers that any one in holy orders could solemnize a legal marriage at any time or place, without the slightest formality of banns, witnesses, registration or anything of the sort. One gathers that in New York the entrance to and the exit from the holy estate of matrimony are equally prompt and easy; or that, as one of the characters puts it, "the church is a regular quick-marriage counter."
I presume there is some exaggeration in this, and that a marriage cannot actually be celebrated at midnight, over a champagne-and-lobster supper, by a clergyman who happened to drop in. But there can be no doubt that whatever the social merits or demerits of the system, facility of divorce and remarriage is an immense boon to the dramatist. It places within his reach an inexhaustible store of situations and complications which are barred to the English playwright, to whom divorce always means an ugly and painful scandal. The moralist may insist that this ought always to be the case; and indeed that is the implication which Mr. Mitchell, as a moralist, conveys to us.
He sacrifices the system of divorce for every trivial flaw of temper which prevails in the society he depicts; but he no doubt realizes that his doctrine as a satirist is hostile to his interest as a dramatist. Restrict the facilities of divorce and you at once restrict the possibilities of matrimonial comedy. Marriage becomes no longer a comic, but a tragic institution.
In order to keep his theme entirely on the comic plane, Mr. Mitchell has given no children to either of the two couples whom he puts through such a fantastic quadrille. Law or no law, the separation of its parents is always a tragedy to the child; which is not to say, of course, that their remaining together may not in some cases be the more tragic of the two alternatives. Be this as it may, Mr. Mitchell has eluded the issue.
Nor has he thereby falsified his problem, for his characters belong to that class of society in which, as Mr. Dooley points out, the multiplication of automobiles is preferred to that of progeny. But he has not omitted to hint at the problem of the children, and, as it were, confess his deliberate avoidance of it. He does so in a touch of exquisite irony. John and Cynthia Karslake are a couple devoted, not to automobiles, but to horses. Even their common passion for racing cannot keep them together; but their divorce is so "premature," and leaves John so restless and dissatisfied, that he actually neglects the cares of the stable. His favourite mare, Cynthia K, falls ill, and when his trainer brings him the news he receives it with shocking callousness. Then the trainer meets Cynthia and complains to her of her ex-husband's indifference. "Ah, ma'am," he says, "when husband and wife splits, it's the horses that suffers." I know not where to look for a speech of profounder ironic implication. More superficial, but still a good specimen of Mr. Mitchell's wit, is William Sudley's remark as to John Karslake: "Oh, yes, he comes of a very respectable family, though I remember his father served a term in the Senate."
Altogether "The New York Idea" is, from the intellectual point of view, the most remarkable piece of work I have encountered in America. It is probably too true to the details of American life to have much success in England; but the situation at the end of the third act could not fail to bring down the house even here. It would take too long to describe it in detail. Suffice it to say that just at the point where Cynthia Karslake dismisses her second bridegroom, to return to her first, the choir assembled for the marriage ceremony, mistaking a signal, bursts forth with irresistibly ludicrous effect into "The Voice That Breathed O'er Eden."[B]
[Footnote A: At the Kammerspiel Theatre, Berlin, under the direction of Max Reinhardt, October 7, 1916. There are translations in Danish, Swedish and Hungarian.]
[Footnote B: The Editor takes the occasion to express his thanks to Mr. William Archer for his kind permission to quote this analysis of the play.]
REGINALD DeKOVEN, Proprietor SAM S. and LEE SHUBERT (Inc.), Lessees and Managers
NINTH AND LAST WEEK. BEGINNING MONDAY EVENING. JANUARY 14, 1907. Matinee Saturday.
Under the Direction of HARRISON GREY FISKE
THE MANHATTAN COMPANY
Presenting a Play in Four Acts, Entitled
THE NEW YORK IDEA
BY LANGDON MITCHELL
Cast of Characters.
Philip Phillimore Charles Harbury Mrs. Phillimore, his mother Ida Vernon The Reverend Mathew Phillimore, his brother Dudley Clinton Grace Phillimore, his sister Emily Stevens Miss Heneage, his aunt Blanche Weaver William Sudley, his cousin Dudley Digges Mrs. Vida Phillimore, his divorced wife Marion Lea Brooks, her footman Frederick Kerby Benson, her maid Belle Bohn Sir Wilfrid Cates-Darby George Arliss John Karslake John Mason Mrs. Cynthia Karslake, his divorced wife Mrs. Fiske Nogam, his valet James Morley Tim Fiddler Robert V. Ferguson Thomas, the Phillimore's family servant Richard Clarke
ACT I—Drawing-Room in the Phillimore house. Washington Square. Wednesday afternoon, at five o'clock.
ACT II—Mrs. Vida Phillimore's Boudoir. Fifth Avenue. Thursday morning at eleven.
ACT III—Same as Act I. Thursday evening, at ten.
ACT IV—John Karslake's House. Madison Avenue. Thursday, at midnight.
Scene—New York Time—The Present.
The production staged by Mr. and Mrs. Fiske.
THE NEW YORK IDEA
A COMEDY IN FOUR ACTS
By LANGDON MITCHELL
COPYRIGHT, 1919, BY LANGDON MITCHELL
[This play, copyrighted in 1907, 1908, and published originally by Walter H. Baker and Co., of Boston, Mass., is fully protected and the right of representation is reserved. Application for the right of performing this play may be made to Alice Kauser, 1402 Broadway, New York, N. Y. The Editor takes this opportunity of thanking Mr. Langdon Mitchell for his great interest in the compilation of this Collection, and for his permission to have "The New York Idea" used in it. The complete revision of the stage directions, especially for this volume, makes it possible to regard the play, here printed, as the only authentic version.]
PHILIP PHILLIMORE, a Judge on the bench, age 50. GRACE PHILLIMORE, his sister, age 20. MRS. PHILLIMORE, his mother, age 70. MISS HENEAGE, his aunt, age 60. MATTHEW PHILLIMORE, his brother—a bishop, age 45. WILLIAM SUDLEY, his cousin, age 50. MRS. VIDA PHILLIMORE, his divorced wife, age 35. SIR WILFRID CATES-DARBY. JOHN KARSLAKE, lawyer, politician and racing-man, age 35. MRS. CYNTHIA KARSLAKE, his divorced wife, age 25. BROOKS, MRS. PHILLIMORE'S footman. TIM FIDDLER, MR. KARSLAKE'S trainer. NOGAM, his valet. THOMAS, the family servant of the PHILLIMORES, age 45. BENSON, MRS. VIDA PHILLIMORE'S maid, age 20.
The following is the Cast for the evening performance at the Lyric Theatre, New York, Monday, November 19, 1906.
PHILIP PHILLIMORE Charles Harbury. MRS. PHILLIMORE, his mother Ida Vernon. THE REVEREND MATTHEW PHILLIMORE, his brother Dudley Clinton. GRACE PHILLIMORE, his sister Emily Stevens. MISS HENEAGE, his aunt Blanche Weaver. WILLIAM SUDLEY, his cousin William B. Mack. MRS. VIDA PHILLIMORE, his divorced wife Marion Lea. BROOKS, her footman George Harcourt. BENSON, her maid Belle Bohn. SIR WILFRID CATES-DARBY George Arliss. JOHN KARSLAKE John Mason. MRS. CYNTHIA KARSLAKE, his divorced wife Mrs. Fiske. NOGAM, his valet Dudley Digges. TIM FIDDLER Robert V. Ferguson. THOMAS, THE PHILLIMORE'S family servant Richard Clarke.
Scene—New York. Time—The Present.
Revived in New York at The Playhouse, Tuesday Evening, September 28, 1915, with the following Cast.
PHILIP PHILLIMORE Lumsden Hare. GRACE PHILLIMORE Norah Lamison. MRS. PHILLIMORE Eugenie Woodward. MISS HENEAGE Josephine Lovett. MATTHEW PHILLIMORE Albert Reed. WILLIAM SUDLEY John Cromwell. MRS. VIDA PHILLIMORE Mary Nash. SIR WILFRID CATES-DARBY Ernest Lawford. JOHN KARSLAKE Conway Tearle. MRS. CYNTHIA KARSLAKE Grace George. BROOKS Selwyn Joyce. TIM FIDDLER Tracy Barrow. NOGAM G. Guthrie McClintic. THOMAS Richard Clarke. BENSON Anita Wood.
To Marion Lea
THE NEW YORK IDEA
SCENE. Living-room in the house of PHILIP PHILLIMORE. Five P. M. of an afternoon of May. The general air and appearance of the room is that of an old-fashioned, decorous, comfortable interior. There are no electric lights and no electric bells. Two bell ropes as in old-fashioned houses. The room is in dark tones inclining to sombre and of old-fashioned elegance.
Seated in the room are MISS HENEAGE, MRS. PHILLIMORE and THOMAS. MISS HENEAGE is a solidly built, narrow-minded woman in her sixties. She makes no effort to look younger than she is, and is expensively but quietly dressed, with heavy elegance. She commands her household and her family connection, and on the strength of a large and steady income feels that her opinion has its value. MRS. PHILLIMORE is a semi-professional invalid, refined and unintelligent. Her movements are weak and fatigued. Her voice is habitually plaintive and she is entirely a lady without a trace of being a woman of fashion. THOMAS is an easy-mannered, but respectful family servant, un-English both in style and appearance. He has no deportment worthy of being so called, and takes an evident interest in the affairs of the family he serves.
MISS HENEAGE is seated at the tea-table, facing the footlights. MRS. PHILLIMORE is seated at the table on the right. THOMAS stands near by. Tea things on table. Decanter of sherry in coaster. Bread and butter on plate. Vase with flowers. Silver match-box. Large old-fashioned tea urn. Guard for flame. "The Evening Post" on tea-table. MISS HENEAGE and MRS. PHILLIMORE both have cups of tea. MISS HENEAGE sits up very straight, and pours tea for GRACE, who enters from door. She is a pretty and fashionably dressed girl of twenty. She speaks superciliously, coolly, and not too fast. She sits on the sofa gracefully and without lounging. She wears a gown suitable for spring visiting, hat, parasol, and gloves.
GRACE. [As she moves to the sofa.] I never in my life walked so far and found so few people at home. [Pauses. Takes off gloves. Somewhat querulously.] The fact is the nineteenth of May is ridiculously late to be in town.
MISS HENEAGE. Thomas, Mr. Phillimore's sherry?
THOMAS. [Indicating the particular table.] The sherry, ma'am.
MISS HENEAGE. Mr. Phillimore's Post?
THOMAS. [Pointing to "The Evening Post" on the tea-table.] The Post, ma'am.
MISS HENEAGE. [Indicating cup.] Miss Phillimore.
THOMAS takes cup of tea to GRACE. Silence. They all sip tea. THOMAS goes back, fills sherry glass, remaining round and about the tea-table. They all drink tea during their entire conversation.
GRACE. The Dudleys were at home. They wished to know when my brother Philip was to be married, and where and how?
MISS HENEAGE. If the Dudleys were persons of breeding, they'd not intrude their curiosity upon you.
GRACE. I like Lena Dudley.
MRS. PHILLIMORE. [Speaking slowly and gently.] Do I know Miss Dudley?
GRACE. She knows Philip. She expects an announcement of the wedding.
MRS. PHILLIMORE. I trust you told her that my son, my sister and myself are all of the opinion that those who have been divorced should remarry with modesty and without parade.
GRACE. I told the Dudleys Philip's wedding was here, to-morrow.
MISS HENEAGE. [To MRS. PHILLIMORE, picking up a sheet of paper from the table.] I have spent the afternoon, Mary, in arranging and listing the wedding gifts, and in writing out the announcements of the wedding. I think I have attained a proper form of announcement. [Taking the sheet of note-paper and giving it to THOMAS.] Of course the announcement Philip himself made was quite out of the question. [GRACE smiles.] However, there is mine. [She points to the paper. THOMAS gives the list to MRS. PHILLIMORE and moves away.
GRACE. I hope you'll send an announcement to the Dudleys.
MRS. PHILLIMORE. [Prepared to make the best of things, plaintively reads.] "Mr. Philip Phillimore and Mrs. Cynthia Dean Karslake announce their marriage, May twentieth, at three o'clock, Nineteen A, Washington Square, New York." [Replacing the paper on THOMAS'S salver.] It sounds very nice.
[THOMAS returns the paper to MISS HENEAGE.
MISS HENEAGE. In my opinion it barely escapes sounding nasty. However, it is correct. The only remaining question is—to whom the announcement should not be sent. [THOMAS goes out.] I consider an announcement of the wedding of two divorced persons to be in the nature of an intimate communication. It not only announces the wedding—it also announces the divorce. [Returning to her teacup.] The person I shall ask counsel of is cousin William Sudley. He promised to drop in this afternoon.
GRACE. Oh! We shall hear all about Cairo.
MRS. PHILLIMORE. William is judicious. [THOMAS returns.
MISS HENEAGE. [With finality.] Cousin William will disapprove of the match unless a winter in Cairo has altered his moral tone.
THOMAS. [Announcing.] Mr. Sudley.
He ushers in WILLIAM SUDLEY, a little oldish gentleman. He is and appears thoroughly insignificant. But his opinion of the place he occupies in the world is enormous. His manners, voice, presence, are all those of a man of breeding and self-importance.
MRS. PHILLIMORE and MISS HENEAGE. [Rising and greeting SUDLEY; a little tremulously.] My dear William!
SUDLEY. [Shakes hands with MRS. PHILLIMORE, soberly glad to see them.] How d'ye do, Mary? [Greeting MISS HENEAGE.] A very warm May you're having, Sarah.
GRACE. [Coming forward to welcome him.] Dear Cousin William!
MISS HENEAGE. Wasn't it warm in Cairo when you left?
She will have the strict truth, or nothing; still, on account of SUDLEY'S impeccable respectability, she treats him with more than usual leniency.
SUDLEY. [Sitting down.] We left Cairo six weeks ago, Grace, so I've had no news since you wrote in February that Philip was engaged. [After a pause.] I need not to say I consider Philip's engagement excessively regrettable. He is a judge upon the Supreme Court bench with a divorced wife—and such a divorced wife!
GRACE. Oh, but Philip has succeeded in keeping everything as quiet as possible.
SUDLEY. [Acidly.] No, my dear! He has not succeeded in keeping his former wife as quiet as possible. We had not been in Cairo a week when who should turn up but Vida Phillimore. She went everywhere and did everything no woman should!
GRACE. [With unfeigned interest.] Oh, what did she do?
SUDLEY. She "did" Cleopatra at the tableaux at Lord Errington's! She "did" Cleopatra, and she did it robed only in some diaphanous material of a nature so transparent that—in fact she appeared to be draped in moonshine. [MISS HENEAGE indicates the presence of GRACE and rises.] That was only the beginning. As soon as she heard of Philip's engagement, she gave a dinner in honour of it! Only divorcees were asked! And she had a dummy—yes, my dear, a dummy!—at the head of the table. He stood for Philip—that is he sat for Philip!
[Rising and moving to the table.
MISS HENEAGE. [Irritated and disgusted.] Ah!
MRS. PHILLIMORE. [With dismay and pain.] Dear me!
MISS HENEAGE. [Confident of the value of her opinion.] I disapprove of Mrs. Phillimore.
SUDLEY. [Taking a cigarette.] Of course you do, but has Philip taken to Egyptian cigarettes in order to celebrate my winter at Cairo?
GRACE. Those are Cynthia's.
SUDLEY. [Thinking that no one is worth knowing whom he does not know.] Who is "Cynthia?"
GRACE. Mrs. Karslake—She's staying here, Cousin William. She'll be down in a minute.
SUDLEY. [Shocked.] You don't mean to tell me—?—!
MISS HENEAGE. Yes, William, Cynthia is Mrs. Karslake—Mrs. Karslake has no New York house. I disliked the publicity of a hotel in the circumstances, and, accordingly, when she became engaged to Philip, I invited her here.
SUDLEY. [Suspicious and distrustful.] And may I ask who Mrs. Karslake is?
MISS HENEAGE. [With confidence.] She was a Deane.
SUDLEY. [Walking about the room, sorry to be obliged to concede good birth to any but his own blood.] Oh, oh—well, the Deanes are extremely nice people. [Approaching the table.] Was her father J. William Deane?
MISS HENEAGE. [Nodding, still more secure.] Yes.
SUDLEY. [Giving in with difficulty.] The family is an old one. J. William Deane's daughter? Surely he left a very considerable—
MISS HENEAGE. Oh, fifteen or twenty millions.
SUDLEY. [Determined not to be dazzled.] If I remember rightly she was brought up abroad.
MISS HENEAGE. In France and England—and I fancy brought up with a very gay set in very gay places. In fact she is what is called a "sporty" woman.
SUDLEY. [Always ready to think the worst.] We might put up with that. But you don't mean to tell me Philip has the—the—assurance to marry a woman who has been divorced by—
MISS HENEAGE. Not at all. Cynthia Karslake divorced her husband.
SUDLEY. [Gloomily, since he has less fault to find than he expected.] She divorced him! Ah!
[He seeks the consolation of his tea.
MISS HENEAGE. The suit went by default. And, my dear William, there are many palliating circumstances. Cynthia was married to Karslake only seven months. There are no— [Glancing at GRACE] no hostages to Fortune! Ahem!
SUDLEY. [Still unwilling to be pleased.] Ah! What sort of a young woman is she?
GRACE. [With the superiority of one who is not too popular.] Men admire her.
MISS HENEAGE. She's not conventional.
MRS. PHILLIMORE. [Showing a faint sense of justice.] I am bound to say she has behaved discreetly ever since she arrived in this house.
MISS HENEAGE. Yes, Mary—but I sometimes suspect that she exercises a degree of self-control—
SUDLEY. [Glad to have something against some one.] She claps on the lid, eh? And you think that perhaps some day she'll boil over? Well, of course fifteen or twenty millions—but who's Karslake?
GRACE. [Very superciliously.] He owns Cynthia K. She's the famous mare.
MISS HENEAGE. He's Henry Karslake's son.
SUDLEY. [Beginning to make the best of fifteen millions-in-law.] Oh!—Henry!—Very respectable family. Although I remember his father served a term in the Senate. And so the wedding is to be to-morrow?
MRS. PHILLIMORE. [Assenting.] To-morrow.
SUDLEY. [Rising, his respectability to the front when he thinks of the ceremony. GRACE rises.] To-morrow. Well, my dear Sarah, a respectable family with some means. We must accept her. But on the whole, I think it will be best for me not to see the young woman. My disapprobation would make itself apparent.
GRACE. [Whispering to SUDLEY.] Cynthia's coming.
[He doesn't hear.
CYNTHIA comes in, absorbed in reading a newspaper. She is a young creature in her twenties, small and high-bred, full of the love of excitement and sport. Her manner is wide-awake and keen, and she is evidently in no fear of the opinion of others. Her dress is exceedingly elegant, but with the elegance of a woman whose chief interests lie in life out of doors. There is nothing hard or masculine in her style, and her expression is youthful and ingenuous.
SUDLEY. [Sententious and determinately epigrammatic.] The uncouth modern young woman, eight feet high, with a skin like a rhinoceros and manners like a cave-dweller—an habitue of the race-track and the divorce court—
GRACE. [Aside to SUDLEY.] Cousin William!
SUDLEY. Eh, oh!
CYNTHIA. [Reading her newspaper, advances into the room, immersed, excited, trembling. She lowers paper to catch the light.] "Belmont favourite—six to one—Rockaway—Rosebud, and Flying Cloud. Slow track—raw wind—h'm, h'm, h'm—At the half, Rockaway forged ahead, when Rosebud under the lash made a bold bid for victory—neck by neck—for a quarter—when Flying Cloud slipped by the pair and won on the post by a nose in one forty nine!" [Speaking with the enthusiasm of a sport.] Oh, I wish I'd seen the dear thing do it. Oh, it's Mr. Sudley! You must think me very rude. How do you do, Mr. Sudley?
[Going over to SUDLEY.
SUDLEY. [Bowing without cordiality.] Mrs. Karslake.
[CYNTHIA pauses, feeling he should say something. As he says nothing, she speaks again.
CYNTHIA. I hope Cairo was delightful? Did you have a smooth voyage?
SUDLEY. [Pompously.] You must permit me, Mrs. Karslake—
CYNTHIA. [With good temper, somewhat embarrassed, and talking herself into ease.] Oh, please don't welcome me to the family. All that formal part is over, if you don't mind. I'm one of the tribe now! You're coming to our wedding to-morrow?
SUDLEY. My dear Mrs. Karslake, I think it might be wiser—
CYNTHIA. [Still with cordial good temper.] Oh, but you must come! I mean to be a perfect wife to Philip and all his relations! That sounds rather miscellaneous, but you know what I mean.
SUDLEY. [Very sententious.] I am afraid—
CYNTHIA. [Gay and still covering her embarrassment.] If you don't come, it'll look as if you were not standing by Philip when he's in trouble! You'll come, won't you—but of course you will.
SUDLEY. [After a self-important pause.] I will come, Mrs. Karslake. [Pausing.] Good-afternoon. [In a tone of sorrow and light compassion.] Good-bye, Mary. Good-afternoon, Sarah. [Sighing.] Grace, dear. [To MISS HENEAGE.] At what hour did you say the alimony commences?
MISS HENEAGE. [Quickly and commandingly to cover his slip.] The ceremony is at three P. M., William.
[SUDLEY walks toward the door.
MRS. PHILLIMORE. [With fatigued voice and manner as she rises.] I am going to my room to rest awhile.
[She trails slowly from the room.
MISS HENEAGE. [To SUDLEY.] Oh, William, one moment—I entirely forgot! I've a most important social question to ask you! [She accompanies him slowly to the door.] in regard to the announcements of the wedding—who they shall be sent to and who not. For instance—the Dudleys— [Deep in their talk, SUDLEY and MISS HENEAGE pass out together.
CYNTHIA. [From the sofa.] So that's Cousin William?
GRACE. [From the tea-table.] Don't you like him?
CYNTHIA. [Calmly sarcastic.] Like him? I love him. He's so generous. He couldn't have received me with more warmth if I'd been a mulatto.
THOMAS comes in, preceded by PHILLIMORE. PHILIP PHILLIMORE is a self-centered, short-tempered, imperious member of the respectable fashionables of New York. He is well and solidly dressed, and in manner and speech evidently a man of family. He is accustomed to being listened to in his home circle and from the bench, and it is practically impossible for him to believe that he can make a mistake.
GRACE. [Outraged.] Really you know— [CYNTHIA moves to the table.] Philip!
PHILIP nods to GRACE absent-mindedly. He is in his working suit and looks tired. He walks into the room silently; goes over to the tea-table, bends over and kisses CYNTHIA on the forehead. Goes to his chair, which THOMAS has moved to suit him. He sits, and sighs with satisfaction.
PHILIP. [As if exhausted by brain work.] Ah, Grace! [GRACE immediately sails out of the room.] Well, my dear, I thought I should never extricate myself from the court-room. You look very debonnair!
CYNTHIA. The tea's making. You'll have your glass of sherry?
PHILIP. [The strain of the day evidently having been severe.] Thanks! [Taking it from THOMAS and sighing.] Ah!
CYNTHIA. I can see it's been a tiring day with you.
PHILIP. [His great tussle with the world leaving him unworsted but utterly spent.] H'm! [He gratefully sips his tea.
CYNTHIA. Were the lawyers very long-winded?
PHILIP. [Almost too tired for speech.] Prolix to the point of somnolence. It might be affirmed without inexactitude that the prolixity of counsel is the somnolence of the judiciary. I am fatigued, ah! [A little suddenly, awaking to the fact that his orders have not been carried out to the letter.] Thomas! My Post is not in its usual place!
CYNTHIA. It's here, Philip. [THOMAS gets it.
PHILIP. Thanks, my dear. [Opening "The Post."] Ah! This hour with you—is—is really the—the— [Absently.] the one vivid moment of the day. [Reading.] H'm—shocking attack by the President on vested interests. H'm—too bad—but it's to be expected. The people insisted on electing a desperado to the presidential office—they must take the hold-up that follows. [After a pause, he reads.] H'm! His English is lacking in idiom, his spelling in conservatism, his mind in balance, and his character in repose.
CYNTHIA. [Amiable but not very sympathetic.] You seem more fatigued than usual. Another glass of sherry, Philip?
PHILIP. Oh, I ought not to—
CYNTHIA. I think you seem a little more tired than usual.
PHILIP. Perhaps I am. [She pours out sherry. PHILIP takes glass but does not sip.] Ah, this hour is truly a grateful form of restful excitement. [After an inspired interval.] You, too, find it—eh? [He looks at CYNTHIA.
CYNTHIA. [With veiled sarcasm.] Decidedly.
PHILIP. Decidedly what, my dear?
CYNTHIA. [Her sarcasm still veiled.] Restful.
PHILIP. H'm! Perhaps I need the calm more than you do. Over the case to-day I actually—eh— [Sipping his tea.] slumbered. I heard myself do it. That's how I know. A dressmaker sued on seven counts. [Reading his newspaper.] Really, the insanity of the United States Senate—you seem restless, my dear. Ah—um—have you seen the evening paper? I see there has been a lightning change in the style or size of hats which ladies—
[Sweeping a descriptive motion with his hand, he gives the paper to CYNTHIA, then moves his glass, reads, and sips.
CYNTHIA. The lamp, Thomas.
THOMAS blows out the alcohol lamp on the tea-table with difficulty. Blows twice. Movement of PHILIP each time. Blows again.
PHILIP. [Irritably.] Confound it, Thomas! What are you puffing and blowing at—?
THOMAS. It's out, ma'am—yes, sir.
PHILIP. You're excessively noisy, Thomas!
THOMAS. [In a fluster.] Yes, sir—I am.
CYNTHIA. [Soothing THOMAS'S wounded feelings.] We don't need you, Thomas.
THOMAS. Yes, ma'am.
PHILIP. Puffing and blowing and shaking and quaking like an automobile in an ecstasy! [THOMAS meekly withdraws.
CYNTHIA. [Not unsympathetically.] Too bad, Philip! I hope my presence isn't too agitating?
PHILIP. Ah—it's just because I value this hour with you, Cynthia—this hour of tea and toast and tranquillity. It's quite as if we were married—happily married—already.
CYNTHIA. [Admitting that married life is a blank, begins to look through paper.] Yes, I feel as if we were married already.
PHILIP. [Not recognizing her tone.] Ah! It's the calm, you see.
CYNTHIA. [Without warmth.] The calm? Yes—yes, it's—it's the calm.
PHILIP. [Sighs.] Yes, the calm—the Halcyon calm of—of second choice. H'm! [He reads and turns over the leaves of the paper. CYNTHIA reads. There is a silence.] After all, my dear—the feeling which I have for you—is—is—eh—the market is in a shocking condition of plethora! H'm—h'm—and what are you reading?
CYNTHIA. [Embarrassed.] Oh, eh—well—I—eh—I'm just running over the sporting news.
PHILIP. Oh! [He looks thoughtful.
CYNTHIA. [Beginning to forget PHILIP and to remember more interesting matters.] I fancied Hermes would come in an easy winner. He came in nowhere. Nonpareil was ridden by Henslow—he's a rotten bad rider. He gets nervous.
PHILIP. [Still interested in his newspaper.] Does he? H'm! I suppose you do retain an interest in horses and races. H'm—I trust some day the—ah—law will attract—Oh [Turning a page.], here's the report of my opinion in that dressmaker's case—Haggerty vs. Phillimore.
CYNTHIA. [Puzzled.] Was the case brought against you?
PHILIP. Oh—no. The suit was brought by Haggerty, Miss Haggerty, a dressmaker, against the—in fact, my dear, against the former Mrs. Phillimore. [After a pause, he returns to his reading.
CYNTHIA. [Curious about the matter.] How did you decide it?
PHILIP. I was obliged to decide in Mrs. Phillimore's favour. Haggerty's plea was preposterous.
CYNTHIA. Did you—did you meet the—the—former—?
CYNTHIA. I often see her at afternoon teas.
PHILIP. How did you recognize—
CYNTHIA. Why— [Opening the paper.] because Mrs. Vida Phillimore's picture appears in every other issue of most of the evening papers. And I must confess I was curious. But, I'm sure you find it very painful to meet her again.
PHILIP. [Slowly, considering.] No,—would you find it so impossible to meet Mr.—
CYNTHIA. [Much excited and aroused.] Philip! Don't speak of him. He's nothing. He's a thing of the past. I never think of him. I forget him!
PHILIP. [Somewhat sarcastic.] That's extraordinarily original of you to forget him.
CYNTHIA. [Gently, and wishing to drop the subject.] We each of us have something to forget, Philip—and John Karslake is to me—Well, he's dead!
PHILIP. As a matter of fact, my dear, he is dead, or the next thing to it—for he's bankrupt.
CYNTHIA. [After a pause.] Bankrupt? [Excited and moved.] Let's not speak of him. I mean never to see him or think about him or even hear of him! [He assents. She reads her paper. He sips his tea and reads his paper. She turns a page, starts and cries out.
PHILIP. God bless me!
CYNTHIA. It's a picture of—of—
PHILIP. John Karslake?
CYNTHIA. Picture of him, and one of me, and in the middle between us "Cynthia K!"
PHILIP. "Cynthia K!"
CYNTHIA. [Excited.] My pet riding mare! The best horse he has! She's an angel even in a photograph! Oh! [Reading.] "John Karslake drops a fortune at Saratoga." [Rises and walks up and down excitedly. PHILIP takes the paper and reads.
PHILIP. [Unconcerned, as the matter hardly touches him.] Hem—ah—Advertises country place for sale—stables, famous mare "Cynthia K"—favourite riding-mare of former Mrs. Karslake, who is once again to enter the arena of matrimony with the well-known and highly respected judge of—
CYNTHIA. [Sensitive and much disturbed.] Don't! Don't, Philip, please don't!
PHILIP. My dear Cynthia—take another paper—here's my Post! You'll find nothing disagreeable in The Post.
[CYNTHIA takes paper.
CYNTHIA. [After reading, near the table.] It's much worse in The Post. "John Karslake sells the former Mrs. Karslake's jewels—the famous necklace now at Tiffany's, and the sporty ex-husband sells his wife's portrait by Sargent!" Philip, I can't stand this. [Puts paper on the table.
PHILIP. Really, my dear, Mr. Karslake is bound to appear occasionally in print—or even you may have to meet him.
[Thomas comes in.
CYNTHIA. [Determined and distressed.] I won't meet him! I won't meet him. Every time I hear his name or "Cynthia K's" I'm so depressed.
THOMAS. [Announcing with something like reluctance.] Sir, Mr. Fiddler. Mr. Karslake's trainer.
FIDDLER walks in. He is an English horse trainer, a wide-awake, stocky, well-groomed little cockney. He knows his own mind and sees life altogether through a stable door. Well-dressed for his station, and not too young.
CYNTHIA. [Excited and disturbed.] Fiddler? Tim Fiddler? His coming is outrageous!
FIDDLER. A note for you, sir.
CYNTHIA. [Impulsively.] Oh, Fiddler—is that you?
CYNTHIA. [In a half whisper, still speaking on impulse.] How is she! Cynthia K? How's Planet II and the colt and Golden Rod? How's the whole stable? Are they well?
FIDDLER. No'm—we're all on the bum. [Aside.] Ever since you kicked us over!
CYNTHIA. [Reproving him, though pleased.] Fiddler!
FIDDLER. The horses is just simply gone to Egypt since you left, and so's the guv'nor.
CYNTHIA. [Putting an end to FIDDLER.] That will do, Fiddler.
FIDDLER. I'm waiting for an answer, sir.
CYNTHIA. What is it, Philip?
PHILIP. [Uncomfortable.] A mere matter of business. [Aside to FIDDLER.] The answer is, Mr. Karslake can come. The—the coast will be clear. [FIDDLER goes out.
CYNTHIA. [Amazed; rising.] You're not going to see him?
PHILIP. But Karslake, my dear, is an old acquaintance of mine. He argues cases before me. I will see that you do not have to meet him.
[CYNTHIA walks the length of the room in excited dejection.
MATTHEW comes in. He is a High-church clergyman to a highly fashionable congregation. His success is partly due to his social position and partly to his elegance of speech, but chiefly to his inherent amiability, which leaves the sinner in happy peace and smiles on the just and unjust alike.
MATTHEW. [Most amiably.] Ah, my dear brother!
PHILIP. [Greeting him.] Matthew.
MATTHEW. [Nodding to PHILIP.] Good afternoon, my dear Cynthia. How charming you look! [CYNTHIA sits down at the tea-table. To CYNTHIA.] Ah, why weren't you in your pew yesterday? I preached a most original sermon.
[He lays his hat and cane on the divan.
THOMAS. [Aside to PHILIP.] Sir, Mrs. Vida Phillimore's maid called you up on the telephone, and you're to expect Mrs. Phillimore on a matter of business.
PHILIP. [Astonished and disgusted.] Here, impossible! [To CYNTHIA.] Excuse me, my dear! [PHILIP, much embarrassed, goes out, followed by THOMAS.
MATTHEW. [Approaching CYNTHIA'S chair, happily and pleasantly self-important.] No, really, it was a wonderful sermon, my dear. My text was from Paul—"It is better to marry than to burn." It was a strictly logical sermon. I argued—that, as the grass withereth, and the flower fadeth,—there is nothing final in Nature; not even Death! And, as there is nothing final in Nature, not even Death;—so then if Death is not final—why should marriage be final? [Gently.] And so the necessity of—eh—divorce! You see? It was an exquisite sermon! All New York was there! And all New York went away happy! Even the sinners—if there were any! I don't often meet sinners—do you?
CYNTHIA. [Indulgently, in spite of his folly, because he is kind.] You're such a dear, delightful Pagan! Here's your tea!
MATTHEW. [Taking the tea.] Why, my dear—you have a very sad expression!
CYNTHIA. [A little bitterly.] Why not?
MATTHEW. [With sentimental sweetness.] I feel as if I were of no use in the world when I see sadness on a young face. Only sinners should feel sad. You have committed no sin!
CYNTHIA. [Impulsively.] Yes, I have!
CYNTHIA. I committed the unpardonable sin—whe—when I married for love!
MATTHEW. One must not marry for anything else, my dear!
CYNTHIA. Why am I marrying your brother?
MATTHEW. I often wonder why? I wonder why you didn't choose to remain a free woman.
CYNTHIA. [Going over the ground she has often argued with herself.] I meant to; but a divorcee has no place in society. I felt horridly lonely! I wanted a friend. Philip was ideal as a friend—for months. Isn't it nice to bind a friend to you?
MATTHEW. [Setting down his teacup.] Yes—yes!
CYNTHIA. [Growing more and more excited and moved as she speaks.] To marry a friend—to marry on prudent, sensible grounds—a man—like Philip? That's what I should have done first, instead of rushing into marriage—because I had a wild, mad, sensitive, sympathetic—passion and pain and fury—of, I don't know what—that almost strangled me with happiness!
MATTHEW. [Amiable and reminiscent.] Ah—ah—in my youth—I,—I too!
CYNTHIA. [Coming back to her manner of every day.] And besides—the day Philip asked me I was in the dumps! And now—how about marrying only for love? [PHILIP comes back.
MATTHEW. Ah, my dear, love is not the only thing in the world!
PHILIP. [Half aside.] I got there too late, she'd hung up.
CYNTHIA. Who, Philip?
PHILIP. Eh—a lady—eh—
[THOMAS, flurried, comes in with a card on a salver.
THOMAS. A card for you, sir. Ahem—ahem—Mrs. Phillimore—that was, sir.
THOMAS. She's on the stairs, sir. [He nods backward, only to find VIDA at his side. He announces her as being the best way of meeting the difficulty.] Mrs. Vida Phillimore!
VIDA comes in slowly, with the air of a spoiled beauty. She stops just inside the door and speaks in a very casual manner. Her voice is languorous and caressing. She is dressed in the excess of the French fashion and carries a daring parasol. She smiles and comes in, undulating, to the middle of the room. Tableau. THOMAS withdraws.
VIDA. How do you do, Philip. [After a pause.] Don't tell me I'm a surprise! I had you called up on the 'phone and I sent up my card—and, besides, Philip dear, when you have the—the—habit of the house, as unfortunately I have, you can't treat yourself like a stranger in a strange land. At least, I can't—so here I am. My reason for coming was to ask you about that B. & O. stock we hold in common. [To MATTHEW, condescendingly, the clergy being a class of unfortunates debarred by profession from the pleasures of the world.] How do you do? [Pause. She then goes to the real reason of her visit.] Do be polite and present me to your wife-to-be.
PHILIP. [Awkwardly.] Cynthia—
CYNTHIA. [Cheerfully, with dash, putting the table between VIDA and herself.] We're delighted to see you, Mrs. Phillimore. I needn't ask you to make yourself at home, but will you have a cup of tea? [MATTHEW sits near the little table.
VIDA. [To PHILIP.] My dear, she's not in the least what I expected. I heard she was a dove! She's a very dashing kind of a dove! [To CYNTHIA, who moves to the tea-table.] My dear, I'm paying you compliments. Five lumps and quantities of cream. I find single life very thinning. [To PHILIP, calm and ready to be agreeable to any man.] And how well you're looking! It must be the absence of matrimonial cares—or is it a new angel in the house?
CYNTHIA. [Outraged at VIDA'S intrusion, but polite though delicately sarcastic.] It's most amusing to sit in your place. And how at home you must feel here in this house where you have made so much trouble—I mean tea. [Rises.] Do you know it would be in much better taste if you would take the place you're accustomed to?
VIDA. [As calm as before.] My dear, I'm an intruder only for a moment; I sha'n't give you a chance to score off me again! But I must thank you, dear Philip, for rendering that decision in my favour—
PHILIP. I assure you—
Vida. [Unable to resist a thrust.] Of course, you would like to have rendered it against me. It was your wonderful sense of justice, and that's why I'm so grateful—if not to you, to your Maker!
PHILIP. [Feels that this is no place for his future wife. Rises quickly. To CYNTHIA.] Cynthia, I would prefer that you left us.
[MATTHEW moves to the sofa and sits down.
CYNTHIA. [Determined not to leave the field first, remains seated.] Certainly, Philip!
PHILIP. I expect another visitor who—
VIDA. [With flattering insistence, to CYNTHIA.] Oh, my dear—don't go! The truth is—I came to see you! I feel most cordially towards you—and really, you know, people in our position should meet on cordial terms.
CYNTHIA. [Taking it with apparent calm, but pointing her remarks.] Naturally. If people in our position couldn't meet, New York society would soon come to an end. [THOMAS comes in.
VIDA. [Calm, but getting her knife in too.] Precisely. Society's no bigger than a band-box. Why, it's only a moment ago I saw Mr. Karslake walking—
THOMAS. [Announcing clearly. Everyone changes place, in consternation, amusement or surprise. CYNTHIA moves to leave the room, but stops for fear of attracting KARSLAKE'S attention.] Mr. John Karslake!
Enter KARSLAKE. He is a powerful, generous personality, a man of affairs, breezy, gay and careless. He gives the impression of being game for any fate in store for him. His clothes indicate sporting propensities and his taste in waistcoats and ties is brilliant. KARSLAKE sees first PHILIP and then MATTHEW. THOMAS goes out.
PHILIP. How do you do?
JOHN. [Very gay and no respecter of persons.] Good-afternoon, Mr. Phillimore. Hello—here's the church! [Crossing to MATTHEW and shaking hands. He slaps him on the back.] I hadn't the least idea—how are you? By George, your reverence, that was a racy sermon of yours on Divorce! What was your text? [Sees VIDA and bows, very politely.] Galatians 4:2, "The more the merrier," or "Who next?" [Smiles.] As the whale said after Jonah! [CYNTHIA makes a sudden movement, upsetting her tea-cup. JOHN faces about quickly and they face each other. JOHN gives a frank start. A pause holds them.
JOHN. [Astounded, in a low voice.] Mrs. Karslake— [Bowing.] I was not aware of the pleasure in store for me. I understood you were in the country. [Recovering and moving to her chair.] Perhaps you'll be good enough to make me a cup of tea?—that is if the teapot wasn't lost in the scrimmage. [There is another pause. CYNTHIA, determined to equal him in coolness, returns to the tea-tray.] Mr. Phillimore, I came to get your signature in that matter of Cox vs. Keely.
PHILIP. I shall be at your service, but pray be seated.
[He indicates a chair by the tea-table.
JOHN. [Sitting beyond but not far from the tea-table.] And I also understood you to say you wanted a saddle-horse.
PHILIP. You have a mare called—eh—"Cynthia K?"
JOHN. [Promptly.] Yes—she's not for sale.
PHILIP. Oh, but she's just the mare I had set my mind on.
JOHN. [With a touch of humour.] You want her for yourself?
PHILIP. [A little flustered.] I—eh—I sometimes ride.
JOHN. [Now sure of himself.] She's rather lively for you, Judge. Mrs. Karslake used to ride her.
PHILIP. You don't care to sell her to me?
JOHN. She's a dangerous mare, Judge, and she's as delicate and changeable as a girl. I'd hate to leave her in your charge!
CYNTHIA. [Eagerly but in a low voice.] Leave her in mine, Mr. Karslake!
JOHN. [After a slight pause.] Mrs. Karslake knows all about a horse, but— [Turning to CYNTHIA.] Cynthia K's got rather tricky of late.
CYNTHIA. [Haughtily.] You mean to say you think she'd chuck me?
JOHN. [With polite solicitude and still humourous. To PHILIP.] I'd hate to have a mare of mine deprive you of a wife, Judge. [Rises. CYNTHIA shows anger.] She goes to Saratoga next week, C. W.
VIDA. [Who has been sitting and talking to MATTHEW for lack of a better man, comes to talk to KARSLAKE.] C. W.?
JOHN. [Rising as she rises.] Creditors willing.
VIDA. [Changing her seat for one near the tea-table.] I'm sure your creditors are willing.
JOHN. Oh, they're a breezy lot, my creditors. They're giving me a dinner this evening.
VIDA. [More than usually anxious to please.] I regret I'm not a breezy creditor, but I do think you owe it to me to let me see your Cynthia K! Can't you lead her around to my house?
JOHN. At what hour, Mrs. Phillimore?
VIDA. Say eleven? And you, too, might have a leading in my direction—771 Fifth Avenue.
[JOHN bows. CYNTHIA hears and notes this.
CYNTHIA. Your cup of tea, Mr. Karslake.
JOHN. Thanks. [Taking his tea and sipping it.] I beg your pardon—you have forgotten, Mrs. Karslake—very naturally, it has slipped your memory, but I don't take sugar. [CYNTHIA, furious with him and herself. He hands the cup back. She makes a second cup.
CYNTHIA. [Cheerfully; in a rage.] Sorry!
JOHN. [Also apparently cheerful.] Yes, gout. It gives me a twinge even to sit in the shadow of a sugar-maple! First you riot, and then you diet!
VIDA. [Calm and amused; aside to MATTHEW.] My dear Matthew, he's a darling! But I feel as if we were all taking tea on the slope of a volcano! [MATTHEW sits down.
PHILIP. It occurred to me, Mr. Karslake, you might be glad to find a purchaser for your portrait by Sargent?
JOHN. It's not my portrait. It's a portrait of Mrs. Karslake, and to tell you the truth—Sargent's a good fellow—I've made up my mind to keep it—to remember the artist by.
[CYNTHIA is wounded by this.
[CYNTHIA hands a second cup to JOHN.
CYNTHIA. [With careful politeness.] Your cup of tea, Mr. Karslake.
JOHN. [Rising and taking the tea with courteous indifference.] Thanks—sorry to trouble you.
[He drinks the cup of tea standing by the tea-table.
PHILIP. [To make conversation.] You're selling your country place?
JOHN. If I was long of hair—I'd sell that.
CYNTHIA. [Excited. Taken out of herself by the news.] You're not really selling your stable?
JOHN. [Finishes his tea, places the empty cup on the tea-table, and reseats himself.] Every gelding I've got—seven foals and a donkey! I don't mean the owner.
CYNTHIA. [Still interested and forgetting the discomfort of the situation.] How did you ever manage to come such a cropper?
JOHN. Streak of blue luck!
CYNTHIA. [Quickly.] I don't see how it's possible—
JOHN. You would if you'd been there. You remember the head man? [Sitting down.] Bloke?
CYNTHIA. Of course!
JOHN. Well, his wife divorced him for beating her over the head with a bottle of Fowler's Solution, and it seemed to prey on his mind. He sold me—
CYNTHIA. [Horrified.] Sold a race?
JOHN. About ten races, I guess.
CYNTHIA. [Incredulous.] Just because he'd beaten his wife?
JOHN. No. Because she divorced him.
CYNTHIA. Well, I can't see why that should prey on his mind!
JOHN. Well, I have known men that it stroked the wrong way. But he cost me eighty thousand. And then Urbanity ran third in the thousand-dollar stakes for two-year-olds at Belmont.
CYNTHIA. [Throws this remark in.] I never had faith in that horse.
JOHN. And, of course, it never rains monkeys but it pours gorillas! So when I was down at St. Louis on the fifth, I laid seven to three on Fraternity—
CYNTHIA. Crazy! Crazy!
JOHN. [Ready to take the opposite view.] I don't see it. With her record she ought to have romped it an easy winner.
CYNTHIA. [Her sporting instinct asserting itself.] She hasn't the stamina! Look at her barrel!
JOHN. Well, anyhow, Geranium finished me!
CYNTHIA. You didn't lay odds on Geranium!
JOHN. Why not? She's my own mare—
JOHN. Streak o' bad luck—
CYNTHIA. [Plainly anxious to say "I told you so."] Streak of poor judgment! Do you remember the day you rode Billy at a six-foot stone wall, and he stopped and you didn't, and there was a hornet's nest [MATTHEW rises.] on the other side, and I remember you were hot just because I said you showed poor judgment? [She laughs at the memory. A general movement of disapproval. She remembers the situation.] I beg your pardon.
MATTHEW. [Rises to meet VIDA. Hastily.] It seems to me that horses are like the fourth gospel. Any conversation about them becomes animated almost beyond the limits of the urbane! [VIDA, disgusted by such plainness of speech, rises and goes to PHILIP who waves her to a chair.
PHILIP. [Formally.] I regret that you have endured such reverses, Mr. Karslake. [JOHN quietly bows.
CYNTHIA. [Concealing her interest and speaking casually.] You haven't mentioned your new English horse—Pantomime. What did he do at St. Louis?
JOHN. [Sitting down.] Fell away and ran fifth.
CYNTHIA. Too bad. Was he fully acclimated? Ah, well—
JOHN. We always differed—you remember—on the time needed—
MATTHEW. [Coming over to CYNTHIA, and speaking to carry off the situation as well as to get a tip.] Isn't there a—eh—a race to-morrow at Belmont Park?
JOHN. Yes. I'm going down in my auto.
CYNTHIA. [Evidently wishing she might be going too.] Oh!
MATTHEW. And what animal shall you prefer?
[Covering his personal interest with amiable altruism.
JOHN. I'm backing Carmencita.
CYNTHIA. [With a gesture of despair.] Carmencita! Carmencita!
[MATTHEW returns to VIDA'S side.
JOHN. You may remember we always differed on Carmencita.
CYNTHIA. [Disgusted at JOHN'S dunderheadedness.] But there's no room for difference. She's a wild, headstrong, dissatisfied, foolish little filly. The deuce couldn't ride her—she'd shy at her own shadow—"Carmencita." Oh, very well then, I'll wager you—and I'll give you odds too—"Decorum" will come in first, and I'll lay three to one he'll beat Carmencita by five lengths! How's that for fair?
JOHN. [Never forgetting the situation.] Sorry I'm not flush enough to take you.
CYNTHIA. [Impetuously.] Philip, dear, you lend John enough for the wager.
MATTHEW. [As nearly horrified as so soft a soul can be.] Ahem! Really—
JOHN. It's a sporty idea, Mrs. Karslake, but perhaps in the circumstances—
CYNTHIA. [Her mind on her wager.] In what circumstances?
PHILIP. [With a nervous laugh.] It does seem to me there is a certain impropriety—
CYNTHIA. [Remembering the conventions, which, for a moment, had actually escaped her.] Oh, I forgot. When horses are in the air—
MATTHEW. [Pouring oil on troubled waters. Moving, he speaks to VIDA from the back of her armchair.] It's the fourth gospel, you see. [THOMAS comes in with a letter on a salver, which he hands to PHILIP.
CYNTHIA. [Meekly.] You are quite right, Philip. [PHILIP goes up.] The fact is, seeing Mr. Karslake again [Laying on her indifference with a trowel.] he seems to me as much a stranger as if I were meeting him for the first time.
MATTHEW. [Aside to VIDA.] We are indeed taking tea on the slope of a volcano.
VIDA. [About to go, but thinking she will have a last word with JOHN.] I'm sorry your fortunes are so depressed, Mr. Karslake.
PHILIP. [Looking at the card that THOMAS has just brought in.] Who in the world is Sir Wilfrid Cates-Darby?
[There is a general stir.
JOHN. Oh—eh—Cates-Darby? [PHILIP opens the letter which THOMAS has brought with the card.] That's the English chap I bought Pantomime of.
PHILIP. [To THOMAS.] Show Sir Wilfrid Cates-Darby in.
THOMAS goes out. The prospect of an Englishman with a handle to his name changes VIDA'S plans and, instead of leaving the house, she goes to sofa, and poses there.
JOHN. He's a good fellow, Judge. Place near Epsom. Breeder. Over here to take a shy at our races.
THOMAS. [Opening the door and announcing.] Sir Wilfrid Cates-Darby.
Enter SIR WILFRID CATES-DARBY. He is a high-bred, sporting Englishman. His manner, his dress and his diction are the perfection of English elegance. His movements are quick and graceful. He talks lightly and with ease. He is full of life and unsmiling good temper.
PHILIP. [To SIR WILFRID and referring to the letter of introduction in his hand.] I am Mr. Phillimore. I am grateful to Stanhope for giving me the opportunity of knowing you, Sir Wilfrid. I fear you find it warm?
SIR WILFRID. [Delicately mopping his forehead.] Ah, well—ah—warm, no—hot, yes! Deuced extraordinary climate yours, you know, Mr. Phillimore.
PHILIP. [Conventionally.] Permit me to present you to— [The unconventional situation pulls him up short. It takes him a moment to decide how to meet it. He makes up his mind to pretend that everything is as usual, and presents CYNTHIA first.] Mrs. Karslake.
[SIR WILFRID bows, surprised and doubtful.
CYNTHIA. How do you do?
PHILIP. And to Mrs. Phillimore. [VIDA bows nonchalantly, but with a view to catching SIR WILFRID'S attention. SIR WILFRID bows, and looks from her to PHILIP.] My brother—and Mr. Karslake you know.
SIR WILFRID. How do, my boy. [Half aside, to JOHN.] No idea you had such a charming little wife—What?—Eh? [KARSLAKE moves to speak to MATTHEW and PHILIP in the further room.
CYNTHIA. You'll have a cup of tea, Sir Wilfrid?
SIR WILFRID. [At the table.] Thanks, awfully. [Very cheerfully.] I'd no idea old John had a wife! The rascal never told me!
CYNTHIA. [Pouring tea and facing the facts.] I'm not Mr. Karslake's wife!
SIR WILFRID. Oh!—Eh?—I see—
[He is evidently trying to think this out.
VIDA. [Who has been ready for some time to speak to him.] Sir Wilfrid, I'm sure no one has asked you how you like our country?
SIR WILFRID. [Going to VIDA and standing by her at the sofa.] Oh, well, as to climate and horses, I say nothing. But I like your American humour. I'm acquiring it for home purposes.
VIDA. [Getting down to love as the basis of conversation.] Aren't you going to acquire an American girl for home purposes?
SIR WILFRID. The more narrowly I look the agreeable project in the face, the more I like it. Oughtn't to say that in the presence of your husband. [He casts a look at PHILIP, who has gone into the next room.
VIDA. [Cheerful and unconstrained.] He's not my husband!
SIR WILFRID. [Completely confused.] Oh—eh?—my brain must be boiled. You are—Mrs.—eh—ah—of course, now I see! I got the wrong names! I thought you were Mrs. Phillimore. [Sitting down by her.] And that nice girl, Mrs. Karslake! You're deucedly lucky to be Mrs. Karslake. John's a prime sort. I say, have you and he got any kids? How many?
VIDA. [Horrified at being suspected of maternity, but speaking very sweetly.] He's not my husband.
SIR WILFRID. [His good spirits all gone, but determined to clear things up.] Phew! Awfully hot in here! Who the deuce is John's wife?
VIDA. He hasn't any.
SIR WILFRID. Who's Phillimore's wife?
VIDA. He hasn't any.
SIR WILFRID. Thanks, fearfully! [To MATTHEW, whom he approaches; suspecting himself of having lost his wits.] Would you excuse me, my dear and Reverend Sir—you're a churchman and all that—would you mind straightening me out?
MATTHEW. [Most graciously.] Certainly, Sir Wilfrid. Is it a matter of doctrine?
SIR WILFRID. Oh, damme—beg your pardon,—no, it's not words, it's women.
MATTHEW. [Ready to be outraged.] Women!
SIR WILFRID. It's divorce. Now, the lady on the sofa—
MATTHEW. Was my brother's wife; he divorced her—incompatibility—Rhode Island. The lady at the tea-table was Mr. Karslake's wife; she divorced him—desertion—Sioux Falls. One moment—she is about to marry my brother.
SIR WILFRID. [Cheerful again.] I'm out! Thought I never would be! Thanks! [VIDA laughs.
VIDA. [Not a whit discountenanced and ready to please.] Have you got me straightened out yet?
SIR WILFRID. Straight as a die! I say, you had lots of fun, didn't you? [Returning to his position by the sofa.] And so she's Mrs. John Karslake?
VIDA. [Calm, but secretly disappointed.] Do you like her?
SIR WILFRID. My word!
VIDA. [Fully expecting personal flattery.] Eh?
SIR WILFRID. She's a box o' ginger!
VIDA. You haven't seen many American women!
SIR WILFRID. Oh, haven't I?
VIDA. If you'll pay me a visit to-morrow—at twelve, you shall meet a most charming young woman, who has seen you once, and who admires you—ah!
SIR WILFRID. I'm there—what!
VIDA. Seven hundred and seventy-one Fifth Avenue.
SIR WILFRID. Seven seventy-one Fifth Avenue—at twelve.
VIDA. At twelve.
SIR WILFRID. Thanks! [Indicating CYNTHIA.] She's a thoroughbred—you can see that with one eye shut. Twelve. [Shaking hands.] Awfully good of you to ask me. [He joins JOHN.] I say, my boy, your former's an absolute certainty. [To CYNTHIA.] I hear you're about to marry Mr. Phillimore, Mrs. Karslake?
KARSLAKE crosses to VIDA and together they move to the sofa and sit down.
CYNTHIA. To-morrow, 3 P. M., Sir Wilfrid.
SIR WILFRID. [Much taken with CYNTHIA.] Afraid I've run into a sort of family party, eh? [Indicating VIDA.] The Past and the Future—awfully chic way you Americans have of asking your divorced husbands and wives to drop in, you know—celebrate a christenin', or the new bride, or—
CYNTHIA. Do you like your tea strong?
SIR WILFRID. Middlin'.
SIR WILFRID. One!
SIR WILFRID. Just torture a lemon over it. [He makes a gesture as of twisting a lemon peel. She hands him his tea.] Thanks! So you do it to-morrow at three?
CYNTHIA. At three, Sir Wilfrid.
SIR WILFRID. Sorry!
CYNTHIA. Why are you sorry?
SIR WILFRID. Hate to see a pretty woman married. Might marry her myself.
CYNTHIA. Oh, but I'm sure you don't admire American women.
SIR WILFRID. Admire you, Mrs. Karslake—
CYNTHIA. Not enough to marry me, I hope.
SIR WILFRID. Marry you in a minute! Say the word. Marry you now—here.
CYNTHIA. You don't think you ought to know me a little before—
SIR WILFRID. Know you? Do know you.
CYNTHIA. [Covering her hair with her handkerchief.] What colour is my hair?
SIR WILFRID. Pshaw!
CYNTHIA. You see! You don't know whether I'm a chestnut or a strawberry roan! In the States we think a few months of friendship is quite necessary.
SIR WILFRID. Few months of moonshine! Never was a friend to a woman—thank God, in all my life.
CYNTHIA. Oh—oh, oh!
SIR WILFRID. Might as well talk about being a friend to a whiskey-and-soda.
CYNTHIA. A woman has a soul, Sir Wilfrid.
SIR WILFRID. Well, good whiskey is spirits—dozens o' souls!
CYNTHIA. You are so gross!
SIR WILFRID. [Changing his seat for one at the tea-table.] Gross? Not a bit! Friendship between the sexes is all fudge! I'm no friend to a rose in my garden. I don't call it friendship—eh—eh—a warm, starry night, moonbeams and ilex trees, "and a spirit who knows how" and all that—eh— [Getting closer to her.] You make me feel awfully poetical, you know— [PHILIP comes toward them, glances nervously at CYNTHIA and SIR WILFRID, and walks away again.] What's the matter? But, I say—poetry aside—do you, eh—— [Looking around to place PHILIP.] Does he—y'know—is he—does he go to the head?
CYNTHIA. Sir Wilfrid, Mr. Phillimore is my sober second choice.
SIR WILFRID. Did you ever kiss him? I'll bet he fined you for contempt of court. Look here, Mrs. Karslake, if you're marryin' a man you don't care about—
CYNTHIA. [Amused and excusing his audacity as a foreigner's eccentricity.] Really!
SIR WILFRID. Well, I don't offer myself—
SIR WILFRID. Not this instant—
SIR WILFRID. But let me drop in to-morrow at ten.
CYNTHIA. What country and state of affairs do you think you have landed in?
SIR WILFRID. New York, by Jove! Been to school, too. New York is bounded on the North, South, East and West by the state of Divorce! Come, come, Mrs. Karslake, I like your country. You've no fear and no respect—no cant and lots of can. Here you all are, you see—your former husband, and your new husband's former wife—sounds like Ollendoff! Eh? So there you are, you see! But, jokin' apart—why do you marry him? Oh, well, marry him if you must! You can run around the corner and get a divorce afterwards—
CYNTHIA. I believe you think they throw one in with an ice-cream soda!
SIR WILFRID. [Rising.] Damme, my dear lady, a marriage in your country is no more than a—eh—eh—what do you call 'em? A thank you, ma'am. That's what an American marriage is—a thank you, ma'am. Bump—bump—you're over it and on to the next.
CYNTHIA. You're an odd fish! What? I believe I like you!
SIR WILFRID. 'Course you do! You'll see me when I call to-morrow—at ten? We'll run down to Belmont Park, eh?
CYNTHIA. Don't be absurd!
VIDA. [Has finished her talk with JOHN, and breaks in on SIR WILFRID, who has hung about CYNTHIA too long to suit her.] To-morrow at twelve, Sir Wilfrid!
SIR WILFRID. Twelve!
VIDA. [Shaking hands with JOHN.] Don't forget, Mr. Karslake—eleven o'clock to-morrow.
JOHN. [Bowing assent.] I won't!
VIDA. [Coming over to CYNTHIA.] Oh, Mrs. Karslake, I've ordered Tiffany to send you something. It's a sugar-bowl to sweeten the matrimonial lot! I suppose nothing would induce you to call?
CYNTHIA. [Distantly and careless of offending.] Thanks, no—that is, is "Cynthia K" really to be there at eleven? I'd give a gold mine to see her again.
VIDA. Do come!
CYNTHIA. If Mr. Karslake will accommodate me by his absence.
VIDA. Dear Mr. Karslake, you'll have to change your hour.
JOHN. Sorry, I'm not able to.
CYNTHIA. I can't come later for I'm to be married.
JOHN. It's not as bad as that with me, but I am to be sold up—Sheriff, you know. Can't come later than eleven.
VIDA. [To CYNTHIA.] Any hour but eleven, dear.
CYNTHIA. [Perfectly regardless of VIDA, and ready to vex JOHN if possible.] Mrs. Phillimore, I shall call on you at eleven—to see Cynthia K. I thank you for the invitation. Good-afternoon.
VIDA. [Aside to JOHN, crossing to speak quietly to him.] It's mere bravado; she won't come.
JOHN. You don't know her.
There is a pause and general embarrassment. SIR WILFRID uses his eye-glass. JOHN angry. CYNTHIA triumphant. MATTHEW embarrassed. VIDA irritated. PHILIP puzzled. Everybody is at odds.
SIR WILFRID. [For the first time a witness to the pretty complications of divorce. To MATTHEW.] Do you have it as warm as this ordinarily?
MATTHEW. [For whom these moments are more than usually painful, and wiping his brow.] It's not so much the heat as the humidity.
JOHN. [Looks at watch and, relieved, glad to be off.] I shall be late for my creditors' dinner.
SIR WILFRID. [Interested and walking toward JOHN.] Creditors' dinner.
JOHN. [Reading the note.] Fifteen of my sporting creditors have arranged to give me a blow-out at Sherry's, and I'm expected right away or sooner. And, by the way, I was to bring my friends—if I had any. So now's the time to stand by me! Mrs. Phillimore?
VIDA. Of course!
JOHN. [Ready to embarrass CYNTHIA, if possible, and speaking as if he had quite forgotten their former relations.] Mrs. Karslake—I beg your pardon. Judge? [PHILIP declines.] No? Sir Wilfrid?
SIR WILFRID. I'm with you!
JOHN. [To MATTHEW.] Your Grace?
MATTHEW. I regret—
SIR WILFRID. Is it the custom for creditors—
JOHN. Come on, Sir Wilfrid! [THOMAS opens door.] Good-night, Judge—Your Grace—
SIR WILFRID. Is it the custom—
JOHN. Hang the custom! Come on—I'll show you a gang of creditors worth having!
SIR WILFRID and JOHN go out, arm in arm, preceded by VIDA. MATTHEW crosses the room, smiling, as if pleased, in a Christian way, with this display of generous gaiety. He stops short suddenly and looks at his watch.
MATTHEW. Good gracious! I had no idea the hour was so late. I've been asked to a meeting with Maryland and Iowa, to talk over the divorce situation. [He leaves the room quickly and his voice is heard in the hall.] Good-afternoon! Good-afternoon!
CYNTHIA is evidently much excited. The outer door slams. PHILIP comes down slowly. CYNTHIA stands, her eyes wide, her breathing visible, until PHILIP speaks, when she seems suddenly to realize her position. There is a long pause.
PHILIP. [With a superior air.] I have seldom witnessed a more amazing cataclysm of jocundity! Of course, my dear, this has all been most disagreeable for you.
CYNTHIA. [Excitedly.] Yes, yes, yes!
PHILIP. I saw how much it shocked your delicacy.
CYNTHIA. [Distressed and moved.] Outrageous.
[PHILIP sits down.
PHILIP. Do be seated, Cynthia. [Taking up the paper. Quietly.] Very odd sort of an Englishman—that Cates-Darby!
CYNTHIA. Sir Wilfrid?—Oh, yes! [PHILIP settles down to the paper. To herself.] Outrageous! I've a great mind to go at eleven—just as I said I would!
PHILIP. Do sit down, Cynthia!
CYNTHIA. What? What?
PHILIP. You make me so nervous—
CYNTHIA. Sorry—sorry. [She sits down and, seeing the paper, takes it, looking at the picture of JOHN KARSLAKE.
PHILIP. [Sighing with content.] Ah! now that I see him, I don't wonder you couldn't stand him. There's a kind of—ah—spontaneous inebriety about him. He is incomprehensible! If I might with reverence cross-question the Creator, I would say to him: "Sir, to what end or purpose did you create Mr. John Karslake?" I believe I should obtain no adequate answer! However, [Sighs.] at last we have peace—and The Post! [PHILIP, settling himself, reads his paper; CYNTHIA, glancing at her paper, occasionally looks across at PHILIP.] Forget the dust of the arena—the prolixity of counsel—the involuntary fatuity of things in general. [After a pause, he goes on with his reading.] Compose yourself!
MISS HENEAGE, MRS. PHILLIMORE and GRACE come in. CYNTHIA sighs without letting her sigh be heard. She tries to compose herself. She glances at the paper and then, hearing MISS HENEAGE, starts slightly. MISS HENEAGE and MRS. PHILLIMORE stop at the table.
MISS HENEAGE. [Carrying a sheet of paper.] There, my dear Mary, is the announcement as I have now reworded it. I took William's suggestion. [MRS. PHILLIMORE takes and casually reads it.] I also put the case to him, and he was of the opinion that the announcement should be sent only to those people who are really in society. [She sits near the table. CYNTHIA braces herself to bear the PHILLIMORE conversation.
GRACE. I wish you'd make an exception of the Dudleys.
[CYNTHIA rises and moves to the chair by the table.
MISS HENEAGE. And, of course, that excludes the Oppenheims—the Vance-Browns.
MRS. PHILLIMORE. It's just as well to be exclusive.
GRACE. I do wish you'd make an exception of Lena Dudley.
MISS HENEAGE. We might, of course, include those new Girardos, and possibly—possibly the Paddingtons.
GRACE. I do wish you would take in Lena Dudley.
[They are now sitting.
MRS. PHILLIMORE. The mother Dudley is as common as a charwoman, and not nearly as clean.
PHILIP. [Sighing, his own feelings, as usual, to the fore.] Ah! I certainly am fatigued!
CYNTHIA begins to slowly crush the newspaper she has been reading with both hands, as if the effort of self-repression were too much for her.
MISS HENEAGE. [Making the best of a gloomy future.] We shall have to ask the Dudleys sooner or later to dine, Mary—because of the elder girl's marriage to that dissolute French Marquis.
MRS. PHILLIMORE. [Plaintively.] I don't like common people any more than I like common cats, and of course in my time—
MISS HENEAGE. I think I shall include the Dudleys.
MRS. PHILLIMORE. You think you'll include the Dudleys?
MISS HENEAGE. Yes, I think I will include the Dudleys!
Here CYNTHIA'S control breaks down. Driven desperate by their chatter, she has slowly rolled her newspaper into a ball, and at this point tosses it violently to the floor and bursts into hysterical laughter.
MRS. PHILLIMORE. Why, my dear Cynthia—Compose yourself.
PHILIP. [Hastily.] What is the matter, Cynthia?
[They speak together.
MISS HENEAGE. Why, Mrs. Karslake, what is the matter?
GRACE. [Coming quickly forward.] Mrs. Karslake!
SCENE. MRS. VIDA PHILLIMORE'S boudoir. The room is furnished to please an empty-headed, pleasure-loving and fashionable woman. The furniture, the ornaments, what pictures there are, all witness to taste up-to-date. Two French windows open on to a balcony, from which the trees of Central Park can be seen. There is a table between them; a mirror, a scent bottle, &c., upon it. On the right, up stage, is a door; on the right, down stage, another door. A lady's writing-table stands between the two, nearer centre of stage. There is another door up stage; below it, an open fireplace, filled with potted plants, andirons, &c., not in use. Over it is a tall mirror; on the mantel-piece are a French clock, candelabra, vases, &c. On a line with the fireplace is a lounge, gay with silk pillows. A florist's box, large and long, filled with American Beauty roses, rests on a low table near the head of the lounge. Small tables and light chairs where needed.
BENSON, alone in the room, is looking critically about her. She is a neat and pretty little English lady's maid in black silk and a thin apron. Still surveying the room, she moves here and there, and, her eyes lighting on the box of flowers, she goes to the door of VIDA'S room and speaks to her.
BENSON. Yes, ma'am, the flowers have come.
She holds open the door through which VIDA, in a morning gown, comes in slowly. She is smoking a cigarette in as aesthetic a manner as she can, and is evidently turned out in her best style for conquest.
VIDA. [Faces the balcony as she speaks, and is, as always, even and civil, but a bit disdainful toward her servant.] Terribly garish light, Benson. Pull down the— [BENSON, obeying, partly pulls down the shade.] Lower still—that will do. [As she speaks she goes about the room, giving the tables a push here and the chairs a jerk there, and generally arranging the vases and ornaments.] Men hate a clutter of chairs and tables. [Stopping and taking up a hand mirror from the table, she faces the windows.] I really think I'm too pale for this light.
BENSON. [Quickly, understanding what is implied.] Yes, ma'am. [BENSON goes out for the rouge, and VIDA seats herself at the table. There is a knock at the door.] Come! [BROOKS comes in.
BROOKS. [An ultra-English footman, in plush and calves.] Any horders, m'lady?
VIDA. [Incapable of remembering the last man, or of considering the new one.] Oh,—of course! You're the new—
BROOKS. Footman, m'lady.
VIDA. [As a matter of form.] Your name?
BROOKS. Brooks, m'lady. [BENSON returns with the rouge.
VIDA. [Carefully giving instructions while she keeps her eyes on the glass and is rouged by BENSON.] Brooks, I am at home to Mr. Karslake at eleven; not to any one else till twelve, when I expect Sir Wilfrid Cates-Darby.
[BROOKS, watching BENSON, is inattentive.
BROOKS. Yes, m'lady.
VIDA. [Calm, but wearied by the ignorance of the lower classes.] And I regret to inform you, Brooks, that in America there are no ladies, except salesladies!
BROOKS. [Without a trace of comprehension.] Yes, m'lady.
VIDA. I am at home to no one but the two names I have mentioned. [BROOKS bows and exits. She dabs on rouge while BENSON holds glass.] Is the men's club-room in order?
BENSON. Perfectly, ma'am.
VIDA. Whiskey and soda?
BENSON. Yes, ma'am, and the ticker's been mended. The British sporting papers arrived this morning.
VIDA. [Looking at her watch which lies on the dressing-table.] My watch has stopped.
BENSON. [Glancing at the French clock on the chimney-piece.] Five to eleven, ma'am.
VIDA. [Getting promptly to work.] H'm, h'm, I shall be caught. [Rising.] The box of roses, Benson! [BENSON brings the box of roses, uncovers the flowers and places them at VIDA'S side.] My gloves—the clippers, and the vase! [Each of these things BENSON places in turn within VIDA'S range where she sits on the sofa. She has the long box of roses at her side on a small table, a vase of water on the floor by her side. She cuts the stems and places the roses in the vase. When she feels that she has reached a picturesque position, in which any onlooker would see in her a creature filled with the love of flowers and of her fellow man, she says:] There! [The door opens and BROOKS comes in; VIDA nods to BENSON.
BROOKS. [Announcing stolidly.] Sir John Karslake.
JOHN, dressed in very nobby riding togs, comes in gaily and forcibly. BENSON withdraws as he enters, and is followed by BROOKS. VIDA, from this moment on, is busied with her roses.
VIDA. [Languorously, but with a faint suggestion of humour.] Is that really you, Sir John?
JOHN. [Lively and far from being impressed by VIDA.] I see now where we Americans are going to get our titles. Good-morning! You look as fresh as paint. [He lays his gloves and riding crop on the table, and takes a chair.
VIDA. [Facing the insinuation with gentle pain.] I hope you don't mean that? I never flattered myself for a moment you'd come. You're riding Cynthia K?
JOHN. Fiddler's going to lead her round here in ten minutes!
VIDA. Cigars and cigarettes! Scotch?
[Indicating a small table.
JOHN. Scotch! [Goes up quickly to table and helps himself to Scotch and seltzer.
VIDA. And now do tell me all about her! [Putting in her last roses; she keeps one rosebud in her hand, of a size suitable for a man's buttonhole.
JOHN. [As he drinks.] Oh, she's an adorable creature—delicate, high-bred, sweet-tempered—
VIDA. [Showing her claws for a moment.] Sweet-tempered? Oh, you're describing the horse! By "her," I meant—
JOHN. [Irritated by the remembrance of his wife.] Cynthia Karslake? I'd rather talk about the last Tornado.
[He drops moodily into a chair.
VIDA. [With artful soothing.] There is only one thing I want to talk about, and that is, you! Why were you unhappy?
JOHN. [Still cross.] Why does a dollar last such a short time?
VIDA. [Curious.] Why did you part?
JOHN. Did you ever see a schooner towed by a tug? Well, I parted from Cynthia for the same reason that the hawser parts from the tug—I couldn't stand the tug.
VIDA. [Sympathizing.] Ah!
JOHN. [After a pause, and still cross.] Awful cheerful morning chat.
VIDA. [Excusing her curiosity and coming back to love as the only subject for serious conversation.] I must hear the story, for I'm anxious to know why I've taken such a fancy to you!
JOHN. [Very nonchalantly.] Why do I like you?
VIDA. [Doing her best to charm.] I won't tell you—it would flatter you too much.
JOHN. [Not a bit impressed by VIDA, but humanly ready to flirt.] Tell me!
VIDA. There's a rose for you.
[Giving him the one she has in her hand.
JOHN. [Saying what is plainly expected of him.] I want more than a rose—
VIDA. [Passing over this insinuation.] You refuse to tell me—?
JOHN. [Once more reminded of CYNTHIA, speaks with sudden feeling.] There's nothing to tell. We met, we loved, we married, we parted; or at least we wrangled and jangled. [Sighs.] Ha! Why weren't we happy? Don't ask me, why! It may have been partly my fault!
VIDA. [With tenderness.] Never!
JOHN. [His mind on CYNTHIA.] But I believe it's all in the way a girl's brought up. Our girls are brought up to be ignorant of life—they're ignorant of life. Life is a joke, and marriage is a picnic, and a man is a shawl-strap—'Pon my soul, Cynthia Deane—no, I can't tell you! [In great irritation, he rises abruptly, and strides up and down the room.
VIDA. [Gently.] Please tell me!
JOHN. Well, she was an heiress, an American heiress—and she'd been taught to think marriage meant burnt almonds and moonshine and a yacht and three automobiles, and she thought—I don't know what she thought, but I tell you, Mrs. Phillimore, marriage is three parts love and seven parts forgiveness of sins. [He continues restlessly to pace the floor as he speaks of CYNTHIA.
VIDA. [Flattering him as a matter of second nature.] She never loved you.
JOHN. [On whom she has made no impression at all.] Yes, she did. For six or seven months there was not a shadow between us. It was perfect, and then one day she went off like a pistol-shot! I had a piece of law work and couldn't take her to see Flashlight race the Maryland mare. The case meant a big fee, big Kudos, and in sails Cynthia, Flashlight-mad! And will I put on my hat and take her? No—and bang she goes off like a stick o' dynamite—what did I marry her for?—and words—pretty high words, until she got mad, when she threw over a chair, and said, oh, well,—marriage was a failure, or it was with me, so I said she'd better try somebody else. She said she would, and marched out of the room.
VIDA. [Gently sarcastic.] But she came back!
JOHN. She came back, but not as you mean. She stood at the door and said, "Jack, I shall divorce you." Then she came over to my study-table, dropped her wedding ring on my law papers, and went out. The door shut, I laughed; the front door slammed, I damned. [After a silence, moving abruptly to the window.] She never came back. [He turns away and then, recovering, moves toward VIDA, who catches his hands.
VIDA. [Hoping for a contradiction.] She's broken your heart.
JOHN. [Taking a chair by the lounge.] Oh, no!
VIDA. [Encouraged, begins to play the game again.] You'll never love again!
JOHN. [Speaking to her from the foot of the sofa.] Try me! Try me! Ah, no, Mrs. Phillimore, I shall laugh, live, love and make money again! And let me tell you one thing—I'm going to rap her one over the knuckles. She had a stick of a Connecticut lawyer, and he—well, to cut a legal story short, since Mrs. Karslake's been in Europe, I have been quietly testing the validity of the decree of divorce. Perhaps you don't understand?
VIDA. [Displaying her innate shrewdness.] Oh, about a divorce, everything!
JOHN. I shall hear by this evening whether the divorce will stand or not.
VIDA. But it's to-day at three she marries—you won't let her commit bigamy?
JOHN. [Shaking his head.] I don't suppose I'd go as far as that. It may be the divorce will hold, but anyway I hope never to see her again.
[He sits down beside her so that their faces are now directly opposite. Taking advantage of the close range, her eyes, without loss of time, open a direct fire.
VIDA. Ah, my poor boy, she has broken your heart. [Believing that this is her psychological moment, she lays her hand on his arm, but draws it back as soon as he attempts to take it.] Now don't make love to me.
JOHN. [Bold and amused, but never taken in.] Why not?
VIDA. [With immense gentleness.] Because I like you too much! [More gaily.] I might give in, and take a notion to like you still more!
JOHN. Please do!
VIDA. [With gush, and determined to be womanly at all hazards.] Jack, I believe you'd be a lovely lover!
JOHN. [Immensely diverted.] Try me!
VIDA. [Not hoping much from his tone.] You charming, tempting, delightful fellow, I could love you without the least effort in the world,—but, no!
JOHN. [Playing the game.] Ah, well, now seriously! Between two people who have suffered and made their own mistakes—
VIDA. [Playing the game too, but not playing it well.] But you see, you don't really love me!
JOHN. [Still ready to say what is expected.] Cynthia—Vida, no man can sit beside you and look into your eyes without feeling—
VIDA. [Speaking the truth as she sees it, seeing that her methods don't succeed.] Oh! That's not love! That's simply—well, my dear Jack, it's beginning at the wrong end. And the truth is you hate Cynthia Karslake with such a whole-hearted hate, that you haven't a moment to think of any other woman.
JOHN. [With sudden anger.] I hate her!
VIDA. [Very softly and most sweetly.] Jack—Jack, I could be as foolish about you as—oh, as foolish as anything, my dear! And perhaps some day—perhaps some day you'll come to me and say, Vida, I am totally indifferent to Cynthia—and then—
JOHN. And then?
VIDA. [The ideal woman in mind.] Then, perhaps, you and I may join hands and stroll together into the Garden of Eden. It takes two to find the Garden of Eden, you know—and once we're on the inside, we'll lock the gate.
JOHN. [Gaily, and seeing straight through her veneer.] And lose the key under a rose-bush!
VIDA. [Agreeing very softly.] Under a rose-bush! [There is a very soft knock at which JOHN starts up quickly.] Come! [BROOKS comes in, with BENSON close at his heels.
BROOKS. [Stolid, announces.] My lady—Sir Wilf— [BENSON stops him with a sharp movement and turns toward VIDA.
BENSON. [With intention.] Your dressmaker, ma'am. [BENSON waves BROOKS to go and BROOKS very haughtily complies.
VIDA. [Wonderingly.] My dressmaker, Benson? [With quick intelligence.] Oh, of course, show her up. Mr. Karslake, you won't mind for a few minutes using my men's club-room? Benson will show you! You'll find cigars and the ticker, sporting papers, whiskey; and, if you want anything special, just 'phone down to my "chef."