THE ATLANTIC BOOK
OF MODERN PLAYS
Edited with Introduction, Comment and Annotated Bibliography
by Sterling Andrus Leonard
Department of English The University of Wisconsin and The Wisconsin High School
The Atlantic Monthly Press Boston
The rights of production of these plays are in every case reserved by the authors or their representatives. No play can be given publicly without an individual arrangement. The law does not, of course, prevent their reading in classrooms or their production before an audience of a school or invited guests where no fee is charged; but it is, naturally, more courteous to ask permission.
The Atlantic Monthly Press
First impression, December, 1921 Second impression, April, 1922 Third impression, October, 1922
Printed in the United States of America
INTRODUCTION: ON THE READING OF PLAYS
THE PHILOSOPHER OF BUTTERBIGGENS Harold Chapin
SPREADING THE NEWS Lady Gregory
THE BEGGAR AND THE KING Winthrop Parkhurst
TIDES George Middleton
ILE Eugene O'Neill
CAMPBELL OF KILMHOR J.A. Ferguson
THE SUN John Galsworthy
THE KNAVE OF HEARTS Louise Saunders
FAME AND THE POET Lord Dunsany
THE CAPTAIN OF THE GATE Beulah Marie Dix
GETTYSBURG Percy Mackaye
LONESOME-LIKE Harold Brighouse
RIDERS TO THE SEA John Millington Synge
THE LAND OF HEART'S DESIRE William Butler Yeats
RIDING TO LITHEND Gordon Bottomley
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION IN READING THE PLAYS
NOTES ON THE DRAMAS AND THE DRAMATISTS
ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY OF PLAYS AND RELATED BOOKS
We are at present in the midst of a bewildering quantity of play-publication and production. The one-act play in particular, chiefly represented in this volume, appears to be taking the place of that rather squeezed sponge, the short story, in the favor of the reading public. Of course, this tendency has its reaction in schoolrooms. One even hears of high-school classes which attempt to keep up with the entire output of such dramas in English readings. If this is not merely an apologue, it is certainly a horrible example. The bulk of current drama, as of published matter generally, is not worthy the time of the English class. Only what is measurably of rank, in truth and fineness, with the literature which has endured from past times can be defended for use there. And we have too much that is both well fitted to young people's keen interest and enjoyment, and beautifully worthy as well, for time to be wasted upon the third- and fourth-rate.
Obviously, much of the best in modern play-writing has not been included in this volume. Because of copyright complications the works of Mr. Masefield, Mr. Shaw, Mr. Drinkwater, and Sir James Barrie are not here represented. The plays by these writers that seem best fitted to use by teachers and pupils in high schools, together with a large number of other dramas for this purpose, are listed and annotated at the back of the book. Suggestions as to desirable inclusions and omissions will be welcomed by the editor and the publishers.
Following in their own way the lead of the Theatre Libre in Paris and the Freie Buehne in Germany, and of the Independent and the Repertory theatres in Great Britain, numerous "little theatres" and drama associations in this country are giving impulsion and direction to the movement for finer drama and more excellent presentation. The Harvard dramatic societies, the Morningside Players at Columbia, Mr. Alex Drummond's Community Theatre at the State Fair in Ithaca, the Little Country Theatre at Fargo, South Dakota, and similar groups at the University of California and elsewhere, illustrate the leadership of the colleges. In many high schools, as at South Bend, Indiana, more or less complete Little Theatres are active. The Chicago Little Theatre, the Wisconsin Dramatic Society, the Provincetown Players, the Neighborhood Playhouse, in New York, and others of that ilk, are well known and influential. They are extending the tradition of the best European theatres in their attempts to cultivate excellent and individual expression in drama. They realize that plays must be tested by actual performance,—though not necessarily by the unnatural demands of success in competition with Broadway revues and farce-melodramas,—and thus developed toward a genuine artistic embodiment of the vast and varied life, the manifold and deep idealism of this country.
For their courteous and generous cooperation the editor is greatly indebted to the authors and publishers of all the plays included. He is equally grateful to other dramatists who were personally as cordial in intention but quite impotent to grant copyright privileges. In addition, he has received most friendly and cordial criticism from friends and friendly strangers to whom he appealed—among others, from Mr. Harold Brighouse; Mr. Theodore Hinckley, editor of "Drama"; Mr. Clarence Stratton, now Director of English at Cleveland, and author of a forthcoming book on the Little Theatre in this country; Mr. Allan Monkhouse, author of "Mary Broome" and "War Plays"; Professor Allan Abbot, of Teachers College, Columbia University; Mr. Frank G. Thompkins, of Central High School, Detroit; Mrs. Mary Austin; Professor Earl B. Pence, of De Pauw University; Professor Brander Matthews; and Mrs. Alice Chapin. Indebtedness to many lists is obvious, particularly to that of the Drama League and the National Council of Teachers of English, and that of Professor Pence in the "Illinois Bulletin."
"Ile" is reprinted by special arrangement with the author and with Boni and Liveright, publishers, New York. "Ile" is reprinted from the volume "The Moon of The Caribbees" and six other plays of the sea, which volume is one of the series of plays by Mr. O'Neill, the series including "Beyond the Horizon," a drama in four acts, "The Straw," a play in three acts and five scenes, "Gold," a play in four acts and "Chris" a play in four acts.
INTRODUCTION: ON THE READING OF PLAYS
The elder Dumas, who wrote many successful plays, as well as the famous romances, said that all he needed for constructing a drama was "four boards, two actors, and a passion." What he meant by passion has been defined by a later French writer, Ferdinand Brunetiere, as a conflict of wills. The Philosopher of Butterbiggens, whom you will meet early in this book, points out that "what you are all the time wanting" is "your own way." When two strong desires conflict and we wonder which is coming out ahead, we say that the situation is dramatic. This clash is clearly defined in any effective play, from the crude melodrama in which the forces are hero and villain with pistols, to such subtle conflicts, based on a man's misunderstanding of even his own motives and purposes, as in Mr. Middleton's "Tides."
In comedy, and even in farce, struggle is clearly present. Here our sympathy is with people who engage in a not impossible combat—against rather obvious villains who can be unmasked, or against such public opinion or popular conventions as can be overset. The hold of an absurd bit of gossip upon stupid people is firm enough in "Spreading the News"; but fortunately it must yield to facts at last. The Queen and the Knave of Hearts are sufficiently clever, with the aid of the superb cookery of the Knave's wife, to do away with an ancient and solemnly reverenced law of Pompdebile's court. So, too, the force of ancient loyalty and enthusiasm almost works a miracle in the invalid veteran of "Gettysburg." And we feel sure that the uncanny powers of the Beggar will be no less successful in overturning the power of the King in Mr. Parkhurst's play.
Again, in comedies as in mathematics, the problem is often solved by substitution. The soldier in Mr. Galsworthy's "The Sun" is able to find a satisfactory and apparently happy ending without achieving what he originally set out to gain. And the same is true of Jock in Mr. Brighouse's "Lonesome-Like." Or the play which does not end as the chief character wishes may still prove not too serious because, as in "Fame and the Poet," the situation is merely inconvenient and absurd rather than tragic. Now and then it is next to impossible to tell whether the ending is tragic or not; in the "Land of Heart's Desire" we must first decide whether our sympathies are more with Shawn Bruin and with Maire's love for him, or with her keen desire to go
To where the woods, the stars, and the white streams Are holding a continual festival.
It is natural for us to desire a happy ending in stories, as we desire satisfying solutions of the problems in our own lives. And whenever the forces at work are such as make it true and possible, naturally this is the best ending for a story or a play. But where powerful and terrible influences have to be combated, only a poor dramatist will make use of mere chance, or compel his characters to do what such people really would not do, to bring about a factitious "happy ending." With the relentless, mighty arms of England engaged in hunting the defeated Highlanders after the Battle of Culloden, a play like "Campbell of Kilmhor," in which we sympathize with the ill-fated Stewarts, cannot end happily. If they had yielded under pressure and betrayed their comrades, we might have pitied them, but we could not admire their action, and there would have been no strong conclusion. In "Riders to the Sea," where the characters are compelled by bitter poverty to face the relentless forces of storm and sea, and in "The Biding to Lithend," we expect a tragic end almost from the first lines of the play. We recognize this same dramatic tensity of hopeless conflict in many stories as well as plays; it is most powerful in three or four novels by George Eliot, George Meredith, and Thomas Hardy.
One of the best ways to understand these as real stage plays is through some sort of dramatization. This does not mean, however, that they need be produced with elaborate scenery and costumes, memorizing, and rehearsal; often the best understanding may be secured by quite informal reading in the class, with perhaps a hat and cloak and a lath sword or two for properties. With simply a clear space in the classroom for a stage, you and your imaginations can give all the performance necessary for realizing these plays very well indeed. But, of course, you must clearly understand the lines and the play as a whole before you try to take a part, so that you can read simply and naturally, as you think the people in the story probably spoke. Some questions for discussion in the appendix may help you in talking the plays over in class or in reading them for yourself before you try to take a part. You will find it sometimes helps, also, to make a diagram or a colored sketch of the scene as the author describes it, or even a small model of the stage for a "dramatic museum" for your school. If you have not tried this, you do not know how much it helps in seeing plays of other times, like Shakespeare's or Moliere's; and it is useful also for modern dramas. Such small stages can be used for puppet theatres as well. "The Knave of Hearts" is intended as a marionette play, and other dramas—Maeterlinck's and even Shakespeare's—have been given in this way with very interesting effects.
If you bring these plays to a performance for others outside your own class, you will find that the simplest and least pretentious settings are generally most effective. The Irish players, as Mr. Yeats tells us, "have made scenery, indeed, but scenery that is little more than a suggestion—a pattern with recurring boughs and leaves of gold for a wood, a great green curtain, with a red stencil upon it to carry the eye upward, for a palace." Mr. John Merrill of the Francis Parker School describes the quite excellent results secured with a dark curtain in a semicircle—a cyclorama—for background, and with colored lights. Such a staging leaves the attention free to follow the lines, and the imagination to picture whatever the play suggests as the place of the action.
[Footnote 1: John Merrill: "Drama and the School," in Drama, November, 1919.]
THE PHILOSOPHER OF BUTTERBIGGENS
[Footnote 1: Included by special permission of Mrs. Alice Chapin. Permission to present this play must be secured from Samuel French, 28 West 38th Street, New York City, who controls all acting rights, etc., in this country.]
DAVID PIRNIE LIZZIE, his daughter JOHN BELL, his son-in-law ALEXANDER, John's little son
SCENE: JOHN BELL'S tenement at Butterbiggens. It consists of the very usual "two rooms, kitchen, and bath," a concealed bed in the parlor and another in the kitchen enabling him to house his family—consisting of himself, his wife, his little son, and his aged father-in-law—therein. The kitchen-and-living-room is a good-sized square room. The right wall (our right as we look at it) is occupied by a huge built-in dresser, sink, and coal bunker, the left wall by a high-manteled, ovened, and boilered fireplace, the recess on either side of which contains a low painted cupboard. Over the far cupboard hangs a picture of a ship, but over the near one is a small square window. The far wall has two large doors in it, that on the right leading to the lobby, and that on the left appertaining to the old father-in-law's concealed bed. The walls are distempered a brickish red. The ceiling once was white. The floor is covered with bright linoleum and a couple of rag rugs—one before the fire—a large one—and a smaller one before the door of the concealed bed.
A deal table is just to right of centre. A long flexible gas-bracket depends from the ceiling above it. Another many-jointed gas-bracket projects from the middle of the high mantelpiece, its flame turned down towards the stove. There are wooden chairs at the table, above, below, and to left of it. A high-backed easy chair is above the fire, a kitchen elbow-chair below it.
The kitchen is very tidy. A newspaper newly fallen to the rug before the fire and another—an evening one—spread flat on the table are (besides a child's mug and plate, also on the table) the only things not stowed in their prescribed places. It is evening—the light beyond the little square window being the gray dimness of a long Northern twilight which slowly deepens during the play. When the curtain rises it is still light enough in the room for a man to read if the print be not too faint and his eyes be good. The warm light of the fire leaps and flickers through the gray, showing up with exceptional clearness the deep-lined face of old DAVID PIRNIE, who is discovered half-risen from his armchair above the fire, standing on the hearth-rug, his body bent and his hand on the chair arm. He is a little, feeble old man with a well-shaped head and weather-beaten face, set off by a grizzled beard and whiskers, wiry and vigorous, in curious contrast to the wreath of snowy hair that encircles his head. His upper lip is shaven. He wears an old suit—the unbuttoned waistcoat of which shows an old flannel shirt. His slippers are low at the heel and his socks loose at the ankles.
The old man's eyes are fixed appealingly on those of his daughter, who stands in the half-open door, her grasp on the handle, meeting his look squarely—a straight-browed, black-haired, determined young woman of six or seven and twenty. Her husband, JOHN, seated at the table in his shirt-sleeves with his head in his hands, reads hard at the paper and tries to look unconcerned.
DAVID. Aw—but, Lizzie—
LIZZIE (with splendid firmness). It's nae use, feyther. I'm no' gaein' to gie in to the wean. Ye've been tellin' yer stories to him nicht after nicht for dear knows how long, and he's gettin' to expect them.
DAVID. Why should he no' expect them?
LIZZIE. It disna do for weans to count on things so. He's layin' up a sad disappointment for himself yin o' these days.
DAVID. He's gettin' a sad disappointment the noo. Och, come on, Lizzie. I'm no' gaein' to dee just yet, an' ye can break him off gradually when I begin to look like to.
LIZZIE. Who's talkin' o' yer deein', feyther?
DAVID. Ye were speakin' o' the disappointment he was layin' up for himself if he got to count on me—
LIZZIE. I wasna thinkin' o' yer deein', feyther—only—it's no guid for a bairn—
DAVID. Where's the harm in my giein' him a bit story before he gangs tae his bed?
LIZZIE. I'm no sayin' there's ony harm in it this yinst, feyther; but it's no richt to gae on nicht after nicht wi' never a break—
DAVID. Whit wey is it no richt if there's nae harm in it?
LIZZIE. It's giein' in to the wean.
DAVID. Whit wey should ye no' gie in to him if there's nae harm in it?
LIZZIE (keeping her patience with difficulty). Because it gets him into the habit.
DAVID. But why should he no' get into the habit if there's nae harm in it?
(John at the table chuckles. Lizzie gives him a look, but he meets it not.)
LIZZIE. Really, feyther, ye micht be a wean yerself, ye're that persistent.
DAVID. No, Lizzie, I'm no' persistent, I'm reasoning wi' ye. Ye said there was nae harm in my tellin' him a bit story, an' now ye say I'm not to because it'll get him into the habit; an' what I'm askin' ye is, where's the harm o' his gettin' into the habit if there's nae harm in it?
LIZZIE. Oh, aye; ye can be gey clever, twistin' the words in my mouth, feyther; but richt is richt, an' wrang's wrang, for all yer cleverness.
DAVID (earnestly). I'm no bein' clever ava, Lizzie,—no' the noo,—I'm just tryin' to make ye see that, if ye admit there's nae harm in a thing, ye canna say there's ony harm in it, an' (pathetically) I'm wantin' to tell wee Alexander a bit story before he gangs to his bed.
JOHN (aside to her). Och, wumman—
LIZZIE. T'ts, John; ye'd gie in tae onybody if they were just persistent enough.
JOHN. He's an auld man.
LIZZIE (really exasperated). I ken fine he's an auld man, John, and ye're a young yin, an' Alexander's gaein' to be anither, an' I'm a lone wumman among the lot o' ye, but I'm no' gaein' to gie in to—
JOHN (bringing a fresh mind to bear upon the argument). Efter a', Lizzie, there's nae harm—
LIZZIE (almost with a scream of anger). Och, now you've stairted, have you? Harm. Harm. Harm. You're talkin' about harm, and I'm talking about richt an' wrang. You'd see your son grow up a drunken keelie, an' mebbe a thief an' a murderer, so long as you could say there was nae harm in it.
DAVID (expostulating with some cause). But I cudna say there was nae harm in that, Lizzie, an' I wudna. Only when there's nae harm—
LIZZIE. Och. (Exits, calling off to the cause of the trouble.) Are ye in yer bed yet, Alexander?
(Shuts door with a click.)
DAVID (standing on hearth-rug and shaking his head more in sorrow than in anger). She's no reasonable, ye ken, John; she disna argue fair. I'm no complaining o' her mither, but it's a wee thing hard that the only twa women I've known to be really chatty an' argumentative with should ha' been just like that. An' me that fond o' women's society.
(He lowers himself into his chair.)
JOHN. They're all like it.
DAVID (judiciously). I wudna go sae far as to say that, John. Ye see, I've only kent they twa to study carefully—an' it's no fair to judge the whole sex by just the twa examples, an' it were—(Running on) But it's gey hard, an' I was wantin' to tell wee Alexander a special fine story the nicht. (Removes glasses and blinks his eyes.) Aweel.
JOHN (comforting). Mebbe the morn—
DAVID. If it's no richt the nicht, it'll no be richt the morn's nicht.
JOHN. Ye canna say that, feyther. It wasna wrang last nicht.
DAVID (bitterly). Mebbe it was, an' Lizzie had no' foun' it out.
JOHN. Aw, noo, feyther, dinna get saurcastic.
DAVID (between anger and tears, weakly). I canna help it. I'm black affrontit. I was wantin' to tell wee Alexander a special fine story the nicht, an' now here's Lizzie wi' her richt's richt an' wrang's wrang—Och, there's nae reason in the women.
JOHN. We has to gie in to them though.
DAVID. Aye. That's why.
(There is a pause. The old man picks up his paper again and settles his glasses on his nose. JOHN rises, and with a spill from the mantelpiece lights the gas there, which he then bends to throw the light to the old man's advantage.)
DAVID. Thank ye, John. Do ye hear him?
JOHN (erect on hearth-rug). Who?
DAVID. Wee Alexander.
DAVID. Greetin' his heart out.
JOHN. Och, he's no greetin'. Lizzie's wi' him.
DAVID. I ken fine Lizzie's wi' him, but he's greetin' for a' her. He was wantin' to hear yon story o' the kelpies up to Cross Hill wi' the tram—(Breaking his mood impatiently) Och.
JOHN (crossing to table and lighting up there). It's gettin' dark gey early. We'll shin be haein' tea by the gas.
DAVID (rustling his paper). Aye—(Suddenly) There never was a female philosopher, ye ken, John.
JOHN. Was there no'?
DAVID. No. (Angrily, in a gust) An'there never will be! (Then more calmly) An' yet there's an' awful lot o' philosophy about women, John.
DAVID. Och, aye. They're that unreasonable, an' yet ye canna reason them down; an' they're that weak, an' yet ye canna make them gie in tae ye. Of course, ye'll say ye canna reason doon a stane, or make a clod o' earth gie in tae ye.
JOHN. Will I?
DAVID. Aye. An' ye'll be richt. But then I'll tell ye a stane will na answer ye back, an' a clod of earth will na try to withstand ye, so how can ye argue them down?
JOHN (convinced). Ye canna.
DAVID. Richt! Ye canna! But a wumman will answer ye back, an' she will stand against ye, an' yet ye canna argue her down though ye have strength an' reason on your side an' she's talkin' naething but blether about richt's richt an' wrang's wrang, an' sendin' a poor bairn off t' his bed i' the yin room an' leavin' her auld feyther all alone by the fire in anither an'—ye ken—Philosophy—
(He ceases to speak and wipes his glasses again. JOHN, intensely troubled, tiptoes up to the door and opens it a foot. The wails of ALEXANDER can be heard muffled by a farther door. JOHN calls off.)
(Lizzie immediately comes into sight outside the door with a "Shsh.")
JOHN. Yer feyther's greetin'.
LIZZIE (with a touch of exasperation). Och, I'm no heedin'! There's another wean in there greetin' too, an' I'm no heedin' him neither, an' he's greetin' twicet as loud as the auld yin.
JOHN (shocked). Ye're heartless, wumman.
LIZZIE (with patience). No, I'm no' heartless, John; but there's too much heart in this family, an' someone's got to use their heid.
(DAVID cranes round the side of his chair to catch what they are saying. She stops and comes to him kindly but with womanly firmness.)
LIZZIE. I'm vexed ye should be disappointed, feyther, but ye see, don't ye—
(A singularly piercing wail from ALEXANDER goes up. LIZZIE rushes to silence him.)
LIZZIE. Mercy! The neighbors will think we're murderin' him.
(The door closes behind her.)
DAVID (nodding for a space as he revolves the woman's attitude). Ye hear that, John?
DAVID (with quiet irony). She's vexed I should be disappointed. The wumman thinks she's richt! Women always think they're richt—mebbe it's that that makes them that obstinate. (With the ghost of a twinkle) She's feart o' the neighbors, though.
JOHN (stolidly). A' women are feart o' the neighbors.
DAVID (reverting). Puir wee man. I telt ye he was greetin', John. He's disappointed fine. (Pondering) D' ye ken whit I'm thinkin', John?
DAVID. I'm thinkin' he's too young to get his ain way, an' I'm too auld, an' it's a fine thocht!
DAVID. Aye. I never thocht of it before, but that's what it is. He's no' come to it yet, an' I'm past it. (Suddenly) What's the most important thing in life, John?
(JOHN opens his mouth—and shuts it again unused.)
DAVID. Ye ken perfectly well. What is it ye're wantin' a' the time?
JOHN. Different things.
DAVID (satisfied). Aye—different things! But ye want them a', do ye no'?
DAVID. If ye had yer ain way ye'd hae them a', eh?
JOHN. I wud that.
DAVID (triumphant). Then is that no' what ye want: yer ain way?
JOHN (enlightened). Losh!
DAVID (warming to it). That's what life is, John—gettin' yer ain way. First ye're born, an' ye canna dae anything but cry; but God's given yer mither ears an' ye get yer way by just cryin' for it. (Hastily, anticipating criticism) I ken that's no exactly in keeping with what I've been saying aboot Alexander—but a new-born bairnie's an awfu' delicate thing, an' the Lord gets it past its infancy by a dispensation of Providence very unsettling to oor poor human understandings. Ye'll notice the weans cease gettin' their wey by juist greetin' for it as shin as they're old enough to seek it otherwise.
JOHN. The habit hangs on to them whiles.
DAVID. It does that. (With a twinkle) An' mebbe, if God's gi'en yer neighbors ears an' ye live close, ye'll get yer wey by a dispensation o' Providence a while longer. But there's things ye'll hae to do for yerself gin ye want to—an' ye will. Ye'll want to hold oot yer hand, an' ye will hold oot yer hand; an' ye 'll want to stand up and walk, and ye will stand up and walk; an' ye'll want to dae as ye please, and ye will dae as ye please; and then ye are practised an' lernt in the art of gettin' yer ain way—and ye're a man!
JOHN. Man, feyther—ye're wonderful!
DAVID (complacently). I'm a philosopher, John. But it goes on mebbe.
David. Aye: mebbe ye think ye'd like to make ither folk mind ye an' yer way, an' ye try, an' if it comes off ye're a big man an' mebbe the master o' a vessel wi' three men an' a boy under ye, as I was, John. (Dropping into the minor) An then ye come doon the hill.
JOHN (apprehensively). Doon the hill?
DAVID. Aye—doon to mebbe wantin' to tell a wean a bit story before he gangs tae his bed, an' ye canna dae even that. An' then a while more an' ye want to get to yer feet an' walk, and ye canna; an' a while more an' ye want to lift up yer hand, an' ye canna—an' in a while more ye're just forgotten an' done wi'.
JOHN. Aw, feyther!
DAVID. Dinna look sae troubled, John. I'm no' afraid to dee when my time comes. It's these hints that I'm done wi' before I'm dead that I dinna like.
JOHN. What'n hints?
DAVID. Well—Lizzie an' her richt's richt and wrang's wrang when I think o' tellin' wee Alexander a bit story before he gangs tae his bed.
JOHN (gently). Ye are a wee thing persistent, feyther.
DAVID. No, I'm no' persistent, John. I've gied in. I'm a philosopher, John, an' a philosopher kens when he's done wi'.
JOHN. Aw, feyther!
DAVID (getting lower and lower). It's gey interesting, philosophy, John, an' the only philosophy worth thinkin' about is the philosophy of growing old—because that's what we're a' doing, a' living things. There's nae philosophy in a stane, John; he's juist a stane, an' in a hundred years he'll be juist a stane still—unless he's broken up, an' then he'll be juist not a stane, but he'll no' ken what's happened to him, because he didna break up gradual and first lose his boat an' then his hoose, an' then hae his wee grandson taken away when he was for tellin' him a bit story before he gangs tae his bed.—It's yon losing yer grip bit by bit and kennin' that yer losin' it that makes a philosopher, John.
JOHN. If I kennt what ye meant by philosophy, feyther, I'd be better able to follow ye.
(LIZZIE enters quietly and closes door after her.)
JOHN. Is he asleep?
LIZZIE. No, he's no' asleep, but I've shut both doors, and the neighbors canna hear him.
JOHN. Aw, Lizzie—
LIZZIE (sharply). John—
DAVID. Whit was I tellin' ye, John, about weans gettin' their ain way if the neighbors had ears an' they lived close? Was I no' richt?
LIZZIE (answering for JOHN with some acerbity). Aye, ye were richt, feyther, nae doot; but we dinna live that close here, an' the neighbors canna hear him at the back o' the hoose.
DAVID. Mebbe that's why ye changed Alexander into the parlor an' gied me the bed in here when it began to get cold—-
LIZZIE (hurt). Aw, no, feyther; I brought ye in here to be warmer—
DAVID (placably). I believe ye, wumman—(with a faint twinkle)—but it's turned oot luckily, has it no'?
(DAVID waits for a reply but gets none. LIZZIE fetches needlework from the dresser drawer and sits above table. DAVID'S face and voice take on a more thoughtful tone.)
DAVID (musing). Puir wee man! If he was in here you'd no' be letting him greet his heart oot where onybody could hear him. Wud ye?
LIZZIE (calmly). Mebbe I'd no'.
JOHN. Ye ken fine ye'd no', wumman.
LIZZIE. John, thread my needle an' dinna take feyther's part against me.
JOHN (surprised). I'm no'.
LIZZIE. No, I ken ye're no meanin' to, but you men are that thrang—
(She is interrupted by a loud squall from DAVID, which he maintains, eyes shut, chair-arms gripped, and mouth open, for nearly half a minute, before he cuts it off abruptly and looks at the startled couple at the table.)
LIZZIE. Mercy, feyther, whit's wrang wi' ye?
DAVID (collectedly). There's naethin' wrang wi' me, Lizzie, except that I'm wantin' to tell wee Alexander a bit story—
LIZZIE (firmly but very kindly). But ye're no' goin' to—
(She breaks off in alarm as her father opens his mouth preparatory to another yell, which however he postpones to speak to JOHN.)
DAVID. Ye mind whit I was saying aboot the dispensation o' Providence to help weans till they could try for theirselves, John?
DAVID. Did it no' occur to ye then that there ought to be some sort of dispensation to look after the auld yins who were past it?
DAVID. Aweel—it didna occur to me at the time—(and he lets off another prolonged wail).
LIZZIE (going to him). Shsh! Feyther! The neighbors will hear ye!!!
DAVID (desisting as before). I ken fine; I'm no' at the back of the hoose. (Shorter wail.)
LIZZIE (almost in tears). They'll be coming to ask.
DAVID. Let them. They'll no'ask me. (Squall.)
LIZZIE. Feyther—ye're no'behaving well. John—
LIZZIE (helplessly). Naething—feyther, stop it. They'll think ye're clean daft.
DAVID (ceasing to howl and speaking with gravity). I ken it fine, Lizzie; an' it's no easy for a man who has been respeckit an' lookit up to a' his life to be thought daft at eighty-three; but the most important thing in life is to get yer ain way. (Resumes wailing.)
LIZZIE (puzzled, to JOHN). Whit's that?
JOHN. It's his philosophy that he was talking aboot.
DAVID (firmly). An' I'm gaein' to tell wee Alexander yon bit story, tho' they think me daft for it.
LIZZIE. But it's no' for his ain guid, feyther. I've telt ye so, but ye wudna listen.
DAVID. I wudna listen, wumman! It was you wudna listen to me when I axed ye whit harm—(Chuckles.—Checking himself) No! I'm no gaein' to hae that ower again. I've gied up arguing wi' women. I'm juist gaein' tae greet loud an' sair till wee Alexander's brought in here to hae his bit story; an' if the neighbors—(Loud squall.)
LIZZIE (aside to JOHN). He's fair daft!
JOHN (aghast). Ye'd no send him to—
LIZZIE (reproachfully). John!
(A louder squall from the old man.)
LIZZIE (beating her hands together distractedly). He'll be —We'll—He'll—Och!!! (Resigned and beaten) John, go and bring wee Alexander in here.
(JOHN is off like a shot. The opening of the door of the other room can be told by the burst of ALEXANDER'S voice. The old man's wails have stopped the second his daughter capitulated. JOHN returns with ALEXANDER and bears him to his grandfather's waiting knee. The boy's tears and howls have ceased and he is smiling triumphantly. He is of course in his night-shirt and a blanket, which Grandpa wraps round him, turning toward the fire.)
LIZZIE (looking on with many nods of the head and smacks of the lips). There you are! That's the kind o' boy he is. Greet his heart oot for a thing an' stop the moment he gets it.
DAVID. Dae ye expect him to gae on after he's got it? Ah, but, Alexander, ye didna get it yer lane this time; it took the twa o' us. An' hard work it was for the Auld Yin! Man! (Playing hoarse)
I doot I've enough voice left for a—(Bursting out very loud and making the boy laugh.) Aweel! Whit's it gaein' to be—eh?
SPREADING THE NEWS
[Footnote 1: Included by special permission of Lady Gregory and of Messrs. G.P. Putnam's Sons, the publishers of Seven Short Plays (1909), and other volumes of Lady Gregory's works. Application for acting rights must be made to Samuel French, 28 West 38th Street, New York City.]
BARTLEY FALLON MRS. FALLON JACK SMIT SHAWN EARLY TIM CASEY JAMES RYAN MRS. TARPEY MRS. TULLY JOE MULDOON, a policeman A REMOVABLE MAGISTRATE
SCENE: The outskirts of a Fair. An Apple Stall. MRS. TARPEY sitting at it. MAGISTRATE and POLICEMAN enter.
MAGISTRATE. So that is the Fair Green. Cattle and sheep and mud. No system. What a repulsive sight!
POLICEMAN. That is so, indeed.
MAGISTRATE. I suppose there is a good deal of disorder in this place?
POLICEMAN. There is.
MAGISTRATE. Common assault?
POLICEMAN. It's common enough.
MAGISTRATE. Agrarian crime, no doubt?
POLICEMAN. That is so.
MAGISTRATE. Boycotting? Maiming of cattle? Firing into houses?
POLICEMAN. There was one time, and there might be again.
MAGISTRATE. That is bad. Does it go any farther than that?
POLICEMAN. Far enough, indeed.
MAGISTRATE. Homicide, then! This district has been shamefully neglected! I will change all that. When I was in the Andaman Islands, my system never failed. Yes, yes, I will change all that. What has that woman on her stall?
POLICEMAN. Apples mostly—and sweets.
MAGISTRATE. Just see if there are any unlicensed goods underneath—spirits or the like. We had evasions of the salt tax in the Andaman Islands.
POLICEMAN (sniffing cautiously and upsetting a heap of apples). I see no spirits here—or salt.
MAGISTRATE (to MRS. TARPEY). Do you know this town well, my good woman?
MRS. TARPEY (holding out some apples). A penny the half-dozen, your honor.
POLICEMAN (shouting). The gentleman is asking do you know the town! He's the new magistrate!
MRS. TARPEY (rising and ducking). Do I know the town? I do, to be sure.
MAGISTRATE (shouting). What is its chief business?
MRS, TARPEY. Business, is it? What business would the people here have but to be minding one another's business?
MAGISTRATE. I mean what trade have they?
MRS. TARPEY. Not a trade. No trade at all but to be talking.
MAGISTRATE. I shall learn nothing here.
(JAMES RYAN comes in, pipe in mouth. Seeing MAGISTRATE, he retreats quickly, taking pipe from mouth.)
MAGISTRATE. The smoke from that man's pipe had a greenish look; he may be growing unlicensed tobacco at home. I wish I had brought my telescope to this district. Come to the post-office; I will telegraph for it. I found it very useful in the Andaman Islands.
(MAGISTRATE and POLICEMAN go out left.)
MRS. TARPEY. Bad luck to Jo Muldoon, knocking my apples this way and that way. (Begins arranging them.) Showing off he was to the new magistrate.
(Enter BARTLEY FALLON and MRS. FALLON.)
BARTLEY. Indeed it's a poor country and a scarce country to be living in. But I'm thinking if I went to America it's long ago the day I'd be dead!
MRS. FALLON. So you might, indeed.
(She puts her basket on a barrel and begins putting parcels in it, taking them from under her cloak.)
BARTLEY. And it's a great expense for a poor man to be buried in America.
MRS. FALLON. Never fear, Bartley Fallon, but I'll give you a good burying the day you'll die.
BARTLEY. Maybe it's yourself will be buried in the graveyard of Cloonmara before me, Mary Fallon, and I myself that will be dying unbeknownst some night, and no one a-near me. And the cat itself may be gone straying through the country, and the mice squealing over the quilt.
MRS. FALLON. Leave off talking of dying. It might be twenty years you'll be living yet.
BARTLEY (with a deep sigh). I'm thinking if I'll be living at the end of twenty years, it's a very old man I'll be then!
MRS. TARPEY (turns and sees them). Good-morrow, Bartley Fallon; good-morrow, Mrs. Fallon. Well, Bartley, you'll find no cause for complaining to-day; they are all saying it was a good fair.
BARTLEY (raising his voice). It was not a good fair, Mrs. Tarpey. It was a scattered sort of a fair. If we didn't expect more, we got less. That's the way with me always: whatever I have to sell goes down and whatever I have to buy goes up. If there's ever any misfortune coming to this world, it's on myself it pitches, like a flock of crows on seed potatoes.
MRS. FALLON. Leave off talking of misfortunes, and listen to Jack Smith that is coming the way, and he singing.
(Voice of JACK SMITH heard singing)
I thought, my first love, There'd be but one house between you and me. And I thought I would find Yourself coaxing my child on your knee. Over the tide I would leap with the leap of a swan. Till I came to the side Of the wife of the red-haired man!
(JACK SMITH comes in; he is a red-haired man, and is carrying a hayfork.)
MRS. TARPEY. That should be a good song if I had my hearing.
MRS. FALLON (shouting). It's "The Red-haired Man's Wife."
MRS. TARPEY. I know it well. That's the song that has a skin on it!
(She turns her back to them and goes on arranging her apples.)
MRS. FALLON. Where's herself, Jack Smith?
JACK SMITH. She was delayed with her washing; bleaching the clothes on the hedge she is, and she daren't leave them, with all the tinkers that do be passing to the fair. It isn't to the fair I came myself, but up to the Five-Acre Meadow I'm going, where I have a contract for the hay. We'll get a share of it into tramps to-day.
(He lays down hayfork and lights his pipe.)
BARTLEY. You will not get it into tramps to-day. The rain will be down on it by evening, and on myself too. It's seldom I ever started on a journey but the rain would come down on me before I'd find any place of shelter.
JACK SMITH. If it didn't itself, Bartley, it is my belief you would carry a leaky pail on your head in place of a hat, the way you'd not be without some cause of complaining.
(A voice heard: "Go on, now, go on out o' that. Go on, I say.")
JACK SMITH. Look at that young mare of Pat Ryan's that is backing into Shaughnessy's bullocks with the dint of the crowd! Don't be daunted, Pat, I'll give you a hand with her. (He goes out, leaving his hayfork.)
MRS. FALLON. It's time for ourselves to be going home. I have all I bought put in the basket. Look at there, Jack Smith's hayfork he left after him! He'll be wanting it. (Calls) Jack Smith! Jack Smith!—He's gone through the crowd; hurry after him, Bartley, he'll be wanting it.
BARTLEY. I'll do that. This is no safe place to be leaving it. (He takes up fork awkwardly and upsets the basket.) Look at that now! If there is any basket in the fair upset, it must be our own basket! (He goes out to right.)
MRS. FALLON. Get out of that! It is your own fault, it is. Talk of misfortunes and misfortunes will come. Glory be! Look at my new egg-cups rolling in every part—and my two pound of sugar with the paper broke—
MRS. TARPEY (turning from stall). God help us, Mrs. Fallon, what happened your basket?
MRS. FALLON. It's himself that knocked it down, bad manners to him. (Putting things up) My grand sugar that's destroyed, and he'll not drink his tea without it. I had best go back to the shop for more, much good may it do him!
(Enter TIM CASEY.)
TIM CASEY. Where is Bartley Fallon, Mrs. Fallon? I want a word with him before he'll leave the fair. I was afraid he might have gone home by this, for he's a temperate man.
MRS. FALLON. I wish he did go home! It'd be best for me if he went home straight from the fair green, or if he never came with me at all! Where is he, is it? He's gone up the road (jerks elbow) following Jack Smith with a hayfork.
(She goes out to left.)
TIM CASEY. Following Jack Smith with a hayfork! Did ever anyone hear the like of that. (Shouts) Did you hear that news, Mrs. Tarpey?
MRS. TARPEY. I heard no news at all.
TIM CASEY. Some dispute I suppose it was that rose between Jack Smith and Bartley Fallon, and it seems Jack made off, and Bartley is following him with a hayfork!
MRS. TARPEY. Is he now? Well, that was quick work! It's not ten minutes since the two of them were here, Bartley going home and Jack going to the Five-Acre Meadow; and I had my apples to settle up, that Jo Muldoon of the police had scattered, and when I looked round again Jack Smith was gone, and Bartley Fallon was gone, and Mrs. Fallon's basket upset, and all in it strewed upon the ground—the tea here—the two pound of sugar there—the egg-cups there. Look, now, what a great hardship the deafness puts upon me, that I didn't hear the commincement of the fight! Wait till I tell James Ryan that I see below; he is a neighbor of Bartley's; it would be a pity if he wouldn't hear the news!
(She goes out. Enter SHAWN EARLY and MRS. TULLY.)
TIM CASEY. Listen, Shawn Early! Listen, Mrs. Tully, to the news! Jack Smith and Bartley Fallon had a falling out, and Jack knocked Mrs. Fallon's basket into the road, and Bartley made an attack on him with a hayfork, and away with Jack, and Bartley after him. Look at the sugar here yet on the road!
SHAWN EARLY. Do you tell me so? Well, that's a queer thing, and Bartley Fallen so quiet a man!
MRS. TULLY. I wouldn't wonder at all. I would never think well of a man that would have that sort of a moldering look. It's likely he has overtaken Jack by this.
(Enter JAMES RYAN and MRS. TARPEY.)
JAMES RYAN. That is great news Mrs. Tarpey was telling me! I suppose that's what brought the police and the magistrate up this way. I was wondering to see them in it a while ago.
SHAWN EARLY. The police after them? Bartley Fallen must have injured Jack so. They wouldn't meddle in a fight that was only for show!
MRS. TULLY. Why wouldn't he injure him? There was many a man killed with no more of a weapon than a hayfork.
JAMES RYAN. Wait till I run north as far as Kelly's bar to spread the news!
(He goes out.)
TIM CASEY. I'll go tell Jack Smith's first cousin that is standing there south of the church after selling his lambs.
MRS. TULLY. I'll go telling a few of the neighbors I see beyond to the west.
SHAWN EARLY. I'll give word of it beyond at the east of the green.
(Is going out when MRS. TARPEY seizes hold of him.)
MRS. TARPEY. Stop a minute, Shawn Early, and tell me did you see red Jack Smith's wife, Kitty Keary, in any place?
SHAWN EARLY. I did. At her own house she was, drying clothes on the hedge as I passed.
MRS. TARPEY. What did you say she was doing?
SHAWN EARLY (breaking away). Laying out a sheet on the hedge.
MRS. TARPEY. Laying out a sheet for the dead! The Lord have mercy on us! Jack Smith dead, and his wife laying out a sheet for his burying! (Calls out) Why didn't you tell me that before, Shawn Early? Isn't the deafness the great hardship? Half the world might be dead without me knowing of it or getting word of it at all! (She sits down and rocks herself.) O my poor Jack Smith! To be going to his work so nice and so hearty, and to be left stretched on the ground in the full light of the day!
(Enter TIM CASEY.)
TIM CASEY. What is it, Mrs. Tarpey? What happened since?
MRS. TARPEY. O my poor Jack Smith!
TIM CASEY. Did Bartley overtake him?
MRS. TARPEY. O the poor man!
TIM CASEY. Is it killed he is?
MRS. TARPEY. Stretched in the Five-Acre Meadow!
TIM CASEY. The Lord have mercy on us! Is that a fact?
MRS. TARPEY. Without the rites of the Church or a ha'porth!
TIM CASEY. Who was telling you?
MRS. TARPEY. And the wife laying out a sheet for his corpse. (Sits up and wipes her eyes.) I suppose they'll wake him the same as another?
(Enter MRS. TULLY, SHAWN EARLY, and JAMES RYAN.)
MRS. TULLY. There is great talk about this work in every quarter of the fair.
MRS. TARPEY. Ochone! cold and dead. And myself maybe the last he was speaking to!
JAMES RYAN. The Lord save us! Is it dead he is?
TIM CASEY. Dead surely, and the wife getting provision for the wake.
SHAWN EARLY. Well, now, hadn't Bartley Fallon great venom in him?
MRS. TULLY. You may be sure he had some cause. Why would he have made an end of him if he had not? (To MRS. TARPEY, raising her voice) What was it rose the dispute at all, Mrs. Tarpey?
MRS. TARPEY. Not a one of me knows. The last I saw of them, Jack Smith was standing there, and Bartley Fallon was standing there, quiet and easy, and he listening to "The Red-haired Man's Wife."
MRS. TULLY. Do you hear that, Tim Casey? Do you hear that, Shawn Early and James Ryan? Bartley Fallon was here this morning listening to red Jack Smith's wife, Kitty Keary that was! Listening to her and whispering with her! It was she started the fight so!
SHAWN EARLY. She must have followed him from her own house. It is likely some person roused him.
TIM CASEY. I never knew, before, Bartley Fallon was great with Jack Smith's wife.
MRS. TULLY. How would you know it? Sure it's not in the streets they would be calling it. If Mrs. Fallon didn't know of it, and if I that have the next house to them didn't know of it, and if Jack Smith himself didn't know of it, it is not likely you would know of it, Tim Casey.
SHAWN EARLY. Let Bartley Fallon take charge of her from this out so, and let him provide for her. It is little pity she will get from any person in this parish.
TIM CASEY. How can he take charge of her? Sure he has a wife of his own. Sure you don't think he'd turn souper and marry her in a Protestant church?
JAMES RYAN. It would be easy for him to marry her if he brought her to America.
SHAWN EARLY. With or without Kitty Keary, believe me, it is for America he's making at this minute. I saw the new magistrate and Jo Muldoon of the police going into the post-office as I came up—there was hurry on them—you may be sure it was to telegraph they went, the way he'll be stopped in the docks at Queenstown!
MRS. TULLY. It's likely Kitty Keary is gone with him, and not minding a sheet or a wake at all. The poor man, to be deserted by his own wife, and the breath hardly gone out yet from his body that is lying bloody in the field!
(Enter MRS. FALLON.)
MRS. FALLON. What is it the whole of the town is talking about? And what is it you yourselves are talking about? Is it about my man Bartley Fallon you are talking? Is it lies about him you are telling, saying that he went killing Jack Smith? My grief that ever he came into this place at all!
JAMES RYAN. Be easy now, Mrs. Fallon. Sure there is no one at all in the whole fair but is sorry for you!
MRS. FALLON. Sorry for me, is it? Why would anyone be sorry for me? Let you be sorry for yourselves, and that there may be shame on you forever and at the day of judgment, for the words you are saying and the lies you are telling to take away the character of my poor man, and to take the good name off of him, and to drive him to destruction! That is what you are doing!
SHAWN EARLY. Take comfort now, Mrs. Fallon. The police are not so smart as they think. Sure he might give them the slip yet, the same as Lynchehaun.
MRS. TULLY. If they do get him, and if they do put a rope around his neck, there is no one can say he does not deserve it!
MRS. FALLON. Is that what you are saying, Bridget Tully, and is that what you think? I tell you it's too much talk you have, making yourself out to be such a great one, and to be running down every respectable person! A rope, is it? It isn't much of a rope was needed to tie up your own furniture the day you came into Martin Tully's house, and you never bringing as much as a blanket, or a penny, or a suit of clothes with you, and I myself bringing seventy pounds and two feather beds. And now you are stiffer than a woman would have a hundred pounds! It is too much talk the whole of you have. A rope is it? I tell you the whole of this town is full of liars and schemers that would hang you up for half a glass of whiskey (turning to go). People they are you wouldn't believe as much as daylight from, without you'd get up to have a look at it yourself. Killing Jack Smith indeed! Where are you at all, Bartley, till I bring you out of this? My nice quiet little man! My decent comrade! He that is as kind and as harmless as an innocent beast of the field! He'll be doing no harm at all if he'll shed the blood of some of you after this day's work! That much would be no harm at all. (Calls out) Bartley! Bartley Fallen! Where are you? (Going out) Did anyone see Bartley Fallon?
(All turn to look after her.)
JAMES RYAN. It is hard for her to believe any such a thing, God help her!
(Enter BARTLEY FALLON from right, carrying hayfork.)
BARTLEY. It is what I often said to myself, if there is ever any misfortune coming to this world it is on myself it is sure to come!
(All turn round and face him.)
BARTLEY. To be going about with this fork and to find no one to take it, and no place to leave it down, and I wanting to be gone out of this—Is that you, Shawn Early?
(Holds out fork.) It's well I met you. You have no call to be leaving the fair for a while the way I have, and how can I go till I'm rid of this fork? Will you take it and keep it until such time as Jack Smith—
SHAWN EARLY (backing). I will not take it, Bartley Fallon, I'm very thankful to you!
BARTLEY (turning to apple stall). Look at it now, Mrs. Tarpey, it was here I got it; let me thrust it in under the stall. It will lie there safe enough, and no one will take notice of it until such time as Jack Smith—
MRS. TARPEY. Take your fork out of that! Is it to put trouble on me and to destroy me you want? putting it there for the police to be rooting it out maybe.
(Thrusts him back.)
BARTLEY. That is a very unneighborly thing for you to do, Mrs. Tarpey. Hadn't I enough care on me with that fork before this, running up and down with it like the swinging of a clock, and afeard to lay it down in any place! I wish I'd never touched it or meddled with it at all!
JAMES RYAN. It is a pity, indeed, you ever did.
BARTLEY. Will you yourself take it, James Ryan? You were always a neighborly man.
JAMES RYAN (backing). There is many a thing I would do for you, Bartley Fallon, but I won't do that!
SHAWN EARLY. I tell you there is no man will give you any help or any encouragement for this day's work. If it was something agrarian now—
BARTLEY. If no one at all will take it, maybe it's best to give it up to the police.
TIM CASEY. There'd be a welcome for it with them surely!
MRS. TULLY. And it is to the police Kitty Keary herself will be brought.
MRS. TARPEY (rocking to and fro). I wonder now who will take the expense of the wake for poor Jack Smith?
BARTLEY. The wake for Jack Smith!
TIM CASEY. Why wouldn't he get a wake as well as another? Would you begrudge him that much?
BARTLEY. Red Jack Smith dead! Who was telling you?
SHAWN EARLY. The whole town knows of it by this.
BARTLEY. Do they say what way did he die?
JAMES RYAN. You don't know that yourself, I suppose, Bartley Fallon? You don't know he was followed and that he was laid dead with the stab of a hayfork?
BARTLEY. The stab of a hayfork!
SHAWN EARLY. You don't know, I suppose, that the body was found in the Five-Acre Meadow?
BARTLEY. The Five-Acre Meadow!
TIM CASEY. It is likely you don't know that the police are after the man that did it?
BARTLEY. The man that did it!
MRS. TULLY. You don't know, maybe, that he was made away with for the sake of Kitty Keary, his wife?
BARTLEY. Kitty Keary, his wife! (Sits down bewildered.)
MRS. TULLY. And what have you to say now, Bartley Fallon?
BARTLEY (crossing himself). I to bring that fork here, and to find that news before me! It is much if I can ever stir from this place at all, or reach as far as the road!
TIM CASEY. Look, boys, at the new magistrate, and Jo Muldoon along with him! It's best for us to quit this.
SHAWN EARLY. That is so. It is best not to be mixed in this business at all.
JAMES RYAN. Bad as he is, I wouldn't like to be an informer against any man.
(All hurry away except MRS. TARPEY, who remains behind her stall. Enter MAGISTRATE and POLICEMAN.)
MAGISTRATE. I knew the district was in a bad state, but I did not expect to be confronted with a murder at the first fair I came to.
POLICEMAN. I am sure you did not, indeed.
MAGISTRATE. It was well I had not gone home. I caught a few words here and there that roused my suspicions.
POLICEMAN. So they would, too.
MAGISTRATE. You heard the same story from everyone you asked?
POLICEMAN. The same story—or if it was not altogether the same, anyway it was no less than the first story.
MAGISTRATE. What is that man doing? He is sitting alone with a hayfork. He has a guilty look. The murder was done with a hayfork!
POLICEMAN (in a whisper). That's the very man they say did the act, Bartley Fallon himself!
MAGISTRATE. He must have found escape difficult—he is trying to brazen it out. A convict in the Andaman Islands tried the same game, but he could not escape my system! Stand aside—Don't go far—Have the handcuffs ready. (He walks up to BARTLEY, folds his arms, and stands before him.) Here, my man, do you know anything of John Smith?
BARTLEY. Of John Smith! Who is he, now?
POLICEMAN. Jack Smith, sir—Red Jack Smith!
MAGISTRATE (coming a step nearer and tapping him on the shoulder). Where is Jack Smith?
BARTLEY (with a deep sigh, and shaking his head slowly). Where is he, indeed?
MAGISTRATE. What have you to tell?
BARTLEY. It is where he was this morning, standing in this spot, singing his share of songs—no, but lighting his pipe—scraping a match on the sole of his shoe—
MAGISTRATE. I ask you, for the third time, where is he?
BARTLEY. I wouldn't like to say that. It is a great mystery, and it is hard to say of any man, did he earn hatred or love.
MAGISTRATE. Tell me all you know.
BARTLEY. All that I know—Well, there are the three estates; there is Limbo, and there is Purgatory, and there is—
MAGISTRATE. Nonsense! This is trifling! Get to the point.
BARTLEY. Maybe you don't hold with the clergy so? That is the teaching of the clergy. Maybe you hold with the old people. It is what they do be saying, that the shadow goes wandering, and the soul is tired, and the body is taking a rest—The shadow! (Starts up.) I was nearly sure I saw Jack Smith not ten minutes ago at the corner of the forge, and I lost him again—Was it his ghost I saw, do you think?
MAGISTRATE (to POLICEMAN). Conscience-struck! He will confess all now!
BARTLEY. His ghost to come before me! It is likely it was on account of the fork! I to have it and he to have no way to defend himself the time he met with his death!
MAGISTRATE (to POLICEMAN). I must note down his words. (Takes out notebook. To BARTLEY) I warn you that your words are being noted.
BARTLEY. If I had ha' run faster in the beginning, this terror would not be on me at the latter end! Maybe he will cast it up against me at the day of judgment—I wouldn't wonder at all at that.
MAGISTRATE (writing). At the day of judgment—
BARTLEY. It was soon for his ghost to appear to me—is it coming after me always by day it will be, and stripping the clothes off in the nighttime?—I wouldn't wonder at all at that, being as I am an unfortunate man!
MAGISTRATE (sternly). Tell me this truly. What was the motive of this crime?
BARTLEY. The motive, is it?
MAGISTRATE. Yes, the motive; the cause.
BARTLEY. I'd sooner not say that.
MAGISTRATE. You'd better tell me truly. Was it money?
BARTLEY. Not at all! What did poor Jack Smith ever have in his pockets unless it might be his hands that would be in them?
MAGISTRATE. Any dispute about land?
BARTLEY (indignantly). Not at all! He never was a grabber or grabbed from anyone!
MAGISTRATE. You will find it better for you if you tell me at once.
BARTLEY. I tell you I wouldn't for the whole world wish to say what it was—it is a thing I would not like to be talking about.
MAGISTRATE. There is no use in hiding it. It will be discovered in the end.
BARTLEY. Well, I suppose it will, seeing that mostly everybody knows it before. Whisper here now. I will tell no lie; where would be the use? (Puts his hand to his mouth and MAGISTRATE stoops.) Don't be putting the blame on the parish, for such a thing was never done in the parish before—it was done for the sake of Kitty Keary, Jack Smith's wife.
MAGISTRATE (to POLICEMAN). Put on the handcuffs. We have been saved some trouble. I knew he would confess if taken in the right way.
(POLICEMAN puts on handcuffs.)
BARTLEY. Handcuffs now! Glory be! I always said, if there was ever any misfortune coming to this place it was on myself it would fall. I to be in handcuffs! There's no wonder at all in that.
(Enter MRS. FALLON, followed by the rest. She is looking back at them as she speaks.)
MRS. FALLON. Telling lies the whole of the people of this town are; telling lies, telling lies as fast as a dog will trot! Speaking against my poor respectable man! Saying he made an end of Jack Smith! My decent comrade! There is no better man and no kinder man in the whole of the five parishes! It's little annoyance he ever gave to anyone! (Turns and sees him.) What in the earthly world do I see before me? Bartley Fallon in charge of the police! Handcuffs on him! O Bartley, Bartley, what did you do at all at all?
BAHTLEY. O Mary, there has a great misfortune come upon me! It is what I always said, that if there is ever any misfortune—
MRS. FALLON. What did he do at all, or is it bewitched I am?
MAGISTRATE. This man has been arrested on a charge of murder.
MRS. FALLON. Whose charge is that? Don't believe them! They are all liars in this place! Give me back my man!
MAGISTRATE. It is natural you should take his part, but you have no cause of complaint against your neighbors. He has been arrested for the murder of John Smith, on his own confession.
MRS. FALLON. The saints of heaven protect us! And what did he want killing Jack Smith?
MAGISTRATE. It is best you should know all. He did it on account of a love-affair with the murdered man's wife.
MRS. FALLON (sitting down). With Jack Smith's wife! With Kitty Keary!—Ochone, the traitor!
THE CROWD. A great shame, indeed. He is a traitor, indeed.
MRS. TULLY. To America he was bringing her, Mrs. Fallon.
BAETLEY. What are you saying, Mary? I tell you—
MRS. FALLON. Don't say a word! I won't listen to any word you'll say! (Stops her ears.) Oh, isn't he the treacherous villain? Ohone go deo!
BARTLEY. Be quiet till I speak! Listen to what I say!
MRS. FALLON. Sitting beside me on the ass car coming to the town, so quiet and so respectable, and treachery like that in his heart!
BARTLEY. Is it your wits you have lost, or is it I myself that have lost my wits?
MRS. FALLON. And it's hard I earned you, slaving, slaving—and you grumbling, and sighing, and coughing, and discontented, and the priest wore out anointing you, with all the times you threatened to die!
BARTLEY. Let you be quiet till I tell you!
MRS. FALLON. You to bring such a disgrace into the parish. A thing that was never heard of before!
BARTLEY. Will you shut your mouth and hear me speaking?
MRS. FALLON. And if it was for any sort of a fine handsome woman, but for a little fistful of a woman like Kitty Keary, that's not four feet high hardly, and not three teeth in her head unless she got new ones! May God reward you, Bartley Fallon, for the black treachery in your heart and the wickedness in your mind, and the red blood of poor Jack Smith that is wet upon your hand!
(Voice of JACK SMITH heard singing)
The sea shall be dry, The earth under mourning and ban! Then loud shall he cry For the wife of the red-haired man!
BARTLEY. It's Jack Smith's voice—I never knew a ghost to sing before. It is after myself and the fork he is coming! (Goes back. Enter JACK SMITH.) Let one of you give him the fork and I will be clear of him now and for eternity!
MRS. TARPEY. The Lord have mercy on us! Red Jack Smith! The man that was going to be waked!
JAMES RYAN. Is it back from the grave you are come?
SHAWN EARLY. Is it alive you are, or is it dead you are?
TIM CASEY. Is it yourself at all that's in it?
MRS. TULLY. Is it letting on you were to be dead?
MRS. FALLON. Dead or alive, let you stop Kitty Keary, your wife, from bringing my man away with her to America!
JACK SMITH. It is what I think, the wits are gone astray on the whole of you. What would my wife want bringing Bartley Fallon to America?
MRS. FALLON. To leave yourself, and to get quit of you she wants, Jack Smith, and to bring him away from myself. That's what the two of them had settled together.
JACK SMITH. I'll break the head of any man that says that! Who is it says it? (To TIM CASEY) Was it you said it? (To SHAWN EARLY) Was it you?
ALL TOGETHER (backing and shaking their heads). It wasn't I said it!
JACK SMITH. Tell me the name of any man that said it!
ALL TOGETHEB (pointing to BARTLEY). It was him that said it!
JACK SMITH. Let me at him till I break his head!
(BARTLEY backs in terror. Neighbors hold JACK SMITH back.)
JACK SMITH (trying to free himself). Let me at him! Isn't he the pleasant sort of a scarecrow for any woman to be crossing the ocean with! It's back from the docks of New York he'd be turned (trying to rush at him again), with a lie in his mouth and treachery in his heart, and another man's wife by his side, and he passing her off as his own! Let me at him, can't you?
(Makes another rush, but is held back.)
MAGISTRATE (pointing to JACK SMITH). Policeman, put the handcuffs on this man. I see it all now. A case of false impersonation, a conspiracy to defeat the ends of justice. There was a case in the Andaman Islands, a murderer of the Mopsa tribe, a religious enthusiast—
POLICEMAN. So he might be, too.
MAGISTRATE. We must take both these men to the scene of the murder. We must confront them with the body of the real Jack Smith.
JACK SMITH. I'll break the head of any man that will find my dead body!
MAGISTRATE. I'll call more help from the barracks.
(Blows POLICEMAN'S whistle.)
BARTLEY. It is what I am thinking, if myself and Jack Smith are put together in the one cell for the night, the handcuffs will be taken off him, and his hands will be free, and murder will be done that time surely!
MAGISTRATE. Come on!
(They turn to the right.)
THE BEGGAR AND THE KING
[Footnote 1: Reprinted from Drama, No. 33, February, 1919, by permission of Mr. Parkhurst and the editors of Drama. Copyrighted, 1918, as a dramatic composition, by Winthrop Parkhurst. All rights of production reserved by author.]
THE KING OF A GREAT COUNTRY HIS SERVANT A BEGGAR
A chamber in the palace overlooks a courtyard. The season is midsummer. The windows of the palace are open, and from a distance there comes the sound of a man's voice crying for bread. THE KING sits in a golden chair. A golden crown is on his head, and he holds in his hand a sceptre which is also of gold. A SERVANT stands by his side, fanning him with an enormous fan of peacock feathers.
THE BEGGAR (outside). Bread. Bread. Bread. Give me some bread.
THE KING (languidly). Who is that crying in the street for bread?
THE SERVANT (fanning). O king, it is a beggar.
THE KING. Why does he cry for bread?
THE SERVANT. O king, he cries for bread in order that he may fill his belly.
THE KING. I do not like the sound of his voice. It annoys me very much. Send him away.
THE SERVANT (bowing). O king, he has been sent away.
THE KING. If that is so, then why do I hear his voice?
THE SERVANT. O king, he has been sent away many times, yet each time that he is sent away he returns again, crying louder than he did before.
THE KING. He is very unwise to annoy me on such a warm day. He must be punished for his impudence. Use the lash on him.
THE SERVANT. O king, it has been done.
THE KING. Then bring out the spears.
THE SEBVANT. O king, the guards have already bloodied their swords many times driving him away from the palace gates. But it is of no avail.
THE KING. Then bind him and gag him if necessary. If need be cut out his tongue. I do not like the sound of the fellow's voice. It annoys me very much.
THE SERVANT. O king, thy orders were obeyed even yesterday.
THE KING (frowning). No. That cannot be. A beggar cannot cry for bread who has no tongue.
THE SERVANT. Behold he can—if he has grown another.
THE KING. What! Why, men are not given more than one tongue in a lifetime. To have more than one tongue is treason.
THE SERVANT. If it is treason to have more than one tongue, O king, then is this beggar surely guilty of treason.
THE KING (pompously). The punishment for treason is death. See to it that the fellow is slain. And do not fan me so languidly. I am very warm.
THE SERVANT (fanning more rapidly). Behold, O great and illustrious king, all thy commands were obeyed even yesterday.
THE KING. How! Do not jest with thy king.
THE SERVANT. If I jest, then there is truth in a jest. Even yesterday, O king, as I have told thee, the beggar which thou now hearest crying aloud in the street was slain by thy soldiers with a sword.
THE KING. Do ghosts eat bread? Forsooth, men who have been slain with a sword do not go about in the streets crying for a piece of bread.
THE SERVANT. Forsooth, they do if they are fashioned as this beggar.
THE KING. Why, he is but a man. Surely he cannot have more than one life in a lifetime.
THE SERVANT. Listen to a tale, O king, which happened yesterday.
THE KING. I am listening.
THE SERVANT. Thy soldiers smote this beggar for crying aloud in the streets for bread, but his wounds are already healed. They cut out his tongue, but he immediately grew another. They slew him, yet he is now alive.
THE KING. Ah! that is a tale which I cannot understand at all.
THE SERVANT. O king, it may be well.
THE KING. I cannot understand what thou sayest, either.
THE SERVANT. O king, that may be well also.
THE KING. Thou art speaking now in riddles. I do not like riddles. They confuse my brain.
THE SERVANT. Behold, O king, if I speak in riddles it is because a riddle has come to pass.
(THE BEGGAR'S voice suddenly cries out loudly.)
THE BEGGAR (outside). Bread. Bread. Give me some bread.
THE KING. Ah! He is crying out again. His voice seems to me louder than it was before.
THE SERVANT. Hunger is as food to the lungs, O king.
THE KING. His lungs I will wager are well fed. Ha, ha!
THE SERVANT. But alas! his stomach is quite empty.
THE KING. That is not my business.
THE SERVANT. Should I not perhaps fling him a crust from the window?
THE KING. No! To feed a beggar is always foolish. Every crumb that is given to a beggar is an evil seed from which springs another fellow like him.
THE BEGGAR (outside). Bread. Bread. Give me some bread.
THE SERVANT. He seems very hungry, O king.
THE KING. Yes. So I should judge.
THE SERVANT. If thou wilt not let me fling, him a piece of bread thine ears must pay the debts of thy hand.
THE KING. A king can have no debts.
THE SERVANT. That is true, O king. Even so, the noise of this fellow's begging must annoy thee greatly.
THE KING. It does.
THE SERVANT. Doubtless he craves only a small crust from thy table and he would be content.
THE KING. Yea, doubtless he craves only to be a king and he would be very happy indeed.
THE SERVANT. Do not be hard, O king. Thou art ever wise and just. This fellow is exceedingly hungry. Dost thou not command me to fling him just one small crust from the window?
THE KING. My commands I have already given thee. See that the beggar is driven away.
THE SERVANT. But alas! O king, if he is driven away he will return again even as he did before.
THE KING. Then see to it that he is slain. I cannot be annoyed with the sound of his voice.
THE SERVANT. But alas! O great and illustrious king, if he is slain he will come to life again even as he did before.
THE KING. Ah! that is true. But his voice troubles me. I do not like to hear it.
THE SERVANT. His lungs are fattened with hunger. Of a truth they are quite strong.
THE KING. Well, propose a remedy to weaken them.
THE SERVANT. A remedy, O king?
(He stops fanning.)
THE KING. That is what I said. A remedy—and do not stop fanning me. I am exceedingly warm.
THE SERVANT (fanning vigorously). A crust of bread, O king, dropped from yonder window—forsooth that might prove a remedy.
THE KING (angrily). I have said I will not give him a crust of bread. If I gave him a crust to-day he would be just as hungry again to-morrow, and my troubles would be as great as before.
THE SERVANT. That is true, O king. Thy mind is surely filled with great learning.
THE KING. Therefore, some other remedy must be found.
THE SERVANT. O king, the words of thy illustrious mouth are as very meat-balls of wisdom.
THE KING (musing). Now let me consider. Thou sayest he does not suffer pain—
THE SERVANT. Therefore he cannot be tortured.
THE KING. And he will not die—
THE SERVANT. Therefore it is useless to kill him.
THE KING. Now let me consider. I must think of some other way.
THE SERVANT. Perhaps a small crust of bread, O king—
THE KING. Ha! I have it. I have it. I myself will order him to stop.
THE SERVANT (horrified). O king!
THE KING. Send the beggar here.
THE SERVANT. O king!
THE KING. Ha! I rather fancy the fellow will stop his noise when the king commands him to. Ha, ha, ha!
THE SERVANT. O king, thou wilt not have a beggar brought into thy royal chamber!
THE KING (pleased with his idea). Yea. Go outside and tell this fellow that the king desires his presence.
THE SERVANT. O great and illustrious king, thou wilt surely not do this thing. Thou wilt surely not soil thy royal eyes by looking on such a filthy creature. Thou wilt surely not contaminate thy lips by speaking to a common beggar who cries aloud in the streets for bread.
THE KING. My ears have been soiled too much already. Therefore go now and do as I have commanded thee.
THE SERVANT. O great and illustrious king, thou wilt surely not—
THE KING (roaring at him). I said, Go! (THE SERVANT, abashed, goes out.) Forsooth, I fancy the fellow will stop his bawling when I order him to. Forsooth, I fancy he will be pretty well frightened when he hears that the king desires his presence. Ha, ha, ha, ha!
THE SERVANT (returning). O king, here is the beggar.
(A shambling creature hung in filthy rags follows THE SERVANT slowly into the royal chamber.)
THE KING. Ha! A magnificent sight, to be sure. Art thou the beggar who has been crying aloud in the streets for bread?
THE BEGGAR (in a faint voice, after a slight pause). Art thou the king?
THE KING. I am the king.
THE SERVANT (aside to THE BEGGAR). It is not proper for a beggar to ask a question of a king. Speak only as thou art spoken to.
THE KING (to THE SERVANT). Do thou likewise. (To THE BEGGAR) I have ordered thee here to speak to thee concerning a very grave matter. Thou art the beggar, I understand, who often cries aloud in the streets for bread. Now, the complaint of thy voice annoys me greatly. Therefore, do not beg any more.
THE BEGGAR (faintly). I—I do not understand.
THE KING. I said, do not beg any more.
THE BEGGAR. I—I do not understand.
THE SERVANT (aside to THE BEGGAR). The king has commanded thee not to beg for bread any more. The noise of thy voice is as garbage in his ears.
THE KING (to THE SERVANT). Ha! An excellent flower of speech. Pin it in thy buttonhole. (To THE BEGGAR) Thine ears, I see, are in need of a bath even more than thy body. I said, Do not beg any more.
THE BEGGAR. I—I do not understand.
THE KING (making a trumpet of his hands and shouting). DO NOT BEG ANY MORE.
THE BEGGAR. I—I do not understand.
THE KING. Heavens! He is deafer than a stone wall.
THE SERVANT. O king, he cannot be deaf, for he understood me quite easily when I spoke to him in the street.
THE KING (to THE BEGGAR). Art thou deaf? Canst thou hear what I am saying to thee now?
THE BEGGAR. Alas! I can hear every word perfectly.
THE KING. Fft! The impudence. Thy tongue shall be cut out for this.
THE SERVANT. O king, to cut out his tongue is useless, for he will grow another.
THE KING. No matter. It shall be cut out anyway. (To THE BEGGAR) I have ordered thee not to beg any more in the streets. What meanest thou by saying thou dost not understand?
THE BEGGAR. The words of thy mouth I can hear perfectly. But their noise is only a foolish tinkling in my ears.
THE KING. Fft! Only a—! A lash will tinkle thy hide for thee if thou dost not cure thy tongue of impudence. I, thy king, have ordered thee not to beg any more in the streets for bread. Signify, therefore, that thou wilt obey the orders of thy king by quickly touching thy forehead thrice to the floor.
THE BEGGAR. That is impossible.
THE SERVANT (aside to THE BEGGAR). Come. It is not safe to tempt the patience of the king too long. His patience is truly great, but he loses it most wondrous quickly.
THE KING. Come, now: I have ordered thee to touch thy forehead to the floor.
THE SERVANT (nudging him). And quickly.
THE BEGGAR. Wherefore should I touch my forehead to the floor?
THE KING. In order to seal thy promise to thy king.
THE BEGGAR. But I have made no promise. Neither have I any king.
THE KING. Ho! He has made no promise. Neither has he any king. Ha, ha, ha. I have commanded thee not to beg any more, for the sound of thy voice is grievous unto my ears. Touch thy forehead now to the floor, as I have commanded thee, and thou shall go from this palace a free man. Refuse, and thou wilt be sorry before an hour that thy father ever came within twenty paces of thy mother.
THE BEGGAR. I have ever lamented that he did. For to be born into this world a beggar is a more unhappy thing than any that I know—unless it is to be born a king.
THE KING. Fft! Thy tongue of a truth is too lively for thy health. Come, now, touch thy forehead thrice to the floor and promise solemnly that thou wilt never beg in the streets again. And hurry!
THE SERVANT (aside). It is wise to do as thy king commands thee. His patience is near an end.
THE KING. Do not be afraid to soil the floor with thy forehead. I will graciously forgive thee for that.
(THE BEGGAR stands motionless.)
THE SERVANT. I said, it is not wise to keep the king waiting.
(THE BEGGAR does not move.)
THE KING. Well? (A pause.) Well? (In a rage) WELL?
THE BEGGAR. O king, thou hast commanded me not to beg in the streets for bread, for the noise of my voice offends thee. Now therefore do I likewise command thee to remove thy crown from thy forehead and throw it from yonder window into the street. For when thou hast thrown thy crown into the street, then will I no longer be obliged to beg.
THE KING. Fft! Thou commandest me! Thou, a beggar from the streets, commandest me, a king, to remove my crown from my forehead and throw it from yonder window into the street!
THE BEGGAR. That is what I said.
THE KING. Why, dost thou not know I can have thee slain for such words?
THE BEGGAR. No. Thou canst not have me slain. The spears of thy soldiers are as straws against my body.
THE KING. Ha! We shall see if they are. We shall see!
THE SERVANT. O king, it is indeed true. It is even as he has told thee.
THE BEGGAR. I have required thee to remove thy crown from thy forehead. If so be thou wilt throw it from yonder window into the street, my voice will cease to annoy thee any more. But if thou refuse, then thou wilt wish thou hadst never had any crown at all. For thy days will be filled with a terrible boding and thy nights will be full of horrors, even as a ship is full of rats.
THE KING. Why, this is insolence. This is treason!
THE BEGGAR. Wilt thou throw thy crown from yonder window?
THE KING. Why, this is high treason!
THE BEGGAR. I ask thee, wilt thou throw thy crown from yonder window?
THE SERVANT (aside to THE KING). Perhaps it were wise to humor him, O king. After thou hast thrown thy crown away I can go outside and bring it to thee again.
THE BEGGAR. Well? Well? (He points to the window.) Well?
THE KING. No! I will not throw my crown from that window—no, nor from any other window. What! Shall I obey the orders of a beggar? Never!
THE BEGGAR (preparing to leave). Truly, that is spoken like a king. Thou art a king, so thou wouldst prefer to lose thy head than that silly circle of gold that so foolishly sits upon it. But it is well. Thou art a king. Thou couldst not prefer otherwise. (He walks calmly toward the door.)
THE KING (to THE SERVANT). Stop him! Seize him! Does he think to get off so easily with his impudence!
THE BEGGAR (coolly). One of thy servants cannot stop me. Neither can ten thousand of them do me any harm. I am stronger than a mountain. I am stronger than the sea!
THE KING. Ha! We will see about that, we will see about that. (To THE SERVANT) Hold him, I say. Call the guards. He shall be put in chains.
THE BEGGAR. My strength is greater than a mountain and my words are more fearful than a hurricane. This servant of thine cannot even touch me. With one breath of my mouth I can blow over this whole palace.
THE KING. Dost thou hear the impudence he is offering me? Why dost thou not seize him? What is the matter with thee? Why dost thou not call the guards?
THE BEGGAR. I will not harm thee now. I will only cry aloud in the streets for bread wherewith to fill my belly. But one day I will not be so kind to thee. On that day my mouth will be filled with a rushing wind and my arms will become as strong as steel rods, and I will blow over this palace, and all the bones in thy foolish body I will snap between my fingers. I will beat upon a large drum and thy head will be my drumstick. I will not do these things now. But one day I will do them. Therefore, when my voice sounds again in thine ears, begging for bread, remember what I have told thee. Remember, O king, and be afraid!
(He walks out. THE SERVANT, struck dumb, stares after him. THE KING sits in his chair, dazed.)
THE KING (suddenly collecting his wits). After him! After him! He must not be allowed to escape! After him!
THE SERVANT (faltering). O king—I cannot seem to move.
THE KING. Quick, then. Call the guards. He must be caught and put in chains. Quick, I say. Call the guards!
THE SERVANT. O king—I cannot seem to call them.
THE KING. How! Art thou dumb? Ah!
(THE BEGGAR'S voice is heard outside.)
THE BEGGAR. Bread. Bread. Give me some bread.
THE KING. Ah. (He turns toward the window, half-frightened, and then, almost instinctively, raises his hands toward his crown, and seems on the point of tossing it out the window. But with an oath he replaces it and presses it firmly on his head.) How! Am I afraid of a beggar!
THE BEGGAR (continuing outside). Bread. Bread. Give me some bread.
THE KING (with terrible anger). Close that window!
(THE SERVANT stands stupent, and the voice of THE BEGGAR grows louder as the curtain falls.)
[Footnote 1: Reprinted by permission of the author and of Messrs. Henry Holt and Company, the publishers, from the volume, Masks and Other One-Act Plays (1920).]
WILLIAM WHITE, a famous Internationalist HILDA, his wife WALLACE, their son
SCENE: At the Whites'; spring, 1917. A simply furnished study. The walls are lined with bookshelves, indicating, by their improvised quality, that they have been increased as occasion demanded. On these are stacked, in addition to the books themselves, many files of papers, magazines, and "reports." The large work-table, upon which rests a double student lamp and a telephone, is conspicuous. A leather couch with pillows is opposite, pointing toward a doorway which leads into the living-room. There is also a doorway in back, which apparently opens on the hallway beyond. The room is comfortable in spite of its general disorder: it is essentially the workshop of a busy man of public affairs. The strong sunlight of a spring day comes in through the window, flooding the table.
WILLIAM WHITE is standing by the window, smoking a pipe. He is about fifty, of striking appearance: the visual incarnation of the popular conception of a leader of men. There is authority and strength in the lines of his face; his whole personality is commanding; his voice has all the modulations of a well-trained orator; his gestures are sweeping—for, even in private conversation, he is habitually conscious of an audience. Otherwise, he is simple and engaging, with some indication of his humble origin.
On the sofa opposite, with a letter in her hand, HILDA WHITE, his wife, is seated. She is somewhat younger in fact, though in appearance she is as one who has been worn a bit by the struggle of many years. Her manner contrasts with her husband's: her inheritance of delicate refinement is ever present in her soft voice and gentle gesture. Yet she, too, suggests strength—the sort which will endure all for a fixed intention.
It is obvious throughout that she and her husband have been happy comrades in their life together, and that a deep fundamental bond has united them in spite of the different social spheres from which each has sprung.
WHITE (seeing she has paused). Go on, dear; go on. Let's hear all of it.
HILDA. Oh, what's the use, Will? You know how differently he feels about the war.
WHITE (with quiet sarcasm). But it's been so many years since your respectable brother has honored me even with the slightest allusion—
HILDA. If you care for what he says—(continuing to read the letter)—"Remember, Hilda, you are an American. I don't suppose your husband considers that an honor; but I do."
WHITE (interrupting). And what kind of an American has he been in times of peace? He's wrung forty per cent profit out of his factory and fought every effort of the workers to organize. Ah, these smug hypocrites!
HILDA (reading). "His violent opposition to America going in has been disgrace enough—"
WHITE. But his war profits were all right. Oh, yes.
HILDA. Let me finish, dear, since you want it. (Reading) "—been disgrace enough. But now that we're in, I'm writing in the faint hope, if you are not too much under his influence, that you will persuade him to keep his mouth shut. This country will tolerate no difference of opinion now. You radicals had better get on board the band wagon. It's prison or acceptance." (She stops reading.) He's right, dear. There will be nothing more intolerant than a so-called democracy at war.
WHITE. By God! It's superb! Silence for twenty years and now he writes his poor misguided sister for fear she will be further disgraced by her radical husband.
HILDA. We mustn't descend to his bitterness.
WHITE. No: I suppose I should resuscitate the forgotten doctrine of forgiving my enemies.
HILDA. He's not your enemy; he merely looks at it all differently.
WHITE. I was thinking of his calm contempt for me these twenty years—ever since you married me—"out of your class," as he called it.
HILDA. Oh, hush, Will. I've been so happy with you I can bear him no ill will. Besides, doesn't his attitude seem natural? You mustn't forget that no man in this country has fought his class more than you. That hurts—especially coming from an acquired relative.
WHITE. Yes; that aggravates the offense. And I'll tell you something you may not know. (Bitterly) Whenever I've spoken against privilege and wealth it's been his pudgy, comfortable face I've shaken my fist at. He's been so damned comfortable all his life.
HILDA. (She looks at him in surprise.) Why, Will, you surely don't envy him his comfort, do you? I can't make you out. What's come over you these last weeks? You've always been above such personal bitterness; even when you were most condemned and ridiculed. If it were anybody but you I'd think you had done something you were ashamed of.
WHITE. What do you mean?
HILDA. Haven't you sometimes noticed that is what bitterness to another means: a failure within oneself? (He goes over to chair and sits without answering.) I can think of you beaten by outside things—that sort of failure we all meet; but somehow I can never think of you failing yourself. You've been so brave and self-reliant: you've fought so hard for the truth.
WHITE (tapping letter). But he thinks he knows the truth, too.
HILDA. He's also an intense nature.
WHITE (thoughtfully after a pause). Yet there is some truth in what he says.
HILDA (smiling). But you didn't like it—coming from him?
WHITE. It will be different with you and me now that America's gone in.
HILDA. Yes. It will be harder for us here; for hate is always farthest from the trenches. But you and I are not the sort who would compromise to escape the persecution which is the resource of the non-combatant.