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The Climbers - A Play in Four Acts
by Clyde Fitch
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THE CLIMBERS A PLAY IN FOUR ACTS

By CLYDE FITCH



NEW YORK SAMUEL FRENCH PUBLISHER 25 WEST 45th STREET

LONDON SAMUEL FRENCH, LTD. 26 SOUTHAMPTON ST. STRAND

Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown & Co.



COPYRIGHT, 1905, BY LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

This play is fully protected by the copyright law, all requirements of which have been complied with. In its present printed form it is dedicated to the reading public only, and no performance of it, either professional or amateur, may be given without the written permission of the owner of the acting rights, who may be addressed in care of the publishers, Little, Brown, and Company.



TO CHARLES T. MATHEWS

IN GRATEFUL RECOGNITION OF HIS TRUE FRIENDSHIP AND LOYAL ENTHUSIASM FROM THE BEGINNING

C.F.



[Transcriber's Note: One character is listed as Dr. Steinart in the List of Characters, but Dr. Steinhart in the body of the play.]



THE CLIMBERS

ACT I. IN LATE WINTER. At the Hunters'.

ACT II. THE FOLLOWING CHRISTMAS EVE. At the Sterlings'.

ACT III. CHRISTMAS DAY. At the Hermitage, by the Bronx River.

ACT IV. THE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS. At the Sterlings'.

NEW YORK: TO-DAY



THE PEOPLE IN THE PLAY

RICHARD STERLING. EDWARD WARDEN. FREDERICK MASON. JOHNNY TROTTER. GODESBY. DR. STEINART. RYDER. SERVANT at the Hermitage. JORDAN. Butler at the Sterlings'. LEONARD. Footman at the Sterlings'. MASTER STERLING. SERVANTS.

MRS. STERLING (nee Blanche Hunter). MISS HUNTER. MRS. HUNTER. JESSICA HUNTER. CLARA HUNTER. MISS GODESBY. MISS SILLERTON. TOMPSON. Mrs. Hunter's Maid. MARIE. Clara Hunter's Maid.



Originally produced at the Bijou Theatre, New York, January 21, 1901, with the following cast:—

Richard Sterling Mr. Frank Worthing Edward Warden Mr. Robert Edeson Frederick Mason Mr. John Flood Johnny Trotter Mr. Ferdinand Gottschalk Dr. Steinart Mr. George C. Boniface Godesby Mr. J.B. Sturges Ryder Mr. Kinard Servant at the Hermitage Mr. Henry Warwick Jordan } Servants { Mr. Edward Moreland Leonard } at the { Mr. Henry Stokes A Footman } Hunters' { Mr. Frederick Wallace Richard Sterling, Jr. Master Harry Wright

Mrs. Hunter Mrs. Madge Carr Cook Mrs. Sterling (nee Blanche Hunter) Miss Amelia Bingham Jessica Hunter Miss Maud Monroe Clara Hunter Miss Minnie Dupree Miss Hunter Miss Annie Irish Miss Godesby Miss Clara Bloodgood Miss Sillerton Miss Ysobel Haskins Tompson } Maids at { Miss Lillian Eldredge Marie } the Hunters' { Miss Florence Lloyd



Produced at the Comedy Theatre, London, September 5, 1903, with the following cast:—

Richard Sterling Mr. Sydney Valentine Edward Warden Mr. Reeves-Smith Frederick Mason Mr. J.L. Mackay Johnny Trotter Mr. G.M. Graham Godesby Mr. Horace Pollock Dr. Steinart Mr. Howard Sturges Master Sterling Miss Maidie Andrews Ryder Mr. Henry Howard Jordan Mr. Elgar B. Payne Leonard Mr. Littledale Power Footman Mr. Rivers Bertram Servant Mr. George Aubrey

Mrs. Sterling Miss Lily Hanbury Miss Hunter Miss Kate Tyndall Mrs. Hunter Miss Lottie Venne Jessica Hunter Miss Alma Mara Clara Hunter Mrs. Mouillot Miss Sillerton Miss Florence Sinclair Tompson Miss L. Crauford Marie Miss Armstrong Miss Godesby Miss Fannie Ward



ACT I

A drawing-room at the Hunters', handsomely and artistically furnished. The woodwork and furniture are in the period of Louis XVI. The walls and furniture are covered with yellow brocade, and the curtains are of the same golden material. At the back are two large windows which give out on Fifth Avenue, opposite the Park, the trees of which are seen across the way. At Left is a double doorway, leading into the hall. At Right, opposite, is a door which leads to other rooms, and thence to other parts of the house. In the centre, at back, between the two windows, is the fireplace; on the mantel are two vases and a clock in dark blue ormolu. There is a white and gold piano on the Right side of the room. The room suggests much wealth, and that it has been done by a professional decorator; the personal note of taste is lacking.

It is four o'clock in the afternoon. The shades of the windows are drawn down. There are rows and rows of camp-chairs filling the entire room.

The curtain rises slowly. After a moment, JORDAN, the butler, and LEONARD, a footman, enter from the Left and begin to gather together and carry out the camp-chairs. They do this with very serious faces, and take great pains to step softly and to make no noise. They enter a second time for more chairs.

JORDAN. [Whispers to LEONARD.] When are they coming for the chairs?

LEONARD. [Whispers back.] To-night. Say, it was fine, wasn't it!

JORDAN. Grand!

[They go out with the chairs and immediately reenter for more. They are followed in this time by a lady's maid, TOMPSON; she is not a young woman. As she crosses the room she stoops and picks up a faded flower which has fallen from some emblem. She goes to the window at Right, and peeps out. She turns around and looks at the others. They all speak in subdued voices.

TOMPSON. Jordan, what do you think—can we raise the shades now?

JORDAN. Yes, of course—after they've left the house it's all over as far as we here are concerned.

[She raises both shades.

TOMPSON. Phew! what an odor of flowers!

[She opens one of the windows a little.

[MARIE, a young, pretty, French woman, enters from the Right.

MARIE. Will I help you?

TOMPSON. Just with this table, thank you, Marie. [They begin to rearrange the room, putting it in its normal condition. They replace the table and put back the ornaments upon it.] Poor Mr. Hunter, and him so fond of mince pie. I shall never forget how that man ate mince pie.

[She sighs lugubriously and continues her labor with the room.

LEONARD. I hope as how it's not going to make any difference with us.

JORDAN. [Pompously.] Of course not; wasn't Mr. Hunter a millionnaire?

TOMPSON. Some millionnaires I've known turned out poor as Job's turkey in their coffins!

MARIE. What you say? You tink we shall 'ave some of madame's or ze young ladies' dresses?

TOMPSON. [Hopefully.] Perhaps.

MARIE. I 'ave already made my choice. I like ze pale pink of Mees Jessie.

LEONARD. Sh! I heard a carridge.

TOMPSON. Then they're coming back.

[MARIE quickly goes out Right.

JORDAN. [To LEONARD, hurriedly, as he quickly goes out Left.] Take them last two chairs!

[LEONARD, with the chairs, follows JORDAN out Left. TOMPSON hastily puts back a last arm-chair to its usual position in the room and goes out Right. MRS. HUNTER enters Left, followed by her three daughters, BLANCHE, JESSICA, and CLARA, and MASTER STERLING, who is a small, attractive child, five years of age. All are in the deepest conventional mourning, MRS. HUNTER in widow's weeds and CLARA with a heavy, black chiffon veil; the BOY is also dressed in conventional mourning. As soon as they enter, all four women lift their veils. MRS. HUNTER is a well-preserved woman, with a pretty, rather foolish, and somewhat querulous face. Her figure is the latest mode. BLANCHE STERLING, her oldest daughter, is her antithesis,—a handsome, dignified woman, young, sincere, and showing, in her attitude to the others and in her own point of view, the warmth of a true, evenly-balanced nature. JESSICA is a typical second child,—nice, good, self-effacing, sympathetic, unspoiled. CLARA is her opposite,—spoiled, petulant, pretty, pert, and selfish.

MRS. HUNTER. [With a long sigh.] Oh, I am so glad to be back home and the whole thing over without a hitch!

[She sinks with a great sigh of relief into a big chair.

BLANCHE. [Takes her son to MRS. HUNTER.] Kiss grandmother good-by, and then Leonard will take you home.

MRS. HUNTER. Good-by, dear. Be a good boy. Don't eat too much candy.

[Kisses him carelessly.

MASTER STERLING. Good-by. [Runs towards the door Left, shouting happily.] Leonard! Leonard!

MRS. HUNTER. [Tearfully.] My dears, it was a great success! Everybody was there!

[The three younger women stand and look about the room, as if it were strange to them—as if it were empty. There is a moment's silence.

BLANCHE. [Tenderly.] Mother, why don't you take off your bonnet?

MRS. HUNTER. Take it off for me; it will be a great relief.

BLANCHE. Help me, Jess.

MRS. HUNTER. [Irritably.] Yes, do something, Jessie. You've mortified me terribly to-day! That child hasn't shed a tear. People'll think you didn't love your father. [The two are taking off MRS. HUNTER'S bonnet. MRS. HUNTER waits for an answer from JESSICA; none comes.] I never saw any one so heartless! [Tearful again.] And her father adored her. She was one of the things we quarrelled most about!

[Over MRS. HUNTER'S head BLANCHE exchanges a sympathetic look with JESSICA to show she understands.

CLARA. I'm sure I've cried enough. I've cried buckets.

[She goes to MRS. HUNTER as BLANCHE and JESSICA take away the bonnet and veil and put them on the piano.

MRS. HUNTER. [Kissing Clara.] Yes, dear, you are your mother's own child. And you lose the most by it, too.

[Leaning against the side of her mother's chair, with one arm about her mother.

CLARA. Yes, indeed, instead of coming out next month, and having a perfectly lovely winter, I'll have to mope the whole season, and, if I don't look out, be a wallflower without ever having been a bud!

MRS. HUNTER. [Half amused but feeling CLARA'S remark is perhaps not quite the right thing.] Sh—

[During CLARA'S speech above, BLANCHE has taken JESSICA in her arms a moment and kissed her tenderly, slowly. They rejoin MRS. HUNTER, BLANCHE wiping her eyes, JESSICA still tearless.

CLARA. And think of all the clothes we brought home from Paris last month!

MRS. HUNTER. My dear, don't think of clothes—think of your poor father! That street dress of mine will dye very well, and we'll give the rest to your aunt and cousins.

BLANCHE. Mother, don't you want to go upstairs?

JESSICA. [Sincerely moved.] Yes, I hate this room now.

MRS. HUNTER. [Rising.] Hate this room! When we've just had it done! Louis Kinge!

BLANCHE. Louis Quinze, dear! She means the associations now, mother.

MRS. HUNTER. Oh, yes, but that's weak and foolish, Jessie. No, Blanche—[Sitting again.]—I'm too exhausted to move. Ring for tea.

[BLANCHE rings the bell beside the mantel.

CLARA. [Crossing to piano, forgets and starts to play a music-hall song, but MRS. HUNTER stops her.] Oh, yes, tea! I'm starved!

MRS. HUNTER. Clara, darling! As if you could be hungry at such a time!

[JORDAN enters Left.

BLANCHE. Tea, Jordan.

JORDAN. Yes, madam.

[He goes out Left.

MRS. HUNTER. Girls, everybody in town was there! I'm sure even your father himself couldn't have complained.

BLANCHE. Mother!

MRS. HUNTER. Well, you know he always found fault with my parties being too mixed. He wouldn't realize I couldn't throw over all my old set when I married into his,—not that I ever acknowledged I was your father's inferior. I consider my family was just as good as his, only we were Presbyterians!

BLANCHE. Mother, dear, take off your gloves.

MRS. HUNTER. I thought I had. [Crying.] I'm so heartbroken I don't know what I'm doing.

[Taking off her gloves.

[BLANCHE and CLARA comfort their mother.

JESSICA. Here's the tea—

[JORDAN and LEONARD enter with large, silver tray, with tea, cups, and thin bread-and-butter sandwiches. They place them on small tea-table which JESSICA arranges for them.

MRS. HUNTER. I'm afraid I can't touch it.

[Taking her place behind tea-table and biting eagerly into a sandwich.

JESSICA. [Dryly.] Try.

[BLANCHE pours tea for them all, which they take in turn.

MRS. HUNTER. [Eating.] One thing I was furious about,—did you see the Witherspoons here at the house?

CLARA. I did.

MRS. HUNTER. The idea! When I've never called on them. They are the worst social pushers I've ever known.

[She takes another sandwich.

CLARA. Trying to make people think they are on our visiting list! Using even a funeral to get in!

MRS. HUNTER. But I was glad the Worthings were here, and I thought it sweet of old Mr. Dormer to go even to the cemetery. [Voice breaks a little.] He never goes to balls any more, and, they say, catches cold at the slightest change of temperature.

[She takes a third sandwich.

BLANCHE. A great many people loved father.

MRS. HUNTER. [Irritably.] They ought to've. It was really foolish the way he was always doing something for somebody! How good these sandwiches are! [Spoken very plaintively.

JESSICA. Shall we have to economize now, mother?

MRS. HUNTER. Of course not; how dare you suggest such an injustice to your father, and before the flowers are withered on his grave!

[Again becoming tearful.

[JORDAN enters Left with a small silver tray, heaping full of letters.

Has the new writing paper come?

BLANCHE. [Who takes the letters and looks through them, giving some to her mother.] Yes.

[BLANCHE reads a letter, and passes it to JESSICA.

MRS. HUNTER. Is the black border broad enough? They said it was the thing.

CLARA. If you had it any broader, you'd have to get white ink to write with!

MRS. HUNTER. [Sweetly.] Don't be impertinent, darling!

[Reading another letter.

[Enter MISS RUTH HUNTER. She is an unmarried woman between thirty and forty years of age, handsome, distinguished; an aristocrat, without any pretensions; simple, unaffected, and direct in her effort to do kindnesses where they are not absolutely undeserved. She enters the room as if she carried with her an atmosphere of pure ozone. This affects all those in it. She is dressed in deep mourning and wears a thick chiffon veil, which she removes as she enters.

RUTH. Oh! you're having tea!

[Glad that they are.

MRS. HUNTER. [Taking a second cup.] I thought the children ought to.

RUTH. Of course they ought and so ought you, if you haven't.

MRS. HUNTER. Oh, I've trifled with something.

JESSICA. Sit here, Aunt Ruth.

BLANCHE. Will you have a cup, Aunt Ruth?

RUTH. Yes, dear, I'm feeling very hungry.

[Sitting on the sofa beside JESSICA and pressing her hand as she does so.

MRS. HUNTER. Hungry! How can you!

RUTH. Because I'm not a hypocrite!

MRS. HUNTER. [Whimpering.] I suppose that's a slur at me!

RUTH. If the slipper fits! But I confess I haven't eaten much for several days; I couldn't touch anything this morning, and I begin to feel exhausted; I must have food and, thank Heaven, I want it. Thank you.

[To BLANCHE, taking the cup from her.

MRS. HUNTER. I think it's awful, Ruth, and I feel I have a right to say it—I think you owed it to my feelings to have worn a long veil; people will think you didn't love your brother.

RUTH. [Dryly.] Will they? Let them! You know as well as I do that George loathed the very idea of crepe and all display of mourning.

MRS. HUNTER. [Feeling out of her element, changes the subject.] You stayed behind?

RUTH. Yes. I wanted to be the last there. [Her voice chokes; she tries to control herself.] Ah! you see my nerves are all gone to pieces. I won't cry any more!

MRS. HUNTER. I don't see how you could bear it—staying; but you never had any heart, Ruth.

RUTH. [Mechanically, biting her lips hard to keep the tears back.] Haven't I?

MRS. HUNTER. My darling husband always felt that defect in you.

RUTH. George?

MRS. HUNTER. He resented your treatment of me, and often said so.

RUTH. [Very quietly, but with determination.] Please be careful. Don't talk to me like this about my brother, Florence—or you'll make me say something I shall be sorry for.

MRS. HUNTER. I don't care! It wore on him, the way you treated me. I put up with it for his sake, but it helped undermine his health.

RUTH. Florence, stop!

MRS. HUNTER. [In foolish anger, the resentment of years bursting out.] I won't stop! I'm alone now, and the least you can do is to see that people who've fought shy of me take me up and give me my due. You've been a cruel, selfish sister-in-law, and your own brother saw and hated you for it!

BLANCHE. Mother!

RUTH. [Outraged.] Send your daughters out of the room; I wish to answer you alone.

MRS. HUNTER. [Frightened.] No! what you have to say to me I prefer my children to hear!

[CLARA comes over to her mother and puts her arm about her.

RUTH. I can't remain quiet any longer. George—[She almost breaks down, but she controls herself.] This funeral is enough, with its show and worldliness! I don't believe there was a soul in the church you didn't see! Look at your handkerchief! Real grief isn't measured by the width of a black border. I'm ashamed of you, Florence! I never liked you very much, although I tried to for your husband's sake, but now I'm even more ashamed of you. My dear brother is gone, and there need be no further bond between us, but I want you to understand the true reason why, from to-day, I keep away from you. This funeral was revolting to me!—a show spectacle, a social function, and for him who you know hated the very thing. [She stops a moment to control her tears and her anger.] I saw the reporters there, and I heard your message to them, and I contradicted it. I begged them not to use your information, and they were gentlemen and promised me not to. You are, and always have been, a silly, frivolous woman. I don't doubt you loved your husband as much as you could any man, but it wasn't enough for me; he was worth being adored by the best and noblest woman in the world. I've stood by all these years, trying with my love and silent sympathy to be some comfort to him—but I saw the disappointment and disillusionment eat away the very hope of happiness out of his heart. I tried to help him by helping you in your foolish ambitions, doing what I could to give my brother's wife the social position his name entitled her to!

MRS. HUNTER. That's not true; I've had to fight it out all alone!

RUTH. It was not my fault if my best friends found you intolerable; I couldn't blame them. Well, now it's over! George is at rest, please God. You are a rich woman to do what you please. Go, and do it! and Heaven forgive you for ruining my brother's life! I'm sorry to have said all this before your children. Blanche, you know how dearly I love you, and I hope you have forgiven me by now for my opposition to your marriage.

BLANCHE. Of course I've forgiven you, but you were always unjust to Dick.

RUTH. Yes; I didn't like your husband then, and I didn't believe in him, but I like him better now. And I am going to put all my affairs in his hands. I couldn't show—surely—a better proof of confidence and liking than that: to trust him as I did—your father. I hope I shall see much of you and Jessica. As for you, Clara, I must be honest—

CLARA. [Interrupting her.] Oh, I know you've always hated me! The presents you gave the other girls were always twice as nice as I got!

MRS. HUNTER. [Sympathetically.] Come here, darling.

[CLARA goes and puts her arms about her mother's neck.

RUTH. You are your mother's own child, Clara, and I never could pretend anything I didn't feel. [She turns to BLANCHE and JESSICA, who stand side by side.] You two are all I have left in the world of my brother. [She kisses them, and lets the tears come, this time without struggling.] Take pity on your old-maid aunt and come and see me, won't you, often—[Trying to smile away her tears.] And now good-by!

JESSICA AND RUTH. [Taking her hands.] Good-by.

[RUTH looks about the room to say good-by to it; she cries and hurriedly begins pulling down her veil, and starts to go out as JORDAN enters Left and announces "Mr. Mason!"

[MRS. HUNTER fluffs her hair a little and hopes she looks becoming.

[MASON is a typical New Yorker, well built, well preserved, dignified, and good-looking,—a solid man in every sense of the word.

MASON. [Meeting RUTH, shakes hands with her.] Miss Hunter.

RUTH. I am just going, Mr. Mason.

MASON. You must stay. I sent word to your house this morning to meet me here.

[Shakes hands with the others.

RUTH. I was here all night.

MRS. HUNTER. Will you have some tea? The children were hungry.

MASON. No, thank you. [To BLANCHE.] Isn't your husband here?

[JORDAN, at a signal from MRS. HUNTER, removes the tea things.

BLANCHE. No, he left us at the door when we came back.

MASON. Didn't he get a letter from me this morning asking him to meet me here?

BLANCHE. Oh, yes, he did mention a letter at breakfast, but my thoughts were away. He has been very much worried lately over his affairs; he doesn't confide in me, but I see it. I wish you could advise him, Mr. Mason.

MASON. I cannot advise your husband if he won't ask my advice. I don't think we'll wait for Mr. Sterling.

[Gives chair to MRS. HUNTER.

MRS. HUNTER. I suppose you've come about all the horrid business. Why not just tell us how much our income is, and let all the details go. I really think the details are more than I can bear to-day.

MASON. That can be certainly as you wish; but I felt—as your business adviser—and besides I promised my old friend, your husband—it was my duty to let you know how matters stand with the least possible delay.

MRS. HUNTER. [Beginning to break down.] George! George!

[RUTH looks at her, furious, and bites her lips hard. JESSICA is standing with her back toward them.

MASON. Well, then—

[He is interrupted by MRS. HUNTER, who sees JESSICA.

MRS. HUNTER. Jess! How rude you are! Turn around this minute! [JESSICA does not move.] What do you mean! Excuse me, Mr. Mason! Jess! Such disrespect to your father's will! Turn around! [Angry.] Do you hear me?

JESSICA. [With her back still turned, her shoulders shaking, speaks in a voice broken with sobs.] Leave me alone! Leave me alone—

[She sits in a chair beside her and leans her arms upon its back and buries her face in her arms.

BLANCHE. [With her hand on her mother's arm.] Mother! Don't worry her!

MRS. HUNTER. Go on, please, Mr. Mason, and remember, spare us the details. What is our income?

MASON. Mrs. Hunter, there is no income.

MRS. HUNTER. [Quietly, not at all grasping what he means.] No income! How is our money—

MASON. I am sorry to say there is no money.

MRS. HUNTER. [Echoes weakly.] No money?

MASON. Not a penny!

MRS. HUNTER. [Realizing now what he means, cries out in a loud, hard, amazed voice.] What!

BLANCHE. [With her hand on her shoulder.] Mother!

MRS. HUNTER. I don't believe it!

RUTH. [To MASON.] My good friend, do you mean that literally—that my brother died without leaving any money behind him?

MRS. HUNTER. For his wife and family?

MASON. I mean just that.

RUTH. But how?

MRS. HUNTER. Yes, tell us the details—every one of them! You can't imagine the shock this is to me!

MASON. Hunter sent for me two days before he died, and told me things had gone badly with him last year, but it seemed impossible to retrench his expenses.

RUTH. Are you listening, Florence?

MRS. HUNTER. Yes, of course I am; your brother was a very extravagant man!

MASON. This year, with his third daughter coming out, there was need of more money than ever. He was harassed nearly to death with financial worries. [RUTH begins to cry softly. MRS. HUNTER gets angrier and angrier.] And finally, in sheer desperation, and trusting to the advice of the Storrings, he risked everything he had with them in the Consolidated Copper. The day after, he was taken ill. You know what happened. The Storrings, Hunter, and others were ruined absolutely; the next day Hunter died.

RUTH. Poor George! Why didn't he come to me; he must have known that everything I had was his!

MASON. He was too ill when the final blow came to realize it.

MRS. HUNTER. [Angry.] But his life insurance,—there was a big policy in my name.

MASON. He had been obliged to let that lapse.

MRS. HUNTER. You mean I haven't even my life insurance?

MASON. As I said, there is nothing, except this house, and that is—

MRS. HUNTER. [Rises indignantly and almost screams in angry hysterics.] Mortgaged, I presume! Oh, it's insulting! It's an indignity. It's—it's—Oh, well, it's just like my husband, there!

BLANCHE. Mother!

[RUTH rises, and, taking MASON'S arm, leads him aside.

MRS. HUNTER. [To BLANCHE.] Oh, don't talk to me now! You always preferred your father, and now you're punished for it! He has wilfully left your mother and sisters paupers!

BLANCHE. How can you speak like that! Surely you know father must have suffered more than we could when he realized he was leaving nothing for you.

JESSICA. Yes, and it was for us too that he lost all. It was our extravagance.

MRS. HUNTER. Hush! How dare you side against me, too?

RUTH. Florence—

MRS. HUNTER. Well, Ruth, what do you think of your brother now?

BLANCHE. [To her mother.] Don't!

MASON. By whom were the arrangements for to-day made?

MRS. HUNTER. My son-in-law had most pressing business, and his friend—

BLANCHE. The friend of all of us—

MRS. HUNTER. Yes, of course, Mr. Warden saw to everything.

BLANCHE. He will be here any moment!

MASON. When he comes, will you send him on to me, please?

RUTH. Yes.

MASON. Very well. Good-by. [Shakes hands with BLANCHE.] I am very sorry to have been the bearer of such bad news.

MRS. HUNTER. [Shaking hands with him.] Please overlook anything I may have said; at such a moment, with the loss of all my money—and my dear husband—I don't know what to say!

MASON. Naturally. [To the others.] Good-by. [To RUTH, who follows him.] I'll come to see you in the morning.

[As they shake hands.

RUTH. And I can then tell you what I settle here now. [MASON goes out Left.] Florence, I'm very sorry—

[Interrupted.

MRS. HUNTER. Oh! You! Sorry!

RUTH. Yes, very, very sorry,—first, that I spoke as I did just now.

MRS. HUNTER. It's too late to be sorry for that now.

RUTH. No, it isn't, and I'll prove to you I mean it. Come, we'll talk things over.

MRS. HUNTER. Go away! I don't want you to prove anything to me! [MRS. HUNTER and CLARA sit side by side on the sofa. BLANCHE and JESSICA are in chairs near the table. RUTH sits beside BLANCHE. MRS. HUNTER has something the manner of porcupines and shows a set determination to accept nothing by way of comfort or expedient. BLANCHE looks hopeful and ready to take the helm for the family. JESSICA will back up BLANCHE.] My happiness in this world is over. What have I to live for?

RUTH. Your children!

MRS. HUNTER. Beggars like myself!

BLANCHE. But your children will work for you.

CLARA. Work! I see myself.

RUTH. So do I.

MRS. HUNTER. My children work! Don't be absurd!

JESSICA. It is not absurd! I can certainly earn my own living somehow and so can Clara.

CLARA. Doing what, I should like to know! I see myself!

BLANCHE. Jess is right. I'll take care of this family—father always said I was "his own child." I'll do my best to take his place.

RUTH. I will gladly give Jessica a home.

MRS. HUNTER. [Whimpers.] You'd rob me of my children, too!

JESSICA. Thank you, Aunt Ruth, but I must stay with mother and be Blanche's right-hand man!

CLARA. I might go on the stage.

MRS. HUNTER. My dear, smart people don't any more.

CLARA. I'd like to be a sort of Anna Held.

JESSICA. I don't see why I couldn't learn typewriting, Blanche?

MRS. HUNTER. Huh! Why, you could never even learn to play the piano; I don't think you'd be much good at typewriting.

CLARA. You want to be a typewriter, because in the papers they always have an old gentleman taking them to theatres and supper! No, sir, if there is to be any "old man's darling" in this family, I'll be it!

RUTH. [Dryly.] You'll have to learn to spell correctly first!

CLARA. [Superciliously.] Humph!

JESSICA. There are lots of ways nowadays for women to earn their living.

RUTH. Yes, typewriting we will consider.

MRS. HUNTER. Never!

[No one pays any attention to her except CLARA, who agrees with her.

RUTH. Jess, you learned enough to teach, didn't you?—even at that fashionable school your mother sent you to?

JESSICA. Oh, yes, I think I could teach.

MRS. HUNTER. Never!

[Still no one pays any attention except CLARA who again agrees with her.

CLARA. No, indeed! I wouldn't teach!

BLANCHE. If we only knew some nice elderly woman who wanted a companion, Jess would be a godsend.

CLARA. If she was a nice old lady with lots of money and delicate health, I wouldn't mind that position myself.

RUTH. Clara, you seem to take this matter as a supreme joke!

MRS. HUNTER. [With mock humility.] May I speak? [She waits. All turn to her. A moment's, silence.] MAY I speak?

RUTH. Yes, yes. Go on, Florence; don't you see we're listening?

MRS. HUNTER. I didn't know! I've been so completely ignored in this entire conversation. But there is one thing for the girls—the easiest possible way for them to earn their living—which you don't seem for a moment to have thought of!

[She waits with a smile of coming triumph on her face.

RUTH. Nursing!

MRS. HUNTER. [Disgusted.] No!

CLARA. Manicuring?

MRS. HUNTER. Darling!

BLANCHE. Designing dresses and hats?

MRS. HUNTER. No!

JESSICA. Book-keeping?

MRS. HUNTER. No.

RUTH. Then what in the world is it?

MRS. HUNTER. Marriage!

CLARA. Oh, of course!

RUTH. Humph!

[JESSICA and BLANCHE exchange glances.

MRS. HUNTER. That young Mr. Trotter would be a fine catch for Jess.

JESSICA. Who loathes him!

MRS. HUNTER. Don't be old-fashioned! He's very nice.

RUTH. A little cad, trying to get into society—nice occupation for a man!

JESSICA. Mother, you can't be serious.

CLARA. Why wouldn't he do for me?

RUTH. He would! The very thing!

MRS. HUNTER. We'll see, darling; I think Europe is the place for you. I don't believe all the titles are gobbled up yet.

RUTH. Jess, I might get you some women friends of mine, to whom you could go mornings and answer their letters.

MRS. HUNTER. I should not allow my daughter to go in that capacity to the house of any woman who had refused to call on her mother, which is the way most of your friends have treated me.

RUTH. Do you realize, Florence, this is a question of bread and butter, a practical suggestion of life, which has nothing whatever to do with the society columns of the daily papers?

MRS. HUNTER. I do not intend that my daughters shall lose their positions because their father has been—what shall we call it—criminally negligent of them.

RUTH. [Rising.] How dare you! You are to blame for it all. If you say another word injurious to my brother's memory, I'll leave this house and let you starve for all I'll do for you.

BLANCHE. Aunt Ruth, please, for father's sake—

CLARA. Well, this house is ours, anyway!

BLANCHE. That is what I've been thinking of. The house is yours. It's huge. You don't need it. You must either give it up altogether—

MRS. HUNTER. [Interrupts.] What! Leave it? My house! Never!

BLANCHE. Or—let out floors to one or two friends,—bachelor friends. Mr. Mason, perhaps—

CLARA. [Interrupts, rising, furious.] Take in boarders!

MRS. HUNTER. [Who has listened aghast, now rises in outraged dignity; she stands a moment glaring at BLANCHE, then speaks.] Take—[She chokes.] That is the last straw!

[And she sweeps from the room Right.

CLARA. Mama! Mama!

[She goes out after her mother.

[The other three women watch the two leave the room, then turn and look at each other.

BLANCHE. We'll manage somehow, only I think it would be easier for us to discuss all practical matters by ourselves.

RUTH. And I want you to understand this, girls,—I represent your dear father; half of everything I have is yours, and you must promise me always to come to me for everything.

[STERLING enters suddenly Left.

[He is a man of thirty-eight or forty, a singularly attractive personality; he is handsome and distinguished. His hair is grayer than his years may account for and his manner betrays a nervous system overtaxed and barely under control. At the moment that he enters he is evidently laboring under some especial, and only half-concealed, nervous strain. In spite of his irritability at times with his wife, there is an undercurrent of tenderness which reveals his real love for BLANCHE.

STERLING. Oh, you're all here! Have I missed old Mason?

RUTH. Yes, but Blanche will tell you what he had to say. I'm going upstairs to try and pacify your mother. We mustn't forget she has a hard time ahead of her.

[She goes out Right with JESSICA.

STERLING. I suppose Mason came about the will and your father's affairs?

BLANCHE. Yes, you ought to have been here.

STERLING. [Irritably.] But I couldn't—I told you I couldn't!

BLANCHE. Do you realize, dear, that you haven't been able to do anything for me for a long time? Lately, even I hardly ever see you—I stay home night after night alone.

STERLING. That's your own fault, dear; Ned Warden's always ready to take you anywhere you like.

BLANCHE. [With the ghost of a jest.] But do you think it's quite right for me to take up all Mr. Warden's time?

STERLING. Why not, if he likes it?

BLANCHE. And don't you think people will soon talk?

STERLING. Darling! People always talk, and who cares!

BLANCHE. It's months since you showed me any sign of affection, and now when my heart is hungrier than ever for it,—you know how I loved my father,—I long for sympathy from you, and you haven't once thought to take me, your wife, in your arms and hold me close and comfort me.

STERLING. I'm sorry, old girl, I'm really sorry. [Embracing her affectionately.] And surely you know I don't love any other woman in the world but you. [He kisses her.] It's only because I've been terribly worried. I don't want to bother you with business, but I've been in an awful hole for money. I tried to make a big coup in Wall Street the other day and only succeeded getting in deeper, and for the last few days I've been nearly distracted.

BLANCHE. Why didn't you tell me?

STERLING. I thought I'd get out of it with this Consolidated Copper without worrying you.

BLANCHE. You were in that, too?

STERLING. How do you mean I, "too"?

BLANCHE. Mr. Mason has just told us father lost everything in it.

STERLING. [Aghast.] You don't mean your father hasn't left any money?

BLANCHE. Nothing.

STERLING. [Forgetting everything but what this means to him.] Nothing! But I was counting on your share to save me! What did the damned old fool mean?

BLANCHE. Dick!

STERLING. Forgive me, I didn't mean to say that.

BLANCHE. Oh, who are you! What are you! You are not the man I thought when I married you! Every day something new happens to frighten me, to threaten my love for you!

STERLING. No, no, don't say that, old girl.

[He tries to take her hand.

BLANCHE. What right have you to criticise my father, to curse him—and to-day!

STERLING. I don't know what I'm saying, Blanche. Try to forgive me. I wouldn't have thought of such a thing as his money to-day if it wasn't the only thing that can save me from—disgrace.

[His voice sinking almost to a whisper and the man himself sinking into a chair.

BLANCHE. Disgrace! How? What disgrace?

[Going to him.

STERLING. I can't explain it; you wouldn't understand.

BLANCHE. You must explain it! Your disgrace is mine.

STERLING. [Alarmed at having said so much, tries to retract a little.] Disgrace was too strong a word—I didn't mean that. I'm in trouble. I'm in trouble. Good God, can't you see it? And if you love me, why don't you leave me alone?

BLANCHE. How can I go on loving you without your confidence?—without ever being suffered to give you any sympathy? Doll wives are out of fashion, and even if they weren't, I could never be one.

STERLING. [Laughing.] My dear, I'd never accuse you of being stuffed with sawdust.

BLANCHE. Oh, and now you joke about it. Take care, Dick.

STERLING. What's this, a threat?

BLANCHE. Yes, if you like to call it that. You've been putting me more and more completely out of your life; take care that I don't finish your work and go the last step.

STERLING. [Seizing her roughly by the wrist.] The last step! What do you mean by that? [Holding her hand more roughly.] You dare to be unfaithful to me!

BLANCHE. What! You could think I meant that! Ugh! How could you?

STERLING. Well, what did you mean then? Eh?

[Pulling her up close to him, her face close to his. She realizes first by the odor, then by a searching look at his face, that he is partly under the influence of liquor.

BLANCHE. [With pathetic shame.] Let me go! I see what's the matter with you, but the reason is no excuse; you've been drinking.

STERLING. [Dropping her hand.] Ugh! The usual whimper of a woman!

[RUTH reenters Right.

RUTH. Well, Blanche, dear, your mother's in a calmer frame of mind, and I must go. Dick, can you lunch with me to-morrow?

STERLING. [Hesitating, not caring about it.] Er—to-morrow?—er—

RUTH. Oh, only for business. I must have a new business man now to do all that he did for me, and I'm going to try to make up to you for not having been always your—best friend, by putting my affairs in your hands.

BLANCHE. [Serious, uneasy, almost frightened.] Aunt Ruth—

[She stops.

RUTH. What, dear?

BLANCHE. Nothing.

[She gives STERLING a searching, steady look and keeps her eyes upon him, trying to read his real self.

RUTH. [Continues to STERLING.] Mr. Mason is coming to me in the morning, and if you will lunch with me at one, I will then be able to give all the papers over to you.

[STERLING, who up to this time has been almost dumbfounded by this sudden good fortune, now collects himself, and speaks delightedly but with sufficient reserve of his feelings. BLANCHE does not take her eyes from STERLING'S face.

STERLING. Aunt Ruth, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and I will do my best.

BLANCHE. [Quickly.] Promise her, Dick, before me—give her your word of honor—you will be faithful to Aunt Ruth's trust.

[He answers BLANCHE'S look steadily with a hard gaze of his own.

RUTH. His acceptance of my trust is equal to that, Blanche.

BLANCHE. It is of course, isn't it, Dick?

STERLING. Of course.

[BLANCHE is not content, but has to satisfy herself with this.

RUTH. To-morrow at one, then.

[She starts to go.

[JORDAN enters Left.

JORDAN. Mr. Warden.

RUTH. I can't wait. Good-by.

[She goes out Left.

BLANCHE. We will see Mr. Warden.

JORDAN. Yes, madam.

[He goes out Left.

STERLING. Blanche, go to your mother and ask her to see Ned to thank him. I want a minute's talk with him if you don't mind.

BLANCHE. [Pathetically.] What difference does it make, Dick, if I do mind?

STERLING. Don't say that, old girl, and don't think it.

BLANCHE. Dick, you are honest, aren't you?

STERLING. [Without flinching.] What a question, Blanche!

[JORDAN enters Left announcing "Mr. Warden." WARDEN enters, and JORDAN goes out.

[EDWARD WARDEN, though in reality scarcely younger than STERLING, looks at least ten years his junior. He is good-looking, practical, a reasoning being, and self-controlled. He is a thorough American, with the fresh and strong ideals of his race, and with the feeling of romance alive in the bottom of his heart.

STERLING. [In enormous relief, greets him joyfully.] Ned, what do you think! The greatest news going!

BLANCHE. Dick!

STERLING. Excuse me, Blanche, I forgot; but Ned will know how I can't help being glad.

[WARDEN goes to MRS. STERLING.

BLANCHE. [Shaking NED'S hand.] And Mr. Warden knows nothing could make me "glad" to-day. Thank you for all your kindness—

WARDEN. Don't thank me; it was nothing.

BLANCHE. Yes, please let me thank you all I can; it won't be half what I feel, but I want to know that you know even my silence is full of gratitude for all you've done for my mother, sisters, and me.

STERLING. Yes, we're all immensely indebted to you, Ned, old man.

BLANCHE. I will tell mother. I know she wants to see you.

[She goes out Right.

STERLING. [Speaking with suppressed excitement and uncontrollable gladness, unable to keep it back any longer.] Ned, my wife's aunt, Miss Hunter, has put all her business in my hands.

WARDEN. Made you her agent?

STERLING. Yes! What a godsend! Hunter didn't leave a cent.

[A moment's pause of astonishment.]

WARDEN. What do you mean?

STERLING. It seems he's been losing for a long time. Everything he had he lost in the copper crash.

WARDEN. But this is awful! What will Mrs. Hunter and her two young daughters do?

STERLING. I don't know. I hadn't thought of that.

WARDEN. You'll have to think of it.

STERLING. I?

WARDEN. Of course you'll have to help them.

STERLING. I can't! Look here, I didn't tell you the truth about my affairs last week, when I struck you for that loan.

WARDEN. You don't mean to say you weren't straight with me?

STERLING. Oh, I only didn't want to frighten you till I'd got the money; if you had made me the loan, I'd have owned up afterwards all right enough.

WARDEN. Owned up what?

STERLING. That I told you a pack of lies—that I haven't any security!—that I haven't anything but debts.

WARDEN. [Strongly.] Good things to borrow on! Look here, Dick, how long have we been friends?

STERLING. Since that day at boarding school when you took a licking for something I did.

WARDEN. What I mean is we were pals at school, chums at college, stanch friends for twenty years.

STERLING. Hell! Are we as old as all that?

WARDEN. Inseparable friends till the last two years.

[STERLING'S eyes shift.

STERLING. I've been overworked lately, and everything has gone wrong!

WARDEN. [Comes up to him, and speaks firmly but still friendly.] You yourself have gone wrong!

STERLING. [On the defensive.] What do you mean?

WARDEN. Why did you take your business out of my hands?

STERLING. The law didn't pay me enough. I thought I'd try a little amateur stockbroking.

[Smiling insincerely.

WARDEN. You didn't want me to know what you were doing!

STERLING. Rats!

WARDEN. You didn't want me to know what funds—whose funds—you were using—misusing.

STERLING. [Ugly.] What!

WARDEN. Whose money you were gambling with!

STERLING. Have you been spying on me?

WARDEN. Your wife's money!

STERLING. Well, she's my wife, and you don't know what you're talking about!

[He turns from him and picks up a book from the table upside down and pretends to read it.

WARDEN. You stole from me once when you were a boy!

STERLING. No! I didn't!

[Throwing the book down.

WARDEN. You lie! Do you hear me? You lie! [He waits a second. STERLING does nothing.] I was never sure till to-day! I fought against ever thinking it, believing my suspicions were an injustice to you, but little things were always disappearing out of my rooms—finally, even money. Lately, that old suspicion has come back with a fuller force, and to-day it became a certainty.

STERLING. How to-day?

WARDEN. Because if it weren't true, you'd have knocked me down just now when I called you first a thief and twice a liar!

[He stands squarely facing him. STERLING stands facing him also, surprised, taken off his guard.

STERLING. Oh, come, you're joking! [WARDEN makes an angry exclamation.] Why're you telling me all this now?

WARDEN. Because I want you to be careful. I want you to know some one is watching you! Some one who knows what you've come to! Some one who knows you can't resist temptation! Some one who knows money not yours has stuck to your fingers!

STERLING. You mind your own business.

WARDEN. I'll mind yours if it's necessary to protect people who are dear to me!

[STERLING looks at him with a sudden suspicion.

STERLING. [Insinuatingly.] I didn't know you were particularly attached to Mrs. Hunter.

WARDEN. I'm not.

STERLING. Or to her two unmarried daughters!

WARDEN. Nor am I!

STERLING. [With whispered intensity.] By God, if you are in love with my wife!

WARDEN. If you thought that out loud, I'd knock you down!

STERLING. Huh! you talk as if you thought I were a coward!

WARDEN. No, not a physical coward—I've seen you do too many plucky things—but a moral coward—yes, you are one!

[Straight to him, standing close and looking him squarely in the eyes.

STERLING. [Wavering.] Oh, you're too damned preachy!

[MRS. HUNTER enters Right with CLARA. MRS. HUNTER shakes hands with WARDEN silently, happy in the feeling that she is in great affliction, and satisfied with the appearance and impression she is making. She carries her handkerchief, with its black border, ready in her hand. CLARA has silently shaken hands with WARDEN, after her mother. She afterwards goes to STERLING and hands him several of the letters of condolence. She then goes to the window at Left, pulling aside the curtain, and stands looking out, rather bored, wishing she could go out and take a walk.

MRS. HUNTER. We will never forget your kindness. Will the evening papers have anything in, do you think?

WARDEN. No, not before morning.

MRS. HUNTER. [Sighs.] Every one was there.

STERLING. Where's Blanche?

MRS. HUNTER. Upstairs. She said she was going after Aunt Ruth.

STERLING. [Frightened.] After Aunt Ruth? [Strongly.] What for?

MRS. HUNTER. I don't know. [Whimpering.] I'm not considered in the family any longer!

STERLING. I shall stop and take her home.

[JORDAN enters.

JORDAN. Will you see visitors, madam?

STERLING. No.

[He goes out Right.

MRS. HUNTER. "No"? Yes, we will! I need to see some one, or I shall break down. Go upstairs, Clara!

CLARA. No, why need I?

MRS. HUNTER. You're not out yet.

CLARA. I don't care! At this rate I'll never get "out." Who are they, Jordan?

JORDAN. Miss Sillerton, Miss Godesby, and Mr. Trotter, miss.

WARDEN. I must go, Mrs. Hunter.

MRS. HUNTER. [Relieved.] So sorry. Could you go straight to Mr. Mason? He wishes to see you?

[Shaking hands.

WARDEN. Certainly.

MRS. HUNTER. Thank you.

[WARDEN inclines his head to CLARA.

CLARA. [Lightly.] Good-by!

[WARDEN goes out Left.

MRS. HUNTER. I don't think we ought to receive Mr. Trotter.

CLARA. Pshaw! why not? If there's really any idea of my mar—

[She stops short, silenced by a look from her mother and an indication toward JORDAN.

MRS. HUNTER. Show them up, Jordan. [JORDAN bows and goes out.] How do I look, dear?

[Arranges her handkerchief.

CLARA. [Looking in the mirror.] How do I?

MRS. HUNTER. [With her back to CLARA.] I asked you first how I looked!

CLARA. [Not observing.] Oh, you're all right, how am I?

MRS. HUNTER. [Not looking at CLARA.] Charming! We'll go upstairs and come down again; I don't think it nice to be found here as if we were expecting visitors.

[They go out Right.

[JORDAN steps into the room to announce the visitors, and seeing no one there, bows as the three pass him.

JORDAN. The ladies will be down at once.

[He goes out Right.

[The three turn, looking about the room with curiosity, as if the funeral might have made some difference in the house.

[MISS SILLERTON is a handsome, attractive woman, most fashionably dressed and perfectly conventional in character and intelligence. MISS GODESBY is a little slow, more assertive, sharper of tongue, more acutely intelligent, and equally smartly dressed. She has still a remnant of real, sincere feeling buried under a cynical mask which her life in a fast set has developed for her self-preservation. TROTTER is a foolish young person, meaning well enough according to his lights, which are not of the biggest and brightest.

TROTTER. Classy house altogether!

MISS SILLERTON. Mrs. Hunter went to the most expensive decorator in town, and told him, no matter what it cost, to go ahead and do his worst!

[They all laugh and seat themselves comfortably.

TROTTER. Say! The youngest daughter is a good looker—very classy.

MISS SILLERTON. That's the one we told you about, the one we want you to marry.

MISS GODESBY. Yes, with your money and her cleverness, she'll rubber neck you into the smartest push in town!

TROTTER. You've promised I shall know the whole classy lot before spring.

MISS GODESBY. So you will if you do as we tell you. But you mustn't let society see that you know you're getting in; nothing pleases society so much as to think you're a blatant idiot. It makes everybody feel you're their equal—that's why you get in.

TROTTER. I've got a coach and can drive four-in-hand. I've an automobile drag, and the biggest private yacht in the world building. I'm going to have the most expensive house in Long Island, where the oysters come from, and I've bought a lot in Newport twice as big as the swellest fellow's there. I've got a house in London and a flat in Paris, and I make money fly. I think I ought to be a cinch as a classy success.

MISS GODESBY. Don't be a yap; flag Clara Hunter and you're all right!

MISS SILLERTON. Her father's position was the best in this country!

TROTTER. But he's dead.

[Sitting.

MISS GODESBY. A good thing for you, for he would never have stood for you!

TROTTER. He'd have had to—or do without me as a son-in-law—I wouldn't marry the Venus of Milo if her father didn't think I was good enough. I'm no Dodo bird!

MISS GODESBY. It's up to you now, Trotter! Go in and win.

[Enter TOMPSON Right; a decided change takes place in all their manners.

TOMPSON. Madam will be down at once, miss.

MISS SILLERTON. Thank you.

[TOMPSON goes out Right.

MISS GODESBY. Only stay a minute or two, Trotty—we're doing our best for you, but we must look out for ourselves, too, and we've come here to-day on business.

MISS SILLERTON. How'll we ever get the subject on to clothes?

MISS GODESBY. Humph! Do you think you can talk five minutes with Mrs. Hunter and not hit that topic? It's a bull's eye!

TROTTER. I don't see where I'm going to come into this classy conversation.

MISS GODESBY. You see, Trotty, they brought over piles of clothes from Europe this year, and we want to get hold of them before any one else has a chance—get 'em cheap before they have an idea anybody else'll buy them.

TROTTER. Who buy what?

MISS SILLERTON. We—buy their winter clothes.

TROTTER. For Heaven's sake!

MISS GODESBY. Laugh, you silly! I heard the Reed girls planning to come to-morrow. They didn't dare come to-day. Those girls haven't any sand! They're always getting left.

TROTTER. You two are Dodo birds!

MISS GODESBY. I say, Eleanor, you're such a lobster about prices and Mrs. Hunter's no idiot, we'd better agree on some sort of a signal! Listen! if you like a gown very much, ask the price, then say to me, "My dear, your hat pin is coming out." And if I think it's a bargain, I'll say, "So it is, thank you; won't you put it in for me?" And if I think Mrs. Hunter's trying to stick you, I'll say "No, it isn't; it's always like that."

MISS SILLERTON. All right.

[MRS. HUNTER and CLARA enter Right. The manner of MISS SILLERTON and MISS GODESBY changes immediately. They speak with rather subdued voices, in the tone of conventional sympathy which is usually adopted on such occasions. MRS. HUNTER also assumes the manner of a martyr to grief. CLARA is casual and hard.

MISS SILLERTON. [Shakes hands with MRS. HUNTER.] Dear Mrs. Hunter.

[She kisses her.

Clara, dear.

[She kisses her.

[MISS GODESBY goes to MRS. HUNTER and shakes hands while MISS SILLERTON crosses to CLARA; Trotter shakes hands with MRS. HUNTER as MISS GODESBY goes to CLARA.

TROTTER. I hope you don't think my coming an intrusion.

MRS. HUNTER. Not at all.

MISS GODESBY. I felt we must stop in for a few minutes to give you our love and sympathy and find out how you are.

MRS. HUNTER. I've been through a terrible strain. My loss is even greater than I could ever possibly imagine.

CLARA. [Who misinterprets her mother's remark.] Yes, indeed, I should say it was!

[MRS. HUNTER stops her with a warning look.

MRS. HUNTER. But every one has been most kind. Lady Hopeton sent me a beautiful long letter to-day.

MISS GODESBY. And I'm glad to find you looking so well. Black suits you!

[She exchanges a knowing glance with MISS SILLERTON.

MRS. HUNTER. Oh, I don't know, Julia; I've always thought black very trying for me.

MISS GODESBY. Oh, no! every one's saying just the reverse!

MRS. HUNTER. But—I suppose clothes don't interest you, Mr. Trotter?

TROTTER. Oh, yes, they do, out of sight!

CLARA. Well, I wish you could have seen the beautiful things we brought over with us!

MISS SILLERTON. Julia and I were just speaking about it, and pitying you from the bottom of our hearts.

[MISS SILLERTON and MISS GODESBY again exchange surreptitious glances.

MRS. HUNTER. Every one's been most kind.

[There is an awkward pause for a moment, no one knowing quite what to say. Both MISS GODESBY and MISS SILLERTON have started the conversation in the direction of clothing and are fearful of the topic being changed. As the pause becomes embarrassing, they look helplessly from one to the other, and all five, suddenly and at once, make an ineffectual effort to say something—or nothing. Out of the general confusion MRS. HUNTER comes to the front, mistress of the situation.] Are you going to stay in New York this winter, Mr. Trotter?

TROTTER. Yes, I'm negotiating for one of the biggest classy building plots on upper Fifth Avenue.

CLARA. [To MISS GODESBY.] I saw in the papers you were at the dance last night.

[MISS GODESBY nods and motions surreptitiously to TROTTER to go. He, however, doesn't understand.

MRS. HUNTER. [With interest again in life.] Oh, were you? What did you wear?

MISS GODESBY. Oh, dowdy old things. I haven't bought my winter frocks yet.

[She repeats this casually as if to herself.

[MISS SILLERTON motions to TROTTER to go, but he has forgotten and still doesn't understand.

TROTTER. What?

MISS GODESBY. You warned us not to let you forget your engagement!

TROTTER. What engagement?

MISS SILLERTON. How do we know! we only know you said you had to go!

TROTTER. Never said so! Oh! [As it dawns upon him.] Oh, yes! of course. [He rises.] Very sorry—must be off. Only dropped in—er—that is, came in to express my respectful sympathy.

[Shaking hands with MRS. HUNTER.

MRS. HUNTER. [Who rises.] I hope you will come and see us again.

CLARA. Do! It'll be a godsend! We'll be dull as ditchwater here this winter!

TROTTER. I shall be delighted to call again. Good-by. [He bows to Clara. In his embarrassment he starts to shake hands all over again, but, realizing his mistake, laughs nervously.] Oh, I have already.

MISS SILLERTON. Good-by, Trotter.

MISS GODESBY. Don't forget we're booked with you at Sherry's.

TROTTER. Whose treat?

MISS GODESBY. Oh! Yours, of course—

TROTTER. I say, why can't I stay? I won't interfere.

MRS. HUNTER. Oh, do stay, Mr. Trotter!

MISS GODESBY. Oh, do stay!

[Suggesting by her tone that he mustn't dare to remain.

CLARA. Good!

[TROTTER remains, and they all settle themselves again for a long stay.

MRS. HUNTER. By the way, you were speaking just now of your winter frocks. It occurs to me—of course I don't know as I really want to dispose of them, but—er—

[She hesitates purposely.

MISS GODESBY. Oh, would you? [Rising, she takes a chair nearer to MRS. HUNTER.] You dear thing!

MRS. HUNTER. The dresses are no use to us now, and when we're out of mourning—they'll be out of style. You could wear Jess' things perfectly, Julia.

MISS SILLERTON. And even something of yours could be made over for us.

MRS. HUNTER. But I'm so much older than you!

MISS SILLERTON. [Thoughtlessly.] Yes, but you never dress appropriately to your age.

CLARA. [Laughing delightedly.] That's pretty good!

MISS SILLERTON. [Saves herself.] You know what I mean, you always look so youthful, you can't dress any older.

MRS. HUNTER. [Rising.] Clara, dear, go upstairs and have Tompson bring down my Worth dress and Jess' Doucet and your Paquin. [She goes with CLARA to the door, Right, and then whispers to her.] If you remember, don't tell what we paid—we ought to get nearly double out of these girls—and warn Tompson not to be surprised at anything she hears.

[MISS GODESBY and MISS SILLERTON exchange glances. CLARA goes out Right.

MRS. HUNTER. It seems as if I had no further interest in clothes, anyway.

MISS GODESBY. Don't say that. Every one I've seen this afternoon is wildly enthusiastic over your mourning.

MRS. HUNTER. Well, I went straight to Madame O'Hoolihan and gave her carte blank!

MISS GODESBY. I wouldn't like to be the ice man when your bill comes in!—and clothes abroad are so much cheaper.

MRS. HUNTER. [Thoughtlessly.] Oh, half!

MISS GODESBY. [Quickly.] You see you'll be doing us a really great favor letting us have some of your things!

MRS. HUNTER. [Realizing her nearly fatal error.] Oh! Oh, yes—but—er—I must say that we found prices while in Paris this year rather atrocious!

[CLARA reenters Right.

CLARA. [Sighs.] O dear! It breaks my heart not to wear my ball dress, my dear Julia; it was designed specially for me. I told Marie to put it on, mama; my clothes fit her perfectly, and I thought it would show so much better what it is.

MRS. HUNTER. Here they are.

[Rises as TOMPSON enters Right.

TOMPSON. Mrs. Hunter's reception gown.

[Displaying it.

CLARA. Oh, this is a beauty!

[She takes the costume and drapes it over a chair. MISS GODESBY and MISS SILLERTON come closer to examine.

MRS. HUNTER. Tompson.—[Taking her to one side, whispers.]—I forget; do you remember what I paid for this dress?

TOMPSON. [Whispers back.] One hundred and sixty dollars, madam.

MRS. HUNTER. Oh, yes. Don't say anything. [Returning to the others.] Do you like it?

MISS SILLERTON. Perfectly lovely! } } [At the same time. MISS GODESBY. Immensely. It's great! }

MRS. HUNTER. [Hesitates.] I forget just what I paid for it, but I believe it was two hundred dollars.

[CLARA half exclaims in astonishment, but on being pinched surreptitiously on the arm by MRS. HUNTER she grasps the situation and starts in to do her share.

CLARA. Oh, no, mama! I'm sure it was more than that!

MRS. HUNTER. Well, perhaps it was two—twenty or two—twenty-five.

TROTTER. That's cheap, isn't it?

MISS GODESBY. Shut up.

[TOMPSON'S face is always a perfect blank, showing no expression or surprise; she has lived with MRS. HUNTER for many years and "knows her business."

MISS GODESBY. [In a very different tone of voice, influenced by the big price.] Of course, I see it's made of the best material. But it isn't my color.

MRS. HUNTER. It's the very latest shade.

MISS GODESBY. Yes, I know; but I think as you said a little while ago, perhaps it is a trifle too old for me.

MRS. HUNTER. I might let you have it for a little less; say one hundred and eighty.

MISS GODESBY. Thank you very much. I'll think it over.

MISS SILLERTON. What's the other?

CLARA. This is a dinner dress of Jess'.

[Holding it up to her own waist.

MISS SILLERTON. [Carried away by the dress.] Oh, lovely,—perfectly charming,—an adorable gown!

[MISS GODESBY pulls her arm and tries to make her less enthusiastic.

MISS GODESBY. [To CLARA and MRS. HUNTER.] Excuse me.

[She takes MISS SILLERTON to one side and whispers in her ear.

MISS SILLERTON. [Aloud.] I can't help it. I'm crazy about the dress!

[Meanwhile MRS. HUNTER and TOMPSON have whispered together.

MRS. HUNTER. They said themselves this was the most successful frock they turned out this autumn.

MISS SILLERTON. And how much is this one?

MRS. HUNTER. [Very quickly, trying not to speak consciously.] This was two hundred and seventy-five.

[CLARA bites her lips in surprise and winks visibly to TOMPSON, who gives no sign and is otherwise imperturbable.

MISS SILLERTON. [To MISS GODESBY, looking hard at her.] My dear, your hat pin is coming out!

MISS GODESBY. [Looking hard at her.] No, it isn't; it's always like that.

MISS SILLERTON. [Going closer to her, whispers.] Which does that mean? I forget!

MISS GODESBY. It's a gouge!

MISS SILLERTON. I can't help it; I can't resist.

MISS HUNTER. [Whispers to CLARA.] She's going to take it; I wish I'd asked more.

MISS SILLERTON. Mrs. Hunter, I'll take the dinner dress! I'm crazy about it!

MRS. HUNTER. I'm glad to have you have it; I'm glad to be able to do you, in a way, a favor.

[MARIE at this moment enters dressed in the most exquisite ball dress of the very latest fashion and looks extremely lovely.

CLARA. Here's mine! I could cry to think I'll never wear it!

MARIE. Voila, madame!

[A short silence, while the women sit down and drink in the gown.

MISS SILLERTON. [In a subdued voice of awed admiration.] Beautiful!

MISS GODESBY. Great!

TROTTER. [To MISS GODESBY.] I'm stuck on the girl; introduce me. She's out of sight!

[MRS. HUNTER sighs long and loud,—a sigh of appreciation and admiration. MARIE stands in the centre of the stage facing the audience.

MISS GODESBY. May we see her back?

CLARA. Her entire back, if she turns around!

MRS. HUNTER. Turn around, Marie.

MARIE. Oui, madame.

[She turns her back—the dress is cut extremely in the back.

MISS SILLERTON. Oh!

MISS GODESBY. Rather!

MRS. HUNTER. The way everything is made this year.

MISS GODESBY. I'm afraid my back is rather full of bones.

CLARA. They told us in Paris, bones were coming in! [She takes a large American beauty rose from a vase on the piano and slips it down MARIE'S back so that the dress seems much less decollete.] There, never too late to mend!

MISS GODESBY. How much is this one?

[MISS GODESBY and MISS SILLERTON examine the dress.

CLARA. [Whispers to MRS. HUNTER.] You paid two hundred for it!

MRS. HUNTER. Three hundred dollars. It is really superb.

MISS SILLERTON. [Pulling MISS GODESBY around quickly.] My dear, your hat pin is coming out!

MISS GODESBY. Don't be absurd!

MISS SILLERTON. What?

MISS GODESBY. It's my turn, sit down; you got the last! You won't mind my being frank, Mrs. Hunter?

MRS. HUNTER. [On the defensive.] Certainly not.

MISS GODESBY. I think the price is too much.

TROTTER. Oh, go on, pay it!

MISS GODESBY. Will you sign the check?

TROTTER. Excuse me!

CLARA. I'd give twice that if only I could wear it to one ball this winter!

MRS. HUNTER. I wouldn't part with it for a penny less. I couldn't afford to.

[The manners and voices of all become a little strained.

MISS GODESBY. That is of course your affair.

MRS. HUNTER. [Politely.] We needn't keep Marie any longer, at any rate, need we? You can go, Marie, and you too, Tompson.

[CLARA and MRS. HUNTER help place the other dresses on TOMPSON'S arms.

MISS SILLERTON. [To MISS GODESBY, on the opposite side of the room, in a lowered voice.] I'll take it; I'm willing to pay that.

MISS GODESBY. Don't you dare interfere! I want the gown, but I know she'll come down,—if she doesn't, I'll make a bluff at going. Then if she sticks to her price, I'll come back and pay it.

[They turn to MRS. HUNTER.

MISS SILLERTON. Oh, Mrs. Hunter, may I see my dress just one more minute?

MRS. HUNTER. Certainly.

[She and CLARA come back with the dress.

MARIE. [To TOMPSON by the door at Right.]

Vite! Come! Come! Jordan 'ave stole ze photograph machine of Mees Clara, and he make now one pigsher of me in ze dress!

[Smiling mischievously, delighted, she goes out Right.

MISS SILLERTON. Thank you.

[She leaves her dress.

MRS. HUNTER. Take this too, Tompson.

TOMPSON. Yes, madam.

[MRS. HUNTER speaks to TOMPSON, aside, and CLARA, near them, watches the two visitors out of the corner of her eye.

MISS GODESBY. [Aside to MISS SILLERTON.] I'll leave my muff; that'll be a good excuse to come back.

TROTTER. [Also in a lowered voice to MISS GODESBY.] Dodo!

[TOMPSON goes out Right.

[MRS. HUNTER and CLARA come back.

MISS GODESBY. You really couldn't take less than three hundred?

MRS. HUNTER. I wish I could if only for your own sake; but I really couldn't in justice to myself.

MISS GODESBY. I'm very sorry—and I'm afraid we must be going now.

MRS. HUNTER. [Not believing they will go.] Oh, must you? Well, it was very kind of you to come.

[MISS GODESBY leaves her muff upon the table at the Left.

MISS SILLERTON. [Shakes hands with MRS. HUNTER.] Good-by.

[She goes on to CLARA.

[MISS GODESBY comes to shake hands with MRS. HUNTER.

MRS. HUNTER. I think you're making a mistake not to take the dress, Julia dear.

MISS GODESBY. Perhaps, but I really can't go more than two hundred and fifty.

[MRS. HUNTER looks surreptitiously at CLARA, who slyly shakes her head to her mother.

MRS. HUNTER. Oh, quite impossible!

MISS GODESBY. Good-by.

MRS. HUNTER. Good-by.

MISS GODESBY. Good-by, Clara.

MRS. HUNTER. [Frightened.] Would you like to see the dress off?

MISS GODESBY. Oh, my dear, it was as off as I would ever like to see it. Good-by.

MRS. HUNTER. Good-by. [MISS SILLERTON and MISS GODESBY get to doorway Left.] You won't take it?

MISS GODESBY. Can't! Good-by.

CLARA. [Dryly.] You're forgetting your muff!

TROTTER. Rubber!

MISS GODESBY. [Coming back for it.] How stupid!

[She goes away to the door again in silence, which is full of suspense for all of them. As she reaches the door MRS. HUNTER speaks.

MRS. HUNTER. Look here, Julia, don't say another word; you shall have the dress for two hundred and fifty.

MISS GODESBY. [Rushing back, followed by all the others.] You dear! I'm afraid you think I've been rather nasty!

MRS. HUNTER. Oh, no, of course business is business, and I'd rather you had it than see it wasted on some of our other friends who'd be sights in it!

MISS SILLERTON. Good-by. [Kisses her this time.] I haven't said half I feel; you've been in my thoughts all these last few days.

MRS. HUNTER. Thank you, dear.

[Kisses her.

MISS GODESBY. Shall we send around for the dresses in the morning?

MRS. HUNTER. Or I'll send them.

MISS GODESBY. No, we won't trouble you.

MISS SILLERTON. Good-by!

MRS. HUNTER AND CLARA. Good-by!

[MISS SILLERTON and MISS GODESBY go out Left, followed by TROTTER, who has joined in all the good-bys, and upon whom CLARA has more or less continuously kept her "weather eye."

MRS. HUNTER. I'm perfectly sure if I'd stuck to three hundred, Julia Godesby would have sent around when she got home and paid it!

CLARA. I'm glad you didn't run the risk though, for we'll need every cent we can get now.

[She runs her fingers rapidly over the piano keys.

[BLANCHE reenters Right.

MRS. HUNTER. Why, I thought you'd gone long ago.

BLANCHE. Jess begged me to stay with her. Try to understand her, mother; I think she will miss father more than any of us.

[JORDAN enters Left.

JORDAN. Mr. Warden has come back, madam.

[WARDEN enters Left.

WARDEN. Forgive my intruding so soon again, but did Mr. Mason leave a letter case of Mr. Hunter's here?

[BLANCHE begins looking for the case.

MRS. HUNTER. I haven't seen it; I'll ask the servants to look. Excuse me, I'm quite tired out; we've been receiving a long visit of condolence.

[She goes out, Right, with CLARA, who links her arm in her mother's.

BLANCHE. [Finding the case, which has fallen beneath the table.] Here it is. Dear old pocket-book—

[Her voice breaks on the last word, and turning her face away to hide her tears, she hands him the well-worn letter case.

WARDEN. Mrs. Sterling, I'm glad they left us alone, because Mr. Mason said he hadn't been able to manage it—to see you alone—and yet he wanted you only to examine these. They are private papers of Mr. Hunter; he thought they ought not to be destroyed without being read, and yet he hesitated to read them. We thought that duty devolved best upon you. [He hands back the letter case.] Shall I wait and take back the case to Mr. Mason with the papers you wish him to have?

BLANCHE. Oh, no, I will send them; I mustn't keep you while I read them. I'm always taking more of your time than I ought.

WARDEN. [Speaks with sincerity, but without any suggestion of love-making.] But never as much as I want to give you! Don't forget, Mrs. Sterling, what you promised me at your wedding,—that your husband's best man should be your best friend.

BLANCHE. And nobody knows what it means to a woman, even a happily married woman like me—[This is spoken with a slight effort, as if she is persuading herself that she is a happily married woman.]—to have an honest friend like you. It's those people who have failed that say there is no such thing as a platonic friendship.

WARDEN. We'll prove them wrong.

BLANCHE. We will. Good-by, and thank you.

WARDEN. And thank you! [Starting to go, he turns.] Shall I bring that Russian pianist around to play for you some day next week?

BLANCHE. Do—I want some music.

WARDEN. Only let me know what day. [He goes out Left. BLANCHE sits by the table and opens the case. She looks first at a memoranda and reads what is on the outside.] A business memoranda. Lists of bonds. [She opens and looks at the next paper only a second, and then closes it.] This, Mr. Mason will understand better than I. [She puts it back in the pocket case. She finds a photograph in the case.] My picture!—[She looks for others, but finds none.]—and only mine! Oh, father!... [She wipes away tears from her eyes so as to see the picture, which is an old one.] Father, I returned your love. [She reads on the back of photograph.] "Blanche, my darling daughter, at fourteen years of age!" That's mine! that's my own! [And she puts the picture away separately. She takes up a small packet of very old love-letters tied with faded old pink tape.] Old letters from mother; they must be her love-letters. She shall have them,—they may soften her. [She takes up a slip of paper and reads on the outside.] This is something for Mason, too. [She puts it back in the case. She takes up a sealed envelope, blank.] Nothing on it, and sealed. [She looks at it a moment, thinking.] Father, did you want this opened? If you didn't, why not have destroyed it? Ah! I needn't be afraid; you had nothing to hide from the world. [Tearing it open, she reads.] "I have discovered my son-in-law, Richard Sterling, in irregular business dealing. He is not honest. I will watch him as long as I live; but when you read this, Mason, keep your eye upon him for my daughter's sake. He has been warned by me—he may never trip again, and her happiness lies in ignorance." [She starts, and looks about her to make sure she is alone. She then sits staring ahead for a few seconds; then she speaks.] My boy's father dishonest! Disgrace—he owned it—threatening my boy! It mustn't come! It mustn't! I'll watch now. [She goes to the fireplace, tearing the paper as she crosses the room, she burns the letter; then she gathers up the other letters and the pocket case.] He must give me his word of honor over Richard's little bed to-night that he will do nothing to ever make the boy ashamed of bearing his father's name!

[She watches to see that every piece of the paper burns, as

THE CURTAIN FALLS



ACT II

Christmas Eve; fourteen months later; the dining room of the Hunters' house, which is now lived in jointly by the STERLINGS and MRS. HUNTER and her daughters. It is a dark wainscoted room, with curtains of crimson brocade. It is decorated with laurel roping, mistletoe, and holly, for Christmas. It is the end of a successful dinner party, fourteen happy and more or less congenial persons being seated at a table, as follows: WARDEN, RUTH, MASON, CLARA, TROTTER, MRS. HUNTER, BLANCHE, STERLING, MISS SILLERTON, MR. GODESBY, JESSICA, DOCTOR STEINHART, and MISS GODESBY. The room is dark on all sides, only a subdued light being shed on the table by two large, full candelabra with red shaded candles. As the curtain rises the bare backs of the three women nearest the footlights gleam out white. Candied fruit and other sweetmeats are being passed by four men servants, including JORDAN and LEONARD.

RUTH. My dear Blanche, what delicious candy!

MISS SILLERTON. Isn't it!

MISS GODESBY. Half of the candy offered one nowadays seems made of papier-mache.

MRS. HUNTER. [To MISS GODESBY.] Julia, do tell me how Mr. Tomlins takes his wife's divorce?

MISS GODESBY. He takes it with a grain of salt!

MRS. HUNTER. But isn't he going to bring a counter suit?

STERLING. No.

RUTH. I hope not. I am an old-fashioned woman and don't believe in divorce!

MISS GODESBY. Really! But then you're not married!

MISS SILLERTON. What is the reason for so much divorce nowadays?

RUTH. Marriage is the principal one.

BLANCHE. I don't believe in divorce, either.

MISS SILLERTON. My dear, no woman married to as handsome a man as Mr. Sterling would.

TROTTER. You people are all out of date! More people get divorced nowadays than get married.

BLANCHE. Too many people do—that's the trouble. I meant what I said when I was married—"for better, for worse, till death us do part."—What is the opera Monday?

TROTTER. Something of Wagner's. He's a Dodo bird! Bores me to death! Not catchy enough music for me.

MRS. HUNTER. You'd adore him if you went to Bayreuth. Which was that opera, Clara, we heard at Bayreuth last summer? Was it Faust or Lohengrin! They play those two so much here I'm always getting them mixed!

MISS SILLERTON. Wagner didn't write Faust!

MRS. HUNTER. Didn't he? I thought he had; he's written so many operas the last few seasons!

CLARA. I like Tannhaeuser, because as soon as you hear the "twinkle, twinkle, little stars" song, you can cheer up and think of your wraps and fur boots.

TROTTER. My favorite operas are San Toy and the Roger Brothers, though I saw Florodora thirty-six times!

BLANCHE. Mother would have gone with you every one of those thirty-six Florodora times. She's not really fond of music.

MRS. HUNTER. Not fond of music! Didn't I have an opera box for four years?

TROTTER. Why doesn't Conried make some arrangement with Weber and Fields and introduce their chorus into Faust and Carmen?

DR. STEINHART. Great idea! [To MISS GODESBY.] Did you get a lot of jolly presents?

MISS GODESBY. Not half bad, especially two fine French bulls!

[All are laughing and talking together.

BLANCHE. What did you get, Mr. Warden?

WARDEN. Three copies of "David Harum," two umbrellas, and a cigar case too short for my cigars.

MISS GODESBY. Give it to me for cigarettes.

WARDEN. It's too long for cigarettes. Then I had something that's either a mouchoir or a handkerchief case, or for neckties, or shaving papers, or something or other.

TROTTER. Yes, I know, I got one of those, too.

DR. STEINHART. So did I!

BLANCHE. I must start the women; we are coming back here to arrange a surprise for you men.

[She nods her head in signal to STERLING, and rises. All rise.

STERLING. One moment please. One toast on Christmas night! Ned, give us a toast.

ALL THE WOMEN. [But not in unison.] Oh, yes! A toast! [Ad lib.]

WARDEN. [Holding up his glass.]

Here's to those whom we love! And to those who love us! And to those who love those whom we love And to those who love those who love us!

ALL THE MEN. [Not in unison.] Good! Bravo! Bully toast! [Ad lib.]

[Every one drinks.

BLANCHE. One more toast, Dick. [To the others.] Christmas Day is our boy's birthday.

RUTH. Surely! a toast to Richard!

STERLING. Long life to Master Sterling, the best boy in the world, and to all his good friends at this table.

THE MEN. Hear! Hear!

[All the women speak their next speeches at the same time.

BLANCHE. [Laughing.] Of course! I've dropped my handkerchief.} } [NED dives under the table for it. } } MISS SILLERTON. O dear, my fan! } } MISS GODESBY. What a bore! I've dropped a glove! } } [STEINHART goes under the table for it. } } CLARA. Both my gloves gone—I'm so sorry! } } [GODESBY goes under the table for them. } } MRS. HUNTER. Dick, please, I've dropped my smelling bottle. } [ALL } together] [TROTTER and STERLING go under the table for it. } } RUTH. My gloves, please, I'm so sorry! } } [MASON goes under the table for them. } } [The speeches of the women are simultaneous, followed } by the movements of the men also, all at the same time. }

BLANCHE. Please don't bother; the servants—

LEONARD, JORDAN and, two extra men start to hunt under the table, too.

MISS GODESBY. Women ought to have everything they own fastened to them with rubberneck elastics.

[The men, somewhat flustered, all rise with the various articles, and offer them to their respective owners.

[All the women thank the men profusely, and apologize at the same time. STERLING takes MRS. HUNTER out at back, followed by all the other couples, all talking. RUTH and MASON lag behind.

RUTH. [To BLANCHE, who with WARDEN waits for RUTH and MASON to pass.] I want just a minute with Mr. Mason, Blanche. [BLANCHE and WARDEN pass out before her. RUTH is alone with MASON. She speaks as if she were carrying on a conversation that had been interrupted. She speaks in a lowered voice, indicating the private nature of what she has to say.] I sent him imperative word yesterday I must have the bonds. I told him I wanted one to give to his wife for Christmas. He pretends to-day he didn't receive this letter, but he must have.

MASON. This makes the third time there has been some excuse for not giving you the bonds?

RUTH. Yes, and this letter he says he didn't get was sent to his office by hand.

MASON. I'll speak to him before I leave.

[They go out at back.

[As they pass out, JORDAN stands by the doorway holding the curtains back. The other three men stand stiffly at the Right. As MASON and RUTH go out, the SERVANTS relax and exchange glances, each giving a little laugh out loud, except JORDAN. During the following dialogue they empty the table preparatory to arranging the room for the Christmas tree.

JORDAN. Sh! A very dull dinner, not an interesting word spoke.

FIRST FOOTMAN. The widder seemed chipper like!

LEONARD. And did you get on to the old lady's rig-out; mourning don't hang very heavy on her shoulders.

[One chair is moved back.

JORDAN. [To FIRST FOOTMAN.] Get the coffee. [He goes out Right. To LEONARD.] Get the smoking lay-out!

[LEONARD goes out Right and brings back a silver tray laden with cigarettes, cigar boxes, and a burning alcohol lamp.

LEONARD. If you ask me, I think she's going to put a bit more on the matrimonial mare if she gets the chance.

JORDAN. It's none of your business. You're Mrs. Sterling's servant now.

LEONARD. Good thing, too; it was a happy day for us when they moved in.

FIRST FOOTMAN. [Reenters with the coffee.] Say, did you see how that young feller over there [Motioning to the lower right-hand corner of the table.] shovelled the food in?

LEONARD. And the way he poured down the liquid—regular hog! My arm's tired a-filling of his glass.

[And he drinks a glass of champagne which has been left untouched by a guest.

JORDAN. He ain't nobody; he hasn't any money; he was just asked to fill up. He's one of these yere singing chaps what's asked to pass the time after dinner with a song or two gratis. This dinner'll last him for food for a week!

Their manners suddenly change as the men reenter and take seats about the two ends of the table. STERLING, MASON, and DOCTOR down Left form one group. The other men are in a group between the window and the other end. On entering STERLING speaks.

STERLING. Jordan, for heaven's sake, give us something to see by! You can't tell which end of your cigar to light in this confounded woman's candle-light. If I had my way, I'd have candelabras made of Welsbachs!

TROTTER. Bright idea, Sterling.

[STERLING, laughing, joins his group, who laugh gently with him. JORDAN turns on the electric light. The servants pass the coffee, liqueurs, and the cigars and cigarettes. Meanwhile the following dialogue takes place, the men beginning to talk at once on their entrance.

STERLING. Mr. Mason, I'd like to ask your honest opinion on something if you'll give it me.

MASON. Certainly.

STERLING. This Hudson Electric Company.

DR. STEINHART. Oh! Dropped fearfully to-day.

STERLING. But that can happen easily with the best thing. To-morrow—

MASON. [Interrupting.] To-morrow it will drop to its very bottom!

STERLING. I don't believe it.

DR. STEINHART. Surely, Mr. Mason, the men who floated that are too clever to ruin themselves?

MASON. They're out of it.

STERLING. Out of it!

MASON. They got out last week quietly.

STERLING. But—

MASON. Mark my words, the day after to-morrow there'll be several foolish people ruined, and not one of the promoters of that company will lose a penny!

STERLING. I don't believe it!

[The crowd at the other end of the table, who have been listening to a tale from TROTTER, laugh heartily.

TROTTER. [Delighted with his success.] I'm no Dodo bird!

[WARDEN leaves this group casually and joins the other.

MASON. [To STERLING.] Don't tell me you're in it?

STERLING. [Ugly.] Yes, I am in it!

MASON. Not much?

STERLING. Yes, much!

WARDEN. Much what?

STERLING. Oh, nothing; we were just discussing stocks.

WARDEN. And up there they're discussing Jeffreys and Fitzsimmons.

MASON. Listen, Dick, after a lifelong experience in Wall Street, I defy any broker to produce one customer who can show a profit after three consecutive years of speculation.

STERLING. Oh, you're too conservative; nothing venture, nothing have. Excuse me, I think Jeffreys and Fitzsimmons more amusing topics. Come along.

[STERLING and DR. STEINHART join the other group Right.

MASON. [To WARDEN.] You're Sterling's broker.

WARDEN. No, not for over a year.

MASON. Then you can't tell me how deep he is in this Hudson Electric swindle?

WARDEN. Is he in it at all?

MASON. Yes, he says, deep.

WARDEN. I suspected it yesterday.

MASON. But what with—his wife's money?

WARDEN. That went fourteen months ago. I put him on his feet then, gave him some tips that enabled him to take this house with her mother, so that with his regular law business he ought to have done very well, but his living could not leave one cent over to speculate with.

MASON. [To himself.] Good God!

WARDEN. I know what you're afraid of.

MASON. No!

WARDEN. Yes. The reason I'm no longer his broker is he was ashamed to let me know about his dealings.

MASON. But you don't mean you think he'd actually steal!

WARDEN. His aunt's money? Why not? He did his wife's!

MASON. Does he handle any one else's affairs?

WARDEN. I know he takes care of that Godesby woman's property.

MASON. And she wouldn't hold her tongue if a crash came!

WARDEN. Not for a minute! Is Miss Hunter suspicious?

MASON. Yes. Does Sterling realize that to-morrow he will most probably be a ruined cheat?

WARDEN. Very likely.

MASON. If he made up his mind to-night it was all up with him, he might do—what?

WARDEN. Run away with whatever money he has left, or kill himself. I don't know if he's enough of a coward for that or not. There's one hold on him—he loves his wife.

MASON. Which will make him all the more ashamed of discovery. Do you believe she suspects?

WARDEN. Not a bit. She loves him too dearly.

MASON. Can we do anything?

WARDEN. Nothing but watch him closely till the people go. Then force him to make a clean breast of it, so we can all know where we stand; how we can best protect his aunt from ruin and his wife and boy from public disgrace.

MASON. He is watching us.

WARDEN. He knows I know him; we must be careful. He's coming toward us. [He then speaks in a different tone, but no louder.] You're certain of the trustworthiness of your information?

MASON. Absolutely. Every man left in that concern will be ruined before the 'Change closes after to-morrow. [STERLING has joined them in time to hear the end of MASON'S speech. MASON continues.] I am telling Warden what I told you about the Hudson Electric Company.

STERLING. Can't you talk of something pleasanter?

[BLANCHE reenters at back. On her entrance all the men rise. The servants finish preparing the room for the tree.

BLANCHE. I'm very sorry—I really can't let you men stay here any longer.

ALL THE MEN. Why not? How's that? [Ad lib.]

BLANCHE. You know we want to get this room ready for Santa Claus! Dick! [She goes to her husband. All the men go out at back in a group led by WARDEN and MASON. They are all talking and laughing. BLANCHE is left alone with her husband.] What is this Aunt Ruth has been telling me about not being able to get some bonds from you?

STERLING. Oh, nothing. I forgot to send them up to her, that's all.

BLANCHE. But she says she sent three times.

STERLING. One time too late to get into the vault; and the other, her letter was mislaid—I mean not given to me.

BLANCHE. You haven't broken your word to me?

STERLING. What if I had?

BLANCHE. I would let the law take its course.

STERLING. You must love me very little.

BLANCHE. I live with you. First you robbed me of my respect for you; then you dried up my heart with neglect.

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