THE RETURN OF PETER GRIMM
(Born, San Francisco, July 25, 1853)
The present Editor has had many opportunities of studying the theatre side of David Belasco. He has been privileged to hear expressed, by this Edison of our stage, diverse opinions about plays and players of the past, and about insurgent experiments of the immediate hour. He has always found a man quickly responsive to the best memories of the past, an artist naively childlike in his love of the theatre, shaped by old conventions and modified by new inventions. Belasco is the one individual manager to-day who has a workshop of his own; he is pre-eminently a creator, whereas his contemporaries, like Charles Frohman, were emphatically manufacturers of goods in the amusement line.
Such a man is entitled to deep respect, for the "carry-on" spirit with which he holds aloft the banner used by Boucicault, Wallack, Palmer, and Daly. It is wrong to credit him with deafness to innovation, with blindness to new combinations. He is neither of these. It is difficult to find a manager more willing to take infinite pains for effect, with no heed to the cost; it is impossible to place above him a director more successful in creating atmosphere and in procuring unity of cooperation from his staff. No one, unless it be Winthrop Ames, gives more personal care to a production than David Belasco. Considering that he was reared in the commercial theatre, his position is unique and distinctive.
In the years to come, when students enter the Columbia University Dramatic Museum, founded by Professor Brander Matthews, they will be able to judge, from the model of the stage set for "Peter Grimm," exactly how far David Belasco's much-talked-of realism went; they will rightly regard it as the high point in accomplishment before the advent of the "new" scenery, whose philosophy Belasco understands, but whose artistic spirit he cannot accept. Maybe, by that time, there will be preserved for close examination the manuscripts of Belasco's plays—models of thoroughness, of managerial foresight. The present Editor had occasion once to go through these typewritten copies; and there remains impressed on the memory the detailed exposition in "The Darling of the Gods." Here was not only indicated every shade of lighting, but the minute stage business for acting, revealing how wholly the manager gave himself over to the creation of atmosphere. I examined a mass of data—"boot plots," "light plots," "costume designs." Were the play ever published in this form, while it might confuse the general reader, it would enlighten the specialist. It would be a key to realistic stage management, in which Belasco excels. Whether it be his own play, or that of some outsider, with whom, in the final product, Belasco always collaborates, the manuscripts, constituting his producing library, are evidence of his instinctive eye for stage effect.
The details in the career of David Belasco are easily accessible. It is most unfortunate that the stupendous record of his life's accomplishment thus far, which, in two voluminous books, constituted the final labour of the late William Winter, is not more truly reflective of the man and his work. It fails to reproduce the flavour of the dramatic periods through which Belasco passed, in his association with Dion Boucicault as private secretary, in his work with James A. Herne at Baldwin's Theatre, in San Francisco, in his pioneer realism at the old New York Madison Square Theatre, when the Mallory Brothers were managers, Steele Mackaye was one of the stock dramatists, Henry DeMille was getting ready for collaboration with Belasco, Daniel Frohman was house-manager and Charles Frohman was out on the road, trying his abilities as advance-man for Wallack and Madison Square successes. Winter's life is orderly and matter-of-fact; Belasco's real life has always been melodramatic and colourful.
His early struggles in San Francisco, his initial attempts at playwriting, his intercourse with all the big actors of the golden period of the '60's—Mr. Belasco has written about them in a series of magazine reminiscences, which, if they are lacking in exact sequence, are measure of his type of mind, of his vivid memory, of his personal opinions.
Belasco has reached his position through independence which, in the '90's, brought down upon him the relentless antagonism of the Theatrical Trust—a combine of managers that feared the advent of so individualistic a playwright and manager. They feared his ability to do so many things well, and they disliked the way the public supported him. This struggle, tempestuous and prolonged, is in the records.
A man who has any supreme, absorbing interest at all is one who thrives on vagaries. Whatever Belasco has touched since his days of apprenticeship in San Francisco, he has succeeded in imposing upon it what is popularly called "the Belasco atmosphere." Though he had done a staggering amount of work before coming to New York, and though, when he went to the Lyceum Theatre, he and Henry DeMille won reputation by collaborating in "The Wife," "Lord Chumley," "The Charity Ball," and "Men and Women," he was probably first individualized in the minds of present-day theatregoers when Mrs. Leslie Carter made a sensational swing across stage, holding on to the clapper of a bell in "The Heart of Maryland." Even thus early, he was displaying characteristics for which, in later days, he remained unexcelled. He was helping Bronson Howard to touch up "Baron Rudolph," "The Banker's Daughter" and "The Young Mrs. Winthrop;" he was succeeding with a dramatization of H. Rider Haggard's "She," where William Gillette had failed in the attempt.
"The Heart of Maryland" established both Belasco and Mrs. Carter. Then he started on that extravagant period of spectacular drama, which gave to the stage such memorable pictures as "Du Barry," with Mrs. Carter, and "The Darling of the Gods," with Blanche Bates. In such pieces he literally threw away the possibilities of profit, in order to gratify his decorative sense. Out of that time came two distinctive pieces—one, the exquisitely poignant "Madame Butterfly" and the other, "The Girl of the Golden West"— both giving inspiration to the composer, Puccini, who discovered that a Belasco play was better suited for the purposes of colourful Italian opera than any other American dramas he examined.
Counting his western vicissitudes as one period, and the early New York days as a second, one might say that in the third period David Belasco exhibited those excellences and limitations which were thereafter to mark him and shape all his work. There is an Oriental love of colour and effect in all he does; but there is no monotony about it. "The Darling of the Gods" was different from "The Girl of the Golden West," and both were distinct from "The Rose of the Rancho." It is this scenic decorativeness which has enriched many a slim piece, accepted by him for presentation, and such a play has always been given that care and attention which has turned it eventually into a Belasco "offering." None of his collaborators will gainsay this genius of his. John Luther Long's novel was unerringly dramatized; Richard Walton Tully, when he left the Belasco fold, imitated the Belasco manner, in "The Bird of Paradise" and "Omar, the Tentmaker." And that same ability Belasco possesses to dissect the heart of a romantic piece was carried by him into war drama, and into parlour comedies, and plays of business condition. I doubt whether "The Auctioneer" would read well, or, for the matter of that, "The Music Master;" Charles Klein has written more coherent dialogue than is to be found in these early pieces. But they are vivid in mind because of Belasco's management, and because he saw them fitted to the unique figure of David Warfield.
But a Belasco success is furthered by the tremendous public curiosity that follows him in all he does. There is a wizardry about him which fascinates, and makes excellent reading in the press. Long before I saw the three-winged screen upon which it is his custom to sort out and pin up his random notes for a play, it was featured in the press. So were pictures of his "collection," in rooms adjoining his studio—especially his Napoleonic treasures which are a by-product of his Du Barry days. No man of the theatre is more constantly on the job than he. It is said that old John Dee, the famous astrologer whom Queen Elizabeth so often consulted, produced plays when he was a student at Cambridge University, with stage effects which only one gifted in the secrets of magic could have consummated. Belasco paints with an electric switchboard, until the emotion of his play is unmistakably impressed upon the eye. At a moment's notice he will root out his proscenium arch, and build a "frame" which obliterates the footlights; at another time he will build an "apron" to his stage, not for its historical significance, but merely to give depth and mellowness to such an ecclesiastical picture as Knoblauch's "Marie-Odile." He has spent whole nights alone in the theatre auditorium with his electrician, "feeling" for the "siesta" somnolence which carried his audience instantly into the Spanish heat of old California, in "The Rose of the Rancho;" and the moving scenery which took the onlooker from the foot-hills of the Sierras to the cabin of "The Girl of the Golden West" was a "trick" well worth the experiment.
Thus, no manager is more ingenious, more resourceful than David Belasco. But his care for detail is often a danger; he does not know fully the value of elimination; the eye of the observer is often worried by the multiplicity of detail, where reticence would have been more quickly effective. This is the Oriental in Belasco. His is a strange blend of realism and decorativeness.
"A young man came to me once," he said to me, "with the manuscript of a new play, which had possibilities in it. But after I had talked with him awhile, I found him preaching the doctrines of the 'new' art. So I said to him, 'My dear sir, here is your manuscript. The first scene calls for a tenement-house set. How would you mount it?'"
He smiled, maybe at the recollection of Gordon Craig's statements that "actuality, accuracy of detail, are useless on the stage," and that "all is a matter of proportion and nothing to do with actuality."
"I felt," Mr. Belasco continued, "that the young man would find difficulty in reconciling the nebulous perspectives of Mr. Craig with the squalor of a city block. I said to him, 'I have been producing for many years, and I have mounted various plays calling for differing atmospheres. I don't want to destroy your ideals regarding the 'new art', but I want you to realize that a manager has to conform his taste to the material he has in hand. I consider that one of the most truthful sets I have ever had on the stage was the one for the second act of Eugene Walter's 'The Easiest Way'. A boarding-house room on the top floor cannot be treated in any other way than as a boarding-house room. And should I take liberties with what we know for a fact exists in New York, on Seventh Avenue, just off Broadway, then I am a bad producer and do not know my business. I do not say there is no suggestion in realism; it is unwise to clutter the stage with needless detail. But we cannot idealize a little sordid ice-box where a working girl keeps her miserable supper; we cannot symbolize a broken jug standing in a wash-basin of loud design. Those are the necessary evils of a boarding-house, and I must be true to them'."
One will have to give Mr. Belasco this credit, that whatever he is, he is it to the bent of his powers. Had he lived in Elizabeth's day, he would have been an Elizabethan heart and soul. But his habit is formed as a producer, and he conforms the "new" art to this habit as completely as Reinhardt Reinhardtized the morality play, "Everyman," or Von Hofmannsthal Teutonized "Elektra."
"The Return of Peter Grimm" has been chosen for the present collection. It represents a Belasco interest and conviction greater than are to be found in any of his other plays. While there are no specific claims made for the fact that PETER materializes after his death, it is written with plausibility and great care. The psychic phenomena are treated as though real, and our sympathy for PETER when he returns is a human sympathy for the inability of a spirit to get his message across. The theme is not etherealized; one does not see through a mist dimly. There was not even an attempt, in the stage production of the piece, which occurred at the Belasco Theatre, New York, on October 17, 1911, to use the "trick" of gauze and queer lights; there was only one supreme thing done—to make the audience feel that PETER was on a plane far removed from the physical, by the ease and naturalness with which he slipped past objects, looked through people, and was unheeded by those whom he most wanted to influence. The remarkable unity of idea sustained by Mr. Belasco as manager, and by Mr. Warfield as actor, was largely instrumental in making the play a triumph. The playwright did not attempt to create supernatural mood; he did not resort to natural tricks such as Maeterlinck used in "L'Intruse," or as Mansfield employed in "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." He reduced what to us seems, at the present moment, a complicated explanation of a psychic condition to its simple terms, and there was nothing strange to the eye or unusual in the situation. One cannot approach the theme of the psychic without a personal concern. Sardou's "Spiritisme" was the culmination of years of investigation; the subject was one with which Belasco likewise has had much to do during the past years.
It is a privilege to be able to publish "Peter Grimm." Thus far not many of the Belasco plays are available in reading form. "May Blossom" and "Madame Butterfly" are the only ones. "Peter Grimm" has been novelized—in the day, now fortunately past, when a play was novelized in preference to perpetuating its legitimate form. And excerpts from the dialogue have been used. But this is the first time the complete text has appeared and it has been carefully edited by the author himself. In addition to which Mr. Belasco has written the following account of "Peter's" evolution, to be used in this edition.
The play, "The Return of Peter Grimm," is an expression in dramatic form of my ideas on a subject which I have pondered over since boyhood: "Can the dead come back?" Peter Grimm did come back. At the same time, I inserted a note in my program to say that I advanced no positive opinion; that the treatment of the play allowed the audience to believe that it had actually seen Peter, or that he had not been seen but existed merely in the minds of the characters on the stage. Spiritualists from all over the country flocked to see "The Return of Peter Grimm," and I have heard that it gave comfort to many. It was a difficult theme, and more than once I was tempted to give it up. But since it has given relief to those who have loved and lost, it was not written in vain. Victorian Sardou dealt with the same subject, but he did not show the return of the dead; instead, he delivered a spirit message by means of knocking on a table. His play was not a success, and I was warned by my friends to let the subject alone; but it is a subject that I never can or never have let alone; yet I never went to a medium in my life—could not bring myself to do it. My dead must come to me, and have come to me—or so I believe.
The return of the dead is the eternal riddle of the living. Although mediums have been exposed since the beginning of time, and so-called "spiritualism" has fallen into disrepute over and over again, it emerges triumphantly in spite of charlatans, and once more becomes the theme of the hour.
The subject first interested me when, as a boy, I read a story in which the dead "foretold dangers to loved ones." My mother had "premonitions" which were very remarkable, and I was convinced, at the time, that the dead gave these messages to her. She personally could not account for them. I probably owe my life to one of my mother's premonitions. I was going on a steamboat excursion with my school friends, when my mother had a strong presentiment of danger, and begged me not to go. She gave in to my entreaties, however, much against her will. Just as the boat was about to leave the pier, a vision of her pale face and tear-filled eyes came to me. I heard her voice repeating, "I wish you would not go, Davy." The influence was so strong that I dashed down the gang-plank as it was being pulled in. The boat met with disaster, and many of the children were killed or wounded. These premonitions have also come to me, but I do not believe as I did when a boy that they are warnings from the dead, although I cannot explain them, and they are never wrong; the message is always very clear.
My mother convinced me that the dead come back by coming to me at the time of her death—or so I believe. One night, after a long, hard rehearsal, I went to bed, worn out, and fell into a deep sleep. I was awakened by my mother, who stood in my bedroom and called to me. She seemed to be clothed in white. She repeated my name over and over—the name she called me in my boyhood: "Davy! Davy!" She told me not to grieve—that she was dying; that she had to see me. I distinctly saw her and heard her speak.
She was in San Francisco at the time—I, in New York. After she passed out of the room, I roused my family and told what I had heard and seen. I said: "My mother is dead. I know she is dead;" but I could not convince my family that I had not been dreaming. I was very restless—could not sleep again. The next day (we were rehearsing "Zaza") I went out for luncheon during the recess with a member of my company. He was a very absent-minded man, and at the table he took a telegram from his pocket which he said he had forgotten to give me: it announced the death of my mother at the time I had seen her in my room. I am aware that this could be explained as thought transference, accompanied by a dream in which my mother appeared so life-like as to make me believe the dream real. This explanation, however, does not satisfy me. I am sure that I did see her. Other experiences of a kindred nature served to strengthen my belief in the naturalness of what we call the supernatural. I decided to write a play dealing with the return of the dead: so it followed that when I was in need of a new play for David Warfield, I chose this subject. Slight of figure, unworldly, simple in all his ways, Warfield was the very man to bring a message back from the other world. Warfield has always appeared to me as a character out of one of Grimm's Fairy Tales. He was, to my mind, the one man to impersonate a spirit and make it seem real. So my desire to write a play of the dead, and my belief in Warfield's artistry culminated in "The Return of Peter Grimm." The subject was very difficult, and the greatest problem confronting me was to preserve the illusion of a spirit while actually using a living person. The apparition of the ghost in "Hamlet" and in "Macbeth," the spirits who return to haunt Richard III, and other ghosts of the theatre convinced me that green lights and dark stages with spot-lights would not give the illusion necessary to this play. All other spirits have been visible to someone on the stage, but PETER was visible to none, save the dog (who wagged his tail as his master returned from the next world) and to Frederik, the nephew, who was to see him but for a second. PETER was to be in the same room with the members of the household, and to come into close contact with them. They were to feel his influence without seeing him. He was to move among them, even appear to touch them, but they were to look past him or above him—never into his face. He must, of course, be visible to the audience. My problem, then, was to reveal a dead man worrying about his earthly home, trying to enlist the aid of anybody—everybody—to take his message. Certainly no writer ever chose a more difficult task; I must say that I was often very much discouraged, but something held me to the work in spite of myself. The choice of an occupation for my leading character was very limited. I gave PETER various trades and professions, none of which seemed to suit the part, until I made him a quaint old Dutchman, a nursery-man who loved his garden and perennials—the flowers that pass away and return season after season. This gave a clue to his character; gave him the right to found his belief in immortality on the lessons learned in his garden.
"God does not send us strange flowers every year, When the warm winds blow o'er the pleasant places, The same fair flowers lift up the same fair faces. The violet is here ... It all comes back, the odour, grace and hue, ... it IS the THING WE KNEW. So after the death winter it shall be," etc.
Against a background of budding trees, I placed the action of the play in the month of April; April with its swift transitions from bright sunlight to the darkness of passing clouds and showers. April weather furnished a natural reason for raising and lowering the lights—that the dead could come and go at will, seen or unseen. The passing rain-storms blended with the tears of those weeping for their loved ones. A man who comes back must not have a commonplace name—a name suggestive of comedy—and I think I must have read over every Dutch name that ever came out of Holland before I selected the name of "Peter Grimm." It was chosen because it suggested (to me) a stubborn old man with a sense of justice—whose spirit would return to right a wrong and adjust his household affairs.
The stage setting was evolved after extreme care and thought. It was a mingling of the past and present. It was Peter's sitting-room, with a mixture of furniture and family portraits and knick-knacks, each with an association of its own. It was such a room as would be dear to all old-fashioned, home-loving people—unlike a room of the present, from which every memento of parents and grand-parents would be banished in favour of strictly modern or antique formal furniture. In this room, the things of Peter's father mingled with those of Peter's boyhood and young manhood. This was done in order that the influence of his familiar belongings might be felt by the people of the play. When his niece stood with her hand on his chair; when she saw the lilies he loved; when she touched his pipe, or any of the familiar objects dear to her because of their associations, PETER was brought vividly back to her mind, although she could not see him.
Peter's clothing was selected with unusual care so that it would not catch the reflection from the lights. Months of preparation and weeks of rehearsal were necessary.
One detail that was especially absorbing was the matter of lighting; catching the high lights and shadows. This was the first time the "bridge of lights" was used on any stage. Lighting has always been to me more than mere illumination. It is a revelation of the heart and soul of the story. It points the way. Lights should be to the play what the musical accompaniment is to the singer. A wordless story could be told by lights. Lights should be mixed as a painter mixes his colours—a bit of pink here, of blue there; a touch of red, a lavender or a deep purple, with shadows intervening to give the desired effect. Instead of throwing a mysterious light upon the figure of Peter, I decided to reverse the process and put no lights on him. The light was on the other people—the people still in life, with just enough amber to give them colour.
The play was cut and cut until there was not a superfluous line in it. Every word was necessary, although it might not have seemed so when read. It was only after the play was recalled as a whole, that the necessity for everything could be seen. The coming of the circus with the clown singing "Uncle Rat has come to town," and the noise of the drums, are instances of this. It seemed like halting the action to bring in a country circus procession, but its necessity is shown in the final scene when the little boy, William, passes away. It is always cruel to see a child die on the stage. The purpose of the coming of the circus was to provide a pleasant memory for the child to recall as his mind wandered away from earth, and to have his death a happy one. This was made more effective when Peter took up the refrain of the song as though he knew what was passing in the dying boy's mind, showing that the dead have their own world and their own understanding.
No company of players ever had situations so fraught with danger of failure. They were very nervous. Mr. Warfield appeared in the part for several weeks before he felt at ease as the living man who returns as his own spirit.
There is one memory associated with the play which will remain in my heart as long as it beats. This piece was written during the last year-and-a-half of my daughter Augusta's life. For some reason, which I could not understand then, but which was clear to me later, the subject fascinated her. She showed the greatest interest in it. The dear child was preparing to leave the world, but we did not know it. When the manuscript was finished, she kept it by her side, and, notwithstanding her illness, saw the dress rehearsal. During the writing of the play, she often said, "Yes, father, it is all true. I believe every word of it." It was as though the thought embodied in the play gave her comfort. When we discovered how ill she was, I took her to Asheville, North Carolina, thinking the climate would help her. She grew worse. Still hoping, we went to Colorado, and there I lost her.
It has seemed to me since that the inspiration compelling me to go on with "Peter Grimm," in spite of its difficulties, came from this daughter who died.
I cannot close this reminiscence of "The Return of Peter Grimm" without acknowledging the help and inspiration received from David Warfield, without whose genius and personality the play would not have been possible.
I doubt whether Mr. Belasco has ever infused so much imaginative ingenuity into the structure and picture of a play. Even in the reading, its quaint charm is instantly revealed. We quite agree with Winter in saying that the effectiveness of the role of PETER lies in its simplicity. This was the triumph of Warfield's interpretation. It may have been difficult to attain the desired effects, but once reached, technical skill did the rest. It will be noted on the program that credit is given for an idea to Mr. Cecil DeMille, son of Mr. Belasco's former collaborator. "The Return of Peter Grimm" was scheduled for production in London by Sir Herbert Tree, but plans were cut short by that actor's sudden death, July 2, 1917.
Mr. Belasco's interest in the psychic and the supernatural has been seen in other plays, notably in "The Case of Becky," by Edward Locke, and in Henry Bernstein's "The Secret"—example of Belasco's most skilled adaptation from the French, though we remember the excellence of his version of Berton and Simon's "Zaza." That he thought Warfield admirably suited to this type of play was one of the chief incentives which prompted him to write "Van Der Decken" (produced on the road, December 12, 1915), a play whose theme is "The Flying Dutchman"—and not thus far given in New York.[A]
[Footnote A: Some of Mr. Belasco's recent opinions regarding the stage have been published in book form, under the title, "The Theatre through its Stage Door" (Harper).]
[Illustration: BELASCO THEATRE
FORTY FOURTH STREET near BROADWAY Under the Sole Management of DAVID BELASCO
BEGINNING TUESDAY EVENING, OCTOBER 17, 1911. Matinees Thursday and Saturday.
DAVID BELASCO Presents DAVID WARFIELD -IN- THE RETURN OF PETER GRIMM
A PLAY, IN THREE ACTS.
By DAVID BELASCO.
"Only one thing really counts—only one thing—love. It is the only thing that tells in the long run; nothing else endures to the end."
CAST OF CHARACTERS.
PETER GRIMM..................................DAVID WARFIELD FREDERIK, his nephew.........................JOHN SAINPOLIS JAMES HARTMAN................................THOMAS MEIGHAN ANDREW MacPHERSON............................JOSEPH BRENNAN REV. HENRY BATHOLOMMEY.........................WILLIAM BOAG COLONEL TOM LAWTON...........................JOHN F. WEBBER WILLEM.........................................PERCY HELTON KATHRIEN.......................................JANET DUNBAR MRS. BATHOLOMMEY................................MARIE BATES MARTA.......................................MARIE REICHARDT THE CLOWN........................................TONY BEVAN
PROGRAM CONTINUED ON SECOND PAGE FOLLOWING
* * * * *
The scene of the play is laid in the living room of Peter Grimm's home at Grimm Manor, a small town in New York State, founded by early settlers from Holland.
The first act takes place at eleven o'clock in the morning, on a fine spring day.
The second act passes ten days later, towards the close of a rainy afternoon.
The third act takes place at twenty minutes to twelve on the same night.
PROGRAM CONTINUED ON SECOND PAGE FOLLOWING
* * * * *
NOTE—Mr. Belasco does not intend to advance any theory as to the probability of the return of the main character of this play. For the many, it may be said that he could exist only in the minds of the characters grouped about him—in their subconscious memories. For the few, his presence will embody the theory of the survival of persistent personal energy. This character has, so far as possible, been treated to accord with either thought. The initial idea of the play was first suggested as a dramatic possibility by Mr. Cecil DeMille, to whom Mr. Belasco acknowledges his indebtedness. A conversation with Professor James, of Harvard, and the works of Professor Hyslop of the American branch of the London Society of Psychical Research have also aided Mr. Belasco.
The play produced under the personal supervision of Mr. Belasco.
Stage Director....................................William J. Dean
Stage Manager........................................William Boag
Scene by Ernest Gros.
Scenery built by Charles J. Canon
Electrical effects by Louis Hartman.]
THE RETURN OF PETER GRIMM
A PLAY IN THREE ACTS
By DAVID BELASCO
[The Editor wishes to thank Mr. David Belasco for his courtesy in granting permission to include "The Return of Peter Grimm" in the present Collection. All its rights are fully secured, and proceedings will immediately be taken against any one attempting to infringe them.]
_The scene shows a comfortable living-room in an old house. The furniture was brought to America by _PETER GRIMM'S_ ancestors. The _GRIMMS_ were, for the most part, frugal people, but two or three fine paintings have been inherited by _PETER_.
A small, old-fashioned piano stands near the open window, a few comfortable chairs, a desk with a hanging lamp above it, and an arm-chair in front of it, a quaint old fireplace, a Dutch wall clock with weights, a sofa, a hat-rack, and mahogany flower-pot holders, are set about the room; but the most treasured possession is a large family Bible lying on a table. A door leads to a small office occupied by PETER'S secretary.
Stairs lead to the sleeping-rooms above. Through the window, hothouses, beds of tulips, and other flowers, shrubs and trees are seen. "Peter Grimm's Botanic Gardens" supply seeds, plants, shrubbery and trees to the wholesale, as well as retail trade, and the view suggests the importance of the industry. An old Dutch windmill, erected by a Colonial ancestor, gives a quaint touch, to the picture. Although PETER GRIMM is a very wealthy man, he lives as simply as his ancestors.
As the curtain is raised, the room is empty; but CATHERINE is heard singing in the dining-room. JAMES HARTMAN, PETER'S secretary, opens his door to listen, a small bundle of letters in his hand. He is a well set up young man, rather blunt in his manner, and a trifle careless in his dress. After a pause, he goes back into the office, leaving the door ajar. Presently CATHERINE enters. In spite of her youth and girlish appearance, she is a good, thrifty housekeeper. She wears a simple summer gown, and carries a bunch of gay tulips and an old silver pitcher, from which she presently pours water into the Harlequin Delft vase on PETER GRIMM'S desk. She peeps into the office, retreating, with a smile on her lips, as JAMES appears.
CATHERINE. Did I disturb you, James?
JAMES. [On the threshold.] No indeed.
CATHERINE. Do you like your new work?
JAMES. Anything to get back to the gardens, Catherine. I've always done outside work and I prefer it; but I would shovel dirt rather than work for any one else.
CATHERINE. [Amused.] James!
JAMES. It's true. When the train reached the Junction, and a boy presented the passengers with the usual flower and the "compliments of Peter Grimm"—it took me back to the time when that was my job; and when I saw the old sign, "Grimm's Botanic Gardens and Nurseries"—I wanted to jump off the train and run through the grounds. It seemed as though every tulip called "hello" to me.
CATHERINE. Too bad you left college! You had only one more year.
JAMES. Poor father! He's very much disappointed. Father has worked in the dirt in overalls—a gardener—all his life; and, of course, he over-estimates an education. He's far more intelligent than most of our college professors.
CATHERINE. I understand why you came back. You simply must live where things grow, mustn't you, James? So must I. Have you seen our orchids?
JAMES. Orchids are pretty; but they're doing wonderful things with potatoes these days. I'd rather improve the breed of a squash than to have an orchid named after me. Wonderful discovery of Luther Burbank's— creating an edible cactus. Sometimes I feel bitter thinking what I might have done with vegetables, when I was wasting time studying Greek.
CATHERINE. [Changing suddenly.] James: why don't you try to please Uncle Peter Grimm?
JAMES. I do; but he is always asking my opinion, and when I give it, he blows up.
CATHERINE. [Coaxingly.] Don't be quite so blunt. Try to be like one of the family.
JAMES. I'm afraid I shall never be like one of this family.
CATHERINE. Why not? I'm no relation at all; and yet—
JAMES. [Making a resolution.] I'll do my best to agree with him. [Offering his hand.] It's a promise. [They shake hands.
CATHERINE. Thank you, James.
JAMES. [Still holding her hand.] It's good to be back, Catherine. It's good to see you again.
He is still holding her hand when FREDERIK GRIMM enters. He is the son of PETER'S dead sister, and has been educated by PETER to carry on his work. He is a graduate of Amsterdam College, Holland, and, in appearance and manner, suggests the foreign student. He has managed to pull through college creditably, making a specialty of botany. PETER has given him the usual trip through Europe, and FREDERIK has come to his rich uncle to settle down and learn his business. He has been an inmate of the household for a few months. He poses as a most industrious young man, but is, at heart, a shirker.
FREDERIK. Where's Uncle?
JAMES. Good-morning, Frederik. Your uncle's watching father spray the plum trees. The black knot's after them again.
FREDERIK. I can hardly keep my eyes open. Uncle wakes me up every morning at five—creaking down the old stairs. [Eyeing CATHERINE admiringly.] You're looking uncommonly pretty this morning, Kitty. [CATHERINE edges away and runs upstairs to her room.
FREDERIK. Miss Catherine and you and I are no longer children—our positions are altered—please remember that. I'm no longer a student home for the holidays from Amsterdam College. I'm here to learn the business which I am expected to carry on. Miss Catherine is a young lady now, and my uncle looks upon her as his daughter. You are here as my uncle's secretary. That's how we three stand in this house. Don't call me "Frederik," and hereafter be good enough to say, "Miss Grimm."
JAMES. [Amiably.] Very well.
FREDERIK. James: there's a good opportunity for a young man like you in our Florida house. I think that if I spoke for you—
JAMES. Why do you wish to ship me off to Florida?
FREDERIK. I don't understand you, Hartman. I don't wish to ship you off. I am merely thinking of your future. You seem to have changed since—
JAMES. We've all grown up, as you just said. [JAMES has laid some mail on the desk, and is about to leave the room, when FREDERIK speaks again, but in a more friendly manner.
FREDERIK. The old man's aging; do you notice it?
JAMES. Your uncle's mellowing, yes; but that's only to be expected. He's changing foliage with the years.
FREDERIK. He's growing as old-fashioned as his hats. In my opinion, this would be the time to sell.
JAMES. [Astonished.] Sell? Sell a business that has been in his family for—why, it's his religion!
FREDERIK. It's at the height of its prosperity. It would sell like that! [Snapping his fingers.] What was the last offer the old man refused from Hicks, of Rochester, Jim?
JAMES. [Noticing the sudden friendliness—looking at FREDERIK, half-amused, half-disgusted.] Can't repeat correspondence, Mr. Grimm. [Amazed.] Good heavens! You surprise me! Would you sell your great, great grandfather? I learned to read by studying his obituary out in the peach orchard: "Johann Grimm, of Holland, an upright settler." There isn't a day your uncle doesn't tell me that you are to carry on the work.
FREDERIK. So I am, but it's not my religion. [Sarcastically..] Every man can't be blessed like you with the soul of a market gardener—a peddler of turnips.
JAMES. [Thinking—ignoring FREDERIK.] He's a great old man—your uncle. It's a big name—Grimm—Peter Grimm. The old man knows his business—he certainly knows his business. [Changing.] God! It's an awful thought that a man must die and carry all that knowledge of orchids to the grave! I wonder if it doesn't all count somewhere.... I must attend to the mail.
PETER GRIMM enters from the gardens. He is a well-preserved man of sixty, very simple and plain in his ways. He has not changed his style of dress in the past thirty years. His clothing, collar, tie, hat and shoes are all old-fashioned. He is an estimable man, scrupulously honest, gentle and sympathetic; but occasionally he shows a flash of Dutch stubbornness.
FREDERIK. I ran over from the office, Uncle Peter, to make a suggestion.
FREDERIK. I suggest that we insert a full-page cut of your new tulip in our mid-summer floral almanac.
PETER. [Who has hung up his hat on his own particular peg, affably assenting.] A good idea!
FREDERIK. The public is expecting it.
PETER. You think so, my boy?
FREDERIK. Why, Uncle, you've no idea of the stir this tulip has created. People stop me in the street to speak of it.
PETER. Well, well, you surprise me. I didn't think it so extraordinary.
FREDERIK. I've had a busy morning, sir, in the packing house.
PETER. That's good. I'm glad to see you taking hold of things, Fritz. [Humourously, touching FREDERIK affectionately on the shoulder.] We mustn't waste time; for that's the stuff life's made of. [Seriously.] It's a great comfort to me, Frederik, to know that when I'm in my little private room with James, or when I've slipped out to the hothouses,—you are representing me in the offices—young Mr. Grimm.... James, are you ready for me?
JAMES. Yes, sir.
PETER. I'll attend to the mail in a moment. [Missing CATHERINE, he calls according to the household signal.] Ou—oo! [He is answered by CATHERINE, who immediately appears from her room, and comes running downstairs.] Catherine, I have news for you. I've named the new rose after you: "Katie—a hardy bloomer." It's as red as the ribbon in your hair.
CATHERINE. Thank you, Uncle Peter, thank you very much. And now you must have your cup of coffee.
PETER. What a fine little housewife! A busy girl about the house, eh, Fritz? Is there anything you need to-day, Katie?
CATHERINE. No, Uncle Peter, I have everything I need, thank you.
PETER. Not everything,—not everything, my dear. [Smiling at FREDERIK. JAMES, ignored, is standing in the background.] Wait! Wait till I give you a husband. I have my plans. [Looking from FREDERIK to CATHERINE.] People don't always know what I'm doing, but I'm a great man for planning. Come, Katie, tell me, on this fine spring morning, what sort of husband would you prefer?
CATHERINE. [Annoyed,—with girlish impatience.] You're always speaking of weddings, Uncle Peter. I don't know what's come over you of late.
PETER. It's nesting time, ... spring weddings are in the air; besides, my grandmother's linen-chest upstairs must be used again for you [Impulsively drawing CATHERINE to him.], my house fairy. [Kisses her.] There, I mustn't tease her. But I leave it to Fritz if I don't owe her a fine husband—this girl of mine. Look what she has done for me!
CATHERINE. Done for you? I do you the great favour to let you do everything for me.
PETER. Ah, but who lays out my linen? Who puts flowers on my desk every day? Who gets up at dawn to eat breakfast with me? Who sees that I have my second cup of coffee? But better than all that—who brings youth into my old house?
CATHERINE. That's not much—youth.
PETER. No? We'll leave it to Fritz. [FREDERIK, amused, listens in silence.] What should I be now—a rough old fellow—a bachelor—without youth in my house, eh? God knows! Katie has softened me towards all the ladies—er—mellowed me as time has mellowed my old pictures. [Points to pictures.] And I was growing hard—hard and fussy.
CATHERINE. [Laughing.] Ah, Uncle Peter, have I made you take a liking to all the rest of the ladies?
PETER. Yes. It's just as it is when you have a pet: you like all that breed. You can only see your kind of kitten.
JAMES. [Coming down a step, impressed by PETER'S remark—speaking earnestly.] That's so, sir. [The others are surprised.] I hadn't thought of it in that way, but it's true. You study a girl for the first time, and presently you notice the same little traits in every one of them. It makes you feel differently towards all the rest.
PETER. [Amused.] Why, James, what do you know about girls? "Bachelor" is stamped all over you—you're positively labelled.
JAMES. [Good-naturedly.] Perhaps. [Goes back to the office.
PETER. Poor James! What a life before him! When a bachelor wants to order a three-rib roast, who's to eat it? I never had a proper roast until Katie and Frederik came to make up my family; [Rubbing his hands.] but the roasts are not big enough. [Giving FREDERIK a knowing look.] We must find a husband.
CATHERINE. You promised not to—
PETER. I want to see a long, long table with plenty of young people.
CATHERINE. I'll leave the room, Uncle.
PETER. With myself at the head, carving, carving, carving, watching the plates come back, and back, and back. [As she is about to go.] There, there, not another word of this to-day.
The 'phone rings. JAMES re-enters and answers it.
JAMES. Hello! [Turns.] Rochester asks for Mr. Peter Grimm to the 'phone. Another message from Hicks' greenhouses.
PETER. Ask them to excuse me.
JAMES. [Bluntly.] You'll have to excuse him. [Listens.] No, no, the gardens are not in the market. You're only wasting your time.
PETER. Tc! Tc! James! Can't you say it politely? [JAMES listens at 'phone.
FREDERIK. [Aside to PETER.] James is so painfully blunt. [Then changing.] Is it—er—a good offer? Is Hicks willing to make it worth while? [Catching his uncle's astonished eye—apologetically.] Of course, I know you wouldn't think of—
CATHERINE. I should say not! My home? An offer? Our gardens? I should say not!
FREDERIK. Mere curiosity on my part, that's all.
PETER. Of course, I understand. Sell out? No indeed. We are thinking of the next generation.
FREDERIK. Certainly, sir.
PETER. We're the last of the family. The business—that's Peter Grimm. It will soon be Frederik Grimm. The love for the old gardens is in our blood.
FREDERIK. It is, sir. [Lays a fond hand on PETER'S shoulder.
PETER. [Struck.] I have an idea. We'll print the family history in our new floral almanac.
FREDERIK. [Suppressing a yawn.] Yes, yes, a very good idea.
PETER. Katie, read it to us and let us hear how it sounds.
CATHERINE. [Reads.] "In the spring of 1709 there settled on Quassick Creek, New York State, Johann Grimm, aged twenty-two, husbandman and vine-dresser, also Johanna, his wife."
PETER. Very interesting.
FREDERIK. Very interesting, indeed.
CATHERINE. "To him Queen Anne furnished one square, one rule, one compass, two whipping saws and several small pieces. To him was born—"
PETER. [Interrupting.] You left out two augurs.
CATHERINE. [Reads.] Oh, yes—"and two augurs. To him was born a son—"
PETER. [Who knows the history by heart, has listened, his eyes almost suffused—repeating each word to himself, as she reads. He has lived over each generation down to the present and nods in approval as she reaches this point.] The foundation of our house. And here we are prosperous and flourishing—after seven generations. We'll print it, eh, Fritz?
FREDERIK. Certainly, sir. By all means let us print it.
PETER. And now we are depending upon you, Frederik, for the next line in the book. [To CATHERINE —slyly—as she closes the book.] If my sister could see Frederik, what a proud mother she would be!
JAMES. [Turning from the 'phone to PETER.] Old man Hicks himself has come to the 'phone. Says he must speak to Mr. Peter Grimm.
FREDERIK. I'd make short work of him, Uncle.
PETER. [At the 'phone.] How are you, my old friend?... How are your plum trees? [Listens.] Bad, eh? Well, we can only pray and use Bordeaux Mixture.... No.... Nonsense! This business has been in my family for seven generations. Why sell? I'll see that it stays in the family seven generations longer! [Echoing.] Do I propose to live that long? N—no; but my plans will. [Looks towards FREDERIK and CATHERINE.] How? Never mind. Good-morning. [Hangs up the receiver.
JAMES. Sorry to disturb you, sir, but some of these letters are—
FREDERIK. I'm off.
PETER. [Who has lifted a pot of tulips to set it in the sun—standing with the pot in his hands.] And remember the saying: [A twinkle in his upraised eyes.] "Thou, O God, sellest all good things at the price of labour." [Smells the tulips and sets them down.
FREDERIK. [Goes briskly towards the door.] That's true, sir. I want to speak to you later, Uncle—[Turning, looking at JAMES.] on a private matter. [He goes off looking at his watch, as though he had a hard day's work before him.
PETER. [Looking after FREDERIK.] Very capable young fellow, Frederik. I was a happy man, James, when I heard that he had won the prize for botany at Amsterdam College. I had to find out the little I know by experience.
JAMES. [Impulsively.] Yes, and I'll wager you've forgotten more than— [Catching a warning glance from CATHERINE, he pauses.
JAMES. Nothing, sir. I—
CATHERINE. [Tugging at PETER'S coat—speaking to him apart, as JAMES busies himself at the desk.] Uncle Peter, I think you're unfair to James. We used to have him to dinner very often before he went away. Now that he's back, you treat him like a stranger.
PETER. [Surprised.] Eh? I didn't know that I—[Petting CATHERINE.] A good, unselfish girl. She thinks of everybody. [Aloud.] James, will you have dinner with us to-day?
JAMES. [Pleased and surprised.] Thank you, sir—yes, sir.
PETER. It's a roast goose—cooked sweet, James. [Smacks his lips.] Fresh green herbs in the dressing and a Figaro pudding. Marta brought over that pudding receipt from Holland.
MARTA, an old family servant, has entered with the air of having forgotten to wind the clock. She smiles happily at PETER'S allusion to her puddings, attends to the old clock, and passes of with CATHERINE. PETER sits at the desk, glancing over the mail.
PETER. Katie's blossoming like a rose. Have you noticed how she's coming out lately, James?
JAMES. Yes, sir.
PETER. You've noticed it, too? [Picks up another letter, looking over it.
JAMES. Yes, sir.
PETER. [Pausing, taking off his eye-glasses and holding them on his thumb. Philosophically.] How prettily Nature accomplishes her will— making a girl doubly beautiful that a young man may yield his freedom the more easily. Wonderful! [During the following, he glances over letters.] A young girl is like a violet sheltered under a bush, James; and that is as it should be, isn't it?
JAMES. No, sir, I don't think so.
PETER. [Surprised.] What?
JAMES. I believe people should think for themselves—not be....
PETER. Go on.
JAMES. [Remembering his promise to CATHERINE.] Nothing.
PETER. Go on, James.
JAMES. I mean swallowed up.
PETER. Swallowed up? Explain yourself, James.
JAMES. I shouldn't have mentioned it.
PETER. Certainly, certainly. Don't be afraid to express an honest opinion.
JAMES. I only meant that you can't shape another's life. We are all free beings and—
PETER. Free? Of course Katie's free—to a certain extent. Do you mean to tell me that any young girl should be freer? Nonsense! She should be happy that I am here to think for her—I! We must think for people who can't think for themselves; and a young girl can't. [Signing an answer to a letter after hastily glancing over it.] You have extraordinary ideas, James.
JAMES. Excuse me, sir; you asked my opinion. I only meant that we can't think for others—any more than we can eat or sleep for them.
PETER. [As though accepting the explanation.] Oh ... I see what you mean.
JAMES. Of course, every happy being is bound by its nature to lead its own life—that it may be a free being. Evidently I didn't make my meaning clear. [Giving PETER another letter to sign.
PETER. Free? Happy? James, you talk like an anarchist! You surprise me, sir. Where do you get these extraordinary ideas?
JAMES. By reading modern books and magazines, sir, and of course—
PETER. I thought so. [Pointing to his books.] Read Heine. Cultivate sentiment. [Signing the letter.] Happy? Has it ever occurred to you that Katie is not happy?
JAMES. No, sir, I can't truthfully say that it has.
PETER. I imagine not. These are the happiest hours of her life. Young ... in love ... soon to be married.
JAMES. [After a long pause.] Is it settled, sir?
PETER. No, but I'll soon settle it. Anyone can see how she feels towards Frederik.
JAMES. [After a shorter pause.] Isn't she very young to marry, sir?
PETER. Not when she marries into the family; not when I am in the house—[Touching his chest.] to guard her—to watch over her. Leave it to me. [Enthusiastically.] Sit here, James. Take one of Frederik's cigars. [JAMES politely thanks him, but doesn't take one.] It's a pleasure to talk to some one who's interested; and you are interested, James?
JAMES. Yes, sir, I'm much more interested than you might think.
PETER. Good. We'll take up the mail in a minute. Now, in order to carry out my plans—
CATHERINE. [Sticking her head in the door.] Ready for coffee?
PETER. Er—a little later. Close the door, dear. [She disappears, closing the door.] In order to carry out my plans, I have had to use great diplomacy. I made up my mind to keep Katie in the family; being a rich man—everybody knows it—I've had to guard against fortune-hunters. However, I think I've done away with them, for the whole town understands that Katie hasn't a penny—doesn't it, James?
JAMES. Yes, sir.
PETER. Yes, I think I've made that very clear. My dream was to bring Catherine up to keep her in the family, and it has been fulfilled. My plans have turned out beautifully, for she is satisfied and happy.
JAMES. But did you want her to be happy simply because you are happy, sir? Don't you want her to be happy because she is happy?
PETER. If she's happy, why should I care? [Picks up the last letter.
JAMES. If she's happy.
PETER. [Losing his temper.] What do you mean? That's the second time you've said that. Why do you harp on—
JAMES. [Rising.] Excuse me, sir.
PETER. [Angrily.] Sit down. What do you know?
JAMES. Nothing, sir....
PETER. You must know something to speak in this manner.
JAMES. No, I don't. You're a great expert in your line, Mr. Grimm, and I have the greatest respect for your opinion; but you can't mate people as you'd graft tulips. And more than once, I've—I've caught her crying and I've thought perhaps ...
PETER. [Pooh-poohing.] Crying? Of course! Was there ever a girl who didn't cry?... You amuse me ... with your ideas of life.... Ha! Haven't I asked her why she was crying,—and hasn't she always said: "I don't know why—it's nothing." They love to cry. [Signs the last letter.] But that's what they all cry over—nothing. James, do you know how I happened to meet Katie? She was prescribed for me by Doctor MacPherson.
JAMES. [Taking the letter.] Prescribed?
PETER. As an antidote. I was growing to be a fussy bachelor, with queer notions. You are young, but see that you don't need the Doctor, James. Do you know how I was cured? I'll tell you. One day, when I had business in the city, the Doctor went with me, and before I knew what he was at—he had marched me into a home for babies.... Katie was nearest the door—the first one. Pinned over her crib was her name: "Catherine Staats, aged three months." She held out her little arms ... so friendless—so pitiful—so alone—and I was done for. We brought her back home, the Doctor, a nurse and I. The first time I carried her up those stairs—all my fine bachelor's ideas went out of my head. I knew then that my theories were all humbug. I had missed the child in the house who was to teach me everything. I had missed many children in my house. From that day, I watched over her life. [Rising, pointing towards the head of the stairs.] James, I was born in this house—in the little room where I sleep; and her children shall one day play in the room in which I was born.... That's very pretty, eh? [Wipes his eyes, sentimentally.] I've always seen it that way.
JAMES. [Coolly.] Yes; it's very pretty if it turns out well.
PETER. How can it turn out otherwise?
JAMES. To me, sir, it's not a question of sentiment—of where her children shall play, so long as they play happily.
PETER. What? Her children can play anywhere—in China if they want to! Are you in your senses? A fine reward for giving a child all your affection— to live to see her children playing in China. No, sir! I propose to keep my household together, by your leave. [Banging his clenched fist on the desk.] It's my plan. [Cleans his pipe, looking at JAMES from time to time. JAMES posts the letters in a mail-box outside the door. PETER goes to the window, calling off.] Otto! Run to the office and tell Mr. Frederik he may come in now. [The voice of a gruff Dutchman: "Het is pastoor's dag." (It is the pastor's day.)] Ah, yes; I had forgotten. It's William's day to take flowers to the Pastor. [A knock is heard and, as PETER calls "Come in," WILLIAM, a delicate child of eight, stands timidly in the doorway of the dining-room, hat in hand.] How are you to-day, William? [Pats WILLIAM on the shoulder.
WILLIAM. The Doctor says I'm well now.
PETER. Good! Then you shall take flowers to the church. [Calls off.] A big armful, Otto!
MARTA has entered with a neatly folded, clean handkerchief which she tucks into WILLIAM'S breast pocket.
PETER. [In a low voice, to JAMES.] There's your example of freedom! William's mother, old Marta's spoiled child, was free. You remember Annamarie, James?—let to come and go as she pleased. God knows where she is now ... and here is William with the poor old grandmother.... Run along with the flowers, William. [Gives WILLIAM some pennies as he goes.] How he shoots up, eh, Marta?
MARTA. [With the hopeless sorrow of the old, as she passes off.] Poor child ... poor child.
PETER. Give Katie more freedom, eh? Oh, no! I shall guard her as I would guard my own, for she is as dear to me as though she were mine, and, by marriage, please God, she shall be a Grimm in name.
JAMES. Mr. Grimm, I—I wish you would transfer me to your branch house in Florida.
PETER. What? You who were so glad to come back! James, you need a holiday. Close your desk. Go out and busy yourself with those pet vegetables of yours. Change your ideas; then come back sane and sensible, and attend to your work. [Giving a last shot at JAMES as he passes into the office and FREDERIK re-enters.] You don't know what you want!
FREDERIK. [Looking after JAMES.] Uncle Peter, when I came in this morning, I made up my mind to speak to you of James.
FREDERIK. Yes, I've wondered lately if ... it seems to me that James is interested in Catherine.
PETER. James? Impossible.
FREDERIK. I'm not so sure.
PETER. [Good-naturedly.] James? James Hartman?
FREDERIK. When I look back and remember him as a barefoot boy living in a shack behind our hot-houses—and see him now—in here with you—
PETER. All the more credit, Frederik.
FREDERIK. Yes; but these are the sort of fellows who dream of getting into the firm. And there are more ways than one.
PETER. Do you mean to say—He wouldn't presume to think of such a thing.
FREDERIK. Oh, wouldn't he! The class to which he belongs presumes to think of anything. I believe he has been making love to Catherine.
PETER. [After a slight pause, goes to the dining-room door and calls.] Katie! Katie!
FREDERIK. [Hastily.] Don't say that I mentioned it. [CATHERINE enters.
PETER. Katie, I wish to ask you a question. I—[He laughs.] Oh, it's absurd. No, no, never mind.
CATHERINE. What is it?
PETER. I can't ask you. It's really too absurd.
CATHERINE. [Her curiosity aroused.] What is it, Uncle?... Tell me ... tell me....
PETER. Has James ever—
CATHERINE. [Taken back and rather frightened—quickly.] No....
PETER. What?... How did you know what I ... [FREDERIK gives her a shrewd glance; but PETER, suspecting nothing, continues.] I meant ... has James shown any special interest in you?
CATHERINE. [As though accepting the explanation.] Oh ... [Flurried.] Why, Uncle Peter!... Uncle Peter!... whatever put this notion into your head?
PETER. It's all nonsense, of course, but—
CATHERINE. I've always known James.... We went to school together.... James has shown no interest he ought not to have shown, Uncle Peter,—if that's what you mean. He has always been very respectful in a perfectly friendly way.
PETER. [Convinced.] Respectful in a perfectly friendly way. [To FREDERIK.] You can't ask more than that. Thank you, dear, that's all I wanted. Run along. [Glad to escape, CATHERINE leaves the room.] He was only respectful in a perfectly friendly way. [Slaps FREDERIK on the back.] You're satisfied now, I hope?
FREDERIK. No, I am not. If she hasn't noticed what he has in mind, I have. When I came into this room a few moments ago,—it was as plain as day. He's trying to make love to her under our very eyes. I saw him. I wish you would ask him to stay in his office and attend to his own business. [JAMES now re-enters on his way to the gardens.]
PETER. James, it has just occurred to me—that—[James pauses.] What was your reason for wanting to give up your position? Had it anything to do with my little girl?
JAMES. Yes, sir.
PETER. You mean that—you—you love her?
JAMES. [In a low voice.] Yes, sir.
PETER. O-ho! [FREDERIK gives PETER a glance as though to say, "Now, do you believe it?"
JAMES. But she doesn't know it, of course; she never would have known it. I never meant to say a word to her. I understand, sir.
PETER. James! Come here ... here!... [Bringing JAMES up before him at the desk.] Get your money at the office. You may have that position in Florida. Good-bye, James.
JAMES. I'm very sorry that ... Good-bye, sir.
FREDERIK. You are not to tell her that you're going. You're not to bid her good-bye.
PETER. [To FREDERIK.] Sh! Let me attend to—
JAMES. [Ignoring FREDERIK.] I'm sorry, Mr. Grimm, that— [His voice falters.
PETER. [Rising.] James, I'm sorry, too. You've grown up here and—Tc! Tc! Good fortune to you—James. Get this notion out of your head, and perhaps one day you'll come back to us. We shall see. [Shakes hands with JAMES, who leaves the room too much overcome to speak.
DR. MACPHERSON. [Who has entered, saying carelessly to JAMES as he passes him.] Hy're you, Jim? Glad Jim's back. One of the finest lads I ever brought into this world.
The DOCTOR is a man of about PETER'S age, but more powerfully built. He has the bent shoulders of the student and his face is exceedingly intellectual. He is the rare type of doctor who forgets to make out his bills. He has a grizzled grey beard, and his hair is touched with grey. He wears silver-rimmed spectacles. His substantial but unpressed clothing is made by the village tailor.
PETER. Good-morning, Andrew.
FREDERIK. Good-morning, Doctor.
DR. MACPHERSON. [Casts a quick, professional glance at PETER.] Peter, I've come over to have a serious word with you. Been on my mind all night. [Brings down a chair and sits opposite PETER.] I—er—Frederik ... [FREDERIK, who is not a favourite of the DOCTOR'S, takes the hint and leaves the room.] Peter, have you provided for everybody in this house?
PETER. What? Have I—
DR. MACPHERSON. You're a terrible man for planning, Peter; but what have you done? [Casually.] Were you to die,—say to-morrow,—how would it be with—[Making a gesture to include the household.]—the rest of them?
PETER. What do you mean? If I were to die to-morrow ...
DR. MACPHERSON. You won't. Don't worry. Good for a long time yet, but every one must come to it—sooner or later. I mean—what would Katie's position be in this house? I know you've set your heart upon her marrying Frederik, and all that sort of nonsense, but will it work? I've always thought 'twas a pity Frederik wasn't James and James wasn't Frederik.
DR. MACPHERSON. Oh, it's all very well if she wants Frederik, but supposing she does not. Peter, if you mean to do something for her—do it now.
PETER. Now? You mean that I—You mean that I might ... die?
DR. MACPHERSON. All can and do.
PETER. [Studying the DOCTOR'S face.] You think ...
DR. MACPHERSON. The machinery is wearing out, Peter. Thought I should tell you. No cause for apprehension, but—
PETER. Then why tell me?
DR. MACPHERSON. When I cured you of that cold—wet flowerbeds—two days ago, I made a discovery. [Seeing CATHERINE enter, he pauses. She is followed by MARTA, carrying a tray containing coffee and a plate of waffles.] Coffee! I told you not to touch coffee, Peter. It's rank poison.
CATHERINE. Wouldn't you like a cup, Doctor?
PETER. Yes he'll take a cup. He won't prescribe it, but he'll drink it.
DR. MACPHERSON. [Horrified.] And hot waffles between meals!
PETER. Yes, he'll take hot waffles, too. [MARTA goes to get another plate and more waffles, and CATHERINE follows her.] Now, Andrew, you can't tell me that I'm sick. I won't have it. Every day we hear of some old boy one hundred years of age who was given up by the doctors at twenty. No, sir! I'm going to live to see children in my house,—Katie's babies creeping on my old floor; playing with my old watch-dog, Toby. I've promised myself a long line of rosy Grimms.
DR. MACPHERSON. My God, Peter! That dog is fifteen years old now. Do you expect nothing to change in your house? Man, you're a home worshipper. However, I—I see no reason why—[Lying.]you shouldn't reach a ripe old age. [Markedly, though feigning to treat the subject lightly.] Er— Peter, I should like to make a compact with you ... that whoever does go first—and you're quite likely to outlive me,—is to come back and let the other fellow know ... and settle the question. Splendid test between old neighbours—real contribution to science.
PETER. Make a compact to—stuff and nonsense!
DR. MACPHERSON. Don't be too sure of that.
PETER. No, Andrew, no, positively, no. I refuse. Don't count upon me for any assistance in your spook tests.
DR. MACPHERSON. And how many times do you think you've been a spook yourself? You can't tell me that man is perfect; that he doesn't live more than one life; that the soul doesn't go on and on. Pshaw! The persistent personal energy must continue, or what is God? [CATHERINE has re-entered with another cup, saucer and plate which she sets on the table, and pours out the coffee.
CATHERINE. [Interested.] Were you speaking of—of ghosts, Doctor?
PETER. Yes, he has begun again. [To CATHERINE.] You're just in time to hear it. [To DR. MACPHERSON.] Andrew, I'll stay behind, contented in this life; knowing what I have here on earth, and you shall die and return with your—ha!—persistent personal whatever-it-is, and keep the spook compact. Every time a knock sounds, or a chair squeaks, or the door bangs, I shall say, "Sh! There's the Doctor!"
CATHERINE. [Noticing a book which the DOCTOR has taken from his pocket, and reading the title.] "Are the Dead Alive?"
DR. MACPHERSON. I'm in earnest, Peter. I'll promise and I want you to promise, too. Understand that I am not a so-called spiritist. I am merely a seeker after truth. [Puts more sugar in his coffee.
PETER. That's what they all are—seekers after truth. Rubbish! Do you really believe such stuff?
DR. MACPHERSON. I know that the dead are alive. They're here—here—near us—close at hand. [PETER, in derision, lifts the table-cloth and peeps under the table—then, taking the lid off the sugar-bowl, peers into it.] Some of the great scientists of the day are of the same opinion.
PETER. Bah! Dreamers! They accomplish nothing in the world. They waste their lives dreaming of the world to come.
DR. MACPHERSON. You can't call Sir Charles Crookes, the inventor of Crookes Tubes,—a waster? Nor Sir Oliver Lodge, the great biologist; nor Curie, the discoverer of radium; nor Doctor Lombroso, the founder of Science of Criminology; nor Doctors Maxwell, deVesme, Richet, Professor James, of Harvard, and our own Professor Hyslop. Instead of laughing at ghosts, the scientific men of to-day are trying to lay hold of them. The frauds and cheats are being crowded from the field. Science is only just peeping through the half-opened door which was shut until a few years ago.
PETER. If ever I see a ghost, I shall lay violent hands upon it and take it to the police station. That's the proper place for frauds.
DR. MACPHERSON. I'm sorry, Peter, very sorry, to see that you, like too many others, make a jest of the most important thing in life. Hyslop is right: man will spend millions to discover the North Pole, but not a penny to discover his immortal destiny.
PETER. [Stubbornly.] I don't believe in spook mediums and never shall believe in them.
DR. MACPHERSON. Probably most professional mediums cheat—perhaps every one of them; but some of them are capable of real demonstrations at times.
PETER. Once a swindler, always a swindler. Besides, why can't my old friends come straight back to me and say, "Peter Grimm, here I am!" When they do—if they do—I shall be the first man to take off my hat to them and hold out my hand in welcome.
DR. MACPHERSON. You ask me why? Why can't a telegram travel on a fence instead of on a wire? Your friends could come back to you if you could put yourself in a receptive condition; but if you cannot, you must depend upon a medium—a sensitive.
PETER. A what? [To CATHERINE.] Something new, eh? He has all the names for them. Yesterday it was "apports"—flowers that fell down from nowhere and hit you on the nose. He talks like a medium's parrot. He has only to close his eyes and along comes the parade. Spooks! Spooky spooks! And now he wants me to settle my worldly affairs and join in the procession.
CATHERINE. [Puzzled.] Settle your worldly affairs? What do you mean, Uncle Peter?
PETER. [Evasively.] Just some more of his nonsense. Doctor, you've seen a good many cross to the other world; tell me—did you ever see one of them come back—one?
DR. MACPHERSON. No.
PETER. [Sipping his coffee.] Never have, eh? And never will. Take another cup of poison, Andrew.
The DOCTOR gives his cup to CATHERINE, who fills it. PETER passes the waffles to the DOCTOR, at the same time winking at CATHERINE as the DOCTOR takes another.
DR. MACPHERSON. There was not perhaps the intimate bond between doctor and patients to bring them back. But in my own family, I have known of a case.
PETER. [Apart to CATHERINE.] He's off again.
CATHERINE. [Eager to listen.] Please don't interrupt, Uncle. I love to hear him tell of—
DR. MACPHERSON. I have known of a return such as you mention. A distant cousin died in London and she was seen almost instantly in New York.
PETER. She must have travelled on a biplane, Andrew.
DR. MACPHERSON. If my voice can be heard from San Francisco over the telephone, why cannot a soul with a God-given force behind it dart over the entire universe? Is Thomas Edison greater than God?
CATHERINE. [Shocked.] Doctor!
DR. MACPHERSON. And they can't tuck it all on telepathy. Telepathy cannot explain the case of a spirit-message giving the contents of a sealed letter known only to the person that died. Here's another interesting case.
PETER. This is better than "Puss in Boots," isn't it, Katie? More—er— flibbertigibberty. Katie always loved fairy stories.
CATHERINE. [Listening eagerly.] Uncle, please.
DR. MACPHERSON. [Ignoring PETER, speaking directly to CATHERINE, who is all attention.] An officer on the Polar vessel, the Jeannette, sent to the Artic regions by the New York Herald, appeared at his wife's bedside. She was in Brooklyn—he was on the Polar sea. He said to her, "Count." She distinctly heard a ship's bell and the word "Count" again. She had counted six when her husband's voice said, "Six bells—and the Jeanette is lost." The ship was really lost at the time she saw the vision.
PETER. A bad dream. "Six bells and the"—Ha! Ha! Spirit messages! Suet pudding has brought me messages from the North Pole, and I receive messages from Kingdom Come after I've eaten a piece of mince pie.
DR. MACPHERSON. There have been seventeen thousand other cases found to be worth investigation by the London Society of Psychical Research.
PETER. [Changing.] Supposing, Andrew, that I did "cross over"—I believe that's what you call dying,—that I did want to come back to see how you and the little Katie and Frederik were getting on, how do you think I could manage to do it?
DR. MACPHERSON. When we hypnotize subjects, Peter, our thoughts take possession of them. As we enter their bodies, we take the place of a something that leaves them—a shadow-self. This self can be sent out of the room—even to a long distance. This self leaves us entirely after death on the first, second or third day, or so I believe. This is the force which you would employ to come back to earth—the astral envelope.
PETER. Yes, but what proof have you, Doctor, that I've got an—an astral envelope.
DR. MACPHERSON. [Easily.] De Rochas has actually photographed it by radio-photography.
PETER. Ha! Ha! Ha! Ho! Ho!
DR. MACPHERSON. Mind you—they couldn't see it when they photographed it.
PETER. I imagine not. See it? Ho! Ho!
DR. MACPHERSON. It stood a few feet away from the sleeper, and was located by striking at the air and watching for the corresponding portion of the sleeper's body to recoil. By pricking a certain part of this shadow-self with a pin, the cheek of the patient could be made to bleed. The camera was focussed on this part of the shadow-self for fifteen minutes. The result was the profile of a head.
PETER. [After a pause.] ... You believe that?
DR. MACPHERSON. The experiment has been repeated again and again. Nobody acquainted with the subject denies it now.
PETER. Spook pictures taken by professional mediums! [Turning away from the table as though he had heard enough.
DR. MACPHERSON. De Rochas, who took the pictures of which I speak, is a lawyer of standing; and the room was full of scientists who saw the pictures taken.
PETER. Hypnotized—all of them. Humbug, Andrew!
DR. MACPHERSON. Under these conditions, it is quite impossible to hypnotize a room full of people. Perhaps you think the camera was hypnotized? In similar circumstances, says Lombroso, an unnatural current of cold air went through the room and lowered the thermometer several degrees. Can you hypnotize a thermometer?
CATHERINE. [Impressed.] That's wonderful, Doctor!
PETER. Yes, it's a very pretty fairy story; but it would sound better set to shivery music. [Sings.] Tol! Dol! Dol! Dol! [Rising to get his pipe and tobacco.] No, sir! I refuse to agree to your compact. You cannot pick the lock of heaven's gate. We don't come back. God did enough for us when he gave us life and strength to work and the work to do. He owes us no explanations. I believe in the old-fashioned paradise with a locked gate. [He fills his pipe and lights it.] No bogies for me.
DR. MACPHERSON. [Rising.] Peter, I console myself with the thought that men have scoffed at the laws of gravitation, at vaccination, magnetism, daguerreotypes, steamboats, cars, telephones, wireless telegraphy and lighting by gas. [Showing feeling.] I'm very much disappointed that you refuse my request.
PETER. [Laying down his pipe on the table.] Since you take it so seriously—here—[Offers his hand.] I'll agree. I know you're an old fool—and I'm another. Now then—[Shakes hands.] it's settled. Whichever one shall go first—[He bursts into laughter—then controlling himself.] If I do come back, I'll apologize, Andrew.
DR. MACPHERSON. Do you mean it?
PETER. I'll apologize. Wait [Taking the keys from the sideboard.], let us seal the compact in a glass of my famous plum brandy.
DR. MACPHERSON. Good!
PETER. [As he passes off.] We'll drink to spooks.
CATHERINE. You really do believe, Doctor, that the dead can come back, don't you?
DR. MACPHERSON. Of course I do, and why not?
CATHERINE. Do you believe that you could come back here into this room and I could see you?
DR. MACPHERSON. You might not see me; but I could come back to this room.
CATHERINE. Could you talk to me?
DR. MACPHERSON. Yes.
CATHERINE. And could I hear you?
DR. MACPHERSON. I believe so. That's what we're trying to make possible. [CATHERINE, still wondering, passes off with the tray. From the cellar, PETER can be heard singing lustily.
PETER. "If you want a bite that's good to eat, (Tra, la, ritte, ra, la, la, la!) Try out a goose that's fat and sweet, (Tra, la, ritte, ra, la, la, la!")
During the song, MRS. BATHOLOMMEY has given a quick tap on the door and entered. She is about forty years of age. Her faded brown hair is streaked with grey. She wears a plain black alpaca costume.
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. [Agitated.] Good-morning, Doctor. Fortunate that I found you alone.
DR. MACPHERSON. [Dryly.] Hy're you, Mrs. Batholommey?
The REV. HENRY BATHOLOMMEY now enters. He is a man of about forty-five, wearing the frock coat, high waistcoat and square topped hat of a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church.
REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY. Hy're, Henry?
The REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY bows. WILLIAM has returned from his errand and entered the room,—a picture-book under his arm. He sits up by the window, absorbed in the pictures—unnoticed by the others.
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. [Closing the door left open by PETER, shutting out the sound of his voice.] Well, Doctor ... [She pauses for a moment to catch her breath and wipe her eyes.] I suppose you've told him he's got to die.
DR. MACPHERSON. [Eyeing MRS. BATHOLOMMEY with disfavour.] Who's got to die?
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. Why, Mr. Grimm, of course.
DR. MACPHERSON. [Amazed.] Does the whole damned town know it?
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. Oh!
REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY. Easy, Doctor. You consulted Mr. Grimm's lawyer and his wife told my wife.
DR. MACPHERSON. He gabbed, eh? Hang the professional man who tells things to his wife.
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. Doctor!
REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY. [With solicitude.] I greatly grieve to hear that Mr. Grimm has an incurable malady. His heart, I understand. [Shakes his head.
DR. MACPHERSON. He's not to be told. Is that clear? He may die in twenty minutes—may outlive us all—probably will.
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. [Pointing to REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY.] It seems to me, Doctor, that if you can't do any more, it's his turn. It's a wonder you Doctors don't baptize the babies.
REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY. Rose!
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. At the last minute, he'll want to make a will—and you know he hasn't made one. He'll want to remember the church and his charities and his friends; and if he dies before he can carry out his intentions, the minister will be blamed as usual. It's not fair.
REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY. Sh! Sh! My dear! These private matters—
DR. MACPHERSON. I'll trouble you, Mistress Batholommey, to attend to your own affairs. Did you never hear the story of the lady who flattened her nose—sticking it into other people's business?
REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY. Doctor! Doctor! I can't have that!
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. Let him talk, Henry. No one in this town pays any attention to Dr. MacPherson since he took up with spiritualism.
REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY. Rose! [He motions to her to be silent, as PETER, coming up the stairs from the cellar, is heard singing.
PETER. "Drop in the fat some apples red, (Tra, la, ritte, ra, la, la, la!) Then spread it on a piece of bread, (Tra, la, ritte, ra, la, la, la!)"
[He opens the door, carrying a big bottle in his hand; hailing the BATHOLOMMEYS cheerfully.] Good-morning, good people. [He puts the jug on the sideboard and hangs up the key. The BATHOLOMMEYS look sadly at PETER. MRS. BATHOLOMMEY in the fore-ground tries to smile pleasantly, but can only assume the peculiarly pained expression of a person about to break terrible news.
REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY. [Rising to the occasion—warmly grasping PETER'S hand.] Ah, my dear friend! Many thanks for the flowers William brought us, and the noble cheque you sent me. We're still enjoying the vegetables you generously provided. I did relish the squash.
PETER. [Catching a glimpse of MRS. BATHOLOMMEY'S gloomy expression.] Anything distressing you this morning, Mrs. Batholommey?
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. No, no.... I hope you're feeling well—er—I don't mean that—I—
REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY. [Cheerily.] Of course, she does; and why not, why not, dear friend?
PETER. Will you have a glass of my plum brandy?
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. [Stiffly.] No, thank you. As you know, I belong to the W.C.T.U.
REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY. [Tolerantly.] No, thank you. I am also opposed to er—
PETER. We're going to drink to spooks—the Doctor and I.
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. [With a startled cry.] Oh! [Lifts her handkerchief to her eyes.] How can you! And at a time like this. The very idea—you of all people!
PETER. [Coming down with two glasses—handing one to the DOCTOR.] You seem greatly upset, Mrs. Batholommey. Something must have happened.
REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY. Nothing, nothing, I assure you. My wife is a trifle nervous to-day. We must all keep up our spirits, Mr. Grimm.
PETER. Of course. Why not? [Looking at MRS. BATHOLOMMEY—struck.] I know why you're crying. You've been to a church wedding. [To the DOCTOR, lifting his glass.] To astral envelopes, Andrew. [They drink.
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. [With sad resignation.] You were always kind to us, dear Mr. Grimm. There never was a kinder, better, sweeter man than you were.
PETER. Than I was?
REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY. Rose, my dear!
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. What will become of William? [Weeps.
PETER. William? Why should you worry over William? I am looking after him. I don't understand—
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. [Seeing that she has gone too far.] I only meant—it's too bad he had such an M—
PETER. An M—?
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. [In pantomime—mouthing the word so that WILLIAM cannot hear.] Mother ... Annamarie.
PETER. Oh! ...
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. She ought to have told you or Mr. Batholommey who the F— was.
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. [In pantomime—as before.] Father.
PETER. Oh... [Spelling out the word.] S-c-o-u-n-d-r-e-l—whoever he is! [Calls.] William. [WILLIAM looks up from his book.] You're very contented here with me, are you not?
WILLIAM. Yes, sir.
PETER. And you want to stay here?
WILLIAM. Yes, sir. [At that moment, a country circus band—playing a typical parade march—blares out as it comes up some distant street.] There's a circus in town.
PETER. A circus?
WILLIAM. Yes, sir. The parade has started. [Opens the window and looks out towards left.] Here it comes—
PETER. [Hurrying to the door.] Where? Where?
WILLIAM. [Pointing.] There!
PETER. [As delighted as WILLIAM.] You're right. It's coming this way! Here come the chariots. [Gestures to the BATHOLOMMEYS to join him at the window. The music comes nearer and nearer—the parade is supposed to be passing. WILLIAM gives a cry of delight as a clown appears at the window with handbills under his arm.
THE CLOWN. [As he throws the handbills into the room.] Billy Miller's big show and monster circus is in town this afternoon. Only one ring. No confusion. [Seeing WILLIAM.] Circus day comes but once a year, little sir. Come early and see the wild animals and hear the lions roar-r-r! Mind! [Holding up his finger to WILLIAM.] I shall expect to see you. Wonderful troupe of trained mice in the side show. [Sings.]
"Uncle Rat has gone to town, Ha! H'm! Uncle Rat has gone to town To buy Miss Mouse a—"
[Ends the song abruptly.] Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! [The CLOWN disappears, repeating "Billy Miller's Big Show," &c., until his voice is lost and the voices of shouting children are heard as they run after him.
PETER. [Putting his hand in his pocket.] We'll go. You may buy the tickets, William—two front seats. [FREDERIK re-enters with a floral catalogue.
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. [Apart to REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY—looking at PETER.] Somebody ought to tell him.
WILLIAM. [Getting the money from PETER.] I'm going! I'm going! [Dances.] Oh, Mr. Grimm, there ain't anyone else like you in the world. When the other boys laugh at your funny old hat, I never do. [Pointing to PETER'S hat on the peg.
PETER. My hat? They laugh at my hat?
WILLIAM. We'll have such a good time at the circus. It's too bad you've got to die, Mr. Grimm.
There is a pause. PETER stops short, looking at WILLIAM. The others are startled, but stand motionless, watching the effect of WILLIAM'S revelation. FREDERIK doesn't know what to make of it. There is an ominous silence in the room. Then MRS. BATHOLOMMEY, whose smile has been frozen on her face, takes WILLIAM'S hand and is about to draw him away, when PETER lays his hand on WILLIAM'S shoulder. MRS. BATHOLOMMEY steps back.
PETER. [Kindly.] Yes, William, most people have to. ... What made you think of it just then?
WILLIAM. [Points to the DOCTOR.] He said so. Perhaps in twenty minutes.
REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY. [Quietly but very sternly.] William! [WILLIAM now understands that he should not have repeated what he heard.
PETER. Don't frighten the boy. Only children tell the truth. Tell me, William—you heard the Doctor say that? [WILLIAM is silent. He keeps his eyes on the CLERGYMAN who is looking at him warningly. The tears run down his cheeks—he puts his fingers to his lips—afraid to speak.] Don't be frightened. You heard the Doctor say that?
WILLIAM. [His voice trembling.] Y—es, sir.
PETER. [Looks round the room—beginning to understand.] ... What did you mean, Andrew?
DR. MACPHERSON. I'll tell you, Peter, when we're alone.
PETER. But ... [MRS. BATHOLOMMEY shakes her finger threateningly at WILLIAM who whimpers.] Never mind. It popped out; didn't it, William? Get the circus tickets and we'll have a fine time just the same. [WILLIAM goes for the tickets.
REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY. I—er—good-morning, dear friend. [Takes PETER'S hand.] Any time you 'phone for me—day or night—I'll run over instantly. God bless you, sir. I've never come to you for any worthy charity and been turned away—never.
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. [Suddenly overcome] Good-bye, Mr. Grimm. [In tears, she follows her husband. The DOCTOR and PETER look at each other.
DR. MACPHERSON. [Cigar in mouth—very abruptly] It's cardiac valvular—a little valve—[Tapping heart]—here. [Slaps PETER on the shoulder] There's my 'phone, [As a bell is heard faintly but persistently ringing across the street] I'll be back. [Catches up his hat to hasten off.
PETER. Just a minute.
DR. MACPHERSON. [Turning] Don't fret yourself, Peter. You're not to imagine you're worse than you are. [Angrily.] Don't funk!
PETER. [Calmly] That wasn't my reason for detaining you, Andrew. [With a twinkle in his eye] I merely wanted to say—
DR. MACPHERSON. Yes?
PETER. That if there is anything in that ghost business of yours, I won't forget to come back and apologize for my want of faith. [The DOCTOR goes home. FREDERIK stands looking at his UNCLE. There is a long pause. PETER throws up both hands] Rubbish! Doctors are very often wrong. It's all guess work, eh, Fritz?
FREDERIK. [Thinking of his future in case of PETER'S death] Yes, sir.
PETER. However, to be on the safe side, I'll take that nip of plum brandy. [Then thinking aloud.] Not yet ... Not yet ... I'm not ready to die yet. I have so much to live for. ... When I'm older ... When I'm a little old leaf ready to curl up, eh, Fritz? [He drains the glass. Goes up to the peg, takes dawn his hat, looks at it as though remembering WILLIAM'S words, then puts it back on the peg. He shows no sign of taking DR. MACPHERSON'S verdict to heart—in fact, he doesn't believe it.] Frederik, get me some small change for the circus—enough for William and me.
FREDERIK. Are you going ... after all? ... And with that child?
PETER. Why not?
FREDERIK. [Suddenly showing feeling.] That little tattler? A child that listens to everything and just told you ... He shouldn't be allowed in this part of the house. He should be sent away.
PETER. [Astonished.] Why do you dislike him, Frederik? He's a fine little fellow. You surprise me, my boy ... [CATHERINE enters and goes to the piano, running her hands softly over the keys—playing no melody in particular. PETER sits in his big chair at the table and picks up his pipe. FREDERIK, with an inscrutable face, now strikes a match and holds it to his uncle's pipe. PETER thoughtfully takes one or two puffs; then speaking so as not to be heard by CATHERINE.] Frederik, I want to think that after I'm gone, everything will be the same here ... just as it is now.
FREDERIK. Yes, sir. [Sitting near PETER.
PETER. Just as it is ... [FREDERIK nods assent. PETER smokes. The room is very cheerful. The bright midday sunshine creeps through the windows,— almost causing a haze in the room—and resting on the pots and vases and bright flowers on the tables.
CATHERINE. [Singing.] "The bird so free in the heavens"—
PETER. [Looking up—still in thought—seeming not to hear the song.] And my charities attended to. [FREDERIK nods assent.
CATHERINE. "Is but the slave of the nest; For all must toil as God wills it,— Must laugh and toil and rest."
PETER. [Who has been thinking.] Just as though I were here.
CATHERINE. "The rose must blow in the garden"—
PETER. William, too. Don't forget him, Frederik.
FREDERIK. No, Uncle.
CATHERINE. "The bee must gather its store; The cat must watch the mouse-hole; The dog must guard the door."
PETER. [As though he had a weight off his mind.] We won't speak of this again. It's understood. [Smokes, listening with pleasure as CATHERINE finishes the song.
CATHERINE. [Repeats the chorus.] "The cat must watch the mouse-hole; The dog must guard the door. La la, La la," &c.
At the close of the song, PETER puts down his pipe and beckons to CATHERINE.
PETER. Give me the Book. [CATHERINE brings the Bible to PETER as the garden bell rings outside.
PETER. [Opening the Book at the history of the family—points to the closely written page.] Under my name I want to see this written: "Married: Catherine and Frederik." I want to see you settled, Katie— [Smiling] settled happily for life. [He takes her hand and draws FREDERIK towards his chair. CATHERINE, embarrassed, plays with a rose in her belt.] Will you?...
CATHERINE. I ... I don't know....
PETER. [Taking the rose and her hand in his own] I know for you, my dear. Make me happy.
CATHERINE. There's nothing I wouldn't do to make you happy, Uncle, but—
FREDERIK. You know that I love you, Kitty.
PETER. Yes, yes, yes. That's all understood. He has always loved you. Everybody knows it.
PETER. Make it a June wedding. We have ten days yet. [Slipping her hand in FREDERIK'S, taking the rose, and tapping their clasped hands with the flower as he speaks.
FREDERIK. Say yes, Kitty.
CATHERINE. [Nervously] I couldn't in ten days....
PETER. [To FREDERIK.] Who is arranging the marriage, you or I? Say a month, then, Katie.... Promise me.
CATHERINE. [Her lips set.] If you have set your heart on it, I will, Uncle Peter ... I will ... I promise.
PETER. [Takes a ring of his hand.] The wedding ring—my dear mother's. [Gives it to CATHERINE.] You've made me very happy, my dear. [He kisses CATHERINE. Then, releasing her, he nods to FREDERIK to follow his example. PETER turns his back on the young people and smokes.
FREDERIK. Catherine ... [Dreading his embrace, she retreats towards PETER and, as she touches him, his pipe falls to the floor. She looks at him, startled. FREDERIK, struck, looking intently at PETER who sits motionless.
CATHERINE. Uncle Peter ... Uncle! What is it? What's the matter? [Runs to the door—calling across the street.] Doctor! There he is—just going out. [Calls.] Come back. Come back, Doctor. [To FREDERIK.] I felt it. I felt something strange a minute ago. I felt it.
FREDERIK. [Taking PETER'S hand.] Uncle Peter!
CATHERINE. [Coming back to PETER and looking at him transfixed.] Uncle Peter! Answer me! ... It's Katie!
The DOCTOR enters hurriedly.
DR. MACPHERSON. Is it ... Peter? [He goes quickly to PETER and listens to his heart. CATHERINE and FREDERIK on either side of him. The DOCTOR with tender sympathy takes CATHERINE in his arms.
WILLIAM. [Rushes in with two tickets in his hand, leaving the door open. The circus music is faintly heard.] Mr. Grimm!
DR. MACPHERSON. Sh! [A pause as though breaking the news to them all.] He's gone.
FREDERIK. [Questioningly—dazed.] Dead? [CATHERINE is overcome.
WILLIAM. [At PETER'S side—holding up the circus ticket.] He can't be dead ... I've got his ticket to the circus.
SCENE. The second act takes place ten days later, towards the close of a rainy afternoon. A fire is burning in the grate and a basket of hickory wood stands beside the hearth. PETER'S hat is no longer on the peg. His pipes and jar of tobacco are missing. A number of wedding presents are set on a table, some unopened. The interior of the room, with its snapping fire, forms a pleasant contrast to the gloomy exterior. The day is fading into dusk. MRS. BATHOLOMMEY is at the piano, playing the wedding march from "Lohengrin." Four little girls are grouped about her, singing the words to the air.
"Faithful and true: We lead ye forth, Where love triumphant Shall lighten the way."
"Bright star of love, Flower of the earth, Shine on ye both On Love's perfect day."
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. That's better. Children, remember that this is to be a very quiet wedding. You're to be here at noon to-morrow. You're not to speak as you enter the room and take your places near the piano. Miss Staats will come down from her room,—at least I suppose she will—and will stand ... [Thinks.] I don't know where—but you're to stop when I look at you. Watch me as though I were about to be married. [She takes her place at the foot of the stairs and the children repeat the song until she has marched across the room and stationed herself in some appropriate corner. As FREDERIK appears from the hall, where he leaves his raincoat and umbrella, MRS. BATHOLOMMEY motions the children to silence.] That will do, dears, thank you. Hurry home between showers. [The children go as she explains to FREDERIK.] My Sunday-school scholars.... I thought your dear uncle would like a song at the wedding. I know how bright and cheery he would have been—poor man. Dear, noble, charitable soul!
FREDERIK. [In a low voice.] Where's Catherine?
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. [Taking up her fancy work, seating herself.] Upstairs.
FREDERIK. With that sick child? Tc!
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. Catherine finds it a pleasure to sit beside the little fellow. William is very much better.
FREDERIK. [Taking a telegram from his pocket-book.] Well, we shall soon be off to Europe. I've just had a telegram to say a cabin has been reserved for me on the Imperator. To-morrow, thank God, we shall take the afternoon train to New York.
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. I must confess that I'm very glad. Of course, I'm happy to stay and chaperone Catherine; but poor Mr. Batholommey has been alone at the parsonage for ten days ... ever since your dear uncle ... [Pauses, unwinding yarn, then unburdening her mind.] I didn't think at first that Catherine could persuade herself to marry you.
FREDERIK. [Sharply.] I don't understand you, Mrs. Batholommey.
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. I mean she seemed so averse to—to an immediate marriage; but of course it was your uncle's last request, and that influenced her more than anything else. So it's to be a June wedding, after all; he has his wish. You'll be married in ten days from the time he left us. [Remembering.] Some more letters marked personal came for him while you were out. I put them in the drawer—[Points to desk.] with the rest. It seems odd to think the postman brings your uncle's letters regularly, yet he is not here.
FREDERIK. [Looking towards the door of the office.] Did Hartman come?
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. Yes. He seemed rather surprised that you'd sent for him.
FREDERIK. Did you—er—tell him that we intend to leave to-morrow?
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. I spoke of your wedding trip,—yes.
FREDERIK. Did he seem inclined to stay?
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. He didn't say. He seemed very much agitated. [MARTA enters, carrying a night lamp.] We'll pack Miss Catherine's things to-night, Marta. [She notices the lamp.] The night lamp for William? [Looks up towards the door of his room.] Go in very quietly. He's asleep, I think. [MARTA goes up the stairs and into WILLIAM'S room.] By the way, Mr. Batholommey was very much excited when he heard that your uncle had left a personal memorandum concerning us. We're anxious to hear it read. [FREDERIK, paying no attention to her words, is glancing at the wedding presents.] We're anxious to hear it read.
JAMES. [Entering.] Did you wish to see me?
FREDERIK. [Offering his hand to JAMES.] How do you do, Hartman? I'm very glad you consented to come back. My uncle never went into his office again after you left. There is some private correspondence concerning matters of which I know nothing; it lies on your old desk.... I'm anxious to settle everything to-night.
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY leaves the room.
JAMES. Very well. I have no doubt but that I can get through with it by midnight.
FREDERIK. If you care to remain longer with the firm, I—er—
JAMES. No, thank you.
FREDERIK. I appreciate the fact that you came on my uncle's account. I have no ill-feeling against you, Hartman.
JAMES. I'm not refusing to stay because of any ill-feeling. I'm going because I know that you'll sell out before your uncle's cold in his grave. I don't care to stay to see the old place change hands.
FREDERIK. I? Sell out? My intention is to carry out every wish of my dear old uncle's.
JAMES. I hope so. I haven't forgotten that you wanted him to sell out to Hicks of Rochester on the very day he died. [Exit into the office.
CATHERINE comes from WILLIAM'S room, simply dressed in white—no touch of mourning. FREDERIK goes to the foot of the stairs and calls softly.
FREDERIK. Kitty! Here is our marriage license. I have the cabin on the Imperator. Everything is arranged.
CATHERINE. [Coming downstairs.] Yes. ... I meant to speak to you—again.
FREDERIK. To-morrow's the day, dear.
CATHERINE. [Very subdued.] Yes....
FREDERIK. A June wedding—just as Uncle Peter wished.
CATHERINE. [As before.] Yes.... Just as he wished. Everything is just as he.... [With a change of manner—earnestly—looking at FREDERIK.] Frederik, I don't want to go away. I don't want to go to Europe. If only I could stay quietly here in—[Tears in her voice as she looks round the room.]—in my dear home.