The Bicyclers and Three Other Farces by John Kendrick Bangs
A DRAMATIC EVENING
THE FATAL MESSAGE
A PROPOSAL UNDER DIFFICULTIES
MR. ROBERT YARDSLEY, an expert.
MR. JACK BARLOW, another.
MR. THADDEUS PERKINS, a beginner.
MR. EDWARD BRADLEY, a scoffer.
MRS. THADDEUS PERKINS, a resistant.
MRS. EDWARD BRADLEY, an enthusiast.
JENNIE, a maid.
The scene is laid in the drawing-room of Mr. and Mrs.
Thaddeus Perkins, at No. —- Gramercy Square. It is late
October; the action begins at 8.30 o'clock on a moonlight evening.
The curtain rising discloses Mr. and Mrs. Perkins sitting
together. At right is large window facing on square. At
rear is entrance to drawing-room. Leaning against doorway is a
safety bicycle. Perkins is clad in bicycle garb.
Perkins. Well, Bess, I'm in for it now, and no mistake. Bob
and Jack are coming to-night to give me my first lesson in biking.
Mrs. Perkins. I'm very glad of it, Thaddeus. I think it will
do you a world of good. You've been working too hard of late, and you
Perkins (doubtfully). I know that—but—from what I
can gather, learning to ride a wheel isn't the most restful thing in
the world. There's a good deal of lying down about it; but it comes
with too great suddenness; that is, so Charlie Cheeseborough says. He
learned up at the Academy, and he told me that he spent most of his
time making dents in the floor with his head.
Mrs. Perkins. Well, I heard differently. Emma Bradley
learned there at the same time he did, and she said he spent most of
his time making dents in the floor with other people's heads. Why,
really, he drove all the ladies to wearing those odious Psyche knots.
The time he ran into Emma, if she hadn't worn her back hair that way
she'd have fractured her skull.
Perkins. Ha, ha! They all tell the same story. Barlow said
he always wore a beaver hat while Cheeseborough was on the floor, so
that if Charlie ran into him and he took a header his brain wouldn't
Mrs. Perkins. Nevertheless, Mr. Cheeseborough learned more
quickly than any one else in the class.
Perkins. So Barlow said—because he wasn't eternally in his
own way, as he was in every one else's. (A ring is heard at the
front door.) Ah! I guess that's Bob and Jack.
Jennie. Mr. Bradley, ma'am.
Perkins. Bradley? Wonder what the deuce he's come for?
He'll guy the life out of me. (Enter Bradley. He wears a
dinner coat.) Ah, Brad, old chap, how are you? Glad to see you.
Bradley. Good-evening, Mrs. Perkins. This your eldest? [
With a nod at Perkins.
Mrs. Perkins. My eldest?
Bradley. Yes—judged from his togs it was your boy. What!
Can it be? You! Thaddeus?
Perkins. That's who I am.
Bradley. When did you go into short trousers?
Perkins (with a feeble laugh, glancing at his clothes
). Oh, these—ha, ha! I'm taking up the bicycle. Even if it weren't
for the exhilaration of riding, it's a luxury to wear these clothes.
Old flannel shirt, old coat, old pair of trousers shortened to the
knee, and golf stockings. I've had these golf stockings two years, and
never had a chance to wear 'em till now.
Bradley. You've got it bad, haven't you? How many lessons
have you had?
Perkins. None yet. Fact is, just got my wheel—that's it
over there by the door—pneumatic tires, tool-chest, cyclometer,
lamp—all for a hun.
Bradley (with a laugh). How about life-insurance? Do
they throw in a policy for that? They ought to.
Perkins. No—but they would if I'd insisted. Competition
between makers is so great, they'll give you most anything to induce a
bargain. The only thing they really gave me extra is the ki-yi gun.
Mrs. Perkins. The what?
Perkins. Ki-yi gun—it shoots dogs. Dog comes out, catches
sight of your leg—
Bradley. Mistakes it for a bone and grabs—eh?
Perkins. Well—I fancy that's about the size of it. You
can't very well get off, so you get out your ki-yi gun and shoot
ammonia into the beast's face. It doesn't hurt the dog, but it gives
him something to think of. I'll show you how the thing works. (
Gets the gun from tool-box.) This is the deadly weapon, and I'm the
rider—see? (Sits on a chair, with face to back, and works
imaginary pedals.) You're the dog. I'm passing the farm-yard.
Bow-wow! out you spring—grab me by the bone—I—ah—I mean the leg.
Pouf! I shoot you with ammonia. [Suits action to the word.
Bradley (starting back). Hi, hold on! Don't squirt
that infernal stuff at me! My dear boy, get a grip on yourself. I'm
not really a ki-yi, and while I don't like bicyclists, their bones are
safe from me. I won't bite you.
Mrs. Perkins. Really—I think that's a very ingenious
arrangement; don't you, Mr. Bradley?
Bradley. I do, indeed. But, as long as we're talking about
it, I must say I think what Thaddeus really needs is a motormangun, to
squirt ammonia, or even beer, into the faces of these cable-car
fellows. They're more likely to interfere with him than dogs—don't
Perkins. It's a first-rate idea, Brad. I'll suggest it to my
Bradley. Your what?
Perkins (apologetically). Well, I call him my agent,
although really I've only bought this one wheel from him. He
represents the Czar Manufacturing Company.
Bradley. They make Czars, do they?
Perkins (with dignity). They make wheels. The man who
owns the company is named Czar. I refer to him as my agent, because
from the moment he learned I thought of buying a wheel he came and
lived with me. I couldn't get rid of him, and finally in self-defence
I bought this wheel. It was the only way I could get rid of him.
Bradley. Aha! That's the milk in the cocoanut. eh? Hadn't
force of mind to get rid of the agent. Couldn't say no. Humph! I
wondered why you, a man of sense, a man of dignity, a gentleman, should
take up with this—
Perkins (angrily). See here, Brad, I like you very
much, but I must say—
Mrs. Perkins (foreseeing a quarrel). Thaddeus! 'Sh!
Ah, by-the-way, Mr. Bradley, where is Emma this evening? I never knew
you to be separated before.
Bradley (sorrowfully). This is the first time, Mrs.
Perkins. Fact is, we'd intended calling on you to-night, and I dressed
as you see me. Emma was in proper garb too, but when she saw what a
beautiful night it was, she told me to go ahead, and she—By Jove! it
almost makes me weep!
Perkins. She wasn't taken ill?
Bradley. No—worse. She said: “You go down on the ' L.'
I'll bike. It's such a splendid night.” Fine piece of business this!
To have a bicycle come between man and wife is a pretty hard fate, I
think—for the one who doesn't ride.
Mrs. Perkins. Then Emma is coming here?
Bradley. That's the idea, on her wheel—coming down the
Boulevard, across Seventy-second Street, through the Park, down
Madison, across Twenty-third, down Fourth to Twenty-first, then here.
Perkins. Bully ride that.
Mrs. Perkins. Alone?
Bradley (sadly). I hope so—but these bicyclists have
a way of flocking together. For all I know, my beloved Emma may now be
coasting down Murray Hill escorted by some bicycle club from Jersey
Mrs. Perkins. Oh dear—Mr. Bradley!
Bradley. Oh, it's all right, I assure you, Mrs. Perkins.
Perfectly right and proper. It's merely part of the exercise, don't
you know. There's a hail-fellow-well-metness about enthusiastic
bicyclists, and Emma is intensely enthusiastic. It gives her a chance,
you know, and Emma has always wanted a chance. Independence is a thing
she's been after ever since she got her freedom, and now, thanks to the
wheel, she's got it again, and even I must admit it's harmless. Funny
she doesn't get here though (looking at his watch); she's had
time to come down twice.
[Bicycle bells are heard ringing without.
Mrs. Perkins. Maybe that is she now. Go and see, will you,
Thaddeus? [Exit Perkins.
Perkins (without), That you, Mrs. Bradley?
[Mrs. Perkins and Bradley listen intently.
Two Male Voices. No; it's us, Perk. Got your wheel?
Bradley and Mrs. Perkins. Where can she be?
Enter Perkins with Barlow and Yardsley.
They both greet Mrs. Perkins.
Yardsley. Hullo, Brad! You going to have a lesson too?
Barlow. Dressed for it, aren't you, by Jove! Nothing like a
dinner coat for a bicycle ride. Your coat-tails don't catch in the
Bradley (severely). I haven't taken it up—fact is, I
don't care for fads. Have you seen my wife?
Yardsley. Yes—saw her the other night at the academy. Rides
mighty well, too, Brad. Don't wonder you don't take it up. Contrast,
you know—eh, Perk? Fearful thing for a man to have the world see how
much smarter his wife is than he is.
Perkins (turning to his wheel). Bradley's a little
worried about the non-arrival of Mrs. Bradley. She was coming here on
her wheel, and started about the same time he did.
Barlow. Oh, that's all right, Ned. She knows her wheel as
well as you know your business. Can't come down quite as fast as the
“L,” particularly these nights just before election. She may have
fallen in with some political parade, and is waiting to get across the
Bradley (aside). Well, I like that!
Mrs. Perkins (aside). Why—it's awful!
Yardsley. Or she may possibly have punctured her tire—that
would delay her fifteen or twenty minutes. Don't worry, my dear boy.
I showed her how to fix a punctured tire all right. It's simple
enough—you take the rubber thing they give you and fasten it in that
metal thingumbob, glue it up, poke it in, pull it out, pump her up, and
there you are.
Bradley (scornfully). You told her that, did you?
Yardsley. I did.
Bradley (with a mock sigh of relief). You don't know
what a load you've taken off my mind.
Barlow (looking at his watch). H'm! Thaddeus, it's
nine o'clock. I move we go out and have the lesson. Eh? The moon is
Yardsley. Yes—we can't begin too soon. Wheel all right?
Perkins. Guess so—I'm ready.
Bradley. I'll go out to the corner and see if there's any
sign of Mrs. Bradley. [Exit.
Mrs. Perkins (who has been gazing out of window for some
moments). I do wish Emma would come. I can't understand how women
can do these things. Riding down here all alone at night! It is
Yardsley (rolling Perkins's wheel into middle of
room). Czar wheel, eh?
Perkins (meekly). Yes—best going—they tell me.
Barlow. Can't compare with the Alberta. Has a way of going
to pieces like the “one-hoss shay”—eh, Bob?
Yardsley. Exactly—when you least expect it, too—though the
Alberta isn't much better. You get coasting on either of 'em, and
half-way down, bang! the front wheel collapses, hind wheel flies up and
hits you in the neck, handle-bar turns just in time to stab you in the
chest; and there you are, miles from home, a physical, moral, bicycle
wreck. But the Arena wheel is different. In fact, I may say that the
only safe wheel is the Arena. That's the one I ride. However, at
fifty dollars this one isn't extravagant.
Perkins. I paid a hundred.
Yardsley. A wha—a—at?
Barlow. Well you are a—a—good fellow. It's a pretty wheel,
anyhow. Eh, Bob?
Yardsley. Simple beauty. Is she pumped up?
Perkins. Beg your pardon?
Yardsley. Pumped up, tires full and tight—ready for
action—support an elephant?
Perkins. Guess so—my—I mean, the agent said it was perfect.
Yardsley. Extra nuts?
Yardsley. Extra nuts—nuts extra. Suppose you lose a nut,
and your pedal comes off; what you going to do—get a tow?
Barlow. Guess Perkins thinks this is like going to sleep.
Perkins. I don't know anything about it. What I'm after is
information; only, I give you warning, I will not ride so as to get
Yardsley. Then where's your wrench? Screw up your bar, hoist
your handles, elevate your saddle, and you're O.K. What saddle have
Perkins (tapping it). This.
Barlow. Humph! Not very good—but we'll try it. Come on.
It's getting late.
[They go out. Perkins reluctantly. In a moment he returns alone,
and, rushing to Mrs. Perkins, kisses her affectionately.
Perkins. Good-bye, dearest.
Mrs. Perkins. Good-bye. Don't hurt yourself, Thaddeus. [
Mrs. Perkins (leaving window and looking at clock on mantel
). Ten minutes past nine and Emma not here yet. It does seem too bad
that she should worry Ed so much just for independence' sake. I am
quite sure I should never want to ride a wheel anyhow, and even if I
Enter Yardsley hurriedly, with a piece of flannel in his
Yardsley. I beg pardon, Mrs. Perkins, but have you a
shawl-strap in the house?
Mrs. Perkins (tragically). What is that you have in
your hand, Mr. Yardsley?
Yardsley (with a glance at the piece of flannel).
That? Oh—ha-ha—that—that's a—ah—a piece of flannel.
Mrs. Perkins (snatching the flannel from Yardsley's
hand). But Teddy—isn't that a piece of Teddy's—Teddy's shirt?
Yardsley. More than that, Mrs. Perkins. It's the greater
part of Teddy's shirt. That's why we want the shawl-strap. When we
started him off, you know, he took his coat off. Jack held on to the
wheel, and I took Teddy in the fulness of his shirt. One—two—three!
Teddy put on steam—Barlow let go—Teddy went off—I held on—this is
what remained. It ruined the shirt, but Teddy is safe. (Aside.) Barring about sixty or seventy bruises.
Mrs. Perkins (with a faint smile). And the
Yardsley. I want to fasten it around Teddy's waist, grab hold
of the handle, and so hold him up. He's all right, so don't you
worry. (Exit Mrs. Perkins in search of shawl-strap.)
Guess I'd better not say anything about the Pond's Extract he told me
to bring—doesn't need it, anyhow. Man's got to get used to leaving
pieces of his ankle-bone on the curb-stone if he wants to learn to ride
a wheel. Only worry her if I asked her for it—won't hurt him to
suffer a week.
Bradley. Has she come yet?
Yardsley. No—just gone up-stairs for a shawl-strap.
Bradley. Shawl-strap? Who?
Perkins (outside). Hurry up with that Pond's Extract,
Yardsley. All right—coming. Who? Who what?
Bradley. Who has gone up-stairs after shawl-strap—my wife?
Yardsley. No, no, no. Hasn't she got here yet? It's Mrs.
Perkins. Perk fell off just now and broke in two. We want to fasten
Barlow (outside). Bring out that pump. His wheel's
Enter Mrs. Perkins with shawl-strap.
Mrs. Perkins. Here it is. What did I hear about Pond's
Extract? Didn't somebody call for it?
Yardsley. No—oh no—not a bit of it! What you heard was
shawl-strap—sounds like extract—very much like it. In fact—
Bradley. But you did say you wanted—
Yardsley (aside to Bradley). Shut up! Thaddeus banged
his ankle, but he'll get over it in a minute. She'd only worry. The
best bicyclers in the world are all the time falling off, taking
headers, and banging their ankles.
Bradley. Poor Emma!
Barlow. Where the deuce is that Ex—
Yardsley (grasping him by the arm and pushing him out
). Here it is; this is the ex-strap, just what we wanted. (Aside to
Bradley.) Go down to the drug-store and get a bottle of Pond's, will
Mrs. Perkins (walking to window). She can't be long in
Bradley. I guess I'll go out to the corner again. (Aside.) Best bicyclers always smashing ankles, falling off, taking headers!
If I ever get hold of Emma again, I'll see whether she'll ride that—[
Mrs. Perkins. It seems to have made these men crazy. I never
saw such strange behavior in all my life. (The telephone-bell rings.) What can that be? (Goes to 'phone, which stands just outside
parlor door.) Hello! What? Yes, this is 1181—yes. Who are
you? What? Emma? Oh dear, I'm so glad! Are you alive? Where are
you? What? Where? The police-station! (Turning
from telephone.) Thaddeus, Mr. Barlow, Mr. Yardsley. (Into
telephone.) Hello! What for? What? Riding without a lamp!
Arrested at Forty-second Street! Want to be bailed out? (Drops
receiver. Rushes into parlor and throws herself on sofa.)
To think of it—Emma Bradley! (Telephone-bell rings violently again
; Mrs. Perkins goes to it.) Hello! Yes. Tell Ed what? To ask
for Mrs. Willoughby Hawkins. Who's she? What, you! (Drops
the receiver; runs to window.) Thaddeus! Mr. Yardsley! Mr.
Barlow!—all of you come here, quick.
[They rush in. Perkins with shawl-strap about his
waist—limping. Barlow has large air-pump in his hand.
Mrs. Perkins grows faint.
Perkins. Great heavens! What's the matter?
Barlow. Get some water—quick!
[Yardsley runs for water.
Mrs. Perkins. Air! Give me air!
Perkins (grabbing pump from Barlow's hand).
Don't stand there like an idiot! Act! She wants air!
[Places pump on floor and begins to pump air at her.
Barlow. Who's the idiot now? Wheel her over to the window.
She's not a bicycle.
They do so. Mrs. Perkins revives.
Perkins. What is the matter?
Mrs. Perkins. Mrs. Willoughby Hawkins—arrested—Forty-second
Street—no lamp—bailed out. Oh, dear me, dear me! It'll all be in
Perkins. What's that got to do with us? Who's Mrs.
Mrs. Perkins. Emma! Assumed name.
Barlow. Good Lord! Mrs. Bradley in jail?
Perkins. This is a nice piece of—ow—my ankle, my ankle!
[Enter Bradley and Yardsley at same time,
Bradley with bottle of Pond's Extract, Yardsley with glass of
Bradley. Where the deuce did you fellows go to? I've been
wandering all over the square looking for you.
Perkins. Your wife—
Bradley (dropping bottle). What? What about
Mrs. Perkins. Worse! [Sobs.
Mrs. Perkins. Worse—l-lol-locked up—in jail—no bail—wants
to be lamped out.
Bradley. Great heavens! Where?—when? What next? Where's
my hat?—what'll the baby say? I must go to her at once.
Yardsley. Hold on, old man. Let me go up. You're too
excited. I know the police captain. You stay here, and I'll run up
and fix it with him. If you go, he'll find out who Mrs. Hawkins is;
you'll get mad, and things will be worse than ever.
Barlow. No buts, my dear boy. You just stay where you are.
Yardsley's right. It would be an awful grind on you if this ever
became known. Bob can fix it up in two minutes with the captain, and
Mrs. Bradley can come right back with him. Besides, he can get there
in five minutes on his wheel. It will take you twenty on the cars.
Yardsley. Precisely. Meanwhile, Brad, you'd better learn to
ride the wheel, so that Mrs. B. won't have to ride alone. This ought
to be a lesson to you.
Perkins. Bully idea (rubbing his ankle). You can use
my wheel to-night—I—I think I've had enough for the present. (
Aside.) The pavements aren't soft enough for me; and, O Lord! what
a stony curb that was!
Bradley. I never thought I'd get so low.
Yardsley. Well, it seems to me that a man with a wife in jail
needn't be too stuck up to ride a bicycle. But—by-by—I'm off. [
Mrs. Perkins. Poor Emma—out for freedom, and lands in jail.
What horrid things policemen are, to arrest a woman!
Bradley (indignantly). Served her right! If women
won't obey the law they ought to be arrested, the same as men. If she
wasn't my wife, I'd like to see her sent up for ten years or even
twenty years. Women have got no business—
Barlow. Don't get mad, Brad. If you knew the fascination of
the wheel you wouldn't blame her a bit.
Bradley (calming down). Well—I suppose it has some
Perkins (anxious to escape further lessons). Oh,
indeed, it's a most exhilarating sensation: you seem to be flying like
a bird over the high-ways. Try it, Ned. Go on, right away. You don't
know how that little ride I had braced me up.
Barlow (wish a laugh). There! Hear that! There's a
man who's ridden only eight inches in all his life—and he says he felt
like a bird!
Perkins (aside). Yes—like a spring chicken split open
for broiling. Next time I ride a wheel it'll be four wheels, with a
horse fastened in front. Oh my! oh my! I believe I've broken my back
too. [Lies down.
Bradley. You seem to be exhilarated, Thaddeus.
Perkins (bracing up). Oh, I am, I am. Never felt
worse—that is, better.
Barlow. Come on, Brad. I'll show you the trick in two
jiffies—it'll relieve your worry about madam, too.
Bradley. Very well—I suppose there's no way out of it. Only
let me know as soon as Emma arrives, will you?
Mrs. Perkins. Yes—we will.
[They go out. As they disappear through the door
Thaddeus groans aloud.
Mrs. Perkins. Why—what is the matter, dear? Are you hurt?
Perkins. Oh no—not at all, my love. I was only thinking of
Mr. Jarley's indignation to-morrow when he sees the hole I made in his
curb-stone with my ankle—oh!—ow!—and as for my back, while I don't
think the whole spine is gone, I shouldn't be surprised if it had come
through in sections.
Mrs. Perkins. Why, you poor thing—why didn't you say—
Perkins (savagely). Why didn't I say? My heavens,
Bess, what did you think I wanted the Pond's Extract for—to drink, or
to water the street with? O Lord! (holding up his arm). There
aren't any ribs sticking out, are there?
Barlow (outside). The other way—there—that's
it—you've got it.
Bradley (outside). Why, it is easy, isn't it?
Perkins (scornfully). Easy! That fellow'd find
Barlow (outside). Now you're off—not too fast.
Mrs. Perkins (walking to window). Why, Thaddeus, he's
going like the wind down the street!
Perkins. Heaven help him when he comes to the river!
Barlow (rushing in). Here we are in trouble again.
Brad's gone off on my wheel. Bob's taken his, and your tire's
punctured. He doesn't know the first thing about turning or stopping,
and I can't run fast enough to catch him. One member of the family is
in jail—the other on a runaway wheel!
[Yardsley appears at door. Assumes attitude of butler
Yardsley. Missus Willerby 'Awkins!
Enter Mrs. Bradley, hysterical.
Mrs. Bradley. Oh, Edward!
[Throws herself into Barlow's arms.
Barlow (quietly). Excuse me—ah—Mrs.
Hawkins—ah—Bradley—but I'm not—I'm not your husband.
Mrs. Bradley (looking up, tragically). Where's Edward?
Mrs. Perkins. Sit down, dear—you must be completely worn
Mrs. Bradley (in alarm). Where is he?
Perkins (rising and standing on one leg). Fact is,
Mrs. Bradley—we don't know. He disappeared ten minutes ago.
Yardsley. What do you mean?
Mrs. Bradley. Disappeared?
Barlow. Yes. He went east—at the rate of about a mile a
Mrs. Bradley. My husband—went east? Mile a minute?
Perkins. Yes, on a bike. Yardsley, take me by the
shawl-strap, will you, and help me over to that chair; my back hurts so
I can't lie down.
Mrs. Bradley. Ned—on a wheel? Why, he can't ride!
Barlow. Oh yes, he can. What I'm afraid of is that he can't
Bradley (outside). Hi—Barlow—help!
Mrs. Bradley. That's his voice—he called for help.
Yardsley (rushing to window). Hi—Brad—stop! Your
Bradley (in distance). Can't stop—don't know how—
Barlow (leaning out of window). By Jove! he's turned
the corner all right. If he keeps on around, we can catch him next
time he passes.
Mrs. Bradley. Oh, do, do stop him. I'm so afraid he'll be
Mrs. Perkins (looking out). I can just see him on the
other side of the square—and, oh dear me!—his lamp is out.
Mrs. Bradley. Oh, Mr. Yardsley—Mr. Barlow—Mr. Perkins—do
[By this time all are gazing out of window, except Perkins,
who is nursing his ankle.
Perkins. I guess not. I'm not going to lie down in the road,
or sit in the road, or stand in the road to stop him or anybody else.
I don't believe I've got a sound bone left; but if I have, I'm going to
save it, if Bradley kills himself. If his lamp's out the police will
stop him. Why not be satisfied with that?
Bradley (passing the window). For Heaven's sake! one
of you fellows stop me.
Yardsley. Put on the brake.
Barlow. Fall off. It hasn't got a brake.
Bradley (despairingly, in distance). Can't.
Mrs. Perkins. This is frightful.
Perkins (with a grimace at his ankle). Yes; but there
are other fearful things in this world.
Mrs. Bradley. I shall go crazy if he isn't stopped. He'll
Yardsley (leaving window hurriedly). I have it. Got a
length of clothes-line, Mrs. Perkins?
Barlow. What the dickens—
Mrs. Perkins. Yes.
[She rushes from the room.
Mrs. Bradley. What for?
Yardsley. I'll lasso him, next time he comes around.
Perkins (with a grin). There'll be two of us! We can
start a hospital on the top floor.
Mrs. Perkins (returning). Here—here's the line.
[Yardsley takes it hurriedly, and, tying it into a noose,
Perkins (rising). If I never walk again, I must see
this. [Limps to window.
Mrs. Bradley. He's coming, Mr. Yardsley; don't miss him.
Barlow. Steady, Bob; get in the light.
Mrs. Perkins. Suppose it catches his neck?
Perkins. This beats the Wild West Show.
All. He's got him.
[All rush out, except Perkins.
Perkins. Oh yes; he learned in a minute, he did. Easy! Ha,
ha! Gad! it almost makes me forget my pain.
Enter all, asking. “Is he hurt? How do you feel?” etc. Yardsley has rope-end in right hand; noose is tied about
Bradley's body, his coat and clothing are much the worse for wear.
Mrs. Bradley. Poor, dear Edward!
Bradley (weakly kissing her). Don't m-mind me. I—I'm
all right—only a little exhilarated—and somewhat—er—somewhat
breathless. Feel like a bird—on toast. Yardsley, you're a brick.
But that pavement—that was a pile of 'em, and the hardest I ever
encountered. I always thought asphalt was soft—who said asphalt was
Perkins. Easy to learn, though, eh?
Bradley. Too easy. I'd have gone on—er—forever—er—if it
hadn't been for Bob.
Mrs. Bradley. I'll give it up, Ned dear, if you say so.
Mrs. Perkins (affectionately). That's sweet of you,
Bradley. No, indeed, you won't, for—er—I—I rather like it
while it's going on, and when I learn to get off—
Yardsley. Which you will very shortly.
Barlow. You bet! he's a dandy. I taught him.
Bradley. I think I'll adore it.
Perkins. Buy a Czar wheel, Brad. Best in the market; weighs
only twenty pounds. I've got one with a ki-yi pump and a pneumatic gun
you can have for ten dollars.
Jennie (at the door). Supper is served ma'am. [
Mrs. Perkins. Let us go out and restore our nerves. Come,
[She and Mrs. Bradley walk out.
Yardsley (aside). I say, Brad, you owe me five.
Bradley. What for?
Barlow. Cheap too.
Yardsley. Very. I think he ought to open a bottle besides.
Perkins. I'll attend to the bottles. We'll have three.
Barlow. Two will be enough.
Perkins. Three—two of fizz for you and Bob and the ladies,
and if Bradley will agree, I'll split a quart of Pond's Extract with
Bradley. I'll go you. I think I could take care of the whole
Perkins. Then we'll make it four bottles.
Mrs. Perkins (appearing at door with her arm about Mrs.
Bradley). Aren't you coming?
Perkins (rising with difficulty). As fast as we can,
my dear. We've been taking lessons, you know, and can't move as
rapidly as the rest of you. We're a trifle—ah—a trifle tired.
Yardsley, you tow Bradley into the dining room; and, Barlow, kindly
pretend I'm a shawl, will you, and carry me in.
Bradley. I'll buy a wheel to-morrow.
Perkins. Don't, Brad. I—I'll give you mine. Fact is, old
man, I don't exactly like feeling like a bird.
[They go out, and as the last, Perkins and Bradley,
disappear stiffly through the portières, the curtain falls.
A DRAMATIC EVENING
MR. THADDEUS PERKINS, a victim.
MR. EDWARD BRADLEY, a friend in disguise.
MR. ROBERT YARDSLEY, an amiable villain.
MR. JOHN BARLOW, the amiable villain's assistant.
MRS. THADDEUS PERKINS, a martyr.
MRS. EDWARD BRADLEY, a woman of executive ability.
JENNIE, a housemaid.
The scene is placed in the drawing-room of Mr. and Mrs.
Thaddeus Perkins, of New York. The time is a Saturday
evening in the early spring, and the hour is approaching eight.
The curtain, rising, discovers Perkins, in evening dress,
reading a newspaper by the light of a lamp on the table. Mrs.
Perkins is seated on the other side of the table, buttoning her
gloves. Her wrap is on a chair near at hand. The room
is gracefully over-furnished.
Mrs. Perkins. Where are the seats, Thaddeus?
Perkins. Third row; and, by Jove! Bess (looking at his
watch), we must hurry. It is getting on towards eight now. The
curtain rises at 8.15.
Mrs. Perkins. The carriage hasn't come yet. It isn't more
than a ten minutes' drive to the theatre.
Perkins. That's true, but there are so many carriage-folk
going to see Irving that if we don't start early we'll find ourselves
on the end of the line, and the first act will be half over before we
can reach our seats.
Mrs. Perkins. I'm so glad we've got good seats—down near the
front. I despise opera-glasses, and seats under the galleries are so
Perkins. Well, I don't know. For The Lyons Mail I
think a seat in the front row of the top gallery, where you can cheer
virtue and hiss villany without making yourself conspicuous, is the
Mrs. Perkins. You don't mean to say that you'd like to sit up
with those odious gallery gods?
Perkins. For a melodrama, I do. What's the use of clapping
your gloved hands together at a melodrama? That doesn't express your
feelings. I always want to put two fingers in my mouth and pierce the
atmosphere with a regular gallery-god whistle when I see the villain
laid low by the tow-headed idiot in the last act—but it wouldn't do in
the orchestra. You might as well expect the people in the boxes to eat
peanuts as expect an orchestra-chair patron to whistle on his fingers.
Mrs. Perkins. I should die of mortification if you ever
should do such a vulgar thing, Thaddeus.
Perkins. Then you needn't be afraid, my dear. I'm too fond
of you to sacrifice you to my love for whistling. (The front-door
bell rings.) Ah, there is the carriage at last. I'll go and get
[Mrs. Perkins rises, and is about to don her wrap as Mr.
Perkins goes towards the door.
Enter Mr. and Mrs. Bradley. Perkins staggers
backward in surprise. Mrs. Perkins lets her wrap fall to the
floor, an expression of dismay on her face.
Mrs. Perkins (aside). Dear me! I'd forgotten all
about it. This is the night the club is to meet here!
Bradley. Ah, Perkins, how d' y' do? Glad to see me? Gad!
you don't look it.
Perkins. Glad is a word which scarcely expresses my feelings,
Bradley. I—I'm simply de-lighted. (Aside to Mrs. Perkins,
who has been greeting Mrs. Bradley.) Here's a kettle of fish. We
must get rid of them, or we'll miss The Lyons Mail.
Mrs. Bradley. You two are always so formal. The idea of your
putting on your dress suit, Thaddeus! It'll be ruined before we are
half through this evening.
Bradley. Certainly, Perkins. Why, man, when you've been
moving furniture and taking up carpets and ripping out fireplaces for
an hour or two that coat of yours will be a rag—a veritable rag that
the ragman himself would be dubious about buying.
Perkins (aside). Are these folk crazy? Or am I? (
Aloud.) Pulling up fireplaces? Moving out furniture? Am I to be
Mrs. Bradley. Not by your landlord, but you know what
amateur dramatics are.
Bradley. I doubt it. He wouldn't have let us have 'em here
if he had known.
Perkins. Amateur—amateur dramatics?
Mrs. Perkins. Certainly, Thaddeus. You know we offered our
parlor for the performance. The audience are to sit out in the hall.
Perkins. Oh—ah! Why, of course! Certainly! It had slipped
my mind; and—ah—what else?
Bradley. Why, we're here to-night to arrange the scene.
Don't tell us you didn't know it. Bob Yardsley's coming, and Barlow.
Yardsley's a great man for amateur dramatics; he bosses things so
pleasantly that you don't know you're being ordered about like a
slave. I believe he could persuade a man to hammer nails into his
piano-case if he wanted it done, he's so insinuatingly lovely about it
Perkins (absently). I'll get a hammer. [Exit.
Mrs. Perkins (aside). I must explain to Thaddeus.
He'll never forgive me. (Aloud.) Thaddeus is so forgetful that
I don't believe he can find that hammer, so if you'll excuse me I'll go
help him. [Exit.
Bradley. Wonder what's up? They don't quarrel, do they?
Mrs. Bradley. I don't believe any one could quarrel with
Bessie Perkins—not even a man.
Bradley. Well, they're queer. Acted as if they weren't glad
to see us.
Mrs. Bradley. Oh, that's all your imagination. (Looks
about the room.) That table will have to be taken out, and all
these chairs and cabinets; and the rug will never do.
Bradley. Why not? I think the rug will look first-rate.
Mrs. Bradley. A rug like that in a conservatory? [A ring
at the front-door bell is heard.
Bradley. Ah! maybe that's Yardsley. I hope so. If Perkins
and his wife are out of sorts we want to hurry up and get through.
Mrs. Bradley. Oh, we'll be through by twelve o'clock.
Enter Yardsley and Barlow.
Yardsley. Ah! here we are at last. The wreckers have
arrove. Where's Perkins?
Barlow. Taken to the woods, I fancy. I say, Bob, don't you
think before we begin we'd better give Perkins ether? He'll suffer
Enter Mrs. Perkins, wiping her eyes.
Mrs. Perkins. How do you do, Mr. Barlow? and you, Mr.
Yardsley? So glad to see you. Thaddeus will be down in a minute.
He—ah—he forgot about the—the meeting here to-night, and he—he put
on his dress-coat.
Yardsley. Bad thing to lift a piano in. Better be without
any coat. But I say we begin—eh? If you don't mind, Mrs. Perkins.
We've got a great deal to do, and unfortunately hours are limited in
length as well as in number. Ah! that fireplace must be covered up.
Wouldn't do to have a fireplace in a conservatory. Wilt all the
flowers in ten minutes.
Mrs. Perkins (meekly). You needn't have the fire lit,
Barlow. No—but—a fireplace without fire in it seems sort
of—of bald, don't you think?
Yardsley. Bald? Splendid word applied to a fireplace. So
few fireplaces have hair.
Mrs. Bradley. Oh, it could be covered up without any trouble,
Bessie. Can't we have those dining-room portières to hang in front of
Yardsley. Just the thing. Dining-room portières always look
well, whether they're in a conservatory or a street scene. (Enter
Perkins.) Hello, Thaddeus! How d' y'? Got your overalls on?
Perkins (trying to appear serene). Yes. I'm ready for
anything. Anything I can do?
Bradley. Yes—look pleasant. You look as if you were going
to have your picture taken, or a tooth pulled. Haven't you a smile you
don't need that you can give us? This isn't a funeral.
Perkins (assuming a grin). How'll that do?
Barlow. First-rate. We'll have to make you act next. That's
the most villanous grin I ever saw.
Yardsley. I'll write a tragedy to go with it. But I say,
Thad, we want those dining-room portières of yours. Get 'em down for
us, will you?
Perkins. Dining-room portières! What for?
Mrs. Perkins. They all think the fireplace would better be
hid, Thaddeus, dear. It wouldn't look well in a conservatory.
Perkins. I suppose not. And the dining-room portières are
wanted to cover up the fireplace?
Yardsley. Precisely. You have a managerial brain, Thaddeus.
You can see at once what a dining-room portière is good for. If
ever I am cast away on a desert island, with nothing but a dining-room
portière for solace, I hope you'll be along to take charge of it. In
your hands its possibilities are absolutely unlimited. Get them for
us, old man; and while you are about it, bring a stepladder. (Exit
Perkins, dejectedly.) Now, Barlow, you and Bradley help me with
this piano. Pianos may do well enough in gardens or pirates' caves,
but for conservatories they're not worth a rap.
Mrs. Bradley. Wait a moment. We must take the bric-à-brac
from the top of it before you touch it. If there are two incompatible
things in this world, they are men and bric-à-brac.
Mrs. Perkins. You are so thoughtful, though I am sure
that Mr. Yardsley would not break anything willingly.
Barlow. Nothing but the ten commandments.
Yardsley. They aren't bric-à-brac; and I thank you, Mrs.
Perkins, for your expression of confidence. I wouldn't intentionally
go into the house of another man and toss his Sevres up in the air, or
throw his Royal Worcester down-stairs, except under very great
provocation. (Mrs. Perkins and Mrs. Bradley have by this
time removed the bric-à-brac from the piano—an upright.) Now,
boys, are you ready?
Bradley. Where is it to be moved to?
Yardsley. Where would you prefer to have it, Mrs. Perkins?
Mrs. Perkins. Oh, I have no preference in the matter. Put it
where you please.
Yardsley. Suppose you carry it up into the attic, Barlow.
Barlow. Certainly. I'll be glad to if you'll carry the soft
pedal. I'm always afraid when I'm carrying pianos up-stairs of
breaking the soft pedal or dropping a few octaves.
Yardsley. I guess we'd better put it over in this corner,
where the audience won't see it. If you are so careless that you can't
move a piano without losing its tone, we'd better not have it moved too
far. Now, then.
[Barlow, Yardsley, and Bradley endeavor to push the piano
over the floor, but it doesn't move.
Enter Perkins with two portières wrapped about him, and
hugging a small stepladder in his arms.
Bradley. Hurry up, Perkins. Don't shirk so. Can't you see
that we're trying to get this piano across the floor? Where are you
Perkins (meekly). I'm trying to make myself at home.
Do you expect me to hang on to these things and move pianos at the same
Barlow. Let him alone, Bradley. He's doing the best he
knows. I always say give a man credit for doing what he can, whether
he is intelligent or not. Of course we don't expect you to hang on to
the portières and the stepladder while you are pushing the piano,
Thad. That's too much to expect of any man of your size; some men
might do it, but not all. Drop the portières.
Perkins. Where'll I put 'em?
Yardsley. Put them on the stepladder.
Perkins (impatiently). And where shall I put the
stepladder—on the piano?
Mrs. Perkins (coming to the rescue). I'll take care of
these things, Thaddeus, dear.
Bradley. That's right; put everything off on your wife. What
shirks some men are!
Yardsley. Now, then, Perkins, lend us your shoulder,
and—one, two, three—push! Ah! She starts; she moves; she seems to
feel the thrill of life along her keel. We must have gained an inch.
Once more, now. My, but this is a heavy piano!
Bradley. Must be full of Wagnerian music. Why don't you get
a piano of lighter quality, Perkins? This isn't any kind of an
instrument for amateur stage-hands to manage.
Perkins. I'll know better next time. But is it where you
want it now?
Yardsley. Not a bit of it. We need one more push. Get her
rolling, and keep her rolling until she stands over there in that
corner; and be careful to stop her in time, I should hate to push a
piano through one of my host's parlor walls just for the want of a
little care. (They push until the piano stands against the wall on
the other side of the room, keyboard in.) There! That's
first-rate. You can put a camp-chair on top of it for the prompter to
sit on; there's nothing like having the prompter up high, because
amateur actors when they forget their lines, always look up in the
air. Perkins, go sit out in the hall and imagine yourself an
enthusiastic audience—will you?—and tell us if you can see the
piano. If you can see it, we'll have to put it somewhere else.
Perkins. Do you mean it?
Mrs. Bradley. Of course he doesn't, Mr. Perkins. It's
impossible to see it from the hall. Now, I think the rug ought to come
Mrs. Perkins. Dear me! what for?
Yardsley. Oh, it wouldn't do at all to have that rug in the
conservatory, Mrs. Perkins. Besides, I should be afraid it would be
Perkins. Spoiled? What would spoil it? Are you going to
wear spiked shoes?
Barlow. Spiked shoes? Thaddeus, really you ought to have
your mind examined. This scene is supposed to be just off the
ballroom, and it is here that Gwendoline comes during the lanciers and
encounters Hartley, the villain. Do you suppose that even a villain in
an amateur show would go to a ball with spiked shoes on?
Perkins (wearily). But I still fail to see what is to
spoil the rug. Does the villain set fire to the conservatory in this
play, or does he assassinate the virtuous hero here and spill his gore
on the floor?
Bradley. What a blood-and-thunder idea of the drama you
have! Of course he doesn't. There isn't a death in the whole play,
and it's two hours long. One or two people in the audience may die
while the play is going on, but people who haven't strong constitutions
shouldn't attend amateur shows.
Mrs. Perkins. That's true, I fancy.
Mrs. Bradley. Very. It would be very rude for one of your
invited guests to cast a gloom over your evening by dying.
Yardsley. It is seldom done among people who know what is
what. But to explain the point you want explained, Thaddeus: the rug
might be spoiled by a leak in the fountain.
Mrs. Perkins. The fountain?
Perkins. You don't mean to say you're going to have a
fountain playing here?
Bradley. Certainly. A conservatory without a fountain would
be like “Hamlet” with Yorick's skull left out. There's to be a
fountain playing here, and a band playing in the next room—all in a
green light, too. It'll be highly effective.
Perkins. But how—how are you going to make the fountain go?
Is it to spurt real water?
Yardsley. Of course. Did you ever see a fountain spurt
sawdust or lemonade? It's not a soda-water fountain either, but a
straight temperance affair, such as you'll find in the homes of all
truly good people. Now don't get excited and raise obstacles. The
thing is simple enough if you know how to do it. Got one of those
English bath-tubs in the house?
Perkins. No. But, of course, if you want a bath-tub, I'll
have a regular porcelain one with running water, hot and cold, put
in—two of 'em, if you wish. Anything to oblige.
Yardsley. No; stationary bath-tubs are useful, but not
exactly adapted to a conservatory.
Barlow. I brought my tub with me. I knew Perkins hadn't one,
and so I thought I'd better come provided. It's out in the hall. I'll
get it. [Exit.
Mrs. Bradley (to Mrs. Perkins). He's just splendid!
never forgets anything.
Mrs. Perkins. I should say not. But, Mr. Yardsley, a
bath-tub, even an English one, will not look very well, will it?
Yardsley. Oh, very. You see, we'll put it in the centre of
the room. Just move that table out into the hall, Thaddeus. (Enter
Barlow with tub.) Ah! now I'll show you. (Perkins removes
table.) You see, we put the tub here in the middle of the floor,
then we surround it with potted plants. That conceals the tub, and
there's your fountain.
Perkins. But the water—how do you get that?
Bradley. We buy it in bottles, of course, and hire a boy to
come in and pour it out every two minutes. How dull you are, Perkins!
I'm surprised at you.
Perkins. I'm not over-bright, I must confess, when it comes
to building fountains in parlors, with no basis but an English bath-tub
to work on.
Yardsley. Did you ever hear of such a thing as a length of
hose with a nozzle on one end and a Croton-water pipe at the other,
Mrs. Perkins. But where is the Croton-water pipe?
Mrs. Bradley. In the butler's pantry. The hose can be
carried through the dining-room, across the hall into this room, and it
will be dreadfully effective; and so safe, too, in case the curtain
Mrs. Perkins. Oh, Emma! You don't think—
Perkins. Cheerful prospect. But I say, Yardsley, you have
arranged for the water supply; how about its exit? How does the water
get out of the tub?
Yardsley. It doesn't, unless you want to bore a hole in the
floor, and let it flow into the billiard-room below. We've just got to
hustle that scene along, so that the climax will be reached before the
Barlow. Perhaps we'd better test the thing now. Maybe my tub
isn't large enough for the scene. It would be awkward if the heroine
had to seize a dipper and bail the fountain out right in the middle of
an impassioned rebuke to Hartley.
Perkins. All right—go ahead. Test it. Test anything. I'll
supply the Croton pipes.
Yardsley. None of you fellows happen to have a length of hose
with you, do you?
Bradley. I left mine in my other clothes.
Mrs. Bradley. That's just like you men. You grow flippant
over very serious matters. For my part, if I am to play Gwendoline, I
shall not bail out the fountain even to save poor dear Bessie's floor.
Yardsley. Oh, it'll be all right. Only, if you see the
fountain getting too full, speak faster.
Barlow. We might announce a race between the heroine and the
fountain. It would add to the interest of the play. This is an
Perkins. I suppose it wouldn't do to turn the water off in
case of danger.
Barlow. It could be done, but it wouldn't look well. The
audience might think the fountain had had an attack of stage fright.
Where is the entrance from the ballroom to be?
Yardsley. It ought to be where the fireplace is. That's one
reason why I think the portières will look well there.
Mrs. Perkins. But I don't see how that can be. Nobody could
come in there. There wouldn't be room behind for any one to stand,
Bradley. I don't know. That fireplace is large, and only two
people have to come in that way. The rising curtain discloses
Gwendoline just having come in. If Hartley, the villain, and Jack
Pendleton, the manly young navy officer, who represents virtue, and
dashes in at the right moment to save Gwendoline, could sit close and
stand the discomfort of it, they might squeeze in there and await their
Mrs. Perkins. Sit in the fireplace?
Yardsley. Yes. Why not?
Perkins. Don't you interfere, Bess, Yardsley is managing this
show, and if he wants to keep the soubrette waiting on the mantel-piece
it's his lookout, and not ours.
Yardsley. By-the-way, Thaddeus, Wilkins has backed out, and
you are to play the villain.
Perkins. I? Never!
Barlow. Oh, but you must. All you have to do is frown and
rant and look real bad.
Perkins. But I can't act.
Bradley. That doesn't make any difference. We don't want a
villain that the audience will fall in love with. That would be
immoral. The more you make them despise you, the better.
Perkins. Well—I positively decline to sit in the fireplace.
I tell you that right now.
Mrs. Bradley. Don't waste time talking about petty details.
Let the entrance be there. We can hang the curtain on a frame two feet
out from the wall, so that there will be plenty of room behind for
Hartley and Pendleton to stand. The frame can be fastened to the
wood-work of the mantel-piece. It may take a screw or two to hold it,
but they'll be high up, so nobody will notice the holes in the wood
after it comes down. The point that bothers me is this wall-paper.
People don't put wall-papers on their conservatories.
Perkins (sarcastically). I'll have the room repapered
in sheet-glass. Or we might borrow a few hot-bed covers and hang them
from the picture moulding, so that the place would look like a real
Yardsley. Napoleonic idea. Barlow, jot down among the
properties ten hot-bed covers, twenty picture-hooks, and a coil of
wire. You're developing, Perkins.
Mrs. Perkins (ruefully, aside). I wish Thaddeus's
jokes weren't always taken seriously. The idea of my drawing-room
walls being hung with hot-bed covers! Why, it's awful.
Yardsley. Well, now that that's settled, we'll have to
dispose of the pictures. Thaddeus, I wish you'd take down the pictures
on the east wall, so that we can put our mind's eye on just how we
shall treat the background. The mere hanging of hot-bed covers there
will not do. The audience could see directly through the glass, and
the wall-paper would still destroy the illusion.
Perkins. Anything. Perhaps if you got a jack-plane and
planed the walls off it would suffice.
Bradley. Don't be sarcastic, my boy. Remember we didn't let
you into this. You volunteered.
Perkins. I know it, Bradley. The house is yours.
Barlow. I said you had paresis when you made the offer,
Perkins. If you want to go to law about it, I think you could get an
injunction against us—or, rather, Mrs. Perkins could—on the ground
that you were non compos at the time.
Mrs. Perkins. Why, we're most happy to have you, I'm sure.
Perkins. So 'm I. (Aside.) Heaven forgive me that!
Yardsley. By-the-way, Thad, there's one thing I meant to have
spoken about as soon as I got here. Er—is this your house, or
do you rent it?
Perkins. I rent it. What has that to do with it?
Bradley. A great deal. You don't think we'd treat your
house as we would a common landlord's, do you? You wouldn't yourself.
Yardsley. That's the point. If you own the house we want to
be careful and consider your feelings. If you don't, we don't
care what happens.
Perkins. I don't own the house. (Aside.) And under
the circumstances I'm rather glad I don't.
Yardsley. Well, I'm glad you don't. My weak point is my
conscience, and when it comes to destroying a friend's property, I
don't exactly like to do it. But if this house belongs to a sordid
person, who built it just to put money in his own pocket, I don't
care. Barlow, you can nail those portières up. It won't be necessary
to build a frame for them. Bradley, carry the chairs and cabinets out.
[Bradley, assisted by Perkins, removes the remaining
furniture, placing the bric-à-brac on the floor.
Barlow. All right. Where's that stepladder? Thaddeus, got
Mrs. Perkins. I—I think we'd rather have a frame, Mr.
Yardsley. We can have one made, can't we, Thaddeus?
Perkins. Certainly. We can have anything made. (Aside.) I suppose I'd build a theatre for 'em if they asked me to, I'm such
Yardsley. Oh no. Of course, if you'd prefer it, we'll send a
frame. I don't think nails would look well in this ceiling, after
all. Temporarily, though, Barlow, you might hang those portières from
Barlow. There isn't any.
Yardsley. Well, then, we'll have to imagine how it will look.
Mrs. Bradley. All the bric-à-brac will have to be taken from
Yardsley. True. Perkins, you know the house better than we
do. Suppose you take the bric-à-brac out and put it where it will be
[Begins to remove bric-à-brac.
Yardsley. Now let's count up. Here's the fountain.
Barlow. Yes; only we haven't the hose.
Bradley. Well, make a note of it.
Mrs. Perkins. Emma, can't we help Thaddeus?
Mrs. Bradley. Of course. I'll carry out the fender, and you
take the andirons.
[They do so.
Yardsley. The entrance will be here, and here will be the
curtain. How about footlights?
Bradley. This bracket will do for a connection. Any plumber
can take this bracket off and fasten a rubber pipe to it.
Yardsley. First-rate. Barlow, make a note of one plumber,
one length of rubber pipe, and foot-lights.
Bradley. And don't forget to have potted plants and palms,
and so forth, galore.
Barlow. No. I'll make a note of that. Will this sofa do for
Yardsley. Jove! Glad you mentioned that. Won't do at all.
Thaddeus! (No answer.) I hope we haven't driven him to drink.
Bradley. So do I. I'd rather he'd lead us to it.
Perkins (from without). Well?
Yardsley. Do you happen to have any conservatory benches in
Mrs. Perkins (appearing in doorway). We have a patent
Barlow. Just the thing.
Yardsley (calling). Bring up the patent laundry table,
Thaddeus. (To Bradley.) What is a patent laundry table?
Bradley. It's what my wife calls the cook's delight. It's an
ironing-board on wash-days, a supper table at supper-time, and on the
cook's reception days it can be turned into a settee.
Yardsley. It describes well.
Perkins (from a distance). Hi! come down and help me
with this thing. I can't carry it up alone.
Yardsley. All right, Perk. Bradley, you and Barlow help
Thaddeus. I'll move these other chairs and tables out. It's getting
late, and we'll have to hustle.
[Exit Barlow. Bradley meanwhile has been removing pictures
from the walls, and, as Yardsley speaks, is standing on the
stepladder reaching up for a painting.
Bradley. What do you take me for—twins?
Yardsley. Don't get mad, now, Bradley. If there's anything
that can add to the terror of amateur theatricals it's temper.
Mrs. Bradley (from without). Edward, come here right
away. I want you to move the hat-stand, and see how many people can be
seated in this hall.
Bradley. Oh yes, certainly, my dear—of course. Right away.
My name is Legion—or Dennis.
Yardsley. That's the spirit. (A crash is heard without.) Great Scott! What's that?
Mrs. Perkins (without). Oh, Thaddeus!
Bradley. They've dropped the cook's delight.
[He comes down from the stepladder. He and Yardsley
go out. The pictures are piled up on the floor, the furniture
is topsy-turvy, and the portières lie in a heap on the hearth.
Enter Mrs. Perkins.
Mrs. Perkins. Dear, dear, dear! What a mess! And poor
Thaddeus! I'm glad he wasn't hurt; but I—I'm afraid I heard him say
words I never heard him say before when Mr. Barlow let the table slip.
Wish I hadn't said anything about the table.
Enter Mrs. Bradley.
Mrs. Bradley. These men will drive me crazy. They are making
more fuss carrying that laundry table up-stairs than if it were a
house; and the worst of it is our husbands are losing their tempers.
Mrs. Perkins. Well, I don't wonder. It must be awfully
trying to have a laundry table fall on you.
Mrs. Bradley. Oh, Thaddeus is angelic, but Edward is
absolutely inexcusable. He swore a minute ago, and it sounded
particularly profane because he had a screw and a picture-hook in his
Yardsley (outside). It's almost as heavy as the
piano. I don't see why, either.
[The four men appear at the door, staggering under the weight of
the laundry table.
Perkins (as they set it down). Whew! That's what I
call work. What makes this thing so heavy?
Mrs. Bradley (as she opens a drawer and takes out a
half-dozen patent flat-irons and a handle). This has something to
do with it. Why didn't you take out the drawer first?
Yardsley. It wasn't my fault. They'd started with it before
I took hold. I didn't know it had a drawer, though I did wonder what
it was that rattled around inside of it.
Bradley. It wasn't for me to suggest taking the drawer out.
Thaddeus ought to have thought of that.
Perkins (angrily). Well, of all—
Mrs. Perkins. Never mind. It's here, and it's all right.
Yardsley. That's so. We musn't quarrel. If we get started,
we'll never stop. Now, Perkins, roll up that rug, and we'll get things
placed, and then we'll be through.
Barlow. Come on; I'll help. Bradley, get those pictures off
the rug. Don't be so careless of Mrs. Perkins's property.
Bradley. Careless? See here now, Barlow—
Mrs. Bradley. Now, Edward—no temper. Take the pictures out.
Bradley. And where shall I take the pictures out to?
Yardsley. Put 'em on the dining-room table.
Perkins (aside). Throw 'em out the window, for all I
Perkins. Nothing. I—er—I only said to put 'em—er—to put
'em wherever you pleased.
Bradley. But I can't say where they're to go,
Thaddeus. This isn't my house.
Perkins (aside). No—worse luck—it's mine.
Mrs. Perkins. Oh—put them in the dining-room; they'll be
Bradley. I will.
[He begins carrying the pictures out. Perkins, Barlow, and
Yardsley roll up the rug.
Yardsley. There! You fellows might as well carry that out
too; and then we'll be ready for the scene.
Barlow. Come along, Thaddeus. You're earning your pay
Perkins (desperately). May I take my coat off? I'm
Mrs. Bradley. Certainly. I wonder you didn't think of it
Perkins. Think? I never think.
Yardsley. Well, go ahead in your thoughtless way and get the
rug out. You are delaying us.
Perkins. All right. Come on. Barlow, are you ready?
Barlow. I am. [They drag the rug out.
Yardsley. At last. (Replaces the tub.) There's the
fountain. Now where shall we put the cook's delight?
Mrs. Perkins. Over here, I should say.
Mrs. Bradley. I think it would be better here.
Bradley (who has returned). Put it half-way between
'em, Yardsley. I say give in always to the ladies; and when they don't
agree, compromise. It's a mighty poor woman that isn't half right
Mrs. Bradley. Edward!
Yardsley (adopting the suggestion). There! How's
Perkins (returning). Perfect. I never saw such an
original conservatory in my life.
Mrs. Perkins. I suppose it's all right. What do you think,
Mrs. Bradley. Why, it's simply fine. Of course it requires a
little imagination to see it as it will be on the night of the
performance; but in general I don't see how it could be better.
Barlow. No—nor I. It's great as it is, but when we get the
hot-bed covers hung, and the fountain playing, and plants arranged
gracefully all around, it will be ideal. I say we ought to give
Yardsley a vote of thanks.
Perkins. That's so. We're very much indebted to Yardsley.
Yardsley. Never mind that. I enjoy the work very much.
Perkins. So glad. (Aside.) I wonder when we
get a vote of thanks?
Bradley (looking at his watch). By Jove, Emma, it's
Mrs. Bradley. After eleven? Dear me! I had no idea it was
as late as that. How time flies when you are enjoying yourself!
Really, Edward, you ought not to have overlooked the time. You know—
Bradley. I supposed you knew we couldn't pull a house down in
Perkins. What's become of the clock?
Mrs. Perkins. I don't know. Who took the clock out?
Barlow. I did. It's under the dining-room table.
Mrs. Bradley. Well, we mustn't keep Bessie up another
moment. Good-night, my dear. We have had a delightful time.
Mrs. Perkins. Good-night. I am sure we have enjoyed it.
Perkins (aside). Oh yes, indeed; we haven't had
so much fun since the children had the mumps.
Yardsley. Well, so-long, Perkins. Thanks for your help.
Yardsley. Don't bother about fixing up to-night, Perkins.
I'll be around to-morrow evening and help put things in order again.
[They all go out. The good-nights are repeated, and
finally the front door is closed.
Re-enter Perkins, who falls dejectedly on the settee,
followed by Mrs. Perkins, who gives a rueful glance at the room.
Perkins. I'm glad Yardsley's coming to fix us up again. I
never could do it.
Mrs. Perkins. Then I must. I can't ask Jennie to do it,
she'd discharge us at once, and I can't have my drawing-room left this
way over Sunday.
Perkins (wearily). Oh, well, shall we do it now?
Mrs. Perkins. No, you poor dear man; we'll stay home from
church to-morrow morning and do it. It won't be any harder work than
reading the Sunday newspapers. What have you there?
Perkins (looking at two tickets he has abstracted from his
vest-pocket). Tickets for Irving—this evening—Lyons Mail
—third row from the stage. I was just thinking—
Mrs. Perkins. Don't tell me what you were thinking, my dear.
It can't be expressible in polite language.
Perkins. You are wrong there, my dear. I wasn't thinking
cuss-words at all. I was only reflecting that we didn't miss much
anyhow, under the circumstances.
Mrs. Perkins. Miss much? Why, Thaddeus, what do you
Perkins. Nothing—only that for action continuous and
situations overpowering The Lyons Mail isn't a marker to an
evening of preparation for Amateur Dramatics.
Jennie. Excuse me, mim, but the coachman says shall he wait
any longer? He's been there three hours now.
THE FATAL MESSAGE
MR. THADDEUS PERKINS, in charge of the curtain.
MRS. THADDEUS PERKINS, cast for Lady Ellen.
MISS ANDREWS, cast for the maid.
MR. EDWARD BRADLEY, an under-study.
MRS. EDWARD BRADLEY, cast for Lady Amaranth.
MR. ROBERT YARDSLEY, stage-manager.
MR. JACK BARLOW, cast for Fenderson Featherhead.
MR. CHESTER HENDERSON, an absentee.
JENNIE, a professional waitress.
The scene is laid in the library of the Perkins mansion, on
the afternoon of the day upon which an amateur dramatic performance is
to be held therein. The Perkins house has been given
over to the dramatic association having the matter in charge.
At right of library a scenic doorway is hung. At left a
drop-curtain is arranged, behind which is the middle hall of the
Perkins dwelling, where the expected audience are to sit.
The unoccupied wall spaces are hung with paper-muslin. The apartment
is fitted up generally to resemble an English drawing-room; table and
chair at centre. At rear stands a painted-canvas conservatory
entrance, on left of which is a long oaken chest. The curtain
rising discovers Mrs. Perkins giving a few finishing touches to
the scene, with Mr. Perkins gazing curiously about the room.
Perkins. Well, they've transformed this library into a scene
of bewitching beauty—haven't they? These paper-muslin walls are a
dream of loveliness. I suppose, as the possessor of all this, I ought
to be supremely happy—only I wish that canvas conservatory door hadn't
been tacked over my reference-books. I want to look up some points
Mrs. Perkins. Oh, never mind your books, Thaddeus; it's only
for one night. Can't you take a minute's rest?
Perkins. One night? I like that. It's been there two
already, and it's in for to-night, and all day to-morrow, I suppose.
It'll take all day to-morrow to clean up, I'll wager a hat. I'm
beginning to rue the hour I ever allowed the house of Perkins to be
lured into the drama.
Mrs. Perkins. You're better off than I am. I've got to take
part, and I don't half know my lines.
Perkins. I? I better off? I'd like to know if I haven't got
to sit out in front and watch you people fulfil your diabolical mission
in your doubly diabolical way, and grin at the fearful jokes in the
dialogue I've been listening to for weeks, and make the audience feel
that they are welcome when they're not. What's been done with my desk?
Mrs. Perkins. It's down in the laundry. You're about as—
Perkins. Oh, is it? Laundry is a nice place for a desk.
Plenty of starch handy to stiffen up a writer's nerve, and
scrubbing-boards galore to polish up his wits. And I suppose my papers
are up in the attic?
Mrs. Perkins. No; they're stowed away safely in the nursery.
Now please don't complain!
Perkins. Me? Complain? I never complain. I didn't say a
word when Yardsley had my Cruikshanks torn from their shelves and
chucked into a clothes-basket and carried into the butler's pantry, did
I? Did I say as much as one little word? I wanted to say one little
word, I admit, but I didn't. Did I? If I did, I withdraw it. I'm
fond of this sort of thing. The greatest joy in life is to be found in
arranging and rearranging a library, and I seem to be in for joy enough
to kill. What time are the—these amateur Thespians coming?
Mrs. Perkins (looking at her watch). They're due now;
it's half-past four. (Sits down and opens play-book.
Rehearses.) No, not for all the world would I do this thing, Lord
Muddleton. There is no need to ask it of me. I am firm. I shall—
Perkins, Oh, let up, my dear! I've been getting that for
breakfast, dinner, and tea for two weeks now, and I'm awfully tired of
it. When I asked for a second cup of coffee at breakfast Sunday, you
retorted, “No, not for all the world would I do this thing, Lord
Muddleton!” When I asked you where my dress ties were, you informed me
that it was “what baseness,” or words to that effect; and so on, until
I hardly know where I am at. (Catches sight of the chest.)
Hello! How did that happen to escape the general devastation? What
are you going to do with that oak chest?
Mrs. Perkins. It is for the real earl to hide in just before
he confronts Muddleton with the evidence of his crime.
Perkins. But—that holds all my loose prints, Bess. By
Jove! I can't have that, you know. You amateur counterfeiters have
got to understand just one thing. I'll submit to the laundering of my
manuscripts, the butler's-pantrying of my Cruikshanks, but I'll be
hanged if I'll allow even a real earl, much less a base imitation of
one, to wallow in my engravings.
Mrs. Perkins. You needn't worry about your old engravings.
They're perfectly safe, I've put them in the Saratoga trunk in the
attic. (Rehearsing.) And if you ask it of me once again, I
shall have to summon my servants to have you shown the door. Henry
Cobb is the friend of my girlhood, and—
Perkins. Henry Cobb be—
Mrs. Perkins. Thaddeus!
Perkins. I don't care, Bess, if Henry Cobb was the only
friend you ever had. I object to having my prints dumped into a
Saratoga trunk in order that he may confront Muddleton and regain the
lost estates of Puddingford by hiding in my chest. A gay earl Yardsley
makes, anyhow; and as for Barlow, he looks like an ass in that
yellow-chrysanthemum wig. No man with yellow hair like that could
track such a villain as Henderson makes Muddleton out to be. Fact is,
Henderson is the only decent part of the show.
Mrs. Perkins (rehearsing). What if he is weak? Then
shall I still more strongly show myself his friend. Poor? Does not—
Perkins. Oh, I suppose it does—(Bell rings.) There
comes this apology for a real earl, I fancy. I'll let him in myself.
I suppose Jennie has got as much as she can do sweeping my manuscripts
out of the laundry, and keeping my verses from scorching the wash. [
Mrs. Perkins. It's too bad of Thaddeus to go on like this.
As if I hadn't enough to worry me without a cross husband to manage.
Enter Perkins with Yardsley. Yardsley holds bicycle
cap in hand.
Yardsley. By Jove! I'm tired. Everything's been going wrong
to-day. Overslept myself, to begin with, and somebody stole my hat at
the club, and left me this bicycle cap in its place. How are you
getting along, Mrs. Perkins? You weren't letter perfect yesterday, you
Mrs. Perkins. I'm getting it all right, I think. I've been
rehearsing all day.
Perkins. You bet your life on that, Henry Cobb, real Earl of
Puddingford. If you aren't restored to your estates and title this
night, it won't be for any lack of suffering on my part. Give me your
biking cap, unless you want to use it in the play. I'll hang it up. [
Yardsley. Thanks. (Looks about the room.) Everything
here seems to be right.
Mrs. Perkins (rehearsing). And henceforth, my lord, let us
understand one another.
Perkins. Certainly, my dear. I'll go and have myself
translated. Would you prefer me in French, German, or English?
Yardsley. I hope it goes all right to-night. But, I must
say, I don't like the prospect. This beastly behavior of Henderson's
has knocked me out.
Perkins. What's the matter with Henderson?
Mrs. Perkins. He hasn't withdrawn, has he?
Yardsley. That's just what he has done. He sent me word this
Mrs. Perkins. But what excuse does he offer? At the last
Yardsley. None at all—absolutely. There was some airy
persiflage in his note about having to go to Boston at six o'clock.
Grandmother's sick or something. He writes so badly I couldn't make
out whether she was rich or sick. I fancy it's a little of both.
Possibly if she wasn't rich he wouldn't care so much when she fell
ill. That's the trouble with these New-Englanders, anyhow—they've
always got grandmothers to fall down at crucial moments. Next time I
go into this sort of thing it'll be with a crowd without known
Perkins. 'Tisn't Chet's fault, though. You don't suspect him
of having poisoned his grandmother just to get out of playing, do you?
Mrs. Perkins. Oh, Thaddeus, do be serious!
Perkins. I was never more so, my dear. Poisoning one's
grandmother is no light crime.
Yardsley. Well, I've a notion that the whole thing is faked
up. Henderson has an idea that he's a little tin Booth, and just
because I called him down the other night at our first rehearsal he's
mad. That's the milk in the cocoanut, I think. He's one of those
fellows you can't tell anything to, and when I kicked because he wore a
white tie with a dinner coat, he got mad and said he was going to dress
the part his own way or not at all.
Perkins. I think he was right.
Yardsley. Oh yes, of course I'm never right. What am I
Perkins. Oh, as for that, of course, you are the one in
authority, but you were wrong about the white tie and the dinner coat.
He was a bogus earl, an adventurer, wasn't he?
Yardsley. Yes, he was, but—
Perkins. Well, no real earl would wear a white tie with a
dinner coat unless he were visiting in America. I grant you that if he
were going to a reception in New York he might wear a pair of golf
trousers with a dinner coat, but in this instance his dress simply
showed his bogusity, as it were. He merely dressed the part.
Yardsley. He doesn't want to make it too plain, however, so I
was right after all. His villany is to come as a painful surprise.
Mrs. Perkins. But what are we to do? Have you got anybody
else to take his part?
Yardsley. Yes. I telegraphed right off to Bradley, explained
as far as I could in a telegram without using all the balance in the
treasury, and he answered all right. Said he'd bone at the part all
day, and would be here at five letter perfect.
Mrs. Perkins (with a sigh of relief). Good. He's very
quick at learning a thing. I imagine it will be all right. I've known
him to learn a harder part than that in five hours. It'll be
pleasanter for Emma, too. She didn't like those scenes she had as Lady
Amaranth the adventuress with Henderson. He kept her off the middle of
the stage all the time; but with her husband it will be different.
Perkins. I'll bet on that! No good-natured husband of a new
women ever gets within a mile of the centre of the stage while she's on
it. She'll have stage room to burn in her scenes with Brad.
Mrs. Perkins. I think it was awfully mean of Mr. Henderson,
Perkins. It was inconsiderate. So hard on his grandmother,
too, to be compelled to knock under just to get him out of a
disagreeble situation. She ought to disinherit him.
Yardsley. Oh, it's easy enough to be sarcastic.
Perkins. That's so, Bob; that's why I never am. It's
commonplace. (Bell rings.) Ah, there's the rest of the troupe,
I guess. [Exit.
Yardsley (looking at his watch). It's about time.
They're twenty minutes late.
Mrs. Perkins (rehearsing). So once for all, Lord Muddleton
—(derisively)—ha, ha! Lord Muddleton! that is
amusing. You—Lord Muddleton! Ha, ha! Once for all, Lord Muddleton.
I acquaint you with my determination. I shall not tell Henry Cobb what
I have discovered, since I have promised, but none the less he shall
know. Walls have ears—even that oaken chest by yinder wonder—
Yardsley (irritated). Excuse me, Mrs. Perkins; but
really you must get that phrase right. You've called it yinder wonder
at every rehearsal we've had so far. I know it's difficult to get
right. Yonder window is one of those beastly combinations that
playwrights employ to make the Thespian's pathway to fame a rocky one;
but you must get over it, and say it right. Practise it for an hour,
if need be—yonder window, yonder winder—I mean, yonder window—until
it comes easy.
Mrs. Perkins (meekly). I have, and it doesn't seem to
do any good. I've tried and tried to get it right, but yonder window
is all I can say.
Yardsley. But yinder window is—I should say, yonder window
Mrs. Perkins. Well, I'm just going to change it, that's all.
It shall be yonder casement.
Yardsley. Good idea. Only don't say yonder basement by
Enter Perkins, followed by Barlow.
Perkins. Here's Mr. Featherhead. He's rehearsing too. As I
opened the door he said, “Give me good-morrow.”
Barlow (smiling). Yes; and Thaddeus replied,
“Good-yesterday, me friend,” in tones which reminded me of Irving with
bronchitis. What's this I hear about Henderson's grandmother?
Yardsley. Thrown up the part.
Barlow. His grandmother?
Yardsley. No—idiot—Henderson. He's thrown up his
grandmother—oh, hang it!—you know what I mean.
Mrs. Perkins. I hope you're not going to net gervous, Mr.
Yardsley. If you break down, what on earth will become of the rest of
Yardsley. I hope not—but I am. I'm as nervous as a cat
living its ninth life. Here we are three or four hours before the
performance, and no one knows whether we'll be able to go through it or
not. My reputation as a manager is at stake. Barlow, how are you
getting along on those lines in the revelation scene?
Barlow. Had 'em down fine on the cable-car as I came up.
Ha-ha! People thought I was crazy, I guess. I was so full of it I
kept repeating it softly to myself all the way up; but when we got to
that Fourteenth Street curve the car gave a fearful lurch and fairly
shook the words “villanous viper” out of me; and as I was standing when
we began the turn, and was left confronting a testy old gentleman upon
whose feet I had trodden twice, at the finish, I nearly got into
Perkins (wish a laugh). Made a scene, eh?
Barlow (joining in the laugh). Who wouldn't? Each
time I stepped on his foot he glared—regular Macbeth stare—like this:
“Is this a jagger which I see before me?” (Suits action to word.) But I never let on I saw, but continued to rehearse. When the lurch
came, however, and I toppled over on top of him, grabbed his shoulders
in my hands to keep from sprawling in his lap, and hissed “villanous
viper” in his face, he was inclined to resent it forcibly.
Yardsley. I don't blame him. Seems to me a man of your
intelligence ought to know better than to rehearse on a cable-car,
anyhow, to say nothing of stepping on a man's corns.
Barlow. Of course I apologized; but he was a persistent old
codger, and demanded an explanation of my epithet.
Perkins. It's a wonder he didn't have you put off. A man
doesn't like to be insulted even if he does ride on the cable.
Barlow. Oh, I appeased him. I told him I was rehearsing.
That I was an amateur actor.
Mrs. Perkins. And of course he was satisfied.
Barlow. Yes; at least I judge so. He said that my confession
was humiliation enough, without his announcing to the public what he
thought I was; and he added, to the man next him, that he thought the
public was exposed to enough danger on the cable cars without having
lunatics thrust upon them at every turning.
Perkins. He must have been a bright old man.
Mrs. Perkins. Or a very crabbed old person.
Barlow. Oh, well, it was an experience, but it rather upset
me, and for the life of me I haven't been able to remember the opening
lines of the scene since.
Perkins. Well, if the audience drive you off the stage, you
can sue the cable company. They ought to be careful how they lurch a
man's brains out.
Yardsley. That's right—joke ahead. It's fun for you. All
you've got to do is to sit out in front and pull the curtain up and
down when we ring a bell. You're a great one to talk about brains, you
are. It's a wonder to me you don't swoon under your responsibility.
Mrs. Perkins (rehearsing). So once for all, as he
says, so say I—
Perkins. Ah! Indeed! You take his part, do you?
Mrs. Perkins (rehearsing). You must leave this house
at once and forever. I once thought I loved you, but now all is
changed, and I take this opportunity to thank my deliverer, Fenderson
Perkins. Oh—ah—rehearsing. I see. I thought you'd gone
over to the enemy, my dear. Featherhead, step up and accept the lady's
thanks. Cobb, join me in the dining room, and we'll drown our
differences in tasting the punch, which, between you and me, is likely
to be the best part of to-night's function, for I made it myself
though, if Tom Harkaway is in the audience, and Bess follows out her
plan of having the flowing bowl within reach all the evening, I'm
afraid it'll need an under-study along about nine o'clock. He's a dry
fellow, that Harkaway.
[Exit Perkins, dragging Yardsley by the arm.
Barlow (calling after them). Don't you touch it, Bob.
It's potent stuff. One glass may postpone the performance.
Yardsley (from behind the scenes). Never fear for me,
my boy. I've got a head, I have.
Barlow. Well, don't get another. (Turning to Mrs.
Perkins.) Suppose we rehearse that scene where I acquaint you with
Cobb's real position in life?
Mrs. Perkins. Very well. I'm ready. I'm to sit here, am I
not? [Seats herself by table.
Barlow. And I come in here. (Begins.) Ah, Lady
Ellen, I am glad to find you alone, for I have that to say—
Mrs. Perkins. Won't you be seated, Mr. Featherhead? It was
such a delightful surprise to see you at the Duchess of Barncastle's
last evening. I had supposed you still in Ireland.
Barlow (aside). Good. She little thinks that I have
just returned from Australia, where I have at last discovered the
identity of the real Earl of Puddingford, as well as that of this bogus
Muddleton, who, by his nefarious crime, has deprived Henry Cobb of his
patrimony, of his title, aye, even of his name. She little wots that
this—this adventurer who has so strongly interested her by his
Mrs. Perkins (interrupting). Hypnotic, Mr. Barlow.
Barlow. What did I say?
Mrs. Perkins. Nepotic.
Barlow. How stupid of me! I'll begin again.
Mrs. Perkins (desperately). Oh, pray don't. Go on
from where you left off. That's a fearfully long aside, anyhow, and I
go nearly crazy every time you say it. I don't know what to do with
myself. It's easy enough for Mr. Yardsley to say occupy yourself
somehow, but what I want to know is, how? I can't look inquiringly at
you all that time, waiting for you to say “Ireland! Oh, yes—yes—just
over from Dublin.” I can't lean against the mantel-piece and gaze into
the fire, because the mantel-piece is only canvas, and would fall down
if I did.
Barlow. It's a long aside, Mrs. Perkins, but it's awfully
important, and I don't see how we can cut it down. It's really the
turning-point of the play, in which I reveal the true state of affairs
to the audience.
Mrs. Perkins (with a sigh). I suppose that's true.
I'll have to stand it. But can't I be doing some sewing?
Barlow. Certainly not. You are the daughter of a peer. They
never sew. You might be playing a piano, but there's hardly room on
the stage for that, and, besides, it would interfere with my aside,
which needs a hush to be made impressive. Where did I leave off?
Mrs. Perkins. Hypnotic power.
Barlow. Oh yes. (Resumes rehearsing.) She little
wots that this—this adventurer who has so strangely interested her
with his hypnotic power is the man who twenty years ago forged her
father's name to the title-deeds of Burnington, drove him to his ruin,
and subsequently, through a likeness so like as to bewilder and confuse
even a mother's eyes, has forced the rightful Earl of Puddingford out
into a cruel world, to live and starve as Henry Cobb.
Mrs. Perkins. Ah, I fancy the Bradleys are here at last. I
do hope Edward knows his part.
Yardsley. They've come, and we can begin at last.
Enter Perkins, Miss Andrews, and Mr. and Mrs.
Mrs. Perkins. Take off your things, Emma. Let me take your
cloak, Dorothy. Does Edward feel equal—
Mrs. Bradley. He says so. Knows it word for word, he says,
though I've been so busy with my own—[They go out talking.
Yardsley. Well, Brad, how goes it? Know your part?
Bradley. Like a book. Bully part, too.
Barlow. Glad you like it.
Bradley. Can't help liking it; it's immense! Particularly
where I acquaint the heroine with the villany that—
Barlow. You? Why—
Enter Mrs. Bradley, Miss Andrews, and Mrs. Perkins.
Mrs. Perkins (to Bradley). So glad you're going to
play with us.
Bradley. So am I. It's a great pleasure. Felt rather out in
the cold until—
Barlow. But, I say, Brad, you don't—
Yardsley. Howdy do, Mrs. Bradley? Good-afternoon, Miss
Andrews. We all seem to be here now, so let's begin. We're a
half-hour late already.
Barlow. I'm ready, but I want to—
Yardsley. Never mind what you want, Jack. We haven't time
for any more talking. It'll take us an hour and a half, and we've got
to hustle. All off stage now except Mrs. Perkins. (All go out;
Yardsley rings bell.) Hi, Perkins, that's your cue!
Perkins. What for?
Yardsley. Oh, hang it!—raise the curtain, will you?
Perkins. With pleasure. As I understand this thing, one bell
signifies raise curtain when curtain's down; drop curtain when curtain
Yardsley. Exactly. You know your part, anyhow. If you
remember not to monkey with the curtain except when the bell rings, and
then change its condition, no matter what it may be, you can't go
wrong. Now begin. (Bell. Perkins raises curtain.)
Now, of course, I'm not supposed to be on the stage, but I'll stay here
and prompt you. Enter Lady Ellen. Come along, Mrs. Perkins. Please
Mrs. Perkins. I thought we'd decided that I was to be sitting
here when the curtain went up?
Yardsley. So we did. I'd forgotten that.—We'll begin all
over again. Perkins, drop that curtain. Perkins!
Yardsley. Drop the curtain.
Perkins. Where's the bell? I didn't hear any bell ring.
Yardsley. Oh, never mind the bell! Let her down.
Perkins. I beg your pardon, but I positively refuse. I
believe in doing things right. I'm not going to monkey. Ring that
bell, and down she comes; otherwise—
Yardsley. Tut! You are very tiresome this afternoon,
Thaddeus. Mrs. Perkins, we'll go ahead without dropping the curtain.
Now take your place.
[Mrs. Perkins seats herself by table, picks up a book, and begins
Mrs. Perkins (after an interval, throwing book down with a
sigh). Heigho! I cannot seem to concentrate my mind upon anything
to-night. I wonder why it is that once a woman gives her heart into
another's keeping—[Bell rings. Perkins lets curtain drop.
Yardsley. What the deuce did you drop that curtain for,
Perkins. The bell rang, didn't it?
Yardsley. Yes, you idiot, but that's supposed to be the
front-door bell. Lady Amaranth is about to arrive—
Perkins. Well, how was I to know? Your instructions to me
were positive. Don't monkey with curtain till bell rings. When bell
rings, if down, pull her up; if up, pull her down. I'm not a
connoisseur on bells—
Yardsley. You might pay some attention to the play.
Perkins. Now look here, Bob. I don't want to quarrel with
you, but it seems to me that I've got enough to do without paying
attention to your part of the show. What am I? First place, host;
second place, head usher; third place, curtain-manager; fourth place,
fire department; fifth place, Bess says if children holler, go up and
see what's the matter other words, nurse—and on top of this you say
keep an eye on the play. You must think I've as many eyes as a
Mrs. Perkins. Oh dear, Teddy! do behave. It's simple
Perkins. Simple enough? Well, I like that. How am I to tell
one bell from another if—
Yardsley (dryly). I suppose if the clock strikes ten
you'll seesaw the curtain up and down ten times, once for each
Bradley (poking his head in at the door). What's the
matter in here? Emma's been waiting for her cue like a hundred-yards
runner before the pistol.
Perkins. Oh, it's the usual trouble with Yardsley. He wants
me to chaperon the universe.
Yardsley. It's the usual row with you. You never want to do
anything straight. You seem to think that curtain's an elevator, and
you're the boy—yanking it up and down at your pleasure, and—
Mrs. Perkins. Oh, please don't quarrel! Can't you see, Ted,
it's growing late? We'll never have the play rehearsed, and it's
barely three hours now before the audience will arrive.
Perkins. Very well—I'll give in—only I think you ought to
have different bells—
Yardsley. I'll have a trolley-car gong for you, if it'll only
make you do the work properly. Have you got a bicycle bell?
Mrs. Perkins. Yes; that will do nicely for the curtain, and
the desk push-button bell will do for the front-door bell. Have you
got that in your mind, Teddy dear?
Perkins. I feel as if I had the whole bicycle in my mind. I
can feel the wheels. Bike for curtain, push for front door. That's
all right. I wouldn't mind pushing for the front door myself. All
ready? All right. In the absence of the bicycle bell, I'll be its
under-study for once. B-r-r-r-r-r-r-r! [Raises curtain.
Yardsley. Now, Mrs. Perkins, begin with “I wonder why—”
Mrs. Perkins (rehearsing). I wonder why it is that
once a woman gives her heart into another's keeping—(Bell.)
Ah, the bell. It must be he at last. He is late this evening.
Enter Miss Andrews as maid, with card on tray.
Miss Andrews. Lady Amaranth, me luddy.
Yardsley. Lydy, Miss Andrews, lydy—not luddy.
Miss Andrews. Lydy Amaranth, me lady.
Yardsley. And please be consistent with your dialect. If
it's Lydy Amaranth, it's Lydy Ellen.
Miss Andrews. Lydy Amaranth, me lydy.
Mrs. Perkins. What? Lydy Amaranth? She?
Yardsley. Oh dear! Excuse me, Mrs. Perkins, but you are not
the maid, and cockney isn't required of you. You must not say lydy.
Mrs. Perkins (resignedly). What? Lady Amaranth?
She? What can she want? Show her up. [Exit Miss Andrews.
Perkins. That's a first-class expression for an adventuress.
Show her up! Gad! She ought to be shown up.
Mrs. Perkins. What can she want?
Enter Mrs. Bradley.
Mrs. Bradley. Ah, my dear Lady Ellen! What delight to find
you at home! (Aside.) He is not here, and yet I could have
Mrs. Perkins. To what am I to attribute this pleasure, Lady
Amaranth? I do not presume to think that you have come here without
some other motive than that of a mere desire to see me. I do not
suppose that even you pretend that since the contretemps of Tuesday
night at the Duchess of Barncastle's our former feeling—
Mrs. Bradley. Ellen, I have come to tell you something. To
save you from a vile conspiracy.
Mrs. Perkins. I am quite well able, Lady Amaranth, to manage
my own affairs—
Mrs. Bradley. But you do not know. You love Lord Muddleton—
Mrs. Perkins (toying with her fan). Oh! Indeed! And
who, pray, has taken you into my confidence? I was not aware—
Mrs. Bradley. Hear me, Ellen—
Mrs. Perkins. Excuse me, Lady Amaranth! but you have
forgotten that it is only to my friends that I am known as—
Mrs. Bradley. Then Lady Ellen, if it must be so. I know what
you do not—that Henry Cobb is an escaped convent—
Yardsley. Convict, not convent.
Mrs. Bradley. Is an escaped convict, and—
Mrs. Perkins. I am not interested in Henry Cobb.
Mrs. Bradley. But he is in you, Ellen Abercrombie. He is in
you, and with the aid of Fenderson Featherhead—
[Bell. Perkins lets curtain drop half-way, but remembers
in time, and pulls it up again.
Perkins. Beg pardon. String slipped.
Mrs. Bradley. Too late. Oh, if he had only waited!
Enter Miss Andrews.
Miss Andrews. Mr. Featherhead, Leddy Eilen.
Yardsley. Ellen, Ellen; and lydy, not leddy.
Mrs. Bradley. Hear me first, I beg.
Mrs. Perkins. Show him in, Mary. Lady Amaranth, as you see,
I am engaged. I really must be excused. Good-night.
Mrs. Bradley (aside). Foiled! Muddleton will be
exposed. Ah, if I could only have broken the force of the blow! (
Aloud.) Lady Ellen, I will speak. Fenderson Featherhead—
Enter Bradley and Barlow together. Both. Is here, Lady Amaranth.
[Each tries to motion the other off the stage.
Yardsley. What the deuce does this mean? What do you think
this play is—an Uncle Tom combination with two Topsys?
Barlow. I told him to keep out, but he said that Fenderson
Featherhead was his cue.
Bradley (indignantly). Well, so it is; there's the
Yardsley. Oh, nonsense, Brad! Don't be idiotic. The book
doesn't say anything of the sort.
Bradley. But I say it does. If you—
Barlow. It's all rot for you to behave like this, Bradley.
Perkins. Isn't it time something happened to the curtain?
The audience will get panicky if they witness any such lack of harmony
as this. I will draw a veil over the painful scene. B-r-r-r-r. (
Drops curtain.) B-r-r-r-r.
[Raises it again.
Yardsley. We won't dispute the matter, Bradley. You are
wrong, and that's all there is about it. Now do get off the stage and
let us go ahead. Perkins, for Heaven's sake, give that curtain a rest,
Perkins. I was only having a dress-rehearsal on my own
account, Bob. Bike bell, curtain. Push bell, front door. Trolley
Bradley. Well, if you fellows won't—
Yardsley (taking him by the arm and walking him to side of
stage). Never mind, Brad; you've made a mistake, that's all. We
all make mistakes at times. Get off, like a good fellow. You don't
come on for ten minutes yet. (Exit Bradley, scratching his
head in puzzled meditation.) Go ahead now, Barlow.
Mrs. Bradley. But, Mr. Yardsley, Edward has—
Yardsley. We'll begin with your cue.
Mrs. Bradley. Fenderson Featherhead—
Barlow. Is here, Lady Amaranth.
Mrs. Bradley. But—
Yardsley. No, no! Your word isn't “but,” Mrs. Bradley. It's
(consulting book)—it's: “Insolent! You will cross my path once
too often, and then—
Mrs. Bradley. I know that, but I don't say that to him!
Bradley. Of course not. She says it to me.
Barlow. Well, of all the stupidity—
Perkins. Another unseemly fracas. Another veil. B-r-r-r-r.
(Drops curtain.) There may be a hitch in the play, but there
won't be in this curtain. I tell you that right now. B-r-r-r-r.
Mrs. Perkins. Well, I don't pretend to understand the
difficulty. She certainly does say that to Featherhead.
Barlow. Of course!—it's right there in the book.
Bradley. That's exactly what I say. It's in the book; but
you would come on.
Barlow. Well, why shouldn't I?
Enter Miss Andrews.
Miss Andrews. What seems to be the trouble?
Perkins. I give it up. Collision somewhere up the road.
Yardsley (turning over the leaves of the play-book).
Oh, I see the trouble—it's all right. Bradley is mixed up a little,
that's all. “Fenderson Featherhead” is his cue—but it comes later,
Bradley. Later? Well (glances in book)—no—it comes
Barlow. Are you blind? Can you read? See there! [Points
Yardsley. No—you keep still, Jack. I'll fix it. See here,
Bradley. This is the place you are thinking of. When Cobb says to
Lady Ellen “Fenderson Featherhead,” you enter the room, and in a
nervous aside you mutter: “What, he! Does he again dare to cross my
path?” That's the way of it.
Barlow. Certainly—that's it, Brad. Now get off, and let me
go on, will you?
Mrs. Perkins. I'm sure it's a perfectly natural error, Mr.
Mrs. Bradley. But he's right, my dear Bess. The others are
wrong. Edward doesn't—
Bradley. I don't care anything about it, but I'm sure I don't
know what else to do. If I am to play Fenderson—
Barlow (in amazement). You?
Yardsley (aghast). Fenderson? By all that is lovely,
what part have you learned?
Bradley. The one you told me to learn in your
message—Featherhead, of course.
Barlow. But that's my part!
Mrs. Perkins. Of course it is, Mr. Bradley. Mr. Barlow is to
Mrs. Bradley. But that's what Edward was told. I saw the
Yardsley (sinking into a chair dejectedly). Why, Ed
Bradley! I never mentioned Featherhead. You were to be Muddleton!
Mrs. Bradley. What?
Yardsley. Certainly. There's nothing the matter with Barlow,
and he's cast for Featherhead. You've learned the wrong part!
Bradley (searching his pockets). Here's the telegram.
There (takes message from pocket), read that. There are my
Yardsley (grasps telegram and reads it. Drops it to
floor). Well, I'll be jiggered!
[Buries his face in his hands.
Mrs. Perkins (picking up message and reading aloud).
“Can you take Fenderson's part in to-night's show? Answer at once.
Barlow. Well, that's a nice mess. You must have paresis,
Perkins. I was afraid he'd get it sooner or later. You need
exercise, Yardsley. Go pull that curtain up and down a half-dozen
times and it'll do you good.
Bradley. That telegram lets me out.
Mrs. Bradley. I should say so.
Perkins. Lets us all out, seems to me.
Yardsley. But—I wrote Henderson, not Fenderson. That
jackass of a telegraph operator is responsible for it all. “Will you
take Henderson's part?” is what I wrote, and he's gone and got it
Fenderson. Confound his—
Mrs. Perkins. But what are we going to do? It's quarter-past
six now, and the curtain is to rise at 8.30.
Perkins. I'll give 'em my unequalled imitation of Sandow
lifting the curtain with one hand. Thus. [Raises curtain wish
Yardsley. For goodness' sake, man, be serious. There are
seventy-five people coming here to see this performance, and they've
paid for their tickets.
Mrs. Perkins. It's perfectly awful. We can't do it at all
unless Mr. Bradley will go right up stairs now and learn—
Mrs. Bradley. Oh, that's impossible. He's learned nearly
three hundred lines to-day already. Mr. Barlow might—
Barlow. I couldn't think of it, Mrs. Bradley. I've got as
much as I can do remembering what lines I have learned.
Perkins. It would take you a week to forget your old part
completely enough to do the other well. You'd be playing both parts,
the way Irving does when he's irritated, before you knew it.
Yardsley. I'm sure I don't know what to do.
Perkins. Give it up, eh? What are you stage-manager for? If
I didn't own the house, I'd suggest setting it on fire; but I do, and
it isn't fully insured.
Mrs. Perkins. Perhaps Miss Andrews and Mr. Yardsley could do
their little scene from Romeo and Juliet.
Mrs. Bradley. Just the thing.
Yardsley. But I haven't a suitable costume.
Perkins. I'll lend you my golf trousers, and Bess has an old
shirt-waist you could wear with 'em. Piece it out a little so that you
could get into it, and hang the baby's toy sword at your side, and
carry his fireman's hat under your arm, and you'd make a dandy-looking
Romeo. Some people might think you were a new woman, but if somebody
were to announce to the audience that you were not that, but the Hon.
R. Montague, Esq., it would be all right and exceedingly amusing. I'll
do the announcing with the greatest of pleasure. Really think I'd
Miss Andrews. I think it would be much better to get up Mrs.
Perkins. Oh dear, Miss Andrews, never. Mrs. Jarley awakens
too many bitter memories in me. I was Mrs. Jarley once, and—
Yardsley. It must have been awful. If there is anything in
life that could be more horrible than you, with your peculiar style of
humor, trying to do Jarley, I—
Perkins. Oh, well, what's the odds what we do? We're only
amateurs, anyhow. Yardsley can put on a pair of tight boots, and give
us an impression of Irving, or perhaps an imitation of the Roman army
at the battle of Philippi, and the audience wouldn't care, as long as
they had a good supper afterwards. It all rests with Martenelli
whether it's a go to-night. If he doesn't spoil the supper, it'll be
all right. I have observed that the principal factors of success at
amateur dramatics are an expert manipulation of the curtain, and a
first-class feed to put the audience in a good-humor afterwards. Even
if Martenelli does go back on us, you'll have me with the curtain—
Mrs. Perkins. Thaddeus!
Yardsley. By Jove! that's a good idea—we have got you. You
can read Henderson's part!
Bradley. Just the very thing.
Miss Andrews. Splendid idea.
Perkins. Oh—but I say—I can't, you know. Nonsense! I
Yardsley. I've often suspected that you couldn't, my dear
Thaddeus; but this time you must.
Perkins. But the curtain—the babies—the audience—the
ushing—the fire department—it is too much. I'm not an octopus.
Barlow (taking him by the arm and pushing him into chair
). You can't get out of it, Ted. Here—read up. There—take my book.
[Thrusts play-book into his hand.
Bradley. Here's mine, too, Thaddeus. Read 'em both at once,
and then you'll have gone over it twice.
[Throws his book into Perkins's lap.
Perkins. I tell you—
Mrs. Perkins. Just this once, Teddy—please—for me.
Yardsley. You owe it to your position, Perkins. You are the
only man here that knows anything about anything. You've frequently
said so. You were doing it all, anyhow, you know—and you're host—the
audience are your guests—and you're so clever and—
Jennie. Dinner is served, ma'am. [Exit.
Yardsley. Good! Perk, I'll be your under-study at dinner,
while you are studying up. Ladies and gentlemen, kindly imagine that I
am host, that Perkins does not exist. Come along, Mrs. Bradley. Miss
Andrews, will you take my other arm? I'll escort Lady Amaranth and the
maid out. We'll leave the two Featherheads to fight it out for the
Lady Ellen. By-by, Thaddeus; don't shirk. I'll come in after the
salade course and hear you, and if you don't know your lesson I'll send
you to bed without your supper.
[All go out, leaving Perkins alone.
Perkins (forcing a laugh). Ha! ha! ha! Good joke,
confound your eyes! Humph! very well. I'll do it. Whole thing, eh?
Curtain, babies, audience, host. All right, my noble Thespians, wait!
(Shakes fist at the door.) I will do the whole thing.
Wait till they ring you up, O curtain! Up you will go, but then—then
will I come forth and read that book from start to finish, and if any
one of 'em ventures to interfere I'll drop thee on their most treasured
lines. They little dream how much they are in the power of you and me!
Jennie. Mrs. Perkins says aren't you coming to dinner, sir;
and Mr. Yardsley says the soup is getting cold, sir.
Perkins. In a minute, Jennie. Tell Mrs. Perkins that I am
just learning the last ten lines of the third act; and as for Mr.
Yardsley, kindly insinuate to him that he'll find the soup quite hot
enough at 8.30.
[Exit Jennie. Perkins sits down, and, taking up two books
of the play, one in each hand, begins to read.
A PROPOSAL UNDER DIFFICULTIES
ROBERT YARDSLEY, } suitors for the hand of Miss Andrews.
JACK BARLOW, }
DOROTHY ANDREWS, a much-loved young woman.
JENNIE, a housemaid.
HICKS, a coachman, who does not appear.
The scene is laid in a fashionable New York drawing-room. The
time is late in October, and Wednesday afternoon. The curtain rising
shows an empty room. A bell rings. After a pause the front door is
heard opening and closing. Enter Yardsley through portière at
rear of room.
Yardsley. Ah! So far so good; but I wish it were over. I've
had the nerve to get as far as the house and into it, but how much
further my courage will carry me I can't say. Confound it! Why is it,
I wonder, that men get so rattled when they're head over heels in love,
and want to ask the fair object of their affections to wed? I can't
see. Now I'm brave enough among men. I'm not afraid of anything that
walks, except Dorothy Andrews, and generally I'm not afraid of her.
Stopping runaway teams and talking back to impudent policemen have been
my delight. I've even been courageous enough to submit a poem in
person to the editor of a comic weekly, and yet here this afternoon I'm
all of a tremble. And for what reason? Just because I've co-come to
ask Dorothy Andrews to change her name to Mrs. Bob Yardsley; as if that
were such an unlikely thing for her to do. Gad! I'm almost inclined
to despise myself. (Surveys himself in the mirror at one end of the
room. Then walking up to it and peering intently at his
reflection, he continues.) Bah! you coward! Afraid of a woman—a
sweet little woman like Dorothy. You ought to be ashamed of yourself,
Bob Yardsley. She won't hurt you. Brace up and propose like a
man—like a real lover who'd go through fire for her sake, and all
that. Ha! That's easy enough to talk about, but how shall I put it?
That's the question. Let me see. How do men do it? I ought to
buy a few good novels and select the sort of proposal I like; but not
having a novel at hand, I must invent my own. How will it be?
Something like this, I fancy. (The portières are parted, and
Jennie, the maid, enters. Yardsley does not observe her
entrance.) I'll get down on my knees. A man on his knees is a
pitiable object, and pity, they say, is akin to love. Maybe she'll
pity me, and after that—well, perhaps pity's cousin will arrive. (
The maid advances, but Yardsley is so intent upon his proposal
that he still fails to observe her. She stands back of the
sofa, while he, gazing downward, kneels before it.) I'll say:
“Divine creature! At last we are alone, and I—ah—I can speak freely
the words that have been in my heart to say to you for so long—oh, so
long a time.” (Jennie appears surprised.) “I have never even
hinted at how I feel towards you. I have concealed my love, fearing
lest by too sudden a betrayal of my feelings I should lose all.” (
Aside.) Now for a little allusion to the poets. Poetry, they say,
is a great thing for proposals. “You know, dearest, you must know, how
the poet has phrased it—'Fain would I fall but that I fear to climb.'
But now—now I must speak. An opportunity like this may not occur
again. Will you—will you be my wife?”
[Jennie gives a little scream of delight.
Jennie. Oh, Mr. Yardsley, this is so suddent like and
unexpected, and me so far beneath you!
[Yardsley looks up and is covered with confusion.
Yardsley. Great Scott! What have I done?
Jennie. But of course it ain't for the likes of me to say no
Yardsley (rising). For Heaven's sake, Jennie—do be
sensi—Don't—say—Jennie, why—ah—(Aside.) Oh, confound it!
What the deuce shall I say? What's the matter with my tongue? Where's
my vocabulary? A word! a word! my kingdom for a word! (Aloud.) Now, Jen—
Jennie (coyly). I has been engaged to Mr. Hicks, the
coach gentleman, sir, but—
Yardsley. Good! good! I congratulate you, Jennie. Hicks is
a very fine fellow. Drives like a—like a driver, Jennie, a born
driver. I've seen him many a time sitting like a king on his box—yes,
indeed. Noticed him often. Admired him. Gad, Jennie, I'll see him
myself and tell him; and what is more, Jennie, I'll—I'll give Hicks a
Jennie. Yes, sir; I has no doubt as how you'll be doin' the
square thing by Hicks, for, as I was a-sayin', I has been engaged like
to him, an' he has some rights; but I think as how, if I puts it to him
right like, and tells him what a nice gentleman you are (a ring is
heard at the front door), it'll be all right, sir. But there goes
the bell, and I must run, Mr. Yardsley. (Ecstatically kissing her
Yardsley (with a convulsive gasp). Bob? Jennie!
You—er—you misun—(Jennie, with a smile of joy and an ecstatic
glance at Yardsley, dances from the room to attend the door. Yardsley throws himself into a chair.) Well, I'll be
teetotally—Awh! It's too dead easy proposing to somebody you don't
know you are proposing to. What a kettle of fish this is, to be sure!
Oh, pshaw! that woman can't be serious. She must know I didn't mean it
for her. But if she doesn't, good Lord! what becomes of me? (
Rises, and paces up and down the room nervously. After a moment
he pauses before the glass.) I ought to be considerably
dishevelled by this. I feel as if I'd been drawn through a
knot-hole—or—or dropped into a stone-crusher—that's it, a
stone-crusher—a ten million horse power stone-crusher. Let's see how
you look, you poor idiot.
[As he is stroking his hair and rearranging his tie he talks in
pantomime at himself in the glass. In a moment Jennie ushers
Mr. Jack Barlow into the room.
Jennie. Miss Andrews will be down in a minute, sir.
[Barlow takes arm-chair and sits gazing ahead of him.
Neither he nor Yardsley perceives the other. Jennie
tiptoes to one side, and, tossing a kiss at Yardsley, retires.
Barlow. Now for it. I shall leave this house to-day the
happiest or the most miserable man in creation, and I rather think the
odds are in my favor. Why shouldn't they be? Egad! I can very well
understand how a woman could admire me. I admire myself, rather. I
confess candidly that I do not consider myself half bad, and Dorothy
has always seemed to feel that way herself. In fact, the other night
in the Perkinses conservatory she seemed to be quite ready for a
proposal. I'd have done it then and there if it hadn't been for that
confounded Bob Yardsley—
Yardsley (turning sharply about). Eh? Somebody spoke
my name. A man, too. Great heavens! I hope Jennie's friend Hicks
isn't here. I don't want to have a scene with Hicks. (Discovering
Barlow.) Oh—ah—why—hullo, Barlow! You here?
Barlow (impatiently, aside). Hang it! Yardsley's here
too! The man's always turning up when he's not wanted. (Aloud.) Ah! why, Bob, how are you? What're you doing here?
Yardsley. What do you suppose—tuning the piano? I'm here
because I want to be. And you?
Barlow. For the same reason that you are.
Yardsley (aside). Gad! I hope not. (Aloud.)
Indeed? The great mind act again? Run in the same channel, and all
that? Glad to see you. (Aside.) May the saints forgive me
that fib! But this fellow must be got rid of.
Barlow (embarrassed). So'm I. Always glad to see
myself—I mean you—anywhere. Won't you sit down?
Yardsley. Thanks. Very kind of you, I'm sure. (Aside.) He seems very much at home. Won't I sit down?—as if he'd inherited
the chairs! Humph! I'll show him.
Barlow. What say?
Yardsley. I—ah—oh, I was merely remarking that I thought it
was rather pleasant out to-day.
Barlow. Yes, almost too fine to be shut up in-doors. Why
aren't you driving, or—or playing golf, or—ah—or being out-doors
somewhere? You need exercise, old man; you look a little pale. (
Aside.) I must get him away from here somehow. Deuced awkward
having another fellow about when you mean to propose to a woman.
Yardsley. Oh, I'm well enough!
Barlow (solicitously). You don't look it—by Jove you
don't. (Suddenly inspired.) No, you don't, Bob. You
overestimate your strength. It's very wrong to overestimate one's
strength. People—ah—people have died of it. Why, I'll bet you a hat
you can't start now and walk up to Central Park and back in an hour.
Come. I'll time you. (Rises and takes out watch.) It is now
four ten. I'll wager you can't get back here before five thirty. Eh?
Let me get your hat.
[Starts for door.
Yardsley (with a laugh). Oh no; I don't bet—after
four. But I say, did you see Billie Wilkins?
Barlow (returning in despair). Nope.
Yardsley (aside). Now for a bit of strategy. (
Aloud.) He was looking for you at the club. (Aside.)
Splendid lie! (Aloud.) Had seats for the—ah—the Metropolitan
to-night. Said he was looking for you. Wants you to go with him. (
Aside.) That ought to start him along.
Barlow. I'll go with him.
Yardsley (eagerly). Well, you'd better let him know at
once, then. Better run around there and catch him while there's time.
He said if he didn't see you before half-past four he'd get Tom Parker
to go. Fine show to-night. Wouldn't lose the opportunity if I were
you. (Looking at his watch.) You'll just about have time to do
it now if you start at once.
[Grasps Barlow by arm, and tries to force him out.
Barlow holds back, and is about to remonstrate, when Dorothy
enters. Both men rush to greet her; Yardsley catches her left
hand, Barlow her right.
Dorothy (slightly embarrassed). Why, how do you
do—this is an unexpected pleasure—both of you? Excuse my left hand,
Mr. Yardsley; I should have given you the other if—if you'd given me
Yardsley. Don't mention it, I pray. The unexpectedness is
wholly mine, Miss Andrews—I mean—ah—the pleasure is—
Barlow. Wholly mine.
Dorothy (withdrawing her hands from both and sitting down
). I haven't seen either of you since the Perkinses dance. Wasn't it a
Yardsley. Delightful. I—ah—I didn't know that the
Barlow (interrupting). It was a good deal of a crush,
though. As Mrs. Van Darling said to me, “You always meet—”
Yardsley. It's a pity Perkins isn't more of a society man,
though, don't you think?
Dorothy. O, I don't know. I've always found him very
pleasant. He is so sincere.
Barlow. Isn't he, though? He looked bored to death all
through the dance.
Yardsley. I thought so too. I was watching him while you
were talking to him, Barlow, and such a look of ennui I never saw on a
Dorothy. Are you going to Mrs. Van Darling's dinner?
Barlow. Yes; I received my bid last night. You?
Dorothy. Oh yes!
Yardsley (gloomily). I can't go very well.
I'm—ah—engaged for Tuesday.
Barlow. Well, I hope you've let Mrs. Van Darling know. She's
a stickler for promptness in accepting or declining her invitations.
If you haven't, I'll tell her for you. I'm to see her to-night.
Yardsley. Oh no! Never mind. I'll—I'll attend to it.
Barlow. Oh, of course. But it's just as well she should know
in advance. You might forget it, you know. I'll tell her; it's no
trouble to me.
Dorothy. Of course not, and she can get some one to take your
Yardsley (desperately). Oh, don't say anything about
it. Fact is, she—ah—she hasn't invited me.
Barlow. Ah! (Aside.) I knew that all along. Oh, but
Dorothy (hastily, to relieve Yardsley's
embarrassment). Have you seen Irving, Mr. Yardsley?
Barlow (suspiciously). What in? I haven't seen you at any of
the first nights.
Yardsley (with a grin). In the grill-room at the
Barlow (aside). Bah!
Dorothy (laughing). You are so bright, Mr. Yardsley.
Barlow (forcing a laugh). Ha, ha, ha! Why, yes—very
clever that. It ought to have a Gibson picture over it, that joke. It
would help it. Those Gibson pictures are fine, I think. Carry any
kind of joke, eh?
Yardsley. Yes, they frequently do.
Dorothy. I'm so glad you both like Gibson, for I just dote on
him. I have one of his originals in my portfolio. I'll get it if
you'd like to see it.
[She rises and goes to the corner of the room, where there stands
Yardsley (aside). What a bore Barlow is! Hang him! I
must get rid of him somehow.
[Barlow meanwhile is assisting Dorothy.
Yardsley (looking around at the others). Jove! he's
off in the corner with her. Can't allow that, for the fact is Barlow's
just a bit dangerous—to me.
Dorothy (rummaging through portfolio). Why, it was
Barlow. Maybe it's in this other portfolio.
Yardsley (joining them). Yes, maybe it is. That's a
good idea. If it isn't in one portfolio maybe it's in another. Clever
thought! I may be bright, Miss Andrews, but you must have observed
that Barlow is thoughtful.
Dorothy (with a glance at Barlow). Yes, Mr. Yardsley,
I have noticed the latter.
Barlow. Tee-hee! that's one on you, Bob.
Yardsley (obtuse). Ha, ha! Yes. Why, of course! Ha,
ha, ha! For repartee I have always said-polite repartee, of
course—Miss Andrews is—(Aside.) Now what the dickens did she
mean by that?
Dorothy. I can't find it here. Let—me think.
Barlow (striking thoughtful attitude). Yes, where can
it be? Let me do your thinking for you, Miss Dorothy. (Then softly
to her.) Always!
Yardsley (mocking Barlow). Yes! Let me think!
(Points his finger at his forehead and assumes tragic attitude.
Then stalks to the front of stage in manner of burlesque Hamlet.)
Come, thought, come. Shed the glory of thy greatness full on me, and
thus confound mine enemies. Where the deuce is that Gibson?
Dorothy. Oh, I remember. It's up-stairs. I took it up with
me last night. I'll ring for Jennie, and have her get it.
Yardsley (aside, and in consternation). Jennie! Oh,
thunder! I'd forgotten her. I do hope she remembers not to forget
Barlow. What say?
Yardsley. Nothing; only—ah—only that I thought it was
very—very pleasant out.
Barlow. That's what you said before.
Yardsley (indignantly). Well, what of it? It's the
truth. If you don't believe it, go outside and see for yourself.
[Jennie appears at the door in response to Dorothy's ring. She glances demurely at Yardsley, who tries to ignore her
Dorothy. Jennie, go up to my room and look on the table in
the corner, and bring me down the portfolio you will find there. The
large brown one that belongs in the stand over there.
Jennie (dazed). Yessum. And shall I be bringin'
lemons with it?
Dorothy. Lemons, Jennie?
Jennie. You always does have lemons with your tea, mum.
Dorothy. I didn't mention tea. I want you to get my
portfolio from up-stairs. It is on the table in the corner of my room.
[Looks at Jennie in surprise.
Jennie. Oh, excuse me, mum. I didn't hear straight.
[She casts a languishing glance at Yardsley and disappears.
Yardsley (noting the glance, presumably aside).
Confound that Jennie!
Barlow (overhearing Yardsley). What's that? Confound
that Jennie? Why say confound that Jennie? Why do you wish Jennie to
Yardsley (nervously). I didn't say that. I—ah—I
merely said that—that Jennie appeared to be—ah—confounded.
Dorothy. She certainly is confused. I cannot understand it
at all. Ordinarily I have rather envied Jennie her composure.
Yardsley. Oh, I suppose—it's—it's—it's natural for a young
girl—a servant—sometimes to lose her—equipoise, as it were, on
occasions. If we lose ours at times, why not Jennie? Eh? Huh?
Yardsley. Of course—ha—trained servants are hard to get
these days, anyhow. Educated people—ah—go into other professions,
such as law, and—ah—the ministry—and—
Dorothy. Well, never mind. Let's talk of something more
interesting than Jennie. Going to the Chrysanthemum Show, Mr. Barlow?
Barlow. I am; wouldn't miss it for the world. Do you know,
really now, the chrysanthemum, in my opinion, is the most human-looking
flower we have. The rose is too beautiful, too perfect, for me. The
chrysanthemum, on the other hand—
Yardsley (interrupting). Looks so like a
football-player's head it appeals to your sympathies? Well, perhaps
you are right. I never thought of it in that light before, but—
Dorothy (smiling). Nor I; but now that you mention it,
it does look that way, doesn't it?
Barlow (not wishing to disagree with Dorothy). Very
much. Droll idea, though. Just like Bob, eh? Very, very droll.
Bob's always dro—
Yardsley (interrupting). When I see a man walking down
the Avenue with a chrysanthemum in his button-hole, I always think of a
wild Indian wearing a scalp for decorative purposes.
[Barlow and Dorothy laugh at this, and during their mirth
Jennie enters with the portfolio. She hands it to
Dorothy. Dorothy rests it on the arm of her chair, and Barlow
looking over one shoulder, she goes through it. Jennie in
passing out throws another kiss to Yardsley.
Yardsley (under his breath, stamping his foot). Awgh!
Barlow. What say?
[Dorothy looks up, surprised.
Yardsley. I—I didn't say anything. My—ah—my shoe had a
Barlow. Oh, say lint, and be done with it.
Yardsley (relieved, and thankful for the suggestion).
Why, how did you know? It did, you know. Had a piece of lint on it,
and I tried to get it off by stamping, that's all.
Dorothy. Ah, here it is.
Yardsley. What? The lint?
Barlow. Ho! Is the world nothing but lint to you? Of course
not—the Gibson. Charming, isn't it, Miss Dorothy?
Dorothy (holding the picture up). Fine. Just look at
that girl. Isn't she pretty?
Dorothy. And such style, too.
Yardsley (looking over Dorothy's other shoulder
). Yes, very pretty, and lots of style. (Softly.) Very—like
some one—some one I know.
Barlow (overhearing). I think so myself, Yardsley.
It's exactly like Josie Wilkins. By-the-way—ah—how is that little
affair coming along, Bob?
Dorothy (interested). What! You don't mean to
say—Why, Mister Yardsley!
Yardsley (with a venomous glance at Barlow).
Nonsense. Nothing in it. Mere invention of Barlow's. He's a regular
Edison in his own way.
[Dorothy looks inquiringly at Barlow.
Barlow (to Yardsley). Oh, don't be so sly about it,
old fellow! Everybody knows.
Yardsley. But I tell you there's nothing in it. I—I have
different ideas entirely, and you—you know it—or, if you don't, you
Dorothy. Oh! Then it's some one else, Mr. Yardsley? Well,
now I am interested'. Let's have a little confidential talk
together. Tell us, Mr. Yardsley, tell Mr. Barlow and me, and
maybe—I can't say for certain, of course—but maybe we can help you.
Barlow (gleefully rubbing his hands). Yes, old man;
certainly. Maybe we—we can help you.
Yardsley (desperately). You can help me, both of
you—but—but I can't very well tell you how.
Barlow. I'm willing to do all I can for you, my dear Bob. If
you will only tell us her name I'll even go so far as to call, in your
behalf, and propose for you.
Yardsley. Oh, thanks. You are very kind.
Dorothy. I think so too, Mr. Barlow. You are almost too
kind, it seems to me.
Yardsley. Oh no; not too kind, Miss Andrews. Barlow simply
realizes that one who has proposed marriage to young girls as
frequently as he has knows how the thing is done, and he wishes to give
me the benefit of his experience. (Aside.) That's a facer for
Barlow. Ha, ha, ha! Another joke, I suppose. You see, my
dear Bob, that I am duly appreciative. I laugh. Ha, ha, ha! But I
must say I laugh with some uncertainty. I don't know whether you
intended that for a joke or for a staggerer. You should provide your
conversation with a series of printed instructions for the listener.
Get a lot of cards, and have printed on one, “Please laugh”; on
another, “Please stagger”; on another, “Kindly appear confused.” Then
when you mean to be jocose hand over the laughter card, and so on.
Shall I stagger?
Dorothy. I think that Mr. Yardsley meant that for a joke.
Didn't you, Mr. Yardsley?
Yardsley. Why, certainly. Of course. I don't really believe
Barlow ever had sand enough to propose to any one. Did you, Jack?
Barlow (indignant). Well, I rather think I have.
Dorothy. Ho, ho! Then you are an experienced
proposer, Mr. Barlow?
Barlow (confused). Why—er—well—um—I didn't exactly
mean that, you know. I meant that—ah—if it ever came to the—er—the
test, I think I could—I'd have sand enough, as Yardsley puts it, to do
the thing properly, and without making a—ah—a Yardsley of myself.
Yardsley (bristling up). Now what do you mean by that?
Dorothy. I think you are both of you horrid this afternoon.
You are so quarrelsome. Do you two always quarrel, or is this merely a
little afternoon's diversion got up for my especial benefit?
Barlow (with dignity). I never quarrel.
Yardsley. Nor I. I simply differ sometimes, that's all. I
never had an unpleasant word with Jack in my life. Did I, Jack?
Barlow. Never. I always avoid a fracas, however great the
Dorothy (desperately). Then let us have a cup of tea
together and be more sociable. I have always noticed that tea promotes
sociability—haven't you, Mr. Yardsley?
Yardsley. Always. (Aside.) Among women.
Barlow. What say?
[Dorothy rises and rings the bell for Jennie.
Yardsley. I say that I am very fond of tea.
Barlow. So am I—here. [Rises and looks at pictures.
Yardsley meanwhile sits in moody silence.
Dorothy (returning). You seem to have something on
your mind, Mr. Yardsley. I never knew you to be so solemn before.
Yardsley. I have something on my mind, Miss Dorothy. It's—
Barlow (coming forward). Wise man, cold weather like
this. It would be terrible if you let your mind go out in cold weather
without anything on it. Might catch cold in your idea.
Dorothy. I wonder why Jennie doesn't come? I shall have to
[Pushes electric button again.
Yardsley (with an effort at brilliance). The kitchen
belle doesn't seem to work.
Dorothy. Ordinarily she does, but she seems to be upset by
something this afternoon. I'm afraid she's in love. If you will
excuse me a moment I will go and prepare the tea myself.
Barlow. Do; good! Then we shall not need the sugar.
Yardsley. You might omit the spoons too, after a remark like
that, Miss Dorothy.
Dorothy. We'll omit Mr. Barlow's spoon. I'll bring some for
you and me. [She goes out.
Yardsley (with a laugh). That's one on you, Barlow.
But I say, old man (taking out his watch and snapping the cover to
three or four times), it's getting very late—after five now. If
you want to go with Billy Wilkins you'd better take up your hat and
walk. I'll say good-bye to Miss Andrews for you.
Barlow. Thanks. Too late now. You said Billie wouldn't wait
after four thirty.
Yardsley. Did I say four thirty? I meant five thirty.
Anyhow, Billie isn't over-prompt. Better go.
Barlow. You seem mighty anxious to get rid of me.
Yardsley. I? Not at all, my dear boy—not at all. I'm very,
very fond of you, but I thought you'd prefer opera to me. Don't you
see? That's where my modesty comes in. You're so fond of a good chat
I thought you'd want to go to-night. Wilkins has a box.
Barlow. You said seats a little while ago.
Yardsley. Of course I did. And why not? There are seats in
boxes. Didn't you know that?
Barlow. Look here, Yardsley, what's up, anyhow? You've been
deuced queer to-day. What are you after?
Yardsley (tragically). Shall I confide in you? Can I,
with a sense of confidence that you will not betray me?
Barlow (eagerly). Yes, Bob. Go on. What is it? I'll
never give you away, and I may be able to give you some good
Yardsley. I am here to—to—to rob the house! Business has
been bad, and one must live. [Barlow looks at him in disgust.
Yardsley (mockingly). You have my secret, John
Barlow. Remember that it was wrung from me in confidence. You must
not betray me. Turn your back while I surreptitiously remove the piano
and the gas-fixtures, won't you?
Barlow (looking at him thoughtfully). Yardsley, I have
done you an injustice.
Barlow. Yes. Some one claimed, at the club, the other day,
that you were the biggest donkey in existence, and I denied it. I was
wrong, old man, I was wrong, and I apologize. You are.
Yardsley. You are too modest, Jack. You forget—yourself.
Barlow. Well, perhaps I do; but I've nothing to conceal, and
you have. You've been behaving in a most incomprehensible fashion this
afternoon, as if you owned the house.
Yardsley. Well, what of it? Do you own it?
Barlow. No, I don't, but—
Yardsley. But you hope to. Well, I have no such mercenary
motive. I'm not after the house.
Barlow (bristling up). After the house? Mercenary
motive? I demand an explanation of those words. What do you mean?
Yardsley. I mean this, Jack Barlow: I mean that I am here
for—for my own reasons; but you—you have come here for the purpose
Dorothy enters wish a tray, upon which are the tea things.
Barlow (about to retort to Yardsley, perceiving
Dorothy). Ah! Let me assist you.
Dorothy. Thank you so much. I really believe I never needed
help more. (She delivers the tray to Barlow, who sets it on
the table. Dorothy, exhausted, drops into a chair.) Fan
me—quick—or I shall faint. I've—I've had an awful time, and I
really don't know what to do!
Barlow and Yardsley (together). Why, what's the
Yardsley. I hope the house isn't on fire?
Barlow. Or that you haven't been robbed?
Dorothy. No, no; nothing like that. It's—it's about Jennie.
Yardsley (nervously). Jennie? Wha—wha—what's the
matter with Jennie?
Dorothy. I only wish I knew. I—
Yardsley (aside). I'm glad you don't.
Barlow. What say?
Yardsley. I didn't say anything. Why should I say anything?
I haven't anything to say. If people who had nothing to say would not
insist upon talking, you'd be—
Dorothy. I heard the poor girl weeping down-stairs, and when
I went to the dumbwaiter to ask her what was the matter, I heard—I
heard a man's voice.
Yardsley. Man's voice?
Barlow. Man's voice is what Miss Andrews said.
Dorothy. Yes; it was Hicks, our coachman, and he was
dreadfully angry about something.
Yardsley (sinking into chair). Good Lord! Hicks!
Dorothy. He was threatening to kill somebody.
Yardsley. This grows worse and worse! Threatening to kill
somebody! D-did-did you o-over-overhear huh-huh-whom he was going to
Barlow. What's the matter with you, Yardsley? Are you going
to die of fright, or have you suddenly caught a chill?
Dorothy. Oh, I hope not! Don't die here, anyhow, Mr.
Yardsley. If you must die, please go home and die. I couldn't stand
another shock to-day. Why, really, I was nearly frightened to death.
I don't know now but what I ought to send for the police, Hicks was so
Barlow. Perhaps she and Hicks have had a lovers' quarrel.
Yardsley. Very likely; very likely indeed. I think that is
no doubt the explanation of the whole trouble. Lovers will quarrel.
They were engaged, you know.
Dorothy (surprised). No, I didn't know it. Were
they? Who told you?
Yardsley (discovering his mistake). Why—er—wasn't it
you said so, Miss Dorothy? Or you, Barlow?
Barlow. I have not the honor of the young woman's confidence,
and so could not have given you the information.
Dorothy. I didn't know it, so how could I have told you?
Yardsley (desperately). Then I must have dreamed it.
I do have the queerest dreams sometimes, but there's nothing strange
about this one, anyhow. Parlor-maids frequently do—er—become engaged
to coachmen and butlers and that sort of thing. It isn't a rare
occurrence at all. If I'd said she was engaged to Billie Wilkins, or
to—to Barlow here—
Barlow. Or to yourself.
Yardsley. Sir? What do you mean to insinuate? That I am
engaged to Jennie?
Barlow. I never said so.
Dorothy. Oh dear, let us have the tea. You quarrelsome men
are just wearing me out. Mr. Barlow, do you want cream in yours?
Barlow. If you please; and one lump of sugar. (Dorothy
pours is out.) Thanks.
Dorothy. Mr. Yardsley?
Yardsley. Just a little, Miss Andrews. No cream, and no
[Dorothy prepares a cup for Yardsley. He is about to take
Dorothy. Well, I declare! It's nothing but hot water! I
forgot the tea entirely!
Barlow (with a laugh). Oh, never mind. Hot water is
good for dyspepsia.
[With a significant look at Yardsley.
Yardsley. It depends on how you get it, Mr. Barlow. I've
known men who've got dyspepsia from living in hot water too much.
[As Yardsley speaks the portière is violently clutched from
without, and Jennie's head is thrust into the room. No
one observes her.
Barlow. Well, my cup is very satisfactory to me, Miss
Dorothy. Fact is, I've always been fond of cambric tea, and this is
Yardsley (patronizingly). It is good for
Jennie (trying to attract Yardsley's attention
Yardsley. My mamma lets me have it Sunday nights.
Dorothy. Ha, ha, ha!
Barlow. Another joke? Good. Let me enjoy it too. Hee, Hee!
[Barlow looks around; Jennie hastily withdraws her head.
Barlow. I didn't know you had steam heat in this house.
Dorothy. We haven't. What put such an idea as that into your
Barlow. Why, I thought I heard the hissing of steam, the
click of a radiator, or something of that sort back by the door.
Yardsley. Maybe the house is haunted.
Dorothy. I fancy it was your imagination: or perhaps it was
the wind blowing through the hall. The pantry window is open.
Barlow. I guess maybe that's it. How fine it must be in the
[Jennie pokes her head in through the portières again, and follows
it with her arm and hand, in which is a feather duster, which she waves
wildly in an endeavor to attract Yardsley's attention.
Dorothy. Divine. I should so love to be out of town still.
It seems to me people always make a great mistake returning to the city
so early in the fall. The country is really at its best at this time
[Yardsley turns half around, and is about to speak, when he
catches sight of the now almost hysterical Jennie and her
Barlow. Yes; I think so too. I was at Lenox last week, and
the foliage was gorgeous.
Yardsley (feeling that he must say something). Yes. I
suppose all the feathers on the maple-trees are turning red by this
Dorothy. Feathers, Mr. Yardsley?
Yardsley (with a furtive glance at Jennie). Ha, ha!
What an absurd slip! Did I say feathers? I meant—I meant leaves, of
course. All the leaves on the dusters are turning.
Barlow. I don't believe you know what you do mean. Who ever
heard of leaves on dusters? What are dusters? Do you know, Miss
[As he turns to Miss Andrews, Yardsley tries to wave
Jennie away. She beckons with her arms more wildly than
ever, and Yardsley silently speaks the words, “Go away.”
Dorothy. I'm sure I don't know of any tree by that name, but
then I'm not a—not a what?
Yardsley (with a forced laugh). Treeologist
Dorothy. What are dusters, Mr. Yardsley?
Barlow. Yes, old man, tell us. I'm anxious to find out
Yardsley (aside). So am I. What the deuce are
dusters, for this occasion only? (Aloud) What? Never heard of
dusters? Ho! Why, dear me, where have you been all your lives? (
Aside.) Must gain time to think up what dusters are. (Aloud.) Why, they're as old as the hills.
Barlow. That may be, but I can't say I think your description
is at all definite.
Dorothy. Do they look like maples?
Yardsley (with an angry wave of his arms towards
Jennie). Something—in fact, very much. They're exactly like them.
You can hardly tell them from oaks.
Yardsley. I said oaks. Oaks! O-A-K-S!
Barlow. But oaks aren't like maples.
Yardsley. Well, who said they were? We were talking about
oaks—and—er—and dusters. We—er—we used to have a row of them in
front of our old house at— (Aside.) Now where the deuce did we
have the old house? Never had one, but we must for the sake of the
present situation. (Aloud.) Up at—at—Bryn-Mawr—or at—Troy,
or some such place, and—at—they kept the—the dust of the highway
from getting into the house. (With a sigh of relief.) And so,
you see, they were called dusters. Thought every one knew that.
[As Yardsley finishes, Jennie loses her balance and
falls headlong into the room.
Dorothy (starting up hastily). Why, Jennie!
Yardsley (staggering into chair). That settles
it. It's all up with me. [Jennie sobs, and, rising, rushes to
Jennie. Save yourself; he's going to kill you!
Dorothy. Jennie! What is the meaning of this? Mr.
Yardsley—can—can you shed any light on this mystery?
Yardsley (pulling himself together with a great effort
). I? I assure you I can't, Miss Andrews. How could I? All I know is
that somebody is—is going to kill me, though for what I haven't the
Jennie (indignantly). Eh? What! Why, Mr.
Dorothy. Jennie! Bob?
Yardsley. Don't you call me Bob.
Jennie. It's Hicks. [Bursts out crying.
Dorothy. Jennie, Hicks isn't Bob. His name—is George.
Yardsley (in a despairing rage). Hicks be—
Dorothy. Mr. Yardsley!
Yardsley (pulling himself together again). Bobbed.
Hicks be Bobbed. That's what I was going to say.
Dorothy. What on earth does this all mean? I must have an
explanation, Jennie. What have you to say for yourself?
Jennie. Why, I—
Yardsley. I tell you it isn't true. She's made it up out of
Barlow. What isn't true? She hasn't said anything yet.
Yardsley (desperately). I refer to what she's going to
say. I'm a—a—I'm a mind-reader, and I see it all as plain as day.
Dorothy. I can best judge of the truth of Jennie's words when
she has spoken them, Mr. Yardsley. Jennie, you may explain, if you
can. What do you mean by Hicks killing Mr. Yardsley, and why do you
presume to call Mr. Yardsley by his first name?
Yardsley (aside). Heigho! My goose is cooked.
Barlow. I fancy you wish you had taken that walk I suggested
Yardsley. You always were a good deal of a fancier.
Jennie. I hardly knows how to begin, Miss Dorothy. I—I'm so
flabbergasted by all that's happened this afternoon, mum, that I can't
get my thoughts straight, mum.
Dorothy. Never mind getting your thoughts straight, Jennie.
I do not want fiction. I want the truth.
Jennie. Well, mum, when a fine gentleman like Mr. Yardsley
Yardsley. I tell you it isn't so.
Jennie. Indeed he did, mum.
Dorothy (impatiently). Did what?
Jennie. Axed me to marry him, mum.
Dorothy. Mr. Yardsley—asked—you—to—to marry him? [Barlow
Jennie (bursting into tears again). Yes, mum, he did,
mum, right here in this room. He got down on his knees to me on that
Proossian rug before the sofa, mum. I was standin' behind the sofa,
havin' just come in to tell him as how you'd be down shortly. He was
standin' before the lookin'-glass lookin' at himself, an' when I come
in he turns around and goes down on his knees and says such an
importunity may not occur again, mum; I've loved you very long; and
then he recited some pottery, mum, and said would I be his wife.
Yardsley (desperately). Let me explain.
Dorothy. Wait, Mr. Yardsley; your turn will come in a moment.
Barlow. Yes, it'll be here, my boy; don't fret about that.
Take all the time you need to make it a good one. Gad, if this doesn't
strain your imagination, nothing will.
Dorothy. Go on, Jennie. Then what happened?
Yardsley (with an injured expression). Do you expect
me to stand here, Miss Andrews, and hear this girl's horrible story?
Barlow. Then you know the story, do you, Yardsley? It's
horrible, and you are innocent. My! you are a mind-reader with a
Dorothy. Don't mind what these gentlemen say, Jennie, but go
[Yardsley sinks into the arm-chair. Barlow chuckles;
Miss Andrews glances indignantly at him.
Dorothy. Pardon me, Mr. Barlow. If there is any humor in the
situation, I fail to see it.
Barlow (seeing his error). Nor, indeed, do I. I was
not—ah—laughing from mirth. That chuckle was hysterics, Miss
Dorothy, I assure you. There are some laughs that can hardly be
differentiated from sobs.
Jennie. I was all took in a heap, mum, to think of a fine
gentleman like Mr. Yardsley proposing to me, mum, and I says the same.
Says I, “Oh, Mr. Yardsley, this is so suddent like,” whereat he looks
up with a countenance so full o' pain that I hadn't the heart to refuse
him; so, fergettin' Hicks for the moment, I says, kind of soft like,
certingly, sir. It ain't for the likes o' me to say no to the likes o'
Yardsley. Then you said you were engaged to Hicks. You know
you did, Jennie.
Barlow. Ah! Then you admit the proposal?
Yardsley. Oh Lord! Worse and worse! I—
Dorothy. Jennie has not finished her story.
Jennie. I did say as how I was engaged to Hicks, but I
thought he would let me off; and Mr. Yardsley looked glad when I said
that, and said he'd make it all right with Hicks.
Yardsley. What? I? Jennie O'Brien, or whatever your
horrible name is, do you mean to say that I said I'd make it all right
Jennie. Not in them words, Mr. Yardsley; but you did say as
how you'd see him yourself and give him a present. You did indeed, Mr.
Yardsley, as you was a-standin' on that there Proossian rug.
Dorothy. Did you, Mr. Yardsley?
[Yardsley buries his face in his hands and groans.
Barlow. Not so ready with your explanations now, eh?
Dorothy. Mr. Barlow, really I must ask you not to interfere.
Did you say that, Mr. Yardsley?
Yardsley. I did, but—
Dorothy (frigidly). Go on, Jennie.
Jennie. Just then the front-door bell rings and Mr. Barlow
comes, and there wasn't no more importunity for me to speak; but when I
got down-stairs into the kitchen, mum, Mr. Hicks he comes in, an' (
sobs)—an' I breaks with him.
Yardsley. You've broken with Hicks for me?
Jennie. Yes, I have—but I wouldn't never have done it if I'd
known—boo-hoo—as how you'd behave this way an' deny ever havin' said
a word. I—I—I 1-lo-love Mr. Hicks, an'—I—I hate you—and I wish
I'd let him come up and kill you, as he said he would.
Dorothy. Jennie! Jennie! be calm! Where is Hicks now?
Yardsley. That's so. Where is Hicks? I want to see him.
Jennie. Never fear for that. You'll see him. He's layin'
for you outside. An' that, Miss Dorothy, is why—I was a-wavin' at him
an' sayin' “pst” to him. I wanted to warn him, mum, of his danger,
mum, because Hicks is very vi'lent, and he told me in so many words as
how he was a-goin' to do—him—up.
Barlow. You'd better inform Mr. Hicks, Jennie, that Mr.
Yardsley is already done up.
Yardsley. Do me up, eh? Well, I like that. I'm not afraid
of any coachman in creation as long as he's off the box. I'll go see
him at once.
Dorothy. No—no—no. Don't, Mr. Yardsley; don't, I beg of
you. I don't want to have any scene between you.
Yardsley (heroically). What if he succeeds? I don't
care. As Barlow says, I'm done up as it is. I don't want to live
after this. What's the use. Everything's lost.
Barlow (dryly). Jennie hasn't thrown you over yet.
Jennie (sniffing airily). Yes, she has, too. I
wouldn't marry him now for all the world—an'—and I've lost—lost
Hicks. (Weeps.) Him as was so brave, an' looks so fine in
Yardsley. If you'd only give me a chance to say something—
Barlow. Appears to me you've said too much already.
Dorothy (coldly). I—I don't agree with Mr. Barlow.
You—you haven't said enough, Mr. Yardsley. If you have any
explanation to make, I'll listen.
Yardsley (looks up gratefully. Suddenly his face
brightens. Aside). Gad! The very thing! I'll tell the
exact truth, and if Dorothy has half the sense I think she has, I'll
get in my proposal right under Barlow's very nose. (Aloud.)
My—my explanation, Miss Andrews, is very simple. I—ah—I cannot deny
having spoken every word that Jennie has charged to my account. I did
get down on my knees on the rug. I did say “divine creature.” I did
not put it strong enough. I should have said “divinest of all
Dorothy (in remonstrance). Mr. Yardsley!
Barlow (aside). Magnificent bluff! But why? (Rubs
his forehead in a puzzled way.) What the deuce is he driving at?
Yardsley. Kindly let me finish. I did say “I love you.” I
should have said “I adore you; I worship you.” I did say “Will you be
my wife?” and I was going to add, “for if you will not, then is light
turned into darkness for me, and life, which your 'yes' will render
radiantly beautiful, will become dull, colorless, and not worth the
living.” That is what I was going to say, Miss Andrews—Miss
Dorothy—when—when Jennie interrupted me and spoke the word I most
wish to hear—spoke the word “yes”; but it was not her yes that I
wished. My words of love were not for her.
Barlow (perceiving his drift). Ho! Absurd!
Nonsense! Most unreasonable! You were calling the sofa the divinest
of all creatures, I suppose, or perhaps asking the—the piano to put on
its shoes and—elope with you. Preposterous!
Dorothy (softly). Go on, Mr. Yardsley.
Yardsley. I—I spoke a little while ago about
sand—courage—when it comes to one's asking the woman he loves the
greatest of all questions. I was boastful. I pretended that I had
that courage; but—well, I am not as brave as I seem. I had come, Miss
Dorothy, to say to you the words that fell on Jennie's ears, and—and I
began to get nervous—stage-fright, I suppose it was—and I was foolish
enough to rehearse what I had to say—to you, and to you alone.
Barlow. Let me speak, Miss Andrews. I—
Yardsley. You haven't anything to do with the subject in
hand, my dear Barlow, not a thing.
Dorothy. Jennie—what—what have you to say?
Jennie. Me? Oh, mum, I hardly knows what to say! This is
suddenter than the other; but, Miss Dorothy, I'd believe him, I would,
because—I—I think he's tellin' the truth, after all, for the reason
Dorothy. Don't be frightened, Jennie. For what reason?
Jennie. Well, mum, for the reason that when I said “yes,”
mum, he didn't act like all the other gentlemen I've said yes to,
and—and k—kuk—kiss me.
Yardsley. That's it! that's it! Do you suppose that if I'd
been after Jennie's yes, and got it, I'd have let a door-bell and a
sofa stand between me and—the sealing of the proposal?
Barlow (aside). Oh, what nonsense this all is! I've
got to get ahead of this fellow in some way. (Aloud.) Well,
where do I come in? I came here, Miss Andrews, to—tell you—
Yardsley (interposing). You come in where you came in
before—just a little late—after the proposal, as it were.
Dorothy (her face clearing and wreathing with smiles).
What a comedy of errors it has all been! I—I believe you, Mr.
Yardsley. Thank Heaven! And—ah—you aren't going to say
anything more, D—Dorothy?
Dorothy. I'm afraid—
Yardsley. Are you going to make me go through that proposal
all over again, now that I've got myself into so much trouble saying it
the first time—Dorothy?
Dorothy. No, no. You needn't—you needn't speak of it again.
Barlow (aside). Good! That's his congé.
Yardsley. And—then if I—if I needn't say it again? What
then? Can't I have—my answer now? Oh, Miss Andrews—
Dorothy (with downcast eyes, softly). What did Jennie
Yardsley (in ecstasy). Do you mean it?
Barlow. I fancy—I fancy I'd better go now, Miss—er—Miss
Andrews. I—I—have an appointment with Mr. Wilkins, and—er—I
observe that it is getting rather late.
Yardsley. Don't go yet, Jack. I'm not so anxious to be rid
of you now.
Barlow. I must go—really.
Yardsley. But I want you to make me one promise before you
Dorothy. He'll make it, I'm sure, if I ask him. Mr. Yardsley
and I want you—want you to be our best man.
Yardsley. That's it, precisely. Eh, Jack?
Barlow. Well, yes. I'll be—second-best man, The events of
the afternoon have shown my capacity for that.
Barlow. And I'll show my sincerity by wearing Bob's hat and
coat into the street now and letting the fury of Hicks fall upon me.
Jennie. If you please, Miss Dorothy—I—I think I can attend
to Mr. Hicks.
Dorothy. Very well. I think that would be better. You may
Barlow. Well, good-day. I—I've had a very pleasant
afternoon, Miss—Andrews. Thanks for the—the cambric tea.
Dorothy. Good-bye, and don't forget.
Barlow. I'm afraid—I won't. Good-bye, Bob. I congratulate
you from my heart. I was in hopes that I should have the pleasure of
having you for a best man at my wedding, but—er—there's many a slip,
you know, and I wish you joy.
[Yardsley shakes him by the hand, and Barlow goes out. As
he disappears through the portières Yardsley follows, and,
holding the curtain aside, looks after him until the front door is
heard closing. Then he turns about. Dorothy looks demurely
around at him, and as he starts to go to her side the curtain falls.