The Bicyclers and Three Other Farces
John Kendrick Bangs
Part 1 out of 2
Transcribed by David Price, email firstname.lastname@example.org
THE BICYCLERS AND THREE OTHER FARCES
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
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 need
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
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
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
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
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 agent.
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
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
Mrs. Perkins (foreseeing a quarrel). Thaddeus! 'Sh! Ah, by-the-
way, Mr. Bradley, where is Emma this evening? I never knew you to be
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 gear.
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 just right.
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 perfectly
Yardsley (rolling Perkins's wheel into middle of room). Czar wheel,
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
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 you?
Perkins (tapping it). This.
Barlow. Humph! Not very good--but we'll try it. Come on. It's
[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. [Exit
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 did--
Enter Yardsley hurriedly, with a piece of flannel in his hand.
Yardsley. I beg pardon, Mrs. Perkins, but have you a shawl-strap in
Mrs. Perkins (tragically). What is that you have in your hand, Mr.
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 shawl-strap?
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
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, will you?
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 him
Barlow (outside). Bring out that pump. His wheel's flabby.
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 you? [Exit.
Mrs. Perkins (walking to window). She can't be long in coming now.
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. Willoughby
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 water.
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 her--hurt?
Mrs. Perkins. Worse! [Sobs.
Mrs. Perkins. Worse--l-lol-locked up--in jail--no bail--wants to be
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
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 fascination.
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
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
Bradley. You seem to be exhilarated, Thaddeus.
Perkins (bracing up). Oh, I am, I am. Never felt worse--that is,
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
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 comfort in--
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 announcing
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 out.
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 minute.
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
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 stop
Bradley (outside). Hi--Barlow--help!
Mrs. Bradley. That's his voice--he called for help.
Yardsley (rushing to window). Hi--Brad--stop! Your wife's here.
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 hurt.
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 stop
[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
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 kill
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, hastens
Perkins (rising). If I never walk again, I must see this. [Limps to
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 soft?
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, Emma.
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. [Exit.
Mrs. Perkins. Let us go out and restore our nerves. Come, Emma.
[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 him.
Bradley. I'll go you. I think I could take care of the whole quart
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 portieres, 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
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 best.
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 my coat.
[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
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 dispossessed?
Mrs. Bradley. Not by your landlord, but _you_ know what amateur
Bradley. I doubt it. He wouldn't have let us have 'em here if he
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
Mrs. Perkins (meekly). You needn't have the fire lit, need you?
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 portieres to hang in front
Yardsley. Just the thing. Dining-room portieres 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 portieres of yours. Get 'em down for us, will
Perkins. Dining-room portieres! 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 portieres are wanted to
cover up the fireplace?
Yardsley. Precisely. You have a managerial brain, Thaddeus. _You_
can see at once what a dining-room portiere is good for. If ever I
am cast away on a desert island, with nothing but a dining-room
portiere 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-a-brac from the
top of it before you touch it. If there are two incompatible things
in this world, they are men and bric-a-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-a-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-a-
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
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.
[Barlow, Yardsley, and Bradley endeavor to push the piano over the
floor, but it doesn't move.
Enter Perkins with two portieres 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 at?
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 time?
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
portieres 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 portieres.
Perkins. Where'll I put 'em?
Yardsley. Put them on the stepladder.
Perkins (impatiently). And where shall I put the stepladder--on the
Mrs. Perkins (coming to the rescue). I'll take care of these things,
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
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 up.
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
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
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
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
Mrs. Bradley (to Mrs. Perkins). He's just splendid! never forgets
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
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, Thaddeus
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 tub overflows.
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
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 portieres 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, would
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 cues.
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
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
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
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 portieres 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-a-brac on the floor.
Barlow. All right. Where's that stepladder? Thaddeus, got any
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 a
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 portieres from the
Barlow. There isn't any.
Yardsley. Well, then, we'll have to imagine how it will look.
Mrs. Bradley. All the bric-a-brac will have to be taken from the
Yardsley. True. Perkins, you know the house better than we do.
Suppose you take the bric-a-brac out and put it where it will be
[Begins to remove bric-a-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
[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
Barlow. No. I'll make a note of that. Will this sofa do for a
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 the
Mrs. Perkins (appearing in doorway). We have a patent laundry table.
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
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 portieres 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 mouth.
Yardsley (outside). It's almost as heavy as the piano. I don't see
[The four men appear at the door, staggering under the weight of the
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 care.
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 safe
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 to-night.
Perkins (desperately). May I take my coat off? I'm boiling.
Mrs. Bradley. Certainly. I wonder you didn't think of it before.
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 that?
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, Emma?
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
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
Bradley (looking at his watch). By Jove, Emma, it's after eleven!
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 five
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
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
Mrs. Perkins. Miss much? Why, Thaddeus, what _do_ you mean?
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 about--
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
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
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
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. [Exit.
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. Heigho!
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,
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
Yardsley. Thanks. (Looks about the room.) Everything here seems to
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 moment,
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 stage-
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, though.
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
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
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
Yardsley. But yinder window is--I should say, yonder window is
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 mistake.
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