The Easiest Way
Part 1 out of 3
Produced by David Starner, Leah Moser and the Online Distributed
THE EASIEST WAY
[Illustration: EUGENE WALTER]
(Born, Cleveland, Ohio, November 27, 1874)
When questioned once regarding "The Easiest Way," Mr. Eugene Walter
said, "Incidentally, I do not think much of it. To my mind a good play
must have a tremendous uplift in thought and purpose. 'The Easiest
Way' has none of this. There is not a character in the play really
worth while, with the exception of the old agent. The rest, at best,
are not a particular adornment to society, and the strength of the
play lies in its true portrayal of the sordid type of life which it
expressed. As it is more or less purely photographic, I do not
think it should be given the credit of an inspiration--it is rather
devilishly clever, but a great work it certainly is not."
Such was not the verdict of the first night audience, at the
Stuyvesant Theatre, New York, January 19, 1909. It was found to be
one of the most direct pieces of work the American stage had thus far
produced--disagreeably realistic, but purging--and that is the test of
an effective play--by the very poignancy of the tragic forces closing
in around the heroine. Though it is not as literary a piece of
dramatic expression as Pinero's "Iris," it is better in its effect;
because its relentlessness is due, not so predominantly to the moral
downgrade of the woman, as to the moral downgrade of a certain phase
of life which engulfs those nearest the centre of it. The play roused
a storm of comment; there were camps that took just the stand Mr.
Walter takes in the opening quotation. But the play is included in
this collection because its power, as a documentary report of a
phase of American stage life, is undeniable; because, as a piece of
workmanship, shorn of the usual devices called theatrical, it comes
down to the raw bone of the theme, and firmly progresses to its great
climax,--great in the sense of overpowering,--at the very fall of the
Mr. Walter's various experiences in the theatre as an advance man, his
star reporting on the Detroit _News_, his struggles to gain a footing
in New York, contributed something to the bitter irony which runs as
a dark pattern through the texture of "The Easiest Way." He is one of
the many American dramatists who have come from the newspaper ranks,
having served on the Cleveland _Plain Dealer_ and _Press_, the New
York _Sun_ and _Globe_, the Cincinnati _Post_ and the Seattle _Star_.
Not many will disagree with the verdict that thus far he has not
excelled this play, though "Paid in Full" (February 25, 1908)
contains the same sting of modern life, which drives his characters to
situations dramatic and dire, making them sell their souls and their
peace of minds for the benefit of worldly ease and comfort. Note this
theme in "Fine Feathers" (January 7, 1913) and "Nancy Lee" (April 9,
1918). In this sense, his plays all possess a consistency which makes
no compromises. Arthur Ruhl, in his "Second Nights", refers to Walter
as of the "no quarter" school. He brings a certain manly subtlety to
bear on melodramatic subjects, as in "The Wolf" (April 18, 1908) and
"The Knife" (April 12, 1917); he seems to do as he pleases with his
treatment, as he did right at the start with his first successful
play. For, of "The Easiest Way" it may be said that, for the first
time in his managerial career, Mr. David Belasco agreed to accept
it with the condition that not a word of the manuscript should be
It is interesting to note about Walter that, though he may now
repudiate it, "The Easiest Way" stands distinct in its class; perhaps
the dramatist has ripened more in technique--one immediately feels the
surety and vital grip of dramatic expertness in Walter, much more
so than in George Broadhurst, Bayard Veiller, or other American
dramatists of his class. But he has not surpassed "The Easiest Way" in
the burning intention with which it was written.
As a dramatist, Walter adopts an interesting method; he tries out his
plays on the road, experimenting with various names, and re-casting
until ready for metropolitan production. His dramas have many
_aliases_, and it is a long case to prove an alibi; any student who
has attempted to settle dates will soon find that out. His military
play, written out of his experiences as a United States cavalryman in
the Spanish American War, was called "Boots and Saddles," after it
was given as "Sergeant James." "Fine Feathers," "The Knife," "The
Heritage," "Nancy Lee"--were all second or third choice as to name.
In his advancement, Mr. Walter gives much credit to three American
managers--Kirke LaShelle, and the Selwyn brothers, Archie and Edgar.
It was the Selwyns who, during his various ventures in the "show
business," persuaded him to move to Shelter Island, and write "The
Undertow." It was in their house that "Paid in Full" was finished. Let
Mr. Walter continue the narrative:
The circumstances under which "The Easiest Way" was written
are rather peculiar. When I was an advance-agent, ahead of
second-class companies, the need of money caused me to write a
one-act piece called "All the Way from Denver," which in time
I was able to dispose of. Later, after having written "Paid in
Full," I realized that in the play, "All the Way from Denver,"
there was a situation or theme that might prove exceedingly
valuable in a four-act play. After discussing the
possibilities with Mr. Archie Selwyn, we concluded to write
it. In the meantime, the one-act piece had come into the
possession of Margaret Mayo, and through her, Mr. Edgar Selwyn
decided that the title should be "The Easiest Way" instead of
"All the Way from Denver."
The play was then taken in its scenario form to Mr. C.B.
Dillingham, and discussed with him at length. This was prior
to the public presentation of "Paid in Full." I possessed
no particular reputation as a dramatic writer--in fact, the
Messrs. Selwyn--Archie and Edgar--were the only ones who took
me seriously, and thought me a possibility. Mr. Dillingham was
not particularly impressed with the piece, because he thought
it was much too broad in theme, and he did not like the idea
of slapping the managerial knuckles of the theatre. Further,
the obvious inference in "The Easiest Way," that _Laura_ was
kept out of work in order to be compelled to yield herself to
_Brockton_, was a point which did not appeal to him. However,
we had a working agreement with him, and later, Mr. Archie
Selwyn, in discussing the story of the play with Mr. David
Belasco, aroused his interest. The latter saw "Paid in Full"
and "The Wolf," and so he sent for me, with the result that
"The Easiest Way" was first produced in Hartford, Conn., on
December 31, 1908. Since its New York production, it has been
presented in nearly every country of the world. It has not
always met with commercial success, but it has always been
regarded as a play of representative importance.
William Winter was one of the bitterest enemies of "The Easiest Way."
He placed it with "Zaza" and Brieux's "Three Daughters of M. Dupont."
As an opposite extreme view, we give the opinion of Mr. Walter Eaton,
written in 1909, concerning the play: "It places Mr. Walter as a
leader among our dramatists." In some respects, we may have surpassed
it since then, in imaginative ideality; but, as an example of
relentless realism, it still holds its own as a distinct contribution.
The text has been edited for private circulation, and it is this text
which is followed here. A few modifications, of a technical nature,
have been made in the stage directions; but even with these slight
changes, the directions are staccato, utilitarian in conciseness,
rather than literary in the Shaw sense.
_New York City_
Under the _sole_
THE EASIEST WAY
An American play concerning a peculiar phase of New York life.
In Four Acts and Four Scenes.
By EUGENE WALTER.
CHARACTERS OF THE PLAY
JOHN MADISON EDWARD H. ROBINS
WILLARD BROCKTON JOSEPH KILCOUR
JIM WESTON WILLIAM SAMPSON
LAURA MURDOCK FRANCES STARR
ELFIE ST. CLAIR LAURA NELSON HALL
ANNIE EMMA DUNN
Program Continued on Second Page Following
* * * * *
ACT I.--Mrs. William's ranch house or country home, perched on
the side of the Ute Pass, near Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Time--Late in an August afternoon.
ACT II.--Laura Murdock's furnished room, second story, back.
Time--Six months later.
ACT III.--Laura Murdock's apartments in an expensive hotel. New
Time--Two months later. In the morning.
ACT IV.--The same at Act III.
Time--The same afternoon.
* * * * *
The play produced under the personal supervision of Mr. Belasco.
* * * * *
PROGRAM CONTINUED ON SECOND PAGE FOLLOWING.
Stage Director William J. Dean
Stage Manager Langdon West
* * * * *
Stage decorations and accessories designed by Wilfred Buckland.
* * * * *
Scenes by Ernest Cross.
* * * * *
Scenery built by Charles J. Carson.
Electrical effects by Louis Harlman.
Gowns by Mollie O'Hara. Hats by Bendel.
* * * * *
The Pianola used is from the Aeolian Co., New York.
THE EASIEST WAY
AN AMERICAN PLAY CONCERNING A
PARTICULAR PHASE OF
NEW YORK LIFE
_IN FOUR ACTS AND FOUR SCENES_
By EUGENE WALTER
1908 BY EUGENE WALTER
[The Editor wishes to thank Mr. Eugene Walter for his courtesy in
granting permission to include "The Easiest Way" in the present
Collection. All its dramatic rights are fully secured, and proceedings
will immediately be taken against anyone attempting to infringe them.]
ELFIE ST. CLAIR.
DESCRIPTION OF CHARACTERS.
LAURA MURDOCH, twenty-five years of age, is a type not uncommon in the
theatrical life of New York, and one which has grown in importance in
the profession since the business of giving public entertainments has
been so reduced to a commercial basis.
At an early age she came from Australia to San Francisco. She
possessed a considerable beauty and an aptitude for theatrical
accomplishment which soon raised her to a position of more or less
importance in a local stock company playing in that city. A woman of
intense superficial emotions, her imagination was without any enduring
depths, but for the passing time she could place herself in an
attitude of great affection and devotion. Sensually, the woman had
marked characteristics, and, with the flattery that surrounded her,
she soon became a favourite in the select circles which made such
places as "The Poodle Dog" and "Zinkand's" famous. In general
dissipation, she was always careful not in any way to indulge in
excesses which would jeopardize her physical attractiveness, or for
one moment to diminish her sense of keen worldly calculation.
In time she married. It was, of course, a failure. Her vacillating
nature was such that she could not be absolutely true to the man to
whom she had given her life, and, after several bitter experiences,
she had the horror of seeing him kill himself in front of her. There
was a momentary spasm of grief, a tidal wave of remorse, and then the
peculiar recuperation of spirits, beauty and attractiveness that
so marks this type of woman. She was deceived by other men in many
various ways, and finally came to that stage of life that is known in
theatrical circles as being "wised up."
At nineteen, the attention of a prominent theatrical manager being
called to her, she took an important part in a New York production,
and immediately gained considerable reputation. The fact that, before
reaching the age of womanhood, she had had more escapades than most
women have in their entire lives was not generally known in New York,
nor was there a mark upon her face or a single coarse mannerism to
betray it. She was soft-voiced, very pretty, very girlish. Her keen
sense of worldly calculation led her to believe that in order to
progress in her theatrical career she must have some influence outside
of her art and dramatic accomplishment; so she attempted, with no
little success, to infatuate a hard-headed, blunt and supposedly
invincible theatrical manager, who, in his cold, stolid way, gave her
what love there was in him. This, however, not satisfying her, she
played two ends against the middle, and, finding a young man of wealth
and position who could give her, in his youth, the exuberance and
joy utterly apart from the character of the theatrical manager, she
adopted him, and for a while lived with him. Exhausting his money, she
cast him aside, always spending a certain part of the time with the
theatrical manager. The young man became crazed, and, at a restaurant,
tried to murder all of them.
From that time up to the opening of the play, her career was a
succession of brilliant coups in gaining the confidence and love,
not to say the money, of men of all ages and all walks in life. Her
fascination was as undeniable as her insincerity of purpose. She
had never made an honest effort to be an honest woman, although she
imagined herself always persecuted, the victim of circumstances,--and
was always ready to excuse any viciousness of character which led her
into her peculiar difficulties. While acknowledged to be a mistress of
her business--that of acting--from a purely technical point of view,
her lack of sympathy, her abuse of her dramatic temperament in her
private affairs, had been such as to make it impossible for her
sincerely to impress audiences with real emotional power, and,
therefore, despite the influences which she always had at hand, she
remained a mediocre artist.
At the time of the opening of our play, she has played a summer
engagement with a stock company in Denver, which has just ended. She
has met JOHN MADISON, a man of about twenty-seven years of age, whose
position is that of a dramatic critic on one of the local papers.
LAURA MURDOCH, with her usual wisdom, started to fascinate JOHN
MADISON, but has found that, for once in her life, she has met her
JOHN MADISON is good to look at, frank, virile, but a man of broad
experience, and not to be hoodwinked. For the first time LAURA MURDOCH
feels that the shoe is pinching the other foot, and, without any
possible indication of reciprocal affection, she has been slowly
falling desperately, madly, honestly and decently in love with him.
She has for the past two years been the special favourite and mistress
of WILLARD BROCKTON. The understanding is one of pure friendship.
He is a man who has a varied taste in the selection of his women; is
honest in a general way, and perfectly frank about his amours. He has
been most generous with LAURA MURDOCK, and his close relations with
several very prominent theatrical managers have made it possible for
him to secure her desirable engagements, generally in New York. With
all her past experiences, tragic and otherwise, LAURA MURDOCH has
found nothing equal to this sudden, this swiftly increasing, love for
the young Western man. At first she attempted to deceive him. Her baby
face, her masterful assumption of innocence and childlike devotion,
made no impression upon him. He has let her know in no uncertain way
that he knew her record from the day she stepped on American soil in
San Francisco to the time when she had come to Denver, but still he
JOHN MADISON is a peculiar type of the Western man. Up to the time of
his meeting LAURA, he had always been employed either in the mines
or on a newspaper west of the Mississippi River. He is one of those
itinerant reporters; to-day you might find him in Seattle, to-morrow
in Butte, the next week in Denver, and then possibly he would make
the circuit from Los Angeles to 'Frisco, and then all around again.
He drinks his whiskey straight, plays his faro fairly, and is not
particular about the women with whom he goes. He started life in
the Western country at an early age. His natural talents, both in
literature and in general adaptability to all conditions of life,
were early exhibited, but his _alma mater_ was the bar-room, and
the faculty of that college its bartenders and gamblers and general
He seldom has social engagements outside of certain disreputable
establishments, where a genial personality or an over-burdened
pocketbook gives _entree_, and the rules of conventionality have
never even been whispered. His love affairs, confined to this class
of women, have seldom lasted more than a week or ten days. His editors
know him as a brilliant genius, irresponsible, unreliable, but at
times inestimably valuable. He cares little for personal appearance
beyond a certain degree of neatness. He is quick on the trigger, and
in a time of over-heated argument can go some distance with his fists;
in fact, his whole career is best described as "happy-go-lucky."
He realizes fully his ability to do almost anything fairly well, and
some things especially well, but he has never tried to accomplish
anything beyond the earning of a comfortable living. Twenty-five or
thirty dollars a week was all he needed. With that he could buy his
liquor, treat his women, sometimes play a little faro, sit up all
night and sleep all day, and in general lead the life of good-natured
vagabondage which has always pleased him and which he had chosen as a
The objection of safer and saner friends to this form of livelihood
was always met by him with a slap on the back and a laugh. "Don't you
worry about me, partner; if I'm going to hell I'm going there with
bells on," was always his rejoinder; and yet, when called upon to
cover some great big news story, or report some vital event, he
settled down to his work with a steely determination and a grim joy
that resulted in work which classified him as a genius. Any great
mental effort of this character, any unusual achievement along these
lines, would be immediately followed by a protracted debauch that
would upset him physically and mentally for weeks at a time, but he
always recovered and landed on his feet, and with the same laugh and
smile again went at his work.
If there have been opportunities to meet decent women of good social
standing, he has always thrown them aside with the declaration that
they bore him to death, and there never had entered into his heart a
feeling or idea of real affection until he met LAURA. He fell for a
moment under the spell of her fascination, and then, with cold logic,
he analyzed her, and found out that, while outwardly she had
every sign of girlhood,--ingenuousness, sweetness of character and
possibility of affection,--spiritually and mentally she was nothing
more than a moral wreck. He observed keenly her efforts to win him and
her disappointment at her failure--not that she cared so much for him
personally, but that it hurt her vanity not to be successful with
this good-for-nothing, good-natured vagabond, when men of wealth and
position she made kneel at her feet. He observed her slowly-changing
point of view: how from a kittenish ingenuousness she became serious,
womanly, really sincere. He knew that he had awakened in her her first
decent affection, and he knew that she was awakening in him his first
desire to do things and be big and worth while. So together these
two began to drift toward a path of decent dealing, decent ambition,
decent thought, and decent love, until at last they both find
themselves, and acknowledge all the wickedness of what had been, and
plan for all the virtue and goodness of what is to be. It is at this
point that our first act begins.
ELFIE ST. CLAIR is a type of a Tenderloin grafter in New York, who,
after all, has been more sinned against than sinning; who, having been
imposed upon, deceived, ill-treated and bulldozed by the type of men
who prey on women in New York, has turned the tables, and with her
charm and her beauty has gone out to make the same slaughter of the
other sex as she suffered with many of her sisters.
She is a woman without a moral conscience, whose entire life is
dictated by a small mental operation. Coming to New York as a
beautiful girl, she entered the chorus. She became famous for her
beauty. On every hand were the stage-door vultures ready to give her
anything that a woman's heart could desire, from clothes to horses,
carriages, money and what-not; but, with a girl-like instinct, she
fell in love with a man connected with the company, and, during
all the time she might have profited and become a rich woman by the
attentions of these outsiders, she remained true to her love, until
finally her fame as the beauty of the city had waned. The years told
on her to a certain extent, and there were others coming, as young as
she had been and as good to look at; and, where the automobile of the
millionaire had once been waiting for her, she found that, through her
faithfulness to her lover, it was now there for some one else. Yet she
was content with her joys, until finally the man deliberately jilted
her and left her alone.
What had gone of her beauty had been replaced by a keen knowledge of
human nature and of men, so she determined to give herself up entirely
to a life of gain. She knows just how much champagne should be
drunk without injuring one's health. She knows just what physical
necessities should be indulged in to preserve to the greatest degree
her remaining beauty. There is no trick of the hair-dresser, the
modiste, the manicurist, or any one of the legion of people who devote
their time to aiding the outward fascinations of women, which she does
not know. She knows exactly what perfumes to use, what stockings
to wear, how she should live, how far she should indulge in any
dissipation; and all this she has determined to devote to profit. She
knows that as an actress she has no future; that the time of a woman's
beauty is limited. Conscious that she has already lost the youthful
litheness of figure which had made her so fascinating in the past,
she has laid aside every sentiment, physical and spiritual, and
has determined to choose a man as her companion who has the biggest
bank-roll and the most liberal nature. His age, his station in life,
the fact whether she likes or dislikes him, do not enter into this
scheme at all. She figures that she has been made a fool of by men,
and that there is only one revenge,--the accumulation of a fortune to
make her independent of them once and for all. There are, of course,
certain likes and dislikes that she enjoys, and in a way she indulges
them. There are men whose company she cares for, but their association
is practically sexless and has come down to a point of mere good
WILLARD BROCKTON, a New York broker, is an honest sensualist, and when
one says an honest sensualist, the meaning is--a man who has none
of the cad in his character, who takes advantage of no one, and who
allows no one to take advantage of him. He honestly detests any man
who takes advantage of a pure woman. He detests any man who deceives a
woman. He believes that there is only one way to go through life,
and that is to be frank with those with whom one deals. He is a
master-hand in stock manipulation, and in the questionable practises
of Wall Street he has realized that he has to play his cunning and
craft against the cunning and craft of others. He is not at all in
sympathy with this mode of living, but he thinks it is the only
method by which he can succeed in life. He measures success by the
accumulation of money, but he considers his business career as a thing
apart from his private existence.
He does not associate, to any great extent, with what is known as
"society." He keeps in touch with it simply to maintain his business
position. There is always an inter-relationship among the rich in
business and private life, and he gives such entertainments as are
necessary to the members of New York's exclusive set, simply to make
certain his relative position with other successful Wall Street men.
As far as women are concerned, the particular type of actress, such as
LAURA MURDOCH and ELFIE ST. CLAIR, appeals to him. He likes their good
fellowship. He loves to be with a gay party at night in a cafe. He
likes the rather looseness of living which does not quite reach the
disreputable. Behind all this, however, is a certain high sense of
honour. He detests and despises the average stage-door Johnny, and
he loathes the type of man who seeks to take young girls out of
theatrical companies for their ruin.
His women friends are as wise as himself. When they enter into an
agreement with him there is no deception. In the first place he wants
to like them; in the second place he wants them to like him; and
finally, he wants to fix the amount of their living expenses at
a definite figure, and have them stand by it. He wants them to
understand that he reserves the right, at any time, to withdraw his
support, or transfer it to some other woman, and he gives them the
He is always ready to help anyone who is unfortunate, and he has
always hoped that some of these girls whom he knew would finally come
across the right man, marry and settle down; but he insists that such
an arrangement can be possible only by the honest admission on the
woman's part of what she has done and been, and by the thorough
understanding of all these things by the man involved. He is gruff in
his manner, determined in his purposes, honest in his point of view.
He is a brute, almost a savage, but he is a thoroughly good brute and
a pretty decent savage.
At the time of the opening of this play, he and LAURA MURDOCK have
been friends for two years. He knows exactly what she is and what she
has been, and their relations are those of pals. She has finished her
season in Denver, and he has come out there to accompany her home.
He has always told her, whenever she felt it inconsistent with her
happiness to continue her relations with him, it is her privilege to
quit, and he has reserved the same condition.
JIM WESTON, between forty-five and fifty years of age, is the type
of the semi-broken-down showman. In the evolution of the theatrical
business in America, the old circus and minstrel men have gradually
been pushed aside, while younger men, with more advanced methods, have
taken their place. The character is best realized by the way it is
drawn in the play.
ANNIE. The only particular attention that should be called to the
character of the negress, ANNIE, who is the servant of LAURA, is the
fact that she must not in any way represent the traditional smiling
coloured girl or "mammy" of the South. She is the cunning, crafty,
heartless, surly, sullen Northern negress, who, to the number of
thousands, are servants of women of easy morals, and who infest a
district of New York in which white and black people of the lower
classes mingle indiscriminately, and which is one of the most criminal
sections of the city. The actress who plays this part must keep in
mind its innate and brutal selfishness.
ACT I. Mrs. Williams' Ranch House or Country Home, perched on the side
of Ute Pass, near Colorado Springs, Colorado.
TIME. Late in an August afternoon.
ACT II. Laura Murdock's furnished Room, second story back, New York.
TIME. Six months later.
ACT III. Laura Murdock's Apartments in an expensive Hotel.
TIME. Two months later. In the morning.
ACT IV. Laura Murdock's Apartments. The same as Act III.
TIME. The afternoon of the same day.
THE EASIEST WAY
SCENE. _The scene is that of the summer country ranch house of_ MRS.
WILLIAMS, _a friend of_ LAURA MURDOCK'S, _and a prominent society
woman of Denver, perched on the side of Ute Pass, near Colorado
Springs. The house is one of unusual pretentiousness, and, to a person
not conversant with conditions as they exist in this part of Colorado,
the idea might be that such magnificence could not obtain in such
a locality. At the left of stage the house rises in the form of a
turret, built of rough stone of a brown hue, two stories high, and
projecting a quarter of the way out on the stage. The door leads to a
small elliptical terrace built of stone, with heavy benches of Greek
design, strewn cushions, while over the top of one part of this
terrace is suspended a canopy made from a Navajo blanket. The terrace
is supposed to extend almost to the right of stage, and here it stops.
The stage must be cut here so that the entrance of_ JOHN _can give the
illusion that he is coming up a steep declivity or a long flight of
stairs. There are chairs at right and left, and a small table at left.
There are trailing vines around the balustrade of the terrace, and
the whole setting must convey the idea of quiet wealth. Up stage is
supposed to be the part of the terrace overlooking the canon, a sheer
drop of two thousand feet, while over in the distance, as if across
the canon, one can see the rolling foot-hills and lofty peaks of the
Rockies, with Pike's Peak in the distance, snow-capped and colossal.
It is late in the afternoon, and, as the scene progresses, the quick
twilight of a canon, beautiful in its tints of purple and amber,
becomes later pitch black, and the curtain goes down on an absolutely
black stage. The cyclorama, or semi-cyclorama, must give the
perspective of greater distances, and be so painted that the various
tints of twilight may be shown_.
AT RISE. LAURA MURDOCK _is seen leaning a bit over the balustrade of
the porch and shielding her eyes with her hand from the late afternoon
sun, as she seemingly looks up the Pass to the left, as if expecting
the approach of someone. Her gown is simple, girlish and attractive,
and made of summery, filmy stuff. Her hair is done up in the simplest
fashion, with a part in the centre, and there is about her every
indication of an effort to assume that girlishness of demeanour which
has been her greatest asset through life_. WILLARD BROCKTON _enters;
he is a man six feet or more in height, stocky in build, clean-shaven
and immaculately dressed. He is smoking a cigar, and upon
entering takes one step forward and looks over toward_ LAURA _in a
WILL. What's up?
WILL. A little preoccupied.
WILL. What's up that way?
LAURA. Which way?
WILL. The way you are looking.
LAURA. The road from Manitou Springs. They call it the trail out here.
WILL. I know that. You know I've done a lot of business west of the
LAURA. [_With a half-sigh_.] No, I didn't know it.
WILL. Oh, yes; south of here in the San Juan country. Spent a couple
of years there once.
LAURA. [_Still without turning_.] That's interesting.
WILL. It was then. I made some money there. It's always interesting
when you make money. Still--
LAURA. [_Still leaning in an absent-minded attitude_.] Still what?
WILL. Can't make out why you have your eyes glued on that road.
WILL. One of Mrs. Williams' friends, eh? [_Will crosses, and sits on
WILL. Yours too?
LAURA. Yes, a _real_ man.
WILL. [_Catches the significance of this speech. He carelessly throws
the cigar over the balustrade. He comes down and leans on chair with
his back to_ LAURA. _She has not moved more than to place her left
hand on a cushion and lean her head rather wearily against it, looking
steadfastly up the Pass_.] A real man. By that you mean--
LAURA. Just that--a real man.
WILL. Any difference from the many you have known?
LAURA. Yes, from all I have known.
WILL. So that is why you didn't come into Denver to meet me to-day,
but left word for me to come out here?
WILL. I thought that I was pretty decent to take a dusty ride half-way
across the continent in order to keep you company on your way back to
New York, and welcome you to our home; but maybe I had the wrong idea.
LAURA. Yes, I think you had the wrong idea.
WILL. In love, eh?
LAURA. Yes, just that,--in love.
WILL. A new sensation.
LAURA. No; the first conviction.
WILL. You have had that idea before. Every woman's love is the real
one when it comes. [_Crosses up to_ LAURA.] Do you make a distinction
in this case, young lady?
WILL. For instance, what?
LAURA. This man is poor--absolutely broke. He hasn't even got a
[_Crosses to armchair, leans over and draws with parasol on ground_.]
good job. You know, Will, all the rest, including yourself, generally
had some material inducement.
WILL. What's his business? [_Crosses to table and sits looking at
LAURA. He's a newspaper man.
WILL. H'm-m. Romance?
LAURA. Yes, if you want to call it that,--romance.
WILL. Do I know him?
LAURA. How could you? You only came from New York to-day, and he has
never been there.
_He regards her with a rather amused, indulgent, almost paternal
expression, in contrast to his big, bluff, physical personality, with
his iron-gray hair and his bulldog expression_. LAURA _looks
more girlish than ever. This is imperative in order to thoroughly
understand the character_.
WILL. How old is he?
LAURA. Twenty-seven. You're forty-five.
WILL. No, forty-six.
LAURA. Shall I tell you about him? Huh?
[_Crosses to_ WILL, _placing parasol on seat_.
WILL. That depends.
LAURA. On what?
LAURA. In what way?
WILL. If it will interfere in the least with the plans I have made for
you and for me.
LAURA. And have you made any particular plans for me that have
anything particularly to do with you?
WILL. Yes, I have given up the lease of our apartment on West End
Avenue, and I've got a house on Riverside Drive. Everything will be
quiet and decent, and it'll be more comfortable for you. There's a
stable near by, and your horses and car can be kept over there. You'll
be your own mistress, and besides I've fixed you up for a new part.
LAURA. A new part! What kind of a part?
WILL. One of Charlie Burgess's shows, translated from some French
fellow. It's been running over in Paris, Berlin, and Vienna, and all
those places, for a year or more, and appears to be an awful hit. It's
going to cost a lot of money. I told Charlie he could put me down
for a half interest, and I'd give all the money providing you got
an important role. Great part, I'm told. Kind of a cross between a
musical comedy and an opera. Looks as if it might stay in New York all
season. So that's the change of plan. How does it strike you?
[LAURA _crosses to door, meditating; pauses in thought_.
LAURA. I don't know.
WILL. Feel like quitting? [_Turns to her._
LAURA. I can't tell.
WILL. It's the newspaper man, eh?
LAURA. That would be the only reason.
WILL. You've been on the square with me this summer, haven't you?
[_Crosses to table_.
LAURA. [_Turns, looks at_ WILL.] What do you mean by "on the square?"
WILL. Don't evade. There's only one meaning when I say that, and you
know it. I'm pretty liberal. But you understand where I draw the line.
You've not jumped that, have you, Laura?
LAURA. No, this has been such a wonderful summer, such a wonderfully
different summer. Can you understand what I mean by that when I say
"wonderfully different summer?"
[_Crossing to WILL_.
WILL. Well, he's twenty-seven and broke, and you're twenty-five and
pretty; and he evidently, being a newspaper man, has that peculiar
gift of gab that we call romantic expression. So I guess I'm not
blind, and you both think you've fallen in love. That it?
LAURA. Yes, I think that's about it; only I don't agree to the "gift
of gab" and the "romantic" end of it. [_Crosses to table_.] He's a man
and I'm a woman, and we both have had our experiences. I don't think,
Will, that there can be much of that element of what some folks call
[_Sits on chair; takes candy-box on lap; selects candy_.
WILL. Then the Riverside Drive proposition and Burgess's show is off,
LAURA. I didn't say that.
WILL. And if you go back on the Overland Limited day after to-morrow,
you'd just as soon I'd go to-morrow of wait until the day after you
leave? [LAURA _places candy-box back on table_.
LAURA. I didn't say that, either.
WILL. What's the game?
LAURA. I can't tell you now.
WILL. Waiting for him to come? [_Crosses, sits on seat_.
WILL. Think he is going to make a proposition, eh?
LAURA. I know he is.
WILL. You've tried that once, and taken the wrong end. Are you going
to play the same game again?
LAURA. Yes, but with a different card.
[_Picks up magazine off table_.
WILL. What's his name?
LAURA. Madison--John Madison.
[_Slowly turning pages of magazine_.
WILL. And his job?
WILL. What are you going to live on,--the extra editions?
LAURA. No, we're young, there's plenty of time. I can work in the
meantime, and so can he; and then with his ability and my ability
it will only be a matter of a year or two when things will shape
themselves to make it possible.
WILL. Sounds well--a year off.
LAURA. If I thought you were going to make fun of me, Will, I
shouldn't have talked to you.
[_Throws down magazine, crosses to door of house_.
WILL. [_Crossing down in front of table_.] I don't want to make fun of
you, but you must realize that after two years it isn't an easy thing
to be dumped with so little ceremony. Maybe you have never given
me any credit for possessing the slightest feeling, but even I can
receive shocks from other sources than a break in the market.
LAURA. [_Crosses to_ WILL.] It isn't easy for me to do this. You've
been awfully kind, awfully considerate, but when I went to you it was
just with the understanding that we were to be pals. You reserved the
right then to quit me whenever you felt like it, and you gave me the
same privilege. Now, if some girl came along who really captivated
you in the right way, and you wanted to marry, it would hurt me a
little,--maybe a lot,--but I should never forget that agreement
we made, a sort of two weeks' notice clause, like people have in
WILL. [_Is evidently very much moved. Walks up stage to right end of
seat, looks over the canon_. LAURA _looks after him_. WILL _has his
back to the audience. Long pause_.] I'm not hedging, Laura. If that's
the way you want it to be, I'll stand by just exactly what I said
[_Turns to_ LAURA.], but I'm fond of you, a damn sight fonder than I
thought I was, now that I find you slipping away; but if this young
fellow is on the square [LAURA _crosses to_ WILL, _taking his right
hand_.] and he has youth and ability, and you've been on the square
with him, why, all right. Your life hasn't had much in it to help you
get a diploma from any celestial college, and if you can start out
now and be a good girl, have a good husband, and maybe some day good
children [LAURA _sighs_.], why, I'm not going to stand in the way.
Only I don't want you to make any of those mistakes that you made
LAURA. I know, but somehow I feel that this time the real thing has
come, and with it the real man. I can't tell you, Will, how much
different it is, but everything I felt before seems so sort of
earthly--and somehow this love that I have for this man is so
different. It's made me want to be truthful and sincere and humble
for the first time in my life. The only other thing I ever had that I
cared the least bit about, now that I look back, was your friendship.
We have been good pals, haven't we?
[_Puts arms about_ WILL.
WILL. Yes, it's been a mighty good two years for me. I was always
proud to take you around, because I think you one of the prettiest
things in New York [LAURA _crosses and girlishly jumps into
armchair._], and that helps some, and you're always jolly, and you
never complained. You always spent a lot of money, but it was a
pleasure to see you spend it; and then you never offended me. Most
women offend men by coming around looking untidy and sort of unkempt,
but somehow you always knew the value of your beauty, and you always
dressed up. I always thought that maybe some day the fellow would come
along, grab you, and make you happy in a nice way, but I thought
that he'd have to have a lot of money. You know you've lived a rather
extravagant life for five years, Laura. It won't be an easy job to
come down to cases and suffer for the little dainty necessities you've
been used to.
LAURA. I've thought all about that, and I think I understand.
[_Facing audience; leaning elbows on lap._
WILL. You know if you were working without anybody's help, Laura, you
might have a hard time getting a position. As an actress you're only
LAURA. You needn't remind me of that. That part of my life is my own.
[_Crosses up to seat._] I don't want you to start now and make it
harder for me to do the right thing. It isn't fair; it isn't square;
and it isn't right. You've got to let me go my own way. [_Crosses to_
WILL; _puts right hand on his shoulder._] I'm sorry to leave you, in
a way, but I want you to know that if I go with John it changes the
spelling of the word comradeship into love, and mistress into wife.
Now please don't talk any more. [_Crosses to post; takes scarf off
WILL. Just a word. Is it settled?
LAURA. [_Impatiently._] I said I didn't know. I would know
to-day--that's what I'm waiting for. Oh, I don't see why he doesn't
come. [WILL _turns up to seat looking over Pass._
WILL. [_Pointing up the Pass._] Is that the fellow coming up here?
LAURA. [_Quickly running toward the balustrade of seat, saying as she
goes_:] Where? [_Kneels on seat_.
WILL. [_Pointing_.] Up the road there. On that yellow horse.
LAURA. [_Looking_.] Yes, that's John. [_She waves her handkerchief,
and putting one hand to her mouth cries_:] Hello!
JOHN. [_Off stage with the effect as if he was on the road winding up
toward the house_.] Hello yourself!
LAURA. [_Same effect_.] Hurry up, you're late.
JOHN. [_Same effect, a little louder_.] Better late than never.
LAURA. [_Same effect_.] Hurry up.
JOHN. [_Little louder_.] Not with this horse.
LAURA. [_To_ WILL, _with enthusiastic expression_.] Now, Will, does he
look like a yellow reporter?
WILL. [_With a sort of sad smile_.] He _is_ a good-looking chap.
LAURA. [_Looking down again at_ JOHN.] Oh, he's just simply more than
that. [_Turns quickly to_ WILL.] Where's Mrs. Williams?
WILL. [_Motioning with thumb toward left side of ranch house_.]
Inside, I guess, up to her neck in bridge.
LAURA. [_Goes hurriedly over to door_.] Mrs. Williams! Oh, Mrs.
MRS. WILLIAMS. [_Heard off stage_.] What is it, my dear?
LAURA. Mr. Madison is coming up the path.
MRS. WILLIAMS. [_Off stage_.] That's good.
LAURA. Sha'n't you come and see him?
MRS. WILLIAMS. [_Same_.] Lord, no! I'm six dollars and twenty cents
out now, and up against an awful streak of luck.
LAURA. Shall I give him some tea?
MRS. WILLIAMS. [_Same_.] Yes, do, dear; and tell him to cross his
fingers when he thinks of me.
_In the meantime_ WILL _has leaned over the balustrade, evidently
surveying the young man, who is supposed to be coming up the, path,
with a great deal of interest. Underneath his stolid, businesslike
demeanour of squareness, there is undoubtedly within his heart a very
great affection for_ LAURA. _He realizes that during her whole career
he has been the only one who has influenced her absolutely. Since the
time they lived together, he has always dominated, and he has always
endeavoured to lead her along a path that meant the better things of a
Bohemian existence. His coming all the way from New York to Denver to
accompany_ LAURA _home was simply another example of his keen interest
in the woman, and he suddenly finds that she has drifted away from him
in a manner to which he could not in the least object, and that she
had been absolutely fair and square in her agreement with him._ WILL
_is a man who, while rough and rugged in many ways, possesses many of
the finer instincts of refinement, latent though they may be, and
his meeting with_ JOHN _ought, therefore, to show much significance,
because on his impressions of the young man depend the entire
justification of his attitude in the play._
LAURA. [_Turning toward_ WILL _and going to him, slipping her hand
involuntarily through his arm, and looking eagerly with him over the
balustrade in almost girlish enthusiasm._] Do you like him?
WILL. [_Smiling_.] I don't know him.
LAURA. Well, do you think you'll like him?
WILL. Well, I hope I'll like him.
LAURA. Well, if you hope you'll like him you ought to think you like
him. He'll turn the corner of that rock in just a minute and then you
can see him. Do you want to see him?
WILL. [_Almost amused at her girlish manner._] Why, yes--do you?
LAURA. Do I? Why, I haven't seen him since last night! There he is.
[_Waves her hand._] Hello, John!
[_Gets candy-box, throws pieces of candy at_ JOHN.
JOHN. [_His voice very close now_.] Hello, girlie! How's everything?
LAURA. Fine! Do hurry.
JOHN. Just make this horse for a minute. Hurry is not in his
LAURA. I'm coming down to meet you.
LAURA. [_Turns quickly to_ WILL.] You don't care. You'll wait, won't
LAURA _hurriedly exits._ WILL _goes down centre of the stage. After
a short interval_ LAURA _comes in, more like a sixteen-year-old girl
than anything else, pulling_ JOHN _after her. He is a tall, finely
built type of Western manhood, a frank face, a quick, nervous energy,
a mind that works like lightning, a prepossessing smile, and a
personality that is wholly captivating. His clothes are a bit dusty
from the ride, but are not in the least pretentious, and his leggins
are of canvas and spurs of brass, such as are used in the Army. His
hat is off, and he is pulled on to the stage, more like a great
big boy than a man. His hair is a bit tumbled, and he shows every
indication of having had a rather long and hard ride_.
LAURA. Hello, John!
JOHN. Hello, girlie!
_Then she suddenly recovers herself and realizes the position she
is in. Both men measure each other for a moment in silence, neither
flinching the least bit. The smile has faded from_ JOHN'S _face, and
the mouth droops into an expression of firm determination._ LAURA _for
a moment loses her ingenuousness. She is the least bit frightened at
finally placing the two men face to face, and in a voice that trembles
slightly from apprehension_:
LAURA. Oh, I beg your pardon! Mr. Madison, this is Mr. Brockton, a
friend of mine from New York. You've often heard me speak of him; he
came out here to keep me company when I go home.
JOHN. [_Comes forward, extends a hand, looking_ WILL _right in the
eye._] I am very glad to know you, Mr. Brockton.
WILL. Thank you.
JOHN. I've heard a great deal about you and your kindness to
Miss Murdock. Anything that you have done for her in a spirit of
friendliness I am sure all her friends must deeply appreciate, and I
count myself in as one.
WILL. [_In an easy manner that rather disarms the antagonistic
attitude of_ JOHN.] Then we have a good deal in common, Mr. Madison,
for I also count Miss Murdock a friend, and when two friends of a
friend have the pleasure of meeting, I dare say that's a pretty good
foundation for them to become friends too.
JOHN. Possibly. Whatever my opinion may have been of you, Mr.
Brockton, before you arrived, now I have seen you--and I'm a man who
forms his conclusions right off the bat--I don't mind telling you that
you've agreeably surprised me. That's just a first impression, but
they run kind o' strong with me.
WILL. Well, young man, I size up a fellow in pretty short order, and
all things being equal, I think you'll do.
LAURA. [_Radiantly._] Shall I get the tea?
LAURA. Yes, tea. You know it must be tea--nothing stronger.
[_Crosses to door._
JOHN. [_Looking at_ WILL _rather comically._] How strong are you for
that tea, Mr. Brockton?
WILL. I'll pass; it's your deal, Mr. Madison.
JOHN. Mine! No, deal me out this hand.
LAURA. I don't think you're at all pleasant, but I'll tell you one
thing--it's tea this deal or no game.
[_Crosses up stage to seat, picks up magazine, turns pages._
WILL. No game then [_Crosses to door._], and I'm going to help Mrs.
Williams; maybe she's lost nearly seven dollars by this time, and I'm
an awful dub when it comes to bridge. [_Exit._
LAURA. [_Tossing magazine on to seat, crosses quickly to_ JOHN,
_throws her arms around his neck in the most loving manner._] John!
_As the Act progresses the shadows cross the Pass, and golden light
streams across the lower hills and tops the snow-clad peaks. It
becomes darker and darker, the lights fade to beautiful opalescent
hues, until, when the curtain falls on the act, with_ JOHN _and_ WILL
_on the scene, it is pitch dark, a faint glow coming out of the door.
Nothing else can be seen but the glow of the ash on the end of
each man's cigar as he puffs it in silent meditation on their
JOHN. Well, dear?
LAURA. Are you going to be cross with me?
LAURA. Because he came?
JOHN. You didn't know, did you?
LAURA. Yes, I did.
JOHN. That he was coming?
LAURA. He wired me when he reached Kansas City.
JOHN. Does he know?
LAURA. About us?
LAURA. I've told him.
JOHN. With what result?
LAURA. I think it hurt him.
LAURA. More than I had any idea it would.
JOHN. I'm sorry. [_Sits in armchair_.
LAURA. He cautioned me to be very careful and to be sure I knew my
JOHN. That was right.
LAURA _gets a cushion in each hand off seat; crosses down to left of
armchair, throws one cushion on ground, then the other on top of
it, and kneels beside his chair. Piano in house playing a Chopin
LAURA. We've been very happy all summer.
LAURA. [_Rises, sits on left arm of chair, her arm over back_.] And
this thing has gradually been growing on us?
JOHN. That's true.
LAURA. I didn't think that, when I came out here to Denver to play in
a little stock company, it was going to bring me all this happiness,
but it has, hasn't it?
LAURA. [_Changing her position, sits on his lap, arms around his
neck_.] And now the season's over and there is nothing to keep me in
Colorado, and I've got to go back to New York to work.
JOHN. I know; I've been awake all night thinking about it.
LAURA. What are we going to do?
JOHN. Why, you've got to go, I suppose.
LAURA. Is it good-bye?
JOHN. For a while, I suppose--it's good-bye.
LAURA. What do you mean by a while?
[LAURA _turns_ JOHN'S _face to her, looks at him searchingly_.
JOHN. Until [_Piano plays crescendo, then softens down_.] I get money
enough together, and am making enough to support you, then come and
take you out of the show business and make you Mrs. Madison.
LAURA _tightens her arm around his neck, her cheek goes close to his
own, and all the wealth of affection the woman is capable of at times
is shown. She seems more like a dainty little kitten purring close to
its master. Her whole thought and idea seem to be centred on the man
whom she professes to love._
LAURA. John, that is what I want above everything else.
JOHN. But, Laura, we must come to some distinct understanding before
we start to make our plans. We're not children.
LAURA. No, we're not.
JOHN. Now in the first place [LAURA _rises, crosses to centre._] we'll
discuss you, and in the second place we'll discuss me. We'll keep
nothing from each other [LAURA _picks up cushions, places them on
seat._], and we'll start out on this campaign [LAURA _turns back to
centre, facing audience._] of decency and honour, fully understanding
its responsibilities, without a chance of a come-back on either side.
LAURA. [_Becoming very serious._] You mean that we should tell each
other all about each other, so, no matter what's ever said about us by
other people, we'll know it first?
JOHN. [_Rising._] That's precisely what I'm trying to get at.
LAURA. Well, John, there are so many things I don't want to speak of
even to you. It isn't easy for a woman to go back and dig up a lot
of ugly memories and try to excuse them. [_Crosses to front of table,
picks up magazine, places it on table_.
JOHN. I've known everything from the first; how you came to San
Francisco as a kid and got into the show business, and how you went
wrong, and then how you married, still a kid, and how your husband
didn't treat you exactly right, and then how, in a fit of drunkenness,
he came home and shot himself. [LAURA _buries her head in her hands,
making exclamations of horror._ JOHN _crosses to her as if sorry for
hurting her; touches her on shoulder._] But that's all past now, and
we can forget that. And I know how you were up against it after that,
how tough it was for you to get along. Then finally how you've lived,
and--and that you and this man Brockton have been--well--never mind.
I've known it all for months, and I've watched you. Now, Laura, the
habit of life is a hard thing to get away from. You've lived in this
way for a long time. If I ask you to be my wife you'll have to give it
up; you'll have to go back to New York and struggle on your own hook
until I get enough to come for you. I don't know how long that will
be, but it _will_ be. Do you love me enough to stick out for the right
LAURA _crosses to him, puts her arms around him, kisses him once very
affectionately, looks at him very earnestly_.
LAURA. Yes. I think this is my one great chance. I do love you and I
want to do just what you said.
JOHN. I think you will. I'm going to make the same promise. Your life,
dear girl, has been an angel's compared with mine. I've drank whiskey,
played bank, and raised hell ever since the time I could develop
a thirst; and ever since I've been able to earn my own living I've
abused every natural gift God gave me. The women I've associated with
aren't good enough to touch the hem of your skirt, but they liked
me, and [JOHN _crosses to armchair, turns up stage, then faces her_.]
well--I must have liked them. My life hasn't been exactly loose, it's
been all in pieces. I've never done anything dishonest. I've always
gone wrong just for the fun of it, until I met you. [_Crosses to
her, takes her in his arms_.] Somehow then I began to feel that I was
making an awful waste of myself.
JOHN. Some lovers place a woman on a pedestal and say, "She never has
made a mistake." [_Taking her by each arm he playfully shakes her_.]
Well, we don't need any pedestals. I just know you never will make a
LAURA. [_Kissing him_.] John, I'll never make you take those words
back. [_Arms around his neck_.
JOHN. That goes double. You're going to cut out the cabs and cafes,
and I'm going to cut out the whiskey and all-night sessions [LAURA
_releases him; he backs slightly away_.]; and you're going to be
somebody and I'm going to be somebody, and if my hunch is worth the
powder to blow it up, we're going to show folks things they never
thought were in us. Come on now, kiss me.
_She kisses him; tears are in her eyes. He looks into her face with a
JOHN. You're on, ain't you, dear?
LAURA. Yes, I'm on.
JOHN. Then [_Points toward door with his left arm over her shoulder_.]
JOHN. Yes, and tell him you go back to New York without any travelling
companion this season.
LAURA. You want to hear me tell him?
JOHN. [_With a smile_.] We're partners, aren't we? I ought to be in on
any important transaction like that, but it's just as you say.
LAURA. I think it would be right you should. I'll call him now.
JOHN. All right. [_Crossing to stairway_. LAURA _crosses to door;
twilight is becoming very much more pronounced_.
LAURA. [_At door_.] Mr. Brockton! Oh, Mr. Brockton!
WILL. [_Off stage_.] Yes.
LAURA. Can you spare a moment to come out here?
WILL. Just a moment.
LAURA. You must come now.
WILL. All right. [_She waits for him and after a reasonable interval
he appears at door_.] Laura, it's a shame to lure me away from that
mad speculation in there. I thought I might make my fare back to New
York if I played until next summer. What's up?
LAURA. Mr. Madison wants to talk to you, or rather I do, and I want
him to listen.
WILL. [_His manner changing to one of cold, stolid calculation_.] Very
well. [_Comes down off step of house_.
LAURA. I'm going home day after to-morrow on the Overland Limited.
WILL. I know.
LAURA. It's awfully kind of you to come out here, but under the
circumstances I'd rather you'd take an earlier or a later train.
WILL. And may I ask what circumstances you refer to?
LAURA. Mr. Madison and I are going to be married. [_Pause_.] He [Will
_looks inquiringly at_ JOHN.] knows of your former friendship for me,
and he has the idea that it must end.
WILL. Then the Riverside Drive proposition, with Burgess's show thrown
in, is declared off, eh?
LAURA. Yes; everything is absolutely declared off.
WILL. Can't even be friends any more, eh?
JOHN _crosses, and, taking_ LAURA'S _arm, passes her over to seat; his
back is partly to audience_.
JOHN. You could hardly expect Miss Murdock to be friendly with you
under the circumstances. You could hardly expect me to [LAURA _puts
scarf across her shoulders_.] sanction any such friendship.
WILL. I think I understand your position, young man, and I perfectly
agree with you, that is--if your plans come out successfully.
JOHN. Thank you.
LAURA. Then everything is settled [_Crossing in front of_ JOHN
_and facing_ WILL, _back to audience_.] just the way it ought to
be--frankly and aboveboard?
WILL. Why, I guess so. If I was perfectly confident that this new
arrangement was going to result happily for you both, I think it would
be great, only I'm somewhat doubtful, for when people become serious
and then fail, I know how hard those things hit, having _been_ hit
JOHN. So you think we're making a wrong move and there isn't a chance
WILL. No, I don't make any such gloomy prophecy. If you make Laura a
good husband, and she makes you a good wife, and together you win
out, I'll be mighty glad. As far as I am concerned I shall absolutely
forget every thought of Laura's friendship for me.
LAURA. I thought you'd be just that way.
[_Crosses to_ WILL, _shakes hands_.
WILL. [_Rising_.] And now I must be off. [_Takes her by both hands
and shakes them_.] Good-bye, girlie! Madison, good luck. [_Crosses to_
JOHN. _Shakes_ JOHN'S _hands; looks into his eyes_.] I think you've
got the stuff in you to succeed if your foot don't slip.
JOHN. What do you mean by my foot slipping, Mr. Brockton?
WILL. You want me to tell you?
JOHN. I sure do.
WILL. [_Turns to Laura_.] Laura, run into the house and see if
Mrs. Williams has won another quarter. [LAURA _sinks fearfully into
chair_.] Madison and I are going to smoke a cigar and have a friendly
chat, and when we get through I think we'll both be better off.
LAURA. You are sure that everything will be all right?
LAURA _looks at_ JOHN _for assurance, and exits; he nods
WILL. Have a cigar?
[SERVANT _places lamp on table inside house_.
JOHN. No, I'll smoke my own.
[_Crosses down right; sits in armchair_.
WILL. What is your business? [_Crosses up to seat centre; sits_.
JOHN. What's yours?
WILL. I'm a broker.
JOHN. I'm a reporter, so I've got something on you.
WILL. What kind?
JOHN. General utility, dramatic critic on Sunday nights.
WILL. Pay you well?
JOHN. [_Turns, looking at_ WILL.] That's pretty fresh. What's the
WILL. I'm interested. I'm a plain man, Mr. Madison, and I do business
in a plain way. Now, if I ask you a few questions and discuss this
matter with you in a frank way, don't get it in your head that I'm
jealous or sore, but simply I don't want either of you people to make
a move that's going to cost you a lot of pain and trouble. If you want
me to talk sense to you, all right. If you don't we'll drop it now.
What's the answer?
JOHN. I'll take a chance, but before you start I want to tell you that
the class of people that you belong to I have no use for--they don't
speak my language. You are what they call a manipulator of stocks;
that means that you're living on the weaknesses of other people, and
it almost means that you get your daily bread, yes, and your cake and
your wine, too, from the production of others. You're a "gambler
under cover." Show me a man who's dealing bank, and he's free and
aboveboard. You can figure the percentage against you, and then, if
you buck the tiger and get stung, you do it with your eyes open. With
your financiers the game is crooked twelve months of the year, and,
from a business point of view, I think you are a crook. Now I guess we
understand each other. If you've got anything to say, why, spill it.
WILL _rises, comes down toward_ JOHN, _showing anger in his tones_.
WILL. We are not talking business now, but women. How much money do
[_Crosses to chair left of table; gets it_.
JOHN. Understand I don't think it is any of your damn business, but
I'm going through with you on this proposition, just to see how the
land lays. But take my tip, you be mighty careful how you speak about
the girl if you're not looking for trouble.
WILL. All right, but how much did you say you made?
[_Crosses over to centre of stage, carrying chair; sits_.
JOHN. Thirty dollars a week.
WILL. Do you know how much Laura could make if she just took a job on
her own merits?
JOHN. As I don't intend to share in her salary, I never took the
trouble to inquire.
WILL. She'd get about forty dollars.
JOHN. That laps me ten.
WILL. How are you going to support her? Her cabs cost more than your
salary, and she pays her week's salary for an every-day walking-hat.
She's always had a maid; her simplest gown flirts with a
hundred-dollar note; her manicurist and her hair-dresser will eat up
as much as you pay for your board. She never walks when it's stormy,
and every afternoon there's her ride in the park. She dines at the
best places in New York, and one meal costs her more than you make in
a day. Do you imagine for a moment that she's going to sacrifice these
luxuries for any great length of time?
JOHN. I intend to give them to her.
WILL. On thirty dollars a week?
JOHN. I propose to go out and make a lot of money.
JOHN. I haven't decided yet, but you can bet your sweet life that if I
ever try and make up my mind that it's got to be, it's got to be.
WILL. Never have made it, have you?
JOHN. I have never tried.
WILL. Then how do you know you can?
JOHN. Well, I'm honest and energetic. If you can get great wealth the
way you go along, I don't see why I can't earn a little.
WILL. There's where you make a mistake. Money-getting doesn't always
come with brilliancy. I know a lot of fellows in New York who can
paint a great picture, write a good play, and, when it comes to
oratory, they've got me lashed to a pole; but they're always in debt.
They never get anything for what they do. In other words, young man,
they are like a sky-rocket without a stick,--plenty of brilliancy, but
no direction, and they blow up and fizzle all over the ground.
JOHN. That's New York. I'm in Colorado, and I guess you know there is
WILL. I hope you'll make your money, because I tell you frankly
that's the only way you can hold this girl. She's full of heroics now,
self-sacrifice, and all the things that go to make up the third act of
a play, but the minute she comes to darn her stockings, wash out her
own handkerchiefs and dry them on the window, and send out for a pail
of coffee and a sandwich for lunch, take it from me it will go Blah!
[_Rises, crosses to front of table with chair, places it with back to
him, braces his back on it, facing_ JOHN.] You're in Colorado writing
her letters once a day with no checks in them. That may be all right
for some girl who hasn't tasted the joy of easy living, full of the
good things of life, but one who for ten years has been doing very
well in the way these women do is not going to let up for any great
length of time. So take my advice if you want to hold her. Get that
money quick, and don't be so damned particular how you get it either.
JOHN'S _patience is evidently severely tried. He approaches_ WILL,
_who remains impassive_.
JOHN. Of course you know you've got the best of me.
JOHN. We're guests.
WILL. No one's listening.
JOHN. 'Tisn't that. If it was anywhere but here, if there was any way
to avoid all the nasty scandal, I'd come a shootin' for you, and you
WILL. Gun-fighter, eh?
JOHN. Perhaps. Let me tell you this. I don't know how you make your
money, but I know what you do with it. You buy yourself a small circle
of sycophants; you pay them well for feeding your vanity; and then you
pose,--pose with a certain frank admission of vice and degradation.
And those who aren't quite as brazen as you call it manhood. Manhood?
[_Crossing slowly to armchair, sits._] Why, you don't know what the
word means. It's the attitude of a pup and a cur.
WILL. [_Angrily_.] Wait a minute [_Crosses to_ JOHN.], young man, or
JOHN _rises quickly. Both men stand confronting each other for a
moment with fists clenched. They are on the very verge of a personal
encounter. Both seem to realize that they have gone too far_.
JOHN. You'll what?
WILL. Lose my temper and make a damn fool of myself. That's something
I've not done for--let me see--why, it must be nearly twenty
years--oh, yes, fully that.
[_He smiles_; JOHN _relaxes and takes one step back_.
JOHN. Possibly it's been about that length of time since you were
WILL. Possibly--but you see, Mr. Madison, after all, you're at fault.
WILL. Yes, the very first thing you did was to lose your temper. Now
people who always lose their temper will never make a lot of money,
and you admit that that is a great necessity--I mean now--to you.
JOHN. I can't stand for the brutal way you talk. [_Crosses up to seat,
picks up newspaper, slams it down angrily on seat, and sits with elbow
WILL. But you have got to stand it. The truth is never gentle.
[_Crosses up and sits left of_ JOHN.] Most conditions in life are
unpleasant, and, if you want to meet them squarely, you have got to
realize the unpleasant point of view. That's the only way you can
fight them and win.
JOHN [_Turns to_ WILL.] Still, I believe Laura means what she says,
in spite of all you say and the disagreeable logic of it. I think she
loves me. If she should ever want to go back to the old way of getting
along, I think she'd tell me so. So you see, Brockton, all your talk
is wasted, and we'll drop the subject.
[_Crosses down and sits in armchair_.
WILL. And if she should ever go back and come to me, I am going to
insist that she let you know all about it. It'll be hard enough to
lose her, caring for her the way you do, but it would hurt a lot more
to be double-crossed.
JOHN. [_Sarcastically_.] That's very kind. Thanks!
WILL. Don't get sore. It's common sense and it goes, does it not?
JOHN. [_Turns to_ WILL.] Just what goes?
WILL. If she leaves you first, you are to tell me, and if she comes to
me I'll make her let you know just when and why.
JOHN _is leaning on arm, facing_ WILL; _his hand shoots out in a
gesture of warning to_ WILL.
JOHN. Look out!
WILL. I said common sense.
JOHN. All right.
WILL. Agreed? [_A pause_.
JOHN. You're on.
_By this time the stage is black and all that can be seen is the glow
of the two cigars. Piano in the next room is heard_. JOHN _crosses
slowly and deliberately to door, looks in, throws cigar away over the
terrace, exits into house, closes doors, and, as_ WILL _is seated on
terrace, puffing cigar, the red coal of which is alone visible, a slow
SCENE. _Six months have elapsed. The furnished room of_ LAURA MURDOCK,
_second story back of an ordinary, cheap theatrical lodging-house in
the theatre district of New York. The house is evidently of a type of
the old-fashioned brown-stone front, with high ceilings, dingy walls,
and long, rather insecure windows. The woodwork is depressingly dark.
The ceiling is cracked, the paper is old and spotted and in places
loose. There is a door leading to the hallway. There is a large
old-fashioned wardrobe in which are hung a few old clothes, most
of them a good deal worn and shabby, showing that the owner_--LAURA
MURDOCK--_has had a rather hard time of it since leaving Colorado
in the first act. The doors of this wardrobe must be equipped with
springs so they will open outward, and also furnished with wires so
they can be controlled from the back. This is absolutely necessary,
owing to "business" which is done during the progress of the act. The
drawer in the bottom of the wardrobe is open at rise. This is filled
with a lot of rumpled, tissue-paper and other rubbish. An old pair of
shoes is seen at the upper end of the wardrobe on the floor. There is
an armchair over which is thrown an ordinary kimono, and on top of
the wardrobe are a number of magazines and old books, and an unused
parasol wrapped up in tissue paper._
_The dresser, which is upstage, against the wall, is in keeping with
the general meanness, and its adornment consists of old postcards
stuck in between the mirror and its frame, with some well-worn veils
and ribbons hung on the side. On the dresser is a pincushion, a bottle
of cheap perfume, purple in colour and nearly empty; a common crockery
match-holder, containing matches, which must be practicable; a
handkerchief-box, powder-box and puff, rouge-box and rouge paw,
hand mirror, small alcohol curling-iron heater, which must also be
practicable, as it is used in the "business" of the act; scissors,
curling-tongs, hair comb and brush, and a small cheap picture of_ JOHN
MADISON; _a small work-box containing a thimble and thread,--and stuck
in the pincushion are a couple of needles, threaded. Directly to the
left of the bureau, with the door to the outside closet intervening,
is a broken-down washstand, on which is a basin half full of water, a
bottle of tooth-powder, tooth brushes and holder, soap and soap-dish,
and other cheap toilet articles, and a small drinking-glass. Hung on
the corner of the washstand is a soiled towel. Hung on the rack across
the top of the washstand one can see a pair of stockings. On the floor
in front of the washstand is a pitcher half full of water; also a
large waste-water jar of the cheapest type._
_Below the washstand, and with the head against the wall, is a
three-quarter old wooden bed, also showing the general decay of the
entire room. Tacked on the head of this bed is a large photo of_ JOHN
MADISON, _with a small bow of dainty blue ribbon at the top, covering
the tack. Under the photo are arranged half a dozen cheap, artificial
violets, in pitiful recognition of the girl's love for her absent
_Under the mattress at the head of the bed is a heavy cardboard box,
about thirty inches long, seven inches wide and four inches deep,
containing about one hundred and twenty-five letters and eighty
telegrams, tied in about eight bundles with dainty ribbon. One bundle
must contain all practical letters of several closely written pages
each, each letter having been opened. They must be written upon
business paper and envelopes, such as are used in newspaper offices
and by business men._
_Under the pillow at the head of the bed is carelessly thrown a
woman's night-dress. On the bed is an old book, open, with face
downward, and beside it is an apple which some one has been nibbling.
Across the foot of the bed is a soiled quilt, untidily folded. The
pillows are hollow in the centre, as if having been used lately. At
the foot of the bed is a small table, with soiled and ink-stained
cover, upon which are a cheap pitcher, containing some withered
carnations, and a desk-pad, with paper, pen, ink, and envelopes
_Against the wall below the bed is an old mantel-piece and fireplace
with iron grate, such as are used in houses of this type. On the
mantel-piece are photos of actors and actresses, an old mantel clock
in the centre, in front of which is a box of cheap peppermint candy in
large pieces, and a plate with two apples upon it; some cheap pieces
of bric-a-brac and a little vase containing joss-sticks, such as one
might burn to improve the atmosphere of these dingy, damp houses.
Below the mantel-piece is a thirty-six inch theatre trunk, with
theatre labels on it, in the tray of which are articles of clothing,
a small box of thread, and a bundle of eight pawn tickets. Behind the
trunk is a large cardboard box. Hanging from the ceiling directly
over the table is a single arm gas-jet, from which is hung a turkey
wish-bone. On the jet is a little wire arrangement to hold small
articles for heating. Beside the table is a chair. Under the bed are a
pair of bedroom slippers and a box. Between the bed and the mantel
is a small tabourette on which are a book and a candle-stick with
the candle half burned. On the floor in front of the door is a
slipper,--also another in front of the dresser,--as if they had been
thrown carelessly down. On the wardrobe door, on the down-stage side,
is tacked another photo of_ JOHN MADISON.
_In an alcove off left is a table on which is a small oil stove, two
cups, saucers and plates, a box of matches, tin coffee-box, and a
small Japanese teapot. On a projection outside the window is a pint
milk bottle, half filled with milk, and an empty benzine bottle, which
is labelled. Both are covered with snow._
_The backing shows a street snow-covered. In arranging the properties
it must be remembered that in the wardrobe is a box of Uneeda
biscuits, with one end torn open. There is a door down right, opening
inward, leading into the hallway. The window is at back, running from
floor nearly to the ceiling. This window does not rise, but opens in
the manner of the French or door window._
_On the outside of the window covering the same is an iron guard such
as is used in New York on the lower back windows. The rods running up
and down are about four inches apart. There is a projection outside
the window such as would be formed by a storm door in the basement;
running the full length of the window and about thirty inches wide,
raised about a foot from the floor in front and about nine inches in
the back, there is opening inward a door at left back, leading into
a small alcove, as has been mentioned before. The door is half glass,
the glass part being the upper half, and is ajar when the curtain
rises. A projection at fireplace such as would be made for a chimney
is in the wall which runs from left centre diagonally to left first
AT RISE _the stage is empty. After a pause_ LAURA _enters, passes the
dresser, places umbrella at the right, end of it against wall, crosses
to back of armchair, removes gloves, lays them over back of chair,
takes off coat and hat, hangs hat on end of wardrobe, and puts coat
inside; notices old slipper in front of dresser and one on the extreme
right, and with impatience picks them up and puts them in the
wardrobe drawer. Then crosses to dresser, gets needle and thread off
pincushion, and mends small rip in glove, after which she puts gloves
in top drawer of dresser, crosses to extreme end of dresser, and gets
handkerchief out of box, takes up bottle containing purple perfume,
holds it up so she can see there is only a small quantity left,
sprinkles a drop on handkerchief carefully, so as not to use too much,
looks at bottle again to see how much is left, places it on dresser;
goes to up-stage side of bed, kneels on head of the bed and looks
lovingly at photo of_ JOHN MADISON, _and finally pulls up the
mattress, takes out box of letters, and opens it. She then sits down
in Oriental fashion, with her feet under her, selects a bundle of
letters, unties the ribbon, and takes out a letter such as has been
hereinbefore described, glances it over, puts it down in her lap, and
again takes a long look at the picture of_ JOHN MADISON. ANNIE _is
heard coming upstairs_. LAURA _looks quickly towards the door, puts
the letters back in box, and hurriedly places box under mattress, and
replaces pillow_. ANNIE _knocks on door_. LAURA _rises and crosses to
LAURA. Come in.
ANNIE, _a chocolate-colored negress, enters. She is slovenly in
appearance, but must not in any way denote the "mammy." She is the
type one encounters in cheap theatrical lodging-houses. She has a
letter in her hand,--also a clean towel folded,--and approaches_
LAURA. Hello, Annie.
ANNIE. Heah's yo' mail, Miss Laura.
LAURA. [_Taking letter._] Thank you!
[_She looks at the address and does not open it._
ANNIE. One like dat comes every mornin', don't it? Used to all be
postmahked Denver. Must 'a' moved. [_Trying to look over_ LAURA'S
_shoulder_; LAURA _turns and sees her_; ANNIE _looks away._] Where is
dat place called Goldfield, Miss Laura?
LAURA. In Nevada.
ANNIE. In _Nevada_?
LAURA. Yes, Nevada.
ANNIE. [_Draws her jacket closer around her as if chilly._] Must
be mighty smaht to write yuh every day. De pos'man brings it 'leven
o'clock mos' always, sometimes twelve, and again sometimes tehn; but
it comes every day, don't it?
LAURA. I know.
ANNIE. [_Crosses to right of armchair, brushes it off and makes an
effort to read letter, leaning across chair._] Guess must be from yo'
husban', ain't it?
LAURA. No, I haven't any.
ANNIE. [_Crossing to centre triumphantly._] Dat's what Ah tole Mis'
Farley when she was down talkin' about you dis morning. She said if he
all was yo' husband he might do somethin' to help you out. Ah told her
Ah didn't think you had any husban'. Den she says you ought to have
one, you're so pretty.
LAURA. Oh, Annie!
ANNIE. [_Sees door open; goes and bangs it shut._] Der ain't a decent
door in dis old house. Mis' Farley said yo' might have mos' any man
you [_Hangs clean towel on washstand._] wanted just for de askin', but
Ah said yuh [_Takes newspaper and books off bed, and places them on
table._] was too particular about the man yo' 'd want. Den she did a
heap o' talking.
LAURA. About what? [_Places letter open on table, looks at hem of
skirt, discovers a rip, rises, crosses up to dresser, gets needle,
crosses down to trunk; opens and takes thimble out; closes lid of
tray, sits on it, and sews skirt during scene._
ANNIE. [_At bed, fussing around, folds nightgown and places it under
pillow._] Well, you know, Mis' Farley she's been havin' so much
trouble wid her roomers. Yestuhday dat young lady on de second flo'
front, she lef'. She's goin' wiv some troupe on the road. She owed her
room for three weeks and jus' had to leave her trunk. [_Crosses and
fusses over table._] My! how Mis' Farley did scold her. Mis' Farley
let on she could have paid dat money if she wanted to, but somehow Ah
guess she couldn't--
[_Reads letter on table._
LAURA. [_Sees her, angrily exclaims._] Annie!
ANNIE. [_In confusion, brushing off table._]--for if she could she
wouldn't have left her trunk, would she, Miss Laura?
[_Crosses to armchair, and picks up kimono off back._
LAURA. No, I suppose not. What did Mrs. Farley say about me?
ANNIE. Oh! nothin' much. [_Crosses left and stands._
LAURA. Well, what?
ANNIE. She kinder say somethin' 'bout yo' being three weeks behind in
yo' room rent, and she said she t'ought it was 'bout time yuh handed
her somethin', seein' as how yuh must o' had some stylish friends when
yuh come here.
LAURA. Who, for instance?
ANNIE. Ah don't know. Mis' Farley said some of 'em might slip yo'
enough jest to help yuh out. [_Pause._] Ain't yo' got nobody to take
care of you at all, Miss Laura?
[_Hangs kimono over back of armchair._
LAURA. No! No one.
ANNIE. Dat's too bad.
ANNIE. [_Crossing again._] Mis' Farley says yuh wouldn't have no
trouble at all gettin' any man to take care of yuh if yuh wanted to.
LAURA. [_With sorrowful shudder._] Please [_Doors of wardrobe open
very slowly._] don't, Annie.
ANNIE. Dere's a gemman [_Playing with corner of tablecloth._] dat
calls on one of de ladies from the Hippodrome, in de big front room
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