Washington Square Plays
Part 1 out of 2
WASHINGTON SQUARE PLAYS
Volume XX, The Drama League Series of Plays
Washington Square Plays
1. The Clod . . . . . By Lewis Beach
2. Eugenically Speaking . By Edward Goodman
3. Overtones . . . . . By Alice Gerstenberg
4. Helena's Husband . . . By Philip Moeller
WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY WALTER PRICHARD EATON
PREFACE BY EDWARD GOODMAN
Director of the Washington Square Players
GARDEN CITY NEW YORK
DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
Copyright, 1916, by
DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
THE CLOD. COPYRIGHT, 1914, BY EMMET LEWIS BEACH
EUGENICALLY SPEAKING. COPYRIGHT, 1914, BY EDWARD GOODMAN
OVERTONES. COPYRIGHT, 1913, BY ALICE GERSTENBERG
HELENA'S HUSBAND. COPYRIGHT, 1915, BY PHILIP MOELLER
In its present form these plays are dedicated to the reading
public only, and no performance of them may be given. Any piracy
or infringement will be prosecuted in accordance with the
penalties provided by the United States Statutes:
SECTION 28. That any person who willfully and for profit shall
infringe any copyright secured by this Act, or who shall
knowingly and willfully aid or abet such infringement, shall be
deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof shall
be punished by imprisonment for not exceeding one year or by a
fine of not less than one hundred dollars nor more than one
thousand dollars or both, in the discretion of the court.
SECTION 29. That any person, who with fraudulent intent, shall
insert or impress any notice of copyright required by this Act,
or words of the same purport, in or upon any uncopyrighted
article, or with fraudulent intent shall remove or alter the
copyright notice upon any article duly copyrighted shall be
guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not less than
one hundred dollars and not more than one thousand dollars. Act
of March 4, 1909.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES AT THE COUNTRY LIFE PRESS, GARDEN
CITY, N. Y.
The rigid conventionality of the theatre has been frequently
remarked upon. Why the world should ever fear a radical, indeed,
is hard to see, since he has against him the whole dead weight of
society; but least of all need the radical be dreaded in the
theatre. When the average person pays money for his amusements,
he is little inclined to be pleased with something which doesn't
amuse him: and what amuses him, nine times out of ten, is what
has amused him. That is why changes in the theatre are relatively
slow, and customs long prevail, even till it seems they may
corrupt the theatrical world.
For many generations in our playhouse it was the custom to follow
the long play of the evening with an "afterpiece," generally in
one act, but always brief, and almost always gay, if not
farcical. Audiences, which in the early days assembled before
seven o'clock, had to be sent home happy. After the tragedy, the
slap-stick or the loud guffaw; after "Romeo and Juliet," Cibber's
"Hob in the Well"; after "King Lear," "The Irish Widow." (These
two illustrations are taken at random from the programs of the
Charleston theatre in 1773.) This custom persisted until
comparatively recent times. The fathers and mothers of the
present generation can remember when William Warren, at the
Boston Museum, would turn of an evening from such a part as his
deep-hearted Sir Peter Teazle to the loud and empty vociferations
of a Morton farce. The entertainment in those days would hardly
have been considered complete without the "afterpiece," or, as
time went on, sometimes the "curtain raiser." It is by no means
certain that theatre seats were always cheaper than to-day. In
some cases, certainly, they were relatively quite as high. But it
is certain that you got more for your money. You frequently saw
your favorite actor in two contrasted roles, two contrasted
styles of acting perhaps, and you saw him from early evening till
a decently late hour. You didn't get to the theatre at 8.30, wait
for the curtain to rise on a thin-spun drawing-room comedy at
8.45, and begin hunting for your wraps at 10.35. One hates to
think, in fact, what would have happened to a manager fifty years
ago who didn't give more than that for the price of a ticket. Our
fathers and mothers watched their pennies more sharply than we
For various reasons, one of them no doubt being the growth of
cheaper forms of amusement and the consequent desertion from the
traditional playhouse of a considerable body of those who least
like, and can least afford, to spend money irrespective of
returns, the "afterpiece" and "curtain raiser" have practically
vanished from our stage. They have so completely vanished, in
fact, that theatre goers have lost not only the habit of
expecting them, but the imaginative flexibility to enjoy them. If
you should play "Romeo and Juliet" to-day and then follow it with
a one-act farce, your audience would be uncomfortably bewildered.
They would be unable to make the necessary adjustment of mood. If
you focus your vision rapidly from a near to a far object, you
probably suffer from eye-strain. Similarly, the jump from one
play to the other in the theatre gives a modern audience mind- or
mood-strain. It is largely a matter of habit. We, to-day, have
lost the trick through lack of practice. The old custom is dead;
we are fixed in a new one. If Maude Adams, for instance, should
follow "The Little Minister" with a roaring farce, or Sothern
should turn on the same evening from "If I Were King" to "Box and
Cox," we should feel that some artistic unity had been rudely
violated; nor am I at all sure, being a product of this
generation, but that we should be quite right.
Matters standing as they do, then, it seems to me that the talk
we frequently hear about reviving "the art of the one-act play"
by restoring the curtain raisers or afterpieces to the programs
of our theatres is reactionary and futile. All recent attempts to
pad out a slim play with an additional short one have failed to
meet with approval, even when the short piece was so masterly a
work as Barrie's "The Will," splendidly acted by John Drew, or
the same author's "Twelve Pound Look," acted by Miss Barrymore.
Nor is it at all certain that the one-act plays of our parents
and grandparents and great-grandparents, the names of which you
may read by the thousands on ancient playbills, added anything to
the store of dramatic literature. Some of them are decently
entombed in the catacombs of Lacy's British Drama, or still
available for amateurs in French's library. Did you ever try to
read one? Of course, there was "Box and Cox," but it is doubtful
if there will be any great celebration at the tercentenary of
Morton's death. For the most part, those ancient afterpieces were
frankly padding, conventional farces to fill up the bill and send
the audiences home happy. To the real art of the drama or the
development of the one-act play as a form of serious literary
expression, they made precious little contribution. They were a
theatrical tradition, a convention.
But the one-act play, nonetheless, has an obvious right to
existence, as much as the short story, and there are plentiful
proofs that it can be as terse, vivid, and significant. Most
novelists don't tack on a short story at the end of their books
for full measure, but issue their contes either in collections
or in the pages of the magazines. What similar chances are
there, or can there be, for the one-act play, the dramatic short
An obvious chance is offered by vaudeville. The vaudeville
audience is in the mood for rapid alterations of attention; it
has the habit of variety. This is just as much a convention of
vaudeville as the single play is now a convention of the
traditional theatre. Indeed, anything longer than a one-act play
in vaudeville would be frowned upon. Any one wishing to push the
analogy can find more than one correspondence between a
vaudeville program and the contents of a "popular" magazine;
each, certainly, is the present refuge of short fiction. Yet
vaudeville can hardly be considered an ideal cradle for a serious
dramatic art. (Shall we say that the analogy to the "popular"
magazine still holds?) The average "playlet" -- atrocious word --
in the variety theatres is a dreadful thing, crude, obvious,
often sensational or sentimental, usually very badly acted at
least in the minor rôles, and still more a frank padding, a
thing of the footlights, than the afterpiece of our parents. It
has been frequently said by those optimists who are forever
discovering the birth of the arts in popular amusements that
vaudeville audiences will appreciate and applaud the best. This
is only in part true. They will appreciate the best juggler, the
cleverest trained dog, the most appealing ballad singer such as
Chevalier or Harry Lauder. But they will no more appreciate those
subtleties of dramatic art which must have free play in the
serious development of the one-act play than the readers of a
"popular" magazine in America (or England either) would
appreciate Kipling's "They," or George Moore's "The Wild Goose,"
or de Maupassant's "La Ficelle." To expect them to is silly; and
to expect that because the supreme, vivid example of any form is
comprehensible to all classes and all mixtures of classes,
therefore the supreme example is going to be developed out of the
commonplace stuff such mixed audiences daily enjoy, is equally to
misunderstand the evolution of an art product in our complex
modern world. But, indeed, the matter scarce calls for argument.
Vaudeville itself furnishes the answer. Where are its one-act
plays which can be called dramatic literature? It is a hopeful
sign, perhaps, that certain of the plays in this volume have
percolated into the varieties! But they were not cradled there.
If the traditional theatre, then, is now in a rut which affords
no room for the one-act play, and if vaudeville is an empty
cradle for this branch of dramatic art, where shall we turn? The
one-act play to-day has found refuge and encouragement in the
experimental theatres, and among the amateurs. The best one-act
plays so far written in English have come out of Ireland, chiefly
from the Abbey Theatre in Dublin where they were first acted by a
company recruited from amateur players. Synge's "Riders to the
Sea," Yeats's "The Hour Glass," the comedies of Lady Gregory and
others of that school, have not only proved the power of this
form to carry the sense of reality, but its power as well to
reach tragic intensity or high poetic beauty. The sombre
loveliness and cleansing reality of Synge's masterpiece are
almost unrivaled in our short-play literature. Not from the Abbey
Theatre, but from the pen of an Irishman, Lord Dunsany, have come
such short fantasies as "The Gods of the Mountain" and "The
Glittering Gate," which the so-called "commercial" theatre has
quite ignored, but which have been played extensively by amateurs
and experimental theatres throughout America; and the latter
piece, especially, has probably been provocative of more
experimental stagecraft and a greater stimulation of poetic fancy
among amateur producers than any drama, short or long, written in
When the Washington Square Players, for the most part amateurs of
the theatre, began their experiment in the spring of 1915, they
began with a bill of one-act plays. With but two exceptions, all
their succeeding productions have been composed of one-act plays,
usually in groups of four, the last one for the evening sometimes
being a pantomime. (It should be noted that a program of four
one-act plays has the unity of a collection. A short play
following a long one is overbalanced and the program seems to
most of us awry.) The reason for this choice was not entirely a
devotion to the art of the one-act play. When players are
inexperienced, it is far easier to present a group of plays of
one act than it is to sustain a single set of characters for an
entire evening. The action moves more rapidly, the tale is told
before the monotony of the actors becomes too apparent. Moreover,
the difference between the plays helps to furnish that variety
which the players themselves cannot supply by their
impersonations. Still again, it was no doubt easier for the
Washington Square Players to find novelties within their capacity
in the one-act form than in the longer medium. At any rate, they
did produce one-act plays, and are still producing them.
Four of these plays are presented in this book, four which won
approval first on the stage of the Bandbox Theatre and later,
acted by other players, in various other theatres. One of them,
"Overtones," is a theatrical novelty which if prolonged beyond
the one-act form would become monotonous. Another, "Helena's
Husband," is a bantering satire, an intellectual "skit," which
would equally suffer by prolongation. "Eugenically Speaking"
could certainly bear no further extension, unless its mood were
deepened into seriousness. Finally, "The Clod" approaches the
true episodic roundness of the one-act drama, or the short story,
in its best estate. Here is a single episode of reality, taken
from its context and set apart for contemplation. It begins at
the proper moment for understanding, it ends when the tale is
told. There is here more than a hint of the art of Guy de
Maupassant. And the episode is theatrically exciting -- a prime
requisite for practical performance, and spiritually significant
-- a prime requisite for the serious consideration of intelligent
spectators. In these four plays, then, written for the Washington
Square Players, the one-act form demonstrates its right to our
attention and cultivation, for it takes interesting ideas or
situations which are incapable of expansion into longer dramas
and makes intelligent entertainment of what otherwise would be
Because such organizations as the Abbey Theatre have demonstrated
the value of the one-act play in portraying local life, in
stimulating a local stage literature; because such organizations
in America as the Washington Square Players have demonstrated the
superior value of the one-act play as a weapon with which to win
recognition and build up the histrionic capacity to tackle longer
works; and, finally, because the one-act play offers such obvious
advantages to amateurs, it seems fairly certain that in the
immediate future, at least, the one-act play in America, as a
serious art form, will be cultivated by the experimental
theatres, the so-called "Little Theatres," and by the more
ambitious and talented amateurs. As our experimental theatres
increase in number -- and they are increasing -- it will probably
play its part, and perhaps no insignificant a part, in the
development of a national drama through the development of a
local drama and the cultivation of a taste for self-expression in
various communities. It is only when these experimental theatres
are sufficient in number, and the amateur spirit has been
sufficiently aroused in various communities, that the commercial
theatre of tradition will be seriously influenced. When that time
comes -- if it does come -- one of the results will undoubtedly
be a more flexible theatre, the growth of repertoire companies,
the expansion of the activities of popular players. In a more
flexible theatre, where repertoire is a rule rather than a
strange and dreaded experiment, and where actors pride themselves
on versatility and the public honors them for it, the one-act
play will again have its place, but not then as a curtain raiser
or afterpiece, to pad out an evening or "send the suburbs home
happy," but as a serious branch of dramatic art. In that happy
day Barrie will not be the only first-class talent in the
commercial playhouse daring the one-act form, or at least able
to induce a commercial manager to produce his work in that form.
But that time is not yet. The one-act play in our country to-day
is an ally of the amateurs and the innovators. For that very
reason, perhaps, it is the form which will bear the most watching
for signs of imagination and for flashes of insight and
WALTER PRICHARD EATON.
PREFACE TO THE PLAYS
If fools did not rush in where theatrical angels fear to tread,
this Preface would never have been written. Two years back the
Washington Square Players were called, by many who had theatrical
experience, fools. Now some term us pioneers. The future may
write us fools again, or something better -- the conclusion being
that the difference between the fool and the pioneer lies in the
outcome; the secret, that the motive power behind both is
Without enthusiasm the Washington Square Players could never have
come into existence, nor survived. From the first, when we had
barely enough money for rent and none for the costumes and
properties we borrowed and disguised, ours was an enthusiasm
strong in quantity as well as quality. The theatre is a peculiar
art. Both in production and reception it requires numbers and an
enduring faith. Many a similar attempt has failed because its
experimentation and expression have been restricted by a single
point of view. Many have not continued because the desire has
waned in the face of the hardships and sacrifices entailed. But
the Players rightly had a plural name. We were, and are, a
collection of many individuals -- actors, authors, artists, and
art-lovers -- all fired with the sincere desire to give to
playgoers something they had not been able previously to find on
the American stage. And our desire has been strong enough to face
and fight, and to continue to face and fight, the ever-growing,
ever-changing problems of finance, art, and human
inter-relations, which are the inescapable factors of the
We believed in the democracy of the drama. But we understand
democracy to mean, not the gratification of the taste of the many
to the exclusion of that of the few, but the satisfaction of all
tastes. We had no quarrel with the stage as it was, save that
there wasn't enough of it. We felt there was a public that wanted
something other than it could get -- as evidenced by the rise of
such institutions as the Drama League -- and that that public was
large enough to support what it wanted once it learned where to
find it. The problem was to bridge the gap of waiting. And it was
met by the sacrifices of all those who worked at first for
nothing, and then for little more, so that the Players would not
fall into debt in the process of reaching an audience. As an able
New York dramatic critic stated, the establishment of the
Washington Square Players was merely one more proof that in
America, as elsewhere, joy was a greater incentive to work than
This enthusiasm among the workers, both in quality and quantity,
was generously shared by the spectators. The public which looked
for plays, acting and producing different from what it could find
on the regular stage, proved us right in believing that it was
sufficiently large and interested to warrant our experiment.
Critics and patrons gave us from the first, and we hope will
continue to give us, that personal interest and sympathetic
appreciation which have been among the most vital factors
contributing to our growth.
So far we have produced thirty-two plays, of one-act and greater
length, and of these twenty have been American. The emphasis of
our interest has been placed on the American playwright, because
we feel that no American theatre can be really successful unless
it develops a native drama to present and interpret those
emotions, ideas, characters, and conditions with which we, as
Americans, are primarily concerned.
Of these twenty American plays the Drama League has selected four
for this volume of its series. Excluding comment on my farce --
for an author is notoriously unfit to judge his own work -- I
think it may be said that these represent a fair example of the
success the Players have met with in trying to encourage the
writing of American plays with "freshness and sincerity of theme
and development; skilful delineation of character; non-didactic
presentation of an idea; and dramatic and esthetic effectiveness
without theatricalism." They are the early products of a new
movement in the American theatre of which we are happy to be a
part, and if their publication meets with the sympathetic,
appreciative reception that has been accorded their production,
we feel and hope that not only these authors, not only the
Washington Square Players, but all of the workers in this new
movement will be encouraged and stimulated to a further effort, a
greater mastery, and a bigger achievement.
Director of the Washington Square Players.
Comedy Theatre, New York, 1916.
I. THE CLOD
A One-Act Play
Copyright, 1914, by
Emmet Lewis Beach, Jr.
(Note -- The author acknowledges indebtedness to "The Least of
These," by Donal Hamilton Haines, a short story which suggested
"The Clod" was produced by the Washington Square Players, under
the direction of Holland Hudson, at the Bandbox Theatre, New York
City, beginning January 10, 1916.
In the cast, in the order of their appearance, were the
MARY TRASK . . . . Josephine A. Meyer
THADDEUS TRASK . . . John King
A NORTHERN SOLDIER . . Glenn Hunter
A SOUTHERN SERGEANT . Robert Strange
A SOUTHERN PRIVATE . . Spalding Hall
The Scene was designed by John King.
The Clod" was subsequently revived by the Washington Square
Players at the Comedy Theatre, New York City, beginning June 5,
1916. In this production Mary Morris played the part of Mary
Later it was presented in vaudeville by Martin Beck, opening at
the Palace Theatre, New York City, August 21, 1916, with the
MARY TRASK . . . . Sarah Padden
THADDEUS TRASK . . . John Cameron
A NORTHERN SOLDIER . Glenn Hunter
A SOUTHERN SERGEANT . Thomas Hamilton
A SOUTHERN PRIVATE . Gordon Gunnis
"The Clod" was first produced by the Harvard Dramatic Club, in
March, 1914, with the cast as follows:
MARY TRASK . . . . Christine Hayes
THADDEUS TRASK . . . Norman B. Clark
A NORTHERN SOLDIER. . Dale Kennedy
A SOUTHERN SERGEANT . James W. D. Seymour
DICK . . . . . . Richard Southgate
A NORTHERN SOLDIER
A SOUTHERN SERGEANT
SCENE: The kitchen of a farmhouse on the borderline between the
Southern and Northern states.
TIME: Ten o'clock in the evening, September, 1863.
The back wall is broken at stage left by the projection at right
angles of a partially enclosed staircase, four steps of which,
leading to the landing, are visible to the audience. Underneath
the enclosed stairway is a cubby-hole with a door; in front of
the door stands a small table. To the left of this table is a
kitchen chair. A door leading to the yard is in the centre of the
unbroken wall back; to the right of the door, a cupboard, to the
left, a stove. In the wall right are two windows. Between them is
a bench, on which there are a pail and a dipper; above the bench
a towel hanging on a nail, and above the towel a double-barrelled
shot-gun suspended on two pegs.
In the wall left, and well down stage, is a closed door leading
to another room. In the centre of the kitchen stands a large
table; to the right and left of this, two straight-backed chairs.
The walls are roughly plastered. The stage is lighted by the
moon, which shines into the room through the windows, and a
candle on table centre. When the door back is opened, a glimpse
of a desolate farmyard is seen in the moonlight.
When the curtain rises, THADDEUS TRASK, a man of fifty or sixty
years of age, short and thick set, slow in speech and movement,
yet in perfect health, sits lazily smoking his pipe in a chair at
the right of the centre table.
After a moment, MARY TRASK, a tired, emaciated woman, whose years
equal her husband's, enters from the yard, carrying a pail of
water and a lantern. She puts the pail on the bench and hangs the
lantern above it; then crosses to the stove.
MARY. Ain't got wood 'nough fer breakfast, Thad.
THADDEUS. I'm too tired to go out now; wait till mornin'.
[Pause. MARY lays the fire in the stove.]
Did I tell ye that old man Reed saw three Southern troopers pass
his house this mornin'?
MARY [takes coffee pot from stove, crosses to bench, fills pot
with water]. I wish them soldiers would git out o' the
neighborhood. Whenever I see 'em passin', I have t' steady myself
'gainst somethin' or I'd fall. I couldn't hardly breathe
yesterday when the Southerners came after fodder. I'd die if they
spoke t' me.
THADDEUS. Ye needn't be afraid of Northern soldiers.
MARY [puts coffee pot on stove]. I hate 'em all -- Union or
Southern. I can't make head or tail t' what all this fightin's
'bout. An' I don't care who wins, so long as they git through,
an' them soldiers stop stealin' our corn an' potatoes.
THADDEUS. Ye can't hardly blame 'em if they're hungry, ken ye?
MARY. It ain't right that they should steal from us poor folk.
[Lifts a huge gunny sack of potatoes from the table and begins
setting the table for breakfast, getting knives, forks, spoons,
plates, cups, and saucers -- two of each -- from the cupboard.]
We have hard 'nough times t' make things meet now. I ain't set
down onct to-day, 'cept fer meals; an' when I think o' the work I
got t' do t'morrow, I ought t' been in bed hours ago.
THADDEUS. I'd help if I could, but it ain't my fault if the Lord
see'd fit t' lay me up, so I'm always ailin'. [Rises lazily.] Ye
better try an' take things easy t'morrow.
MARY. It's well 'nough t' say, but them apples got t' be picked
an' the rest o' the potatoes sorted. If I could sleep at night
it'd be all right, but with them soldiers 'bout, I can't.
THADDEUS [crosses to right; fondly handles his double-barrelled
shot-gun]. Jolly, wish I'd see a flock o' birds.
MARY [showing nervousness]. I'd rather go without than hear ye
fire. I wish ye didn't keep it loaded.
THADDEUS. Ye know I ain't got time t' stop an' load when I see
the birds. They don't wait fer ye. [Hangs gun on wall, drops
into his chair, dejectedly.] Them pigs has got to be butchered.
MARY. Wait till I git a chance t' go t' sister's. I can't stand
it t' hear 'em squeal.
THADDEUS [pulling off his boots, grunting meanwhile]. Best go
soon then, 'cause they's fat as they'll ever be, an' there ain't
no use in wastin' feed on 'em. [Pause, rises.] Ain't ye most
ready fer bed?
MARY. Go on up.
[THADDEUS takes candle in one hand, boots in other; moves toward
An', Thad, try not t' snore to-night.
THADDEUS [reaching the landing]. Hit me if I do. [Disappears from
[MARY fills the kettle with water and puts it on the stove;
closes the door back; takes the lantern from the wall, tries
twice before she succeeds in blowing it out. Puts the lantern on
the table before the cubby-hole. Drags herself up the stairs,
pausing a moment on the top step for breath before she disappears
from sight. There is a silence. Then the door back is opened a
trifle and a man's hand is seen. Cautiously the door is opened
wide, and a young NORTHERN SOLDIER is silhouetted on the
threshold. He wears a dirty uniform and has a bloody bandage tied
about his head. He is wounded, sick, and exhausted. He stands at
the door a moment, listening intently; then hastily crosses to
the centre table looking for food. He bumps against the chair and
mutters an oath. Finding nothing on the table, he moves toward
the cupboard. Suddenly the galloping of horses is heard in the
distance. The NORTHERNER starts; then rushes to the window nearer
the audience. For a moment the sound ceases, then it begins
again, growing gradually louder and louder. The NORTHERNER
hurries through the door left. Horses and voices are heard, in
the yard, and almost immediately heavy thundering knocks sound on
the door back. A racket is heard above stairs. The knockers on
the door grow impatient, and push the door open. A large,
powerful SOUTHERN SERGEANT and a smaller, more youthful TROOPER
of the same army enter. At the same time, THADDEUS appears on the
stairs, carrying a candle.]
SERGEANT [to THADDEUS; not unkindly]. Sorry, my friend, but you
were so darn slow 'bout openin' the door, that we had to walk in.
Has there been a Northern soldier round here to-day?
THADDEUS [timidly]. I ain't seed one.
SERGEANT. Have you been here all day?
THADDEUS. I ain't stirred from the place.
SERGEANT. Call the rest of your family down.
THADDEUS. My wife's all there is. [Goes to foot of stairs, and
calls loudly and excitedly.] Mary! Mary! Come down right off.
SERGEANT. You better not lie to me or it'll go tough with you.
THADDEUS. I swear I ain't seed no one.
[MARY comes downstairs slowly. She is all atremble.]
THADDEUS. Say, Mary, you was h ----
SERGEANT. You keep still, man. I'll question her myself. [To
MARY.] You were here at the house all day?
[MARY is very fearful and embarrassed, but after a moment manages
to nod her head slowly.]
You didn't take a trip down to the store?
[MARY shakes her head slowly.]
Haven't you got a tongue?
MARY [with difficulty]. Y-e-s.
SERGEANT. Then use it. The Northern soldier who came here a while
ago was pretty badly wounded, wasn't he?
MARY. I -- I -- no one's been here.
SERGEANT. Come, come, woman, don't lie.
[MARY shows a slight sign of anger.]
He had a bad cut in his forehead, and you felt sorry for him, and
gave him a bite to eat.
MARY [haltingly]. No one's been near the house to-day.
SERGEANT [trying a different tone]. We're not going to hurt him,
woman. He's a friend of ours. We want to find him, and put him
in a hospital, don't we, Dick? [Turning to his companion.]
DICK. He's sick and needs to go to bed for a while.
MARY. He ain't here.
SERGEANT. What do you want to lie for?
MARY [quickly]. I ain't lyin'. I ain't seed no soldier.
THADDEUS. No one could 'a' come without her seein' 'em.
SERGEANT. I suppose you know what'll happen to you if you are
hidin' the man?
[MARY stands rooted to the spot where she stopped when she came
downstairs. Her eyes are fixed on the SERGEANT.]
THADDEUS. There ain't no one here. We both been here all day, an'
there couldn't no one come without our knowin' it. What would
they want round here anyway?
SERGEANT. We'll search the place.
MARY [quickly]. Ye ain't got no ----
SERGEANT [sharply]. What's that, woman?
MARY. There ain't no one here, an' ye're keepin' us from our
SERGEANT. Your sleep? This is an affair of life and death. Get us
[THADDEUS moves to the table which stands in front of the
cubby-hole, and lights the lantern from the candle which he holds
in his hand. He hands the lantern to the SERGEANT.]
SERGEANT [seeing the door to the cubby-hole]. Ha! Tryin' to hide
the door are you, by puttin' a table in front of it. You can't
fool me. [To THADDEUS.] Pull the table away and let's see what's
behind the door.
THADDEUS. It's a cubby-hole an' ain't been opened in years.
SERGEANT [sternly and emphatically]. I said to open the door.
[THADDEUS sets the candle on the larger table, moves the smaller
table to the right, and opens the door to the cubby-hole. Anger
is seen on MARY'S face. The SERGEANT takes a long-barrelled
revolver from his belt, and peers into the cubby-hole. He sees
SERGEANT [returning his revolver to his belt]. We're goin' to
tear this place to pieces till we find him. You might just as
well hand him over now.
MARY. There ain't no one here.
SERGEANT. All right. Now we'll see. Dick, you stand guard at the
[DICK goes to the door back, and stands gazing out into the night
-- his back to the audience.]
SERGEANT [to THADDEUS]. Come along, man. I'll have a look at the
upstairs. [To MARY.] You sit down in that chair [points to the
chair at right of table, and feeling for a sufficiently strong
threat]. Don't you stir or I'll -- I'll set fire to your house.
[To THADDEUS.] Go on ahead.
[THADDEUS and the SERGEANT go upstairs. MARY sinks almost
lifelessly into the chair. She is the picture of fear. She sits
facing left. Suddenly she leans forward. The door left is being
opened. She opens her eyes wide and draws her breath sharply. She
opens her mouth as though she would scream, but makes no sound.
The NORTHERNER comes slowly and cautiously through the door.
(DICK cannot see him because of the jog in the wall.) MARY only
stares in bewilderment at the NORTHERNER, as the man, with eyes
fixed appealingly on her, opens the door to the cubby-hole and
MARY [almost with a cry -- thinking that DICK has seen the
DICK. Have you got an apple handy? I'm starved. [MARY moves to
the cupboard to get the apple for DICK. The SERGEANT and THADDEUS
come downstairs. The SERGEANT, seeing that MARY is not where he
left her, looks about quickly and discovers her at the cupboard.]
SERGEANT. Here, what'd I tell you I'd do if you moved from that
MARY [with great fear]. Oh, I didn't -- I only -- he wanted ----
DICK. It's all right, Sergeant. I asked her to get me an apple.
SERGEANT. Dick, take this lantern and search the barn.
[DICK takes the lantern from the SERGEANT and goes out back.]
[To THADDEUS.] Come in here with me. [Takes the candle from
centre table.] [The SERGEANT and THADDEUS move toward the door
left. As though in a stupor, MARY starts to follow.] Sit down!
[MARY falls into the chair at the right of the centre table. The
SERGEANT and THADDEUS go into the room at left. They can be heard
moving furniture about. MARY'S eyes fall on a pin on the floor.
She bends over, picks it up, and fastens it in her belt. The
SERGEANT and THADDEUS return.]
SERGEANT. If I find him now, after all the trouble you've given
me, you know what'll happen. There's likely to be two dead men
and a woman, instead of only the Yankee.
DICK [bounding into the room]. Sergeant!
SERGEANT. What is it? [DICK hurries to the SERGEANT and says
something in a low voice to him. Satisfaction shows on the
SERGEANT. Now my good people, how did that horse get here?
THADDEUS. What horse?
DICK. There's a horse in the barn with a saddle on his back. I
swear he's been ridden lately.
THADDEUS [amazed]. There is?
SERGEANT. You know it. [To MARY.] Come, woman, who drove that
MARY [silent for a moment -- her eyes on the floor]. I don't
know. I didn't hear nothin'.
THADDEUS [moving in the direction of the door back]. Let me go
SERGEANT [pushing THADDEUS back]. No, you don't. You two have
done enough to justify the harshest measures. Show us the man's
THADDEUS. If there's anybody here, he's come in the night without
our knowin' it. I tell ye I didn't see anybody, an' she didn't,
SERGEANT [has been watching MARY]. Where is he? [The SERGEANT'S
tone makes THADDEUS jump. There is a pause, during which MARY
seems trying to compose herself. Then slowly, she lifts her eyes
and looks at the SERGEANT.]
MARY. There ain't nobody in the house 'cept us two.
SERGEANT [to DICK]. Did you search all the outbuildings?
DICK. Yes. There's not a trace of him except the horse.
SERGEANT [wiping the perspiration from his face; speaks with
apparent deliberation at first, but increases to great strength
and emphasis]. He didn't have much of a start of us, and I think
he was wounded. A farmer down the road said he heard hoof-beats.
The man the other side of you heard nothing, and the horse is in
your barn. [Slowly draws revolver, and points it at THADDEUS.]
There are ways of making people confess.
THADDEUS [covering his face with his hands]. For God's sake,
don't. I know that horse looks bad -- but as I live I ain't heard
a sound, or seen anybody. I'd give the man up in a minute if he
SERGEANT [lowering his gun]. Yes, I guess you would. You wouldn't
want me to hand you and your wife over to our army to be shot
down like dogs. [MARY shivers.] [Swings round sharply, and points
the gun at MARY.] Your wife knows where he's hid.
MARY [breaking out in irritating, rasping voice]. I'm sure I wish
I did. An' I'd tell ye quick, an' git ye out of here. 'Tain't no
fun fer me to have ye prowlin' all over my house. Ye ain't got no
right t' torment me like this. Lord knows how I'll git my day's
work done, if I can't have my sleep.
SERGEANT [has been gazing at her in astonishment; lowers his
gun]. Good God, what a clod! Nothing but her own petty existence.
[In different voice to MARY.] I'll have to ask you to get us
something to eat. We're famished. [With relief, but showing some
anger, MARY turns to the stove. She lights the fire, and puts
more coffee in the pot.]
SERGEANT. Come, Dick, we better give our poor horses some water.
They're all tired out. [In lower voice.] The man isn't here. If
he were, he couldn't get away while we're in the yard. [To
THADDEUS.] Get us a pail to give the horses some water. [Sees the
pails on the bench. Picks one of them up and moves toward the
MARY. That ain't the horses' pail.
SERGEANT [to THADDEUS]. Come along, you can help.
MARY [louder]. That's the drinkin' water pail.
SERGEANT. That's all right.
[The SERGEANT, DICK, and THADDEUS go out back. MARY needs more
wood for the fire, so she follows them in a moment. When she
has disappeared, the NORTHERNER drags himself from the
cubby-hole. He looks as though he would fall with exhaustion.
MARY returns with an armful of wood.]
MARY [sees the NORTHERNER. Shows no sympathy for the man in this
speech, nor during the entire scene]. Ye git back! Them
soldiers'll see ye.
NORTHERNER. Some water. Quick. [Falls into chair at left of
table.] It was so hot in there.
MARY [gives him water in the dipper]. Don't ye faint here. If
them soldiers git ye, they'll kill me an' Thad. Hustle an' git
back in the cubby-hole. [MARY turns quickly to the stove. The
NORTHERNER drinks the water; puts dipper on table, then,
summoning all his strength, rises and crosses to MARY. He touches
her on the shoulder. MARY is so startled, that she jumps and
utters a faint cry.]
NORTHERNER. Be still, or they'll hear you. How are you going to
get me out of this?
MARY [angrily]. Ye git out. Why did ye come here, a-bringin' me
all this extra work, an' maybe death?
NORTHERNER. I couldn't go any farther. My horse and I were both
near dropping. Won't you help me?
MARY. No, I won't. I don't know who ye are or nothin' 'bout ye,
'cept that them men want t' ketch ye. [In a changed tone of
curiosity.] Did ye steal somethin' from 'em?
NORTHERNER. Don't you understand? Those men belong to the
Confederacy, and I'm a Northerner. They've been chasing me all
day. [Pulling a bit of crumpled paper from his breast.] They want
this paper. If they get it before to-morrow morning it will mean
the greatest disaster that's ever come to the Union army.
MARY [with frank curiosity]. Was it ye rode by yesterday?
NORTHERNER. Don't you see what you can do? Get me out of here and
away from those men, and you'll have done more than any soldier
could do for the country -- for your country.
MARY. I ain't got no country. Me an' Thad's only got this farm.
Thad's ailin', an' I do most the work, an' ----
NORTHERNER. The lives of thirty thousand men hang by a thread. I
must save them. And you must help me.
MARY. I don't know nothin' 'bout ye, an' I don't know what ye're
NORTHERNER. Only help me get away.
MARY [angrily]. No one ever helped me or Thad. I lift no finger
in this business. Why ye come here in the first place is beyond
me -- sneakin' round our house, spoilin' our well-earned sleep.
If them soldiers ketch ye, they'll kill me an' Thad. Maybe ye
didn't know that.
NORTHERNER. What's your life and your husband's compared to
thirty thousand! I haven't any money or I'd give it to you.
MARY. I don't want yer money.
NORTHERNER. What do you want?
MARY. I want ye t' git away. I don't care what happens t' ye.
Only git out of here.
NORTHERNER. I can't with the Southerners in the yard. They'd
shoot me like a dog. Besides, I've got to have my horse.
MARY [with naive curiosity]. What kind o' lookin'
horse is it?
NORTHERNER [dropping into chair at left of centre table in
disgust and despair]. O God! If I'd only turned in at the other
farm. I might have found people with red blood. [Pulls out his
gun, and hopelessly opens the empty chamber.]
MARY [alarmed]. What ye goin' t' do with that gun?
NORTHERNER. Don't be afraid. It's not load ----
MARY. I'd call 'em in, if I wasn't ----
NORTHERNER [leaping to the wall left and bracing himself against
it]. Go call them in. Save your poor skin and your husband's if
you can. Call them in. You can't save yourself. [Laughs
hysterically.] You can't save your miserable skin. Cause if they
get me, and don't shoot you, I will.
MARY [leans against left side of centre table for support; in
NORTHERNER. You see, you've got to help me whether you want to or
MARY [feeling absolutely caught]. I ain't done nothin'. I don't
see why ye an' them others come here a threatenin' t' shoot me. I
don't want nothin'. I don't want t' do nothin'. I jest want ye
all t' git out a here an' leave me an' Thad t' go t' sleep. Oh, I
don't know what t' do. Ye got me in a corner where I can't move.
[Passes her hand back along the table. Touches the dipper
accidentally, and it falls to the floor. Screams at the sound.]
NORTHERNER [leaping toward her]. Now you've done it. They'll be
here in a minute. You can't give me up. They'll shoot you if you
do. They'll shoot. [Hurries up the stairs, and disappears from
[MARY stands beside the table, trembling terribly. The SERGEANT,
DICK, and THADDEUS come running in.]
SERGEANT. What did you yell for?
[Seizing her by the arm.] Answer!
MARY. I knocked the dipper off the table. It scared me.
SERGEANT [dropping wearily into chair at left of centre table].
Well, don't drop our breakfast. Put it on the table. We're ready.
MARY [stands gazing at him]. It ain't finished.
OFFICER [worn out by his day's work and MARY'S stupidity, from
now on absolutely brutish]. You've had time to cook a dozen
meals. You're as slow as a snail. What did you do all the time we
were in the barn?
MARY. I didn't do nothin'.
SERGEANT. You lazy female. Now get a move on, and give us
something fit to eat. Don't try to get rid of any left-overs on
us. If you do, you'll suffer for it.
[MARY stands looking at him.]
Don't you know anything, you brainless farm-drudge? Hurry, I
[MARY turns to the stove. THADDEUS sits in chair at left of
DICK. What a night. My stomach's as hollow as these people's
heads. [Takes towel which hangs above the bench and wipes the
barrel of his gun with it.]
MARY [sees DICK]. That's one of my best towels.
DICK. Can't help it.
SERGEANT. 'Tend to the breakfast. That's enough for you to do at
[DICK puts his gun on the smaller table, and sits at right of
SERGEANT [quietly to DICK]. I don't see how he gave us the slip.
DICK. He knew we were after him, and drove his horse in here, and
went on afoot. Clever scheme, I must admit.
THADDEUS [endeavoring to get them into conversation]. Have ye rid
far to-night, misters?
DICK [shortly]. Far enough.
THADDEUS. Twenty miles or so?
THADDEUS. How long ye been chasin' the critter?
SERGEANT. Shut up, man! Don't you see we don't want to talk to
you. Take hold and hurry, woman. My patience's at an end.
[MARY puts a loaf of bread, some fried eggs, and a coffee pot on
MARY. There! I hope ye're satisfied.
[The SERGEANT and DICK pull their chairs to the table, and begin
SERGEANT. Is this all we get? Come, it won't do you any good to
[Obviously, from now on, everything the SERGEANT says drives MARY
MARY. It's all I got.
SERGEANT. It isn't a mouthful for a chickadee! Give us some
MARY. There ain't none.
SERGEANT. No butter on a farm? God, the way you lie!
MARY. I --
SERGEANT. Shut up!
DICK. Have you got any cider?
SERGEANT. Don't ask. She and the man probably drank themselves
stupid on it. [Throws fork on floor.] I never struck such a place
in my life. Get me another fork. How do you expect me to eat with
that bent thing?
[MARY stoops with difficulty and picks up the fork. Gets another
from the cupboard and gives it to the SERGEANT.]
SERGEANT. Now give us some salt. Don't you know that folks eat it
[MARY crosses to the cupboard; mistakes the pepper for the salt,
and puts it on the table.]
SERGEANT [sprinkles pepper on his food]. I said salt, woman!
[Spelling.] S-A-L-T. Salt! Salt!
[MARY goes to the cupboard; returns to the table with the salt.
Almost ready to drop, she drags herself to the window nearer
back, and leans against it, watching the SOUTHERNERS like a
hunted animal. THADDEUS sits nodding in the corner. The SERGEANT
and DICK go on devouring the food. The SERGEANT pours the coffee.
Puts his cup to his lips, takes one swallow; then, jumping to his
feet and upsetting his chair as he does so, he hurls his cup to
the floor. The crash of china stirs THADDEUS. MARY shakes in
SERGEANT [bellowing and pointing to the fluid trickling on the
floor]. Have you tried to poison us, you God damn hag?
[MARY screams, and the faces of the men turn white. It is like
the cry of the animal goaded beyond endurance.]
MARY [screeching]. Call my coffee poison, will ye? Call me a hag?
I'll learn ye! I'm a woman, and ye're drivin' me crazy. [Snatches
the gun from the wall, points it at the SERGEANT, and fires.
Keeps on screeching. The SERGEANT falls to the floor. DICK rushes
for his gun.]
THADDEUS. Mary! Mary!
MARY [aiming at DICK, and firing]. I ain't a hag, I'm a woman,
but ye're killin' me.
[DICK falls just as he reaches his gun. THADDEUS is in the corner
with his hands over his ears. The NORTHERNER stands on the
stairs. MARY continues to pull the trigger of the empty gun. The
NORTHERNER is motionless for a moment; then he goes to THADDEUS,
and shakes him.]
NORTHERNER. Go get my horse, quick!
[THADDEUS obeys. The NORTHERNER turns to MARY. She gazes at him,
but does not understand a word he says.]
NORTHERNER [with great fervor]. I'm ashamed of what I said. The
whole country will hear of this, and you. [Takes her hand, and
presses it to his lips; then turns and hurries out of the house.
MARY still holds the gun in her hand. She pushes a strand of gray
hair back from her face, and begins to pick up the fragments of
the broken coffee cup.]
MARY [in dead, flat tone]. I'll have to drink out the tin cup
[The hoof-beats of the NORTHERNER'S horse are heard.]
II. EUGENICALLY SPEAKING
A One-Act Play
Copyright, 1914, by Edward Goodman
"Eugenically Speaking" was produced by the Washington Square
Players, under the direction of Philip Moeller, as part of their
first program at the Bandbox Theatre, New York City, beginning
February 19, 1915.
In the cast, in the order of their appearance, were the
UNA BRAITHEWAITE . . . Florence Enright
GEORGE COXEY . . . . Karl Karsten
MR. BRAITHEWAITE . . . George C. Somnes
JARVIS a manservant . . Ralph Roeder
The scene was designed by Engelbert Gminska and Miss Enright's
costume by Mrs. Edward Flammer.
"Eugenically Speaking" was subsequently revived by the Washington
Square Players at the Comedy Theatre, New York City, beginning
August 30, 1916. In this production Arthur Hohl played the part
of George Coxey; Robert Strange, Wm. Braithewaite; and Spalding
UNA . . . . . . . . A girl
GEORGE COXEY . . . . . A conductor
MR. BRAITHEWAITE . . . . A financier
JARVIS . . . . . . . A butler
TIME: Between to-day and to-morrow.
SCENE:A room in the Braithewaite mansion, richly but tastefully
furnished. Among these furnishings it is necessary for the play
to note, besides the door at the back, only the table that stands
a little to the right of the centre of the room, with a
statue on it, and three chairs which stand, one to the right, one
to the left, and one in the middle. It is a winter afternoon, and
the room is illuminated by invisible lights.
Enter UNA, followed by GEORGE COXEY. UNA is a charming,
fashionable girl of twenty with a suave blend of will and poise.
GEORGE COXEY is a handsome, well-built, magnetic-looking youth of
about twenty-five. He is dressed in the garb of a street-car
conductor and carries the cap in his hand. Although somewhat
inconvenienced and preoccupied with the novelty of his
surroundings and his situation, he remains, in the main, in
excellent self-possession, an occasional twinkle in his eye
showing that he is even quietly alive to a certain humor in the
adventure. Above all, his attitude is that rare one, which we
like to feel typical of American youth, of facing an unusual
situation firmly, and seeing and grasping its possibilities
He stands near the door, waiting, examining the room and warming
his hands, while UNA goes to the bell and rings it and then
proceeds to the mirror to primp a little. When she is finished
she turns and notices him.
UNA. Why, my dear man, sit down. [She points to a chair at the
GEORGE. Thanks, after you.
UNA [laughs]. Oh! Excuse me. I forgot. You're a car conductor.
Naturally you're polite.
GEORGE. Not naturally, Miss. But I've learned.
UNA. An apt pupil, too. Let me teach you then that the ruder you
are to a woman, the more she'll hate you -- or love you. [She
goes up to him and invites him with a gesture.] Sit down.
[GEORGE remains immobile.]
The polite are not only bourgeois, they're boring.
GEORGE. When I know I'm right, I stick to it.
UNA. But you must grow tired of standing.
GEORGE. If I did, I'd lose my job.
UNA. You have already. Sit down.
GEORGE [firmly]. After you.
UNA [taking the chair, centre, and sitting on it]. You're
[GEORGE sits in the offered chair a little stiffly.]
UNA. Isn't that better than ringing up fares?
GEORGE [smiling at his attempt at a pun]. Fairly.
UNA [rising, perturbed]. No! You mustn't do that. That's vulgar.
GEORGE [rising in alarm]. What have I done?
UNA [vexed again]. Sit down. You mustn't jump up when I do.
[He remains standing. Vexed but smiling she sits.] Well, there!
[He sits down.] You punned! You mustn't. We all like puns, but
it's good form to call them bad taste.
[Enter JARVIS the Butler.]
JARVIS [starts slightly at perceiving the situation,
but controls himself]. Did you ring for me, Miss?
UNA. Yes. Please tell my father that I'd like to see him at once.
[JARVIS goes out.]
UNA. Do you know the reason that you are here?
GEORGE. The hundred dollars you gave me.
UNA. No ----
GEORGE. Yes. I wouldn't have left my job if you hadn't given me
UNA. I suppose not. But I mean, do you know why I brought you
GEORGE. I'm waiting to see.
UNA [enthusiastically]. I wonder if you'll like it.
GEORGE. Your father?
UNA. No. Dad's a dear. That is, he is when he sees you mean
[Enter MR. BRAITHEWAITE. He is a well-preserved man near sixty,
almost always completely master of himself. On seeing COXEY he,
too, gives a little start and then controls himself.]
BRAITHEWAITE. Una, dear?
UNA [jumping up in excitement]. Oh, Daddy! I'm so glad you were
in. [To GEORGE who has risen, too.] Keep your seat. Draw up a
chair, Dad -- I've done it.
BRAITHEWAITE. Done what?
UNA [bringing up a chair and placing it to her right]. Do sit
down, Dad. He's so delicious. He won't sit down till we do -- and
you know how much they have to stand.
BRAITHEWAITE [looks at GEORGE and UNA and then sits in the chair
allotted to him, whereupon UNA sits in hers and then GEORGE sits
down]. Now, dear, what is it you have done?
UNA. Selected a husband.
[GEORGE moves a little uneasily. BRAITHEWAITE looks at GEORGE and
then speaks to UNA.]
BRAITHEWAITE. You mean?
UNA [pointing to GEORGE]. Him! [GEORGE rises in discomfiture.]
Do sit down. We're all sitting now, you see.
[GEORGE brings himself to sit down again.]
BRAITHEWAITE. But, my dear ----
UNA. Now don't say a word until you hear the whole story. You
read that article by Shaw in the Metropolitan, didn't you? I did.
You remember what he wrote? "The best eugenic guide is the sex
attraction -- the Voice of Nature." He thinks the trouble is at
present that we dare not marry out of our own sphere. But I'll
show you exactly what he says. [She fusses in her handbag and
pulls out a sheet of a magazine which she unfolds as she says:] I
always carry the article with me. It's so stimulating.
BRAITHEWAITE [protesting]. You're not going to read me a whole
Shaw article, are you? It's five o'clock now and we've a dinner
date at eight, dear.
UNA. It's a Shaw article, not a Shaw preface. However, I'll only
read the passage I've marked. Listen. [She reads.] "I do not
believe you will ever have any improvement in the human race
until you greatly widen the area of possible sexual selection;
until you make it as wide as the numbers of the community make
it. Just consider what occurs at the present time. I walk down
Oxford Street, let me say, as a young man." He might just as well
have said, "young woman," you know.
UNA [continues reading], "I see a woman who takes my fancy." With
me it would be a man, of course.
BRAITHEWAITE. For your purpose, of course.
UNA [continuing again]. "I fall in love with her. It would seem
very sensible in an intelligent community that I should take off
my hat and say to this lady: 'Will you excuse me; but you attract
me strongly, and if you are not already engaged, would you mind
taking my name and address and considering whether you would care
to marry me?' [BRAITHEWAITE looks uncomfortably at GEORGE who
looks uncomfortable, though amused, himself.] Now I have no such
chance at present."
BRAITHEWAITE. Exactly. You see, he admits it.
UNA. Yes, but why shouldn't I have the chance? That set me
thinking. I decided he was right. I am intelligent, am I not?
BRAITHEWAITE. I refuse to commit myself, dear, until I hear all
UNA. Well, I decided I'd make the chance. You see, I -- I've been
led to think recently that I ought to be getting married.
BRAITHEWAITE. May I ask why?
UNA. Yes, dear, but I'd rather not answer.
BRAITHEWAITE. I beg pardon.
UNA. And when I looked about me for the possibilities in my own
set, I -- [she makes a face] -- well, I wasn't attracted.
BRAITHEWAITE. I admit, in society, as a rule, the women grow
stronger and the men weaker.
UNA. Exactly. And I knew you wanted to be a proud grandfather.
BRAITHEWAITE. You're mistaken, dear. I hadn't given the subject
any thought; so I had no desires.
UNA. Well, I have . . . [BRAITHEWAITE slightly shows that he is
perhaps shocked. UNA notices this and continues in explanation]
given the subject a good deal of thought. I've spent days buying
second-hand clothing to give away at the missions and lodging
houses in order to have a look.
BRAITHEWAITE. At least there was charity in that.
UNA. Yes. You see I didn't want charity to have to begin at my
home. Self-preservation is the first law of Nature.
BRAITHEWAITE. And self-propagation, I suppose, the second.
UNA. Well -- the missions were no good. They were all so starved
and pinched-looking there I couldn't tell what they'd be like if
they got proper nourishment. And I didn't want to take a chance.
So I went to some coal yards.
BRAITHEWAITE. To find the devil not so black as painted?
UNA [with a grimace]. Blacker! I couldn't see what they looked
like. Of course if I could have asked them to wash their faces.
BRAITHEWAITE [looking at GEORGE]. Considering what you have done,
I don't see ----
UNA. I did ask one, but he made some vulgar remark about black
dirt and red paint. So I left him.
BRAITHEWAITE. And then?
UNA. I spent all to-day riding up and down town in street cars.
It's very fascinating, Dad. All you can see for a nickel! I never
realized what a public benefactor you were.
BRAITHEWAITE [modestly]. Oh, I am amply repaid.
UNA [in explanation to GEORGE]. Dad's the president of your
traction company, you know. [GEORGE rises in fright.]
Oh, that's all right. I've lost you your job, but I'll get you a
better one as I promised. Don't be afraid of Dad -- in the
parlor. Sit down.
BRAITHEWAITE [to GEORGE]. You might as well make yourself
physically comfortable, you know. There's no telling how my
daughter may make us feel in other ways.
[GEORGE sits down again, regaining his composure a little.]
BRAITHEWAITE [to UNA]. And so to-day you investigated travelling
in street cars?
UNA. Yes. "Joy-riding," you know. Then I saw him -- and decided.
I knew he wouldn't dare to propose to me -- under existing
BRAITHEWAITE. So you asked him to marry you?
UNA. Certainly not. I've too much consideration for you, dear.
BRAITHEWAITE. But I thought you said ----?
UNA. I decided to bring him home to get your consent first.
[BRAITHEWAITE starts to say something.] I knew you'd approve when
you saw him. But I wanted to be sure I hadn't overlooked
anything. And if I had, I didn't want to have raised his hopes
for nothing. [To GEORGE.] Would you mind standing a moment, now,
until Dad looks you over?
[GEORGE fidgets a little in embarrassment.]
BRAITHEWAITE. My dear, do you think the gentleman ----?
UNA. " Gentleman!" Oh, yes, I forgot. I needn't have been so
clumsy. [She rises. GEORGE rises automatically. She continues to
GEORGE.] I apologize.
BRAITHEWAITE [also rising and moving his chair aside]. I fear you
have been too rude.
UNA. So do I. I've never even introduced you. Father, this is --
this is ---- [To GEORGE.] By the way -- I forgot to ask -- what
is your name?
GEORGE. Coxey, Miss.
UNA [sounding it]. Coxey. What's the first name? I can't call my
husband "Coxey," you know.
GEORGE. George, Miss.
UNA [triumphantly]. George! There's a fine virile name for you.
George Coxey! How strong that sounds! One of those names that
would go equally well in the blue book or the police blotter.
GEORGE. I never ----
UNA. Don't disclaim. I know you've never been arrested. One can
see your goodness in your face.
BRAITHEWAITE [reprovingly]. Many of the best people go to jail
UNA. I know. But he's not rich and thank heaven he's not a
fanatic. Isn't he good-looking? And I'm sure he's strong. See
those hands of his -- a little rough, of course, but I like that,
and so firm and, for his job, wonderfully clean. Don't hide them,
George. They attracted me from the start.
BRAITHEWAITE. How did you come here with my daughter at all, sir?
UNA [quickly]. I got off with him at the car barn when he
finished his run and asked him.
BRAITHEWAITE. Didn't you know you would lose your job by leaving
GEORGE [with a suppressed smile]. Yes, sir.
BRAITHEWAITE. And you came at any rate?
GEORGE. You see, sir, she gave me ----
UNA [interrupting hurriedly]. A beseeching look. Just one. I
didn't use more than was necessary. [Pointedly to GEORGE.] You
see, George, I have learnt economy from father. He hates me to be
BRAITHEWAITE. That, my dear, is the chief objection I have to
this episode -- it's extravagance.
UNA. Please don't call it an "episode," father.
BRAITHEWAITE. You must admit it's -- rather unusual.
UNA. In England, lords always marry chorus girls.
BRAITHEWAITE. But he is a conductor.
GEORGE [angry]. Yes. And conductors are ----
UNA. As hard working as chorus girls -- only. Don't be snobbish,
George. Of course a conductor is more unusual, I admit. I can't
help that though ---- [To her father.] You shouldn't have called
me "Una," if you didn't want me to be unique.
BRAITHEWAITE [reminiscently]. That was most unfortunate -- most.
It was your mother's idea. She believed in symbols -- and in a
UNA. Oh! Was that why ----? Well, no matter. I've always thought
it meant individuality and I've done my best to live up to it.
[She looks at the statue.] That statue ought to be on the other
side of the room.
BRAITHEWAITE. I'll have some of the men move it to-morrow.
UNA. I'd like to see the effect now.
BRAITHEWAITE [slightly annoyed at this seeming irrelevance]. I
wish I could teach you concentration. I'm not strong enough to
move it myself, dear, and ----
GEORGE. Can I?
UNA. Oh! If you would!
[GEORGE goes over to it and then hesitates what to do with his
cap which he has in his hand.]
UNA. I'll take that.
GEORGE [giving it to her]. Thanks. [He bends and lifts the statue
without effort, while UNA watches him admiringly, fingering his
cap. When he reaches the other side of the room he stops,
waveringly, awaiting instructions.]
UNA [talking as GEORGE waits]. Look at him. He's as fine as the
statue, isn't he? And you know what you think of that. See the
strength he has?
BRAITHEWAITE. Well ----
UNA [to GEORGE]. Thank you so much. You may put it back again.
That was all I wanted. [After GEORGE has.] I hope I didn't
GEORGE. Oh, it ain't very heavy.
UNA [triumphantly to her father]. You see!
BRAITHEWAITE. But he uses "ain't."
UNA [imitating the reproof of her father]. Many of the best
people use "ain't" now, dear.
BRAITHEWAITE. Not with his enunciation.
UNA. What was yours like when you were a railroad signalman?
BRAITHEWAITE. Una! The past of a public man should be private.
UNA. George has our children's future before him. All the others
I know have only their parents' past behind. You could give him a
job suitable for my husband. I'll make my husband suitable for
BRAITHEWAITE. But you don't know him, my dear.
UNA. I don't know myself for that matter. If I don't like him,
it's easy enough to go to Reno.
BRAITHEWAITE. Then you insist?
UNA. I'm tremendously eager. It's so unusual.
BRAITHEWAITE. I suppose I could sue Shaw.
UNA. Don't be silly. Sue an Englishman with German sympathies!
Where's your neutrality?
BRAITHEWAITE [sinking into a chair]. Very well.
UNA [running up to GEORGE with delight]. Then it's settled, dear.
We're going to marry.
GEORGE. Excuse me, Miss, we ain't.
BRAITHEWAITE [shocked]. "Ain't" again!
UNA [correcting]. "Aren't," dear -- I mean, we are.
UNA [backing away]. Why not?
GEORGE. Because -- I'm married already.
BRAITHEWAITE [rising]. What?
UNA. How annoying!
GEORGE. Married three years, and expecting a baby, Miss.
UNA [troubled]. Oh, please!
BRAITHEWAITE. You see what plunging means. I told you I believed
in eugenic examinations first.
UNA [walking up and down, thinking]. Sh! Be quiet, father. Don't
lose your head.
BRAITHEWAITE. Better than losing your heart.
UNA [laughing]. I have it. Of course. How stupid of me not to
GEORGE. Yes, Miss.
BRAITHEWAITE. Wouldn't you better call him "Mr. Coxey" now?
UNA [paying no heed to her father's remark]. George, you must
divorce your wife.
GEORGE. Me? Why she's as good as gold and ----
UNA. That's unfortunate. [Thinking.] Then I'll have to run away
with you and let her get the divorce.
BRAITHEWAITE [now really shocked]. Una!
UNA [innocently]. What, Dad? Have you something better to
BRAITHEWAITE [fuming]. I can't permit it. I didn't mind the
uncommon scandal of your marrying a car conductor, but I
absolutely draw the line at common scandal.
UNA [a little bored]. Father, dear, why will you sometimes talk
to me as though I were the Public Service Commission? There's
going to be no scandal. You can keep it out of the newspapers.
GEORGE. Excuse me, but that don't make any difference. I don't
want to get a divorce.
UNA. You don't? Why?
GEORGE [embarrassed]. Sounds like a song, I know, but -- I love
UNA [in despair]. And you're the unusual man I'm to marry.
BRAITHEWAITE [with the contempt of a professional toward an
amateur]. Stealing nickels doesn't develop the imagination.
UNA [desperately]. How can you love your wife? Some simple,
economizing, prosaic, hausfrau who ----
GEORGE [with spirit]. I don't know what you're saying, but you
better be careful not to insult my wife. She's as good as you are
and a rector's daughter.
UNA [dumbfounded]. What?
GEORGE. Yes. Daughter of one of the biggest sky-pilots in town. I
met her at a settlement house. She put the question to me, too.
UNA [angry and doubting]. She ----?
GEORGE. Sure. I've been through something like this before or I'd
never been able to stand it so well.
UNA [as before]. Your wife ----?
GEORGE. Had a good deal more pluck than you, though. Up and told
her father she would marry me if he liked it or lumped it. He
said he'd cut her. And he did. We never seen him since. But Naomi
and I don't care. That's her name; so you can see she's a
Bible-poacher's daughter. Naomi and I've been happier than any
people on earth. [Sternly.] She's taught me to stand when a lady
was standing. That's why I wouldn't obey you. She's teaching me
how to speak, too, and if I do say "ain't" and a lot of other
things I oughtn't to when I'm excited, that ai -- isn't her
UNA. Then she -- Naomi -- has done everything unusual that I
wanted to do, before I did?
GEORGE. Sure. You can't be unusual to-day. Too much brains been
in the world before.
UNA. How is it I never heard this story, if her father's so well
GEORGE. D'you think your father's the only one can keep things
out of the papers?
UNA [going over and weeping on her father's shoulder]. Oh! And I
wanted to be unique.
BRAITHEWAITE [patting her]. There, there, dear. [To GEORGE.]
You'd better go, now, Coxey.
GEORGE. And my job?
BRAITHEWAITE. I'll see you still keep it.
GEORGE. Thanks. I don't want to.
GEORGE. I want a better.
BRAITHEWAITE [putting his daughter aside]. Indeed! Pray what?
GEORGE [nonchalantly]. Superintendent or something. I leave it to
you. You know more about what jobs there are than I do.
BRAITHEWAITE [controlling his anger]. And on what basis do you
ask for a better job?
GEORGE. Naomi always said my chance would come and I could take
it, if I had nerve and my eyes open. I think now's the time.
GEORGE. Oh, this story about your daughter wouldn't look nice.
BRAITHEWAITE. You forget the power your father-in-law and I have
in the press.
GEORGE. No, I don't. But I remember that you can't keep me from
spreading the news among your men. And I don't think ----
BRAITHEWAITE [angry and advancing on him]. I could have you
prosecuted for blackmail, sir. Have you no honor?
GEORGE. Sure. My honor says provide for your family. I've got the
makings of a big man in me, Mr. Braithewaite. You can't chain me
down with a poor man's morals.
BRAITHEWAITE. Well! I ----
GEORGE. I'll work in any job you give me, too. I'm not asking for
a cinch, only a chance. If she --" [pointing to UNA] -- could
teach me, Naomi can.
BRAITHEWAITE [after a pause]. Well, call around at my office in
GEORGE. Thanks. [He goes out.]
UNA [sitting to weep]. And I thought I could be unusual.
BRAITHEWAITE [patting her]. It's easy enough for Shaw, dear. He
only writes it.
UNA [jumping up]. That's it. I'll write it. I'll write a play
showing it's useless trying to escape the usual. [Running up to
her father, GEORGE'S cap in her hands.] That will be unusual,
won't it, Dad?
GEORGE. Excuse me. I left my cap.
UNA [stretching it out to him without looking at him]. Here it
GEORGE [taking it]. Thanks. [Approaching her.] Buck up, Miss! You
UNA. I suppose I was too daring.
GEORGE. If you ask me, I think the trouble was you and that Shaw
fellow wasn't daring enough. Marriage is a very particular sort
of business. Now if you'd come up to me in the street and just
asked me to ---- [UNA and BRAITHEWAITE look at GEORGE.] Well -- I
-- I guess I'll go. But remember my tip next try, Miss.
[He goes out quickly, leaving UNA gradually grasping the idea and
appreciating it, while her father's shock at what GEORGE has said
is increased only by noticing his daughter's reception of the
A One-Act Play
Author of "Unquenched Fire," "The Conscience of Sarah Platt," and
Dramatization of "Alice in Wonderland," etc.
Copyright, 1913, by Alice Gerstenberg
"Overtones" was produced by the Washington Square Players under
the direction of Edward Goodman at the Bandbox Theatre, New York
City, beginning November 8, 1915, to represent an American
one-act play on a bill of four comparative comedies, "Literature"
by Arthur Schnitzler of Austria, "The Honorable Lover" by Roberto
Bracco of Italy, and "Whims" by Alfred de Musset of France. In
the cast were the following:
HETTY . . . . . . . Josephine A. Meyer
HARRIET, her overtone . . Agnes McCarthy
MAGGIE . . . . . . Noel Haddon
MARGARET, her overtone . Grace Griswold
The scene was designed by Lee Simonson and the costumes and
draperies by Bertha Holley.
"Overtones" was subsequently presented in vaudeville by Martin
Beck, beginning at the Palace Theatre, Chicago, February 28,
1916, with Helena Lackaye as star, with the following cast:
HARRIET, a cultured woman Helene Lackaye
HETTY, her primitive self . Ursula Faucett
MARGARET, a cultured woman Francesca Rotoli
MAGGIE, her primitive self . Nellie Dent
The scene was designed by Jerome Blum.
HARRIET, a cultured woman
HETTY, her primitive self
MARGARET, a cultured woman
MAGGIE, her primitive self
TIME: The present.
SCENE: HARRIET'S fashionable living-room. The door at the back
leads to the hall. In the centre a tea table with a chair either
side. At the back a cabinet.
HARRIET'S gown is a light, "jealous" green. Her counterpart,
HETTY, wears a gown of the same design but in a darker shade.
MARGARET wears a gown of lavender chiffon while her counterpart,
MAGGIE, wears a gown of the same design in purple, a purple scarf
veiling her face. Chiffon is used to give a sheer effect,
suggesting a possibility of primitive and cultured selves merging
into one woman. The primitive and cultured selves never come into
actual physical contact but try to sustain the impression of
mental conflict. HARRIET never sees HETTY, never talks to her but
rather thinks aloud looking into space. HETTY, however, looks at
HARRIET, talks intently and shadows her continually. The same is
true of MARGARET and MAGGIE. The voices of the cultured women are
affected and lingering, the voices of the primitive impulsive and
more or less staccato. When the curtain rises HARRIET is seated
right of tea table, busying herself with the tea things.
HETTY. Harriet. [There is no answer.] Harriet, my other self.
[There is no answer.] My trained self.
HARRIET [listens intently]. Yes? [From behind HARRIET'S chair
HETTY rises slowly.]
HETTY. I want to talk to you.
HETTY [looking at HARRIET admiringly]. Oh, Harriet, you are
HARRIET. Am I presentable, Hetty?
HETTY. Suits me.
HARRIET. I've tried to make the best of the good points.
HETTY. My passions are deeper than yours. I can't keep on the
mask as you do. I'm crude and real, you are my appearance in the
HARRIET. I am what you wish the world to believe you are.
HETTY. You are the part of me that has been trained.
HARRIET. I am your educated self.
HETTY. I am the rushing river; you are the ice over the current.
HARRIET. I am your subtle overtones.
HETTY. But together we are one woman, the wife of Charles
HARRIET. There I disagree with you, Hetty, I alone am his wife.
HETTY [indignantly]. Harriet, how can you say such a thing!
HARRIET. Certainly. I am the one who flatters him. I have to be
the one who talks to him. If I gave you a chance you would tell
him at once that you dislike him.
HETTY [moving away], I don't love him, that's certain.
HARRIET. You leave all the fibbing to me. He doesn't suspect that
my calm, suave manner hides your hatred. Considering the amount
of scheming it causes me it can safely be said that he is my
HETTY. Oh, if you love him ----
HARRIET. I? I haven't any feelings. It isn't my business to love
HETTY. Then why need you object to calling him my husband?
HARRIET. I resent your appropriation of a man who is managed only
through the cleverness of my artifice.
HETTY. You may be clever enough to deceive him, Harriet, but I am
still the one who suffers. I can't forget he is my husband. I
can't forget that I might have married John Caldwell.
HARRIET. How foolish of you to remember John, just because we met
his wife by chance.
HETTY. That's what I want to talk to you about. She may be here
at any moment. I want to advise you about what to say to her this
HARRIET. By all means tell me now and don't interrupt while she
is here. You have a most annoying habit of talking to me when
people are present. Sometimes it is all I can do to keep my poise
and appear not to be listening to you.
HETTY. Impress her.
HARRIET. Hetty, dear, is it not my custom to impress people?
HETTY. I hate her.
HARRIET. I can't let her see that.
HETTY. I hate her because she married John.
HARRIET. Only after you had refused him.
HETTY [turning on HARRIET]. Was it my fault that I refused him?
HARRIET. That's right, blame me.
HETTY. It was your fault. You told me he was too poor and never
would be able to do anything in painting. Look at him now, known
in Europe, just returned from eight years in Paris, famous.
HARRIET. It was too poor a gamble at the time. It was much safer
to accept Charles's money and position.
HETTY. And then John married Margaret within the year.
HARRIET. Out of spite.
HETTY. Freckled, gawky-looking thing she was, too.
HARRIET [a little sadly]. Europe improved her. She was stunning
the other morning.
HETTY. Make her jealous to-day.
HARRIET. Shall I be haughty or cordial or caustic or ----
HETTY. Above all else you must let her know that we are rich.
HARRIET. Oh, yes, I do that quite easily now.
HETTY. You must put it on a bit.
HARRIET. Never fear.
HETTY. Tell her I love my husband.
HARRIET. My husband ----
HETTY. Are you going to quarrel with me?
HARRIET [moves away]. No, I have no desire to quarrel with you.
It is quite too uncomfortable. I couldn't get away from you if I
HETTY [stamping her foot and following HARRIET]. You were a
stupid fool to make me refuse John, I'll never forgive you --
HARRIET [stopping and holding up her hand]. Don't get me all
excited. I'll be in no condition to meet her properly this
HETTY [passionately]. I could choke you for robbing me of John.
HARRIET [retreating]. Don't muss me!
Back to Full Books