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The Easiest Way by Eugene Walter

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downstairs. He's mighty nice, and he's been askin' 'bout you.

LAURA. [_Exasperated._] Oh, shut up!

ANNIE. [_Sees doors of wardrobe have swung open; she crosses, slams
them shut, turns to_ LAURA.] Mis' Farley says--[_Doors have swung open
again; they hit her in the back. She turns and bangs them to with all
her strength_.] Damn dat door! [_Crosses to washstand, grabs basin
which is half full of water, empties same into waste-jar, puts basin
on washstand, and wipes it out with soiled towel_.] Mis' Farley says
if she don't get someone in the house dat has reg'lar money soon,
she'll have to shut up and go to the po'house.

LAURA. I'm sorry; I'll try again to-day. [_Rises, crosses up to
mantel, gets desk-pad, &c., crosses to right of table, sits_.

ANNIE. [_Crosses to back of bed, wiping basin with towel_.] Ain't yo'
got any job at all?


ANNIE. When yuh come here yuh had lots of money and yo' was mighty
good to me. You know Mr. Weston?

LAURA. Jim Weston?

ANNIE. Yassum, Mr. Weston what goes ahead o' shows and lives on the
top floor back; he says nobody's got jobs now. Dey're so many actors
and actoresses out o' work. Mis' Farley says she don't know how she's
goin' to live. She said you'd been mighty nice up until three weeks
ago, but yuh ain't got much left, have you, Miss Laura?

LAURA. [_Rising and going to the bureau_.] No. It's all gone.

ANNIE. Mah sakes! All dem rings and things? You ain't done sold them?
[_Sinks on bed_.

LAURA. They're pawned. What did Mrs. Farley say she was going to do?

ANNIE. Guess maybe Ah'd better not tell.

[_Crosses to door hurriedly, carrying soiled towel_.

LAURA. Please do. [_Crosses to chair, left side_.

ANNIE. Yuh been so good to me, Miss Laura. Never was nobody in dis
house what give me so much, and Ah ain't been gettin' much lately. And
when Mis' Farley said yuh must either pay yo' rent or she would ask
yuh for your room, Ah jest set right down on de back kitchen stairs
and cried. Besides, Mis' Farley don't like me very well since you've
ben havin' yo' breakfasts and dinners brought up here.

LAURA. Why not? [_Takes kimono of chair-back, crosses up to dresser,
puts kimono in drawer, takes out purse_.

ANNIE. She has a rule in dis house dat nobody can use huh chiny or
fo'ks or spoons who ain't boa'ding heah, and de odder day when yuh
asked me to bring up a knife and fo'k she ketched me coming upstairs,
and she says, "Where yuh goin' wid all dose things, Annie?" Ah said,
"Ah'm just goin' up to Miss Laura's room with dat knife and fo'k." Ah
said, "Ah'm goin' up for nothin' at all, Mis' Farley, she jest wants
to look at them, Ah guess." She said, "She wants to eat huh dinner wid
'em, Ah guess." Ah got real mad, and Ah told her if she'd give me mah
pay Ah'd brush right out o' here; dat's what Ah'd do, Ah'd brush right
out o' here. [_Violently shaking out towel_.

LAURA. I'm sorry, Annie, if I've caused you any trouble. Never mind,
I'll be able to pay the rent to-morrow or next day anyway. [_She
fumbles in purse, takes out a quarter, and turns to_ ANNIE.] Here!

ANNIE. No, ma'am, Ah don' want dat.

[_Making a show of reluctance_.

LAURA. Please take it.

ANNIE. No, ma'am, Ah don' want it. You need dat. Dat's breakfast money
for yuh, Miss Laura.

LAURA. Please take it, Annie. I might just as well get rid of this as
anything else.

ANNIE. [_Takes it rather reluctantly_.] Yuh always was so good, Miss
Laura. Sho' yuh don' want dis?

LAURA. Sure.

ANNIE. Sho' yo' goin' to get planty mo'?

LAURA. Sure.

MRS. FARLEY'S VOICE. [_Downstairs_.] Annie! Annie!

ANNIE. [_Going to door, opens it_.] Dat's Mis' Farley. [_To_ MRS.
FARLEY.] Yassum, Mis' Farley.

SAME VOICE. Is Miss Murdock up there?

ANNIE. Yassum, Mis' Farley, yassum!

MRS. FARLEY. Anything doin'?


MRS. FARLEY. Anything doin'?

ANNIE. [_At door_.] Ah--Ah--hain't asked, Missy Farley.

MRS. FARLEY. Then do it.

LAURA. [_Coming to the rescue at the door. To_ ANNIE.] I'll answer
her. [_Out of door to_ MRS. FARLEY.] What is it, Mrs. Farley?

MRS. FARLEY. [_Her voice softened_.] Did ye have any luck this
morning, dearie?

LAURA. No; but I promise you faithfully to help you out this afternoon
or to-morrow.

MRS. FARLEY. Sure? Are you certain?

LAURA. Absolutely.

MRS. FARLEY. Well, I must say these people expect me to keep--[_Door

LAURA _quietly closes the door, and_ MRS. FARLEY'S _rather strident
voice is heard indistinctly_. LAURA _sighs and walks toward table;
sits_. ANNIE _looks after her, and then slowly opens the door_.

ANNIE. Yo' sho' dere ain't nothin' I can do fo' yuh, Miss Laura?

LAURA. Nothing.

ANNIE _exits_. LAURA _sits down and looks at letter, opening it. It
consists of several pages closely written. She reads some of them
hurriedly, skims through the rest, and then turns to the last page
without reading; glances at it; lays it on table; rises_.

LAURA. Hope, just nothing but hope.

_She crosses to bed, falls face down upon it, burying her face in her
hands. Her despondency is palpable. As she lies there a hurdy-gurdy
in the street starts to play a popular air. This arouses her and she
rises, crosses to wardrobe, takes out box of crackers, opens window,
gets bottle of milk off sill outside, places them on table, gets glass
off washstand, at the same time humming the tune of the hurdy-gurdy,
when a knock comes; she crosses quickly to dresser; powders her nose.
The knock is timidly repeated_.

LAURA. [_Without turning, and in a rather tired tone of voice_.] Come

JIM WESTON, _a rather shabby theatrical advance-agent of the old
school, enters timidly, halting at the door and holding the knob in
his hand. He is a man of about forty years old, dressed in an ordinary
manner, of medium height, and in fact has the appearance of a once
prosperous clerk who has been in hard luck. His relations with_
LAURA _are those of pure friendship. They both live in the same
lodging-place, and, both having been out of employment, they have
naturally become acquainted_.

JIM. Can I come in?

LAURA. [_Without turning_.] Hello, Jim Weston. [_He closes door and
enters_.] Any luck?

JIM. Lots of it.

LAURA. That's good. Tell me.

JIM. It's bad luck. Guess you don't want to hear.

LAURA. I'm sorry. Where have you been?

JIM. I kind o' felt around up at Burgess's office. I thought I might
get a job there, but he put me off until to-morrow. Somehow those
fellows always do business to-morrow.

[_Hurdy-gurdy dies out_.

LAURA. Yes, and there's always to-day to look after.

JIM. I'm ready to give up. I've tramped Broadway for nine weeks until
every piece of flagstone gives me the laugh when it sees my feet
coming. Got a letter from the missis this morning. The kids got to
have some clothes, there's measles in the town, and mumps in the next
village. I've just got to raise some money or get some work, or the
first thing you'll know I'll be hanging around Central Park on a dark
night with a club.

LAURA. I know just how you feel. Sit down, Jim. [JIM _crosses and
sits in chair right of table_.] It's pretty tough for me [_Offers_ JIM
_glass of milk; he refuses; takes crackers_.], but it must be a whole
lot worse for you with a wife and kids.

JIM. Oh, if a man's alone he can generally get along--turn his hand to
anything; but a woman--

LAURA. Worse, you think?

JIM. I was just thinking about you and what Burgess said?

LAURA. What was that?

[_Crosses to bed; sits on up-stage side, sipping milk_.

JIM. You know Burgess and I used to be in the circus business
together. He took care of the grafters when I was boss canvas man. I
never could see any good in shaking down the rubes for all the money
they had and then taking part of it. He used to run the privilege car,
you know.

LAURA. Privilege car?

JIM. Had charge of all the pickpockets,--dips we called
'em--sure-thing gamblers, and the like. Made him rich. I kept sort o'
on the level and I'm broke. Guess it don't pay to be honest--

LAURA. [_Turns to him and in a significant voice_:] You don't really
think that?

JIM. No, maybe not. Ever since I married the missis and the first kid
come, we figured the only good money was the kind folks worked for and
earned; but when you can't get hold of that, it's tough.

LAURA. I know.

JIM. Burgess don't seem to be losing sleep over the tricks he's
turned. He's happy and prosperous, but I guess he ain't any better now
than he was then.

LAURA. Maybe not. I've been trying to get an engagement from him.
There are half a dozen parts in his new attractions that I could do,
but he has never absolutely said "no," but yet somehow he's never said

JIM. He spoke about you.

LAURA. In what way? [_Rising, stands behind_ JIM'S _chair._

JIM. I gave him my address and he seen it was yours, too. Asked if I
lived in the same place.

LAURA. Was that all?

JIM. Wanted to know how you was getting on. I let him know you needed
work, but I didn't tip my hand you was flat broke. He said something
about you being a damned fool.

LAURA. [_Suddenly and interested._] How? [_She crosses._

JIM. Well, Johnny Ensworth--you know he used to do the fights on the
_Evening Journal_; now he's press-agent for Burgess; nice fellow and
way on the inside--he told me where you were in wrong.

LAURA. What have I done? [_Sits in armchair._

JIM. Burgess don't put up the money for any of them musical
comedies--he just trails. Of course he's got a lot of influence, and
he's always Johnny-on-the-Spot to turn any dirty trick that they
want. There are four or five rich men in town who are there with the
bank-roll, providing he engages women who ain't so very particular
about the location of their residence, and who don't hear a curfew
ring at 11:30 every night.

LAURA. And he thinks I am too particular?

JIM. That's what was slipped me. Seems that one of the richest men
that is in on Mr. Burgess's address-book is a fellow named Brockton
from downtown some place. He's got more money than the Shoe and
Leather National Bank. He likes to play show business.

LAURA. [_Rises quickly._] Oh! [_Crosses to wardrobe, gets hat; crosses
to dresser, gets scissors with intention of curling feathers._

JIM. I thought you knew him. I thought it was just as well to tell you
where he and Burgess stand. They're pals.

LAURA. [_Coming over to_ JIM _and with emphasis crosses to down-stage
side of bed; puts hat and scissors on bed._] I don't want you to talk
about him or any of them. I just want you to know that I'm trying to
do everything in my power to go through this season without any more
trouble. I've pawned everything I've got; I've cut every friend I
knew. But where am I going to end? That's what I want to know--where
am I going to end? [_To bed and sits_.] Every place I look for a
position something interferes. It's almost as if I were blacklisted.
I know I could get jobs all right if I wanted to pay the price, but I
won't. I just want to tell you, I won't. No!

[_Rises, crosses to mantel, rests elbow._

JIM. That's the way to talk. [_Rises._] I don't know you very well,
but I've watched you close. I'm just a common, ordinary showman who
never had much money, and I'm going out o' date. I've spent most of
my time with nigger-minstrel shows and circuses, but I've been on the
square. That's why I'm broke. [_Rather sadly._] Once I thought
the missis would have to go back and do her acrobatic act, but she
couldn't do that, she's grown so damn fat. [_Crosses to_ LAURA.] Just
you don't mind. It'll all come out right.

LAURA. It's an awful tough game, isn't it?

JIM. [_During this speech_ LAURA _gets cup, pours milk back into
bottle, closes biscuit-box, puts milk on shed outside, and biscuits
into wardrobe, cup in alcove._] It's hell forty ways from the Jack.
It's tough for me, but for a pretty woman with a lot o' rich fools
jumping out o' their automobiles and hanging around stage doors,
it must be something awful. I ain't blaming the women. They say
"self-preservation is the first law of nature," and I guess that's
right; but sometimes when the show is over and I see them fellows with
their hair plastered back, smoking cigarettes in a [LAURA _crosses
to chair right of table and leans over back._] holder long enough to
reach from here to Harlem, and a bank-roll that would bust my pocket
and turn my head, I feel as if I'd like to get a gun and go a-shooting
around this old town.


JIM. Yes, I do--you bet.

LAURA. That wouldn't pay, would it?

JIM. No, they're not worth the job of sitting on that throne in Sing
Sing, and I'm too poor to go to Matteawan. But all them fellows under
nineteen and over fifty-nine ain't much use to themselves or anyone

LAURA. [_Rather meditatively._] Perhaps all of them are not so bad.

JIM. [_Sits on bed._] Yes, they are,--angels and all. Last season I
had one of them shows where a rich fellow backed it on account of a
girl. We lost money and he lost his girl; then we got stuck in
Texas. I telegraphed: "Must have a thousand, or can't move." He just
answered: "Don't move." We didn't.

LAURA. But that was business.

JIM. Bad business. It took a year for some of them folks to get back
to Broadway. Some of the girls never did, and I guess never will.

LAURA. Maybe they're better off, Jim. [_Sits right of table._

JIM. Couldn't be worse. They're still in Texas. [_To himself._] Wish I
knew how to do something else, being a plumber or a walking delegate;
they always have jobs.

LAURA. Well, I wish I could do something else too, but I can't, and
we've got to make the best of it.

JIM. I guess so. I'll see you this evening. I hope you'll have good
news by that time. [_Starts to exit, about to open door; then retreats
a step, with hand on door-knob, crosses and in a voice meant to be
kindly_] If you'd like to go to the theatre to-night, and take some
other woman in the house, maybe I can get a couple of tickets for some
of the shows. I know a lot of fellows who are working.

LAURA. No, thanks. I haven't anything to wear to the theatre, and I

JIM. [_With a smile crosses to_ LAURA, _puts arm around her._] Now you
just cheer up! Something's sure to turn up. It always has for me, and
I'm a lot older than you, both in years and in this business. There's
always a break in hard luck sometime--that's sure.

LAURA. [_Smiling through her tears._] I hope so. But things are
looking pretty hopeless now, aren't they?

JIM. I'll go down and give Mrs. F. a line o' talk and try to square
you for a couple of days more anyway. But I guess she's laying pretty
close to the cushion herself, poor woman.

LAURA. Annie says a lot of people owe her.

JIM. Well, you can't pay what you haven't got. And even if money was
growing on trees, it's winter now. [JIM _goes towards door._] I'm off.
Maybe to-day is lucky day. So long!

LAURA. Good-bye.

JIM. Keep your nerve. [_Exit_

LAURA. I will. [_She sits for a moment in deep thought, picks up the
letter received, as if to read it, and then throws it down in anger.
She buries her head in hands_.] I can't stand it--I just simply can't
stand it.

MRS. FARLEY'S VOICE. [_Off stage_.] Miss Murdock--Miss Murdock.

LAURA. [_Brushing away tears, rises, goes to door, and opens it_.]
What is it?

SAME VOICE. There's a lady down here to see you.

ELFIE'S VOICE. [_Off stage_.] Hello, dearie, can I come up?

LAURA. Is that you, Elfie?

ELFIE. Yes; shall I come up?

LAURA. Why, certainly.

_She waits at the door for a moment, and_ ELFIE ST. CLAIR _appears.
She is gorgeously gowned in the rather extreme style affected by the
usual New York woman who is cared for by a gentleman of wealth and
who has not gone through the formality of matrimonial alliance. Her
conduct is always exaggerated and her attitude vigorous. Her gown is
of the latest design, and in every detail of dress she shows evidence
of most extravagant expenditure. She carries a hand-bag of gold,
upon which are attached such trifles as a gold cigarette-case, a gold
powder-box, pencils, and the like_. ELFIE _throws her arms around_
LAURA, _and both exchange kisses_.

ELFIE. Laura, you old dear [_Crossing to table_.], I've just found out
where you've been hiding, and came around to see you.

LAURA. [_Who is much brightened by_ ELFIE'S _appearance_.] Elfie,
you're looking bully. How are you, dear?

ELFIE. Fine.

LAURA. Come in and sit down. I haven't much to offer, but--

ELFIE. Oh, never mind. It's such a grand day outside, and I've come
around in my car to take you out. [_Sits right of table_.] You know
I've got a new one, and it can go some.

LAURA. [_Sits on arm of chair_.] I am sorry, but I can't go out this
afternoon, Elfie.

ELFIE. What's the matter?

LAURA. You see I'm staying home a good deal nowadays. I haven't been
feeling very well and I don't go out much.

ELFIE. I should think not. I haven't seen you in Rector's or Martin's
since you come back from Denver. Got a glimpse of you one day trailing
up Broadway, but couldn't get to you--you dived into some office or
other. [_For the first time she surveys the room, rises, looks around
critically, crossing to mantel_.] Gee! Whatever made you come into a
dump like this? It's the limit.

LAURA. [_Crossing and standing back of the table_.] Oh, I know it
isn't pleasant, but it's my home, and after all--a home's a home.

ELFIE. Looks more like a prison. [_Takes candy from mantel; spits it
out on floor_.] Makes me think of the old days of Child's sinkers and
a hall bedroom.

LAURA. It's comfortable. [_Leaning hands on table_.

ELFIE. Not! [_Sits on bed, trying bed with comedy effect_. Say, is
this here for an effect, or do you sleep on it?

LAURA. I sleep on it.

ELFIE. No wonder you look tired. Say, listen, dearie. What else is the
matter with you anyway?

LAURA. Nothing.

ELFIE. Yes, there is. What happened between you and Brockton?
[_Notices faded flowers in vase on table; takes them out, tosses them
into fireplace, replaces them with gardenias which she wears_.] He's
not broke, because I saw him the other day.

LAURA. Where?

ELFIE. In the park. Asked me out to luncheon, but I couldn't go. You
know, dearie, I've got to be so careful. Jerry's so awful jealous--the
old fool.

LAURA. Do you see much of Jerry nowadays, Elfie?

ELFIE. Not any more than I can help and be nice. He gets on my nerves.
Of course, I've heard about your quitting Brockton.

LAURA. Then why do you ask?

[_Crosses around chair right of table; stands_.

ELFIE. Just wanted to hear from your own dear lips what the trouble
was. Now tell me all about it. Can I smoke here?

[_Takes cigarette-case up, opens it, selecting cigarette_.

LAURA. Surely. [_Gets matches off bureau, puts them on table_.

ELFIE. Have one? [_Offers case_.

LAURA. No, thank you.

[_Sits in chair right of table, facing_ ELFIE.

ELFIE. H'm-m, h'm-m, hah! [_Lights cigarette_.] Now go ahead. Tell me
all the scandal. I'm just crazy to know.

LAURA. There's nothing to tell. I haven't been able to find work, that
is all, and I'm short of money. You can't live in hotels, you know,
with cabs and all that sort of thing, when you're not working.

ELFIE. Yes, you can. I haven't worked in a year.

LAURA. But you don't understand, dear. I--I--Well, you know I--well,
you know--I can't say what I want.

ELFIE. Oh, yes, you can. You can say anything to me--everybody else
does. We've been pals. I know you got along a little faster in the
business than I did. The chorus was my limit, and you went into the
legitimate thing. But we got our living just the same way. I didn't
suppose there was any secret between you and me about that.

LAURA. I know there wasn't then, Elfie, but I tell you I'm different
now. I don't want to do that sort of thing, and I've been very
unlucky. This has been a terribly hard season for me. I simply haven't
been able to get an engagement.

ELFIE. Well, you can't get on this way. Won't [_Pauses, knocking ashes
off cigarette to cover hesitation_.] Brockton help you out?

LAURA. What's the use of talking to you [_Rises and crosses to
fireplace_.], Elfie; you don't understand.

ELFIE. [_Puffing deliberately on cigarette and crossing her legs in
almost a masculine attitude_.] No? Why don't I understand?

LAURA. Because you can't; you've never felt as I have.

ELFIE. How do you know?

LAURA. [_Turning impatiently_.] Oh, what's the use of explaining?

ELFIE. You know, Laura, I'm not much on giving advice, but you make me
sick. I thought you'd grown wise. A young girl just butting into this
business might possibly make a fool of herself, but you ought to be on
to the game and make the best of it.

LAURA. [_Going over to her angrily_.] If you came up here, Elfie, to
talk that sort of stuff to me, please don't. I was West this summer.
I met someone, a real man, who did me a whole lot of good,--a man who
opened my eyes to a different way of going along--a man who--Oh, well,
what's the use? You don't know--you don't know. [_Sits on bed_.

ELFIE. [_Throws cigarette into fireplace_.] I don't know, don't I? I
don't know, I suppose, that when I came to this town from up state,--a
little burg named Oswego,--and joined a chorus, that I didn't fall in
love with just such a man. I suppose I don't know that then I was
the best-looking girl in New York, and everybody talked about me? I
suppose I don't know that there were men, all ages and with all kinds
of money, ready to give me anything for the mere privilege of taking
me out to supper? And I didn't do it, did I? For three years I stuck
by this good man who was to lead me in a good way toward a good life.
And all the time I was getting older, never quite so pretty one day
as I had been the day before. I never knew then what it was to be
tinkered with by hair-dressers and manicures or a hundred and one of
those other people who make you look good. I didn't have to have them
then. [_Rises, crosses to right of table, facing_ LAURA.] Well, you
know, Laura, what happened.

LAURA. Wasn't it partly your fault, Elfie?

ELFIE. [_Speaking across table angrily._] Was it my fault that time
made me older and I took on a lot of flesh? Was it my fault that the
work and the life took out the colour, and left the make-up? Was it my
fault that other pretty young girls came along, just as I'd come, and
were chased after, just as I was? Was it my fault the cabs weren't
waiting any more and people didn't talk about how pretty I was? And
was it my fault when he finally had me alone, and just because no one
else wanted me, he got tired and threw me flat--cold flat [_Brings
hand down on table._]--and I'd been on the dead level with him! [_With
almost a sob, crosses up to bureau, powders nose, comes down back of
table._] It almost broke my heart. Then I made up my mind to get
even and get all I could out of the game. Jerry came along. He was a
has-been and I was on the road to be. He wanted to be good to me, and
I let him. That's all.

LAURA. Still, I don't see how you can live that way.

[_Lies on bed._

ELFIE. Well, you did, and you didn't kick.

LAURA. Yes, but things are different with me now. You'd be the same
way if you were in my place.

ELFIE. No. I've had all the romance I want, and I'll stake you to all
your love affairs. [_Crosses back of bed, touches picture over bed._]
I am out to gather in as much coin as I can in my own way, so when the
old rainy day comes along I'll have a little change to buy myself an

LAURA. [_Rising and angrily crossing to armchair._] What did you come
here for? Why can't you leave me alone when I'm trying to get along?

ELFIE. Because I want to help you.

LAURA. [_During speech crosses to up-stage side of bed, angrily tosses
quilt to floor and sits on bed in tears._] You can't help me. I'm all
right--I tell you I am. What do you care anyway?

ELFIE. [_Sits on bed, crosses down stage to lower left side of bed,
sits facing_ LAURA.] But I do care. I know how you feel with an old
cat for a landlady and living up here on a side street with a lot of
cheap burlesque people. Why, the room's cold [LAURA _rises, crosses
to window._], and there's no hot water, and you're beginning to look
shabby. You haven't got a job--chances are you won't have one. What
does [_Indicating picture on bed with thumb._] this fellow out there
do for you? Send you long letters of condolences? That's what I used
to get. When I wanted to buy a new pair of shoes or a silk petticoat,
he told me how much he loved me; so I had the other ones re-soled and
turned the old petticoat. And look at you, you're beginning to show
it. [_She surveys her carefully._] I do believe there are lines coming
in your face [LAURA _crosses to dresser quickly, picks up hand mirror,
and looks at herself._], and you hide in the house because you've
nothing new to wear.

LAURA. [_Puts down mirror, crossing down to back of bed._] But I've
got what you haven't got. I may have to hide my clothes, but I don't
have to hide my face. And you with that man--he's old enough to be
your father--a toddling dote hanging on your apron-strings. I don't
see how you dare show your face to a decent woman.

ELFIE. [_Rises._] You don't!--but you did once and I never caught you
hanging your head. You say he's old. I know he's old, but he's good to
me. He's making what's left of my life pleasant. You think I like him.
I don't,--sometimes I hate him,--but he understands; and you can bet
your life his check is in my mail every Saturday night or there's a
new lock on the door Sunday morning. [_Crossing to fireplace._

LAURA. How can you say such things to me?

ELFIE. [_Crosses to left end of table._] Because I want you to be
square with yourself. You've lost all that precious virtue women gab
about. When you've got the name, I say get the game.

LAURA. You can go now, Elfie, and don't come back.

ELFIE. [_Gathering up muff, &c._] All right, if that's the way you
want it to be, I'm sorry. [_A knock on the door._

LAURA. [_Controlling herself after a moment's hesitation._] Come in.

ANNIE _enters with a note, crosses, and hands it to_ LAURA.

ANNIE. Mis' Farley sent dis, Miss Laura.

[LAURA _takes the note and reads it. She is palpably annoyed_.

LAURA. There's no answer.

ANNIE. She tol' me not to leave until Ah got an answah.

LAURA. You must ask her to wait.

ANNIE. She wants an answah.

LAURA. Tell her I'll be right down--that it will be all right.

ANNIE. But, Miss Laura, she tol' me to get an answah.

[_Exit reluctantly_.

LAURA. [_Half to herself and half to_ ELFIE.] She's taking advantage
of your being here. [_Standing near door_.


LAURA. She wants money--three weeks' room-rent. I presume she thought
you'd give it to me.

ELFIE. Huh! [_Moves to left_.

LAURA. [_Crossing to table_.] Elfie, I've been a little cross; I
didn't mean it.

ELFIE. Well?

LAURA. Could--could you lend me thirty-five dollars until I get to



ELFIE. Lend _you_ thirty-five dollars?

LAURA. Yes; you've got plenty of money to spare.

ELFIE. Well, you certainly have got a nerve.

LAURA. You might give it to me. I haven't a dollar in the world, and
you pretend to be such a friend to me!

ELFIE. [_Turning and angrily speaking across table_.] So that's the
kind of woman you are, eh? A moment ago you were going to kick me out
of the place because I wasn't decent enough to associate with you.
You know how I live. You know how I get my money--the same way you got
most of yours. And now that you've got this spasm of goodness I'm not
fit to be in your room; but you'll take my money to pay your debts.
You'll let me go out and do this sort of thing for your benefit, while
you try to play the grand lady. I've got your number now, Laura. Where
in hell is your virtue anyway? You can go to the devil--rich, poor, or
any other way. I'm off! ELFIE _rushes toward door; for a moment_ LAURA
_stands speechless, then bursts into hysterics_.

LAURA. Elfie! Elfie! Don't go now! Don't leave me now! [ELFIE
_hesitates with hand on door-knob_.] I can't stand it. I can't be
alone. Don't go, please; don't go.

LAURA _falls into_ ELFIE'S _arms, sobbing. In a moment_ ELFIE'S _whole
demeanour changes and she melts into the tenderest womanly sympathy,
trying her best to express herself in her crude way_.

ELFIE. There, old girl, don't cry, don't cry. You just sit down here
and let me put my arms around you. [ELFIE _leads_ LAURA _over to
armchair, places muff, &c., in chair, and sits_ LAURA _down in chair_.
ELFIE _sits on right arm of chair with her left arm behind_ LAURA;
_hugs_ LAURA _to her_. LAURA _in tears and sobbing during scene_.]
I'm awful sorry--on the level, I am. I shouldn't have said it. I know
that. But I've got feelings too, even if folks don't give me credit
for it.

LAURA. I know, Elfie. I've gone through about all I can stand.

ELFIE. Well, I should say you have--and more than I would. Anyway a
good cry never hurts any woman. I have one myself, sometimes--under

LAURA. [_More seriously, recovering herself_.] Perhaps what you said
was true.

ELFIE. We won't talk about it.

[_Wiping_ LAURA'S _eyes and kissing her_.

LAURA. [_With persistence_.] But perhaps it was true, and, Elfie--


LAURA. I think I've stood this just as long as I can. Every day is a
living horror.

ELFIE. [_Looking around room_.] It's the limit.

LAURA. I've got to have money to pay the rent. I've pawned everything
I have, except the clothes on my back.

ELFIE. I'll give you all the money you need, dearie. Great heavens,
don't worry about that. Don't you care if I got sore and--and lost my

LAURA. No; I can't let you do that. [_Rises; crosses to table_.] You
may have been mad,--awfully mad,--but what you said was the truth. I
can't take your money. [_Sits right of table_.

ELFIE. Oh, forget that. [_Rises, crosses to centre_.

LAURA. Maybe--maybe if he knew all about it--the suffering--he
wouldn't blame me.

ELFIE. Who--the good man who wanted to lead you to the good life
without even a bread-basket for an advance-agent? Huh!

LAURA. Still he doesn't know how desperately poor I am.

ELFIE. He knows you're out of work, don't he?

LAURA. [_Turning to_ ELFIE.] Not exactly. I've let him think that I'm
getting along all right.

ELFIE. Then you're a chump. Hasn't he sent you anything?

LAURA. He hasn't anything to send.

ELFIE. Well, what does he think you're going to live on?--asphalt
croquettes with conversation sauce?

LAURA. I don't know--I don't know. [_Sobbing_.

ELFIE. [_Crosses to_ LAURA, _puts arms around her_.] Don't be foolish,
dearie. You know there is somebody waiting for you--somebody who'll be
good to you and get you out of this mess.

LAURA. You mean Will Brockton? [_Looking up_.


LAURA. Do you know where he is?


LAURA. Well?

ELFIE. You won't get sore again if I tell you, will you?

LAURA. No--why? [_Rises_.

ELFIE. He's downstairs--waiting in the car. I promised to tell him
what you said.

LAURA. Then it was all planned, and--and--

ELFIE. Now, dearie, I knew you were up against it, and I wanted to
bring you two together. He's got half of the Burgess shows, and if
you'll only see him everything will be fixed.

LAURA. When does he want to see me?


LAURA. Here?

ELFIE. Yes. Shall I tell him to come up?

LAURA. [_After a long pause, crossing around to bed, down-stage
side_.] Yes.

ELFIE. [_Suddenly becomes animated_.] Now you're a sensible dear. I'll
bet he's half frozen down there. [_Goes to door_.] I'll send him up.
Look at you, Laura, you're a sight. [_Crosses to_ LAURA, _takes her
by hand, leads her up to washstand, takes towel and wipes_ LAURA'S
_eyes_.] It'll never do to have him see you looking like this; come
over here and let me fix your eyes. Now, Laura, I want you to promise
me you won't do any more crying. [_Leads_ LAURA _over to dresser,
takes powder-puff and powders_ LAURA'S _face_.] Come over here and let
me powder your nose. Now when he comes up you tell him he has got to
blow us all off to a dinner to-night at Martin's, seven-thirty. Let me
look at you. Now you're all right. [_After daubing_ LAURA'S _face with
the rouge paw_, ELFIE _takes_ LAURA'S _face in her hands and kisses
her_.] Make it strong now, seven-thirty, don't forget. I'll be there.
[_Crosses to armchair, gathers up muff, &c_.] So long.


_After_ ELFIE'S _exit_ LAURA _crosses slowly to wardrobe, pulls off
picture of_ JOHN; _crosses to dresser, takes picture of_ JOHN _from
there; carries both pictures over to bed; kneels on bed, pulls down
picture at head of bed; places all three pictures under pillow_. WILL
_is heard coming upstairs, and knocks_.

LAURA. Come in.

WILL _enters. His dress is that of a man of business, the time being
about February. He is well groomed and brings with him the impression
of easy luxury_.

WILL. [_As he enters_.] Hello, Laura.

_There is an obvious embarrassment on the part of each of them. She
rises, goes to him and extends her hand_.

LAURA. I'm--I'm glad to see you, Will.

WILL. Thank you.

LAURA. Won't you sit down?

WILL. [_Regaining his ease of manner_.] Thank you again.

[_Puts hat and cane at end of wardrobe; removes overcoat and places it
on back of armchair; sits in armchair_.

LAURA. [_Sits right of table_.] It's rather cold out, isn't it?

WILL. Just a bit sharp.

LAURA. You came with Elfie in the car?

WILL. She picked me up at Martin's; we lunched there.

LAURA. By appointment?

WILL. I'd asked her.

LAURA. Well?

WILL. Well, Laura.

LAURA. She told you?

WILL. Not a great deal. What do you want to tell me?

LAURA. [_Very simply, and avoiding his glance_.] Will, I'm ready to
come back.

WILL. [_With an effort concealing his sense of triumph and
satisfaction. Rises, crosses to_ LAURA.] I'm mighty glad of that,
Laura. I've missed you like the very devil.

LAURA. Do we--do we have to talk it over much?

[_Crosses to left of table in front of bed_.

WILL. Not at all unless you want to. I understand--in fact, I always

LAURA. [_Wearily_.] Yes, I guess you always did. I didn't.

[_Crosses and sits right of table_.

WILL. It will be just the same as it was before, you know.


WILL. I didn't think it was possible for me to miss anyone the way I
have you. I've been lonely.

LAURA. That's nice in you to say that.

WILL. You'll have to move out of here right away. [_Crossing to back
of table, surveying room_.] This place is enough to give one the
colly-wabbles. If you'll be ready to-morrow I'll send my man over to
help you take care of the luggage.

LAURA. To-morrow will be all right, thank you.

WILL. And you'll need some money in the meantime. I'll leave this

[_He takes a roll of bills and places it on the bureau_.

LAURA. You seem to have come prepared. Did Elfie and you plan this all

WILL. Not planned--just hoped. I think you'd better go to some nice
hotel now. Later we can arrange.

[_Sits on up-stage side of bed_.

LAURA. Will, we'll always be frank. I said I was ready to go. It's up
to you--when and where.

WILL. The hotel scheme is the best, but, Laura--


WILL. You're quite sure this is in earnest. You don't want to change?
You've time enough now.

LAURA. I've quite made up my mind. It's final.

WILL. If you want to work, Burgess has a nice part for you. I'll
telephone and arrange if you say so.

LAURA. Thanks. Say I'll see him in the morning.

WILL. And, Laura, you know when we were in Denver, and--

LAURA. [_Rises hurriedly; crosses right_.] Please, please, don't speak
of it.

WILL. I'm sorry, but I've got to. I told [_Rises, and crosses to
left_.] Madison [LAURA _turns her head_.]--pardon me, but I must do
this--that if this time ever came I'd have you write him the truth.
Before we go any further I'd like you to do that now.

LAURA. Say good-bye? [_Turns to_ WILL.

WILL. Just that.

LAURA. I wouldn't know how to begin. It will hurt him awfully deeply.

WILL. It'll be worse if you don't. He'll like you for telling him. It
would be honest, and that is what he expects.

LAURA. Must I--now?

WILL. I think you should.

LAURA. [_Goes to table and sits down_.] How shall I begin, Will?

WILL. [_Standing back of table_.] You mean you don't know what to say?


WILL. Then I'll dictate.

LAURA. I'll do just as you say. You're the one to tell me now.

WILL. Address it the way you want to. [_She complies_.] I'm going to
be pretty brutal. In the long run I think that is best, don't you?

LAURA. It's up to you.

WILL. Ready?

LAURA. Begin.

WILL. [_Dictating_.] "All I have to say can be expressed in one word,
'good-bye.' I shall not tell you where I've gone, but remind you
of what Brockton told you the last time he saw you. He is here now
[_Pause_.], dictating this letter. What I am doing is voluntary--my
own suggestion. Don't grieve. Be happy and successful. I do not love

[_She puts pen down; looks at him_.

LAURA. Will--please.

WILL. It has got to go just that way--"I do not love you." Sign
it "Laura." [_She does it_.] Fold it, put it in an envelope--seal
it--address it. Now shall I mail it?

LAURA. No. If you don't mind I'd sooner. It's a sort of a last--last

WILL. [_Crosses to armchair; gets coat, puts it on_.] All right.
You're a little upset now, and I'm going. We are all to dine at
Martin's to-night at seven-thirty. There'll be a party. Of course
you'll come. [_Gets hat and cane_.

LAURA. I don't think I can. You see--

WILL. I know. I guess there's enough there [_Indicating money_.] for
your immediate needs. Later you can straighten things up. Shall I send
the car?

LAURA. Yes, please.

WILL. Good. It will be the first happy evening I've had in a long,
long time. You'll be ready?

[_Approaches and bends over her as if to caress her_.

LAURA. [_Shrinking away_.] Please don't. Remember we don't dine until

WILL. All right. [_Exit_.

_For a moment_ LAURA _sits silent, and then angrily rises, crosses
up to dresser, gets alcohol lamp, crosses to table with lamp, lights
same, and starts back to dresser. Knock at door_.

LAURA. Come in. [ANNIE _enters, and stops_.] That you, Annie?

ANNIE. Yassum.

LAURA. Mrs. Farley wants her rent. There is some money. [_Tosses money
on to table_.] Take it to her.

ANNIE _goes to the table, examines the roll of bills and is palpably

ANNIE. Dey ain't nothin' heah, Miss Laura, but five great big one
hunderd dollah bills.

LAURA. Take two. And look in that upper drawer. You'll find some pawn
tickets there. [ANNIE _complies_.

ANNIE. Yassum. [_Aside_.] Dat's real money--dem's yellow-backs sure.

LAURA. Take the two top ones and go get my lace gown and one of
the hats. The ticket is for a hundred and ten dollars. Keep ten for
yourself, and hurry.

ANNIE. [_Aside_.] Ten for myself--I never see so much money. [_To_
LAURA, _her astonishment nearly overcoming her_.] Yassum, Miss Laura,
yassum. [_She goes toward door, and then turns to_ LAURA.] Ah'm so
mighty glad yo' out all yo' trouble, Miss Laura. I says to Mis' Farley

LAURA. [_Snapping her off_.] Don't--don't. Go do as I tell you and
mind your business. [ANNIE _turns sullenly and walks toward the door.
At that moment_ LAURA _sees the letter, which she has thrown on the
table_.] Wait a minute. I want you to mail a letter. [_By this time
her hair is half down, hanging loosely over her shoulders. Her waist
is open at the throat, collar off, and she has the appearance of a
woman's untidiness when she is at that particular stage of her toilet.
Hands letter to_ ANNIE, _but snatches it away as_ ANNIE _turns to
go. She glances at the letter long and wistfully, and her nerve fails
her_.] Never mind.

ANNIE _exits. Slowly_ LAURA _puts the letter over the flame of the
alcohol lamp and it ignites. As it burns she holds it in her fingers,
and when half consumed throws it into waste-jar, sits on side of bed
watching letter burn, then lies down across bed on her elbows, her
chin in her hands, facing audience. As the last flicker is seen the
curtain slowly descends_.



SCENE. _Two months have elapsed. The scene is at_ BROCKTON'S
_apartment in a hotel such as is not over particular concerning
the relations of its tenants. There are a number of these hotels
throughout the theatre district of New York, and, as a rule, one will
find them usually of the same type. The room in which this scene is
placed is that of the general living-room in one of the handsomest
apartments in the building. The prevailing colour is green, and there
is nothing particularly gaudy about the general furnishings. They
are in good taste, but without the variety of arrangement and
ornamentation which would naturally obtain in a room occupied by
people a bit more particular concerning their surroundings. Down stage
is a table about three feet square which can be used not only as a
general centre-table, but also for service while the occupants are
eating. There is a breakfast service on this table, and also a tray
and stand behind it. There is a chair at either side of the table,
and at right coming up stage, the room turns at a sharp angle of
thirty-five degrees, and this space is largely taken up by a large
doorway. This is equipped with sliding-doors and hung with green
portieres, which are handsome and in harmony with the general scheme
of the furnishings of the room. This entrance is to the sleeping-room
of the apartments_.

_At the back of the stage is a large window or alcove. The window
is on the ordinary plan, and the view through it shows the back of
another building of New York, presumably a hotel of about the same
character. Green portieres are also hung on the windows. Down left
is the entrance to the corridor of the hotel, and this must be
so arranged that it works with a latch-key and opens upon a small
hallway, which separates the apartment from the main hallway. This is
necessary as the action calls for the slamming of a door, and later
the opening of the direct and intimate door of the apartment with
a latch-key. Left of centre is a sofa, and there is a general
arrangement of chairs without over-crowding the apartment. Just below,
where the right portiere is hung, is a long, full-length mirror, such
as women dress by. Against wall is a lady's fancy dresser._

_To the immediate left of the sliding-doors, which go into the
sleeping-apartment, is a lady's small writing-desk, with a drawer on
the right-hand side, in which is a pearl-handled 32-calibre revolver.
The front of the desk is open at rise. On top of the desk is a desk
lamp and a large box of candy; inside the desk is writing material,
&c. In pigeon-hole left there is a small photo and frame, which_ ANNIE
_places on the table when she removes the breakfast set. In front of
centre window in alcove is a small table on which is a parlour lamp,
and some newspapers, including the "New York Sun." On the floor
running between the desk and table is a large fur rug. In front of the
table is a small gilt chair; in front of desk there is also a small
gilt chair; there is a pianola piano, on top of which is a bundle of
music-rolls. In place, ready to play, is a roll of a negro tune called
"Bon-Bon Buddie, My Chocolate Drop." On top of the piano, in
addition to the music-rolls, are a fancy lamp, a large basket of
chrysanthemums, and two photos in frames, at the upper corner.
Standing on the floor is a large piano lamp. On the sofa are cushions,
and thrown over its back is a lady's opera-coat. On the sofa are also
a fan and some small dinner favours._

_On the dresser are a lady's silver toilet set, including powder
boxes, rouge boxes, manicuring implements, and a small plush black cat
that might have been a favour at some time. Two little dolls hang
on the side of the glass of the dresser, which also might have been
favours. These are used later in the action, and are necessary._

AT RISE. _When the curtain rises on this scene it is noticeable that
the occupants of the room must have returned rather late at night,
after having dined, not wisely, but too well. In the alcove is a man's
dress-coat and vest thrown on the cushions in a most careless manner;
a silk hat badly rumpled is near it. Over the top of sofa is an
opera-cloak, and hung on the mirror is a huge hat, of the evening
type, such as women would pay handsomely for. A pair of gloves is
thrown on top of the pier-glass. The curtains in the bay-window are
half drawn, and the light shades are half drawn down the windows, so
that when the curtain goes up the place is in a rather dim light.
On the table are the remains of a breakfast, which is served in a
box-like tray such as is used in hotels._ LAURA _is discovered sitting
at right of table, her hair a bit untidy. She has on a very expensive
negligee gown._ WILL, _in a business suit, is at the other side of the
table, and both have evidently just about concluded their breakfast
and are reading the newspapers while they sip their coffee._ LAURA
_is intent in the scanning of her "Morning Telegraph," while_ WILL _is
deep in the market reports of the "Journal of Commerce," and in each
instance these things must be made apparent._ WILL _throws down the
paper rather impatiently._

WILL. Have you seen the _Sun_, Laura?


WILL. Where is it?

LAURA. I don't know.

WILL. [_In a loud voice._] Annie, Annie! [_A pause._] Annie! [_In an
undertone, half directed to_ LAURA.] Where the devil is that nigger?

LAURA. Why, I suppose she's at breakfast.

WILL. Well, she ought to be here.

LAURA. Did it ever occur to you that she has got to eat just the same
as you have?

WILL. She's your servant, isn't she?

LAURA. My maid.

WILL. Well, what have you got her for,--to eat or to wait on you?

LAURA. Don't be so cross. What do you want?

WILL. I want the _Sun_.

[BROCKTON _pours out one half glass of water from bottle._

LAURA. I will get it for you.

_Rather wearily she gets up and goes to the table, where there are
other morning papers; she takes the "Sun," hands it to him, goes back
to her seat, re-opens the "Morning Telegraph." There is a pause._
ANNIE _enters from the sleeping-room._

ANNIE. Do yuh want me, suh?

WILL. Yes, I did want you, but don't now. When I'm at home I have a
man to look after me, and I get what I want.

LAURA. For heaven's sake, Will, have a little patience. If you like
your man so well, you had better live at home, but don't come around
here with a grouch and bulldoze everybody.

WILL. Don't think for a moment that there's much to come around here
for. Annie, this room's stuffy.

ANNIE. Yassuh.

WILL. Draw those portieres. Let those curtains up. [ANNIE _lets up
curtain._] Let's have a little light. Take away these clothes and hide
them. Don't you know that a man doesn't want to see the next morning
anything to remind him of the night before. Make the place look a
little respectable.

_In the meantime_ ANNIE _scurries around, picking up the coat and
vest, opera-cloak, &c., as rapidly as possible, and throwing them over
her arm without any idea of order. It is very apparent that she is
rather fearful of the anger of_ WILL _while he is in this mood._

WILL. [_Looking at her._] Be careful. You're not taking the wash off
the line.

ANNIE. Yassuh. [_Exit in confusion._

LAURA. [_Laying down paper and looking at_ WILL.] Well, I must say
you're rather amiable this morning.

WILL. I feel like hell.

LAURA. Market unsatisfactory?

WILL. No; head too big. [_He lights a cigar; as he takes a puff he
makes an awful face._] Tastes like punk. [_Puts cigar into cup._

LAURA. You drank a lot.

WILL. We'll have to cut out those parties. I can't do those things any
more. I'm not as young as I was, and in the morning it makes me sick.
How do you feel?

LAURA. A little tired, that's all. [_Rises, and crosses to bureau._

WILL. You didn't touch anything?


WILL. I guess you're on the safe side. It was a great old party,
though, wasn't it?

LAURA. Did you think so?

WILL. Oh, for that sort of a blow-out. Not too rough, but just a
little easy. I like them at night and I hate them in the morning. [_He
picks up the paper and commences to glance it over in a casual manner,
not interrupting his conversation._] Were you bored?

LAURA. Yes; always at things like that.

WILL. Well, you don't have to go.

LAURA. You asked me.

WILL. Still, you could say no. [LAURA _picks up paper, puts it on
table and crosses back to bureau._

LAURA. But you asked me.

WILL. What did you go for if you didn't want to?

LAURA. _You_ wanted me to.

WILL. I don't quite get you.

LAURA. Well, Will, you have all my time when I'm not in the theatre,
and you can do with it just what you please. You pay for it. I'm
working for you.

WILL. Is that all I've got,--just your time?

LAURA. [_Wearily._] That and the rest. [LAURA _crosses up to desk,
gets "part," crosses to sofa, turning pages of "part."_] I guess you
know. [_Crosses to sofa and sits._

WILL. [_Looking at her curiously._] Down in the mouth, eh? I'm sorry.

LAURA. No, only if you want me to be frank, I'm a little tired. You
may not believe it, but I work awfully hard over at the theatre.
Burgess will tell you that. I know I'm not so very good as an actress,
but I try to be. [LAURA _lies down on sofa._] I'd like to succeed,
myself. They're very patient with me. Of course they've got to
be,--that's another thing you're paying for, but I don't seem to get
along except this way.

WILL. Oh, don't get sentimental. If you're going to bring up that sort
of talk, Laura, do it sometime when I haven't got a hang-over, and
then don't forget talk never does count for much.

LAURA _crosses up to mirror, picks up hat from box, puts it on, looks
in mirror. She turns around and looks at him steadfastly for a minute.
During this entire scene, from the time the curtain rises, she must in
a way indicate a premonition of an approaching catastrophe, a feeling,
vague but nevertheless palpable, that something is going to happen.
She must hold this before her audience so that she can show to them,
without showing to him, the disgust she feels._ LAURA _has tasted
of the privations of self-sacrifice during her struggle, and she has
weakly surrendered and is unable to go back, but that brief period of
self-abnegation has shown to her most clearly the rottenness of the
other sort of living. There are enough sentimentality and emotion in
her character to make it impossible for her to accept this manner of
existence as_ ELFIE _does. Hers is not a nature of careless candour,
but of dreamy ideals and better living, warped, handicapped,
disillusioned, and destroyed by a weakness that finds its principal
force in vanity._ WILL _resumes his newspaper in a more attentive way.
The girl looks at him and expresses in pantomime, by the slightest
gesture or shrug of the shoulders, her growing distaste for him and
his way of living. In the meantime_ WILL _is reading the paper rather
carefully. He stops suddenly and then looks at his watch._

LAURA. What time is it?

WILL. After ten.


WILL _at this moment particularly reads some part of the paper, turns
to her with a keen glance of suspicion and inquiry, and then for a
very short moment evidently settles in his mind a cross-examination.
He has read in this paper a despatch from Chicago, which speaks
of_ JOHN MADISON _having arrived there as a representative of a big
Western mining syndicate which is going to open large operations in
the Nevada gold-fields, and representing_ MR. MADISON _as being on his
way to New York with sufficient capital to enlist more, and showing
him to be now a man of means. The attitude of_ LAURA _and the
coincidence of the despatch bring back to_ WILL _the scene in Denver,
and later in New York, and with that subtle intuition of the man of
the world he connects the two._

WILL. I don't suppose, Laura, that you'd be interested now in knowing
anything about that young fellow out in Colorado? What was his

LAURA. Do you know anything?

WILL. No, nothing particularly. I've been rather curious to know how
he came out. He was a pretty fresh young man and did an awful lot of
talking. I wonder how he's doing and how he's getting along. I don't
suppose by any chance you have ever heard from him?

LAURA. No, no; I've never heard. [_Crosses to bureau._

WILL. I presume he never replied to that letter you wrote?


WILL. It would be rather queer, eh, if this young fellow should
[_Looks at paper._] happen to come across a lot of money--not that I
think he ever could, but it would be funny, wouldn't it?

LAURA. Yes, yes; it would be unexpected. I hope he does. It might make
him happy.

WILL. Think he might take a trip East and see you act. You know you've
got quite a part now.

LAURA. [_Impatiently._] I wish you wouldn't discuss this. Why do you
mention it now? [_Crossing to right of table._] Is it because you were
drinking last night and lost your sense of delicacy? You once had some
consideration for me. What I've done I've done. I'm giving you all
that I can. Please, please, don't hurt me any more than you can help.
That's all I ask.

[_Crossing up to mirror. Crosses back to right of table; sits._

WILL. Well, I'm sorry. I didn't mean that, Laura. I guess I am feeling
a little bad to-day. Really, I don't want to hurt your feelings, my

_He gets up, goes to her, puts his hands on her shoulders, and his
cheek close to the back of her head. She bends forward and shudders
a little bit. It is very easy to see that the life she is leading is
becoming intolerable to her._

WILL. You know, dearie, I do a lot for you because you've always been
on the level with me. I'm sorry I hurt you, but there was too much
wine last night and I'm all upset. Forgive me.

LAURA, _in order to avoid his caresses, has leaned forward; her hands
are clasped between her knees, and she is looking straight outward
with a cold, impassive expression._ WILL _regards her silently for a
moment. Really in the man's heart there is an affection, and really
he wants to try to comfort her; but he seems to realize that she has
slipped away from the old environment and conditions, and that he
simply bought her back; that he hasn't any of her affection, even with
his money; that she evinces toward him none of the old camaraderie;
and it hurts him, as those things always hurt a selfish man, inclining
him to be brutal and inconsiderate._ WILL _crosses to centre, and
stands reading paper; bell rings; a pause and second bell._ WILL
_seizes upon this excuse to go up-stage and over towards the door._

WILL. [_After second bell._] Damn that bell.

_He continues on his way; he opens the door, leaves it open, and
passes on to the outer door, which he opens._ LAURA _remains immovable
and impassive, with the same cold, hard expression on her face. He
comes in, slamming the outer door with effect, which one must have at
this point of the play, because it is essential to a situation coming
later. Enters the room, closes the door, and holds in his hand a
telegram. Looks from newspaper to telegram._

WILL. A wire.

LAURA. For me?

WILL. Yes.

LAURA. From whom, I wonder. Perhaps Elfie with a luncheon engagement.

WILL. [_Handing telegram to her._] I don't know. Here.

_Pause; he faces her, looking at her. She opens it quickly. She reads
it and, as she does, gasps quickly with an exclamation of fear and
surprise. This is what the despatch says (it is dated at Buffalo and
addressed to_ LAURA): _"I will be in New York before noon. I'm coming
to marry you and I'm coming with a bank-roll. I wanted to keep it
secret and have a big surprise for you, but I can't hold it any
longer, because I feel just like a kid with a new top. Don't go out,
and be ready for the big matrimonial thing. All my love. John."_

WILL. No bad news, I hope?

LAURA. [_Walking up stage rather hurriedly._] No, no--not bad news.

WILL. I thought you were startled.

LAURA. No, not at all.

WILL. [_Looking at paper about where he had left off._] From Elfie?
[_Crosses to, and sits in armchair._

LAURA. No, just a friend.


_He makes himself rather comfortable in the chair, and_ LAURA _regards
him for a moment from up stage as if trying to figure out how to get
rid of him_.

LAURA. Won't you be rather late getting down town, Will?

WILL. Doesn't make any difference. I don't feel much like the office
now. Thought I might order the car and take a spin through the park.
The cold air will do me a lot of good. Like to go?

LAURA. No, not to-day. I thought your business was important; you said
so last night. [_Crosses to sofa, and stands_.

WILL. No hurry. Do you--er--want to get rid of me?

LAURA. Why should I?

WILL. Expecting someone?

LAURA. No--not exactly. [_Crosses up to window_.

WILL. If you don't mind, I'll stay here. [_Lets curtain fly up_.

LAURA. Just as you please. [_A pause. Crosses to piano; plays_.] Will?

WILL. Yes.

LAURA. How long does it take to come from Buffalo?

WILL. Depends on the train you take.

LAURA. About how long?

WILL. Between eight and ten hours, I think. Some one coming?

LAURA. Do you know anything about the trains?

WILL. Not much. Why don't you find out for yourself? Have Annie get
the time-table?

LAURA. I will. Annie! Annie!

[_Rises from piano_. ANNIE _appears at doorway_.

ANNIE. Yassum!

LAURA. Go ask one of the hall-boys to bring me a New York Central

ANNIE. Yassum!

_Crosses the stage and exits through door_. LAURA _sits on left arm of

WILL. Then you _do_ expect someone, eh?

LAURA. Only one of the girls who used to be in the same company with
me. But I'm not sure that she's coming here.

WILL. Then the wire was from her?


WILL. Did she say what train she was coming on?


WILL. Well, there are a lot of trains. About what time did you expect
her in?

LAURA. She didn't say.

WILL. Do I know her?

LAURA. I think not. I met her while I worked in 'Frisco.

WILL. Oh! [_Resumes his paper_.

ANNIE _reenters with a time-table and hands it to_ LAURA.

LAURA. Thanks; take those breakfast things away, Annie.

[_Sits on sofa_.

ANNIE _complies; takes them across stage, opens the door leading
to the corridor, exits_. LAURA _in the meantime is studying the

LAURA. I can't make this out.

WILL. Give it here; maybe I can help you.

LAURA _crosses to right of table, sits opposite_ WILL, _and hands him
the time-table. He takes it and handles it as if he were familiar with

WILL. Where is she coming from?

LAURA. The West; the telegram was from Buffalo. I suppose she was on
her way when she sent it.

WILL. There's a train comes in here at 9:30--that's the Twentieth
Century,--that doesn't carry passengers from Buffalo; then there's one
at 11:41; one at 1:49; another at 3:45; another at 5:40; and another
at 5:48--that's the Lake Shore Limited, a fast train; and all pass
through Buffalo. Did you think of meeting her?

LAURA. No. She'll come here when she arrives.

WILL. Knows where you live?

LAURA. She has the address.

WILL. Ever been to New York before?

LAURA. I think not.

WILL. [_Passing her the time-table_.] Well, that's the best I can do
for you.

LAURA. Thank you. [_Crosses and puts time-table in desk_.

WILL. [_Takes up the paper again_. LAURA _looks at clock_.] By George,
this is funny.

LAURA. What?

WILL. Speak of the devil, you know.


WILL. Your old friend Madison.

LAURA. [_Utters a slight exclamation and makes an effort to control
herself_.] What--what about him?

WILL. He's been in Chicago.

LAURA. How do you know?

WILL. Here's a despatch about him.

LAURA. [_Coming quickly over to him, looks over his shoulder_.]
What--where--what's it about?

WILL. Well, I'm damned if he hasn't done what he said he'd do--see!
[_Holds the paper so that she can see_. LAURA _takes paper_.] He's
been in Chicago, and is on his way to New York. He's struck it rich
in Nevada and is coming with a lot of money. Queer, isn't it? [LAURA
_puts paper on table_.] Did you know anything about it? [_Lights

LAURA. No, no; nothing at all. [_Crosses to bureau_.

WILL. Lucky for him, eh?

LAURA. Yes, yes; it's very nice.

WILL. Too bad he couldn't get this a little sooner, eh, Laura?

LAURA. Oh, I don't know--I don't think it's too bad. What makes you

WILL. Oh, nothing. I suppose he ought to be here to-day. Are you going
to see him if he looks you up?

LAURA. No, no; I don't want to see him. You know that, don't you, that
I don't want to see him? What makes you ask these questions? [_Crosses
to sofa and sits_.

WILL. Just thought you might meet him, that's all. Don't get sore
about it.

LAURA. I'm not.

_She holds the telegram crumpled in one hand_. WILL _lays down the
paper, and regards_ LAURA _curiously. She sees the expression on his
face and averts her head in order not to meet his eye_.

LAURA. What are you looking at me that way for?

WILL. I wasn't conscious that I was looking at you in any particular

LAURA. Oh, nothing. I guess I'm nervous, too.

[_Lies on sofa_.

WILL. I dare say you are. [_A pause_.

LAURA. Yes, I am. [WILL _crosses to_ LAURA.

WILL. You know I don't want to delve into a lot of past history at
this time, but I've got to talk to you for a moment.

LAURA. Why don't you do it some other time? I don't want to be talked
to now. [_Rises and crosses a little to left_.

WILL. But I've got to do it just the same.

LAURA. [_Trying to affect an attitude of resigned patience and
resignation_.] Well, what is it? [_Resuming seat on sofa_.

WILL. You've always been on the square with me, Laura. That's why I've
liked you a lot better than the other women.

LAURA. Are you going into all that again now, this morning? I thought
we understood each other.

WILL. So did I, but somehow I think that maybe we _don't_ quite
understand each other.

LAURA. In what way? [_Turns to_ WILL.

WILL. [_Looking her straight in the eye_.] That letter I dictated to
you the day that you came back to me, and left it for you to mail--did
you mail it?


WILL. You're quite sure?

LAURA. Yes, I'm quite sure. I wouldn't say so if I wasn't.

WILL. And you didn't know Madison was coming East until you read about
it in that newspaper?

LAURA. No--no, I didn't know.

WILL. Have you heard from him?

LAURA. No--no--I haven't heard from him. Don't talk to me about this
thing. Why can't you leave me alone? I'm miserable enough as it is.
[_Crossing to extreme right_.

WILL. [_Crossing to table_.] But I've got to talk to you. Laura,
you're lying to me.

LAURA. What! [_She makes a valiant effort to become angry_.

WILL. You're lying to me, and you've been lying to me, and I've
trusted you. Show me that telegram!


WILL. [_Going over towards her_.] Show me that telegram!

[LAURA _crosses up to doors leading into bedroom_.

LAURA. [_Tears telegram in half_.] You've no right to ask me.

WILL. Are you going to make me take it away [LAURA _crosses to
window_.] from you? I've [_Crosses to sofa_.] never laid my hands on
you yet.

LAURA. It's my business.

[_Crossing to left of sofa, around it on down-stage side_.

WILL. Yes, and it's mine.

_During scene. Backing away from_ WILL, _who is following her_, LAURA
_backs against bureau_. WILL _grabs her and attempts to take telegram
from her. She has put it in the front of her waist. She slowly draws
it out_.

WILL. That telegram's from Madison. Give it here!


WILL. I'm going to find out where I stand. Give me that telegram, or
I'll take it away from you.


WILL. Come on!

LAURA. I'll give it to you.

[_Takes telegram out of waist, and hands it to him_.

_He takes it slowly, looking her squarely in the eye_. WILL _crosses
to centre, and does not glance away while he slowly smoothes it out so
that it can be read; when he finally takes it in both hands to read it
she staggers back a step or two weakly_.

WILL. [_Reads the telegram aloud_.] "I will be in New York before
noon. I'm coming to marry you, and I'm coming with a bank-roll. I
wanted to keep it a secret and have a big surprise for you, but I
can't hold it any longer, because I feel just like a kid with a new
top. Don't go out, and be ready for the big matrimonial thing. All my
love. John." Then you knew?


WILL. But you didn't know he was coming until this arrived?


WILL. And you didn't mail the letter [_Tossing telegram on table_],
did you?


WILL. What did you do with it?

LAURA. I--I burned it.

WILL. Why?

[LAURA _is completely overcome and unable to answer_.

WILL. Why?

LAURA. I--I couldn't help it--I simply couldn't help it.

WILL. So you've been corresponding all this time.


WILL. And he doesn't know [_With a gesture around the room, indicating
the condition in which they live._] about us?


WILL. [_Taking a step towards her._] By God, I never beat a woman in
my life, but I feel as though I could wring your neck.

LAURA. Why don't you? You've done everything else. Why don't you?

WILL. Don't you know that I gave Madison my word that if you came back
to me I'd let him know? Don't you know that I like that young fellow,
and I wanted to protect him, and did everything I could to help
him? And do you know what you've done to me? You've made me out a
liar--you've made me lie to a man--a man--you understand. What are you
going to do now? Tell me--what are you going to do now? Don't stand
there as if you've lost your voice--how are you going to square me?

LAURA. I'm not thinking about squaring you. What am I going to do for

WILL. Not what _you_ are going to do for him--what am _I_ going to do
for him. Why, I couldn't have that young fellow think that I tricked
him into this thing for you or all the rest of the women of your kind
on earth. God! I might have known that you, and the others like you,
couldn't be square. [_The girl looks at him dumbly. He glances at his
watch, walks up stage, looks out of the window, comes down again, goes
to the table, and looks at her across it._] You've made a nice mess of
it, haven't you?

LAURA. [_Weakly._] There isn't any mess. Please go away. He'll be here
soon. Please let _me_ see him--please do that.

WILL. No, I'll wait. This time I'm going to tell him myself, and I
don't care how tough it is.

LAURA. [_Immediately regaining all her vitality._] No, you mustn't do
that. [_Crossing back of table to centre._] Oh, Will, I'm not offering
any excuse. I'm not saying anything, but I'm telling you the truth. I
couldn't give him up--I couldn't do it. I love him.

WILL. Huh. [_Grins; crosses to front of sofa._

LAURA. Don't you think so? I know you can't see what I see, but I do.
And why can't you go away? Why can't you leave me this? It's all I
ever had. He doesn't know. No one will ever tell him. I'll take him
away. It's the best for him--it's the best for me. Please go.

WILL. Why--do you think that I'm going to let you trip him the way you
tripped me? [_Crosses and sits in armchair._] No. I'm going to stay
right here until that young man arrives, and I'm going to tell him
that it wasn't my fault. You were to blame.

LAURA. Then you are going to let him know. You're not going to give me
a single, solitary chance?

WILL. I'll give you every chance that you deserve when he knows. Then
he can do as he pleases, but there must be no more deception, that's

[LAURA _crosses and kneels beside_ WILL'S _chair._

LAURA. Then you must let me tell him--[WILL _turns away
impatiently._]--yes, you must. If I didn't tell him before, I'll do it
now. You must go. If you ever had any regard for me--if you ever had
any affection--if you ever had any friendship, please let me do this
now. I want you to go--you can come back. Then you'll see--you'll
know--only I want to try to make him understand that--that maybe if I
am weak I'm not vicious. I want to let him know that I didn't want to
do it, but I couldn't help it. Just give me the chance to be as good
as I can be. [WILL _gives her a look._] Oh, I promise you, I will
tell him, and then--then I don't care what happens--only he must learn
everything from me--please--please--let me do this--it's the last
favour I shall ever--ever ask of you. Won't you?

[LAURA _breaks down and weeps._

WILL. [_Rising, looks at her a moment as if mentally debating the best
thing to do. Crosses in front of table; stands facing her with back
to audience._] All right, I won't be unkind. I'll be back early this
afternoon, and just remember, this is the time you'll have to go right
through to the end. Understand?

LAURA. Yes, I'll do it,--all of it. Won't you please go--now?

[_Crosses; sits in armchair._

WILL. All right. [_He exits into the bedroom and immediately enters
again with overcoat on his arm and hat in hand; he goes centre, and
turns._] I am sorry for you, Laura, but remember you've got to tell
the truth.

LAURA. [_Who is sitting in a chair looking straight in front of her
with a set expression._] Please go. [WILL _exits._

LAURA _sits in a chair in a state of almost stupefaction, holding this
attitude as long as possible._ ANNIE _enters, and in a characteristic
manner begins her task of tidying up the room;_ LAURA, _without
changing her attitude, and staring straight in front of her, her
elbows between her knees and her chin on her hands._

LAURA. Annie!

ANNIE. Yassum.

LAURA. Do you remember in the boarding-house--when we finally packed
up--what you did with everything?

ANNIE. Yassum.

LAURA. You remember that I used to keep a pistol?

ANNIE. Yo' all mean dat one yo' say dat gemman out West gave yuh once?


ANNIE. Yassum, Ah 'membuh it.

LAURA. Where is it now?

ANNIE. [_Crosses to writing-desk._] Last Ah saw of it was in dis heah
draw' in de writin'-desk. [_This speech takes her across to desk; she
opens the drawer, fumbles among a lot of old papers, letters, &c., and
finally produces a small thirty-two calibre, and gingerly crosses to_
LAURA.] Is dis it?

LAURA. [_Slowly turns around and looks at it._] Yes. Put it back. I
thought perhaps it was lost. [ANNIE _complies, when the bell rings._
LAURA _starts suddenly, involuntarily gathering her negligee gown
closer to her figure, and at once she is under a great stress of
emotion, and sways upon her feet to such an extent that she is obliged
to put one hand out on to the table to maintain her balance. When
she speaks, it is with a certain difficulty of articulation._]
See--who--that is--and let me know.

ANNIE. [_Turning._] Yassum. [_Crosses, opens the first door, and
afterwards opens the second door._

ELFIE'S VOICE. [_Off stage._] Hello, Annie,--folks home?

ANNIE. Yassum, she's in.

LAURA _immediately evinces her tremendous relief, and_ ELFIE, _without
waiting for a reply, has shoved_ ANNIE _aside and enters,_ ANNIE
_following and closing the door._ ELFIE _is beautifully gowned in
a morning dress with an overabundance of fur trimmings and all the
furbelows that would accompany the extravagant raiment generally
affected by a woman of that type._ ELFIE _approaching effusively._

ELFIE. Hello, dearie.

LAURA. Hello, Elfie.

LAURA _crosses and sits on sofa._ ELFIE _puts muff, &c., on table._

ELFIE. It's a bully day out. [_Crossing to bureau, looking in
mirror._] I've been shopping all morning long; just blew myself
until I'm broke, that's all. My goodness, don't you ever get dressed?
Listen. [_Crosses left of table to centre._] Talk about cinches. I
copped out a gown, all ready made, and fits me like the paper on the
wall, for $37.80. Looks like it might have cost $200. Anyway I had
them charge $200 on the bill, and I kept the change. There are two or
three more down town there, and I want you to go down and look them
over. Models, you know, being sold out. I don't blame you for not
getting up earlier. [_She sits at the table, not noticing_ LAURA.]
That was some party last night. I know you didn't drink a great deal,
but gee! what an awful tide Will had on. How do you feel? [_Looks at
her critically._] What's the matter, are you sick? You look all in.
What you want to do is this--put on your duds and go out for an hour.
It's a perfectly grand day out. My Gaud! how the sun does shine! Clear
and cold. [_A pause._] Well, much obliged for the conversation. Don't
I get a "Good-morning," or a "How-dy-do," or a something of that sort?

LAURA. I'm tired, Elfie, and blue--terribly blue.

ELFIE. [_Rises; crosses to_ LAURA.] Well now, you just brace up and
cut out all that emotional stuff. I came down to take you for a drive.
You'd like it; just through the park. Will you go?

LAURA. [_Going up stage._] Not this morning, dear; I'm expecting

ELFIE. A man?

LAURA. [_Finding it almost impossible to suppress a smile._] No, a

ELFIE. Same thing. Do I know him?

LAURA. You've heard of him. [_At desk, looking at clock._

ELFIE. Well, don't be so mysterious. Who is he?

LAURA. What is your time, Elfie?

ELFIE. [_Looks at her watch._] Five minutes past eleven.

LAURA. Oh, I'm slow. I didn't know it was so late. Just excuse me,
won't you, while I get some clothes on. He may be here any moment.

[_She goes up stage towards portieres._


LAURA. I'll tell you when I get dressed. Make yourself at home, won't
you, dear?

ELFIE. I'd sooner hear. What is the scandal anyway?

LAURA. [_As she goes out._] I'll tell you in a moment. Just as soon as
Annie gets through with me. [_Exit._

ELFIE. [_Gets candy-box off desk, crosses, sits on arm of sofa,
selecting candy. In a louder voice._] Do you know, Laura, I think I'll
go back on the stage.

LAURA. [_Off stage._] Yes?

ELFIE. Yes, I'm afraid I'll have to. I think I need a sort of a boost
to my popularity.

LAURA. How a boost, Elfie?

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