Part 2 out of 2
have been. As a result, our treatment of him was as terrible as
he was himself terrible. Finally we gave him the silent
treatment, and for weeks before he died we neither spoke to him
nor did he speak to us. And for weeks he moved among us, or lay
in his bunk in our crowded house, grinning at us his hatred and
malignancy. He was a dying man, and he knew it, and we knew it.
And furthermore, he knew that we wanted him to die. He cumbered
our life with his presence, and ours was a rough life that made
rough men of us. And so he died, in a small space crowded by
twelve men and as much alone as if he had died on some desolate
mountain peak. No kindly word, no last word, was passed between.
He died as he had lived, a beast, and he died hating us and hated
And now I come to the most startling moment of my life. No sooner
was he dead than he was flung overboard. He died in a night of
wind, drawing his last breath as the men tumbled into their
oilskins to the cry of "All hands!" And he was flung overboard,
several hours later, on a day of wind. Not even a canvas wrapping
graced his mortal remains; nor was he deemed worthy of bars of
iron at his feet. We sewed him up in the blankets in which he
died and laid him on a hatch-cover for'ard of the main-hatch on
the port side. A gunnysack, half full of galley coal, was
fastened to his feet.
It was bitter cold. The weather-side of every rope, spar, and
stay was coated with ice, while all the rigging was a harp,
singing and shouting under the fierce hand of the wind. The
schooner, hove to, lurched and floundered through the sea, rolling
her scuppers under and perpetually flooding the deck with icy salt
water. We of the forecastle stood in sea-boots and oilskins. Our
hands were mittened, but our heads were bared in the presence of
the death we did not respect. Our ears stung and numbed and
whitened, and we yearned for the body to be gone. But the
interminable reading of the burial service went on. The captain
had mistaken his place, and while he read on without purpose we
froze our ears and resented this final hardship thrust upon us by
the helpless cadaver. As from the beginning, so to the end,
everything had gone wrong with the Bricklayer. Finally, the
captain's son, irritated beyond measure, jerked the book from the
palsied fingers of the old man and found the place. Again the
quavering voice of the captain arose. Then came the cue: "And
the body shall be cast into the sea." We elevated one end of the
hatch-cover, and the Bricklayer plunged outboard and was gone.
Back into the forecastle we cleaned house, washing out the dead
man's bunk and removing every vestige of him. By sea law and sea
custom, we should have gathered his effects together and turned
them over to the captain, who, later, would have held an auction
in which we should have bid for the various articles. But no man
wanted them, so we tossed them up on deck and overboard in the
wake of the departed body--the last ill-treatment we could devise
to wreak upon the one we had hated so. Oh, it was raw, believe
me; but the life we lived was raw, and we were as raw as the life.
The Bricklayer's bunk was better than mine. Less sea water leaked
down through the deck into it, and the light was better for lying
in bed and reading. Partly for this reason I proceeded to move
into his bunk. My other reason was pride. I saw the sailors were
superstitious, and by this act I determined to show that I was
braver than they. I would cap my proved equality by a deed that
would compel their recognition of my superiority. Oh, the
arrogance of youth! But let that pass. The sailors were appalled
by my intention. One and all, they warned me that in the history
of the sea no man had taken a dead man's bunk and lived to the end
of the voyage. They instanced case after case in their personal
experience. I was obdurate. Then they begged and pleaded with
me, and my pride was tickled in that they showed they really liked
me and were concerned about me. This but served to confirm me in
my madness. I moved in, and, lying in the dead man's bunk, all
afternoon and evening listened to dire prophecies of my future.
Also were told stories of awful deaths and gruesome ghosts that
secretly shivered the hearts of all of us. Saturated with this,
yet scoffing at it, I rolled over at the end of the second dog-
watch and went to sleep.
At ten minutes to twelve I was called, and at twelve I was dressed
and on deck, relieving the man who had called me. On the sealing
grounds, when hove to, a watch of only a single man is kept
through the night, each man holding the deck for an hour. It was
a dark night, though not a black one. The gale was breaking up,
and the clouds were thinning. There should have been a moon, and,
though invisible, in some way a dim, suffused radiance came from
it. I paced back and forth across the deck amidships. My mind
was filled with the event of the day and with the horrible tales
my shipmates had told, and yet I dare to say, here and now, that I
was not afraid. I was a healthy animal, and furthermore,
intellectually, I agreed with Swinburne that dead men rise up
never. The Bricklayer was dead, and that was the end of it. He
would rise up never--at least, never on the deck of the Sophie
Sutherland. Even then he was in the ocean depths miles to
windward of our leeward drift, and the likelihood was that he was
already portioned out in the maws of many sharks. Still, my mind
pondered on the tales of the ghosts of dead men I had heard, and I
speculated on the spirit world. My conclusion was that if the
spirits of the dead still roamed the world they carried the
goodness or the malignancy of the earth-life with them.
Therefore, granting the hypothesis (which I didn't grant at all),
the ghost of the Bricklayer was bound to be as hateful and
malignant as he in life had been. But there wasn't any
Bricklayer's ghost--that I insisted upon.
A few minutes, thinking thus, I paced up and down. Then, glancing
casually for'ard, along the port side, I leaped like a startled
deer and in a blind madness of terror rushed aft along the poop,
heading for the cabin. Gone was all my arrogance of youth and my
intellectual calm. I had seen a ghost. There, in the dim light,
where we had flung the dead man overboard, I had seen a faint and
wavering form. Six-feet in length it was, slender, and of
substance so attenuated that I had distinctly seen through it the
tracery of the fore-rigging.
As for me, I was as panic-stricken as a frightened horse. I, as
I, had ceased to exist. Through me were vibrating the fibre-
instincts of ten thousand generations of superstitious forebears
who had been afraid of the dark and the things of the dark. I was
not I. I was, in truth, those ten thousand forebears. I was the
race, the whole human race, in its superstitious infancy. Not
until part way down the cabin-companionway did my identity return
to me. I checked my flight and clung to the steep ladder,
suffocating, trembling, and dizzy. Never, before nor since, have
I had such a shock. I clung to the ladder and considered. I
could not doubt my senses. That I had seen something there was no
discussion. But what was it? Either a ghost or a joke. There
could be nothing else. If a ghost, the question was: would it
appear again? If it did not, and I aroused the ship's officers, I
would make myself the laughing stock of all on board. And by the
same token, if it were a joke, my position would be still more
ridiculous. If I were to retain my hard-won place of equality, it
would never do to arouse any one until I ascertained the nature of
I am a brave man. I dare to say so; for in fear and trembling I
crept up the companion-way and went back to the spot from which I
had first seen the thing. It had vanished. My bravery was
qualified, however. Though I could see nothing, I was afraid to
go for'ard to the spot where I had seen the thing. I resumed my
pacing up and down, and though I cast many an anxious glance
toward the dread spot, nothing manifested itself. As my
equanimity returned to me, I concluded that the whole affair had
been a trick of the imagination and that I had got what I deserved
for allowing my mind to dwell on such matters.
Once more my glances for'ard were casual, and not anxious; and
then, suddenly, I was a madman, rushing wildly aft. I had seen
the thing again, the long, wavering attenuated substance through
which could be seen the fore-rigging. This time I had reached
only the break of the poop when I checked myself. Again I
reasoned over the situation, and it was pride that counselled
strongest. I could not afford to make myself a laughing-stock.
This thing, whatever it was, I must face alone. I must work it
out myself. I looked back to the spot where we had tilted the
Bricklayer. It was vacant. Nothing moved. And for a third time
I resumed my amid-ships pacing.
In the absence of the thing my fear died away and my intellectual
poise returned. Of course it was not a ghost. Dead men did not
rise up. It was a joke, a cruel joke. My mates of the
forecastle, by some unknown means, were frightening me. Twice
already must they have seen me run aft. My cheeks burned with
shame. In fancy I could hear the smothered chuckling and laughter
even then going on in the forecastle. I began to grow angry.
Jokes were all very well, but this was carrying the thing too far.
I was the youngest on board, only a youth, and they had no right
to play tricks on me of the order that I well knew in the past had
made raving maniacs of men and women. I grew angrier and angrier,
and resolved to show them that I was made of sterner stuff and at
the same time to wreak my resentment upon them. If the thing
appeared again, I made my mind up that I would go up to it--
furthermore, that I would go up to it knife in hand. When within
striking distance, I would strike. If a man, he would get the
knife-thrust he deserved. If a ghost, well, it wouldn't hurt the
ghost any, while I would have learned that dead men did rise up.
Now I was very angry, and I was quite sure the thing was a trick;
but when the thing appeared a third time, in the same spot, long,
attenuated, and wavering, fear surged up in me and drove most of
my anger away. But I did not run. Nor did I take my eyes from
the thing. Both times before, it had vanished while I was running
away, so I had not seen the manner of its going. I drew my
sheath-knife from my belt and began my advance. Step by step,
nearer and nearer, the effort to control myself grew more severe.
The struggle was between my will, my identity, my very self, on
the one hand, and on the other, the ten thousand ancestors who
were twisted into the fibres of me and whose ghostly voices were
whispering of the dark and the fear of the dark that had been
theirs in the time when the world was dark and full of terror.
I advanced more slowly, and still the thing wavered and flitted
with strange eerie lurches. And then, right before my eyes, it
vanished. I saw it vanish. Neither to the right nor left did it
go, nor backward. Right there, while I gazed upon it, it faded
away, ceased to be. I didn't die, but I swear, from what I
experienced in those few succeeding moments, that I know full well
that men can die of fright. I stood there, knife in hand, swaying
automatically to the roll of the ship, paralysed with fear. Had
the Bricklayer suddenly seized my throat with corporeal fingers
and proceeded to throttle me, it would have been no more than I
expected. Dead men did rise up, and that would be the most likely
thing the malignant Bricklayer would do.
But he didn't seize my throat. Nothing happened. And, since
nature abhors a status, I could not remain there in the one place
forever paralysed. I turned and started aft. I did not run.
What was the use? What chance had I against the malevolent world
of ghosts? Flight, with me, was the swiftness of my legs. The
pursuit, with a ghost, was the swiftness of thought. And there
were ghosts. I had seen one.
And so, stumbling slowly aft, I discovered the explanation of the
seeming. I saw the mizzen topmast lurching across a faint
radiance of cloud behind which was the moon. The idea leaped in
my brain. I extended the line between the cloudy radiance and the
mizzen-topmast and found that it must strike somewhere near the
fore-rigging on the port side. Even as I did this, the radiance
vanished. The driving clouds of the breaking gale were
alternately thickening and thinning before the face of the moon,
but never exposing the face of the moon. And when the clouds were
at their thinnest, it was a very dim radiance that the moon was
able to make. I watched and waited. The next time the clouds
thinned I looked for'ard, and there was the shadow of the topmast,
long and attenuated, wavering and lurching on the deck and against
This was my first ghost. Once again have I seen a ghost. It
proved to be a Newfoundland dog, and I don't know which of us was
the more frightened, for I hit that Newfoundland a full right-arm
swing to the jaw. Regarding the Bricklayer's ghost, I will say
that I never mentioned it to a soul on board. Also, I will say
that in all my life I never went through more torment and mental
suffering than on that lonely night-watch on the Sophie
(TO THE EDITOR.--This is not a fiction. It is a true page out of
A CLASSIC OF THE SEA
Introduction to "Two Years before the Mast."
Once in a hundred years is a book written that lives not alone for
its own century but which becomes a document for the future
centuries. Such a book is Dana's. When Marryat's and Cooper's
sea novels are gone to dust, stimulating and joyful as they have
been to generations of men, still will remain "Two Years Before
Paradoxical as it may seem, Dana's book is the classic of the sea,
not because there was anything extraordinary about Dana, but for
the precise contrary reason that he was just an ordinary, normal
man, clear-seeing, hard-headed, controlled, fitted with adequate
education to go about the work. He brought a trained mind to put
down with untroubled vision what he saw of a certain phase of
work-a-day life. There was nothing brilliant nor fly-away about
him. He was not a genius. His heart never rode his head. He was
neither overlorded by sentiment nor hag-ridden by imagination.
Otherwise he might have been guilty of the beautiful exaggerations
in Melville's "Typee" or the imaginative orgies in the latter's
"Moby Dick." It was Dana's cool poise that saved him from being
spread-eagled and flogged when two of his mates were so treated;
it was his lack of abandon that prevented him from taking up
permanently with the sea, that prevented him from seeing more than
one poetical spot, and more than one romantic spot on all the
coast of Old California. Yet these apparent defects were his
strength. They enabled him magnificently to write, and for all
time, the picture of the sea-life of his time.
Written close to the middle of the last century, such has been the
revolution worked in man's method of trafficking with the sea,
that the life and conditions described in Dana's book have passed
utterly away. Gone are the crack clippers, the driving captains,
the hard-bitten but efficient foremast hands. Remain only
crawling cargo tanks, dirty tramps, greyhound liners, and a
sombre, sordid type of sailing ship. The only records broken to-
day by sailing vessels are those for slowness. They are no longer
built for speed, nor are they manned before the mast by as sturdy
a sailor stock, nor aft the mast are they officered by sail-
carrying captains and driving mates.
Speed is left to the liners, who run the silk, and tea, and
spices. Admiralty courts, boards of trade, and underwriters frown
upon driving and sail-carrying. No more are the free-and-easy,
dare-devil days, when fortunes were made in fast runs and lucky
ventures, not alone for owners, but for captains as well. Nothing
is ventured now. The risks of swift passages cannot be abided.
Freights are calculated to the last least fraction of per cent.
The captains do no speculating, no bargain-making for the owners.
The latter attend to all this, and by wire and cable rake the
ports of the seven seas in quest of cargoes, and through their
agents make all business arrangements.
It has been learned that small crews only, and large carriers
only, can return a decent interest on the investment. The
inevitable corollary is that speed and spirit are at a discount.
There is no discussion of the fact that in the sailing merchant
marine the seamen, as a class, have sadly deteriorated. Men no
longer sell farms to go to sea. But the time of which Dana writes
was the heyday of fortune-making and adventure on the sea--with
the full connotation of hardship and peril always attendant.
It was Dana's fortune, for the sake of the picture, that the
Pilgrim was an average ship, with an average crew and officers,
and managed with average discipline. Even the HAZING that took
place after the California coast was reached, was of the average
sort. The Pilgrim savoured not in any way of a hell-ship. The
captain, while not the sweetest-natured man in the world, was only
an average down-east driver, neither brilliant nor slovenly in his
seamanship, neither cruel nor sentimental in the treatment of his
men. While, on the one hand, there were no extra liberty days, no
delicacies added to the meagre forecastle fare, nor grog or hot
coffee on double watches, on the other hand the crew were not
chronically crippled by the continual play of knuckle-dusters and
belaying pins. Once, and once only, were men flogged or ironed--a
very fair average for the year 1834, for at that time flogging on
board merchant vessels was already well on the decline.
The difference between the sea-life then and now can be no better
epitomised than in Dana's description of the dress of the sailor
of his day:
"The trousers tight around the hips, and thence hanging long and
loose around the feet, a superabundance of checked shirt, a low-
crowned, well-varnished black hat, worn on the back of the head,
with half a fathom of black ribbon hanging over the left eye, and
a peculiar tie to the black silk neckerchief."
Though Dana sailed from Boston only three-quarters of a century
ago, much that is at present obsolete was then in full sway. For
instance, the old word LARBOARD was still in use. He was a member
of the LARBOARD watch. The vessel was on the LARBOARD tack. It
was only the other day, because of its similarity in sound to
starboard, that LARBOARD was changed to PORT. Try to imagine "All
larboard bowlines on deck!" being shouted down into the forecastle
of a present day ship. Yet that was the call used on the Pilgrim
to fetch Dana and the rest of his watch on deck.
The chronometer, which is merely the least imperfect time-piece
man has devised, makes possible the surest and easiest method by
far of ascertaining longitude. Yet the Pilgrim sailed in a day
when the chronometer was just coming into general use. So little
was it depended upon that the Pilgrim carried only one, and that
one, going wrong at the outset, was never used again. A navigator
of the present would be aghast if asked to voyage for two years,
from Boston, around the Horn to California, and back again,
without a chronometer. In those days such a proceeding was a
matter of course, for those were the days when dead reckoning was
indeed something to reckon on, when running down the latitude was
a common way of finding a place, and when lunar observations were
direly necessary. It may be fairly asserted that very few
merchant officers of to-day ever make a lunar observation, and
that a large percentage are unable to do it.
"Sept. 22nd., upon coming on deck at seven bells in the morning we
found the other watch aloft throwing water upon the sails, and
looking astern we saw a small, clipper-built brig with a black
hull heading directly after us. We went to work immediately, and
put all the canvas upon the brig which we could get upon her,
rigging out oars for studding-sail yards; and contined wetting
down the sails by buckets of water whipped up to the mast-head . .
. She was armed, and full of men, and showed no colours."
The foregoing sounds like a paragraph from "Midshipman Easy" or
the "Water Witch," rather than a paragraph from the soberest,
faithfullest, and most literal chronicle of the sea ever written.
And yet the chase by a pirate occurred, on board the brig Pilgrim,
on September 22nd, 1834--something like only two generations ago.
Dana was the thorough-going type of man, not overbalanced and
erratic, without quirk or quibble of temperament. He was
efficient, but not brilliant. His was a general all-round
efficiency. He was efficient at the law; he was efficient at
college; he was efficient as a sailor; he was efficient in the
matter of pride, when that pride was no more than the pride of a
forecastle hand, at twelve dollars a month, in his seaman's task
well done, in the smart sailing of his captain, in the clearness
and trimness of his ship.
There is no sailor whose cockles of the heart will not warm to
Dana's description of the first time he sent down a royal yard.
Once or twice he had seen it done. He got an old hand in the crew
to coach him. And then, the first anchorage at Monterey, being
pretty THICK with the second mate, he got him to ask the mate to
be sent up the first time the royal yards were struck.
"Fortunately," as Dana describes it, "I got through without any
word from the officer; and heard the 'well done' of the mate, when
the yard reached the deck, with as much satisfaction as I ever
felt at Cambridge on seeing a 'bene' at the foot of a Latin
"This was the first time I had taken a weather ear-ring, and I
felt not a little proud to sit astride of the weather yard-arm,
past the ear-ring, and sing out 'Haul out to leeward!'" He had
been over a year at sea before he essayed this able seaman's task,
but he did it, and he did it with pride. And with pride, he went
down a four-hundred foot cliff, on a pair of top-gallant studding-
sail halyards bent together, to dislodge several dollars worth of
stranded bullock hides, though all the acclaim he got from his
mates was: "What a d-d fool you were to risk your life for half a
In brief, it was just this efficiency in pride, as well as work,
that enabled Dana to set down, not merely the photograph detail of
life before the mast and hide-droghing on the coast of California,
but of the untarnished simple psychology and ethics of the
forecastle hands who droghed the hides, stood at the wheel, made
and took in sail, tarred down the rigging, holystoned the decks,
turned in all-standing, grumbled as they cut about the kid,
criticised the seamanship of their officers, and estimated the
duration of their exile from the cubic space of the hide-house.
Glen Ellen, California,
August 13, 1911.
A WICKED WOMAN
BY JACK LONDON
Time--Afternoon of a summer day.
LORETTA, A sweet, young thing. Frightfully innocent. About
nineteen years old. Slender, delicate, a fragile flower.
NED BASHFORD, A jaded young man of the world, who has
philosophised his experiences and who is without faith in the
veracity or purity of women.
BILLY MARSH, A boy from a country town who is just about as
innocent as Loretta. Awkward. Positive. Raw and callow youth.
ALICE HEMINGWAY, A society woman, good-hearted, and a match-maker.
JACK HEMINGWAY, Her husband.
A WICKED WOMAN
[Curtain rises on a conventional living room of a country house in
California. It is the Hemingway house at Santa Clara. The room
is remarkable for magnificent stone fireplace at rear centre. On
either side of fireplace are generous, diamond-paned windows.
Wide, curtained doorways to right and left. To left, front,
table, with vase of flowers and chairs. To right, front, grand
[Curtain discovers LORETTA seated at piano, not playing, her back
to it, facing NED BASHFORD, who is standing.]
LORETTA. [Petulantly, fanning herself with sheet of music.] No,
I won't go fishing. It's too warm. Besides, the fish won't bite
so early in the afternoon.
NED. Oh, come on. It's not warm at all. And anyway, we won't
really fish. I want to tell you something.
LORETTA. [Still petulantly.] You are always wanting to tell me
NED. Yes, but only in fun. This is different. This is serious.
Our . . . my happiness depends upon it.
LORETTA. [Speaking eagerly, no longer petulant, looking, serious
and delighted, divining a proposal.] Then don't wait. Tell me
NED. [Almost threateningly.] Shall I?
LORETTA. [Challenging.] Yes.
[He looks around apprehensively as though fearing interruption,
clears his throat, takes resolution, also takes LORETTA's hand.]
[LORETTA is startled, timid, yet willing to hear, naively unable
to conceal her love for him.]
NED. [Speaking softly.] Loretta . . . I, . . . ever since I met
you I have -
[JACK HEMINGWAY appears in the doorway to the left, just
[NED suddenly drops LORETTA's hand. He shows exasperation.]
[LORETTA shows disappointment at interruption.]
NED. Confound it
LORETTA. [Shocked.] Ned! Why will you swear so?
NED. [Testily.] That isn't swearing.
LORETTA. What is it, pray?
JACK HEMINGWAY. [Who is crossing over to right.] Squabbling
LORETTA. [Indignantly and with dignity.] No, we're not.
NED. [Gruffly.] What do you want now?
JACK HEMINGWAY. [Enthusiastically.] Come on fishing.
NED. [Snappily.] No. It's too warm.
JACK HEMINGWAY. [Resignedly, going out right.] You needn't take
a fellow's head off.
LORETTA. I thought you wanted to go fishing.
NED. Not with Jack.
LORETTA. [Accusingly, fanning herself vigorously.] And you told
me it wasn't warm at all.
NED. [Speaking softly.] That isn't what I wanted to tell you,
Loretta. [He takes her hand.] Dear Loretta -
[Enter abruptly ALICE HEMINGWAY from right.]
[LORETTA sharply jerks her hand away, and looks put out.]
[NED tries not to look awkward.]
ALICE HEMINGWAY. Goodness! I thought you'd both gone fishing!
LORETTA. [Sweetly.] Is there anything you want, Alice?
NED. [Trying to be courteous.] Anything I can do?
ALICE HEMINGWAY. [Speaking quickly, and trying to withdraw.] No,
no. I only came to see if the mail had arrived.
LORETTA AND NED
[Speaking together.] No, it hasn't arrived.
LORETTA. [Suddenly moving toward door to right.] I am going to
[NED looks at her reproachfully.]
[LORETTA looks back tantalisingly from doorway and disappears.]
[NED flings himself disgustedly into Morris chair.]
ALICE HEMINGWAY. [Moving over and standing in front of him.
Speaks accusingly.] What have you been saying to her?
NED. [Disgruntled.] Nothing.
ALICE HEMINGWAY. [Threateningly.] Now listen to me, Ned.
NED. [Earnestly.] On my word, Alice, I've been saying nothing to
ALICE HEMINGWAY. [With sudden change of front.] Then you ought
to have been saying something to her.
NED. [Irritably. Getting chair for her, seating her, and seating
himself again.] Look here, Alice, I know your game. You invited
me down here to make a fool of me.
ALICE HEMINGWAY. Nothing of the sort, sir. I asked you down to
meet a sweet and unsullied girl--the sweetest, most innocent and
ingenuous girl in the world.
NED. [Dryly.] That's what you said in your letter.
ALICE HEMINGWAY. And that's why you came. Jack had been trying
for a year to get you to come. He did not know what kind of a
letter to write.
NED. If you think I came because of a line in a letter about a
girl I'd never seen -
ALICE HEMINGWAY. [Mockingly.] The poor, jaded, world-worn man,
who is no longer interested in women . . . and girls! The poor,
tired pessimist who has lost all faith in the goodness of women -
NED. For which you are responsible.
ALICE HEMINGWAY. [Incredulously.] I?
NED. You are responsible. Why did you throw me over and marry
ALICE HEMINGWAY. Do you want to know?
ALICE HEMINGWAY. [Judiciously.] First, because I did not love
you. Second, because you did not love me. [She smiles at his
protesting hand and at the protesting expression on his face.]
And third, because there were just about twenty-seven other women
at that time that you loved, or thought you loved. That is why I
married Jack. And that is why you lost faith in the goodness of
women. You have only yourself to blame.
NED. [Admiringly.] You talk so convincingly. I almost believe
you as I listen to you. And yet I know all the time that you are
like all the rest of your sex--faithless, unveracious, and . . .
[He glares at her, but does not proceed.]
ALICE HEMINGWAY. Go on. I'm not afraid.
NED. [With finality.] And immoral.
ALICE HEMINGWAY. Oh! You wretch!
NED. [Gloatingly.] That's right. Get angry. You may break the
furniture if you wish. I don't mind.
ALICE HEMINGWAY. [With sudden change of front, softly.] And how
[NED gasps and remains silent.]
ALICE HEMINGWAY. The depths of duplicity that must lurk under
that sweet and innocent exterior . . . according to your
NED. [Earnestly.] Loretta is an exception, I confess. She is
all that you said in your letter. She is a little fairy, an
angel. I never dreamed of anything like her. It is remarkable to
find such a woman in this age.
ALICE HEMINGWAY. [Encouragingly.] She is so naive.
NED. [Taking the bait.] Yes, isn't she? Her face and her tongue
betray all her secrets.
ALICE HEMINGWAY. [Nodding her head.] Yes, I have noticed it.
NED. [Delightedly.] Have you?
ALICE HEMINGWAY. She cannot conceal anything. Do you know that
she loves you?
NED. [Falling into the trap, eagerly.] Do you think so?
ALICE HEMINGWAY. [Laughing and rising.] And to think I once
permitted you to make love to me for three weeks!
[MAID enters from left with letters, which she brings to ALICE
ALICE HEMINGWAY. [Running over letters.] None for you, Ned.
[Selecting two letters for herself.] Tradesmen. [Handing
remainder of letters to MAID.] And three for Loretta. [Speaking
to MAID.] Put them on the table, Josie.
[MAID puts letters on table to left front, and makes exit to
NED. [With shade of jealousy.] Loretta seems to have quite a
ALICE HEMINGWAY. [With a sigh.] Yes, as I used to when I was a
NED. But hers are family letters.
ALICE HEMINGWAY. Yes, I did not notice any from Billy.
NED. [Faintly.] Billy?
ALICE HEMINGWAY. [Nodding.] Of course she has told you about
NED. [Gasping.] She has had lovers . . . already?
ALICE HEMINGWAY. And why not? She is nineteen.
NED. [Haltingly.] This . . . er . . . this Billy . . . ?
ALICE HEMINGWAY. [Laughing and putting her hand reassuringly on
his arm.] Now don't be alarmed, poor, tired philosopher. She
doesn't love Billy at all.
[LORETTA enters from right.]
ALICE HEMINGWAY. [To LORETTA, nodding toward table.] Three
letters for you.
LORETTA. [Delightedly.] Oh! Thank you.
[LORETTA trips swiftly across to table, looks at letters, sits
down, opens letters, and begins to read.]
NED. [Suspiciously.] But Billy?
ALICE HEMINGWAY. I am afraid he loves her very hard. That is why
she is here. They had to send her away. Billy was making life
miserable for her. They were little children together--playmates.
And Billy has been, well, importunate. And Loretta, poor child,
does not know anything about marriage. That is all.
NED. [Reassured.] Oh, I see.
[ALICE HEMINGWAY starts slowly toward right exit, continuing
conversation and accompanied by NED.]
ALICE HEMINGWAY. [Calling to LORETTA.] Are you going fishing,
[LORETTA looks up from letter and shakes head.]
ALICE HEMINGWAY. [To NED.] Then you're not, I suppose?
NED. No, it's too warm.
ALICE HEMINGWAY. Then I know the place for you.
ALICE HEMINGWAY. Right here. [Looks significantly in direction
of LORETTA.] Now is your opportunity to say what you ought to
[ALICE HEMINGWAY laughs teasingly and goes out to right.]
[NED hesitates, starts to follow her, looks at LORETTA, and stops.
He twists his moustache and continues to look at her
[LORETTA is unaware of his presence and goes on reading. Finishes
letter, folds it, replaces in envelope, looks up, and discovers
LORETTA. [Startled.] Oh! I thought you were gone.
NED. [Walking across to her.] I thought I'd stay and finish our
LORETTA. [Willingly, settling herself to listen.] Yes, you were
going to . . . [Drops eyes and ceases talking.]
NED. [Taking her hand, tenderly.] I little dreamed when I came
down here visiting that I was to meet my destiny in--[Abruptly
releases LORETTA's hand.]
[MAID enters from left with tray.]
[LORETTA glances into tray and discovers that it is empty. She
looks inquiringly at MAID.]
MAID. A gentleman to see you. He hasn't any card. He said for
me to tell you that it was Billy.
LORETTA. [Starting, looking with dismay and appeal to NED.] Oh!
. . . Ned!
NED [Gracefully and courteously, rising to his feet and preparing
to go.] If you'll excuse me now, I'll wait till afterward to tell
you what I wanted.
LORETTA. [In dismay.] What shall I do?
NED. [Pausing.] Don't you want to see him? [LORETTA shakes her
head.] Then don't.
LORETTA. [Slowly.] I can't do that. We are old friends. We . .
. were children together. [To the MAID.] Send him in. [To NED,
who has started to go out toward right.] Don't go, Ned.
[MAID makes exit to left.]
NED. [Hesitating a moment.] I'll come back.
[NED makes exit to right.]
[LORETTA, left alone on stage, shows perturbation and dismay.]
[BILLY enters from left. Stands in doorway a moment. His shoes
are dusty. He looks overheated. His eyes and face brighten at
sight of LORETTA.]
BILLY. [Stepping forward, ardently.] Loretta!
LORETTA. [Not exactly enthusiastic in her reception, going slowly
to meet him.] You never said you were coming.
[BILLY shows that he expects to kiss her, but she merely shakes
BILLY. [Looking down at his very dusty shoes.] I walked from the
LORETTA. If you had let me know, the carriage would have been
sent for you.
BILLY. [With expression of shrewdness.] If I had let you know,
you wouldn't have let me come.
[BILLY looks around stage cautiously, then tries to kiss her.]
LORETTA. [Refusing to be kissed. ] Won't you sit down?
BILLY. [Coaxingly.] Go on, just one. [LORETTA shakes head and
holds him off.] Why not? We're engaged.
LORETTA. [With decision. ] We're not. You know we're not. You
know I broke it off the day before I came away. And . . . and . .
. you'd better sit down.
[BILLY sits down on edge of chair. LORETTA seats herself by
table. Billy, without rising, jerks his chair forward till they
are facing each other, his knees touching hers. He yearns toward
her. She moves back her chair slightly.]
BILLY. [With supreme confidence.] That's what I came to see you
for--to get engaged over again.
[BILLY hudges chair forward and tries to take her hand.]
[LORETTA hudges her chair back.]
BILLY. [Drawing out large silver watch and looking at it.] Now
look here, Loretta, I haven't any time to lose. I've got to leave
for that train in ten minutes. And I want you to set the day.
LORETTA. But we're not engaged, Billy. So there can't be any
setting of the day.
BILLY. [With confidence.] But we're going to be. [Suddenly
breaking out.] Oh, Loretta, if you only knew how I've suffered.
That first night I didn't sleep a wink. I haven't slept much ever
since. [Hudges chair forward.] I walk the floor all night.
[Solemnly.] Loretta, I don't eat enough to keep a canary bird
alive. Loretta . . . [Hudges chair forward.]
LORETTA. [Hudging her chair back maternally.] Billy, what you
need is a tonic. Have you seen Doctor Haskins?
BILLY. [Looking at watch and evincing signs of haste.] Loretta,
when a girl kisses a man, it means she is going to marry him.
LORETTA. I know it, Billy. But . . . [She glances toward letters
on table.] Captain Kitt doesn't want me to marry you. He says .
. . [She takes letter and begins to open it.]
BILLY. Never mind what Captain Kitt says. He wants you to stay
and be company for your sister. He doesn't want you to marry me
because he knows she wants to keep you.
LORETTA. Daisy doesn't want to keep me. She wants nothing but my
own happiness. She says--[She takes second letter from table and
begins to open it.]
BILLY. Never mind what Daisy says -
LORETTA. [Taking third letter from table and beginning to open
it.] And Martha says -
BILLY. [Angrily.] Darn Martha and the whole boiling of them!
LORETTA. [Reprovingly.] Oh, Billy!
BILLY. [Defensively.] Darn isn't swearing, and you know it
[There is an awkward pause. Billy has lost the thread of the
conversation and has vacant expression.]
BILLY. [Suddenly recollecting.] Never mind Captain Kitt, and
Daisy, and Martha, and what they want. The question is, what do
LORETTA. [Appealingly.] Oh, Billy, I'm so unhappy.
BILLY. [Ignoring the appeal and pressing home the point.] The
thing is, do you want to marry me? [He looks at his watch.] Just
LORETTA. Aren't you afraid you'll miss that train?
BILLY. Darn the train!
LORETTA. [Reprovingly.] Oh, Billy!
BILLY. [Most irascibly.] Darn isn't swearing. [Plaintively.]
That's the way you always put me off. I didn't come all the way
here for a train. I came for you. Now just answer me one thing.
Do you want to marry me?
LORETTA. [Firmly.] No, I don't want to marry you.
BILLY. [With assurance.] But you've got to, just the same.
LORETTA. [With defiance.] Got to?
BILLY. [With unshaken assurance.] That's what I said--got to.
And I'll see that you do.
LORETTA. [Blazing with anger.] I am no longer a child. You
can't bully me, Billy Marsh!
BILLY. [Coolly.] I'm not trying to bully you. I'm trying to
save your reputation.
LORETTA. [Faintly.] Reputation?
BILLY. [Nodding.] Yes, reputation. [He pauses for a moment,
then speaks very solemnly.] Loretta, when a woman kisses a man,
she's got to marry him.
LORETTA. [Appalled, faintly.] Got to?
BILLY. [Dogmatically.] It is the custom.
LORETTA. [Brokenly.] And when . . . a . . . a woman kisses a man
and doesn't . . . marry him . . . ?
BILLY. Then there is a scandal. That's where all the scandals
you see in the papers come from.
[BILLY looks at watch.]
[LORETTA in silent despair.]
LORETTA. [In abasement.] You are a good man, Billy. [Billy
shows that he believes it.] And I am a very wicked woman.
BILLY. No, you're not, Loretta. You just didn't know.
LORETTA. [With a gleam of hope.] But you kissed me first.
BILLY. It doesn't matter. You let me kiss you.
LORETTA. [Hope dying down.] But not at first.
BILLY. But you did afterward and that's what counts. You let me
you in the grape-arbour. You let me -
LORETTA. [With anguish] Don't! Don't!
BILLY. [Relentlessly.]--kiss you when you were playing the piano.
You let me kiss you that day of the picnic. And I can't remember
all the times you let me kiss you good night.
LORETTA. [Beginning to weep.] Not more than five.
BILLY. [With conviction.] Eight at least.
LORETTA. [Reproachfully, still weeping.] You told me it was all
BILLY. [Emphatically.] So it was all right--until you said you
wouldn't marry me after all. Then it was a scandal--only no one
knows it yet. If you marry me no one ever will know it. [Looks
at watch.] I've got to go. [Stands up.] Where's my hat?
LORETTA. [Sobbing.] This is awful.
BILLY. [Approvingly.] You bet it's awful. And there's only one
way out. [Looks anxiously about for hat.] What do you say?
LORETTA. [Brokenly.] I must think. I'll write to you.
[Faintly.] The train? Your hat's in the hall.
BILLY. [Looks at watch, hastily tries to kiss her, succeeds only
in shaking hand, starts across stage toward left.] All right.
You write to me. Write to-morrow. [Stops for a moment in door-
way and speaks very solemnly.] Remember, Loretta, there must be
[Billy goes out.]
[LORETTA sits in chair quietly weeping. Slowly dries eyes, rises
from chair, and stands, undecided as to what she will do next.]
[NED enters from right, peeping. Discovers that LORETTA is alone,
and comes quietly across stage to her. When NED comes up to her
she begins weeping again and tries to turn her head away. NED
catches both her hands in his and compels her to look at him. She
NED. [Putting one arm protectingly around her shoulder and
drawing her toward him.] There, there, little one, don't cry.
LORETTA. [Turning her face to his shoulder like a tired child,
sobbing.] Oh, Ned, if you only knew how wicked I am.
NED. [Smiling indulgently.] What is the matter, little one? Has
your dearly beloved sister failed to write to you? [LORETTA
shakes head.] Has Hemingway been bullying you? [LORETTA shakes
head.] Then it must have been that caller of yours? [Long pause,
during which LORETTA's weeping grows more violent.] Tell me
what's the matter, and we'll see what I can do. [He lightly
kisses her hair--so lightly that she does not know.]
LORETTA. [Sobbing.] I can't. You will despise me. Oh, Ned, I
am so ashamed.
NED. [Laughing incredulously.] Let us forget all about it. I
want to tell you something that may make me very happy. My
fondest hope is that it will make you happy, too. Loretta, I love
LORETTA. [Uttering a sharp cry of delight, then moaning.] Too
NED. [Surprised.] Too late?
LORETTA. [Still moaning.] Oh, why did I? [NED somewhat
stiffens.] I was so young. I did not know the world then.
NED. What is it all about anyway?
LORETTA. Oh, I . . . he . . . Billy . . . I am a wicked woman,
Ned. I know you will never speak to me again.
NED. This . . . er . . . this Billy--what has he been doing?
LORETTA. I . . . he . . . I didn't know. I was so young. I
could not help it. Oh, I shall go mad, I shall go mad!
[NED's encircling arm goes limp. He gently disengages her and
deposits her in big chair.]
[LORETTA buries her face and sobs afresh.]
NED. [Twisting moustache fiercely, regarding her dubiously,
hesitating a moment, then drawing up chair and sitting down.] I .
. . I do not understand.
LORETTA. [Wailing.] I am so unhappy!
NED. [Inquisitorially.] Why unhappy?
LORETTA. Because . . . he . . . he wants to marry me.
NED. [His face brightening instantly, leaning forward and laying
a hand soothingly on hers.] That should not make any girl
unhappy. Because you don't love him is no reason--[Abruptly
breaking off.] Of course you don't love him? [LORETTA shakes her
head and shoulders vigorously.] What?
LORETTA. [Explosively.] No, I don't love Billy! I don't want to
NED. [With confidence.] Because you don't love him is no reason
that you should be unhappy just because he has proposed to you.
LORETTA. [Sobbing.] That's the trouble. I wish I did love him.
Oh, I wish I were dead.
NED. [Growing complacent.] Now my dear child, you are worrying
yourself over trifles. [His second hand joins the first in
holding her hands.] Women do it every day. Because you have
changed your mind, or did not know you mind, because you have--to
use an unnecessarily harsh word--jilted a man -
LORETTA. [Interrupting, raising her head and looking at him.]
Jilted? Oh Ned, if that were a all!
NED. [Hollow voice.] All!
[NED's hands slowly retreat from hers. He opens his mouth as
though to speak further, then changes his mind and remains
LORETTA. [Protestingly.] But I don't want to marry him!
NED. Then I shouldn't.
LORETTA. But I ought to marry him.
NED. OUGHT to marry him? [LORETTA nods.] That is a strong word.
LORETTA. [Nodding.] I know it is. [Her lips are trembling, but
she strives for control and manages to speak more calmly.] I am a
wicked woman. A terrible wicked woman. No one knows how wicked I
am . . . except Billy.
NED. [Starting, looking at her queerly.] He . . . Billy knows?
[LORETTA nods. He debates with himself a moment.] Tell me about
it. You must tell me all of it.
LORETTA. [Faintly, as though about to weep again.] All of it?
NED. [Firmly.] Yes, all of it.
LORETTA. [Haltingly.] And . . . will . . . you . . . ever . . .
forgive . . . me?
NED. [Drawing a long, breath, desperately.] Yes, I'll forgive
you. Go ahead.
LORETTA. There was no one to tell me. We were with each other so
much. I did not know anything of the world . . . then. [Pauses.]
NED. [Impatiently.] Go on.
LORETTA. If I had only known. [Pauses.]
NED. [Biting his lip and clenching his hands.] Yes, yes. Go on.
LORETTA. We were together almost every evening.
NED. [Savagely.] Billy?
LORETTA. Yes, of course, Billy. We were with each other so much
. . . If I had only known . . . There was no one to tell me . . .
I was so young . . . [Breaks down crying.]
NED. [Leaping to his feet, explosively.] The scoundrel!
LORETTA. [Lifting her head.] Billy is not a scoundrel . . . He .
. . he . . . is a good man.
NED. [Sarcastically.] I suppose you'll be telling me next that
it was all your fault. [LORETTA nods.] What!
LORETTA. [Steadily.] It was all my fault. I should never have
let him. I was to blame.
NED. [Paces up and down for a minute, stops in front of her, and
speaks with resignation.] All right. I don't blame you in the
least, Loretta. And you have been very honest. It is . . . er .
. . commendable. But Billy is right, and you are wrong. You must
LORETTA. [In dim, far-away voice.] To Billy?
NED. Yes, to Billy. I'll see to it. Where does he live? I'll
make him. If he won't I'll . . . I'll shoot him!
LORETTA. [Crying out with alarm.] Oh, Ned, you won't do that?
NED. [Sternly.] I shall.
LORETTA. But I don't want to marry Billy.
NED. [Sternly.] You must. And Billy must. Do you understand?
It is the only thing.
LORETTA. That's what Billy said.
NED. [Triumphantly.] You see, I am right.
LORETTA. And if . . . if I don't marry him . . . there will be .
. . scandal?
NED. [Calmly.] Yes, there will be scandal.
LORETTA. That's what Billy said. Oh, I am so unhappy!
[LORETTA breaks down into violent weeping.]
[NED paces grimly up and down, now and again fiercely twisting his
LORETTA. [Face buried, sobbing and crying all the time.]
I don't want to leave Daisy! I don't want to leave Daisy! What
shall I do? What shall I do? How was I to know? He didn't tell
me. Nobody else ever kissed me. [NED stops curiously to listen.
As he listens his face brightens.] I never dreamed a kiss could
be so terrible . . . until . . . until he told me. He only told
me this morning.
NED. [Abruptly.] Is that what you are crying about?
LORETTA. [Reluctantly.] N-no.
NED. [In hopeless voice, the brightness gone out of his face,
about to begin pacing again.] Then what are you crying about?
LORETTA. Because you said I had to marry Billy. I don't want to
marry Billy. I don't want to leave Daisy. I don't know what I
want. I wish I were dead.
NED. [Nerving himself for another effort.] Now look here,
Loretta, be sensible. What is this about kisses? You haven't
told me everything after all.
LORETTA. I . . . I don't want to tell you everything.
NED. [Imperatively.] You must.
LORETTA. [Surrendering.] Well, then . . . must I?
NED. You must.
LORETTA. [Floundering.] He . . . I . . . we . . . I let him,
and he kissed me.
NED. [Desperately, controlling himself.] Go on.
LORETTA. He says eight, but I can't think of more than five
NED. Yes, go on.
LORETTA. That's all.
NED. [With vast incredulity.] All?
LORETTA. [Puzzled.] All?
NED. [Awkwardly.] I mean . . . er . . . nothing worse?
LORETTA. [Puzzled.] Worse? As though there could be. Billy
NED. [Interrupting.] When?
LORETTA. This afternoon. Just now. Billy said that my . . . our
. . . our . . . our kisses were terrible if we didn't get married.
NED. What else did he say?
LORETTA. He said that when a woman permitted a man to kiss her
she always married him. That it was awful if she didn't. It was
the custom, he said; and I say it is a bad, wicked custom, and it
has broken my heart. I shall never be happy again. I know I am
terrible, but I can't help it. I must have been born wicked.
NED. [Absent-mindedly bringing out a cigarette and striking a
match.] Do you mind if I smoke? [Coming to himself again, and
flinging away match and cigarette.] I beg your pardon. I don't
want to smoke. I didn't mean that at all. What I mean is . . .
[He bends over LORETTA, catches her hands in his, then sits on arm
of chair, softly puts one arm around her, and is about to kiss
LORETTA. [With horror, repulsing him.] No! No!
NED. [Surprised.] What's the matter?
LORETTA. [Agitatedly.] Would you make me a wickeder woman than I
NED. A kiss?
LORETTA. There will be another scandal. That would make two
NED. To kiss the woman I love . . . a scandal?
LORETTA. Billy loves me, and he said so.
NED. Billy is a joker . . . or else he is as innocent as you.
LORETTA. But you said so yourself.
NED. [Taken aback.] I?
LORETTA. Yes, you said it yourself, with your own lips, not ten
minutes ago. I shall never believe you again.
NED. [Masterfully putting arm around her and drawing her toward
him.] And I am a joker, too, and a very wicked man.
Nevertheless, you must trust me. There will be nothing wrong.
LORETTA. [Preparing to yield.] And no . . . scandal?
NED. Scandal fiddlesticks. Loretta, I want you to be my wife.
[He waits anxiously.]
[JACK HEMINGWAY, in fishing costume, appears in doorway to right
and looks on.]
NED. You might say something.
LORETTA. I will . . . if . . .
[ALICE HEMINGWAY appears in doorway to left and looks on.]
NED. [In suspense.] Yes, go on.
LORETTA. If I don't have to marry Billy.
NED. [Almost shouting.] You can't marry both of us!
LORETTA. [Sadly, repulsing him with her hands.] Then, Ned, I
cannot marry you.
NED. [Dumbfounded.] W-what?
LORETTA. [Sadly.] Because I can't marry both of you.
NED. Bosh and nonsense!
LORETTA. I'd like to marry you, but . . .
NED. There is nothing to prevent you.
LORETTA. [With sad conviction.] Oh, yes, there is. You said
yourself that I had to marry Billy. You said you would s-s-shoot
him if he didn't.
NED. [Drawing her toward him.] Nevertheless . . .
LORETTA. [Slightly holding him off.] And it isn't the custom . .
. what . . . Billy said?
NED. No, it isn't the custom. Now, Loretta, will you marry me?
LORETTA. [Pouting demurely.] Don't be angry with me, Ned. [He
gathers her into his arms and kisses her. She partially frees
herself, gasping.] I wish it were the custom, because now I'd
have to marry you, Ned, wouldn't I?
[NED and LORETTA kiss a second time and profoundly.]
[JACK HEMINGWAY chuckles.]
[NED and LORETTA, startled, but still in each other's arms, look
around. NED looks sillily at ALICE HEMINGWAY. LORETTA looks at
LORETTA. I don't care.
THE BIRTH MARK
SKETCH BY JACK LONDON written for Robert and Julia Fitzsimmons
SCENE--One of the club rooms of the West Bay Athletic Club. Near
centre front is a large table covered with newspapers and
magazines. At left a punching-bag apparatus. At right, against
wall, a desk, on which rests a desk-telephone. Door at rear
toward left. On walls are framed pictures of pugilists,
conspicuous among which is one of Robert Fitzsimmons. Appropriate
furnishings, etc., such as foils, clubs, dumb-bells and trophies.
[Enter MAUD SYLVESTER.]
[She is dressed as a man, in evening clothes, preferably a Tuxedo.
In her hand is a card, and under her arm a paper-wrapped parcel.
She peeps about curiously and advances to table. She is timorous
and excited, elated and at the same time frightened. Her eyes are
dancing with excitement.]
MAUD. [Pausing by table.] Not a soul saw me. I wonder where
everybody is. And that big brother of mine said I could not get
in. [She reads back of card.] "Here is my card, Maudie. If you
can use it, go ahead. But you will never get inside the door. I
consider my bet as good as won." [Looking up, triumphantly.] You
do, do you? Oh, if you could see your little sister now. Here
she is, inside. [Pauses, and looks about.] So this is the West
Bay Athletic Club. No women allowed. Well, here I am, if I don't
look like one. [Stretches out one leg and then the other, and
looks at them. Leaving card and parcel on table, she struts
around like a man, looks at pictures of pugilists on walls,
reading aloud their names and making appropriate remarks. But she
stops before the portrait of Fitzsimmons and reads aloud.]
"Robert Fitzsimmons, the greatest warrior of them all." [Clasps
hands, and looking up at portrait murmurs.] Oh, you dear!
[Continues strutting around, imitating what she considers are a
man's stride and swagger, returns to table and proceeds to unwrap
parcel.] Well, I'll go out like a girl, if I did come in like a
man. [Drops wrapping paper on table and holds up a woman's long
automobile cloak and a motor bonnet. Is suddenly startled by
sound of approaching footsteps and glances in a frightened way
toward door.] Mercy! Here comes somebody now! [Glances about
her in alarm, drops cloak and bonnet on floor close to table,
seizes a handful of newspapers, and runs to large leather chair to
right of table, where she seats herself hurriedly. One paper she
holds up before her, hiding her face as she pretends to read.
Unfortunately the paper is upside down. The other papers lie on
[Enter ROBERT FITZSIMMONS.]
[He looks about, advances to table, takes out cigarette case and
is about to select one, when he notices motor cloak and bonnet on
floor. He lays cigarette case on table and picks them up. They
strike him as profoundly curious things to be in a club room. He
looks at MAUD, then sees card on table. He picks it up and reach
it to himself, then looks at her with comprehension. Hidden by
her newspaper, she sees nothing. He looks at card again and reads
and speaks in an aside.]
FITZSIMMONS. "Maudie. John H. Sylvester." That must be Jack
Sylvester's sister Maud. [FITZSIMMONS shows by his expression
that he is going to play a joke. Tossing cloak and bonnet under
the table he places card in his vest pocket, selects a chair, sits
down, and looks at MAUD. He notes paper is upside down, is hugely
tickled, and laughs silently.] Hello! [Newspaper is agitated by
slight tremor. He speaks more loudly.] Hello! [Newspaper shakes
badly. He speaks very loudly.] Hello!
MAUD. [Peeping at him over top of paper and speaking
FITZSIMMONS. [Gruffly.] You are a queer one, reading a paper
MAUD. [Lowering newspaper and trying to appear at ease.] It's
quite a trick, isn't it? I often practise it. I'm real clever at
it, you know.
FITZSIMMONS. [Grunts, then adds.] Seems to me I have seen you
MAUD. [Glancing quickly from his face to portrait and back
again.] Yes, and I know you--You are Robert Fitzsimmons.
FITZSIMMONS. I thought I knew you.
MAUD. Yes, it was out in San Francisco. My people still live
there. I'm just--ahem--doing New York.
FITZSIMMONS. But I don't quite remember the name.
MAUD. Jones--Harry Jones.
FITZSIMMONS. [Hugely delighted, leaping from chair and striding
over to her.] Sure. [Slaps her resoundingly on shoulder.]
[She is nearly crushed by the weight of the blow, and at the same
time shocked. She scrambles to her feet.]
FITZSIMMONS. Glad to see you, Harry. [He wrings her hand, so
that it hurts.] Glad to see you again, Harry. [He continues
wringing her hand and pumping her arm.]
MAUD. [Struggling to withdraw her hand and finally succeeding.
Her voice is rather faint.] Ye-es, er . . . Bob . . . er . . .
glad to see you again. [She looks ruefully at her bruised fingers
and sinks into chair. Then, recollecting her part, she crosses
her legs in a mannish way.]
FITZSIMMONS. [Crossing to desk at right, against which he leans,
facing her.] You were a wild young rascal in those San Francisco
days. [Chuckling.] Lord, Lord, how it all comes back to me.
MAUD. [Boastfully.] I was wild--some.
FITZSIMMONS. [Grinning.] I should say! Remember that night I
put you to bed?
MAUD. [Forgetting herself, indignantly.] Sir!
FITZSIMMONS. You were . . . er . . . drunk.
MAUD. I never was!
FITZSIMMONS. Surely you haven't forgotten that night! You began
with dropping champagne bottles out of the club windows on the
heads of the people on the sidewalk, and you wound up by
assaulting a cabman. And let me tell you I saved you from a good
licking right there, and squared it with the police. Don't you
MAUD. [Nodding hesitatingly.] Yes, it is beginning to come back
to me. I was a bit tight that night.
FITZSIMMONS. [Exultantly.] A bit tight! Why, before I could get
you to bed you insisted on telling me the story of your life.
MAUD. Did I? I don't remember that.
FITZSIMMONS. I should say not. You were past remembering
anything by that time. You had your arms around my neck -
MAUD. [Interrupting.] Oh!
FITZSIMMONS. And you kept repeating over and over, "Bob, dear
MAUD. [Springing to her feet.] Oh! I never did! [Recollecting
herself.] Perhaps I must have. I was a trifle wild in those
days, I admit. But I'm wise now. I've sowed my wild oats and
FITZSIMMONS. I'm glad to hear that, Harry. You were tearing off
a pretty fast pace in those days. [Pause, in which MAUD nods.]
Still punch the bag?
MAUD. [In quick alarm, glancing at punching bag.] No, I've got
out of the hang of it.
FITZSIMMONS. [Reproachfully.] You haven't forgotten that right-
and-left, arm, elbow and shoulder movement I taught you?
MAUD. [With hesitation.] N-o-o.
FITZSIMMONS. [Moving toward bag to left.] Then, come on.
MAUD. [Rising reluctantly and following.] I'd rather see you
punch the bag. I'd just love to.
FITZSIMMONS. I will, afterward. You go to it first.
MAUD. [Eyeing the bag in alarm.] No; you. I'm out of practice.
FITZSIMMONS. [Looking at her sharply.] How many drinks have you
MAUD. Not a one. I don't drink--that is--er--only occasionally.
FITZSIMMONS. [Indicating bag.] Then go to it.
MAUD. No; I tell you I am out of practice. I've forgotten it
all. You see, I made a discovery.
MAUD. I--I--you remember what a light voice I always had--almost
MAUD. Well, I discovered it was a perfect falsetto.
MAUD. I've been practising it ever since. Experts, in another
room, would swear it was a woman's voice. So would you, if you
turned your back and I sang.
FITZSIMMONS. [Who has been laughing incredulously, now becomes
suspicious.] Look here, kid, I think you are an impostor. You
are not Harry Jones at all.
MAUD. I am, too.
FITZSIMMONS. I don't believe it. He was heavier than you.
MAUD. I had the fever last summer and lost a lot of weight.
FITZSIMMONS. You are the Harry Jones that got sousesd and had to
be put to bed?
FITZSIMMONS. There is one thing I remember very distinctly.
Harry Jones had a birth mark on his knee. [He looks at her legs
MAUD. [Embarrassed, then resolving to carry it out.] Yes, right
here. [She advances right leg and touches it.]
FITZSIMMONS. [Triumphantly.] Wrong. It was the other knee.
MAUD. I ought to know.
FITZSIMMONS. You haven't any birth mark at all.
MAUD. I have, too.
FITZSIMMONS. [Suddenly springing to her and attempting to seize
her leg.] Then we'll prove it. Let me see.
MAUD. [In a panic backs away from him and resists his attempts,
until grinning in an aside to the audience, he gives over. She,
in an aside to audience.] Fancy his wanting to see my birth mark.
FITZSIMMONS. [Bullying.] Then take a go at the bag. [She shakes
her head.] You're not Harry Jones.
MAUD. [Approaching punching bag.] I am, too.
FITZSIMMONS. Then hit it.
MAUD. [Resolving to attempt it, hits bag several nice blows, and
then is struck on the nose by it.] Oh!
[Recovering herself and rubbing her nose.] I told you I was out
of practice. You punch the bag, Bob.
FITZSIMMONS. I will, if you will show me what you can do with
that wonderful soprano voice of yours.
MAUD. I don't dare. Everybody would think there was a woman in
FITZSIMMONS. [Shaking his head.] No, they won't. They've all
gone to the fight. There's not a soul in the building.
MAUD. [Alarmed, in a weak voice.] Not--a--soul--in--the
FITZSIMMONS. Not a soul. Only you and I.
MAUD. [Starting hurriedly toward door.] Then I must go.
FITZSIMMONS. What's your hurry? Sing.
MAUD. [Turning back with new resolve.] Let me see you punch the
FITZSIMMONS. You sing first.
MAUD. No; you punch first.
FITZSIMMONS. I don't believe you are Harry -
MAUD. [Hastily.] All right, I'll sing. You sit down over there
and turn your back.
[MAUD walks over to the table toward right. She is about to sing,
when she notices FITZSIMMONS' cigarette case, picks it up, and in
an aside reads his name on it and speaks.]
MAUD. "Robert Fitzsimmons." That will prove to my brother that I
have been here.
FITZSIMMONS. Hurry up.
[MAUD hastily puts cigarette case in her pocket and begins to
[During the song FITZSIMMONS turns his head slowly and looks at
her with growing admiration.]
MAUD. How did you like it?
FITZSIMMONS. [Gruffly.] Rotten. Anybody could tell it was a
boy's voice -
FITZSIMMONS. It is rough and coarse and it cracked on every high
MAUD. Oh! Oh!
[Recollecting herself and shrugging her shoulders.] Oh, very
well. Now let's see if you can do any better with the bag.
[FITZSIMMONS takes off coat and gives exhibition.]
[MAUD looks on in an ecstasy of admiration.]
MAUD. [As he finishes.] Beautiful! Beautiful!
[FITZSIMMONS puts on coat and goes over and sits down near table.]
Nothing like the bag to limber one up. I feel like a fighting
cock. Harry, let's go out on a toot, you and I.
FITZSIMMONS. A toot. You know--one of those rip-snorting nights
you used to make.
MAUD. [Emphatically, as she picks up newspapers from leather
chair, sits down, and places them on her lap.] I'll do nothing of
the sort. I've--I've reformed.
FITZSIMMONS. You used to joy-ride like the very devil.
MAUD. I know it.
FITZSIMMONS. And you always had a pretty girl or two along.
MAUD. [Boastfully, in mannish, fashion.] Oh, I still have my
fling. Do you know any--well,--er,--nice girls?
MAUD. Put me wise.
FITZSIMMONS. Sure. You know Jack Sylvester?
MAUD. [Forgetting herself.] He's my brother -
FITZSIMMONS. [Exploding.] What!
MAUD. --In-law's first cousin.
MAUD. So you see I don't know him very well. I only met him
once--at the club. We had a drink together.
FITZSIMMONS. Then you don't know his sister?
MAUD. [Starting.] His sister? I--I didn't know he had a sister.
FITZSIMMONS. [Enthusiastically.] She's a peach. A queen. A
little bit of all right. A--a loo-loo.
MAUD. [Flattered.] She is, is she?
FITZSIMMONS. She's a scream. You ought to get acquainted with
MAUD. [Slyly.] You know her, then?
FITZSIMMONS. You bet.
MAUD. [Aside.] Oh, ho! [To FITZSIMMONS.] Know her very well?
FITZSIMMONS. I've taken her out more times than I can remember.
You'll like her, I'm sure.
MAUD. Thanks. Tell me some more about her.
FITZSIMMONS. She dresses a bit loud. But you won't mind that.
And whatever you do, don't take her to eat.
MAUD. [Hiding her chagrin.] Why not?
FITZSIMMONS. I never saw such an appetite -
FITZSIMMONS. It's fair sickening. She must have a tape-worm.
And she thinks she can sing.
FITZSIMMONS. Rotten. You can do better yourself, and that's not
saying much. She's a nice girl, really she is, but she is the
black sheep of the family. Funny, isn't it?
MAUD. [Weak voice.] Yes, funny.
FITZSIMMONS. Her brother Jack is all right. But he can't do
anything with her. She's a--a -
MAUD. [Grimly.] Yes. Go on.
FITZSIMMONS. A holy terror. She ought to be in a reform school.
MAUD. [Springing to her feet and slamming newspapers in his
face.] Oh! Oh! Oh! You liar! She isn't anything of the sort!
FITZSIMMONS. [Recovering from the onslaught and making believe he
is angry, advancing threateningly on her.] Now I'm going to put a
head on you. You young hoodlum.
MAUD. [All alarm and contrition, backing away from him.] Don't!
Please don't! I'm sorry! I apologise. I--I beg your pardon,
Bob. Only I don't like to hear girls talked about that way, even-
-even if it is true. And you ought to know.
FITZSIMMONS. [Subsiding and resuming seat.] You've changed a
lot, I must say.
MAUD. [Sitting down in leather chair.] I told you I'd reformed.
Let us talk about something else. Why is it girls like prize-
fighters? I should think--ahem--I mean it seems to me that girls
would think prize-fighters horrid.
FITZSIMMONS. They are men.
MAUD. But there is so much crookedness in the game. One hears
about it all the time.
FITZSIMMONS. There are crooked men in every business and
profession. The best fighters are not crooked.
MAUD. I--er--I thought they all faked fights when there was
enough in it.
FITZSIMMONS. Not the best ones.
MAUD. Did you--er --ever fake a fight?
FITZSIMMONS. [Looking at her sharply, then speaking solemnly.]
MAUD. [Shocked, speaking sadly.] And I always heard of you and
thought of you as the one clean champion who never faked.
FITZSIMMONS. [Gently and seriously.] Let me tell you about it.
It was down in Australia. I had just begun to fight my way up.
It was with old Bill Hobart out at Rushcutters Bay. I threw the
fight to him.
MAUD. [Repelled, disgusted.] Oh! I could not have believed it
FITZSIMMONS. Let me tell you about it. Bill was an old fighter.
Not an old man, you know, but he'd been in the fighting game a
long time. He was about thirty-eight and a gamer man never
entered the ring. But he was in hard luck. Younger fighters were
coming up, and he was being crowded out. At that time it wasn't
often he got a fight and the purses were small. Besides it was a
drought year in Australia. You don't know what that means. It
means that the rangers are starved. It means that the sheep are
starved and die by the millions. It means that there is no money
and no work, and that the men and women and kiddies starve.
Bill Hobart had a missus and three kids and at the time of his
fight with me they were all starving. They did not have enough to
eat. Do you understand? They did not have enough to eat. And
Bill did not have enough to eat. He trained on an empty stomach,
which is no way to train you'll admit. During that drought year
there was little enough money in the ring, but he had failed to
get any fights. He had worked at long-shoring, ditch-digging,
coal-shovelling--anything, to keep the life in the missus and the
kiddies. The trouble was the jobs didn't hold out. And there he
was, matched to fight with me, behind in his rent, a tough old
chopping-block, but weak from lack of food. If he did not win the
fight, the landlord was going to put them into the street.
MAUD. But why would you want to fight with him in such weak
FITZSIMMONS. I did not know. I did not learn till at the
ringside just before the fight. It was in the dressing rooms,
waiting our turn to go on. Bill came out of his room, ready for
the ring. "Bill," I said--in fun, you know. "Bill, I've got to
do you to-night." He said nothing, but he looked at me with the
saddest and most pitiful face I have ever seen. He went back into
his dressing room and sat down.
"Poor Bill!" one of my seconds said. "He's been fair starving
these last weeks. And I've got it straight, the landlord chucks
him out if he loses to-night."
Then the call came and we went into the ring. Bill was desperate.
He fought like a tiger, a madman. He was fair crazy. He was
fighting for more than I was fighting for. I was a rising
fighter, and I was fighting for the money and the recognition.
But Bill was fighting for life--for the life of his loved ones.
Well, condition told. The strength went out of him, and I was
fresh as a daisy. "What's the matter, Bill?" I said to him in a
clinch. "You're weak." "I ain't had a bit to eat this day," he
answered. That was all.
By the seventh round he was about all in, hanging on and panting
and sobbing for breath in the clinches, and I knew I could put him
out any time. I drew back my right for the short-arm jab that
would do the business. He knew it was coming, and he was
powerless to prevent it.
"For the love of God, Bob," he said; and--[Pause.]
MAUD. Yes? Yes?
FITZSIMMONS. I held back the blow. We were in a clinch.
"For the love of God, Bob," he said again, "the misses and the
And right there I saw and knew it all. I saw the hungry children
asleep, and the missus sitting up and waiting for Bill to come
home, waiting to know whether they were to have food to eat or be
thrown out in the street.
"Bill," I said, in the next clinch, so low only he could hear.
"Bill, remember the La Blanche swing. Give it to me, hard."
We broke away, and he was tottering and groggy. He staggered away
and started to whirl the swing. I saw it coming. I made believe
I didn't and started after him in a rush. Biff! It caught me on
the jaw, and I went down. I was young and strong. I could eat
punishment. I could have got up the first second. But I lay
there and let them count me out. And making believe I was still
dazed, I let them carry me to my corner and work to bring me to.
Well, I faked that fight.
MAUD. [Springing to him and shaking his hand.] Thank God! Oh!
You are a man! A--a--a hero!
FITZSIMMONS. [Dryly, feeling in his pocket.] Let's have a smoke.
[He fails to find cigarette case.]
MAUD. I can't tell you how glad I am you told me that.
FITZSIMMONS. [Gruffly.] Forget it. [He looks on table, and
fails to find cigarette case. Looks at her suspiciously, then
crosses to desk at right and reaches for telephone.]
MAUD. [Curiously.] What are you going to do?
FITZSIMMONS. Call the police.
MAUD. What for?
FITZSIMMONS. For you.
MAUD. For me?
FITZSIMMONS. You are not Harry Jones. And not only are you an
impostor, but you are a thief.
MAUD. [Indignantly.] How dare you?
FITZSIMMONS. You have stolen my cigarette case.
MAUD. [Remembering and taken aback, pulls out cigarette case.]
Here it is.
FITZSIMMONS. Too late. It won't save you. This club must be
kept respectable. Thieves cannot be tolerated.
MAUD. [Growing alarm.] But you won't have me arrested?
FITZSIMMONS. I certainly will.
MAUD. [Pleadingly.] Please! Please!
FITZSIMMONS. [Obdurately.] I see no reason why I should not.
MAUD. [Hurriedly, in a panic.] I'll give you a reason--a--a good
one. I--I--am not Harry Jones.
FITZSIMMONS. [Grimly.] A good reason in itself to call in the
MAUD. That isn't the reason. I'm--a--Oh! I'm so ashamed.
FITZSIMMONS. [Sternly.] I should say you ought to be. [Reaches
for telephone receiver.]
MAUD. [In rush of desperation.] Stop! I'm a--I'm a--a girl.
There! [Sinks down in chair, burying her face in her hands.]
[FITZSIMMONS, hanging up receiver, grunts.]
[MAUD removes hands and looks at him indignantly. As she speaks
her indignation grows.]
MAUD. I only wanted your cigarette case to prove to my brother
that I had been here. I--I'm Maud Sylvester, and you never took
me out once. And I'm not a black sheep. And I don't dress
loudly, and I haven't a--a tapeworm.
FITZSIMMONS. [Grinning and pulling out card from vest pocket.]
I knew you were Miss Sylvester all the time.
MAUD. Oh! You brute! I'll never speak to you again.
FITZSIMMONS. [Gently.] You'll let me see you safely out of here.
MAUD. [Relenting.] Ye-e-s. [She rises, crosses to table, and is
about to stoop for motor cloak and bonnet, but he forestall her,
holds cloak and helps her into it.] Thank you. [She takes off
wig, fluffs her own hair becomingly, and puts on bonnet, looking
every inch a pretty young girl, ready for an automobile ride.]
FITZSIMMONS. [Who, all the time, watching her transformation, has
been growing bashful, now handing her the cigarette case.] Here's
the cigarette case. You may k-k-keep it.
MAUD. [Looking at him, hesitates, then takes it.] I thank you--
er--Bob. I shall treasure it all my life. [He is very
embarrassed.] Why, I do believe you're bashful. What is the
FITZSIMMONS. [Stammering.] Why--I--you-- You are a girl--and--a-
-a--deuced pretty one.
MAUD. [Taking his arm, ready to start for door.] But you knew it
FITZSIMMONS. But it's somehow different now when you've got your
girl's clothes on.
MAUD. But you weren't a bit bashful--or nice, when--you--you--
[Blurting it out.] Were so anxious about birth marks.
[They start to make exit.]