Part 1 out of 3
Produced by David Starner, Charles Bidwell and PG Distributed
THE RETURN OF PETER GRIMM
[Illustration: DAVID BELASCO]
(Born, San Francisco, July 25, 1853)
The present Editor has had many opportunities of studying the theatre side
of David Belasco. He has been privileged to hear expressed, by this Edison
of our stage, diverse opinions about plays and players of the past, and
about insurgent experiments of the immediate hour. He has always found a
man quickly responsive to the best memories of the past, an artist naively
childlike in his love of the theatre, shaped by old conventions and
modified by new inventions. Belasco is the one individual manager to-day
who has a workshop of his own; he is pre-eminently a creator, whereas his
contemporaries, like Charles Frohman, were emphatically manufacturers of
goods in the amusement line.
Such a man is entitled to deep respect, for the "carry-on" spirit with
which he holds aloft the banner used by Boucicault, Wallack, Palmer, and
Daly. It is wrong to credit him with deafness to innovation, with
blindness to new combinations. He is neither of these. It is difficult to
find a manager more willing to take infinite pains for effect, with no
heed to the cost; it is impossible to place above him a director more
successful in creating atmosphere and in procuring unity of cooperation
from his staff. No one, unless it be Winthrop Ames, gives more personal
care to a production than David Belasco. Considering that he was reared in
the commercial theatre, his position is unique and distinctive.
In the years to come, when students enter the Columbia University Dramatic
Museum, founded by Professor Brander Matthews, they will be able to judge,
from the model of the stage set for "Peter Grimm," exactly how far David
Belasco's much-talked-of realism went; they will rightly regard it as the
high point in accomplishment before the advent of the "new" scenery, whose
philosophy Belasco understands, but whose artistic spirit he cannot
accept. Maybe, by that time, there will be preserved for close examination
the manuscripts of Belasco's plays--models of thoroughness, of managerial
foresight. The present Editor had occasion once to go through these
typewritten copies; and there remains impressed on the memory the detailed
exposition in "The Darling of the Gods." Here was not only indicated every
shade of lighting, but the minute stage business for acting, revealing how
wholly the manager gave himself over to the creation of atmosphere. I
examined a mass of data--"boot plots," "light plots," "costume designs."
Were the play ever published in this form, while it might confuse the
general reader, it would enlighten the specialist. It would be a key to
realistic stage management, in which Belasco excels. Whether it be his own
play, or that of some outsider, with whom, in the final product, Belasco
always collaborates, the manuscripts, constituting his producing library,
are evidence of his instinctive eye for stage effect.
The details in the career of David Belasco are easily accessible. It is
most unfortunate that the stupendous record of his life's accomplishment
thus far, which, in two voluminous books, constituted the final labour of
the late William Winter, is not more truly reflective of the man and his
work. It fails to reproduce the flavour of the dramatic periods through
which Belasco passed, in his association with Dion Boucicault as private
secretary, in his work with James A. Herne at Baldwin's Theatre, in San
Francisco, in his pioneer realism at the old New York Madison Square
Theatre, when the Mallory Brothers were managers, Steele Mackaye was one
of the stock dramatists, Henry DeMille was getting ready for collaboration
with Belasco, Daniel Frohman was house-manager and Charles Frohman was out
on the road, trying his abilities as advance-man for Wallack and Madison
Square successes. Winter's life is orderly and matter-of-fact; Belasco's
real life has always been melodramatic and colourful.
His early struggles in San Francisco, his initial attempts at playwriting,
his intercourse with all the big actors of the golden period of the
'60's--Mr. Belasco has written about them in a series of magazine
reminiscences, which, if they are lacking in exact sequence, are measure
of his type of mind, of his vivid memory, of his personal opinions.
Belasco has reached his position through independence which, in the '90's,
brought down upon him the relentless antagonism of the Theatrical Trust--a
combine of managers that feared the advent of so individualistic a
playwright and manager. They feared his ability to do so many things well,
and they disliked the way the public supported him. This struggle,
tempestuous and prolonged, is in the records.
A man who has any supreme, absorbing interest at all is one who thrives on
vagaries. Whatever Belasco has touched since his days of apprenticeship in
San Francisco, he has succeeded in imposing upon it what is popularly
called "the Belasco atmosphere." Though he had done a staggering amount of
work before coming to New York, and though, when he went to the Lyceum
Theatre, he and Henry DeMille won reputation by collaborating in "The
Wife," "Lord Chumley," "The Charity Ball," and "Men and Women," he was
probably first individualized in the minds of present-day theatregoers
when Mrs. Leslie Carter made a sensational swing across stage, holding on
to the clapper of a bell in "The Heart of Maryland." Even thus early, he
was displaying characteristics for which, in later days, he remained
unexcelled. He was helping Bronson Howard to touch up "Baron Rudolph,"
"The Banker's Daughter" and "The Young Mrs. Winthrop;" he was succeeding
with a dramatization of H. Rider Haggard's "She," where William Gillette
had failed in the attempt.
"The Heart of Maryland" established both Belasco and Mrs. Carter. Then he
started on that extravagant period of spectacular drama, which gave to the
stage such memorable pictures as "Du Barry," with Mrs. Carter, and "The
Darling of the Gods," with Blanche Bates. In such pieces he literally
threw away the possibilities of profit, in order to gratify his decorative
sense. Out of that time came two distinctive pieces--one, the exquisitely
poignant "Madame Butterfly" and the other, "The Girl of the Golden West"--
both giving inspiration to the composer, Puccini, who discovered that a
Belasco play was better suited for the purposes of colourful Italian opera
than any other American dramas he examined.
Counting his western vicissitudes as one period, and the early New York
days as a second, one might say that in the third period David Belasco
exhibited those excellences and limitations which were thereafter to mark
him and shape all his work. There is an Oriental love of colour and effect
in all he does; but there is no monotony about it. "The Darling of the
Gods" was different from "The Girl of the Golden West," and both were
distinct from "The Rose of the Rancho." It is this scenic decorativeness
which has enriched many a slim piece, accepted by him for presentation,
and such a play has always been given that care and attention which has
turned it eventually into a Belasco "offering." None of his collaborators
will gainsay this genius of his. John Luther Long's novel was unerringly
dramatized; Richard Walton Tully, when he left the Belasco fold, imitated
the Belasco manner, in "The Bird of Paradise" and "Omar, the Tentmaker."
And that same ability Belasco possesses to dissect the heart of a romantic
piece was carried by him into war drama, and into parlour comedies, and
plays of business condition. I doubt whether "The Auctioneer" would read
well, or, for the matter of that, "The Music Master;" Charles Klein has
written more coherent dialogue than is to be found in these early pieces.
But they are vivid in mind because of Belasco's management, and because he
saw them fitted to the unique figure of David Warfield.
But a Belasco success is furthered by the tremendous public curiosity that
follows him in all he does. There is a wizardry about him which
fascinates, and makes excellent reading in the press. Long before I saw
the three-winged screen upon which it is his custom to sort out and pin up
his random notes for a play, it was featured in the press. So were
pictures of his "collection," in rooms adjoining his studio--especially
his Napoleonic treasures which are a by-product of his Du Barry days. No
man of the theatre is more constantly on the job than he. It is said that
old John Dee, the famous astrologer whom Queen Elizabeth so often
consulted, produced plays when he was a student at Cambridge University,
with stage effects which only one gifted in the secrets of magic could
have consummated. Belasco paints with an electric switchboard, until the
emotion of his play is unmistakably impressed upon the eye. At a moment's
notice he will root out his proscenium arch, and build a "frame" which
obliterates the footlights; at another time he will build an "apron" to
his stage, not for its historical significance, but merely to give depth
and mellowness to such an ecclesiastical picture as Knoblauch's
"Marie-Odile." He has spent whole nights alone in the theatre auditorium
with his electrician, "feeling" for the "siesta" somnolence which carried
his audience instantly into the Spanish heat of old California, in "The
Rose of the Rancho;" and the moving scenery which took the onlooker from
the foot-hills of the Sierras to the cabin of "The Girl of the Golden
West" was a "trick" well worth the experiment.
Thus, no manager is more ingenious, more resourceful than David Belasco.
But his care for detail is often a danger; he does not know fully the
value of elimination; the eye of the observer is often worried by the
multiplicity of detail, where reticence would have been more quickly
effective. This is the Oriental in Belasco. His is a strange blend of
realism and decorativeness.
"A young man came to me once," he said to me, "with the manuscript of a
new play, which had possibilities in it. But after I had talked with him
awhile, I found him preaching the doctrines of the 'new' art. So I said to
him, 'My dear sir, here is your manuscript. The first scene calls for a
tenement-house set. How would you mount it?'"
He smiled, maybe at the recollection of Gordon Craig's statements that
"actuality, accuracy of detail, are useless on the stage," and that "all
is a matter of proportion and nothing to do with actuality."
"I felt," Mr. Belasco continued, "that the young man would find difficulty
in reconciling the nebulous perspectives of Mr. Craig with the squalor of
a city block. I said to him, 'I have been producing for many years, and I
have mounted various plays calling for differing atmospheres. I don't want
to destroy your ideals regarding the 'new art', but I want you to realize
that a manager has to conform his taste to the material he has in hand. I
consider that one of the most truthful sets I have ever had on the stage
was the one for the second act of Eugene Walter's 'The Easiest Way'. A
boarding-house room on the top floor cannot be treated in any other way
than as a boarding-house room. And should I take liberties with what we
know for a fact exists in New York, on Seventh Avenue, just off Broadway,
then I am a bad producer and do not know my business. I do not say there
is no suggestion in realism; it is unwise to clutter the stage with
needless detail. But we cannot idealize a little sordid ice-box where a
working girl keeps her miserable supper; we cannot symbolize a broken jug
standing in a wash-basin of loud design. Those are the necessary evils of
a boarding-house, and I must be true to them'."
One will have to give Mr. Belasco this credit, that whatever he is, he is
_it_ to the bent of his powers. Had he lived in Elizabeth's day, he would
have been an Elizabethan heart and soul. But his habit is formed as a
producer, and he conforms the "new" art to this habit as completely as
Reinhardt Reinhardtized the morality play, "Everyman," or Von Hofmannsthal
"The Return of Peter Grimm" has been chosen for the present collection. It
represents a Belasco interest and conviction greater than are to be found
in any of his other plays. While there are no specific claims made for the
fact that_ PETER _materializes after his death, it is written with
plausibility and great care. The psychic phenomena are treated as though
real, and our sympathy for_ PETER _when he returns is a human sympathy for
the inability of a spirit to get his message across. The theme is not
etherealized; one does not see through a mist dimly. There was not even an
attempt, in the stage production of the piece, which occurred at the
Belasco Theatre, New York, on October 17, 1911, to use the "trick" of
gauze and queer lights; there was only one supreme thing done--to make the
audience feel that_ PETER _was on a plane far removed from the physical,
by the ease and naturalness with which he slipped past objects, looked
through people, and was unheeded by those whom he most wanted to
influence. The remarkable unity of idea sustained by Mr. Belasco as
manager, and by Mr. Warfield as actor, was largely instrumental in making
the play a triumph. The playwright did not attempt to create supernatural
mood; he did not resort to natural tricks such as Maeterlinck used in
"L'Intruse," or as Mansfield employed in "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." He
reduced what to us seems, at the present moment, a complicated explanation
of a psychic condition to its simple terms, and there was nothing strange
to the eye or unusual in the situation. One cannot approach the theme of
the psychic without a personal concern. Sardou's "Spiritisme" was the
culmination of years of investigation; the subject was one with which
Belasco likewise has had much to do during the past years.
It is a privilege to be able to publish "Peter Grimm." Thus far not many
of the Belasco plays are available in reading form. "May Blossom" and
"Madame Butterfly" are the only ones. "Peter Grimm" has been novelized--in
the day, now fortunately past, when a play was novelized in preference to
perpetuating its legitimate form. And excerpts from the dialogue have been
used. But this is the first time the complete text has appeared and it has
been carefully edited by the author himself. In addition to which Mr.
Belasco has written the following account of "Peter's" evolution, to be
used in this edition.
The play, "The Return of Peter Grimm," is an expression in dramatic
form of my ideas on a subject which I have pondered over since
boyhood: "Can the dead come back?" _Peter Grimm_ did come back. At
the same time, I inserted a note in my program to say that I
advanced no positive opinion; that the treatment of the play allowed
the audience to believe that it had actually seen _Peter_, or that
he had not been seen but existed merely in the minds of the
characters on the stage. Spiritualists from all over the country
flocked to see "The Return of Peter Grimm," and I have heard that it
gave comfort to many. It was a difficult theme, and more than once I
was tempted to give it up. But since it has given relief to those
who have loved and lost, it was not written in vain. Victorian
Sardou dealt with the same subject, but he did not show the return
of the dead; instead, he delivered a spirit message by means of
knocking on a table. His play was not a success, and I was warned by
my friends to let the subject alone; but it is a subject that I
never can or never have let alone; yet I never went to a medium in
my life--could not bring myself to do it. My dead must come to me,
and have come to me--or so I believe.
The return of the dead is the eternal riddle of the living. Although
mediums have been exposed since the beginning of time, and so-called
"spiritualism" has fallen into disrepute over and over again, it
emerges triumphantly in spite of charlatans, and once more becomes
the theme of the hour.
The subject first interested me when, as a boy, I read a story in
which the dead "foretold dangers to loved ones." My mother had
"premonitions" which were very remarkable, and I was convinced, at
the time, that the dead gave these messages to her. She personally
could not account for them. I probably owe my life to one of my
mother's premonitions. I was going on a steamboat excursion with my
school friends, when my mother had a strong presentiment of danger,
and begged me not to go. She gave in to my entreaties, however, much
against her will. Just as the boat was about to leave the pier, a
vision of her pale face and tear-filled eyes came to me. I heard her
voice repeating, "I wish you would not go, Davy." The influence was
so strong that I dashed down the gang-plank as it was being pulled
in. The boat met with disaster, and many of the children were killed
or wounded. These premonitions have also come to me, but I do not
believe as I did when a boy that they are warnings from the dead,
although I cannot explain them, and they are never wrong; the
message is always very clear.
My mother convinced me that the dead come back by coming to me at
the time of her death--or so I believe. One night, after a long,
hard rehearsal, I went to bed, worn out, and fell into a deep sleep.
I was awakened by my mother, who stood in my bedroom and called to
me. She seemed to be clothed in white. She repeated my name over and
over--the name she called me in my boyhood: "Davy! Davy!" She told
me not to grieve--that she was dying; that she _had_ to see me. I
distinctly saw her and heard her speak.
She was in San Francisco at the time--I, in New York. After she
passed out of the room, I roused my family and told what I had heard
and seen. I said: "My mother is dead. I know she is dead;" but I
could not convince my family that I had not been dreaming. I was
very restless--could not sleep again. The next day (we were
rehearsing "Zaza") I went out for luncheon during the recess with a
member of my company. He was a very absent-minded man, and at the
table he took a telegram from his pocket which he said he had
forgotten to give me: it announced the death of my mother at the
time I had seen her in my room. I am aware that this could be
explained as thought transference, accompanied by a dream in which
my mother appeared so life-like as to make me believe the dream
real. This explanation, however, does not satisfy me. I am sure that
I did see her. Other experiences of a kindred nature served to
strengthen my belief in the naturalness of what we call the
supernatural. I decided to write a play dealing with the return of
the dead: so it followed that when I was in need of a new play for
David Warfield, I chose this subject. Slight of figure, unworldly,
simple in all his ways, Warfield was the very man to bring a message
back from the other world. Warfield has always appeared to me as a
character out of one of Grimm's Fairy Tales. He was, to my mind, the
one man to impersonate a spirit and make it seem real. So my desire
to write a play of the dead, and my belief in Warfield's artistry
culminated in "The Return of Peter Grimm." The subject was very
difficult, and the greatest problem confronting me was to preserve
the illusion of a spirit while actually using a living person. The
apparition of the ghost in "Hamlet" and in "Macbeth," the spirits
who return to haunt _Richard III_, and other ghosts of the theatre
convinced me that green lights and dark stages with spot-lights
would not give the illusion necessary to this play. All other
spirits have been visible to someone on the stage, but_ PETER _was
visible to none, save the dog (who wagged his tail as his master
returned from the next world) and to _Frederik_, the nephew, who was
to see him but for a second._ PETER _was to be in the same room with
the members of the household, and to come into close contact with
them. They were to feel his influence without seeing him. He was to
move among them, even appear to touch them, but they were to look
past him or above him--never into his face. He must, of course, be
visible to the audience. My problem, then, was to reveal a dead man
worrying about his earthly home, trying to enlist the aid of
anybody--everybody--to take his message. Certainly no writer ever
chose a more difficult task; I must say that I was often very much
discouraged, but something held me to the work in spite of myself.
The choice of an occupation for my leading character was very
limited. I gave_ PETER _various trades and professions, none of
which seemed to suit the part, until I made him a quaint old
Dutchman, a nursery-man who loved his garden and perennials--the
flowers that pass away and return season after season. This gave a
clue to his character; gave him the right to found his belief in
immortality on the lessons learned in his garden.
"God does not send us strange flowers every year,
When the warm winds blow o'er the pleasant places,
The same fair flowers lift up the same fair faces.
The violet is here ...
It all comes back, the odour, grace and hue,
... it IS the THING WE KNEW.
So after the death winter it shall be," etc.
Against a background of budding trees, I placed the action of the
play in the month of April; April with its swift transitions from
bright sunlight to the darkness of passing clouds and showers. April
weather furnished a natural reason for raising and lowering the
lights--that the dead could come and go at will, seen or unseen. The
passing rain-storms blended with the tears of those weeping for
their loved ones. A man who comes back must not have a commonplace
name--a name suggestive of comedy--and I think I must have read over
every Dutch name that ever came out of Holland before I selected the
name of "_Peter Grimm_." It was chosen because it suggested (to me)
a stubborn old man with a sense of justice--whose spirit _would_
return to right a wrong and adjust his household affairs.
The stage setting was evolved after extreme care and thought. It was
a mingling of the past and present. It was _Peter's_ sitting-room,
with a mixture of furniture and family portraits and knick-knacks,
each with an association of its own. It was such a room as would be
dear to all old-fashioned, home-loving people--unlike a room of the
present, from which every memento of parents and grand-parents would
be banished in favour of strictly modern or antique formal
furniture. In this room, the things of _Peter's_ father mingled with
those of _Peter's_ boyhood and young manhood. This was done in order
that the influence of his familiar belongings might be felt by the
people of the play. When his niece stood with her hand on his chair;
when she saw the lilies he loved; when she touched his pipe, or any
of the familiar objects dear to her because of their associations,_
PETER _was brought vividly back to her mind, although she could not
_Peter's_ clothing was selected with unusual care so that it would
not catch the reflection from the lights. Months of preparation and
weeks of rehearsal were necessary.
One detail that was especially absorbing was the matter of lighting;
catching the high lights and shadows. This was the first time the
"bridge of lights" was used on any stage. Lighting has always been
to me more than mere illumination. It is a revelation of the heart
and soul of the story. It points the way. Lights should be to the
play what the musical accompaniment is to the singer. A wordless
story could be told by lights. Lights should be mixed as a painter
mixes his colours--a bit of pink here, of blue there; a touch of
red, a lavender or a deep purple, with shadows intervening to give
the desired effect. Instead of throwing a mysterious light upon the
figure of _Peter_, I decided to reverse the process and put no
lights on him. The light was on the other people--the people still
in life, with just enough amber to give them colour.
The play was cut and cut until there was not a superfluous line in
it. Every word was necessary, although it might not have seemed so
when read. It was only after the play was recalled as a whole, that
the necessity for everything could be seen. The coming of the circus
with the clown singing "Uncle Rat has come to town," and the noise
of the drums, are instances of this. It seemed like halting the
action to bring in a country circus procession, but its necessity is
shown in the final scene when the little boy, _William_, passes
away. It is always cruel to see a child die on the stage. The
purpose of the coming of the circus was to provide a pleasant memory
for the child to recall as his mind wandered away from earth, and to
have his death a happy one. This was made more effective when Peter
took up the refrain of the song as though he knew what was passing
in the dying boy's mind, showing that the dead have their own world
and their own understanding.
No company of players ever had situations so fraught with danger of
failure. They were very nervous. Mr. Warfield appeared in the part
for several weeks before he felt at ease as the living man who
returns as his own spirit.
There is one memory associated with the play which will remain in my
heart as long as it beats. This piece was written during the last
year-and-a-half of my daughter Augusta's life. For some reason,
which I could not understand then, but which was clear to me later,
the subject fascinated her. She showed the greatest interest in it.
The dear child was preparing to leave the world, but we did not know
it. When the manuscript was finished, she kept it by her side, and,
notwithstanding her illness, saw the dress rehearsal. During the
writing of the play, she often said, "Yes, father, it is all true. I
believe every word of it." It was as though the thought embodied in
the play gave her comfort. When we discovered how ill she was, I
took her to Asheville, North Carolina, thinking the climate would
help her. She grew worse. Still hoping, we went to Colorado, and
there I lost her.
It has seemed to me since that the inspiration compelling me to go
on with "Peter Grimm," in spite of its difficulties, came from this
daughter who died.
I cannot close this reminiscence of "The Return of Peter Grimm"
without acknowledging the help and inspiration received from David
Warfield, without whose genius and personality the play would not
have been possible.
I doubt whether Mr. Belasco has ever infused so much imaginative ingenuity
into the structure and picture of a play. Even in the reading, its quaint
charm is instantly revealed. We quite agree with Winter in saying that the
effectiveness of the role of_ PETER _lies in its simplicity. This was the
triumph of Warfield's interpretation. It may have been difficult to attain
the desired effects, but once reached, technical skill did the rest. It
will be noted on the program that credit is given for an idea to Mr. Cecil
DeMille, son of Mr. Belasco's former collaborator. "The Return of Peter
Grimm" was scheduled for production in London by Sir Herbert Tree, but
plans were cut short by that actor's sudden death, July 2, 1917.
Mr. Belasco's interest in the psychic and the supernatural has been seen
in other plays, notably in "The Case of Becky," by Edward Locke, and in
Henry Bernstein's "The Secret"--example of Belasco's most skilled
adaptation from the French, though we remember the excellence of his
version of Berton and Simon's "Zaza." That he thought Warfield admirably
suited to this type of play was one of the chief incentives which
prompted him to write "Van Der Decken" (produced on the road, December 12,
1915), a play whose theme is "The Flying Dutchman"--and not thus far given
in New York.[A]
[Footnote A: Some of Mr. Belasco's recent opinions regarding the stage
have been published in book form, under the title, "The Theatre through
its Stage Door" (Harper).]
[Illustration: BELASCO THEATRE
FORTY FOURTH STREET near BROADWAY
Under the Sole Management of DAVID BELASCO
BEGINNING TUESDAY EVENING, OCTOBER 17, 1911.
Matinees Thursday and Saturday.
THE RETURN OF PETER GRIMM
A PLAY, IN THREE ACTS.
By DAVID BELASCO.
"Only one thing really counts--only one thing--love. It is the only thing
that tells in the long run; nothing else endures to the end."
CAST OF CHARACTERS.
PETER GRIMM..................................DAVID WARFIELD
FREDERIK, his nephew.........................JOHN SAINPOLIS
JAMES HARTMAN................................THOMAS MEIGHAN
ANDREW MacPHERSON............................JOSEPH BRENNAN
REV. HENRY BATHOLOMMEY.........................WILLIAM BOAG
COLONEL TOM LAWTON...........................JOHN F. WEBBER
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY................................MARIE BATES
THE CLOWN........................................TONY BEVAN
PROGRAM CONTINUED ON SECOND PAGE FOLLOWING
* * * * *
The scene of the play is laid in the living room of Peter Grimm's home at
Grimm Manor, a small town in New York State, founded by early settlers
The first act takes place at eleven o'clock in the morning, on a fine
The second act passes ten days later, towards the close of a rainy
The third act takes place at twenty minutes to twelve on the same night.
PROGRAM CONTINUED ON SECOND PAGE FOLLOWING
* * * * *
NOTE--Mr. Belasco does not intend to advance any theory as to the
probability of the return of the main character of this play. For the
many, it may be said that he could exist only in the minds of the
characters grouped about him--in their subconscious memories. For _the
few_, his presence will embody the theory of the survival of persistent
personal energy. This character has, so far as possible, been treated to
accord with either thought. The initial idea of the play was first
suggested as a dramatic possibility by Mr. Cecil DeMille, to whom Mr.
Belasco acknowledges his indebtedness. A conversation with Professor
James, of Harvard, and the works of Professor Hyslop of the American
branch of the London Society of Psychical Research have also aided Mr.
The play produced under the personal supervision of Mr. Belasco.
Stage Director....................................William J. Dean
Stage Manager........................................William Boag
Scene by Ernest Gros.
Scenery built by Charles J. Canon
Electrical effects by Louis Hartman.]
THE RETURN OF PETER GRIMM
_A PLAY IN THREE ACTS_
_By_ DAVID BELASCO
[The Editor wishes to thank Mr. David Belasco for his courtesy in granting
permission to include "The Return of Peter Grimm" in the present
Collection. All its rights are fully secured, and proceedings will
immediately be taken against any one attempting to infringe them.]
_The scene shows a comfortable living-room in an old house. The furniture
was brought to America by _PETER GRIMM'S_ ancestors. The _GRIMMS_ were,
for the most part, frugal people, but two or three fine paintings have
been inherited by _PETER_.
_A small, old-fashioned piano stands near the open window, a few
comfortable chairs, a desk with a hanging lamp above it, and an arm-chair
in front of it, a quaint old fireplace, a Dutch wall clock with weights, a
sofa, a hat-rack, and mahogany flower-pot holders, are set about the room;
but the most treasured possession is a large family Bible lying on a
table. A door leads to a small office occupied by _PETER'S_ secretary._
_Stairs lead to the sleeping-rooms above. Through the window, hothouses,
beds of tulips, and other flowers, shrubs and trees are seen. "Peter
Grimm's Botanic Gardens" supply seeds, plants, shrubbery and trees to the
wholesale, as well as retail trade, and the view suggests the importance
of the industry. An old Dutch windmill, erected by a Colonial ancestor,
gives a quaint touch, to the picture. Although _PETER GRIMM_ is a very
wealthy man, he lives as simply as his ancestors._
_As the curtain is raised, the room is empty; but _CATHERINE_ is
heard singing in the dining-room. _JAMES HARTMAN, PETER'S_ secretary,
opens his door to listen, a small bundle of letters in his
hand. He is a well set up young man, rather blunt in his manner,
and a trifle careless in his dress. After a pause, he goes back into
the office, leaving the door ajar. Presently _CATHERINE_ enters. In
spite of her youth and girlish appearance, she is a good, thrifty
housekeeper. She wears a simple summer gown, and carries a
bunch of gay tulips and an old silver pitcher, from which she presently
pours water into the Harlequin Delft vase on _PETER GRIMM'S_ desk. She
peeps into the office, retreating, with a smile on her lips,
as _JAMES_ appears._
CATHERINE. Did I disturb you, James?
JAMES. [_On the threshold._] No indeed.
CATHERINE. Do you like your new work?
JAMES. Anything to get back to the gardens, Catherine. I've always done
outside work and I prefer it; but I would shovel dirt rather than work for
any one else.
CATHERINE. [_Amused._] James!
JAMES. It's true. When the train reached the Junction, and a boy presented
the passengers with the usual flower and the "compliments of Peter
Grimm"--it took me back to the time when that was my job; and when I saw
the old sign, "Grimm's Botanic Gardens and Nurseries"--I wanted to jump
off the train and run through the grounds. It seemed as though every tulip
called "hello" to me.
CATHERINE. Too bad you left college! You had only one more year.
JAMES. Poor father! He's very much disappointed. Father has worked in the
dirt in overalls--a gardener--all his life; and, of course, he
over-estimates an education. He's far more intelligent than most of our
CATHERINE. I understand why you came back. You simply must live where
things grow, mustn't you, James? So must I. Have you seen our orchids?
JAMES. Orchids are pretty; but they're doing wonderful things with
potatoes these days. I'd rather improve the breed of a squash than to have
an orchid named after me. Wonderful discovery of Luther Burbank's--
creating an edible cactus. Sometimes I feel bitter thinking what I might
have done with vegetables, when I was wasting time studying Greek.
CATHERINE. [_Changing suddenly._] James: why don't you try to please Uncle
JAMES. I do; but he is always asking my opinion, and when I give it, he
CATHERINE. [_Coaxingly._] Don't be quite so blunt. Try to be like one of
JAMES. I'm afraid I shall never be like one of _this_ family.
CATHERINE. Why not? I'm no relation at all; and yet--
JAMES. [_Making a resolution._] I'll do my best to agree with him.
[_Offering his hand._] It's a promise. [_They shake hands._
CATHERINE. Thank you, James.
JAMES. [_Still holding her hand._] It's good to be back, Catherine. It's
good to see you again.
_He is still holding her hand when _FREDERIK GRIMM_ enters. He is the son
of _PETER'S_ dead sister, and has been educated by_ PETER _to carry on his
work. He is a graduate of Amsterdam College, Holland, and, in appearance
and manner, suggests the foreign student. He has managed to pull through
college creditably, making a specialty of botany._ PETER _has given him
the usual trip through Europe, and_ FREDERIK _has come to his rich uncle
to settle down and learn his business. He has been an inmate of the
household for a few months. He poses as a most industrious young man, but
is, at heart, a shirker._
FREDERIK. Where's Uncle?
JAMES. Good-morning, Frederik. Your uncle's watching father spray the plum
trees. The black knot's after them again.
FREDERIK. I can hardly keep my eyes open. Uncle wakes me up every morning
at five--creaking down the old stairs. [_Eyeing_ CATHERINE _admiringly._]
You're looking uncommonly pretty this morning, Kitty. [CATHERINE _edges
away and runs upstairs to her room._
FREDERIK. Miss Catherine and you and I are no longer children--our
positions are altered--please remember that. I'm no longer a student home
for the holidays from Amsterdam College. I'm here to learn the business
which I am expected to carry on. Miss Catherine is a young lady now, and
my uncle looks upon her as his daughter. You are here as my uncle's
secretary. That's how we three stand in this house. Don't call me
"Frederik," and hereafter be good enough to say, "Miss Grimm."
JAMES. [_Amiably._] Very well.
FREDERIK. James: there's a good opportunity for a young man like you in
our Florida house. I think that if I spoke for you--
JAMES. Why do you wish to ship me off to Florida?
FREDERIK. I don't understand you, Hartman. I don't wish to ship you off. I
am merely thinking of your future. You seem to have changed since--
JAMES. We've all grown up, as you just said. [JAMES _has laid some mail on
the desk, and is about to leave the room, when_ FREDERIK _speaks again,
but in a more friendly manner._
FREDERIK. The old man's aging; do you notice it?
JAMES. Your uncle's mellowing, yes; but that's only to be expected. He's
changing foliage with the years.
FREDERIK. He's growing as old-fashioned as his hats. In my opinion, this
would be the time to sell.
JAMES. [_Astonished._] Sell? Sell a business that has been in his family
for--why, it's his religion!
FREDERIK. It's at the height of its prosperity. It would sell like that!
[_Snapping his fingers._] What was the last offer the old man refused from
Hicks, of Rochester, Jim?
JAMES. [_Noticing the sudden friendliness--looking at_ FREDERIK,
_half-amused, half-disgusted._] Can't repeat correspondence, Mr. Grimm.
[_Amazed._] Good heavens! You surprise me! Would you sell your great,
great grandfather? I learned to read by studying his obituary out in the
peach orchard: "Johann Grimm, of Holland, an upright settler." There isn't
a day your uncle doesn't tell me that you are to carry on the work.
FREDERIK. So I am, but it's not _my_ religion. [_Sarcastically._.]
Every man can't be blessed like you with the soul of a market gardener--a
peddler of turnips.
JAMES. [_Thinking--ignoring_ FREDERIK.] He's a great old man--your uncle.
It's a big name--Grimm--Peter Grimm. The old man knows his business--he
certainly knows his business. [_Changing._] God! It's an awful thought
that a man must die and carry all that knowledge of orchids to the grave!
I wonder if it doesn't all count somewhere.... I must attend to the mail.
PETER GRIMM _enters from the gardens. He is a well-preserved man of sixty,
very simple and plain in his ways. He has not changed his style of dress
in the past thirty years. His clothing, collar, tie, hat and shoes are all
old-fashioned. He is an estimable man, scrupulously honest, gentle and
sympathetic; but occasionally he shows a flash of Dutch stubbornness._
FREDERIK. I ran over from the office, Uncle Peter, to make a suggestion.
FREDERIK. I suggest that we insert a full-page cut of your new tulip in
our mid-summer floral almanac.
PETER. [_Who has hung up his hat on his own particular peg, affably
assenting._] A good idea!
FREDERIK. The public is expecting it.
PETER. You think so, my boy?
FREDERIK. Why, Uncle, you've no idea of the stir this tulip has created.
People stop me in the street to speak of it.
PETER. Well, well, you surprise me. I didn't think it so extraordinary.
FREDERIK. I've had a busy morning, sir, in the packing house.
PETER. That's good. I'm glad to see you taking hold of things, Fritz.
[_Humourously, touching_ FREDERIK _affectionately on the shoulder._] We
mustn't waste time; for that's the stuff life's made of. [_Seriously._]
It's a great comfort to me, Frederik, to know that when I'm in my little
private room with James, or when I've slipped out to the hothouses,--you
are representing me in the offices--_young_ Mr. Grimm.... James, are you
ready for me?
JAMES. Yes, sir.
PETER. I'll attend to the mail in a moment. [_Missing_ CATHERINE, _he
calls according to the household signal._] Ou--oo! [_He is answered by_
CATHERINE, _who immediately appears from her room, and comes running
downstairs._] Catherine, I have news for you. I've named the new rose
after you: "Katie--a hardy bloomer." It's as red as the ribbon in your
CATHERINE. Thank you, Uncle Peter, thank you very much. And now you must
have your cup of coffee.
PETER. What a fine little housewife! A busy girl about the house, eh,
Fritz? Is there anything you need to-day, Katie?
CATHERINE. No, Uncle Peter, I have everything I need, thank you.
PETER. Not everything,--not everything, my dear. [_Smiling at_ FREDERIK.
JAMES, _ignored, is standing in the background._] Wait! Wait till I give
you a husband. I have my plans. [_Looking from_ FREDERIK _to_ CATHERINE.]
People don't always know what I'm doing, but I'm a great man for planning.
Come, Katie, tell me, on this fine spring morning, what sort of husband
would you prefer?
CATHERINE. [_Annoyed,--with girlish impatience._] You're always speaking
of weddings, Uncle Peter. I don't know what's come over you of late.
PETER. It's nesting time, ... spring weddings are in the air; besides, my
grandmother's linen-chest upstairs must be used again for you
[_Impulsively drawing_ CATHERINE _to him._], my house fairy. [_Kisses
her._] There, I mustn't tease her. But I leave it to Fritz if I don't owe
her a fine husband--this girl of mine. Look what she has done for _me!_
CATHERINE. Done for you? I do you the great favour to let _you_ do
everything for _me_.
PETER. Ah, but who lays out my linen? Who puts flowers on my desk every
day? Who gets up at dawn to eat breakfast with me? Who sees that I have my
second cup of coffee? But better than all that--who brings youth into my
CATHERINE. That's not much--youth.
PETER. No? We'll leave it to Fritz. [FREDERIK, _amused, listens in
silence._] What should I be now--a rough old fellow--a bachelor--without
youth in my house, eh? God knows! Katie has softened me towards all the
ladies--er--mellowed me as time has mellowed my old pictures. [_Points to
pictures._] And I was growing hard--hard and fussy.
CATHERINE. [_Laughing._] Ah, Uncle Peter, have I made you take a liking to
all the rest of the ladies?
PETER. Yes. It's just as it is when you have a pet: you like all that
breed. You can only see _your_ kind of kitten.
JAMES. [_Coming down a step, impressed by_ PETER'S _remark--speaking
earnestly._] That's so, sir. [_The others are surprised._] I hadn't
thought of it in that way, but it's true. You study a girl for the first
time, and presently you notice the same little traits in every one of
them. It makes you feel differently towards all the rest.
PETER. [_Amused._] Why, James, what do you know about girls? "Bachelor" is
stamped all over you--you're positively labelled.
JAMES. [_Good-naturedly._] Perhaps. [_Goes back to the office._
PETER. Poor James! What a life before him! When a bachelor wants to order
a three-rib roast, who's to eat it? I never had a proper roast until Katie
and Frederik came to make up my family; [_Rubbing his hands._] but the
roasts are not big enough. [_Giving_ FREDERIK _a knowing look._] We must
find a husband.
CATHERINE. You promised not to--
PETER. I want to see a long, long table with plenty of young people.
CATHERINE. I'll leave the room, Uncle.
PETER. With myself at the head, carving, carving, carving, watching the
plates come back, and back, and back. [_As she is about to go._] There,
there, not another word of this to-day.
_The 'phone rings._ JAMES _re-enters and answers it._
JAMES. Hello! [_Turns._] Rochester asks for Mr. Peter Grimm to the 'phone.
Another message from Hicks' greenhouses.
PETER. Ask them to excuse me.
JAMES. [_Bluntly._] You'll have to excuse him. [_Listens._] No, no, the
gardens are not in the market. You're only wasting your time.
PETER. Tc! Tc! James! Can't you say it politely? [JAMES _listens at
FREDERIK. [_Aside to_ PETER.] James is so painfully blunt. [_Then
changing._] Is it--er--a good offer? Is Hicks willing to make it worth
while? [_Catching his uncle's astonished eye--apologetically._] Of course,
I know you wouldn't think of--
CATHERINE. I should say not! My home? An offer? _Our_ gardens? I should
FREDERIK. Mere curiosity on my part, that's all.
PETER. Of course, I understand. Sell out? No indeed. We are thinking of
the next generation.
FREDERIK. Certainly, sir.
PETER. We're the last of the family. The business--that's Peter Grimm. It
will soon be Frederik Grimm. The love for the old gardens is in our blood.
FREDERIK. It is, sir. [_Lays a fond hand on_ PETER'S _shoulder._
PETER. [_Struck._] I have an idea. We'll print the family history in our
new floral almanac.
FREDERIK. [_Suppressing a yawn._] Yes, yes, a very good idea.
PETER. Katie, read it to us and let us hear how it sounds.
CATHERINE. [_Reads._] "In the spring of 1709 there settled on Quassick
Creek, New York State, Johann Grimm, aged twenty-two, husbandman and
vine-dresser, also Johanna, his wife."
PETER. Very interesting.
FREDERIK. Very interesting, indeed.
CATHERINE. "To him Queen Anne furnished one square, one rule, one compass,
two whipping saws and several small pieces. To him was born--"
PETER. [_Interrupting._] You left out two augurs.
CATHERINE. [_Reads._] Oh, yes--"and two augurs. To him was born a son--"
PETER. [_Who knows the history by heart, has listened, his eyes almost
suffused--repeating each word to himself, as she reads. He has lived over
each generation down to the present and nods in approval as she reaches
this point._] The foundation of our house. And here we are prosperous and
flourishing--after seven generations. We'll print it, eh, Fritz?
FREDERIK. Certainly, sir. By all means let us print it.
PETER. And now we are depending upon you, Frederik, for the next line in
the book. [_To_ CATHERINE _--slyly--as she closes the book._] If my sister
could see Frederik, what a proud mother she would be!
JAMES. [_Turning from the 'phone to_ PETER.] Old man Hicks himself has
come to the 'phone. Says he _must_ speak to Mr. Peter Grimm.
FREDERIK. I'd make short work of him, Uncle.
PETER. [_At the 'phone._] How are you, my old friend?... How are your plum
trees? [_Listens._] Bad, eh? Well, we can only pray and use Bordeaux
Mixture.... No.... Nonsense! This business has been in my family for seven
generations. Why sell? I'll see that it stays in the family seven
generations longer! [_Echoing._] Do I propose to live that long? N--no;
but my plans will. [_Looks towards_ FREDERIK _and_ CATHERINE.] How? Never
mind. Good-morning. [_Hangs up the receiver._
JAMES. Sorry to disturb you, sir, but some of these letters are--
FREDERIK. I'm off.
PETER. [_Who has lifted a pot of tulips to set it in the sun--standing
with the pot in his hands._] And remember the saying: [_A twinkle in his
upraised eyes._] "Thou, O God, sellest all good things at the price of
labour." [_Smells the tulips and sets them down._
FREDERIK. [_Goes briskly towards the door._] That's true, sir. I want to
speak to you later, Uncle--[_Turning, looking at_ JAMES.] on a private
matter. [_He goes off looking at his watch, as though he had a hard day's
work before him._
PETER. [_Looking after_ FREDERIK.] Very capable young fellow, Frederik. I
was a happy man, James, when I heard that he had won the prize for botany
at Amsterdam College. I had to find out the little I know by experience.
JAMES. [_Impulsively._] Yes, and I'll wager you've forgotten more than--
[_Catching a warning glance from_ CATHERINE, _he pauses._
JAMES. Nothing, sir. I--
CATHERINE. [_Tugging at_ PETER'S _coat--speaking to him apart, as_ JAMES
_busies himself at the desk._] Uncle Peter, I think you're unfair to
James. We used to have him to dinner very often before he went away. Now
that he's back, you treat him like a stranger.
PETER. [_Surprised._] Eh? I didn't know that I--[_Petting_ CATHERINE.]
A good, unselfish girl. She thinks of everybody. [_Aloud._] James, will
you have dinner with us to-day?
JAMES. [_Pleased and surprised._] Thank you, sir--yes, sir.
PETER. It's a roast goose--cooked sweet, James. [_Smacks his lips._] Fresh
green herbs in the dressing and a Figaro pudding. Marta brought over that
pudding receipt from Holland.
MARTA, _an old family servant, has entered with the air of having
forgotten to wind the clock. She smiles happily at_ PETER'S _allusion to
her puddings, attends to the old clock, and passes of with_ CATHERINE.
PETER _sits at the desk, glancing over the mail._
PETER. Katie's blossoming like a rose. Have you noticed how she's coming
out lately, James?
JAMES. Yes, sir.
PETER. You've noticed it, too? [_Picks up another letter, looking over
JAMES. Yes, sir.
PETER. [_Pausing, taking off his eye-glasses and holding them on his
thumb. Philosophically._] How prettily Nature accomplishes her will--
making a girl doubly beautiful that a young man may yield his freedom the
more easily. Wonderful! [_During the following, he glances over letters._]
A young girl is like a violet sheltered under a bush, James; and that is
as it should be, isn't it?
JAMES. No, sir, I don't think so.
PETER. [_Surprised._] What?
JAMES. I believe people should think for themselves--not be....
PETER. Go on.
JAMES. [_Remembering his promise to_ CATHERINE.] Nothing.
PETER. Go on, James.
JAMES. I mean swallowed up.
PETER. Swallowed up? Explain yourself, James.
JAMES. I shouldn't have mentioned it.
PETER. Certainly, certainly. Don't be afraid to express an honest opinion.
JAMES. I only meant that you can't shape another's life. We are all free
PETER. Free? Of course Katie's free--to a certain extent. Do you mean to
tell me that any young girl should be freer? Nonsense! She should be happy
that _I_ am here to think for her--_I_! _We_ must think for people who
can't think for themselves; and a young girl can't. [_Signing an answer to
a letter after hastily glancing over it._] You have extraordinary ideas,
JAMES. Excuse me, sir; you asked my opinion. I only meant that we can't
think for others--any more than we can eat or sleep for them.
PETER. [_As though accepting the explanation._] Oh ... I see what you
JAMES. Of course, every happy being is bound by its nature to lead its own
life--that it may be a free being. Evidently I didn't make my meaning
clear. [_Giving_ PETER _another letter to sign._
PETER. Free? Happy? James, you talk like an anarchist! You surprise me,
sir. Where do you get these extraordinary ideas?
JAMES. By reading modern books and magazines, sir, and of course--
PETER. I thought so. [_Pointing to his books._] Read Heine. Cultivate
sentiment. [_Signing the letter._] Happy? Has it ever occurred to you that
Katie is not happy?
JAMES. No, sir, I can't truthfully say that it has.
PETER. I imagine not. These are the happiest hours of her life. Young ...
in love ... soon to be married.
JAMES. [_After a long pause._] Is it settled, sir?
PETER. No, but I'll soon settle it. Anyone can see how she feels towards
JAMES. [_After a shorter pause._] Isn't she very young to marry, sir?
PETER. Not when she marries into the family; not when _I_ am in the
house--[_Touching his chest._] to guard her--to watch over her. Leave it
to _me_. [_Enthusiastically._] Sit here, James. Take one of Frederik's
cigars. [JAMES _politely thanks him, but doesn't take one._] It's a
pleasure to talk to some one who's interested; and you _are_ interested,
JAMES. Yes, sir, I'm much more interested than you might think.
PETER. Good. We'll take up the mail in a minute. Now, in order to carry
out my plans--
CATHERINE. [_Sticking her head in the door._] Ready for coffee?
PETER. Er--a little later. Close the door, dear. [_She disappears, closing
the door._] In order to carry out my plans, I have had to use great
diplomacy. I made up my mind to keep Katie in the family; being a rich
man--everybody knows it--I've had to guard against fortune-hunters.
However, I think I've done away with them, for the whole town understands
that Katie hasn't a penny--doesn't it, James?
JAMES. Yes, sir.
PETER. Yes, I think I've made that very clear. My dream was to bring
Catherine up to keep her in the family, and it has been fulfilled. My
plans have turned out beautifully, for she is satisfied and happy.
JAMES. But did you want her to be happy simply because _you_ are happy,
sir? Don't you want her to be happy because _she_ is happy?
PETER. If she's happy, why should I care? [_Picks up the last letter._
JAMES. _If_ she's happy.
PETER. [_Losing his temper._] What do you mean? That's the second time
you've said that. Why do you harp on--
JAMES. [_Rising._] Excuse me, sir.
PETER. [_Angrily._] Sit down. What do you know?
JAMES. Nothing, sir....
PETER. You must know something to speak in this manner.
JAMES. No, I don't. You're a great expert in your line, Mr. Grimm, and I
have the greatest respect for your opinion; but you can't mate people as
you'd graft tulips. And more than once, I've--I've caught her crying and
I've thought perhaps ...
PETER. [_Pooh-poohing._] Crying? Of course! Was there ever a girl who
didn't cry?... You amuse me ... with your ideas of life.... Ha! Haven't I
asked her why she was crying,--and hasn't she always said: "I don't know
why--it's nothing." They love to cry. [_Signs the last letter._] But
that's what they all cry over--nothing. James, do you know how I happened
to meet Katie? She was prescribed for me by Doctor MacPherson.
JAMES. [_Taking the letter._] Prescribed?
PETER. As an antidote. I was growing to be a fussy bachelor, with queer
notions. You are young, but see that you don't need the Doctor, James. Do
you know how I was cured? I'll tell you. One day, when I had business in
the city, the Doctor went with me, and before I knew what he was at--he
had marched me into a home for babies.... Katie was nearest the door--the
first one. Pinned over her crib was her name: "Catherine Staats, aged
three months." She held out her little arms ... so friendless--so
pitiful--so alone--and I was done for. We brought her back home, the
Doctor, a nurse and I. The first time I carried her up those stairs--all
my fine bachelor's ideas went out of my head. I knew then that my theories
were all humbug. I had missed the child in the house who was to teach me
everything. I had missed many children in my house. From that day, I
watched over her life. [_Rising, pointing towards the head of the
stairs._] James, I was born in this house--in the little room where I
sleep; and her children shall one day play in the room in which I was
born.... That's very pretty, eh? [_Wipes his eyes, sentimentally._] I've
always seen it that way.
JAMES. [_Coolly._] Yes; it's _very_ pretty if it turns out well.
PETER. How can it turn out otherwise?
JAMES. To me, sir, it's not a question of sentiment--of where her children
shall play, so long as they play happily.
PETER. What? Her children can play anywhere--in China if they want to! Are
you in your senses? A fine reward for giving a child all your affection--
to live to see her children playing in China. No, sir! I propose to keep
my household together, by your leave. [_Banging his clenched fist on the
desk._] It's my plan. [_Cleans his pipe, looking at_ JAMES _from time to
time._ JAMES _posts the letters in a mail-box outside the door._ PETER
_goes to the window, calling off._] Otto! Run to the office and tell Mr.
Frederik he may come in now. [_The voice of a gruff Dutchman: "Het is
pastoor's dag."_ (It is the pastor's day.)] Ah, yes; I had forgotten. It's
William's day to take flowers to the Pastor. [_A knock is heard and, as_
PETER _calls "Come in,"_ WILLIAM, _a delicate child of eight, stands
timidly in the doorway of the dining-room, hat in hand._] How are you
to-day, William? [_Pats_ WILLIAM _on the shoulder._
WILLIAM. The Doctor says I'm well now.
PETER. Good! Then you shall take flowers to the church. [_Calls off._] A
big armful, Otto!
MARTA _has entered with a neatly folded, clean handkerchief which she
tucks into_ WILLIAM'S _breast pocket._
PETER. [_In a low voice, to_ JAMES.] There's your example of freedom!
William's mother, old Marta's spoiled child, was free. You remember
Annamarie, James?--let to come and go as she pleased. God knows where she
is now ... and here is William with the poor old grandmother.... Run along
with the flowers, William. [_Gives_ WILLIAM _some pennies as he goes._]
How he shoots up, eh, Marta?
MARTA. [_With the hopeless sorrow of the old, as she passes off._]
Poor child ... poor child.
PETER. Give Katie more freedom, eh? Oh, no! I shall guard her as I would
guard my own, for she is as dear to me as though she were mine, and, by
marriage, please God, she shall be a Grimm in _name_.
JAMES. Mr. Grimm, I--I wish you would transfer me to your branch house in
PETER. What? You who were so glad to come back! James, you need a holiday.
Close your desk. Go out and busy yourself with those pet vegetables of
yours. Change your ideas; then come back sane and sensible, and attend to
your work. [_Giving a last shot at_ JAMES _as he passes into the office
and_ FREDERIK _re-enters._] You don't know what you want!
FREDERIK. [_Looking after_ JAMES.] Uncle Peter, when I came in this
morning, I made up my mind to speak to you of James.
FREDERIK. Yes, I've wondered lately if ... it seems to me that James is
interested in Catherine.
PETER. James? Impossible.
FREDERIK. I'm not so sure.
PETER. [_Good-naturedly._] James? James Hartman?
FREDERIK. When I look back and remember him as a barefoot boy living in a
shack behind our hot-houses--and see him now--in here with you--
PETER. All the more credit, Frederik.
FREDERIK. Yes; but these are the sort of fellows who dream of getting into
the firm. And there are more ways than one.
PETER. Do you mean to say--He wouldn't presume to think of such a thing.
FREDERIK. Oh, wouldn't he! The class to which he belongs presumes to think
of anything. I believe he has been making love to Catherine.
PETER. [_After a slight pause, goes to the dining-room door and calls._]
FREDERIK. [_Hastily._] Don't say that I mentioned it. [CATHERINE
PETER. Katie, I wish to ask you a question. I--[_He laughs._]
Oh, it's absurd. No, no, never mind.
CATHERINE. What is it?
PETER. I can't ask you. It's really too absurd.
CATHERINE. [_Her curiosity aroused._] What is it, Uncle?... Tell me ...
PETER. Has James ever--
CATHERINE. [_Taken back and rather frightened--quickly._] No....
PETER. What?... How did you know what I ... [FREDERIK _gives her a shrewd
glance; but_ PETER, _suspecting nothing, continues._] I meant ... has
James shown any special interest in you?
CATHERINE. [_As though accepting the explanation._] Oh ... [_Flurried._]
Why, Uncle Peter!... Uncle Peter!... whatever put this notion into your
PETER. It's all nonsense, of course, but--
CATHERINE. I've always known James.... We went to school together....
James has shown no interest he ought not to have shown, Uncle Peter,--if
that's what you mean. He has always been very respectful in a perfectly
PETER. [_Convinced._] Respectful in a perfectly friendly way. [_To_
FREDERIK.] You can't ask more than that. Thank you, dear, that's all I
wanted. Run along. [_Glad to escape,_ CATHERINE _leaves the room._] He was
only respectful in a perfectly friendly way. [_Slaps_ FREDERIK _on the
back._] You're satisfied now, I hope?
FREDERIK. No, I am not. If _she_ hasn't noticed what he has in mind, _I_
have. When I came into this room a few moments ago,--it was as plain as
day. He's trying to make love to her under our very eyes. I saw him. I
wish you would ask him to stay in his office and attend to his own
business. [JAMES _now re-enters on his way to the gardens._]
PETER. James, it has just occurred to me--that--[_James pauses._] What
was your reason for wanting to give up your position? Had it anything to
do with my little girl?
JAMES. Yes, sir.
PETER. You mean that--you--you love her?
JAMES. [_In a low voice._] Yes, sir.
PETER. O-ho! [FREDERIK _gives_ PETER _a glance as though to say, "Now, do
you believe it?"_
JAMES. But she doesn't know it, of course; she never would have known it.
I never meant to say a word to her. I understand, sir.
PETER. James! Come here ... here!... [_Bringing_ JAMES _up before him at
the desk._] Get your money at the office. You may have that position in
Florida. Good-bye, James.
JAMES. I'm very sorry that ... Good-bye, sir.
FREDERIK. You are not to tell her that you're going. You're not to bid her
PETER. [_To_ FREDERIK.] Sh! Let me attend to--
JAMES. [_Ignoring_ FREDERIK.] I'm sorry, Mr. Grimm, that--
[_His voice falters._
PETER. [_Rising._] James, I'm sorry, too. You've grown up here and--Tc!
Tc! Good fortune to you--James. Get this notion out of your head, and
perhaps one day you'll come back to us. We shall see. [_Shakes hands with_
JAMES, _who leaves the room too much overcome to speak._
DR. MACPHERSON. [_Who has entered, saying carelessly to_ JAMES _as he
passes him._] Hy're you, Jim? Glad Jim's back. One of the finest lads I
ever brought into this world.
_The_ DOCTOR _is a man of about_ PETER'S _age, but more powerfully built.
He has the bent shoulders of the student and his face is exceedingly
intellectual. He is the rare type of doctor who forgets to make out his
bills. He has a grizzled grey beard, and his hair is touched with grey. He
wears silver-rimmed spectacles. His substantial but unpressed clothing is
made by the village tailor._
PETER. Good-morning, Andrew.
FREDERIK. Good-morning, Doctor.
DR. MACPHERSON. [_Casts a quick, professional glance at_ PETER.] Peter,
I've come over to have a serious word with you. Been on my mind all night.
[_Brings down a chair and sits opposite_ PETER.] I--er--Frederik ...
[FREDERIK, _who is not a favourite of the_ DOCTOR'S, _takes the hint and
leaves the room_.] Peter, have you provided for everybody in this house?
PETER. What? Have I--
DR. MACPHERSON. You're a terrible man for planning, Peter; but what have
you done? [_Casually_.] Were you to die,--say to-morrow,--how would it be
with--[_Making a gesture to include the household_.]--the rest of them?
PETER. What do you mean? If I were to die to-morrow ...
DR. MACPHERSON. You won't. Don't worry. Good for a long time yet, but
every one must come to it--sooner or later. I mean--what would Katie's
position be in this house? I know you've set your heart upon her marrying
Frederik, and all that sort of nonsense, but will it work? I've always
thought 'twas a pity Frederik wasn't James and James wasn't Frederik.
DR. MACPHERSON. Oh, it's all very well if she wants Frederik, but
supposing she does not. Peter, if you mean to do something for her--do it
PETER. Now? You mean that I--You mean that I might ... die?
DR. MACPHERSON. All can and do.
PETER. [_Studying the_ DOCTOR'S _face_.] You think ...
DR. MACPHERSON. The machinery is wearing out, Peter. Thought I should tell
you. No cause for apprehension, but--
PETER. Then why tell me?
DR. MACPHERSON. When I cured you of that cold--wet flowerbeds--two days
ago, I made a discovery. [_Seeing_ CATHERINE _enter, he pauses. She is
followed by_ MARTA, _carrying a tray containing coffee and a plate of
waffles_.] Coffee! I told you not to touch coffee, Peter. It's rank
CATHERINE. Wouldn't you like a cup, Doctor?
PETER. Yes he'll take a cup. He won't prescribe it, but he'll drink it.
DR. MACPHERSON. [_Horrified_.] And hot waffles between meals!
PETER. Yes, he'll take hot waffles, too. [MARTA _goes to get another plate
and more waffles, and_ CATHERINE _follows her_.] Now, Andrew, you can't
tell me that I'm sick. I won't have it. Every day we hear of some old boy
one hundred years of age who was given up by the doctors at twenty. No,
sir! I'm going to live to see children in my house,--Katie's babies
creeping on my old floor; playing with my old watch-dog, Toby. I've
promised myself a long line of rosy Grimms.
DR. MACPHERSON. My God, Peter! That dog is fifteen years old now. Do you
expect nothing to change in your house? Man, you're a home worshipper.
However, I--I see no reason why--[_Lying_.]you shouldn't reach a ripe old
age. [_Markedly, though feigning to treat the subject lightly_.] Er--
Peter, I should like to make a compact with you ... that whoever _does_ go
first--and you're quite likely to outlive me,--is to come back and let the
other fellow know ... and settle the question. Splendid test between old
neighbours--real contribution to science.
PETER. Make a compact to--stuff and nonsense!
DR. MACPHERSON. Don't be too sure of that.
PETER. No, Andrew, no, positively, no. I refuse. Don't count upon me for
any assistance in your spook tests.
DR. MACPHERSON. And how many times do you think _you've_ been a spook
yourself? You can't tell me that man is perfect; that he doesn't live more
than one life; that the soul doesn't go on and on. Pshaw! The persistent
personal energy must continue, or what _is_ God? [CATHERINE _has
re-entered with another cup, saucer and plate which she sets on the table,
and pours out the coffee._
CATHERINE. [_Interested_.] Were you speaking of--of ghosts, Doctor?
PETER. Yes, he has begun again. [_To_ CATHERINE.] You're just in time to
hear it. [_To_ DR. MACPHERSON.] Andrew, I'll stay behind, contented in
_this_ life; knowing what I have here on earth, and you shall die and
return with your--ha!--persistent personal whatever-it-is, and keep the
spook compact. Every time a knock sounds, or a chair squeaks, or the door
bangs, I shall say, "Sh! There's the Doctor!"
CATHERINE. [_Noticing a book which the_ DOCTOR _has taken from his pocket,
and reading the title_.] "Are the Dead Alive?"
DR. MACPHERSON. I'm in earnest, Peter. _I'll_ promise and I want you to
promise, too. Understand that I am not a so-called spiritist. I am merely
a seeker after truth. [_Puts more sugar in his coffee_.
PETER. That's what they _all_ are--seekers after truth. Rubbish! Do you
really believe such stuff?
DR. MACPHERSON. I know that the dead are alive. They're here--here--near
us--close at hand. [PETER, _in derision, lifts the table-cloth and peeps
under the table--then, taking the lid off the sugar-bowl, peers into it_.]
Some of the great scientists of the day are of the same opinion.
PETER. Bah! Dreamers! They accomplish nothing in the world. They waste
their lives dreaming of the world to come.
DR. MACPHERSON. You can't call Sir Charles Crookes, the inventor of
Crookes Tubes,--a waster? Nor Sir Oliver Lodge, the great biologist; nor
Curie, the discoverer of radium; nor Doctor Lombroso, the founder of
Science of Criminology; nor Doctors Maxwell, deVesme, Richet, Professor
James, of Harvard, and our own Professor Hyslop. Instead of laughing at
ghosts, the scientific men of to-day are trying to lay hold of them. The
frauds and cheats are being crowded from the field. Science is only just
peeping through the half-opened door which was shut until a few years ago.
PETER. If ever I see a ghost, I shall lay violent hands upon it and take
it to the police station. That's the proper place for frauds.
DR. MACPHERSON. I'm sorry, Peter, very sorry, to see that you, like too
many others, make a jest of the most important thing in life. Hyslop is
right: man will spend millions to discover the North Pole, but not a penny
to discover his immortal destiny.
PETER. [_Stubbornly_.] I don't believe in spook mediums and never shall
believe in them.
DR. MACPHERSON. Probably most professional mediums cheat--perhaps every
one of them; but some of them are capable of real demonstrations at times.
PETER. Once a swindler, always a swindler. Besides, why can't my old
friends come straight back to me and say, "Peter Grimm, here I am!" When
they do--if they do--I shall be the first man to take off my hat to them
and hold out my hand in welcome.
DR. MACPHERSON. You ask me why? Why can't a telegram travel on a fence
instead of on a wire? Your friends could come back to you if you could put
yourself in a receptive condition; but if you cannot, you must depend upon
a medium--a sensitive.
PETER. A what? [_To_ CATHERINE.] Something new, eh? He has all the names
for them. Yesterday it was "apports"--flowers that fell down from nowhere
and hit you on the nose. He talks like a medium's parrot. He has only to
close his eyes and along comes the parade. Spooks! Spooky spooks! And now
he wants me to settle my worldly affairs and join in the procession.
CATHERINE. [_Puzzled_.] Settle your worldly affairs? What do you mean,
PETER. [_Evasively_.] Just some more of his nonsense. Doctor, you've seen
a good many cross to the other world; tell me--did you ever see one of
them come back--one?
DR. MACPHERSON. No.
PETER. [_Sipping his coffee_.] Never have, eh? And never will. Take
another cup of poison, Andrew.
_The_ DOCTOR _gives his cup to_ CATHERINE, _who fills it_. PETER _passes
the waffles to the_ DOCTOR, _at the same time winking at_ CATHERINE _as
the_ DOCTOR _takes another_.
DR. MACPHERSON. There was not perhaps the intimate bond between doctor and
patients to bring them back. But in my own family, I have known of a case.
PETER. [_Apart to_ CATHERINE.] He's off again.
CATHERINE. [_Eager to listen_.] Please don't interrupt, Uncle. I love to
hear him tell of--
DR. MACPHERSON. I have known of a return such as you mention. A distant
cousin died in London and she was seen almost instantly in New York.
PETER. She must have travelled on a biplane, Andrew.
DR. MACPHERSON. If my voice can be heard from San Francisco over the
telephone, why cannot a soul with a God-given force behind it dart over
the entire universe? Is Thomas Edison greater than God?
CATHERINE. [_Shocked_.] Doctor!
DR. MACPHERSON. And they can't tuck it _all_ on telepathy. Telepathy
cannot explain the case of a spirit-message giving the contents of a
sealed letter known only to the person that died. Here's another
PETER. This is better than "Puss in Boots," isn't it, Katie? More--er--
flibbertigibberty. Katie always loved fairy stories.
CATHERINE. [_Listening eagerly_.] Uncle, please.
DR. MACPHERSON. [_Ignoring_ PETER, _speaking directly to_ CATHERINE, _who
is all attention_.] An officer on the Polar vessel, the _Jeannette_, sent
to the Artic regions by the New York _Herald_, appeared at his wife's
bedside. _She_ was in Brooklyn--_he_ was on the Polar sea. He said to her,
"Count." She distinctly heard a ship's bell and the word "Count" again.
She had counted six when her husband's voice said, "Six bells--and the
_Jeanette_ is lost." The ship was really lost at the time she saw the
PETER. A bad dream. "Six bells and the"--Ha! Ha! Spirit messages! Suet
pudding has brought me messages from the North Pole, and I receive
messages from Kingdom Come after I've eaten a piece of mince pie.
DR. MACPHERSON. There have been seventeen thousand other cases found to be
worth investigation by the London Society of Psychical Research.
PETER. [_Changing_.] Supposing, Andrew, that I did "cross over"--I believe
that's what you call dying,--that I _did_ want to come back to see how you
and the little Katie and Frederik were getting on, how do you think I
could manage to do it?
DR. MACPHERSON. When we hypnotize subjects, Peter, our thoughts take
possession of them. As we enter their bodies, we take the place of a
something that leaves them--a shadow-self. This self can be sent out of
the room--even to a long distance. This self leaves us entirely after
death on the first, second or third day, or so I believe. This is the
force which you would employ to come back to earth--the astral envelope.
PETER. Yes, but what proof have you, Doctor, that I've got an--an astral
DR. MACPHERSON. [_Easily_.] De Rochas has actually photographed it by
PETER. Ha! Ha! Ha! Ho! Ho!
DR. MACPHERSON. Mind you--they couldn't _see_ it when they photographed
PETER. I imagine not. See it? Ho! Ho!
DR. MACPHERSON. It stood a few feet away from the sleeper, and was located
by striking at the air and watching for the corresponding portion of the
sleeper's body to recoil. By pricking a certain part of this shadow-self
with a pin, the cheek of the patient could be made to bleed. The camera
was focussed on this part of the shadow-self for fifteen minutes. The
result was the profile of a head.
PETER. [_After a pause_.] ... You believe that?
DR. MACPHERSON. The experiment has been repeated again and again. Nobody
acquainted with the subject denies it now.
PETER. Spook pictures taken by professional mediums! [_Turning away from
the table as though he had heard enough._
DR. MACPHERSON. De Rochas, who took the pictures of which I speak, is a
lawyer of standing; and the room was full of scientists who saw the
PETER. Hypnotized--all of them. Humbug, Andrew!
DR. MACPHERSON. Under these conditions, it is quite impossible to
hypnotize a room full of people. Perhaps you think the camera was
hypnotized? In similar circumstances, says Lombroso, an unnatural current
of cold air went through the room and lowered the thermometer several
degrees. Can you hypnotize a thermometer?
CATHERINE. [_Impressed_.] That's wonderful, Doctor!
PETER. Yes, it's a very pretty fairy story; but it would sound better set
to shivery music. [_Sings_.] Tol! Dol! Dol! Dol! [_Rising to get his pipe
and tobacco_.] No, sir! I refuse to agree to your compact. You cannot pick
the lock of heaven's gate. We don't come back. God did enough for us when
he gave us life and strength to work and the work to do. He owes us no
explanations. I believe in the old-fashioned paradise with a locked gate.
[_He fills his pipe and lights it_.] No bogies for me.
DR. MACPHERSON. [_Rising_.] Peter, I console myself with the thought that
men have scoffed at the laws of gravitation, at vaccination, magnetism,
daguerreotypes, steamboats, cars, telephones, wireless telegraphy and
lighting by gas. [_Showing feeling_.] I'm very much disappointed that you
refuse my request.
PETER. [_Laying down his pipe on the table_.] Since you take it so
seriously--here--[_Offers his hand_.] I'll agree. I know you're an old
fool--and I'm another. Now then--[_Shakes hands._] it's settled.
Whichever one shall go first--[_He bursts into laughter--then controlling
himself_.] If I do come back, I'll apologize, Andrew.
DR. MACPHERSON. Do you mean it?
PETER. I'll apologize. Wait [_Taking the keys from the sideboard_.], let
us seal the compact in a glass of my famous plum brandy.
DR. MACPHERSON. Good!
PETER. [_As he passes off_.] We'll drink to spooks.
CATHERINE. You really do believe, Doctor, that the dead can come back,
DR. MACPHERSON. Of course I do, and why not?
CATHERINE. Do you believe that you could come back here into this room and
I could see you?
DR. MACPHERSON. You might not see me; but I could come back to this room.
CATHERINE. Could you talk to me?
DR. MACPHERSON. Yes.
CATHERINE. And could I hear you?
DR. MACPHERSON. I believe so. That's what we're trying to make possible.
[CATHERINE, _still wondering, passes off with the tray. From the cellar,_
PETER _can be heard singing lustily._
PETER. "If you want a bite that's good to eat,
(Tra, la, ritte, ra, la, la, la!)
Try out a goose that's fat and sweet,
(Tra, la, ritte, ra, la, la, la!")
_During the song,_ MRS. BATHOLOMMEY _has given a quick tap on the door and
entered. She is about forty years of age. Her faded brown hair is streaked
with grey. She wears a plain black alpaca costume._
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. [_Agitated_.] Good-morning, Doctor. Fortunate that I
found you alone.
DR. MACPHERSON. [_Dryly_.] Hy're you, Mrs. Batholommey?
_The_ REV. HENRY BATHOLOMMEY _now enters. He is a man of about forty-five,
wearing the frock coat, high waistcoat and square topped hat of a minister
of the Dutch Reformed Church._
REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY. Hy're, Henry?
_The_ REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY _bows._ WILLIAM _has returned from his errand
and entered the room,--a picture-book under his arm. He sits up by the
window, absorbed in the pictures--unnoticed by the others._
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. [_Closing the door left open by_ PETER, _shutting out
the sound of his voice_.] Well, Doctor ... [_She pauses for a moment to
catch her breath and wipe her eyes_.] I suppose you've told him he's got
DR. MACPHERSON. [_Eyeing_ MRS. BATHOLOMMEY _with disfavour_.] Who's got to
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. Why, Mr. Grimm, of course.
DR. MACPHERSON. [_Amazed_.] Does the whole damned town know it?
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. Oh!
REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY. Easy, Doctor. You consulted Mr. Grimm's lawyer and
_his_ wife told _my_ wife.
DR. MACPHERSON. He gabbed, eh? Hang the professional man who tells things
to his wife.
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. Doctor!
REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY. [_With solicitude_.] I greatly grieve to hear that
Mr. Grimm has an incurable malady. His heart, I understand. [_Shakes his
DR. MACPHERSON. He's not to be told. Is that clear? He may die in twenty
minutes--may outlive us all--probably will.
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. [_Pointing to_ REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY.] It seems to me,
Doctor, that if _you_ can't do any more, it's _his_ turn. It's a wonder
you Doctors don't baptize the babies.
REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY. Rose!
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. At the last minute, he'll want to make a will--and you
know he hasn't made one. He'll want to remember the church and his
charities and his friends; and if he dies before he can carry out his
intentions, the minister will be blamed as usual. It's not fair.
REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY. Sh! Sh! My dear! These private matters--
DR. MACPHERSON. I'll trouble you, Mistress Batholommey, to attend to your
own affairs. Did you never hear the story of the lady who flattened her
nose--sticking it into other people's business?
REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY. Doctor! Doctor! I can't have that!
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. Let him talk, Henry. No one in this town pays any
attention to Dr. MacPherson since he took up with spiritualism.
REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY. Rose! [_He motions to her to be silent, as_ PETER,
_coming up the stairs from the cellar, is heard singing_.
PETER. "Drop in the fat some apples red,
(Tra, la, ritte, ra, la, la, la!)
Then spread it on a piece of bread,
(Tra, la, ritte, ra, la, la, la!)"
[_He opens the door, carrying a big bottle in his hand; hailing the_
BATHOLOMMEYS _cheerfully_.] Good-morning, good people. [_He puts the jug
on the sideboard and hangs up the key. The_ BATHOLOMMEYS _look sadly at_
PETER. MRS. BATHOLOMMEY _in the fore-ground tries to smile pleasantly, but
can only assume the peculiarly pained expression of a person about to
break terrible news._
REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY. [_Rising to the occasion--warmly grasping_ PETER'S
_hand_.] Ah, my dear friend! Many thanks for the flowers William brought
us, and the noble cheque you sent me. We're still enjoying the vegetables
you generously provided. I _did_ relish the squash.
PETER. [_Catching a glimpse of_ MRS. BATHOLOMMEY'S _gloomy expression_.]
Anything distressing you this morning, Mrs. Batholommey?
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. No, no.... I hope _you're_ feeling well--er--I don't
REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY. [_Cheerily_.] Of course, she does; and why not, why
not, dear friend?
PETER. Will you have a glass of my plum brandy?
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. [_Stiffly_.] No, thank you. As you know, I belong to the
REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY. [_Tolerantly_.] No, thank you. I am also opposed to
PETER. We're going to drink to spooks--the Doctor and I.
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. [_With a startled cry_.] Oh! [_Lifts her handkerchief to
her eyes_.] How can you! And at a time like this. The very idea--you of
PETER. [_Coming down with two glasses--handing one to the_ DOCTOR.] You
seem greatly upset, Mrs. Batholommey. Something must have happened.
REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY. Nothing, nothing, I assure you. My wife is a trifle
nervous to-day. We must all keep up our spirits, Mr. Grimm.
PETER. Of course. Why not? [_Looking at_ MRS. BATHOLOMMEY--_struck_.]
I know why you're crying. You've been to a church wedding. [_To the_
DOCTOR, _lifting his glass_.] To astral envelopes, Andrew. [_They drink._
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. [_With sad resignation_.] You were always kind to us,
dear Mr. Grimm. There never was a kinder, better, sweeter man than you
PETER. Than I _was_?
REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY. Rose, my dear!
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. What _will_ become of William? [_Weeps_.
PETER. William? Why should you worry over William? I am looking after him.
I don't understand--
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. [_Seeing that she has gone too far_.] I only meant--it's
too bad he had such an M--
PETER. An M--?
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. [_In pantomime--mouthing the word so that_ WILLIAM
_cannot hear_.] Mother ... Annamarie.
PETER. Oh! ...
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. She ought to have told you or Mr. Batholommey who the
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. [_In pantomime--as before_.] Father.
PETER. Oh... [_Spelling out the word_.] S-c-o-u-n-d-r-e-l--whoever he is!
[_Calls_.] William. [WILLIAM _looks up from his book_.] You're very
contented here with me, are you not?
WILLIAM. Yes, sir.
PETER. And you want to stay here?
WILLIAM. Yes, sir. [_At that moment, a country circus band--playing a
typical parade march--blares out as it comes up some distant street_.]
There's a circus in town.
PETER. A circus?
WILLIAM. Yes, sir. The parade has started. [_Opens the window and looks
out towards left_.] Here it comes--
PETER. [_Hurrying to the door_.] Where? Where?
WILLIAM. [_Pointing_.] There!
PETER. [_As delighted as_ WILLIAM.] You're right. It's coming this way!
Here come the chariots. [_Gestures to the_ BATHOLOMMEYS _to join him at
the window. The music comes nearer and nearer--the parade is supposed to
be passing._ WILLIAM _gives a cry of delight as a clown appears at the
window with handbills under his arm._
THE CLOWN. [_As he throws the handbills into the room_.] Billy Miller's
big show and monster circus is in town this afternoon. Only one ring. No
confusion. [_Seeing_ WILLIAM.] Circus day comes but once a year, little
sir. Come early and see the wild animals and hear the lions roar-r-r!
Mind! [_Holding up his finger to_ WILLIAM.] I shall expect to see you.
Wonderful troupe of trained mice in the side show. [_Sings_.]
"Uncle Rat has gone to town,
Uncle Rat has gone to town
To buy Miss Mouse a--"
[_Ends the song abruptly_.] Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! [_The_ CLOWN _disappears,
repeating "Billy Miller's Big Show," &c., until his voice is lost and the
voices of shouting children are heard as they run after him._
PETER. [_Putting his hand in his pocket_.] We'll go. You may buy the
tickets, William--two front seats. [FREDERIK _re-enters with a floral
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. [_Apart to_ REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY--_looking at_ PETER.]
Somebody ought to tell him.
WILLIAM. [_Getting the money from_ PETER.] I'm going! I'm going!
[_Dances_.] Oh, Mr. Grimm, there ain't anyone else like you in the world.
When the other boys laugh at your funny old hat, _I_ never do. [_Pointing
to_ PETER'S _hat on the peg._
PETER. My hat? They laugh at my hat?
WILLIAM. We'll have such a good time at the circus. It's too bad you've
got to die, Mr. Grimm.
_There is a pause._ PETER _stops short, looking at_ WILLIAM. _The others
are startled, but stand motionless, watching the effect of_ WILLIAM'S
_revelation._ FREDERIK _doesn't know what to make of it. There is an
ominous silence in the room. Then_ MRS. BATHOLOMMEY, _whose smile has been
frozen on her face, takes_ WILLIAM'S _hand and is about to draw him away,
when_ PETER _lays his hand on_ WILLIAM'S _shoulder_. MRS. BATHOLOMMEY
PETER. [_Kindly_.] Yes, William, most people have to. ... What made you
think of it just then?
WILLIAM. [_Points to the_ DOCTOR.] He said so. Perhaps in twenty minutes.
REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY. [_Quietly but very sternly_.] William! [WILLIAM _now
understands that he should not have repeated what he heard._
PETER. Don't frighten the boy. Only children tell the truth. Tell me,
William--you heard the Doctor say that? [WILLIAM _is silent. He keeps his
eyes on the_ CLERGYMAN _who is looking at him warningly. The tears run
down his cheeks--he puts his fingers to his lips--afraid to speak_.] Don't
be frightened. You heard the Doctor say that?
WILLIAM. [_His voice trembling_.] Y--es, sir.
PETER. [_Looks round the room--beginning to understand_.] ... What did you
DR. MACPHERSON. I'll tell you, Peter, when we're alone.
PETER. But ... [MRS. BATHOLOMMEY _shakes her finger threateningly at_
WILLIAM _who whimpers_.] Never mind. It popped out; didn't it, William?
Get the circus tickets and we'll have a fine time just the same. [WILLIAM
_goes for the tickets._
REV. MR. BATHOLOMMEY. I--er--good-morning, dear friend. [_Takes_ PETER'S
_hand_.] Any time you 'phone for me--day or night--I'll run over
instantly. God bless you, sir. I've never come to you for any worthy
charity and been turned away--never.
MRS. BATHOLOMMEY. [_Suddenly overcome_] Good-bye, Mr. Grimm. [_In tears,
she follows her husband. The_ DOCTOR _and_ PETER _look at each other_.
DR. MACPHERSON. [_Cigar in mouth--very abruptly_] It's cardiac valvular--a
little valve--[_Tapping heart_]--here. [_Slaps_ PETER _on the shoulder_]
There's my 'phone, [_As a bell is heard faintly but persistently ringing
across the street_] I'll be back. [_Catches up his hat to hasten off._
PETER. Just a minute.
DR. MACPHERSON. [_Turning_] Don't fret yourself, Peter. You're not to
imagine you're worse than you are. [_Angrily_.] Don't funk!
PETER. [_Calmly_] That wasn't my reason for detaining you, Andrew. [_With
a twinkle in his eye_] I merely wanted to say--
DR. MACPHERSON. Yes?
PETER. That if there is anything in that ghost business of yours, I won't
forget to come back and apologize for my want of faith. [_The_ DOCTOR
_goes home_. FREDERIK _stands looking at his_ UNCLE. _There is a long
pause._ PETER _throws up both hands_] Rubbish! Doctors are very often
wrong. It's all guess work, eh, Fritz?
FREDERIK. [_Thinking of his future in case of_ PETER'S _death_] Yes, sir.
PETER. However, to be on the safe side, I'll take that nip of plum brandy.
[_Then thinking aloud_.] Not yet ... Not yet ... I'm not ready to die yet.
I have so much to live for. ... When I'm older ... When I'm a little old
leaf ready to curl up, eh, Fritz? [_He drains the glass. Goes up to the
peg, takes dawn his hat, looks at it as though remembering_ WILLIAM'S
_words, then puts it back on the peg. He shows no sign of taking_ DR.
MACPHERSON'S _verdict to heart--in fact, he doesn't believe it_.]
Frederik, get me some small change for the circus--enough for William and
FREDERIK. Are you going ... after all? ... And with that child?
PETER. Why not?
FREDERIK. [_Suddenly showing feeling_.] That little tattler? A child that
listens to everything and just told you ... He shouldn't be allowed in
this part of the house. He should be sent away.
PETER. [_Astonished_.] Why do you dislike him, Frederik? He's a fine
little fellow. You surprise me, my boy ... [CATHERINE _enters and goes to
the piano, running her hands softly over the keys--playing no melody in
particular._ PETER _sits in his big chair at the table and picks up his
pipe._ FREDERIK, _with an inscrutable face, now strikes a match and holds
it to his uncle's pipe_. PETER _thoughtfully takes one or two puffs; then
speaking so as not to be heard by_ CATHERINE.] Frederik, I want to think
that after I'm gone, everything will be the same here ... just as it is
FREDERIK. Yes, sir. [_Sitting near_ PETER.
PETER. Just as it is ... [FREDERIK _nods assent_. PETER _smokes. The room
is very cheerful. The bright midday sunshine creeps through the windows,--
almost causing a haze in the room--and resting on the pots and vases and
bright flowers on the tables._
CATHERINE. [_Singing_.] "The bird so free in the heavens"--
PETER. [_Looking up--still in thought--seeming not to hear the song_.] And
my charities attended to. [FREDERIK _nods assent_.
CATHERINE. "Is but the slave of the nest;
For all must toil as God wills it,--
Must laugh and toil and rest."
PETER. [_Who has been thinking_.] Just as though I were here.
CATHERINE. "The rose must blow in the garden"--
PETER. William, too. Don't forget _him_, Frederik.
FREDERIK. No, Uncle.
CATHERINE. "The bee must gather its store;
The cat must watch the mouse-hole;
The dog must guard the door."
PETER. [_As though he had a weight off his mind_.] We won't speak of this
again. It's understood. [_Smokes, listening with pleasure as_ CATHERINE
_finishes the song_.
CATHERINE. [_Repeats the chorus_.]
"The cat must watch the mouse-hole;
The dog must guard the door.
La la, La la," &c.
_At the close of the song,_ PETER _puts down his pipe and beckons to_
PETER. Give me the Book. [CATHERINE _brings the Bible to_ PETER _as the
garden bell rings outside_.
PETER. [_Opening the Book at the history of the family--points to the
closely written page_.] Under my name I want to see this written:
"Married: Catherine and Frederik." I want to see you settled, Katie--
[_Smiling_] settled happily for life. [_He takes her hand and draws_