Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

The Bicyclers and Three Other Farces by John Kendrick Bangs

Part 2 out of 2

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.2 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Enter Perkins, followed by Barlow.

Perkins. Here's Mr. Featherhead. He's rehearsing too. As I opened
the door he said, "Give me good-morrow."

Barlow (smiling). Yes; and Thaddeus replied, "Good-yesterday, me
friend," in tones which reminded me of Irving with bronchitis.
What's this I hear about Henderson's grandmother?

Yardsley. Thrown up the part.

Barlow. His grandmother?

Yardsley. No--idiot--Henderson. He's thrown up his grandmother--oh,
hang it!--you know what I mean.

Mrs. Perkins. I hope you're not going to net gervous, Mr. Yardsley.
If you break down, what on earth will become of the rest of us?

Yardsley. I hope not--but I am. I'm as nervous as a cat living its
ninth life. Here we are three or four hours before the performance,
and no one knows whether we'll be able to go through it or not. My
reputation as a manager is at stake. Barlow, how are you getting
along on those lines in the revelation scene?

Barlow. Had 'em down fine on the cable-car as I came up. Ha-ha!
People thought I was crazy, I guess. I was so full of it I kept
repeating it softly to myself all the way up; but when we got to that
Fourteenth Street curve the car gave a fearful lurch and fairly shook
the words "villanous viper" out of me; and as I was standing when we
began the turn, and was left confronting a testy old gentleman upon
whose feet I had trodden twice, at the finish, I nearly got into
trouble.

Perkins (wish a laugh). Made a scene, eh?

Barlow (joining in the laugh). Who wouldn't? Each time I stepped on
his foot he glared--regular Macbeth stare--like this: "Is this a
jagger which I see before me?" (Suits action to word.) But I never
let on I saw, but continued to rehearse. When the lurch came,
however, and I toppled over on top of him, grabbed his shoulders in
my hands to keep from sprawling in his lap, and hissed "villanous
viper" in his face, he was inclined to resent it forcibly.

Yardsley. I don't blame him. Seems to me a man of your intelligence
ought to know better than to rehearse on a cable-car, anyhow, to say
nothing of stepping on a man's corns.

Barlow. Of course I apologized; but he was a persistent old codger,
and demanded an explanation of my epithet.

Perkins. It's a wonder he didn't have you put off. A man doesn't
like to be insulted even if he does ride on the cable.

Barlow. Oh, I appeased him. I told him I was rehearsing. That I
was an amateur actor.

Mrs. Perkins. And of course he was satisfied.

Barlow. Yes; at least I judge so. He said that my confession was
humiliation enough, without his announcing to the public what he
thought I was; and he added, to the man next him, that he thought the
public was exposed to enough danger on the cable cars without having
lunatics thrust upon them at every turning.

Perkins. He must have been a bright old man.

Mrs. Perkins. Or a very crabbed old person.

Barlow. Oh, well, it was an experience, but it rather upset me, and
for the life of me I haven't been able to remember the opening lines
of the scene since.

Perkins. Well, if the audience drive you off the stage, you can sue
the cable company. They ought to be careful how they lurch a man's
brains out.

Yardsley. That's right--joke ahead. It's fun for you. All you've
got to do is to sit out in front and pull the curtain up and down
when we ring a bell. You're a great one to talk about brains, you
are. It's a wonder to me you don't swoon under your responsibility.

Mrs. Perkins (rehearsing). So once for all, as he says, so say I--

Perkins. Ah! Indeed! You take his part, do you?

Mrs. Perkins (rehearsing). You must leave this house at once and
forever. I once thought I loved you, but now all is changed, and I
take this opportunity to thank my deliverer, Fenderson Featherhead--

Perkins. Oh--ah--rehearsing. I see. I thought you'd gone over to
the enemy, my dear. Featherhead, step up and accept the lady's
thanks. Cobb, join me in the dining room, and we'll drown our
differences in tasting the punch, which, between you and me, is
likely to be the best part of to-night's function, for I made it
myself though, if Tom Harkaway is in the audience, and Bess follows
out her plan of having the flowing bowl within reach all the evening,
I'm afraid it'll need an under-study along about nine o'clock. He's
a dry fellow, that Harkaway.

[Exit Perkins, dragging Yardsley by the arm.

Barlow (calling after them). Don't you touch it, Bob. It's potent
stuff. One glass may postpone the performance.

Yardsley (from behind the scenes). Never fear for me, my boy. I've
got a head, I have.

Barlow. Well, don't get another. (Turning to Mrs. Perkins.)
Suppose we rehearse that scene where I acquaint you with Cobb's real
position in life?

Mrs. Perkins. Very well. I'm ready. I'm to sit here, am I not?
[Seats herself by table.

Barlow. And I come in here. (Begins.) Ah, Lady Ellen, I am glad to
find you alone, for I have that to say--

Mrs. Perkins. Won't you be seated, Mr. Featherhead? It was such a
delightful surprise to see you at the Duchess of Barncastle's last
evening. I had supposed you still in Ireland.

Barlow (aside). Good. She little thinks that I have just returned
from Australia, where I have at last discovered the identity of the
real Earl of Puddingford, as well as that of this bogus Muddleton,
who, by his nefarious crime, has deprived Henry Cobb of his
patrimony, of his title, aye, even of his name. She little wots that
this--this adventurer who has so strongly interested her by his
nepotic--

Mrs. Perkins (interrupting). Hypnotic, Mr. Barlow.

Barlow. What did I say?

Mrs. Perkins. Nepotic.

Barlow. How stupid of me! I'll begin again.

Mrs. Perkins (desperately). Oh, pray don't. Go on from where you
left off. That's a fearfully long aside, anyhow, and I go nearly
crazy every time you say it. I don't know what to do with myself.
It's easy enough for Mr. Yardsley to say occupy yourself somehow, but
what I want to know is, how? I can't look inquiringly at you all
that time, waiting for you to say "Ireland! Oh, yes--yes--just over
from Dublin." I can't lean against the mantel-piece and gaze into
the fire, because the mantel-piece is only canvas, and would fall
down if I did.

Barlow. It's a long aside, Mrs. Perkins, but it's awfully important,
and I don't see how we can cut it down. It's really the turning-
point of the play, in which I reveal the true state of affairs to the
audience.

Mrs. Perkins (with a sigh). I suppose that's true. I'll have to
stand it. But can't I be doing some sewing?

Barlow. Certainly not. You are the daughter of a peer. They never
sew. You might be playing a piano, but there's hardly room on the
stage for that, and, besides, it would interfere with my aside, which
needs a hush to be made impressive. Where did I leave off?

Mrs. Perkins. Hypnotic power.

Barlow. Oh yes. (Resumes rehearsing.) She little wots that this--
this adventurer who has so strangely interested her with his hypnotic
power is the man who twenty years ago forged her father's name to the
title-deeds of Burnington, drove him to his ruin, and subsequently,
through a likeness so like as to bewilder and confuse even a mother's
eyes, has forced the rightful Earl of Puddingford out into a cruel
world, to live and starve as Henry Cobb.

[Bell.

Mrs. Perkins. Ah, I fancy the Bradleys are here at last. I do hope
Edward knows his part.

Enter Yardsley.

Yardsley. They've come, and we can begin at last.

Enter Perkins, Miss Andrews, and Mr. and Mrs. Bradley.

Mrs. Perkins. Take off your things, Emma. Let me take your cloak,
Dorothy. Does Edward feel equal--

Mrs. Bradley. He says so. Knows it word for word, he says, though
I've been so busy with my own--[They go out talking.

Yardsley. Well, Brad, how goes it? Know your part?

Bradley. Like a book. Bully part, too.

Barlow. Glad you like it.

Bradley. Can't help liking it; it's immense! Particularly where I
acquaint the heroine with the villany that--

Barlow. You? Why--

Enter Mrs. Bradley, Miss Andrews, and Mrs. Perkins.

Mrs. Perkins (to Bradley). So glad you're going to play with us.

Bradley. So am I. It's a great pleasure. Felt rather out in the
cold until--

Barlow. But, I say, Brad, you don't--

Yardsley. Howdy do, Mrs. Bradley? Good-afternoon, Miss Andrews. We
all seem to be here now, so let's begin. We're a half-hour late
already.

Barlow. I'm ready, but I want to--

Yardsley. Never mind what you want, Jack. We haven't time for any
more talking. It'll take us an hour and a half, and we've got to
hustle. All off stage now except Mrs. Perkins. (All go out;
Yardsley rings bell.) Hi, Perkins, that's your cue!

Perkins. What for?

Yardsley. Oh, hang it!--raise the curtain, will you?

Perkins. With pleasure. As I understand this thing, one bell
signifies raise curtain when curtain's down; drop curtain when
curtain is up.

Yardsley. Exactly. You know your part, anyhow. If you remember not
to monkey with the curtain except when the bell rings, and then
change its condition, no matter what it may be, you can't go wrong.
Now begin. (Bell. Perkins raises curtain.) Now, of course, I'm not
supposed to be on the stage, but I'll stay here and prompt you.
Enter Lady Ellen. Come along, Mrs. Perkins. Please begin.

Mrs. Perkins. I thought we'd decided that I was to be sitting here
when the curtain went up?

Yardsley. So we did. I'd forgotten that.--We'll begin all over
again. Perkins, drop that curtain. Perkins!

Perkins. What?

Yardsley. Drop the curtain.

Perkins. Where's the bell? I didn't hear any bell ring.

Yardsley. Oh, never mind the bell! Let her down.

Perkins. I beg your pardon, but I positively refuse. I believe in
doing things right. I'm not going to monkey. Ring that bell, and
down she comes; otherwise--

Yardsley. Tut! You are very tiresome this afternoon, Thaddeus.
Mrs. Perkins, we'll go ahead without dropping the curtain. Now take
your place.

[Mrs. Perkins seats herself by table, picks up a book, and begins to
read.

Mrs. Perkins (after an interval, throwing book down with a sigh).
Heigho! I cannot seem to concentrate my mind upon anything to-night.
I wonder why it is that once a woman gives her heart into another's
keeping--[Bell rings. Perkins lets curtain drop.

Yardsley. What the deuce did you drop that curtain for, Thaddeus?

Perkins. The bell rang, didn't it?

Yardsley. Yes, you idiot, but that's supposed to be the front-door
bell. Lady Amaranth is about to arrive--

Perkins. Well, how was I to know? Your instructions to me were
positive. Don't monkey with curtain till bell rings. When bell
rings, if down, pull her up; if up, pull her down. I'm not a
connoisseur on bells--

Yardsley. You might pay some attention to the play.

Perkins. Now look here, Bob. I don't want to quarrel with you, but
it seems to me that I've got enough to do without paying attention to
your part of the show. What am I? First place, host; second place,
head usher; third place, curtain-manager; fourth place, fire
department; fifth place, Bess says if children holler, go up and see
what's the matter other words, nurse--and on top of this you say keep
an eye on the play. You must think I've as many eyes as a
President's message.

Mrs. Perkins. Oh dear, Teddy! do behave. It's simple enough--

Perkins. Simple enough? Well, I like that. How am I to tell one
bell from another if--

Yardsley (dryly). I suppose if the clock strikes ten you'll seesaw
the curtain up and down ten times, once for each stroke--eh?

Bradley (poking his head in at the door). What's the matter in here?
Emma's been waiting for her cue like a hundred-yards runner before
the pistol.

Perkins. Oh, it's the usual trouble with Yardsley. He wants me to
chaperon the universe.

Yardsley. It's the usual row with you. You never want to do
anything straight. You seem to think that curtain's an elevator, and
you're the boy--yanking it up and down at your pleasure, and--

Mrs. Perkins. Oh, please don't quarrel! Can't you see, Ted, it's
growing late? We'll never have the play rehearsed, and it's barely
three hours now before the audience will arrive.

Perkins. Very well--I'll give in--only I think you ought to have
different bells--

Yardsley. I'll have a trolley-car gong for you, if it'll only make
you do the work properly. Have you got a bicycle bell?

Mrs. Perkins. Yes; that will do nicely for the curtain, and the desk
push-button bell will do for the front-door bell. Have you got that
in your mind, Teddy dear?

Perkins. I feel as if I had the whole bicycle in my mind. I can
feel the wheels. Bike for curtain, push for front door. That's all
right. I wouldn't mind pushing for the front door myself. All
ready? All right. In the absence of the bicycle bell, I'll be its
under-study for once. B-r-r-r-r-r-r-r! [Raises curtain.

Yardsley. Now, Mrs. Perkins, begin with "I wonder why--"

Mrs. Perkins (rehearsing). I wonder why it is that once a woman
gives her heart into another's keeping--(Bell.) Ah, the bell. It
must be he at last. He is late this evening.

Enter Miss Andrews as maid, with card on tray.

Miss Andrews. Lady Amaranth, me luddy.

Yardsley. Lydy, Miss Andrews, lydy--not luddy.

Miss Andrews. Lydy Amaranth, me lady.

Yardsley. And please be consistent with your dialect. If it's Lydy
Amaranth, it's Lydy Ellen.

Miss Andrews. Lydy Amaranth, me lydy.

Mrs. Perkins. What? Lydy Amaranth? She?

Yardsley. Oh dear! Excuse me, Mrs. Perkins, but you are not the
maid, and cockney isn't required of you. You must not say lydy.
Lady is--

Mrs. Perkins (resignedly). What? Lady Amaranth? She? What can she
want? Show her up. [Exit Miss Andrews.

Perkins. That's a first-class expression for an adventuress. _Show
her up_! Gad! She ought to be shown up.

Mrs. Perkins. What can she want?

Enter Mrs. Bradley.

Mrs. Bradley. Ah, my dear Lady Ellen! What delight to find you at
home! (Aside.) He is not here, and yet I could have sworn--

Mrs. Perkins. To what am I to attribute this pleasure, Lady
Amaranth? I do not presume to think that you have come here without
some other motive than that of a mere desire to see me. I do not
suppose that even you pretend that since the contretemps of Tuesday
night at the Duchess of Barncastle's our former feeling--

Mrs. Bradley. Ellen, I have come to tell you something. To save you
from a vile conspiracy.

Mrs. Perkins. I am quite well able, Lady Amaranth, to manage my own
affairs--

Mrs. Bradley. But you do not know. You love Lord Muddleton--

Mrs. Perkins (toying with her fan). Oh! Indeed! And who, pray, has
taken you into my confidence? I was not aware--

Mrs. Bradley. Hear me, Ellen--

Mrs. Perkins. Excuse me, Lady Amaranth! but you have forgotten that
it is only to my friends that I am known as--

Mrs. Bradley. Then Lady Ellen, if it must be so. I know what you do
not--that Henry Cobb is an escaped convent--

Yardsley. Convict, not convent.

Mrs. Bradley. Is an escaped convict, and--

Mrs. Perkins. I am not interested in Henry Cobb.

Mrs. Bradley. But he is in you, Ellen Abercrombie. He is in you,
and with the aid of Fenderson Featherhead--

[Bell. Perkins lets curtain drop half-way, but remembers in time,
and pulls it up again.

Perkins. Beg pardon. String slipped.

Mrs. Bradley. Too late. Oh, if he had only waited!

Enter Miss Andrews.

Miss Andrews. Mr. Featherhead, Leddy Eilen.

Yardsley. Ellen, Ellen; and lydy, not leddy.

Mrs. Bradley. Hear me first, I beg.

Mrs. Perkins. Show him in, Mary. Lady Amaranth, as you see, I am
engaged. I really must be excused. Good-night.

Mrs. Bradley (aside). Foiled! Muddleton will be exposed. Ah, if I
could only have broken the force of the blow! (Aloud.) Lady Ellen,
I will speak. Fenderson Featherhead--

Enter Bradley and Barlow together. Both. Is here, Lady Amaranth.

[Each tries to motion the other off the stage.

Yardsley. What the deuce does this mean? What do you think this
play is--an Uncle Tom combination with two Topsys?

Barlow. I told him to keep out, but he said that Fenderson
Featherhead was his cue.

Bradley (indignantly). Well, so it is; there's the book.

Yardsley. Oh, nonsense, Brad! Don't be idiotic. The book doesn't
say anything of the sort.

Bradley. But I say it does. If you--

Barlow. It's all rot for you to behave like this, Bradley.

Perkins. Isn't it time something happened to the curtain? The
audience will get panicky if they witness any such lack of harmony as
this. I will draw a veil over the painful scene. B-r-r-r-r. (Drops
curtain.) B-r-r-r-r.

[Raises it again.

Yardsley. We won't dispute the matter, Bradley. You are wrong, and
that's all there is about it. Now do get off the stage and let us go
ahead. Perkins, for Heaven's sake, give that curtain a rest, will
you?

Perkins. I was only having a dress-rehearsal on my own account, Bob.
Bike bell, curtain. Push bell, front door. Trolley gong, nothing--

Bradley. Well, if you fellows won't--

Yardsley (taking him by the arm and walking him to side of stage).
Never mind, Brad; you've made a mistake, that's all. We all make
mistakes at times. Get off, like a good fellow. You don't come on
for ten minutes yet. (Exit Bradley, scratching his head in puzzled
meditation.) Go ahead now, Barlow.

Mrs. Bradley. But, Mr. Yardsley, Edward has--

Yardsley. We'll begin with your cue.

Mrs. Bradley. Fenderson Featherhead--

Barlow. Is here, Lady Amaranth.

Mrs. Bradley. But--

Yardsley. No, no! Your word isn't "but," Mrs. Bradley. It's
(consulting book)--it's: "Insolent! You will cross my path once too
often, and then--

Enter Bradley.

Mrs. Bradley. I know that, but I don't say that to him!

Bradley. Of course not. She says it to me.

Barlow. Well, of all the stupidity--

Perkins. Another unseemly fracas. Another veil. B-r-r-r-r. (Drops
curtain.) There may be a hitch in the play, but there won't be in
this curtain. I tell you that right now. B-r-r-r-r.

[Raises curtain.

Mrs. Perkins. Well, I don't pretend to understand the difficulty.
She certainly does say that to Featherhead.

Barlow. Of course!--it's right there in the book.

Bradley. That's exactly what I say. It's in the book; but you would
come on.

Barlow. Well, why shouldn't I?

Enter Miss Andrews.

Miss Andrews. What seems to be the trouble?

Perkins. I give it up. Collision somewhere up the road.

Yardsley (turning over the leaves of the play-book). Oh, I see the
trouble--it's all right. Bradley is mixed up a little, that's all.
"Fenderson Featherhead" is his cue--but it comes later, Brad.

Bradley. Later? Well (glances in book)--no--it comes now,

Barlow. Are you blind? Can you read? See there! [Points into
book.

Yardsley. No--you keep still, Jack. I'll fix it. See here,
Bradley. This is the place you are thinking of. When Cobb says to
Lady Ellen "Fenderson Featherhead," you enter the room, and in a
nervous aside you mutter: "What, he! Does he again dare to cross my
path?" That's the way of it.

Barlow. Certainly--that's it, Brad. Now get off, and let me go on,
will you?

Mrs. Perkins. I'm sure it's a perfectly natural error, Mr. Bradley.

Mrs. Bradley. But he's right, my dear Bess. The others are wrong.
Edward doesn't--

Bradley. I don't care anything about it, but I'm sure I don't know
what else to do. If I am to play Fenderson--

Barlow (in amazement). You?

Yardsley (aghast). Fenderson? By all that is lovely, what part have
you learned?

Bradley. The one you told me to learn in your message--Featherhead,
of course.

Barlow. But that's my part!

Mrs. Perkins. Of course it is, Mr. Bradley. Mr. Barlow is to be--

Mrs. Bradley. But that's what Edward was told. I saw the message
myself.

Yardsley (sinking into a chair dejectedly). Why, Ed Bradley! I
never mentioned Featherhead. You were to be Muddleton!

Bradley. Me?

Mrs. Bradley. What?

Yardsley. Certainly. There's nothing the matter with Barlow, and
he's cast for Featherhead. You've learned the wrong part!

Bradley (searching his pockets). Here's the telegram. There (takes
message from pocket), read that. There are my instructions.

Yardsley (grasps telegram and reads it. Drops it to floor). Well,
I'll be jiggered!

[Buries his face in his hands.

Mrs. Perkins (picking up message and reading aloud). "Can you take
Fenderson's part in to-night's show? Answer at once. Yardsley."

Barlow. Well, that's a nice mess. You must have paresis, Bob.

Perkins. I was afraid he'd get it sooner or later. You need
exercise, Yardsley. Go pull that curtain up and down a half-dozen
times and it'll do you good.

Bradley. That telegram lets me out.

Mrs. Bradley. I should say so.

Perkins. Lets us all out, seems to me.

Yardsley. But--I wrote Henderson, not Fenderson. That jackass of a
telegraph operator is responsible for it all. "Will you take
Henderson's part?" is what I wrote, and he's gone and got it
Fenderson. Confound his--

Mrs. Perkins. But what are we going to do? It's quarter-past six
now, and the curtain is to rise at 8.30.

Perkins. I'll give 'em my unequalled imitation of Sandow lifting the
curtain with one hand. Thus. [Raises curtain wish right hand.

Yardsley. For goodness' sake, man, be serious. There are seventy-
five people coming here to see this performance, and they've paid for
their tickets.

Mrs. Perkins. It's perfectly awful. We can't do it at all unless
Mr. Bradley will go right up stairs now and learn--

Mrs. Bradley. Oh, that's impossible. He's learned nearly three
hundred lines to-day already. Mr. Barlow might--

Barlow. I couldn't think of it, Mrs. Bradley. I've got as much as I
can do remembering what lines I have learned.

Perkins. It would take you a week to forget your old part completely
enough to do the other well. You'd be playing both parts, the way
Irving does when he's irritated, before you knew it.

Yardsley. I'm sure I don't know what to do.

Perkins. Give it up, eh? What are you stage-manager for? If I
didn't own the house, I'd suggest setting it on fire; but I do, and
it isn't fully insured.

Mrs. Perkins. Perhaps Miss Andrews and Mr. Yardsley could do their
little scene from Romeo and Juliet.

Mrs. Bradley. Just the thing.

Yardsley. But I haven't a suitable costume.

Perkins. I'll lend you my golf trousers, and Bess has an old shirt-
waist you could wear with 'em. Piece it out a little so that you
could get into it, and hang the baby's toy sword at your side, and
carry his fireman's hat under your arm, and you'd make a dandy-
looking Romeo. Some people might think you were a new woman, but if
somebody were to announce to the audience that you were not that, but
the Hon. R. Montague, Esq., it would be all right and exceedingly
amusing. I'll do the announcing with the greatest of pleasure.
Really think I'd enjoy it.

Miss Andrews. I think it would be much better to get up Mrs.
Jarley's waxworks.

Perkins. Oh dear, Miss Andrews, never. Mrs. Jarley awakens too many
bitter memories in me. I was Mrs. Jarley once, and--

Yardsley. It must have been awful. If there is anything in life
that could be more horrible than you, with your peculiar style of
humor, trying to do Jarley, I--

Perkins. Oh, well, what's the odds what we do? We're only amateurs,
anyhow. Yardsley can put on a pair of tight boots, and give us an
impression of Irving, or perhaps an imitation of the Roman army at
the battle of Philippi, and the audience wouldn't care, as long as
they had a good supper afterwards. It all rests with Martenelli
whether it's a go to-night. If he doesn't spoil the supper, it'll be
all right. I have observed that the principal factors of success at
amateur dramatics are an expert manipulation of the curtain, and a
first-class feed to put the audience in a good-humor afterwards.
Even if Martenelli does go back on us, you'll have me with the
curtain--

Mrs. Perkins. Thaddeus!

Yardsley. By Jove! that's a good idea--we have got you. You can
read Henderson's part!

Perkins. What--I?

Barlow. Certainly.

Bradley. Just the very thing.

Miss Andrews. Splendid idea.

Perkins. Oh--but I say--I can't, you know. Nonsense! I can't read.

Yardsley. I've often suspected that you couldn't, my dear Thaddeus;
but this time you must.

Perkins. But the curtain--the babies--the audience--the ushing--the
fire department--it is too much. I'm not an octopus.

Barlow (taking him by the arm and pushing him into chair). You can't
get out of it, Ted. Here--read up. There--take my book.

[Thrusts play-book into his hand.

Bradley. Here's mine, too, Thaddeus. Read 'em both at once, and
then you'll have gone over it twice.

[Throws his book into Perkins's lap.

Perkins. I tell you--

Mrs. Perkins. Just this once, Teddy--please--for me.

Yardsley. You owe it to your position, Perkins. You are the only
man here that knows anything about anything. You've frequently said
so. You were doing it all, anyhow, you know--and you're host--the
audience are your guests--and you're so clever and--

Perkins. But--

Enter Jennie.

Jennie. Dinner is served, ma'am. [Exit.

Yardsley. Good! Perk, I'll be your under-study at dinner, while you
are studying up. Ladies and gentlemen, kindly imagine that I am
host, that Perkins does not exist. Come along, Mrs. Bradley. Miss
Andrews, will you take my other arm? I'll escort Lady Amaranth and
the maid out. We'll leave the two Featherheads to fight it out for
the Lady Ellen. By-by, Thaddeus; don't shirk. I'll come in after
the salade course and hear you, and if you don't know your lesson
I'll send you to bed without your supper.

[All go out, leaving Perkins alone.

Perkins (forcing a laugh). Ha! ha! ha! Good joke, confound your
eyes! Humph! very well. I'll do it. Whole thing, eh? Curtain,
babies, audience, host. All right, my noble Thespians, wait!
(Shakes fist at the door.) I _will_ do the whole thing. Wait till
they ring you up, O curtain! Up you will go, but then--then will I
come forth and read that book from start to finish, and if any one of
'em ventures to interfere I'll drop thee on their most treasured
lines. They little dream how much they are in the power of you and
me!

Enter Jennie.

Jennie. Mrs. Perkins says aren't you coming to dinner, sir; and Mr.
Yardsley says the soup is getting cold, sir.

Perkins. In a minute, Jennie. Tell Mrs. Perkins that I am just
learning the last ten lines of the third act; and as for Mr.
Yardsley, kindly insinuate to him that he'll find the soup quite hot
enough at 8.30.

[Exit Jennie. Perkins sits down, and, taking up two books of the
play, one in each hand, begins to read.

[CURTAIN]

A PROPOSAL UNDER DIFFICULTIES

CHARACTERS:

ROBERT YARDSLEY, } suitors for the hand of Miss Andrews.
JACK BARLOW, }
DOROTHY ANDREWS, a much-loved young woman.
JENNIE, a housemaid.
HICKS, a coachman, who does not appear.

The scene is laid in a fashionable New York drawing-room. The time
is late in October, and Wednesday afternoon. The curtain rising
shows an empty room. A bell rings. After a pause the front door is
heard opening and closing. Enter Yardsley through portiere at rear
of room.

Yardsley. Ah! So far so good; but I wish it were over. I've had
the nerve to get as far as the house and into it, but how much
further my courage will carry me I can't say. Confound it! Why is
it, I wonder, that men get so rattled when they're head over heels in
love, and want to ask the fair object of their affections to wed? I
can't see. Now I'm brave enough among men. I'm not afraid of
anything that walks, except Dorothy Andrews, and generally I'm not
afraid of her. Stopping runaway teams and talking back to impudent
policemen have been my delight. I've even been courageous enough to
submit a poem in person to the editor of a comic weekly, and yet here
this afternoon I'm all of a tremble. And for what reason? Just
because I've co-come to ask Dorothy Andrews to change her name to
Mrs. Bob Yardsley; as if that were such an unlikely thing for her to
do. Gad! I'm almost inclined to despise myself. (Surveys himself
in the mirror at one end of the room. Then walking up to it and
peering intently at his reflection, he continues.) Bah! you coward!
Afraid of a woman--a sweet little woman like Dorothy. You ought to
be ashamed of yourself, Bob Yardsley. _She_ won't hurt you. Brace
up and propose like a man--like a real lover who'd go through fire
for her sake, and all that. Ha! That's easy enough to talk about,
but how shall I put it? That's the question. Let me see. How _do_
men do it? I ought to buy a few good novels and select the sort of
proposal I like; but not having a novel at hand, I must invent my
own. How will it be? Something like this, I fancy. (The portieres
are parted, and Jennie, the maid, enters. Yardsley does not observe
her entrance.) I'll get down on my knees. A man on his knees is a
pitiable object, and pity, they say, is akin to love. Maybe she'll
pity me, and after that--well, perhaps pity's cousin will arrive.
(The maid advances, but Yardsley is so intent upon his proposal that
he still fails to observe her. She stands back of the sofa, while
he, gazing downward, kneels before it.) I'll say: "Divine creature!
At last we are alone, and I--ah--I can speak freely the words that
have been in my heart to say to you for so long--oh, so long a time."
(Jennie appears surprised.) "I have never even hinted at how I feel
towards you. I have concealed my love, fearing lest by too sudden a
betrayal of my feelings I should lose all." (Aside.) Now for a
little allusion to the poets. Poetry, they say, is a great thing for
proposals. "You know, dearest, you must know, how the poet has
phrased it--'Fain would I fall but that I fear to climb.' But now--
now I must speak. An opportunity like this may not occur again.
Will you--will you be my wife?"

[Jennie gives a little scream of delight.

Jennie. Oh, Mr. Yardsley, this is so suddent like and unexpected,
and me so far beneath you!

[Yardsley looks up and is covered with confusion.

Yardsley. Great Scott! What have I done?

Jennie. But of course it ain't for the likes of me to say no to--

Yardsley (rising). For Heaven's sake, Jennie--do be sensi--Don't--
say--Jennie, why--ah--(Aside.) Oh, confound it! What the deuce
shall I say? What's the matter with my tongue? Where's my
vocabulary? A word! a word! my kingdom for a word! (Aloud.) Now,
Jen--

Jennie (coyly). I has been engaged to Mr. Hicks, the coach
gentleman, sir, but--

Yardsley. Good! good! I congratulate you, Jennie. Hicks is a very
fine fellow. Drives like a--like a driver, Jennie, a born driver.
I've seen him many a time sitting like a king on his box--yes,
indeed. Noticed him often. Admired him. Gad, Jennie, I'll see him
myself and tell him; and what is more, Jennie, I'll--I'll give Hicks
a fine present.

Jennie. Yes, sir; I has no doubt as how you'll be doin' the square
thing by Hicks, for, as I was a-sayin', I has been engaged like to
him, an' he has some rights; but I think as how, if I puts it to him
right like, and tells him what a nice gentleman you are (a ring is
heard at the front door), it'll be all right, sir. But there goes
the bell, and I must run, Mr. Yardsley. (Ecstatically kissing her
hand.) Bob!

Yardsley (with a convulsive gasp). Bob? Jennie! You--er--you
misun--(Jennie, with a smile of joy and an ecstatic glance at
Yardsley, dances from the room to attend the door. Yardsley throws
himself into a chair.) Well, I'll be teetotally--Awh! It's too dead
easy proposing to somebody you don't know you are proposing to. What
a kettle of fish this is, to be sure! Oh, pshaw! that woman can't be
serious. She must know I didn't mean it for her. But if she
doesn't, good Lord! what becomes of me? (Rises, and paces up and
down the room nervously. After a moment he pauses before the glass.)
I ought to be considerably dishevelled by this. I feel as if I'd
been drawn through a knot-hole--or--or dropped into a stone-crusher--
that's it, a stone-crusher--a ten million horse power stone-crusher.
Let's see how you look, you poor idiot.

[As he is stroking his hair and rearranging his tie he talks in
pantomime at himself in the glass. In a moment Jennie ushers Mr.
Jack Barlow into the room.

Jennie. Miss Andrews will be down in a minute, sir.

[Barlow takes arm-chair and sits gazing ahead of him. Neither he nor
Yardsley perceives the other. Jennie tiptoes to one side, and,
tossing a kiss at Yardsley, retires.

Barlow. Now for it. I shall leave this house to-day the happiest or
the most miserable man in creation, and I rather think the odds are
in my favor. Why shouldn't they be? Egad! I can very well
understand how a woman could admire me. I admire myself, rather. I
confess candidly that I do not consider myself half bad, and Dorothy
has always seemed to feel that way herself. In fact, the other night
in the Perkinses conservatory she seemed to be quite ready for a
proposal. I'd have done it then and there if it hadn't been for that
confounded Bob Yardsley--

Yardsley (turning sharply about). Eh? Somebody spoke my name. A
man, too. Great heavens! I hope Jennie's friend Hicks isn't here.
I don't want to have a scene with Hicks. (Discovering Barlow.) Oh--
ah--why--hullo, Barlow! You here?

Barlow (impatiently, aside). Hang it! Yardsley's here too! The
man's always turning up when he's not wanted. (Aloud.) Ah! why,
Bob, how are you? What're you doing here?

Yardsley. What do you suppose--tuning the piano? I'm here because I
want to be. And you?

Barlow. For the same reason that you are.

Yardsley (aside). Gad! I hope not. (Aloud.) Indeed? The great
mind act again? Run in the same channel, and all that? Glad to see
you. (Aside.) May the saints forgive me that fib! But this fellow
must be got rid of.

Barlow (embarrassed). So'm I. Always glad to see myself--I mean
you--anywhere. Won't you sit down?

Yardsley. Thanks. Very kind of you, I'm sure. (Aside.) He seems
very much at home. Won't I sit down?--as if he'd inherited the
chairs! Humph! I'll show him.

Barlow. What say?

Yardsley. I--ah--oh, I was merely remarking that I thought it was
rather pleasant out to-day.

Barlow. Yes, almost too fine to be shut up in-doors. Why aren't you
driving, or--or playing golf, or--ah--or being out-doors somewhere?
You need exercise, old man; you look a little pale. (Aside.) I must
get him away from here somehow. Deuced awkward having another fellow
about when you mean to propose to a woman.

Yardsley. Oh, I'm well enough!

Barlow (solicitously). You don't look it--by Jove you don't.
(Suddenly inspired.) No, you don't, Bob. You overestimate your
strength. It's very wrong to overestimate one's strength. People--
ah--people have died of it. Why, I'll bet you a hat you can't start
now and walk up to Central Park and back in an hour. Come. I'll
time you. (Rises and takes out watch.) It is now four ten. I'll
wager you can't get back here before five thirty. Eh? Let me get
your hat.

[Starts for door.

Yardsley (with a laugh). Oh no; I don't bet--after four. But I say,
did you see Billie Wilkins?

Barlow (returning in despair). Nope.

Yardsley (aside). Now for a bit of strategy. (Aloud.) He was
looking for you at the club. (Aside.) Splendid lie! (Aloud.) Had
seats for the--ah--the Metropolitan to-night. Said he was looking
for you. Wants you to go with him. (Aside.) That ought to start
him along.

Barlow. I'll go with him.

Yardsley (eagerly). Well, you'd better let him know at once, then.
Better run around there and catch him while there's time. He said if
he didn't see you before half-past four he'd get Tom Parker to go.
Fine show to-night. Wouldn't lose the opportunity if I were you.
(Looking at his watch.) You'll just about have time to do it now if
you start at once.

[Grasps Barlow by arm, and tries to force him out. Barlow holds
back, and is about to remonstrate, when Dorothy enters. Both men
rush to greet her; Yardsley catches her left hand, Barlow her right.

Dorothy (slightly embarrassed). Why, how do you do--this is an
unexpected pleasure--both of you? Excuse my left hand, Mr. Yardsley;
I should have given you the other if--if you'd given me time.

Yardsley. Don't mention it, I pray. The unexpectedness is wholly
mine, Miss Andrews--I mean--ah--the pleasure is--

Barlow. Wholly mine.

Dorothy (withdrawing her hands from both and sitting down). I
haven't seen either of you since the Perkinses dance. Wasn't it a
charming affair?

Yardsley. Delightful. I--ah--I didn't know that the Perkinses--

Barlow (interrupting). It was a good deal of a crush, though. As
Mrs. Van Darling said to me, "You always meet--"

Yardsley. It's a pity Perkins isn't more of a society man, though,
don't you think?

Dorothy. O, I don't know. I've always found him very pleasant. He
is so sincere.

Barlow. Isn't he, though? He looked bored to death all through the
dance.

Yardsley. I thought so too. I was watching him while you were
talking to him, Barlow, and such a look of ennui I never saw on a
man's face.

Barlow. Humph!

Dorothy. Are you going to Mrs. Van Darling's dinner?

Barlow. Yes; I received my bid last night. You?

Dorothy. Oh yes!

Yardsley (gloomily). I can't go very well. I'm--ah--engaged for
Tuesday.

Barlow. Well, I hope you've let Mrs. Van Darling know. She's a
stickler for promptness in accepting or declining her invitations.
If you haven't, I'll tell her for you. I'm to see her to-night.

Yardsley. Oh no! Never mind. I'll--I'll attend to it.

Barlow. Oh, of course. But it's just as well she should know in
advance. You might forget it, you know. I'll tell her; it's no
trouble to me.

Dorothy. Of course not, and she can get some one to take your place.

Yardsley (desperately). Oh, don't say anything about it. Fact is,
she--ah--she hasn't invited me.

Barlow. Ah! (Aside.) I knew that all along. Oh, but I'm clever!

Dorothy (hastily, to relieve Yardsley's embarrassment). Have you
seen Irving, Mr. Yardsley?

Yardsley. Yes.

Barlow (suspiciously). What in? I haven't seen you at any of the
first nights.

Yardsley (with a grin). In the grill-room at the Players.

Barlow (aside). Bah!

Dorothy (laughing). You are so bright, Mr. Yardsley.

Barlow (forcing a laugh). Ha, ha, ha! Why, yes--very clever that.
It ought to have a Gibson picture over it, that joke. It would help
it. Those Gibson pictures are fine, I think. Carry any kind of
joke, eh?

Yardsley. Yes, they frequently do.

Dorothy. I'm so glad you both like Gibson, for I just dote on him.
I have one of his originals in my portfolio. I'll get it if you'd
like to see it.

[She rises and goes to the corner of the room, where there stands a
portfolio-case.

Yardsley (aside). What a bore Barlow is! Hang him! I must get rid
of him somehow.

[Barlow meanwhile is assisting Dorothy.

Yardsley (looking around at the others). Jove! he's off in the
corner with her. Can't allow that, for the fact is Barlow's just a
bit dangerous--to me.

Dorothy (rummaging through portfolio). Why, it was here--

Barlow. Maybe it's in this other portfolio.

Yardsley (joining them). Yes, maybe it is. That's a good idea. If
it isn't in one portfolio maybe it's in another. Clever thought! I
may be bright, Miss Andrews, but you must have observed that Barlow
is thoughtful.

Dorothy (with a glance at Barlow). Yes, Mr. Yardsley, I have noticed
the latter.

Barlow. Tee-hee! that's one on you, Bob.

Yardsley (obtuse). Ha, ha! Yes. Why, of course! Ha, ha, ha! For
repartee I have always said-polite repartee, of course--Miss Andrews
is--(Aside.) Now what the dickens did she mean by that?

Dorothy. I can't find it here. Let--me think. Where--can--it--be?

Barlow (striking thoughtful attitude). Yes, where can it be? Let me
do your thinking for you, Miss Dorothy. (Then softly to her.)
Always!

Yardsley (mocking Barlow). Yes! Let _me_ think! (Points his finger
at his forehead and assumes tragic attitude. Then stalks to the
front of stage in manner of burlesque Hamlet.) Come, thought, come.
Shed the glory of thy greatness full on me, and thus confound mine
enemies. Where the deuce is that Gibson?

Dorothy. Oh, I remember. It's up-stairs. I took it up with me last
night. I'll ring for Jennie, and have her get it.

Yardsley (aside, and in consternation). Jennie! Oh, thunder! I'd
forgotten her. I do hope she remembers not to forget herself.

Barlow. What say?

Yardsley. Nothing; only--ah--only that I thought it was very--very
pleasant out.

Barlow. That's what you said before.

Yardsley (indignantly). Well, what of it? It's the truth. If you
don't believe it, go outside and see for yourself.

[Jennie appears at the door in response to Dorothy's ring. She
glances demurely at Yardsley, who tries to ignore her presence.

Dorothy. Jennie, go up to my room and look on the table in the
corner, and bring me down the portfolio you will find there. The
large brown one that belongs in the stand over there.

Jennie (dazed). Yessum. And shall I be bringin' lemons with it?

Dorothy. Lemons, Jennie?

Jennie. You always does have lemons with your tea, mum.

Dorothy. I didn't mention tea. I want you to get my portfolio from
up-stairs. It is on the table in the corner of my room.

[Looks at Jennie in surprise.

Jennie. Oh, excuse me, mum. I didn't hear straight.

[She casts a languishing glance at Yardsley and disappears.

Yardsley (noting the glance, presumably aside). Confound that
Jennie!

Barlow (overhearing Yardsley). What's that? Confound that Jennie?
Why say confound that Jennie? Why do you wish Jennie to be
confounded?

Yardsley (nervously). I didn't say that. I--ah--I merely said that--
that Jennie appeared to be--ah--confounded.

Dorothy. She certainly is confused. I cannot understand it at all.
Ordinarily I have rather envied Jennie her composure.

Yardsley. Oh, I suppose--it's--it's--it's natural for a young girl--
a servant--sometimes to lose her--equipoise, as it were, on
occasions. If we lose ours at times, why not Jennie? Eh? Huh?

Barlow. Certainly.

Yardsley. Of course--ha--trained servants are hard to get these
days, anyhow. Educated people--ah--go into other professions, such
as law, and--ah--the ministry--and--

Dorothy. Well, never mind. Let's talk of something more interesting
than Jennie. Going to the Chrysanthemum Show, Mr. Barlow?

Barlow. I am; wouldn't miss it for the world. Do you know, really
now, the chrysanthemum, in my opinion, is the most human-looking
flower we have. The rose is too beautiful, too perfect, for me. The
chrysanthemum, on the other hand--

Yardsley (interrupting). Looks so like a football-player's head it
appeals to your sympathies? Well, perhaps you are right. I never
thought of it in that light before, but--

Dorothy (smiling). Nor I; but now that you mention it, it does look
that way, doesn't it?

Barlow (not wishing to disagree with Dorothy). Very much. Droll
idea, though. Just like Bob, eh? Very, very droll. Bob's always
dro--

Yardsley (interrupting). When I see a man walking down the Avenue
with a chrysanthemum in his button-hole, I always think of a wild
Indian wearing a scalp for decorative purposes.

[Barlow and Dorothy laugh at this, and during their mirth Jennie
enters with the portfolio. She hands it to Dorothy. Dorothy rests
it on the arm of her chair, and Barlow looking over one shoulder, she
goes through it. Jennie in passing out throws another kiss to
Yardsley.

Yardsley (under his breath, stamping his foot). Awgh!

Barlow. What say?

[Dorothy looks up, surprised.

Yardsley. I--I didn't say anything. My--ah--my shoe had a piece of--
ah--

Barlow. Oh, say lint, and be done with it.

Yardsley (relieved, and thankful for the suggestion). Why, how did
you know? It did, you know. Had a piece of lint on it, and I tried
to get it off by stamping, that's all.

Dorothy. Ah, here it is.

Yardsley. What? The lint?

Barlow. Ho! Is the world nothing but lint to you? Of course not--
the Gibson. Charming, isn't it, Miss Dorothy?

Dorothy (holding the picture up). Fine. Just look at that girl.
Isn't she pretty?

Barlow. Very.

Dorothy. And such style, too.

Yardsley (looking over Dorothy's other shoulder). Yes, very pretty,
and lots of style. (Softly.) Very--like some one--some one I know.

Barlow (overhearing). I think so myself, Yardsley. It's exactly
like Josie Wilkins. By-the-way--ah--how is that little affair coming
along, Bob?

Dorothy (interested). What! You don't mean to say--Why, _Mister_
Yardsley!

Yardsley (with a venomous glance at Barlow). Nonsense. Nothing in
it. Mere invention of Barlow's. He's a regular Edison in his own
way.

[Dorothy looks inquiringly at Barlow.

Barlow (to Yardsley). Oh, don't be so sly about it, old fellow!
_Every_body knows.

Yardsley. But I tell you there's nothing in it. I--I have different
ideas entirely, and you--you know it--or, if you don't, you will
shortly.

Dorothy. Oh! Then it's some one else, Mr. Yardsley? Well, now I
_am_ interested'. Let's have a little confidential talk together.
Tell _us_, Mr. Yardsley, tell Mr. Barlow and me, and maybe--I can't
say for certain, of course--but maybe we can help you.

Barlow (gleefully rubbing his hands). Yes, old man; certainly.
Maybe we--we can help you.

Yardsley (desperately). You can help me, both of you--but--but I
can't very well tell you how.

Barlow. I'm willing to do all I can for you, my dear Bob. If you
will only tell us her name I'll even go so far as to call, in your
behalf, and propose for you.

Yardsley. Oh, thanks. You are very kind.

Dorothy. I think so too, Mr. Barlow. You are almost too kind, it
seems to me.

Yardsley. Oh no; not too kind, Miss Andrews. Barlow simply realizes
that one who has proposed marriage to young girls as frequently as he
has knows how the thing is done, and he wishes to give me the benefit
of his experience. (Aside.) That's a facer for Barlow.

Barlow. Ha, ha, ha! Another joke, I suppose. You see, my dear Bob,
that I am duly appreciative. I laugh. Ha, ha, ha! But I must say I
laugh with some uncertainty. I don't know whether you intended that
for a joke or for a staggerer. You should provide your conversation
with a series of printed instructions for the listener. Get a lot of
cards, and have printed on one, "Please laugh"; on another, "Please
stagger"; on another, "Kindly appear confused." Then when you mean
to be jocose hand over the laughter card, and so on. Shall I
stagger?

Dorothy. I think that Mr. Yardsley meant that for a joke. Didn't
you, Mr. Yardsley?

Yardsley. Why, certainly. Of course. I don't really believe Barlow
ever had sand enough to propose to any one. Did you, Jack?

Barlow (indignant). Well, I rather think I have.

Dorothy. Ho, ho! Then you _are_ an experienced proposer, Mr.
Barlow?

Barlow (confused). Why--er--well--um--I didn't exactly mean that,
you know. I meant that--ah--if it ever came to the--er--the test, I
think I could--I'd have sand enough, as Yardsley puts it, to do the
thing properly, and without making a--ah--a Yardsley of myself.

Yardsley (bristling up). Now what do you mean by that?

Dorothy. I think you are both of you horrid this afternoon. You are
so quarrelsome. Do you two always quarrel, or is this merely a
little afternoon's diversion got up for my especial benefit?

Barlow (with dignity). I never quarrel.

Yardsley. Nor I. I simply differ sometimes, that's all. I never
had an unpleasant word with Jack in my life. Did I, Jack?

Barlow. Never. I always avoid a fracas, however great the
provocation.

Dorothy (desperately). Then let us have a cup of tea together and be
more sociable. I have always noticed that tea promotes sociability--
haven't you, Mr. Yardsley?

Yardsley. Always. (Aside.) Among women.

Barlow. What say?

[Dorothy rises and rings the bell for Jennie.

Yardsley. I say that I am very fond of tea.

Barlow. So am I--here. [Rises and looks at pictures. Yardsley
meanwhile sits in moody silence.

Dorothy (returning). You seem to have something on your mind, Mr.
Yardsley. I never knew you to be so solemn before.

Yardsley. I have something on my mind, Miss Dorothy. It's--

Barlow (coming forward). Wise man, cold weather like this. It would
be terrible if you let your mind go out in cold weather without
anything on it. Might catch cold in your idea.

Dorothy. I wonder why Jennie doesn't come? I shall have to ring
again.

[Pushes electric button again.

Yardsley (with an effort at brilliance). The kitchen belle doesn't
seem to work.

Dorothy. Ordinarily she does, but she seems to be upset by something
this afternoon. I'm afraid she's in love. If you will excuse me a
moment I will go and prepare the tea myself.

Barlow. Do; good! Then we shall not need the sugar.

Yardsley. You might omit the spoons too, after a remark like that,
Miss Dorothy.

Dorothy. We'll omit Mr. Barlow's spoon. I'll bring some for you and
me. [She goes out.

Yardsley (with a laugh). That's one on you, Barlow. But I say, old
man (taking out his watch and snapping the cover to three or four
times), it's getting very late--after five now. If you want to go
with Billy Wilkins you'd better take up your hat and walk. I'll say
good-bye to Miss Andrews for you.

Barlow. Thanks. Too late now. You said Billie wouldn't wait after
four thirty.

Yardsley. Did I say four thirty? I meant five thirty. Anyhow,
Billie isn't over-prompt. Better go.

Barlow. You seem mighty anxious to get rid of me.

Yardsley. I? Not at all, my dear boy--not at all. I'm very, very
fond of you, but I thought you'd prefer opera to me. Don't you see?
That's where my modesty comes in. You're so fond of a good chat I
thought you'd want to go to-night. Wilkins has a box.

Barlow. You said seats a little while ago.

Yardsley. Of course I did. And why not? There are seats in boxes.
Didn't you know that?

Barlow. Look here, Yardsley, what's up, anyhow? You've been deuced
queer to-day. What are you after?

Yardsley (tragically). Shall I confide in you? Can I, with a sense
of confidence that you will not betray me?

Barlow (eagerly). Yes, Bob. Go on. What is it? I'll never give
you away, and I _may_ be able to give you some good advice.

Yardsley. I am here to--to--to rob the house! Business has been
bad, and one must live. [Barlow looks at him in disgust.

Yardsley (mockingly). You have my secret, John Barlow. Remember
that it was wrung from me in confidence. You must not betray me.
Turn your back while I surreptitiously remove the piano and the gas-
fixtures, won't you?

Barlow (looking at him thoughtfully). Yardsley, I have done you an
injustice.

Yardsley. Indeed?

Barlow. Yes. Some one claimed, at the club, the other day, that you
were the biggest donkey in existence, and I denied it. I was wrong,
old man, I was wrong, and I apologize. You are.

Yardsley. You are too modest, Jack. You forget--yourself.

Barlow. Well, perhaps I do; but I've nothing to conceal, and you
have. You've been behaving in a most incomprehensible fashion this
afternoon, as if you owned the house.

Yardsley. Well, what of it? Do you own it?

Barlow. No, I don't, but--

Yardsley. But you hope to. Well, I have no such mercenary motive.
I'm not after the house.

Barlow (bristling up). After the house? Mercenary motive? I demand
an explanation of those words. What do you mean?

Yardsley. I mean this, Jack Barlow: I mean that I am here for--for
my own reasons; but you--you have come here for the purpose of--

Dorothy enters wish a tray, upon which are the tea things.

Barlow (about to retort to Yardsley, perceiving Dorothy). Ah! Let
me assist you.

Dorothy. Thank you so much. I really believe I never needed help
more. (She delivers the tray to Barlow, who sets it on the table.
Dorothy, exhausted, drops into a chair.) Fan me--quick--or I shall
faint. I've--I've had an awful time, and I really don't know what to
do!

Barlow and Yardsley (together). Why, what's the matter?

Yardsley. I hope the house isn't on fire?

Barlow. Or that you haven't been robbed?

Dorothy. No, no; nothing like that. It's--it's about Jennie.

Yardsley (nervously). Jennie? Wha--wha--what's the matter with
Jennie?

Dorothy. I only wish I knew. I--

Yardsley (aside). I'm glad you don't.

Barlow. What say?

Yardsley. I didn't say anything. Why should I say anything? I
haven't anything to say. If people who had nothing to say would not
insist upon talking, you'd be--

Dorothy. I heard the poor girl weeping down-stairs, and when I went
to the dumbwaiter to ask her what was the matter, I heard--I heard a
man's voice.

Yardsley. Man's voice?

Barlow. Man's voice is what Miss Andrews said.

Dorothy. Yes; it was Hicks, our coachman, and he was dreadfully
angry about something.

Yardsley (sinking into chair). Good Lord! Hicks! Angry! At--
something!

Dorothy. He was threatening to kill somebody.

Yardsley. This grows worse and worse! Threatening to kill somebody!
D-did-did you o-over-overhear huh-huh-whom he was going to kuk-kill?

Barlow. What's the matter with you, Yardsley? Are you going to die
of fright, or have you suddenly caught a chill?

Dorothy. Oh, I hope not! Don't die here, anyhow, Mr. Yardsley. If
you must die, please go home and die. I couldn't stand another shock
to-day. Why, really, I was nearly frightened to death. I don't know
now but what I ought to send for the police, Hicks was so violent.

Barlow. Perhaps she and Hicks have had a lovers' quarrel.

Yardsley. Very likely; very likely indeed. I think that is no doubt
the explanation of the whole trouble. Lovers will quarrel. They
were engaged, you know.

Dorothy (surprised). No, I didn't know it. Were they? Who told
you?

Yardsley (discovering his mistake). Why--er--wasn't it you said so,
Miss Dorothy? Or you, Barlow?

Barlow. I have not the honor of the young woman's confidence, and so
could not have given you the information.

Dorothy. I didn't know it, so how could I have told you?

Yardsley (desperately). Then I must have dreamed it. I do have the
queerest dreams sometimes, but there's nothing strange about this
one, anyhow. Parlor-maids frequently do--er--become engaged to
coachmen and butlers and that sort of thing. It isn't a rare
occurrence at all. If I'd said she was engaged to Billie Wilkins, or
to--to Barlow here--

Barlow. Or to yourself.

Yardsley. Sir? What do you mean to insinuate? That I am engaged to
Jennie?

Barlow. I never said so.

Dorothy. Oh dear, let us have the tea. You quarrelsome men are just
wearing me out. Mr. Barlow, do you want cream in yours?

Barlow. If you please; and one lump of sugar. (Dorothy pours is
out.) Thanks.

Dorothy. Mr. Yardsley?

Yardsley. Just a little, Miss Andrews. No cream, and no sugar.

[Dorothy prepares a cup for Yardsley. He is about to take it when--

Dorothy. Well, I declare! It's nothing but hot water! I forgot the
tea entirely!

Barlow (with a laugh). Oh, never mind. Hot water is good for
dyspepsia.

[With a significant look at Yardsley.

Yardsley. It depends on how you get it, Mr. Barlow. I've known men
who've got dyspepsia from living in hot water too much.

[As Yardsley speaks the portiere is violently clutched from without,
and Jennie's head is thrust into the room. No one observes her.

Barlow. Well, my cup is very satisfactory to me, Miss Dorothy. Fact
is, I've always been fond of cambric tea, and this is just right.

Yardsley (patronizingly). It _is_ good for children.

Jennie (trying to attract Yardsley's attention). Pst!

Yardsley. My mamma lets me have it Sunday nights.

Dorothy. Ha, ha, ha!

Barlow. Another joke? Good. Let me enjoy it too. Hee, Hee!

Jennie. Pst!

[Barlow looks around; Jennie hastily withdraws her head.

Barlow. I didn't know you had steam heat in this house.

Dorothy. We haven't. What put such an idea as that into your head?

Barlow. Why, I thought I heard the hissing of steam, the click of a
radiator, or something of that sort back by the door.

Yardsley. Maybe the house is haunted.

Dorothy. I fancy it was your imagination: or perhaps it was the
wind blowing through the hall. The pantry window is open.

Barlow. I guess maybe that's it. How fine it must be in the country
now!

[Jennie pokes her head in through the portieres again, and follows it
with her arm and hand, in which is a feather duster, which she waves
wildly in an endeavor to attract Yardsley's attention.

Dorothy. Divine. I should so love to be out of town still. It
seems to me people always make a great mistake returning to the city
so early in the fall. The country is really at its best at this time
of year.

[Yardsley turns half around, and is about to speak, when he catches
sight of the now almost hysterical Jennie and her feather duster.

Barlow. Yes; I think so too. I was at Lenox last week, and the
foliage was gorgeous.

Yardsley (feeling that he must say something). Yes. I suppose all
the feathers on the maple-trees are turning red by this time.

Dorothy. Feathers, Mr. Yardsley?

Barlow. Feathers?

Yardsley (with a furtive glance at Jennie). Ha, ha! What an absurd
slip! Did I say feathers? I meant--I meant leaves, of course. All
the leaves on the dusters are turning.

Barlow. I don't believe you know what you do mean. Who ever heard
of leaves on dusters? What are dusters? Do you know, Miss Dorothy?

[As he turns to Miss Andrews, Yardsley tries to wave Jennie away.
She beckons with her arms more wildly than ever, and Yardsley
silently speaks the words, "Go away."

Dorothy. I'm sure I don't know of any tree by that name, but then
I'm not a--not a what?

Yardsley (with a forced laugh). Treeologist

Dorothy. What are dusters, Mr. Yardsley?

Barlow. Yes, old man, tell us. I'm anxious to find out myself.

Yardsley (aside). So am I. What the deuce are dusters, for this
occasion only? (Aloud) What? Never heard of dusters? Ho! Why,
dear me, where have you been all your lives? (Aside.) Must gain
time to think up what dusters are. (Aloud.) Why, they're as old as
the hills.

Barlow. That may be, but I can't say I think your description is at
all definite.

Dorothy. Do they look like maples?

Yardsley (with an angry wave of his arms towards Jennie). Something--
in fact, very much. They're exactly like them. You can hardly tell
them from oaks.

Barlow. Oaks?

Yardsley. I said oaks. Oaks! O-A-K-S!

Barlow. But oaks aren't like maples.

Yardsley. Well, who said they were? We were talking about oaks--
and--er--and dusters. We--er--we used to have a row of them in front
of our old house at-- (Aside.) Now where the deuce did we have the
old house? Never had one, but we must for the sake of the present
situation. (Aloud.) Up at--at--Bryn-Mawr--or at--Troy, or some such
place, and--at--they kept the--the dust of the highway from getting
into the house. (With a sigh of relief.) And so, you see, they were
called dusters. Thought every one knew that.

[As Yardsley finishes, Jennie loses her balance and falls headlong
into the room.

Dorothy (starting up hastily). Why, Jennie!

Yardsley (staggering into chair). That settles it. It's all up with
me. [Jennie sobs, and, rising, rushes to Yardsley's side.

Jennie. Save yourself; he's going to kill you!

Dorothy. Jennie! What is the meaning of this? Mr. Yardsley--can--
can you shed any light on this mystery?

Yardsley (pulling himself together with a great effort). I? I
assure you I can't, Miss Andrews. How could I? All I know is that
somebody is--is going to kill me, though for what I haven't the
slightest idea.

Jennie (indignantly). Eh? What! Why, Mr. Yardsley--Bob!

Barlow. Bob?

Dorothy. Jennie! Bob?

Yardsley. Don't you call me Bob.

Jennie. It's Hicks. [Bursts out crying.

Barlow. Hicks?

Dorothy. Jennie, Hicks isn't Bob. His name--is George.

Yardsley (in a despairing rage). Hicks be--

Dorothy. Mr. Yardsley!

Yardsley (pulling himself together again). Bobbed. Hicks be Bobbed.
That's what I was going to say.

Dorothy. What on earth does this all mean? I must have an
explanation, Jennie. What have you to say for yourself?

Jennie. Why, I--

Yardsley. I tell you it isn't true. She's made it up out of whole
cloth.

Barlow. What isn't true? She hasn't said anything yet.

Yardsley (desperately). I refer to what she's going to say. I'm a--
a--I'm a mind-reader, and I see it all as plain as day.

Dorothy. I can best judge of the truth of Jennie's words when she
has spoken them, Mr. Yardsley. Jennie, you may explain, if you can.
What do you mean by Hicks killing Mr. Yardsley, and why do you
presume to call Mr. Yardsley by his first name?

Yardsley (aside). Heigho! My goose is cooked.

Barlow. I fancy you wish you had taken that walk I suggested now.

Yardsley. You always were a good deal of a fancier.

Jennie. I hardly knows how to begin, Miss Dorothy. I--I'm so
flabbergasted by all that's happened this afternoon, mum, that I
can't get my thoughts straight, mum.

Dorothy. Never mind getting your thoughts straight, Jennie. I do
not want fiction. I want the truth.

Jennie. Well, mum, when a fine gentleman like Mr. Yardsley asks--

Yardsley. I tell you it isn't so.

Jennie. Indeed he did, mum.

Dorothy (impatiently). Did what?

Jennie. Axed me to marry him, mum.

Dorothy. Mr. Yardsley--asked--you--to--to marry him? [Barlow
whistles.

Jennie (bursting into tears again). Yes, mum, he did, mum, right
here in this room. He got down on his knees to me on that Proossian
rug before the sofa, mum. I was standin' behind the sofa, havin'
just come in to tell him as how you'd be down shortly. He was
standin' before the lookin'-glass lookin' at himself, an' when I come
in he turns around and goes down on his knees and says such an
importunity may not occur again, mum; I've loved you very long; and
then he recited some pottery, mum, and said would I be his wife.

Yardsley (desperately). Let me explain.

Dorothy. Wait, Mr. Yardsley; your turn will come in a moment.

Barlow. Yes, it'll be here, my boy; don't fret about that. Take all
the time you need to make it a good one. Gad, if this doesn't strain
your imagination, nothing will.

Dorothy. Go on, Jennie. Then what happened?

Yardsley (with an injured expression). Do you expect me to stand
here, Miss Andrews, and hear this girl's horrible story?

Barlow. Then you know the story, do you, Yardsley? It's horrible,
and you are innocent. My! you are a mind-reader with a vengeance.

Dorothy. Don't mind what these gentlemen say, Jennie, but go on.

[Yardsley sinks into the arm-chair. Barlow chuckles; Miss Andrews
glances indignantly at him.

Dorothy. Pardon me, Mr. Barlow. If there is any humor in the
situation, I fail to see it.

Barlow (seeing his error). Nor, indeed, do I. I was not--ah--
laughing from mirth. That chuckle was hysterics, Miss Dorothy, I
assure you. There are some laughs that can hardly be differentiated
from sobs.

Jennie. I was all took in a heap, mum, to think of a fine gentleman
like Mr. Yardsley proposing to me, mum, and I says the same. Says I,
"Oh, Mr. Yardsley, this is so suddent like," whereat he looks up with
a countenance so full o' pain that I hadn't the heart to refuse him;
so, fergettin' Hicks for the moment, I says, kind of soft like,
certingly, sir. It ain't for the likes o' me to say no to the likes
o' him.

Yardsley. Then you said you were engaged to Hicks. You know you
did, Jennie.

Barlow. Ah! Then you admit the proposal?

Yardsley. Oh Lord! Worse and worse! I--

Dorothy. Jennie has not finished her story.

Jennie. I did say as how I was engaged to Hicks, but I thought he
would let me off; and Mr. Yardsley looked glad when I said that, and
said he'd make it all right with Hicks.

Yardsley. What? I? Jennie O'Brien, or whatever your horrible name
is, do you mean to say that I said I'd make it all right with Hicks?

Jennie. Not in them words, Mr. Yardsley; but you did say as how
you'd see him yourself and give him a present. You did indeed, Mr.
Yardsley, as you was a-standin' on that there Proossian rug.

Dorothy. Did you, Mr. Yardsley?

[Yardsley buries his face in his hands and groans.

Barlow. Not so ready with your explanations now, eh?

Dorothy. Mr. Barlow, really I must ask you not to interfere. Did
you say that, Mr. Yardsley?

Yardsley. I did, but--

Dorothy (frigidly). Go on, Jennie.

Jennie. Just then the front-door bell rings and Mr. Barlow comes,
and there wasn't no more importunity for me to speak; but when I got
down-stairs into the kitchen, mum, Mr. Hicks he comes in, an' (sobs)--
an' I breaks with him.

Yardsley. You've broken with Hicks for me?

Jennie. Yes, I have--but I wouldn't never have done it if I'd known--
boo-hoo--as how you'd behave this way an' deny ever havin' said a
word. I--I--I 1-lo-love Mr. Hicks, an'--I--I hate you--and I wish
I'd let him come up and kill you, as he said he would.

Dorothy. Jennie! Jennie! be calm! Where is Hicks now?

Yardsley. That's so. Where is Hicks? I want to see him.

Jennie. Never fear for that. You'll see him. He's layin' for you
outside. An' that, Miss Dorothy, is why--I was a-wavin' at him an'
sayin' "pst" to him. I wanted to warn him, mum, of his danger, mum,
because Hicks is very vi'lent, and he told me in so many words as how
he was a-goin' to _do--him--up_.

Barlow. You'd better inform Mr. Hicks, Jennie, that Mr. Yardsley is
already done up.

Yardsley. Do me up, eh? Well, I like that. I'm not afraid of any
coachman in creation as long as he's off the box. I'll go see him at
once.

Dorothy. No--no--no. Don't, Mr. Yardsley; don't, I beg of you. I
don't want to have any scene between you.

Yardsley (heroically). What if he succeeds? I don't care. As
Barlow says, I'm done up as it is. I don't want to live after this.
What's the use. Everything's lost.

Barlow (dryly). Jennie hasn't thrown you over yet.

Jennie (sniffing airily). Yes, she has, too. I wouldn't marry him
now for all the world--an'--and I've lost--lost Hicks. (Weeps.) Him
as was so brave, an' looks so fine in livery!

Yardsley. If you'd only give me a chance to say something--

Barlow. Appears to me you've said too much already.

Dorothy (coldly). I--I don't agree with Mr. Barlow. You--you
haven't said enough, Mr. Yardsley. If you have any explanation to
make, I'll listen.

Yardsley (looks up gratefully. Suddenly his face brightens. Aside).
Gad! The very thing! I'll tell the exact truth, and if Dorothy has
half the sense I think she has, I'll get in my proposal right under
Barlow's very nose. (Aloud.) My--my explanation, Miss Andrews, is
very simple. I--ah--I cannot deny having spoken every word that
Jennie has charged to my account. I did get down on my knees on the
rug. I did say "divine creature." I did not put it strong enough.
I should have said "divinest of _all_ creatures."

Dorothy (in remonstrance). Mr. Yardsley!

Barlow (aside). Magnificent bluff! But why? (Rubs his forehead in
a puzzled way.) What the deuce is he driving at?

Yardsley. Kindly let me finish. I did say "I love you." I should
have said "I adore you; I worship you." I did say "Will you be my
wife?" and I was going to add, "for if you will not, then is light
turned into darkness for me, and life, which your 'yes' will render
radiantly beautiful, will become dull, colorless, and not worth the
living." That is what I was going to say, Miss Andrews--Miss
Dorothy--when--when Jennie interrupted me and spoke the word I most
wish to hear--spoke the word "yes"; but it was not her yes that I
wished. My words of love were not for her.

Barlow (perceiving his drift). Ho! Absurd! Nonsense! Most
unreasonable! You were calling the sofa the divinest of all
creatures, I suppose, or perhaps asking the--the piano to put on its
shoes and--elope with you. Preposterous!

Dorothy (softly). Go on, Mr. Yardsley.

Yardsley. I--I spoke a little while ago about sand--courage--when it
comes to one's asking the woman he loves the greatest of all
questions. I was boastful. I pretended that I had that courage;
but--well, I am not as brave as I seem. I had come, Miss Dorothy, to
say to you the words that fell on Jennie's ears, and--and I began to
get nervous--stage-fright, I suppose it was--and I was foolish enough
to rehearse what I had to say--to you, and to you alone.

Barlow. Let me speak, Miss Andrews. I--

Yardsley. You haven't anything to do with the subject in hand, my
dear Barlow, not a thing.

Dorothy. Jennie--what--what have you to say?

Jennie. Me? Oh, mum, I hardly knows what to say! This is suddenter
than the other; but, Miss Dorothy, I'd believe him, I would, because--
I--I think he's tellin' the truth, after all, for the reason that--
oh dear--for--

Dorothy. Don't be frightened, Jennie. For what reason?

Jennie. Well, mum, for the reason that when I said "yes," mum, he
didn't act like all the other gentlemen I've said yes to, and--and k--
kuk--kiss me.

Yardsley. That's it! that's it! Do you suppose that if I'd been
after Jennie's yes, and got it, I'd have let a door-bell and a sofa
stand between me and--the sealing of the proposal?

Barlow (aside). Oh, what nonsense this all is! I've got to get
ahead of this fellow in some way. (Aloud.) Well, where do I come
in? I came here, Miss Andrews, to--tell you--

Yardsley (interposing). You come in where you came in before--just a
little late--after the proposal, as it were.

Dorothy (her face clearing and wreathing with smiles). What a comedy
of errors it has all been! I--I believe you, Mr. Yardsley.

Yardsley. Thank Heaven! And--ah--you aren't going to say anything
more, D--Dorothy?

Dorothy. I'm afraid--

Yardsley. Are you going to make me go through that proposal all over
again, now that I've got myself into so much trouble saying it the
first time--Dorothy?

Dorothy. No, no. You needn't--you needn't speak of it again.

Barlow (aside). Good! That's his conge.

Yardsley. And--then if I--if I needn't say it again? What then?
Can't I have--my answer now? Oh, Miss Andrews--

Dorothy (with downcast eyes, softly). What did Jennie say?

Yardsley (in ecstasy). Do you mean it?

Barlow. I fancy--I fancy I'd better go now, Miss--er--Miss Andrews.
I--I--have an appointment with Mr. Wilkins, and--er--I observe that
it is getting rather late.

Yardsley. Don't go yet, Jack. I'm not so anxious to be rid of you
now.

Barlow. I must go--really.

Yardsley. But I want you to make me one promise before you go.

Dorothy. He'll make it, I'm sure, if I ask him. Mr. Yardsley and I
want you--want you to be our best man.

Yardsley. That's it, precisely. Eh, Jack?

Barlow. Well, yes. I'll be--second-best man, The events of the
afternoon have shown my capacity for that.

Yardsley. Ah!

Barlow. And I'll show my sincerity by wearing Bob's hat and coat
into the street now and letting the fury of Hicks fall upon me.

Jennie. If you please, Miss Dorothy--I--I think I can attend to Mr.
Hicks.

Dorothy. Very well. I think that would be better. You may go,
Jennie.

[Jennie departs.

Barlow. Well, good-day. I--I've had a very pleasant afternoon,
Miss--Andrews. Thanks for the--the cambric tea.

Dorothy. Good-bye, and don't forget.

Barlow. I'm afraid--I won't. Good-bye, Bob. I congratulate you
from my heart. I was in hopes that I should have the pleasure of
having you for a best man at my wedding, but--er--there's many a
slip, you know, and I wish you joy.

[Yardsley shakes him by the hand, and Barlow goes out. As he
disappears through the portieres Yardsley follows, and, holding the
curtain aside, looks after him until the front door is heard closing.
Then he turns about. Dorothy looks demurely around at him, and as he
starts to go to her side the curtain falls.

Book of the day: