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Title: The Climbers - A Play in Four Acts
Author: Fitch, Clyde, 1865-1909
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Climbers - A Play in Four Acts" ***

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Archive.



THE CLIMBERS
A PLAY IN FOUR ACTS

By
CLYDE FITCH



NEW YORK
SAMUEL FRENCH
PUBLISHER
25 WEST 45th STREET

LONDON
SAMUEL FRENCH, LTD.
26 SOUTHAMPTON ST.
STRAND


Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown & Co.



COPYRIGHT, 1905,
BY LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


This play is fully protected by the copyright law, all requirements of
which have been complied with. In its present printed form it is
dedicated to the reading public only, and no performance of it, either
professional or amateur, may be given without the written permission of
the owner of the acting rights, who may be addressed in care of the
publishers, Little, Brown, and Company.



TO
CHARLES T. MATHEWS

IN GRATEFUL RECOGNITION OF HIS
TRUE FRIENDSHIP AND LOYAL ENTHUSIASM
FROM THE BEGINNING

C.F.



[Transcriber's Note: One character is listed as Dr. Steinart in the List
of Characters, but Dr. Steinhart in the body of the play.]



_THE CLIMBERS_


ACT I.    IN LATE WINTER.
          _At the Hunters'._

ACT II.   THE FOLLOWING CHRISTMAS EVE.
          _At the Sterlings'._

ACT III.  CHRISTMAS DAY.
          _At the Hermitage, by the Bronx River._

ACT IV.   THE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS.
          _At the Sterlings'._


NEW YORK: TO-DAY



_THE PEOPLE IN THE PLAY_


RICHARD STERLING. EDWARD WARDEN. FREDERICK MASON. JOHNNY TROTTER.
GODESBY. DR. STEINART. RYDER. SERVANT _at the Hermitage._ JORDAN.
_Butler at the Sterlings'._ LEONARD. _Footman at the Sterlings'._ MASTER
STERLING. SERVANTS.

MRS. STERLING (_née Blanche Hunter_). MISS HUNTER. MRS. HUNTER. JESSICA
HUNTER. CLARA HUNTER. MISS GODESBY. MISS SILLERTON. TOMPSON. _Mrs.
Hunter's Maid._ MARIE. _Clara Hunter's Maid._



Originally produced at the Bijou Theatre, New York, January 21, 1901,
with the following cast:--

Richard Sterling                               Mr. Frank Worthing
Edward Warden                                  Mr. Robert Edeson
Frederick Mason                                Mr. John Flood
Johnny Trotter                                 Mr. Ferdinand Gottschalk
Dr. Steinart                                   Mr. George C. Boniface
Godesby                                        Mr. J.B. Sturges
Ryder                                          Mr. Kinard
Servant at the Hermitage                       Mr. Henry Warwick
Jordan    }            Servants              { Mr. Edward Moreland
Leonard   }             at the               { Mr. Henry Stokes
A Footman }            Hunters'              { Mr. Frederick Wallace
Richard Sterling, Jr.                          Master Harry Wright

Mrs. Hunter                                    Mrs. Madge Carr Cook
Mrs. Sterling (_née_ Blanche Hunter)      Miss Amelia Bingham
Jessica Hunter                                 Miss Maud Monroe
Clara Hunter                                   Miss Minnie Dupree
Miss Hunter                                    Miss Annie Irish
Miss Godesby                                   Miss Clara Bloodgood
Miss Sillerton                                 Miss Ysobel Haskins
Tompson }              Maids at              { Miss Lillian Eldredge
Marie   }            the Hunters'            { Miss Florence Lloyd



Produced at the Comedy Theatre, London, September 5, 1903, with the
following cast:--

Richard Sterling                               Mr. Sydney Valentine
Edward Warden                                  Mr. Reeves-Smith
Frederick Mason                                Mr. J.L. Mackay
Johnny Trotter                                 Mr. G.M. Graham
Godesby                                        Mr. Horace Pollock
Dr. Steinart                                   Mr. Howard Sturges
Master Sterling                                Miss Maidie Andrews
Ryder                                          Mr. Henry Howard
Jordan                                         Mr. Elgar B. Payne
Leonard                                        Mr. Littledale Power
Footman                                        Mr. Rivers Bertram
Servant                                        Mr. George Aubrey

Mrs. Sterling                                  Miss Lily Hanbury
Miss Hunter                                    Miss Kate Tyndall
Mrs. Hunter                                    Miss Lottie Venne
Jessica Hunter                                 Miss Alma Mara
Clara Hunter                                   Mrs. Mouillot
Miss Sillerton                                 Miss Florence Sinclair
Tompson                                        Miss L. Crauford
Marie                                          Miss Armstrong
Miss Godesby                                   Miss Fannie Ward



ACT I


_A drawing-room at the Hunters', handsomely and artistically furnished.
The woodwork and furniture are in the period of Louis XVI. The walls and
furniture are covered with yellow brocade, and the curtains are of the
same golden material. At the back are two large windows which give out
on Fifth Avenue, opposite the Park, the trees of which are seen across
the way. At Left is a double doorway, leading into the hall. At Right,
opposite, is a door which leads to other rooms, and thence to other
parts of the house. In the centre, at back, between the two windows, is
the fireplace; on the mantel are two vases and a clock in dark blue
ormolu. There is a white and gold piano on the Right side of the room.
The room suggests much wealth, and that it has been done by a
professional decorator; the personal note of taste is lacking._

_It is four o'clock in the afternoon. The shades of the windows are
drawn down. There are rows and rows of camp-chairs filling the entire
room._

_The curtain rises slowly. After a moment,_ JORDAN, _the butler, and_
LEONARD, _a footman, enter from the Left and begin to gather together
and carry out the camp-chairs. They do this with very serious faces, and
take great pains to step softly and to make no noise. They enter a
second time for more chairs._


JORDAN. [_Whispers to_ LEONARD.] When are they coming for the chairs?

LEONARD. [_Whispers back._] To-night. Say, it was fine, wasn't it!

JORDAN. Grand!

[_They go out with the chairs and immediately reënter for more. They are
followed in this time by a lady's maid,_ TOMPSON; _she is not a young
woman. As she crosses the room she stoops and picks up a faded flower
which has fallen from some emblem. She goes to the window at Right, and
peeps out. She turns around and looks at the others. They all speak in
subdued voices._

TOMPSON. Jordan, what do you think--can we raise the shades now?

JORDAN. Yes, of course--after they've left the house it's all over as
far as we here are concerned.

[_She raises both shades._

TOMPSON. Phew! what an odor of flowers!

[_She opens one of the windows a little._

[MARIE, _a young, pretty, French woman, enters from the Right._

MARIE. Will I help you?

TOMPSON. Just with this table, thank you, Marie. [_They begin to
rearrange the room, putting it in its normal condition. They replace the
table and put back the ornaments upon it._] Poor Mr. Hunter, and him so
fond of mince pie. I shall never forget how that man ate mince pie.

[_She sighs lugubriously and continues her labor with the room._

LEONARD. I hope as how it's not going to make any difference with us.

JORDAN. [_Pompously._] Of course not; wasn't Mr. Hunter a millionnaire?

TOMPSON. Some millionnaires I've known turned out poor as Job's turkey
in their coffins!

MARIE. What you say? You tink we shall 'ave some of madame's or ze young
ladies' dresses?

TOMPSON. [_Hopefully._] Perhaps.

MARIE. I 'ave already made my choice. I like ze pale pink of Mees
Jessie.

LEONARD. Sh! I heard a carridge.

TOMPSON. Then they're coming back.

[MARIE _quickly goes out Right._

JORDAN. [_To_ LEONARD, _hurriedly, as he quickly goes out Left._] Take
them last two chairs!

[LEONARD, _with the chairs, follows_ JORDAN _out Left._ TOMPSON _hastily
puts back a last arm-chair to its usual position in the room and goes
out Right._ MRS. HUNTER _enters Left, followed by her three daughters_,
BLANCHE, JESSICA, _and_ CLARA, _and_ MASTER STERLING, _who is a small,
attractive child, five years of age. All are in the deepest conventional
mourning,_ MRS. HUNTER _in widow's weeds and_ CLARA _with a heavy, black
chiffon veil; the_ BOY _is also dressed in conventional mourning. As
soon as they enter, all four women lift their veils._ MRS. HUNTER _is a
well-preserved woman, with a pretty, rather foolish, and somewhat
querulous face. Her figure is the latest mode._ BLANCHE STERLING, _her
oldest daughter, is her antithesis,--a handsome, dignified woman, young,
sincere, and showing, in her attitude to the others and in her own point
of view, the warmth of a true, evenly-balanced nature._ JESSICA _is a
typical second child,--nice, good, self-effacing, sympathetic,
unspoiled._ CLARA _is her opposite,--spoiled, petulant, pretty, pert,
and selfish._

MRS. HUNTER. [_With a long sigh._] Oh, I am so glad to be back home and
the whole thing over without a hitch!

[_She sinks with a great sigh of relief into a big chair._

BLANCHE. [_Takes her son to_ MRS. HUNTER.] Kiss grandmother good-by, and
then Leonard will take you home.

MRS. HUNTER. Good-by, dear. Be a good boy. Don't eat too much candy.

[_Kisses him carelessly._

MASTER STERLING. Good-by. [_Runs towards the door Left, shouting
happily._] Leonard! Leonard!

MRS. HUNTER. [_Tearfully._] My dears, it was a great success! Everybody
was there!

[_The three younger women stand and look about the room, as if it were
strange to them--as if it were empty. There is a moment's silence._

BLANCHE. [_Tenderly._] Mother, why don't you take off your bonnet?

MRS. HUNTER. Take it off for me; it _will_ be a great relief.

BLANCHE. Help me, Jess.

MRS. HUNTER. [_Irritably._] Yes, _do_ something, Jessie. You've
mortified me terribly to-day! That child hasn't shed a tear. People'll
think you didn't love your father. [_The two are taking off_ MRS.
HUNTER'S _bonnet._ MRS. HUNTER _waits for an answer from_ JESSICA; _none
comes._] I never saw any one so heartless! [_Tearful again._] And her
father adored her. _She_ was one of the things we quarrelled _most_
about!

[_Over_ MRS. HUNTER'S _head_ BLANCHE _exchanges a sympathetic look with_
JESSICA _to show she understands._

CLARA. I'm sure _I've_ cried enough. I've cried buckets.

[_She goes to_ MRS. HUNTER _as_ BLANCHE _and_ JESSICA _take away the
bonnet and veil and put them on the piano._

MRS. HUNTER. [_Kissing Clara._] Yes, dear, you are your mother's own
child. And _you_ lose the most by it, too.

[_Leaning against the side of her mother's chair, with one arm about her
mother._

CLARA. Yes, indeed, instead of coming out next month, and having a
perfectly lovely winter, I'll have to mope the whole season, and, if I
don't look out, be a wallflower without ever having been a bud!

MRS. HUNTER. [_Half amused but feeling_ CLARA'S _remark is perhaps not
quite the right thing._] Sh--

[_During_ CLARA'S _speech above,_ BLANCHE _has taken_ JESSICA _in her
arms a moment and kissed her tenderly, slowly. They rejoin_ MRS. HUNTER,
BLANCHE _wiping her eyes,_ JESSICA _still tearless._

CLARA. And think of all the clothes we brought home from Paris last
month!

MRS. HUNTER. My dear, don't think of clothes--think of your poor father!
That street dress of mine will dye very well, and we'll give the rest to
your aunt and cousins.

BLANCHE. Mother, don't you want to go upstairs?

JESSICA. [_Sincerely moved._] Yes, I hate this room now.

MRS. HUNTER. [_Rising._] Hate this room! When we've just had it done!
Louis Kinge!

BLANCHE. Louis _Quinze_, dear! She means the associations now, mother.

MRS. HUNTER. Oh, yes, but that's weak and foolish, Jessie. No,
Blanche--[_Sitting again._]--I'm too exhausted to move. Ring for tea.

[BLANCHE _rings the bell beside the mantel._

CLARA. [_Crossing to piano, forgets and starts to play a music-hall
song, but_ MRS. HUNTER _stops her._] Oh, yes, tea! I'm starved!

MRS. HUNTER. Clara, darling! As if you could be hungry at such a time!

[JORDAN _enters Left._

BLANCHE. Tea, Jordan.

JORDAN. Yes, madam.

[_He goes out Left._

MRS. HUNTER. Girls, everybody in town was there! I'm sure even your
father himself couldn't have complained.

BLANCHE. Mother!

MRS. HUNTER. Well, you know he always found fault with my _parties_
being too mixed. He wouldn't realize I couldn't throw over all my old
set when I married into his,--not that I ever acknowledged I was your
father's inferior. I consider my family was just as good as his, only we
were _Presbyterians_!

BLANCHE. Mother, dear, take off your gloves.

MRS. HUNTER. I thought I had. [_Crying._] I'm so heartbroken I don't
know what I'm doing.

[_Taking off her gloves._

[BLANCHE _and_ CLARA _comfort their mother._

JESSICA. Here's the tea--

[JORDAN _and_ LEONARD _enter with large, silver tray, with tea, cups,
and thin bread-and-butter sandwiches. They place them on small tea-table
which_ JESSICA _arranges for them._

MRS. HUNTER. I'm afraid I can't touch it.

[_Taking her place behind tea-table and biting eagerly into a sandwich._

JESSICA. [_Dryly._] Try.

[BLANCHE _pours tea for them all, which they take in turn._

MRS. HUNTER. [_Eating._] One thing I was furious about,--did you see the
Witherspoons _here_ at the house?

CLARA. _I_ did.

MRS. HUNTER. The idea! When I've never called on them. They are the
worst social pushers I've ever known.

[_She takes another sandwich._

CLARA. Trying to make people think they are on our visiting list! Using
even a funeral to get in!

MRS. HUNTER. But I _was_ glad the Worthings were here, and I thought it
_sweet_ of old Mr. Dormer to go even to the cemetery. [_Voice breaks a
little._] He never goes to balls any more, and, they say, catches cold
at the slightest change of temperature.

[_She takes a third sandwich._

BLANCHE. A great many people loved father.

MRS. HUNTER. [_Irritably._] They ought to've. It was really foolish the
way he was always doing something for somebody! How good these
sandwiches are! [_Spoken very plaintively._

JESSICA. Shall we have to economize now, mother?

MRS. HUNTER. Of course not; how dare you suggest such an injustice to
your _father_, and _before_ the flowers are withered on his grave!

[_Again becoming tearful._

[JORDAN _enters Left with a small silver tray, heaping full of letters._

Has the new writing paper come?

BLANCHE. [_Who takes the letters and looks through them, giving some to
her mother._] Yes.

[BLANCHE _reads a letter, and passes it to_ JESSICA.

MRS. HUNTER. Is the black border broad enough? They said it was the
thing.

CLARA. If you had it any broader, you'd have to get white ink to write
with!

MRS. HUNTER. [_Sweetly._] Don't be impertinent, darling!

[_Reading another letter._

[_Enter_ MISS RUTH HUNTER. _She is an unmarried woman between thirty and
forty years of age, handsome, distinguished; an aristocrat, without any
pretensions; simple, unaffected, and direct in her effort to do
kindnesses where they are not absolutely undeserved. She enters the room
as if she carried with her an atmosphere of pure ozone. This affects all
those in it. She is dressed in deep mourning and wears a thick chiffon
veil, which she removes as she enters._

RUTH. Oh! you're having tea!

[_Glad that they are._

MRS. HUNTER. [_Taking a second cup._] I thought the children _ought_ to.

RUTH. Of course they ought and so ought you, if you haven't.

MRS. HUNTER. Oh, I've _trifled_ with something.

JESSICA. Sit here, Aunt Ruth.

BLANCHE. Will you have a cup, Aunt Ruth?

RUTH. Yes, dear, I'm feeling _very_ hungry.

[_Sitting on the sofa beside_ JESSICA _and pressing her hand as she does
so._

MRS. HUNTER. Hungry! _How can you!_

RUTH. Because I'm not a _hypocrite_!

MRS. HUNTER. [_Whimpering._] I suppose that's a slur at me!

RUTH. If the slipper fits! But I confess I haven't eaten much for
several days; I couldn't touch anything this morning, and I begin to
feel exhausted; I must have food and, thank Heaven, I want it. Thank
you.

[_To_ BLANCHE, _taking the cup from her._

MRS. HUNTER. I think it's awful, Ruth, and I feel I have a right to say
it--I think you owed it to my feelings to have worn a long veil; people
will think you didn't love your brother.

RUTH. [_Dryly._] Will they? Let them! You know as well as I do that
George loathed the very idea of crêpe and all display of mourning.

MRS. HUNTER. [_Feeling out of her element, changes the subject._] You
stayed behind?

RUTH. Yes. I wanted to be the last there. [_Her voice chokes; she tries
to control herself._] Ah! you see my nerves are all gone to pieces. I
_won't_ cry any more!

MRS. HUNTER. I don't see how you could bear it--staying; but you never
had any heart, Ruth.

RUTH. [_Mechanically, biting her lips hard to keep the tears back._]
Haven't I?

MRS. HUNTER. My darling husband always felt that defect in you.

RUTH. George?

MRS. HUNTER. He resented your treatment of me, and often said so.

RUTH. [_Very quietly, but with determination._] Please be careful. Don't
talk to me like this about my brother, Florence--or you'll make me say
something I shall be sorry for.

MRS. HUNTER. I don't care! It wore on him, the way you treated me. I put
up with it for his sake, but it helped undermine his health.

RUTH. Florence, stop!

MRS. HUNTER. [_In foolish anger, the resentment of years bursting out._]
I _won't_ stop! I'm alone now, and the least you can do is to see that
people who've fought shy of me take me up and give me my due. You've
been a cruel, selfish sister-in-law, and your own brother saw and hated
you for it!

BLANCHE. _Mother!_

RUTH. [_Outraged._] Send your daughters out of the room; I wish to
answer you alone.

MRS. HUNTER. [_Frightened._] No! what you have to say to me I prefer my
children to hear!

[CLARA _comes over to her mother and puts her arm about her._

RUTH. I can't remain quiet any longer. George--[_She almost breaks down,
but she controls herself._] This funeral is enough, with its show and
worldliness! I don't believe there was a soul in the church you didn't
see! Look at your handkerchief! Real grief isn't measured by the width
of a black border. I'm ashamed of you, Florence! I never liked you very
much, although I tried to for your husband's sake, but now I'm even more
ashamed of you. My dear brother is gone, and there need be no further
bond between us, but I want you to understand the true reason why, from
to-day, I keep away from you. This funeral was revolting to me!--a show
spectacle, a social function, and for _him_ who you know _hated_ the
very thing. [_She stops a moment to control her tears and her anger._] I
saw the reporters there, and I heard your message to them, and I
contradicted it. I begged them not to use your information, and they
were gentlemen and promised me not to. You are, and always have been, a
silly, frivolous woman. I don't doubt you loved your husband as much as
you could any man, but it wasn't enough for me; he was worth being
adored by the best and noblest woman in the world. I've stood by all
these years, trying with my love and silent sympathy to be some comfort
to him--but I saw the disappointment and disillusionment eat away the
very _hope_ of happiness out of his heart. I tried to help him by
helping you in your foolish ambitions, doing what I could to give my
brother's wife the social position _his name_ entitled her to!

MRS. HUNTER. That's not true; I've had to fight it out all alone!

RUTH. It was not my fault if my best friends found you intolerable; _I_
couldn't blame them. Well, now it's over! George is at rest, please God.
You are a rich woman to do what you please. Go, and do it! and Heaven
forgive you for ruining my brother's life! I'm sorry to have said all
this before your children. Blanche, you know how dearly I love you, and
I hope you have forgiven me by now for my opposition to your marriage.

BLANCHE. Of course I've forgiven you, but you were always unjust to
Dick.

RUTH. Yes; I didn't like your husband then, and I didn't believe in him,
but I like him better now. And I am going to put all my affairs in his
hands. I couldn't show--surely--a better proof of confidence and liking
than that: to trust him as I did--your father. I hope I shall see much
of you and Jessica. As for you, Clara, I must be honest--

CLARA. [_Interrupting her._] Oh, I know you've always hated me! The
presents you gave the other girls were always twice as nice as I got!

MRS. HUNTER. [_Sympathetically._] Come here, darling.

[CLARA _goes and puts her arms about her mother's neck._

RUTH. You are your mother's own child, Clara, and I never could pretend
anything I didn't feel. [_She turns to_ BLANCHE _and_ JESSICA, _who
stand side by side._] You two are all I have left in the world of my
brother. [_She kisses them, and lets the tears come, this time without
struggling._] Take pity on your old-maid aunt and come and see me, won't
you, _often_--[_Trying to smile away her tears._] And now good-by!

JESSICA AND RUTH. [_Taking her hands._] Good-by.

[RUTH _looks about the room to say good-by to it; she cries and
hurriedly begins pulling down her veil, and starts to go out as_ JORDAN
_enters Left and announces "Mr. Mason!"_

[MRS. HUNTER _fluffs her hair a little and hopes she looks becoming._

[MASON _is a typical New Yorker, well built, well preserved, dignified,
and good-looking,--a solid man in every sense of the word._

MASON. [_Meeting_ RUTH, _shakes hands with her._] Miss Hunter.

RUTH. I am just going, Mr. Mason.

MASON. You must stay. I sent word to your house this morning to meet me
here.

[_Shakes hands with the others._

RUTH. I was here all night.

MRS. HUNTER. Will you have some tea? The children were hungry.

MASON. No, thank you. [_To_ BLANCHE.] Isn't your husband here?

[JORDAN, _at a signal from_ MRS. HUNTER, _removes the tea things._

BLANCHE. No, he left us at the door when we came back.

MASON. Didn't he get a letter from me this morning asking him to meet me
here?

BLANCHE. Oh, yes, he did mention a letter at breakfast, but my thoughts
were away. He has been very much worried lately over his affairs; he
doesn't confide in me, but I see it. I wish you could advise him, Mr.
Mason.

MASON. I cannot advise your husband if he won't _ask_ my advice. I don't
think we'll wait for Mr. Sterling.

[_Gives chair to_ MRS. HUNTER.

MRS. HUNTER. I suppose you've come about all the horrid business. Why
not just tell us how much our income is, and let all the details go. I
really think the details are more than I can bear to-day.

MASON. That can be certainly as you wish; but I felt--as your business
adviser--and besides I promised my old friend, your husband--it was my
duty to let you know how matters stand with the least possible delay.

MRS. HUNTER. [_Beginning to break down._] George! George!

[RUTH _looks at her, furious, and bites her lips hard._ JESSICA _is
standing with her back toward them._

MASON. Well, then--

[_He is interrupted by_ MRS. HUNTER, _who sees_ JESSICA.

MRS. HUNTER. Jess! How rude you are! Turn around this minute! [JESSICA
_does not move._] What do you mean! Excuse me, Mr. Mason! Jess! Such
disrespect to your father's will! Turn around! [_Angry._] Do you hear
me?

JESSICA. [_With her back still turned, her shoulders shaking, speaks in
a voice broken with sobs._] Leave me alone! Leave me alone--

[_She sits in a chair beside her and leans her arms upon its back and
buries her face in her arms._

BLANCHE. [_With her hand on her mother's arm._] Mother! Don't worry her!

MRS. HUNTER. Go on, please, Mr. Mason, and remember, _spare us the
details._ What is our income?

MASON. Mrs. Hunter, there is no income.

MRS. HUNTER. [_Quietly, not at all grasping what he means._] No income!
How is our money--

MASON. I am sorry to say there is _no_ money.

MRS. HUNTER. [_Echoes weakly._] No money?

MASON. Not a penny!

MRS. HUNTER. [_Realizing now what he means, cries out in a loud, hard,
amazed voice._] What!

BLANCHE. [_With her hand on her shoulder._] Mother!

MRS. HUNTER. I don't believe it!

RUTH. [_To_ MASON.] My good friend, do you mean that literally--that my
brother died without leaving _any_ money behind him?

MRS. HUNTER. For his wife and family?

MASON. I mean just that.

RUTH. But how?

MRS. HUNTER. Yes, _tell us the details_--every one of them! You can't
imagine the shock this is to me!

MASON. Hunter sent for me two days before he died, and told me things
had gone badly with him last year, but it seemed impossible to retrench
his expenses.

RUTH. _Are you listening, Florence?_

MRS. HUNTER. Yes, of course I am; your brother was a very extravagant
man!

MASON. This year, with his third daughter coming out, there was need of
more money than ever. He was harassed nearly to death with financial
worries. [RUTH _begins to cry softly._ MRS. HUNTER _gets angrier and
angrier._] And finally, in sheer desperation, and trusting to the advice
of the Storrings, he risked everything he had with them in the
Consolidated Copper. The day after, he was taken ill. You know what
happened. The Storrings, Hunter, and others were ruined absolutely; the
next day Hunter died.

RUTH. Poor George! Why didn't he come to me; he must have known that
everything I had was his!

MASON. He was too ill when the final blow came to realize it.

MRS. HUNTER. [_Angry._] But his _life insurance_,--there was a big
policy in my name.

MASON. He had been obliged to let that lapse.

MRS. HUNTER. You mean I haven't even my _life_ insurance?

MASON. As I said, there is nothing, except this house, and that is--

MRS. HUNTER. [_Rises indignantly and almost screams in angry
hysterics._] _Mortgaged_, I presume! Oh, it's insulting! It's an
indignity. It's--it's--Oh, well, it's just like my husband, there!

BLANCHE. Mother!

[RUTH _rises, and, taking_ MASON'S _arm, leads him aside._

MRS. HUNTER. [_To_ BLANCHE.] Oh, don't talk to me now! You always
preferred your father, and now you're punished for it! He has wilfully
left your mother and sisters paupers!

BLANCHE. How can you speak like that! Surely you know father must have
suffered more than we could when he realized he was leaving nothing for
you.

JESSICA. Yes, and it was for us too that he lost all. It was our
extravagance.

MRS. HUNTER. Hush! How dare _you_ side against me, too?

RUTH. Florence--

MRS. HUNTER. Well, Ruth, what do you think of your brother now?

BLANCHE. [_To her mother._] Don't!

MASON. By whom were the arrangements for to-day made?

MRS. HUNTER. My son-in-law had most pressing business, and his friend--

BLANCHE. The friend of all of us--

MRS. HUNTER. Yes, of course, Mr. Warden saw to everything.

BLANCHE. He will be here any moment!

MASON. When he comes, will you send him on to me, please?

RUTH. Yes.

MASON. Very well. Good-by. [_Shakes hands with_ BLANCHE.] I am very
sorry to have been the bearer of such bad news.

MRS. HUNTER. [_Shaking hands with him._] Please overlook anything I may
have said; at such a moment, with the loss of all my money--and my dear
husband--I don't know _what_ to say!

MASON. Naturally. [_To the others._] Good-by. [_To_ RUTH, _who follows
him._] I'll come to see you in the morning.

[_As they shake hands._

RUTH. And I can then tell you what I settle here now. [MASON _goes out
Left._] Florence, I'm very sorry--

[_Interrupted._

MRS. HUNTER. Oh! _You!_ Sorry!

RUTH. Yes, very, very sorry,--first, that I spoke as I did just now.

MRS. HUNTER. It's too late to be sorry for that now.

RUTH. No, it isn't, and I'll prove to you I mean it. Come, we'll talk
things over.

MRS. HUNTER. Go away! I don't want you to prove anything to me! [MRS.
HUNTER _and_ CLARA _sit side by side on the sofa._ BLANCHE _and_ JESSICA
_are in chairs near the table._ RUTH _sits beside_ BLANCHE. MRS. HUNTER
_has something the manner of porcupines and shows a set determination to
accept nothing by way of comfort or expedient._ BLANCHE _looks hopeful
and ready to take the helm for the family._ JESSICA _will back up_
BLANCHE.] My happiness in this world is over. What have I to live for?

RUTH. Your children!

MRS. HUNTER. Beggars like myself!

BLANCHE. But your children will work for you.

CLARA. Work! I see myself.

RUTH. So do I.

MRS. HUNTER. My children work! Don't be absurd!

JESSICA. It is not absurd! I can certainly earn my own living somehow
and so can Clara.

CLARA. Doing _what_, I should like to know! I see myself!

BLANCHE. Jess is right. I'll take care of this family--father always
said I was "his own child." I'll do my best to take his place.

RUTH. I will gladly give Jessica a home.

MRS. HUNTER. [_Whimpers._] You'd rob me of my children, too!

JESSICA. Thank you, Aunt Ruth, but I must stay with mother and be
Blanche's right-hand man!

CLARA. I might go on the stage.

MRS. HUNTER. My dear, smart people don't any more.

CLARA. I'd like to be a sort of Anna Held.

JESSICA. I don't see why I couldn't learn typewriting, Blanche?

MRS. HUNTER. Huh! Why, you could never even learn to play the piano; I
don't think you'd be much good at typewriting.

CLARA. You want to be a typewriter, because in the papers they always
have an old gentleman taking them to theatres and supper! No, sir, if
there is to be any "old man's darling" in this family, _I'll_ be _it_!

RUTH. [_Dryly._] You'll have to learn to spell correctly first!

CLARA. [_Superciliously._] Humph!

JESSICA. There are lots of ways nowadays for women to earn their living.

RUTH. Yes, typewriting we will consider.

MRS. HUNTER. Never!

[_No one pays any attention to her except_ CLARA, _who agrees with her._

RUTH. Jess, you learned enough to _teach_, didn't you?--even at that
fashionable school your mother sent you to?

JESSICA. Oh, yes, I think I could teach.

MRS. HUNTER. Never!

[_Still no one pays any attention except_ CLARA _who again agrees with
her._

CLARA. No, indeed! _I_ wouldn't teach!

BLANCHE. If we only knew some nice elderly woman who wanted a companion,
Jess would be a godsend.

CLARA. If she was a nice _old_ lady with lots of money and delicate
health, I wouldn't mind that position myself.

RUTH. Clara, you seem to take this matter as a supreme joke!

MRS. HUNTER. [_With mock humility._] May _I_ speak? [_She waits. All
turn to her. A moment's, silence._] MAY I speak?

RUTH. Yes, yes. Go on, Florence; don't you see we're listening?

MRS. HUNTER. I didn't know! I've been so completely ignored in this
entire conversation. But there is one thing for the girls--the easiest
possible way for them to earn their living--which you don't seem for a
moment to have thought of!

[_She waits with a smile of coming triumph on her face._

RUTH. Nursing!

MRS. HUNTER. [_Disgusted._] No!

CLARA. Manicuring?

MRS. HUNTER. _Darling!_

BLANCHE. Designing dresses and hats?

MRS. HUNTER. No!

JESSICA. Book-keeping?

MRS. HUNTER. No.

RUTH. Then what in the world is it?

MRS. HUNTER. Marriage!

CLARA. Oh, of course!

RUTH. Humph!

[JESSICA _and_ BLANCHE _exchange glances._

MRS. HUNTER. That young Mr. Trotter would be a fine catch for Jess.

JESSICA. Who loathes him!

MRS. HUNTER. Don't be old-fashioned! He's very nice.

RUTH. A little cad, trying to get into society--nice occupation for a
_man_!

JESSICA. Mother, you can't be serious.

CLARA. Why wouldn't he do for _me_?

RUTH. He _would_! The very thing!

MRS. HUNTER. We'll see, darling; I think Europe is the place for you. I
don't believe all the titles are gobbled up yet.

RUTH. Jess, I might get you some women friends of mine, to whom you
could go mornings and answer their letters.

MRS. HUNTER. I should not allow my daughter to go in that capacity to
the house of any woman who had refused to call on her mother, which is
the way most of your friends have treated me.

RUTH. Do you realize, Florence, this is a question of bread and butter,
a practical suggestion of life, which has nothing whatever to do with
the society columns of the daily papers?

MRS. HUNTER. I do _not_ intend that my daughters shall lose their
positions because their father has been--what shall we call
it--criminally negligent of them.

RUTH. [_Rising._] How dare you! You are to blame for it all. If you say
another word injurious to my brother's memory, I'll leave this house and
let you starve for all I'll do for you.

BLANCHE. Aunt Ruth, please, for father's sake--

CLARA. Well, this house is ours, anyway!

BLANCHE. That is what _I've_ been thinking of. The house is yours. It's
huge. You don't need it. You must either give it up altogether--

MRS. HUNTER. [_Interrupts._] _What! Leave it? My house! Never!_

BLANCHE. Or--let out floors to one or two friends,--bachelor friends.
Mr. Mason, perhaps--

CLARA. [_Interrupts, rising, furious._] Take in _boarders_!

MRS. HUNTER. [_Who has listened aghast, now rises in outraged dignity;
she stands a moment glaring at_ BLANCHE, _then speaks._] Take--[_She
chokes._] _That_ is the _last straw_!

[_And she sweeps from the room Right._

CLARA. Mama! Mama!

[_She goes out after her mother._

[_The other three women watch the two leave the room, then turn and look
at each other._

BLANCHE. We'll manage somehow, only I think it would be easier for us to
discuss all practical matters by _ourselves_.

RUTH. And I want you to understand this, girls,--I represent your dear
father; half of everything I have is yours, and you must promise me
always to come to me for everything.

[STERLING _enters suddenly Left._

[_He is a man of thirty-eight or forty, a singularly attractive
personality; he is handsome and distinguished. His hair is grayer than
his years may account for and his manner betrays a nervous system
overtaxed and barely under control. At the moment that he enters he is
evidently laboring under some especial, and only half-concealed, nervous
strain. In spite of his irritability at times with his wife, there is an
undercurrent of tenderness which reveals his real love for_ BLANCHE.

STERLING. Oh, you're all here! Have I missed old Mason?

RUTH. Yes, but Blanche will tell you what he had to say. I'm going
upstairs to try and pacify your mother. We mustn't forget she has a hard
time ahead of her.

[_She goes out Right with_ JESSICA.

STERLING. I suppose Mason came about the will and your father's affairs?

BLANCHE. Yes, you ought to have been here.

STERLING. [_Irritably._] But I couldn't--I told you I couldn't!

BLANCHE. Do you realize, dear, that you haven't been able to do
_anything for me_ for a long time? Lately, even I hardly ever _see_
you--I stay home night after night alone.

STERLING. That's your own fault, dear; Ned Warden's always ready to take
you anywhere you like.

BLANCHE. [_With the ghost of a jest._] But do you think it's quite right
for me to take up all Mr. Warden's time?

STERLING. Why not, if he likes it?

BLANCHE. And don't you think people will soon talk?

STERLING. Darling! People always talk, and who cares!

BLANCHE. It's months since you showed me any sign of affection, and now
when my heart is hungrier than ever for it,--you know how I loved my
father,--I long for sympathy from _you_, and you haven't once thought to
take me, your wife, in your arms and hold me close and comfort me.

STERLING. I'm sorry, old girl, I'm really sorry. [_Embracing her
affectionately._] And surely you know I don't love any other woman in
the world but you. [_He kisses her._] It's only because I've been
terribly worried. I don't want to bother you with business, but I've
been in an awful hole for money. I tried to make a big coup in Wall
Street the other day and only succeeded getting in deeper, and for the
last few days I've been nearly distracted.

BLANCHE. Why didn't you tell me?

STERLING. I thought I'd get out of it with this Consolidated Copper
without worrying you.

BLANCHE. You were in that, too?

STERLING. How do you mean I, "too"?

BLANCHE. Mr. Mason has just told us _father_ lost everything in it.

STERLING. [_Aghast._] You don't mean your father hasn't left any money?

BLANCHE. Nothing.

STERLING. [_Forgetting everything but what this means to him._] Nothing!
But I was counting on your share to save me! What did the damned old
fool mean?

BLANCHE. Dick!

STERLING. Forgive me, I didn't mean to say that.

BLANCHE. Oh, _who are you_! _What_ are you! You are not the man I
thought when I married you! Every day something new happens to frighten
me, to threaten my love for you!

STERLING. No, no, don't say that, old girl.

[_He tries to take her hand._

BLANCHE. What right have you to criticise my father, to curse him--and
to-day!

STERLING. I don't know what I'm saying, Blanche. Try to forgive me. I
wouldn't have thought of such a thing as his money to-day if it wasn't
the only thing that can save me from--disgrace.

[_His voice sinking almost to a whisper and the man himself sinking into
a chair._

BLANCHE. Disgrace! How? What disgrace?

[_Going to him._

STERLING. I can't explain it; you wouldn't understand.

BLANCHE. You must explain it! _Your_ disgrace is _mine_.

STERLING. [_Alarmed at having said so much, tries to retract a little._]
Disgrace was too strong a word--I didn't mean that. I'm in trouble. I'm
in trouble. Good God, can't you see it? And if you love me, why don't
you leave me alone?

BLANCHE. How can I go on loving you without your confidence?--without
ever being suffered to give you any sympathy? Doll wives are out of
fashion, and even if they weren't, I could never be one.

STERLING. [_Laughing._] My dear, I'd never accuse you of being stuffed
with sawdust.

BLANCHE. Oh, and now you joke about it. Take care, Dick.

STERLING. What's this, a threat?

BLANCHE. Yes, if you like to call it that. You've been putting me more
and more completely out of your life; take care that I don't finish your
work and go the last step.

STERLING. [_Seizing her roughly by the wrist._] The last step! What do
you mean by that? [_Holding her hand more roughly._] _You dare_ to be
unfaithful to me!

BLANCHE. What! You could think I meant that! Ugh! How could you?

STERLING. Well, what did you mean then? Eh?

[_Pulling her up close to him, her face close to his. She realizes first
by the odor, then by a searching look at his face, that he is partly
under the influence of liquor._

BLANCHE. [_With pathetic shame._] Let me go! I see what's the matter
with you, but the reason is no excuse; you've been drinking.

STERLING. [_Dropping her hand._] Ugh! The usual whimper of a woman!

[RUTH _reënters Right._

RUTH. Well, Blanche, dear, your mother's in a calmer frame of mind, and
I must go. Dick, can you lunch with me to-morrow?

STERLING. [_Hesitating, not caring about it._] Er--to-morrow?--er--

RUTH. Oh, only for business. I must have a new business man now to do
all that _he_ did for me, and I'm going to try to make up to you for not
having been always your--_best_ friend, by putting my affairs in _your_
hands.

BLANCHE. [_Serious, uneasy, almost frightened._] Aunt Ruth--

[_She stops._

RUTH. What, dear?

BLANCHE. Nothing.

[_She gives_ STERLING _a searching, steady look and keeps her eyes upon
him, trying to read his real self._

RUTH. [_Continues to_ STERLING.] Mr. Mason is coming to me in the
morning, and if you will lunch with me at one, I will then be able to
give all the papers over to you.

[STERLING, _who up to this time has been almost dumbfounded by this
sudden good fortune, now collects himself, and speaks delightedly but
with sufficient reserve of his feelings._ BLANCHE _does not take her
eyes from_ STERLING'S _face._

STERLING. Aunt Ruth, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and I will
do my best.

BLANCHE. [_Quickly._] Promise her, Dick, before me--give her your word
of honor--you will be faithful to Aunt Ruth's trust.

[_He answers_ BLANCHE'S _look steadily with a hard gaze of his own._

RUTH. His acceptance of my trust is equal to that, Blanche.

BLANCHE. It is of course, isn't it, Dick?

STERLING. Of course.

[BLANCHE _is not content, but has to satisfy herself with this._

RUTH. To-morrow at one, then.

[_She starts to go._

[JORDAN _enters Left._

JORDAN. Mr. Warden.

RUTH. I can't wait. Good-by.

[_She goes out Left._

BLANCHE. We will see Mr. Warden.

JORDAN. Yes, madam.

[_He goes out Left._

STERLING. Blanche, go to your mother and ask her to see Ned to thank
him. I want a minute's talk with him if you don't mind.

BLANCHE. [_Pathetically._] What difference does it make, Dick, if I _do_
mind?

STERLING. Don't say that, old girl, and don't think it.

BLANCHE. Dick, you _are_ honest, aren't you?

STERLING. [_Without flinching._] What a question, Blanche!

[JORDAN _enters Left announcing "Mr. Warden."_ WARDEN _enters, and_
JORDAN _goes out._

[EDWARD WARDEN, _though in reality scarcely younger than_ STERLING,
_looks at least ten years his junior. He is good-looking, practical, a
reasoning being, and self-controlled. He is a thorough American, with
the fresh and strong ideals of his race, and with the feeling of romance
alive in the bottom of his heart._

STERLING. [_In enormous relief, greets him joyfully._] Ned, what do you
think! The greatest news going!

BLANCHE. Dick!

STERLING. Excuse me, Blanche, I forgot; but Ned will know how I can't
help being glad.

[WARDEN _goes to_ MRS. STERLING.

BLANCHE. [_Shaking_ NED'S _hand._] And Mr. Warden knows nothing could
make me "_glad_" to-day. Thank you for all your kindness--

WARDEN. Don't thank me; it was nothing.

BLANCHE. Yes, please let me thank you all I can; it won't be half what I
feel, but I want to know that you know even my silence is full of
gratitude for all you've done for my mother, sisters, and me.

STERLING. Yes, we're all immensely indebted to you, Ned, old man.

BLANCHE. I will tell mother. I know she wants to see you.

[_She goes out Right._

STERLING. [_Speaking with suppressed excitement and uncontrollable
gladness, unable to keep it back any longer._] Ned, my wife's aunt, Miss
Hunter, has put all her business in my hands.

WARDEN. Made you her agent?

STERLING. Yes! What a godsend! Hunter didn't leave a cent.

[_A moment's pause of astonishment._]

WARDEN. What do you mean?

STERLING. It seems he's been losing for a long time. Everything he had
he lost in the copper crash.

WARDEN. But this is awful! What will Mrs. Hunter and her two young
daughters do?

STERLING. I don't know. I hadn't thought of that.

WARDEN. You'll have to think of it.

STERLING. I?

WARDEN. Of course you'll have to help them.

STERLING. I can't! Look here, I didn't tell you the truth about my
affairs last week, when I struck you for that loan.

WARDEN. You don't mean to say you weren't straight with me?

STERLING. Oh, I only didn't want to frighten you till I'd got the money;
if you had made me the loan, I'd have owned up afterwards all right
enough.

WARDEN. Owned up what?

STERLING. That I told you a pack of lies--that I haven't any
security!--that I haven't anything but _debts_.

WARDEN. [_Strongly._] Good things to borrow on! Look here, Dick, how
long have we been friends?

STERLING. Since that day at boarding school when you took a licking for
something I did.

WARDEN. What I mean is we were pals at school, chums at college, stanch
friends for twenty years.

STERLING. Hell! Are we as old as all that?

WARDEN. Inseparable friends till the last two years.

[STERLING'S _eyes shift._

STERLING. I've been overworked lately, and everything has gone wrong!

WARDEN. [_Comes up to him, and speaks firmly but still friendly._] You
_yourself_ have _gone wrong_!

STERLING. [_On the defensive._] What do you mean?

WARDEN. Why did you take your business out of my hands?

STERLING. The law didn't pay me enough. I thought I'd try a little
amateur stockbroking.

[_Smiling insincerely._

WARDEN. You didn't want _me to know_ what you were doing!

STERLING. Rats!

WARDEN. You didn't want me to know what funds--_whose_ funds--you were
using--_mis_using.

STERLING. [_Ugly._] What!

WARDEN. Whose money you were gambling with!

STERLING. Have you been spying on me?

WARDEN. Your _wife's_ money!

STERLING. Well, she's _my_ wife, and you don't know what you're talking
about!

[_He turns from him and picks up a book from the table upside down and
pretends to read it._

WARDEN. You stole from me once when you were a boy!

STERLING. No! I didn't!

[_Throwing the book down._

WARDEN. You lie! Do you hear me? _You lie!_ [_He waits a second._
STERLING _does nothing._] I was never sure till to-day! I fought against
ever thinking it, believing my suspicions were an injustice to you, but
little things were always disappearing out of my rooms--finally, even
money. Lately, that old suspicion has come back with a fuller force, and
to-day it became a certainty.

STERLING. How to-day?

WARDEN. Because if it weren't true, you'd have knocked me down just now
when I called you first a thief and _twice_ a liar!

[_He stands squarely facing him._ STERLING _stands facing him also,
surprised, taken off his guard._

STERLING. Oh, come, you're joking! [WARDEN _makes an angry
exclamation._] Why're you telling me all this now?

WARDEN. Because I want you to be careful. I want you to know some one is
watching you! Some one who knows what you've come to! Some one who knows
you can't resist temptation! Some one who knows money not yours _has_
stuck to your fingers!

STERLING. You mind your own business.

WARDEN. I'll mind _yours_ if it's necessary to protect people who are
dear to me!

[STERLING _looks at him with a sudden suspicion._

STERLING. [_Insinuatingly._] I didn't know you were particularly
attached to Mrs. Hunter.

WARDEN. I'm not.

STERLING. Or to her two unmarried daughters!

WARDEN. Nor am I!

STERLING. [_With whispered intensity._] By God, if you are in love with
my wife!

WARDEN. If you thought that out loud, I'd knock you down!

STERLING. Huh! you talk as if you thought I were a coward!

WARDEN. No, not a _physical_ coward--I've seen you do too many plucky
things--but a _moral_ coward--yes, you are one!

[_Straight to him, standing close and looking him squarely in the eyes._

STERLING. [_Wavering._] Oh, you're too damned preachy!

[MRS. HUNTER _enters Right with_ CLARA. MRS. HUNTER _shakes hands with_
WARDEN _silently, happy in the feeling that she is in great affliction,
and satisfied with the appearance and impression she is making. She
carries her handkerchief, with its black border, ready in her hand._
CLARA _has silently shaken hands with_ WARDEN, _after her mother. She
afterwards goes to_ STERLING _and hands him several of the letters of
condolence. She then goes to the window at Left, pulling aside the
curtain, and stands looking out, rather bored, wishing she could go out
and take a walk._

MRS. HUNTER. We will never forget your kindness. Will the evening papers
have anything in, do you think?

WARDEN. No, not before morning.

MRS. HUNTER. [_Sighs._] Every one was there.

STERLING. Where's Blanche?

MRS. HUNTER. Upstairs. She said she was going after Aunt Ruth.

STERLING. [_Frightened._] After Aunt Ruth? [_Strongly._] What for?

MRS. HUNTER. I don't know. [_Whimpering._] I'm not considered in the
family any longer!

STERLING. I shall stop and take her home.

[JORDAN _enters._

JORDAN. Will you see visitors, madam?

STERLING. No.

[_He goes out Right._

MRS. HUNTER. "No"? Yes, we will! I need to see some one, or I shall
break down. Go upstairs, Clara!

CLARA. No, _why_ need I?

MRS. HUNTER. You're not out yet.

CLARA. I don't care! At this rate I'll never get "out." Who are they,
Jordan?

JORDAN. Miss Sillerton, Miss Godesby, and Mr. Trotter, miss.

WARDEN. I must go, Mrs. Hunter.

MRS. HUNTER. [_Relieved._] So sorry. Could you go straight to Mr. Mason?
He wishes to see you?

[_Shaking hands._

WARDEN. Certainly.

MRS. HUNTER. Thank you.

[WARDEN _inclines his head to_ CLARA.

CLARA. [_Lightly._] Good-by!

[WARDEN _goes out Left._

MRS. HUNTER. I don't think we ought to receive Mr. Trotter.

CLARA. Pshaw! why not? If there's really any idea of my mar--

[_She stops short, silenced by a look from her mother and an indication
toward_ JORDAN.

MRS. HUNTER. Show them up, Jordan. [JORDAN _bows and goes out._] How do I
look, dear?

[_Arranges her handkerchief._

CLARA. [_Looking in the mirror._] How do I?

MRS. HUNTER. [_With her back to_ CLARA.] I asked you first how _I_
looked!

CLARA. [_Not observing._] Oh, you're all right, how am I?

MRS. HUNTER. [_Not looking at_ CLARA.] Charming! We'll go upstairs and
come down again; I don't think it nice to be found here as if we were
expecting visitors.

[_They go out Right._

[JORDAN _steps into the room to announce the visitors, and seeing no one
there, bows as the three pass him._

JORDAN. The ladies will be down at once.

[_He goes out Right._

[_The three turn, looking about the room with curiosity, as if the
funeral might have made some difference in the house._

[MISS SILLERTON _is a handsome, attractive woman, most fashionably
dressed and perfectly conventional in character and intelligence._ MISS
GODESBY _is a little slow, more assertive, sharper of tongue, more
acutely intelligent, and equally smartly dressed. She has still a
remnant of real, sincere feeling buried under a cynical mask which her
life in a fast set has developed for her self-preservation._ TROTTER _is
a foolish young person, meaning well enough according to his lights,
which are not of the biggest and brightest._

TROTTER. Classy house altogether!

MISS SILLERTON. Mrs. Hunter went to the most expensive decorator in
town, and told him, no matter what it cost, to go ahead and do his
_worst_!

[_They all laugh and seat themselves comfortably._

TROTTER. Say! The youngest daughter is a good looker--very classy.

MISS SILLERTON. That's the one we told you about, the one we want you to
marry.

MISS GODESBY. Yes, with your money and her cleverness, she'll rubber
neck you into the smartest push in town!

TROTTER. You've promised I shall know the whole classy lot before
spring.

MISS GODESBY. So you will if you do as we tell you. But you mustn't let
society see that you _know_ you're getting in; nothing pleases society
so much as to think you're a blatant idiot. It makes everybody feel
you're their equal--that's why you get in.

TROTTER. I've got a coach and can drive four-in-hand. I've an automobile
drag, and the biggest private yacht in the world building. I'm going to
have the most expensive house in Long Island, where the oysters come
from, and I've bought a lot in Newport twice as big as the swellest
fellow's there. I've got a house in London and a flat in Paris, and I
make money fly. I think I ought to be a cinch as a classy success.

MISS GODESBY. Don't be a yap; flag Clara Hunter and you're all right!

MISS SILLERTON. Her father's position was the best in this country!

TROTTER. But he's dead.

[_Sitting._

MISS GODESBY. A good thing for you, for he would never have stood for
you!

TROTTER. He'd have had to--or do without me as a son-in-law--I wouldn't
marry the Venus of Milo if her father didn't think I was good enough.
I'm no Dodo bird!

MISS GODESBY. It's up to you now, Trotter! Go in and win.

[_Enter_ TOMPSON _Right; a decided change takes place in all their
manners._

TOMPSON. Madam will be down at once, miss.

MISS SILLERTON. Thank you.

[TOMPSON _goes out Right._

MISS GODESBY. Only stay a minute or two, Trotty--we're doing our best
for you, but we must look out for ourselves, too, and we've come here
to-day on business.

MISS SILLERTON. How'll we ever get the subject on to clothes?

MISS GODESBY. Humph! Do you think you can talk five minutes with Mrs.
Hunter and not hit that topic? It's a bull's eye!

TROTTER. I don't see where I'm going to come into this classy
conversation.

MISS GODESBY. You see, Trotty, they brought over piles of clothes from
Europe this year, and we want to get hold of them before any one else
has a chance--get 'em cheap before they have an idea anybody else'll buy
them.

TROTTER. Who buy what?

MISS SILLERTON. _We_--buy their winter clothes.

TROTTER. For Heaven's sake!

MISS GODESBY. Laugh, you silly! I heard the Reed girls planning to come
to-morrow. They didn't dare come to-day. Those girls haven't any sand!
They're always getting left.

TROTTER. You two _are_ Dodo birds!

MISS GODESBY. I say, Eleanor, you're such a lobster about prices and
Mrs. Hunter's no idiot, we'd better agree on some sort of a signal!
Listen! if you like a gown very much, ask the price, then say to me, "My
dear, your hat pin is coming out." And if I think it's a bargain, I'll
say, "So it is, thank you; won't you put it in for me?" And if I think
Mrs. Hunter's trying to stick you, I'll say "No, it isn't; it's always
like that."

MISS SILLERTON. All right.

[MRS. HUNTER _and_ CLARA _enter Right. The manner of_ MISS SILLERTON
_and_ MISS GODESBY _changes immediately. They speak with rather subdued
voices, in the tone of conventional sympathy which is usually adopted on
such occasions._ MRS. HUNTER _also assumes the manner of a martyr to
grief._ CLARA _is casual and hard._

MISS SILLERTON. [_Shakes hands with_ MRS. HUNTER.] Dear Mrs. Hunter.

[_She kisses her._

Clara, dear.

[_She kisses her._

[MISS GODESBY _goes to_ MRS. HUNTER _and shakes hands while_ MISS
SILLERTON _crosses to_ CLARA; _Trotter shakes hands with_ MRS. HUNTER
_as_ MISS GODESBY _goes to_ CLARA.

TROTTER. I hope you don't think my coming an intrusion.

MRS. HUNTER. Not at all.

MISS GODESBY. I felt we must stop in for a few minutes to give you our
love and sympathy and find out how you are.

MRS. HUNTER. I've been through a terrible strain. My loss is even
greater than I could ever possibly imagine.

CLARA. [_Who misinterprets her mother's remark._] Yes, indeed, I should
say it was!

[MRS. HUNTER _stops her with a warning look._

MRS. HUNTER. But every one has been most kind. _Lady Hopeton_ sent me a
beautiful long letter to-day.

MISS GODESBY. And I'm glad to find you looking so well. Black _suits_
you!

[_She exchanges a knowing glance with_ MISS SILLERTON.

MRS. HUNTER. Oh, I don't know, Julia; I've always thought black very
_trying_ for me.

MISS GODESBY. Oh, _no! every one's_ saying _just_ the reverse!

MRS. HUNTER. But--I suppose clothes don't interest you, Mr. Trotter?

TROTTER. Oh, yes, they do, out of sight!

CLARA. Well, I wish you could have seen the beautiful things we brought
over with us!

MISS SILLERTON. Julia and I were just speaking about it, and pitying you
from the bottom of our hearts.

[MISS SILLERTON _and_ MISS GODESBY _again exchange surreptitious
glances._

MRS. HUNTER. Every one's been most kind.

[_There is an awkward pause for a moment, no one knowing quite what to
say. Both_ MISS GODESBY _and_ MISS SILLERTON _have started the
conversation in the direction of clothing and are fearful of the topic
being changed. As the pause becomes embarrassing, they look helplessly
from one to the other, and all five, suddenly and at once, make an
ineffectual effort to say something--or nothing. Out of the general
confusion_ MRS. HUNTER _comes to the front, mistress of the situation._]
Are you going to stay in New York this winter, Mr. Trotter?

TROTTER. Yes, I'm negotiating for one of the biggest classy building
plots on upper Fifth Avenue.

CLARA. [_To_ MISS GODESBY.] I saw in the papers you were at the dance
last night.

[MISS GODESBY _nods and motions surreptitiously to_ TROTTER _to go. He,
however, doesn't understand._

MRS. HUNTER. [_With interest again in life._] Oh, _were you?_ What did
you wear?

MISS GODESBY. Oh, dowdy old things. I haven't bought my winter frocks
yet.

[_She repeats this casually as if to herself._

[MISS SILLERTON _motions to_ TROTTER _to go, but he has forgotten and
still doesn't understand._

TROTTER. What?

MISS GODESBY. You warned us not to let you forget your engagement!

TROTTER. What engagement?

MISS SILLERTON. How do we know! we only know you said you _had_ to go!

TROTTER. Never said so! Oh! [_As it dawns upon him._] Oh, yes! of
course. [_He rises._] Very sorry--must be off. Only dropped in--er--that
is, came in to express my respectful sympathy.

[_Shaking hands with_ MRS. HUNTER.

MRS. HUNTER. [_Who rises._] I hope you will come and see us again.

CLARA. Do! It'll be a godsend! We'll be dull as ditchwater here this
winter!

TROTTER. I shall be delighted to call again. Good-by. [_He bows to
Clara. In his embarrassment he starts to shake hands all over again,
but, realizing his mistake, laughs nervously._] Oh, I have already.

MISS SILLERTON. Good-by, Trotter.

MISS GODESBY. Don't forget we're booked with you at Sherry's.

TROTTER. Whose treat?

MISS GODESBY. Oh! _Yours_, of course--

TROTTER. I say, why can't I stay? I won't interfere.

MRS. HUNTER. Oh, do stay, Mr. Trotter!

MISS GODESBY. Oh, do stay!

[_Suggesting by her tone that he mustn't dare to remain._

CLARA. Good!

[TROTTER _remains, and they all settle themselves again for a long
stay._

MRS. HUNTER. By the way, you were speaking just now of your winter
frocks. It occurs to me--of course I don't know as I really want to
dispose of them, but--er--

[_She hesitates purposely._

MISS GODESBY. Oh, _would_ you? [_Rising, she takes a chair nearer to_
MRS. HUNTER.] You _dear_ thing!

MRS. HUNTER. The dresses are no use to us now, and when _we're_ out of
mourning--_they'll_ be out of style. You could wear Jess' things
perfectly, Julia.

MISS SILLERTON. And even something of yours could be made over for us.

MRS. HUNTER. But I'm so much older than you!

MISS SILLERTON. [_Thoughtlessly._] Yes, but you never dress
appropriately to your age.

CLARA. [_Laughing delightedly._] That's pretty good!

MISS SILLERTON. [_Saves herself._] You know what I mean, you always
_look_ so _youthful_, you _can't_ dress any older.

MRS. HUNTER. [_Rising._] Clara, dear, go upstairs and have Tompson bring
down my Worth dress and Jess' Doucet and your Paquin. [_She goes with_
CLARA _to the door, Right, and then whispers to her._] If you remember,
don't tell what we paid--we ought to get nearly double out of these
girls--and warn Tompson not to be surprised at anything she hears.

[MISS GODESBY _and_ MISS SILLERTON _exchange glances._ CLARA _goes out
Right._

MRS. HUNTER. It seems as if I had no further interest in clothes,
anyway.

MISS GODESBY. Don't say that. Every one I've seen this afternoon is
wildly enthusiastic over your mourning.

MRS. HUNTER. Well, I went straight to Madame O'Hoolihan and gave her
carte blank!

MISS GODESBY. I wouldn't like to be the ice man when your bill comes
in!--and clothes abroad are so much cheaper.

MRS. HUNTER. [_Thoughtlessly._] Oh, _half!_

MISS GODESBY. [_Quickly._] You see you'll be doing us a really great
favor letting us have some of your things!

MRS. HUNTER. [_Realizing her nearly fatal error._] Oh! Oh,
yes--but--er--I must say that _we_ found prices while in Paris _this
year_ rather _atrocious!_

[CLARA _reënters Right._

CLARA. [_Sighs._] O dear! It breaks my heart not to wear my ball dress,
my dear Julia; it was designed specially for me. I told Marie to put it
on, mama; my clothes fit her perfectly, and I thought it would show so
much better what it is.

MRS. HUNTER. Here they are.

[_Rises as_ TOMPSON _enters Right._

TOMPSON. Mrs. Hunter's reception gown.

[_Displaying it._

CLARA. Oh, this _is_ a beauty!

[_She takes the costume and drapes it over a chair._ MISS GODESBY _and_
MISS SILLERTON _come closer to examine._

MRS. HUNTER. Tompson.--[_Taking her to one side, whispers._]--I forget;
do you remember what I paid for this dress?

TOMPSON. [_Whispers back._] One hundred and sixty dollars, madam.

MRS. HUNTER. Oh, yes. Don't say anything. [_Returning to the others._]
Do you like it?

MISS SILLERTON. Perfectly lovely!    }
                                     }        [_At the same time._
MISS GODESBY. Immensely. It's great! }

MRS. HUNTER. [_Hesitates._] I forget just what I paid for it, but I
believe it was two hundred dollars.

[CLARA _half exclaims in astonishment, but on being pinched
surreptitiously on the arm by_ MRS. HUNTER _she grasps the situation and
starts in to do her share._

CLARA. Oh, no, mama! I'm sure it was more than that!

MRS. HUNTER. Well, perhaps it was two--twenty or two--twenty-five.

TROTTER. That's cheap, isn't it?

MISS GODESBY. Shut up.

[TOMPSON'S _face is always a perfect blank, showing no expression or
surprise; she has lived with_ MRS. HUNTER _for many years and "knows her
business."_

MISS GODESBY. [_In a very different tone of voice, influenced by the big
price._] Of course, I see it's made of the best material. But it isn't
my color.

MRS. HUNTER. It's the very latest shade.

MISS GODESBY. Yes, I know; but I think as you said a little while ago,
perhaps it is a trifle too old for me.

MRS. HUNTER. I might let you have it for a little less; say one hundred
and eighty.

MISS GODESBY. Thank you very much. I'll think it over.

MISS SILLERTON. What's the other?

CLARA. This is a dinner dress of Jess'.

[_Holding it up to her own waist._

MISS SILLERTON. [_Carried away by the dress._] Oh, lovely,--perfectly
charming,--an adorable gown!

[MISS GODESBY _pulls her arm and tries to make her less enthusiastic._

MISS GODESBY. [_To_ CLARA _and_ MRS. HUNTER.] Excuse me.

[_She takes_ MISS SILLERTON _to one side and whispers in her ear._

MISS SILLERTON. [_Aloud._] I can't help it. I'm crazy about the dress!

[_Meanwhile_ MRS. HUNTER _and_ TOMPSON _have whispered together._

MRS. HUNTER. They said themselves this was the most successful frock
they turned out this autumn.

MISS SILLERTON. And how much is _this_ one?

MRS. HUNTER. [_Very quickly, trying not to speak consciously._] This was
two hundred and seventy-five.

[CLARA _bites her lips in surprise and winks visibly to_ TOMPSON, _who
gives no sign and is otherwise imperturbable._

MISS SILLERTON. [_To_ MISS GODESBY, _looking hard at her._] My dear,
your hat pin is coming out!

MISS GODESBY. [_Looking hard at her._] No, it isn't; it's always like
that.

MISS SILLERTON. [_Going closer to her, whispers._] Which does that mean?
I forget!

MISS GODESBY. It's a _gouge_!

MISS SILLERTON. I can't help it; I can't resist.

MISS HUNTER. [_Whispers to_ CLARA.] She's going to take it; I wish I'd
asked more.

MISS SILLERTON. Mrs. Hunter, I'll _take_ the dinner dress! I'm crazy
about it!

MRS. HUNTER. I'm glad to have you have it; I'm glad to be able to do
you, in a way, a favor.

[MARIE _at this moment enters dressed in the most exquisite ball dress
of the very latest fashion and looks extremely lovely._

CLARA. Here's mine! I could cry to think I'll never wear it!

MARIE. _Voila_, madame!

[_A short silence, while the women sit down and drink in the gown._

MISS SILLERTON. [_In a subdued voice of awed admiration._] Beautiful!

MISS GODESBY. Great!

TROTTER. [_To_ MISS GODESBY.] _I'm_ stuck on the _girl_; introduce me.
She's out of sight!

[MRS. HUNTER _sighs long and loud,--a sigh of appreciation and
admiration._ MARIE _stands in the centre of the stage facing the
audience._

MISS GODESBY. May we see her back?

CLARA. Her _entire_ back, if she turns around!

MRS. HUNTER. Turn around, Marie.

MARIE. _Oui_, madame.

[_She turns her back--the dress is cut extremely in the back._

MISS SILLERTON. Oh!

MISS GODESBY. Rather!

MRS. HUNTER. The way everything is made this year.

MISS GODESBY. I'm afraid my back is rather full of bones.

CLARA. They told us in Paris, bones were coming in! [_She takes a large
American beauty rose from a vase on the piano and slips it down_ MARIE'S
_back so that the dress seems much less décolleté._] There, never too
late to mend!

MISS GODESBY. How much is this one?

[MISS GODESBY _and_ MISS SILLERTON _examine the dress._

CLARA. [_Whispers to_ MRS. HUNTER.] You paid two hundred for it!

MRS. HUNTER. Three hundred dollars. It is really superb.

MISS SILLERTON. [_Pulling_ MISS GODESBY _around quickly._] My dear, your
hat pin is coming out!

MISS GODESBY. Don't be absurd!

MISS SILLERTON. What?

MISS GODESBY. It's my turn, sit down; you got the last! You won't mind
my being frank, Mrs. Hunter?

MRS. HUNTER. [_On the defensive._] Certainly not.

MISS GODESBY. I think the price is too much.

TROTTER. Oh, go on, pay it!

MISS GODESBY. Will you sign the check?

TROTTER. _Excuse me!_

CLARA. I'd give twice that if only I could wear it to one ball this
winter!

MRS. HUNTER. I wouldn't part with it for a penny less. I couldn't afford
to.

[_The manners and voices of all become a little strained._

MISS GODESBY. That is of course your affair.

MRS. HUNTER. [_Politely._] We needn't keep Marie any longer, at any
rate, need we? You can go, Marie, and you too, Tompson.

[CLARA _and_ MRS. HUNTER _help place the other dresses on_ TOMPSON'S
_arms._

MISS SILLERTON. [_To_ MISS GODESBY, _on the opposite side of the room,
in a lowered voice._] I'll take it; I'm willing to pay that.

MISS GODESBY. Don't you dare interfere! I want the gown, but I know
she'll come down,--if she doesn't, I'll make a bluff at going. Then if
she sticks to her price, I'll come back and pay it.

[_They turn to_ MRS. HUNTER.

MISS SILLERTON. Oh, Mrs. Hunter, may I see my dress just one more
minute?

MRS. HUNTER. Certainly.

[_She and_ CLARA _come back with the dress._

MARIE. [_To_ TOMPSON _by the door at Right._]

_Vite!_ Come! Come! Jordan 'ave stole ze photograph machine of Mees
Clara, and he make now one pigsher of me in ze dress!

[_Smiling mischievously, delighted, she goes out Right._

MISS SILLERTON. Thank you.

[_She leaves her dress._

MRS. HUNTER. Take this too, Tompson.

TOMPSON. Yes, madam.

[MRS. HUNTER _speaks to_ TOMPSON, _aside, and_ CLARA, _near them,
watches the two visitors out of the corner of her eye._

MISS GODESBY. [_Aside to_ MISS SILLERTON.] I'll leave my muff; that'll
be a good excuse to come back.

TROTTER. [_Also in a lowered voice to_ MISS GODESBY.] Dodo!

[TOMPSON _goes out Right._

[MRS. HUNTER _and_ CLARA _come back._

MISS GODESBY. You really couldn't take less than three hundred?

MRS. HUNTER. I wish I could if only for your own sake; but I really
couldn't in justice to myself.

MISS GODESBY. I'm very sorry--and I'm afraid we must be going now.

MRS. HUNTER. [_Not believing they will go._] Oh, must you? Well, it was
very kind of you to come.

[MISS GODESBY _leaves her muff upon the table at the Left._

MISS SILLERTON. [_Shakes hands with_ MRS. HUNTER.] Good-by.

[_She goes on to_ CLARA.

[MISS GODESBY _comes to shake hands with_ MRS. HUNTER.

MRS. HUNTER. I think you're making a mistake not to take the dress,
Julia dear.

MISS GODESBY. Perhaps, but I really can't go more than two hundred and
fifty.

[MRS. HUNTER _looks surreptitiously at_ CLARA, _who slyly shakes her
head to her mother._

MRS. HUNTER. Oh, quite impossible!

MISS GODESBY. Good-by.

MRS. HUNTER. Good-by.

MISS GODESBY. Good-by, Clara.

MRS. HUNTER. [_Frightened._] Would you like to see the dress off?

MISS GODESBY. Oh, my dear, it was as _off_ as I would ever like to see
it. Good-by.

MRS. HUNTER. Good-by. [MISS SILLERTON _and_ MISS GODESBY _get to doorway
Left._] You _won't_ take it?

MISS GODESBY. _Can't!_ Good-by.

CLARA. [_Dryly._] You're forgetting your muff!

TROTTER. Rubber!

MISS GODESBY. [_Coming back for it._] How stupid!

[_She goes away to the door again in silence, which is full of suspense
for all of them. As she reaches the door_ MRS. HUNTER _speaks._

MRS. HUNTER. Look here, Julia, don't say another word; you shall have
the dress for two hundred and fifty.

MISS GODESBY. [_Rushing back, followed by all the others._] You dear!
I'm afraid you think I've been rather nasty!

MRS. HUNTER. Oh, no, of course business is business, and I'd _rather
you_ had it than see it wasted on some of our other friends who'd be
sights in it!

MISS SILLERTON. Good-by. [_Kisses her this time._] I haven't said half I
feel; you've been in my thoughts all these last few days.

MRS. HUNTER. Thank you, dear.

[_Kisses her._

MISS GODESBY. Shall we send around for the dresses in the morning?

MRS. HUNTER. Or I'll send them.

MISS GODESBY. No, we won't trouble you.

MISS SILLERTON. Good-by!

MRS. HUNTER AND CLARA. Good-by!

[MISS SILLERTON _and_ MISS GODESBY _go out Left, followed by_ TROTTER,
_who has joined in all the good-bys, and upon whom_ CLARA _has more or
less continuously kept her "weather eye."_

MRS. HUNTER. I'm perfectly sure if I'd stuck to three hundred, Julia
Godesby would have sent around when she got home and paid it!

CLARA. I'm glad you didn't run the risk though, for we'll need every
cent we can get now.

[_She runs her fingers rapidly over the piano keys._

[BLANCHE _reënters Right._

MRS. HUNTER. Why, I thought you'd gone long ago.

BLANCHE. Jess begged me to stay with her. Try to understand her, mother;
I think she will miss father more than any of us.

[JORDAN _enters Left._

JORDAN. Mr. Warden has come back, madam.

[WARDEN _enters Left._

WARDEN. Forgive my intruding so soon again, but did Mr. Mason leave a
letter case of Mr. Hunter's here?

[BLANCHE _begins looking for the case._

MRS. HUNTER. I haven't seen it; I'll ask the servants to look. Excuse
me, I'm quite tired out; we've been receiving a long visit of
condolence.

[_She goes out, Right, with_ CLARA, _who links her arm in her mother's._

BLANCHE. [_Finding the case, which has fallen beneath the table._] Here
it is. Dear old pocket-book--

[_Her voice breaks on the last word, and turning her face away to hide
her tears, she hands him the well-worn letter case._

WARDEN. Mrs. Sterling, I'm glad they left us alone, because Mr. Mason
said he hadn't been able to manage it--to see you alone--and yet he
wanted _you only_ to examine these. They are private papers of Mr.
Hunter; he thought they ought not to be destroyed without being read,
and yet _he_ hesitated to read them. We thought that duty devolved best
upon _you_. [_He hands back the letter case._] Shall I wait and take
back the case to Mr. Mason with the papers you wish him to have?

BLANCHE. Oh, no, I will send them; I mustn't keep you while I read them.
I'm always taking more of your time than I ought.

WARDEN. [_Speaks with sincerity, but without any suggestion of
love-making._] But never as much as I want to give you! Don't forget,
Mrs. Sterling, what you promised me at your wedding,--that your
husband's best man should be your best friend.

BLANCHE. And nobody knows what it means to a woman, even a happily
married woman like me--[_This is spoken with a slight effort, as if she
is persuading herself that she is a happily married woman._]--to have an
honest friend like you. It's those people who have failed that say there
is no such thing as a platonic friendship.

WARDEN. We'll prove them wrong.

BLANCHE. We will. Good-by, and thank you.

WARDEN. And thank _you_! [_Starting to go, he turns._] Shall I bring
that Russian pianist around to play for you some day next week?

BLANCHE. Do--I want some music.

WARDEN. Only let me know what day. [_He goes out Left._ BLANCHE _sits by
the table and opens the case. She looks first at a memoranda and reads
what is on the outside._] A business memoranda. Lists of bonds. [_She
opens and looks at the next paper only a second, and then closes it._]
This, Mr. Mason will understand better than I. [_She puts it back in the
pocket case. She finds a photograph in the case._] My picture!--[_She
looks for others, but finds none._]--and _only_ mine! Oh, father!...
[_She wipes away tears from her eyes so as to see the picture, which is
an old one._] Father, I returned _your_ love. [_She reads on the back of
photograph._] "Blanche, my darling daughter, at fourteen years of age!"
That's mine! that's my own! [_And she puts the picture away separately.
She takes up a small packet of very old love-letters tied with faded old
pink tape._] Old letters from mother; they must be her love-letters. She
shall have them,--they may soften her. [_She takes up a slip of paper
and reads on the outside._] This is something for Mason, too. [_She puts
it back in the case. She takes up a sealed envelope, blank._] Nothing on
it, and sealed. [_She looks at it a moment, thinking._] Father, did you
want this opened? If you didn't, why not have destroyed it? Ah! I
needn't be afraid; _you_ had nothing to hide from the world. [_Tearing
it open, she reads._] "I have discovered my son-in-law, Richard
Sterling, in irregular business dealing. He is not honest. I will watch
him as long as I live; but when you read this, Mason, keep your eye upon
him for my daughter's sake. He has been warned by me--he may never trip
again, and her happiness lies in ignorance." [_She starts, and looks
about her to make sure she is alone. She then sits staring ahead for a
few seconds; then she speaks._] My boy's father dishonest! Disgrace--he
owned it--threatening _my_ boy! It mustn't come! It mustn't! _I'll_
watch now. [_She goes to the fireplace, tearing the paper as she crosses
the room, she burns the letter; then she gathers up the other letters
and the pocket case._] He must give me his word of honor over Richard's
little bed to-night that he will do nothing to ever make the boy ashamed
of bearing his father's name!

[_She watches to see that every piece of the paper burns, as_

THE CURTAIN FALLS



ACT II


_Christmas Eve; fourteen months later; the dining room of the Hunters'
house, which is now lived in jointly by the_ STERLINGS _and_ MRS. HUNTER
_and her daughters. It is a dark wainscoted room, with curtains of
crimson brocade. It is decorated with laurel roping, mistletoe, and
holly, for Christmas. It is the end of a successful dinner party,
fourteen happy and more or less congenial persons being seated at a
table, as follows:_ WARDEN, RUTH, MASON, CLARA, TROTTER, MRS. HUNTER,
BLANCHE, STERLING, MISS SILLERTON, MR. GODESBY, JESSICA, DOCTOR
STEINHART, _and_ MISS GODESBY. _The room is dark on all sides, only a
subdued light being shed on the table by two large, full candelabra with
red shaded candles. As the curtain rises the bare backs of the three
women nearest the footlights gleam out white. Candied fruit and other
sweetmeats are being passed by four men servants, including_ JORDAN
_and_ LEONARD.


RUTH. My dear Blanche, what delicious candy!

MISS SILLERTON. Isn't it!

MISS GODESBY. Half of the candy offered one nowadays seems made of
_papier-mâché_.

MRS. HUNTER. [_To_ MISS GODESBY.] Julia, do tell me how Mr. Tomlins
takes his wife's divorce?

MISS GODESBY. He takes it with a grain of salt!

MRS. HUNTER. But isn't he going to bring a counter suit?

STERLING. No.

RUTH. I hope not. I am an old-fashioned woman and don't believe in
divorce!

MISS GODESBY. Really! But then you're not married!

MISS SILLERTON. What is the reason for so much divorce nowadays?

RUTH. Marriage is the principal one.

BLANCHE. _I_ don't believe in divorce, either.

MISS SILLERTON. My dear, no woman married to as handsome a man as Mr.
Sterling would.

TROTTER. You people are all out of date! More people get divorced
nowadays than get married.

BLANCHE. Too many people do--that's the trouble. I meant what I said
when I was married--"for better, for worse, till death us do
part."--What is the opera Monday?

TROTTER. Something of Wagner's. He's a Dodo bird! Bores me to death! Not
catchy enough music for me.

MRS. HUNTER. You'd adore him if you went to Bayreuth. Which was that
opera, Clara, we heard at Bayreuth last summer? Was it _Faust_ or
_Lohengrin_! They play those two so much here I'm always getting them
mixed!

MISS SILLERTON. Wagner didn't write _Faust_!

MRS. HUNTER. Didn't he? I thought he had; he's written so many operas
the last few seasons!

CLARA. I like _Tannhäuser_, because as soon as you hear the "twinkle,
twinkle, little stars" song, you can cheer up and think of your wraps
and fur boots.

TROTTER. My favorite operas are _San Toy_ and the _Roger Brothers_,
though I saw _Florodora_ thirty-six times!

BLANCHE. Mother would have gone with you every one of those thirty-six
_Florodora_ times. She's not really fond of music.

MRS. HUNTER. Not fond of music! Didn't I have an opera box for four
years?

TROTTER. Why doesn't Conried make some arrangement with Weber and Fields
and introduce their chorus into _Faust_ and _Carmen_?

DR. STEINHART. Great idea! [_To_ MISS GODESBY.] Did you get a lot of
jolly presents?

MISS GODESBY. Not half bad, especially two fine French bulls!

[_All are laughing and talking together._

BLANCHE. What did you get, Mr. Warden?

WARDEN. Three copies of "David Harum," two umbrellas, and a cigar case
too short for my cigars.

MISS GODESBY. Give it to me for cigarettes.

WARDEN. It's too long for cigarettes. Then I had something that's either
a mouchoir or a handkerchief case, or for neckties, or shaving papers,
or something or other.

TROTTER. Yes, I know, I got one of those, too.

DR. STEINHART. So did I!

BLANCHE. I must start the women; we are coming back here to arrange a
surprise for you men.

[_She nods her head in signal to_ STERLING, _and rises. All rise._

STERLING. One moment please. One toast on Christmas night! Ned, give us
a toast.

ALL THE WOMEN. [_But not in unison._] Oh, yes! A toast! [_Ad lib._]

WARDEN. [_Holding up his glass._]

Here's to those whom we love! And to those who love us! And to those who
love those whom we love And to those who love those who love us!

ALL THE MEN. [_Not in unison._] Good! Bravo! Bully toast! [_Ad lib._]

[_Every one drinks._

BLANCHE. One more toast, Dick. [_To the others._] Christmas Day is our
boy's birthday.

RUTH. Surely! a toast to Richard!

STERLING. Long life to Master Sterling, the best boy in the world, and
to all his good friends at this table.

THE MEN. Hear! Hear!

[_All the women speak their next speeches at the same time._

BLANCHE. [_Laughing._] Of course! I've dropped my handkerchief.}
                                                               }
[NED _dives under the table for it._                           }
                                                               }
MISS SILLERTON. O dear, my fan!                                }
                                                               }
MISS GODESBY. What a bore! I've dropped a glove!               }
                                                               }
[STEINHART _goes under the table for it._                      }
                                                               }
CLARA. Both my gloves gone--I'm so sorry!                      }
                                                               }
[GODESBY _goes under the table for them._                      }
                                                               }
MRS. HUNTER. Dick, please, I've dropped my smelling bottle.    }  [ALL
                                                               }  _together_]
[TROTTER _and_ STERLING _go under the table for it._           }
                                                               }
RUTH. My gloves, please, I'm so sorry!                         }
                                                               }
[MASON _goes under the table for them._                        }
                                                               }
[_The speeches of the women are simultaneous, followed         }
by the movements of the men also, all at the same time._       }

BLANCHE. Please don't bother; the servants--

LEONARD, JORDAN _and, two extra men start to hunt under the table, too._

MISS GODESBY. Women ought to have everything they own fastened to them
with rubberneck elastics.

[_The men, somewhat flustered, all rise with the various articles, and
offer them to their respective owners._

[_All the women thank the men profusely, and apologize at the same
time._ STERLING _takes_ MRS. HUNTER _out at back, followed by all the
other couples, all talking._ RUTH _and_ MASON _lag behind._

RUTH. [_To_ BLANCHE, _who with_ WARDEN _waits for_ RUTH _and_ MASON _to
pass._] I want just a minute with Mr. Mason, Blanche. [BLANCHE _and_
WARDEN _pass out before her._ RUTH _is alone with_ MASON. _She speaks as
if she were carrying on a conversation that had been interrupted. She
speaks in a lowered voice, indicating the private nature of what she has
to say._] I sent him imperative word yesterday I must have the bonds. I
told him I wanted one to give to his wife for Christmas. He pretends
to-day he didn't receive this letter, but he must have.

MASON. This makes the third time there has been some excuse for not
giving you the bonds?

RUTH. Yes, and this letter he says he didn't get was sent to his office
by hand.

MASON. I'll speak to him before I leave.

[_They go out at back._

[_As they pass out,_ JORDAN _stands by the doorway holding the curtains
back. The other three men stand stiffly at the Right. As_ MASON _and_
RUTH _go out, the_ SERVANTS _relax and exchange glances, each giving a
little laugh out loud, except_ JORDAN. _During the following dialogue
they empty the table preparatory to arranging the room for the Christmas
tree._

JORDAN. Sh! A very dull dinner, not an interesting word spoke.

FIRST FOOTMAN. The widder seemed chipper like!

LEONARD. And did you get on to the old lady's rig-out; mourning don't
hang very heavy on her shoulders.

[_One chair is moved back._

JORDAN. [_To_ FIRST FOOTMAN.] Get the coffee. [_He goes out Right. To_
LEONARD.] Get the smoking lay-out!

[LEONARD _goes out Right and brings back a silver tray laden with
cigarettes, cigar boxes, and a burning alcohol lamp._

LEONARD. If you ask me, I think she's going to put a bit more on the
matrimonial mare if she gets the chance.

JORDAN. It's none of your business. You're _Mrs. Sterling's_ servant
now.

LEONARD. Good thing, too; it was a happy day for us when _they_ moved
in.

FIRST FOOTMAN. [_Reënters with the coffee._] Say, did you see how that
young feller over there [_Motioning to the lower right-hand corner of
the table._] shovelled the food in?

LEONARD. And the way he poured down the liquid--regular hog! My arm's
tired a-filling of his glass.

[_And he drinks a glass of champagne which has been left untouched by a
guest._

JORDAN. He ain't nobody; he hasn't any money; he was just asked to fill
up. He's one of these yere singing chaps what's asked to pass the time
after dinner with a song or two _gratis_. This dinner'll last him for
food for a week!

_Their manners suddenly change as the men reënter and take seats about
the two ends of the table._ STERLING, MASON, _and_ DOCTOR _down Left
form one group. The other men are in a group between the window and the
other end. On entering_ STERLING _speaks._

STERLING. Jordan, for heaven's sake, give us something to see by! You
can't tell which end of your cigar to light in this confounded woman's
candle-light. If I had my way, I'd have candelabras made of Welsbachs!

TROTTER. Bright idea, Sterling.

[STERLING, _laughing, joins his group, who laugh gently with him._
JORDAN _turns on the electric light. The servants pass the coffee,
liqueurs, and the cigars and cigarettes. Meanwhile the following
dialogue takes place, the men beginning to talk at once on their
entrance._

STERLING. Mr. Mason, I'd like to ask your honest opinion on something if
you'll give it me.

MASON. Certainly.

STERLING. This Hudson Electric Company.

DR. STEINHART. Oh! Dropped fearfully to-day.

STERLING. But that can happen easily with the best thing. To-morrow--

MASON. [_Interrupting._] To-morrow it will drop to its _very bottom_!

STERLING. I don't believe it.

DR. STEINHART. Surely, Mr. Mason, the men who floated that are too
clever to ruin _themselves_?

MASON. They're out of it.

STERLING. Out of it!

MASON. They got out last week quietly.

STERLING. But--

MASON. Mark my words, the day after to-morrow there'll be several
foolish people ruined, and _not one of the promoters of that company
will lose a penny_!

STERLING. I don't believe it!

[_The crowd at the other end of the table, who have been listening to a
tale from_ TROTTER, _laugh heartily._

TROTTER. [_Delighted with his success._] I'm no Dodo bird!

[WARDEN _leaves this group casually and joins the other._

MASON. [_To_ STERLING.] Don't tell me _you're_ in it?

STERLING. [_Ugly._] Yes, I am in it!

MASON. Not _much?_

STERLING. Yes, _much!_

WARDEN. Much what?

STERLING. Oh, nothing; we were just discussing stocks.

WARDEN. And up there they're discussing Jeffreys and Fitzsimmons.

MASON. Listen, Dick, after a lifelong experience in Wall Street, I defy
any broker to produce one customer who can show a profit after three
consecutive years of speculation.

STERLING. Oh, you're too conservative; nothing venture, nothing have.
Excuse me, I think Jeffreys and Fitzsimmons more amusing topics. Come
along.

[STERLING _and_ DR. STEINHART _join the other group Right._

MASON. [_To_ WARDEN.] You're Sterling's broker.

WARDEN. No, not for over a year.

MASON. Then you can't tell me how deep he is in this Hudson Electric
swindle?

WARDEN. Is he in it at all?

MASON. Yes, he says, deep.

WARDEN. I suspected it yesterday.

MASON. But what with--his wife's money?

WARDEN. That went fourteen months ago. I put him on his feet then, gave
him some tips that enabled him to take this house with her mother, so
that with his regular law business he ought to have done very well, but
his living could not leave one cent over to speculate with.

MASON. [_To himself._] Good God!

WARDEN. I know what you're afraid of.

MASON. No!

WARDEN. Yes. The reason I'm no longer his broker is he was ashamed to
let me know about his dealings.

MASON. But you don't mean you think he'd actually _steal_!

WARDEN. His _aunt's_ money? Why not? _He did his wife's!_

MASON. Does he handle any one else's affairs?

WARDEN. I know he takes care of that Godesby woman's property.

MASON. And she wouldn't hold her tongue if a crash came!

WARDEN. Not for a minute! Is Miss Hunter suspicious?

MASON. Yes. Does Sterling realize that to-morrow he will most probably
be a ruined cheat?

WARDEN. Very likely.

MASON. If he made up his mind to-night it was all up with him, he might
do--what?

WARDEN. Run away with whatever money he has left, or kill himself. I
don't know if he's enough of a coward for that or not. There's _one_
hold on him--he loves his wife.

MASON. Which will make him all the more ashamed of discovery. Do you
believe she suspects?

WARDEN. Not a bit. She loves him too dearly.

MASON. Can _we_ do anything?

WARDEN. Nothing but watch him closely till the people go. Then force him
to make a clean breast of it, so we can all know where we stand; how we
can best protect his aunt from ruin and his wife and boy from public
disgrace.

MASON. He is watching us.

WARDEN. He knows I know him; we must be careful. He's coming toward us.
[_He then speaks in a different tone, but no louder._] You're certain of
the trustworthiness of your information?

MASON. Absolutely. Every man left in that concern will be ruined before
the 'Change closes after to-morrow. [STERLING _has joined them in time
to hear the end of_ MASON'S _speech._ MASON _continues._] I am telling
Warden what I told you about the Hudson Electric Company.

STERLING. Can't you talk of something pleasanter?

[BLANCHE _reënters at back. On her entrance all the men rise. The
servants finish preparing the room for the tree._

BLANCHE. I'm very sorry--I really can't let you men stay here any
longer.

ALL THE MEN. Why not? How's that? [_Ad lib._]

BLANCHE. You know we want to get this room ready for Santa Claus! Dick!
[_She goes to her husband. All the men go out at back in a group led by_
WARDEN _and_ MASON. _They are all talking and laughing._ BLANCHE _is
left alone with her husband._] What is this Aunt Ruth has been telling
me about not being able to get some bonds from you?

STERLING. Oh, nothing. I forgot to send them up to her, that's all.

BLANCHE. But she says she sent three times.

STERLING. One time too late to get into the vault; and the other, her
letter was mislaid--I mean not given to me.

BLANCHE. You haven't broken your word to me?

STERLING. What if I had?

BLANCHE. I would let the law take its course.

STERLING. You must love me very little.

BLANCHE. I _live_ with you. First you robbed me of my respect for you;
then you dried up my heart with neglect.

STERLING. And our boy?

BLANCHE. Your blood runs in his veins; your shame and disgrace would be
a fearful warning to him. It might kill _me_; but never mind, if it
_saved him_.

STERLING. Oh, well, I haven't broken my word! So you needn't worry. I've
been honest enough.

BLANCHE. [_With a long sigh of relief._] Oh! I hope so!

MRS. HUNTER. [_Appearing in doorway at back._] The men are in the
drawing-room--shall we come _here_?

BLANCHE. Yes, we'll bring the others, mother. Come, Dick.

[_She goes out with_ MRS. HUNTER _at back._

STERLING. [_Goes to door Right, opens it, and calls._] Leonard!

[LEONARD _enters Right_

LEONARD. Yes, sir?

STERLING. Go up to my library at the top of the house, get a railroad
guide you will find there, and bring it down and put it on the table in
the hall just outside the drawing-room door.

LEONARD. Yes, sir.

STERLING. Then go to my room and pack my bag and dressing case. Do you
understand?

LEONARD. Yes, sir.

[_The women are heard singing "Follow the Man from Cook's," and
gradually coming nearer._

STERLING. Be quick, and say nothing to any one.

LEONARD. Yes, sir.

[_He goes out quickly Right._ STERLING _goes up stage and stands beside
the door at back as the women dance in, singing "Follow the Man from
Cook's." They are led by_ CLARA, _with_ MRS. HUNTER _on the end._
BLANCHE _and_ RUTH _follow alone, not dancing. The others dance around
the chairs and_ CLARA _jumps on and off one of them; this stops the
rest, who balk at it._ STERLING _goes out at back. The_ SERVANTS _enter
Right._

CLARA. I don't care for this dinner party at all. The women are all the
time being chased away from the men! I prefer being with Mr. Trotter.
Don't you, mama?

MISS SILLERTON. He doesn't seem able to give a dinner party any more
without you to chaperone, Mrs. Hunter.

BLANCHE. Mother, how can you?

MRS. HUNTER. Oh, I don't know as it's _chaperoning_! I like Mr. Trotter
very much.

MISS SILLERTON. But he's such a little cad. I tried to give him a lift,
but he was too heavy for me.

CLARA. Oh, well, you ought just to pretend it's the money in his pocket
makes him so heavy; then you'd find him dead easy.

[_Meanwhile the_ SERVANTS _have arranged the table, taken out the extra
leaves and made it square, and left the room. They now reënter, bringing
in a gorgeously decorated and lighted Christmas tree. There is at once a
loud chorus of delighted approval from the women. The_ SERVANTS _place
the tree in the centre of the table. The women who are sitting rise and
come near to examine the tree._

RUTH. What a beautiful tree, Blanche!

BLANCHE. The boy is to have it to-morrow morning--it's really _his_
tree! [TOMPSON _brings in a large basket containing seven small
stockings and six small boys' socks--very small stockings and very small
socks. They are made of bright and different colors and are stuffed into
absurd, bulgy shapes._] There's a name on each one. Come along now!

[_Taking out a little sock. The women crowd around the basket and each
hangs a sock on the tree,_ MISS GODESBY _and_ CLARA _standing on
chairs._

CLARA. [_Reading the name on her sock._] Oh! mine's for Mr. Mason.
What's in it, Blanche?

BLANCHE. I really can't tell you. I asked the clerk where I bought it
what it was for, and he said he didn't know; it was a "Christmas
present."

MISS GODESBY. [_Laughing._] Oh, I know the kind! Mine's for Howard
Godesby. What's his present?

BLANCHE. A silver golf marker.

MISS GODESBY. But he doesn't play golf!

BLANCHE. Well, he ought to; it'll keep him young.

CLARA. It will be all right, anyway, Julia! _You_ can give it away to
some one next Christmas.

MISS SILLERTON. What's in Mr. Trotter's?

BLANCHE. Oh, that present has almost been my death! Men are so hard to
find things for! I had put in a gold pencil for his key chain, but
to-night while we were eating our oysters, I saw him show a beauty that
his mother had given him this morning! So I whispered to Jordan between
the soup and fish to change Mr. Ryder's name to Mr. Trotter's stocking,
and put Mr. Trotter's name on the one that had a cigarette case in it. I
sneaked a message down to Dick on my dinner card--was it all right?--and
he sent back word during the game that Trotter only smoked cigars; so
before the ices were passed I shuffled Mr. Trotter's and Mr. Mason's
names,--I'd given Mason the cigar case,--and just as Jordan signalled to
me the transfer had been successfully effected, I heard Trotter casually
observe he'd been obliged to give up smoking entirely--_doctor's
orders_!

[_They laugh punctiliously, rather bored by_ BLANCHE'S _long account._

MRS. HUNTER. Isn't the tree stunning?

CLARA. [_Getting down from her chair._] It makes the table look like one
of Mr. Trotter's "informal little dinners."

MISS GODESBY. They say he has one of those men who arrange shop windows
decorate his dinner table for him!

BLANCHE. The only time I ever dined with him I was really ashamed to go
home with my dinner favor--it was so gorgeous! And there were such big
bunches of violets in the finger bowls there wasn't room for your little
finger.

MISS GODESBY. You never saw such a lot of decoration! The game have
ribbon garters on their legs, and even the raw oysters wear corsage
bouquets! [_To_ MRS. HUNTER.] I hope you don't mind what we're saying,
Mrs. Hunter?

MRS. HUNTER. [_Offended._] I must say I do mind very much.--[_A
pause._]--because--[_A second pause._]--well, I am going to marry Mr.
Trotter--[_All, not believing her, laugh merrily._] You are all very
rude!

MISS GODESBY. Not on the level! Not _Trotter_!

MISS SILLERTON. Not _really_!

BLANCHE. No, no, of course not!

[_She rings bell._

MRS. HUNTER. But I _am_! And I thought here at my daughter's table,
among my own friends (I was allowed to name the guests to-night), I
could count on good wishes and congratulations.

[_There is a dead silence._

[_The musicians, a band of Neapolitan players, enter and take their
places in a recess at Left._

BLANCHE. [_To the musicians._] You may play. [_To_ JORDAN, _who has
brought in the Neapolitans._] We are ready, Jordan.

[JORDAN _goes out at back._

[RUTH _goes to_ BLANCHE.

[_The guitars and mandolins begin a popular song._

MISS GODESBY. [_To_ MRS. HUNTER.] Oh, well, Mrs. Hunter, we were only
codding! There's lots of good in Trotter, and I'm sure you'll bring it
out. Good luck!

[_Shaking her hand._

RUTH. [_To_ BLANCHE, _aside._] You won't allow this!

BLANCHE. Certainly not. [BLANCHE _crosses to her mother and they go to
one side together;_ BLANCHE _speaks in a lowered voice._] You've amazed
and shocked me! I will not tolerate such a thing; we'll talk it over
to-night.

[_She leaves her and returns to her guests_, MRS. HUNTER _standing where
she is left, biting her lips and almost crying with rage and
mortification._

MISS GODESBY. [_Before the musicians, to_ BLANCHE _as she joins her._]
I'm crazy about these men, Mrs. Sterling; they play so awfully
well--especially that one with the lovely legs!

[JORDAN _pulls aside the curtains at back and all the men reënter
except_ WARDEN. _They all join hands and dance around the tree, singing
with the musicians; they break, and go up to a side table, where
everything to drink is displayed._ WARDEN _enters at this moment and
motions to_ MASON _and leads him down stage._

WARDEN. There was a railway guide in the hall--that's what he went there
for; he's _going to run away to-night_.

MASON. How'll we prevent it?

WARDEN. First, we must break up this party!

MASON. How?

WARDEN. I haven't quite thought yet. Go back to the others; send Jordan
to me; don't lose sight of Dick. Jordan! [_He takes him aside._] I want
you to go out of this room for a minute, pretend to go upstairs, then
come back and tell Mrs. Sterling, loud enough for the others to hear
you, that Master Richard is very ill, and say the maid is frightened.

JORDAN. [_Hesitating._] But--

WARDEN. [_Quickly and firmly._] Do as I tell you. I am responsible for
whatever happens.

[JORDAN _goes out at back. The men and women are laughing and talking
about the sideboard._

BLANCHE. Come now, everybody! Let's have the presents. Dick, you know
you are to be Santa Claus.

[STERLING _looks nervously at his watch._

STERLING. Just a minute, dear! Ned! [_Takes_ WARDEN _to one side. The
women move about the tree, hunting for their own names on the stockings
on the table at the foot of the tree._] Ned, I've been suddenly called
out of town on business--must catch the eleven-twenty train. I don't
want to break up the party, so you empty the tree, and when the time
comes for me to go, I'll slip out.

WARDEN. And when your guests go?

STERLING. Oh, then you can explain for me.

[JORDAN _enters at back._

JORDAN. [_To_ BLANCHE.] Beg pardon, madam, but Master Richard is very
ill.

BLANCHE. [_Alarmed._] Richard!

JORDAN. Yes, ma'am, and Droves is very frightened, ma'am.

RUTH. Richard ill?

[_All give exclamations of surprise and regret and sympathy._

BLANCHE. My little boy ill? Excuse me, I must go to him.

[_She hurries out at back._ RUTH _speaks to the musicians, who stop
playing._

STERLING. [_Moved._] My boy ill--why, I can't--I can't--

WARDEN. "Can't" what?

STERLING. How can I go away?

WARDEN. Surely you won't let business take you away from your boy who
may be dying.

STERLING. No! I won't go! I'll face it out! I can't leave my boy like
this--

RUTH. [_Coming to_ STERLING.] I'm going to take these women away; tell
Blanche not to give them a thought. Their evening up to now has been
charming.

[_During_ RUTH'S _speech_, WARDEN _has spoken aside with_ MASON.

WARDEN. [_Aside to_ MASON.] Don't let Miss Hunter go.

RUTH. [_To the other guests._] Come to the drawing-room.

MRS. HUNTER. I was crazy to see what was in my stocking.

[_All pass out talking, expressing conventional sympathy on account of_
RICHARD, _but evidently resenting the breaking up of the party._
STERLING _and_ WARDEN _are left alone in the room._ STERLING _moves to
go up to back;_ WARDEN _interrupts him._

WARDEN. [_To_ STERLING.] Where are you going?

STERLING. To my boy and my wife.

WARDEN. Wait a minute; I want to speak to you.

STERLING. Speak to me later; I can't wait now.

BLANCHE. [_Off stage, at back, excitedly._] Jordan! [_She enters,
excited, half hysterical._] Jordan! Where is Jordan? It was a lie! What
did he mean? Richard is sleeping sweetly. The maid knows nothing of
being alarmed! Where is Jordan?

[_She starts to go toward the door Right._

WARDEN. [_Stops her._] Mrs. Sterling, he had nothing to do with it! _I_
told Jordan to say what he said.

[BLANCHE _turns and looks at_ WARDEN _in astonishment._

STERLING. [_Stunned and at once suspicious._] What?

BLANCHE. But--

WARDEN. Forgive me for so cruelly alarming you; it was the only way I
could think of for getting rid at once of your guests!

STERLING. [_Angry._] You'll interfere once too often in the affairs of
this house.

BLANCHE. [_Indignant._] But what excuse can you make, Mr. Warden?

WARDEN. Will you be so good as to ask Miss Hunter and Mr. Mason to come
here? They will explain what I have done, partly, and your husband will
tell you the rest when you come back.

[STERLING _sneers aloud._

BLANCHE. I don't understand, I don't understand.

[_She goes out at back._

STERLING. Well, I _do_ understand, at least enough.

WARDEN. Good! That spares me a very disagreeable speech.

STERLING. No, it doesn't! Come out with it! What is it you want? What is
it you've found out?

WARDEN. From betraying a trust, you've come, in less than two years, to
an outright embezzlement.

STERLING. Speak out--give us facts!

WARDEN. You've stolen your aunt's fortune.

STERLING. _Prove that!_

WARDEN. It's _her money_ that's lost in the Hudson Electric Company!

STERLING. PROVE IT!

WARDEN. Easy enough, to-morrow.

STERLING. You've got to excuse your action _to-night_ or _be kicked_ out
of my house!

WARDEN. [_Strong._] Isn't what I say the truth?

STERLING. [_Equally strong._] No! And now get out!

WARDEN. [_Looks at his watch._] I'll not leave this house till it's too
late for you to take that eleven-twenty.

STERLING. [_More ugly._] Yes, you will and mighty--

WARDEN. _No, I'll not!_

[_He is interrupted by the entrance of_ BLANCHE, RUTH, _and_ MASON.

WARDEN. [_To_ BLANCHE.] I _hope_ you forgive me now--

BLANCHE. [_Pathetically._] You did right; I thank you.

STERLING. [_Heartbroken._] Blanche--without hearing a word from me!

BLANCHE. No, I've come now to hear what _you_ have to say.

[_A deep-toned clock strikes eleven._ STERLING, _at the second stroke,
takes out his watch with a hurried movement._

WARDEN. [_Quickly._] Eleven o'clock.

STERLING. I wish Warden to leave the room.

BLANCHE. [_Firmly._] And I wish him to stay.

[_A short pause._

STERLING. Well, of what am I accused?

WARDEN. Nobody wants to accuse you. We want you to make a clean breast
of it.

STERLING. Don't you talk to me; let my wife do the talking if you want
me to answer.

BLANCHE. Sit down, Aunt Ruth. [RUTH _sits by the table_, WARDEN _stands
at back._ STERLING _stands at Right and_ BLANCHE _and_ MASON _sit near
the centre._] Aunt Ruth asks you to give her a true account of her trust
in you. Mr. Mason is here as her friend and my father's.

STERLING. I haven't said I betrayed her trust. I told her she should
_have_ the bonds she wants to-morrow.

BLANCHE. But _will_ she? That's what I want to know. I ask you if you
haven't her bonds, to tell us here now,--tell _us_, who have been and
must be still the best friends, perhaps the only friends, you can have.
Tell us where we all stand--are we the only ones to suffer or are there
others who will perhaps be less generous in their treatment of you? Tell
us now while there is time perhaps to save us from public scandal, from
the disgrace which would stamp your wife as the wife of a thief, and
send your boy out into the world the son of a convict cheat. [_She
breaks down, but in a moment controls herself. There is no answer._
STERLING _sinks into a chair, his arms on the table, his head on his
arms. A moment's silence._] You _love_ me--I know that. I appeal to your
love; let your love of me persuade you to do what I ask. I ask it for
your sake and for _mine_! Tell us here the truth now--it will spare me
much to-morrow, perhaps--me whom you love--for love of me--

STERLING. [_In an agony._] I'm afraid I'll lose you--

BLANCHE. No, I'll promise to stand by you if you'll only tell _us all_
the truth.

STERLING. [_In a low, shamed voice._] I'll tell _you_, but not
_now_--not before all these others.

[BLANCHE _looks up questioningly to_ MASON. MASON _shakes his head._

BLANCHE. It _must_ be _now_, Dick.

STERLING. No! no! I can't look you in the face and tell it! Let me tell
it to you _alone_, later, in the dark.

[BLANCHE _looks up questioningly to_ MASON. _He shakes his head._

BLANCHE. It must be now.

STERLING. No, no, I'm too ashamed, I can't face you; in the dark I'll
make a clean breast of it--let me tell you in the dark.

[WARDEN _moves and puts his hand on the electric-light button beside the
doorway at back._

WARDEN. In the DARK, then, _tell it_!

[_He presses the button and all the lights go out. The stage is in
complete darkness; only the voices are heard from the different places
in which the actors are last seen._

BLANCHE. [_Quickly._] Remember, to help you to help ourselves, we must
know everything. Go on.

STERLING. It began fourteen months ago, after Ned Warden put me on my
feet; I got a little ahead--why not get way ahead? There were plenty of
men around me making their fortunes! I wanted to equal them--climb as
high as they; it seemed easy enough for them, and luck had begun to come
my way. We're all climbers of some sort in this world. I was a climber
after wealth and everything it brings--

[_He stops a moment._

BLANCHE. [_Her voice comes throbbing with pathetic emotion through the
darkness._] And _I_ after _happiness_ and all it brings.

STERLING. [_Deeply moved, his voice trembles for a moment, but only for
a moment._] Don't, Blanche, or I can't finish. Well, I borrowed on some
of Aunt Ruth's bonds and speculated--I made a hundred thousand in a
week! I put back the bonds. But it had been so easy! I could see those
bonds grinning at me through the iron side of the vault box. They seemed
to smile and beckon, to _beg_ me to take them out into the air again!
They grew to be like living things to me, servants of mine to get me
gold--and finally I determined to make one bigger coup than ever! I took
Aunt Ruth's bonds out and all the money available in my trust, and put
it _all_ into this new company! It seemed so safe. I stood to be a
prince among the richest! And, for a day or so, I've known nothing short
of a miracle could save me from being wanted by the police! To-night I
gave up even the miracle. That's all. It's no use saying I'm sorry.

[_A moment's pause._

MASON. Have others suffered besides Miss Hunter?

STERLING. There is some money of Aunt Ruth's left--stock I couldn't
transfer. But I used the money of others--Miss Godesby and Ryder's.

MASON. Miss Ruth, a large part of your fortune is gone, used unlawfully
by this man. Will you resort to the law?

RUTH. [_Very quietly._] No!

BLANCHE. [_In a voice broken with emotion and gratitude._] Aunt Ruth!

MASON. We can't hope Miss Godesby and Ryder will be as lenient! You must
go to them in the morning--tell them everything, put yourself at their
mercy, ask for time and their silence.

STERLING. _Never!_ I couldn't do it.

MASON. It is the only honorable way out of your dishonorable action--the
least you can do!

STERLING. Confess to their faces, and probably to no good? Eat the dust
at their feet, and most likely be clapped into prison for it? _No, thank
you!_

BLANCHE. Suppose _I_ went to them?

STERLING. You?

RUTH. No! Why should _you_!

STERLING. Yes! Why not? They might keep silent for _her_!

BLANCHE. I would do it for my boy's sake. Yes, _I'll_ go.

STERLING. _Yes!_ _You_ go, Blanche.

RUTH. No, you _shan't_ go--you shan't humiliate yourself in his place!

MASON. Certainly not; and if your husband is willing, we are not
willing! _He_ must go.

BLANCHE. But if he _won't_?

MASON. He _must_!

RUTH. You must demand his going, Blanche, and I demand it, too, as
something due to me.

BLANCHE. Very well. I demand it. Will you go?

[_A moment's silence._

WARDEN. Why don't you speak? [_He presses the electric button and all
the lights come on._ STERLING _is at the doorway at back, about to steal
out. There is an exclamation aloud from all of surprise and disgust. The
clock strikes the quarter;_ WARDEN _catches hold of_ STERLING'S _arm._]
What's your hurry, Dick? There goes the quarter hour; you could never
catch the eleven-twenty.

STERLING. Damn you!

[_Facing_ WARDEN _squarely, as_

THE CURTAIN FALLS QUICKLY



ACT III


_At "The Hermitage," on the Bronx River, the next afternoon. The house
is on the Left, and on the Right and at the back are the green lattice
arches. Snow lies thick everywhere, on the benches at the Right and on
the little iron table beside it, on the swing between two trees at the
Right, in the red boxes of dead shrubs, on the rocks and dried grass of
a "rookery" in the centre, and on the branches of the trees._ CLARA
_comes out from the house, followed by_ TROTTER.


CLARA. Come on and let mama rest awhile--naturally she's excited and
tired out, being married so suddenly and away from home. [_She stops
beside the swing, taking hold of its side rope with her hand._] It isn't
every mother who can elope without her oldest child's consent and have
her youngest daughter for a bridesmaid.

[_Laughing._

TROTTER. I hope Mrs. Sterling will forgive me. Perhaps she will when she
sees how my money can help your mother and me to get right in with all
the smarties!

CLARA. Oh, don't you be too sure about your getting in; it isn't as easy
as the papers say! But, anyway, that wouldn't make any difference to
Blanche. She was never a climber like mama and me. I suppose that's why
she is asked to all sorts of houses through Aunt Ruth that wouldn't let
mama and me even leave our cards on the butler!

TROTTER. I thought your mother could go anywhere she liked.

CLARA. Oh, no, she couldn't! if she made you think that, it was only a
jolly! Blanche is the only one of us who really went everywhere. Come
along, "_Poppa_," give me a swing! I haven't had one for years!

[_She sweeps off the snow from the seat of the swing with her hand._

TROTTER. Your mother certainly did represent--

CLARA. [_Sitting in the swing._] Oh, well, now don't blame mama! She
couldn't help herself; she always thought you _dreadfully handsome_!
Swing me!

TROTTER. I don't care, anyway. I'm deucedly proud of your mother,--I
mean of _my wife_,--and I'd just as lief throw up the whole society
business and go off and live happily by ourselves.

CLARA. O dear! I think mama would find that awfully dull. Go on, swing
me! [TROTTER _swings her._] Of course, you'll find mama a little
different when you see her all the time. You really won't see much more
of her, though, than you do now. She doesn't get up till noon, and has
her masseuse for an hour every morning, her manicure and her mental
science visitor every other day, and her face steamed three times a
week! She has to lie down a lot, too, but you mustn't mind that; you
must remember she isn't our age!

TROTTER. [_Swings her._] She _suits_ me!

CLARA. That's just what _I feel_! You'll take care of her, and me, too,
all our lives, and that's what makes me so happy. I'm full of plans!
We'll go abroad soon and stay two years. [_He has stopped swinging
her._] Go on, swing me!

TROTTER. [_Holding the swing still._] Say! if you think you are going to
run me and the whole family, you're a Dodo bird! Remember that you're my
daughter; you must wait a little if you want to be a mother-in-law.

[_Sleigh-bells are heard in the distance, coming nearer._

CLARA. Good gracious! If you ask _me_, I think mama has got her hands
full. What's become of Miss Godesby and her brother?

TROTTER. When you went upstairs with your mother, they went down the
road.

CLARA. You know originally the idea was _I_ was to marry you.

TROTTER. Really--

CLARA. [_Laughingly._] Yes, and mama cut me out.

TROTTER. Oh, well, it can't be helped; we can't marry everybody.

CLARA. [_Noticing the bells._] _Somebody else arriving!_ That's
queer--nobody comes here in the winter; that's why we chose it, because
it would be quiet! Let's play this game.

[_Going to an iron frog on a box which stands near the house._

TROTTER. Perhaps it's Mrs. Sterling.

CLARA. No; if she was coming at all, she'd have come in time for the
wedding. [_She takes up the disks which lie beside the frog._] I should
hate to get married like you and mama--no splurge and no presents! Why,
the presents'd be half the fun! And think of all those you and she've
given in your life, and have lost now a good chance of getting back.

[_Throws a disk into the frog's open mouth._

TROTTER. _I'll_ give your mother all the presents she wants. I can
afford it; I don't want anybody to give us anything!

CLARA. You talk like Jess! [_Throws another disk._] You know Jess earns
her own living. She goes around to smart women's houses answering their
invitations and letters for 'em. She calls it being a visiting
secretary, but I tell her she's a _co-respon-dent_!

[_Throws a disk._

[WARDEN _and_ MASON _enter from behind the house quickly, with a manner
of suppressed excitement. They are surprised to find_ CLARA _and_
TROTTER.

WARDEN. Why, here they are!

MASON. No, only Miss Clara and Trotter.

WARDEN. Lucky I met you--you must take me back in your sleigh.

MASON. Yes, the riding's beastly.

TROTTER. Hello! I say, were you invited?

CLARA. Merry Christmas!

WARDEN. We came to see the Godesbys.

CLARA. They've gone down the road.

MASON. Sterling isn't here, is he?

TROTTER. No, haven't seen him.

CLARA. Do you know _why_ we're here?

[MASON _and_ WARDEN _are embarrassed._

MASON. Yes--er--er--a--many happy returns, Mr. Trotter.

TROTTER. It's a great day for me, Mr. Mason!

WARDEN. Wish you joy, Trotter!

[_Embarrassed and not going near him._ TROTTER _rushes eagerly to him
and grasps his hand warmly._

TROTTER. Thank you, old man! I say! _Thank you!_

MASON. Miss Clara, would you do me the great favor of going down the
road and hurrying the Godesbys back if you see them?

CLARA. Yes, I don't mind; come along, Trotty!

WARDEN. You must excuse Trotter. I want a talk with him if he will give
me five minutes.

CLARA. Oh, certainly.

[_She goes out Left behind the house._

WARDEN. [_To_ MASON.] Will you see Mrs. Hunter?

TROTTER. I beg your pardon, Mrs. _Trotter_!

WARDEN. [_Politely._] I beg yours. [_To_ MASON.] See Mrs. Trotter.

MASON. [_Aside to_ WARDEN.] You're going to ask _him_ to go on Dick's
note for Ryder?

WARDEN. [_In a low voice._] Yes.

MASON. You're a wonder! As if _he_ would!

WARDEN. _Somebody must_, and there's nobody else. That boy and that
mother have got to be saved!

MASON. I'm sorry my name's no good for us.

WARDEN. And mine mustn't be used.

MASON. No, indeed! The minute that was done, there'd be a new
complication, and more trouble would tumble down on Mrs. Sterling's
head. Good luck.

[_Shakes his hand and enters the house._

TROTTER. What's up? _You_ haven't come to kick about my wedding, have
you? I wouldn't stand for that, you know!

WARDEN. It's not that, Mr. Trotter. Your wife's son-in-law, Sterling,
has turned out a blackguard; he has had intrusted to him Miss Ruth
Hunter's money and several other people's, and he's used it all for
speculation of his own.

TROTTER. Then he's a damned thief!

[_He sits on the bench with the manner that he has settled the subject._

WARDEN. So he is, and he's ruined.

TROTTER. Well, prison is the place for _him_.

WARDEN. We won't argue that, but how about his family--they get punished
for what he has done; they must share his disgrace.

TROTTER. Oh, well, my wife is out of all that now--_she's Mrs. Trotter_.

WARDEN. Yes, but _her own daughter_ suffers.

TROTTER. [_On the defensive._] She isn't very chummy with her classy
eldest daughter.

WARDEN. Never mind that; you know without my telling you that Mrs.
Sterling is a fine woman.

TROTTER. She's always snubbed me right and left, but, by George, I must
own she is a fine woman.

WARDEN. That's right! [_Clapping him on the back and putting his arm
around his shoulder._] Look here--help us save her!

TROTTER. How?

WARDEN. Indorse a note of Sterling's to give Ryder to keep him quiet.

TROTTER. I'd have to ask my wife.

WARDEN. No! Don't start off like that! Keep the reins in your own hands
at the very beginning,--make her realize from this very day that you're
raised up on the cushion beside her; that she's sitting lower down
admiring the scenery, while you do the driving through life!

TROTTER. [_Half laughing._] Ha! I guess you're right. Box seat and reins
are good enough for me!

WARDEN. Good boy! Then we can count on you to sign this note?

TROTTER. Where's _my_ security?

WARDEN. I can get you security if you want it.

TROTTER. Of course I want it! And I say, where are _you_? Why aren't
_you_ in it?

WARDEN. There are reasons why my name had better not appear; you are in
the family. But I'll tell you what I'll do, Trotter; I'll secure _you_
with a note of my own--only you must keep it dark; you mustn't even let
Mason know.

TROTTER. All right, perhaps I'm a Dodo bird, but I'll do it. Say, I seem
to have married a good many of this classy family!

WARDEN. Trotter, no one's done you justice! And, by George! you deserve
a better fate--er--I mean--my best wishes on your wedding day.

[TROTTER _shakes his hand delightedly._

TROTTER. Great day for me! What I wanted was style and position, and
some one classy who would know how to spend my money for me!

WARDEN. Well, you've got _that, surely_!

[CLARA _comes back from the house._

CLARA. The Godesbys are coming. Trotter, there's skating on the river
near here, and they've skates in the house--don't you want a spin?

TROTTER. Yes, I don't mind--if my wife doesn't need me! [CLARA _laughs
as_ GODESBY _and_ MISS GODESBY _enter from behind the house._ TROTTER
_meets them, with_ CLARA _on his arm._] Excuse us for a little while!

CLARA. _Poppa_ and I're going skating!

[_They go out Left._

GODESBY. Hello, Warden.

WARDEN. Good morning, Miss Godesby.

MISS GODESBY. Good morning.

WARDEN. How are you, Godesby? I've come on a matter most serious, most
urgent--something very painful.

GODESBY. What is it?

[_Comes forward._

WARDEN. Both of you trusted Dick Sterling.

MISS GODESBY. What's he done?

WARDEN. Misused your funds.

GODESBY. How d'you mean?

WARDEN. I mean that the money you intrusted to him is gone, and I've
come to make a proposition to you.

MISS GODESBY. Gone?

[GODESBY _and_ MISS GODESBY _are aghast. A second's silence, during
which_ GODESBY _and_ MISS GODESBY _look at each other, then back at_
WARDEN.

GODESBY. Do you mean to say--

WARDEN. The money is _gone_, every penny of it, and I want you to accept
a note from Sterling to cover the amount.

MISS GODESBY. I can't _grasp_ it!

GODESBY. Where is Sterling? Why didn't _he_ come?

WARDEN. He was ashamed.

GODESBY. I should hope so!

WARDEN. Several of us are going to stick by him; we'll manage to put him
on his feet again, and we want you to accept his note.

GODESBY. [_Incredulous._] Accept his note?

MISS GODESBY. [_Also incredulous._] On _what security_?

GODESBY. [_Quickly._] You'll do nothing of the sort, Julia!

MISS GODESBY. I'll see him where he belongs, in State's Prison, first!

WARDEN. That wouldn't bring you back your money.

MISS GODESBY. Neither will his note!

WARDEN. If I get it indorsed?

GODESBY. Likely!

MISS GODESBY. Rather!

WARDEN. I want your silence to keep it from the public for the family's
sake. I've secured a satisfactory indorser for a note to satisfy Ryder's
claim.

MISS GODESBY. Why didn't you give him to _me_ instead of Ryder?

WARDEN. I felt you would be willing, out of friendship--

[_There are sleigh-bells in the distance, coming nearer._

MISS GODESBY. Huh! you must take me for an idiot!

WARDEN. Out of friendship for his wife.

MISS GODESBY. Blanche Sterling! I never could bear her! She's always
treated me like the dirt under her feet!

WARDEN. You dined with her last night.

MISS GODESBY. That was to please her mother. No, if my money's gone,
Sterling's got to suffer, and the one slight consolation I shall have
will be that Blanche Sterling will have to come off her high horse.

[_The sleigh-bells stop._

GODESBY. [_To_ MISS GODESBY.] Ten to one if you agree to sign this
note--

WARDEN. And keep silent.

MISS GODESBY. [_Satirically._] Oh, yes, of course, the next morning when
I wake up Sterling will be gone! Nobody knows where!

WARDEN. I've had it out with Sterling! I am here as his representative.
I give you my word of honor Sterling will not run away. It is under such
an understanding with him that I am pleading his case in his stead. He
will stay here and work till he has paid you back, every cent.

[JESSICA _enters hurriedly from the house._

JESSICA. [_In great excitement._] Mr. Warden, Mr. Warden, Dick has gone!

WARDEN. _Sterling? Gone?_

MISS GODESBY. _Gone?_

GODESBY. That's _good_!

WARDEN. Don't be a fool, Godesby. How do you mean "gone," Miss Hunter?

JESSICA. I don't altogether know. While I was out this morning, Blanche
received a message from mother saying she'd been--

[_She hesitates, looking toward_ GODESBY _and_ MISS GODESBY.

WARDEN. They know. They're your mother's guests here.

JESSICA. She told Blanche they would be glad to have her here at one
o'clock for breakfast. Blanche ordered the sleigh at once and went away,
leaving word for me I was to open any message which might come for her.

WARDEN. [_To_ GODESBY.] Has she been here?

GODESBY. Not that I know of.

MISS GODESBY. [_Eager to hear more._] No, no!

JESSICA. No, they say not. She probably went first to Aunt Ruth's.
Before I got back, Dick, who'd been out--

WARDEN. He was at my house.

JESSICA. Yes. He came back, questioned Jordan as to where Blanche was,
went upstairs, and then went away again, leaving a note for Blanche,
which I found when I came home--

WARDEN. [_Eagerly._] Yes?

JESSICA. It simply said, "Good-by. Dick."

MISS GODESBY. [_Very angry._] Oh!

GODESBY. [_Quickly._] He's taken a train! He's cleared out!

WARDEN. Do you know if he took a bag or anything with him?

JESSICA. No, he took nothing of that sort. Jordan went into his room and
found a drawer open and empty, a drawer in which Dick kept--a
_pistol_!--

[_She drops her voice almost to a whisper._

WARDEN. Good God, he's shot himself!

JESSICA. Perhaps not--he left the house.

WARDEN. Yes, if he were really determined to shoot himself, why wouldn't
he have done it there in his own room?

JESSICA. What can we do? What can we do?

WARDEN. I'll get Mr. Mason; he's with your mother; he must go back to
town at once.

[_Going to the house._

JESSICA. He can go with me; I'd better be at the house. Some one must be
there.

WARDEN. Good!

[_He goes into the house._

[MISS GODESBY _and her brother ignore and apparently forget the presence
of_ JESSICA _in their excitement. They both speak and move excitedly._

MISS GODESBY. I ought to have suspected something when Sterling told me
he was getting ten per cent for my money,--the blackguard!

GODESBY. I always told you you were a fool not to take care of your
money yourself! You know more about business than most men.

MISS GODESBY. I didn't want to be bothered; besides, there was always
something very attractive about Sterling. I don't mind telling you that
if he had fallen in love with me instead of the stiff-necked woman he
married, I'd have tumbled over myself to get him.

GODESBY. How do you feel about him now?

MISS GODESBY. Now! Thank God, I'm saved such a waking up! It's going to
make a big difference with my income, Howard! I wonder if his wife knew
he was crooked! I'll bet you she's got a pot of money stowed away all
right in her own name.

JESSICA. [_Who can bear no more, interrupts._]

Please--please! Remember that you're speaking of my sister and that
every word you are saying cuts through me like a knife.

MISS GODESBY. I beg your pardon; I ought to have thought. I like and
respect you, Jess, and I've been very rude.

JESSICA. You've been more than that; you've been cruelly unjust to
Blanche in all that you've said!

MISS GODESBY. Perhaps I have, but I don't feel in a very generous mood;
I've some excuse--so please forgive me.

[WARDEN _reënters Left._

WARDEN. [_To_ JESSICA.] Mason is waiting for you with the sleigh. He's
going first to my house. Dick may have gone back there to hear the
result of my interview with Ryder,--then Mason'll try his own house and
Sterling's club.

GODESBY. The _police_ are the best men to find Sterling, whatever's
happened.

WARDEN. [_To_ GODESBY.] You wait a minute with me; I haven't finished
with you yet. [_To_ JESSICA.] I'll stay here for your sister, in case
she comes.

[JESSICA _goes out Left._

GODESBY. [_To_ MISS GODESBY.] Don't you give in!

MISS GODESBY. Not for a minute! [_To_ WARDEN.] Don't you think, under
the circumstances, the wedding breakfast had better be called off, and
my brother and I go back to town?

WARDEN. Not till you've given me your promise, both of you, that you
will keep silent about the embezzlement of your bonds for the sake of
Mrs. Sterling and her son.

MISS GODESBY. [_Half laughs._] Huh!

WARDEN. For the sake of her mother, who is your friend.

[_Sleigh-bells start up loud and die off quickly;_ JESSICA _has gone._

MISS GODESBY. Oh, come, you know what sort of friends we are,--for the
amusement we can get out of each other. This is the case,--I trusted
this man with my affairs. He was very attractive--I don't deny that;
business with Dick Sterling became more or less of a pleasure--but that
doesn't cut any ice with me; he's stolen my money. To put it plainly,
he's a common thief, and he ought to be punished; why should he go scot
free and a lot of others not? You know perfectly well his note wouldn't
be worth the paper it was written on; and, anyway, if he hasn't gone and
sneaked out of the world, I won't lift my little finger to keep him from
the punishment he deserves!

GODESBY. Good for you, Julia!

WARDEN. Don't you put your oar in, Godesby; just let this matter rest
between your sister and me! She's always been known as the best man in
your family.

GODESBY. You don't choose a very conciliatory way of bringing us around!

WARDEN. I'm not choosing any way at all; I'm striking right out from the
shoulder. There isn't time for beating round the bush! I'm pleading for
the good name and honorable position of a perfectly innocent, a fine,
woman, and for the reputation and unimpeded career of her son! And I
make that appeal as man to man and woman!

MISS GODESBY. I have nothing to do with any one in this matter but
Sterling himself, who has robbed me, and I'll gladly see him suffer for
it!

WARDEN. Now look here, Miss Godesby, you belong to a pretty tough crowd
in society, but I know at heart you're not a bad sort! What good will it
do you? Granted even that you don't care for Mrs. Sterling, still don't
tell me you're the kind of woman to take a cruel pleasure in seeing
another woman suffer! I wouldn't believe it! You're not one of those
catty creatures! You're a clever woman, and I don't doubt you can be a
pretty hard one, too, at times; but you're _just_--that's the point
now--you're _JUST_--

MISS GODESBY. [_Interrupting._] Exactly! I'm just, an eye for an eye!
Sterling is a thief, let him get the deserts of one!

[_She sits on the bench determinedly._

WARDEN. But you can't look at only one side! You can't shut your eyes to
his wife's suffering, too, and she doesn't deserve it! Neither does her
boy deserve to share his disgrace. [_He sits beside her._] Why, you have
it in your power to handicap that boy through his whole life by
publishing his father a criminal; or you can give that boy a fair show
to prove himself more his _mother's son_ than his father's, and to live
an honest--who knows--perhaps a noble life!

MISS GODESBY. I refuse to accept such a responsibility. Ryder--

WARDEN. [_Rises, interrupting her._] Ryder's word is given to be silent.

MISS GODESBY. Well, that's _his_ lookout.

WARDEN. You'll have many a heart wrench, I'll bet you! You'll have to
run across the results of the harm you do to Mrs. Sterling and Richard
day in and day out, year after year! I don't believe you realize what it
means! Why, I know _you_ can't bear to see a _dog_ suffer! I met you
last week on the street carrying a mangy, crippled brute of a little dog
in your arms, afraid lest he'd get into the hands of the
vivisectionists, and yet here you'll let a boy and his mother--

MISS GODESBY. [_Interrupts him, struggling against a tiny emotion which
he has stirred._] Stop Stop! I don't want you working on my feelings
that way.

[_She rises and turns from him_

WARDEN. [_Follows her._] I'm only knocking at the door of your heart.
And now because it's opened just a tiny way, you want to shut it in my
face again. Will you leave this woman's name fit for her to use? _Won't_
you make that boy's life worth living to him?

MISS GODESBY. [_After a moment's pause, looks straight into_ WARDEN'S
_face._] I'll tell you what I'll do. Get me some security, some sort of
indorsement of Sterling's note--

WARDEN. If the man's only alive!

MISS GODESBY. And I'll hold my tongue.

WARDEN. How long will you give me?

MISS GODESBY. Oh, come, I can't have any monkey business! You must get
me my security to-day.

WARDEN. To-day?

MISS GODESBY. Yes.

WARDEN. But--

MISS GODESBY. That's my last word.

GODESBY. Stick to that, Julia!

WARDEN. I shan't try to persuade her against that. Will you leave your
sister alone with me a moment. Perhaps you'll see about your sleigh
being ready to return to town.

GODESBY. I've no objection--if Julia wishes it.

MISS GODESBY. Yes, go on, Howard!

[GODESBY _goes out back of house._

WARDEN. [_Left alone with_ MISS GODESBY, _goes nearer to her._] Look,
here! Will you accept _my_ indorsement? Will _I_ be all right?

MISS GODESBY. [_Incredulously._] Certainly.

WARDEN. Then it's settled?

MISS GODESBY. You don't mean it!

WARDEN. I do.

MISS GODESBY. You'd be willing to lose--[_A revelation comes to her._]
Oh--for _Mrs. Sterling_! I see!

WARDEN. [_Very seriously._] I _wouldn't_. I wouldn't see.

MISS GODESBY. And she's always been blackguarding me for my affairs with
men! And all the time--

WARDEN. [_Interrupts strongly._] Don't say any more, please, _Miss
Godesby_! I only wish your brother had said that much instead of you.

MISS GODESBY. [_Disagreeably._] So you're in love with Blanche Sterling?

WARDEN. No!

MISS GODESBY. Oh, come, don't tell a lie about it; that will only make
it seem worse.

WARDEN. Well, suppose I were in love with her--what of it?

MISS GODESBY. Nothing; only, my dear Warden, that woman--

WARDEN. [_Interrupts._] Wait a minute! You've got me in a corner, but
knowing half the truth, you mustn't _guess_ the whole. She is even more
ignorant of my love for her than you were ten minutes ago! [MISS GODESBY
_smiles and makes a little satirical exclamation._] You don't believe
that, but I'll _make_ you. I'm going to tell _you_ something I've never
even told myself. I'm going to put you to a big test, because I've got
to. Apparently, I can't help myself; but after all, somehow I believe in
the human nature in you, and you've got it in your power to help or hurt
the woman I love--I say those words aloud for the first time--the woman
I love!

[_He has finished his speech in a lowered tone throbbing with controlled
feeling._

MISS GODESBY. [_Incredulously._] You've never told her?

WARDEN. Never; and you show how little you really know her when you ask
that question! She loves her husband.

MISS GODESBY. I'm not so sure about that!

WARDEN. I am, and I _love her_. But surely the silent love of a man,
like mine, is no insult to a good woman--cannot harm her! A love that is
never spoken, not even whispered, can't hurt any one, except, perhaps,
the one who loves. You must acknowledge even _you_ have never heard a
hint; you _showed_ just now your real surprise at what circumstances
revealed to you! I'd die sooner than bring the slightest shadow of a
scandal on her, and I've hugged my secret tight. Have you any idea what
such a love means? How it grows and grows, its strength shut in, held
back, doubling and redoubling its powers!--its ideality increasing, the
passion _suppressed_, locked up! Good God! I tremble sometimes when I
think--suppose some day it should burst out, _break_ my control, MASTER
ME! [_A pause._] And here, now, I've told _you_; I'm sorry, but I had to
for _her_ sake again. Will you help me keep my secret?

MISS GODESBY. [_After a second's pause._] Yes, because I believe you.

WARDEN. And Mrs. Sterling?

MISS GODESBY. [_Slowly, with sincere meaning._] I envy her!

[_Her voice breaks and she turns away from him._

WARDEN. No one is to know I indorse Sterling's note?

MISS GODESBY. You needn't sign the note; my brother'd have to see it.
I'll take your word for the indorsement.

[_She offers him her hand. They shake hands._

WARDEN. What a brick you are! You know you don't do yourself anything
like justice in the world!

[GODESBY _reënters Left and after him a_ MAN SERVANT _in ordinary
clothes, who passes through the archway at back Centre._

GODESBY. Ready!

WARDEN. [_Aside to her._] You can promise his silence about Sterling?

MISS GODESBY. Oh, yes, he's absolutely dependent upon me.

WARDEN. Thank you.

MISS GODESBY. [_To_ NED _with a forced gaiety._] Good-by!

WARDEN. [_Again shaking her hand_] Good-by.

[_He looks his thanks at her._

GODESBY. Well? What did you do?

MISS GODESBY. [_As they go._] Don't worry; I've taken care of myself for
many years, and I still feel up to it!

[_They go out Left and at the same time the_ SERVANT _enters from the
archway at back Centre carrying some fire logs in his arms. This_
SERVANT _speaks with a slight French accent. As he reaches the house,_
WARDEN _stops him with a question, and the_ GODESBYS' _sleigh-bells
start up and quickly die away. The sun begins to set._

WARDEN Have you an empty sitting room?

SERVANT. Yes, sair.

WARDEN Warm?

SERVANT. I will soon arrange a fire.

WARDEN I wish you would, please.

SERVANT. Ze big room for ze breakfast is altogether ready and warm; you
will be able to go in there now.

WARDEN. No, that wouldn't do. It's all right out here for _me_, only I
am expecting a lady.

[_Sleigh-bells are heard in the distance, coming quickly nearer._

SERVANT. Yes, sair.

WARDEN. I hear a sleigh coming. If a lady is in it, ask if her name is
Mrs. Sterling, and if she says yes, tell her Mr. Warden is here and
would like to speak with her a moment before she goes in to Mrs.--

[_He hesitates a second._

SERVANT. Trottair?

WARDEN. Yes.

SERVANT. Yes, sair.

[_He goes into the house._

[_The sun grows red, and the colors of sunset creep over the sky during
the scene which follows. After a moment the_ SERVANT _shows_ BLANCHE
_out from the house._

BLANCHE. [_Surprised and depressed._] Good morning, Mr. Warden, have you
been asked to these funeral baked meats?

WARDEN. No, I'll explain why I am here in a few minutes. Only let me ask
you first when you last saw your husband?

BLANCHE. Early this morning.

WARDEN. And you have come just now from where?

BLANCHE. Aunt Ruth's. Of course you know about my mother? When I heard
it I started to come here, but my heart failed me and I turned back to
my aunt's. She has persuaded me that I ought to come and put the best
face on the matter possible, but it seems as if I'd had now a little
more than I _can_ bear!

[_Her voice breaks and her eyes fill with tears._

WARDEN. [_Almost tenderly._] Shall we go inside?

BLANCHE. No, no! Let us stay out in the air; my head would burst in one
of these close little rooms. Have you seen mother?

WARDEN. No, not yet.

BLANCHE. Where is Dick? Did he go to Ryder's?

WARDEN. No, but I have some good news to tell you all the same--Ryder
has promised silence.

BLANCHE. [_With tremendous relief._] Oh! that's too good, too good to be
true! To whom did he promise?

WARDEN. I want you not to ask me that.

BLANCHE. I can guess, it was--

WARDEN. [_Lying._] No, it was--_Mason_.

BLANCHE. [_Doubting him._] Mr. Mason?

WARDEN. And I've more good news for you, Mrs. Sterling--the _Godesbys_,
too; _they_ will be silent.

BLANCHE. You're sure?

WARDEN. We have their word!

BLANCHE. [_Pointedly._] Mr. Mason again?--

[WARDEN _bows his head in assent._] He was _here_?

WARDEN. Some time ago, but only for a minute. He didn't stay; he went to
find your husband.

BLANCHE. But the _Godesbys_? I just met them now on the road going back.
How could Mr. Mason, if he didn't stay--[WARDEN _is embarrassed, and is
silent, searching a way out of it._] Oh, no! no! it wasn't Mr. Mason! I
see the whole thing clearly. Dick was too great a coward, and _you_ did
it! It was _you_ who won over Ryder! It was _you_ who persuaded the
Godesbys!--

[WARDEN _shakes his head and makes a movement to deny it._ BLANCHE
_continues speaking, the words rushing to her lips, as her pent-up heart
opens and lets all her emotions suddenly free._] Don't try to deny it;
you can't make me believe you! It's to _you_ I owe whatever promise the
future has for me! It is _you_ who have given me all the happiness I've
had for years. It is _you_ who have watched over, taken care of,
me--_you_, the best friend any woman in this world ever had. It is _you_
now who have saved my boy's honor. It is _you_ who lift the weight off
my shoulders, the weight off my heart! You!--you!--you!

[_She sinks sobbing on the bench. It begins to snow very quietly and
slowly._

WARDEN. [_All his love bursting out into his face and into his voice,
cries._] Blanche! Blanche!

[_Leaning over her as if to protect her from her trouble and take her to
his breast._

BLANCHE. [_Rising and looking straight into his eyes with a suddenly
revealed great love in her own._] Ned!--

[_They hold this position some moments, gazing into each other's eyes;
then finally_ WARDEN _makes a movement towards her, crying out more
triumphantly, having read and realized her love for him._

WARDEN. Blanche!

BLANCHE. [_Moving a half step back from him._] No--

WARDEN. No?

BLANCHE. Look--look, it's beginning to snow!

WARDEN. [_Very softly._] What do you mean?

BLANCHE. [_Desperately._] I mean to speak of anything except what is in
your thoughts at this moment! Help me not to forget that no matter what
he has done, Dick is still my husband.

WARDEN. You don't know all he has done!

BLANCHE. How not "all"? What else? Where is he?

[_With a sudden new alarm._

WARDEN. He has left you.

BLANCHE. [_Echoes._] Left me?--

WARDEN. Mason is searching for him. He left a note at your house which
Jess read; it was only one word "Good-by."

BLANCHE. [_Echoes again._] Good-by! [_Sleigh-bells are heard in the
distance, coming quickly nearer._] What does it mean? You're hiding
something from me! Tell me what else you know?

WARDEN. He left the house, but took something with him--something from a
drawer in his room.

BLANCHE. [_After a second's pause she whispers._] His pistol?

WARDEN. Yes.

BLANCHE. [_Aghast, still whispers._] Has he done it?

WARDEN. I don't know; I'm waiting word from Mason.

[_The sleigh-bells stop._

BLANCHE. [_Excited._] But we can't wait here doing nothing; we must go,
too!

WARDEN. Mason is doing all that can be done; we'd better wait here.

[_He takes her hand in sympathy, but without suggesting the passion of a
few moments before._ STERLING _enters hurriedly Left. He is wild with
drink and jealousy._

STERLING. Drop my wife's hand!

[_They turn in great surprise._

BLANCHE. Dick!

[_Fright at his appearance is mingled with her surprise._

WARDEN. [_At the same time as_ BLANCHE.] Sterling!

[_They do not drop hands._

STERLING. [_Coming nearer, very strong._] Drop my wife's hand! [_They do
so quickly, not understanding yet._] So I've _caught_ you!

WARDEN. [_Angry._] Caught us!

STERLING. Yes, I had my suspicions roused some time ago!

BLANCHE. Of what?

STERLING. _I_ could go to the devil--what did _you two_ care! I could go
to State's Prison! All the better--_out of your way!_

WARDEN. You're speaking like a madman!

STERLING. I went back to my house this morning; my wife was gone--no
message left where to! But I questioned the servant. She'd driven here!
Why? Ha! [_A bitter half laugh; he turns to_ BLANCHE.] _You've come here
once too often!_

WARDEN. [_Very strong._] Sterling!

STERLING. [_To_ WARDEN, _but ignoring his exclamation._] Then I went to
_your_ house. _They knew_ where _you'd_ gone! You ought to train your
servants better! _Both here!_

WARDEN. If you're not careful, I'll ram your insinuations down your
throat.

STERLING. [_Jeers._] "Insinuations?" I've caught you! I make no
"_insinuations_." I tell you _both you're caught!_ You're my wife's
lover, and she's your damned mis--

[_Interrupted._

WARDEN. [_Seizing_ STERLING _by the throat._] Don't you finish!

BLANCHE. Sh!--for Heaven's sake! [_To_ WARDEN.] Let him alone; I'm not
afraid of what he says.

[WARDEN _leaves_ STERLING.

STERLING. No, you never were a liar, I'll give you credit for that,--so
confess the truth--you're his--

[_Interrupted._

BLANCHE. [_Excited beyond her control._] Listen! And you shall have the
truth if you want it! These years that he's been befriending me I never
dreamed of loving him nor thought of his loving me. [DICK _sneers._]
_Wait!_ No, not even the day my father was buried, when I learned
outright you were _dishonest!_

STERLING. [_Surprised._] What do you mean?

BLANCHE. What I say--I learned it then from a paper of my father's. I
shouldn't have kept my knowledge to myself--I see that now; but I did,
for your sake, not for love of you--the love went for good that day. But
here, a moment ago, I realized for the first time that my old friend
_did_ love me, love me with an ideal devotion the noblest woman in the
world might be proud of! I didn't tell him then I loved him, but now I
take this chance, I _take it_ GLADLY before you!--_forced by you!_ I
tell him now, what perhaps he has already guessed, I love him with all
my heart--I _love him_! I LOVE HIM!

STERLING. Damn you both! then it's the _end_ of _me!_

[_He pulls out a pistol and tries to put it to his temple._

BLANCHE. [_Cries out._] Ned!

WARDEN. [_Seizes_ STERLING, _catches his arm, and wrenches the pistol
from him._] So that's what you planned to do, is it--make a wretched
scene like that?

[_It begins to snow more heavily._

STERLING. [_In utter collapse and shame._] Why did you stop me? I'm
better out of the world. I'm crazy with shame. First I disgraced and now
I've insulted--_degraded_--the only living thing I care for,--that's my
wife.

[_A moment's pause._

BLANCHE. [_Speaks quietly._] Come back to the house. Mr. Mason is
looking for you; he has something to tell you.

STERLING. I know--more bad news.

BLANCHE. No, good.

STERLING. [_Echoes._] Good! [_Starting to go, he turns at the porch._] I
want _you_ to know that _I_ know I'm a rotten beast.

[_He goes out Left._

WARDEN. You're going back _home_?

BLANCHE. "_Home!_" [_With a faint smile._] I should hardly call it that.

WARDEN. [_Aside to her._] You're not afraid?

BLANCHE. [_Half smiling._] Oh, no! And my boy's there.

[_The thick falling snow almost hides them, but they are unconscious of
it._

WARDEN. What's to be done?

BLANCHE. Wait; we'll see--we'll see--let it be something we could never
regret. Good-by, Ned.

[_Giving him her hand._

WARDEN. Good-by, Blanche.

[_Kissing her hand very tenderly and almost with a certain kind of awe,
as_

THE CURTAIN SLOWLY FALLS



ACT IV


_The following morning; at the_ STERLINGS'; _the library; a warm,
livable, and lovable room, full of pictures, photographs, and books;
mistletoe and holly decorate everywhere. In the bow-window at back there
is a large bird-cage with half a dozen birds in it. The furniture is
comfortable and heavily upholstered. At Left there is a fireplace with
logs ready, but the fire is not lit. There a big table near the centre,
full of magazines, illustrated papers, and books. A big arm-chair is
beside the table, and other chairs conversationally close. There is a
table near the door at Right, piled with Christmas gifts, still wrapped
in white paper; they are tied with many colored ribbons and bunches of
holly. There are doors Right and Left. After the curtain rises on an
empty stage,_ RUTH _enters quickly; while she has her buoyant manner,
she is, of course, more serious than usual. She carries a bunch of fresh
violets in her hand. She looks about the room with a sort of curiosity.
She is waiting for some one to appear. She takes up a silver-framed
photograph of her brother which stands on a table and speaks aloud to
it._


RUTH. I'm glad you're spared this. [_With a long-drawn breath she places
the photograph back upon the table and turns to greet_ BLANCHE, _who
comes in Right._] Good morning, my dear.

[_She kisses her._

BLANCHE. Good morning. You've had my note? [RUTH _nods._] Thank you. I
wanted to see you before I saw any one else. You must help me decide,
only _you_ can.

RUTH. Have you seen your husband this morning?

BLANCHE. No. He sent word he was feeling ill, but would like to see me
when I was willing.

RUTH. And you?

[_They sit near each other._

BLANCHE. I don't want to talk with him till I see more clearly what I am
going to do.

RUTH. Mr. Warden told me last night all that happened at "The
Hermitage." But on your ride home with Dick?

BLANCHE. We never spoke. [_She rises._] Aunt Ruth, I am going to leave
him.

RUTH. [_Rising._] No!

BLANCHE. [_Walking up and down._] Why not? _Everybody_ does.

RUTH. [_Going to her._] That's just it. _Be somebody!_ Don't do the
easy, weak thing. Be strong; be an example to other women. Heaven knows
it's time they had one!

[MRS. HUNTER _enters Right._ BLANCHE _meets her._

MRS. HUNTER. Good morning, my poor dear.

[_Going to kiss_ BLANCHE.

BLANCHE. [_Taking_ MRS. HUNTER'S _hand and not kissing her._] Good
morning.

MRS. HUNTER. Clara's gone upstairs to see little Richard. Good morning,
Ruth.

[_She adds this with a manner of being on the defensive._

RUTH. [_Dryly._] Good morning.

MRS. HUNTER. [_Sitting by the table and looking at the picture papers._]
Isn't it awful! What are you going to do?

BLANCHE. I don't know yet, mother.

MRS. HUNTER. _Don't know?_ Absolute divorce--no legal separation! [_To_
RUTH.] We're staying at the Waldorf.

[BLANCHE _sits discouragedly on the sofa._

RUTH. [_Sitting beside her._] I shall advise against, and do everything
in my power to prevent, Blanche's getting a divorce!

MRS. HUNTER. You don't mean to say you'll carry those ridiculous notions
of yours into practice?--now that a scandal has come into our very
family?

RUTH. Oh, I know selfish, cynical, and worldly people won't agree with
me, and I pity and sympathize with Blanche from the bottom of my heart.
[_Taking and holding_ BLANCHE'S _hand._] But I want her not to decide
anything now; wait till the first blows over, and then--well, then I
feel sure she will do the strong, noble thing--the difficult thing--not
the easy.

BLANCHE. [_Withdraws her hand from_ RUTH'S.] _No_, you ask too much of
me, Aunt Ruth; I can't do it.

RUTH. I say don't decide now--wait.

BLANCHE. I don't want to wait. I want to decide now and to cut my life
free, entirely, from Dick's.

RUTH. You used to agree with me. I've heard you decry these snapshot,
rapid-transit, tunnel divorces many a time. I've heard you say when a
woman has made her bed, she must lie in it--make the best of her bad
bargain.

BLANCHE. I always sympathized with a woman who sought a divorce in this
state.

RUTH. Oh, yes, but _you can't_, can you?

BLANCHE. No, but I'm not strong enough to fight out an unhappy life for
the sake of setting an example to other women--women who _don't want_
the example set!

RUTH. Blanche, I counted on you to be strong, to be big--

BLANCHE. [_With a voice full of emotion._] But I love Ned Warden. He
loves me--life stretches out long before us. Dick has disgraced us all.
I don't love him--should I give _my_ happiness and Mr. Warden's
happiness for _him_?

MRS. HUNTER. Absurd! We all have a right to happiness if we can get it.
I have chosen; let Blanche follow my example.

BLANCHE. [_Disgusted._] _Yours?_ [_Rises._] Oh!

RUTH. [_Following up the advantage._] Yes, Blanche, do you want to
follow your mother's example?

BLANCHE. No! But the cases are not analogous!

MRS. HUNTER. Not what? You needn't fling any innuendoes at Mr. Trotter;
it's he who said it was my duty to stand by you, advise you, and all
that sort of thing. I'm not here to please myself! Goodness knows, a
divorce court isn't a very pleasant place to spend your honeymoon!

BLANCHE. Thank both you and Mr. Trotter, mother; but I ask you to allow
Aunt Ruth and me to decide this matter between us.

MRS. HUNTER. Trotter says _divorce_ was _made_ for woman!

RUTH. And what was made for man, please? Polygamy?

MRS. HUNTER. I don't know anything about politics! But I could count a
dozen women in a breath, all divorced, or trying to be, or _ought_ to
be!

RUTH. And each one of them getting a cold shoulder.

BLANCHE. What of it if their hearts are warm--poor climbers after
happiness!

RUTH. Believe me, dear, the chill spreads. You're going to be selfish?

MRS. HUNTER. She's going to be sensible.

[CLARA _enters Right._

CLARA. Hello, everybody! I just saw Dick coming out of his room and I
cut him dead.

BLANCHE. Clara!

RUTH. [_To_ BLANCHE.] You've taken a certain responsibility upon
yourself, and you can't shirk it.

BLANCHE. He isn't what I thought him!

RUTH. The day the sun shone on you as a bride, in God's presence, you
said you took him for better for worse--

CLARA. Dear me, is that in it? The marriage service ought to be
expurgated!

RUTH. [_To_ CLARA.] I'm ashamed of you.

CLARA. That's nothing new!

BLANCHE. Aunt Ruth, let us talk some other time.

MRS. HUNTER. Oh, if we are in the way, we'll go!

[_Rises._

CLARA. Yes, come on, let's go to Atlantic City.

MRS. HUNTER. No, I'd rather go to Lakewood.

CLARA. Oh, pshaw, Lakewood's no fun! I'm surprised you don't say go to
Aiken, North Carolina.

MRS. HUNTER. Mr. Trotter says we can't leave town anyway while Blanche
is in this trouble.

BLANCHE. Mother, please discuss your affairs somewhere else.

RUTH. And if I may be permitted to suggest, you will find Mr. Trotter's
advice always pretty good to follow. That young man has better qualities
than we have suspected. I have some thing to thank him for; will you be
good enough to ask him to come and see me?

MRS. HUNTER. He will not go to your house with my permission. I shall
tell him you have never asked me inside your door.

CLARA. Mother, if you ask _me_--[MRS. HUNTER _interjects_ "Which I
don't," _but_ CLARA _continues without paying any attention to the
interruption._]--I don't think Mr. Trotter is going to cry himself to
sleep for your permission about anything!

MRS. HUNTER. [_To_ BLANCHE.] Good-by, my dear; if you want me, let me
know; I'll be glad to do anything I can. I'm staying at the Waldorf.

CLARA. It's full of people from Kansas and Wyoming Territory come to
hear the Opera!

RUTH. A little western blood wouldn't hurt our New York life a bit!

CLARA. Ah! Got you there! The west is the place where the divorces come
from!

MRS. HUNTER. [_Laughs._] What's the matter with Providence? I think
Rhode Island tips the scales pretty even for the east!

BLANCHE. Please go, mother; please leave me for a little while.

MRS. HUNTER. Oh, very well, good-by! [LEONARD _enters Right with a
Christmas parcel, which he places on the table Right._] Dear me, have
you had all these Christmas presents and not opened them?

BLANCHE. It is only little Richard in this house who is celebrating
Christmas to-day.

MRS. HUNTER. It's a terrible affair; I only hope the newspapers won't
get hold of it. [_To_ LEONARD.] If any women come here asking for _me_
who look like ladies, don't let 'em in! They ain't my friends; they're
reporters.

[LEONARD _bows and goes out._

CLARA. I'm awfully sorry, Blanche, I honestly am; but I think you'll
have only yourself to blame if you don't strike out now and throw Dick
over. Good-by!

[MRS. HUNTER _and_ CLARA _go out Right._

BLANCHE. I wish _they_ wouldn't advise me to do what I _want_ to.

RUTH. Ah!

BLANCHE. But who do I harm by it? Surely, it wouldn't be for _his_ good
to be brought up under the influence of his father!

RUTH. If he saw you patiently bearing a cross for the sake of duty, can
you imagine a stronger force for good on the boy's character? What an
example _you_ will set him! What a chance for a mother!

BLANCHE. But my own life, my own happiness?

RUTH. Ah, my dear, that's just it! The watchword of our age is self! We
are all for ourselves; the twentieth century is to be a glorification of
selfishness, the Era of Egotism! Forget yourself, and what would you do?
The dignified thing. You would live quietly _beside_ your husband if not
_with_ him. And your son would be worthy of such a mother!

BLANCHE. And I?

RUTH. You would be _glad_ in the end.

BLANCHE. Perhaps--

RUTH. Surely! Blanche, for twenty years Mr. Mason and I have loved each
other.

[BLANCHE _is astonished. There is a pause._

[RUTH _smiles while she speaks, though her voice breaks._]

You never guessed! Ah, well, your father knew.

BLANCHE. But Mrs. Mason is hopelessly insane; surely--

RUTH. A principle is a principle; I took my stand against divorce. What
can you do for a principle if you don't give up everything for it?
Nothing! And that is what I mean. To-day I am not sorry--I am happy.

[_There is another slight pause._ RICHARD _is heard upstairs singing a
Christmas carol, "Once in Royal David's City," etc._

BLANCHE. [_With great emotion._] But if it breaks my heart--if it breaks
my heart?

RUTH. Hearts don't break from the pain that comes of doing right, but
from the sorrow of doing wrong! [_Neither woman speaks for a minute; in
the silence_ RUTH _hears_ RICHARD.] What's that?

BLANCHE. [_Hearing now for the first time._] Richard singing one of his
carols.

RUTH. I'd forgotten it _was_ Christmas.

[LEONARD _enters Left._

LEONARD. Doctor Steinhart is here to see Mr. Sterling. Where shall I
show him, madame?

BLANCHE. Here; we'll go--

[_Rising._

LEONARD. Yes, madame.

[_He goes out._

RUT. Well? What are you going to do?

BLANCHE. I'm _thinking_--

RUTH. May I come with you, or shall I--

BLANCHE. No, come.

[_The two women start to leave the room together Right, with their arms
around each other. They meet_ STERLING, _who enters; he starts, they
stop._

STERLING. I beg your pardon, I didn't know you were here.

BLANCHE. We are going to my room; I am sorry you are not well.

STERLING. Oh, it's nothing, thank you.

RUTH. If we can do anything, let us know.

STERLING. [_Overwhelmed with shame, bows his head._] Thank you.

[_The women go out Right. At the same moment_ DR. STEINHART _is shown in
by_ LEONARD _Left._

DR. STEINHART. Good morning, Sterling.

STERLING. Good morning, doctor; sit down.

DR. STEINHART. No, thanks, I'm very rushed this morning. What can I do
for you?

STERLING. I've been drinking too much for some time; I can't eat--my
nerves are all gone to pieces. I've some--some business troubles, and I
haven't slept for a week.

DR. STEINHART. Is that all! Brace up, help yourself a little, and we can
soon make a man of you.

STERLING. I'm afraid it would take more than a doctor to do that.

DR. STEINHART. Oh, come, we must get rid of melancholy. Come and drive
with me to 79th Street.

STERLING. No, I'm too worn out. Look at my hand! [_Holds out a trembling
hand._] I tell you literally I haven't slept for weeks--I thought you'd
give me some chloral or something.

DR. STEINHART. What? Now?

STERLING. Yes; I've tried sulphonal and all that rot; if doesn't have
any effect on me. Give me a hypodermic--

DR. STEINHART. Nonsense! Come out into the air!

STERLING. I've _been_ out.

DR. STEINHART. Good! Then try lying down again, and perhaps you'll go to
sleep _now_.

STERLING. Very well, but give me something to take to-night in case I
can't sleep then.

DR. STEINHART. [_Takes out a note-book and writes with a stylographic
pen._] Be careful what you eat to-day. How about this drinking--did your
business trouble come after it began, or did the whiskey come after the
business trouble?

STERLING. That's it.

DR. STEINHART. Um--[_Giving_ STERLING _the paper which he tears out of
his note-book._] Look here, I've a busy day before me; but I'll look in
to-morrow, and we'll have a good talk.

STERLING. Thank you. I say, what _is_ this?

DR. STEINHART. It's all right. Sulphate of morphia--one-quarter-grain
tablets.

STERLING. Isn't that very little?

DR. STEINHART. Oh, no; you try one, and repeat in an hour if it hasn't
done its work.

STERLING. But you've only given me two tablets, and I tell you I'm
awfully hard to influence!

DR. STEINHART. Two's enough; we don't give a lot of drugs to a man in a
nervous condition like yours. Don't let them wake you for luncheon if
you're asleep. Sleep's best for you. Good-by--pleasant dreams.

[_He goes out Left._

STERLING. [_Reads off the prescription._] "Two one-quarter-grain tablets
sulphate of morphia, Wm. B. Steinhart--" And in _ink!_ Why didn't he
write it with a lead-pencil? How can I make it more? Two--wait a minute!
Two! [_Taking out his own stylographic pen._] What's his ink? [_Makes a
mark with his pen on his cuff._] Good! the same! Why not make it twelve?
[_Marking a one before the two._] Just in case--I might as well be on
the safe side!

[_He rings an electric bell beside the mantel, and waves the paper in
the air to dry it._ BLANCHE _enters Right._

BLANCHE. I heard the doctor go. Is anything serious the matter?

STERLING. _If_ it were my _body_ only that had gone wrong, Blanche!

[LEONARD _enters Left._

[_To_ LEONARD.] Take this prescription round the corner and have it put
up.

LEONARD. Yes, sir.

STERLING. And bring it to me with a glass of water.

LEONARD. Yes, sir.

[_He goes out Left._

[BLANCHE _is still standing._ STERLING _sinks into a chair, and puts his
head in his hands, his elbows on the table. He lifts his head and looks
at her._

STERLING. I know what you're going to do; you don't have to tell me; of
course you're going to divorce me.

BLANCHE. No.

STERLING. What!

[_His hands drop to the table; he looks her straight in the face,
doubting what he hears._

BLANCHE. [_Looking back into his eyes._] No.

STERLING. [_Cries._] Blanche!

[_In a tone of amazement and joy._

BLANCHE. I give you one more chance, for your sake _only as my boy's
father_. But--_don't make it impossible for me_--do you understand?

STERLING. Yes! I must take the true advantage of this chance your
goodness gives me. I must right myself, so that people need not hesitate
to speak of his father in Richard's presence. _And this I will do._
[_With great conviction he rises._] I know I am at the cross-roads, and
I know the way; _but_ I don't choose it for _your_ reasons; I choose for
my own reason--which is that, unfit as _I am, I love you._

[_He speaks deliberately and with real feeling, bending over her._

BLANCHE. I tell you truly my love for you is gone for good.

STERLING. I'll win it back--you _did_ love me, you _did_, didn't you,
Blanche?

BLANCHE.. I loved the man I thought you were. Do you remember that day
in the mountains when we first really came to know each other, when we
walked many, many miles without dreaming of being tired?

STERLING. And found ourselves at sunset at the top instead of below, by
our hotel! Oh, yes, I remember! The world changed for me that day.

[_He sinks back into the arm-chair, overcome, in his weakened state, by
his memories and his realization of what he has made of the present._

BLANCHE. And for me! I knew then for the first time you loved me, and
that I loved you. Oh! how short life of a sudden seemed! Not half long
enough for the happiness it held for me! [_She turns upon him with a
vivid change of feeling._] Has it turned out so?

STERLING. How different! Oh, what a beast! what a fool!

BLANCHE. [_Speaking with pathetic emotion, tears in her throat and in
her eyes._] And that early summer's day you asked me to be your wife!
[_She gives a little exclamation, half a sob, half a laugh._] It was in
the corner of the garden; I can smell the lilacs now! And the raindrops
fell from the branches as my happy tears did on father's shoulder that
night, when I said, "Father, he will make me the happiest woman in the
world!"

STERLING. O God! to have your love back!

BLANCHE. You can't breathe life back into a dead thing; how different
the world would be if one could!

STERLING. You can bring back life to the drowned; perhaps your love is
only drowned in the sorrow I've caused.

BLANCHE. [_Smiles sadly and shakes her head; the smile dies away._] Life
to me then was like a glorious staircase, and I mounted happy step after
step led by your hand till everything _seemed_ to culminate on the day
of our wedding. You men don't, _can't_ realize, what that service means
to a girl. In those few moments she parts from all that have cherished
her, made her life, and gives her whole self, her love, her body, and
even her soul sometimes--for love often overwhelms us women--to _the_
man who, she believes, wants, _starves_, for her gifts. All that a woman
who marries for love feels at the altar I tell you a _man_ can't
understand! You treated this gift of mine, Dick, like a child does a
Santa Claus plaything--for a while you were never happy away from it,
then you grew accustomed to it, then you broke it, and now you have even
lost the broken pieces!

STERLING. [_Comes to her, growing more and more determined._] I will
_find_ them, and put them together again.

BLANCHE. [_Again smiles sadly and shakes her head._] First we made of
_every Tuesday_ a festival--our wedding anniversary. After a while we
kept the twenty-eighth of _every month_! The second year you were
satisfied with the twenty-eighth of April only, and last year you forgot
the day altogether. And yet what a happy first year it was!

STERLING. Ah, you see I _did_ make you happy once!

BLANCHE. Blessedly happy! Our long silences in those days were not
broken by an oath and a fling out of the room. Oh, the happiness it
means to a wife to see it is hard for her husband to leave her in the
morning, and to be taken so quickly--even roughly--into his arms at
night that she knows he has been longing to come back to her. Nothing
grew tame that first year. And at its end I climbed to the highest step
I had reached yet, when you leaned over my bed and cried big man's
tears, the first I'd ever seen you cry, and kissed me first, and then
little Richard lying on my warm arm, and said, "God bless you, little
mother." [_There is a pause._ BLANCHE _cries softly a moment._ STERLING
_is silent, ashamed. Again she turns upon him, rousing herself, but with
a voice broken with emotion._] And what a _bad_ father you've been to
that boy!

STERLING. I didn't mean to! That's done, that's past, but Richard's my
boy. I'll make him proud of me, somehow! I'll win your love back--you'll
see!

[BLANCHE _is about to speak in remonstrance, but stops because of the
entrance of_ LEONARD. _He brings a small chemist's box of tablets in an
envelope and a glass of water on a small silver tray._

LEONARD. Your medicine, sir.

[_He puts it on the table and goes out Right._

STERLING. Thank you, thank you!

[_He takes the box of tablets out of the envelope._

BLANCHE. [_Going to him._] _You don't realize_ why I've told you all
this!

STERLING. [_Counting out the tablets._] One, two. To give me hope! To
give me hope!

[_He empties the other ten tablets into the envelope, twists it up, and
throws it in the fireplace._

BLANCHE. No, no, just the opposite!

STERLING. Then you've defeated your end, dear; you will stay here with
me.

BLANCHE. [_Trying to make him realize the exact position._] Opposite you
at the table, receiving our friends, keeping up appearances, yes--but
nearer to you than that? No! Never!

STERLING. But you _will_ stay?

[LEONARD _enters from Left._

LEONARD. Miss Godesby, Mr. Warden.

[_They enter._

[_All greet each other._ WARDEN _nods stiffly to_ STERLING, _barely
acknowledging his greeting._

MISS GODESBY. [_To_ STERLING, _purposely speaking with good-humored
raillery to relieve the tension of the situation._] Well, you're a nice
lot, aren't you?

STERLING. I'm so ashamed! I'm so ashamed!

MISS GODESBY. Oh, never mind that now.

BLANCHE. I have no words to thank you with.

MISS GODESBY. Oh, that's all right. The truth is, I've made Warden bring
me here, Sterling, for a bit of business. I had an emotional moment
yesterday and went off my head a bit. I stand by what I said as to
keeping quiet, but--well, I'm like any other old maid who hates dust on
her mantelpiece--I'm fidgety not to make some sort of a bluff at putting
this thing on a business basis.

WARDEN. Excuse me, Miss Godesby, I think Sterling ought to know the
truth.

STERLING. _Now_ what?

MISS GODESBY. Well, the truth is, my fool of a brother has kicked up an
infernal row, and refuses to hold his tongue.

STERLING. Then I'm ruined after all!

MISS GODESBY. Wait, I've left him with Mr. Mason. I feel certain I can
assure his silence if I can only show him some sort of an agreement to
pay, an acknowledgment of the--the--affair, signed and sealed.

BLANCHE. Signed by whom?

MISS GODESBY. Your husband and yourself will do.

STERLING. But both names are worthless.

MISS GODESBY. Not as a point of honor.

STERLING. Ah! no, not my wife's.

MISS GODESBY. Nor yours to me. Come along!

[_She goes to the table with_ STERLING, _and unfolding a paper gives it
to him. He signs it._

WARDEN. [_Aside to_ BLANCHE, _apologizing for his presence._] She made
me come--she wouldn't come alone; otherwise I should have waited till
you sent for me.

BLANCHE. It's as well--I've decided. Oh, I wonder if I'm doing wrong.

[_Looking him straight in the face._

WARDEN. [_Looking back searchingly in hers to read the truth, but
believing that she will certainly leave her husband._] No, _you_ can't
do wrong! But I must warn you of one thing--I'm not any longer the
controlled man I was.

MISS GODESBY. Come along now, Mrs. Sterling, brace up and give me your
name, and Warden, witness, please. [_They do so._] Of course, my dears,
I know perfectly well that legally this isn't worth the paper it's
written on. [_Exchanging a serious and meaning look with_ WARDEN.] But
my idiot of a brother won't realize that, which is the point. One thing
more--will you both dine with me next week, Thursday? [_There is an
embarrassed pause, which, with quick intuition, she understands._] Yes,
you _will_--for _silence_ gives consent! [_Laughing._] Now, that's
settled!

STERLING. What an awfully good sort you are!

MISS GODESBY. Thanks, not always--I've been a mucker more than once in
my life! I must go [_Shaking hands with_ BLANCHE.] and relieve Mr. Mason
of my brother, or he'll be accusing me of inhuman treatment; more than
one consecutive hour of my brother ought to be prevented by the police.

BLANCHE. You are very, _very_ good.

MISS GODESBY. I think if you and I can get well over this, we'll be real
friends, and I haven't many, have you?

BLANCHE. [_Takes her hand._] You can count upon me and my boy so long as
we live.

[_She impulsively but tenderly kisses her._

[MISS GODESBY _is very much surprised, but moved._

MISS GODESBY. [_Half laughing, half crying, and pulling her veil down to
hide her emotion._] By George! I haven't been kissed by a woman for
years! Good-by.

[WARDEN _starts to go out with_ MISS GODESBY. BLANCHE _stops him._

BLANCHE. Wait one moment--I want to speak alone to Miss Godesby.

[MISS GODESBY _goes out Left._

BLANCHE. [_Aside to_ STERLING.] You tell him; I cannot. Tell him the
_truth_.

[_She goes out after_ MISS GODESBY.

WARDEN. Dick.

STERLING. Ned?

WARDEN. I have nothing to say to you, Sterling.

[WARDEN _looks away and whistles a tune to show his unwillingness to
listen._ STERLING _speaks clearly so_ WARDEN _shall hear._

STERLING. I have a message for you from my wife. [_There is a second's
pause._ WARDEN _stops whistling and turns and looks at_ STERLING.] She
asks me to explain--to tell--to tell you a decision she has come to.

[_There is another pause._

WARDEN. Yes?

[_Anxious, at a supreme tension, and now a little alarmed as to the
decision._

STERLING. She has decided not to leave my house.

WARDEN. [_Adds._] _Yet!_

STERLING. _Ever!_

WARDEN. [_Losing his control._] That's a lie!

STERLING. I couldn't believe it, either, when she told me. It was her
first word to me to-day. I said, "You are going to divorce me," and she
answered, "No."

WARDEN. She's sacrificing herself for some reason--her boy!

STERLING. Never mind, she won't leave me; I have her promise, and I'll
win back her love!

WARDEN. You fool! You can't win her back! She would never have loved me
if you hadn't disillusioned, _dishonored_ her! I'm not worthy of her,
but I'll never dishonor her, and, please God, never disappoint her, and
so I'll keep her love.

STERLING. Well, as to that, she decides to stay, leaving love out of the
question.

WARDEN. And you'll accept that sacrifice! You don't even _love_ her.
You're only thinking of _yourself_ now. Love, real love, forgets itself.
You, after having spoilt half her life, are willing to spoil the rest,
for _your own sake_!

STERLING. No, for the boy's sake, and her sake--to save a scandal--the
world--

[_Interrupted._

WARDEN. [_Beside himself._] Oh, damn the world! It's _heaven_ and _hell_
you'd better think of. _Scandal!_ It couldn't harm _her_, and the hurt
it would do you is a small price to pay. Those whom _God_ has
joined--yes! but it was the devil bound her to you!

STERLING. Here! I've had enough! Look out!

WARDEN. [_Moves toward him._] _You_ look out--you shan't rob her of her
happiness. You--a drunkard! A forger! A thief!

STERLING. _I'd keep her now if only to spite you!_

WARDEN. Hah! There spoke the true man in you! Would to heaven the old
days of duelling were back!

STERLING. A brave wish, as you know they're not!

WARDEN. They fight in other countries still for their love and honor,
and I'm ready here, now, if you are, with any weapons you choose!

[STERLING _sneers._]

Sneer! But will you fight? We'll find a place, and something to fight
with, or fists if you'd rather! You wouldn't kill me before I'd got you
out of her way for good. Will you fight?

[_Coming closer to him._

STERLING. No!

WARDEN. [_Getting more and more enraged._] If _you lose, you go away_,
and set her free of your own will!

STERLING. _No!_

WARDEN. [_Losing entirely his self-control._] What do you want to _make_
you fight--will that?

[_He gives him a stinging blow in the face._

STERLING. Yes!

[_He springs toward_ WARDEN _as_ RUTH _and_ MASON _enter Left. The two
men stand rigid_, WARDEN _breathing heavily._

RUTH. Blanche, may I bring in--where's Blanche?

STERLING. I don't know.

MASON. Good morning, gentlemen.

[_There is no response._ WARDEN _is with great difficulty restraining
himself. His lips are compressed lightly and his hands clenched._

RUTH. What's the trouble?

STERLING. I have just told Warden my wife's decision not to leave me.

RUTH. [_Showing her relief and satisfaction in her face, turns to_
WARDEN.] You won't try to shake that resolve?

WARDEN. [_Unable to control himself._] But I will! I _will_--I tell you
all! I hardly know what I say or do! But look out for me, I'm desperate!
I'm a torrent that's only let loose since yesterday, and now all of a
sudden you try to stop me! But it's too late; I've got my impetus; the
repressed passion of years is behind me; nothing can stop me--and God
keep me from doing the wrong thing! I am determined to clear him out of
the way of the happiness of the woman I love. [_To_ RUTH.] Do you mean
to say you approve of her decision? [RUTH _turns her head; he turns to_
MASON.] Do _you_?

RUTH. No.

STERLING. [_To_ RUTH, _holding out his hand._] You will stand by me,
Aunt Ruth, and together we--

RUTH. [_Interrupting and refusing his hand._] Oh, no.

STERLING. Don't you think I can win her love back?

RUTH. No.

STERLING. Won't you help me try?

RUTH. No. It would be useless.

WARDEN. Come with me to Blanche; I must speak with her.

[WARDEN _and_ RUTH _go out Right._

MASON. [_Alone with_ STERLING.] Go away and make your wife understand
you are never coming back.

STERLING. But the loneliness, the misery, away--alone.

MASON. Kill them with hard work; _you have other heavy debts_, you know.
I came to see you about this business of your acknowledgments to Miss
Godesby and Miss Hunter.

STERLING. Later, later. To-morrow I will decide--

[_He motions him away._ MASON _goes to him and puts his hand on his
shoulder._

MASON. Decide well--

[_He hesitates a moment and then goes out Right._

STERLING. [_Watching him go._] There's not one soul in this world who
cares for me, and it's my _own fault_. [RICHARD _is heard upstairs again
singing "Once in Royal David's City._" STERLING _lifts his head and
listens._] Yes, one little soul loves me, and it would be better for
him, too, if I went away. I'll go to sleep and see how I feel about it
when I wake up. [_He moves the glass of water and takes out the box of
tablets. He starts suddenly, but very slightly, and his muscles
tighten._]

After all, why not end it all _now_, at once, without any more bother?
[_He looks in the box, and glances up questioningly; then he remembers
the fireplace where he threw the other tablets and looks across the room
at the logs. He rises, goes over, and sees in the fireplace the twisted
envelope which holds the other tablets. He bends over to pick it up; he
stops short._] No! Why shouldn't I try it, anyway? She, herself, gives
me the chance! [_He rings the electric bell, and walking away from the
fireplace, takes up with a trembling hand the papers left by_ MASON; _he
wipes the damp from his forehead with his handkerchief. To_ JORDAN, _who
enters Left._] Light the fire quickly; I feel cold.

[_He sinks into the arm-chair, weak from the mental strain._

LEONARD. It's very warm in the house, sir.

STERLING. Do as I tell you--light the fire.

LEONARD. [_Looking for matches on the mantel, finds the box empty._]
There are no matches, sir; I must get one.

STERLING. No, don't go--here--here--

[_He gives him a match from his own box._ LEONARD _notices the trembling
hand and suppressed excitement of_ STERLING, _and involuntarily glances
up, but quickly looks back to his work and strikes a match. The match
goes out._

LEONARD. I shall need another match, please, sir.

STERLING. [_With one in his fingers taken from his match-box, he alters
his mind._] I have no more. [_He puts away his match-box._] Never mind
the fire; get me a pint bottle of champagne.

LEONARD. [_With a surreptitious side glance of curiosity._] Very well,
sir.

[_He goes out Left._

STERLING. That was funny; that was very funny! I wonder if it was
accident, or if there's such a thing as fatality. [_He goes to the
fireplace and picks up the twisted envelope._] If not now--perhaps some
other time--who knows? [_He thrusts the envelope in his vest pocket, and
takes up the papers again from the table to look over them._] I can't
read these things! [_Throwing them down._] The words mean nothing to me!

[_There is the sound outside of a cork being drawn._ LEONARD _enters
with the champagne and a glass and places them beside_ STERLING.

LEONARD. Shall I light the fire now, sir?

STERLING. No, never mind now.

LEONARD. Yes, sir.

[_He goes out Left._

[STERLING _half fills the glass with champagne. He takes out the box of
tablets and counts aloud._

STERLING. One, two, three, four--[_He puts all in the glass, dropping
them as he counts. He hesitates, then quickly drops in two more and
drinks quickly. The glass is empty. He sits by the table thinking a
moment, then lakes a piece of paper and makes ready his stylographic
pen._] Let me see; can I make it seem accidental; it would be so much
less bother and trouble for them! [_He thinks a second, then writes._]
"I have accidentally taken an overdose of my sleeping draught. I have
tried to call some one, but it's no use. I ask only one thing, that you
forget all my sins, wipe out their memory with my name. I want my boy to
change his name, too." [_He hesitates a moment, and then scratches that
sentence heavily out._] No, I won't say that. [_He waits a moment._] God
in heaven, what wouldn't I give for one friendly word just now! Some one
to sort of say _good-by_ to me--take my hand--even a _servant_!

[_He looks about him, showing signs of drowsiness. The door Right bursts
open._ STERLING _quickly hides the letter in his inside pocket as_
WARDEN _comes in._

WARDEN. My hat! Where's my hat!

[_He looks about for it._

STERLING. [_Quietly._] Ned?

WARDEN. My hat, I say! Where's my hat?

[_Looking._

STERLING. Ned!

[_Something in his voice arrests_ WARDEN'S _attention._

WARDEN. What? [_He looks at him._] What's the matter--

STERLING. Nothing--I'm half asleep, that's all--the reaction--I'm worn
out and I've changed my mind--

WARDEN. How do you mean?

STERLING. I'm going away for good--that's the best I can do; I want you
to forgive me--_could_ you? What do you say? Forgive me for everything!
For the sake of the old schoolboy days--

WARDEN. When are you going?

STERLING. To-day. Will you say good-by to me and wish me well on my
journey?

WARDEN. [_Speaks without sympathy._] You can count on me always to help
you in any way I can. You can still retrieve a good deal if you're
strong enough.

STERLING. I know what a beastly friend I've been, and yesterday was more
than any man would stand, but forgive that, too, will you? I've always
been a bad lot!

WARDEN. [_Goes to him and speaks, with the sympathy of a man for a child
coming into his voice._] No, a weak lot; that's been your ruin, Dickie.
I'll see you again before you go.

STERLING. No, I'm going to sleep as long as I can now, and I don't want
any one to wake me up; but when I do wake, I shall have other things to
do. This is good-by.

WARDEN. Well, good luck! [_He starts to go. The two men look at each
other, and finally_ STERLING _gets the courage to hold out his hand._
WARDEN _hesitates a moment, then shakes it._] Good luck!

[_He goes out Left._

[STERLING, _who has been growing more and more drowsy, as soon as he is
alone, goes with difficulty to the door and locks it. He is so drowsy
that he leans against the door for a moment; then he starts to go back
to the table, but is unable to get there and sinks on the sofa half way
between the table and the door. His eyes close, but suddenly he starts
violently and tries to rise, but cannot, crying out faintly._

STERLING. Good God--the money! I forgot the money--who'll pay my debts?
Ah, this is a fitting climax for my life--the weakest, dirtiest thing
I've done--[_He gets the letter from his pocket and holds it in his
hand; the light of the afternoon grows slowly dim, like his fading sight
and senses. He murmurs twice in a faint, drowsy voice._] Coward! Coward!

[BLANCHE, _in the hall outside Right, calls his name._

BLANCHE. Dick!

[STERLING'S _body relaxes and sets. The letter drops from his lifeless
hands._

[BLANCHE _enters with_ RUTH, _followed by_ RICHARD, _who rides a stick
with a horse's head and wears a soldier's cap._

RICHARD. Merry Christmas, father!

BLANCHE. [_Going toward the sofa._] Dick!

RICHARD. Merry Christmas, father!

BLANCHE. Sh! Father's asleep.

[_They steal back toward the other door when_ WARDEN _enters Right._

WARDEN. Oh, you are here! I went down into the drawing-room where I left
you.

BLANCHE. Sh!

[_She points to_ STERLING, _who lies apparently asleep. They speak in
lowered voices._

WARDEN. Yes, I have a message for you from him.

[_Looking at_ RICHARD _and_ RUTH.

RUTH. [_Who understands._] Come, Richard, I haven't seen your tree yet.

[_She goes out Right with_ RICHARD.

WARDEN. [_To_ BLANCHE.] Give me your hand.

[_She does so wonderingly._

WARDEN. [_Softly, with a man's tenderness in his voice._] He is going
away for good.

BLANCHE. Away?

WARDEN. For good.

BLANCHE. [_Slowly, withdrawing her hand._] For good? [_She looks over
toward_ STERLING, _and then back to_ WARDEN.] What does he mean?

WARDEN. We will know when he wakes.

THE CURTAIN STEALS SOFTLY DOWN





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allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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