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Title: A Proposal Under Difficulties - A Farce
Author: Bangs, John Kendrick, 1862-1922
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 "A Proposal Under Difficulties - A Farce" ***

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    [Illustration: "PST!"]



  A Proposal
  Under Difficulties

  A Farce

  By
  John Kendrick Bangs

  Illustrated

  Harper & Brothers Publishers
  New York and London
  1905


  Copyright, 1896, by HARPER & BROTHERS.

  _All rights reserved._

  Published September, 1905.



CAST OF CHARACTERS


  ROBERT YARDSLEY, } _suitors for the hand of
  JACK BARLOW,     }      Miss Andrews_.

  DOROTHY ANDREWS, _a much-loved young woman_.

  JENNIE, _a housemaid_.

  HICKS, _a coachman, who does not appear_.



A PROPOSAL UNDER DIFFICULTIES


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

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

  [_JENNIE gives a little scream of delight._

    [Illustration: "'DIVINE CREATURE'"]

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

  [_YARDSLEY looks up and is covered with confusion._

_Yardsley._ Great Scott! What have I done?

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

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

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

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

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

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

  [_As he is stroking his hair and rearranging his tie he talks in
    pantomime at himself in the glass. In a moment JENNIE ushers
    MR. JACK BARLOW into the room._

_Jennie._ Miss Andrews will be down in a minute, sir.

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

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

_Yardsley_ (_turning sharply about_). Eh? Somebody spoke my name. A man,
too. Great Heavens! I hope Jennie's friend Hicks isn't here. I don't
want to have a scene with Hicks. (_Discovering BARLOW._)
Oh--ah--why--hullo, Barlow! You here?

_Barlow_ (_impatiently, aside_). Hang it! Yardsley's here too! The man's
always turning up when he's not wanted. (_Aloud._) Ah! why, Bob, how are
you? What're you doing here?

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

_Barlow._ For the same reason that you are.

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

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

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

_Barlow._ What say?

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

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

_Yardsley._ Oh, I'm well enough!

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

  [_Starts for door._

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

_Barlow_ (_returning in despair_). Nope.

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

_Barlow._ I'll go with him.

    [Illustration: "I'LL TIME YOU"]

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

  [_Grasps BARLOW by arm, and tries to force him out. BARLOW
    holds back, and is about to remonstrate, when DOROTHY enters.
    Both men rush to greet her; YARDSLEY catches her left hand,
    BARLOW her right._

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

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

_Barlow._ Wholly mine.

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

    [Illustration: "START AT ONCE"]

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

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

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

_Dorothy._ Oh, I don't know. I've always found him very pleasant. He is
so sincere.

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

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

_Barlow._ Humph!

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

_Barlow._ Yes; I received my bid last night. You?

_Dorothy._ Oh yes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

_Barlow._ Ah! (_Aside._) I knew that all along. Oh, but I'm clever!

_Dorothy_ (_hastily, to relieve YARDSLEY'S embarrassment_). Have you
seen Irving, Mr. Yardsley?

_Yardsley._ Yes.

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

_Yardsley_ (_with a grin_). In the grill-room at the Players'.

_Barlow_ (_aside_). Bah!

_Dorothy_ (_laughing_). You are so bright, Mr. Yardsley.

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

_Yardsley._ Yes, they frequently do.

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

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

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

  [_BARLOW meanwhile is assisting DOROTHY._

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

_Dorothy_ (_rummaging through portfolio_). Why, it _was_ here--

_Barlow._ Maybe it's in this other portfolio.

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

_Dorothy_ (_with a glance at BARLOW_). Yes, Mr. Yardsley, I have noticed
the latter.

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

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

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

_Barlow_ (_striking thoughtful attitude_). Yes, where can it be? Let me
do your thinking for you, Miss Dorothy. (_Then softly to her._) Always!

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

_Dorothy._ Oh, I remember. It's upstairs. I took it up with me last
night. I'll ring for Jennie, and have her get it.

_Yardsley_ (_aside, and in consternation_). Jennie! Oh, thunder! I'd
forgotten her. I do hope she remembers not to forget herself.

_Barlow._ What say?

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

_Barlow._ That's what you said before.

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

  [_JENNIE appears at the door in response to DOROTHY'S ring.
    She glances demurely at YARDSLEY, who tries to ignore her
    presence._

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

_Jennie_ (_dazed_). Yessum. And shall I be bringin' lemons with it?

_Dorothy._ Lemons, Jennie?

_Jennie._ You always does have lemons with your tea, mum.

_Dorothy._ I didn't mention tea. I want you to get my portfolio from
upstairs. It is on the table in the corner of my room.

  [_Looks at JENNIE in surprise._

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

  [_She casts a languishing glance at YARDSLEY and disappears._

_Yardsley_ (_noting the glance, presumably aside_). Confound that
Jennie!

_Barlow_ (_overhearing YARDSLEY_). What's that? Confound that Jennie?
Why say confound that Jennie? Why do you wish Jennie to be confounded?

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

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

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

_Barlow._ Certainly.

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

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

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

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

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

_Barlow_ (_not wishing to disagree with DOROTHY_). Very much. Droll
idea, though. Just like Bob, eh? Very, very droll. Bob's always dro--

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

  [_BARLOW and DOROTHY laugh at this, and during their mirth
    JENNIE enters with the portfolio. She hands it to DOROTHY.
    DOROTHY rests it on the arm of her chair, and, BARLOW looking
    over one shoulder, she goes through it. JENNIE in passing out
    throws another kiss to YARDSLEY._

_Yardsley_ (_under his breath, stamping his foot_). Awgh!

_Barlow._ What say?

  [_DOROTHY looks up, surprised._

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

_Barlow._ Oh, say lint, and be done with it.

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

_Dorothy._ Ah, here it is.

_Yardsley._ What? The lint?

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

_Dorothy_ (_holding the picture up_). Fine. Just look at that girl.
Isn't she pretty?

_Barlow._ Very.

_Dorothy._ And such style, too.

    [Illustration: "CHARMING, ISN'T IT?"]

_Yardsley_ (_looking over DOROTHY'S other shoulder_). Yes, very
pretty, and lots of style. (_Softly._) Very--like some one--some one I
know.

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

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

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

  [_DOROTHY looks inquiringly at BARLOW._

_Barlow_ (_to YARDSLEY_). Oh, don't be so sly about it, old fellow!
_Every_body knows.

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

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

_Barlow_ (_gleefully rubbing his hands_). Yes, old man; certainly. Maybe
we--_we_ can help you.

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

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

_Yardsley._ Oh, thanks. You are very kind.

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

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

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

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

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

_Barlow_ (_indignant_). Well, I rather think I have.

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

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

_Yardsley_ (_bristling up_). Now what do you mean by that?

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

_Barlow_ (_with dignity_). I never quarrel.

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

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

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

_Yardsley._ Always. (_Aside._) Among women.

_Barlow._ What say?

  [_DOROTHY rises and rings the bell for JENNIE._

_Yardsley._ I say that I am very fond of tea.

_Barlow._ So am I--here.

  [_Rises and looks at pictures. YARDSLEY meanwhile sits in moody
    silence._

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

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

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

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

  [_Pushes electric button again._

_Yardsley_ (_with an effort at brilliance_). The kitchen belle doesn't
seem to work.

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

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

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

_Dorothy._ We'll omit Mr. Barlow's spoon. I'll bring some for you and
me.

  [_She goes out._

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

_Barlow._ Thanks. Too late now. You said Billie wouldn't wait after
four-thirty.

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

_Barlow._ You seem mighty anxious to get rid of me.

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

_Barlow._ You said seats a little while ago.

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

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

    [Illustration: "WHAT'S UP, ANYHOW?"]

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

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

_Yardsley._ I am here to--to--to rob the house! Business has been bad,
and one must live.

  [_BARLOW looks at him in disgust._

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

_Barlow_ (_looking at him thoughtfully_). Yardsley, I have done you an
injustice.

_Yardsley._ Indeed?

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

_Yardsley._ You are too modest, Jack. You forget--yourself.

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

_Yardsley._ Well, what of it? Do you own it?

_Barlow._ No, I don't, but--

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

_Barlow_ (_bristling up_). After the house? Mercenary motive? I demand
an explanation of those words. What do you mean?

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

  [_DOROTHY enters with a tray, upon which are the tea things._

_Barlow_ (_about to retort to YARDSLEY, perceiving DOROTHY_). Ah! Let
me assist you.

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

_Barlow_ and _Yardsley_ (_together_). Why, what's the matter?

_Yardsley._ I hope the house isn't on fire?

_Barlow._ Or that you haven't been robbed?

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

_Yardsley_ (_nervously_). Jennie? Wha--wha--what's the matter with
Jennie?

_Dorothy._ I only wish I knew. I--

_Yardsley_ (_aside_). I'm glad you don't.

_Barlow._ What say?

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

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

_Yardsley._ Man's voice?

_Barlow._ Man's voice is what Miss Andrews said.

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

_Yardsley_ (_sinking into chair_). Good Lord! Hicks! Angry!
At--something!

_Dorothy._ He was threatening to kill somebody.

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

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

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

_Barlow._ Perhaps she and Hicks have had a lovers' quarrel.

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

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

_Yardsley_ (_discovering his mistake_). Why--er--wasn't it you said so,
Miss Dorothy? Or you, Barlow?

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

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

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

_Barlow._ Or to yourself.

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

_Barlow._ I never said so.

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

_Barlow._ If you please; and one lump of sugar. (_DOROTHY pours it
out._) Thanks.

_Dorothy._ Mr. Yardsley?

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

  [_DOROTHY prepares a cup for YARDSLEY. He is about to take it when--_

_Dorothy._ Well, I declare! _It's nothing but hot water! I forgot the
tea entirely!_

_Barlow_ (_with a laugh_). Oh, never mind. Hot water is good for
dyspepsia.

  [_With a significant look at YARDSLEY._

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

  [_As YARDSLEY speaks the portière is violently clutched from
    without, and JENNIE'S head is thrust into the room. No one
    observes her._

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

_Yardsley_ (_patronizingly_). It _is_ good for children.

_Jennie_ (_trying to attract YARDSLEY'S attention_). Pst!

_Yardsley._ My mamma lets me have it Sunday nights.

_Dorothy._ Ha, ha, ha!

_Barlow._ Another joke? Good. Let me enjoy it, too. Hee, hee!

_Jennie._ Pst!

  [_BARLOW looks around; JENNIE hastily withdraws her head._

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

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

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

_Yardsley._ Maybe the house is haunted.

_Dorothy._ I fancy it was your imagination; or perhaps it was the wind
blowing through the hall. The pantry window is open.

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

  [_JENNIE pokes her head in through the portières again, and
    follows it with her arm and hand, in which is a feather-duster,
    which she waves wildly in an endeavor to attract YARDSLEY'S
    attention._

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

  [_YARDSLEY turns half around, and is about to speak, when he
  catches sight of the now almost hysterical JENNIE and her
  feather-duster._

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

_Yardsley_ (_feeling that he must say something_). Yes. I suppose all
the feathers on the maple-trees are turning red by this time.

_Dorothy._ Feathers, Mr. Yardsley?

_Barlow._ Feathers?

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

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

  [_As he turns to MISS ANDREWS, YARDSLEY tries to wave JENNIE
    away. She beckons with her arms more wildly than ever, and
    YARDSLEY silently speaks the words_, "Go away."

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

_Yardsley_ (_with a forced laugh_). Treeologist.

_Dorothy._ What are dusters, Mr. Yardsley?

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

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

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

_Dorothy._ Do they look like maples?

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

_Barlow._ Oaks?

_Yardsley._ I said oaks. Oaks! O-A-K-S!

_Barlow._ But oaks aren't like maples.

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

  [_As YARDSLEY finishes, JENNIE loses her balance and falls
    headlong into the room._

_Dorothy_ (_starting up hastily_). Why, Jennie!

_Yardsley_ (_staggering into chair_). That settles it. It's all up with
me.

  [_JENNIE sobs, and, rising, rushes to YARDSLEY'S side._

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

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

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

_Jennie_ (_indignantly_). Eh? What? Why, Mr. Yardsley--Bob!

_Barlow._ Bob?

_Dorothy._ Jennie! Bob?

    [Illustration: "WHY, JENNIE!"]

_Yardsley._ Don't you call me Bob.

_Jennie._ It's Hicks.

  [_Bursts out crying._

_Barlow._ Hicks?

_Dorothy._ Jennie, Hicks isn't Bob. His name is George.

_Yardsley_ (_in a despairing rage_). Hicks be--

_Dorothy._ Mr. Yardsley!

_Yardsley_ (_pulling himself together again_). Bobbed. Hicks be Bobbed.
That's what I was going to say.

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

_Jennie._ Why, I--

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

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

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

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

_Yardsley_ (_aside_). Heigho! My goose is cooked.

_Barlow._ I fancy you wish you had taken that walk I suggested now.

_Yardsley._ You always were a good deal of a fancier.

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

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

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

_Yardsley._ I tell you it isn't so.

_Jennie._ Indeed he did, mum.

_Dorothy_ (_impatiently_). Did what?

_Jennie._ Axed me to marry him, mum.

_Dorothy._ Mr. Yardsley--asked--you--to--to marry him?

  [_BARLOW whistles._

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

_Yardsley_ (_desperately_). Let me explain.

_Dorothy._ Wait; Mr. Yardsley; your turn will come in a moment.

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

_Dorothy._ Go on, Jennie. Then what happened?

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

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

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

  [_YARDSLEY sinks into the arm-chair. BARLOW chuckles; MISS
    ANDREWS glances indignantly at him._

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

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

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

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

_Barlow._ Ah! Then you admit the proposal?

_Yardsley._ Oh, Lord! Worse and worse! I--

_Dorothy._ Jennie has not finished her story.

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

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

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

_Dorothy._ Did you, Mr. Yardsley?

  [_YARDSLEY buries his face in his hands and groans._

_Barlow._ Not so ready with your explanations now, eh?

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

_Yardsley._ I did, but--

_Dorothy_ (_frigidly_). Go on, Jennie.

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

_Yardsley._ You've broken with Hicks for me?

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

_Dorothy._ Jennie! Jennie! be calm! Where is Hicks now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

_Barlow_ (_dryly_). Jennie hasn't thrown you over yet.

_Jennie_ (_sniffing airily_). Yes, she has, too. I wouldn't marry him
now for all the world--an'--an' I've lost--lost Hicks. (_Weeps._) Him as
was so brave, an' looks so fine in livery!

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

_Barlow._ Appears to me you've said too much already.

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

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

_Dorothy_ (_in remonstrance_). Mr. Yardsley!

_Barlow_ (_aside_). Magnificent bluff! But why? (_Rubs his forehead in a
puzzled way._) What the deuce is he driving at?

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

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

_Dorothy_ (_softly_). Go on, Mr. Yardsley.

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

_Barlow._ Let me speak, Miss Andrews. I--

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

_Dorothy._ Jennie--what--what have you to say?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_Dorothy._ I'm afraid--

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

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

_Barlow_ (_aside_). Good! That's _his congé_.

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

_Dorothy_ (_with downcast eyes, softly_). What did Jennie say?

_Yardsley_ (_in ecstasy_). Do you mean it?

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

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

_Barlow._ I must go--really.

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

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

_Yardsley._ That's it, precisely. Eh, Jack?

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

_Yardsley._ Ah!

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

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

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

  [_JENNIE departs._

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

    [Illustration: HICKS]

_Dorothy._ Good-bye, and don't forget.

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

  [_YARDSLEY shakes him by the hand, and BARLOW goes out. As he
    disappears through the portières YARDSLEY follows, and, holding
    the curtain aside, looks after him until the front-door is heard
    closing. Then he turns about. DOROTHY looks demurely around at
    him, and as he starts to go to her side the curtain falls._


THE END



TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES:

  Text in italics is indicated by underscores: _italics_.





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