LAURA. What have I done? [Sits in armchair.
JIM. Burgess don't put up the money for any of them musical comedies—he just trails. Of course he's got a lot of influence, and he's always Johnny-on-the-Spot to turn any dirty trick that they want. There are four or five rich men in town who are there with the bank-roll, providing he engages women who ain't so very particular about the location of their residence, and who don't hear a curfew ring at 11:30 every night.
LAURA. And he thinks I am too particular?
JIM. That's what was slipped me. Seems that one of the richest men that is in on Mr. Burgess's address-book is a fellow named Brockton from downtown some place. He's got more money than the Shoe and Leather National Bank. He likes to play show business.
LAURA. [Rises quickly.] Oh! [Crosses to wardrobe, gets hat; crosses to dresser, gets scissors with intention of curling feathers.
JIM. I thought you knew him. I thought it was just as well to tell you where he and Burgess stand. They're pals.
LAURA. [Coming over to JIM and with emphasis crosses to down-stage side of bed; puts hat and scissors on bed.] I don't want you to talk about him or any of them. I just want you to know that I'm trying to do everything in my power to go through this season without any more trouble. I've pawned everything I've got; I've cut every friend I knew. But where am I going to end? That's what I want to know—where am I going to end? [To bed and sits.] Every place I look for a position something interferes. It's almost as if I were blacklisted. I know I could get jobs all right if I wanted to pay the price, but I won't. I just want to tell you, I won't. No!
[Rises, crosses to mantel, rests elbow.
JIM. That's the way to talk. [Rises.] I don't know you very well, but I've watched you close. I'm just a common, ordinary showman who never had much money, and I'm going out o' date. I've spent most of my time with nigger-minstrel shows and circuses, but I've been on the square. That's why I'm broke. [Rather sadly.] Once I thought the missis would have to go back and do her acrobatic act, but she couldn't do that, she's grown so damn fat. [Crosses to LAURA.] Just you don't mind. It'll all come out right.
LAURA. It's an awful tough game, isn't it?
JIM. [During this speech LAURA gets cup, pours milk back into bottle, closes biscuit-box, puts milk on shed outside, and biscuits into wardrobe, cup in alcove.] It's hell forty ways from the Jack. It's tough for me, but for a pretty woman with a lot o' rich fools jumping out o' their automobiles and hanging around stage doors, it must be something awful. I ain't blaming the women. They say "self-preservation is the first law of nature," and I guess that's right; but sometimes when the show is over and I see them fellows with their hair plastered back, smoking cigarettes in a [LAURA crosses to chair right of table and leans over back.] holder long enough to reach from here to Harlem, and a bank-roll that would bust my pocket and turn my head, I feel as if I'd like to get a gun and go a-shooting around this old town.
JIM. Yes, I do—you bet.
LAURA. That wouldn't pay, would it?
JIM. No, they're not worth the job of sitting on that throne in Sing Sing, and I'm too poor to go to Matteawan. But all them fellows under nineteen and over fifty-nine ain't much use to themselves or anyone else.
LAURA. [Rather meditatively.] Perhaps all of them are not so bad.
JIM. [Sits on bed.] Yes, they are,—angels and all. Last season I had one of them shows where a rich fellow backed it on account of a girl. We lost money and he lost his girl; then we got stuck in Texas. I telegraphed: "Must have a thousand, or can't move." He just answered: "Don't move." We didn't.
LAURA. But that was business.
JIM. Bad business. It took a year for some of them folks to get back to Broadway. Some of the girls never did, and I guess never will.
LAURA. Maybe they're better off, Jim. [Sits right of table.
JIM. Couldn't be worse. They're still in Texas. [To himself.] Wish I knew how to do something else, being a plumber or a walking delegate; they always have jobs.
LAURA. Well, I wish I could do something else too, but I can't, and we've got to make the best of it.
JIM. I guess so. I'll see you this evening. I hope you'll have good news by that time. [Starts to exit, about to open door; then retreats a step, with hand on door-knob, crosses and in a voice meant to be kindly] If you'd like to go to the theatre to-night, and take some other woman in the house, maybe I can get a couple of tickets for some of the shows. I know a lot of fellows who are working.
LAURA. No, thanks. I haven't anything to wear to the theatre, and I don't—
JIM. [With a smile crosses to LAURA, puts arm around her.] Now you just cheer up! Something's sure to turn up. It always has for me, and I'm a lot older than you, both in years and in this business. There's always a break in hard luck sometime—that's sure.
LAURA. [Smiling through her tears.] I hope so. But things are looking pretty hopeless now, aren't they?
JIM. I'll go down and give Mrs. F. a line o' talk and try to square you for a couple of days more anyway. But I guess she's laying pretty close to the cushion herself, poor woman.
LAURA. Annie says a lot of people owe her.
JIM. Well, you can't pay what you haven't got. And even if money was growing on trees, it's winter now. [JIM goes towards door.] I'm off. Maybe to-day is lucky day. So long!
JIM. Keep your nerve. [Exit
LAURA. I will. [She sits for a moment in deep thought, picks up the letter received, as if to read it, and then throws it down in anger. She buries her head in hands.] I can't stand it—I just simply can't stand it.
MRS. FARLEY'S VOICE. [Off stage.] Miss Murdock—Miss Murdock.
LAURA. [Brushing away tears, rises, goes to door, and opens it.] What is it?
SAME VOICE. There's a lady down here to see you.
ELFIE'S VOICE. [Off stage.] Hello, dearie, can I come up?
LAURA. Is that you, Elfie?
ELFIE. Yes; shall I come up?
LAURA. Why, certainly.
She waits at the door for a moment, and ELFIE ST. CLAIR appears. She is gorgeously gowned in the rather extreme style affected by the usual New York woman who is cared for by a gentleman of wealth and who has not gone through the formality of matrimonial alliance. Her conduct is always exaggerated and her attitude vigorous. Her gown is of the latest design, and in every detail of dress she shows evidence of most extravagant expenditure. She carries a hand-bag of gold, upon which are attached such trifles as a gold cigarette-case, a gold powder-box, pencils, and the like. ELFIE throws her arms around LAURA, and both exchange kisses.
ELFIE. Laura, you old dear [Crossing to table.], I've just found out where you've been hiding, and came around to see you.
LAURA. [Who is much brightened by ELFIE'S appearance.] Elfie, you're looking bully. How are you, dear?
LAURA. Come in and sit down. I haven't much to offer, but—
ELFIE. Oh, never mind. It's such a grand day outside, and I've come around in my car to take you out. [Sits right of table.] You know I've got a new one, and it can go some.
LAURA. [Sits on arm of chair.] I am sorry, but I can't go out this afternoon, Elfie.
ELFIE. What's the matter?
LAURA. You see I'm staying home a good deal nowadays. I haven't been feeling very well and I don't go out much.
ELFIE. I should think not. I haven't seen you in Rector's or Martin's since you come back from Denver. Got a glimpse of you one day trailing up Broadway, but couldn't get to you—you dived into some office or other. [For the first time she surveys the room, rises, looks around critically, crossing to mantel.] Gee! Whatever made you come into a dump like this? It's the limit.
LAURA. [Crossing and standing back of the table.] Oh, I know it isn't pleasant, but it's my home, and after all—a home's a home.
ELFIE. Looks more like a prison. [Takes candy from mantel; spits it out on floor.] Makes me think of the old days of Child's sinkers and a hall bedroom.
LAURA. It's comfortable. [Leaning hands on table.
ELFIE. Not! [Sits on bed, trying bed with comedy effect. Say, is this here for an effect, or do you sleep on it?
LAURA. I sleep on it.
ELFIE. No wonder you look tired. Say, listen, dearie. What else is the matter with you anyway?
ELFIE. Yes, there is. What happened between you and Brockton? [Notices faded flowers in vase on table; takes them out, tosses them into fireplace, replaces them with gardenias which she wears.] He's not broke, because I saw him the other day.
ELFIE. In the park. Asked me out to luncheon, but I couldn't go. You know, dearie, I've got to be so careful. Jerry's so awful jealous—the old fool.
LAURA. Do you see much of Jerry nowadays, Elfie?
ELFIE. Not any more than I can help and be nice. He gets on my nerves. Of course, I've heard about your quitting Brockton.
LAURA. Then why do you ask?
[Crosses around chair right of table; stands.
ELFIE. Just wanted to hear from your own dear lips what the trouble was. Now tell me all about it. Can I smoke here?
[Takes cigarette-case up, opens it, selecting cigarette.
LAURA. Surely. [Gets matches off bureau, puts them on table.
ELFIE. Have one? [Offers case.
LAURA. No, thank you.
[Sits in chair right of table, facing ELFIE.
ELFIE. H'm-m, h'm-m, hah! [Lights cigarette.] Now go ahead. Tell me all the scandal. I'm just crazy to know.
LAURA. There's nothing to tell. I haven't been able to find work, that is all, and I'm short of money. You can't live in hotels, you know, with cabs and all that sort of thing, when you're not working.
ELFIE. Yes, you can. I haven't worked in a year.
LAURA. But you don't understand, dear. I—I—Well, you know I—well, you know—I can't say what I want.
ELFIE. Oh, yes, you can. You can say anything to me—everybody else does. We've been pals. I know you got along a little faster in the business than I did. The chorus was my limit, and you went into the legitimate thing. But we got our living just the same way. I didn't suppose there was any secret between you and me about that.
LAURA. I know there wasn't then, Elfie, but I tell you I'm different now. I don't want to do that sort of thing, and I've been very unlucky. This has been a terribly hard season for me. I simply haven't been able to get an engagement.
ELFIE. Well, you can't get on this way. Won't [Pauses, knocking ashes off cigarette to cover hesitation.] Brockton help you out?
LAURA. What's the use of talking to you [Rises and crosses to fireplace.], Elfie; you don't understand.
ELFIE. [Puffing deliberately on cigarette and crossing her legs in almost a masculine attitude.] No? Why don't I understand?
LAURA. Because you can't; you've never felt as I have.
ELFIE. How do you know?
LAURA. [Turning impatiently.] Oh, what's the use of explaining?
ELFIE. You know, Laura, I'm not much on giving advice, but you make me sick. I thought you'd grown wise. A young girl just butting into this business might possibly make a fool of herself, but you ought to be on to the game and make the best of it.
LAURA. [Going over to her angrily.] If you came up here, Elfie, to talk that sort of stuff to me, please don't. I was West this summer. I met someone, a real man, who did me a whole lot of good,—a man who opened my eyes to a different way of going along—a man who—Oh, well, what's the use? You don't know—you don't know. [Sits on bed.
ELFIE. [Throws cigarette into fireplace.] I don't know, don't I? I don't know, I suppose, that when I came to this town from up state,—a little burg named Oswego,—and joined a chorus, that I didn't fall in love with just such a man. I suppose I don't know that then I was the best-looking girl in New York, and everybody talked about me? I suppose I don't know that there were men, all ages and with all kinds of money, ready to give me anything for the mere privilege of taking me out to supper? And I didn't do it, did I? For three years I stuck by this good man who was to lead me in a good way toward a good life. And all the time I was getting older, never quite so pretty one day as I had been the day before. I never knew then what it was to be tinkered with by hair-dressers and manicures or a hundred and one of those other people who make you look good. I didn't have to have them then. [Rises, crosses to right of table, facing LAURA.] Well, you know, Laura, what happened.
LAURA. Wasn't it partly your fault, Elfie?
ELFIE. [Speaking across table angrily.] Was it my fault that time made me older and I took on a lot of flesh? Was it my fault that the work and the life took out the colour, and left the make-up? Was it my fault that other pretty young girls came along, just as I'd come, and were chased after, just as I was? Was it my fault the cabs weren't waiting any more and people didn't talk about how pretty I was? And was it my fault when he finally had me alone, and just because no one else wanted me, he got tired and threw me flat—cold flat [Brings hand down on table.]—and I'd been on the dead level with him! [With almost a sob, crosses up to bureau, powders nose, comes down back of table.] It almost broke my heart. Then I made up my mind to get even and get all I could out of the game. Jerry came along. He was a has-been and I was on the road to be. He wanted to be good to me, and I let him. That's all.
LAURA. Still, I don't see how you can live that way.
[Lies on bed.
ELFIE. Well, you did, and you didn't kick.
LAURA. Yes, but things are different with me now. You'd be the same way if you were in my place.
ELFIE. No. I've had all the romance I want, and I'll stake you to all your love affairs. [Crosses back of bed, touches picture over bed.] I am out to gather in as much coin as I can in my own way, so when the old rainy day comes along I'll have a little change to buy myself an umbrella.
LAURA. [Rising and angrily crossing to armchair.] What did you come here for? Why can't you leave me alone when I'm trying to get along?
ELFIE. Because I want to help you.
LAURA. [During speech crosses to up-stage side of bed, angrily tosses quilt to floor and sits on bed in tears.] You can't help me. I'm all right—I tell you I am. What do you care anyway?
ELFIE. [Sits on bed, crosses down stage to lower left side of bed, sits facing LAURA.] But I do care. I know how you feel with an old cat for a landlady and living up here on a side street with a lot of cheap burlesque people. Why, the room's cold [LAURA rises, crosses to window.], and there's no hot water, and you're beginning to look shabby. You haven't got a job—chances are you won't have one. What does [Indicating picture on bed with thumb.] this fellow out there do for you? Send you long letters of condolences? That's what I used to get. When I wanted to buy a new pair of shoes or a silk petticoat, he told me how much he loved me; so I had the other ones re-soled and turned the old petticoat. And look at you, you're beginning to show it. [She surveys her carefully.] I do believe there are lines coming in your face [LAURA crosses to dresser quickly, picks up hand mirror, and looks at herself.], and you hide in the house because you've nothing new to wear.
LAURA. [Puts down mirror, crossing down to back of bed.] But I've got what you haven't got. I may have to hide my clothes, but I don't have to hide my face. And you with that man—he's old enough to be your father—a toddling dote hanging on your apron-strings. I don't see how you dare show your face to a decent woman.
ELFIE. [Rises.] You don't!—but you did once and I never caught you hanging your head. You say he's old. I know he's old, but he's good to me. He's making what's left of my life pleasant. You think I like him. I don't,—sometimes I hate him,—but he understands; and you can bet your life his check is in my mail every Saturday night or there's a new lock on the door Sunday morning. [Crossing to fireplace.
LAURA. How can you say such things to me?
ELFIE. [Crosses to left end of table.] Because I want you to be square with yourself. You've lost all that precious virtue women gab about. When you've got the name, I say get the game.
LAURA. You can go now, Elfie, and don't come back.
ELFIE. [Gathering up muff, &c.] All right, if that's the way you want it to be, I'm sorry. [A knock on the door.
LAURA. [Controlling herself after a moment's hesitation.] Come in.
ANNIE enters with a note, crosses, and hands it to LAURA.
ANNIE. Mis' Farley sent dis, Miss Laura.
[LAURA takes the note and reads it. She is palpably annoyed.
LAURA. There's no answer.
ANNIE. She tol' me not to leave until Ah got an answah.
LAURA. You must ask her to wait.
ANNIE. She wants an answah.
LAURA. Tell her I'll be right down—that it will be all right.
ANNIE. But, Miss Laura, she tol' me to get an answah.
LAURA. [Half to herself and half to ELFIE.] She's taking advantage of your being here. [Standing near door.
LAURA. She wants money—three weeks' room-rent. I presume she thought you'd give it to me.
ELFIE. Huh! [Moves to left.
LAURA. [Crossing to table.] Elfie, I've been a little cross; I didn't mean it.
LAURA. Could—could you lend me thirty-five dollars until I get to work?
ELFIE. Lend you thirty-five dollars?
LAURA. Yes; you've got plenty of money to spare.
ELFIE. Well, you certainly have got a nerve.
LAURA. You might give it to me. I haven't a dollar in the world, and you pretend to be such a friend to me!
ELFIE. [Turning and angrily speaking across table.] So that's the kind of woman you are, eh? A moment ago you were going to kick me out of the place because I wasn't decent enough to associate with you. You know how I live. You know how I get my money—the same way you got most of yours. And now that you've got this spasm of goodness I'm not fit to be in your room; but you'll take my money to pay your debts. You'll let me go out and do this sort of thing for your benefit, while you try to play the grand lady. I've got your number now, Laura. Where in hell is your virtue anyway? You can go to the devil—rich, poor, or any other way. I'm off! ELFIE rushes toward door; for a moment LAURA stands speechless, then bursts into hysterics.
LAURA. Elfie! Elfie! Don't go now! Don't leave me now! [ELFIE hesitates with hand on door-knob.] I can't stand it. I can't be alone. Don't go, please; don't go.
LAURA falls into ELFIE'S arms, sobbing. In a moment ELFIE'S whole demeanour changes and she melts into the tenderest womanly sympathy, trying her best to express herself in her crude way.
ELFIE. There, old girl, don't cry, don't cry. You just sit down here and let me put my arms around you. [ELFIE leads LAURA over to armchair, places muff, &c., in chair, and sits LAURA down in chair. ELFIE sits on right arm of chair with her left arm behind LAURA; hugs LAURA to her. LAURA in tears and sobbing during scene.] I'm awful sorry—on the level, I am. I shouldn't have said it. I know that. But I've got feelings too, even if folks don't give me credit for it.
LAURA. I know, Elfie. I've gone through about all I can stand.
ELFIE. Well, I should say you have—and more than I would. Anyway a good cry never hurts any woman. I have one myself, sometimes—under cover.
LAURA. [More seriously, recovering herself.] Perhaps what you said was true.
ELFIE. We won't talk about it.
[Wiping LAURA'S eyes and kissing her.
LAURA. [With persistence.] But perhaps it was true, and, Elfie—
LAURA. I think I've stood this just as long as I can. Every day is a living horror.
ELFIE. [Looking around room.] It's the limit.
LAURA. I've got to have money to pay the rent. I've pawned everything I have, except the clothes on my back.
ELFIE. I'll give you all the money you need, dearie. Great heavens, don't worry about that. Don't you care if I got sore and—and lost my head.
LAURA. No; I can't let you do that. [Rises; crosses to table.] You may have been mad,—awfully mad,—but what you said was the truth. I can't take your money. [Sits right of table.
ELFIE. Oh, forget that. [Rises, crosses to centre.
LAURA. Maybe—maybe if he knew all about it—the suffering—he wouldn't blame me.
ELFIE. Who—the good man who wanted to lead you to the good life without even a bread-basket for an advance-agent? Huh!
LAURA. Still he doesn't know how desperately poor I am.
ELFIE. He knows you're out of work, don't he?
LAURA. [Turning to ELFIE.] Not exactly. I've let him think that I'm getting along all right.
ELFIE. Then you're a chump. Hasn't he sent you anything?
LAURA. He hasn't anything to send.
ELFIE. Well, what does he think you're going to live on?—asphalt croquettes with conversation sauce?
LAURA. I don't know—I don't know. [Sobbing.
ELFIE. [Crosses to LAURA, puts arms around her.] Don't be foolish, dearie. You know there is somebody waiting for you—somebody who'll be good to you and get you out of this mess.
LAURA. You mean Will Brockton? [Looking up.
LAURA. Do you know where he is?
ELFIE. You won't get sore again if I tell you, will you?
LAURA. No—why? [Rises.
ELFIE. He's downstairs—waiting in the car. I promised to tell him what you said.
LAURA. Then it was all planned, and—and—
ELFIE. Now, dearie, I knew you were up against it, and I wanted to bring you two together. He's got half of the Burgess shows, and if you'll only see him everything will be fixed.
LAURA. When does he want to see me?
ELFIE. Yes. Shall I tell him to come up?
LAURA. [After a long pause, crossing around to bed, down-stage side.] Yes.
ELFIE. [Suddenly becomes animated.] Now you're a sensible dear. I'll bet he's half frozen down there. [Goes to door.] I'll send him up. Look at you, Laura, you're a sight. [Crosses to LAURA, takes her by hand, leads her up to washstand, takes towel and wipes LAURA'S eyes.] It'll never do to have him see you looking like this; come over here and let me fix your eyes. Now, Laura, I want you to promise me you won't do any more crying. [Leads LAURA over to dresser, takes powder-puff and powders LAURA'S face.] Come over here and let me powder your nose. Now when he comes up you tell him he has got to blow us all off to a dinner to-night at Martin's, seven-thirty. Let me look at you. Now you're all right. [After daubing LAURA'S face with the rouge paw, ELFIE takes LAURA'S face in her hands and kisses her.] Make it strong now, seven-thirty, don't forget. I'll be there. [Crosses to armchair, gathers up muff, &c.] So long.
After ELFIE'S exit LAURA crosses slowly to wardrobe, pulls off picture of JOHN; crosses to dresser, takes picture of JOHN from there; carries both pictures over to bed; kneels on bed, pulls down picture at head of bed; places all three pictures under pillow. WILL is heard coming upstairs, and knocks.
LAURA. Come in.
WILL enters. His dress is that of a man of business, the time being about February. He is well groomed and brings with him the impression of easy luxury.
WILL. [As he enters.] Hello, Laura.
There is an obvious embarrassment on the part of each of them. She rises, goes to him and extends her hand.
LAURA. I'm—I'm glad to see you, Will.
WILL. Thank you.
LAURA. Won't you sit down?
WILL. [Regaining his ease of manner.] Thank you again.
[Puts hat and cane at end of wardrobe; removes overcoat and places it on back of armchair; sits in armchair.
LAURA. [Sits right of table.] It's rather cold out, isn't it?
WILL. Just a bit sharp.
LAURA. You came with Elfie in the car?
WILL. She picked me up at Martin's; we lunched there.
LAURA. By appointment?
WILL. I'd asked her.
WILL. Well, Laura.
LAURA. She told you?
WILL. Not a great deal. What do you want to tell me?
LAURA. [Very simply, and avoiding his glance.] Will, I'm ready to come back.
WILL. [With an effort concealing his sense of triumph and satisfaction. Rises, crosses to LAURA.] I'm mighty glad of that, Laura. I've missed you like the very devil.
LAURA. Do we—do we have to talk it over much?
[Crosses to left of table in front of bed.
WILL. Not at all unless you want to. I understand—in fact, I always have.
LAURA. [Wearily.] Yes, I guess you always did. I didn't.
[Crosses and sits right of table.
WILL. It will be just the same as it was before, you know.
WILL. I didn't think it was possible for me to miss anyone the way I have you. I've been lonely.
LAURA. That's nice in you to say that.
WILL. You'll have to move out of here right away. [Crossing to back of table, surveying room.] This place is enough to give one the colly-wabbles. If you'll be ready to-morrow I'll send my man over to help you take care of the luggage.
LAURA. To-morrow will be all right, thank you.
WILL. And you'll need some money in the meantime. I'll leave this here.
[He takes a roll of bills and places it on the bureau.
LAURA. You seem to have come prepared. Did Elfie and you plan this all out?
WILL. Not planned—just hoped. I think you'd better go to some nice hotel now. Later we can arrange.
[Sits on up-stage side of bed.
LAURA. Will, we'll always be frank. I said I was ready to go. It's up to you—when and where.
WILL. The hotel scheme is the best, but, Laura—
WILL. You're quite sure this is in earnest. You don't want to change? You've time enough now.
LAURA. I've quite made up my mind. It's final.
WILL. If you want to work, Burgess has a nice part for you. I'll telephone and arrange if you say so.
LAURA. Thanks. Say I'll see him in the morning.
WILL. And, Laura, you know when we were in Denver, and—
LAURA. [Rises hurriedly; crosses right.] Please, please, don't speak of it.
WILL. I'm sorry, but I've got to. I told [Rises, and crosses to left.] Madison [LAURA turns her head.]—pardon me, but I must do this—that if this time ever came I'd have you write him the truth. Before we go any further I'd like you to do that now.
LAURA. Say good-bye? [Turns to WILL.
WILL. Just that.
LAURA. I wouldn't know how to begin. It will hurt him awfully deeply.
WILL. It'll be worse if you don't. He'll like you for telling him. It would be honest, and that is what he expects.
LAURA. Must I—now?
WILL. I think you should.
LAURA. [Goes to table and sits down.] How shall I begin, Will?
WILL. [Standing back of table.] You mean you don't know what to say?
WILL. Then I'll dictate.
LAURA. I'll do just as you say. You're the one to tell me now.
WILL. Address it the way you want to. [She complies.] I'm going to be pretty brutal. In the long run I think that is best, don't you?
LAURA. It's up to you.
WILL. [Dictating.] "All I have to say can be expressed in one word, 'good-bye.' I shall not tell you where I've gone, but remind you of what Brockton told you the last time he saw you. He is here now [Pause.], dictating this letter. What I am doing is voluntary—my own suggestion. Don't grieve. Be happy and successful. I do not love you"—
[She puts pen down; looks at him.
WILL. It has got to go just that way—"I do not love you." Sign it "Laura." [She does it.] Fold it, put it in an envelope—seal it—address it. Now shall I mail it?
LAURA. No. If you don't mind I'd sooner. It's a sort of a last—last message.
WILL. [Crosses to armchair; gets coat, puts it on.] All right. You're a little upset now, and I'm going. We are all to dine at Martin's to-night at seven-thirty. There'll be a party. Of course you'll come. [Gets hat and cane.
LAURA. I don't think I can. You see—
WILL. I know. I guess there's enough there [Indicating money.] for your immediate needs. Later you can straighten things up. Shall I send the car?
LAURA. Yes, please.
WILL. Good. It will be the first happy evening I've had in a long, long time. You'll be ready?
[Approaches and bends over her as if to caress her.
LAURA. [Shrinking away.] Please don't. Remember we don't dine until seven-thirty.
WILL. All right. [Exit.
For a moment LAURA sits silent, and then angrily rises, crosses up to dresser, gets alcohol lamp, crosses to table with lamp, lights same, and starts back to dresser. Knock at door.
LAURA. Come in. [ANNIE enters, and stops.] That you, Annie?
LAURA. Mrs. Farley wants her rent. There is some money. [Tosses money on to table.] Take it to her.
ANNIE goes to the table, examines the roll of bills and is palpably surprised.
ANNIE. Dey ain't nothin' heah, Miss Laura, but five great big one hunderd dollah bills.
LAURA. Take two. And look in that upper drawer. You'll find some pawn tickets there. [ANNIE complies.
ANNIE. Yassum. [Aside.] Dat's real money—dem's yellow-backs sure.
LAURA. Take the two top ones and go get my lace gown and one of the hats. The ticket is for a hundred and ten dollars. Keep ten for yourself, and hurry.
ANNIE. [Aside.] Ten for myself—I never see so much money. [To LAURA, her astonishment nearly overcoming her.] Yassum, Miss Laura, yassum. [She goes toward door, and then turns to LAURA.] Ah'm so mighty glad yo' out all yo' trouble, Miss Laura. I says to Mis' Farley now—
LAURA. [Snapping her off.] Don't—don't. Go do as I tell you and mind your business. [ANNIE turns sullenly and walks toward the door. At that moment LAURA sees the letter, which she has thrown on the table.] Wait a minute. I want you to mail a letter. [By this time her hair is half down, hanging loosely over her shoulders. Her waist is open at the throat, collar off, and she has the appearance of a woman's untidiness when she is at that particular stage of her toilet. Hands letter to ANNIE, but snatches it away as ANNIE turns to go. She glances at the letter long and wistfully, and her nerve fails her.] Never mind.
ANNIE exits. Slowly LAURA puts the letter over the flame of the alcohol lamp and it ignites. As it burns she holds it in her fingers, and when half consumed throws it into waste-jar, sits on side of bed watching letter burn, then lies down across bed on her elbows, her chin in her hands, facing audience. As the last flicker is seen the curtain slowly descends.
SCENE. Two months have elapsed. The scene is at BROCKTON'S apartment in a hotel such as is not over particular concerning the relations of its tenants. There are a number of these hotels throughout the theatre district of New York, and, as a rule, one will find them usually of the same type. The room in which this scene is placed is that of the general living-room in one of the handsomest apartments in the building. The prevailing colour is green, and there is nothing particularly gaudy about the general furnishings. They are in good taste, but without the variety of arrangement and ornamentation which would naturally obtain in a room occupied by people a bit more particular concerning their surroundings. Down stage is a table about three feet square which can be used not only as a general centre-table, but also for service while the occupants are eating. There is a breakfast service on this table, and also a tray and stand behind it. There is a chair at either side of the table, and at right coming up stage, the room turns at a sharp angle of thirty-five degrees, and this space is largely taken up by a large doorway. This is equipped with sliding-doors and hung with green portieres, which are handsome and in harmony with the general scheme of the furnishings of the room. This entrance is to the sleeping-room of the apartments.
At the back of the stage is a large window or alcove. The window is on the ordinary plan, and the view through it shows the back of another building of New York, presumably a hotel of about the same character. Green portieres are also hung on the windows. Down left is the entrance to the corridor of the hotel, and this must be so arranged that it works with a latch-key and opens upon a small hallway, which separates the apartment from the main hallway. This is necessary as the action calls for the slamming of a door, and later the opening of the direct and intimate door of the apartment with a latch-key. Left of centre is a sofa, and there is a general arrangement of chairs without over-crowding the apartment. Just below, where the right portiere is hung, is a long, full-length mirror, such as women dress by. Against wall is a lady's fancy dresser.
To the immediate left of the sliding-doors, which go into the sleeping-apartment, is a lady's small writing-desk, with a drawer on the right-hand side, in which is a pearl-handled 32-calibre revolver. The front of the desk is open at rise. On top of the desk is a desk lamp and a large box of candy; inside the desk is writing material, &c. In pigeon-hole left there is a small photo and frame, which ANNIE places on the table when she removes the breakfast set. In front of centre window in alcove is a small table on which is a parlour lamp, and some newspapers, including the "New York Sun." On the floor running between the desk and table is a large fur rug. In front of the table is a small gilt chair; in front of desk there is also a small gilt chair; there is a pianola piano, on top of which is a bundle of music-rolls. In place, ready to play, is a roll of a negro tune called "Bon-Bon Buddie, My Chocolate Drop." On top of the piano, in addition to the music-rolls, are a fancy lamp, a large basket of chrysanthemums, and two photos in frames, at the upper corner. Standing on the floor is a large piano lamp. On the sofa are cushions, and thrown over its back is a lady's opera-coat. On the sofa are also a fan and some small dinner favours.
On the dresser are a lady's silver toilet set, including powder boxes, rouge boxes, manicuring implements, and a small plush black cat that might have been a favour at some time. Two little dolls hang on the side of the glass of the dresser, which also might have been favours. These are used later in the action, and are necessary.
AT RISE. When the curtain rises on this scene it is noticeable that the occupants of the room must have returned rather late at night, after having dined, not wisely, but too well. In the alcove is a man's dress-coat and vest thrown on the cushions in a most careless manner; a silk hat badly rumpled is near it. Over the top of sofa is an opera-cloak, and hung on the mirror is a huge hat, of the evening type, such as women would pay handsomely for. A pair of gloves is thrown on top of the pier-glass. The curtains in the bay-window are half drawn, and the light shades are half drawn down the windows, so that when the curtain goes up the place is in a rather dim light. On the table are the remains of a breakfast, which is served in a box-like tray such as is used in hotels. LAURA is discovered sitting at right of table, her hair a bit untidy. She has on a very expensive negligee gown. WILL, in a business suit, is at the other side of the table, and both have evidently just about concluded their breakfast and are reading the newspapers while they sip their coffee. LAURA is intent in the scanning of her "Morning Telegraph," while WILL is deep in the market reports of the "Journal of Commerce," and in each instance these things must be made apparent. WILL throws down the paper rather impatiently.
WILL. Have you seen the Sun, Laura?
WILL. Where is it?
LAURA. I don't know.
WILL. [In a loud voice.] Annie, Annie! [A pause.] Annie! [In an undertone, half directed to LAURA.] Where the devil is that nigger?
LAURA. Why, I suppose she's at breakfast.
WILL. Well, she ought to be here.
LAURA. Did it ever occur to you that she has got to eat just the same as you have?
WILL. She's your servant, isn't she?
LAURA. My maid.
WILL. Well, what have you got her for,—to eat or to wait on you? Annie!
LAURA. Don't be so cross. What do you want?
WILL. I want the Sun.
[BROCKTON pours out one half glass of water from bottle.
LAURA. I will get it for you.
Rather wearily she gets up and goes to the table, where there are other morning papers; she takes the "Sun," hands it to him, goes back to her seat, re-opens the "Morning Telegraph." There is a pause. ANNIE enters from the sleeping-room.
ANNIE. Do yuh want me, suh?
WILL. Yes, I did want you, but don't now. When I'm at home I have a man to look after me, and I get what I want.
LAURA. For heaven's sake, Will, have a little patience. If you like your man so well, you had better live at home, but don't come around here with a grouch and bulldoze everybody.
WILL. Don't think for a moment that there's much to come around here for. Annie, this room's stuffy.
WILL. Draw those portieres. Let those curtains up. [ANNIE lets up curtain.] Let's have a little light. Take away these clothes and hide them. Don't you know that a man doesn't want to see the next morning anything to remind him of the night before. Make the place look a little respectable.
In the meantime ANNIE scurries around, picking up the coat and vest, opera-cloak, &c., as rapidly as possible, and throwing them over her arm without any idea of order. It is very apparent that she is rather fearful of the anger of WILL while he is in this mood.
WILL. [Looking at her.] Be careful. You're not taking the wash off the line.
ANNIE. Yassuh. [Exit in confusion.
LAURA. [Laying down paper and looking at WILL.] Well, I must say you're rather amiable this morning.
WILL. I feel like hell.
LAURA. Market unsatisfactory?
WILL. No; head too big. [He lights a cigar; as he takes a puff he makes an awful face.] Tastes like punk. [Puts cigar into cup.
LAURA. You drank a lot.
WILL. We'll have to cut out those parties. I can't do those things any more. I'm not as young as I was, and in the morning it makes me sick. How do you feel?
LAURA. A little tired, that's all. [Rises, and crosses to bureau.
WILL. You didn't touch anything?
WILL. I guess you're on the safe side. It was a great old party, though, wasn't it?
LAURA. Did you think so?
WILL. Oh, for that sort of a blow-out. Not too rough, but just a little easy. I like them at night and I hate them in the morning. [He picks up the paper and commences to glance it over in a casual manner, not interrupting his conversation.] Were you bored?
LAURA. Yes; always at things like that.
WILL. Well, you don't have to go.
LAURA. You asked me.
WILL. Still, you could say no. [LAURA picks up paper, puts it on table and crosses back to bureau.
LAURA. But you asked me.
WILL. What did you go for if you didn't want to?
LAURA. You wanted me to.
WILL. I don't quite get you.
LAURA. Well, Will, you have all my time when I'm not in the theatre, and you can do with it just what you please. You pay for it. I'm working for you.
WILL. Is that all I've got,—just your time?
LAURA. [Wearily.] That and the rest. [LAURA crosses up to desk, gets "part," crosses to sofa, turning pages of "part."] I guess you know. [Crosses to sofa and sits.
WILL. [Looking at her curiously.] Down in the mouth, eh? I'm sorry.
LAURA. No, only if you want me to be frank, I'm a little tired. You may not believe it, but I work awfully hard over at the theatre. Burgess will tell you that. I know I'm not so very good as an actress, but I try to be. [LAURA lies down on sofa.] I'd like to succeed, myself. They're very patient with me. Of course they've got to be,—that's another thing you're paying for, but I don't seem to get along except this way.
WILL. Oh, don't get sentimental. If you're going to bring up that sort of talk, Laura, do it sometime when I haven't got a hang-over, and then don't forget talk never does count for much.
LAURA crosses up to mirror, picks up hat from box, puts it on, looks in mirror. She turns around and looks at him steadfastly for a minute. During this entire scene, from the time the curtain rises, she must in a way indicate a premonition of an approaching catastrophe, a feeling, vague but nevertheless palpable, that something is going to happen. She must hold this before her audience so that she can show to them, without showing to him, the disgust she feels. LAURA has tasted of the privations of self-sacrifice during her struggle, and she has weakly surrendered and is unable to go back, but that brief period of self-abnegation has shown to her most clearly the rottenness of the other sort of living. There are enough sentimentality and emotion in her character to make it impossible for her to accept this manner of existence as ELFIE does. Hers is not a nature of careless candour, but of dreamy ideals and better living, warped, handicapped, disillusioned, and destroyed by a weakness that finds its principal force in vanity. WILL resumes his newspaper in a more attentive way. The girl looks at him and expresses in pantomime, by the slightest gesture or shrug of the shoulders, her growing distaste for him and his way of living. In the meantime WILL is reading the paper rather carefully. He stops suddenly and then looks at his watch.
LAURA. What time is it?
WILL. After ten.
WILL at this moment particularly reads some part of the paper, turns to her with a keen glance of suspicion and inquiry, and then for a very short moment evidently settles in his mind a cross-examination. He has read in this paper a despatch from Chicago, which speaks of JOHN MADISON having arrived there as a representative of a big Western mining syndicate which is going to open large operations in the Nevada gold-fields, and representing MR. MADISON as being on his way to New York with sufficient capital to enlist more, and showing him to be now a man of means. The attitude of LAURA and the coincidence of the despatch bring back to WILL the scene in Denver, and later in New York, and with that subtle intuition of the man of the world he connects the two.
WILL. I don't suppose, Laura, that you'd be interested now in knowing anything about that young fellow out in Colorado? What was his name—Madison?
LAURA. Do you know anything?
WILL. No, nothing particularly. I've been rather curious to know how he came out. He was a pretty fresh young man and did an awful lot of talking. I wonder how he's doing and how he's getting along. I don't suppose by any chance you have ever heard from him?
LAURA. No, no; I've never heard. [Crosses to bureau.
WILL. I presume he never replied to that letter you wrote?
WILL. It would be rather queer, eh, if this young fellow should [Looks at paper.] happen to come across a lot of money—not that I think he ever could, but it would be funny, wouldn't it?
LAURA. Yes, yes; it would be unexpected. I hope he does. It might make him happy.
WILL. Think he might take a trip East and see you act. You know you've got quite a part now.
LAURA. [Impatiently.] I wish you wouldn't discuss this. Why do you mention it now? [Crossing to right of table.] Is it because you were drinking last night and lost your sense of delicacy? You once had some consideration for me. What I've done I've done. I'm giving you all that I can. Please, please, don't hurt me any more than you can help. That's all I ask.
[Crossing up to mirror. Crosses back to right of table; sits.
WILL. Well, I'm sorry. I didn't mean that, Laura. I guess I am feeling a little bad to-day. Really, I don't want to hurt your feelings, my dear.
He gets up, goes to her, puts his hands on her shoulders, and his cheek close to the back of her head. She bends forward and shudders a little bit. It is very easy to see that the life she is leading is becoming intolerable to her.
WILL. You know, dearie, I do a lot for you because you've always been on the level with me. I'm sorry I hurt you, but there was too much wine last night and I'm all upset. Forgive me.
LAURA, in order to avoid his caresses, has leaned forward; her hands are clasped between her knees, and she is looking straight outward with a cold, impassive expression. WILL regards her silently for a moment. Really in the man's heart there is an affection, and really he wants to try to comfort her; but he seems to realize that she has slipped away from the old environment and conditions, and that he simply bought her back; that he hasn't any of her affection, even with his money; that she evinces toward him none of the old camaraderie; and it hurts him, as those things always hurt a selfish man, inclining him to be brutal and inconsiderate. WILL crosses to centre, and stands reading paper; bell rings; a pause and second bell. WILL seizes upon this excuse to go up-stage and over towards the door.
WILL. [After second bell.] Damn that bell.
He continues on his way; he opens the door, leaves it open, and passes on to the outer door, which he opens. LAURA remains immovable and impassive, with the same cold, hard expression on her face. He comes in, slamming the outer door with effect, which one must have at this point of the play, because it is essential to a situation coming later. Enters the room, closes the door, and holds in his hand a telegram. Looks from newspaper to telegram.
WILL. A wire.
LAURA. For me?
LAURA. From whom, I wonder. Perhaps Elfie with a luncheon engagement.
WILL. [Handing telegram to her.] I don't know. Here.
Pause; he faces her, looking at her. She opens it quickly. She reads it and, as she does, gasps quickly with an exclamation of fear and surprise. This is what the despatch says (it is dated at Buffalo and addressed to LAURA): "I will be in New York before noon. I'm coming to marry you and I'm coming with a bank-roll. I wanted to keep it secret and have a big surprise for you, but I can't hold it any longer, because I feel just like a kid with a new top. Don't go out, and be ready for the big matrimonial thing. All my love. John."
WILL. No bad news, I hope?
LAURA. [Walking up stage rather hurriedly.] No, no—not bad news.
WILL. I thought you were startled.
LAURA. No, not at all.
WILL. [Looking at paper about where he had left off.] From Elfie? [Crosses to, and sits in armchair.
LAURA. No, just a friend.
He makes himself rather comfortable in the chair, and LAURA regards him for a moment from up stage as if trying to figure out how to get rid of him.
LAURA. Won't you be rather late getting down town, Will?
WILL. Doesn't make any difference. I don't feel much like the office now. Thought I might order the car and take a spin through the park. The cold air will do me a lot of good. Like to go?
LAURA. No, not to-day. I thought your business was important; you said so last night. [Crosses to sofa, and stands.
WILL. No hurry. Do you—er—want to get rid of me?
LAURA. Why should I?
WILL. Expecting someone?
LAURA. No—not exactly. [Crosses up to window.
WILL. If you don't mind, I'll stay here. [Lets curtain fly up.
LAURA. Just as you please. [A pause. Crosses to piano; plays.] Will?
LAURA. How long does it take to come from Buffalo?
WILL. Depends on the train you take.
LAURA. About how long?
WILL. Between eight and ten hours, I think. Some one coming?
LAURA. Do you know anything about the trains?
WILL. Not much. Why don't you find out for yourself? Have Annie get the time-table?
LAURA. I will. Annie! Annie!
[Rises from piano. ANNIE appears at doorway.
LAURA. Go ask one of the hall-boys to bring me a New York Central time-table.
Crosses the stage and exits through door. LAURA sits on left arm of sofa.
WILL. Then you do expect someone, eh?
LAURA. Only one of the girls who used to be in the same company with me. But I'm not sure that she's coming here.
WILL. Then the wire was from her?
WILL. Did she say what train she was coming on?
WILL. Well, there are a lot of trains. About what time did you expect her in?
LAURA. She didn't say.
WILL. Do I know her?
LAURA. I think not. I met her while I worked in 'Frisco.
WILL. Oh! [Resumes his paper.
ANNIE reenters with a time-table and hands it to LAURA.
LAURA. Thanks; take those breakfast things away, Annie.
[Sits on sofa.
ANNIE complies; takes them across stage, opens the door leading to the corridor, exits. LAURA in the meantime is studying the time-table.
LAURA. I can't make this out.
WILL. Give it here; maybe I can help you.
LAURA crosses to right of table, sits opposite WILL, and hands him the time-table. He takes it and handles it as if he were familiar with it.
WILL. Where is she coming from?
LAURA. The West; the telegram was from Buffalo. I suppose she was on her way when she sent it.
WILL. There's a train comes in here at 9:30—that's the Twentieth Century,—that doesn't carry passengers from Buffalo; then there's one at 11:41; one at 1:49; another at 3:45; another at 5:40; and another at 5:48—that's the Lake Shore Limited, a fast train; and all pass through Buffalo. Did you think of meeting her?
LAURA. No. She'll come here when she arrives.
WILL. Knows where you live?
LAURA. She has the address.
WILL. Ever been to New York before?
LAURA. I think not.
WILL. [Passing her the time-table.] Well, that's the best I can do for you.
LAURA. Thank you. [Crosses and puts time-table in desk.
WILL. [Takes up the paper again. LAURA looks at clock.] By George, this is funny.
WILL. Speak of the devil, you know.
WILL. Your old friend Madison.
LAURA. [Utters a slight exclamation and makes an effort to control herself.] What—what about him?
WILL. He's been in Chicago.
LAURA. How do you know?
WILL. Here's a despatch about him.
LAURA. [Coming quickly over to him, looks over his shoulder.] What—where—what's it about?
WILL. Well, I'm damned if he hasn't done what he said he'd do—see! [Holds the paper so that she can see. LAURA takes paper.] He's been in Chicago, and is on his way to New York. He's struck it rich in Nevada and is coming with a lot of money. Queer, isn't it? [LAURA puts paper on table.] Did you know anything about it? [Lights cigarette.
LAURA. No, no; nothing at all. [Crosses to bureau.
WILL. Lucky for him, eh?
LAURA. Yes, yes; it's very nice.
WILL. Too bad he couldn't get this a little sooner, eh, Laura?
LAURA. Oh, I don't know—I don't think it's too bad. What makes you ask?
WILL. Oh, nothing. I suppose he ought to be here to-day. Are you going to see him if he looks you up?
LAURA. No, no; I don't want to see him. You know that, don't you, that I don't want to see him? What makes you ask these questions? [Crosses to sofa and sits.
WILL. Just thought you might meet him, that's all. Don't get sore about it.
LAURA. I'm not.
She holds the telegram crumpled in one hand. WILL lays down the paper, and regards LAURA curiously. She sees the expression on his face and averts her head in order not to meet his eye.
LAURA. What are you looking at me that way for?
WILL. I wasn't conscious that I was looking at you in any particular way—why?
LAURA. Oh, nothing. I guess I'm nervous, too.
[Lies on sofa.
WILL. I dare say you are. [A pause.
LAURA. Yes, I am. [WILL crosses to LAURA.
WILL. You know I don't want to delve into a lot of past history at this time, but I've got to talk to you for a moment.
LAURA. Why don't you do it some other time? I don't want to be talked to now. [Rises and crosses a little to left.
WILL. But I've got to do it just the same.
LAURA. [Trying to affect an attitude of resigned patience and resignation.] Well, what is it? [Resuming seat on sofa.
WILL. You've always been on the square with me, Laura. That's why I've liked you a lot better than the other women.
LAURA. Are you going into all that again now, this morning? I thought we understood each other.
WILL. So did I, but somehow I think that maybe we don't quite understand each other.
LAURA. In what way? [Turns to WILL.
WILL. [Looking her straight in the eye.] That letter I dictated to you the day that you came back to me, and left it for you to mail—did you mail it?
WILL. You're quite sure?
LAURA. Yes, I'm quite sure. I wouldn't say so if I wasn't.
WILL. And you didn't know Madison was coming East until you read about it in that newspaper?
LAURA. No—no, I didn't know.
WILL. Have you heard from him?
LAURA. No—no—I haven't heard from him. Don't talk to me about this thing. Why can't you leave me alone? I'm miserable enough as it is. [Crossing to extreme right.
WILL. [Crossing to table.] But I've got to talk to you. Laura, you're lying to me.
LAURA. What! [She makes a valiant effort to become angry.
WILL. You're lying to me, and you've been lying to me, and I've trusted you. Show me that telegram!
WILL. [Going over towards her.] Show me that telegram!
[LAURA crosses up to doors leading into bedroom.
LAURA. [Tears telegram in half.] You've no right to ask me.
WILL. Are you going to make me take it away [LAURA crosses to window.] from you? I've [Crosses to sofa.] never laid my hands on you yet.
LAURA. It's my business.
[Crossing to left of sofa, around it on down-stage side.
WILL. Yes, and it's mine.
During scene. Backing away from WILL, who is following her, LAURA backs against bureau. WILL grabs her and attempts to take telegram from her. She has put it in the front of her waist. She slowly draws it out.
WILL. That telegram's from Madison. Give it here!
WILL. I'm going to find out where I stand. Give me that telegram, or I'll take it away from you.
WILL. Come on!
LAURA. I'll give it to you.
[Takes telegram out of waist, and hands it to him.
He takes it slowly, looking her squarely in the eye. WILL crosses to centre, and does not glance away while he slowly smoothes it out so that it can be read; when he finally takes it in both hands to read it she staggers back a step or two weakly.
WILL. [Reads the telegram aloud.] "I will be in New York before noon. I'm coming to marry you, and I'm coming with a bank-roll. I wanted to keep it a secret and have a big surprise for you, but I can't hold it any longer, because I feel just like a kid with a new top. Don't go out, and be ready for the big matrimonial thing. All my love. John." Then you knew?
WILL. But you didn't know he was coming until this arrived?
WILL. And you didn't mail the letter [Tossing telegram on table], did you?
WILL. What did you do with it?
LAURA. I—I burned it.
[LAURA is completely overcome and unable to answer.
LAURA. I—I couldn't help it—I simply couldn't help it.
WILL. So you've been corresponding all this time.
WILL. And he doesn't know [With a gesture around the room, indicating the condition in which they live.] about us?
WILL. [Taking a step towards her.] By God, I never beat a woman in my life, but I feel as though I could wring your neck.
LAURA. Why don't you? You've done everything else. Why don't you?
WILL. Don't you know that I gave Madison my word that if you came back to me I'd let him know? Don't you know that I like that young fellow, and I wanted to protect him, and did everything I could to help him? And do you know what you've done to me? You've made me out a liar—you've made me lie to a man—a man—you understand. What are you going to do now? Tell me—what are you going to do now? Don't stand there as if you've lost your voice—how are you going to square me?
LAURA. I'm not thinking about squaring you. What am I going to do for him?
WILL. Not what you are going to do for him—what am I going to do for him. Why, I couldn't have that young fellow think that I tricked him into this thing for you or all the rest of the women of your kind on earth. God! I might have known that you, and the others like you, couldn't be square. [The girl looks at him dumbly. He glances at his watch, walks up stage, looks out of the window, comes down again, goes to the table, and looks at her across it.] You've made a nice mess of it, haven't you?
LAURA. [Weakly.] There isn't any mess. Please go away. He'll be here soon. Please let me see him—please do that.
WILL. No, I'll wait. This time I'm going to tell him myself, and I don't care how tough it is.
LAURA. [Immediately regaining all her vitality.] No, you mustn't do that. [Crossing back of table to centre.] Oh, Will, I'm not offering any excuse. I'm not saying anything, but I'm telling you the truth. I couldn't give him up—I couldn't do it. I love him.
WILL. Huh. [Grins; crosses to front of sofa.
LAURA. Don't you think so? I know you can't see what I see, but I do. And why can't you go away? Why can't you leave me this? It's all I ever had. He doesn't know. No one will ever tell him. I'll take him away. It's the best for him—it's the best for me. Please go.
WILL. Why—do you think that I'm going to let you trip him the way you tripped me? [Crosses and sits in armchair.] No. I'm going to stay right here until that young man arrives, and I'm going to tell him that it wasn't my fault. You were to blame.
LAURA. Then you are going to let him know. You're not going to give me a single, solitary chance?
WILL. I'll give you every chance that you deserve when he knows. Then he can do as he pleases, but there must be no more deception, that's flat.
[LAURA crosses and kneels beside WILL'S chair.
LAURA. Then you must let me tell him—[WILL turns away impatiently.]—yes, you must. If I didn't tell him before, I'll do it now. You must go. If you ever had any regard for me—if you ever had any affection—if you ever had any friendship, please let me do this now. I want you to go—you can come back. Then you'll see—you'll know—only I want to try to make him understand that—that maybe if I am weak I'm not vicious. I want to let him know that I didn't want to do it, but I couldn't help it. Just give me the chance to be as good as I can be. [WILL gives her a look.] Oh, I promise you, I will tell him, and then—then I don't care what happens—only he must learn everything from me—please—please—let me do this—it's the last favour I shall ever—ever ask of you. Won't you?
[LAURA breaks down and weeps.
WILL. [Rising, looks at her a moment as if mentally debating the best thing to do. Crosses in front of table; stands facing her with back to audience.] All right, I won't be unkind. I'll be back early this afternoon, and just remember, this is the time you'll have to go right through to the end. Understand?
LAURA. Yes, I'll do it,—all of it. Won't you please go—now?
[Crosses; sits in armchair.
WILL. All right. [He exits into the bedroom and immediately enters again with overcoat on his arm and hat in hand; he goes centre, and turns.] I am sorry for you, Laura, but remember you've got to tell the truth.
LAURA. [Who is sitting in a chair looking straight in front of her with a set expression.] Please go. [WILL exits.
LAURA sits in a chair in a state of almost stupefaction, holding this attitude as long as possible. ANNIE enters, and in a characteristic manner begins her task of tidying up the room; LAURA, without changing her attitude, and staring straight in front of her, her elbows between her knees and her chin on her hands.
LAURA. Do you remember in the boarding-house—when we finally packed up—what you did with everything?
LAURA. You remember that I used to keep a pistol?
ANNIE. Yo' all mean dat one yo' say dat gemman out West gave yuh once?
ANNIE. Yassum, Ah 'membuh it.
LAURA. Where is it now?
ANNIE. [Crosses to writing-desk.] Last Ah saw of it was in dis heah draw' in de writin'-desk. [This speech takes her across to desk; she opens the drawer, fumbles among a lot of old papers, letters, &c., and finally produces a small thirty-two calibre, and gingerly crosses to LAURA.] Is dis it?
LAURA. [Slowly turns around and looks at it.] Yes. Put it back. I thought perhaps it was lost. [ANNIE complies, when the bell rings. LAURA starts suddenly, involuntarily gathering her negligee gown closer to her figure, and at once she is under a great stress of emotion, and sways upon her feet to such an extent that she is obliged to put one hand out on to the table to maintain her balance. When she speaks, it is with a certain difficulty of articulation.] See—who—that is—and let me know.
ANNIE. [Turning.] Yassum. [Crosses, opens the first door, and afterwards opens the second door.
ELFIE'S VOICE. [Off stage.] Hello, Annie,—folks home?
ANNIE. Yassum, she's in.
LAURA immediately evinces her tremendous relief, and ELFIE, without waiting for a reply, has shoved ANNIE aside and enters, ANNIE following and closing the door. ELFIE is beautifully gowned in a morning dress with an overabundance of fur trimmings and all the furbelows that would accompany the extravagant raiment generally affected by a woman of that type. ELFIE approaching effusively.
ELFIE. Hello, dearie.
LAURA. Hello, Elfie.
LAURA crosses and sits on sofa. ELFIE puts muff, &c., on table.
ELFIE. It's a bully day out. [Crossing to bureau, looking in mirror.] I've been shopping all morning long; just blew myself until I'm broke, that's all. My goodness, don't you ever get dressed? Listen. [Crosses left of table to centre.] Talk about cinches. I copped out a gown, all ready made, and fits me like the paper on the wall, for $37.80. Looks like it might have cost $200. Anyway I had them charge $200 on the bill, and I kept the change. There are two or three more down town there, and I want you to go down and look them over. Models, you know, being sold out. I don't blame you for not getting up earlier. [She sits at the table, not noticing LAURA.] That was some party last night. I know you didn't drink a great deal, but gee! what an awful tide Will had on. How do you feel? [Looks at her critically.] What's the matter, are you sick? You look all in. What you want to do is this—put on your duds and go out for an hour. It's a perfectly grand day out. My Gaud! how the sun does shine! Clear and cold. [A pause.] Well, much obliged for the conversation. Don't I get a "Good-morning," or a "How-dy-do," or a something of that sort?
LAURA. I'm tired, Elfie, and blue—terribly blue.
ELFIE. [Rises; crosses to LAURA.] Well now, you just brace up and cut out all that emotional stuff. I came down to take you for a drive. You'd like it; just through the park. Will you go?
LAURA. [Going up stage.] Not this morning, dear; I'm expecting somebody.
ELFIE. A man?
LAURA. [Finding it almost impossible to suppress a smile.] No, a gentleman.
ELFIE. Same thing. Do I know him?
LAURA. You've heard of him. [At desk, looking at clock.
ELFIE. Well, don't be so mysterious. Who is he?
LAURA. What is your time, Elfie?
ELFIE. [Looks at her watch.] Five minutes past eleven.
LAURA. Oh, I'm slow. I didn't know it was so late. Just excuse me, won't you, while I get some clothes on. He may be here any moment. Annie!
[She goes up stage towards portieres.
LAURA. I'll tell you when I get dressed. Make yourself at home, won't you, dear?
ELFIE. I'd sooner hear. What is the scandal anyway?
LAURA. [As she goes out.] I'll tell you in a moment. Just as soon as Annie gets through with me. [Exit.
ELFIE. [Gets candy-box off desk, crosses, sits on arm of sofa, selecting candy. In a louder voice.] Do you know, Laura, I think I'll go back on the stage.
LAURA. [Off stage.] Yes?
ELFIE. Yes, I'm afraid I'll have to. I think I need a sort of a boost to my popularity.
LAURA. How a boost, Elfie?
ELFIE. I think Jerry is getting cold feet. He's seeing a little too much of me [Places candy-box on sofa.] nowadays.
LAURA. What makes you think that?
ELFIE. I think he is getting a relapse of that front-row habit. There's no use in talking, Laura, it's a great thing for a girl's credit when a man like Jerry can take two or three friends to the theatre, and when you make your entrance delicately point to you with his forefinger and say, "The third one from the front on the left belongs to muh." The old fool's hanging around some of these musical comedies lately, and I'm getting a little nervous every time rent day comes.
LAURA. Oh, I guess you'll get along all right, Elfie.
ELFIE. [With serene self-satisfaction.] Oh, that's a cinch [Rises; crosses to table, looking in dresser mirror at herself, and giving her hat and hair little touches.], but I like to leave well enough alone, and if I had to make a change right now it would require a whole lot of thought and attention, to say nothing of the inconvenience, and I'm so nicely settled in my flat. [She sees the pianola.] Say, dearie, when did you get the piano-player? I got one of them phonographs [Crosses to pianola, tries the levers, &c.], but this has got that beat a city block. How does it work? What did it cost?
LAURA. I don't know.
ELFIE. Well, Jerry's got to stake me to one of these. [Looks over the rolls on top. Mumbles to herself.] "Tannhauser, William Tell, Chopin." [Then louder.] Listen, dear. Ain't you got anything else except all this high-brow stuff?
LAURA. What do you want?
ELFIE. Oh, something with a regular tune to it [Looks at empty box on pianola.]. Oh, here's one; just watch me tear this off. [The roll is the tune of "Bon-Bon Buddie, My Chocolate Drop." She starts to play and moves the lever marked "Swell" wide open, increases the tempo, and is pumping with all the delight and enthusiasm of a child.] Ain't it grand?
LAURA. Gracious, Elfie, don't play so loud. What's the matter?
ELFIE. I shoved over that thing marked "Swell." [Stops and turns. Rises; crosses to centre and stands.] I sure will have to speak to Jerry about this. I'm stuck on that swell thing. Hurry up. [LAURA appears.] Gee! you look pale. [And then in a tone of sympathy:] I'll just bet you and Will have had a fight, and he always gets the best of you, doesn't he, dearie? [LAURA crosses to dresser, and busies herself.] Listen. Don't you think you can ever get him trained? I almost threw Jerry down the stairs the other night and he came right back with a lot of American beauties and a check. I told him if he didn't look out I'd throw him down-stairs every night. He's getting too damned independent and it's got me nervous. Oh, dear, I s'pose I will have to go back on the stage. [Sits in armchair.
LAURA. In the chorus?
ELFIE. Well, I should say not. I'm going to give up my musical career. Charlie Burgess is putting on a new play, and he says he has a part in it for me if I want to go back. It isn't much, but very important,—sort of a pantomime part. A lot of people talk about me, and just at the right time I walk across the stage and make an awful hit. I told Jerry that if I went [LAURA crosses to sofa, picks up candy-box, puts it upon desk, gets telegram from table, crosses to centre.] on he'd have to come across with one of those Irish crochet lace gowns. He fell for it. Do you know, dearie, I think he'd sell out his business just to have me back on the stage for a couple of weeks, just to give box-parties every night for my en-trance and ex-its.
LAURA. [Seriously.] Elfie! [LAURA takes ELFIE by the hand, and leads her over to sofa. LAURA sits, ELFIE standing.
ELFIE. Yes, dear.
LAURA. Come over here and sit down.
ELFIE. What's up?
LAURA. Do you know what I'm going to ask of you?
ELFIE. If it's a touch, you'll have to wait until next week. [Sits opposite LAURA.
LAURA. No: just a little advice.
ELFIE. [With a smile.] Well, that's cheap, and Lord knows you need it. What's happened?
LAURA takes the crumpled and torn telegram that WILL has left on the table and hands it to ELFIE. The latter puts the two pieces together, reads it very carefully, looks up at LAURA about middle of telegram, and lays it down.
LAURA. Will suspected. There was something in the paper about Mr. Madison—the telegram came—then we had a row.
LAURA. Yes. Do you remember what I told you about that letter—the one Will made me write—I mean to John—telling him what I had done?
ELFIE. Yes, you burned it.
LAURA. I tried to lie to Will—he wouldn't have it that way. He seemed to know. He was furious.
ELFIE. Did he hit you?
LAURA. No; he made me admit that John didn't know, and then he said he'd stay here and tell himself that I'd made him lie, and then he said something about liking the other man and wanting to save him.
ELFIE. Save—shucks! He's jealous.
LAURA. I told him if he'd only go I'd—tell John myself when he came, and now you see I'm waiting—and I've got to tell—and—and I don't know how to begin—and—and I thought you could help me—you seem so sort of resourceful, and it means—it means so much to me. If John turned on me now I couldn't go back to Will, and, Elfie,—I don't think I'd care to—stay here any more.
ELFIE. What! [In an awestruck tone, taking LAURA in her arms impulsively.] Dearie, get that nonsense out of your head and be sensible. I'd just like to see any two men who could make me think about—well—what you seem to have in your mind.
LAURA. But I don't know; don't you see, Elfie, I don't know. If I don't tell him, Will will come back and he'll tell him, and I know John and maybe—Elfie, do you know, I think John would kill him.
ELFIE. Well, don't you think anything about that. Now let's get [Rises, crosses to armchair, draws it over a little, sits on left arm.] down to cases, and we haven't much time. Business is business, and love is love. You're long on love and I'm long on business, and between the two of us we ought to straighten this thing out. Now, evidently John is coming on here to marry you.
ELFIE. And you love him?
ELFIE. And as far as you know the moment that he comes in here it's quick to the Justice and a big matrimonial thing.
LAURA. Yes, but you see how impossible it is—
ELFIE. I don't see anything impossible. From all you've said to me about this fellow there is only one thing to do.
LAURA. One thing?
ELFIE. Yes—get married quick. You say he has the money and you have the love, and you're sick of Brockton, and you want to switch and do it in the decent, respectable, conventional way, and he's going to take you away. Haven't you got sense enough to know that, once you're married to Mr. Madison, Will Brockton wouldn't dare go to him, and if he did Madison wouldn't believe him? A man will believe a whole lot about his girl, but nothing about his wife.
LAURA. [Turns and looks at her. There is a long pause.] Elfie [Rises; crosses to right of table.]—I—I don't think I could do like that to John. I don't think—I could deceive him.
ELFIE. You make me sick. The thing to do is to lie to all men. [Rises; pushes chair to table.]—they all lie to you. Protect yourself. You seem to think that your happiness depends on this. Now do it. Listen. [Touches LAURA to make her sit down; LAURA sits right of table; ELFIE sits on right arm of chair left of table, with elbows on table.] Don't you realize that you and me, and all the girls that are shoved into this life, are practically the common prey of any man who happens to come along? Don't you know that they've got about as much consideration for us as they have for any pet animal around the house, and the only way that we've got it on the animal is that we've got brains? This is a game, Laura, not a sentiment. Do you suppose this Madison [LAURA turns to ELFIE.]—now don't get sore—hasn't turned these tricks himself before he met you, and I'll gamble he's done it since! A man's natural trade is a heartbreaking business. Don't tell me about women breaking men's hearts. The only thing they can ever break is their bank roll. And besides, this is not Will's business; he has no right to interfere. You've been with him—yes, and he's been nice to you; but I don't think that he's given you any the best of it. Now if you want to leave and go your own way and marry any Tom, Dick, or Harry that you want, it's nobody's affair but yours.
LAURA. But you don't understand—it's John. I can't lie to him.
ELFIE. Well, that's too bad about you. I used to have that truthful habit myself, and the best I ever got was the worst of it. All this talk about love and loyalty and constancy is fine and dandy in a book, but when a girl has to look out for herself, take it from me, whenever you've got that trump card up your sleeve just play it and rake in the pot. [Takes LAURA'S hand affectionately.] You know, dearie, you're just about the only one in the world I love.
ELFIE. Since I broke away from the folks up state and they've heard things, there ain't any more letters coming to me with an Oswego postmark. Ma's gone, and the rest don't care. You're all I've got in the world, Laura, and what I'm asking you to do is because I want to see you happy. I was afraid this thing was coming off, and the thing to do now is to grab your happiness, no matter how you get it nor where it comes from. There ain't a whole lot of joy in this world for you and me and the others we know, and what little you get you've got to take when you're young, because, when those gray hairs begin to come, and the make-up isn't going to hide the wrinkles, unless you're well fixed, it's going to be hell. You know what a fellow doesn't know doesn't hurt him, and he'll love you just the same and you'll love him. As for Brockton, let him get another girl; there're plenty 'round. Why, if this chance came to me I'd tie a can to Jerry so quick that you could hear it rattle all the way down Broadway. [Rises, crosses back of table to LAURA, leans over back of chair, and puts arms around her neck very tenderly.] Dearie, promise me that you won't be a damn fool.
[The bell rings; both start.
LAURA. [Rises.] Maybe that's John.
[ELFIE brushes a tear quickly from her eye.
ELFIE. Oh! And you'll promise me, Laura?
LAURA. I'll try. [ANNIE enters up stage from the adjoining room and crosses to the door.] If that's Mr. Madison, Annie, tell him to come in.
LAURA stands near the table, almost rigid. Instinctively ELFIE goes to the mirror and re-arranges her gown and hair as ANNIE exits. ELFIE turns to LAURA.
ELFIE. If I think he's the fellow when I see him, watch me and I'll tip you the wink.
[Kisses LAURA; up stage puts on coat.
She goes up stage to centre; LAURA remains in her position. The doors are heard to open, and in a moment JOHN enters. He is dressed very neatly in a business suit, and his face is tanned and weather-beaten. After he enters, he stands still for a moment. The emotion that both he and LAURA go through is such that each is trying to control it, LAURA from the agony of her position, and JOHN from the mere hurt of his affection. He sees ELFIE and forces a smile.
JOHN. [Quietly.] Hello, Laura! I'm on time.
LAURA smiles, quickly crosses the stage, and holds out her hand.
LAURA. Oh, John, I'm so glad—so glad to see you. [They hold this position for a moment, looking into each other's eyes. ELFIE moves so as to take JOHN in from head to toe and is obviously very much pleased with his appearance. She coughs slightly. LAURA takes a step back with a smile.] Oh, pardon me, John—one of my dearest friends, Miss Sinclair; she's heard a lot about you.
ELFIE, with a slight gush, in her most captivating manner, goes over and holds out her gloved hand laden with bracelets, and with her sweetest smile crosses to centre.
ELFIE. How do you do?
MADISON. I'm glad to meet you, I'm sure.
ELFIE. [Still holding JOHN'S hand.] Yes, I'm sure you are—particularly just at this time. [To LAURA.] You know that old stuff about two's company and three [LAURA smiles.] is a crowd. Here's where I vamoose. [Crosses to door.
LAURA. [As ELFIE goes toward door.] Don't hurry, dear.
ELFIE. [With a grin.] No, I suppose not; just fall down stairs and get out of the way, that's all. [Crosses to JOHN.] Anyway, Mr. Madison, I'm awfully glad to have met you, and I want to congratulate you. They tell me you're rich.
JOHN. Oh, no; not rich.
ELFIE. Well, I don't believe you—anyway I'm going. Ta-ta, dearie. Good-bye, Mr. Madison.
[JOHN crosses up to back of sofa; removes coat, puts it on sofa.
ELFIE. [Goes to the door, opens it and turns. JOHN'S back is partly toward her and she gives a long wink at LAURA, snapping fingers to attract LAURA'S attention.] I must say, Laura, that when it comes to picking live ones, you certainly can go some.
[After this remark both turn toward her and both smile.
After ELFIE exits, JOHN turns to LAURA with a pleasant smile, and jerks his head towards the door where ELFIE has gone out.
JOHN. I bet she's a character.
LAURA. She's a dear.
JOHN. I can see that all right. [Crossing to centre.
LAURA. She's been a very great friend to me.
JOHN. That's good, but don't I get a "how-dy-do," or a handshake, or a little kiss? You know I've come a long way.
LAURA goes to him and places herself in his arms; he kisses her affectionately. During all this scene between them the tenderness of the man is very apparent. As she releases herself from his embrace he takes her face in his hands and holds it up towards his.
JOHN. I'm not much on the love-making business, Laura, but I never thought I'd be as happy as I am now. [JOHN and LAURA cross to centre. LAURA kneels in armchair with back to audience, JOHN stands left of her.] I've been counting mile-posts ever since I left Chicago, and it seemed like as if I had to go 'round the world before I got here.
LAURA. You never told me about your good fortune. If you hadn't telegraphed I wouldn't even have known you were coming.
JOHN. I didn't want you to. I'd made up my mind to sort of drop in here and give you a great big surprise,—a happy one, I knew,—but the papers made such a fuss in Chicago that I thought you might have read about it—did you?
JOHN. Gee! fixed up kind o' scrumptious, ain't you? [Crosses in front of sofa, around behind it, surveying rooms.] Maybe you've been almost as prosperous as I have.
LAURA. You can get a lot of gilt and cushions in New York at half price, and besides, I've got a pretty good part now.
JOHN. Of course I know that, but I didn't think it would make you quite so comfortable. Great, ain't it?
JOHN. [Standing beside her chair, with a smile.] Well, are you ready?
LAURA. For what, dear? [Looking up at him.
JOHN. You know what I said in the telegram?
LAURA. Yes. [Leans her head affectionately on his shoulder.
JOHN. Well, I meant it.
LAURA. I know.
JOHN. I've got to get back [JOHN looks around; crosses behind table to chair right of table, and sits facing her across it.], Laura, just as soon as ever I can. There's a lot of work to be done out in Nevada and I stole away to come to New York. I want to take you back. Can you go?
JOHN. This afternoon. We'll take the eighteen-hour train to Chicago, late this afternoon, and connect at Chicago with the Overland, and I'll soon have you in a home. [Pause.] And here's another secret.
LAURA. What, dear?
JOHN. I've got that home all bought and furnished, and while you couldn't call it a Fifth Avenue residence, still it has got something on any other one in town.
LAURA. But, John, you've been so mysterious. In all your letters you haven't told me a single, solitary thing about your good luck.
JOHN. I've planned to take you out and show you all that.
LAURA. You should have told me,—I've been so anxious.
JOHN. I waited until it was a dead-sure thing. You know it's been pretty tough sledding out there in the mining country, and it did look as if I never would make a strike; but your spirit was with me and luck was with me, and I knew if I could only hold out that something would come my way. I had two pals, both of them miners,—they had the knowledge and I had the luck,—and one day, clearing away a little snow to build a fire, I poked my toe into the dirt, and there was somethin' there, dearie, that looked suspicious. I called Jim,—that's one of the men,—and in less time than it takes to tell you there were three maniacs scratching away at old mother earth for all there was in it. We staked our claims in two weeks, and I came to Reno to raise enough money for me to come East. Now things are all fixed and it's just a matter of time. [Taking LAURA'S hand.
LAURA. So you're very, very rich, dear?
JOHN. Oh, not rich [Releasing her hand, he leans back in his chair.], just heeled. I'm not going down to the Wall Street bargain counter and buy the Union Pacific, or anything like that; but we won't have to take the trip on tourists' tickets, and there's enough money to make us comfortable all the rest of our lives.
LAURA. How hard you must have worked and suffered.
JOHN. Nobody else ever accused me of that, but I sure will have to plead guilty to you. [Rises; stands at upper side of table.] Why, dear, since the day you came into my life, hell-raising took a sneak out the back door and God poked His toe in the front, and ever since then I think He's been coming a little closer to me. [Crossing over.] I used to be a fellow without much faith, and kidded everybody who had it, and I used to say to those who prayed and believed, "You may be right, but show me a message." You came along and you brought that little document in your sweet face and your dear love. Laura, you turned the trick for me, and I think I'm almost a regular man now.
LAURA turns away in pain; the realization of all she is to JOHN weighs heavily upon her. She almost loses her nerve, and is on the verge of not going through with her determination to get her happiness at any price.
LAURA. John, please, don't. I'm not worth it.
[Rises, crosses to right.
JOHN. [With a light air.] Not worth it? Why, you're worth [Crossing behind table, stands behind LAURA.] that and a whole lot more. And see how you've got on! Brockton told me you never could get along in your profession, but I knew you could. [Crosses back of LAURA, takes her by the shoulders, shakes her playfully.] I knew what you had in you, and here you are. You see, if my foot hadn't slipped on the right ground and kicked up pay-dirt, you'd been all right. You succeeded and I succeeded, but I'm going to take you away; and after a while, when things sort of smooth out, and it's all clear where the money's [Crosses to sofa and sits.] coming from, we're going to move back here, and go to Europe, and just have a great time, like a couple of good pals.
LAURA. [Slowly crosses to JOHN.] But if I hadn't succeeded and if things—things weren't just as they seem—would it make any difference to you, John?
JOHN. Not the least in the world. [He takes her in his arms and kisses her, drawing her on to sofa beside him.] Now don't you get blue. I should not have surprised you this way. It's taken you off your feet. [He looks at his watch, rises, crosses behind sofa, gets overcoat.] But we've not any time to lose. How soon can you get ready?
LAURA. [Kneeling on sofa, leaning over back.] You mean to go?
JOHN. Nothing else.
LAURA. Take all my things?
JOHN. All your duds.
LAURA. Why, dear, I can get ready most any time.
JOHN. [Looking off into bedroom.] That your maid?
JOHN. Well, you and she can pack everything you want to take; the rest can follow later. [Puts coat on.] I planned it all out. There's a couple of the boys working down town,—newspaper men on Park Row. Telephoned them when I got in and they're waiting for me. I'll just get down there as soon as I can. I won't be gone long.
LAURA. How long?
JOHN. I don't know just how long, but we'll make that train. I'll get the license. We'll be married and we'll be off on our honeymoon this afternoon. Can you do it?
LAURA goes up to him, puts her hands in his, and they confront each other.
LAURA. Yes, dear, I could do anything for you.
He takes her in his arms and kisses her again. Looks at her tenderly.
JOHN. That's good. Hurry now. I won't be long. Good-bye.
LAURA. Hurry back, John.
JOHN. Yes. I won't be long. [Exit.
LAURA. [Stands for a moment looking after him; then she suddenly recovers herself and walks rapidly over to the dresser, picks up large jewel-case, takes doll that is hanging on dresser, puts them on her left arm, takes black cat in her right hand and uses it in emphasizing her words in talking to ANNIE. Places them all on table.] Annie, Annie, come here!
ANNIE. Yassum. [She appears at the door.
LAURA. Annie, I'm going away, and I've got to hurry.
ANNIE. Goin' away?
LAURA. Yes. I want you to bring both my trunks out here,—I'll help you,—and start to pack. We can't take everything.
[ANNIE throws fur rug from across doorway into bedroom.], but bring all the clothes out and we'll hurry as fast as we can. Come on.
Exit LAURA with ANNIE. In a very short interval she re-appears, and both are carrying a large trunk between them. They put it down, pushing sofa back.
ANNIE. Look out for your toes, Miss Laura.
LAURA. I can take two.
ANNIE. Golly, such excitement. [Crosses to table; pushes it over further, also armchair.] Wheah yuh goin', Miss Laura?
LAURA. Never mind where I'm going. I haven't any time to waste now talking. I'll tell you later. This is one time, Annie, that you've got to move. Hurry up.
LAURA pushes her in front of her. Exeunt the same way and re-appear with a smaller trunk.
ANNIE. Look out fo' your dress, Miss Laura.
These trunks are of the same type as those in Act II. When the trunks are put down LAURA opens one and commences to throw things out. ANNIE stands watching her. LAURA kneels in front of trunk, working and humming "Bon-Bon Buddie."
ANNIE. Ah nevah see you so happy, Miss Laura.
LAURA. I never was so happy. For heaven's sake, go get something. Don't stand there looking at me. I want you to hurry.
ANNIE. I'll bring out all de fluffy ones first.
LAURA. Yes, everything. [ANNIE enters with armful of dresses and hat-box of tissue-paper; dumps tissue-paper on floor, puts dresses in trunk.
ANNIE. [Goes out again. Outside.] You goin' to take dat opera-cloak? [Enters with more dresses, puts them on sofa, takes opera-cloak, spreads it on top of dresses on trunk.] My, but dat's a beauty. I jest love dat crushed rosey one. [Exit.
LAURA. Annie, you put the best dresses on the foot of the bed and I'll get them myself. You heard what I said?
ANNIE. [Off stage.] Yassum.
ANNIE hangs dresses across bed in alcove. LAURA continues busily arranging the contents of the trunk, placing some garments here and some there, as if she were sorting them out. WILL quietly enters and stands at the door, looking at her. He holds this position as long as possible, and when he speaks it is in a very quiet tone.
WILL. Going away?
LAURA. [Starts, rises, and confronts him.] Yes.
WILL. In somewhat of a hurry, I should say.
WILL. What's the plan?
LAURA. I'm just going, that's all.
WILL. Madison been here?
LAURA. He's just left.
WILL. Of course you are going with him?
LAURA. To Nevada.
WILL. Going—er—to get married?
LAURA. Yes, this afternoon.
WILL. So he didn't care then?
LAURA. What do you mean when you say "he didn't care"?
WILL. Of course you told him about the letter, and how it was burned up, and all that sort of thing, didn't you?
LAURA. Why, yes.
WILL. And he said it didn't make any difference?
LAURA. He—he didn't say anything. We're just going to be married, that's all.
WILL. Did you mention my name and say that we'd been rather companionable for the last two months?
LAURA. I told him you'd been a very good friend to me.
During this scene LAURA answers WILL with difficulty, and to a man of the world it is quite apparent that she is not telling the truth. WILL looks over toward her in an almost threatening way.
WILL. How soon do you expect him back?
[Crossing to centre.
LAURA. Quite soon. I don't know just exactly how long he'll be.
WILL. And you mean to tell me that you kept your promise and told him the truth? [Crossing to trunk.
LAURA. I—I—[Then with defiance.] What business have you got to ask me that? What business have you got to interfere anyway? [Crossing up to bed in alcove, gets dresses off foot, and puts them on sofa.
WILL. [Quietly.] Then you've lied again. You lied to him, and you just tried to lie to me now. I must say, Laura, that you're not particularly clever at it, although I don't doubt but that you've had considerable practice.
Gives her a searching look and slowly walks over to the chair at the table and sits down, still holding his hat in his hand and without removing his overcoat. LAURA sees BROCKTON sitting, stops and turns on him, laying dresses down.