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The Easiest Way - Representative Plays by American Dramatists: 1856-1911
by Eugene Walter
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LAURA. What are you going to do?

WILL. Sit down here and rest a few moments; maybe longer.

LAURA. You can't do that.

WILL. I don't see why not. This is my own place.

LAURA. But don't you see that he'll come back here soon and find you here?

WILL. That's just exactly what I want him to do.

LAURA. [With suppressed emotion, almost on the verge of hysteria.] I want to tell you this. If you do this thing you'll ruin my life. You've done enough to it already. Now I want you to go. You've got to go. I don't think you've got any right to come here now, in this way, and take this happiness from me. I've given you everything I've got, and now I want to live right and decent, and he wants me to, and we love each other. Now, Will Brockton, it's come to this. You've got to leave this place, do you hear? You've got to leave this place. Please get out.

[Crossing to trunk.

WILL. [Rises and comes to her.] Do you think I'm going to let a woman make a liar out of me? I'm going to stay right here. I like that boy, and I'm not going to let you put him to the bad.

LAURA. I want you to go. [Slams trunk lid down, crosses to dresser, opens drawer to get stuff out.

WILL. And I tell you I won't go. I'm going to show you up. I'm going to tell him the truth. It isn't you I care for—he's got to know.

LAURA. [Slams drawer shut, loses her temper, and is almost tiger-like in her anger.] You don't care for me?

WILL. No.

LAURA. It isn't me you're thinking of?

WILL. No.

LAURA. Who's the liar now?

WILL. Liar?

LAURA. Yes, liar. You are. You don't care for this man, and you know it.

WILL. You're foolish.

LAURA. Yes, I am foolish and I've been foolish all my life, but I'm getting a little sense now. [Kneels in armchair, facing WILL; her voice is shaky with anger and tears.] All my life, since the day you first took me away, you've planned and planned and planned to keep me, and to trick me and bring me down with you. When you came to me I was happy. I didn't have much, just a little salary and some hard work.

WILL. But like all the rest you found that wouldn't keep you, didn't you?

LAURA. You say I'm bad, but who's made me so? Who took me out night after night? Who showed me what these luxuries were? Who put me in the habit of buying something I couldn't afford? You did.

WILL. Well, you liked it, didn't you?

LAURA. Who got me in debt, and then, when I wouldn't do what you wanted me to, who had me discharged from the company, so I had no means of living? Who followed me from one place to another? Who, always entreating, tried to trap me into this life, and I didn't know any better?

WILL. You didn't know any better?

LAURA. I knew it was wrong—yes; but you told me everybody in this business did that sort of thing, and I was just as good as anyone else. Finally you got me and you kept me. Then, when I went away to Denver, and for the first time found a gleam of happiness, for the first time in my life—

WILL. You're crazy.

LAURA. Yes, I am crazy. [Rises angrily, crosses and sweeps table-cover off table; crosses to dresser, knocks bottles, &c., off upper end; turns, faces him, almost screaming.] You've made me crazy. You followed me to Denver, and then when I got back you bribed me again. You pulled me down, and you did the same old thing until this happened. Now I want you to get out, you understand? I want you to get out.

WILL. Laura, you can't do this. [Starts to sit on trunk.

LAURA. [Screaming, crossing to WILL; she attempts to push him.] No, you won't; you won't stay here. You're not going to do this thing again. I tell you I'm going to be happy. I tell you I'm going to be married. [He doesn't resist her very strongly. Her anger and her rage are entirely new to him. He is surprised and cannot understand.] You won't see him; I tell you, you won't tell him. You've got no business to. I hate you. I've hated you for months. I hate the sight of your face. I've wanted to go, and now I'm going. You've got to go, do you hear? You've got to get out—get out. [Pushes him again.

WILL. [Throwing her off; LAURA staggers to armchair, rises, crosses left.] What the hell is the use of fussing with a woman.

[Exit.

LAURA. [Hysterically.] I want to be happy, I'm going to be married, I'm going to be happy.

[Sinks down in exhausted state in front of trunk.

CURTAIN, SLOW.



ACT IV.

SCENE. The same scene as Act III. It is about two o'clock in the afternoon.

AT RISE. When the curtain rises, there are two big trunks and one small one up stage. These are marked in the usual theatrical fashion. There are grips packed, umbrellas, and the usual paraphernalia that accompanies a woman when she is making a permanent departure from her place of living. All the bric-a-brac, &c., has been removed from dresser. On down-stage end of dresser is a small alligator bag containing night-dress, toilet articles, and bunch of keys. The dresser drawers are some of them half open, and old pieces of tissue-paper and ribbons are hanging out. The writing-desk has had all materials removed and is open, showing scraps of torn-up letters, and in one pigeon-hole is a New York Central time-table; between desk and bay-window is a lady's hat-trunk containing huge picture hat. It is closed. Behind table is a suit-case with which ANNIE is working when curtain rises. Under desk are two old millinery boxes, around which are scattered old tissue-paper, a pair of old slippers, a woman's shabby hat, old ribbon, &c. In front of window at end of pianola is thrown a lot of old empty boxes, such as are used for stocking and shirtwaist boxes. The picture-frame and basket of flowers have been removed from pianola. The stool is on top of pianola, upside down. There is an empty White Rock bottle, with glass turned over it, standing between the legs of the stool. The big trunk is in front of sofa, and packed, and it has a swing tray under which is packed a fancy evening gown; the lid is down. On top of lid are an umbrella, lady's travelling-coat, hat and gloves. On left end of sofa are a large Gladstone bag, packed and fastened, a smaller trunk (thirty-four inch), tray with lid. In tray are articles of wearing apparel. In end of tray is revolver wrapped in tissue-paper. Trunk is closed, and supposed to be locked. Tossed across left arm of armchair are couple of violet cords. Down stage centre is a large piece of wide tan ribbon. The room has the general appearance of having been stripped of all personal belongings. There are old magazines and tissue-paper all over the place. A bearskin rug is thrown up against table in low window, the furniture is all on stage as used in Act III. At rise LAURA is sitting on trunk with clock in hand. ANNIE is on floor behind table, fastening suit-case. LAURA is pale and perturbed.

ANNIE. Ain't yuh goin' to let me come to yuh at all, Miss Laura?

LAURA. I don't know yet, Annie. I don't even know what the place is like that we're going to. Mr. Madison hasn't said much. There hasn't been time.

ANNIE. Why, Ah've done ma best for yuh, Miss Laura, yes, Ah have. Ah jest been with yuh ev'ry moment of ma time, an' [Places suit-case on table; crosses to centre.] Ah worked for yuh an' Ah loved yuh, an' Ah doan' wan' to be left 'ere all alone in dis town 'ere New York. [LAURA turns to door; ANNIE stoops, grabs up ribbon, hides it behind her back.] Ah ain't the kind of cullud lady knows many people. Can't yuh take me along wid yuh, Miss Laura?—yuh all been so good to me.

LAURA. Why, I told you to [Crosses to door, looks out, returns disappointed.] stay here and get your things together [ANNIE hides ribbon in front of her waist.], and then Mr. Brockton will probably want you to do something. Later, I think he'll have you pack up, just as soon as he finds I'm gone. I've got the address that you gave me. I'll let you know if you can come on.

ANNIE. [Suddenly.] Ain't yuh goin' to give me anything at all jes' to remembuh yuh by? Ah've been so honest—

LAURA. Honest?

ANNIE. Honest, Ah have.

LAURA. You've been about as honest as most coloured [Crosses to table; gets suit-case; crosses to sofa end puts suit-case on it.] girls are who work for women in the position that I am in. You haven't stolen enough to make me discharge you, but I've seen what you've taken. [Sits on end of sofa facing left.

ANNIE. Now, Miss Laura.

LAURA. Don't try to fool me. What you've got you're welcome to, but for heaven's sake don't prate around here about loyalty and honesty. I'm sick of it.

ANNIE. Ain't yuh goin' to give me no recommendation?

LAURA. [Impatiently looking around the room.] What good would my recommendation do? You can always go and get another position with people who've lived the way I've lived, and my recommendation to the other kind wouldn't amount to much.

ANNIE. [Sits on trunk.] Ah can just see whah Ah'm goin',—back to dat boa'din'-house in 38th Street fo' me. [Crying.

LAURA. Now shut your noise. I don't want to hear any more. I've given you twenty-five dollars for a present. I think that's enough.

[ANNIE assumes a most aggrieved appearance.

ANNIE. Ah know, but twenty-five dollars ain't a home, and I'm [Rises, crosses to rubbish heap, picks up old slippers and hat, puts hat on head as she goes out, looks into pier-glass.] losin' my home. Dat's jest my luck—every time I save enough money to buy my weddin' clothes to get married I lose my job.

[Exit.

LAURA. I wonder where John is. We'll never be able to make that train. [She crosses to window, then to desk, takes out time-table, crosses to armchair and spreads time-table on back, studies it, crosses impatiently to trunk, and sits nervously kicking her feet. After a few seconds' pause the bell rings. She jumps up excitedly.] That must be he,—Annie—go quick. [ANNIE crosses and opens the door in the usual manner.

JIM'S VOICE. [Outside.] Is Miss Murdock in?

ANNIE. Yassuh, she's in.

LAURA is up stage and turns to receive visitor. JIM enters. He is nicely dressed in black and has an appearance of prosperity about him, but in other respects he retains the old drollness of enunciation and manner. He crosses to LAURA in a cordial way and holds out his hand. ANNIE crosses, after closing the door, and exits through the portieres into the sleeping-apartment.

JIM. How-dy-do, Miss Laura?

LAURA. Jim Western, I'm mighty glad to see you.

JIM. Looks like as if you were going to move?

LAURA. Yes, I am going to move, and a long ways, too. How well you're looking,—as fit as a fiddle.

JIM. Yes; I am feelin' fine. Where yer goin'? Troupin'?

LAURA. No, indeed.

JIM. [Surveying the baggage.] Thought not. What's comin' off now? [Takes off coat, puts coat and hat on trunk.

LAURA. [Very simply.] I'm going to be married this afternoon.

JIM. Married?

LAURA. And then I'm going West.

JIM. [Leaving the trunk, walking toward her and holding out his hands.] Now I'm just glad to hear that. Ye know when I heard how—how things was breakin' for ye—well, I ain't knockin' or anythin' like that, but me and the missis have talked ye over a lot. I never did think this feller was goin' to do the right thing by yer. Brockton never looked to me like a fellow would marry anybody, but now that he's goin' through just to make you a nice, respectable wife, I guess everything must have happened for the best. [LAURA averts her eyes. Both sit on trunk, JIM left of LAURA.] Y' see I wanted to thank you for what you did a couple of weeks ago. Burgess wrote me a letter and told me I could go ahead of one of his big shows if I wanted to come back, and offering me considerable money. He mentioned your name, Miss Laura, and I talked it over with the missis, and—well, I can tell ye now when I couldn't if ye weren't to be hooked up—we decided that I wouldn't take that job, comin' as it did from you [Slowly.] and the way I knew it was framed up.

LAURA. Why not?

JIM. [Embarrassed.] Well, ye see, there are three kids and they're all growing up, all of them in school, and the missis, she's just about forgot show business and she's playing a star part in the kitchen, juggling dishes and doing flip-flaps with pancakes; and we figgered that as we'd always gone along kinder clean-like, it wouldn't be good for the kids to take a job comin' from Brockton because you—you—well—you—

LAURA. I know. [Rises; sits on left arm of chair.] You thought it wasn't decent. Is that it?

JIM. Oh, not exactly, only—well, you see I'm gettin' along pretty [Rises; crosses to LAURA.] good now. I got a little one-night-stand theatre out in Ohio—manager of it, too. The town is called Gallipolis. [With a smile.

LAURA. Gallipolis?

JIM. Oh, that ain't a disease. It is the name of a town. Maybe you don't know much about Gallipolis, or where it is.

LAURA. No.

JIM. Well, it looks just like it sounds. We got a little house, and the old lady is happy, and I feel so good that I can even stand her cookin'. Of course we ain't makin' much money, but I guess I'm gettin' a little old-fashioned around theatres anyway. The fellows from newspapers and colleges have got it on me. Last time I asked a man for a job he asked me what I knew about the Greek drama, and when I told him I didn't know the Greeks had a theatre in New York he slipped me a laugh and told me to come in again on some rainy Tuesday. Then Gallipolis showed on the map, and I beat it for the West. [JIM notices by this time the pain he has caused LAURA, and is embarrassed.] Sorry if I hurt ye—didn't mean to; and now that yer goin' to be Mrs. Brockton, well, I take back all I said, and, while I don't think I want to change my position, I wouldn't turn it down for—for that other reason, that's all.

LAURA. [With a tone of defiance in her voice.] But, Mr. Weston, I'm not going to be Mrs. Brockton.

JIM. No? [Crosses left a little.

LAURA. No.

JIM. Oh—oh—

LAURA. I'm going to marry another man, and a good man.

JIM. The hell you are!

[LAURA rises and puts hand on JIM'S shoulder.

LAURA. And it's going to be altogether different. I know what you meant when you said about the missis and the kids, and that's what I want—just a little home, just a little peace, just a little comfort, and—and the man has come who's going to give it to me. You don't want me to say any more, do you?

[Crosses to door, opens it, and looks out; closes it and crosses to JIM.

JIM. [Emphatically, and with a tone of hearty approval.] No, I don't, and now I'm just going to put my mit out and shake yours and be real glad. I want to tell ye it's the only way to go along. I ain't never been a rival to Rockefeller, nor I ain't never made Morgan jealous, but since the day my old woman took her make-up off for the last time, and walked out of that stage-door to give me a little help and bring my kids into the world, I knew that was the way to go along; and if you're goin' to take that road, by Jiminy, I'm glad of it, for you sure do deserve it. I wish yer luck.

LAURA. Thank you.

JIM. I'm mighty glad you side-stepped Brockton. You're young [LAURA sits on trunk.], and you're pretty, and you're sweet, and if you've got the right kind of a feller there ain't no reason on earth why you shouldn't jest forgit the whole business and see nothin' but laughs and a good time comin' to you, and the sun sort o' shinin' every twenty-four hours in the day. You know the missis feels just as if she knew you, after I told her about them hard times we had at Farley's boarding-house, so I feel that it's paid me to come to New York [Picks up pin; puts it in lapel of coat.] even if I didn't book anything but "East Lynne" and "Uncle Tom's Cabin." [Goes over to her.] Now I'm goin'. Don't forget Gallipolis's [LAURA helps him on with his coat.] the name, and sometimes the mail does get there. I'd be awful glad if you wrote the missis a little note tellin' us how you're gettin' along, and if you ever have to ride on the Kanawha and Michigan, just look out of the window when the train passes our town, because that is about the best you'll get.

LAURA. Why?

JIM. They only stop there on signal. And make up your mind that the Weston family is with you forty ways from the Jack day and night. Good-bye, and God bless you.

LAURA. Good-bye, Jim. I'm so glad to know you're happy, for it is good to be happy. [Kisses him.

JIM. You bet. [Moves toward the door. She follows him after they have shaken hands.] Never mind, I can get out all right. [Opens the door, and at the door:] Good-bye again.

LAURA. [Very softly.] Good-bye. [Exit JIM and closes the door. She stands motionless until she hears the outer door slam.] I wonder why he doesn't come. [She goes up and looks out of the window and turns down stage, crosses right, counting trunks; as she counts suitcase on table, bell rings; she crosses hurriedly to trunk centre.] Hurry, Annie, and see who that is.

ANNIE enters, crosses, opens door, exits, and opens the outer door.

ANNIE'S VOICE. She's waitin' for yer, Mr. Madison.

LAURA hurries down to the centre of stage. JOHN enters, hat in hand and his overcoat on arm, followed by ANNIE. He stops just as he enters and looks at LAURA long and searchingly. LAURA instinctively feels that something has happened. She shudders and remains firm. ANNIE crosses and exits. Closes doors.

LAURA. [With a little effort. JOHN places hat and coat on trunk.] Aren't you a little late, dear?

JOHN. I—I was detained down town a few minutes. I think that we can carry out our plan all right.

LAURA. [After a pause.] Has anything happened?

JOHN. I've made all the arrangements. The men will be here in a few minutes for your trunks. [Crosses to coat; feels in pocket.] I've got the railroad tickets and everything else, but—

LAURA. But what, John?

He goes over to her. She intuitively understands that she is about to go through an ordeal. She seems to feel that JOHN has become acquainted with something which might interfere with their plan. He looks at her long and searchingly. Evidently he too is much wrought up, but when he speaks to her it is with a calm dignity and force which show the character of the man.

JOHN. Laura.

LAURA. Yes?

JOHN. You know when I went down town I said I was going to call on two or three of my friends in Park Row.

LAURA. I know.

JOHN. I told them who I was going to marry.

LAURA. Well?

JOHN. They said something about you and Brockton, and I found that they'd said too much, but not quite enough.

LAURA. What did they say?

JOHN. Just that—too much and not quite enough. There's a minister waiting for us over on Madison Avenue. You see, then you'll be my wife. That's pretty serious business, and all I want now from you is the truth.

LAURA. Well?

JOHN. Just tell me that what they said was just an echo of the past—that it came from what had been going on before that wonderful day out in Colorado. Tell me that you've been on the level. I don't want their word, Laura—I just want yours.

LAURA summons all her courage, looks up into his loving eyes, shrinks a moment before his anxious face, and speaks as simply as she can.

LAURA. Yes, John, I have been on the level.

JOHN. [Very tenderly.] I knew that, dear, I knew it. [He takes her in his arms and kisses her. She clings to him in pitiful helplessness. His manner is changed to one of almost boyish happiness.] Well, now everything's all ready, let's get on the job. We haven't a great deal of time. Get your duds on.

LAURA. When do we go?

JOHN. Right away. The great idea is to get away.

LAURA. All right.

[Gets hat off trunk, crosses to bureau, puts it on.

JOHN. Laura, you've got trunks enough, haven't you? One might think we're moving a whole colony. [Turns to her with a smile.] And, by the way, to me you are a whole colony—anyway you're the only one I ever wanted to settle with.

LAURA. That's good. [Takes bag off bureau, crosses to trunk, gets purse, coat, umbrella, as if ready to leave. She hurriedly gathers her things together, adjusting her hat and the like, and almost to herself in a low tone:] I'm so excited. [Continues preparations.] Come on.

In the meantime JOHN crosses by to get his hat and coat, and while the preparations are about to be completed and LAURA has said "Come on," she is transfixed by the noise of the slamming of the outer door. She stops as if she had been tremendously shocked, and a moment later the rattling of a latch-key in the inner door also stops JOHN from going any further. His coat is half on. LAURA looks toward the door, paralyzed with fright, and JOHN looks at her with an expression of great apprehension. Slowly the door opens, and BROCKTON enters with coat and hat on. As he turns to close the door after him, LAURA, pitifully and terribly afraid, retreats two or three steps, and lays coat, bag, purse and umbrella down in armchair, standing dazed. BROCKTON enters leisurely, paying no attention to anyone, while JOHN becomes as rigid as a statue, and follows with his eyes every move BROCKTON makes. The latter walks leisurely across the stage, and afterwards into the rooms through the portieres. There is a wait of a second. No one moves. BROCKTON finally reenters with coat and hat off, and throws back the portieres in such a manner as to reveal the bed and his intimate familiarity with the outer room. He goes down stage in the same leisurely manner and sits in a chair opposite JOHN, crossing his legs.

WILL. Hello, Madison, when did you get in?

Slowly JOHN seems to recover himself. His right hand starts up toward the lapel of his coat and slowly he pulls his Colt revolver from the holster under his armpit. There is a deadly determination and deliberation in every movement that he makes. WILL jumps to his feet and looks at him. The revolver is uplifted in the air, as a Western man handles a gun, so that when it is snapped down with a jerk the deadly shot can be fired. LAURA is terror-stricken, but before the shot is fired she takes a step forward and extends one hand in a gesture of entreaty.

LAURA. [In a husky voice that is almost a whisper.] Don't shoot.

The gun remains uplifted for a moment. JOHN is evidently wavering in his determination to kill. Slowly his whole frame relaxes. He lowers the pistol in his hand in a manner which clearly indicates that he is not going to shoot. He quietly puts it back in the holster, and WILL is obviously relieved, although he stood his ground like a man.

JOHN. [Slowly.] Thank you. You said that just in time.

[A pause.

WILL. [Recovering and in a light tone.] Well, you see, Madison, that what I said when I was—

JOHN. [Threateningly.] Look out, Brockton, I don't want to talk to you. [The men confront.

WILL. All right.

JOHN. [To LAURA.] Now get that man out of here.

LAURA. John, I—

JOHN. Get him out. Get him out before I lose my temper or they'll take him out without his help.

LAURA. [To WILL.] Go—go. Please go.

WILL. [Deliberately.] If that's the way you want it, I'm willing.

Exit WILL into the sleeping-apartment. LAURA and JOHN stand facing each other. He enters again with hat and coat on, and passes over toward the door. LAURA and JOHN do not move. When he gets just a little to the left of the centre of the stage LAURA steps forward and stops him with her speech.

LAURA. Now before you go, and to you both, I want to tell you how I've learned to despise him. John, I know you don't believe me, but it's true—it's true. I don't love anyone in the world but just you. I know you don't think that it can be explained—maybe there isn't any explanation. I couldn't help it. I was so poor, and I had to live, and he wouldn't let me work, and he's only let me live one way, and I was hungry. Do you know what that means? I was hungry and didn't have clothes to keep me warm, and I tried, oh, John, I tried so hard to do the other thing,—the right thing,—but I couldn't.

JOHN. I—I know I couldn't help much, and perhaps I could have forgiven you if you hadn't lied to me. That's what hurt. [Turning to WILL and approaching until he can look him in the eyes.] I expected you to lie, you're that kind of a man. You left me with a shake of the hand, and you gave me your word, and you didn't keep it. Why should you keep it? Why should anything make any difference with you? Why, you pup, you've no right to live in the same world with decent folks. Now you make yourself scarce, or take it from me, I'll just kill you, that's all.

WILL. I'll leave, Madison, but I'm not going to let you think that I didn't do the right thing with you. She came to me voluntarily. She said she wanted to come back. I told you that, when I was in Colorado, and you didn't believe me, and I told you that when she did this sort of thing I'd let you know. I dictated a letter to her to send to you, and I left it sealed and stamped in her hands to mail. She didn't do it. If there's been a lie, she told it. I didn't.

JOHN turns to her. She hangs her head and averts her eyes in a mute acknowledgment of guilt. The revelation hits JOHN so hard that he sinks on the trunk centre, his head fallen to his breast. He is utterly limp and whipped. There is a moment's silence.

WILL. [Crosses to JOHN.] You see! Why, my boy, whatever you think of me or the life I lead, I wouldn't have had this come to you for anything in the world. [JOHN makes an impatient gesture.] No, I wouldn't. My women don't mean a whole lot to me because I don't take them seriously. I wish I had the faith and the youth to feel the way you do. You're all in and broken up, but I wish I could be broken up just once. I did what I thought was best for you because I didn't think she could ever go through the way you wanted her to. I'm sorry it's all turned out bad. [Pause.] Good-bye.

He looks at JOHN for a moment as if he was going to speak. JOHN remains motionless. The blow has hit him harder than he thought. WILL exits. The first door closes. In a moment the second door is slammed. JOHN and LAURA look at each other for a moment. He gives her no chance to speak. The hurt in his heart and his accusation are shown by his broken manner. A great grief has come into his life and he doesn't quite understand it. He seems to be feeling around for something to say, some way to get out. His head turns toward the door. With a pitiful gesture of the hand he looks at her in all his sorrow.

JOHN. Well? [Rises.

LAURA. John, I—[Takes off hat and places it on table.

JOHN. I'd be careful what I said. Don't try to make excuses. I understand.

LAURA. It's not excuses. I want to tell you what's in my heart, but I can't; it won't speak, and you don't believe my voice.

JOHN. You'd better leave it unsaid.

LAURA. But I must tell. I can't let you go like this. [She goes over to him and makes a weak attempt to put her arms around him. He takes her arms and puts them back to her side.] I love you. I—how can I tell you—but I do, I do, and you won't believe me.

He remains silent for a moment and then takes her by the hand, leads her over to the chair and places her in it.

JOHN. I think you do as far as you are able; but, Laura, I guess you don't know what a decent sentiment is. [He gathers himself together. His tone is very gentle and very firm, but it carries a tremendous conviction, even with his grief ringing through his speech.] Laura, you're not immoral, you're just unmoral, kind o' all out of shape, and I'm afraid there isn't a particle of hope for you. When we met neither of us had any reason to be proud, but I thought that you thought that it was the chance of salvation which sometimes comes to a man and a woman fixed as we were then. What had been had been. It was all in the great to-be for us, and now, how you've kept your word! What little that promise meant, when I thought you handed me a new lease of life!

LAURA. [In a voice that is changed and metallic. She is literally being nailed to the cross.] You're killing me—killing me.

JOHN. Don't make such a mistake. In a month you'll recover. There will be days when you will think of me, just for a moment, and then it will be all over. With you it is the easy way, and it always will be. You'll go on and on until you're finally left a wreck, just the type of the common woman. And you'll sink until you're down to the very bed-rock of depravity. I pity you.

LAURA. [Still in the same metallic tone of voice.] You'll never leave me to do that. I'll kill myself.

JOHN. Perhaps that's the only thing left for you to do, but you'll not do it. It's easier to live. [Crosses, gets hat and coat, turns and looks at her, LAURA rising at the same time.

LAURA. John, I said I'd kill myself, and I mean it. If it's the only thing to do, I'll do it, and I'll do it before your very eyes. [She crosses quickly, gets keys out of satchel, opens trunk, takes gun out of trunk, stands facing JOHN—waiting a moment.] You understand that when your hand touches that door I'm going to shoot myself. I will, so help me God!

JOHN. [Stops and looks at her.] Kill yourself? [Pause.] Before me? [Pause.] All right. [Raising his voice.] Annie, Annie!

ANNIE. [Enters.] Yes, sir.

JOHN. [LAURA looks at JOHN in bewilderment.] You see your mistress there has a pistol in her hand?

ANNIE. [Frightened.] Yassuh—

JOHN. She wants to kill herself. I just called you to witness that the act is entirely voluntary on her part. Now, Laura, go ahead.

LAURA. [Nearly collapsing, drops the pistol to the floor.] John, I—can't—

JOHN. Annie, she's evidently changed her mind. You may go.

ANNIE. But, Miss Laura, Ah—

JOHN. [Peremptorily.] You may go. [Bewildered and not understanding, ANNIE exits through the portieres. In that same gentle tone, but carrying with it an almost frigid conviction.] You didn't have the nerve. I knew you wouldn't. For a moment you thought the only decent thing for you to do was to die, and yet you couldn't go through. I am sorry for you,—more sorry than I can tell. [He takes a step towards the door.

LAURA. You're going—you're going?

JOHN. Yes.

LAURA. And—and—you never thought that perhaps I'm frail, and weak, and a woman, and that now, maybe, I need your strength, and you might give it to me, and it might be better. I want to lean on you,—lean on you, John. I know I need someone. Aren't you going to let me? Won't you give me another chance?

JOHN. I gave you your chance, Laura.

LAURA. [Throws arms around his neck.] Give me another.

JOHN. But you leaned the wrong way. Good-bye.

[He pulls away and goes out, slamming both doors.

LAURA. [Screaming.] John—John—I—[She sits on trunk, weeping in loud and tearful manner; rises in a dazed fashion, starts to cross, sees gun, utters loud cry of mingled despair and anger, grabs up gun, crossing to bureau, opens up-stage drawer, throws gun in, slams drawer shut, calling:] Annie! Annie!

ANNIE. [Appears through the portieres.] Ain't yuh goin' away, Miss Laura?

LAURA. [Suddenly arousing herself, and with a defiant voice.] No, I'm not. I'm going to stay right here. [ANNIE crosses and opens trunk, takes out handsome dress, hangs it over back of armchair, crosses up to hat-trunk, takes out hat. LAURA takes it from her, crosses to trunk left, starts to unpack it.] Open these trunks, take out those clothes, get me my prettiest dress. Hurry up. [She goes before the mirror.] Get my new hat, dress up my body and paint up my face. It's all they've left of me. [To herself.] They've taken my soul away with them.

ANNIE. [In a happy voice.] Yassum, yassum.

LAURA. [Who is arranging her hair.] Doll me up, Annie.

ANNIE. Yuh goin' out, Miss Laura?

LAURA. Yes. I'm going to Rector's to make a hit, and to hell with the rest!

At this moment the hurdy-gurdy in the street, presumably immediately under her window, begins to play the tune of "Bon-Bon Buddie, My Chocolate Drop." There is something in this ragtime melody which is particularly and peculiarly suggestive of the low life, the criminality and prostitution that constitute the night excitement of that section of New York City known as the Tenderloin. The tune,—its association,—is like spreading before LAURA'S eyes a panorama of the inevitable depravity that awaits her. She is torn from every ideal that she so weakly endeavoured to grasp, and is thrown into the mire and slime at the very moment when her emancipation seems to be assured. The woman, with her flashy dress in one arm and her equally exaggerated type of picture hat in the other, is nearly prostrated by the tune and the realization of the future as it is terrifically conveyed to her. The negress, in the happiness of serving LAURA in her questionable career, picks up the melody and hums it as she unpacks the finery that has been put away in the trunk.

LAURA. [With infinite grief, resignation, and hopelessness.] O God—O my God. [She turns and totters toward the bedroom. The hurdy-gurdy continues, with the negress accompanying it.

A SLOW CURTAIN.

END OF THE PLAY.

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