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Theft - A Play In Four Acts
by Jack London
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{Knox}

No; I shall remain in to-night. To-morrow, in the broad light of midday, I shall proceed to the House and give my speech.

{Margaret}

(Wildly.) Oh, if anything should happen to you!

{Knox}

(Looking at her searchingly.) You do care?

(Margaret nods, with eyes suddenly downcast.) For Howard Knox, the reformer? Or for me, the man?

{Margaret}

(Impulsively.) Oh, why must a woman forever remain quiet? Why should I not tell you what you already know?—what you must already know? I do care for you—for man and reformer, both—for—

(She is aflame, but abruptly ceases and glances across at Tommy by the window, warned instinctively that she must not give way to love in her child's presence.)

Linda! Will you take Tommy down to the machine—

{Knox}

(Alarmed, interrupting, in low voice.) What are you doing?

{Margaret}

(Hushing Knox with a gesture.) I'll follow you right down.

(Linda and Tommy proceed across stage toward right exit.)

{Tommy}

(Pausing before Knox and gravely extending his hand.) Good evening, Mr. Knox.

{Knox}

(Awkwardly.) Good evening, Tommy. You take my word for it, and look up this Lincoln question.

{Tommy}

I shall. I'll ask father about it.

{Margaret}

(Significantly.) You attend to that, Linda. Nobody must know—this.

(Linda nods.)

(Linda and Tommy make exit to right.)

(Margaret, seated, slips back her cloak, revealing herself in evening gown, and looks at Knox sumptuously, lovingly, and willingly.)

{Knox}

(Inflamed by the sight of her.) Don't! Don't! I can't stand it. Such sight of you fills me with madness.

(Margaret laughs low and triumphantly.) I don't want to think of you as a woman. I must not. Allow me.

(He rises and attempts to draw cloak about her shoulders, but she resists him. Yet does he succeed in partly cloaking her.)

{Margaret}

I want you to see me as a woman. I want you to think of me as a woman. I want you mad for me.

(She holds out her arms, the cloak slipping from them.)

I want—don't you see what I want?——

(Knox sinks back in chair, attempting to shield his eyes with his hand.)

(Slipping cloak fully back from her again.)

Look at me.

{Knox}

(Looking, coming to his feet, and approaching her, with extended arms, murmuring softly.) Margaret. Margaret.

(Margaret rises to meet him, and they are clasped in each other's arms.)

(Hubbard, peering forth through door, looks at them with an expression of cynical amusement. His gaze wan-ders, and he sees the documents, within arm's reach, on top of bookcase. He picks up documents, holds them to the light of stage to glance at them, and, with triumphant expression on face, disappears and closes door.)

{Knox}

(Holding Margaret from him and looking at her.) I love you. I do love you. But I had resolved never to speak it, never to let you know.

{Margaret}

Silly man. I have known long that you loved me. You have told me so often and in so many ways. You could not look at me without telling me.

{Knox}

You saw?

{Margaret}

How could I help seeing? I was a woman. Only, with your voice you never spoke a word. Sit down, there, where I may look at you, and let me tell you. I shall do the speaking now.

(She urges him back into the desk-chair, and reseats herself.) (She makes as if to pull the cloak around 'her.) Shall I?

{Knox}

(Vehemently.) No, no! As you are. Let me feast my eyes upon you who are mine. I must be dreaming.

{Margaret}

(With a low, satisfied laugh of triumph.) Oh, you men! As of old, and as forever, you must be wooed through your senses. Did I display the wisdom of an Hypatia, the science of a Madam Curie, yet would you keep your iron control, throttling the voice of your heart with silence. But let me for a moment be Lilith, for a moment lay aside this garment constructed for the purpose of keeping out the chill of night, and on the instant you are fire and aflame, all voluble with love's desire.

{Knox}

(Protestingly.) Margaret! It is not fair!

{Margaret}

I love you—and—you?

{Knox}

(Fervently and reverently.) I love you.

{Margaret}

Then listen. I have told you of my girlhood and my dreams. I wanted to do what you are so nobly doing. And I did nothing. I could do nothing. I was not permitted. Always was I compelled to hold myself in check. It was to do what you are doing, that I married. And that, too, failed me. My husband became a henchman of the Interests, my own father's tool for the perpetuation of the evils against which I desired to fight.

(She pauses.) It has been a long fight, and I have been very tired, for always did I confront failure. My husband—I did not love him. I never loved him. I sold myself for the Cause, and the cause profited nothing. (Pause.) Often, I have lost faith—faith in everything, in God and man, in the hope of any righteousness ever prevailing. But again and again, by what you are doing, have you awakened me. I came to-night with no thought of self. I came to warn you, to help the good work on. I remained—thank God!—I remained to love you—and to be loved by you. I suddenly found myself, looking at you, very weary. I wanted you—you, more than anything in the world.

(She holds out her arms.) Come to me. I want you—now.

(Knox, in an ecstacy, comes to her. He seats himself on the broad arm of the chair and is drawn into her arms.)

{Knox}

But I have been tired at times. I was very tired to-night—and you came. And now I am glad, only glad.

{Margaret}

I have been wanton to-night. I confess it. I am proud of it. But it was not—professional. It was the first time in my life. Almost do I regret—almost do I regret that I did not do it sooner—it has been crowned with such success. You have held me in your arms—your arms. Oh, you will never know what that first embrace meant to me. I am not a clod. I am not iron nor stone. I am a woman—a warm, breathing woman—.

(She rises, and draws him to his feet.)

Kiss me, my dear lord and lover. Kiss me. (They embrace.)

{Knox}

(Passionately, looking about him wildly as if in search of something.) What shall we do?

(Suddenly releasing her and sinking back in his own chair almost in collapse.) No. It cannot be. It is impossible. Oh, why could we not have met long ago? We would have worked together. What a comradeship it would have been.

{Margaret}

But it is not too late.

{Knox}

I have no right to you.

{Margaret}

(Misunderstanding. ) My husband? He has not been my husband for years. He has no rights. Who, but you whom I love, has any rights?

{Knox}

No; it is not that.

(Snapping his fingers.) That for him.

(Breaking down.) Oh, if I were only the man, and not the reformer! If I had no work to do!

{Margaret}

(Coming to the back of his chair and caressing his hair.) We can work together.

{Knox}

(Shaking his head under her fingers.) Don't! Don't!

(She persists, and lays her cheek against his.) You make it so hard. You tempt me so.

(He rises suddenly, takes her two hands in his, leads her gently to her chair, seats her, and reseats himself in desk-chair.) Listen. It is not your husband. But I have no right to you. Nor have you a right to me.

{Margaret}

(Interrupting, jealously.) And who but I has any right to you?

{Knox}

(Smiling sadly.) No; it is not that. There is no other woman. You are the one woman for me. But there are many others who have greater rights in me than you. I have been chosen by two hundred thousand citizens to represent them in the Congress of the United States. And there are many more—

(He breaks off suddenly and looks at her, at her arms and shoulders.) Yes, please. Cover them up. Help me not to forget.

(Margaret does not obey.) There are many more who have rights in me—the people, all the people, whose cause I have made mine. The children—there are two million child laborers in these United States. I cannot betray them. I cannot steal my happiness from them. This afternoon I talked of theft. But would not this, too, be theft?

{Margaret}

(Sharply.) Howard! Wake up! Has our happiness turned your head?

{Knox}

(Sadly.) Almost—and for a few wild moments, quite. There are all the children. Did I ever tell you of the tenement child, who when asked how he knew when spring came, answered: When he saw the saloons put up their swing doors.

{Margaret}

(Irritated.) But what has all that to do with one man and one woman loving?

{Knox}

Suppose we loved—you and I; suppose we loosed all the reins of our love. What would happen? You remember Gorki, the Russian patriot, when he came to New York, aflame with passion for the Russian revolution. His purpose in visiting the land of liberty was to raise funds for that revolution. And because his marriage to the woman he loved was not of the essentially legal sort worshiped by the shopkeepers, and because the newspapers made a sensation of it, his whole mission was brought to failure. He was laughed and derided out of the esteem of the American people. That is what would happen to me. I should be slandered and laughed at. My power would be gone.

{Margaret}

And even if so—what of it? Be slandered and laughed at. We will have each other. Other men will rise up to lead the people, and leading the people is a thankless task. Life is so short. We must clutch for the morsel of happiness that may be ours.

{Knox}

Ah, if you knew, as I look into your eyes, how easy it would be to throw everything to the winds. But it would be theft.

{Margaret}

(Rebelliously.) Let it be theft. Life is so short, dear. We are the biggest facts in the world—to each other.

{Knox}

It is not myself alone, nor all my people. A moment ago you said no one but I had any right to you. You were wrong. Your child—

{Margaret}

(In sudden pain, pleadingly.) Don't!

{Knox}

I must. I must save myself—and you. Tommy has rights in you. Theft again. What other name for it if you steal your happiness from him?

{Margaret}

(Bending her head forward on her hand and weeping.) I have been so lonely—and then you—you came, and the world grew bright and warm—a few short minutes ago you held me—in your arms—a few short minutes ago and it seemed my dream of happiness had come true—and now you dash it from me—

{Knox}

(Struggling to control himself now that she is no longer looking at him.) No; I ask you to dash it from yourself. I am not too strong. You must help me. You must call your child to your aid in helping me. I could go mad for you now—

(Rising impulsively and coming to her with arms outstretched to clasp her.) Right now—

{Margaret}

(Abruptly raising her head, and with one outstretched arm preventing the embrace.) Wait.

(She bows her head on her hand for a moment, to think and to win control of herself.)

(Lifting her head and looking at him.) Sit down—please.

(Knox reseats himself.)

(A pause, during which she looks at him and loves him.) Dear, I do so love you—

(Knox loses control and starts to rise.) No! Sit there. I was weak. Yet I am not sorry. You are right. We must forego each other. We cannot be thieves, even for love's sake. Yet I am glad that this has happened—that I have lain in your arms and had your lips on mine. The memory of it will be sweet always.

(She draws her cloak around her, and rises.)

(Knox rises.) You are right. The future belongs to the children. There lies duty—yours, and mine in my small way. I am going now. We must not see each other ever again. We must work—and forget. But remember, my heart goes with you into the fight. My prayers will accompany every stroke.

(She hesitates, pauses, draws her cloak thoroughly around her in evidence of departure.) Dear—will you kiss me—once—one last time? (There is no passion in this kiss, which is the kiss of renunciation. Margaret herself terminates the embrace.)

(Knox accompanies her silently to the door and places hand on knob.) I wish I had something of you to have with me always—a photograph, that little one, you remember, which I liked so. (She nods.) Don't run the risk of sending it by messenger. Just mail it ordinarily.

{Margaret}

I shall mail it to-morrow. I'll drop it in the box myself.

{Knox}

(Kissing her hand.) Good-bye.

{Margaret}

(lingeringly.) But oh, my dear, I am glad and proud for what has happened. I would not erase a single line of it.

(She indicates for Knox to open door, which he does, but which he immediately closes as she continues speaking.) There must be immortality. There must be a future life where you and I shall meet again. Good-bye.

(They press each other's hands.)

(Exit Margaret.)

(Knox stands a moment, staring at closed door, turns and looks about him indecisively, sees chair in which Margaret sat, goes over to it, kneels down, and buries his face.)

(Door to bedroom opens slowly and Hubbard peers out cautiously. He cannot see Knox.)

{Hubbard}

(Advancing, surprised.) What the deuce? Everybody gone?

{Knox}

(Startled to his feet.) Where the devil did you come from?

{Hubbard}

(Indicating bedroom.) In there. I was in there all the time.

{Knox}

(Endeavoring to pass it off.) Oh, I had forgotten about you. Well, my callers are gone.

{Hubbard}

(Walking over close to him and laughing at him with affected amusement.) Honest men are such dubs when they do go wrong.

{Knox}

The door was closed all the time. You would not have dared to spy upon me.

{Hubbard}

There was something familiar about the lady's voice.

{Knox}

You heard!—what did you hear?

{Hubbard}

Oh, nothing, nothing—a murmur of voices—and the woman's—I could swear I have heard her voice before.

(Knox shows his relief.) Well, so long.

(Starts to move toward exit to right.) You won't reconsider your decision?

{Knox}

(Shaking his head.)

{Hubbard}

(Pausing, open door in hand, and laughing cynically.) And yet it was but a moment ago that it seemed I heard you say there was no one whom you would not permit the world to know you saw.

(Starting.) What do you mean?

{Hubbard}

Good-bye.

(Hubbard makes exit and closes door.) (Knox wanders aimlessly to his desk, glances at the letter he was reading of which had been interrupted by Hubbard's entry of first act, suddenly recollects the package of documents, and walks to low bookcase and looks on top.)

{Knox}

(Stunned.) The thief!

(He looks about him wildly, then rushes like a madman in pursuit of Hubbard, making exit to right and leaving the door Hying open.) (Empty stage for a moment.)

Curtain



ACT III

Scene. _The library, used as a sort of semi-office by Starkweather at such times when he is in Washington. Door to right; also, door to right rear. At left rear is an alcove, without hangings, which is dark. To left are windows. To left, near windows, a fiat-top desk, with desk-chair and desk-telephone. Also, on desk, conspicuously, is a heavy dispatch box. At the center rear is a large screen. Extending across center back of room are heavy, old-fashioned bookcases, with swinging glass doors. The bookcases narrow about four feet from the floor, thus forming a ledge. Between left end of bookcases and alcove at left rear, high up on wall, hangs a large painting or steel engraving of Abraham Lincoln. In design and furnishings, it is a simple chaste room, coldly rigid and slightly old-fashioned.

It is 9:30 in the morning of the day succeeding previous act.

Curtain discloses Starkweather seated at desk, and Dobleman, to right of desk, standing._

{Starkweather}

All right, though it is an unimportant publication. I'll subscribe.

{Dobleman}

(Making note on pad.) Very well, sir. Two thousand.

(He consults his notes.) Then there is Vanderwater's Magazine. Your subscription is due.

{Starkweather}

How much?

{Dobleman}

You have been paying fifteen thousand.

{Starkweather}

It is too much. What is the regular subscription?

{Dobleman}

A dollar a year.

{Starkweather}

(Shaking his head emphatically.) It is too much.

{Dobleman}

Professor Vanderwater also does good work with his lecturing. He is regularly on the Chautauqua Courses, and at that big meeting of the National Civic Federation, his speech was exceptionally telling.

{Starkweather}

(Doubtfully, about to give in.) All right—

(He pauses, as if recollecting something.) (Dobleman has begun to write down the note.) No. I remember there was something in the papers about this Professor Vanderwater—a divorce, wasn't it? He has impaired his authority and his usefulness to me.

{Dobleman}

It was his wife's fault.

{Starkweather}

It is immaterial. His usefulness is impaired. Cut him down to ten thousand. It will teach him a lesson.

{Dobleman}

Very good, sir.

{Starkweather}

And the customary twenty thousand to Cartwrights.

{Dobleman}

(Hesitatingly.) They have asked for more. They have enlarged the magazine, reorganized the stock, staff, everything.

{Starkweather}

Hubbard's writing for it, isn't he?

{Dobleman}

Yes, sir. And though I don't know, it is whispered that he is one of the heavy stockholders.

{Starkweather}

A very capable man. He has served me well. How much do they want?

{Dobleman}

They say that Nettman series of articles cost them twelve thousand alone, and that they believe, in view of the exceptional service they are prepared to render, and are rendering, fifty thousand—

{Starkweather}

(Shortly.) All right. How much have I given to University of Hanover this year?

{Dobleman}

Seven—nine millions, including that new library.

{Starkweather}

(Sighing.) Education does cost. Anything more this morning?

{Dobleman}

(Consulting notes.) Just one other—Mr. Rutland. His church, you know, sir, and that theological college. He told me he had been talking it over with you. He is anxious to know.

{Starkweather}

He's very keen, I must say. Fifty thousand for the church, and a hundred thousand for the college—I ask you, candidly, is he worth it?

{Dobleman}

The church is a very powerful molder of public opinion, and Mr. Rutland is very impressive. (Running over the notes and producing a clipping.) This is what he said in his sermon two weeks ago: "God has given to Mr. Starkweather the talent for making money as truly as God has given to other men the genius which manifests itself in literature and the arts and sciences."

{Starkweather}

(Pleased.) He says it well.

{Dobleman}

(Producing another clipping.) And this he said about you in last Sunday's sermon: "We are to-day rejoicing in the great light of the consecration of a great wealth to the advancement of the race. This vast wealth has been so consecrated by a man who all through life has walked in accord with the word, The love of Christ constraineth me.'"

{Starkweather}

(Meditatively.) Dobleman, I have meant well. I mean well. I shall always mean well. I believe I am one of those few men, to whom God, in his infinite wisdom, has given the stewardship of the people's wealth. It is a high trust, and despite the abuse and vilification heaped upon me, I shall remain faithful to it.

(Changing his tone abruptly to businesslike briskness.) Very well. See that Mr. Rutland gets what he has asked for.

{Dobleman}

Very good, sir. I shall telephone him. I know he is anxious to hear.

(Starting to leave the room.) Shall I make the checks out in the usual way?

{Starkweather}

Yes: except the Rutland one. I'll sign that myself. Let the others go through the regular channels. We take the 2:10 train for New York. Are you ready?

{Dobleman}

(Indicating dispatch box.) All, except the dispatch box.

{Starkweather}

I'll take care of that myself.

(Dobleman starts to make exit to left, and Starkweather, taking notebook from pocket, glances into it, and looks up.)

Dobleman.

{Dobleman} (Pausing.) Yes, sir.

{Starkweather}

Mrs. Chalmers is here, isn't she?

{Dobleman}

Yes, sir. She came a few minutes ago, with her little boy. They are with Mrs. Starkweather.

{Starkweather}

Please tell Mrs. Chalmers I wish to see her.

{Dobleman}

Yes, sir.

(Dobleman makes exit.) (Maidservant enters from right rear, with card tray.)

{Starkweather}

(Examining card.) Show him in.

(Maidservant makes exit right rear). (Pause, during which Starkweather consults notebook.) (Maidservant re-enters, showing in Hubbard.)

(Hubbard advances to desk.) (Starkweather is so glad to see him that he half rises from his chair to shake hands.)

{Starkweather}

(Heartily.) I can only tell you that what you did was wonderful. Your telephone last night was a great relief. Where are they?

{Hubbard}

(Drawing package of documents from inside breast pocket and handing them over.) There they are—the complete set. I was fortunate.

{Starkweather}

(Opening package and glancing at a number of the documents while he talks.) You are modest, Mr. Hubbard.—It required more—than fortune.—It required ability—of no mean order.—The time was short.—You had to think—and act—with too great immediacy to be merely fortunate.

(Hubbard bows, while Starkweather rearranges package.)

There is no need for me to tell you how I appreciate your service. I have increased my subscription to Cartwright's to fifty thousand, and I shall speak to Dobleman, who will remit to you a more substantial acknowledgment than my mere thanks for the inestimable service you have rendered.

(Hubbard bows.)

You—ah—you have read the documents?

{Hubbard}

I glanced through them. They were indeed serious. But we have spiked Knox's guns. Without them, that speech of his this afternoon becomes a farce—a howling farce. Be sure you take good care of them.

(Indicating documents, which Starkweather still holds.) Gherst has a long arm.

{Starkweather}

He cannot reach me here. Besides, I go to New York to-day, and I shall carry them with me. Mr. Hubbard, you will forgive me—

(Starting to pack dispatch box with papers and letters lying on desk.) I am very busy.

{Hubbard}

(Taking the hint.) Yes, I understand. I shall be going now. I have to be at the Club in five minutes.

{Starkweather}

(In course of packing dispatch box, he sets certain packets of papers and several medium-sized account books to one side in an orderly pile. He talks while he packs, and Hubbard waits.) I should like to talk with you some more—in New York. Next time you are in town be sure to see me. I am thinking of buying the Parthenon Magazine, and of changing its policy. I should like to have you negotiate this, and there are other important things as well. Good day, Mr. Hubbard. I shall see you in New York—soon.

(Hubbard and Starkweather shake hands.)

(Hubbard starts to make exit to right rear.)

(Margaret enters from right rear.)

(Starkweather goes on packing dispatch box through following scene.)

{Hubbard}

Mrs. Chalmers.

(Holding out hand, which Margaret takes very coldly, scarcely inclining her head, and starting to pass on.) (Speaking suddenly and savagely.) You needn't be so high and lofty, Mrs. Chalmers.

{Margaret}

(Pausing and looking at him curiously as if to ascertain whether he has been drinking.) I do not understand.

{Hubbard}

You always treated me this way, but the time for it is past. I won't stand for your superior goodness any more. You really impressed me with it for a long time, and you made me walk small. But I know better now. A pretty game you've been playing—you, who are like any other woman. Well, you know where you were last night. So do I.

{Margaret}

You are impudent.

{Hubbard}

(Doggedly.) I said I knew where you were last night. Mr. Knox also knows where you were. But I'll wager your husband doesn't.

{Margaret}

You spy!

(Indicating her father.) I suppose you have told—him.

{Hubbard}

Why should I?

{Margaret}

You are his creature.

{Hubbard}

If it will ease your suspense, let me tell you that I have not told him. But I do protest to you that you must treat me with more—more kindness.

(Margaret makes no sign but passes on utterly oblivious of him.) (Hubbard stares angrily at her and makes exit) (Starkweather, who is finishing packing, puts the documents last inside box, and closes and locks it. To one side is the orderly stack of the several account books and packets of papers.)

{Starkweather}

Good morning, Margaret. I sent for you because we did not finish that talk last night. Sit down.

(She gets a chair for herself and sits down.)

You always were hard to manage, Margaret. You have had too much will for a woman. Yet I did my best for you. Your marriage with Tom was especially auspicious—a rising man, of good family and a gentleman, eminently suitable—

{Margaret}

(Interrupting bitterly.) I don't think you were considering your daughter at all in the matter. I know your views on woman and woman's place. I have never counted for anything with you. Neither has mother, nor Connie, when business was uppermost, and business always is uppermost with you. I sometimes wonder if you think a woman has a soul. As for my marriage—you saw that Tom could be useful to you. He had the various distinctive points you have mentioned. Better than that he was pliable, capable of being molded to perform your work, to manipulate machine politics and procure for you the legislation you desired. You did not consider what kind of a husband he would make for your daughter whom you did not know. But you gave your daughter to him—sold her to him—because you needed him—

(Laughs hysterically.) In your business.

{Starkweather}

(Angrily.) Margaret! You must not speak that way. (Relaxing.)

Ah, you do not change. You were always that way, always bent on having your will—

{Margaret}

Would to God I had been more successful in having it.

{Starkweather}

(Testily.) This is all beside the question. I sent for you to tell you that this must stop—this association with a man of the type and character of Knox—a dreamer, a charlatan, a scoundrel—

{Margaret}

It is not necessary to abuse him.

{Starkweather}

It must stop—that is all. Do you understand? It must stop.

{Margaret}

(Quietly.) It has stopped. I doubt that I shall ever see him again. He will never come to my house again, at any rate. Are you satisfied?

{Starkweather}

Perfectly. Of course, you know I have never doubted you—that—that way.

{Margaret}

(Quietly.) How little you know women. In your comprehension we are automatons, puppets, with no hearts nor heats of desire of our own, with no springs of conduct save those of the immaculate and puritanical sort that New England crystallized a century or so ago.

{Starkweather}

(Suspiciously.) You mean that you and this man—?

{Margaret}

I mean nothing has passed between us. I mean that I am Tom's wife and Tommy's mother. What I did mean, you have no more understood than you understand me—or any woman.

{Starkweather}

(Relieved.) It is well.

{Margaret}

(Continuing.) And it is so easy. The concept is simple. A woman is human. That is all. Yet I do believe it is news to you.

(Enters Dobleman from right carrying a check in his hand. Starkweather, about to speak, pauses.) (Dobleman hesitates, and Starkweather nods for him to advance.)

{Dobleman}

(Greeting Margaret, and addressing Starkweather.) This check. You said you would sign it yourself.

{Starkweather}

Yes, that is Rutland's. (Looks for pen.)

(Dobleman offers his fountain pen.) No; my own pen.

(Unlocks dispatch box, gets pen, and signs check. Leaves dispatch box open.) (Dobleman takes check and makes exit to right.)

{Starkweather}

(Picking up documents from top of pile in open box.)

This man Knox. I studied him yesterday. A man of great energy and ideals. Unfortunately, he is a sentimentalist. He means right—I grant him that. But he does not understand practical conditions. He is more dangerous to the welfare of the United States than ten thousand anarchists. And he is not practical. (Holding up documents.)

Behold, stolen from my private files by a yellow journal sneak thief and turned over to him. He thought to buttress his speech with them this afternoon. And yet, so hopelessly unpractical is he, that you see they are already back in the rightful owner's hands.

{Margaret}

Then his speech is ruined?

{Starkweather}

Absolutely. The wheels are all ready to turn. The good people of the United States will dismiss him with roars of laughter—a good phrase, that: Hubbard's, I believe.

(Dropping documents on the open cover of dispatch box, picking up the pile of several account books and packets of papers, and rising.) One moment. I must put these away.

(Starkweather goes to alcove at left rear. He presses a button and alcove is lighted by electricity, discovering the face of a large safe. During the following scene he does not look around, being occupied with working the combination, opening the safe, putting away account books and packets of papers, and with examining other packets which are in safe.)

(Margaret looks at documents lying on open cover of dispatch box and glancing quickly about room, takes a sudden resolution. She seizes documents, makes as if to run wildly from the room, stops abruptly to reconsider, and changes her mind. She looks about room for a hiding place, and her eyes rest on portrait of Lincoln. Moving swiftly, picking up a light chair on the way, she goes to corner of bookcase nearest to portrait, steps on chair, and from chair to ledge of bookcase where, clinging, she reaches out and up and drops documents behind portrait. Stepping quickly down, with handkerchief she wipes ledge on which she has stood, also the seat of the chair. She carries chair back to where she found it, and reseats herself in chair by desk.) (Starkweather locks safe, emerges from alcove, turns off alcove lights, advances to desk chair, and sits down. He is about to close and lock dispatch box when he discovers documents are missing. He is very quiet about it, and examines contents of box care-fully.)

{Starkweather}

(Quietly.) Has anybody been in the room?

{Margaret}

No.

{Starkweather}

(Looking at her searchingly.) A most unprecedented thing has occurred. When I went to the safe a moment ago, I left these documents on the cover of the dispatch box. Nobody has been in the room but you. The documents are gone. Give them to me.

{Margaret}

I have not been out of the room.

{Starkweather}

I know that. Give them to me.

(A pause.) You have them. Give them to me

{Margaret}

I haven't them.

{Starkweather}

That is a lie. Give them to me.

{Margaret}

(Rising.) I tell you I haven't them—

{Starkweather}

(Also rising.) That is a lie.

{Margaret}

(Turning and starting to cross room.) Very well, if you do not believe me—

{Starkweather}

(Interrupting.) Where are you going?

{Margaret}

Home.

{Starkweather}

(Imperatively.) No, you are not. Come back here.

(Margaret comes back and stands by chair.) You shall not leave this room. Sit down.

{Margaret}

I prefer to stand.

{Starkweather}

Sit down.

(She still stands, and he grips her by arm, forcing her down into chair.) Sit down. Before you leave this room you shall return those documents. This is more important than you realize. It transcends all ordinary things of life as you have known it, and you will compel me to do things far harsher than you can possibly imagine. I can forget that you are a daughter of mine. I can forget that you are even a woman. If I have to tear them from you, I shall get them. Give them to me.

(A pause.) What are you going to do?

(Margaret shrugs her shoulders.) What have you to say?

(Margaret again shrugs her shoulders.) What have you to say?

{Margaret}

Nothing.

{Starkweather}

(Puzzled, changing tactics, sitting down, and talking calmly.) Let us talk this over quietly. You have no shred of right of any sort to those documents. They are mine. They were stolen by a sneak thief from my private files. Only this morning—a few minutes ago—did I get them back. They are mine, I tell you. They belong to me. Give them back.

{Margaret}

I tell you I haven't them.

{Starkweather}

You have got them about you, somewhere, concealed in your breast there. It will not save you. I tell you I shall have them. I warn you. I don't want to proceed to extreme measures. Give them to me.

(He starts to press desk-button, pauses, and looks at her.) Well?

(Margaret shrugs her shoulders.) (He presses button twice.) I have sent for Dobleman. You have one chance before he comes. Give them to me.

{Margaret}

Father, will you believe me just this once? Let me go. I tell you I haven't the documents. I tell you that if you let me leave this room, I shall not carry them away with me. I tell you this on my honor. Do you believe me? Tell me that you do believe me.

{Starkweather}

I do believe you. You say they are not on you. I believe you. Now tell me where they are—you have them hidden somewhere—(Glancing about room.)—And you can go at once.

(Dobleman enters from right and advances to desk. Starkweather and Margaret remains silent.)

{Dobleman}

You rang for me.

{Starkweather}

(With one last questioning glance at Margaret, who remains impassive.) Yes, I did. Have you been in that other room all the time?

{Dobleman}

Yes, sir.

{Starkweather}

Did anybody pass through and enter this room?

{Dobleman}

No, sir.

{Starkweather}

Very well. We'll see what the maid has to say.

(He presses button once.) Margaret, I give you one last chance.

{Margaret}

I have told you that if I leave this room, I shall not take them with me.

(Maid enters from right rear and advances.)

{Starkweather}

Has anybody come into this room from the hall in the last few minutes?

{Maid}

No, sir; not since Mrs. Chalmers came in.

{Starkweather}

How do you know?

{Maid}

I was in the hall, sir, dusting all the time.

{Starkweather}

That will do.

(Maid makes exit to right rear.) Dobleman, a very unusual thing has occurred.

Mrs. Chalmers and I have been alone in this room. Those letters stolen by Gherst had been returned to me by Hubbard but the moment before. They were on my desk. I turned my back for a moment to go to the safe. When I came back they were gone.

{Dobleman}

(Embarrassed.) Yes, sir.

{Starkweather}

Mrs. Chalmers took them. She has them now.

{Dobleman}

(Attempts to speak, stammers.) Er—er—yes, sir

{Starkweather}

I want them back. What is to be done?

(Dobleman remains in hopeless confusion.) Well!

{Dobleman}

(Speaking hurriedly and hopefully.) S-send for Mr. Hubbard. He got them for you before.

{Starkweather}

A good suggestion. Telephone for him. You should find him at the Press Club.

(Dobleman starts to make exit to right.) Don't leave the room. Use this telephone. (Indicating desk telephone.) (Dobleman moves around to left of desk and uses telephone standing up.) From now on no one leaves the room. If my daughter can be guilty of such a theft, it is plain I can trust no one—no one.

{Dobleman}

(Speaking in transmitter.) Red 6-2-4. Yes, please.

(Waits.)

{Starkweather}

(Rising.) Call Senator Chalmers as well. Tell him to come immediately.

{Dobleman}

Yes, sir—immediately.

{Starkweather}

(Starting to cross stage to center and speaking to Margaret.) Come over here.

(Margaret follows. She is obedient, frightened, very subdued—but resolved.)

Why have you done this? Were you truthful when you said there was nothing between you and this man Knox?

{Margaret}

Father; don't discuss this before the—

(Indicating Dobleman.)—the servants.

{Starkweather}

You should have considered that before you stole the documents.

(Dobleman, in the meantime, is telephoning in a low voice.)

{Margaret}

There are certain dignities—

{Starkweather}

(Interrupting.) Not for a thief.

(Speaking intensely and in a low voice.) Margaret, it is not too late. Give them back, and no one shall know.

(A pause, in which Margaret is silent, in the throes of indecision.)

{Dobleman}

Mr. Hubbard says he will be here in three minutes. Fortunately, Senator Chalmers is with him.

(Starkweather nods and looks at Margaret.) (Door at left rear opens, and enter Mrs. Starkweather and Connie. They are dressed for the street and evidently just going out.)

{Mrs. Starkweather}

(Speaking in a rush.) We are just going out, Anthony. You were certainly wrong in making us attempt to take that 2:10 train. I simply can't make it. I know I can't. It would have been much wiser—

(Suddenly apprehending the strain of the situation between Starkweather and Margaret.)—Why, what is the matter?

{Starkweather}

(Patently disturbed by their entrance, speaking to Dobleman, who has finished with the telephone.) Lock the doors.

(Dobleman proceeds to obey.)

{Mrs. Starkweather}

Mercy me! Anthony! What has happened?

(A pause.) Madge! What has happened?

{Starkweather}

You will have to wait here a few minutes, that is all.

{Mrs. Starkweather}

But I must keep my engagements. And I haven't a minute to spare.

(Looking at Dobleman locking doors.) I do not understand.

{Starkweather}

(Grimly,) You will, shortly. I can trust no one any more. When my daughter sees fit to steal—

{Mrs. Starkweather}

Steal!—Margaret! What have you been doing now?

{Margaret}

Where is Tommy?

(Mrs. Starkwater is too confounded to answer, and can only stare from face to face.) (Margaret looks her anxiety to Connie.)

{Connie}

He is already down in the machine waiting for us. You are coming, aren't you?

{Starkweather}

Let him wait in the machine. Margaret will come when I get done with her.

(A knock is heard at right rear.) (Starkweather looks at Dobleman and signifies that he is to open door.)

(Dobleman unlocks door, and Hubbabd and Chalmers enter. Beyond the shortest of nods and recognitions with eyes, greetings are cut short by the strain that is on all. Dobleman relocks door.)

{Starkweather}

(Plunging into it.) Look here, Tom. You know those letters Gherst stole. Mr. Hubbard recovered them from Knox and returned them to me this morning. Within five minutes Margaret stole them from me—here, right in this room. She has not left the room. They are on her now. I want them.

{Chalmers}

(Who is obviously incapable of coping with his wife, and who is panting for breath, his hand pressed to his side.) Madge, is this true?

{Margaret}

I haven't them. I tell you I haven't them.

{Starkweather}

Where are they, then?

(She does not answer.)

If they are in the room we can find them. Search the room. Tom, Mr. Hubbard, Dobleman. They must be recovered at any cost.

(While a thorough search of the room is being made, Mrs. Starkweather, overcome, has Connie assist her to seat at left. Margaret also seats herself, in same chair at desk.)

{Chalmers}

(Pausing from search, while others continue.) There is no place to look for them. They are not in the room. Are you sure you didn't mislay them?

{Starkweather}

Nonsense. Margaret took them. They are a bulky package and not easily hidden. If they aren't in the room, then she has them on her.

{Chalmers}

Madge, give them up.

{Margaret}

I haven't them.

(Chalmers, stepping suddenly up to her, starts feeling for the papers, running his hands over her dress.)

{Margaret}

(Springing to her feet and striking him in the face with her open palm.) How dare you!

(Chalmers recoils, Mrs. Starkweather is threatened with hysteria and is calmed by the frightened Connie, while Starkweather looks on grimly.)

{Hubbard}

(Giving up search of room.) Possibly it would be better to let me retire, Mr. Starkweather.

{Starkweather}

No; those papers are here in this room. If nobody leaves there will be no possible chance for the papers to get out of the room. What would you recommend doing, Hubbard?

{Hubbard}

(Hesitatingly.) Under the circumstances I don't like to suggest—

{Starkweather}

Go on.

{Hubbard}

First, I would make sure that she—er—Mrs. Chalmers has taken them.

{Starkweather}

I have made that certain.

{Chalmers}

But what motive could she have for such an act?

(Hubbard looks wise.)

{Starkweather}

(To Hubbard.) You know more about this than would appear. What is it?

{Hubbard}

I'd rather not. It is too—

(Looks significantly at Mrs. Starkweather and Connie.)—er—delicate.

{Starkweather}

This affair has gone beyond all delicacy. What is it?

{Margaret}

No! No!

(Chalmers and Starkweather look at her with sudden suspicion.)

{Starkweather}

Go on, Mr. Hubbard.

{Hubbard}

I'd—I'd rather not.

{Starkweather}

(Savagely.) I say go on.

{Hubbard}

(With simulated reluctance.) Last night—I saw—I was in Knox's rooms—

{Margaret}

(Interrupting.) One moment; please. Let him speak, but first send Connie away.

{Starkweather}

No one shall leave this room till the documents are produced. Margaret, give me the letters, and Connie can leave quietly, and even will Hubbard's lips remain sealed. They will never breathe a word of whatever shameful thing his eyes saw. This I promise you.

(A pause, wherein he waits vainly for Margaret to make a decision.) Go on, Hubbard.

{Margaret}

(Who is terror-stricken, and has been wavering.) No! Don't! I'll tell. I'll give you back the documents.

(All are expectant She wavers again, and steels herself to resolution.) No; I haven't them. Say all you have to say.

{Starkweather}

You see. She has them. She said she would give them back.

(To Hubbard.) Go on.

{Hubbard}

Last night—

{Connie}

(Springing up.) I won't stay!

(She rushes to left rear and finds door locked.) Let me out! Let me out!

{Mrs. Starkweather}

(Moaning and lying back in chair, legs stretched out and giving preliminary twitches and jerks of hysteria.) I shall die! I shall die! I know I shall die!

{Starkweather}

(Sternly, to Connie.) Go back to your mother.

{Connie}

(Returning reluctantly to side of Mrs. Starkweather, sitting down beside her, and putting fingers in her own ears.) I won't listen! I won't listen!

{Starkweather}

(Sternly.) Take your fingers down.

{Hubbard}

Hang it all, Chalmers, I wish I were out of this. I don't want to testify.

{Starkweather}

Take your fingers down.

(Connie reluctantly removes her fingers.) Now, Hubbard.

{Hubbard}

I protest. I am being dragged into this.

{Chalmers}

You can't help yourself now. You have cast black suspicions on my wife.

{Hubbard}

All right. She—Mrs. Chalmers visited Knox in his rooms last night.

{Mrs. Starkweather}

(Bursting out.) Oh! Oh! My Madge! It is a lie! A lie! (Kicks violently with her legs.) (Connie soothes her.)

{Chalmers}

You've got to prove that, Hubbard. If you have made any mistake it will go hard with you.

{Hubbard}

(Indicating Margaret.) Look at her. Ask her.

(Chalmers looks at Margaret with growing suspicion.)

{Margaret}

Linda was with me. And Tommy. I had to see Mr. Knox on a very important matter. I went there in the machine. I took Linda and Tommy right into Mr. Knox's room.

{Chalmers}

(Relieved.) Ah, that puts a different complexion on it.

{Hubbard}

That is not all. Mrs. Chalmers sent the maid and the boy down to the machine and remained.

{Margaret}

(Quickly.) But only for a moment

{Hubbard}

Much longer—much, much longer. I know how long I was kicking my heels and waiting.

{Margaret}

(Desperately.) I say it was but for a moment—a short moment.

{Starkweather}

(Abruptly, to Hubbard.) Where were you?

{Hubbard}

In Knox's bedroom. The fool had forgotten all about me. He was too delighted with his—er—new visitor.

{Starkweather}

You said you saw.

{Hubbard}

The bedroom door was ajar. I opened it.

{Starkweather}

What did you see?

{Margaret}

(Appealing to Hubbard.) Have you no mercy? I say it was only a moment.

(Hubbard shrugs his shoulders.)

{Starkweather}

We'll settle the length of that moment Tommy is here, and so is the maid. Connie, Margaret's maid is here, isn't she? (Connie does not answer.) Answer me!

{Connie}

Yes.

{Starkweather}

{Dobleman}.

Ring for a maid and tell her to fetch Tommy and Mrs. Chalmer's maid.

(Dobleman goes to desk and pushes button once.)

{Margaret}

No! Not Tommy!

{Starkweather}

(Looking shrewdly at Margaret, to Dobleman.) Mrs. Chalmer's maid will do.

(A knock is heard at left rear. Dobleman opens door and talks to maid. Closes door.)

{Starkweather}

Lock it.

(Dobleman locks door.)

{Chalmers}

(Coming over to Margaret.) So you, the immaculate one, have been playing fast and loose.

{Margaret}

You have no right to talk to me that way, Tom—

{Chalmers}

I am your husband.

{Margaret}

You have long since ceased being that.

{Chalmers}

What do you mean?

{Margaret}

I mean just what you have in mind about yourself right now.

{Chalmers}

Madge, you are merely conjecturing. You know nothing against me.

{Margaret}

I know everything—and without evidence, if you please. I am a woman. It is your atmosphere. Faugh! You have exhaled it for years. I doubt not that proofs, as you would call them, could have been easily obtained. But I was not interested. I had my boy. When he came, I gave you up, Tom. You did not seem to need me any more.

{Chalmers}

And so, in retaliation, you took up with this fellow Knox.

{Margaret}

No, no. It is not true, Tom. I tell you it is not true.

{Chalmers}

You were there, last night, in his rooms, alone—how long we shall soon find out—

(Knock is heard at left rear. Dobleman proceeds to unlock door.) And now you have stolen your father's private papers for your lover.

{Margaret}

He is not my lover.

{Chalmers}

But you have acknowledged that you have the papers. For whom, save Knox, could you have stolen them?

(Linda enters. She is white and strained, and looks at Margaret for some cue as to what she is to do.)

{Starkweather}

That is the woman.

(To Linda.) Come here.

(Linda advances reluctantly.) Where were you last night? You know what I mean.

(She does not speak.) Answer me.

{Linda}

I don't know what you mean, sir—unless—

{Starkweather}

Yes, that's it. Go on.

{Linda}

But I don't think you have any right to ask me such questions. What if I—if I did go out with my young man—

{Starkweather}

(To Margaret.) A very faithful young woman you've got.

(Briskly, to the others.) There's nothing to be got out of her. Send for Tommy. Dobleman, ring the bell.

(Dobleman starts to obey.)

{Margaret}

(Stopping Dobleman.) No, no; not Tommy. Tell them, Linda.

(Linda looks appealingly at her.)

(Kindly.) Don't mind me. Tell them the truth.

{Chalmers}

(Breaking in.) The whole truth.

{Margaret}

Yes, Linda, the whole truth.

(Linda, looking very woeful, nerves herself for the ordeal.)

{Starkweather}

Never mind, Dobleman.

(To Linda.) Very well. You were at Mr. Knox's rooms last night, with your mistress and Tommy.

{Linda}

Yes, sir.

{Starkweather}

Your mistress sent you and Tommy out of the room.

{Linda}

Yes, sir.

{Starkweather}

You waited in the machine.

{Linda}

Yes, sir.

{Starkweather}

(Abruptly springing the point he has been working up to.) How long?

(Linda perceives the gist of the questioning just as she is opening her mouth to reply, and she does not speak.)

{Margaret}

(With deliberate calmness of despair.) Half an hour—an hour—any length of time your shameful minds dictate. That will do, Linda. You can go.

{Starkweather}

No you don't. Stand over there to one side.

(To the others.) The papers are in this room, and I shall keep my mind certain on that point.

{Hubbard}

I think I have shown the motive.

{Connie}

You are a beast!

{Chalmers}

You haven't told what you saw.

{Hubbard}

I saw them in each other's arms—several times. Then I found the stolen documents where Knox had thrown them down. So I pocketed them and closed the door.

{Chalmers}

How long after that did they remain together?

{Hubbard}

Quite a time, quite a long time.

{Chalmers}

And when you last saw them?

{Hubbard}

They were in each other's arms—quite enthusiastically, I may say, in each other's arms. (Chalmers is crushed.)

{Margaret}

(To Hubbard.) You coward.

(Hubbard smiles.)

(To Starkweather.) When are you going to call off this hound of yours?

{Starkweather}

When I get the papers. You see what you've been made to pay for them already. Now listen to me closely. Tom, you listen, too. You know the value of these letters. If they are not recovered they will precipitate a turn-over that means not merely money but control and power. I doubt that even you would be re-elected. So what we have heard in this room must be forgotten—absolutely forgotten. Do you understand?

{Chalmers}

But it is adultery.

{Starkweather}

It is not necessary for that word to be mentioned. The point is that everything must be as it was formerly.

{Chalmers}

Yes, I understand.

{Starkweather}

(To Margaret.) You hear. Tom will make no trouble. Now give me the papers. They are mine, you know.

{Margaret}

It seems to me the people, who have been lied to, and cajoled, and stolen from, are the rightful owners, not you.

{Starkweather}

Are you doing this out of love for this—this man, this demagogue?

{Margaret}

For the people, the children, the future.

{Starkweather}

Faugh! Answer me.

{Margaret}

(Slowly.) Almost I do not know. Almost I do not know.

(A knock is heard at left rear. Dobleman answers.)

{Dobleman}

(Looking at card Maid has given him, to Starkweather.) Mr. Rutland.

{Starkweather}

(Making an impatient gesture, then abruptly changing his mind, speaking grimly.) Very well. Bring him in. I've paid a lot for the Church, now we'll see what the Church can do for me.

{Connie}

(Impulsively crossing stage to Margaret, putting arms around her, and weeping.)

Please, please, Madge, give up the papers, and everything will be hushed up. You heard what father said. Think what it means to me if this scandal comes out. Father will hush it up. Not a soul will dare to breathe a word of it. Give him the papers.

{Margaret}

(Kissing her, shaking head, and setting her aside.) No; I can't. But Connie, dearest—

(Connie pauses.) It is not true, Connie. He—he is not my lover. Tell me that you believe me.

{Connie}

(Caressing her.) I do believe you. But won't you return the papers—for my sake?

(A knock at door.)

{Margaret}

I can't.

(Enter Rutland.)

(Connie returns to take care of Mrs. Starkweather.)

{Rutland}

(Advances beamingly upon Starkweather.) My, what a family gathering. I hastened on at once, my dear Mr. Starkweather, to thank you in person, ere you fled away to New York, for your generously splendid—yes, generously splendid—contribution—

(Here the strained situation dawns upon him, and he remains helplessly with mouth open, looking from one to another.)

{Starkweather}

A theft has been committed, Mr. Rutland. My daughter has stolen something very valuable from me—a package of private papers, so important—well, if she succeeds in making them public I shall be injured to such an extent financially that there won't be any more generously splendid donations for you or anybody else. I have done my best to persuade her to return what she has stolen. Now you try. Bring her to a realization of the madness of what she is doing.

{Rutland}

(Quite at sea, hemming and hawing.) As your spiritual adviser, Mrs. Chalmers—if this be true—I recommend—I suggest—I—ahem—I entreat—

{Margaret}

Please, Mr. Rutland, don't be ridiculous. Father is only making a stalking horse out of you. Whatever I may have done, or not done, I believe I am doing right. The whole thing is infamous. The people have been lied to and robbed, and you are merely lending yourself to the infamy of perpetuating the lying and the robbing. If you persist in obeying my father's orders—yes, orders—you will lead me to believe that you are actuated by desire for more of those generously splendid donations. (Starkweather sneers.)

{Rutland}

(Embarrassed, hopelessly at sea.) This is, I fear—ahem—too delicate a matter, Mr. Starkweather, for me to interfere. I would suggest that it be advisable for me to withdraw—ahem—

{Starkweather}

(Musingly.) So the Church fails me, too.

(To Rutland.) No, you shall stay right here.

{Margaret}

Father, Tommy is down in the machine alone. Won't you let me go?

{Starkweather}

Give me the papers.

(Mrs. Starkweather rises and totters across to Margaret, moaning and whimpering.)

{Mrs. Starkweather}

Madge, Madge, it can't be true. I don't believe it. I know you have not done this awful thing. No daughter of mine could be guilty of such wickedness. I refuse to believe my ears—

(Mrs. Starkweather sinks suddenly on her knees before Margaret, with clasped hands, weeping hysterically.)

{Starkweather}

(Stepping to her side.) Get up.

(Hesitates and thinks.) No; go on. She might listen to you.

{Margaret}

(Attempting to raise her mother.) Don't, mother, don't. Please get up.

(Mrs. Starkweather resists her hysterically.) You don't understand, mother. Please, please, get up.

{Mrs. Starkweather}

Madge, I, your mother, implore you, on my bended knees. Give up the papers to your father, and I shall forget all I have heard. Think of the family name. I don't believe it, not a word of it; but think of the shame and disgrace. Think of me. Think of Connie, your sister. Think of Tommy. You'll have your father in a terrible state. And you'll kill me. (Moaning and rolling her head.)

I'm going to be sick. I know I am going to be sick.

{Margaret}

(Bending over mother and raising her, while Connie comes across stage to help support mother.) Mother, you do not understand. More is at stake than the good name of the family or—(Looking at Rutland.)—God. You speak of Connie and Tommy. There are two millions of Connies and Tommys working as child laborers in the United States to-day. Think of them. And besides, mother, these are all lies you have heard. There is nothing between Mr. Knox and me. He is not my lover. I am not the—the shameful thing—these men have said I am.

{Connie}

(Appealingly.) Madge.

{Margaret}

(Appealingly.) Connie. Trust me. I am right. I know I am right.

(Mrs. Starkweather, supported by Connie, moaning incoherently, is led back across stage to chair.)

{Starkweather}

{Margaret}, a few minutes ago, when you told me there was nothing between you and this man, you lied to me—lied to me as only a wicked woman can lie.

{Margaret}

It is clear that you believe the worst.

{Starkweather}

There is nothing less than the worst to be believed. Besides, more heinous than your relations with this man is what you have done here in this room, stolen from me, and practically before my very eyes. Well, you have crossed your will with mine, and in affairs beyond your province. This is a man's game in which you are attempting to play, and you shall take the consequences. Tom will apply for a divorce.

{Margaret}

That threat, at least, is without power.

{Starkweather}

And by that means we can break Knox as effectually as by any other. That is one thing the good stupid people will not tolerate in a chosen representative. We will make such a scandal of it—

{Mrs. Starkweather}

(Shocked.) Anthony!

{Starkweather}

(Glancing irritably at his wife and continuing.) Another thing. Being proven an adulterous woman, morally unfit for companionship with your child, your child will be taken away from you.

{Margaret}

No, no. That cannot be. I have done nothing wrong. No court, no fair-minded judge, would so decree on the evidence of a creature like that.

(Indicating Hubbard.)

{Hubbard}

My evidence is supported. In an adjoining room were two men. I happen to know, because I placed them there. They were your father's men at that. There is such a thing as seeing through a locked door. They saw.

{Margaret}

And they would swear to—to anything.

{Hubbard}

I doubt not they will know to what to swear.

{Starkweather}

Margaret, I have told you some, merely some, of the things I shall do. It is not too late. Return the papers, and everything will be forgotten.

{Margaret}

You would condone this—this adultery. You, who have just said that I was morally unfit to have my own boy, will permit me to retain him. I had never dreamed, father, that your own immorality would descend to such vile depths. Believing this shameful thing of me, you will forgive and forget it all for the sake of a few scraps of paper that stand for money, that stand for a license to rob and steal from the people. Is this your morality—money?

{Starkweather}

I have my morality. It is not money. I am only a steward; but so highly do I conceive the duties of my stewardship—

{Margaret}

(Interrupting, bitterly.) The thefts and lies and all common little sins like adulteries are not to stand in the way of your high duties—that the end hallows the means.

{Starkweather}

(Shortly.) Precisely.

{Margaret}

(To Rutland.) There is Jesuitism, Mr. Rutland. I would suggest that you, as my father's spiritual adviser—

{Starkweather}

Enough of this foolery. Give me the papers.

{Margaret}

I haven't them.

{Starkweather}

What's to be done, Hubbard?

{Hubbard}

She has them. She has as much as acknowledged that they are not elsewhere in the room. She has not been out of the room. There is nothing to do but search her.

{Starkweather}

Nothing else remains to be done. Dobleman, and you, Hubbard, take her behind the screen. Strip her. Recover the papers.

(Dobleman is in a proper funk, but Hubbard betrays no unwillingness.)

{Chalmers}

No; that I shall not permit. Hubbard shall have nothing to do with this.

{Margaret}

It is too late, Tom. You have stood by and allowed me to be stripped of everything else. A few clothes do not matter now. If I am to be stripped and searched by men, Mr. Hubbard will serve as well as any other man. Perhaps Mr. Rutland would like to lend his assistance.

{Connie}

Oh, Madge! Give them up.

(Margaret shakes her head.)

(To Starkweather.) Then let me search her, father.

{Starkweather}

You are too willing. I don't want volunteers. I doubt that I can trust you any more than your sister.

{Connie}

Let mother, then.

{Starkweather}

(Sneering.) Margaret could smuggle a steamer-trunk of documents past her.

{Connie}

But not the men, father! Not the men!

{Starkweather}

Why not? She has shown herself dead to all shame.

(Imperatively.) Dobleman!

{Dobleman}

(Thinking his time has come, and almost dying.) Y-y-yes, sir.

{Starkweather}

Call in the servants.

{Mrs. Starkweather}

(Crying out in protest.) Anthony!

{Starkweather}

Would you prefer her to be searched by the men?

{Mrs. Starkweather}

(Subsiding.) I shall die, I shall die. I know I shall die.

{Starkweather}

Dobleman. Ring for the servants.

(Dobleman, who has been hesitant, crosses to desk and pushes button, then returns toward door.) Send in the maids and the housekeeper.

(Linda, blindly desiring to be of some assistance, starts impulsively toward Margaret.) Stand over there—in the corner.

(Indicating right front.)

(Linda pauses irresolutely and Margaret nods to her to obey and smiles encouragement. Linda, protesting in every fiber of her, goes to right front.)

(A knock at right rear and Dobleman unlocks door, confers with maid, and closes and locks door.)

{Starkweather}

(To Margaret.) This is no time for trifling, nor for mawkish sentimentality. Return the papers or take the consequences.

(Margaret makes no answer.)

{Chalmers}

You have taken a hand in a man's game, and you've got to play it out or quit. Give up the papers.

(Margaret remains resolved and impassive.)

{Hubbard}

(Suavely.) Allow me to point out, my dear Mrs. Chalmers, that you are not merely stealing from your father. You are playing the traitor to your class.

{Starkweather}

And causing irreparable damage.

{Margaret}

(Firing up suddenly and pointing to Lincoln's portrait) I doubt not he caused irreparable damage when he freed the slaves and preserved the Union. Yet he recognized no classes. I'd rather be a traitor to my class than to him.

{Starkweather}

Demagoguery. Demagoguery.

(A knock at right rear. Dobleman opens door. Enter Mrs. Middleton who is the housekeeper, followed by two Housemaids. They pause at rear. Housekeeper to the fore and looking expectantly at Starkweather. The Maids appear timid and frightened.)

{Housekeeper}

Yes, sir.

{Starkweather}

Mrs. Middleton, you have the two maids to assist you. Take Mrs. Chalmers behind that screen there and search her. Strip all her clothes from her and make a careful search. (Maids show perturbation.)

{Housekeeper}

(Self-possessed. ) Yes, sir. What am I to search for?

{Starkweather}

Papers, documents, anything unusual. Turn them over to me when you find them.

{Margaret}

(In a sudden panic.) This is monstrous! This is monstrous!

{Starkweather}

So is your theft of the documents monstrous.

{Margaret}

(Appealing to the other men, ignoring Rutland and not considering Dobleman at all.)

You cowards! Will you stand by and permit this thing to be done? Tom, have you one atom of manhood in you?

{Chalmers} (Doggedly.) Return the papers, then.

{Margaret}

Mr. Rutland—

{Rutland}

(Very awkwardly and oilily.) My dear Mrs. Chalmers. I assure you the whole circumstance is unfortunate. But you are so palpably in the wrong that I cannot interfere—(Margaret turns from him in withering scorn.)—That I cannot interfere.

{Dobleman}

(Breaking down unexpectedly.) I cannot stand it. I leave your employ, sir. It is outrageous. I resign now, at once. I cannot be a party to this.

(Striving to unlock door.) I am going at once. You brutes! You brutes!

(Breaks into convulsive sobbings.)

{Chalmers}

Ah, another lover, I see.

(Dobleman manages to unlock door and starts to open it.)

{Starkweather}

You fool! Shut that door!

(Dobleman hesitates.) Shut it!

(Dobleman obeys.) Lock it!

(Dobleman obeys.)

{Margaret}

(Smiling wistfully, benignantly.) Thank you, Mr. Dobleman.

(To Starkweather.) Father, you surely will not perpetrate this outrage, when I tell you, I swear to you—

{Starkweather}

(Interrupting.) Return the documents then.

{Margaret}

I swear to you that I haven't them. You will not find them on me.

{Starkweather}

You have lied to me about Knox, and I have no reason to believe you will not lie to me about this matter.

{Margaret}

(Steadily.) If you do this thing you shall cease to be my father forever. You shall cease to exist so far as I am concerned.

{Starkweather}

You have too much of my own will in you for you ever to forget whence it came. Mrs. Middleton, go ahead.

(Housekeeper, summoning Maids with her eyes, begins to advance on Margaret.)

{Connie}

(In a passion.) Father, if you do this I shall never speak to you again.

(Breaks down weeping.) (Mrs. Starkweather, during following scene, has mild but continuous shuddering and weeping hysteria.)

{Starkweather}

(Briskly, looking at watch.) I've wasted enough time on this. Mrs. Middleton, proceed.

{Margaret}

(Wildly, backing away from Housekeeper.) I will not tamely submit. I will resist, I promise you.

{Starkweather}

Use force, if necessary.

(The Maids are reluctant, but Housekeeper commands them with her eyes to close in on Margaret, and they obey.)

(Margaret backs away until she brings up against desk.)

{Housekeeper}

Come, Mrs. Chalmers.

(Margaret stands trembling, but refuses to notice Housekeeper.) (Housekeeper places hand on Margaret's arm.)

{Margaret}

(Violently flinging the hand off, crying imperiously.) Stand back!

(Housekeeper instinctively shrinks back, as do Maids. But it is only for the moment. They close in upon Margaret to seise her.)

(Crying frantically for help.) Linda! Linda!

(Linda springs forward to help her mistress, but is caught and held struggling by Chalmers, who twists her arm and finally compels her to become quiet.)

(Margaret, struggling and resisting, is hustled across stage and behind screen, the Maids warming up to their work. One of them emerges from behind screen for the purpose of getting a chair, upon which Margaret is evidently forced to sit. The screen is of such height, that occasionally, when standing up and struggling, Margaret's bare arms are visible above the top of it. Muttered exclamations are heard, and the voice of Housekeeper trying to persuade Margaret to sub-mit.)

{Margaret}

(Abruptly, piteously.) No! No!

(The struggle becomes more violent, and the screen is overturned, disclosing Margaret seated on chair, partly undressed, and clutching an envelope in her hand which they are trying to force her to relinquish.)

{Mrs. Starkweather}

(Crying wildly.) Anthony! They are taking her clothes off!

(Renewed struggle of Linda with Chalmers at the sight.)

(Starkweather, calling Rutland to his assistance, stands screen up again, then, as an afterthought, pulls screen a little further away from Margaret.)

{Margaret}

No! No!

(Housekeeper appears triumphantly with envelope in her hand and hands it to Hubbard.)

{Hubbard}

(Immediately.) That's not it.

(Glances at address and starts.) It's addressed to Knox.

{Starkweather}

Tear it open. Read it.

(Hubbard tears envelope open.) (While this is going on, struggle behind screen is suspended.)

{Hubbard}

(Withdrawing contents of envelope.) It is only a photograph—of Mrs. Chalmers.

(Reading.) "For the future—Margaret."

{Chalmers}

(Thrusting Linda back to right front and striding up to Hubbard.) Give it to me. (Hubbard passes it to him, and he looks at it, crumples it in his hand, and grinds it under foot.)

{Starkweather}

That is not what we wanted, Mrs. Middleton. Go on with the search.

(The search goes on behind the screen without any further struggling.) (A pause, during which screen is occasionally agitated by the searchers removing Margaret's garments.)

{Housekeeper}

(Appearing around corner of screen.) I find nothing else, sir.

{Starkweather}

Is she stripped?

{Housekeeper}

Yes, sir.

{Starkweather}

Every stitch?

{Housekeeper}

(Disappearing behind screen instead of answering for a pause, during which it is patent that the ultimate stitch is being removed, then reappearing.) Yes, sir.

{Starkweather}

Nothing?

{Housekeeper}

Nothing.

{Starkweather}

Throw out her clothes—everything.

(A confused mass of feminine apparel is tossed out, falling near Dobleman's feet, who, in consequence, is hugely mortified and embarrassed.)

(Chalmers examines garments, then steps behind screen a moment, and reappears.)

{Chalmers}

Nothing.

(Chalmers, Starkweather, and Hubbard gaze at each other dumbfoundedly.)

(The two Maids come out from behind screen and stand near door to right rear.)

(Starkweather is loath to believe, and steps to Margaret's garments and overhauls them.)

{Starkweather}

(To Chalmers, looking inquiringly toward screen.) Are you sure?

{Chalmers}

Yes; I made certain. She hasn't them.

{Starkweather}

(To Housekeeper.) Mrs. Middleton, examine those girls.

{Housekeeper}

(Passing hands over dresses of Maids.) No, sir.

{Margaret}

(From behind screen, in a subdued, spiritless voice.) May I dress—now?

(Nobody answers.) It—it is quite chilly.

(Nobody answers.) Will you let Linda come to me, please?

(Starkweather nods savagely to Linda, to obey.) (Linda crosses to garments, gathers them up, and disappears behind screen.)

{Starkweather}

(To Housekeeper.)

You may go.

(Exit Housekeeper and the two Maids.)

{Dobleman}

(Hesitating, after closing door.) Shall I lock it?

(Starkweather does not answer, and Dobleman leaves door unlocked.)

{Connie}

(Rising.) May I take mother away?

(Starkweather, who is in a brown study, nods.) (Connie assists Mrs. Starkweather to her feet.)

{Mrs. Starkweather}

(Staggering weakly, and sinking back into chair.) Let me rest a moment, Connie. I'll be better. (To Starkweather, who takes no notice.) Anthony, I am going to bed. This has been too much for me. I shall be sick. I shall never catch that train to-day.

(Shudders and sighs, leans head back, closes eyes, and Connie fans her or administers smelling salts.)

{Chalmers}

(To Hubbard.) What's to be done?

{Hubbard}

(Shrugging shoulders.) I'm all at sea. I had just left the letters with him, when Mrs. Chalmers entered the room. What's become of them? She hasn't them, that's certain.

{Chalmers}

But why? Why should she have taken them?

{Hubbard}

(Dryly, pointing to crumpled photograph on floor.) It seems very clear to me.

{Chalmers}

You think so? You think so?

{Hubbard}

I told you what I saw last night at his rooms. There is no other explanation.

{Chalmers}

(Angrily.) And that's the sort he is—vaunting his moral superiority—mouthing phrases about theft—our theft—and himself the greatest thief of all, stealing the dearest and sacredest things—

(Margaret appears from behind screen, pinning on her hat. She is dressed, but somewhat in disarray, and Linda follows, pulling and touching and arranging. Margaret pauses near to Rutland, but does not seem to see him.)

{Rutland}

(Lamely.) It is a sad happening—ahem—a sad happening. I am grieved, deeply grieved. I cannot tell you, Mrs. Chalmers, how grieved I am to have been compelled to be present at this—ahem—this unfortunate—

(Margaret withers him with a look and he awkwardly ceases.)

{Margaret}

After this, father, there is one thing I shall do—

{Chalmers}

(Interrupting.) Go to your lover, I suppose.

{Margaret} (Coldly.) Have it that way if you choose.

{Chalmers}

And take him what you have stolen—

{Starkweather}

(Arousing suddenly from brown study.) But she hasn't them on her. She hasn't been out of the room. They are not in the room. Then where are they?

(During the following, Margaret goes to the door, which Dobleman opens. She forces Linda to go out and herself pauses in open door to listen.)

{Hubbard}

(Uttering an exclamation of enlightenment, going rapidly across to window at left and raising it.) It is not locked. It moves noiselessly. There's the explanation.

(To Starkweather.) While you were at the safe, with your back turned, she lifted the window, tossed the papers out to somebody waiting—

(He sticks head and shoulders out of window, peers down, then brings head and shoulders back.)—No; they are not there. Somebody was waiting for them.

{Starkweather}

But how should she know I had them? You had only just recovered them?

{Hubbard}

Didn't Knox know right away last night that I had taken them? I took the up-elevator instead of the down when I heard him running along the hall. Trust him to let her know what had happened. She was the only one who could recover them for him. Else why did she come here so immediately this morning? To steal the package, of course. And she had some one waiting outside. She tossed them out and closed the window—

(He closes window.)—You notice it makes no sound.—and sat down again—all while your back was turned.

{Starkweather}

Margaret, is this true?

{Margaret}

(Excitedly.) Yes, the window. Why didn't you think of it before? Of course, the window. He—somebody was waiting. They are gone now—miles and miles away. You will never get them. They are in his hands now. He will use them in his speech this afternoon. (Laughs wildly.)

(Suddenly changing her tone to mock meekness, subtle with defiance.) May I go—now?

(Nobody answers, and she makes exit.) (A moments pause, during which Starkweather, Chalmers, and Hubbard look at each other in stupefaction.)



ACT IV

Scene. Same as Act I. It is half past one of same day. Curtain discloses Knox seated at right front and waiting. He is dejected in attitude.

(Margaret enters from right rear, and advances to him. He rises awkwardly and shakes hands. She is very calm and self-possessed.)

{Margaret}

I knew you would come. Strange that I had to send for you so soon after last night—

(With alarm and sudden change of manner.) What is the matter? You are sick. Your hand is cold.

(She warms it in both of her hands.)

{Knox}

It is flame or freeze with me.

(Smiling.) And I'd rather flame.

{Margaret}

(Becoming aware that she is warming his hand.)

Sit down and tell me what is the matter.

(Leading him by the hand she seats him, at the same time seating herself.)

{Knox}

(Abruptly.) After you left last night, Hubbard stole those documents back again.

{Margaret}

(Very matter-of-fact.) Yes; he was in your bedroom while I was there.

{Knox}

(Startled.) How do you know that? Anyway, he did not know who you were.

{Margaret}

Oh yes he did.

{Knox}

(Angrily.) And he has dared—?

{Margaret}

Yes; not two hours ago. He announced the fact before my father, my mother, Connie, the servants, everybody.

{Knox}

(Rising to his feet and beginning to pace perturbedly up and down.) The cur!

{Margaret} (Quietly.) I believe, among other things, I told him he was that myself.

(She laughs cynically.) Oh, it was a pretty family party, I assure you. Mother said she didn't believe it—but that was only hysteria. Of course she believes it—the worst. So does Connie—everybody.

{Knox}

(Stopping abruptly and looking at her horror-stricken.) You don't mean they charged——?

{Margaret}

No; I don't mean that. I mean more. They didn't charge. They accepted it as a proven fact that I was guilty. That you were my—lover.

{Knox}

On that man's testimony?

{Margaret}

He had two witnesses in an adjoining room.

{Knox}

(Relieved.) All the better. They can testify to nothing more than the truth, and the truth is not serious. In our case it is good, for we renounced each other.

{Margaret}

You don't know these men. It is easy to guess that they have been well trained. They would swear to anything.

(She laughs bitterly.) They are my father's men, you know, his paid sleuth-hounds.

{Knox}

(Collapsing in chair, holding head in hands, and groaning.) How you must have suffered. What a terrible time, what a terrible time! I can see it all—before everybody—your nearest and dearest. Ah, I could not understand, after our parting last night, why you should have sent for me today. But now I know.

{Margaret}

No you don't, at all.

{Knox}

(Ignoring her and again beginning to pace back and forth, thinking on his feet.) What's the difference? I am ruined politically. Their scheme has worked out only too well. Gifford warned me, you warned me, everybody warned me. But I was a fool, blind—with a fool's folly. There is nothing left but you now.

(He pauses, and the light of a new thought irradiates his face.) Do you know, Margaret, I thank God it has happened as it has. What if my usefulness is destroyed? There will be other men—other leaders. I but make way for another. The cause of the people can never be lost. And though I am driven from the fight, I am driven to you. We are driven together. It is fate. Again I thank God for it.

(He approaches her and tries to clasp her in his arms, but she steps back.)

{Margaret}

(Smiling sadly.) Ah, now you flame. The tables are reversed. Last night it was I. We are fortunate that we choose diverse times for our moods—else there would be naught but one sweet melting mad disaster.

{Knox}

But it is not as if we had done this thing deliberately and selfishly. We have renounced. We have struggled against it until we were beaten. And now we are driven together, not by our doing but Fate's. After this affair this morning there is nothing for you but to come to me. And as for me, despite my best, I am finished. I have failed. As I told you, the papers are stolen. There will be no speech this afternoon.

{Margaret}

(Quietly.) Yes there will.

{Knox}

Impossible. I would make a triple fool of myself. I would be unable to substantiate my charges.

{Margaret}

You will substantiate them. What a chain of theft it is. My father steals from the people. The documents that prove his stealing are stolen by Gherst. Hubbard steals them from you and returns them to my father. And I steal them from my father and pass them back to you.

{Knox} (Astounded.) You?—You?—

{Margaret}

Yes; this very morning. That was the cause of all the trouble. If I hadn't stolen them nothing would have happened. Hubbard had just returned them to my father.

{Knox}

(Profoundly touched.) And you did this for me—?

{Margaret}

Dear man, I didn't do it for you. I wasn't brave enough. I should have given in. I don't mind confessing that I started to do it for you, but it soon grew so terrible that I was afraid. It grew so terrible that had it been for you alone I should have surrendered. But out of the terror of it all I caught a wider vision, and all that you said last night rose before me. And I knew that you were right. I thought of all the people, and of the little children. I did it for them, after all. You speak for them. I stole the papers so that you could use them in speaking for the people. Don't you see, dear man?

(Changing to angry recollection.) Do you know what they cost me? Do you know what was done to me, to-day, this morning, in my father's house? I was shamed, humiliated, as I would never have dreamed it possible. Do you know what they did to me? The servants were called in, and by them I was stripped before everybody—my family, Hubbard, the Reverend Mr. Rutland, the secretary, everybody.

{Knox}

(Stunned.) Stripped—you?

{Margaret}

Every stitch. My father commanded it

{Knox}

(Suddenly visioning the scene.) My God!

{Margaret}

(Recovering herself and speaking cynically, with a laugh at his shocked face.) No; it was not so bad as that. There was a screen.

(Knox appears somewhat relieved.) But it fell down in the midst of the struggle.

{Knox}

But in heaven's name why was this done to you?

{Margaret}

Searching for the lost letters. They knew I had taken them.

(Speaking gravely.)

So you see, I have earned those papers. And I have earned the right to say what shall be done with them. I shall give them to you, and you will use them in your speech this afternoon.

{Knox}

I don't want them.

{Margaret}

(Going to bell and ringing.) Oh yes you do. They are more valuable right now than anything else in the world.

{Knox}

(Shaking his head.) I wish it hadn't happened.

{Margaret}

(Returning to him, pausing by his chair, and caressing his hair.) What?

{Knox}

This morning—your recovering the letters. I had adjusted myself to their loss, and the loss of the fight, and the finding of—you.

(He reaches up, draws down her hand, and presses it to his lips.) So—give them back to your father.

(Margaret draws quickly away from him.) (Enter Man-servant at right rear.)

{Margaret}

Send Linda to me.

(Exit Man-servant.)

{Knox}

What are you doing?

{Margaret}

(Sitting down.) I am going to send Linda for them. They are still in my father's house, hidden, of all places, behind Lincoln's portrait. He will guard them safely, I know.

{Knox}

(With fervor.) Margaret! Margaret! Don't send for them. Let them go. I don't want them.

(Rising and going toward her impulsively.) (Margaret rises and retreats, holding him off.) I want you—you—you.

(He catches her hand and kisses it. She tears it away from him, but tenderly.)

{Margaret}

(Still retreating, roguishly and tenderly.) Dear, dear man, I love to see you so. But it cannot be.

(Looking anxiously toward right rear.) No, no, please, please sit down.

(Enter Linda from right rear. She is dressed for the street.)

{Margaret}

(Surprised.) Where are you going?

{Linda}

Tommy and the nurse and I were going down town. There is some shopping she wants to do.

{Margaret}

Very good. But go first to my father's house. Listen closely. In the library, behind the portrait of Lincoln—you know it? (Linda nods.)

You will find a packet of papers. It took me five seconds to put it there. It will take you no longer to get it. Let no one see you. Let it appear as though you had brought Tommy to see his grandmother and cheer her up. You know she is not feeling very well just now. After you get the papers, leave Tommy there and bring them immediately back to me. Step on a chair to the ledge of the bookcase, and reach behind the portrait. You should be back inside fifteen minutes. Take the car.

{Linda}

Tommy and the nurse are already in it, waiting for me.

{Margaret}

Be careful. Be quick.

(Linda nods to each instruction and makes exit.)

{Knox}

(Bursting out passionately.) This is madness. You are sacrificing yourself, and me. I don't want them. I want you. I am tired. What does anything matter except love? I have pursued ideals long enough. Now I want you.

{Margaret}

(Gravely.) Ah, there you have expressed the pith of it. You will now forsake ideals for me—(He attempts to interrupt.) No, no; not that I am less than an ideal. I have no silly vanity that way. But I want you to remain ideal, and you can only by going on—not by being turned back. Anybody can play the coward and assert they are fatigued. I could not love a coward. It was your strength that saved us last night. I could not have loved you as I do, now, had you been weak last night. You can only keep my love—

{Knox}

(Interrupting, bitterly.) By foregoing it—for an ideal. Margaret, what is the biggest thing in the world? Love. There is the greatest ideal of all.

{Margaret}

(Playfully.) Love of man and woman?

{Knox}

What else?

{Margaret}

(Gravely.) There is one thing greater—love of man for his fellowman.

{Knox}

Oh, how you turn my preachments back on me. It is a lesson. Nevermore shall I preach. Henceforth—

{Margaret}

Yes.

(Chalmers enters unobserved at left, pauses, and looks on.)

{Knox}

Henceforth I love. Listen.

{Margaret}

You are overwrought. It will pass, and you will see your path straight before you, and know that I am right. You cannot run away from the fight.

{Knox}

I can—and will. I want you, and you want me—the man's and woman's need for each other. Come, go with me—now. Let us snatch at happiness while we may.

(He arises, approaches her, and gets her hand in his. She becomes more complaisant, and, instead of repulsing him, is willing to listen and receive.) As I have said, the fight will go on just the same. Scores of men, better men, stronger men, than I, will rise to take my place. Why do I talk this way? Because I love you, love you, love you. Nothing else exists in all the world but love of you.

{Margaret}

(Melting and wavering.) Ah, you flame, you flame.

(Chalmers utters an inarticulate cry of rage and rushes forward at Knox)

(Margaret and Knox are startled by the cry and discover Chalmer's presence.)

{Margaret}

(Confronting Chalmers and thrusting him slightly back from Knox, and continuing to hold him off from Knox.) No, Tom, no dramatics, please. This excitement of yours is only automatic and conventional. You really don't mean it. You don't even feel it. You do it because it is expected of you and because it is your training. Besides, it is bad for your heart. Remember Dr. West's warning—

(Chalmers, making an unusually violent effort to get at Knox, suddenly staggers weakly back, signs of pain on his face, holding a hand convulsively clasped over his heart. Margaret catches him and supports him to a chair, into which he collapses.)

{Chalmers}

(Muttering weakly.) My heart! My heart!

{Knox}

(Approaching.) Can I do anything?

{Margaret}

(Calmly.) No; it is all right. He will be better presently.

(She is bending over Chalmers, her hand on his wrist, when suddenly, as a sign he is recovering, he violently flings her hand off and straightens up.)

{Knox}

(Undecidedly.) I shall go now.

{Margaret}

No. You will wait until Linda comes back. Besides, you can't run away from this and leave me alone to face it.

{Knox}

(Hurt, showing that he will stay.) I am not a coward.

{Chalmers}

(In a stifled voice that grows stronger.) Yes; wait I have a word for you.

(He pauses a moment, and when he speaks again his voice is all right.)

(Witheringly.) A nice specimen of a reformer, I must say. You, who babbled yesterday about theft. The most high, righteous and noble Ali Baba, who has come into the den of thieves and who is also a thief.

(Mimicking Margaret.) "Ah, you flame, you flame!"

(In his natural voice.) I should call you; you thief, you thief, you wife-stealer, you.

{Margaret}

(Coolly.) I should scarcely call it theft.

{Chalmers}

(Sneeringly.) Yes; I forgot. You mean it is not theft for him to take what already belongs to him.

{Margaret}

Not quite that—but in taking what has been freely offered to him.

{Chalmers}

You mean you have so forgotten your womanhood as to offer—

{Margaret}

Just that. Last night. And Mr. Knox did himself the honor of refusing me.

{Knox}

(Bursting forth.) You see, nothing else remains, Margaret.

{Chalmers}

(Twittingly.) Ah, "Margaret."

{Knox}

(Ignoring him.) The situation is intolerable.

{Chalmers}

(Emphatically). It is intolerable. Don't you think you had better leave this house? Every moment of your presence dishonors it.

{Margaret}

Don't talk of honor, Tom.

{Chalmers}

I make no excuses for myself. I fancy I never fooled you very much. But at any rate I never used my own house for such purposes.

{Knox}

(Springing at him.) You cur!

{Margaret}

(Interposing.) No; don't. His heart.

{Chalmers}

(Mimicking Margaret.) No dramatics, please.

{Margaret}

(Plaintively, looking from one man to the other.) Men are so strangely and wonderfully made. What am I to do with the pair of you? Why won't you reason together like rational human beings?

{Chalmers}

(Bitterly gay, rising to his feet.) Yes; let us come and reason together. Be rational. Sit down and talk it over like civilized humans. This is not the stone age. Be reassured, Mr. Knox. I won't brain you. Margaret—

(Indicating chair,) Sit down. Mr. Knox—

(Indicating chair.) Sit down.

(All three seat themselves, in a triangle.) Behold the problem—the ever ancient and ever young triangle of the playwright and the short story writer—two men and a woman.

{Knox}

True, and yet not true. The triangle is incomplete. Only one of the two men loves the woman.

{Chalmers}

Yes?

{Knox}

And I am that man.

{Chalmers}

I fancy you're right.

(Nodding his head.) But how about the woman?

{Margaret}

She loves one of the two men.

{Knox}

And what are you going to do about it?

{Chalmers}

(Judicially.) She has not yet indicated the man.

(Margaret is about to indicate Knox.) Be careful, Madge. Remember who is Tommy's father.

{Margaret}

Tom, honestly, remembering what the last years have been can you imagine that I love you?

{Chalmers}

I'm afraid I've not—er—not flamed sufficiently.

{Margaret}

You have possibly spoken nearer the truth than you dreamed. I married you, Tom, hoping great things of you. I hoped you would be a power for good—

{Chalmers}

Politics again. When will women learn they must leave politics alone?

{Margaret}

And also, I hoped for love. I knew you didn't love me when we married, but I hoped for it to come.

{Chalmers}

And—er—may I be permitted to ask if you loved me?

{Margaret}

No; but I hoped that, too, would come.

{Chalmers}

It was, then, all a mistake.

{Margaret}

Yes; yours, and mine, and my father's.

{Knox}

We have sat down to reason this out, and we get nowhere. Margaret and I love each other. Your triangle breaks.

{Chalmers}

It isn't a triangle after all. You forget Tommy.

{Knox} (Petulantly.) Make it four-sided, then, but let us come to some conclusion.

{Chalmers} (Reflecting.) Ah, it is more than that. There is a fifth side. There are the stolen letters which Madge has just this morning restolen from her father. Whatever settlement takes place, they must enter into it.

(Changing his tone.) Look here, Madge, I am a fool. Let us talk sensibly, you and Knox and I. Knox, you want my wife. You can have her—on one consideration. Madge, you want Knox. You can have him on one consideration, the same consideration. Give up the letters and we'll forget everything.

{Margaret}

Everything?

{Chalmers}

Everything. Forgive and forget You know.

{Margaret}

You will forgive my—I—this—this adultery?

{Chalmers}

(Doggedly.) I'll forgive anything for the letters. I've played fast and loose with you, Madge, and I fancy your playing fast and loose only evens things up. Return the letters and you can go with Knox quietly. I'll see to that. There won't be a breath of scandal. I'll give you a divorce. Or you can stay on with me if you want to. I don't care. What I want is the letters. Is it agreed?

(Margaret seems to hesitate.)

{Knox}

(Pleadingly.) Margaret.

{Margaret}

{Chalmers} (Testily.) Am I not giving you each other? What more do you want? Tommy stays with me. If you want Tommy, then stay with me, but you must give up the letters.

{Margaret}

I shall not go with Mr. Knox. I shall not give up the letters. I shall remain with Tommy.

{Chalmers}

So far as I am concerned, Knox doesn't count in this. I want the letters and I want Tommy. If you don't give them up, I'll divorce you on statutory grounds, and no woman, so divorced, can keep her child. In any event, I shall keep Tommy.

{Margaret}

(Speaking steadily and positively.) Listen, Tom; and you, too, Howard. I have never for a moment entertained the thought of giving up the letters. I may have led you to think so, but I wanted to see just how low, you, Tom, could sink. I saw how low you—all of you—this morning sank. I have learned—much. Where is this fine honor, Tom, which put you on a man-killing rage a moment ago? You'll barter it all for a few scraps of paper, and forgive and forget adultery which does not exist—

(Chalmers laughs skeptically.)—though I know when I say it you will not believe me. At any rate, I shall not give up the letters. Not if you do take Tommy away from me. Not even for Tommy will I sacrifice all the people. As I told you this morning, there are two million Tommys, child-laborers all, who cannot be sacrificed for Tommy's sake or anybody's sake.

(Chalmers shrugs his shoulders and smiles in ridicule.)

{Knox}

Surely, Margaret, there is a way out for us. Give up the letters. What are they?—only scraps of paper. Why match them against happiness—our happiness?

{Margaret}

But as you told me yourself, those scraps of paper represent the happiness of millions of lives. It is not our happiness that is matched against some scraps of paper. It is our happiness against millions of lives—like ours. All these millions have hearts, and loves, and desires, just like ours.

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