Alice Brown.

One act plays online

. (page 2 of 12)
Online LibraryAlice BrownOne act plays → online text (page 2 of 12)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Fiula. [In anguished apprehension for him.} The

Hugh. The tide races in there twenty feet deep. I
saw it this afternoon when I thought there might be
caves to hide in. I can walk to the cliff. And over it.

Fiula. I shall go with you. Every step.

Hugh. No, sweetheart. Don't waste a fighting life.
Your men will come back. You'll keep their hearts up.
You'll tell them I vanished as I came.

Fiula. And then? When the war is over and you
are not here, what shall I do then?

Hugh. [Hesitatingly.} You'll marry Finn?

Fiula. [Passionately.} Never, never.

Hugh. No. I see you an old woman. Alone.
Then you'll come to me and we sha'n't be old.

[A peal of bells.}

What's that?

Fiula. They've enlisted and gone mad with pleasure
because they're men again.


Hugh. [Smiling.] And because the hero can re-
turn. Is that a step? [He listens.]

Fiula. [Listening] Mark's. [Throwing her arms
about him.] I can't let you go alone.

Hugh. Every woman has to let her man go alone
at the last.

[They kiss and he puts off the robe and crown and
goes out, smiling back at her. Mark enters by
the door, L.]

Mark. Where is he ? The boys are wild to get back
to him.

Fiula. Have they given in their names ?

Mark. Every one.

[Fiula breaks into hysterical crying and laughter.]

Mark. They swear it's Kitchener come back.
[Goes to her and takes her by the arm] Don't do
that. You're as wild as they are. Who was he ? Who
was he, I say ?

Fiula. [Controlling herself.] The greatest man
you and I shall ever know.

Mark. Where is he?

Fiula. In a green world. And all the drowned in
the sea are rising up to meet him, bringing garlands and
singing songs.




[In the order of their appearance]
Branscombe, Hammond's Secretary
Mrs. Thomas Hammond
Thomas Hammond, an author
Doctor Auntie


Time: the present.

Place: a pleasantly furnished sitting-room.

Branscotnbe is seated at a desk, opening letters,
etc. He is young, handsome, and looks the
typical decadent minor poet. Mrs. Hammond
is seated by a little table sewing, rather clumsily,
as if she did not do it by nature, but also with a
pretty absorption. She is young and beautiful.

Branscombe. [Turning to her.] Letters opened,
bills filed, circulars chucked. [Rather scornfully.] It's
a great and noble work to be a private secretary.

Mrs. Hammond. [Defensively.] It's great to be
the wife of an author big enough to need a secretary.

Branscombe. You say that to keep your courage up.

Mrs. Hammond. I say it because I think it.

Branscombe. You don't really think it. Any more,
than you really like to sit there hemming handkerchiefs.

Mrs. Hammond. They're table napkins.

Branscombe. Table napkins, then. Hemming table
napkins to persuade yourself you like sober middle-
aged pursuits because you've married a sober middle-
aged man.

Mrs. Hammond. My husband is not middle aged.

Branscombe. He's forty-five. You're twenty-six.



Mrs. Hammond. I mean, he's not doddering and
pottering and afraid of draughts.

Branscombe. [Brutally.} He's incurably lame.
Mrs. Hammond. [Indignantly.} Why do you re-
mind me of that? How can you have the heart?
When it was an accident, and he was lucky to escape
with his life. Two motors in a crash in the dark !

Branscombe. He didn't escape with his powers of
locomotion. [Impulsively.} Oh, forgive me. I'm so
infernally unhappy.

Mrs. Hammond. Why should you make me un-
happy, too 1 ? Why do you say things about my hus-
band, things I ought not to hear? They are disloyal.
They make me disloyal. I hate myself.

Branscombe. [Fiercely.} Do you want to know
why I say them? [Meaningly.} Because I can't help

Mrs. Hammond. [Pleadingly.} You are in his
confidence. You do his work. You take his money.
Branscombe. [Recklessly.} And adore his wife.
Mrs. Hammond. No ! no ! no !
Branscombe. I've said it at last. Now do you want
to know why I can't bear the sound of his name? Be-
cause I'm jealous.

Mrs. Hammond. [Thro-inring down her work.] Oh,
how base we are ! And he there in the next room,

trusting us

Branscombe. [Cynically.] He isn't thinking any-
thing about us. He's planning marginal notes for his
essay on the Greek dramatists, and wondering if he
can't get in a little more about Euripides. If he did
think about us


Mrs. Hammond. Well, if he did?

Branscombe. If he looked at his wife often enough
to know she was unhappy because another man adored

Mrs. Hammond. [Passionately.] Oh, he would

Branscombe. Would he? If he had any blood in
him, how would he show he cared ? He'd give me my
walking ticket.

Mrs. Hammond. You have never believed he cared
for me. Never, from the first.

Branscombe. What do you mean by "the first" ?

Mrs. Hammond. [Miserably.] From the time you

Branscombe. Told you I loved you? Do you re-

Mrs. Hammond. [Pleadingly.] You didn't say it.
Not really. Not in those words.

Branscombe. No, but I said something, and you
listened. It was the night I called you Sylvia.

Mrs. Hammond. You're not to call me by my name.
I can't let you.

Branscombe. [Dwelling on it meltingly.] Sylvia!
Why ! [rapidly] was ever anything more typical of the
difference between husbands and lovers ! I call you
Sylvia. He calls you [with extreme scorn} Billy!

Mrs. Hammond. [Defensively.] I love Billy. It's
his chum name for me.

Branscombe. [Reminiscently.] I called you Syl-
via. You didn't forbid me.

Mrs. Hammond. The night was so beautiful.

Branscombe. You were at your window, like Juliet,


I in the moonlight outside. The hem of your scarf
came over the sill, and I kissed it.

Mrs. Hammond. The next day my husband had his

Branscombe. You wouldn't speak to me or look at
me till he got well.

Mrs. Hammond. I thought he was going to die.

Branscombe. Should you have cared ?

Mrs. Hammond. [With passionate decision.'] It
would have killed me.

Branscombe. [Musingly, twitching her.'] You'd
have idealized him then, I suppose. You'd have
thought you lost a lover instead of a husband sated
with possession. [With sudden warmth.] But if he
had died, do you know what would have happened?

Mrs. Hammond. I tell you, I should have died with

Branscombe. You'd have been mine, mine, mine.
And I should have taught you what love is.

Mrs. Hammond. When you talk like that it seems
as if we had murdered him.

Branscombe. [Contemptuously.'} Oh, he's alive.
Let him live. But the day will come when you and

Mrs. Hammond. No ! no ! no !

Branscombe. [Rapidly.] When you will be great
enough and strong enough to let your heart speak, and
to obey it. Then you will walk out of his house with
me, and [emphatically'] you will never return.

Mrs. Hammond. He's coming.

[Enter Hammond, walking, with difficulty, on


crutches. He is a virile middle-aged man with
a whimsical look. Branscombe awaits him with
an instant deference. Mrs. Hammond wistfully
follows him about, getting him a chair and

Hammond. Morning, Branscombe. Well, Billy,
what's in the mail ? Anything startling or incendiary ?
[Branscombe brings him a packet of opened let-
ters and Hammond looks them over rapidly,
talking meantime.]

Mrs. Hammond. A letter from Aunt Kate.
Hammond. Say anything about coming?
Mrs. Hammond. No. It's about your accident.
She's awfully upset because we didn't tell her at the

Hammond. [Absently.] Oh, she'd have left her
foreign clinics and put for home. Can't allow our-
selves to build molehills in the path of lady doctors.
Branscombe, don't you think it's rather a swagger
thing to be a lady doctor?

Branscombe. [With meaning.] I think it's a more
glorious thing to be a strong man's one and only love.
Hammond. [Raising his eyebrows whimsically.]
Now what a way you have of putting it. I never
should have thought of saying just that in just that

Branscombe. [Vaguely nettled.] You may laugh
at it, if you like.

Hammond. Laugh ? I'd no more laugh at it than I'd

laugh at [Absently, still reading his letters.] Oh,

nothing, nothing at all. [Shuffling his letters together


and coming cheerfully awake.'] But I think it's a
splendid thing to be a lady doctor. It's a thing to fall
back on when middle age sets in and you're not likely
to start out being anybody's one and only love. Aunt
Kate took it up when she was slightly advanced, but
she's hung to it like a good un.

Mrs. Hammond. [Hastily.] Aunt Kate is only

Hammond. Five years older than I am. Oh, yes,
that's old. [Rises and walks with difficulty to the
desk.] It's old old old.

Branscombe. [Following him deferentially."] The
rest of the mail is all in order, Mr. Hammond. Let-
ters, personal and business. Proof.

Hammond. Proof! [Looking over it.~\ Let me
see. About those marginal notes. I wonder if I
couldn't give a little more space to this strophe from

Branscombe. [Meaningly, to Mrs. Hammond.']
Euripides !

Hammond. [Absently.] What?

Branscombe. I told Mrs. Hammond your mind was
on Euripides.

Hammond. [Making his way toward door.~\ I
jotted down something in the night.

Mrs. Hammond. Let me get it for you.

Hammond. No, no, Billy, no. I remember where
it is. Besides, it's exercise. Limbers up the joints.


Branscombe. He was awake last night, planning
marginal notes. I was writing a song, to you. Listen.


[Seats himself at the piano. Plays Dvorak's Humor-
esque, Op. 101, No. 7. Looks up at her as he plays.]
You know the music.

Mrs. Hammond. Dvorak's Humoresque?

Branscombe. Yes. But you don't know the words
yet. Nobody does but me. [Sings.]

Fairest rose that ever bloomed in all the gallant garden


Lock thy heart to e'en the eye of day.
Wantoning, the bee may snatch the spoils of all thy

sister roses.
Only thou shalt say him nay.

O cloistered sweetness!

O rare completeness !
I am thy pilgrim poor and old.

Yet I adore thee.

Yet I implore thee,
Open thou to me alone thy heart of gold.

Mrs. Hammond. [Much moved.] Did you write

Branscombe. Yes. For you. It is the child of our

Mrs. Hammond. Our love! You mustn't say that.
You mustn't think it.

Branscombe. My love, then. Poor unmothered lit-
tle waif !

[Enter Hammond looking rather excited.]

Hammond. What were you singing?


[Branscombe hesitates, and Hammond con-

Wasn't that Dvorak's Humoresque?

Branscombe. [With an air of remembering. In-
genuously.] Yes, oh, yes. I was trying to recall
some words to it.

Hammond. What were the words?

Branscombe. [While Mrs. Hammond glances at
him quickly, as if startled, and curious to know what
he will say.] Nothing I could tell exactly. I rather
improvised as I went along.

Mrs. Hammond. [With an involuntary little sound
of remonstrance. ] Oh !

Hammond. [Still puzzled.'} The day before my
accident, I wrote some words to that. I jotted 'em
down. [Goes to the desk and begins to look through a
drawer."] Where the devil are they?

Mrs. Hammond. [Approaching him in quick inter-
est.'] I didn't know you wrote songs.

Hammond. [Absently, still searching.] I don't,
except when I'm down on my luck.

Mrs. Hammond. Are you down on your luck,

Hammond. [Recalling himself, shutting the drawer
with emphasis.] Oh, yes, rather. The accident, you
know. My lameness. That's enough to knock a man

[She lays a hand impulsively on his arm. He
smiles at her reassuringly, takes the hand and
kisses it.]

Kind little Billy ! [Drops the hand and resumes his


business-like manner. Takes up some manuscript and
indicates certain pages, to Branscombe.] Copy that
out, will you? Pages four and six, the lines I've

Brans combe. [Hesitating.'} Do you need it at
once, Mr. Hammond ? Those morning glories down on
the old wall. Mrs. Hammond wanted to see them.

Mrs. Hammond. [Impulsively. ] I don't want to
in the least.

Hammond. Surely, surely. Go by all means.

Branscombe. . [To Hammond.'] You said I was to
take her. The runabout's at the door.

Mrs. Hammond. I truly don't want to.

Branscombe. They won't be open after ten.

Mrs. Hammond. [To Hammond.'] I'd rather stay
with you. I'll copy the two pages.

Hammond. [Looks at her searchingly for a second.
Then, cordially.] Nonsense, Billy, run along. Be-
sides, you can call at the post-office, on the way back,
and see if there's more proof.

Branscombe. [Meaningly.] Mr. Hammond wants
his proof. He wants it more than he wants us.

Mrs. Hammond. [Piqued.] Very well.

[Exeunt Branscombe and Mrs. Hammond. Ham-
mond throws down his crutches, walks firmly
and rapidly to window. Turns away with a>
groan. Honking of runabout as it starts.]

Hammond. Same old story Paolo and Francesca,
and all the rest of them. Youth rides away and the
graybeard husband watches 'em. But I needn't do
that. By George, I won't. I won't watch. And I


won't soliloquize like a chap in a play. [Seats him-
self. Grips the chair arms and seems to hold him-
self doggedly down. Listens. Seizes his crutches and
stands, ^v^th their aid.]

[Enter Doctor Auntie, a woman of character and
headlong spirits who would make an adorable
chum. (Like Fannie Brought) She rushes to
him and awkwardly embraces him.]

Dr. Auntie. Who was that in the runabout spin-
ning down the drive ?

Hammond. [Leaning crutches against his chair
and shaking her by the shoulders.] Auntie! Oh, you
old enchantress !

Dr. Auntie. Go along with you. Wasn't that Sylvia
in the runabout?

Hammond. [Soberly.] Yes.

Dr. Auntie. Who's the man?

Hammond. Branscombe, my secretary.

Dr. Auntie. Secretary? Name Branscombe?

Hammond. Yes.

Dr. Auntie. Sure it's Branscombe?

Hammond. Why, yes. W r hat should it be?

Dr. Auntie. Oh, nothing! Only I kind of thought
it might be Lochinvar.

Hammond. See here. You've come home from
your post mortems and all the rest of your ghastly
orgies. But you needn't diagnose Billy, nor me, nor,
incidentally, Branscombe. Do you hear?

Dr. Auntie. [Nodding.] Now, Tom, what is it
about your legs ?


Hammond. [Resuming the crutches, as if she had
reminded him.} Why, I had 'an accident.

Dr. Auntie. Yes, yes, I know all about the acci-
dent. I wrote your surgeon. From what he says, I

Hammond. What do you think, you old Minerva's

Dr. Auntie. [Firmly.'] I think you've got hysteri-
cal joint.

Hammond. What's that?

Dr. Auntie. You could walk if you wanted to.
You've cockered yourself till you don't dare.

Hammond. Auntie, see here.

Dr. Auntie. I'm seeing.

Hammond. If I let you in, will you swear you
never'll tell ?

Dr. Auntie. [Solemnly.] Cross my throat, cross
my heart. [Crossing them.]

Hammond. Look here. [Throzvs down the
crutches and dances a few spirited steps.]

Dr. Auntie. [Seizing on the crutches.] That's my
Tommy boy. We'll throw these into the fire.

Hammond. [Rescuing them and leaning them care-
fully against his chair.] No! no! They're my weap-
ons of war. Auntie, I'm going to tell you something.

Dr. Auntie. I guess you'd better.

Hammond. You'd smell it out anyway.

Dr. Auntie. I've got rather a keen proboscis.

Hammond. I'm up against it.

Dr. Auntie. Money?


Dr. Auntie.
Dr. Auntie.
Dr. Auntie.
Dr. Auntie.


Sylvia ?

Too much private secretary?
How did you know?
Took his temperature when we passed.
Did she know you ?

I think so. Think she told him to stop
and he put on steam and whizzed by. If he's making
trouble for you and Billy, he's a nasty fellow.
Hammond. You mustn't take it too seriously.
Dr. Auntie. I'm not serious at all. Ha ! ha !
Hammond. Nor you mustn't laugh.
Dr. Auntie. I'm laughing to keep from crying.
Want me to swear ? Damn !

Hammond. [Gravely.'] Thank you. Well, now,
I'm a kind of a queer Dick.
Dr. Auntie. [Nodding.'] Yes, you are, Tom.

Nobody really knows me but you. No-

body ever did.

Dr. Auntie.


Dr. Auntie.


Not Sylvia ?

[Tenderly.] Dear Billy! no.

What makes you keep her out ?

Bless you, she isn't out. She's too far

Dr. Auntie. So I'm the one that's out.

Hammond. [Good-humoredly.] Oh, you don't
count. We're chips of the same block. But Billy
Why, I can't explain things to Billy. I can't say them
to her. She's too much myself.

Dr. Auntie. Does she like this fellow ?


Hammond, I'm afraid she does.

Dr. Auntie. What have you done about it?

Hammond. Built a fence round her with my

Dr. Auntie. I don't get you. [Going down on all
fours and sniffing, dog-like, round the room.] I've lost
the scent.

Hammond. [Laughingly pulling her up.] This
came on me as I was getting well Billy's liking him,
you know. I suppose they'd been alone more.

Dr. Auntie. [Tenderly.] Had the devil of a time,
didn't you, old boy.

Hammond. Pretty bad. I'm fond of Billy.

Dr. Auntie. Guess you are. When you found it
cut, what then?

Hammond. Nothing. I couldn't let on.

Dr. Auntie. To her, you mean?

Hammond. To her. I couldn't let my Billy think
I suspected her of side-tracking like that. She didn't
suspect it herself.

Dr. Auntie. Sure she didn't?

Hammond. Of course I'm sure she didn't. Don't
you go to casting aspersions on my Billy. We shall
have to quarrel, if you do, if you are my triple-plated,
double back-action pal of a medical aunt.

Dr. Auntie. Why didn't you discharge him?

Hammond. I didn't want to. If she did like him, I
wanted her to have him, didn't I ?

Dr. Auntie. For heaven's sake !

Hammond. Of course. I want Billy to be happy.
That's the main thing. But I didn't dare do anything


in a hurry. So I kept on being lame, for I says to my-
self, "Billy never'll leave a lame man in the lurch.
Never in the world."
Dr. Auntie. How long do you propose being lame ?

Till I'm sure.

Sure she loves him ?

Don't use that word.

Poor boy! Well, how long?

Really, I suppose, till I've studied him

If he's a good chap, if he's square


Then something's going to be done.
[Anxiously.} Don't you kill yourself,


Dr. Auntie.


Dr. Auntie.

a little more.

Dr. Auntie.


Dr. Auntie.

Hammond. [Laughing a little.] Do you know, it's
rather ridiculous, but I actually thought of that.

Dr. Auntie. Killing yourself?

Hammond. [Unlocking drawer of a little cabinet
and taking out revolver.} See here.

Dr. Auntie. O you simpleton ! You yellow journal
extra ! You're no nevvy of mine.

Hammond. [Reflectively.] It is cowardly, isn't it ?

Dr. Auntie. Shameful. Disgrace, reporters, police
and Billy alone to face it.

Hammond. I thought of that. Billy wouldn't like

Dr. Auntie. Guess she wouldn't. Give me the gun.

Hammond. Oh, no. I'm not such a baby boy as

Dr. Auntie. Give me the gun, I say.


Hammond. [Making as if to throw.] Catch, then.

Dr. Auntie. [Dodging.] Mercy!

Hammond. It isn't loaded. When I got thinking
of the thing at night, I drew the cartridges.

[She fixes her hands, he tosses it, she catches and
drops it in her bag.]

Dr. Auntie. There ! we've discarded suicide. Now,
what's the game?

Hammond. [Nonchalantly.] Desertion.

Dr. Auntie. You desert Sylvia?

Hammond. Yes. She can get a divorce.

Dr. Auntie. [Thoughtfully.] She has her own

Hammond. Heaps of it. I could desert her all

Dr. Auntie. Does he know she has her own money ?

Hammond. [Carelessly.] Oh, I daresay, He did
all the business while I was knocked out.

Dr. Auntie. Hm! what kind of a fellow is he?

Hammond. I don't know. Honest, I don't.

Dr. Auntie. You don't like him.

Hammond. No. But then if he were Abraham
Isaac and Jacob Saul and David and the apostles, I
shouldn't like him now.

Dr. Auntie. I see. Jealous, aren't you, boy ?

Hammond. Jealous as the devil.

Dr. Auntie. Sylvia doesn't know that?

Hammond. Why, no. Don't I tell you she's going
to be allowed free swing? If she thought I wasn't
indifferent to her going, do you suppose she'd go at


all? What I've got to do is to make up my mind
whether he's a man of honor and she's likely to be safe.

Dr. Auntie. You talk as if you were buying her a
saddle horse.

Hammond. That's a good idea. Branscombe's got
to be kind, he's got to have a good mouth and an easy
gait. Then I'll see her in her saddle and she can

"ride, ride, forever"

{Chokes and stops, laughing at himself.}

Dr. Auntie. You want to be riding with her your-
self. {Quoting rhetorically.} "Ride, ride together,
forever ride."

Hammond. {Angrily.} Of course I do. What did
I marry her for if it wasn't to be together forever and
a long day after?

Dr. Auntie. You're a romantic dog.

Hammond. Course I am. Why, see here. What
have I done in the pesky middle of the night when I
ought to be asleep but write sonnets, sonnets to Billy.

Dr. Auntie. Publish your sonnets. Dedicate 'em to

Hammond. No, I can't. There's a part of me
that's got to be a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.

Dr. Auntie. Shut up and sealed even from Billy !

Hammond. Why, Billy bless you ! I thought
Billy was drinking out of the spring all the time. I
thought she was bathing in the fountain. If she
doesn't know she was if she doesn't know the spring
was there

Dr. Auntie. You won't tell her? Oh, come, that's


Hammond. Maybe. Anyway, that's how it is.

Dr. Auntie. But what's the fellow like?

Hammond. He's a handsome devil.

Dr. Auntie. I saw that. What else?

Hammond. I tell you I don't know. He's the type
I hate the boy poet, dressed for the part. Doesn't
smoke a pipe. Doesn't drink, except Turkish coffee.
Doesn't swear except by the heathen gods. Talks
poetical wash, that kind of thing the kind you couldn't
call a cab in or order beef and onions.

Dr. Auntie. [Reflectively.] No, you don't like him.

Hammond. But the fellow's young.

Dr. Auntie. Never mind that. He won't be always.

Hammond. True. But when he isn't I shall be
[pointing downward.'] However, he's got certain
things on his side. He's clever.

Dr. Auntie. With his tongue?

Hammond. Not altogether. He writes things.
Wrote two bully stories while I was sick, and got 'em
taken. Something I'd thought of myself. I'd made
notes of 'em and never got any further.

Dr. Auntie. Seen the notes, hadn't he?

Hammond. Oh, I guess so. Might have. [Read-
ing her expression.] What? Oh, come, you mustn't
go so far as that. He wouldn't be that kind of a
scoundrel. No, oh, no!

Dr. Auntie. [Satiric ally. "\ Rather interesting,
these literary coincidences. Newspapers make a good
deal of 'em. Seem to consider 'em rather important,
on the whole.

Hammond. [Warmly.] You're off, there. It's


simply that Branscombe and I, lately, have got a way
of thinking the same things. I suppose it's because
we're both so infernally keyed up. Our minds aren't
normal. He actually reads my thoughts. Why, I
wrote a song

Dr. Auntie. Love song? Song to Sylvia?

Hammond. [Laughing shamefacedly.] I am a
blithering idiot, ain't I ! Yes, it was a love song. Song
to Billy. I set it to Dvorak's Humoresque. And what
did I hear this morning but Branscombe singing some-
thing to that very music.

Dr. Auntie. Same words?

Hammond. Oh, no. Improvising. He's a clever

Dr. Auntie. Poor Sylvia!

Hammond. Why "poor" ?

Dr. Auntie. Poor little struggling creature in the
trap ! You're downright cruel to stand by and see her

Hammond. Standby? Good God, Kate, what can
I do but stand by ? Trap ? What's the trap ? Who set
it for her

Dr. Auntie. Nature. Her own heart crying out for
the romance it doesn't get. Nature's set the trap, and
Branscombe's baiting it.

Hammond. I don't think it. I'm willing to believe
he's as innocent as she. If he wasn't, I'd kick him out.

Dr. Auntie. Give him the benefit of the doubt.
Kick him anyway.

Hammond. Can't do that. She likes him. I've
got to see her through.


Dr. Auntie. You never used to be poor-spirited.
You haven't quite got back since your accident.

Hammond. Maybe. You'd laugh if you knew all
the things I thought of while I was really lame.

Dr. Auntie. Tell me.

Hammond. I wished there were tests, as there used
to be, to show her which was the better man.

Dr. Auntie. Armor, lance in rest, onset, and "a lady's
glove. Boo! [Tilts at an imaginary opponent.]

Hammond. Something of that sort. Then I used

2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Online LibraryAlice BrownOne act plays → online text (page 2 of 12)