Augustus Thomas.

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Play in Four Acts




Revised 1916 by AUGUSTUS THOMAS
Copyright, 1916, by AUGUSTUS THOMAS


CAUTION. All persons are hereby warned that "!N
MIZZOURA," being fully protected under the copyright
laws of the United States, is subject to royalty, and
anyone presenting the play without the consent of the
owners or their authorized agents will be liable to the
penalties by law provided. Application for amateur
acting rights must be made to SAMUEL FRENCH, 28-30
West 38th Street, New York. Application for the pro
fessional acting rights must be made to the AMERICAN
PLAY COMPANY, 33 West 42nd Street, New York.









Especial notice should be taken that the possession of this
book without a valid contract for production first having
been obtained from the publisher, confers no ^ght or license
to professionals or amateurs to produce the play publicly or
in private for gain or charity.

In its present form this play is dedicated to the reading
public only, and no performance of it may be given except
by special arrangement with Samuel French, 28-30 West 38th
Street, New York.

SECTION 28 That any person who wilfully or for profit
shall infringe any copyright secured by this act, or who shall
knowingly and wilfully aid or abet such infringement shall
be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction
thereof shall be punished by imprisonment for not exceeding
one year, or by a fine of not less than one hundred nor more
than one thousand dollars, or both, in the discretion of the

Act of March 4, 1909.


This preface is one of a number * trying to show
each for its particular play, the manner of the play's
conception, whether starting from a theme, a char
acter, or a situation; the difficulty of the start and
the larger problems of the story's development, to
gether with the ways considered and chosen to an
swer them. It has been thought that such accounts
might be of interest, and in some instances, perhaps,
helpful to others beginning on the same kind of

In the spring of 1891 Mr. Nat Goodwin was one
of the most popular and successful, as well as one of
the most skillful, of American actors. He had
played lively and slight farces almost exclusively;
but having the ability for serious work as well, he
was ambitious to try it. In a comedy by Brander
Matthews and George H. Jessop, called " A Gold
Mine " he had given one or two dramatic scenes most
convincingly ; and one sentimental soliloquy with a
rose in exquisite tenderness. In person he is under
the average height ; and then, was slight, graceful,
and with a face capable of conveying the subtlest
shades of feeling. The forehead was ample; the
eyes were large and blue, clear and steady. The
nose was mildly Roman ; the hair was the color of
new hay. His voice was rich and modulated. These
points are reported because they helped form the
equipment of the star, who wanted a serious play in
which he should be the hero. The order was with
out other conditions ; the play might be of any period
and of any land.

My own ignorance fixed certain limitations. At
that time I had acquaintance with no other countries
than the United States and Canada. These I knew

Tne Witching Hour : Mrs LeffingweH's Boots ; The Earl of Paw *
tucket. The Harvest Moon; Oliver Goldsmith


fairly well. I had traveled them with one night:
theatrical companies ; and also in newspaper assign
ments ; and over restricted districts I had worked in
the employment o a railroad company. I didn't
care to write from books ; so my Goodwin hero was
to be perforce an American. It seemed best to make
him an American of 1891. Other times and places
were excluded and dismissed from mind.

Now, a blond hero five feet seven inches tall and
weighing under one hundred and fifty-pounds a
Roman nose, and a steady, steel blue gaze !

I stood the Goodwin photograph on my table and
looked at it until it talked to me. The slight phy
sique couldn't explain the solid confidence of that
look except there was behind it a gun. We were
doing more man to man shooting in the country
hen than now ; and my Western friendships made me
more tolerant of the gun than some others were.
Goodwin and a gun sent me searching mentally
over the West from Colorado to the Coast, and
through all occupations from b ndit to fighting par
son ; and then mv potential gallery, quite apart from
any conscious effort of my own, divided itself into
two k:nds of gunpackers ; the authorized and the
others. I concluded that there would be less trouble,
less " lost motion " that was a phrase learned, and
an idea applied in the old-fashioned composing
room less lost motion, in portraying a lawful gun
toter than in justifying an outlaw ; and the Goodwin
part was therefore to be either a soldier or a sheriff.
I liave said that he was thin, graceful and he was,
b t he wasn't particularly erect. He was especially
free from anv suggestion of " setting-up " : sheriff
was the way of least resistance.

My hero was a sheriff. You cee how that clears
the atmosphere. When you must, or may, write for
a star, it is a big start to have the character agree-
ablv and definitely chosen.

There must be love interest, of course.


A sheriff would presumably be a bit of the rough
diamond ; contrast wherein " lieth love's delight "
prompted a girl apparently of a finer strain than him
self ; and conflict necessitated a rival. The girl
should be delicate and educated, the rival should be
attractive but unworthy; and to make him doubly
opposed to Goodwin I decided to have him an out
law someone whom it would be the sheriff's duty
and business business used in the stage sense to

Four or five years before the Goodwin contract
I had been one of the Post-Dispatch reporters on
the " Jim Cummings " express robbery. That cele
brated and picturesque case was of a man who pre
sented to an Express messenger at the side door of
his express car, just as the train was pulling from the
St. Louis station, a forged order to carry the bearer,
dead-head, to a certain distant point on the run.
The messenger helped the dead-head into his car
and chummed with him, until about an hour later,
when, as he was on his knees arranging some of his
cargo, he found a pistol muzzle against his cheek,
and his smiling visitor prepared to bind and gag him.
Having done this, the stranger packed one hundred
and twenty thousand dollars into a valise; and
dropped off into the dark, when the train made its
accustomed stop at a water-tank. The whole enter
prise was so gentle, that the messenger was arrested
and held as an accomplice, while the Pinkertons
looked for the man with the money.

The robber was a kind-hearted person ; and being
really grieved over the detention of an innocent
man, wrote several exculpating letters to the papers
enclosing rifled express envelopes to prove his peri
patetic identity. These letters were signed " Jim
Cummings," a nom de guerre borrowed from an
older and an abler offender of the Jesse James vint

After he was arrested and in his cell in the St.


Louis jail, " Jim Cummings " and I became friends
as criminals and newspaper men sometimes do, and
as criminals and I always have done, everywhere,
most easily. The details of his arrangements, both
before and after his draft on the company were
minutely in my mind, and were so very vital that
with the first need for a drama criminal I took him.
Goodwin's rival should be Jim Cummings ; a glori
fied and beautiful and matinee Cummings, but sub
stantially he.

This adoption rescued the girl and the sheriff from
the hazy geography of the mining camps, and fixed
the trio in Missouri.

After Cummings had dropped from the express
car, he had walked some fifteen miles to the Missouri
River near St. Charles, and had then gone north on
a train through Pike County. I had more than once
made the same trip on freight trains ; and I had a
liking for the county as the home district of Champ
Clark, a politico-newspaper comrade of several leg
islative sessions and conventions. Newspaper ex
perience in those days before the " flimsy " and the
" rewrite " emphasized the value of going to the
place in order to report the occurrence ; and I knew
that, aside from these three characters and their offi
cial and sentimental relationships, the rest of my peo
ple and my play were waiting for me in Bowling

In those days Mrs. Thomas and I used to hold
hands on our evening promenades ; but I think it
was really our foolish New York clothes that made
the blacksmith smile. At any rate, we stopped at
his door and talked with him. He knew Champ
Clark and Dave Ball another Missouri statesman
and had the keenest interest in the coming conven
tion for the legislative nomination. It was fine
to hear him pronounce the state name Mizzoura, as
it was originally spelt on many territorial charts, and
as we were permitted to call it in the public schools


until we reached the grades where imported culture
ruled. The blacksmith's helper, who was finishing
a wagon shaft with a draw knife, was younger and
less intelligent and preferred to talk to Mrs. Thomas.
It is distracting to listen at the same time to three
persons ; but I learned that " You kin make any
thing that's made out o' wood with a draw knife ; "
and over the bench was the frame for an upholstered
chair. A driver brought in a two-horse, side seated,
depot wagon on three wheels and a fence rail. The
fourth wheel and its broken tire were in the wagon :
and the blacksmith said he'd weld the tire at five-
thirty the next morning.

We went without breakfast to see him do
it. He was my heroine's father by that time ; a can
didate for the legislature; and I was devising for
him a second comedy daughter, to play opposite to
the boy with a draw knife. That day I also found
the drugstore window and the " lickerish " boxes
that Cummings should break through in his
attempted escape; and I recovered the niggers, the
" dog fannell," the linen dusters, and the paper col
lars which, in my recent prosperity, I'd forgotten. I
also nominated Goodwin for the legislature, which
increased his importance and gave him something
to sacrifice for the girl's father. But it was all so
poverty stricken as I glimpsed it through the black
smith shop and the little house I'd chosen for its
consort. I yearned for some money, not much, but
enough to afford " a hired girl," and for some means
of bringing the money into the story. When we left
Bowling Green I had given Goodwin a substantial
reward for the robber's capture; but he wouldn't
accept it. That was a mere dramatists device ; and
my quiet sheriff was already above it ; besides, he
wasn't sure that he'd hold the fellow. His wish to
please the girl was already debating the matter with
his duty.

On the way back to St. Louis* the conductor, who


took our tickets, recognized me. Charlie Church had
been a freight brakeman when I was in the St.
Louis yards. He was proud of his advancement to
a passenger conductorship proud of his train
proud of the new Wabash road-bed on the single
track line. This road-bed was made of macadam-
looking metal, clean and red as the painted bricks in
the local Dutch women's gardens and hard as flint.
When we gave the right-of-way and ran in on a
siding, Church brought us up a few pieces to the
back platform ; and with one of them scratched my
initials on the glass window. "What was it, iron
ore? no, that mud that the river leaves when it
rises ' Gumbo ' the people call it. Some fellow
found by accident that it became red flint when fired
and was making a fortune selling it to the rail
road." To burn it, he used the slack coal from the
Tonesburg mines nearby, which until then had also
been waste. I put a handful of the stuff in my
pocket ; and after the Conductor left us, I turned the
whole enterprise over to the Goodwin part. When
the play ended, the audience should feel sure that he
and Kate need never want for a dollar. I knew also
where he had accidentally burnt his first sample, and
made his discovery ; in the blacksmith shop.

But what accident brought the raw Gumbo there ?
Perhaps the wheels of the stage coach; but that
wasn't definitely Goodwin. The soft gumbo is not
unlike putty; it would make a fair cushion for a
broken limb: but I didn't want to halt my story
with anybody crippled to that extent; and then I
remembered the yellow dog drinking from the
blacksmith's tub. I broke his leg and had Goodwin
carry him miles in the stage, with his poor paw in a
poultice of gumbo. It was a counter-pointing touch
to a sheriff with two guns ; it gave him an effective
entrance; and it coupled in a continuous train, the
sheriff, the bad man who sneered at it, the black
smith and his motherly wife who sympathized and


helped in a better dressing, the forge where a
piece of the discarded gumbo should fall amongst
the coke, the helper who should pump the bellows for
another and verifying bake: and last, and best of
all, it gave me a " curtain " for a second act ; when
perturbed and adrift after being temporarily re
jected by the girl, Goodwin should turn in an unde
fined but natural sympathy to the crippled dog in
his box under the helper's bench.

That illustrates one of a dramatist's discovered
rules : " if you use a property once use it again and
again if you can." It is a visual thing that binds
together your stuff of speech like a dowel in a mis
sion table.

There are few better places than a railroad train
for building stories ; the rythmic click of the wheels
past the fish-plates makes your thoughts march as
a drum urges a column of soldiers. A tentative lay
out of the story established in the first act, the edu
cated Kate, discontented in her blacksmith father's
surroundings; the flash r 2scination of our transient
robber; the robber's distinct lead over Goodwin's
accustomed and older blandishments. The second
act saw Goodwin turned down and the robber pre
ferred. The third act should see the robber's ap
prehension and arrest. I milled around the ques
tion of his identification as Illinois and Indiana went
past the Pullman window; and then the one sure
and unfailing witness for that purpose volunteered
the express messenger himself. There was no rea
son why this young man shouldn't be a native of
Bowling Green and come home from St. Louis at
the end of certain runs. He would know Goodwin
and the blacksmith's family ; but to put him nearer
to them, more " into the story " sentimentally, I gave
Goodwin a little sister and made the messenger her
accepted lover, with his arrest and detention post
poning the wedding. This need to free his sister's
fiance gave the sheriff hero a third reason for eret-


ting the real robber ; the other two being his official
duty and the rivalry for Kate. The messenger and
the sheriff's sister, the helper and the comedy daugh
ter, and Goodwin and Kate, made three pairs of
young lovers. This number might easily lead to a
disastrous diffusion of interest unless the playwright
were careful always to make the work of each
couple, even when apparently about their own per
sonal affairs, really to the forward trend of the

I doubt if the production of novels, even to the
writer temperamentally disposed to that form of ex
pression, is as absorbing as play making. The dif
ference between the novel and the play is the dif-
refence between was and is. Something has hap
pened for the writer of the novel and for his people.
He describes it as it was ; and them as they were.
In the play something is happening. It's form is
controversial and the playwright, by force of this
controversy, is in turn each one of his characters, and
not merely a witness of their doings. When they
begin to take hold of him, their possession is more
and more insistent all interests in real life become
more and more secondary and remote until the ques
tions in dispute are not only decided, but there is also
a written record of the debates and the decision.

By the time our train pulled into New York, I was
impatient to make a running transcript of speeches
of my contending people. But that is a relief that
must be deferred. Like over-anxious litigants, the
characters are disposed to talk too much and must
be controlled and kept in bounds by a proportioned
scenario, assigning order, and respective and pro
gressive values to them. That was the work of a day
by that time and then, with the material gathered,
and the intimacy with the people and the places, the
play was one that wrote itself.

Augustus Thomas.


Produced at the Hooleys Theatre, Chicago, in
August, 1893, with the following cast :


MRS. Jo VERNON Jean Clara Walters


KATE VERNON Belle Archer

DAVE Louis Payne

Jo VERNON Burr Mclntosh

COL. BOLLINGER William G. Beach

ROBERT TRAVERS Francis Carlyle

JIM RADBURN Nat C. Goodwin

CAL Charles Miller

ESROM /. W. McAndrews

BILL SARBER Robert G. Wilson

KELLY Louis Barrett


SAM FOWLER Arthur Hoops


ACT I. Living room at Joe Vernon's. Time

evening in June.
ACT II. Blacksmith shop of Joe Vernon.

Morning of the 2nd day.
ACT III. Living room of Joe Vernon. Evening

of the 2nd day.
ACT IV. Home and door-yard of Jim Radburn.

Time, the next morning.




Music at rise of curtain. The old "Forty-nine"
tune, " My Name it is Joe Bowers."

SCENE: Pike Co. dining-room, living-room and
kitchen combined. A line of broken plaster and
unmatched wall papers marks the ceiling and
back flat a little left of center Doors R. and L.
in 3. Door in R. flat. Old-fashioned table.
Dresser, low window with many panes, window
sash sliding horizontally outside of door is pan
of leaves burning to smoke off mosquitoes.

MRS. VERNON ironing; LIZBETH at pan of fire.

MRS. VERNON. Lizbeth !


MRS. VERNON. Move that pan a little f urder off.
The smoke's a durnation sight worse'n the skeeters.

LIZBETH. (Rising and coming in) Well, we
couldn't sleep fur 'em last night, and it's just as
well to smoke 'em good.

MRS. VERNON. But such an all fired smell
what're you burnin'?

LIZBETH. Dog fannel

MRS. VERNON. I thought so. It's nearly turned
my stomich come, hurry with this ironin' now.

LIZBETH. (Coming down R. of table) Let's
leave it till mornin', ma

MRS. VERNON. Can't Lizbeth, it's bin put off
since Wednesday an' the furst thing we know we'll
be havin' it to do Sunday get me another iron.
r (^LiZBETH goes left) I'm reg'lar tuckered out.



LIZBETH. Me too. (Sound of sledge hammer
from door L. 3 E. LIZBETH exit L.)

(MRS. VERNON sits on rocker and fans herself with
frayed out palm leaf.)

MRS. VERNON. Lor' to think o' this weather
in June. It's jis' terrible.

(Enter KATE R. 3. KATE is neatly gowned and is
of a superior clay.)

KATE. Mother

MRS. VERNON. Well, Kate?

KATE. Must we have this awful odor again to
night ?

MRS. VERNON. Got to have something Kate, to
drive off the skeeters. (Enter LIZBETH L.) I ain't
slep' none for two nights.

KATE. They might be kept out some other way.
(She sits in chair R.)

MRS. VERNON. (Taking the fresh iron and
resuming work) I ruined my best pillar slips
an' nearly smothered myself with coal oil last night.
I'll try my own way now. It's all very well fur you,
Kate, whose got the only muskeeter bar in the fam

LIZBETH. (In the rocker) Yes, and won't let
your sister sleep with you

KATE. I'll gladly give you the mosquito bar,
Lizbeth, but two grown-up people can't sleep in a
narrow single bed.

LIZBETH. I hope you don't s'pose I'd take it.

KATE. I gave you one to make the window

MRS. VERNON. Well, kin the poor girl help that,
Kate? Didn't the dogs jump through 'em? (She
indicates the ragged netting on the frame) ^

KATE. Why do you have the dogs about ?


MRS. VERNON. Well, when you've lived as long
as I have in Pike County, you'll know you got to
have dogs if you leave your winder's open. There
I've ironed another pearl button in two yes, an*
it's pulled a piece right out o' one o' yer pa's
bosoms. That's cause I'm so tired, I can't see.
Lizbeth, where's them prescriptions?

LIZBETH. In the yeast powder-box.

MRS. VERNON. Well, get one for me. (LIZBETH
gets box from over the stove) I can't go on with
this ironin' without some beer.

LIZBETH. Who'll go for it?


LIZBETH. (At door L. Calls) Dave!

DAVE. (Off) Yes, Lizbeth.

LIZBETH. Ma wants you to

MRS. VERNON. Now, don't yawp it out to the
whole neighborhood, Lizbeth tell Dave to come

LIZBETH. (In a lower tone) Come here!

MRS. VERNON. Give me the prescription. (LIZ-
BETH arranges the linen in the basket. Enter DAVE
L.) Dave, the ironin' an' the heat an* everything
jes' about floored me won't you go to the drug
store with this prescription an' get me a quart bottle
of St. Louis beer?

DAVE. (Taking the prescription) Certainly.

MRS. VERNON. I can't send the girls after dark.

DAVE. Oh, that's all right. (Exit to street)

MRS. VERNON. (Ironing again) If your pa ever
does get into the Legislature I hope he'll defeat this
blamed local auction business. It's all well enough
foe those Salvation women who ain't got a thing to
do but pound tambourines, but if they had the
washin', and ironin' an' cookin' to do for a fambly
of six an' three dogs they'd need something to
kep body an' soul together.

KATE. (Going to street door) How much longer
you iron to-nigfct ? '


MRS. VERNON. Why ? Do you want the room ?

KATE. Oh, no but

LIZBETH. Is Travers coming to-night, Kate?
(Sits in rocker)

KATE. I don't know who may come.

MRS. VERNON. What difference does it make who
does come ?

KATE. None, except that the room is filled with
smoke and is hot.

MRS. VERNON. Well, to my mind Travers may as
well get himself used to places that are hot and filled
with smoke fur if he ain't one of Old Nick's own
ones, I never see any

KATE. Mother!! Mr. Travers is a gentleman!

MRS. VERNON. How do you know ? Four years
to a female seminary don't make you a better judge
of gentlemen than us who stay to home here. Your
pa's a gentleman if he is a wheelwright so is Jim


MRS. VERNON. Yes, and Dave

KATE. But none of them is like Mr. Travers.

MRS. VERNON. No, thank God they ain't.
Travers, Kate (Pause) Travers (Pause) and
mind you I've seen men before you was born
Travers is as much like a gambler as any I ever

KATE. (Coming down) Look here, mother I've
heard you say you had to run away from home with
father because your people didn't like him but that
didn't make him any worse, did it ?

MRS. VERNON. Well, it didn't make him any
better, Kate, and I've regretted it from the bottom
of my heart a hundred times I want you to under
stand (Looks uneasily at door L.) I've told it to
him often enough (Lowering voice) And if he
was here I'd tell him again now that I could ha'
married a doctor.


LIZBETH. You're not calculatin' to run away
with Travers, are you, Kate ?

KATE. You know I'm not, Lizbeth but I think
you and mother might be a little more considerate
in what you say. I try to make the place tidy and
nice for your evenings with Dave, don't I ?

LIZBETH. Well, I didn't mean nothin', Kate.

KATE. And I do my share of the housework.
(Goes to window. As her voice trembles MRS.
VERNON signals silence to LIZBETH )

MRS. VERNON. Of course you do, dear. Lizbeth,
you oughtn't to be so thoughtless in what you say.

(Enter DAVE with beer.)

DAVE. Here you are, Mrs. Vernon.

MRS. VERNON. Thank you, Dave ask that old
man in there if he'll have a glass.

DAVE. Yes'm. (Exit to shop)

MRS. VERNON. We'll clear the place right up,
Kate don't feel bad about it.

KATE. You needn't, mother if Mr. Travers
calls we can go walking. (Goes to door)

MRS. VERNON. No, Kate, and I say it only fur
your sake I wouldn't have the people of Bowling
Green see you trapsing the streets at night with a
man you ain't knowed but a month, fur nothin'.

(Enter JOE VERNON L. 3. JOE is a six footer with
full beard. He wears a leather apron and has

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