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their attention the quickest, I fell into the habit of saying, first
thing: "Where's mamma? Is she here? Show me, where." And having once won
attention, it had gone hard with me indeed had I failed to make friends
with the youngster.

One Monday evening as I came to my place, I saw the new baby standing
all forlorn, with apparently no one at all to look after her, not even
one of the larger children. She was evidently on the very verge of
frightened tears, and from old habit I stooped down and said to her,
"Where's mamma, dear?"

She lifted two startled blue eyes to my face and her lips began to
tremble. I went on, "Is mamma here?" The whole little face drew up in a
distressed pucker, and with gasps she whispered, "She's in er box."

I raised my head and glanced across the stage. An old gentleman sat in
the box opposite, and I knew a merry young party had the one on our own
side, so I answered: "Oh, no, dear, mamma's not in the box; she's - "
when the poor baby cried, "Yes, she is, my mamma's in a box!" and buried
her curly head in the folds of my skirt and burst into sobs.

At that moment a hard-voiced, hard-faced, self-sufficient girl pushed
forward, and explained in a patronizing way: "Oh, she's too little to
say it right. She ain't got no mother; she's dead, and it's the coffin
Annie means by the box."

Oh, poor baby, left behind! poor little scrap of humanity!

In another city the child was older, nearly five, but so very small that
she did nicely in the tiny trousers (it is a boy's part, as I should
have said before), and when the act was over, I kissed the brightly
pretty face and offered her a little gift. She put out her hand eagerly,
then swiftly drew it back again, saying, "It's money."

"Yes," I answered. "It's for you, take it."

[Illustration: _"Little Breeches"_]

She hung her head and murmured, "It's money, I dar'sent."

"Why not?" I asked.

"'Cause we're too poor," she replied, which was certainly the oddest
reason I ever heard advanced for not accepting offered money. I was
compelled to hurry to my dressing-room to prepare for the next act; but
I saw with what disappointed eyes she followed me, and as I kept
thinking of her and her queer answer I told my maid to go out and see if
the pretty, very clean little girl was still there, and, if so, to send
her to my room. Presently a faint tap, low down on the door, told me my
expected visitor had arrived. Wide-eyed and smiling she entered, and
having some cough drops on my dressing-table, I did the honours. Cough
drops of strength and potency they were, too, but sweet, and therefore
acceptable to a small girl. She looked at them in her wistful way, and
then very prettily asked, "Please might she eat one right then?"

I consented to that seemingly grave breach of etiquette, and then asked
if her mother was with her.

"Oh, no! Sam had brought her." (Sam was the gas man.)

"Why," I went on, "did you not take that money, dear?" (her eyes
instantly became regretful). "Don't you want it?"

"Oh, yes, ma'am," she eagerly answered. "Yes, ma'am, I want it, thank
you; but you see I might get smacked again - like I did last week."

Our conversation at this embarrassing point was interrupted by the
appearance of Sam, who came for the little one. I sent her out with a
message for the maid, and then questioned Sam, who, red and apologetic,
explained that "the child had never seen no theatre before; but he knew
that the fifty cents would be a godsend to them all, and an honest
earned fifty cents, too, and he hoped the kid hadn't given me no
trouble," and he beamed when I said she was charming and so
well-mannered.

"Yes," he reckoned, "they aimed to bring her up right. Yer see," he
went on, "her father's my pal, and he married the girl that - a
girl - well, the best kind of a girl yer can think of" (poor Sam), "and
they both worked hard and was gettin' along fine, until sickness come,
and then he lost his job, and it's plumb four months now that he's been
idle; and that girl, the wife, was thin as a rail, and they would die
all together in a heap before they'd let any one help 'em except with
work."

"What," I asked, "did the child mean by getting a smacking last week?"

"Oh," he answered, "the kid gets pretty hungry, I suppose, and t'other
day when she was playin' with the Jones child, there in the same house,
Mrs. Jones asks her to come in and have some dinner; and as she lifted
one of the covers from the cooking-stove, the kid says: 'My, you must be
awful rich, you make a fire at both ends of your stove at once. My mamma
only makes a fire under just one hole, 'cause we don't have anything
much to cook now 'cept tea.' The speech reached the mother's ears, and
she smacked the child for lettin' on to any one how poor they are. Lord,
no, Miss, she dar'sent take no money, though God knows they need it bad
enough."

With dim eyes I hurriedly scribbled a line on a bit of wrapping paper,
saying: - "This little girl has played her part so nicely that I want her
to have something to remember the occasion by, and since I shall not be
in the city to-morrow, and cannot select anything myself, I must ask you
to act for me." Then I folded it about a green note, and calling back
the child, I turned her about and pinned both written message and money
to the back of her apron. The little creature understood the whole thing
in a flash. She danced about joyously: "Oh, Sam," she cried, "the lady's
gived me a present, and I can't help myself, can I?"

And Sam wiped his hand on his breeches leg, and, clearing his throat
hard, asked "if I'd mind shakin' hands?"

And I didn't mind it a bit. Then, with clumsy care, he wrapped the child
in her thin bit of a cape, and led her back to that home which gave
lodgement to both poverty and pride.

While the play was new, in the very first engagement outside of New
York, I had a very little child for that scene. She was flaxen blond,
and her mother had dressed her in bright sky-blue, which was in itself
an odd colour for a little boy to wear. Then the small breeches were so
evidently mother-made, the tiny bits of legs surmounted with such an
enormous breadth of seat, the wee Dutch-looking blue jacket, and the
queer blue cap on top of the flaxen curls, gave the little creature the
appearance of a Dutch doll. The first sight of her, or, perhaps, I
should say "him," the first sight of him provoked a ripple of merriment;
but when he turned full about on his bits of legs and toddled up stage,
giving a full, perfect view of those trousers to a keenly observant
public, people laughed the tears into their eyes. And this baby noted
the laughter, and resented it with a thrust-out lip and a frowning knit
of his level brows that was funnier than even his blue clothing - and
after that one Parthian glance at the audience, he invariably toddled to
me, and hid his face in my dress. From the very first night the child
was called "Little Breeches," and to this day I know her by no other
name.

Time passed by fast - so fast; years came, years went. "Miss Multon" had
been lying by for a number of seasons. "Renée de Moray," "Odette,"
"Raymonde," etc., had been in use; then some one asked for "Miss
Multon," and she rose obediently from her trunk, took her manuscript
from the shelf, and presented herself at command. One evening, in a
Southern California city, as I left my room ready for the first act of
this play, the door-man told me a young woman had coaxed so hard to see
me, for just one moment, that ignoring orders he had come to ask me if
he might bring her in; she was not begging for anything, just a moment's
interview. Rather wearily I gave permission, and in a few moments I saw
him directing her toward me. A very slender, very young bit of a woman,
a mere girl, in fact, though she held in her arms a small white bundle.
As she came smilingly up to me, I perceived that she was very blond. I
bowed and said "Good evening" to her, but she kept looking in smiling
silence at me for a moment or two, then said eagerly, "Don't you know
me, Miss Morris?"

I looked hard at her. "No," I said; "and if I have met you before, it's
strange, for while I cannot remember names, my memory for faces is
remarkable."

"Oh," she said, in deep disappointment, "can't you remember me at
all - not at all?"

Her face fell, she pushed out her nether lip, she knit her level,
flaxen brows.

I leaned forward suddenly and touched her hand, saying, "You are
not - you can't be - my little - "

"Yes, I am," she answered delightedly. "I am Little Breeches."

"And this?" I asked, touching the white bundle.

"Oh," she cried, "this is _my_ Little Breeches; but I shan't dress him
in bright blue."

"Good heavens!" I exclaimed, "how old are you, and how old am I?"

"Well," she replied, "I'm almost eighteen, and as you look just exactly
as you did when I saw you last, it doesn't matter, so far as I can see,
how many years have passed." (Oh, clever Little Breeches!)

Then, having had Little Breeches 2d kissed and honestly admired, she
trotted away satisfied; and only as I made my entrance on the stage did
it occur to me that I had not asked her name; so she ends as she began,
simply Little Breeches.




_CHAPTER XII

THE STAGE AS AN OCCUPATION FOR WOMEN_


In looking over my letters from the gentle "Unknown," I find that the
question, "What advantage has the stage over other occupations for
women?" is asked by a Mrs. Some One more often than by the more
impulsive and less thoughtful girl writer, and it is put with frequency
and earnestness.

Of course there is nothing authoritative in these answers of mine,
nothing absolute. They are simply the opinion of one woman, founded upon
personal experience and observation. We must, of course, to begin
with, eliminate the glamour of the stage - that strange, false lustre, as
powerful as it is intangible - and consider acting as a practical
occupation, like any other. And then I find that in trying to answer the
question asked, I am compelled, after all, to turn to a memory.

I had been on the stage two years when one day I met a schoolmate. Her
father had died, and she, too, was working; but she was bitterly envious
of my occupation. I earnestly explained the demands stage wardrobe made
upon the extra pay I drew; that in actual fact she had more money for
herself than I had. Again I explained that rehearsals, study, and
preparation of costumes required time almost equal to her working hours,
with the night work besides; but she would not be convinced.

"Oh, don't you see," she cried, "I am at service, that means I'm a
dependant, I labour for another. You serve, yes, but you labour for
yourself," and lo! she had placed her stubby little finger upon the sore
spot in the working-woman's very heart, when she had divined that in the
independence of an actress lay her great advantage over other workers.

Of course this independence is not absolute; but then how many men there
are already silver-haired at desk or bench or counter who are still
under the authority of an employer! Like these men, the actress's
independence is comparative; but measured by the bondage of other
working-women, it is very great. We both have duties to perform for
which we receive a given wage, yet there is a difference. The
working-girl is expected to be subservient, she is too often regarded as
a menial, she is ordered. An actress, even of small characters, is
considered a necessary part of the whole. She assists, she attends, she
obliges. Truly a difference.

Again, women shrink with passionate repugnance from receiving orders
from another woman; witness the rarity of the American domestic. A pity?
Yes; but what else can you expect? The Americans are a dominant race.
Free education has made all classes too nearly equal for one woman to
bend her neck willingly and accept the yoke of servitude offered by
another woman.

And even this is spared to the actress, since her directions are more
often received from the stage manager or manager than from a woman star.
True, her life is hard, she has no home comforts; but, then, she has no
heavy duties to perform, no housework, bed-making, sweeping,
dish-washing, or clothes-washing, and when her work is done, she is her
own mistress. She goes and comes at her own will; she has time for
self-improvement, but best of all she has something to look forward to.
That is a great advantage over girls of other occupations, who have such
a small chance of advancement.

Some impetuous young reader who speaks first and thinks afterward may
cry out that I am not doing justice to the profession of acting, even
that I discredit it in thus comparing it with humble and somewhat
mechanical vocations; so before I go farther, little enthusiasts, let me
remind you of the wording of this present query. It does not ask what
advantage has acting over other professions, over other arts, but "What
advantage has it over other occupations for women?"

A very sweeping inquiry, you see; hence this necessary comparison with
shop, factory, and office work. As to the other professions, taking, for
instance, law or medicine, preparations for practice must be very
costly. A girl puts her family to a great strain to pay her college
expenses, or if some family friend advances funds, when she finally
passes all the dreaded examinations, and has the legal right to hang out
her shingle, she starts in the race of life handicapped with crushing
debts.

The theatre is, I think, the only place where a salary is paid to
students during all the time they are learning their profession; surely
a great, a wonderful advantage over other professions to be
self-sustaining from the first.

Then the arts, but ah! life is short and art, dear Lord, art is long,
almost unto eternity. And she who serves it needs help, much help, and
then must wait, long and wearily, for the world's response and
recognition, that, even if they come, are apt to be somewhat uncertain,
unless they can be cut on a marble tomb; then they are quite positive
and hearty. But in the art of acting the response and recognition come
swift as lightning, sweet as nectar, while you are young enough to enjoy
and to make still greater efforts to improve and advance.

So it seems to me the great advantage of acting over work is one's
independence, one's opportunity to improve oneself. Its advantage over
the professions is that it is self-sustaining from the start. Its
advantage over the arts is its swift reward for earnest endeavour.

It must be very hard to endure the contempt so often bestowed upon the
woman who simply serves. I had a little taste of it once myself; and
though it was given me by accident, and apologies and laughter followed,
I remember quite well that even that tiny taste was distinctly
unpleasant - yes, and bitter. I was abroad with some very intimate
friends, and Mrs. P - - , an invalid, owing to a mishap, was for some
days without a maid. We arrived in Paris hours behind time, late at
night, and went straight to our reserved rooms, seeing no one but some
sleepy servants.

Early next morning, going to my friends' apartments, I came upon this
piteous sight: Mrs. P - - , who had a head of curly hair, was not only
without a maid, but also without the use of her right arm. The fame of
Charcot had brought her to Paris. Unless she breakfasted alone, which
she hated, her hair must be arranged. Behold, then, the emergency for
which her husband, Colonel P - - , had, boldly not to say recklessly,
offered his services.

I can see them now. She, with clenched teeth of physical suffering and
uplifted eye of the forgiving martyr, sat in combing jacket before him;
and he, with the maid's white apron girt tight about him just beneath
his armpits, had on his soldierly face an expression of desperate
resolve that suggested the leading of a forlorn hope. A row of hair-pins
protruded sharply from between his tightly closed lips; a tortoise-shell
back-comb, dangling from one side of his full beard where he placed it
for safety, made this amateur hairdresser a disturbing sight both for
gods and men.

With legs well braced and far apart, his arms high lifted like outspread
wings, he wielded the comb after the manner of a man raking hay. For one
moment all my sympathy was for the shrinking woman; then, when
suddenly, in despite of the delicious morning coolness, a great drop of
perspiration splashed from the Colonel's corrugated brow, down into the
obstreperous curly mass he wrestled with, I pitied him, too, and
cried: -

"Oh, I'll do that. Take care, you'll swallow a pin or two if you
contradict me. Your spirit is willing, Colonel, but your flesh, for all
you have such a lot of it, is weak, when you come to hair-dressing!"

And regardless of his very earnest protest, I took the tangled,
tormented mass in hand and soon had it waving back into a fluffy knot;
and just as I was drawing forth some short locks for the forehead, there
came a knock and in bounced the mistress of the house, our landlady,
Mme. F - - , who, missing our arrival the night before, came now to bid
us welcome and inquire as to our satisfaction with arrangements, etc.
She was a short woman, of surprising breadth and more surprising
velocity of speech. She could pronounce more words to a single breath
than any other person I have ever met. She was German by birth, and
spoke French with a strong German accent, while her English was a thing
to wring the soul, sprinkled as it was with German "unds," "ufs," and
"yousts," and French "zees" and "zats." Our French being of the slow and
precise kind, and her English of the rattling and at first
incomprehensible type, the conversation was somewhat confused. But even
so, my friends noticed with surprise, that Madame did not address one
word of welcome to me. They hastened to introduce me, using my married
name.

A momentary annoyance came into her face, then she dropped her lids
haughtily, swept me from head to foot with one contemptuous glance, and
without even the faintest nod in return to my "Bon jour, Madame," she
turned to Mrs. P - - , who, red with indignation, was trying to sputter
out a demand for an explanation, and asked swiftly: -

"Und zat ozzer lady? you vas to be t'ree - n'est-ce pas? She hav' not
com' yed? to-morrow, perhaps, und - und" (I saw what was coming, but my
companions suspected nothing), "und" - she dropped her lids again and
indicated me with a contemptuous movement of the head - "she, zat maid,
you vant to make arrange for her? You hav' not write for room for zat
maid?"

I leaned from the window to hide my laughter, for it seemed to me that
Colonel P - - jumped a foot, while the cry of his wife drowned the sound
of the short, warm word that is of great comfort to angry men. Before
they could advance one word of explanation, an aproned waiter fairly
burst into the room, crying for "Madame! Madame! to come quick, for that
Jules was at it very bad again!" And she wildly rushed out, saying over
her shoulder, "By und by we zee for zat maid, und about zat udder lady,
by und by also," and so departed at a run with a great rattling of
starch and fluttering of cap ribbons; for Jules, the head cook, already
in the first stages of delirium tremens, was making himself interesting
to the guests by trying to jump into the fountain basin to save the
lives of the tiny ducklings, who were happily swimming there, and Madame
F - - was sorely needed.

Yes, I laughed - laughed honestly at the helpless wrath of my friends,
and pretended to laugh at the mistake; but all the time I was saying to
myself, "Had I really been acting as maid, how cruelly I should have
suffered under that contemptuous glance and from that withheld bow of
recognition." She had found me well-dressed, intelligent, and
well-mannered; yet she had insulted me, because she believed me to be a
lady's maid. No wonder women find service bitter.

We had retired from the breakfast room and were arranging our plans for
the day, when a sort of whirlwind came rushing through the hall, the
door sprang open almost without a pronounced permission, and Madame
F - - flung herself into the room, caught my hands in hers, pressed them
to her heart, to her lips, to her brow, wept in German, in French, in
English, and called distractedly upon "Himmel!" "Ciel!" and "Heaven!"
But she found her apologies so coldly received by my friends that she
was glad to turn the flood of her remorse in my direction, and for very
shame of the scene she was making I assured her the mistake was quite
pardonable - as it was. It was her manner that was almost unpardonable.
Then she added to my discomfort by bursting out with fulsome praise of
me as an actress; how she had seen me and wept, and so on and on, she
being only at last walked and talked gently out of the room.

But that was not the end of her remorse. A truly French bouquet with its
white paper petticoat arrived in about an hour, "From the so madly
mistooken Madame F - - ," the card read, and that act of penance was
performed every morning as long as I remained in Paris. But one day she
appealed to the Colonel for pity and sympathy.

"Ah!" said she, "I hav' zee two tr'ubles, zee two sorrows! I hav' zee
grief to vound zee feelin's of zat so fine actrice Americaine - zat ees
one tr'ubles, und den I hav' zee shame to mak' zat grande fool
meestak' - oh, mon Dieu! I tak' her for zee maid, und zare my most great
tr'uble come in! I hav' no one with zee right to keek me - to keek me
hard from zee back for being such a fool. I say mit my husband dat
night, 'Vill you keek me hard, if you pleas'?' Mais, he cannot, he hav'
zee gout in zee grande toe, und he can't keek vurth one sou! - und zat is
my second tr'uble!"

Behind her broad back the Colonel confessed that had she expressed such
a wish on the occasion of the mistake, he would willingly have obliged
her, as he was quite free from gout.

So any woman who goes forth to win her living as an actress will at
least be spared the contemptuous treatment bestowed on me in my short
service as an amateur lady's maid.




_CHAPTER XIII

THE BANE OF THE YOUNG ACTRESS'S LIFE_


What is the bane of a young actress's life?

Under the protection of pretty seals stamped in various tints of wax, I
find one question appearing in many slightly different forms. A large
number of writers ask, "What is the greatest difficulty a young actress
has to surmount?" In another pile of notes the question appears in this
guise, "What is the principal obstacle in the way of the young actress?"
While two motherly bodies ask, "What one thing worries an actress the
most?" After due thought I have cast them all together, boiled them
down, and reduced them to this, "What is the bane of a young actress's
life?" which question I can answer without going into training, with one
hand tied behind me, and both eyes bandaged, answer in one
word - _dress_. Ever since that far-away season when Eve, the beautiful,
inquiring, let-me-see-for-myself Eve, made fig leaves popular in Eden,
and invented the apron to fill a newly felt want, dress has been at once
the comfort and the torment of woman.

Acting is a matter of pretence, and she who can best pretend a splendid
passion, a tender love, or a murderous hate, is admittedly the finest
actress. Time was when stage wardrobe was a pretence, too. An actress
was expected to please the eye, she was expected to be historically
correct as to the shape and style of her costume; but no one expected
her queenly robes to be of silk velvet, her imperial ermine to be
anything rarer than rabbit-skin. My own earliest ermine was humbler
still, being constructed of the very democratic white canton flannel
turned wrong side out, while the ermine's characteristic little black
tails were formed by short bits of round shoe-lacing. The only advantage
I can honestly claim for this domestic ermine is its freedom from the
moths, who dearly love imported garments of soft fine cloth and rare
lining. I have had and have seen others have, in the old days, really
gorgeous brocades made by cutting out great bunches of flowers from
chintz and applying them to a cheaper background, and then picking out
the high lights with embroidery silk, the effect being not only
beautiful, but rich. All these make-believes were necessary then, on a
$30 or $35 a week salary, for a leading lady drew no more.

[Illustration: _Clara Morris as "Jane Eyre"_]

But times are changed, stage lighting is better, stronger. The opera
glass is almost universally used, deceptions would be more easily
discovered; and more, oh, so much more is expected from the actress of


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