Henry Graham Ashmead.

Miss De Courcy, a drama in four acts online

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Miss DeCourcy



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Miss DeCourcy,



A Drama in Four Acts,



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BY



Graham Jishmead.






THE LIBRARY OF
OOWGRESS,

Two CoPtw Reosivet

OCT. \i S902

CopvwoHT Brmv

J^^ //- /^ <y ^. .

0I.AR8 /^XXa No
COPY B.



COPYRIGHT 1902

BY

HENRY GRAHAM ASHMEAD.



JOHN SPENCER,
PRINTER AND BCOKBINDER,
CHESTER. PA.



^JJramatls J. e



ersoncE,

Eleanor (Dolly) DeCourcy, heiress to a fortune.

Maud Forrester, engaged to U'cUtei^ Campbell.

Madge Spencer (Crawford), Amos Dean's grandchild.

Aunt Sallie Dillard, spinster.

Rachel Meadows, spinster.

Frank Lloyd Eldridge, a legatee under conditions.

Walter Campbell, a friend of Eldridge.

Amos Dean, aged fanner.

Mr. Lex, lazvyer.

Dan Dunn, imbecile lover of Madge.

Farmer.



Kiss £Dea



ourcL



y-



ACT I.



[Scene — Late afternoon in August. "The Cedars," farmhouse of
Amos Dean, on left of stage, zvith porch. Tlie background presents
cultivated lands, from which harvest has been gathered. A fence, with
gate, runs across stage in rear. A large tree, with seat at base, near
gate, and zvithin the inclosure. When curtain rises, Frank Lloyd
Eldridgc and Walter Campbell have just entered gate.]

Campbell. Frank, it was just touch and go. Had you been one
minute later, we would have missed the train. That is so unusual with
you,^ who are always punctilliously punctual, that I could not account
for 1t, nor did I care to speak of the matter in the cars.

Eldridge. I was so amazed by something I learned to-day, that
I could be pardoned, I think, for a breach of all rules governing my
general conduct.

Campbell. Something amazing?

Eldridge. Yes, and annoying.

Campbell. Is there a woman mixed in the incident?

Eldridge. Two— an old and young maiden, but the eldest is dead.

Campbell. Then the problem is simplified one-half.

Eldridge. Mr. Lex, my counsel, advised me not to decide hastily.

Campbell. Eaw and a woman^ — Frank, that is often a ruinous
combination for young men. Occasionally that applies to elderly men,
if they chance to be rich.

Eldridge. I wish people would not interfere and attempt to ar-
range marriages for other people.

Campbell. You don't mean a breach of promise?

Eldridge. Nonsense ; surely not that.

Campbell. I have to guess. You are so indefinite in your state-
ments. You know I will stand by you.

Eldridge. It is a matter wholly for me to decide. You must have
heard that mother's eldest sister, Eleanor Lloyd, died recently.

Campbell. Yes. I heard some curosity expressed as to the dis-
position of her estate.

Eldridge. I really did not know that Aunt Eleanor had any con-
siderable estate. Her will was not to be read until six months after
her funeral. Things continued just as she left them until now. Her
will was opened and read to-day.

Campbell. I trust the old lady remembered you handsomely.

Eldridge. That depends. Let me tell you something of her. Six-
ty odd years ago, Aunt Eleanor, who was then a toddling child, was
playing near an open grate, when her clothing caught afire, and befo're
aid reached her, she was severely burned ; particularly about the face,



6 MISS DeCOURCY.

which left frightful, disfiguring scars. That mishap doomed her for the
greatest part of her life to isolation. My grandparents gave her su-
perior education at home, for the girl could not endure the unpleasant
distinction of her disfigurement.

Campbell. She was indeed to be pitied.

Eldridge. When T was born she quarrelled with father because
he refused to call me Zachariah — that was her father's name. My great
Aunt Grace, who died childless, made Aunt Eleanor her sole legatee.
It seems that her estate, with what Aunt Eleanor received from my
grandparents, has increased enormously, until at her death Aunt was
worth considerably more than a million.

Campbell. And you are the sole heir?

Eldridge. Had she died intestate. You see she had held herseU
so aloof from us that I never gave a thought to Aunt's money. Mother,
before her death, was exercised because she believed that Eleanor was^
in straightened circumstances and withheld that fact from her relatives,

Campbell. Thought she had been using the principal, whereas she
had invested the income with good judgment.

Eldridge. Exactly. About seventeen years ago a little tot whose
mother died soon after her daughter's birth, and whose father, an offi-
cer in the army, had been killed in an Indian outbreak in the Dakotas,
strayed into Aunt Eleanor's house. The child, instead of being
frightened at Aunt's disfigurement, clung to her with demonstrations of
affection. The lonely woman, pleased with the girl's attention, be-
came passionately fond of the little one. Finally she gained the con-
sent of Eleanor's grandparents — the tot was named Eleanor also — for
the child to live permanently with her. - She lived with Aunt until the
old lady's death.

Campbell. Who can wonder that the solitary woman grew to love
that child?

Eldridge. I'm glad she did. Well, by her will. Aunt has given
one-half of her estate absolutely to Eleanor DeCourcy — that is the
pirl's full name — when she attains her majority. The remaining half
she left to me, coupled, however, with the odd condition that I should
make Eleanor DeCourcy my wife on or before her twenty-first birth-
day. My failure to conform to that condition forfeits my interest ir>
the bequest, which then goes to erect and maintain an asylum for in-
digent insane single women.

Campbell. There should be no trouble in finding inmates for such
an institution.

Eldridge. Walter, leave such jests for the hack writers for comic
journals.

Campbell. I'm ashamed of it.

Eldridge. You well know I am far from being a wealthy man,
but certain it is I shall do my own courting and selecting my own wife.
The chances are that that half million will be sacrificed in the cause of
man's individual liberty.

Campbell. Did you visit your Aunt at any time?

Eldridge. Only twice that I remember, and both times I went at
her special request. Aunt Eleanor received me in a darkened room, so
that I did not see her face distinctly. I found her, however, a well
informed woman and a charming conversationalist. I was abroad
when she died.

Campbell. You have seen the girl your Aunt willed to you for a
wife?

. Eldridge. Never. Nor is it likely we shall ever meet. She will
be ot age in about a year.

/



MISS DeOOURCY. 7

Campbell. Then you need not hurry in announcing your final
decision.

Eluridge. But it will be the same a year hence as it is to-day.

Campbell. Frank, would it not be the wisest course to see what
fate has to offer you before you reject its present proffer? It's a big
round sum that is at stake.

E'ldridge. That is just what Mr. Lex advises. But don't you un-
derstand? I can not deliberately inspect this girl as I could if a horse
was offered me under conditions, and if I were not pleased with his
points, reject the trade. That would be outrageous. But as I am not
compelled to decide at once, probably it would be well to seek our
rooms and remove the traces of travel? The ride this afternoon was
exceedingly dusty.

Campbell. In that I accept your conclusion without dissent.
(Enter house by porch door.) (Enter Maud Forrester and Sally Dilr
lard. Maud carries a book.)

Sallie. Miss Maud, I am glad you ran out here to-day without
notifying us of your intention. I thought you were to attend Mrs.
Remington's reception this evening at the Elms. I imagined Mr.
Campbell and you would be present, for the newspapers say it will be
the most brilliant society event of this summer.

Maud. I presume it will. I intend going to the city by an early
train to-morrow morning, but at all events I shall not be at the recep-
tion this evening.

Sallie. Then Mr. Campbell will not be there. That is evident.

Maud. I don't know whether he will or not. For all I care, he
can go if he so desires.

Sallie. Surely you and he have not quarrelled? Your—

Maud. Yes, our engagement is off, and I'm glad of it. (Turns
and puts handkerchief to her eyes.)

Sallie. Miss Maud, I'm sorry. Mr. Campbell appears to be an
honorable and courteous gentleman. I am sure he loves yau devoted^.
Mr. Eldridge, I know, is of that opinion. A tiff, my dear, may drift
you apart. Think, Miss Maud, what unhappiness that may mean to
you both. I spoiled my life in that way.

Maud. It would not matter to me. I don't care anything for
him. I just think he is horrid.

Sallie.' You are angry. (Mounts steps of porch.) What I said
was with the best intentions for you both, for I am interested in you
both. (Exit.)

Maud. I'm glad she's gone. (Sits on porch steps.) If .\iint
Sallie Dillard had continued talking of Walter, I should have cried
from anger. It isn't because I love Walter Campbell now, for I don't
care for him the least bit. (IValter enters at porch door.) I don't
care for him the least bit in the world.

Campbell. (Advancing to steps.) Pardon me, Miss Forrester. I
assure you I did not know that you were here. I came rather uncx
pectedly with Mr. Eldridge for a half day's outing.

Maud. (Coolly.) I rather expected you would attend Mrs. Ren -
ington's reception this evening. {Pause, during z^'hich both exhibit
embarrassment.)

Campbell. Your sister, Mrs. Butler, I presume Is in good health?

Maud. Thanks, Mrs. Butler is quite well.

Campbell. And your Aunt, Mrs. Huntingdon?

Maud. My Aunt's health has been excellent since you last saw
her, which, if I mistake not, was yesterday. (Picks up book; seems to
read.) •



8 MISS DeCOURCY.

Campbell. I do not design to annoy you, Miss Forrester, but
some one may notice that we are not conversing, and n:?-/ :;peak of it.
The opinions of Mrs. Gvundy in the country carry more weight witli
them and are quoted oftener than is the case in cities.

Maud. This' book is quite interesting.

Campbell. Is it Jules Verne's "Topsy-Turvy?" You are holding
the volume upside down.

Maud. (Tosses book on porch.) I presume I may do as 1 please.

Campbell. Certainly. You usually do. Let's talk of something
of little moment.

Maud. Yes, the weather. That is as interesting a topic as any
upon which Mr. Campbell and Miss Forrester can converse.

Campbell. Very well. It has been a charming day.

Maud. Yes, but I fancy it is rather cooler than is usual at this
season of the year.

Campbell. Particularly is that noticeable at this time.

Maud. I did not allude merely to the present moment.

Campbell. No. Do you think we shall have rain to-morrow?

Maud. I cannot forecast the future. I know that weather, like
individuals, can change very quickly.

Campbell. Yes. Yesterday was not so chilly as is to-day.

Maud. Suppose we confine our remarks more closely to the sub-
ject we agreed to discuss; simply in killing time.

Campbell. (Aside.) Damn the luck. I had nerved myself to go
away jauntingly, but this unexpected meeting with Maud is making
hard lines for me. I wish Frank would come. (Takes letters frovi
pocket, replaces them, but drops a telegram, zvhich Maud covers zvith
her skirts.) (Aloud.) I think. Miss Forrester, to-night a week ago
we had much heavy thunder.

Maud. I do not remember past weather. As with most things
that are passed, it lacks interest. Like the sunsets that are no more.

Campbell. I am not sure, but possibly there is a limit to weather as
a stimulus to conversation ; certainly when the past must be eliminated.
I trust to-morrow will be pleasant.

Maud. I trust so. The patent medicine almanacs, I think, say of
the season "Likely to be fair and pleasant." (Aside.) I wonder what
that telegram is about?

Campbell. I spoke prompted more by desire than from any actual
knowledge. I detest making long journeys by rail on rainy days.
Maud. Oh, you are contemplating a long journey?

Campbell. Why, you see, the firm must send one of its members
to San Francisco. If I consent to go, I must wire to-night.

Maud. Are you going?

Campbell. Very likely to-morrow forenoon. (Feels in pockets.)
I certainly had that telegram. I don't what I could have done with it.
But that is a breach of our understanding. We were to limit our re-
marks to the weather.

Maud. I don't care whether it is or not. You were to come to
our house to-morrow morning.

Campbell. Pardon me. I think not. I was to send for some ar-
ticles you decided to retain no longer in your possession.

Maud. And you are going away for an indefinite time without
seeing me?

Campbell. You said you never wanted to see me again. But
really, I did not intend to allude to any topic save the weather.

Maud. (Takes up lelegravi. opens and reads it.) You have noli



MISS DeCOURCY. 9

deceived me in this. You arc going to San Francisco? Walter, it
says also to Manila, for an absence of a year, at least.

Campbell. I never deceived you in anything. (Seats himself ou-
st eps.) I am glad that this opportunity has come when I could telf
you that, for should we never meet again, I desire to stand, at least,
fair in your memory.

Maud. {Moving closer.) You propose to go away and talk coolly
of standing fair in my memory. Hearts, you know, have been brokep
by light words spoken only for something to say. Walter, I could not
sleep last night, I was so unhappy.

Campbell. I'm glad, Maud. Not that you could not sleep, but,
that fate has thrown us together that I can assure you before I go that
I am profoundly ignorant of any act of mine that justified you in an-
nulling our engagement as you pre-emtorily did.

■Maud. TelJ me true. Didn't you kiss Kitty Brandon in the con-
servatory last evening?

Campbell. No. I merely spoke to Kitty as I passed her in thc»
crush at Mrs. Meredith's. I was not with her. I was looking for yoij
in the conservatory, and was astounded when you thrust our en-
gagegment ring into my hand, and told me all was off between us, and
that other gifts that had lost their value would await my messenger on
Thursday morning. You repelled me — refused to hear a word in my
defense. Until this moment I was wholly ignorant of any cause for
your act.

Maud. Walter, I thought I saw you kiss Kitty Brandon, and I
was beside myself with rage. I have looked forward to to-morrow in
the hope that this miserable affair could be explained. And now you
are going away for a year at least. (Weeps.)

Campbell. {Shozving ring.) No woman but you shall ever wear
that ring, I mean as my gift. I don't know what to do with it. Let
me leave it with you, in your keeping? You will? Won't you consent!
to that?

Maud. I could only wear it on my hand, as I have done for sev-
eral months.

Campbell. You will let me leave it with you?

Maud. I don't know. It would not mean now what it once did.

Campbell. (Petulantly.) Then give it to your maid. Do what
you will with it. (Puts ring in her hand.)

Maud. I wonlt have it that way.

Campbell. What can I do with it, then?

Maud. If you loved me as you said you did, you could put it on
my engagement finger. I won't take it off.

Campbell. But if I did that, what then?

Maud. Why, wouldn't it mean that you forgave me my foolish
jealousy, and that —

Campbell. You will still be my promised wife? (Maud slips in-
to his arms.)

Maud. When I was a naughty girl and mother had punished me,
Walter, she would kiss me to show that she had forgiven me my fault.

Campbell. Am I to kiss you for a like reason? (Maud nods her
head several times. He kisses her.)

Maud. I'm so glad you came and compelled me to talk of the
weather. I would have died if you had gone away without this re-
conciliation.

Campbell. Had there been no reconciliation, it would have mat-
tered little to me had I never returned. I shall not go now. I shall
wire Charley Woodland, who is all ready, to go instead. This morn-



10 MISS DeCOURCY.

ing, when I said in his presence "I would as leave be in"" — well, a warm
place— "as here" he thought I would be much the better for a short-
stay in our Eastern insular possessions.

Maud. I'm so glad you are not going. Walter, did you put that
ring on my finger? {He docs.) It is all sunshine now. You have me
awfully mixed with our weather talk. Did you ever meet Dolly De-
Courcy, Walter? I believe I would be more jealous of her than of
Kitty Brandon.

Campbell. I do not know that I ever heard of her, much less that
I ever met her.

Maud. Dolly is a charming girl. She and I were chums at the
Water Gap last year, but I have lost sight of her recently. If you meet
her, I want you to be polite, but you woif't be more attentive to her,
nor any other woman, except me, than is absolutely demanded from ?,
gentleman in society? You won't, will you?

Campbell. You have heard me whistle — I can't 'sing — "Just one
girl," and that means you, Maud, when I whistle it.

Maud. Some one is coming. I wonder if anybody saw us,
Walter? I forgot that there was another soul on earth but you and
me. Come. (Takes his hand and exit at right.) Enter Madge, car-
rying Honwr in hand, through gate.)

Madge. I've missed Mr. Eldridge. He must have come through
the wayside gate. Everyone is kind to me here, but Mr. Eldridge is
kindest of all. I can never repay him for his goodness to me. (Leans
zvith her hand on trunk of tree.) It was Mr. Eldridge who found for
me a home at the Cedars. But whenever I try to tell him, he laughs
and thrusts my thanks aside with a jest. (Eldridge enters from porch,
sees Madge, goes to her. and extends hands zvhich she takes.)

Eldridge. Why, Madge, it seems to me that each day adds to your
Stature. You are becoming a well grown girl, rosy and healthful.

Madge. I gathered these flowers for you. (Presents them.) I
am strong and well. I am growing so fast that Aunt Sallie Dillard
declares she has no time to do anything but lengthen my frocks.

Eldridge. They are kind to you, Madge?

Madge. Why, it's just heaven here. I owe all my happiness to
you. How can I ever repay you ?

Eldrridge. Never mind that, little one. Grow up to be a true,
good woman, and I shall be more than repaid for all I have done.

Madge. But Aunt Sallie Dillard said the other day that you paid
for my board at first, and for my clothing now. She said I had cost
you nearly two hundred dollars. I cried all the night long, for while
I might, I think, return you kindness with kindness, I can never repay
you that money.

Eldridge. Don't think about it, Madge. It has given me pleasure.
So it is not as unselfish an act on my part as you imagine.

M'\dge. But T was only a waif of the streets. I had no claims on
you. I was nothing to you. I was never right bad, Mr. Eldridge.
Why, when that policeman arrested me for taking those apples, I hadn't
eaten anything for nearly two days. I was starving.

Eldridge. Yes. Famine had put its stamp upon your face that
day. I have never asked you, Madge, what you know of your former
life. If you orefer, vou need not tell me anything, but I think if I knew
all that you know, I may aid you, as a friend, more than you imagine.

Madge. ;I will tell you all I know. If I cannot trust you, whom
can I trust? I am nearly fourteen. I was only twelve when mother
died. We were dreadfully poor. Mother, while she sewed, for all
the money we had she earned with her needle, taught me, and I learned



MISS DeCOURCY. II.

from her lips much more than I could have done from books. I made
letters on part of a broken slate, and did my sums. Why, when I went
to school in the village here last winter, the mistress said I knew many
things of which others in my class were ignorant. I tried to learn, for
when I did, it seemed to give mother the only pleasure she had.

Eldridge. Your mother was an educated woman?

Madge. Yes. She was gentle in her manner, and her speech was
so different from the other women in the wretched neighborhood whert.
we lived that I often shudder now when I think of her and our poverty.
Often we were without fire in winter, and sometimes we were without
food for a whole day.

Eldridge. If I can prevent it, the shadow of your past shall never
again shadow your future.

Madge. When mother died, I gave the undertaker her weddmg
ring and a gold chain and locket she wore about her neck, withm her
dress. In all our poverty, she clung to those treasures and would not
part with them.

/Eldridge. A locket? What was in it?

Madge. Father's picture. They were his last gift to her. Ihe
undertaker, for he pitied me. gave me five dollars of the money he re-
ceived for the sale of the trinkets. When that was gone, I tried hard
to get something to do. Occasionally I got work, but I was so young
that no one would give me regular employment. I slept in wagons or
wherever I could find shelter for the night. I was afraid to die. I
was starving when I stole those apples. Had you not pitied me, Mr.
Eldridge, I should have been sent to the House of Correction.
(Snatches his hand and kisses it.)

Eldridge. Don't do that, Madge. Have you nothing that is asso-
ciated with your mother?

Madge. Yes. The day before she died she hung a small silk bag
about my neck, telling me never to part with it, and not to open it un-
til I was a woman grown.

Eldridge. Have you it still?

Madge. Yes. There are only papers in it, I am sure. I will show
you the bag. (.Takes it from her breast.. .Eldridge looks at it atten-
tively.) ^ „„

Eldridge. These initials L. D. are not yours ? What was your
mother's maiden name?

Madge. She never told me. Her Christian name was Lillian.

Eldridge. Do not mention this bag to anyone.

Madge. You are the only person to whom I have ever shown it,
and you are the only person to whom I shall ever show it. {Calls for
"Madge! Madge'.i' from house.)

Eldridge. Keep my secret and I shall keep yours.

Madge. Your secret? I know no secret of yours. Mr. Eldridge.

Eldridge. My secret is how you and I first met.

Madge. I couldn't tell that. Shame would keep my lips closed.
{Cries for "Madge' ) I must go now or Aunt Sallie will be cross.
{Exit by porch door.) , t , , j

Eldridge. Poor little girl. She does not know that I have learned
much of her past of which she is ignorant. She has concealed nothing
from me. Back of it all there is a cruel wrong of which she and her,
mother were the victims. {Amos Dean enters through gate.)

Dean. I am glad you are here, Frank. There is no man on whose
judgment I so rely as yours. I am in sore trouble and I seek your ad-
vice. .. .

Eldridge. I will gladly aid you, if in my power.



12 MISS DeCOURCY.

Dean. Be seated. (Sits on bench at base of tree.) Frank, I had
a daughter who grew to womanhood. You did not know that, for
neither my wife nor I have mentioned Lillian's name for nearly fifteen
years. She became enamored of a young surveyor, who was then con-
structing the railroad through this section. He was a bright young
fellow, and I understood was well connected. I discouraged his at->
tention to my child, believing his love ephemeral- — a thing merely of
the moment, and that he would never wed the daughter of a farmer.

E'ldridge. What was the young man's name?

Dean. Philip Spencer. (Eldridge starts.) Finally I forbade his
visits. Lillian and he continued to meet unknown to me. Several
weeks after he left this neighborhood, Lillian went ostensibly on a visit
to her Aunt, a well-to-do childless widow, living in New York. Sub-
sequently I learned that her Aunt was in California, and her house
closed at that time.

Eldridge. I am more interested in your narrative than you
imagine, Mr. Dean.

Dean. Lillian was absent three weeks. When she returned, she
was despondent. She spoke of many things she had seen, but avoided
mentioning her Aunt, who at times was peculiarly reserved. We as-
cribed Lillian's silence to that cause.

Eldridge. You are disclosing this family skeleton at your own
suggestion, Mr. Dean?

Dean. Intentionally on my part. Several months after Lillian's
return, my wife made a disclosure to me that crushed me with the
shame impending over this household. Lillian declared she was the
legal wife of Philip Spencer, and in substantiation exhibited a wedding
ring, which she had not worn until I demanded from her the truth.
I spurned that as a thing proving nothing — something that could be
had in the open market. Her marriage certificate, she declared, had
been mislaid, but she gave the name of the clergyman who had per-
formed the ceremony. I learned that he had died suddenly the day
following the purported marriage. The church records were silent, no
entry of the ceremony appearing therein. In my indignation, I turned
my daughter from the home of her childhood.


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