Contents I II III
studio about three
o'clock on a hot Sunday afternoon
in July of
the same year. John, Steve, and Ted
are discovered. Steve, dressed
in his dark suit, is sprawled out in one of the Morris chairs near
the table. John is painting at an unfinished portrait clamped
on the big easel in under the skylight. His hands are paint-stained
and a daub of brown shows on one of his cheeks. He is dressed in a dirty
pair of grey flannel
neck, and a pair of "sneaks". His face is haggard and
dissipated-looking. Ted is sitting on the
idly watching the street below. He
wears a shabby light suit and
of tan shoes run down at the heel. A straw hat is perched
on the back of
down his brush with an
exclamation of hopeless irritation)
It's no use; I might as well quit. Nothing seems to take on life any
more. (He goes over
and sits by Ted.)
use trying to work with that feeling. I know; I've had experience with
sad part of it is, mine seems to be chronic.
get over it. You're worrying too much about other things. When they go
the emptiness'll go with them. (John does not answer but stares moodily at the
a groan of boredom)
What a hellish long day Sunday is! On the level, I'd be better
satisfied if I had to work. Nothing to do all day and no place to go
that's fit to go to.
advise your editor to get out a Sunday afternoon paper. Tell him you're
anxious to work more for the same pay; that ought to fetch him.
don't call that emaciated envelope I drag down every week
"pay" do you? I'm getting less now than ever. In fact it's
only the devil's tenderness I wasn't fired when they cut down for the
summer. Every time my high literary ambitions fall to earth for lack of
appreciative editors, and I have to hunt a job again, I find out I'm
worth less money. They'll have me selling the papers some day, at this
about short-story writing on the Sabbath? Have
you any religious convictions which bar you from that?
already written more short stories than Maupassant and O. Henry put
I sold one. I'll have
to wait until some philanthropist endows a college for the higher
education of editors before I stand a chance.
mentioned an idea for a play. Play writing is a good, healthy Sabbath
my ideas are plentiful enough, but execution doesn't seem to be my long
suit. I'm always going to start that play—tomorrow.
(gloomily) They ought to write on my tombstone: The deceased at
last met one thing he couldn't put off till tomorrow. It would be rather
an appropriate epitaph.
a grin) What
time did you get in last night?
thought this was a little morning-after pessimism. I don't want to
preach but isn't that the answer, Ted? And you too, John? (John
shrugs his shoulders indifferently.)
suppose so; but the helluvit is I never see that side of the argument
till afterwards. You can't keep a squirrel on the ground; not unless you
cut down all the trees.
did we end up last night?
his head sorrowfully) Ask me not.
All I know is I feel like a wet rag today.
quotes) Have drowned my glory in a shallow cup.
stop that noise, Mr. Ree Morse!
to Steve) It's
all right for you to talk. Everything is running smoothly with you; but
just try a week or two at my job and see if you won't want to cut loose
and forget it all for a while on Saturday night. Checking sugar bags and
barrels down on the docks! Oh, it's a nice job, mine is! You'd have to
do it yourself for a while to know how bad it is—day
after day of monotonous drudgery—life
nothing but a panorama of sugar bags! (with a sudden
burst of feeling) Oh,
how I loathe that rotten dock with its noise and smells and its—sugar
bags. I can't paint any more—not
even pretty pictures. I've
wanted to do some real work on Sundays but—I
don't know how to express it—something
is like a dead weight
more incentive, no more imagination, no more joy in creating,—only
a great sickness and lassitude of soul, a desire to drink, to do
anything to get out of myself and forget.
trouble with you is you brood too much over the row with your family.
Don't take it so seriously. It'll all be over and forgotten before you
know it. Those family brawls are part of a lifetime and we all have them
and get over them without serious results.
not my family's antagonism; it's Maud,—her
letters to me; every one of them showing she can't understand, although
she's trying so hard to; that she thinks I'm throwing my life away, and
hers too, on a whim; that she has no faith in my ultimate success; but
that her love is so great she will stick to me till the end—to
a lost cause, a forlorn hope. (He
hides his face
in his hands
with a groan.) Oh, it's
hell to love and be loved by a girl who can't understand; who, you know,
tries to and cannot; who loves you, and whose life you are making
miserable and unhappy by trying to be true to yourself.
sympathetic understanding) If
you feel that way, there's only one thing to do; go back home, get
married, save up your money for awhile and then come back again when
your mind is free once more. Or else—give
up the girl for good and all.
would life be worth if I gave her up?
go back to her.
can't go back—now.
look here, at the end of six months or a year at the salary you'll get
from father-in-law you ought to save enough to stay down here for an
be different after you're married. She's sure to understand you better
then. She'll take a selfish interest in trying to help you become
something higher than a small town shop keeper.
You ought to be convinced now! Listen to the pitiless dissector of
women's souls, the author of a thousand and one tales of love, passion,
and divorce. If anyone can
predict the vagaries of the "female of the species", surely he
I'm a grand little predictor.
be proving myself a cowardly weakling by giving in like that—and
you know it.
be showing more sense than you have in a long time.
Nonsense! It's just like this: There's no use slaving away at a job
that's disgusting to you for the sole purpose of earning enough to live
on. You don't have to do it, and you're only ruining your health and
accumulating a frame of mind where you think the world hates you. If you
had any time or energy to paint, it would be another thing. You'll have
plenty of time up there and your mind won't be in such a rut.
useless for you to try and argue with me. I can't—and
back. Go back to Maud—a
confessed failure! Is that what you advise me to do? Another thing; I
know the conditions in Bridgetown, and you don't. You don't consider how
I hate the town and how hostile all the surroundings are, when you talk
of all the painting I could do. No. I've got to stay here, sink or swim.
(A knock on the door. Babe Carter and
Bessie enter. Bessie has
matured from a girl into a very pretty woman since the night in Bridgetown when John
announced his engagement. Her face has grown seriously thoughtful but
her smile is as ready as ever. She looks much slenderer, in her blue
tailor-made suit, stylish but severely simple. Babe has on a blue serge
suit and carries a straw
hat in his hand.)
folks! We were on our way to the Museum and thought we'd drop in.
to the Newlyweds! (All exchange
greetings. Bessie goes over and sits down by John. Babe takes a chair by
was all the argument about when we came in?
trying to persuade me to return to Bridgetown. Think of it!
was bewailing his rotten job and his having no time or inclination for
real work; and he was feeling love-sick and lonely for a certain young
lady, so we suggested—
I go back to Bridgetown. A fine remedy, that! Ask Bessie what I'd have
to contend with up there. She knows. (to Bessie)
I told them they didn't
understand conditions or they wouldn't give me any such advice. Am I
more so than you realize.
do you mean?
nothing; only don't go back whatever you do; anything rather than that—even
your horrible position on the dock.
just what I told them.
weren't thinking so much about Bridgetown. We had an idea that if John
were married it would give him back the tranquility of mind he has lost;
and since it's impossible for him to get married or paint down here we
urged Bridgetown as a necessary evil.
not so sure you're wrong there, myself.
What! "Et to Brute."
not satisfied here; you're brooding and worrying and drudging yourself
to death without accomplishing anything. Once married, your whole
attitude toward Bridgetown might change; and with an easy mind you can
paint there as well as anywhere else.
wrong, all of you.
advice is: Don't get married.
come now, that's pretty hard on me. I hope you're not speaking from
Of course, I mean in John's case.
You don't think it wise for me to marry Maud?
certainly do not.
why? Because I have no money?
one reason; but it wasn't the one I had in mind.
did you have in mind?
can't explain very well. It's more of a feeling than a real, good
reason. I know Maud so well—much
better than you do, John, although you'll probably never admit that—and
I know you so well—much
better than you know yourself;
and you won't admit that either—and
that's my reason.
You don't believe we love each other?
yes I do.
why shouldn't we marry?
get so excited about it. My opinion is very likely all wrong.
should hope so. You were taking a stand exactly like father's in regard
to you and Babe. That isn't like you, Bessie.
does seem that way, doesn't it? Well, I apologize if I was, for I had no
intention of doing anything of the sort. I take back all I said. Do what
you want to. Stay here till the last string snaps. And now, let's change
the subject. Have you sold any of those drawings of yours?
No. I haven't had much chance to go
around with them. The editor at Colpers Weekly seemed a little impressed
and promised to consider them further, and bear me in mind for
illustrating; but I haven't heard from him since.
he's going to bear you in mind, that's encouraging, at any rate.
been trying to convince John those drawings are salable, and all he has
to do is push them; but he won't hear of it. (to Babe)
You saw them, didn't you?
he showed them to me.
you think I'm right.
up) Well, lets hope you're both
right. It would be a great encouragement if I could land them somewhere.
They represent the best I've got in me at that sort of work.
Babe, we better be going. (to Steve)
May I use your mirror?
ahead. I don't think there's anything in there that shouldn't be seen. (Bessie
goes across to the kitchenette.)
you fellows come over to the Museum with us?
today. I feel far from well.
after, eh? Won't you come, John?
inside the kitchenette)
Yes, do come, John.
I'm going to try and work a bit. (He gets
up and goes over in
front of the easel and stands looking at the unfinished painting.) Besides,
I'm not dressed, or shaved, or anything fit to be seen with a lady.
if I won't be too much of a number three I'll take a walk over with you.
out of the kitchenette. Babe goes toward the door.
Steve gets his straw hat
from the kitchenette and follows
to John) Come
along, John. We'll wait while you change clothes. You look all worn out
and the fresh air will do you good.
this is the only day I have and I must try to work at least.
don't look at all well lately, do you know it?
don't get much sleep.
at him searchingly)
You're sure you're not letting your
troubles drive you to drink, or anything like that?
No no, of course not! What ideas you get into your head.
knew it wasn't so.
the door) Coming Bess?
nothing; just something I overheard. (She
kisses him impulsively
and walks quickly to door.)
Here I am. (She goes out with Steve and Babe.)
at the painting for a moment;
then turns away impatiently)
What's the use of this pretence? I
don't want to paint. (He goes
and sits down by Ted again.) Did
you hear what Bessie just said?
me if I'd been drinking; said she overheard something to that effect.
his shoulders) They
say that about everybody who ever drank one glass of beer. Revengeful
people with Brights Disease start those reports. Necessity is an awful
luck! I don't want her to loose faith in me.
suppose you denied it?
course; what else could I do?
you drank when you felt like it. Your sister isn't a prude. She'd simply
tell you not to overdo it.
that's what she insinuated—that
I was overdoing it.
who drinks overdoes it sometimes. Speaking of this terrible vice reminds
me; I think I have a bottle hidden in yonder kitchenette. (He walks over to the
kitchenette.) You'll have a hair of the dog, won't you?
I'm going to cut it out.
Got the R.E.s?
nervously) Oh, I guess I
will have one after all. There's no use playing the Spartan.
you are. (He
comes out with three
water, and lays them on the table; then takes
of whiskey from
his pocket and uncorks it,, places it on the
table beside glasses.)
My lord, breakfast is served. (sings) "Ho, shun the flowing
cup!" Better come along, Jonathan. (John goes to table
and pours out a drink. Ted does the
o' the morning! (raises his glass)
resolution pours his drink back
into the bottle) No,
I'll be damned if I do. I've got to quit, that's all there is to it; and
it might as well be now as anytime.
you like, senor. Skoll! (He
tosses down his drink; then makes a wry
face.) Ugh! We must have been down on the water front when we did
our shopping last night. (John laughs; goes over to the
easel and picks up his palette
and brushes, and stands squinting at the
painting critically. Ted takes out a box
of cigarettes and
lights one.) Have a cigarette?
the slave of a fixed idea today. You're going to work whether you feel
like it or not.
down his brushes
after making a few halfhearted
dabs at the canvas)
You're right; I don't feel like eating, or drinking, or smoking—or
painting. (A timid knock
door is heard.)
can that be?
bottle and glasses on the table)
Get that stuff out of the way. (Ted
hurries into the
kitchenette with them
and returns. The knock at the door is repeated, this time a little
door is heard slowly opening and a girl's voice asks in frightened tones:
John Brown live here?")
for a moment, rushes to the door)
(He disappears behind the
corner of the kitchenette.) You, too,
What in the name of goodness brings you here? Come in, come in! (Ted
hides in the kitchenette as they enter the studio. A moment later the
door is heard closing as he makes his escape. John leads his mother to a
seat by the table. She is very frightened by her strange surroundings,
and keeps her eyes resolutely down cast from the nudes on the walls. She
does not seem to have aged or changed a particle—even
her dress looks like the same. Maud has grown stouter, more womanly, in
the two years which have elapsed. Her face is still full
of a spoiled willfulness,
but it is much less marked in character than before. She is stylishly
dressed in white and looks very charming.)
Maud in his arms and kissing her)
Maudie, it's so good to see you again! You'll pardon us, Mother, I hope?
an embarrassed smile) Oh, don't
with paint! Just look at
Mrs. Brown. Look at your face.
You're like an Indian
in war-paint. (carefully
examining the front of her dress) I do hope you
got any of it on my dress.
when you entered.
haven't been working today,
have you, John?—Sunday?
the only day I have free for
you afraid someone
in and see
like that? Why I do
believe you haven't any socks
people who call here don't judge you by your clothes.
Mrs. Brown, I think he looks
like the people you read about in the Paris Latin
on a Sunday!
Mother, this isn't Bridgetown.
around looking at the
paintings) Everything looks the same as the last time I was here:
still the same shocking old pictures. (stops before
the picture of an old hag)
Oh! Is this one of yours? Isn't
she horrid! How could you ever do it?
really looked that way, you know. (abruptly changing
the subject) But you
haven't told me yet what happy chance brings you down here. (Maud
sits down on the window-seat.)
Edward came with us; he's going to call for us here.
Oh, is he? But what are you down for—a
of course we expect to do some shopping tomorrow before we—you
know we're going back tomorrow night—hm—but
I can hardly say—hm,
shopping was not the—hm—(She
becomes miserably confused
and turns to Maud
I better tell him?
a long story, John, and you must promise not to interrupt.
your mother has been terribly worried about you; and I've been worried
to death about you, too.
You promised not to interrupt. Your father, too—we've
all been so afraid something had happened to you.
my letters to you?
interruptions, you promised. I thought maybe you were telling fibs in
your letters just to keep me from worrying; and you were. You said you
never felt better or more contented, and I could tell the moment I saw
you that wasn't so. You look frightfully worn out and ill; doesn't he,
doesn't look at all well.
Its nothing. I've been troubled with insomnia, that's all.
you see you're not contented and you were
fibs. Don't look so impatient! I'm coming to the rest of the story. Your
mother was making herself ill wondering if you were starving with the
army of the unemployed or something of that sort; and I was tearing my
hair at the thought that you had fallen in love with some beautiful
know your letters have been getting fewer and fewer, and each one
shorter than the last. I didn't know what to think.
couldn't write much. It was always the same old story. I didn't want to
bore you with my disappointments. I was waiting for good news to tell
you; then I'd have written a long letter, you can be sure of that. But
what you said about models—most
of them aren't beautiful, you know—you
don't believe anything like that?
boy! Of course I was only joking. Anyway, your mother and I made up this
your father's permission—got
Edward to come with us, and hurried down to this wicked old city—to
you've just simply got to stop breaking people's hearts and homes. We're
going to take you back to Bridgetown, a prisoner. (John
walks up and down nervously.)
we'll be able to keep an eye on you and see that you don't starve or get
told me to tell you he had just the nicest position in the store for
you; you can get off at least one afternoon a week if you care to keep
up your painting. We can announce our wedding right away, and we'll be
married in the fall or (looking
at hire shyly) even
sooner, if you like. I've picked out just the most adorable little house
and Dad's agreed to give us that for a wedding present. (John
is striding backward and forward his hands clenched tightly behind hire.
He keeps his head lowered and does not look at Maud.)
has the dandiest surprise in store for you; only I'm not to tell you
about it. Isn't it all fine? (John
groans but does not answer her. Maud is troubled by his silence.)
with us, won't you?
her eyes filling with tears)
You won't come!
like to, dear; with all my heart and soul I want to do as you ask—I
love you so much—you
don't you understand! you must realize in your heart—why
I can't. (There
is a long pause.
Maud turns and
stares down at the street below, winking back her tears.)
eyes with her handkerchief) Don't
decide so soon, Johnnie. Think over it. (with
a desperate attempt to change the subject before the question is
irrevocably decided) Have you seen Bessie lately?
today; just before you came. She stopped in with Babe.
well, I hope?
better, and just as happy as she can be. She and Babe are getting along
in fine shape.
good news, I'm sure;—hm,—isn't
I'm glad to hear it. (There
is a knock at the door.)
must be Edward.
Come in. (The
door is opened and Edward enters. He seems less pompous and more
self-assured than in Act I. In appearance he is practically unchanged.
His clothes are a model of sober immaculateness.)
you are, I see. (coldly)
How are you, John? (They shake hands in a perfunctory manner. Edward casts a disapproving
glance around the room. His eyes finally
rest on john's paint-stained
clothes. There is a trace of scorn
in his manner.) I must say you look the part of the artist.
sneer) I dare say. You
can't paint and keep clean. I suppose it's much the same in politics.
We will not discuss that. Are you still employed on the dock?
you sold any pictures yet?
it an artistic custom to work on Sunday?
work when we please, whenever we have an opportunity. As I reminded
Mother, you're in New York now, not Bridgetown. (Edward
turns to his
mother. She persistently avoids his eyes.)
a long pause) Well, Mother, is the purpose of this visit fulfilled?
hardly call it—
to Maud) Have you told him, Maud?
he's coming with us, of course?
difficulty) No; he won't come. (She
raises her handkerchief to her eyes and commences to cry softly.)
to go to her) Maudie,
him) Is this
all I have to say is, you are guilty of the most shameless ingratitude,
not only to your own family, but particularly to Maud and her father.
Every kindness has been lavished on you and this is the way you repay
me speak, Mother; it's time someone brought John to his senses. He has
been riding rough-shod over all of us for years. Its my duty to show him
the wreck he is making of his own life.
all means do your duty, Mr. Alderman. Let me hear what you have to say.
Maud tell you of her father's offer and of all that will be done for
have sold no pictures and you have no hope of selling any.
little, at present.
still support yourself as a checker on the docks and only get twelve
dollars a week?
you refuse to come back! Have you no heart? Can you see Maud weeping
with the unhappiness you cause her by your selfish obstinacy and still
eyes flashing) Edward! Don't bring—
Yes, I can refuse, for Maud's
sake most of all. Would you have me give up like a craven; be untrue to
my highest hope; slink home a self-confessed failure? Would you have
Maud married to such a moral coward? You, with your bread and butter
viewpoint of life, probably can't appreciate such feelings but—
is no more to be said. I call upon you to witness, Mother, that I have
done all in my power to persuade John to return.
a minute; I begin to see things clearly. I begin to see through your
canting pose about duty. Don't think you can fool me with your moral
platitudes, your drivel about my ingratitude; for I think—no,
by God, I'm sure,—you're
only too glad I did refuse.
I? I protest, Mother,—
MRS. BROWN AND
JOHN—Oh, he knows its the truth! Look at him!
EDWARD—(growing red) Why should I be glad? It's of no importance to me—
right down in your heart you think my refusal will end things between
Maud and me and give you another chance.
John, how can—(Mrs.
is beyond speech.)
dignity) I will not deny that I want to see Maud happy.
a loud forced
laugh) But you don't
think she'll be happy with anyone but you! Well spoken, Mr. Platitude!
It's the first real manly thing I've ever heard you say—the
only time I've ever known you not to play the sanctimonious hypocrite.
How dare you—
will tell you this. I do not think you a fit husband for Maud; for I
think I know the real reason for your refusal to come home; and Maud
shall know it, too.
what is this reason?
are mixed up with some woman down here and—
fury) Liar! (He strikes Edward in
the face with his fist
almost knocking him down.
Maud steps in between them. Mrs. Brown goes to Edward.)
Edward, for my sake!
this is disgraceful—your
right, Mother, I forgive him for striking me, but I retract nothing. (He
walks toward door.) Are you
coming with me?
yes. Good 'bye Johnnie. I'll be in tomorrow before we go—hm—or
you telephone to the hotel, will you?
kisses her. She joins Edward near the door.)
you coming, Maud?
speak to me!
desperation) But you don't—you can't—believe what he said.
sob) Oh, how can you act
so! I don't know what to believe.
is the end, then.
walks past him to the others at the door. They go out. John flings
himself face downward on the divan near the piano. His shoulders shake
as if he were sobbing. After about a minute the door is flung open and
Maud rushes in. John starts up from the divan and she runs into his
sobs) You do care!
You've been crying! Oh, please Johnnie dear, come back with us. Please
if you love me. I do love you so much! Won't you please do this for my
this once for my sake—I
don't want you down here—I
don't believe what Edward said—but
still it might happen if you never saw me. If you love me, won't you
please for my sake?
so glad. We're just going to be
aren't we, dear? (John
kisses her again.)