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ACT 4

SCENEThe sitting-room of John Brown's home in Bridgetown, a little before one o'clock on a fine July day two years later. In the extreme left foreground a door leading to the dining-room. Farther back a projecting chimney papered over, and an open fire-place with black andirons. Above, a mantle on which is a brass clock flanked by a china vase on either end. Beyond the fire­place an arm chair stands stiffly against the wall. Still farther back a door leading to the hall. The door is pushed back against the far wall. Next to the door a chair, then a window opening on the verandah, a long sofa, another window, and in the corner a wicker-work rocking chair. On the right wall by the rocking chair a window looking out on the street, a piano with a stool placed before it, and a music stand piled with sheets of music. Finally in the extreme right foreground another window with a round table in front and to the left of it. On the table a lace center piece and a potted maidenhair fern. The hardwood floor is almost completely hidden by a large rug. In the center of the room a table with wicker-work rocking chairs around it. On the table an electric reading-lamp wired from the chandelier, and a Sunday newspaper. The windows are all lace-curtained. The walls are papered in dark green. In startling incongruity with the general commonplace aspect of the room are two paintings in the Impressionist style, a landscape and a seascape, one of which hangs over the mantle and the other over the piano.

  The front door is heard opening and closing and Maud and Edward enter from the hall. Her two years of married life have told on Maud. She is still pretty but has faded, grown prim and hardened, has lines of fretful irritation about her eyes and mouth, and wears the air of one who has been cheated in the game of life and knows it; but will even up the scale by making those around her as wretched as possible. Her Sunday gown is so gay and pretty she looks almost out of place in it. Edward, too, has aged perceptibly, but his general appearance is practically the same. He is dressed after his usual faultlessly-staid fashion.

  MAUDSo good of you to walk home with me. You must sit down for a while. It's been ages since we've had a talk together. (She sits down by the table.)

  EDWARD—(taking a chair near the table) Thank you, I will; but only for a moment.

  MAUD—How can you rush off so after all the time it's been since you were here before! You aren't very considerate of your friends.

  EDWARD—(gravely) You know, Maud, you would never have to complain of me in that respect were it not for John's bitter dislike,—I might more truthfully call it hatred. He would surely misinterpret my visits; as he did when he practically put me out of this house six months ago.

  MAUD—(her face hardening) I told John at that time, and I tell you now, Edward, this is my house and my friends are always welcome in it.

  EDWARD—Of course, Maud, of course; but then I like to avoid all such unpleasantness,—for your sake, especially.

  MAUD—A little more or less wouldn't make much difference; but let's not talk of that. Why, I haven't even congratulated you yet, Mr. Congressman!

  EDWARD—(flushing with pleasure) Oh, nothing's decided yet,—definitely. Of course I will take the nomination if it's offered to me,—as I'm quite sure it will be; but getting elected is another matter.

  MAUD—How can you have any doubts after your wonderful victory in the election for Mayor last fall? The biggest majority they ever gave anyone in the history of the town, wasn't it?

  EDWARD—Oh yes, but this is entirely different,—the whole district, you see; and in some parts of it I'm hardly known at all.

  MAUD—I know you'll be elected, so there! (Edward smiles but shakes his head.) Will you make a bet? A pair of gloves against a box of cigars,—real cigars; you can pick them out yourself. You're afraid! I won't tell on you for gambling.

  EDWARD—Oh now, Maud, what difference does—

  MAUD—Is it done?

  EDWARD—Done.

  MAUD—I won't have to buy any gloves then. What will come after the Congressman? Will it be governor or senator?

  EDWARD—(immensely pleased, bows to her smilingly) You are altogether too flattering, my dear Maud.

  MAUD—(suddenly becoming melancholy) Oh, it must be fine to keep going upward step by step and getting somewhere, instead of sticking in one place all the time without hope of advancement. You are known all over the state now and you'll soon be going to Washington, and after that,—who knows? While to us, Bridgetown is the whole world. Promise you won't forget all about us when you leave?

  EDWARD—(earnestly) You know I could never forget you, Maud.

  MAUD—When you go to Washington—

  EDWARD—I haven't got there yet.

  MAUD—But you will. Then you'll forget all us poor, unhappy small-town people.

  EDWARD—Unhappy?

  MAUD—Certainly not happy.

  EDWARD—No, you are not happy. It shows in all your actions. Has John— Where is he now?

  MAUD—Still in bed.

  EDWARD—What! Is he sick?

  MAUD—(bitterly) People who don't come in until three in the morning usually are.

  EDWARD—You don't mean to say he doesn't—

  MAUD—Oh, it's only on Saturday nights when he goes to the club to meet Harry and the other town sports.

  EDWARD—Hm—A man at the club was speaking to me about this; said I'd better give John a word of advice. Of course he didn't know of our—er—strained relations. He said John was drinking altogether too much,—getting to be a regular thing with him.

  MAUD—He couldn't know about that. John only goes to the club on Saturday nights; but he drinks quite a lot here at home.

  EDWARD—Why don't you speak to him?

  MAUD—I have; but he only laughs, and then we have another quarrel. That's all it is,—fight, fight, fight. He says he drinks to give life a false interest since it has no real one.

  EDWARD—To say that to you! How can you stand it?

  MAUD—I don't stand it. My patience is worn out. When he is with me I can't restrain myself. I fight; and he fights back; and there you are.

  EDWARD—Too bad, too bad! Such a shocking state of affairs, for you above all people; your home life with your father was always so ideal.

  MAUD—Oh, you haven't heard the worst of it. Do you know, I even heard that John was associating with those low friends of Harry's,—women, I mean.

  EDWARD—Good heavens!

  MAUD—(looking at him searchingly) You have heard something of this; tell me truthfully, haven't you?

  EDWARD—(hesitating) Oh, mere rumors; you know what the town is.

  MAUD—Ah.

  EDWARD—(after a pause) I cannot tell how it grieves me to see you in this state. I always had fears that John would fail in his duties as a husband. He has no stability, no—er—will power, as you might say. But to insult you in this gross manner is unthinkable.

  MAUD—Have you no advice to give me?

  EDWARD—You say you have urged him to reform his mode of living and he refuses? That you are continually quarrelling? That all these reports of—er—women keep coming to you.

  MAUD—Yes yes, I hear all sorts of things.

  EDWARD—Hm—, where there's so much smoke, you know—

  MAUD—But what shall I do?

  EDWARD—(with an air of decision) I advise you to sue for a divorce.

  MAUD(astonished) You, Edward, you think I ought—

  EDWARD—I know it's quite against my principles. I have always held divorce to be the greatest evil of modern times and a grave danger to the social life of the nation; but there are cases—and yours is one of them—where there seems to be no other solution. Therefore I repeat, I advise you to free yourself from one who has proved himself so unworthy; and you know I have your interests at heart when I say it.

  MAUD—Oh, I can't; it's impossible.

  EDWARD—Why? You have no children.

  MAUD—No, thank God!

  EDWARD—You would have the sympathy of everyone. (a pause)

  MAUD—I couldn't do it.

  EDWARD—Surely you no longer care for him after—all you've told me.

  MAUD—No,—but,—Oh, I don't know!

  EDWARD—Pardon me if the question I am about to ask seems indelicate. It is to your interest to face facts. Are you still living with him—as his wife?

  MAUD—Oh, you know I couldn't! How could you think so—after those reports.

  EDWARD—Then why do you hesitate? Is it for his sake?

  MAUD—(fiercely) Indeed not! He'd be only too glad to get rid of me. He'd be married again in a week,—to that horrible, divorced Mrs. Harper or some other of those rich summer people who are always inviting him to their houses and who think he's so fascinating. No, I'll not play into his hands by getting a divorce; you can say what you like.

  EDWARD—(gets up and goes over beside her chair) Think of yourself, Maud. You are making yourself sick both in mind and body by remaining in such distressing environment. (He takes one of her hands. She makes no effort to withdraw it.) Listen to me, Maud. I love you, as you know. I have always loved you ever since I can remember having loved anyone. Let me take care of your future. Do as I have advised and I will protect you from everything that could possibly hurt you. I ask nothing for myself. My love for you has always been an unselfish one. I only want to see you happy, and to do all in my power to make you so. If, in after years, you could come to love me ever so little—you would be free—with such a hope my life would be—

  MAUD—(her face averted) Don't, don't, I can't bear it.

  EDWARD—Will you promise to consider what I have suggested?

  MAUD—Yes. (John appears in the doorway. He has evidently just risen for he is collarless, unshaven, and has on a faded bath­robe and bedroom slippers. He has grown stout and his face is flabby and pasty-complected, his eyes dull and lusterless. He watches his wife and brother with a cynical smile.)

  EDWARD—From the bottom of my heart I thank you. (He raises Maud's hand to his lips.)

  JOHN—"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife." (Maud screams. Edward straightens up with a jerk, his face crimson.) You seem to be forgetting the Lord's commandments on his own day, my worthy deacon. (Edward stutters in confusion.) Never try to make love, Edward. You look a fearful ass; and remember Maud is expressly forbidden to covet such animals in that same commandment. Sorry to disturb you. I'll cough the next time. (He turns around and goes out.)

  EDWARD—(furiously) The scoundrel!

  MAUD—Now you see what he's like.

  EDWARD—I must go before he comes back—the good-for-nothing—I really can't contain myself; I wouldn't be responsible—(He goes to door, then stops and turns to Maud.) Good 'bye; you won't forget your promise, Maud?

  MAUD—I won't forget. (Edward goes out. The outer door slams and he can be seen walking past the windows. Maud throws herself on the sofa and lies sobbing with her face buried in the pillows. John enters.)

  JOHN—Has the Passionate Pilgrim gone? (He sits down by the table.) Why all this fuss? You know I was only joking. I just wanted to take some of the moral starch out of that pompous ass. (He takes up the newspaper and starts to read. It trembles in his shaking hand with an irritating rustling sound. Maud glances sharply at him with keen dislike in her eyes, opens her lips as if to say something, checks herself, taps the floor nervously with her foot, and finally bursts out)

  MAUD—A nice time to be lying around in that state! Don't you know it's Sunday? (She pulls down shades of windows open on veranda.)

  JOHN—What of it?

  MAUD—At least you might put on a collar and shave yourself.

  JOHN—I might; but I'm not going to. What's the matter? Do you expect other callers?

  MAUD—You never know who might come in on a Sunday.

  JOHN—(giving up the attempt to read by putting down his paper, speaks with nervous irritation) But I know who won't come in—anyone of the slightest interest to me. If anyone comes I'll run and hide and you can tell them I'm out. They'll all be glad to hear it. Say I haven't come back from church yet; that ought to be scandal enough for one day.

  MAUD—You mock at everything decent. However they all know where you are when you're out. You aren't fooling anybody and you needn't think you are.

  JOHN—Ah.

  MAUD—(with rising anger) In some bar-room.

  JOHN—You forget, my dear, this is the Sabbath and all such dens of iniquity are closed by law of our God-fearing legislature—the front doors at least.

  MAUD—Then you'd be up at the club with your drunken friends.

  JOHN—(flushing) I would be; and I soon will be if you don't give up this constant nagging.

  MAUD—Then come home at a decent hour. Act like a respectable man should and there won't be any nagging.

  JOHN—You couldn't keep that promise. You've got the habit. You'd pick on me for something else. My drinking is only an excuse. There are plenty of so-called respectable citizens who drink more than I do; and you ought to know it if your gossiping friends ever air their malicious scandal about anyone but me.

  MAUD—I have heard of one other.

  JOHN—One? There is hope then.

  MAUD—Your brother Harry.

  JOHN—Harry's open about what he does and makes no pretence of being a saint. He's a lot better than those psalm-singing hypocrites of whom my respected brother Edward is the leader.

  MAUD—Edward is a gentleman.

  JOHN—Edward is a fool and (as she is about to retort) we will talk no more about him. I feel bad enough already without having to sit and listen while you din the praises of that pompous nincompoop into my ears. (He picks up the paper again and goes through it hurriedly; finally finds page and begins reading. His hand shakes more than ever and the paper rustles until Maud turns to him sharply.)

  MAUD—For goodness sake, don't rustle that paper so.

  JOHN—The excitement of quarrelling with my sweet wife has unnerved me.

  MAUD—Last night unnerved you, you mean. Why didn't you phone you weren't coming home to dinner? You knew I would wait.

  JOHN—I told you never to wait after seven. Why will you persist in doing so and then blame me for it.

  MAUD—You must think I like to eat alone.

  JOHN—I very rarely fail to get here.

  MAUD—You were at the club, I suppose? You always say that.

  JOHN—And where would I be?

  MAUD—You needn't look so innocent. I've heard things.

  JOHN—You always do. What things?

  MAUD—Have you had any breakfast yet?

  JOHN—Damn breakfast! What is it you've heard this time from your select circle of the towns finest?

  MAUD—They say you don't always spend your evenings at the club; that you've been seen with some of those low women Harry associates with.

  JOHN—And you allow them to say such things?

  MAUD—I told them there couldn't be any truth in such stories.

  JOHN— (ironically) I thank you for your trust in me. I expected you to say you did believe them.

  MAUD—I don't know what to believe. When a person drinks so much they're liable to do anything.

  JOHN—That's all nonsense, Maud.

  MAUD—And that trip of yours to New York last month when you went to see Bessie and said she wasn't there.

  JOHN—And she wasn't; she and Babe were out of town.

  MAUD—Someone said they saw you down there with some woman.

  JOHN—Oh, for God's sake, Maud! (He gets up and strides nervously around the room. A knocking is heard from the rear of the house.)

  MAUD—There's someone at the back door; and Annie's out, of course. (She hurries out through the door to hall. John looks around furtively for a moment; then walks to dining-room door and goes in. He returns a moment later with a syphon of seltzer and a bottle of whiskey, and placing them on the table, mixes himself a drink. Maud comes back as be is drinking. She stands watching him with an expression of disgust.)

  MAUD—Can't you leave that horrible stuff alone for a moment?

  JOHN—(rather shamefacedly) Just a little pick-me-up.

  MAUD—(sinking into a chair) It's terrible.

  JOHN—Don't take everything with such deadly seriousness. Plenty of men take a cocktail before breakfast.

  MAUD—I don't know what will happen to us if you keep on this way.

  JOHN—You forget, my dear, your tongue is calculated to drive anyone to drink; and things aren't as bad as you'd like to pretend. I see lots of people more unfortunate than you. Every little thing that happens you weep and wail as if the world were coming to an end. Why, in God's name, did you ever marry me?

  MAUD—If I could have seen how things would be I'd never—

  JOHN—Nor I; I gave up a career for you; and you gave up the righteous citizen Edward for me. We were both very foolish.

  MAUD—(stung by this mention of Edward) Yes, Edward loved me, and in spite of all your superior sneers he's a better man than you are. All the town looks up to him. He got more votes for Mayor than anyone ever did before. That ought to convince anyone but you what people think of him; and everyone knows he's sure of going to Congress.

  JOHN—I don't know which to sympathize with—Congress or Edward.

  MAUD—(furiously) That's right; sneer! Sneer at everything and everyone; all failures do that. Yes, failure! I said it and I mean it. If it wasn't for my father we wouldn't even have this house; and if you weren't my husband, you couldn't keep your position in the store a single day longer. Father told me that himself. He said you weren't worth a bit more to the business now than the day you came in. He said you took absolutely no interest in it at all.

  JOHN—He's right, there.

  MAUD—Then why do you stay in it? (John shrugs his shoulders but does not answer. He is very pale.) Because you know you'd never get a job anywhere else. You might at least be grateful to him for what he's done for you; but instead all you do is sneer at him and his business. You pretend to be too artistic to lower yourself to make money; but I see through your high-art pose. You never made a success of that either. Oh, I don't know how I stand it.

  JOHN—(turning to her quickly) Ah, now you ask the leading question. Why do you stand it?

  MAUD—What do you mean?

  JOHN—Simply this: You've stated the truth. Our life together is impossible and the sooner we recognize that fact and do what we can to rectify it, the better for both of us. We're young and life may still hold something pleasant if we've only the courage to break our chains. When nothing is left of the old love but wrangling and distrust, it's high time for us to give up this farce of life together.

  MAUD—You mean divorce?

  JOHN—Yes. Let's be frank. You hate me and I confess I—but no matter. Such being the undeniable case, is there any reason in God's world why we should be confined together like two cats in a bag? Get a divorce! I'll gladly give you all the evidence you need.

  MAUD—I don't doubt that for a moment.

  JOHN—Remember you're young,—and Edward is still a bachelor. I'm sure he'd provide balm for your woes, even if his political career suffered from his marrying a divorced woman. I give him credit for being red-blooded in that one respect at least. (a pause during which Maud bites her lips in nervous anger) Hasn't he spoken to you about a divorce in your conferences together?

  MAUD—No—Yes, why should I deny it? He has spoken of it, and I absolutely refused to consider it.

  JOHN—And why, if I may ask?

  MAUD(defiantly) I will never get a divorce; you understand—never!

  JOHN—I can't see why you want to live with me.

  MAUD—Can't you? Well, I haven't your loose morals. I was brought up to regard marriage as a sacred thing; not as something to be thrown aside as soon as one gets tired of it. If I were to get a divorce, think of the scandal, think of what people would say.

  JOHN—As if one cared!

  MAUD—Well, I do care and I won't do it. Do you think I don't know what's behind your talk? You want to get rid of me so you'll have a chance to run after your Mrs. Harpers, your artists models, and creatures of that sort. I tell you right now I'll never give you the chance. Disgrace yourself, if you will, but don't ask me to make your path easy.

  JOHN—(quietly) Then let's say no more about it. (He takes up the paper. Maud fumes and bites her lips. Suddenly John's eye catches an item in the paper and he gives an exclamation of excitement.) Here, listen to this. You knew Babe Carter well in the old days. This is a criticism of the paintings at the Independent Exhibition. It says: (reads) "Mr. Carter is without doubt one of the most promising of the younger school. His work is steadily increasing in worth, and some of his seascapes, notably `The Coral Reef', deserve to rank among the best painted in recent years by any American." (putting down the paper, his face glowing with enthusiasm) Great work! Good old Babe! What do you think of that, Maud? Won't Bessie be tickled to death when she reads that.

  MAUD—Then she's still living with him?

  JOHN—Of course she is. They're as much in love now as the day they were married. What made you think any differently?

  MAUD—Things of that sort don't last long, generally.

  JOHN—Things of what sort?

  MAUD—Marriages of that kind.

  JOHN—What kind? I don't know what you're talking about. If ever two people were absolutely fitted for each other, Babe and Bess are.

  MAUD—Oh, I don't mean that.

  JOHN—What do you mean?

  MAUD—(spitefully) They say he was forced to marry her on account of their previous intimacy.

  JOHN—(not understanding for a second; then springing to his feet in a furious rage and standing over her, his fists clenched) How dare you repeat such a damnable lie! How dare you—

  MAUD—(genuinely frightened—shrinking away from him) That's right; strike me! It only remains for you to do that.

  JOHN—(recovering himself) Strike you? Are you crazy? Bah! Such pitiful slanders are beneath notice. I'm surprised that you, who pretend to be her friend, should repeat such calumnies. You're letting your temper carry you beyond all bounds.

  MAUD—I never approved of her meeting Carter in secret.

  JOHN—But you know there's no truth in what you said as well as—(He is interrupted by a ring of the door-bell.)

  MAUD—There! I knew someone would come; and here you are in that dirty bath-robe and not even shaved. (She goes cautiously to the window and peeks out.) I think—(in tones of great astonishment) Yes, it's Bessie. What can she be doing here?

  JOHN—(irritably) Well, why doesn't someone go to the door?

  MAUD—I told you Annie was out. (The bell rings again.)

  JOHN—Then I'll go and, remember, I won't allow her to be insulted by you or anyone else.

  MAUD—I refuse to see her. (She goes out by the door to the dining-room. John strides into the hallway and opens the front door. "Hello, Bessie." Their voices can be heard exchanging greetings. A moment later Bessie enters with John. What little change she has undergone has been decidedly for the better. An atmosphere of hope fulfilled and happiness attained, which is like an affront to John in his state of nervous melancholia, springs from her person. John feels it and glances with sudden shame at the bottle on the table.)

  BESSIE—(sitting down) Where's Maud?

  JOHN—(angry at being forced to lie) Oh, out somewhere, church or someplace. (He slouches miserably into his chair.)

  BESSIE—Sorry she's not here. How is she?

  JOHN—As usual.

  BESSIE—(giving him a searching glancequietly) And you?

  JOHN—Oh, I'm all right, I suppose. (a pausesuddenly he breaks out with angry impatience) What rot! Why should I lie and keep up this pretence to you? I can at least be frank with you. Nothing is all right. Everything about me has degenerated since you saw me last. My family life is unbearable. Maud hates me and I—So much for the soothing atmosphere of our home.

  BESSIE—You're sure it isn't just an attack of Sabbath blues.

  JOHN—I wish it were. The truth is Maud and I have become disillusioned. I know there's nothing so out of the ordinary in that. Most married couples I have no doubt, go through the same thing. The trouble with us is we've gone to the bitter end. There are no veils left to tear off. We're two corpses chained together.

  BESSIE—It's too bad. I always thought your marriage would prove a disappointment but I never dreamed it would be as bad as this. I hoped you'd finally grow used to each other and compromise. (after a pausemusingly) The pity of it is, you're neither of you really to blame. It's simply the conflict of character. You'll grind together until both are worn out.

  JOHN—You're right; Death is the only cure for this marriage.

  BESSIE—(smiling) Or divorce.

  JOHN—You forget my wife is a good member of the church. She has principles. She remembers the sacred duty of every God-fearing wife toward her husband—to make him as miserable as possible. She hates me, but she'll not forego her ownership, her power to strangle what little aspiration I have left, simply because she's afraid some other woman might claim me.

  BESSIE—Surely she can't have become the terrible creature you describe. You have no children—

  JOHN—No, thank God!

  BESSIE—And yet you say she refuses to get a divorce?

  JOHN—Yes; we had it all out before you came. She absolutely refused to consider it; and for the exact reason I've told you—because, although she doesn't want me, she's determined no other woman shall get me. So you see I didn't exaggerate. I've put the case mildly. There's no way out. (with bitter irony) She's such a good woman I could never hope to get a divorce from her.

  BESSIE—Why not run away? I think she'd soon grow more reasonable if she felt she'd lost you.

  JOHN—You mistake. That would be just what she desires. As the abandoned wife, the martyr, she would glory in the sympathy of the whole town. It would be too dear a pose for her ever willingly to relinquish. (He stares moodily before him. Bessie looks at him with pitying surprise as if in her state of happiness she could conceive of his misfortune only as something vague and incredible.) Besides there are other reasons. I have no money. Manna no longer falls from heaven. How would I live? I only keep my present position, as Maud constantly reminds me, because I'm Steele's son-in-law. As a wage-earner I'm a colossal failure. You know the struggle I had to keep alive when my allowance was withdrawn. It would be a million times worse now. (despondently) As I said before there's no way out but—the end.

  BESSIE—Nonsense! Have you done any painting lately?

  JOHN—None at all. I used to go out on Sundays when I first came up, and do a little.

  BESSIE—You ought to have kept up your drawing, at least; especially after Colper's Weekly accepted those things of yours.

  JOHN—Do you remember me telling you I received their check the day before I was married? Oh, if I'd only had the courage to turn back then! They asked me if I cared to do some illustrating for them,—and I never answered their letter. You see I was determined for Maud's sake to put the old life completely behind me.

  BESSIE—But your letters were always so enthusiastic—

  JOHN—Oh, I've lied to you and the rest of the world until I guess noone doubts I'm the happiest married man on earth. Why, I've lied even to myself and shut my eyes to the truth. The struggle to appear happy has worn me out. I used to paint a bit, but Maud didn't want me to leave her alone and was bored if she came with me, and I slid deeper and deeper into the rut and gave up altogether. (He sighs.) Just plain degeneration, you see.

  BESSIE—(pointing to the bottle on the table with frank disgust) Don't you think that may be to blame for this degenerating?

  JOHN— (indifferently) Oh, I suppose so.

  BESSIE—I thought you never—

  JOHN—I never did—much, until lately. So you can see it isn't the cause but the result of my degeneration. It makes me callous and lets me laugh at my own futility. That's about the best I can hope for.

  BESSIE(determined to guide the conversation into more pleasant channels) Speaking about painting, I suppose you've heard about Harrington?

  JOHN—No, I haven't heard from Steve in a long time.

  BESSIEYou know he went to Paris. Well, he's been very successful over there—painting in the Salon and I don't know what else. Babe received a letter from him about two weeks ago, and he wants Babe to come over; and the best part of it is we're going. Babe had a streak of unheard-of luck last month and sold three of his paintings. We figure that with this money and what we've saved we ought to be able to remain there a year. Just think of it—a year in Paris! Of course, we'll have to practice the strictest economy, but then we're used to that. We're going to leave within two weeks at the latest. That's why I came up. I wanted to see you and say good 'bye to the folks before we left. Isn't it fine?

  JOHN—(trying his best to share in her enthusiasm in spite of the distressing contrast in their fortunes) I'm awful glad to hear it, Bess. There's noone in the world I'd rather see happy than you and Babe. (He turns away to hide his emotion.)

  BESSIE—(seeing that something is wrongwith a sudden intuition runs to him and throws her arms around him) What a beast I am! Flaunting our measly success in your face as if I were trying to torment you!

  JOHN—It's all right—just my damn peevishness. I guess I've got an attack of what you called "Sabbath blues" after all.

  BESSIE—Listen; why don't you come with us? You can raise enough money for that. It'll give you a new start. Never mind what anyone thinks. You can come back and square it all later on. It's a shame to see you going to seed in this beastly old town.

  JOHN—(after a pause firmly) No. It would only add one more failure to the list. I have no more confidence in myself. The incentive is gone. Besides you and Babe are just becoming reconciled with the family. They would never forgive you if I went away with you.

  BESSIE—That doesn't matter.

  JOHN—Oh, yes it does matter; or it will later on. I just simply can't go. Let's not talk of it. (Bessie goes slowly over and sits down again.) What do you hear from Ted?

  BESSIE—He's dramatic critic on a Chicago newspaper, does lots of magazine work, too. He's the same old Ted though and heaven only knows how long he'll stand prosperity. Haven't you seen any of his stuff?

  JOHN—I rarely read any more, magazines or anything else.

  BESSIE—Don't you hear from any of the old crowd at all?

  JOHN—They used to write but I never had anything to tell them but my failures so I was too ashamed to answer. (Bessie can find nothing to saya pause.) I saw that notice about Babe in today's Times.

  BESSIE—What notice?

  JOHN—Haven't you seen it? (He finds the item and hands it to her.) Here. It's the best write-up I've ever seen them give anyone.

  BESSIE—(reads the notice, tries to hide her exultation, and contents herself with saying as she lays down the paper) Very nice of them.

  JOHN—(gloomily) They've all come to the top but me. What would Grammont say if he were still alive.

  BESSIE—You talk like an old man,—as if life were over and done with.

  JOHN—It is.

  BESSIE—(rather weary of his gloom) Oh, cheer up! Come out and get the air. Take a walk over to the house with me. By the way, how is everybody?

  JOHN—They haven't changed a bit, unfortunately. Harry is more human than he used to be, and Edward less human, and Mary more prim; but the changes are hardly noticeable.

  BESSIE—I gather from mother's letters Edward is now the hope of the town.

  JOHN—He's Mayor—you know that—and he's going to run for Congress.

  BESSIE—Oh dear! And I suppose I'll have to kiss him.

  JOHN—(with a faint smile) He'll deem it your patriotic duty. (Bessie laughs.)

  BESSIE—Well, I must go.

  JOHN—Come over tomorrow night. You'll be here, won't you?

  BESSIE—I'll stay a couple of days if I can stand it. Come on and walk over with me. You're bad company for yourself today.

  JOHNNo, I'm not shaved or anything else. I'll drop over tonight. I don't feel equal to a dose of Edward's platitudes this afternoon. (Bessie walks into the hall followed by John. Their voices can be heard saying "Goodbye for the present" etc. The door is heard closing and john comes back into the room. He goes to the table and picks up the bottle as if to pour out a drink; then puts it down again with an exclamation of disgust. He sits down in the chair, his head in his hands, a picture of despondency. Maud enters from the dining room. Her face is twisted with the rage she is holding back only by the most violent effort.)

  MAUDYour lunch is ready. What made her leave so soon?

  JOHNShe hasn't seen the folks yet. She had to go there.

  MAUDShe's all dressed up. Carter must be making money. (John is silent. Maud continues trying to conceal her anger.) So they're going to Paris?

  JOHNAh, I might have known it.

  MAUDKnown what?

  JOHNKnown you'd been listening. I hope you're satisfied with what you heard. Listeners, you know, never hear good of themselves.

  MAUD(losing control of herself) Yes, I listened, youyouyou beast, you!to tellto talk that way about meabout your wifeI heard youYou said I hated youWell, I do hate you!sponging on my fatheryou drunken good-for-nothingtell her you wanted to get rid of memake fun of me to an outsiderWhat is she I'd like to knowthe things I've heard about hermarried to poverty-stricken artist who's no good"Come to Paris with us"Nice advice to give to a married manAnd youHave you no respect for anything?

  JOHN(very pale, a wild look of despair in his eyes) Maud! Stop! Won't you please let me alone for a while.

  MAUD(panting in her fury; her words jumbled out between gasps) You loafer you! I couldn't believe my earsyou, to do such a thingShe'll tell everybodyShe'll laugh at usand I'll be to blameShe'll see to thatShe won't blame youbut I'll surprise herI'll tell your family about her"Come to Paris with us" I'll tell father, tooI know some things about herAnd you won't get any divorcenot as long as I liveto throw me aside like an old ragyou drunken beast!to go and live with some low woman of the streetsThat's it I'm not low enough for youYou don't know what a good woman isAnd sheI've been a fool I've always defended her I wouldn't believe what they saidand this is the thanks I getasking you to abandon your wife! But I believe their stories now I know what she is She's a bad woman She lived with Carter before Oooohh!

  JOHN(his face livid with rage, springs at her and clutches her by the throat) You devil of a woman! (Maud pulls at his arms with her hands, her scream strangled into a shrill wheeze. John realizes what he is doing and pushes her from him. She falls to the floor and lies there sobbing convulsively. John looks around him wildly as if he were seeking some place of escape.) By God, there's an end to everything! (He rushes out of the door to hall and can be heard running up the stairs. Then for an instant a great silence broods over the house. It is broken by the muffled report of a revolver sounding from the floor above. Some thing falls heavily in the room overhead. Maud springs to her feet and stands in a tense attitude, listening. Then a look of horrified comprehension passes over her face and, shrieking with terror, she rushes to the hall, and a moment later can be seen running past the front windows, her hair disheveled, her hands pressed over her ears. Her screams grow gradually fainter.)

(The Curtain Falls)


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