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CHARACTERS HENRY (HEN) ROGERS,
     Representative of Earth Motion Picture Company
AL DEVLIN, Photographer for the same Company
PANCHO GOMEZ,
     Commander-in-Chief of the Constitutionalist Army
LUIS VIRELLA, General of Division
ANITA FERNANDEZ

A S
ENTRY

  SCENE
The main room of a house in the suburb of a large town in northern Mexico. To the left, a whitewashed wall of adobe with a small black crucifix hanging from a nail. In the rear wall, a doorway opening on the street. On either side of the doorway, an open window. On the right side of the room, another door which is closed. On the wall above it, a faded lithograph of the Virgin. In the left-hand corner several Mauser carbines are stacked, and bandoleers of cartridges are thrown on the dirt floor beside them. In the right-hand corner several saddles are lying. Near the door, another saddle. In the middle of the room a rickety table with a pen, paper, and ink on it. Three or four stiff cane-bottomed chairs are placed about the table.

  Hen Rogers and Al Devlin are sitting by the table. Both are smoking pipes. Both are dressed in khaki shirts, riding breeches, puttees, etc. Their wide-brimmed Stetson hats are on the table beside them. Rogers is tall, blond, clean-shaven, in his early thirties. Devlin is short, dark, with a good-natured irregular face, middle-aged.

  A sentry in a filthy, ragged olive-drab uniform lolls in the doorway leaning on his rifle. He wears the wide sombrero of the Mexican peon, and is bare-footed. He is smoking a cigarette and watching the two Americans with an expression of bored indifference.

  It is in the early hours of a sultry tropic night.

  DEVLIN—(singing in a cracked falsetto) Mexico, my nice cool Mexico!

  ROGERS—(mopping the perspiration from his forehead with a bandana handkerchief) Have a heart, Al, have a heart, and kill the canary-bird stuff. If you see anything to be merry over in this flea-bitten cluster of shanties, you got something on me.

  DEVLIN—(chuckling) Lovely little spot to spend the summer!

  ROGERS—(dryly) Ideal is the word. And speaking of fleas, on the level, I never knew what a poor dog has to put up with until I hit this one-horse country.

  DEVLIN—They don’t bother me any.

  ROGERS—No, they’ve got some class, you gotta hand it to them.

  DEVLIN—Is that so?

  ROGERS—”Discretion is the better part of valor”—any well-bred Mexican flea is hep to that. Those are the first words in the Mexican Constitution and every man and beast in this country swears by them; if they didn’t we’d have been in Mexico City months ago; and right now I’d be down at Manhattan Beach in God’s Country with a large mint julep, full of ice—

  DEVLIN—(with a groan) Help! Help! I’m a nut!

  ROGERS—When this cruel war is over and on the films I’m going to quit the picture business and go way up north, marry an Esquimau, and start housekeeping on an exclusive, refined, accordion-pleated, little iceberg.

  DEVLIN—(whistles shrilly to the sentry who grabs his rifle in alarm) Boy, page an iceberg for Mr. Rogers!

  THE SENTRY—(with lazy scorn) Muy loco!

  ROGERS—What’s that he said, Al? Look it up in your little book. It sounded almost like real talk.

  DEVLIN—(with a laugh) I don’t have to look that up. He means we’re crazy.

  ROGERS—(to the sentry—approvingly) You said something then, Mike. We sure are as nutty as a fruitcake or we wouldn’t be here. Phew, but it’s hot! (after a short pause musingly) Say, Al, did you ever notice the happy, contented expression on a polar bear’s face?

  DEVLIN—(laughing) Basta! Basta! (The sentry instinctively springs to attention, then lapses into indifference again as he realizes it is only the crazy American speaking.)

  ROGERS—Say, you’re getting to be a regular talker of spigoty! Slip me the answer to that word “basta”, will you? I hear friend General pulling it all the time; and just to show you what a fine little guesser I am, I’ll bet you a case-note it means “when”.

  DEVLIN—Come across with that peso. It doesn’t mean “when”; it means “enough”.

  ROGERS—Same thing—I knew it—I never yet heard him say it when I was pouring him out a drink.

  DEVLIN—You owe me a peso, don’t forget it.

  ROGERS—(grumblingly) I’m not liable to with you around. (An excited babble of voices is heard from the door on the right.) Listen to those boobs, will you! What do you suppose they’re framing up in there?

  DEVLIN—Who is it—Gomez?

  ROGERS—Yes; he and all his little generals are having some sort of a confab. I’ll bet you that smack back again he’s going to try and capture the town tomorrow.

  DEVLIN—What’s this you’re springing on me—inside information?

  ROGERS—Nope; but this afternoon I gave him that case of Scotch I promised him when he signed our contract, and he’s feeling some brave this evening.

  DEVLIN—Say, Hen, about that contract, I forgot to tell you, you wanta hand a call to this Gomez guy. He is playing the game. You remember the other day when they were going after that fort on the outskirts?

  ROGERS—Sure—good stuff—plenty of real live action that day.

  DEVLIN—(indignantly) It was good stuff all right, but I missed all the first part of it on account of that simp General Virella. He was just waving his sword and ordering ‘em to charge when I came up. “Here you!” I said to him, “wait a minute. Can’t you see I’m not ready for you yet?” And what do you think that greaser said to me? You know he speaks good English. He says: “Shall my glorious soldiers be massacred waiting for your machine?” And away he runs with all his yellow-bellies after him. What d’you know about that?

  ROGERS—(frowning) He’s a fresh guy, that Virella. I’ll have Gomez stick him back in the rear after this. He’s a mean little worm, too. He’s the one who’s nagged Gomez into croaking old Fernandez.

  DEVLIN—What! Are they going to shoot Fernandez?

  ROGERS—At sunrise tomorrow they stand him against the wall and—curtain.

  DEVLIN—It’s a damn shame—just because they can’t get any more coin out of him. He’s a good fellow—Fernandez. Went to school in the States—Cornell or someplace. Can’t you get him off?

  ROGERS—Nix. Virella has a grudge against him and Gomez needs Virella. Anyway, I’ve got no license to butt in on their little scraps. Besides it’ll make a great picture. Be sure and get it.

  DEVLIN—I’ll be there. Say, have them hold it till a little later, will you? The light isn’t any good so early.

  ROGERS—How’ll eight o’clock do?

  DEVLIN—Great!

  ROGERS—All right, I’ll tell Gomez to postpone it till then. (A shrill voice is heard shouting: “Viva” from the room on the right.) That’s Virella, now. I’d like to take just one swing at that guy. They’d carry him home in a white-pine kimona. (another cheer from the room next door) Full of booze and patriotism! Gee, I wish I was a war correspondent. I’d send in a little notice like this: “The courage and spirits of the troops were never better. A trainload of rum arrived today. We will be in Mexico City in two weeks.”

  DEVLIN—(picking his hat from the table, gets to his fret) I think I’ll take a look around and see what’s doing.

  ROGERS—Oho! I’ve got your number all right!

  DEVLIN—(laughing) What do you mean: got my number?

  ROGERS—Have a care, little one, have a care! Some one of these Mexican dolls you’re googooing at will carve her initials on your back with the breadknife some one of these days.

  DEVLIN—I should fret!

  ROGERS—(disgustedly) What you can see in these skirts, has got me beat. They’re so homely the mules shy at them.

  DEVLIN—Is that so? Well, let me tell you, there’s some class to some of the dames down here. You ought to have seen the bear I lamped this afternoon. Some queen, take it from me.

  ROGERS—Load that noise in one of the cannons and fire it off!

  DEVLIN—On the level, Hen, she had the swellest lamps I’ve ever seen on a dame; and a figure—my boy! my boy!

  ROGERS—Captain Sweeney of the Marines, please listen! And I suppose you copped her and dated her up?

  DEVLIN—Nothing like it, Hen. She was doing a sob act on one of the benches in that little park out here, and I asked her in my best Spanish what was the matter. Phew! Talk about the icy once-over! She looked at me as if I was a wet dog. I turned and beat it like a little man.

  ROGERS—You were wise, for once. She’d have operated on you with her stiletto in another second. I wouldn’t trust one of these dolls as far as I could hit Walter Johnson’s fast one.

  DEVLIN—But what d’you suppose she was doing a weep about?

  ROGERS—(dryly) Maybe one of her husbands got killed in the war.

  DEVLIN—What sweet thoughts you have! S’long, Hen. Don’t forget to have Gomez postpone that shooting thing. (He goes to door in rear.)

  ROGERS—I won’t; and you come back early—if you’re still alive. I want you to scratch my back before I hit the hay. I’d have to be a contortionist or a centipede to follow this flea-game properly.

  DEVLIN—(laughing) They’ll take your mind off your worries. Be good! (He passes the sentry and disappears in the darkness. Another cheer is heard from the next room. Rogers grunts disgustedly and attempts to scratch the middle of his back. The sentry’s head falls forward on his chest as he dozes in the doorway.)

  (Anita Fernandez appears outside the door and creeps stealthily by the sentry into the room. She is a beautiful young Mexican girl with a mass of black hair and great black eyes. She stumbles over the saddle by the door and utters a little cry of pain. The sentry wakes up, rushes over to her and grabs her furiously by the arm. He drags her toward the door. Rogers springs from his chair and yells at the sentry.)

  ROGERS—Hey, you Mike, what are you doing? Let go of that dame! (The sentry scowls uncertainly at him. Rogers makes a threatening gesture and the sentry releases Anita and returns to his post by the doorway. Anita sinks into a chair by the table and, hiding her face in her hands, commences to sob. Rogers stands beside not knowing what to do.)

  ROGERS—What’ll I say to her? (sees the English-Spanish book of Devlin’s on the table) Here’s Al’s Spanish book. Let’s see. (turns over the pages) What do you want? —I wonder how you say it—Oh, here it is. (He repeats the line to himself then bends down to Anita.) Que quere, Senorita? (He pronounces it “Kwi query, Seenorita?” She raises her head and stares at him with a puzzled expression.) She doesn’t make me at all—Oh Hell!

  ANITA—(haughtily) Pleese to not swear, senor.

  ROGERS—(confused) Excuse me—awfully sorry—tongue slipped. (with a sigh of relief) Thank Go—heavens, you speak English.

  ANITA—But most badly, senor.

  ROGERS—(sitting down across the table from her) No, very good, just as good as mine. Who was it you wanted to see?

  ANITA—El Generalissimo Gomez.

  ROGERS—(shaking his head) You better wait. He’ll be all lit up like a torch tonight.

  ANITA—(mystified) Senor?

  ROGERS—You know what I mean—he’s soused, pickled, stewed, boiled—

  ANITA—(in puzzled accents) Es-stewed? Boiled? (in horrified tones) You mean he is cooking—the General? But no, senor, I onderstand Eenglish veree badly. For one year alone, I estudy in the convent in Nueva York—Noo York. Then mi madre—my mothair—die and I must come home to the house of my fathair becose I have more years—I am older than my sisters. (There is a ringing “Viva” from the next room. Anita turns pale.)

  ROGERS—(making a motion with his hand as if he were taking a drink and nodding toward the room) You understand now? He’s drinking, and—

  ANITA—(shuddering) Ah, he es drunk, no?

  ROGERS—I’m afraid he will be before he leaves that room—if he isn’t already.

  ANITA—(the tears starting to her eyes) Mi padre!

  ROGERS—You better wait until tomorrow to see him.

  ANITA—Eet ees not possible. I must—tonight!

  ROGERS—(earnestly) Don’t do it, Kid! Don’t you know Gomez is a bad guy—man—for a young girl to come and see at night—’specially when he’s drunk?

  ANITA—(flushing) I know, si, senor, but eet must be.

  ROGERS—Won’t you tell me why?

  ANITA—(her voice trembling) Si, I will tell you. Eet ees not long to tell, senor. You have heard—you know Ernesto Fernandez?

  ROGERS—You mean the Fernandez who is going to be shot tomorrow morning?

  ANITA—(shuddering) Si, senor, he eet ees I mean. He ees my fathair.

  ROGERS—(astounded) Your father! Good God!

  ANITA—I must see the General Gomez tonight to ask him to save my fathair.

  ROGERS—He will not do it.

  ANITA—(faintly) You know that, senor?

  ROGERS—Virella is with him—in there—now!

  ANITA—(terrified) Virella? He is the most bad enemy of my fathair.

  ROGERS—You might buy Gomez off; pay him to set your father free. He’ll do anything for money. Have you any money?

  ANITA—Alas, no, senor; Gomez has taken from us everything.

  ROGERS—Too bad, too bad! Hm— Well, you mustn’t stay here any longer. They’re liable to come out any minute. Go home now, and I’ll see what I can do with Gomez.

  ANITA—(resolutely) Gracias, I thank you, senor; you are very kind—but I must see Gomez.

  ROGERS—(deliberately,—looking steadily into her eyes) Don’t you know what Gomez will want—the price he will make you pay if he finds you here?

  ANITA—(closing her eyes and swaying weakly on her fret) For the life—of my fathair—(sobs softly)

  ROGERS—(looking at her in admiration) God!

  ANITA—(fiercely) I would keel myself to save him!

  ROGERS—But even if he said he’d free your father you couldn’t believe him. What is Gomez’ word worth? No, you must let me fix this for you.

  ANITA—(doubtfully) But you— Gomez ees veree powerful, senor—ees it possible for you to do?

  ROGERS—(decisively) I’ll save your old man if I have to start a revolution of my own to do it.

  ANITA—(her eyes shining with gratitude) Ah, thank you, senor—but if you should fail?

  ROGERS—(emphatically) I won’t fail. You just watch me start something! (He has scarcely finished speaking when the door to the right is thrown open and Gomez and Virella enter the room. They are both in a state of great excitement and show they have been drinking. Virella is an undersized man with shifty, beady black eyes and a black mustache. Gomez is tall and heavily built with a bloated dissipated-looking face and a bristly black mustache. Both are dressed in new uniforms of olive-drab and wear military caps. Cartridge-belts with automatic revolvers in leather holsters are strapped about their waists over their coats.)

  (Anita stares at them for a moment with horrified loathing; then shrinks away into the far corner of the room. Gomez turns to shout an “Adios” to the officers who are still carousing in the room he has just left; then bangs the door shut behind him. Virella sees Anita and walks toward her with a drunken leer on his flushed face.)

  VIRELLA—Buenos noches, senorita.

  ROGERS—(steps forward and places himself in front of Virella whom he grasps by the shoulders and forcibly turns in the direction of the door) Now, beat it, Snake-in-the-Grass!

  VIRELLA—(struggling to free himself) Pig of a Gringo!

  ROGERS—General Gomez and I want to have a talk in private, don’t we, Gomez? (He glances at Gomez with a commanding air.)

  GOMEZ—(uncertainly) Por cierto, amigo, if you like eet.

  VIRELLA—(frothing at the mouth with rage) Dog! Pig!

  ROGERS—(calmly) Those are hard words, my pet—and you hear what your general commands? (He turns to Gomez.)

  GOMEZ—Si, Virella, I command eet.

  ROGERS—(to Virella, contemptuously) Now blow before I crown you! (He draws back his fist threateningly. Virella shrinks away from him, salutes Gomez, and slinks out of the door in rear.)

  GOMEZ—(forcing a laugh) Ees thees the way you treat my generals?

  ROGERS—You ought to shoot that little scorpion—before he shoots you.

  GOMEZ—(frowning) Eet ees true, amigo, what you say, and pairhaps soon—but—now he ees to me necessary. (He notices Anita for the first time and turns to Rogers with a chuckle.) Excuse me, a senorita! (takes his cap off and makes her a gallant bow) Ah, Senor Rogers, you are—how you call eet? —a man of—ladies, no? (He walks over to Anita who shrinks back to the wall in terror.) Have you fear of me, chiquita? Of Gomez? But Pancho Gomez, he loav the ladies, that ees well known. Ask el senor Rogers. (He chucks her under the chin.)

  ROGERS—(stepping between them—quietly) This young lady is my friend, Gomez.

  GOMEZ—(biting his lips) I say in fun only. (He walks back to the table and remarks sullenly to Rogers who is following him) She ees “muy hermosa”, veree preety, your senorita.

  ROGERS—She is the daughter of Ernesto Fernandez.

  GOMEZ—(surprised) Que dice? What you say?

  ROGERS—She’s the daughter of the man you’re going to have shot in the morning. She came to ask you—

  GOMEZ—(emphatically) No, hombre, no! I know what you will say. I can not do. Eet ees not possible! (Anita rushes forward and throws herself at his feet.) No, no, no, senorita, I must go. (He strides toward the door in the rear. Anita lies where she has thrown herself sobbing hopelessly.)

  ROGERS—One minute, Gomez! Where are you going?

  GOMEZ—To prepare the attack. Ah, I forget! I have not tole you. (excitedly) Tonight, amigo, we storm the town. We catch them asleep, no? and before they wake they are—(he makes a motion across his neck with his forefinger) dead, how you call eet?—as a nail. (proudly) Eet ees a plan sublime, most glorious—eet ees the plan of Gomez! In one small week, hombre, shall we be in Mexico City.

  ROGERS—That Scotch is great stuff. One more drink and old Napoleon would be a piker.

  GOMEZ—(puzzled) What you say?

  ROGERS—Nothing, nothing. (his face lighting up with a ray of hope) A night attack, eh?

  GOMEZ—Si, hombre, at twelve hours—twelve o’clock.

  ROGERS—(calmly) Who said so?

  GOMEZ—I say it, I, Pancho Gomez!

  ROGERS—(emphatically) Well, you just listen to me, Gomez; I say you can’t do it. There’ll be no night attacks in this war when I’m around. (Gomez is stupefied.) How do you expect us to get pictures at night? You didn’t think of that, eh?

  GOMEZ—(bewildered) But, amigo—

  ROGERS—Nix on the night attacks, do you get me? (pulls a paper out of his pocket) Here’s a copy of your contract giving us rights to all your fights, all, do you hear, all! And we got one clause especially for night attacks. (reads) The party of the second part hereby agrees to fight no battles at night or on rainy days or at any time whatsoever when the light is so poor as to make the taking of motion pictures impracticable. Failure to comply with these conditions will constitute a breach of contract and free the party of the first part from all the obligations entered into by this contract. (hands the contract to Gomez) Here it is, black and white, English and Spanish both, with your signature at the bottom with mine. Read for yourself. (Gomez glances at the paper mechanically and hands it back.)

  GOMEZ—(with a defiant snarl) And if I say: “To hell, you!” Then what you do, eh?

  ROGERS—(mimicking the General’s tone) Who buys and sends you most of your ammunition, eh? Who pays you and the other Generals and the German in charge of your artillery—the only man who savvys how to use the guns right—eh? Who has promised to see that you get siege guns for Mexico City and twenty more machine guns with men, real men, to run them for you, eh? Your soldiers’ll desert you if you don’t pay them soon, and you know it. Well, who has agreed to loan you the money to give them their back pay, eh? And, above all, who has promised to help you become President when you reach Mexico City? (impressively) We have—The Earth Motion Picture Company! Well, you break this contract and all that stops, see? and goes to the other side.

  GOMEZ—(softly—fingering his revolver) Bueno; but I can also have you shot, hombre.

  ROGERS—Nix on that rough stuff! You wouldn’t dare. You’ve got to keep on the right side of the U.S.A. or your revolution isn’t worth the powder to blow it to—Mexico.

  GOMEZ—(pleadingly) But, amigo, permit eet this once. The plan is fine, the town will be ours, my soldiers will steal and no more grumble against Gomez. Tomorrow I will shoot all the prisoners for your pictures, I promise eet.

  ROGERS—(kindly) I’d like to do you a favor, Gomez, but I don’t see my way to do this, unless—

  GOMEZ—(with a smile) Aha, tell me, hombre, your price.

  ROGERS—(firmly) The life of Ernesto Fernandez! (Anita jumps to her fret and stretches out her arms beseechingly to Gomez. He twirls his mustache thoughtfully for a moment.)

  GOMEZ—Bueno, my friend, I accept your terms. (He goes to the table and hurriedly scratches a few lines which he hands to Anita.) Su padre de uste—your father, he ees free, senorita. For this thank my fine friend Senor Rogers. (He claps Rogers jovially on the back.) Now must I have shot the General Virella who will never forgive me your father should live, senorita. Mexico ees too es-small for those two hombres—both alive. (pulls a flask from his pocket and offers it to Rogers who refuses with a smile) Senor Rogers—how you call eet? —here ees looking at you! (drinks) And now I must to prepare the attack. (goes to the door; then turns and remarks grandiloquently) Should anyone wish me, senor, tell them that een the hour of battle, Pancho Gomez, like the immortal Juarez, will ever be found at the head of his brave soldiers. Adios! (He makes a sweeping bow and goes out past the saluting sentry.)

  ROGERS—(with a long whistle of amusement—turning to Anita) Some bull! Honest, you’ve got to hand it to that guy, at that.

  ANITA—And now I, too, must go—to my poor fathair.

  ROGERS—Can’t I take you there? You know there’s lots of drunken soldiers around and—

  ANITA—No, no, senor, you are too kind. Eet ees but two steps to the carcel—the prison. Eet ees not necessary. (indicating the paper in her hand) The name of Gomez is most sufficient. (holding out her hand to him with a shy smile) Muchissima gracias, senor,—with all my heart do I thank you. My fathair and I—we will be at the home tomorrow—eet ees the first hacienda beyond the hill—you will come, senor? As a brother, my father’s son, shall you be to us!

  ROGERS—(holding her hand and looking into her eyes) Only—a brother?

  ANITA—(drawing her hand away in confusion, runs to the door; then turns) Quien sabe, senor? Who knows? (She hurries out.)

  ROGERS—(does a few Spanish dance steps, snapping his fingers and humming. The sentry grins at him.) What are you grinning at, Mike?

  THE SENTRY—(with a contemptuous smile makes a gesture of turning a wheel near his head) Muy loco!

  ROGERS—I got you the first time, Mike. Crazy is the right word. (He commences to sing) Mexico, My bright-eyed Mexico. (Devlin appears in the doorway and scowls darkly at him.)

  DEVLIN—Kill it, kill it, you bone! (Comes in and throws his hat irritably on the table. Rogers looks at him with an amused smile.) What’re you chirping about? Are you soused, too? Where have you hidden the joy-water? Everyone in this bush-league army seems all corned up tonight except me. Say I just got another flash at that dame I was telling you about. She looked right through me at something behind my back. Some nerve to that greaser chicken giving a real white man the foot! (scornfully) I got a good slant at her this time. She isn’t much to look at after all. Back in God’s Country we’d use her photo for a before-taking ad.

  ROGERS—(indignantly) Al, you always were a simp! (grumblingly) Better get a pair of cheaters for those bum lamps of yours. (cheerfully) Cheer up, Al, you’re all wrong, my son, you’re all wrong! (Devlin gapes at him in open­mouthed amazement, Rogers commences to sing again: “Mexico, my bright-eyed Mexico.” The sentry grunts contemptuously, as

The Curtain Falls)


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