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CHARACTERS ARTHUR BALDWIN
MILDRED, his wife
FRED BURGESS, their chauffeur
GENE, Mrs. Baldwin’s maid
MARY, a housemaid

  SCENE—The library of Arthur Baldwin’s summer home in the Catskills, N. Y. On the left a door and two large French windows opening on the veranda. A bookcase covers the space of wall between the two windows. In the corner is a square wicker-work table. The far side of the room also looks out on the veranda. Two French windows are on each side of a rolltop desk that stands against the wall. Near the desk a small telephone such as is used on estates to connect the house with the outbuildings. On top of the desk a Bell telephone and a small pile of letters. In the right background a divan, then a door leading to the hallway, and a long bookcase. A heavy oak table stands in the center of the room. On it are several magazines and books, an ash receiver, cigar box, etc., and an electric reading lamp wired from the chandelier above. Two Morris-chairs are within reading reach of the lamp and several light rocking chairs are placed about the room. The walls are of light wainscoting. The floor is of polished hard wood with a large darkish colored rug covering the greater part. Several pictures of a sporting nature, principally of racing automobiles, are hung on the walls in the spaces between windows and bookcases.

  The room is the typical sitting-room of a moderately wealthy man who has but little taste and is but little worried by its absence. On this warm August night with the door and all the windows thrown open, and only the reading lamp burning, it presents a cool and comfortable appearance.

  It’s about eight o’clock in the evening. The time is the present.

  Mrs. Baldwin is discovered lying back in one of the Morris-chairs with an unopened book in her lap. She is holding her head on one side in an attitude of strained attention as if she were waiting for someone or something. In appearance she is a tall, strikingly voluptuous-looking young woman of about twenty-eight. Her hair is reddish-gold, almost a red, and her large eyes are of that dark greyish-blue color which is called violet. She is very pale—a clear transparent pallor that serves to accentuate the crimson of the full lips of her rather large mouth. She is dressed in a low-cut evening gown of a grey that matches her eyes. Her shoulders, neck and arms are beautiful.

  MRS. BALDWIN(rousing herself with a sigh of vexation, goes to the wall on the right and pushes an electric button near the bookcase. After a moment a maid enters.) I won’t wait any longer, Mary. He evidently isn’t coming. You may clear the table. I won’t eat anything now. I’ll have something after a while.

  MARY—Very well, ma’am. (She goes out.)

  MRS. BALDWIN(looks around quickly to make sure she is alone, then locks the door to the hallway and, going to the door on the left opening on the verandah, calls in a low voice) Fred. (She beckons with her hand to someone who is evidently waiting outside. A moment later Fred Burgess comes quickly into the room. He throws a furtive glance around him—then reassured, takes Mrs. Baldwin in his arms and kisses her passionately on the lips. In appearance he is a tall, clean-shaven, dark-complected young fellow of twenty-five or so with clear-cut, regular features, big brawn eyes and black curly hair. He is dressed in a gray chauffeur’s uniform with black puttees around the calves of his legs.)

  MRS. BALDWIN—(putting her arms about his neck and kissing him again and again) Oh Fred! Fred! I love you so much!

  FRED—Ssh! Someone might hear you.

  MRS. BALDWIN—There’s no one around. They’re all in back having dinner. You’ve had yours? (He nods.) They won’t expect you then. There’s nothing to fear. I’ve locked the door. (He is reassured.) But you do love me, don’t you, Fred? (He kisses her smilingly.) Oh I know! I know! But say so! I love to hear it.

  FRED(stroking her hair caressingly with one hand) Of course I love you. You know I do, Mildred. (Mrs. Baldwin’s maid Gene appears noiselessly in the doorway from the verandah. They are looking raptly into each other’s eyes and do not notice her. She glares at them for a moment, vindictive hatred shining in her black eyes. Then she disappears as quietly as she came.)

  MRS. BALDWIN—(brokenly) I can’t stand this life much longer Fred. These last two weeks while he has been away have been heaven to me but when I think of his coming back tonight—I—I could kill him!

  FRED—(worried by this sudden outbreak) You mustn’t feel so badly about it. You—we have got to make the best of it, that’s all.

  MRS. BALDWIN—(reproachfully) You take it very easily. Think of me.

  FRED(releasing her and walking nervously up and down the room) You know, Mildred, I’d like to do something. But how can I help matters? I haven’t any money. We can’t go away together yet.

  MRS. BALDWIN—But I can get money—all the money we need.

  FRED—(scornfully) His money!

  MRS. BALDWIN—I have my jewels. I can sell those.

  FRED—He gave you those jewels.

  MRS. BALDWIN—Oh, why are you so hard on me? (She sinks down in one of the Morris-chairs. He comes over and stands before her.) Why won’t you let me help a little?

  FRED—I don’t want to touch any of his money. (Kneeling beside her he puts one arm around her—then with sudden passion) I want you! God, how I want you! But I can’t do that! (He leans over and kisses her bare neck. She gives a long shuddering gasp, her white fingers closing and unclosing in his dark curls. He gets suddenly to his feet.) We’ll have to wait and love when we can for awhile. I promise you it won’t be long. I worked my way this far and I don’t intend to stop here. As soon as I’ve passed those engineering examinations—and I will pass them—we’ll go away together. I won’t be anybody’s servant then. (He glances down at his livery in disgust.)

  MRS. BALDWIN(pleading tearfully) Fred, dearest, please take me away now—tonight—before he comes. What difference does the money make as long as I have you?

  FRED—(with a harsh laugh) You don’t know what you’re talking about. You’d never stand it. Being poor doesn’t mean anything to you. You’ve never been poor. Well, I have, and I know. It’s hell, that’s what it is. You’ve been used to having everything, and when you found out you were tied to a servant who could give you nothing, you’d soon get tired. And I’d be the last one to blame you for it. I’m working out and I don’t want to go back and drag you with me.

  MRS. BALDWIN—You don’t realize how much I love you or you wouldn’t talk like that. I’d rather die of starvation with you than live the way I’m living now.

  FRED—(shaking his head skeptically) You don’t know what starvation means. Besides, how do you know he’ll get a divorce? He might keep you bound to him in name for years— just for spite.

  MRS. BALDWIN—No. I’m sure he isn’t as mean as all that. To do him justice he’s been kind to me—in his way. He has looked upon me as his plaything, the slave of his pleasure, a pretty toy to be exhibited that others might envy him his ownership. But he’s given me everything I’ve ever asked for without a word—more than I ever asked for. He hasn’t ever known what the word “husband” ought to mean but he’s been a very considerate “owner.” Let us give him credit for that. I don’t think—(She hesitates.)

  FRED—Go on! Go on! I expect to hear you love him next.

  MRS. BALDWIN—(smiling) Don’t misunderstand me. I simply can’t think him the devil in human form you would make him out to be. (grimly) I love him? It was my kind parents who loved his money. He is so much older than I am and we have nothing in common. Well, I simply don’t love him—there’s an end to it. And so—being his wife—I hate him! (Her voice is like a snarl as she says these last words—there is a pause.) But what is your plan?

  FRED—When the time comes I shall go to him frankly and tell him we love each other. I shall offer to go quietly away with you without any fuss or scandal. If he’s the man you think him—and I don’t agree with you on that point—he’ll get a divorce so secretly it will never even get into the papers. He’ll save his own name and yours. If he tries to be nasty about it I know something that’ll bring him around. (Mrs. Baldwin looks at him in astonishment.) Oh, I haven’t been idle. His past is none too spotless.

  MRS. BALDWIN—What have you found out?

  FRED—I can’t tell you now. It’s got nothing to do with you anyway. It was a business deal.

  MRS. BALDWIN—A business deal?

  FRED—Yes. It happened a long time ago. (abruptly changing the subject) What can be keeping him? What time did he say he’d be here?

  MRS. BALDWIN—The telegram said “for dinner.” (suddenly with intense feeling) Oh, if you knew the agony that telegram caused me! I knew it had to come but I kept hoping against hope that something would detain him. After the wire came and I knew he would be here, I kept thinking of how he would claim me—force his loathsome kisses on me. (Fred groans in impotent rage.) I was filled with horror. That is why I asked you to take me away tonight—to save me that degradation. (after a pause—her face brightening with hope) It’s getting late. Maybe he won’t come after all. Fred, dear, we may have one more night together. (He bends over and kisses her. The faint throb of a powerful motor with muffler cut out is heard. Fred listens for a moment—then kisses Mrs. Baldwin hastily.)

  FRED—There he is now! I know the sound of the car. (He rushes to the open door and disappears in the darkness.)

  MRS. BALDWIN—(springing tensely to her fret, runs over and unlocks the door to hall and opens it) Oh God! (The noise of the motor sounds louder, then seems to grow fainter, and suddenly ceases altogether.) He’s gone to the garage. They’re meeting. Oh God! (She shrinks away from the door—then remains standing stiffly with one hand clenched on the table. Quick footsteps are heard on the gravel, then on the steps of the verandah. A moment later Arthur Baldwin enters from the hall. He comes quickly over to her, takes both of her hands and kisses her. A shudder of disgust runs over her whole body.)

  (Baldwin is a stocky, undersized man of about fifty. His face is puffy and marked by dissipation and his thick-lipped mouth seems perpetually curled in a smile of cynical scorn. His eyes are small with heavily drooping lids that hide their expression. He talks softly in rather a bored drawl and exhibits enthusiasm on but two subjects—his racing car and his wife—in the order named. He has on a motoring cap with goggles on it and a linen duster, which he takes off on entering the room and throws in a chair. He is rather foppishly dressed in a perfectly fitting dark grey suit of extreme cut.)

  BALDWIN—(holding his wife at arm’s length and throwing an ardent glance at her bare neck and shoulders) As beautiful as ever I see. Why you’re all togged out! (with a half-sneer) Is it to welcome the prodigal bridegroom?

  MRS. BALDWIN—(forcing a smile) Of course!

  BALDWIN—And how has the fairest of the fair been while her lord has been on the broad highway?

  MRS. BALDWIN—Very well.

  BALDWIN—Time hang heavily on your hands in this rural paradise?

  MRS. BALDWIN—(nervously avoiding his eyes) The limousine has been out of commission—Fred has had to send away for some new part or other. I was rather glad of the opportunity to rest up a bit. You know when you’re here we’re always on the go. How’s the car?

  BALDWIN—(enthusiastically) Great! (He drops her hand and takes cigar out of box on table.) I made eighty-six about a week ago. (lights cigar) Ran across eight straight miles of level road—let her out the limit. It’s some car all right! (his enthusiasm suddenly vanishing—with a frown) By the way, where’s Fred?

  MRS. BALDWIN—(startled) Wasn’t he at the garage?

  BALDWIN—No. No one was there.

  MRS. BALDWIN—He must have gone to dinner. We had all given you up. (anxiously) Why do you want to see him?

  BALDWIN—Because I was forgetting. The car isn’t all right just now. I blew out a tire yesterday and went into a ditch—nothing serious. I backed out all right and everything seemed to be O. K. after I’d put on a new tire. She ran smoothly today until I hit the road up here about six o’clock. That’s why I’m so late—had the devil of a time making this hill—or mountain I should say. Engine worked fine but something wrong with the steering gear. It was all I could do to hold the road—and you know I’m no slouch at driving. I nearly ran into boulders and trees innumerable. All the people at the summer camp down the line were looking at me—thought I was drunk I guess. I had to just creep up here. If I’d have gone fast your hubby would be draped around some pine tree right now. (with a laugh) Sorry! You’d look well in black. (Mrs. Baldwin starts guiltily.) I think I’ll have to have this house moved into the valley. It’s too much of a climb and the roads are devilish. No car, even if it has ninety horse power can stand the gaff long. I’ve paid enough for tires on account of this road to have it macadamized ten times over. Eaten yet?

  MRS. BALDWIN—No. I wasn’t hungry enough to eat alone. I’ll have something light later on. And you?

  BALDWIN—I had something on the way—knew I’d probably be too late up here.

  MRS. BALDWIN—Shall I have them get you anything?

  BALDWIN—No. I’m not hungry.

  MRS. BALDWIN—Then if you don’t mind I think I’ll go upstairs and take off this dress. I’m rather tired tonight. I’ll be with you again in a short time.

  BALDWIN—Why the formality of asking? Have I been away as long as that? Make yourself comfortable, of course. (with his cynical laugh) I have only to humbly thank you for going to all this trouble. I assure you I appreciate it. You look more than charming.

  MRS. BALDWIN—(With a cold smile) Thank you. (moving toward door) You will find the letters I did not forward on top of the desk. (She goes out.)

  BALDWIN(going to desk and glancing over the letters) Humph! There’s nothing much here except bills. (He throws them down and walks back to the table again. Gene, Mrs. Baldwin’s maid enters from the hall and stands just inside the doorway, looking quickly around the room. Having assured herself that Baldwin is alone, she comes farther into the room and waits nervously for him to speak to her. She is a slight, pretty young woman of twenty-one or so neatly dressed in a black ladies-maid costume. Her hair and eyes are black, her features small and regular, her complexion dark.)

  BALDWIN—(glancing up and seeing her) Why, hello Gene! As pretty as ever I see.

  GENE—Good evening, sir.

  BALDWIN—Are you looking for Mrs. Baldwin? She just went upstairs to change her dress.

  GENE—No, sir. I just left Mrs. Baldwin. She said she wished to be alone—that I was to tell you she had a headache but would be down later if she felt better. (She pauses and clasps her hands nervously together.)

  BALDWIN—(looking at her curiously) Anything you wish to see me about?

  GENE(a look of resolution coming into her face) Yes, sir.

  BALDWIN(half-bored) All right; what is it? Oh, by the way, before you begin can you tell me if Fred has gone down to the village tonight or not?

  GENE—I’m quite sure he’s over at the garage, sir.

  BALDWIN—I must phone to him about fixing the car—if he can. Can’t use it the way it is. But what is it that’s troubling you?

  GENE—I hardly dare to tell you, sir.

  BALDWIN—I love to comfort beauty in distress.

  GENE—I know you’ll be awful angry at me when you hear it.

  BALDWIN—You are foolish to think so. It’s a love affair, of course.

  GENE—Yes, sir.

  BALDWIN—Well, who is the fortunate party and what has he done or not done?

  GENE—Oh no, you’re mistaken, sir. It isn’t my love affair. It’s someone else’s.

  BALDWIN(impatiently) You’re very mysterious. Whose is it then?

  GENE—It’s Fred’s sir.

  BALDWIN—But—I had rather an idea that you and Fred were not altogether indifferent to each other. (sarcastically) You don’t mean to tell me the handsome young devil has jilted you?

  GENE(her voice harsh with anger) He does not love me any more.

  BALDWIN(mockingly) I shall have to chide him. His morals are really too corrupt for his station in life. My only advice to you is to find another sweetheart. There is nothing that consoles one so much for the loss of a lover as—another lover.

  GENE(trembling with rage at his banter) I am well through with him. It’s you and not me who ought to be concerned the most this time.

  BALDWIN—(frowning) I? And pray tell me why I should be interested in the amours of my chauffeur?

  GENE(a bit frightened) There’s lots of things happened since you’ve been away.

  BALDWIN—(irritably) I am waiting for you to reveal in what way all this concerns me.

  GENE—They’ve been together all the time you’ve been away—every day and (hesitating for a moment at the changed look on his face —then resolutely) every night too. (vindictively) I’ve watched them when they thought no one was around. I’ve heard their “I love yous” and their kisses. Oh, they thought they were so safe! But I’ll teach him to throw me over the way he did. I’ll pay her for all her looking down on me and stealing him away. She’s a bad woman, is what I say! Let her keep to her husband like she ought to and not go meddling with other people—

  BALDWIN(interrupting her in a cold, hard voice and holding himself in control by a mighty effort) It isn’t one of the servants? (Gene shakes her head.) No. I forget you said she was married. One of the summer people near here? (Gene shakes her head.) Someone in this house? (Gene nods. Baldwin’s body grows tense. His heavy lids droop over his eyes, his mouth twitches. He speaks slowly as if the words came with difficulty.) Be careful! Think what you are saying! There is only one other person in this house. Do—you—mean to—say it is that person? (Gene is too terrified to reply.) Answer me, do you hear? Answer me! Is that the person you refer to?

  GENE(in a frightened whisper) Yes.

  BALDWIN(springing at her and clutching her by the throat with both hands) You lie! You lie! (He forces her back over the edge of the table. She frantically tries to tear his hands away.) Tell me you lie, damn you, or I’ll choke you to hell! (She gasps for breath and her face becomes a dark crimson. Baldwin suddenly realizes what he is doing and takes his hands away. Gene falls half across the table, her breath coming in great shuddering sobs. Baldwin stands silently beside her waiting until she can speak again. Finally he leads her to one of the Morris-chairs and pushes her into it. He stands directly in front of her.)

  BALDWIN—You can speak again?

  GENE—(weakly) Yes—no thanks to you.

  BALDWIN—You understand, don’t you, that what you have said requires more proof than the mere statement of a jealous servant. (He pronounces the “servant” with a sneer of contempt.)

  GENE—I’ve got proof, don’t you worry, but I don’t know whether I’ll show it to you or not. A man that chokes women deserves to be made a fool of.

  BALDWIN—(stung by her scorn) You will show me, damn you, or— (He leans over as if to grab her by the throat again.)

  GENE(shrinking back in the chair) Don’t you dare touch me or I’ll scream and tell them all about it. I’ll prove it to you, but it isn’t because I’m afraid of you or your threats but simply because I want to get even with her. (She reaches in under her belt and pulls out a closely folded piece of paper.) Do you recognize her writing when you see it?

  BALDWIN—Give it to me.

  GENE(holding it away from him) Will you promise to tell her—them—just how you found out—after I’m gone. I’m leaving tomorrow morning. I’d like them to know it was me who spoiled their fun. Will you promise?

  BALDWIN—Yes! Yes! Anything. Give it to me!

  GENE—There! Take it.

  BALDWIN(He reads the letter slowly and a terrible expression comes over his pale, twitching features. Gene watches him with a smile of triumph. When he speaks his voice is ominously soft and subdued.) What night was this she speaks of?

  GENE—The night before last.

  BALDWIN—She says she would come to him at half-past eleven. Did she mean to the garage?

  GENE—Yes. When she thought we were all in bed in the back part of the house she would slip down and go out the front door. She kept on the grass and in the shade of the trees so no one would notice her.

  BALDWIN—You know all this?

  GENE—I followed her on several different nights.

  BALDWIN—You must hate her.

  GENE—I loved Fred.

  BALDWIN—Why was she so careless as to write this note? Couldn’t she have telephoned or told him?

  GENE—The little garage telephone was out of order. It was only fixed this morning. The Lynches were here to dinner and she had no chance to speak to him alone. She sent me to the garage to tell him to come over. When he came she pretended to give him some orders and dropped this at his feet. I suspected something, so I was watching and saw it all.

  BALDWIN—How did you get hold of this?

  GENE—Yesterday when he went to the village to see if the new part for the limousine had come I went to the garage and found this in the inside pocket of his other clothes.

  BALDWIN—(his eyes narrowing) He is very careless.

  GENE—Oh, they knew you wouldn’t be home until today and they felt safe. And I knew you wouldn’t believe me without proof.

  BALDWIN—Do you think he has missed this?

  GENE—No. (with a sneer) As you say he is very careless in such matters. If he does miss it he’ll think he has forgotten where he hid it.

  BALDWIN—(after a pause—putting the note in his pocket) You may go. Be sure you do leave in the morning, otherwise—

  GENE—You needn’t fret. I wouldn’t stay another day if you paid me a million. (She yawns heavily.) Oh, I’m glad that’s off my mind. I’ll sleep tonight. I haven’t slept a bit, it seems, since you’ve been away. (She goes slowly to the hall door—then turns around and looks at him curiously.) What are you going to do?

  BALDWIN—Go! Go!

  GENE(with a mocking laugh) I wish you luck! (She goes out.)

  BALDWIN(stares at the rug for a moment—then takes the note out of his pocket and reads it again. In a burst of rage he crumples it up in his hand and curses beneath his breath. His eyes wander to his auto coat and goggles in the chair, then to the garage telephone near his desk. They seem to suggest an idea to him —a way for his vengeance. His face lights up with savage joy and he mutters fiercely to himself) The dirty cur! By God, I’ll do it! (He ponders for a moment turning over his plan in his mind, then goes over and shuts the door to the hall and striding quickly to the garage telephone, takes off the receiver. After a pause he speaks, making his voice sound as if he were in a state of great anxiety.) Hello! Fred? You haven’t touched the car yet? Good! Take it out immediately! Go to the village and get the doctor—any doctor. Mildred—Mrs. Baldwin has been taken very ill. Hemorrhage I think—blood running from her mouth. She’s unconscious—it’s matter of life and death. Drive like hell, do you hear? Drive like hell! Her life’s in your hands. Turn the car loose! Drive like hell! (He hangs up the receiver and stands listening intently, with one hand on the desk. A minute later the purr of an engine is heard. It grows to a roar as the car rushes by on the driveway near the house—then gradually fades in the distance. Baldwin’s thick lips are narrowed taut in a cruel grin.) Drive to hell, you b—rd!

  (The stage is darkened. Half to three-quarters of an hour are supposed to intervene before the lights go up again.)

  (Baldwin is discovered sitting in one of the Morris-chairs. He nervously pulls at the cigar he is smoking and glances at the telephone on his desk. There is a ring and he goes quickly over to it. He answers in a very low voice.) Yes. This is Mr. Baldwin. What? Ran into a boulder you say? He’s dead? (This last question burst out exultingly—then in tones of mocking compassion) How horrible! They’re bringing it up here? That’s right. How did you happen to find him?—Quite by accident then?—Yes, come right to the house. It is terrible—awful road—Knew something of the kind would happen sometime—ever so much obliged for your trouble. (He hangs up receiver and opens door into hallway—then pushes the electric bell button in the wall. A moment later the maid enters.)

  THE MAID—Yes, sir?

  BALDWIN—Where’s Gene?

  THE MAID—She’s gone to bed, sir. Shall I call her?

  BALDWIN—No. You’ll do just as well. Will you run up and tell Mrs. Baldwin I’d like very much to see her for a few minutes. Tell her it’s something of importance or else I wouldn’t disturb her.

  THE MAID—Yes, sir. (She goes out. Baldwin walks over and fixes the two Morris chairs and lamp so that the light will fall on the face of the person sitting in one while the other will be in shadow. He then sits down in the shaded chair and waits. A minute or so elapses before Mrs. Baldwin appears in the doorway. She walks over to him with an expression of wondering curiosity not unmixed with fear. She wears a light blue kimona and bedroom slippers of the same color. Her beautiful hair hangs down her back in a loose braid.)

  MRS. BALDWIN—I’m sorry not to have come down before but my head aches wretchedly. I sent Gene to tell you. Did she?

  BALDWIN—(with curious emphasis) Yes. She told me. Sit down, my dear. (He points to the other Morris chair— she sits in it.)

  MRS. BALDWIN(after a pause in which she waits for him to begin and during which he is studying her closely from his position of vantage in the shadow) I really thought you had gone out again. That was one reason why I didn’t come down. I heard the car go out and supposed of course it was you.

  BALDWIN—No. It was Fred.

  MRS. BALDWIN—You sent him to the village for something?

  BALDWIN—No, I simply told him there was something wrong with the steering-gear—something I couldn’t discover. I told him to attend to it—if he could—the first thing in the morning. It seems he has gone me one better and is trying to locate the trouble tonight. (with grim sarcasm) Really his zeal in my service is astounding. 

  MRS. BALDWIN(trying to conceal her anxiety) But isn’t it very dangerous to go over these roads at night in a car that is practically disabled?

  BALDWIN—Fred is very careless—very, very careless in some things. I shall have to teach him a lesson. He is absolutely reckless (Mrs. Baldwin shudders in spite of herself) especially with other people’s property. You are worrying about Fred; but I am bewailing my car which he is liable to smash from pure over-zealousness. Chauffeurs—even over-zealous ones—are to be had for the asking, but cars like mine are out of the ordinary.

  MRS. BALDWIN—(coldly) Why do you talk like that? You know you do not mean it.

  BALDWIN—I assure you I do—every word of it.

  MRS. BALDWIN—You said you wished to see me on something of importance?

  BALDWIN—(dryly) Exactly, my dear. We are coming to that. (then softly) I wanted to ask you, Mildred, if you are perfectly happy up here.

  MRS. BALDWIN(astonished) Why—of course—what makes you ask such a question?

  BALDWIN—Well you know I have left you so much alone this summer I feel rather conscience-stricken. You must be bored to death on this mountain with none of your old friends around. I was thinking it might be a good plan for us to economize a bit by letting Fred go and getting along with just my car. It would be quite possible then for you to go to some more fashionable resort where things would be livelier for you.

  MRS. BALDWIN—(eagerly) I assure you I am quite contented where I am. Of course I miss you and feel a trifle lonely at times, but then I have the other car and you know I enjoy motoring so much.

  BALDWIN—Do you? You never seemed to care very much about touring round with me.

  MRS. BALDWIN—You drive so dreadfully fast I am frightened to death.

  BALDWIN—Fred is a careful driver then?

  MRS. BALDWIN—Very careful.

  BALDWIN—You have no complaint to make against him?

  MRS. BALDWIN—None at all. I think he is the best chauffeur we have ever had.

  BALDWIN—Why, I am delighted to hear that. I had an idea he was reckless.

  MRS. BALDWIN—He is always very careful when he drives me. As for the rest of the help, they are the average with one exception. I think I shall discharge Gene. (Baldwin smiles.) She is getting so bold and insolent I can’t put up with it any longer. As soon as I can get a new maid I shall let her go.

  BALDWIN—You may save yourself the trouble. She is going to leave tomorrow. She gave me notice of her departure when you sent her downstairs.

  MRS. BALDWIN—(flushing angrily) It’s just like her to act that way—another piece of her insolence. I suppose I’ll have to make the best of it. It’s good riddance at all events.

  BALDWIN(in the same, soft, half-mocking voice he has used during the whole conversation with his wife) Do you suppose Fred will stay with us when he finds out?

  MRS. BALDWIN—(puzzled) Finds out what? Why shouldn’t he stay?

  BALDWIN—He is Gene’s lover—or was.

  MRS. BALDWIN—(growing pale—violently) That is a lie!

  BALDWIN—(as if astonished) Why, my dear, as if it mattered.

  MRS. BALDWIN—(forcing a laugh) How silly of me! It is my anger at Gene breaking out. But I am sure you are mistaken. I know Gene was very much in love with him but I do not think he ever noticed her.

  BALDWIN—Now you are mistaken. He may not care for her at present but there was a time when—

  MRS. BALDWIN(biting her lips) I do not believe it. That was servant’s gossip you heard

  BALDWIN—It was not what I heard, my dear Mildred, but what I saw with my own eyes.

  MRS. BALDWIN—(in an agony of jealousy) You—saw— them?

  BALDWIN— (apparently oblivious to her agitation) In a very compromising position to say the least. (Mrs. Baldwin winks back her tears of rage.) But that was long ago. (Mrs. Baldwin sighs as if relieved.) Besides, what have these servant intrigues to do with us? (Mrs. Baldwin tries to look indifferent.) I was only joking about Fred leaving. In fact from what Gene said Fred already has some other foolish woman in love with him. Only this time it is no maid, if you please, but the lady of the house herself who has lost her heart at the sight of his dark curls. The fellow is ambitious.

  MRS. BALDWIN—(her face terror-stricken —her words faltering on her lips) Do—you—know—who—this woman—is?

  BALDWIN—(watching her with grim amusement) I have one of her letters here. Would you care to read it? (He takes her note from his pocket and gives it to her.)

  MRS. BALDWIN—(taking it in her trembling hand and smoothing it out. One glance and her face grows crimson with shame. She seems to crumple up in her chair. After a moment she throws her head back defiantly and looks up at him—a pause.) Well?

  BALDWIN—(dryly, his voice softly menacing) Well? You do not know how to play the game, my sweet Mildred. If ever guilt was stamped on a face it was on yours a moment ago.

  MRS. BALDWIN(her eyes flashing) Yes. I love him! I acknowledge it.

  BALDWIN—You are better at affirming than denying. It takes courage to proclaim oneself the mistress of one’s chauffeur—to play second-fiddle to one’s maid!

  MRS. BALDWIN—(in a fury) You lie! He is a man and not the beast you are.

  BALDWIN—(softly) Be calm! You will awaken your rival and she will listen and gloat!

  MRS. BALDWIN—(lowering her voice to a shrill whisper) Oh, it was she who stole that letter?

  BALDWIN—Exactly. You are a novice at the game, my dear. Take the advice of a hardened old sinner—in the years and loves to come never write any more letters. Kisses come and kisses go, but letters remain forever—and are often brought into court.

  MRS. BALDWIN(relieved at the easy way he takes it) I cannot help this. I love him—that’s all. (pause) What are you going to do?

  BALDWIN—It was to tell you that, I sent for you.

  MRS. BALDWIN—You will get a divorce?

  BALDWIN—No.

  MRS. BALDWIN—You will keep me tied to you when you know I do not love you?—when you know I love someone else? (in pleading tones) You will not be as hard on me as that, will you, Arthur? This is not all my fault. You have never really loved me. We are not the same age. (Baldwin winces.) We do not look at things in the same light—we have nothing in common. It would be needless cruelty to both of us to keep up this farce. You will not keep me tied to you for mere spite, will you?

  BALDWIN—(in his kindest tone) No. What I intend to do is to let you get a divorce. I will give you all the evidence you need. Could I be fairer than that?

  MRS. BALDWIN—(staring at him as if she could not believe her ears) You will do that? (She rushes over and kneels at his fret, kissing his hands and sobbing.) Oh thank you! Thank you!

  BALDWIN—(looking down at her bowed head with a cruel smile) There! There! It is no more than just. I realize that youth must have it’s day. You should have trusted me.

  MRS. BALDWIN—(her voice thrilling with gratitude) How could I dream that you would be so kind? I did not dare to hope that you would ever forgive me—and he was certain you would think only of revenge. Oh, how unjust we have been to you! (She takes one of his hands in hers and kisses it.)

  BALDWIN—It is true neither of you have given me due credit for being the man I am, or you would never have acted as you did. I have known from the first it must have been for money you married me—(with a twisted smile) An old man like me. Tell me the truth. Wasn’t it?

  MRS. BALDWIN—(falteringly) Yes. I would not lie to you now. My family forced me into it. You must have realized that. I hardly knew you, but they were nagging me night and day until I gave in. It was anything to get away from home. Oh, I am sorry, so sorry! Will you forgive me?

  BALDWIN—(evading her question) I have done my best to make you happy. I have given you everything you desired, have I not?

  MRS. BALDWIN—You have been very good, very kind to me. I have tried to love you but there has always been a gulf separating us. I could never understand you.

  BALDWIN—I have trusted you, have I not—always and in everything?

  MRS. BALDWIN—(slowly) Yes, but you have never loved me. I have been just a plaything with which you amused yourself—or so it has always seemed to me. Perhaps I have been unjust to you—in that too.

  BALDWIN—If I have regarded you as a plaything I was only accepting the valuation your parents set upon you when they sold you. But these things are over and done and it is useless to discuss them. Let us talk of the present. You love Fred?

  MRS. BALDWIN—Yes, I do.

  BALDWIN—I will not stand in your way. You shall have him.

  MRS. BALDWIN—(getting up and putting her arms around his neck) Oh I do love you now—you are so good to me. (She kisses him on the lips. He does not move or touch her in any way but looks at her coldly with half-closed eyes, his thick lips curled in a sneering smile. In sudden fear Mrs. Baldwin moves away from him with a shudder. The noise of an automobile is faintly heard. Baldwin springs to his fret, his face transformed with savage exultation.)

  BALDWIN(with a hard laugh) Thanks for that Judas kiss. I hear a machine coming. It is Fred, I know. We will have him in and relieve his mind by telling him of our agreement.

  (The machine is heard coming slowly up the drive toward the house.)

  MRS. BALDWIN—(frightened by Baldwin’s change of manner) It does not sound like your car.

  BALDWIN—It is Fred, I tell you. I know it is Fred. (The car stops before the house. The horn sounds. Baldwin hurries to the door leading into the hall. Several persons can be heard coming up the steps to the verandah. A door is opened and shut and the hushed murmur of voices comes from the hallway.)

  BALDWIN—In here if you please—in here! (Mrs. Baldwin moves closer to the door, her face wan with the terror of an unknown fear. Three men, one a chauffeur, the other two servants of some description, enter carrying the dead man. Two are supporting the shoulders and one the fret. A dark robe is wrapped around the whole body. They hurriedly place it on the divan to which Baldwin points and go out quickly, glad to be rid of their gruesome task. Mrs. Baldwin is swaying weakly on her fret, her eyes wildly staring at the figure on the divan. Suddenly she gives a frantic cry and rushing over pulls the covering from the dead man’s head. The livid countenance of Fred is revealed. Several crimson streaks run down his cheek from his clotted, curly hair. Mrs. Baldwin shrieks and falls senseless on the floor. Baldwin who has watched her with the same cruel smile on his lips goes slowly over and pushes the button of the electric bell.)

  BALDWIN—(When the maid appears) Help me to get Mrs. Baldwin to her room. (He picks up the prostrate woman in his arms and with the assistance of the maid, carries her out to the hallway. They can be heard stumbling up the stair to the floor above. A moment later Baldwin reappears, breathing heavily from his exertion, his pale face emotionless and cold. He stands looking down at the dead body on the divan—finally shrugs his shoulders disdainfully, comes over to the table, takes a cigar out of the box and lights it. The maid rushes in, all out of breath and flustered.)

  THE MAID—Please go upstairs, sir. Mrs. Baldwin has come to, and she ordered me out of the room. I think she’s gone mad, sir. She’s puffing out all the drawers looking for something. . . (A dull report sounds from upstairs. The maid gives a terrified gasp.)

  BALDWIN(is startled for a moment and starts as if to run out to the hallway. Then his face hardens and he speaks to the trembling maid in even tones.) Mrs. Baldwin has just shot herself. You had better phone for the doctor, Mary.

(Curtain)


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