CHARACTERS IN THE "REAL-PLAY"
Will ............................. The author
Peggy ................Joint author and critic
Bill ..................... Their son (aged 8)
Dad ............................ Will's father
Schmidt......................... The grocer
CHARACTERS IN THE "PLAY-PLAY"
Jack ........................ The adventurer
Bob ............................. His cousin
Dad .............................. His father
Jessie.............................. His sister
Gladys .......................... His fiancee
Belle ............................. A waitress
Dolly ............................. Her sister
Bill .........................A street gamin
Schmidt ................ A restaurant keeper
A snow shoveller.
Note: The characters of Dad, Bill, Schmidt, the Landlady and the Policeman are the same in the Real and the Play-play. The character of Jack is played by Will, and that of Belle by Peggy.
SCENE.—A transparent curtain of net extends across the stage from right to left, about six feet back of the foot-lights. Throughout the text, what goes on in front of this curtain is referred to as the Real-play; what goes on behind the curtain is the Play-play. Upon the sides of the curtain, Right and Left, is painted a representation of an attic room in a tenement house. The curtain becomes thin, practically nothing at center, so the audience sees the main action of the Play-play clearly. At Right in the Real-play is a window opening on a fire-escape, and in front of the window a cot where the child sleeps. At Left in the Real-play is a window, an entrance door, a flat-topped desk and two chairs. This setting of the Real-play remains unchanged throughout the four acts.
The scenes of the Play-play change with each act. For Act I the set is a drawing-room in a wealthy old New York home, entrances Right-center and Left. Both front and rear scenes are lighted by many small lights, which can be turned off a few at a time, so that one scene or the other fades slowly. When the Real-play is in full light, the Play-play is dark and invisible. When the front scene is entirely dark, we see the Play-play, slightly veiled at the sides. In case of some rude interruption, the dream is gone in a flash, and the reality of the garret surrounds us. The text calls for numerous quick changes of three of the characters from the Real-play to the Play-play and back. Dialogue and business have been provided at these places to permit the changes.
AT RISE.—The Real-play, showing PEGGY putting BILL to bed; she is young and pretty, he is a bright but frail child.
Bill. Say, Peggy!
Peggy. Well, Bill?
Bill. Can you guess.
Peggy. How many guesses?
Peggy. All right. I guess my little son doesn't want to go to bed!
Bill. Say! You guessed it!
Peggy. Oh, mother's great at guessing!
Bill. But honest, it's still light.
Peggy. I know—but that's because it's summertime. Don't you remember the little song? (sings)
In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light;
In summer, quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day!
Bill. Say, Peggy—when's Will coming in?
Peggy. I don't know, dear. Your father's working.
Bill. Ain't he goin' to have any dinner?
Peggy. I don't know—he didn't tell me.
Bill. Is he writin'?
Peggy. Yes—or else thinking about things to write.
Bill. Say! He's great on writin', ain't he?
Peggy. You bet!
Bill. Do you think it's good stuff?
Peggy. Indeed I do, Bill!
Bill. You don't often tell him so.
Peggy. Don't I?
Bill. No—generally you rip him up the back.
PEGGY (laughs). Well, mother has to keep him trying, you know.
Bill. Say, Peggy, do you suppose I'll be an author when I grow up?
Peggy. Can't tell, dear—it depends.
Bill. Maybe I'll have to get some payin' job, hey?
Peggy. Where did you pick up that idea?
Bill. Ain't you talkin' about it all the time to him?
Peggy. Am I? Well, I declare! Now, come, Mr. Bill—it's after bed-time.
Bill. Can't I wait till Will comes?
Peggy. No, dear.
Bill. Well, will you tell him to wake me up?
Peggy. No, dear. I'll tell him not to.
Bill. But Peggy, will you have him kiss me in my sleep?
Peggy. Yes, I'll do that. Now, there you are. A big fat kiss for mother! Now, to sleep!
Bill. Say, Peggy!
Bill. The people next door ain't runnin' the gramophone tonight!
Peggy. No, dear. Now go to sleep.
Bill. And the people in hack ain't singin' any coon-songs!
Peggy. Now go to sleep for mother. Don't speak any more.
Bill. Say, Peggy!
Bill. I won't. Good night.
(She goes Left humming to herself; sits at table, and prepares to work.)
Will (Enters Left softly; a young poet, delicate and sensitive. He watches PEGGY, then closes door, tiptoes up and leans over her shoulder). Well?
Peggy (starts). Oh, Will, how you frightened me! Where in the world have you been?
Will. Oh, it's a long tale.
Peggy. Have you had dinner?
Will. No, I don't want to eat.
Peggy. What's the matter? A new idea?
Will. I'll tell you, Peggy. Wait a bit.
Peggy (as he takes mail from pocket). Some mail?
Will. Yes—all rejection slips. Nothing but rejection slips! (throws pile of returned manuscripts on the table). How I wish some magazine would get a new kind of rejection slip! (Sits dejectedly.)
Peggy. Did you get any money for the rent?
Will. Not yet, Peggy (suddenly). The truth is, I didn't try. Peggy, I've got to write that play!
Peggy (Horrified). Will!
Will. I tell you I've got to! That's what I've been doing—sitting in Union Square, working it over—ever since lunch time! It's a perfectly stunning idea.
Peggy. Oh, Will, I know all that—but how can you write plays when we must have money? Money right away! Money to pay the landlady! Money to pay the grocer!
Will. But Peggy—
Peggy. Will, you've got to do something that will sell right off the bat—payment on acceptance! Short stories! Sketches!
Will (wildly). But don't you see that so long as I do short stories and sketches I'm a slave? I earn just enough to keep us going week by week. Pot-boiling—pot-boiling—year after year! And youth is going—life is going! Peggy, I've got to make a bold stroke, do something big and get out of this!
Peggy. But Will, it's madness! A play's the hardest thing of all to sell. There's not one chance in a thousand—a hundred thousand!
Will. But Peggy—
Peggy. Listen to me. You go off in the park and dream of plays—but I have to stay at home and face the landlady and the grocer. I tell you I can't stand it! Honest to God, I'll have to go back to the stage and keep this family going.
Will (in distress). Peggy!
Peggy. I know! But I'm at the end of my rope. The landlady was here—the grocer has shut down on us. We can't get any more bread, any more meat—all our credit's gone!
Will. Gee! It's tough!
Peggy. I've held out eight years, and we never dreamed it would last that long. You said one year—three years—then surely Dad would relent and take us back, or give us some money. But Dad doesn't relent—Dad's going to die and leave his money to a Home for Cats! I tell you, dear, I've got to go back to the stage and earn a living.
Will (radiantly). You might play the heroine of my play.
Peggy. Yes—a star the first night! Isn't that like a husband and a poet! I assure you, Will, it'll be an agency for me, and a part with three lines, at thirty a week—
Will (sits staring before him, with repressed intensity). Listen! I've tried—honest, I've tried, but I can't get away from that play. You know how often I've said that I wanted to find a story like our own—so that I could use our local color, pour our emotions into it, our laughter and our tears. And, Peggy, this is the story! Our own story! It has pathos and charm—it will hold the crowd—
Peggy. Dear Will, what do you know about the crowd? Pathos and charm! Do you suppose the mob that comes swarming into Broadway at eight o'clock every evening is on the hunt for pathos and charm? They want to see women with the latest Paris fashions on them—or with nothing on them at all! They want to see men in evening dress, drinking high-balls, lighting expensive cigars, departing from palatial homes to the chugging sound of automobiles.
Will. But Peggy, this play will have two dress-suit acts. I can show the world I used to live in—I can use Dad's own house for a scene. And I can finish it in four days!
Peggy. Yes—if you sit up all night and work! Don't you know that when you work all night your stomach stops working all day? Haven't you sworn to me on the Bible you'd never work at night again?
Will (seizes her in his arms). Peggy! I've got to do this play! I've started it.
Will. What do you think I've been doing all afternoon? (Pulls out a huge wad of loose papers from rear pocket.) Look at that! (Drags her to the table.) Now sit down here and listen—I'll tell you about it. I'm going to tell my own story—a rich young fellow who has a quarrel with his father and goes out into the world to make his own way. I'm going to call him Jack, but he's really myself. Imagine me as I was at twenty-one-when I was happy, care-free, full of fun.
Peggy. Oh, Will, I can't imagine you! I can't bring myself to believe that you were ever rich and free!
Will. But I was, Peggy! And this will bring it all back to you. When you read this manuscript you'll see me when I didn't know what trouble meant-I'd never had to make an effort in my life, I couldn't imagine what it would be to fail. Oh, what a wonderful time it was, Peggy! It's been wonderful just to recall it here. I've pictured my twenty-first birthday—I had a dinner party in the big drawing-room of Dad's home! (As Will goes on the Real-play fades, and the Play-play comes slowly into sight.) There's Jessie, my sister, and there's my cousin, Bob. He's a college professor who went out into the world as a hobo in order to see life for himself. You see it's all my story—my own story! Only my name's to be Jack, you know! Here's the manuscript! Read it!
(Full light on the Play-play. The Real-play figures are in darkness, visible only in silhouette. Will exchanges places with a substitute concealed on upstage side of the desk, and then slips below the level of the desk and exit Left, to make quick change for entrance into Play-play in the role of Jack.)
Jessie. But Bob—
Bob. Well, Jessie?
Jessie. You're so hard on people, Bob!
Bob. Not at all! It's life that's hard, and you don't know it. Neither does Jack!
Jessie. Why do you want him to know it?
Bob. I want him to do his share to change it—instead of idling his life away.
Jessie. He's going to college, isn't he?
Bob (laughs). A lot of good that's doing!
Jessie. Don't you believe in going to college?
Bob. Not the way Jack's doing it. It's all play to him, and I want him to work. Just as I was trying to tell him a while ago—
Jessie. You're always nagging at him, Bob.
Bob. I want to teach him something. Something about the reality of life.
Jack (enters Play-play left in evening dress). Good heavens! You two still arguing?
Bob. Yes, Jack—still arguing!
Jack. Can't you cut it out for one evening? I'm not in your class in college.
Bob. If you were, Jack, you'd learn something real about the world you live in.
Jack. Oh, cut it out, Bob! You give me a pain! Just because you once put on hobo clothes and went out and knocked about with bums for a year, you think you've a call to go around making yourself a bore to every one you know!
Bob. Well, Jack, some things I saw made an impression on me and I can't forget them. When I hear my glib young cousin who sits and surveys life from the shelter of his father's income—when I hear him making utterly silly assertions——
Jack (angrily). What, for example?
Bob. The one you were making today—that if a man fails, it must be his own fault.
Jack. I say there's a place in life for every man that's good for anything.
Bob. I say that with things as they are at present, most men fail of necessity.
Jack. They'd succeed if they only had nerve to try. There's plenty of good jobs lying idle.
Bob. Oh, Jack, what rot!
Jack. By thunder, I'd like to show you!
Bob. We'd like to do all sorts of bold things—if only it weren't too much trouble.
Jack. What should I do to prove it?
Bob. You couldn't prove it, Jack—it isn't true.
Jack. Suppose I wanted to try to prove it? What should I do?
Bob. You're wasting my time, boy.
Jack (to Jessie). You see! He won't even answer me!
Jessie. Answer him, Bob.
Bob. Just what do you want to prove, Jack?
Jack. That a man can get a job if he really wants it.
Bob. Well, suppose you get a job!
Jessie. That's too easy! Jack has a dozen jobs waiting for him when he gets through college.
Bob. I don't mean for him to go on his father's name. Here—I'll propose a test for you. Upstairs in my trunk is an old suit that I wore when I went out and lived as a hobo. Put it on. Put on the torn overcoat and the ragged hat. I was going to say empty your pockets—but you needn't do that—there's nothing in the pockets. Go out of here tonight, and make this bargain—that for six months you won't tell a soul who you are, that you won't communicate with one of your friends, nor use any of their influence. For six months you'll shift for yourself and take what comes to you. And then you can come back, and we'll see how far you've risen in the world. Also we'll see whether you haven't changed some of your ideas! (A pause.)
Jack (in a low voice).—That would satisfy you, would it?
Bob. Yes, that would satisfy me.
Jack. All right! By thunder—I'll go you! (Starts away.) To-night!
Jessie (horrified). Jack! You're out of your senses.
Jack. I'm not. I mean it. I'm tired of his jawing at me!
Jessie (rushes to him). I won't hear of it!
Jack. I'm going to show him.
Jessie (turns to Bob). I won't have my brother leave me!
Bob. Don't worry, Jessie. Your brother won't really go!
Jack. Yes, I will!
Jessie (wildly). But Jack! It's time for your birthday-dinner!
Bob. We'll save the dinner and eat it cold. He'll be back in a day or two.
Jack. You may spare your taunts, Bob.
Jessie (catching him by the arm).—I'll send for Dad! You shan't go!
Jack (aside to Jessie). Listen, Jessie. There's another reason. I've got to go. I've got into another row at college.
Jessie. Jack! What have you done?
Jack. Oh, it's a long story—the point is, Dad has heard of it to-day, and he'll be wild. He said the last time that if I got into any more trouble, he'd turn me out.
Jessie. But, Jack! He won't really do it!
Jack. Yes, he meant it! And I don't want to give him a chance to order me out—I want to go before he gets here——(He starts off Left.) I'll go and put on those hobo clothes.
Jessie. Jack! I beg you——(Jack exit.)
Jessie (turns upon Bob). Bob, I think it's wicked of you!
Bob. Why, Jessie?
Jessie. To nag at Jack all the time! You've driven him crazy!
Bob. Never mind—he'll soon get sane. You never knew him to stick at anything very long.
Jessie. Oh! Oh! I think you're horrid! And right before our party—what will we tell the guests?
Bob. Tell them the truth; they'll think it's romantic—like a story in a play. Why, Jessie——
(During this dialogue Jack has slipped back into the coat of Will and sits at the desk, Left 1. The sound of a sharp whistle heard in the Real-play, Left 1. Instantly the Play-play vanishes. Full light on the Real-play.)
Will (looking up in bewilderment and disgust). My God! What's that?
Peggy. Something at the dumb-waiter, dear.
Will. Oh, Lord!
Peggy (rises). Wait, dear. (Hurries out of door Left, calls at shaft.) Well?
Voice below. Garbage!
Will (tears hair). Garbage.
Peggy (cheerfully). All right! (Returns and gets can, exit Left.)
Will. Garbage! Garbage! Garbage!
Peggy. A little higher, please—there, that'll do! All right! (Enters.)
Will. Can you explain to me one mystery of this universe?
Peggy. What, dear?
Will. Why does the garbage-man always call when I'm inspired?
Peggy. Dear Will—probably the garbage-man is wondering why you are always inspired when he calls.
Will (moans). Well, shall I go on?
Peggy. You must wait, dear. He'll be returning the can in a few minutes.
Will. A few minutes! Oh, the agonies of being an author! (Eagerly.) Well, what do you think of my play?
Peggy. Why, Will, I'm sorry to disappoint you. It's very interesting—but it isn't a practical play. It would never go on Broadway.
Will (in dismay). Not go on Broadway!
Peggy. No, dear. It's too talky—too much sociology. You can't get a Broadway audience to listen to long arguments.
Will. Isn't it what they all need? Those wage-slaves up in the galleries——
Peggy. I know, dear—but they've no idea they are wage-slaves, and they won't pay their money to hear you call them names. And down in the three-dollar seats are people who've made their pile, and don't want any questions asked about the way they made it. Cut out the sociology, Will!
Will. But can't one discuss modern problems in a modern play?
Peggy. Yes, dear, but you've got to go at it differently. You've got to get what the crowd calls the punch. Look at their faces, Will—see how tired they are! You've got to find something that comes home to them! Not arguments, not abstractions—but a clash of human wills! Something fundamental, that every man in the crowd can understand! Your idea's a good one, I think—having a rich boy go out to try his luck in the under-world. There's a chance in it for adventure, for fun, for suspense. You ought to know about that, since you did it yourself. But you've got to start him off differently——(The whistle blows.)
Will. Oh, hell!
Peggy. Wait, dear. (Exit Left, calls down shaft.) Lower, please. No—I said lower. There—not too low! (Enters with can.) All right! Now, our troubles are over. Listen, dear. If you really want to write, you've got to think about your audience, and what they like. Just see, to begin with, you've left out the most important thing in any play—whether it's a high-brow tragedy or Third Avenue melodrama.
Will. What's that?
Peggy. The love interest.
Will. That's to come in the second act.
Peggy. Why the second act?
Will. That's where Jack meets the heroine. I can't have two love-stories!
Peggy. My dear boy, you can have a dozen, if you've wit enough to get them in.
Will. With only one hero?
Peggy. Good Lord, Will! Didn't you ever love any woman but me?
Will (disconcerted). But, Peggy——
Peggy. Didn't you?
Will. Why—you know——
Peggy. Of course I know! You were engaged to an heiress when you ran away and married an actress. Why don't you put the heiress into this play?
Peggy. Gladys was her name, I believe. How did she act when you told her that you loved me best? A cold, proud beauty, ready to die before she'd let you know she cared! And isn't that exactly what your audience is looking for? Exactly their idea of a princess of plutocracy! And still you waste your time with a sister! Who the deuce cares anything about a sister?
Will. Look here, Peggy. You'd better write this play!
Peggy. I've been thinking about it, ever since you first told me the idea. Draw up your chair, and let me show you what I mean. (The Play-play begins to appear.) There's Bob and Jessie, the same as before; but also there's Gladys. I want a quite different atmosphere from what you had. It's afternoon, and Gladys is serving tea, and she handles the situation in tea-party fashion. Give me some paper and let me sketch the dialogue. (She begins to write rapidly. Full light on the Play-play. Will makes secret exit.)
Gladys. I'm waiting with a good deal of interest.
Bob. For what?
Gladys. I'm wondering how long it will be before it occurs to Jack to ask what I think of this plan of his.
Jessie. I hope you'll make him give it up, Gladys!
Gladys. Your suggestion is out of date, dear. The modern young man doesn't give up his ideas at the request of his fiancee.
Jessie. Tell him what you think, at least!
Gladys. You don't take sugar, Bob? Don't you see that he hasn't been interested in what I think? He has acquired some new interests. He's going to learn about the reality of life!
Jack (enters, in afternoon coat). Gladys, that's not fair!
Gladys. Will you have tea, Jack?
Jack. You know I'm up against it.
Gladys. One lump or two, Jack?
Jack. I got into a scrape at college—
Gladys. Too strong for you, Jack? No, don't make these pretences with me. You can get rid of me without going hoboing.
Jessie. How can you talk so?
Gladys. Such an ingenious compliment! In order to avoid having to see or hear from his fiancee for six months, he is willing to go and stay among the dirtiest and most disgusting people!
Jack. You are angry with me!
Bob. You ought to realize, Gladys—this will be the making of Jack.
Gladys. Suppose it will be the making of something I don't want? Suppose I'd prefer him as he is?
Bob. You don't care for him to know about life?
Gladys. I don't care for him to know about low life. I don't see at all why he can't be content with the life of ladies and gentlemen.
Jack. I thought you'd be proud to have me interested in deeper things.
Gladys. Jack, you are young and care-free. It made me happy just to see you—you were the very spirit of youth! But now you will grow serious, you will be pale, and have a frown upon your forehead. You will be eternally preaching, like Bob, here—and you will bore me to death!
Jack. You are making fun of me!
Gladys. I am perfectly serious, I assure you. My romance is dead!
Jack. You don't mean—
Gladys. I mean Jack, that I have lost you!
Jack (tries to catch her hand). You shan't say such a thing!
Gladys. Jack, such violent motions are dangerous at tea-parties. You might ruin my costume!
Jack. If you feel like that, I won't go at all!
Bob. Oho! Already!
Gladys. Go on with your adventure, Jack. And don't try to make a tragedy out of our parting—you know how I hate scenes. It would be impossible for me to love a serious man—the mere thought of it terrifies me! Go on! Go on—I absolutely insist!
Jack (desperately). All right then! If that's the way you take it, I'll go! (rushes off Left.)
Jessie. Gladys, I think it's horrid of you to behave like that!
Gladys. Not at all, Jessie!
Jessie. Do you seriously intend to send him away?
Gladys. Send him, Jessie? How do you mean? You can't send these modern young men anywheres. They come and go to suit themselves. They think they love a woman, and they plead for her love; but then they begin to change their minds—they get bored with her, and think they're bored with all life. So they go off and try something new and romantic—something less tedious than a woman's affections. The reality of life!
Jessie. I know Jack loves you!
Gladys. Indeed, Jessie? Too bad that Jack doesn't know it—(sound of gramophone in Real-play Left 1, playing a popular song. The Play-play fades rapidly.)
Will. Oh, God!
Will. The fiends! (leaps up and begins to pace the floor.) Isn't that enough to drive a man to distraction? To be trying to work, trying to create something—
Peggy. Wait, dear. (Goes and closes door.) Now forget about it.
Will. Yes, it's easy to say forget! But pretty soon the devils in the rear will begin with their coon-songs—
Peggy. Well then, we'll close the window, too.
Will. Yes, on a hot night!
Peggy. What do you think of my love-interest?
Will. I think it's rotten.
Will. Absolutely rotten! The idea of having her turn Jack down—at the very beginning of the play!
Peggy. But that's exactly what happened! Didn't Gladys turn you down? And besides, she can take him up again, if you like.
Will. How's she going to see him when he goes out on the street?
Peggy. Can't she run into him somewhere by accident?
Will. By accident—in a city of six million people!
Peggy. Well then, why not have her go where he goes? Let Bob follow Jack, or let them hire a detective.
Will. Melodrama! Ten-twenty-thirty! I don't like Gladys as a character any more than I did as a person. She's shallow and cheap—a regular worldling! I won't have any such creature in my play!
Peggy. There's no use talking that way, Will, you simply can't write a money-making play without love-interest. And also you've got to have comedy characters—real characters—
Will (eagerly). I'll have one character, at least! In the next scene, when the father comes in! It'll be a jolly lark, Peggy—I'm going to use Dad!
Peggy. Your own father!
Will. Yes, why not?
Peggy. He might hear of it, Will!
Will. He despises the theatre. Half his anger at me was because I married an actress. And it seems to me, if we can't get any money out of him, we might at least get a character-study.
Peggy. All right, Dad let it be!
Will. I'll show you how it is. Here! (Pushes the manuscripts towards her; the Play-play begins to appear.) Jack has gone upstairs to change his clothes, and here comes Dad. He's an old man—rich, irascible, given to scolding. I remember how he used to snort when anything didn't please him.
Dad. Huh! huh-huh!
Will. He's heard the story about Jack. Here's the Mss. Read. (She takes the manuscript and begins to read. Full light on Play-play. Will exit secretly.)
Dad (to Bob). What do you think of this?
Dad. My precious son in trouble again! Never any end to it! Recklessness—dissipation—insolence! I've reached the end of my patience. Absolutely the end!
Bob. What's happened?
Dad (waves letter in his hand). Here's a letter from the dean. He's got himself suspended from college.
Jessie (horrified). Oh, Dad!
Bob. What's he done?
Dad. Turning loose a live goat in a college lecture hall!
Bob. You can't mean it!
Dad. Here's the letter! They were having a fraternity initiation, it seems, and Jack was bringing the goat, his horns painted with phosphorus, a bunch of fire-crackers tied to his tail. Fire-crackers to the tail of a goat!
Jessie. But Dad! How do you know that Jack—
Dad. He admitted everything in his letter to the dean! He was passing a hall where they were giving an evening lecture. He had a grudge against the professor. He turned out the lights, and turned loose the goat! What do you think of that? (A silence.) What do you think of it?
Jessie. Why Dad, I think it's funny.
Dad. Funny! You propose to take his side, do you? And now he's out of college and has nothing to do but loaf around the house! I tell you I've reached the limit of my patience. It's just as Bob says—he's a parasite. Nothing to do but squander my money—fit for nothing else, having no other idea! I tell you I won't support the loafer!
Bob. You've brought the boy up wrong.
Dad. So you propose to blame me!
Jack (appears in doorway Left clad in ragged anil dirty overcoat). Of course, Dad. It really isn't fair to scold other people for your own blunder.
Dad. Oh, there you are! (Notices Jack's clothes.) What the devil is this?
Jack. What, Dad?
Dad. Drunk again, sir? Rolling in the gutter? And on your birthday too!
Dad. Look at him! A hundred and eighty dollars I pay to a Broadway tailor to make this young hopeful an overcoat, and look at what he does with it! I prepare a birthday party, and invite all his friends, and see the condition in which he comes to welcome them! Do you wonder my patience is exhausted? Do you wonder—
Jessie. Dad, you don't understand!
Dad. No, I don't understand! How could I be expected to understand? How can an old man hope to keep up with a youth so brilliant—a youth who goes to college and ties firecrackers to the tails of goats! A youth who comes on his birthday looking like a tramp—
Jessie. Listen, Dad—this is a joke—
Dad. Everything's a joke to my son! But I tell you I'm tired of his jokes. I mean to make him understand that his days of tomfoolery are over! Do you realize it—here he is, twenty-one years of age, when he should be coming into possession of the fortune his mother left him—and he's tying fire-crackers to the tails of goats! And I—I am trustee of the money, and have to decide whether he's fit to have it or not! I know that if I give it to him I ruin him for life—I start him on a career of drunkenness and idleness! Look at him as he stands there—and imagine him the owner of a quarter of a million dollars! And under his mother's will the only choice I have is to give it to him, or turn it over to a Home for Cats!
Jessie. Please, Dad!
Dad. Can I honestly say that one is more foolish than the other? Wouldn't I be helping him if I gave the money to the cats, and let my son go out and earn his living as best he can? Let him go down to my office and earn his twelve dollars a week, the same as any other young jackass—
Jack (stepping forward). Dad, don't you really think it's time you let me get a word in?
Dad. I'm tired of your words, young man.
Jack. You won't be troubled with them any more. I'm going to take myself out of your way. I don't want your quarter of a million dollars, and I don't want your twelve a week.
Dad. Indeed, sir! And what may this mean?
Jack. It means that I'm going out into the world as a hobo.
Jack. That's it!
Dad. Clever! Upon my word, a clever scheme! (To the others.) Look at him! The nerve of him! He knows he's misbehaved, and that I'll be angry—so he goes and puts on a masquerade costume, and tries to frighten me with a threat of turning hobo!
Jessie. Dad, it isn't that! He means to go!
Dad. I don't doubt that he means to go! But how long do you think he means to stay?
Jack. Six months, Dad.
Dad (scornfully). Six months! It won't be six days before I'll he getting bills to pay for you!
Jack. You'll get no bills from me, Dad. I'm not going to use your name.
Dad. How long will it he before I hear you've been borrowing money from your friends?
Bob. You must listen, Dad. Jack and I are making a wager. He's to go out in my hobo clothes and he's not to use his own name—he's not to see any of his old friends, nor to communicate with them. He's to depend absolutely on his own efforts—to shift for himself for six months. That's the bargain.
Dad. And do you imagine he'll keep it?
Bob. I believe he'll try.
Dad (gazes from one to the other; then with sudden vehemence). Very well! You can let me in on that bargain!
Jack. How do you mean?
Dad. Make your wager with me—I'll give you a stake to play for! A stake that will make the game worth while!
Jack. What stake, Dad?
Dad. A quarter of a million dollars! Your mother's property.
Dad. I mean what I say! As God is my witness, I'll stand by what I say! You go out of here to-night with your hobo clothes and you shift for yourself for six months. If I find out that you've told a soul whose son you are, or that you've used my name or your own name to get a cent of money or a job, or even so much as a ham sandwich; or if you come home before the six months is up, or write to one of us, or to any one else for help—as sure as I live, it will cost you a quarter of a million dollars.
Jessie. Dad, that is wicked.
Dad. It will cost him a quarter of a million dollars! I'll take the money the same day and turn it over to the Home for Cats! Do you get that, young man?
Jack. Yes, I get it, and it's a bargain!
Dad. Very well, sir. Now good luck to you!
Jack. Good-bye, Bob. Good-bye, Jessie.
Jessie (rushing to him). Jack, I can't let you go!
Jack. Don't touch me, Jessie. You'll ruin your dress.
Bob. Let her kiss you, Jack. She'll be the last girl that offers for some time.
Jack (to Jessie). Be sensible, dear. I won't let any harm come to me.
Bob. Get one of the fast freights, Jack.
Jack. No freights in mine—New York will do. There's some money still lying around in this old town, I've an idea.
Dad (sarcastically). He'll be king of the shoe-string peddlers—the walking delegate of the Hobos' Union!
Jack. You may laugh, Dad, but I know I'm not such a fool as I seem. Maybe it'll take me more than six months, but I think I can convince you in the end that I can make my way.
Dad. Maybe you'll not want the quarter of a million at all!
Jack. Oh, an extra quarter of a million would always come in handy. But we'll settle that when I return, Dad. For the present, I've got the world to conquer.
Bob. Bow down, world!
Jack. What I say is: Come on, world! (with a gesture of defiance) I'm ready for you! I'll show you what I can do. Good-bye! (exit suddenly Left)
Jessie. Jack! Jack! Oh, how perfectly terrible! This cold night, and no money! What will he do?
Bob. There's many another man out there with no money. What do they do?
Jessie. Bob, I hate you!
Dad. It'll be the very thing for the young scapegrace—if he'll stick to it.
Jessie. But how will he live, Dad?
Dad. Live? Wasn't I a poor boy when I came to the city? And didn't I manage to make a fortune? Let him do what I did!
Jessie. But you were used to hardships, Dad!
Dad. Used to it? Of course I was—and why shouldn't he be? Why is he too good to work like other men?
Jessie (pleading) Oh, Dad—(Sudden loud sounds in Real-play, Right; piano and voices shouting chorus of the latest rag-time. Play-play fades instantly.)
Will. Hell and damnation! There go the devils with their coon-songs! (leaps up with distracted gestures) Oh! Oh! Oh!
Peggy (laughing, runs to window—and tries to close it; sounds continue).
Will. The monsters! The fiends! The satellites of Satan!
Peggy. (laughing). The window's stuck! Come put it down, dear.
Will. The window's always stuck when that mad-house opens up!
Bill (waking). Ah——
Will. What's that?
Peggy. It's Bill waking (runs to him).
Bill (sitting up). Oh!
Peggy. They woke you up, dear!
Bill. I'm glad of it!
Will. Hello! Bill!
Bill. Oh, hello! You got back, did you!
Bill. Say, Will, listen to the music!
Will. I hear it.
Bill (delightedly). Gee! That's great, ain't it?
Will. You like it?
Bill. You bet I like it! Say, I know that tune! The beggar-kid sings it every time he comes. (Sits up in bed and keeps time with his finger. Chorus begins and he joins in at the top of his voice.)