THE FIRST ACT
SCENE: The terrace of the Hotel Regina Margherita, on the cliff at Sorrento, overlooking the Bay of Naples.
There is a view of the bay and its semi-circular coast-line, dotted with villages; Vesuvius gray in the distance. Across the stage at the rear runs a marble balustrade about three feet high, guarding the edge of the cliff. Upon the left is seen part of one wing of the hotel, entrance to which is afforded by wide-open double doors approached by four or five marble steps with a railing and small stoop. The hotel is of pink and white stucco, and striped awnings shield the windows. Upon the right is a lemon grove and shrubberies. There are two or three small white wicker tea-tables and a number of wicker chairs upon the left, and a square table laid with white cloth on the right.
MARIANO, maître d’hôtel, is discovered laying the table down R.C. with eggs, coffee, and rolls for two. He is a pleasant-faced, elderly man, stout, swarthy, clean shaven; wears dress-clothes, white waist-coat, and black tie. He is annoyed by the music.
[calling to the unseen musicians crossly]
[MICHELE enters from the hotel. He is young, clean-shaven except for a dark mustache, wears a white tie, a blue coat, cut like dress-coat, blue trousers with red side stripes, brass buttons; his waistcoat is of striped red and blue.]
[speaking over his shoulder]
Par ici, Monsieur Ribiere, pour le maître d’hôtel.
[RIBIERE enters from the hotel.]
[MICHELE immediately withdraws.]
[RIBIERE is a trim, business-like young Frenchman of some distinction of appearance. He wears a well-made English dark “cutaway” walking-suit, a derby hat, and carries a handsome leather writing-case under his arm.][pg 015]
[as he enters]
[bowing and greeting him gayly]
Monsieur Ribiere! J’espère que vous êtes—
[He breaks off, turns on his heel toward the invisible musicians, and shouts.]
[He turns again quickly to RIBIERE.]
[with a warning glance toward hotel]
Let us speak English. There are not so many who understand.
I hope Monsieur still occupy the exalt’ position of secretar’ to Monseigneur the Grand-Duke.
[sits and opens writing-case, answers gravely]
We will not mention the name or rank of my employer.
[with gesture and accent of despair]
Again incognito! Every year he come to our hotel for two, three day, but always incognito.
[He finishes setting the table.]
We lose the honor to have it known.
[looking at his watch]
[repeating the name carefully]
Herr von Gröllerhagen—
He wishes to be thought a German.
[Takes a note-book from case.]
Such a man! of caprice? Excentrique? Ha!
You have said it. Last night he talked by chance to a singular North American in the hotel at Napoli. To-day he has that stranger for companion in the automobile. I remonstrate. What use? He laugh for half an hour!
He is not like those cousin of his at St. Petersburg an’ Moscowa. An’ yet though Monseigneur is so good an’ generoso, will not the anarchist strike against the name of royalty himself? You have not the fear?
[opening his note-book]
I have. He has not. I take what precaution I can secretly from him. You have few guests?
It is so early in the season. Those poor musician’
[nodding off right]
Good! Who are they?
There is Milor’, an English Excellency—the Earl of Hawcastle; there is his son, the Excellency Honorabile Almeric St. Aubyn; there is Miladi Creeshe, an English Miladi who is sister-in-law to Milor’ Hawcastle.
There is an American Signorina, Mees Granger-Seempsone. Miladi Creeshe travel with her to be chaperone.
She is young, generosa, she give money to every one, she is multa bella, so pretty, weeth charm—
You speak now of Lady Creeshe?
Oh no, no, no! Miladi Creeshe is ol’ lady
[tapping his ears]
Not hear well. Deaf. No pourboires. Nothing. I speak of the young American lady, Mees Granger-Seempsone who the English Honorabile son of Milor’ Hawcastle wish to espouse, I think.
Who else is there?
There is the brother of Mees Granger-Seempsone, a young gentleman of North America. He make the eyes
Beckoss I think Comtesse de Champigny is a such good friend of the ol’ English Milor’ Hawcastle. A maître d’hôtel see many things, an’ I think Milor’ Hawcastle and Madame de Champigny have know each other from long, perhaps. This déjeuner is for them.
And who else?
It is all.
Good! no Russians?
I think Milor’ Hawcastle and Madame de Champigny have been in Russia sometime.
[putting his note-book in his pocket]
Beckoss once I have hear them spik Russian togezzer.
I think there is small chance that they recognize my employer. His portrait is little known.
And this North American who come in the automobile—does he know who he travel wiz? Does he know his Highness?
No more than the baby which is not borned.
[lifting his eyes to heaven]
[looking at his watch]
I set for one?
For two. He desires that the North American breakfast with him. Do not forget that the incognito is to be absolute.
[Exit into hotel.]
Va bene, Signore!
[Puts finishing-touches to the table.]
[Enter from the grove, LORD HAWCASTLE. He is a well-preserved man of fifty-six with close-clipped gray mustache and gray hair; his eyes are quick and shrewd; his face shows some slight traces of high living; he carries himself well and his general air is distinguished and high-bred. He wears a suit of thinly striped white flannel and white shoes, a four-in-hand tie of pale old-rose crape, a Panama hat with broad ribbon striped with white and old-rose of the same shade as his tie. His accent is that of a man of the world, and quite without affectation. [pg 020]He comes at once upon his entrance to a chair at the table.]
[MICHELE enters at same time up left, with a folded newspaper.]
[as he enters]
Milor’ Hawcastle is serve.
[Takes HAWCASTLE’S hat and places it upon a stool behind table.]
[hands HAWCASTLE newspaper from under his arm]
Il Mattino, the morning journal from Napoli, Milor’.
[accepting paper and unfolding it]
No English papers?
Milor’, the mail is late.
[Exit up left.]
And Madame de Champigny?
[MARIANO serves coffee, etc.]
[As HAWCASTLE speaks the COMTESSE DE CHAMPIGNY enters from hotel. She is a pretty Frenchwoman of thirty-two. She wears a fashionable summer Parisian morning dress, light and gay in color, a short-sleeved little Empire jacket, and long [pg 021]gloves. She carries a parasol. Her elaborately dressed hair is surmounted by a jaunty Parisian toque.]
[lifting her hand gayly as she enters, and striking a little attitude before she descends the steps]
[half rising and bowing]
My esteemed relative is still asleep?
[speaking gayly, with a very slight accent, as she crosses to a chair at the table]
I trust your beautiful son has found much better employment—as our hearts would wish him to.
He has. He’s off on a canter with the little American, thank God!
[interjecting the word]
[She turns the hands of her gloves back and sips coffee, MARIANO serving.]
But I didn’t mean Almeric. I meant my august sister-in-law.
[He reads the paper.]
The amiable Lady Victoria Hermione Trevelyan Creech has déjeuner in her apartment. What you find to read?
[starting slightly, drops a spoon noisily upon a plate on the table]
[setting down her coffee abruptly]
[translating with difficulty]
“An escaped Russian bandit has been traced to Castellamare—”
Castellamare—not twelve kilometres from here!
“—and a confidential agent”—
—secret-service man, I dare say—”has requested his arrest. But the brigand tore himself”—
—”tore himself”—What the deuce does that mean?
Pardon, Milor’—if I might—
Quite right, Mariano!
[Handing him the paper.]
Translate for us.
[reading rapidly, but with growing agitation which he tries to conceal]
“The brigan’ tore himself from the hands of the carabiniere and without the doubts he conceal himself in some of those grotto near Sorrento and searchment is being execute’. [pg 023]The agent of the Russian embassy have inform’ the bureau that this escaped one is a mos’ in-fay-mose robber and danger brigand.”
What name does the journal say he has?
It has not to say. That is all. Will Milor’ and Madame la Comtesse excuse me? And may I take the journal? There is one who should see it.
Thank you, Milor’!
[Bows hastily and hurries out up left.]
[gravely, drawing back from the table.]
I should like much to know his name.
[smiling, and eating composedly]
You may be sure it isn’t Ivanoff.
[not changing her attitude]
How can one know it is not
[pauses and speaks the name very gravely]
He wouldn’t be called an infamous brigand.
That, my friend, may be only Italian journalism.
Pooh! This means a highwayman—
—not—not an embezzler, Hélène.
[taking a deep breath and sinking back in her chair with a fixed gaze]
I am glad to believe it, but I care for no more to eat. I have some foolish feeling of unsafety. It is now two nights that I dream of him—of Ivanoff—bad dreams for us both, my friend.
What rot! It takes more than a dream to bring a man back from Siberia.
Then I pray there has been no more than dreams.
[Music of mandolins and guitars heard off to the right with song—”The Fisherman’s Song.”]
[Enter ETHEL gayly and quickly from the grove, her face radiant. She is a very pretty American girl of twenty. She wears a light-brown linen skirted coat, fitting closely, and a country riding-skirt of the same material and color, with boots, a shirt-waist, collar and tie, and three-cornered hat. She carries a riding-crop. She is followed by three musicians (two mandolins and [pg 025]a guitar), who laughingly continue the song. They are shabby fellows, two of them barefooted, wearing shabby, patched velveteen trousers and blue flannel shirts open at the throat, with big black hats, old and shapeless. One makes a low and sweeping bow before ETHEL; she takes money from her glove and gives it to him, the other two not discontinuing the song; the three immediately ’bout face and go out gleefully, capering and still singing.]
[who has risen]
The divine Miss Granger-Simpson!
[with a pronounced “English accent”]
The divinely happy Miss Granger-Simpson!
[rising, running to her, and kissing her]
Oh, I hope you mean—
[with some excitement in his voice]
You mean you have made my son divinely happy?
[ETHEL, as he speaks, extricates herself laughingly from MADAME DE CHAMPIGNY.]
Is not every one happy in Sorrento—
[with a wave of her riding-crop]
[Exit laughingly and hurriedly into the hotel.]
[MADAME DE CHAMPIGNY goes to stool behind table and gets her parasol, as HAWCASTLE resumes his seat.]
Ah! that is good. Listen!
[A piano sounds from the room ETHEL has just entered, breaking loudly and gayly into Chaminade’s “Elevation.” ETHEL’S voice is heard for a moment, also, singing.]
She has flown to her piano. It looks well, indeed—our little enterprise.
It’s time. If Almeric had been anything but a clumsy oof he’d have made her settle it weeks ago!
You are invidious, mon ami! My affair is not settled—am I a clumsy oof?
[leaning toward her across the table and speaking sharply and earnestly]
No, Hélène. Your little American, brother Horace, is so in love with you, if you asked him suddenly, “Is this day or night?” he would answer, “It’s Hélène.” But [pg 027]he’s too shy to speak. You’re a woman—you can’t press matters; but Almeric’s a man—he can. He can urge an immediate marriage, which means an immediate settlement, and a direct one.
It will not be small, that settlement?
[He shakes his head grimly, leaning back to look at her. She continues eagerly.]
You have decide’ what sum?
[He nods decidedly.]
[sharply, with determination, yet quietly]
A hundred and fifty thousand pounds!
[excited and breathless]
My friend! Will she?
[Turns and stares toward ETHEL’S room, where the piano is still heard softly playing.]
Not for Almeric, but to be the future Countess of Hawcastle. My sister-in-law hasn’t been her chaperone for a year for nothing. And, by Jove, she hasn’t done it for nothing, either!
[He laughs grimly, moving back from the table.]
It was she who found these people. Indeed, we might say that both you and I owe her something also.
[Comes around behind table to MADAME DE CHAMPIGNY.]
Even a less captious respectability than Lady Creech’s might have looked askance at the long friendship
[kisses her hand]
which has existed between us. Yet she has always countenanced us, though she must have guessed—a great many things. And she will help us to urge an immediate marriage. You know as well as I do that unless it is immediate, there’ll be the devil to pay. Don’t miss that essential: something must be done at once. We’re at the breaking-point—if you like the words—a most damnable insolvency.
[Enter ALMERIC from the grove. He is a fair, fresh-colored Englishman of twenty-five, handsome in a rather vacuous way. He wears white duck riding-breeches, light-tan leather riding-gaiters and shoes, a riding-coat of white duck, a waistcoat light tan in shade, and a high riding-stock, the collar of which is white, the “puffed” tie pink; a Panama hat [pg 029]with a fold of light tan and white silk round the crown. Carries a riding-crop.]
[as he enters]
[His voice is habitually loud and his accent somewhat foppish, having a little of the “Guardsman” affectation of languor and indifference.]
[He drops into a chair at the breakfast-table with a slight effect of sprawling.]
Out riding a bit ago, you know, with Miss Granger-Simpson. Rippin’ girl, isn’t she?
[leaning across the table toward him, anxiously]
[continuing, slapping his gaiters carelessly with his crop]
Didn’t stop with her, though.
A sort of man in the village got me to go look at a bull-terrier pup. Wonderful little beast for points. Jolly luck—wasn’t it? He’s got a head on him—
[Throws his cigar disgustedly into one of the coffee-cups on the table.]
Is that all you have to tell us?
Oh no! She accepted me.
[HAWCASTLE drops into a chair with a long breath of relief.]
[waving her parasol]
Enfin! Bravo! And will she let it be soon?
I dare say there’ll be no row about that; I’ve made her aw’fly happy.
On my soul, I believe you’re right—and thank God you are!
[Rises as he speaks and walks up centre. Breaks off short as he sees HORACE.]
Here’s the brother—attention now!
[HORACE enters the hotel. He is a boyish-looking American of twenty-two, smooth-shaven. He wears white flannels, the coat double-breasted and buttoned, the tie is light blue “puffing” fastened with a large pearl. He wears light-yellow chamois gloves, white shoes, a small, stiff English straw hat with blue-and-white [pg 031]ribbon. When he speaks it is with a strong “English accent,” which he sometimes forgets. At present he is flushed and almost overcome with happy emotion. As he comes down the steps MADAME DE CHAMPIGNY rushes toward him, taking both his hands.]
Ah, my dear Horace Granger-Simpson! Has your sister told you?
[radiant, but almost tearful]
She has, indeed. I assure you I’m quite overcome.
[MADAME DE CHAMPIGNY, dropping his hands, laughs deprecatingly, and steps back from him.]
Really, I assure you.
[shaking hands with him very heartily]
My dear young friend, not at all, not at all.
[fanning himself with his hat and wiping his brow]
I assure you I am, I assure you I am—it’s quite overpowering—isn’t it?
Ah, poor Monsieur Horace!
[crossing and grasping his hand]
She’s worthy of it—she’s worthy of it. I know she is. And when will it be?
Oh, the date? I dare say within a year—two years—
[COMTESSE starts to exclaim, but HAWCASTLE checks her.]
Oh, but I say, you know! Isn’t that putting it jolly far off? The thing’s settled, isn’t it? Why not say a month instead of a year?
Oh, if you like, I don’t know that there is any real objection.
I do like, indeed. Why not let them marry here in Italy?
Ah, the dashing methods of you Americans! Next you’ll be saying, “Why not here at Sorrento?”
Well, and why not, indeed?
And then it will be, “Why not within a fortnight?”
And why should it not be in a fortnight?
Just as you like, Governor, just as you like.
My son is all impatience!
Shall we dispose at once of the necessary little details, the various minor arrangements, the—the settlement?
[Interrupts himself with a friendly laugh.]
Of course, as a man of the world, of our world, you understand there are formalities in the nature of a settlement.
[interrupting eagerly and pleasantly, laughing also]
Quite so, of course, I know, certainly, perfectly!
We’ll have no difficulty about that, my boy. I’ll wire my solicitor immediately, and he’ll be here within two days. If you wish to consult your own solicitor you can cable him.
[with some embarrassment]
A sort of guardian—what sort?
I really can’t say. Never saw him that I know of. You see, we’ve been on this side so many years, and there’s been no occasion for this fellow to look us up, but he’s never opposed anything Ethel wrote for; he seems to be an easygoing old chap.
But would his consent to your sister’s marriage—or the matter of a settlement—be a necessity?
Oh, I dare say; but if he has the slightest sense of duty toward my sister, he’ll be the first to welcome the alliance, won’t he?
Then when my solicitor comes, he and your man can have an evening over a lot of musty papers and the thing will be done. Again, my boy,
[taking HORACE’S hand]
I welcome you to our family. God bless you!
I’m overpowered, you know—really overpowered.
[Fans himself again and wipes his forehead.]
Let him know it’s a hundred and fifty thousand pounds.
[Exit into hotel, followed immediately by ALMERIC.]
[HORACE turns toward MADAME DE CHAMPIGNY; she gives him both hands.]
My friend, I am happy for you.
Think of it, at the most a fortnight, and dear old Ethel will be the Honorable Mrs. St. Aubyn, future Countess of Hawcastle!
[MADAME DE CHAMPIGNY, lightly, at the same time withdrawing her hands and picking up her parasol from the chair where she has left it.]
Yes, there is but those little arrangement over the settlement paper between your advocate and Lord Hawcastle’s; but you Americans—you laugh at such things. You are big, so big, like your country!
Ah, believe me, the great world, the world of yourself, Countess, has thoroughly alienated me.
[coming close to him, looking at him admiringly]
[She lays her right hand on his left arm. He takes her hand with his right hand. They stand facing each other.]
Well, perhaps, in those things I am American, but in others I fancy I should be thought something else, shouldn’t I?
You are a debonair man of the great world; and yet you are still American, in that you are ab-om-i-nab-ly rich.
[She laughs sweetly.]
The settlement—Such matter as that, over which a Frenchman, an Italian, an Englishman might hesitate, you laugh! Such matter as one-hundred-fifty thousand pounds—you set it aside; you laugh! You say, “Oh yes—take it!”
[his eyes wide with surprise]
A hundred and fifty thousand pounds! Why, that’s seven hundred and fifty thous—
[He pauses, then finishes decidedly.]
She couldn’t use the money to better advantage.
[to HORACE, with deep admiration]
My friend, how wise you are!
[She perceives ETHEL’S entrance over HORACE’S shoulder, and at once runs to her, embraces her, and kisses her, crying.]
Largesse, sweet Countess of Hawcastle! Largesse! and au revoir! Adieu! I leave you with your dear brother. A rivederci.
[She runs gayly out, waving her parasol to them as she goes.]
[going to ETHEL]
Dear old sis, dear old pal!
[Affectionately gives her hand a squeeze and drops it.]
Isn’t it glorious, Hoddy!
The others are almost as pleased as we are.
[He leans back in chair, knees crossed, hands clasped over knees, and regards her proudly.]
[opens the books she carries, laying them on one of the tea-tables]
This is Burke’s Peerage, and this is Froissart’s Chronicles. I’ve been reading it all over again—the St. Aubyns at Crecy and Agincourt,
[with an exalted expression]
They want it to be your name soon, sis.
[suddenly thoughtful, speaks appealingly]
You’re fond of Almeric, aren’t you, Hoddy—you admire him, don’t you?
Certainly. Think of all he represents.
Ah, yes! Crusader’s blood flows in his veins. It is to the nobility that must be within him that I have plighted my troth. I am ready to marry him when they wish.
Then as soon as the settlement is arranged. It’ll take about all your share of the estate, sis, but it’s worth it—a hundred and fifty thousand pounds.
What better use could be made of a fortune than to maintain the state and high condition of so ancient a house?
Doesn’t it seem impossible that we were born in Indiana!
[He speaks seriously, as if the thing were incredible.]
But isn’t it good that the pater “made his pile,” as the Americans say, and let us come over here when we were young to find the nobler things, Hoddy—the nobler things!
You don’t suppose that father’s friend, my guardian, this old Mr. Pike, will be—will be QUEER, do you?
Well, the governor himself was rather raw, you know. This is probably a harmless enough old chap—easy to handle—
I wish I knew. I shouldn’t like Almeric’s family to think we had queer connections of any sort—and he might turn out to be quite shockingly American
[with genuine pathos]
I—I couldn’t bear it, Hoddy.
Then keep him out of the way. That’s simple enough. None of them, except the solicitor, need see him.
[Instantly upon this there is a tremendous though distant commotion beyond the hotel—wild laughter and cheers, the tarantella played by mandolins and guitars, also sung, shouts of “Bravo Americano!” and “Yanka Dooda!” The noise continues and increases gradually.]
Must be a mob.
[LADY CREECH, flustered and hot, enters from the hotel. She is a haughty, cross-looking woman in the sixties.]
[going to LADY CREECH, speaks close to her ear and loudly]
Lady Creech—dear Lady Creech—what is the trouble?
Some horrible people coming to this hotel! They’ve made a riot in the village.
[The noise becomes suddenly louder. MARIANO, immediately upon LADY CREECH’S entrance, appears in hotel doors, makes a quick gesture toward breakfast-table, and withdraws.]
[MICHELE, laughing, immediately enters by same doors, goes rapidly to the breakfast-table and clears it. The others pay no attention to this.]
[at steps up left]
It’s not a riot—it’s a revolution.
[sinking into a chair, angrily]
One of your horrid fellow-countrymen, my dear. Your Americans are really too—
Not ours, you know. One could hardly say that, could one?
[heard outside laughing]
Oh, I say, what a go!
[Enters from the hotel, laughing.]
Motor-car breaks down on the way here; one of the Johnnies in it, a German, discharges the chauffeur; and the other Johnny,
[he throws himself sprawling into a chair]
one of your Yankee chaps, Ethel, hires two silly little donkeys, like rabbits, you know, to pull the machine the rest of the way here. Then as they can’t make it, by Jove, you know, he puts himself in the straps with the donkeys, and proceeds, attended by the populace. Ha, ha! I say!
[HORACE, gloomy, comes down and sits at tea-table.]
[angrily, to ALMERIC]
Don’t mumble your words, Almeric. I never understand people when they mumble their words.
[RIBIERE, who looks anxious, appears in the hotel doorway, then stands aside on the stoop for MARIANO and MICHELE; they enter and pass him with trays, fresh cloth, etc., for table down right, which they rapidly proceed to set. A valet de chambre enters up left, following them immediately. [pg 042]He carries a tray with a silver dish of caviar and a bottle of vodka. As he enters he hesitates for one moment, looking inquiringly at RIBIERE, who motions him quickly toward MARIANO and MICHELE, and withdraws. Valet rapidly crosses right to table, sets caviar and vodka on the table, and exits up left. The others pay no attention to any of this.]
I went up to this Yankee chap, I mean to say—he was pullin’ and tuggin’ along, you see, don’t you?—and I said, “There you are, three of you all in a row, aren’t you?”—meanin’ him and the two donkeys, Ethel, you see.
[who has been leaning close to ALMERIC to listen]
All he could answer was that he’d picked the best company in sight.
[annoyed, half under her breath]
No meanin’ to it. I had him, you know, I rather think, didn’t I?
But we know that such Americans are not of your class, cherie.
A dreadful person, I quite fear.
The English papers.
[Lays papers on one of the tea-tables.]
I’ll take the Pink ‘Un, Governor. I’m off.
[Starts to go, the Pink ‘Un under his arm.]
For a stroll, Almeric? Would you like me to go with you?
Well, I rather thought I’d have a quiet bit of readin’, you know.
[Exit ALMERIC rapidly up left.]
[in a deep and gloomy voice]
The Church Register!
[HAWCASTLE gives her a paper.]
[HORACE takes the London Mail.]
[ETHEL and MADAME DE CHAMPIGNY walk back to the terrace railing, chatting. The others seat themselves about the tea-tables to read.]
[unfolding his paper, speaks crossly to MARIANO]
Mariano, how long is this noise to continue?
How can I know? We can do nothing.
[smilingly, looking up from table where he has continued to work]
The people outside will not go while they think there is once more a chance to see the North American who pull the automobile with those donkeys.
He have confuse’ me; he have confuse’ everybody. He will not be content with the déjeuner till he have the ham and the eggs. And he will have the eggs cooked only on one side, and how in the name of heaven can we tell which side?
[appearing in the hotel doorway, speaks sharply but not loudly]
[looking up from paper]
Upon my soul, who’s all this?
[not turning his head, replies in an awed undertone]
It is Herr von Gröllerhagen, a German gentleman, Milor’.
[amused, to HORACE]
Man that owned the automobile. Probably made a fortune in sausages.
[heard within the hotel, approaching]
Nein, nein, Ribiere! ‘S macht nichts!
[He enters from the hotel. He is a portly man of forty-five, but rather soldierly than fat. His hair, pompadour, is reddish blond, beginning to turn gray, like his mustache and large full beard; the latter somewhat “Henry IV.” and slightly forked at bottom. His dress produces the effect rather of carelessness than of extreme fashion. He wears a travelling-suit of gray, neat enough but not freshly pressed, the trousers showing no crease, the coat cut in “walking-coat style,” with big, slanting pockets, in which he carries his gloves, handkerchief, matches, [pg 046]and a silver cigarette-case full of Russian cigarettes. On his head is a tan-colored automobile cap with buttoned flaps. He is followed by RIBIERE, who, anxious and perturbed, wishes to call his attention to the item in the Neapolitan morning paper.]
[waving both RIBIERE and the paper aside, in high good-humor]
Las’ mich, las’ mich! Geh’n sie weg!
[RIBIERE bows submissively, though with a gesture of protest, and exit into the hotel. The group about the tea-table watch VASILI with hostility.]
What a dreadful person!
[VASILI crosses to his seat at the breakfast-table in front of MARIANO and MICHELE, who bows profoundly as he passes.]
[lifting his hand in curt, semi-military salute, to acknowledge the waiters’ bows]
See to my American friend.
[to LADY CREECH, in her ear]
Quite right; but take care, he speaks English.
[glaring at VASILI]
Many thoroughly objectionable persons do!
[apparently oblivious to her remark, to MARIANO]
My American friend wishes his own national dish.
[deferentially, and serving VASILI to caviar]
Yes, Herr von Gröllerhagen, he will have the eggs on but one of both sides and the hams fried. So he go to cook it himself.
[Loud shouts and wild laughter from the street. HORACE, ALMERIC, and LADY CREECH set their papers down in their laps and turn toward the door.]
Ha! He return from the kitchen with those national dish.
[glancing in the doorway]
[MICHELE backs out on the stoop from the doorway laughing, carrying a platter of ham and eggs.]
He have gone to wash himself at the street fountain.
[laughing, clapping his hands]
[PIKE enters from the hotel. He is a youthful-looking American of about thirty-five, good-natured, shrewd, humorous, and kindly. His voice has the homely quality of the Central States, clear, quiet, and strong, with a very slight drawl at times when the situation strikes him as humorous, often exhibiting an apologetic character. He does not speak a dialect. His English is the United States language as spoken by the average citizen to be met on a daycoach anywhere in the Central States. He is clean-shaven, and his hair, which shows a slight tendency to gray, is neatly parted on the left side. His light straw hat is edged with a strip of ribbon. The hat, like the rest of his apparel, is neither new nor old. His shirt, “lay-down” collar, and cuffs are of white, well-laundered linen. He wears a [pg 049]loosely knotted tie. A linen motor-duster extends to his knees. His waistcoat is of a gray mixture, neither dark nor light. His trousers are of the same material and not fashionably cut, yet they fit him well and are neither baggy at the knees nor “high-water.” His shoes are plain black Congress gaiters and show a “good shine.” In brief, he is just the average well-to-do but untravelled citizen that you might meet on an accommodation train between Logansport and Kokomo, Indiana. As he enters he is wiping his face, after his ablutions, with a large towel, his hat pushed far back on his head. The sleeves of his duster are turned back, and his detachable cuffs are in his pocket. He comes through the doors rubbing his face with the towel, but, pausing for a moment on the stoop, drops the towel from his face to dry his hands. All except VASILI and the waiters stare at him with frowns of annoyance.][pg 050]
[beamingly unconscious of this, surprised, and in a tone of cheerful apology, believing all the world to be as good-natured and sensible as Kokomo would be under the circumstances]
Law! I didn’t know there was folks here. I reckon you’ll have to excuse me.
[As he speaks he dries his hands quickly.]
[He hands the towel to MICHELE. PIKE rapidly descends the steps, goes to the breakfast-table, joining VASILI and taking the seat opposite him.]
You’re a true patriot, my friend. You allow no profane hand to cook your national dish. I trust you will be as successful with that wicked motor of mine.
Lord bless your soul, I’ve put a self-binder together after a pony-engine had butted it half-way through a brick deepoe!
[Tucks his napkin in collar of his waistcoat and applies himself to the meal.]
[LADY CREECH lets her periodical rest in her lap, and without any abating or concealment, fixes PIKE with a basilisk glare which continues. He is unconscious of all this, his back being three-quarters to their group.]
You have studied mechanics at the University?
University? Law, no! On the old man’s farm.
[VASILI nods gravely.]
[blandly, to HORACE]
Without any disrespect to you, my dear fellow, what terrific bounders most of your fellow-countrymen are!
Do you wonder sis and I have emancipated ourselves?
Not at all, my dear lad.
Can I persuade you to accept a little of one of my own national dishes—caviar?
Caviar? I’ve heard of it. I thought it was Rooshian.
[disturbed, but instantly recovering, himself]
It is German, also. Will you not?
I expect I’d never get to the legislature again if the boys heard about it. Still, I reckon I’m far enough from home to take a few risks.
[He loads a fork with caviar, and with a smile places it in his mouth. The smile slowly fades, his face becomes thoughtful, then grave; he slowly sets the fork upon his plate, his eyes turn toward VASILI with a look both puzzled and plaintive, his mouth firmly closed, his jaw moving slightly.]
I fear you do not like it. A few swallows of vodka will take away the taste.
[Gives him a glass, which PIKE accepts, drinking a mouthful in haste, VASILI watching him, sincerely concerned and troubled. PIKE swallows the vodka, quietly sets the glass down on the table, his eyelids begin to flutter, he bends a look of suffering and distrust upon VASILI, slowly rises and closes his eyes, then slowly sits and opens them. Gradually a faint, distrustful smile appears on his face.][pg 053]
[in the voice of a convalescent]
I never had any business to leave Indiana!
I am sorry, my friend.
[PIKE takes another large forkful of caviar.]
But I thought you did not like the caviar?
It’s to take away the taste of the vodka.
I lift my hat to you.
You never worked on a farm in your own country, Doc?
That has been denied me.
I expect so. Talk about things to drink! Harvest-time, and the women folks coming out from the house with a two-gallon jug of ice-cold buttermilk!
[Sets down the glass and whistles softly with delight.]
[HORACE shows increasing signs of annoyance.]
You still enjoy those delights?
Not since I moved up to our county-seat ten years ago and began to practice law. Things don’t taste the same in the city.
You do not like your city?
Like it? Well, sir, for public buildings and architecture, I wouldn’t trade our State insane asylum for the worst-ruined ruin in Europe—not for hygiene and real comfort.
And your people?
The best on earth. Out my way folks are neighbors.
[HORACE snaps his paper sharply.]
But you have no leisure class.
[VASILI is looking keenly at HAWCASTLE and HORACE as he speaks.]
Got a pretty good-sized colored population.
I mean no aristocracy—no great old families such as we have, that go back and back to the Middle Ages.
Well, I expect if they go back that far they might just as well set down and stay there. No, sir, the poor in my country don’t have to pay taxes for a lot of useless kings and earls and first grooms of the bedchamber and second ladies in waiting, and I don’t know what all. If anybody wants our money for nothin’ he has to show energy enough to steal it. I wonder a man like you doesn’t emigrate.
This fellow is distinctly of the lower orders. We should cut him as completely in the States as here.
I wonder you make this long journey, my friend, instead of to spend your holiday at home.
Holiday! Why, I never had time even to go to Niagara Falls!
[Sets his napkin carelessly on table and lights a Russian cigarette.]
What is it he does with his serviette?
[moving his chair back from the table slightly, and folding his napkin]
No, sir, you wouldn’t catch me puttin’ in any time in these old kingdoms unless I had to.
[loudly, to HAWCASTLE]
Hawcastle, can you tell me how much longer these persons intend to remain here listening to our conversation?
[PIKE half turns to LADY CREECH, innocently puzzled.]
Oh, it isn’t that; but it’s somewhat annoying not to be allowed to read one’s paper in peace.
Quite beastly annoying!
I fear we have disturbed these good people.
Do you think they’re hinting at us?
I fear so.
[gently and with sincere amazement]
Why, we haven’t done anything to ’em.
No, my friend.
Well, I guess there ain’t any bones broken.
[throws down paper angrily on tea-table]
I can’t stand this. I shall go for a stroll.
I expect it’s about time for me to go and find the two young folks I’ve come to look after.
You are here for a duty, then?
[with gravity, yet smiling faintly]
I shouldn’t be surprised if that was the name for it. Yes, sir, all the way from Indiana.
[ETHEL utters a low cry of fear.]
[HORACE, having secured his hat, is just rising to go, drops back into his chair with a stifled exclamation of dismay.]
[They all stare at PIKE.]
I expect, prob’ly, Doc, I won’t be able to eat with you this evening. You see—
[he pauses, somewhat embarrassed]
—you see, I’ve come a mighty long ways to look after her, and she, prob’ly—that is, they’ll prob’ly want me to have supper with them.
[The latter part of this speech is spoken rather breathlessly, though not rapidly, and almost tremulously, and with a growing smile that is like a confession.]
Do not trouble for me. Your young people, they have a villa?
No; they’re right here in this hotel.
I must get away!
[He says this huskily, almost in a whisper, as if to himself. His face is tense with anxiety.]
[with a gesture of dismissal, though graciously]
Seek them. I finish my cigarette.
Guess I better ask.
[HORACE is crossing, meaning to get away through the grove.]
[lifting his voice]
Excuse me, son, ain’t you an American?
[More decidedly, to MARIANO.]
Waiter, tell that gentleman I’m speaking to him.
M’sieu’, that gentleman speak with you.
[agitated and angry]
[MARIANO bows toward PIKE.]
[at same time genially]
I thought from your looks you must be an American.
Are you speaking to me?
Well, I shouldn’t be surprised. Ain’t you an American?
I happen to have been born in the States.
Well, that was luck!
[turning as if to go]
Will you kindly excuse me?
Hold on a minute! I’m looking for some Americans here, and I expect you know ’em—boy and girl named Simpson.
[His tone is both alarmed and truculent.]
No, sir; just plain Simpson. Granger’s their middle name. That’s for old Jed Granger, grandfather on their ma’s side.
[He pronounces “ma” with the broad Hoosier accent—”maw.”]
I want to see ’em both, but it’s the girl I’m rilly looking for.
[trembling, but speaking even more haughtily]
Will you be good enough to state any possible reason why Miss Granger-Simpson should see you?
[in profound surprise, yet mildly]
Reason—why, yes—I’m her guardian.
[ETHEL lifts her hand to her forehead as if dizzy. MADAME DE CHAMPIGNY puts an arm around her. ETHEL recovers herself and stands rigidly, staring at PIKE.]
Yes, sir, Daniel Voorhees Pike, attorney at law, Kokomo, Indiana.
[HORACE falls back from him in horror.]
[MADAME DE CHAMPIGNY kisses ETHEL compassionately on cheek and follows LADY CREECH off.]
[MARIANO and MICHELE, having cleared the table, exeunt.]
[hoarse with shame, to PIKE; slight pause after PIKE’S last speech.]
I shall ask her if she will consent to an interview.
[at same time, astounded]
“Consent to an interview”? Why, I want to talk to her!
[quickly and earnestly to ETHEL]
This shall make no difference to us, my child. Speak to him at once.
[Exit into the hotel.]
Don’t you understand? I’m her guardian.
[with a desperate gesture]
I shall never hold up my head again!
[gravely, to PIKE]
When you have finished your affairs, my friend, remember my poor car yonder.
[with a melancholy smile]
All right, Doc, I’m kind of confused just now, but I reckon I can still put a plug back in a gear-box.
[at same time]
Then au revoir, my friend.
[Strolls off through the grove.]
[watching him go, thoughtfully]
[haughtily, yet with the air of confessing a humiliating truth, her eyes cast down]
I am Miss Granger-Simpson.
[As she speaks he turns and lifts his hand toward her as if suddenly startled. He has not seen her until now. He stands for a moment in silence, looking at her with great tenderness and pride.]
[with both wonder and pathos in his voice]
Why, I knew your pa from the time I was a little boy till he died, and I looked up to him more’n I ever looked up to anybody in my life, but I never thought he’d have a girl like you!
[She turns from him; he takes a short step nearer her.]
He’d ‘a’ been mighty proud if he could see you now.
[quickly, and with controlled agitation]
I don’t see how that’s possible.
Will you please sit down?
[ETHEL shivers at the “ma’am.”]
[He sits in the chair which HORACE has occupied, still holding his hat in his hand.]
[tremulously, her eyes cast down]
As you know, I—I—
[She stops, as if afraid of breaking down; then, turning toward him, cries sharply.]
Oh, are you really my guardian?
Well, I’ve got the papers in my grip. I expect—
Oh, I KNOW it! It is only that we didn’t fancy, we didn’t expect—
I expect you thought I’d be considerable older.
Not only that—
I expect you thought I’d neglected you a good deal,
and it did LOOK like it—never comin’ to see you; but I couldn’t hardly manage the time to get away. You see, bein’ trustee of your share of the estate, I don’t hardly have a fair show at my law practice. But [pg 063]when I got your letter, eleven days ago, I says to myself: “Here, Daniel Voorhees Pike, you old shellback, you’ve just got to take time. John Simpson trusted you with his property, and he’s done more
[his voice rises, but his tone is affectionate and shows deep feeling]
—he’s trusted you to look out for her, and now she’s come to a kind of jumpin’-off place in her life—she’s thinking of gettin’ married; and you just pack your grip-sack and hike out over there and stand by her!”
I quite fail to understand your point of view. Perhaps I had best make it at once clear to you that I am no longer thinking of marrying.
[leaning back in his chair and smiling on her]
I mean I have decided upon it. The ceremony is to take place within a fortnight.
Well, I declare!
We shall dispense with all delays.
[slowly and a little sadly]
Well, I don’t know as I could rightly say anything against that. He must be a mighty nice fellow, and you must think a heap of him!
[With a suppressed sigh.]
[He smiles again and leans toward her in a friendly way.]
And you’re happy, are you?
[with cold emphasis, sitting very straight in her chair]
[PIKE’S expression becomes puzzled, he passes his hand over his chin, looks at her keenly. Then his eyes turn to the spot where HORACE stood during their interview, and he starts, as though shocked at a sudden thought.]
It ain’t that fellow I was talkin’ to yonder?
That was my brother!
[relieved, but somewhat embarrassed]
[Recovering himself immediately and smiling.]
But, naturally, I wouldn’t remember him. He couldn’t have been more than twelve years old last time you were home. Of course, I’d ‘a’ known you—
How? You couldn’t have seen me since I was a child.
From your picture. Though now I see—it ain’t so much like you.
The last time I saw your father alive he gave me one.
Gave it to you?
Gave it to me to look at.
And you remembered—
Remembered well enough to know me?
It does not strike me as possible. We may dismiss the subject.
Well, if you’d like to introduce me to your
[laughing feebly and tentatively, hesitates]
To my brother?
No, ma’am; I mean to your—to the young man.
To Mr. St. Aubyn? I think it quite unnecessary.
I’m afraid I can’t see it just that way
[with an apologetic laugh]
I’ll have to have a couple of talks with him—sort of look him over, so to speak. I won’t stay around here spoilin’ your fun any longer than I can help. Only just for that, and to get a letter I’m expectin’ here from England. Don’t you be afraid.[pg 066]
I do not see that you need have come at all.
[Her lip begins to tremble.]
We could have been spared this mortification.
You mean I mortify you? Why, I—I can’t see how.
In a hundred ways—every way. That common person who is with you—
He ain’t common. You only think so because he’s with me.
Who is he?
He told me his name, but I can’t remember it. I call him “Doc.”
It doesn’t matter! What does matter is that you needn’t have come. You could have written your consent.
Not without seeing the young man.
And you could have arranged the settlement in the same way.
Settlement? You seem to have settled it pretty well without me.
You do not understand. An alliance of this sort always entails a certain settlement.
Yes, ma’am—when folks get married they generally settle down considerable.
Money, you mean?
If you choose to put it that way.
You mean you want to put aside something of your own to buy a lot and fix up a place to start housekeeping—
No, no! I mean a settlement upon Mr. St. Aubyn directly.
You mean you want to give it to him?
If that’s the only way to make you understand—yes!
How much do you want to give him?
A hundred and fifty thousand pounds.
Seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars!
Well, he has made you care for him! I guess he must be the Prince of the World, honey! He must be a great man. I expect you’re right about me not meetin’ him! I prob’ly wouldn’t stack up very high alongside of a man that’s big enough for you to think as much of as you do of him.
Is it your property?
I’ve worked pretty hard to take care of it for you.
[rising impulsively and coming to him]
Forgive me for saying that.
It was unworthy of me, unworthy of the higher and nobler things that life calls me to live up to
—that I shall live up to. The money means nothing to me—I am not thinking of that. It is merely a necessary form.
Have you talked with Mr. St. Aubyn about this settlement—this present you want to make him?
Not with him.
I thought not! You’ll see—he wouldn’t take it if I’d let you give it to him. A fine man like that wants to make his own way, of course. Mighty few men like to have fun poked at ’em about livin’ on their wife’s money.
Oh, I can’t make you understand! A settlement isn’t a gift.
[as if humoring her]
How’d you happen to decide that just a hundred and fifty thousand pounds was what you wanted to give him?
His father? What’s he got to do with it?
He is the Earl of Hawcastle, the head of the ancient house.
And he asks you for your property—asks you for it in so many words?
As a settlement!
And your young man knows it?
I tell you I have not discussed it with Mr. St. Aubyn.
I reckon not! Well, sir, do you know what’s the first thing Mr. St. Aubyn will do when he hears his father’s made such a proposition to you? He’ll take the old man out in the back lot and give him a thrashing he won’t forget to the day of his death!
[The roll of drums is heard, distant, as if sounding below the cliff; bugle sounds at the same time.]
[MARIANO and MICHELE run hurriedly from the hotel and lean over balustrade at back, as if watching something below the cliff.]
[PIKE and ETHEL, surprised, turn to look.]
[calling to ETHEL as he enters]
A bandit of Russia, Mademoiselle! The soldiers think he hide in a grotto under the cliff!
[ALMERIC comes on rapidly from the hotel, carrying a shot-gun.]
[enthusiastically, as he enters]
Oh, I say, fair sport, by Jove! Fair sport!
[to ETHEL, indicating ALMERIC, chuckling]
I saw him on the road here—what’s he meant for?
Think I’ll have a chance to pot the beggar, Michele?
[He joins MICHELE at balustrade.]
No, Signore, there are two companies of carabiniere.
[PIKE, delighted, chuckles aloud.]
I wish to present my guardian to you.
This is Mr. St. Aubyn.
Hallo, though! It’s the donkey man, isn’t it? How very odd! You’ll have to see the Governor and our solicitor about the settlement. I’ve some important business here. The police are chasing a bally convict chap under the [pg 071]cliffs over yonder, so you’ll have to excuse me. I’ll have to be toddling.
[Goes up to terrace wall overlooking cliffs.]
You know there’s nothing like a little convict shooting to break the blooming monotony—what?
[The bugle sounds. ALMERIC turns and rushes off.]
Wait for me, you fellows! Don’t hurt him till I get there!
[His voice dies away in the distance.]
[turning to ETHEL with slow horror]
Seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars for—How much do they charge over here for a real man?
[She is unable to meet his eye. She turns, with flaming cheeks, and runs into the hotel. He stands staring after her, incredulous, dumfounded, in a frozen attitude.]
END OF THE FIRST ACT
Categories: English Literature