The Summer Season
Adapted from Carlo Goldoni’s Trilogia della Villeggiatura
By J. Weintraub
Volume 8, Number 2, Fall 2020
The Villeggiatura trilogy was one of the last works Carlo Goldoni wrote for the Venetian stage before he left Italy permanently to become director of the Comédie-Italienne in Paris. These three plays represent an extended critique of the villeggiatura, a sort of holiday where wealthy Venetians traveled to their mainland “villas,” ostensibly to supervise the harvest, but primarily to vacation, to display their appreciation for fashion, and occasionally to arrange for the marriage of the eligible women in their families. Joining the nobility in this practice were the affluent bourgeoisie, the target of Goldoni’s satire, who added social climbing to the above mix, often to the detriment of their financial health.
The three plays are Le Smanie per la Villeggiatura (“The Frenzied Yearnings for . . .”), Le Avventure della Villeggiatura (“The Adventures of . . .”), and Il Ritorno dalla Villeggiatura (“The Return from . . .”). They were produced sequentially in the late Fall of 1761 at Venice’s Teatro San Luca with only moderate success, and then vanished almost entirely from the repertoire for two centuries.
In 1954 Giorgio Strehler was the first to offer the three plays in a single production at Milan’s Piccolo Teatro. The major problem with this consolidation, he later observed, was not its legitimacy but the length of the whole, and he accordingly edited the work substantially. But he also wished to preserve Goldoni “absolutely unchanged,” resulting in a performance that surpassed five hours. Yet despite its length, the production was remarkably successful and was instrumental in reintroducing the trilogy into the canon as a culmination of Goldoni’s trajectory from the traditions of commedia dell’arte to a kind of social realism approaching the masterworks of the late nineteenth century. (In fact, modern commentators can hardly mention the trilogy without a reference to Chekhov.) It is now one of Michael Billington’s The 101 Greatest Plays (2015).
Strehler eventually took his production abroad for runs at Vienna’s Burgtheater (1974) and the Comédie-Française in Paris (1978). An English version, under the title Country Mania, and also almost five hours long, was staged by Mike Alfreds at London’s National Theatre in 1987, but apparently generated little interest, one reviewer describing the audiences as “woefully thin.”
In 2007 the play was revived by the Piccolo Teatro in a shorter version (but still over three hours long) by Toni Servillo. It ran for about 130 performances throughout Italy and won the 2008 Ubu Prize for the year’s Best Production (“A theatrical event of refreshing beauty,” wrote a critic in La Repubblica, “which astonishes through its Chekhovian rhythms”). Afterwards, it traveled internationally with subtitled performances in, among other places, Budapest, Madrid, Montreal, and at Lincoln Center in New York. Claudia Ruth Pierpont in her New Yorker blog declared the latter to be one of the “Ten Best Cultural Events of 2009.”
There are currently at least two English translations of the complete cycle in print, one by Anthony Oldcorn (1992) and the other by Robert Cornthwaite (1994). Yet, I could discover only a pair of productions at major American theaters since the Strehler revival. Summer Vacation Madness, under the direction of Garland Wright at Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theater in 1982, preserved much of Goldoni’s original structure by dividing the evening into three separate hour-long acts. And, in 1990, a collaboration between Los Angeles’ Mark Taper Forum and the UCLA Department of Theater, also entitled Summer Vacation Madness, was again divided into three discrete acts, each under separate direction.
This lack of a greater American stage presence is hardly surprising, since with the exception of The Servant of Two Masters (1745), Goldoni’s massive corpus is largely neglected in the U.S. In the case of the Villeggiatura trilogy, the individual plays are probably too limited in scope for separate productions, but they also rely on the others for full development of their characters and actions; the whole is certainly greater than the sum of its parts, and that whole, exemplified by the European revivals, can be lengthy. Another obstacle to Goldoni’s transfer, in general, to the English-speaking stage is one identified by David L. Hirst who contends, in a 1993 study of Giorgio Strehler, that Goldoni’s work is inevitably compared with the British comedy of manners—à la Sheridan and Goldsmith—and too often found lacking in both wit and language.
Adapting the Villeggiatura trilogy to different circumstances would help dispel this last expectation, and certainly Goldoni’s most produced play, The Servant of Two Masters, has not been immune to such transformations. Richard Bean’s triumphant One Man, Two Guvnors (2011), which transported the action to Brighton in the early 1960s, is only one of the latest examples. (Goldoni himself was not averse to such dislocations, moving his Villeggiatura to the other side of the Italian peninsula—Livorno and Montenero—to avoid criticizing his sensitive Venetian public too explicitly.)
In The Summer Season, my own attempt to reduce the trilogy to a single work of manageable length, I also wanted to remove any association with the powdered wigs, buckled shoes, and witty repartee of Restoration and post-Restoration comedy, as well as avoid the temptation of succumbing to a style that could become, as Anthony Oldcorn described it in his own translation of the trilogy, a “fastidious, foppish, cocked-little-finger type of English.” To that end, I decided to shift the action and language to Boston and Newport in the early 1870s, a social and historical context certainly more recognizable to American theater-goers than eighteenth-century Italy, but one that might also be more congenial to the Chekhovian shadows lurking in the wings.
Several very specific reasons also motivated my choice of this particular time and place. In the Le Smanie, for instance, the rental of horses and carriages is an important comic component of the preparations for the vacation, and although the railroads were rapidly gaining a monopoly for distant travel by the 1870s—Newport was first linked to rail service in 1863—horsepower was still then an option for travel from Boston.
But this was a small matter. Far more important to me were the similarities between Goldoni’s villeggiatura and the Newport season where elites from all along the East Coast congregated for the summer. Newport had not yet become the “Queen of Resorts” where the ultra-rich of the Gilded Age would build palatial “cottages” and compete in bouts of extravagant exhibitionism, but by the 1870s it had already established itself as a fashionable vacation spot for affluent families to display their wealth and the availability of their unwed daughters; a place for social climbing to be pursued, for fortunes to be won and lost, for romance to be kindled and marriages to be negotiated.
As in Goldoni’s Venice, it was also a time when the choices and aspirations of upper-middle-class women were severely limited, when a proper marriage—whether for love, property, or security—was a goal to be vigorously sought. This is the quest that underlies the action of the entire Villeggiatura trilogy, summarized near the end when a character tells his sister to accept a proposal or “learn how to be a spinster for life.” It also forms the central conflict for the female protagonist, Giacinta (Jacqueline in The Summer Season), who shares the fierce independence of an Isabel Archer (in The Portrait of a Lady, 1881) but also—again like Henry James’s heroine—makes a crucial decision about marriage that will compel her to choose between integrity and emotional well-being. The values that propel this decision—the honor of one’s word, the inviolability of a contract, the reputation of a family—contribute to the moral foundations of Goldoni’s work and are values that retained their power as credible and sympathetic motivations into the following century. Afterwards, towards more modern times, such values may have gradually become, like the horse and carriage, outmoded and even a bit quaint.
Yet despite my desire to update the work and reduce its length by half, I still wanted to retain as much of Goldoni’s comedy, language, themes, dramatic flow and narrative as possible. With that in mind, I began the task with a strict line-by-line translation of the plays. Then, to initiate my work of extraction, I looked for entire scenes that could be lifted or whose contents could be incorporated elsewhere. One obvious candidate was a sequence famous for its humor—and often excerpted in Italy as an example of Goldoni at his most Molière—but one that introduced a new figure, the miserly Uncle Bernardino, late in the third play and added little to the development of theme or character. Easily excerpted, it was just as easily deleted.
As with Bernardino, I searched for other characters that could be removed without affecting the dynamic of my adaptation’s core structure: a la ronde of five couples on their journeys, for good or ill, toward marriage. But there were servants who could be furloughed, so occasionally my characters serve themselves or enter scenes without the conventional polite introduction. Concentrating the three plays together allowed as well for the elimination of expository dialogue that linked them or that reinforced themes, attitudes, or relationships previously introduced.
Shifting the work to a new setting also enabled me to eliminate some of the satire that targeted Goldoni’s contemporaries but would have less of a bite for other audiences. Yet, surprisingly, there was little that needed to be removed—or added, for that matter—to relocate the play to a new continent a hundred years later. Idiomatic speech required American counterparts and material objects and details needed replacements—a creation from the House of Worth rather than a mariage gown, bridge and Old Maid rather than ombre and bazzica, barrels of pickled buffalo tongue from St. Louis rather than shipments of macaroni from Genoa. Yet the content of the language and the concerns and sentiments of the characters adapted well, with little change, to their new environment.
Two dramatic conventions of Goldoni’s time allowed for additional reductions. Throughout the plays, the characters indulge in “asides,” expressing to the audience their inner thoughts, feelings, and opinions about others, most of which reappear in the dialogue or are represented in action. This is a practice that disappeared, to a large extent, in the following century, and it is missing as well from The Summer Season. Related to the asides are the long monologues delivered by Giacinta (Jacqueline), sometimes spoken to herself, sometimes to other characters. Appearing in each of the plays, they introduce and reinforce the emotional and moral quandaries of the character as well as the themes expressed throughout the trilogy. Taken together, however, they seem repetitive and often retard the action, and they have been trimmed accordingly.
But with all my revisions and substantial deletions—two informal staged readings at Chicago Dramatists were timed at about two hours each—I strove for the same outcome sought by Giorgio Strehler in his 1954 revival: to present Goldoni’s comedy as it is, preserving its style and flavor, but modified for the contemporary stage.
Carlo Goldoni (1707-1793) was one of the most prolific and popular dramatists of the eighteenth century, having composed hundreds of dramatic works including comedies, tragedies, histories, libretti, intermezzi, and even cantatas and serenades. He is probably best known for having transformed traditional Italian commedia dell’arte—improvised by actors in masks playing stock characters—into a far more realistic comedy, dependent on tightly plotted scripts that both satirized and depicted with compassion a wide range of social classes. He spent the last thirty years of his life in self-exile in Paris where he continued to write, in French, plays and his memoirs.
A member of the Dramatists Guild, J. Weintraub has had one-act plays and radio dramas produced throughout the United States and in Australia, New Zealand, India, and Germany. His fiction, poetry, and essays have been published in all sorts of literary places, from The Massachusetts Review to New Criterion, from Prairie Schooner to Modern Philology, and his translations from French and Italian have appeared in publications in the USA, the UK, and Australia. In 2018 his annotated translation of Eugène Briffault’s Paris à table: 1846 was published by Oxford University Press. He has a Ph.D. in English Literature from The University of Chicago. More at https://jweintraub.weebly.com/
THE SUMMER SEASON
Adapted from Carlo Goldoni’s Trilogia della Villeggiatura
by J. Weintraub
MR. PHILLIPS, a Boston gentleman, retired and wealthy JACQUELINE, Phillips’ daughter, in her early twenties
MR. LEONARD, a man-about-town, and Jacqueline’s fiancé, late twenties, early thirties VICTORIA, Leonard’s sister, in her mid-twenties
MR. FULTON, a friend of Phillips and the Leonards’ uncle, an elderly gentleman MR. WILLIAMS, a suitor to Jacqueline, the same age as Jacqueline
SABINA, Phillips’ older sister and aunt to Jacqueline, about 65
MR. FERDINAND, a society gossip, freeloader, and Sabina’s suitor, in his early fifties (Can double w/ FULTON)
CONSTANCE, a friend of the Phillips, middle-aged ROSE, Constance’s impoverished niece, 18 years old
MR. ANTHONY, Rose’s suitor, spectacularly handsome and spectacularly empty, not quite 20 PETER, Leonards’ valet, slightly older than Leonard
BRIDGET, Jacqueline’s Irish maid, in her late twenties (Can double with Rose or Constance) CHARLES, a servant in the Leonard household, Peter’s age (Can double with Anthony)
A WAITER (Can double with Fulton or Charles or Bridget)
A note on the characters’ names: All the characters in the original play are identified by first name only, although they are usually addressed with their titles (Signor Leonardo, Signora Costanza, etc.). Along with Anglicizing these names (Filippo to Phillips, Fulgenzio to Fulton, Giacinta to Jacqueline), I have converted the given names of the male characters—excepting the servants—into surnames in order to conform to the usage of the time in which the adaptation occurs. For the same reason, the female characters retain their first names, although on occasion (and in cases where the relationship to a male character is clear), Victoria will become Miss Leonard and Jacqueline Miss Phillips.
The action occurs primarily in the Boston homes and Newport summer “cottages” of the principal characters. The time is the mid-1870s when Newport was becoming established as the preferred summer resort of the elites of New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, where social levels were established, reputations demolished, marriages arranged, and not-so-proper liaisons accomplished. The place had not yet reached the pinnacle of its fame, though, as the “Queen of Resorts,” a locus of extravagance and luxury for the Gilded Age.
(NOTE: The first part of the play takes place in two Boston locations, the Leonard and Phillips households. If the stage is large enough, it can be divided into two parts to take advantage of this duality. The subsequent Newport scenes can occur with centerstage as its focal point, and once the characters return to Boston, the duality of location can reappear, with, perhaps, the exception of the final scene, which takes place in Constance’s parlor, and can be played at centerstage.)
Despite the lavishness of the times, the décor should be minimal, and furnishings limited to tables, chairs, and other accessories required for the action. Dress, however, is important to these characters, and they should be clothed in the fashion of the times.
100 to 120 minutes, with one intermission.
A room in the Leonard home in Boston.
PETER, surrounded by trunks and boxes, is packing one of them with clothes and linens as LEONARD enters.
LEONARD: Peter, what are you doing here? We’ve got a hundred things to do, and nothing’s getting done.
PETER: I would’ve thought packing your trunk was something getting done.
LEONARD: My sister’s maids can do that sort of thing. I need you now for something far more important.
PETER: Your sister’s maids are dealing with your sister. Evening dresses and morning dresses, wraps and gloves, flounces and lace, converting them all into the latest fashion for the Newport season.
LEONARD: We’re all slaves to fashion when we travel to Newport. (He looks into one of the boxes.)
There’s not enough silverware.
PETER: There’s plenty of silverware. Two dozen sets, in fact.
LEONARD: In Newport a good table attracts guests like flies. Silverware needs to be changed with every course, and there’s simply not enough here.
PETER: Excuse me if I’m speaking out-of-turn, sir, but we don’t always have to keep up with the Vanderbilts. Wealth like that requires a certain noblesse oblige, whereas our limited resources…
LEONARD: It’s because of our limited resources I have to do even more than is expected of me. So, two more place settings from Garland’s, and… (LEONARD examines another box) and stop at the wine merchant’s for another case of champagne.
PETER: Forgive me for opening my mouth again, sir, but you were supposed to settle all of your accounts before you left town.
LEONARD: They’ll all be paid in full when I return. And pick up some of those nice wax candles. There’ll be some long romantic nights.
PETER: The chandler on Commonwealth refuses to extend any more credit.
LEONARD: Then go to the one on Newbury.
PETER: I’ll need some money.
LEONARD: Why do you think I’m sending you to Newbury Street? We’ll pay them all when I get back. Look, if I run out of anything in Newport, I’ll be charged an arm and a leg by the townies. They know how to make a buck during the season, and they’re not like our Boston merchants. They’ll throw you in jail, before extending you a dime of credit. So, off with you, but before you go, send Charles in.
PETER: (as he exits) Charles!
LEONARD: If only I can get Jacqueline to say yes, then all of this will be resolved.
CHARLES: You wanted to see me, sir?
LEONARD: Charles, inform the Phillips that I’ve reserved carriages and horses for eight tomorrow morning. And also, see if that Mr. Williams has been hanging around their house. Be discrete.
CHARLES: Discretion is my middle name, sir.
(Exit CHARLES as VICTORIA enters.)
VICTORIA: Brother! Did I hear you say we’ll be leaving at eight tomorrow morning?
LEONARD: Yes, with the Phillips. I’ve reserved carriages and horses for eight sharp.
VICTORIA: Carriages? Horses?
LEONARD: Phillips’ idea. He’s old-fashioned. He’s never liked trains. Besides, he’ll need a four-in- hand for the promenade down Bellevue Avenue, and this way we can take our luggage along with us.
VICTORIA: How quaint, and thrifty, too. But we can’t leave tomorrow morning.
LEONARD: Why not?
VICTORIA: The tailor hasn’t yet finished with my gown. I’m having it crafted exclusively from the latest patterns, direct from the House of Worth itself, in Paris.
LEONARD: We cannot possibly delay our departure for a gown. Besides, your closets are full of dresses.
VICTORIA: Brother, I’ve done my very best to refashion my entire wardrobe to the latest style, but I could never hold my head up in society without at least one stunning new gown.
LEONARD: We’re still leaving tomorrow morning.
VICTORIA: Then you’ll leave without me.
LEONARD: Then we’ll leave without you.
VICTORIA: You’d leave without me?
LEONARD: Look, Victoria, you’re still a young girl. You don’t have to compete with every wealthy woman of property.
VICTORIA: Your beloved Jacqueline Phillips is still a young girl, too, and Jacqueline Phillips always appears in the highest of fashion. A young woman who doesn’t keep up is hardly likely to be considered a worthy prospect for marriage, and I’m amazed that you would allow your own sister to be degraded in such a way and condemned to certain spinsterhood! It would be better for me to die of smallpox than to show up at Newport unfashionably dressed!
LEONARD: Since it’s a matter of life and death, then… I certainly hope your gown is ready before tomorrow morning.
CHARLES: Sir, I caught Mr. Phillips on his doorstep. He said that eight o’clock would be fine, and also that his daughter was eager to receive you this morning.
LEONARD: And Williams?
CHARLES: He hasn’t been seen there in several days.
LEONARD: Good. We’ll be leaving that little problem behind tomorrow morning.
VICTORIA: And my little problem?
LEONARD: We’re leaving tomorrow morning whether your problem’s been resolved or not. Now, if you’ll excuse me I have a few more important things to look after than a trivial piece of fabric.
(Exit LEONARD. CHARLES is about to follow, when VICTORIA calls him back.)
VICTORIA: Charles! When you were at the Phillips’, did you see Miss Jacqueline?
CHARLES: I caught a glimpse of her from inside the foyer, trying on a new dress. I think it was worth a lot.
VICTORIA: Why do you say that?
CHARLES: I overheard the tailor’s assistant, and although he was speaking in French, I understood a few words. Like Worth.
VICTORIA: La Maison Worth?
CHARLES: That’s it!
VICTORIA: Charles, drop everything and accompany me to the tailor. I must have my new gown at once! We’ll yell at him together. We’ll threaten him. We’ll scare the wits out of him.
CHARLES: Perhaps if you just paid him…
VICTORIA: He’ll be paid when I want to pay him, and that’s the last we’ll hear about that. Come on!
(Exit VICTORIA, pulling CHARLES along with her.)
A room in the Phillips’ home in Boston.
Enter PHILLIPS and WILLIAMS together.
PHILLIPS: It’s very kind of you to visit with us, Mr. Williams. To what do we owe this pleasure?
WILLIAMS: I understand you’ll be leaving for Newport presently, and I stopped by to wish you, if I may be so bold, a very pleasant journey.
PHILLIPS: Why thank you. I remember quite fondly the summers we spent together in Maine when we were neighbors. You were just a boy, then, of course…
WILLIAMS: My family still has a place near Swampscott… But nobody goes there anymore.
PHILLIPS: We all go to Newport these days, and fortunately I can afford to share my enjoyments with others. In short, I like to have people around me, young people in particular, so why don’t you join us in our cottage this season? My daughter Jacqueline will be very pleased to have you there, I’m sure. You know Jacqueline, of course?
WILLIAMS: Of course. Particularly when we were children. We used to take long walks together on the beach, play cards when it was raining. But I wouldn’t dream of inconveniencing you…
PHILLIPS: I’m a simple man, sir, so please spare me the fine sentiments. I offer you a soft bed, passable vittles, and a warm hearth at night, and if that’s not enough, then…
WILLIAMS: Well, I can hardly refuse such a gracious offer.
PHILLIPS: Then don’t. It’s done. You’ll come along with us at eight o’clock sharp tomorrow morning. We’ll be taking a carriage with Mr. Leonard and his sister.
WILLIAMS: The Leonards?
PHILLIPS: Yes, they have a cottage next to ours. Is there some sort of problem?
WILLIAMS: No, of course not. You’ll be taking a carriage to the train station?
PHILLIPS: All the way to Newport. There’s plenty of room for four. You, me, my daughter, and my sister, Sabina. She’s a widow, and she’ll serve as chaperone. Not that Jacqueline needs one, of course, but her mother’s gone, and you know how people talk. I’ve also rented a second four-in-hand, and I suppose the Leonards can travel in that with the luggage. So, it’s agreed?
WILLIAMS: Yes, of course, although I hardly deserve such consideration…
PHILLIPS: Enough of that, and if you’ll be so kind to inform Mr. Leonard that you’ll be accompanying us?
WILLIAMS: Could you possibly send a servant in my place? To inform the Leonards, I mean? This is such a surprise and I have so much to take care of myself.
PHILLIPS: Of course. You just run along and take care of things.
PHILLIPS: Nice boy.
(Enter JACQUELINE with her maid, BRIDGET.)
JACQUELINE: Who was that, father?
PHILLIPS: That was Williams. Nice boy. A little stiff, perhaps, but a nice boy. You remember his family, don’t you?
JACQUELINE: Oh, yes. He and I used to play cards together when we summered in Maine. He cheated.
PHILLIPS: Of course he did. You were always better than anyone else at cards. He had to cheat to beat you.
JACQUELINE: No, he cheated to make sure that I’d win.
PHILLIPS: Like I said, a nice boy. Anyway, he’ll be staying with us. In fact, I’ve invited him to come along in our carriage tomorrow. With you, me, and our aunt.
JACQUELINE: And Mr. Leonard?
PHILLIPS: He and his sister can follow us in the carriage behind.
JACQUELINE: Which reminds me—since you insist on saving money by making us travel by horse and carriage, you’ll have to give me another twenty dollars for a new overcoat. To protect me from all that dust on the road.
BRIDGET: Oh, sir, it’s such a beautiful overcoat, and with a fine silk lining, too.
PHILLIPS: Silk? What’s wrong with linen? Linen was good enough for your mother.
JACQUELINE: Father, no one wears the fashions of last year, let alone the last generation.
PHILLIPS: Why not? I’m still wearing exactly what I wore twenty years ago.
JACQUELINE: Obviously, this conversation has entered the realm of the absurd. May I have my twenty dollars?
PHILLIPS: It seems that spending my money is something that never goes out-of-fashion… I’ll see if I have twenty dollars in my study. I just hope your husband, should you ever find one, is as generous as your father.
JACQUELINE: If I have one exceptional talent, Bridget, it’s to make a man do whatever I want him to do for me.
BRIDGET: Especially if he’s your father. But what about Mr. Leonard?
JACQUELINE: What about Mr. Leonard?
BRIDGET: When he finds out you’ll be sitting in a carriage next to Mr. Williams, all the way to Newport…
JACQUELINE: He’ll simply have to swallow it.
BRIDGET: It might give him indigestion.
JACQUELINE: I’ve put him through far worse than that.
BRIDGET: But if his intentions are honorable, shouldn’t you be encouraging him?
JACQUELINE: Just the opposite. If he has any intention of becoming my husband, he needs to be trained properly first. He must learn never to be jealous and never to think that he can deprive me of my rightful independence. If he even begins to think that his wish is my command, then I’m his slave forever. Either he loves me or he doesn’t, and if he loves me, he’ll need to trust me, and if he doesn’t love me and trust me, then he should find someone else to pester.
BRIDGET: But you do love him just a little bit, don’t you?
JACQUELINE: More than anyone else I’ve ever known, although I’ve never loved anyone else before. In short, I wouldn’t have a problem marrying him, but not at the cost of being his prisoner for life.
(Having heard something from outside, BRIDGET wanders upstage to the window.)
BRIDGET: Speaking of the devil, look who’s pacing across your doorstep, back and forth, back and forth. Why doesn’t he come inside?
JACQUELINE: He might have met Mr. Williams along the way. Well, he had to find out sooner or later.
BRIDGET: Oops. He’s coming inside now.
JACQUELINE: Why don’t you leave us alone, Bridget.
BRIDGET: Oh, Miss!
(BRIDGET exits reluctantly as LEONARD enters.)
LEONARD: (bowing slightly) Your humble servant, Miss Phillips. I hope you’ll forgive me if I’ve come at an inopportune moment.
JACQUELINE: Oh, please. What a formal entrance!
LEONARD: I only came to wish you a very happy and eventful journey to Newport.
JACQUELINE: That’s odd. I thought you were coming with us.
LEONARD: I prefer not to be an inconvenience to others.
JACQUELINE: An inconvenience? Why, you’re always welcome here, with us.
LEONARD: I’m afraid another presence has already taken my place by your side.
JACQUELINE: If you’re referring to Mr. Williams, sir, that was my father’s decision.
LEONARD: And his daughter willingly submits to whatever he decides?
JACQUELINE: Willingly or unwillingly, that’s none of your concern.
LEONARD: I think it is. If you valued my friendship at all, you’d find some way to avoid this very public provocation.
JACQUELINE: I wasn’t aware I was provoking anyone. But just what is it you think I should do?
LEONARD: You should at least avoid traveling with him. Or better yet, refuse to go to Newport at all rather than… embarrassing someone you seem to care for.
JACQUELINE: Are you mad? What do you think people would say if I spent the summer in Boston? I could never hold my head up in society again… This is so absurd. You’re coming with us. (Grabbing his arm, cajoling him) Please.
LEONARD: No. Not if he’s going along. I can’t stand the sight of him.
JACQUELINE: (still cajoling) So you dislike Williams more than you care for me?
LEONARD: I dislike Williams because I care for you.
JACQUELINE: What do you mean by that? That you’re jealous of him?
LEONARD: All right. I’m jealous of him.
JACQUELINE: (drops his arm) So, there we are. Sir, that jealousy you feel toward him happens to be an insult to me, since you couldn’t be jealous of him without first thinking me to be as fickle as a weathervane. Whoever trusts and respects someone could never think such a thing, and where there’s no trust and respect, there can be no love, and if you do not love me, you have no business even being here. You should know, I care for you very much, but I will not tolerate jealousy or disrespect, and if I said I’m going to Newport tomorrow, I’m going to Newport tomorrow, and I shall go to Newport tomorrow with whomever I please!
LEONARD: You think so? We’ll see about that.
A room in the Leonard home. Trunks, boxes, a gown hanging on a hook. PETER is packing, and VICTORIA is admiring her gown.
PETER: It’s done then?
VICTORIA: There it is. A perfect fit, although I doubt I’ll ever do business with that tailor again. The impertinence of the man. He demanded payment in full before he’d hand it over. Now all of my money is gone, and how am I ever going to sit down at the bridge table without a stake?
PETER: You could give up cards for the season.
VICTORIA: Out of the question. But it wouldn’t be so awful, would it, to borrow a few dollars from you? To be paid back with interest, of course?
PETER: As the manager of your brother’s household accounts, I’m sorry to inform you that I can hardly cover our daily expenses, let alone my own salary, which, by the way, I haven’t paid to myself for the past six months. I should warn you that unless your brother changes direction soon, he’ll be walking off a very steep cliff.
VICTORIA: All the more reason for me to go to Newport and find someone now. If I can only become a Mrs. Somebody before my brother walks off that cliff.
(VICTORIA begins to stuff things into a trunk as LEONARD enters.)
VICTORIA: See how hard we’re working on your behalf, brother.
LEONARD: No need to rush. You should be pleased to learn that we may not be leaving as early as planned.
VICTORIA: You’re not still worrying about me, are you? I’m pleased to say that my gown is finished and I’m ready to go.
LEONARD: I thought I’d be doing you a favor by delaying our departure, and now we can’t possibly leave tomorrow morning. In fact, we may not be leaving for Newport at all.
VICTORIA: Are you trying to drive me mad? Because if you are, you’re succeeding.
LEONARD: Go mad if you like. There’s nothing I can do about it now. (To PETER) And what are you doing there gawking at us like a statue.
PETER: I’m awaiting your orders, sir. I don’t know if I should continue doing what I’m doing or undo everything I’ve done.
VICTORIA: Continue doing. Pack!
LEONARD: Start undoing. Unpack everything. Now!
(PETER begins to unpack the trunk.) (VICTORIA grabs her new gown from its hook.)
VICTORIA: What does it matter? If we’re not going to Newport, I may as well rip it to shreds!
(She appears about to tear the gown in half, then thinking better of it, returns it gently to its hook.)
LEONARD: (indicating the boxes) And what’re all of these?
PETER: Champagne, silverware…
LEONARD: Take them back. All of them.
PETER: Yes, sir. Now you’re talking. Get rid of some of this debt!
(PETER exits, dragging two of the boxes off stage.)
VICTORIA: I’m going to get to the bottom of this. Your foul temper is telling me that you and your precious Jacqueline quarreled.
LEONARD: Kindly don’t mention that name in this house.
VICTORIA: So that’s it! We may not be going to Newport because of that vulgar little flirt! While she’ll be showing off her new gowns at every cotillion, I…
LEONARD: She won’t be going either. For one thing, I’ve cancelled the carriages.
VICTORIA: Oh, so now the Phillips will have to send a servant to the stables all by themselves. How will they ever manage!
LEONARD: And, I’ve also asked our uncle to speak with Phillips, to remind him, of his reputation, and if he listens at all, he won’t dare allow his daughter to travel to Newport, at least not under the current arrangement. (He looks at his watch) In fact he should be speaking with him just about now.
The Phillips’ home. PHILLIPS and FULTON.
FULTON: My dear friend, we’ve known each other for years, and I’ve often given you proof of my affection.
PHILLIPS: I’ve never had any doubt about that, Fulton. In fact, you would do me great honor by being our guest during our stay this season in Newport.
FULTON: Forgive me, but I have business out west in St. Louis. I have warehouses on the Mississippi that need new equipment. The railroads, you know…
PHILLIPS: Yes, the railroads. Like everyone else I made a major investment in a warehouse out there myself. Since you’re heading into that swamp, I was wondering if you, perhaps, could take a look…
FULTON: Yes, of course. I know your property well. How’s it doing?
PHILLIPS: Last year I received from my investment two cases of beef jerky and a Missouri ham.
FULTON: That doesn’t sound like much of a return.
PHILLIPS: In previous years I also got a barrel of pickled bison tongues. But no more. They were very popular at my lunch table in Newport, too… Still, since you can’t join us this year, perhaps next season?
FULTON: Newport is not really to my taste. Of course, I don’t disapprove of people who wish to go where society goes and enjoy good company. Provided, of course, that the good company doesn’t lead the world to talk.
PHILLIPS: Why do I suspect that I’m about to receive an unpleasant lecture?
FULTON: Quite the contrary. It doesn’t have to be unpleasant, because I am here to speak for someone who is on the verge of asking you for your daughter’s hand in marriage, but who is reluctant now to press his suit because of another eligible young man who is about to accompany your daughter, side-by-side, on a long trip and spend several weeks together with her, side-by-side, under the same roof of your country home.
PHILLIPS: This prospective suitor you’re speaking for? It wouldn’t be your nephew, by any chance, would it?
FULTON: He prefers to remain silent for the moment. But if you cancel your trip to Newport, he might announce himself.
PHILLIPS: I’m very fond of my seasons in Newport. Besides, what would people say?
FULTON: But you don’t have to take your daughter along with you.
PHILLIPS: Clearly you’ve never been either a husband or a father.
FULTON: Well, then, if you can’t leave her in Boston, you can certainly make sure she doesn’t travel in the presence of that young man. Get rid of him.
PHILLIPS: How could I do that without being discourteous?
FULTON: Do you prefer disgrace and dishonor to discourtesy?
PHILLIPS: When you put it that way, I suppose I have no choice.
FULTON: Now you’re talking responsibly. And now that I’ve delivered my message, I’ll take my leave. I hope I haven’t taken too much of a liberty by…
PHILLIPS: No, no. Not at all. I’m very grateful to you, and, once again, deeply in your debt.
(They shake hands, and FULTON exits.)
JACQUELINE: Is that old fuddy-duddy finally gone?
PHILLIPS: Get me a servant. (Into the wings) Is anyone here? Why can’t I ever find a…
JACQUELINE: Father, please. I’ll get someone for you. But first just tell me what for?
PHILLIPS: All right. If you must know, I need a servant to tell Williams not to waste his time packing, since there’s no longer any place for him in our carriage or in our cottage. Don’t worry. It will all be handled with the greatest discretion. I’m sure he’ll understand.
JACQUELINE: Oh? And just what sort of excuse do you expect to give him?
PHILLIPS: How should I know? Maybe that I miscounted the number of guests, forgot how many people can fit into a carriage?
JACQUELINE: Father, don’t you realize how this will make us look. What people will say?
PHILLIPS: I only know what people will say if they see you traveling on a long trip side-by-side with an eligible young man and spending several weeks together with him, side-by-side, under the same roof of our country home.
JACQUELINE: True, but they’ll say even more if you proceed to uninvite him after offering him your hospitality. Not only would such conduct be rude and vulgar, but we would be the topic of conversation over every breakfast table in Boston and Newport. “Have you heard about the Phillips’ girl? Well, apparently her father just found out something, because…”
PHILLIPS: All right, all right. We won’t go to Newport, we’ll cancel our trip altogether!
JACQUELINE: “Where are the Phillips this year? They haven’t come down at all? Wasn’t there some sort of scandal? Or perhaps the expense. I’ve heard his investments are in trouble. He’ll be filing for bankruptcy any day now.”
PHILLIPS: Then what do you propose we do? Let Williams stay in our carriage?
JACQUELINE: Since you offered him a place.
PHILLIPS: And stay with us in Newport?
JACQUELINE: Since you invited him.
PHILLIPS: I think I need a bite to eat. I’ll see if luncheon is ready.
JACQUELINE: Now that everything’s been settled, that would seem to be a good idea.
The Leonard home. LEONARD and FULTON.
LEONARD: This is very comforting news, uncle. You’re sure he’ll keep his word?
FULTON: I’ve always been able to count on him. I assure you, Williams will not be traveling with them.
LEONARD: In that case, I will be traveling with them.
FULTON: You should understand, his daughter had nothing to do with this. Phillips invited Williams simply because he has a good heart and wanted company.
LEONARD: I’m glad to hear that, particularly considering what’s been going on between Jacqueline and me.
FULTON: What exactly has been going on between you?
LEONARD: No more than words. I’ve spoken to her of my love, and I have hopes that she will return that love in kind.
FULTON: Her father seems to know nothing about this. He needs to be informed.
LEONARD: I’ll let him know… one of these days.
FULTON: One of these days? I was willing to help you in this matter, nephew, because I believed a friend’s reputation was at stake and that your intentions were honorable. You will either declare yourself at once to Phillips or I will recommend that he deal with you in the same manner he is now dealing with Williams.
LEONARD: When you put it that way, I suppose I’ll be asking for her father’s approval, soon.
LEONARD: At once!
FULTON: Good. Then I’ll go back there today and present your proposal. But first a word of advice. There’s a dowry worth eighty thousand dollars that could put you back on your feet, as long as you learn how to live wisely, modestly, prudently. Are you listening to me?
LEONARD: Yes, of course. I’ll put my life firmly back on track, I promise…
FULTON: Good. Then I’m off once more to settle your affairs.
LEONARD: … when we get back from Newport. (He shouts into the wings) Hello, Charles.
LEONARD: Go at once to the Phillips’ home and inform him that I’ve taken care of all my pressing business concerns and that I’d be honored to accompany him and his daughter on their trip to Newport. Tell him that the carriage and horses are still on order for tomorrow morning. Now hurry.
LEONARD: (into the wings) Peter, are you there in the kitchen?
(Enter PETER, wiping his hands.)
PETER: Yes, sir.
LEONARD: Go directly to the livery stable and make sure the horses and carriages are still on order, since we’ll be needing them first thing tomorrow morning.
PETER: What? I’ve just unpacked everything.
LEONARD: Then repack everything. And don’t forget the extra champagne and silverware.
PETER: They’re all on their way back to the merchants.
LEONARD: Then get them back right away.
LEONARD: I’m not asking if it’s possible. I’m asking you to do it.
PETER: Then you’ll have to find somebody else to do it because things have gone well beyond what I can do.
LEONARD: Peter, please. Listen, I’ll take you into my confidence, not as your employer, but as your friend. Phillips is on the verge of giving me his daughter in marriage, with a dowry of two hundred thousand dollars. Two hundred thousand dollars! Do you know what that could do for us. Do you want him to lose faith in me now, at the last minute? Do you want to see us ruined? Just when we should be making one final grand effort, you tell me it can’t be done, it’s impossible, it’s beyond your powers?
PETER: Sir, I appreciate you taking me into your confidence. I’ll see if I can do the impossible. Again.
(Exit PETER. Enter VICTORIA.)
VICTORIA: Now, look here, brother. I’ve come to inform you that I’m resolved not to stay behind here in Boston when everybody who’s anybody’s already in Newport. I’m not getting any younger, you know, and…
LEONARD: Why are you carrying on like this?
VICTORIA: Carrying on? Because it might already be too late to speak with our neighbor, Constance. If she can squander her fortune on her poor niece until she finds her a husband, she can at least put me up for the season, and maybe find a husband for me, too.
LEONARD: Why not come along with us?
LEONARD: The Phillips and me. Us. Tomorrow morning.
VICTORIA: To Newport?
LEONARD: To Newport. I’m having our trunks repacked.
VICTORIA: Repacked? Where’s my maid? My boxes, my shoes, my coats, my dresses, my Worth!
(Exit VICTORIA, almost colliding with CHARLES as he enters.)
CHARLES: I’m back.
LEONARD: I can see that. What did they say?
CHARLES: Both father and daughter send their best regards and were quite pleased to hear that you will again be accompanying them although they hoped you would have the kindness to understand that they would not be able to accommodate you in their carriage since your place had already been taken by Mr. Williams.
LEONARD: Mr. Williams?
CHARLES: That’s what they told me to tell you.
LEONARD: That’s impossible. You’re a thick-headed blockhead and you heard them wrong!
CHARLES: I’m not a thick-headed blockhead, and I heard them right, and if I heard them wrong, why was a certain Mr. Williams running up the stairs with bags in both hands when I was leaving?
LEONARD: (to himself) But my own uncle? Why would he want to deceive me like that? Or maybe Phillips deceived him? Unless Jacqueline, unless it was her… I’m being played like a fool, an idiot, an ASS!
LEONARD: No, you’re not the ass. It’s me. I’m the ass. Listen, go quickly to my uncle, and tell him I have to see him.
(Exit CHARLES, colliding with PETER as he enters.)
PETER: You can rest easy, sir. Everything’s back on track.
LEONARD: Leave me alone.
PETER: But I’ve done the impossible for you again, sir. The impossible!
LEONARD: I said leave me alone.
PETER: But the horses, the carriages…
LEONARD: Cancel them.
LEONARD: Didn’t I tell you to leave me be!
(Enter VICTORIA in her new gown.)
VICTORIA: You’ve never seen me in my new gown. What do you think?
LEONARD: Go away.
VICTORIA: What the devil’s gotten into you? You’d certainly better change your attitude before we leave tomorrow morning.
LEONARD: We’re not going anywhere tomorrow morning. I’m not going. You’re not going. No one’s going anywhere.
VICTORIA: Have you lost your mind?
CHARLES: Your uncle’s not at home. He’s gone over to the Phillips.
LEONARD: I want my hat and cane.
VICTORIA: (to Peter) Could you please tell me what’s going on?
PETER: I don’t know anything.
VICTORIA: Well I intend to find out. Get me my cloak.
VICTORIA: Charles, what do you know about all this?
CHARLES: I only know that I’m a thick-headed blockhead…
(Exit VICTORIA, as if in pursuit of PETER.)
CHARLES: … and that he’s the ass.
The Phillips’ home. PHILLIPS and FULTON.
PHILLIPS: I must say, I’m very pleased. Your nephew’s a proper young man, quite sociable, and, of course, from good stock. A bit of a spender, but he’ll settle down in time. In any case, it’s now up to Jacqueline. If she’s in agreement…
FULTON: As I’m sure she will be.
PHILLIPS: You’re sure? Do you know something I don’t know?
FULTON: Let’s just say the two may be closer than you think and that it’s a good thing my nephew is a gentleman. So now you know why it was so important to remove this Mr. Williams completely from the scene. My nephew never would’ve come around under those circumstances and, frankly, I would’ve advised him against it.
PHILLIPS: Yes, that would’ve been very awkward… (leading him toward the wings) Perhaps you should go now and bring your nephew here so that we can conclude matters.
FULTON: Certainly, and if you could talk to your daughter in the meantime…
PHILLIPS: Yes, yes, of course, of course, but you should go.
FULTON: All right, but I’ll be back when…
(WILLIAMS enters and calls out to PHILLIPS.)
WILLIAMS: Sir! Sir! Since it’s getting late, I’d be happy to see to the horses for tomorrow morning.
PHILLIPS: No, there’s no need. It’ll be taken care of.
FULTON: Mr. Williams is it?
(WILLIAMS crosses to FULTON, his arm extended.)
WILLIAMS: Yes, and you’re Mr. Fulton, I trust?
FULTON: (shaking his hand) That is correct. May I be so bold to ask if you’ll be vacationing in Newport this season?
WILLIAMS: Yes, with Mr. Phillips and his family. I’ve just dropped my bags off.
PHILLIPS: (to Williams) Maybe you should see to those horses, after all.
WILLIAMS: But you just said…
PHILLIPS: No, no. Go now. See that they’re well fed for tomorrow. Just go. Go!
WILLIAMS: (bowing to FULTON) Sir. (FULTON returns his bow and WILLIAMS exits.)
FULTON: (applauding) Bravo, Phillips, bravo!
PHILLIPS: You have to understand, Fulton, when I give my word to someone…
FULTON: But of course. You’ve given your word to me and look how well you’ve kept it.
PHILLIPS: I gave it to him first.
FULTON: If you had no intention of taking it back from him, why did you give it to me then?
PHILLIPS: Because I had every intention of doing exactly what you told me to do.
FULTON: But you didn’t.
PHILLIPS: Because… because… Well, after all what would people say! Scandal! Bankruptcy! Oh, I don’t know… If you’d been here when Jacqueline explained everything to me, you’d have been convinced, too!
FULTON: I’ve heard enough. I regret ever having involved myself in this affair. I will report back to my nephew and wash my hands of the matter forever.
PHILLIPS: (grabbing FULTON by the coat to prevent him from leaving) No, please. I’ll resolve all of this right now. There’s still time to get rid of Williams.
FULTON: You’ve just sent him off to feed the horses.
PHILLIPS: I got rid of him, didn’t I?
FULTON: But he’ll be back!
PHILLIPS: This is becoming more and more confusing.
LEONARD: How convenient to find both of you here together. Now I can find out which one of you is responsible for making me look like a fool.
JACQUELINE: What’s going on here? Some sort of melodrama?
LEONARD: Yes. A play being performed by scoundrels who break their word and betray the trust of others.
JACQUELINE: Really? Well, then, which one of you is the liar and which one’s the traitor?
FULTON: Tell her.
PHILLIPS: No, you tell her.
FULTON: All right, I will. Having been previously assured that your acquaintance, Mr. Williams, was not to be your traveling companion and household guest, my nephew comes here to discover that exactly the opposite is the case.
JACQUELINE: And who gave Mr. Leonard the authority to make the rules in someone else’s house?
LEONARD: The authority of someone deeply in love and who cares…
JACQUELINE: I’m not talking to you! Mr. Fulton?
FULTON: My nephew would have nothing to say about any of this if he did not honestly intend to ask you to be his wife.
JACQUELINE: To ask me to be his wife?
LEONARD: Jacqueline, you know perfectly well…
JACQUELINE: I’m still not talking to you! Tell me, sir, on what grounds do you base that conclusion?
FULTON: On the grounds that in the name of my nephew I have just now made such a proposal to your father.
PHILLIPS: Well, yes, as far as I’m concerned, everything’s fine with me.
LEONARD: Now it’s my turn to say a few things and…
JACQUELINE: No it isn’t, and this is what I have to say. My father invited Mr. Williams to come with us on our vacation, and I certainly had every intention of treating him with courtesy and friendship. Now (to Leonard), you and I have been friends for a long time, and it seems that friendship has deepened into something far more serious, and now that you have openly declared your love for me and gained my father’s consent… I accept your offer to be my husband… But don’t expect me to be rude to others in return for your love or allow the first expression of your love for me to be a vile, unjust, and vulgar suspicion. Have faith in me, and from your faith and trust, I’ll learn the extent of your love, and return it in kind. My hand is yours for the taking, but if you want my heart, you’ll have to earn it.
PHILLIPS: (to Fulton) What do you think of that?
FULTON: I wouldn’t marry that woman if her dowry was a million and a half.
LEONARD: I don’t know what to say other than that I love you and will do everything in my power to win your heart in return.
VICTORIA: May I come in?
JACQUELINE: Yes, of course.
VICTORIA: (to Leonard) Is everything all right?
LEONARD: Couldn’t be better. We leave first thing tomorrow morning.
LEONARD: For Newport. I’m sorry, Jacqueline, we’ll have to hurry home and pack.
FULTON: Shouldn’t we conclude these matters properly first?
VICTORIA: Matters? What matters?
PHILLIPS: Yes, of course, the contract.
VICTORIA: Contract? What contract?
PHILLIPS: The marriage contract.
VICTORIA: Marriage? What marriage?
JACQUELINE: Dear sister, can’t you guess?
VICTORIA: Brother, why is she calling me sister?
LEONARD: Because she’s about to become just that.
JACQUELINE: You wish us well, don’t you?
VICTORIA: Oh, my dear, I’m absolutely thrilled. (She kisses Jacqueline on both her cheeks, and then turns to her brother, and after kissing him, says to him.) I can’t wait to begin sharing my home with her.
LEONARD: Only until we find a husband for you.
WILLIAMS: The horses are being fed and will be ready first thing tomorrow.
(Everyone turns to WILLIAMS.)
WILLIAMS: Why are you all looking at me like that? Have I said something wrong?
The patio behind Phillips’ Newport cottage, overlooking the garden. Enter PETER and BRIDGET. BRIDGET deposits a tray with a coffee pot, cups, and some pastries on the table at stage center. They sit.
BRIDGET: Here’s a fresh pot just made, and there’s pastry left over from last night. Since they don’t know what to do with it, we may as well take care of it ourselves. Most of them are still in bed, anyway.
PETER: When, you’re up all night, you’re usually in bed most of the day. I hope they’re enjoying themselves.
BRIDGET: I know I am. I just took a long walk in the garden to pick some flowers and admire the sea. What a sweet morning! And now I have the pleasure of entertaining my guest.
(BRIDGET pours him a cup of coffee.)
PETER: I noticed your neighbors arrived last night.
BRIDGET: Madame Constance. Her husband’s still in Boston. Merchants like him have to slave away in the city while their wives frolic out here by the sea. She’s here with her niece, Rose. Eighteen years old and not a penny to her name. They’re stuck with her until they can marry her off. But, fortunately, there’s this eager medical student hanging around…
PETER: You don’t mean Mr. Anthony? But he’s such an idiot!
BRIDGET: Even more so, now that he’s fallen head over heels for Miss Rose. But if you really want a ripe topic, you should take a look at my lady’s Aunt Sabina. Sixty-five if she’s a day, and she still expects men to fall all over her. And that awful Mr. Ferdinand certainly knows how to pluck her like an old hen.
PETER: Sshh. I think that awful Mr. Ferdinand of yours is coming this way.
BRIDGET: Then let’s go into the garden where we won’t be disturbed.
(They exit upstage into the garden, taking their cups with them, but BRIDGET, turns back to retrieve the tray of pastries as FERDINAND enters.)
FERDINAND: Whoa, there! Stop I say!
BRIDGET: Yes, sir?
FERDINAND: Is everyone around here asleep?
BRIDGET: I’m not, sir.
FERDINAND: Well, then, I’d like a cup of coffee, and let’s see, what else… Look here… Where are you going? … Dammit, where are you going!
(Exit BRIDGET hurriedly upstage as PHILLIPS enters.)
PHILLIPS: My dear friend, there’s no need to shout.
FERDINAND: But I want a cup of coffee!
PHILLIPS: Please, lower your voice. Where are you going?
FERDINAND: The cottage next door. I may as well start my visits for the morning with Miss Constance and that pretty little niece of hers. Perhaps I’ll find a cup of coffee there. But wait…
(Noticing the coffeepot on the table, he fills a cup.)
PHILLIPS: I thought you were going next door for your coffee.
FERDINAND: But now there’s no reason to. I wouldn’t want to seem impolite by not accepting your hospitality.
PHILLIPS: That’s very obliging of you. I think I’ll have a cup of it myself.
FERDINAND: This seems to be the last of it. (He returns the cup to the table.) That hit the spot. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must commence my morning visits.
PHILLIPS: How about a hand of gin rummy, first? Once everyone’s up and around, they’ll all break into their little groups, and then not even the dog will pay any attention to me. How about it?
FERDINAND: Sorry. Social obligations. Perhaps after lunch.
(PHILLIPS finds a half-eaten piece of pastry left behind on the tray and begins to nibble on it.)
PHILLIPS: I think I’ll go into town. Maybe I can find someone at the general store who will stoop to play a game of checkers with me.
(PHILLIPS exits. Blackout.)
(A room in the cottage next to the Phillips’. ROSE shows her new hairdo to her aunt, CONSTANCE.)
ROSE: What do you think, Aunt Constance? I spent all morning putting it up just like the fashionable ladies in La Mode Illustrée.
CONSTANCE: That was time well spent. There will be a very elegant company lunching with us today at Mr. Phillips’ and you wouldn’t want a hair out of place.
ROSE: But where’s Mr. Anthony? He was supposed to join us for breakfast?
CONSTANCE: He’ll be around. Everyone knows he’s very much taken with you.
ROSE: I think he’d marry me in an instant if he had a practice. How much longer do you think it will be?
CONSTANCE: Not much longer. His father got him into Harvard and will push him through as quickly as possible. And with his father’s connections, he should have a healthy practice in no time. That’s why we need to be patient.
ROSE: Oh, to be a patient in his strong hands.
ROSE: Someone’s knocking.
(She hurries over to the window upstage.)
ROSE: Oh, it’s that old bore, Mr. Ferdinand.
CONSTANCE: Careful, Rose. He’s got a tongue like barbed wire, and he’s not afraid of using it behind your back.
FERDINAND: My goodness, what visions of loveliness! But I won’t have you all to myself much longer. I noticed your doctor’s son heading in this direction. I understand he’s been shedding a good deal of light on your doorstep, although, God knows, he has precious little of that to spare.
CONSTANCE: Mr. Ferdinand, please!
FERDINAND: Forgive me. I realize he’s very much attached to your niece, but surely even she can see…
ROSE: (At the window) Here he comes now!
CONSTANCE: Mr. Ferdinand, you will go easy on the boy?
FERDINAND: I’m surprised at you, Constance. How could you think me capable of…
ROSE: Remember, we could say a few things, too, about that old lady of yours.
FERDINAND: Now you keep my old lady out of this. She might be getting on in years, but she’s still my little treasure.
ROSE: We know what kind of treasure you’re after.
ANTHONY: Hello, everyone. Everyone’s having a good day, I hope. A good day? Everyone?
FERDINAND: My dear, Mr. Anthony. Yes everyone is having a good day. Everyone. A very, very good day.
CONSTANCE: I hope you slept well last night, Mr. Anthony?
ANTHONY: Sure did. Why shouldn’t I?
ROSE: Didn’t you find last night’s dinner a bit heavy? I’m sure if I’d eaten so much rich food I wouldn’t have slept a wink.
ANTHONY: My stomach never keeps me awake.
FERDINAND: For the sake of argument, since you are practically a doctor, what would you prescribe for someone who has over-indulged and has a touch of indigestion?
ROSE: He’s not a doctor yet. He doesn’t know all that!
ANTHONY: But I do! I know all of that stuff!
FERDINAND: See, Miss Rose, you do him an injustice by not treating him with the respect he deserves. He knows all of that stuff. So, what stuff would you prescribe?
ANTHONY: Two tablespoons of cream of cassia. Cream of tartar. Epsom salts. And castor oil.
CONSTANCE: Surely one or the other, not all together.
ANTHONY: With a glass of water. And chew dried garlic during the day.
FERDINAND: Dried garlic.
CONSTANCE: I understand your father was called back to Boston. When do you expect him to return?
ANTHONY: When he’s done with whatever he’s supposed to get done with.
FERDINAND: It’s remarkable that someone who seems so callow could speak with such eloquence.
ROSE: We’ve already warned you, sir, not to provoke people like that.
ANTHONY: Was he provoking me?
CONSTANCE: Mr. Anthony, have you had your breakfast yet?
ANTHONY: That’s what I’m here for.
ROSE: (taking him by the arm) And we’ve been waiting for you so we can have it together.
FERDINAND: What a lucky man you are, Mr. Anthony, to have such lovely young ladies longing for your presence.
ANTHONY: (to Rose) Is he provoking me again?
ROSE: Aunt Constance, if it’s all right with you, we’ll have our breakfast in the dayroom.
(The two exit, quickly.)
CONSTANCE: I think I’d better join them. I’m sure you’ve already had your breakfast, Mr. Ferdinand?
FERDINAND: I haven’t even had my morning coffee yet. I accept your offer. (FERDINAND offers her his arm, and after she takes it, reluctantly, they exit.) (Blackout.)
The patio behind Phillips’ cottage, overlooking the garden. Enter BRIDGET and JACQUELINE.
BRIDGET: I don’t understand why you seem so unhappy. You’re not enjoying yourself at all!
JACQUELINE: Oh, Bridget, all this confusion is driving me crazy!
BRIDGET: Confusion? You’re not beginning to think twice about marrying Mr. Leonard?
JACQUELINE: No, of course not. He’s a good man, and I’m sure he loves me very much. I do regret, however, allowing Mr. Williams to stay in our home for the entire season.
BRIDGET: He seems nice enough, polite…
JACQUELINE: That’s right. Nice, polite… That nice, polite, sweet, engaging, endearing, amiable, sparkling, insinuating manner of his is enough to cause any woman to fall so deeply in love, so inextricably in love…
BRIDGET: Oh, no! You’ve told me over and over again that he doesn’t mean anything to you, that you couldn’t care less…
JACQUELINE: And I didn’t. Inside I laughed at him whenever he turned that sweet charm of his on me. But living under the same roof, eating at the same table, breakfast, lunch, and dinner… Sometimes he’d brush up against me… I don’t know how I’m going to put an end to all this, or even if I want to.
BRIDGET: Well, at least you’re not married yet.
JACQUELINE: But what can I do? Break my word? Tear up a contract signed by my father and announced in both the Boston and Newport papers? And, what would people say if my feelings for Mr. Williams were discovered? That I had arranged a marriage as some sort of cover, a trick to have my true lover by my side all summer? This is a matter of reputation and honor and the consequences of losing both are simply too bitter to contemplate.
BRIDGET: Sshh. Here comes your aunt.
JACQUELINE: What does it matter. She’s already figured it all out, but she’s got as much common sense as a three-year-old and she seems to take great pleasure on pouring kerosene on our fire…
SABINA: Niece, have you seen Mr. Ferdinand?
BRIDGET: I have. He was here earlier this morning, but he’s gone now.
SABINA: How rude of him! We were supposed to have breakfast together this morning. (To Jacqueline)
And you were supposed to join us.
JACQUELINE: I’m sorry. I didn’t feel quite up to it.
SABINA: But you knew I invited Mr. Williams, too! What a nice, polite young man. He ground the coffee all by himself. He’s so handy. Just about everything he does, he does perfectly… My dear, you don’t look well.
JACQUELINE: I have a headache.
SABINA: What’s wrong with young people nowadays? You always have headaches or the vapors. The vapors! Well, you won’t find me moping about all day. I haven’t come to Newport to feel sorry for myself or to have headaches. Bridget, I need someone to find Mr. Ferdinand.
JACQUELINE: Aunt, please stop this. People are talking. At your age…
SABINA: What do you mean ‘at my age’! I admit, I’m not a girl anymore, but I’m still an active woman, free and single, and with, I’m sorry to say, a trifle more spirit than some others I could name.
JACQUELINE: So, you’re not ashamed of making a fool of yourself with this Mr. Ferdinand?
SABINA: There’s nothing unacceptable or dishonest about a widow of independent means encouraging a man whom she admires and who seems to share her affections! … What I do consider unacceptable and dishonest is someone encouraging… two of them at the same time!
JACQUELINE: Then do what you please. I will no longer concern myself with your affairs, and I would appreciate you doing the same for me.
(JACQUELINE exits upstage into the garden. BRIDGET follows her.)
SABINA: Why that little hussy. As if I didn’t know her secrets! (Enter FERDINAND.)
SABINA: Where have you been. I’ve been looking all over for you.
FERDINAND: I stopped at the drugstore in town. My stomach’s been acting up lately.
SABINA: Oh you poor little dear. Come over here now. Sit right by me.
(He takes a chair some distance away.)
FERDINAND: I’ve been chewing dried garlic all morning. (He exhales in her direction.) To settle my stomach.
SABINA: My dear boy, you should really watch what you eat. You’re not as young as you once were. (She carries her chair over to him.) Anyway, now that I’ve finally got you alone, there’s something I really must tell you. If I could be assured my affections were reciprocated…
FERDINAND: My dear Sabina, you know I care very much for you.
SABINA: In short, I have a considerable amount of property, a hundred thousand in both stocks and bonds. and no children from my first marriage… If there were someone… someone who… well, some of it might be his one day. All he need do is declare himself.
FERDINAND: If I understand you correctly, then, you’d have no difficulty in loaning a small, insubstantial part of all that to me?
SABINA: A loan? That’s what you want from me?
FERDINAND: But you just suggested that some of it might be mine some day.
SABINA: I meant after I was dead.
FERDINAND: Before, after, it all amounts to the same thing.
SABINA: A loan! And that’s what you mean when you say you care for me!
FERDINAND: It’s because I care for you that I’m asking for a loan. A measly ten thousand dollars, all to be invested in a commercial venture that is sure to double in value within the year. It’s not my own interests and future I’m concerned about, but ours!
SABINA: Ours! (Taking his hand.) Then you do care for me, even if it’s only a little?
FERDINAND: My affection for you is so great I can’t even begin to express it. (Dropping her hand.)
Especially now that someone’s coming.
FERDINAND: Your niece. From the garden.
SABINA: I don’t want to be seen by her now. Especially while I’m alone with you. We’ll discuss this further inside.
(She grabs his arm and drags him offstage. JACQUELINE enters, followed by WILLIAMS.)
WILLIAMS: Jacqueline! Why are you always running away from me.
JACQUELINE: I’m not running away from you. I’m simply going where I please, and that’s often in the opposite direction.
WILLIAMS: Then will you please stop for just one minute and permit me to say one simple thing to you?
JACQUELINE: (turning toward him, angrily) It seems to me that you’ve said whatever you want to say to me with or without my permission.
WILLIAMS: Now I’ve made you angry. I’ll keep my mouth shut… if that’s what you want.
JACQUELINE: If you’ve got something to say to me, say it!
WILLIAMS: Jacqueline, believe me, I would never think of taking advantage of your kindness and your hospitality. But you must have realized by now, that I’ve fallen deeply in love with you. And you also must know that if such a love on my part could bring you harm or disturb you in any way, I would easily sacrifice my emotions and my future entirely to your interests.
JACQUELINE: Someone’s coming.
WILLIAMS: (approaching her) I won’t leave until I have your answer.
JACQUELINE: (pushing him away) Someone’s coming!
(Enter CONSTANCE with ROSE and ANTHONY. WILLIAMS draws apart.)
CONSTANCE: I hope we’re not interrupting anything?
JACQUELINE: No, of course not. Please make yourselves at home. Sit down… Mr. Williams, why don’t you come over here and sit by me?
WILLIAMS: That spot’s reserved for someone else.
JACQUELINE: (to Williams) If you persist in making a scene, you’ll have that answer I didn’t have the heart to give you a moment ago.
WILLIAMS: (sitting next to her) As you please then.
JACQUELINE: Mr. Anthony, it’s a pleasure to see you here this morning.
ANTHONY: Yes, I’m very well, thank you.
JACQUELINE: And your father?
ANTHONY: He’s very well, too, thank you.
JACQUELINE: I hear he’s been called away.
ANTHONY: Yes, but he’s still very well, thank you.
JACQUELINE: (following a short, uncomfortable silence) How about some bridge before lunch?
ROSE: I’d love to.
JACQUELINE: And you, Mr. Anthony?
ANTHONY: Bridge? Oh, no. But I know how to play Old Maid. I’ve brought a deck.
CONSTANCE: We can make a foursome with Mr. Williams. Mr. Anthony can watch. Maybe he’ll learn something.
ROSE: There’s a carriage coming.
JACQUELINE: That should be Mr. Leonard and his sister. Mr. Williams, will you see if it’s them?
(WILLIAMS bows and exits.)
CONSTANCE: Tell me, dear, is it true he’s about to propose to Miss Leonard?
JACQUELINE: So they say.
CONSTANCE: And your own wedding? When will that be?
JACQUELINE: I can’t say for sure. But I wouldn’t be surprised if your lovely niece goes to the altar before me.
ROSE: Who would want me?
(ANTHONY pinches her; Rose pushes him away.)
JACQUELINE: If my eyes don’t deceive me.
CONSTANCE: Appearances can be deceptive.
JACQUELINE: Mr. Anthony hardly seems capable of deception.
CONSTANCE: (sighing) So true. There’s not much complexity there. But he is the only son of a doctor.
(SABINA and FERDINAND enter from the garden upstage, as LEONARD and VICTORIA, on WILLIAM’s arm, enter stage left.)
JACQUELINE: It looks like we have another foursome. We can still play some bridge before lunch.
SABINA: Mr. Ferdinand and I must be partners. I will play with no one else.
JACQUELINE: Then you can pair off against Mr. Williams and Miss Leonard. Mr. Leonard and I can then play against Rose and her aunt.
ANTHONY: What about me?
ROSE: You can sit by me and watch.
ANTHONY: (to Rose) When are we going to eat?
(Jacqueline and the others readjust the tables and chairs for their card game. JACQUELINE goes to a side table downstage near the wings for the card decks. She’s followed by LEONARD.)
LEONARD: What did you have to say to him?
JACQUELINE: I have to report back to you every word I say?… Please, everyone, take your chairs.
ROSE: (To Constance) Oh, good, they’re going to be at our table. Perhaps they’ll play out a scene right in front of us.
(They all take their places and PHILLIPS enters as the cards are being dealt.)
PHILLIPS: Good afternoon, everyone.
(They all nod their heads and murmur but begin playing without further acknowledgement.)
PHILLIPS: You’re all playing cards? Is there no room for me?
jACQUELINE: Why don’t you play Old Maid with Mr. Anthony here?
PHILLIPS: Old Maid?
JACQUELINE: That’s all he knows how to play.
ANTHONY: I brought my own deck, and I should warn you, I’m a gambling man. I’m willing to play for a penny a game.
(PHILLIPS runs into the wings.)
PHILLIPS (O.S.): I don’t care if it’s raw or cooked, I want lunch on the table now!
PHILLIPS: Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve been informed luncheon is served. (He offers his arm to Sabina.) Sister?
(SABINA looks longingly at FERDINAND, who shrugs his shoulders as PHILLIPS takes her by the arm and they exit. ANTHONY grabs Rose.)
ANTHONY: Let’s eat.
ROSE: Stop it!
(They exit together.)
FERDINAND: (offering Constance his arm) I think my appetite’s returning.
CONSTANCE: Why am I not surprised?
(They exit. WILLIAMS and VICTORIA also arise and head for the wings, followed by JACQUELINE and LEONARD.)
VICTORIA: (to Williams) I’m still not sure I’ll forgive you for not visiting us this morning.
WILLIAMS: I told you. I had business to take care of, letters to write.
VICTORIA: There’s paper and ink in our study, too. You’re always welcome to use it, unless you’re so much more attached to the Phillips’ house and its occupants.
WILLIAMS: (stopping suddenly) What do you mean by that?
JACQUELINE: Is everything all right?
VICTORIA: (peevishly) Why wouldn’t everything be all right?
(Taken aback, JACQUELINE stops abruptly, along with LEONARD. VICTORIA and WILLIAMS continue to exit.)
VICTORIA: I’m sorry, but you seem to be so moody today.
WILLIAMS: I’m afraid that’s my nature.
VICTORIA: (clinging to him) Perhaps if you found someone you could truly love…
WILLIAMS: Perhaps I have.
VICTORIA: (suddenly radiant) Oh? Really? (They exit.)
JACQUELINE: I don’t think your sister cares very much for me.
LEONARD: Don’t worry. I think she’ll be a married woman far sooner than any of us had anticipated.
JACQUELINE: You mean to Mr. Williams?
LEONARD: Well, if he doesn’t show his hand soon, we won’t be seeing much more of him. I can promise you that.
JACQUELINE: Is that so?
LEONARD: (stopping) Yes, that’s so.
JACQUELINE: I don’t want to discuss this now. I don’t want a scene.
LEONARD: Sometimes, Jacqueline, I think I love you far too much. And that you love me far too little.
JACQUELINE: (stamps her foot) I told you, I will not have a scene!
(She turns suddenly and exits. LEONARD follows after her. Blackout.)
The garden behind the Phillips’ cottage. Enter BRIDGET and PETER.
BRIDGET: Let’s stop here in the garden for a while and take in some fresh air.
PETER: But my boss…
BRIDGET: They’re all in the drawing room with their coffee and before long they’ll be going into town for the afternoon promenade. You can afford to talk to me for a few minutes, unless, of course, you don’t find my company very appealing.
PETER: I find it to be more appealing than you can imagine.
BRIDGET: Now isn’t that nice!
PETER: Is there something going on with your mistress? My boss was sitting next to her and they didn’t say a word all through lunch.
BRIDGET: And where was Mr. Williams?
PETER: Sitting next to Miss Victoria, and he didn’t say a word to her either.
BRIDGET: It’ll all work out, I’m sure. Many a fine match has been made here in Newport in the season… although I’ve never had much luck… Perhaps because I’m so plain…
PETER: I wouldn’t say you were plain.
BRIDGET: Well, at least I’m not deformed. And I’m still young, and I have some good qualities. I’m thrifty, you know. I’ve saved close to $3,000. Some lucky man…
PETER: I’d better go before I say a thing or two about that.
BRIDGET: Don’t go. What do you have to say?
PETER: I think… I think…
BRIDGET: You think…?
PETER: I think I should go now. Can we talk about this later?
PETER: Tonight? Here in the garden, when they’re all playing cards.
BRIDGET: Here in the garden? Tonight? Alone?
PETER: I may be a gentleman’s valet, but I’m also a gentleman myself. One who has a considerable amount of respect for you.
BRIDGET: Until tonight, then. In the garden.
(They both exit, in opposite directions, looking after each other longingly, as JACQUELINE enters.)
JACQUELINE: Finally, a little peace and quiet. Who could’ve imagined… No, it can’t go on. I’ve given my word, the contract’s been signed, and l’m going through with it!… If they’d just stop looking at me like that! … Dear God, please help me find the way…
WILLIAMS: Finally, I’ve caught up with you.
JACQUELINE: What do you want from me?
WILLIAMS: Just my answer. That’s all.
JACQUELINE: Your answer? To what?
WILLIAMS: To what we were discussing this morning.
JACQUELINE: All right then, here’s my answer. Simply by listening to you here, I’m failing in the duty I owe to my father and my future husband; and you, by trying to insinuate yourself into my heart are violating the laws of friendship and hospitality. Do you expect me to break my word to my father and my fiancé simply because you’ve made me… fall in love with you. There, I’ve said it, and that’s the last you’ll hear of it from me. Be assured, if you continue to pursue me, I will do everything in my power to see you embarrassed and humiliated. I will meet my obligations just as you fail to meet yours. You should understand by now that my honor is far more important to me than life itself.
LEONARD: There you are.
JACQUELINE: (to herself) Oh, for God’s sake!
LEONARD: And what hidden purpose brings you here to confer alone with Mr. Williams.
JACQUELINE: Hidden purpose? … You should know that my purpose here concerns you far more than it does me, although since I’ve agreed to become your wife, your interests have become my own. There’s been talk in public about an understanding between Mr. Williams and your sister, and since the good name of your… our family hangs in the balance, I sought to reassure myself about his intentions… You’ll be pleased to hear that Mr. Williams is a man of honor who would never take advantage of a young woman’s weakness, and with all due respect to your sister, and with your consent, he has taken this opportunity, through me… to ask for your sister’s hand in marriage.
LEONARD: (to Williams) Is this true?
WILLIAMS: Well… I… I’d certainly consider becoming… your sister’s partner in wedlock… if it’s not beneath you to give me your consent.
LEONARD: You’ll have my answer tonight.
JACQUELINE: Why not now?
LEONARD: I think I should ask my sister first, don’t you? … But in the meantime we’re expected to join our friends in their promenade down Bellevue Avenue. Would you be so kind as to take my arm?
JACQUELINE: Why this formality? Whose arm should I take but yours?
LEONARD: You came out here without me.
JACQUELINE: And I’m going back with you.
(She grabs his arm and practically drags him offstage as he nods formally to WILLIAMS who is left alone on the stage.
WILLIAMS: My God, what has she done to me!
PETER: Sir, would you like to join the others in their promenade, or would you prefer to meet them afterwards in the tearoom at Ocean House?
WILLIAMS: I’ll meet them afterwards. I prefer to walk into town myself.
PETER: As you wish.
(Enter WAITER from the other side. Time has passed)
WAITER: A table, sir?
WILLIAMS: No. I’m waiting for others to join me.
(The others arrive by pairs and singly, all giving their orders to the WAITER and positioning chairs and tables about the stage as they enter, coupling together as if attracted by magnetic forces.)
JACQUELINE: Coffee. Strong and black.
LEONARD: A glass of mineral water, with ice.
ROSE: The strawberry sherbet.
ANTHONY: A ginger pop.
VICTORIA: Tea, with plenty of milk and honey.
WILLIAMS: (glancing at JACQUELINE, crossing over to Victoria.) Nothing for me.
CONSTANCE: A lemon sour.
PHILLIPS: A glass of cold selzer, with a twist of lime.
SABINA: One of those nice chocolate tarts, with plenty of whipped cream.
FERDINAND: Cider. Hard.
ANTHONY: (to Rose, as they are sitting down.) Oh fudge. I forgot to order one of those fat jelly doughnuts.
ROSE: But you just ate.
ANTHONY: I usually have my afternoon snack about now.
SABINA: (to Ferdinand) I seem to always be sitting in a draft. (She opens a small umbrella and offers it to FERDINAND.)
SABINA: I’ll catch my death of a cold here. Here. You can protect me with this.
FERDINAND: I’m supposed to hold up an open umbrella inside a tearoom for half an hour?
SABINA: When someone cares for someone, no task is too great.
FERDINAND: Lending me a miserable sum of money seems to be too great a task for you.
(SABRINA turns her back to him, sticking the umbrella in his face. Enter PETER, stage left, signaling to LEONARD.)
LEONARD: (to Jacqueline) Excuse me, I’ve asked my man to meet me here.
VICTORIA: (as Leonard crosses in front of her towards Peter) Brother, you said you had something important to tell me?
LEONARD: Later. I’m busy.
VICTORIA: (to Williams) My brother said he had something very important to tell me. Concerning you, in fact. You couldn’t tell me yourself, could you?
WILLIAMS: I don’t presume to speak for your brother.
PETER: (quietly, to LEONARD) Sir, the tradesmen here are becoming very unfriendly. They’re beginning to threaten. I think…
LEONARD: (handing him a sheet of paper) Copy out this letter, and be sure to disguise your hand. Seal it in an envelope, address it to me, and bring it to me when we’ve returned from here. It should give us the time we need.
(PETER exits and LEONARD returns to his table where he finds a nervous JACQUELINE eyeing VICTORIA and WILLIAMS. The WAITER enters and distributes the orders.)
ANTHONY: I thought I ordered a ginger pop.
ROSE: The sherbert’s all melted.
JACQUELINE: Wait a minute. This is tea.
LEONARD: This is tap water.
CONSTANCE: Not lemonade. A lemon sour!
VICTORIA: Coffee? Did I order black coffee?
WILLIAMS: Selzer? And it’s flat.
SABINA: Where’s the whipped cream?
FERDINAND: The softest hard cider I’ve ever tasted.
PHILLIPS: Nothing? (Pointing to Williams) He’s the one who ordered the nothing! Give him the nothing!
(The WAITER hands PHILLIPS the check.)
PHILLIPS: If I’m paying for everything, at least I should get my lime twist with my nothing!
ANTHONY: Waiter, could you bring me one of those fat jelly doughnuts.
A drawing room in the Phillips cottage.
Enter PHILLIPS, JACQUELINE, and LEONARD, followed by WILLIAMS and VICTORIA.
PHILLIPS: Now that I have you all hear, let me see if I can delay dinner a bit and give us some time for several rounds of bridge.
VICTORIA: Brother, a word with you please.
(She draws LEONARD aside, while JACQUELINE and WILLIAMS sit down.)
VICTORIA: You had something important to tell me. What is it?
LEONARD: Not to beat around the bush… Mr. Williams has asked me for your hand in marriage.
(She turns to WILLIAMS, radiant. He responds with a weak smile.)
LEONARD: So now it’s all up to you.
VICTORIA: If it’s all up to me, I couldn’t be any happier.
LEONARD: Could you join us for a moment, Mr. Williams?
WILLIAMS: (to JACQUELINE, who will show considerable interest in their conversation) Excuse me.
LEONARD: My sister has accepted your proposal with great pleasure.
VICTORIA: That’s all you can say? Good?
WILLIAMS: What do you want me to say? (Enter PHILLIPS.)
PHILLIPS: Now we’ll have some time for bridge.
LEONARD: Sir, I have a favor to ask. Will you be so kind to witness a contract of marriage between my sister and Mr. Williams. I’ll have the papers drawn up tomorrow morning.
PHILLIPS: Congratulations! Jacqueline, did you hear that…
JACQUELINE: I heard.
(Enter PETER, apparently out-of-breath. He hands LEONARD a letter.)
PETER: Sir, an urgent message from Boston.
LEONARD: (Opening the letter). Oh, my poor uncle!
PHILLIPS: What? Fulton?
LEONARD: It’s from Fulton, but it’s about his brother, Bernard. He’s dying. Fulton’s already on his way back from St. Louis. It’s a question of days, and there’s the matter of the will in which I have an interest. We have to leave at once.
VICTORIA: I’ll go with you. Mr. Williams, you’ll come with us, too?
WILLIAMS: That would seem proper.
LEONARD: Peter, see that the overnight bags are packed. You can return tomorrow for the rest and
(sotto voce) keep the tradesmen at bay for just a little while longer.
PETER: Yes, sir.
(PETER runs into BRIDGET entering as he exits.)
BRIDGET: Peter? Where are you going in such a hurry?
PETER: My darling. We have to leave. But I’ll be back soon. Alone. Tomorrow night.
BRIDGET: You won’t forget me?
PETER: Tomorrow night.
(He exits quickly; she follows him slowly offstage.)
PHILLIPS: Write me as soon as you arrive. I believe we’ll be following you shortly ourselves.
LEONARD: (taking Jacqueline’s hands) My dearest Jacqueline. Keep me in your heart, and return to Boston soon. Say good-bye to the others for us.
WILLIAMS: A moment. Mr. Phillips, I want to thank you with all my heart for your hospitality.
PHILLIPS: Think nothing of it.
WILLIAMS: And Miss Phillips, forgive me if . . .
JACQUELINE: Have a nice trip.
(VICTORIA takes WILLIAMS’ arm. They exit.)
PHILLIPS: What a shame. And now we have all this time before dinner. Would you like to play a few hands of…
JACQUELINE: I have a headache.
PHILLIPS: (to the wings) Hello there! Bring me a deck of cards. I want to play… some solitaire.
A room in Leonard’s house in Boston.
LEONARD is looking out the window towards the street as CHARLES enters.
LEONARD: Who’s that down there at the door?
CHARLES: The grocer’s son. I told him you weren’t home, but he wants to be paid so he keeps coming back. Like the wine merchant and there’s a bailiff with a summons…
LEONARD: Tell them to leave their bills and summons. I’ll send payment for the bills to the stores.
CHARLES: Here they are, sir.
(LEONARD snatches the bills from CHARLES and rips them to shreds.)
CHARLES: Well, that takes care of that. I’ll tell them both they’ll be paid tomorrow without fail… One more thing, sir. I’ve been informed that Mr. Phillips and his family have returned to Boston.
LEONARD: Is the cellar door locked?
CHARLES: The key should be in the door. But the staircase is full of cobwebs. They’ll get your suit all dirty.
LEONARD: Can’t be helped. See if you can get rid of whoever’s still outside on the doorstep.
(Exit LEONARD. CHARLES goes to the window; VICTORIA enters.)
VICTORIA: Was my brother in here?
CHARLES: He just left, Through the back door.
VICTORIA: The back door? Why would he do such a thing?
CHARLES: I guess to avoid the tradesmen at the front door waiting to be paid with money he doesn’t have.
VICTORIA: Careful! Don’t let anyone hear you say things like that! Where has he gone?
CHARLES: To the Phillips, I suppose… Excuse me. There seems to be some sort of ruckus out front.
(CHARLES exits followed shortly after by FULTON entering, his feathers a little ruffled.)
VICTORIA: Good morning, uncle. What a surprise to see you here so early.
FULTON: No thanks to those merchants blocking your door. What’s that all about?
VICTORIA: Something about bills… By the way, I’m sorry you had to cut short your trip to St. Louis, particularly now that your brother’s fully recovered.
FULTON: I cut short my trip to St. Louis because I’ve concluded my business there, and what’s this about Bernard having fully recovered? The old miser’s always been as healthy as a horse as far as I know.
VICTORIA: But your letter said…
FULTON: What letter? What are you talking about?
VICTORIA: The letter you wrote to Newport, informing us that your brother was at death’s door.
FULTON: And I’m telling you that I could not, would not, did not write such a letter!
VICTORIA: Then who did?
FULTON: Who else but your brother. I had no idea how far down the primrose path he’d traveled until I saw those merchants trying to break down your door, working men, by the way, who can hardly afford to spend the better part of their days waiting on your doorstep to be paid! Where is he?
VICTORIA: Visting with his fiancée, I suppose.
FULTON: So the Phillips have returned, too? Perhaps, then I’ll pay a visit to my old friend and inform him of the unfortunate financial state his future son-in-law…
VICTORIA: Uncle. It would be totally unacceptable to endanger a legitimate contract binding two lovers in a state of holy matrimony!
FULTON: I suppose it’s more acceptable to spend far more money than you’ve ever had, refuse to pay your debts, and deceive your family and friends!
VICTORIA: Uncle! Where are you going? What’re you going to do?
A sitting room in the Phillips home.
Enter JACQUELINE and BRIDGET.
BRIDGET: Please, Miss Jacqueline, you have to start enjoying yourself again. These black moods can have tragic consequences.
JACQUELINE: What black moods? I’ve never felt better in my life, especially now that that man is no longer in my company.
BRIDGET: What man could that be?
JACQUELINE: Why Mr. Williams, of course. And I have every reason to speak of him with anger and contempt. From his first day under our roof, he set traps for me, laying siege to my heart with his carefully planned encounters, his gracious words, his constant attentions, his seductive looks, his fine considerations.
BRIDGET: Well, at least you’ve gotten him out of your head… And your love for your future husband?
JACQUELINE: I’ve heard that those who marry only for love tire of each other the quickest, and those who marry for… for other reasons learn to love in time… I owe Mr. Leonard both my respect and love, and he’ll have the first from me without question and as far as the second is concerned… I’ll do what I can.
BRIDGET: And if Mr. Williams should suddenly stop by to pay you a visit?
JACQUELINE: He will be received at once. After all, he’s about to become my sister-in-law’s husband and there’s an end to it. He’s a gentleman and I’m an honorable woman and to think anything else would be false and malicious… Is there someone at the door?
(BRIDGET goes to the window.)
BRIDGET: It’s Mr. Williams. Here to pay his respects, I suppose.
JACQUELINE: (sways for a moment, before regaining her composure) Mr. Williams, here? So early?
BRIDGET: Are you all right?
JACQUELINE: Of course. Why do you ask?
BRIDGET: You seem so pale all of a sudden…
JACQUELINE: You know, I do feel a bit queasy. I don’t think those eggs this morning agreed with me. I may have to lie down for a moment. Make my excuses to Mr. Williams for me, will you Bridget?
Tell him I’m sorry…
(Exit JACQUELINE, in a hurry.)
BRIDGET: A woman of flesh and bone, like the rest of us.
WILLIAMS: Where’s Miss Phillips? I was told she had returned from Newport.
BRIDGET: Excuse me, sir, but what is it you want from her?
WILLIAMS: I have to answer to you now? I simply wish to pay my respects. Isn’t that sufficient?
BRIDGET: Certainly, sir, but I can do that for you if you’d like.
WILLIAMS: Am I to understand that I’m not being permitted to see her?
BRIDGET: You can understand whatever you like, sir, but I don’t know what else to say
WILLIAMS: In that case, you can pass this letter on to her and remind her that I’m about to become her brother-in-law.
BRIDGET: She doesn’t need me to remind her of that, sir.
(He passes a letter to BRIDGET who hides it away as LEONARD enters.)
LEONARD: (after glaring for a moment at Williams) Bridget, where’s Jacqueline?
BRIDGET: She’s with her father.
WILLIAMS: Good morning, sir.
LEONARD: (To Williams) Sir. (To Bridget) May I see her?
BRIDGET: I’ll ask. But first, sir, excuse me, is Peter back yet?
LEONARD: No, not yet.
BRIDGET: Excuse me, sir, but when will he be back?
LEONARD: Are you going to ask her or not?
BRIDGET: I’m going. I’m going.
LEONARD: (to Williams) You’re being very considerate paying your respects to my fiancée so early on her first morning home.
WILLIAMS: Social duties must be attended to.
LEONARD: But you’re not quite so attentive to your own fiancée.
WILLIAMS: I’m not sure I understand what you mean. Please tell me, where have I been at fault?
LEONARD: Let me put it another way. When precisely do you plan to marry my sister?
WILLIAMS: When all the proper formalities have been disposed of.
LEONARD: All you need do is sign the marriage contract, which is waiting for you in my lawyer’s office.
(LEONARD hands him a business card.)
WILLIAMS: Then I’ll attend to it at once.
(WILLIAMS bows and exits stage left. BRIDGET enters stage right.)
BRIDGET: My mistress thanks you for coming but she begs your indulgence. She’s not feeling well. She hopes you’ll understand.
LEONARD: I understand all too well. Inform her that I will contribute to her well-being by leaving her alone.
BRIDGET: Sir, I hope you don’t think…
LEONARD: Tell her what I just told you to tell her.
BRIDGET: Yes, sir.
(BRIDGET exits. LEONARD turns to leave, when CHARLES enters, interrupting him.)
CHARLES: Sir, I’m glad I caught you here. An urgent letter from Peter, and I should warn you, your uncle’s on his way up to see Mr. Phillips.
(CHARLES offers LEONARD the letter.)
LEONARD: My uncle? He’s back from St. Louis?
CHARLES: Yes, and he seems angry.
LEONARD: Thank you, Charles.
(CHARLES exits as LEONARD opens and reads the letter. Enter FULTON.)
FULTON: Good morning, nephew. Your sister said I might run into you here.
LEONARD: Uncle? This is a surprise. You’re back so soon.
FULTON: (motioning to the letter) Good news, I hope?
(LEONARD hands the letter over to FULTON.)
LEONARD: What’s the use? You’re bound to find out soon enough.
FULTON: Let’s see. What have we here? So, your Newport cottage has been attached along with all the furnishings therein, and your servant is writing from the local jailhouse where he’s waiting for someone to bail him out. You must’ve had quite a fine time in Newport, although they seem to take unpaid debts a bit more seriously there than in Boston. I suppose they’re tired of having the summer folk abscond with the rented silver, leaving behind no forwarding address.
LEONARD: Where would I go. Besides I could never leave Jacqueline.
FULTON: Or her $80,000 dowry.
LEONARD: Uncle, you have to help me!
FULTON: How dare you! I’ve already gone so far as to persuade a good friend to marry his daughter to a common derelict! Now you wish me to compromise myself even further?
LEONARD: Uncle, for the love of God! I’ve nowhere else to turn. I’m staring over the edge of a cliff and pleading with you to lead me away from the brink!
FULTON: Oh, so you’re at the edge of a cliff. Well, you deserve to jump off of it… But simply because you deserve it, doesn’t mean I have the heart to let you go through with it.
LEONARD: Uncle, does that mean… are you proposing…?
FULTON: Something drastic. But Phillips is still my friend, and I don’t think I’ll be doing him an injustice if I save his daughter’s marriage and your affairs both at the same time. But first we have to arrange a few matters. If you’ll follow me to my office…
BRIDGET: Sir, my mistress is feeling better now.
FULTON: Nephew, are you coming?
LEONARD: (to Fulton) Jacqueline’s feeling better. Shouldn’t I explain everything to her first?
FULTON: So she can hear all about your little difficulties before we have a chance to resolve them? Are you coming or not?
LEONARD: Uncle! I’m coming! I’m coming!
(Exit FULTON followed by LEONARD.)
BRIDGET: But sir…
(She follows him toward stage left, as JACQUELINE enters stage right.)
JACQUELINE: He’s gone?
BRIDGET: I was hoping he could tell me something about Peter. (Turns around, examining Jacqueline)
But maybe it’s for the best. You’re still a little pale.
JACQUELINE: I’m fine. I just let my emotions get the better of me. But you look a little pale yourself.
BRIDGET: Oh, Miss, it’s Peter. Mr. Leonard’s valet. I love him so, but he’s still in Newport looking after Mr. Leonard’s affairs, and I don’t know when he’ll return or if he’ll remember what passed between us when he does!
JACQUELINE: And what did Mr. Williams want?
BRIDGET: He wanted to give me a letter.
JACQUELINE: A letter? For whom?
BRIDGET: For you. He wanted me to give it to you.
JACQUELINE: You weren’t indiscrete enough to accept it, of course. Were you?
BRIDGET: Oh, of course not.
(A pause as they stare at each other.)
JACQUELINE: And you refused to take it?
BRIDGET: Because he insists on making himself a nuisance, because he won’t leave you alone.
JACQUELINE: Why you little busybody! You always think you know what’s best for me!
BRIDGET: Because I do… Unfortunately, sometimes I do just the opposite.
(She shows her the letter.)
JACQUELINE: Give me that! (She grabs the letter and tears it open.)
BRIDGET: What’s it say? What’s it say?
JACQUELINE: “Chère Mademoiselle…” Hmm, French. “You need trouble yourself about me no longer, since I will make every effort to avoid any encounter that might be construed improperly.” You see, Mr. Williams is honorable. “But as a matter of honor…” There! “…I feel compelled to inform you that your future husband has entered a state of extreme embarrassment. His Newport property has been attached, and his manservant is now languishing in a Newport jail, with no one to bail him out…”
BRIDGET: What’s that? It must be Peter! What else does he say?
JACQUELINE: Only that if I’m deeply in love with Mr. Leonard, he doesn’t expect that his ruin should be an obstacle although he doubts that my father would hold me to an agreement that ties me to a man who is “for all practical purposes a pauper, and that if you should again find yourself unattached, you should know that I have not yet signed any agreements and that I would never be party to such an action unless I knew for certain you would never be mine. Your most loving servant.”
BRIDGET: What else does he say about Peter?
JACQUELINE: Nothing… Bridget, advise me. What should I do?
BRIDGET: (very agitated) Follow your heart. (BRIDGET suddenly turns and begins to exit.)
JACQUELINE: Where are you going?
BRIDGET: To get Peter out of jail!
JACQUELINE: At least she knows what to do. (Addressing the letter.) You’re still trying to tempt me, aren’t you? (She crumples the letter in her hand.) We’re all made to suffer and to die, but before that we can at least endure.
(JACQUELINE exits. The lights dim and brighten again, as if some time has passed. Enter FULTON and LEONARD.)
LEONARD: (who’s been hanging back, looking offstage) Apparently, Phillips has finished his lunch…
FULTON: Why don’t you disappear into the library for a moment? Leave everything to me. (Exit. LEONARD, and PHILLIPS enters.)
PHILLIPS: Fulton! My old friend!
FULTON: Phillips. It’s good to see you so well. I hope you found Newport to your liking.
PHILLIPS: A wonderful year for oysters!
FULTON: That’s all well and good. But now there’s a matter of extreme importance…
PHILLIPS: Not to mention the woodcocks…!
FULTON: Good. Phillips…
PHILLIPS: … and the grilled quail on toast!
FULTON: You need to listen seriously to me. Right now.
PHILLIPS: Of course. Any hour of the day or night.
FULTON: In brief, are you making the final preparations for the marriage of your daughter to my nephew?
PHILLIPS: Well, just between you and me, there is the matter of the expense of such an affair. Newport is getting more costly every year, and those people expect to be paid in cash.
FULTON: And there’s the dowry, too. Eighty thousand dollars.
PHILLIPS: Frankly, I couldn’t lay my hands on eighty thousand cents right now.
FULTON: Excellent, because I have a plan that will leave both your honor and pocketbook fully intact. That warehouse you own on the Mississippi…?
PHILLIPS: Yes, of course, did you have a chance…?
FULTON: I made some inquiries, and I now know for a fact that the manager of your property has been robbing you blind. So, rather than the dowry, why don’t you transfer ownership to your daughter. My nephew, her future husband, will then manage the warehouse for you. He views this as a wonderful
opportunity and would surely create an income far greater than the interest on eighty thousand dollars, which will still be yours to spend as you please.
PHILLIPS: St. Louis? That’s a long way off… But if it will give my daughter and my nephew a chance to make a life for themselves… I must admit I have been a little concerned about his extravagance, but there’s not much of a fashionable set out there in the Mississippi swamps… Of course, I’d still want my Missouri ham. They can keep the beef jerky.
FULTON: One Missouri ham a year and a barrel of pickled buffalo tongues from the Oklahoma territories.
PHILLIPS: Put that in writing and it’s a deal! Of course, there’s the matter of my daughter…
FULTON: You’ll have to get her to agree.
PHILLIPS: Yes, of course. (He begins to exit, then pauses.) Or I could have her sent here, and you could explain everything to her. You do these things so well.
FULTON: Tell her. Now.
PHILLIPS: Yes, of course…
(Exit PHILLIPS, and LEONARD enters from the opposite side.)
FULTON: You heard?
LEONARD: Everything. Now if only Jacqueline… She may not be so eager to join me once she learns we’ll have to sneak away some moonless night under the very noses of our creditors.
FULTON: I’ll take care of your creditors.
LEONARD: Uncle, how can I ever…
FULTON: I’ll expect you to manage your new properties well enough to pay me back. With interest.
PHILLIPS: Hello, Leonard. What a surprise! (To Phillips.) Have you told him?
LEONARD: I’ve agreed to everything.
FULTON: And your daughter?
PHILLIPS: Apparently, she’s gone to pay a visit to her friend Constance.
LEONARD: I believe my sister’s on her way over there now, too.
FULTON: Well, I’ve done my part. Why don’t you join them all there, and settle everything with everybody all at once, like the last scene in a comedy.
(PHILLIPS throws his arm around LEONARD’S shoulders.)
PHILLIPS: Come along, son-in-law. Let’s find out what your new wife thinks about her move to St. Louis.
CONSTANCE is arranging chairs in the parlor. ROSE joins her.
CONSTANCE: Hurry up, Rose. You have to help me with all of this. I’ve already sent out my cards and people will be arriving at any moment. Your uncle left this place in such a mess! Perhaps you can train your husband better.
ROSE: I intend to. But so far marriage hasn’t been much of a comfort to me. I don’t have a ring, I don’t have a trousseau, I don’t have a wedding, nothing to show for it but a husband.
CONSTANCE: Those other things will come in time. But for now, no one needs to know you’re married. This isn’t the first time his father has threatened to disinherit him, and not until we’re sure they’ve reconciled can we announce your marriage. Just make sure that husband of yours keeps his mouth shut. Where is he, anyway?
ROSE: He’s changing. Now that summer’s almost over, he needs a new wardrobe, so he stole one of his father’s ready-mades just before he was chased out of the house. He’s trying it on now.
CONSTANCE: But he’s so much smaller than his father.
ROSE: He’s not all that small.
(Enter ANTHONY, in a suit several sizes too large.)
ANTHONY: What do you think?
ROSE: It’s a little long in the sleeves, but not all that bad.
CONSTANCE: It’s a disgrace! Take it off, and put on your other suit.
ANTHONY: I can’t. I gave my other suit to the servant who helped me steal this one.
ROSE: (Embracing him) Maybe if we had it taken in a little, at the waist?
ANTHONY: You could do that for me, couldn’t you, auntie?
CONSTANCE: No I could not, and don’t call me auntie! No one must know that you’re married. No one!
ANTHONY: Fine, but why don’t you want me to call you auntie, auntie?
CONSTANCE: Don’t call me that!
ROSE: You really have to learn to be a bit more circumspect, dear.
ANTHONY: What do you mean by that?
ROSE: Show some common sense, And study, study hard so that you’ll become a great doctor and I can be proud of you. Learn how to use your whole brain, all of it.
CONSTANCE: How can he use his whole brain if he doesn’t have half of one.
ANTHONY: I heard that! I’m a married man now, and I won’t let you treat me…
CONSTANCE: Sshh! I hear someone at the door. Rose, could you bring in some coffee and cakes from the kitchen. (To Anthony) And you get out of my sight. I can’t have anyone respectable seeing you like that!
(Exit ROSE. She’ll return a moment later with a tray of coffee and cakes.)
ANTHONY: You just don’t want me eating any of your precious coffee and cake.
CONSTANCE: I can’t take much more of this.
ANTHONY: Married to your niece, don’t you know. Married to your niece! Auntie!
(Exit ANTHONY. He takes a piece of cake from the tray ROSE is carrying as she enters.)
CONSTANCE: Rose, I won’t be able to have him around me much longer if things go on like this.
ROSE: Be patient. He’s still just a little boy.
CONSTANCE: Go on, make excuses for him.
ROSE: I’m supposed to make excuses for him. He’s my husband. Besides, you’re the one who advised me to marry him.
CONSTANCE: Rose, I love you very much, but you don’t have a penny to your name, and we can’t provide for you forever. If that little boy hadn’t fallen into our laps, I fear you would’ve been left standing alone in the shadows for a very long time.
JACQUELINE: Constance. Rose.
CONSTANCE: I can’t tell you how sorry I am the house is in such a state. My husband…
JACQUELINE: (taking care to wipe off a chair before sitting) Please, it’s fine… I came over so soon because I was concerned about my Aunt Sabina. You must have seen her before leaving Newport…
CONSTANCE: I’m sorry to say the poor dear’s beside herself. In fact, she asked me personally to deliver a very private letter to Mr. Ferdinand, so private I’m sure he’ll share the contents with everyone.
JACQUELINE: I’m often amused by Mr. Ferdinand’s antics, but the thought of him exposing my aunt is like a dagger through my heart.
CONSTANCE: And how is Mr. Leonard.
ROSE: And Mr. Williams. How is he?
JACQUELINE: Is it true that Mr. Anthony has returned to Boston with you?
CONSTANCE: Yes, he’s staying with us for a few days until he gets settled.
JACQUELINE: Some very malicious people have been spreading a rumor that he’s returned to Boston with you because he’s also been married… Of course, I knew it couldn’t be true. It would be such a ridiculous match.
ROSE: And then there’s Mr. Williams engagement to Miss Leonard. When do you think they’ll be getting married?
JACQUELINE: I don’t have the slightest idea.
ROSE: Considering how they act around each other, that would also seem to be a ridiculous match, don’t you think?
JACQUELINE: (rising) Excuse me, I really have several more visits to make this afternoon. I see that you’re very busy, and I wouldn’t want to take any more of your time.
CONSTANCE: Please, we just brewed a pot of coffee. I insist that you stay for a cup.
JACQUELINE: Well, since you insist.
(ROSE, after hearing voices, goes to the window.)
ROSE: More visitors. Miss Victoria herself, and Mr. Ferdinand, and, oh yes, Mr. Williams.
(JACQUELINE stands up suddenly.)
ROSE: Careful. You’re spilling coffee all over yourself.
CONSTANCE: I’ll get some water.
JACQUELINE: (wiping herself) No, please, it’s nothing.
(Enter WILLIAMS and VICTORIA.)
CONSTANCE: Please come in. I’ve already made my apologies to Miss Phillips. I simply haven’t had enough time to put this house in order. Rose, didn’t you say Mr. Ferdinand was here, too?
VICTORIA: He was with us a moment ago. Where could he have gotten to?
CONSTANCE: I have a very private letter for him. I’m to deliver it personally.
WILLIAMS: A very private letter?
JACQUELINE: Yes, from my aunt.
WILLIAMS: And I suppose he’ll want to read the letter and respond to it as soon as possible. That’s the proper thing to do, isn’t it?
JACQUELINE: Assuming the letter deserves a response.
WILLIAMS: Assuming the letter was an honest one, written with sincerity and affection. I think such a letter would always deserve a response.
JACQUELINE: Not all affection is innocent, and sometimes honesty is another word for self- interest.
VICTORIA: It sounds like you two already know what this letter’s all about.
WILLIAMS: We know the passion that led to it.
JACQUELINE: We also know that it’s an unworthy passion that should not be encouraged.
VICTORIA: In any case, it seems to be a letter worth reading, and here’s the man who might read it to us.
(Enter FERDINAND, his arm linked to ANTHONY’s.)
FERDINAND: Look what I found in the kitchen.
ANTHONY: Hello everybody.
CONSTANCE: (to Anthony) Leave here at once.
FERDINAND: I heard that. I think he should stay. And you should show him a bit more respect, since, after all, he is a married man.
CONSTANCE: No he’s not!
FERDINAND: He’s not? You’re not?
ANTHONY: (abashed) No, I guess I’m not.
FERDINAND: Then that’s good news, for if he’s not, if he’s not married to our lovely little Rose here, I might be tempted to ask for her hand myself.
ANTHONY: In that case, you’d be a… a cuck—… a cuck—… a coo-koo!
FERDINAND: Whatever could you mean by that?
ANTHONY: What I mean by that is that our lovely little Rose here is certainly no longer a…
CONSTANCE: Mr. Anthony, will you hold your tongue! … Mr. Ferdinand, I have a letter for you.
FERDINAND: (takes the letter from her) From my dear little pigeon. I shall read it with the greatest of pleasure.
VICTORIA: You should read it to all of us.
FERDINAND: Let’s see what it says first. (Enter PHILLIPS and LEONARD.)
PHILLIPS: Sorry to barge in like this, but it’s imperative… Mr. Anthony! Nice suit.
ANTHONY: Would you like to play a hand of Old Maid?
PHILLIPS: No, but I would like to speak to my daughter. (To Constance) Please forgive me for my impatience, but if I could speak with my daughter in private for just a moment.
CONSTANCE: Certainly. If you just want to go into the hallway…
PHILLIPS: Jacqueline, come! You, too, Leonard. Let’s get this settled.
LEONARD: Excuse us, please.
(All three exit.)
ANTHONY: (to Rose) I’ll see if I can overhear what they’re saying from the kitchen.
(Exit ANTHONY. In the meantime, FERDINAND has crossed over to stage right. He reads his letter as the lights dim on the others.
FERDINAND: Good lord. What is this? Arabic? I can barely make it out. Let’s see. “Cruel heart.” I guess that’s me. “You’re the first man who’s ever made me cry for love.” Etc., etc. “Tears are welling up in my eyes.” It’s all smudged here. What, was she writing in a rainstorm? “You must return at once. And if you really love me, you will come, and if you come you will not find me ungrateful.” Ah, now we’re getting somewhere. “If my love alone is not enough to recompense you, come back to me anyway, and I will pledge you…” The devil take her, I can’t make this out! “I will pledge you all your loan.” No that can’t be it. It’s not “all your loan,” it’s “all that I own.” “All that I own!” Good lord. “Your faithful and loving and future wife, Sabina.”
(Light comes up upstage.)
VICTORIA: You’re taking a considerable time with that letter, Mr. Ferdinand. Would you like to share any of it with us?
FERDINAND: I’m sorry, it would be inappropriate for me to divulge its contents. Suffice to say she signs it “Your faithful and loving and future wife, Sabina.”
VICTORIA: And what, then, are you going to do?
FERDINAND: I’m going to take the next train to Newport to be with my faithful and loving and future wife, Sabina. My friends, your most humble and eternal servant.
CONSTANCE: She must’ve agreed to sign everything over to him.
ROSE: That poor, crazy old lady.
VICTORIA: (to Williams) Don’t you find this all very amusing? Or have you simply fallen asleep?
WILLIAMS: I don’t find any of this amusing.
(JACQUELINE and LEONARD enter first, arm-in-arm, followed by PHILLIPS.)
VICTORIA: (noticing that Williams has arisen) Well, that seems to have awakened you… So what great news do you have for us, brother?
LEONARD: Great news it is, sister. By tomorrow evening Jacqueline and I will be on a train to St. Louis.
VICTORIA: St. Louis? I take it you intend to get married first?
VICTORIA: And where does that leave us, Mr. Williams?
WILLIAMS: (to Jacqueline) You’re going to St. Louis? Is this true?
JACQUELINE: Very true. Thanks to my father and my new uncle. I confess, it’s hard to leave the people you love and care for… But, so there will be no misunderstanding, in front of everyone present, I offer you, my husband, my hand, willingly, and ask for yours, willingly and eagerly in return.
LEONARD: (Embraces her, then stands back, holding her by the shoulders) You’re shaking. You’re pale as a ghost, as if you’re not entirely sure…
JACQUELINE: I am sure! No one could ever persuade me to take such a step if I were not certain, No, blame the weakness of a woman who is about to surrender her beloved independence to become your wife, and who is about to tear someone she loves from her heart… a father—and replace him with a husband. Again, here is my hand. I am your wife. I am yours.
LEONARD: (taking her hand) And I’m yours.
JACQUELINE: (pushing him softly away before he can embrace her again) Sir, we leave tomorrow. You have affairs to put in order, and I don’t lack for things to do.
(Enter ANTHONY, eating a piece of cake.)
ANTHONY: Weddings! Weddings! More weddings!
CONSTANCE: Quiet, you fool!
ROSE: Aunt, stop. You’re always demeaning him.
LEONARD: Weddings, yes. Speaking of weddings, I’m sure, Mr. Williams, you will want to formalize your engagement to my sister before we leave tomorrow?
VICTORIA: We were discussing signing the papers tonight.
JACQUELINE: Mr. Williams, I expect you’ll be true to your word and finish what you’ve started.
VICTORIA: Have you nothing to say, or have you gone back to sleep?
WILLIAMS: I’m awake enough to hear what’s been said and to know what needs to be done. I’m a man of my word and I mean to stand by it as Miss Phillips has by hers. I’ve always admired her integrity and because of my respect for her and her advice, I am ready, before everyone here, to give you my hand in marriage.
VICTORIA: Because of your respect for her, not because of your love for me?
JACQUELINE: She’s right. Perhaps you should be a bit more open about your emotions.
WILLIAMS: Please don’t be concerned about my emotions. Like you, I have them completely under control, and I know what I’m doing. Victoria, I swear that you have found a husband who respects your character and worth, and one who will always be faithful and true to you.
VICTORIA: Wonderful. All I’ve ever wanted, except passion and love.
LEONARD: Enough of this. Accept his offer or learn how to be a spinster for life.
VICTORIA: You’re very humorous, brother, but I am not acting under compulsion, either. (To Williams) Here is my hand, and all my heart.
WILLIAMS: (taking her hand) And I accept.
VICTORIA: Only… try to have a little compassion for me.
WILLIAMS: I’m the one who will need compassion.
VICTORIA: Well, I think we’d better find that lawyer if we want those papers signed. Brother, will you join us.
JACQUELINE: Please, go. Farewell, sister, brother. We leave for St. Louis tomorrow night.
(Exit LEONARD and VICTORIA, who draws WILLIAMS with her by the arm.)
ANTHONY: Wonderful! Wonderful! Another wedding coming right up.
PHILLIPS: You seem to enjoy weddings so much, young man, I wouldn’t be surprised if your own wasn’t forthcoming before long.
ANTHONY: Before long? It’s already occurred. I mean it. We’ve done it! I’m a married man!
(He grabs Rose and kisses her hard on the lips.)
CONSTANCE: You’re a fool. A reckless, mindless idiot!
ROSE: Stop insulting him! We weren’t going to hide it forever, and now I’m glad it’s finally out!
(She grabs Anthony, kissing him back, just as hard.)
CONSTANCE: Well I’m not! And I can insult anyone I want to insult in my own house. Moreover, I can’t stand the sight of either one of you anymore!
JACQUELINE: (to Rose) Don’t be angry with her. She only wants the best for you. I pray with all my heart that there will be no cause for you to regret a decision made on a warm summer night at a seaside resort.
PHILLIPS: Jacqueline, we have a marriage to take care of. And perhaps a small reception tomorrow with a little brunch. We should go.
JACQUELINE: (to Rose again) Give our regards to your aunt, and tell her we all wish the very best fortune to her niece and her new husband.
(Exit JACQUELINE and PHILLIPS.)
ANTHONY: That was nice… Now what?
ROSE: I don’t know.
ANTHONY: Would you like to play some Old Maid?
ROSE: Why don’t I teach you how to play bridge?
ANTHONY: All right… Maybe later. But first, I think there’s still some cake left in the kitchen.
(ANTHONY exits, leaving ROSE alone. She shrugs her shoulders and follows him offstage.
(Curtain. End of play.)