This is the “living” room of Jerry Frost’s house. It is evening. The room (and, by implication, the house) is small and stuffy—it’s an awful bother to raise these old-fashioned windows; some of them stick, and besides it’s extravagant to let in much cold air, here in the middle of March. I can’t say much for the furniture, either. Some of it’s instalment stuff, imitation leather with the grain painted on as an after-effect, and some of it’s dingily, depressingly old. That bookcase held “Ben Hur” when it was a best-seller, and it’s now trying to digest “A Library of the World’s Best Literature” and the “Wit and Humor of the United States in Six Volumes.” That couch would be dangerous to sit upon without a map showing the location of all craters, hillocks, and thistle-patches. And three dead but shamefully unburied clocks stare eyelessly before them from their perches around the walls.
Those walls—God! The history of American photography hangs upon them. Photographs of children with puffed dresses and depressing leers, taken in the Fauntleroy nineties, of babies with toothless mouths and idiotic eyes, of young men with the hair cuts of ’85 and ’90 and ’02, and with neckties that loop, hoist, snag, or flare in conformity to some esoteric, antiquated standard of middle-class dandyism. And the girls! You’d have to laugh at the girls! Imitation Gibson girls, mostly; you can trace their histories around the room, as each of them withered and stated. Here’s one in the look-at-her-little-toes-aren’t-they-darling period, and here she is later when she was a little bother of ten. Look! This is the way she was when she was after a husband. She might be worse. There’s a certain young charm or something, but in the next picture you can see what five years of general housework have done to her. You wouldn’t turn your eyes half a degree to watch her in the street. And that was taken six years ago—now she’s thirty and already an old woman.
You’ve guessed it. That last one, allowing for the photographer’s kind erasure of a few lines, is Mrs. Jerry Frost. If you listen for a minute, you’ll hear her, too.
But wait. Against my will, I’ll have to tell you a few sordid details about the room. There’s got to be a door in plain sight that leads directly outdoors, and then there are two other doors, one to the dining-room and one to the second floor—you can see the beginning of the stairs. Then there’s a window somewhere that’s used in the last act. I hate to mention these things, but they’re part of the plot.
Now you see when the curtain went up, Jerry Frost had left the little Victrola playing and wandered off to the cellar or somewhere, and Mrs. Jerry (you can call her Charlotte) hears it from where she is up-stairs. Listen!
“Some little bug is going to find you, so-o-ome day!”
That’s her. She hasn’t got much of a voice, has she? And she will sing one key higher than the Victrola. And now the darn Victrola’s running down and giving off a ghastly minor discord like the death agony of a human being.
Charlotte. [She’s up-stairs, remember.] Jerry, wind up the graphophone.
There’s no answer.
Still no answer.
Jerry, wind up the graphophone. It isn’t good for it.
Yet again no answer.
All right— [smugly]—if you want to ruin it, I don’t care.
The phonograph whines, groans, gags, and dies, and almost simultaneously with its last feeble gesture a man comes into the room, saying: “What?” He receives no answer. It is Jerry Frost, in whose home we are.
Jerry Frost is thirty-five. He is a clerk for the railroad at $3,000 a year. He possesses no eyebrows, but nevertheless he constantly tries to knit them. His lips are faintly pursed at all times, as though about to emit an enormous opinion upon some matter of great importance.
On the wall there is a photograph of him at twenty-seven—just before he married. Those were the days of his high yellow pompadour. That is gone now, faded like the rest of him into a docile pattern without grace or humor.
After his mysterious and unanswered “What?” Jerry stares at the carpet, surely not in æsthetic approval, and becomes engrossed in his lack of thoughts. Suddenly he gives a twitch and tries to reach with his hand some delicious sector of his back. He can almost reach it, but not quite—poor man!—so he goes to the mantelpiece and rubs his back gently, pleasingly, against it, meanwhile keeping his glance focussed darkly upon the carpet.
He is finished. He is at physical ease again. He leans over the table—did I say there was a table?—and turns the pages of a magazine, yawning meanwhile and tentatively beginning a slow clog step with his feet. Presently this distracts him from the magazine, and he looks apathetically at his feet. Then suddenly he sits in a chair and begins to sing, unmusically, and with faint interest, a piece which is possibly his own composition. The tune varies considerably, but the words have an indisputable consistency, as they are composed wholly of the phrase: “Everybody is there, everybody is there!”
He is a motion-picture of tremendous, unconscious boredom.
Suddenly he gives out a harsh, bark-like sound and raises his hand swiftly, as though he were addressing an audience. This fails to amuse him; the arm falters, strays lower——
Jerry. Char-lit! Have you got the Saturday Evening Post?
There is no reply.
Still no reply.
Charlotte [with syrupy recrimination]. You didn’t bother to answer me, so I don’t think I should bother to answer you.
Jerry [indignant, incredulous]. Answer you what?
Charlotte. You know what I mean.
Jerry. I mos’ certainly do not.
Charlotte. I asked you to wind up the graphophone.
Jerry [glancing at it indignantly]. The phonograph?
Charlotte. Yes, the graphophone!
Jerry. It’s the first time I knew it. [He is utterly disgusted. He starts to speak several times, but each time he hesitates. Disgust settles upon his face, in a heavy pall. Then he remembers his original question.] Have you got the Saturday Evening Post?
Charlotte. Yes, I told you!
Jerry. You did not tell me!
Charlotte. I can’t help it if you’re deaf!
Jerry. Deaf? Who’s deaf? [After a pause.] No more deaf than you are. [After another pause.] Not half as much.
Charlotte. Don’t talk so loud—you’ll wake the people next door.
Jerry [incredulously]. The people next door!
Charlotte. You heard me!
Jerry is beaten, and taking it very badly. He is beginning to brood when the telephone rings. He answers it.
Jerry. Hello!… [With recognition and rising interest.] Oh, hello…. Did you get the stuff…. Just one gallon is all I want…. No, I can’t use more than one gallon…. [He looks around thoughtfully.] Yes, I suppose so, but I’d rather have you mix it before you bring it…. Well, about nine o’clock, then. [He rings off, gleeful now, smiling. Then sudden worry, and the hairless eyebrows knit together. He takes a note-book out of his pocket, lays it open before him, and picks up the receiver.] Midway 9191…. Yes…. Hello, is this Mr.—Mr. S-n-o-o-k-s’s residence?… Hello, is this Mr. S-n-o-o-k-s’s residence?… [Very distinctly.] Mr. Snukes or Snooks…. Mr. S-n-, the boo—the fella that gets stuff, hooch … h-o-o-c-h…. No, Snukes or Snooks is the man I want…. Oh. Why, a fella down-town gave me your husband’s name and he called me up—at least, I called him up first, and then he called me up just now—see?… You see? Hello—is this—am I talking to the wife of the—of the—of the fella that gets stuff for you? The b-o-o-t-l-e-g-g-e-r? Oh, you know, the bootlegger. [He breathes hard after this word. Do you suppose Central will tell on him?] … Oh. Well, you see, I wanted to tell him when he comes to-night to come to the back door…. No, Hooch is not my name. My name is Frost. 2127 Osceola Avenue…. Oh, he’s left already? Oh, all right. Thanks…. Well, good-by…. Well, good-by … good-by. [He rings off. Again his hairless brows are knit with worry.] Char-lit!
Charlotte [abstractedly]. Yes?
Jerry. Charlit, if you want to read a good story, read the one about the fella who gets shipwrecked on the Buzzard Islands and meets the Chinese girl, only she isn’t a Chinese girl at all.
Charlotte [she’s still up-stairs, remember]. What?
Jerry. There’s one story in there—are you reading the Saturday Evening Post?
Charlotte. I would be if you didn’t interrupt me every minute.
Jerry. I’m not. I just wanted to tell you there’s one story in there about a Chinese girl who gets wrecked on the Buzzard Islands that isn’t a Chinese——
Charlotte. Oh, let up, for heaven’s sakes! Don’t nag me.
Clin-n-ng! That’s the door-bell.
There’s the door-bell.
Jerry [with fine sarcasm]. Oh, really? Why, I thought it was a cow-bell.
Charlotte [witheringly]. Ha-ha!
Well, he’s gone to the door. He opens it, mumbles something, closes it. Now he’s back.
Jerry. It wasn’t anybody.
Charlotte. It must have been.
Charlotte. It couldn’t have rung itself.
Jenny [in disgust]. Oh, gosh, you think that’s funny. [After a pause.] It was a man who wanted 2145. I told him this was 2127, so he went away.
Charlotte is now audibly descending a crickety flight of stairs, and here she is! She’s thirty, and old for her age, just like I told you, shapeless, slack-cheeked, but still defiant. She would fiercely resent the statement that her attractions have declined ninety per cent since her marriage, and in the same breath she would assume that there was a responsibility and shoulder it on her husband. She talks in a pessimistic whine and, with a sort of dowdy egotism, considers herself generally in the right. Frankly, I don’t like her, though she can’t help being what she is.
Charlotte. I thought you were going to the Republican Convention down at the Auditorium.
Jerry. Well, I am. [But he remembers the b-o-o—.] No, I can’t.
Charlotte. Well, then, for heaven’s sakes don’t spend the evening sitting here and nagging me. I’m nervous enough as it is.
They both sit. She produces a basket of sewing, selects a man’s nightshirt and begins, apparently, to rip it to pieces. Meanwhile Jerry, who has picked up a magazine, regards her out of the corner of his eye. During the first rip he starts to speak, and again during the second rip, but each time he restrains himself with a perceptible effort.
Jerry. What are you tearing that up for?
Charlotte [sarcastically]. Just for fun.
Jerry. Why don’t you tear up one of your own?
Charlotte [exasperated]. Oh, I know what I’m doing. For heaven’s sakes, don’t n-a-a-ag me!
Jerry [feebly]. Well, I just asked you. [A long pause.] Well, I got analyzed to-day.
Jerry. I got analyzed.
Charlotte. What’s that?
Jerry. I got analyzed by an expert analyzer. Everybody down at the Railroad Company got analyzed. [Rather importantly.] They got a chart about me that long. [He expresses two feet with his hands.] Say— [He rises suddenly and goes up close to her.] What color my eyes?
Charlotte. Don’t ask me. Sort of brown, I guess.
Jerry. Brown? That’s what I told ’em. But they got me down for blue.
Charlotte. What was it all about? Did they pay you anything for it?
Jerry. Pay me anything? Of course not. It was for my benefit. It’ll do me a lot of good. I was analyzed, can’t you understand? They found out a lot of stuff about me.
Charlotte [dropping her work in horror]. Do you think you’ll lose your job?
Jerry [in disgust]. A lot you know about business methods. Don’t you ever read “Efficiency” or the “Systematic Weekly”? It’s a sort of examination.
Charlotte. Oh, I know. When they feel all the bumps on your head.
Jerry. No, not like that at all. They ask you questions, see?
Charlotte. Well, you needn’t be so cross about it.
He hasn’t been cross.
I hope you had the spunk to tell them you thought you deserved a better position than you’ve got.
Jerry. They didn’t ask me things like that. It was up-stairs in one of the private offices. First the character analyzer looked at me sort of hard and said “Sit down!”
Charlotte. Did you sit down?
Jerry. Sure; the thing is to do what they tell you. Well, then the character analyzer asked me my name and whether I was married.
Charlotte [suspiciously]. What did you tell her?
Jerry. Oh, it was a man. I told him yes, of course. What do you think I am?
Charlotte. Well, did he ask you anything else about me?
Jerry. No. He asked me what it was my ambition to be, and I said I didn’t have any ambition left, and then I said, “Do you mean when I was a kid?” And he said, “All right, what did you want to do then?” And I said “Postman,” and he said, “What sort of a job would you like to get now?” and I said, “Well, what have you got to offer?”
Charlotte. Did he offer you a job?
Jerry. No, he was just kidding, I guess. Well, then, he asked me if I’d ever done any studying at home to fit me for a higher position, and I said, “Sure,” and he said, “What?” and I couldn’t think of anything off-hand, so I told him I took music lessons. He said no, he meant about railroads, and I said they worked me so hard that when I got home at night I never want to hear about railroads again.
Charlotte. Was that all?
Jerry. Oh, there were some more questions. He asked me if I’d ever been in jail.
Charlotte. What did you tell him?
Jerry. I told him “no,” of course.
Charlotte. He probably didn’t believe you.
Jerry. Well, he asked me a few more things, and then he let me go. I think I got away with it all right. At least he didn’t give me any black marks on my chart—just a lot of little circles.
Charlotte. Oh, you got away with it “all right.” That’s all you care. You got away with it. Satisfied with nothing. Why didn’t you talk right up to him: “See here, I don’t see why I shouldn’t get more money.” That’s what you’d have ought to said. He’d of respected you more in the end.
Jerry [gloomily]. I did have ambitions once.
Charlotte. Ambition to do what? To be a postman. That was a fine ambition for a fella twenty-two years old. And you’d have been one if I’d let you. The only other ambition you ever had was to marry me. And that didn’t last long.
Jerry. I know it didn’t. It lasted one month too long, though.
A mutual glare here—let’s not look.
And I’ve had other ambitions since then—don’t you worry.
Charlotte [scornfully]. What?
Jerry. Oh, that’s all right.
Charlotte. What, though? I’d like to know what. To win five dollars playing dice in a cigar store?
Jerry. Never you mind. Don’t you worry. Don’t you fret. It’s all right, see?
Charlotte. You’re afraid to tell me.
Jerry. No, I’m not. Don’t you worry.
Charlotte. Yes, you are.
Jerry. All right then. If you want to know, I had an ambition to be President of the United States.
Charlotte [laughing]. Ho—ho—ho—ho!
Jerry is pretending to be interested only in sucking his teeth—but you can see that he is both sorry he made his admission and increasingly aware that his wife is being unpleasant.
Charlotte. But you decided to give that up, eh?
Jerry. Sure. I gave up everything when I got married.
Charlotte. Even gave up being a postman, eh? That’s right. Blame it all on me! Why, if it hadn’t been for me you wouldn’t even be what you are—a fifty-dollar-a-week clerk.
Jerry. That’s right. I’m only a fifty-dollar-a-week clerk. But you’re only a thirty-dollar-a-week wife.
Charlotte. Oh, I am, am I?
Jerry. I made a big mistake when I married you.
Charlotte. Stop talking like that! I wish you were dead—dead and buried—cremated! Then I could have some fun.
Jerry. Where—in the poorhouse?
Charlotte. That’s where I’d be, I know.
Charlotte is not really very angry. She is merely smug and self-satisfied, you see, and is only mildly annoyed at this unexpected resistance to her brow-beating. She knows that Jerry will always stay and slave for her. She has begun this row as a sort of vaudeville to assuage her nightly boredom.
Charlotte. Why didn’t you think of these things before we got married?
Jerry. I did, a couple of times, but you had me all signed up then.
The sound of uncertain steps creaking down the second floor. Into the room at a wavering gait comes Jerry’s father, Horatio—“Dada.”
Dada was born in 1834, and will never see eighty-eight again—in fact, his gathering blindness prevented him from seeing it very clearly in the first place. Originally he was probably Jerry’s superior in initiative, but he did not prosper, and during the past twenty years his mind has been steadily failing. A Civil War pension has kept him quasi-independent, and he looks down as from a great dim height upon Jerry (whom he thinks of as an adolescent) and Charlotte (whom he rather dislikes). Never given to reading in his youth, he has lately become absorbed in the Old Testament and in all Old Testament literature, over which he burrows every day in the Public Library.
In person he is a small, shrivelled man with a great amount of hair on his face, which gives him an unmistakable resemblance to a French poodle. The fact that he is almost blind and even more nearly deaf contributes to his aloof, judicial pose, and to the prevailing impression that something grave and thoughtful and important is going on back of those faded, vacant eyes. This conception is entirely erroneous. Half the time his mind is a vacuum, in which confused clots of information and misinformation drift and stir—the rest of the time he broods upon the minute details of his daily existence. He is too old, even, for the petty spites which represent to the aged the single gesture of vitality they can make against the ever-increasing pressure of life and youth.
When he enters the room he looks neither to left nor right, but with his head shaking faintly and his mouth moving in a shorter vibration, makes directly for the bookcase.
Jerry. Hello, Dada.
Dada does not hear.
Jerry [louder]. Looking for the Bible, Dada?
Dada. [He has reached the bookcase, and he turns around stiffly.] I’m not deaf, sir.
Jerry. [Let’s draw the old man out.] Who do you think will be nominated for President, Dada?
Dada [trying to pretend he has just missed one word]. The——
Jerry [louder]. Who do you think’ll be nominated for President, to-night?
Dada. I should say that Lincoln was our greatest President. [He turns back to the bookcase with an air of having settled a trivial question for all time.]
Jerry. I mean to-night. They’re getting a new one. Don’t you read the papers?
Dada [who has heard only a faint murmur]. Hm.
Charlotte. You know he never reads anything but the Bible. Why do you nag him?
Jerry. He reads the encyclopædia at the Public Library. [With a rush of public spirit.] If he’d just read the newspapers he’d know what was going on and have something to talk about. He just sits around and never says anything.
Charlotte. At least he doesn’t gabble his head off all day. He’s got sense enough not to do that anyway, haven’t you, Dada?
Dada does not answer.
Jerry. Lookit here, Charlit. I don’t call it gabbling if I meet a man in the street and he says, “Well, I see somebody was nominated for President,” and I say, “Yes, I see saw—see so.” Suppose I said, “Yes, Lincoln was our greatest President.” He’d say, “Why, if that fella isn’t a piece of cheese I never saw a piece of cheese.”
Dada [turning about plaintively]. Some one has taken my Bible.
Jerry. No, there it is on the second shelf, Dada.
Dada. [He doesn’t hear.] I don’t like people moving it around.
Charlotte. Nobody moved it.
Dada. My old mother used to say to me, “Horatio—” [He brings this word out with an impressive roundness, but as his eye, at that moment, catches sight of the Bible, he loses track of his thought. He pounces upon the Holy Book and drags it out, pulling with it two or three other books, which crash to the floor. The sound of their fall is very faint on his ears—and under the delusion that his error is unnoticed, he slyly kicks the books under the bookcase. Jerry and Charlotte exchange a glance. With his Bible under his arm Dada starts stealthily toward the staircase. He sees something bright shining on the first step, and, not without difficulty, stoops to pick it up. His efforts are unsuccessful.] Hello, here’s a nail that looks just like a ten-cent piece. [He starts up-stairs.]
Jerry. He thought he found a ten-cent piece.
Charlotte [significantly]. Nobody has yet in this house.
In the ensuing silence Dada can be heard ascending the stairs. About half-way up there is a noise as if he had slipped down a notch. Then a moment of utter silence.
Jerry. You all right, Dada?
No answer. Dada is heard to resume his climb.
He was just resting. [He goes over and starts picking up the books. Cli-n-ng! There’s the front door-bell again. It occurs to him that it’s the b-o-o.] I’ll answer it.
Charlotte [who has risen]. I’ll answer it. It’s my own sister Doris, I know. You answered the last one.
Jerry. That was a mistake. It’s my turn this time by rights.
Answering the door-bell is evidently a pleasant diversion over which they have squabbled before.
Charlotte. I’ll answer it.
Jerry. You needn’t bother.
Cli-n-ng! An impatient ring that.
Charlotte and Jerry [together]. Now, listen here—
They both start for the door. Jerry turns, only trying to argue with her some more, and what does the woman do but slap his face! Then, quick as a flash, she is by him and has opened the door.
What do you think of that? Jerry stands there with an expressionless face. In comes Charlotte’s sister Doris.
Well, now, I’ll tell you about Doris. She’s nineteen, I guess, and pretty. She’s nice and slender and dressed in an astonishingly close burlesque of the current fashions. She’s a member of that portion of the middle-class whose girls are just a little bit too proud to work and just a little bit too needy not to. In this city of perhaps a quarter of a million people she knows a few girls who know a few girls who are “social leaders,” and through this connection considers herself a member of the local aristocracy. In her mind, morals, and manners she is a fairly capable imitation of the current moving-picture girl, with overtones of some of the year’s débutantes whom she sees down-town. Doris knows each débutante’s first name and reputation, and she follows the various affairs of the season as they appear in the society column.
She walks—walks, not runs—haughtily into the room, her head inclined faintly forward, her hips motionless. She speaks always in a bored voice, raising her eyebrows at the important words of each sentence.
Doris. Hello, people.
Jerry [a little stiffly—he’s mad.] Why, hello, Doris.
Doris sits down with a faint glance at her chair, as though suspecting its chastity.
Doris. Well, I’m engaged again.
She says this as though realizing that she is the one contact this couple have with the wider and outer world. She assumes with almost audible condescension that their only objective interest is the fascinating spectacle of her career. And so there is nothing personal in her confidences; it is as though she were reporting dispassionately an affair of great national, or, rather, passional importance. And, indeed, Jerry and Charlotte respond magnificently to her initial remark by saying “Honestly?” in incredulous unison and staring at her with almost bated breath.
Doris [laconically]. Last night.
Charlotte [reproachfully]. Oh, Doris! [flattering her, you see, by accusing her of being utterly incorrigible.]
Doris. I simply couldn’t help it. I couldn’t stand him any longer, and this new fella I’m engaged to now simply had to know—because he was keeping some girl waiting. I just couldn’t stand it. The strain was awful.
Charlotte. Why couldn’t you stand it? What was the trouble?
Doris [coolly]. He drank.
Charlotte, of course, shakes her head in sympathy.
He’d drink anything. Anything he could get his hands on. He used to drink all these mixtures and then come round to see me.
A close observer might notice that at this statement Jerry, thinking of his nefarious bargain with the b-o-o, perceptibly winces.
Charlotte. Oh, that’s too bad. He was such a clean-cut fella.
Doris. Yes, Charlotte, he was clean-cut, but that was all. I couldn’t stand it, honestly I couldn’t. I never saw such a man, Charlotte. He took the platinum sardine. When they go up in your room and steal your six-dollar-an-ounce perfume, a girl’s got to let a man go.
Charlotte. I should say she has. What did he say when you broke it off?
Doris. He couldn’t say anything. He was too pie-eyed. I tied his ring on a string, hung it around his neck and pushed him out the door.
Jerry. Who’s the new one?
Doris. Well, to tell you the truth, I don’t know much about him, but I’ll tell you what I do know from what information I could gather from mutual friends, and so forth. He’s not quite so clean-cut as the first one, but he’s got lots of other good qualities. He comes from the State of Idaho, from a town named Fish.
Jerry. Fish? F-i-s-h?
Doris. I think so. It was named after his uncle … a Mr. Fish.
Jerry [wittily]. They’re a lot of Fish out there.
Doris [not comprehending]. Well, these Fishes are very nice. They’ve been mayor a couple of times and all that sort of thing, if you know what I mean. His father’s in business up there now.
Jerry. What business?
Doris. He’s in the funereal-parlor business.
Jerry [indelicately]. Oh, undertaker.
Doris. [She’s sensitive to the word.] Well, not exactly, but something like that. A funereal parlor is a sort of—oh, a sort of a good undertaking place, if you know what I mean. [And now confidentially.] As a matter of fact, that’s the part of the thing I don’t like. You see, we may have to live out in Fish, right over his father’s place of business.
Jerry. Why, that’s all right. Think how handy it’ll be if——
Charlotte. Keep still, Jerry!
Jerry. Is he in the same business as his father?
Doris. No. At least not now. He was for a while, but the business wasn’t very good and now he says he’s through with it. His father’s bought him an interest in one of the stores.
Jerry. A Fish store, eh?
The two women look at him harshly.
Charlotte [wriggling her shoulders with enjoyment]. Tell us more about him.
Doris. Well, he’s wonderful looking. And he dresses, well, not loud, you know, but just well. And when anybody speaks to him he goes sort of— [To express what Mr. Fish does when any one speaks to him, Doris turns her profile sharply to the audience, her chin up, her eyes half-closed in an expression of melancholy scorn.]
Charlotte. I know—like Rudolph Valentine.
Doris [witheringly—do you blame her?]. Valentino.
Jerry. What does it mean when he does that?
Doris. I don’t know, just sort of—sort of passion.
Doris. Emotion sort of. He’s very emotional. That’s one reason I didn’t like the last fella I was engaged to. He wasn’t very emotional. He was sort of an old cow most of the time. I’ve got to have somebody emotional. You remember that place in the Sheik where the fella says: “Must I play valet as well as lover?” That’s the sort of thing I like.
Charlotte [darting a look at Jerry]. I know just what you mean.
Doris. He’s not really as tall as I’d like him to be, but he’s got a wonderful build and a good complexion. I can’t stand anybody without a good complexion—can you? He calls me adorable egg.
Jerry. What does he mean by that?
Doris [airily]. Oh, “egg” is just a name people use nowadays. It’s considered sort of the thing.
Jerry [awed]. Egg?
Charlotte. When do you expect to get married?
Doris. You never can tell!
A pause, during which they all sigh as if pondering. Then Doris, with a tremendous effort at justice, switches the conversation away from herself.
Doris [patronizingly, condescendingly]. How’s everything going with you two? [To Jerry.] Does your father still read the Bible?
Jerry. Well, a lot of the time he just thinks.
Doris. He hasn’t had anything to do for the last twenty years but just think, has he?
Jerry [impressed]. Just think of the things he’s probably thought out.
Doris [blasphemously]. That old dumb-bell?
Charlotte and Jerry are a little shocked.
How’s everything else been going around here?
Jerry. I got analyzed to-day at——
Charlotte [interrupting]. The same as ever.
Jerry. I got anal——
Charlotte [to Jerry]. I wish you’d be polite enough not to interrupt me.
Jerry [pathetically]. I thought you were through.
Charlotte. Well, you’ve driven what I had to say right out of my head. [To Doris.] What do you think he said to-night? He said if he hadn’t married me he’d be President of the United States.
At this Jerry drops his newspaper precipitately, walks in anger to the door, and goes out without speaking.
You see? Just a display of temper. But it doesn’t worry me. [She sighs—the shrew.] I’m used to it.
Doris tactfully makes no reply. After a momentary silence she changes the subject.
Doris. Well, I find I just made an awful mistake.
Charlotte [eagerly]. Not keeping both those men for a while? That’s what I think.
Doris. No. I mean—do you remember those three dresses I had lengthened?
Charlotte [breathlessly]. Yes.
Doris [tragically]. I’ll never be able to wear them.
Doris. There’s a picture of Mae Murray in the new Motion Picture Magazine … my dear, half her calf!
At this point the door leading to the dining-room opens and Jerry comes in. Looking neither to left nor to right, he marches to his lately vacated place, snatches up half his newspaper, and goes out without speaking. The two women bestow on him a careless glance and continue their discussion.
Doris. It was just my luck. I wish I’d hemmed them like I thought of doing, instead of cutting them off. That’s the way it always is. As soon as I get my hair bobbed, Marilyn Miller begins to let hers grow. And look at mine— [She removes her hat.] I can’t do a thing with it. [She replaces her hat.] Been to the Bijou Theatre?
Charlotte. No, what’s there?
Again Jerry comes in, almost unbearably self-conscious now. The poor man has taken the wrong part of the paper. Silently, with a strained look, he makes the exchange under the intense supervision of four eyes, and starts back to his haven in the dining-room. Then he jumps as Doris speaks to him.
Jerry [morosely dignified]. What?
Doris [with real interest]. What makes you think you could be President?
Jerry [to Charlotte]. That’s right. Make a fool of me in front of all your relations! [In his excitement he bangs down his paper upon a chair.]
Charlotte. I haven’t said one word—not one single solitary word—have I, Doris?
Jerry goes out hastily—without his paper!
Did I say one word, Doris? I’ll leave it to you. Did I say one single word to bring down all that uproar on my head? To have him swear at me?
Jerry, crimson in the face, comes in, snatches up his forgotten paper, and rushes wildly out again.
He’s been nagging at me all evening. He said I kept him from doing everything he wanted to. And you know very well, Doris, he’d have been a postman if it hadn’t been for me. He said he wished I was dead.
It seems to me it was Charlotte who wished Jerry was dead!
He said he could get a better wife than me for thirty dollars a week.
Doris [fascinated]. Did he really? Where did he say he could get her?
Charlotte. That’s the sort of man he is.
Doris. He’d never be rich if you gave him the money. He hasn’t got any push. I think a man’s got to have push, don’t you? I mean sort of uh! [She gives a little grunt to express indomitable energy, and makes a sharp gesture with her hand.] I saw in the paper about a fella that didn’t have any legs or arms forty years old that was a millionaire.
Charlotte. Maybe if Jerry didn’t have any legs or arms he’d do better. How did this fella make it?
Doris. I forget. Some scheme. He just thought of a scheme. That’s the thing, you know—to think of some scheme. Some kind of cold cream or hair—say, I wish somebody’d invent some kind of henna that nobody could tell. Maybe Jerry could.
Charlotte. He hasn’t brains enough.
Doris. Say, I saw a wonderful dog to-day.
Charlotte. What kind of a dog?
Doris. It was out walking with Mrs. Richard Barton Hammond on Crest Avenue. It was pink.
Charlotte. Pink! I never saw a pink dog.
Doris. Neither did I before. Gosh, it was cunning…. Well, I got to go. My fiancé is coming over at quarter to nine and we’re going down to the theatre.
Charlotte. Why don’t you bring him over some time?
Doris. All right. I’ll bring him over after the movies if you’ll be up.
They walk together to the door. Doris goes out and Charlotte has scarcely shut the door behind her when the bell rings again. Charlotte opens the door and then retreats half-way across the room, with an alarmed expression on her face. A man has come in, with a great gunny-sack slung over his shoulder. It is none other than Mr. Snooks or Snukes, the bootlegger.
I wish I could introduce you to the original from whom I have taken Mr. Snooks. He is as villainous-looking a man as could be found in a year’s search. He has a weak chin, a broken nose, a squint eye, and a three days’ growth of beard. If you can imagine a race-track sport who has fallen in a pool of mud you can get an idea of his attire. His face and hands are incrusted with dirt. He lacks one prominent tooth, lacks it with a vulgar and somehow awful conspicuousness. His most ingratiating smile is a criminal leer, his eyes shift here and there upon the carpet, as he speaks in a villainous whine.
Charlotte [uneasily]. What do you want?
Mr. Snooks leers and winks broadly, whereat Charlotte bumps back against the bookcase.
Snooks [hoarsely]. Tell your husband Sandy Claus is here.
Charlotte [calling nervously]. Jerry, here’s somebody wants to see you. He says he’s—he’s Santa Claus.
In comes Jerry. He sees the situation, but the appearance of the b-o-o evidently shocks him, and a wave of uneasiness passes over him. Nevertheless, he covers up these feelings with a magnificent nonchalance.
Jerry. Oh, yes. How de do? How are you? Glad to see you.
Snooks [wiggling the bag, which gives out a loud, glassy clank]. Hear it talking to you, eh?
Charlotte looks from one to the other of them darkly.
Jerry. It’s all right, Charlit. I’ll tend to it. You go up-stairs. You go upstairs and read that—there’s a story in the Saturday Evening Post about a Chinese girl on the Buzzard Islands that——
Charlotte. I know. Who isn’t a Chinese girl. Never mind that. I’ll stay right here.
Jerry turns from her with the air of one who has done his best—but now—well, she must take the consequences.
Jerry [to Snooks]. Is this Mr. Snukes? Or Snooks?
Snooks. Snooks. Funny name, ain’t it? I made it up. I got it off a can of tomatoes. I’m an Irish-Pole by rights. [Meanwhile he has been emptying the sack of its contents and setting them on the table. First come two one-gallon jars, one full, the other empty. Then a square, unopened one-gallon can. Finally three small bottles and a medicine dropper.]
Charlotte [in dawning horror]. What’s that? A still?
Snooks [with a wink at Jerry]. No, lady, this here’s a wine-press.
Jerry. [He’s attempting to conciliate her.] No, no, Charlit. Listen. This gentleman here is going to make me some gin—very, very cheap.
Charlotte. Some gin!
Jerry. Yes, for cocktails.
Charlotte. For whose cocktails?
Jerry. For you and me.
Charlotte. Do you think I’d take one of the poison things?
Jerry [to Snooks]. They’re not poison, are they?
Snooks. Poison! Say, lady, I’d be croaked off long ago if they was. I’d be up wid de angels! This ain’t wood alcohol. This is grain alcohol. [He holds up the gallon can, on which is the following label]:
Charlotte [indignantly]. Why, it says wood alcohol right on the can!
Snooks. Yes, but it ain’t. I just use a wood-alcohol can, so in case I get caught. You’re allowed to sell wood alcohol, see?
Jerry [explaining to Charlotte]. Just in case he gets caught—see?
Charlotte. I think the whole performance is perfectly terrible.
Jerry. No, it isn’t. Mr. Snooks has sold this to some of the swellest families in the city—haven’t you, Mr. Snooks?
Snooks. Sure. You know old man Alec Martin?
Jerry [glancing at Charlotte, who is stony-eyed]. Sure. Everybody knows who they are.
Snooks. I sole ’em a gallon. And John B. Standish? I sole him five gallons and he said it was the best stuff he ever tasted.
Jerry [to Charlotte]. See—? The swellest people in town.
Snooks. I’d a got here sooner, only I got double crossed to-day.
Snooks. A fella down-town sold me out to the rev’nue officers. I got stuck for two thousand dollars and four cases Haig and Haig.
Jerry. Gee, that’s too bad!
Snooks. Aw, you never know who’s straight in this game. They’ll double cross you in a minute.
Jerry. Who sold you out?
Snooks. A fella. What do you suppose he got for it?
Snooks. Ten dollars. What do you know about a fella that’d sell a guy out for ten dollars? I just went right up to him and said: “Why, you Ga——”
Jerry [nervously]. Say, don’t tell us!
Snooks. Well, I told him where he got off at, anyways. And then I plastered him one. An’ the rev’nue officers jus’ stood there and laughed. My brother ’n I are goin’ ’round an’ beat him up again tomorra.
Jerry [righteously]. He certainly deserved it.
Snooks [after a moment’s brooding]. Well, I’ll fix this up for you now.
Charlotte [stiffly]. How much is it?
Snooks. This? Sixteen a gallon.
Jerry [eagerly]. See, that makes two gallons of the stuff, Charlotte, and that’s eight quarts, and eight quarts of the stuff makes sixteen quarts of cocktails. That’s enough to last us—oh, three years anyhow. Just think how nice it’ll be if anybody comes in. Just say: “Like a little cocktail?” “Sure.” “All right.” [He makes a noise to express orange squeezing.] Oranges! [A noise to express the cracking of ice.] Ice! [A noise to express the sound of a shaker.] Shaker! [He pours the imaginary compound into three imaginary glasses. Then he drinks off one of the imaginary glasses and pats his stomach.]
Charlotte [contemptuously]. Well, I think you’re a little crazy, if you ask me.
Snooks [taking off his hat and coat]. You got a big bowl?
Charlotte. No. Why didn’t you bring your own bowl?
Jerry [uncertainly]. There’s a nice big bowl in the kitchen.
Charlotte. All right. Go on and spoil all the kitchen things.
Jerry. I’ll wash it afterward.
Charlotte. Wash it? [She laughs contemptuously, implying that washing will do it no good then. Jerry, nevertheless, goes for the bowl. He feels pretty guilty by this time, but he’s going through with it now, even though he may never hear the last of it.]
Snooks [hollering after him]. Get a corkscrew, too. [He holds up the tin can to Charlotte.] Grain alcohol. [Charlotte’s lips curl in answer. He holds up a small bottle.] Spirits of Jupiter. One drop of this will smell up a whole house for a week. [He holds up a second bottle.] Oila Aniseed. Give it a flavor. Take the arsenic out. [He holds up a third bottle.] Oila Coreander.
Charlotte [sardonically]. Wouldn’t you like me to look in the medicine-chest and see if there’s something there you could use? Maybe you need some iodine. Or some of Dada’s ankle-strengthener.
Jerry comes in, laden.
Jerry. Here’s the bowl and the corkscrew.
Charlotte. You forgot the salt and pepper.
Amid great pounding the bootlegger breaks the corkscrew on the tin can. His exertions send him into a fit of coughing.
You’ll have to stop coughing. You’ll wake the people next door.
Snooks. You got a hairpin, lady?
Snooks. Or a scissors?
Snooks. Say, what kind of a house is this? [He finally manages to open the can.]
Snooks. [With some pride.] Grain alcohol. Costs me $6.00 a gallon. [To Charlotte.] Smell it.
She retreats from it hastily.
Charlotte. I can smell something horrible.
Snooks. That’s the spirits of Jupiter. I haven’t opened it yet. It rots a cork in ten days. [He fills the bowl with water from one jar.]
Jerry [anxiously]. Hadn’t you better measure it?
Snooks. I got my eye trained.
Charlotte. What’s that—arsenic?
Snooks. Distilled water, lady. If you use regular water it gets cloudy. You want it clear. [He pours in alcohol from the can.] Got a spoon?… Well, never mind. [He rolls up his sleeve and undoubtedly intends to plunge his whole arm into the mixture.]
Jerry [hastily]. Here! Wait a minute. No use—no use getting your hand wet. I’ll get you a spoon. [He goes after it.]
Charlotte [sarcastically]. Get one of the best silver ones.
Snooks. Naw. Any kind’ll do.
Jerry returns with one of the best silver spoons, which he hands to Mr. Snooks.
Charlotte. I might have known you would—you fool!
Mr. Snooks stirs the mixture—the spoon turns rust-colored—Charlotte gives a little cry.
Snooks. It won’t hurt it, lady. Just leave it out in the sun for an hour. Now the spirits of Jupiter. [He fills the medicine dropper from a small bottle and lets a slow, interminable procession of drops fall into the bowl. Jerry watches intently and with gathering anxiety. At about the fourteenth drop he starts every time one falls. Finally Mr. Snooks ceases.]
Jerry. How many did you count?
Jerry. I counted eighteen.
Snooks. Well, a drop or so won’t make no difference. Now you got a funnel?
Jerry. I’ll get one. [He goes for it.]
Snooks. Good stuff, lady. This is as good as what you used to buy for the real thing.
Charlotte does not deign to answer.
You needn’t worry about that spoon. If that spoon had a been the real thing it w’na done like that. You can try out all your stuff that way. A lot of stuff is sold for silver nowadays that ain’t at all.
Jerry returns with the funnel, and Mr. Snooks pours the contents of the bowl into the two glass jars.
Snooks [holding up one jar admiringly]. The real thing.
Charlotte. It’s cloudy.
Snooks [reproachfully]. Cloudy? You call that cloudy? That isn’t cloudy. Why, it’s just as clear——
He holds it up and pretends to look through it. This is unquestionably a mere gesture, for the mixture is heavily opaque and not to be pierced by the human eye.
Charlotte [disregarding him and turning scornfully to Jerry]. I wouldn’t drink it if it was the last liquor in the world.
Snooks. Lady, if this was the last liquor in the world it wouldn’t be for sale.
Jerry [doubtfully]. It does look a little—cloudy.
Snooks. No-o-o—! Why you can see right through it. [He fills a glass and drinks it off.] Why, it just needs to be filtered. That’s just nervous matter.
Charlotte and Jerry [together]. Nervous matter?
Jerry. When did we put that in?
Snooks. We didn’t put it in. It’s just a deposit. Sure, that’s just nervous matter. Any chemis’ will tell you.
Charlotte [sardonically]. Ha-ha! “Nervous matter.” There’s no such thing.
Snooks. Sure! That’s just nervous matter. [He fills the glass and hands it to her.] Try it!
As he comes near she leans away from him in horror. Snooks offers the glass to Jerry.
If you drink any of that stuff they’ll have to analyze you all over again.
But Jerry drinks it.
Charlotte. I can’t stand this. When your—when he’s gone I’ll thank you to open the windows. [She goes out and up-stairs.]
Snooks [with a cynical laugh]. Your old lady’s a little sore on you, eh?
Jerry [bravely]. No. She doesn’t care what I do.
Snooks. You ought to give her a bat in the eye now and then. That’d fix her.
Jerry [shocked]. Oh, no; you oughtn’t to talk that way.
Snooks. Well, if you like ’em to step around…. Sixteen bucks, please.
Jerry searches his pockets.
Jerry [counting].—thirteen—fourteen—let’s see. I can borrow the ice-man’s money if I can find where—Just wait a minute, Mr. Snooks.
He goes out to the pantry. Almost immediately there are steps upon the stairs, and in a moment Dada, resplendent in a flowing white nightshirt, trembles into Mr. Snooks’s vision. For a moment Mr. Snooks is startled.
Dada [blinking]. I thought I smelled something burning.
Snooks. I ain’t smelled nothin’, pop.
Dada. How do you do, sir. You’ll excuse my costume. I was awake and it occurred to me that the house was on fire. I am Mr. Frost’s father.
Snooks. I’m his bootlegger.
Snooks. His bootlegger.
Dada [enthusiastically]. You’re my son’s employer?
They shake hands.
Dada. Excuse my costume. I was awake, and I thought I smelled something burning.
Snooks [decisively]. You’re kiddin’ yourself.
Dada. Perhaps I was wrong. My sense of smell is not as exact as it was. My son Jerry is a fine boy. He’s my only son by my second wife, Mr.—? The——? [He is evidently under the impression that Snooks has supplied the name and that he has missed it.] I’m glad to meet his employer. I always say I’m a descendant of Jack Frost. We used to have a joke when I was young. We used to say that the first Frosts came to this state in the beginning of winter. Ha-ha-ha! [He is convinced that he is giving Jerry a boost with his employer.]
Snooks [bored]. Ain’t it past your bedtime, pop?
Dada. Do you see? “Frosts” and “frosts.” We used to laugh at that joke a great deal.
Snooks. Anybody would.
Dada. “Frosts,” you see. We’re not rich, but I always say that it’s easier for a camel to get through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to get to heaven.
Snooks. That’s the way I always felt.
Dada. Well, I think I’ll turn in. My sense of smell deceived me. No harm done. [He laughs.] Good night, Mr.——?
Snooks [humorously]. Good night, pop. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.
Dada [starting away]. I hope you’ll excuse my costume. [He goes up-stairs. Jerry returns from the pantry just in time to hear his voice.]
Jerry. Who was that? Dada?
Snooks. He thought he was on fire.
Jerry [unaware of the nightshirt]. That’s my father. He’s a great authority on—oh, on the Bible and a whole lot of other things. He’s been doing nothing for twenty years but thinking out a lot of things—here’s the money. [Jerry gives him sixteen bucks.]
Snooks. Thanks. Well, I guess you’re all fixed. Drink a couple of these and then you’ll know what to say to your wife when she gets fresh.
Charlotte [from up-stairs]. Shut the door! I can smell that way up here!
Jerry hastily shuts the door leading up-stairs.
Snooks. Like any whiskey?
Jerry. I don’t believe so.
Snooks. Or some cream de menthy?
Jerry. No, I don’t believe so.
Snooks. How about some French vermuth?
Jerry. I don’t think I’ll take anything else now.
Snooks. Just try a drink of this.
Jerry. I did.
Snooks. Try another.
Jerry tries another.
Jerry. Not bad. Strong.
Snooks. Sure it’s strong. Knock you over. Hard to get now. They gyp you every time. The country’s goin’ to the dogs. Most of these bootleggers, you can’t trust ’em two feet away. It’s awful. They don’t seem to have no conscience.
Jerry [warming]. Have you ever been analyzed, Mr. Snooks?
Snooks. Me? No, I never been arrested by the regular police.
Jerry. I mean when they ask you questions.
Snooks. Sure, I know. Thumb-prints—all that stuff.
Jerry takes another drink.
Jerry. You ought to want to rise in the world.
Snooks. How do you know I oughta.
Jerry. Why—why, everybody ought to. It says so.
Snooks. What says so.
Jerry [with a burst of inspiration]. The Bible. It’s one of the commandments.
Snooks. I never could get through that book.
Jerry. Won’t you sit down?
Snooks. No, I got to hustle along in a minute.
Jerry. Say, do you mind if I ask you a personal question?
Snooks. Not at all. Shoot!
Jerry. Did you ever—did you ever have any ambition to be President?
Snooks. Sure. Once.
Jerry [ponderously]. You did, eh?
Snooks. Once. I guess bootleggin’s just as good, though. More money in it.
Jerry [weightily]. Yes, that’s true.
Snooks. Well, I got to hustle along now. I got to take my old woman to church.
Jerry. Oh. Yes.
Snooks. Well, so long. You got my address in case you go dry.
They both smile genially at this pleasantry.
Jerry [opening the door]. All right. I’ll remember.
Snooks goes out. Jerry hesitates—then he opens the door to the up-stairs.
Jerry. Oh, Char-lit!
Charlotte [crossly]. Please keep that door shut. That smell comes right up here. It’ll start my hayfever.
Jerry [genially]. Well, I just wanted to ask you if you’ll take one little cocktail with me.
Charlotte. No! How many times do I have to tell you?
Jerry [crestfallen]. Well, you don’t need to be so disagreeable about it.
He receives no answer. He would like to talk some more, but he shuts the door and returns to the table. Picking up one of the jars, he regards its opaqueness with a quizzical eye. But it is his and quite evidently it seems to him good. He looks curiously at the three little bottles, smells one of them curiously and hastily replaces the cork. He hesitates. Then he repairs to the dining-room, singing: “Everybody is there!”—and returns immediately with an orange, a knife, and another glass. He cuts the orange, squeezes half of it into a glass, wipes his hands on the fringe of the tablecloth, and adds some of his liquor. He drinks it slowly—he waits. He prepares another potation with the other half of the orange.
No! He does not choke, make horrible faces, nor feel his throat as it goes down. Nor does he stagger. His elation is evinced only by the vague confusion with which he mislays knife, oranges, and glasses.
Impelled by the gregarious instinct of mankind, he again repairs to the door that leads up-stairs, and opens it.
Jerry [calling]. Say, Char-lit! The convention must be over. I wonder who was nominated.
Charlotte. I asked you to shut that door.
But the impulse to express himself, to fuse his new elation into the common good, is irresistible. He goes to the telephone and picks up the receiver.
Jerry. Hello…. Hello, hello. Say! I wonder’f you could tell me who was nominated for President…. All right, give me Information…. Information, I wonder if you could tell me who was nominated for President…. Why not?… Well, that’s information, isn’t it?… It doesn’t matter what kind of information it is. It’s information, isn’t it? Isn’t it? It’s information, isn’t it?… Say, what’s your hurry? [He bobs the receiver up and down.] Hello, give me Long Distance again…. Hello, is this Information?… This is misinformation, eh? Ha-ha! Did you hear that? Misinformation…. I asked for Information…. Well, you’ll do, Long Distance…. Long Distance—how far away are you? A long distance! Ha-ha!… Hello…. Hello!
She has evidently rung off. Jerry does likewise.
Jerry [sarcastically]. Wonderful telephone service! [He goes quickly back to the ’phone and picks up the receiver.] Rottenest telephone service I ever saw! [He slams up and returns to his drink.]
There is a call outside, “Yoo-hoo!” and immediately afterward Doris opens the front door and comes in, followed by Joseph Fish, a red-headed, insipid young man of about twenty-four. Fish is dressed in a ready-made suit with a high belt at the back, and his pockets slant at a rakish angle. He is the product of a small-town high-school and a one-year business course at a state university.
Doris has him firmly by the arm. She leads him up to Jerry, who sets down his glass and blinks at them.
Doris. Gosh! This room smells like a brewery. [She notices the jars and the other débris of Jerry’s domestic orgy.] What on earth have you been doing? Brewing whiskey?
Jerry [attempting a dignified nonchalance]. Making cocktails.
Doris [with a long whistle]. What does Charlotte say?
Jerry [with dignity]. Charlit is up-stairs.
Doris. Well, I want you to meet my fiancé, Mr. Fish. Mr. Fish, this is my brother-in-law, Mr. Frost.
Jerry. Pleased to meet you, Mr. Fish.
Fish. How de do. [He laughs politely.]
Jerry [horribly]. Is this the undertaker?
Doris [tartly]. You must be tight.
Jerry [to Fish]. Have a little drink?
Doris. He doesn’t use it.
Fish. Thanks. I don’t use it. [Again he laughs politely.]
Jerry [with a very roguish expression]. Do you know Ida?
Fish. Ida who?
Jerry. Idaho. [He laughs uproariously at his own wit.] That’s a joke I heard to-day. I thought I’d tell it to you because you’re from Idaho.
Fish [resentfully]. Gosh, that’s a rotten joke.
Jerry [high-hatting him]. Well, Idaho’s a rotten state. I wouldn’t come from that State.
Doris [icily]. Maybe they’d feel the same way about you. I’m going up and see Charlotte. I wish you’d entertain Mr. Fish politely for a minute.
Doris goes up-stairs. The two men sit down. Fish is somewhat embarrassed.
Jerry [with a wink]. Now she’s gone, better have a little drink.
Fish. No, thanks. I don’t use it any more. I used to use it a good deal out in Idaho, and then I quit.
A faint, almost imperceptible noise, as of a crowd far away, begins outside. Neither of the men seems to notice it, however.
Jerry. Get good liquor up there?
Fish. Well, around the shop we used to drink embalming fluid, but it got so it didn’t agree with me.
Jerry [focussing his eyes upon Fish, with some difficulty]. I shouldn’t think it would.
Fish. It’s all right for some fellas, but it doesn’t agree with me at all.
Jerry [suddenly]. How old are you?
Fish. Me? Twenty-five.
Jerry. Did you ever—did you ever have any ambition to be President?
Fish. Of a company?
Jerry. No. Of the United States.
Fish [scornfully]. No-o-o-o!
Jerry [almost pleadingly]. Never did, eh?
Jerry. Tha’s funny. Did you ever want to be a postman?
Fish [scornfully]. No-o-o-o!… The thing to be is to be a senator.
Jerry. Is that so?
Fish. Sure. I’m goin’ to be one. Say! There’s where you get the real graft.
Jerry’s eyes close sleepily and then start open.
Jerry [attentively]. Do you hear a noise?
Fish [after listening for a moment]. I don’t hear a sound.
Jerry [puzzled]. That’s funny. I hear a noise.
Fish [scornfully]. I guess you’re seeing things.
Jerry. And you say you never wanted to be President?
The noise outside has now increased, come nearer, swollen to the dimensions of a roar. Presently it is almost under the windows. Fish apparently does not hear it, but Jerry knits his hairless brows and rises to his feet. He goes to the window and throws it open. A mighty cheer goes up and there is the beating of a bass drum.
Jerry. Good gosh!
Cli-in-ng! Cli-in-ng! Cli-in-ng! The door-bell! Then the door swings open, and a dozen men rush into the room. In the lead is Mr. Jones, a politician.
Mr. Jones [approaching Jerry]. Is this Mr. Jeremiah Frost?
Jerry [with signs of fright]. Yes.
Mr. Jones. I’m Mr. Jones, the well-known politician. I am delegated to inform you that on the first ballot you were unanimously given the Republican nomination for President.
Wild cheers from inside and out, and renewed beating of the bass drum. Jerry shakes Mr. Jones’s hand, but Fish, sitting in silence, takes no heed of the proceeding—apparently does not see or hear what is going on.
Jerry [to Mr. Jones]. My golly! I thought you were a revenue officer.
Amid a still louder burst of cheering Jerry is elevated to the shoulders of the crowd, and borne enthusiastically out the door as
The Curtain Falls