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you that I am ashamed. But I thought I was playing the joke upon Frederick,—upon your brother.
Will you pardon me if I tell you a story? It's a long one ; but I don't know how to get out of this unfortunate affair without telling the truth in its entirety.
You may not know that last year, just before his graduation, Fred played a pretty tough joke upon three of us Juniors who were sitting with two of his class, playing poker in my room. I had the parlor room, you will remember, in Mrs. Bowme's lodging-house. While we were deep in the game, a knock was heard at the door. John Jordan got up and let in a stranger, clad in blue, with gilt buttons, who summarily proceeded to sweep the chips from the table into his pocket. Up jumped Ned Canby and demanded what he meant. “I have a warrant,” said the stranger," for your arrest.” And thereupon he showed a detective's star, and, drawing out a legal-looking document, summoned us to appear next morning before Magistrate Jones to answer to the charge of running a gambling-house. You never saw such a lot of white faces in your life.
“What is the punishment ?” asked Billy Bluster, his big manly voice changed to a childish treble.
“Two years' imprisonment, or five hundred dollars fine, or both, at the discretion of the court," said the stranger.
The faces which had been white before changed to a livid yellow. Fred sank his head upon the table between his hands, and shook in evident agony. Then Ned Canby jumped up and proposed to fight the detective, but the latter drew a revolver, and we all rose in confusion and reasoned with Ned, telling him the gentleman was only doing his duty and we had no fight with him, but with the informer, whoever he might be. Ned needed little reasoning with: the cold glint of the barrels had calmed him at once. During all the tumult Fred had not raised his head from his hands, but sat the picture of hopeless anguish. I remember I was touched by his attitude, and put my arm round his shoulder, begging him to cheer up, that it would be all right, we'd get off with a fine. But Fred's body only shook and swayed the more. Then John Jordan leaned over to me and whispered that perhaps we might buy off the detective; he didn't look very honest anyway. To cut a long story short, the detective, after many protestations, swore us all to secrecy and consented to let us off for one hundred dollars.
We didn't go to bed at all that night, but sat up with the whiskey and the sherry, talking, wondering who could have informed upon us (the detective had positively refused to reveal his name), whether he would be willing to let up on us,” whether he were safe. Then, as the wine went round, we regained some of our spirits. We jestingly pictured ourselves in prison costume, tried to think what trades we should prefer, and rallied Fred upon his cowardice. Indeed, we had all been surprised to see him break down so completely. But he straightened himself up in his melancholy dignified manner and said nothing,—the glint of his great brown eyes and the twitching of the muscles around his mouth alone indicating that he was still suppressing some violent emotion. And so the night wore away.
Next morning, which was Sunday, Fred sent all the fellows an invitation to come up to his room and breakfast with him: he expected a cousin of his from the West. We found a sumptuous collation prepared for us,-fish, game, and champagne. The cousin had not arrived. But after waiting ten minutes Fred made us all sit down. The cousin's chair remained vacant. The meal progressed; as the wine flowed, everybody became cheerful and talkative. A knock was heard at the door, and Mr. Allan Throckmorton was announced. “My cousin," said Fred, and, jumping up, he opened the door and let in--the detective.
For a moment we were nonplussed,—astounded. Then the truth broke upon us. We had been hoaxed ! Fred had employed his cousin to play the detective's part. We were in good humor, as I have said ; we didn't pause to think whether we ought to be angry or not; the table burst into a roar of laughter, Mr. Allan Throckmorton was welcomed with hearty hand-shakes, and the meal proceeded in an uproarious fashion.
But next day things appeared in a different light. The story had spread all over Harvard : we found ourselves the laughing-stock of the college. We joined in the laugh as gracefully as we could. But under our breath we swore revenge. Don't you think we were justified ?
Days passed, months passed. Commencement day arrived, and with a twinge of that regret which is so much more poignant and humiliating than remorse we saw Fred take the sheepskin that seemed to deliver him from our clutches. We had planned several dark and devious schemes. They had all miscarried.
One day early in the present session John Jordan rushed into my room with a gleeful mien.
“Frank," he cried, "Fred Throckmorton has written a book."
“Has he ?" I replied, with some surprise, -surprise at the information, and surprise at Jordan's almost fiendish delight.
“Yes," continued Jordan, in the same exultant tone, “ he has written a book, my father is going to publish it, and it will appear under a pseudonyme."
You know Jordan is the son of the senior partner in the firm of Jordan Brothers, publishers. I still failed to see that there was any reason for Jordan's high spirits, and I said so.
Then Jordan explained. Surely,” he said, “we can rig up some joke upon him, to pay back for that poker hoax."
That set me to thinking. But first I wanted to know what reason he had to suspect Fred of writing a book.
Well, his reasons were somewhat as follows. Since graduating he had held the position of "preliminary sieve” in his father's publishingoffice. The duties of the “preliminary sieve" are to read all the manuscripts submitted, to winnow the chaff from the wheat, and to send the wheat up to another reader, who selects the more promising grains and scatters them broadcast through the land, by accepting them for publication.
In the course of his duties John had read and sent up for further consideration a manuscript entitled “The Love Story of Janet.” It
was type-written, to be sure, and the name on the title-page was Carl Heritage. But certain corrections and emendations made with a pen were in Fred's handwriting, which was very familiar to him. And the address of “Carl Heritage” was given as Rochton, Mass. Now, that, of course, was Fred's address. Throughout the manuscript he had come across an occasional jest, an anecdote, or a character, which wore a familiar look. I suppose this is explainable by the fact that Fred had assisted you in the preparation of the manuscript.
“The Love-Story of Janet” had been accepted for publication, and would appear within six weeks.
The evidence as to the authorship seemed to me to be complete. Upon my word, I never dreamed of your connection with it. I knew that Fred had literary ambitions, I hadn't the faintest idea that you had. Really I don't think it was fair to me, your betrothed husband, that you left me out of the secret.
The result was what you know. The book was published, and was a success, -as it deserved to be. Then,
Then, as a final result of our plotting and contriving, I sent you a note under the mask of Clara Sinclair. Throughout the correspondence I never faltered in the belief that I was addressing Fred Throckmorton, and that the type-written letters in reply were his own. When, as the climax of the hoax, I invited Carl Heritage to Boston, I and four others had prepared an elegant little surprise-party for him,-a dinner at a restaurant which we had often patronized together. We had even devised the merry conceit of making the first course consist entirely of menu cards and Saratoga chips, as a punning reminder of his poker-jest.
Even when I saw you at the railway-station and didn't see him, the truth never dawned upon me. It was stupid of me, of course, but I thought I had your implicit confidence; it never occurred to me that you could be carrying out a publication scheme of this sort without letting me into the secret. Not until your letter arrived, in which you said you had been at the trysting-place, and had seen only a friend of yours, a gentleman, whom you had done your best to avoid, -not till then did any suspicion of the truth flash upon me.
Even then I was in doubt. But with your next letter suspicion deepened into belief, and belief was swallowed up in certainty on receipt of the next one. At last my eyes were opened! I saw what a fool I had made of myself,—what a terrible blunder I had committed. I simply confessed the truth and awaited developments.
You will pardon me, won't you, darling? Tell me I may call upon you. And meanwhile I shall insist on signing myself
Your devoted lover,
FRANK DE GEX.
XXXI. DEAR FRANK,
You have been very foolish ; I am not sure that you have not been something worse. But all the same you may call
upon me. Yours sincerely, ADA THROCKMORTON.
Wm. S. Walsh.
HOW PLAYS ARE MADE.
CAREFUL estimate of the number of plays annually written in
this country shows that it exceeds three thousand. When there were in New York four or five resident stock companies, the manager of each received, on an average, ten plays a week. Many of these, of course, made the rounds of all the theatres, though probably fully half the writers were discouraged by the first refusal. Very frequently aspiring authors who receive letters requesting them to call and remove their rejected work fail to respond; and the cupboards of several New York managers are consequently crowded with plays which have lain there for years. In many instances no record is attached of the name and address of the author. About four years ago Mr. Wallack produced a comedy which had by some accident been disinterred from the manuscript-catacombs; no name was on it, and no claimant for the honor of authorship appeared. The plays sent to metropolitan managers represent, however, probably less than half of those written. Pieces for “stars," "specialty people,” libretti for comic operas, and ground-works for acrobatic and musical comedies of the “Brass-Monkey" order, form the majority. Then, too, nearly every city or town that boasts a theatre has one or more local writers, whose pieces seldom get further than the resident manager, or are handed to some "star" when he or she arrives in town, and by whom the writing is rarely even casually examined.
Of this army of would-be dramatists the names of possibly twenty are known to the well-informed theatre-goer. Perhaps one hundred more are fairly equipped for the task they attempt; but the finished work of the great residue shows that they are almost hopelessly ignorant of the necessities and limitations of the stage and of the simplest elementary principles of dramatic composition. The attractions which lead so many on this will-o'-the-wisp chase after theatrical fame are the reports of the almost fabulous sums that have been made by the authors and managers of a few very successful plays. The aspirant witnesses one of these performances, and straightway says to himself, “That is a very simple story: the dialogue doesn't amount to much,-just plain, every-day, natural talk; and it is easy enough to put together some situations quite as thrilling as anything he's got. "Why shouldn't I try?" He does try, and produces something hopeless and impracticable, for the sufficient reason that he is endeavoring to create effects while he has no practical knowledge of the tools with which he must work. He is apt to regard a play as so much literature, whereas, in the styles of play that have of late years proved acceptable, literary merit is the least important factor in their construction. As well might a painter who can make the outside of a house attractive attempt to build it entirely of paint, as a writer hope to make a play succeed on literary merit alone.
To the making of a drama these ingredients are necessary,-plot, situations, characters, dialogue; and their relative importance in the present day is shown in the order in which they are given. This rule applies to both comedies and dramas. How much it may be modified in tragedies is scarcely worth considering here. Very few are now attempting to write tragedies, a form of entertainment that is not particularly popular even in the instances hallowed by long acceptance. The man who writes a really good tragedy must be a poet, if not in the actual form of his work, at least in his feeling; he will not be bound by rule when the fever of composition is on him. It is best that he should write as he feels, and have his work shaped for the stage by another hand. The ordinary dramatist gives, or should give, more attention to the mechanics of his play than to its literary qualities. What is known as “good construction” is the great desideratum.“Construction” includes the exposition, progress, and unravelling of the plot; the development of those successive stages by the means of situations placed in the best positions and most effective sequence; the exits and entrances of characters; the forming of them into groups and the dispersing thereof; and the gradual helping forward of the story by the use of hints in the dialogue and the employment of bits of action known in stage-parlance as “ business.” A well-constructed play may be fitly compared to a Roman mosaic. It is composed of hundreds or thousands of minute pieces, each one of which has its value in creating the general effect, while the absence of any one would leave an ugly gap. In seeing a play we are in the same relative position as if we were watching a workinan put together his mosaic. At first the importance and value of each sentence or action are as difficult to distinguish as in the case of each additional little square of stone; but after a time the apparently detached and disconnected morsels grow into a complete and systematic design. The artistically-made play has not in it a word or a deed which does not help on the action. Nor is anything omitted needed to make the situation clear and the development reasonably logical. If such omission were made, we should feel that the workman had left out one of his cubes and seriously injured the value of the work.
Experience has taught the practical dramatist that the only way in which he can hope to secure good construction is by determining definitely, before beginning to write at all, what is to be the end of his play and how that end is to be attained. One of the Paris journals sent, a couple of years ago, a letter to each of the principal dramatists asking information about his method of working. The answers varied greatly in detail, but upon one point there was absolute unanimity,– viz., that each constructed his last act in every detail before beginning to write ; while one or two declared that they actually wrote the dialogue of the last act before writing a line of the first. In order to have a clear working-plan, the practical dramatist makes what he calls a “scenario" of his play; and the novice cannot do better than imitate him. The best “scenario" is made by following the French plan of calling each successive dialogue a “scene” until it is broken up or added to by the addition or departure of one or more members. As an instance, let us suppose a dramatist is commencing his play: he makes out some such memorandum as this :