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NESTOR: If you don't like it you can go into the back parlor. FLORA: Of course I don't like it, and I won't go in there alone. They're moving him! If they drop him, I'll scream.
NESTOR: It won't help nothing to scream. He'd "dayd”! If you make another sound I'll bring the box in and lay it across your two knees like a cradle.
FLORA (breathless): I hate you, Nestor Storey!
SARAH: Be quiet, children. We can at least do that for him. We can be quiet. He was butler in this house for forty year. He knows every chair and table in it so well, I can't fancy him leaving it now; if he has a ghost it'll be back counting the forks and spoons and judging me, sure as fate.
NESTOR: He warn't never married. He didn't drink. He didn't have his fun.
SARAH: He was more than us, Nestor; he was a faithful servant, and he's got more for it than money.
FLORA: They're on the stairs. They're bumping him on the banisters; make them stop it!
NESTOR: They're used to it. What's he to them, but a something that's shrunk too short for its clothes, that doesn't joke, and have its drink with them?
FLORA (enticingly, with little hysterical flights towards him): Nestor, dear. Little lovey brother, Nestor. Close the curtains before they come down through the hall. Dear Nestor-r-r-r-r... SARAH: No; it's un-respectful to him as is dead, to close the curtains when he's carried past.
FLORA: Dear Aunt Sarah! Please, Nestor! I'll die!
FLORA: Now talk loud, Aunt Sarah!
SARAH: I will not talk loud, you wicked young one. I have no real ill feelings against that man now that he's dead. There was a time when Cook said he'd be asking me to marry him any day. Cook would stop in my room every night on the way upstairs, and say: Did he put it to-day?
NESTOR: You're crying, Aunt Sarah, for a dry, bald-headed man like John Bowles!
SARAH (with spirit): There's another time I'm thinking of, when he was a fine young man, with curly hair and right hand
some in his blue coat. But the years went by, and he never said it to me. We've respected each other.
NESTOR: Like I said: he never had his fun!
(Flora's attention is caught by the curtains at the back. They are parted a little and the crape-wound undertaker looks in, mopping his brow.)
KEETER: I beg your pardon, mam; we have seats for three along with us, mam. If you'd care to be coming to the grave. SARAH (stiffly): Un-no. We do not wish to come.
KEETER (pleasantly): No friends for him here, eh? A very gentle-faced old man, I thought, mam. Didn't say a word to us all the time. "You won't have no more trouble with your weak heart now," I says to him, "no more fainting on the stairs, no more dropping of trays." And then the amusin' thought came to me that there's only one more bell for him to answer, and one more master for him to bow and scrape to, and 'pon my soul, he winked at me.
SARAH: You may go. That will be all.
KEETER: This carrying business is very hot for us poor men, mam. We've had to set our friend down. He's leaning against the stairs a moment. A little rest won't hurt him, we said. SARAH: Flora, go and get these gentlemen the decanter on the sideboard.
KEETER: Thank you, mam. You catch an idea very quick. FLORA (in recoil): I think I've sprained my ankle, auntie dear, twisting it about the legs of this chair. It catches me right sharp now and again.
NESTOR (going out at the right): I'll get it.
KEETER (jerking his thumb toward the hall): He was butler in this house, wan't he? (Sarah nods distantly with tight-closed lips): Are you service here, too?
SARAH (sharply): I have been parlor-maid and housekeeper here for many years.
KEETER (appreciatively, indicating Flora): And the pretty 'un?
KEETER (picking his teeth reflectively): Where's the owner of the house?
SARAH: He's away.
I see! Been left here in charge, eh? I see! Easy
life for you, what? Oh, my soul!
SARAH: Flora, you will accompany me into my room. (They start to go, but meet Nestor returning with a decanter and three glasses.)
NESTOR: You can help yourselves in the hall.
KEETER (sniffing the flask): Hh! Cherry brandy. (He disappears. Nestor starts pulling the dust-covers off the furniture. Sarah protests in pantomime. Keeter and Company are heard in bursts of laughter from the hall. Flora and Sarah shrink against the wall, as Keeter again jerks his head through the curtains.) Thank you, kindly. We'll be moving on with our friend here. It's a pity there's none of you would be glad to see him home, as we say. And you might have remembered they've a fondness for flowers. (Silence. Keeter, antagonized by their lack of respect for the professional decencies, continues): Take it from me, young man, you've got an easy life holding these here floors down. But keep your heads. Don't let the master of the house come back and catch you at a high jinx! We know not the day nor the hour. Like a thief in the night. The trumpet shall sound!
NESTOR (coldly): Good-morning.
KEETER (disappears; vocally): No offense. No offense. No offense. (He is heard giving orders. Finally the outer door slams.)
FLORA (recovering): Now to fill the house with live people that pay.
SARAH: I go cold all over when I see you take off the dustcovers, Nestor. We've burnt our boats with that.
FLORA: It'll be a great day at the beginning of each month when we go from door to door knocking for money. I'll bring it down and pour it on the carpet, play with it.
NESTOR: And divide it.
SARAH: When does it begin?
FLORA: They'll begin coming to-night.
SARAH: Don't rip the covers off, Nestor!
FLORA: The notice has been up in Maginnis' window all day: Pleasant furnished rooms on Washington Square. Inquire within. Then they go in, and if they look the kind of people we
want-the kind that asks no questions-Maginnis gives them our number, and tells them to call here between seven and eight to-night.
NESTOR: It's safe as hell, if he chooses the right kind of people.
FLORA: I told him straight out to his face, that they must be a little shady. Like that I said: "A little shady." They're to be glad of what they can get. What they'll want is a quiet and respectable part of town. But I don't care if they're respectable, as long as they're not curious.
SARAH: The police could get us for renting rooms this way, even if Mr. Magnus didn't come back and put them on to us. The neighbors might notice and speak.
FLORA: The police won't find out. I've planned for it. I hate the police as bad as anybody. I'd hide from'm in the coalbin. I won't have them pinching my arm in the middle of Washington Square. Everything's safe as long as we make our roomers do two things: First, to keep the shutters closed, except on regular Saturdays when you air the house; second, to come and go through the back door where the florist's shop is.
NESTOR: Safer'n hell.
SARAH: Ah, but Mr. Magnus'll open the door on us of a sudden. Then all's up with us.
FLORA: What's he like, Aunt Sarah? (She scans the por trait, on the fourth wall): Is this a good picture of him?
SARAH: That's him. Bilious; always.
FLORA (musingly looking at it): I can see he has his eye on The old animal!
(Nestor leaves the room behind her, carrying out a towering pile of dust-covers.)
The curtain is lowered to indicate the lapse of nine hours.
(At the rise of the curtain the drawing-room is dark. The chandelier in the hall, unseen by the audience, throws a brilliant light on Sarah Budie, who stands listening on the stairs. Flora comes quickly and lightly down the stairs behind her, and stopping short, stands a moment listening.)
FLORA: What is it?
SARAH: I thought I heard some one scraping their feet on
the mat. It's most seven.
FLORA: GO 'way again?
SARAH: I must have imagined it. (They descend.)
FLORA: Let them come. Everything's ready. I've been through all the rooms again. (Toward the back hall): Nestor, light the chandelier in the front drawing-room. (Nestor enters and lights the gas with the old-fashioned polelike lighter.) Let them pour in, they and their money.
SARAH: I'll never be happy as long as they're in the house. FLORA: Don't begin again—the old whine. We've begun and we're not going to stop now. (Changing her tone): If there's a married couple we'll put them in the room you call Miss Cecilia's room.
FLORA: Young men will go third floor, any room they want. Rich-looking ones on the second floor.
NESTOR (astride a chair): Twelve dollars a month each: six rooms; seventy-two dollars for the third floor. About nine hundred a year.
FLORA: Girls, or married women alone, go second floor this end. Elderly ones by the stairs. Queer ones on the third floor. NESTOR: And who goes in the big front room. Gentlemen, our royal suite. Twenty-five dollars a month at the least, and coals for the grate extra. View of Washington Square thrown open every Saturday. Bed as big as a race-course. Chandelier with colored glass rattles hanging from it. Improper paintings on the ceiling. Thirty dollars a month, Flora, sure.
FLORA (quietly with reserve force): That's not for rent. NESTOR (hotly): Yes, it is too!
FLORA: Whose idea was this? Who planned it out? Who argued the two of you into it, when you were set as rock? I did. And I'm taking the running of it, and the responsibility of it, on myself. The front room isn't going to strangers.
NESTOR (blazing out): I suppose you're keeping it for yourself.
SARAH: Flora, I insist on your staying downstairs with us, in your proper place. We are nothing but servants, remember that.