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FLORA: I'm not going to take the front room. I'm saving it. It's being saved. I won't say anything more.
NESTOR: You might get thirty dollars for that room.
FLORA: That room's a gift.
NESTOR: Who for?
FLORA: I don't know who for. Some one we don't take money from.
SARAH: Flora, you haven't gone and asked some one we don't know about. You haven't spoken to some one.
FLORA: Yes, I have. There it is, waiting for him always. Day and night it's waiting for him.
NESTOR (aghast): The officer on the ship! The second officer on the ship we came up on. What's his name?-Charles Hammersley! Aunt Sarah, she's had him on the brain all the time and we didn't know it! Is that who you're saving the room for?
FLORA: I don't say any more than it's a gift room for one person.
NESTOR: You little fool! Crazy on him. "Charles Hammersley." Only second officer on the Caribee, Aunt Sarah. Another fool like herself.
FLORA: It's not him.
NESTOR: Hell, I hope not.
SARAH: Who is it, then? Flora Hypatia Storey, you stand right out here, and tell us what this is all about. I promised your father I'd see nothin'd happen to you, and I ought to be told.
NESTOR: Have you been stealing out and meeting some one. Huh?
SARAH: It's not possible, Nestor. She never goes out without me, except for a short time evenings, and then we have to drive her out.
NESTOR: It's just like her to take up with some barber or something.
FLORA (fiercely): Stop!-It's no use you trying to go against me. You're not strong enough. That room stands ready and waiting as long as I like. Perhaps he's never going to come for it after all-just the same, here we are waiting for him. SARAH: Where's he now?
FLORA: I don't know. Other people see him every day, talk to him. And I die-die-without a word.
NESTOR (shaking her): My God, you little fool, who is it? Where'd you see him? What have you been doing we don't know about?
FLORA: You don't know about anything. You don't see anything. You see me all day and yet you don't know the most important thing about me. You're just as dead as John Bowles. I am alive.
NESTOR (laughs, part anger, part consternation).
SARAH: You've a nasty mouth, Flora. I'm ashamed of you. FLORA: Now that's all. I won't say anything more about the room.
NESTOR: Well, if this bird does turn up, whoever he is, we'll get the story out in full. We'll see who's dead then.-Oh, yes, laugh!
FLORA: Aunt Sarah, if anyone comes, you keep them waiting in the hall, while I talk to them in here. Nestor must open the door, and you be ready to take them upstairs if I find they're the kind we can have.
NESTOR: How do you know anyone'll come at all? (The tinkly front door bell is heard.)
FLORA: There. Let them in, Nestor. Pull the curtains as you go.
(Nestor goes out, shutting off the hall. Sarah goes into the back drawing-room.)
NESTOR (parting the curtains, stiffly, speaking in a throaty voice): A lady to see you about rooms, Miss Storey.
FLORA: I am ready now, Nestor, thank you.
(Nestor ushers in Miss Flecker and retires. She is a sharp, calculating maiden-lady. She stands for a moment at the door taking in the room; then says abruptly):
MISS FLECKER: This is the home of Peter Magnus, is it not?
MISS FLECKER: I haven't heard that Mr. Magnus, the gold king, is reduced to taking in roomers.
FLORA (sharply): Neither had I.
FLORA: Miss Sarah Budie and me are relatives of Mr. Magnus, who is so kind as to allow us his house during his trip round the world. Do you wish to rent a room?
MISS FLECKER: That's why I came here.
FLORA (with finality): I'm sorry, but I hardly think we can please you.
MISS FLECKER: I'm the judge of that. Where is Mr. Magnus now?
FLORA: We got a letter from him yesterday from the Sandwich Islands.
MISS FLECKER: Where are they?
FLORA: In the ocean near Filipina.
MISS FLECKER: What are your charges?
FLORA: Thirty and thirty-five dollars a month, for single ladies.
MISS FLECKER: Do you think you can get thirty dollars a month? However, I will take a room, for a short time.
FLORA: Sign your name here. (Miss Flecker goes to the table and writes.)
MISS FLECKER: Are all these names already in the house? FLORA (reading the name over): Flecker! Flecker! You are Miss Flecker?
MISS FLECKER: Of course I am Miss Flecker. (With sarcasm): Am I known to you, Miss Magnus?
FLORA (stiffly): My name is Storey. Please sit down, Miss Flecker. Mr. Magnus allowed us to accept roomers on condition their references were satisfactory. What references can you give?
MISS FLECKER (rising): I never heard of such a thing!
FLORA (rising): I'm so sorry, but of course if you refuseMISS FLECKER: What do you wish to know?
FLORA: What living relatives have you?
MISS FLECKER: The idea!
FLORA: The name Flecker isn't very common. But I've heard it before. It's the middle name of a friend of mine. must know other Fleckers in New York.
MISS FLECKER (throwing her chin forward): All Fleckers are related.
FLORA (talking quickly): Ah, then you know him. Hammersley. Charles Flecker Hammersley. Second officer on the ship Caribee.
MISS FLECKER: No, I do not. I have no relatives in New York that I know of. I have lived in London for the last ten years. I kept lodgings. It burnt down in June and I have returned to America.
FLORA: Then since you have no references in New York, it will be impossible for me to satisfy Mr. Magnus when I write.
MISS FLECKER: You go too fast, young woman. You may refer to Mrs. Delia Cartwright, nurse, at St. Catharine's Hospital; and to Jabez Green, 55 Twelfth Street.
FLORA (coldly): Mr. Maginnis prob❜ly explained to you that Mr. Magnus asks us to live quietly. We keep the shutters closed except on Saturday, and we come and go only through the back door, by the florist's shop on Fifth Avenue.
MISS FLECKER (ironically): I am not surprised. I will engage a room for a week.
FLORA (raising her voice): Miss Budie!
SARAH (appearing at the right): Yes, Flora.
FLORA: Show Miss Flecker to the room with the painted mirror over the mantel. (Sarah waits. Miss Flecker starts to leave the room. Flora, standing nervously by the table, adds): I have explained to Miss Flecker that Mr. Magnus is your mother's cousin; and that we are renting rooms with his permission. She will stay only a week.
MISS FLECKER (suddenly returns to the center of the room and looks into Flora's face penetratingly. In a low voice): Not very clever! I live by my wits, too, and I know. Not very clever! (She follows Sarah out rapidly.)
FLORA (takes a moment to gather herself together, then calls sharply): Nestor!
NESTOR (at the curtains): There are lots waiting.
FLORA: I am ready.
NESTOR: Step right in, sir, and Miss Storey will see you.
(The curtains open to a great bulk, Mr. Horace Dabney, once a seaman. He has a massive blocked Presbyterian head, with a flowing brown beard, as full and curly as an Assyrian bull's. He is dressed in black, of necessity ill-fitting on so huge a frame,
and wears a light overcoat. He carries in one hand a small oldfashioned "trunk.”)
DABNEY: The lady of the house?
FLORA: You wish to look at rooms?
DABNEY: It will not be necessary. Any room you have free will do for the present.
FLORA (who hardly looks at him): There is a room for sixteen dollars. Second floor at the back.
DABNEY: Good. Good. I'll give you my name...Dabney. Society of the Congregation of the Gospel-light.
FLORA (still with her eyes on the table; with great distinctness) There are certain things we ask of roomers, Mr.... Dabney. They may seem strange to you.
DABNEY: Yes, yes. I have agreed to that. I saw your notice in the window of a Mr. Maginnis on Fortieth Street. He said something about unusual. . . . retirement.
FLORA: We come and go very little, and then only through the rear entrance, the florist shop on Fifth Avenue.
DABNEY: I remember.
FLORA: Except on Saturdays, when the whole house is aired, we keep the shutters closed.
DABNEY: Ah. I remember. I take it you do not wish it known that the house is fully occupied.
FLORA: These are the conditions. Take them as you like. (Silence.) Then will you write in this book?
DABNEY (goes to the table, sits down, and pauses a moment with poised pen): I don't wish to be pressing, Miss....but there must be reasons for such secrecy.
FLORA (indifferently): It may look queer to others.
DABNEY: My first thought was that, being in straightened circumstances, and having a large house on your hands, you planned to gather a little money this way; but disliked having your neighbors and friends see you reduced...yes. That was my first thought.
DABNEY (judiciously): But one can't help putting a bad construction on it.
FLORA (more boldly): Do as you like, Mr. Dabney. Take it or leave it.