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THE TRUMPET SHALL SOUND.............
A PLAY IN FOUR ACTS.
Cast of Characters.
Peter Magnus, the owner of the house.
Flora Hypatia Storey, housemaid.
Nestor Storey, groom.
Charles F. Hammersley,
And other guests.
The action takes place in the great drawing-room of Peter Magnus' New York mansion, Washington Square North, in the fall of eighteen seventy-one.
(The scene is laid in the great front drawing-room of Peter Magnus' New York mansion on Washington Square North. The audience sees on the left wall three tall windows looking upon the Square. The back wall contains the great double doors into the hall, so large as to constitute an inner proscenium. When open they reveal a handsome staircase, curving upwards toward the right. The right wall contains the doors into the back, or small, drawing-room. All the doors and windows are hung with dark green cloth.
At the extreme left, almost overhanging the footlights, stands an old square Steinway grand. Close to it, as though placed for a person to turn the pianist's pages, is a great upholstered chair, like a hewn boulder. Its back is to the audience and anyone sitting in it is concealed from view; like an eyesore it presents the remorseless details of scratched mahogany and frayed upholstery. In the middle of the room is a handsome table-desk, so arranged that anyone sitting at it looks fairly into the audience. Copyright 1919 by Thornton Niven Wilder.
It is directly below the gas chandelier. A sofa and a number of chairs, good Colonial, at the left.
The ceiling is high, white and ornamental, festooned with garlands and scrolls in plaster-of-paris, and supporting cupids at the corners. The floor is covered with a large oval carpet that maintains a sombre riot of empurpled fruits and foliage. The fourth, or missing, wall contains, we are supposed to imagine, a distinguished specimen of the ornamental mantelpiece, and a portrait of the owner of the house.
At the rise of the curtain, dust-covers are seen to be on all the pieces of furniture, except the desk and piano. Moreover, the shutters of the windows are drawn, permitting only so much light to enter as is reflected on the ceiling, the frets of the shutters being set at a tilt.
Some one is sitting in the great chair, hidden from view, and Sarah Budie is standing by the table. Sarah Budie is a maidenlady, cross and irritable, but weak and ineffective. She wears a full black dress, bombazine, the waist so tight as to resemble a Colonial bodice. She wears about her neck a thin red velvet ribbon pinned at the back with a brooch, and another ribbon of the same material falls over her shoulders like a chain, dangling, at about the level of her waist, a fat little gold pendant. She holds a letter. Suddenly her attention is caught by something on the polished surface of the table.)
SARAH: There's candle grease on this desk! Now who done that? You done this, Flora!
FLORA (unseen, laughs mockingly, high and clear).
SARAH: How'd you come to do that? (Flora clasps her hands behind her head and for a moment we see the gleam of polished elbows): You done this last night, sure as I live! What was you doing, anyway-locked in here alone? And how come you spilled candle grease? I wonder you could sit here with John Bowles dying in the third story above. And he your superior, and the faithful butler in this house. What was y' doing, now?
FLORA: Don't scold me, Aunt Sarah !
SARAH: Now John Bowles is dead, I'll be responsible to the master for all this furniture. And here you begin making work for me first thing. You don't think of that.
FLORA: Stop scolding me, I say!
SARAH: Lower your voice, you wicked young one. never in the house with the dead before?—It's trouble, trouble, trouble, every way. From the time I light my candle in the morning to when I blow out my lamp at night. And you've been no help, Flora. It seems like we four servants ought t'h' kept an empty house in the right way. I thought when I wrote for you to come up from Porty Rica that perhaps it'd be lighter work. But you're no help, and John Bowles' dead;-leaves all the work on Nestor and me. Now comes this new scheme of yours and makes twice, five times, the work.
FLORA: The letter we've written changes all that.
SARAH: Does it? I don't want to think of the letter. Like as not I'll not let you send it.
FLORA: Oh, yes you will.
SARAH (excitedly): Who wrote it?
FLORA: John Bowles.
SARAH: That's what it says. Yes! We've put our heads together and forged the name of a man that's dead to a letter he'd a-been ashamed to write. He and I was butler and housekeeper in this house for twenty year. It's forgery!
FLORA: It can't hurt anybody!
SARAH: No! Opening the house and taking in roomers secretly, like we was the owners of the house. No! Writing a letter to the master from John Bowles, saying we're alive and keeping the house honorably for him. No! It doesn't hurt anyone, only him, the faithful servant that would never allowed it while he lived. It hurts him. (Leaning over across the table and glaring at Flora, with a touch of awe): Are the dead dead? You don't know.
FLORA (rising forcefully. A vivid, strange, electric girl, at once sensitive and coarse. She has a quick, sharp manner like a defensive animal. She is short and has a distinctive, though not high-bred carriage. She has a way of doing her hair in tricks and loops that gives her face-which is not beautiful—a decorative quality. Her one weakness is superstition; otherwise she demands, domineers, imposes, partly by sheer manner, and partly by innate force of character. She is dressed as a servant): What do you want to do, then? Sit back and enjoy all the good
things that are coming to us, without doing your share of the work? Can't you think of the money we're going to take in? The clothes we're going to buy?
SARAH: Lies and plans of darkness never began with me, and I wouldn't be mixing up with them now, only you and your brother been driving me crazy with your arguing day and night -ever since John Bowles was given up.
FLORA (flinging herself back into the chair with a shudder): I hate your talk.
SARAH: I see as clear as day, Flora, we'll be found out. It'll find me out first because I'm the older woman, and now that John Bowles is dead, the only one responsible for this house. Him and I have been faithful servants in this house for twenty year. At one time maybe he was thinking of asking me to marry him, although Mrs. Magnus would not have liked the butler and parlor-maid-as I was then-to be married. And now I'm dishonoring his name with a lying letter.
FLORA: Your nerves are having a spell, Aunt Sarah. The pineapples and yellow cream and things we're going to have will do wonders for your nerves.
(Enter Nestor Storey, her brother, a young man of about twenty-three, impudent and spruce, the groom of the stable. He is dressed in light grey trousers, light grey tall hat, and dark coat with light lapels.)
NESTOR (jerking a thumb upwards): Keeter and Company are performing the last rites and observances for our old friend upstairs. They give me a copy of the doctor's statement, "death by heart failure.”
FLORA: They're upstairs now?
NESTOR: Sure. They've been up there for hours. Didn't you know it?
FLORA (going to Sarah Budie and kneeling by her chair): Of course I didn't know it. Can't we go out for a walk until they're through, Aunt Sarah?
SARAH: Certainly not. We can't leave them alone in the house. You sit here still by me if you don't like it.
NESTOR: I've been up to Maginnis' on Fortieth Street and seen the notice in his window, plain. Pleasant Furnished Rooms
on Washington Square. Inquire Within. From now on we're as good as the masters of this house; and it'll bring us money. Perhaps old Magnus'll stay away years like he stayed away before, eh?
FLORA (unenthusiastically): Perhaps.
NESTOR: And if he did come back suddenly we could rush anybody else out the back door.
FLORA: Like as not he'll write us first and tell us when he's coming so we can get ready.
SARAH: His instructions to John Bowles was to be ready at any time for his return. Night and day. He said he wanted things ready for him any minute. He's got his key on his watchchain and he can let himself in any hour, as he said-day or night.
NESTOR: Well, you told him to write, in the letter, eh? Let's hear the old letter, Aunt Sarah.
SARAH (unfolding it): It makes me right sick.
FLORA (taking it away from her): I'll read it. It's my letter. The whole thing's my idea. "Dear Mr. Magnus, the house is in perfect order. All the rooms are cleaned twice a week. Sarah Budie takes a real pleasure in keeping the house clean and ready for you. Nestor Storey exercises the horses every morning, and says they are in fine fit. Please let us know when you are coming back so we can light the fires, etcetera. Your faithful servant, John Bowles." "To Mr. Peter Magnus, Sacramento, California."
NESTOR (dryly): I didn't know you could read writin', Flora. FLORA: I can read this.
NESTOR: The thing's safe, as hell. And I'll give you the credit, Flora. It was your idee.
FLORA: Thanks. (Suddenly she hears a noise in the upper part of the house. She looks up sharply. A fearful change comes over the whole group. Flora grips the table, her face a picture, shuddering, of distaste and loathing. She cries out, almost piercingly, in a voice suddenly frightened and childish): They're moving him! They're bringing him down!
NESTOR ("on edge" himself): Shut up, can't you! Damn you for squawking out that way.
FLORA: I won't shut up.